Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Gorilla Usability

Monday, March 8th, 2010

“Wait… if I read the title correctly… are you talking about how people should go about using a gorilla?!?” No silly… it’s a play on words. What I am talking about is a usability study that @michaelseidel and I conducted recently @AJBombers. I want to share how you can do usability studies without breaking the bank.

Traditionally, I have participated in usability studies that have been conducted in a lab. We recruit about 10-15 users and pay them about $100 each to come in and test a website in a lab while designers, developers and business owners sit behind 2-way mirrors and watch the subjects interact with a website. We double book each time slot to make sure we get a participant in every slot and we still pay the people we don’t use. We write scenarios for the users to walk though and we have a couple of usability specialists walking the users though the scenarios and taking copious notes. We analyse the results after each user and compile all the information into a recommendation document.

These type of sessions were the status quo in the past. Unfortunately, these sessions were expensive and time consuming. They were necessary at the time, but the 800 lb. Gorilla in the room (see what I did there) was the cost of these sessions. There may still be a very limited place for this type of testing; however, there is another way…

So here is what we did… We are working on a section of a website that has a search mechanism and refinement tools that help the user narrow the results based on criteria they select. The refinement tools could be placed in 2 different spots on the results page. We wanted to test what position gave the best user experience for these tools.

We didn’t have a lot of time to plan a full blown (gorilla) usability lab and we didn’t have the budget for it either. So what we did is turn to social media and offered free lunch.

We started kicking around ideas on how to get good user testing without breaking the bank when it hit us; we could turn to Twitter to recruit users for this and we need to set up the testing somewhere that is convenient for our local networks to meet. We also need some sort of compensation for these users time. We came up with the perfect spot – AJBombers.

I decided to contact Joe from AJbombers and bounce the idea off him. I told him that we were going to conduct a user study and test some options of a website. I also mentioned that we were planning on buying all our participants lunch at his place. He was more than happy to help us out, in fact, he was excited about it.

We started out by broadcasting via Twitter what we were planning to do and when. Joe helped us out by Re-tweeting it to his loyal following which spurred a good response. The great thing about this entire approach was we planned it on a Friday for the following Wednesday and we filled all the spots we were looking for with very little effort. A few tweets and some re-tweets and we were good to go.

On the day of the testing Joe gave us a prime location to set up so we could funnel users through during the time slots we had set aside and we had a great system for getting food and drink orders started with our awesome waitress “B the Tweetless.” while the testing was going on. I was completely amazed how smoothly the entire session went seeing as this was our first attempt at doing anything like this.

The test went great; we noticed that the atmosphere is more realistic in a setting like that compared to a lab environment. The lab comes off as clinical and stiff. This was relaxed and the users seemed more comfortable in this enviroment… less spotlighty. People were willing to have a conversation about what we were testing; it didn’t come across as a rigid question and answer session. The feedback we gathered was genuine and gave us insight into things about the site we weren’t even testing. It also seemed like people were more grateful with receiving lunch than paying them cash to come out to our lab. “This is it? This is all I need to do? I feel like I need to do more to receive a free lunch.”

The test was a major success. We were able to test 10 users over 3 hours and under $200 total. This method of testing is completely viable, portable, and cost effective. This will now become our preferred method of testing moving forward. Granted, there will still be times where we have to bring people into a lab because we are testing something bigger that takes longer to run users through, but I think those sessions will be fewer and further between.

Finally, I would like to extend a huge Thank You to Joe and his staff @AJBombers! They really helped us out and that place is truly the best usability lab on the planet.

Social Media’s Short Attention Span

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

The term OFN (Old Effing News) gets thrown around a lot on social media circles. Don’t come late to the party on things like celebrity news; people will be all over you — “that was so 9:30am.”

The funny thing about that is more people are getting gun-shy to share things for fear of being tagged with the dreaded OFN from their more sarcastic social media friends. The outcome of this behavior is the premature death of some topics that may need more of our collective attention then they receive.

Twitter has turned us into roving reporters and there is a sport in breaking the latest news. Unfortunately if you are the second or third person to tweet something, you have basically lost the game. (By the way I just lost the game.) So the natural reaction for some is to hold back the post they were originally going to send and hunt for a new, more recent tidbit to post, or just sit back and see the news roll in from others and not engage at all.

The other side of this effect is how this short attention span affects businesses. Good and bad. Take for example United Breaks Guitars. This thing hit You Tube and exploded all over every social media outlet. The video was played 3.5 million out of the gate and has been viewed 7.4 million times since it aired 6 months ago.

How did this affect United’s bottom line? There were reports at first that the airline’s stock price dropped 10% in the first 4 days of the song’s airing. But we came to find out that those numbers were greatly exaggerated.

Did United do anything to fix the problem? Not really… they addressed the problem with public statements and PR spin, but aside from that they made no “sweeping changes” to how they operate their business.

Do people still use United to fly? Absolutely… in fact, United barely saw a ripple in their overall lift because of this incident. One contributing factor to this is people moved on as fast as they jumped on this event.

The collective attention span of social media rivals that of mainstream media. Right now the biggest thing is the horrible earthquakes in Haiti. It was awesome to see the support and response via social media. At the same time lets hope the next “Tiger Woods” type incident doesn’t take over the collective social media conscious too soon… (I’m not holding my breath on that.)

By the way… please donate to the Red Cross for the Haitian earthquake victims.

Social Media Contests – Participation is Not Always Easy to Come By

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Give away something for nothing and people will say “yes please.” Give away something for almost nothing and people will say “what’s the catch.” By nature, people do not want to do a whole lot to get something especially if the activity will step outside the bounds of their normal daily routine.

A month ago I had the privilege of helping Funjet Vacations execute a Social Media giveaway. Some of you will probably remember me badgering you to go outside and make Snow Angels. If not, the premise behind the contest was simple – Funjet was giving away 10 all inclusive 4 night/5 day air and hotel trips for 2. All people had to do was go outside, make a snow angel, take a picture of it and post it to a special contest page. If they did that they were entered… pretty simple right?

Not really. In fact, it seemed extraordinarily difficult to get people to participate at all.

We decided at the onset of the contest to post the photos we received as soon as we could get them approved. The thought was two-fold: 1) People could use others photos as inspiration and motivation to do their own. 2) People could see how many participants there are and gage their odds of winning.

We blasted out messages, posts and updates for 5 days on the Funjet Facebook and Twitter accounts along with several of us using our personal accounts to do the same.

Our network reach on Facebook was roughly 2400 people with a multiplier of 160. (Multiplier = average number of followers owned by the original 2400 person network.)

On Twitter it was 3100 people with a multiplier of 340.

Doing the math… on the 1st level market reach Funjet was at 384,000 individuals for Facebook and 1.05 million for Twitter.

What do you think our total participation was? Wait for it…

313 total submissions over 5 days. Insert record skipping noise here. That’s right… a whopping 313. The odds of winning the contest at that participation rate were 1 in 30. Whoa! What happened? Was our messaging too obscure? Did we somehow make Snow Angels to difficult?

Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. Of the people who participated, one reason for not sharing with their networks was they didn’t want the competition. They wanted their odds to be as good as possible. This one I understand. I can see keeping the odds in your favor. I get that.

I surveyed some people in my network that didn’t participate to find out why, and what I found out baffled me. The main reason I got was that they had to do something to be entered. They weren’t just entered for becoming a fan or following Funjet. “It was too hard to enter the drawing.”

Really? Lying down in the snow for 5 seconds and flailing was too much to ask for? Taking a picture and uploading it was just too much heavy lifting?

Apparently yes. And, apparently if they weren’t going to do it themselves, they weren’t going to share it with their own networks and they were just going to ignore the rest of the messages coming though for the duration of the contest. This surprised me… maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did. I didn’t think asking people to make snow angels for the chance to win 1 of 20 all inclusive trips was too much to ask.

I was a bit disappointed, but on the flip side I learned a lot. It helped me tweak Funjet’s engagement and retention strategy to account for future promotions. I learned what type of promotions we should run depending on what is the end goal of the promotion.

Running social promotions are a good thing for your brand to do; you just have to have realistic expectations.

If you are running a promotion to gain additional followers and more brand awareness, use contests that keep people in their daily routine as much as possible. Have a “ReTweet” or a “Hashtag” contest that enters individuals into drawings for something as simple as ReTweeting a message and following you on Twitter or Hashtagging a phrase and tweeting it to be entered.

You can still run participatory contests and promotions. I do believe there is still a place for those types of engagements. If you already have a loyal following, you can use these types of promotions to roll out new products and services. Or perhaps use them to get people to use your products and services on a base level and upgrade in the near future.

Understanding your audience and their participation threshold is vital for planning social media promotions. These contests and promotions can be powerful brand loyalty and advocacy builders if you have realistic goals and expectations.

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