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Will social media eat itself?

Here at BBH Labs we’re big fans of all things social. We’ve spent time evangelising about the power of the social web and speculating about a future dominated by social businesses. We’re inspired and excited by a future where we can take our social graph with us anywhere we go on the web-a future beautifully articulated by Undercurrent’s Mike Arauz.

 “There is no longer any interaction that an individual may have with a brand, company, product, or service that disconnected from all the people they know, and the people that share their interest in that experience.”

So we were more than a little taken aback by the findings of the latest Edelman Trust Barometer that shows we trust our friends and peers as a source of information considerably less than we did two years ago. The decline is particularly marked in the US where just 25% of respondents view friends and peers as very/extremely credible-a decline of 20 percentage points on 2008-but is also reflected in the global data.

It’s an extraordinary finding which calls many of our assumptions into question. The trust consumers place in peer to peer recommendations versus corporations has been one of the primary drivers of the social web, the excitement we feel about the potential for social business and the shift of marketing dollars from above the line to social media.  

So has all our excitement been founded on a false set of assumptions? Is this simply an anomaly in the data? Or is social media sowing the seeds of its own demise? (more…)

When everyone’s a broadcaster, is everyone an advertiser?

Now social media has made it possible for everyone to become a broadcaster, is it inevitable that everyone becomes an advertiser?

In the early weeks of 2010, there’s already been considerable debate (and indignation) around brands, businesses and even bands incentivising users for Tweets. Twincentivisng, if you like (and I must admit I can’t resist a pun).

Is everyone an advertiser? Image by Mike Cogh, Flickr, under a creative commons license

Is everyone an advertiser? Image by Mike Cogh, Flickr, under a creative commons license

Should brands pay for tweets? Should twitterers take the cash or resist? Is there a sustainable paid for media model here or a fundamentally misguided reaction to the rise of social media? Is pay-per-tweet the end of the Twitterverse as we know it?

In many ways this is an inevitable response to a number of factors:

  • The extraordinary rise and equally extraordinary media profile of Twitter
  • The increased premium placed on peer to peer recommendations
  • The collapse of on-line display advertising and the rise of SEO
  • The socialisation of search

Any and all of these factors suggest a pressing need for brands to find a way to harness the power of social media and for media agencies to find a way to monetise it. Viewed from one perspective, the asymmetric nature of Twitter relationships make it particularly ripe for the adoption of a “broadcast” model.  1 in 5 tweets already mentions a brand so monetisation of these mentions seems, from that perspective, to make eminent sense.

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Twitter – the Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?

The crescendo of noise around Twitter grows by the second. Yet while for many this delivers a symphony of Web 2.0 magnificence, crafted by millions of tweeting voices (Aaron Koblin managed only 2000, though it was far from symphonic), others hear nothing more than deafening silence. I’ve been trying to think through this paradox. Two events of the last week illustrate this tension well.

I had a message from my brother Tim (@malbonster), co-Founder of social media agency Made By Many in London, when I woke up here in NY. Tim is ‘into Twitter’. His message was subject titled: ‘I hope it’s not, but the fun bit feels like it’s almost over’. He was lamenting a tweet he’d read this morning from a friend (@netgrrl) which read: ‘Ah… I’ve mentioned coffee too many times now, I’m being inundated with follows from coffee marketers.’ Yes, I found myself nodding subconsciously, it’s being ruined. The crazy experimental bit with no rules, where no one has any idea how to monetize, or even whether it will be successful, and where marketing has been wrong-footed; that’s all gone . . .

(for full post click below)

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Linking intelligently (or why I love bit.ly)

I transitioned from tinyurl.com to bit.ly earlier this year. Probably way after most people started using it. It’s awesome. But I’m guessing the reason I love bit.ly is not the reason most people would give. Yes, bit.ly delivers super utility simply by shortening a link of seemingly any length to virtually no length. And it makes it easy and quick. That’s part of it.

But I’ve become addicted to the data which bit.ly provides on every link you shorten. Because with bit.ly the shortening is just the beginning of it’s magic. If you register on the site you have a record of all the links you’ve shortened. And if you hit the ‘Info’ function underneath a link you are presented with a treasure trove of metrics & insight. Traffic (clicks) with time & date information, geographical location, platform used to access the link, conversations the link featured within, RTs, and so on.

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So one learns that a link posted on Twitter that touches on industrial design is 50% more likely to be clicked on in Brazil than in the UK. Or a link that relates to LEGO is three times as likely to be clicked on in Denmark than in Canada. Or that the optimum time to post is 10pm ET, or that actually one needs to re-post because the two peaks are 10pm ET and 10pm GMT, or that if you want to provoke an Australian audience one should post after 11pm ET. Much of this might seem intuitive, but accessing the data that proves (or refutes) some of the assumptions we work with when we share links is a revealing exercise. Above all, it provides much greater depth of feedback on what’s popular (or not) than simply the crude measure of how often your message is RT on Twitter. And it’s not just Twitter – you can add a bit.ly add-on to your Gmail (http://bit.ly/Xd1yM).

Bit.ly allows you to do a whole lot more than fire-and-forget; it promotes smart linking, and that makes it cool in my (Excel work) book.