SES Update: Social Media Research – Informing Search Strategies

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For the social media research session, Andrew Frank with Gartner kicked off with overall research trends. Essentially, consumers are losing faith in mass media and enjoy being able to control the conversations and relationships. On the plus side, companies now have unprecedented quantities of data, visibility into public psyche and an opportunity to engage in dialog. Frank then shared a grid that included ‘consumer buying behavior’ on one axis and ‘primary marketing tendency’ on the other that I wasn’t able to cognate in time. The good news is that he moved onto a critical question: how do we create sustainable brands in the new media ecosystem? Answers included tapping into the voice of the consumer, media mix optimization practice, targeting and a bunch of other stuff (man this guy talks fast!). Key players in the social media metrics landscape include: cymfony, BuzzMetrics, Umbria, Brandintel, BuzzLogic, Factiva, VeriSign and Waggener Edstrom. In terms of best practices for social media monitoring and analysis, Frank recommends portal, reporting, model and platform integration (if you don’t know what any of that means, I’m not going to tell you). But seriously, let’s be Frank: this presentation was likely over the head of a majority of the audience, being that Frank is a deep research guy. Jonathan Ashton with Agency.com followed up with an agency viewpoint on tools and tips for extracting SEO value from social media. Foundationally speaking, social media provides an opportunity to create good links, identify trends and a bunch of other benefits already outlined in earlier presentations. That said, he outlined 27 social media metrics tools, in 6 categories: RSS (i.e. Yahoo! Pipes), news (Yahoo & Google News and Alerts), blogs (Technorati, BlogPulse, IceRocket) among others), tags (simpy, ma.gnolia and keotag), images (flickr and YouTube feeds) and bigger tools (trackur, copernic, compete). Interestingly, Anvil Media evaluated Trackur and came to a different conclusion than Ashton about the power of Andy Beal’s new social media tracking tool. Overall, he provided an excellent overview of tools and associated usage benefits. To round out the session, Rob Key with Converseon talked about sorting through the mess (not subtly through their own proprietary tools). According to recent research, 12 to 24 year olds believe that online community is the center of their social world. Key went on to draw an analogy between the historic loss of languages and the rebirth of new languages in social media (which creates a huge opportunity). He provided principals of effective social media engagement, which include:

1) Listen first

2) Participate and learn

3) Make friends with community elders

4) Understand and respect community mores

5) Lead with altruism; come bearing fruits

6) Discover a community need

7) Learn the linguistics

8) Value and cultivate the relationships

9) Leverage appropriately over time

Of course these recommendations are right on…and completely logical, but somehow forgotten by old school marketers (Sony’s fake gamer blog and American Apparel’s Second Life store as examples). Mining these social media conversations is like gold dust to companies looking for insights into customers. Free tools can offer insights, like Yahoo! Buzz (and others mentioned earlier) but full-blown mining tools are exponentially powerful. There are various types of tracking, including volume (by keyword), category (industry, tone, subject or media). These tools allow benchmarking, which in turn, provides an opportunity to measure the impact of various social media marketing activities. Key recommends measuring the impact of social media on search results. As a parting thought, he shared the BusinessWeek article discussing customer service as marketing (addressing unhappy customers, etc.). Overall, the session offered up a plethora of social media monitoring and measurement tools, but felt somewhat redundant with earlier sessions.

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