IHOP Delivers Fat Stacks to its Young Audience

By Mark Evans - October 29th, 2014

828o-OYq_400x400In the world of social media, a brand can be whatever it wants. The onus is on the brand to find its voice and from there find the opportunity within its audience.

The key is to brand (or in many cases rebrand) in a way that will grow your audience, not alienate your current one. To do this you have to understand your audience and create a plan that will engage them.

IHOP quietly rebranded itself through Twitter by adopting what it calls a “hip hop” tone. The agency who manages the account knew that its audience skewers young and that it needed to alter its voice to grow that audience.

This is a unique case. Can you think of another brand that changed it’s entire social voice, not just as part of a campaign?

Several of IHOP’s hip hop tweets have been shared relentlessly and its new voice has been discussed quite a bit. They have also seen their audience increase by 18%, while drawing some mockery from competitors.

Utilizing the jargon that most associate with hip hop, IHOP was determined to talk the talk and ensure that they came across as genuine.

The danger was in alienating users of their fan base who didn’t understand the lingo and found the tweets to confusing or obnoxious. It’s always a smart idea to grow your most prominent demographic, but you don’t want to break even on the total number.

As of now, this appears to be a win for IHOP, and also as a win for brands who want to shift gears and change their voice. This comes with some much inherent risk, so they might not be in the clear just yet.

IHOP did it strategically and only after they had amassed enough information and data to know that this was the right way to go. The growth of IHOP’s online audience will be further evidence that this risk can come with great reward.

Have you ever considered changing the voice of your social presence?

  

#GamerGate: Lots of Noise, Not A Lot of Clear Direction

By Sheldon Levine - October 28th, 2014

man_yelling_at_computerThere’s a not-so-secret war happening online as we speak.

A lot of people can say that they’ve heard of or seen the #GamerGate hashtag, but not too many people can say for certain what it’s about anymore.

To be fair, there was a clear set of events that set off #GamerGate, long before the movement even started using the hashtag. However, the war has grown and mutated since then in so many directions. People entrenched in #GamerGate have a good idea of what they’re fighting over, but those outside don’t seem to have a clue.

While the intent of this post is to look at how #GamerGate has spread across social media, it’s important to explain some of the background, which I will attempt to do without upsetting either side of the argument.

Around the middle of August, the ex-boyfriend of a female game developer wrote a blog post about how his ex had cheated on him while they were together. In the post he named some names of some men that he believed she had cheated on him with. Usually, a post like this would mostly go unnoticed on the internet. However, of the names named in the post many were notable names in the gaming world, such as game journalists and game award judges, and they had all been known to say good things and/or promote the female game developers games.

This brought light to the gaming industry that maybe they weren’t getting the un-biased judgement they thought they were around game reviews and awards. This started an uprising within the gaming world where average gamers started calling people out and demanding for some ethics from the gaming journalists.

At this point, there started to become two factions of this fight. The first faction was just fighting others and calling for a reasonable standard of ethics in the industry so regular consumers felt that they were getting fair reviews of games they wanted to spend money on. The second faction was saying that gamers were just upset because women had become part of gaming culture and that people were attacking them trying to keep it a “boys only club.”

It was during this initial uprising the actor Adam Baldwin (from Firefly and Chuck) tweeted the hashtag #GamerGate on August 27th referring to the controversy and the hashtag took off from there.

After this point in the story the water becomes a bit murky. The hashtag #GamerGate grew into a larger thing with many fights happening on many sides. Some are using the hashtag to fight the fight of ethics in gaming journalism. Some are using it to fight against what they believe is misogyny in the world of video games. Some are fighting for what they believe are feminists trying to ruin their gaming culture. And some are fighting just to fight.

It actually has gotten very messy with some people getting personally threatened or attacked and a lot of name calling on either side. I’d prefer not to go in further details. However, if you’d like a good look at what else has happened in the #GamerGate saga, I’ve found this article on Know Your Meme seems to have a fairly unbiased timeline you can follow.

Now, back to the original point of this article….

With so much of the #GamerGate war happening online, I thought it would be interesting to use MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to look at just how big it’s gotten.

As I stated above, the hashtag #GamerGate didn’t exist until the end of August, despite the whole controversy starting two weeks before that. However, since the time the hashtag came into play it’s been used almost 4 million times across social media channels. I was able to find 5,130 blog posts, 3,414 online news articles, 38,606 forum postings and 3,842,346 tweets all making mention of #GamerGate.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

In addition to those channels, there has also been 11,165 videos created in this time that make mention of #GamerGate in their title or description.

Sysomos MAP - Summary of Video Activity

While some movements start out strong and then start to fade, the opposite has been true for #GamerGate. A look at our popularity graph, which plots out all of those mentions over time, shows that the #GamerGate hashtag has actually gained popularity since the end of August when it started being used. This seems to be due to two main factors. The first is that more people are starting to hear about the movement and are trying to get in on the action on all sides of the fight. The second, which correlates to the largest spike we can see in the chart below came when a well known feminist speaker had her life threatened by someone claiming to be part of the #GamerGate movement, which garnered a lot of attention from mainstream sources. The second large spike came from another threat that was aimed at a woman speaking about looking for social equality, which again spiked more main stream sources to look at the #GamerGate controversy.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

Interestingly, when I looked for the most retweeted tweets about #GamerGate, I found that the majority of them had to do with the fight of the sexes going on within #GamerGate. However, the second most retweeted tweet was a plea from someone asking that #GamerGate be used only to talk about the initial cause of the whole thing, ethics in gaming in journalism. Unfortunately, it’s the fighting and few bad things that have happened in the sex war faction of #GamerGate that has garnered the most attention around the whole issue.

Sysomos MAP - Most Retweeted Tweets

When I looked at some text analytics around the #GamerGate controversy, I found that you can actually see all of the different kinds of fights going on within. Both our buzzgraph and word cloud reveal that there is a lot of talk about both the journalism aspect that started the whole thing and the sexism (on both sides of sexism) that is coming to the forefront. I won’t comment on either, but see the word cloud and buzzgraph below to see for yourself.

Sysomos MAP - Buzzgraph

Sysomos MAP - Word Cloud

While it’s hard to know what #GamerGate is really all about anymore, and I’ll let you make up your mind about this, one thing is for sure; no one is happy about any of it. A look at the sentiment from all of the #GamerGate conversations across social media shows that an overwhelming 40% of all conversations is negative.

Sysomos MAP - Overall Sentiment

Again, my intention of this post was not to be in support of any side of this, but simply to show the world how big #GamerGate actually is despite many people not even knowing what it is about.

Tumblr Thriving Within the Yahoo Empire

By Mark Evans - October 27th, 2014

 

tumblr_logo

Yahoo doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to nurturing the startups that it acquires.

There’s a long list of promising startups that sadly struggled or disappeared after Yahoo snapped them up.

A lot of it has to do with culture, an inability to integrate into a corporate giant, or keeping talent from running away as soon as it’s possible.

An exception to the rule seems to be Tumblr, which expects to have more than $100-million in revenue next year as it adds more users and introduces more sponsored advertising.

Tumblr’s success is welcome news from Yahoo and its CEO, Marissa Mayer, who made a huge bet last year with the $1-billion acquisition.

At the time, Tumblr was still working on how to transform its popularity into a financial model that could support a vibrat business as opposed to a popular social media service.

At the same time, Yahoo needed to do something dramatic to address the troubling softness of its online advertising business.

Tumblr was an aggressive move but it probably happened before other players – e.g. Microsoft, Google – could make a similar move.

Along with Twitter, Tumblr is a good example of how social media services have been able to embrace advertising to drive revenue.

It wasn’t that long ago that social media services were grappling with monetization. It was based on the belief that consumers would reject the idea of advertising interfering with the user experience. As a result, social networks struggled with how to have advertising without disappointing its users.

In the end, the concern about advertising and its potentially negative impact was probably over-exaggerated.

While consumers would not be overjoyed if advertising became a major part of the user experience, they are willing to accept it to some degree.

I think it may have to do with the realization that social media networks need to drive revenue if they want to offer a free service. In other words, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

If social media networks were unable to have advertising, they would either go out of business or have to charge fees. Neither scenario is ideal so both sides live with the reality of advertising.

ElloIn this context, it is interesting to see Ello, a hot new social media network, claim a competitive stake by saying it will not accept advertising. 

How Ello manages to make this happen is left to be seen, particularly after it raised $5-million in venture capital

In time, Ello may follow Tumblr’s path by having advertising that supports the network without taking away from how people experience the service.

In the meantime, Tumblr appears to be a huge win for Yahoo, which needs all the good news it can take.

What do you think? Has Tumblr thrived since it was purchased by Yahoo? 

It’s Official…J.K. Rowling Owns Social Media

By Mark Evans - October 24th, 2014

Rowlin

Social media is where fans go to congregate, connect and talk about their passion.

One of the most fervent fanbases out there in the digital world belongs to Harry Potter and its creator J.K. Rowling.

Not only do fans of the book series and movies have high social media activity, Rowling uses Twitter to engage entice and intrigue her fans.

Rowling might have outdone herself recently with a recent tweet that sent her fans into a frenzy. The best part of it was that she was constantly at the forefront of the chatter.

After a few weeks of Twitter silence, Rowling tweeted to her four million followers, “Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense”.

The next 24 hours proved to be insane as the tweet was retweeted over 15,000 times.

Harry Potter fans discussed the meaning of the tweet ad nauseam. Was it a riddle? Was it an anagram?

One intrepid fan deciphered the tweet, and Rowling revealed it was related to Newt Scamanader, the author of the textbook featured in the Harry Potter novels. She is working on a screenplay for a film based on the series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Looking at the fan activity and the hysteria, it’s an understatement to say that Rowling nailed it. There are lessons that very brand can learn from what the popular author does online, especially on Twitter. 

It’s fun to see how Rowling plays into her fans and doesn’t just use her account to promote her work. She finds creative ways to engage her audience, while making them feel part of the narrative. Needless to say, it’s not easy making four million people feel included in anything.

Rowling is a case study in how to leverage social media and connect with your fans. Any brand that wants to follow best practice should be paying attention.

Emma Watson Stunt Delivers Social Media Impact

By Mark Evans - October 22nd, 2014

timthumb

It’s not easy becoming the talk of social media, and those who get to that level usually didn’t do so on purpose.

The recent celebrity nude photo leak was the hot topic on social media once the story broke. Emma Watson found a way to leverage it through a hoax to bring awareness to a very worthwhile cause.

After the British actress launched the HeForShe campaign at the United Nations in New York City, a threat appeared online claiming that Watson was next.

The threat linked to a website titled, “Emma Watson you are next”. It featured a clock, which led many to believe that nude photos of Watson would be hitting the web and social media when the clock wound down to zero.

Shortly after the threat went viral, the link was directed to Rantic.com a relatively unknown social media company and a brand new campaign to take down 4chan – the Website that most believe is responsible for the nude photo leak.

The amount of tension, suspense and intrigue makes one think they might have mistakenly stepped onto the set of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Is Emma Watson involved? Who is Rantic? Has this helped the HeForShe campaign? What we do know is that social media went crazy with activity about this story and in particular about that ticking clock.

As a social media campaign, it was successful in many ways.

It still left to be seen if Rantic really pulled it off is still to be seen, but if the activity for #HeForShe is any indication, awareness was raised for the cause.

T create a digital campaign this intricate and subversive is impressive. The danger for others who want to imitate is that many hoaxes do go awry and annoy audiences.

Like anything when it is done right, social media takes notices and propels it to great heights.

2014 World Series Social Prediction

By Sheldon Levine - October 21st, 2014

2014 World SeriesWhile baseball may be known as the sport of the summer, everyone knows that the real excitement doesn’t even start until October.

In October the top teams play and vie for their chance to be in the MLB World Series.

Well, those teams have all played and starting tonight we will all bare witness to the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals kick off their best of seven series to see who will be crowned the 2014 World Series champions.

It promises to be an incredibly exciting series. The Giants have been a powerhouse team for the past few years. This will be their third trip to the World Series since 2010 and they won both of their previous times here. On the other side, the Royals haven’t even made it into the MLB playoffs in 29 years, but battled their way through this year and now have a chance to take it all.

It’s really very exciting.

As we’ve done in previous years, we thought it would be fun to take a look at both of these teams and how they’ve appeared in social media over the 2014 season using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to see if that data can predict a World Series winner.

First, we started our assessment by looking up mentions of both teams over the course of the season (March 22 to October 20). In that time, we found the Giants mentioned in over 10 million social media conversations. They appeared in 191,057 blog posts, 563,685 online news articles, 279,624 forum postings and 9,737,47 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary for the San Francisco Giants

Meanwhile, the Royals were mentioned in almost 7 million conversations. We found the Royals appear in 80,985 blog posts, 280,674 online news articles, 242,175 forum postings and 6,287,126 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary for the Kansas City Royals

For perspective, we’ve also brought those numbers up as a pie chart for side by side comparison. This shows that out of both teams the Giants lead the way of social mentions with 61% of the conversation while the Royals make up the remaining 39%.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Comparison

As well, side by side in a channel breakdown, you can see that the Giants clearly got more mentions in each individual medium.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Comparison by Source

A look at mentions of both teams shows that throughout the entire season the Giants had a more vocal fan base. The Giants saw more volume of conversation throughout the entire season aside from when the Royals found that they were moving on past the regular season. When the Royals moved into the playoffs there was a huge spike in mentions of the team due to the fact this was the first time they had been in the post-season in 29 years.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Comparison Over Time

The number of mentions don’t mean everything though. Because of this, we also dove into the sentiment around each team… and actually found some interesting results.

Throughout the season the Royals showed a 83% favourable rating. We found that 27% of the talk about the Royals was positive while 17% was negative.

Sysomos MAP - Overall Sentiment of the Kansas City Royals

When we looked at the sentiment around the Giants though, we found that most of it seemed to be in the neutral range (which was strange, so we ran the query multiple times but always came to the same results). The Giants showed a 96% favourable rating. There was an odd 1% of positive sentiment around the Giants and only 4% negative chatter.

Sysomos MAP - Overall Sentiment of the San Francisco Giants

What does this all mean though?

Well, technically all it means is that the San Francisco Giants have a much more vocal fan base than the Kansas City Royals. In fact, earlier in the season the Royals coach called out the fans for not showing enough support for their team.

However, if we want to use this data to try and predict a World Series winner, we would have to crown the Giants to take it all. Their fans have been more vocal about the team both in terms of volume and favourable talk.

So, our prediction is that the San Francisco Giants will take the World Series over the Kansas City Royals.

But since this isn’t a real science around actual player performance, only time will tell who will really walk away as the 2014 World Series champions.

Who do you think is going to take the World Series this year?

Can Keek Achieve Monetization Bliss?

By Mark Evans - October 20th, 2014

keek

In many ways, Keek is the ideal case study of how social media success doesn’t always translate into financial success.

The service, which lets people share 36-second videos – called “Keeks” – has been wildly successful with more than 65 million users. The Toronto-based was billed as “Canada’s Instagram” and it enjoyed such strong growth that it was able to raise $30-million along the way.

Keek’s 64-year-old CEO, Issac Raichyk, was hailed as an example of an older entrepreneur who could enjoy success in a world dominated by 20-somethings.

In that respect, it was a huge success.

The problem, however, was Keek had a difficult time monetizing its traffic to capitalize on its popularity. In the six months that ended Aug. 31, 2013, Keek lost $13 million. That’s almost twice the burn rate the company had during the previous fiscal year, when it lost $15 million.

After a much-speculated $100-million financing failed to materialize last year, the company agreed to sell itself to Primary Petroleum Corp., a Calgary-based listed junior energy company. Raichyk was replaced as CEO by Primary’s Mike Marrandino.

That seemed to mark the end of a spectacular but short run as an upcoming and coming social media service.

But Keek is still around, and it looks like it may have discovered a way to make money.

According to MediaPost, Keek will begin hosting advertisements in the U.S.

Keek will partner with Twitter’s MoPub and Google DoubleClick AdExchange for Web-based inventory. “We project about 10% of revenue will come from the real-time marketplace offering real-time bidding and programmatic, and 70% through advertising networks,” said Keek senior vice-president Bill Blummer.

It is left to be seen whether Keek can financially successful but it does illustrate that being popular doesn’t necessarily equate to driving revenue.

One of Keek’s problem as it exploded was the lack of a strong business plan to reap the benefits of having lots of users. It was a classic example of a startup that figured it would eventually find a way to make money.

In that sense, Keek was behaving in the same way as many other social media networks who adopted a build-it-and-we-will-make-money-later approach. Case in point is Twitter, which is driving significant revenue growth through advertising, while e-commerce is on the horizon.

While the future is still uncertain for Keek, the upside is it has another chance to become a business rather than simply a popular service.

Did JetBlue Boot a Passenger Because of a Tweet?

By Mark Evans - October 17th, 2014

140602172212-jetblue-plane-story-topWhile social media is a powerful asset to both brands and users, it has a folly which can sometimes undermine its capabilities. This folly is that it is meant to share opinions in real time but those opinions can come back to haunt you in an instant.

This was proven recently when JetBlue kicked a passenger off of a flight, believed to be because of a series of tweets that the pilot felt were accusatory. The accusation was that he was intoxicated.

A delayed flight, this time from Boston to Philadelphia, tends to lend itself to Twitter coverage. In general, Twitter has become a hub for complaints about delayed flights, unruly passengers and bad experiences with airlines.

This time was no different, but it seemed to reiterate the point of accountability and how brands view tweets in a very serious light, one that prompts immediate action or reaction.

The comment by the passenger seemed rather innocent. It involved the passengers saying it had been a long night and he hoped there was a fully stocked bar on the airplane.

JetBlue like any organization had to decide how to handle that situation which best protected its image and reputation. It’s tough to fault them for acting so swiftly, regardless of how you interpret the tweet.

Social media has changed so many aspects of brands and how they do business, and the fallout seems to be that so many are on constant high alert.

In fairness to those who believe JetBlue overreacted, it did administer a sobriety test for the pilot. They claimed afterwards that the passenger was removed due to unruly behaviour, and that they would never remove a passenger for expressing criticism on any medium.

This might be one of those social media tales where the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Sysomos Stability and What You Need To Know

By Sheldon Levine - October 15th, 2014

A message from our CEO, Jim Delaney:

If you’re a Sysomos customer, you’ve probably noticed we’ve had some downtime lately.

First and foremost, you need to know that we don’t find this any more acceptable than you do. We understand that you rely on Sysomos to get business done, to deliver reports and analytics, and to keep tabs on the real-time world of the social web. When it’s not working, you’re losing productivity and information.

We’re committed to making this right.

Second, we’d like to explain what we’re doing to fix the problem so we can deliver the Sysomos reliability you’ve come to expect and deserve.

These recent issues have three main root cause: some migration issues with our ongoing move to grid server architecture, a lack of redundancy for some of our social data feeds and inputs, and data input growth requiring rapid increases to our network capacity.

To address that, we are:

  • Immediately and rapidly replacing hardware we’ve outgrown with new, high-capacity servers. You’ll see a big difference in performance by early next week.
  • We’ve already installed additional and more sensitive alerting systems on our server infrastructure to ensure we fix issues before they impact you.
  • Backfilling data from sources like Twitter that were unavailable last week, which will be complete by the end of tomorrow (Thursday).
  • Continuing our move to a grid server architecture, which will provide better stability, capacity, and 99.9% uptime once finished. That migration will be complete early 2015, but we’re moving things continuously to this new structure.

We’re also hiring like crazy on our grid, systems and engineering teams (know anyone great? Check out our career opportunities) to make sure we continue to have the smartest, most capable minds building and maintaining our infrastructure and products.

We’re evangelists for the power of social intelligence. But we also know that having the information and the social data you need to drive your strategies isn’t optional, it’s essential. And it has to be reliably available when you need it.

We’ve let you down there recently, and we’re hard at work around the clock to make it better.

If you’ve got questions, concerns, or need a hand, here’s how you can reach a human, directly and quickly:

  • Tweet us at @Sysomos
  • Call our support line at 1.866.483.3338 between 8:30a ET and 8p ET
  • Email our support team directly at clientsupport@sysomos.com or email your dedicated Social Media Specialist

The exponential growth of social data is only matched by the sheer capacity for social intelligence to help our enterprises grow and thrive.

We absolutely believe in that potential. We’ve made more investments in our infrastructure in the last three months than we have in the three years before that, precisely because of the growth, opportunity, and power of social for business.

And while roadbumps like this are not a fun part of that evolution, we appreciate your support and patience as we navigate them.

We promise it will be worth it, and that it’s all in the name of delivering the world-class social intelligence platform that you need for your business.

Thanks, as always, for being part of our journey.

Feuding Movies Go Social

By Mark Evans - October 15th, 2014

gcpd-batman-movie-jack-snyderThere’s a crossover war happening between Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the new Star Wars film. The battleground is social media and fans seem to be eating it up.

It all started when the director of the next instalment of Star Wars, J.J. Abrams, sent the man donning the cape and cowl as the Dark Knight, Ben Affleck, a photo of he and his camera operator wearing cheap Batman masks.

Affleck then showed the photo to Zack Snyder, Director of Batman v. Superman, and then all bets were off.

From there, Snyder posted an image of storm troopers being pushed into a police cruiser by Gotham City police officers. Abrams responded with a video teasing the Millennium Falcon where underneath the Batmobile was camouflaged and hidden.

Something so simple escalated then exploded into an elaborate and fun exercise in buzz building across multiple social networks.

All of the images were shared over and over again, and it even created a social war of words between fans of Star Wars and those of DC. Anticipation for both films (Star Wars in 2015 and Batman v. Superman in 2016) is sky high and these stunts have only heightened their appeal.

It has also quelled the disgruntled fans who are upset about the Affleck casting or that the Star Trek director is helming another iconic sci-fi franchise. This might have been the greatest gift of this spontaneous social media campaign.

The lesson for brands is to have fun and leverage your competitors in playful and creative ways.