Tag Archives: Social Media

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

How Does Your Company Handle Change in Social Media?

11 May

Cross Roads of Social Media

The concept of social media remains the same; leverage your networks to introduce content that creates engagement and encourages sharing of that content. It’s a basic premise but often gets complicated due to the changes that happen in this fast paced and ever changing landscape of social media.

How does your company handle and react to change?

At the crossroads where business and social media intersect, change happens fast. Technology changes, social networks change and new platforms emerge that all change how fans interact with their favorite brands online.

How quickly a company can adapt and integrate these changes are paramount to their long-term social media marketing success. Companies both large and small who are actively engaging in social media must find a way keep pace with this change curve.  

As companies navigate these social media waters industry leaders emerge but it’s often the companies who can quickly adapt and integrate with new changes that allow them to stay nimble and keep pace with change.

Here are some examples of change:

Established and existing platforms will change.

Facebook recently made changes to the entire way businesses present themselves and how they interact with their fans via the new timeline functionality.  

New and emerging platforms emerge, quickly. 

Platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are such a huge success that companies must now incorporate new ideas using these platforms into their current social media strategy.

The technology you use change

As social networks change so do the technology vendors that empower you to get the most out of all your social channels.  These social media management systems often have to quickly adapt to these changes and implement new and innovative ways for brands to utilize these system and leverage these social media networks to their advantage.

Its human nature to become comfortable in a routine and any change that gets introduced immediately is viewed as a negative. Instead of viewing these as a negative, learn and try to understand what these new changes bring to the table. By embracing change, your company can adapt quickly and learn to use any changes to your advantage. 

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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Gamification in Social Media – What is it and why do we LOVE it?

31 Aug

Gamification Social Media Atlanta

Gamification is the concept that you can apply the basic elements that make games fun and engaging to things that typically aren’t considered a game. 

The hot social buzzword of the week is much more then just a temporary fad to make so called social media “experts” sound more eloquent in their efforts to baffle you with their “expertise” they are trying to sell you.

Gamification is not a new concept; most of you are familiar with gamification in the social media world from using the location based check in service Foursquare. Why did we start checking into places and sharing our whereabouts with the world? Why did we abandon privacy to let potential evildoers know that we were not at home? Well, that’s easy; it’s all about getting new badges! Those things are so freaking cool!

Of course getting a new badge is cool but now you need to become the mayor of your favorite places by checking in to them more then anyone else.  In no time you discover that somebody else wants to become the mayor of your favorite coffee shop and now the battle is on, day after day, check in after check in all for the prestigious title of Mayor. The winner? The coffee shop, you have just been there 72 consecutive days buying a cup of coffee and telling all your friends where their coffee shop is…

Ever hear of GetGlue? It allows you to “check in” to things such as TV shows, movies, music, and books as well as allowing you to see what other GetGlue users are doing in real time. With each check-in a user earn points and wins stickers from GetGlue and other major brands that they have partnered with such as HBO. This is all for the love of being rewarded with a sticker, despite the fact that the entire system relies on the honor system seeing that GetGlue has no way of truly verifying what you are watching on TV. Oh yea, as of April 2011 over 1 million people are using this thing.

Gamification has been around a long time and now it’s crashing through social media. Human nature dictates that people naturally want to one up each other, whether it’s on the playground in a basketball game of HORSE or it’s building the better farm in Farmville. People naturally want to progress through something and receive a reward for doing so.  

MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) such of World of Warcraft have players earning all kinds of in game rewards while leveling their character to the maximum allotted level as soon as they can get it done. With a subscriber base of 11 million users, it’s a right of passage for these hard-core gamers to achieve the max they can bring their in game character to and trust me people work very hard at achieving this. It is not uncommon for a player to put in 40 hours a week towards leveling their character. To them it’s much more then a game, it’s an alternative universe and they can dominate there.

Xbox and PS3 now reward gamers with trophies and achievements so players can track their progress and compare how they stack up against fellow gamers. Again, people take this to the extreme to best the other player.

Gamification has been around but its now pushing its way into your social universe.

Social media allows us to share so much more then ever before. We can check in, earn rewards and essentially bait our friends into doing the same thing. Creating engaging items for people to interact with and beat out another user plays into the hands competitive human nature.

We want to win, we want to be the best and while that may not be possible in our day to day real world lives and jobs a virtual world exists and in this world our virtual identity can be a level 70 Undead Rogue or the Foursquare Mayor of all your local favorite places earning you all the respect from the online community that you are active in.

It’s this competition that is reinventing business, marketing and our day to day lives so look for many new ways that major brands will be trying to incorporate gamification into their brand and image. If they get it right, it could be a big game changer for certain brands out there. 

Do You Have a Proper Social Messaging Strategy?

29 Jun

Social Media Communications

The conversation is always about the super cool technology that allows us to do some amazing things in the social media world but all too often we forget to talk about  the appropriate messaging to our fans and followers. You can have the most amazing social media presence but without the proper communications strategy your technology investment will quickly turn itself into an expense.

Let’s look at some of the channels for communication:

Facebook

With the Facebook Edgerank system (Facebook Edgerank and What it Means) it is important to have your fans actively engage with the content that you post.  There is a fine line you have to walk with messaging to your Facebook fans and there is no “one size fits all” type of communication strategy.  But do know this, if you become a trusted advisor to your fans the sales will come. Becoming a trusted advisor is all about becoming a resource for your fan base and that is created with good quality content that others will find valuable.  It is important not to spam your Facebook fans at the risk of turning them off, my preference is for two good quality Facebook updates per day.

Blog

Many people ask why? Some even say that their business doesn’t need it. I say your missing an opportunity to share with potential customers why you are the expert in your field. Every business can have a blog and use it to their advantage. Selling concrete? Blog about the different types of concrete, share with people information about what makes concrete different. Be informative, after all someone out there is looking for information about concrete and this is your chance to stand out and share your expertise with those people.  

Twitter

Harnessed properly it can be very advantageous for your brand. Before you even begin sending tweets search for mentions about your business. Search for mentions about your competition or keywords that are relevant to your industry. Doing so might allow you opportunities to jump into a conversation and provide value. Re-tweet other interesting tweets and share informative content such as blog posts and news articles that you think your followers will find valuable. Reply to people who ask questions about things that are related to your industry or area of expertise but whatever you do don’t jump into a conversation and try selling someone. You want to be a trusted advisor to people and not some used car salesmen, they will appreciate your valuable insight and chances are they will follow your brand.

Proper social messaging is key if you are going to truly harness the power of social media. Remember, even if you have the best social media technology platform to help you the one thing it cannot control is your message, only you can do that. 

How Are You Looking at Social Media ROI?

25 Apr

Social Media Return on Investment

Social media return on investment, it’s like a mythical flying dragon that is rarely seen yet heard of often.  The townspeople all gather round and tell tales of the elusive ROI, how it’s measured and if it even really does exist.

Social media return on investment (ROI) is a hot topic, now and for the foreseeable future. There is much debate currently on effectively measuring social media and if there really is any sort of actual return. It is surprising to some degree the amount of people that are trying to figure out what their return is by placing a value on the number of fans and followers one has. Confusion surrounds the value of a tweet, re-tweets, shares, likes, fans and followers. What is the true worth of all of these particular social media actions and how do we appropriately measure the value of them?

Everything starts with the right audience; if you are speaking to the wrong people then you simply will not see any return on your investment, bottom line.  To look at things simply, let us consider two companies that sell high-end fishing equipment that are both competing to reach the same audience. Each company has 100 Facebook fans, however, they cultivated their following in much different ways. Fishing company “A” has 80% of their following as avid fishing fans while fishing company “B” poorly targeted and cultivated their audience with a gimmicky giveaway to gain fans and for that only has 20% of their following as avid fishermen. You can see here that the true value of these fans will differ greatly despite the similarity in the number of fans. Appropriately targeting your audience in the cultivation stage of your social following will have a great impact on any ROI you are looking to measure in social media.

Now on to appropriately identify your goals. If you do not set a particular goal at the start of initiating a social media campaign you will have no idea what you need to be looking at to measure your results. 

Please note that social media ROI is going to differ depending on who your are and what you are looking to achieve so please don’t think that there is simply one way to measure and attain ROI on your social endeavors.  Brands have different goals when it comes to social media, some are trying to cultivate a fan base while others are looking to increase sales, gain leads, or simply use it as a method to communicate with their customers. Either way the measure of ROI will be different for each.

Identifying these aspects will help you understand what you need to be looking at when it comes to measurement. If I am simply looking to get fans to subscribe to my mailing list, how easy am I making it for my current fans to subscribe? There are a lot of ways to go about doing this but the measure of success is simply going to be how many people did I add to my mailing list.

Considering other factors, did you spend the past 40 hours of the work week messaging to your fan base to “check out this link to sign up” only to result in 50 people actually signing up? Probably not the best social ROI considering the time and effort you put into gaining those new subscribers. It is time to switch some things up in how you are getting people to sign up for your mailing list and increase that social ROI, which is your time and effort, at least for this campaign.

Social media is a journey and not a destination, measuring return on investment will have you looking at and breaking down many individual parts of your social goals. The journey is long folks, here’s hoping you all find that mythical creature that is social media ROI.  

Follow Me: @AtlantaSnoop

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