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Cross-Platform Social Experiences – To Do Or Not To Do

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Cross-Platform Social Experiences | Stuzo“Is it possible to develop a social experience in a way that it can be launched and engaged with seamlessly across Facebook and a brand website, and what are the merits of doing this?”

A lot of our clients ask us about the merits of cross-platform experiences.  I’ll define a cross-platform social experience as a consumer facing social experience that spans to engage consumers in a seamless fashion across platforms–Facebook, social website (a website leveraging social graph components), mobile, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

Let’s start with the first part of the question; the simple answer is Yes, it is possible to develop and launch a social experience seamlessly across Facebook and a brand website. With Facebook making the switch from fbml to iFrame it not only expands the possibilities of what can be done within a Fan Page, but it also opens up the door for the development of fully connected experiences across the web.  In layman terms and for our purposes, an iFrame can be viewed as a container that houses web applications, enabling for the development of one application that lives inside a container that can be placed both on Facebook and on any website.  Add to the mix the recently launched Registration Plugin–a streamlined way to offer a customized registration option and an effective means of engaging consumers that may not yet have a Facebook account–and you have a robust mechanism to develop and launch one application with a seamless user experience across both Facebook and a social website.

Now that we checked off the feasibility part of the question, let’s address whether there is tangible business value in deploying additional resources to launch experiences both on Faceboook and a brand website.  For our exercise, let’s remain agnostic and say that Facebook pages, corporate websites, and temporary microsites are all owned media channels and that each has its place in the digital marketing toolkit.  For us, the value of these owned media channels for the deployment of social experiences is dependent on the existing volume of organic consumer traffic.  We equate existing monthly visits that are organically generated to earned media.  Brands looking to decide between launching an experience on Facebook, a temporary microsite, and/or their corporate website, should evaluate their existing user base & traffic, and cost & benefits of delivering a set amount of traffic via paid media to each channel.  As a fictional example, let’s take a look at some figures for Brand X and Brand Z:

Cross-Platform Table | Stuzo

Looking at the above numbers it is easy to see that a temporary microsite is a more costly choice for either brand as there is no existing organic traffic that can be leveraged to drive engagement with the social experience if it were launched on a temporary microsite.  In general, launching any type of experience on a temporary microsite is going to require a higher media spend, which normally results in a lower yield per dollar spent than a media spend within Facebook, due to the earned media that is generated by a Facebook media buy as the paid media impressions flow and amplify throughout the social graph.

Let’s examine the differences between the traffic numbers for Brand X and Brand Z and how they impact the choice of whether or not to launch a cross-platform social experience.  Brand X has ten times as much organic traffic on its corporate site than it does on Facebook, whereas Brand Z has twice as much organic traffic on its Facebook page than its corporate website.  Both brands have an existing community on Facebook, however, Brand Z has a much more established community and a higher level of active engagement within the community than Brand X.

What does this tell us?  Well, in reality the numbers can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the line of business of the company and the type of experience that the company is looking to launch.

Let’s assume that Brand X is an online retailer that is looking to run a campaign to engage consumers around its upcoming spring wares.  Based on the numbers, we would recommend that Brand X leverage its existing customer traffic on its corporate site to create a viral loop between its website and Facebook.  This would entail developing and launching the same social experience both on the Brand X site and on Facebook.

Let’s look at Brand Z, which has a much larger and more engaged Facebook community on Facebook than its website.  Assuming that Brand Z is a maker of carbonated beverages looking to drive consumer engagement to a holiday campaign what should they do?  This one can go both ways depending on the Brand Z’s budget and how much value Brand Z places on its corporate site. Basing the decision only on the above numbers, we would recommend that the brand launch the experience on Facebook and drive all other media to the experience on Facebook.  The reason for the recommendation being that the brand already has a well established and highly engaged community on Facebook that can be instantly activated with an engaging social experience.

I want to end by saying that though the technology and tools enable the delivery of one unified experience through one application across both Facebook and a social website, best practice is to tailor the user experience to the channel to ensure ease of use and optimal engagement.   And most importantly, whether it’s an evergreen solution or a two month long program, the broader concept and execution of the social experience will in the end determine its success or failure.  Let the design and development of more optimized cross-platform social experiences begin.

Facebook Page Redesign and iFrame Tabs Offer New Engagement Opportunities for Brands

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Recently, Facebook announced breaking news that will ultimately provide better methods for brands to engage and communicate with their customers. These updates include a revamped UI of the Facebook Pages product and the ability to deploy iFrame tabs.

The New Facebook Page UI and What it Means…

New Facebook Page

At first glance, most users will recognize the new Page looks very similar to a user profile page. Here are some of the notable updates included in this release and what they mean for Page owners:

  • IFrame Tabs are enabled: This is a feature we have been excited for at Stuzo! This provides the strategy, development, user experience and creative teams more flexibility in implementing branded experiences on Pages. Formerly many experiences had to bounce to a Facebook Canvas Page or require additional clicks for the user to engage with appropriate content. The release of iFrame tabs will now allow for more streamlined and engaging experiences directly on the Page. Here are just a few examples of the features which we are currently working on: The ability to customize the landing view based on user location or referral source, dynamically updating the view based on the piece of content they are attempting to access, loading of flash elements and interactive front-end features which formerly could not initially load on tabs (note: the auto-play of media items is still disabled, and rightfully so). As a Preferred Developer Consultant, we ensure all programs adhere to Facebook Page Policies and we are helping steer clients in the right direction for their particular strategy. You can access the updated Page Policies here.

New iFrame Page Tabs

  • Left-nav formatting: The horizontal tab navigation items have been moved under the profile picture. Along with this the profile picture dimensions have changed from 200×600 to 180×540.
  • Recent photos display: Matching the recent profile page changes, a brand can now showcase their 5 most recent photos published at the top of the Page.
  • Branded voice: Page administrators can now have a voice across the platform in representation of the brand by linking their Facebook account to the Page. This means a Page can now interact with other users and Pages.

New Facebook Page Account

  • A Page now has a News Feed: Now that a Page owner’s account can be logged in as a “Page,” they have access to a News Feed similar to regular users. This will allow Pages to curate their own content and have the same abilities as a content consumer.
  • “Everyone” wall filter: Fans can now also get more exposure with these recent updates. Wall filters now have 2 options, “Posts by Page” or “Everyone.” This gives users the option to see the most interesting stories first.
  • Page “Features” are enhanced: A Page can show other Pages they “Like” in the left sidebar, and also feature “People.” This can help put a voice and personal connection to those who communicate with users on a Page.
  • Notifications: Admins of a Page can now receive email notifications when a user posts a comment. Most larger brands are using a third party Publisher tool at this time, which may take this into account. However, this is a good feature for new Page owners to quickly and effectively respond and interact with their users.
  • Mutual friends and interests: Users can now see the Pages and friends they have in common with your Page.

These changes will fundamentally provide added opportunities, and with that, challenges across organizations. The first step at the brand level should be to evaluate these new updates, identify the opportunities and disadvantages to their current consumer engagement models, and begin working on the strategic approach to incorporate these new updates within the organization. Adopting these new changes should start internally; to then be best equipped to utilize these features in their day-to-day Page management and engagement strategies.

From a technical perspective, the door is now open (or should I say “unlocked”) for more streamlined experiences on Pages and provide better ways to engage with users through Facebook and social applications.

It’s important for all to note that once you migrate your Page to the new format – it cannot revert back to the previous state. At Stuzo | Dachis Group, we are currently working with clients on migrating their development environments, doing an analysis of existing apps and engagement strategies in preparation for a full migration to the new Page layout and features set. We are tremendously excited by this release and look forward to seeing the great results from brands leveraging these emerging opportunities.

Social Echoes as Marketing Assets, Assets, Assets

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Practically anything a marketing department does these days generates corresponding activity in social spaces as, at the very least, a brand’s power users interact with the most recent campaign or piece of news. These social activities range from very modest investments in the brand (i.e., clicking a ‘Like’ button) to quite highly invested acts (i.e., a YouTube video response). Every one of these actions is an echo of the original campaign that reflects back into the users’ social graph and wrings additional value from the initial investment. These echoes are a source of value that, to date, brands are not maximizing. The thing to realize is that there can be ongoing value generated for the brand on the back end of any given marketing campaign lifecycle.

Social echos let you squeeze more value out of campaigns

From a practical perspective, realizing this value is a manageable (though complex) problem – it starts with establishing a listening strategy, then on to archiving, retrieval, aggregation and display systems. Once the practicalities are out of the way, then the more difficult questions start staring you in the face – “We know how to do this, but what do we do?” The goal is to put social echoes to work for your brand and there are countless ways to to do so, but here are a few high level categories (and examples) to help spark your thinking:

  • Amplifying echoes – If you are already aggregating social echoes in some fashion, then it’s not much of a leap to curate and rebroadcast those in digital spaces that you control. This might mean something as simple as an e-mail newsletter or as complex as a homepage takeover. You see a basic flavor of this on social aggregation pages at companies like Pizza Hut or more adventurous implementations like Skittles’ home page or the Special K Victory Chain.
  • Engaging the engaged – Outreach to individuals who are echoing your messaging is an interesting opportunity in both real-time and asynchronous use cases. Real-time outreach enables marketing experiences like the Old Spice Guy campaign as well as servicing scenarios like @ComcastCares or @AskCiti – though social servicing done correctly is no small feat. Asynchronous outreach lends itself to Social CRM scenarios where companies can use their marketing to kick off a series of social echoes and then partner with their IT department to embed the ensuing cascade of information into the day-to-day operation of the business.
  • Proving value – Every other kind of marketing has a reel – why doesn’t your social campaign? It’s the accepted currency of marketing land. This is fairly straight forward, but helps prove that the campaign was worth the effort. Here is Gatorade’s attempt at making monitoring and data capture cool.
  • Campaign life extension – Give your campaign new life after you stop buying paid media against it by archiving and hosting your social echoes in an interesting way. Once you’ve got an archive you can use your owned and leased social channels to republish an echo and spark ongoing engagement. This is also valuable because it abstracts your owned social channels from the specific campaign giving you more flexibility to start up and break down new initiatives.

Next time you launch a campaign think about the entire lifecycle of social – not just how you will spark the social echoes with amazing creative and great social extensions, but also how you are going to turn those echoes into assets.

*Image courtesy of f1uffster (Jeanie) on Flickr

Social signals and dog tricks

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Last weekend, I was woken abruptly by a high-pitched electronic “chirp.” Half-conscious, I knew exactly where it was coming from – a dead battery in a carbon monoxide detector. The problem wasn’t a potential CO hazard (there are lots of other detectors in here) or that other people would wake up (some already were). No, the problem was my dogs, who were trembling at the sound of the electronic chirp.

As I stumbled around the house in darkness trying to pinpoint the dying battery, I felt sorry for the dogs and also started thinking about social business.

Regarding the dog part: in our previous house, we had installed an invisible fence; training the dogs on its boundaries involved a process of planting small red flags around the yard to mark boundaries. Proximity to flags was also correlated with a beep from a collar-based electric receiver that would deliver a shock if a dog wandered too close to a boundary for too long. In practice, the dogs learned quickly and stayed away from the boundaries. We’ve moved away from that house but the dogs still fear electronic signals close to a particular pitch.

Now, regarding the social business part. In particular, my thoughts turned to brands monitoring social media for mentions and keywords, using approaches similar to the way they’ve been trained to listen to mainstream media. The trouble is, the landscape is different but the signals are usually being interpreted in the same way. Unfortunately, that’s not going to drive effective solutions. So some brands are just scared of everything and hesitant to engage or interact. Others are trying to learn and solve for finely tuned discrepancies in signal pitch.

In this space, it’s imperative for old dogs to learn new tricks. Hopefully the ones you’re working on aren’t “roll over” and “play dead.”