Social Commerce and The People’s Republic of Facebook

One in eleven human beings are now on Facebook.

In fact if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest with a population of 585m (it grew by 248m in 12 months by the way!)

Now consider that the entire population of Facebook by definition has access to the internet and therefore has more economic power than possibly any other country.

So when people claim that China is the world’s fastest growing economy – in fact it has officially just taken over from Japan as the world’s second largest – just think about the power of People’s Republic of Facebook.

Of course a Venn diagram would show a huge overlap with the other physical economic giants on the planet – the USA of course would take the biggest slice (147m Americans are registered on Facebook), but surprisingly, the UK comes in at number three (28.4m) – Indonesia is second (32.1m)

Given these numbers, it’s no wonder that more and more brands are looking to monetise their presence on the planets largest social network and so over the last few months we are seeing a rise in the phenomenon of social commerce, but recently renamed ‘f commerce’ for obvious reasons.

There appear to be two distinct ways in which people are directly trading from their Facebook page. One is to show merchandise with ‘click’ to buy buttons, but that simply then take you to the normal online store.  This is simply a shop window for the main store. Coca Cola and Barneys New York have taken this tack, by simply adding a ‘shop’ tab on their page.

The other approach is to drop in a store that pretty well replicates the brands online store, but is housed within the Facebook page, allowing fans to shop and checkout, all without leaving Facebook. An API can manage stock levels and make the whole process seamless.

How this will evolve is to be seen. My third party applications allow brands to drop ‘shoplets’ into their Facebook page and the technology behind these will no doubt develop rapidly over the next few months.

But the rush to F Commerce is most certainly on.

A word of warning however. F commerce makes your focus on customer care even more critical. If this rush to push products to the potential market of 585m consumers gets in the way of listening to them and understanding what their immediate needs and wants are, then they will find themselves not even a click away from telling their friends and other fans of the brand just what they think!

Nearly half of all Twitter users don’t read a word you say – that many?

Here’s an article I came across, bizarrely enough, on Twitter the other day. I’m not sure where the author has gathered the information, the source isn’t quoted, but it makes the claim that although the number of people subscribing to Twitter continues to grow inexorably, those who ‘use’ the site are relatively small in number.

The headline says is it all – Half Twitter users don’t read a word you say.

So what?

If you imagine that Twitter is another channel to push your message out to your audience, then of course that message will continue to be mistrusted. That’s not engagement. Remember, the key to winning on the social web is to listen and then to engage.

I continue to see company Facebook pages that don’t allow people to post messages. Is the expectation that people are just waiting to hear what they have to say like the sermon on the mount?

Twitter and Facebook can only really be called ‘social’ media if they facilitate conversations and discussions between brands and their customers and prospects. Those who follow a brand on Twitter are doing so for a variety of reasons, to wait for discounts, find out when the next store is opening etc etc. But more and more, these people are going to have questions. When is the next offer? When is the store opening in my neighbourhood? And they will ask these questions and expect answers – quickly. Those people will be listening to what you say becasue you’ll be saying it to them directly.

That’s the real power of social media.


Facebook Messaging

Yesterday I sat and watched  Mark Zuckerburg and Andrew Bosworth announce the trial of the new Facebook messaging system.

I am left with two conflicting thoughts and so am slightly troubled.

Firstly, the words and phrases they used to describe the new system sounded great ; “immediate”, “personal”, “simple”, ‘minimal”, “short” and best of all, “technology getting out of the way”!

But then watching the demonstration and hearing how it would work with outside clients (including Gmail!), left me quite befuddled! By no means am I a tecchie, which was why the language was so appealing. So expecting to then see a super simple to understand product, I felt slightly let down and confused.

I get the objective – to consolidate all your online conversations with people into one stream (including SMS). The analogy used by Bosworth was his Grandmother’s box of letters sent to her by his Grandfather that she lovingly cherishes – “where’s my box of letters?” he said.

The announcement had been teed up in the press as a Gmail killer and when Zuckerberg claimed ‘Gmail is a really great product”, I was left waiting for the ‘but’, which never came. Even after hearing that “Email is still really important to a lot of people”, I could sense that by people he meant ” sad old people”, but then what we heard was that users of this new product could claim an email address!

Search Engine Land’s comment, “Whatever-you-do-don’t-call-it-email-but-hey-here’s-a-Facebook-email-address-for-you email and messaging system”, raised a smile!

I do get the fact that for a lot of people email is outmoded. My wife says she has “emailed” someone, when what she means is that she has sent them a message on Facebook, so it’s not just the college kids he met, who Zuckerberg claims were the inspiration behind this product, who don’t use email because it’s too slow and informal.

But I remain unclear as to just what has been created here. Over a year in development, commanding more internal resource than Facebook have ever committed to a project before, this is clearly seen by them as a gamechanger.

If it really is simple, easy, short, personal etc etc and really does get the technology out of the way, then I can’t wait. (I’ve applied for an invite to test this thing, so will report if lucky enough to be granted one), but right now I just can’t picture it.

Can you help me shed some light on this?

The Monarchy Gets Sociable

No doubt many of you have already picked up the fact that H.M. The Queen has launched a fansite on Facebook.

This is tremendous stuff and I will avoid trying to make a witty quip on the subject, but have this post simply serve to record this great event!

The iPod toting Monarch now lives on Facebook and I for one see this as adding certain validity to FB – I think that’s just me.

Already on Twitter, You Tube (The wonderfully named “The Royal Channel”) and Flickr, the Queen is now showing how irresistible social tools are in messaging her subjects.

Perhaps this also highlights the older demographic that social tools are now attracting?

Facebook Launches ‘Deals’

As social commerce has grown over the last few months through sites like Groupon and location based apps like Four Square and Gowalla, Facebook today dropped their bomb in the middle of all of this.

Facebook Deals launched today in beta and is only available in the US to those businesses who have claimed their ‘places’.

‘Deals’ offers local businesses the chance to launch four types of deal – one off, group, loyalty and charity and the opportunities it affords local businesses are growing customer loyalty, growing through WOM (word of mouth) and recruiting new customers.

Let’s look at each.

Growing Loyalty – A local retailer can create a deal whereby a discount can be claimed if a customer checks in between 2 and 20 times.

Growing through WOM – If the average facebook user has 130 friends, the hope is that a deal will viral through you fans network very quickly.

Acquiring new customers – with 200 million people using Facebook through their mobile device, an opportunity now exists to attract nearby potential customers to your store.

This all sounds great and the sheer size of Facebook means the potential is staggering for local businesses.

But just a few months after Twitter dropped their offers function, I guess Facebook are treading lightly.

A gamechanger? What do you think?

The Social Egosystem

This article by Brian Solis, paints a fascinating picture.

He echos much of what I have written about here previously in relation to our ‘me’ brands and the narcissism of today’s consumers.

What’s clear is the need for brands to identify their biggest potential influencers. It’s summed up best by this quote “Brands seeking reach, presence, and connectivity must look beyond popularity and focus on aligning with the influential beacons who serve as the hubs for contextual networks or nicheworks.”
But what really permeates throughout this article is the firm belief, which I share, that actions by brands, via social tools, can indeed be measured and deliver an ROI that brands will expect in the future.

I know from my own experience, when an agency sits and squirms at the suggestion that their funky viral project should carry an element of measurement, it’s the first sign you should run away. And when they say that a calculation of  ROI cannot even be attempted, show them the door.

The refinement of Twitter will, allowing better profiling based on keywords, history and other variables means that this microblog could well become the dominant force of the social web. The launch of new Twitter indicates that they are developing more ways to keep users on the Twitter site itself and away from various third paty ‘clients’. Combine this with their growing ability to analyse user data and in turn what that means they can offer advertisers and you can see where this is going.

I’ve read recently more and more complaints about Facebook and its user interface. The constant changes are becoming an annoyance. When people become more familiar with new Twitter’s ability to show images, video and sound, the reasons we have for spending time on Facebook may decline

In the week that “The Social Network” is released, Zuckerberg surely needs to get his team to raise their game back at the ranch and avoid the red carpet?

What do you think?

Facebook Down

Mark this:

September 23rd 2010

Update 1   1:40PDT: The site is back up for some, if not all, users.

Update 2  1:50PDT: Many users are getting an error message Service Unavailable – DNS Failure. The message is coming from a server at which is run by Akamai, a provider for many big sites. It looks as if Facebook has changed their DNS to point to this server while they work on the problem.

Just as Mark Zuckerberg appears on Oprah! Conspiracy theories will abound.

Astonishing! Just how this is news. How I’m even bothering to write about it.

So I’ll stop. I feel slightly unclean. As I did after watching ‘Couples Retreat’.

Are we too soft?

Just recently I’m feeling myself becoming more and more frustrated with those who are laying their feelings bare on Facebook. I see status updates like “sad”, or “why is it always me?”

My feeling around this kind of soul baring is this – where’s your dignity?

Maybe it’s an old fashioned view. Maybe the world did change the day Diana died and a mass outpouring of grief flooded the UK, but I’m still of the old school I think.

I just feel that those posting these status updates are just begging for a response. And those who respond, do so in the knowledge that their response is public and they are seen to care more than others.

For really personal feelings, I just think people ought to talk directly to friends rather than reach out publicly for sympathy and reaction. Harps back to Stan Rapp’s comment about the narcissism of todays consumer.

It’s just the way I am and was brought up I suppose.

Am I out of whack on this one?

Location, Location, Location

On Wednesday this week Facebook launched ‘Places’. Its own location based application.

As Four Square, Gowalla and others have proved, we seem all to willing to ‘check in’ and in doing so give away our most valuable personal asset – our location.

Despite the Mayor badges and other medals on offer, we seem to do this for no reason other than to let people know where we are. Are they interested? Probably not, and yet we still feel the need. To me this justifys Stan Rapp’s quote this week, “this generation of consumers are the most narcisistic ever.”

We all manage our “I” brands carefully on Facebook specifically, and adding our whereabouts gives us another reason to talk about our favourite subject-ourselves. This isn’t a judgemental observation- I do it too!

How Facebook develop Places remains to be seen. Tying it in with retailers, targeted advertising and location based incentives will no doubt grow.

But how my friends now start to use a tool that is an integral part of their favourite social network, rather than a third party application will be fascinating.

More polishing of their “I Brands”? I bet they won’t be able to resist it! I’m going to have a play!

“Doing to is bad. Doing with is good. Doing for is great”

Is the most memorable quote from Stan Rapp at the ‘Engaging Times’ Summit held in Chicago this week:

Two more:

“Today’s consumers are the most narcissistic in history. We’re all looking after brand I.” another from Stan.

“Don’t bother wasting money on social media until your organization can competently handle a customer phone call or email.” Don Peppers

The first is a succinct observation on fact that millions of us now manage our own “I” brand, primarily through Facebook. The second, a warning to those who think this funky stuff looks too cool for school and want to jump straight in.

The link between the two is not just that they are from two of the most important thinkers in marketing in the last 25 years, it’s that those of us with “I’ brands are all too willing to trip companies up when they let us down, don’t deliver and disappoint us. And this negativity can be devastating. Just ask Tiscali Talk Talk and SouthWest Airlines.

Here’s another quote: “Customers wouldn’t feel the need to embarrass us en masse, if our customer service channels weren’t so completely broken.” Bob Knorpp, The Beancast

The marketing buzz in the US right now is about two things – listening and engaging. By connecting the two, businesses and organisations can respond to the conversations their customers and prospects are having. That’s great. But, the real winners are those who have taken an additional, crucial first step; accepting that the world has irrevocably changed forever and that they no longer control the message.

It’s not a comfortable thing for businesses and marketers to acknowledge. But those who think they are in control are doomed. Maggie thinks that by turning her toy steering wheel in the backseat while Marge is in the front, she is driving the car. Some marketers are labouring under the same illusion as little Maggie Simpson, and she never grows up!

The good news is that those who get it – really get it and are prepared to accept the letting go that this entails, can win and win big.

While @ThatKevinSmith and his 1.6m followers are destroying SouthWest Airlines because he was too fat, United are issuing extra airmiles to people tweeting about delayed flights from the departure lounge. By the way that’s ‘delayed’ not ‘adjusted’ as SouthWest refer to their changes in flight schedules!

The thousands of employees that make up Best Buy’s twelpforce are answering customer service issues minute by minute under some common sense and open ended guidelines – if you don’t know, don’t publish, never use the customers name etc. etc.

They have wiped out Circuit City and made Radioshack a virtual irrelevance. Best Buy are now in UK – be afraid!

So whilst there are huge opportunities to grow sales, increase web traffic, develop new products, carry out research, or whatever your objectives are through social channels, the first place to look is your own backyard.

Are all of your customers happy all of the time? Of course not. What aren’t they happy about? Address these things first. Turn negativity to positivity without asking for proof of purchase first!

Whilst the Old Spice campaign was brilliant in its design and execution, don’t get carried away. Make sure your house is in order before you dive in.