But Googlers can also make a strong case that Google makes valuable contributions to the information climate. I learn useful, real information via Google every day. And while web search is far from a perfect technology, Google really does usually surface accurate, reliable information on the topics you search for. Facebook’s imperative to maximize engagement, by contrast, lands it in an endless cycle of sensationalism and nonsense.
I’m not sure I’d give Google as much of a moral edge over Facebook. Both are focused on optimising engagement. That’s pretty much a necessity given their business models. At the same time, Facebook does seem to turn engagement into an art form.
How often do you find yourself responding to a tweet or Facebook update linking to blog posts only to realise, after responding, that the answer you seek or point you make is contained in the blog posts you were in too much of a hurry to read?
TL;DR your blog posts but, hey, I commented!
I seem to do this often. Given the low click through rates I see in my social media analytics, I suspect the majority of people who respond to these social shares do it too.
After all, it is so much easier to just reply to a tweet or comment on a Facebook post and have your say than it is to click on the link, load the site and read the article that was shared.
Twitter, in particular, is supposed to be this terrific platform for sharing stuff with people. What I realized is that when Twitter and Facebook talk about how their platforms are so effective as engagement drivers, they’re really talking about engagement on their platforms. This certainly comes across clearly on Twitter where you have analytics about your tweets available.
This isn’t surprising. Social networks make money from people using their services, not clicking away and going elsewhere. Still, many of us still suffer from this delusion that sharing our stuff on social networks will, necessarily, send more visitors to our sites.
Introducing a new acronym: RTFBP
So, assuming that this trend is only going to continue and relatively few people will actually click on those links we share and visit our sites to read our blog posts, I have come up with a snappy acronym: RTFBP. It stands for “Read The F$&king Blog Post” and it has the benefits of being short and easily hashtag-able.
RTFBP is intended for content marketers who find themselves answering questions and responding to seemingly insightful comments made by people like me who took the TL;DR approach to social media shares. As silly as that is, considering that I know that the point of social shares with links is to direct me to the blog posts that contain the information I seek, if only I RTFBP before tapping “reply” or “comment”.
So, as a self-confessed lazy follower, I both apologise and offer my newly minted acronym to all the marketers whose eyes I cause to roll, yet again. I am working on clicking through more often and reading before I trot out some pithy response. Promise.
Slack’s Anna Pickard published a great post on Medium with insights into entertaining Slack release notes, that I enjoyed reading.
If you love their quirky app release notes as much as I do, Pickard’s post is a treat. I love Slack’s response to the usual tendency to publish very boring and uninformative “Bug fixes and performance improvements” release notes:
Because why stick to that, when they could contain real value, useful information, and the opportunity to connect a little bit, human to human, with the people who use Slack the most.
Interestingly enough, Medium also makes an effort to write fun and engaging release notes so it’s appropriate that Pickard picked Medium to write about this. Thanks Anna!
My post about my little family project attracted some attention after Ory Okolloh Mwangi retweeted it and it got me thinking about what Twitter is good for as a promotional and distribution tool. I wrote about Twitter engagement in May 2015 after reading Anil Dash’s post titled “Nobody Famous” and although I have a much smaller Twitter following, I had noticed similar trends.
The tweet attracted a fair amount of attention for my tweets (my “routine” tweets attract about 10% to 25% of these impressions) and yet the actual click-through rate was about 1.2% with a total “engagement rate” of 3.5%. Remember that the “engagement rate” includes –
Of those, the link clicks and retweets probably offer the most direct value (a single retweet was why the tweet attracted so much attention in the first place). The other forms of engagement are focused on the tweet itself and attached media, not the blog post I shared.
So what is Twitter good for given the relatively low, meaningful engagement? By “meaningful engagement” I mean engagement that leads people to the blog post I shared. That, after all, is how I have chosen to share my content – on my blog. The answer is probably “not much” if Twitter’s value is the extent to which it sends traffic to what you tweet about as opposed to focusing attention on itself.
If and when Twitter does roll out its 10,000-character feature, in other words, expect that to be quickly followed by a pitch to publishers like the Post and others to host their content entirely on Twitter, in return for a share of the advertising revenue and a commitment to help those articles go “viral.” Another step in the death of the link.
10,000 characters is quite a lot. It is enough space to write a short story and if Twitter provides sufficient text formatting options for publishers, Twitter could well become another walled garden fuelled by the amount of impressions its various promotional and distribution options can offer. It will become another closed ecosystem to tempt publishers increasingly threatened by the growing ad blocker phenomenon and a shift of content to Facebook and even Medium. I agree with Ingram that this sort of move really erodes the link, the basic currency of the open Web.
What’s going to happen, then, is that the content landscape will be divided between the gleaming, closed cities of Facebook, Twitter, Medium and others and the vast wilderness populated by blogs, independent publishers and others who either go it alone or form alliances to survive. For those whose content lives in the new gleaming cities, life may seem pretty good but there will always be the lingering fear that comes with knowing that they’re just tenants and their new patrons make all the rules.
Speaking of the wilderness, I have noticed what seems to be a resurgence of interest in blogging and running independent platforms. I’m not sure if this is just confirmation bias but it almost feels as if the blogosphere is making a comeback. I really hope it is because this the blogosphere is going to be the only environment where engagement translates into actual views of your content, not just some distributed flyer advertising your content. It could also become the only environment where you will have an opportunity to see all the content you want to see, how you want to see it (remember RSS?) and not the content someone else’s algorithm thinks you should see.
So, if I am right about all of this, what is Twitter good for? For that matter, what are Facebook, Medium, Snapchat and other social services good for? They have to attract publishers or they’ll have nothing to offer users but their primary focus isn’t publishers, it’s whatever it takes to keep users coming back and that will be at the expense of publishers who want pretty much the same thing, although ideally using good quality content. This doesn’t mean that publishers and social networks are aligned, at least not in the medium to long term. At some point their interests will clash and those walled gardens will start to feel like prisons.
At work here is what is called, variously, “social syndication” or “traffic exchange,” a technique increasingly in vogue among publishers looking to get their articles and brands in front of other readers. Publishers are measured by how many unique readers they can pull in, so working with a site that has a similar but not completely overlapping audience can help them extend the reach of their content. This is key now that Facebook is making it harder for publishers to reach readers organically. Publishers also say the deals help them fill in the gaps in their own social programming with stories that they didn’t or couldn’t write themselves, which is good for readers.
So, basically, publishers are returning to that old link economy model that made the blogosphere what it was but with a new name and, it seems, without trackbacks. I’d call this progress and a happy side effect for the open Web. It looks like the industry has also found religion with some old-fashioned sensibilities about audiences:
“That fiefdom-like thinking that ‘we own this audience and it’s ours only’ is very old media. It’s like people saying, ‘I only subscribe to The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times,’” said Daily Dot CEO Nick White. “It’s just not the right model anymore.”
I read Anil Dash’s post titled “Nobody Famous” on Medium recently and it is worth reading if you are either wondering if it is worth the effort attracting a large Twitter following or if you believe your large Twitter following is somehow meaningful.
I noticed that a tweet I posted was getting a lot more attention than my usual stuff so I took a look at the activity on that tweet. What I saw immediately reminded me of Dash’s post. Relative to my usual tweets, this particular tweet received a lot of attention and my one thought was that I should have written a post on this blog about WooThemes’ terrific news to benefit from the attention the tweet received but then I noticed the actual click-throughs.
Twitter used to be this really important web traffic driver. It still is significant, relatively speaking, but it is hardly the killer engagement tool it is sometimes made out to be.
As marketers we think that we are “engaging” with our “target market” when we run “campaigns” on various social media platforms. We point to various indicators of our successes which range from social signals like retweets, Likes, +1s and comments of various sorts along with some sort of secondary success metric. The industry has come a long way since the early days of just picking a bouquet of social media services and pushing messages, hoping for the best … or have they? Why do brands fail to engage meaningfully even when they think they do?
The power of the social Web is nicely encapsulated by this old nugget from The Cluetrain Manifesto. You have probably come across it somewhere along the way even if you haven’t read the book:
Markets are conversations
That isn’t just some platitude (or maybe it is), it underpins social marketing, sales and advertising. At least it should. What seems to be happening is that marketers are slipping back into old habits. They are just pushing marketing messages across the wires to “target markets” or “target demographics” thinking their campaigns are more engaging and effective simply because they are using a social network to get their message across.
Brands like to talk about how well they know what their consumers want. But the truth is, they’re barely scratching the surface. That’s the big takeaway from a wide-ranging new study by IBM and Econsultancy, which found that brands are just not delivering the level of customer experience that they think they are.
The study consisted of two surveys — one for brands and the other for consumers — and found a gap with a real business impact. “The biggest takeaway was the disconnect between how marketers perceive the job they’re doing and how consumers perceive that job,” said Jay Henderson, director, product strategy at IBM Commerce.
The data is very interesting. It highlights brands’ perceptions that they provide a “really good user experience”; provide relevant content across consumers’ preferred challenges and generally understand consumers’ desires. Consumers don’t agree, and markedly so:
Consumer responses about external communications from brands, however, found that in general nobody’s impressed. Only 35 percent of respondents said their favorite companies sent “usually relevant” emails or messages. And for companies that weren’t necessarily already a favorite, that number dropped even more — only 21 percent said those messages are “usually relevant.”
IBM’s Jay Henderson told DigiDay that the problem lies not in insufficient data but too much data. Brands don’t seem to be using this data effectively enough to derive accurate insights about consumers and then engage with them meaningfully. I wonder if the problem isn’t an exaggerated emphasis on data itself.
On one hand, data enables marketers to develop very precise and relevant marketing campaigns but the point of social marketing isn’t just to add Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat to a list of pipes to use to shove messages down consumers’ collective throats. Instead, these platforms offer brands an opportunity to reach out to consumers and actually have conversations with them. Those conversations can be collective or they can be on an individual level.
The key word here is “conversations”. Brands shouldn’t be talking at “target markets”, they should be conversing with consumers, people. Social networks give us the ability to identify our customers and talk to them as individuals. That sounds time consuming but it need not be.
DigiDay published another article which I read this morning, titled “How programmatic creative can revive your inner Draper“. It is a sponsored article but the point of the article is very interesting. The idea is to use programmatic tools to deliver highly personalized and relevant content to consumers based on their preferences and other relevant data points:
With programmatic creative, copy lines and art are loaded automatically, no assembly required. And thanks to HTML5, those ads can be fed into any inventory size available, without diminishing the quality of your media, particularly on mobile.
Thanks to a wide range of technologies, creative departments can use display video HTML5 ads to tell big, bold brand stories across platforms and, using ad sequencing, across time. Using data-driven creative, agencies can give their display campaigns a genuine narrative arc and show the right story to the right people, using data signals to set their parameters.Does your story happen over the course of a day? Use time-based signals to show “chapters” morning, noon and night? Is it a point-of-view play, with different family members coming at the same problem from different perspectives? Use data rules to reach them properly.
It is an intriguing way to be more personal in your approach to your consumers without falling into the trap of seeing consumers simply as entries in a SQL database to be “targeted” even if that is what most consumers may eventually become from an operational perspective. Simply abstracting the “target market” de-humanizes the people we are reaching out to and disconnects us from them. The result is that we lose the ability to really engage with them, connect to them and, consequentially, they don’t connect with our brands.
I had an issue I needed to resolve with my Internet and mobile provider, 012 Smile. I reached them through their Facebook page and, instead of just sending me a message in Hebrew (which isn’t unreasonable), I received phone calls from one of their call center agents in English because it was clearly the best language to use for me (my Hebrew is still pretty basic). 012 Smile uses Facebook really effectively to keep in touch with customers.
I received several calls to follow up and give me updates and it was a terrific experience for me as a customer; not because it was a particularly complex issue or because 012 Smile did something special for me it doesn’t do for other customers. What made a difference to me was that the call center agent took the time to phone me and talk to me in English.
Injecting a little humanity into the process could be what brands need to adjust their perceptions of just how effective their work is and help them adapt their strategies to more human conversations (at least, human-sounding conversations) powered by large data-sets and programmatic targeting tools.