Rewarding New Facebook Fans: Good Business Or "Black Hat" SEO Tactic?

Rewarding people for "liking" a brand on Facebook has created some eye-popping headlines.  Bing offered FarmVille players three units of "Farm Cash" for friending the search engine on Facebook, and the outcome was 400,000 new fans in a day.  Einstein Bagels offered a free bagel to new fans and increased its fan count from 4,700 to near 350,000 in three days.  It's hard to argue with success, but could tactics like these come back to haunt brands as the next generation of search evolves in the coming years?  

Bing recently launched a new social feature on its search engine.  If you're logged into Facebook when you conduct a search on Bing, you will see specially highlighted search results of links or brands that your Facebook friends have liked.  The "Liked Results" feature makes sense--it's as if your friends are beside you as you search and chiming in with their personal recommendations.

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NHL Scores Hat Trick With Twitter

Next week, Perry Cooper, senior vice president of Digital Media, is speaking at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago.  In preparation for this event, I had the opportunity to learn about how the NHL is empowering it fans and delivering demonstrable results using social media. 

The league is leveraging digital media in many ways to produce benefits for fans, sponsors and the NHL.  One such program was #NHLTweetup, which saw the league sponsor fan tweetups in locations such as Chicago, Nashville and New Zealand.  The program was run at minimal cost to the league; the investment included 250 man hours, 13 pieces of autographed merchandise and gift bags with a total value of just $1,000.

The power of combining Twitter and real-world events is pretty easy to recognize, but the NHL took the time to quantify it.  This program created results for the NHL in at least three ways: 

  • Reach and impressions:  Out of 150 people who attended one NHL tweetup in New York City, 100 of them had Twitter personas that could be analyzed.  The NHL found out each fan had an average of 213 followers per person.  Extrapolating this across all of those who attended the international events, the league estimates that the program created impressions on more than 230,000 people via Twitter.  Of course, the social impressions didn’t stop there — the tweetups resulted in the most blog posts the sport had seen since the NHL Winter Classic. 
     
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Three Biases That Prevent Social Media Gurus From Objectively Evaluating New Social Tools

Yesterday Facebook released new tools to help improve users’ control of Facebook sharing and data.  The reaction to these new tools has been generally very positive (and, in my opinion, deservedly so).  But there's been some interesting buzz among social media gurus, particularly about problems with the new Facebook Groups functionality.  These gripes seem to be based less on a consideration of how the average consumer will use Groups than on a set of use cases and problems unique to social media professionals.  In short, I worry social media specialists are making the classic mistake that trips up marketers time and again: You are not the target market!

I believe there are three reasons that social media professionals may end up judging new tools based on their biases and not upon the potential use and adoption by the average consumer.  These reasons are:

  • Social media professionals are Creators and Conversationalists: Creators create the content that others consume in social venues, and Conversationalists post frequent status updates. Social media professionals are (not surprisingly) big Creators and Conversationalists, but the average consumer is not--fewer than one in four online adults in the US have Creator behaviors and fewer than one in three are Conversationalists. 
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Identifying — And Defeating — Social Clutter

Something amazing has happened to social media in the past couple of years: Overall adoption of social technologies has effectively reached saturation. We're now at the point where more than 80% of US online users engage with social media - and although there's been some hand-wringing over the fact social media adoption has plateaued at that level, let's keep things in perspective: 80% engage with social media! That's as many people as own a DVD player or use SMS.

This kind of scale gives marketers the potential to generate reach through social media. Sure, it's a new and unfamiliar kind of reach for many marketers - rather than just shouting uniform messages at millions of people, they must engage directly with their audiences and then hope those audiences turn around and talk to and influence millions more users. But as we've proven, this new model of reach can also provide the same kind of massive scale that the old reach models did: Just a tiny handful of Mass Connectors will create 256 billion influence impressions in the US this year.

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