Is Facebook Too Eager to Beat Snapchat?

By Mark Evans - June 25th, 2014

Slingshot-App-Store-640x579Facebook isn’t shy about how badly it wants to crush its competitors. They’re willing to spend big bucks to make sure they own the social media throne. This aggressive approach has done them wonders, but it does backfire sometimes.

A few weeks ago, Facebook released Slingshot, a new app they’ve created to take on Snapchat. 

The only problem is Facebook didn’t intend to launch it, and the app wasn’t quite ready.

Slingshot is now widely known, so the question is: what is it exactly?

The app is designed to let users connect with other users by taking a photo crafting a message or drawing something, but only after another user connects with you.

You can also write or draw on images and photos, similar to Snapchat. What isn’t clear is whether you can place a time limit before a “message” automatically deletes. 

Slingshot has a lot of the same elements of Snapchat, and it doesn’t appear bashful about acknowledging these features aren’t meant to sink the popular network.

There are schools of thought that believe Facebook has lost many of its teenage and younger audience to Snapchat. 

It’s not surprising they want to reclaim that demographic, which helped propelled them to social media stardom as they succeeded with colleges and universities.

The confusing part is how did Facebook accidentally launch an app? It’s not like you just press a button and suddenly it appears on the app store.

While it was only briefly available, could this have been part of a greater PR plan to build buzz?

Let’s just say it wouldn’t be shocking if this was true, and can you blame them? Lots of people and tech sites and forums have been talking about it, which aligns with Facebook’s strategy for social media domination.

What do you think? Was Slingshot “accidentally” released?

Digital Mistakes? Seriously, It’s No Big Deal

By Mark Evans - June 23rd, 2014

In all walks of life, mistakes happen. It’s a simple fact. The world of social media is not exempted from this nor are brands and the digital marketers who are behind them.

Making a mistake whether it is a bad tweet, update or a strategy that doesn’t pan out is probably the greatest fear in the industry. Well…maybe it shouldn’t be.

mistakesBefore making this argument, let’s just say that being scared of mistakes will sink your overall social media efforts. You can’t succeed in the digital world with a strategy full of half measures.

The trick is being willing to make the mistakes and learning from them. Failing to build a massive audience from a single strategy isn’t the whole story.

There’s no social media campaign that won’t have its rocky parts. Making sure they aren’t repeated in the future is a more important consideration.

You need to discover what works for your brand and what gets your audience excited and mobilized. There’s very little chance hitting it out of the park on the first try.

This leaves the only option: the old proven method of trial and error, which often comes with mistakes. 

For brands, they must have someone in charge who not only gets this reality but embraces it. Maybe it boils down to culture and personnel, as many things in social media do.

Social media is so volatile, the smallest change to something can transform failure into success. Just make sure you are making the changes and not your competitors.

Lets be honest…if social media was easy it wouldn’t be as powerful a tool.

Mistakes are part of the game. It is one of the reasons not to be scared of failure because they allow for honest evaluation and pave the way for future success.

The NBA Rewards Its Social Media Stars

By Mark Evans - June 20th, 2014

NBA-TV-social-media-awardsWhen it comes to all things social media…the NBA is awesome. Right now, you could argue that they have few peers when it comes to the social game.

Their star players provide a lot of insight and engage with fans, and the front office is adept at handling every tumultuous situations (i.e. Donald Sterling) with class via social media. 

To top this off (even though it’s safe to assume the NBA is far from at their apex), the league has created the social media awards to put the spotlight on players who have done it right! This year marks the third anniversary of the awards.

The smartest thing about this strategy is it sheds light on players who use the medium well, but it entices other players to get on board. Any way you cut it, the  fans end up the winners.

The players can receive awards for funniest tweet, best #tbt and best video. There’s even an award dedicated to the best “social rookie”.

Whereas other sports leagues like MLB have used fan voting in different ways, many successfully, the NBA created something special just for social media.

Not only do they embrace the new way of communicating and marketing, they own it. Constantly staying fresh and innovating their digital image makes for really impressive stuff.

These awards are important to build the NBA’s brand, and help steer it through the rocky times it has endured lately. That’s the thing with social media: if you do it right, then you’re able to overcome many off-the-court issues.

What the NBA understands and what their social awards demonstrates, is you have to engage your audience, even when the season isn’t on. Every brand has a “dark” period but that doesn’t mean that your social activity should wane.

Unfortunately for NBA fans, it looks like Kevin Durant might still go home empty handed.

Twitter Lets Users Hit the Mute Button

By Mark Evans - June 18th, 2014

Twitter-Mute-ButtonEver wish you could just tune out certain users on Twitter without deleting them? Or maybe you’re tired of hearing about the Kim and Kanye wedding?

Well, Twitter has unveiled a feature just for you.

The new mute button will let you erect a wall around a user or topic who just doesn’t interest you. You can still follow someone even if you mute them, but this is clearly a distinct step in Twitter’s evolution.

Muting a user means none of their tweets will be visible to you, but they can still see your activity.

Having an option to mute and not unfollow will keep Twitter etiquette intact. It seems Twitter has found a happy medium.

By not unfollowing everyone who posts items you find uninteresting, you won’t have to worry about the reciprocated unfollow back.

This is just in time for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, which will dominate feeds for the entire month. If you’re not a football/soccer fan, you’ll now be able to easily miss all the chatter on Twitter.

For brands, there could be some reason to be concerned, but this is a wake up call to make sure your content is relevant, compelling and not overwhelming.

These are important points we all must be remember from time to time. Now, all brands need to be cognizant that they can easily be muted. Good news for their audience numbers but never good to have your message fall on deaf ears.

Content is king and this is just another reason why this adage is not going away. Every digital marketer must create and curate content that will make your users not want to tune you out.

Social media is a struggle to stay relevant and embrace two-way communication. The fact your audience has a new tool to escape the conversation needs to be taken seriously.

The quest for content just got more challenging.

The Customer Intimacy Imperative: What You Need to Know

By Sheldon Levine - June 16th, 2014

Social And The Customer Intimacy Imperative

We’ve been counting down the days until our big San Francisco event, Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative. Taking place tomorrow, June 17th, at The Battery, we are looking forward to hearing the industry’s game-changers and noise-makers discuss the future of social media. And we invite you all to follow the conversation! @Sysomos will live tweet the event using the hashtag #SysomosCII.

Throughout the event we will hear visionary social leaders talk about big data, predictive analytics, and customer experiences through interactive Q&A sessions, presentations, and a keynote address.

We can’t wait to kick things off with Rob Bailey, CEO of Datasift. He will be sharing his thoughts on combining social data with business data.

Also be sure to tune in for exclusive insights from Chuck Hemann, executive director of GolinHarris, Zachary Hofer-Shall, senior manager of the Twitter Ecosystem, and Mason Nelder, director of social and digital strategy for Verizon. They will be speaking about how to harness data for the insights that drive better customer experiences.

Wrapping things up is our keynote speaker, Peter Shankman, founder of The Geek Factory Inc. You may have seen our Q&A with Peter posted on our blog last week, and we are excited to hear what he has to add tomorrow on “Nailing Customer Loyalty in an Age of Social, Mobile and the ADHD Consumer.”

Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative will shine a light on the information, thoughts and opinions shaping the world of social media by bringing together the latest thinking in the world of social. Don’t miss out on joining the conversation in this rare opportunity. Be sure to chime in with your opinions and questions throughout the event.

Have a question for one of our speakers? Tweet at them using the hashtag #SysomosCII. All of their Twitter handles can be found below:

 

Want To Win On Twitter? Think Like A Good Host

By Sheldon Levine - June 13th, 2014

By Jeff Cann, 

It’s often said that social media is much like a cocktail party: intimate, engaging, and an opportunity for the host to meet new people and give guests a truly memorable evening. For a brand, social media is not much different. While it was once impossible to imagine that your favorite running shoe company or baseball team could ever talk to you personally, brands and customers now have that opportunity each and every day.

So that all brands can be incredible hosts, I would like to share three best practices for throwing the best Twitter cocktail party you can.

1)     Don’t always talk about yourself. 

A very quick and easy way to audit what type of content your Twitter handle creates is to look at the proportion of Tweets that are Re-Tweets, @Replies and Regular Tweets.

McDonalds

MAP - from-mcdonalds

What should your mix look like?  Because different industries will see different levels of engagement, as well as utilization of Twitter as a customer service channel, there is no magic formula. But ensuring that you’re proactively and reactively engaging with customers and potential customers more than you’re broadcasting news about yourself is always the first step to becoming a good host.

2)     Work the room and play to your audience

One thing all of your customers have in common is the fact that they have purchased your product or service. While this may bind the whole crowd together at a very basic level, there will always be very distinct groups and interests within that crowd, making a one-size-fits-all approach not only difficult, but largely ineffective. Cocktail parties are no different. Guests all share something in common, but groups of folks can and will congregate and engage in very different conversations. In a nutshell, it’s the job of social analytics to show brands who these groups are and what the people in those groups are talking about.

Heartbeat - Scripps - Food measure

Using the Communities report in Sysomos Heartbeat, brands can uncover who the most influential community members are, and what the theme of their group’s conversation is. By leveraging this information, you can provide value to the group’s conversation and spend your time (and resources) wisely by targeting the folks who know the most about a topic.

3)     Host your party at the most convenient time

Depending on where you are in life, a 6pm cocktail party may be infinitely more appealing than one that starts at 11pm. A brand’s audience is no different.  So if you’re going to host a party, you may as well do it at a time that works well for the majority of your guests.

rolling rock

MAP - Rolling Rock

Given that your followers are your guests, look to make announcements, host online chats and execute campaigns based on the times when their base engagement rates are highest. Sounds simple, but it will give a big boost to your chances of success.

 

While social brings with it new challenges and opportunities, the overall objective from a marketing standpoint has never changed: get the right message to the right person at the right time. Following the three best practices above will ensure that you’re not only a good host, but that your brand is positioned for success and capitalizing on the tremendous opportunity that social represents.

 

Since joining Sysomos during its startup days in 2009, Jeff Cann has experienced the impact and spread of social across virtually all industries and job functions. With 14 years of client service and client management experience, including seven years exclusively in web and social analytics, Jeff brings a unique data- and client-focused lens to Sysomos. In his current role as Sr. Director of Client Experience, Jeff manages a team of Social Media Specialists responsible for client usage, adoption and success of Sysomos applications. 

Peter Shankman on Customer Intimacy

By Sheldon Levine - June 12th, 2014

Q&A with Peter Shankman, Social Media Specialist and Keynote Speaker at Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative

Peter ShankmanNext week, leading social minds from some of the biggest brands in the world will gather in San Francisco for Sysomos’ Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative. We sat down with the event’s keynote speaker, social media specialist and author Peter Shankman, to discuss the role of social media to build loyalty in the age of the ADHD consumer.

Q: Thanks for letting us pick your brain today. So how do companies achieve customer loyalty through social media?

PS: The first thing to understand is that customers have an overwhelming, burning desire to be loyal. But in order to be loyal, customers need to be loved first – they need a reason to be loyal.

The fact is, consumers today expect to be treated like garbage – like a number. But if you treat me one level better than a number, I’m yours for life. Take last week for example. I needed to find a place in Miami to watch the Rangers game and a local bar replied to my tweet. Just the fact that they did that made me want to go there to watch the game.

Shankman_Tweet

Q: Can a company use an interaction like that to measure success?

PS: At the end of the day, it must translate into revenue to be a success. Revenue comes with loyalty, but it doesn’t come with clicking a “Like” button.

Q: Are companies then misguided to rely on “Likes” and “Follows” as a measure of customer loyalty?

PS: The concept of “Liking,” “Friending,” “Following,” and “Fanning” is going away. The last time you friended someone in the real world was 2nd grade when you asked, “will you be my friend?”

If you go to a restaurant a lot you don’t need to “Like” it, 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. Do that and customers will like you; they will love you; they will come back; they will bring friends and they will drive new revenue.

Q: Can you give an example from your career of how you created a customer experience that exceeds expectations?

PS: Take HARO for example. HARO succeeded in part because every user felt invested and that if they ever had a problem they could email me directly. When we used a customer’s suggestion, we sent an email saying ‘Hey Mark, we implemented YOUR idea.’ Even if 8,000 people had suggested the same thing, we sent an email to each one. When you do that customers become invested, and they will spend more money and be motivated to tell you exactly how you are doing.

Q: Do companies engage enough in two-way communication with their customers?

PS: The biggest misconception that companies have is that they can rely on analytics and numbers without ever talking to their customers. Why not call 10 customers each morning and ask them how they’re doing? Take advantage of all the people at your disposal who have given you their information.

Q: Is that how you stay in touch?

PS: I just listen as much as I can. I look at what people are doing.  What kind of phone are they using? What kind of apps are they using? There’s a wonderful service I use called Product Hunt, which sends me an email each morning with the best products and services voted on by its members. There are about 15-20 apps and services that are built into my life that I use on a regular basis.

Q: What applications do you find most effective to connect with people?

PS: Facebook is the network where people try too hard, Twitter’s the network where people won’t shut up and LinkedIn’s the network where people seriously need to take off their tie and have a drink. That being said, if you put all three together you get positive benefit from them. For me though, nothing in my life ever precludes me from checking email. Email is first. Email is the killer app. Email will never go away.

Q: Any parting words of wisdom?

PS: At the end of the day, the goal for the people you follow and the people who follow you is best summed up by Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs: We covet what we see every day.

 

The keynote speaker at Sysomos’ Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative event on June 17th, Peter Shankman is currently a Principal at Shankman|Honig, a consultancy designed to help corporations, businesses, and retail operations create stellar customer service that resonates in our new “conversation economy,” driving revenue, repeat business, and new customers. An entrepreneur, author, speaker, and worldwide connector who is recognized nationally and globally for radically new ways of thinking about Social Media, PR, Marketing, Advertising, creativity, and just about everything else, Peter is also founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique Marketing and PR Strategy firm located in New York City, with clients worldwide.

Who Will Win The Social Media World Cup? Nike or Adidas?

By Mark Evans - June 11th, 2014

world-cup-2014-600x337One of the biggest events for social media is right around the corner with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Every four years, the World Cup becomes the dominant conversation on many social media networks.

Truth be told, the Academy Awards, Superbowl and pretty much everything in between pales in comparison.

For digital marketers, the World Cup is they need to get their act in gear. As you can imagine, the activity is through the roof to the point where it became an issue for Twitter’s servers.

Twitter appears to be the main digital playground for all things World Cup because it is a fluid and constant medium.

Adidas tends to reign supreme at the World Cup, not just as a main sponsor but also in social activity. When it comes to online chatter, they also have a very strong and enviable presence. 

When a brand is on the top for something such as the World Cup, there’s always going to be another brand looking to usurp them. In this case, that brand is Nike. 

Since June 2, Nike and Adidas have been going back and forth as to who gets the most mentions on social media. The impressive thing about Nike is they are not a World Coup sponsor. 

Wouldn’t every brand love the ability to insert themselves into the most popular of social media conversations? That’s a nifty trick, and a huge lesson for other brands on the outside looking in.

If Nike can overtake Adidas and, in the process, do so without having to fork over the millions of sponsorship dollars, it might be more impressive than what the players accomplish on the playing field.

This is a classic case of two giant digital brands duking it out for social media supremacy, with a small window of time to win it all. 

It’s strange to see Nike as an underdog but, at the same time, it’s hard to bet against Adidas. This is one match that will definitely be worth watching until mid-July.

Who do you think will win the World Cup’s social media battle? What country will win the tournament?

Getting Close to Customers is Easier Said Than Done

By Sheldon Levine - June 10th, 2014

By John Sanchez

 

CloseToCustomersWith Sysomos hosting an upcoming event in San Francisco about the link between social media and customer intimacy, I’ve been thinking even more lately about what “customer intimacy” really means. And it occurred to me that the term is really just the latest incarnation of a time-honored approach to delivering great products and service: Get close to your customers.

During a recent leadership meeting, I asked a group of our executives to stand up, put a hand in the air and repeat the phrase “we’re getting closer to our customers” five times while turning in circles. I’m proud to report that some members of the team took to the exercise with great enthusiasm—predictably, they were the Sales folks. Finance was a bit less enthusiastic. HR played along, but they were keeping an eye on me.

When we completed the exercise, I asked everyone to put down their hands and look to their left and right. Then I asked: “So are we any closer to our customers?” I’m pretty sure it had the desired effect.

The concept of customer intimacy is not new. In fact, you’ll find a virtually endless array of research, books, case studies and testimonials on the topic. While I find it curious that there’s still an endless appetite for even more “new” and “original” thought on the topic when so much excellent work always exists, the main takeaway for me is this: customer intimacy remains incredibly relevant today because it’s an objective companies truly want and need to attain.

I’m familiar with enough of the research to frame up a discussion about customer intimacy using all the usual jargon. But I think it would be far more helpful to share a few practical lessons about what it really takes to pursue customer intimacy—based on what I’ve learned over the years simply by rubbing elbows with the people we in business call “customers.”

  1. A fish rots from the head. Leadership is a privilege, and leaders set the tone for the organization in a million different ways. In the end, every resource a company has stems from the good will—and patronage—of customers. Customers can take their business elsewhere for any reason at any time. A company’s most senior leaders must sincerely understand and humbly demonstrate their appreciation of customers if there is to be any hope of influencing front-line staff to walk their talk.
  1. Common sense is not common. We all intuitively seem to understand what if means to receive exceptional service and how it looks when we deliver it. Yet consistent execution against this standard is the exception, rather than the rule. The path to “that very hot place” in the world of customer experience is paved with the best intentions. It’s true that the best and most memorable service experiences feel spontaneous. But the accompanying reality is that extraordinary, branded customer experiences—the consistent, intentional, differentiated and valued experiences that delight customers so much they’re willing to pay a premium for them—are the product of meticulous planning and hard work.  Companies that enjoy intimacy with their customers and provide exceptional service understand that it doesn’t just “happen.” They’ve worked tirelessly to plan, build processes, track and measure in order to ensure that their product or service meets or exceeds expectations.
  1. Service starts at home. We can’t expect that an organization’s ability to deliver service to customers would exceed the degree to which it regards its own team members and supplier-partners. A leader who walks by a team member she sees every day and fails to acknowledge that person’s humanity probably expects that team member to answer every call professionally and cheerfully. If internal systems for reward and recognition, coaching and feedback, payroll, or benefits are lacking, it’s a good bet that many of the steps along the customer journey—such as new customer onboarding, product sales and service, invoicing, and all the background processes that support them—are flawed as well.
  1. All the lessons learned before kindergarten from people like Dr. Seuss still count. Laugh if you like, but “please” and “thank you” are still the magic words. And if you keep frowning like that, there actually is a chance that your face may stay that way forever. We can find a great deal of wisdom on how we should listen to and try to understand customers in the digital age by reading, re-reading and applying lessons from Horton Hears a Who. Moreover, Yertel the Turtle nicely lays out the consequences for leaders who don’t listen to their team members—and for companies who don’t listen to their customers.
  1. Customers’ needs are simple. Soon after I first started working at Harrah’s Casino, I was assigned the task of observing service levels at our famous seafood buffet—under the watchful eye of a mentor of mine named Paul. We were running a special promotion that night, so the place was packed, and there was a long line of customers waiting to be seated that was getting even longer. Paul, an experienced pit boss who had cut his teeth at the Flamingo back in the early 1960s, had a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue. He immediately saw the problem and motioned for me to help as he quickly stepped in to seat customers and get the line moving. Later on when the line cleared, he set me straight: “Kid, customers only want three things: perfect, now and free. We mostly ain’t going to give it to ‘em free, so we’d better do the other parts great.” There’s really nothing I can add to that.
  1. “Try, try again.” I intentionally left off the first part of this proverb (“if at first you don’t succeed”) because even if you do succeed, it will be fleeting. Just as perfection should never get in the way of better, good is the enemy of great. Customers, competitors, the environment and technology are in constant flux, so solutions must be agile enough to anticipate and quickly change.
  1. Technology evolves to serve people, so it should be used only if it helps your customers. This week, I interviewed a candidate for a role at Sysomos. He mentioned that before his day had even started, he found that he’d been invited to a pub event, noticed that someone had a poor experience on an airline, and discovered that many people were exchanging views about the abdication of the King of Spain. Our candidate received all of this information, and contributed his own perspectives, over social networks. For him, social media is second nature—it’s simply how he communicates. So user, beware: trying to leverage social networks to become intimate with customers before you’ve attended to the basics is like trying to e-mail before you’ve achieved a basic level of literacy. Even worse, it will reveal what you don’t know and increase the chances of poor communication.  What’s clear is the fact that social media makes it much more difficult to “fake it” if you are not committed to customer intimacy and service.

If you’ve read this far, you may be scratching your head, wondering: “How can it be this simple, especially given all of the continuing discussion on this topic?” You may even be tempted to discount these seven principles as obvious platitudes with no underlying value. But as Ockham’s razor tells us, in the absence of certainty, the simplest explanation is often the most apt.

Talking about getting closer to customers while you turn around in circles won’t get you any closer to achieving it. But taking action to bring these seven principles to life in your company is guaranteed to take you a long way toward realizing the goal of customer intimacy.

 

John Sanchez is EVP of Global Operations at Marketwired—the parent company of Sysomos—where he leads the organization’s customer engagement and lean process redesign initiatives, and also oversees the client support teams that service Sysomos-powered products across the enterprise. A decorated combat veteran and graduate of both the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Wharton School of Business, he has over 26 years of experience in engineering, operational and financial roles in diverse industries.

Myspace Simply Refuses to Disappear

By Mark Evans - June 9th, 2014

U.S. General Douglas MacArthur famously said “old soldiers never die; they just fade away”.

You could easily say the same about social networks. They never die, they just fade into the digital background.

myspaceCase in point is Myspace, which is emailing users old photos of themselves to convince them to take another look at the network.

It’s a strange marketing campaign given most people have moved on from Myspace.

Despite having new owners and getting an overhaul, Myspace has never been able to regain its social mojo. Once the king of social networks, Myspace has been relegated to the digital basement.

Myspace is a classic example of an online property that, at one time, had product-market fit. In the early days of social media, it was among the most vibrant networks. With the rise of Facebook, however, Myspace lost its early-mover advantage.

So, what happened? Myspace seemed to lose a feel for what its users wanted – and it certainly wasn’t a busy, cluttered, ugly design and interface. Meanwhile, Facebook hooked people on the ability to connect with friends.

Perhaps Myspace’s biggest mistake was not capitalizing on its “killer app”: music. For many users, Myspace was the place to share and consume music. Unfortunately, Myspace was so big and unwieldy that it wasn’t able to evolve to effectively embrace music.

These days, the most intriguing question is why it continues to hang on. Since News Corp. dumped it, Myspace has seen new owners get excited about the idea of bringing it back to life. In theory, it’s an attractive option because Myspace still has users and name recognition.

But Myspace is also an anachronism. Its time in the spotlight has come and gone. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr has others have made Myspace irrelevant and a non-factor.

Maybe it’s time for Myspace to take a final bow, rather than hang on as a shadow of its former self. By disappearing from the scene, there would be more space for new networks to emerge.

The reality is Myspace is unlikely to exit stage left any time soon. With investors still looking for a return, Myspace will desperately look for ways to revive itself, which will include marketing gimmicks such as emailing you old photos.