The social networking landscape is changing massively over the last years. Curation and aggregation of content becomes a big game changer through new ways of sharing, new platforms and modern technologies. Some new data from eMarketer explains the main gains and chains of social networking.
“Let’s face it: As much as we complain about those over-sharers who inundate us with baby photos and vacation snapshots, we’re still in love with social networking.” Debra Aho Williamson, Pricipal Analyst, eMarketer
The next big thing will be mobile social networking, where Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr will become the prominent players. So, let’s see how eMarketer predicts the social networking future for the next two years.
Selling through social media has always been a challenging business. However, all brands and companies we have spoken to in 2014 wanted to turn around Social Media from a brand reputation channel into a sales opportunity touchpoint.
Obviously, many of the companies had already failed. Most of them as they were either too greedy, or just not prepared to go in a bar without expecting someone to sell them a drink – or respectively, to buy their products and services after the brands or companies have posted their first status updates. In my eyes, it is time to shift expectations and start anew. 2015 should not be your year of sales disappointment, it should become your year of redefined engagement.
All companies aim for the same goal. Customer engagement is what companies are waiting, hoping and praying for. Thus, they pump out tons of content pieces from their latest brand sponsoring activities to the best white papers and case studies they can offer until they cannot find any content piece in their PR or marketing repository that has not been shared across the globe. And by accelerating the content via Facebook, Twitter and the likes, they expect their KPIs to become real.
And then, the guys from SocialFlow conducted a study in summer last year. analyzed organic posts with almost 1.5 billion social actions, showing them 99 percent of those updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ create little to no engagement at all. Did brands use engagement the wrong way? Where their tactics bad? And if so, what were the obstacles they did not obey?
Let’s look at the following three tactical approaches. Ask yourself if you really follow the three rules of engagement.
1. Engagement: Think cross-department, cross-partners and cross-employee
Companies still tend to be structured in silos. Internal politics, department thinking and career ambitions rule out what could be replaced by community engagement, employee engagement initiatives or engagement incentive plans. Still, most responsible managers don’t know or forget how networking inside the company and with all external forces like resellers, retailers and partners might might leverage selling opportunities.
Now, whether it is limited digital capabilities of employees or the HR department that is often only involved in social media in terms of setting up social media guidelines, companies should start realitzing that their social media manager is not the company’s silver bullet. HR and marketing need to align forces and work closer together: Culture, relationship building and trust creation is not only a sales business which got nicely highlighted by a study from Altimeter at the end of 2014.
Setting up processes, programs and platforms that work towards a common goal, that get updated by various minds, by different perspectives and manyfold views attracts the engagement of more customers. The formula is easy and proven: More brains can be in more conversations and generate more engagement.
2. Engagement: Learn cross-platform, from “free-meal” to „pay-for-play“
Companies and brands seem to accept that social media is not a „free-meal“ any longer by investing in consulting companies to help transforming their social media efforts into social selling enagement. Facebook is leading in driving engagement to brands according to Simply Measured’s 2014 Facebook Study which analyzed the Interbrand Top 100 Global. Photos accounting for 77% of total engagement, and link usage to around 16%.
However, brands still haven’t respected the fact that getting people to listen and read their marketing messages by posting in social media is changing dramatically. When Facebook turns the algorithm into “less promotional” this year, companies need to start redefining how they approach their customers more subtile. Even if they will be addressing them with building clusters (or circles), contacting them via the „@name“ phenomenon or hashtags. The wording needs tob e chosen carefully, and we can be sure other networks will follow that example.
Thus, the next big thing will be the shift from investing in traditional media to spending more money in platforms that leverage social networking engagement. Products like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator or individual targeting through the combination of data analytics and marketing services, will become the new sales kid in town. Where marketing and media decision makers have invested in nebulous target-group definitions, social networks can cluster target-groups by their individual interest in content, in pictures or in videos.
The only shame is that smart data (and especially media and sales data exchange) across platforms does not work yet. So, banners and sponsored posts will continue to haunt customers although they have already bought a product or service a banner promotes to them. Clever managers invest in blogger programs, in brand advocates and loyalty programs to drive up and cross-selling opportunities. Don’t just think about content!
3. Engagement: Understand cross-quality values
Just to make this clear from the beginning: A LIKE is not only a LIKE, like a Retweet, Repin or Reblog is not just a meaninglesss interaction of some lazy engagement. In many seminars, we see marketers that still center their KPIs around quantitative engagement figures while under-estimating the chances that are covered behind such „automated“ customer interactions: joy, interest, passion, emotions, etc..
Clever sales people use such quantitative engagements for profiling their customers’ habits, experiences and interests in their social CRM database or sales management systems. They value every single customer engagement as they know when to turn quantitative into qualitative engagement, and how to turn it to their favor in meetings, calls and conversations. Knowing that a client has liked a shared golf or football video can be the start of a long-term relationship and open up doors for introductions to others.
Customers will be happy if they get good content to share with their own peers and community. They appreciate the dedication (seasonal content), commitment (consistency of service) and the quality of engagement (high interactivity) that brand accounts offer to them according to a study by the Engagment Labs. Appreciation, well-understood from customers and companies, is the key to social media engagement.
The link between customer engagement and employee engagement was not only proven in a study by Answers Corporation lately. In many examples with customers and experts have we experienced that social media engagement is not rocket-science, however the process of setting it up plus using and finding the right technology is a challenge. Still, the rules of engagement are changing in social media, especially in social networks. Facebook is the former RSS feed, just with the difference that you can sponsor it now. Youtube is the new search engine. It’s 2015! Redefine your engagement mindset!
Last year’s CNBC study examined that C-level execs were more mobile than their senior counterparts in middle management. This year’s CNBC’s Mobile Elite survey -based on more than 600 online interviews across Europe, Asia and North America – shows that the usage and impact of mobile devices amongst business executives is higher than ever. Six in ten executives admitted they are still busy checking their mobile devices when its weekend time and the stock-market is closed.
Managers are even more busy consuming news during the mornings. For those vendors seeking to address the European business decision maker the weekday evening is said to be the right time to get in touch, according to the study. Obviously, many managers have more time during their weekend leisures to digest articles and information. Almost every second executive (48%) reads ‘in-depth articles’ and 38% has a close look at business profiles.
In that field, LinkedIn has achieved the number one position in Europe as a ‘useful business and recruitment tool’ (59%) with the highest scores for the ‘respected brand’ (64%). However, Facebook is also under the top-performers as a ‚useful marketing tool’ among Europe’s Business Elite. In Europe Twitter scores highest European executives for ‘use for both work & leisure’ (55%) increasing from 32% in 2013.
TV and tablets are moving more and more together in terms of business impact and parallel screen usage for decision-makers: 80% of US executives stated they were watching TV while using their tablet. Europe is with 71% and Asia with 70% behind the US results. Still, 56% of global executives use their mobile device as a direct result of watching TV.
Their predominant reaction after watching TV content is…
– Web browsing for products or services (69%)
– Purchasing products, stocks or shares (55%)
– Responding to advertising (42%).
“An ongoing trend where work life and private life is bleeding into one another“, thinks Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Cass Business School London, Andre Spencer.
Not surprisingly, business executives are massively using their mobiles and second screens. The more business turns international the more “global business environments work on a 24/7 basis”, thinks Spencer. Staying in touch is possible and needs to be done the more people are engaged in being on the road. The work-life balance gets challenged when organizations are increasingly expecting their top executives to be online and working.
Eyes wide open, the two IBM gentlemen look at me. They sit up right. Professional. Spot On. You can feel their enthusiasm, their expectations are high. Both are social collaboration leaders at IBM, evangelizing on the #newwaytowork. That’s how the software technology company hashtags their latest journey to the revolution of the email as they call the launch of their new inbox communication software “IBM Verse”. You can tell how excited the two managers in front of me are to talk about the IBM success story. The launch seemed to have gone well so far.
On my opening question both face each other, not sure who shall answer. They are professionals in communication, they are prepared. “The term Verse is historic for communication and conversation”, replies Dr. Peter Schuett, Leader Social Business Strategy at IBM. “In times of Goethe, when carriers brought people hand-written letters, all the communication that went to and fro was written in verse.” The answer surprised me as IBM’s development sounds like a trip in the past.
It is not. For the first time, IBM has taken a new development approach. They made their customers think about the new software solution by inviting customer to their labs, by rethinking email, and by thinking design and customer experience first, based on real customer feedback, input and inspiration. Not the cheapest way to innovate. The product development cost 100 Mio. US Dollars according to them. It has got to be effective from a customer perspective.
For a long time, IBM has been a forerunner in terms of modern workplace technology. Their “Outside the Inbox” evangelist Luis Suarez has already been preaching for a business world with less emails. We all know the reasons why he was addressing this. People get approximately 127 emails a day. This means emails kills 28% of our daily work-time, and thus of our daily productivity.
With IBM Verse the software technology company wants to shift productivity. Creating a more effective business culture is the aim. From Ed Brill’s perspective, he is IBM’s social business transformation specialist, email should function as a transmitter. Email today should be serving notes like a private letter what Goethe used to do in hand-written form: delivering private information.
“Email is the service forever. But it needs to be a personal service.” Dr. Peter Schuett, IBM.
Focussing on the new software solution, I brought up the question in which way this is a revolution to email communication. Ed Brill emphasizes that IBM did not want to reinvent the email. IBM wished for a better email. However, IBM wanted to create a new intersection of email, calendar, social media and analytics. That’s what they have done with IBM Verse.
When I showed a bit of my disappointment around the new solution’s capabilities in terms of being an aggregation platform for direct messaging and functionality as an inbox management system in general, Ed Brill rearranges my expectations in bringing the metaphor on suits which might all look different in design but are in a sense all alike from the amount of innovation in style and structure. And by the way, the power users of enterprise email are still personal assistants.
True, sometimes people forget where they stand in the evolution of modern communication. With their “People” and “Analytics” functionality, the modern way of a more personalized communication approach seems to get in that social direction in the future. At least, when we compare IBM Verse and Facebook from a superficial point of view. With IBM Verse people also move into the centre of the communication universe which is meant to map the efficiency form content to people. IBM Verse “People” learns to show the users dynamically who is important to their communication, by hour, meeting and topic of conversation. Obviously, users can also change that and arrange it according to their premises. The world of communication gets filtered more and more.
IBM Verse is definitely a big evolution step in email communication. Still, they could have made it a bit more of a revolution in delivering a multi-messaging and communication management platform in my eyes which integrates direct communication via Facebook, Twitter and others.
Brill agrees that when CEOs wanted to spread the word around some company, product or people changes in the company, IBM was about to use email for that communication. Today, via IBM Connections -the internal use of their own company community platform- gets 7 Mio. accesses a month, and the CEO messages will reach (and achieve more feedback) more people via internal social messaging than via email in the past.
Nevertheless, the two gentlemen did not want to commit to a statement whether IBM Verse and IBM Connections might become one platform in the future. But the approach to one collaborative workplace platform, serves the option to have fewer apps in the future. But hey, there is hope: “Rome was not build in one day!” summarizes Schuett in the quick Snapshot video interview in the end of our interview, and smiles.
Two researchers Mark Graham and Stefano De Sabbata at the Oxford Internet Institute mad use of Alexa to determine the most visited websites by Internet traffic. Although the findings are quite obvious for some regions like the US and Europe where Google dominates, Facebook has already taken over Spanish-speaking parts of the America, the Middle East, and North Africa. Still, in those 50 countries where facebook “rules”, Google or YouTube appear just behind. Yandex is leading in Russia with approx. 60% of search traffic, Baidu in China (however, the researcher doubted their leading position in South Korea). Interesting for me to see that Yahoo is still powerful in Taiwan and Japan.
In days of Facebook, AirBnB, Tumblr & others, when new business models and start-ups spread all over the world, some marketing freelancers might think about the option to appear big. Or shall I say for some interim period of establishing a business, these people might want to look bigger than some decision-makers might imagine? Whatever their driver might be. When starting a business, marketing consultants have got the challenge to look professional all over their brand. An address in the right context location seemed to be a must-have. It’s all about the brand, right? However today, the overarching value of a new business brand might have changed. What was a shiny office address in the middle of town in the year 2000, isn’t important any more (and maybe never was). There are new and probably better options that virtual offices can offer.
Thinking back around millenium days, when we launched a start-up with some good business partners, the venture capitalists would have loved the option of a virtual business. The resons were obvious: The business model puts a foot on the “valid business reasons'” groud instantly. Operationals can start immediately. Being first to market, cannot be taken away from you. “Land and expand” is the option. All set. In 2000 this sounded like a dream for founders and their investors. Our company’s rental costs were the biggest liability we had those days (also when we bought the business and sold some years later). We couldn’t just leave and sign off our contracts. The landlord was clever enough to keep us in our rooms for at least six more months. The virtual office is much more flexible and usually offering shorter termination periods.
Talking about liabilities, you might also think about getting a secretary? Another cost topic. Virtual offices have got their own secretaries who will look after your business. Calls, postage, or even emails if you may want to leave it to them: all sorted out by them. Whether it is PR requests, marketing topics, sales inquieries or any other service related business, the virtual assistant is giving clients and business contacts what they are asking for (if you brief them properly). No overhead business. No extraordinary employee costs. If it is your own staff, you have to find replacement for them on days of illness or family issues. In virtual offices, the service is available 24/7/365. These days, you do not necessarily have to pay for health treatment if someone is ill. And speaking frankly, this harms your business in the start-up business three-fold: cost-wise, additional workload and underpaid founders doing processes and projects they should not be looking after in the start-up period.
Later, when I started some other consulting business, I used a virtual office place to start the business. The benefits were quite interesting then:
a) Pay-per-stay. When I was in London for business, my virtual office in London would have been fantastic. Why do you always have to commute around London and waste expense budgets, when from time to time you can just have gotten people to commute to you?
b) Pay-per-use. When clients came to visit, I did one phone call to the virtual office desk and paid for hourly use. That was really handy. Do I need to “own” (and pay) a meeting-room that is unused for 35 out of 40 hours a week?
c) Pay-per-need. When I needed a desk, I paid for a shared desk. If I wanted to stay at home, I just told the office desk the day before. Do I need to rent a place where “my” desk stands and is waiting for me too many days in a month? Traveling is the key to starting a good business. Meet as many people as you think is necessary.
d) Pay-per-inspiration. When I needed business exchange, new innovative approaches or even looked for some new networking opportunities, there were people from many industries to talk to at the coffee lounge in the virtual office. On a good talk, I paid for the coffee. No cheaper way to get consulting. And: Who goes a floor down in his office, just to meet someone as they are tenants like you are in order to speak about business?
There are valid business reasons to use a virtual office company when you start a business. When the business grows and you have got paperwork to store, you might think about using a bigger version of the virtual office components and features. Still, the reason for renting an office in days of cloud computing, bigger WIFI access and coffee bars in virtual offices is becoming smaller and smaller. And even, if your business grows, there are many ways to leverage the virtual office s long as you act in start-up mode.
Some research by the guys at Convertro gives valuable insights to marketers in terms of paid social media. Compared to other platforms, paid tweets are more successful than organic tweets. The study shows that promoted tweets converted better than twice to organic tweets. However, YouTube is best in introducing new products and supporting consumers purchase decisions.
The report analyzed some 500 million clicks and 15 million conversions during the first quarter of 2014. It tracked the performance of social purchase interactions via the Convertro’s attribution technology amongst their user base. The results show that promoted tweets converted at 3.9%. The unpaid tweets received only a 1.5% figure which makes a difference of 160% that paid tweets generate.
The variance of results can not be seen on Facebook though were paid status updates got achieved 3.1% versus unpaid status updates of 3.0%. Even worse were the figures on Pinterest were paid posts converted with only 0.2% compared to moneyless posts which received 1.1%. So, Pinterest probably needs to rethink their advertising model when unpaid posts (over 80% more successful) do more for marketers than paid posts.
If it wasn’t Twitter, the questions for paid social media would probably even be higher. However, if we look at the overall figure, it is clear that paid posts increase conversion rates by almost 25% – at least according to the stats by Convertro. Maybe you have made your own tests and advertising campaigns with paid social media. If so, maybe let us know if your figures show similar results.
In a quantitative study with 1,200 respondents, which also included some qualitative secondary research and some new form of “blography” component, it made clear that streaming has become a mainstream behavior. Almost four out of five (78%) participants of the survey had streamed music in the past three months. The streaming habit on the way to purchase is most often (91%) a form of auditioning music before buying it – especially YouTube has an important role in this process.
The age group of 22-30 year olds is even more active than their older and younger counterparts. Streaming music has become a daily habit for them (63% do it daily). As the group sample was taken from their target audience, it might be a reason that this result is even higher than in usual user studies.
The young generation of “streamers” listens to radio as an important source of information to this group. However, the study credited broadcast and the Internet as sources of music discovery. Interestingly enough the study states that the act of listening seems to be passive. User do not seek to find their music, it basically comes to them. It could be a prove that the music industry has understood how to use big data to favor the music taste of their users.
Obviously, TV is another major discovery platform for this generation. 88% of respondents mentioned that they searched for songs on TV shows next to listening to them. This could become another important opportunity for track-identification mobile apps (like i.e. Shazam).
The path from discovery to purchase (which in this study can mean several things, including “streaming it incessantly”) is interestingly charted. The role of streaming in that path is often a form of auditioning music before buying, according to 91% of participants, who use YouTube for that purpose.
Not surprisingly, the respondents state that downloading music via P2P networks is not popular for them (60% see it as “risky” or “wrong”). Still, this does not mean that the idea is completely gone from their minds. Sharing music data with friends via DropBox or other sharing platforms is a common practice for music fans. However, if 81% of participants believe this is a support to bands they admire can be doubted. Maybe the music fans haven’t quite understood how their bands make money. It probably “beams up” the bands relevance and popularity more if 63% of fans follow artists on Facebook and share the bands’ news in their personal networks.
Adobe’s CMO.com did a great job in summarizing the leading social networks for business in one nice infographic alongside their CMO Guide to The Social Landscape. The marketing technology company checked each of the platforms according to four criteria: brand awareness, customer communication, SEO and traffic generation.
Obviously and not surprising, the leading platforms are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. From our experience not all marketers are aware of the importance to change the contents for each platform and not just run them in different timings. The target-groups on the various platforms may be quite different, thus their interests in content and context as well as their wants and needs might vary extremely – although they might be the same people sometimes.
YouTube will probably become the leading platform when the whole world is more driven by Millennials and their input. Although you might be thinking about funny videos, going viral now, most of the business content can be manuals, employer branding stuff, or even product explanation videos. The opportunities are massive and it is time for marketers to realize.
In the B2B space, Slideshare might be a new platform for marketers. The chances are big here as well, as companies and brands get the option to show presentations from various standpoints. Especially, if the company is addressing different stakeholders in a purchase process, it is sometimes good to open up some thoughts before the meeting, so stakeholders can prepare. And, how often did presentations before meetings not go through as of company email file restrictions…?!
Obviously, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest play a role from a corporate brand perspective. And Google+ especially from a SEO and content marketing point of view. However, we are still at the beginning and every case needs to be evaluated on its own.
Any important platform you are missing in the top 8 social networks?
Are teens real trendsetters when it comes to using the latest online gig or social networks? Well, Niche gives some insights into the websites that 7.000 high school graduates in the U.S. were using lately.
Although many of us would have thought that Facebook is not the biggest hype for them any longer, the interactive infographic provided by Niche proves that 87% of the graduates are still happy with reading their news and being active on Facebook. Instagram makes up 66% and Twitter is used by 55%.
In terms of quick chat platforms, 72% use Facebook Messenger and 65% are active on Snapchat. Those platforms that are said to be the latest trend like YikYak and Whisper are not really getting big activity rates – 97% and 95% don’t use these platforms.
From a broadcasting point of view, it is interesting to see that YouTube, Netflix, and Pandora are the leading edge platforms whereas Hulu, Spotify and Beats like Amazon Prime are not yet their main interest spot.
PS: The interactive infographic with further info can be seen at Business Insider.