Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that

The boardroom

It’s a sad business reality that, in mid-2014, social media is still a bit of a taboo subject in the corporate boardroom.

Writing in the Guardian, Sharon Flaherty assesses a business landscape where half of global boardrooms ignore social media with ignorance and lack of understanding the rules of thumb:

  1. Ignorance of the genuine value social media can bring to a business
  2. Lack of understanding about how to measure that value

Flaherty cites recent research by Useful Social Media that examines the state of social media use in large corporations, and has a stark conclusion:

Social has hit a glass ceiling – it can’t prove value in the boardroom, and executives are thus finding growth opportunities curtailed. All this talk about social being about ‘ROE’ and ‘ROR’ creates a series of tweetable soundbites, but gets short shrift in a boardroom looking for real business impacts they can understand.

The bold text is my emphasis as that clearly is the problem – not ignorance and lack of understanding about social media and how to use it, but about the tangible, measurable benefits social media bring to a business.

Is the answer, then, to get the C-suite to tweet? To “join the conversation,” as it were? That’s one of the three recommendations in Flaherty’s concluding points.

My view on that is: it depends on what your goal is where C-suite members participating in social media would be a means to an end that leads you to the achievement of a measurable objective. Plenty of CEOs tweet, for instance, although others have had major reservations about using that platform.

Still, I’d be pretty sure that many C-suite members of large corporations in particular who are active participants in the online social conversation have clear and measurable objectives set out.

Now I circle back to the major issue of ignorance and lack of understanding and ask – doesn’t it make excellent sense to first listen to what you hear from the boardroom as epitomized in Useful Social Media’s statement above? Listen, learn and then speak in language and terms that make an impact in that boardroom.

That means presenting hard facts about how many qualifiable leads resulted from a social media marketing campaign and the projected value they bring to the sales effort, for instance, not just how many comments there are on a LinkedIn company page update and how the community is growing.

Excel not PowerPoint, you might say.

Read Sharon Flaherty’s full assessment below and see what you agree with.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that” was written by Sharon Flaherty, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th August 2014 11.57 Europe/London

In a recent talk at Hay Festival, Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, advised the audience to keep their phones out of their bedroom when sleeping. Why? Because, most of us wake up, reach for our phones and before even getting out of bed in the morning, have a quick check of our social accounts, messages and emails.

This highlights how constantly internet-connected we really are and just how much of a grip social media has on us. Why then is it that a common complaint among marketers is that the C-suite still don’t ‘get’ social media?

Half of global boardrooms ignoring social media

A poll of senior marketers around the world conducted by Useful Social Media found that only half of all boardrooms are convinced about social media’s value. Now that it is a multi-billion pound industry, surely CFOs, CEOs and CMOs don’t still think social media is a fad? So what is really at the heart of management’s reticence?

“I have run out of fingers and toes on which to count the times a bright-eyed marketing manager within a big organisation has brought us in to pitch only to then hear the words “our CEO does not ‘do’ social” and this ignorance shows no sign of slowing,” says Andy Barr, owner of 10Yetis social media and PR agency.

Can’t calculate ROI, won’t buy-in

According to Barr, a large chunk of FTSE 100 CMOs are still battling to get their heads around the value social can bring because they simply don’t understand how they can measure the return on investment.

This sentiment is echoed by the co-founder of social media analytics provider, Birdsong, who points to the lack of measurement and accountability of social media as a reason why numbers-driven C-suites, simply do not buy-in or relate to social.

Jamie Riddell said: “Social media is not seen to be as measurable as other forms of media such as TV. In order for any media channel to be taken seriously at board level, it’s impact on hard criteria such as reach and ultimately sales, needs to be understood. Your average C-suite executive will be focused on business results that are more than brand mentions or sentiment analysis.”

Regulatory burden

But it’s not just measurement and proof of ROI that’s preventing the C-suite from committing to social; regulatory restrictions are playing a role too. A distinct lack of clarity around the use of social media by financial services firms has meant many are paralysed by the fear of getting it wrong.

The financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has failed to update its social media guidelines for over three years, despite the tremendous changes social media has undergone in that time. However, any regulatory breach could trigger a hefty fine and the related reputational damage.

Social inexperience

Much needed is education about social media and its application in the corporate world. Founder of the Social Media Leadership Forum, Justin Hunt, says it is particularly the younger marketers who are frustrated by the lack of understanding about social media.

“In some cases, execs are demanding a million Likes on Facebook or a million Twitter followers after they realise they need to be involved. This lack of understanding causes issues with agencies and staff who despair,” he said.

According to Hunt, the repercussion is that some agencies are still buying social media followers on behalf of these brands, despite the folly in doing so. This misunderstanding of social media could in part be explained by the lack of the C-suite’s personal involvement with it.

According to Brandfog, a social media consultancy that works with CEOs globally to improve their social media presence, a whopping 64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter.

Three ways to warm-up the C-Suite

1: Get them on social. Whether it’s posting from their own personal account or a corporate account, encourage your CFOs, CEOs and CMOs to participate themselves and provide support and training to avoid any faux pas.

2: Simulate a crisis. By simulating a potential crisis that could hit the brand, you enlighten the C-suite to the power of social media and also the potential damage it can wreak if you haven’t invested in social media listening and community management.

3: Identify the balance of your website traffic sources. Highlighting the traffic sources to the company website will demonstrate where it is over-reliant and hence vulnerable. For example, if the bulk of your web traffic comes from search, then growing your social traffic to diversify your traffic sources will be an asset when search positions fluctuate or if the company is hit by a Google penalty or algorithm update. Social media is also a significant contributor to search engine optimisation.

Sharon Flaherty is founder of BrandContent. Follow her on Twitter at @BrandContentUK.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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(Image at top via The_Warfield, used under Creative Commons license.)

The future looks mobile for Facebook

Facebook mobile

Facebook posted its financial report on July 23 for the second quarter of its 2014 financial year.

The report shows financial pluses across the board for the mega social network in significant areas:

  1. Overall revenue for the second quarter of 2014 was $2.91 billion, an increase of 61 percent compared to the same period last year.
  2. Revenue from advertising was $2.68 billion, a 67 percent increase over the same quarter last year – and around 92 percent of overall revenue reported for the second quarter 2014.
  3. Mobile advertising revenue represented about 62 percent of advertising revenue for the second quarter of 2014, an increase of 41 percent compared to the same period last year.
  4. GAAP net income for Q2 2014 was $791 million, up 138 percent compared to the same period last year.
  5. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.30, up 131 percent compared to the same period last year.

Holders of Facebook stock will no doubt be quite happy, like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, who remarks drily:

“We had a good second quarter,” [Zuckerberg] said. “Our community has continued to grow, and we see a lot of opportunity ahead as we connect the rest of the world.”

What struck me most about the numbers as shown in the concise earnings announcement is the advertising revenue growth and the high proportion of that growth  – nearly two-thirds – that comes from mobile.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

Indeed, the FT reports on Facebook’s earnings with two interesting charts – the one above showing the growing shift to mobile of Facebook’s user base since the start of 2013; and the one below, showing a clear growth trend since mid 2012 of mobile advertising sales.

Facebook mobile advertising growth /via FT

As for the opportunity Zuckerberg refers to, to “connect the rest of the world,” put that in the context of the latest user metrics included in the company’s earnings report:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 829 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 19 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs were 654 million on average for June 2014, an increase of 39 percent year-over-year.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.32 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 14 percent year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.07 billion as of June 30, 2014, an increase of 31 percent year-over-year.

Plenty of room for growth.

(Picture at top via DigitalTrends.)

The meaning of 100 million Facebook likes

ShakiraColombian singer Shakira has set a new social media record after becoming the first person ever to reach 100 million likes on Facebook. The milestone has formally been recognized by Guinness World Records.

In its report, TheJournal.ie says that the only other page which has more likes than hers is Facebook’s own Facebook page. And 100 million likes has a sharp perspective when you consider it from a metrics point of view as The Wall Street Journal does:

[...] That’s 8% of Facebook’s universe of 1.28 billion monthly active users around the world.

The Journal also notes in its credible report that along with her Facebook fame comes spam, fakes and other headaches, undoubtedly needing an army of overseers to run the Shakira brand on Facebook (and elsewhere on the social web).

And Shakira herself – what does she think of this pinnacle of fan love? Guinness World Records reports her saying in a video message:

“I am honoured and humbled about reaching this milestone, because it’s one that’s purely about connecting with my fans from all parts of the globe. Social media and specifically Facebook has helped myself and other artists bridge the gap between the stage and the audience.  We’ve been able to create a conversation, where both artists and fans can share with one another their thoughts, achievements, the most important moments of their lives in photographs and videos, and have a real, ongoing dialogue.”

And Facebook?

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of Global Operations and Media Partnerships, said: “The combination of Shakira’s global appeal, her authentic engagement with fans and her use of Facebook as a multi-media platform has positioned her to achieve the incredible milestone of 100M fans.”

Creating a conversation, authentic engagement and a platform where those things happen. A powerful combination.

Take a look at Shakira’s Facebook page (that now shows well beyond 100 million likes).

Would you be happier without Facebook?

99 Days of Freedom

If you were not happy – outraged, even – with how Facebook behaved over the mood experiment they conducted last month, an experiment from a Dutch creative agency might be right up your street.

What Facebook did was manipulate information posted on nearly 700,000 users’ home pages that showed that the social network could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of emotional contagion.

Now Dutch creative agency Just has come up with 99 Days of Freedom, a call to action for Facebook users to demonstrate their disapproval of Facebook by switching off from the social network for 99 days.

[...It] asks users to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness. The initiative’s website, 99daysoffreedom.com, provides a set of simple user instructions, which include posting a “time-off” image as a profile picture and starting a personalized, 99-day countdown clock. From there, participants are asked to complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66 and 99-day marks, with results posted to the initiative’s website as they’re compiled. The initiative will also host a message board through which participants can post anonymous accounts of how an extended break from Facebook is impacting their lives.

It’s a kind of mood experiment in reverse.

It’s also a cool initiative that gets Just a lot of attention for its imagination and creativity, as well as for the initiative itself. If it gets traction, it could focus considerable public attention on broad issues of online behaviours, manipulation of those behaviours by social networks, what companies do with our personal information, how we spend time online, etc – all hot topics today and great ones for ongoing public debate and discussion.

In its press release announcing 99 Days of Freedom, Just also talks about the amount of time people spend on Facebook:

[...] According to Facebook, its 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes per day on the site, reading updates, following links or browsing photos. Over a three-month period, that adds up to more than 28 hours which, the initiative’s creators contend, could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities – learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.

The subjective conclusion will appeal to many users, to be sure. My view is that many other users will be quite comfortable from an emotionally-fulfilling perspective – or any other one – with spending 28 hours on Facebook during any three-month period.

You could apply the same argument to Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… Horses for courses.

Still, 99 Days of Freedom is an interesting experiment and it will be equally interesting to see how it goes, how many people sign up to do it – 16,748 when I looked at the website just now – and what conclusions arise at the end of each person’s 99 days. I’d love to see a brand try it!

Give it a go?

Enjoy life!

 

Is your Facebook profile enough to prove your ID?

Facebook

One thing synonymous with air travel is declaring your identity, usually in the form of a passport or citizen ID card, depending on the country and other factors.

In some countries, you can manage just fine with a driving license (a de facto ID document in many places), residency permit for foreigners, or a multitude of means of proving your identity.

But would a social networking profile be an approved method of substantiating your identity? Facebook, for instance?

The Drum reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – the US government agency responsible for security at places like airports – has accepted sight of a traveller’s Facebook profile as an approved form of ID.

The news emerged after Twitter user @ZachKlein tweeted his experience on 22 December. [...] “Got to the airport, realized I left my ID at home. TSA allowed me to use my Facebook profile instead,” he tweeted.

According to the Drum’s report, the TSA says it will accept identification in lieu of other more traditional forms of ID from “publicly available databases.” And the TSA says this clearly on its website in the page entitled ‘Acceptable IDs‘:

We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases.

The web page doesn’t explicitly mention Facebook. But the question does arise – is this a new policy or just an individual decision by a TSA employee at one particular airport in how he or she interpreted the meaning of “publicly available databases”?

Another question is: what does it say about Facebook as a place of supposed privacy if a government agency sees it as a publicly-available database?

The possibility of using a social network profile for an ID purpose like this wouldn’t immediately occur to me. But when I think of it, I wonder: why not? If you set your profile to be visible publicly, doesn’t it qualify it as being on a “publicly available database”?

On the face of it, using digital information like a database of personal information to verify someone’s identity makes a lot of sense. It’s efficient, it doesn’t require you to carry bits of plastic or paper, undoubtedly it’s more cost effective, and more secure.

If you trust the end-to-end process of doing this, then it’s not a big step to imagine such digital information about you being used in many other areas where ID verification is required. Think of international air travel where a passport currently is an essential ID to show no matter what other form of ID you may have.

It’s also not hard to project that thought out to iris scanning or facial recognition as a way to verify ID, where no other form of ID is required. That’s not a new idea at all. Indeed, I remember making use of iris-scan recognition for entry to The Netherlands when I lived in Amsterdam a decade ago – no need to show a passport when arriving (or departing) on an international flight.

But all that’s the logic. The emotional aspect of it is a dark place given the absolute lack of trust many people have with regard to governments and personal information. Just ask Edward Snowden.

Still, if it helps makes air travel (for instance) a simpler, easier, safer and more pleasant experience, I like the idea.

I’d be willing to consider it. Would you?

It’s all love and hate with Facebook

Dislike

The thumbs-down symbol to register dislike of something on Facebook has long been a wish expressed by quite a few people.

That wish has come to fruition, sort of – there now is a dislike button but only as an add-on to Facebook Messenger, the social network’s text-chat service.

The fact that so many people talk about needing a method with which they can publicly voice their dislike of something in one click or tap illustrates one of the love-hate dilemmas that characterise what so many Facebook users think and say about Facebook.

Indeed, as one of the most popular online places for conversation, chat, gossip, you name it, Facebook itself is constantly the subject of much conversation.

How many users (1.19 billion ‘monthly actives’ at the last count), where they are (everywhere), what gender (mostly women, it seems), etc – all topics for much analysis, commentary and opinion.

And in the all-important area of Facebook demographics – something marketers and advertisers rely on in defining their audiences – all doesn’t seem to be well, with recent research suggesting that teenagers are deserting Facebook in droves because their parents are signing up in droves.

At least, teenagers in the UK according to research published last week.

In a study funded by the European Union, the Department of Anthropology at University College London is conducting ethnographic research in seven European countries to find out what teens think of Facebook. They just posted initial findings from their research in the UK.

[...] What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things. Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

UCL’s UK findings have prompted much commentary and opinion across the media landscape, social and mainstream, nearly all of it basically saying the same thing: Facebook is not just on the slide, it’s dead and buried if a core demographic is moving on.

Wired magazine, on the other hand, has an intriguing and disagreeing view:

[...] all that really matters to [Facebook] is what happens after teens go off to college and enter “the real world.” How will they stay in touch with old friends and connect with new friends as they enter the crucial 18-to-25-year-old demographic in which lifestyle and purchasing habits are formed?

For the most part, this older demographic doesn’t turn to tools like Snapchat or Instagram to maintain long-term relationships. Those tools are great for conversing with your immediate social circle, especially when you still live with your parents and have to keep stuff on the down-low. But they’re not replacements for a comprehensive social tool you can tailor to all sorts of needs.

It’s a compelling assessment, one that will be part of a discussion in the next episode (736) of the FIR podcast, along with some views on the implications for business, that my co-host Shel Holtz and I will be recording later on Monday.

From the perspective of a Facebook user, I wonder what difference any of this will really make in the immediate-to-short term.

If you’re a teenager, well, I guess you’ll be moving on. Maybe that will be welcomed by users in older age groups. Boomers, for instance – that’s my demographic – who used to make up a huge percentage of Facebook users, driving its growth some years ago. Or maybe they’ve moved on to LinkedIn – the business network does seem to be evolving into a Facebook-like media business.

Neville Hobson joined Facebook
April 2007 seems such a long time ago…

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m one of those. Even though I signed up for Facebook in April 2007, it’s the social networking site on which I’m least active, preferring Twitter and Google+.

In 2010, I toyed with the idea of quitting Facebook altogether, eventually deciding not to. It’s something my social networking friend Paul Sutton is currently mulling over on Facebook, and one I increasing see more and more people asking themselves, thinking out loud.

Looking back, I think staying on Facebook was the best decision for me: there are people there who I enjoy interacting with and who aren’t in other places. So I’m willing to ‘meet’ them on Facebook from time to time. Plus from my business perspective, a great deal of activity of interest to me that companies and brands do is on Facebook; to see it, you need to be a member.

But mostly, Facebook is a remote network for me. I’m not there much; the majority of status updates are auto-posts from blogs, Twitter, Flipboard, Instagram and other services that can automatically post your content to Facebook.

In a similar principal to engaging with people on Facebook who aren’t elsewhere, such auto-presence enables my Facebook friends to keep up to speed with what’s going on in my (mostly professional) life without having to chat about it or be on Twitter, Google+, etc, if that’s not what they prefer.

And that suits a lot of people. It works for me, too.

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