Our Shared Rainbow Moment

Only a few days in my life can compare to the feelings of pure joy and solidarity that I felt on June 26, 2015. It’s one of those markers that I believe is going to go down in history as collective memory- a “what were you doing when you heard” moment in time that we share with each other in years to come. Events such as those make us want to come together as humans- introverts and extraverts alike- to be with each other. Sharing those moments with others is a major part of the experience and we see spontaneous congregation in city centers to be with each other. Everyone wants to be a part of it.

On June 26th we saw the way that Facebook and Twitter in particular have become virtual city centers. Within minutes of the announcement profile photos across the social space were redone in various shades of rainbow. Tons of Brands joined in with, in my opinion, no real visible marketing strategy, rather they seemed to be motivated feeling that they should be a part of this momentous occasion. (A H2H moment!) And while Facebook didn’t change their logo they launched the “Celebrate Pride Tool” to create a rainbow filter of your profile picture. By the end of the day my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of rainbows. A visual testament to our unity at a momentous time in history.

What does this mean? Probably not much in the long run. A bitter election campaign is right around the corner. Our profiles and feeds will be full of various opinions and divisions. Statistically unfollowing and de friending WILL occur. But let’s remember this moment. The field of rainbows- each an individual decision to create. Each representing a moment when we made a very human decision- to stand up and be counted and unite our voices together in celebration of equality.

Yes I’m waxing eloquent and no I don’t care. Blame it on the rainbow.

facebookphotorainbow

Twitter Turns to the Humans

Big news in Twitter land. At long last Twitter has decided to take control of our chaotic streams. Within the next few months Twitter will be unveiling “Project Lightning” – a human-powered curated feed by Twitter’s editorial team dedicated to providing useful information in real time based on what it considered to be the big stories of the day. From Wired: “The curated feeds will be separate from your Twitter timeline, access via a new button in its mobile app. The new screen will feature a list of seven to ten events taking place on any given day— ranging from scheduled events to breaking news to popular memes— featuring tweets, photos, and videos related to the event.”

This isn’t really a surprise-we all knew something had to give and it sounds like at long last Twitter has made it’s move. Over the past few months there has been speculation within the Tech and Social media circles about which way Twitter would go- whether it would move towards the pattern of Facebook or perhaps even get bought out by Google.

Turns out Twitter had something else up it’s sleeve. It decided to get back to it’s fundamental roots. As David Pierce wrote, “Twitter isn’t about a 140-character limit… It’s about a single question, the one you see when you first load twitter.com: “What’s happening?” And that’s true. Twitter usage always surges during events- from tragedy such as the Boston Bombing to global events such as the World Cup. As I mentioned in my earlier post Twitter is where we came together to have difficult conversations about race and gender following two horrible events. It’s that question “What’s happening?” And that’s a very human question. It’s one that we get irritated with Facebook for not answering. The every shifting algorithm is known for delivering old news to timelines. Sure that old news might be “quality content” but it’s still old.

As thousands of blogs have stated over the past few years, humans are social creatures, but what a lot of these posts don’t explore is that part of being social is having realtime conversations. Because let’s face it, conversations take place in realtime. Facebook existed way before Twitter, but it was the latter that gave rise to Tweet-ups and then TweetChats. How many times have you said “We’ve been friends on Facebook for years and now that we meet in person I feel like I know you?”. Yeah, try never. Twitter conversations and interactions foster that sense of creating new relationships.

It makes sense that Jack Dorsey is back to oversee this transition. Jack very much about this human element and opportunities of Twitter. Let’s not forget that Jack, a native of St. Louis, headed down to Ferguson during the height of the protests using Vine to document the on-the-ground events. His justification was simple-he want to be there to share it with the world. From Business Insider: “People were just bringing out their phones and recording everything,” Dorsey said. “That was so important to people on the ground. It felt like the whole world was watching. It’s so critical to make this world feel smaller, that is the power of Twitter.”

And that’s the vision behind Twitter and that’s the direction in which it sounds like they’re moving.

As a social strategist of course I’m thinking about what this means for the human-to-human element of brand strategy. At the moment I’m not sure what this is going to mean. We’ll have to see what the actual layout looks like and how it gets implemented. As several articles point out, Twitter has tried various forms of this model to no avail (think “Discover”). But my hunch is that whatever form Project Lightening ultimately takes, this is going to be a watershed moment. And I, for one, am excited to see where this goes.

I drew upon two Wired articles for this post, Twitter is Killing Twitter to Save Twitter and Twitter is Now Going to Decide What Should Matter to You both of which have great point of views that I highly suggest you check out for some additional insight.

Twitter’s Audience Insights Analytics Tool: The Big Leap Forward

Warning: The following article was written by a massive data analytics geek. Proceed at your own risk. 

For as long as I can remember I’ve had an insatiable thirst to understand the world around me. I always want to know the whole story. For awhile I actually thought about going into journalism so that I could be first on the scene to get everyone’s accounts. Social media, therefore, is a perfect match for me. I can piece together an understanding of how people relate to the world around them and what they care about by looking at what they share (and what they choose not to share). Data analytics provide me with the tools to get at these stories which is why I get absurdly excited when I come across a new way to access more data. This is why the updates in the Twitter Follower Analytics tool- “Audience Insights- has sent me clear over the moon.

Previously Twitter broke down your followers according to geography, most common interests, who else they follow and gender. For other tools a more indepth look at your audience focuses on when they tweet, who they tweet with, etc. All very content driven. Other than basic demographic markers such as location and gender (neither of which are required), we have to rely on content to paint a picture of who our audience is and what they care about. That’s why social listening is so important. How else are you going to figure this out?

At least that’s what I would have told you yesterday. Before Twitter made its Great Leap Forward. And no I’m not exaggerating. Just look at this analysis of my audience:

Overall Audience Analysis

(Now let’s be clear- we have yet to hear the basis for these findings such as sample size, what “match rate” means, or even how this data got calculated. But I do know the reputation of Twitter Analytics as well as some of the individuals who work there and I feel confident that these are genuine insights and as such are a massive advance in social strategy.)

This is an insane amount of detail. I really like the ability to compare my audience against the entire Twitter audience. When doing a strategy it’s important for me to put myself outside of my highly technical world. Just look at the difference between my followers and the overall Twitter population when it comes to Marketing as an interest- 81%. That’s huge. Compare that, however, to Business News and General Info- 52% difference. That means that if I’m looking to increase my external following it would behoove me to think about tweeting some more general business stuff as oppossed to purely niche marketing studies. That’s highly valuable information.

But the data that I think is the most groundbreaking is the Consumer Behavior tab:

Twitter Consumer Behavior

This is a total treasure trove of information. (Once again I’m dying to know how they’re calculating all of this. I also want to know what they mean by “Ethnic Explorers” and the rest of those categories.) This data is available in reports but in “the average user is more likely to do X than Y”. Having it in a quantifiable form is a major breakthrough. In particular this is going to be amazing for Influencer Marketing by allowing us to craft highly individualized strategies based on what a person’s audience is actually interested rather than what you hypothesize they’re interested in- or what the person themselves believe their audience to be interested in.

Of course this assumes that we’ll be able to get this level of analysis for other people’s accounts rather than simply our own and whether Twitter will release this level of data to their analytics partners and that’s a big IF. But regardless I believe that by giving us this additional level of data today Twitter has demonstrated what the future of social strategy can and will be.

And for a data geek it’s a beautiful and exciting thing.

Have you checked out your Twitter Audience Insights yet? What do you think? Did anything surprise you? Tweet me @suzimcc! 

In Defense of 140 Characters

Twitter’s 140 character limit occurred because they envisioned it to be a SMS-centric network. SMS messages allow for 160 characters so 140 characters leaves 20 characters for a username. witter’s decision has had a transformative impact on human communication. In addition to ushering in the hashtag Twitter brought us into the world of abbreviations. Informal abbreviations came into being with SMS and AIM but before Twitter it was highly doubtful that you’d see an elected official publicly using those abbreviations.

Many lament this as a massacre of the English language. A few years ago I sat on a committee at a prominent University during which an administrator blamed Twitter for increasing poor writing skills (newsflash- that has more to do with cuts in funding).

But as someone who has always had a passing relationship with spelling (thank you LA public schools!) and a creative approach to grammar I don’t see the problem. Someone who is going to write well will always write well. A social media platform isn’t going to change that.

And I’ll go a step further. The 140 character limit makes us think before we speak or type. This is an important exercise and one with which I have always struggled. I had a professor for my Russian Politics class who made us write a paper on the rise of Stalin using 5 sources limited to one page, single spaced 12pt times new roman with 1 in margins. Every sentence that went over a page would drop out grade by one letter. This was one of the most frustrating and most rewarding exercises I did. It forced me to deliberately examine the need for each word and quote I used. Before then I had never realized how much filler I threw into my papers. I found that when I stripped the filler from my writing my argument became tighter and more reasoned.

This goes against the grain of free-flow communication. But let’s pull back and think about the best conversations that you have. A good conversation is a dialogue and when it’s really good it often involves talking at the same time. In other words- engaging each other.

I believe that the 140-character limit facilitates this. It forces us to open ourselves up to conversation and tweets asking “what do you mean?”. That’s a phrase you seldom see on Facebook. Rather those conversations tend to be an exchange of opinions and on average I find that conversations on Facebook tend to be less back and forth and more broadcasting. Of course there are many differences between Facebook and Twitter that could be the cause of this difference-chief among which is the difference in friends versus following/followers dynamic. But I believe that there is a correlation that should be taken into consideration.

All of this being said, adding a few characters to Twitter most likely wouldn’t change this dynamic. But my question is why bother? Let Twitter be a place for rapid-fire conversations shaped by the necessity of abbreviations and creative spelling. Don’t try to fit an entire thought into one tweet. Embrace the chaos.

Twitter is not Facebook and for that I’m very thankful.

How Twitter Gives a Voice to the Voiceless

Yesterday Mack Collier responded to Gary Vee’s statement that “Twitter has a noise problem” by saying that actually Twitter’s problem is that “no one is talking there any more”. Both view points come from analysis of conversations en masse and are particularly from a social media marketing perspective. (And before I go any further let me point out that that is also my world. Many of the strategies I write are for Fortune 500 companies whose bottomline is turning ROI.)

But Mark Collier’s argument goes beyond ROI concerns. It’s framed around his experience that many of his circle of early adopters no longer frequent Twitter. For him, this indicates that the platform is no longer a place for conversation. In my mind this is a pretty out of touch statement. For starters, the early adopters of Twitter are just that- early adopters. Let’s be honest, there is a bit of a Portlandia vibe in Silicon Valley. Once something is cool it’s over. Mack Collier admitted as much pegging the death of Twitter as the moment Ashton Kutcher joined.

But while the Silicon Valley elite may have left, other groups have entered in droves and if anything Twitter is more alive with conversations than ever. These conversations are occurring in niche communities built around hashtags. Mack Collier points to rise of the tweet chat in 2008 as evidence mark that organic conversation, and therefore Twitter, was dying. Yet I’d argue that the start of hashtags as a rallying point for conversation is what allowed Twitter to get into the groove that has made it such a special social network.

As I wrote in a previous post, Twitter is the embodiment of a social media network. You go to Facebook to interaction with your offline network. On Twitter most of your network are people you’ve never met in real life. Early adopters didn’t necessarily have this experience and certainly didn’t enjoy the remarkable diversity of Twitter in it’s current form.

In recent years while Twitter is certainly the site of marketing “noise” it has also played a critical roll in giving a world-wide voice to the voiceless.

Here’s the hashtag traffic map released by Twitter for #Ferguson on August 9th [click on the photo for the video]:

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As we all know this has helped to spark many much-needed conversations about race which are now being had at the national level. Yes there is a lot of anger- what do you expect? But the point is that people are talking.

Another hashtag to note is #YesAllWomen. As I wrote last May, while the hashtag was short-lived, “In the #YesAllWoman hashtag we found our collective voice.” I compiled a storify of a sampling of the tweets and I encourage you to look through them to get an idea of just how big of a deal this was.

Twitter has changed from its early days. It’s harder to do social media marketing but if it were easy social strategists would be out of a job. Yes Twitter needs to monetize and perhaps the Facebook model (shudder) is one that will help. But to say that conversations have left Twitter is to ignore the immense role that Twitter has played over the past few years in creating unprecedented opportunities for interaction and collective action. The conversations haven’t left Twitter. You just have to know where to look.

You Ignore Social Listening At Your Peril: The JetBlue #Fail

It’s hard to be an airline brand. Think about it. Flying makes even the most amicable individual on edge. All it takes is one employee having a bad day to color the whole experience. That’s no doubt one of the reasons that some airlines were some of the earliest adopters of social customer service and social listening. (My favorite is of course the case of Virgin Atlantic.) They understood that the vast majority of customers just want to know that the brand hears them. When it comes down to it we all know that the airline isn’t to blame for the weather or airport construction. But often in the heat of the moment the airline is the nearest scapegoat. A thoughtful response to a frustrated tweet can be that calming force that brings us back into a rational frame of mind.

“The airport is awful, and the weather sucks. But at least I’m flying  (airline)!”

Airlines who do social right get tons of compliments and satisfied customers. But that means that those who do it wrong can actually hurt their reputation more! In fact it can actually hurt an otherwise positive experience. “I tweeted to the airline saying that I enjoyed my flight and never got a response”. Or, even worse, the tweet can sound insensitive to a customer’s complaint.

 Here’s my recent experience:

I booked a flight on JetBlue to travel to SHRM. I used to fly JetBlue all the time in the mid-2000s back when they were a cheap and cheerful option. $99 each way to CA from DC for a college student was a dream come true! Then JetBlue raised their prices. And I mean REALLY raised their prices. Of course then prices went up across the industry. Now a days I’m shouting from the rooftops if I can get a nonstop non-red eye cross country flight for under $400. But I can never find a competitive JetBlue flight! For that reason it’s been at least 5 years since I’ve flown with them. I was kinda excited. I mean they’re the “fun” airline, right?

Then the worst happened. I got a call right before I was set to leave for the airport that my flight had been canceled due to a “disruption” and I had been rebooked for the next afternoon. I called customer service to explain that I had to be in Orlando by Sunday morning at the very latest and the woman was very kind and accommodating on the phone. She was able to schedule me for a flight Sunday morning and also took the time to explain that the disruption was due to a mechanical difficulty. Overall my impression was positive despite my irritation.

Then I found out that my hotel didn’t allow same day cancellations even due to circumstances clearly beyond my control. This was one of those situations. Technically it wasn’t JetBlue’s fault they my hotel was being so stingy. I knew this but it definitely reduced the warm feeling I had after the helpful customer service phone experience.

When I first heard about the mysterious disruption I had posted a tweet asking if anyone knew what was going on. JetBlue responded about 30 minutes later asking for my flight number so that they could check up on it. So I told them that I had been rebooked for the next day but was out $120 for a hotel night.

Screenshot 2014-06-26 15.08.46

Here was their totally tone deaf response:

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There are so many relatively costless things they could have done to turn my mood around. They could have given me a seat upgrade for my next flight to their “extra space seat”, a few hundred miles on my rewards card or even just a sincere apology.

Guess what they said next?

Nothing.

Even after my boss, social media influencer Bryan Kramer, got involved and started to generate RTs.

Screenshot 2014-06-26 15.09.42

Now some of you may stop and say “well that’s the airline industry for you”. But that’s not necessarily true.

Last month I flew with US Airways to go to IBM SmarterCommerce in Tampa and they blew me away with their social media skills. On my way back I ran into a weather delay and tweeted out my frustration. Here’s their impressive response:

Screenshot 2014-06-26 15.21.13

That made JetBlue’s response all the worst.

After all of this you can imagine the mood I was in when I got to my gate. My Saturday flight had been in the afternoon. The rebooking meant I had to wake up at 4:30am to get to the airport. So when I encountered a rude employee at the gate it was the last straw and I took to Twitter.

I included those two airlines because in addition to the desire to rub JetBlue’s face in it, I wanted to see how US Airways and Virgin America (another social airline) would respond. Less than a minute later I got my answer.

Screenshot 2014-06-26 15.37.32

Spot on. They didn’t engage JetBlue. They simply make it clear through their rapid response that I’m valued. That’s what an airline customer wants to hear and that’s why the next time I book a flight I’m going to go out of my way to try to make it on US Airways.

Well-executed social listening and engagement is a must in today’s world. Brands need to realize that the value of those positions rivals their ad campaign budget. They need to invest in hiring skilled specialists in community management who are always listening and crafting thoughtful responses. Because in the end, it’s all about relationships.

addendum: JetBlue never responded to my tweets but they did create a Travel Bank account with $50. As far as social listening goes, however, it’s too little too late. The damage has already been done.  

The MASN AT&T Fan Photo Flop or How NOT to Run a Social Media Campaign

Social media has revolutionized the broadcast media industry. In the current age of DVR and Instawatch subscriptions, it allows shows to provide incentives to their fans to watch in realtime. It gives them the opportunity to use the energy of “super fans” as champions of the show. Bravo famously started the model but it’s spreading across the industry. In 2013 for the first time Nielson included social rankings in their end of the year top telecasts lists. Capitalizing on your viewership via social media is absolutely the way forward and every network is scrambling to figure out how to get a piece of this incredibly valuable pie. There are all sorts of opportunities for sponsors to get involved as well. And it’s not like it’s that difficult- at this point the trail has been pretty clearly blazed.

This is why I am so incredibly frustrated by the current “AT&T Fan Photo” flop on MASN.

Like many in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region, I’m a major fan of the Washington Nationals. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, or MASN as it’s commonly known is the official provider of TV coverage. The Nationals have a pretty active fan base on twitter and have done a fairly good job capitalizing on it over the years. MASN, on the other hand, has left it pretty much to their anchors prerogative. Their color commentator, FP Santangelo is a constant presence on twitter, interacting with fans and in particular the numerous parody accounts such as Jayson Werth’s Beard (don’t ask…). But I’ve always felt that they could be doing way more.

So this year when the introduced the “AT&T Fan Photo” feature the strategist in me got a bit excited. It’s fairly simple— fans are encouraged to tweet in a photo of themselves using #masnNationals for the chance to get it shown during the live broadcast. Definitely not an original or even that exciting feature, BUT, at least seemed to demonstrate that they were adding some social components to their overall strategy. And, I thought, it’s probably a good idea to start off with a super simple well trodden approach- I mean it’s not like they can screw up fans sending in photos.

Boy was I wrong. It’s absolutely ridiculous how badly they’ve missed the mark on this.

In the second half of the game the photo gets displayed on the screen with the AT&T logo above it. But it’s just a photo- there’s no caption to it. AND the announcers aren’t given any background on the photo- like zilch, nada. So each and every time there’s an awkward pause while they try to think of something interesting to say about it. Also the photos aren’t even that great. Nats fans are often decked out in their gear and the photos are across twitter to prove it, yet somehow MASN manages to get the most boring photos. Last night hit a new low- which is why I finally decided to put together this post. The photo was of a couple sitting in their backyard and one of them had a nats hat on. THAT WAS IT! And to make it worse- the commentators made poked a bit of fun at them- not in a nasty way but I know that if I were those fans I probably wouldn’t be tweeting in my photo anytime soon.

So the realtime featuring of the photo is clearly a flop. But certainly they must be taking advantage of this content on their social media streams and website right?

Wrong. They don’t even tweet it out on their official account. And looking through the website I couldn’t find any mention of the contest. This Fan was really excited about having her photo up but she had to resort to taking a photo of her TV screen to tweet it out! And MASN didn’t even RT her tweet!
Screenshot 2014-04-25 12.50.23

If I were AT&T I would be royally pissed off at the way this social strategy- if you can call it that- has crashed and burned.

MASN has a great opportunity to interact with fans- and they’re getting paid for it! Yet apparently they can’t be bothered.

Here’s what they should be doing- and I can’t believe I even have to write this list:

  • Up the quality of the photos- say you’re looking for the biggest fan of the game and give a wacky photo like the one below as an example:

Screenshot 2014-04-25 12.10.54

  • Tweet out the photo from the @masnNationals account, feature it on the Facebook Page , and (duh) the Instagram Account
  • Put the photos up somewhere easily accessible on the website. It’s a surefire way to increase the web traffic to the MASN site since, if you’re a diehard fan, you’re sure to send the link to everyone you know that you’re up on the site! Think of how crazy fans go when they’re on camera at the park.

Yes I realize that I’ve spent an entire post ranting about one regional sports network. But I have a feeling that MASN is not the only broadcaster attempting to get in on the social media side of TV and totally missing the mark. The frustrating thing to me in this case is that it would take so very little for them to turn this into a decent campaign. All they needed was to invest a bit of time in talking with a social strategist and planning out the execution.