Time to Consider Google+ for Marketing

The recent announcement of Google+ brand pages has marketers asking the obvious question, “Should I bother with another social media channel?” Most companies by now have some sort of presence on Facebook and Twitter. It’s working well for some and not so well with others. It’s safe to say at this point that a lot of time and resources are required to reap the benefits of social media marketing. So why Google+? Well, here are a few unique points:

Google+ has a smaller user base (40 million compared to Facebook’s 800 million). Fewer users can be a positive as there is less clutter and more focus on content itself. Facebook is packed full of updates with all of the integration that is taking place. Google+ is driven more towards professional and industry specific content. Companies may find an easier path to connect with a relevant audience.

Google+ offers unique functionality that Facebook or Twitter do not have available. “Hangouts”, or live audio/video chats, provide a direct opportunity to engage in discussions to get feedback or present exclusive content. Some companies such as Dell are looking into using “Hangouts” as a place for customer support and sales so the customers aren’t required to call on the phone.

Google+ will integrate with other Google offerings. Moving forward, Google will continue to unify its products with Google+. We’ve already seen the integration in its beginning stages with the +1 buttons. Deeper integration with Google Place and Maps, web and image search, and YouTube will come next. The integration will increase a company’s visibility on social media and with organic searches.

B2B Marketers Still Uncertain About Social Media

According to research from Accenture, almost two-thirds of B2B marketing executives view social media as an important marketing channel. However, only 7% felt that they were leveraging social media very heavily while 9% were not using social media at all. Business-to-business marketers have been acknowledging the value of social media yet have been slower to adopt social media strategies compared to business-to-consumer marketers.

Another study that compares B2B and B2C social media involvement showed that 12% of B2B companies are not using social media compared to 2% of B2C companies. B2B marketers say that technology, tools, metrics, and collaboration could be useful to strengthen their social media programs. Uncertainty of social media is definitely a factor in holding back B2B marketers in getting serious with social media. The fact that it is still a relatively young marketing channel has B2B marketers taking the wait-and-see approach.

It boils down to the age old sales and marketing question, “How much has it contributed to our bottom line?” Like many other marketing efforts, the number is tricky to quantify with social media. Thus, marketers are apprehensive in putting too much time and effort into social media at this time.

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Facebook Uses Arctic Air To Save Energy

Facebook announced another eco-friendly effort to continue greening up its empire. They will have a new server farm located  in Luleå, Sweden. Because this location in Sweden sits in the freezing cold (the Arctic to be exact), the servers will be cooled naturally saving tons of energy.

With all of the activity on Facebook, its servers are working hard around the clock and produce a lot of excess heat. Traditionally, server farms require expensive, complicated air conditioning systems to prevent over heating. But when your servers are sitting in the Arctic, cooler temperatures will naturally create a cooling system. Facebook’s server farms span 175,000 square feet. It costs $75 million each year to run the servers in the Arctic. Imagine the costs of having a server farm in a warm climate- yikes! The Swedish server farm will also enjoy the benefits of the nearby Luleå River, which provides green and affordable hydro-electric power.

Luleå is in Northern Sweden and is as close to the North Pole as Siberia, and averages a chilly 35 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

Top 10 Facebook Pages Worldwide

Have you ever wondered which brands are most popular on Facebook? Famecount has a list the shows the most “liked” brands on Facebook worldwide. The keyword is “Like” here. Facebook “Likes” are supposed to have less value in the future as Facebook just launched a new metric called “Talking about”. Pages with a high “Talking about” rating are the ones with the most compelling content because the metric will measure user-initiated activity related to a page. Activities include wall postings, “Likes”, commenting, and sharing a page. Marketers have to focus on coming up with compelling content in order to get users to interact more with their pages to score higher “Talking about” ratings. So while it’s good for a brand to have a lot of “Likes”, it’s better to get consumers “Talking about” them.

Top 10 “Liked” Brands on Facebook:
1. Coca-Cola– 34,563,347
2. Starbucks– 25,490,292
3. Oreo– 23,117,266
4. Red Bull– 22,447,819
5. Converse All-Star– 20,795,216
6. Converse– 20,169,668
7. Skittles– 19,359,111
8. Playstation– 17,448,382
9. Pringles– 15,631,111
10. Victoria’s Secret– 15,365,940

The New Facebook Provides Marketing Challenges

Facebook has passed 800 million users (which Facebook measures as users that have logged in during the past 30 days). That means Facebook has added about 50 million users since July. For marketers, it’s becoming essential to have a presence on such a giant platform. But some recent changes are going to make it harder for marketers to get the visibility they want. In other words, they’re really going to have to work for it.

The recent list of changes announced by Facebook will put more pressure on advertisers to come up with compelling content and integrate themselves further into consumers’ lives. Going forward, the “Like” button will have a smaller role in marketing.

A big change is that Facebook has added a control in the top right of each story that users can check to unmark a top story. Facebook will use that information over time to automatically edit the feeds. Since users now have more control over their news feeds, brands with boring or irrelevant updates will have lower visibility.

Just getting people to ‘Like’ a brand is now a thing of the past. Now, it’s about getting people to take social actions enabled by that brand. Consumers will be creating a digital autobiography in which brands will have to integrate themselves.

The change will require new thinking from marketers. The Facebook marketing model of old tried to accumulate as many fans and “Likes” as possible which is little less relevant now. Marketers will have to work harder to earn their place in news feeds. Content will need to take a step up. This means marketers will actually have to deliver something of value to a customer rather than just spamming.

Google+ Vs. Facebook: Feature-By-Feature

Recently Google launched its new social network, Google+, in hopes of  delivering a huge blow to the Facebook empire. My first thought was this: I don’t want to invest the time in diving into Google+ when Facebook suits my online social needs perfectly well. My plan was to wait until I witnessed a large amount of my friends migrating over to Google+. Within a few days, I was noticing many of them were far too curious and invites were flooding my Gmail. So what else could I do but check it out myself. Here’s a little info on the features of both:

FEEDS

The feeds in Facebook and Google+ are very similar in that they both allow users to post text, links, photos, and videos. Facebook’s feed has “Top News” as well as the “Most Recent” posts which are visible to whoever your “friends” are. Google+ has a “Circles” friend organizational tool where posts can be shared with as few or as many people as you like. However, its criticism is that it is much like a populated Twitter feed.

FRIENDING

Google+ works different than Facebook in “Friending”. Adding contact in Facebook is a two-way street where users must accept you as friends in order for you to connect. Google+ allows any users to follow you while you can follow anybody as well without having to accept friend requests. This is a huge difference between the two making Google+ more like Twitter than Facebook. The “Circles” feature in Google+ allows users to put all of their contacts into groups and if desired, be able to communicate with particular groups without all of their friends seeing a particular post. That’s a very handy tool.

Google+ users can also create profiles using any name they’d like, far different from Facebook’s real-name only policy. This could potentially make it difficult to find people you’re looking for.

NOTIFICATIONS

Notifications in Facebook and Google+ are pretty identical. Both tell you when someone comments on your post, tags you in a photo, or wants to be your friend. The only difference is that Google+ shows all notifications beneath the same tab where Facebook has a tab for messages, friend requests, and other activity.

BUTTONS

The buttons for Facebook and Google+ are very similar where users can click the buttons to show approval of particular content. Facebook however, also has sharing capabilities where a user’s “Likes” show up in their feed. Google+ doesn’t do this.

PHOTOS

Facebook has turned into the largest photo sharing site on the web making it simple to upload, share, and tag photos. The Google+ functionality is very nice as well and differs from Facebook because users can edit their photos easily. Editing features including rotate, crop, adding colors, and effects. The editing can be done in the photo album itself by clicking an “Actions” tab. Also, in Google+, comments appear to the right of the photos rather than the bottom like Facebook so you don’t have to keep scrolling up and down.   

VIDEO

Video functionality is something that Google+ could offer that Facebook couldn’t. That is until Facebook announced last Wednesday their merger with Skype. A very good move by Facebook to quickly answer to the only clear cut advantage that Google+ would have. With that said, Google+ does have the edge in video. Facebook’s Skye video doesn’t have group-chat functionality where Google+ features “Hangouts” where you can video chat up to 10 people at once.

PRIVACY

Facebook has been heavy criticized in their privacy efforts especially in recent years. Setting your profile so your thoughts and actions are not viewed by the entire world is very difficult. In an effort to capitalize on this blunder, Google+ goes out of its way to make privacy controls a prominent feature. The privacy policy itself is much easier to read. It should be of note that Google+ doesn’t allow for a completely private profile. Facebook allows users to adjust their privacy settings themselves (though most users do not have a great understanding of them) and Google+ has placed privacy at the core of the social network.

So what is the future of the two social networks? It’s hard to foresee Google+ taking over in the short term as a lot of Facebook users, including myself, have invested a lot of time in building networks, pages, photo albums, etc. In the long term it will be interesting to see if Google+ will turn into the new hip place to be on the web and if Facebook will fade away like Myspace. My guess is no but a lot can change in a couple of years.

 

 

The Social Side of Gaming

If you haven’t heard of Angry Birds or Farmville, you have been living under a rock. These are just two of the many games that have transformed the trend of social gaming. Social gaming is playing games as a way of social interaction, via social networks like Facebook. Gaming is not only for the stereotyped teens, now moms, business execs, and retirees are reshaping the demographics of who a gamer is. The two top activities people do online is social networking and gaming, so its no wonder social gaming has become so popular.

Social gaming is not only keeping users entertained, it is also helping companies market and advertise their brands. Marketers use social gaming to reach a wide variety of people. It also gives them the opportunity to target specific groups of people by uncovering their preferences, habits, and acquaintances via social networks. This is where targeted advertising comes into play. Companies are leveraging their brands to create experiences that exist within the games to encourage engagement and interaction. For example, you can get a pair of Nike tennis shoes for your Avatar. The idea is to incorporate businesses and brands into the gaming network instead of overloading users with ads. By integrating brands into games, users will have the chance to interact with the brand instead of being attacked by numerous ad campaigns.

Social gaming enables an interaction to take place. This is the first step in attracting users to a brand, product, or service. By integrating brands into a game, it allows users to have fun with the brand and get to know it. If a user’s avatar wears Nike shoes, the user may be more inclined to buy a pair of Nike shoes for themselves.

The Social Media Platform

Social media has encompassed our world and lifestyles. Not only is social media used for personal reasons, but now businesses have put their mark on social media. Marketing via social media is a great way for businesses to get connected with a vast amount of people at the same time. It creates communication among consumers and has the potential to attract new ones. One of the main benefits of using social media is that it is free and easy to use. All you basically have to do is create a profile and let the marketing begin! Keep in mind that content is key to having a successful social media campaign. If your content is not interesting or useful, you will have no luck with social media.

Social media allows you to share, network, publish, and discuss. Although social media has these benefits for businesses, it is hard to decide which ones to use. There are so many social media outlets to choose from that it can get confusing. Let’s take a look at the most popular social media networks and what benefits they provide.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn sets the stage for networking with business professionals. It allows you to personally brand your business and market yourself to others within your industry. It is also a great outlet for providing knowledgeable content that informs and educates users. Lead generation is the most valuable outcome of using LinkedIn.

Facebook: Facebook has more than half a billion users, making it a great way to share a message and reach a large amount of people simultaneously. It opens up a communication portal and creates social interaction. Facebook works great as a promotional tool. You can promote your products, services, and events to a mass audience, giving your business the opportunity to expand. Frequent and interesting posts will help to keep users attracted to your business.

Twitter: Twitter is your outbound messaging tool. It consists of tweeting 140 characters or less messages to users. These tweets are short and concise, creating a social buzz. This buzz creates interaction with users. While you are tweeting it exposes your business and brand, and then you get to hear who is talking about you and what they are saying. Twitter is all about listening to others through feedback.

YouTube: Known as the largest video sharing community, YouTube is also a marketing and advertising tool. It gets an informative and positive message right in front of existing and/or potential customers. Creating and sharing a video on YouTube provides the opportunity to share knowledge, market products, show off expertise, and connect with users. Videos that are compelling and entertaining will catch the attention of users, also creating interaction for your business.

Kung Fu and QR Codes

 

QR codes (quick response) are those black and white symbols that can be found on all types of packaging, print ads, and billboards. These codes provide a wealth of information such as text, websites, and other data that is embedded and decoded with a mobile device. All this mobile device needs is a camera and the down-loadable app and the information is unleashed. Usually QR codes are embedded with some type of promotional tool such as a contest, special offer, or an unique website. It is a great way for marketers to engage and attract consumers. These codes are designed to invite customers to participate, discover, share, save, and interact with brands.

Sun-Maid, the famous raisin brand, is utilizing QR codes to promote the animated movie by DreamWorks, Kung Fu Panda 2. Sun-maid has put these codes on their packaging to take customers to a special website where they have a chance to win a trip to Zoo Atlanta. Since entering the contest is as simple as having a mobile device, Sun-Maid hopes the number of entries will be high. They have also used Facebook to promote this contest as well. Sun-Maid brand designed their packaging with these QR codes in hope the special contest will entice consumers to buy their raisins. The packaging design also gets consumers engaged in the Sun-Maid brand as well as provides consumers a way to interact with the brand.

Social Media Addiction One Year Later

If you read our blog post from May 5th, 2010, we shared a study conducted by University of Maryland’s International Center for Media & the Public Agenda. This study featured 200 students who had to live 24 hours without social media. This meant no access to Twitter, Facebook, email, and even texting. The students in this study wrote blogs about their experience without social media and lets just say it was a traumatic challenge.

Now a year later a new study is released that went global this time. They asked 1,000 students from the United States, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia to abstain from social media for 24 hours They were asked to report on any successes and failures during the experience.

Highlights of the study were interesting. Students actually used the word addiction when asked about their social media usage. Some reported that they felt depressed, lonely, and even shaky without having a social media connection. They also reported that they felt like they lost apart of themselves without social media. This led to confusion and a sense of loss. It wasn’t just access to social media these students lost for a day, they also lost email, music, news, and entertainment. So not only is social media how we stay connected with others and the world, but it is also a way of life. Social media is how people manage their lives and how they communicate.

Although this study shows that a year later we are still addicted to social media, it also helped students realize their dependence. As we are becoming a society that uses social media in our everyday lives, businesses should put their own perspective on the matter.  Marketers and advertisers should harness the benefits of social media for their business. This study should help businesses learn how to use social media and understand how consumers use it. Marketers and advertisers will be at full advantage if they can figure out how to use social media to better their business and attract new customers. Social media has so many facets to choose from, giving businesses the chance to experiment and find what works and what does not.