Social media’s balance sheet

By Mark Evans - August 4th, 2014

5_10_2013_15_08_38_bhnmo6cd32g63tp1nrb8i69n07_zpliyujvtzSocial media sites suffer from the ultimate business conundrum: they have customers, but they don’t always make money. The path to monetization is still long, convoluted and the experts are still drafting and debating best practices.

This week’s earnings report from Twitter reveals that one of the web’s biggest success stories still has untapped financial potential. Yet, Twitter is on a tear, setting up local offices around the world and hiring like mad. Its ever-growing staff is innovating like crazy, testing out a hashtag “translator” that explains some hashtag short-forms and debuting monetizing features such as organic tweet analytics.

While the business side of a social media site and its content interface seem like separate entities, in truth every online moment is deeply influenced by the money piles (or lack thereof) in the background.

Facebook may be ahead of other sites in achieving financial stability, but the experience for businesses and end users has gone through an often rough ride as the site has tried and tested dozens of ideas. Sites such as Foursquare, once a hopeful mainstream player that many small businesses got involved in, keeps pivoting and rebranding as it struggles to find an audience and income. Following the money on potential booms and busts helps you know who to invest in (and how much they’ll be asking for), and who to write-off. But since every monetization milestone on these sites not only costs you money, but often results in a surge of user complaints, you can’t keep your eye off the ROI for a second.

The bottom line is, businesses ARE the bottom line for social media sites. Few sites expect to make money off users, but they fully plan to dig deep into the pockets of B2B clients. Keep your eye on their finances, because they will be impacting your budget soon.


The Hashtag Conflict

By Mark Evans - August 1st, 2014

353-twitisralestineAs global conflicts take centre stage in the world, it tends to also take centre stage in the digital world, primarily in social media. 

It’s widely known that social media contributed to the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall St. along with other crucial events that have occurred in the past 5 years. Now, it is contributing on a much grander scale.

Social media sways public opinion and creates a direct pipeline to the conflict. Viewpoints from those experiencing the conflict firsthand along with military and political personnel can all be accessed 24 hours a day.

One of the current conflicts that is being waged is happening in the Middle East, more specifically in Gaza. A subsection of this war has been waged in social media through such hashtags as #IsraelUnderFire and #GazaUnderAttack.

Social media is also  being used to wage another war, where the ammunition and infantry is information. 

This is not to say that any side is correct, but in these modern times of communication social media is both an ally and an enemy, depending on what side you stand on.

Consider this, the hastag #GazaUnderAttack has been used over 4 million times since July 22nd, 2014. That’s a lot of activity in a relatively short period of time.

The power and reach of social media is unequal and any conflict is now being viewed through the millions of lens that now have a digital soapbox.

As digital marketers, you most likely want to sit on the sidelines for conversations of this nature. It’s also vital to understand that it’ll be slightly more difficult to garner attention when topics like this own the medium.

As every day passes, social media becomes more and more intriguing because of its capabilities. It’s hard to argue that it’ll only become more engulfed in global issues going forward. 

The real question and the one that will be studied is how the digital battle for public opinion affects conflict in the long run.

Jon Stewart And Fans Have Plans For CNN

By Sheldon Levine - July 31st, 2014

Jon Stewart Starts A Kickstarter To Buy CNNOne of the great things about having access to Sysomos MAP, a tool that allows you to perform unlimited searches and receive unlimited results about what’s happening in social media, is that on a whim you can look up what people are saying about any trending topic or just things that interest you. You could imagine that around the Sysomos offices we use this quite often, both for serious and fun topics.

Here’s a topic that we’re currently having some fun watching:

Last week on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, they ran a story about how Rupert Murdoch, the man behind News Corp and all their media holdings, wants to buy Time Warner. However, the deal would mean that Murdoch would have to sell off Time Warner’s channel CNN because he already owns another 24/7 news channel, Fox News. When Jon Stewart heard the news, he had a brilliant idea… to buy CNN. So, he decided to do what anyone with big dreams would do in our modern age; start a Kickstarter campaign to make the dream come true.

While the idea made for a funny joke on the show last week, The Daily Show has decided to run with it for a bit longer.

On Tuesday’s episode of The Daily Show, Stewart came to a realization about his lofty plans; if he owned CNN, he’d also have to program the channel with original shows that can run 24/7.


Admitting that he couldn’t come up with all the ideas by himself, he turned to the public for help. Stewart asked fans to help him come with some ideas, not just for programs, but also for new technology and slogans for CNN. He did so by asking fans to tweet their ideas using the hashtags #NewCNNshows#NewCNNtech and #NewCNNslogans. 

The Daily Show Asks For Users Suggestions Via Hashtags

We’ve been watching these hashtags for fun and thought we’d share some of the “great” ideas that people have been offering by looking through some of the most retweeted ideas on each hashtag.


Since Tuesday night we’ve found the #NewCNNshows hashtag used in 1,249 tweets (with more new ones being added all the time). That’s about 17 new show ideas an hour. This is also the hashtag that has seen the most use so far.

Sysomos MAP - Twitter Activity Summary

Here’s a few of our favourites so far:



The #NewCNNtech hashtag has been used the least with only 415 tweets so far, but has also produced some of the funniest ideas. (And apparently, people really like holograms)

Sysomos MAP - Twitter Activity Summary


Here’s some of our favourites so far:


The hashtag #NewCNNslogans has been used 930 times so far. This one has produced some of the meanest tweets towards CNN so far, but some of them will really make you chuckle.

Sysomos MAP - Twitter Activity Summary

Here’s some of the funnier ones we found:


And to our friends at CNN, we want you to know that we don’t have anything against you, we just think that Jon Stewart and The Daily Show are hilarious.



The Harsh Side of Social Media

By Mark Evans - July 30th, 2014

87877_064e228062fffa215f214e305c95c907_625ab8e1350442c270d0800ecd35bbc8Social media has many unique attributes and capabilities, but they are not always positive. Once an idea spreads through a social network, it has the chance to go very big very fast.

Comic book writer and artist Rick Remender can vouch for this aspect of social media, as a hashtag almost brought his lengthy and noteworthy career to a screeching halt. 

#FireRickRemender was the hashtag that swept through comic book fans on Twitter, and like a classic Marvel villain it was relentless.

The reason for the uproar was three pages from Captain America #22 which were viewed by one fan as sexist, and involved The Falcon (Captain America’s superhero colleague) having sex with a young woman.

The young female character was said to be 23, but many fans traced her timeline to try to prove that she was much younger.

One passionate fan started the critical maelstorm, and it was discussed for days all over the world on Twitter. It was even picked up by some major news publications.

The passion of fans combined with the open microphone of social media is a powerful cocktail. This is what digital marketers and brand managers everywhere need to understand, be wary of and also leverage for their own use.

Social media might have gone too far to try to have someone lose their job, without ever having any real conversation or debate about the material in question.

The networks should be used to debate ideas and their validity. A hashtag meant just to get a writer fired might be over-the-top. This happens often and while sometimes it is justified, it feels abrupt.

The power of social media is constantly on display everyday in both small, medium and large examples. This might not be the biggest example with the most dire consequences but it is definitely one to remember. Rick Remender most likely willl.

Automation has its limits

By Mark Evans - July 28th, 2014

robot2-225x300If you’re running a comprehensive social media strategy on numerous platforms, you have to automate. Using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite, or any of the many others available, becomes essential for keeping track of your posts, having post do double-duty between different networks and scheduling content evenly through the day, and even for evenings and weekends.

But a well-organized automated system is not all joy. Too much automation can make your social media content feel, well, automatic. By definition, social media is social, with real people behind electronically transmitted words and images. Here are some best practices for keeping your automated tools well in line.

Always customize. Automation tools make it easy to send out the same content between multiple platforms. Too easy. Not only is Twitter different from the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn in terms of tone, but your audience and followers are different. And if they’re not, and some clients, customers or fans follow you on multiple sites, they’ll end up seeing the exact same content again and again.

Follow up. While you might automate your posts, you can’t automate your conversations. After scheduling your content, stick around to get involved in the conversation.

Don’t go crazy. Overscheduling your social media channels just tires your followers out. (And turns them into non-followers.) Again, it’s too easy to schedule content, but resist piling on too many posts or tweets in a day.

Be in real time, sometimes. When big news in your industry hits, or you truly have something fresh or spontaneous to say, say it.


Vine: Still Overlooked as a Brand Builder

By Mark Evans - July 25th, 2014

vine-logoMany brands that either are in social media or want to be, tend to face the same problem. They don’t have the bandwidth or staff to create the digital presence that they desire.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram seem to be the hubs where most brands feel the need to invest. While there’s a lot of merit to that, the one that often gets overlooked is Vine, and this is something that needs to change.

Not only is Vine insanely popular (40 million registered users) but it allows you to create fresh content in the form of videos, which just happens to be the most popular form of communication between the web and users.

There are many reasons to adopt Vine for your brand. it’s easy to use and the time commitment isn’t as great as some other networks. It’s simple enough of a technology that you don’t have to learn about hashtags, pinning, filters, etc…

It allows you to be spontaneous, inventive and creative – everything a brand should be in social media.

As much as we prompt readers to invest their time in Vine, it seems that many brands are still resistant. As well, small to medium size businesses are not signing up in droves as they should be.

You can create quick videos that can educate, instruct or just flat out entertain. There’s nothing not to like about it.

You can have instant video content in the palm of your hand, it makes just as much sense as Facebook and Twitter while offering something wholly different.

Out of the major social networks it allows for the most creativity. Digital marketers should rejoice that they have an option to escape the box and have some fun. The only limit is their own creativity.

There’s no doubt that it can build a brand. It allows a doorway into what you want to achieve and how you want to be perceived by your audiences.

Best of all, it’s measurable.

Have you invested in Vine yet? If not, why are you waiting?

From Customer to Champion

By Sheldon Levine - July 24th, 2014

Any successful business knows that turning customers into repeat customers is of paramount importance. But companies with true marketing savvy don’t merely get customers coming back for more — they turn them into champions for their brand. The latest research shows that consumers now trust word-of-mouth recommendations from families, friends and followers over marketing messages from companies or brands more than ever , meaning that businesses with the most loyal and vocal communities often come out on top.

But that’s easier said than done, right? Not so fast.

Marketers invariably overthink what it takes to turn customers into champions. In fact, companies spend countless hours and resources developing elaborate social media campaigns in the hopes of building social engagement and, in turn, their bottom lines. But the truth is: “Likes” don’t equal dollars. Most social media campaigns persuade some at best, and offend many at worst.

Bing Insensitive Tweet

According to social media specialist Peter Shankman, the not-so-big secret to developing communities that are local and vocal can be simply to provide a customer experience that’s above average — which in many cases, exceeds expectations.

“The concept of ‘Liking’ ‘Friending,’ ‘Following,’ and ‘Fanning’ is going away,” says Shankman, keynote speaker at last month’s Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative. “If you go to a restaurant a lot, you don’t need to ‘Like’ it, because clearly, you already do. The key for companies is to create an exceptional customer service experience, or as is often the case, an experience that merely reaches one level above what’s expected.”

Marketers who still believe champions are won on social media fail to understand its purpose. Social is the world’s greatest forum, focus group and digital water cooler. It provides companies with a fire hose of insights directly from their audiences that are essential to improving products, narrowing marketing focuses or responding to issues – especially if the right monitoring and analytics tools are used. But when it comes to winning new customers, the word-of-mouth endorsement is still king. And when it comes to turning customers into champions, nothing takes the place of superior customer service.

Does Social Media Belong in the Classroom?

By Mark Evans - July 23rd, 2014

social_media_classroomSince 2010, digital technology has been implemented and featured in many classrooms across North America. Sometimes in small ways but more so in grand ways evolving how students learn.

Now is the time for social media to take a seat at he front of the class.

We live in innovative times with social media at the forefront, and the potential advantages to our education system is remarkable.

Blogging, Google+, Twitter and Facebook have become essential learning tools and it seems like they are not going away anytime soon.

Not only is the knowledge of how to use these social networks key, but ensuring that young people understand how to use them safely needs to be taught.

Social networks are great tools to learn and connect. Google+ and Twitter can allow you to bring different perspectives into your classroom from all over the world. It fits the budget of every school since it is essentially free.

If you are discussing certain current events, why not bring in an expert or someone experiencing it without having to fly them in. 

Allowing students access to the world and different viewpoints that they just can’t get from textbooks is a game changer. Consider the authors, CEOs or historians who would be willing to join in for an hour or do a Twitter Ask session.

The same can be said for having students learn about different industries and companies. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Social media can be powerful tools for collaboration, opening doors for students and teachers to work with peers to share and learn. Social media expands the classroom in so many ways.

Herein lies a great opportunity for brands to connect with young users, but the opportunity isn’t to sell. It’s to brand and communicate and also to learn. Incredibly valuable as you can imagine. It doesn’t just have to be on career day either.

No one is hindered by time and geography anymore because. Learning should not the last stone left unturned by social media or the digital world, and all indications are that it will not be.

Weird Al Knows How To Stay Relevant In The Digital Age

By Sheldon Levine - July 22nd, 2014

weird-al-mandatory-funIn a world where everyone is competing for attention via whatever screen happens to be in front of your eyes at the time, it may not always be that easy to get people to pay attention. Add to that, being a musical genius, but to a relatively niche audience, that’s been in the game for over 30 years. How do you get people to pay attention?

Well, if you’re Weird Al Yankovic, you go on a musical marathon across the web.

Last Tuesday, Weird Al, the king of the parody song, released his latest album entitled Mandatory Fun. But rather than let the record companies release one song as a single and handle the promotion, Al took matters into his own hands to make sure that his new songs spread across people’s computer screens.

Weird Al did a promo for his latest album by releasing a music video a day for songs from the album that was aptly called #8videos8days. Every day for 8 days a new Weird Al music video appeared online, but always in a different place, which really added to the genius of this promotion.

Weird Al is no stranger to stirring up attention when he has a new album release. Dating all the back to 1984, Weird Al would go on TV stations that played music videos (back then being MTV and Much Music in North America) and take them over for a few hours at a time with what he called Al TV.

But today, there’s no real music channels left on TV as people have switched their focus to watching more and more things online. Especially music videos. So, in true fashion of understanding his audience and today’s youth, Al took things online as well.

Weird Al teamed up with some of the most trafficked websites that show videos, with a focus on sites that show humour videos, and released a video a day across these networks. Some of the websites that Al enlisted for help include popular humour video sites like Funny Or Die and College Humour, but also video networks with a bit more of a spread than just funny videos like Yahoo! Screen,  Nerdist and even the Wall Street Journal.

By doing this, not only did Weird Al get to promote himself across a wide variety of channels that could offer him different kinds of exposure, but each website where he released his videos promoted Al as well by being able to say “this video is exclusive to our site.”

Then, to tie all of the sites and work together, Weird Al promoted the whole thing with the hashtag #8videos8days so that those that were interested just needed to search for that hashtag to find where the video of the day was being posted.

The whole thing was rather genius.

So, how did the whole thing work out? We took to MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to quickly check.

A search for mentions of Weird Al or his Twitter handle @alyankovic over the 8 days of his promo (July 14-21) show that he was mentioned in over 287,000 social conversations. We found Weird Al being talked about in 3,301 blog posts, 3,513 online news articles, 26,621 forum postings and 254,008 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

Now, these aren’t the same numbers as you’d see when Beyonce releases an album, but they’re still quite impressive for an artist who falls into a very niche category.

The idea was to get people interested in Weird Al again, and it seemed to work. On top of all those mentions he received over those 8 days, it was also impressive to see the interest rise around the world. Below is a geo-location heat map that shows where tweets about Weird Al were coming from, and they were coming from everywhere.

Sysomos MAP - Geo-Location Heat Map of Tweets

Weird Al has always seemed to be a master of promoting himself and we think that he’s brought that mastery into the digital age for his latest album.

What can you learn from him? Know where your audience spends their time online. Learn to diversify and don’t spend all your energy on one channel when you can cover many that actually make sense to target. And most importantly, do something interesting that will grab your audience’s attention.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

And, if you want to see all 8 of Weird Al’s new videos you can view them on his official webiste, but here’s our personal favourite in which he parodies Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines to call out how people butcher the English language (which we run into a lot as we spend a great deal of time in social media and it drives some of us crazy):

To hoax or not?

By Mark Evans - July 20th, 2014

The foolNews flash: the Internet is not the most honest place on Earth. And as high-profile hoaxes of late have shown, dishonesty online can have a myriad of effects.

A YouTube video revealing a shark in Lake Ontario went viral in early July. Within days, Discovery Channel fessed up: the video was a hoax intended to market its Shark Week, but the campaign was so successful parents were discouraging their kids from swimming in the Great Lakes. The pro-science, pro-health channel could hardly be seen discouraging children from physical activity and enjoying nature.

Before the reveal, even the most astute of social media mavens and traditional media outlets got snared in this net. It called to mind the wonders of April 1, 2014, where just about everyone (particularly Google), was putting out questionable news stories, tweets and videos — with many of them getting traction.

The hoax, like the traditional in-person practical joke, never seems to get old. It works when the news posted is outrageous, but also touches a nerve — such as an injustice, or when it offers free money. Celebrity deaths are often picked up. Faux job ads will make the rounds. Lately, content with video (easy to cook up with today’s editing tools), particularly entertaining ones, will get traction.

The hoax as a marketing tool is one social media marketers should handle with care. The content may seem funny in the office. But does it somehow offend as part of the joke? Will a person or a business experience a loss of reputation because of what you’ve done? There are victimless crimes, sure, but not that many of them.

More importantly, while the hoax never gets old, the Web is wising up. Once bitten, twice shy. Any outlet who got caught by the shark video is going to be extra wary next time. Annoying certain folks can make a campaign backfire and lead to brand damage.

As the window on this opportunity closes, would-be-hoaxers need to do due diligence before they try their own stunt. Does the message match what you’re trying to accomplish? Will there be no harm? Is there a plan A, B, C and beyond if things go badly? Is there follow-up to capitalize if you get lucky and go viral? And, perhaps most importantly, is the hoax content truly entertaining? If you’re going to try to fool them, at the very least, do it right.