Category Archives: Tim Howell

Social Media Graveyard

The Rumors of Social Media Death…

Google+ is dead. Facebook is dead. Twitter is the new Facebook. Instagram is the new Twitter. Sound familiar?

It seems that social media marketers can’t go more than a month or two without pulling out torches and pitchforks to raze another network to the ground. Why is it that any change to a social network results in massive outcries and swarms of marketers moving to ‘the next big thing?’ Are we all just hipsters, desperate to be the first agency to discover the next marketing sensation? Are we cynical and jaded, taking pleasure in the failure of whatever network we like the least? Are we lazy, desperately insisting that G+ isn’t worth the effort so we don’t have to invest time into learning how to use it? I think it’s time we really sat down, looked at the numbers, and proved once and for all that – for these social networks – death is certainly a great exaggeration.  Dead? He gets that a lot.

Google + is Dead (52,100 results on Google)
Let’s get Plus out of the way early, since they’ve recently been making plenty of headlines.

What You’ve Read:
Google + is the Walking Dead. Abandoned by long-time advocate Vid Gundotra, Google + is finally going dark after years of failed attempts to dethrone Facebook. The network never managed to capture a mainstream audience, and has become a barren echo chamber where a small cult of devotees parrot the same tired ideas back and forth, hoping the rest of the world will someday latch on to the ‘quality over quantity’ community strategy.

What the Numbers Say: 
Depending on who you ask, G+ is either the biggest sleeping giant in social history, or it’s a pitiful ghost town desperately clinging to a small but dedicated fanbase. According to a Google report from October 2013, Google + users had increased by 58% over that year. However, Econsultancy countered that statistic with social data showing that, of Google +’s 1.1 Billion users, only 35% actively used the network. There is no doubt that Google’s recent efforts to consolidate their regime have increased the amount of people with a Google + account – after all, you can’t use YouTube, Gmail, or any of Google’s other services without one. But the data proves that people just aren’t sticking around to chat. While Google + probably shouldn’t be the forerunner of your social strategy, we still can’t say ‘no’ to the SEO boost. Besides, the network’s content formatting options and video integration are the perfect way to simplify blogging, if you feel like a full dedicated blog isn’t worth the effort.
Is Facebook Dead
Facebook is Dead (425,000 results on Google)
Like talking crap about the cheerleaders behind their backs at lunch, people can’t wait to poke holes in the world’s most popular social network.

What You’ve Read:
Facebook killed organic reach in a landmark algorithm change in late 2013. Brands marketing on Facebook are now all but required to invest small ad budgets behind every post in order to make an impact. Many major brands are tracking organic reach as low as 1%, meaning those massive audiences you’ve spent years building are almost entirely wasted. The dollar is the only path toward social success – everything we know about quality content has gone out the window.

What the Numbers Say:
Ready for the hard truth about Facebook metrics? Here it is: There are no simple answers, and no global rules. What’s true for one page (or most pages) isn’t true for all of them. And while it has been widely reported that organic reach took a nosedive at the end of 2013, that simply isn’t true across the network as a whole. In fact, organic reach can fluctuate from 2% to 47%, depending on dozens of invisible factors. We still don’t know everything that Facebook uses to calculate what shows up in users’ newsfeeds – we can only speculate based on the data we have. Every page – and every audience – is unique. Facebook’s public claim is that the drop in reach has more to do with increased competition than it does with a larger behind-the-scenes strategy.

Whether or not you believe them doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, paid impressions and promoted content will always perform better than organic posts, and that’s just the way it is. While this may be a bummer for small ‘Mom & Pop’ outfits, major brands shouldn’t notice much of a problem, since promoted content should already be part of your strategy.

Is Twitter Dead?

Twitter is Dead (177,000 results on Google)
If attacking Facebook is going after the popular kid, attacking Twitter is like throwing erasers at the class nerd. Everyone knows he’s got numbers on his side, but does anyone take him seriously?

What You’ve Read:
Twitter’s growth has been slowing down for years. Millions of users tune in to the network for major events or disasters, and then uninstall and tune out as soon as things calm down. It’s an outdated platform, designed for audiences that can’t or won’t engage on more sophisticated channels. It’s a text-only channel playing catch-up in a world of rich media and interactive video. They spent too long focusing on offshoot channels like Vine and Medium instead of improving the platform they already had.

What the Numbers Say:
In 2012, the biggest shock in the world of Twitter was its popularity among farmers. Getting fast, accurate information to each other was key for successful agricultural businesses, and Twitter proved a perfect host for that communication. Today, very little has changed. Twitter’s largest body of users in 2014 are mobile users. Most recent numbers suggest that over 75% of Twitter users access the network exclusively on smartphones or tablets. There are dozens of official and unofficial Twitter apps for every mobile device you can name, and you can even update your feed via SMS messaging. This makes Twitter the most accessible social network in the world. I bolded that so you can’t skip over it. When consumers are driving, shopping, watching movie previews, browsing thrift shops, shouldering through mosh pits, and base jumping off skyscrapers, Twitter is the channel they are most likely going to be reading and writing to. That makes Twitter the perfect place to focus your flash sale promotions. You can grab the attention of people walking through the mall your shop is in by riding along with a local hashtag. Throw a few dollar bills behind a localized promoted tweet and bring in some traffic from the county fair down the road.

And as far as Twitter being a slow-to-change network, that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Those farmers we were talking about earlier? They’re still there, and in huge numbers. Not to mention, the old tactics still work. Responding to consumer questions, sending direct messages to users looking for a product you sell, even celebrity endorsements via retweet – all of these are still viable strategies. It may not have the ROI of Facebook, but there’s something to be said for not needing a new social strategy every 4 months.

So, there you have it. You can’t always make a judgment call based on a sudden dip in a data sheet. We social marketers are data-driven people, and that sometimes means creating patterns where there isn’t really anything to see. Social networks are constantly changing, and the users and audiences you can reach with them are always in flux. Yesterday’s ‘Senior Study’ Group is today’s ’10 Year Reunion’ Group. As long as you are willing to do the legwork, there’s something of value to be found in any social network, no matter how many feet they have in the grave.

Press ‘X’ to Add a Friend: Gaming as the New Social Space

There is an event going on that you most likely don’t know about – and you probably wouldn’t care about it if you did.

On the popular social streaming site, Twitch.tv, 50,000 gamers are trying to complete a Gameboy video game from 1998. “Twitch Plays Pokémon” is either an insane experiment, or the next evolution in social media. Thanks to some clever programming, someone has modified a virtual version of Pokémon Red to accept the input commands of over 50,000 simultaneous users. This exercise in group gaming has proven that even the simplest tasks can be nearly impossible when mass coordination is required.

It’s also a unique case study showing one potential future for the social media industry. Can you imagine having 50,000 people spending a week staring at your brand? This is gamification on a massive scale. Each of these users is wholly engaged in their activity. Memes and fan communities numbering in the tens of thousands have sprung up overnight. Gamers who weren’t alive when Pokémon Red was released are following the progress as if it was the latest FOX reality show. Unfortunately for the three brands that stand to profit from this phenomenon – Game Freak, Nintendo, and Twitch – only one is actually seeing any gains. Twitch is seeing active user counts (and ad views) that haven’t been matched since the DotA 2 International Tournament last year.
In fact, if Nintendo knew the stream was happening, they’d likely actively fight to have it shut down.

Of course, it’s easy for game and tech companies to fall into these types of social success. We’ve already written about the ties between social media and console gaming (and those are getting even closer all the time). In the near future, however, it isn’t hard to imagine this kind of gamification extending beyond the Sonys (Sonies?) and Microsofts of the world.

Nearly every social media junkie online is writing about the coming social cataclysm, when the “Big Four” networks fall out of favor and the new icons of social are brought to power. Some believe content curation platforms like Twitch are the future; others turn to niche networks like Wiser and Kaboodle.

There’s only one thing we can agree on: Change is coming, and it’s time for big brands to stop relying on Facebook.

Bar Tabs and Bluetooth

Restaurants have a long history of early adoption when it comes to apps and social channels. It makes sense that an industry with razor-thin margins and stiff competition would do whatever it takes to get whatever edge they can. WillCall, a brand-new app from a group of designers, coders, and music junkies in San Fransisco, hopes to capitalize on that. The app allows consumers at large and small live music venues to order and purchase bar drinks without leaving the show floor.

In theory, most income at these venues comes from bar sales. WillCall claims they can boost bar sales by giving concertgoers a chance to buy drinks without missing songs standing at the bar.

At the moment, the app is still in an early access phase, with only a few select venues in San Fransisco and New York participating in the program. If successful, the app could inspire a new breed of mobile apps for bars, restaurants, and live music houses across the nation. Imagine a world with no waiters – you just place your order on your iPad and wait for the kitchen to send it out. Maybe they can pair up with Amazon’s ill-fated drone program and drop your bacon and eggs right on the table.

Or maybe not.

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Video Games and New Social Media 3: The Indie Crowd

Last week, we published a blog explaining the way some larger brands and developers are capitalizing on the connections between social media and the games industry. Of course, any brand with a large enough budget could accomplish much of the same thing. But what about smaller franchises? What about indie developers? How can a small business, with no spare budget, get their work in front of the eyes of millions of gamers?

Let me introduce you to Sips. Continue reading

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Video Games and New Social Media 2: Mastering Multiscreen Marketing

Last week, I took a look at the future relationship between gaming and social media – two tech industries that will forever be entwined. Today, I’m going to look at the present. We’re going to explore the possibilities of multi-screen marketing, and multi-screen entertainment, by looking at a collaborative project by some of the larger brands on the scene.

How do you capture the attention of an audience with a notoriously short attention-span? In the world of DVR, where we fast-forward through television ads while surfing the net on our phones, how can a marketing team make an impact? There is the short route – hope your commercial is funny enough to go viral online – and the long route.

With the new original series Defiance, SyFy and their sponsor, Dodge, chose the latter. Continue reading

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Video Games and the New Social Media

Fifteen years ago, video games helped me make my first friends in middle school. Having recently moved to the frigid north of Columbus, Ohio, I was able to bond with classmates thanks to the social activity required by Nintendo’s Pokémon series. We would sit across from each other at the lunch table, brick-like game systems connected to each other with a thick gray cord, sharing in an electronic social experience that would have been unthinkable even 10 years earlier. It was a technological marvel that was completely lost to us as children. This was simply the way we communicated – any alternative seemed impossible.

Last week, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), that same concept was reborn. Modern social media has come to video games. For better or worse, both industries will be forever changed by it. Continue reading