Social media surveys: do they work?

According to the 2015 Sensis report, 49% of Australians who access social networking sites do so everyday. It would be unwise of marketers and market researchers to disregard this statistic when considering how to reach consumers. Social media is an unprecedented market research tool; not only do consumers readily volunteer information, but it provides a means of directly contacting them in order to gain more insight.

Monash’s very own Torgeir Aleti and other researchers  considered this when undertaking their study. In order to better understand the drinking behaviours of Australians, they devised a method whereby they monitored Twitter for users who used certain alcohol-related hashtags and then directly tweeted them, asking for their participation in a survey in exchange for a $10 voucher.

Many unexpected issues stemmed from this method:

  • The researchers found that users were completing the survey more than once as a means of “gaming the system to reap the benefits”.
  • Given the answers were to be written as free-form rather than restricted responses such as a Likert scale, answers were often copy-paste and were not relevant to the study, thus rendering them unusable.
  • Twitter is a public platform; as such, users from America and China were found to be participating in the study when only Australian responses were required
  • Aleti had his Twitter account suspended several times due to spamming concerns from Twitter’s automated enforcement team

However, this is not to say that distributing surveys on social media is entirely ineffective. Consider the following positives:

  • Once the researchers refined their survey, they received significantly more quality responses from their target market
  • 68% of Internet users access social media sites; this provides the potential to reach a large number of Australians quicker and more efficiently than traditional means of distributing surveys
  • Responses, when genuine, are received as soon as the respondent has completed the survey
  • Distributing surveys via social media is cheaper than alternative means

So what do you think? Does distributing surveys via social media help or hinder studies? Let me know!







Viral videos; how do they happen?

How many times have you been scrolling your social media feeds and found one video that appears nonstop, with accompanying captions such as “I’m DYING *laughing crying emoji*”? Chances are, your curiosity finally gets the better of you and you watch the video to see what all the fuss and dying is about.

Should you find the video to your liking, you might tag a friend or two, or even share it on your own wall, thus spreading the video further. Such is the nature of viral videos. Like a disease, they infect all those within the vicinity of the already-infected, and can die down just as quickly. Whether the video is a clever marketing ploy months in the making or a split second occurrence captured on film, Kevin Allocca outlined three criteria which aid viral videos in becoming just that:


Back in 2010, Jimmy Kimmel tweeted out a video of a man overwhelmingly bemused by a double rainbow. This tweet caused an incredible spike in views and became a viral phenomenon. The video now rests around 43 million views; not bad for a guy who just loves nature.

This is what tastemakers do. They are people with a large following who introduce their audiences to new and exciting things, and create considerable attention in the things they post by doing s0.

Communities of participation

The Internet is a funny place, with the ability to encourage people to come together as much as it facilitates people tearing one another apart. However when people are brought together, it can become a wonderful thing.

Tish Simmonds became an unlikely and unusual star with her “I’m in me Mum’s car” Vine.

The strangely amusing video was viewed 147 million times on Vine and spawned thousands of parodies. This is the community of participation and its power; coming together over a mutual appreciation of a viral video and making it something much larger than it originally was.


Did you know that the Charlie Bit Me video was only uploaded to Youtube because the file was too big to be emailed to a friend? Or that “the dress” became a topic of debate because it was to be worn to a wedding and the woman sent a picture for a second opinion?

This dress is black and blue, debate over.

Sometimes the most popular viral content comes from nowhere, and therein lies its beauty.

So what can marketers do with this information?

  • Make it appealing: make the tastemakers of the world want to share it.
  • Make it shareable: have the content be something that communities can engage with and make their own
  • Be involved, but not too involved: by all means, plan the content you want to go viral to death. However once it is viral, take a step back. Don’t intervene with the virus.
  • Should unexpected viral content involving your brand pop up, capitalise on it: Vans took advantage of the phrase “damn Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans” by supplying the creators of the video with a lifetime supply of Vans on the Ellen Degeneres show. Genius.

So what do you think? How should marketers create, disseminate and control viral content? Should they even enter this arena at all, or let it happen organically? Is the dress blue and black or white and gold? Have your say.




The Internet of Things: Innovative or Invasive?


Back in 2014, the Pew Research Centre asked 1,606 experts that they regarded as technology builders and advocates whether the Internet of Things would have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025.

An overwhelming 83% said yes, while 17% said no. The vast majority seem to agree that, yes, the Internet of Things will have widespread and/or beneficial effects on our everyday lives in the next 10 years.
So what exactly is the Internet of Things? And what does it mean for our future?

Well, the Internet of Things is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the interrelated network of everything and everyone. And according to the experts, it there are a few implications for our future:

  • The IoT and wearable technology will improve significantly between now and 2025

The quality of real-time information that will become available will vastly reduce guesswork out of planning and decision-making.

  • Obvious concerns about privacy will arise from this collection and diffusion of data

College professor Peter R Jacoby wrote “we may as well inject ourselves into the Internet of Things…by 2025, we will have long given up our privacy”.

This claim echoes what many people feel; as we become more connected and more data is collated, how much control will we have over our lives?

However, it can be argued that our idea of privacy will change as our technology evolves.

“Our notions of privacy and sharing will continue to evolve as a result, with new tradeoffs needing to be understood and dealt with” – JP Rangaswami, chief scientist at

  • Information interfaces will advance

Better sensors, better technology and a better understanding of human capabilities will result in gesture and speech recognition so advanced that people will be able to express themselves fluidly.

However, this will only be effective if the device can decipher the difference between a random human movement and an intentional one.

  • There will be complicated, unintended consequences

Some experts argue that the kind of complexity caused by such a large network will be too difficult to evolve.

  • Those who are not and do not want to be connected will be disenfranchised

While the IoT may contribute positively to the lives of those in developed countries, it may drive a deeper divide between those in developed and those in developing countries. Furthermore, as K.G Schneider noted, “there will be an expectation that successful living as a human will require being equipped with pricey accoutrements”, and those who can not afford such things will be left behind.

  • Reactions to IoT from both individuals and companies will recast the relationships have with one another

This may well be a good thing. The Internet may empower people with the tools they need to protect their privacy. For example, while people may wear technology that signals to a particular shop that they are an existing and loyal customer, others may wear technology that signals their unwillingness to be followed.

For better or worse, it is generally agreed that the Internet of Things is inevitable. So what do you think? Should we be scared or excited for the rise of the Internet of Things? Let me know in the comments below.



Four I’s See More Than Two


Mobile social media has well and truly taken off to become an incredibly useful and personal marketing tool. Knowing the online habits of customers has created rapid growth in this relatively new industry, and has uncovered two pieces of information not available through any other channel; knowing consumers’ time and place.

Andreas Kaplan developed his four I’s of mobile marketing to assist companies in navigating this overwhelming terrain:

  • Integrate your activities into users’ lives, to avoid being a nuisance

As the world becomes more connected, privacy has become a larger concern. While computers can be used for business purposes, searches or transactions, mobiles are primarily used to communicate with friends and family. For this reason, companies undertaking mobile marketing should avoid disturbing and interrupting users, and should instead incorporate themselves and their activities seamlessly into the user’s lives.

  • Individualise your activities to take account of user preferences and interests

Mobile phones are primarily personal; they are rarely shared with another person. The advantage of this for mobile marketers is that it allows for highly personalised company-to-customer communications. One example of how companies can do this include customising messages based on the customer’s geographic location at any given time.

  • Involve the user through engaging conversations

The real-time responsiveness of mobile devices allows for ongoing and engaging conversations between companies and customers (whether current or potential customers). Effective mobile social media campaigns involve the customer in some way; this gives them a sense of contributing to the cause, and a sense of pride in the outcome. However, firms must be careful; if their campaign is negatively received, mobile social media will ensure the message is spread damagingly quick.

  • Initiate the creation of user-generated content

Even if a company does everything right regarding mobile marketing – that is to say, they’ve integrated into the customer’s lives, individualised their offerings and involved the customer in conversations – nothing will ever be as effective as word of mouth communication between customers. Therefore, the most important skill a firm can have to successfully market via mobile devices is to initiate the creation of user-generated content. Having customers discuss your product of their own accord is the only way to generate truly viral marketing messages; this in turn creates more user-generated content.

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An illustration of Kaplan’s Four I’s

Mobile marketing is undoubtedly the future of marketing. Its ability to personalise offerings to customers, and to obtain information on their buying habits in a way that has never before been available means it is imperative that firms know how best to market to mobiles.

The Art of A/B Testing

To truly maximize a brand’s online presence, it must consistently be measuring its success in attracting and retaining customers to its website and/or social media pages. Traditional means of measuring online presence include web analytics and SEO (search engine optimization, the process of affecting the prominence of a website in a search engine’s results). However, A/B testing is the innovative and still fairly underused way to understand consumers.

What is A/B Testing?

The premise is simple: a company has two versions of an element such as their website. Version A is often the existing design, and version B is the new design. The firm subjects both these versions to experimentation simultaneously by splitting website traffic evenly between the two. The company then measures the versions against metrics they care about (such as conversion rates or sales), and discovers which version performed better.

Is A/B Testing Really All That Important?

Put simply, yes and no. If brands know what they are looking for (e.g. how to increase conversion rates, or to discover what causes customers to abandon the buying process on their website), then it can be a powerful tool. If brands are not well-versed in the technical aspects of creating an A/B test, it is unlikely to harness any real results. Similarly, if they try to change too many things, this can cause confusion and frustration among site visitors, causing them to abandon the web page.

One such example of the ingenuity of A/B testing comes from Soocial, an online address book. They wanted to increase sign ups, and so added two tiny, seemingly insignificant words to their website, and increased their conversion rate of sign ups by 28%! Those two words? It’s. Free.

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Source: A/B test case study: how two magical words increased conversion rate by 28%

Examples such as these show how brands can delve deeper into understanding their customers and their online behaviours; even the most minor changes can improve a brand and its online presence.


Source: The Ultimate Guide To A/B Testing

How do “free” websites make money?

If, like me, you find yourself sitting at your computer every night at 11.30pm doing the work you could and should have done four hours prior and promising in vain that tomorrow night you’ll be in bed by 10pm, you know just how much of a rabbit-hole the Internet can be for those partial to procrastinating.

How lucky we are to have such a vast array of websites to entertain us, and without having to pay a single cent! But do you ever take the time to consider how these seemingly “free” websites can manage to stay afloat? If we’re not giving them money, who is?

The answer is really quite simple; firms generate revenue through their business model. While digital business models are complex in their ever-changing environment, Michael Rappa has developed this resource by which he illustrates the nine different types of digital business models.

Brokerage Model – brokers bring buyers and sellers together. Usually, they will charge a transaction fee or a commission. The most well known example of this is eBay

Advertising Model – this advertising model is an extension of the traditional media broadcast model. The broadcaster (such as a website) posts content mixed with advertising messages in the form of banner ads. Common examples of this are online newspapers such as The Age

Infomediary Model – this model collects and analyses data on the Internet. This data can then be used by firms to better understand its customers. The infomediary will often charge a transaction fee. An example of an infomediary is Nielsen.

Merchant Model – a retailer of goods and services, it can online version of a brick-and-mortar store. Examples include Coles Online

Manufacturer (Direct) Model – this model allows manufacturers to reach buyers directly; this compresses the distribution channel and reduces costs. One example of this is Dell Computers

Affiliate Model – this model operates by offering financial incentives to affiliated partner sites. For example, a small number of brands may trade banner placement among their sites, e.g. Barnes & Noble and

Community Model – users power the content on these sites. Revenue can be generated through voluntary contributions, or based on the sale of ancillary products. For example, Wikipedia will ask for donations from time to time.

Subscription Model – users are charged a periodic fee to subscribe to a service. Often, sites may combine free content with the option to purchase the “premium” service to access more content or better features. A popular example of this is Spotify

Utility Model – this model is based on metering usage, or a “pay as you go” model. It is based on actual usage rates, so differs from the subscription model. Certain Internet Service Providers will employ this model

Knowing these models, as well as their differences, sheds considerable light on the many ways the websites we perceive to be free can generate sizeable revenue.

Source: Rappa, M (2010). Business Models on the Web. Managing the Digital Enterprise. Retrieved from