Tag Archives: Pinterest

Four Misunderstandings About Social Media

As you’ve probably aware if you’ve spent any time here on the screed, I take a great interest in how business folks think about social media.

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I am one of those people who believe that over time the word “social” will vanish as all media becomes more social and what we classify today as “social” media becomes more mainstream (although I’m not sure how Facebook could become more mainstream when it seems damn near everyone is on it!).  How businesses can use social media is one of the areas in which I advise clients and so I took great interest in an info-graphic I came across the other day entitled “How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media (and why they may be getting it wrong).  If you click through I think you’ll find some good information on it but you’ll also find four terrible misunderstandings.

In the section labelled “Why Small Businesses Are Using Social Media” there are four points.  Each one is, I guess, something that these businesses believe to be true.  Unfortunately, they’re not.  Take point one:  it’s inexpensive.  Sure the tools are free but supporting your business on each platform is not free.  In fact, to do social well and to cover all the potential social bases (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ for starters) in an active way that will engage your customers requires planning, writing, and responding.  It all takes time, and as we all know, time is money.

Point two: it’s easy to use.  Another half truth although I’m sure businesses believe it.   The tools are not overly complicated but creating great, engaging content is hard, as you can probably tell from the attempts to do so in this space.

Point three:  their customers use social media.  Yes they do, but as the term “media” indicates  they’re in a lot of places doing so.  The aforementioned “big” guys are just the tip of the iceberg, and new players emerge and grow every day.  Reddit, Vine, and Stumble Upon are just three places where a lot of the customers are but the brands aren’t.  Add to that the fact that to gain any sort of visibility with the majority of your customers on the big guys (Facebook and Twitter in particular) requires you to be a paying customer.  So much for “free.”

Point four:  It doesn’t take a lot of time.  Totally wrong unless you add “to do it badly” to the end of that phrase.  Supporting multiple platforms with engaging content and responding to consumer interactions takes a lot of time – ask any of the brands that do social media well.

That’s my take – what’s yours?

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Social and Shopping

How do you think social media influences what people buy?  If you believe a recent report on the influence of social media on shopping this past holiday season, the answer is not much.  As the article said:

online shoppers mostly ignored social channels as purchase influencers,according to survey results from Baynote. Pinterest and Twitter influenced online and in-store purchases for just 1 in 10 shoppers surveyed, with Facebook garnering only slightly more interest. Instead, online ratings and reviews were most likely to influence both online and in-store purchases (33% and 24%, respectively), with Google search results including a pictured product available by the retailer coming in next for online purchases (26%) and paper catalogs (21%) second for in-store purchases. Not surprisingly, social channels were most influential among younger consumers (aged 25-34), while paper catalogs got the attention of the 45+ crowd.

This was accompanied by another piece which announced that “only 2% of traffic to retailers during the holiday season came from social networks, per figures released by Adobe Systems.”   The article then goes on to say “Adobe isn’t the first to detail social media’s rather small influence over the holiday season.”

I could be wrong about this but given that Adobe is the parent company of one of the large analytics firms, I’m assuming they looked for traffic into shopping carts from social media.  Their question – is social media converting into sales – isn’t the right one.  How about “does social media influence sales?”  I’m willing to bet that a large percentage of what’s on Pinterest is aspirational – something the user wants or acknowledges as desirable.  Maybe it’s a place people use to research gifts for friends?   You will have a hard time convincing me, just based on what crosses my Twitter stream and Facebook news feeds, that people aren’t researching purchases via social media.

The Baynote data is a survey – let’s always remember that what people say and what they do sometimes don’t align.  That said, I think taking “catalogs” as a whole while segmenting digital into pieces (search vs. social vs online stores) is a bit misleading.  It also doesn’t reflect how users may begin with a search, move over to social to check out their connections’ thinking on what they’ve found, and then their use of the online store to buy, perhaps several days (and sessions) later.

Given the continuing and impressive growth of online shopping during the last holiday season I’m a believer in social as a influence.  People spend more of their lives online and that includes shopping.  Maybe these folks are asking the wrong questions.  I’m sure they’d have just as hard  time proving that TV or print resulted in the conversions they’re discussing yet very few people deny those media have an impact.  What do you think?

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Who Is Working For Whom?

Have you ever been in a clothing store where the customers were busy stitching together the goods?  Maybe there is a guy in the corner screening designs on to T-shirts or a grandmother doing embroidery on a scarf.  How about a restaurant where the customers cook the food (OK – I have been to one of those – many Korean places let you grill at the table but still…)?

I ask this because it’s something pretty common in the digital world.  After all, what would Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, and dozens of other sites be without the user-generated content that makes them worth a visit?  Sure, each of those sites provides the platform and the tools with which to interact, but if no one ever posted anything what would they be?

What’s triggering this are a couple of things.  First, the Instagram fracas I discussed yesterday.  Second, Twitter is deigning to let users download all of their tweets as if Twitter had anything at all to do with the content itself.  It got me thinking of all the crappy students who got paired up with smart kids in school and got an “A” because the smart kid did all the work and wouldn’t let the team fail.  The least one can do is to have an appreciation of and respect for the horse that got you here.  The platform is a “C” student – it’s along for the ride in most cases.  The importance of the content to those sending and receiving it doesn’t change based on the platform although the platform can help get it into a form that makes it more digestible.

When any of us who run businesses start minimizing the contributions our customers make to us, we’re in trouble.  In the case of many digital businesses, where the customers literally make the stuff on which the business depends, we should be thinking of as many ways to reward those folks and how to say “thank you” each and every day.  Screwing around with privacy or your data use policy or being obnoxious about using your customers as currency (even though we all know we’re being sold) is a sure way to blow up the business.  You with me?

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What’s The Most Valuable Social Network?

Like many of you I’ve been following the ups and downs of Facebook‘s recent IPO and the stock’s performance subsequently. I thought about it again this morning as I read a release from The Incyte Group (via Research Brief) that states consumers want deeper connections with brands – but open social networks are not where they want to build these connections.  Facebook is the biggest of the bunch and while marketers put over $3B on to Facebook’s revenue line last year, if you speak with many marketers the ROI on that spending is unimpressive.  The notion that sort of pops into my head about marketers searching for the best social network to reach consumers is that of a drunken sailor bouncing from bar to bar, spending a little cash along the way, looking to get lucky.  Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest to LinkedIn.  Turns out that’s not what holds the most promise when we’re talking about reaching them via social networks:

(Consumers) do not expect, or even want, these communities to be part of an existing social network like Facebook or LinkedIn. Instead, their preference is for customer communities that are:

  • Run separately from open social networks, but have strong linkages to them so they can easily share information with like-minded friends
  • Proactively managed by companies
  • Tightly integrated with the company’s website

So what, in my mind, is the most valuable social network?  Amazon.  Think about it – much of the time when I’m on Amazon I’m not  actually sticking things in a shopping cart.  I’m researching.  I’m reading reviews to discover new books or music.  I’m commenting in things I’ve bought or used that are for sale.  When you look at the research findings, Amazon meets all the criteria plus it closes the circle by offering products for sale.  It’s not an ad-supported model but their sales were over $12B.  For a quarter. Several times what Facebook or any other social network’s were.

Amazon is the most valuable social network for marketers because it is for consumers.  Now ask the next logical question:  what’s your strategy on Amazon and is it the best one when you think about it as social and not as commerce?  Do you agree with my thinking here?

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Fascinating piece in Business Week on some of the spam practices within social media.  While the focus is on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, it reminds all of us who create content sites that we need to be vigilant about protecting our sites and our users from these dirt bags.  The piece cites an executive from an anti-spam software company who stated that spammers create as many as 40 percent of the accounts on social media sites. About 8 percent of messages sent via social pages are spam, approximately twice the volume of six months ago.  Because the email providers have become pretty good about filtering out obvious spam, the spammer have moved on to social.

What they’re doing now is embedding code that forces a “like” into a link to a page with something such as a video as bait.  Likejacking.  On Twitter, it’s provocative text linking to spam; on Pinterest it’s a photo that links to a virus or other spam.  I don’t think many of us are engaged in doing this – it seems to be a few rotten apples, some of whom have been sued.  Or are we?

There is still a tendency for marketers to use social media as we used to use traditional media – we talk, they listen.  We broadcast messages and wait for the register to ring.  Today, doing that on a Facebook brand page or within a Twitter feed is a sure way to get blocked, unfriended, hidden, or ignored.  To a certain extent, any sort of one-sided discussion is seen as spam in many folks’ minds.

We spend too much time wondering if social is marketing or PR or customer service.  We might argue about which department ought to control it.  Those are good discussions to have but what we can’t be doing in the interim is flooding our fans’ news feeds with off-target messages about us when we ought to be listening and engaging where appropriate with them.    Otherwise, how are we different from the likejackers?


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Split Personalities

All of us who are active online face, from time to time, digital overload.  As individuals, we might be active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and a host of smaller or emerging social sites such as Pinterest.  It can be exhausting – remembering to check-in, write a review, etc.  Companies and brands face a similar situation which is magnified many times over.  The big difference is I only have to worry about one account per platform and I’m…well…me!  I don’t have to monitor anyone else posting on my behalf.  The issues of social media guidelines, who owns a brand online, and how an employee’s activity online reflects on the company for which they work are big issues.

All of these came to mind as I read a new study from The Altimeter Group the other day.  Let’s see what you think. Continue reading

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