Quora is the new crowdsourcing question site "continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it." It's also been described as "ask a question, get a blog post in reply."
But what is the best use for this next evolution of a question site?
For a pragmatic comparison, I began by matching Quora against LinkedIn for an industry-specific question. In my work with Spoken, I participate in a number of highly active groups related to the call center space on LinkedIn. Which would garner more relevant responses, I wondered, LinkedIn or Quora?
So I posed the same question on Quora and on the key LinkedIn call center groups, including Worldwide Contact Center Professionals, Best Practices in Call Centers Worldwide and Contact Center Network Group. Combined, the three groups have memberships over 29,000 call center professionals.
The industry question
What factors will influence SaaS adoption in the call center space over the next five years?
Gartner has predicted that by 2012, 75% of customer service centers will use some SaaS application. However, adoption of SaaS in the call center space is still slow. What are the obstacles?
As you can see, I tagged the question "call centers" "saas" and "cloud computing." And the resounding response was... nothing. Big fizzle on LinkedIn, which is usually an area of lively debate. On Quora, the question garnered one response.
The social media research question
So perhaps the question wasn't the most compelling. On Quora, I switched gears and asked something I need to research for a client:
Perhaps the first question was too forward-looking, or perhaps the call center industry was just not too involved in LinkedIn and Quora that day. Whatever the reason, the social media research question called forth quite a few valuable responses. Eight in total, which was plenty to see a common thread.
In general, the responses were rich in content, giving specific reasons as to why one tool was better for specific contexts. And I'll admit to being surprised at the range of answers apart from the highly expected "Radian6" and "Social Mention." Respondents seemed experienced and informed, and I've sinced checked into each tool mentioned and bookmarked for later client use.
So Quora is a win for industry research.
Tracking questions asked by others
What can be even more useful, however, is to track questions asked by others. For example, right after I signed on, I began following this interesting question:
To date, the question has been answered a whopping 53 times, including substantial responses from social media aficionados such as David Armano, Brian Solis and Richard Binhammer. Each answer could have stood alone as a short blog post; the wealth of information and opinions available was exceptional.
In fact, the question stimulated so much intelligent discussion that Mashable writer Erica Swallow wrote up a useful summary of the replies here, concluding "The consensus seems to be that the social strategist role will be integrated at the very least into a broader outward-facing community role, whether that be from the marketing point of view or from various perspectives across organizations."
Quora might just be the next iteration of Help a Reporter Out. If a reporter or blogger has a good network of contacts within Quora and formulates and tags a question well, the research will do itself, and the task will be in analyzing and summarizing the data collected.
What about you? What uses are you finding for Quora?
As a social media geek and content curator, I'm always trying out new toys and apps. There were a lot of remarkable tools that became available in 2010. To cap off the year, my top six:
HootSuite This Twitter app turned social media curation tool has grown dramatically in the past year. I use both the web interface (on my laptop) and the iPhone app. Not only does it enable posting and tracking of multiple streams for multiple Twitter accounts, the owls over at HootSuite headquarters also added Facebook status update posting as well as posting to any Facebook Page that you have administrative rights on. I became a fan of its scheduling ability, as I tend to take an hour each morning to schedule the day's Tweets and posts for the various entities I represent, and when HootSuite added the bulk Tweet scheduler tool this month, I thought I'd died and gone to social media manager heaven. In fact, I even pay for the Pro version so I can manage six different Twitter accounts, five Facebook accounts/Pages and LinkedIn to boot. More than worth it!
Google In-Page Analytics This is a nifty visual 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 to analyze click patterns at a glance. For visual learners like me, this little tool helps me to see at a glance whether the visual layout is working or not.
SEOMoz's Open Site Explorer is a link popularity and backlink analysis tool, perfect for those of us who want to optimize the sites we manage without spending all day delving into the murky world of SEO. Enter a site and see an analysis of up to 10,000 links as well as page and domain authority and linking root domains.
Twitalyzer is a Twitter analysis tool offering "serious analysis for social relationships." It offers graphs and analysis not only of the Twitter account's Klout and influence, but it also drills down into analyzing the level of influence and reach of the account's friends, reTweeters and influencer types. Likewise, the free service offers a plethora of insights into Tweets, tags and sentiment as well as attractively graphing the user's activity by hour, day, week or month.
Poll Everywhere(hat tip to Shauna Causey for turning me on to this!) is an audience response system that uses mobile phones, twitter, and the web. This is a fun tool for kicking off a live presentation with a quick audience poll and viewing the real-time results, live, on your slides. Responses are displayed in real-time on pretty, real-time charts in PowerPoint or Keynote.
KnowEmHandy service for securing your name or brand across every social site where it is available. Just starting out? Select your consistent brand ID and find out every site where it's available. Got a few accounts but want the freedom to expand? Go here to see where your brand ID is still available.
And a bonus... Zippo iPhone app Not as earth-shattering for social media management, but a lot of fun all the same. I've used this app in countless movie theaters, karaoke venues and other live events, and it's always fun to hear the giggles cascading through the smoke-free audience as I sway with the music. :-)
What about you? What are your must-have tools of 2010? Any apps, analyzers or content management tools you can't live without this year?
After two full months with no speaking, I was getting a bit itchy! But thanks to the ever-energetic Jenn at Wappow, I had the pleasure of walking through online relationship management at yesterday's Search and Social Revelations event. Great questions from the crowd, including "does Bing have an alert, too?" (Answer: yes, adding a slide for the next preso) and "how do you manage it all?" (Answer: HootSuite, blog post on how to come).
Holly Browns shares with Social Media Breakfast Seattle how to engage as a brand in communities of interest
This week, Holly Brown, Chief Innovation Officer of R2 Integrated (and former strategist for MRM Worldwide, Ogilvy and Mather, Microsoft and Disney) offered insights at Seattle's Social Media Breakfast on a burning marketing challenge: in the age of social networking and peer recommendations being valued over that of corporate representatives, how is a well-intentioned brand supposed to communicate with its fans and detractors? That is, how and where is a brand supposed to engage?
It was a packed event, and I'm happy to say that Brown shied away from easy answers, tips, tricks and tools. Instead, she focused on insightful questions that marketers can use to determine the best approach for their brand. My best takeaways:
The state of the social web
Marketers are facing now the same issues in the new social media space as when the internet was new: who, what and how to engage there.
A shift has occurred in marketing; so let's acknowledge it. Companies used to control the message. With social media, customers control the message.
The web is a buying engine, and communities of interest (such as forums, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc.) are where the action is.
What is unique about social networks in comparison to the original internt (Web 1.0) is that the create a situation allowing for serendipitous discovery of information.
Configuring an engagement strategy
When determining which communities of interest to engage in, the number one qualifier should be the relevance of discussion and participation happening therein. "Fish where the fish are."
Social Media is integral and foundational; it's not to be tacked on to an existing strategy. Social media participation is the hub not the spoke.
And if you're not convinced yet, the best idea for having research and a rationale for your engagement strategy: in the marketing world, solid rational equals budget.
Many ask how to build community. Don't. Don't "build community;" instead figure out how to become an invited guest in the social space.
And Brown's final word of advice: when you implement, keep in mind that automated tools can't do everything. Measurement is all well and good, but there is no replacement for getting into the community, listening and engaging to make qualitative decisions and evaluations.
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?
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.
The number one question after today's wonderful social media panel at the Women in Nuclear conference was this: how do I set up a Google Alert?
The first step in any social media effort is listening. And if you're creating a social media presence online, whether that be for yourself (your personal brand) or for your entity or organization, your first move is to be aware of the conversations that are already happening around that topic.
So let's start with the easiest and most obvious monitoring: what are people saying about you as a person?
I believe firmly that absolutely everyone, from the CEO down to the receptionist, should be aware of her image online. And monitoring is the key to awareness. As personal branding guru Dan Schwabel Twittered recently, "Your first impression isn't a handshake anymore. It's your online presence." How many of you have researched someone you have a first meeting with by Googling him? It's a best practice for both personal and professional connection. And more than half of employers Google potential employees. Even if you're not looking for a job, it's smart to know what your connections will find when they Google you.
In the left hand side bar, under Subscribe, click Blogs Alerts.
Under Type, choose Everything. This will return not only blog mentions but Web results and mentions on social networking sites as well.
Under How Often, choose Once a Day (unless you want to receive several emails a day).
Under Deliver To, enter your email address. Click Create Alert.
For a preview of today's mentions, Google now offers a handy-dandy Preview Results box, so you can see the top five results for today.
And that's it! Now you're monitoring your online presence. Check your email inbox and scan daily to see mentions. And while you're at it, you might want to choose a few topics you'd like to track. For example, for Spoken Communications, I have Google Alerts set up for "contact center," "call center," "IVR," "customer experience," "customer service" and a few others. They provide a wealth of content useful for researching and creating blog posts and informative tidbits to post to our Twitter stream.
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.
"You can get tremendous value without saying a thing."
So very true! You don't have to dive headlong into social media and Twitter about what you had for lunch. In fact, please don't. Nobody really cares. Take some time to listen first without the pressure of being interesting and delivering value. Plus, any campaign should start with a hefty amount of research in order to determine the best strategy for building conversation and relationships.
And for goodness' sake, as your momma told you, listen before you speak.
What are you listening for? Good question. Here is are some questions you should seek to answer before settling on a strategy:
Where is your brand most often mentioned--blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, podcasts?
What is the sentiment of your brand's mentions?
Where are your competitors most often mentioned? What is the sentiment?
Where are your industry's keywords most often mentioned?
Where are the discussions about industry trends and topics taking place?
Who are the key contributors to those discussions on both sides of the argument?
What are the most popular topics in your industry? Who is discussing them, where and how?
What is the connection between online discussion and real-life events? What real-life industry events do the passionate contributors attend?
Now that you're armed with curiosity and an Excel spreadsheet (the social media manager's favorite tool), invest in each of these free tools:
Google Alerts for tracking mentions of your brand, your competitors' brands, industry keywords
Google Reader for establishing one nice, easy location to house all the feeds created with Google, blogs and Twitter alerts
And thanks to Jantsch for turning me on to BoardTracker and Backtype--I'm already seeing some very interesting discussion in comments that Google Alerts had missed around one of Spoken's industry keywords, IVR.
This vibrant, fast-paced presentation offers a plethora of statistics to justify the ROI of participating in social media. At the same time, the question of "why are we measuring new channels like traditional ones?" is acknowledged and addressed. If you need quick case studies and examples to bring home the argument for social media, this is the video to view.
When you set up Twitter searches for your name, company name and trending topics, do you also check for references to your website or blog? With the prevalence of URL shorteners such as is.gd, bit.ly and more, it's been tough to check for a full URL--who Tweets a full URL any more?
Now you can, thanks to TweetBacks, the Twitter search engine for URLs. Just type in your blog or site URL, and TweetBacks will find all references to it, even if the URL has been shortened or is a specific post within the blog. For example, my first search turned up a reTweet from @AmandaSena I hadn't caught before:
And even more nifty, you can have alerts sent to your email inbox, just to make sure you monitor all mentions of your (or your clients') blogs and sites.
And let's not forget to thank each follower individually for the reTweet. It's just good Twetiquette. :-)