This Is Google Changing All of Information Sharing

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This post originally appeared on gizmodo.com

Google announced a new social sharing project today called Google+. It’s among the company’s most ambitious ventures to date, up there with Gmail, Android, Chrome and, yes, Search. It represents Google’s very future. It’s going to be huge.

Google+ is a concerted effort meant to turn the ship around. Google famously has a poor social track record. Buzz and Wave were failures, so it needs to get this right. But Google+ goes far beyond just sharing status updates or photos with friends: It aims to change the very way we share and communicate. As it notes in a new blog post today, “We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests.”

While there is much more to come, there are three major pieces announced today:

Circles

Circles let you share selectively with certain groups of people. You create a new circle, add contacts to it, and can share with just those selected people. As Google says “[t]he problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in friend paper—and sharing really suffers.” This seems to be somewhat like Facebook’s friends lists. But the big difference is that it isn’t a walled garden. You don’t have to opt into Google+ to be included in a circle. If I want to add someone to it who’s not a Google+user, I can do so via email and they can still take see the things I want to share with them.

Sparks

Sparks is essentially a topical section that delivers news videos and blog posts on subjects you define. But moreover it lets you discuss those things with other people, or as Google puts it, “nerding out and exploring subjects together.” This is something that Google is almost uniquely positioned to deliver. If you think about your Facebook feed, or, say a Tumblr tagged feed, they contain items placed there by humans. Google can deliver an endless supply of newly relevant items using an algorithm.

Hangouts

Hangouts is an online meetup space with live video that includes up to ten people. But it’s designed to let people come and go, dropping by at will, rather than be locked into scheduled meetings. It sounds a bit like Campfire with video.

Mobile

Mobile is the last major component announced today, and it has several moving parts. The table stakes are that you can always add your location (or not). Instant Upload automatically adds your photos to a private album online. Finally, Huddle is a group messaging tool that lets you communicate with a self-selected circle on your mobile device.

But these are just the beginning stages, the initial rollouts that are part of a much larger project led by Vic Gundotra. Wired’s Steven Levy followed Google+ from the inside for more than a year, and has the inside scoop. As he notes, it’s a huge drive by Google. In fact it is, more or less, Google’s future—an internal Manhattan Project meets moon shot.

Developed under the codename Emerald Sea, it is a result of a lengthy and urgent effort involving almost all of the company’s products. Hundreds of engineers were involved in the effort. It has been a key focus for new CEO Larry Page.

The parts announced Tuesday represent only a portion of Google’s plans. In an approach the company refers to as “rolling thunder,” Google has been quietly been pushing out pieces of its ambitious social strategy—there are well over 100 launches on its calendar. When some launches were greeted by yawns, the Emerald Sea team leaders weren’t ruffled at all—lack of drama is part of the plan. Google has consciously refrained from contextualizing those products into its overall strategy.

That overall strategy will begin now, with the announcement of the two centerpieces of Google+. But even this moment—revealed in a blog post that marks the first limited “field tests” outside the company—will be muted, because it marks just one more milestone in a long slog to remake Google into something more “people centric.”

“We’re transforming Google itself into a social destination at a level and scale that we’ve never attempted – orders of magnitude more investment in terms of people than any previous project,” says Vic Gundotra, who leads Google’s social efforts.

The entire story is worth a read, complete with outsized personalities, massive stakes, and secret murals. But the takeaway is that this isn’t just about social networking. As Levy notes, it’s much bigger than that: It’s about organizing information around people.

As Tim Carmody points out on Twitter, “Google doesn’t actually care about social. Google cares about identity. Social (such as it is) is a means to an end.” And: “Not accidental that social, identity, apps, & browser are all linked. This is Google’s play to control the whole stack like Apple does.”

I agree. Google’s biggest screwup wasn’t ceding social space to Facebook. It was ceding identity.

Google wants to get to know you, and help you to get to know yourself. It wants to be the go-to place where you show who you are and what you care about to your friends, your family, your coworkers and the entire world. It wants to be the key you use to unlock the Web and the internet as a whole, the passageway through which all your interactions flow. Today is a big step in that direction.

Making Data Relevant: The New Metrics for Social Marketing

by Prashant Suryakumar

This article first appeared on MASHABLE.

Social media has come of age. Marketers now have the ability to augment their traditional marketing approaches with rich behavioral and activity-based targeting that should increase marketing ROI significantly.

However, businesses are facing an uncomfortable truth: There are no “best practices” for measuring a successful social media campaign. Crowd behavior is dynamic and context-specific, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to build a “one size fits all” solution.

A structured approach to capturing, measuring, analyzing and refining marketing strategies in near real time is essential to executing a successful social campaign. Initially, however, companies need to invest in infrastructure to make such a learning cycle possible.


Invest in Data


Measuring the impact of social media campaigns is systemically different from that of traditional marketing campaigns. Since the medium touches all the aspects of the customer purchase cycle, a holistic measurement of awareness, transactions and brand impact is essential.

Additionally, social media is a two-way communication medium and businesses need to invest in listening capabilities that capture the activities of their existing or potential customers online. Several paid and “freemium” tools that monitor online chatter can be found online.

While data is abundant, it is by nature unstructured. Integrating listening data with internal web behavior metrics captured by JavaScript tags, customer care logs, brand surveys and transactional data can enable a business to get a 360 degree view of the activities of customers across all of the purchase touchpoints.


Real-Time Monitoring


A typical online conversation has a life span of about one to two days. As a result, it is imperative for companies to respond to conversations in nearly real time. During this short window, they not only need to understand the context and content of the conversation, but also create an effective response mechanism. All of this underscores the need for real-time monitoring and analysis.

Companies like Dell and Best Buy are adopting different strategies for listening to InternetInternet chatter. These investments help keep a finger on the pulse of every conversation active on the networks.


Sentiment Analysis


Text mining and sentiment analysis are the flavor of the season for social media analytics and a common complaint is that the current tools are not able to classify a high percentage of the comments about your brand.

Step back and think about a conversation you had in the last 30 minutes. How many statements in that conversation were unambiguously positive or negative. Not many, right? Getting a 20% sentiment mapping for individual comments is a very high number.

On the other hand, think about the same conversation; Was the overall sentiment of the conversation positive or negative? That is far easier to cognitively classify. If businesses shift their focus to a conversation-based, rather than a comment-based sentiment analysis, they will be able to get a far better read on the aggregate sentiment of online chatter.


New Metrics

The need for improvisation and identification of new metrics is high. Currently, three categories of metrics need to be developed to enhance our understanding of social activities.

  • Metrics that help understand conversations and engagement (e.g. aggregate sentiment, conversation heatmaps),
  • Metrics to spot influencers in a community (e.g. influencer score, Klout score), and
  • Metrics that help in measuring holistic impact of social media activities on the business.

The Interplay Between Buzz, Branding and Sales


Measuring the impact of increased chatter for your brand might not always translate to more revenue for the business. Measuring cause and effect between buzz, branding and sales might show different dynamics for different product groups. For example, the Old Spice social media campaign saw an 800% increase inFacebookFacebook interaction and a 107% increase in sales. The numbers are related, but not necessarily 1:1.


Testing Mechanisms


Social media is a fertile testing ground, and businesses need to appreciate the importance of a robust testing protocol for social media-based actions. Having a mechanism to measure the effectiveness of comments will ensure that businesses can learn quickly and adapt to the social dynamics.

A key point to remember is that the instance and context of the test is as important as the test itself due to the temporal nature of conversations.

Some of the tests that can be conducted are:

  • Who are the right “influencers” to target for a particular product or service?
  • What is the right time to message these influencers?
  • What is the impact of competition activity on our buzz?
  • What is the impact of traditional marketing on social media and vice versa?
  • What are the type of comments that work for selling a product?
  • What are the type of comments that work for selling a service?
  • What are the right pricing strategies?
  • How should the business tap into current affairs?

Behavioral Segmentation


Behavioral targeting dramatically changed with online advertising, and now social media can take this effectiveness to new heights. Activity-based segmentation is far different from traditional demographic segmentation, and this is typically driven by a difference between the purchasers and the consumers of a product. Businesses can draw parallels from traditional marketing (targeting kids so that they can influence their parents) and build a unique social targeting mechanism.


Crowd Behavior


Businesses have tried to artificially stimulate a conversation by mettling in their own communities or creating artificial hype. This approach usually fails miserably. They need to understand that social networks emulate real-world interactions, and excessive policing of user generated content can be detrimental to the natural growth patterns of a network.

Math, business technology and behavioral sciences are the key ingredients for good decision making. Understanding organizational dynamics, flock behavior and complex adaptive systems are all directly applicable to social media. Integrating analytics with a deep understanding of how humans interact in a sociographic and psychographic sense can help a business stimulate a conversation within a community, or trigger flock behavior amongst customers.


Integration Into Existing Business Models


Once companies understand the impact of lead indicators, like buzz, on transactional metrics, like revenue, they can include such metrics into their forecasting models and predict short-term revenue with greater accuracy. Additionally, since a good social media campaign will improve the brand health, the long-term impact of these campaigns can be assessed.

While every business wants to understand the impact of its social media spend, it might not be so easy to integrate that into a media mix model. A good social media campaign might manifest itself in increased brand scores or customer loyalty and will impact the lifetime value of the customers more than the immediate transactional metrics. Including indirect metrics like buzz or sentiment might be one way to capture social behavior.


Product Design


Social media can be a direct line of communication with the end user of your products. Businesses can leverage this very effectively in product design by soliciting input from the end user on what features they prefer in the product. Getting feature specific intelligence from the customer can help in building a product that caters to most of the population and also helps in building a sense of loyalty among the user base. Good examples of this include IdeastormVitamin Water and Fiat.


Conclusion


The framework above is the first step in helping companies understand the who, what, when and where of social targeting. The obvious next step is to integrate all this knowledge into traditional marketing and CRM.

Prashant Suryakumar is a Social Media Engagement Manager at Mu Sigma and is currently focused on social media analytics. This post was co-authored by Dhiraj Rajaram, the founder and CEO of Mu Sigma.

 

What to Consider When Building an In-House Social Media Team

by Amy-Mae Elliott

This articles first appeared on MASHABLE.

The Social Media Marketing Series is supported by Webtrends Apps, which lets you quickly create and publish Facebook, iPhone, iPad and Android apps. Learn more about it here or keep up with all Webtrends Social products by following its blog.

Building any kind of team is a challenge, but pulling together the people who are going to represent your company in the social media arena is a particularly tricky task.

What is the ultimate purpose of your social media team? Do you hire experts from outside the company or utilize existing employees? What do you look for in a social media executive?

We talked to professionals who have gone through the process — from big global businesses to small companies — to try and find some answers to these questions.

Have a read of their advice and let us know any useful experiences you’ve had in the comments below.


1. Set Clear Goals


 

Before you consider the question of who, you need to have already established the answer to why?

“Firstly, before you set up a team, you have to be clear who you want to talk to and engage with and what your internal goals are,” says Jakub Hrabovsky, head of web relations for Vodafone UK. “Is your main aim to entertain and engage, or are you considering using social media as a sales channel? You should be clear on what you want to measure. Engagement levels, buzz and sentiment or an increase in the number of sales — or perhaps both?”

Hrabovsky also points out that your social media team members will also need to be able to help customers — they may be the point of call that connected consumers head to. “If you’re a consumer-facing organization, you should include a customer care element to complement your social engagement team as well.”


2. Create a Social Media Policy First


Every company with a presence in the social space should have a social media policy, even if it’s just a few lines advising employees how you’d prefer they reference your brand online.

Creating a social media policy before you get a team in place will help you in deciding who to employ to implement it.

“Be sure you have a social media policy in place, so that your team is clear on how the company wishes to be portrayed in the space. A social media policy should be available to all staff too,” advises Dave Delaney, marketing specialist, online communications and promotions at Griffin Technology.

“You should first consider how you want your brand represented. Your social media team is going to be speaking for your brand, so it’s important that they are able to communicate in a way that shows the personality of your company,” says Kristen Studard, social media coordinator at Threadless.

“At Threadless we’re a very friendly laid-back company and we’re very excited about our products, which is why we use so many exclamation points in our tweets and status updates.”

If you are going down the friendly, excited, exclamation points route with your social media policy, then be sure to hire people who will find it easy to express themselves that way; if you’re aiming for a more staid, professional approach, then don’t pick someone who can’t pen a line without adding a smiley at the end.

Read more . . .