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Social media: is it right for my business?

June 14, 2010GeorgeAll posts1

I’ve recently been mired in a lot of work and thoughts around Social, and how – and more importantly where – it should be applied for a business. Here’re my thoughts, compiled into one article. I draw on a number of articles from the likes of eConsultancy and others to compile the content. Hope you like it: any feedback welcome.

Social Media is now the #1 activity online (supplanting ‘adult movies’) according to speakers at the 2010 Internet World Expo. Whilst this is no doubt true, it’s not advisable to simply jump in without a loose strategy or planning to support it. Any interactions need to be relevant, engaging and timely – or users will get annoyed, and the result will end up overwhelmingly negative.


Shouting about a product that isn’t relevant to someone will result in failure. Ensure thought & research goes into approaching/following the right people – at the right time.


Twitter in particular allows for near-real time engagement with users Tweeting about certain issues. Making helpful comments or suggestions when the user needs them is a great way to start building a fanbase of relevant/interested people – helping the relevancy above.


As above – making sure that interjections and comments are made at the right time.

Brand relevancy.

Thought needs to go into whether SM is the right promotion method for a brand, taking into account:

  1. The type of product(s) sold/offered
    Some products or services are not naturally geared up to be sold/promoted/serviced by SM
  2. The demographic of their typical customer (AKA audience relevancy)
    If the target market does not read blogs, use Twitter or is active on Facebook – those are not the avenues to choose
  3. What’s the aim for using this channel?
    Is it to be a customer service channel? A device for pushing sales of products? Something to drive customer engagement? This needs to be defined early – and in conjunction with 1 & 2
  4. Resource
    Is there the resource/staff to manage social interactions online? Engaging in the social space is typically time-consuming and potentially difficult to measure ROI

Just because a tool is available doesn’t mean it is right for the situation. Hammering nails in with a saw instead of a hammer is inefficient, and will most likely result in failure: the same is true of promotion via social media. It’s worth noting that achieving cut-through in SM can be tricky.

Interested? Read on! (beware: it’s long…)

At a global level, brands can bring about huge influence using SM, and Twitter is just one channel therein – and for reference, the next pie chart shows a view of the brands that commanded the bulk of mentions in April 2010:

Twitter = 36%
YouTube = 21%
Facebook = 9%
Apple = 6%
Google = 5%
MySpace = 2%
Amazon = 2%
HP = 2%
Yahoo = 2%
Blackberry = 2%
Disney = 1%
Starbucks = 1%
MTV = 1%
eBay = 1%
BBC = 1%
Nokia = 1%
Sony = 1%
CNN = 1%
Nike = 1%
Microsoft = 1%

The point here is that even MASSIVE brands like Microsoft and the BBC got mere 1% mentions on Twitter in April 2010.

The Social Media checklist.

Given the intricacies of the social landscape, a good place to start is to use a high-level checklist:

  1. How does your business want to use Social Media:
    1. Sales channel?
    2. Customer service?
    3. Customer engagement/awareness?
    4. Other?
  2. Does your business supply products and services that naturally lend themselves to be promoted on Social Media?
    Some offerings are more suited to Social, such as retail or leisure activities
  3. Are those products or services ‘serviceable’ via Social Media?
    Do you have a dedicated resource that could be evolved to include answering queries via Social?
  4. Do your target audiences use Social Media?
    This is quite a key consideration, as all of the above are largely null if the answer is ‘no’

Social Media for CMOs.

Social Media for CMOs

Click to enlarge

Measuring success.

How could we measure SM success? Typical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like Time On Site, Bounce Rate and Unique Visitor numbers don’t always match up to the intricacies of social interaction, and it can be hard to measure success in SM – so here are some ‘soft’ metrics to consider using as KPIs (all of the following credited to eConsultancy’s Chris Lake):

  1. Alerts (register and response rates / by channel / CTR / post click activity)
  2. Bookmarks (onsite, offsite)
    • Uploads (add an item, e.g. articles, links, images, videos)
  5. Email subscriptions
  6. Fans (become a fan of something / someone)
    • Followers (follow something / someone)
  7. Favourites (add an item to a user’s ‘favourites’ section)
    • Wishlists (save an item to wishlist)
  8. Feedback (via the site)
  9. Groups (create / join / total number of groups / group activity)
  10. Install widget (on a blog page, Facebook, etc)
    • Widgets (number of new widgets users / embedded widgets)
  11. Invite / Refer (a friend)
    • Forward to a friend
  12. Key page activity (post-activity)
  13. Love / Like this (a simpler form of rating something)
  14. Messaging (onsite)
  15. Personalisation (pages, display, theme)
  16. Posts
  17. Profile (e.g. update avatar, bio, links, email, customisation, etc)
  18. Print page
  19. Ratings
  20. Registered users (new / total / active / dormant / churn)
  21. Reports of spam / abuse
  22. Reviews
  23. Sentiment (positive/negative/neutral)
  24. Settings
  25. Social media sharing / participation (activity on key social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc)
  26. Tagging (user-generated metadata)
  27. Testimonials
  28. Time spent on key pages
  29. Total contributors (and % active contributors)
  30. Views (videos, ads, rich images)

Rules of engagement.

(according to Brian Solis, author of Engage)

If you feel you can connect with people in the social sphere, the following is an outline of best practices to help you craft a practical set of rules to guide your company/representatives as they engage with people:

  1. Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network.
  2. Don’t just participate solely in your own domains (Facebook Fan Page, Twitter conversations related to your brand, etc.). Participate where your presence is advantageous and mandatory.
  3. Determine the identity, character, and personality of the brand and match it to the persona of the individuals representing it online (this has been covered earlier in the doc!)
  4. Establish a point of contact who is ultimately responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to all things that can affect brand perception.
  5. As in customer service, representatives require training to learn how to proactively and reactively respond across multiple scenarios. Don’t just put the person familiar with social networking in front of the brand.
  6. Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instill. Operate by a code of conduct.
  7. Observe the behavioral cultures within each network and adjust your outreach accordingly.
  8. Assess pain points, frustrations, and also those of contentment in order to establish meaningful connections.
  9. Become a true participant in each community you wish to activate. Move beyond marketing and sales.
  10. Don’t speak at audiences through canned messages. Introduce value, insight and direction with each engagement.
  11. Empower your representatives to offer rewards and resolutions in times of need.
  12. Don’t just listen and placate — act. Do something.
  13. Ensure that any external activities are supported by a comprehensive infrastructure to address situations and adapt to market conditions and demands.
  14. Learn from each engagement and provide a path within the company to adapt and improve products and services.
  15. Consistently create, contribute, and reinforce service and value.
  16. Earn connections through collaboration and empower advocacy.
  17. Don’t get lost in translation. Ensure your communication and intent is clear and that your involvement maps to objectives created for the social web.
  18. Establish and nurture beneficial relationships online and in the real world as long as doing so is important to your business.
  19. “Un-campaign” and create ongoing programs that keep you connected to day-to-day engagement.
  20. “Un-market” by becoming a resource to your communities.
  21. Give back, reciprocate, and recognize notable contributions from participants in your communities.

Rewarding participation.

Econsultancy’s “25 ways of encouraging & rewarding customer engagement”:

  1. User-specific offers: Well this is about as straightforward as it comes. Remember to keep it personal and relevant. Target individuals, not segments.
  2. Group buying / offers: If buying something is considered to be the pinnacle of engagement then encouraging group buying among friends (for cumulative discounts, etc) might be a good idea. Sites like Groupon ( are doing a tremendous job of revitalising group buying and it’s a trend that’s definitely here to stay.
  3. Free upgrades: Stop spending so much money on acquiring new customers: spend more money on making existing customers happy! Why not give shoppers the chance to upgrade products and services for free, either at the point of purchase or out of the blue?
  4. Extended features: Therapeutic Xbox games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II require you to perform well in order to progress. The better you perform, the quicker you unlock new features. Think about that… maybe you can create features that the highly engaged can open up?
  5. Mentions: Some people like to see their name in lights. Recognition can make people feel special.
  6. Exclusive / special events: People love the VIP treatment. Naked Wines hosts special tasting events for its ‘archangels’ and Marmite’s ‘Marmarati’ campaign is a good example of how to identify and reach out to hardcore fans of what can only be described as stinking black inedible paste!
  7. Better products, services, content: If you’re prepared to listen and learn then your customers will tell you what they love, hate, want and need. Arguably the best way to reward your caring customers is to finesse your products, services, content and websites to improve the overall customer experience. Tell customers that changes are based on their feedback and they’ll love you that little bit more.
  8. Product development: With the above in mind, why not form a panel of highly engaged customers to help steer product development? Focus groups can provide you with ideas that you may not have considered.
  9. Priority shipping: How about offering same day or next delivery for the same price as standard shipping (or free)? Delight customers with superfast delivery and perhaps they’ll shout about it, and purchase from you more often.
  10. Power ups: Last year Chris Lake devised a ‘kudos’ algorithm for measuring and rewarding engagement, and to learn from users. ‘Kudos’ helps spot and reward high levels of engagement. Not all interactions / customers are equal. The most active users can become the most influential, not by volume of interaction, but because their interactions are weighted and count for more than first time users.
  11. Prestige/Status/Badges: People like to stand out from the crowd. Power users should be recognised. Think about Wikipedia Editors. And as mentioned, Naked Wines calls its most active customers ‘archangels’. Econsultancy’s users are displayed in the comments area with various labels: ‘bronze’, ‘silver’, gold’, ‘platinum’ or ‘diamond’, depending on subscription status (bronze is free; diamond is the most bling…).
  12. A courtesy call: Sometimes these can be bothersome and are little more than an excuse to sell something, but a genuine ‘how are you getting on?’ call out of the blue (or at an opportune moment) can be well received.
  13. Print: Despite the well-documented woes of print-orientated publishers, we are strong believers in print. It can work extremely well as a content-based marketing tool. Econsultancy is on the verge of launching JUMP magazine, to support a multichannel marketing event by the same name (it takes place in London on 13 October: keep the date free if you’re as into the idea of multichannel business as we are). eConsultancy are using JUMP magazine to spread word while evangelising about multichannel marketing and joined-up business ops. It has primarily been created for a select audience… some of our most engaged users, and they’ll receive it first. Magazines, brochures and catalogues don’t need to be mailed to everybody.
  14. Remove ads: There could be an incentive to remove the ads from your content in exchange for some form of engagement, which could be as simple as a new registered user account. Data may be more worth more to you than low-rent CPM ads, and it provides a strong incentive to sign up.
  15. Private shopping: High street retailer Debenhams allowed its Twitter followers to book private shopping sessions, thereby using social media to drive customers into offline stores. Again, this kind of thing potentially has the wow factor if you get it right.
  16. Preferential terms: For your long-term customers it could be that you can provide compelling payment terms. This might be best suited to B2B companies.
  17. Add ons: Free insurance, or an extended warranty thrown in gratis, for example…
  18. Gold card: Send them some kind of discount / loyalty card. A gold card!
  19. Birthdays: Is it cheesy, spammy or weird to be wished a happy birthday from your broadband provider?
  20. Vouchers and coupons: Again, this amounts to a discount, but there are some creative ways of using coupons. These can be posted or printed, or if you’re riding the wave, delivered via mobile (surely a massive consumer trend in waiting). They should be personalised as much as possible.
  21. Exclusives: What do you do if you are a consumer electronics retailer and have a limited supply of the new iPad? I’d suggest that VIP customers skip the queue and are offered first dibs. This could extend to priority discounts, if you were feeling mighty generous (though you’d be mad to discount an iPad). It pays to play. The most engaged should be placed at the front of the queue, when you launch a sale. These people are the most likely to shout about your awesomeness.
  22. Follow them: Tune into the most influential via Twitter etc.
  23. Ad campaigns: Some are scathing about consumer-generated ads, but an ad featuring – or in some way crowdsourced from – your key customers cannot be any worse than 99% of TV advertising, which is largely expensive, annoying and devoid of any creative merit whatsoever. The quality bar is so low in advertisingland that Chris doesn’t see any problem with exploring this kind of thing. T-Mobile’s flashmob ads go viral before they’ve been created, so word of mouth could be excellent if you get it right (and use lots of people!).
  24. Product packaging: Innocent Drinks crowdsourced messages to put on the bottom of its smoothies. Hundreds of Twitter followers duly suggested a range of messages, and a half dozen were selected and are now found on the packaging. There’s something of the feelgood factor in this kind of thing, and it helps consumers and brands move closer to one another.
  25. Hire them: Some customers / users are so active, influential and into your brand that it might make sense to actually hire them…

Your social media profile.

Having decided that a brand and its products and values are aligned to social media’s potentiality, it’s time to think about the avenues available to promote it further (according to Adam Stafford, managing director at search agency Fresh Egg):

  • Increase linkability: add a blog, create white papers, aggregate content via
  • Make it easy: make tagging and bookmarking simple on your website
  • Reward inbound links: include permalinks, list recent linking blogs, promote linkers with a nofollow tag
  • Help content travel: PDFs, video files, podcasts, slideshows; articles
  • Encourage mash-ups: open your API; permit embeds; permit RSS
  • Add value: be a resource even if it doesn’t seem like it will help – provide freemium content
  • Reward helpfulness: notes of thanks, discounts, ‘badges’
  • Participation: create awareness, prolong buzz around your site
  • Know your audience: research, community mapping, targeting, metrics
  • Create content: videos, articles, widgets, images, slides
  • Don’t forget the roots: be humble
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things: stay fresh, reinvent the wheel daily
  • Develop an SMO strategy: define objectives, set goals, have a desired channel or channels, track reputation, find influence, create credibility, be a trailblazer

Useful tracking tools:

What are people saying?

Engaging and contributing usefully to people’s conversations is a good start. For example, a Twitter search on 24th May @ 13:02 for ‘rent london’ returned a slew of results – and of these 20 results, 3 are from individuals – 1 of which is offering an apartment for rent, leaving 2 out of 20 who are actively looking for a property in London. The takehome here is that this could mean a lot of sifting before getting to the real consumers…

Good examples.

In a nutshell: Zappos, Best Buy, Dell.

For example, the success metrics for Best Buy, who use Twitter as a self-styled standalone customer service channel (with proprietary and publicly available tools to measure):

  • Number of questions and answers
  • Ratio of questions to answers
  • Sentiment
  • % of participating employees to total employees
  • Quarterly survey measures effectiveness of ‘Twelpforce’ via a non-social channel (email)
  • Share of voice

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One Comment

  1. CoolshotJune 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Hey mate,

    Just wanted to say hi and see how you are, are you working at the moment?

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