Posts Tagged ‘success’

What Goes Viral?

stock-partyThis past weekend, a teen from Mississauga did what lots of teens have done in the past: announced a get-together on Facebook. Somehow, this innocent announcement of a small, private event spiralled out of control. The word spread via social media, the party eventually developed its own hashtag, and even a paper flyer went out (put together by persons unknown).

The teen’s parents ended up calling the police when droves started arriving at their home. For four hours, if you can believe it, police stationed themselves at the house and turned prospective partygoers away. The cops even sent out their own social media messages, warning visitors that they’d be met with a police cruiser upon their arrival. They claimed their word prevented even more visitors. But still.

This party gone wild is yet another example of a social media message inexplicably going viral and having real-world consequences. There are other viral instances no one wants: the politician saying something sexist, the athlete caught on video, drunk at a party. Marketers, meanwhile, would love to know just how to command an audience in the millions for their story, video or image.

So academics and social media groups have put their minds to studying the phenomenon; trying to crack the viral code so those who want to go big can do so. Here’s what the research says:

-Positive material spreads faster than negative, according to one study. Rage has the most velocity, according to another.

-Evoke emotions: shock, awe, pity, alarm. Further to the above, really — emotional content is what people want to share.

-Be practical. Service-style information gets traction. Makes sense: we all want to know how to do stuff like get healthier, live better and make more money.

-People share what they think others want to know or hear about. This really puts the social in social media.

-Studies are showing that long posts attract the most links. Meanwhile, multimedia content is more likely to go viral than text-based material.

-Be funny. Humour has been working in traditional advertising for decades. In online content, it’s key for everything but the most serious content.

If that seems like a lot of bases to cover, that’s because it is. In truth, we don’t yet fully understand what turns a get-together into the biggest party in town. But we’re getting closer to understanding the odd modern phenomenon that is viral content.


What is Social Media Success?

measuring_success3What is social media success?

It’s an interesting question given the increasing focus on return on investment (aka ROI).

And it’s becoming a more intriguing question as sales becomes a bigger part of how brands want to leverage social media, as well as how social networks such as Twitter and Facebook want to monetize their services.

It wasn’t that long ago that social media success was focused on building brand awareness and goodwill with potential and existing customers.

As a two-way medium, social media provided brands with a new and dynamic platform to engage with customers as opposed to simply broadcasting.

For many brands, this offered enough ROI to justify significant investments in social media because it was another way to drive sales and marketing activity.

And while brand awareness and customer engagement are still important, the concept of success continues to evolve.

A key part of the landscape is how sales and profits are taking a higher profile. It’s not difficult to see why this is happening: as brands review their marketing and sales efforts, social media needs to justify its place at the table.

In a growing number of situations, social media needs to offer more than just drive awareness and engagement.

At the same time, brands are being forced to be more creative, focused and aggressive with social media because most, if not all, of their competitors are also using social media. It’s simply not enough to have an active social media presence because this is table stakes.

What it means for many brands is they need to make bigger investments in people, tools, technology and creative campaign to rise above the crowd. This is probably why the conversation about ROI is being pushed into the spotlight.

In other words, social media isn’t a sideline activity but a key part of business operations that need to be justified.

It means “success” is also being redefined and measured in new and different ways?

So how is your definition of success evolving or changing?

Using Data To Delight Your Community

Every company or brand out there has its fans and naysayers. It’s just a part of business. One great example where we’ve seen both types prominently over the past few years is the company formerly known as RIM (now known as just BlackBerry).

The company was at one point the leader in smartphone technology. In fact, they were probably the first real smartphone makers in the market. But then other companies like Apple and Google entered the market and some people felt that BlackBerry had been left behind. Fast forward a few years and BlackBerry has made a stunning reemergence in the field with their fully redesigned operating system known as BlackBerry 10.

When BlackBerry announced that it was completely revamping itself from the ground up, it was again met with its fair share of vocal fans and naysayers. For example, take a look at this tweet below that highlights one of the naysayers being countered by one of the very vocal fans:

One thing is for sure; whether it was from a naysayer or a fan, there was a lot of talk leading up to the launch of BB10. Check out this popularity chart below for mentions of BB10 over the past 6 months leading up to the launch. There were over 19 million tweets during this period.

Now, this is where the story gets very cool:

TELUS, a large telecom in Canada, was just as excited about launching the BB10 line on their network as some of the super fans out there were. They also knew how excited a lot of their customers were for the new BlackBerry devices. That’s why they decided to reward a lucky customer who was the most eager (and persistent) for the big release.

Using our MAP platform, TELUS was able to analyze millions of conversations about BlackBerry and BB10 from across Canada to find the people that were talking the most positively about their excitement for the new smartphone. By cross-referencing the top BB10 anticipators with their client records, they were able to grant one lucky customer’s wish of being one of the first people in the world to own a BlackBerryZ10 device.

This is a great example of how companies can use big data (both from social media and from their own databases) to show their customers and fan base that they’re listening and that they care what they think.

Dan Fricker, TELUS’s Social Media Community Manager, had this to say:

“Social media’s one of our many ways of connecting and actually having conversations with customers. What Sysomos offers is an incredible way to listen to those conversations, from different people all over the country. Beyond engaging in real-time interactions, we can also go back and see what people have been anticipating most about the launch of BlackBerry 10, for example, or who’s been talking about this new device the longest. That’s the case with @Im_Sure_ who’s been tweeting with @TELUS about the BB10 for weeks. With tools like Sysomos and the power of social we can engage in customer conversations like Matt’s, arguably the BB10’s #BestFan. Given Matt’s such a big BlackBerry fan, we surprised him with his very own Z10 today.”

The Cost of Social Media Success

Here’s an angle that attracts little attention when it comes to companies doing well on social media: success comes at a cost.

There is, of course, the initial investment to get started in social media, mostly the time to create a strategic and tactic plan, set up the different services, and then launch of the program. Maybe someone within the organization has been commandeered to do social media a couple of hours a day, or perhaps a person is hired full-time or on contract.

Then, a company starts doing social media and creating content (e.g Facebook updates, tweets, photos, video, contests, polls, etc.). This content and the company’s engagement efforts begin to resonate with users. As a result, a community starts to be established as more users get involved, leave comments, upload photos, ask questions and provide feedback.

All of a sudden, the person running a company’s social media program starts to feel a little overwhelmed by the growing amount of activity, which is happening 7/24. There is so much to do to create content, engage with thousands of people, monitor and analyze activity, answer questions, provide feedback and generate reports.

Before you know it, the company needs to hire another person or perhaps a couple of people to work at social media headquarters. They may even have to hire a social evangelist or two to attend events and conferences to connect the company’s digital efforts with real-world interaction. In other words, the only way to handle more social activity is scaling your team.

In the end, social media becomes a major expense due to its wild or even solid success – something many companies never anticipated.

Of course, this is a luxury many companies would welcome with open arms given how challenging it can be to be successful with social media. It’s a price they’re likely more than happy to pay but, nevertheless, it is an issue that needs to be considered given the focus on ROI and the allocation of marketing budgets.

The Fine Line Between Social Success and Failure

I met someone yesterday who joined Twitter in November, 2007 – a time when there were less than 500,000 users – and probably a year before Twitter really burst onto the scene.

At the time, Twitter was an intriguing service but there was little indication it was poised for explosive growth. Back then, Twitter even had quasi-healthy competition from players such as Pownce and Jaiku.

The decision for someone to join Twitter in late-2007 was as much an experiment as it was climbing on a bandwagon that was starting to gain speed. Having signed up myself in December, 2007 after dismissing Twitter as nothing more than an inane outlet for personal babbling, I never expected Twitter to be anything more than just interesting.

For whatever reason, Twitter caught on, moving beyond the nerds, geeks, A-listers and social mavens. But in many ways, Twitter’s success was due to the fact many people decided to enthusiastically throw themselves into it when it was far from apparent it was going to become anything significant.

For new services trying to gain a foothold (e.g. Yobongo, Quora, etc.), a key part of the challenge is not only creating a service that is compelling but coming up with something that captures the imagination of the right people. This has to happen before another shiny, new toy comes along – meaning there is a small window of opportunity to make an impression.

The mystery is how to attract the key early adopter. How do you convince them it’s worth the investment to sign up for yet another social media service that looks interesting but may not having staying power?

Part of it may have to do with being able to win the affections of a few influential people – e.g. Mike Arrington or Robert Scoble – who will enthusiastically wave the flag on your behalf.

It also helps if you can excite enough “regular folk” that they become evangelists and advocates on your behalf, something far more challenging than whispering in Robert Scoble’s ear about a pretty new thing.

The difference between success (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and failure (Friendfeed, Friendster, Pownce) is difficult to define or quantify. Some of it’s luck, some of it’s timing and some of it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right service.

Do You Have Social Stamina?

Are you in shape? Are you willing to go the extra mile even though you’re tired? Are you able to bear down to get the job done?

While these questions could easily apply to playing sports, they’re also pertinent to social media, and a person or company’s ability to keep going even when their enthusiasm or interest wanes.

As I have mentioned before, social media is a game of inches, not miles. The overnight success stories enjoyed by some brands are anomalies as opposed to commonplace. For the vast majority of companies, social media success comes over time after they grind it out hour after hour, day after day.

The challenge for many companies is recognizing this is how social media works. There are no short cuts, no magical solutions, no secret formulas to make your efforts go viral. Social media is grunt work. It means that you keep going (after going) after the novelty and excitement have disappeared.

Far too many companies cut their social media efforts off at the knees by giving up or pulling back after a few months because it looks like their social media efforts aren’t gaining much traction. But progress in social media is like going to the gym. You can’t get in shape in a week; it takes months to do it. Then, one day you discovers that doing 50 push-ups is pretty easy or that you can ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes with relative ease.

The sames goes for social media. You work and work, and then notice there are 2,000 people following you on Twitter or your Facebook Page keeps attracting a healthy number of comments and Likes.

Social media success really comes down to stamina and commitment. It is about having a long-term horizon as opposed to short-term goals that are unrealistic.

So who do you main your social stamina? What tips or tricks are there is keep the “fires burning”?

The ‘Staches Were A Success

Well, MOvember is over. No more creepy looking men running rampent through our streets. No more women scared to leave their houses.No more scaring myself every time I look in  the mirror.

While the official numbers are still being tallied by the MOvember foundation, a quick peak at their Mo Money page shows the total money raised nearing $60 million. Our home, Canada, raised $19.5 million of that and Sysomos is proud to be part of that. Thanks again to everyone who helped support our team and MOvember in general!

As promised, we used MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, to look back at the social web for the month of MOvember. We can see right away from our activity summery that the social web was abuzz with talk about MOvember. We found over 11,000 blog posts, almost 3,000 news mentions and over 320,000 tweets. Most surprising to myself was the 8,000 mentions we found in forums.

A look at our world map plotting out the over 320,000 tweets shows most of the activity coming from the six official countries participating, but we can see mentions of MOvember being tweeted from around the world.

Next, we broke down some more demographics to see who was talking about MOvember. We found that the 21-35 year olds dominated the conversation with 71.5%. I thought that the under 20 crowd would have had the least amount of mentions (since there would be less of them that could participate), but they mentioned MOvember more than the 51 and overs. Another interesting thing we found was that women were talking about MOvember almost as much as the men were (47% and 53% respectively).

Lastly, we took a look at our buzzgraph through Twitter to see the words being most used in conjunction with MOvember. We see a lot of words we would expect like “moustache”, “mustache” and “stache” paired with words like “donate” and “support”. Some of the more funny things we found were that people were also talking a lot about “dirty” and “shave” in conjection with the different variations of moustache. Another interesting thing we are able to pick out from this buzzgraph was that people liked to share pictures of their ‘staches because the picture services Twitpic and Yfrog have very strong connections and are appearing close to the middle of the graph.

Overall, it seems this year’s MOvember was a huge success. Congratulations to everyone who participated by growing a moustache and thanks to everyone who donated. Your faces may now return to their normal state… Until we do it again next year!

Five Key Ingredients for a Successful Corporate Blog

Despite the fact blogs no longer have a lot of social media sex appeal, they remain an integral part of the landscape because they offer companies valuable ways to deliver insight and information to customers, employees, partners, investors and suppliers.

But launching and running a corporate blog is not easy. It’s not as simple as writing posts on a regular basis because a blog has to provide value on a regular basis.

So what are the keys to a successful corporate blog? Here are five tips:

1. Content that provides insight, perspective and information. At its core, a corporate blog has to give its readers information they can use to increase their knowledge, learn new things or receive insight.

2. It has need to be well written. A blog with spelling and grammatical mistakes reflects badly on the person writing it and their employer. As well, a blog posts need to have good flow and provide an engaging narrative that makes it easy to read.

This is particularly important given many people scan content online as opposed to reading it. This is why a good headline so important to capture someone’s attention.

3. Posts have to happen on a regular basis. It could be one, two or five posts/week. Whatever the editorial plan, it needs to be consistent to establish expectations within the company and among the blog’s readers.

The worse thing a company can do is post four or five times a week for a few weeks, and then once a week or not at all afterward. When the audience doesn’t know what to expect, they start to drift away.

4. It can’t operate as a standalone entity. There are two angles to this advice. One, a blog needs to be supported and nurtured within a company. It needs to be actively promoted within communications, marketing and sales collateral, business cards, letterhead and email signatures.

It should also be promoted on social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. A blog needs to be seen as an integral part of a company’s brand and identity as opposed to be left alone to its own devices.

Second, a corporate blog needs to be integrated into the blogosphere and the blogging community. The people writing a blog need to be reading and commenting on other blogs. You can’t write a blog in isolation otherwise there are no connections with the “outside” world.

5. It needs to look good and have a user-friendly design. As much as a company will spend time and money to create a good Web site, its blog also need to be functional and attractive. In many senses, it is a public marketing vehicle that reflects a company’s brand, culture and approach to business.

A good blog should follow best practices by including things such as an RSS feed (both through an RSS reader and via e-mail), information about the writers, the ability to leave comments, links to social media services, and links to other corporate resources.

What are some of the other things that a good corporate blog should feature?

Success Isn’t Always Front Page News

If there is anything that annoys me about social media, it’s how the same success stories are repeatedly used as example. If it’s not Starbucks, it’s Dell or Comcast or Naked Pizza or Old Spice.

Truth be told, these kind of success stories are few and far between. They’re anomalies, lottery wins and even flukes.

And, in some respects, they provide a warped view of social media’s potential. They become the benchmark for corporate campaigns, which sets expectations way too high. It explains why having a video “go viral” is seen as something that can easily happen with the right pieces in place.

In an ideal world, what we need is less talk about Starbucks, Dell, Naked Pizza, et al. Instead, there needs to be more focus on companies that have enjoyed success media “success” that has gone unnoticed by the media and bloggers because it has not been sexy or newsworthy.

I’m talking about companies that built stronger relationships with their customers, or offered better customer service, or saw renewal rates on subscriptions take a nice jump because social media proved to be an effective tool. It could be the local bakery that gained some street cred for having a Twitter account that added some fun to people’ lives.

We’re not talking about Old Spice but we’re still talking about success.

Acting On What You Hear Fills The Gap

A little more than a week ago The Gap decided to do away with the logo they have been sporting for the last 20 years in favour of a new sleeker minimalist one. This Monday they made a public announcement that would be returning back to their original logo.

What could make a huge company like The Gap change its mind about such a major change so quickly? Their public.

When Gap showcased their new logo on their Facebook page their followers cried foul. Some felt that the old logo was a well-known symbol and didn’t need to be changed, while others thought the new design was just ugly. While a lot of the complaints directed at Gap happened on their Facebook page, the whole internet seemed to be a buzz about the situation.

Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics platform, we were able to take a closer look at the buzz around this logo situation.

Looking at our popularity chart, which shows spikes in conversation, we analyzed The Gap in general. We see that the company had a steady amount of talk around their corporation for the last six months, but saw huge spikes in the last two weeks, the time when the new logo was debuted.

Delving deeper into the time around those spikes in the conversation we were able to put together a buzz graph of some of the most common words used in association with The Gap in people’s conversations. If you look right in the middle we can see that most of the conversation stemmed from their “logo”.

If we take a closer look at some of the words that stem from the logo discussion we can see that there was a lot of talk about a “backlash” and “outcry” calling the whole “redesign” of the logo a “debacle”.

At this point Gap knew that they had to do something.

People accuse corporations of never listening to their public, but now that can’t be said for The Gap. On Monday of this week, just a week after the debut of the new logo, Gap president Marka Hansen released the following statement:

“Since we rolled out an updated version of our logo last week on our website, we’ve seen an outpouring of comments from customers and the online community in support of the iconic blue box logo.

“Last week, we moved to address the feedback and began exploring how we could tap into all of the passion. Ultimately, we’ve learned just how much energy there is around our brand. All roads were leading us back to the blue box, so we’ve made the decision not to use the new logo on any further.

“At Gap brand, our customers have always come first. We’ve been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we’ve made the decision to do just that – we will bring it back across all channels.

“In the meantime, the website will go back to our iconic blue box logo and, for Holiday, we’ll turn our blue box red for our seasonal campaign.

“We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.  This wasn’t the right project at the right time for crowd sourcing.

“There may be a time to evolve our logo, but if and when that time comes, we’ll handle it in a different way.“

All of this because they had the good mind to really listen to their public via social media channels and then act on what they heard.