Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Plan ahead for social media results

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Plan ahead for social media results

So how big has social media become? Check out these numbers.

• As of March 2012 Facebook had over 901 million users worldwide.
• As of February 2012 Twitter has over 500 million users worldwide.
• As of April 2012 Google + has over 170 million users worldwide.
• Out of the 6 billion people on the planet, 4.8 billion have a mobile phone and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. (Just threw that in there for fun)

To put it in perspective, Russia has a population of over 142 million (census 2010), Brazil has 190 million (census 2010), and the United States has of over 313 million.

The growth of social media has been unstoppable. How many times do you walk down the street or stroll through the airport and see people staring at their smartphones or iPads? More often than not, they are posting photos via Instagram to Facebook or glancing at their Twitter feeds to keep tabs on what’s going on. To be sure, these technologies are having at least some impact on the way we conduct business.

The cynic in me says that social media is just another diversion and a way to occupy time. But in reality, social media is having a significant impact on the business world:

• 56 percent of consumers say that they are more likely recommend a brand after becoming a fan
• 34 percent of marketers have generated leads using Twitter
• 30 percent of B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars each year on social media marketing

But simply arranging for your company to have a Twitter account or a Facebook page doesn’t cut it. Before jumping on the bandwagon companies need to ask themselves, “what are we trying to accomplish by leveraging social media tools?” Is it a lead generation tool or a customer service portal? Are the lines of communication within the company designed to troubleshoot customer problems immediately before they snowball into a PR nightmare? Does customer feedback get routed to the product development team? Does any of the information bubble up to the executive team?

If you don’t think these issues are real, go ahead and ask United Airlines how they felt about the “United Breaks Guitar” fiasco. Better yet, read this brief article titled “Why Social Media Means Customer Service can Make or Break your Brand” to get a better understanding of the impact that customer feedback can have. Better yet, work with a strategic communications firm to develop and implement a well thought out social media strategy instead of simply opening a Twitter account. Remember, just like the man said, “Question: When did Noah build the ark? Answer: Before the flood.”


Take me out to the ballgame – online

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Sometimes in life we are blessed with the coming together of two things that we love. Milk and cookies, chips and salsa, and…baseball and technology? Yes, that’s right. The intersection of sports and technology is actually quite huge. Whether it’s fantasy league owners needing the most updated statistics or the college football junkie who needs to know the point spread on the big game, people everywhere are jumping on the bandwagon.

Major League Baseball’s opening day has arrived and a quick look online shows that a number of teams have fully jumped into the merging world of high tech and sports. Check these out:

  • The Cleveland Indians, not exactly burdened with a long history of success, have added a social media section to the stadium.
  • Applications about everything in baseball are available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android and Blackberry.
  • The Oakland A’s, who have been in a political battle for over five years to get a new stadium on the edge of Silicon Valley in Fremont, have agreed to partner with networking giant Cisco. “Cisco’s networking equipment that will let fans use the latest available technology, so that they can do everything from upgrading tickets on cell phones to watching instant replays on handhelds.”
  • The entire March Madness – all 67 games of this year’s men’s NCAA basketball tournament – was broadcast live over the Internet in HD. Talk about ways to waste time at work. Thankfully, the boss button worked great.
  • And the best story, at least in my opinion, involves a creative idea. As reported on CNBC, a beer vendor who works at the Seattle Mariners games started a Twitter account so that he can take orders from fans in the stands. Simply send a message to @Msbeervendor with your seat number and your order and he’ll swing by. As 36 year old an entrepreneur/beer vendor and teacher (his day job) Kevin Zelko said, “Since the beginning of beer vendors, we’ve been walking up and down the aisles seeing who wants a beer, I’m going to try to change that.”

Follow @Msbeervendor to get your brews delivered at Mariners homegames

While there are many more examples of how professional sports teams and leagues have adopted technology, it’s important to ask yourself—why? Who cares if a baseball fanatic who can’t stop reading the box scores can get their hands on even more mundane statistics?

All cynicism aside (and believe me, I’ve heard all of the jokes about the pathetically slow pace of baseball), progressive companies are at the forefront of this seismic shift in how we view America’s pastime. Why do I consider these companies as progressive? It’s not about supporting the habits of statistical geeks, it’s really about improving the customer experience and securing customer loyalty—the Holy Grail of team owners. When a family of four has to shell out over $200 to enjoy a day at the park it’s in the team’s best interests to do everything possible to make the experience an enjoyable one. And if technology and social media can help, bring it on.

I remember growing up and heading to the ballpark with my grandfather and keeping the scorebook of the game. Found memories indeed. Now I get to take my kids to the ballpark and teach them how to keep score in a game on my iPad. Oh, how times have changed.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I guess David Bowie had it right so many years ago. Change, so the saying goes, is inevitable in life. We change jobs, change clothes, and change hair styles. To me, though, it seems that I rarely hear about people who talk about how their profession has changed.

I’ve been in PR for over 20 years with almost all of that time focusing on the high tech industry. I remember the days of faxing information, waiting anxiously for the weekly hardcopy of InformationWeek to see if my client’s news had been covered, and watching the rise, fall, and rise again of Apple—I was at MacWorld ’97 when Steve Jobs returned. Needless to say, it’s been quite a ride but far from boring.

In fact, that’s one of the things I like most about working in the world of high tech PR. To a large extent technology dictates how we perform our jobs. The rise of social media in the past few years has had a  dramatic impact on how our industry functions. Mashable just published an interesting article about how technology, mostly social media, has changed many of the fundamental tools of our trade including press releases and the way we connect with members of the press and other influentials.

But what do these changes mean to your agency brand? Is your agency one to embrace change just to please a client or do you work in an environment that craves new ideas? I’ve had the good fortune to work both in-house on the corporate side and for a few agencies and I can honestly say that the places where technology and new ideas were adopted were the best places to be. Some people are resistant to change and sometimes waiting for the dust to settle is right move. But with it comes the risk getting marginalized and left behind.

The ability to learn, grow and develop is one of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning. What about you? What hooked you and keeps you in the PR world?

Customer References in the Age of Social Media

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I’ve always been a big believer in the KISS principle —keep it simple, stupid. In the high tech world it seems like things just keep getting more and more complicated. Sure, new products are launched to make our lives easier but why does it feel like my life is getting more cluttered?

That thought came to mind when I was speaking with a former colleague about customer reference programs. In my experience customer reference programs are a big help in fueling PR activities including interviews with editors, briefings with analysts, speaking engagements and customer roundtables. But so often I run into customer program managers who over-engineer their plans.

In this case, simplicity is the way to go. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of consultant, author and loyalty expert Fred Reichheld, the creator of the Net Promoter Score. His books, The Loyalty Effect, Loyalty Rules! and
The Ultimate Question all use one simple question when engaging customers: How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?

Managing customer programs takes skill and guile since you must balance customer needs and time-restraints against the needs of your company to promote itself. For PR pros, it’s very important to have access to happy customers – those who definitely will recommend your company –  to serve as references for the press. For one thing, some journalists won’t accept vendor-hype at face value, insisting that there must be some relatively unbiased third-party to support the vendor’s claims.

But the question we’re facing today is…how has the rapid growth of social media impacted customer reference programs? In addition to traditional media activities, PR pros now have the complexity of working customers into social media programs.  Needless to say, this is not a simple endeavor, but the viral value of a positive customer mention in Twitter feed or blog posting could be considerable.  Building a community is tough, getting your customers to willingly spend valuable business hours contributing to these sites — on your behalf – is even tougher.

While this adds yet one more thing to the to-do list, there are some simple (remember KISS) things you can do to engage with customer on social media. For instance, you can set up a Twitter feed and make sure you follow all your customers on Twitter. Similarly, set up a Facebook presence and engage with customers. Or if you have a blog, invite the customer to provide a guest blog, or maybe you could post on your customer’s blog. The great thing about social media is not only is the customer carrying the message directly to potential prospects, you’re also deepening a relationship that couple be useful when the Wall Street Journal calls asking for a reference.

Customers references are so critical to growing a company.  What are some ways have you tried to get your customers actively engaged in online customer communities?

Are you still a-flutter about Twitter?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Now that Twitter has gone more or less full circle — from a great idea to an overhyped phenomenon to another social media tool — the current debate centers around what will ultimately become of Twitter.

On one hand, we have people who see Twitter as a flash in the pan. The spammers and multi-level marketing trolls will take over the service, so the argument goes, as regular folks deem it’s just not all that interesting knowing what someone you barely know ate for breakfast.  And it’s the rare celebrity who tweets themselves: most are the product of publicists. Where’s the fun in that? No thanks, the masses will conclude and give up Twitter as not worth the time or effort. Ultimately, Twitter as a company will fail or get sucked into say Microsoft and that will be that.  Biz Stone will go off and make a business of selling rocks.

In the opposing camps, pundits like the NY Times David Carr are convinced that Twitter is here to stay. One emerging view is that Twitter is like plumbing – an essential component that makes the Internet what it is. Plumbing is something that will be around the long haul. Of particular value this group says is the immediacy of Twitter and the ability to quickly take the pulse on a range of topic.

It’s the rare company these days that lacks some sort of presence on Twitter. Most have their own Twitter feeds and some are even worth following.  For the most part, many companies presence on Twitter seems to be a defensive move to keep competitors from getting a leg up.  There have been some wins. As was widely reported – and tweeted – last year, Dell said it got some $6.5 million in sales just from Twitter, and without a well-defined strategy.  That’s some serious payback.

While Twitter does have some social connection capabilities, the social experience on Twitter is unsatisfying at best. Facebook has proven to be a far more effective as a way to rekindle old friendships or forge new ones online. Similarly, I’ve found that Web 1.0 style forums are more effective than Twitter for getting answers to such daunting questions as why does my Microsoft Outlook keep getting stuck or should I get surgery on my broken wrist.  (I did).  Forums don’t arbitrarily limit message length and have much better organization and richer content.

The drawback to Twitter as a social relationship building tool is its core strength – the 140 character limit.  Because of that defining characteristic, I think Twitter’s most important value is as an open, easily accessible, and fully customizable live 24 x 7 streaming headline service. Digg, for instance, provides something similar, but in a much more regimented and structured fashion. Plus, the fact that Digg votes are controlled behind the scenes in some sort of bizarre popularity contest is a real turn-off. The upcoming overhaul could change things and help Digg to be more Twitter-like.

Taken in the context of streaming headlines, there simply isn’t something like Twitter elsewhere on the Web with a comparable level of following and infrastructure. One of the great strengths of Twitter is all the many tools and resources that let you figure out how best to tap into the vast flow of Twitter information.  For instance, my favorite HootSuite lets me build out columns based on search terms and hashtags so I can quickly find pointers to video, stories and blog posts I might find interesting or useful. It has largely replaced the need for RSS, which is just a bit too much work for most people.

As noted VC Bill Gurley explains in the video clip below, Twitter allows anyone to create their own distribution and following. If you’ve got some good content, write a compelling blog post, tweet about it and before long you’ve got a pulpit.  That alone makes Twitter a good thing, and I am personally rooting for Biz Stone & co. to hang in there.

Follow me @BrianBuzz and let me know what you think.

When Does Brand Reputation Get Tarnished?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I’m not embarrassed to say that my wife and I seek out our children to help with installing new electronic devices. On the flip side, they both find it quite odd to hear me say “I didn’t have a PC/cell phone/digital camera when I was your age”. Our society has become so technology focused it’s a wonder we can even walk to the corner market and buy something without using technology – oh wait, they’ll scan my preferred club card and I will pay with my debit card – guess that example doesn’t work.

There are many great technologies available today that help our world. Whether it’s a new medical device to help regulate diabetes, e-mail so that I can stay in touch with my son’s teacher, or a photo-sharing Web site that allows me to post old photos with high school friends, technology seemingly has invaded all aspects of our life. But now it’s even crept into the holidays.

I’m a big fan of social media. I’ve reconnected with many old friends and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter. But now I think we may have gone too far by shattering the innocence of little kids around Christmas time. For years people have been able to track Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve thanks to our friends at NORAD. Well, now you can also link in and stalk Santa via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Earth and Flickr. But this one takes the cake.

A partnership with navigation company OnStar and NORAD allows subscribers to get live Santa updates on their in-car GPS system. So I can grab my kids, put them in the car, and drive around as we track Santa’s whereabouts. I wonder if Mrs. Claus tracks him throughout the rest of the year, not that Santa Claus has ever been accused of being unfaithful but it makes you wonder that he can slip into so many houses unnoticed.

So what’s the point of this little missive? When does a company’s brand get tarnished by going overboard? More social/political, when do you reconsider your feelings for a company when something goes wrong? Do you think any less of OnStar for this blatant abuse of holiday traditions? Will you stay away from Nike or Gillette due to Tiger Woods’ recent bumper car fiasco? On a much grander scale, would you shy away from purchasing a product or doing business with a company in a foreign country that you do not support? Building brand reputation takes a lot of time and effort but can all of that goodwill be thrown out the door with one simple misstep?

Dinosaurs Didn't Adapt, But You Should

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Say what you want about social media, but I firmly believe that it’s here to stay and it’s changing the way the world works. And it’s not even social media. Why bother waiting for the morning newspaper to learn about world events or national politics when I can go onto of (always fair and balanced) and find out everything I need to know whenever I want? What kind of an impact is social media having on our conventional news outlets? Try these on for size…

Question: What do the following have in common?

  • Tucson Citizen
  • Rocky Mountain News
  • Baltimore Examiner
  • Cincinnati Post
  • Albuquerque Tribune

Answer: They are all daily newspapers that have closed since 2007.

Question: What do the following have in common?

  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • Detroit News/Detroit Free Press
  • Christian Science Monitor
  • Ann Arbor News

Answer: They are print dailies that have adopted hybrid online/print or online-only models.

I’m sure there are other major metro daily papers teetering on the brink, but as sad as that may be, what does it say about the changing landscape of the media? The bigger question I have is…could we be approaching a world where everyone gets their news online or on TV in real-time?

While I read many publications, both online and in actual print, the thought of losing my local newspaper does cause me concern. More habit than anything else, part of my morning ritual is to read the paper while I’m having breakfast. I know many people spend a good part of the Sunday mornings reading their local paper or doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. But to be honest I mostly skim the headlines since I’ve almost always gotten my news the day before online. In our 24 hour news cycle world, our insatiable appetite to be “in the know” means having all the news updated in real-time.

So while the potential death of local newspapers is truly a concern, the good news is that the online news world and social media continue to dominate our daily lives. You want proof? Check these out:

  • The rise of Twitter has been the talk of the tech and media world. Last year, it grew 422%. That’s staggering, but nothing compared to the 1,382% growth it experienced earlier this year. (Mashable)
  • More than 8 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide) and there are more than 45 million status updates each day.
  • Did LinkedIn more than double its U.S. visitors in October? A casual glance at the latest comScore data makes it look that way, with LinkedIn shooting up to 20 million unique visitors in October, 2009, from 9 million in September, 2009. (TechCrunch)

The moral of this story? Take hold of the future while not forgetting the past. Print isn’t dead yet, it’s just got a nasty case of the flu.

So what do you think? Is social media a passing fad that will simply fade out over time or is it here to stay?

Mobilizing the Troops

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Being in the high tech industry has given me a front row seat to the launch of many new products and technologies. My knowledge of the rapid adoption of social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, has largely been focused on the tech industry. High tech companies and the people who work for them are usually early adopters of new forms of technology since they’re more comfortable with trying new things or adopting new ways of doing business. Yet for the masses out there who are not part of the high tech world, I wonder how social media tools are being adopted by the non-tech crowd? For instance, is Joe the Plumber using Twitter to find new customers? A central question is if and how people in all walks of life and industries will use these new forms of technology to strengthen their personal and business brand.

Since I work with a vendor that is in the enterprise content management space, I frequently read Ron Miller’s blog at Fierce Content Management. His October 28 posting, “White House continues to get value from social networking”, caught my eye. It focused on how the Obama administration used social media tools, in this case Facebook, to call on loyal supporters to reach out to congress about a healthcare issue. On October 21st, the President posted a request on his Facebook page for 100,000 calls to Congress on this issue. By the end of the day the number of callers surpassed 315,000! Has there ever been a time in history where so much action can be achieved in merely a few hours?

One of the areas that helped get President Obama elected was his team’s sophisticated use of social media tools. Now that he’s in office his team continues to demonstrate how powerful social media can be. I respect their use of these tools and I hold them in higher regard since they’re willing to change the way things are done.

Those of us in the high tech world should take notice. Using these types of tools can address a specific issue, like what the President did with the healthcare request, or customer feedback on a new product. Beyond the immediate feedback, however, is a larger golden nugget to shoot for— brand development.

I’m more inclined to work with a company that adopts new forms of technology to make my life easier. For instance, I continue to buy products from Dell because I see the company using social media tools to improve customer service. I hold a higher view of companies that are actively using social media tools because it tells me they understand the value of engaging with customers, becoming more transparent, and taking action rather than dragging their feet. That helps to strengthen their brand.

As a consumer do you hold a company in higher regard if they use social media tools? Or let’s look at another way. Put yourself in mainstream America, do you care if your mechanic/plumber/babysitter/hair stylist/grocer friends you on Facebook or follows your Tweets? What about in the business world? Would you be more inclined to work for or with a company if they actively used social media tools?

Ping blog