Facebook Timeline for Brands Visual Overview

Today marked a day that we have been anticipating for a few weeks now. No not leap day, but the launch of Facebook’s timeline for Brand Pages. Brands have an option to now preview or publish their brand pages with the comprehensive roll-out happening on March 30, 2012.

Instead of going into a lot of detail out of the gate, I am changing the normal format and going with a more visual representation of changes as well as guidelines for some of the changes based on my roll-out of the BlackFin360 Timeline Brand Page.

Below is an example of the Legacy posts / Brand Milestones. Note the ability to append location & date and to post current & back-dated updates without pushing into the newsfeed. Also note that milestones will appear as full-page width updates vs. the staggered approach used for regular updates.

Once the milestone is published, you have the option to “pin the post” to create a semi-static piece of content towards the top of your brand timeline. Pins can be stories, photos, videos, campaigns, tab cross promotion, contests, etc… this is handy for promotions and highlighting key events or even simply highlighting your fan of the week. Once you have pinned a piece of content it has a “bookmark” signifying that it has been pinned.

Example of a pinned post

In future posts we will explore the ins and outs of the changes as well as what happened to custom landing pages as well as Like gating. But for now enjoy the visuals.

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Linkedin Launches Company Follow Button

Linkedin has proven to be an incredible asset for B2B Social Media Strategy & execution. With Hubspot defining Linkedin (45%) as the most effective B2B source for lead generation followed by Facebook at 33%.

With the roll-out of company status updates last October, Linkedin took the first step towards positioning itself as a marketing channel for brands. Now with Monday’s announcement of the Company Follow button, they are taking the next step in their follower ecosystem strategy.

Linkedin is now expanding the ability to follow a company beyond it’s core domain and now enabling organizations to allow individuals to follow them directly from their branded homepages or other owned properties by adding a quick code snippet to their branded pages. Brands such as Starbucks, AT&T and American Express are initial launch partners.

Similar in its impact as a Facebook like, the individual will receive status updates via their Linkedin feed. By extending the reach of the follow beyond Linkedin, the over 2 million companies in it’s network will have even greater opportunities to execute B2B content strategies both within Linkedin & their branded & owned channels.

Because B2B social is generally more targeted than B2C social, the ability to drive targeted interaction in one location while also providing a comprehensive footprint throughout the channel is key. Now with the ability to more closely associate the follow externally, it enables a more dynamic experience for the brand. As Linkedin can serve as a hub of services & 3rd party validation of those services via recommendations.

For those interested, here is the location to add the new company follow button to your branded website.

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Facebook Timeline Brand Pages To Be Unveiled

For the past few weeks I have received numerous calls and e-mails on the topic of Facebook Brand Pages & the Timeline roll-out. There have been many discussions with Facebook, with those in the industry and internally looking past the roll out and how strategies will need to be adjusted based on the new direction.

All of the feedback pointed to the fMC or Facebook Marketing Conference on the 29th as the location to unveil Timeline centric brand pages. And with official outlets now reporting what we have known for a while now, such as Mashable’s post today, Timeline brand pages will be announced on leap year.

Since the roll-out of Timeline for general users, it was not an “if” but a “when” will brands have access to Timeline and what does this mean for a current brands strategy. What will happen to custom landing tabs? How will Timeline impact brand engagement and what about my custom apps?

There will be a phase of growing pains as brands transition and I will take a wait and see approach and follow up with a post shortly after the official roll-out as to not drive additional speculation, but there will be some potential changes that will definitely require a new approach in terms of user flow, especially if you deploy tactics that map paid elements to custom tabs to drive a specific user action.

You can see evidence of the shift toward Timeline support in some of the changes that are already rolling out on the self-service ad platform as well as the recent introduction of Timeline based apps and the desire to incorporate new verbs into users newsfeeds as well as expand the footprint of frictionless 3rd party services into Facebook.

Even before we had a date we had begun sharpening our pencils and reviewing current strategies to ensure that the new direction continues to support brand goals & objectives. I am definitely looking forward to the announcements on the 29th.

You can livestream the fMC event directly from their site.

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The Importance of Social Sign-On

We have all dealt with “YAN” in one form or another over the past few years. YAN stands for Yet Another Network login. This stems from brands using proprietary authentication methods vs. leveraging Open Authorization (OAuth) such as Facebook’s Graph API (OAuth 2.0). To put it simply, brands like to use their own username & passwords vs. allowing a user to login with their Facebook or Twitter ID’s.

YAN is an even bigger issue when combined with the fact that 88% of online buyers had at some point intentionally left registration information blank or used incorrect information when signing up for a new account, up 12% from 2010. Also, the expectation of consumers for brands to support Social Sign-On has increased significantly as eMarketer and Janrain recently reported that consumer desire for Social Sign-On has increased to 77% of US Online Buyers in 2011.

The importance of leveraging a single sign on authentication platform that is socially enabled becomes the key to unlocking a brands social CRM strategy. The reason for this is that Social Sign-On can lower the barrier of entry for a user, increase validity of data via the users social graph as well as increase stay rates.

According to recent research from Gigya, web users who log into 3rd party sites with Facebook’s Graph API spend 50% more time on those sites, and view twice as many pages. Think about the impact to a Fortune 500 retailer with 50% increase in stay rates and how that may impact purchase frequency.

When it comes to selecting which service is ideal for your brand, Gigya also released information that shows that Facebook accounts for 61% of those social logins.

Where social sign on really gets interesting is when a brand leverages an OAuth solution, such as Facebook’s Graph API. Instead of depending on a user to input a few sets of pre-determined data, you potentially have access to 180 data points to associate with the user. This includes the ability to access data tied to their feed, friends, activities, interests, music, books, movies, television, likes, checkins and more based on the users privacy settings.

This increases the probability of accurate subscriber data as well as the ability to append your proprietary questions on the back-end of the authorization of the user. Users in this scenario are more likely to share information as they are not repeating the information process. This also means that for a brand, the ability to build a robust profile around an individual beyond the standard data points such as basic demographic data and purchase history becomes a reality.

One of the more progressive brands when it comes to Social Sign-On is Nike.

Nike offers multiple options for authentication.

When you choose to login via Facebook, look at the data that Nike gains access to in one session…

A possible user scenario is as follows. Nike is about to become the uniform provider for the NFL in the upcoming 2012 season. Imagine if Nike had the ability to quickly scan the profile data of those who have authenticated via social sign-on and find team & athlete related Likes, game Checkin’s from the last season (Timeline makes this even easier), team related status updates, etc… tied to the users NFL team & players of choice. They would be able to proactively target those users with highly targeted and relevant offerings around the upcoming seasons jerseys and other merchandise that the user would then be compelled to engage.

This solution combined with other integrated tactics would most likely net better results than engaging in a mass e-mail/traditional campaign. Moving forward, the brands that understand how to leverage the immense amounts of data that individuals are providing via their social graph and then create relevant & highly targeted outreach campaigns will be the brands that will capitalize on socially enabled commerce.

As e-marketer shows below, in 2012 $3 billion in goods will be sold via social media this number jumps to $14 billion by 2015.

The key to this trend is not just positioning products via social channels, but lowering the barrier of entry, mapping CRM & social graph elements as well as highly targeted, relevant and timely offers via social & traditional channels.

The brands that understand how to better integrate their CRM programs with Social Graph data to create robust user profiles that are then the basis for executing their marketing strategy will be the winners.

It should be noted that integration of SSO is a cross departmental effort and this is one of the primary reasons more fortune 500 organizations have not adopted this method. It will take visionary executives who understand the value of data integration to push SSO forward.

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Mobile Gamings Potential For Brand Engagement via P4RC

Reaching mobile consumers is on the thoughts and minds of brand managers heading into 2012 and beyond. The challenge is to drive meaningful engagement across a highly fragmented landscape while providing a positive & relevant experience to the consumer.

Mobile gaming appears to be an ideal target for brand engagement as 70-80% of all mobile downloads are games with the average iPhone user spending 14.7 hours a month playing those games. Currently, 64.5 million people in the US played mobile casual games at least once a month. This will rise to 94.9 million in the US by 2014. Translation people are gaming via mobile.

Has anyone not played Angry Birds?

The issue at this point in time is that the current landscape is highly scattered with over 72,000 games in the Apple App store from thousands of developers and in-app advertising leaving many brands frustrated with their mobile engagement rates.

One newly launched service is looking to change the game by promising higher user engagement rates combined with positive brand associations. P4RC, Inc. is a new service that connects consumer brands to mobile users with a platform that converts user engagement in their favorite gaming apps into P4RC points, which can be redeemed for real-world rewards.

The basic premise is that players play games they are already playing and earn gift cards from top retailers just for playing.

The key for P4RC brand programs is the ability for brands to reach across multiple games and reward behaviors that users are already engaged in.

P4RC’s brand programs include sponsoring their “Race to Win” segments, which call for users to play and earn P4RC points within a period of time to redeem brand rewards as well as offers directly from brands.

Example of Race to Win

Example of Brand Offer

By sponsoring our Race 2 Win competitions, brands can be inserted into the mobile gaming experience in a manner that is actually relevant to that experience.  This makes the brand part of the fun rather than an unwanted intrusion, which is often the case with other forms of mobile advertising” said Jason Seldon, Founder & CEO of P4RC.

By integrating the achievement network completely within the game, the barrier of leaving the app for a mobile web experience is removed. The user is free to review current Race’s 2 win, redeem rewards and view their account all within the current app they are playing.

In the first week of launch, players have already redeemed their P4RC points for over $1,000 in rewards from brands such as Starbucks & Best Buy.

At launch, P4RC’s achievement network is currently tied to “Stop Those Fish“, which is currently featured by Apple as a New & Noteworthy app in the Apple App Store and announced a partnership with Eye Interactive to include the new P4RC rewards network in all Eye Interactive games.

P4RC is also forming key partnerships with mobile developers. “By adding the P4RC rewards network to their games, game developers benefit from a powerful marketing & customer retention engine that drives user engagement, resulting in an increase in game downloads and longer duration of game play.”

Services such as P4RC provide compelling incentives for brands and users alike by rewarding existing behaviors, socially enabling the experience and lowering the barrier of entry to participate across apps.

An Android friendly version of P4RC will be launching this Summer.

Thanks to Jason Seldon, Founder & CEO of P4RC for data included in this post.

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3 Brand Benefits of Klout

Identifying topical influencers has been a key to driving awareness and activation for many socially progressive brands over the past few years. One of the measurement variables many brands have come to rely on is Klout.

Much has been written about Klout since it’s founding in 2008. Some praise & swear by the service, others question the validity of the score and ability to “game” the system. Regardless, users work each day to increase their Klout score and brands are eager to reward those indiviuduals.

At it’s core, Klout provides social media analytics to measure a user’s influence across their social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Foursquare, and many more and assigns a score to the user. This daily score is meant to reflect the influence that individual has to drive action in social networks.

Currently, Klout boasts over 100 million profiles, 2.7 billion+ pieces of content & connections analyzed daily and 5,000+ partners & developers with over 45 billion+ API calls.

From a brand perspective, there are multiple ways to leverage this data and audience to drive action. From the Klout Perks program, to leveraging Klout’s API to the upcoming Klout brand pages.

Klout Perks – The most visible brand programs associated with Klout is tied to Klout perks. Perks are exclusive products or experiences that users can earn based on their influence. Perks are distributed to select influencers based on their topics of authority, location & score.

This summer, I was associated with a perk from Disney to attend a pre-screening of Winnie the Pooh. Being a dad of 3 young children it served as a great opportunity to provide a unique experience for our entire family.

Influencers who receive Perks can choose to talk about the perk/product or not but the thought here is that by enabling the product or experience, the influencer will feel compelled to share the perk with their network as I did with the Winnie the Pooh perk.

Examples of Klout perks offered previously include:

Chilis: Gift cards to try “Lighter Choices” menu items as well as a Chili’s 2 for $20 Steak dinner
Hyundai: Integrating their Social & Gaming activation with VIP tickets to their Veloster Gaming event.
PopChips: Samples of 6 different flavors mailed to recipients
Contraband Movie: Driving Sweeps activation via Influencers

Perk programs are categorized by Entertainment, Experiences, Food & Beverages, Retail, Sports & Technology. For a brand, Perk programs can enable new product launches, sampling programs, experiential entertainment and more. Affordably priced, brand perk programs are the most direct way to activate against the 100+ million Klout profiles.

Klout API – With over 5,000+ partners and developers, Klout’s API is leveraged by brands for multiple purposes. With Klout’s API, you can glean data such as Klout Score, which is the most used API, or specific sets of data tied to topics such as “Marketing” or “Facebook” and unveil up to 5 topics tied to users.

There are some requirements to fully maximize the API, such as in order to request a Klout score for someone through the API, you have to have their Twitter ID. This is key for brands developing their Social CRM programs. A brand may want to map existing data into Klout’s API and the brand should account for capturing Twitter handles as part of their social data mining strategy.

Some brands are using Klout’s API data in innovative ways, One example is CapitalOne. They leveraged the Klout API to accelerate users in their loyalty program. They offered bonus rewards to users based on their Klout scores. This means everyone who participates with a Klout score between 10-100 gets some form of bonus rewards based on their influence.

The API presents unique and compelling data that brands can leverage to drive engagement & target key topical influencers to drive action or reward and accelerate via loyalty programs.

Klout Brand Pages – In recent conversations with Klout’s Garth Holsinger, he provided insight into the upcoming February release of Brand Pages for Klout. “Currently, a brand is treated like an individual user, which in some cases does not necessarily make the most sense as a Klout score for a brand should mean something different.”

With Klout Brand Pages, brands will have an opportunity to build influencers groups that are related to their specific industry. An example for a brand such as American Airlines would be able to associate with specific topics such as travel and interact directly with those influencers.

Brands will be able to show their content & streams and also show the most influential content about American Airlines. Elements such as Facebook comment engagement, Retweets, etc.. will aggregate into Klout brand pages and the brand will have an aggregation point of influencers to drive direct communication. Premium levels will be available for brands to subscribe to for additional outreach capabilities.

I will follow up with a deeper dive into Klout brand pages once the service launches in February.

Thanks goes to Garth Holsinger of Klout as well as Brad Alesi of The Marketing Arm for data points included in this post.

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5 Brand Benefits of Twitter Brand Pages

At long last Twitter has decided to allow brands to create Facebook/Google+ style brand pages. This along with a major redesign focused on usability & discoverability of content was unveiled yesterday.

With a slew of launch partners such as Best Buy, American Express, Dell, GE, Nike, Heineken, Disney and more, Twitter is following in the footsteps of Google’s recent roll-out of Google+ brand pages.

One of the primary reasons for the rollout is to better support advertisers. According to eMarketer, Twitter’s global ad revenue is projected to reach $139.5 million in 2011 and approach $399 million in 2013.

By creating branded destinations vs. simply aggregating content, advertisers may engage in more robust programs via Twitter if the possibility to drive additional engagement with specific content over longer periods of time becomes a consistent option.

What is the value for a brand to embrace the change? Here are 5 feature benefits of the new Twitter Brand pages.

1) Customizable Headers | Brands have the ability to further express their essence with a larger profile image and a customizable header.

In the Pepsi example below, they take a creative approach to their header


2) Promoted Tweet | Brands have the opportunity to control the message visitors see when they first come to the profile page via a promoted tweet at the top of the timeline.


The “Top Tweet” becomes a showcase opportunity to drive additional engagement on relevant content, be it promotional, educational, etc.. without the risk of being lost in the timeline.

3) Auto Expand Embedded Content | Promoted content will also go beyond simple links and actually show the content, if it is a video, etc… top tweet will auto-expand to reveal photos or videos from various sources.


4) Optimized Moderation | – The update now allows brands to separate their @ replies & mentions. This will be extremely useful for those that manage the day-to-day engagement on behalf of brands. Users also have a nice option to speak directly to the brand with the new layout with the “Tweet to Brand” option directly under the header.

5) Advertising Performance | Twitters advertising offerings have grown considerably over the last year. With options tied to promoted tweets, accounts & profiles. By creating additional opportunities to drive dwell time on a branded destination, in theory the opportunity to drive additional impressions and clicks becomes greater.


The one issue I have initially is related to how Twitter content is consumed. With a large number of individuals consuming their tweets via platforms outside of Twitter directly & TweetDeck, it will be interesting to see if there is more of an emphasis to not only follow a particular brand, but to also drive directly to their branded presence when specific campaigns are in action.

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Google+ Brand Pages

At long last Google has finally launched Google+ brand pages. There has been a lot of speculation on what would be included and the potential benefits to brands. Now that they are finally here it will be interesting to see what is fact vs. fiction and more importantly how best to optimize the experience and drive meaningful engagement.

There is already a fast growing list brands positioning their pages from Fox News to the Dallas Cowboys and now you can add BlackFin360 to that fast growing list.

You can add BlackFin360 to your circles here

Here is the direct link to create a Google+ brand page

For now the functionality closely mirrors that of the consumer Google+ experience with the exception of the Google+ Direct Connect option. Google+ Direct Connect allows your Google+ brand page to show in a Google search by simply having the user search +Brandname e.g. +BlackFin360

The Hangouts option provides a new twist on transparency as you can support a F2F live chat with up to 9 people at one time. It will be interesting to see how creative brands can be with Hangouts and what potential policies will be put into place to manage that process.

More to come on the features and functions available for Google+ brand pages in future posts.

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Training Apple’s Siri for Facebook & Twitter

One of the outstanding features of the iPhone 4S is definitely Siri. Siri is Apple’s version of a virtual assistant. But setting up Siri out of the box can be interesting when you try to associate your commands with Facebook & Twitter.

Siri allows you to use your voice to send messages, make calls, schedule meetings etc…

Here are examples of what Siri can do for you

When you first activate your 4S you may need to activate Siri. You can do so via Settings –> General –> Siri

You can then activate Siri by holding down the Home Button for a few seconds and the fun begins.

You can ask about where the closest Starbucks is located…

You can check the weather in Hawaii

And Siri will remember your last request, if you ask “Where to find a drink” it will assume you are in Hawaii

But you may run into an issue trying to get Siri to play nicely with Facebook & Twitter. As she may tell you, I am sorry I cannot update Facebook or Twitter at first go.

Configuring FACEBOOK

Configuring Facebook with Siri will require your mobile device to be connected to Facebook. Below is an outline of what is required to confirm your mobile device with Facebook.

Open the Facebook mobile app then to settings at the top left. Or you can go to the mobile tab of your Account Settings page to activate Mobile Texts. Click “Register for Facebook Text Messages” and complete the steps that follow.

Step 1 Select Country & Mobile Carrier

Step 2 is confirmation

Next, you will need to create a Contact called Facebook with the contact number 32665

Then, you ask Siri to send a message to Facebook saying “message Facebook” then “Your status Update”

Configuring TWITTER

For Twitter, text START to 40404 in the US.

Next, create a contact as you did for Facebook, the only difference is to add “Twitter” as a nickname to the contact.

This will allow you to say Send Message to Twitter, without having to say everything at once. This is an important step.

Then you will see your tweet.

There is much more to explore with Siri as well as Apple’s iOS 5. Would love to hear about some of the interesting things you have asked Siri and what the response was.

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Top 10 Features of Apple iOS 5

With the upcoming release of the iPhone 4S, I decided to upgrade both my iPad 2 and iPhone 4 to the new iOS 5 operating system prior to picking up the 4S.

Apple boasts over 200 new features tied to the OS, with some specific to the iPhone & iPad. After a few tries, I was able to upgrade both and have spent the last 24 hours identifying what I find useful in the new OS and have narrowed the list from 200 down to my top 10.

Here is my top 10 list of what I found the most useful:

1) NOTIFICATIONS – I really like the new approach to notifications. With an integrated approach that feels much better from a UI perspective, notifications feel like an extension vs. intrusive. This extends to apps such as Facebook as well.

Lock screen notifications


In App notifications


Swipe Down notifications – Swipe down from the top of the screen and you will drop down your notification center. This area can be configured to show weather as well as the latest notifications, updates and even track your stock portfolio.

(2) iCLOUD – I am a fan of the new iCloud service. In order to use the free service* you must be on the iOS 5 operating system. Once you upgrade you have the ability to use:

  • iTunes in the cloud
  • Photo Stream
  • Documents in the cloud
  • Apps and Books automatically downloaded
  • Backup multiple iDevices
  • Activate the Find my iPhone/iPad feature


*You start with 5GB of free storage and can purchase more

3) PHOTO ENHANCEMENTS – Simply Double Tap the home button on the lock screen to pull up a shortcut to activate your camera. This is extremely helpful, especially at events.

  • Double click the home button when the device is asleep to bring up a camera shortcut
  • Volume up to take a picture
  • Optional grid lines to line up shots
  • Pinch to zoom in the preview screen
  • Swipe to camera roll from preview screen
  • Tap and hold to lock focus & exposure (iPad 2 & 4th gen iPod touch)


4) PHOTO EDITING – In addition to the upcoming 8 megapixel camera in the 4S, the iOS 5 update added much needed Editing support for photos.

  • Crop & Rotate
  • Red Eye Removal
  • One Tap Enhance
  • Organize photos into albums

5) TWITTER INTEGRATION – With Apple’s decision to align with Twitter, iOS 5 highlights their commitment to further integrate the micro-blogging service into the experience.

  • Sign-in once in Settings & tweet directly from Camera, Photos, Maps, Safari & YouTube
  • Add location to any tweet
  • Here is how to configure Siri to work with Twitter if you now have the 4S.

6) SAFARI – With most changes on the back-end, the features that impact usage are the Reader List and Reader Button.

  • Reader Button – allows users to strip away the stylized elements of an article to focus on the content
  • Reader Lists – allow users to add articles to running lists that can be shared across devices.

Example of a Reader Button Activated Article

Example of the Reading List Display

Example of Reader List activation for Safari on my Mac.

(7) MAPS – Not major changes here, but I do like the fact that you can now share map locations via multiple options.

If you have Siri via the 4S, then you also have the ability to ask for directions via voice commands and Siri will remember your previous request. Here is my analysis of Siri.

8) iMESSAGE – allows you to interact with other iOS 5 users with unlimited text, photo & video messages.

  • iMessage uses a Blue send button whereas SMS uses Green
  • Delivery & Read Receipts
  • Group messaging
  • Works over cellular network & wi-fi

(9) NEW APPS – With each new update to the iOS new apps normally follow and this launch was no exception.

  • Reminders (Auto installed) – Syncs with iCloud, iCal and Outlook including location based reminders which is a great feature
  • Newstand (Auto installed) – Automatically organizes magazine & newspaper subscriptions on home screen
  • Cards – Create greeting cards directly from your iPhone
  • Trailers – Watch the latest movie trailers, also integrated with iTunes, of course what isn’t from Apple?
  • Find my Friends – Share your location with people. Good for parents to track their kids. Note must be using iCloud & iOS5
  • Airport Utility – Manage Wifi & airport base stations

(10) Wireless sync to iTunes – Enough Said!!!

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BlackFin360

The Power of Instagram for Brands

Photos can tell many stories and they are powerful representations of the world around us. It is no wonder that users have taken the simple task of taking photos with their iPhones to new levels with apps such as Instagram, Hipstamatic, PicPiz and Pose.

Instagram, a photo-sharing app for iPhone users, is quickly becoming a force for individuals & brands alike. With over 10 million users and an average of 1.3 million photos uploaded per day, it ties the ability to adjust your photo via multiple built in filters with socially enabled features such as sharing, liking, and commenting.

Why is Instagram attracting users and brands vs. say simply using Twitpic or another utility to take and share a photo? One reason may be the ability to easily customize photos where users feel in control and further expressing their personality & style with a simple user interface. The other thought is how Instagram enables social sharing across multiple channels with ease.

From the app, you have the ability to tag your photos with relevant hashtags, (#Starbucks) subscribe to feeds of individuals & brands as well as view the most popular submissions. In terms of social sharing, Instagram allows you to share your works of art across Twitter, Facebook, Email, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare and Posterous.

Brands have found innovative ways to incorporate Instagram into their social strategies to drive awareness & engagement. Those that use the medium well understand the opportunity to humanize the brand, incent users to create content on their behalf via unique hashtags & photo contests and it offers a quick and easy way to share visual content and of course engage users.

Below is a list of the Top 10 most followed brands & organizations on Instagram (As of September 15, 2011)

1. MTV = 103,036 Tweens, Teens, Young 20’s + Music + Visual Self Expression = MTV #1.

2. Starbucks = 91,157 – Starbucks understands the power of crowdsourcing. From their groundbreaking work with the My Starbucks Idea program to activating amateur photographers across the globe to tag #Starbucks with their Instagram enabled iDevices. You can go to starbucks.com/coffeehouse to see the latest images.

3. Burberry = 86,544 – Fashion & photography go hand in hand. It is no surprise that Burberry uses the service to showcase their professionally created visual imagery associated with their brand.

4. ABC News = 67,874 – ringing in at #4, ABC News uses it stream to visualize the news and users engage via comments

5. NPR = 65,972 – One of many news sources using Instagram to visualize the news.

6. Red Bull = 59,298 – Red Bull rings in at #6 with a healthy following. The brand executes hashtag photo contests and rewards users with likes as they show their affinity for the brand visually around the world.

7. CNN = 58,256 – Yet another news service visualizing the news

8. NBC = 55,012 – See #4, #5 and #7

9. Kate Spade = 45,597 – Another Fashion entry in the top 10. Kate Spade focuses on uniquely photographing merchandise & sharing the images via multiple social channels such as Tumblr & Twitter.

10. Celtics = 35,433 – Events are a natural extension for Instagram. Sporting events in particular can generate a significant amount of visual content. By understanding and capitalizing on this the Boston Celtics round out the top 10 with over 35,000 followers.

Other brands of Note include:

1. Volkswagen
2. Gucci
3. Levi’s
4. National Geographic
5. Coca Cola
6. Pepsi
7. McDonalds

The brands that are closer to the innovation end of the social marketing spectrum understand that it is not enough to simply rely on Twitter & Facebook but to ultimately be present, monitor & potentially engage in the channels where their brands are being discussed.

Many organizations view additional channels as spreading the brand too thin and fall into the trap of only leveraging Facebook & Twitter. I view each social channel as serving a specific purpose based on how consumers use the channel and the ultimate goals of the brand.

If you have the ability to define a strategy that incorporates various mediums while maximizing how they were intended to be used you can truly drive value for both the brand and the consumer. And yes there are branded conversations that happen outside of Facebook & Twitter.

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The VolksAd and the Power of FaceTube

Recently we, Red Urban Dallas, completed an amazing collaboration with our sister agency Red Urban Toronto. They work very closely with the Volkswagen brand in Canada and are responsible for very innovative and compelling campaigns.

The initiative started as they always do… with an idea. The idea of a crowdsourced VolksAd came from the very highly regarded Creative Director of Red Urban Toronto, Christina Yu.

Red Urban Toronto had completed serialized ads for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and wanted to extend the campaign from the two current TV spots to incorporate Facebook & YouTube.

Ad 1 – Drive Until: Courage (Chapter 1)

Ad 2 – Drive Until: Time (Chapter 2)

This is where I joined the project. Working closely with the Red Urban Toronto team, I was the strategic advisor for the execution across social channels.

When it came time to execute the VolksAd, the goal was to crowdsource all aspects of the upcoming commercial. From users commenting & voting on storylines, the script, model of the car, the cast, the music & the edit. The Red Urban Toronto team did a great job of executing the campaign.

By spacing the voting activities over multiple weeks, the team was able to maintain engagement and kept fans interested even to the point of livestreaming all 14 hours of the making of the making of!

By incorporating the names of the individuals who contributed during the campaign into the credits of the final edit, there was a sense of ownership for each individual for the finished product.

The results of the campaign were impressive. Active users jumped 140%, Fans of the Volkswagen Canada brand page jumped to 364,097,  there were 119,647,537 total media impressions and over 2,070,936 Facebook impressions.

Here is the full case study video

Here is the finished edit including everyone who contributed to the final product

Here is the official press release

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes Round 2

One of the more controversial posts over the past year was tied to my POV on 2D barcodes, specifically SnapTags vs. QR codes. This sparked an interesting conversation.

To follow up on that conversation, instead of getting into a philosophical discussion I will let this infographic sent to me by the SpyderLynk team kick-off the discussion. Would love to hear your thoughts after reviewing the infographic.

Snaptags vs. QR Codes per Spyderlynk

Let the commenting begin!!!

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BlackFin360

Starbucks Offers Branded Entertainment as Pick of the Week

As an incredibly frequent customer of Starbucks, I do pay close attention to the itunes Pick of the Week cards that are available close to the register. Apple & Starbucks have partnered together since 2007 and the Pick of the Week program has kept my interest since its inception. The core focus has been on music but I had held out hope for branded entertainment either in the form of video or ultimately apps.

For those of us that work with entertainment brands, driving awareness is incredibly valuable and leveraging strategic partnerships is just as important to amplify your brand. With such a significant global footprint on the local level and the market penetration of Apple’s iTunes services the likelihood for success is high, especially if you are one of the first brands to leverage the new direction of the partnership.

I was excited to see a TV show as the Pick of the Week over the holiday’s with the Charlie Brown pick of the week and that appeared to be a test leading up to the expansion beyond music.

Starting on August 23rd, Starbucks and Apple are now partnering together to deliver free Pick of the Week apps. This is significant as a song can cost $1.29 whereas the first app out of the gate, Shazam Encore was a $5.99 value.

This week features the latest Firemint release titled Spy Mouse (.99). It will be very interesting to watch the correlation of the release of the app, featured status via Starbucks and how that impacts the downloads and sales of the app. By providing a conveniently located download option at a physical location it offers the app developer a distinct awareness advantage over the competition.

According to the Starbucks blog it looks like this will expand to samples of books, TV shows & apps. Now the lobbying begins in terms of positioning various branded entertainment for the coveted spots. As an entertainment marketer or even app developer it is important not to discount the potential of this program.

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Facebook Text to Like

Although it has been available for a while now, one of the under utilized options to drive a Like for a Facebook Brand page is as simple as texting like_____ to 32265 (FBOOK if you are in the US). In the case of our facebook page, you would text “Like BlackFin360” to 32265 without the quotes. All that is required is that your mobile device is confirmed to your Facebook account.*

This method is a great alternative to 2D barcodes to Like or printing Like Us on packaging as it is directly actionable and once the user has confirmed their mobile device it is as simple as texting Like and the brand page name. The user will then not only receive updates via their newsfeed but any brand that they like via text will also receive the latest updates from your brand page directly as text messages.

Recently, Facebook was driving activation around local markets and provided Text to Like stickers for window fronts of local retailers.

Here is an example of a Text to Like sticker

As I mentioned above, in order to capitalize on this feature a users phone needs to be confirmed with Facebook. Below is an outline of what is required to confirm your mobile device with Facebook.

Open the Facebook mobile app then to settings at the top left. Or you can go to the mobile tab of your Account Settings page to activate Mobile Texts. Click “Register for Facebook Text Messages” and complete the steps that follow.

Step 1 Select Country & Mobile Carrier

Step 2 is confirmation

Step 3 Like the Page

As I stated previously, instead of simply stating find us or Like us on Facebook, capitalize on an opportunity to drive a Like on a direct mail piece, speaking at a conference or possibly on packaging. Most people have the ability to text and this is an untapped acquisition play that is more directive & enabled by quick response vs. passively asking for a like and putting the onus on the user to find the brand page, then Like it.

*If you are in a different country, here is the list of activation codes.

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Facebook Location Services How the Game Has Changed

Today Facebook made a significant announcement regarding the future of their location services. Below is pulled directly from today’s post.

Tag Locations in Posts

Before: You could only “check in” to locations using the Places feature on a smart phone.

Going Forward: Now you can add location to anything. Lots of people use Facebook to talk about where they are, have been or want to go. Now you can add location from anywhere, regardless of what device you are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or Wall post. Of course, you can always choose not to add location at all.

As a part of this, we are phasing out the mobile-only Places feature. Settings associated with it are also being phased out or removed. (You can read more about how location works and settings affected here: http://www.facebook.com/about/location)

This is a significant move on the part of Facebook as it takes them out of emphasizing the check-in game and extends the amount of potential data available ge0-targeted ad placement. Checking in will still be available as part of the platform but the onus is now about appending content with location.

To be direct, Facebook views itself as an advertising platform. With the ability to drive significant impressions and higher than average click-through and engagement, the ability to target advertising is the key revenue driver for Facebook.

By tying location to the past (Share where you have been), present (Share where you are) & future (Share where you are going) model and integrating location with content, the context of the post + location can provide additional relevance to marketers looking to connect and drive behaviors with Facebook’s plethora of users.

How this will potentially integrate with Facebook deals is still unknown. This is a logical shift on Facebook’s part and gets them out of direct competition with the gamified geo-location services while driving additional data to further strengthen their advertising position.

Smart move by Facebook.

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5 Facebook Growth Success Metrics

Recently I answered a question on Quora that I wanted to share as a post as well.

“What is the best way to measure ROI for increasing the number of fans for a Facebook Page?”

Since this question is focused primarily on success metrics tied to acquisition, I will forego discussions around engagement metrics and jump into 5 KPI’s that I reference as part of an acquisition plan. 

1 – % growth over a period of time | As I have mentioned before, on average the top 50 (US) Facebook pages growth rate is 5% per month. Using this as a baseline you can track & project your growth % and track the % increase as a core KPI.

E.g. AllFacebook.com has a good resource to track against the last 30 days of growth.

2 – Like acquisition rate | When executing a promotional program or simply tracking ROI against the % increase, I look at the total cost of the program to acquire the Like. Based on my research over multiple campaigns (including media) a good baseline average Like acquisition rate is ~$5.00 per like. We have experienced below $1 acquisition rate on highly successful campaigns but you should be tracking the Like acquisition rate in order to set realistic expectations with projected Likes vs. budget allocated.

E.g. Brand A recently increased Likes by 125,000 and spent 200K to execute the program/media, etc… the Like acquisition rate for this initiative would have been $1.60 per Like well below average thus a great value for the brand.

3 – Earned Media Value | Vitrue had an interesting study determining the value of a Like at 3.60 using the $3.60 as a potential baseline number it is a quick calculation to determine the current earned media value of a brand page.

E.g. Nerf With 420,093 Facebook fans has an earned media value of $1,512,334.80

4 – Facebook Like = 20 | In a recent discussion with Carolyn Everson of Facebook, she referenced that based on their data a Facebook “like” is equivalent to 20 unique visits to a brands web site.

5 – Facebook Media Reach | One additional KPI to review is media performance in terms of both Impressions & # of Likes generated with & without media support. Using the Facebook self-service platform, or a platform such as Adapt.ly are essential to support your growth initiatives.

There are many other metrics that you can track and platforms such as PageLever & Edgerank Checker to go further than Facebook insights but these are a few that I like to use when tracking success metrics on Facebook growth initiatives.

What are some additional metrics that you deploy to track against ROI for growth strategies?

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Heello

Twitpic founder Noah Everett has just launched a new microblogging social network called Heello. Heello down to it’s core is a Twitter clone. Outside of the Tweet being replaced by Ping (Which might draw the ire of Apple) what you will notice is that the 140 character limits and many of the microformats are in tact.

Because Twitter has essentially rendered Twitpic obsolete with some of the latest advancements to the service, Heello seems to be a direct response to this move by Twitter as a means to try and compete for marketshare.

Heello is currently an approved Twitter app so cross-posting between the services is possible and with Twitter’s developer ecosystem anxious due to inconsistent interactions with Twitter, there may be a place for Heello in the ever growing list of social networks.

In order for this to happen though Heello will need users and at this point there is no mobile support nor API’s which are critical to drive adoption. Also, from a brand perspective there is not yet support beyond simple content engagement.

Will Heello be the next big thing or will the advancements of Facebook & Google+ make services such as Twitter & Heello obsolete? The likelihood is high as both Google+ & Facebook offer destinations whereas Twitter & Heello are more of a sharing utility vs. destination.

Regardless, if for no other reason be sure to claim your namesake/brand/persona on Heello just in case.

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15 Examples of Gamification & Brands

Outside of the recent flurry associated with Google+, the one term that has been top of mind throughout the digital space recently is gamification. Gamification is a term used to describe organizations using game mechanics to drive engagement in traditionally non-gaming products. There are examples of gamification everywhere in our daily lives and many brands are integrating game mechanics in unique and compelling ways all with the purpose of driving user engagement.

Below are 15 examples of Gamification and how brands are capitalizing on the trend.

Xbox Live | Achievements, Leaderboards | Microsoft struck a chord with traditional gamers when they first rolled out achievement points. Users can earn a certain amount of gamerscore by completing specific tasks or actions in game.  This simple addition had a profound impact on the space as nothing to date had motivated behavior to play titles beyond ones taste for specific genres while also creating an aggregate & visible record of your gaming prowess. Brands took note of the trend and the loyalty that users developed in their pursuit of gamerscore & bragging rights. I attribute the current craze of achievement based gamification to the success of Xbox Live & achievement points.

E.g. Gamertag

Foursquare | Rewards, Badges | Location based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla & Facebook Places have redefined game mechanics in non-gaming products. Users and brands alike have taken notice and Foursquare stands out with 10 million users on a platform that was built around solid game mechanics. Users can claim mayorships, unlock badges, receive special offers & rewards such as discounts to specific retailers while also tracking against friends via a leaderboard.

Examples of Foursquare Badges

Example of Foursquare/NFL Super Bowl Rewards

Example of Foursquare/Pepsi Reward from SXSW 2011

Foursquare leaderboard sponsored by Pepsi

Gowalla | Virtual Goods, Badges, Rewards | Like Foursquare, Gowalla has had an impact on brands by incenting location based check-ins while incorporating virtual item reward programs that then translate into physical goods.

Example of Gowalla badges/pins

Example of Virtual Goods/Physical Goods

GetGlue | Badging, Rewards | The gamification of entertainment has been growing significantly over the past year. Similar to how individuals check into physical locations with services such as Foursquare & Gowalla, now it is possible to check into entertainment destinations such as your favorite TV Show, Movie, Music, Video Games, etc… With players such as GetGlue, Miso, Philo and Tunerfish all vying for your entertainment check-in, each platform offers different mechanics but each is built on the foundation of game mechanics such as badging & rewards through various brand partners.

Example of GetGlue Sticker tied to TRON

Example of a GetGlue Reward that offered 40% off of Mad Men on Blu-Ray or DVD

Linkedin |Progress Bar | Linkedin offers a small example of gamification by incenting users towards 100% profile completeness with a progress bar that is visible while on the edit profile page. By providing a visual representation of your profile completeness Linkedin hopes to trigger behavior that drives us towards completeness.

Example of Profile completeness

SalesForce | Leaderboard, Achievements, Leveling | Salesforce has taken gamification to another level with this addition to the popular CRM platform. With Engage, Salesforce users activities within the system are tied to various game mechanics and offers direct competition with other users within their organization. By incorporating this level of competitive visibility organizations can capitalize on surfacing different behaviors and hopefully drive additional engagement with their systems.

Example of SalesForce’s New Gamification Dashboard

Mint | Achievements, Progress Bar | As discussed on Mashable, Mint is offering a Financial Fitness Score that is based on core game mechanics associated with task completion, progression & achievements. By taking an ordinary exercise and creating a casual gaming experience, mint is creating an opportunity to drive new user acquisition in a creative way.

Example of Mint Gamification

Example of Mint Point Acquisition

CheckPoints | Virtual Currency, Rewards | CheckPoints incents users to engage in retail settings via compelling game mechanics. Users are incented to scan specific products in exchange for CheckPoints which can then be exchanged as a virtual currency for rewards such as gift cards. Brands can create compelling programs with CheckPoints to drive retail activation and product engagement all based on gamification of the shopping experience.

Example of CheckPoints Scan for Tyson Chicken

Example of CheckPoints Rewards

Shopkick | Virtual Currency, Rewards, Contests | Similar to CheckPoints, ShopKick also offers incentives and game mechanics for users to engage with specific products. By incenting users with specific offers prior to entering a retail location, ShopKick users can then interact with those products in store and earn points which translate to virtual currency. ShopKick also incorporates a hyper geo-targeted approach to driving engagement as shown below. By rewarding behavior by simply entering a participating retailer, ShopKick can influence behavior via a game mechanic.

Example Geo-Targeted Gamification associated with Target

Example of ShopKick Rewards

Hallmark | Facebook Credits, Virtual Goods, Gifting, Sharing | Facebook credits have become the default currency tied to Facebook’s ever popular social games. Beyond the social game mechanics brands are leveraging Facebook credits to incent users to interact with specific content. Hallmark incorporates many game mechanics into it’s Facebook application the Hallmark Social Calendar.

Example Hallmark Social Calendar and Facebook Credits

Example of Hallmark Social Calendar Gifting

Example of Incenting engagement via Points

Starbucks | Leveling, Rewards | Starbucks has incorporated game mechanics into it’s popular loyalty program. By incorporating multiple levels and associated rewards & perks per level with a progression tracker, users are incented to continually engage with the brand.

Example of MyStarbucks Rewards

Nike | Achievements, Badges, Challenges, Rewards | Nike has redefined running with Nike Plus. The ability to track, share, challenge and interact with like minded friends & runners across the world has been wildly successful. By incorporating game mechanics throughout the program Nike is able to create an engaging experience that transcends the real world activity.

Example of Nike Plus Goals & Challenges

Example of Nike Plus Progress bar & Leveling

Buffalo Wild Wings | Trivia, Challenges | Buffalo Wild Wings has been adept at carving out their place in the social ecosystem. By leveraging powerful platforms like Vitrue and partnering with Scvngr, they have created an engaging social persona that has served them well with over 5 million fans on Facebook. In terms of gamification they incorporate trivia regularly into their wall posts as well as incorporating online challenges tied to rewards.

Example of a Buffalo Wild Wings program that incorporates Scvngr

Microsoft | Achievements, Contests | Ribbon Hero is a creative game mechanic driven tutorial now in Microsoft Office. By completing specfic tasks and challenges you can then integrate Ribbon Hero with your Facebook account to compare how adept you are vs. your friends.

Example Ribbon Hero

Image via Geek.com

American Airlines | Progression Bar | A simple game mechanic is used by American Airlines to visually represent your current elite status qualification.

Example of American Airlines mobile app

As you can see many brands are capitalizing on the trend of integrating game mechanics into their non-gaming product offerings to drive engagement. What are some other examples of gamification by other brands?

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Facebook for Business

With Google+ yet to launch pages to support business, Facebook proactively launched the Facebook for Business resource center.

The center provides everything from guides for Pages, various ad products, sponsored stories and platform applications. These resources were not always available in one location and can serve as either a great refresher or provide new insight into the depth of Facebook’s platform and are written in a very straightforward manner.

As I stated in my last post, Facebook is still priority #1 for brands.

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Facebook Is Still Priority #1 for Brands

While a lot of buzz and attention has been placed on Google+ over the past few weeks it is too soon for brands to divert attention & dollars away from Facebook. While there is a lot of speculation on how Google+ will enable brands, one thing is still very clear. The #1 option for brands focused on B2C interaction & engagement is still Facebook.

Facebook is the number one seller of display advertising in the US now according to eMarketer and has surpassed both Google & Yahoo. While Google+ has gained momentum quickly, analysis still shows there is a lot of duplication across networks with a majority of new Google+ users maintaining accounts and engaging across both Facebook & Google+.

From a brand perspective no other social platform is as well equipped to support brands both domestically and internationally than Facebook. With the breadth of reach available and the lack of brand support on Google+ (For the time being) it’s important to note that Facebook is where the remainder of your 2011/2012 $$$ should be allocated.

To support this statement look at the recent rollout of Facebook’s sponsored stories and how their usage of social context drives interaction. If you have yet to use this type of ad unit you should consider it as a part of your next Facebook media buy. This ad unit presents interactions with pages into dynamic ads that are shared throughout users newsfeeds and due to the personal & social nature of the unit they grab user’s attention quickly.

The results have been impressive with 1.6x lift in brand recall, 2x lift in message awareness and 4x lift in purchase intent according to Facebook. This is a key differentiator between Facebook & Google+ at the present time. The social context that Facebook provides to brands and support with a variety of programs still makes it the primary choice to execute a Paid, Owned & Earned strategy.

I have found the following graphical representation of Facebook’s Sponsored Story types to be extremely useful.

Time will tell who eventually wins the highly coveted ad dollars. But as it stands today it is still no contest when it comes to where to spend your brands social advertising dollars.

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10 Potential Brand Benefits of Google+

For those of us that work closely with brands, the initial beta for Google+ was exciting but not quite fulfilling for brands. Granted it is a Beta and is not intended for brand or non-human entities at this time. The recent announcement of Pages or Entities for brands on the 2011 platform roadmap means it is never too early to begin thinking about Google+ brand strategy with what is known today.

Below are 10 potential points to consider for your 2012 digital strategy planning as it relates to Google+.

Potential Brand Benefits of Google+ Brand Pages/Entities

1 ) Integration with Google Search – Google currently owns 68% of search market share. The fact that the Google +1 icon is now a part of every Google search result shows a glimpse of the level of integration Google has in store for users & brands alike. A user can directly recommend a link from their search results and that recommendation is simultaneously shared on the users  Google+ +1 profile section. By combining paid search, and incenting +1 behaviors you can begin to see the potential of this level of integration as the user may not be actively engaged on Google+ but the abilty to drive a user to engage by recommending content with the click of a single button is appealing.

Here is an example of a search for Hasbro’s NERF product. I like NERF so I +1 the Page

The +1 is then aggregated into my Google+ profile under +1’s

2 ) Google +1 – Similar to the Facebook Like button the Google +1  button has the opportunity to truly transcend the platform by driving significant 3rd party integration. In fact the Google +1 button overtook the Twitter tweet button on most major websites with a 33% spike in integration recently. Granted it is still far behind the Like button in terms of saturation but the fact that both Facebook & Google+ drive engagement to a central destination vs. simply being a conduit to various destinations such as Twitter shows the potential of 3rd party integrations to drive engagement.

3 ) Circles – By allowing brands to potentially segment fans is a big win. One of the issues with brand management on Facebook is tied to messaging across audience segments. By allowing brands to potentially seamlessly categorize fans it allows the style of engagement to change dramatically. Imagine if you are driving engagement with 13-17 year old segments as well as 18-24 year olds. The brand & social persona’s associated with content could shift to further driving engagement based on audience segment vs. a one size fits all approach.

Here is a mock-up of how a brand could further segment consumers via demographic circles

4 ) Google+ & Social GamingGoogle invested 100 million dollars into Zynga in 2010 and look for Google+ to create it’s own Google Games flavor of social gaming in 2011/2012. With over 50% of Facebooks 700 million engaged daily with Facebook social games, it is a key motivator for brands to monitor the Google Games offering and how Zynga and others align with Google+. The success of recent brand integrations with Farmville, including Frito-Lays recent world record for driving “Likes”, has given notice to brand managers of the power of Social Games & strategic partnerships with the game providers.

5 ) Google Tools/Apps/Gadgets Integration – If your organization uses Google Apps for business it looks as though Google will be holding trials with a handful of users to test integration between Google Apps for Business & Google+. Additional integration could come in the form of Google Gadgets where it may be possible to re-purpose rich media elements as a Google Gadget that could then be shared with a user via Google+. This would further drive efficiency with marketing dollars while providing additional tools to drive acquisition & engagement.

6 ) YouTube & Google TV Integration – With YouTube in it’s stable, Google+ integration with YouTube is not far behind. The inherent social nature of YouTube translates well in terms of integration of +1, embedding video and further integrating the YouTube & Google+ experience to make sharing and recommending content even easier. From a brand perspective being able to distribute unique & consumer generated content that is relevant to the brand while driving +1’s back to a brand page is very appealing from an earned media perspective.

One area that really intrigues me is how Google TV may integrate with Google+ to create a truly social entertainment experience. I envision further integration between Google TV, YouTube, Hulu & Andriod to drive truly integrated entertainment experiences across screens. From a media perspective you could truly bridge the gap between traditional & digital placement by incorporating a relevant ad placement via information collected from Sparks & Google Search. This to me is the future of enhanced television.


7 ) Google Map Integration – Many brands have physical locations and creating a distributed module that integrates Google Maps or even more importantly Google Latitude integration. It will be interesting to see if there is additional focus on integrating Google Latitude with Google+ to rival Facebook places and the other key players such as Foursquare & Gowalla. Brands could claim locations and proactively be pinged with relevant offers based on check-in history and Google+ spark interests.

8 ) Android Integration – With the Android’s market share currently at 49.5%, integration with Google+ is a key for both Google+ & Android. With both an App & Web version of Google+ and an Android exclusive with the Google+ Huddle functionality, the level of integration between Android & Google+ is apparent. Even though the Hangout feature was left out, there are still signs towards further integration for Google+ beyond the app. The latest version of Google+ enabled phones are rumored to provide  additional functionality such as a potential one touch +1 feature in the next generation phone. This may have brands rethinking their approach to Android applications.


9 ) Google Offers – With the launch of Google Offers, it is a natural extension for brands to incorporate group buying where applicable. By integrating this with Google+ as well as search results there could be a very compelling acquisition program tied to Google+ extensions that is amplified via Google+ users.

10 ) Sparks & Recommendation Engine – One of the most impactful elements of Google+ for brands is potentially Sparks. Brands could focus advertising dollars on Sparks programs that are relevant to their brand & product offerings. Taking it a step further, creation of a recommended or +1 relevance based on a users & circles sparks/interests that is then socially shared could be very compelling. This would be very similar to Facebook’s sponsored stories.

Other areas of focus & interest will be how international/localized regions are supported in terms of aggregating brand +1’s  and how the Google+ commerce & currency platform strategies will unfold.

One additional point will be to evaluate the true reach and amplification of the +1 from an earned media perspective. While Circles & segmentation are key how this information is shared and disseminated via the stream is incredibly important. Be sure to note the differences in what shows up individually in your streams vs. what is tied to content. With Facebook, one of the secrets outside of edgerank is the level of detail that is shown by interaction. You “Like” NERF and it is represented in your newsfeed. This is key for true adoption & ultimately big advertising dollars to be spent on Google+.

As far as what the potential brand pages would look like Sean Percival created an interesting mock up of what a potential Starbucks brand page could look like.

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Google+ & Facebook

This week saw the launch of Google+ which is Googles answer to Facebook. Google has definitely had setbacks when it comes to Social solutions. Google Wave anyone? So what do they decide to do this time around? Basically mirror Facebook.

googleplus

Comic via xkcd

There is even a CSS overlay that now converts your Google+ experience to look like Facebook.

When you break down Google+ the initial functionality looks very familiar with a few subtle differences tied to the Profile & stream of news. The Stream is similar to the newsfeed and users can “+1” specific updates. The functionality is so similar to Facebook’s newsfeed that it makes me think if you can’t beat them copy them.

Beyond the profile & stream there are 5 core areas of Google+ upon launch.

Circles – The basis of circles is to allow users to segment their friends and drive updates to specific groups vs. your entire friends list. Users can follow updates from specific circles with the ability to further filter streams of information.

Circles

Hangouts – Brings live group video chat to the table. An individual can allow multiple users in various circles to initiate group video live chats. It’s sort of a mashup of Meetup & Skype’s group video chat.

Instant Upload – Instant Upload is a service that ]removes the barrier between uploading images from your mobile device to a social service. Instead of selecting which image to upload, all images are uploaded and you select which to share with your circles.

Instant Upload

Sparks – Sparks is the Google+ version of a relevancy engine. My assumption is that this serves a dual purpose of identifying and sharing interests as well as the engine to tie users interests to Google’s ad platform. It will be interesting to watch the progression and to see if Google+ takes from Facebook’s sponsored stories and other socially integrated advertising options to attract potential ad revenue.

Sparks

Huddle – Huddle brings group texting to the social network. Similar to GroupMe & Beluga recently Acquired by Facebook users circles can now carry on the conversation outside of the standard web interface. It looks like Google+ beat Facebook in getting this feature to market.

Huddle

+1 – Google’s version of the Like button, +1 is designed with the same intention as a Like and will be appearing on 3rd party sites near you. I assume Google will integrate the +1 into search results similar to Buzz. I am also assume that brands will now want to drive both Likes & +1’s in the never ending quest for earned media.

How-to-Get-Google-Like-+1-Button-for-Blogs

I am sure that the future of Google+ will be tied to deep hooks with the Android operating system, an extensive ad network based on information provided via Sparks as well as a push to drive 3rd party adoption of the +1. Also with Chrome gaining market-share and closing the gap on Firefox there will most likely be considerable integration there as well.

 

One of the core advantages of Facebook for advertisers beyond reach is that Facebook is a platform first and foremost and with a laser focus on driving social for users & brands alike. It will be interesting to see how Google+ will attract & support brands. As they have just announced “Pages” for brands is on the roadmap.

This is clearly the biggest threat to Facebook to date as it takes the best elements of Facebook and adds new functionality. But it has a long way to go to match Facebook as an advertising platform.

The things to keep in mind moving forward is that Google currently owns Search, YouTube, about to purchase Hulu, Chrome with 20% market share as well as the Android operating system and driving usage of their online office productivity suites and apps. If anyone is positioned to challenge Facebook it’s Google. But time will tell.

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Facebook Photo Tagging & Brand Pages

Today Facebook rolled out a feature that could have big implications for brand pages. Facebook users will now be able to tag brand pages in their photos.

This can represent a new avenue for brand pages as users can now associate your brand with their images thus further driving discoverability of your page and generating additional impressions.

From a brand perspective it will be interesting to see what strategic changes are made to encourage brand tagging in user photos.

It will also be interesting to watch how users respond to more images showing up in their newsfeeds.

This is however big news for brands looking to acquire new users as this is a key feature that can now be leveraged on behalf of the brand page.

NOTE: Users can tag your brand whether they have LIked it or not.

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5% of a Facebook Like

Pop Quiz… What is the one word that recently became ubiquitous throughout our online lives? Is it “Refudiate“, the word that Sarah Palin coined and won 2010 word of the year? Is it Slizzard? Thanks for that Far East Movement. No it is one simple four letter word…no not that word… this one… “Like”.

Now it seems that every brand wants your like. You as a consumer are willing to give it to them but why? And as a marketer how can I set realistic expectations around potential growth projections?

I was recently interviewed by Bob Garfield. Yes that Bob Garfield to discuss this exact topic. NOTE: When the video is posted in a few weeks I will post the full interview.

We discussed why is the “Like” relevant? Beyond relevance, I also want to address campaign expectations around benchmarks & growth thresholds.

When you have 663,951,400 million people commonly tied together sharing every aspect of their lives and allowing brands to directly interact with them it creates a marketing equivalent to a perfect storm.

To this point hopefully we all can agree that acquiring a “like” has become a rallying cry for everyone from brands to agencies to your favorite social strategist.

We all hear about the importance of the right mix of Paid, Owned & Earned. We scramble for the latest case studies striving to set the gold standard and create compelling programs that drive “Likes”.

We have heard from the likes (no pun intended) of Vitrue claiming that a “Like” is worth $3.60 of earned media. We talk about EdgeRank. We talk about true reach of social activity proliferating newsfeeds.

We execute programs that are designed to grow “Likes” in addition to simple engagement. Tactics such as exclusive content fan gating, Forced “Like” sweeps opt-in requirements, dual like campaigns, etc…

But when it comes to setting realistic expectations for “Like” growth and campaign KPI’s it becomes very nebulous in terms of how to actually benchmark growth and set realistic expectations both on the brand side and the agency side.

Many brands have very aggressive goals when it comes to growing “Likes”. Many hours are spent, strategic alliances are forged and millions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of growing the base while hopefully bringing relevant brand advocates along for the ride.

Looking at the raw numbers for a moment. I took the top 50 US Facebook pages and tracked and averaged their growth over a period of time and the resulting percentage of growth averaged across them was 5% “Like” growth per month.

Obviously when setting expectations around thresholds it is important to take into account many factors such as the brands objectives around acquisition including “Like” growth, competitive growth, programs executed, etc. but if you are just starting a program and have no basis for growth the 5% number is important as it does provide a baseline of top performing brand pages that you can then craft a realistic expectation of roughly 3-5% at the onset of your strategy.

There is so much more that we can talk about when it comes to “Likes” and it’s real value to campaigns and the Pros & Cons. But the reality is that brands want more and agencies are working hard to make it happen. And with the “Like” moving outside of Facebook over the past year it is going to become even more of a factor.

But one final point to consider is that the “Like” is not the be all/end all of social KPI’s. It is an important and high profile element but it is always important to look at your strategy and objectives holistically.

One final thought is to consider another four letter word that is just now beginning it’s climb towards relevance… “Send” with the recent roll out of the “Send” button now you can easily drive users from 3rd party and proprietary sites directly to engage and hopefully “Like” thus further perpetuating the cycle.

Orbitz Example:

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Social Turf War

During a recent iMedia Summit a simple question was asked to Bryan McCleary, Director of Public Relations, Procter & Gamble, Baby Care. “Who should own social strategy?” Brian’s response was interesting and made a lot of sense. His response was “The Brand and Agency should own the social strategy or the “building of the house” and the PR agency should own the “storytelling” and brand reputation management.” 



This is a very telling statement as times have changed and the evolution of social has gone from Social Networking to social media and now to the world of Social Activity. This creates a conundrum for many brands as internal & external turf wars are being waged both in terms of who owns social internally as well as the blurring line between the agency side and PR. 



Going back to Bryan’s statement for a moment, the reason it makes sense is that the agencies both traditional and especially the digital/social are very closely aligned with the marketing objectives of the brand. This extends to acquisition and engagement strategies as well as driving advocacy towards the objectives of the business. Also, agencies bring an element of social creativity in terms of campaign support that is unique and essential to creating a compelling experience beyond the “story telling”. 


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Where PR really enables a brand is with the ability to drive the conversations and reputation management while “telling the story” of the brand through compelling content or by activating influencers.



It is very clear though that the objectives for PR & Agencies differ as different expectations, goals and even KPI’s are in place. Ultimately brands that understand the need to define roles & responsibilities and realign with changing consumer behaviors and channels are the ones who will thrive and exceed expectations.


I personally live this model everyday as we have great relationships with the PR companies that we work with on the Hasbro account and many others. There is a clear delineation between our role of “building the house” and the “story telling” and reputation management delivered by PR. By working together instead of competing for turf, this has allowed us to drive progressive programs jointly. 


digitalhouse2


What we find is that by clearly articulating the roles of the groups both internally and externally and allowing each group to maximize their expertise the end result is a comprehensive social strategy that can truly move the presence of a brand forward.

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes the ideal 2D Experience

By now most of you have seen or interacted with QR codes in one form or another. Whether it was online, direct mail, etc… QR Codes are becoming a common tool in marketing toolkits.

qr_tattoo

While it is possible to leverage a small portion of a QR code to incorporate brand elements it is not the most aesthetically appealing execution for a brand. Also, QR codes currently require an application or software to read. While Near Field Communication or NFC is evolving it is still not widespread.

Red Urban QR Code

One additional issue is that QR codes are hardcoded upon generation. In order to manage the response destination changes would need to be made on the response side of the campaign such as changing content at the point of delivery or redirects to the desired response destination or use a premium QR management service.

QRCodePolo

As I look to execute campaigns that require enhancing product packaging, point of purchase, etc… I want a solution that is going to drive the maximum engagement potential with a low barrier of activation.

Initially I was an advocate of QR codes. I Provided POV’s on how to leverage the codes to drive engagement with mobile apps, sizzle videos, social destinations, etc…

Now I am looking to SnapTags more and more to drive that level of engagement for brands that I work with. A SnapTag is an aesthetically pleasing execution that provides multiple engagement options with the brand at the center of the experience.

inception

What I like about SnapTags is that the user has multiple options to activate and engage. They can simply text an image or e-mail an image of the SnapTag to drive the text or multimedia response.

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The beauty of the SnapTag is that you are not locked into a single response destination. SnapTags support the ability to change the response as they are served via a database vs. hardcoded into the tag. This means that you can change the destination of the response without messy redirects off of the original response.

This is an ideal benefit if you want to drive different levels of engagement throughout the lifecycle of the tag.

Also, by driving activation via text or e-mail the SnapTag adds a CRM element to the campaign that can then drive a mobile opt-in vs. simply sending a user to a pre-determined location via a QR code.

branded-snaptags

From an analytics perspective instead of just simply tracking # of scans SnapTags offer media performance and consumer behavior tracking as an added benefit. Which is key when mapping back to the original brand objectives.

So when it comes to driving 2D digital activation I am leaning towards the SnapTag execution more and more as it provides a more robust model that is scalable with the campaign.

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Your Brand vs. Product on Facebook

Brands vs. Products on Facebook. This is a question I have been asked about many times. Is it better to have 1 brand location on Facebook or should I have multiple pages some dedicated to product.

While there is not a one size fits all answer I am a strong believer in having a central brand hub and manage product via that location.

The reason being is that if one of my business goals is to acquire likes I want to maximize my earned media potential by consolidating my Likes for my core brand.

A great example of a brand execution that maximizes product likes is the Nike Football Boot Finder.

Nike Boot

Notice in the middle of the page that individual boots are rated on the sub-brand level. and each also has it’s own product specific page to drive further engagement with the product.

boot sub brand

If you click on the sub category you are presented with a product specific page to drive further engagement with the product, additional share options as well as a direct retail call to action.

Nike Boot Detail2

This allows Nike to drive, track and consolidate sub-brand likes while not diluting the core brand.

Also with the upcoming Facebook changes from FBML to iFrames brands will have increased flexibility in how to execute sub-branded experiences by allowing even tighter integration with existing brand sites.

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Influencer Identification, Brand Marketers & the Growing Divide

Advocacy, acceleration of content creation and generating buzz around products and services are always at the top of the list for most brand Go-To-Market strategies.

One consistent goal is to identify and engage key influencers in a specific brand category and work to activate them by peeking their interest into becoming a brand ambassador for your offering. Sounds easy enough right?

The problem is the divide between influencers and brands is very real and more fragmented than you may think. Obviously there are the A-list influencers in each category. Getting a single mention from Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) or a featured article via a TechCrunch or Mashable author are worthy of praise.

guy

But how do you identify RELEVANT influencers? A large number of Influencers have moved past only residing in blogs and are leveraging other social channels. While blogs are still a key component of influencer outreach it is incredibly important to review an influencers comprehensive social footprint in comparison to your target consumer to ensure that you are maximizing your true social reach.

Many tools exist today to identify influencers across categories such as Technorati’s top 100 (Blogs) , Klout (Twitter), Radian6 (Multiple Channels) etc… but additional analysis needs to be conducted prior to executing your outreach program. Generating tool created influencer target lists is only half the battle.

Technorati

When I work with brands I use a combination of tools to craft the ideal influencer target list for my brand category. But before I proceed with any type of outreach there are 2 additional steps that need to be taken.

#1 – It is extremely important to take into consideration the target consumer segments and behavioral characteristics. This is critical as your influencers are only relevant to your consumer target if they are actually relevant to your consumer target!

Sample Personas2 crp

#2 – Not all influencers are created equally. Just because you have a list of 100 potential influencers to target it does not mean that you will get the most reach per channel.

When I review influencers for potential brand impact I take into consideration the following variables:

1 – Ensure my Consumer Segmentation is as detailed as possible including characteristics and perceived personas.

2 – Consolidate sets of traffic & engagement patterns via publicly available sources.

Scoble

2 – Map Target Demographics & Age indexing against my consumer segments
3 – Categorize and review social channel penetration and impact per channel as well as review how integrated their individual channels are.
4 – If available brand partner history

Once all data has been collected I score each set of variables based on a proprietary influencer index that I created. I will review as much data as possible around each influencer… Monthly uniques, demographic indexing tied to my consumer segments then I run numerous calculations on factors such as Dan Zarrella’s Retweetability Metric (# Tweets per day /# of RT’s per day)/Followers as well as analysis of Facebook reach, YouTube subscribers, video views and more.

dan-zarellas-retweetability-metric

Each data element receives a 1-3 weighted ranking based on Primary, Secondary & Ancillary influencer target status and all scores are then averaged to gauge an influencers potential brand impact rating.

What I find is that there are many tools that will get you 80% of the way there in terms of identifying relevant influencers. There are many tools that are channel specific and provide valuable data. In order to find the individuals that are truly relevant to your potential target audience it is important to venture that last 20% in order to truly maximize your program for success.

Regarding the outreach portion it is extremely important to be respectful in your approach. Take the time and show an interest in the topics they are passionate about and incent them in a way that will definitely encourage them to engage and be reciprocal in your praise. Facebook’s upcoming change that will allow brands to take more control of responding as a brand can further increase the bond between influencers and the brand. Aggregate relevant posts, provide links back and respond to their requests in a timely manner. Treat influencers as you would like to be treated and it will go a long way.

I have found these steps to be an extremely valuable framework to executing a successful influencer identification and outreach program.

 

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Augmented Reality a Reality for Brands

What do you think of when you hear the term Augmented Reality? Do you flash back to Tom Cruise in Minority Report? Or more recently Tony Stark in Iron Man 2 manipulating 3D objects? The prevailing thought until recently has been more style over substance. Some brand teams consider it is a nice gimmick to garner press but not a core element of an integrated strategy. But as you will see, A/R is becoming a key driver for brands that are looking to drive acquisition & engagement.

Minority Report

Iron Man 2

Augmented Reality can be a great addition to an integrated strategy as either an acquisition tool or engagement vehicle that enhances a consumers experience with the brand. With the rapid acceleration of smartphone capabilities the ability to provide relevance to a consumer and enhance their interaction with your brand across multiple channels is now reality. A/R will also be how we will interact digital information in the future.

Now the how…. Augmented Reality is simply when the real world is “augmented” by computer data.

A simple example happens on Sundays in the NFL. The Yellow line that we have now come to depend on when looking at yards to go for a first down is a great execution of AR. Simply applying a digital overaly with the real action.

Digital Line

What do I need? How and where does it work? Who is using it?

Depending on the type of execution there are a variety of ways to execute a program. The executions that most are familiar with were tied to A/R markers called glyphs.

marker

But A/R does not depend as much on the cryptic markers as it once did. The trend is moving towards markerless executions where everyday objects such as a dollar bill can initiate an immersive experience that further enhances a users experience with the brand.

AR BK

The other trend as I referenced above is tied to digital overlays that essentially enhance the environment around you. More and more executions are leveraging mobile devices as the viewer of digitized content.

Layar AR

There are multiple executions on the how. From mobile, online, point of purchase, print, TV and out of home.  Here are a few examples by medium.

Mobile: The biggest leap in recent years has been around mobile executions of A/R. With 50 million smart phone users in the US and the number quickly rising, the hardware can now support robust A/R executions. Your phone essentially becomes the lens by which you digitally enhance the world around you. With the recent executions by Yelp with Monocle & Wimbeltons use of Layar brands are looking to digitally tag the world around them and offer a new perspective on the world around them.

Yelp

Online: The initial executions were highly driven by markers. Now with markerless executions everyday objects such as a can of pringles can create a compelling reason to engage with a brand beyond the clutter.

A compelling acquisition execution was created by Pringles via an A/R advergame that was tied to the recent World Cup. Users used the Pringles can as a controller to interact with the game.

pringles

The next example by the United States Postal Service shows an execution that provides actual utility for users. The Virtual Box execution allows the USPS to create an engaging experience that provides value by digitally representing “will it fit?”

virtual-box-simulator-1

Olympus provides a great example of incorporating A/R via multiple channels that tie to an online experience. Markers in the shape of a new product were placed in targeted print locations. The user then had the option to get a virtual hands on tour of the new product. Again another example of an engaging experience that ties back to tangible value for the brand.

Olympus

Point of Purchase: One of the most innovative usages of A/R in store is the LEGO digital box. If you happen to live near a LEGO store you can use the kiosk to digitally see what your LEGO will look like when fully assembled. This is driven by markers on the package and combined with heavily branded kiosk to create a satisfying retail experience.

Lego

Television: XBOX – One example of A/R providing relevance in the home is with Microsofts upcoming release of the KINECT. The ability to interact directly with gestures to control digital data such as navigation, initiation of content as well as digitizing yourself will prove to be a gateway to mainstream application of digital interaction on a recurring basis.

Kinect

As we continue the trend of advancing hardware and further incorporating digital elements into our lives for everyday activities it will be interesting to see how campaigns are redefined to take advantage of the next great frontier in advertising.

Digital World

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5 Steps to Branded Social Relevance

The 60’s were known as the creative age in terms of advertising. Since the mid 90’s we are now in the digital age and it shows no signs of slowing down. Working in digital over the past decade means the one constant has been change. Technologies advance, new tactics are defined, the next shiny object that transforms how we communicate is introduced.  Yet during this explosion into a digital society certain behavioral elements remain the same. People have an inherent desire to share, look to others for recommendations on products & services and have a desire to consume products and services that are relevant to them.

robot

Fast forward to today and the latest iteration of digital is social media. It’s on the minds of senior level executives to the most jr. brand manager. All looking for the right combination to amplify the reach of the brand, drive acquisition, strengthen brand relevance, activate influencers both domestically and internationally, integrating with CRM & e-commerce solutions, encouraging engagement and ultimately hoping to influence purchase.

socialmedialandscape

Creating a truly engaging experience is not a given. For the sake of this conversation assume a solid awareness campaign is planned to drive acquisition. As I have discussed in previous posts the “build it” and they will come only works if you are Apple nowadays. For most brands it is imperative to leverage multiple vehicles to drive awareness as well as rock solid consumer insights.

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5 Steps to social relevance

The Big IdeaOne of the THE most talented creative director I have ever worked with recently boiled the big idea down to being able to explain it with one sentence. Then the supporting tactics immediately begin to surface. This is also one of the key points to consider when evaluating the fragmented landscape of where the ideas come from?

social stuff

Should the idea come from our PR firm? Social agency? Traditional Agency? Digital Agency? In my experience the idea should support the overarching brand objectives & the medium.

It is one thing to develop an elegant strategy that maximizes appropriate vehicles based on insight but until you are able to overlay a compelling idea that meets brand objectives while providing both utility and relevance for your audience you are rolling out tactics that may not ever reach their full potential.

the big idea

It is important to spend the time developing creative concepts that are supported by a digital framework that maximizes each strategic brand pillar. With social now residing in multiple parts of an organization, having an underlying theme tying all of the tactics together into a cohesive package that drives relevance and engagement is the most difficult element of social relevance.

Utility – To put it simply the big idea needs to support enabling a basic need. We as consumers all have needs. A need to connect, a need to uncover information, a need to help me accomplish a goal. In order for us to interact with your brand an inherent benefit needs to be provided to the user.

An ideal example is the simple utility associated with the Hallmark Social Calendar Facebook application. For those of you not familiar with the application it recently gained 4 million users over the course of a week by meeting and enhancing individuals desires to stay connected with their friends.
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With a combination of basic utility and offline reminders, users are constantly driven to engage with the application. Sometimes the simplest tasks like aggregating your friends birthdays and events can lead to quick adoption.

Relevance – Take just a moment and think about your own behavior. What are the apps you use the most? Of everything installed on your iPhone, Android, BlackBerry…. What do you actually use? Most of you would say some combination of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Banking App, News, etc…

The common thread to each of these is personal relevance. “I” want to connect with my networks, “I” want to be able to find the latest headlines or search for directions to the restaurant I will be at later in the day. The point is apps that provide relevant content or opportunities to engage are ultimately rewarded with adoption.

relevance

Looking at Hallmark once again the basis of the application is tied directly to users desire to stay current with events and it provides relevance to the user and that translates into engagement.

Incentive – Attention all brand marketers… Attention… People Like Free Stuff. Yes I know it is hard to believe but in order to entice users to engage it is always helpful to offer a tangible reward for engagement.

fb creds

My preference is to incent users with rewards that are digital yet have application beyond my branded experience. One of the best examples is Hallmark’s recent usage of Facebook credits. This was one of the first applications that was a non-gaming app that adopted the soon to be default Facebook currency (Zynga fully on board) to entice users to engage with branded properties

Integration – Integration is key to driving relevance. Consider how to incorporate cross-platform vehicles to provide further points of integration that impact the user while offline. Whether it is tied to offline SMS messaging, mobile application, e-mail campaign, etc… the key is to think beyond the application and how other channels can further enhance engagement.

Social networking and internet concept crossword

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The Need for Social Audience Segmentation

When evaluating & auditing companies usage of social channels I notice certain recurring themes in terms of the combination of branded social media vs. consumer social (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Namely there is rarely a clearly defined approach based on audience segmentation and how the brand positions social media.

Segmentation + Social? Doesn’t that go against the nature of social? Don’t we just want to have a list of social chicklets and assume everyone knows where they need to go?

My immediate response would be “NO”. When defining a social strategy I spend a lot of time looking at the brand objectives, essence, brand pyramid, etc… then it’s on to the consumer insights and audience segmentation and behavioral assessments. Why is this important? Yes there are 500 million people on Facebook but that does not mean that certain audience segments will be open to your message.

The key is structuring a users interaction with a brands social ecosystem by leveraging audience insights for primary and secondary audiences. What you will most likely uncover is that the audiences engage and behave differently. The primary audience may gravitate towards Facebook & Twitter while the other group primarily interacts with blogs & YouTube.

In certain instances, especially those executing acquisition strategies, a social hub may be in order. Isn’t Facebook a Social Hub? Possibly if you are truly integrating all channels and leveraging custom tabs to segment and drive user interaction towards a key objective.

Wait… What did you just say? To state it simply a social hub is basically a portal thats primary purpose is to drive your audience through the appropriate path to engage with content that is relevant to them while closely mapping to the brands objectives (acquisition, engagement, etc…).

The ideal brand experience that reflects this approach based on segmentation is Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax has structured a social hub that enables users to clearly choose the path that best meets their ideal criteria to interact with Turbo Tax’s social media channels. Social Media Examiner has a good case study taking a deeper look at Turbo Tax’s usage of social media.

When I was the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of INgage networks and we were rebranding & revamping the companies digital presence we created a solution that clearly segmented the audience to provide a relevant consumer experience as quickly as possible. The results associated with targeted lead generation surpassed anything that had been done over the course of the 10 year history of the company.

So when considering just adding social chicklets to your branded home page or investigating how to further segment your audience, take a moment to consider whether creating a social hub based on how your audience interacts with the appropriate channels may be the ideal addition to your current strategy.

If you are interested in engaging with me feel free to contact me. We can audit your brands current position in the marketplace that is then scored against our Digital Value Index. Or we can work with your brand team to define an integrated strategic digital framework that supports your brand initiatives.

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Largest Social Network on TV

I write a lot about social media, digital strategy & emerging technology. One of my favorite past times is console gaming via my Xbox 360.

With the recent release of Halo Reach and personally surpassing 100,000 gamerscore on Xbox Live, I wanted to write about how digital marketers can leverage the largest social network on TV to further enhance digital engagement.

TheBlackFin

With over 23 million users and an average of 4 million engaged daily Xbox Live is an incredible platform to execute digital strategies and tactics.

From branded avatar collections, product tie-in’s, promotions and sponsorships there are many opportunities for brands to leverage the sticky experience that Xbox Live provides.

This also goes beyond typical in-game advertising.  Having a truly engaged, socially connected fanbase that also associates closely with brands is a key factor when evaluating the platform.

This is one of the only times I apply my personal insight into a platform. When I am on Xbox Live I pay attention to brand promotions here moreso than any other medium. The reason being is that upon start up of the console I am presented with compelling content blocks that I choose how I interact.

I have found that I enter most if not all of the branded sweepstakes and I pay attention to when new branded avatar items are presented. And with more traffic than ESPN.com this is an ideal way to drive brand engagement.

Being a fan of the platform and a daily user, You don’t get to 100,000 gamerscore by not engaging almost daily, I have experienced the benefits and opportunities first hand.

So the next time you are looking for an ideal channel beyond traditional media and digital outlets don’t forget about the largest social network on TV.

If you are a brand manager interested in leveraging Xbox Live please contact me as I have a long standing relationship with various Xbox Live teams.
From branded avatar collections, promotions, advertising etc…

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The Pass Back Effect

For marketers working with child centric brands or simply have children of your own, it is important to understand certain trends that are quickly developing in how both parents and children’s behaviors are changing based on the rapid evolution of mobile devices. One of the side benefits is that technology is being passed down at an accelerated rate.

If you are one of the 50+ million Americans with a smartphone and you happen to have small children then you have most likely passed it to them to appease their little hands and minds in certain situations.

This phenomenon is now known as the pass-back effect. By passing your mobile device to your child you are actually participating in a new trend of further enhancing the learning and development of your child… or in real parenting terms you are providing an electronic play grenade that will entertain them for 15 minutes while you are waiting to be seated at a very busy restaurant.

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Whether it is giving your two year old your iPhone during big brother’s basketball practice (try the Cars inspired matching game). Or your daughter is playing the latest dress-up or Cookie/Cake decorating game between appointments, the pass-back effect is very real. As many of you are keenly aware as nearly half (47%) of the top 100 apps sold are targeting Pre-school & elementary aged children.

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There are many apps that are ideal for passing time when you need it. In 2010 alone app sales are estimated to clear 1.2 billion (insert Dr. Evil pinky reference here) dollars. There are matching, dress up, puzzle games, and A, B, Cs. Big $$ are being spent and made to ensure that our kids have a multitude of options to keep them entertained .

From a brand marketers perspective it is important to consider defining an application strategy that maps to a larger integrated digital strategy while also recognizing the opportunity to drive awareness and brand relevance through targeted mobile applications that provide benefit to parents while engaging and entertaining children.

Quick question, how many iPods do you currently have in your home? For that matter how many iPhones do you currently own? What are you going to do with your iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4 or Android by next fall when you inevitably upgrade to the next version?

iphonegens

Instead of trying your luck on eBay consider keeping the device for your kids. You may or may not know this but a non-activated iPhone functions as an iPod touch when not directly configured as a phone. Meaning your apps, web browsing via wi-fi, etc… are all possible.

As digital marketers we cannot ignore opportunities due to the accelerated adoption of technology.

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Social Foundation

A good portion of my day job is defining social/digital strategies and programs to assist major retail brands maximize their WOM opportunities to drive multiple business objectives. Be it acquisition, engagement, advocacy, etc… Before I begin a new client engagement I like to establish a framework of which there are critical building blocks that I refer to as the Social Foundation. Like a foundation to a house there are key elements that are essential to understand prior to launching straight into strategic discussions.

1) Define Social Strategy: It is absolutely critical to define the GTM social strategy to ensure that all elements are aligning with goals & objectives and are measurable with the appropriate KPIís.

2) Content Creation: The key to driving WOM is to ensure that enough content is created (UGC/Brand) to form a foundation that helps to funnel users through our ideal brand centric social experience. While also maximizing our SEO positioning. Social & SEO are very closely aligned.

3) Discoverability of Content: It is highly important for content to be created in a way that maximizes portability of the content. RSS, tagging and leveraging the latest in terms of highly optimized publishing systems as well as sharing widgets are critical to ensuring that your branded content is being maximized to its fullest reach potential.

4) Highly Engaged Community Management: Social more-so than any other channel requires that the brand fully engages in discussions across multiple channels. This includes going beyond simple content publishing to actually following and commenting on trending topics and reaching out beyond the brand conversation. This is where I see a significant gap in terms of brands that are truly benefiting from social programs to those that are simply executing against a publishing calender.

5) Incent creation of UGC content: 30-60% of product centric search results are actually from UGC, primarily blogs and reviews. It is absolutely critical to get new products that integrate with mobile reviewed as this is a key driver for awareness. Do not focus on a single vehicle for content creation, it is critical to leverage multiple types of media to maximize opportunity. Text, Video, Photos, etc…

6) Unique content sources as a KPI: One form of social measurement that I commonly incorporate is to compare unique content sources to competitors. This is a key metric as the more content that is created from unique sources the higher the likelihood of being shared and viewed by more individuals.


7) Integration of Social Channels: It is critical to ensure that each social channel that is represented is integrated to the fullest with the goal of driving traffic/awareness through to the ideal social destination, be it an engaging application or promotion there has to be a specific intent for the user and the brand. Raise awareness through multiple channels but ultimately drive through to your ideal destination

8) Extend Digital into Retail: Maximizing the reach of both online Rich Media, Social, Augmented Reality and offline communication vehicles such as location based services, QR codes that direct to app downloads or videos, SMS campaigns & mobile loyalty all tie into a brands ability to fully maximize digital vehicles towards retail/offline engagement.

9) Leverage Partners: Corporate partnerships are key to reaching targeted users and to maximize cross-promotion. When selecting the ideal brand partners it is key to review their social strategy and how they are maximizing their channels to ensure there is a cultural fit. You do not want to execute a highly socially driven strategy with a partner who is at the beginning of the social continuum.


10) Incent in-store purchase: Finally incent users via proximity solutions that tie back to providing immediate value while also potentially driving engagement back to online or mobile properties.

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Mobilizing Your Social Strategy

Today I was the host of the weekly Hashtagsocialmedia tweet chat. Our topic was integrating mobile with your social strategy with a focus on strategy, best practices and tactics.

Mobile is a hot topic and according to comscore with 234 million americans aged 13 & older using mobile devices in the US that trend is not changing anytime soon. Of that 234 million 49.1 million in the US now own smart phones. With the continued adoption of smart phones we are on the cusp of changing how mobile can impact a brand.

In today’s chat we discussed the following topics:

1) How would you integrate mobile with your social strategy

2) How do you maximize the mobile web?

3) What tactics & why? (Proximity, Geo-location, Augmented Reality, QR Codes, SMS)

All with the mindset of integrating and extending digital & social via mobile.

Here is the archive/transcript of today’s tweet chat

hashtag1

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