Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Advantage of Social Analytics

What is social analytics? It is an analysis of the tweets, blogs and other postings on the social web, with a focus on a particular subject area. According to Jared Feldman, president of Mashwork, a leading social analytics firm, every second there are 4,630 tweets. Further, Tumblr has three times the traffic of The New York Times and CNN. The examples tell us the noise ratio is huge, and so is the number of subjects that people are conversing about.

"We derive actual meaning from the conversation and help clients make sense of it, " Feldman advised. "Now that stakeholders can talk back, monologue has changed to dialogue. We need to measure and curate that. We also can determine who is influencing the conversation, so communicators can reach such targets with their clients' messages. ... for example, for HBO, it's what people think about their show. For Gatorade, it's what teen athletes talk about."

This does not negate the importance of traditional research, where focus groups give you a private view on possibly sensitive topics or a questionnaire is filled out by 500 people in a designated age group or profession. No, social intelligence enables us to get a very public view of people speaking, unprompted, from the heart, about how they really feel on a range of subjects.

And everything is measurable. You can segment people by their emotions and attitudes, based on what they are saying. You can establish a baseline of context from which you can draw insights historically and in real-time (very useful in a crisis situation). For one client in a crisis, Mashwork tracked confusion, benchmarked it and then watched the confusion decrease over the next two weeks.

What you can track in social responds to and informs public relations issues, as noted below.

SOCIAL                      PR ISSUES
Sentiment       [        Perception
Trends            [        Top-of-Mind
Competitors    [        Context
Influencers      [        Reach
Personas         [        Segmentation

One of the most valuable things that social analytics can do is enable course correction. To achieve that with traditional tools with the same speed is impossible. While there are many traditional tools that get topline research results, few can go as deep as a social analytics firm with proprietary tools.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of social media varies from progressive in the consumer products area to more deliberate in the B2B sectors. So, how do you convince clients who are skeptical about the value of social media to use social analytics? Speak to them in their own language. Don't talk about the dashboard; talk about awareness. Make the key performance indicators look like what they are already comfortable with.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Is America Clueless?

Well, that is what New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni is suggesting, based on recent research: 

  • Roughly 40% of Americans are unaware that Obamacare is an actual law
  • 65% of us can't name a single Supreme Court justice
  • 30% can't name the vice president of the United States
  • 21% believe that a U.F.O. landed in Roswell, NM, and the federal government hushed it up
  • 14% believe in Bigfoot

Despite the fact that "many Americans would flunk the citizenship test that immigrants must pass, we mostly gloss over our ignorance or deny it," Bruni says.

Why is this happening?  This is tough, but here are my observations.

  • THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE.  On the one hand, the rise of the internet and the proliferation of new social media outlets provide powerful new opportunities for those in business, politics and special interest groups of all kinds to take their messages directly to the public.  (Of course, this also allows people with fringe interests to choose the media that confirm, rather than challenge, their fixed beliefs.)

On the other hand, almost all mainstream media comes from the same six sources — GE, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS — consolidated from 50 companies, back in 1983, to a tiny, powerful handful.  The Big Six account for 90% of what we read, watch or listen to!  [See this eye-opening-and somewhat scary-infographic for more details.]   Bottom line:  People may not be  getting the full story.

  • DWINDLING OF "MAINSTREAM" MEDIA.  Everyone is well aware of the precipitous cutbacks in the newspaper industry.  TIME magazine, the only remaining major print newsweekly, cut roughly 5% of its staff earlier this year.  In local TV, sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts, while story lengths shrink.  According to the Pew Research Center's Study of the Media 2013, "a growing list of media outlets are using technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporting necessary.  This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands."  It may also increase the boredom factor, and thus fewer people are paying attention to the news.

  • JUST PLAIN BAD REPORTING.  The Pew study also found that, in the last election campaign, reporters were "acting primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans."  Important news is often just glossed over today.  Is this the reason?  Or is the clueless public among those who are reading little to nothing at all?

  • SOFT NEWS VS. HARD NEWS.  I found an interesting paper published in 2010 that examined the phenomenon of "soft news," which the authors said was becoming an increasingly important ingredient of the information environment.  In a market-based system, like ours in the US, it's possible for consumers with limited political interest to bypass hard news altogether and become "specialists" in soft news.  So, while you're reading The New York Times from cover to cover (including the theater, TV and movie reviews), a soft news addict is watching "Entertainment Tonight," reading People magazine and following Kim Kardashian on Twitter.

What's the solution?  The only one I can think of is education in various forms aided by a reversal in some of the reporting issues cited above.

Late last year, the U.S. was ranked 17th in an assessment of the education systems of 50 countries, behind several Scandinavian and Asian nations, which claimed the top spots.  Finland and South Korea grabbed first and second places, while Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively.  The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), combines international test results and data such as literacy rates and graduation rates between 2006 and 2010.  Our rank is disappointing.

The alarm has been sounded.  Now let's figure out solutions that reverse this scary trend — and end our state of denial.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

What We Can Learn from the Social Side of Sports

I have always believed that listening to and watching what others are saying and doing often influences what I might say or do.  And the listening and watching may not always be among those in my ordinary milieu.  I try to be especially attentive and observant in areas in which I otherwise would not be:  on the subway, in the theatre, in foreign countries.   Even among other generations (like the ever-fascinating millennials).

So take this one step further.  Corporations generally research their customers and customer prospects.  And they often look at competitors.  But do they look at sports teams and their fans? 

The answer is more complicated than you might think.   According to sponsorship consulting firm IEG, sports is ranked number one among sponsorship opportunities in North America—with $13.8 billion projected to be spent in 2013 (up 6% over last year).  But beyond the obvious benefits to corporate sponsors, are there other lessons for us to learn from sports marketers about building awareness, support and brand loyalty among customers?

The answer is “yes!” 

I recently attended a seminar on social media that featured the heads of marketing and digital  from the New York Rangers (hockey) and the Brooklyn Nets (basketball).  Here are some relevant points that were made:

·         Michigan football fans can chat with each other as they watch the game itself. They also can connect to people of like ages, marital status, etc.  Might companies do that with their customers, thereby promoting conversations that may stimulate sales?

·         The NBA Game Locator allows fans to map their location against the locations and schedules of where the NBA is playing nearby. Business should have this one mastered.  For example,  Google Maps can do that for any customer who wishes to locate a company branch or other relevant location, or companies should have their upcoming events on their mobile version of their website.  70% of companies don’t even have a mobile site, according to a recent survey by Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report, produced in association with RedEye.

·         During the NHL lockout, the league reduced its Facebook postings from 5 to 2.  “We turned everything down until everything calmed down a little.  We needed to reengage with fans after the blackout.”  Following a crisis---sometimes corporations need to take a pause before rushing into doing something that may be regrettable. That said, the CEO generally needs to pick up the bar immediately and address all the stakeholders, whether the corrections are in process or not.

·         After the NHL lockout, the Rangers were asking themselves how to reach their angry, alienated fans who simply wanted their hockey back.  Once the lockout was over, users were offered coverage through Facebook.  They could select images to create for their own cover photos (“Here’s My Own Blue Shirt Pride!”).  Fans seemed to enjoy it.  They were excited that hockey was back!  Corporations can also manage their triumphs with the same sense of humor — involving their customers.

·         A team blog can be “private” — just for the team and the fans — with no sponsors.  Featuring raw footage and access to the players can bring the fans closer to the team.  Within regulatory constraints, the advent of the internet means that customers can be offered the opportunity to dialogue with a company’s leadership, thereby strengthening the relationship.

·         Increasingly, stadiums are getting wired.  Fans’ smartphones can connect to the Jumbotron, using a simple app, and the huge screen reflects the fans’ “likes.”  Recently there were a million likes.  Reviews are nothing new (e.g., Yelp and Amazon have been around for years and at the Consumer Electronics Show, attendees regularly vote for the winners of the People’s Voice Awards); but what if there were the equivalent of a jumbotron in every large venue in which their customers gather.

All of these ideas are designed to create value for the client, and all of them are employing social media as a tool which fascinates and captures fan and customer attention.  

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Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Higher Purpose

Public relations and capitalism have something in common.  Both rely on some of the same principles:  relationships, mutuality and community. 

Capitalism is grounded in value creation for all stakeholders.  If business becomes more conscious, it can do what it does even better.  It can create more community, stronger relationships, more mutuality and…more profit, by engaging everyone in the system, and thereby creating still more value for stakeholders. 

The above is the conclusion of part one of a three-part post by Sandra Duhé, on the Institute for Public Relations website.  Her article takes as its launching pad  the 2013 book, Conscious Capitalism, by Whole Foods Co-CEO John Mackey and Conscious Capitalism co-founder Raj Sisodia.

Duhé’s article suggests that it is public relations’ duty in “conscious capitalism” to help organizations find a higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership and conscious culture and management. 

I very much like the way an organization’s purpose is defined:  “the difference it is trying to make in the world.”  Driving an organization to lofty heights by inspiring them to celebrate who they are is enormously satisfying.  But it would also be wonderfully satisfying to know that public relations was the one discipline that truly is responsible for driving a company to establish a higher purpose.

Duhé considers “higher purpose” the factor that guides public relations practices with certainty.  She also states that operating at a higher level of purpose “renders decision-making that is strategic rather than tactical, positions practitioners to be managers rather than technicians, and enhances the professionalism and perceived value of the practice.”

Here are some examples of statements of higher purpose:

·         Disney:  To use our imaginations to bring happiness  to millions

·         Charles Schwab:  A relentless ally for the individual investor

·         Humane Society:  Celebrating animals, confronting  cruelty

·         3M:   Improving every company, every home, every life

·         Merck:  Improving health and well-being around the world      

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

News about Your Brand in a Mobile World

"Getting mobile right these days is more important than ever," said Chris Rippey, Google's Head of Industry, Investments Advertising at a Makovsky seminar.  "If companies do not get it right, there is a price to pay."

And according to a series of surveys, Rippey is not only right on target, but large numbers of companies are asleep at the wheel, passing up an enormous economic opportunity.

Mobile units are growing by leaps and bounds.  Rippey advises that mobile devices account for greater than 13% of web traffic and, in a year, mobile queries will rise significantly.   Globally, mobile devices will outnumber PCs next year, with PC sales experiencing their worst drop in history at -13.9% from '12 Q1 YY to'13.

Over 50 % of Americans now own a smartphone.  Within two years of their introduction, 40 million tablets have been sold, and the iPad has been Apple's fastest selling device.  TechCrunch reports that 50% of Facebook interactions are now from mobile.  Overall, tablets are growing much faster than the growth rate of smartphones.

Despite all of this, more than two-thirds of companies (70%) have yet to optimize their websites for mobile use, according to Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report, produced in association with RedEye, based on a survey of more than 700 client-side and agency digital marketers.

Because of the many companies "mobile-ly" behind the eight ball, Rippey cites these statistics regarding those using mobile units:

·         55% say a poor mobile experience hurts their opinion of a brand

·         79% will turn to a competitor's site after a bad mobile experience

·         52% said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company

So what to do about it? More companies need to pay attention and start optimizing their websites for mobile, and — when they do — make sure that the visitors' mobile experience is equal to that of their regular website.  Companies also should be monitoring the levels of traffic that arrive at sites from mobile devices, so they can determine a level-of-activity standard (e.g., 20%), at which conversion must take place.

An interesting example is eBay, where mobile now accounts for 10% of all UK sales and, globally, a product is sold via mobile every second on average, amounting to $5 billion in global mobile sales in 2011.  Rippey points out that 22% of financial consumer purchases were made through mobile in '12 and 38% of such purchases are forecast by 2015.

Mobile units are changing the world. They present a major opportunity … if companies take the time to study the landscape and properly optimize their sites, so they achieve the clarity and speed that every consumer wants.

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