Bit.ly, the popular free link-shortening service, just added new features. Unfortunately, those features mean that the beloved one-click link shortening is no more.
Much like Facebook, Bit.ly has chosen to go with complexity over simplicity. The link-shortening service recently rolled out new sharing and bookmarking features. However, in the Facebook-like move, the Bit.ly folks assumed that everyone would want the new features. Judging from the user response, the new features get in the way of the tool's primary mission: shortening links.
Now, to shorten a link, users must click at least three times and are forced to save the link to a bookmarking service, "bitmarks," and have to reject the option to share on Facebook and Twitter before receiving the shortened link.
Take a look. In order to shorten a link, the user must go to the Add a Bitmark box, now hidden in the upper right corner instead of smack dab in the middle of the page:
Once the long URL is entered, the user must then annotate the saved link and click Save and Share. Nope, you still don't get the shortened link. Not yet.
That step takes you to a sharing step. There, at the bottom, almost as an afterthought, you can click Copy to copy the shortened link.
For users who yearn for simplicity in a world too full of sharing, this new feature set is cumbersome and counter-intuitive.
I'm assuming that the Bit.ly folks figured that people generally shorten links in order to share them, so why not save users the step and allow them to bookmark and share right away? Makes sense, I suppose, but for users like me, I'm not inclined to suddenly use Bit.ly as my bookmarking and sharing service. I use Diigo for highlighting and bookmarking articles, and I use HootSuite to schedule my sharing. I'm unlikely to switch those functions to Bit.ly just because the company made link shortening more complicated and decided to start promoting sharing.
In fact, since HootSuite does such a good job of tracking shortened link analytics when you use their native link shorteners, users would do well just to switch to the HootSuite shorteners and cut out Bit.ly entirely.
I used to describe my work as a tradeshow and user conference presentation specialist in the following way: "I take things that sound complicated and make them simple, easy and fun."
And that's exactly what PeopleBrowsr, a social analytics company, did when they created a magnificiently brilliant presentation on a cartoon history of the social web (illustrations by Adam Long). For a textual description, they've elaborated in a blog post here.
What is remarkable about this account is not only that they hit the key events but also that they hit the key trends, including such shifts as the growth of residential high-speed internet access, the rise in popularity of user-generated content, and the creation and growth of the Community Manager position in the job market.
And never underestimate the amount of skill it takes to take a long and complicated history and transform it into a beautiful and compelling story. Adam Long did a fantastic job with creating simple, gorgeous illustrations that told a remarkable tale.
My only complaint about the deck is that I'm not the one who was smart enough to create it.
Last month, Google launched a new Analytics feature. It's the shiny new hammer in the Analytics toolbelt. That hammer is In Page Analytics, and it's my new very best friend.
From the Google blog:
In-Page Analytics is a report available from the Content section of your Google Analytics reports. It enables you to visually analyze your website pages in order to assess how users interact with those pages, and helps you understand the answers to questions such as:
Is my page layout optimal for what I want users to accomplish on the page?
Are my users seeing the content I want them to see?
Are my users finding what they're looking for on the page?
Are my calls to action motivating or visible enough?
Which links are users clicking?
Let's go find a nail to try out our shiny new hammer, shall we?
That is, with a simple click, the admin can see which menu items and visual elements visitors are clicking on, using percentages in quick visual bubbles for every element on the page. At a glance, designers and marketers can tell exactly which page elements and content are attracting clicks.
At Spoken Communications, we just revamped the corporate website to more closely align with our updated brand message and value proposition. And we took quite a bit of time to create a visual layout that would be both attractive and suggest the most informative path for visitors, according to the relative popularity of each product.
In Page Analytics gives valuable feedback not just on how visitors are using the site but also on the path that the largest percentage of visitors follow. (In the case of Spoken, it provided verification that visitors were following exactly the path we thought they would.)
The information is especially useful for the deeper pages of the site that fewer visitors see; it provides insight as to, two or three pages in, which content is most compelling to visitors. From the second most popular page, the admin can see at a glance which products are getting the most clickthroughs:
A few possibilities I can see for taking advantage of this tool:
Do split testing with element placement
Do spolit testing with element colors
Compare patterns for all visitors versus new visitors
Compare patterns for visitors from specific popular referral sources
Compare click traffic for most common keywords
For someone who maintains several content-rich sites, this tool is a gem! No more guessing as to how visitors got to which page and why. No more estimating likely click paths based on general page views. Maybe I'm a little too excited about this, but it gives a busy marketer so much information at a glance that I see this tool not only as a shiny hammer to play with, but also one that is going to give me the information to let me use the nail gun more often.
It's still in beta, but to find In Page Analytics for your account, log in to your Analytics account, click the Content Overview report and then In Page Analytics.Google produced an overview video:
When I was researching the best skills for a Community Manager to have, one of the qualifications that came up was this: a combination of head (penchant for analytics and measurement) and heart (warm, welcoming personality).
And I still maintain that the best way to build one's Twitter presence is though being a caring, personable, generous person, rather than by primarily gaming the analytics. My top Twitter tips are usually "be a real person, not a brand" and "listen, ask questions, be thoughtful and fun."
So I was a bit disheartened when I delved into my new favorite Twitter analytics tool, Twitalyzer, to see the clickthrough rates of the last week's Tweets. What I saw surprised me for one primary reason: the type of Tweet that consistently got the most clickthroughs, on a daily basis, was not original content spilling from my brain, helpful links to popular events or even single reTweets of valuable content.
What was remarkable is that this daily automated Tweet, with almost no effort on my part, provides content that is so compelling that it averages ten times the number of clickthroughs as any of my original content Tweets.
Ten. Times. As in, my last few Slideshare posts have averages about 20 clickthroughs each, and the Paper.li Social Media Favorites Tweet averages about 220 clickthroughs.
In this case, as one of my favorite social media strategists, Kristy Bolsinger, pointed out, this just means that followers are enjoying the luxury of the filter. In short,
It's the curation that matters.
Paper.li takes the most popular links from the folks I have deemed my favorite social media experts and aggregates them. What's actually happening is that my followers are telling me, loud and clear, that they value curated and aggregated content.
Each link by itself might be relevant, but what's most relevant is the algorithm that organizes the links from the preferred friends list and presents them in a curated, hierarchical and consistent format. As Micheal Foley said, "It's a consistently branded, well-known experience. I know what I'm getting every time I see that tweet in my stream."
And it's worth mentioning that this is the least self-promotional Tweet type of all: the content is aggregated from my valued friends, not from any of my own content. There is no Heidi here, just what Heidi's friends have posted and clicked on.
I'm not going to stop reTweeting or positing original content any time soon, but this information does reinforce one very strong concept of the social web: in the age of information overload and filter failure, the highest value is placed on targeted, curated content.
I'm having a blast at my first The Creative Connection Event. Huge thanks to Susan Mernit for inviting me to participate. The participants at every Smart Bar session have been super-engaged and lots of fun, and I'm looking forward to a series of follow-up one-on-one coaching session tomorrow morning.
A quick review of Rowfeeder, the social media tool for tracking and analyzing posts on Twitter and Facebook
RowFeeder is primarily a Twitter monitoring tool that promises raw data in your favorite spreadsheet and real-time Google docs and beautiful Excel reports to analyze the who, what, when and where.
And full disclosure: I've met Aviel Ginzburg, Damon Cortesi and Adam Schoenfeld from Untitled Startup, and I already think they are mega-cool. They didn't ask for this review, but I've been hearing so much about this tool that I finally made time to check it out. So the review might be a tiny bit biased towards the awesome.
What is RowFeeder
Rowfeeder is primarily a tool for monitoring and analyzing Twitter mentions of a topic, brand or keyword. (The Facebook functionality is in beta at the moment.) The big key here is the "analyzing" part. It's easy enough to go to Twitter search and track a mention of a keyword, but that big, unwieldy list doesn't really help much. It's more a point-of-use tool. In that, Twitter Search is kind of like a dictionary: it's great to use to find one word one time, but having the catalog doesn't necessarily help you craft a beautiful sentences for your next presentation or speak English more fluently.
In the social media space, it's not so much about getting the information as it is organizing and analyzing it so that it can be used to inform decisions about marketing strategy, direction and benchmarks.
My first test was with the brand name of an MBA program, Thunderbird, that happened to come up in conversation this week. Since it shares nomenclature with a popular email program, Air Force unit, football team and a few others, I thought it would be a good test.
RowFeeder will allow users to exclude terminology, so I ran a search for Thunderbird minus Mozilla, air force and wine.
[Update 12:39 p.m.: Adam Schoenfeld let me know that the comma delineation I used will actually create and exclusions for the exact match of "mozilla, airforce, wine." You would likely want to have Mozilla OR airforce OR wine, like so:]
Interestingly, you can see that the prediction was 0 posts per hour with those restrictions. And that seems a bit discouraging, but remember that that information in itself is valuable data: few people are Twittering about Thunderbird MBA program at the moment, which indicates a big opportunity for positive growth and outreach in that area.
The next search term is one I keep as a saved search on HootSuite and Google Alerts for Spoken Communications: call center. Since I track this term on a daily basis, I was certain it would turn up more results, and it did. RowFeeder's estimate was 62 posts an hour:
After waiting a few minutes for the posts to feed in to the program, RowFeeder gave me this summary of 74 relevant posts:
So I clicked through for the option for today's report. And hat tip to the guys at Untitled for leaving Mac as the default format option! Men after my own heart.
Unfortunately, here I ran into a snag. The report contained two sheets: one of the raw data and one with the beautiful Excel report. The raw data was plain Excel with every mention in a cell--not so pretty. However, the "beautiful" report didn't load properly, since I'm using Excel 2004. A note: the visual reports come up empty if you have a version of Excel prior to 2007.
Since I don't have the benefit of being able to see the pretty reports full of data visualization, I personally won't be able to fully utilize RowFeeder until I update Microsoft Office. However, as a fiend for data visualization, I can see this being an extremely useful tool. Having the ability to exclude certain terms from the search is useful, and quick access to data visualization for even a few terms could be incredibly valuable when researching a social media campaign.
Currently, RowFeeder is free for one search term up to 500 posts a month. They offer graded plans for $35/month for three terms up to 5,000 posts/month; $125/month for five terms up to 125,000 posts/month; $255 for 10 active terms up to 50,000 posts/month as well as an agency edition.
What do you think? Have you used RowFeeder or some other Twitter analytics tool?
Dr. Bernardo Huberman, director of HP's Social Computing Lab, has been applying scientific principles to measuring Twitter influence. The study measured reTweet traffic to URLs using Bit.ly's click tracking. The results shouldn't be surprising to anyone. From the ZDNet article:
The study found:
Most Twitter users are passive; they do not re-Tweet.
There is a difference between popularity and
influence. High numbers of followers does not equal influence because
those followers do not re-Tweet.
To become influential, Twitter users must somehow persuade their followers to re-Tweet.
What's interesting is that the study took the idea of influence over popularity one step further, to the world of advertising, PR and media placement. By this logic, a brand would benefit more from ad placement in a print magazine or newspaper with lower circulation but higher influence--that is, fans with a higher level of engagement.
Uh oh. I bet some PR guys are shaking in their boots right now. Circulation stats aren't enough. It's no longer enough for people to see the ad on TV or in the paper; they need to see it on a show or publication that is specifically influential in their lives. As Bruce Henry pointed out at BarCamp, niche is the new in. An ad, Tweet or campaign targeted at a small, devoted fan following can be far more powerful than one that cuts a wide swathe across a moderately interested public.
Kira Wampler explodes four myths related to social media marketing and engagement.
Wampler, formerly the Group Marketing Manager of Online Engagement at Intuit, took a different approach to presenting the Intuit case study for Social Media Breakfastyesterday morning. As the crowd gathered at the offices of Real Networks to hear a case study, we got a pleasant surprise. Instead of taking the chronological approach we're accustomed to seeing in case studies, she framed the results of the engagement around four common misconceptions of and objections to corporate adoption of social media.
Myth #1: I can't use social media to promote my product or service because [fill in the blank] isn't sexy.
Myth #2: All you have to do is listen.
Myth #3: You can't efficiently scale social engagement with customers online. Sub-myths: have to be everywhere & do it yourself.
Myth #4: You can't measure social media outcomes or tie to sales.
And she proceeded to break them down, one by one. My recap of her pearls of wisdom:
My product isn't sexy enough for social media.
Hello! Your GRANDFATHER'S deoderent, Old Spice, arguably the un-sexiest male hygiene product since anti-snoring strips, just finished up a bang-up social media campaign that is not only garnering sales but imitators. If Old Spice can be fun and sexy with social media, so can your product. Look at Intuit's primary products: Quicken and QuickBooks. Financial software for small business? Snore. But Wampler argued to get to know your customers by elevating the conversation to get to the core of what is sexy for your customers: "Its all about getting closer to your customer. Not about the next shiny object."
And in the case of Intuit, a key insight discovered through conversation was that many small business owners feel alone. Solution? Hold a grant competition in which applicants recount their biggest challenge and how they solved it. The KPI was love: build love and recognition for all the thankless work that small business owners put in. The proof was in the putting: the Love a Local Business widget enjoyed a 40% participation rate, followed by a 360% traffic increase from test to scale.
All you have to do is listen.
Nope. Listening is the best place to start, true, but if you don't do anything with the information you're monitoring, you're not actively engaging yet. One of the most reTweeted posts from the event:
If listening is where you are going to stop, then frankly, don't bother.
It's not enough just to pay attention. Says Wampler: "It's noisy out there, and it's going to get noisier." Questions to ask: what's your business objective? What do you want to be known for?
Social media doesn't scale.
That is, one person can't do everything and be in every channel. Her two-word solution: focus and empower. Focus on your business objectives to find the sexy, then focus on one or two key channels.
Intuit found that Amazon's review site was the key place where conversation happened, so the key tactic was focusing on inline reviews. It's not a lot of volume (like Twitter), but it brought the most value and required thoughtful responses. The engagement goal was 100% response to reviews on Amazon.
In the end, all you want is a beer. What changes is how you ask for it.
Intuit discovered that small business owners wanted to discuss opportunities, features and products in one channel versus another, but the function was the same: sharing information.
(A word of caution for entering new channels: "Every time we entered a
new engagement channel, negative response was 65%." Get over the
initial negativity, she advised, and just be helpful and engage to
change.Active engagement reduced their negative feedback in one channel by 50%.)
Social media outcomes can't be tied to real results.
Call deflection and call reduction are not valid KPIs for online participation, she claims. Employee engagement and customer touch are. Engagement shows the customer that you care, and unleashing employees onto the social web is a great way for them to know how to do their jobs better. Intuit's mantra:
Feedback is a gift.
Also, if you aren't tying your analytics suite to your social media sites yet, you've got an opportunity for growth. Track your social media URLs through your analytics tools and measure everything.
Plus, one parting statistic: online reviews for Intuit had a double-digit impact on sales.
It's pretty rare than a talk only an hour in length will provide more than one or two key takeaways. But Wampler really knocked it out of the park: funny, brass-tacks practical, and enough anecdotes and statistics to back up every busted myth.
FIR Podcast Interview: Where ROI Fits in Social Media Marketing, Augie Ray of Forrester Research
It seems that every social media organization, consultant, guru, ninja, goddess, diva and poodle has wrestled with the arguments for and against using ROI as a social media metric. Some point out that ROI is a financial term and has no business being applied to marketing efforts; others say the metric is useful as part of a suite of measurement tools; others say "selling more stuff" should be the primary metric.
Enter Forrester Research, the gold standard for breaking down the theory and getting to the meat of any measurement issue with well-honed analysis. This podcast interview with Augie Ray, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research was produced by two of the longest-running and most prolific PR podcasters to date, Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson of the For Immediate Release podcast. In it, Ray addresses myths and beliefs about the ROI of social media and gives a clear, beautiful analysis of the ROI of Social Media Marketing report.
Augie Ray speaks with FIR co-host Shel Holtz about “The ROI of Social Media Marketing,”
a new research report that goes beyond the financial measures to
address a variety of ways to assess the impact of companies’ social
media efforts. According to Forrester, “Social media marketing delivers
a wide range of benefits to organizations that are beneficial in the
short term and long term in ways both quantitative and qualitative. To
properly value the impact of their social media marketing investments,
interactive marketers must align their objectives, metrics, targets,
and strategies across four perspectives — the financial perspective,
the digital perspective, the brand perspective, and the risk management
perspective.” The report is free to Forrester customers and can be
purchased by anyone else for $449.
If you don't already subscribe to the FIR weekly podcast discussing the intersection of media, communications and PR, subscribe for free now! It's the best PR podcast out there. I've been a listener for five years, and I'm pretty sure my obsessive listening to their ongoing debates on topics in the world of communications, new media and PR is why people think I have a marketing degree (I don't; both my degrees are in French).
The study results are followed up with a quotation from the Famecount founder touting the success of global online ranking in the social media space.
It's not that numbers aren't nice, but they don't really tell the whole story. And they can be misleading in terms of social media measurement. So you have eight million followers. So what? If "popular" is simply a numbers game, we could all employ spammers to get us 20,000 Twitter followers in a month. What do those subscriber numbers really mean? As the awesome Amber Naslund ranted back in January, we need to stop counting subscribers as fans like bottlecaps and start considering real engagement.
Counting fans, followers and subscribers is just the beginning. What interests brands is not sheer numbers but behavior. How are those fans, followers and subscribers acting? Behaviors indicate the true level of engagement, and behaviors are key indicators of influence.
A few behaviors to measure that would indicate the engagement level of those fans, followers and subscribers:
What are they saying outside of those channels, in their own blogs, Twitter and Flickr streams and Facebook?
Are their brand mentions positive, negative or neutral, and in what proportion?
Are they spontaneously recommending the brand to friends?
Are they making their own user-generated videos?
Are they forming flash mobs and other social events around the brand?
Are they attending live events around the brand?
Are they creating hashtags related to their brand use?
Are they answering questions in user forums?
Are they creating fan-based content, such as stories, art and spoofs related to the brand?
Are they creating fan sites to promote and discuss the brand?
As my friend Ken Girard commented, numbers might indicate general popularity and appeal, but they don't tell the story of true engagement and devotion of fans:
Harley Davidson wins hands down on the most popular brand. I have never
seen a single Starucks tattoo on even the most dedicated caffeine
junkie. And I doubt a single Starbucks fan would try and kick your
teeth in for suggesting Starbucks sucks. How many websites are
dedicated to following every single item Starbucks makes? Google has
36.1 million sites for Harley, 28.9 million for Starbucks.
Likewise, I've had a few friends proudly display their Apple tattoos, with special props going to those who sport the original, multicolored Apple logo. Now that indicates more than popularity--that's die-hard brand loyalty.
Numbers are a great start, but they don't tell the whole story. Would you rather have 100,000 Twitter followers, or 500 followers who are super-engaged, die-hard fans? I know my pick.
Thanks to the wonderful Deb Hagen, I had a delightful time speaking to her marketing entrepreneur class at UW last night. Lots of great questions, giving me food for thought for the next talk. Thanks to everyone who asked questions and participated; it was a great experience!
My picks for the best links of the month on social media measurement. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let the social media goodness wash over you.
The Measurement Standard from K.D. Paine, more on how we've measured traditional media and how
some are measuring "engagement." K.D. does a fine job of beginning to answer the
question of "if not hits/traffic/pageviews, then what?" in
terms of measurement.
Social network analysis is going to become too ubiquitous for its own good An interesting post from Forrester
on the dangers of organizations abandoning traditional measurement and
feedback tools such as surveys and focus groups for exclusive social
media analysis. The argument mirrors some of what we hear about the
future of news: if we only monitor popularity and public opinion,
the hard information will be swallowed by the public's taste for
immediacy and celebrity. Will social network analysis cheapen market
research as a result?
Measuring social media marketing Another slam-dunk from Chris Brogan. Most useful is his list of things that he tracks, including percent of
online conversation, percent of coverage improvement, numbers of new
subscribers, new threads, new leads, conversions and unique visitors.