Social media policy

Having a social media policy makes a lot of sense. A social media policy encourages social media usage as well as encourages conduct that is beneficial for the organization. What are the prime reasons for having a policy?


Would you have a telephone policy in place if more than half of your employees would talk during business hours on their business phones to their friends overseas? Duh.

And in this telephone policy, would you consider getting rid of the telephone altogether? Mmm, probably not.

Roughly 3/4 of employees that have an account on a personal social network access it on working hours. The same holds for twitter. Al that time spent is not being spent for the benefit of the organization paying for the time. It’s really that simple. There are tons of excuses employees come up with for making their personal time really valuable for the company. Don’t fall for it. Power naps are also really good for productivity. Get a grip.

On the other hand, “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t,” according to Dr Brent Coker, from the Melbourne Department of Management and Marketing. Whatever you decide or believe, it makes sense to limit it.

Customer centric business objectives

Using social media and networks make a lot of sense. Your customers are spending more time on social networks than anywhere else. Even when they’re supposed to be working. They talk about your brand, organisation, services, etc. Actually, you should integrate the use of social networks and media in a lot of your business functions – just as any other communication tool. A policy should clarify in what way these tools can be used and stimulate it so that they serve the company and its objectives best.

PR nightmare

It’ scary: all those employees functioning as corporate spokespersons. That must go wrong sometime. AND IT DOES. No very different from that email with an attachment that should not be there. Or the boss-bashing on a party. Nothing new here, but only the scale and visibility has increased. And it’s not just the employees that are ‘ignorant’ – it’s also the pr-communication folks. Really funny what they come up with. Take Nestle on facebook: “… we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted.“. That triggered a lot of feedback. Even the topic ‘Favorit Nestle product’ triggers posts about genetic modification, use of palm oil destroying the habitat of orang utans etc. Lot of fun stuff too: “like anything with Palm Oil in it. I don’t care about monkeys either..if they tasted good I would eat them too!”. Even a post of a loyal Nestle user complaining about his favorite product not being available anymore does not get a response. Nestle has succeeded in building a branded platform for people not liking (hating) nestle. Thank g*d, the logo’s are safe!

… and heaven

On the other side, social media have viral power built in. If I ‘Like’ something, all of my friends see what I like and may start liking it.  A retweet is informing my followers. If I digg something, I inform the world. The virility of social media is built in. You need to understand how it works in order to use it. Not just the functionality, but also the characteristics. For example, research shows that tweets that share information (e.g. contain hyperlinks to informative posts, videos, images) are creating a dense retweet network as apposed to the sparse retweet network that tweets create containing a call for action, crowdsource or attempt to make a collective group identity. Besides understanding functionality and characteristics, you need to be creative in order to use it successfully. What you do needs to be really funny, cool, worthwhile, beautiful, etc, on-brand and leading to the desired experience and behavior. Not easy being creative! The old 15/85 ratio of creative versus media is not valid – in social it’s (almost) 100/0: reaching your audience is virtually free, all the money goes to the creative. That’s good news for your clients – there’s too much advertising out there that was created after the budget was spent on media.

So, what do I like?

Brand & values. What are the brand and core values and what do they mean with respect to social media? Every interaction is a brand experience – and a communication policy should make clear what the brand and values mean in the specific case. For example: “Transparancy in every social media engagement. The Company does not condone manipulating the social media flow by creating “fake” destinations and posts designed to mislead followers and control a conversation” (taken from the Online Social Media Principles of the Coca Cola Company).

Clarity about what is exceptable and what not. About the use of personal social networks during working hours. About privacy, sensitive and proprietary information etc. About the fact that some roles in a company have a higher visibility that impact social network activity outside the working place.

Constructive tips in the policy for everyone and build competencies. Teach your B2B sales how to get going with linkedin. Or your marketing people how to monitor conversations effectively and act on it. Your product development people to involve the ‘heavy users’.

Check out these resources:

for inspiration:

for quickly getting one if your boss read this post and wants a policy a now:

the top-10 things you should cover: or

communication guidelines:

Take a swim

The first siteless post was titled: “Dumb & dumber“. It’s about the opportunity of interacting with your customers in places where they are: social networks. Now it’s time to take a closer look at the opportunity. The opportunity is twofold: you can and you’re – most of the time – alone.

Let’s elaborate on the first: you can.

Interacting with a customer in a place where this customer already is, is pretty special. A lot of the time, you need to make an effort in getting the customer to you. Internet’s real estate is filled with banners, text ads and the likes. The purpose of all this is to attract the customer to leave where he is and to come to you. Interacting with a customer in his own home is the promise of interactive TV: ‘the red button’. Although it’s around for some time, people have difficulty pressing this button. Watching TV is primarily a ‘lean back’ activity – interactive TV is a contradiction in terms. Print does not allow for interaction – other than turning a page or trashing it. Content on other platforms – such as the Kindle and the iPad – do allow for interaction. The iPad is a very interactive device, and magazines like the Wired on iPad are exploring new ways to interact with their readers and giving advertisers a platform to do the same. Very interesting.

And now there are social networks.

A social network is not just a place where a person can post all kinds of information on a profile page and share this with friends. It’s also a place where applications reside. In a way, it’s similar to the iPhone: the iPhone is not just a device where you can make calls and send text messages. It’s also an application platform where – presently – 200.000 apps run. So, applications run on social networks. Depending on the network, these applications are called apps, gadgets or widgets. These apps interface with the social network infrastructure using profile information. OpenSocial is an open standard for doing this, Facebook has a proprietary interface.

Being able to run an application in a place where your customer actually is that uses profile information of this customer opens up unparalleled interactive possibilities. It’s better than a iPhone app. It’s (much) better than interactive TV. It’s in a different league from advertising format s.a. banners, tvc’s and the likes. And, what’s even better: it’s free!

Now the second: you’re alone.

Companies are not quick in acting on changing circumstances. It goes beyond the scope of this blog to describe cases where companies fail in acting on changing consumer behavior, changing technology, changing economic realities etc. You get my drift. With a change where the growth of virtual social networks and social media is rapid and massive, the response of companies is slow and inadequate. Slow because that’s what most companies are good at. Inadequate because social media are viewed upon as just another media to put in the media mix. People buying media make a budget split between TV, radio, print and internet. Internet is divided in search engine marketing, affiliate marketing and bannering. And now, social media is added to the mix. Actually, it makes sense to do it, but if that’s all — well, that’s inadequate. The problem with viewing social media as ‘just another media type’ is that it is way too limited. The old advertising dogma ‘shout, shout harder, shout more often and they will listen’ is getting stale. And the beauty is: you don’t need to. Very few companies are actually using social networks intelligently. Just let your competition spend advertising budget in posting banners on Facebook and making really cool landing pages. Let them swim in a red ocean, while you swim in a blue ocean.  Presently, there are about 15.000 applications on facebook. Popular apps include Tripadvisor, Causes, Spotify and  Hallmark Social Calendar.

So, you can and you’re – almost – alone. That’s good news. Now, get going. Get your swimming trunks, find your blue ocean and take a swim!

Foursquare – great, but for what?

What do Agent Orange, the Mizar flying car, Crocs and Foursquare have in common? They all made it to Time’s list of ‘The 50 Worst Inventions‘. At siteless, we love flying cars, we hate Agent Orange and Crocs. Let’s find out what our relation is with Foursquare.

Foursquare is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the location based social networking space: a social city guide cum friend finder delivering a platform for customer loyalty and increased traffic for real world retailers. Foursquare is growing fast: 15.000 new users every day and almost one million check-ins per day.

First, let’s find out what Foursquare is for it’s users:

You install Foursquare as an app on your iPhone, Blackberry, Android or Palm Pre. When you’re somewhere, anywhere, Foursquare is looking for registered places nearby. You select the place where you are and check in. When you check in, you can opt to tell your friends on Facebook and Foursquare.

When checking in, you collect points and may collect badges. The purpose of the points is – presently – in the competition: the person among his friends with the most points is #1 on a weekly resetted ‘leaderboard’. Pretty pointless, huh? Badges are rewards that you earn when based on specific places of interest. Earning a badge is one of those moments in your life you want to share with your friends. “Yes, I’ve received an Adventurer Badge!”.  

If you’re going to a place more than anyone else, you become the “Mayor” of that place. Being the Mayor of a place might give you benefits – such as freebies, discounts etc.  The ‘social city guide’ is handy: it is comprised of tip of other Foursquare users – not just your friends. It’s mainly focus is towards restaurants and bars and the likes. And, of course, you see where your friends are hanging out.

The big ‘dislike’ I have is that you – again – rebuild your social network. The credentials/log-in may be based on OAuth, but you still need to send friend requests all over the place. A lot of people are tired doing that all over for just this functionality. But if you strip the friends, why would you check-in? Only for earning points? Not likely.

What’s Foursquare for organizations?

One possibility is creating a reward program for your most loyal customers. Starbucks (VS, Canada) is rewarding mayors with a 1 usd discount on a frappucino in any Starbucks. Earlier, Starbucks experimented with the Barista badge, which was achieved after five check-ins – with no rewards or discount attached. Another early adopter of Foursquare, Tasti D-Lite, has a point-based reward program, also tapping in to twitter. This program not only rewards presence in a location, but also social media behavior of its customers.

Foursquare has a list of ‘out of the box’ options for a reward program – called ‘Specials’ – making it a easy to implement, maintain and analyze. The ‘Specials’ are rolled out to the Foursquare application on the mobile telephone. Foursquare offers owners of venues an analytical tool, giving insight to a.o. the most recent and frequent visitors, histogram of check-ins per day and the portion of foursquare check-ins broadcasted to Twitter and Facebook. Nice to be able to identify your most loyal and networking customers.

Facebook is adding a location based service that also relies on check-ins. Checking-in is more fun telling your friends where you are than just collecting points. Facebook has a better proposition with its 450 million users.

Back to square one: do we love it or hate it? Bit of both: Foursquare closed the loop of real-world behavior and social media behavior. Despite the impressive growth, it’s too early to tell if there’s going to be real business value. For now, it’s mostly PR. That’s not necessarily bad: it could be a very effective image building activity if your company is one of the first in your marketplace. Any takers?

How cool would a social network be?

When you control your data and share it with you friends without the need of a hub or owned-by-someone-else’s platform? When you own your own social graph? When you have full control over your online identity? When the social network provider is not making money based on your private data or browse history? When the social network software is under a GPL and developed in the best of open source development traditions. Where privacy and security are cornerstones from the ground up, not a document of 5.830 words long (like Facebook’s privacy policy)

That would be cool, wouldn’t it?

4 NYC students thought the same and, as a summer project, started Diaspora. Fuelled by the privacy debate surrounding Facebook, 5152 people are financially backing Diaspora via Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a all-or-nothing social funding startup where individuals can fund a project from as little as USD 1,=. Diaspora had a USD 10,000,= goal, but the pledges already exceeded USD 170.000,=.

From “Diaspora is comprised of “seeds” – personal web servers that store all of your information and shares it with your friends. When you have a Diaspora seed of your own, you own your social graph, you have access to your information however you want, whenever you want, and you have full control of your online identity. Once we have built a solid foundation, we will make Diaspora easy to extend to facilitate any type of communication, and the possibilities will be endless.”

Diaspora is not the first initiative. DiSo – an an initiative to facilitate the creation of open, non-proprietary and interoperable building blocks for the decentralized social web – started out in december 2007 and has died a quiet death – or so it seems.

Diaspora is clearly riding the waves of the privacy debate. However, do the majority of people really care that much? Most people just want to be where most people are. They want to play Mafiawars and Farmville en get a free cup of coffee if they check in with FourSquare. Most people really don’t care about open, open source, installing ‘seeds’ etc. Furthermore, Diaspora doesn’t have  clue on how to get a critical mass of users. A social network is more fun with friends.

My two cents: Diaspora will fail. An initiative should have a clear advantage for user in terms of functionality, usability, interconnectivity with other social platforms etc. And yes, privacy is an important factor, but not important enough to switch.

Should you have a CSO?

Should you have a CSO? Meaning a Chief Social Officer? Honestly, I don’t care. What I do care about is the underlying question: Should organizations beef up their ‘social’ competencies and make a social media strategy?

Let’s start off with the first: the social competencies.

Social media and social networks is BIG. Really big. If you have any doubts, check out this post. And it’s not just about the numbers. It’s primarily about what people do: they talk, lough, cry, date, trash, organize parties. In short: they do what do normally do, only now it’s more connected, more involved.

Another big trend is that people rather listen to their friends than the old ‘trusted’ brands. The importance of customer reviews in buying decisions is well documented. Your friends replace brands. Social media en networks is really word of mouth on steroids. One classic example from 2004 (!) is Kryptonite. This company went almost belly-up after a blogpost and a subsequent storm of posts and videos. Great story! Now, it’s 6 years later.

So, customers are ‘social’. They listen more to each other that to you. Should you care? YES. You should and build up your competencies accordingly. These competencies involve a deep understanding of the various social infrastructures, the interplay and – most important – what specifically your customers are doing there.

Next, should you develop a social media strategy?

Well, that’s a bit less obvious. Let’s first discuss – shortly, no worries – what I mean by ‘social media strategy’. A strategy is a plan of action to achieve a major business objective. A social media strategy is a strategy where social media and your customer’s behavior on those media are the inspiration in formulating the plan of action. So, a social media strategy is not limited to actions where social media play the dominant role. So, ‘social’ is the inspiration for the plan, not the plan itself! This s very different from what i.e. Peter Kim is doing on mashable.

Back to the question: should you develop a social media strategy?

It depends, but probably you should. Let me elaborate. You probably shouldn’t if what you’re doing has got nothing to do with people in general. Like when you run an oil platform in the gulf like BP. (oops – after the green rebranding of BP to Beyond Petroleum, it’s a new rebranding: Beyond Pollution). It’s almost like ten years ago, organizations were saying: ‘mmm, the internet. Interesting. For geeks.’. Another reason why social media deserves an inspirational role in your strategy is that it’s a blue ocean. Very little companies are active on social media while the opportunities are big.

To get going on social media strategy, a few tips:

tip #1: Get lots of examples. And maybe more. Not just your competitors, but also outside your industry. Focus not just on brand or image related examples, but also on service, sales and product development. It’s all about inspiration.

tip #2: Get qualitative information of your customers. Interview a good number customers and potential customers in front of a video cam. Ask them about their life. About their friends. How they play, party, chat etc. How they get inspired. How they buy. Etc. Etc. It is really amazing what an inspiration customers can be.

tip #3: Get a clear view of your assets. What can you bring on the table? Often, it is more than you think.

tip #4: Get info trends. Tech, social, fiscal, economic, fashion, music etc. All trends relevant for your business.

tip #5: Understand that strategy development is non-lineair and needs to deal with uncertainty. You need to find a way in a big forrest without roads, where your compass is a multitude  of unsure trends. As a starter, you might want to read up on strategy under uncertainty. This leads to the final tip.

tip #6: Get help. A strategy pro can provide you with a method, the tools and an information base that helps to creating your strategy. So call/mail me at any time ;-).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s day 2010 is the #1 trend on Twitter today. A family – and thus – a social event. How are companies dealing with that?

Most obvious suspects are the cards, flowers & postal services companies.

Hallmark is great and not so great. Hallmark’s homepage is all about mother’s day – which is great. Hallmark presence on Facebook is also great (I’ll talk about that just now), but Hallmark is not doing a very good job on SMOing the homepage. SMO – Social Media Optimization – is all about making sure that everything you do is well connected and stimulates social media behavior. However, just a ‘become a fan’ banner is far from optimal, especially when you realize that using the new social plugins is a far better way of doing it. Whacky, because Hallmark is understanding social media quite well.This is illustrated by the Hallmark Social Calender App.

This application get’s all upcoming events – birthdays and special days such as mother’s day – in a calender and put’s all relevant actions right beside it. Besides the obvious functions – such as ‘Comment’ and ‘Remove from my Calendar’ – a Wish may be scheduled. All very functional and appreciated by over 11 million users worldwide. By providing this app, Hallmark is giving social network users functionality that is relevant within a social network and – by doing this – most users don’t mind the obvious commercial links. IMHO, the elaborate coins and reward points system is a bit over the top. Based on this platform, a Mother’s Day special is obvious.

Facebook is also giving attention to mother’s day. Facebook is showing the profile pics of mothers on Time Square in NYC. Research of Retrevo shows that 48% of facebook using parents befriend their children. Time to clean up your wall! This clip says it all.

@Mark: Sell out. Now.

Facebook is valued at USD 11.5B, according to sharespost, a marketplace for trading in private companies. Does this valuation make sense? It’s really all about how you look at it.

Facebook prime money-making machine is the traffic they generate and sell advertising space. A well established business model on the internet. But, there’s a catch that limits it’s potential: it’s called privacy. Although Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to care too much about privacy, most Facebook users do. And without the use of profile information, targeting is virtually impossible.

Google search advertising is fantastic in both the traffic and targeting. Google is able to target based on the search query, not based on private information of its users. Targeting is necessary for converting traffic to cash, and Google has a great cash flow to prove it. Although Google’s valuation is considered on the high end, there’s nothing wrong with the business model.

So, what’s the money potential for Facebook’s traffic based business model without profile based targeting? I’d say it’s next to nothing. Facebook has no other choice: exploit profile information for targeting. Facebook is advertising it’s targeting capabilities to companies, but is very quiet about it to users.

It is expected that the European Union and the FTC in the United States are going to act on behavioral targeting practices. This follows a storm of protest from consumers across the world. What kind of legislation will follow and how it will play out is unsure. It is sure that the privacy issues will limit the targeting potential of all organizations that collect private data, including Facebook.

@Mark: Sell out. Now.

Dumb & dumber

99% of all organizations spend about 99% of their online budget directed to the site and to create traffic to that site.

That’s dumb. Actually, it’s really dumb. Let me explain why.

People spend their time where they want to. And they don’t want to spend it somewhere else. They spend time with their friends on Facebook, Orkut and Hyves. They spend time doing games on msn, zylom and the likes. They entertain themselves on YouTube and Flickr.

The fact that people don’t want to leave is illustrated by the steady decline in click through rates (CTRs) of all kinds of online advertising. This has been monitored from the start. For example, the average CTR in 2000 was about 0.5% – according to the AdKnowledge Online Advertising Report 1st Quarter 2000. In 2009, it is down to around 0.2% and still declining. Introducing new and bigger formats – video, expandebles etc. – does impact CTR but induce higher creative costs thus negatively impacting effectiveness. Online advertising is getting a lot of the characteristics of traditional advertising like TV, Radio and print. You do know the size of the audience you reach, but you’ve got no idea what the impact is. It never troubled corporate communication managers before, so why worry?

If you don’t worry spending money and effort while not getting any results or not knowing if you get results, well, that’s … dumb.

It’s not just about attracting people to a company’s site using advertising. It’s also about the site itself. Think about it. Internet is filled with sites being a virtual representation of a head office. From the start it’s very company centric: ‘you come to us and than we serve you’. But why? Is it the price of gas? The lack of roads? In fact, there’s no limitation on the internet for companies to service their customers where they are. The only limitation is the lack of knowledge and creativity. And yes, that’s what I call dumb.

What companies should do is invest in going to their customers. There’s no excuse for not doing it. There are plenty of reasons for doing it.

This is a first post in a series.