The Next Decade of Social Media

On Stage at Cannes Lions

Last week, I shared some thoughts on the next decade of social media at the 2015 Cannes Lions festival. The key points are highlighted in this Guardian article:

  1. Gone
  2. Shoppable
  3. Snackable
  4. Automated
  5. Connective
  6. Filtered
  7. Integrated
  8. Chinese
  9. Subcutaneous
  10. Empowering

More coverage of the talk is available in these write-ups:

More images from my week in Cannes:

Facebook: That was then, this is now.

The title of this post is borrowed of course from the classic coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton. It also happens to be a great phrase to describe what’s happened to Facebook.

This week as reported by TechCrunch, Facebook users have been hearing rumors that private messages – written in 2009 and earlier – were showing up on public timelines. Facebook investigated the claims and found them to be false and technically impossible to be true.

But users are scrolling down their timelines and revisiting old posts on their timelines…and getting nervous. Why? Out of context, these public messages seem private. For example, here are some messages I posted on other timelines in February 2008:

  • “Thanks and congratulations! Looking forward to getting coffee with you next time you’re in Boston…choose a warmer time of year though. :)”
  • “Hi – delivering another iMarketing session right now in Istanbul. Sorry you’re not here – but I hear you’ve moved on to bigger and better things! Hope you’ve been well.” 
  • “They used tissues not knives – this ain’t Morocco! Sounds confusing, will explain in person. Thanks for the thoughts, biggest concern is the personal data loss.”

At the time, Facebook had between 50 and 100 million active users. Today it’s close to 1 billion.

Monthly active users woldwide (in millions) – Source: facebook

The public nature of social media hasn’t changed a bit; what has changed is the audience size, from potential to actual. The numbers have driven most of us to alter our online behavior, pulling personal activity a bit further away from the public spotlight and more often only showing people what we want them to see – which makes those old messages look so exposed when viewed out of context. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, we have prepared a face to meet the broader range of faces that we will meet – whether friends, extended family, colleages, or industry acquaintances. 

This “dulling of the personal” was prerequisite for brands to participate fully in social media. No one really wants to be friends with a logo. But the platforms wanted and needed brands to get active and spend money to support “2.0” business models. So now that platforms have scale, users start to look like one another and can be grouped into segments and targets and…guess what? Social media, with all of its promises of 1-1 engagement, starts to look a whole lot like traditional mass media.

So that was then and this is now.

  • If you want to clean up old posts on your timeline, here are instructions and discussion shared by David Berkowitz.
  • If you want to clean up old posts that you’ve made on other people’s timelines, go to http://facebook.com/[your_page]/allactivity?log_filter=cluster_11 and start scrolling back in time.

It’s quaint to look back and consider the corporatist vs. purist debate that seemed so critical at the time. That was then and this is now. If you haven’t already, clean out your social media closet and prepare a face to meet the faces you will meet.

 

With Facebook IPO, Social Business Becomes Key

We published this a couple weeks ago at CNBC. Although Facebook’s IPO has been widely panned, it’s important to keep in mind that the company still has a market cap of over $65 billion – that’s pretty big. And that valuation has meaningful implications for social business.

 

Originally published by CNBC on May 16, 2012

When Facebook becomes a publicly traded company in the very near future, the financial event will be remembered for many reasons, but we view it as a watershed moment in the evolution of social business.

Six years ago, we took an industry analyst briefing from Mark Zuckerberg to discuss some “big news”: Facebook had secured $25 million in funding; mobile access was now available, and “Facebook Alumni” was being launched acknowledging that many users would soon graduate college. At the time, the site had 7 million registered users, and some wondered if the company would survive the shift from being a niche community for students to an open-registration social network for the general public, moving into direct competition with the industry-leading juggernaut: MySpace.

Today, Facebook has over 900 million active registered users globally, and has thrived at the expense of MySpace and other social networks worldwide. Facebook mobile now has over 425 million active users. And some of the world’s largest brands are spending in the range of $25 million each to create consumer engagement opportunities through Facebook. With this, a newfound sense of maturity has arrived as about half of all companies that invest in social media now see positive ROI according to industry analyst firm Gartner. Most of the rest will soon find their way.

As part of this exploration of potent new forms of global communication, brands have learned that an investment in the Facebook ecosystem isn’t like a traditional media buy. Consumers expect direct, rapid contact with companies, and the resulting volume and pace of conversations can quickly overwhelm brands that are unprepared. As a result, companies must evolve traditional approaches to marketing communications, customer service, and measurement in order to engage at scale.

We characterize this emerging mode of operations as “social business” — harnessing fundamental tendencies in human behavior via emerging technology to improve strategic and tactical outcomes. Using Facebook effectively comes from a deliberate, holistic approach to strategy and operations — that is, approaching the Facebook platform by design. We have identified 10 key tenets to social business success, and these three below are key for the Facebook ecosystem: 

  1. While participation is self-organizing, the focus is on business outcomes. Businesses may not be able to control how consumers respond to messages, but they create the experiences to engage consumers and drive business results. Those brand experiences influence the future of Facebook — the IPO signals the importance of advertising revenue to the platform. That revenue comes from large advertisers like Procter & Gamble, which announced earlier this year that it would make major shifts in its massive advertising budget from traditional to digital channels. One of the first launches after this announcement was the global “Thank You, Mom” campaign, the biggest in P&G’s history. The campaign was launched in digital channels 100 days prior to the start of the 2012 London Olympics, and is integrated across all media channels, using Facebook as a centralized engagement hub.
  2. Listen and engage continuously. Participation and engagement require a full-time focus on community engagement. A brand doing this particularly well is Red Bull, an early adopter of the Facebook platform — little surprise, given the overlap in usage by college students. In 2007, Red Bull launched the first branded game on Facebook called “Roshambull” — an adaptation of the classic rock-paper-scissors game long before the first crops were ever planted in Farmville. Another Red Bull program called “Stash” utilized Facebook as a CRM backbone, connecting online and offline activities in a massive field marketing program. Red Bull was one of the first brands to convert its fan page to the new Timeline format, and continuous innovation keeps it consistently ranked as one of the largest brand communities on Facebook, with over 28 million brand advocates ready to respond.
  3. Integrate deeply into the flow of work. Businesses need to change the way they operate in order to maximize return on Facebook opportunities. At wireless service provider US Cellular, the first corporate use of Facebook was as part of an integrated marketing campaign. Consumer responses were handled by a volunteer force of 55 associates with plenty of enthusiasm, but ultimately not enough hours in the day in addition to their full-time jobs to sustain ad-hoc engagement at a service level acceptable to USCC standards. The company has since created a dedicated social media management team, armed with tools, policies, and process to engage at scale and drive customer acquisition and retention.

Some bystanders may downplay the Facebook IPO as a mere financing event, but it’s an undeniable milestone for social business. The multi-billion dollar public market validation of Facebook should leave no doubt in even the most skeptical manager’s mind that social business is real and has changed the way that companies think about consumer relationships and public positioning. Social business is here to stay as a fundamental new way of working. We now clearly see that success with it requires a strategy crafted by design.

Peter Kim and Dion Hinchcliffe are co-authors of “Social Business By Design: Transformative Social Media Strategies for the Connected Company.” Peter is chief strategy officer and Dion is EVP strategy at Dachis Group, a provider of SaaS-based products and services. Dachis Group is a Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant and Preferred Marketing Developer; P&G, Red Bull, and USCC are clients.

Facebook’s fMC

fMC

Yesterday in New York, Facebook hosted the first annual fMC gathering, hosted by their global marketing solutions team.

Our experts have posted about some of the major changes, including Timeline For Brands and Reach Generator, Premium, and Offers.

As a strategist, the session I appreciated most was led by Mike Fox called “Driving maximum value from your social marketing strategy.” Yes, you need a Facebook strategy. Here’s Mike’s framework for thinking through Facebook opportunities, which every brand should understand before diving into the functional changes and new advertising opportunities.

Connect (quality not just quantity)

  • Everything begins with a connection
  • Avoid gimmicks and incentives that cause non-customers to dilute your connection base
  • Use targeted ads to get your customers to become your fans.

Engage (create experiential value for your connections)

  • Create compelling page experience
  • Make it unique: avoid repurposing content
  • Put experienced marketers at the helm
  • Many lightweight interactions over time bold relationships and loyalty

Influence (word of mouth at scale)

  • When your connections engage, tell their friends
  • Influencers drive more connections and customers
  • Focus on frequent, high-quality publishing

Integrate (social by design)

  • Leverage the social graph to make your business better
  • Create synergy between your social marketing and a core business process
  • Custom apps are successful with engaged, influential audiences

I love that the phrase “social by design” was used frequently during the event. Success in social business requires planning and deliberation; Dion Hinchcliffe and I expand on this in our upcoming book Social Business By Design.

Is social media free?

In 2002, I was having a budget conversation with my CFO. I was general manager of the online store and we were discussing my requests for FTEs, technology upgrades, and marketing spend. The CFO asked me, “this is an online store…why do we need to spend any more money…doesn’t it run itself?” (I’m 99% sure he wasn’t joking.)

This week, news has been circulating that FMCG company Procter & Gamble will eliminate 1,600 jobs and shift more budget into digital media. The headline over at Business Insider is a bit more incendiary: “P&G To Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering It’s Free To Advertise On Facebook.”

The statement that “it’s free to advertise on Facebook” is wrong at minimum and leads executives to a potentially dangerous point of view regarding social business.

Let’s start with Facebook and free. From one perspective, this is true – anyone can start a brand page at no cost. However, building a successful page requires investment in media, social graph activation, and integration with large-scale marketing campaigns to offer custom experiences for fans and prospects. The world is learning more this week about the amount being spent on the Facebook advertising ecosystem – over $3 billion annually. That’s far from free – in fact, P&G’s remarks justify these investments.

What about brands that aren’t pouring money into the ecosystem? At minimum, companies need individuals to manage and moderate conversations. Although communities operating at scale may have members who engage each other with little company involvement, they aren’t free. Consider Wikipedia, a community that serves hundreds of millions of visitors every month – it takes technology and people to keep the site going – supported by donations. A company like Red Bull doesn’t get to over 26 million fans without engaging – which requires FTE/personnel expense.

P&G certainly didn’t pay for every one of the “1.8 billion in free impressions generated by the Old Spice campaign”…at least not directly. This is absolutely a success story and Dion Hinchcliffe and I talk about it in our forthcoming book, Social Business by Design. It’s important to keep in mind that this is an example of successful “big seed” marketing – plenty of money was poured into the initial mass media campaign and even more was spent to keep The Man Your Man Could Smell Like relevant with real-time videos. Free? No way – W+K grew 22% in 2011.

Not too long ago, I had a client who had a problem. He was the head of digital and emerging media for a consumer products brand. Recently, the CEO’s college-age children had come home for Thanksgiving break and showed the CEO this new thing called YouTube, where companies like Coca-Cola were having great success with reposting their TV commercials. As a result, the CEO decided to slash the digital and social media budgets; my client was laid off soon thereafter. Today, they are lagging far behind their industry competition and I have never seen anyone mention their brands or campaigns in social media.

The Elephant

Social media marketing success comes at a cost. Executives must take a social business perspective instead, considering external and internal factors as well as designing for intended and emergent outcomes. Without a holistic perspective, businesses end up operating like blind men around an elephant and a lineup of digital tombstones in online brand graveyards

Disclosure: my company Dachis Group operates one of the world’s largest Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant groups. P&G is a client and our recent work includes the People’s Choice Awards and Thank You, Mom. Red Bull is also a client and we launched their Facebook presence.

A simple followup on Facebook’s complex plan

About a year ago, Facebook announced its plan to expand its platform availability and allow users to link disparate online activities into a single social graph.

It’s a year later and the competition has yet to respond. Google’s +1 still hasn’t fully launched. Beyond that, Yahoo! was the only other company able to compete on a broad network perspective, while Twitter, FourSquare, and others maintain more isolated social networks.

Some of my quick thoughts from then and now:

  • Network effects aren’t unlimited. Facebook operates the universe’s largest social network. We all know about the benefits of network effects – but unlike a theoretical hockey-stick graph, past a certain point network effects diminish. You don’t have to search too hard for people who’ve gone through a “friend/follower purge” to reduce network noise. Bigger networks aren’t always better from a user perspective. Although Facebook’s active user count continues to grow, the numbers are mostly outside the U.S. and early users are essentially feeling the network plateau.
  • Natural monopolies have huge barriers to entry. Scoble uses a railroad analogy; earlier this week, Shawn Morton told me a story about a speaker who equated social media with the nuclear power industry. While Facebook’s investment in technical and human resources is substantial, it’s not exactly a natural monopoly on the scale of a railroad, electric utility, or airline. And the nature of social technologies tend to disrupt institutions; don’t be surprised if a new entrant – comprised of staff who’ve departed Facebook – undercuts Ubiquitous Liking. The Like has continued to proliferate but Facebook isn’t yet indispensable. Look to the launch of Facebook-specific mobile devices as a harbinger of networked success. 
  • This isn’t free. Keep in mind that participating in this effort isn’t free for anyone. Individuals gain recommendations from friends, so far on things like hockey players and jorts. The cost is a bit of privacy. Brands stand to gain referral traffic. The costs include sharing customer data. Whether individuals and brands decide to “pay” those latent costs, vis-a-vis personal experience or online business goals, will determine Facebook’s success or not. Time and time again, many users are willing to trade privacy for the latest and greatest – witness the success of spammy “see who clicked your profile” apps.

The momentum continues and will only continue to build through Facebook’s 2012 IPO

Four year flashback: Would you buy Facebook or DoubleClick?

In March 2007, I moderated a panel discussion for the MIT Enterprise Forum of New York called “The Future of Advertising: Integrated Marketing.”

To close the evening, I asked the audience a question:

“If you were a VC with $2 billion to spend, which would you buy:  Facebook or DoubleClick?”

Here’s what happened. So much for the wisdom of the crowd.

(BTW Facebook’s valuation was already estimated at $7.5 billion the year before.

Facebook Live Events

[This post was originally written by Lauren Picarello, Joe Pinaire, and Allison Squires of Dachis Group Austin]

Zuckerberg Suits up for Obama: How Brands Can Suit up for Customers Using Facebook Live

The Facebook Live Townhall with President Barack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prompted a lively discussion in our Austin office. Not only about Zuckerberg’s shirt and tie, but our social business take on how the live event went down.

It made us think: If we were going to host a Facebook Live event for a client, how would we do it? Our goal: optimize the Facebook platform to make the most of this opportunity.

First off, here’s what we liked about yesterday’s event:

  • Real-time engagement. Real-time engagement allowed for participation from multiple audiences: in-person, Facebook and select online destinations like whitehouse.gov. All audiences could watch and simultaneously interact with the event by commenting (806 Facebook comments), replying to others or “liking” posts (1,113 Facebook likes).

  • Viewer-reported metrics. The channel allowed for engaged viewers to ask the President questions from a predetermined subset of topics. Although the President fielded an underwhelming number of questions from the Facebook Live virtual audience, Facebook and perhaps the President captured valuable viewer-reported data (i.e. city, state and age) via the question functionality (See below: Figure 2). Applying this demographic data to the question topic chosen will yield valuable insight into policy matter and sentiment. From a strategist standpoint, the data set collected would ideally be used to inform the President’s strategy — as it could a brand’s — social or otherwise.

  • Sharing buttons. The event offered multiple ways for viewers to share their experience: Facebook, Twitter, email and embedding in the actual channel. In allowing viewers to spread the word, the program’s reach was extended. By now, most brands understand that including sharing buttons is among the bare essentials for improving amplification of any social experience.
  • Employee involvement. As the event host, it was a nice touch to not only see Facebook employees in the audience but to hear from them directly during the Q&A. For us, it helped humanize the “big Facebook machine.” How often do we get to hear from those behind-the-scenes at Facebook’s headquarters? Thinking about our clients, customers may not need to get to know your corporate employees, but there’s always something more a brand might reveal to get closer to its audience.

Opportunities moving forward:

  • Provide direction without constraining the content. The content during the live event was limited. During the Obama town hall, viewers were provided five buckets to choose from when submitting a question during the event: The Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Innovation, Women in Technology and Startup America (See below: Figure 3). Although there was also an “Other” category provided, the buckets make the agenda fairly clear. If viewers had a question about the War in Afghanistan, they definitely were not encouraged to ask it. It’s important to leave question fields open-ended in order to maximize activity, yield real data and mitigate potential backlash.

  • Aggregate unused questions and respond publicly. Unused questions should be aggregated for experts to respond to after the town hall. If questions go unanswered, it has negative implications for the brand. Public, timely and informed responses by people on the brand side whether it be via Facebook, blog posts or video messages, heighten an organization’s image and leave event participants with positive sentiment toward the brand.
  • Set your brand up for success: customize and position. Facebook and Livestream did not take full advantage of viewership. To most effectively communicate the brand’s message, organizations should work with Facebook to add layers of specificity to the event constructs. In yesterday’s case, let’s look at the automated Twitter message made available on the event page (See below: Figure 4). The pre-populated tweet for Livestream viewers to share via the Facebook event page was, “watching FacebookGuests,” rather than a more specific and inclusive message such as “watching President Obama during his first-ever Facebook Live town hall event.”

President Obama’s Facebook Live Townhall illustrates the simplicity, yet often overlooked nature of many social tactics. Facebook and Livestream have done a good job optimizing the platform, but brands should never forgo doing their own due diligence in such engagements. As such, it will be interesting to see how future events are customized to fit not only a brand’s needs, but more importantly the needs of their audience. For brands thinking about optimizing the Facebook platform, Obama’s event should serve as a reminder to remember the details and to deploy unique tactics that make the most sense for the audience within the event’s context.

Facebook Brand Apps

[This post was originally written by Charles Hull of Archrival | Dachis Group]

In 2007, Facebook launched Facebook Platform so third party developers could create applications that leveraged the Facebook social graph. Platform immediately became a hot property, with thousands of small developers jumping in the game, each eager to launch the next great application on Facebook, each trying to crack the code that would generate the holy grail of Facebook applications, lots and lots of monthly active users.

In the beginning, a few brands made the leap as well – with some notable successes and a few total failures. It quickly became clear that if brands were to be successful on Platform, they needed to provide value with their applications, not simply use it as another medium to push traditional advertising messaging. Over the last three years, some brands have tried, failed and moved on, and some have been successful and have built on that success to establish a strong presence on Facebook. Many brands are still testing the waters and making that first leap. For those brands, here are a few recommendations that will increase their chances of developing and launching a successful Facebook Application.

Keep It Simple

Applications should focus on one simple idea and execute it well. Don’t try to pack every campaign asset you’ve created into the Application canvas page, and don’t try to link together multiple interactive/content hooks, no matter how clever it sounds back in the boardroom.

Build On the Familiar

To lessen the learning curve, build off social ideas and concepts that people already know and are already familiar with. If you introduce an entirely new idea, it has to be easily understood to be successful at any significant level.

Provide Value

Think about ways your brand can add value to a Facebook users Facebook experience – provide utility, entertainment or convenience. If you are a greeting card company, you might want to think about developing an app that tracks friend’s birthdays first, before you build an app that features digital versions of your cards that people can send to friends.

Make it social. Obvious…you would think…

Don’t build an app whose only function is to try and push content or ads at people or get them to sign up for some service and expect people to add or share it or even use it. Will not work, period. Make sure that your app is focused on adding value to the user’s Facebook experience. Empower your users to use the Stream to share things they want to share about things they’ve made/created using your app, not just your canned brand message. On the flip side, Facebook is a part of many users’ daily lives/activities. Don’t clutter or annoy users with excessive notifications, messages, and invitations.

Do Your Homework

Dig around in the Facebook directory and see what apps are popular and most successful and understand why. Look for apps that are based on ideas that relate to your brand, and use that as a jumping off point. For example, if you are an alcohol brand, you might want to consider developing an app that allows friends to send a drink to a friend. This has been done repeatedly on Facebook, so the basic idea works…however, don’t directly copy it. The key is putting your on spin on it to tie it to your brand, and make it different enough to be interesting and fresh. Another alternative is simply sponsoring an existing app that already has a significant user base.

Budget Is Your Advantage

Most of the apps on Facebook are created by independent developers or small shops on shoestring budgets with little resources. As a result, most of the apps are poorly designed, buggy, not very sophisticated, and not premium. If a brand understands what makes for a successful app and adheres to these principles, users will appreciate the production value of a well-designed and developed application that has been built by pros, and that will reflect positively on your brand.

Package The App

Be sure and leverage all the available tools at your disposal on Facebook. Before launching an Application, for example, put resources towards developing a Facebook Page for your brand. This is a good place to house content and assets from other parts of the campaign or from brand archives, as well as provide custom content sections that drive traffic to your Applications. The goal of the page is build a fan base that can be engaged again and again with fresh content long after the life span of a specific application or content piece.

Promote It

With several hundred thousand apps now available on Facebook, you need to allocate dollars to bring it to the attention of Facebook users once you launch it. Contact Facebook and let them know you are interested in developing an application and get them on board in the beginning. They will help you determine the best way to launch your app and cut through the clutter.

Work With Someone Who’s Done It Before And Knows Facebook

Your agency of record is not likely going to have a clue how to build a Facebook application, even if they have an interactive department. Find and work directly with a shop that has experience building Facebook Applications and listen to their ideas and recommendations, or make sure your agency outsources the Application development to an experienced developer.

Be Prepared To Maintain Your Application

Facebook is constantly changing to meet the needs of its users. This means their API – the tools that Facebook provides developers to integrate apps with Facebook – are constantly changing too. One change to the APIcould dramatically affect the way your application works. Make sure you choose a partner that is able to keep on top of these changes, and be prepared to listen to, budget for, and follow their recommendations in an ever changing environment.