Best practices for social media
Last week saw the release of the ‘2010 Social Media Benchmarking Study’ which looked at 62 different businesses from a variety of industries. Its findings gave a very clear message: 100% of these businesses had some involvement in social media.

Chart 

What was interesting though, was how this 100% broke down. As the chart shows, most companies are interested in social media enough to participate but they still need support from experts to do it effectively. Despite the different engagement levels within the companies, they still all had very similar objectives for social media: most notably, to generate word-of-mouth advocacy, and to develop close relationships with customers. This chimes with the findings of another survey from June, which found that 94% of companies were in social media to ‘increase awareness and interaction with the brand’.

Being relevant to your audience
AdAge produced a fascinating write-up of how Oreo and Blackberry are doing on Facebook and Twitter – with empirical evidence to suggest that people are much more interested in conversational updates, than out and out marketing. They produced the example of Blackberry’s Twitter, which on May 4th (National Star Wars day in America) tweeted ‘May the 4th be with you’. Brian Wallace from Blackberry was asked to justify why he was tweeting such a thing, but he pointed out that "the post reached over 150,000 people, 98% of the posts were positive, most tweets made a positive association with our brand, and it drove a 15% increase in our followers".

Similarly, Oreo is now in the top 25 most-liked pages on Facebook, having added over 3 million fans in the last month. Typical posts get over 12,500 comments – rivaling Lady Gaga in engagement. As the previous story shows, brands mainly aim to use social media for engagement; so writing updates which create conversation and a buzz, is clearly the way to go. Or as Brian Wallace put it:

"A Facebook fan has no value. Getting a Facebook fan to do something does."

New Facebook Page insights
The good news is, with the new Facebook Page insights, it will be far easier to track which posts generate the most engagement. The new insights make it possible to see the number of impressions a post had, as well as the amount of feedback – a very useful tool.

Facebook launches targeted publishing
On Wednesday, as a Thanksgiving ‘present’, Facebook launched targeted publishing via their API, which means those using third-party tools to manage their Pages can now send more relevant posts to specific users – for example, they can select only users from London, or only users that have German set as their language (or combinations thereof). Syncapse were the first to update their software so that their customers can utilise this, but Vitrue and Buddy Media followed suit soon after.

Facebook as a ‘walled garden’?
Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the worldwide web, has criticised Facebook and LinkedIn – among others – for trying to take control of the internet. He said that the web’s universality is being removed by Facebook, by it acting like a walled garden, in that it has a plethora of data about its users, but it doesn’t share it with anyone else. Other news this week put this in a different light, as a security firm as pointed out that just by having Facebook 'like' buttons installed on a site will mean that it's sharing potentially sensitive data with Facebook, even if a user doesn't interact with the buttons. And when the site in question is that of the NHS, you've got to figure they're right to bring it to our attention.

How do Twitter’s trending topics really work?
There was some degree of anger among Twitter users last week, that in spite of vehement protest against the hike in tuition feeds, #demo2010 didn’t trend on Twitter. As the graph below shows, it was receiving considerably more mentions than what did trend in the UK.

Trending topics compared with #demo2010

Adrian Short suggested it didn’t trend because the #demo2010 tweets were made up mainly of retweets, as opposed to the chatter around Gillian McKeith which was made up of far more organic conversation. While this seems a reasonable explanation, it still doesn’t seem right – perhaps Twitter should change the algorithm so the most talked about topics actually do trend.

Asics tie-in with the New York city marathon
Marathon runners often complain about hitting ‘the wall’ a certain distance through the marathon. Asics tried to help prevent this with a genius idea where the runners had RFID tags in their shoes, and when they passed readers at specific points on the course, they would then get a message of encouragement from their loved ones. As the video below shows, it worked really well.

M&M’s interactive game
M&M have been running a really cool game in Canada using social media to ‘find red’. Making use of Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, the competition gives tips to users to try and persuade them to go out and find real-life clues, with a first prize of a Smart car for the winner. Trouble is, I always preferred yellow…

eBay Challenge for Mummy bloggers
eBay have delved into social media again, by challenging 5 Mummy Bloggers to buy all their Christmas presents off eBay. They've given them £250 in their PayPal account to do so. A panel of judges will choose which of the five bloggers has done the best with the money, and they’ll receive a further £500 in their PayPal account. But the best bit is, that the winning blogger can choose somebody from their blog to receive £100 credit themselves. Expect the comment sections to be very busy!

Hitch-hiking to promote Vodafone Freebees
Vodafone were keen to promote their new Freebee SIM cards – which come with extra add-ons for topping up – so they challenged Christian Payne, to hitch from Lands End to John O’Groats using just five £10 SIM cards and nothing else; no money, and breaking the law wasn’t allowed. Unbelievably, he made it – with the power of social media – and you can read all about it on his blog or on the special social media aggregation site he put together.

Ted Baker’s live blogger challenge
Sometimes we have to doff our cap and appreciate some brilliant work. One instance of this, was Ted Baker’s blogger challenge - Take on Ted - where they asked 7 US fashion bloggers to create a style from the A/W collection. Trouble was, they only had 15 minutes to make their selection and they had to tweet their directions to @ted_baker while the actual styling took place in London. The viewers loved it, and more pertinently, the bloggers loved it. A job well done.

Mistaken Twitter user offered a free flight
The first Ashes test in Australia brought with it a brilliant story – an American girl with the Twitter handle @theashes, became incredibly annoyed as she kept on getting mentions about something she knew nothing about. The media coverage of her complaints snowballed, and ended up with Qantas offering her a free flight to Australia to see The Ashes. People are also now tweeting her on purpose, just to annoy her; but a word of advice: tweet @nathanmcdonald instead. 517 times. It works just as well.