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Instagram Tops 100 Million Active Users
Following recent controversy over changing terms of service, Instagram began releasing active user counts to combat rumors that users were abandoning the platform. In a blog post on Tuesday, Instagram revealed that over 100 million people now use the photo-sharing social network every month.
Co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote: “Now, more than ever, people are capturing the world in real-time using Instagram—sharing images from the farthest corners of the globe. What we see as a result is a world more connected and understood through photographs.”
How does this measure up to other social platforms? All Things D labels Twitter as Instagram’s closest competitor — and while it took Twitter six years to reach 200 million users, Instagram has gained 100 million at a much faster rate.
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in 2011. NASA regularly invites influential bloggers to document key events such as this one.
Businesses have always understood that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful ways to shape opinions and drive awareness, preference and sales. “Influencer marketing” is simply the new, fancy way to describe word-of-mouth. The difference now: the spread of influence is directly measurable, and there are all kinds of tools designed to help you identify and manage influence marketing programs.
So what are the elements that actually make up an influencer marketing program? This is one of the many topics that Nick Einstein, Romi Mahajan, Scott Vaughan and I discussed on this week’s Tap the Power of Social Advocates panel at the Online Marketing Summit in Santa Clara.
Here are the 5 elements that every successful influencer marketing plan needs to address:
Who are the people that actually have the ability to shape the opinions and actions of your customers? How can you find the right ones to focus on? Influence measurement tools are definitely a place to start and should be part of any sophisticated monitoring strategy, but you’ll also want to look at other sources. Talk to your sales and customer service teams — they can help you identify customers or prospects who are likely to be passionate about your brand. Remember: you want to find not only people who are popular, but also people who are likely to be engaged advocates.
Once you’ve developed your target list, you’ll need to invite your advocates to participate in the program. Make sure you deliver the invitation in a way that acknowledges their importance, and show that you value their participation. Be specific: how will you compensate them for their time and engagement? The best reward is one that doesn’t necessarily money or tangible perks — often, being seen as influential by their peers will be enough motivation. There’s a thin line between a reward and a bribe: whatever you do, make sure that the program and the perks are ones that you’re comfortable talking about publicly.
Now that you have your advocates lined up, it’s time to empower them. What is the content you want them to share — and how do you make it very easy for them to share that content with their friends? A steady diet of small easy-to-share updates will keep you front of mind and keep them talking about you on a regular basis.
Having influencers who share your content is already a win. But having them create their own content, in their own words, about you — that’s taking it to the next level. How can you create a special experience for your brand advocates — one that they’ll be so excited about that they’ll blog, YouTube or Instagram it? How you do it will be different for every brand: a backstage pass, an exclusive piece of research, early beta access to a new product or an invitation to play a starring role in an upcoming commercial. What is it that fans really love about you, and how can you fuel that passion?
Your brand advocates work hard for you. The best way you can thank them is to celebrate them. Put their names up in lights, or put their face on the side of your next plane. Showcase their influence. These people represent your most committed customers. Everything that you and your company do is about delighting your customers (it is, isn’t it?) — what better way to demonstrate that than to celebrate your best customers, as publicly and loudly as you can?
Want to learn more about influencer marketing? Here’s the entire 45-minute panel discussion from the Online Marketing Summit, the discussion of the 5 elements begins at about 8:30:
Last December, I announced that we would be producing a guide to influence measurement tools. Well, it’s taken twice as long as I had planned, and the resulting Guide is double the size. But it’s done!
This Guide is not for the faint of heart. We look at personal influence measurement tools–Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, TweetLevel and PeekAnalytics–which measure the influence of individual social network users. And we also look at a set of contextual influence measurement tools from TRAACKR, mBLAST, SpotInfluence and Appinions, which are designed to look at influence in the context of topics, subject matter expertise, and how conversations are shaped and shared online.
There are lots of screenshots, charts, nuts-and-bolts analysis, and a test drive to see how the results from the different tools compare.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
the business cases for influence measurement tools
the difference between personal influence measurement and contextual influence measurement
best practices for using influence measurement tools to manage influencer relations and power perks promotions and other marketing programs
how the tools work–what they do well and where they fail
a comparison of the results you get from the different personal influence measurement tools
how to analyze the size and demographics of an online influencer’s audience
how to identify influencers in a given topic or area of expertise
how to use influence analysis to manage brand strategies
We’ll be posting excerpts from the Guide in the coming weeks, but you can buy and download the entire 64-page copy of The Realtime Report’s Guide to Influence Measurement Tools right here for $20. We hope that you’ll find it to be not only useful & informative, but also a big time-saver for those of you who are using or evaluating tools like this for your business.
A lot of people helped to make this undertaking possible. Thank you to the vendors who were generous with their time, answering lots of questions, and agreeing to provide access to premium-level tools to evaluate. I’m especially grateful to two marketing experts, V3‘s Shelly Kramer and Zoetica‘s Kami Watson Huyse, who shared insights on best practices based on their experience in working with analytics tools and managing digital marketing campaigns, and to all of the other social media and marketing professionals who have offered their expertise and encouragement along the way. And a big thank you to the entire team at Modern Media and The Realtime Report–everyone put in extra hours to help get this project done.
The grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship last month was a public relations nightmare for Carnival Cruise Corp., and the public did not hesitate to voice their opinion on social media channels. After the first few days, Carnival made the decision to go silent on social networks, and missed a huge opportunity to interact with consumers. Was Carnival right or wrong to pause the conversation?
And, will they try a different strategy moving forward? We’re about to find out: news outlets are reporting another Costa cruise ship adrift – without power – off the Seychelles. How will the Carnival social media team handle this latest crisis?
Carnival Reacts to the Costa Concordia Crisis
The grounding of the Costa Concordia took place the night of January 13, 2012, and was all over the media on January 14th. Carnival’s first response on Facebook came late on the 13th: “Our thoughts are with guests and crew of the Costa Concordia. We are keeping them in our hearts in the wake of this very sad event.” For the next five days, Carnival’s Facebook page posted the company’s official statement and information about evacuation & emergency procedures, cruise safety, ship navigation systems, and posted Carnival’s onboard safety video. But while this information answered the questions and comments of some fans, Carnival did little else to respond to the myriad of concerns pouring in related to the Concordia grounding.
The company Twitter account (@CarnivalCruise) largely mimicked the content of Carnival’s Facebook page, in many cases linking back to the content on Facebook. Carnival is also represented on Twitter by CEO Micky Arison, an avid tweeter (@MickyArison). In those first few days after the grounding, Advertising Age reports that he “suddenly changed his tune –- from a smack-talking, fun and energetic basketball fan and cruise enthusiast tweeting 20-30 times a day, to a quieter, more measured executive.”
Declaring Social Media Silence
On January 19 – six days after the grounding – Carnival chose to suspend social media activities, with a brief post on Facebook, a shorter version on Twitter, and a single tweet from Micky Arison (Advertising Age).
On Facebook, 1/19/12: “Out of respect for all those affected by the recent events surrounding our sister line, Costa cruises, we are going to take a bit of a break from posting on our social channels.”
From @MickyArison: “I won’t be as active on Twitter for the next while. Helping our @costacruises team manage this crisis is my priority right now. Thnx”
On Facebook, the “Out of respect…” post announcing Carnival’s social media silence received an impressive response, garnering over 5,000 ‘likes’ and 850 comments. The comments were a mix of positive and negative sentiment, with some fans strongly supporting the brand and others expressing anger and frustration.
While more information came to light regarding the Concordia’s grounding (most of it not favorable for Carnival), the cruise line remained completely silent on Facebook — although comments on their last post continued to flow in — until January 24th, when the brand posted a “we’re ready to re-engage” post. The post received 3,000 ‘likes’ and over 600 comments, and once again the reaction was mixed. Some fans were upset and particularly disturbed by Carnival’s offer of 30% off to those who were on the Concordia. Others were loyal Carnival fans expressing their continued support of the brand.
But comments on Facebook only tell part of the story. To gain a broader picture of social media sentiments around the grounding of the Concordia, Advertising Age compared the comments and questions on blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter about Carnival in the pre-Concordia two-week period and post-Concordia two-week period. In those four weeks, Carnival faced a precipitous decline on social media channels, from 91% positive/neutral (48% positive) before the grounding, down to 66% neutral (only 16% positive) after the tragedy.
Is silence ever the right choice on social media?
Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks wrote “The web is not something you turn on and off. Interacting with people is not something you can avoid when it’s not convenient for you. Sticking your head in the sand, in order to avoid criticism, is ridiculous in today’s real-time, 24/7 world.”
The social conversation never stops happening – and Carnival chose to simply ignore it, rather than actively addressing public concerns – and saw a significant drop in approval. Carnival’s attempt to remove itself from the conversation only left a blank space (with Carnival’s name on it) for fans to fill with their sentiments. In this case, there was a lot of anger and confusion about the Concordia disaster – but to be fair, there were also many prayers for the victims, support for Carnival, and praise from loyal fans of the brand.
In the world of social media, withdrawal looks very much like admitting defeat; keeping a voice and remaining transparent and accountable to your fans is the way to keep them coming back. But in this case, many fans stuck up for the brand while Carnival itself remained silent. If the brand had stayed present, would fans have rallied in the same way? And would Carnival have been able to win over angry fans by addressing their concerns more directly?
Was it truly a “social media fail” – as the media has been so eager to label it? As the Concordia’s captain goes to trial and further developments come to light, Carnival was sure to be back in the spotlight.
And with another Costa ship in distress since last night, we’re still waiting for any mention of the current crisis from the company’s Facebook or Twitter accounts.
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Twitter Hits 500 Million Registered Users, Pinterest Grows Rapidly in Europe
Twitter has surpassed the 500 million user mark, according to unofficial Twitter statistician Twopcharts.com. Approximately 12.3 new accounts are being registered per second, and Twopcharts predicts that Twitter will reach the next milestone – 600 million users – in 103 days. However, that leaves two big questions: how many of these accounts are active, and how many are fake accounts?
Since May 2011, Pinterest has consistently seen growth rates in the double, triple, and quadruple digits in European countries, as reported by comScore. In terms of unique visitors, the UK was the leading EU market with 245,000 unique visitors in January 2012. Germany had 67,000 unique visitors in January 2012, while Spain had 62,000.
Germany took the lead as Pinterest’s fastest growing EU market with a growth rate of 2956% from May 2011 to January 2012, followed by Spain (a rise of 1348%), and Italy (794%) within that same time period.
While visitors from France and the UK decreased slightly between December 2011 and January 2012, engagement on Pinterest rose by 1740% and 20%, respectively.
What happens when big data meets data from realtime social media signals? Managed correctly, a realtime marketing program creates the opportunity to offer a unique, personalized value proposition to customers.
That’s what Teradata wanted to demonstrate with its “Social Experience” program, which it ran during its recent PARTNERS 2011 Teradata User Group Conference & Expo on October 2-6 in San Diego. The program, which saw a 20% participation rate from conference attendees, was so successful that it has led to several custom implementations of similar programs for Teradata customers, and will be repeated next week at Teradata’s Aprimo Marketing Summit. (Marketing software company Aprimo is owned by Teradata, a big data analytics company.)
According to Aprimo VP Product Marketing Deb Woods, Teradata wanted to create an experience that:
let customers and partners connect with each other at the conference,
introduced them to local vendors and services, and
showcase how realtime and customer data could be combined to create tangible marketing value and deliver real returns.
Of course, since the program was built using Teradata technology, it would allow Teradata to showcase its own platforms and expertise.
How the Realtime Campaign Worked
Attendees were invited to opt-in to the Social Experience through a prototype Facebook app, the Aprimo Offer Exchange, to receive targeted offers based on their social preferences. The campaign captured registrant data, matched exclusive offers from San Diego businesses, event sponsors and exhibitors to registrants based on interests and real-time data from social channels–Twitter feeds, Facebook “likes,” and LinkedIn connections.
It delivered the offers according to registrants’ desired methods of communication (Facebook, email, text messages). There were approximately 100 offers from 40 merchants and exhibitors.
Teradata used the realtime data to target the offers based on influence, sentiment and the content that users were sharing. The company analyzed 3,200 tweets and 6,200 Facebook posts to determine which attendees posted most often, and whose posts were forwarded or retweeted by others. Graph analysis helped visualize the path that retweeted messages followed, indicating the virality of the message and influence of its originator. Sentiment analysis tools helped the team identify positive and negative postings. Analysts also tracked tokenization to understand how users navigated through web sites and which had higher click-through rates.
Based on the analysis across both the structured and unstructed data, the program personalized the attendee experience (program agenda, session schedules, conference e-mails and surveys) and delivered targeted offers and discounts from exhibitors and local merchants via the Aprimo Offer Exchange for exclusive offers and discounts.
For example, someone tweeting that they were headed to an early-morning session might receive a Starbucks coupon. Someone posting about analytics-related content might receive a link to a relevant white paper.
Teradata shares more detail on the technologies used to power the program in this blog post, but the campaign ran on a mashup of proprietary Aprimo marketing automation software, a custom-built Facebook app, Teradata data warehouse analysis, and data and business analytics tools.
The Social Experience program in San Diego had 727 registrants (20% participation rate) of a total of 3,500 attendees–a 20% participation rate.
The program sent a total of 18,932 personalized offers via SMS, email and the offer exchange Facebook mobile app. Of those, 6,612 were viewed–which translates into a 35% open rate.
Of approximately 100 offers, 89 were acted upon.
And Teradata walked away with 12 leads for customers who were interested in buying the prototype application that powered the campaign, with two of those customers likely to implement a custom solution for their own client-base.
Teradata’s marketing team is especially pleased with the participation rate because many of its customers are not very active on social media. The company has clients in all industries–some, such as retail, are very advanced users of social media, but others, such as its pharmaceutical industry clients, are less active adopters. In some cases, Deb Woods told me, they found that attendees didn’t even have a Facebook account, so the Teradata onsite staff had to first help people who wanted to participate set up their Facebook. In other cases, attendees chose not to participate because they restrict their Facebook activity strictly to personal use.
Realtime Marketing: Best Practices Recommendations from Teradata
The Teradata Social Experience is a great case study in how marketers can combine big data, customer preference and realtime signals to deliver highly targeted offers. Teradata has a major “Socialization of Data” initiative designed to drive conversation around this topic and encourage its customers to identify and implement programs to drive value at the intersection of structured and unstructured data.
Aprimo CMO Lisa Arthur says that “social networks aren’t simply new channels” but “gateways to volumes of insight. Customers are sending daily – if not hourly – buying signals to companies on laptops, tablets, smart phones and other devices. The Socialization of Data shows companies how to interpret and respond to those signals moving forward.”
But Teradata is far more conservative about how it is stepping into this space when compared to fast-moving realtime marketing start-ups such as LocalResponse, especially when it comes to the issue of the opt-in.
Deb Woods told me that too often, marketers make two mistakes in how they communicate with customers: 1. not getting their permission, and 2. not sending the right offer, at the right time, in the right channel. By combining realtime data with a traditional data warehouse, an integrated solution such as this program demonstrated can address both of these issues. “If you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with me, and if I haven’t agreed to receive communications from you, I will feel like you’re stalking me,” she said. Companies who don’t follow these guidelines risk brand degradation.
What do you think? Would you be willing to experiment with a realtime marketing campaign that’s based on a soft opt-in following the guidelines outlined by LocalResponse? Or would you restrict your campaigns only to programs such as Teradata’s, which require a strict opt-in policy?
Back in April, we covered @Msbeervendor, the Seattle Mariners’ SafeCo field vendor that allowed fans to tweet for beer — and have it delivered right to their seat. Now, not surprisingly, there’s an app for that. Mobile app Taap.it will be unveiling a new set of features that enable users to order concessions at sporting events from their smartphones — no more waiting in line for a hot dog and missing the best play.
Through Taap.it, fans will be able to see detailed pictures and descriptions of available food items, place their order, and have items delivered to their seats.
The app also goes beyond food and beverage service, encouraging fan interaction by allowing users to enter contests, vote for player of the game, rate player performances, and “much more.” According to Andrew Calagna, Director of Event Marketing for Taap.it, the app aims “to be the first to have a truely interactive experience with the fans,” and is designed to “revolutionize” the way fans experience sporting events.
“We are working with a few teams, like New York Islanders, to help them make their patrons’ experience more enjoyable by using our app” wrote Matthew James, Assistant Director of Public Relations for Taap.it.
Taap.it’s new features will be available to the public for the upcoming baseball season.
Taap.it currently serves as a “Craiglist” for mobile with local classified advertisements, and enables users to “sell anything, socially, locally and in realtime” from their mobile phone (The Next Web). The app has created partnerships with over 5,000 businesses in New York City since its launch in May 2011.
The ability to order food without having to wait on line at games will surely be appreciated by fans. But will they readily use the same platform to participate in more interactive, game-centric activities, like rating player performances?
LocalResponse has started policing its clients' realtime marketing campaigns.
LocalResponse monitors realtime content and allows marketers to automatically message Twitter users based on that content. Last Wednesday, the company launched the pro version of its realtime advertising platform, but the weeks up to the launch were surrounded by controversy around campaigns that the company powered for some of its beta customers.
Most notorious among these was a Toyota Camry Super Bowl promotion in which a series of verified accounts sent unsolicited @ messages to users who were tweeting with Super Bowl-related hashtags. According to LocalResponse co-founder and VP product Michael Muse, the company will no longer allow clients to run that type of campaign.
I met with Michael last Friday to get his take on the difference between realtime marketing and spam, and to see if he could convince me that there is a way to run a campaign based on sending automated Twitter messages–without users feeling like they were being spammed. Michael believes that, if done correctly, realtime messaging is not only possible, but also enormously beneficial for both the marketer and the user.
LocalResponse Co-Founder Michael Muse is developing guidelines and best practices for realtime marketing campaigns
You Need a Clear Signal
The key, according to Michael, is that “you don’t want users to get a message for something that user didn’t check into.”
The company is implementing a new set of rules and developing a set of best practices for using its platform. In order to send an @ message to a Twitter user, that user must have specifically “checked in with the brand,” either via a location-based app, with the check-in shared to Twitter, or by mentioning the brand on Twitter in a positive context. (LocalResponse has proprietary natural language processing technology that filters out tweets with negative sentiment. So someone who tweets “Can’t wait to order the Burger Sandwich at Brand X” might get a coupon for a side of fries, but someone who tweets “Brand X food is terrible” would not receive the offer.)
Muse says that their experience with the 50+ campaigns they have run so far is that, when people mention a brand in a positive way, they are delighted to know that the brand is listening, and to get a relevant response.
For marketers who want to reach consumers who do not meet these new criteria, LocalResponse is offering a separate product called Intent Retargeting, which can deliver mobile banner ads based on various realtime signals.
A Share Means I Want You to Care
Not all users are created equal, and Michael cautioned against using your own interpretation of what works for you to judge the expectations of other users. For instance, Walgreens recently ran a campaign using LocalResponse to deliver coupons to customers who checked in at its stores. The campaign drew heavy criticism from some bloggers, who described it as spam.
But under the new LocalResponse guidelines, this Walgreens campaign would still be legal. And, according to Michael, the reason the campaign worked is because it was targeting users who checked in at the pharmacy and then chose to share that information: “If you choose to share a check-in, then you indicate that you want someone to care about that piece of content.” Personally, I may not want to hear from Walgreens–but then I’m also not very likely to check in when I visit one of their locations or to publish that check-in to my Twitter feed.
Do I Know You?
Michael and the LocalResponse team have developed other rules that their clients must follow. The entity that responds to the user must be the verified entity that the user mentions. In other words, no tweets from Burger King to people who check in at McDonalds–only McDonalds can respond to tweets that mention McDonalds. The company also insists that clients be transparent about why they’re responding to users and offer something of value to the recipient in the tweet (“thanks for checking in with us – here’s your coupon!”). The rules provide guidelines about creating content that does not feel “too cheesy”–no hashtags or generic marketing slogans, for example.
A Little Goes a Long Way
LocalResponse sets strict guidelines around the volume of messages a user can receive: no more than one a day from any vendor using the LocalResponse platform, and there are limits on the number or messages a user can receive from any given merchant. The landing page included with the marketer’s tweet always includes an opt-out so that users can chose not to receive any messages powered by LocalResponse, or they can opt out of messages from a given vendor.
Most brands are still learning the right way to engage with Twitter users. “We have to say no every day,” Michael told me.
Keep the People in the Picture
I wish I had a sign like this in my bathroom.
The company strongly encourages brands to have trained social media professionals monitoring campaigns and prepared to engage with users who respond or comment. The PRO Dashboard, released last week, allows marketers to see realtime analytics and to pause a campaign to make adjustments if it is not getting the anticipated response. The LocalResponse team monitors running campaigns, too, and will step in if there is a problem.
Done right, realtime marketing works. Michael says that LocalResponse customers have seen “click-through rates around 50%,” and one of the company’s office is papered with advertising insertion orders.
It’s a Hug Thing
The best thing about Twitter, says Michael, is that “you get feedback.” That means that people who hate what you’re doing are far more visible. But it also means that if you “learn to embrace these customers,” listen to what they are telling you and learn how to respond to the content they’re sharing in the right way, “they will love you.”
So what do you think–are you convinced? Should brands be using what customers tell them on Twitter and other realtime platforms as an invitation to engage using platforms like this? Or do you think brands should stick to more personalized realtime outreach, like in this Pretzel Crisps example?
… and stay tuned: tomorrow I will report on a conversation I had with a technology vendor who has very different views on the question of messaging customers who have not specifically opted in to hear from a vendor. UPDATE: that post, on Teradata’s Social Experience campaign, is now live.
A recent study by strategic marketing firm Russell Herder examines the effect of Facebook on the relationship between supervisors and employees. Specifically, the survey looked at how age, gender and frequency of social networking usage influences the decision to connect (or not) with one’s supervisor online.
The October 2011 online survey of nearly 1,000 U.S. residents revealed that 21% of employees – over 1 in 5 – are friends with their supervisor on Facebook. Younger employees are significantly more likely to be Facebook friends with their supervisor: of those who have both a Facebook account and a direct supervisor, 26% of those ages 18-34 are friends with that boss, compared to only 10% of those ages 35 and over.
Frequent Facebook users were also more likely to be friends with their boss on the social network. Of those who log into Facebook daily, 23% are friends with their supervisor on Facebook vs. only 12% of those who log into Facebook less than once per day.
The survey asked whether it was considered inappropriate to friend one’s supervisor on the social network. Not surprisingly, the younger generation (18-34) and more frequent Facebook users were both less likely to feel this relationship was inappropriate (only 28% and 31% respectively), while those ages 55 and older (44%) and less frequent Facebook users (41%) were more likely to believe being Facebook friends with their supervisor was inappropriate.
Facebook friendships are initiated by either party. Among those who report being Facebook friends with their supervisor, 46% say they initiated the connection, while 38% claim the friend request came from their supervisor.
Some employees have chosen to end their connections with a supervisor on Facebook. Of those who are not currently friends with their supervisor on Facebook, nearly 6% say that they were connected at one time; this figure climbs to 10% among those ages 18-24.
Once the connection is established, it is largely used for social purposes. Of all Facebook users with an existing connection to their supervisor, 70% use it for social communication. While some do use the social network to communicate in a professional context, it’s more often men (53%) than women (37%).
Does a Facebook connection with one’s supervisor affect job performance? Nearly one-third of men believe that being friends with their supervisor on Facebook allows them to do their job at least somewhat more effectively; only 15% of women agree. The vast majority of both genders believe that having a Facebook connection with their supervisor has no impact on their job performance.
Are you friends with your boss on Facebook? Does your company encourage or discourage social network friendships between employees and supervisors? Does it have a social media policy in place to define appropriate boundaries?