Petrie-Norris shared a list of items that he’d searched for in the last few days with the audience. These included a number of innocent items intended as gifts that he said that he would rather not share with his wife to make the point that Google knows more about a user than their friends and family.
A similar point was raised by Sir Martin Sorrell in the Q&A session after his keynote speech.
Google now has thousands of data point on an individuals search habits. Why is it then, a member of the audience asked, that Google isn’t using this data to better target customers in real time search.
Sorrell said that when Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke at WPP’s strategy meeting last year he said that Google planned to target ads based on a predictive behavior.
But for now, the technology simply isn’t there yet to analyze data and serve a result within a screen refresh according to Petrie-Norris.
The issue of personal privacy was raised several times during the morning’s sessions. The conclusion was that absolute transparency and opt-in is critical to the success.
“Why wouldn’t you want better targeting advertising?” said Stephen Nuttall, Commercial Director, BSkyB.
There has been a vigorous and tumescent surge of activity in the social media space. You’re probably aware of it. Actually, it’s probably your fault. Everyone and their uncle and the kitchen sink is now aggressively pursuing their respective B2B social media strategies. Well, I say that, but of course, they’re not. In true B2B style, they (you) are talking about it a lot but doing naff all. The sticking point, seemingly, is measurement. The sticking point is always measurement in B2B. Talk about it, think about it, talk again, do naff all. Not without cast-iron, watertight and bulletproof case studies that prove unequivocally and beyond reasonable doubt that the measurable ROI outweighs the risk to existing brand equity. When you can prove it, then we’ll think about it some more. And do naff all. We might let someone in the company have a Twitter account. But only if it’s completely non-attributable and absolutely nothing to do with us. Just in case…
Well, I for one, am bored. I’m bored telling companies that they have to actively engage with social media for their brand to remain relevant in a digital economy and I’m bored listening to agencies pretending they have measurement matrices that prove they know what the customer’s doing and what the customer’s going to do next. They don’t. They predict. We can all predict. Here’s the thing – I predict that whatever you predict, the customer’s going to make up their own mind and do the thing that you didn’t predict. See? Boring. And it all completely misses the point of social media.
The clue’s in the name. It’s ‘social media’. The B2B opportunity is for brands to engage ‘socially’ with their customers, get closer to them, bring them closer to the brand, maybe positively influence perception and that’s it. Why does there have to be any more? Why do we need tracking tools and pipeline funnels and conversion ratios and stepped process drivers and sequential interaction protocols? Why, as part of a broader brand strategy, can’t our brands just be… social? Why can’t we have a, wait for it… a brand personality? And why have we lost sight of the fact that social media became popular for the very reason that our customers were trying to escape the corporate machine?
So. Instead of a case study, with ROI and BORING things, here’s a story. Brands are, after all, stories – living, breathing, social stories. I wrote recently about my mobile parking experiences. If you missed that memo, you can find it here. It’s a reasonable blog I think. There’s a good guy, a bad guy, triumph over adversity and a happy ending. I referenced the positive and credible attributes of RingGo as a mobile parking service provider. No biggie. I posted and went back to work.
Two days later there was a letter on my desk. Not an email. A letter. You can read what it said here. The next day RingGo found me on Twitter and started following me as well as saying very nice things about me and my brand and the post I had made. I followed RingGo back. Then I received a lengthy email from RingGo’s Marketing Manager (which she was enthusiastic enough to spend her Saturday night writing). And we’ll stay connected on LinkedIn.
I don’t ‘know’ these people. I haven’t tried to ‘sell’ anything. They’re not part of any ‘process’. We’re just being social. I feel reasonably confident they’ll be saying nice things about their experience with my brand just as I really enjoy telling this story. I know for a fact that friends of mine now use the RingGo mobile parking service because I’ve told them it’s great (and I told the world). One day, the phone will ring and someone will say RingGo suggested they call me. That’s the point of social media. It’s no more complicated than that. You can talk about it some more and wait for the measurement statistics if you insist, but from now on, I just want to help the brands that are prepared to actually do it. Talk to the Facebook page ‘cos the hand ain’t listening.
Australia’s greatest musical export AC-DC recently returned to home soil for a major sell-out tour.
These guys are simply amazing. Still rocking after all these years, packing in the crowds year after year after year. Who would have thought the band would still be one of the biggest rock acts in the world some 35 years after their formation in Australia in 1974?
POP QUIZ: What was the first gig AC-DC played? (check the answer at the bottom of the post!).
Let’s face it, any brand would kill for AC-DC’s longevity, their cross-generational appeal and the fanatical fan base that continues to buy their product year in, year out.
So what can brands learn from AC-DC?
AC-DC has been consistent in a number of ways for the past three+ decades. Angus Young’s school uniform, the driving bass and the thumping drumbeat, and the no-nonsense blokey song titles are core trademarks of AC-DC’s look and sound.
And, by all reports, the band’s concerts certainly live up to all the hype. These guys are consistent performers!
2. No frills
With AC-DC, what you see is what you get. Joint ‘CEOs’ (spokesmen Angus Young and Brian Johnson) come across as a pair of fair dinkum blokes, no artifice airs or graces from these guys despite their exalted rock god status. The band’s attitude, like their music, is down-to-earth. People like that!
3. Give the customer what they want
AC-DC know their audience and they don’t muck them about. This comes back to consistency. Give the punter what they want and they’ll keep coming back for more. AC-DC do that better than most.
4. Remain true to your roots
AC-DC understands the high degree of respect their fans hold for the band’s former lead singer, the late Bon Scott. The band itself also hold their mate in high regard – as a mark of respect, they steadfastly refuse to play the anthem “It’s a Long Way to the Top” at their concerts. They’ve always remained true to the spirit of Bon Scott, and the fans respect this.
Even the recruitment of Brian Johnson was classic rock ‘n’ roll. Track down this dude from some no-name band and give him a shot at fronting one of the biggest live acts in the world. Fairytale stuff!
(Interestingly, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Bon Scott’s death).
5. Don’t screw the marketplace
AC-DC could make millions of extra dollops of cash if they wanted to simply by doubling their output of recorded music. By keeping the new stuff a bit scarce, they keep demand for their music at a premium. Ditto for touring.
Not touring for years builds massive anticipation for their concerts (although I suspect the reason they don’t tour much is the fact they’re all around the 60-year age mark!).
This is one brand you’re not going to see line-extended within an inch of its life!
Naturally, we’ve been watching the development of Google’s real-time search with interest. Everybody’s probably familiar by now with the scrolling box they’re inserting into search results:
I was reading a bit about what people are speculating is behind the real-time search algorithm and what Google decides to show. An article on eConsultancy got me raging.
The author suggests three things that may be factors in getting Tweets to show in real time search results that I can’t imagine are true – because if they are, they demonstrate that Google has no clear understanding of social media and they contradict everything I tell clients when providing training on how to use social media correctly and effectively.
1. Keywords in usernames = more relevant? Relevant to what?
First, he writes, “Username. Like domain names, keywords may help. Note that Twitter allows you to choose a username (unique) and a real name, so there’s an anchor text thing going on here.”
Now, correct me here if I’m misguided, but social media accounts should be registered to either people or organizations – and it should be clear which is which.
For example, you may be “Paul” trying out Milwaukee SEO and you may be tweeting on behalf of “Sofas and Stuff” but if you call your account “Sofa Sofa Sofa” and you follow me on Twitter, I swear I will block you straight away because that just makes you sound like a spammer trying to get followers to game the algorithm. You pollute the timeline of the site and clog it up with garbage. If, however, you actually call yourself “Paul from Sofas & Stuff” I may consider following you back – if I happen to need a sofa and depending what I find when I visit your page.
If Google is using keywords in usernames as a factor then we’re about to get a load of people registering names and descriptions that read “Sofa Sofa Sofa.”
Furthermore, a good social media account isn’t about the name of the account – it’s about the content. On a website, if you call yourself “Puppy Food, Inc.” it’s pretty likely that you won’t ever have relevant content about sofas so keywords in the name can be an indication.
If you call your Twitter account “Bob Smith”- or even if you call it “LeedsFan67” – you may at some point send out tweets about sofas which may actually be relevant and useful in response to a news story or piece of content relating to sofas.
For example, if a sofa explodes on Big Brother next week then Bob may be tweeting about it. Bob may even be a paramedic and able to discuss the dangers of exploding sofas in relation to fire or offer advice to victims on how to treat their burns.
Clearly, keywords in usernames isn’t an indicator of relevance. In fact, they may be an indication of spam – someone who calls themselves “Sofa Expert” on Twitter, at least in my experience, is less likely to be responsive to people and to engage with the community, or do more than post links to his own spam web content, than someone named “Bob” who’s excited about buying a sofa.
If Google really is using keywords in usernames to determine the relevance of specific Tweets then they’re going to find real-time search besieged with garbage and Twitter is going to have to step up its efforts to weed out spam because it’s about to be even more horribly abused than currently.
2. “Hashtags = Bad.” Or, should that be, “Hashtags=Relevance?”
“One warning sign that Google looks at is whether or not a tweet includes a hashtag. Trending topics on Twitter – largely measured by hashtag popularity – can attract lots of junk tweets, so Google has adjusted its ranking factors for tweets that contain hashtags.
It most likely applies some kind of negative weighting for tweets that contain hashtags, especially those that trend and hit the Twitter homepage (and all user accounts).”
Hashtags are there to identify posts. For example, if you’re at a conference and tweeting about the conference you tag your posts with the relevant hashtag so even non-followers can see them. If you’re responding to a particular story, you tag your tweet with the relevant hashtag. Hashtags represent relevance when used by real users – rather than auto-accounts or spammers.
In fact, when hashtags are abused horribly (Google “Habitat Twitter” if you need an example”), the community reacts swiftly and angrily and a huge negative publicity machine wallpapers the internet with angry messages of derision.
Surely hashtags, combined with other relevant words in a tweet, should be a marker of QUALITY, not the reverse? If Google has actually worked out ways of identifying spam accounts and sockpuppets then surely hashtags can help them understand the relevance and semantically related words in tweets?
3. Use your keywords a lot. But, is Twitter really about keywords?
Finally, the suggestion which really got me fuming is this:
“Keyword focused accounts. If all of your tweets refer to ‘sofas’ isn’t it possible that you’ll be seen as a sofa expert by search engines, and positioned accordingly? Staying on-topic may help.”
So, set up loads of accounts, each based around one specific keyword or set of keywords, use your keywords repeatedly, all the time, in every tweet, every, in the whole world and that will make you an expert – not a dirty spammer? Erm, it makes no sense in a social setting.
If you’re using Twitter well, interacting with people, then you aren’t going to stay on topic. If you do stick to one topic, say, sofas, then you’re not likely to ever really have many followers, are you?
Sure, there are exceptions to the rule like someone tweeting the weather report or football results or something. But if someone is buying a sofa they might follow you for a little while, but once they’ve done making their purchase, are they really going to care anymore?
The way to make them care is by providing added value – talking about more than just that sofa purchases. Or, shock-horror, by getting to know your followers.
Frankly, this one is so open to abuse – and so against the whole point of real-time search – which is to provide relevant, topical, time-sensitive information – that I can’t imagine it could possibly work as a factor. Plus, you’d miss out on the guy in Haiti tweeting about the earthquake as it happens because you’d be too busy looking for tweets from earthquake “experts”- erm people who use “earthquake” in every tweet, that is – and that would actually make your real-time results LESS relevant.
It was all summed up in a very pithy manner by someone on Twitter, as I was writing this:
“Twitter is all about what is happening RIGHT NOW.”
He’s right. Twitter isn’t so much about expertise as about what people find relevant and important at a given moment.
Social media is NOT SEO. Don’t confuse the two.
Let me make this clear – Search Engine Optimisation and Social Media are two different things. Social Media mentions may add weight to SEO efforts and help verify the quality of incoming links, but the way Social Media operates and the way relevance and quality should be established within social media is a very different beast to SEO.
SEO is about explaining the subject matter of pages of a website and website hierarchies to a machine. It’s about helping machines to understand the most important words associated with a given piece of content and ensuring that those important words also match what users type into search engines.
Social media is about people. It’s about interaction, relationships, and communication. It is not about keywords. It is not about links. It is certainly not about how machines understand pages. So if Google is using SEO factors to determine the quality of real-time search then I’m guessing relevance is going to suffer – if not now, then certainly once SEO gets their hands into it.