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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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Tweeter Content Types(Read time = 3-4 minutes)  In many companies, after initial social media discussions result in Twitter engagement, the conversation turns to the “approval gate”.  Whether governance is driven by a management or legal process, questions related to Twitter boundaries are sure to quickly surface.  Here, we explore one approach: grouping tweets by content type, as a means to thread the approval needle.   Even if your situation doesn’t demand the rigor of legal review, there’s useful learning possible.  Would welcome any inputs others could share. 

The set-up:  Most social media policies/practices evolve from existing Public Relations/Analyst Relations guidelines.   While a very reasonable starting point, these inherently carry a process driven thru some corporate legal step to validate claims, monitor information for appropriate disclosure, etc.  with reviews not optimized for the real-time nature of Twitter communication.

The goal:  Evolve guidelines which permit real-time, marketing  participation (on most fronts) while setting practical boundaries that safeguard companies from inappropriate disclosure. For this discussion, we’ll avoid content and issues around earnings, acquisitions and other such investor relations topics subject to SEC rules/regulations.

Definition:  “Trusted Contributor”: The solution proposed below has, as an embedded concept, the idea of a pre-approved Twitter user.  In traditional AR/PR schools this would be a “spokesperson”.  For social media, the idea of “trusted contributor” is more useful as that implies breadth not just blessing.  To be most useful, marketing conversations must be real-time or near that.

The solution proposed: Pre-approved, “Trusted Contributor” list (backstopped by training) and a “Tweet Content Category” taxonomy that can serve as a roadmap for marketing to understand what can be communicated and what would require a formal review step.

“No Touch” Approval: Group One

Example: Re-tweets with no original Content  One of your marketing partners, or a customer, tweets news or a sales promotion or their attendance at an upcoming tradeshow.  A re-tweet of this type content can be likened to dropping a link onto your website pointing to useful content originated by others.

*  Owner – Product Marketing and/or the Marcom, PR/AR teams, etc. depending on the re-tweet content and origination source.

*  Goal – Partner support, Twitter account cadence (useful as a means to build a Follower list), and to sustain appropriate marketing conversations.

*  Approval Bar – Minimal/none for approved Twitter users, w/in established spokesperson boundaries.

Example: Re-tweets with added Commentary   A  customer/partner tweets their attendance at an upcoming tradeshow.  You want to promote your company’s attendance as well; or there’s a news announcement about a product that your company helps enable. You want to both support the original tweet + add a comment or your related content.

*  Owner – Product Marketing and/or the  Marcom teams in support of Marketing.

*  Goal – Partner support, Twitter account cadence (useful as a means to build a Follower list), and to sustain appropriate marketing conversations.

*  Approval Bar – Minimal/none for approved Twitter users, w/in established spokesperson boundaries.

Example: Product/Brand Marketing Tweets  Tweets relating to a specific product launch or technology announcement. 

*  Owner – Product Marketing and/or the Marcom team supporting Marketing

*  Goal – Sustaining the real-time social media conversation, responding to business-ordinary questions, marketing/sales dialogue.

*  Approval Bar – Minimal/none for approved Twitter users, w/in established spokesperson boundaries.

 “Normal Touch” Approval: Group Two

Example: Product Marketing PR/AR Tweets  Tweets relating to the issuance of formal news, media briefings, market/industry analyst briefings.

*  Owner – Respective PR/AR leads

*  Goal – Support traditional PR/AR communications, add rich-media resources, encourage reporting and coverage.

*  Approval Bar – The PR/AR process, likely to include legal reviews.

Example:  Customer Service Tweets  Example – an end customer or other downstream audience member tweets (either directly or indirectly) about a specific product problem and/or service requirement.

*  Owner – Normal customer service channel/function w/in your company

*  Goal – Appropriate customer service

*  Approval Bar – Normal , ordinary customer service process and  guidelines

Example:  Corporate PR/HR/Philanthropic Tweets  Example – the company organizes a Volunteer Day with very positive results.  In addition to publicity locally, in company newsletters and perhaps a formal news release, Twitter is used to further spread the positive word.

*  Owner – Owners of the news and/or event

*  Goal – Spread of positive corporate news, recruitment, building brand equity

*  Approval Bar – Normal, ordinary process and guidelines

 “High Touch” Approval Group Three

Example: Investor Relations Tweets  Announcement of an earnings call, financial results or news pertaining to an acquisition.

*  Owner – Owners of the investor relations function

*  Goal – Appropriate information disclosure

*  Approval Bar – High, guidelines with a particular eye toward SEC regulation, disclosure and discovery.

In Summary  The idea presented hopes to suggest a means for Marketing to participate in the real-time stream while preserving an appropriate review process.  Twitter training is a critical component, as is a process for regular social media discussion and best practice discussion.  There is a presumption that spokespersons will behave rationally and generally do the right thing.  A collaboration between the Marketing, Marcom, AR-PR and Legal teams is the desired outcome.

By the way, please tweet this – no approval necessary!

 

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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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(Read time = 2 minutes)  For me – getting a handle on the “social media” marketing landscape is easier if I simply connect the new stuff to my trusted, old and faithful outbound and marketing roots.   This will be way to simplistic for some, but hopefully a way to lessen the confusion, for others.

Rather than letting the technology and jargon become a distraction, and worse, a barrier to entry, – I associate the new tools to old favorites as a way for straight-forward engagement.  Then, once I actually go hands-on, it’s easier to bridge into discovery mode and begin to uncover the truly unique attributes for each communications channel… each new tool.  The approach is also useful when asked to explain how the tools work, or what applications might be worth considering for B2B communications.

bridgesMy Analog B2B Roadmap for Framing the Social Media Conversation

(Future blog posts will dive deeper into all these.  Looking for feedback on other instances, if you’d like to share)

LinkedIn = Daytimer/Address Book (a business card filing system at the most basic level)

Twitter Feed = Police Scanner (ie, unfiltered chatter from across many bands)

Twitter Post = Graffiti (splashes/bursts of unfiltered signals and noise)

Twitter Trends and Search = Watercooler Gossip (the most talked about topics rise to the top)

Google Alerts = A PR Clipping Service (set up keyword parameters and Google will ping you with once a day summaries)

MySpace = Slumber Party for Consumer Brands (Teens, young adults discussing preferences, trends)

Facebook Profile = Social Reunion (the personal side of Facebook and the traditional audience of users

Facebook Fan Page =  Biz Conference (the new “business” side that Facebook is courting)

Delicious = Filing Cabinet  (A place to easily file/retried bookmarked URLs, PDFs)

Digg = Cocktail Party (What’s the latest topic, hottest new trends)

In client presentations, the analogies can be a very effective way to align discussions, and serve as a starting point for new media policy and strategy conversations. 

To be sure, each of these has so much more to offer B2B marketing professionals.  Eg., LinkedIn isn’t just a card file, it’s also a powerful relationship-building environment with significant potential for message promotion and community dialogue;  Google Alerts, used with the proper filters, can become a powerful first-line brand management alert tool; a Facebook Fan Page holds the promise for centralization of your entire outbound content generation.

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