Engaging the Right Audience on LinkedIn

(Cross posted on the Fleishman-Hillard DNA blog)

LinkedIn, one of the established social networks, is making strides in advancing how businesses can leverage the platform to engage followers.  Several weeks ago, LinkedIn launched the LinkedIn Follow Button allowing followers to follow a company page on LinkedIn directly from owned assets like web pages and blogs.

This week LinkedIn launched two new products that allow companies to more effectively engage the followers they have.  These are both significant leaps forward in helping companies engage followers which typically consist of employees, former employees, partners, media and potential customers.

Engagement to the Next Level

The new functions are “Targeted Updates” and “Follower Statistics.” The Targeted Updates function allows companies to breakdown their followers by variables such as: industry, seniority, job function, company size, non-company employees, and geography. Similar to Google+’s Circles feature, companies are able to send targeted status updates to groups of followers of their choice.  Multinational companies can develop content strategies for engaging followers that are targeted and more relevant.  Status updates about events can target the local city or region where the events are hosted.  Companies that serve both SMB and Enterprise customers in a B2B line of business can target status updates to followers who work only at those respective sized companies, increasing the likelihood of engagement through a comment, ‘like’ or click.

The criteria for Targeted Updates appears to be the same selection criteria for LinkedIn’s ad platform.  If this is the case, brands can combine paid ads with shared status updates as part of a regional campaign, increasing the potential effectiveness of both.  This combination of shared with overlaying paid advertising can help brands create a powerful one-two punch on awareness and engagement on a social network that can have a high quality of followers.

The Follower Statistics feature is an analytics dashboard that allows companies to see how effective their updates have been, including how many followers have viewed and responded to the content. The features are still in beta phase and only available to several companies like: AT&T (client), Samsung Mobile, Dell and Microsoft. A more official rollout can be expected in the near future, but for now brands should prepare enhanced engagement strategies for their followers in order to leverage these new products to the best of their ability.

Imitation is Flattery

These features arguably give a nod to Google+ Circles, elements of Twitter’s follow-button and sponsored stories on Facebook.  The major difference is LinkedIn’s more than 150 million professionals, including executives from all Fortune 500 companies and 2 million companies that have company pages.  These new features combined give a more robust option for companies considering audience engagement in different platforms.

Photo credit: tj scenes via Flickr

On Facebook and the Death of Etiquette

Let’s face it.  Etiquette is a lost art.  Forget “interruption marketing” for a minute and think about how people interact on a regular basis.  New technologies change that behavior as people seek to leverage the convenience they provide.

  • When the phone was invented, an etiquette had to evolve on how to greet a new call, what’s an appropriate time to call, how to converse without interruption.  (Lots of room to improve here still – I can’t understand why politicians don’t have to follow the “do not call” list rules, but that’s another story).
  • Email etiquette arguably doesn’t exist – in a business context, companies have a culture around when people turn to email and when they don’t.  Email between friends and family has a broad range of what’s “socially acceptable,” but over time people at least develop a sense of when people will reply and why.
  • Two years ago, no way I’d tell you that it would be acceptable to converse via text message/SMS with grandparents.  Same with instant messaging.

In each of these small examples, the communication is mostly 1:1.  Email can be broadcast 1:many, but it’s deliberate who the communication goes to – you select email addresses to include.  Enter the world of Facebook, where the communication paradigm is different.  We have 1:many as the default – post once and share with many, who consume the content (status updates, photos, videos, links) at their leisure.  Forget that most people don’t have a common understanding of what they see in the News Feed and why.   The barrier to communication is low – it’s easy to share a picture or post given so many ways to share, from mobile to desktop.

Sometimes people forget that the communication medium isn’t important – the content of the message is, along with the dynamic.  Is it something that should be shared 1:1 or OK to share 1:many?   Making that choice with the context to understand the medium is crucial in relationship building – for businesses or individuals.

I recently asked some folks on Twitter and Facebook about etiquette, and heard many bizarre stories.  From the unexpected sonogram photo to first hearing of a family death, people are choosing Facebook for the wrong type of communication at the wrong time.   Have an example to share?  Do you thing Facebook etiquette is a lost art or a lost cause?

Photo credit: fdmount via flickr

Friends with Benefits: Starbucks and Foursquare

This week Starbucks announced that mayors of locations on Foursquare between now and June 28 can get one dollar off the custom Frappacino of their choice.   This morning I tried it out and received my discount.  I’ve been a user of Foursquare for several months, but for me personally it was the first time I had experienced a benefit as a consumer.  Starbucks is clearly just experimenting here, but I like the approach – there is little cost or downside to a promotion like this.  Some quick thoughts based on a nice discussion with the employees of the store:

  • Most of the employees didn’t know what Foursquare was, but were really excited about it.
  • They had been eagerly waiting to find out who the mayor was – wondering when the person would show up, what they would say, wondering if the person would be a jerk and pound a fist demanding a discount, claiming “I’m the Mayor!” and wondering if they would know the person already.
  • The employee running the cash register had to check the official “Need to Know” bulletin to know what promotion code to use when ringing me up.  I wasn’t surprised since this is a new idea and approach, and didn’t involve a paper coupon I could turn in.
  • We talked about several other ideas they could explore, like rewarding every 5th checking with something similar to benefit more than just the Mayor.
  • I explained that my role is very social media focused, and since I had been on Foursquare for awhile it may be common at a lot of stores that early adopters (also in the biz) would be most likely to retain mayorships.
  • As I left I heard some other employee ask, “Hey, was that the mayor? He’s here all the time, cool.”

Aside from the recognition, the discount was practical and got me to try a drink I wouldn’t have otherwise purchased (Iced Americano or Iced Latte are more the usual for me).  I appreciated the conversation starter to build a better relationship with the folks who worked there, although we already somewhat knew each other. My primary suggestion to Starbucks would be to see them expand to have more folks benefit.

I could really see an application here for the retail space if handled and designed properly.  Any company that has a multi-channel footprint could leverage Foursquare (or perhaps one of the other location services, like Gowalla, Brightkite or the coming Facebook changes) to build fun and relationships into their strategy.  On the flip side, because these technologies are so new and not as widely adopted, there is an opportunity for more “buzz” just by being first to market.  Or second, after Starbucks and some others (Gradon Tripp pointed out that Ben & Jerry’s offers 3 scoops for $3 for checking in, a 4th free scoop for the mayor, sparking a conversation with Sarah Wallace and others about the correlation between Foursquare and weight gain) .

Get your discount yet?  What do you think about the approach?  Is it a flash in a pan or a part of a bigger picture?

UPDATE: Tipping Point Labs’ Andrew Davis (a previous Marketing Hot Seat author here) today published a great perspective on Starbucks’ promotion, highly worth the read.

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Facebook Changes Relationship Marketing, Again

The discipline of relationship marketing is already facing waves of changes with social media providing a variety of new approaches and opportunities to communicate with customers.  Optimizing communications with email marketing alone has been an ongoing challenge for companies of all sizes.  Developing an appropriate communication strategy requires understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers, fine tuning copy and frequency that will resonate with customers a business is trying to reach.

Clearly social media is already having an impact.  Customers opting to follow Twitter streams, join community programs or become “fans” on Facebook are signaling they are opting in to some sort of communication.  I met recently with a financial services company who is leveraging these opt-in communication points to offset email marketing – literally, they are sending less email because customers are choosing to interact with their brands through different vehicles.

Facebook just threw yet another a monkey wrench into the mix. With the ability to “like” any page or content out there with a unique URL, a communication strategist has another dimension to manage.  When a customer “likes” a page, or perhaps even a specific product, the brand then has the capability to communicate directly with those fans.  For example, as a reader if you “like” this blog post (you can choose the verb “recommend” instead, in the settings for the API), I have the ability just like a normal fan page in Facebook to communicate to just the fans of this post.  Facebook creates a ‘ghost’ page only available to the admin, which will allow me to track statistics and see an explicit list of people who “like” or “recommend” the post.

Imagine the applications.  Companies in all industries could consider implications around targeting through Facebook for specific brands, product lines or individual products. A pharma company, for example, could leverage this function to communicate with Facebook users around specific conditions if they happen to “like” a specific treatment.  Retailers could too, except they need to be careful – do they really want to manage communications and fans at a SKU level?  Nike could integrate communications via Facebook likes for fans of Air Jordan, but it’s probably not sustainable for each shoe.  Bookstores could manage communications with folks who “like” historical fiction different those who “like” Manga.

At the big business level I think there is going to be an emerging emphasis on communication management, copywriters and ongoing relationship marketing strategists to digest these technologies and build case studies to drive business results.  Have a favorite example of the application of Facebook’s new “like” API and approach?  I’d love to hear it.

Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn via Flickr – who also provides a template for businesses wanting to create a similar sign

Spread the Joy: A Little Augmented Reality and a Rosetta Snow Day

snowdayWhat do augmented reality, snowdays and New Orleans have in common?  A Happy Holidays card and helping to spread some joy from Rosetta.

Every year agencies of all types like to show their stuff with digital holiday cards.  Looking to raise the bar from last year, the Rosetta team is trying something new.  Our team took their passion for technology, social media and working for a good cause to dream up something fun – and we hope people find it to be a “different taste” from the usual agency card.  Grab your webcam and see what I mean.

Happy Holidays from Rosetta

What’s more joyful than catching snowflakes on your tongue?  If we catch a million snowflakes, on February 20, 2010, we’ll be in New Orleans providing some joy to local children at City Park: a snow day.  Read more at the card site, and I look forward to sharing stories of the joy from that event in a couple months.  Have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Note: We’ll be watching usage and looking to fix or upgrade features – would love your input on what we could improve.

UPDATE: The WSJ covered our holiday card today (“Stop Licking Your Monitor,” 12/15/2009).  My favorite quote is about “on-tongue recognition technology” from Rosetta partner Toni Hess.

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5 Twitter Tips You May Not Know

twitterbirdAs Twitter turns the corner on the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and heads full speed ahead into the “Trough of Disillusionment,” I thought I’d share 5 tips that have continued to make Twitter a meaningful, useful tool.  Some of these you may know, some may be new.  This is aside from new features coming like Twitter Lists and the ability to report spammers directly from the web version.  If you know of others I’d love to hear them.

  1. Authorize your API connections. It seems like every other week a new Twitter scam pops up sending DMs on behalf of many unsuspecting users.  Of course you can change your password to protect yourself, but many apps require an authorization for your account.  Be sure to check http://twitter.com/account/connections to make sure everything there is legitimate.
  2. Twitter provides their own widgets. There are apps galore out there, but did you know Twitter has developed their own series of widgets for you to use on websites, blogs and elsewhere? Check out http://twitter.com/goodies/widgets to find widgets to show search results, your recent tweets, or your favorite tweets.  Here’s a quick sample of a search widget, showing scrolling chatter ahead of the 2nd TWTRCON conference coming up on October 22 in DC (want to attend? I have a 20% discount code: TWTRAC – I think the agenda is shaping up to beat the first one in SF earlier this year…) [Reading via feed? Please click through to the post to see the widget.]
  3. twittersearchUse RSS to track mentions. I use Google Reader to keep up with many blogs, but sometimes I miss a reply on Twitter if I haven’t logged in for awhile.  If you want to make sure you never miss a mention, create a simple Twitter search on your Twitter name and grab the RSS feed in the top right corner.  I’ll go through that list on occasion to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but a business could import that feed into a more robust tool for reporting and assigning responses.
  4. Get more use out of your Favorites.  I’ve always thought the “Favorites” function was under-utilized.  I tend tto use favorites most often to mark links to go back to read later, especially while I am on the road and using my Blackberry – sometimes taking the time to click through to links doesn’t help.  Once again Google Reader to the rescue.  Your Twitter Favorites are actually available via RSS as well, even though there is no RSS link on the page.  Here is the syntax:  “http://twitter.com/favorites/{twitter name}.rss” – now I can use them like a bookmarking service, feed them to a widget elsewhere and save them even for sharing with others via Google Reader’s sharing functions.  It’s almost a backdoor way to “retweet.”  Here is my feed, which I use very similarly to how I decide what to bookmark in Delicioushttp://twitter.com/favorites/adamcohen.rss
  5. There’s an app for that. Everyone has their favorite Twitter applications – the proliferation of 3rd party apps is profound.  My personal crutch is Tweetdeck, which has allowed me to create groups in order to more closely follow friends, industry experts and mentions of clients (more casually than a social media monitoring tool).  Rather than go deep on more apps, in the last few weeks one of my favorite microblogging experts, Laura Fitton, has launched One Forty at  http://oneforty.com – it’s the online equivalent of Apple’s App store but much broader – there are mobile apps for the iPhone, Blackberry and other devices, desktop apps, Twitter analytic services and more.  Integrated to your Twitter profile, oneforty.com allows you to rate and suggest services.  This site will clearly help sort through what the best and worst 3rd party apps are out there.  Laura is a featured speaker at TWTRCON too.

What other Twitter tips do you have to share?  I’ve been using Twitter for more than two years but continue to learn ways to make it an effective tool and build connections. Were these tips old news to you?  (Did you know that Disqus, the comment system which I recently installed here, allows you to authenticate via your Twitter account?  Sweet.)

Photo credit: cotinis via Flickr

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