I became a LinkedIn member when it first arrived on the scene as an exclusive social network for business professionals. I recall all the buzz that was spreading throughout Silicon Valley about LinkedIn, and that one needed a special “invite” to become a member. Looking back, I remember how honored I felt to be “linkedin” by a fellow colleague — I was officially in the club! Over the years, I have watched the social network evolve into an effective recruitment platform (disclaimer: I got my analyst job thanks to a Forrester recruiter who found me on LinkedIn), then to a content publishing platform after it added Slideshare, a newsfeed and its popular influencer program.
Today, LinkedIn is attracting a plethora of B2B and B2C brands that are trying to build a presence in front of 300 million professionals. There are currently more than 3 million company pages on LinkedIn. All of this brand activity begs the question: What engagement rates are brands getting on LinkedIn? We looked at the top 50 global brands and their member interactions across a variety of social networks. We found that LinkedIn’s engagement rate was lower than other social networks that also have professional members:
Why does LinkedIn’s engagement rate lag behind the others? Members simply do not go to LinkedIn to interact with brands after they have purchased a brand’s product. Marketers understand this — only 5% use LinkedIn for a social relationship objective (e.g. drive customer loyalty, provide customer service).
American government is divided along liberal-conservative lines on just about everything. But the Supreme Court agreed that you can't search somebody's mobile phone without a warrant, and it wasn't a typical split decision -- it was unanimous. (The other big ruling today, on the controversial question of whether Aereo can sell you streaming access to your own TV channels, was 6 to 3 against Aereo).
Why? What is in your mobile phone?
Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out that they are "cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers." You might as well add alarm clocks, wallets, stethoscopes, and running coaches. There is literally nothing about you that your phone may not know at some point (your browsing history probably contains a lot of secrets you may want to hide from some people). If I had a choice, I'd rather have an invasive government search my house than my phone. (I wonder how many of them have phones under their robes.)
Ever since Facebook CFO David Ebersman admitted last October that young teens were visiting the site slightly less frequently, most have accepted as fact that young people are fleeing Facebook en masse. Ivy League researchers have forecast that the service will be all but dead by 2017; President Obama recently claimed that young people “don’t use Facebook anymore”; and when comScore recently reported that fewer college students were using Facebook, media outlets ran stories on the “social platforms college kids now prefer.”
But if you take a closer look at the data it tells a very different story. Sure, many data sources show that Facebook’s usage among young people has declined slightly — but the drops are small, and the huge majority of this audience still uses the site. For instance, that comScore report only found a three-percentage-point drop in college-aged adults’ Facebook usage and reported that 89% of this audience still used Facebook — far more than used any other social site.
To investigate teens’ social behaviors further, we recently asked 4,517 US online youth (aged 12 to 17) not just whether they use social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr — but if they use those sites “about once a day,” “at least a few times each day,” or even if they were on any of the sites “all the time.”
Mobile messaging apps are super-hot, but it’s still early days for monetization. WeChat, the largest mobile social platform in China, has been focusing on building a large user base globally and maintaining stickiness by upgrading its functionalities constantly. With the strong support of Internet giant Tencent, monetization is not an urgent concern for WeChat yet, but it has paved the way for many monetization options.
There are three options that could work well in monetizing WeChat:
Mobile gaming. Online gaming is Tencent’s best strength and the primary source of its revenue, so it’s natural for the Internet giant to want to transfer that strength to mobile. For example, when Tencent launched its first WeChat game, the Candy Crush-like Tiantian Ai Xiaochu, it soon became the most downloaded game in the app store. In-app purchases in games will become an important money generator for WeChat.
Mobile commerce and payments. Selling products on the WeChat platform is not new; last year, local smartphone brand Xiaomi sold 150,000 units in 10 minutes on WeChat. But with the successful launch of the new WeChat Payment service and its cooperation with JD.com, China's second-largest eCommerce player, mobile commerce and payments will soon become scalable on WeChat.
A lot of the articles on this talk about why it "makes sense" (the typical after-the-fact justification that journalists do). Once you get past the dining puns in the headlines, you learn that the merger makes sense because Priceline sells mostly outside the US and OpenTable mostly within the US -- so they can target each other's customers. Or it makes sense because Priceline can sell restaurant reservations to its travelers.
These justifications are all true, but allow me to propose a different justification. Imagine for a moment that the world is undergoing a mobile mind shift -- and that mobile moments are becoming more valuable. OpenTable has dominated the restaurant reservation moment. You can be anywhere, decide to make a reservation, check reviews, and book a table in a moment. It's a perfectly suited task for an app, and the OpenTable app is perfect for it.
OpenTable has also cleverly embedded itself into restaurants -- many of them use its system to manage reservations, even as their customers use it to make reservations. I don't know if there is a restaurateur app from Open Table, but there ought to be. Why not manage the reservations on your mobile device as well?
Today, Nokia’s HERE just announced it plans to acquire Medio Systems, a Seattle-based company that is a pioneer in the emerging field of real-time predictive analytics. I met Medio founder and CTO, Brian Lent, a couple of times in the past few years and have always been impressed by his vision of what analytics would become.
Such an acquisition will help HERE and then Nokia Networks and Technologies deliver more contextualized and personalized experiences by adding smart data to its location intelligence capabilities.
At Forrester, we believe that to embrace the mobile mind shift, companies will have to serve customers in their mobile moments. To do so, they must anticipate their customers’ next likely actions. Already, almost 1 in 4 smartphone users expect their mobile experiences to change based on their location.
According to Nokia, it could, for example, mean delivering individual restaurant recommendations to someone ready for lunch, giving drivers routes that match their driving style based on real-time conditions, or helping businesses personalize their customer offerings.
To be able to deliver these experiences and engage with customers in real time, marketers will have to think about mobile not as yet another digital channel but as a catalyst for business transformation. To do this, Forrester believes they need a business discipline to win in the mobile moment by implementing what we refer to as the IDEA cycle, by:
• Identifying the mobile moments and context.
• Designing the mobile engagement.
• Engineering platforms, process, and people for mobile.
Set against marketing messages, I would rather listen to my neighbor’s opinion of a product. A critic’s opinion. An expert’s. Any idiot with an Internet connection, in fact (according to our research, review content from complete strangers is more trustworthy than messages from brands).
The payload of this realization – that marketers’ messages are overinvested in by a million percent and underdeliver by an equal value – strikes our marketing foundations, oh so softly. Thud. Pop. Distant thunder.
Simultaneously it’s never been easier for other people to write about our brands, to create breathtaking personal tributes to our products, to call out our worst policies, and even to slander us. The crowds have snatched the megaphone and they won’t give it back.
These are two factors in a big equation that we’re still only beginning to calculate.
So far, we’ve dealt with these changes pragmatically and conservatively.
Community management is a perfect example of the pragmatic response. Community management is just a series of tribal agreements about playing rules. The brand will not allow threads that include the word “shit”. The brand will retweet only tweets from registered users. The brand answers requests within one hour between 9 AM and 9 PM EST. The brand will blog politely about its topic.
The marketing fortress has collapsed, the mobs are baying for blood, and the sop you throw this change is to play nice? This is what I’d call the Marie Antoinette response.
Taxi-hailing apps like US-based Uber and UK-based Hailo are gaining momentum globally. As with other segments of the Internet industry, the taxi-hailing app market in China is also mainly about local players. After rounds of fierce price battles earlier this year, two players — Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache — continue to dominate the market and leave no room for smaller competitors and newcomers. This battle wasn’t just between two niche apps; it was also a struggle between two Internet giants’ mobile payment services: Tencent’s WeChat Payment (for Didi) and Alibaba’s Alipay (for Kuaidi).
Price wars may be an effective way to acquire new customers. For example, Didi went from 22 million to 100 million users in just 77 days by spending RMB 1.4 billion (about US$225 million). That’s less than $3 per new customer. However, it’s a poor strategy to gain customer loyalty. For months, users have switched back and forth between apps simply because of slim (and temporary) price differences. Only recently have Didi and Kuaidi begun to take different approaches to engendering customer loyalty:
Kuaidi adopted a loyalty rewards program in cooperation with marketers and eCommerce platforms. Based on the number of rides they complete in a given quarter, Kuaidi divides customers into five loyalty categories: Normal, Silver, Gold, Diamond, and Ultimate. Customers earn different numbers of points for each completed transaction, depending on their level. They can use these points to purchase coupons — either Kuaidi Coupons, good for a discount on their next taxi fare, or other coupons provided by marketers and eCommerce platforms such as benlai.com.