27 social media insights from SMM11

Our Social Times SMM11

On the 19th September 2011, I attended the Social Media Marketing and Monitoring 2011 (SMM11) conference in London, an event set up and run by Luke Brynley-Jones at Our Social Times. Unfortunately, I’ve not had a chance to attend many digital and social media events over the past year and so it was great to finally get opportunity to do so this week.

The event involved lectures, panel discussions and case studies on a variety of social media related topics, including the future of social networking, gamification and social SEO (to name but a few).

I learnt a lot from the event but here are 27 things that really stood out for me:

Social networking

1. Facebook users are starting to get ‘fatigued’. Our News Feeds are getting bloated and we are demanding increasingly more control over the content we receive.

2. Although many consider MySpace to be dead and buried, perhaps it still has a place as a ‘niche network’ (alongside Tumblr, Instagram, Foursquare and Posterous).

3. Google+ has potential to rival LinkedIn as a professional social network. The usability, design and functionality are superior to LinkedIn.

4. Twitter is likely to be around for many many more years and is not under the same threat as Facebook from new social platforms like Google+. Twitter’s openness, brevity and simplicity will continue to be very useful (consider the ability of the two-screen experience it provides users).

5. As soon as commercial interests start to take hold, there is an obvious change in the relationship between the users and the social network. MySpace suffered once News Corp took over and it will be interesting to see how Google+ fares once Google pushes advertising more aggressively.

6. Although any social network will appeal to different people for various different reasons, whether they’re established or emerging, functionality, popularity and potential will be the keys to growth.

7. Social media is approached differently across the world. For example, in China 48% of web users in are content creators, compared with 24% in the western world. This has huge implications for how social networks operate and the functionality they provide users.

8. Despite newcomers (i.e. Google+!), Facebook is still the dominant social network and will likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. There is still vast potential for growth and innovation.

Social media marketing campaigns

9. Engagement is fine, but it is leads, conversions and sales that ultimately count. A campaign’s effect on the bottom line is the best metric for success!

10. Integrate social media into the entire marketing communications mix – point-of-sale, television advertising, literature. Don’t just rely on a standalone Facebook page or Twitter handle.

11. Bring the campaign alive away from the online environment. For example, BMI Baby used Instagram as part of a social media campaign but have created a physical exhibition showcasing customers’ photography.

12. Agencies can be used to plan, run and execute campaigns but as long as there is appropriate resource customer interaction should always take place in-house. You are the ones that define and represent your brand personality and behaviour. Outsourcing engagement is like paying for someone to go on a date for you.

13. Whenever you use competitions as part of a campaign, allow the community to either select or be involved in the selection process of the winner. There is always a sense of cynicism and suspicion that the company or brand has chosen their winner.

14. Aim for longevity (and consistency) after the campaign has ended. A one-off campaign is a great opportunity to unite a community or audience but it’s a waste to let this go once it’s all finished. The goodwill, excitement and interest generated from the campaign can be used to carry things on afterwards.

Social media measurement

15. Beware of data paralysis. Sensible, meaningful and actionable metrics should be used to monitor and measure social media marketing activity.

16. Before any social media activity begins, always ask: “What are looking to achieve?”. Once you know where you’re heading the channels (including social media) can be layered on top.

17. Don’t silo social media insights. Be sure to share relevant information with other team members and departments throughout the organisation.

18. CRM – we’re used to asking for telephone numbers, age, dates of birth and even email addresses. But why not ask for someone’s Twitter name? More and more people are embracing social media so communicate with them in the way they want to be communicated with.

19. If social media is going to be used as part of your customer service efforts, ensure that someone always owns a problem. Making a ‘twicket’ (a customer service ‘ticket’ generated from a customer’s tweet) shouldn’t be sent downstream. Empower staff to deal with problems themselves.

Gamification

20. The number of ‘gamers’ is growing rapidly. Before 2008, gamification was niche and closed off. But now over 150 billion minutes are spent every month on social games, that’s an average of ten minutes for everyone on the planet!

21. Although many people are reluctant to participate in games (primarily because of trust issues), these barriers can be removed to open up the potential.

22. Gamification isn’t necessarily about ‘fun’. Consider how LinkedIn and surveys work: they tell you you’ve completed X% as a way of encouraging you to complete more to reach 100%. Everyone wants to win!

23. Four key questions to ask when considering gamification:

• What motivates the user/customer?

• What are the mechanics/rules?

• Is there social interaction?

• How do you win (victory conditions)?

Social SEO

24. There is differing (and conflicting) guidance as to the affects of Facebook ‘likes’ and Google ‘+1s’ on search results. However, research by Marcus Taylor from SEOptimse  has indicated that social sharing actions are having an effect on the indexing of websites.

25. Whilst the Facebook ‘like’ button did have an impact on search results earlier in the year, ever since Google’s Panda update and the emergence of Google+ it is primarily Google’s +1s and not Facebook’s ‘likes’ that are really impacting search results.

26. A key conclusion from Marcus’s research takes us back to what is nearly always the case: content is king. Good content = more ‘likes’ and +1s = more traffic. Each of these aspects can be leveraged to create a virtuous circle.

Social media continues to grow and evolve – quickly!

I gained an awful lot of insight from the SMM11 conference and also got the opportunity to chat and network with some very interesting people. However, one of the main takeaways from the day was a confirmation that social media is growing, changing and evolving at an insanely fast pace.

Oh, and there was one other interesting thing I learned at the event:

27. A new term I hadn’t heard before: ‘Social emphasis’ – the space between paid and earned media.

For a great account of the day check out Liberate Media’s excellent blog post. Also, slides from many of the presentations at the event are available at Our Social Times’ Slideshare page.

If you were at the SMM11 event (either in person or watching the live stream) please feel free to share any insights and learnings you gained from the day. Comments are always welcome!