Twitter Launches Brand Pages: What It Means For You

Yesterday, Twitter announced the launch of its highly anticipated brand pages. The move is being lauded as the next logical step for the social network in attempting to bring its offerings in line with competitive services for companies -- like the already-launched Google+ brand pages and the perennial favorite Facebook pages. But how exactly will the changes help brands or change the way they interact? 

First, the the pages offer marketers more branding opportunities. A large banner on the top of the page will let you show off your logo or other creative without worry that it'll get lost behind the Twitter stream like your custom background images may on your current pages.  

Second, you'll be able to make a tweet sticky by pinning it to the top of your stream -- with media like photos or videos -- for as long as you choose. 

These features sound -- and are -- good news to marketers who've wanted better tools to create a destination for their audiences on Twitter. But remember, the majority of interaction with your followers on Twitter happens in the stream, not on your brand page. So while these new tools will let you position your Twitter presence better to capture new followers, you still have to have a clear strategy for engaging your followers once you've got them . . .

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Facebook, Gowalla, And Marketing On Location-Based Social Networks

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, yesterday Facebook announced its acquisition of Gowalla. The move opens up interesting possibilities for location-based and location-aware social apps, some of which I explored in my most recent, serendipitously timed report on location-based social networks (LBSNs).

On one hand, the acquisition means that the herd of strictly LBSNs is continuing to thin, which means the remaining apps have less competition, so marketers who are looking to play on those platforms should have fewer options with larger audiences to choose from. On the other hand, the move appears to be further integrating location into a user’s total Facebook experience — at once broadening the appeal of location-based social activity by baking location into everything a user does on Facebook and thereby potentially subverting the need for strictly LBSNs by integrating the user value into a larger social experience.   

And so the big question: should marketers get involved with LBSNs and other geolocation applications?

The bottom line is that geosocial apps are still niche, but they’re growing in usage. Since we published our previous report in July 2010, foursquare has grown from 2 million users to 15 million. Twitter — and now even more aggressively, Facebook — has continued to fuse their social offerings with location information; even technology companies like Apple are chiming in with the launch of the “Find My Friends” app. However, even though the user-base numbers have grown quickly, we still find that few consumers are checking in: 6% have ever, with only 2% doing so at least weekly.

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Scan This Post: What Marketers Need To Know About 2D Bar Codes

2D bar codes are one of the latest “shiny objects” in mobile marketing. And it’s no surprise — with mobile marketing spend increasing and smartphone adoption on the rise, you want to know if it’s time to invest in this mobile marketing tactic. The result?  More and more clients have come to me and said, "I'm working on my QR Code strategy, and . . ."

But in order to answer the questions that come after that statement, I wanted to explore and explain the actual benefits of this tactic (potentially huge), and the actual adoption today (still pretty low).  Here are some of the high-level findings from my research to help you de-code bar codes:

·         2D bar codes have a lot of marketing potential. They can be placed anywhere — allowing you to reach your audience at all stages of the consumer life cycle with targeted information. And they do it efficiently: they connect people with additional content immediately through a scan, require little consumer effort, and can leverage  context to provide more targeted and useful information in the moment.

·         But, consumers aren’t scanning away today. While marketers and companies are starting to dive-in, most consumers aren’t — yet. Adoption increased from 1% last year to 5% this year, and among smartphone owners, penetration is at about 15%. Why isn’t it higher? Because of basic unfamiliarity of what these codes even do, the required step of downloading a 2D bar code reader, and most importantly for marketers to note: disappointing experiences and content.

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It's Time To Start Thinking About Social Media Training

Over the past several months, I’ve been hearing a lot of clients say they’re ready for the next step in social media. Many marketers —probably most of you reading this post — have already established your initial social footprints and are ready to move on to the next phase of social media maturity. But as my colleague Sean Corcoran’s social maturity curve shows, the further along you move, the more people you need to involve to keep your social trains running — and that introduces more risk.

One of the most important ways marketers are avoiding problems as more colleagues start participating in social programs is to spearhead training programs in their companies.  My latest research explores the spectrum of these training programs, which ranges from casual all the way through formal certification. 

You can see from this chart that training programs are developed across four dimensions: content, delivery, participants, and measurement. The programs don’t always fall firmly and neatly into one level of difficulty across all these segments. Rather, training evolves as the company’s commitment to social media evolves, moving through formats till formalization is achieved. Usually:

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What Makes A Community Successful?

Anyone who follows my research knows that community management is one of my favorite topics. As I speak with marketers about their branded community efforts, the questions that come up most frequently are, “How do I know when my community is 'good?'" and “How many members do I need for my community to be successful?” Interestingly, these are the same questions people would ask me when I was a community manager, before I came to Forrester. Since these questions are clearly on a lot of people’s minds, I set out to answer them — analyst-style.

For my latest report, Community Benchmarking Metrics, I surveyed marketers with branded communities to try to nail down some standard measures of success. What I found was:

  • Standards come in the form of percentages, not hard numbers. For example, in communities that perform on par with averages, 8-12% of the unique visitors to the brand’s main website will visit the community. Of those community visitors, 4-6% will convert to become community members.
  • “Average” performance is consistent across communities of different types, from different industries, and with different goals. 
  •  To achieve typical results, community owners need to go back to basics: Make the community visible and don’t forget to promote it.
  • There are a few things marketers can do to beat the averages. My favorite: have at least one full-time community manager.
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How I'm Using Google+ (Hint: It's About Relevance)

If you were to glance at my Google+ profile, you’d probably think I’m practically inactive. But what you’re seeing is the public view of a very targeted set of actions, based on relevance.

I like to have different kinds of conversations with different people, so when I share content it’s with circles that designate not only relationship but topics too, and Google+ makes it really easy for me to be highly relevant in this way. Take, for example, politics. I like to talk about it, but I’m rarely interested in fighting, so when I share a politically focused news article, it’s not enough to be in my Friends circle. To see it, you have to be in my Friends-Politics circle, where I’ve included people who I know I’ll have an interesting conversation with that won’t result in insults and multiple exclamation points. 

There is one thing missing if relevance is an aim of the platform. As of today, my relevance-based circles only apply to what I share with others. What would be especially helpful would be a way to limit the content I see from others in that circle to the topic I’ve assigned it. For example, I’m following Christian Oestlien, one of the Google+ product managers, specifically for updates about Google+. So while the YouTube music videos and Onion articles he posts are probably funny, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in seeing them from him. Now, if one of the people in my Friends-Hilarious circle posted them, that’s another story . . ..

So what are the implications for brands?

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How Are You Using Social Marketing Management Tools?

Back in April I published a report called Take Control of Your Social Marketing, which looks at the emerging market of social marketing management tools.  In it, I identified three groups of these tools: the social publishing platforms, the social promotion builders, and the platforms that focus on both. 

In the two brief months since that report came out, the volume of questions I get about the topic has skyrocketed.  I can’t say this is surprising, as our own research is showing that many marketers are reaching a level of social marketing maturity at which tools like these can greatly increase the efficiency and success of their programs. There’s also been a lot of press coverage of the moves, changes, and announcements coming out of the vendors in this space, which has undoubtedly raised the profiles of these companies with marketers. 

  • In January, Vitrue, a company that falls into the “concentrating on both” category and which wasn’t able to participate in the original report, announced the closing of a $17 million series C financing round.
  • In February, Syncapse Corp.  made its own financing announcement -- an investment commitment of $25 million.
  • In March, SocialWare announced a partnership with LinkedIn that brings its regulatory compliance expertise and tools to the professionals’ social network.
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Join Forrester’s Tweet Jam About The Social Media Ecosystem: June 7th (Today!) At 2 pm Eastern

It’s Tuesday -- and that means it’s time for another installment of #IMChat, a weekly tweet jam hosted by the interactive marketing team at Forrester. For today’s tweet jam, we’ve invited Shawn Shahani (@shawnshahani) from iCrossing to talk with us about challenges and possible solutions for companies with large and complex social presences.

Here are some of the questions we'll be discussing:

1)     In which social networks does your company currently maintain presences?
2)     How are you using these social media properties differently?
3)     Do you have multiple presences within a social network?
4)     How do you separate multiple presences? Geography, brands, job function?
5)     Who manages different social media presences and properties?

To participate, just follow the #IMChat hashtag at 2:00 p.m. If you’d like to learn more about the rules of engagement, visit this community discussion on The Forrester Community For Interactive Marketing Professionals. To read some past archives, visit the documents section of the same community.

Looking forward to hearing from you at 2 p.m.!

Join Forrester's Tweet Jam About YOU: May 24th (Today!) At 2pm US Eastern

As you may have seen, for the past two weeks we’ve run a tweet jam called #IMChat. Our first two topics, CORE and social influence, were well received but really about what Forrester folks think is interesting. So it’s time to turn the social media table around. What are you interested in? What do you want to talk about with your peers?

To participate, just follow the #IMChat hashtag at 2:00 p.m. If you’d like to learn more about the rules of engagement, visit this community discussion on The Forrester Community For Interactive Marketing Professionals. To read some past archives, visit the documents section of the same community.

Here are some of the questions we'll be discussing during today’s tweet jam:

1.       What digital marketing initiatives are most important to your success within your organization?

2.      What digital marketing initiative causes you the most headaches? Why?

3.      What resources do you currently use to find answers to your digital marketing questions?

4.      How do you utilize digital marketing peers in your day-to-day decision making? Are they external or internal resources?

5.       How do you utilize third-party vendors and agencies in your digital marketing programs?

Join Forrester's Tweet Jam On CORE: May 10th At 2pm US Eastern

Recently you’ve heard and seen a lot about a new concept — CORE — where we at Forrester think interactive marketing is heading. CORE is a four part concept that states that to compete in the digital future marketers must: 1) customize marketing experiences; 2) optimize decisions and processes; 3) respond to changing marketing conditions; and 4) empower staff and customers to advocate for you.

If you're interested in hearing about how you and your peers can move from one phase of CORE to the next, join me (@melissarparrish) and other interactive marketers on Twitter next Tuesday, May 10, at 2 p.m. US Eastern Time.  To participate, just follow the hashtag #IMChat.  Joining me will be Forrester analysts Shar Vanboskirk, Sean Corcoran (@SeanCor), and Elizabeth Shaw (@shaw_smith2) — and interactive marketers from FedEx who will tell us how they've implemented CORE.

Here are some of the questions we'll be discussing during next week’s TweetJam:

  1. After taking the CORE diagnostic test (included below), what surprised you?
  2. What one aspect of CORE is most urgent for you to prioritize?
  3. How do you think your industry or company type (B2B versus B2C) impacts your prioritization?
  4. How can you go about implementing CORE? How long will it take? Will you create an action plan first or dive right in?
  5. What does this mean for your current staffing? Will you need to find more talent or a new partner?
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