Social media and business

Tuesday – best day to send emails

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In case you didn’t already know, Tuesdays are the most effective days to send emails. A recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa confirmed it.

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Justdelete.me

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This is an interesting platform justdelete.me, which provides insights into how to manage/delete your profile from various networks. What’s interesting is not just the fact that surprisingly difficult  to delete your profile from some platforms such as Evernote, Pinterest, Youtube, and even WordPress, but also how many different networks are available today. Of course it doesn’t cover all of them but some of the most popular ones. Remember the chat programme ICQ? It was the fist internet chatting system and very popular in 1996. It is also virtually impossible to delete your information without sending a special request to the owners, now a Russian organisation Digital Sky Technologies.

With the number of Internet platforms available growing rapidly, it’s worth taking some time to try to manage your digital platform.

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The Future of Digital Platforms

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An interesting report from ComScore about media fragmentation in today’s multi-platform environment: televisions, PCs,  smartphones, tablets, and gaming platforms. It provides insights into navigating through a seemingly ever-increasing number of new devices to find ways to position yourself for the future. “In order to do so, businesses must embrace the key trends affecting the consumer landscape, understand the opportunities, and overcome the challenges that stand in their path.”

Click here to download the full report: Brave New Digital World: A Manifesto for the Future of Digital Measurement & Analytics.

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Behavioural Tracking

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Have you ever worried about who is collecting your personal data when you use the web? Did you know that there are numerous sites secretly creating a shadow web of connections between sites you go to and trackers you probably never heard of. There is no regulation for this “lurking industry”.

Now you can use a programme called Collusion developed by Mozilla.  The programme graphs the spread of your data from sites to trackers, in real time, to expose and potentially break the hidden connections. You can watch a demo here. Originally only available for Firefox, you can now use it with Google Chrome, Safari and others.

Watch the TED talk with a demonstration.

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Social media policy

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Following my last post, an additional element to consider is the social media policy. A recent post from the Greenbuzz agency makes a valid point about the idea that a social media strategy should include a coherent policy to help employees understand how they fit into the strategy. “Companies can build the most carefully-planned social media strategy, but if employees don’t have specific ‘how to’ guidelines, confusion erupts and hands are slapped in the process.”

Ready to tackle social media policy development? Consider these questions:

1.    Will employees be allowed to use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. during business hours?

2.    How much time, or which specific time periods, will be allowed on these sites? Only during the lunch hour and breaks?

3.    Who is the designated spokesperson/people representing your company’s ‘voice’? Don’t designate “anyone” — choose wisely.

4.    What style will be used when posting? Conversational and friendly? Business casual? Professional and formal? Make sure the style accurately represents your company’s culture.

5.    Can employees access sites via company mobile devices? Will this pose a security risk?

6.    Who ‘owns’ contacts made for business purposes? This is an especially important question for companies with sales forces.

You can read more by taking ideas from what others have done in this list of 160 social media policies.

A structured communication plan is the foundation of a sustainable social media strategy

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Recently I received several calls from organisations seeking advice about how to establish a presence on Facebook and other social media platforms. Most importantly they wanted to hear about the advantages of social media adoption. My first question to them is always: what is your communication objective? This is usually followed by a moment of silence. In fact, most of them do not have a communications strategy.  Yet jumping into social media without a proper communications strategy seems like building a house without a proper foundation.

Social media may produce immediate results but it also presents an opportunity for a long term communication management. You build relationships, gain knowledge, and participate in and shape conversations. But how do you combine the immediacy of posts, status updates, rss, etc. with longterm objectives and goals linked to a communications strategy? To answer that we should review the elements of a communications strategy. These include a proper stakeholder analyses, goals, objectives, and a proper method for evaluating results.

A stakeholder analysis is essential for any organisation. There are numerous methods that can be used which focus on the identification of stakeholders. The challenge is to decide which stakeholders should receive specific attention. One excellent model that can be used was developed by Brad L. Rawlins which prioritizes stakeholders through a four-step process: 1. Identifying all potential stakeholders according to their relationship to the organization; 2. Prioritizing stakeholders by attributes; 3. Prioritizing stakeholders by relationship to the situation; 4. Prioritizing the publics according to the communication strategy. This model helps an organisation decide how much attention each stakeholder group deserves or requires. If you know your publics you can select which platforms are most suited for your specific objectives more effectively. You might set shorter communications initiatives with some stakeholders while others would require a longterm investment. Social media could be used for both.

In communication we distinguish between goals and objectives, in that a goal is a statement rooted in the organization’s mission or vision and an objective is a statement emerging from the organization’s goals. For example, if your goal is to raise awareness about a certain issue or product, your objective might indicate how much awareness and it would specify a time frame. Once an organisation has set specific objectives and decided on which stakeholders to target, specific channels can be identified. These channels may include a more traditional approach such as print journalism or advertising or they may include social media. One advantage social media offers is that you are able to listen to your stakeholders. Effective communicators implement a two-way approach which requires longterm investment. Just posting a message blindly to reach a maximum number of people will not be effective in the long run.

The final step is then to decide on how to measure your results. Here again the most effective approach is a combined measurement, both on and offline. Some interesting references for measurement are Intelligent Measurement and the Metricsman. They talk extensively about the importance of evaluation and measurement but also about the combined approach implementing both online and offline techniques.

One reference which I think describes this point is from the film Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice which tells him to build a baseball stadium. He hears repeatedly “if you build it, they will come” referring to the spectators. And at the end of the film you see thousands of cars approaching the farmland on which he had built the field. But was he ready for all those people? We don’t know because the film ends. In social media it is comparable, you can build your profiles, start posting, commenting, linking and you might generate a great deal of traffic very quickly. But if you do not feed that traffic with quality material they will disappear and it will be counter productive in the long run. Therefore, think and plan ahead. Establish a proper communications strategy before building.

Social media ROI vs. evaluation and measurement

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An interesting discussion is emerging about social media return on investment verses evaluation and measurement.  Clearly every PR initiative requires quantification. But how do we quantify results in social media? There is a difference between ROI and actual evaluation and measurement. ROI looks at the monetary figure of a change while evaluation and measurement seeks to measure the degree of change.

Currently, there are numerous tools available that allow you to measure the number of hits on your platform, clicks on your links, the number of retweets on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, your level of popularity on Twitter, etc. But what does this really mean? These tools may indicate your level of popularity but they neglect to present any accurate insights into actual results. Just because someone is clicking on one of your links or retweeting one of your posts, doesn’t mean that the information is actually being absorbed, let alone provoking any change of thought or action. So how do we measure the actual impact of our social media tactics? It seems that before we think look at potential monetary benefits, we should identify effective tools for measurement and evaluation.

Of all the theories that are circulating in the blogosphere, I found the one developed by Don Bartholomew on his blog metricsman most plausible. He develops a three stage measurement process that combines online metrics (web analytics) with conversations and behaviour patterns. It is about combining online and offline behaviour and actions.

Mr. Bartholomew goes on to present an interesting graph depicting these three stages:

From the left, companies or brands control, own or manage websites – corporate sites, FaceBook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages and blogs by way of example – and create content that consumers may engage with. This zone is measured primarily by web analytics. In the middle are the actual social networks and conversations between individuals. In this zone we are interested in data sets that cannot be gathered solely using web analytics packages. How often is the brand being mentioned in conversation? What is the sentiment of the comments? How often is the brand being recommended and by whom? Content and behavior analysis, including tracking technologies, are the primary measurement tools in this zone. The third zone represents all the real-world, offline transactions that may be of interest. Did someone visit the store or attend or event? Did they buy a product? Did they recommend the brand or product to a friend over coffee? Primary audience research is necessary to address many of the questions, as well as scan or other purchase data in some cases.

He introduces a new model for measurement which considers exposure (the degree of exposure created to content), engagement (who, how and where are people interacting/engaging with content), influence (the degree to which exposure and engagement have influenced perceptions and attitudes), and  action (actions have been taken as a result of the PR/social media tactic).

I think this is an excellent example of a holistic approach to measuring the effects of your social media strategies. This is currently still a major challenge for organisations. As many are frantically trying to get onboard the “social media bandwagon”, they are missing the strategic element of social media. And every strategy must include effective evaluation and measurement.