Niall works in the communication team of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and co-manages their social media accounts
In February, I was lucky enough to attend Social Media Week in Hamburg for three days. It’s a worldwide event that takes place twice a year in the spring and autumn for… funnily enough… a week at a time. It’s a coordinated week of events in 8 cities all over the world, with the most recent edition 17-21 February in Hamburg, Copenhagen, Milan, Barcelona, New York, Lagos, Tokyo and Bangalore.
There were close to 200 separate events, covering all manner of things such as Social Media Monitoring & Analytics; Legal Pitfalls in Social Media Marketing; the use of photos; Political reporting and campaigning; Social Media in the European Parliament elections, and so on. You can see the full schedule including videos for some of the events. Several are in English but most are in German so you can also use the opportunity to brush up on your Deutsch!
Last Monday, 27 January 2014, was Community Manager Appreciation Day, a day to recognise and celebrate the efforts of community managers around the world using social media and other tools to improve customer experiences.
Jeremiah Owyang initiated this international event in 2010. People are encouraged to send sincere Thank You notes to their online community managers. People using Twitter include the #CMAD and #CMGR hashtag in their tweets about this event. Many online community managers and vendors in the social media marketplace post blogs in appreciation of their community managers. Cities with large concentrations of social media focused businesses, such as Boston, Austin, and San Francisco hold in-person meet-up events to celebrate and honour those who represent and support their online communities.
Assessing our performances is key to understanding how we can improve. In this post we want to share with our readers about how the European Commission’s central social media accounts have developed – in terms of followership, engagement and the volume of conversation we are now having across our social media platforms.
Let’s have a look at what the European Commission achieved in 2013 in terms of social media followership of their central accounts.
- The European Commission’s Facebook page grew from 75,730 fans on at the end of December 2012 to 229,582 fans one year later – an increase of just over 200%.
- The European Commission’s central Twitter account went from 88, 534 followers on at the end of 2012 to 172,263 at the end of 2013, a 95% increase.
- At the end of 2012, The European Commission’s Google Plus page had been added to 261,972 circles. At the end of 2013, that number had risen to 710,887 circles, a jump of 170%.
- The European Commission’s YouTube channel went from 8790 subscribers at the end of 2012 to 22,503 subscribers at the end of 2013 – an increase of just over 150%. Read the full entry
As I have tried to argue in previous posts on this blog, digital media are enabling the emergence of an online public sphere (or spheres) where issues related to the EU are debated across national and linguistic borders.
But how can we make sense of the tangled mass of conversations that are taking place on different platforms? I think that social network analysis is one technique that can offer some potentially interesting insights.
I was introduced to social network analysis during my Fellowship at the University of Washington earlier this year. Lance Bennett’s class on the Politics of Digital Media touched on network theory, including Yochai Benkler’s seminal work The Wealth of Networks, as well as practical applications of social network analysis to protest movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. I was also impressed by the work that Katy Pearce is doing at the University of Washington using network theory to analyze the political communication landscape in the Caucusus (her “adventures in research” are documented on Katy’s blog).
In order to get a better grasp of social network theory and to see how we might use it to analyze the EU digital public sphere, I invested some time studying the literature, experimenting with tools like Nodexl and Gephi, and following an excellent Social Network Analysis MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) taught by Lada Ademic from the University of Michigan.
But, after a while, I have to confess that I ended up feeling frustrated and confused. The material and the tools that I found were too complex, and I was bewildered by the huge range of different parameters and mathematical formulae. I just wanted to create simple visualizations of social networks that I could understand easily, and that could be used as a basis for analysis and strategic communication decisions.
Then my colleague, Marco Ricorda, from the Commission’s social media team, introduced me to Bluenod (“a simple way to visualize and organize your communities”). The developers at Bluenod have done a great job producing a simple interface that allows users to create social network maps using any Twitter hashtag or username.
I used our recent “Telling the Story” conference for EU communicators to test Bluenod. The #ttsEU hashtag we used for the event generated a map of 1353 tweets from 140 users. I can only include a screenshot of the map in this blog, because WordPress does not accept the embed code generated by Bluenod, but you can access the interactive version of the network map here.
The map clearly shows who were the most connected participants in the online conversation (larger nodes = more connected). It helps to identify different subgroups in the conversation (interesting for an event like this one, which brought together representatives of different communities – regional policy, agricultural policy, employment and social policy, fisheries and maritime policy …). The visualization from Bluenod also shows the most popular hashtags that were used together with the #ttsEU hashtag, as well as a handy grid with images of the people who participated in the online conversation linking to their Twitter profiles.
Bluenod provides a useful complement to quantitative analytics tools like Topsy. For those of us who are interested in understanding and participating in the EU digital public sphere(s), social network analysis offers a useful way to identify key influencers and map different communities. I can see plenty of practical applications (for example, topical hashtags like #ttip and #ep2014 produce interesting results).
London’s Tate Modern welcomed more than 500 social media people earlier this year for a series of presentations and stories about how Twitter can be used to help campaigns achieve their full potential.
This post is for those who couldn’t attend and want to find out more. We’ve summarised ten key points developed at the #Twitter4brands event in true Twitter style –140 characters or less.
2. Tune in with #Twitter – Twitter is the second TV screen: driving discovery and engagement with TV advertising
3. #Twitter + TV campaign, what do you need? A hashtag , social profiles, connect ads w/ Tweets and engagement
4. A “moment” on #Twitter is about the intersection between interest and intent. Every time a user tweets, a new #marketing moment arises.
5. If #Twitter is the chatroom then hashtags are the channel. Hashtags enable brands to organise and steer the conversation.
8. Is your audience on the sofa, on mobile or online? Targeting Tweets by interests ensures brand presence at peak moments of intent. https://business.twitter.com/targeting
9. A range of targeting options ensures reaching customers, prospects and gaining more advocates.
10. What do people retweet? 1st freebies, 2nd pics, 3rd fun comment, 4th sales
Who’s tweeting in Antarctica? Hardly anyone apparently. After trying “The one million tweet map” you do wonder if the four tweets from Antarctica come from some super-developed penguins or some researchers or explorers tweeting in – 70° temperatures.
It turns out that the few tweets from the region come from a strange account called @googuns_staging which posts nothing but strings of letters and numbers, like b39e65fa00000000, every 5 minutes. Apparently, this has been going on since 2009 creating over 350,000 tweets. I’m not sure what’s behind it. Some have pointed at international espionage or maybe it is just somebody having fun.
Anyway, this introduces what “The one million tweet map” can do. TOMTM is powered by Maptimize and maps the last geolocalized tweets delivered by the Twitter stream API. The map is updated in real-time and displays the latest one million tweets that have been posted since your login. Each second, about 20 new tweets are added and the 20 oldest tweets are removed to keep the same number of points on the map.
One cool feature is the ability to zoom in on a cluster, which splits into smaller clusters until, once you’ve zoomed all the way in, you’re presented with a single tweet which you can click on and read. That way, you can explore your own neighbourhood or visit some remote village in Greenland to see what’s going on there.
You have the option to turn on the heatmap view and monitor the “temperature” of tweeting volumes worldwide. It’s quite interesting for instance to see how Twitter is popular in certain West African countries or in the Arab Gulf in comparison to North African or Central Asian countries .
Furthermore, this tool gives you the most used hashtags worldwide in real-time. The screenshot below was taken on a Friday and obviously #FF seems the most used hashtag of the day.
TOMTM is a good tool to have a quick snapshot of the world’s tweeting volumes and discover interesting Twitter facts. It is certainly interesting for mapping reports when close geographical details are needed. Definitely worth a look!
Written by @marcoRecorder
Timing is a key variable when analysing online publishing and promotion. While we try to make the best out of our social media channels we should not neglect the “t” factor and make sure we are posting at a time that would guarantee maximum exposure and visibility.
It is a common misperception to think that Twitter is a sort of guessing game, especially when it comes to timing. In particular, if you have a huge number of followers it is unlikely that will all display the same uniform presence on Twitter throughout the day or the week. For the sake or your social media strategy it is essential to know when you will (statistically) get the most exposure. If you want your followers to see your tweets, you need to post when they are online.
Compared to other social media platforms, Twitter users post much more regularly so it is easy for an individual tweet to get buried in the feeds’ waterfall. To get your tweeting timing right you can use Tweriod, a free tool that runs an analysis of your followers providing the best time to tweet.
To sign up you need to grant the service access to your Twitter account like any other app, without posting and promotional tweet on your behalf. Within 10-15 minutes, it generates a report which you can consult on your Tweriod dashboard but you can also receive it via direct message or e-mail. Unfortunately, free accounts can only generate one report every 30 days.
Tweriod’s dashboard is easy to understand and offers a number of interesting details about the timing of your Twitter account. The report shows you what times you have the most exposure, and breaks it out into weekends, weekdays, and specific days of the week. It also shows you what time most of your followers are online, and again breaks it out into weekends, weekdays, and specific days of the week. It even includes an hourly breakdown of your online followers.
See for instance in the analysis provided to @EU_Commission Twitter account:
- During weekdays the Commission’s account is statistically most likely to get best exposure between 12PM and 1PM and between 3PM and 5PM.
- Regardless the day of the week, we can see a trending curve suggesting that our posting would reach maximum exposure from the late morning to the late afternoon.
Don’t guess your tweeting timing. Have this app help you know when your followers are online.
Written by Marco Ricorda @marcorecorder
Writing a 140-character-long bio is challenging. Not only you have to describe who you are in such a short space, but you must also be able to communicate how you want to be perceived. Besides, once you’ve managed to squeeze all this in, you’ve probably not managed to describe what your tweets are actually about. If you are a doctor, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will tweet only about surgery, the flu or tropical diseases. The same applies to institutions. Mostly, people know who you are and know what you do, but your Twitter activity will hardly be understood merely by reading your bio.
One way to get a quick but comprehensive glimpse of what a profile tweet is about is to produce a word cloud. Word clouds are popular visualizations of words typically associated with Internet keywords and text data. They are most commonly used to highlight popular or trending terms based on frequency of use and prominence.
Word cloud generators are proliferating. Wordle for instance is a great tool to generate word clouds if you already have the list of words you want to play with. Online you can find a few platforms that help you generate word clouds based on a profile’s tweets. I have tested some of them using the European Commission‘s account. Let’s see what came up.
Cloud is created by a Dutch expatriate programmer in Australia. It provides a search string where you can type in keywords, profiles, hashtags etc… with the option of excluding some keywords (equal to the NOT Boolean function). It is pretty basic and the word cloud is quite big which makes it hard to then take a proper screenshot. The words in the word cloud then link you to the corresponding word cloud regenerated by the same platform.
This is what comes up if type in @EU_Commission
Tweet cloud is a more thorough tool than Cloud. Firstly, you can select a tweets timeframe which allows you to see your word cloud of the last day, week, month or even years. This brings great added value in performance assessment.
However, there are some pitfalls. For instance, if you type in another profile’s name, to see what this profile tweets about, you can’t see it. As an example I typed in “EU_Commission” from my personal account and according to Tweetcloud “If @EU_Commission is a username they probably never used Tweet Cloud before. If @EU_Commission is just a word it needs to be in someone’s top 5 words to make it on this page.” Ergo, this is not very useful to analyse other profiles’ interests.
It is a free tool but extra features are available if you pay them a Tweet, namely
- identifies people you mention the most
- shows related twitter users
- shows related clouds
- your account gets displayed when someone mentions or searches you
My Tweet Cloud allows Twitter users to get a tag cloud generated with hashtags used in their last 200 tweets. They use Twitter API to search hashtags in your tweets and tag clouds can be updated once a day.
The good thing about My Tweet Cloud is that the generated cloud links directly to the hashtags that are highlighted. This is very user-friendly in comparison to the two previous tools. I find the cloud a bit too long (in case you want to provide a screenshot) but it is a minor flaw on a pretty decent free tool. Plus the graphics are quite appealing too.
Tweet-cloud (Beware this is not Tweet Cloud. notice the extra hyphen in-between the two words)
Tweet-cloud is quite basic and, as it says, it’s currently under construction, but it might be just what you need when wanting to word-cloud a profile’s tweets. In fact, you just need to insert a Twitter profile (or a word, a hashtag whatsoever) and the number of latest tweets you want to look at. After that, Tweet-Cloud links the words that come up in the search directly to Wordle. This way, you have great flexibility playing around with the cloud and customize it as you like. Below you can see a sample made with the Commission’s account
This is the best free tool available to word cloud tweeting activities. Simple, clear, flexible. Nothing to add.
Written by Marco Ricorda @marcorecorder
It is true. Beethoven used the # to compose his immortal music and certainly wasn’t doing so with the intention of joining a Twitter chat or to check what people were sharing in the Hapsburg Empire in the late 18th century. He also had the choice of using other musical keys ♭ or ♮ and he knew how important it was to find the most suited to his music.
Memes apart, whether you are working on your next digital campaign, trying to attract buzz towards your latest online event or simply spread a message it is essential to create the best hashtag to achieve your goal simply. As bizarre as it sounds, hashtags are becoming an integral part of our lives. Just think that, the American Dialect Society crowned “hashtag” the word of the year, the French Commission Générale de terminologie de néologie recently adopted mot-dièse as an official new word and one couple even went as far as naming their child Hashtag…it is such a global social world.
Every hashtag has its own purpose and it is not a waste of time to investigate how you can optimize it. In the Social Media Team at DG COMM we often have to go on a “hashtag creation journey” where we gather for brainstorming sessions filled with question marks, possible scenarios, predictions and white boards full of suggestions. Nevertheless, at the end of the day there has to be only “one hashtag standing” (or maybe two). By thinking backwards to our most recent brainstorms, I could identify a few main principles we tend to stick to while forging a new hashtag, Namely, these are:
What will the hashtag be used for and who will be your target audience? As advocated in a previous post, audience segmentation can help you understand to who you are communicating to and how your target audience behaves in social media. This should be a two steps process:
Firstly, think about what you want to achieve. Are you looking for buzz, to gather a specific community, get scientific feedback, get your word out, be viral, etc…?
Secondly, think about who you want to target. Are you hoping to involve everyone, a few selected journalists, experts, pundits, etc…?
These questions largely depend on your target audience. If they are part of a small special interest group and are interested in closed conversations, creating a viral, trending tag would not be a priority so much as creating a tag that works well for the group members.
It is not compulsory to be unique but it is better to be original. If the hashtag you have in mind is being used already it will be hard to make it stand out of the crowd. You can make an exception if the hashtag you have in mind has been used scarcely. A number of free tools can help you check on the hashtag’s availability such as Hashtracking, Hashparty, or the simple Twitter search.
Always cover your angles. Before you settle on a hashtag, consider whether there might be any negative fallout. Even if the hashtag has never been used, it could be “owned” in the sense that it is already a common phrase familiar to others and being used in a context unrelated to your digital activity. If your hashtag is unintentionally offensive or inappropriate (also in other languages), it is unlikely to generate the outcome you look for.
Nothing kills a conversation quicker than running out of space. Don’t choose a long hashtag. There is not an ideal size for a hashtag but think how every character you’re using is one character less than the 140 you have at your disposal. i.e. #thisimyawesomenewhashtag will get you somebody’s attention but will kill the engagement. Less than 9 or 10 characters should do it.
It’s interesting to use initials, acronyms and abbreviations to keep your hashtag short. This works especially when your audience is already familiar with such form of shorthand like our recent #EUDeb8 or occasionally adding in the year like in #EYC2013.
Keep your goals in mind. Your hashtag will be promoted via other channels than your social media platforms. Whether you intend to use it continuously or intermittently it is good to consider how linked to your identity it is. Make sure your hashtags work as reflection of your long and short-term goals. Nevertheless hashtags are a user-generated feature of Twitter. Once you have your “newborn”, be ready to promote it via your traditional channels too and think of it as the “plaque” all users will identify YOU with.
By Marco Ricorda @marcoRecorder
Every time I come across the Wikipedia list of social networking websites, I am more and more surprised by the rapid development of social media proliferation. There are now a quarter of a million sites that call themselves social networks, up from 850 in two years. What only 7 years ago seemed to be a Silicon-valley-only phenomenon it is now a reality that communication professionals worldwide must be able to understand, control and use to their advantage.
For professionals working in the field of social media, and other social media enthusiasts, it’s common to be randomly hit by an attack of “online omnipresence” – the desire to be on all social media platforms. However, being everywhere just to be there may not bring the results you expect. My advice is to take a step back and start thinking about your audience segmentation.
Of course, there is no harm in experimentation. Experimenting let us gather new evidence, present new benchmarks, and could lead us to question our assumptions on what we think is effective or best practice for sharing content. On the other hand, while we get excited about playing with our new toy, we risk losing the focus on what we use social media for. While some social media accounts seem to be opened almost by default in order to be present on a platform, the stakeholders you are trying to target might not actually be there themselves.
What is audience segmentation?
Audience segmentation is the process of dividing a broad target audience into more specific subgroups, called audience segments. The purpose of dividing up an audience is to make sure you’re most likely to reach the right people with the right message, and this way using your resources as effectively as possible.
A strategy designed for the “general public” is often just that – general, and too general to interest any individual or group very much. By tailoring your efforts to a particular audience segment, using the most relevant communication channel, content and targeted messaging, you can greatly improve your impact. This way, your target audience will be more likely to be reached, pay attention and share your content.
For example, we interact and connect differently with different people on social media depending on our relationship to them – we make a distinction between professional connections, friendships, and more public communication in terms of both the content we choose to share and where we choose to share it. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ have acknowledged audience segmentation as a primary design feature. Below you will read how you can organize your audience appropriately via some of the features these platforms provide.
Value your audience
Research suggests that the idea of a broad, untargeted outreach will continue to decline in effectiveness. In order to get maximum results from your public relations efforts, you need to spend some time identifying the media channels that your audience trusts.
Besides, social media is not free. Time, money and other resources are limited and you want to make the best out of it. Audience segmentation helps you make choices about actions that are really necessary and what effects on your communication are realistically bound to happen.
Starting off with segmentation
Marketing strategy has long studied numerous techniques of segmentation. However, they all converge into two main questions when it comes to kicking off with your targeting plan:
- Who is your target audience?
- Where are they?
Who is your target audience?
Think of your target audience as made of two groups of people:
- Those who are looking for you and just don’t know it yet.
- Those you want to make interested in your activities.
In the first instance, you must help them find you. You need to understand who it is that would be looking for the content, research, comments and opinions you provide. Information overload is the arch-enemy of segmentation.
In the second instance, you need to attract key influencers you want to engage with.
Where is your target audience?
Identify who are the people you want to target is not the end of your journey. You must identify where this people “are”, meaning which channels they use to communicate. This takes time but the advantages deriving from this preliminary work will pay off exponentially in comparison to the random opening of X accounts.
For example, there is no need to create and manage a Facebook page if the people you target are not there. Don’t get me wrong, with over 1.1 billion users it is very likely that some of your target audience is on Facebook, but under which affiliation? Are they using it for personal reasons, professional network or a bit of both? If you are looking to target these people in a strictly professional fashion you may want to consider LinkedIn instead.
Whether you are trying to verify a personal assumption or trying to convince your supervisor about opening an account on a new platform, empiric data will give you a straight answer. Check if your target audience is sharing content on certain platforms instead of others (i.e. Facebook vs. Linkedin or Google plus). If you ascertain an increasing trend of shared content via a specific platform, respond to that. This means that people interested in your product/content/research are on that platform and care to share it even if you are not actively there. Surely, creating a dedicated page will attract more visits to your main website and create interactions about you. (Keep in mind that before opening an account it is advised to prepare policy guidelines or “line to take” to manage these interactions.)
Now, how do we find your target audience? Below you will find some tips that can help you get started:
Sometimes we start off thinking how hard audience segmentation can be and forget the basics. Google should still be your first step when looking for your audience and find out which communication channels they use.
- Social networks’ search tools
Most social media have a search bar. Use it! You can search for people by name, job title or interest. If they list any of the details you established as your audience, you will be able to find them. For instance, Twitter provides a nice advanced search tool to find people based on what they tweet about even within specific zip codes. Via the Google+ search toolbar you can fine tune your search using many criteria based on what to search (Everyone, People + Pages, Google+ Posts, Sparks, Hangout), from (Everyone, my circles, me) and location (everywhere or within a specific location).
- Lists, circles, groups…pre-made is good too
Regardless their different names, most social media allow you to create groups of audience. This are “lists” on Twitter, “circles” on G+, “groups” on Facebook and LinkedIn. The advice is “use them“! Being able to organize, observe and interact with specific target groups will make your work way easier. You don’t need to get lost in infinite Twitter data streams or copious Facebook timelines. Place your viewfinder on the target.
Twitter helps us with that as you don’t always have to go through the trouble of creating a list. You can simply borrow one by subscribing to someone else’s public list or borrow a list from directories like Twibes, Listorious and ListAtlas. Google+ circles work somewhat like Twitter lists. Search for Google+ profiles that match one of the social profiles you’re targeting. Let’s say you’re looking for “finance” enthusiasts. Create a “finance” circle, share it and ask people to recommend others with similar interests.
- (Optional) Set up searches in your social media management dashboard
Sproutsocial, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite can be very helpful. Use the “Add Column” function to create real-time conversation streams by keyword and location. This will help you very much when it comes the time to engage.
Not all of your target audiences need to be informed about everything you do. Communicating everything and anything can mark you as a spammer, and undermine all the hard work put into your communication strategy. The same criteria you have used to divide your audience can help you target your content and messages – who will be the most interested in this information? How can I give this specific audience something valuable? Be selective and decide which content is the most worth-sharing, and where.
Keep yourself in the loop
While we keep thinking that strategic communication it all about Twitter, Facebook and G+ it is important to keep an eye out for social media proliferation. For example, though 20% of Facebook users say they check in on the social network once or twice per day, 52% plan to spend less time there in the future. Moreover, 73% of users believe that another social network will soon eclipse Facebook.
In 2012, the most growing social media platform was Pinterest which saw a 1047% increase in unique visitors and is aiming to surpass LinkedIn in 2013. Further interesting insights show the next platform per highest growth was Google+ that saw an 80% increase in traditional web users. These phenomena are hard to predict and show how communication professionals must keep in the lookout for the creation of new media platforms.