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‘The Social Media Question’ – PowerPoint Presentation for download

The Realitus Social Media Question presentation was created in conjunction with a test site (trialzone.co.uk) as a broad overview of the Social Media phenomenon and illustrates the way connectivity, user generated content and viral dynamics operate through social media. You are free to use it with the proviso that it must be credited on any reproduction of the content, verbally in presentation and as a printed credit otherwise.

Download Link (Warning this file is about 62 Mb)

NB: About Trialzone.co.uk

Trialzone.co.uk is a live presentation (and occasional test environment) which we have used as a live site during client presentations. The site itself is largely filled with placeholder content or RSS imported content and has been set up so as to not appear through search engines. In this way any imported content will be viewed as duplicate content anywhere on the web.

The Benefits of Social Media

The benefits of running Social Media are initially ‘soft’ benefits. Accumulated, these benefits build to reinforce you, your company and your ideas as good, strong and worth heeding. Benefits of social media would therefore include:

  • People purchase from a trusted source
  • If you ‘know’ an expert you take their advice. You trust their decisions and you act accordingly.
  • Free Advertising
  • Customers that evangelise your product.
  • Repeated and permanent mentions of your web site and product on the web
  • Free Gigantic Focus Groups
  • Discussing of the pros and cons of your products in
    Blogs
    Forums
    Microblogs
    OnLine Mainstream Press
    Review Sites
  • Detailed Customer Behavior Info:
    Conversion rates from specific campaigns
    Community response to specific campaigns
    Sites where conversations about your product occur
    Sites where traffic to your site originates
    Purchasing behavior in your store
    Products affiliates will group your products with
  • Relevant Ideas:
    New product ideas
    New campaign ideas
    Product improvement ideas
    Packaging ideas
    Partnership ideas
    Sales Channel ideas
    Ideas generation (the more people the more ideas)
  • Credibility:
    Recognition of company and staff as experts
    Recognition of company and staff as people (trustworthy)
  • Naturally Occurring and Unexpected Sales Channels:
    Sales can now flow from anywhere, based on the networks of your new evangelists. (e.g. one of your products is for e.g. a disabled person. One of your followers thinks it is really good. They may well be part of all the disabled groups and users on the social media networks. By leaving a good comment about you on your faceBook page, all their connections see it also. Suddenly you have lots of free exposure to exactly the right people voiced by exactly the right person)

Objective

More business
Targetted visitors
More market information
Better search engine placement against a range of search terms
Brand development online
Credibity of brand and personalisation of the organisation
Elevate Westland above competitors and ‘claim the online gradening space’
Establish Westland as ‘The’ online gardening people

The main benefit is in and around the brand. It establishes your company as the easiest and best resource for expertise. If you are first onlne and you get it right, it creates barriers to competitors. It sets a standard and owns the relationship as contacts are established and become direct marketing contacts.

DIY Social Media campaigns

Notwithstanding all the idiosyncrasies of each individual organisation, it is possible to put together a basic template for a social media campaign.

Working on the notion of a client ‘Client X’:

DIY Social Media Campaign Template

  1. Create Client X accounts on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites. These accounts act as a billboard in those communities and bring Client X interest back to the Client X site.
  2. Monitor all discussion forums, blogs, and other information sources on the web for mentions of Client X.
  3. Create community tools on their own web site to encourage discussion, lead generation, and product development support.
  4. Participate in every discussion about their product that happens on the web, even if only to thank people for discussing the product. Through this they personalise interactions between consumer and product.
  5. Automate the monitoring of the web for the popularity of their products and those of their rivals.
  6. Actively track performance measures of the sales of their products and their social media reach.
  7. Update their blog daily and participate in other blog discussions across the web.
  8. Be a person! Participate freely in conversations on the web that they are just interested in not necessarily about product or subject matter – unless specifically asked about it or it’s obviously relevant.
  9. Demonstrate competence through their blog. This means most posts are not directly about their products, but provide value beyond their products. One post may talk about a new product being released, followed by ten related tips.
  10. They build product reach using interactive tools like affiliate programs, business partner linking and some contests like “name the product” or “design a product” or “find the shop on a map.”
  11. They reward good behavior in their communities and on the web. They personally write to / acknowledge their biggest fans. They invite people who are knowledgeable to write in the Client X blog and participate in the site. They gracefully acknowledge expertise, enthusiasm, and participation.
  12. The application of social media systems involves the participation in the greater social web community. The directors and their staff need to be good ‘community members’ in order to reap the benefits of social media tools. (They have to honestly give to honestly get).

Tactical Social Media Campaigns

It can be effective to run social media campaigns alongside regular social media activity. These would be specific events designed to stand out and create a noticeable impression. These tend to rely upon viral dispersion but often get talked about by others online and in printed media as well.

There are references to many such campaigns online. I can case study our Australian partners Bendall’s involvement in the campaign with Australian PM Kevin Rudd

following the devastating bush fires in 2009 and others. Some are convoluted and others strike a chord with people out there. You might as well give it a go, it will attract attention and give your audience a flavour of the sort of people you are. Social Media is all about people.

Bringing It All Together

Social Media is a platform. You build things on it. In order to build an effective campaign it has to be coherent, participatory, maintainable and acceptable to the public. That’s tricky, but it has been established that successful campaigns aren’t just acceptable, they are valued by the public.

Social media is a social contract – you are inviting your public to work with you.

Social Media for Business

Social Media is problematic for business. Business websites are being circumvented in favour of information available through social media sites. Information given freely through a social network is likely to be trusted while there is a cynicism associated with corporate information. Social Media can make marketing control difficult: It is viral and bad news can travel fast; subject related traffic can create competition in search engines for keywords; more dynamic competitors can steal a march. However, the medium is established. It’s use is growing exponentially.

In 2008 Forester reported that:

Employers are finding the benefits of using social media: 63 percent are using social media to build and promote their brand, 61 percent are using it to improve communication and collaboration, and 58 percent are using it to increase consumer engagement;

75 percent of employees are already using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn for business purposes, up 15 percent from 2007;

Use of internal-facing communities is on the rise with 6 percent of organizations already reporting they deployed internal-facing communities, while 33 percent indicate their organization plans to implement internal-facing social media initiatives;

Similarly, external-facing communities are increasing: 27 percent of respondents said their companies were planning to deploy external-facing communities while only 13 percent indicated their organisations already have external-facing communities;

Online communities directed at specific interests and groups of people allow for more targeted marketing techniques and better results so for this reason 37 percent of organisations have specific areas of focus for their communities.

Business opportunities through Social Media

There are business opportunities through Social Media. Popular bloggers, like journalists and magazines, have their followers. They might be considered influencers from a commercial perspective and it is worth building a relationship with them. They are however not journalists or magazines and it is not necessarily wise to assume that cosying up to a popular blogger will do anything positive for your products or yoiur brand – the opposite can happen.

More certain is a social media strategy based upon engagement and participation. It is possible to extend the functionality of a WordPress website, publish content to it and have that information automatically appear across a range of social media sites such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others. These posts should be complimented with dedicated activity on these media.

Openness and honesty are the watchwords of social media. Companies who have actively ecouraged their stasff to have social media accounts in the their company name and to use them come across as straight, honest companies airing their openness. Others will deliver through a social media persona operating for a company within the ‘social media sphere’. It might be a real person, it might be lots of information being fed through a single persona and it might be ghost written. Some of this does not sound completely truthful of honest, but it is a practical way around getting things written well, put in places where it will count and actually getting created at all after the first initial flush of activity has died down.

Typically (not exclusively) a busines social media campaign might involve :

  • Running a subject based blog
  • Entering subject related debates/forums/user-groups online
  • Seek to achieve positive ‘redistribution’ of the information
  • Posting tagged content on Flickr, YouTube, iTunes etc.
  • Creating Twitter, Facebook and other accounts
  • Linking all this together so that you can post the information in one place and it then distributes itself either automatically, or through others passing the word on.
  • Engaging in the ebb and flo of information online – even if it is not specifically about your subject. This is social media not corporate media

The general objective of a social media presence would be to:

  • Generate a following
  • Branding (as in promoting the correct perception of your company)
  • Have a direct relationship with a highly targetted audience
  • Establish a definitive position on the web
  • Build backlinks
  • Create a networked critical mass of activity and content
  • Become a trusted part of ‘the community’
  • Initiate viral distribution
  • Initiate a response

What is Social Media?

Social Media is a part of what has become known as Web 2.0. Web 1.0 would describe static websites where information flows one-way from website to reader and any dynamic functionality tends to be socially remote (forms, transactional etc.).

Web 2.0 broadly refers to a trend where the reader has turned publisher. Early examples were forums, still popular for Q&A research. An example of a Web 2.0 site would be Wikipedia. A reader can seek encyclopaedic information on a subject. Any reader can amend and add to the definitions on Wikipedia. The body of knowledge is created and maintained by readers not a central authority.

Social networking refers to self-published content and sites where content is contributed by many and read by many. They gravitate around social relationships or topics of common interest. There are platforms such as Facebook and MySpace, but the platform owners do not publish, they simply provide a place for others to publish and functionality to allow subscribers to share their content with others either openly or in defined groups.

Text, Images, Video and Audio

Since the web is easily able to accommodate media such as audio, images and video as well as text, social sites supporting these media have emerged. Well known sites would be Flickr, YouTube and iTunes. YouTube as an example allows you to create and post video, keep multiple videos in personal collections, tag with keywords and make the video available for rating and search by viewers both from within YouTube and through search engines.

Other social media activities have sprung up such as microblogging, primarily Twitter where users will publish small snippets of content. Content is published often frequently, either spuriously about mundane things or as a type of short-hand logging of information around subjects, conferences, projects and so on and as short cuts to more comprehensive articles on websites. Users follow and get followed by other users and in addition users will follow subject based posts and search for posts on a subject within the system.

Blogs

Perhaps most importantly, blogs have formed one of the foundation stones of social media. A blog is a ready-to-run website designed to take diarised content and index it by date and subject. Blogs can be centrally hosted or self-hosted. They are simple to use and platforms such as WordPress are ‘open source’ providing complete access to the code for the site, its underlying system and the way it operates. WordPress therefore allows a designer to turn a blog into a website yet retain all the linking potency of the original blog. Customisation, redesign and functionality extension is relatively simple for a designer. It means that anyone can have a website and easily create content. Part of the dynamic is the ability to link blogs to social media platforms and social media platforms to each other.

In addition a series of social media support functions have appeared. It has its own search and referencing sites, both as a central resource in the form of Technorati and also in the form of sites such as Digg and Delicious where readers inform these platforms about ‘good’ content. Links created on these sites are becoming trusted reference points and there is some suggestion that Google reflects this in its algorithms

Social Notworking (2009 a [My]Space Odyssey)

You know how sometimes you’re out walking the dog when a bunch of alien interlopers abducts you. Before you know it, you’re warped off to the planet Q’Zog in the Fourth Quadrant, your brains picked clean en route, only to have other vile experiments visited upon your person on arrival.

Yeah I know, it happens all the time. So what’s new? Well this week, during one of these otherworldly episodes, my alien hosts subjected me to experiments based on research into web-based social media patterns on Earth. It turns out that a few millennia back they went through the same thing themselves and were interested to see if we were making a mess of it all yet.

Eventually, I cracked under pressure and told them about spontaneous uptake, web 2.0, multi-channel integration, SEO benefits, corporate blogging, Mobile blah, micro blah, digital blah and so on. They rubbed their chins, nodded sagely and did that thing with the sides of their mouths that universally means “If only they’d bothered to ask us, we’d have told them how to avoid getting everything wrong”.

So I did ask them. “Where did social media go wrong for you guys?” Quickly followed by “…and do you mind if I pick your brains for a change ask your advice”. It seemed to do the trick. The big alien, the one who usually does all the cross-species sexual experimentation (but that’s another story) picked up his MacBook Core DecaQuadro, running OSMXM Sabretooth and fired it up. He pressed a few keys and Hey Presto! They launched qzogblog.com and clicked onto the category entitled ‘Social Notworking’.

And they talked me through the tale of woe that once passed for social media on Q’Zog.

Once upon a time the ordinary aliens of QZog found it fun to keep in touch and cement friendships through social media sites. A load of them sprang up – TrouserBook (they use a different body-part for speech and visual recognition), Twaddle (like us, there are lots of them with nothing important to say and they like to say it a lot), Flockr (they like pictures of sheep) and so on. Eventually people thought they could make money out of these sites with PPC and other propositions. In time, corporates started to notice that they were being cut out of the loop. No one was going to their websites to find out about their products. The alien masses were asking each other and liberating their buying habits. So the corporates moved in to try and find a place in this great new SpaceBook. And for a while all was well on QZog. But it didn’t stay that way.

The first problem was all about money; isn’t it always? Social networking, it seems, was just too difficult to monetize. 
Strangely, back on Earth, this dynamic is now beginning to show its face also. Google has begun to make less than optimistic noises about it. Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes has said. “We have found that social-networking inventory is not monetizing as well as expected”. Which is Earth-speak for “Oh Shit”.

My alien hosts went on to talk about too many players flooding the market. Particularly white labeled channels (i.e. a site full of pre made functions which can be branded so that people can create their own versions of e.g. Facebook). The more this happens, the more dispersed and fractured the user base becomes. And sure enough, free, open source and plentiful white label options have also made it to earth

It was noticeable that my extraterran hosts were pretty ticked off with corporate intervention in social media. Over commercialization was clearly a killer in the Fourth Quadrant. What started out as a one to many tool, became a corporation to consumer tool and all the people got fed up with being sold at and went somewhere else. I thought about this for a while. Surely as social communities form, Earth’s marketers would not dream of piling in, taking over and crapping all over the experience. Would we?

There was a problem as well with inaccurate member data on sites. This is less important to socialization so users didn’t care. Additionally, identity fraud in the fourth quadrant led to users purposely loading inaccurate data. From a commercial perspective, this began to create problems; CRM is only as good as the data validity. All that effort aimed at the wrong people! Strangely, on earth this seems to be happening. Some say as many as 33% of users load duff info into their profile.

Another issue over in the Fourth Quadrant was the difficulty in measuring the effectiveness of these social media strategies. As with earthly hosting, if you want to deploy a campaign via a social network, you can’t access the host’s server data and logs by automatic right. You can manually monitor the interaction on the site, or measure click through, but it is almost akin to redeploying slate and chalk as a core technology.

Data privacy also started to unravel the network. You may think that this could not happen on Earth, what with all the regulatory concern and cautionary tales. But then again,Facebook had already been caught tracking and releasing user habits back to developers and others involved in advertising initiatives. And what if your average Joe Alien wants to leave. Well have you noticed that no matter how often you opt out or don’t opt in, the level of spam keeps going up? You have to think that the data options are being somehow abused. Surely not on Earth? Well think again, it’s a bit like a religious cult. Once you’re in, they don’t let you leave. These are the very things that eventually dissuaded Q’Zogians from joining social media sites and led to their abandonment followed by collapse of the network platforms.

Here’s a new phrase for all of us on Earth: “Social Network Fatigue”. It started on QZog with people getting fed up with maintaining multiple spaces on multiple platforms. It further manifested itself with people just falling out of love with the whole thing because, like nostalgia, it just wasn’t what it used to be. It might not sound like we have that problem down here, but on closer inspection, there are people writing PhD theses about it.

The QZogians also started to experience a slow-down in the use of social media platforms. It peaked over a few years and then declined. Perhaps because of the tedium of the operation, or something else happened, but it stopped being the next best greatest thing.  And, you guessed it …Earth is seeing the same pattern.

The Q’Zogian saga continued to get played to me out like a Greek tragedy. Networks had inconsistent performance, companies got fed up with employees cyber-sciving, so they started locking social media sites outside firewalls. The sites variously suffered: scaling issues; user overload leading to downtime; hacking and scandal. The social media moguls largely fiddled with their Geek-Up PowerPoint presentations while their empires burned.

“So”, I asked. “If you had your time again, how would you make sure that this didn’t happen?”

“Easy” they answered “We could have kept it all together, increased the marketing value to business, re-enfranchised the users and made a packet on the way.  We’ll drop by next week, pick you up and tell you how you get this entire social media gig right.”

“Oh and by the way…” they said as they dropped me back by my still walking dog, “…  Has anyone talked to HP about their pay-per-post digital camera social media campaign on YouTube. It really sucks”

Information Explosion of Social Media

Our response to Zack Brandit – Share Your Brand’s Passion forum on LinkedIn

  1. What path follows the social Media information flow?
  2. Company’s communication flow has mostly been one sided. Does social media inverse the flow starting it from the consumer side?
  3. Or does the whole dialogue process introduce a new flow which has no real source or receiver?

 

I could write a thesis on this, but I’ll try not to…

The world has changed. Until recently, organisations produced information and everyone else read it. The web was an extension of the brand and it was largely a one-way communication process, at best two-way. That is the flow to which the first question refers.

As for the second question, social media does not alter the direction or introduce a new flow, it replaces the flow with an explosion!

Now, if you want to find out about something, you are more likely to seek out Wikipaedia than to consult a corporate website. If you don’t agree with what you read in Wikipaedia, you might amend it. That will get referenced, copied and republished in other places. You will also use Google to seek out relevant forums or blogs. You might ask for information through forums as well.

In short you will seek information on your own terms and change it by publishing opinions about it as you go. You may go further and publish a tweet, a post, a comment on FaceBook etc. In this way the information evolves and moves on, perhaps now with a negative connotation.

So information placed on the web does not stay still. You can drop a comment on a blog which will tag into any number of other blogs. You can find articles, forums or comments which are blog-rolled or bookmarked from all sorts of other sites. Information finds itself being aggregated through RSS feeds into many other places on and off-line. The routes to, from and through the information become impossible to predict and track. It is not flowing from one place to another like a river in two dimensions it is exploding in all directions and not necessarily from a single central point.

Imagine the web-sphere out there as a matrix (which it is). Information can be placed onto the matrix either singley (e.g. on a blog) or plurally (blog + website + newswire + RSS + Twitter + YouTube + etc. + etc) where it automatically explodes across the matrix. It gets indexed by search engines, replicated, copied and changed, republished via RSS, picked up as topics in blogs and forums, commented on further and so on until often contradictory variations of it exist in many places at once.

If it is ‘important’ (or sensational) information the ‘explosion’ will be more powerful and the information will occupy a greater volume of this matrix and will evolve more as more people have opinions, change it and move it on.

There is no clear template for a strategic approach to managing information in this scenario. But as readers now publishers around other information, so publishers should become readers of their own information and find a way to enter into the dialogue it creates.

Social Media Strategy for Businesses

 

Marketing through Social Media is becoming a hotter topic by the day. Our experience is that corporations have been caught by surprise and there is a collective head-scratching session going on.

The problem is that most corporations are a part of the ‘social networking’ scene whether they know it or not because people will be passing judgment, deifying or damning them all over the web anyway. Any marketing minded company is going to want to do something about that. But traditional marketing intervention is not easy. Social networks don’t follow a traditional media model and culturally they are massively different.

Traditional marketing methodology will look to techniques like comment spam or PR distribution through blogs. Some blogs are even afforded the honour of publication status with the blog owner receiving free product bribery. But these are short-term strategies and any victories remain pyrrhic, leading to bad coverage and eventually a block off at server level for spamming.

Organisations need to adjust their approach. To ‘use’ the medium as one might use a magazine is a mistake. PR is usually a one-to-many communication, as is advertising, as is a website. The social dynamic is a many-to-many proposition where everyone talks back and publishes. And these views get seen because the interlinking of blogs and other social sites as well as the ever-refreshed content elevates them to the top of search lists.  Somewhere in this mix, there are lots of things that companies want, but they are not generally available as ‘we speak, you listen’ options.

In the meantime, blogs and WordPress websites are influencing purchasers by the million. Corporations are confused. In fact Realitus exist to bridge the knowledge and experience gap.

The trick is in how to engage with the medium in a meaningful way. If a company has something to say about their market place and things up and down stream from there, then they are as welcome as anyone else in blogland. In fact it gives the blogger a lot of credibility to be recognised.

There are SEO pay-offs through trackbacks and links and the opportunity to be directly referenced as honest brokers. But it has to work both ways. Corporations cannot ‘use’ the medium as they might use a magazine. They can engage with the medium, which is a many-to-many proposition, but not control it, purchase space in it or make demands of it For some organisations that is a cultural step too far.

History of WordPress

The WordPress timeline is not particularly old. In fact the evolution of WordPress over such a short time is really quite staggering.

The timeline shows that WordPress started life as a blogging control tool to manage the typography of blogs. That would have been in about 1997. In time, it became a full blog design tool. Companies such as Realitus started to strip its functionality to access the dynamism of WordPress and use it to power websites. The development of the tool continues to grow and supercede other website platforms.

But this only states a kind of usage history. The reason the use of WordPress has taken off and hit this level of momentum is because it is a better way of doing things for everyone involved.

Website owners can control their websites themselves. Users can interact with the web and search engines can find, read and see the websites easily. Designers can make changes, support is free and practically automatic, as is platform development. It is an open source initiative, it has a development life of its own and an almost vertical development curve at the moment.

As a user, you have to have a pretty good excuse not to like it. As an organisation you have to have a damn good excuse not to use it. WordPress is massively cheaper, immeasurably better and absolutely relevant.

The Story so far….
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What is WordPress

WordPress has emerged from the distant moon of blogging and is taking over the much bigger solar system of website design, development and delivery. What has catapulted it out of this modest orbit is a combination of key things. When we specify WordPress to our clients we refer to: developer access to its code, ease of use for the website owner and massive yet free system support. But it is also true that WordPress is a success because of the nature of what it was, rather than because anyone planned it to become a core plank of general website design.
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