Social media: are we missing an opportunity?

I still remember my first time in New York, a long ago, it was 2001. It was stunning an unusual to see all those skyscrapers high in the sky, shining at the sunlight and giving that sense of infinity and possibility.

The same sense I felt when, later on, in 2010, I went to New York to look for an apartment: I was moving to the Big Apple, for work. But that second time something more caught my attention: the different races and the different people (for the way they dressed and the languages they were speaking. I immediately thought “wow – it must be beautiful to live here, it has to be such an incredible richness to be able to meet so many different people and come across so many different cultures. It’s such a continuous learning!

After a while, I noticed that opportunity was not actually a shared richness out there. Such different type of people actually lived their life in different groups, typically you can see groups of similar people.  Some other groups take advantage of this diversity and learn about new cultures and exchange ideas with both like-minded people or people whose origins made them think in a different way.

As you know, I am on social media (I mean I work on social media and I use social media) since 14 years. In the beginning it was a somehow closed environment, because of the lack of Internet connection. It was not something commonly available in every house. Today there’s almost no house without internet – or at least, let’s say so, there’s almost no person who does not know about social media (and the majority, like it or not, are on social media).

In the past few years I think on social media it’s happening something very similar to what I noticed in New York: we have multiple touch-points, brands and artists are out there, media are out there and you can (at least virtually) at your fingerprint: social media have helped people connect with what, back in the 80s or 90s, they were only used to get close in front on a TV screen, yet being on the other side of the screen, and with no chance to interact with them.

Some of those “on the other side” have ben pioneers of social media, despite the nature of their business/job was not tech-related. Those understood people were carving for a chance to interact and they also understood – like it happens in our everyday life, with our everyday relationships – how important is to listen, first, if you want to be listened to. Some of them understood that the key part of social media was the first word: “social”. People were in contact with media in the 80s, so that was nothing new.

But what it’s interesting to notice today on social media is the attitude of people. The way they interact. The way they interact with each other and with brands or with the media.

Try yourself: take a random page. Take a Facebook post of a random newspaper. Read comments.

I do this exercise from now and then. But I feel like I felt in New York when I saw that missed opportunity: people have a huge potential: they can learn from each other, they can share thoughts, they can tell what they think and appreciate now they have a chance to be part of what’s happening around them. But they – the majority of them – choose to be harsh, criticise everything. I was watching a video of a Japanese chef yesterday – so nothing related to politics, pollution, no animals or vegans. He was slicing a vegetable. No groups offended in any way.

Yet, someone commented it was pointless, or probably to expensive, after those cuts, to eat that vegetable. Seriously: are there out there any positive people left? Anybody interested in catching the opportunity of social media to build a better future instead of missing this opportunity?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest: an update

Have you read that post by BusinessInsider about how ridicously complicated social marketing has become?

social media marketingAs a marketing (including social) person I have to admit they were not that far from the truth. Also, I keep asking myself how is that possible to recover from the crisis till all these new tools come up and involve millions of people, usually during their working hours.

But that’s another story… I will soon do some new analysis on the GDP/Social Network trend relations to update the one I did last year.

I know, it’s been a while since I last posted on this blog. To be precise since when I started my new job. May you guess I am quite busy with that?

In the meantime, a few things have changed with the main social networks out there (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and other that the inspiring and scary image by business insider, maybe it’s good to do a quick recap.

–          Social networking sites now reach 82 percent of the world’s online population, representing 1.2 billion users around the world.

–          Facebook introduced the Timeline (and so far I haven’t heard any enthusiastic comment about it. I like tho)

–          Twitter came out with a brand new app and a new version of Tweetdeck (which I personally don’t like since it’s impossible to add a column with your most recent followers and doesn’t really count well the RTs you get)

–          LinkedIn has launched a new app – which unfortunately lets you add people too easily, regardless of their networking request settings. Note to the reader: LinkedIn is NOT a Pinterest for CVs. Connet to those you want to network with.

instagram camera–          Instagram has been purchased by Facebook, that recently published its Facebook Photos app – not sure where’s the point here. Maybe they bought Instagram to avoid such a huge competitor? And was that really worth 1B$? Personally I like Instagram and I use it a lot, though mainly to adjust images that then I upload on Facebook. I also have my own fancy URL on follogram, I’d suggest you do this – it’s the easiest way to show all your insaphotos in a pinterest style, so to say.

–          3 big news in FB’s founder life: he got married to his girlfriend since almost ever, and she got her PhD a few days before. In the same week, the Facebook IPO got the attention of the media. Many criticize the IPO, many hope Zuck will fail. Have they done so much in any of their past weeks?

But probably one of the most interesting things happened out there is the rise of Pinterest – see it half the way between a visual twitter and wall (picture) posts on Facebook (picture).  Or, if you prefer, a photo version of a content curation website. This latter is definitely my favorite description

And the greatest part of it is you don’t need to fill that annoying forms to register to it. If you have either a Facebook account or a twitter account, all you need is a single click – is that easy.

You can follow your interests on this virtual pinboard and follow others’ pinboards. You can either pin from a website, or upload your own photos or “repin” others’ pins. Pinterest is fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter and it lets you share on more platforms at once.

What is really interesting about Pinterest, is that it’s a great inbound marketing help.

In fact, all links go back to the pages where you spotted that specific picture, including your own company website or eCommerce store – that’s maybe why retailers like it so much and why it’s actually driving a lot of traffic to the US (and some UK based retailers).
There is a small limit though:  for some reason it does not get the € (euro) symbol, and you can only attach prices (do you really need to?) with a dollar or pound symbol.

That’s quite common though – unfortunately though the web is open to everyone, too many US based projects tend to forget about the rest of the world.

Which Social Networks do you currently use? I’d love to hear from you about both your personal and business use of all these social media tools, apps and platforms. Are they effective? Who manages them in your organizations?

Survey Results: Social Media Budgets and Strategy 2011-2012

I decided to run this SocialNetConomy Survey on Social Media adoption and social media budget to understand where do we stand with social media adoption and understanding. And, most of all, what social media budgets have been for 2011 and what they are going to be for 2012.

Since Social media today are the talk of the town, whether you talk about Facebook with your friends or if you do a check-in in a place to show you travel and you go to fancy places (too often forgetting that your LinkedIn peers may not be interested to know where you go for dinner), or if you talk about social media during your business meeting, I thought it was good to understand how companies consider it.

I had a feeling not all companies truly understand how big the impact of social media can be and what kind of opportunity they are missing if they stay out of it.

I am glad to finally share results for my short survey – it was a 10-question survey. This survey has been realized using a free service (you can see the original survey on surveymonkey), and social media (I recruited people only on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter).

Thank You to all my Twitter peers that helped me with this survey- too many to mention!

A significant element of collecting responses has been the help I got from my twitter peers: I asked to ReTweet my survey to help me collect more responses, and thanks to all those who shared, retweeted and took the survey I am now able to share my results. I invite you to keep taking this survey, and sharing it. I will be happy to update this post if more responses come in.

Participants to this survey come from US, Canada, Latin America and EMEA. Not much from AP. Almost all industries are equally represented, including Government, Consulting, Manufacturing, Retail, Energy, Finance, Health and Pharma, and companies analyzed include both those operating globally and those operating in a single region, country or locally.

SocialNetConomy.com 2011-2012 Social Media Survey Results:

Q- Did you have a social media strategy and a dedicated budget in the past 12 months?

social media strategy and a dedicated budget in the past 12 months25% of surveyed companies said they did not have and they are currently planning any social media strategy. 12.5% said they did not have a social media strategy and they are not planning any.

Considering how I collected these answers, it’s interesting to notice that if they answered this survey, they got the link through a social network. Nevertheless, they do not consider this channel to be good for their brand exposure for some reason (inhibitors to Social Media adoption are part of this survey too). I believe this is pretty interesting.

Talking about budget, about 65% of respondents have a social media strategy (so they say), with more than half of them saying their budget is no more than $15,000. It’s interesting to notice that about 20% of respondents said their budget was over $15,000.

Q- If you have a social media strategy in place, please let us know which social networks are you currently using – up to August 2011

which social networks are you currently using - up to August 2011We discussed about this in my previous post: having a Facebook fan page does not mean having a social media strategy. It seems respondents are not always aware of this. In fact, not all social media are used the same way, and not all social media are used for their full potential (about half of those with a Facebook page use Facebook ads, not to mention LinkedIn PPCs are way less used – I suggest to follow the links to related posts to learn more about these PPCs). About half the interviewed companies use twitter and LinkedIn and have learned about the importance of a company blog.

Q. Please evaluate your current social media strategy

evaluate your current social media strategyThe next question was about the social media strategy effectiveness, which highlights something really important: While over 70% of respondents have a Facebook presence and half of them have Facebook ads, only 17% said this approach has revealed either “very effective” or “extremely effective”. The good news is there is a lot of room for improvements!

Ads on Facebook work better than Facebook pages (IMHO mainly because they are really well targeted), and company blogs, along with twitter and LinkedIn work very well too.

Bad performance for Groupon, LivingSocial and similar solutions, as well as for preliminary Google+ company pages.

A combination of all channels is surely highly recommended.

Q. How did you/ your company implement your Social Media strategy?

How did you/ your company implement your Social Media strategyI have over 10 years of experience in marketing and social media, and I believe (I have experienced) the right approach to social media would be to have it as part of both a business’ marketing strategy (you are telling something to your clients on their preferred channel!). and a customer service / channel with a direct contact with customers (they are now expecting it to be this way), for companies to listen to customers. What you write on social media stays and should be handled no less than a press release or TV ad: with care.

Given that I noticed a few companies don’t believe in social media, but they often do it because they have to, they don’t really pay attention to it, and they don’t care about who, what or when it’s done. So I asked who was taking care of social media to the surveyed companies. Results confirm there is a lack of cultural approach, but results are quite good. Some companies still give interns the ability to talk for their brands. Maybe the same companies have a strong “permission to quote” policy in place. I hope they’ll get the importance of social media soon. It’s not hard throwing out sentences on how good we are. The thing is, you must be quick, good, professional and nice to answer to those (who might be very influent with their peers) that are complaining about you or your products. It’s advertising, and some kind of reverse (or adverse!) advertising.

Another consideration: about half the companies are either using the marketing team or a digital team. Only half of them got it’s not a 1 person thing. Another possible answer was “Other”. I did not add it since it was about a 5% saying it was the owner doing it. Nobody answered with “everybody contributes, with a dedicated team (internal or external) to handle it strategically”. Which should be the right approach IMHO.

Q. Considering your past experience with social media, are you planning to increase your budget for social media in 2012?

are you planning to increase your budget for social media in 2012Survey results have highlighted a mixed feeling about social media, as demonstrated in the previous figures. I wanted to see if the situation was going to chance in the 2012 fiscal.

About 55% of companies are increasing their social media budget in 2012, and only between 2% and 3% are decreasing it. This is a very good sign, also given that this survey was running between August and October, and I have monitored it through the weeks and I can tell no crisis impact on this decision. This means only one simple thing: companies are getting it.

Q. Where are you placing your Social Media dollars in 2012?

Where are you placing your Social Media dollars in 2012With this question I wanted to understand “how much” companies are getting it. If they have learned what works, what does not, and how to improve their strategy.

And, of course, I wanted to know where their social media dollars were going to in 2012.

Again Facebook rules, but 10% of the surveyed companies are rather moving to other social networks and channels, more relevant for their business.

Answers to this question also provide some outlook for all those copanies developing Facebook pages, or editing videos, or for those agencies providing social media guidance and execution: 2012 will see their business flourish.

Again, no good news for Groupon and LivingSocial.

The last question of this short survey was about possible inhibitors to social media. I have noticed this is maybe the first time when a technology, used, developed and shared between consumers, get to the business world. usually with technology companies are the first large users, and then it becomes more common.

So why companies seem being so late to this (technology-based) date (on social media) with their clients?

Q. What have been/ are your company’s main inhibitors to social media adoption?

What have been/ are your company's main inhibitors to social media adoptionNo time for social media still tops the list of inhibitors (as found in many other surveys), and I keep wondering what should clients think of the fact that companies say they do not have time for their clients.

Interesting to notice that nobody selected “We had no issues”. So everybody had some kind of issues.

Other reasons such as lack of budget and lack of support from company execs are still among the main reasons.

In some circumstances companies admit lack of competences – as well as the fact that demonstrating ROI is pretty hard.

How do you compare with these results?

Related reading:

More Than Facebook: The Time Is Right For Social Business – Forbes

Social Media Marketing: social media is about BEING social, not about DOING social– SocialNetConomy

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Google PPC: Why Social PPC is best – SocialNetConomy

Social Media Marketing: social media is about BEING social, not about DOING social.

Social media and social media marketing are the talks of the town. Still, not all companies, including those who declare they have a social media strategy or a social media marketing strategy, got it completely right. Yet some great initiatives demonstrate some companies are getting it right.

I got inspired to write this blog post mainly thanks to a few articles (you’ll find links to those articles, as usual, at the bottom of this blog post) and thanks to an incredibly good initiative I got invited to participate into. But let’s go step by step.

While the majority of companies today get how important is to have a presence on social media, just a few of them got they need a social media strategy, fully integrated with both their marketing strategy and their company culture.

What does this mean?

I am sure you found a lot of numbers and figures before defining your social media budget and by now you know that also:

about half of the biggest companies’ websites have a link to their Facebook fan page on their homepage. So – you think- half of the biggest companies have a social media strategy, right?

Wrong.

This is the most common mistake. Not that different from the one I often do when I buy a new pair of shoes, forgetting that having them in my closet is not the same as wearing them- but the thing is, I cannot wear stilettos all the time.

So a Facebook page works exactly the same way: if you cannot be there all the time (or at least a good amount of time, enough to talk to your audience), it’s useless.

Why?

Because – not sure you heard-  about 800 million people are there too, which means surely the largest portion of your audience – regardless of your business bring B2B or B2C. And this means they may find it way more convenient to talk to you through your Facebook page than calling you on the phone (and wait for 5 minutes dialing even more numbers to go through your automated call center).

They will surely prefer to drop you a line on your Facebook page rather than sending you an email to an email address that sends them an automated reply from a noreply@companyname.com email address.

Especially if you proudly put your nice white F on a blue button to show how cool your company is- you also have a Facebook page.

And 27 fans, 3 pictures (your logos in low resolution being 2 of them) and 5 wall posts.

Each of them with one Like: yours.

And next to that Facebook button you likely have a Twitter button too, to witness your business is really social. You probably have that on your email signature and on your PPTs. Then you client clicks on it and reads “15 tweets sent, last tweet April 2009”. Nice.

And -still thinking you are really cool and social- you added your Twitter handle and a link to your Facebook all over the places.

So I follow you, I mention you, and I get you have not got the whole social media thing: I never got a reply, or a thank you for RT. ‘cause you do not monitor your mentions or your company mentions, and you have no idea who is tweeting about you, who is tweeting to you and how good comments tweeted about you are. You were told Twitter is like just having a Facebook status without the whole Facebook. (I recently got a #FF from someone that is not even following me on Twitter, and it was not a RT, of course. Can you believe that?)

The thing is, there is a huge difference between doing social (media) and being social.

Doing social (too bad) means mainly having a Facebook page or a Twitter handle, and a maybe also a LinkedIn group, private (to show how social you are).

Being social means: interact, listen, answer, accept critics, improve your business thanks to those critics, build trust, be reachable by your audience – for the first time they can talk to your brand. They could not talk to your brand when your commercials were on TV, or on magazines, or a banner the only way they could touch was with a click.

They have been waiting for decades for this chance to talk to your brand and they now deserve to be listened. Especially since they talk to each other all the time, and referrals are the new selling channel in the social media era.

A great example of social media marketing campaign that demonstrates a social media approach: Quality Hunters, by Finnair and Helsinki Airport.

I recently came across an incredibly good, social and clever initiative, that synthetizes many concepts I already wrote about in this post. Not sure you heard about it before, it’s a really cool initiative and it’s called “Quality Hunters”, now at its second year, which makes it “Quality Hunters 2”.

Quality Hunters 2 is an initiative by Finnair and Helsinki Airport. Together they will hire 7 Quality Hunters to travel the world and seek out fresh ideas on quality and how to improve air travel and the airport experience. “ this is what their website says about this project.

First of all, what I liked the most is their approach is fully social and depicts a truly social company culture: they sent personalized messaged through LinkedIn (social), then they followed applicants and engaged in conversations on twitter, they invited everyone to spread the word about this initiative and of course- they do know this- they offer the most incredibly exciting job ever, if you love travels and writing: you get paid to travel the world, and write about your journeys.

I have to admit when I got their message via LinkedIn I thought it was a joke. It was too good to be true for someone like me who is passionate about travels and writing!

“Finnair and Helsinki airport strive to offer services tailored to fit people’s individual needs. This cannot be achieved without offering everyone a chance to have their say and engage in dialogue on what makes air travel just click” they continue on their website.

“Once the Quality Hunters have been selected, this site will also be their digital home: they will produce texts, photos and video of their adventures and their ideas on how to make air travel better.”

At Finnair and Helsinki, they were looking for 7 Quality Hunters, and got over 1,900 applications. Winners will be announced in the coming days. Applications for this season closed on October 6th.

This is just the most incredibly social initiative I have ever seen, so far. It’s not about winning an iPad, by inviting your friends to a new website, nor about exchanging follows on a Facebook or Twitter.It’s not one of those social actions purely aimed at spreading ads all over the places.

They show they listen, they show they understand the importance of referrals and feedback, and they understand that, combined, referrals and feedbacks are the most powerful weapon to win the marketing battle.

They understand quality is the most precious element of their product/service, combined with an excellent customer service, which is, in case you forgot, the ability of being responsive to customers enquiries, needs, comments, feedback, requests.

Where do you stand? Are you DOING social or are you BEING social?

Related reading:

Social Media is Marketers’ El Dorado: Hype or Reality?

I am sure you noticed that also: it seems that with this economy (check the recently published World Economic Report 2011 by Financial Times), while worldwide financial markets suggest to pursue a modern “gold rush”, it looks like companies are rather pursuing some kind of “social rush”. Never like in these months businesses are talking about social media, using them, investing in them, hiring people to manage them and launching new ones. And funny enough, social media are the most frequent news on the traditional press.

The debate is still open: some say social media are a tremendous business and an incredibly effective channel for marketing and invest more and more on them (revenues are expected to double for Facebook and go from $45M to $400M for Twitter) , hire people, web agencies, buy platforms and reinvent their business.

Some others consider social media just a waste of time, a hype on its way to a decline and proudly tell they are not on social networks and they don’t need to be there. Maybe they did not notice their audience is there. I wonder why struggle with sending marketing messages all over places where your clients may just walk by, instead of those where they spend their time.

I am currently running a Social Media survey (please take it here, it’s just 10 questions) and my results say it clearly: more than half the interviewed companies are planning to increase their marketing dollars on social media for 2012. Final results to be published soon on this blog.

So I am sure many still wonder: will social media last?

Breath and relief: according to a recently published study by InSites Consulting, with a population of over 7Billion and 2Billions today already connected to social networks, only half of them (about 1B) are already on social networks. So there is definitely room for an improvement!

Social media adoption is uneven across the globe: In Europe, people join on average 1,9 social networks. In USA it’s 2,1; Brazil 3,1 and India 3,9. Uneven is also the social media awareness: while Social Insites estimates that Facebook awareness is about 100% of total connected population, and about 75% used it (with over half connecting every day), Twitter is used by only 16% of those who are aware of it.

With Facebook being at around 750M and remembering about that other analysis I posted back in July about the social media adoption curve, drawing from the Rogers’ model on technology adoption, this is an additional confirmation of my thoughts: we are almost half the way on the social media technology adoption curve. And with 2B connected out of the 7B, the more time goes, the situation should not change that quickly.

So, to answer our question: are social media the new El Dorado? The short answer seems Yes.

Yes, because according to this study, people join more than 1 social network, with Asia driving the truck to up to 4 social networks per person (I wonder how much this may be influenced by languages). See this image to learn more:

Please don’t jump yet for your happyness: “No” could still be a possible answer. The study also reports – sorry Google+, bad news- that about 60% declare they don’t want any additional social network, and about 93% are either not planning to leave the SNs they are in, or not entering new ones.

Surely, results leave some room for all those startups launching new social networks in these months. And creative ideas or social networks around shared passions (shopping, travel, sports, food, business, etc) are still likely to attract members- you don’t need to abandon your favorite social network and join a new one. You can stay on both.

Nevertheless, with these numbers in mind, and the current penetration of existing social networks, the message is crystal clear: big existing social networks will get bigger; small social networks will get smaller. After all, it seems this rule applies to the entire economy in this global financial cycle.

You may had an idea of how big Facebook is willing to become if you remember Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at the f8 conference, where Facebook presented the latest news and future developments about the most crowded social networks. When talking about the apps and developers of Facebook apps, he said Facebook has been working with “over a thousand companies to develop new things on Facebook”.

To all those who are still quite sceptical about Social Media and Social Media marketing (according to the preliminary results from my survey, lack of support from execs is one of the top reasons for not having a social media strategy), I suggest they have a look at this image and see that not only their clients are on social media, their clients are also waiting for them and asking for something! Also those whose social media strategy equals to having banners placed on social networks or a facebook page with zero interaction should consider a proper social media strategy. Need help?

Lessons learned:

  • Social Media are today what IT has been in the past: not just a tool, but a nessessary component of every business strategy
  • Your clients are on social media. Why are you wasting your marketing budget somewhere else?
  • Your clients are on social media and are willing to talk to you.
  • Social media are the easiest and highest potenial for word of moouth: have your sales on social media and have them listen to your clients needs.
  • Different geographies have different social media penetration and potential. That potential also applies to your business.
  • Never underestimate the importance of the word “social” in social media / social networks.

Related posts and resources:

Social media around the world 2011

View more presentations from steven van belleghem

Customer centricity and social networks: why one cannot exclude the other.

As it may have happened to many of you in these days, I came across a video featuring Steve Jobs on stage during one of his speeches.

This one was from 1997, when Steve Jobs went back to Apple as CEO to re-launch the Apple computer business.  One of the guys in the audience asked him – not that politely- how he was planning to revamp a tech company if he did not understand about technology.


I believe Job’s statement was way bigger than how big Apple’s evolution has been since then. He said having a technology and then finding a way to sell it and make people use it it’s pointless. Having a technology that does what people want it’s what we need. Start with the customer and then have the technology department figure out how to deliver what customers want.

Steve Jobs- a genial mix of passion, usability and attention to detail (did you read that other story about the yellow tone of the second O in the Google brand not displaying correctly on the iPhone and Job’s call on a Sunday morning to discuss about that urgently? You can find it here)- got ahead of the usability for its products with that statement.

Customer centricity is what a lot of C-level  presentations have been talking about for over a decade in any industry.  A customer centric approach assists an organisation in building important relationships with internal and external customers. Wow- this is social network- We knew the recipe since over a decade!

Yet, today, while people on social networks keep showing they are desperately looking for a bigger interaction with brands, asking for that customer centricity that everybody used to talk about, only half the companies have implemented some kind of social networks strategy. Preliminary results from a survey I am currently running (take it here, it’s just 10 questions and I will share results on this blog) show that only less than 15% of companies with a Facebook page – which is by far the only social media strategy for a large majority of companies- got excellent results from it.  The reason is simple: they are not doing it right.

Social media are built to listen to customers first, and answer then.

Not sure you recall, but call centers (and the cheap Indian call centers) were the biggest talk of the town before the social networks became “the” news. The boom of call centers  was a clear signal that clients do want a direct contact with companies, regardless of where we are- B2B or B2C. B2C should learn from B2B how important this is today.

Why? Time has changed, information are more available and understandable by users, media diffusion has intensified the need for communicating two-ways. And companies cannot be deaf.

Not sure you noticed, but when social media started rising, call centers declined: there was a new way to let clients interact with brands.

Being customer centric means – with no exception- being easily reachable by clients. If traditional marketing channels were looking at providing the right message through the right channel (think about TV commercials), nowadays the keyword is still delivering these messages through the media where the audience is- but the audience has moved to social networks, and the rules have changed. Clients now have a keyboard and they write to you if they are not happy, they won’t just use their remote control and watch another TV channel.

And delivering a message through a network that is “social” means brands must be social too. I’ve seen so many companies using social networks like they used other 1-to-many channels in the past.

I have seen many companies keep placing banners on communities and using their Facebook page or heir twitter handle or their LinkedIn group like they used TV commercials in the past. They do no interact with their clients. Social media management is in marketing’s hands today- which is fine-, but it actually also requires an effort that is typical of customer service and sales (for their account management role). Social media management and a social media strategy cannot stay only in marketing’s hands. And most of all, it cannot be in the intern’s hands or with an agency – which will surely give your brand (along with its reputation) in an intern’s hands.

Think about what has recently happened to Versace with their Facebook page or to Chrysler with their Twitter handle, to name a couple: they had to sither shut down comments on Facebook or fire the media agency serving them, respectively. When I read these stories, I keep reminding a Latin sentence: scripta manent, verba volant, which means “what is written stays, words fly away”. This is why social media should be in experts’ hands and it should be part of a formal strategy.

We must remember we are constantly listened (read) by our audience, and also they are willing to talk back to us. They want to interact. This is what social networks are about: being social.  So social media marketing is not just marketing on a new channel  but it’s building a relation with clients, hat same relation that is usually built with meetings with clients, with sales calling them  and asking if everything is OK to keep the client “warm”.

And, of course, since numbers show the reason why people follow brands on social networks (see the 4Rs in the “related posts” section at the bottom of this post), companies should give them what they want. This is customer centricity. It’s not what we think they want. It’s what they ask for. And clients are surely not deaf!

Related posts:

Most common (startup) mistakes you can easily avoid when building a new website

While looking for my next big career challenge, I have been recenlty asked to review some “beta” websites, on their way to the official launch. It seems the Italian Online-sphere is picking up!

With a few years of experience in start-ups, and more in particular about the online world- with my very first experience being from 1998- and with a solid marketing background of more than 10 years, it often happens to have calls from friends and familiars asking me to “have a sight at their forthcoming online venture”.

So, it seems I am kind of getting specialized in start-ups within the online space.

Since I found there are common “mistakes” in all these beta-version websites, I thought it was good to share how to overcome initial common mistakes and stay focused on the actual business.

Choose the right name and secure your domain

In an era where fruit seems dominating the tech market (i.e. apple, blackberry), and where search engines names seem typos, choosing the right name for your business is still a big deal. If your new venture is similar to something already existing, the only thing you have to care about, is to avoid calling it in a way it may be confused with your competitor. Make sure your business name does not sound like a bad word in another language. A tip: have a kid saying your name. Think about yahoo and google.. that simple.

Once you have chosen the right name, make sure to secure the related web address and all its country-specific extensions. Calling your business Blue and having a domain called Purple, does not help.

Secure your twitter handle and if your business is a B2C, get 25 of your friends to like your page and secure your Facebook link too.

Avoid adding unnecessary complexity

I am sure you spent a few months shaping your idea in your mind, then putting it on paper and finally explaining it to your business partners with a metaphor. You get to the design of your website with all these months of experience and path in your head, and you struggle to reduce your copy for your company description. So you pick icons instead and add many functionalities to your original idea, which has become much more complex – and much more clever, you think- since that idea originated in your mind.

I remember when I was helping a friend of mine building a dating community, which had very complex algorithms and evaluations and with scores to be assigned to the best answer to a question, in addition to affinity and location, and any possible thing that can help people match. Results were actually pretty accurate, but you needed to spend about 40 minutes to complete your profile and about 1 hour a day to make sure you posted enough content to be ranked well among your competitors in this dating thing. No need to tell I predicted it was not going to work – too complex for the average user and the average free time, starting from the – sad yet true point- people mostly surf websites like this one while at work, and they don’t want to (risk being seen) spend too much time doing these things.

This is by far the most common mistake I see with start-ups: adding useless complexity to their original idea. Think about the two most used websites: Google (a blank page with a logo and a search box) and Facebook (share photos, videos, links and thoughts with people). Now think about Google+ and how many complex things you can do (hangouts, sparks, circles, etc).

You know what it is about, others don’t

Another common mistake is when a website does not have a page saying what it is about or who you are. You may think this is quite a basic concept, but out of all start-ups I have seen, with so many “experts” around, the most simple things were missing.

I recently “had a sight” at a friend’s beta version of a forthcoming website. They had a “how it works” page, but not a “what it is”. Also, in the “how it works” page, they mentioned (and bolded in the text) some key words, without explaining what they meant. So you knew these tools were important, but there was no explanation of why they were important and how you could actualy use them.

It’s been like watching the last Harry Potter movie without knowing anything about it.

But the reason is, after you spend 6 or more months telling every of your stakeholder what it is and how it works, you think it’s enough. Wrong. Didn’t you get one of those early emails about jokes on early computer usage? Like it or not, that’s the audience you have to think about when building a website, unless you want to miss a large portion of potential cllients. I’ve seen people using a calculator to sum numbers from an excel file. I could re-write the Blade Runner monologue with such examples.

I usually suggest picking random people (in your company, in your family) who don’t know about the project and ask them to tell you what is it about. If they don’t get it, your communication is not communicating what you do.

Check every single click and always provide a sitemap

If a hyperlink tells you’ll go to “page A” when clicking on it, you should never ever happen to be on “page B”. Make sure you click on every link and check it actually does what it says it would do.

And, also, you should have a chance to move to virtually every page from virtually every other page. Subject index, industry index, content index, etc, they should all be on every page. Think about the biggest newspapers sites.

Check every word on every page- read it loud

This is something I have learned at school, nothing new to social media and websites: when you write a text, read it loud, twice. Piece by piece first, and then all together. This will help you find inconsistencies and mistakes. Having another person doing the same it’s also warmly suggested.That person might get what your eyes don’t spot.

An example? When testing a beta version of a soon to be launched portal, I registered, and go to a welcome page. It said “welcome Cinzia” (title) and then second line “welcome to..”. Out of the first 3 words, 2 were the same. I am sure nobody read that page before pushing it live.

Avoid asking more information than that required to fill in your tax return

Not sure about you, but I really can’t stand those websites whose “complete your profile” section takes ages. Before asking me all that information – which is clearly a way to sell me something or flood me with emails and text messages- tell me something that I want to hear. And tell me why you need that information from me and how I can benefit from it.

If you cannot give something in return, don’t ask. Users get online to find something, to earn something or to get something. They don’t get online to help you meet your budget target.

I recently got an email after registering to a portal whose beta version has just been pushed live. It stated “we just got a new profiling form, come add information to your profile”. Yeah right. You haven’t started yet, you haven’t sent me any welcome email yet, and you are already asking for more? Unsubscribe. How many emails do you get everyday? Aren’t them enough?

There are a million small details that may slow down your journey to go live. Avoiding being superficial and getting things done right – as much as you can- the first time, will help you save time, and money.

For all those who are embracing such new venture or for all those who happen to be in a fast growing company (which faces the same issue as a start-up, I would suggest reading this blog about how to handle conflicts)

Comparing Facebook, LinkedIn and Google PPC: Why Social PPC is best

As you probably know, I am currently running a survey on Social Media usage, to help all marketers involved in social media (and my bet is there are about 80% of marketers out there who got asked to take care about social media, on top of all other marketing activities) understand what their peers are doing in terms of budgets and efforts, what has worked best and where to place their marketing dollars in 2012. It must be my research analyst background combined with my marketing experience.

If you haven’t had a chance to take this survey, please go here now. Results will be published on this blog. Updates and preliminary results are shared on my twitter feed.

While browsing for preliminary results, I noticed that among those who already participated into this survey, the most popular social media marketing paid campaign was on Facebook, and nobody has adopted any PPC campaign on LinkedIn, so far.

One of the reasons is surely the fact that almost all respondents operate in the B2C field and that Facebook has been the talk of the town across all industries and there is a perception that it is the “easiest way” to deploy cheap marketing campaigns.

Even more surprising is actually the fact that so far, while over 70% of respondents set up a Facebook fan page, only less than 30% ran a Facebook ad, and overall my respondents do not seem too happy about these strategies.

Are you using your paid campaigns right?

Here is a quick cheat sheet to help you set up you paid campaign on the two main Social Networks (Facebook and LinkedIn) and why you should prefer them over a generic search on Google. Also, another of my recent analysis about the UK market shows that having a campaign on Social Media has a good impact on search engines. You can check this UK case study here.

Best use of PPC campaign - Cheat Sheet by SocialNetConomy (Click to enlarge)

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