I’ve just got back from the iStrategy digital marketing conference in The Hague that took place early last week, and what an experience! A great speaker line-up, a beautiful city and robots – what more could you ask for? The two conference days were full of useful insight, which I live-tweeted and I’ve summarised the highlights below.
We kicked off with the engaging Rory Sutherland (Executive Creative Director for Ogilvy) who explained why he felt the next revolution would be psychological rather than technological. He felt that companies make decisions at board level without taking psychological behaviour into consideration. Marketers could step into the breach by providing the behavioural knowledge to validate decisions that are based on spreadsheets.
We have to fight back against ROI and accountability that isn’t based on real human behaviour.
- Rory Sutherland, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy
He went on to add that the theory of purchases being made objectively, unaffected by outside influences, free of complex emotions and in complete trust, is broken. Psychometrics show us that a short queue for an airline desk is attractive, but a long one outside a nightclub is also attractive. The context is key.
Rory felt the sweet spot could be found within the overlap of technology, economics and psychology. He used a great expression – “the narcissism of small differences” – to describe how people might want a particular product, but felt that they were expressing their individuality through choosing one of many variants.
A panel on personalisation of customer engagement followed. We were given some strategy hints, such as spotting the dumbest “rational” assumption made by competitors and working against it by daring to be trivial.
Customisation was defined as explicit, while personalisation is implicit. While Web 2.0 brought in personalisation via search algorithms, Web 3.0 will push for personalisation without any effort or action required by the user.
Co-creation is very relevant for the BBC – either for TV storylines, or crowdsourcing merchandise design preferences before production
- Vincent Sider, VP Social, BBC Worldwide
There was a short debate on how much consumers are willing to be constantly monitored, which explored the view that serving up personalised content by default appears stalkerish. It was agreed that it is important to be transparent, selective and contextual.
What was clear is that you can’t rely on past behaviour as an indicator of future behaviour. Circumstances and interests change – and displaying what similar people do is one way around this. As people interact with brands across four screens, six social channels, with multiple media, the challenge for marketers is to ensure they deliver a consistent experience.
We broke off into three streams; I attended Prelini Udayan-Chiechi’s (Director EMEA Marketing, Lithium) talk, focused on owning the social experience. She argued that customers have changed, as they are now connected, empowered, impatient, and untrusting of corporate advertising. They spend on average 22 hours a week online, five of which are on social media, and this has a huge effect on their “real life”. People take to social media to express opinions which are now affecting government and corporate decisions.
Prelini shared that 95% of CEOs say their top priority is getting closer to customers, and feel that 52% of online and offline sales will be influenced by online comments. However, consumers’ priorities differ – they trust online personal reviews, followed by search engines and brand websites. Only 15% rely on social media for recommendations.
This means an onsite community provides full control of content and increased reach, while making a brand easier to find and increasing trust.
Be daring, turn off your support community for a few days to prove the cost benefits.
- Prelini Udayan-Chiech, Director Marketing, Lithium
She added that community power members spend up to 10 times more than non-members and that to be successful, a company must link social agents to their onsite community. Social channels should then be used to direct queries to the community. Social lives in its own channel within a company, not with marketing or customer service.
The value of community can be measured by call deflection, agent efficiency, knowledge creation, issues identification, conversion and spend.
The social journey roadmap can be summed up in 5 steps:
- Guide conversation
- Prove value
- Transform organisation.
Prelini urged us to follow our head, not the herd. It’s important to own your data, and it shouldn’t be outsourced to social sites. She also attacked the use of ‘fluffy metrics’, instead focusing on the dollar values.
The first day ended with a powerful keynote speech by Eric Edge (Head of Marketing Communications, Facebook), who explained key shifts in communication: disruption to connection, search to discovery and heavyweight to lightweight.
Likes are NOT a valuable metric.
- Eric Edge, Head of Marketing Comms, Facebook
His principles for marketing success are to aim to:
- Be authentic
- Be useful
- Be entertaining
- Be timely & relevant
To show how easy and low-cost it could be to create great Facebook branded page content, he gave the example of Pimm’s, which produces photos with just a smartphone and filters.
iStrategy, The Hague, day two
The second day started off with the following metric: financial services brand ING reduced its direct marketing costs by 35% by moving to a system of engagement and tripled its response rate in the process.
One of the highlights of the conference was Lindsay Wiles’ (Strategic Sales Director, The Weather Channel) talk on why weather changes should be proactively monitored and taken into account when defining a marketing strategy.
Strange as though this may first sound, weather ticks all the marketing boxes in terms of attributes: it is real-time, it is local, it inherently affects social lives, and people check it on their mobile. It also drives customer behaviour.
The future of the CMO/CIO relationship will be to harness data to paint a predictive picture of each individual customer on massive scale.
- Surjit Chana, CMO Europe, IBM
Estee Lauder took advantage of the sunshine by promoting its night cream by pushing UV levels to customer phones. This is a great example of a brand tweaking its digital campaigns based on the weather forecast. Weather also has an effect on location-based purchasing – for example, in New York the ideal purchasing conditions are above average temperatures and clear skies, while in Seattle, only clear skies are needed to drive sales.
Probably the most popular session was Tony Wang (GM UK, Twitter), during which he presented some key stats and learnings from the micro-blogging platform. Twitter currently receives over a billion tweets in less than three days; for reference, it took three years to get to that number from Twitter’s launch.
Tony felt that once you enable the opportunity to create easy interactions, great things happen. There were 15,358 tweets per second for the Euro 2012 soccer final, and 8868 tweets per second during MTV’s VMAs. Compare this with just 400-odd tweets per second for Michael Jackson’s death back in 2009.
How Twitter boosts engagement for brands
Twitter gives brands an opportunity to get their message out quickly in a straightforward way – for example, NASCAR has integrated twitter with in-car livestreams for greater audience engagement. Deepening integration extends the connected story.
Mercedes asked people to tweet to decide the ending to an advert shown in a commercial break. They created two ads, one with a call to action, one without. The one with the call to action increased brand metrics by 17-44%.
You’re heard on Twitter, not because you’re loud, but because you’re good.
- Tony Wang, GM UK, Twitter
Deloitte just published some research on the effect of positive twitter mentions on sales – the consultancy firm found that mentions are more effective than above-the-line communications.
Tony also shared how to attain the best level of mentions on Twitter: This is done by combining an ad with a dedicated hashtag, a promoted tweet and deep integration.
Marc Mathieu (Senior VP of Marketing, Unilever) felt that marketers have put a barrier between brands and people – and wondered whether, by referring to them as targets, we were planning on shooting them! He summed up what he called the “forces of magic” in four words:
He finished by stating that a brand that can embrace human beings and provide them with a positive and uplifting experience, can really make a difference to the world.
If a customer’s opinion is that valuable to a brand, then payment by intrinsic participation is not enough.
Last but definitely not least
After two days of super-fast sessions, and heated debates, I should have been jaded, but far from it. And I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that the star of iStrategy at the Hague was the energetic closing speaker – Cindy Gallop (Founder, IfWeRanTheWorld)
Cindy blew us all away with her conviction, and kicked off by introducing the concept of collaborative competition. She pointed out that copying each other opens up space for an external innovator to step in and take control of the industry, which means most players lose out.
According to Cindy, people say they hate advertising, but the most viral and best-loved videos have been ads. However, advertising user experience currently promotes the idea that people need to be cajoled, tricked, or bullied into watching. She stated that you cannot create new world order advertising from an old world order place. If you plug innovation into old processes, the results will suffer.
She then started redefining the ideal working environment, arguing that if more agencies spent as much time designing staff experience as they do on client experiences, everyone would be happier.
Most brands only operate at level of co-creation. Brands and consumers much works towards co-action.
- Cindy Gallop, Founder, IfWeRanTheWorld
Cindy continued with the concept that the new marketing reality is transparency. We should share to build trust, mutual respect and intimacy in a two-way fashion. Every brand claims to be consumer-centric, but who really delivers what the customer wants, when they want it, where they want it?
The future business will be summed up in this equation: Shared values + shared action = shared social and financial profits.
A great one-line marketing gem, to sum up two days of solid insights – roll on iStrategy, London.
Thanks to John Whitehurst and the iStrategy team.
Now that the Federal Trade Commission has finally released its list of changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, what do experts in the field of child internet safety make of them?
I was fortunate to be part of a Google hangout discussing the FTC updates to COPPA with the following child internet safety professionals: Anne Collier (co-director of ConnectSafely.org and Editor of NetFamilyNews.org), Izzy Neis (Director of Digital Engagement & Strategy at Metaverse Mod Squad), and Joi Podgorny (Director of Community Engagement for Smart Bomb Interactive).
We each have our own unique experiences working within the child and family safety space, so it was an enlightening, effective – and occasionally – passionate conversation. See the highlights of our discussion below and let us know whether you agree, disagree, or have other questions to add to the debate.
Methods of gaining parental consent
In the FTC’s blog: “FTC’s revised COPPA Rule: Five need-to-know changes for your business”, number three on the list are the new ways that companies which market to children can get parental consent:
“In addition to the already-approved methods, amendments to the Rule offer more ways businesses can get parents’ OK: electronic scans of signed parental consent forms, videoconferencing, use of government-issued ID, and alternative payment systems (assuming they meet the same stringent criteria as credit cards).
“The sliding scale mechanism of parental consent — often called “email plus” — remains an acceptable method for operators collecting personal info just for internal use. To encourage innovation in this area, the new Rule establishes a voluntary 120-day notice and comment process for businesses to get FTC approval for other methods. In addition, operators that participate in an FTC-approved safe harbor program can use a method allowed under that program.”
“Email plus” refers to the registration system on most child-directed products, so when a child enters an age of under 13, the “parents’ email address” is requested, before the child is permitted to take full advantage of the product. Theoretically, parents will receive an email that shares basic information about the product, asking the parent to approve their child’s account and allow him or her to fully explore the game.
Club Penguin registration
It’s useful that this method of consent is still on the books – however, there are further requirements to using this form of consent: to properly use the email plus method, you must take an additional confirming step after receiving the parent’s message (this is the “plus” factor). The confirming step may be:
- Requesting in your initial message to the parent that the parent include a phone or fax number or mailing address in the reply message, so that you can follow up with a confirmation phone call, fax or letter to the parent; or
- After a reasonable time delay, sending another message via the parent’s online contact information to confirm consent. In this confirmatory message, you should include all the original information contained in the direct notice, inform the parent that he or she can revoke the consent, and inform the parent how to do so.
So, if a mobile app company, or the phone’s operating system, whichever houses this data must collect parental approval before the download of say, a mobile game app like Angry Birds™, how are companies supposed to quickly and easily obtain consent? Where and when?
The FTC says that “ideally, collection of parental consent will occur before the download can happen.” But how is this possible?
No cellphone consent
The FTC is to consider new ways of collecting parental consent, but the realities of this prompt new questions. So far, the FTC won’t allow consent via the parent’s cellphone number, which as Izzy Neis pointed out, DOES in fact directly connect to an adult, via a credit card number and billing address.
If the point is to give parents more control of what their children are exposed to and who has access to their information, wouldn’t the FTC want to do their best to get as close to genuine parental information – and therefore, permission – as is possible?
What is ‘personal information’ under COPPA?
The Final Rule includes this modified definition as to what is considered “personal information” by the FTC:
“The definition of personal information now includes … photos, videos, and audio files that contain a child’s image or voice.”
(Although there is a notable exception: COPPA’s parental notice and consent requirements don’t kick in if the identifier is used solely to support the internal operations of the site or service, “such as contextual advertising, frequency capping, legal compliance, site analysis, and network communications”.)
Images of minors under 13
Any image of a child under 13 MUST be approved by that child’s parent before it can go on public view. However, this applies only to brands and products that either a) cater to the under 13 demographic, or b) are aware that a certain percentage of their product has an audience with the under 13s.
What this means is that if your brand’s site, product or app is planning to allow minors to upload pictures or videos of themselves, the parent must first give permission. It also means that any pictures that include pictures of other people’s children who are under 13 (i.e. team photos, birthday party group shots) are not compliant unless every single parent approves and allows the picture to be displayed.
Sites aimed at over 13s have no such restrictions.
Any sites claiming to market to a demographic of over 13s do not have to comply and therefore, for example, can still upload pictures of a child’s birthday party to sites such as Instagram or Facebook with all attendees pictured, even if the parents are not aware that their child’s image is being uploaded .
Joi Podgorny asked the poignant question: “Whether this amendment to the law truly helps make a child safe?” None of us had an answer. And maybe there is no answer at this stage.
The threat to children’s online content
Image courtesy of Flickr/paz.ca
Those of us who work in the field of child safety chose this path because we are passionate about keeping kids as safe as possible – but we also want to create something that young people can enjoy, that will educate them and stretch their imagination while allowing them to be rewarded for their merits.
It is important to take in to consideration how the COPPA Rule will affect community members as well as the management of the community’s safety. At times it seems as if the Rule is not about the safety or privacy of the child but more about enforcing the laws.
Joi Podgorny again: “Who are these parents that have the time [or inclination!] to jump through these hoops to get their kids to play a game or submit a picture?”
The danger of underground sites
Anne Collier expressed concern about two ways the COPPA update (like the original rule) could negatively impact companies serving U13s: a potential “chilling effect” on startups in the children’s space because of increased costs – an effect that reduces mobile and Web opportunities for children – and what she called potential “increased migration” on kids’ part.
Explaining the migration point, she said that “of course it’s vital to protect children’s privacy, but what needs to be understood more broadly is that the more protective (i.e. restrictive) sites are, the more likely children are to move on to less restrictive, protective, or COPPA-compliant sites. That significantly increases both children’s risk and the cost of doing business.“
So she urges both businesses and regulators to “find the right balance to strike between protection and freedom of expression.” It’s a very difficult balance to strike, she acknowledged, but this “has to be the focus of all parties’ efforts if collectively we want to provide digital spaces for kids that are both engaging and safe. What regulators don’t yet seem to understand about digital media is how easy it is for kids to ‘vote with their feet’ and what that means for businesses serving them.“
Are there alternatives to COPPA?
It feels like we are back at another COPPA crossroads. So what’s next?
What about the idea of the “ESRB” stamp but for online? [That's the Pegi (Pan-European Game Information) system over the other side of the pond]. Something that is regulated and mandated across any product, website, app or game that is marketed to the under 13s. Something that a parent can take one look at, recognise what it means, and take necessary actions according to their own household rules?
Izzy Neis and I both like the idea of creating a regulated program that would take place between youth, parents and a government body such as the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) in the US. For example, a socially responsible program that could be introduced to schools and mandated across all places of education, from kindergarten through to the 12th grade.
When you get down to it, the internet is just a big, new environment to explore and understand. Creating, learning and then following social norms is not a new concept after all – for example: we won’t allow anyone to drive a car without first going through Driver’s Education. Navigating online should be treated the same way: in a responsible manner, understanding both appropriate online activity as well as potential consequences.
Compliance and circumvention of COPPA
As for me, I will be watching how companies figure out how to comply with the new mandates. It is timely to note that on 6th May the FTC publicly rejected a request for an extension to comply with the Rule. The final date to begin compliance is 1st July, 2013.
And in the meantime? People will continue to find ways to circumvent a safety system. Businesses will spend endless time, energy and money reinventing their products, and child safety advocates like Anne, Joi, Izzy and myself will continue to support the search for viable, marketable solutions.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr/lancesh
Let’s face it. To be called a ‘troll’ is an insult. And
spam is – in theory at least – illegal
in most of the
world’s civilised countries and counterproductive for social media marketing professionals.
So why is there so much spam and trolling?
If that’s the case, why are our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts flooded with unwanted, unsolicited, and plain annoying content?
To answer this question, we need to look at the reasons that lie behind this behaviour. As with almost any illegal activity, most of the sources can be tracked down to a desire to find an easy way to make a profit out of it. Law enforcement agencies have successfully destroyed illegal activities just by simply “following the money trail”. Once the identity of the person or company that benefits from the activity is found, taking the malpractice apart is straightforward.
It all began with a spam business model…
Not so long ago, many email chains with funny quotes, jokes or anecdotes were replied to and re-forwarded to a large number of contacts. Simply by following the added email addresses of the email chain, companies acquired a vast amount of contact data and selling valid email addresses in a grey market became a lucrative business, earning a few cents per address.
A few cents per email quickly mounted up to become an interesting sum, so there was a clear incentive to create, or re-create, “shareable” content and voila, the spammer got hold of a nice source of income.
Spam Statistics for 2012. Source: spamcop.net
With the implementation of stricter laws, anti-spam software and educated email users (who reply and forward using the BCC option for example), this creative business model started to decay. Even after the advent of robot-spammers and other automated forms of spam, this was soon fought by new anti-spam tools and programs (which also created new business models for many anti-virus and anti-spam software developers).
The social media graph
A few years ago, some people even thought that spam was coming to an end… until Facebook started a new communication revolution. After MySpace and other similar initiatives created a social media need among the internet population, Facebook managed to hook almost everyone into this new form of social gathering.
With slight variations, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+ soon followed the trend and became social media behemoths. And now, while few people are still concerned by email spam, a fear of social media spam is slowly growing to become the ‘new internet problem ’.
The ease of sharing a post or re-tweeting creates the spam effect over and over again. And very likely, the same reasons behind email spam are also behind social media spam.
Facebook social graph
“This journey is one per cent done, which means we realized there’s an enormous opportunity to do more in this space.” – Soren Lassen, Manager of the search infrastructure team at Facebook
Marketing companies are no longer interested in a simple email address to target random messages to unknown recipients. With an evolved internet, social media created a new ‘marketing paradise’.
Even without knowing someone’s identity, we are now privy to key statistics such as age, gender, geographic location, purchasing habits, political stands, social concerns and, above all, a social graph made by a network of common interests and profiles … exactly what any marketer will pay big money for.
So how far will you go to obtain this information? Reputation and ethics aside, almost any company would be interested in obtaining vital data to push their businesses forward. Marketing experts and social media experts are now ready to harvest this vast amount of valuable data, turn it into information and, ideally, create the ultimate product: market knowledge and consumer insight that is targeted to its audience – and therefore welcome.
And the trolls?
Trolls present an interesting psychological profile. While they’re generally referred to as ‘internet sociopaths’ and visualised as bitter individuals that spend their time bashing everyone and every product, company, and institution, interestingly, some of them have hundreds, thousands, and even millions of followers.
How do they earn that amount of attention just from spreading negativity? Why do people read their posts and eagerly await their next move? Are the followers as sick as the trolls they follow?
While I’m not a psychology expert, schadenfreude may explain the inner satisfaction of reading a negative comment that we lacked the courage to make ourselves. Yellow press, gossip magazines, and even a few politicians have succeeded by doing exactly that. If there is a demand, there is also a supply.
And what about the connection between trolls, spam and marketing?
Easy. User generated content (UGC), even when negative, generates attention. Attention generates engagement. Engagement generates social followers … exactly what spammers – and some marketers are looking for. There is clear evidence and plenty of examples of paid trolls: users on a payroll whose only objective is to generate discussion and engagement, usually taking the other side of the general flow of conversation. Even bad press is good press and some trolls are good business.
Business ethics and marketing
We recognise the need of companies to understand a market and their honest objective to improve it to increase shareholders’ value. Marketing experts are paid to research these markets and obtain information to make sound business decisions. The grey area is how far they will go to obtain this data before their competition does?
There are undoubtedly a minority of marketing and social media professionals who bluntly offer this to their employers or customers: “Don’t ask how I will deliver, just be happy that I do”. No need to know, so no business ethics or even legal issues interfere.
But for most of us, as professionals, individuals and consumers, the buck stops there. So, the next time you’re annoyed by a shared post, unwanted message or a disgusting troll, take time to think about who may benefit from their activity. And please, help stop the chain!
By César Struve, moderator at eModeration. This post was originally posted on his blog. Feature image: tburgy Facebook social graph image: rafiqphillips
Last week I went back to my journalism roots, attending the digital journalism conference news:rewired. But this time I could wear two hats: journalist and community manager. In a week when The Guardian launched a Platform for citizen journalists, and social media wrongly identified suspects in the Boston bombings, I was eager to hear how news organisations and journalists are using social media and community to engage with their readers, helping to bring their stories to life, personalising it for their readers and even using readers’ content in their own news output.
The keynote speaker was Vadim Lavrusik, Journalism Programme Manager for Facebook. He can also claim to have a foot in both camps as he’s a former journalist at the New York Times as well as a former Community Manager at Mashable. In typical Facebook fashion, his presentation kicked off with an explanation of how the newsfeed works – something we community managers are frequently asked by our clients. While this doesn’t explain how the algorithm actually works, these are the five things that Facebook takes into account when showing content in anyone’s newsfeed:
- Frequency of engagement with page
- Engagement with specific post
- Interaction with types of content
- Negative feedback to content
- Freshness of post
This means no one newsfeed is the same – yours will always differ from your friend’s. So while he couldn’t guarantee that your content will make it into your target audience’s newsfeed, he shared some tips that work for journalists as well as community managers and brands.
- Have a conversational tone and personal voice
- Use targeting controls to reach the right audience and avoid inundating all your fans
- Thumbnails should be 600 x 600 pixels and compelling pictures – links with appealing thumbnails enjoy 20 per cent better engagement
- Highlight conversations on air – create conversations on Facebook and say what happened on air
While this last tip was aimed at broadcasting organisations, there is nothing to stop brands from including stats and quotes from Facebook in their marketing materials, websites and presentations.
Lavrusik even used the buzz word ‘crowdsourcing’ to claim that Facebook was the ideal tool for journalists to take a snapshot of sentiment towards an event. The presentation also highlighted how Facebook’s new replies feature, introduced last month, would make live Q+A much easier and simpler on the platform.
As community managers we’ve shied away from this, but the functionality allows brands to really talk one-on-one with users, as well as getting the community involved. You can watch Lavrusik’s complete presentation here.
Journalism and Community Management
One interesting session was entitled Curation: The journalist as manager. This could have been re-titled The journalist as a community manager. Today’s journalist, as well as researching the hard facts of their story, now has to take opinions and stories from social media platforms to incorporate into their own news stories.
The Huffington Post maintains it is the only news organisation that links to other news websites. If it sees a story has already been written by its competitor, then it links to it. Why bother rehashing the story when your readers have already seen it? Funny how community managers have been doing this for years.We recognise there is value in good quality content as long as the source is authoritative.
Curation, editing and journalism: the same thing?
Michael Rundle, Technology Editor of The Huffington Post UK, said at the session: “Curation is another name for editing which is another word for journalism – bringing together lots of info from one place.” This is exactly what a good community manager does as well. By allowing your community to share and discuss topics that are relevant to them, we are acting as curators. That is precisely why we have community guidelines to help us moderate and manage the members, as well as encourage good community behaviour.
Anticipating social media backlash
Speaking of behaviour, it was suggested at the conference that some journalists have changed the angle of the story or toned down their story because of the backlash they expected to receive on social media or comments on their story. In my day, the only time we faced criticism was when someone took the trouble to ring the editor to complain and that was rare. Now we have empowered readers, members, users, communities and the general public to share their views, and they are absolutely entitled to do so. The key is to being able to moderate and manage these comments, and how you deal with them. Yes, it’s another task on the list, but it extends the shelf-life of a good news story, and journalists need to prepare for this.
Social media training
So what support and training are journalists given on social media? Some news organisations have community or social media teams sitting alongside their journalists to help manage the backlash as well as engage with readers, and this is a great way forward. But is the industry doing enough to share best practices around community building, how to deal with irate readers, interaction with members and keeping the community in order?
News organisations are encouraging reporters to join communities to help with their reporting. And if they can’t find a suitable community they should build their own. While community management is not a dark art, it is important that journalists – and anyone else for that matter – knows the basic principles behind good community management or they are in danger of having these communities backfire on them.
A trusted community is a very useful resource for journalists, and can provide valuable information and insight for use in their stories, but in return their members will want to feel rewarded and acknowledged, not just an unpaid anonymous source.
It looks as though reporters of the future will have to wear two hats – community and journalism – but I think the pairing works very well.
For more on news:rewired’s Digital Journalism conference on April 19th, here’s the Storify round up of the event.
Image courtesy of Flickr: NS Newsflash
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