“What are you doing now?” That is the question facing you every time you open Facebook, Twitter or other social networks asking for a status update. Through follows, fans and likes, you are connected to people, brands and content. Web and mobile devices ensure you are constantly connected and empowered to create your own content. Brands are starting to display their Facebook URL and Twitter names at the tops of their sites. And thus, the explosion of social experiences is about to hit the mainstream. Not only is it here to stay, this phenomenon will continue to grow exponentially. Did you know Twitter hosts 90 million tweets a day? Facebook is expected to double in size from 500 million to 1 billion profiles in the next two years. Even Google is trying to get into the game with Google Friend Connect.
What does this mean for brands, media and retailers? As Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, pointed out at the Web 2.0 conference in November, it means that we need to create experiences through the lenses of others. Businesses can create these unique experiences by adding content created by other people to their customer-facing real estate.
New Competitive Advantage: Relevant Social Syndication
The capability to find, curate and display relevant social content will become a competitive advantage for brands, media and retailers who want to attract an audience. If you miss out, the alternative is that the masses will turn elsewhere to find relevant content.
There are three rising movements happening in the market that explains where things are headed:
1) The generation of social content far exceeds the market’s capacity to consume it effectively. In other words, the availability of useful user generated content exceeds its audience. Moreover, social content is becoming more ‘real-time’ through Tweets, status updates, checkins, photo uploads, etc. Movement: Crowdsourcing & Realtime Web
2) While the production of content is increasingly outpacing its readership, audiences value social content far more than other sources. Therefore, it’s not a matter of supply exceeding demand, but rather the matching of the right supply to the right demand, when and where it is useful. Movement: Curation
3) There is a proliferation of digital customer interactions and displays. Our “eyeball time” is fragmented across many screens (Smartphone, Tablet, Web, TV, LCD Display). Further, the customer journey to purchasing is no longer linear. There’s a need to reach customers at multiple contact points throughout the purchase journey. Movement: Transmedia, “The Web is Dead”
The Capabilities to Deliver Relevance
These movements demand capabilities to aggregate, curate and distribute relevant content to make experiences more engaging.
1. Aggregation is finding the right sources of content for a specific purpose. For example, with Twitter you could find tweets based on keywords, geo-location, accounts, lists, or your own favorite tweets. For the purpose of finding content about a football game, you may pull from keywords about the teams, lists about football, or tweets that occur within one mile from the stadium.
2. Curation is the process of automated and/or hand-selected filtering for the best content for a particular context. A context is a combination of time, place, audience and desired outcome. For example, consider the football game again. The experience for people watchinglive video of the game on the web would improve if they saw a stream of tweets next to game. The most relevant content is real-time conversation about the teams, the plays, and the game. Because it’s on the web (as opposed to watching on a TV), content with links would be relevant. The content would be even more relevant if you rejected vacuous posts, spammers, retweets, replies, or tweets that may mention a team but nothing about the game. You can also increase engagement by selecting or highlighting tweets from people in the stadium, press, celebrities, and so on.
One way to think of relevance is by thinking of a matrix with the task relevance on one axis and the social relevance on another axis. Task relevance is a measure of how relevant the information is to the context of the experience. Social relevance measures whether the message came from a business or another person. The most engaging experience has both social and task relevance. In the example above, viewers see real-time tweets about the game they are watching (task) from people that are fans (social).
3. Distribution is bringing the display or embedding of content into various experiences. First, the content has to be curated to match the context of where it is displayed, as described above. Second it has to be formatted to match the experience. In the example above, tweets about the football game are curated to include links, which work on the Web or mobile device, but would not be relevant if streamed ona LCD display or Jumbotron in the stadium. You can distribute curated content across multiple displays: Web, Jumbotron, LCD TV, mobile app, or sites. Properly formatted content that is delivered real-time dramatically improves engagement.
4. Participation is possible where a conversation occurs. It’s natural for someone to want to get involved in a conversation or interaction. This could take the form of Q&A, chat, sharing, voting, polling, or engaging in the conversation in some way. Ideally the participation is personally rewarding to the user as well as contributes to the conversation. Or, participation could simply be to allow a user to filter and curate a conversation.
5. Analytics allow you to see real-time or after-the-fact what happened in the conversation, how it contributed to the experience and the actions of the audience. This allows you to adjust the content and display to create participation.
How Relevance Drives Results
At the point where a brand wants to take over and control an experience they should facilitate participation and display curated content created by others. This strategy can deliver real brand and financial results:
Loyalty – If a customer has an engaging experience associated with your brand, they will remember that experience, the brand, and return to that experience. This can result in returning to a web site, using an app, or returning to a channel or location.
Time on Site & Page Views – Users are more likely to stay on a page or clickthrough to other experiences when you deliver content and engaging experiences through social content. In a media example, a stream of relevant tweets next to a web video increased advertising views (due to retaining users, reducing abandonment) by 700%. Let’s say you have 100,000 people start watching a web video, and a new ad is served every minute at $8 CPM. If you increase the average time on site from 8 minutes to 56 minutes you would earn an additional $38.4k from these people.
Conversion — In a retail example, imagine displaying tweets about the product to the customer. If 50% of 100,000 visitors a day to an ecommerce site view tweets on products or brands, and that brings the typical 3% site conversion up to 4% for that audience (with average order value of $200), you’d see $100k in additional revenue per day, or $36.5M for the year. At 15% gross margin, that’s $5.47M of incremental profit.
Participation – Seeing participatory, social content from others has a herd effect encouraging others to contribute and participate. This can take the form of writing a review, posting a tweet, or following or liking a brand. In the video example above, imagine if the 100,000 viewers see tweets next to a video, and the followers of that team or brand are highlighted in the stream of content. An “ego trap” to want to see one’s content — or “name in lights” — encourages people to follow the brand and post content that will be highlighted. People contribute to experience their “15 seconds of fame”. It’s feasible that 5% of this audience, or 5,000 viewers, would follow or like the brand.
There is an exponential growth of social content. In addition, consumer expectations are rising to have real-time and relevant experiences in various contexts. What’s coming is an opportunity to tap into this mass of real-time content, to find relevance from the masses, and to bring relevance to the masses wherever they are. What’s coming? Mass Relevance. Stay Tuned.