the grass is greener on the internet

2 bits of genius in Google+
July 14, 2011, 10:21 am
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Okay, so Google’s strategy is that customer value comes first and monetisation will follow. So here’s my take on how the customer value of Circles in Google+ translates to 2 pieces of genius from a marketer’s perspective.

In case you’re not familiar with Google+ and the concept of Circles: Google+ is the latest social networking site (started by Google, in case you weren’t sure) to hit the scene. Unofficial figures say that it’s reached 20 million users in less than a month, which makes it one to watch. Though it’s touted by many commentators as a ‘Facebook-killer’ the functionality is more of a Facebook/Twitter cross.

One of the key differences to both of the aforementioned is ‘Circles’, where your contacts can be put into separate groups as opposed to just being your ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’. This means that content can be shared with a limited group defined by the user – on the one platform you can discuss work with your colleagues or share last night’s party photos with your party people, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

On to those two bits of genius…

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people who are trying to figure out what value their business can derive from social networks. A lot of people like to focus on the ‘glamourous’ side – giveaways, viral videos, gaining followers etc. Well, they’re important, but I really believe there’s more value in being able to target the right people at the right time and find out what they’re really thinking. So here’s what I’m hoping to get from Google+…

1. More sharing

Privacy is an interesting thing. It used to be that you could very easily keep separate parts of your life, well, separate. It was purely 1 to 1; f you wanted to write illicit love letters to 5 different people, they would only find out if they compared notes.

Then came technology, with email, blogging, social networking, microblogging, and more. We had 4 ways to share; 1 to 1, 1 to friends, 1 to every1, or ‘dammit I’m not telling anyone’. Most of us learnt this the hard way on Facebook. We wanted to share content with a limited group of friends, but suddenly all of our ‘friends’ or even the whole world could see. As a consequence, there were some types of information that we just stopped sharing altogether.

Here’s an example:

As you can see, you might want to share at several different degrees, but you often end up sharing with more or less people that you would like to.

Circles, as I’ve explained, allows you to share in degrees the way we want to. It means that you have more privacy – if you added up all of the bars above, you’d find that you are sharing to a lesser degree as a whole. However, you’re actually putting MORE information out there because you can limit the degree it’s shared.

More data being shared is marketer’s gold. Share more information and I can get a bigger picture of who you are, how you live, what you like and what you dislike. It tells me what I should share with you and when I should do it.

If Google can tap into more data, they have a very powerful tool for their ad network.

2. Ads in a social context

The jump to social media came from one premise; I am more interested in people I know than people I don’t. I care about what my friends are doing but I don’t really care what a stranger had for breakfast. I know that my friends have good taste in music and I’ll trust that more than a record company telling me their latest artist is fantastic.

As a marketer, I’m interested in two things from this; insight and influence.

Circles allows us to map social structure like never before.

Since each circle created represents a specific social group or interest, we know that if A, B, C and D are listed as being in the same circle by many people, chances are that if A, B and C all click on ads related to cars then D may be more likely to also click on a car ad. This ‘social logic’ allows us to imply insights from people that share their data to people that share less.

Since adding someone to a circle is a one-sided act, it is easier for us to see who influences who. If A is following B but B is not following A, B is the more influential. I can get more value out of targeted advertising to B as an influencer than A as the follower. (This one-sided mechanism is why Twitter is used as a better quick yardstick of influence than Facebook, except that Twitter does not have the mechanisms in place to take advantage of this.)

So what does this mean?

I’m not here to make predictions about whether Google+ will take over from Facebook or completely change the social networking game. However, I will say that if they manage to make the network a success, Google will have no problems in monetising it and getting businesses on board.

The two factors I’ve discussed may be subtle…but they’re also genius.


July 21, 2010, 9:48 pm
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It’s the quiet ones you want to watch.

There’s been commentary on the recent social media development spend by Unilever, the trials by P&G and the move to umbrella brands by both. But what about other FMCG companies?

Reckitt Benckiser has actually been doing much more on the social media front. I previously reported on their Clearasil site, which aimed to be a forum for young people to discuss issues relevant to them.  Almost more importantly, within a week I had a response to my post (even though I wasn’t particularly nice).

But I’m loving their new recruitment Facebook app – poweRBrand.

It’s a virtual office game billed to help players improve their sales and marketing skills.

Players are sent tasks through an ‘inbox’ then must decide how much time to spend on specified activities using sliding bars. Some of these pop up through ‘phone calls’ where you have to make a decision under pressure. More pop up each day, like the real world.

uh oh. Tick tock tick tock...

Phew. After wasting 10s on a screenshot...success! Now hire me please.

After completing tasks players get money to deck out their office (including alll RB products), promotions or even relocations.

It’s a really interesting concept which I think will be great for recruitment (although maybe it tries a little too hard to persuade that there’s good life/balance –  I wasn’t sure about one ‘ideal’ answer which says that to raise funds for a cause the effort spent on cleaning your office and waxing your body with VEET (I wonder who owns that brand) (what if you’re a guy??) combined should be more than running a marathon (I assume this is a fund-raising marathon) and asking agencies for help combined).

You can of course invite ‘colleagues’ who become your team members. I think that more team members increases the number of experience points you get per task.

Check it out, it’s actually kinda fun…best interactive facebook app I’ve seen so far!

Foursquare Moresquare
June 9, 2010, 10:48 pm
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It started off with a few tweets on my Twitter feed. Then a few more.

And suddenly, Foursquare was being predicted as not just the Next Big Thing, but THE Big Thing for social media. Also know as, The Application That Will Actually Make Money.*

Interestingly – and I could be wrong about this – foursquare seems to be the one social media tool which has taken off with a wider age base and NOT the Gen Y crowd.** If I asked a dozen of my friends, ‘are you on foursquare?’ they’d look at me:
a) like I’m crazy
b) and ask me why you’d want to share that kind of information with strangers in the first place.
But now that they’ve signed with MTV (what??) and they’ve made it into the news across the world, it looks like this is one app I can no longer avoid.
And so we come to this…

…the elusive superswarm badge.

Now, I’m told you can get one of these by having 50 people or more ‘check-in’ to a place at once. As you may know, on June 2 Ogilvy Melbourne decided to go for the world record for the number of check-ins at their office – unsuccessful, but still the first Australian location to get the yellow jersey badge.

Well, somebody at Ogilvy loves foursquare, because they’re using it to bring the blogger reward meet-up to the next level.

As part of the launch for Microsoft Office 2010 they’re getting Sydney foursquare mayors to check-in to Martin Place for the chance to win software, get some free food and do some networking.

For those playing at home, a foursquare mayor is the person with the most check-ins for a location. They get a badge too:

It looks something like this. Not embroidered of course, but the fact that you can now buy these babies is a scary concept.

The foursquare mayor concept is an interesting one in itself, encouraging more check-ins and allowing venues to see who their most loyal tech-savvy customers are. But the fact that Microsoft is specifically targeting mayors – is this a way of trying to separate the influencers from the rest of the pack?

[I wonder if any of this came out of the Microsoft Protegé competition?]

Well, if you’re in Sydney and you want to meet some other foursquarers (or is there a cooler term I’m not aware of?) here’s the details:

You only need to be one of the first 111 foursquare mayors to check-in to be in the running for free software, and the t-shirts are free game for everyone, so why not?

Now to get me a foursquare account…

* Their growth at least seems more credible than Twitter’s, as there’s less potential for robots called Britney1691 who are lonely tonight.

** Although Twitter has also seen limited success among Gen Ys I’ve talked to, it has a much higher awareness rate.

There’s relations in public relations
April 15, 2010, 4:08 pm
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I don’t usually play the ‘naming and shaming’ game.

However this time I think the firm involved should know better, and if not they NEED to know better.

A Powell Tate consultant recently wrote a comment on the ‘about’ page of a friend’s corporate social responsibility blog, providing unsolicited information about a large F&B company’s new CSR initiatives on behalf of that company.

I use the word ‘wrote’ loosely, because it was clearly a form email.

Why do I have a problem with this? Let me count the ways:

  1. It was completely unsolicited and irrelevant to that page.
  2. We know you’re going to use a form email, but it’s nice to be able to believe that you paid enough attention to who you were sending it to to try and make it interesting/relevant.
  3. It’s bad form to use an email + attachment as a blog comment, particularly when the page has a contact email.
  4. Ditto for blog comments longer than 2 screen’s worth.
  5. Ditto for comments where one third is a wordy legal disclaimer.

Contrast this with the consultant from Howorth in Australia who contacted me a week or two ago about the Microsoft Student House competition promoting Windows 7 to students.

Okay, his job is made slightly easier by the fact that I’m involved with a student organisation also promoting it, and it made a MUCH better impression on me than some of Microsoft’s other attempts to utilise social media.

But what was also nice:

  1. Being addressed by name.
  2. A demonstration that he actually knew what my blog was about.
  3. Not having to trawl through an entire essay.
  4. Comment love.
  5. A prompt response when I replied with a question.

See, it’s not so hard, is it? We know you’re busy. We’re busy. We know you’re probably sending the same thing to other bloggers. We also have problems coming up with new things to write all the time. We don’t expect you to write us a long personal love letter. But just taking a couple of extra minutes to be nice makes a difference.

So, because someone reassured me that there’s still relations in public relations, here’s the feel-good entry that won the competition to share the love. The girls get free rent and use of a slew of electronics for 7 months, which I hope they share too.

[And just because I like segways, I heard about this UK survey recently which says that amongst businesspeople the brand with the best reputation is Microsoft, beating other likely suspects like Google and Apple.

Microsoft, I’m glad you’re back.]

Brand rankings by social media sentiment
October 21, 2009, 5:10 pm
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Agencies are always making up rankings to try and get noticed. So when I saw the Sysomos ‘Top Brands by Social Media Presence’ I thought hey, anyone could’ve counted up the number of social media mentions brands get, what’s so special?

But wait…here’s something a bit more interesting.

The top-scoring brands for positive reactions are in green, negative reactions in red. (See the Sysomos page for actual rankings.)
The top-scoring brands for positive reactions are in green, negative reactions in red. (See the Sysomos page for actual rankings.)

They’ve done an additional ranking using their ‘sentiment engine’ (an accurate name but odd image) which analyses whether the mentions are positive or negative from their context.

It’s interesting to note that all of the highest scoring positive mentions are related to electronics – due to review sites perhaps? More surprising then that Apple and Google, the top two from the mentions rankings and general favourites, don’t feature in the sentiment top 5.

It’s also unclear whether positive and negative mentions could cancel each other out or whether they were separate scales.

Do you think it’s accurate?

Heard it through the viNe
October 4, 2009, 3:38 pm
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Discovered Nokia’s viNe service the other day and it’s tripping me out.

Even if we’ve gone on in our lives to flatter and shinier things, I think my generation will always have a bit of a soft spot for Nokia because their basic phones were pretty much THE thing to have as your first phone back in the day.

We’ve also seen huge developments in the internet and mobile technology. So when I saw this on Nokia’s website:

…I just had to click.

Here’s the official vid:

This is taking blogging and sharing your life to the next level (and almost asking to be stalked, really).

My question is…do people really want that?

Already there’s a facebook backlash where people are discovering that having your entire life accessible on the internet can cause big problems. Social norms are still trying to catch up to the new political dramas of what you can write on other people’s walls, not to mention a tale of group membership being used for a character reference in court.

Nike did have some success with GPS-assisted trackers when they collaborated with Apple, but at least there it was for a purpose – helping the niche market of hardcore runners to track their personal progress or participate in races.

However, viNe seems to be aimed at the masses (as much as the number of people who can afford the N series can be called the masses).

What purpose does it achieve for them? Sharing their life?

viNe is a little more like being electronically stalked.

I can only think of a few uses…

a) You’re on holiday.

b) You want to be stalked.

c) You’re really, really bored.

None of these occurs every day (maybe with the exception of b) which means very few people will get into the habit of using it – which is why nearly a year after it was announced it seems to have joined the rapidly growing pile of internet junk.

It disappoints me because I do have that soft spot for Nokia and it’s a cool concept, but I can’t see a lot of benefit – for consumers or the company.

July 29, 2009, 11:55 am
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Incensed by the Australian government’s plan to filter the internet?

You’re not the only one.

NFP GetUp aims to get Australians to talk about politics – and so far they’re succeeding. Donations for the CensorDyne video have reached over $40,000; enough to buy ad time on SkyNews. Although, as ‘jimboot’ on Youtube has replied, the censor proposed in the video might be more effective than that proposed by the government…

Great case study of social media for a cause.