The Pluses and Minuses of Google+

I'm lukewarm about Google+. I joined very early because I'm professionally obligated to kick the tires on new social media channels. The conversations in the early months were all about the tool itself. This is always the case--the first ten "electronic mails" you ever sent were probably about the wondrous medium of email. Since then, I haven't really discovered where Google+ should sit in my infovorious landscape. Since I signed up, Google+ has apparently gained some serious momentum. Earlier this year Google's CEO reported that Google+ had 90 million users worldwide. That's a very fast rate of growth--much faster than the equivalent periods of growth for Facebook or Twitter. Anecdotally, I've got nearly 6000 followers (roughly the same number of Twitter followers I've collected in five years of Tweeting) through no actual effort on my part.

And yet we've already read the usual "new social media channel is dead" stories from the likes of Forbes and Slate. I don't put much stock in those, though I've recently seen other Google+ news that's not encouraging. Among my Google+ circles, I only see about 10% of users actively on the site.

What's the future of Google+? I gave up making predictions about technology back when I wrote about "not getting Flickr" in 2004. Until recently, I'd been advising our non-technology clients not to worry about Google+. It's early days, I told them. Let the geeks kick the tires on Google+ and we'll see if it crosses the chasm. I reminded them of other Google efforts--Knol, Wave and Friend Connect.

My advice changed, though, once I watched this video from SEO guru Rand Fishkin. Take 12 minutes and watch it.

As you can see, he makes a very strong case for the search engine optimization benefits of being active on Google+. SEO tends to be a relatively small part of our non-profit clients online marketing efforts, but if you sell stuff online, then Google+ matters.

That said, if you sell stuff online, then you're probably better off spending time on Pinterest than Google+. But that's a whole other post.

Photo courtesy Yodel Anecdotal, flickr.

Who Clicks Your Shortened URLs?

About 18 months ago, I did a pretty unscientific analysis on Mashable regarding the clickthrough rate for Twitter accounts. That is, when you share a link on Twitter, how many of your followers click it? I arrived at a clickthrough rate (CTR) of 1.7%. Looking at a couple of other sources, that seems quite accurate. It's safe, I think, to estimate a CTR of 1% to 2% for Twitter for a small to medium Twitter account (say, up to 10,000 followers).

It's worth considering Anil Dash's great analysis of being on the famed (and now deprecated, I think) Suggested Users list. As he notes, he acquired hundreds of thousands of new followers, but "being on Twitter's suggested user list makes no appreciable difference in the amount of retweets, replies, or clicks that I get."

As with all forms of marketing, quality of audience matters far more than quantity.

That's all a bit of a long introduction to this observation, which reminded me of a phenomenon on Twitter and other corners of the social web.

Earlier this week, I had a (quite unremarkable) tweet retweeted a lot.

As you can see from this Bit.ly page for the shortened link, it was clicked 3872 times. I'd never actually checked out the top referrers for this page--that is, where people were when they actually clicked the link:

TopReferrers

As a second data point, here's a recent tweeted link that was clicked about a thousand times.

So, that means that 52% of the clicks came from that first big category, and 38% of traffic comes from the Twitter site. It's too bad that Bit.ly can't further unravel that first category, eh? How much comes from HootSuite, how much from SMS, how much from chat and so forth.

In our workshops and talks I give, I often have to explain to people that they should think of Twitter and Facebook as services or utilities, as opposed to websites. As we can see here, Twitter is water that flows from a lot of different taps, not just from Twitter.com.

A Facebook Page Isn’t Always the Answer

This post, written by Julie, first appeared as a guest post on Sage's Business Management Blog: “My boss says we need a Facebook page.”

As social media strategists we hear that a lot. Our response is often, “why?” Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean a Facebook page is the right choice for your business. Here are a few questions to ponder before diving head first into your corporate Facebook account.

Are your customers on Facebook? With 500 million people on Facebook, it’s likely your customers have Facebook accounts. But, are they using Facebook for business or as a personal networking tool? If you’re a very technical B2B business–maybe you sell circuit boards for solar panels–then it probably makes more sense to build a community in the more corporate LinkedIn.

Do you have internal resources for managing your Facebook page? This is a serious consideration and one that often gets overlooked. For Facebook to work as an engagement tool, you’ll need to create and run contests, offer giveaways, write useful articles and point fans to quality content elsewhere on the web. These marketing activities take time and effort. If no one in your organization takes ownership of the project, your Facebook page won’t succeed.

Is Facebook a PR liability? A corporate Facebook page provides the perfect public platform for people to vent their frustrations with your organization. If your business regularly endures public criticism–say you’re a sports team, an airline or an oil and gas company–then be aware that Facebook may create a PR burden for organization.

Will Facebook (and other social media channels) take away from current marketing activities? Social media can be a fruitful addition to your existing marketing programs, but shouldn’t come before old-school marketing activities that are working well. Time and again we see email marketing results out-perform Facebook and Twitter when it comes to sales and conversions. Though it can be tempting, don’t abandon existing programs for the shiny new bobble.

Is it imperative to get Facebook fans to your website? Converting fans to customers is easier said than done. One reason is because once people are in Facebook, then tend to stay there. They’re disinclined to click a link to your website that takes them out of Facebook. So, if you can’t replicate your website’s functionality in Facebook with a Facebook app–a widget that registers fans for your workshop, or enables them to sign a petition or buy products directly from your Facebook page–you may be disappointed by the number of fans that actually make it over to your corporate website.

There are hundreds of examples of successful Facebook pages that actively engage fans and reflect positively on an organization’s brand. Coca-Cola and Unicef, for example. But, for every success there are thousands of flops. Before you click “Create a Page”, be sure you have a clear understanding of how Facebook will complement your marketing goals and who in your organization will “tend the garden”.

Vancouver Bloggers Hit the Road with the BC Healthy Living Alliance

We recently helped to create an online marketing plan for the BC Healthy Living Alliance, an organization that focuses on British Columbians' health. One of their goals is to encourage politicians and citizens to recognize how social determinants affect the health of individuals and communities as a whole. With the BC provincial election coming up, the BCHLA is encouraging British Columbians to Live Healthy, Vote Healthy: voting for a commitment to improve conditions that impact our health:

Neighbourhoods need certain things to be in place in order for residents to live healthy. In particular, we need safe streets to walk or bike on, parks to play in, affordable recreation, and local stores stocked with affordable veggies and fruits.  Access to affordable housing, healthy food, a livable wage, education, early childhood education and recreational opportunities influence our physical and mental health as well as life expectancy.

One of the suggestions in our marketing plan was a "Blogger Walk". We thought it would be a fun way for the BCHLA to meet some of Vancouver's online influencers and to share information with them about how the neighbourhoods we live in affect our health. We were impressed with how they ran with the idea!

"The Politics of a Healthy Neighbourhood - A Media Walk" took place on April 28. The BCHLA and about 10 local bloggers met over coffee for a brief overview of factors that make a difference to the health of a neighborhood. Then we hit the street to see it all in action.

Rita Koutsodimos, Communications Manager of the BC Healthy Living Alliance led us through the quick guided jaunt of the Fairview area of Vancouver.

The walk was enlightening as there were many aspects of a neighbourhood--from green space to curb placement and opportunities for early childhood education--that we hadn't considered would influence health outcomes. Apparently, the bloggers were similarly inspired.

This fun little Google Map shows the route we followed.

Want to rate your neighbourhood? Check out this nifty rate-your-neighbourhood survey the BCHLA is running.