Klout gets better for users, worse for marketers?

Klout has rolled out updates to its service, including adjustments to individuals scores for increased accuracy, more transparency and a new site design.

The most significant change and one that caught my eye was the introduction of “Moments”, Klout’s new feature claiming to give greater insights into your influence online.

Moments appears to be a new feature that is set to highlight the reasons behind the shift in your Klout score, making the service more transparent. However the introduction of this new feature has come at the cost of the three previous measures – True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact.

From a digital marketer’s perspective, simply taking a user’s Klout score at face value was never enough. Marketers need to be able to understand why a user has a high score, in order to ensure certain objectives are being met.

For example, those looking to spread content virally may look at users with a high Amplification probability. Looking to change public perception, you may look at targeting users with a high True Reach or Network Impact.

There is a big difference in people sharing your content or responding to it. Dependent on the type of content you are trying to push, be that perhaps a video or marketing message, exactly who you are targeting needs to be precisely tailored to suit your campaign.

True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact were three brief scores that made up a small but important part of the algorithm I personally use to build up a list of who I believe are the most important people to target undergoing a campaign.

I’m worried that Klout are playing too much on individuals’ narcissistic emotions rather than concentrating on delivering an accurate, worthwhile service that delivers a true benefit to the world. Otherwise they may as well just go back to developing computer games. They’re probably more lucrative anyway…

However, every cloud does have a silver lining. The introduction of Wikipedia pages as a measure of influence has brought @JustinBieber down from his perfect Klout score of 100 to 92, whilst boosting @BarackObama to 99, taking into account his real world influence.

More details on how the influence from each individual network is calculated can be found here: http://klout.com/corp/kscore/

Why every digital communications professional must understand internet culture

Keeping up to date with the news is standard practice for any PR practitioner. Without keeping up with key trends and events, changes in the news and communications channels, you stand a good chance of missing key opportunities and being caught unawares.

But for those in charge of any brand’s social media presence or online brand, keeping up to date with digital trends and internet culture is an absolute must.

Kit Kat recently announced the launch of their new Instagram account with a seemingly innocent image of a bear playing the drums with a Kit Kat Chunky in each hand. Now whilst this was obviously thought of to be a fun image with the potential to go viral in a good way, the internet soon picked up on the bear’s stark resemblance to the Paedo Bear, an internet meme originating from 4Chan in 2004, immortalised through numerous doctored images across the web.

KitKat Instagram Picture

Had anyone at Nestlé, their marketing team or hired agency been a little more up to date on their online culture, someone may have picked up on this. However, the team at Kit Kat had of course never heard of Paedo Bear, were forced to withtract the image and issue a public statement verifying as such.

Another recent social media faux pax comes courtesy of Celeb Botique with the following recent tweet. Shockingly, the individual in charge of running the Twitter account had failed to check the reason for the trend, missing the news of the horrific shooting at the Batman screening in Aurora, Colorado. Aurora issued a public apology, shamefully shifting the blame to their external PR department and failing to take any kind of responsibility for their actions.

What is disparaging is the sheer amount of times we see this happening over and over again.

Much like any seasoned PR practitioner should be able to immediately spot any potential negativity surrounding a news story, so too must any social media brand manager be fully aware of both news and internet culture, at the very least putting in the research to discover why something is trending.

Similar offline cases have appeared long before social media became a widely used communications channel, even before the internet. The difference now being that with things travelling so much faster, anyone representing a brand’s entire reputation on a social media channel stands the risk of destroying that reputation in the blink of an eye.

Having a strong grasp on news, current affairs, memes and internet culture is paramount to successful brand protection and communication online. You’ll find the best digital communications agencies are probably the ones sharing animated gifs, memes and stories before you find them appearing in your news feed on Facebook and they’re the ones you should probably consider when looking to hire a digital agency!

The real value of Twitter

Finally getting round to watching Page One: Inside the New York Times, a great documentary following the New York Times as it faces the digital transformation of the media industry, there was a great quote to be highlighted on the real value of twitter.

David Carr, media columnist at the NYT, and a previous Twitter sceptic, had this to say:

 

“I succumbed partly out of professional necessity.

“Now, nearly a year later, has Twitter turned by brain into mush? No.

“I have a narrative on more things in any given moment than I ever thought possible.

“I get a sense of todays news and how people are reacting to it in the time it takes to wait for a coffee at Starbucks.

“Nearly year in I’ve come to understand that the real value of this circus is listening to a wired collective voice.

“The medium is not the message. The messages are the media.”

Google integrates Wimbledon’s Google+ page into SERPs. Brands to follow?

Google has continued to enhance its search pages with additional content, most recently enhancing it’s first page for Wimbledon related searches. Currently, searching “Wimbledon” pulls up a vast screen of maps, scores, match details, reviews and other information.

Wimbledon Search Results on Google

For some time now, Google has been embedding clever tricks into its search pages, such as local cinema listings, world news, sport scores, recipes and more, but what’s most interesting about Wimbledon related searches this time round is that in the bottom right, Google has integrated content from the Wimbledon official Google+ page.

With Google placing such a significant effort on increasing their stake in the social web, could this be the first step in embedding Google+ page results when users search for brands?

As I wrote last week, with Google already closing the doors on Google Pages, migrating all location results to Google+ Local, the search giant is already forcing brands to exist on the social network. But the embedding of data into the right hand side of the page, rather than the search results, might just be the tipping point for brands to choose to invest a great deal more time and energy in developing their pages and driving their audience to engage with the brand on Google+.

Not another Buzz

Google+ should not be mistaken as another Google Buzz, a social networking, microblogging and messaging tool left to die by Google at the end of last year. Google has invested huge ammounts of time, energy and money into ensuring the success of Google+, including directly linking the annual bonuses of over 25% of Google employees to the success or failure of their social products.

Whilst questions continue to arise around the user engagement levels on Google+, it remains true that Google are not letting up on trying to capture the social web for themselves.

Google+ Local replaces Google Places – Businesses forced to engage

Earlier this month, Google officially closed the doors on Google Places, replacing it with Google+ Local, bringing all local search results and business location pages into Google+, forcing brands to engage with the social network.

Over 80 million Google Place pages worldwide have been automatically converted into Google+ Local pages, with the goal of merging all business listings into one single entity used across the Google product network, including maps, search, social and mobile.

The launch is a significant step in Google’s crusade to reshape the web, intertwining all of their products under the Google+ umbrella, creating a much more social web.

Google+ has been relatively overshadowed by Facebook’s IPO in the media recently, and with reports of Google+ usage slipping becoming commonplace, the public perception of the search giant’s social network has not been the strongest.

However, the company’s social media strategy remains a key focus for Google’s CEO Larry Page, who little over a week into taking over the reins back in November 2011, took the move to directly link the annual bonuses of over 25 per cent of Google employees to the success or failure of their social products.

Making locations social

Google+ Local is a very social product in itself, influencing a user’s search results by taking into account the places the user’s contacts, friends, family members and colleagues have visited and reviewed.

Users will also be able to share opinions and upload photos. These reviews and photos will help the user’s friends when they’re checking out a place online, and are also integrated into the aggregate score that other people see around the world. No longer tucked away deep in the Google Maps listings, reviews are now brought to the user in a single platform.

With many brands already having a presence on Google+, the next phase will be to integrate the brand’s Google+ Local listings and reviews with the Google+ brand page, creating a single experience for the user, and a single Google listing for the brand that will exist across the majority of Google products.

Google Jen Fitzpatrick, VP Engineering at Google announced in a blog post on Wednesday that Google will “soon extend these social experiences to more local Google+ pages in the weeks and months ahead”, but provided several examples of how this will look for brands in the near future.

Online reviews have had a significant effect on consumer behaviour in the past few years, particularly for businesses like restaurants, shops and brands with retail presences. With Google+, rather than reviews being ‘siloed’ on separate forums or review sites, they’re now centralised around the brand’s primary listing on Google, which will inevitably be seen by a much larger group of consumers.

Social and search

It’s worth noting that the tie in with Google products will not just affect reviews and brand pages, but in the near future the places your friends visit are likely to influence a user’s search rankings too. Therefore businesses not looking to maximise their Google+ presence stand to lose out to local competitors with a stronger focus on the platform, both in terms of online traffic and in-store footfall.

Without a strong branded presence on Google+, businesses stand the risk of their brand message being overshadowed by reviews and customer comments, which if negative is certainly not a good thing. Without a branded presence on Google+, business listings will exist at the mercy of the reviewer.

This overlap of Google products will undoubtedly twist the arms of businesses in the near future, forcing them to engage with Google+ in order to continue to perform well across the search platform. Do not bet on Google+ failing to become a significant online marketing pillar for businesses in the next few years.

 

Google+ and politics – Could hangouts replace Question Time and Party Political Broadcasts?

Following from the launch of Google+ pages, the search giant’s latest foray into social networking has gained another boost.

The President of the United States, Barack Obama has joined Google+.

Obama is on Google Plus

Actually, Obama’s presence is in fact a brand page run by his campaign team as appose to the President himself, but his arrival is no less prominent.

If the Obama election campaign of 2008 taught us anything, it was the power that social media marketing can have in an election campaign. Social media allows politicians to get in front of the demographics who wouldn’t necessarily watch the usual channels – question time, or party political broadcasts. We’re no doubt in a new age of communication, and politicians (much like brands) need to learn to adapt to reach their audience.

I thoroughly expect to see a great deal more social marketing from all UK parties in the next election. Each major party in the UK all have dedicated marketing teams, but neither David CameronNick Clegg or Ed Miliband are using social media marketing to its full potential.

Google+ and Politics

The most exciting potential for politicians to interact with constituents in my view is through hangouts – an ideal medium for politicians to show an unscripted, and thus seemingly more truthful conversation. Perhaps a hangout with Cameron and Clegg discussing solutions for the housing shortage, or other key topics?

Social marketing provides a platform for politicians to show a personal side to voters, and reach constituents directly. Whoever takes full advantage of this will be in good stead to win the next UK election.

The PR/Blogger pitch process

I read an interesting article on Umpf’s blog earlier this morning, a summary of a PR/Blogger outreach event they attended earlier in the month. Hosted by Econsultancy’s Vicki Chowney and featuring a panel of three public relations professionals and three bloggers, a series of best practice discussions ensued on the topic of PR/Blogger relationships.

The panel highlighted the sad truth that there are a lot of PRs who don’t appear to understand basic human communication, evident in their contact with bloggers. Unfortunately, this is the sad truth within the PR industry as a whole. To be any good at PR does require the very highest level of communication skills, something I will write about in the near future.

In reference to some of the best practice tips the panel highlighted, I do have a few thoughts to add.

I agree with the need for bloggers to be open and honest with their traffic statistics, but only if the blogger is either being paid, or receiving something in exchange for writing. There are a number of great tools that can provide backlink information and traffic stats, such as Majestic SEO*.

I don’t believe that PRs need to get to know bloggers on a personal level, but they are right in that, much the same as if you were to target a journalist, you need to know the publication or blog, its content and its target audience before contacting them.

I agree again with the need to tailor the angle of the story, something that agencies should naturally be able to do when selling into any publication, always answering the question of why is it relevant to their audience. However, there is the argument that as writers, bloggers should be able to add their own angle to the story, as long as they are provided with as much information as possible.

The debate of to pay or not to pay stems down to finding that middle gap. Yes, there are some blogs that receive a much greater level of traffic, and if the prize is not of high enough value, a monetary value for posting the competition should be attached. Whether it be a blog or publication, as the readership increases, so too does the value of advertising within that publication. Likewise, not all blogs should be able to demand a placement fee outright.

In an ideal world, you would reach a point where the costs and benefits for both parties are equal. Upon analysis of the costs of the agency’s time spent on pitching, as well as the value of the prize and the quality of the placement their competition will get, accompanied with the blogger’s increase in traffic and thus the increase in net worth of their blog, a middle ground should be reached.

This is, of course, the ideal world scenario. Unfortunately, not all bloggers are experienced journalists or really understand agencies and what they need to achieve out of their work. Likewise, not all agencies are any good.

If there is one thing that needs be taken away from this, it is that people really do need to start focusing on basic human communication, recognising that it is in fact a human on the other end of the telephone or email that you are dealing with, reaching that middle ground where both parties are gaining from this relationship.

Cant we all just get along?

*disclosure – Majestic SEO are a partner with Receptional, and a client, but they do have the world’s largest commercially available backlink data index, so I’ve no problems with recommending them here!

The greatest social media marketing campaign of all time

In my mind, there has always been one social media marketing campaign that really stood out among the others – a campaign way before its time, which literally caused the industry to stop in its tracks and rethink the way forward. That award goes to BMW.

Background

At the turn of the millennium, BMW posted sales of $33bn, a slight decrease from 1999. Afraid of further loss, they turned to long term advertising partner Fallon Worldwide to come up with a new campaign to prevent further decline.

Through extensive consumer research on their typical customer (46 years old, £80k income, 2/3rds male, married with no children), they discovered that 85 per cent of their customer base used the internet prior to purchasing a new BMW.

From this, the automotive manufacturer and Fallon put together what I believe was the greatest ever social media marketing campaign, to reach out to their new, internet savvy customer base.

That campaign was The Hire.

It’s not surprising how many people have not heard of this campaign. Not only are there more than six times the amount of people with access to the internet today than there was ten years ago, but many of the social networking platforms that would have helped this campaign to spread virally, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter had not even been invented yet. Social media was in its infancy, but this campaign was a worthy competitor to today’s greatest efforts.

The Hire

The Hire was a series of short films produced solely for the internet in 2001 and 2002. Some of the world’s greatest directors, including Guy Ritchie (Lock Stock, Snatch, RocknRolla), Tony Scott (Man on fire, Top Gun, Unstoppable), John Woo (Face/Off, Mission Impossible 2), Ang Lee (Crouching tiger, Hulk) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 grams) were brought in to direct each film.

The plot of each of the shorts differed, but each one starred Clive Owen playing ‘The Driver’, a suave character behind the wheel of multiple BMWs, hired by various people to act as a transporter for their various needs. The short films also featured a multitude of other famous actors, including Madonna, Forrest Whittaker, Gary Oldman and Mickey Rourke.


Typical ‘Hollywood’ methods of marketing were used, such as billboards, broadcast spots and free posters. With budgets similar to those of high end commercials, Fallon had flipped the traditional advertising equation upside down, by spending 90 per cent of its budget on production, and only 10 per cent on media. At the time this was seen as a huge risk.

Outcome

The initial cost of the first five films in 2001 was an estimated $15 million. Due to overwhelming web traffic, industry praise and BMW’s bottom-line success, an additional three films were produced in 2002 coming in at around $10 million.

The series won numerous awards, receiving praise across the board. From a marketing industry perspective, perhaps the greatest accolade of The Hire was winning the first ever Titanium Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

By June 2003, more than 45 million people had viewed the films, overshooting the original goal of 2 million by a long shot. To date, views are well into the hundreds of millions.

However, the real success came in sales. In 2001, BMW sales increased by 12.5 per cent, surpassing the 200,000 mark for the first time in the company’s history. The following year, sales continued to rise an additional 17.2 per cent, outselling Mercedes and placing BMW in a firm second in the luxury car market behind Lexus.

These results, for any marketing campaign are incredible. But it is easy to forget that these were produced ten years ago. The use of the internet as a marketing medium chosen over television was a real innovation. It was also one of the first digital campaigns produced at this level used to build the brand image, rather than sell a single product.

Finally, the video was shared through word of mouth and online via email at levels many digital marketers today can only dream of.

He who dares…

Through the extraordinary risk taking, and high quality production that mirrored brand values so well, BMW had created the ultimate social marketing campaign that delivered real bottom line results, and helped shape the future of social media marketing. In my view, it was the greatest campaign in history.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the eight films