SpaBusiness Article summarizing my talk at the 2010 Global Spa Summit:
Marc Smith - Social media, sensors and spa
Social media has become a major force, as people search for services or discuss choices online with friends. Building a social media presence is now as important as traditional marketing, so if you don’t already have them, create your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and flickr accounts today, if only to listen to what your customers, or competitor's customers, are saying about you.
Once you’ve done this, more active engagement involves linking,
blogging and replying to the people who are talking about you. This
can be demanding and new staff may be needed. You should join these
conversations because they’ll take place whether you contribute or
While there are costs in terms of time and expertise, there are also rewards, as you can access customer opinions more cheaply than through focus groups and with higher participation rates than surveys. You can also engage with influential advocates and enthusiasts.
Identifying key contributors in relevant conversations is the primary task of a social media strategy. Building a relationship with these central figures gives you greater reach and builds brand champions – the independent voices that can make (or break) your brand.
The science which enables us to understand the way all this works – Social Network Analysis (SNA) – is an arcane area of research that has traditionally required advanced maths and computing skills. That’s changing though, as new software makes analysing and visualising networks as easy as making a pie chart.
I work with the Social Media Research Foundation, a group dedicated to building open tools, data, and scholarship related to social media. The primary project from the Foundation is the 'network overview, discovery and exploration add-in for Excel' – the NodeXL Project for short – a free and open extension to the familiar spreadsheet.
Using NodeXL it’s easy to collect the network of people who have been
talking about you online. If you need to learn about a topic quickly,
you can identify key people and discussion areas and while search
engines can only deliver lists of results, Social Network Analysis can
answer questions like “are there sub-groups of people talking about me
and what are their interests?”
Not everyone who tweets about your brand is equally connected to other people: some voices are louder than others. In a few clicks it’s possible to build a map of a community and see who’s talking about a topic and who’s at the center of the discussion.
Networks come in many shapes and sizes and network theory is a collection of measurements that capture their dimensions. The ‘vertex’ count shows how many people are in the network. The ‘edge’ count indicates how many connections there are among them and the ‘degree’ count shows who has the most connections.
Some networks are shaped like a sphere, some are fragmented like thousands of shards and others are shaped like an hourglass, with relatively separate clusters. Some people act as the bridge, connecting two otherwise separate clusters. These ‘between’ people can be brokers or gatekeepers. Sometimes people are firmly at the center of their core, but have limited connections to other clusters. Each plays an important function in the social media environment, and effective strategies need to focus on the cultivation of the right balance between different roles and engagement with people in critical locations on the graph.
A few minutes in NodeXL will allow you to identify a network of relevance to your business, identify the key contributors, and collect the topics being discussed.
More than three billion people carry mobile phones, that are rich with sensors for location (GPS), motion (accelerometer), light (video), and sound (microphone), meaning new forms of data from these devices and the sensors within them can now be added to the mix.
Phones also have devices that pick up radio tags like RFID and can measure heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and even do glucose readings for diabetics. Health conscious, fitness-focused people are using these devices to track their workouts, with services like CureTogether, PatientsLikeMe, and products like FitBit being examples of this trend. Travellers are using cameras to snap pictures with geotags that link the picture to the location it was taken, while people with chronic illnesses can monitor and measure their vital signs and record dosages and responses.
Far from the secure world of private health information, social media has opened the door to millions of people broadcasting their vital signs to the world. How will spas respond when customers come to reception with terrabytes of their own health and activity data expecting customised service in return?