Navigating the social media landscape

As a company, what can you do with social media? How do you get started? How do you even know what your options are? I’ve gone through that confusion. Believe me, I know how you feel. Through the course of my blog I hope that I will help fellow web professionals answer those questions for their companies. For now, I offer you one of the best visual social media devices I’ve come across. I hope it will get you started in outlining what your options media landscape

As I prepare for adtech Beijing, I’ve been looking for some good images to use in my presentation and I came across one of my favourite representations of social media (above). Although it’s incomplete, it neatly categorizes the main types of activities that are possible in the social web world.

Social media landscape

The main activities the graphic outlines that companies can engage in are to: publish, share, discuss, network, microblog, live-stream, livecast, live in a virtual world, participate in or create social and MMO games. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, what industry you’re in and what your company culture is, you may do any combination of these activities. Because there are so many potential ways for a customer to engage with your brand/company, it’s extremely important to set a clear social media strategy and not just write off social media as a fluffy trend the tech companies are doing. Literally every company can go social. Knowing how to get started can be a little confusing, though.

What Real Insurance does with social media

(I wrote this post when I was Head of eCommerce at Real Insurance)

As an insurance company with a transparent and honest (but somewhat laid-back) culture, at Real Insurance we focus mainly on the “share” and “microblog” aspects of the social media landscape wheel. Why? Because our primary objectives are to manage our brand reputation and engage our customers (with a secondary objective of lead generation). All else is just icing on the cake.

We actively monitor what’s being said about Real via tools like SocialMention and we respond to feedback on our brands, be it good or bad. Where we can’t respond because the site doesn’t allow it, we use Sidewiki to comment. If the feedback is good, we’ll thank you. If it’s bad, we’ll admit if we’re wrong and we’ll do our best to rectify the situation. That’s why we have clear work flows internally for following up on any complaints that we see in the social world. The end result? Having as much control as possible over our brand, customers who know they are being heard and staff empowered to help customers.

How you can get started with your social media strategy

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It’s an ancient Chinese proverb which rings true in the case of social media strategy as well. Start small. Set up a blog. If you can, get your CEO to blog. After all, he/she is the expert on your company. Set up a Twitter account. Then use Twitterfeed to automatically tweet new posts to Twitter. There, you’re already social! After that, check out the many resources on social media on Mashable to start learning.

Get your feet wet with Twitter and absorb everything you read. Think it through and outline a strategy that makes sense for your company. Then slowly add channels as appropriate. Remember another Chinese proverb: “Don’t be afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid only of standing still.”

Good luck with your social media activities. It’s a very exciting space where brands can really get close to their customers and create positive interactions between the commercial and “real” world. I, for one, can’t wait to see what cool new tool or networks comes out next.

Are you too old for social media?

That’s the question I heard this morning on the radio while on my way to the airport. I couldn’t believe that after the tremendous growth social media has enjoyed in recent years (and especially in the last year with the advent of Twitter) people still see it as a fad, as “the thing kids are doing.” In fact, callers suggested that people over 40 should be banned from social media.

Here’s a newsflash to all those silly people – social media is not a fad. It’s a communication tool which will forever change human interactions around the world.

Here are some telling Facebook stats in Australia:

– There are an estimated 6.1 million users registered in Australia. (I got the Facebook stats by setting up an ad in Facebook which lets you progressively narrow down your target audience by entering various parameters. If you select all Australian accounts, you get just over 6.1 million)

– Of those, 2.8 million are over 30 and 1.4 million are over 40.

– According to Comscore, 3 out of 4 Australians visited a social networking site in 2009.

There’s no doubt that the world is becoming smaller as we all gain access to each other via social networks. Despite all the possible negative fallout this may have (relationships deteriorating, less face-to-face time, dependency on technology), I think this is great – for all ages!

Thanks to social media families separated by thousands of miles can stay connected, consumers can be more informed, politicians can relate to their constituents, just to mention a few benefits. Social media is not a fad. It’s a new communication tool just as the phone, telegraph or email were before it.

So here’s a message to all you delusional under 30’s who want to keep Facebook, etc., a stomping ground for teenagers and young singles – get over it!

Here’s the latest Australian social media data from Comscore, which shows just how active Australians are on social networks. Definitely NOT a fad!

Here are the top social networks used in Australia:

Top social networks in Australia as of June 2009

8,857,000 Total unique visitors to social networks

6,102,000 Facebook

3,530,000 MySpace

1,962,000 Windows Live profile

1,475,000 Bebo

800,000 Twitter




409,000 Buzznet

252,000 Orkut

UK teens and media consumption

I came across this article via a friend’s post on Twitter. (Apparently, that makes me old. Oh, well. I did turn 30-1 the other day…) It’s a really interesting summary on how teenagers (at least geeky ones in UK who have access to all sorts of modern technology) consume media. It was written by Matthew Robson, a 15-year-old kid on work experience at Morgan Stanley and is getting huge publicity around the world.

The following is an excerpt of Matt’s conclusions as described in one article published about his original paper. I’ve added my two cents in italics after a few of these…


Radio With online sites streaming music for free they do not bother, as services such as do this advert free and users can choose the songs they want instead of listening to what the radio presenter/DJ chooses. I don’t think this is a sign that the next generation of adults won’t consume traditional radio. I think that this behaviour changes when you start driving. Through tapes, CDs and now MP3s we’ve had the power to make our own soundtrack in our cars for decades, yet most people still prefer to listen to the radio while driving.

Newspapers No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV. This one, along with rumours that books are going to fade away, scares me a bit. I think there’s something so special about picking up a newspaper on Saturday morning, sitting at the local coffee shop and going through the whole weekend paper cover to cover. You can touch it and smell it and use it as an umbrella in case of a freak rain shower. What’s not to love? I hope newspapers and books stick around.

Internet Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered. On the other hand, teenagers do not use Twitter. The other argument Matt used was that it’s too expensive to send a Tweet vs. sending a text message.

Music They are very reluctant to pay for it (most having never bought a CD) Teenagers from higher income families use iPods and those from lower income families use mobile phones.

Directories Real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services teenagers do not require. They can get the information free on the internet. Seriously, if you read this blog and you use a directory then you must post a comment here. I struggle to understand who would use them outside of people who live in remote areas and have no other alternatives for finding information.

Viral/Outdoor Marketing “Most teenagers enjoy and support viral marketing… Teenagers see adverts on websites (pop-ups, banner ads) as extremely annoying and pointless…they are portrayed in such a negative light that no one follows them.”

Cinema Teenagers visit the cinema more often when they are in the lower end of teendom but as they approach 15 they go to the cinema a lot less. This is because of the pricing; at 15 they have to pay the adult price. Also it is possible to buy a pirated DVD of the film at the time of release, and these cost much less than a cinema ticket.

Mobile phones The general view is that Sony Ericsson phones are superior, because of their long list of features, built-in Walkman capacity and value. He also mentions that boys don’t talk to each other using phones but rather via the internet while gaming.

There you have it. The secret media life of teenagers.

DIY detective work & online privacy

As I’m watching the first two seasons of “Mad Men” I can’t help but draw comparisons from that era (the ’60s) to our world today. The most striking difference is the characters’ attitude towards smoking and alcohol. Nearly every character in every scene smokes regardless of their gender, age or job. They drink hard liquor at morning meetings. Hell, there’s even a scene of a pregnant lady with a cigarette in one hand and martini in the other! It’s amazing how far we’ve come in the past 40 years.

One topic that hasn’t come up in the show yet is availability of data and protection of privacy. Seeing as I’m currently immersed in the 1960’s with “Mad Men”, my brain immediately thought of that era when I recently experimented with Google Latitude and other modern “communication” tools.

Example 1 – Catching a cheating husband

Imagine you’re in the 60’s and when doing your husband’s laundry you find some lipstick on his collar. Being a classy lady, you don’t just go up to him, throw the shirt in his face and kick him out of the house. No, you keep the shirt as evidence and on your next trip to the grocery store you pop by the local detective’s office. There, you speculate a lot about what your husband may be doing, you guess his exact whereabouts so that the detective could trail him and you wait for weeks to get any incriminating photos.

And today? With the help of Google and GPS, you have yourself a modern detective’s tool kit. And best of all, it’s all free!

If you’ve found your husband’s shirt smudged with lipstick in 2009, you’d either a) have a mini heart attack because you think he might be gay, b) think to yourself “what tacky woman would wear that colour?”, c) you’d throw the shirt in his face and kick him out of the house just as your 60’s counterpart would have or d) do some detective work before proceeding with a, b and c, in that order.

But where to start? Cell phones seem to be the first port of call and if browsing through his messages didn’t yield enough results, you can use the phone as a tracking device. Introducing Google Latitude. If you (or in this case your husband) have a GPS enabled phone, then Google Latitude can track his whereabouts and display the results to you in your web browser. All you need to do is ever the mobile number and then reply to a text message from that phone. After that, you log in to your Google account and voila! You can see where he is (or at least his phone) at all times. Twitter applications like TweetDeck make this even easier for mobile Twitter users. TweetDeck displays your location directly on your profile for all to see. No detective work needed!

Example 2 – Your online personality and the work place

Nothing you do online is ever 100% protected. Not from identify thieves, not from your friends and definitely not from your boss. In some cases you know this and in others you’d never realise it. Take both Twitter and Facebook. Both social networks default their privacy settings to “public”, thus making anything you write on either available to search engines. With Facebook, even if you set your profile to “private”, your latest wall post still comes up in Google results (Please note that if any of these policies changed and I got it wrong, I apologise. I’m writing from personal experience only, which may be outdated. Here’s an article on Facebook privacy that might help.)

Let’s say you slip and change your Facebook status to “Working at Telstra sucks ass,” your boss may see it and probably won’t react too well. Depending on what you say and in what context, your post could be grounds for disciplinary action or even dismissal. Or it’s the middle of the day and after a bad meeting you put your emotions on Twitter and say “People I work with are idiots.” Unless you set your privacy and notification settings correctly, you may not even know if any of the people in the room saw your post. Heck, they may even have an alert on their phone that tells them your comment immediately! Imagine that working environment going forward. Better yet, what if you’re a disgruntled ex-employee and you insult your former company in any way on a social network. It’s the same as if you stood up in the middle of the city and shouted your statement as loud as you could. That’s slander.

Example 3 – Identity theft

My blog is just one example of my personality online. If you Google me, you’ll find a whole lot more. Some of it I can control (like this blog, my Twitter timeline, or my LinkedIn profile) but others I can’t (articles by me published by third parties, articles mentioning me or even friends social networking profiles that mention me). It may take some time, but it’s not impossible to find out enough about me to do some harm. And if you think you’re safe, think again. Just Google yourself. …. And no, I won’t go into any more details here just in case :).

The point – Know where you stand

Nothing online is 100% private. You have to be aware of your public persona online and take responsibility for any consequences. Be mindful that everything you put online can come back and bite you later, so be smart. You don’t need to hire a private detective nowadays to find out someone’s whereabouts or collect other information on them. A lot of it is public whether we like it or not. We might as well learn to live with it and take responsibility for everything we do online.

Twitter as a recruiting tool?

Last week I did some research into various employer’s social networking policies in order to help formulate what my company will adopt. I came across the usual suspects like Telstra’s response to their bad Twitter publicity, which address employee commentary about/on behalf of a company. Then I moved on to how companies are utilising Facebook and MySpace as recruiting tools. Infamously, the town of Bozeman made news recently about their recruiting policy. Essentially, if you want to work for Bozeman, you have to hand over your login information to the social networks you use so that they may see what kind of person you are and base their decision to hire you on such information. (Due to massive criticism, they are rumoured to have reversed their policy.)

At first I jumped on the bandwagon and was momentarily outraged. Companies have no right to ask for personal information like access to one’s Facebook account, or do they? They often ask for personal references already. That seems to be OK. Why not social networks? It’s just like asking for contact of a friend or family member, isn’t it?

In addition to hiring for skills, companies hire for cultural fit. Judgement about fit is composed of many factors, but I’d venture a guess that among them are one’s personality, one’s values and one’s general behaviour, not to mention a “gut feeling”. All of us are different at work than we are at home, but surely we’re not a completely different person?

Social networks are an extension of our “private” behaviour. They provide an easy glimpse into a person, so why not use them as a “personal reference?” I’m not saying that they should be the sole basis for hiring (or not hiring) someone, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using them as one factor in the process. If you have no problem putting your name next to what you write in social media, then surely you stand by those words. Those words are who you are. If those words represent you, then why should they not be used as a reference when going for a job?

Whether you’re willing to give out your Facebook profile to an employer or not, think about Twitter. Twitter is a public social network. What you say is already available for everyone to see (yes, some people do keep theirs private, but not the majority). Do you hide your personality when you post on Twitter? Or do you treat it like your Facebook posts? Are you the same person you are on Twitter than you are on Facebook? I’d venture a guess that yes you are. So why are you comfortable with the whole world seeing your Twitter but not your Facebook?

I guess my point is this – you are who you are and you should be proud of it in all aspects of your life. I am. I have no problem sharing my Facebook, Twitter or this blog with my coworkers, superiors or potential employers. Social media is a reflection of me and I’m happy for you to decide what you think about me based on what you read, just as it’s your prerogative to make a decision of whether you like me or not when you meet me in person. I don’t see one set of rules for how an employer is allowed to judge my cultural fit into an organisation versus how a potential friend is allowed to judge my fit to enter their circle of friends.

I realise that I’m very lucky. I’ve had the privilege of working for a very open-minded company, full of people I trust and who trust me. I’m also quite a stubborn person who refuses to compromise her standards. I would never work for a company where I wouldn’t feel as comfortable as I feel now. For better or worse I’m also a bit cocky and believe I could easily find another job where I’m accepted just as I am, should my current situation change. So please take what I write with a grain of salt…

Social media is not going away. It will become a more integral part of our lives as time goes by. And it will happen faster than anyone’s expecting. Studies already show that we’re essentially trading our face-to-face family time for Twitter/Facebook time. I’m interested to see how recruitment will be affected 3-5 years from now. Who knows? For your next job you could be recruited via Linked in, interviewed on Skype, your references submitted via Facebook and your first day at the office could be logging in to a virtual office. You could literally go through the whole process (including doing your job) in your pyjamas. We’ve got an interesting (if not controversial) few years ahead of us, that’s for sure.