July 26, 2014

Measuring social media without blowing the budget (30 tools)

Now that social media has gone mainstream, many companies are keen to get involved. But even larger brands will want to dip their toe in the water and see proven, quantifiable results before committing to a larger budget, which often means the funds won’t stretch to relatively high investment monitoring tools such as Radian, Meltwater or Alterian.

In the battle to integrate social media solidly into a brand’s marketing strategy, it pays to focus initial spend on the essentials and seek out free or low cost monitoring and measurement solutions to draw the essential link between social media investment and return.

As part of the CIPR’s Social Summer, I was invited to give a presentation on the wide range of online tools that do the job and don’t cost the earth.

Here it is…


And here’s the video from Slide #7 on multi-channel attribution modelling…


Do please take a look at the CIPR’s guidance on social media measurement – it’s a valuable read.

Thoughts? Questions? Let me know!

Come and chat with me in November

Image courtesy of LincUpLive

I’ll be in London next month, sharing some thoughts on social media and digital engagement as part of CIPR’s Social Summer and Mumsnet’s Blogfest.

Here are the details…

CIPR Social Summer

Measuring social media without blowing the budget, Thursday 8 November

Now that social media has gone mainstream, many companies are keen to get involved. But even larger brands will want to dip their toe in the water and see proven, quantifiable results before committing budget, which often means the funds won’t stretch to relatively high investment monitoring tools such as Radian, Meltwater or Alterian.

In the battle to integrate social media solidly into a brand’s marketing strategy, it pays to focus initial spend on the essentials and seek out free or low cost monitoring and measurement solutions to draw the essential link between social media investment and return.

In this session, I’ll be looking at the full range of online tools that do the job and don’t cost the earth.

To book, visit the CIPR’s Eventbrite page.

Mumsnet Blogfest

Blogging clinic, Saturday 10th November

Having spoken at a host of digital conferences this year, including LincUpLive, Blogcamp and Cybher, I’m really looking forward to sitting in the Blogging Clinic at Blogfest and taking questions throughout the day from some of the 300 blogging delegates in attendance.

The conference is sold out, but you can read more about it on the Blogfest website.

See you there?

The five most useful Google+ write-ups from comms pros

There have been tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of words written about Google+ already, but as the new social network takes its first tentative steps in beta, the industry is asking…

What does this new platform mean for PR, marketing and other comms professionals?

It’s not an easy one to answer, but here are five articles that helped me get to the heart of the matter:

  1. The PR and marketing implications of Google+ by Shel Holtz. This is about as thorough as you can get right now. Shel hasn’t churned out a Google+ 101 post, he’s written an article with the uses for comms pros in mind. Read it.
  2. Should PR and social media people be getting excited by Google+? by Phil Szomszor. Should we all be leaping on board and putting our campaign budgets into Google+ right now? Phil has sensible answers.
  3. Conversations matter in Google+ by Chris Brogan. I have to agree with Chris’s simple but crucial observation here. The quality of conversations and responses in my stream, right now, is blowing Twitter and Facebook out of the water. If that continues, it’s a big deal for brands (particularly when the door opens to them).
  4. Why Google Has the Hammer To Make Businesses Use Google Plus by Jay Baer. This is a comparatively complex article (make a cup of tea before you start reading) but it takes a really good stab at mapping the evolution of search, SEO, social, where Google+ fits in, and where it’s going. Useful stuff.
  5. Google+, Businesses and Beyond by Christian Oestlien. In a video rather than a written post, Christian, a product manager on Google+ explains why it’s not quite ready for businesses yet, and gives some hints on where it might be going. Watch it below:

So, when it comes to Google+, what are your predictions, observations hopes and concerns for the comms industry?

Listing my essential social media tools

Tonight’s #CommsChat (the weekly Twitter-based chat for comms professionals) will aim to identify the best tools out there for monitoring and evaluating social media activity. Here’s my summary of the tools I use every day.

The blurb for tonight’s chat reads: “There’s a huge array of free, freemium and paid-for choices out there – so which ones do you invest your time and money on and why? What are the lesser known tips, tricks or features you’ve found, and which tools don’t cut the mustard?”

So, here are the questions to be posed on the night, along with my top tips.

What are your top social media tools – and why?

  • For getting a one window view of all the activity on every Twitter profile and Facebook Page I manage, Hootsuite
  • For spreading the great stuff I read in the morning out across the day on Twitter, you can’t beat Buffer which lets me stack up quality content to go out at pre-set intervals
  • For identifying the hottest trends in my Twitter stream, StrawberrJ.am is a must
  • For filtering out a hashtag or keyword if I really don’t want to know the tennis result, Proxlet
  • For putting some quick (but debatably fallible) numbers to influence on social networks, Klout and Peer Index
  • For figuring out the behaviour and trends around a particular Twitter user, TweetStats (see also Hashtracking)
  • For assessing the reach of a hashtag, tweet or even @username, TweetReach.
  • For getting a quick, free overview of the reach and sentiment of an idea / campaign on the social web, SocialMention.com

Which ones are more hype that happening?

  • Not keen on Klout’s +K as a measure of ‘expertise’ in certain topics. It measures ‘vote for me!’ popularity rather than true influence and is easily gamed
  • Paper.li drives me crazy. Billed as a tool to bring you the best of your stream in paper form, it does work, but it’s being overused in a spammy way. Turn off those auto-tweets, people!

From dashboard to dashing about – best tips for tablets and mobiles

Freemium to premium – which upgrades are worth it?

  • If you have more than one Hootsuite user in the office accessing the same Twitter profiles, you’ll need to upgrade, but it also cuts out the ads and gives you full access to an Outlook-like scheduling calendar, so it’s well worth it
  • Buffer premium brings you the usual scheduling goodness, plus the option to have multiple admins and unlimited tweets and Twitter accounts
  • TweetReach only analyses the last 50 tweets it finds in Twitter search, so if you’re looking at a very busy hashtag, it’s worth paying the $20 for a full snapshot

How are these tools helping you with strategy?

  • Managing multiple feeds is time-consuming. The better the tools, the more time you can devote to actually engaging
  • Knowledge is power. The more data you can get on how you’re performing, the better honed your strategy becomes

Should tools focus around ‘search’ or around ‘social’?

  • I guess this is asking, should we look at a) numbers – followers, number of RTs etc, or b) engagement – depth of conversation, sentiment, reach etc?
  • My answer is a little of (a), a little of (b), but ultimately you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and remember that tools are just tools – nothing automated is going to tell you everything you need to know, or do everything you need to do, that’s what comms professionals are for ;)

The chat takes place tonight (Monday 4th July) 8-9pm UK time. Talk to you there?

Creating conversation-worthy content

I originally posted this one six months ago, but it’s so relevant to recent online discussions around ‘content for content’s sake’, I thought I’d push it back to the fore.

In this age of social media, companies are slowly waking up to the fact that it is no longer enough to ‘broadcast’ a message to an ‘audience’. Today, a successful web presence is all about engaging people in dynamic, multi-way dialogue; driving and contributing to key conversations; influencing, participating and responding to the buzz around emerging trends.

So what makes content ‘sharable’? What turns a site visitor from passive reader to active participant in a conversation around your brand?

Here’s my take on the key requirements for conversation-worthy content.

Offer value

It hardly needs saying that sharing is a big part of social networking. If the average user sees something interesting, controversial, enlightening or funny on Twitter, the chances are they’ll want to re-tweet it, or perhaps Stumble or ‘Like’ it. Even more so if they feel that it’s something their friends/followers will like, too.

Conversation-worthy content is often that which amuses, breaks news, surprises, or sheds light on a known but otherwise complex subject.

What are you doing to ensure your content brings a benefit to your audience, well beyond simply learning more about your brand?

Create investment

We know by now that user generated content isn’t just a way to keep copywriting overheads down – where users have a vested interest in the content on a site, they are more likely to return, more likely to engage, and more likely to share that content with others.

From relatively simple site additions such as guest blog posts or caption competitions, to more technical or time consuming additions such as user forums or content that crowd-sources advice or opinions from customers, the more a user feels they have contributed to content in some way, the more invested they are likely to feel, and therefore the more likely to continue, and indeed share the conversation.

What are you doing to encourage user contributions to your content base?

Track and monitor

When visitors hit your site, where do they come from? And where do they land? Once they’re there, what do they do next? Which types of content are the most ‘sticky’, holding attention for the longest? Which content drives the most ‘shares’ on social media?

Whether you’re part of a large company with the funds to purchase highly detailed analytics software such as Omniture or a small company with access only to a free tools such as Google Analytics, tracking and analysing user response is essential and not to be overlooked.

At any time, you need to be able to confidently answer the questions: What does your customer base respond best to? And what generates the highest level of engagement?

Listen; gather feedback

Of course, key information isn’t only to be gleaned from visitor behaviour. The real action is probably happening far beyond your blog post, news update or shiny new home page; it’s happening on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Again, whether you have deep enough pockets for an all singing all dancing social mention tool such as Radian 6 or Meltwater Buzz, or whether you are sticking firmly with free tools such as SocialMention.com, the big questions here are:

What content is being shared, and how? What are people saying about your brand? What are you learning from the conversation? And what are you doing to drive it forward, positively, by being visible and responsive where appropriate?

Stay relevant

Clearly, social media monitoring has applications far beyond collating mentions for your own brand. By tracking key words and phrases, you can answer a whole raft of questions that will help keep your conversation relevant to your readership.

What is interesting to your target markets right now? What questions, concerns or excitement is growing around your industry?

And, most importantly, what are you doing to track, analyse and predict these emerging trends, so that they can be reflected in your own content?

I’ll leave you with a final point to note. The answers to all of the above questions will rarely remain static for long. It could be weeks, days, hours or even minutes before the conversation shifts, turns or otherwise develops, throwing a whole new light on your content strategy.

The conversation is ongoing, dynamic and exciting. Your content strategy must be, too.

Social Media Week – are you getting involved?

So it’s Social Media Week (SMW) – “a global platform that connects people, content, and conversation around emerging trends in social and mobile media.”

Some brands and agencies are leaping in head first to celebrate this most fashionable of communication channels, while others are watching from the sidelines with concerns about bandwagon jumping and hot air.

Over on #CommsChat tonight (7 Feb 8-9pm UK time), we’ll be discussing the week long set of events, and asking: does the rise of Social Media Week reflect a turning point in the acceptance of social media as part of the marketing toolkit, or only that social media is currently fashionable?

So what do you think? Are you taking part? Are you skeptical? Tune in at 8pm tonight – we’d love to hear your views.

Mixing social media into marketing #CommsChat

If you’re a regular to this blog, or follow me on Twitter/Facebook, you’ll know that I run a weekly Twitter chat for comms professionals on Monday nights (8pm-9pm UK time) with my #CommsChat co-founder Adam Vincenzini.

Last night, we were honoured to have Beth Harte as our guest mod and the topic was “Integrating social media into the marketing mix“. A healthy mix of new faces and #CommsChat stalwarts took part, with 90+ contributors and 500+ tweets.

Here’s a summary of the questions Beth threw out, and a selection of the tweets each one sparked:

Q1: Have you been using social media for product development?

  • @juphilpott: Absolutely. Our product IS our outstanding service to our members/cust and content found on #sm platforms help tremendously.
  • @Jane63C: I see sm as vital to building relationships, communities etc so very much at the heart of a PR strategy.
  • @DamnRedHead: Using SM in prod dev isn’t necessarily “crowdsourcing,” curation/aggregation can also help dev prods.
  • @RachAllen: I don’t think products have to be ‘social’ – interacting with customers should be though surely?
  • @LoisMarketing: Treated SM world as a public focus group — received great feedback, very helpful and supportive participants.

Q2: In regards to social media is it important to give customers the ability to provide their wants and needs? Why (not)?

  • @NotFromBolton: How can you stop them, seriously. Much better to channel it into something useful surely?
  • @MichaelWhite1: Customers are your wants and needs. Therefore it is important to provide for them.
  • @ahhzen: Doesn’t it depend on how responsive you can be? No point asking if you can’t deal with the answers.
  • @jane63c: Social media is by its nature two way communication so you must allow that engagement to build effective relationships.
  • @Dan_Martin: You don’t provide them the “ability” to do it; they will do it on Twitter, Facebook etc anyway! #commschat

Q3: If customers (B2B and B2C) were complaining about price via social media, what would you do with that info?

  • @jane63c: Back to engagement and two way comms complaining via sm is very public can quickly become crisis comms if not handled swiftly would probably add it to the mix of other information I had to help make a more informed pricing decision
  • @RobertPickstone: Would probably add it to the mix of other information I had to help make a more informed pricing decision.
  • @NotFromBolton: Learn from it. But if they come to you on price they will leave you on price. There has to be other differentiators.
  • @MarcSkaf: If they are complaining about price, it is your job to show them that the value is greater than the price.
  • @BethHarte: Social media isn’t always necessarily two-way. As a consumer, I might complain, but never interact with a brand.

Q4: What about “place.” If you hear via social media that you aren’t selling where people want to buy, what next? For example, I loved Putumayo World Music, but they don’t sell on on iTunes, so I don’t buy anymore. Do you have an example?

  • @NotFromBolton: It’s all about trends surely. Trends of topic vs outcome. What comments are made are immaterial unless its impacting the outcome.
  • @ahhzen: Does this become about volume? if enough potential customers SM to request a location then investigate it?
  • @JonClements: Investigate! And tell people you’re doing so.
  • @mazherabidi: Online has to be consideration here? Dunno if I can expect physical stores everywhere, but I expect online store.
  • @TotMac: Is the Beatles on iTunes not a good example of this? Legal wranglings aside, customers wanted it there.

Q5: What companies do you see doing a great job with social media communication?

  • @Jane63c: I think charities/not for profit sector are really getting to grips with SM, also transformed lobbying.
  • @MichaelWhite1: Big fan of @XboxSupport as well (no bias, I don’t run it!).

Hungry for more? Read the full transcript here, and join in with #CommsChat next week!

Is there a simple answer to blogging success?

Don’t worry. I’m not about to tout a single secret to blogging success – I don’t think there is one. But I have managed to get twenty-one bloggers to share their very best tips – and that’s a good start.

Every Monday night (8pm-9pm UK time) I co-run #CommsChat – a Twitter-based chat for people with some interest in the communications industry (PRs, journos, bloggers, marketers, writers, community managers). We usually have an expert guest host appropriate to the topic, and around 100 people take part, with anything between 400 to 1,000 tweets flying back and forth.

This Monday 24th January 2011, we’re having a Big Blogging Brainstorm (check out #BBB on Twitter). The premise is simple. Get 100(ish) communications pros together and bat ideas around to create more post ideas than you can shake a stick at. [More info here]

Now I wholeheartedly believe that constantly coming up with new things to write about is a BIG challenge for many, but it’s not the only one. So, ahead of Monday’s chat, I talked to twenty-one bloggers and asked for their best tips for blogging success.

Blog with purpose…

Blogging is great. But blogging with a strategy is even better. – Mark Shaw (@MarkShaw)

Try and have a cohesive theme, an anchor point. – Ben Johnston (@2ftfromfreedom)

Decide on what you are going to write about and stick to it. – Heather Townsend (@heathertowns)

…but retain the freedom to evolve

Know your niche but don’t let it define you. Too often bloggers begin down a very specific path and then find it hard to evolve / adjust because they get ‘known’ for something. – Adam Vincenzini (@AdamVincenzini)

Audience matters…

Choose your target audience and write your blog for that audience. – Richard Osborne (@RichardOsborne)

Write on topics, & in a style, that your intended audience will connect with. Put yourself in their shoes & write something that is appealing to them. – Marc Lawn (@businessgp)

…but so does self-belief

Simply write about what you know. – Ben Johnston (@2ftfromfreedom)

Don’t try to emulate another blogger / writer. Be yourself. YOU ARE interesting! – Rob Fletcher (@Tfgrobfletcher)

Be passionate and interested in what you are writing about. – Carli Ann Smith (@Carlir6)

Only ever write about things you enjoy writing about, else you won’t keep it up. – David Lurie (@Setsights)

Don’t try to be someone you’re not, let your own personality shine though. – Mike Garner (@realgoodwriting)

Stop worrying about what people think, write and publish often. you cannot improve your blogging if you do not do it. – Sarah Arrow (@SarahArrow)

Blog regularly…

State upfront when or how often you will post: every Thursday, twice a week, on the 1st and 15th of every month… This will keep you on schedule. – Catherine Jan (@TranslateTrad)

Go with a topic you like and develop a posting strategy (once a week, once a day, etc) and stick with it. You’ll find that over time it becomes a habit and you will continue to improve and gain confidence. – Allan Schoenberg (@allanschoenberg)

…but favour quality over quantity

Don’t ever think that because a blog post is short and sharp it won’t get as many hits as a full-blown thesis that takes you weeks to write! It’s the insight that counts. – Jon Clement (@JonClements)

Blog sparingly, comment frequently. – Richard Bailey (@behindthespin)

Sometimes the best thing you can do to a blog post before you hit publish is delete it or re-write it. Your readers will thank you for your quality control. – James Ainsworth (@AlterianJames)

Differentiate yourself…

Keep your content, style and ideas varied for the sake of you and your readers. – Adam Vincenzini (@AdamVincenzini)

Always add value – don’t just regurgitate. – Trefor Davies (@tref)

It’s important to differentiate yourself. Try to be very creative in order to provide new and different content and don’t copy other bloggers. – Petya N. Georgieva (@pgeorgieva)

…but don’t dismiss what’s tried and tested

Some of my most popular blog posts have been lists. There is nothing people like more than top 5s, top 10s etc so settle on a subject and create a list. It always leads to a debate! – Dan Martin (@Dan_Martin)

Get your own domain and web host right from the start. – David Bennett (@Quillcards)

So if there really is a secret to blogging success, it’s simply listening and learning from those already doing it well.

What are your biggest blogging challenges? And what do you think is the most important element of blogging success?

Proxlet founders interview – can it really fight Twitter noise?

This week, I was lucky enough to catch up with Aaron White and Chris Ricca, the co-creators of a new Twitter service that promises to ‘fight Twitter noise’.

Proxlet is a way to filter your Twitter feed. Nothing new there…Twitter allows you to create lists, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and the like allow you to manage those lists. But it seems Proxlet wants to take things one step further, and make things simpler. It promises to “block apps, mute users, and filter tags on Twitter” – and it’s getting some high profile attention.

“Proxlet works with Twitter.com & the most popular native clients to fight noise,” explains Aaron. “It can block annoying apps, over-talkitive users, and irrelevant hash tags. Ultimately, we want Proxlet to be the quality control tool for your tweet stream. People who love Twitter, but wish they had more control, are most certainly our target audience.”

The Proxlet system is certainly user friendly, but the list of supported clients could use some work. There’s a Chrome extension, and support for TweetDesk [EL: corrected on Proxlet.com] Tweetdeck Desktop, Twitter for iPhone, Twidroyd, Seesmic for Android and Spaz, but nothing for Tweetdeck or Hootsuite as yet.

Good stock

Aaron White, co-creator of Proxlet

Technically, the Proxlet developers know their stuff. Chris served two years on the drop.io development team and Aaron studied Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. “[I] fell in love with the startup world & hacker work ethic,” Aaron enthuses. “Chris & I met over Twitter, and when we were both publicly ‘kevetching’ about the noise, we decided to take action. Proxlet has been a fantastic learning experience both technically, and in terms of bringing value to a lot of folk.”

Impact on Twitter

So what do the pair think the impact of Proxlet might be on Twitter usage, and on apps like paper.li, known as much for irritating Twitter users en masse as it is for proving visually attractive ‘digital newspapers’?

“Anecdotally, I am seeing people using the service following more people than they did before using Proxlet,” Chris explains. “Which makes sense – we can only bring in so much information during a day, so if I turn down the knob on certain types of information, I can follow more people. In the longer term, I would like to see services be better citizens on Twitter. If they are too flagrant, people will just shut them off.”

A dream tool for spammers?

Talking of bad behaviour on Twitter, my first thought when learning of the Proxlet service was that it was clearly open to abuse. The blurb promises it will “Block apps, mute users, and filter tags on Twitter.” Are the pair concerned that people will use Proxlet to effectively pretend to follow people, just to grow their reciprocal follower numbers?

“I think Proxlet appeals to those folks who are looking to enhance the quality of their stream, rather than ‘game’ the system,” Aaron contends. “Those who try to amass a following via reciprocity tricks aren’t trying to solve a quality problem.”

“Yeah – I’m not concerned with people trying to boost follower counts,” Chris confirms. “You can usually spot those accounts from a mile away, anyway. Above a certain number, every follow is fake.”

Improving the Twitter experience

I’m not convinced that Proxlet won’t be abused a fair bit, but it’s true enough that it isn’t the only tool to make that kind of ‘gaming’ possible. But what of the argument that using a proxy is a needless step – if you don’t like the sort of stuff a person posts, unfollow?

Chris Ricca, co-creator of Proxlet

“We built Proxlet because we wanted more control over our Twitter experience,” explains Chris. “For more casual users, following and unfollowing will probably be enough. But we wanted more options. It has made Twitter useful for me again.”

“I find it very useful to mute folks who are at conferences that I am not interested in,” adds Aaron. “Sometimes, it’s enough to mute the conference’s hash-tag. However, some folks don’t always use the tag, so muting them for a few days can do the trick. Alternatively, if someone is tweeting about a live sporting event, I might throw a quick mute on them. *Especially* if they are rooting for the wrong team…”

Of course, even during the big game, you might not want to ignore people who address you directly. “We’ve tried to be careful with Proxlet to provide control, but not break the social fabric of Twitter,” assures Aaron. “You will still see a tweet if someone mentions you, or direct messages you, even if they are muted.”

The future of Proxlet

So will the developers be using the usage data they gather to help make Twitter a nicer place?

“It would be great if Proxlet could become an early warning system for spammy behavior on Twitter,” says Aaron. “Would love to share that data with folks, and offer auto-blocking features if they were valuable. We’ll be preparing an in-depth look at some of the muting trends, stay tuned! Suffice it to say, you can probably guess the top three apps or so.”

“Proxlet’s plans right now are to learn from our users and improve the experience, and thankfully our costs are low enough to let us do exactly that.”

It’s certainly an interesting proposition, but for now I’ll be keeping it old school and continuing to control the quality of my home feed by choosing who to follow wisely. Then again, those paper.li mentions are indeed incessant, so there may come a day when Proxlet’s (term filter option) becomes irresistible.


Read it and Tweet (#ReadItAndTweet) is born!

Bit of a diversion from the norm while I continue to beaver away behind the scenes on the blog redesign.

We’re launching a Twitter book club…

A conversation on Twitter between @amandafirepr @Chris_Hall1 @EmLeary @JenAndersson @rebeccataylorpr and @MissBarry, sparked by a chance book mention aaaaaand we’re off!

Presenting….the Read it and Tweet book club – we read books, and we talk about it on Twitter. Simple, eh?

Or in more traditional bio-speak:

“We meet on Twitter every other Wednesday 8pm-9pm to discuss our chosen book of the week, but it’s an informal group, so we also use the hash tag all week long to talk about what we’re reading, and share tips on great reads.”

You can discuss what you’re reading and get updates on what’s happening with #ReadItAndTweet in the following places:

The first book will chosen soon (democratically, of course) and a schedule announced, but in the meantime, feel free to start using the hash tag to talk books.