Social Media Trends and Opportunities Googles Tips for Brands

November 28, 2017 | Author: SIVVA2 | Category: Google+, Digital & Social Media, Social Media, Google, Advertising
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Social media trends and opportunities: Google's tips for brands Low Lai Chow Event Reports Social Media Week Singapore, February 2013



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Social media trends and opportunities: Google's tips for brands Low Lai Chow Event Reports Social Media Week Singapore, February 2013


Social media trends and opportunities: Google's tips for brands Low Lai Chow At this year's Social Media Week Singapore, Laura Balkovich, Google's head of social, Asia Pacific, observed that six billion of the approximately seven billion people on earth already have a mobile phone. "There are more people who have mobiles than have running water or electricity," she said, adding that such a high level of access to technology was essentially "unprecedented". The rapidly-changing technological environment not only impacts everyday life; it also shapes how people use the internet. And that, of itself, naturally affects Google. "At Google, we knew we had to create the next version of all our products as a result of this changing user behaviour," said Balkovich. The culmination of this understanding is Google+, the firm's social network, which also works alongside an overarching philosophy of making sharing on the web more like sharing in real life. Providing users with unique and customisable experiences based on what Google gleans from their digital behaviour - such as their social network and location data - is a particular focus for the tech giant. "We're trying to add a social layer to all of our products and that means Android, email, YouTube, Maps - everything you can think of at Google is important. We want to make it social," Balkovich said. She then identified three major trends which are transforming how people connect online - trends significant enough to make Google "re-architect" its products as a result. Trend 1: The rise of people making human connections Think of the internet as a place; not one limited by information-seeking and information-taking, but one where people can meaningfully connect with each other. Such an idea is essential to Google. "The internet has really become a place to connect with people. Even parts of the internet you wouldn't necessarily think of right away," said Balkovich of the web's evolution since its early days of ubiquitous blue hyperlinks. "For example, 25% of search results for the top 20 brands are actually links to user-generated content," she added, citing figures from a 2009 study by Nielsen. "So a whole quarter of information out there is actually created by someone other than the brand itself - and search is the way that we find information that is being created by people [and] by experts." Downloaded from



The ability to leave and read reviews as part of Google Places - a platform helping users find local businesses, and which is integrated into relevant search results - also brings an added, and customised, social dimension to searching for credible information. For instance, when Balkovich did some scouring online for a dinner venue and found that a foodie friend had rated a restaurant, this exerted an immediate influence. "It adjusted my opinion," she said, pointing out that consumers who are exposed to such customised social information - based on both their contacts and interests - can make better decisions as a result. Trend 2: The rise of people connecting around interests Reaching out to customers based on interests, not demographics, was a second core objective identified by Balkovich. Findings from a 2012 study by Catalina Marketing confirmed the wisdom of this idea: some 53% of people who bought products from the top ten consumer packaged goods companies assessed were not drawn from the formal target demographic of the firm concerned.   "By focusing on demographics rather than interests, these companies are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with customers [and] potential customers," said Balkovich, who asserted that the internet has always been favourably disposed towards networking over interests. Case study: Bringing photography walks to everyone Photographer John Butterill started out inviting fellow photography buffs to join his "photo walks" in real life, and then took it to the next level when he hooked up his camera to his phone to share these virtual walks using Google+ Hangouts, the group video chat service. The project took on added resonance when Corey Fisk, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and had not walked for ten years, joined the virtual walk. As Butterill put it in a video interview for Google: "For those few moments, she wasn't in that bed; she was able to experience her own momentary escape." The virtual walks then became a way for people with limited mobility to experience the world in a way that had been unavailable to them before.

Trend 3: The rise of deeper online conversations Citing a finding from the 2012 Cassandra Report that 40% of 13-34 year olds regarded being "relatable" as the top quality in a brand website, Balkovich said the lesson for marketers is that "consumers are now expecting to have a more intimate Downloaded from



relationship with brands." Another core insight, from Google and GfK's 2012 study "Our Social Planet", showed that 78% of consumers are just as likely to communicate with friends and family through the web as they are face-to-face. Social media, naturally, pulls considerable weight in this area. Case study - Barack Obama on social media Last year, Barack Obama, the US president, held his first video chat on Google+ Hangouts, after the White House invited members of the public to submit questions via its YouTube channel. "He wanted to be able to have these conversations with people in the country without having a journalist or a spokesperson involved," said Balkovich. The results? Approximately 250k people submitted questions, and two million people voted for the queries they wanted to be posed. The outing clearly worked: the President held his second video chat in February this year.

Balkovich then identified several areas of focus for marketers both in-house, and when it came to connecting with consumers. Tip 1: Include social media in all marketing The first tip she gave drew on a 2012 study by Time Inc which showed digital natives switch their attention between devices and platforms 27 times per hour. "Social marketing can't be really separate from all the other marketing. Digital users have very short attention spans… we are flipping between channels, TV, magazines, tablets, phones - there's tons of media out there," said Balkovich. Brands also need to understand that social media is deeply steeped in everyday life. "Consumers aren't looking at social as a separate thing that they're doing during the day," Balkovich continued. "It's something they're involved in, in everything that they're doing online, one way or another." The lesson, then, is that brands need to look at the big picture ("You should really think about this when it comes to planning your overall marketing," Balkovich said), including the increasingly high level of social media use on mobile phones. Half of Google+ users, for instance, access the network through this route, with some Asian markets registering even higher totals on this metric.

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And yet mobile access is just one piece of the full marketing puzzle. For instance, daily active users on Google+ spend 12 minutes a day in their Stream - which is broadly equivalent to a Facebook Newsfeed - and 60 minutes a day across the socially-integrated sites run by Google. "We have to shift the way we're actually thinking about social. Google+ is not just a destination or a Stream … it's about adding social to all of our users," Balkovich said. Case studies - Alicia Keys and Akb48 "Entertainment brands have actually been some of the leaders within this category," observed Balkovich. In November 2012, Alicia Keys, the singer, premiered her "Girl On Fire" album live to fans using Google+ Hangouts from New York City. Her mass video chat garnered over 120,000 views, and was the number one trending topic on Twitter. Girl on Fire was also the bestselling album that week in the US.

Popular Japanese girl group AKB48 also took to Google+ Hangouts for the first time in 2012 with their fourth "Senbatsu" general election, an annual national phenomenon that lets fans vote for their favourite member. "About a third of Japan tunes in to watch this general election," said Balkovich. "This year, for the first time, fans were able to participate in the election itself. While the TV programme was running, they were able to log on to Google+ and interact with the actual members of the band and vote as part of the election." Overall, the girl group drew over 3.2 million views for the live broadcast on YouTube and ended up with 1.2 million new followers on Google+ in just one day. Tip 2: Connect with interest areas and online communities As so many communities of consumers exist on the internet, companies must discern which groups are relevant to their brand, and find a way to connect with them. "Every brand should make it a goal to connect with these communities," said Balkovich. "These types of engaging discussions are ways for customers to connect with one another and the brand. Customers in general want to feel like they're a part of something and not just a follower. They want to participate in the conversation." In return, brands stand to gain a fervent following of web users who can test products, provide useful feedback and, of course, multiply reshares and "+1s". Downloaded from



"In the new connected world, there are thousands of conversations going on… successful brands are really trying to identify which are the most important of these conversations and how to lead in that conversation. One of our customers told us they've actually stopped thinking about their marketing strategy as always on, and they've started thinking about it as always in - meaning [that they are] always involved in the conversation," said Balkovich. "The question we have to ask ourselves is, what communities really resonate with our brand and are we there participating in the conversation, connecting with them?" Tip 3: Amplify super fans and harness their conversations Drawing on a 2009 study by digital agency 360i, Balkovich suggested that 70% of brand content is created by consumers. This is where "super fans" - defined by Balkovich as "people who actively want to create content and share information related to your brand" - work their magic. She recommended starting with the "5% that matter" and crafting unique experiences they will enjoy in order to amplify marketing efforts. "I really recommend focusing on consumers and the issues first. Typically most marketers start the opposite way," Balkovich said. "They start being involved with more traditional media like TV, prioritising reach over engagement." Brands, therefore, need to figure out exactly what great content they can craft to get their "super fans" excited and want to customise and share it. Case studies: Space hangout and Toyota "One of my favourite epitomical moments I've had at Google+ is our hangout from outer space," said Balkovich of the 20minute video chat that Google+ held with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. It featured Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who chatted with participants from his station in space, drawing over 200,000 views in the first day.

In March 2012, car brand Toyota gave some of its super fans a behind-the-scenes look at its FT-Bh concept car with a Google+ Hangout. Balkovich said access to such "exclusive content" drives excitement among the right people, and encourages sharing in the social media sphere.

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Tip 4: Bring social to the bottom line Nielsen's aforementioned 2009 study threw up another interesting, but not altogether surprising, finding: that 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Connect the dots to social media, and it's easy to see how a real impact can, and ultimately has to, be made on sales. "Social recommendations affect purchase decisions in general," Balkovich said. "Personal recommendations over word of mouth, whether online or offline, is definitely the thing that every marketer is looking for, because it works." This explains why Google has set its sights on targeting relevance by incorporating these recommendations into its search results, Balkovich revealed: "Having this type of social recommendation from people who are living in a sort of social context really impacts the performance of advertising." She also credited social recommendations with encouraging the "5-10% increase" that Google has seen in the number of people who click on its ads. "How people make decisions about your brand is really changing. Consumers … have a lot more control than they ever had before," the executive added. " They can skip the commercials and choose not to click on ads. So it's important that media-relevant, personal and valuable ads that come through are the ones that are able to cut through." Future implications for marketers Summing up, Balkovich said that brands can, with the help of social media, now build meaningful digital relationships on a personal basis with consumers. "For marketers, we … have the opportunity to immediately connect with each of our customers," she said. "We're now at a point where we can know who they are [and] what communities they're interested in. The key really is to understand how these changes affect your business, and embrace them."

About the Author Low Lai Chow is a freelance writer from Singapore. She has previously written for consumer magazines and websites, including the Youth.SG portal. She may be contacted at [email protected]

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