Facebook Timeline’s Green Marketing Opportunities

November 26, 2011

Over the past few years, we have seen the web transform from a medium that facilitates information exchange to one that enables social connections and conversation.  Arguably, the recent launch of Facebook’s Timeline marks another milestone for the web, enabling a web experience more personal than ever before.

Timeline facilitates the sharing of a user’s life story – both the portion already written and the one still unfolding. It does so by transforming the current Facebook profile into an unending digital scrapbook of sorts.  Facebook reorganizes and summarizes available personal data such as likes, apps and photos into a timeline.  Users are then encouraged to fill in the gaps, especially meaningful events that predate their time on Facebook.

What makes Timeline so different is that it enables users to share their lives in an easily accessible, highly visual chronology, rather than simply post thoughts in the here and now.  A living memoir, if you will.

For green marketers, Timeline offers a unique new way to understand and connect with Facebook users, and one which they should take advantage of.  Here are a couple of ideas how:

Persistence:  Timeline organizes content in a way that enables individual posts to remain accessible, rather than disappear from view on the Facebook Wall.  Persistent access increases the value of this content – and Facebook as a channel for distributing it – by enabling it to be consumed and shared by viewers over a longer period of time.  This provides greater impetus for green marketers to motivate consumers to post about, like or share branded content on Facebook, as greater persistence means more impressions over time.

Prediction: Personal information has long been used to more effectively target users with ads.  Arguably, Timeline will enable a more in-depth view of the user mindset, revealing new targeting and messaging avenues.  Facebook has the potential to use this data not only to help green marketers find those that have demonstrated a clear affinity for green, but also to predict interest based on similar attitudes, experiences, demographics or behaviors.  This can enable green marketers to target micro-segments with more specific messaging, or even find new audiences, even those that have not yet taken action.

While Timeline is still in beta with consumers, there are expectations that Facebook will soon make Timeline functionality available for business pages.  Green brands should consider this new template for their own Facebook page as its functionality offers advantages for companies too:

Presentation: Timeline could enable new ways for businesses to present their brand online.  For example, Timeline enables a larger profile image prominently placed at the top of the page. Companies could use this space to build awareness for their brand or promote a trial offer for a new product.  Additionally, Timeline allows users to expand thumbnail images to provide a broader view of images and graphics, something for which the previous platform has limited ability to do.  This should benefit green marketers who find that their products require more explanation to drive broader adoption.

Persistence: A chronological Facebook business page would enable users ongoing access to brand information.  This should motivate green marketers to post more content on their Facebook pages such as product information, stories or even blog posts, bolstering these pages as comprehensive access points for brand content.

Timeline is an emerging platform that will enable users to have a more personal web experience.  Green marketers should take advantage of this functionality to more effectively engage consumers, as well as new capabilities as the platform evolves into the future.


Tapping the Emerging Celebrity Power of Online Influentials

February 9, 2008

Today, online influentials are emerging as “celebrities” of sort, based not only on their domain knowledge but on their ability to attract and engage audiences online. 

Marketing Green contends that this celebrity status is likely to increase with time: as content continues to proliferate, consumers will look to those they know and trust to help them cut through the cutter.

Today, many online influentials are building a following of their own.  Some sites understand this and are now actively recruiting participation by influentials on their site, and promoting this association directly to consumers.

As such, Marketing Green believes that marketers should continue to seek new ways to leverage the celebrity status of online activists in support of or as an extension of their marketing efforts.  There are several ways that marketers can do so including:

Contribute content.  Marketers can ask influentials to help create or edit content for a site or even for syndication.  For example, The Element Agency frequently posts articles from guest writers in its blog, My Green Element.  Another smart site is the recently launched Inside Sustainability which features audio reports with green personalities*.

inside-sustainability_v1.gif

Host chat sessions. Social news site Propeller (AOL) offers peer-to-peer chat functionality to facilitate discussions about its top ranked articles.  While interesting, marketers may want to take this one step further: extend site functionality to enable chat sessions with users that are hosted by online celebrities (or “Contributors”, “Scouts” or “Anchors” that submit content and/or moderate content on the Propeller site).  

influencer_propeller-chat_-etc.gif

 

In many ways, hosted chat seems like a natural extension of Propeller’s current strategy to promote content purveyors as quasi-celebrities.  Today, this is done through the prominent placement of their photos or avatars online, as well as detailed profiles on the site.

           

                 Top Propeller Contributors on “Climate Change”

 

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Facilitate a dialogue.  Marketers can tap influentials to facilitate a dialogue with users.  For example, ooVoo, a leading multi-person online video chat provider, launched a pilot this week in which 20+ influentials – “bloggers, podcasters and community leaders” – will converse with online audiences using its technology.

influencer_oovoo.gif

Today, marketers have the opportunity to leverage and cultivate the celebrity status of online influentials.  Emerging online platforms – audio, video and chat – are increasingly being used by marketers to harness this celebrity power in order to create more compelling and engaging experiences for their consumers.  Such opportunities have the potential to not only attract new audiences but deepen relationships with their existing consumers today.

* Disclosure: Marketing Green was recently interviewed for this site.


Measuring Green Blogging Influence

August 2, 2007

Bloggers are emerging as key influencers online.  Today, many blogging sites effectively compete with traditional news sources for breaking stories and eyeballs.  Moreover, many consumers trust bloggers more that established news organizations simply because they are unaffiliated.  Green bloggers are no different.  In fact, many green bloggers have built a loyal viewership that gives mainstream news sites a run for their money

Today’s announcement that Discovery Communications was acquiring TreeHugger, the top ranked green blog, reinforces the role that blogs now play in reaching and influencing online consumers. Nonetheless, measuring this influence is an imperfect science. 

In an ideal world, influence would be measured by determining the number of people exposed and the incremental impact of that exposure on key metrics like awareness, favorability and purchase.  Surveys and panels can be used to capture self-reported data pre- and post-exposure to determine lift in key metrics.  Yet, this level of precision is impractical, too costly or, simply, not feasible to implement for most sites.  As such, proxies are required to approximate influence.

One simple proxy is site traffic – either total visits or unique visitors to a website.  Several sources track blog traffic including Compete, Technorati and the blog Truth Laid Bear.  Truth Laid Bear tracks and ranks the top 5,000 blogs based on a 45-day moving average of daily visits.  The site casts a wide net by considering corporate blogs including dozens and dozens of blogs sponsored by sports teams.  

According to this Truth Laid Bear, five green blogs are ranked in the top 500 based on daily visits as follows:

Overall Rank

Blog

Daily Visits

169

TreeHugger

70,783

321

AutoblogGreen

15,500

340

Inhabitat

12,976

341

The Oil Drum

12,861

451

WorldChanging

5,974

 

Technorati also tracks “popular” blogs but it ranks them based on the number of its members that made the blog a “favorite”, rather than using a more objective site traffic metric.  In this ranking, TreeHugger is ranked 70 based on having had 293 Technorati members made the blog one of their favorites.

Compete provides a snapshot of unique monthly visitors (“People Count”) over the past 13 month period.  If we graph the top five green blogs, we see that there has been a significant increase in unique visitors on several of the top green blogs this year, and especially on TreeHugger where traffic peak in April at almost twice its 2006 average.

    

Yet, when evaluating blog influence, site traffic metrics do not tell a complete story.  Specifically, links to the blog’s content from other sites should also be considered as a significant proxy for influence.  Not only do links provide a de facto endorsement of the content; they also provide a valuable proxy for the readership of repurposed content on other sites.

Technorati and Google provide tools to quickly determine the number of links to a site.  Technorati ranks the top 100 blogs based on unique links during the past six months. (TreeHugger is ranked #21 – the only green blog on the list).  Google provides the ability to determine links for a blog like TreeHugger simply by typing “link: www.TreeHugger.com” on the site.   

treehugger-link.gif 

Leveraging Google, Marketing Green determined links for the top five sites ranked by the Truth Laid Bear (TLB) blog as follows:

 

Overall Rank (Daily Visits)

Blog

Daily Visits (TLB)

Links (Google)

169

TreeHugger

70,783

364,000

321

AutoblogGreen

15,500

103,000

340

Inhabitat

12,976

61,800

341

The Oil Drum

12,861

23,400

451

WorldChanging

5,974

28,800

 

Yet, “link” metrics provided by Technorati and Google are still incomplete proxies for online influence.  In the case of Google, links are determined in total and do not take into consideration recency.  Moreover, neither Google nor Technorati have the ability to translate links into the actual number of incremental visitors that view the content on the linked site. 

 

Additionally, links reported only account for sites that are directly connected to the original content (one degree away).  In many cases, however, blog posts are repurposed across multiple sites, resulting in a story that links two or three or more degrees away from the original site.  This network effect greatly enhances a blog’s influence in market simply by the fact that it reaches so many more people.

 

A 2nd degree network effect is fairly easy to demonstrate.  Here is an example from Marketing Green:

 

Zero Degrees: On February 19, 2007, Marketing Green posted a blog entitled “Green Marketing Leverages Social Networking on MySpace”.

 

First Degree: On February 20, the Marketing Strategy & Innovations blog distributes Marketing Green’s social marketing posting and provides a link back to the original story.

 

Second Degree: On February 27, Marketing Vox wrote a story entitled “Cause Marketers have Headstart on Social Networks” linking to the blog posted on the Marketing Strategy and Innovations blog, but not to the original story on Marketing Green.   As such, any measurement of influence using links to Marketing Green as a proxy would not, however, account for content posted on Marketing Vox in this case.  As a result, links would underrepresent the true distribution of the content online.

Thus, measuring the influence of green blogs online is an imperfect science.  Useful proxies are available that track site traffic and links from other sites.  Green marketers should be aware that these proxies likely undercount the true impact online as they do not track content viewership on the linked sites or the number of links that are more than one degree away from the original site.

 

Nonetheless, the learning is clear for green marketers: content distribution increases influence online by increasing the number of exposed people.  Creating content in a format that can be easily distributed or repurposed can result in an increase in the number of links to the site and expand a blog’s influence online.


Repurposing the Corporate Blog to Reach Green Influentials

July 31, 2007

These days corporate marketers are launching blogs at a record pace.  According to Jupiter Research, nearly 40% of corporate marketers are planning to launch a corporate blog within the next 12 months.  Yet, consumers do not share the same enthusiasm for these blogs as corporations do: only 3% of consumers have used them to conduct product research.  This dichotomy presents a challenge for corporations as blogs are one of the lowest cost and lowest risk social marketing tactics that marketers have to engage consumers in an increasingly Web 2.0 world. (“Maximizing Blogs”, Jupiter Research, June 11, 2007) 

As such, corporations must rethink the purpose of their blog – shifting from sales support to “brand advocacy”.  By doing so, corporate blogs become a channel to engage brand enthusiasts rather than just consumers.  They also become a conduit to reach online influentials including non-corporate green bloggers and impact key brand metrics through their use and distribution of content across their own networks.  

Today, many corporate blogs have already shifted in this direction.   One example is Intel’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) blog that launched last month focused on how Intel and others are addressing CSR issues.  Authors include Dave Stangis, Intel’s pioneer and long time champion of CSR issues at the company.

intel-blog.gif

Another blog of note is authored by Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and President of Sun Microsystems.  While not dedicated to green issues, Schwartz’s blog includes several entries that are telling in how Sun thinks about green and that outline actions that the company has taken to be socially responsible and capitalize on the emerging opportunity. 

In the blog screen shot included below, Schwartz discusses “The Value of Being Green and the competitive advantage that it provides to Sun in California where utility rebates for buying its efficient servers are worth $700 to $1000 each.

sun-blog.gif

For corporations, blogs provide a low-cost, low-risk way to communicate their messages and distribute content to brand enthusiasts rather than just consumers.  Green entries – in a dedicated or more general topic blog – can provide a more in-depth understanding of a company, its point of view on green and actions that it has taken to mitigate environmental impact. 

Companies should leverage their corporate blogs to engage green brand enthusiasts while distributing content that can be easily repurposed – including sound bites, graphics and tools – for use in other green news stories or blogs in order to maximize green branding impact in market.

Postscript: Two other CSR-focused blogs that I have found include Sun and McDonalds.   


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