The Next Chapter for Social Finance and Three Things to Consider

Some of the biggest news the past two weeks in social media surrounded the SEC’s announcement and Bloomberg’s news around social media. But what does this mean for communicators? While this is a big win for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it means we need to be even more engaged as communicators with these platforms. First, let’s look at a round of each announcement.

Gotim2

Securities Exchange Commission

The Wall Street Journal does a quick FAQ on the news and what it means. Over at CNBC they tell investor relations professionals to relax and enjoy some sleep. And Dominic Jones points out that the “devil is in the details” when it comes to interpreting the guidelines. So while the guidelines are meant to help companies, did anyone think of investors? Managing the information is important and Hootsuite offers some thoughts (we’re a Hootsuite client — and here’s a list of financial services firms currently using Hootsuite).  In 2010 I wrote about why investor relations professionals need to use StockTwits, and Howard Lindzon sums up his approach to what they have done and the SEC’s announcement:

“No matter what others call us or think, Stocktwits is a NEWSWIRE. Information is flowing from one to many, all day, every day and it is full of context.”

Gotim1

Bloomberg Terminal

The others news came from Bloomberg and that they were now adding Twitters posts about companies to their terminal feeds. Mashable offers a screen shot of what this will look like. And Venture Beat points out that this won’t be a “firehouse” of tweets, so we’ll need to see what is chosen and what is not. With many financial companies still blocking social media, the importance of this is that people in the markets can now gain access to tweets that matter. And as Joe Weisenthal pointed out during the crisis in Cyprus Twitter was beating most other sources.

Why This Matters

Back in 2011 I pointed out that social finance had arrived. Traders, analysts and financial firms were already mining Twitter for data. The news this month continues the evolution of social finance and further emphasizes the importance and seriousness of the information that is being shared. Here are three things B2B firms need to think about as the SEC and Bloomberg help advance the significance of your posts.

  1. It’s time to revisit your guidelines and disclosure rules. If you haven’t sent the news about what just happened to your compliance and investor relations teams then stop reading and do that now. If you are still pitching internally to use social media this will show that you are on top of the news and give you further leverage to discuss how you can build your social media strategy. At the very least, it should continue to build your relationships internally, and that’s always a good thing.
  2. What you post matters (even more). Think carefully about how you word, when you post and what you want to say about your firm. And don’t be afraid to repost extremely important information. As information gets posted in more venues, and now pulled into the Bloomberg terminal, content management gains in influence. I would also continue to pay attention to what Bloomberg does with social media and integrating it across all of its media.
  3. Register for StockTwits. It’s value as a company just went up, but more importantly for you it’s value as a reputation tool to promote and protect your brand just increased. If you are not using it for your company then integrate it with your Twitter account (and don’t forget to add your Hootsuite account). And if you’re a PR Newswire client (we are) you get the added benefit of having StockTwits on your side too.

I’m a long-time believer that social media can be a catalyst for change within B2B organizations — from sales to investor relations to content management — and this month was significant. The amount of discussions online around what the SEC and Bloomberg have announced, both in agreement and disagreement, makes the value of what has been accomplished in the past decade of information exchange and disclosure both challenging and exciting. As communicators, it’s just discussing “why” we should use these tools but the thinking has advanced to “how” we use them.

Do how do you think this news changes social finance? Or is it business as usual? Let us know.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

What drives your social media strategy?

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

Five lessons learned after five years of B2B social media

Do most online communities fail?

What drives your B2B strategy?

Tuning into your industry

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Using Social Networking Sites in B2B Businesses

The Future of Social Media is Not Digital

I spoke at three separate events last week with a focus on how social media has disrupted B2B communications and the way we operate. While there was a lot of focus on what we have accomplished and lessons learned, everyone seemed interested in my thoughts on what’s next. What is the next platform? Is there a new technology we are testing? What are B2B companies going to do next? What should we be looking to do?

I recently talked about the changing role of communicators, but I’m never one to make predictions, especially when it comes to technology. That’s why I read the blogs of people like Howard Lindzon, Armano, the team at Convince & Convert and others.

That’s not to say I don’t think a lot about technology and all things digital. Tools like Twitter and Instagram came out of nowhere and one of the next new technologies will likely do the same. That is a topic I personally follow regularly, and right now, I’m interested in content aggregation, especially in light of yesterday’s Google Reader news, and how individuals wade through the endless streams of information and vertical communities that help focus conversations.

But technology aside, I think the next, next thing in B2B communications is face-to-face communications. That’s not exactly revolutionary, but it is vital. Read what Aaron Pearson had to say about this while at SXSW.

People want intimate experiences that cannot be filled by any social media.

There still remains a lot to do in social media. Twitter and Stocktwits continue to evolve their real-time streams, LinkedIn still provides us ways to professionally connect and other platforms give us a variety of choice to leverage our B2B content. These are and will be important business tools moving forward.

Speaking last week at the Marketforce Social Media in Financial Services conference

Speaking last week at the Marketforce Social Media in Financial Services conference

But we are coming closer to the point where competing with our competition on social media will be like competing websites, trade show booths or advertising. These tools do matter, but they will become ubiquitous and expected. A few years ago, companies truly gained a competitive advantage using social media, and we still do, but as it makes its way throughout the enterprise it will be more challenging to do so. Will you still be the best brand on Twitter? Will your Facebook page help you stand out against others? Do Slideshare and Instagram show off your thought leadership? Maybe. Maybe not. Does it matter?

Last week continued to demonstrate to me what I have believed for some time since engaging more and more in social media: People want intimate experiences that cannot be filled by any social media. Yes, Google Hangouts can make a difference and hashtags on Twitter create virtual discussions, but that is not good enough.

My coffee break conversations at the Marketforce event were constructive and interesting. I was also able to finally spend some quality time talking with Cristophe Langlois of Visible Banking. The discussions I had with the students from the Hult International Business School and Penn State Harrisburg were vastly different, but they challenged me on many areas of digital and

We are all in a battle for the “hearts and minds” of customers, influencers and other various stakeholders, and while social media helps us connect, it does not replace what we want as people.

Is your company a leader in social media? Great. Is your organization following and trying to understand new technologies? Wonderful. Are you trying to learn what can help make your brand stand out and understood? Perfect.

But how are you connecting with people and creating those intimate moments that matter? If you are not thinking about this yet, then you quite possibly will be left behind by the next wave of social media: building and maintaining relationships.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

We still need to get together in the real world?

Do we need a social index for businesses? 

Who are your content superheroes?

Tuning into your industry

Social media management

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

What is social media success in B2B… and some examples

 

 

Social Media Management — My Point of View

Trying to manage content, technology and time today is a never-ending battle (and one that we always end up losing). So what can you do to manage all that you have to do? I was asked to contribute my thoughts for CorpComms magazine last month and share my ten tips for how I try to stay on top of content, news and information.

Managing social media shouldn't always be a battle; here are some ideas to help

Managing social media shouldn’t always be a battle; here are some ideas to help

You can read the full story here: Managing Social Media

We’d love to know your good ideas and tips as well so add them in the comments below. You can also follow CorpComms on Twitter and their staff.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

What drives your social media strategy?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Are you ready for these five trends?

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

 

 

Further Momentum with Financial Services and Social Media

There continues to be momentum in the use of social media in the financial services industry. Last week, I wrote about what is happening in the futures industry and the impact of social media, but a host of other changes have shown that the industry is becoming an industry that understands the transition. While the industry has often been branded as a laggard in social media, there is growing evidence that firms have the people and processes in place to integrate the right tools. Here are a few noteworthy items:

Two weeks ago we saw Goldman Sachs join Twitter, a long awaited launch;

StockTwits and PRN Newswire recently joined forces to integrate news into the social media stream;

Econsultancy last month wrote about the use of LinkedIn among financial services firms;

Artwork in the London office of the WSJ.

Artwork in the London office of the WSJ.

The Financial Times reported in April how more financial services firms are embracing social media; and,

I recently spoke on a panel discussion at Cognito PR on trends in B2B social media in financial services (you can download the PDF summary);

So what’s changed? First, social media has received broad acceptance among many retail and consumer brands already. We are seeing the financial industry study these habits and follow what has worked and what has not. Second, having the internal processes in place and compliance matters put into order have become more clear. It was only a matter of time that this would happen, and as more firms use social media we are seeing the result of common ground in this area. Third, as journalists use social media more they are effectively helping to pull communicators into the mix (if only to listen at first). Finally, communicators are becoming more comfortable with the social tools and understanding how they are used.

I believe we will continue to see growth in social media use among the financial services industry. In particular, I think the the area of evaluation will be of key importance as firms try to make sense of the qualitative and quantitative information online. I also believe there will be more emphasis put into CRM and social enterprise tools by financial firms as they try to build revenue streams from the social streams. No matter what direction financial firms head, the adoption of these tools will clearly benefit many industries as more investments in people and resources will be made.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Do most online communities fail?

Financial journalists on the state of financial journalism

Other voices: Julie Meredith, Radian6

Can accounting firms really be social?

Are you ready for these five trends?

What drives your b2b strategy?

Using social media in the banking and financial sectors

 

 

StockTwits and PR Newswire Partnership Further Validates Financial Social Media

Last week’s news that StockTwits and PR Newswire are joining forces represents a huge opportunity for B2B social media and financial communications (Disclaimer: We are a customer of both companies). As Howard Lindzon, founder of StockTwits wrote in his blog they are looking for ways to “layer on top of the publishing world for financial people to push, share and pull content” that meet the compliance needs of public companies. This partnership is another step in that direction.

The Social Network for Finance

Two years ago I wrote in this blog that financial communicators need to seriously look at StockTwits as a broadcast and engagement platform. The company has continued to extend its reach by striking content deals with major financial news outlets such as CNN Money Yahoo! Finance and MarketWatch. What I have always enjoyed about our relationship with StockTwits is its relentless passion and focus on community; they have never lost site of the value and importance of their members who contribute 24/7 to the network.

With this latest partnership with PR Newswire, known as Capital Markets Visibility 365, StockTwits continues to tap into the news flow of organizations. At the same time, PR Newswire brings further credibility to the social media landscape for investor relations and helps add value to the trading community that StockTwits values so highly. We have long been doing social media and have achieved some incredible results, and I like this agreement between two companies who understand the value of corporate news and bringing increased transparency to the investor community. This really is a win-win-win-win for both companies involved, communicators and investors.

If you still haven’t looked at StockTwits as part of your company’s or your client’s social media planning or monitoring you should register and learn more about the community. And if you have questions about using StockTwits or PR Newswire you can ask me on Twitter or reach out to Howard Lindzon or Brad Smith (PR Newswire). In addition, post your comments and questions below and I will provide my thoughts.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Your Game Plan: Focus on Fans

Social influence matters! No, it doesn’t!

How are you measuring influence?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

What drives your b2b strategy?

2012: No Predictions, Just Actions

Everyone seems to have dusted off their crystal balls the past few weeks as the predictions for social media in 2012 are plentiful. I  stopped reading them. There are only a handful of people who are making predictions that I would trust, and after seeing so many most are not taking into account the current economic climate and the themes are too repetitive.

Instead of adding to the overcrowded space of predictions I want to focus on actions. The path for next year is clearly lined with more questions than answers. So, what am I looking at in 2012, a year clouded with economic uncertainty and promises for social media nirvana? Here’s a rundown of what’s on my agenda and questions you may need to ask yourself:

What's ahead for you in 2012?

  • Digital Content: We’re doing a lot more with digital content on our website and that will continue. What we’ve learned from the past few years of doing social media is that we have become our own media aggregator with original content that cannot be captured anywhere else. Whether it’s our blog, our online magazine, our media room or our education center, various stakeholders look to us for content and we will continue to drive more of that next year. What are your plans for digital content in 2012? Have you developed an editorial calendar? Do you have an editorial team?
  • Mobile: This was a great year for us and using mobile devices as we expanded our iPhone/iPad offering to the Android and Blackberry. In addition, we introduced an app specifically for our annual Global Financial Leadership event. Our research continues to show that users are moving more and more toward accessing our site from mobile devices and we know that consumers in general are digesting more information via their mobile devices. We will continue to enhance our mobile strategy in 2012 not only for distributing content through social platforms but also for giving people access to our information. How are you integrating mobile into your marketing strategy? What type of research do you have on people accessing your content from mobile devices?
  • Real-time matters: We’ve been using Twitter since 2008 and are one of the few verified brands. In our line of business, real-time news and information matters and for the markets and finance this won’t change. David Meerman Scott’s latest book on real-time marketing captures exactly how we approach this world of instant news. Where we’ll be looking at improving on what we’ve already accomplished is with our partnership with StockTwits. Messages about our products and services in the past year surged from 15,000 a month a year ago to more than 40,000 a month last year on their platform. Does real-time matter to you and your business? Are you targeting the right people on Twitter? Do you have a plan for how you can leverage StockTwits and the messages about your company?
  • Social networks: Facebook will still be a part of our plan and remains a great way to connect with customers in a more static environment. We can create very topical conversations around news and events on our page and that won’t change. We do know that Facebook fans are passionate about topics and the stream has changed our approach to this platform and has helped in creating more awareness about our offerings. We can’t ignore either of those facts. The challenge for 2012 will be to figure out how to use our Google+ page, but first I think Google needs to figure out Google+ for brands. I don’t see a lot of focus there yet from Google so do not plan to spend much time there. At the best right now it’s an experiment in SEO. How are you going to handle new technologies that come out in 2012? Do you have an assessment plan or team in place?
  • LinkedIn: I am a long-time fan of LinkedIn for the B2B market and am very excited about 2012. The company has made some great changes to the corporate pages managed by companies and added a much needed dashboard for group managers. Both of these additions have been much needed and further enhance LinkedIn as a social business platform. We continue to leverage the groups and the private feature has allowed us to create a 24/7 virtual focus group environment where we talk with our customers. We will putting more emphasis on LinkedIn in the coming year and finding ways to better improve what we do for the benefit of our customers. How do you leverage the groups on LinkedIn? Is your company page a place where potential employees view you as a thought leader? How do you get others in your organization involved in LinkedIn?
  • Video: We do have a YouTube presence, but our video strategy continues to focus on bringing people to our location. Our website continues to be populated with video content in a number of places and videos allow us to visually tell our story through our spokespeople, customers and thought leaders. We’ll continue to build content that includes video as a key component and through our social platforms bring this content to our followers. How are you leveraging videos? What is your distribution plan? Do you use video to complement content?
  • Metrics: I’ve always believed that in order to manage content you have to know what is happening. So metrics and measurement continue to play a very active part of what we do and this will continue to be the trend for us in 2012. We have a number of tools that we use that include both qualitative and quantitative metrics for us to better understand what we are doing. Are you measuring the right information? How are you making decisions based on your data?
  • Experiment: We did a lot in 2011 to try new things and apply new technologies. For example, we integrated Facebook comments onto our digital magazine, started using Google+ brand pages, launched our Weibo account in China, and made several changes to our LinkedIn company profile. In the coming year we will continue to do the same and experiment where it makes sense. New technologies and enhancements are now the norm and finding ways to leverage them will be a challenge. How do you stay on top of the latest information? Do you have a social team to review and plan for new initiatives? How do you prioritize what to implement and where to hold off?
  • A Social Business: In 2011, we continued to integrate our social media with our business. One of the best posts I’ve read on this topic is from David Armano and Demystifying Social Business. When I started using social media at the company in 2007 it very much was a silo channel for us, but in the past year we have made great strides as an organization to integrate it throughout the company. That will continue in 2012 with our sales force, marketing activities and with our employees. How do you communicate your social initiatives internally? Have you implemented any training or education programs? Do you have social guidelines for employees and if so when was the last time you reviewed it?

The coming year promises to be another exciting year for communicators. We will not only face a global economy that has numerous challenges for our businesses, but we are being inundated with new and various tools to communicate with our stakeholders. Finding the balance between those two will help determine success for each of our enterprises and I wish you all the best of luck.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Finally, a comprehensive B2B social media study

World-Class social practices for B2B companies

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Using social networking sites in B2B businesses?

Social Clutter or Social Clarity?

The past year has been a year of more dashboards, more ways to measure, more apps, more blogs and just more of more. And it’s all happening in real-time. So how can we keep track of what we need to keep track of without losing track of things to track? In fact, there’s so much content that we now call wading through it all content curation.

What do you see? Clutter or potential content?

From our standpoint, we tend to have a lot of information to review and manage; check out our Twitter feed to get an idea of the vast array of topics we need to cover. In order to manage all that’s going on in our world here are my thoughts on what works for me:

  • Use a Social Platform: We use Hootsuite and StockTwits for similar and different reasons, but they both work well for us. The reality is there is just no way you can manage finding and reading the content you need and a social platform brings to you the items you need. In addition, most of these now offer a mobile app as well so that you can use while you are away from your desk. The mobile apps tend not to offer the same robust functionality of the desktop versions, but they are good enough to get the job done.
  • Review Content Regularly. While time consuming, reviewing the sources your following and reading the content will you keep your sources fresh. I often add sources based on news cycles and trends in order to help me stay on top of what’s happening right now that we need to know. This is probably the most difficult part of the process but also the most important. Twitter lists in my opinion are the best resource for you in order to do this. I also still rely on RSS feeds and Google Reader. By having both of these tools I can cover just about every news source and person that I need to follow.
  • Research Your Audience. Again, another obvious observation, but how often do you review a news outlet on Facebook to look for inspiration? Or do you take time to look at a few days worth of your most important Twitter followers?  Take the time to learn from them — what they post and how often — and decide how you need to make adjustments.
  • Make Time. Easier said than done, but if you take a little bit of time each day or week to review how you read and distribute content as well as the tools you (may) need you will get better at it. Once you find a routine it does get easier.

What makes this so difficult to control is the rate at which things are changing. If you think you can get into a routine with content curation you’re wrong. There is no cruise control, which makes this a very demanding art to master. What you need to really do is get organized. While my desk wouldn’t show my great organization skills, I have become quite good at organizing my online content.

Perhaps the best advice is to just make sure you step away and let the world go by at times. Don’t ever rule out taking time for yourself away from the digital domains where we tend to reside today. I’ve often found that some of my best ideas for online content and content management come from writing in my Moleskine while grabbing a coffee — or even dumping a box of my son’s Legos on the floor and taking a photo.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Content Curation: What Does it Take To Be Successful?

What’s your “I” in social media?

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

How are you measuring influence?

Last week I spoke at the European Corporate Communications Social Media Summit on tracking influence and the non-financial ROI. The topic has been a key issue for our 233industry in 2011 as offerings such as Klout, Peer Index and the Social Business Index have garnered plenty of attention — both good and bad. I’ve written on this blog before about ROI (Return on Influence) as has Aaron Pearson (Dare we measure ROI?) and I’ve also written about the Social Business Index. The subject warrants discussion as B2B companies are devoting more resources to social media and in particular working to discover and measure what matters — the people, messages and sources.

For my presentation I was asked to address what we are doing and to help the audience target two questions:  Where should your business be spending its time and how much time should you allocate to the social channels?

I will admit, this is nearly an impossible topic to talk about and discuss in any great detail in under 60 minutes.

When I look at measuring the effectiveness of what we are doing I like to break down our metrics into two categories. By doing so, it helps me to focus on both the quantitative and qualitative items that can help us see what’s working and who/what matters. The two sets of metrics I like to reference are Attention Metrics and Influence Metrics.

Attention metrics tend to have a bad reputation. But don’t discount them. While they are hardly scientific and lack context, they can help validate over time topics and issues that matter to your audience and who you are trying to reach. Keep in mind that these are a helpful guide — but treat them as a guide since they are easily and readily accessible, but lack the depth you need to act on any strategic decision making.

The second set of metrics I prefer for better analysis are what I call the Influence Metrics. These will take more time from you and your team to assess, but certainly can give you a better indication of the content and people that matter to you. For instance, location metrics can better help you understand if you need to translate content or even add more content to focus on other regions, but you need to get an understanding from the business if that’s really ideal to sales and revenue generation. In our case, seeing the growing traffic from China helped make our decision to join Weibo. Another metric that matters is trying to know the people who talk about your company and products, but it’s not as simple as seeing if they’ve retweeted you or posted something on your Facebook page (more than likely they have not). You will need to find the tools and resources needed to locate and engage with them both online and in person. Take a read at what Vann Morris wrote about the value of B2B relationships in social media if you want to learn more.

The conclusion of my discussion was more of a reminder than anything else. It’s key for any program — social or traditional — to focus on what you are trying to achieve and how you will get there. I like to use a three step process that I’ve used for many other forms of communication — new product launches, events and white papers. First, decide what it is you want to accomplish with your program. In the case of social media this could be to increase the number of positive conversations (or decrease the negative) and build relationships with the people online whose opinions matter most (customers, bloggers, journalists); understand the metrics you will want to use; and, finally, analyze the content and then repeat. You may find that you need to change what you want to accomplish or perhaps you were measuring the wrong item. Some programs we use require more detail and more steps, but these three should provide a good foundation.

Even as the existing tools get better and more tools are introduced (like Awe.sm — and I suggest you try this one), the key to remember is that you need to always focus on what you are trying to achieve. You may need to adjust your tactics, but use your metrics to better understand if you reaching your goal — and don’t lose sight of your goal.

So what’s Next for ROI? I pointed to four key trends that we are all going to need to pay attention to in the coming year.

  • We are awash with data. At times it seems like we are drowning. But don’t despair as the technology to analyze this will continue to get better. Will it be perfect? More than likely not, but it will continue to evolve and help us better evaluate what we are doing. My suggestion is that you not enter into any long-term vendor agreements and make a concentrated effort to use the tools. The more you can engage with your metrics the better you will be able to tell a story about what’s happening with your brand.
  • CRM will matter even more, which means communications and sales have a tremendous opportunity to gather social data and apply it toward sales relationships. Salesforce.com continues to integrate social capabilities and will provide more insight on your customers. While I’m a bit sceptical for the early results, it’s a step in the right direction and needs to be watched closely.
  • There’s not a silver bullet and never will be. There are some great resources and tools that help you move in the right direction, but one solution will not work for everything. If that’s what you’re looking for and expecting you will be disappointed. If you focus on using the tools to make you more efficient and better utilize your resources you will certainly move in the right direction.
  • Everything will move in real time. Are you ready for a real-time B2B world? Not only is the data growing exponentially, but it’s moving faster and faster every day. For example, StockTwits helps investor relations professionals now monitor real-time conversation, and those discussions are growing (we monitor nearly 45,000 posts each month about our products). Are you ready to monitor, report on and respond to this new era of public communication? In 2012 more B2B companies will look at who staffs and responds to these issues and the centralized v decentralized model debate will continue.

What are you thoughts on measuring and influence? Is this a case of too much information to make it matter or can we cut through the noise and build business solutions?

And while I like to delve into our metrics I continue to learn more from reading what some of the true thought leaders on this subject have to say. Here are some resources on this topic that you should read:

Social Media Measurement 2011: Five things to forget and five things to learn – Metrics Man

The Digitization of Research and Measurement – Metrics Man

Social Media Impact Takes Awhile to Gauge – KD Paine

Real Time is Wrong Time in Measurement — KD Paine

Making Business Decisions Through Data — Logic & Emotion

Why Online Relationships Matter — B2B Ideas@Work

12 Tools to Measure Social Media Influence (Maybe) – Social Media Today

Social influence matters! No, it doesn’t! — B2B Voices

Are You Ready for a Real-Time B2B World?

The past two weeks may have been an eye opener for firms who tend to ignore the “real time” world.  In fact, we may be reaching a tipping point as more and more data comes online via social media. That tipping point comes in the form of a competitive advantage for some. Some companies, like StockTwits, took this trend seriously three years ago and developed ways for B2B firms to use social media. We are now seeing more and more B2B companies, such as the hedge Fund Derwent Capital, put this data to use.

How are you managing "real time"?

And while companies like Twitter and Google (search only since Google+ brands pages have yet to officially launch) have been leading the way for B2B brands to look at and use real-time news and analysis, recent changes at Facebook are now under scrutiny by brands. With these three firms firmly racing to be the platform of choice for sharing information, as communicators in the B2B world we need to think about all of the options to meet the needs of our brand.

A number of stories and posts have come out in the past week showing how the mining of real-time data is making many companies and brands take notice. Here’s a sampling of the stories you should read:

The Economist: What’s in a Tweet

But companies that mine the stream of tweets for marketing and other purposes (see article in this week’s issue of The Economist) get much more information.

The Economist: Sipping from the Firehose

Fed through clever algorithms, a torrent of microblogs can reveal changes in a nation’s mood. Hence the excitement about a new market: the sale and analysis of real-time social-media data.

Think Quarterly (Google): Predicting the Present

Using the publicly available tools mentioned above, we’ve uncovered a number of interesting relationships.

Google: Predicting the Present with Google Trends

Can Google queries help predict economic activity?

Business Insider: What Facebook’s Changes mean for Brands

The key takeaway for brands is that the News Feed matters ⎯ a lot. For most brands, the News Feed is their best chance for interacting with fans (aka consumers).

UPDATE: This story from the WSJ also takes a look at real-time data analysis.

WSJ: Decoding our Chatter

Want to monitor an earthquake, track political activity or predict the upds and downs of the stock market? Researchers have found a bonanza of real-time data in the torrential flow of Twitter feeds.

So what can you do now armed with this info? Here are two takeaways from the recent news:

  • Now is a good time to take another look at your social media strategy and reassess what you are doing and what you are posting. We do this on a regular basis as new trends and technologies are introduced, but also as we connect with new users.
  • Share this info internally. But don’t just share this with the marketing and communications team, make sure the right technology and research managers know that you are watching this trend. You want to continue to push these changes internally and to ensure you can help evolve the business case around real-time information.

One objective of this blog is to continue to raise the business relevance of social media in B2B communications. We continue to look for examples and ways that companies are doing this in order for all of us to learn. Hopefully, we’re helping accomplish that and we can continue to build on this objective. Stories like I mentioned above add further evidence to the important of real-time information, which is taking place more and more online in public forums. As these stories develop we will share our thoughts with you and look for your comments.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

The Beat Goes on at StockTwits

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Using Social Networking Sites in B2B Businesses

Has Social Media in Financial Services Arrived?

It’s been a busy week for social media in financial services…and it’s only Tuesday.

For years I’ve been an advocate of using social media in a B2B/financial services setting. I recently spoke in London at the Finextra conference about our experiences. It allows you to educate, build advocacy and monitor for issues. There is clearly no doubt that social media has made its mark with consumer brands and in breaking news. But who is lagging and why? Many have pointed to the financial services industry as being the late adopter. In some cases this is true, but in others it is not (e.g. at CME Group we’ve been using social media since mid-2007).

But in the past few days there has been a flurry of news surrounding social media and financial services. Why now? Before I answer that let’s look at what’s been written:

Financial Times: Embracing trends in social networks

Reputation is one of the most valuable assets companies possess, but controlling it amid the rising influence of social media is a growing challenge. Financial services personnel who naively think their company has no presence on social network sites are sadly mistaken, according to Mark Park, head of digital at MHP, a London-based public relations consultancy.

Financial Times: Twitter research promises trading success

However, because these tweets are effectively broadcast for global consumption they can be data mined.

Gorkana: To tweet or not to tweet

Current and potential clients of asset managers increasingly consume their news and conduct their research into new products on the web. The frenetic blackberrying of business people on commuter trains, in airports and by the pool on holiday are reminders of this trend.

Asset managers need to start experimenting and take some steps into the world of social media. At the very least, it is clear that social media is becoming an increasingly important communications tool for journalists and offers asset managers additional ways of communicating with its stakeholders in a very personal and interactive way.

USA Today: Wall Street traders mine tweets to gain a trading edge

Measuring investor sentiment has long been used by financiers as a tool to divine the future direction of stocks. But traditional tools are decidedly low-tech and less timely, such as the weekly polling of individual investors and financial newsletter editors to see how many are bullish and how many are bearish.

The skyrocketing use of chatty and highly trafficked sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has created a fresh, massive and useful warehouse of new data. Sophisticated investors view the mining of digital chatter via machines as a way to gain an edge.

Derwent Capital Markets, a London-based hedge fund, was so taken with Bollen’s findings that it will soon launch a fund based on the methodology in his paper.

StreamBase: Twitter and trading – a ripple in the big data wave

In these terms, all of Twitter generates only a sand castle of quality data a day. While some of that data is very valuable, such as tweets from CME Group (@CMEGroup), most of it simply tells us about mass sentiment. And because its open and available to everyone, it doesn’t provide an unfair advantage to the computers of Wall Street. On the other hand, the talk about Twitter does reveal the opportunity and challenge of big data.

Wired: CNN Money relaunches website, adds StockTwits for Wall Street Chatter

CNNMoney will begin pulling content from StockTwits’ network of 55 independent bloggers, Lindzon told Wired.com by phone. “Our goal is to make our stream richer with great content, not just tweets,” Lindzon said.

As Twitter has insinuated itself into so many aspects of our lives — as well as major industries, institutions and companies — Wall Street and the broader finance world have been somewhat behind the curve on harnessing social media. With its new redesign and partnership with StockTwits, CNNMoney clearly hopes to change that.

So what’s changed?

First, we’ve had an enormous amount of media attention given to social media companies and its use, from LinkedIn’s up and coming IPO to Facebook talking to Baidu of China to the Royal Wedding in London (infographic), it’s been difficult to escape the usefulness as well as widespread use of social media. In fact, many will argue social media is now the norm.

Second, we’ve seen the financial services industry show an interest in investing in social media companies. Clearly they see value in these organizations.

Third, I think as an industry we’ve had good direction and guidelines set by regulators that have helped define what is acceptable.

But those three reasons alone don’t necessarily justify the recent uptake and interest in using social media by the industry. The real reason as nearly every story above indicated comes down to one word: data. Information, sentiment, links and more on social networks are creating a mountain of data. We’re finally at a point where we have so much data about economies, companies and markets that it can be useful. For instance, just look at this chart generated by LinkedIn at the rise in the number of links shared on its network.

While some may think that the recent firehouse of data is just too much, smart companies will be able to wade through the information and data. Google Analytics is one way of doing this. Using StockTwits to follow your company is another way. Hootsuite also has recently updated its tools for users to better refine and measure effectiveness. And PR firm Cognito has recently launched its own tool for financial services companies to help monitor social media.

So what can a B2B company — not just a financial services company — do to navigate the data? First, have a plan. The best way to do this is to conduct a social media audit. Know what you want to achieve from using social media and more importantly what you want to find out. Second, search for the right tools. You will need to take some time to do this but a good place to start is searching through the Mashable site. In addition, make sure the tools you use fit into your overall branding efforts. Third, build your own social network. Connect with people at the companies you want to emulate and see what they are doing. I’ve always felt that benchmarking — not copying — against others in a variety of industries will help you think smarter. Finally, always remember the focus is on giving your followers what they want. This may take some experimenting but don’t be afraid of failing.

We’ll see in the coming months and year what other changes financial services firms make to their social outreach. Not only will the results of Derwent Capital be followed closely, but I think we’ll see an evolution (not a revolution) of financial services firms being more active in social media. Some great destinations to watch these trends unfold include The Financial Brand, IR Web Report, StockTwits and Visible Banking.

Let me know your thoughts, but more importantly your questions, on this this topic.
If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

Visualizing B2B Social media marketing

Finextra: The growth of social media in financial services

Is motivation the key to success?