Facebook Changes: How Are Brands Affected?

Facebook’s recent announcement at the F8 conference of  radical changes to the platform, including things like timelines and tickers, has left most of the tech world reeling. While a lot of attention is being focused on how these changes will affect individual users, how will these and previously announced changes affect brands using Facebook Pages?

1. More integration of apps

Perhaps the biggest change for brands is that Facebook Apps will now be able to be more fully integrated into a Facebook user’s experience (read: timeline). For example, if you’re an online news site, someone reading an article on your site via your Facebook App will have that action published within the context of their timeline. This means more exposure for brands on Facebook – but once again, brands are increasingly being rewarded for interacting with users in a meaningful way.

2. Users have more control over their news feeds

With far more control now given to users to edit the top stories in their news feeds, they’re more easily able to filter out brand messaging from their Facebook feeds. So, if you’re a brand that doesn’t have much relevance to a particular user, your updates will quickly be edited out. This makes it more important than ever to create Page updates that are interesting, relevant, and that really stand out to your target audience.

3. Comment on a page without Liking it

Announced a little while before the F8 conference, this  is nevertheless a significant change you may not be aware of: Facebook users can now comment on a Page without Liking it. While this creates an even easier way for people to interact with brands, it also makes it harder to incentivise people to Like your page. Previously, you could woo people to become fans of your page by asking them to comment on a specific issue or question. Now, they’re able to do that without the commitment, which means you as a brand will have to work harder to get a Facebook user’s attention.

Facebook’s changes are impacting brands too, because the new timeline format will force brands to be useful publishers rather than simply marketers or advertisers. So, the golden rule here (which hasn’t really changed but is being emphasised more and more) is: create useful content, and interact with your target audience on Facebook in a way that is meaningful to them. Yebo!

Kwiksta and a new leaf!

This post signals an intention to improve my appalling lack of posting on this blog. So, what better way to turn over a leaf than with an exciting new project!

I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the first teachers involved with Kwiksta – Sam Paddock of GetSmarter‘s latest venture. Kwiksta is an online learning platform where teachers can upload material, and students can purchase their content to learn from. “Kwiksta” stands for “Know What I Know” and I think it marks a serious move forward in the future of online learning. For more info check out www.kwiksta.com.

My first Kwik published on the platform is called “How to Make Your Blog Best Friends With Search Engines“, and goes into detail about how to optimise your blog posts for maximum visibility on search engines. The Kwik costs US$20 to download once off, and then the content is yours forever. Payment works via Paypal, and it’s a quick and easy process to register and purchase.

I would love to hear your comments – either on that Kwik, or on future ones you’d like to see. There are big plans for content I want to publish there in future, so stay tuned!

 

How to Use Flickr to Grow Your Brand – Part 1

(First published on Memeburn)

Besides the usual social media suspects like Facebook and Twitter, there are many other tools worth considering when it comes to promoting your business online. One of these is Flickr, the Yahoo!-owned photography sharing site. When used correctly, Flickr is an extremely effective way of engaging with your target market — provided they use the site, and provided your business lends itself to having photographs uploaded and shared with the Flickr community.

In my next three posts, I’ll talk about 1) how to set up your Flickr account, 2) how to use it to increase your brand’s exposure through participation in the Flickr community and 3) how to promote your account outside of the site.

Before starting with Flickr, it’s a good idea to know a bit more about the tool and how it’s best used, so that you can see whether it’s a natural fit for your business or not. Thinking about this properly beforehand means that any time investment you make with it will be worth your while in the long run.

Read more…

Realising the power of Twitter

Replyz is a new add-on service to Twitter that allows you to quickly ask and get answers from Twitter users, and answer questions others are asking. Replyz does this by pulling out the tweets it thinks are questions into its interface that you then sign into using your Twitter login details.

For businesses, Replyz offers a convenient way to keep track of your reputation online and establish yourself as an expert in a particular industry. For example, you can do searches on your brand name or on words relating to your industry and quickly answer questions that you have the knowledge and expertise to answer. You can also get widespread feedback on a product, service or idea from people beyond your immediate sphere of influence, since you’re asking and answering questions to people beyond your followers and those on your lists. Finally, you can quickly pinpoint customer complaints, answer queries from your existing customers, and find opportunities for new service offerings based on what people are asking for.

Overall, I think Replyz represents a significant milestone in Twitter’s perceived value. More and more, people (and businesses) are seeing the microblogging giant less as a way to broadcast narcissistic bleats about your personal life or brand, and more as a way to extract real value from a critical mass of people in real time.

AT&T vs Georgio and the power of social media

An interesting case study in both the power of social media and how companies are taking it seriously comes from disgruntled AT&T customer Georgio Galante. Galante was upset with his data plan on AT&T, and wrote two emails of complaint to AT&T’s CEO. Shortly afterwards, he got a call from an AT&T Executive Response rep telling him that if he personally emailed the CEO again, they’d issue him with a cease and desist letter. In the old days, Georgio would probably walk away with his tail in between his legs. Nowadays, thanks to social media, the power between business and customer is levelling. Through Twitter and his blog, Georgio’s story went viral (it was featured on Engadget among a host of other tech and general news sites), with the end result being that AT&T apologized personally to Galante for what had happened.

Three observations here:

  1. US businesses like AT&T are quickly realising the potential damage a customer can do if they are a) disgruntled and b) are blogging and/or on Twitter.
  2. AT&T’s response time was extremely fast and that’s why damage was relatively contained – it took only a single day from when Georgio’s story went viral to when AT&T apologised to him.
  3. A cease and desist letter for emailing the CEO? Overreaction, much? Can just imagine the bollocking that the AT&T rep who made the call must have got.

Keyword research tools for social media sites

I was asked recently if there are any keyword research tools besides Google’s free keyword tool for specific social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Especially if you’re marketing your brand on these sites, it’s useful to research what keyword searches are specific to each site.

YouTube

Since YouTube is a Google-owned property, Google has reworked their keyword tool to be specific for YouTube searches. If you’re optimising your video for popular searches on the site, use the YouTube keyword suggestion tool.

Facebook

If you want to access Facebook demographic and keyword statistics, the bad news is you’ll have to have a Facebook Page up and running to access Facebook Insights, the site’s internal analytics tool. If you don’t have a Facebook Page yet, you can still use Facebook’s newly-revamped internal search tool with drop-down suggestions to find out what your target market is searching for.

Twitter

Although Twitter doesn’t have an internal keyword research tool like Google or YouTube, you can still see what’s trending on the site as a whole via the “Trending Topics” links beneath the search bar on Twitter’s internal search page. You can also click the “Advanced Search” link alongside the search box to find tweets related to a specific keyword. In terms of external sites, Hashtags.org is a good way of finding popular hashtags, or current themes for tweets.

Overall, it’s worth noting that search trends on Twitter are likely to be more current than searches on Google, which are likely to be more evergreen. Also, if something’s searched for on Google, it’s likely to also be popular on a site like Facebook and Twitter.

Google’s May Day Update

After much debate about it by SEOs on forums like Webmasterworld, Google’s Matt Cutts has finally gone on record about what is being dubbed their “MayDay” search algorithm update. In a nutshell, this update affects results for long tail queries – in other words, those search phrases that have  four, five or more words in them. For these queries, Google is ranking “higher quality” sites (or pages) for those queries – in other words, pages that have unique content on them and great inbound links. The results are that many websites that were receiving long tail traffic to pages that weren’t particularly high quality are now suffering.

So what’s a webmaster to do?

Search Engine Land’s Vanessa Fox suggests that you look at the pages ranking highly for long tail phrases now and see if you can emulate what they’re doing. She also makes a really valid point that with Google making around 550 changes to its algorithm in 2009, its a bad use of your time to be reactive to every change. I agree. The best long term strategy is to make sure you’re providing what Google is looking for overall for its users – i.e. relevant, useful, on-topic pages that contain great content.