Stress Affect

Building the Nation

Tech & Social Media

I spend a fair amount of time reading other sites these days. In fact, my reading of printed books and other publications has dropped dramatically since I started using Google Reader and subscribing to a number of new RSS feeds from various sites. 90% of these feeds are from blogs, plus I read a number of news sites directly. Periodically I also check out Digg and a few other social networking sites to see what the latest popular news is. I would venture to say I am a fairly high volume consumer of online articles.

Through the course of this reading, most of the sites I frequent have user interaction in some form or another; mainly in the form of user comments or forums. There are times when the user comments on an article can be as interesting and informative as the originating piece, which is particularly true when dealing with some of the photography sites I frequent. Even in the least controversial of topics there can some that participate seemingly for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble. Today I was a bit analytical on these type of users.RSS feeds

I have written previously about Online Trolls and the admonition not to feed them. Though similar, the angry user is a far more dangerous species. Trolls typically try to get the confrontations going simply for their enjoyment and out of a complete abundance of time on their hands. A troll has nothing better to do and their sad, pathetic lives revolve around deriving some childish pleasure from making some ridiculous comment that will obviously inflame the others on the site. Usually, these types just go elsewhere in search of their needed attention if you ignore them, hence the advice to not “feed the trolls.”

With the angry commenter, you are never quite sure of their motivation, but you are sure of their passion. An angry user will never back down from their position in an argument, no matter how clearly the community has been rebutting them. If logic fails, the user will resort to name calling, swearing and other childish behaviors in the continual need to somehow feel like they have come out ahead. Truly this is like a child who lacks the mental maturity to have a rational debate and have the ability to concede when an opposing viewpoint is proven to be truer in the context of a specific discussion.

Of course, not all and perhaps most online conversations are not based on topics that have a definitive right and wrong answer. Most discussions revolve around matters of opinion, which of course are the flocking grounds of most visitors looking to express what they know is the way things are but is in the end simply their strongly voiced opinion. Opinions are powerful things, and discounting someone’s heartfelt stance is typically all the spark needed to get a raging fire going.

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Take a look at any site like Digg, Slashdot and any other active forum of public commenting and you will see that seemingly the majority of people posting are those looking for some head-to-head debate. Some approaches in intellectually, but many (I hesitate to write most, but many qualifies) simply like to throw out a quip and see where it goes. The downside of this is that most comment threads veer quickly off topic, leading to worthless conversations that are unrelated to the reason I clicked through to the discussion, so I leave.

Comments are popular because they invite interaction that leads to site loyalty and users revisiting the site “ but in some cases when commenting systems are frequented by these angry users, it drives away many of your more silent regular users. Depending on the nature of the site, for every comment made, there can be tens if not hundreds or more of users that choose to read and not comment. That is the case with this site. Very few choose to comment, but there are many other visitors to the site according to the traffic logs. That’s ok, commenting is not for everyone. Most of the sites I visit I am not an active participant unless something really strikes me.

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So in the end, I think the angry commenter can be both a good and bad thing to a site. The angry tone can drive away some of your more silent regular visitors, yet in some discussion, it can engage the more resilient ones and create an atmosphere of active discussion. Angry users of like minds also tend to band together, and that band of not-so-merry users can be your biggest advocates one day, and another day move their growing power to work against you. Walking that tightrope can be a difficult task.

On this site, I hope most users find our topics enjoyable, often humorous and non-offensive. If a particular post pricks your conscious to where you think we have “gone too far” then perhaps you can take a moment to look inward and see if there is more truth to the topic than you would like to admit. I strongly believe that we all only have the right to laugh at others when we are willing to first laugh at ourselves. If we can commit to this simple belief, we can find much more to laugh about and have more fun each day.

Sometimes even the most well known brands change their messaging. This is usually done during a re-branding process, implementing a makeover to redefine key messages to consumers, but sometimes a brand makes changes when they are missing a portion of their target market.

Every week, I go to my parents’ house to watch American Idol. One night a few weeks ago they were tuned in with my sister, and being the outcast of the family who doesn’t watch Idol, I sat on my laptop in the kitchen playing music through my headphones in an attempt to drown out the nauseating voices of the judges (it’s appalling to me that a certain female judge can be considered a reputable gauge of musical talent). Commercial breaks were used for their own judging sessions, while playing on their phones or in my mom’s case, reading a book. During one break, a catchy tune from the TV prompted a lengthy, uncommon silence from the peanut gallery.

Nike Runs

The spot was a Nike ad unlike any I had seen before.

Instead of an intense pump up song, the tune sounded like it was straight out of an Apple ad. The short musical strays from Nike’s typical messaging, telling a non-sports related story that evokes love and humor, certainly not the emotions we are used to feeling from a Nike TV spot. The “RUN STRONGER” slogan is new. Even the action of closing the curtain is scandalous for a Nike ad, as its implications could ruffle some conservative feathers. Despite these differences, the ad has been well received. It’s received over 1.6 million views on YouTube in 4 weeks, and can also be found on the bottom of On-Demand for certain cable users.

Nike Runs

For the most part, Nike devotes different campaigns and budgets to their various product lines, which they seem to have for every sport imaginable. Most of the TV spots for these various product lines are consistently creative and inspiring – yet all monotonous. Someone must have realized that the serious tonality in each of these campaigns was missing the target audience for Nike Running. The new, lighter campaign is an example of how a brand can stray from the norm and alter their messaging depending on what product line they are selling. A brand like Nike has the ability to do this because of their extensive product differentiation. A smaller brand that offers only a few products would likely encounter great difficulty if they tried sending various messages without confusing the consumer.

Nike Runs

When we perform thorough brand evaluations with our clients, we recognize it’s important to pore through the brand’s equities, their target consumer, the environment in which they operate, and their vision for the future. Not every company can come close to the breadth of a Nike, but they can take a strategic look at their own messaging, and decide if a new angle is needed.

In the latest, and certainly not the last round of updates in the ever-growing battle for social supremacy among brand managers, both Facebook and Google+ announced updates – each designed to help brands and brand marketers to engage more with their fans and customers.

Facebook, the big dog on the social media block of course with its over 800 million member base and counting, announced the creation of what is essentially a direct message feature, to borrow a Twitter term. The new feature will allow consumers to send a private message to brand via the brand’s Facebook page. Heretofore this was not an option as if a consumer wanted to send their favorite a brand message via Facebook it would have to be posted for all the world to see.

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The folks at The Next Web referred to this latest update as “a significant introduction that will allow businesses to interact more closely with customers on the service than ever before.” And they are right for this will indeed provide brands and businesses to engage on a much more personal level than previously able and having the ability to engage at an even greater detail is surely significant. In their article The Next Web also played up the fact that in their opinion, B2C brand marketers having even a greater interest in this new update…

“Consumer facing businesses will find the feature particularly useful as it enables more personal communication with individual customers, opening the possible of a greater level of customer service on Facebook.”

Now, when I read this last line I said to myself, ‘here we go again’ as in here’s another example of another person, in this case the writer of the article, failing to realize the obvious fact which is we are ALL consumers. This change to Facebook affects both B2C and B2B marketers alike. When the writer says Consumer facing businesses will find the feature particularly useful as it enables more personal communication with individual customers…” does he not realize that Even Though It’s Called B2B, There’s Still A “C” On The Other End?

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That’s the title of a post written back in May and it’s still painfully clear that people simply lose sight of the fact that there are is a person on the other end of that line, a human being who wants to engage in a personal communication just like any other human being.

Sorry, didn’t mean to go off on a tangent there, let’s get back to the new Facebook feature.

While it’s great that brands can now engage in a personal, private conversation there are some caveats that brand marketers need to be aware of…

All private messages must be initiated by the consumer and eve though once a private conversation is initiated it is open to both parties, it’s not recommended to use the private message feature as another avenue to promote and sell.

One very real and negative effect of the new private messages is that the messages will in fact be private which could mean less organic growth for a brand. As The Next Web puts it “Facebook socializes each fan’s interactions with a page — sharing likes, shares, comments, and other interactions fans make there, with their friends — which can help raise a page’s visibility. So, more private messages may lead to less public comments, which could curtail this growth somewhat.”

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As for Google+…
Google+, rights for Google+… Or as Mark Zuckerberg referred to it “Google’s little version of Facebook” they too released some updates one of which directly impacted brands and their business pages on Google+…

Here’s how they announced the changes on their official blog:

Improvements to Google+ Pages
Google+ Pages have already provided brands and businesses a new means of connecting to and deeply engaging with consumers. In the weeks since launching pages, we’ve been listening to your feedback and we’re pleased to make some of the most oft-requested features available.

You can now delegate up to 50 named managers as administrators for a page.
A new notification flow will ensure that these managers stay in the loop on all the activity that takes place on a page, giving managers the ability to stay involved in page conversations.
We’ll now show an aggregated count of users that have engaged with your page, either by +1’ing it or by adding it to a circle. This way, both you and your page’s visitors can get an at-a-glance summary of who is interacting with your page.

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It was quite surprising when Google+ Pages was first released there was only one admin allowed per page. That simply made no sense and the criticism and outcry was as expected. But now they’ve made the requisite change along with several others, Google+ is demonstrating that they are in fact listening to the people – the brand marketers and so on who manage a given brand’s Google+ Page.

Not sure why anyone would need 50 managers for a Page but be that is it may the new notification system will allow for all of them to stay up to date in real time just as they can in Facebook and Twitter on their particular brand Page and what they’re fans and customers are talking about.

So what do you think of all the changes and new features to Facebook and Google+?

How do you see the use of private messages helping you engage with your fans?

And for Google+ it is essentially the same question… How do the new changes to Google+ Pages help you interact with your fans?

And as for the B2C and B2B discussion… what type are you?

If you’re a B2B brand marketer do you use Facebook and Google+ and if so, how?

And if not, why?