October 30, 2014

Measuring social media without blowing the budget (30 tools)

Now that social media has gone mainstream, many companies are keen to get involved. But even larger brands will want to dip their toe in the water and see proven, quantifiable results before committing to a larger budget, which often means the funds won’t stretch to relatively high investment monitoring tools such as Radian, Meltwater or Alterian.

In the battle to integrate social media solidly into a brand’s marketing strategy, it pays to focus initial spend on the essentials and seek out free or low cost monitoring and measurement solutions to draw the essential link between social media investment and return.

As part of the CIPR’s Social Summer, I was invited to give a presentation on the wide range of online tools that do the job and don’t cost the earth.

Here it is…


And here’s the video from Slide #7 on multi-channel attribution modelling…


Do please take a look at the CIPR’s guidance on social media measurement – it’s a valuable read.

Thoughts? Questions? Let me know!

Come and chat with me in November

Image courtesy of LincUpLive

I’ll be in London next month, sharing some thoughts on social media and digital engagement as part of CIPR’s Social Summer and Mumsnet’s Blogfest.

Here are the details…

CIPR Social Summer

Measuring social media without blowing the budget, Thursday 8 November

Now that social media has gone mainstream, many companies are keen to get involved. But even larger brands will want to dip their toe in the water and see proven, quantifiable results before committing budget, which often means the funds won’t stretch to relatively high investment monitoring tools such as Radian, Meltwater or Alterian.

In the battle to integrate social media solidly into a brand’s marketing strategy, it pays to focus initial spend on the essentials and seek out free or low cost monitoring and measurement solutions to draw the essential link between social media investment and return.

In this session, I’ll be looking at the full range of online tools that do the job and don’t cost the earth.

To book, visit the CIPR’s Eventbrite page.

Mumsnet Blogfest

Blogging clinic, Saturday 10th November

Having spoken at a host of digital conferences this year, including LincUpLive, Blogcamp and Cybher, I’m really looking forward to sitting in the Blogging Clinic at Blogfest and taking questions throughout the day from some of the 300 blogging delegates in attendance.

The conference is sold out, but you can read more about it on the Blogfest website.

See you there?

Can Bloggabase improve blogger relations with its new directory service?

There’s a new kid on the blogger relations block: Bloggabase – a blogger directory service created by Andy Barr and Richard Leigh of PR agency, 10 Yetis.

At just 24, Rich is something of a serial creator of online projects, from PR Examples, a blog collating ‘the best stunts and campaigns in one place” to The Crapps, a slightly tongue-in-cheek votes-based awards for the PR industry.

Rich obviously has a genuine passion for good comms, so what’s this new service all about?

What is Bloggabase?

The basic idea is that bloggers sign up and provide a few details about their blogs such as the topics covered and the demographic of their target audience.

Once 2,000 bloggers have signed up, the service will open to agencies, offering subscription-based access to the database. The intention, say the creators, is to allow better targeted relations, so much so that bloggers are encouraged to complete a ‘key words’ field to help hone the approaches they may receive.

I got the impression the intention is to continue to tweak the way profiles work to make it increasingly easy for bloggers to limit the approaches they receive to only the most relevant ones. That could give my delete key a welcome break.

Is it original?

Bloggabase is being touted as unique but of course it isn’t – what is these days? Think Gorkana, Response Source or even the US site, BlogDash and you’re along similar lines already.

Most notably, Bloggabase offers a very similar service to that developed at Flea Enterprises in the form of the Foodies 100 and Tots 100, which allow food and parenting bloggers respectively to create targeted profiles, which can then be browsed and targeted by agencies on a one off or subscription basis.

It’s a tried and tested model and in the parent blogging community – of which I am a part as my alter ego, A Mummy Too – a very well established one. However, since Bloggabase isn’t limited to any one sector, it could arguably reach new bloggers not covered by the existing ’100′ sites.

Is this mainly about SEO?

SEO is mentioned a few times in the press release and the first thing a blogger is presented with when they sign up is the amount in GBP they can expect to charge ‘per blog post’. (Incidentally, A Mummy Too is worth a princely £60.28 per post).

However, Rich tells me that they frown upon paid links as such practices are against Google’s Terms and Conditions and the Bloggabase FAQ confirms this, so quite where the value is for SEOs remains to be seen – I guess we’re talking grey areas.

Link-free advertorial could indeed be a way to ‘monetize your blog’ as the front page splash promises, but I don’t think many bloggers would get many non-SEO approaches and in my experience, PRs don’t generally pay for advertorial – it’s unbiased editorial we want, with all the credibility that affords. Hmm.

How is the £ figure arrived at?

Rich wouldn’t be drawn much on the algorithms behind the cash figure, but I was able to establish that the founders conducted research to establish the average figures agencies tend to pay for posts (I checked, this would have meant paid links in most cases) and then use a range of authority metrics (SEO measures, readership measures, engagement/comment measures etc) to decide where on that payment scale a blogger sits.

Rich says:

“While many bloggers would never accept payment for a post, we appreciate that some want to monetise and as such, we wanted to create something that gave them a scaled idea – one that could be comparable to other blogs – of how much they could charge. If bloggers don’t want marketers to eventually see this information, we just ask that they select the box ‘I don’t accept paid for posts on this blog’.”

Anyone who has every heard me rant about Klout will know I’m a huge cynic when it comes to putting a numerical value on something as qualitatively complex as communications, so I’m unsurprisingly unsold on Bloggabase’s metrics. However, I do think it’s a very clever way to get curious blogger’s to sign up.

Tackling bad approaches

I’m told that once the site opens to agencies and bloggers start receiving approaches, there will be  a ‘report a user button’. If a user tried to solicit a paid link or if they sent a very poorly targeted approach are two examples Rich offered as to when a blogger might report an agency.

Apparently it wouldn’t mean a user was automatically banned, but it would mean their account would be flagged, reviewed and appropriate action taken.

Rich also promises there will be technology in place to automatically flag dodgy looking behaviours such as sending out the same message repeatedly to multiple recipients. In practice, this should mean more targets approaches.


It’s early days. Bloggabase is not even open to agencies yet so it’s difficult to say how useful it will prove, but my feeling is that it if you sweep away the talk of monetisation and payment per post, there is the potential for a useful multi-sector database in there that could help PRs make better approaches. Will it be any more useful that its existing competitors? Time – and the release of their subscription costs – will tell.

How to verify authorship of your blog with Google and benefit from author rank (SEO)

Edit 2/2/14: It’s now a lot simpler to add your G+ details to a WordPress blog, meaning you can skip the steps that require you to edit code in your WordPress blog’s back end. I use All In One SEO, but there are plenty of plugins that just add your G+ details – just search the plugins section for something to suit you. 

I was at Blog Camp UK yesterday, sitting on a panel of PRs, taking questions from 100 or so bloggers about ways the two disciplines can work productively together.

That was the closing session, but before that, the incredibly smart and knowledgeable Lee Smallwood took to the stage and shared some tips on some of the things we can all do to improve how our blog’s rank on Google.

Author rank

Lee explained that there was a way to tell Google that you own a piece of content, and that doing so could help that content rank a lot more highly in search than ‘unsigned content’. Here’s an article on author rank and why it’s important.

Lee didn’t get a chance to go into how to do this in much detail about author rank as he was mobbed with questions from pretty much everyone there, including me, but I did a bit of digging afterwards and managed to figure out how to link my blog to my G+ profile. (When Lee puts his slides live – I’ll link across so you can see in more detail why this is important)

Here’s how I linked my WordPress self-hosted parenting blog to my G+ profile, so Google knows I wrote all the posts on there.

Taking author ownership of my blog with Google

1) I got a Google+ profile https://plus.google.com/u/0/114730564675993386882/ – actually I already had one, but if you haven’t got one, go to http://plus.google.com and get one set up.

2) Inside the WordPress dashboard, I went to Users, clicked on my profile and made sure the First Name and Last Name fields matched what I had in Google+. Then in the bio section, I added my description, plus a link to my G+ profile. I’m not sure this bit is essential, but the end of my bio looks like this: I’d love you to follow me on <a href=”https://plus.google.com/114730564675993386882/”>my Google Profile+</a>.

3) I went to by ‘About’ Page (http://www.amummytoo.co.uk/about-a-mummy-too/) and added a mention of my Google+ profile page. I linked on the phrase “my Google Profile+” and apparently the + on the end is important. The URL I linked to was https://plus.google.com/114730564675993386882/?rel=author and yours should look exactly the same, including the ?rel=author bit at the end, just change the long number to the long number in your profile address.

NOTE: If you have an email address on your blog domain (e.g. me@myblogdomain.com) you can skip the remaining steps. Just make sure you’re logged in to Google+ and register here.

If not, get ready for some PHP tweaking…


Still in the WordPress Dashboard, I went Appearance > Editor and because I’m running Bee Crafty on Genesis, I went into Functions.php and found the function that said:

NOTE: Your code might look a little different, depending on your theme. If you don’t have functions.php, try looking in single.php and search for a phrase like “posted on” or “posted by” (or whatever the author, date credit days at the top of all your posts) – that will give you a clue. If you find the bit of code you need, but aren’t exactly sure how to edit it, feel free to paste it into the comments and I’ll reply asap.

5) I changed it so the code now looked like this:

IE I replaced the post_author_posts_link part with a link to my about page, anchored to my full name.

6) I went to any post on my blog and made sure that my name under the title linked to my ‘About Page’ (http://www.amummytoo.co.uk/about-a-mummy-too/)


7) I went back into my Google+ profile and clicked Edit

8) I clicked on the section that says “Contributor to” and created a new entry where the name is “+A Mummy Too” and the link was my about page ie http://www.amummytoo.co.uk/about-a-mummy-too/

9) I  checked it was all working by hopping over to Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool and entering the URL of any of my posts.

10) The results showed a snippet of how my post would look in Google search results, followed by a green message saying “Verified: Authorship markup is verified for this page”


That’s it, done.

If you try this, let me know if you hit problems and I’ll see if I can help.

Once you’re up and running, make sure you share your lovely posts on Google+ and let me know if it’s having any impact for you. I’ll do the same.

Have you got #Kred?

Now that social media is well and truly mainstream, the early debates about whether it’s here to stay, if it has broad appeal and whether it can be used for business are all bring put to rest. Yes, yes and yes – move on.

But one question remains, looming large, and making lots of marketers uncomfortable: what’s the value of being involved?

It’s not a simple question. In some ways, we’re getting to a point where brands HAVE to be on Twitter. It’s expected. Not being there, for some sectors, is like not having a helpline. Customers want to talk to you on Twitter and if you’re not there, they’ll vent furiously until you turn up to fight the fire.

But Financial Directors need to see return on investment (yes, seriously, don’t gag) so there has be more reason to be there than just obligation.

Improved brand awareness? A higher ‘net promoter score’? Direct sales? Indirect sales? Savings through more online orders and fault reports, meaning fewer calls to the call centre?

All valid measures, but whatever a brand’s intention, whatever metrics get that social media budget signed off, there has to be a plan to actually make it happen. Remember when websites were quite new, and millions of businesses had to learn the tough lesson of ‘if you build it, they won’t necessarily come’? Well businesses are back and they’re learning that lesson all over again.

You can’t just set up a profile on Twitter, or a flashy page on Facebook, put together a nifty content plan and then say “ok, we’re ready for you”. Even household names like Coke, Vodafone, Tesco had to do outreach. They didn’t just sit back and wait for it to happen.

But who do you reach out to? How do you find the people who’ll care that you’re there and be interested in what you have to share? And how do you reach out to the people who’ll not only want to form a relationship with your brand online, but also become an advocate, influential enough to help spread the word.

And that’s where Kred comes in. Kred is public directory of Twitter users (other social media platforms coming soon) and it measures a user’s influence and outreach levels, both globally, and in respect of specific topics, from tech to alternative health.

Kred is looking like a significant challenger to its competitors (chiefly Peer Index and Klout) for a number of reasons, but mostly because it offers a real-time and totally transparent measurement system.

There’s a lot to understand about Kred, from what it is and how it works, to how it can be used productively by bloggers, PRs and brands.

Recently I spoke over Skype with Andrew Grill, UK CEO of PeopleBrowser, the company behind Kred and asked these questions and more.

Come back soon to see the video interview in full.

27 stunning visual ads for creative inspiration

I’ve got a weakness for really good visual advertisements – the kind that make you gasp, smile or stare in wonderment. Here are 27 of my favourite pieces of creative inspiration. Click each image to view it full size.

01. Pilot markets its fine-line pen by micro-tattooing a series of LEGO men 02. Zaini promotes it’s smooth milk chocolate with a perfectly fluid kiss 03. Coca Cola erect a ‘living billboard’ that absorbs air pollutants
04. Martor goes gory to comic effect with this billboard ad for razorblades 05. The Economist promises big ideas with a bulb that lights as you pass underneath 06. The University of Aarhus reaches out to science students with a microscopic brochure
07. Audi erects a metallic billboard where part rusts, revealing the ad over time 08. Montana Meth Project releases a striking illustration of the dangers of meth use. 09. PampaVerde uses makeup to great effect to promote the size of its Extra Big Burger
10. Pepsi leaves us in no doubt about just how light its diet soda is 11. Sony goes retro to promote the capacity of its Microvault USB memory stick 12. Beau Rivage Resort & Casino creates an unusually inviting luggage belt
13. GITAM BBDO gets noticed with spicy promotional business cards 14. Sensodyne goes minimalist with a double-take ad for toothpaste 15. A dentist launches a street campaign that’s a bit like pulling teeth
16. A Swedish horror  festival breaks from tradition to pull in the press 17. An environmental consultant puts his stamp on waste with this alternative to the business card 18. The Shoe Hospital treats footwear as patients, if this ad is to be believed
19. Amnesty launches domestic violence ad that responds to being looked at 20. A Romanian ad forces payphone users to face domestic violence 21. Stop’n Grow circulates a shopping bag that puts you right off nailbiting
22. A direct mail campaign against shark finning puts the damage in your hands 23. Alzheimer’s New Zealand creates eraser-like USB sticks to highlight memory loss 24. Superette promotes its ‘short shorts’ with a bench ad that prints right on users legs
25. Nivea makes bold claims about the power of its cellulite cream with this sofa 26. Graco uses flawless photo manipulation to promote its mattresses 27. WWF uses minimalist materials and a familiar cloud to highlight water pollution

Want more? Follow me on Posterous for daily doses of creative inspiration.

I’ve joined the Social Media Week Global Editorial Team

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined the Global Editorial Team for Social Media Week (SMW) – “a global platform that connects people, content, and conversation around emerging trends in social and mobile media.”

Here’s a bit more about the Social Media Week initiative, in the words of the organisers, Crowd Centric:

“Social Media Week’s mission is to explore how local and regional societies, cultures, and economies are becoming more integrated & empowered through a global network of communication. Delivered primarily through a network of internationally hosted biannual conferences and online through social and mobile media, Social Media Week brings hundreds of thousands of people together every year through learning experiences that aim to advance our understanding of social media’s role in society.”

The next SMW is due to take place September 19 – 23 2011 in:

You can read more about the editorial team here – and look out for my first blog post, coming soon.

The five most useful Google+ write-ups from comms pros

There have been tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of words written about Google+ already, but as the new social network takes its first tentative steps in beta, the industry is asking…

What does this new platform mean for PR, marketing and other comms professionals?

It’s not an easy one to answer, but here are five articles that helped me get to the heart of the matter:

  1. The PR and marketing implications of Google+ by Shel Holtz. This is about as thorough as you can get right now. Shel hasn’t churned out a Google+ 101 post, he’s written an article with the uses for comms pros in mind. Read it.
  2. Should PR and social media people be getting excited by Google+? by Phil Szomszor. Should we all be leaping on board and putting our campaign budgets into Google+ right now? Phil has sensible answers.
  3. Conversations matter in Google+ by Chris Brogan. I have to agree with Chris’s simple but crucial observation here. The quality of conversations and responses in my stream, right now, is blowing Twitter and Facebook out of the water. If that continues, it’s a big deal for brands (particularly when the door opens to them).
  4. Why Google Has the Hammer To Make Businesses Use Google Plus by Jay Baer. This is a comparatively complex article (make a cup of tea before you start reading) but it takes a really good stab at mapping the evolution of search, SEO, social, where Google+ fits in, and where it’s going. Useful stuff.
  5. Google+, Businesses and Beyond by Christian Oestlien. In a video rather than a written post, Christian, a product manager on Google+ explains why it’s not quite ready for businesses yet, and gives some hints on where it might be going. Watch it below:

So, when it comes to Google+, what are your predictions, observations hopes and concerns for the comms industry?

Listing my essential social media tools

Tonight’s #CommsChat (the weekly Twitter-based chat for comms professionals) will aim to identify the best tools out there for monitoring and evaluating social media activity. Here’s my summary of the tools I use every day.

The blurb for tonight’s chat reads: “There’s a huge array of free, freemium and paid-for choices out there – so which ones do you invest your time and money on and why? What are the lesser known tips, tricks or features you’ve found, and which tools don’t cut the mustard?”

So, here are the questions to be posed on the night, along with my top tips.

What are your top social media tools – and why?

  • For getting a one window view of all the activity on every Twitter profile and Facebook Page I manage, Hootsuite
  • For spreading the great stuff I read in the morning out across the day on Twitter, you can’t beat Buffer which lets me stack up quality content to go out at pre-set intervals
  • For identifying the hottest trends in my Twitter stream, StrawberrJ.am is a must
  • For filtering out a hashtag or keyword if I really don’t want to know the tennis result, Proxlet
  • For putting some quick (but debatably fallible) numbers to influence on social networks, Klout and Peer Index
  • For figuring out the behaviour and trends around a particular Twitter user, TweetStats (see also Hashtracking)
  • For assessing the reach of a hashtag, tweet or even @username, TweetReach.
  • For getting a quick, free overview of the reach and sentiment of an idea / campaign on the social web, SocialMention.com

Which ones are more hype that happening?

  • Not keen on Klout’s +K as a measure of ‘expertise’ in certain topics. It measures ‘vote for me!’ popularity rather than true influence and is easily gamed
  • Paper.li drives me crazy. Billed as a tool to bring you the best of your stream in paper form, it does work, but it’s being overused in a spammy way. Turn off those auto-tweets, people!

From dashboard to dashing about – best tips for tablets and mobiles

Freemium to premium – which upgrades are worth it?

  • If you have more than one Hootsuite user in the office accessing the same Twitter profiles, you’ll need to upgrade, but it also cuts out the ads and gives you full access to an Outlook-like scheduling calendar, so it’s well worth it
  • Buffer premium brings you the usual scheduling goodness, plus the option to have multiple admins and unlimited tweets and Twitter accounts
  • TweetReach only analyses the last 50 tweets it finds in Twitter search, so if you’re looking at a very busy hashtag, it’s worth paying the $20 for a full snapshot

How are these tools helping you with strategy?

  • Managing multiple feeds is time-consuming. The better the tools, the more time you can devote to actually engaging
  • Knowledge is power. The more data you can get on how you’re performing, the better honed your strategy becomes

Should tools focus around ‘search’ or around ‘social’?

  • I guess this is asking, should we look at a) numbers – followers, number of RTs etc, or b) engagement – depth of conversation, sentiment, reach etc?
  • My answer is a little of (a), a little of (b), but ultimately you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and remember that tools are just tools – nothing automated is going to tell you everything you need to know, or do everything you need to do, that’s what comms professionals are for ;)

The chat takes place tonight (Monday 4th July) 8-9pm UK time. Talk to you there?

How to be consistent on Twitter: Buffer

Do you ever worry that your activity on Twitter seems too sporadic? You’re quiet for half the day/week, then jump on and post a handful of great links/thoughts, have a quick chat, then disappear off again? A new service called Buffer has the answer, and I caught up with one of its founders, Leo Widrich, to find out more.

Let me tell you a story…

About 2.5 years ago, I was just starting out with a new consultancy. As such, I hadn’t filled my client roster, and had some free time to network, learn, and promote myself and my business. So I joined Twitter. I monitored it all day, chatted, posted regularly, and manually made sure I was consistent throughout the day.

But of course, as I got busier, this became more and more of a challenge. I began finding the articles I wanted to share during my ‘free’ time, either at the weekends, late evenings, or very early mornings. These are great time to catch up on reading, but probably not the best times to start a work conversation.

So what is Buffer?

Leo from Buffer

Buffer isn’t the first app to offer scheduled tweeting, but it is the smartest solution I’ve come across so far.

Instead of having to manually decide what time each tweet will go out (a la Hootsuite), you just preset some times each day that you’d like to tweet (e.g. 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm) and then drop all the cool stuff you find into your Buffer, where it queues up and posts out throughout the day.

Add more goodies than can fit it in a day – it’ll buffer over into the next day. Decide you want them in a different order – it’s a simple case of drag and drop.

During the day, you’re then free to use what free time you do have to indulge in what Twitter (and all social media) is really all about – conversation.

In Leo’s own words:

“Buffer is a tool that helps you to tweet consistently every day without flooding your followers. It was an idea that came out of Joel’s use of Twitter [ed: Joel Gascoigne is co-creator of Buffer and an experienced developer with an MSc Computer Science]. He wanted to share more of the great articles he was reading, but without all these tweets in a row. Having a ‘Buffer’ which spreads out these tweets seemed to be the optimal solution.

“The heart of Buffer are the browser extensions. Whichever article you are reading on the web, just give it one click on the Buffer icon and add it to your Buffer. What we found is that many people tweet one article and add the rest to their Buffer. This spreads them out and never floods their stream.”

Why might you need Buffer?

Generally speaking, you might like Buffer if a) you don’t use Twitter much, or b) you use Twitter all the time.

Here’s why:

Leo: “We are seeing 2 groups of people using Buffer heavily at the moment. The first one is Twitter new comers. People told us they are overwhelmed with Twitter at first and with Buffer they come to gradually use it more and more in a piecemeal process.

“Of course another large percentage of Buffer users are Twitter Pros. So people who are very heavily involved in Twitter and also have a business interest. What many seem to appreciate is that they can save time and be more efficient by Buffering, yet still remain a genuine personality and not turn into an auto-bot.

“What I found for myself is that it is often hard to tweet consistently. Yet, only a consistent appearance, similar to blogging, can build trust and help you stand out from the rest.”

Are the spammers circling?

Just as I asked Proxlet and StrawberryJ.am, I had to ask Buffer if they see the app being used for spamming, and what they’re doing about it:

Leo: “We try to fiercely work against that. Our tagline is “Be Awesome On Twitter” and we aim to help everyone to flood users less.

So we basically try to optimize instead of automate. This means we try not to implement things such as pulling RSS feeds in or tweeting the same tweet multiple times.”

Get the very best from Buffer

I asked Leo what his top tips would be to get the best from the app. For him, it’s all about convenience:

  • Bring Buffer to you: “With our browser extension, you can go to Twitter.com and Buffer Retweets from your native Twitter stream.”
  • Know the shortcuts: “Press “alt+b” to bring up the Buffer box (again, needs the browser extension)”
  • Get jamming: “You can Buffer tweets from inside StrawberryJ.am, a Trend based Tweet aggregator”
  • Grab text for tweets: “Highlight some text and then click the Buffer icon and it will be turned into a tweet.”

For me, the ability to add multiple accounts (if you have a pro subscription) and set different times for each is a god send. So what feature is are other users loving the most?

Leo: “What a lot of our professional users are thankful for are the analytics we are providing for all Tweets that are Buffered. [ed: you can link your Bit.ly account into Buffer] It helps a lot to understand about how well your tweets are doing and if you should change your patterns.”

Plans for the future of the app?

Just like any new app, Buffer is promising, but could be more useful. I’d like to see it go truely mobile, for example, and then extend out to LinkedIn and Facebook. So what’s in the pipeline?

Leo: “We really want to built it out further in the future. One main goal is to allow people to Buffer from anywhere they are. We are currently in talks with many different reader and mobile apps as well as Twitter clients. The integration with Strawberryj.am was fantastic and definitely the route we want to pursue in the future.

An iPhone app is high up on our list and Joel is working away on it as we speak.”

A game changer

At the moment, I use Buffer for about five tweets a day per account, usually buffered up that morning. But overall, Buffer is only one of the ways I access and manage Twitter, along with Hootsuite, Twitter for Mac, Twitter for iPhone, Twitter.com and Bit.ly, according to my needs. Of course, Buffer isn’t intended to do everything those clients do, but if it keeps on the promising development path it’s on, that list could reduce.

So, have you tried Buffer? Is it working for you? What improvements would you make?

(Hat tip to Sarah Arrow for first making me aware of Buffer.)