Monthly Archives: April 2013

Social Media for Tragedies

As the recent tragic events at the Boston Marathon were discovered on Twitter by a colleague, and then unfolded before me, it was a sharp reminder of the need for compassion, tact and etiquette when it comes to Social Media.  During tragic times, people are looking for information, contact from loved ones, where to get help, or how other people can help.  What people don’t want to see are insensitive Facebook posts or Tweets, either scheduled or manually posted, according to other agendas.

Like other similar events of the past, brand marketers and individuals were guilty of either conscious or unconscious acts of insensitivity.  The unconscious posts are typically either scheduled earlier in day, triggered to be spread out over time.  The conscious ones are posted by marketers attempting to take advantage of the event, sometimes complete with event hashtags, to increase visibility of their brand.  The conscious variety create Social hating for that brand, the most famous for the Boston event was Epicurious, the publisher of food and recipe content.

The Epicurious tweets were later apologized for, but after the damage was already inflicted.  Individuals will have already formed an opinion for that brand or person, and it will be a long road to rebuild that trust.  Epicurious should have learned from the past mistakes of others, take for instance the Gap’s tweets during Hurricane Sandy.

The Gap, knowing that folks were monitoring the hashtag #Sandy, took advantage of this and tried increase their business because of it.  Nasty stuff, and clearly the wrong way to engage during tragic times.

So what is the best approach to take?  That is a tough question, and one there may be no one answer.  I think you must put yourself in the position of someone directly affected by the tragedy, and gauge how they might respond if you were standing next to them and spoke your tweet.  At the very least, or if in doubt, brands should simply be silent rather than inserting foot-in-mouth.  Perhaps you could offer your condolences, but why clog Facebook or Twitter feeds posts from car dealerships who have no connection to the tragedy, simultaneously apologizing?

For the scheduled tweets or posts, that is a much simpler, but often overlooked fix.  You simply turn the, off as quickly as you can.  Or perhaps as Gary Vaynerchuk advises, don’t use them ever!

I don’t know if I would go as far as Gary advises, and never use scheduled posts, but I think you get his message.  Effective Social Media needs to feel as personal as possible, and scheduled posts rarely hit that mark.  If you are late in discovering a national or local tragedy, and scheduled posts have already gone out, simply stop the posts and issue a quick and sincere apology.  People are human, and they will understand that not everyone gets news at the same time, and something can always slip out.

So when can you resume your posting and tweets as normal?  Again, I’m not sure there is any single answer.  Once more I would advise to put yourself in the position of someone who has been affected, and get a feel for how long to wait.  Perhaps you slowly ramp back to your business-as-usual activity.  If you or your business is located near the tragedy, that may mean waiting a bit longer.

Of all the scientific and metric-driven activities we do, Social Media during and after a tragedy takes patience, tact, and compassion.  Your opportunities can wait, your audience will still be out there, have empathy, relax, and count your blessings.

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Facebook Testing Ads, Reviews, Drilling Down Search

The folks at Facebook have been very busy both figuring out how to monetize Graph Search, as well as making some interesting functionality improvements,

Beginning the process of monetizing Graph Search likely comes as a welcome addition for Facebook investors.  Facebook is starting off in a very limited way with their first search ads, in that they are not targeted to what the user is searching for.  Instead they are simply using the standard targeting and retargeting methods used in other Facebook advertising.  The ads appear at the bottom of the page and only if there are multiple pages of search results.  These ads are targeted like other Facebook ads, based on the user’s age, gender, location, employer, Likes, as well as retargeting based on other sites the user has visited.

A much more powerful option for advertisers would be allowing them to target specific keywords that users might search on.  These specific lower funnel keywords would be much more valuable to advertisers and could allow Facebook to command a much higher rate.  Users who are searching and trying to make a buying decision would be served up relevant ads from businesses who have purchased those specific keywords in a geographic region.  Perhaps Facebook will move in this direction in the future with Graph Search.

The new option to drill down and refine your search was unannounced, as the new right-side menu suddenly began appearing.   I really like the new feature, as it not only makes life easier on the user, it also prompts them to find additional people or businesses that might be relevant to them.  Clearly Facebook is exposing more of their search graph to the user, so they can visualize the drill down opportunities.  In addition to drilling down, the user is also prompted to Extend This Search, by finding photos or videos from these places, or determining what friends visited them.

How can dealers maximize their opportunities with this new search drill down?  Make sure they are categorized correctly, have a large number of Likes on their business page, and have their location properly coded (see my prior articles on preparing for Graph Search).

The bad news for the automotive industry is that if the user simply searches for Places with no category chosen, there are no relevant categories in the drop down menu.  They would need to enter something like “car dealerships” or “oil lube & filter services” in the top Graph Search box.  Perhaps that too will change in the future, let’s hope so!

It is unclear exactly how the star ratings that appear next to some of these very popular venues are calculated.  I ran a few comparisons of venues on Yelp and Foursquare, and based on the large number of non-matches, they’re not republishing them.  It looks like they may be based on Likes, check-ins, mentions, and general PTAT (“People Talking About This” Facebook’s algorithm on unique users who have created a “story” about a page), since only very popular places show star ratings.  This would be similar to Foursquare’s algorithm, based on Likes, Check-ins, popularity, loyalty, and local expertise.

If in fact the Facebook reviews are an internal algorithm, dealers truly need to ramp up their social efforts.  Dealers will need to find new ways to increase Likes to their business pages, as well as increase engagement such as check-ins and other PTAT activities.

The Facebook Graph Search team will continue to refine this very important new tool, both adding to the functionality, as well as creating new options to monetize with advertisers.  I’ll continue to monitor it closely, and share my findings.