What #Hashtag Overload is Driving

Originally developed by Twitter as a tool to filter conversations, hashtags have taken on a whole new meaning, well beyond their early days on Twitter.

Hashtags are now a discovery tool, and if there’s one thing companies strive for, it’s to be discovered by more potential clients. And appearing in searches is so vital for companies, which is why search engine optimization, or SEO, is such a booming business.

According to Michelle Stinson-Ross at Search Enginge Watch, “Hashtags present branding and topical authority opportunities. When used judiciously, well-placed hashtags in blog titles, Google+ posts, Facebook and Twitter updates, and in image descriptions across Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine can add a layer of cohesiveness to a brand’s online campaigns.” Stinson-Ross adds hashtags, particularly those used in Google+, are now providing value added results in Google search.

Now that the old-school pound sign is no longer limited to Twitter, as hashtags have more recently become the norm on Facebook, Google Plus, and even television shows. Organizing content and tracking conversation topics based on #inserthashtaghere. To this degree, hashtags represent a new form of SEO.

Moreover, hashtags can expand your content reach, amplify your brand, target your market, and get your content found via an improved SEO.

According to Eric Covino, an SEO expert and founder of SEO optimization company Creative Signals, There are a lot of indirect ways to help your SEO and getting involved in conversations with potential customers, in an engaging way, is the first step in giving them a great user experience.”

Clearly hashtags influence user experience and have become relevant beyond the Twittersphere with more than 70% of consumers use them today on mobile devices according to a 2013 report from RadiumOne published on Mobile Marketer.   Several other hashtag statistics include:

  • 43 percent of respondents think hashtags are useful
  • 34 percent use them to search or follow categories and brands of interest
  • 14.8 percent use them to re-direct users to external Web content
  • And when users see hashtags, 41.8 percent click on them to explore new content

I am rather neutral when it comes to hashtags, I don’t use them, but I do click on them and I see their marketing value in emerging media as increasingly important.

How do you feel about hashtags?

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Millennial Teachings

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An article last week in PR Week, by Frank Washkuch, Time for Millennials to take a mentorship role with veterans, outlines a growing reality that is easily transferable from veteran journalists to veteran marketers: Milennials may be perceived negatively by some in the workplace, but older generations need to step aside and let them step in to do some of the digital teaching.

Washkuch more clearly states, “The easy reason why is that, unlike those of us in our 30s or older, they are digital natives, comfortable sharing online using their real names on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter or anonymously on apps such as Whisper.”

These user-friendly social media sites give consumers easy-to-understand ways of being part of the brand, and this ease of interaction can result in increased engagement and an enhanced user experience. The challenge then for marketers, is how to best use technology to grow and sustain an audience online?

Content creation.

 

Washkuch insists older generations have ”a thing or two to learn,” about content creation, adding that journalist have always pieced together content, but it’s also clearly where marketing communications agencies see themselves making a lot of money in the years to come. “With that in mind, younger staffers should be doing more than pitching us their story ideas or plans to help a brand on the communications side. It’s time for them to take a mentorship role, telling us about the interesting things they discover online.”

Washkuch makes a valid appeal, according to Shea Bennett at Media Bistro:

  • 56 percent of Millennials won’t accept jobs from firms that prohibit the use of social media in the office
  • 46 percent count on social media when buying online
  • 55 percent will go on to share bad experiences and
  • 51 percent say that social opinions influence their purchase decisions, and that they trust “strangers” more than friends.
  • More than eight in 10 Millennials state that user-generated content on company websites somewhat influences what they buy

 

Millennials are clearly at the pulse of many effective social media strategies, and will continue to fulfill an arterial role within the social media spectrum. As social media continues to grow and the exponential growth in mobile persists the horizons for future content from both Milennials and Generation Z becomes an exciting prospect.

Without Influencers what is a Brand?

In today’s saturated ad world what are you more likely to trust and engage with a social media ad on Facebook or Twitter or a blog written by someone influential about the product or service?  Companies have been placing their bets on social media, as the graphic below breaks down social spending with the greater digital spending category.

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Daniel Newman, 2014: The Age of the Brand Influencer, classifies bloggers as thought leaders, “represented by those who write and publish content to the web, most often on their own sites or on a multitude of their own sites.” Yet brands are enamored with vehicles like Facebook and Twitter to galvanize followers and drive engagement, but bloggers are using social media to drive traffic to their blogs, which means those that can influence their brands aren’t well represented where the brands are looking for them making it harder to find influencers that can support their marketing initiatives.

Technorati Media’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, suggests the most desired influencers aren’t being reached, and points out a huge disconnect: only 11% of corporate social media budgets are devoted to advertising on blogs and influencer sites – but 86% of the influencers these corporate brands are trying to reach are using blogs as their primary publishing platform.

Brian Proffitt, of ReadWrite asks what influences the bloggers? According to Proffitt the biggest source of influence for 18% of the bloggers surveyed is other bloggers, 11% found colleagues to be very influential and Twitter alone was very influential for another 10% of the bloggers.

The evidence that brands are not focusing enough on influencer outreach cannot be overstated, and as brands seek support for new campaigns it would be wise for those brands to conduct some environmental scanning of target influencers and their associated blogs for future brand support.

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What do you think, is the importance of influencer outreach overstated? Should we see less social-media ads and more thought leading, third-party content supporting new brand campaigns in the future?

Mobile screens getting figuratively bigger

TV and digital video viewing habits are changing with social media in the multi-platform era according to an article Greg Sterling published in Marketing Land. Three separate reports indicate viewing habits are shifting because of on-demand viewing and the availability of programming across multiple screens.

The Ooyala Global Video Index, based on behaviors across its network of video publishers, the report accounted video consumption on connected TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones, indicating smartphones and tablet devices are grabbing a larger portion of video view time.

The report makes it clear that people are watching more video on mobile devices and that their video consumption on those devices is increasingly more than 30 minutes per session. Mobile and tablets combined for over 26% of video viewing time in December 2013, and 53% of mobile viewing time involved video content longer than 30 minutes

The Council for Research Excellence released a study about socially connected TV viewing. The study found that 16 percent ofprimetime TV viewing involved some sort of real-time engagement with social media, and nearly half of the time the viewer is engaging with social media specifically about the show being viewed.

There’s a mountain of money at stake as online and offline video consumption shifts to smartphones and tablets according to Tony Danova, who writes in a recent article published on Business Insider that the mobile video revolution is thriving on smartphones and tablet devices.

According to Danova:

  • 40% of YouTube’s traffic now comes from mobile
  • 23% of all Netflix subscribers say they have watched on smartphones, and 15% have done so on iPads.
  • Amazon has about 16.7 million Prime subscribers that get unlimited video streaming on Kindle devices and via Amazon’s mobile apps

 

Is this a sign for me to abandon hopes of getting a 60” flat-screen TV, or perhaps I should opt-in for a 6” Galaxy or something similarly easier on the eyes?

Brands should pay attention to this … Eat24 and Facebook break-up

An article published yesterday in Adweek summarizes an online exchange between Eat24, the food site with over 70,000 likes on its Facebook page, and Facebook’s director of global communications and monetization, Brandon McCormick.

Eat24 published, A Breakup Letter to Facebook from Eat24, on its blog Thursday to bring attention to, in a more provocative manner, its brand’s limited content reach these days in the face of a new complex and competing algorithm, which provides Facebook users with content, especially ‘promoted post’ content.

McCormick’s direct response on the blog website garnered some attention, and as Adweek’s David Griner describes the response more as a “middle finger” to Eat24, it’s clear the social- media giant doesn’t seem genuinely concerned about Eat24’s departure – in light of McCormick’s well worded response.

This is a deeper indicator of growing discontent among some brands with how Facebook has changed since its beginnings and going public, and seemingly now limits brands’ organically generated content (Emerging Media Goes Public – GoPro IPO)

Brand managers should take warning however, as an article by Jason Abbruzzese, Marketers Learn to Play by Facebook’s Changing Rules, describes the extent to which a brand’s traffic volume to organic content is directly correlated to the purchase of Facebook Ads.

Abbruzzese notes Jay Hawkinson, partner at Sim Partners, who anticipated a drop in traffic following the end of an ad campaign; however this was not the case. “A small drop in organic traffic was expected with the loss of the ad promotions, but we experienced drops between 69% and 83%, numbers which are astounding,” Hawkinson said.

The takeaway from this love lost between Eat24 and Facebook serves to illustrate the careful consideration brands need to consider when seeking paid or unpaid promotion on Facebook – and also some B2B issues, however mildly entertaining, are better left to less public mediums than this latest digital showdown.

Are there any clear winners or losers in this particular instance?

Emerging media goes public – GoPro IPO

As fast as an emerging media source can pop up and rapidly become adopted by the masses, redefining how we post, tweet, or pin something, the same source can rapidly find its way into the inner workings of the U.S. financial system.

Facebook went public with a bang; err kind of, as it double-skipped out of the gates and into a glitch or two in May 2012. Many wondered if it would survive as prices popped and dropped to questions and fears, which were answered after showing ad revenue was sustainable.

Twitter went public in November 2013, without a hitch and has performed solidly since, no doubt taking a cue here and there from Facebook’s less than smooth debut – yet some analysts still have doubts, like Forbes contributor, Chuck Jones, so maybe it turns a corner in 2015. As Jones mentions, youth and immaturity, in business speak, can potentially have an adverse effect on a public company trying to accommodate shareholders while simultaneously getting beaten up by analysts for their weakened bottom line.

 

I have to wonder what effect these pressures have on the emerging aspect?

Have either Facebook or Twitter lost their fanfare since going public? Are either any less important to social media now that any one of its users can purchase and own shares of either company?

Are both no longer considered emerging since taking steps to become much more visible aspects of the American economy?

 

The answer to all three questions is no. By becoming publicly traded entities they become more susceptible to this debate, and alas we really won’t know until the long-term has come and gone, but one thing appears true – Facebook and Twitter continue to work hard to remain relevant now.

Hopefully in the month ahead with the upcoming IPO (initial public offering) of GoPro, we again will see an emerging-media darling take center stage and ride off into the sunset of Wall Street. Different than social media platforms, GoPro is the camera company for the ‘crazy’ in all of us and is expected to bring in healthy numbers for its initial offering.

What remains however is whether the company can branch out beyond what Associated Press Reporter, Bree Fowler describes as the core consumers of GoPro cameras, extreme-sport athletes and those that think they are (people like me).

Perhaps this is trivial to some, but with a YouTube channel with 1.7 million subscribers, GoPro remains an interest to many.

Whitney Fishman, senior director of innovation and consumer technology at media agency MEC notes, there is potential, however, to attract more consumers given the current consumer craze surrounding wearable technologies – so Google Glass beware.

One thing is for certain – like social media has provided an outlet and voice to each individual, GoPro is enabling a cinematic audience for every individual, and more importantly from their point-of-view.

 

 

 

 

Can Movements via Social Media Succeed in the Long-Term?

0320OPEDmurray-master495-v2As I indexed through my Facebook news feed this morning, which as I mentioned in my initial post, News through social media, is left entirely to our individual control and preference in contrast to hard news sources.  I discovered an interesting article via a friend’s share that I most likely wouldn’t have discovered from traditional sources.  The article, After the Protests, details a historic look at social media’s role in sociopolitical activism globally over the past five years.

Zynep Tufecki, author of the opinion piece in the New York Times, highlights the galvanizing short-term potential social media has been widely successful in implementing during recent movements across the globe.

Tufecki points out the most recent use in Turkey where Twitter’s announcement of the death of 15-year old Berkin Elvanhe, who died recently after complications from a coma caused by a tear-gas canister during last summer’s Gezi park protest in Istanbul.  The family’s tweet yielded an outcry of 100,000 for the Elvanhe’s funeral, which subsequently turned into a mass protest.

This isn’t the first occurrence in which social media has fueled mass protest, and it certainly won’t be the last.  Throughout the Mideast social media gave rise to the historic movements of the Arab Spring, however similar movements in the region, specifically in Iran in 2011, have briefly galvanized movements only to be suppressed by regimes that seek censure of social media and opposition web platforms – perhaps something Russia is doing now regarding developments in Ukraine.

Domestically, where there isn’t a regime in place given our democratic system, to block or shutdown digital opposition we should consider what the Occupy Wall Street was able to sustain in 2011, however to Tufecki’s point each of these movements have failed to sustain its initial presence and accomplish the change they each respectively seek.

In order to better understand the then and now, Tufecki points out the difficulties and hardships faced in sustaining the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, which after 13-months resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling segregation of public transportation as unconstitutional.  No digital media, rather dozens of carpools, hundreds of volunteers, thousands of leaflets, and a sustained movement, which in historical context accomplished a great deal.

So why is social media only a short-term tool used successfully to rapidly build awareness and galvanize a movement?  Tufecki points out the same-sex marriage movement in the U.S. implementing a better mix of both online and offline channels, where less sustaining movements relied solely on social media.

Daniel Nations, highlights another example domestically, where President Obama’s success in both, election and reelection saw social media become what radio was for Franklin Roosevelt and what television was for Kennedy – however each emerging media platform was not relied on entirely, traditional channels remained to augment emerging platforms with apparent success.

The growing power of social media in the face of sociopolitical movements should not be discounted, however the lack of success in the long-term among movements that saw a rise to recognition via social media should take note of the sustained success among movements that have balanced their communications mix with both emerging media and traditional channels.

News through the social media filter

In 2009, I witnessed Twitter take the place of a traditional print news release as the Coast Guard live tweeted a search and rescue case to Seattle-area broadcast media.  What was normally a 90-minute process was accomplished in approximately 20 minutes, perhaps it was a slow news day but the noon event allowed local networks to report on the evolving situation in near real-time, updating their audiences by broadcast’s end.

Today, all five military branches in addition to the majority of government agencies have a social media policy.  More recently the U.S. Navy as the Navy Yard shooting was unfolding was able to use Twitter to update national media on known facts.  Over the past five years social media platforms have emerged as more trusted and useful platforms for reporting and news gathering than previously thought.   

According to the Pew Research Journalism Project, 18-to-29-year-olds account for more than a third of Facebook news consumers, and they get news on Facebook across topics at roughly the same levels as older age groups, turn there as often for breaking news, and deem the site as important a source of news.

In 2012 some of the same researchers at the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism identified the differences between Facebook and Twitter news functions.  Facebook news users get more news from friends and family and see it as news they might well have gotten someplace else if Facebook did not exist.  For Twitter users, though, the news links come from a more even mix of family and friends and news organizations.

The support for these two, social media leading sites offering an additional dimension to news delivery is growing, however as Derek Thompson of The Atlantic notes, the key difference between the old forms of news and entertainment and the new is that the respective feeds are entirely our creation and left to our individual control and preference. 

Even with the subtle and known differences between Facebook and Twitter, both are becoming increasingly more viable to younger news seekers than they are to their older cohorts.  While research on this subject is still in its infancy, it is clear moving forward that social media is taking more of a central role in the reporting of headlines around the globe.

Where do social media platforms come in to play for your daily or weekly dose of news headlines?  Do you foresee social media platforms having a net positive/negative influence on news reporting in the long term?