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tweet-retweet(Read time = 3-4 minutes)  One of the first investigations that marketers tackle when entering the social media game is likely to be Twitter. Near the top of the Twitter investigation will likely be re-tweets (RTs):  their value, characteristics, and strategies for gaining traction as will impact message persistence.  For those less Twitter savvy: a retweet is when someone re-posts a Twitter message that they received from somebody else. Re-tweets are usually preceded by an “RT” or “Retweeting” and then the source person’s name in an @ reply format to assign credit (akin to footnoting the original source.

So why the fuss to understand RTs? In simple terms, “authority” and the ability to sustain market messaging/buzz.  Being cited as an information source reinforces thought leadership and brand importance; gaining any level of viral messaging further impacts the marketing campaign.  But is it science… or just artful prose?

Consider the audience size:  Twitter June visitors wwide – 44.5 million (comScore). FYI, cS only counts traffic to Twitter.com; since many users instead use Twitter apps to consume/publish, Twitter’s total audience is significantly larger.  cS does provide a consistent measure, however, of Twitter growth.  Even when some research indicates that ~40% Twitter traffic is “pointless babble”  ( Pear Analytics study), the potential audience/traffic is large, indeed.

For a real-time Twitter traffic counter, GigaTweet estimates that the number of tweets recently passed the 5 Billion mark

Update 11/11: related video here; thanx Muneer.

Studies and Research

Microsoft employs social media research scientists: Here, Danah Boyd and Gilad Lotan (MS) joining with Cornell researcher Scott Golder to investigate the conversational aspects of retweeting: (draft paper on RT here) , scheduled to be published early in 2010.

Another social media research scientist, Dan Zarrella (bio here) pulls apart re-tweet trends and success analytics.  His data presentation is posted at SlideShare here.  Zarrella spent nine months analyzing ~5 million tweets and 40 million retweets.  He investigated when posts occurred, wording, link inclusion (or not), and much more. 

Briefly, some thought starters for consideration:

1.  Leave Room:  Write your original tweet shy of the 140 limit to both allow for the (RT @ Twitter User Name) addition, and avoid requiring that the pass-along author re-write your original text.  While challenging, an original character count of 115-120 should provide sufficient room to encourage a viral re-tweet.

2.  Timing matters:  4pm Friday EST!  I didn’t see that Zarrella’s data factored for content-type (ie B2B v. Consumer, etc.) but certainly the charting should give marketers pause;  A trend beginning to appear are marketers tracking their own experiences and building their own benchmarks, by industry target, as to most effective times/days for tweets and re-tweets.

Tweet-Graph

 3.  Include links:  Tweets that included additional content sources were 3x more likely to be passed along.  Interestingly, the research also noted that the shorter the URL link out, the more likely a retweet would occur.

4. Choose your words wisely:  “Please”, “retweet”, “check out”, “blog” and “new blog post” all appeared in Zarrella’s most frequently used word list.  In the least retweetable category were a number of “ing” verbs (going, watching, listening…”).  Takeaway: idle chit-chat, slang, and over sharing does little to prompt message persistence.

5. Original content:  Well, duh… original content is way more poular than news previously circulated.

6. Grammar:  Tweets that rely heavily on the  use of nouns and 3rd-person verbs (what we typically refer to as headline-style) were more likely to be retweeted

Monitor and Benchmark

The diversity in audience target segments, social media objectives and marketing goals demand that most B2B marketers establish their own benchmarks over time.  Tools are beginning to appear (think Tweetmeme, Retweet.com, etc.) but ROI for social media remains hotly debated.  By experimenting with approach, content and campaigns, individual benchmarks can evolve.  Would welcome reader insights and experiences as additions to the conversation.

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Approved(Read time = 2-3 minutes) A previous ScoopD blog post illuminated the emerging dilemma for marcom practitioners driving their companies to social media best practices; namely the appropriate role of legal approval in the social media communications process.  As often happens in today’s social media, the post opened up a whole can of virtual and viral worms.  Here, contributor Chuck Byers takes the conversation a layer deeper w/regard/to striking an appropriate balance between protection, real-time marketing and freedom of expression.

This isn’t going to be an entertaining rant on the intrusion of our legal colleagues into the creative and messaging process (although such is tempting) because the truth is this sometimes acrimonious dialog is historic and on-going.  And ultimately, I’m going to ask you to share your best practices because, quite frankly, the role of legal and marcom in corporate social media is evolving.

At the outset, let’s acknowledge that there are enormous and legitimate legal concerns.  I’m not a lawyer but it is obvious that an entity is at legal risk nearly anytime it communicates with its constituents.  It used to be that biggest worries were having a corporate officer mutter something untoward into an unsuspected open microphone or in a mistakenly “off-the-record” interview. These risks are compounded in legal’s eyes by the litigious nature of today’s society, shareholder activism, and competitive business practices. 

There are clearly additional concerns over the implications and mis-steps of the speed of information exchange and the breadth of information reach.  The worldwide web isn’t called www for nothing and the ability to injure, harm or offend spreads as wide as the ability to enhance societal justice.  Trumping all considerations is the necessary ability to catalog, store, retrieve and produce — or more importantly legally protect and defend — material that could be potentially determined to be discoverable.

That said, what is the appropriate balance between legal protection, marketing, freedom of expression and capitalizing on the spontaneity and interactivity of the social media for the social good? How do companies balance these two historically orthogonal perspectives when there appear to be a range of corporate policies and cultures at play?

At one end, there is a technology company with a very active robust social media department who designates specific individual to be their social media communicators.  These individuals are charged with using good taste, a thoughtful consideration for the power of their words and deeds, a culture that reinforces that they are the company’s representatives and that they are the trusted messenger of the company’s good will.  Within these boundaries, they are charged to maximize all facets of social media for the company good … blogs, tweets, FaceBook and even virtual reality.

At the other end, there are companies whose legal departments are insisting that they need to approve an 89-character tweet that point’s customers to the company’s latest new product announcement. 

So where is the middle ground?  As communicators we would clearly prefer the former to the latter.  But this not Utopia and not every company is going to be so liberal 

What are the best practices?  We call upon the wiki-power of the blogosphere for the answers.  Share your experiences, best practices and worst practices.  The ScoopD team hopes to gather feedback with the intent to begin dialogue leading to a sense of direction.  

And in the best spirit of social media, we will share all in what we hope will be a consensus seeking exercise.  Follow http://www.twitter.com/maddogprofessor on Twitter and let’s begin trading ideas.

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list_small_arrow(Read time = 1 minute)  One of the tantilizing promises Twitter  holds out for B2B marketers is the direct marketing possibility of “narrow-casting“, ie: the ability to segment Twitter accounts into very vertical groups for rifle-shot messaging and campaigns. To this point, beyond brute strength, there’s been little easy way to attack the issue.  Now, all that may be changing.  Twitter HQ announced 9/30 that a “list” feature test has been rolled-out to a select few accounts.

Little beyond the initial blog post is known, but depending on functionality, this is definitely a topic to keep on Agency, Marketing and Consultant radars.  On a practical side/personal side, for those following hundreds (thousands?), a list feature would be one additional way to keep the conversations sane.

Below is a quick recap where the announcement is being discussed…

Chek Out the Coverage: Will Add More in Real-Time

10/1: WIRED Weighs-in

From the Twitter blog:  Soon to Launch: Lists.  Nick Kallen, project lead for Twitter on Lists, wrote 9/30 about the small test of this new feature with a subset of Twitter accounts.  

Technology Cutting-Edge Blogger Louis Gray on Twitter Lists

LATimes Business Technology News: Mark Milian reports in Kusts and the LAT’s test run.

Geeksugar – No date for public rollout but “coming soon…”

Scoble on Lists:  Well-known blogger Robert Scoble rants on Twitter’s “suggested user list

Appscout.com, republished by PCMagazine.com – Lists will be public by default but can be made private…

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overloaded(Read time = 2-3 minutes) Information overload on steroids.  That’s a common theme the Scoopdog team hears  from marketers, agency leads and social media advocates.  How best to keep up… filter the noise… find the hidden gems?  Here’s three “insider” resources useful to help scrape away the clutter.

1.  Alltop: Your Personal Magazine Rack

For those struggling w/news overload, a solution worth the look is Alltop – a news aggragation web site worth discovery.  With self-loaded pages like “Twitter News“…  Facebook News… and Social Media News… quick snapshots are possible.  The site also enables a “build-it-yourself ” feature for constructing targeted magazine racks.

For the B2B pro, the advantages are:  aggragation and time savings.  The Scoopdog team uses Alltop as a means to quickly scan information sources for topics and trends that are perhaps worth further investigation and a blog post. The site is fed by tens of thousands of information sources and blog resources.  To say it another way, Alltop strives to be the  filter to find information nuggets, as the user specifies.  (Disclosure:  I have no assotiation – just like the site and service. Same for the others below) 

 A helpful tutorial steps through the process with point/click simplicity.  The Alltop blog provides tips/gricks… the Goodie page has all manner of widgets, badges, feed connections, groups and even the obligatory T-shirt.

 

2.  Twitter Accounts to Follow: Social Media Analytics

waworld  The official Twittter account of Manoj Jasra’s web analytics world blog. Insights into search marketing, social media ROI, and social media strategies.

analytics_  If you can’t analyze it, you can’t measure it;  if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Here you’ll find tweets and links to various aspects of social media measurement.

WebAnalyticsGuy  Canadian RyanDinelle and is ~500 followers mashup the metric scene.  Google Analytics, media tracking, comparisons/distinctions between audience communities, SEO.  The breadth is impressive and the conversation intelligent.

 

3.  comScore Research and Digital Intelligence

comStore – the self-proclaimed global source of digital market intelligence.  While in the business of selling research, the site contains a plethora of library produts accessable free, sponsors webinars on 2.0 topics, and hosts digital audience measurement events.  Often sited resource for usage statistics.  Excellent blog here.

The company was founded in 1999 to focus on e-commerce trends measurement.  Acquisition of Media Metrix in 2002 expanded the media intelligence services.  Today, comScore has as its mission to shed light on the beharior of digital consumers using data collected from 2 million+.  One of the most valuable destinations on the site is the “Presentations and Whitepapers Library” here.

All: We love collecting little known resources/sites/references sources.  If you have favorites, please share.

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perception_vase(Read time = 2-3 minutes) As social media intrudes further into the B2B marketing, many managers, consultants and agencies are being asked by the C-suite to defend against the perception that  “social media is just for kids“.  Here’s a quick reference list prepared for just such a discussion at an ingredient brand technology company during the engagement evaluation discussion.  Replicate the approach using your own market segment, competitors and marketing partners.  A small bit of homework will provide eye-opening results.

Benchmarking the Staggering Volume

Imagine the opportunities for “accidental” traffic if content is embedded at some/any/all of these (or other) sites.  Remember, the numbers are going up daily.  Even if your target communities are exceptionally narrow, odds are these sites capture some segment of your audience base if you embed content.

 Twitter:  23 million unique visitors/day;  3 million tweets/day

YouTube:  85 million video views/day

Facebook:  300 million active users, 122 million visits/day

LinkedIn:  43 million members; 13 million daily avg visits

Blogs:  133 millin currently indexed by Technorati.

Real time info add 9/18 5am PST: thanx to Jake @Oracle’s appslab  for pointing out availability of an Oracle app for micro-blogging:  OraTweet; check it out.

Real time info add 9/17 10:30 PST:  thanx to Circle Research and findings from a survey of 100 B2B marketers.   Summary findings: 39% of B2B budgets are now allocated to new media – 15% to web development, 12% to email, 10% to online ads, 2% to social media 70% of B2B marketers plan to increase spend on social media in the next 12 months…but 57% feel they don’t know enough about this area.

 

Business Brands Are Engaging

Certainly consumer brands are early adopters, but the B21B aspects of social media networking are fast gaining traction.  The list below was pulled together for an ingredient brand technology provider and executive leadership team discussion around engagement.  Take your segment, your competitors, your alliance partners – do quick searches of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flckr, other sites to compile a quick/easy (and compelling) snapshot for management review.

Cisco: •Twitter:  CTO has ~1 million followers; multiple other accounts •Facebook:  Fan page + Group opportunities •Blogging: twelve corporate blogs. •YouTube Channel:  400+ videos posted •LinkedIn: Yes

Broadcom: •Facebook:  sponsored ads, Group opportunities •Microblogging: Twitter account. •YouTube: Company account with product demos •LinkedIn: Yes

 Hewlett-Packard: •Blogging: 55 corporate blogs. •Facebook:  Group opportunities; sponsored ads •Microblogging: Twitter account used for promotions •Twitter:  multiple enterprise accounts •LinkedIn: Yes

FreeScale •YouTube:  ~80 videos posted •Facebook: Fan Page, Group opportunities, sponsored ads •Blogging: Six corporate blogs. •Twitter accounts: yes •LinkedIn: Yes

 IBM: •Blogging: 125 corporate blogs. •Forums: developerWorks. •Microblogging: Smart SOA SocialNetwork ((S3N)) •Twitter teams. •Wikis: developerWorks. •LinkedIn: Yes

 Oracle: •Blogging: Hundreds of blogs. •Crowdsourcing: Oracle Mix. •Microblogging: 110+ employees on Twitter and other services. •Social networks: Oracle community.Twitter:  multiple accounts

Intel: •Facebook: Fan page; Group opportunities; Sponsored ads •Blogging: Corporate family of blogs. Inside Scoop   lifestyle blog. Game Faces blog. •Microblogging: Intel Developer Forum & Inspired By Education •Online video: YouTube account. •Photo sharing: Flickr photostream. •LinkedIn: Yes •Twitter:  Multiple accounts

 Texas Instruments: •YouTube:  ~2000 video instances found •Blogging: Community blogs. •Facebook:  Fan page, Group opportunities •Twitter: Multiple accounts •LinkedIn:  Yes

 Brocade •Twitter:  Formal PR Account •YouTube: CEO videos w/r/t quarterly earnings •LinkedIn:  Yes •Adaptec •Twitter:  PR account; Support account •Facebook: Fan page; sponsored ads •YouTube: ~500 video posts found •LinkedIn: Yes

Media and Industry Analyst Outlets

Do a quick review of your PR/AR outlets to determine the level of social media activity, opportunities for outreach and additional coverage possibilities with blogs and Twitter.

New York Times –Blogs: 70 blogs –Twitter: Hot news –YouTube: 1400+ videos –LinkedIn: Company profile –Facebook: Fan page, regular page

 Wall Street Journal –Blogs: 30 blogs –Twitter: Hot news –LinkedIn: Company profile –Facebook: Fan page, cross-posts with Digg

Barron’s –Blog: Technology Trader –Twitter: Hot news •Financial Times –Blogs: 20+ blogs –Twitter: Hot news –LinkedIn: Company profile

 EE Times –Blogs: 10 Blogs –Twitter: Hot news; LinkedIn: Company profile, event marketing

Technology Industry Analyst Firms

Gartner –Twitter: 70+ analysts plus corporate-level –Blogs: 75 Analyst Blogs –LinkedIn: Company page, recruiting, event marketing –YouTube: 80+ videos posted –Facebook: Fan page

Forrester –Twitter: 70+ analysts plus corporate-level –Blogs: ~25 Blogs –LinkedIn: Company page, recruiting, event marketing –YouTube: ~65 videos

IDC –Twitter: 70+ analysts plus corporate account –Blogs: –LinkedIn: Company page, recruiting, event marketing

 Enterprise Strategy Group –Twitter: President tweets, directs to additional content –Blogs: 7 Analyst Blogs –LinkedIn: Company Page

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6degrees(Read time = 2-3 minutes) One of the surest signs of mainstream acceptance is when cutting edge trends bleed into traditional media coverage, become fodder for SNL and other parody spoofs, and (gasp!) find themselves the subject of academic scholarship and book publishing “for the rest of us…”  .  Ah… Twitter and Facebook, we knew you when…

When I stumbled across Nick Douglas’ just published, way to funny collection of “Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters of Less”, it got me thinking just what other signposts are out there indicating wider acceptance of social networking/social network marketing?  Douglas’ book is an edited and authorized collection of the funniest tweets of all time w/forward by Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.  Sure, campaign 2008 thrust Twitter on to the public stage, but what else?

A Smattering of Social Media Maturity Proof Points

Reports of Facebook “…getting more gray…” as the 35-54 crowd increases their participation by over 60% in the last year.  A Forrester research report must be purchased, but here’s several links that digest the topic and results for free:

Facebook:  The Road Ahead: a TechCrunch report from the Web2.0 conference (4/09) on CPM rates, revenue experiments and developer alternatives.

Volunteer mass computing: Kudos to Intel for this free app and launch of a public beta project available to all Facebook users.  “Progress Thru Processors” runs as a background process on your computer, automatically directing idle processing power to the researchers’ computational efforts (AIDS, Global Warming, African Malaria).  When the user’s computer needs the performance, the app shifts into idle.  Reminds me of Berkeley’s SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project.  These “grid” distributed computing projects have grown in recent years to include (among others): DIMES  (internet mapping project), GIMPS   (large prime number search), more AIDS Research, out to the more light-hearted Einstein neutron star-search, and BURP  (big, ugly rendering project for collaborative 3D graphics animation.)

Kevin Bacon redux… 6 degrees of separation has been reduced to 3, so contends a July 09 Trendsspotting.com write-up which chronicles Facebook and virtual friendships, building on social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s work and the Microsoft 2006 instant messaging study that popularized “6 degrees” into a social icon.

 Academics join the fray:  peer-reviewed articles and scientific publication is becoming more the norm as academics are starting to weigh-in with headier tomes.  Here’s just a few I found of more than passing interest:

What have you noticed as your clients or agencies engage in social media discussion?  Any insights to share?

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 code vortex(Read time = 2 minutes)  Amazing how tangent conversations creep in from unexpected places.  Recently, I was in a client discussion on video production.  With talent direction, content and milestone conversations sated, the producer and I bridged into a “where best to host” (YouTube the obvious answer) and then widened to an adjacent discussion that challenged the default of hanging content only on the corporate web site.

 

With great delight, my producer friend, an acknowledged social media advocate herself (thanx Spooner!) with both business and academic credentials, argued for an external “content embed” strategy using third-party hosting sites.  Essentially, dropping assets onto third-party, content-specific sites which brought added traffic value beyond just the hosting itself; making it easy to share and find (think SEO).  Assets would then be served into a promotional site (think Facebook Fan Page, corporate blog site, or the like)

Indirectly, bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg serve a similar virtualized function.  While not content hosts per se, these sites provide audience communities and search capabilities, therefore additional traffic possibilities.  But that’s a slight tangent. 

Hoping that the debate stimulates some thinking and challenges the default solution of “everything on the company site”.

The set-up:  An upcoming product launch would be augmented by social media outreach and promotion: some traditional content (collateral, whitepapers, etc.), some rich-media new content (video clips, anecdotal short case study write-ups, a podcast or two).

The marketing goal:  Integrate a company domain splash page with social media promotional networks such as: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn while taking advantage of content-specialty sites such as YouTube;  do so as simply as possible with a delivery/management process as near to a “post once, deliver to many” model;  capture robust metrics.

At issue:  where best to (practically) hang (embed) the content:  centralized w/in the company’s own domain on the splash page itself (what are the pros/cons) v. using third-party sites such as:  YouTube,  SlideShare, Docstoc , Vimeo,  Scribd, Flckr, issuu, whitepapers.org .  Which, if any, work, will depend on your audience and goal. Notable web strategist Jeremiah Owyang discusses the concept of embeddable content/give the love away in a blog post here.

Some “pros” for the third party approach:  added audience reach into communities loyal to the hosting site itself, visitors likely never to visit the company domain main website; also, by posting on sites that allow content to be re-purposed (embedded by others, elsewhere) the viral spread widens.  BEWARE:  many third-party sites include “ownership” clauses for posting to their sites.

Cons:  No single third-party site seems to be a logical aggregation point:  ie, videos would go to YouTube, podcasts to iTunes, slideware to SlideShare, etc.  Management complexity, multiple metric sources to integrate.

Biggest “pro” for the HIY approach:  internal web team can own it, optimize it, marketing can be hands off (at least in the ideal world <grin>).

Cons: Internal web teams can be very inefficient and/or have tool delivery systems less than current best practice models.  Integration of various media delivery systems inside a band aided, enterprise web architecture.

The solution remains an active discussion.  Feel free to weigh-in with thoughtful prose or quirky advice. While the resolution is not quite the beast of Trek-Piccard proportion, in our own small way, we’re Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, eyes open…  end of day, HIY + third-party site content embeds is probably not a bad solution.
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