Social Media


The other day I received a marketing email from a well respected analyst firm which I consider to be quite ahead in the area of social media. The firm was promoting its upcoming social commerce event. My area of focus now is the supply chain so the event doesn’t have direct relevance to me but nonetheless it is quite interesting–how will/should retailers and manufacturers respond to the shopper’s desire to have a personalized experience and what role will mobile technologies play. One item stood out to me and its not just this email that falls victim to focusing on one particular mobile platform.

The iPhone is without doubt an amazing device built on a solid, user-friendly platform (though you may need to stand on your head with only 2 fingers holding the phone to stay connected). It receives the most hype. As Dana Blankenhorn highlights in “Android Froyo and Why it Matters“, traditional media and bloggers jump hoops to cover any Apple announcement but seem to ignore the the developments of other platforms such as Android, Blackberry, WebOs, WinMo, and the number one OS on mobile phone, Symbian.

In no way do I discredit the importance of iOS4 and the opportunities it presents to retailers, manufactuers, service providers, etc. If you look at the combination of these operating systems, the total potential for mobile social commerce is amazing. In the U.S. alone, more than 41 million people use a smartphone (RIM still holds a commanding lead with 41.7 percent of the market). In the first quarter of 2010, more than 54 million smartphones were shipped worldwide, according to research firm IDC. From the chart below, it is clear there is more than one player.

Is the media creating an unnecessary hype that is detracting from the greater market potential or will developers overlook the hype and see the potential in the other platforms? My guess is the developer community looks beyond the hype to see the actual revenue potential available to them. In the end, this could be a three-legged race between RIM, Apple and Android. WinMo 7 definitely looks impressive but I don’t know if it really has the legs to compete, especially if what I have read about BlackBerry 6 and the shift to appease the consumer market is true.

How does this relate to PR you ask? Well, I have seen many fancy proposals and ideas surrounding campaigns and app development focused on one platform. Be aware fellow PR folks, a multi-platform/channel strategy is what you need to truly reach the mass market.

Full disclosure: I own an HTC Droid Incredible and love the device. Personally, I am all about Android but professionally I see there is a need to target multiple audiences to gain the maximum impact.

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It has been quite a while since my last post. Going on six months actually. If I recall correctly from my own preachings to clients…never go silent. Oops! Once you go silent the conversation stops and interest is lost. Hopefully I still have at least one reader left out there!

Since my last post I have started a new job. I have gone corporate, focused on one goal for one company. It is quite an interesting change of pace but mostly it is a change in perspective. My role has also evolved into more than PR and AR to include advertising and some traditional marketing functions such as whitepaper development and working with the web folks to improve our SEO.

SEO is an interesting term. I have heard many call it snake oil (there are quite a few posts dedicated to this) while others swear by it. (For a laugh, check out SEO is Bull$&@*, SEO is Snake Oil, SEO is a Waste of Money).  I am not sure if I am quite sold yet on SEO. I definitely see some benefit to it but as online noise increases does SEO lose its effectiveness? I mean, how many times can you put in a term to increase your rankings against 100,000 other sites before you get penalized.  To an extent, SEO is still a buzz word, one people like to drop to sound smart. You know the type, those that use words they have no understanding of to “fit in”. (Social media comes to mind).

Working directly with the web team I have seen first hand how legitimate SEO (not the black hat mail order bride stuff) helps drive sales leads. Here are some things I have found to be effective. While they are a bit basic, you would be surprised how many companies are not engaged in these.

  • Understand your key words, what prospects are searching for and incorporate these terms into your site. Don’t go overboard as many small companies tend to do. Keep it real.
  • Content, Content, Content. What is your industry talking about? What are your customers’ pain points? Create educational (not sales) material that addresses these. While the material will likely be in PDF format, make sure to create plain text abstracts for each asset. These are more easily indexed.
  • Get rid of PDF news releases. For one, opening a PDF is a pain unless you have a new computer. Offer the asset as a new, stand alone page. You can offer the PDF version for download but it shouldn’t be the main link.
  • Keep the conversation going. Don’t do like me and fall off the face of the earth for 5 months! Want to incorporate social media into that ongoing conversation? Check out this post from Steve McAbee over at Wunderkind, “Developing a Social Media Plan: Research, Strategy and Tactics.”

Just a few thoughts following my hiatus from this blog. I will try to post at least every two weeks to keep things moving and share my personal insights into what I believe to be relevant in the PR and marketing world and the role technology plays.

Wunderkind Public Relations announced today findings of a research project into the social media engagement of Georgia’s top companies. The 2009 Social Media Engagement scorecard takes a look at the top 25 public and top 25 private companies in the state and basis their engagement level on the use of five tools: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, and YouTube. The research gave these 50 companies a D grade meaning, on average, each company used 2 of the services. Only 4 scored a perfect score.

Social media is still new to the corporate world, especially those in B2B circles. While the score was low, it does show companies are engaging and testing the waters to determine how this medium will provide the greatest return on investment. Some which scored low may never reach a perfect score because services like Facebook don’t reach the audience they need. Either way, there is a lot of room for growth and as more companies test the waters each will figure out how social media can impact them and the best way to create an online dialog with customers and prospects.

Here are some of the stats from the scorecard:

  • LinkedIn is far and away the most popular social networking service; 96% of all companies have a LinkedIn page, followed by Facebook (42%) and Twitter (38%)
  • Only 9 companies received a SME score of 4 or better
  • CEOs lack engagement with an average SME score of .26
  • 12 companies have a dedicated YouTube channel while only 7 have a blog
  • Only 1 CEO contributes to the company blog
  • Private B2C companies led the pack scoring a 3.2 on the SME scale while private B2B companies trailed with a mere 1.6
  • 33 of the 50 companies on the list are B2B
  • 1 company is completely disengaged

Disclosure: I am employed at Wunderkind Public Relations and participated in the research.

I often wonder who really follows technology reporters on Twitter. Is it just a bunch of PR folks like myself, end users and decision makers, or other journalists and analysts? Not too long ago, Denise Dubie, senior editor at Network World, brought this question to the forefront when she twittered the following.

New to me: The Followers pitch. PR saying I should cover their client’s news because my ‘followers’ need this info.

Was that accurate? Who is following Denise these days? Well, we did some research and it turns out:

  • 26% are end users, developers or enterprise decision makers
  • 25% are in a marketing role at a vendor
  • 16% are at a PR agency
  • 4% are other journalists
  • 3% are analysts
  • 17% are either spammers or other non-related organizations
  • 9% have been inactive for at least 3 months

Over the past week we researched 10 technology journalists to find out who is following them. In the end we sampled 2,262 of 14,492 followers. Thanks to straining our eyes to the point of blindness, this leaves us with a margin of error of just +/- 2 points. Our goal was to try to research 15% of followers. To accomplish this, we researched the 2nd, 6th, and 16th follower in each page of 20 followers. For those with 3,000+ followers, we thank you and so does our vision insurance provider!

Enough of the how, what did the research uncover?

Breakdown by Profile

One of the most interesting facts about this research was the insight into the progression of the type of follower. Twitter’s follower listings are in order of when they clicked the ‘follow’ button from newest to oldest. As we first started our research, we noticed an extremely high number of marketing and vendor profiles. At times these reached 70% of followers. As we hit the half-way point the follower profile shifted toward the end-user. This suggests that early followers of tech journalists were directly in IT, seeking a way to connect with peers to discuss technology related issues. As the popularity of Twitter grew, companies began to take notice and the corporate Twitter account was born. That gives me an idea – who is following corporate Twitter accounts….? Wait…they should pay for that research :-)

End User Percent

Some highlights:

  • Larry Dignan, editor-in-chief at ZDNet, and Jessica Tsai of CRM Magazine take the prize for most end-user followers at 33%, Thomas Wailgum of CIO comes in a close second at 32%
  • Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky has more press following him, 15%, than anyone else in our group
  • As a percentage, more analysts follow Mary Hayes Weier of InformationWeek, 6%, followed by Rich Tehrani of TMCNet at 4%
  • More than 50% of followers are on the corporate side, not a member of the influence audience (press, analysts, PR)
  • 22% of all followers are completely irrelevant comprising spammers, inactive accounts and some that we just can’t explain on a company-sponsored blog

Our research shows this group of technology journalists has a broad Twitter following mostly comprised of enterprise users. Does it mean the pitch to Denise was accurate and her followers do indeed need to know the information? I am not sure because it depends on many factors, the least of which are newsworthiness and relevancy. It is one thing to say 26% of her followers are end users and it is another to say 10% of her followers are end users of VMWare and are interested in virtual and remote setups (hypothetically of course). Just like in any other area of PR and press/analyst interaction, you have to know more about the audience you are pitching and explain how it is relevant.

Percent of Followers

Who we researched:

  • Adam Lashinsky, Fortune
  • Denise Dubie, Network World
  • Jessica Tsai, CRM Magazine
  • Joe McKendrick, ZDNet SOA blog
  • Larry Dignan, ZDNet
  • Larry Walsh, Channel Insider
  • Mary Hayes Weier, InformationWeek
  • Rich Tehrani, TMCNet
  • Sid Hill, Manufacturing Business Technology
  • Thomas Wailgum, CIO

Recent tweet (or twitter if you like) from @twailgum:Caution Blogger

  • Why are so many tech PR folks (not @mprosceno) disdainful of blogs and bloggers? Reminds of The Jerk: “He HATES these CANS!”

I follow Thomas Wailgum, senior editor at CIO Online, on Twitter and was a little taken back when I read this tweet last week. I enjoy public relations, am passionate about it and take offense to generalized comments about the industry, and my gut reaction was to fire off a reply. Luckily my logical side grabbed control and I sat on it.

Do PR people really have disdain for blogs and bloggers?

The answer (purely speculative and based upon my vast knowledge of everything) is no. However, for some of my counterparts, social media is uncharted territory and probably appears to be confusing. So while some will make mistakes, others of us, while not experts, have applied ourselves to learning and engaging with bloggers in an effort to realize what works best for them – and for our clients. One needs to ask themselves, is a blogger the same as a print writer? How do the rules differ, if at all? Does social media change agency/client interaction?

To respond to @twailgum, I do not think tech PR folks have a disdain for bloggers.  In fact, many in tech PR probably wish they could blog as successfully as you tech insiders. You likely came in contact with a few that just don’t understand blogging, bloggers, or the reach the medium has—especially in tech. Please don’t judge the many from the mistakes of a few.

As a side note, @twailgum followed that tweet with a retweet of Denise Dubie, senior editor at Network World:

  • RT @DDubie: New to me: The Followers pitch. PR saying I should cover their client’s news because my ‘followers’ need this info. >>yikes!

This got me wondering…who really follows the technology media on Twitter? Stay tuned because we’re about to do some digging and the results may surprise you.

Good or bad, the Twitter phenomenon, much like the evolution of social media, is undeniable. For businesses, the service is a direct way to communicate with your customers as part of a broad communications strategy. For now though, let’s put all of that aside and have a couple good laughs, deep thoughts, and what-were-they-thinking moments as we look as some of the most interesting tweets (or twitters) from executives so far this year. If you are interested in reading why you should be a part of the Twitterverse, I recommend you read Steve McAbee’s post, 12 Reasons B2B Executives Can Use Twitter to Get More Engaged with Customers.

zappos

intuit

aberdeen

Twitter Stat 1

techrigy

palo alto

mktg cons

Twitter Stat 2

inuit 2

pja

unmarketing

Twitter Stat 3

facebook

Twitter Stat 4

networked insights

twitter

telligent 2

telligent

Twitter Stat 5

forrester

twitter2

Twitter Stat 6

What are some of the most memorable tweets you have read? Care to share? They may make our 2009 top 25 tweets later this year!

Additional Resources: