Posts tagged social
Location check-in websites have started becoming pretty popular over the last year or so. Most of us have at least heard of Foursquare and Gowalla, and perhaps Facebook Places and the Google backed SCVNGR. Where you are is an obvious thing to catalogue. Those sites work*.
More recently other sorts of check-in sites have cropped up too. There’s the strange GetGlue that let’s you check-in what media you’ve been consuming, and Foodspotting that combines photos of what food you’ve been eating with which restaurant you’re at.
Foodspotting is an interesting idea. It almost works. The problem, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that I don’t eat out enough to make it worthwhile checking in and uploading a photo when I do. Who wants to spend time looking to see where I’ve been out if I’m only updating every month or so. I imagine that’s more to do with the fact I fall a little way outside of the target group that Foodspotting is aimed at (affluent 20somethings who eat in fancy restaurants a lot). The idea is sound, it’s just not for me. But it has got me thinking.
What do we all do, everyday, that we might be interested in sharing with our friends? The answer I’ve come up with is “wear clothes”.
The idea of sharing your “look” with your friends is far from new. Lookbook.nu has been doing it for years. Fashism.com started quite recently (with money supplied by the likes of Ashton Kutcher). People are interested in fashion. By combining the location-awareness of a photo sharing app people could take snapshots of items they’re seen in their favourite store to ask their friends if they like the look. For businesses that’d be a good thing – it’d drive people to the stores where they’ve seen things their friends have shared. A discount or special offer could be given to people who share enough pictures in store. News about items and offers could be sent directly to people who have checked-in to the store’s location (with the added advantage that no personal data would need to be passed from the user to the business owner).
I’m actually rather surprised no one has launched anything like this already. It’s that obvious.
* Or worked if the latest stats are to be believed. Their popularity appears to be waining.
The definition of the word “social” is interesting. For something to be “social” it should be aware of the collective co-existance of other organisms. That’s certainly very interesting as far as anthropology goes, but how does it apply to a business using social media?
Many businesses use social networking as a way to get their message out. They see it as an advertising platform. You tell people what you’re doing, and they come to your business and buy things. Simple. It works. But, and this is important, it fails to make good use of the time investment required to get your business to the point where it’s visible on social networks. If all you’re doing is broadcasting there are other things that you could be investing your time in. Social networking has the singular advantage in that you can actively engage with potential customers before they’ve even set for on your premises or clicked on your website.
This is where the “social” definition comes in.
Social networking is a way of utilising the co-existance of business and customer rather than having a one-way relationship. Social networking websites enable businesses to talk to customers (either existing ones or potential ones) in a way that the customer is happy with because it’s both personal and informal, and, for the moment at least, the customers are still impressed by. A business using social media as an engagement tool is a rare beast, and doing things in the right way before everyone else still impresses. You only need to read some of the testimonials that customers who have had good experiences post for their friends to read to understand the potential social networks have as a way of fundamentally improving how we work.
The social engagement aspect of social networking is where you can set yourself apart.
Five tips for being a better business with social websites;
- Separate the personal and the business messages. Particularly if you’re a sole trader, have two accounts if you use social networks for fun as well as business. People will notice your business tweets more if they’re not interwoven with what you think of the latest episode of your favourite television show.
- Don’t wait for your customers to come to you. Seek them out. Social networking software has search functions that let you look for people who have mentioned your business directly, the name of your products, and just things that you sell. By looking for people who want to talk about the thing you’re great at you can advise them and engage with them in ways that would be impossible with any other medium.
- Build relationships with your social network friends and followers. Communication has to happen in both directions if the person you’re talking to is to become a customer and evangelise your service with their friends.
- Don’t ignore your critics. It’s easy to spend time on the people who’re being nice about your company, but sometimes you need to take time to deal with the tricky ones. People who’re being nice aren’t going to be extra nice if you talk to them. People who’re being nasty can be turned into nice ones though.
- “Switch off” when you’re doing something else. Come back to it later. You don’t have to answer everything within seconds. So long as you’re checking in regularly, and replying to people who have asked you something, everyone will be happy. It’s as important to make sure social networking doesn’t get in the way of other business functions as it is to use social networking properly.
Confirming what I have long suspected, that I am hopelessly addicted to Twitter, last night I actually stayed up to follow the Big Tuesday announcement live online. I found it rather entertaining. Yes, I know. It’s pitiful. I should get some sort of a life.
This big announcement turned out to centre on a new web client for Twitter.com. It looks rather shiny. There’s a new design, some new features, some refinements for the old features, but not much else. Some people in the social media space are saying it’s not really lived up to the hype. But I think there was something else in the announcement, something a lot bigger than the news of the website update.
Evan Williams, in his introduction, made a comment that Twitter is “a realtime information network”. This builds on a comment by Kevin Thau (Twitter’s VP of Business and Corporate Development) at a Nokia World presentation that “Twitter is not a social network”. Within Twitter there has been a shift in emphasis away from building networks of friends to talk to and towards pushing information out to a group of people. The expectation of a two-way conversation is being reduced. Evan went on in his presentation to describe how he wants Twitter to be useful even to people who don’t tweet. There couldn’t be a much clearer indication that they’re wanting to move away from “social”.
I think this indicates, for the first time in the past four years, that they’re publicly trying to move Twitter into a position where users expect things in their timeline that don’t call for a response, making business oriented Twitter accounts less about interacting with your customers and moving more towards pushing PR and marketing messages to a willing audience. Of course, Twitter aren’t being that overt about it; they’re saying it’s for “news”. But they would.
It’s almost a given; for Twitter to roll out an advertising sales platform that users are going to accept the users will need to accept those sorts of breaks in their timeline without complaining. At the moment it’s uncertain if they would. If you suggest twitter adverts most of the feedback is understandably negative. This is just the first of many necessary steps.
Just briefly it’s also worth noting another sideline announcement that Twitter made yesterday – that the new web client is built entirely on top of their existing public APIs. That means that there is no longer any difference between what is displayed on Twitter.com as there is in Twitter for iPhone, Tweetdeck, Osfoora, Hootsuite, and so on. This is another key factor in rolling out an advertising platform. Ads won’t work if they’re only displayed on Twitter.com – the users would just shift to a client that doesn’t display them. With every client using the same APIs every client will get the same content. Should they ever start pushing out adverts that means every client will get the advert data. They’ll be inescapable.
More positively, it also means that there’s a level playing field between Twitter and 3rd party app developers. There’s no reason why a talented team of developers couldn’t build an even better Twitter client than Twitter’s own official offerings.
There are millions of completely crazy ideas around the internet. Sites that you see and think “Really? REALLY?”. I’m not going to name names but I see them almost every day. Frequently they fade away without a trace, occasionally they grow to be incredibly successful, and I’m usually left scratching my head thinking “What did I miss?”.
What’s out there at the moment that’s piquing my interest?
Much as I hate blog posts that consist of lists, I’m going to sacrifice that notion to bring some of the ideas I’ve seen recently that I believe are doing great things (or will be doing great things in the future);
GetGlue – http://getglue.com/ – It’s check ins for media. Rather than checking in where you are, you check in what you’re consuming (tv, dvd, books, etc). It’s a great idea. The statistical profile data of who is doing what and how that relates to what other people are doing will be fascinating. There are rivals (Philo for example), but GetGlue seems to be the best one at the moment.
Zong – http://www.zong.com/ – It’s kind of like Paypal for mobile phones. To buy something you just use your phone number. I’ve been talking about the idea of a “walled garden” for mobile sites for a little while now, and I think this sort of service is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be in place before that can happen seriously. There’s another option in the form of Vento, but Zong appears to be a more mature product at this stage.
PlacePop – http://www.placepop.com/ – Another Foursquare “rival”, PlacePop have taken the idea of GPS enabled check in services and applied it more directly to businesses using a “virtual loyalty card” idea. If they can get traction from retailers I imagine they’ll be huge. Another FourSquare alternative that’s looking interesting is SCVNGR ( http://www.scvngr.com/ ). They’re taking the check in model and applying it to gaming allowing users to build games on top of their service rather like geocaching. It’s hard to see SCVNGR failing considering they’re backed by Google. I fully expect to see SCVNGR games appearing in Google Maps and Earth soon.
Hunch – http://hunch.com/ – Hunch takes a list of the things that you like and builds a “taste profile” of you enabling it to recommend other things that you might like too. It’s quite an obvious idea but the graph technology behind the site makes things quite exciting. “Taste engineering” seems to be something that’s cropping up a lot recently. Local start-up and Difference Engine veterans wishli.st ( http://wishli.st ) have something similar running as a beta.
Jumo – http://www.jumo.com/ – Jumo is a site that will, once it launches, aim to bring together volunteers with volunteer organisations. I don’t yet know much about how they’re planning to do it, but it’s definitely worth watching as it’s been founded by Chris Hughes. Hughes was a roommate of Mark Zuckerberg and a co-founder of Facebook and the brains behind MyBarackObama.com, Barack Obama’s online presence during the 2008 presidential election campaign.
Canv.as – http://canv.as/ – This one is a complete mystery. There are no clues to what it is, or will become on the site whatsoever. Like Jumo though, it’s of interest because of the person behind it – Canv.as is the brainchild of Chris “Moot” Poole who founded 4Chan (the site that gave the internet “rickrolling” amongst other things). Poole is clearly good at community building, so I’m keen to see what comes from his next venture.