In one image, why all hospitality venues should offer free WiFi NOW!

In a bid for the shortest blog post ever, we bring you this. In a single image, all of the arguments we have over and over with hotels, tourist attractions and similar businesses about why providing no (or chargeable) WiFi is shooting themselves in the foot.

So here’s the picture which is worth a thousand words: it appeared in Kate’s Facebook news feed recently.

If you need it spelling out, here’s the significance:

Why providing free WiFi is the single best piece of marketing spend you’ll ever make

That image was snapped by a contact of Kate’s, and put into a group for dog owners which she’s a member of. Pretty much all of the people in that group are more or less constantly on the lookout for quality places to stay which will also accept their hounds.

That hotel meets both criteria, and because of that post to Facebook has just been advertised, for free, to the most targeted group of potential customers they could ever dream of. Oh, and rapidly endorsed by several other people who all love the place too – social proof, much?!

For any hotel or resort owner, getting such a compelling advert in front of a large and relevant target market has got to be the ultimate victory. And yet the one thing they could do to make it easier – providing great Internet access – is all too often forgotten about or priced at a level which gets nothing but derisory laughter from their customers.

To really put the icing on the cake

Now that Facebook post being out there is obviously a great start. That particular hotel has also established a Facebook page, which allows the customer to tag them (provide a live link to their Page) in her post – even better, as potential customers are likely to click on it to find out a bit more.

If they were really savvy (and we’ve no idea whether there was any followup in this particular instance) they’d be replying to the lady in question and going all out to ensure her stay was as perfect as possible – since she’s just proved with that one post that she’s influential with, and connected to, exactly their type of customer.

It’s not rocket science

It really isn’t, is it? Make sure your customers can get easy internet access. Be present on the social media sites they might be using. Monitor those platforms, respond and capitalise where you can. So why are so many hotels still charging £10 an hour for WiFi and totally ignoring social media?

Of course, if your rooms are a candidate for The Hotel Inspector, you might have good reason to keep that router in the cellar. Real-time commentary on the mould in the shower isn’t going to do you any favours…but then the best plan might be to fix that, before you bother with any marketing at all!

Why Facebook Business Pages are no longer a free lunch

It’s not entirely true that there’s no such thing as a free lunch: sometimes there is, just usually not for very long. And so it’s proven with Facebook.

In the early days, business marketers really did get a pretty delicious free lunch on Facebook. They did all the hard work of developing and managing an infrastructure that would attract pretty much the biggest single audience in human history; all you had to do as a business marketer was show up, and create content that consumers enjoyed.

And  access to that massive audience was free; once you’d attracted some folk to Like your page, you could generally expect the Reach of an individual Post (ie, the number of people who saw it) to bear at least some resemblance to the number of Likers you had.

When is a Liker not a Liker?

Towards the end of 2012, many Pages saw that reach decline. This was down to changes in the Facebook News Feed algorithm (then called Edgerank).

Once a user is connected to sufficient people and Pages that there’s more content available when they log on than they’ll realistically read through, Facebook filters that content to try and present the user with the stuff they’ll find the most fascinating. The News Feed algorithm is the thing that does the filtering, and over the years has prioritised all kinds of different “signals” from the user as to what content they were going to enjoy the most.

The algorithm seems to get tweaked more or less constantly, although of course Facebook don’t give away too many details. But there was another big change at the end of last year.

Facebook says: spend some dosh or forget it

And unlike the last time we saw a major decline in post reach, when Facebook denied that this was a deliberate strategy, this time round they are very explicit that there’s been a deliberate shift in the algorithm in a way which basically reduces Page owners’ access to their Likers’ newsfeeds.

Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach.

They go on to state pretty categorically that you need to prepare to spend money, recommending that Page owners use

a combination of engaging Page posts and advertising to promote your message more broadly. Advertising lets Pages reach the fans they already have and find new customers as well. The fans you have matter. In addition to being some of the most loyal customers, fans also make the advertising on Facebook even more effective.*

Organic reach decline in pictures

They’re not kidding. Here’s what the change, which looks to have taken effect pretty clearly at the start of the December, has done to one of our clients.

This business has a Liker base of over 10,000, and we’ve been managing their page for over two years. Levels of engagement have been consistently strong during that time, but look what happened to their reach when the new algorithm cut in:

facebook business page reach decline

A quick glance shows that there’s been a reduction in peak reach from 5-6k per post, to around 3k. So yes, Facebook really mean business on this one.

What does this mean for Businesses on Facebook?

There are big implications this time. Here are our top ones:

Coming up with a strategy to gain targeted, relevant Fans is more vital than ever. Facebook paid media is frequently based on promotion to either your Likers or your Likers’ friends, so in either case having a solid Liker base to start with is crucial to getting value out of your paid media. If you’ve been running ill-advised contests which have attracted a huge Liker base of Indian ipad lovers when you’re running a nightclub in the UK, you’re now going to be paying for the privilege of showing your content to those people who will never buy from you.

It’s more important than ever to think carefully about whether you have the time, content and budget to make Facebook work for you. (In actual fact this is a blessing for both users and businesses – the overall quality of business-generated content should go up, as those businesses who don’t “get” the Facebook environment give up and leave, and businesses who were “dabbling” will refocus their efforts elsewhere and stop wasting time on Facebook.)

Relying on “viral” content shares just got even harder. If you don’t pay for visibility, you’re relying on even fewer initial views to generate shares and get your brand seen. Together with the difficulty of creating truly “catchy” content in the first place, your chances of making an impact are low.

But basically, this means that Facebook is now mature in terms of a clear business model: they provide the infrastructure and attract the users, you pay for access to those users – essentially the same as for any other web property. A business can still influence both the reach and impact of their Facebook presence (through a clever attraction strategy to draw in Likers, rigorous targeting for paid media, and ensuring that the content is up to scratch when it is seen);  but without setting aside a regular budget, the majority of organisations are not going to see results.

 

*full article text from the Facebook blog can be found here

Infographic – the state of social media in 2013

As you know we’re not always fans of infographics here, but this one has some really useful facts and figures, plus a good visual summary of how fast things can change – and how quickly one platform can get kiboshed by the arrival of a killer function on another *cough* Vine *cough*….

Just click if your tired post-Christmas eyes need some bigger font!
The State of Social Media 2013
The State of Social Media 2013 by Infographic Promotion

UK Social Media Statistics for 2014

Welcome to our third annual roundup of statistics for social media use in the UK.

The UK Social Media Landscape for 2014

As in previous years, this post is written using the best data we could find at the start of 2014, looking at demographics, overall user numbers, and any other interesting snippets we came across which suggest changes to how the major social media sites are being used, and who by.

Our sources* are listed at the end of the post, and we have been selective in some cases to try and highlight the most recent and / or credible information.

UK Facebook Statistics 2104

Facebook’s growth period has clearly come to an end, with Comscore reporting an end of december 2013 user base of just over 31 million users – 31,456,000 to be precise. This time last year the figure was around 1.5 million higher.

We think this is to be expected given how long Facebook has now been around, although as usual the media stories predicting its demise are in abundance. Facebook is now unarguably “mainstream”, with effectively half the UK population having an account, and the corollary of that is that it’s no longer “cool” for the younger generation – and probably hasn’t been for a couple of years at least.

Brands looking to target very young or fashion conscious individuals will certainly be needing to look elsewhere, although there are still approximately 2.5 million 13-17 year olds using the site. The largest demographic remains the 25-34 year olds, with just under 26% of all users falling into this age bracket. Regardless of what the teens are doing, this remains the single largest concentration of consumers on any social media platform, so businesses writing Facebook off do so very much at their peril.

UK Twitter Statistics 2014

Twitter is a platform where, this year, we do have some pretty accurate and up to date information. Twitter’s outgoing CEO announced a figure of 15m users in the UK last September. Growth remains steady but not especially fast, as the previous confirmed UK figure was 10m, in May 2012.

Twitter has also told us that almost half of its users worldwide prefer to read, rather than send out tweets themselves: 40 per cent of users worldwide simply use Twitter as a “curated news feed of updates that reflect their passions”. This is well worth remembering when it comes to setting goals for a social media presence; a significant proportion of your audience are never going to respond to you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t absorbing your content.

Also, we know that 80% of Twitter users are active on mobile devices, the majority of these likely to be Smartphone users. Again this has significant implications for effective business use of twitter, for example taking into account the differences in presentation between native Twitter imaging and third party services such as Instagram.

Twitter is also becoming increasingly part of the fabric of everyday life for many. This was perhaps best illustrated towards the end of 2013, when the Twitter Alerts service was launched into the UK, providing direct access to all key public agencies’ critical information updates in one place.

LinkedIn in the UK 2014

Since the big announcement of passing the 10m UK user mark early in 2013, LinkedIn has been quiet on the subject of UK growth. Data provided by analysis of traffic to the site (note – NOT user numbers, but at least we can see the direction of travel) suggests little change over the period, with page views staying steady at just over 60m per month.

However, there seems to be a change in the way that the site is used. Recent research from Econsultancy suggests that LinkedIn is responsible for 64% of visits to corporate websites from any social media site, streets ahead of Twitter. Of course, this is partly to be expected as LinkedIn is much more of a “big business” environment, but it is interesting evidence of success in connecting big corporates to the social media world; it also reflects the shift in use from LinkedIn as an “online CV repository” to a more function-rich career development tool.

Another significant development this year has been the push towards recruiting from further and higher education. LinkedIn has reduced the minimum age limit for its accounts to 13, and is providing enhanced functionality, including Alumni search, to woo higher education establishments into spending more time on the site. Presumably the hope is that with an early introduction to LinkedIn, young professionals will accept it as the “de facto” place for networking and business knowledge online.

Google Plus in the UK 2014

*Sigh*. Still no sign of any kind of confirmed user stats from Google, despite the fact that, given they track pretty much everything we do on the web these days, they must have a pretty clear idea of who’s doing what.

To add insult to injury, Google UK’s head of agency declared that the latest set of stats “would blow your mind” – that was towards the start of last October. Either the stats weren’t as mindblowing as expected or Google have judged that the world just isn’t ready for them yet, because as far as we can tell, we’re still waiting.

One third party study claimed G+ to be the second most active network, but with the blurring of YouTube, Gmail and many other site logins with Google + user IDs, we’re just not convinced that’s nearly as good as it sounds. And if it is, why aren’t Google shouting about it?

Lets hope that 2014 is the year that Google + finally releases some detailed, meaningful figures about exactly who is visiting specifically the Google + site (as distinct from any of the other Google properties sharing the same logins), and what they are doing while they’re there.

Biggest growers

Pinterest is very much the platform of the hour, with huge growth and a lot of innovation happening during the past year. The last time we had UK user stats they were tiny, at around 200,000 users – these figures date from late 2011/early 2012. Recent data puts the number at over two million, at july 2013. Still not huge compared to the Big Three, but if your organisation is right for Pinterest then that’s more than made up for by the levels of sharing and direct sales that the site is driving.

Pinterest is introducing many new features, including “Place pins” to encourage “dream trip” planning and “article pins” to create virtual reading lists. It continues to show levels of enagement and sharing that other social sites can only dream of; around 80% of Pins are re-pinned from elsewhere on the site.

Instagram also continues to show good growth, with 150 million global users in late 2013 representing an increase of 15% in just two months, and the introduction of a video option may well threaten the ongoing growth of Twitter-owned Vine. But once again, UK specific figures are nonexistent at this stage, making it difficult for UK businesses to evaluate where, or if, Instagram fits into their online strategy.

The new, shiny and trendy…

Aside from Pinterest and Instagram, the new(ish) platforms being talked about most at the start of 2014 are enhanced messaging apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp – particularly amongst the youngest demographic (13-20). Both of these continue Instagram’s trend for mobile-only services, ie they were designed and initially released purely for use on smartphones.

Snapchat in particular is a direct response to young people’s concern about digital legacy – putting content onto Twitter, for example, which will be archived for all time and may come back to embarass or otherwise trouble you later in life. Snapchat’s USP is that users can set a time limit for the availability of each post they make; expired posts are deleted from the app’s servers.

User statistics are notoriously hard to come by – much to industry amusement - on a global scale, let alone for the UK. We know that globally the 13-20yr olds are the core audience, and that 70% of users are female. There are also some interesting, if admittedly speculative, calculations around volume of use here.

WhatsApp can be thought of as a text / image version of Skype; it uses a (free) internet connection to send and recieve text, image and video messages which would otherwise be chargeable on a smartphone. Unlike Snapchat, only those in the user’s Contact directory can view profiles, and communication is one-to-one;  there is also no “follower” type option which allows strangers to view content not directly intended for them, so really it is a messaging rather than a social media app – just worth a mention as, often, the two apps are mentioned as if they are interchangeable.

 

 

*our sources for this post include the following:

www.comcast.com

www.socialbakers.com

http://booleanblackbelt.com/2013/07/linkedin-traffic-statistics-and-user-demographics-2013/

http://blog.globalwebindex.net/google-in-depth/

http://semiocast.com/en/publications/2013_07_10_Pinterest_has_70_million_users