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A Big Thing Happened in Search Today: Google Direct Connect

by on November 7, 2011

Google’s Direct Connect announcement was structured as an afterthought in the overall story of Google+ Brand Pages, but the restructuring of the + operative in the search engine may mean more than meets the eye.

It wasn’t long ago that adding the + operator to a search query (as in: +halogen) meant all search results would include that specific word (in this case all search results would include “halogen”). When the search engine retired the operator search geeks speculated it would have something to do with Google+, but it wasn’t until today that everything became clear.

In its new form, adding “+” before a brand name takes users directly to a brand’s Google+ Page. This makes + the only operator to take users away from the search engine immediately, but perhaps more importantly, the new feature gives Google’s own social platform a leg up in search results.

As a result, the new feature puts pressure on brands to create and cultivate compelling Google+ Business Pages. Facebook created a platform that absorbs most of our time online, but Google Direct Connect just made accessing brand pages easier than ever.

When Google+ Brand Pages have had some time to shake out and the operative has had time to settle on users’ fingertips, expect an update on whether or not the new + operative is changing search behavior overall.

November 7, 2011 , , , , , ,

Halogen Reads: Updates From the Team Newsreel

by on October 27, 2011

eMarketer reminds us Social media presence is more important than social media ads.

Marketers need to figure out when and why people share, then design multimedia experiences around those intentions. Watch the video about share-ability here.

Measurements in Reach, Engagement, Technical Construction, and Reputation were defined, weighted, and applied to top brands to determine the Facebook health of each brand. Read the research brief here.

Notable Platform: takes Facebook likes and breaks them down by popularity, age, gender, and topic/genre.  There’s also a way to drill down on the data as it relates only to your own network of friends.  Platforms like this feel like supplemental data today, but I imagine in the future this could be an effective way of tracking memes and more.

October 27, 2011 , , , , , , , ,

Facebook’s f8 Announcements Finally Move Marketers Past Likes

by on September 24, 2011

Marketers are accustomed to competing with people for a spot in the news feed, but Mark Zuckerberg’s announcements at f8 have changed the game ever so slightly. Here are a few high level findings we took away from the Facebook conference and the event’s announcements of Timeline, Open Graph, Top Stories, and Recent Stories.

The True Shift Toward Engagement

Facebook now has more than 800 million users. They’ve achieved mass adoption (as have many brands in terms of number of fans). Now it’s time to move away from acquisition toward engagement. We’ve been talking about this shift for ages, but it finally feels like marketers are starting to buy into the importance of engaging audiences.

As we shift the emphasis away from Likes in volume, marketers aspire to engage audiences with meaningful multimedia experiences. Like Michael Lazerow wrote in a recent article in Advertising Age, “Put content out there that becomes a part of users’ identity.”

This has been the case since Facebook released EdgeRank, but as new announcements create a more nuanced ecosystem, marketers should pay special attention to recent changes and new opportunities.

Recap: The Major f8 Announcements

Timeline – Facebook’s Timeline is like a digital scrapbook, a place where users can look back on the major events of their life. We won’t get into Timeline much in this post, but my favorite look at Timeline to date can be found here. (You can also sign up for access to Timeline here.)

Ticker – The Facebook ticker is a lightweight activity stream for things like, “Justine is listening to Foster the People.” In the past users needed to intentionally share these kinds of activities (or at least accept the sharing process), but now these kinds of actions are frictionless and show up automatically.

Open Graph – Facebook isn’t just about Likes anymore. It’s about actions that Mark Zuckerberg hopes will create “serendipitous experiences.” The Open Graph is what makes this possible because now people can “listen” to songs, “watch” shows, and more.

GraphRank – GraphRank is like Edgerank for determining Facebook displays how people use apps. In other words, this is the algorithm that chooses who sees (or doesn’t see) the show you just watched or the run you just recorded with Nike+.

What This Means For EdgeRank and the NewsFeed

Now that Facebook is about more than Likes, we can expect brands to start competing with both people and app developers for a spot on the news feed. Brands really want to make their way into Top Stories, but Recent Stories create another opportunity for visibility.

Some analysts suspect that this could create a payoff for brands that post more often, but this is up for debate. One column suggests recent stories have a minimum threshold, meaning updates from brands with low EdgeRank could be hidden in the newsfeed.

New Opportunities in Social Advertising

The Open Graph’s foundation on instantaneous sharing eliminates some instances of permissions, thereby creating more data, and therefore an increased number of opportunities for brands to connect campaigns to user activity through Sponsored Stories.

This, combined with open graph targeting, creates the opportunity for marketers to target people with ads based on actions they took on Facebook. For example, if someone clicks on a specific handbag with desire to purchase, marketers can then go back and target this user with a handbag ad.

Announcements at f8 may have wriggled things about a bit, but the fundamental emphasis on the importance of creating engaging content is more important than ever. The more brands focus on becoming relevant and integrating themselves into experiences, the more they’ll benefit from Facebook.

September 24, 2011 , , , , ,

When EdgeRank Determines the Fate of Branded Content on Facebook, Measurement is Key

by on August 2, 2011

A year ago Likes were as good as gold. They felt like the social equivalent of email opt ins, but when Facebook’s EdgeRank kicked into gear the “one-like-and-we’ve-got-’em-forever” philosophy crumbled and faded. Now brand messaging on Facebook is in the hands of an algorithm that’s only recently become less opaque.

Welcome to EdgeRank Checker, a site that stands to add some transparency to Facebook’s secret algorithm. Created by a group that specializes in EdgeRank optimization, this site marks the beginning of a much larger movement to get branded messages in front of consumers on Facebook.

As a third party company outside of the social networking site, the people at EdgeRank combined a number of statistics from Facebook Insights until they felt comfortable estimating the score that dictates the fate of branded content on Facebook.

Setting the tool into motion is as easy as logging in on Facebook, but whether or not the scores are actually accurate are as mysterious as the algorithm itself. In some cases the days for acquiring the most and least fans overlapped, which made me a bit weary in my own testing. Also, according to EdgeRank Checker any score above 14 is above average (but a total walk in the park for even the weakest pages I checked).

What this says for EdgeRank Checker’s actual ability to estimate a secret score is unknown, but perhaps that isn’t the point. As long as Facebook continues to grab the attention of consumers online, the business of getting branded content to the top of news feeds only stands to grow. We’re at the frontier and brands paying attention to EdgeRank optimization are poised to add value to business. Depending on Facebook’s importance over time, that value that could very well become as much of a staple as SEO.

August 2, 2011 , , , , , ,

Facebook, Facebook Everywhere

by on July 20, 2011

Facebook vs Rest of the Web Facebook, Facebook Everywhere

As the long-tail of the web shrinks Facebook has established itself as the Internet’s behemoth. The social network accounts for 12.3 percent of time spent online, but will the platform maintain its grasp on the net and what does this mean for the future of the web?

Since March 2010 time spent on Facebook increased 69 percent while minutes spent consuming content across the rest of the web decreased nine percent. Some experts claim Facebook is on its way to becoming the de facto Internet, but Google+’s record move to ten million users has many wondering if Facebook will maintain its digital foothold.

Developments like Facebook for Every Phone signal the social network’s continued dominance, but web trends point to the fact that even if Facebook’s influence begins to fade, the power it sucedes will likely be replaced by another social network.

In 2001 the ten most frequented sites on the web accounted for 31 percent of pageviews in the United States. By 2010 that number rose to 75 percent, and the shortlist of the web is predominately social.

Increasing costs of fan acquisitions over time and incremental increases in traffic to brand sites for those that invest in the platform show that the brands who adopt Facebook are benefiting from their investment.

Facebook could in essence, become the next web, but even if it doesn’t, trends are showing that we’re at the beginning of a paradigm shift. The web is unmistakably social and its foundations are the networks that connect people with the stories of all things that surround us.

Today it’s Facebook, Facebook everywhere. This could very well continue to be the case, but if the darling of social gets knocked off its pedestal it will most certainly be replaced by another platform that operates in a similar way. Either way, the brands that learn the ways of the social web will benefit in the longterm.

July 20, 2011 , , , ,

What the New York Times Twitter Experiment Means for Publisher Influence

by on July 7, 2011

At the end of May the New York Times replaced its automated Twitter cyborg with the tweets of in house social media editors. The move was a test to determine whether the paper should invest in personalized tweets over a deluge of automatic headlines, but the final decision (if we ever see one) will mark something more significant than just another hire at the paper.

The Experiment

Until a little more than a month ago the New York Times leaned on its brand image and reputation to earn influence in the social world. Journalists wrote and Twitter followers retweeted, but what happened when the New York Times put two of their social media editors to the task of Twitter engagement?

For starters, the New York Times got quite a bit of press. Writers picked out personalized tweets and added them to their blogs, people on Twitter shared their stories, and everything seemed promising for the world of social media. Then I started following the New York Time’s Klout score.

In the week that social media editors @LHeron & @LexiNYT tweeted for @NYTimes the publication’s influence score never budged. It felt like people were engaging, but the score stayed constant at 86 for the duration of their experiment. Of course when it comes to a Twitter handle with 670,759 retweets it’s going to take a lot more than a week long experiment to make a dent in their score, but I hope the paper doesn’t take the “we’re already doing well enough” stance on Twitter.

After all, when compared with the ability of individuals like Justin Bieber, or Nicki Minaj to spread information socially (with klout scores at 100 and 97 respectively), it’s hard to justify feeling satisfied with a cyborg for much longer.

The New Age of Publisher Influence

Any reaction from the New York Times on the Twitter experiment has been hushed, but the days of publications resting on their paper laurels may be over. The New York Times could slide by a little longer with a vaguely cyborg social presence, but when it comes to automation they are one of the few remaining dinosaurs.

Fact of the matter is, conversations and connections are becoming the way of the web. Today real social investment is an option but some publishers are already showing that a hand crafted social presence can help them jump ahead. More than ever consumers are looking beyond search algorithms into hand crafted curation to find what’s important. The best we can do is hope that the New York Times sees that before advertisers realize that Justin Beiber and their very own Facebook fans can drive more conversation than reputable ad supported newspapers.

July 7, 2011 , , , , , ,

Infographic: The Evolution of Likes

by on July 6, 2011

The latest infographic from GetSatisfaction pulls statistics from a handful of sources to answer the question: What makes people want to follow a brand on the Internet? Click on the image to see a larger, more legible version and take a look at the following key takeaways.

People Are Liking Brands More. When Google conducted a similar study eleven months ago, 55 percent of people didn’t like a single brand on Facebook. Now the median number of brands people like falls into the two to five brand range, suggesting people are more open to opening up their social graph to brand messaging. On the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of people who like ten or more brands has doubled since Google’s study one year ago.

Social Media Influences Purchase Decisions. 97.09 percent of respondents said that online experiences have influenced a purchase decision.

Discounts Still a Pull but Customer Status & Good Content Are Also Crucial. Although the two studies are not completely comparable due to differing methodologies (select all that apply vs. select one), it’s interesting to compare the reasons for liking brands in this study versus a preceding like acquisition study by Social Media Examiner. From a brand perspective, it looks like it’s time to figure out how to drive growth through solid and consistent content.

Research Will Move From Likes to Engagement. The infographic below reflects the power of contests as a like acquisition strategy, but the next step in this kind of research is all about determining what moves communities online. Current research is finding that it’s actually product related messages that create the most engagement amongst existing fans on brand pages but over time marketers and researchers will reveal other levers that create true engagement online.

1 infographic follow brands large Infographic: The Evolution of Likes

July 6, 2011 , , , , , ,