Category Archives: Social

New Research: Socially Engaged Companies Get More Leads, Attract Better Talent

It’s no corporate HR secret: the greater investment made into employees, the greater the ultimate reward back to the company. This has never been truer than today, when always-on employees are increasingly connected to companies via an array of social channels and expect to be greeted by an engaged employer offering valuable content.

Altimeter Group partnered with LinkedIn to look deeper into the impact of corporate social media on a company’s employees, its executives, and its bottom line. Specifically, we examined the results that 25 of the top socially engaged companies reap when cultivating an engaged presence on LinkedIn via content marketing, employee engagement, talent and recruitment, and sales efforts.

We found that companies that take advantage of their ability to reach employees on a deeper level are coming out on top:

1. Employee engagement on LinkedIn is most successful when championed by leadership, starting with active executives. Executives from the most socially engaged companies on LinkedIn are:

Socially Engaged Executives

2. This leads to employees feeling empowered and inspired at their jobs. Employees at companies that are among the top socially engaged in LinkedIn are:

Employees at Socially Engaged Companies

3. And, perhaps most importantly, the top socially engaged companies on LinkedIn reap benefits to the bottom line as well. These companies are:

Results of Socially Engaged CompaniesCheck out the full infographic on LinkedIn’s blog, and learn more about our study and the impact of relationship economics from my colleague, Brian Solis.


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SXSWi 2013: Data, Data Everywhere

At this year’s SXSWi, I heard a familiar tune: everything still leads back to the data. It’s the underlying and often puzzling theme serving as the connective tissue for all other emerging trends I noted at the festival. Whether perusing the hectic vendor floor, attending insightful sessions, or conversing with attendees over lunch, it was impossible to ignore the data elephant (and, its challenges) in the room.

My LinkedIn social graph visualization. Data upon data!

Data upon data, as visualized in a snapshot of my LinkedIn social graph.

The question keeping everyone up at night is, “How do we make sense of all this data?”
Tracking customers via their data along the Dynamic Customer Journey (DCJ) is morphing into a top priority for organizations as traditional and digital media more seamlessly converge into delivering one holistic experience for the customer. Add to that the rising popularity of the “quantified self,” and companies are now struggling to not only connect the dots between their own data sources but also the data sets of their customers. With consumers beginning to take control of their own data tracking and analysis, the complexity of taking calculated actions only increases for businesses attempting to make sense (or, “cents,” perhaps) of the myriad of data points at their fingertips.

Collaborative consumption is the new buzzword, with its applications attempting to transition from a “nice to have” to proving utility.
From Zaarly to Lyft, Task Rabbit to Airbnb, collaborative consumption has taken hold in the online and mobile application space. Although the majority of these companies are technically in their infancy, their apps are beginning to mature as they develop stronger location and micro-location targeting and service delivery capabilities. A focus on adapting to better deliver real-time information and individualized customization to users is also coming to light as consumers demand instant gratification, fine-tuned relevance, and the death of mass “customization.”

New business opportunities are being discovered as companies further analyze their customers’ dynamic, flexible social graphs.
With companies becoming more savvy in determining the impact of their customers’ online social connections, new business opportunities are emerging that focus on disruption via micro-community development, influencer and advocacy programs, and vertical-specific targeting (healthcare, education, and entertainment were definite stand-outs at SXSWi). As such, analytics is still a big part of the equation, gaining importance as businesses strive to create new opportunities and, still, prove social ROI—whether analyzing an individual’s data, group data sets, or connections between complex big-data graphs.

Although the idea of data management, analysis, and related action may not have a shiny new appeal, it certainly can’t be ignored. The bottom line is that we must solve these core data equations before moving on to the next red-hot, sexy application that benefits from its understanding. Otherwise, the energy of disruption will short-after be diluted by a lack of strategic business value.

For others who attended SXSWi, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you also see data as such a pervasive theme woven into the core of your sessions and conversations?

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Fresh Research from Altimeter: A Guide to Digital Influence

Altimeter Group continues publishing Open Research this month with the latest from Principal Analyst Brian Solis – The Rise of Digital Influence: A “how-to” guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence.

Digital Influence is one of the hottest trends in social media. I mean, most of us have a good idea of our Klout score, right? But, it goes far beyond such metrics as Klout, Kred, TwitterGrade and the like. The Rise of Digital Influence was written as a “how-to” guide for businesses in getting results through cultivating their online influence, as well as a guide for consumers and academics in understanding how influence is scored and how these scores affect online reputations.
Report highlights include:
  • Influence is largely misunderstood.
  • None of the vendor services evaluated in the report measure true influence. Today’s software algorithms track social capital and topical authority based on online activity.
  • The report helps companies understand how influence spreads, and includes case studies in which brands partnered with vendors to recruit connected consumers for digital influence campaigns.
  • The report evaluates 14 Influence vendors, organizing them by Reach, Resonance, and Relevance: the Three Pillars that make up the foundation for “digital influence” as defined in the report (see image below) – not every service is designed to provide a total solution for every business need.
  • The report includes an Influence Framework and an Influence Action Plan to help brands identify connected consumers and to define and measure strategic digital influence initiatives.

Figure 1. Framework: Pillars of Influence
You can read and download the report from SlideShare here.

And, check out other upcoming Altimeter Group Open Research on our website.

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New Altimeter Report: Enterprise Social Networks

Here at Altimeter Group, we’ve been working over the last six months to publish a slue of open research reports, and the latest comes from Charlene Li, supported by Jon Cifuentes and Alan WebberMaking the Case for Enterprise Social Networks was published last week — a look into how organizations can utilize social networking internally, across the enterprise. It’s the first of two reports that will be published this year that will look into the value offerings of social networks within vs. external to organizations.

A brief report summary is below. To check out the report in-full, visit our SlideShare page.

In 2011, the US hit a milestone — more than half of all adults visit social networking sites at least once a month. But when it comes to using social-networking technologies inside organizations, many business leaders are at a loss to understand what value can be created from Facebook-like status updates within the enterprise. Some organizations have deployed social-networking features with an initial enthusiastic reception, only to see these early efforts wither to just a few stalwart participants. The problem: Most companies approach enterprise social networks as a technology deployment and fail to understand that the new relationships created by enterprise social networks are the source for value creation. In this report, Altimeter looks at four ways enterprise social networks create value for organizations.

As enterprise social networking is a relatively new concept being experimented with, it’s no surprise that organizational maturity is still in its early stages for the majority:

Fig. 4 Most Organizations Are Still Early In Their Social Business Maturity

Additional images from the report can be found in a Flickr set here.

Next on docket for Altimeter is a report that delves into online social influence from analyst Brian Solis. Stay tuned!

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Pinterest Potential: User Collaboration

If you would have asked me, even a week ago, what I thought of Pinterest, I would’ve likely given this tongue-in-cheek answer:

“I’m not getting married anytime soon, so it’s not really for me.”

To some extent, I still think that, and I’m not alone. A recent stat released by Ignite Social Media confirms that 80 percent of Pinterest’s users are female. Does that mean they’re all wedding planners? No, of course not. But it’s still fun to joke about, considering I’ll likely marry my cat.

But, as I’ve further assessed the social network’s potential, I believe it goes beyond that of roses vs. gerberas, DJ vs. live band, veil vs. tiara. If this is where Pinterest currently stands – a visually oriented social network, aimed toward the stylings of Gen Y- to middle-aged women, where will it head? How can it grow? And, most importantly – how can it transition itself to be more widely accepted as a network of utility, rather than expression?

I believe Pinterest’s future lies in collaboration. Currently, users can “pin” items of interest to various-themed boards within their user profile. They can also “re-pin” someone else’s pinned content on their own board, further sharing it within the Pinterest community. But, users can not yet collaborate with each other on the same board. I think this is a huge element of missed potential for Pinterest – not only for its current user base, but in attracting a more B2B crowd that may use the site as a data collection system.

[Update: Multiple contributors are now allowed on the same board, but privacy settings do not exist that control who can view the board, limiting the success of its use in an internal capacity of an organization. Ideally, contributor and viewer settings (as well as over-arching private vs. public) would make for the most valuable tool in a B2B sense.]

This idea came to me during a conversation with an Altimeter Group colleague, Charlene Li. She explained that she uses Pinterest to keep track of infographics that she thinks could be useful to future research, or that she simply finds interesting. So, in effect, it is a new (or, supplementary) bookmarking system for her. That got me thinking — imagine how useful the site could be if multiple people could collaborate on the same board, using it as a ad-hoc bookmarking “database” of sorts, housing all images in a collaborative environment that could be accessed by specific individuals, based on privacy settings.

I picture it going down like this: I get assigned to work on a project with two co-workers. It’s a large research endeavor that will go on for a couple months. We’re all working on researching different facets of the topic, but all are interrelated. Rather than each of us store the information we read, the graphics we see, within our own heads or laptops, we “pin” items of relevance to a shared board on Pinterest. This not only mitigates duplication of work, but also gives a much more effective over-arching picture (pun completely intended) of where the research is headed, what common themes are emerging and what direction may be fruitful next.

Hopefully Pinterest will head this way in the future. Although it would require a more complex user interface and privacy controls, it definitely has the means to do so — especially with its built-in differentiation that it doesn’t rely on a timeline like Facebook and Tumblr do. In the end, it’d definitely be worth it … especially if the network wishes to grow its users beyond that of food spotters and brides-to-be*.

*Simba and I will be registered at Petco and Barneys.

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The Future of Facebook Advertising: Context and … Influence?

Altimeter Group's Jaimy Szymanski and Zak Kirchner, really "liking" Facebook's sign.

Me and Zak, really "liking" Facebook's sign.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., with two Altimeter Group colleagues – Rebecca Lieb, advertising and media industry analyst, and Zak Kirchner, a fellow researcher. I found the briefing time with Facebook team members extremely valuable, most for the glimpse we were given into Facebook’s advertising future – a future that is rooted in contextual relationships and, I believe, eventually will place more weight on peer-network influence.

One of the Facebook employees we chatted with was Brandon McCormick, manager of global communications – monetization. One of the most interesting items of discussion was Facebook’s growing emphasis of providing highly valuable advertising content to its users, done so by ensuring that content is not only relevant, but also contextual.

What does that mean?

Content relevancy has been maintained by Facebook for awhile in its advertising. The ads you see when you log in are usually tailored to your interests, as that’s what advertisers are paying for. They can choose specific keywords, demographics and interests when deciding who to target within Facebook. What’s new here though is that real-time ad experimentation is also happening. So, if you post “I love pizza,” your ads will soon refresh to include those that relate to pizza or other food options. However, adding context is a new layer that Facebook has only most recently begun to dive into.

You may have seen a new type of ad pop up lately in Facebook – one that showcases the connection between a brand, product or service and your friends. Facebook now offers advertisers the opportunity to boost context of their ads by further amplifying their connection to your personal social network.

The question remains though … does it work? That wasn’t clear yesterday in our chat with Brandon, but I’m assuming that it has to increase click-through rate, based on the sheer purpose of social networks like Facebook – to connect you to the people and things that are important to you. If a brand, product or service is meaningful to your Facebook friend, it makes sense that it would have more pull with you than another brand page that has no connection to your network. But, Brandon didn’t share any specific data, so I can’t say for sure.

This conversation led to another between me and Zak – how does network and user influence play into the Facebook contextual advertising game, if at all?

Brandon’s response was that, no, Facebook doesn’t weight one user’s influence over another’s when considering whose endorsement to feature next to a brand’s page or social action. However, I’m not so sure that will be true in the future. It only makes sense that Facebook would take advantage of individuals who have a higher influence within their network when it comes to helping advertisers drive click-through rates.

If I consistently interact with a handful of friends on Facebook – more so than any other friends – that would serve to mean that I exert an increased amount of influence over them, and vis versa. (Yes, a social influence graph is more complicated than that, but that’s the gist for purposes of this post.) Wouldn’t Facebook want to use that influence data to even further heighten the context of its advertising to me?

I’m curious to see how Facebook continues to evolve its content advertising within the network. Real-time relevancy + influential social context will undoubtedly create ad experiences that are not only positive but, dare I say, welcomed.

What do you think? How have Facebook’s latest advertising evolutions impacted you, and do you believe further emphasis on network influencers would spark an increase in ad attention and action?