Can social media save live TV?

posted by Ben Shipley

I had the pleasure of listening to Jim Lanzone, CEO of CBS Interactive speak at AMCHAM a couple of weeks ago. It was really interesting getting an insight into the mind of the man that sits atop one of the largest piles of premium content in the world.

The conversation was extremely interesting, and I’m working on a second post about fair access and piracy. Before I get to that, i thought it was worth pulling out three key things the big man talked about, that I found incredibly interesting.

There is more online video available than ever before.
While the stat itself didn’t come as a shock, the next thing out of Jim’s mouth did. The viewing statistics point to an increase in the number of hours that people will spend watching the more traditional free to air and cable tv shows. While I’d expect the IPTVs that are in market now to start and have an effect on this over time, more content seems to be breeding more consumption and that’s really interesting from a communications point of view. Creating contnet that integrates occassions, platforms and devices together sounds like a sweet spot to try and play.

Premium content costs money.
There is a reason sitcoms look better than phonecam shots-in-the-nuts. Both might ellicit a chuckle on the first watch, but quality writing, acting, set design and styling help change a one of concept into a show that has longevity and will attract an audience. The costs involved mean there’ll always be folks looking for ways to make their pieces of silver. If you don’t like pre-rolls, best you get used to in-program pitches and midrolls of interminable length.

Social media is fighting a war against the timeshifters.
In spite of always wanting to have written something in bold like that on a work blog, it was really interesting that technology is not simply pushing us towards the death of advertising driven free to air TV. Group watching of programs like Q&A or, more populist, The Voice, is facilitated by the use of platforms like Twitter. There is an increased feeling of connection and involvement in particiapting in the conversation, plus the ego boost associated with seeing your twitter handle and carefully constructed piece of prose up on the TV. Those who record a program to skip the ads watch at their leisure, just don’t have the same opportunity to take part.

It comes as no surpirse that channels are trying to get in on the action with offerings like Fango here in Australia, attempting to move the activity into a place the own, control and someday can sell the eyeballs on.

Case Study: American Express Foursquare Sync

posted by Will Salkeld

American Express recently partnered with foursquare to give cardholders access to a creative yet practical location-based campaign.

American Express partners with Foursquare to Sync credit cards for carholder social media dealsThe campaign – funded primarily by American Express – allowed cardholders to sync their AMEX credit card with their foursquare account, giving them access to exclusive deals from participating stores.

Rather than having to show store staff a virtual coupon, users are given an option to click a green button that asks if they’d like to load the deal to their card. A deduction is then automatically taken off their next bill and an email and message is sent to confirm that the discount has been registered. (Example deals: Those who spend $50 at Sports Authority will receive a $20 discount. At H&M they’ll get $10 when they spend $75.)

It’s an admirable idea by American Express, who have gone from strength to strength in social media in the last few years. And as giant social media pressure systems collide generating a whirlwind of updates, interest and speculation, it’s also exciting to see that Foursquare are adding weight to their product offering to avoid becoming the cow that gets sucked up the spout of the Facebook/Google tornado.

Four reasons why this campaign is awesome:

1. It’s seamless – Ever taken coupon up to a counter to have it scrutinised by a store attendant? Drawing attention to oneself can be an awkward experience, especially considering many consumers don’t want to appear ‘cheap’. The sync eliminates this barrier by automating the process through bill deductions, meaning operational staff don’t even have to be aware of the offer. By removing the friction they enticed participation.

2. Inventory Management – Merchants have amazing control over the products and services that they can stimulate sales for and awareness of, which adds a tangible ROI to the whole process. I could see this working really well in conjunction with a product launch or a multi-platform social media promotion.

3. It has reach – Because the deals are promoted to all cardholders, participating vendors are able to tap into a very broad array of consumers rather than their existing customer base. Unlike most other foursquare deals this one is less about loyalty, which widens the potential for growing a community and developing new brand patronage.

4. Leadership – In the cluttered and competitive card payment world, newness is everything. By harnessing existing consumer relationships with brands and leveraging new social media technologies, American Express has positioned itself as a leader in the field of innovation. The campaign shows that the company is taking appropriate steps to convert consumers to its innovative payment system, using a youthful point-of-difference to target the consumers who are most likely to jump ship to AMEX.

The problem with Facebook’s Trending Articles

posted by Will Salkeld

Forgive me for sounding a bit cynical about Facebook’s Trending Articles feature, but I’ve just spent 30 minutes of my life reading stories about ‘Snooki’s tan’, ‘Real-life Russian Barbies’ and ‘The ten best movie explosions of all time’. Needless to say, I’m feeling a little disillusioned with the state of humanity right now.

Facebook Trending Articles

If you haven’t yet had the displeasure of witnessing Trending Articles, let me break it down for you. It’s basically a stream of content aggregated from social reader applications, displayed in a simple yet highly visible box in the Facebook newsfeed. An article starts trending when multiple Facebook friends using the same social reader app (e.g. The Guardian, Yahoo, Washington Post, etc.) open the same article.

It’s what Facebook likes to call “Frictionless Sharing” in its most literal form. But if we’re going to be literal about this, let me tell you another thing that’s literally frictionless: A vacuum! By implementing Trending Articles, Facebook is sucking out all the social utility of shared content and damaging the fabric of organic interconnectedness that it seeks to foster.

Evidently I’m not the only dissatisfied customer, with new data revealing a mass exodus of social reader apps among Facebook users.

    Why Facebook’s Trending Articles feature is bad

What makes these ‘trending’ stories of relevance to me? Just because I’m friends with someone on Facebook, doesn’t mean I share the same interests as them. Furthermore, these are articles that my friends are simply choosing to read, not articles they’re actively sharing. By attempting to be intuitive, Facebook is effectively breaking down the power of word-of-mouth driven advocacy that has traditionally been one of the platform’s strong points.

As Facebook users, every day we continue to allow more and more permissions to third-party applications utilising the Open Graph API. Brands have new opportunities to automatically post information to a user’s network of friends and family without even being prompted to do so. It’s perpetuating a pattern of information sharing that is confusing and, in some cases, disingenuous. How can I trust a friend’s content recommendation if I’m not even sure they approved of it in the first place?

    Social actions need to be authentic

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Open Graph applications that post on a user’s behalf as long as they do it right. But the only ‘right’ way to do this is with authenticity. Just like with any form of communication, transparency is intrinsic to establishing meaningful connections.

Digital platforms may be able to more comprehensively mould behaviours and shape user experiences than other mediums, but they should never be used by brands to hijack a user’s profile and push messages that are out of sync with said user’s personal identity.

Brands should be integrating, emulating and [where possible] propagating the ideas and information that engaged users hold dear, rather than subverting existing behavioural norms for their own benefit.

It will be interesting to see where Facebook takes the Trending Articles feature and if they can reinstate some kind of relevancy with future iterations. With a bit of work it definitely has the potential to become a very useful and fluid form of content generation.

How users view Facebook Timeline

posted by Will Salkeld

Did you see this? EyeTrackShop just released details revealing how Facebook users’ eyes scan content situated within Facebook’s new[ish] Timeline format. Although the sample size was only small, the results have some interesting implications for branded profiles.

EyeTrackShop data on what users view on Facebook Timeline

“EyeTrackShop recorded eye movements of 30 participants as they were shown brand profiles — before and after being converted to timeline — from the Dallas Cowboys, Good Morning America, “The Muppets” and Pepsi in 10-second intervals.”

You can read more about the results here, but one takeout from the study that I found particularly interesting was that ads on Timeline are less visible than ads on Facebook’s old format for branded pages.

According to Mashable, “30%-40% of study participants looked at ads on brand Timeline pages, 80% looked at them on Brand Pages. In both cases, ads placed higher up on the page fared better than those below them.”

The visually arresting nature of Timeline makes it hardly surprising that cover images and custom tab images are usurping the more text laden messages of advertisements, but it’s difficult to understand why the data varies so heavily from EyeTrackShop’s last study.

It’s only been a few months but it’s odd to think that at one point EyeTrackShop claimed Facebook ads got noticed more in Facebook Timeline. (Sounds like they need a bigger sample size!) Inconsistencies aside, there’s one parallel we can learn from the two studies:

Cover photos are prime real estate for brands.

Having great content is one thing, but as your most visible page asset, the cover photo now trumps wall-posts as your first point of call for impressionable Facebook users.

Make your cover photo powerful and make it relevant to your audience to establish a unique value proposition that brings people back to the page. You can also use dynamic custom tab images to assist conversions and promote engaging Facebook apps.

From then on carefully crafted content is your best friend when it comes to keeping your audience on song.

Does on-platform engagement mean you’ve got an engaged audience?

posted by Ben Shipley

There is a long standing business maxim that states “that which gets measured, gets done”

It must be long standing, because my dad told it to me. The longer I spend at work, the more the statement rings true. The more I work in social media, the more I notice that many of the metrics and measures that agencies propose, and trumpet to their clients, are incredibly platform specific.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the EdgeRank algorithm, and I understand how it rewards brands (and people) who produce content that delivers likes, comments and shares. Despite that, I can’t help feeling that a focus on platform specific measures of success is delivering bad strategy and bad marketing as a result.

Defining the role of social media at the start is crucial

Many social media conversations start with a desire to do something on facebook or (insert platform du jour here). It could be that competitors are making moves on the platform, it could have been the latest issue of marketing magazine that’s pushed them over the edge, it could even be the clients teenage children that have created an impetus for action.

This desire to get on platform leads very quickly to activity that is platform focused.

Attracting fans, through gated content or contests, incentives, advertising or shareable stories build an audience. Likebaiting, engaging questions and content tactics increase engagement and grow reach. Sounds like a success, right?

I think this sounds like a success for Facebook, not neccesarily a success for your client or their brand.

Perhaps the most important step in developing a social media strategy is to define the role that the medium will play in the brand’s marketing mix. Presence on the platform is a role, but not one that your client is likely to value in any particular way. Consider if the role could be to leverage the most engaged fans of the brand to increase the depth and reach of the companies advertising strategy (and potentially open up a content creation budget). Facebook Offers deliver some interesting functionality to  convert likes to revenue, although it seems more applicable at a coffee shop level for now.

There is no role that is perfect for every brand, the key is to find a role that is valuable to the brand will direct you towards creating marketing that works and frame the challenge of how to deliver a proposition of value in a medium that doesn’t always reward them.

Marketing that doesn’t link to a business result will never be valuable

The success of television advertising is not the result of silver tongued Don Drapers pulling the wool over the eyes of clients and selling a creative vision. It might help, but the real reason for the prolific success of the creative agency and the 30 second spot was ads=sales. There was a time, in the US in particular, when you could build a factory, fill a warehouse, buy some ads and watch the sales roll in.

This was all much more effective when channels were fewer, changing channels meant leaving your seat and choice had not ballooned to the mind numbing proportions we now find ourselves surrounded by.

Despite the erosion of TVC effectiveness, the simplicity and impact of ads=sales has cemented the medium in the minds of marketers around the world.

Are you making the value proposition that simple for you clients? Or are you presenting three different interpretation of reach (total, viral, effective) and trying to explain value of the back of that?

If you had a million bucks to spend, would you put it in the hands of the person whose value proposition you understood, or the one you were going to struggle to explain to the CEO?

Building a closed social media system guarantees a #FAIL

There is another effect that defaulting to on platform stats as your measures of success delivers.

In detaching measurement from the business in general, social media is detached as a function in the business.

Matt Burgess wrote an article on Mumbrella calling out the twitterverse for labelling Coles and Woolworths recent social media efforts as #FAIL’s. He correctly points out that the questioning strategies that they fell down on are considered by most social media marketers to be best practice. They do indeed deliver engagemnet in the numbers of people talking to/about the brand, even if they often turn hashtags to bashtags.

The reason the examples are marketing fails has nothing to do with social media marketing. These efforts fail because they highlight the distance between the closed social media marketing team and the rest or the Coles/Woolworths/Qantas businesses. They are completely separate, and when there is criticism of the brand in their channel, they’re powerless to comment on it, let alone address what it is that went wrong.

I believe it’s time to bring social media in from the cold. Yes, it’s different. Yes, it requires unique skills to manage, plan and execute. However, if we continue to detach social from the business as a whole it will never deliver the results, and attract the levels of investment required to do some really exciting things.