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What to Look for When Evaluating a Social Media Management Platform

8 Jun

So you need a social media platform to help you with your day to day marketing tasks that cover everything from publishing to customer service to reporting, sound familiar? So how do you cut through the marketing noise and find a tool that will actually give you what you need? It’s easier said than done but fortunately I am here to help you demystify some of that. 

I have worked as a sales engineer selling these platforms to brands of all sizes for over 8 years now and still come across social media management platforms that I have never even heard of. So how do you begin your evaluation?

There are literally tons of choices and all of them are awesome. Seriously, look at their websites and marketing materials, every one of them lists a bunch of big name customers and appears to the greatest platform on the planet to handle all of your marketing needs. Detecting sarcasm yet? 

A Googling we will go.

You will find yourself at some point Googling “Social Media Platforms” or “Social Media Tools” and you will see a litany of ads and results like “23 Tools for Marketers” or “The Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know”. Spend enough time searching and you will find review sites, analyst reports, webinars, product guides and even some dated demos.

Let me save you some time check out the following:

www.TrustRadius.com

www.G2Crowd.com

www.Glassdoor.com

You’re probably asking, why Glassdoor? Isn’t that a job review site? It is, but you are buying a platform that needs constant development and there is no better place to get some insight into how things are going with the product development team. There’s gold in those reviews and you just have to look for it. If you see reviews describing product teams as a disorganized mess then there’s a good chance you are going to see some major issues with future development or lack thereof.

Social Media Tools

Let us not forget the analysts, Gartner and Forrester Research. Gartner provides a report called the “Magic Quadrant” while Forrester provides “The Wave”, fancy huh? Both of these reports evaluate social platforms based on criteria in which they select and determine to be relevant and “where the industry is going”. Basically, they send vendors a questionnaire and if they like your responses you’re invited participate to demo your product against a handful of use cases they select.

Review these analyst reports but take them with a grain of salt. Gartner and Forrester both provide paid consulting for some of the vendors that make this list and magically those companies seem to score the highest, go figure.

There are more things for you to consider when reviewing these platforms but this should give you a good start as to where to start looking.  I will be covering much more very soon to help you dive into the details and identify things that you want to look for. If you have questions or thoughts be sure to share them in the comments below!

 

By – Adam Lazzara

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Are Publishing Tools Harming Facebooks Edgerank or is it Smoke & Mirrors?

5 Sep

Edgerank

Often I am asked that if by using a 3rd party publishing tool to schedule and publish posts to Facebook will it decrease the overall reach of the published post? Some users are saying that they have data that suggests that they get better reach and engagement by publishing directly from the Facebook platform and that the edgerank (Facebooks newsfeed algorithm for displaying content) is harmed if using an outside tool.  In other words, is Facebook punishing me for using something other than Facebook for publishing my posts? 

Lets dive into what the magical Facebook “edgerank” means to you.  

When we speak of edgerank we are really referring to the newsfeed algorithm that Facebook uses in determining what content appears in their users news feeds. Your news feed is prime real estate for brands wishing to share their message with you and the newsfeed algorithm is what determines what content makes it to your feed. The key takeaway here is that this algorithm helps determine what you are most likely to find useful and relevant specifically to you. If this algorithm didn’t exist then your news feed would consist of nothing but marketing noise from all those pages you haphazardly liked.

There are three factors that play into how edgerank is determined but first lets identify what is considered an “edge”.

Every status update, like, share, comment, tagging of a post, uploading an image and basically any type of content or interaction is considered an “edge”.  Facebook looks at all of these edges in a users news feed and uses the algorithm to determine which edges are the most important to you. 

This newsfeed algorithm uses a combination of three magical items in determining what content is of utmost importance to you.  

  1. Affinity – The score between the viewing user and edge creator, in other words the relationship between you and the creator of a piece of content.
  2. Edge Weight – The types of edges have varying weights to them or importance. For instance all photos, videos and links seem to garner the most engagement and therefore carry a greater weight in determining an edgerank score. Simply put these published items are more likely to be interacted when compared to a basic status update.  Edge weight also seems to have a snowball effect, meaning that as a post grows in comments, likes and shares it becomes more weighted and more likely to appear higher in the news feed.
  3. Time Decay  – Time decay factor is based on how long ago the edge was created. Basically, something newer is more likely to appear in a newsfeed then something older.

Something to remember is that while we do our best to analyze and identify the governing factors regarding this newsfeed algorithm the simple fact is that this is proprietary to Facebook and they really keep all of this behind the curtain. Facebook can choose to push something higher in a users newsfeeds for no other reason then them wanting to do so.  I warned you that this stuff was magical.

Smoke and Mirrors

So on to the question at hand, are the posts you make via a 3rd party publishing tool being punished by Facebook? The answer is, well, magical as well.

 These publishing tools are designed to help streamline publishing efforts within your organization across a multitude of social networks. Many of these tools allow you to creating engaging fan content such as custom tab design and contests, allow for better scheduling and publishing of updates, uploading content in bulk, repurposing older content and even measuring your social analytics beyond what the network offers you natively.

Looking at the following scenario you are using a publishing tool to schedule and publish status updates to your Facebook page(s) about a special event that you are having in roughly a months time. Thankfully you have purchased a tool that allows you to easily create a post and schedule it to go out on every Friday at 2pm leading up to your big event. 

Week 1 – You find that your post is successful you have great fan engagement and your post reach is very high.

Week 2 – You have some engagement but not nearly as much reach as the previous week. 

Week 3 – The results are pathetic you have no engagement or reach from your post. This causes you to take to Facebook and create another post about your event and like magic, your reach is better then what you received from weeks two and three combined. You immediately call your vendor and exclaim that the tool sucks and Facebook penalizes posts from it.

Week 4 – You forget you have this one scheduled and it goes out further diminishing how the newsfeed algorithm sees posts from this particular 3rd party tool.

So What Gives?

The edgerank algorithm over time saw your posts becoming less engaging to fans so it learned that when it sees a post that has been published via (insert any 3rd party publisher) to your Facebook page it figures that the content isn’t going to be very engaging to fans so it shows it to a lesser audience. Reach is diminished.

This is just one of many scenarios that could be effecting how Facebook is seeing your posts. We are quick to blame the technology when something goes awry but often it is the short cuts that technology affords us that causes us to be careless and lazy with our content.

 Features such as scheduling content in bulk, publishing to many pages and networks at once and repurposing old posts are all features that can be helpful when utilized properly but harmful if your not taking the time to craft your messages appropriately.  

 The moral of the story, technology tools allow you to move quickly and be more efficient with your social marketing efforts but you might just shoot yourself in the foot if your not careful. Create original, genuine and helpful content for your fans to engage with each and every time. Learn how to use these tools effectively and do not just look for the shortcuts that some may provide within their feature set. It may take you a bit longer to plan your content but the benefits will far outweigh the negatives in the long run. 

By – Adam Lazzara

Social Media Technology Acquisitions – Superpowers Unite

6 Jun Social Media Acquisition

Social Media Acquisition

The companies available for acquisition in the social CRM space just got a whole bunch smaller.

Corporate giants Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle are building a monster. Acquiring social media management systems Virtue, Buddy Media, and Context Optional these companies are poised to make a move to dominate the social marketing, listening and CRM space. With these recent acquisitions the space has been officially validated and now the real showdown begins. How quickly these giants can move to provide a simplified and effective social media tool for enterprise level brands to deploy across their organizations will be paramount to their success.

What do these tools do?

Enterprise level tools enable brands to create custom content, publish to social channels, provide moderation and allow for the measurement of performance from these social properties. Some of that custom content that is created can be anything from building contests to designing custom Facebook tabs and applications. In fact it’s these custom pieces that help drive fan engagement, which is what brands crave and easily creating them is key. Creating custom content that fans can interact with is what enables data capture, which is the holy grail of marketing.

The marriage of CRM and social marketing begins

Publishing, analytics and creation are necessary to have but the money is in the data, hence the common theme with all the acquisitions. These big CRM companies are trying to create the one stop social media nucleolus tool for enterprise brands. By doing so they will empower brands to not only publish content but also to create a CRM of social fan data that ties and tracks a specific fan to any actions they engage with on any of the brands social profiles. Knowing who your fans are and how that fan is engaging with you will allow the ability to better target your fan demographic through ads and other digital marketing mediums.

True enterprise level products are being built and a leader will emerge if usability and simplicity don’t come as an afterthought of the tools design. Many of these platforms are very complex in nature requiring advanced CSS skills to create many of the web app designs that drive the engagement and capture data.  The people who are using these tools on a daily basis need something that allows them to create content and publish that content quickly, this doesn’t look as “simplistic” as some of these platforms try to bill themselves as, does it?

Where do we go from here?

If the past several months are any indicator about what is about going to go down in the social media technology space we are in for one hell of a showdown between some major powerhouse companies.  It’s going to be the first company that can take a Steve Jobs like vision of simplicity and elegance and apply that experience to their platform. That company will lead this race and my bet is that its not going to come from any of these corporate giants listed above but instead from a company that can be nimble and move quickly with the nature of the industry to deliver an experience that is fluid, elegant and powerful to suit their needs.  

By – Adam Lazzara

The Upside to the New Timeline Changes to Facebook Pages

20 Apr

April 1st 2012 was the day the entire landscape of how Facebook pages were presented to fans changed.  Several months prior personal profile pages switched to what is called a timeline view allowing users to create milestones or life events for things such as engagements, weddings and even those little additions to the family.  Many speculated for some time that this change was coming to business pages but what they didn’t see coming was Facebook removing the ability to send a potential new fan to a default landing tab that often prompted the user to click the “like” button to access some sort of exclusive content. Such a small sacrifice for huge benefits.

We can now build and engage a true and genuine fan base

How many likes could you get was the name of the game but seemingly nobody paid attention to the type of fan that was clicking “like”. Let’s go old school for a moment, you wouldn’t send a piece of mail that was meant for athletes to folks over the age of 60 would you? Yet, brands grabbed as many likes as they could regardless of the demographic resulting with lots of fans but no engagement.

To further this think of this example:

Congrats you just got a new fan but that new fan just happens to be my mom and you happen to be an outdoor sporting goods company. Trust me when I tell you that this is not the demographic you are looking for, she never has nor ever will buy any sort of sporting good item but she found your fan page and clicked “like” because you said if she did she might win an iPad.

You may not realize it yet but Facebook has done us all the favor of eliminating the gimmicky landing tab used to gain fans. The type of fan you are looking for is an honest and genuine fan that is using or could potentially be using your product or service.

Deepen the Facebook experience for our fans with technology

Timeline allows you to turn your fans experience on your page from something that was very one dimensional and narrow to an engaging multifaceted experience. To pull it all together it is going to take bit of technology, a proper communication strategy and some paid Facebook ads.

Now that the size of “web apps” (formally known as tabs) moved from the narrow canvas of 520 to the extended canvas of 810, brands can now truly develop a micro site for fans to interact with that will function very much like a regular website.

Social media management systems (SMMS) can provide the technology to make this an easy experience for your social media teams. Gone are the painstaking days of needing a development team to custom code pages by hand. These SMMS technology platforms will now allow a brand manager to create engaging content easily through a drag and drop experience to quickly publish content to their Facebook pages.  By creating web apps for fans to interact with they will be able to capture valuable information on the type of fan that is engaging with their page. Capturing such data will allow them to create specific fan segments for them to re-market to later.

Have a proper communication strategy

Facebook has now created a “link to this tab” URL for us to use to direct fans to this custom content.

Utilizing this URL in your communication strategy across all of your social channels and not just Facebook will be key in driving people to that custom content you have created. Proper communication will play a much larger role now in getting fans and potential fans to these pieces of content for them to engage in.

Capture fan data and use it effectively with technology

Some social media management systems will allow you to collect and retain data on your fans through social CRM. Brands will now be able to organize fans and create “segments” based upon the specific data that is collected.  Data collection can be gathered through building web apps and having fans engage with them.

Example of a custom sign up web app:

Looking at a simple example of using data like this, picture an automobile dealership that sold both Toyota and Honda cars and they used a social media management system that allowed them to create a web app asking their fans what kind of car they preferred, Honda or Toyota.

By collecting this data, the dealership would now be able to create a fan segment that separated the Honda drivers from the Toyota drivers complete with all of their contact information. Having this segmented data they can now remarket to these fans via Facebook ads and even through specific web apps that cater specifically to each segment. It would make sense to display Honda related content to the Honda fans wouldn’t it?

Embrace change

Facebook continues to evolve and it made a natural progression with timeline for business pages and gave brand managers even more tools for building and developing relationships with fans and potential customers.  Collectively we have moved far beyond simply getting a “Like” from a fan and have moved into a world of data, engagement and customer service through social media.

By – Adam Lazzara

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Social Media Tools an Expense or an Investment?

9 May

Social Media Technology

It’s an expense when you don’t know what you’re doing and it’s an investment when you know the right way to do it.

There are plenty of social media management tools that are out there with more coming out on a daily basis. With each of these tools comes particular features, let’s look at three classifications for social media tools.

1)      Publishing Platforms – These are tools that allow you to easily publish to across multiple social networks.  These tools are widely popular for individuals as they have a very robust and free feature set that enhances the core features of Twitter. A couple of good examples: Hootsuite www.Hootsuite.com and Tweetdeck www.TweetDeck.com  (recently acquired by Twitter)

2)      Listening Tools – Platforms that allow your organization to set up alerts for when particular keywords that are important to you and your company are mentioned across the web. These are the tools that will scan not only social networks but community forums along with websites and blogs alerting you each time your company is mentioned or specific keywords of interest are mentioned.  An example of a listening platform would be Radian6 www.Radian6.com   Listening platforms are paid solutions.

3)      Social media management systems (SMMS) – These platforms allow for you to create, manage and measure your social media presence for your company brand.  SMMS is all about execution, giving brand managers and social marketers the ability to create socially engaging content for their fans to interact with and share across their respective networks. Companies like Shoutlet www.Shoutlet,  Vitrue www.Vitrue.com  and Context Optional www.ContextOptional.com (recently acquired by efficient frontier) are great examples of SMMS, these are paid solutions.

Major brands are using platforms to do everything from managing their entire social media team’s internal workflow process to building out custom landing pages and contests on Facebook.  Each platform has its own set of unique features and benefits.  Some are designed specifically for Facebook while others allow you to create content across all social networks and even back to your website. Platforms range in a yearly licensing price from 40k to six figures plus so it is important you have a good grasp on the core functionality of each platform before you dive in. In addition to their distinct features comes usability, how advanced must one be to effectively use the given platform. All are billed as being simplistic yet some require advanced knowledge of CSS to style any work done within the platform. Be sure you’re comfortable with the ease of use with each.

What are these tools really doing for me?

These tools should be purchased based around your social media goals and strategy; they are going to allow for you to take your social media presence to the next level. Does your company do weekly giveaways or use other methods to draw and engage fans? Consider utilizing a platform that allows you to easily create a contest to run where fans can simply enter their required information, enter, and share that they have just entered your contest across their social networks. Traditionally you have been driving people to a specific page on your website and asking them to enter there. Once they enter, you tell them thanks and have a nice day. You are missing an opportunity for that fan to share with his or her network that they have just entered a contest with your brand. After all you do want your brand or company seen by as many people don’t you?  With the right social media management platform, you can do this quite easily.

This is the part where the light bulb above your head should go off…

This is just one example on how using the correct social media tools can help you market and build your brand socially. Be sure you do the proper due diligence in evaluating these technology platforms and make certain they work WITH your goals and what you are looking to achieve.  Make this purchase an investment in your company and not an expense.

Follow Me: @AtlantaSnoop

Networking? Get @Rapportive it’s a no Brainer

11 Apr

It’s easy to make your Gmail account so much more powerful. These days people are connected and I mean really connected. At a minimum people are plugged into Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. So why not discover immediately where those people you have been emailing are actually connected? With a handy little add-on for Gmail called Rapportive you now can.

rapportive

Here’s the scoop, you know those wonderful ads that “scan” your email for relevant keywords so they can display “relevant” ads to the right of every single email that you open? Rapportive replaces those ads with information about the contact that you have been emailing. It displays information such as recent tweets, Facebook profiles and a big one for me, Linkedin. According to Rapportive that is just the tip of the iceberg. They seem to incorporate a slew of other networks that somebody may be plugged into as well. Myspace, YouTube, Flickr the list of social networks that it will track is pretty robust.

The super cool thing here is that in addition to being able to see where people are connected you can actually add these people to your network directly. Want to connect on Linkedin? With the click of a button directly from your email your Linkedin request has been sent. Want to friend your email contact on Facebook, click, DONE.

If you are doing business networking these days Rapportive is an essential tool for you to utilize. It is such an incredible timesaver at finding out the things that you are scouring Google for anyway.  Kudos, Rapportive, its official, I love you.

Check out www.Rapportive.com, the installation is super easy and it’s going to make connecting with people so much easier for you, trust me.

Chillin in Amazons Cloud, it’s Pretty Here…

31 Mar

Amazon CloudPlayer

So I have spent some time in the new Amazon Cloud and I can honestly say its pretty awesome.  Say what? Let me explain:

If you went to Amazon.com recently you may have noticed a message positioned directly in front of your face regarding the launch of their new music player called “Amazon Cloud Player”.  What this does is allow you to store your music files on the Amazon servers so that you can access them from whatever computer or mobile device that you choose to log into them from.  Example A: That new Jay Z album you downloaded to your computer is great until you drop your computer down the stairs, completely destroying it. If you had saved that Jay Z album in the cloud, you would be able to get onto another computer and access it from there. As for your computer, you’re gonna need a new one… Ya follow me?

Cloud Computing

 

What is important from a usability standpoint is that its super easy to use, which is always important if you are going to get adoption from the masses. Not everyone can pretend to be as tech savvy as yours truly 😉

The scoop: You get 5GB of free storage for your music, the only download you need to do is the one that helps you upload and download the tracks into your Cloud. Amazon will automatically search for music in your folders and prompt you to upload to those to the cloud. Depending on your Internet connection and how many songs your uploading this could take some time so be prepared to do something else in the meantime. Some of you may have the idea that this will replace itunes, nope, you cannot sync your ipod from the Amazon Cloud, sorry.

The cloud player can downloaded from the Amazon app store, this is going to allow you to take your music on the go if you are using an Android, Blackberry or Palm smart phone.  Download the app, log into your cloud, and bam you have everything that you have just uploaded at your disposal for your listening pleasure.

Oh and for you iPhone fanboys, if your using an iPhone, well like the commercial says, “if you don’t have an iPhone you don’t have an iPhone”. It’s good to have an Android because there is no iPhone support at this time.

Have you tried out Amazon’s cloud player yet? What are your impressions?

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