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8th October, 2012

The word algorithm is one that most PR professionals will be aware of. Google’s method for determining search rankings is as secret as it is alluring for those looking to gain more search prominence.

But there is another algorithm out there that is far less famous, but equally important. It’s called EdgeRank and it is what Facebook uses to determine the stories that show up in a user’s newsfeed.

The Facebook newsfeed is the key to success for Facebook marketing. It’s the place where every single Facebook user spends most of their time.

Yes, that’s right, Facebook users will hardly ever visit your Facebook page, they consume your posts through their newsfeed.

Tough time getting through?

Another very important point to note, and one that many marketers still fail to realise, is that the vast majority of posts never actually make it into someone’s timeline.

Conservative estimates suggest that only 16% of your fans, on average, will actually receive any particular post you send them.

So how do you increase that percentage? The answer is simple: improve your EdgeRank.

Introducing EdgeRank

Facebook understands there is a massive problem with information overload on the platform. It knows that we make a lot of connections on Facebook – some of them we really care about, others less so. It therefore makes sense that we would want to receive updates from those friends (and brands) that we really care about rather than long-lost school friends we haven’t seen in years or brands we ‘liked’ in order to get a freebie or enter a competition.

EdgeRank attempts to solve that problem and it does it in quite a sophisticated way.

Every single ‘update’ that you might see in your newsfeed on Facebook is called an ‘edge’ (hence EdgeRank). An edge could be a status update, a song you listen to on Spotify or a picture upload.

Much in the same way that Google wants to help you find the information you care about, EdgeRank helps Facebook show you the edges that matter most to you.

There are three elements that make up EdgeRank – affinity, weight and decay.

It’s worth looking at each of these in more detail.

Affinity

This element attempts to work out how much you care about the person or brand that is sending you an edge. You’ve probably noticed how, if you snoop on someone’s profile, you’ll probably get more of their updates in your newsfeed over the next few days or weeks.

But you don’t just have to visit a Page to affect affinity. Simply liking a post, leaving a comment or sharing an update can raise affinity levels.

That’s why, for a brand, getting a like or a share isn’t just good for engagement, it’s vital in ensuring more of your posts will get through to that fan in future. It’s a vote of support.

The great thing about affinity (if you can get it) is that it’s self-fulfilling. The more affinity you get, the more of your posts will appear to in future and the more interaction (and therefore affinity) you’ll be able to achieve.

Weight

This is all about the types of edges that appear in your newsfeed. Facebook understands that a picture will generally have more interest to you than a Spotify update. Therefore it assigns different weightings to different pieces of content. There’s no definitive list here, but it is fair to assume that links, photos and videos have more EdgeRank than other pieces of content.

As with all algorithms, there is no one size that fits all. Some users will show more interest in photos and therefore Facebook will show them more photos in their newsfeed. So just putting videos in every post won’t necessarily be successful. Having a regular stream of these three pieces of content is the best advice for success here.

Decay

This is all about timeliness. In simple terms, something that is more recent is more likely to show up in someone’s newsfeed.

Content, content, content

What is perhaps most interesting about all of this is that, while big flashy campaigns might do a good job of increasing the number of fans you have, it’s only the ongoing community management stuff that will actually work when it comes to increasing EdgeRank.

Good quality content on a regular basis is the only way to tick the box when it comes to affinity, weight and decay. And it’s only by ticking these boxes that your future updates will be seen.

None of this is rocket silence, but how many brands are really paying attention to it?

picture credit

continue reading: Facebook EdgeRank – what is it and why is it important for PR?...

23rd November, 2011

This was originally published over at Econsultancy where there is a good discussion in the comments and a response from the PRSA.

There’s nothing more predictable than the PR industry’s constant urge to ‘define itself’. So today, true to form, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has announced that it is to develop a new ‘modern definition’ of PR (again). Following attempts in 2003 and 2007, this time, there’s a microsite, a piece in the New York Times and even a crowd-sourcing initiative.

Why do we need to define PR? It’s a great question; the last time the PRSA tried to find a new definition was four years ago. PRSA CEO Rosanna Fiske laments that it is hard for her to explain to her mum what she does. Will a definition really help here? This is the current one:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

However, if you can’t explain to your mum what a PR does, then the issue seems to me to be wider than merely an industry definition.

The fundamentals of this run far deeper. Our constant need to redefine what it is we do could be seen as an indication of the fast-moving digital world we find ourselves in. And it would be hard to argue against this. But is it really necessary? Does it happen in other industries? In other marketing sectors?

I think there is something else at work here: fear. There is immense fear in the PR industry about what it actually means to do PR these days. The reason I was drawn to PR in the first place was because of the interesting position the industry finds itself in. There are so many drivers that make this an incredibly rich sector to be working in, from the democratisation of media to the socalisation of the web. But fear still pervades. And I am constantly frustrated by how slow sections of the industry are to reinvent themselves.

Maybe that is the problem with trying to find a definition because, apart from a few good agencies and practitioners doing great, pioneering work, there is too much burying of heads in the sand and hoping that the ‘same old’ will continue to be enough.

It won’t be.

The ironic thing is that the fundamentals of PR haven’t really changed – building relationships with publics is as relevant now as it has always been. Yes, some of the tactics may have changed and strategies may have shifted, but the fundamentals are the same. So changing the definition just feels like papering over the cracks.

In light of the recent furore about the role of professional bodies in the industry, then maybe we should welcome this development as a chance to raise the debate around what it is that PR is all about.

I’m just not sure whether sitting around debating high level definitions is the thing that is going to transform the industry and its reputation.

continue reading: PR’s crisis of confidence as it looks to define itself (again)...

14th September, 2011

Could this be the moment socially-enabled companies and agencies of all types have been waiting for? Very possibly.

Twitter has finally unveiled an official analytics tool – Twitter Web Analytics.

As I have blogged about on many occasions, an official analytics product from Twitter makes so much sense and surely could/will be a key part of the long-promised corporate or paid for accounts the social network has hinted at on many occasions.

So what has Twitter actually revealed? According to the official blog post:

Today we’re announcing Twitter Web Analytics, a tool that helps website owners understand how much traffic they receive from Twitter and the effectiveness of Twitter integrations on their sites. Twitter Web Analytics was driven by the acquisition of BackType, which we announced in July.

Twitter reveals that the product – which will be rolled out to a select few this week – will incorporate the following features:

  • See how Twitter content is being shared around the web
  • Track the amount of traffic from Twitter to a company’s website – including clicks per tweets
  • Measure the effectiveness of ‘official’ Twitter buttons
  • An API allowing third party analytics tools to incorporate this data

Interestingly, the focus here isn’t on content you share through a Twitter account, it’s on how content on your website has been shared, whether or not you share it through your account. It also provides you with a stream of tweets that reference your content, allowing you to easily reply to or take action based on activity.

The blog post reveals that the rest of us should have access to this feature in the “next few weeks”.

Generally, this is a move that should be welcomed. As a tech PR, I have been hoping for some sort of analytics product for ages. Sure, there have been third party tools that claim to do this to differing levels or success and/or accuracy and there are also various different Google analytics hacks that can help provide certain insights. But an official product that can make the most of the entire Twitter firehose is very exciting.

The product was announced at Techcrunch’s Disrupt conference and the publisher has some interesting detail to add on how Twitter analytics will actually work:

When you log in to your designated account, you’ll see a number of metrics including how many Tweets (this includes Tweets of all kinds), across the network include links to your publisher site as well as the number of clicks. You’ll also be able to see the weekly, daily and monthly number of clicks from any Tweet sent from the site via a Tweet button.

…Twitter will also show you all the Tweets that were sent from the Tweet button on your site, as well as any Tweet that was sent with an inbound link to your site. From the analytics platform you can retweet these Tweets as well as respond to these users.Another extremely useful feature is the ability to see the top links by day, week and month by Tweets and clicks. Users can also add more than one website to a dashboard, and sub-domains as well. Additionally, Twitter will show users what the average number of clicks Tweets received within given time periods and well as the percent of Tweets that were generated using the Tweet button.

You can see the full video of the announcement below.

The social media battle is on?

We’re going through an interesting phase in the whole social media sphere at the moment. The launch of Google+ has put the cat amongst the pigeons with Facebook rolling out a series of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ features over the last few weeks. And Twitter itself announced some impressive user figures this week too.

We are reaching a point at which these social media giants realise now is the time for them to push for supremacy and, while I believe there is plenty of space for co-habitation, that doesn’t stop these networks from competing for users and column inches.

The fact that Facebook has provided an insight/analytics product for some time is a case in point here. Again, as I have blogged about on several occasions, businesses remain the golden bullet for many social networks when it comes to monetisation. The rumours that Twitter was languishing in no-mans’s land for a time seems to hold some sway. But since Dick Costolo took over late last year, the company seems to have assumed greater commercial, marketing and product savvy.

So is this the start of a greater focus on providing the millions of businesses that use Twitter on a daily basis with greater tools to help them succeed on social media? As a tech PR, I hope so.

 

Originally posted at EML Wildfire Tech PR

continue reading: Finally! Twitter unveils analytics tool...

27th January, 2011

Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer has some very interesting findings. For example, it reveals that while online search engines are the first place people go to for information about a company, traditional news still ranks as the most trusted source the UK.

It also reveals that 83% of people in the UK need to hear information more than three times before they believe it, while 27% need to hear it six to ten times. This level of scepticism is rivalled only by the US.

These are all important learnings for PRs.

However, for me, the most interesting research to come out of the study centres around who we trust to get information from.

Recent politico-economic events were good for social

With the background of the economic crisis, bankers bonuses and MP’s expenses, the ‘establishment’ has taken a bashing in recent years.

It’s not hard to see how this might have had an adverse effect on the levels of trust we have in people who hold ‘official’ positions.

And, according to Edelman, this has been the case. Except that, this year, the study shows trust is returning. This year, CEOs rank among the top credible people globally. Two years ago they were in the bottom two.

The backlash continues

This is interesting, because it mirrors a move of scepticism when it comes to social media.

It’s as though as our trust in CEOs and the like recovers, we are become less trusting of social channels.

While we like to get the thoughts and opinions of our peers through social channels, when we want to get information, we naturally migrate back to ‘trusted’ sources, including traditional media.

I’ve talked before about the social media backlash more from a marketing perspective, but there seems to be a growing backlash in other quarters too. If you’re interested in learning more about this backlash, there was a really interesting article by Paul Harris in the Observer last weekend.

Clearly, it is hard to base this entire theory on the back of just one consumer survey, but it is certainly a trend I’ll be watching carefully over the next year or so.

continue reading: The social media backlash continues; our trust in CEOs grows...

17th December, 2009

I like a good prediction post as much as the next person and so I was intrigued to read an article by Augie Ray from Forrester entitled: 2010: The Year Marketing Dies…

In it, Ray asserts that, due to a number of factors (including the demise of traditional media, the growth of technologies like PVRs that are rendering TV advertising obsolete and the growth of social media), marketing as we know it is under going a dramatic sea-change.

And 2010 is guaranteed to be the year when social media has its biggest impact on brands to date. The recent real-time search changes will only quicken this as I’ve already suggested and as Ray states:

The search engine changes mean that 2010 will be the year when brands can run but they cannot hide.  Gone are the days when marketers could carefully craft messaging and then broadcast that message in a few channels to huge portions of their audiences.  Oh, you can still spend money that way if you want to but in our transparent world, no marketing budget can possibly overcome the actual experience consumers have (and share with friends, followers and Google) with the product, service, or organization.  It no longer matters what you say;  in 2010, your brand will be more defined by what you do and who you are!

So actual experience will replace the image that brands want to portray about themselves, especially as we all get more involved in social media and climb up the social technographics ladder (see above). What does this mean in practice?

  • customer service and customer experience becomes vital
  • product development needs to be more user focused
  • marketing and PR teams need to be ready to act and react to issues; crisis management becomes crucial, but harder
  • marketing and PR campaigns need to focus on engagement rather than trying to enforce brand values
  • no part of the business can afford to ignore the audience

Central to all of these is the ability to understand your audience. One line in particular in Ray’s article is fundamental to this too:

“in 2010, your brand will be more defined by what you do and who you are”

It’s a challenge.

continue reading: Will marketing die in 2010?...

16th February, 2009
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/45551194/

Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/45551194/

You may have read the article in the Guardian today from Marketing’s editor Lucy Barrett.

In it, she highlights a new site from KitKat:

http://www.thefirstworldwidewebsitewherenothinghappens.com/

Don’t bother visiting – it does (or not) what it says on the tin – a bit lame if you ask me!

HOWEVER, the real story behind this, which Barrett seems unaware of, is that KitKat initially registered the URL incorrectly:

thefirstworldwidewebsiteWEREnothinghappens.com

The correct URL then proceeded to get cybersquatted!

KitKat seems to have recovered the situation as both URLs are now under their control. But it is still quite funny! Ooops!

Hat-tip to Briman1970 on Namepros.com – no-one else seems to have picked it (or his/her post) up…

continue reading: Y Speling Mattrs...

10th February, 2009

[a pants SEO title, I know]

Credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/zizzy/

Credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/zizzy/

With the media scrum around all things Twitter at the moment, it’s no surprise that the ‘revenue-model’ issue would raise its jealous little head.

If I was in charge, I wouldn’t be worrying about revenue models. They are on the tip of an iceberg. Now the focus should be on improving the service as numbers grow and securing its position amongst the legions of copy-cats that have and will come along.

But hey, its not my company.

Twitter to charge?

So today, Marketing has alleged reported that Twitter is to start charging businesses to use the service.

Hmmm.

This story feels slightly odd. It has been widely reported before that this was on the cards, but would Biz Stone really reveal all at this point in time to Marketing?

Much as I love Marketing, I think they might be jumping the gun slightly. Stone said:

“We are noticing more companies using Twitter and individuals following them. We can identify ways to make this experience even more valuable and charge for commercial accounts.” [my emphasis]

I would suggest this is merely one model being looked at. And I doubt it would be possible to implement. The chief obstruction in my mind is how on earth they would differentiate (and/or police) brand accounts and personal accounts? Maybe by limiting follower numbers? But then some of the biggest Twitter ‘celebrities’ have huge numbers on their personal accounts – and yet they are possibly the most powerful brands using the service [a subject for another post me thinks]. Any my own account often transcends biz/personal boundaries…

Robin Grant from Wearesocial makes some additional, valid arguments in the comments under the original article [it seems his words were slightly skewed too...]

I’m sure Twitter will resolve this issue well before the VC cash runs dry. Either they will sell up to the big G, or will work out a way to fund themselves with the x million users they currently have and the endless numbers they will surely attract in months to come.

continue reading: Twi££er...

23rd January, 2009

Tuesday was a great day. We sat in the office, in awe of an undoubtedly great man. We were transfixed.

As Paul Carr said in his weekly column, the usual British cynicism that so often comes to the fore when anything American is concerned disappeared like $1 Obama water offered to a million-strong crowd.

The reason: he’s a great, natural marketer.

From day one, Obama has marketed himself brilliantly. There was a great comment piece in last month’s Revolution magazine which compared some of Obama’s early speeches from before he won the nomination to the email he sent on the night he was elected. The messages were almost identical.

That’s great branding. Great messaging and great strategy. We are always telling our clients that if you get the messaging right at the start, then everything else follows and works much better. It’s true and Obama knows it. I guess from a political standpoint, it suggests that this is also a person who is true to his beliefs and his vision. A good business lesson too.

Sure, he was very different to what went before, and that certainly helps. But so is the best marketing. And Obama accentuates and plays on these differences, if subtlety. Marketing the same message in the same way as everyone else is only going to get you so far. Doing something different, something unique, gets you noticed.

David Meerman Scott has brilliantly demonstrated the linguistic differences between Obama’s inaugural address and the one Bush gave 4 years ago. It’s subtle but it seems to hit home.

As Seth Godin says: be remarkable. Obama is certainly remarkable – the person and the brand.

Politically speaking, the hard work starts now. And, at the end of the day, he is a politician, not a marketer.

But in the days when countries are hiring PR agencies, what better leader to have than one that seems to understand how to inspire, persuade and communicate effectively to his own country and globally.

continue reading: Barack: the ultimate marketing case study?...