Very Official Blog Social Media Integration Means Business Tue, 23 Nov 2010 21:26:53 +0000 en hourly 1 Social Media Ethics: Competitor Relationships Should also be Disclosed Tue, 23 Nov 2010 03:06:53 +0000 Shannon Paul Social Media Ethics: Competitor Relationships Should also be Disclosed is a post from: Very Official Blog


The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and the FTC agree: material relationships should be disclosed when posting comments, tweets, status updates and the like. I understand this may not be news to many. However, I still see many people overlooking disclosure when it comes to posting negative comments or spreading negative news about competitors — especially on Twitter.

So much has been discussed about ethical disclosure in promotion in the last year since the updated FTC guidelines were announced, but we haven’t heard nearly the amount of noise over competitor demotion even though the rule certainly governs each.

The Social Media Group published an overview for companies on compliance with the FTC guidelines:

  • Disclose whenever you have a relationship with an advertiser, brand or company. This has specific implications for employees. You must make a disclosure if you work for Acme Widgets and you mention your employer, competitors, or the widgets industry in a blog post, tweet or elsewhere online.
  • You must also disclose the name of your employer if you are commenting on a forum thread or in a group about Acme Widgets, the widget industry or about a competitor.

This all seems pretty clear to me.

Material Relationships Work Both Ways

If I work for a company and I’m promoting its good news on Twitter, everyone expects me to disclose the fact that company I’m tweeting about is my employer — either in the content of my post, or in my profile information. Makes sense, right?

The reason behind this law is that consumers encountering user generated content need to readily distinguish between bona fide word of mouth buzz from consumers with nothing to gain from sharing positive information about a company or product, and those who are expected to promote the organization out of material self interest.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing positive information about your company. If I work for the company that may change how you feel about the information I share and that is your right as a consumer.

Now, let’s say I run across some negative news about a competitor company and begin posting that news on Twitter. My status as an employee with a direct competitor might also change how you feel about the information I’m spreading online. At least if you knew, you could decide whether or not you should take my participation in distributing this news with a grain of salt, right?

My point is this: You don’t just have a material interest in your employer, but also your competitors. I’m not necessarily proposing additional laws, but negative posts without disclosing a competing interest is just as suspect as astroturfing for your employer or client company.

You Are the Context

Information in social networks has the potential to surface on the Internet out of context. Real-time search, aggregators and Twitter search make it possible for your updates to make traction into other places online you may never visit. Comments on mainstream news sites and blogs also have this potential.

If your material relationships mean you can’t possibly be objective, you should either disclose your relationship, positive or negative, or stick to other subjects.

I get that there can be a lot of gray area associated with disclosure and ethics — how much material is required for a material relationship. What if you used to work for a company, but don’t anymore? However, the law seems to provide a pretty firm foundation for honest engagement — the rest is up to you.

Haters Gonna Hate: Statler and Waldorf Edition T-Shirt available on Busted Tees

Social Media Ethics: Competitor Relationships Should also be Disclosed is a post from: Very Official Blog

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Myths Keeping Social Media out of Regulated Industries Thu, 11 Nov 2010 21:39:45 +0000 Shannon Paul Myths Keeping Social Media out of Regulated Industries is a post from: Very Official Blog


Some of the challenges holding regulated industries like those in health care, finance, or government back from embracing social media are unique, and some aren’t so unique. However, whether the industry is heavily regulated or not, rules and regulation over time often become myth. To read the complete post, you’ll need to go over to Identity PR’s blog, id tags. Thanks to my friends, Nikki Stephan and Brandon Chesnutt for asking me to contribute.

The key to moving things forward in a regulated industry is to separate the weight of the myth from the actual rules of engagement:

There is something incredibly rewarding about helping a business navigate the rules brought by regulation in a way that helps them embrace this new dialogue-driven style of communication to connect them with customers and other stakeholders in a meaningful way, yet also respects the notion that most regulations are intended to protect consumers — never forget that.

There are a lot of things that make social media communication in a regulated business challenging to say the least, but many myths often permeate this environment.

Continue reading on id tags: 3 Myths Keeping Regulated Biz From Embracing Social Media

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Why We Still Need Real Social Media Strategists Sun, 10 Oct 2010 18:48:01 +0000 Shannon Paul Why We Still Need Real Social Media Strategists is a post from: Very Official Blog


Even though business strategies come from the top down in organizations we still need strategists, or at least strategic thinkers, in every area of business, but especially social media. Not only because so few businesses have direct experience with social media used to deliver on business goals, but because it requires a fundamental shift that the same old evolutionary approaches fail to address.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the deliverables in a social business are almost always a matter of fulfillment, not department. I mean this in the sense of the traditional departmental silos found in most companies inhibit the ability to work cross-functionally.

Bottom line: fasten your seat belts. .

Viva La Revolution

The word strategist gets a lot of flack, and for good reason. It seems like everyone and her brother are claiming expertise in this emerging field with respect to everything from digital marketing to content development to social media communications.

No doubt many are far less than expert in any digital discipline or even fundamental business practices, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still need a strategy.

However, frustration over how people use any particular word doesn’t diminish the importance for strategic thinking and strategic communication in any successful integration of social media tools and communication into existing business processes. Fakers, posers and resume-inflaters exist in every field

The real role of a strategist: organizational alignment

The word strategy is still one of the most misunderstood concepts in business. When delivering on any big strategic goal, it’s important for internal subject matter experts or agency partners to provide translation between the big goal and the nuances required to succeed in the particular channel (in my case, social media channel/s).

Two necessary ingredients for strategic alignment:

  1. Context – Your role as a strategist is to provide enough context for leaders in your organization to understand your creative choices with respect to your discipline and to trust that they are indeed aligned with their big strategy. I often use the example of traditional broadcast TV advertising: the person in charge of selecting a particular advertising strategy or creative direction should be able to explain their decisions in terms of effectiveness with respect to the particular medium AND connect the dots between their decisions and the overall business strategies at work in any given campaign. One might also argue empathy as a prerequisite for an ability to provide context, but I will save that for another post.
  1. 360 Degree Reinforcement – Organizational alignment rarely happens overnight in any company larger than just a handful of people. Even then, other cultural constraints may inhibit whether your message is received, understood or respected.

The first obvious reason for the need for strategic communication is to help translate the BIG corporate goals down to the day-to-day activity (tactics). However, the often overlooked role of a strategist isn’t focused on top-down communication, but rather on the opposite.

People don’t like change / People change every day

In my mind this aligns well with the concepts addressed in one of my favorite books on change management, Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. If we want to help an organization change in order to adapt social technology into their current business operations, we need to make our communication incredibly crisp; crisp enough to cut to the front of the line in a growing list of known priorities. Then we need to prescribe the tweaks in day-to-day conversations and operations to get the most leverage the fastest. From there it’s all about communication, iteration and continuous improvement all while you’re still handling the day-to-day stuff of social media.

Nobody else is interested in learning our acronyms

Every function in a company has plenty of technical jargon to go along with what they do. For most people who live blissfully outside the social media echo chamber, there is a huge learning curve associated with shortened URLs, APIs, FBML, RSS, PHP, hashtags, embed codes, and any number of apps or sites you use on a daily basis. The reason may have a job or a client probably rests with the idea that you can understand much of this so they don’t have to.

If you spend time in meetings with executive decision-makers hashing over tactical details you will earn a reputation for wasting others’ time. Unless, of course those meetings are about reinforcing skills with those on the front lines.

Strategic communication makes all the difference

In the end, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, or how much you know if you can’t connect the dots for others between what you do and what they do, or between what you know and what they would like to do.

Photo Credit: Phil Romans

Why We Still Need Real Social Media Strategists is a post from: Very Official Blog

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Social Media Professionals: How Techie Should We Be? Sun, 03 Oct 2010 16:05:34 +0000 Shannon Paul Social Media Professionals: How Techie Should We Be? is a post from: Very Official Blog

Screenshot of the Wikipedia Entry for Interwebs

It’s no secret that social media has a credibility problem in the business community, especially when most only see the noise generated by so many of us out there on any particular social network. Many of us also lack credibility on the technology side because we may not fully appreciate how integrating social technology adds a layer of complexity to existing processes. People who come from more technical backgrounds tend to see the communications-dominated social media space as lacking in skills, knowledge and patience to bring their projects to fulfillment, and they’re often right.

Social Media is a Hybrid Discipline

I’m not a coder – I don’t build things on the web, but I do need to know how to tell others what I want things built in language that conforms to their standards and processes (not mine). In an enterprise environment, that’s often easier said than done for someone with little-to-no technical knowledge, which describes most of us with traditional marketing or PR backgrounds.

I didn’t learn this overnight. I’ve always been somewhat techie and my mom made sure to it that we were one of the first people in our zip code with an internet connection; in college I thought for some time I might be a science journalist since I had an aptitude for understanding theoretical math and scientific theory, but my passion was clearly on the communications side of that equation. I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t really have the personality to be happy plugging away in a laboratory environment although I have great respect for those who do.

To learn the things I was lacking through formal education and my regular professional development in communications, I researched on my own time and read A LOT. I also started writing this blog to give me a place to continue experimenting with web-based communication. I still ask a lot of questions.

Developing deep enough technical knowledge became my job within my job. As I began to get stronger on the technical side of managing social media, I also began to understand why so many social media programs and practitioners were still scratching their heads over the dreaded question of ROI.

Where Strategy Falls Short

For the record I’m a huge proponent of having a sound social media strategy, but having the tactical knowledge necessary to execute and deliver the right results and measurements is still extremely important.

For example, lots of companies have great social media strategies that focus on building brand awareness, but they choose to build an online community as a means of delivering on that goal. Most online communities do little to build brand awareness with a new audience. In many cases, however, community might be a great way to deliver on a retention-oriented or cause-oriented goal.

Understanding the Role of Social Media in Other Digital Marketing Disciplines

I have said this before: social media doesn’t have an ROI problem, it has an integration problem. Social media rarely delivers value as a stand-alone discipline, but helps other types of digital marketing and web content work more efficiently and reach the appropriate people IF social media activity can accrue to each of those areas. Silos don’t work.

Consumers exposed to a brand via social media conversations AND search marketing are much more likely to seek that company out when it’s time to buy than if they were only exposed in one of those channels. In Scott Stratten’s new book, UnMarketing, he talks a lot about the importance of having meaningful interactions with people way before the sale and how social media enables marketers to do this in a meaningful way. Traditional marketing needs to be a numbers game because they’re focused on targeting broad segments in order to reach the few who may be ready to buy now.

If you’re working as a social media professional, get ready to understand how search marketing works and educate others as to how a social media presence can support that.

  • Understand the importance of landing pages as dot-connectors between social networks and your corporate site(s).
  • Work as a subject-matter-expert to help inform how to connect the dots between those you interact with in different communities and think of how to make your company more relevant to them based on where they are.
  • Understand how Google determines relevance (no, adding metadata will not help you), “Our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance.” If you don’t understand how linking in social networks and blogs can help Google determine the “collective intelligence of the web,” you may be in the wrong business.

Why We Compare Social Media with the Telephone

Marcel Lebrun (and others at Radian6) have done a great job at explaining how brand mentions are a lot like a ringing telephone aka the social phone. Why WOULDN’T you answer if you think of it this way.

In keeping with the telephone analogy, talking to people on the phone doesn’t do much if those conversations aren’t recorded to provide product/service feedback, if people you talk to aren’t informed as to what they can do beyond talking to you on the phone, or if your conversation doesn’t solve their problem.

Turning these conversations into data points that are integrated into other types of business intelligence is crucial.

Social > Techie?

I was inspired to write this post after reading my friend Brian Ambrozy’s post on a similar subject. In his article, he questions the use of Twitter to hold public chats and cites this decision as evidence that those running social media/online community programs aren’t technical enough. I can’t say I necessarily agree, but I found it interesting that one of his commenters said technology is becoming easier to use everyday and that it’s more important to be “social.”

Is there truth in this? Is it better to focus on the social aspect of social media and let the technology take care of itself, or is there much more to developing a sustainable social media strategy?

I have my own ideas, but I’m very interested to know what you think.

Photo Credit: mil8

Social Media Professionals: How Techie Should We Be? is a post from: Very Official Blog

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How to Respond to Comments on Your Company Blog Mon, 20 Sep 2010 16:06:19 +0000 Shannon Paul How to Respond to Comments on Your Company Blog is a post from: Very Official Blog


For so many people nothing feels scarier than opening up yourself and your business to reader comments on a company blog; even seasoned bloggers recognize the difference between blogging for yourself and blogging for your business when faced with the challenge.

Over the past couple years, I’ve had several conversations around how to manage comments — not just the workflow with respect to approving, reading, responding — but also the perspective necessary to have thick enough skin to distance yourself a bit from the sentiment or opinion being expressed.

Forget sentiment (mostly)

One of the things I tell prospective business bloggers is to forget about getting people to agree with you all the time, but rather, focus on maintaining the momentum of the conversation you started and guide it back to staying on point. It’s not important whether everyone agrees with you, but it is important to acknowledge and appreciate reader participation, keep the conversation interesting and to guide the conversation in the desirable direction.

The good the bad and the ugly

If your only experience with comments is on your local newspaper or YouTube, you probably don’t have a very good opinion of user generated comments. The good news is that with most blogs where the author participates, this is not typical. If building an online community is your goal, blogging can help if you have a plan in place to foster participation.

  • Good comments are those that move the momentum of the conversation
  • Bad comments can be thin, spammy or try to bait the author
  • Ugly comments are profane or abusive toward the author, other readers or anyone else

The thing I like about defining comments like this is that it removes sentiment or agreement out of the equation — a comment that sharply aligns with the opinion of the author (and is even complimentary) could fall under good, bad or ugly depending on how the agreement and opinion is expressed.

Good blogs encourage healthy conversation — they don’t try to stifle it.

For more on how I train people to think about and respond to comments on company blogs, check out this slide presentation I put together awhile back and recently posted on Slideshare:

How to Respond to Comments on Your Company Blog

View more presentations from shannonpaul.

Taking it one step further

The reason I decided to post this is because I found so little out there on the subject of responding to comments — there seems to be a lot of advice on how to get people to comment in the first place, but having consensus on how to view and respond to them should be something we at least think about up front.

This presentation might be very basic for lots of people on this site, so I’m interested to know how you might be helping people on your team get comfortable with the dialog that social media engagement implies.

What would you add to this presentation to help others understand the best way to engage with readers on your company blog?

How to Respond to Comments on Your Company Blog is a post from: Very Official Blog

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How to Create Organizational Change to Support Social Media Integration for Business Thu, 09 Sep 2010 18:47:23 +0000 Shannon Paul How to Create Organizational Change to Support Social Media Integration for Business is a post from: Very Official Blog


I gave a presentation last night to a great group of people up near Saginaw, Michigan who have started the local Great Lakes Bay area Social Media Club chapter. This is the thing I’ve been really thinking about trying to capture — not how to use any particular social tool, but how to go about getting the support to use them; how to think and communicate strategically so everyone understands, at least from a visceral level, what I am trying to accomplish by making room for social media.

Be Revolutionary: Creating change to support sustainable, strategic social media integration

View more presentations from shannonpaul.

I realize there are probably several gaps in this presentation and I consider it a work in progress, but I would love your feedback in order to help others working and/or struggling, along this same path.

How to Create Organizational Change to Support Social Media Integration for Business is a post from: Very Official Blog

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Stephen Clark’s #Backchannel: Leveraging Twitter in Broadcast Journalism Mon, 09 Aug 2010 21:37:31 +0000 Shannon Paul Stephen Clark’s #Backchannel: Leveraging Twitter in Broadcast Journalism is a post from: Very Official Blog

Post image for Stephen Clark’s #Backchannel: Leveraging Twitter in Broadcast Journalism

I don’t normally gush, but if you want an amazing example of a broadcast journalist who truly understands the power of online community, look no further than Stephen Clark’s participation on Twitter. Stephen is a local news anchor in Detroit for ABC affiliate, WXYZ who became very active on Twitter around the same time I was ramping up to move to Seattle in 2009.

Yes, I’m back in Detroit, but I already covered this.

These days it’s relatively easy to find journalists on Twitter, but journalists who truly participate in the community with the common folk online are still pretty rare.

Stephen doesn’t just tweet, he does the unthinkable for many in mainstream media: he actually participates in the Detroit social media community! He goes to local Tweetups and other events, he replies to people, he jokes, he shares useful information, and even he once guilted me into having cupcakes sent to him (long story). I also had the pleasure of finally meeting him in real life at a recent planning meeting for Jeff Pulver’s 140 Characters Conference that will make its way to Detroit on October 20.

Over time many who follow him on Twitter started using the #backchannel hashtag to discuss what was being covered during his 11 p.m. broadcast. The other night, WXYZ aired a story about a wheelchair ramp that was stolen and sold for scrap. According to Steven, before the story was over backchannelers were volunteering to get together and build a new ramp, and the inspiration for #Backchannel v2 was born.

Community-Driven Broadcast News

What started out as a bit of fun has grown into something incredibly meaningful to the community members who participate.

“I want you to stop complaining that all you see on TV is bad news and give me some good news,” Stephen dared. Yeah, we see more than our fair share of bad news in Detroit, and bad news about Detroit. Don’t get me started on this…

How to Pitch the #Backchannel Community

Notice, Stephen is still in control of what he shares with his community — this isn’t a bad thing. However, he is willing to give the real power to the community by allowing them to vote on what stories will be compelling enough for a mainstream local news audience. From Stephen’s announcement on his blog:

Starting immediately I want you to find the stories that I will cover on Channel 7. I want you to find the good people doing good things in your community. I want you to tell me about the interesting characters and fascinating sights that make your communities special. I want you to stop complaining that all you see on TV is bad news and give me some good news.

There is just one catch, of course:

I don’t want you just to tell me about it. I want you so show me… It doesn’t have to be perfect and polished. Just take your flip camera or iPhone and shoot some video. Show us the pictures of why it is a compelling story… Post the video on YouTube or Vimeo or wherever and hashtag a synopsis to the #backchannel…

Once content is pitched to the #backchannel community, Stephen will post the content on his blog — if the community agrees that the WXYZ (channel 7) audience would find the content compelling, he will “grab my “junior correspondent’s” camera gear and shoot the story for broadcast.” If the content passes muster, he may just try to push the #backchannel story as-is to the “suits” for approval to post on the station’s website or incorporate the #backchannel footage into his official story for broadcast. Full details on Stephen Clark’s blog.

New Media: New Possibilities and Players

Is it just me, or does the penetration of the spirit of collaboration into broadcast channels make you incredibly excited for the possibilities to come? Who are the gems in your local area showing up to participate in your online communities — the ones who don’t just ask you to click on their links, but the ones who truly have some skin in the game? If you’re a journalist, how are you urging your audience to help you create?

Stephen Clark’s #Backchannel: Leveraging Twitter in Broadcast Journalism is a post from: Very Official Blog

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How to Socialize User Experience Design: Thinking Outside Your Website Tue, 27 Jul 2010 16:03:18 +0000 Shannon Paul How to Socialize User Experience Design: Thinking Outside Your Website is a post from: Very Official Blog

Image of whiteboard with two separate lists of characteristics of groups and networks

Not so very long ago, conversation around user experience with respect to web design centered around the notion of a website as a single destination. A sticky site built around the assumption that visitors always use the front door aka the home page was the basic approach. While many of these elements in a conversation are still relevant, when it comes to the public facing pages of any website, or the presentation layer, it’s important to think about how those pages can create relevant experiences for visitors who arrive from social sites, and visitors who wish to share your content on social sites.

Anyone who has ever clicked through from a Twitter profile to a company home page without any real context for what the company is about understands how strange that can feel. Landing on your static home page from a social network can feel like a total disconnect. Add to that fact most company about pages do little to explain what the company does, and you may not lose a customer for life, but your business will definitely lose opportunities to create a relevant experiences these individuals.

Tomorrow I will speak on a panel about the future of social media at the Internet User Experience conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan with Chris Barger, Joe LaMuraglia Shauna Nicholson and Dave Murray.

The future of social media is about deeper integration into the overall experience someone has with a brand online – this definitely includes everything from the brand’s domain to customer service calls and online communication, to sharing in social networks and offline events. For professionals in the industry, this will mean learning to dig deeper than simply “joining the conversation” to developing the necessary skills to guide web processes and strategies that accrue to achieving real business goals. This means creating processes and workflows and creating cross-functional teams to create truly integrated projects and programs.

Social media doesn’t have an ROI problem, it has an integration problem: Putting social media into a clearly defined silo ensures its failure to make an impact where it counts.

Since social networks have proven their ability to drive traffic, it’s becoming more and more important to position your site with many relevant entry points, clear calls to action and easy sharing functionality.

The nice thing is that many of the principles involved with thinking of multiple entry and exit points into a site based on relevance are the same principles good SEO strategists have been employing for years. The social component is simply adding on another layer — not just thinking about how your content can be found, but making it attractive and conducive to sharing in social networks beyond your website.

I am not a user experience design expert, but I’ve worked with a few and these are my thoughts on how social media can be considered in the user experience design process.

If I Can’t Find it How Can I Have an Experience?

For the record, SEO is still extremely important — just because social networks can drive traffic doesn’t mean you get to skip the importance of search. The last stat I read indicated that roughly 80% of all online activity begins with search. Social’s influence is on the rise, but search cannot be ignored.

Rethinking the Landing Page

Landing pages give companies unlimited opportunities to create relevant experiences for users from a variety of sources. These can be tracked and tested and easily changed to support campaigns and short term goals as well.

Content NOT Content

I find it extremely helpful when having conversations about content to create clear distinctions between what is considered static “content” versus what we call interactive “content.” To those with advertising, coding or design backgrounds, everything on a site is content. Often a social site will require different strategies for content based on whether it’s considered static or interactive. Interactive content often requires an editorial strategy while static content requires a more sales-oriented strategy. Make sense?

Share Buttons and RSS

In 2010, these should be a no-brainer. If someone wants to see a business case for adding share buttons and RSS, tell them it’s a requirement for entering the marketplace. It’s a baseline entry requirement. You need share buttons and RSS for the same reason 7-11 requires you to wear pants. The sign says no shoes, no shirt, no service because in this day and age pants are a given. So are share buttons and RSS. This battle has already been fought and won. Let’s move on, but be nicer about it than I am here.

Optimize for Sharing

Not all content automatically shares well just because you install a button. Test how well your content looks when you share items to places like Facebook. Does the thumbnail image come up, or does the site pull up the image of a banner ad when you attempt to share the article? Does every piece of interactive content on your site have its own URL? Do images, documents and videos offer embed codes? Each social network has published tips on how to optimize your images and other content for their particular site. I’m not linking to the information because it often changes and moves. If you have trouble locating good resources for this, let me know and I’ll see if I can help.

Don’t Force the Relationship

Nothing says “I lack confidence” in my own attractiveness than a registration requirement or one of those defector detectors that pop up when you hit your browser’s back button. Get better at asking for people to opt into your content. If the numbers are indicating a lack of interest, then change your content strategy. Nothing helps take the emotion and unqualified opinions out of conversations like good, strong data :)

Microsites and vanity URLs or Social Sites and Shortened URLs?

The microsite used to be a given, but many are rethinking this approach in favor of using social networks for similar campaign-style marketing. There are pros and cons to each, but social tools offer more flexibility and eat up a smaller piece of the budget than simply building from scratch each time.

What Else?

This is the quick list I was able to jot down in my notes prior to tomorrow’s panel discussion at IUE10. If you have other ideas on making user experience more social, and vice versa, please let me know. I know many of you are skilled in user experience design and are very clued into how best to use social media. Please help us bridge the communication gap for me and others here and give us your tips in the comments.

Photo Credit: annotated

How to Socialize User Experience Design: Thinking Outside Your Website is a post from: Very Official Blog

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Why Do the Most Popular Social Networks Fail to Satisfy Consumers? Tue, 20 Jul 2010 16:20:02 +0000 Shannon Paul Why Do the Most Popular Social Networks Fail to Satisfy Consumers? is a post from: Very Official Blog

Image of the word

In a recent customer satisfaction report popular sites like Facebook and YouTube fared worse than Wikipedia even though the majority of respondents admitted visiting the other social sites more often. Twitter was notably absent from the data, but (just a guess) may have been included in the “all others” category outside of those sites named directly.

For some perspective on the lack of consumer satisfaction, Facebook beat out MySpace by only one point, 64 to 63, on a 100-point scale. The study, conducted by Foresee Results, scored social sites according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which is used to measure customer satisfaction on everything from athletic shoes to pet food and credit unions. The aggregate social media site score placed it between airlines and property/casualty insurance.

While I think there may be a lot missing in how satisfaction is calculated on the web, since a site’s popularity has to do with the fact that the people are there. If all my friends left Facebook I would have no reason to visit the site ever again.

Flipping the Switch from Free to Commercial

One major theme found in the dissatisfaction of social sites is that the strategy of moving from a free site without advertising to a commercial site WITH advertising is a tricky maneuver.

Commercialization of social media sites may be impacting satisfaction. The strategy of starting out as a free service with no advertising or revenue source is an effective way to build traffic and loyalty, as is evidenced across all of these sites. However, starting out that way also trained customers to expect an experience on these sites that is relatively unencumbered by advertising and commercialization. As most of these sites have transitioned to generating revenue, the resulting commercialization has brought severe downward pressure on customer satisfaction, which opens the door for challengers.

Finding the right balance between making money through intrusive advertising and satisfying customers is critical, especially in the social media sphere. We expect to see ads on a news web- site like, but our expectations on a social media site are for far less intrusive marketing and commercialization. Wikipedia’s non-profit model has allowed it to avoid the path of com- mercialization, and it is no coincidence that it has the highest satisfaction in this category. Of course sites like Facebook and MySpace need to make money, but the evolution from free content to a revenue model needs to be planned very carefully and executed flawlessly, while keeping in mind consumer expectations and needs at every turn. A big part of meeting those expectations is managing them from very early on in the maturity of the business model.

Francois Gossieaux has been saying this for years — flipping the switch from a social relationship to a transactional relationship, and vice versa, is nearly impossible; human beings seem to be hard-wired against making that move.

It’s About the People, Stupid

The question I can’t help but ask is, if people are unsatisfied with the site, but the site remains popular, how important is customer satisfaction? How important are social sites if they’re just the box we play in to connect with others? YouTube may be the exception here since the primary focus for most users is to share content, or host content so they can share it elsewhere.

What Does it Mean to be Satisfied?

I really wish studies like this provided access to the battery of questions or actual transcripts of interviews. I can’t help but think that satisfaction with the site isn’t colored with other feelings of guilt for spending too much time on the site, fear over the privacy issues touted in the media, a misunderstanding of what the site is supposed to provide… I just can’t help but think that satisfaction with a site I use to connect with other humans might be measured differently than my level of satisfaction with a pair of running shoes.

Since I was stymied by the results of this survey, I decided to ask others on Twitter:

  1. Shannon Paul
    ShannonPaul What does it mean when the most popular social networks have the lowest satisfaction scores among users?
  2. Albert Maruggi
    AlbertMaruggi @ShannonPaul it means they probably should use social media to address their customer satisfaction issues, DOH : )
  3. Steven Parker
    sparker9 @ShannonPaul Strongly suggests that quality is not where you expect to find it, and popularity is overvalued.
  4. Phil Gerbyshak
    PhilGerb @ShannonPaul those networks have the highest user expectations?
  5. Ron Ploof
    RonPloof @ShannonPaul It means that something has to change.
  6. Tom Webster
    webby2001 @ShannonPaul Only that they’ve grown beyond their early passionate users. I’d be shocked if it were they other way around.
  7. Phil Gerbyshak
    PhilGerb @ShannonPaul or that they have the highest percentage of responsive people who take the time and care enough to complain?
  8. Adam Cohen
    adamcohen @ShannonPaul I think it means no one has come up with the ideal product yet, and more innovation will come from those who can figure it out.
  9. Eric Younan
    BaselinerEY @ShannonPaul I too wonder. My satisfaction is waning because of the quality of content. People are more insightful elsewhere.
  10. Dana Cadman
    DanaCadman @ShannonPaul I believe it means people aren’t finding online what they r looking 4. Q: What r people looking 4 online?

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What are We Looking For?

I contemplate these things because as someone who tries to help businesses and individuals make sense of how to connect online, I often wonder if anyone really knows what they want.

Are people in social networks really unsatisfied with the sites themselves, or with each other?

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds

Disclosure: My employer is a customer of Foresee Results.

Why Do the Most Popular Social Networks Fail to Satisfy Consumers? is a post from: Very Official Blog

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Why Relevance Trumps Influence in Every Type of Media (Not Just Social) Sun, 27 Jun 2010 21:45:20 +0000 Shannon Paul Why Relevance Trumps Influence in Every Type of Media (Not Just Social) is a post from: Very Official Blog


View of saxophones being held up by the bottom of the instrument by the gloved hands of the players in the marching bandDespite so much noise about how social media has radically changed the rules of PR and marketing, the fascination with social media influencers is proof of a persistent desire in our industry to take the same old shotgun approach to publicity and dress it up in a new media veneer.

In the influencer game, everyone with high enough readership, or an audience large enough to be considered influential gets pitched for campaigns without a lot of thought to whether the message they’re asking these influencers to deliver is relevant to those in his/her network. Even Virgin America is jumping on the social media influencer bandwagon with free tickets to what it considers influential Twitter users.

Doesn’t this dance sound familiar? Simply pitch everyone with a soapbox tall enough to carry your message to their audience?

Stop Schmoozing and Find People Who Actually Care

It doesn’t matter how much influence someone wields if the message is irrelevant to their audience.

When this happens, the audience predictably tunes out. Everyone loses. A friend of mine once described this phenomenon with the analogy of tapping an influential hippie to talk to their audience about deodorant. Silly, yes, but you get the point.

When a message is relevant enough, and the delivery is passionate enough, that relevance leads to resonance, which can actually create mass influence. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore are all examples of individuals who were basically nobodies without a relevant message, whether or not you agree with their position or politics. Many of the people who influence me on a daily basis do so through being relevant (none of them are famous for the sake of being famous). When it resonates, I listen.

Influence may be able to create short-term buzz, but a relevant message can spark a movement.

I’m not recommending you ignore people who are influential, but journalists have been preaching the gospel of relevance to PR practitioners for years. There is nothing new about switching players in the same old game.

Social media tools offer new ways for companies and brands to increase perceived relevance with consumers, journalists and stakeholders of many stripes. The fascination with influencers in social media marketing seems downright, well… retro.

Little Bloggers Grow Up Fast

This is a message I received loud and clear from Liz Strauss a couple years ago. Since I’m only two years into publishing this blog, you might consider me a testament to her theory. Make friends with those online participants and content creators who truly care about your company, your mission and your brand, or who are passionate about something aligned with the mission of your business (some might call this common ground). That may not get the short term spike in online buzz you’re looking for, but you may just spark a real, lasting movement.

At the very least, shouldn’t we all be thinking about both influence AND relevance in equal measure?

Photo Credit: MightyBoyBrian

Why Relevance Trumps Influence in Every Type of Media (Not Just Social) is a post from: Very Official Blog

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