Facebook adds location functionality with Facebook Places

Applications using the ability of smartphones and other mobile devices to pinpoint your precise location at any time have been a key topic for discussion amongst digital marketers over the last year or so, and were also something I covered in my Digital Fundraising Hot Topics Session at this summer’s Institute of Fundraising National Convention here in London (check-out from slide 52 onwards).

Up to now, a lot of the location-based application chatter has focused on the new breed of specifically designed location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla. However, it was only a matter of time before the global market leader in social networking responded. Hence, last week we saw the launch of Facebook Places – an extension to existing Facebook functionality that will enable smartphone wielding Facebookers to share their location with their Friends, be alerted when Friends are close by, check-in to specific locations, and share details of good places with others in their social network. For an introduction try the Facebook video above or this Mashable post. This new functionality was initially only available to US users, but is to be rolled-out to other countries over the coming months – going live in the UK on 17/09/10..

Naturally, the potential for Facebook’s 500 million-plus users to openly share their location as they travel around has only added to the already rising tide of privacy concerns related to social networking. However, despite such concerns (and the resulting advice to social network users to take more care over using profile settings so as to better manage their privacy), with Facebook now in the game there seems no doubt that the application of location-based functionality will now grow even faster than before. Indeed, Foursquare actually reported record numbers of sign-ups in the wake of Facebook Places being launched.

This addition to the ways in which social network users can connect with their friends – and brands can connect with social network users – is still a very new aspect of digital marketing. So it isn’t something that every marketer and fundraiser needs to be worried about having in their digital programme right now. However, case studies from smartphone-based treasure hunts to Foursquare-based campaigning are already starting to show how the technology might be used to create new ways to engage with consumers or supporters and it is certainly something you should be keeping an eye on to see how it might be usefully integrated with your digital communications over the next couple of years.

Great presentation on the emerging philanthropic web by Christine Egger of Social Actions

I had the very great pleasure last week of finally meeting face to face with someone who I can honestly say has changed the way I think about online fundraising over the last 18 months or so – that person being Christine Egger of Social Actions.

I first came across Christine and the work of Social Actions back in early 2009 when I blogged about their ‘Change the Web Challenge’. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to share ideas on open source thinking and the evolution of online fundraising and wider microphilanthropy through numerous email, Twitter and Skype exchanges with her – every one of which has left me with an excited “now I get it” feeling about what the future of online microphilanthropy might hold.

So, when the Institute of Fundraising asked Jason Potts and me to plan-out the Digital Fundraising channel for their National Convention here in London, Christine was naturally top of my list of ‘big thinkers’ to get onto the convention platform. Which is why we finally came to be having coffee in the Convention Hotel last Monday morning.

You can see Christine’s Convention presentation above – or even better view it on Slideshare here complete with full notes to help explain the finer intricacies of “Designing and aligning for the emerging philanthropic web”.

Grab yourself a cup of something, sit back, and take some time to think through the ideas Christine shared in her session – from understanding where open giving markets fit into online fundraising to ideas on how to design your own activities to take advantage of the way the philanthropic web is developing, it’ll be time very well spent.

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New digital tracking study reveals UK consumer views on promotional email and social media use

Last Thursday I was out at the launch event for the DMA’s Digital Tracker Study, a research initiative (backed by online research company FastMAP and email marketing company SilverPop) that aims to provide regular insights into some of the key questions online marketers are asking in relation to using email and social media use.

I’ve embedded a copy of the main research presentation above, so you can take a look at the top-line findings (or click here to view on SlideShare).

As is always the case with such research, some of the observations just confirm what most good online marketers know already – like the fact that traditional sales promotion techniques (money off or free delivery) work well in email.  But I did find some of the insights related to people’s use of Spam flags and also the difference between use of mobile devices to access emails and social media sites of real interest. Plus, there are also some great headline stats – like almost two thirds of recipients finding less than one in ten promotional emails of interest (which might explain some of the dismal click through rates many email marketers see).

Here are some of the insights that jumped out at me – but do take a look yourself and see if the results confirm or counter your own experience or current thinking:

  • 43% of UK adults receive over 20 promotional emails a week – so there’s lots of competition for attention in their inbox
  • 64% of people find just 1 in ten (or less) of these emails of interest to them – suggesting that if you can be truly relevant than you can really stand-out
  • 19% of people will flag your email as Spam if they feel they receive too many and 18% will Spam flag emails they don’t recall signing-up for- so make sure you send a memorable ‘welcome’ email in response to every sign-up and then watch your frequency if you don’t want your email campaigns blacklisted (although the more relevant and thus ‘valuable’ your email, the less frequency should be a concern)
  • A further 8% use the Spam flag instead of opting-out if the opt-out process seems too slow or unclear – so, again you’re risking blacklisting if you don’t make it as easy to opt-out as you did to opt-in
  • The majority of email is still read on desktop (67%) or laptop (49%) devices – but 11% of adults now also read them on mobile devices
  • Interestingly, this contrasts with 18% of people using mobile devices to access their social networks – suggesting a very different mode of use between email and social networks, which marketers need to take into account

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Much discussion about online fundraising at 2010 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress

I’ve finally reached home here in London after speaking at the 2010 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress over in Fulda last Thursday, having spent much of the last three days waiting for trains alongside countless other travellers stranded by the European air travel lockdown caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano. However, on the up-side, the unexpected land journey did give me an opportunity to see far more of the country than I would otherwise have done and it was certainly a great conference – with over 500 fundraisers attending, mainly from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

I was there to give a couple of sessions. One on Consumer Insight that you can find on my Strategy Refresh site, and the other on Online Community Fundraising that you can view above or on Slideshare.

It’s a really interesting time for online fundraising in Germany right now as adoption of social media is really starting to take off after a very cautious start, compared to the US and the UK (research findings on this are included in the presentation). With this a number of new German online fundraising websites have launched offering project-specific crowdfunding (like betterplace.org and  wikando) and personal fundraising pages (like Altruja). Much of the discussion during and after my session was about how quickly such sites might become popular with German consumers, and when German charities might be able to share online fundraising stories like those of the $93 Club in the US and little Charlie Simpson in the UK.

There were folks with pretty clear views on both sides of the debate. However, I think the majority opinion was that after several years watching other countries take advantage of social media in support of fundraising (Germany having been described as 5 years behind the US in social media adoption), the next couple of years look set to see online community fundraising start to take-off there. It’ll certainly be interesting to check-back at the 2012 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress to see just how things have evolved.

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Great turn-out at the Fundraising Ireland 2010 National Conference

I’m just back home after a flying visit over to the Fundraising Ireland 2010 National Conference in Dublin, where I was presenting a session about online community fundraising – the slides from which are available to view above or via Slideshare.

The conference was a sell-out event and the sessions I got to, as well as my own, were characterised by some really great interaction and questions – which reflected the great atmosphere at the whole event. Add to that the best conference lunch I’ve had in ages and the whole thing was a great success. So, many congratulations to the organisers at Fundraising Ireland. They’re a pretty new network for Irish fundraisers, and just announced that they are about to re-vamp their website as an Irish fundraising information portal as well as introduce a membership scheme. Without a doubt, well worth getting involved with them if you’re a fundraiser in Ireland.

One of the topics that was returned to a couple of times in discussions was the lack of useful Ireland-specific research on everything from giving trends to online usage. To help-out with the latter, here are the links to the latest freely available Irish online usage research I’ve been able to find – and which I quoted from in my session:

> Latest report from ComReg (the Irish Commission for Communications Regulation) a bit of a heavy read but does include the latest data on internet access in Ireland – published just this month: download it for free here

> Amarach Research Irish Life Online Report from Feb 2009: downloadable here

> Barry Hand’s blog post on the top Irish websites for Feb 2010: read it here

> Information on facebook user numbers in any country around the world: Checkfacebook.com

If anyone comes across any other recent research into the Irish online market – especially if it relates to social media use – then do let me know.

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Every big online statistic you’ll ever need (or at least quite a few of them)

I see quite a few online videos summarising the latest ‘state of the internet’. But this one from creative agency Jess3 (which I spotted in Fast Company) is particularly well done – and includes some fascinating data that you don’t normally see. Including a great history of key social media site launch dates (and closures) from 1995 onwards and some scarily big numbers relating to spam and virus activity.

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Social Media is not killing Email – so what’s your next excuse for not using Email as well as you could?

Each time we see a significant evolution in the way consumers communicate there is always a temptation to jump to the conclusion that the latest method will surely kill-off the previous methods. Presumably such predictions were bandied about after Alexander Graham Bell made his first telephone call back in 1876 – yet the mail service didn’t die-out as a result of the adoption of telephones. Rather more recently, there have been suggestions that email will kill-off traditional mail ever since I got my first email address back in the early ’90s (remember Compuserve?) – but it hasn’t happened yet (although that debate does continue).

As such, following the incredibly rapid adoption of Social Media over the last few years it’s not surprising that people are having the same discussions again – ‘surely if everyone is tweeting or facebooking then they’ll no longer be using email?’. Indeed, this was the very idea being put forward in a WSJ Tech Article I spotted towards the end of last year entitled: “Why Email no longer rules”.

However, it turns-out based on a growing body of research evidence that the rumours of Email’s imminent demise at the hands of Social Networkers are incorrect. Here are just a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean:

Firstly research from Nielsen back at the start of last year. This is particularly interesting because Nielsen analysts had previously gone on record stating that Social Media was more popular than email, based on a global analysis of internet usage. However, when they went on to do more detailed research examining just how Social Media use decreases Email use they actually ended-up disproving their original hypothesis and instead proved that social media use actually leads to increased Email use – as illustrated in the chart below. You can read more about their research here.

More recently, this same finding has been confirmed by US Relationship Marketing Agency Merkle in its ‘View from the Social Inbox’ report released just last month. Based on research conducted in late 2009, they too found that active social network users are more likely to be avid email users. With 42% of social networkers checking their email 4+ times per day compared to just 27% of non-social networkers (as shown below). You can download the full Merkle report here.

So, now that we have a growing body of evidence that Email is continuing to be a key online communication channel – despite the overwhelming popularity of various forms of social media – here comes the important question… Given Email’s continued, if not growing, importance – just how happy are you with the way you’re using it to engage with your supporters?

This question has been particularly front of mind for me recently as I’ve been working with two large UK charities to help develop their online fundraising strategies and in both cases opportunities to improve email use have offered some of the greatest income growth wins.

If you’re in the same boat, then don’t feel too downhearted – because you’re certainly not alone. According to the 2009 Adestra/Econsultancy Email Marketing Census, 72% of email marketers (from both commercial and non-profit organisations) admitted that they are not using email as effectively as they could – despite acknowledging that it offers the best ROI of any online activity other than natural search. Interestingly, as shown below, the top two reasons given for not using email effectively were ‘Quality of email database’ and ‘Lack of strategy’, with ‘Poor technology’ 7th in the list – reflecting the fact that many organisations now have access to the technology required to undertake pretty sophisticated email programmes, but their strategic planning has yet to catch-up:

With most of the online fundraising buzz these days tending to be focused on some form of social media activity, it’s good to be reassured that dear old email is here to stay – and, in the light of this, to be prompted to make time to consider whether you’re online income is suffering because you’re not using it as well as you could be.

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