This is a guest post by Nate Towne. Follow him on Twitter @Fancy_Lad.
Pinterest, schminterest! What’s with all the buzz about this new social media channel? Is it worth your precious web surfing time? And how can you use it to build your business so you can feel less guilt about surfing boards on Pinterest on the company dime? Read on, fearless reader – you might just learn something (I swear it’s not my fault if you do.).
Our good pals at Mashable report Pinterest is currently enjoying the limelight as one of the top 10 social networks – and it’s still (technically) invite only. Though getting an invite is pretty easy if you’re on Twitter or Google+ – heck, just ask me and I’ll invite you. Or you can ask Pinterest for an invite –I’m betting dollars to donuts they’re not going to turn you down. I’m a sharing kinda guy. The premise behind Pinterest is pretty basic, it’s a cloud-based social media network that lets you organize and share all the cool discoveries you find on the web. Pinheads (yes, I’m coining that term) use pinboards to showcase their mad style, plan vacation shenanigans, organize their favorite recipes, share gifting ideas, and among other things, drive traffic to ecommerce sites – *gasp!*
What makes Pinterest a social network? It allows Pinheads (see? I’m running with it!) to browse pins and boards created by other Pinheads. Trust me, you could spend days browsing other Pinhead’s pinboards – they are a constant source of amusement, amazement and discovery. And if you’re an entrepreneurial kind of person, the two words that stand out here are “discover” and “share.” Who wouldn’t want Pinheads to discover and share your coolness on this hotter than hot internet destination?
Let’s face it – if you build it, and it’s cool, and it reaches MILLIONS of potential customers, businesses will come. But should your business jump on the bandwagon? According to ComScore’s recent data on Pinterest, the site has nearly five million users and shows no signs of stopping in its race to the top. Data from Google Ad Planner reports nearly 1.5 million unique users are visiting Pinterest daily, and spending more than 14 minutes on the site per visit (If you ask me, this number is a little low – Pinterest is *that* addictive!). If that data isn’t enough to get you thinking, digest this new insight from Shareaholic via GigaOM: Pinterest is now driving more web traffic referrals than Google+ (not surprising), on par with Twitter referrals (rather surprising!). But juicy and compelling data aside, is Pinterest right for your business?
That’s a question for another post – in fact, my next few posts will break down why brands should consider converting to Pinterest , or not as the case may be. I promise you dear reader, it will be worth the wait. And if not, I’ll gladly give you your money back…
Earlier this week, we heard from Bloomberg Businessweek that Facebook would be offering a Groupon-inspired discount deal service. Given its potential customer base of over 500 million users, the social networking site definitely has a good starting foundation as it hopes to take advantage of the bourgeoning online-deal market.
Anyone else not surprised? Don’t get me wrong: Facebook is awesome and all, but once again, it’s taking a pre-existing idea from another social networking platform and incorporating it into its own one-stop social metropolis. Facebook has been a copycat from Day 1. Even prior to its conception, we had MySpace, FriendFeed, and several other social networking platforms that eventually floundered and or just never took off.
So what made Facebook succeed where others had failed? In short, exclusivity. Whereas MySpace was a very public platform where any creep could try to add you as a friend (Remember that creeper who was at least twice your age, lived across the country and was always commenting on your pictures for no good reason? Of course you do.), Facebook was initially a private club for college students. Only later, when it had established itself above the common man’s social networking sites, did it eventually open its doors to everyone.
Throughout Facebook’s young life, it has continued to adopt popular online tools in an effort to provide its user base with the be-all, end-all source for online interaction: in May 2007, the Marketplace launched, a lá Craigslist. In April 2009, the Facebook news feed underwent a drastic makeover that resulted in a suspicious resemblance to Twitter. In August 2010, Places kicked off, but while FourSquare doesn’t have nearly as many users as Facebook, it still seems to enjoy a higher volume of check-ins – for now, anyway. Later that year, we talked about the Facebook Deals introduction (and Foursquare still seems to be doing just fine).
Over the last six years, this social networking monolith has tried function as our online interactive Swiss army knife. Sometimes its efforts are impressive, and other times less remarkable – I actually had to see if Facebook Marketplace was still active when writing this post. While it is an enormous platform, I personally think that even the likes of Facebook won’t be able to do it all while holding everyone’s interest.
At the very least, imitation is the best form of flattery though, right? What do you think of Facebook holding the crosshairs over Groupon, or any of its other social adoptions?
Back in April I wrote about Jeff Pulver’s 140 Character Conference that was taking place in New York City. I praised the conference and its attendees for providing advice on social media best practices live from the event. The live tweeting was so impressive I felt like I was there in the auditorium.
Yesterday, I actually was in the auditorium as Pulver brought his traveling conference to Boston for the first time. The conference began at 9:00 am and went until 6:00 pm with over 61 speakers on the roster. Each group that took the stage had 10 minutes to share how Twitter and/or the real-time web have impacted their goals professionally and personally. Below, a few highlights from the day:
Jeff Pulver, @jeffpulver – Check out Pulver’s opening remarks to kick off the day:
John Daley, @Boston_Police – Daley, deputy superintendent for the Boston Police, shared that the department is using Twitter to broadcast vital, public safety information to the city of Boston and their broader Twitter followers. The police see Twitter as an effective way to disseminate critical information in real-time. Daley also noted that citizens have begun reporting crimes to the police via Twitter. They tweet updates and photos, typically of crimes they consider “too small” to dial 911. Who knew!
C.C. Chapman, @cc_chapman – C.C. is on a mission. A mission to give dads who blog as much power and recognition as the infamous “mommy bloggers.” During what was by far the most animated speech of the day, C.C. shared his personal quest to force consumer brands to recognize fathers as a key sales demographic. Marketers, pay attention. The dads have wallets too.
Patrick Larkin, @bhsprincipal – Larkin is the principal of Burlington High School where he is trying to bring the school into the digital revolution. In addition to teaching a Web 2.0 class to his students, Larkin is working to educate families on the importance of digital education for students. During his panel, Larkin said, “We need to teach our children to use social media. Without that, the diploma doesn’t mean much.”
Amanda Palmer, @amandapalmer – Palmer, best known as part of the musical group the Dresden Dolls, shared with the audience that, “I was able to ditch my management and my record label to launch an album all via the internet.” She went on to say how her Twitter followers have been incredibly supportive and a resource she didn’t realize would be so critical. She said, “Life is becoming easier, faster and cheaper as we harness the power of social media.” Rock on, Amanda!
Georgy Cohen, @radiofreegeorgy – Cohen is the managing editor of web communications for Tufts University and has one of the best understandings of the power of social media that I have encountered. Not only does she see the value in active social media platforms for the university, but she is consistently engaging with students, staff and alumni to build meaningful relationships. Cohen hit the nail on the head when she said, “We have to be in the ‘now’ because our brands already are, whether we are or not.” I was also impressed by Cohen’s decision to harness the strength of content creation and launch a Tufts website called Jumble (their mascot is the Jumbo) to aggregate all of the best content created by students, staff and alumni. For colleges and university seeking social media best practices, look no further than Tufts.
Chris Brogan, @chrisbrogan – Brogan, a high profile social media player, author and the president of New Marketing Labs, spoke to the group about Twitter and other web applications simply serving as a platform for larger goals. In one of the best quotes of the day he quipped, “No one ever asked Hemmingway what kind of pencil he wrote with. Don’t ask me what blog platform I use! That’s not the point.” View Brogan’s entire talk here:
For more information on the speakers at the Boston 140 Characters Conference, check out my live updates @MollyGaller on Twitter or the #140conf hashtag.
At the close of the event, Pulver said, “This conference is not a tech event, it’s a life event.” Thank you, Jeff Pulver, for a superb day that reminds us all that the next big thing could be just a tweet away.
Steve Lohr of the New York Times took an interesting look over the weekend at the unique role that start-ups can play in helping the economic recovery. While many people believe small businesses are the key to stabilizing the economy and creating jobs, new research indicates that the age of a business (rather than the size) may be a better indicator of creating jobs and strengthening the overall market. Therefore, many folks are arguing, to generate jobs we must put a focus on seeding new ventures.
The article took me back to a conversation I had with Michael Gaiss of Highland Capital Partners earlier this summer (embedded above). During the conversation we touched on the current state of entrepreneurship and innovation in the U.S. and he had some interesting insight into how we can create ecosystems and environments for start-ups to thrive.
Boston, for example, has been trending in a positive direction in terms of enhancing the environment for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive. Michael pointed to Mayor Menino’s creation of the Innovation District and the new incubators popping up around the greater Boston area with ties to angel and venture investors.
He also pointed to corporate efforts like PepsiCo10, which partnered his venture firm with PepsiCo and Mashable to form an innovation incubator that will offer free consulting, mentoring and digital opportunities to chosen start-ups.
We’ve been talking a lot about Facebook this week. The site hit 500 million users on Wednesday and has become a sheer force in our digitally obsessed society. Earlier this spring Facebook made the “Like” button universally available across the world wide web, not just on their own site. Brands and businesses have incorporated the “Like” functionality into their own websites to visually demonstrate customer support. While there was a great deal of buzz about the expanded reach of the “Like” button, there has also been a storm brewing around the concept of a “Dislike” button.
I for one would like to see Facebook add a “Dislike” button. If I can express my support for something so easily, why can’t I express my opposition or distaste? There are nearly 3.2 million people that agree with me who belong to a Facebook group called “Dislike Button.”
There are a few obvious reasons why Facebook has held off: first, there is potential for bullying and hurtful use of the proposed “dislike” button. While I would like to think Facebook users are capable of using the “dislike” button wisely, I am sure there are users that would be abusive.
A second reason is highlighted in a new column by Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore for CNN. In his most recent column, Cashmore explains that the “dislike” button opens door for users to negatively impact the brands and businesses that use Facebook for marketing and promotions. He writes:
“Facebook will never add a Dislike button because it would damage the company’s relationships with brands, businesses and web publishers — these groups are essential for building both web traffic and ad revenue.”
While Cashmore makes a strong point that Facebook does not want to alienate the primary source of its revenue, Facebook has also been known to respond to strong user feedback.
Who do you think will win this debate? Are you on team Like or Dislike?
In a recent blog post, Socialnomics author Erik Qualman shared updated figures on Twitter’s presence in the online search game. Twitter has officially edged out Yahoo! and Bing in number of monthly searches. See graphic below:
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Twitter founder Biz Stone shared that Twitter now has over 800 million search queries per day, which is a 33% increase from the last time he shared search figures in April (2010).
On his blog, Qualman writes, “We have indicated all along that Twitter & Facebook would be bigger search competition for Google than Yahoo and Bing. The fact that this is coming to fruition so soon is astounding. Social search and social commerce are becoming reality and it’s a great thing to see. Keep in mind we haven’t even mention YouTube and its social search activity.”
To the people who say social media is a fad, or that these sites are unimportant for business I say, think again. Consumers are searching for your products and services on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and if you are not there, they will find another provider.
Last night Racepoint Group hosted an event about social media and its return on investment (ROI). As social media continues to become a larger focal point in public relations and marketing campaigns, it’s critical to understand how to articulate it’s value to clients.
Last night’s event centered around a panel discussion with three social media experts: Larry Weber, Chairman of Racepoint Group, Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Mike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing for HubSpot.
After Larry Weber’s opening remarks, Qualman shared how he first dipped his toe into the digital space by sending a company-wide email instead of the standard hard copy memo. View his story here:
Volpe was up next and shared with the group the origins of his marketing career and the way tracking and reporting on ROI is evolving. Watch him provide tips here:
The evening was full of tremendous ideas and recommendations. The five big takeaways from the panel were:
1) Social media is not about technology. It’s about human interaction. It’s about sharing information and making connections. People who are intimidated by the technology aspect of engaging in social media should not view the applications as a hurdle. It’s simply the current mechanism to maintain relationships and reach out to new people.
2) When it comes to tracking social media, its important to focus not only on the quantitative (number of followers, number of re-postings) but also the qualitative. We need to take into account engagement and tone. Qualman said, “If social media is so trackable, we should just have robots running things. The human element is necessary here.”
3) Everyone and anyone can be a content creator, a publisher, a media property. As we shift away from traditional print and broadcast media, both we and our clients have the opportunity to get innovative and create and distribute our own content. Additionally, content creation should not be isolated to the PR and marketing staff. Volpe shared that, “50% of HubSpot employees have written posts for the HubSpot blog.”
4) Although much of PR and marketing is based in the written word, we need to start thinking more visually. We need to tell stories through pictures and videos. We need to make our content more authentic and dynamic.
5) On a personal level, Volpe stated, “The new resume is what comes up in Google when I type in your name.” As digital and social media continue to play an increasingly vital role in our PR and marketing efforts, we too have a digital and social persona, and that is now what employers are most interested in.
Thank you to Erik Qualman and Mike Volpe for joining us at Racepoint Group last night and providing such pragmatic, realistic, useful and inspiring guidance on the social media ROI frontier. Be sure to follow @equalman and @mvolpe on Twitter for real time updates on their social media adventures. You can also view all the live commentary during the event with the #smroi hashtag here.
Performics study of 3,000 consumers, which was released at ad:tech New York last week, looked at how various segments of consumers use social networks in their daily lives, specifically in regard to finding out about different types of products and in relation to other media channels. Two specifically interesting points from their study, were:
30 % of respondents have learned about a new product, service or brand from a social networking site
28 % of respondents said messages about sales or special deal notifications resonate with them
Meanwhile, Razorfish’s report, which was based on a survey of 1,000 “connected consumers,” echoed the sentiment of consumers engaging with brands online, taking action (recommending / posting feedback) and ultimately purchasing – especially when deals are on the table.
Nearly 70 % of respondents have read blogs produced by products or brands (e.g., Nintendo) in some frequency
26 % have followed a brand on Twitter
40 % have “friended” a brand on Facebook or MySpace
73% of respondents post product or brand reviews on Web sites (e.g., Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
53% have blogged about a product, brand or service
70% have participated in a brand sponsored contest or sweepstakes online
With that data it’s obvious that engagement is continuing to increase, but why are they following? Similar to last week’s study, Razorfish found that the #1 reason for following or ‘friending’ a brand is simple. They want deals.
43% of those that follow a brand on Twitter, do so for exclusive deals or offers. This beat out ‘I am a current customer’ (24%) and for ‘interesting and entertaining content (23%)
Exclusive deals or offers were also the top reason for ‘friending’ brands on Facebook or MySpace
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Razorfish study was the data on how online influences (blogs, YouTube, Websites, online customer service, etc) can change brand opinion and ultimately purchase decisions.
65 % of respondents said an online experience has changed their opinion (either positively or negatively) about a brand or the products and services it offers
97% said that experience has influenced their future purchase decisions
In addition, 64% said they have made a first purchase from a brand based purely on a digital experience (e.g., a Website, micro-site, mobile coupon, blog, tweet, email, etc)
The latter of which surprising even those that follow the company daily. Earlier this year Marc Andreessen, who sits on Facebook’s Board of Directors, said the company “would do $500 million in revenues in 2009, up from an estimated $280-$300 million in 2008.”
However, this latest news means that the company could do even better than Andreessen’s predictions for 2009, with eyes on a potential late 2010 or early 2011 IPO.
The one question that remains is if advertising will be the singular revenue stream for the company. Yes, the ads we see on our profile pages and news feeds are lucrative, driving the company’s current revenue growth, but are they missing other opportunities to capitalize on a site that has now outpaced Yahoo! as the second most traffic’d site on the Web (Alexa graph).
Douglas Macmillan of BusinessWeek hypothesises today that Facebook’s users can afford to pay for Facebook’s services and Facebook should charge them.
His basic thesis: Facebook users are no longer college kids with little discretionary income, media companies are planning to charge so why not Facebook and they’re in the unlikely Internet position of having power over their consumer base who are devoted to their product.
Some quick math asserts that Facebook would reach the billions in revenue – Andreessen believes they’ll reach in a few years – in a year’s time by charging only $1 per month to its 300,000,000 active users. To the tune of $3.6 billion in annual revenue. Even if Facebook did it to offset advertising to a percentage of users that didn’t want to be bothered with ads, it’d still be fruitful.
So would users pay? The jury is out on that. I have to believe that there are more creative revenue strategies through engagement points (think of them as frequent flyer miles) or even corporate accounts (brands paying to host their Websites / Fan pages on Facebook). On the other hand the thought of pulling in $3.6 billion by only asking for $1 per month from each user is pretty tempting.
With APRs on credit cards doubling out of the blue, investment options dwindling and banks tightening their loan policies, RaceTalk connected with Kim Muhota – CEO of Pertuity Direct – to discuss how online social lending could play a significant role in freeing up consumer credit and helping the U.S. pull out of the financial market meltdown.
A financial services industry veteran, Kim provides insight into the current credit crunch and how social lending (otherwise known as peer-to-peer) is quickly becoming a viable alternative to traditional banks.
Q: Celent predicts that by 2010, there will be $5.8 billion peer-to-peer loans made in the U.S. – an 800% growth from 2007. Why do you think peer-to-peer lending has taken off the way it has?
Peer-to-peer lending has grown quite fast over the last 2 or so years for a number of reasons. Most recently, there is the issue of the liquidity crisis which means that even the prime borrower or small business owner does not have access to credit as they did a year or two ago. Traditional providers are also raising prices pretty aggressively to drive more revenue growth and compensate for added risk – and this impacts the consumer adversely.
There is also the fact that P2P loans are installment loans and are therefore very transparent and user friendly – in other words, there is no penalty pricing, hidden fees or anything like that. The P2P marketplace offers good potential returns for lenders and allows individuals to participate in a vibrant community of borrowers and lenders. So there are multiple compelling reasons why P2P is becoming more of a main-stream alternative than it was just 2 short years ago.
Q: What are the benefits of taking out a loan on a social lending site, as opposed to a traditional financial institution?
Social lending sites offer loans that are well priced (typically between 6.9% – 17.9%) and have fixed rates. Alternatives like credit cards have been increasing their interest rates across the board and have gotten very aggressive with penalty pricing and unfair fees. Social lending sites offer a loan product that allows you to go through the application and approval process in minutes; any time of the day.
The no-hassles loan option is a much better alternative to having to go into the branch, dealing with paper work and high fees. Further, it’s a great social networking opportunity where borrowers can tell their story and lenders can get to see where their money is going. Most of the lenders and borrowers are like minded individuals looking for a better deal than what they are getting from their bank.
Q: JPMorgan Chase — the largest credit card issuer in the U.S. — recently began adding a $10 fee to borrowers’ monthly balances (which accrues interest) and raise minimum payments to 5% from 2%. Is social lending a viable alternative to credit cards help consumers mitigate debt?
Absolutely. The fact that the loans are fixed term and fixed rate loans means that the consumer knows exactly what their loan payment is going to be and they know exactly how long it will take them to pay off the loan. It’s a great mechanism to get proactive around managing debt.
Q: Do you believe that social lending can play a role in helping to reverse the current economic crisis?
Yes. The current economic crisis is driven in large part to a lack of liquidity in the credit markets. Any option that provides much needed credit liquidity will help solve the current crisis – and the social lending model allows for the liquidity in the credit market by the consumer themselves. So in many ways, it’s the consumer driving the solution directly by participating in the social lending marketplace.
Q: How do you see the social lending space evolving in the next 9 – 12 months, following the October 2008 decision by the SEC to crackdown on the industry?
The recent regulatory changes raise the barrier to entry and increases the price to play in the space for the various companies out there. Most importantly, it provides an added level of regulation which is built to protect the consumer – and that’s always a huge positive. I think we will see more people adapting to the social lending marketplace as it continues to gain awareness and traction broadly. As a result, there is a good chance that we will see one or two innovative banks and financial services companies looking to partner with some of the social lending players as a way to get a head start into what is positioned to become a great customer acquisition channel.
For more of Kim’s thoughts on the current credit and liquidity crisis, you can check out his posts to the Pertuity Direct blog here.
Disclosure: Pertuity Direct is a Racepoint Group client