Tag Archives: Facebook


In an internet age that has become ever more socially-saturated, devising and delivering something that offers true differentiation is becoming increasingly hard.  ‘Pheed’ is the latest social network to launch and whilst the platform itself doesn’t appear to offer anything … Continue reading

Why Facebook Should Search Outside of Search…

The news that Facebook is considering a venture into search has sparked much debate in tech circles.  Since its very inception, Facebook has striven to integrate itself ever more visibly into every facet of our lives; its recent IPO and subsequent floatation on the stock market accelerating this desire for ubiquitous omnipresence even further.  But are plans to enter the search market one step too far for the social networking behemoth?

My initial reaction was that this is a step too far.  Although no technology company is ever untouchable (look at the declining fortunes of Nokia), Google’s dominance of the search market and the web economy shows no signs of slowing.

This venture into search actually parallels Google’s avenue into social media: Google Plus was launched last year in an attempt to leverage the company’s ownership of search and content and thus grab a slice of an extremely lucrative social pie.  But even the most ardent Google fan would have to admit that this venture has not been met with the success the search giant would have hoped for.

As of September 2012, Google Plus boasts 400m accounts, which, at half of Facebook’s membership, gained in only a year, is a staggering achievement.  But the truth is that many of these accounts have simply been given automatically to people who use various other Google products, such as Gmail – and this may go some way to explaining the low engagement rate.

And this is not to say that Google Plus is a failure: it has a beautiful UI, its integration with search results allows us to see content publicly ‘+1’d’ in search results and features such as hangouts and circles have been lauded by many tech commentators and consumers alike.  But despite this, the platform has simply failed to inspire the wider general public in the way that Facebook has.

So if Google, a company with almighty clout, has ‘failed’ to dent Facebook’s ownership of social, what makes Facebook think that it can take on search?

There’s a lot of compelling arguments to suggest that Facebook is in a good position to do just that.  Search links people with content, and Facebook is one of the biggest sources of content generation on the Internet.  Facebook is a visible part of our everyday lives and a digital destination that we use frequently throughout the day.  Adding a service such as search makes it easier for users, right?

I’m not so sure.

You see, for me, one of the big appeals of social media is its serendipitous nature.  I like browsing through my feeds, stumbling over amusing photos that friends have shared on Facebook; reading an article that a colleague has posted on Twitter; discovering some amazing research from a contact on LinkedIn.  Browsing and discovering are wonderful features of social media – and browsing is very different to search.

When we search for something, we actively know what we want; what we are looking for.  And tools such as Google and Bing serve that need perfectly.  When I log into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I don’t go there because I’m after a specific piece of information – I go there to discover.  And that’s crucial.

Social media connects me with content, which, granted, is exactly what search does.  But when I visit my social channels, I’m engaging in a journey of discovery.  I don’t know whether I’ll stumble across a fascinating piece of research shared by a colleague, or a photograph of a cat dressed in a cowboy outfit posted by a sibling.  If I knew exactly what content that I wanted to consume, the chances are that I would have turned to Google to seek out my insightful research article.  Or cat picture…

You could argue that Facebook is in a position to offer both – serendipitous moments of discovery shared by friends, as well as providing a search feature.  But, in my opinion, Facebook needs to be very careful that it doesn’t dilute its proposition as the world’s foremost social networking platform – which it is – by trying to model itself into a sole hub for people’s entire internet experience.

For me, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google – all of these channels have been so successful because they own their particular features – and are damn good at what they do.  Trying to shoehorn a service offered ten times better elsewhere leaves a company in danger of diluting the core proposition that made it so successful in the first place.

And for me, that’s why I believe that Facebook should search outside of search for any new additions to its popular service.

Instagram: Why Digital Darwinism is a Good Thing


Manchester’s Northern Quarter is up in arms.  The denizens of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston are revolting.  This Easter weekend, hipsters nationwide are NOT happy bunnies.  Why?  Because Instagram, darling of artisans, students and cool people worldwide, has been snapped up by Facebook for $1 billion.

Despite Instagram having a userbase of over 30 MILLION users (thanks in no small part to the recent release of the Android version), the app is apparently a sacred space for ‘cool’ people to attain subcultural capital and rebel against large, corporate digital behemoths vying for our digital data.  The app allows users to take photos, apply filters and be truly unique (as another 29,999,999 people).

While I’m clearly being facetious, the backlash against Instagram’s ‘sell-out’ has been surprising.  People have been using and enjoying this FREE service for a year and a half, whilst 13 guys in Silicone Valley have worked hard to support and develop a great little app for everyone to use.  For free.  Yet their payday has come, their hard work has been rewarded, yet suddenly they are the bad guys.  Why?

YouTube was started by two chaps in their garage – you can’t get much more raw, authentic and anti-corporate than that.  However, Google acquired YouTube and over the past few years, the service has developed into a mainstay of popular culture, so much so that we now have TELEVISION shows ABOUT YouTube clips (take a bow ‘Rude Tube’).

However, people were against YouTube being taken over at the time.  They claimed, just as they are doing with Instagram, that ‘they like things how they are and don’t want the service they know and love to be changed’.  Imagine if YouTube hadn’t evolved?  Imagine if smartphones, nay, MOBILE phones hadn’t evolved – we wouldn’t enjoy half the convenience, information and communications benefits that we do now.  It is with noted irony that people moaning about Instagram selling out to a ‘corporate’ are doing so on their Apple / Google mobile devices.  Hmm.

So while I argue that progress is a good and necessary thing in the digital space, what exactly is this progress?  What does this purchase of Instagram represent?

Without a shadow of doubt, Facebook is making a shrewd acquisition into the mobile space.  Instagram is the world’s largest mobile-based social network – fact.  Mobile is an exploding area in digital communications, simply because smartphone capabilities are evolving at such a rate – and this means this is a huge area of focus for businesses, brands and services.

Up to know, Facebook has enjoyed phenomenal usage on mobile devices thanks to its iPhone and Android app.  However, Facebook has also admitted that it has struggled to monetise and capitalise on this huge surge in mobile usage.  The purchase of Instagram may not immediately address this, since the app makes no money (at present) – however, it is clear that Facebook is moving with the times – and that means really moving into the mobile space.

So, there’s no doubt that Facebook will look to develop Instagram.  This is inevitable.  However, contrary to hipsters’ fears, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  If something is good, people will flock to use it in large numbers.  Large numbers = significant interest from big companies.  It’s a natural digital evolution.  But this does not mean that the service, or indeed, the CONTENT, need change.

After all, just think where we’d be if YouTube was still stuck in a garage.  Or for that matter, if Steve Jobs had not decided to make an Apple phone.

Progress is a good thing – especially in the digital sector.

(I may not be a hipster, but I do have a beard and work in digital – which means I love Instagram too.  The shot at the top of this post was taken by me, using pre-Facebook Instagram, this Monday.)

Social Peacocks: Social Media Display and Brand Affiliation in 2011

Back in 1959, Erving Goffman published a book entitled ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’, which, amongst other things, explored the theme that we ‘perform’ different roles dependent on specific ‘stages’ and situations we find ourselves in.

Although Goffman’s lauded name has become synonymous with this sociological concept, this is a theme that has run throughout history. Plato spoke of the ‘stage of human life’, whilst Shakespeare penned the pertinent phrase “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

It’s now 2011 and with the advent of social media, the concept of displaying ourselves on a stage has become more pertinent than ever before. We live in a world that is permanently switched-on; ever-connected. Sharing all aspects of our lives, from big news such as engagements and pregnancies to banal trivia such as what we are watching on TV, sharing on the social stage has become very much de rigeur.

With over 600,000,000 active users, Facebook has rapidly risen in less than a decade to become arguably one of the biggest ‘stages’ in modern life. Our social circles are no longer limited to close friends we see regularly; instead we can now ‘perform’ to old school ‘friends’ (I use the term loosely), casual acquaintances and old work colleagues as part of an ever-increasing audience viewing multiple ‘stages’.

But over the past two years, social media marketing has also made significant strides, with brands and businesses seeping osmotically into our online lives. The updates we receive from friends and family are now intertwined with communications from retailers, car companies, food brands, charities and local restaurants – in short, anyone that we actively choose to ‘like’.

Whilst recent research shows that many users are motivated to ‘like’ brands and businesses for the chance to win prizes and receive exclusive discounts, research has also started to highlight the growing trend in ‘liking’ brands in order to visibly display association with that brand to a peer network on social media channels.

This form of ‘display to convey’ is nothing new: take coffee tables adorned with meticulously arranged ‘high-brow’ literature / magazines; t-shirts adorned with branded logos; carrier bags displaying which shops we have just frequented. All around us, we display our consumer preferences through related collateral, be this actual or aspirational.

And this age-long trend has continue into the social sphere. Whether it’s using geo-locations to ‘check-in’ at a trendy bar or ‘liking’ a fashionable brand on Facebook (Apple, Aston Martin, Tag Heur et al), we are now sharing more and more of our consumer choices with a much wider audience. Why?

I conducted some research in various LinkedIn groups, asking the question, “Why do you click ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page?”, which threw up (amongst others) the two following responses:

“I already feel a big connection with the brand and want to let people know I like it.”

“The reason I did [like a page] was much more related to the identification I have with the brand rather than a special feeling […] they are a reference for me.”

Even from these two ad hoc quotes, we can glean that social media users (which in 2011, comprises the vast majority of us) are building, constructing and displaying their chosen ‘identities’ on one of the world’s biggest stages. Humans have always desired to display a side to themselves, be it status, wealth or sexuality – however the advent of display in social media has given rise to what I call, the social peacock.

I’m not for one moment claiming that this is the sole reason for consumers to ‘like’ a brand’s page. As previously stated, material incentives such as prizes and discounts are huge ‘like-drivers’. Social channels have opened up another level to customer service, with dedicated teams on Twitter, Facebook and Skype becoming standard practice for companies in the Utilities sector.

But for many social media users, ‘liking’ brands has become a way to collect badges and trophies that speak about them as a person; it allows them to project a desired image of themselves and their life choices. Like it or not, we live in a global economy driven by capitalism, and much of our perceived identity is intrinsically linked to the brands (as opposed to products) that we consume.

Who knows what the future may hold, especially since one of the rising trends in social media is the focus on local communities and niche ‘pockets’ of users sharing niche interests. But for now, clicking ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page remains very much a way of conveying choice, status and image – and marketers would do well to ensure that ‘social peacocks’ are one of the key groups they focus on.

Social Media is a Budweiser Bottle…

Social ‘media’ has undoubtedly acted as the catalyst in creating a more connected, social world in the digital space, but humans have been ‘social’ long before the advent of Facebook et al.

This brilliant new campaign from Bud Light uses special labels on its bottles that drinkers can etch messages on using a key or blunt object, penning anything from a name or party invite to a mobile number:

Although undoubtedly a gimmick, this is a great piece of marketing that taps directly into our fascination with being social, sharing and communicating with each other – yet the only social ‘media’ being used is a glass bottle!

Needless to say, there’s support for this campaign on the brand’s Facebook page, ensuring that interaction and engagement can continue into the online space through established social media platforms.

But the pertinent point is this: Bud Light started this campaign by creating something that taps into our fundamental psychological fascination with communication and being social.

Of course, social media allows us to reach and engage with consumers in authentic new ways never before seen. But at the very heart of any social strategy, we need to remember that, like the Bud Light bottle, we need to appeal to real people in ways that fascinate and engage them.

Heineken: GREAT campaign, but no ENGAGEMENT.

I’m a genuine fan of Heineken’s new ‘The Entrance’ campaign, which you can see below:

It’s fast, fun, creative and features a famous singer (Duffy) belting out a catchy track by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour.

I keep seeing the ad on TV, so decided to check the brand out on Facebook, where the campaign continues.

Fans of the Heineken Facebook page can access a highly dynamic digital tab for ‘The Entrance’, in which the ad is played, with interactive options laced over the top of it.  Users can then see the ‘back stories’ of the campaigns outlandish characters, which allows us to see how everything fits into ‘the hero’s’ entrance.

This is a pertinent example of how brands are increasingly turning to Facebook to expand upon ATL television advertising.  Yet for me, despite my love affair with the ad, the social strategy could have been expanded so much more.

As Facebook itself talked about at this week’s Internet world, social media and digital is increasingly playing a crucial role in the consumer’s purchasing decision:

Awareness – Heineken TV ad

Interest – Facebook ‘expanded stories’



Recommendation – Tweet / Facebook share buttons

As you can see, there is no discernible call to action, and no ability to engage deeper than simply sharing the stories through social channels, which is great for brand awareness, but that’s all.

So how could Heineken add further dynamics to the social interaction, which at this stage, remains very one-way?

  • YouTube – users could be asked to upload their very own ‘entrance’ videos featuring bottles of Heineken, providing plenty of branded, crowd-sourced material for the beer brand, with a prize mechanic.
  • Fans could follow Twitter accounts of the main protagonists as they unravel further outlandish stories daily, maintaining regular brand awareness and interaction with consumers.
  • The Facebook page could ask for people’s ‘best and worst ways to make an entrance’, again, encouraging engagement and continuing brand dialogue.

This is a wonderful piece of branding, but ENGAGEMENT is the cornerstone of social media marketing if we, as digital marketers, are to genuinely influence consumer DECISION and ACTION.

With ‘The Entrance’, there is no opportunity for consumers to talk to the brand, which is a real shame, because this great campaign is worthy of so much more.

Social by Design: Facebook’s Future for Social Brands #IWExpo

“Do not think about how you can fit social media into your business: think about how your business can fit into social media.

This morning, I made the relatively short trip to Earl’s Court to have a look around the Internet World expo, but in particular, to attend a keynote speech by Jonathan Harvey, UK Sales Manager at Facebook.

The title of the seminar ‘Social by Design’ promised to look at what Facebook has in store for brands looking to maximise their marketing within this ubiquitous social network.  Harvey delivered a confident, engaging speech and I felt it worthwhile sharing some of his points with you here.

Social media is fundamentally changing the way we use the Internet

This may not be headline news to all of you, but Harvey made the point that social networking truly is changing everything.  From retail sites that now offer social sharing integration and peer reviews / user-generated content (UGC) to sites maximising the opportunity to ‘share’ pieces of information, social is becoming (if not already) ingrained within digital technology and websites.

This has also given rise to the conglomeration of recommendations.  Increasingly, we are utilising our online and virtual networks to actively seek out trusted referral opportunities – and social is the main enabler of this.

Unsurprisingly, our online behaviour is changing according to this, as we can see from our behavioural evolution online:

1990’s – browse
2000’s – search
2010’s – DISCOVER

Harvey announced that in the 2010s, we have entered an age of DISCOVERY – and social networks / peer recommendations are where the majority of us discover new things, be it new products, tickets, events, cool websites, social memes or the latest news.

Industries and businesses are changing their entire organisations to facilitate social media

Social media is not a passing fad – as stated above, social has facilitated a substantial cultural shift in the very way we communicate.  Organisations realise that the way they do business, sell to consumers, target customers, create brand advocates – all of this has to adapt to the new social web.

Industries are now transforming by organising their entire business AROUND PEOPLE.  Businesses are becoming SOCIAL BY DESIGN.  Display advertising online has always been good for brand awareness, but social media allows an authentic, two-way dialogue between businesses and their customers.

Microsites are a thing of the past: one needs only to look at the number of businesses that drive traffic to Facebook pages to realise that this shift is fundamental, it’s happening NOW and it really is the future.

Recommendations are INFLUENCING consumer behaviour

Harvey stated that the traditional marketing steps towards purchase have now had an extra layer weaved in due to social media.  This has changed from an old, static, on-way flow with a defined beginning and an end, to an unending circle of consumer behaviour and influence:

BEGINNING Awareness –> Interest –> Decision –> Action END

However, the Social Web has ushered in a new ‘cycle’ of marketing engagement:

Needless to say, we can see that the power of social recommendation ensures that the consumer marketing cycle is now a continuous loop, allowing brands much more access to consumers rather than this typically ending at the point of purchase.

Key points?

Harvey concluded that brands and businesses need to be aware of three simple points if they are to succeed in social marketing:

1. People first; content second – this is paramount!
2. Make sharing simple and fast – A FEW CAN ACTIVATE MANY
3. Your friends are there – trusted peer-to-peer recommendations – more value than ‘traditional’ one-way marketing communications

So where do we go from here?

Social media is everywhere: it has fundamentally changed the way we behave online and integrating social into marketing strategy is essential for success.  Marketing now consists of:

i) PAID MARKETING (posters, adverts etc.)
ii) OWNED MARKETING (websites etc.)
iii) EARNED MARKETING (traditionally word-of-mouth / PR – now hugely SOCIAL)

As part of this new digital integration, it is vital that businesses and brands maximise their social activity using the following simple steps:

BUILD your brand following
AMPLIFY your following and make use of friends of your advocates – reach
ENGAGE – this is fundamental to success


For many of you, these findings won’t come as a surprise per se; but the significance of social media and its influence on the fundamental way we communicate cannot be underestimated.

My key finding from this session?

Do not think about how you can fit social media into your business: think about how your business can fit into social media.