By the Numbers: Facebook in Australia

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Screenshot 2015-04-17 09.09.23No doubt you’ve seen them huddling around the bottoms of buildings, near the entrances and exits. On the benches and in the cafes. Their eyes are downcast, their heads bent, shoulders hunched. A decade ago you’d be right to think that these people were spending their morning or afternoon break smoking. These days, the crowds are revolutionaries. But they are not “card carrying” – their weapon of choice is the smartphone – and every status update, share and connection is laying waste to the traditional models of business, networking, socialising and culture. In fact, these changes are impacting almost every aspect of the way we live – in what we call the 5 Cs of Digital Disruption.

The digital revolution is a different style of transformation. It is not a revolution of technology but one of behaviour. Certainly, the technology has had an impact on our lives – and will continue to do so – but the profound changes are in the the WAY that we think, act and behave. And increasingly this includes a technology component.

In Australia – the facts and figures tell the story of pervasive behaviour change. The Australian Social Media Cheat Sheet shows – as at February 2015 – just how much time (and attention) is being spent online. But it’s not just “online” – there are so many ways in which we can consume “online” content and engagement these days – from smartphones and tablets to PCs, smart TVs and Internet of Things devices.

Diving deeper into the statistics, Facebook Australia advise that there is more to the numbers (and that the numbers are larger):

  • 1 out of every 3 minutes on mobile is spent with Facebook properties – messenger, Facebook and Instagram
  • More than 13 million Australians use Facebook every MONTH
  • More than 10 million Australians use Facebook every DAY
  • On average, more than 9 million Australians access Facebook via mobile
  • 32% growth in the last 12 months

Facebook shared some slides you might find useful for your next presentation:

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Australian Social Media Cheat Sheet

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Detailed statistics and information on social media in Australia continues to be a challenge. While there are pockets of data here and there – we rarely see a side-by-side comparison of user data and benchmarking information. So it is great to see this cheat sheet available. Shared by the folks from Reinventure (over on LinkedIn), it compiles (mostly) Australian data from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter – with Pinterest data pulled from global data.

The infographic provides some great high level stats, pros and cons for each of the platforms and some useful comparison benchmark data. The data appears to be current as at February 2015 and includes sources like Social Media News, YouTube press statistics and DirectTarget.

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Disrupting the Disruptors – Follow Me on Meerkat

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I feel it. I’m sure you feel it too. Launch fatigue. It is what happens when you can’t bring yourself to click a link or open yet another email announcement about the app or website that is going to change your life. After all, our lives are pretty much the same as they were last year, right? AND the year before. And the year before that.

Actually, I can’t recall being truly, authentically excited about a new technology for sometime.

Until Meerkat arrived.

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I frequently attend events of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes as a guest. Sometimes as a speaker. But always as a curious participant. If there is something interesting taking place, I will live tweet the speeches. I will take photos from the stage. It’s as much for my own benefit as it is for those who follow. I find this kind of live coverage a great way to capture value – to tell the story, to bring people closer. To explore. But with Twitter and even with Instagram pictures only take you so far. And for most events 15 seconds is just not long enough.

Enter the Meerkat

While Twitter recently announced its purchase of Periscope for live streaming – Meerkat has been able to build a substantial user base in a matter of weeks. And while new apps come and go, it feels like this cat may have some interesting and stripy surprises.

In my view, most social networks handle new product launches appallingly. It seems that once they achieve some level of scale, they lose their way, hire in “enterprise” types and follow the beaten path towards monetisation through advertising. Facebook are getting better at this. But Twitter is clearly lagging. Not only have they invested in an app with little or no public traction, their track record with new releases does not inspire confidence. And this leaves the door open for disruption.

Meerkat takes what has been happening in a much more clunky way and removes the friction. They’ve taken a leaf out of Apple’s playbook – observe an innovation and make it better. Pioneers of portable web streaming like JustinTV led the way, struggling with battery packs, bulky technology and low network connectivity. But for the individual it was all too much. Trouble. Bother.

And that’s where Meerkat’s elegance wins out. With your smartphone and a good 4G signal (or 3G while standing on one leg), you can now livestream anything. Everyday events. Activities just t. Special occasions.

With Meerkat, social media is not about telling people what you are having for breakfast. It’s not even about how good your breakfast looks in photos. Now people can watch you eat. Live. With sound.

We’re all breakfast TV hosts now

Effectively, our conversations can actually be turned into conversations. We become both interviewer and subject.

But already this new medium is challenging the old form. Twitter excels for those who find social settings too in-your-face. On Twitter you can know all the answers, but Meerkat’s critical eye demands high energy. Conversation. Viewpoints. Meerkat is the medium of the incessantly curious the verbally dextrous.

Is it all too much?

It’s very early days – but Meerkat is setting a new direction that we didn’t know we needed. But one thing is for certain. Those who win on networks like Meerkat will be very different from those who win on text based channels like Twitter. And when the disruptors are disrupted, things get interesting.

Even Your Boring Brand Can Be Sexy on Social Media

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I often wonder if there is such a thing as a “boring brand”. Sure we have exciting, innovative and even “cool” brands – these are easy to spot. Big budgets. Celebrities. Airplanes. But not all of us work for or with these kinds of brands.

And that is the real opportunity. But to understand that opportunity, there are three steps you must take:

1. Think beyond your product

It may be your job to evangelise your product, but the challenge for social media is to step outside of your comfort zone. Rather than thinking of the product you are selling, think of the problem you are solving for your customers.

One of the  best examples that springs to mind for me is an old NRMA ad where the product being sold is roadside assistance. A middle aged couple are dressed up, driving to an evening at the opera. Along the way the car stops in the rain. He has forgotten to renew their roadside assistance insurance. While attempting to fix the problem, somehow the hapless gentleman removes the distributor cap and attempts to hide it in his tuxedo while his wife hits him with her handbag.

What is the ad selling? Not roadside assistance. Not even insurance. It’s selling peace of mind for all the non-mechanics out there.

2. Build customer relationships

Given that customers these days buy in their own time (not just when suits brands and marketing campaigns), we need to find ways to build customer relationships ahead of the buying curve. Learn to speak the language of your customers. Participate in their activities. Show that you “are one of them”.

This is something that startup Canva do exceptionally well. They manage to balance on the one hand, a community of designers; and on the other a growing community of business people who need graphic design for personal or professional reasons. It is clear through their Canva blog and their Design School that “sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN”. And the more you work to bring both together, the more value is created in and around the Canva platform.

3. Advocate for your customers

As shown in this interesting infographic (below), Tampax’s Awesomely Active Girl Challenge was a great way to engage women, encouraging them to remain active during their period.  But it’s not just a matter of encouraging activity – it’s about being “awesomely active”.

As brand ambassador, surfer, Bethany Hamilton explained during the 2013 campaign, “I am happy to be partnering with Tampax Pearl Active because they offer high performance protection for high performance girls just like me who would never think of letting their periods keep them from hanging ten or biking hard. This contest is all about cheering on each other and celebrating those active moments when all eyes are on them”.

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Man sleepingCreative Commons License Timothy Krause via Compfight

The Sum of All Your Social Media

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What happens when two of your social media friends get together? Well, this week Sum All, the social media dashboard and Buffer, the social media management tool, hooked up to share some salacious social data. By working together they were able to compare the the effectiveness of posting frequency. And they came up with some pretty interesting insights.

For those who are active on social media, the recommendations may come as a surprise. After all, it’s easy to schedule or post  multiple updates to run WITHIN AN HOUR – not just across the course of a DAY. But it seems for the most part, that INFREQUENT posting may be the most effective route. For example:

  • Twitter: probably the noisiest of the lot, Twitter can explode on a particular topic. Just look at “today’s” fascination first with llamas and then later, with #TheDress. Research suggests that the level of engagement begins to decrease after only the THIRD tweet each day – and that means #TheDress flooded most people’s quotas
  • Facebook: there’s an ongoing debate over the Facebook newsfeed algorithms and the level of organic reach, but the research also indicates that two posts is the max point for “Likes” and comments
  • Blogging: perhaps the most interesting of the stats – is that doubling your blogging efforts from around once a week to twice a week doubles the number of inbound leads. And here we were thinking that blogging had died a quiet death

The big question is …

As with all research, there will always be outliers – and exceptions to the rule. But for those who actively manage brands on social media, how do you find this correlates with your experience? Have you tested for post frequency? What about time of day? Or “best day” for posting? My thinking and experience suggests:

  • B2C brands may need to post more frequently – especially where there is a customer experience / service angle
  • Brands that are in the early stages of growth will always take effort to establish a follower base. Activity can ease off as community activity begins to increase
  • Standard time of day posts still tend to work when your audience is receptive – during work breaks and in the evenings (note this can be challenging where your audience is comprised of shift workers)
  • Some channels work better on weekends. And yes, that can mean email too. Be sure to test all opportunities to engage.

 

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Data is Eating Marketing: Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015

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Data. It’s out there. And there is plenty of it. We create data with every status update, photo shared or website viewed. Each search we make is being monitored, sorted, indexed and analysed. Every purchase we make is being correlated, cross-matched and fed into supply chain systems. And every phone call we make is being logged, kept, passed on for “security purposes”.

There are so many kinds of data that it is hard to keep up with it all. There is the data that we know about – the digital items we intentionally create. There are digital items that are published – like books, websites and so on. There is email which creates its own little fiefdom of data.

There is also the data about data – metadata – which describes the data that we create. Take, for example, a simple Tweet. It is restricted to 140 characters. That is the “data” part. But the metadata attached to EACH and EVERY tweet includes information like:

  • Your location at the time of tweeting (ie latitude and longitude)
  • The device you used to send the tweet (eg phone, PC etc)
  • The time of your tweet
  • The unique ID of the tweet.

But wait, there’s more. From the Twitter API, you can also find out a whole lot more, including:

  • Link details contained within the tweet
  • Hashtags used
  • Mini-profiles of anyone that you mention in your tweet
  • Direct link information to any photos shared in your tweet

There will also be information related to:

  • You
  • Your bio / profile
  • Your avatar, banner and Twitter home page
  • Your location
  • Your last tweet.

There is more. But the point really is not about Twitter. It is the fact that a seemingly innocuous act is generating far more data than you might assume. The same metadata rules apply to other social networks. It could be Facebook. Or LinkedIn. It applies to every website you visit, each transaction you make. Every cake you bake. Every night you stay (you see where I am going, right?)

For marketers, this data abundance is brilliant, but also a distraction. We could, quite possibly, spend all our time looking at data and not talking to customers. Would this be a bad thing? I’d like to think so.

The question we must ask ourselves is “who is eating whom?”.

In the meantime, for those who must have the latest stats – We Are Social, Singapore’s massive compendium is just what you need. Binge away.

With Social Media We Are All Swinging Voters Now

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State and Federal elections are a galvanising moment in our society for many reasons. It’s the chance for the masses to “have their say” about the policies, processes, interests and focuses of the political rulers, an opportunity to change what is – for what will be, and it sets in train a framework that governments and bureaucrats will use to make decisions in the years ahead.

For political parties contesting the election – there were tried and true methods to become elected. Before the 1980s, the approach was to set out an agenda – a vision – and to sell that in to the public through a rigorous series of public meetings, television appearances, letterbox drops and, of course, media. In the 1980s this changed. Rather than setting out your public agenda, a “small target” approach was adopted, with political leaders avoiding policy detail at all costs. Policy direction and costings would be announced at the “appropriate time” – meaning close to the election so that the opposition would have limited chance to respond or to argue with the details.

Throughout this time, the public heavily relied on two groups – the media’s political analysts and the parties themselves. For it wasn’t just the opposing parties who struggled to understand the broad range of policies, economics, social impact, and business and tax implications contained in party policies. The public were largely left out of the debate – included only when forced to by media campaign or protest. Most of the policy setting was accomplished well ahead of the election cycle through lobbyists, fundraising dinners, speeches and industry consultation. For while the public voted for the political parties, without joining a party, there were few avenues through which we could exercise our democratic rights with any force.

With a relatively controlled environment to operate within, political parties became experts at managing marginal seats. Those seats that were in jeopardy come election time drew the focus and attention of all parties – vying for the voters who had not yet firmed their voting decision. As a result, marginal seats received not just attention from politicians but also resources, investment, policies designed to appeal to voter interests and so on. But the 2015 Queensland Election has shown us that much has changed.

Social Media is the new Political Hustings

Just as social media has “democratised” the media, it is also democratising democracy. Finding a new voice, new influencers, analysts and commentators, social media is giving a new sense of mobility to voters. As the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 indicates, business and government are facing a challenge:

For the first time since the end of the Great Recession, trust in business faltered in the last year, signaling the finale of an era of recovery for business.

Trust levels in business decreased in 16 of 27 countries. The majority of countries now sit below 50 percent with regard to trust in business.

In fact, the credibility of spokespeople – a government official like, say, a  Premier or Prime Minister, sits at the lowest end of the spectrum at 38%, while “a person like yourself” commands 63%. Academic or industry experts rank higher still at 70%.

How does this play out in reality? A quick review of social media using the Hashtracking service shows massive spikes in conversation and engagement coming from non-mainstream media around the #Qldvotes hashtag.

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Professional and “citizen journalists” from Margo Kingston and Tony Yegles’ No Fibs website led the charge – connecting Twitter and longer form commentary sourced from the community. But there were plenty of individuals joining the debate. Kiera Gorden garnered almost 100 retweets and 45 favourites for one tweet alone. With her over 4600 followers (each of whom can be assumed to have 100+ followers), the network impact can be imagined. Turned into votes, this could be enough to change the fortunes of a sitting member or even a government.

Self proclaimed “swinging voter”, Sir StanDeSteam (obviously not his real name), was exceptionally active through the weekend’s election, tweeting and retweeting conversations, discussions and articles.

The shift in trust here shows the challenge that lays in front of all political parties – not just those in power:

  • We prefer and prioritise people like ourselves
  • A vast majority distrusts elected officials

And understanding that our news consumption, engagement and discussion around politics has shifted out of the hands of the broadcast media and into the hands of the population, means that electorates can – and seem determined to be – more volatile. We are, in effect, exercising our social judgement effectively, rapidly and in a volatile manner.

The Abbott Government’s massive investment of over $4 million in social media research indicates that they are taking this change seriously. But we are yet to see anything like a shift in policy. Either they are listening to the wrong conversations, unclear of their own digital objectives or simply inept at taking insight and translating it to action.

Revising the 4As of Trust in Social Networks

Just as businesses and organisations have been struggling to come to grips with the realities of the digital revolution, so too, political parties and governments must accelerate their use of, understanding and strategic opportunity available through social networks. The first step is building trust – the very thing that most politicians squander too early and easily. Only by taking a strategic – not a knee jerk – approach to digital (and not just social) media can politicians begin rebuilding their social and political capital.

There are elections ahead. They’d best get started now.

Top Social Media Trends for 2015

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In the world of social media and content marketing, we talk about the “Three Bs” of content. You can either:

  • Buy – pay for the creation of content
  • Build – make content yourself
  • Borrow – share the great work of other

And around this time of year, we start seeing blog posts, articles and presentations on the trends for the year ahead. And while I have my own ideas about what is coming and whether (any of it) is important, my former SAP colleague, Natascha Thomson has put together a quick-to-read presentation on the 2015 trends which I thought I’d borrow. Since leaving SAP, Natascha has been running her MarketingXLerator consultancy from San Francisco’s Bay Area. You can contact her via her website.

Facebook Charts the Course to 2025

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Strong third quarter earnings were posted by Facebook this week, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg set the stage for a year of investment ahead, with a ten year horizon. Facebook’s expenses are expected to grow between 50% and 70% next year, and the company looks set to not only aggressively scale its various app based technologies, but also recruit the best and brightest talent.

With almost 8400 employees, Facebook has grown 44% since last year. As CFO Dave Wehner explained:

… we’re investing where we think there is a great opportunity for long-term growth and that’s going to be really investing and continuing to grow the talent base of the Company. So, we’re investing in the people and that’s a big part of it.

On the user side, Facebook reports that over 1.35 billion people use the social network each month with 64% logging in daily.  On mobile – yes mobile – 703 million people login daily – signalling a massive 40% growth since last year.

Not content to simply keep pace, Facebook are pushing ahead with a substantial technology investment planned. The plan with 3, 5 and 10 year horizons is for Facebook to develop and grow multiple products to scale ahead of monetisation. On that agenda are WhatsApp, Messenger, Search, Video, NewsFeed, Oculus and Instagram.

Interestingly enough, for the majority of its social network users, Facebook is a single, broad product, with an abundance of features spooling kraken-like into our digital experiences. The push to hive off products across the social network platform (like the recently calved Messenger), however, signal a more strategic understanding of both the business opportunity and the audience behaviours.

With a core platform providing a consistency of experience, Facebook is well placed to aggressively invest in a next generation computing platform – based on augmented reality and Oculus. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome, even with a 10 year horizon. And that heavy investment will need to be focused around transforming the ungainly augmented reality hardware that limits the broad appeal of Oculus in order to avoid a fate similar to Google’s ill-conceived Glass.

Leaving that aside, Zuckerberg’s understanding of audience and scale and the commercial approach to technology and monetisation underpins both the investments and the product strategy. Turning his attention to Search and News Feed, he explained:

Some of the things like Search and some of these other products, this may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about a 1 billion people using them. And so for Facebook, we’re there with News Feed and that’s why in the near term our priority is really around continuing to grow and serve that community and making sure that the business around News Feed and those mobile ads fully reach their potential. [my emphasis.]

Throwing these large numbers around seems trite until we break it down. Thinking through platforms at scale – with 1000 million people as a user base for several products at a time – means operating at a scale that few of us can imagine. In Zuckerberg’s own words:

But I do think that this is such a big opportunity ahead of us. I can’t think of that many other companies or products that have multiple lines of products that are on track to reach and connect 1 billion that have a clear path of how we can turn them into a business.

The path to 2025 has been laid out – and it looks like quite a journey ahead. But looking back to 2005 I could hardly imagine the 2015 we have in front of us. I’m guessing Facebook’s investors are consulting their psychics and calling on their resident futurists. And well they might, there’s certainly a lot at stake.

You can read the full transcript of the earnings call on SeekingAlpha.com.

The SMEG Police Brought to You by Adobe

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You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.

In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.

But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.