For Facebook, is it really about time?

They say it’s about time—that’s Timeline, the new Facebook interface. But at the end of the day or week or month, I suspect it’s also very much about money.

I have been encountering many questions about what Facebook’s newest alchemy means to marketing and business—but somehow, we are all sticking with it and muddling through. The impact on our brands, businesses and personal communications remains to be fully assessed, but in the meantime, a little Facebook insight can help you navigate the sometimes murky online waters. As Mark Zuckerberg’s latest strategic offensive – particularly addressing Google+, this metamorphosis may have you more than a little perplexed, befuddled or even impatient with the ubiquitous Facebook phenomenon. That’s OK. Still, 50 percent of the more than 800 million registered users visit daily for an average of 14 minutes. That’s ample time to get in line.

In so many ways, Facebook is still the Internet juggernaut—even as sites such as Pinterest seem to be gaining momentum on the starboard bow. One of my sassiest Facebook pals posted recently, “If Pinterest is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Interestingly, Pinterest is definitely doing something right—carving out a new niche or paradigm that is more about following content and less about “connecting” with people. Hey, let’s hear it for content! And with Facebook’s recent purchase of Instagram for $1 billion, Zuckerberg is definitely becoming much more image conscious.

Nevertheless, the latest series of changes signals that Facebook is about people sharing with their friends—not as much about brands sharing with people. Actually, Facebook is challenging brands to more effectively align with Facebook’s underlying user-experience philosophy and gestalt. As an early impresario of the “like” campaign for clients, I have mixed feelings about the latest changes that eliminate forced “like” landing pages to drive brand engagement. Intuitively, it was always a great concept, yet the reality produced questionable brand value with respect to “like” relevance, stickiness, and measurable brand ROI. And from a technical perspective, Facebook did not really make this kind of campaign an easy endeavor.

Brand pages can still offer action-focused, tabbed content–located along the middle bar. It is simply no longer an option to set it as a compulsory initial landing page to drive “likes.” As a visual junky, myself, I love the new masthead image bar. There are so many high-impact options to available for brands in that prime real estate above the fold. Just don’t include blatant contact information, such as phone numbers or arrows pointing to your flashing URL, or the “Faceboook police” may be knocking on your screen!

Back to the balance sheet–as Facebook has diminished the prominence of the “like” page and newsfeed presence, it has enhanced social advertising, pay-per-click and targeting opportunities. But, think about. Those are the money shots. Newsfeed exposure will still be important for brands–yet a harder nut to crack. We’ll have to work smarter creating engaging content and re-calibrating our publishing cadences since response currency, re-posting, and commenting will count more than the number of fans in determining message impressions and frequency. From a macro perspective, the latest changes have both expanded and refined the ways people can interact with each other on Facebook.

Here are the real tent poles:

Real-time interaction — Increased emphasis on real-time interactions with the introduction of the “Friend News Ticker,” in the upper right corner, which also integrates Twitter.

Image Focus — Larger spaces for pictures and video enhance the user experience and better prioritize the things users see in their news feeds. Plus, you can rank and filter some content, but for the most part, Facebook still decides!

List Maintenance — The new “List” feature, “borrowed” from Google+ and to some extent, Twitter, allows you to segment, tag, share and sort what specific friend categories can see on your wall. This basically pre-sorts audiences by actions and keywords. And yes, it’s all about enhancing advertising segmentation and sales. “But what about privacy?” you ask. Guess that’s another post.

Implications for Brands and Business:

1. Creativity and Activity — After one week of implementing the new Newsfeed, impressions (or reach) per post were down 33 percent in a study done by EdgeRank Checker. But likes and comments were up 17 percent, so it looks like Facebook is changing the dynamic as envisioned.

2. Frequency — Brands will likely need to alter tactics—publishing more engaging, relevant, fresher content more frequently to drive greater interactions rather than one-click passive likes/fans. If the average current fan access ratio is 10% or less, reach and impressions will take a short-term dip until we better understand and respond to changes in Facebook’s filtering algorithm.

2. Pictures and Videos Images are becoming larger on the page and much more important. If we need to get fans more engaged and spending more time, we’ll need to create and use more visuals more frequently.

3. App It — There will be more emphasis on building Apps that provide functionality and value to Facebook users to gain access to the Ticker, for instance. One idea might be loyalty points, interactive functionality, or useful tools, such as store locators to increase impressions and re-posting/sharing.

We’ll have to watch. We are already hearing rumblings that from some users that Facebook is becoming too complicated, too labor-intensive, or too intrusive. This is understandable. Many of us do not want to work that hard. We have enough to do in our lives. This won’t be the last Facebook iteration, and the impact is still unclear. However, it’s a platform you cannot ignore. The best strategy is to discover ways you can seize the opportunity.

What do you think of Timeline?

Buzz Pill?

Is there a magic social media pill? We all seem to be looking for it.

As a professional riding the social media tidal wave, I’m engaged—in witty Facebook banter, of course, but I’m also digging deeper—doing some serious soul-searching about the role of social media in marketing, how best to execute it, how to manage it, and how to leverage its power to make clients and associates successful and happy. I guess taking a hard look at my path is sort of a mirror to my life—as some of my most enlightened friends would say.

Yet, it’s surprisingly tough—on all levels. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, iPads, Nooks, etc., social media is embedded in every fiber of our awareness. Personally, I feel unhinged without my Apple. (Remember Eden?) With something so pervasive, so woven into the fabric of our daily behavior, one would think clarity and monetization would be a cinch. But not so fast. It can be difficult to put the buzz back in the bottle! It is not enough to simply offer up content and post updates.

Brand advocates and marketers who want to take advantage of social media are encountering a tangled web. They are finding they need to design a fully integrated program of active and ongoing engagement, connecting customers with the actual human beings in their organizations who can meet their needs. It’s part Marketing 101 and part online alchemy, I suspect. Gosh, maybe it’s really not about the technology at all. It’s the humanity. Could it be that the stuff that happens offline is what really makes social media sing?

For instance, Dell currently engages with customers through what they call the “four pillars” of the company’s social media ecosystem:

  • 100,000 employees
  • Dell.com–ratings, reviews and customer feedback relating to Dell products and services
  • Dell communities, such as IdeaStorm, a platform launched in 2007 that is designed to give voice to customers and enable the sharing of ideas
  • External platform communities, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

That first pillar represents one of the biggest changes in Dell’s use of social networking, lately—and possibly the most powerful. Although social media initiatives began with public relations teams at Dell, employees now play the role of brand ambassador across the company, notes Buck. This requires a purposeful, dedicated engagement plan, as well as policy development and training to ensure that the employees who will be representing Dell clearly understand company guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media.“Our employees play a vital role in our social media outreach, and, to date, we have trained more than 8,000 Dell employees to engage with customers through social media,” says Michael Buck, executive director of global online marketing. “Dell’s Social Media and Communities University is a key enabler for the company to leverage the power of 100,000-plus employees as brand ambassadors, confident that they have been empowered to use it the right way.”

Perhaps the most effective social media strategy is to train your company’s employees to use social media—whether 3 or 300,000, fully integrating the support process and empowering interaction with customers/prospects on behalf of the company. This has not only spread the marketing buzz, so to speak, it has also building the brand across the farthest reaches of the vast social media psycho-sphere. To infinity and beyond!

Where are you going?

WordPress Wisdom: 2010 in review

How cool! The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2010. That’s about 8 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 58 posts. There were 74 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was June 23rd with 64 views. The most popular post that day was The Price of Friendship?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, facebook.com, elainegantzwright.com, twitter.com, and socialfuse.net.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for social network movie, elaine gantz wright, the social network movie, the price of friendship, and gartner hype cycle social media.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Price of Friendship? June 2010
7 comments

2

The Social Network: Living Out Loud October 2010
13 comments

3

About April 2009
1 comment

4

Will Social Media Make the Grade? February 2010
1 comment

5

What’s the Next Layer on the Stack? November 2009
3 comments

Thanks, WordPress . . . appreciate the cool metrics.  To you, my charming reader, I thank you. Looking forward to continuing the conversation in 2011! What topic or question is top of mind for you this year?

Want to boost your blog? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle.  Thurs., Jan 13  — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m., $10 at La Madeleine Preston Forest.

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net.

2011: From “Oh, Wow!” to “So, How?”

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle.  Thurs., Jan 13  — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m., $10 at La Madeleine Preston Forest.

I’m really not sure how many people do this sort of thing, but I am actually going back to my predictions for 2010 – to compare them to what really happened.  It was as daunting and perplexing a task as I imagined. Especially since social media evolution is anything but linear. One thing we do know it that Google Wave never quite hit the beach.

My most significant memory from last year’s missive was actually my delight when Chris Brogan actually chimed in. Wow. Now that’s what I call social media He wrote:
I like and agree with the first four. I disagree with 5. Email is still the main protocol of the Internet age. I *wish* it were different, but definitely not in 2010. Great post.”

My number #5 was: “Email as We Know it Will Become Passé.”
So, I guess we’ll begin with the end – #5. Well, as Chris Brogan said, email did not go away in 2010. But, I venture to add this was probably just slightly premature. With Facebook’s Messaging Hub beginning to bubble up and mobile technology/SMS infiltrating our lives in terms of behavior, I think we are looking at more of an email mutation than elimination.  When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made her prediction that email is “probably going away” at the Nielsen Consumer 360, many balked, but her point about teenagers is well-taken. Stats she cited indicate that only 11% of teens email daily, and as we know, teenagers are really “the beta testers” for future techno-media trends. In fact, I have my own focus group right here in my own home. My 18-year-old would rather text than talk. He has Facebook up on his laptop whenever it’s turned on, sends very few emails and never uses the speaking function on the phone. My 14-year-old son is really text only. Good thing I have unlimited texting, or I we would be under a bridge somewhere. He never opens up email or even Facebook. Should Mark be worried? Hmm. We’ll just wait and see.

The most interesting shift between late 2009 and late 2010 is that the questions people are asking have changed dramatically. People don’t seem to be asking, “Hey, what’s the next big thing?” “What’s the next Twitter?” It’s more about implementation and impact – “What’s the most effective platform for my business?” “How do I integrate this into my daily operations?” “Where’s the best ROI?”  It’s no longer “oh wow!” It’s “so, how?” Social media tools and behaviors are now a given, our modus operandi. We just need to figure out how to do it. The old advertising model of trading money for attention is the anachronism. The new formula is trading time (even  energy) for attention. The activity is just as important as the message.

“Social Media Will Become Less Social.”hmm
I’d still like my term – “return on engagement.” It’s more active, deliberate and participatory. However, I think our trajectory has been very different from what I expected — largely due to the meteoric growth of Facebook. Engagement is now defined by the quality of the experience itself, rather than some tangible outcome. The value I spoke of last year was a slippery concept, because “value” can now be defined in brave, new terms, as well. Who knew Farmville and Mafia Wars would become the new American pastimes? Who could have predicted you can actually buy Facebook points in the grocery store? And the metric that “one-third of women 18-34 check Facebook when they first wake up in the morning,” according to an Oxygen Media study?

“More Enterprise Social Software Platforms Will Emerge”oops
Enterprise platforms continue to exist, but boy was I wrong on this one. I did not see the mobile app locomotive, powered by Apple, flying down the track. I think the branded in-house community concept has quite literally jumped the rails. And, to think, I was once so on board with that idea.   Simply, there is an app for that – in fact, what many signify as the emergence of Web 3.0 – targeted, segmented, defined and delivered to the user on demand. So, interesting how things can change in a year. Still, we may be moving in this direction yet.  Fast Society, a new iPhone app, allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook is also providing ways to communicate with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups Feature allows segments friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities to better manage privacy. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

“Social Media (Engagement Media) Will Become More Integrated”bingo
I think I get the winning buzzer for this one. Organizations of all sizes are embracing the value of fully integrated multi-channel strategies. Using social media channels alone for marketing, customer service or fundraising will not be as effective as designing coordinated campaigns and communication strategies that include traditional communication techniques. This includes email, website, online ads, SEO, face-to-face interactions, print advertising, social media platforms, blogs, events, and managed promotion to all media. This has become pivotal to social media success in general. Integrate and align with overall objectives. It’s a must.

“Relevance and Ease Will Become Increasingly Important”yep
There is no more compelling spokesperson for an enterprise or organization a passionate customer, employee, or supporter. This is the core strength of word-of-mouth advertising and peer-to-peer fundraising. And there is a range of scenarios—from a class agent soliciting annual fund gifts for his or her school, to a customer making a recommendation for a new restaurant on YELP! The brand voice is now filtered through the customer in his or her own geographic and psycho-graphic universe.

As we look to 2011, we can’t deny or ignore the brand power of Facebook “likes,” which will become the core advertising and promotional objective for many businesses on Facebook. “Like” strategies will become increasingly sophisticated and integrated into the overall marketing strategy.  For instance, instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies will be leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.” The art and the science.

Finally, there’s mobile and SMS. The app has arrived and has consolidated the expansiveness, chaos and clutter of the worldwide web to the simplicity and focus of a tiny button the size of a stamp that fits in the palm of your hand.  . . . Oh, wow!

What are your predictions for 2011, infinity . . .and beyond?

The Art of Social Enterprise

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach — providing the practical tools you need to thrive in the brave new media world — listener, writer, blogger, speaker, creator, actor, mom.

I attended the 15th annual “Food for the Soul” Stewpot Art Program exhibition at the Bradshaw Gallery at the Dallas Public Library downtown today.  Impressive does not begin to describe the breadth and emotion of this remarkable work. Such raw energy and delight for souls in such turmoil.  On view through Dec. 28, this breathtaking show is part of is a community art outreach program serving the homeless and at-risk populations of Dallas through the Stewpot ministry at the Dallas First Presbyterian Church.  But it’s really so much more than that. I think this program exemplifies a new “brand” of social initiative that not only strengthens our nation’s rapidly fraying safety net, but empowers individuals through creative expression and supports financial self-sufficiency through micro-commerce. Love it!

I must admit I’m still struggling to synthesize by own artistic voice, so my heart is full when I see these developing artists talking about their work with such confidence and aplomb. Watching a program on ADD on KERA/Channel 13 tonight, I was struck by the quote, “We have found that success is not really depend on how much we know; it’s dependent on how we feel about yourselves – our self-esteem.” Well, these artists are definitely moving in the right direction—and what a win-win-win to support them. The artists receive 90% of the sales of their work, and The Stewpot receives 10%.

I found a small piece by Charles William I could not live without – an intricate ink drawing of intertwined harlequin figures. I was mesmerized by his precision and sense of whimsy–with a disturbing edge.

Take a moment to visit the show and be part of social entrepreneurship that’s part solution, part treasure and part blessing.

Hours are 1:00 – 5:00 on Sundays, closed on Monday, open 10:00 – 5:00 Tues and Wed., 12:00 – 8:00 on Thurs and 10:00 – 5:00 on Fri and Sat.

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Conducting Your Social Media Symphony

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer, and social media strategist. Contact her at elgantz()yahoo.com.

A client  told me last week that he hired us to “do” social media so that he would not have to be involved.  What!? Really? Would he ever consider having a storefront without a sales staff? This is the essential conundrum we have been wrestling with in recent weeks.  Businesses, particularly small businesses and nonprofits, are running lean and over-tasked—especially in this rocky economy. Therefore, it’s difficult for many of them to even conceive of adding a litany of new online tasks to their already maxed-out agendas.

And yet, a thriving, organic social media presence is critical to practically every business’ success in our new-media marketing universe.  From texting to tweeting, we recognize the value of involving customers and empowering word of mouth online, but the question is — What is the best way to get it done? How do we manage it all?

It seems to me it comes down to two options — coaching or doing. Should you hire a coach or consultant to train you and/or your employee(s) to blog and work the key social media platforms? Ideally, strategy and daily activity must work in concert to achieve best results.  A post here and there does not a social media campaign make.  The other option is t0 hire someone outside of your organization to “handle it” –posting, responding, blogging, monitoring, driving, and analyzing.  What is most productive?  How will you optimize ROI? How will this outside person or team integrate with yours and the unique needs of your operation?

Here’s the rub — we are trying to force social media into a traditional public relations and advertising paradigm.   Hire an agency; produce some ads; run the ads; hope for good response, and move on to the next campaign. However, social media defies the typical one-way, sequential marketing communications models. It requires ongoing attention, 360 degree tending, focused involvement, authenticity, transparency, systematic monitoring, creative energy, and a real persona. Thus, we need an entirely different delivery system and process. But what will that be? How does that look — parsing together so many pieces:

1. Blogging
2. Promoting your blog
3. Driving and participating in conversation on your blog
4. Commenting on other related blogs
5. Monitoring and responding to Tweets
6. Tweeting and responding with value opportunities
7. Driving Twitter crowdsourcing campaigns
8. Facebook product launches
9. Facebook “like” campaigns
10. Facebook applications and lead capture
11. Driving Facebook conversation
12. Integrating social media in email and website
13. Promoting social media connection in your store.
14. Rewarding Foursquare or Facebook checkins
(Just to name a few.)

Of course, the program will vary in size and scope –whether you are Best Buy or Frank’s Nail Salon, but the realities of execution  may not be that different. For many retailers, it’s all about customer service – an inside team that monitors and responds to customer comments and complaints. For others, it’s about launching new products via Facebook, for example, or running limited-time discounts and deals. Regardless of the content or appeal, the relationship-building objective probably surpasses the importance of the final tallies of coupons redeemed or contests entered. It’s not realistic to think you can have a “social media department.” It should be woven in to the fabric of your operations.

So, maybe we need to think of “doing” social media more like conducting an orchestra in real time, as opposed to, say,  downloading a series of iTunes.  An orchestra needs a conductor to keep time in real time, indicate when to come in and when to stop – or know when to staccato  or to legato. Like an orchestra performance, a social media campaign can be led by a “conductor.” But for maximum effectiveness, the organization’s actual players (the musicians) should be directly involved in making the music. They listen to each other, sense the audience’s reaction, drive the melody, layer the harmonies–and know the score.

What do you think? How are you managing you social media efforts? What has worked and what has not? What are your biggest challenges? Share your stories.

50 for Facebook

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer and social media strategist, helping neighborhood businesses expand word-mouth-marketing exponentially–driving referrals, repeats and revenue.

I love working with small businesses. Their drive, energy, creativity,  spirit and commitment are remarkable–day after day after day. Working in a small business, myself, I appreciate the essential magic of clarity–that is, precisely understanding your value proposition, product and unique benefit.

That’s why I need your help. My goal is to develop the quintessential checklist of social media action items for small business. I read recently that social media is not a money problem. It’s a question of time, and I want to help businesses define social media in terms of opportunity cost. What constitutes the best use of time, engagement and conversation?

We’ll start with Facebook and move through the major platforms. Please review the list below, and add your comments–pro or con with anything I might have missed. I’ve compiled thinking from the likes of Brogan, Falls, Jantsch, and Qualman, but I am interested in your thoughts. What has worked best for your business? We want to know. In fact, I’d love to interview you about your experience. Email me at elgantz()yahoo.com.

Facebook

1.       Create Facebook business page.

2.       Calibrate wall settings  to display posts by you, all comments, and posts by friends.

3.       Monitor daily.

4.       Deliver prompt, personal response to all comments in your brand voice.

5.       Approach social media as a continuous process that requires regular attention.

6.       Content: Keep your page updated with compelling questions and fresh content?

7.       Photo :  Adding your logo as a photo to your Fan Page helps brand your Facebook Fan Page and can bring more awareness to your brand.

8.       Fan your own Fan Page and suggest it to your Friends list.

9.       Engage in conversations.

10.   Message fans regularly but not excessively  to keep prospects, customers returning to the site.

11.   Post Contests , Polls, and Surveys.

12.   Allow fans to Vote on products, events, etc.

13.   Post one-day-only specials.

14.   Promote nonprofit opportunities.

15.   Feature customers  and how-to videos.

16.   Promote submit-a-photo campaigns.

17.   Gift-card purchase promotions online.

18.   Publish product-related quizzes.

19.   Co-promote coupons with surrounding non-competing businesses.

20.   Create and invite friends to “Events.”

21.   Tag your customers in business photos.

22.   Encourage sharing: Provide free information and encourage others to share it– engaging new potential customers and tapping the power of bloggers with high readership and a large number of Fans.

23.   Offer tangible benefits to fans, such as exclusive deals and complimentary items, sneak preview, for advice that is unique to your business.

24.   Developing custom Facebook applications that are attract your target customers. For example, Static FBML (Facebook Markup Language) allows you to add custom HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) to customize your page.

25.   Launch and test Facebook advertising campaigns.

26.   Since Facebook is set up to tie your personal profile to your business page, update the privacy settings on your personal profile to ensure you don’t have any potentially embarrassing content visible to business contacts?

27.   Use Facebook tabs to add more content to your Fan Page. Changing these settings by checking or un-checking a box on the Edit Page section of your Facebook Fan Page.

28.   Events: Let your fans know about upcoming promotions, sales and other events.

29.   Links: Make it easy for users to see your business’s main website, partner business, newsletters, nonprofit association or other value-added information.

30.   Images: Visuals are at the top of the online interest pyramid.   Showcase products, tout events, and highlight customers.

31.   Reviews: Encourage fans to leave reviews about your business. This can be a good tool to interact with your customers and hear honest feedback. Monitor this closely and respond immediately to any negative feedback.

32.   About :  Provide useful information to describe your mission and who you are. List other ways people can connect with you (main website, blog, and social profiles you maintain).

33.   Video: Appealing videos can really help keep your content fresh and interesting so Fans will come back to your page and share your content/brand.

34.   Display exclusive discounts to your Facebook Fans in tabs.

35.   Provide helpful information about topics that are on the mind of your ideal customer. Include intriguing details about your products or services, but don’t get too “salesy.”

36.   RSS (really simple syndication) feeds from your Blog(s) and Twitter® account—automatically inserting the content from your blog posts and tweets into your Facebook page.

37.   Constant activity on your Facebook page to help your Fan Page rank higher in organic search engine results.

38.   Vary Content.

39.   Post Facebook stream widget on website.

40.   Create an internal (staff) blogging/social media policy.

41.   Make friend suggestions on behalf of new members.

42.   Fine-tune you email notification settings to manage inquiries and comments on the go.

43.   Advertise inside social games.

44.   Put your name on virtual goods.

45.   Launch your own branded game.

46.   Sell (or allow customers to earn) Facebook Credits (the social network’s virtual currency) as gift cards at brick-and-mortar stores.

47.   Gain exposure through Facebook’s new “Like” page browser. Likely to be part of the on-boarding process for new readers.

48.   Facebook-first product reveals—2011 Explorer. And new product creation—Vitamin Water.

49.   Corporate e-commerce —  Disney pre-sales of Toy Story 3 tickets and Mark by Avon product sales.

50.   Cause marketing – such as Kohl’s Cares Facebook initiative to give away $10 million to 20 schools; nearly 2 million Facebookers voted for their schools.

Share your thoughts. . .

I hope you dance

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer and social media strategist, helping neighborhood businesses expand word-mouth-marketing exponentially–driving referrals, repeats and revenue.

OK, you may have seen this, but I just had to post. Besides speaking to the career vicissitudes of the social media professional, I think it exemplifies the confusion and churn surrounding implementation of the social media “function” in enterprises — large and small these days. It’s a very interesting place to be — in the middle of a swirling vortex. But isn’t the eye of the storm supposed to be the calm place? Hmmmm. Film at 11:00. (or on YouTube, as the case may be).  Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

// Enjoy.

How are you managing social media in your business?

The Price of Friendship?

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about optimizing social media, life, and spirit. Reach her at elgantz()yahoo.com

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.” ~Anäis Nin

Place on the Pyramid

When you Google “Facebook friend value,” the results are as myriad as searching for Obama. From .37, to $1, to more than $100. But really, what is the price of friendship, it’s true value— and what about it’s cost?

Clearly, we are still grappling with defining the intrinsic value of social media—trying to make a tangible assessment, a dry measurement, but it still eludes us. It’s “like trying to put spilled Jell-O back into a bowl with your bare hands,” as my dear friend Joe Teague used to say. The range of responses to the Facebook question embodies this challenge somehow, but I believe this conversation still misses the mark.

I loved what media guru (social and otherwise) Erik Qualman sought to qualify rather than quantify the role of social media in his live presentation to the Dallas Social Media Club last week. (#smcdallas) This is an interesting foil to his previous messaging. You’ve probably seen his seminal, statistics-sprinkled videos about social media. In socio-psychological terms, he posits that social media falls very near the base of Maslow’s famed “Hierarchy of Needs”—just above safety and security. According to Qualman, social media behavior fulfills our basic need for a sense of belonging and connection. Isn’t that priceless?

Still, his stats are staggering—here’s my top-ten list from the latest video:

1. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30.
2. 96% of them have joined a social network.
3. Facebook now tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.
4. Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year.
5. iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.
6. We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is “How well we DO it.”
7. The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females
8. Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé – some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts—
instead they are distributing: eReaders and iPads.
9. Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate
10. The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years

So, one particular exploration of Facebook friend value caught my attention recently. Research firm Synapse has determined what the average Facebook friend/fan is worth — $136.38. They calculated this amount when they questioned 4,000 fans of 20 of the top brands on Facebook — including Nokia, BlackBerry, Victoria’s Secret, Adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonald’s — asking why they were fans of those companies or brands and about their past and future purchasing behavior. Other key findings include:

• On average, fans spend an extra $71.84 they would not otherwise spend on products they describe themselves as fans of,
compared to those who are not fans.
• Fans are 28 percent more likely than non-fans to continue using a specific brand.
• Fans are 41 percent more likely than non-fans to recommend a product they are a fan of to their friends.

You might be saying, “Hey, those companies are all retail, consumer-facing. What about B2B?” And you would be very astute. That’s true. It’s a little easier to connect revenue to engagement around sales of cell phones, underwear, tennis shoes, and food. But, the formula holds for other scenarios. My own experience with the REO Expo is a case in point. We managed to reach and even surpass our attendance goal of 1,500 earlier this month through a strategic, integrated cultivation of our target business audience, using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, focused professional communities, and email marketing promotions.

To paraphrase Erik Qualman, change is the only thing that’s certain about today’s social media landscape. So, refresh, regroup, and eat your Wheaties.

In the meantime, how would you calculate the value of a friend?

Finding Community Where We Live

I heard Peter Lovenheim, journalist and author of In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, on NPR this morning. His commentary resonated with me as I considered the meaning of community—online and otherwise. Lovenheim felt compelled to write the book after a tragic murder-suicide on his Rochester, NY street, because he suspected less anonymity among his neighbors might have saved the woman’s life.

Lovenheim wonders how people can live side-by-side and know literally nothing about each other, so he brazening invites himself to “sleep over” at the houses of his neighbors. Startling stories unfold. Throughout, he waxes nostalgic about idyllic days of neighborhood barbecues, sipping lemonade on the front porch, and sharing coffee around the kitchen table. This reminded me of that classic 1960 Twilight Zone episode, “Next Stop Willoughby,” in which the addled, frantic advertising exec dreams of a simple, stress-free, small-town life in the late 1880s. (I won’t spoil the twist if you haven’t seen it.)

In his neighborhood, Lovenheim mourns the loss of a slower pace which allowed the time for casual, incidental, face-to-face contact. “We just don’t have the old-fashioned conversations with our neighbors,” laments Lovenheim. One postman he interviewed remarked, “More than 90% of the time, customers would rather give misdirected mail back to me than walking it over to the person next door.” Could our desire for privacy and independence be trumping our basic need for human interaction?

As Lovenheim reaches out to those living in closest proximity, he finds others also secretly searching for connection and yearning for an era gone by. He asks the question—do neighborhoods really matter, and is something missing in our lives when we live among strangers? What makes a group of houses or apartments a neighborhood? Just as our IP addresses have no real meaning in terms of our identity online, our street addresses have become less important components of our personal definitions of “community.” Of course, there are exceptions, but no matter where you are, building front-yard community takes a deliberate effort.

Our lives are fuller and more hectic than ever—with dawn-to-dark work schedules, overly programmed children, mind-numbing commutes, single-parent households, and vehicles available to whisk us off to soccer games, book stores, and gyms across town. Could this lack of physical, local connection be part the dramatic revolution driving social media behavior? After all, isn’t it where we live?

We have to pass laws now to keep people from texting on their mobile phones while they drive. Facebook has become a verb, and I’m in touch with friends I never see in person through their 3:00 and 4:00 am Twitter/Facebook posts. Personal stories. Tales of insomnia. Crumbling relationships. Critically ill relatives. Job losses. Despair. Joy. Finding pig for Farmville. It runs the gamut. And when we do converse real-time, it most likely includes a conversation about the latest iPhone app. Our communication behaviors are no longer sequential—talk on phone, go next door to borrow an egg, then sit down to watch the evening news. Communication is integrated and intertwined. It’s more like a tapestry. I text my son and check email on my mobile phone—while standing in line at the grocery store. No wonder we all fried by the end of the day.

Longing for human interaction, we have moved to online neighborhoods for the same casually intimate, psycho-social interactions that earlier generations experienced in the driveway or on the front lawn. Today, the difference is we access them on our own time. Many say the Internet is detrimental to human relationships, but it’s really a double-edged sword. I contend the Web is really creating a new context and a revised process. In fact, there are a growing number of sites designed specifically to facilitate interaction within neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and subdivisions. Examples include ineighbors.org and aroundme.net. Even Neighborhood America, a large white-label online community company, has recently rebranded as Ingage Networks.

However, social media just may be coming full-circle—trending back toward geo-location. Maybe you really can go home again—virtually speaking, of course. Whether we’re tracking nearby Tweets, stamping your Passport on Gowalla, or unlocking a Swarm badge on Foursquare, we are reorienting our interaction geographically – focusing to people and places around us. The operative question on all this geo-updating is—does anybody really care? But isn’t that what they said about Facebook and Twitter?

Hmm, could a virtual lemonade stand be next? What do you think?

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to make a difference. Elaine covers social media for business, education, and nonproifts. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com