Archives for the month of: August, 2012

If you’re a global superbrand, chances are that a ton of people are already talking about your company and products on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. If your products or stores can be photographed, there is also a good chance that pictures tied to your brand will turn up on Instagram and Flickr. Starting a social media monitoring program will be easy. Crank up Google and Tickr, and you’ll immediately start to see how many people are talking about you, where they are having conversations, and what they are saying. Your social monitoring team can then brief PR, customer service, product management and marketing, and help coordinate real time responses, campaign messaging and targeting, etc.

But what if you’re a small company? What if you’re still a young startup? Or what if you’re a B2B organization and haven’t yet grown into a household name? Then what? Where do you start? I won’t lie to you and tell you that building a community from scratch is easy. It isn’t. You simply aren’t going to get 100,000 twitter followers overnight. You won’t be enjoying long comment threads on your Facebook updates and blog posts for months. Building your social media program, then scaling it again and again is going to take time. But if you incorporate these tactics into your new social media / social business program, you will start to see results a little faster than if you just went with a “build it and they will come” strategy.

Here is how the question usually comes up:

“We’ve created our blog, our Twitter account(s), and our Facebook page. We have dedicated monitoring and workload management tools. We’re staffed, funded and ready to go. But… no one is talking to us yet, and judging from the Tickr page we built for our brand, not many people are talking about us yet either. Where do we begin?”

Great question. If you’re in that social media program start-up phase and your main objective is to establish yourself in existing communities and grow your own, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Start with your analog networks.

You have customers. You have colleagues. You have vendors and partners and employees. You have friends and professional peers. Start there. Find them on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Twitter, and invite them to like your new Facebook page, follow you on Twitter and read your blog. These customers, colleagues, vendors, employees, partners, friends and peers have networks of their own. Over time, their networks will become your networks, and the new followers and fans you will recruit from those networks will introduce you to their networks, and so on.

Initially, you will see your community grow one person at a time. It will feel like watching grass grow. You will wonder if you are doing something wrong, if you aren’t doing enough… Don’t stress out. Things will begin to speed up. Relax. The first few months are 90% work and 10% results. You will eventually see 10% work and 90% results, but not yet. The process here is a lot like moving to a brand new town where you only know five or six people. One event at a time, one coffee, meeting or luncheon at a time, you will start to meet people. They will in turn introduce you to more people. Over time, 10 people will turn into 100, then 1,000, the 1,000. Be patient. Focus on attracting quality connections, not just collecting as many fans and followers as you can. If you do it right, less is more.

Start with people you like and trust, people who already understand the value of your company and product, people who are already evangelists for either you, your brand, or your product.

2. Hunt for conversations.

There already exist communities around professions, industries, hobbies, product categories, social objects, cultural trends, and so on. What you need to do now is find them. Look across all social channels you intend to use for discussions about topics that are relevant to your company, products or industry. You make hipster jeans? Search for “hispster” and “jeans” on Twitter. (Twitter Search is one of the most powerful tools on the web, believe it or not.) Look up “hipster, community” on a few search engines and see what turns up. Set up a Tickr pages for “hipster” and “jeans.” See what turns up. Then radiate outward from these obvious keywords. Think about some of the attributes of your ideal customers. Think of some of the overlapping interests they may have: what kind of music do they listen to? What artists do they like? What shoes do they wear? What types of discussions might they have? Discuss it internally, dive into your customer data, get out on the street and in stores if you have to, poll your customers… do whatever you have to do to map out their interests and understand them better. Then do the same thing online and look for those micro-communities or overlapping interests online.

Tip: know your channels. For a denim company, Pinterest, Facebook, Spotify, Foursquare and Instagram might hold some clues. For a business services company, LinkedIn, Twitter, G+, Quora and Slideshare might yield better results.

To give you a completely different type of example, if your business is ball bearings, think about who you sell ball bearings to now. What do they make? What do they sell? Write those keywords down and search for them. See what turns up.

Identifying the right sets of keywords might take a little work, but keep at it and you’ll eventually turn up a few that will open the gates to new communities, discussion topics and social connections online.

3. Read, watch and listen more than you publish.

Once you’ve identified channels, communities, digital events (like #chats on twitter, for instance, or discussions on LinkedIn), start following people who seem interesting and relevant to your search. Could they be customers? Are they already customers? Could they help validate your brand to their network or help share your message? More importantly though, do you like them?

This might seem a strange thing to say on a business blog, but the more you like someone online, the more likely it is that you connect with them on a human level. Given that the fuel of communities is passion (for products, brands, topics, etc.), human connections and relationships are vital to both communities’ health and your relevance within them. So while “liking” someone on Facebook may only require the click of a button, liking someone online, for who they are, is also a very big part of this. It’s easy to get caught up in the mission of identifying and cataloging social media denizens (even using services like Klout and Kred to rate the extent to which they might be influential in certain circles), and that is part of the work, but keep it human. The analysis piece should be secondary. Make friends. That’s a lot more important.

At any rate, the ratio of listening to speaking in your first month should probably be 50:1. By your third month, it could ease up to 25:1. By the time that your social media presence comes of age, you might be able to  hit 5:1, if you’re lucky (when 80-90% of your “publishing” online consists of responding in some way to a mention, comment or question). Until that time comes, listen. Read. Watch.

We look at the amount of time community managers spend listening and reading other people’s content (blog posts, tweets and chats, for instance) in the first few months of their programs versus the amount of “content” they produce, and the extreme nature of the ratio is always striking. Even though community managers are doing a lot of work, in terms of content, it rarely looks like they are all that prolific. Don’t be put off by it. That’s normal. There are two simple reasons for this:

- If you only have 50-250 likes on Facebook and 100 followers on twitter, your community may not be large enough to warrant hourly updates, daily blog posts, and tweets every ten minutes. If you publish a lot of content now, no one will ever see it. It will get buried in an increasingly full timeline. Save your energy and your insights for when you have an audience.

- Too much talking and not enough listening won’t teach you much about your community or what it cares about. Your community manager’s job for the first few months is one of research, acclimation, fact-finding, analysis and social insertion. There will be plenty of time for a heavy publishing schedule later.

So at first, keep the messaging, content creation and publishing light. Growth comes in phases.

4. Share other people’s content.

A good deal of the content you will share on social networks won’t be yours. Why? Two reasons:

- It doesn’t have to be.

- Sharing and retweeting are potent forms of social currency.

One of the obvious advantages of sharing other people’s content rather than creating your own is that it takes a lot less time. In the time it might have taken your community manager to research, draft, write and publish one blog post, that same community manager might have identified, read, liked and shared someone else’s article, blog post, presentation, video, podcast, infographic or white paper twenty times over.

Another advantage is that it brings a breadth of value into a) the community that you are building and b) the communities that you are becoming an integral part of. When you share someone else’s content, you are helping people in your network discover that content. If you pick the right types of content, that adds a lot of value to a community’s activity.

Compare that to a company that spends all day creating content about itself. Sure, it’s work, but is it really interesting 24/7? No. By spending a lot of time researching content and sharing it, you become an active participant in your community’s information ecosystem. You become a source of not only relevant information but valuable insight. Do that well, and more and more people will start to not only notice you, but find your presence valuable.

A third advantage is that by sharing someone else’s content, you are shining the spotlight on them instead of yourself. That usually makes them appreciative. Everyone in a social setting likes to get a little attention and validation. Every time you share someone’s content for the right reasons, you are making a deposit in the social bank of good will. It’s a nice way of making friends. (Just don’t forget to include proper attribution in your tweets and updates. Mentioning the author of the content, even the person through whom you discovered it is the right thing to do.)

Leadership in a community often begins by frequently casting a favorable light on others. Don’t forget that.

If it seems that searching for content about a topic is too daunting at first (search engines aren’t necessarily the best real-time aggregators of news and blog posts), Tickr can obviously come in handy: set up some pages for a breadth of topics and check on them from time to time. Although it is supposed to be a brand monitoring product, it’s a very powerful real time search tool as well.

Another great place to go to find news is Pulse (a more traditional news aggregator, but with a similar format as Tickr, which is easy on the brain). Between Tickr and Pulse, your real time search needs should be pretty much covered.

Build, scan, sort, share. That should be 90% of your social content strategy in the beginning.

We hope that helped. In Part 2, we will explore the final four more tips (at least for now).

If you haven’t yet created a Tickr account, now’s a good time to give us a try.

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Interested in politics? Want to keep tabs on news, blogs, tweets, conversations and updates about the Republican National Convention in Tampa? Tickr has you covered. Open up and bookmark the RNC Tickr page on your mobile device, laptop, or PC.

And if you’ve built a Social Media Mission Control Center for work (or at home), make sure to dedicate one of your RNC monitoring screens to Tickr.

(You’re welcome.)

If you don’t have an account yet, sign up for one here and take a test drive.

Let’s say that you are a brand manager, an agency working with a brand, a journalist following a brand (or just an ardent fan of a brand,) and you need to know what is being said about that brand, where it is being said, by whom, and when. Obviously, Tickr takes care of that for you, but let’s look at how easy it is to use.

Let’s start by building a simple brand page in the basic trial version. For the purposes of this post, let’s pick Nike (iconic brand, lots of content, and Nike was in the news this week because of rumors of its new shoe’s pricing and the Lance Armstrong decision).

By now, you’ve created an account, logged in, and you’ve built your page by just typing “Nike” in the box. If you haven’t done that yet, start here.

After a few seconds, here is what your basic Tickr page for Nike should basically look like:

First, let’s get situated. Top left of your screen is your page tab. (See below.) If you are using the free trial version, you only get one page at a time. If you have signed up for the pro version, you can have several tabs per page. So what you could do there is do comparative analysis of say Nike vs. Adidas, or deeper analysis of the Nike brand by refining your use of keywords. For instance: Nike, Nike Football, Nike Soccer, Nike Shoes, Nike retail, etc.

Next, look to the top right of your screen. (See below.) Though when your page launches, it will default to automatic scrolling, you can switch to manual scrolling, either by clicking on the up and down arrows or the on/off button. Your choice.

You can also easily share your page with friends and colleagues, edit your page, and there is also a help page that will help you navigate all of the elements of the page in case you have forgotten how to do something.

Now let’s look at the content being displayed on the page.

As you can see, each source of data is clearly displayed and color-coded so your eyes can easily discern between blogs, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Here is how each source timeline further breaks down: the boxes of text and the images you see at the top of each timeline are called content windows. They are there to give you a sense for what kind of content is being shared and create context.

The gray blocks below the content windows make up the activity graph. You can interact with all of these elements at any time just by clicking on them. (See below.)

So for instance, if you click on the blogs feed’s content window featuring the “Just Do It – Four Steps to Filmmaking,” you can pre-select it. In the top right of that window is a little symbol with a box and an arrow. Click on it and you will access the page that the original content came from. (See below.)

In that particular instance, the link took me to Garrett Robinson’s blog (hi Garrett), where I can read the full post.  (See below.)

Now, if I were a community manager for Nike, I might decide to do nothing with that information… or I might reach out to Garrett and thank him for the mention, or make Nike resources available to him, or decide to share his content on a community blog, Facebook page or via Twitter. The options will vary depending on your role, your objectives, the opportunities and risks presenting themselves, but the point is that this feature allows you to go beyond simple content discovery. It allows you to drill down into stories, mentions and content, explore them fully, and interact with them at will.

What about the activity graph? Same thing. Click on any bar you want, and you will be able to drill down into a summary of the activity for that time frame. (See below.)

Once the window for that time frame is open, you can scroll up and down (or move to the previous time frame or the next without having to close the window, which is kind of handy).

Top right of each item in the summary window is a hyperlink, allowing you to go straight to the source if you want to. Same as with the content window. The feature also works with the Flickr feed:

See? Super easy.

On the macro level, a Tickr page works as a visual ticker that aggregates then organizes data from a breadth of relevant sources. Dedicate a screen to it in your office, lobby or digital mission control center, and you will immediately get a sense for the volume of conversations and mentions going on about your brand, what category of channels these conversations and mentions are taking place on, and what the nature of these conversations and mentions is. The page’s design and automated updates can therefore alert you to shifts in attention, to the impact of breaking stories, the possibility of looming PR crises, the effectiveness of a campaign, the stickiness of a message, etc. (We’ll get into those and more in upcoming posts.)

On a micro level, the ability to drill down into the content summaries then track mentions directly back to their source 1. allows you to understand then analyze mentions and conversations, 2. choose who you want to interact with and where, and 3. gives you complete control over the degree of engagement you want to have with your audience and/or community.

Combining Tickr’s macro and micro capabilities makes for a pretty powerful social media monitoring and management tool.

We’ll focus on more advanced features in future posts, so stay tuned. (There’s a lot more to talk about.)

In the meantime, feel free to try Tickr’s free trial version, and if you haven’t yet, unlock some new features by creating an account (recommended).

And as always, don’t be shy: share your thoughts and feedback with us, either in the comment section below or by contacting us.

We hope this post was helpful to you.

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Some companies need twenty minute videos to explain what they do. That’s cool. Tickr is so easy to explain though, that ours only lasts 56 seconds. Check it out:

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Questions about the Pro or Enterprise versions? Contact us.

Feel free to also visit our website and have a look around, and even play with our free trial version.

The social web hasn’t just revolutionized communications between people (and communications between brands and the public). It’s also revolutionized the way organizations operate when it comes to monitoring conversations that relate to them, their industry, their products and their campaigns.

For the last few years, digital agencies and brand management teams have been leveraging social media platforms like twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Google + and others to monitor conversations and mentions of their brands. This alerts them to shifts in popularity, perceptions and sentiment, overall mindshare, market relevance, the effectiveness of their customer-facing efforts, and an increasingly long list of insights that help them gauge the effectiveness of their activities.

Gone are the days of lengthy, expensive, labor-intensive 3rd party market research programs. Most of what happens in the real world of brick and mortar stores and cash registers and physical products that people can touch and feel finds itself projected online, primarily through social networks. If someone buys your product and loves it, they will share what they love about it with their friends. If they hate it, you can be sure that they will share that as well. Every experience relevant enough to be shared will be, because it can be. This is the new reality of the digitally connected consumer. Good or bad, this phenomenon yields its share of advantages for brands seeking to identify areas of positive influence on the market and areas where they still have a little work to do. Knowledge, after all, is power. And the kind of real-time, multi-channel monitoring available to brands today makes brings with it a tremendous amount of actionable knowledge.

If a consumer is particularly connected, the entire path from product discovery, shopping, purchase, unboxing and usage will be systematically documented across a breadth of platforms. At any given time, a photo of your product or retail location may be shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest (to name a few). User reviews, whether positive or negative, will invariably turn up on blogs, consumer-facing websites, and in the social stream of online retailers from Amazon to Overstock. If your brand reaches enough people, thousands of micro-mentions relating to you will flood the internet every hour. Making sense of it all, organizing the noise into some kind of manageable signal, takes a bit of deliberate focus. You need tools that will help you both quantify and qualify shifts in positive and negative perceptions, for instance. You need to build internal mechanisms that will help you sort through that mess of mentions and identify valuable insights and triggers like customer service opportunities, product improvement recommendations, and possible Public Relations crises looming on the horizon, for starters.

The complexity of this task increases with the reach of the brand. Here, size (of the market) matters. For some, the process can be relatively simple. For others, entire departments have to be mobilized (or created outright) in order to address this brave new world of brand intelligence and brand response needs. You need qualified people. You need big computer screens. You need specialized  software. Before long, what started as a loose collection of laptops and digital displays starts to grow into a formalized mission control center. This is the natural evolution of brand management in the social business age. Still somewhat novel in 2012, mission control centers will be part of every organization’s infrastructure by the end of the decade.

This raises a lot of practical questions: how do we build something like that? What will I need? Where do I start? How much will it cost? What tools should I use? These are all excellent questions, and over the next few installments of this series, we will try to point you in some helpful directions. For now though, the best thing is to look at what some companies are already doing in the mission control space, and see what we can learn from them.

If you want a couple of places to start, look at what Dell, PepsiCo and Edelman Digital have done already. They are among the first organizations to have embraced and experimented with the mission control concept. In fact, check out this video from PepsiCo showcasing Gatorade’s very own mission control center. (Disclosure: Gatorade uses Tickr.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InrOvEE2v38&feature=player_embedded]

If it all seems a little complicated for the average company, don’t worry.

1. The video was cut to look complex and exciting.

2. Most brands don’t need that degree of complexity (at least not yet).

3. (And this may be the most important reason not to fret…) while some tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use, others are designed to simplify the monitoring process rather than making it more difficult (or pricey). We understand the need for both, but we prefer to fall in the easy to use category. Less headaches that way.

One of our goal at Tickr, for instance, is to provide a tool that requires virtually no training but offers our users powerful, easy to digest, relevant information on one screen and in real-time.

Sure, you can drill down into tweets and sources, or run reports when you need to, but the idea is to give you a clean, actionable snapshot of conversations and content being shared about your brand right out of the box. Our design is purposely simple, our features deliberately easy to use, and the entire user experience behind the tool built to be as intuitive as possible. You can use Tickr as a stand-alone monitoring dashboard or as an integral part of a more complex monitoring ecosystem like Gatorade’s. It’s entirely up to you.

If you’ve been a little gun shy when it comes to building a social media mission control center from scratch, an easy way to get over that hint of tech anxiety is to take a few minutes to test-drive the most basic version of Tickr: our free trial. (Yes, it’s free.) You won’t be able to create multiple search tabs or access every single source or menu item in the free version, but it will give you a pretty good feel for what Tickr can do and how easy it is to use. Once you’re in Tickr and building pages of your own, it won’t take you long to figure out why it is already a staple of mission control centers for digital agencies and brands: it’s simple, slick and powerful  but really simple. Nothing overwhelming about it. The Pro and Enterprise versions are loaded with additional features, but just as user-friendly.

Take a test drive and let us know what you like (or dislike) about it. We’ll take it from there.

(To be continued.)

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You asked for it, and we listened: at long last, Tickr has its own blog!

This is the place where the Tickr team will…

  • share its latest news about the world of Tickr,
  • give you a behind-the-scenes look into what we’re working on (yes, including sneak peeks),
  • share handy tips, tricks and product features that will help you make the most out of your Tickr experience,
  • bring you helpful case studies from our clients and partners,
  • answer your questions,
  • and lots, lots more.

In a week or so, we will start adding categories to our menu so you’ll be able to effortlessly find what you’re looking for.

If you’re new to Tickr, think of it as a multi-function ticker-style visual dashboard for social media and digital management folks. (Don’t worry, it isn’t as complicated as it sounds.) In essence, what Tickr does is simplify brand, campaign and keyword monitoring by organizing all of the web’s most relevant data regarding your search on one screen and in real time. That’s it.

You can build a Tickr page in seconds. The rest kind of takes care of itself.

Depending on whether or not you are using the free trial version, the more in-depth pro version or the fully tricked-out enterprise version of Tickr, you can then dig deeper into data and do all sorts of cool stuff… but we’ll talk about that in future blog posts.

Feel free to take a quick stroll around our website, check out how Tickr works, find out who is behind it all, browse a few of our “light” case-studies (don’t worry, we will be bringing you much more in-depth analysis in the coming weeks), or better yet, try Tickr yourself for free.

You’ll also be happy to know that we’re on Facebook and Twitter, so don’t be shy: connect with us there.

If you aren’t new to Tickr, take a moment to say hi, ask us questions, share your stories with us, make suggestions… whatever feels right. We’ll be monitoring comments at first, and Tickr users work in all kinds of time zones around the globe, so don’t worry if your comments don’t show up right away. That’s normal. We’ll get to them as soon as we can.

We’re all ears and look forward to your contributions and feedback. We’re betting that you will help us make Tickr even better than it already is, and look forward to that process.

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With Tickr you can track the buzz about your company, brand, or product.  In one place. In real time.