Category Archives: Social Networks

Is datamining Twitter conversations worth it?

What started with a piece by David Berkowitz on MediaPost (registration required), on Ten Ways To Decide If Your Business Should Tweet, has turned into an interesting conversation about using Twitter to support a brand, and especially about measuring those efforts. This conversation has been primarily through this lengthy post from earlier today by Marshall Sponder.

Marshall makes some excellent points (he’s not @WebMetricsGuru for nothing!), including this one: “Social Media isn’t really designed, at this time, to analyze Acquisition or Retention but Web Analytics, is — and I maintain this is one of the strongest arguments to merge the two, in a formal way, rather than in an informal way.”

Datamining and CRM

How do you begin merging these data in a “formal” way? Tools are emerging to allow for the mining of conversations, and linking them where possible to a CRM database. Here’s Marshall’s take on this process:

David Berkowitz talks about Target Audiences, but you’d first have to figure out what your Target Audience is for your Brand or for a particular product or promotion of your Brand – then do CRM datamining using house database lists, or the Social Media CRM outreach to collect names and classify them according to Target Audience Segmentation — best done with data analytics.   Let’s say, that for the purposes of this post, my article on Entrepreneur.com on Learn to Measure Your Web Presence using Unbound Technology or Rapleaf, is the way to go.

If you’re a mom-and-pop shop, you’d do nothing as elaborate, more just Twitter research, much as I’ve shown above, but if you’re Zappos, or Dell, well … that’s another story — the story I tell in Learn to Measure Your Web Presence and others, like it.

Of course, a big brand can make a lot of money whereas the mom and pop shop, probably won’t — so a big brand can afford to spend a lot of money on data mining — and it’s well worth doing because of the potential money and value that can come from it.

Scarcity of Resources

The biggest constraint in doing this sort of work isn’t technology. It’s time. Even properly guided, the process takes many people-hours, and that is a resource in short supply for most businesses today. I see a major challenge in the linkage between prospects / customers and Twitter profiles. (Ack!, I can hear you yell. Yet another datapoint to capture in our CRM databases: The client’s Twitter handle!)

But it is becoming clear that this is an area where a business should focus some of its energies — assuming the business passes David Berkowitz’s Ten Ways test.

Years ago, Don E. Schultz co-wrote Measuring Brand Communication ROI. In this marketing chestnut, he and his co-authors built a surprisingly relevant model for tracking spending and estimated returns for each brand communication (How old is this book? The included Excel file was loaded on a 5.25″ magnetic diskette). A huge category — and ROI black hole — was customer service.

Twitter is a communication channel more than a marketing tactic, and this channel has more to do with customer satisfaction and brand education than driving sales. It’s another touchpoint and nothing more.

But like email and other important touchpoints, it should be measured. Conversations like the one taking place today will help determine how this measurement takes place and to what end.

Watching Twitter sell things like pizza and beer

Most online marketers recognize Twitter’s power to connect people. This virtual network is great for many B2B marketing types. In some ways Twitter — and microblogging in general — is the new Power To Get In. But what about driving consumer business? And here I’m not talking about ephemeral branding. I’m talking about getting people to your business with money in hand.

Last night I got a few answers.

Among other marketing innovators, I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Woelfle, owner of Blatz Liquor. He was co-hosting a Tweetup in collaboration with JSOnline.com. He contends microblogging has produced tangible results.

Last month Journal Sentinel business writer Tannette Elie (@Telie) cited Woelfle as saying that Facebook is responsible for 10% of his sales. This, he explained, was primarily through the soft-sell of publicizing wine- and beer-tasting events.

One tenth of a “bricks-and-mortar” retailer’s business attributed to Facebook? It seemed a lofty claim, but when I asked Joe earlier today if he would revise that estimate, he said only to throw his newest tactic — Twitter — into that mix.

The wall-to-wall turnout at the event last night certainly suggested that Twitter was powerful at something. But what? Skeptics would say you could use plenty of other methods to spread the word about a free event at a beer, wine and liquor store — one that included plenty of liberally-poured product samples!

Time will tell how effective @BlatzLiquor‘s Twitter efforts are at growing real sales and loyalty. But in the meantime, someone else at the Tweetup has a Twitter-fueled business already road-tested by other entrepreneurs.

Korean BBQ Tacos and Pizza By The Slice

Scott Baitinger is co-owner of Streetza Pizza (@StreetzaPizza). I was excited about connecting with him for two reasons:

  1. His business just had its official launch this Memorial Day weekend and I was eager to find out how it went
  2. Scott’s business is a glimpse at a promising future for retail — for everyone from food vendors to dry cleaners to banks

Streetza’s business model uses Twitter to tell hungry customers where its truck will be parked next. It even polls followers on questions such as future locations and product offerings. I wrote about this business model — this promising taste of the Web 3.0 world — last week. It was in a SOHOBizTube article. In that piece, I cited the wildly successful Zogi BBQ, a Los Angeles purveyor of “Korean tacos” that informs its tens of thousands of Twitter followers (@KogiBBQ) where it will be next.

As odd as it sounds, these customer-centric Tweets are truly a taste of things to come.

That’s because the next meaningful digital innovations won’t provide consumers with cooler web sites and more content. They will be mobile applications that provide exactly the content we crave, talking to us when we are physically in a place to scratch the itch.

The future of the web is about place. And like Kogi, Streetza Pizza, in sleepy little Milwaukee, will be leading us there one slice at a time.


Planning an event? Use online marketing as your hamburger helper

Once the event is over and the hall is cleaned up, the marketing and PR value of that event doesn’t have to fade. Chris Brogan wrote about how social media and internet marketing can act as hamburger helper for the event. It’s an apt metaphor for these two reasons:

  1. It’s inexpensive to use online marketing
  2. It stretches everything!

Chris’s post describes how online social network tools can improve event outcomes by helping with all five of its phases:

  • Awareness
  • Attention
  • Engagement
  • Execution
  • Extension

Are social media efforts the meat? No way. But they can be used throughout to maximize effectiveness.

Most “social media terrorists” just want to be acknowledged by a brand

When I give presentations about social media, a frequent question is, “What can we do when we see someone kicking up a fuss online?” I assure them that it is identical to any other customer service complaint. Most people with a beef want the problem fixed, but they also — short of that — want to be heard. Really heard.

Further evidence comes from iStrategyLabs’ post about monitoring positive and negative comments. They write the following:

We’ve found that 80% of the time we can easily turn a brand terrorist into a brand evangelist just by letting them know that they’ve been heard, or by directing them to a resource they’re looking for (you could call this customer service).

The other 15% of the time we need to talk internally with our team to see what can be done with more complex issues and the last 5% ends up being something client side teams need to handle directly (i.e. reaching out from senior leadership, or product features need to be changed etc.).

It’s a good post, and further validation for a technique that I’ve seen used countless times to good results. Here, by the way, is how iStrategyLabs measures share-of-voice, both for positive and negative comments:

Beware of confusing a social network’s weak mojo with Gladwell’s powerful Mavens

Is someone who blabs about a brand on Facebook or another social network site any more valuable to a retailer than the passive “fan” of that product? And if yes, what is that new value? This was discussed at an Email Insider Summit earlier this week. It’s an important question. But as panelists used the format to think aloud, they began confusing two phenomena. One is the real-but-weak power of social network influence. The other is the strong-but-possibly-nonexistent “Gladwellian” Maven.

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point talked about Mavens as hubs of influence. These folks are strong connections in a social ecosystem. As mavens on this subject or that, their opinion means much in persuading others. Gladwell based much of his book on the research by Duncan J. Watts, described in his book Six Degrees of Separation: The Science of a Connected Age.

This research, which was itself predicated on Stanley Milgram’s small world experiment, suggested that strong ties do most of the work in spreading a message.

The only catch: When the actual pathways were traced in Watts’ experiment, he found that only 5% of the work was actually done by these supposed hubs. He finally concluded that messages can be spread nearly as efficiently without hubs (i.e., Gladwell’s Mavens), and in fact, these myriad weak connections are the key to a social network’s real power to influence.

Can I Endorse Some Tupperware?

The marketers on the panel at the Summit should have kept this in mind. If MediaPost reported their collective thoughts correctly, they were crowded together on thin ice indeed. According to the MediaPost account (free registeration required), “They agree that a person who simply visits a ‘fan’ page and is a static follower is of minimal value. But people who can be tagged as influencers — who forward information to friends or other contacts that result in transactions — have tremendous value.”

When I first read this, my thought was, “Sure, of course people who refer other people to a brand and get them to buy are valuable.” But it sounds like the power of a pass-along is being highly overvalued. Continuing from this account of the discussion:

Email marketers are working hard on algorithms to quantify the worth of those influencers operating via social media outlets. Tim Schigel of ShareThis.com, who spoke on a panel at the MediaPost Email Insider Summit on Wednesday, said: “We’ll see a better understanding of that (soon) … the industry is trying to figure it out.”

Also on the panel was Craig Swerdloff, CEO of LeadSpend, who said the value of a social-media influencer should be “another variable that you put into your algorithm to determine the lifetime value of a customer.”

What is that amount? A back-of-the-envelope calculation could be as follows: If a Netflix customer is worth $9 alone, but that person has 500 Facebook friends, and is able to drive even 1% of them (5) to make a purchase, that individual’s value could be as high as $54.

Yow! That $54 would confer my full value in Netflix’ eyes to everyone else who also becomes a Netflix subscriber. I see the following flaws with even approaching such a calculation:

  1. Lifetime value is a predictive number. It’s a break-even cost of finding someone else to replace me if I should stop using Netflix. That value was probably calculated over a year’s worth of use of the service — probably more. Could these five friends each be as loyal from Day One? And if we waited a year, would I be able to cough up five more Facebook friends who join the service?
  2. How can my friends’ association with me — or even their consideration of an endorsement I send their way — be given credit for their conversion into customers? Are they not Facebook friends of other people who are fans or active ambassadors for the brand? I would guess that they are. And if so, do I get full credit just because I messaged these five about the service? What about the force of these weak connections? Are these many mutual friends who are fans worth nothing?

The value equation being discussed certainly works if I was actively recruiting and selling for a pyramid marketing business (example: “How’d you like to host a Tupperware party and keep half the profits?”) But for something as passive as “You should consider this product,” it would be hard to value an active Maven much higher than the passive fan.

Maybe not any higher at all.

In a world where many weak connections can trump a few strong ones, a better value equation may be an aggregate of all passive fans — where they are also Mavens or not.

Communities have laws; Facebook is no exception

Do you find this as interesting as I do? Look at the box at the top of this screen capture, from Facebook:

communities_have_laws

Sometimes we forget that Facebook is more of a community than some physical neighborhoods. Folks know each other (on Facebook, most everything is only viewable by ordained “Friends”), and people care about how they are perceived by the rest of the neighborhood. As various outcries attest, this is a community whose residents truly care. Remember the brouhaha a couple of years ago over Facebook launching its News Feed, to inform every friend of a person’s activities — including the posting of relationship break-ups, social snubs, and embarrassing photographs?

For those who can’t make it out, this notice on Facebook this evening reads as follows:

Vote on Facebook’s Governing Documents

We’ve revised the two new documents we proposed to govern the site, the Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, based on your feedback. Now, we want you to vote for the system of governance you think is best. Voting will close on April 23 at 11:59am PDT. Visit the Facebook Site Governance application to learn more, read the documents, and vote.

Would you expect anything less than elections and referendums within this sprawling community?

(And just how sprawling, you ask? Consider Manhattan. It has tens of millions of residents, yet its boroughs can be counted on exactly one hand. Conversely, the boroughs of Facebook are themselves in the millions — although there is much overlap*.)

*Each person’s Friends list could be considered itself a borough. Think of the overlap between people in their Friends lists as the boundaries between boroughs.

Intuit to push their tweets via Google’s ad network

More than two years ago word spread of a new type of ad unit. It was called Hosted Conversations, a creation of Edelman and Newsgator. I’ve periodically checked back on the concept and to my disappointment, it seems to have fizzled. The subsequent silence was deafening.

turbotaxThen, yesterday, it was announced that Google was going forward with a similar ad unit. It would contain the advertiser’s five most recent “tweets” from Twitter. The first client is Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. These @turbotax ads would be distributed throughout the Google AdSense ad network, where the ads (i.e., short list of tweets) would appear on web pages within the network that are deemed relevant.

I’ve been writing a lot about Twitter lately. Far more than I should. It can be a distraction from more relevant and proven marketing tactics and media. However, it’s important to note that as Twitter becomes part of our cultural zeitgeist, this variety of micro-blogging becomes easier for marketers and consumers to understand. And with understanding comes adoption.

What I’m getting at is this:

If it what killed Hosted Conversations was a failure to grasp the concept, then we can attribute the success of Google’s new ad unit to that scrappy, 140-character micro-blogging platform whose name I am frankly sick of invoking.

Thanks for at least that, Twitter. Now would you please stop distracting my clients?

Prediction: The best Twitter ploys of 2009 will involve physical events

Twitter is approaching a critical mass in users, and they’re a mobile bunch. These two factors, substantiated in a recent Pew Internet and American Life report, make 2009 the year when place-based events finally get a strong boost from Twitter.

Twitter is helping to bring event promotion into prospects' handsA recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life project shed some light on the typical U.S. Twitter user. This person is more “mobile” than the norm: “As a group they are much more likely to be using wireless technologies — laptops, handhelds and cell phones — for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging,” according to the report.

Here are a few other highlights:

  • Twitter users are young. Their median age is 31. In comparison, the median age of a MySpace user is 27, a Facebook user is 26 and a LinkedIn user is 40.7
  • Most likely because of this comparative youth, Twitter users are slightly more racially and ethnically diverse than is the full US population “Younger Americans are a more ethnically and racially diverse group than is the full population,” according to the report.
  • Users of Twitter are reaching a critical mass: 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others.

What this means for marketers is that they can begin seeing real benefits from crowdsourcing their place-based events, even with less tech-savvy users. Expect to see more messages like this one in the months to come: “Come see us at [event name] today. Bring [related object or clipping] and receive a free [premium]. Please re-Tweet!”

More answers and links for vet practice managers

Let’s say you’re a practice manager for a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, and you realize you need to change your current marketing budget. Like last year and the year before, your marketing spend heaps way too much money on print and other tactics that are missing many of today’s consumers.

So what do want to learn most desperately when a skinny, still-slightly-contageous (cough, cough) marketing geek climbs behind the podium at your conference (organized by the AAHA)? Well, I’ll tell you.

What follows are links to resources that should come in handy if you live in the world of a practice manager, and will come in particularly handy if you attended my presentations. These are a Greatest Hits of sorts, based on the questions posed at the end of each of four presentations, and in emails I’ve received as recently as last night, requesting specific answers to question.

First, here are the topics we covered, linked to their mind maps — which served as outline during the presentations:

Most Popular Questions Posed

I took a while to post this because I wanted it to be comprehensive, and until even last night, I was getting requests for specific information. The profession of veterinary medicine is clearly waking up to the ways a strong online presence can help grow a practce and keep it vital!

Q: If you say a site that is “content managed” is ideal, what is the best person in my organization to manage that web content?

A: The simple answer is it’s the person closest to the authoritative content. Content management systems have opened businesses up to a greater intimacy with their customers by making web sites more useful. If you know that a business’s site will provide you with realiable, time-sensitive information, you’ll return to the site more often. And ostensibly, you’ll be more ready to refer the site — and the business — to others. What sort of information can an animal hospital site provide? You do not have to talk about animal diseases or treatments. Other general sites do that. Talk about how your services may be accessed (hours? phone numbers?), the way your services are provided and what I can expect if I go to you. Know your audience, and provide every scrap of information that could be useful.

This will require someone close enough to the answers, but obviously not a veterinarian whose hours would better serve the business by being devoted to billable work. Is there an assistant or clerical person who feels good about writing short snippets of information? Expose this person to all the facts needed and then let that person go!

Q: Regarding search engine marketing: What if I have a new site that is competing against large, established practices for the same keyworks. These older sites are “owning” the keywords. My site barely shows up in search engine results pages for them. Help!

A: You’ve done the first step. You realize there is a problem. One should consider a site’s real home page to be a search engine results page! The first step is to do a compehensive inventory of all keyword phrases you want to go after. The odds are, your competitor won’t be present for all phrases for all major search engines. You can start by creating content that is optimized for those unclaimed phrases. As for the others, realize that search engines favor age over “youth” when they look at web sites, so your new site will be viewed skeptically by Google, et al. So the second step is to find more backlinks than your competing sites have. Truly high-quaity backlinks can confer credibility fastHere’s a post to help you establish backlinks.

Q: Can you help me read up on social network marketing?

A: It’s the hottest top around in online marketing, and that was clear from the volume of questions I received immediately after my presentations, and subsequently, via email. Luckily there is a ton of material out there. Start with my post on why Facebook is a good set of “training wheels” for those unsure about how to begin. This post specifically addresses why Facebook is superior in its ability to instruct a user than Twitter. For an overall map of the social network space, I posted one nine months ago that gives you a taste of its size and complexity. The most valuable aspect of the map is the categories. You don’t have to follow many. Just think of the types of social sites that might have users talk about you.

Yelp was discussed a great deal in my AAHA talk. Here is a link to that outstanding On The Media podcast, where Bob Garfield (of AdAge fame) explores what you can do when someone dishes dirt about your business on Yelp and elsewhere (the short answer: Precious little! But it helps to know when dirt has been dished). This link to OnTheMedia.org includes an embedded sound player, a way to download the MP3, and even a link to the transcript, if you’d prefer to read instead of listen. It’s a great show overall — I cannot recommend it more highly for understanding how media of all types are influencing us … and are themselves influenced, by politics, business and society.

Q: I like the idea of a new media refrigerator magnet to promote my practice. Tell me more about Digital Pet Parade.

A: That’s the Facebook widget that can also be viewed in higher-end smart phones, and can even be embedded in the blogs of your biggest fans (by one fairly recent count there are over 70 million blogs out there — certainly some of those are written by people your practice delighted). Read my post and then contact me if you’d like to be part of the beta test for this exciting marketing tool.

Did I miss any?

Let me know in the comments section below what other questions you’d like answered!

Digital picture frame can help pet owners share their love

This afternoon I had the privilege of speaking to the American Animal Hospital Association about, among other things, mobile marketing. I look forward to resuming the conversations tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will also be posting an entry with many of the links and updates I’d promised. But for now, I wanted to present for your critique a gee-whiz idea I posed to the group. I hope you can help me with your comments.

Please consider this: What if there was a way to use the viral marketing power of a Facebook widget to help your best customers talk about your practice.

The idea uses something I’ve blogged about before: widgets. Ad Age contributor Bob Garfield has postulated, and I agreed in this post, that widgets can be for healthcare marketers the new refrigerator magnet. Well, how about for veterinary practices?

A prototype image is near the bottom of this post, but the essence has more to do with functional design than actual appearances. It occurred to me that pet owners are almost as quick to flash you their latest pet pics as they are photos of kids and grandkids. One friend (a team member from my ec-connection days) even has a Facebook profile page for his lovely Dora:

The Lovely Dora

This spawned in my mind the Digital Pet Parade. It’s a digital picture frame, of sorts, that you would install and configure on your Facebook profile. Using this widget, you can display pet photos that you’ve already loaded in the Photos section of your site. The picture frame (a prototype shown below*) does these things that a mere photo collection cannot:

A logo on the digital picture frame would link to the sponsor's practice site
A logo on the digital picture frame would link to the sponsor's practice site
  1. Rotates your photos with a frequent “refresh” rate that you would set — or simply shows a new one from your collection daily
  2. Includes the photos of your friends on Facebook as well — or at least those who also have the picture frame showing their photos (and their picture frame would show your photos if they opt to allow this)
  3. Allows for picture comments, from you and you friends (not shown)
  4. Is equally functional on iPhone web browsers, as well as other many other higher-end smartphones.

This afternoon I got a chance to chat with a lot of practice managers and veterinarians about using the power of social networks to help their best customers become their ambassadors. But I still wonder if this way particular way of empowering customers has real potential.

Hot … or NOT?

Here’s the big question: Has this simple widget added more complexity than is needed?

From a marketing perspective, it’s a glamorized way to show you’re a “fan” of the practice, by using their branded widget. I frankly like the subtly of this. And yes, in this way it resides on your profile page the way a magnet would hold up papers and whatnot on the door of your fridge.

But will your customers be eager enough to agree to install one more application on their Facebook profile? You tell me!

I’ve met a lot of people today and asked them to respond. Let’s keep the discussion going!


*NOTE: Digital Pet Parade prototype was designed by the lovely and talented designer and art director Heather Prickett Bolyard.

Large and diverse group made inaugural likemind a valuable meet-up

If you missed this morning’s first-ever Milwaukee likemind, you missed some great conversation and excellent coffee. Thank you Greg Batiansila for being the first to document and post a glimpse of some of the festivities. Here it is:

At least one other person had a video camera, so there will likely be other videos circulating. Want to try spotting them? Check out the buzz surrounding the event on Twitter, where they will undoubtedly be posted. Just search for the MKElikemind hash-tag (#MKElikemind).

Mark Your Calendar For the April 17th likemind

I received at least a dozen emails and direct messages from colleagues who couldn’t attend, and hoped to attend the next one. I’ll bet my co-organizer, Chris Moander, did as well.

That means the April 17 likemind will be just as varied and interesting as this first meet-up. So mark your calendar!

Kudos To Bucketworks

I need to give a special thank-you to the providers of the absolutely perfect setting for this type of event. Bucketworks, you’re the best!