• Welcome to kevinkent.ie

    This site contains various posts, links, ideas and articles by Kevin Kent.

Facebook is not dying but your Facebook strategy may be

The demise of Facebook is a regular topic (most recently due to a report on teen usage see here and a counter argument here and some alternative stats here), yet it continues to grow with 1.3b Global users and more than 2.3m Irish users.

To continue to deliver growth and increases in user activity and satisfaction, Facebook is, and will continue to change and evolve and as marketers we have to be alert to the changes happening with Facebook and what that means for us.

In a lot of cases I believe Page and Community Managers are still adopting an old view of how they manage their pages (post it and assume it will be seen/get likes/comments…).

Just as SEO and Google have evolved from been just about meta tags and descriptions, Facebook is no longer about pumping out content and hoping for likes, comments and shares.

In my opinion factors that Community Managers need to be aware of are:

  1. Reach: There is an assumption out there that once you post your content to your Facebook page, it will be seen by all those who like your page. Wrong. Facebook said itself that your reach is probably about 16% and a number of December reports and articles are showing that your reach is declining. Releasing more content is not the solution, it comes back to the challenge of driving engagement. If you don’t have it, you won’t have reach!
  2. Pay the piper:  How do you drive up your reach? Relevant and interest content that will engage your followers is an answer but Facebook also suggests that you invest in advertising to drive visibility of your posts. There is a backlash against this from some commentators and I tend to disagree. Think about it this way. You have a platform (Facebook) to host your Page and community, the potential to reach an audience of 2.3m Irish users/1.3b Globally, free analytics and engagement tools and you expect all of that for free? Facebook, like most companies, needs to make money and they have to balance the needs of their users and brands. Therefore you are going to need to pay to play (or at least to play well). You will also need to advertise your posts and page to stand out from the crowd, even to your existing friends, which leads me to my next point. You pay to advertise your website and drive traffic there!
  3. Clutter: Think about the amount of content in an average person’s news feed (average Facebook user has more than 160 friends and likes multiple pages). Now some pages and friends will post a lot of content, others might not post at all. On top of this you have ads appearing in their News Feed, it is crowded and we have a skimming and browsing culture. You need to stand out and you need to differentiate yourself.  Easier said than done but this is at the crux of my point. If you are adopting the same approach to Facebook, that you did 12 months ago or even 12 weeks ago, you will be falling back and missing out. The internal resource that is running your Page or the agency that you are paying to run your page will not be delivering a return for you.
  4. Types of content: An old one but really you have to have a variety – text, image and video. With the introduction of video into Instagram and the integration of Facebook and Instagram, you need to mix it up. Video is a large factor driving growth for digital and should be in your armour.

So what do you do?

The above are factors which will continue to surround Facebook as it continues to be a mass-social media player. No doubt there will also be more. The challenge is that as marketers we need to manage our channels, rather than let our channels manage us.

What do I mean?

If you don’t manage how you use Facebook, then you are letting Facebook manage you so you can’t complain when your stats fall off a cliff. Marketing is hard and you have to work at it, so you will have to work on your content and your social strategy.

You can continue to churn out content and support this with a little ad spend and yes, I believe you will address the decline but I think you are adopting a single view on Facebook – your view. That strategy is all about you. As you well know, your marketing and communications strategy has to be about your audience.

What do you need to do? In my view, you need to start considering that your Facebook page is a destination and a destination that your audience will want to visit.

A Destination

In the same way that you built a website (may be you haven’t built one of these???) and thought about what content and sections you should have there, you need to view your Facebook page in the same way.

Your News Feed is a single promotion channel to get people to your page and engage with you. It is a channel that needs investment, in terms of resources, time and budget. You also have numerous other ways to get traffic to the Page (from your press ads, emails etc) and organic traffic will be key, especially as they have decided that they want to visit the page. Once you get this traffic, you need to ensure they are coming back, again and again, just like your website.

Why would currents friends or potential friends want to visit that page? What is there to pull them back there again and again…and again. This is the challenge for you.

Posting 3-5 times a week or monitoring posts 9am-5pm Mon-Fri is not a strategy or an approach, these are merely just elements of what you have.

Your Facebook page must offer a benefit and be of value, otherwise you need to either dramatically increase your Facebook budget or settle to only reaching 2.5-3% of your Friends.

So, my suggestion. Spend more time thinking about changes to your Facebook page rather than criticising Facebook’s changes.

Is Google Putting a Gun to Brands Heads with Changes to G+?

Judging by the nature and content of a number of reports and commentary which I have read recently – Google+ is becoming a little bit Marmite (you either love it or you hate it). Maybe it is due to the fact that G+ is nearly one year old that people have now decided to come down on one side or the other.

For me, I shared my initial early two cents on Google+ previously and I think the fog is clearing for me with G+.

There is a lot to like about G+ (the new iPhone app, Hang Outs, sharing features) however I think Google is forcing it too much and is missing the core problem.

I think everyone knows how much Google wants to be active in social but with some recent moves I think it has now gone too far and it is putting a gun to the heads of brands and companies by saying get involved or we will hit you where it hurts and where we have power – search! It needs this to drive engagement rather than just drive more users.

Let me explain.

In short – Google+ has a large user base however they are largely (unless Google proves otherwise) inactive and now Google after publically declaring social is a priority (the words of Google CEO Larry Page), is telling brands, use G+ regularly or risk dropping down our search rankings! As a user I think it has benefits but as a marketer, I am annoyed and may just repurpose content to G+ to maintain search listings rather than drive engagement.

And in long…

It’s a Voyage

The growth of a social network should be organic and viral – a voyage of discovery for new members. You can expand beyond your offline social network and meet new contacts online (if you wish).

Google built up a huge hype about G+ leading to huge demand for initial invites. What happened then was all these people got invites, logged in but didn’t know what G+ was about. Was it a destination for B2B professionals (like LinkedIn) or was it was place for personal sharing (like Facebook). People were unsure, the network had not been defined yet so users posted once or twice (if even) and then sat back to wait and see.

The network needs to be defined by the habitants, not the creator. Remember it was users who created the RT standard for Twitter – not Jack & Co.  Users define you, not the other way.

Rushed

I do think Google rushed G+, particular when you look at their iPhone app. The original version was poor which is surprising given that Eric Schmidt openly talked about “Think Mobile First” being the Google approach to all new development. Also look at the success Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have enjoyed due to mobile sharing and engagement. Google missed a trick which was only truly fixed in the last month.

Lessons Not Learned

Google had learned a lot of lesions about social from other social experiments with Buzz & Wave. Like myself, other commentators expected Google to start integrating G+ with its other portfolio of tools (gmail etc).  However for me I don’t believe Google has applied the lessons it has learned. It is still trying to force social too much (it gave every gmail user a Buzz account without much explanation about Buzz).  It is integrating G+ with its tools to drive its user numbers when the core problem is usage (the same problem Buzz had). Fix the problem first, then scale.

The Loaded Gun

Last week, Google started displaying enhanced listings for  G+ Brand Pages next to searches for brands (see more here). This would appear to still be in beta so the quest to understand it continues (as you will see in the comments on that post).

However I believe that this is Google putting a loaded gun to the heads of brands. It is saying if you don’t have an active, regularly updated G+ page (they want fresh content every 24 hours), you will miss out on this prime search position. It is a big call from Google as currently it looks as if it is willing to sacrifice PPC revenue from brands bidding on their terms (the G+ page pop up would seem to push any right hand side ads downwards). This comes on from the recent updates to Google’s search algorithm which also rewards increased social activity and the launch of Search Plus Your World.

To me it would appear that Google is hoping brands and companies go to G+ and by placing 24 hour windows on their activity, they will need to invest more time and resources there (potentially at the expense of other networks).  Is the Google bet – get brands on board and user engagement will follow???

There is no arguing that the users are on G+, the issue is that users are not posting or engaging.  This post claims G+ is a ghost town and I would share similar concerns. Google could clear this up by sharing usage stats similar to the style of Facebook but it hasn’t (or won’t).

For brands to invest in G+, they will need to know expected ROI and will want to understand engagement and interaction rates. Google claims all published data is inaccurate as it excludes private activity and sharing, fine, so tell us the real story! For now the only reward brands can be hopeful of with G+ brand pages is protection of their search rankings. 

The Future

I think Google has upped its bet on G+ and it is now close to going “all in”. If G+ was to fail, it would leave more egg on faces that other attempts.

Reports suggest Google is losing market share to Bing, maybe the team have taken their eye off the ball and should stick to the knitting for now. Cost per click is also down and maybe time would be better invested on search and in expanding mobile search (expected to account for 1 in 4 dollars in 2012) then another attempt at social.

Their latest moves may see more brands heading to G+ but unless user engagement increases, brands could treat the social network as a tool to be updated (similar to their website) rather than nurtured and developed (similar to other social networks).

 

Two cents worth on Google+

When Google+ launched at the end of June, there was huge amount of hype about the latest attempt at social from Google. Over the first 3 – 4  weeks, it was all very positive with various statements about it being a Facebook and/or Twitter killer. Towards the end of July and into August, attitudes seemed to change with concern about the large number of accounts being dormant and unused (apparently only 13% of the 25m accounts are active in any way and a lot only have a few posts). Rather than jump in with an early verdict on the network, I have taken time to get used to it before making any judgements.

This is a slightly long post but it is broken down between my perception of the Postives, Negatives and the Future for Google+.

Positives

  • Kick in the rear for other networks: Some networks had been inactive with regards to innovation recently and G+ will hopefully provide them with the incentive to develop new tools and functionality. In the last two weeks we have seen LinkedIn and Foursquare improve their mobile apps and Twitter is introducing some new functionality including better image management and viewing in your stream. The word is also that Facebook is working on new tools, some of which were announced on Tuesday night. Hopefully there is more to come from everyone.
  • Combine the best of others: Google obviously has taken its time to roll out this network allowing it to learn from other networks. The use of circles is similar to Twitter Lists. Sparks is a mix of following trends or hashtags and Google Alerts.
  • Variety of content formats in your feed: – within your feed you can see images, text, animated gifs, videos, and comments along with “+1s”. Similar to Facebook in this way, it allows for viewing more content without clicking.
  • Ease of set up and starting: Set-up is straight forward and it is easy to integrate your email account to find contacts. There is a negative side to this (more below).
  • Better reading experience than Twitter: As the volume of content types is wider than Twitter, this means you see more before you click.  You can see the first lines of an article along with some comments from other “Plusers”. Again, less wasted clicks to articles of content that are not of interest, which happens a lot with Twitter. Clicks with Twitter come from great headlines, while with G+ you need to have a good headline and killer first paragraph. The poster has to work harder but the clicks are probably of more value.

Negatives

  • Mobile experience: The G+ iPhone app is poor for a lot of reasons. Some commentators are going easy on Google for this, claiming it is still in beta. However given how much they can learn from other apps and their mobile knowledge, the bar is set higher for G+. The inability to share posts you like with your followers is a basic functionality which cannot be achieved with the app. For a social network app, this has to be a large #FAIL!
  • Inactive accounts and incomplete profiles: At the start, Google+ was invite only, however rapidly it became very easy to get an invite. Those with the ability to send invites did so freely and generally those who received one, registered, added contacts from their email accounts to their circles and did no more. Hence the large number of inactive accounts and accounts which have no profiles, pictures or biogs. Potentially overtime as people come back, we will see an increase in participation. 
  • Management via third parties such as TweetDeck, HootSuite: It is regularly shown that the number of people who tweet via Twitter.com is low and most users manage their accounts via 3rd party tools such as TweetDeck and HootSuite (hence the acquistions of Tweetie and TweetDeck by Twitter). These tools allow management of multiple accounts and posting to multiple networks. Currently, to the best of my knowledge, you can only post to G+ via plus.google.com or their app
  • Content topics: While the variety of topics has been growing recently, there is still a lot of chatter about G+ on G+ and other tech topics. This would reflect the tech bias of the active accounts
  • Location: – When posting on G+, you can post with details of your location. However when I have tried this from the App and from a desktop, it has always been inaccurate – out by kilometres rather than meters.
  • Scrolling: Slightly in contradiction to some of the positives, since G+ displays part of each post and sometimes some of the comments, the length of posts can be long. This has a direct inpact on the amount of scrolling users need to do, if they have a large number of posts that they are not interested in.

The future

  • It will take time: If we work on the common assumption that G+ has 25m users but only 13% of these are active, that is still over 3m active users in two months. Think about how long it took Twitter and Facebook to reach this level of active users.
  • Integration: Google has generally not been shy sharing its tools with others (think Android) or integrating its tools across its own portfolio so expect to see more integration overtime. 
  • Yes, it is another social network to manage: We will see which of the current range of networks last and whether some of these burn brightly but fade quickly, which leads me onto my next point.
  • A killer?: A lot of the early chatter was whether G+ would kill some of the other social networks, mainly Twitter and Facebook, but will this happen?
    • Facebook – From a personal point of view, I use Facebook for personal content and LinkedIn and Twitter for professional content. Google+ Circles may allow the combination of both, but early adaptors could set the trend and direction for G+. At the moment, based on my own estimation, 95% of content is professional so this may continue. Like Facebook, G+ allows for multiple content types to be shared and this has attracted brands. On Facebook, Fan pages are growing at a greater rate than personal pages which could have an impact on the direction of Facebook content too. Facebook is protective of its users, requiring all friend requests to be confirmed, whereas G+ works on a similar set up to Twitter, where you can generally follow a user without requiring of any permission. Finally with 750m users and approx. 1 in 4 of US advertising dollars, G+ has a long way to go and only a brave man/woman would write Facebook off.
    • Twitter: If I had to choose between Facebook and Twitter, which one would be put to the sword by G+, I would say Twitter. The main reason is the lack of innovation recently by Twitter and their inability to find revenue streams. Other issues for me are that G+ allows me to quickly review a large volume of content and by reviewing either the opening section of a post or the comments I can decide if the post is worth more of my time. However with Twitter, I only have the headline to make this decision and this leads to clicks which I wish I had not made. A great headline, doesn’t make for a great post. In the defence of Twitter, sharing is more widespread and easier on the network, than currently it is on G+.
    • RSS readers: This is one area that I think could be killed off (finally) by G+. With the combinations of circles and longer posts, it could spell the end of Google Reader if the number of bloggers and publishers increase.
  • Search: With the value that brands place on search results, the integration of G+ posts with search, could direct more traffic and users to G+, especially once they roll out their brand pages.
  • Brand pages: Google has promised to roll out brand pages shortly and in the mean time is banning users from setting up pages as brands. While some people have found ways around this, generally Google has been shutting them down. If Google can crack brand pages for G+, brands and advertising spend will follow.
  • Roll out of advertising and impact on the UI: Currently G+ is ad free and it can be expected that Google will introduce advertising to the network. Based on how Google has introduced advertising to their search engine and Gmail, expect it to be well thought out and very targeted, which will appeal to brands. The UI on G+ has been praised and the challenge will be for Google to keep it aesthetically pleasing for users but impactful for brands.

Tips

Some tips to share from recent experience

  • Read in private, post in public:  While using G+’s circle feature makes categorisation of those you follow easier and also the topics of posts, by only posting to your circles, it means that anyone who wishes to follow you cannot see your posts as they are protected. Therefore, if you want to grow your influence and followers, mark your posts public.
  • Complete your profile, add a biog, profile and picture: Google+ is a new social network and with that comes the ability to discover new people to follow and interact with. If you want to be discovered, ensure you complete your biog and profiles as others you are not doing your best to sell yourself.

And that is my slight long two cents on Google+.

Are your fans on one knee for you?

Images

For someone to go from liking you to being engaged with you involves a lot. A survey last week said that men spend €28,000 on gifts and entertainment from the time they meet a woman until they get engaged. That is a lot of money and then there is time and a huge amount of charm involved too (naturally they are worth it!).

When you meet someone who likes you, you don’t assume you will be engaged straight away and that is the same with social media. While getting someone to like or follow you is a great step, getting them to engage with you is the ultimate goal and the true metric of success.

Research from Buddy Media says that 85% of people never visit the walls of brand pages once they like them. This means that they only see you in their news feed. Now think about a person’s news feed.

According to Facebook the average user has 130 friends (which equals a lot of posts, status updates, pictures, videos comments…). Facebook also reports that people are sending 15m friend requests each day but there are 50m “likes” given each day to brand pages. Again, think through the volume of traffic that people are seeing on their news feeds – people are liking a greater multiple of brands than friends. Between updates and posts from friends and fan pages that is a lot of traffic on each person’s news feeds.

Facebook uses an algorithm to determine which posts a user sees on their wall when they log in. Posts are not automatically defaulted to show the most recent and an element of the algorithm is based on popularlity and interaction – those with the most interaction have a better chance of appearing at the top of feeds. To get your fans engaged with your page will involve content. As you plan the process of charming your followers you need to have a content plan that breaks down the walls between you and them. The content you post is what they will engage with and hopefully over time, they will start to post their own content.

This plan should not be solely linked to your product or services but needs to have a wider outlook.

You can use tools such as Competitions, Coupons and Facebook Questions to keep fans interacting with you and to reward their support. Depending on your budget you can take this on and develop a Facebook Application for your page which can help to make your page go viral.

So as you outline your content plan there are some simple questions to ask yourself:

  • Who do I want to reach (target audience)
  • What are they are interested in – can we look to explore content that is relevant to our audience but not directly linked to our product
  • Can my partners or suppliers provide content that will help to bring my product to life?
  • Do I have any imagery or video that provides fans with an insight for my brand – fans love non-text content, it is hugely engaging and can help to bring your product to life for your fans

Write down the answers to these questions and you can start to map your content plan for your social media activity.

Best of luck.

Your Mobile Social Media Monitoring Solution

If you like to stay up to date on your activity across various Social Networks but want these in one location rather than getting pings from each individual service, then this app could be for you. Equally if you are managing multiple social media accounts for clients and don’t spend a lot of time desk based or need to stay tuned in outside of office hours, then this could work for you too.

As part of my role I manage social media activity on behalf of clients and I like to stay up to date on my own activity. From a clients’ perspective response times are key. I have tried various tools to help me solve this and up until recently I have been using various techniques, including logging on every few hours. With activity spread across multiple channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Flickr etc.) I wanted a centralised update system. I recently read about Boxcar – an app for the iPhone/iPad/iTouch with a Mac desktop version – and gave it a whirl and so far so good.

The tool allows you to receive notifications for multiple accounts and works across Twitter, Facebook, Google buzz, Foursquare to name a few.

One of the main items I was looking for was notifications from Facebook pages. Boxcar has an option to receive alerts when you get emails and so using a work around involving filters in Gmail and email notifications from HyperAlerts I now have this. As you can add multiples of each item in Boxcar I have separate email notifications for each page I manage. 

There is also RSS integration meaning if you are monitoring other content or blogs this can be integrated.

The level of personalisation allows you choose certain items you wish to be notified on or not. For example with Twitter integration you can have it for all timeline posts, mentions, DMs, new followers etc or just for mentions and DMs. 

The app uses badges to allow you keep track of any outstanding notifications that you haven’t reviewed from the desktop of your iPhone. 

Set up is seconds and the ease at which you can add, remove and modify services means it is the ideal mobile social media monitoring tool. 

Boxcar has a built in App recommendation tool which to date has served no purpose but I presume it is there to earn revenue for the developers.

There may be other similar services out there and there may be better ones (would love to hear about them) but Boxcar definitely ticks a lot of boxes.

Various screen grabs of the app included:

Will 2010 be the year of consolidation for Social Networks?

Just passing a bit of time reading reviews of 2009 and predictions for
2010 and I wonder if, after the massive growth for social networks in
2009, will we see consolidation of social networks in 2010?

Throughout 2009 there seemed to be a continuous stream of new social
networks and expansion of existing social networks tools and
capabilities. It is difficult to imagine that all the networks will
all be able to survive over the coming months and years. Even with
aggregators and auto-posting facilities enabling people to manage
multiple networks, will people want to maintain a presence on so many
sites.

This is not necessarily a prediction but a thought – will people start to:

1. Select a social network of choice – one which they use for all
personal and professional purposes and post all content (text, audio,
video)

or

2. Select one network per requirement – Facebook for Personal use,
LinkedIn or Twitter for Professional Use, Posterous for Blogging?

Will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next 12 months.