Archive for September, 2009
September 25th, 2009
B.L. Ochman at Whatsnextblog did a great post this week titled â€˜The Top Six Reasons Companies are Still Scared of Social Media’ it also made it onto Ad Age and has been shared on Twitter repeatedly.
The post is spot on in my opinion, and I especially related to points 2 and 3 from personal experience:
Haters will damage our brand.
“What about the haters?” is the first question that comes up at my corporate and conference social-media workshops. “What if people say bad, mean, nasty things about our brand?”
Well, there may be things you need to change about your brand, and in that case, you should thank them for letting you know what they are. Then you should make changes.
If you have built an online community that includes people who don’t hate you, that community will rise to your defense and they will handle the problem for you.
We’ll lose control of the brand.
Listen up: Every person with a computer and even a tiny skill level has the tools to make their opinion about your brand heard by other people. They’re already talking about you.
Message control is an illusion. Give it up.
Your workers are talking about you in closed Facebook groups designed to keep you out so they can talk about you in peace. Your customers are e-mailing, using Twitter and Facebook, and — that old standby — calling their friends about their experience with your brand. You don’t have control. You might as well join the conversation. At least that way you can influence what is being said.
The fear of losing control, or at least the illusion of control as B.L. rightly puts it, is probably the most common fear I’ve heard from brands, closely followed by this imaginary pack of angry customers that are just waiting for a brand to embrace social communications so that they can tell the world a pack of lies, or perhaps the truth – which could be worse.
To be honest, in the last six months or so there has been a dramatic drop in the fear factor in terms of the brands we speak to. This maybe because we’re talking to more digitally savvy brands in fairness, but I still think the fear factor is an issue, which begs the question: why?
Are there really that many horror stories out there about brands being bitten by social media? Not that I can find. There are stories of brands dipping an uneducated toe into social media and being bitten. Or worse still thinking they know it all and jumping in and quickly drowning. But this shouldn’t create fear of social media. It should promote awareness of taking social media seriously and investing the time into getting it right.
This is quite simply an education gap. We need to help to educate brands that this isn’t an either/or question, you can’t really opt out and say â€˜nah, social media isn’t for me’, because the conversation is happening with or without you and the longer you bury your head in the sand the more opportunities you are wasting.
If you think there aren’t complaints out there it’s not because they don’t exist and you’ll be opening the flood gates by engaging with your community, it’s simply because you’re not listening. Whenever we run social media training sessions we do a quick audit on what’s being said around the brand in question and they are usually blissfully unaware of most of it.
So don’t confuse the issue, your brand has no choice in the situation. By not engaging you might as well be sitting in a room surrounded by your customers; some of whom are complaining, some of whom might be asking questions and others who may actually be praising and helping you, but all you are doing is shutting your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting ‘la, la, la, I’m not listening to you!’
Surely that’s much more frightening for a business than opening your eyes, uncovering your ears and starting a conversation? It’s a simple lesson, but one that still needs to be learnt.
September 22nd, 2009
You may or may not have noticed that the Five on Friday – five fabulous web tools and sites of the week series has not been updated for the last few months. If you have never read any of the 5 on Friday posts it was basically my take on the hot web 2.0 sites that had popped up that week and tickled my fancy, and as with all social media, I shared my findings with you guys.
The SPANKING NEW Weekly Social Media sites, tools and posts round up, takes the old format a stage further. I will keep the top tools, add in some top posts and maybe mix that up with a sprinkling of SEO, and as always it will be presented on a Friday.
Enough of the chat, lets get down to the links and recommendations.
1. Epulze is a search engine for individuals and organisations that can be easily monitored, tracked and analysed, including the sentiment result for one or more subjects or topics.
2. Brands In Public is an online dashboard/aggregator that pulls together the latest news and conversation about a brand via a series of tools such as Google Trends. Brands in Public comes from Seth Godin the guy that bought you Squidoo.
4. Twitvid. This is a nice, simple, and easy to use site that showcases your video via Twitter. You can also share your videos to YouTube, Facebook and MySpace from the site.
5. Rank Speed. In their own words” RankSpeed is a search tool that does a sentiment analysis on the blogosphere / twittersphere to find the best websites, the most useful web apps, the most secure web services, etc…”
Top SEO post: 100+ Search Marketing Resources to Learn SEO & PPC
That’s your lot for this week, see you next week!
September 18th, 2009
The debate on how Twitter will turn its phenomenal user-base success into hard cash is bubbling along nicely and last week it changed its terms to allow it to implement targeted advertising across the site.
Twitter is also planning to launch commercial accounts to entice business users to pay for premium services such as detailed analytics. That should go some way to explaining its current $1bn valuation but Gordon MacMillan is right to question the valuation, compared with revenues now and projected.
In the meantime a few pecuniary pioneers have been working the angles to find ways to make money with 140 characters.
The commercial imperative has, as we know well, attracted big brands to tweet with a marketing eye firmly fixed to the return on investment. Twitter has generated for Dell, at the last count, more than $3million on reburbs, scratch n dent, and upselling. All very good.
But what about the individuals who see a revenue stream flowing from their reputation and follows? Itâ€™s been growing over the past year and the ad network models are emerging to service the demand, along with redirects to user sites (ad fests), redirects to affiliate links, promotions, sponsored reviews etc.
Magpie, based in UK and Germany, and adCause â€“ a network with a charity twist – insert advertisements directly into your tweet stream. Twittad puts ads on your Twitter profile page. You will post your Twitter profile to the ad network sites and advertisers will bid on or purchase advertising space from you, with price and types set by you.
US-based Izea is a self-styled â€˜world leaderâ€™ in sponsored conversations and the company has been building its revenue base on this marketing principle since 2006. Brands provide financial or material compensation to bloggers in exchange for posting social media content about a product, service or website on their blog. IZEA says it has promoted around 1 million sponsored conversations.
Top blogger Jeremy Shoemaker has been running sponsored tweets for more than a year, being paid $200-500 per tweet from large big brand advertisers like Blockbuster, Seaworld. An unnamed search engine paid him $280 per tweet for up to four tweets a day every 4 hours ($1120.00/day).
He also makes money arbitraging Twitter traffic by buying traffic from revtwitâ€™s Twitter advertising network and sending it to Izeaâ€™s Social Spark Twitter advertising opportunities.
Another take on the revenue ramp-up comes from Happn.in (), which collects and aggregates popular phrases used on Twitter within 20 miles of major cities then sells them to advertisers for between $4-$10. The ten most popular phrases each hour are posted to the site, and are tweeted four times a day to the Happn.in Twitter account for each city. They have a following of around 210,000 people in 96 cities around the world.
Thereâ€™s not enough space to cover every commercial play but interesting start-ups include US-based Social Cord that allows fans of bands, brands and writers to pay for and receive premium content via Twitter and SMS.
And letâ€™s not forget the Twitter app revenue stream – Tweetdeck raised around $500,000 in investment while rival Twhirl was bought by video comment startup Seesmic and Twitter itself snapped up Â Summize to rebrand as Twitter Search.
I personally would not be comfortable with the ad network/sponsorship route â€“ Twitter is a fragile eco-system and the reputation-trust badge is hard-won and easily lost. In the Twitter market democracy, the Unfollow button is never far from view. I like a bargain and donâ€™t mind commercial Twitters (we help companies too!) but Iâ€™d be pressing the off switch on an account that pinged me ads or sponsored links â€“ I like a conversation without the background noise of the cash register.
September 17th, 2009
This week has been a very interesting one. Among a number of realisations that have hit me, has been the real sense that digital skills are finally being taken seriously and valued by the PR industry.
You might say this has been taking place for some time, and you would be right in many sectors, but in terms of digital creeping up the agenda for the PR industry as a whole, and being invested in, it’s been a slow and frustrating process.
So what has changed? Well, there have been a number of ongoing conversations around the importance of social media and understanding the digital landscape this week. For example, PR Week published the findings from research by the Oriella PR Network’s European Digital Journalism Survey 2009, which shows that: â€˜the digital revolution in the media has created more opportunities for PR professionals. Specifically, of the 354 journalists that were polled for the survey, 40 per cent said they were expected to produce more content and almost 29 per cent had less time to research stories in person.
The poll also found that many of the journalists surveyed said that the impact of digital had changed journalism for the better. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents said that the quality of their organisation’s journalism was ‘better’ or ‘much better’ than before and only 20 per cent felt it had declined.’
So knowledge of digital is an essential part of any PRs tool kit.
Furthermore, the recent Digital Readiness report, which Jason Falls originally blogged about last month and Fiona Mackenzie, overviewed this week, looks at the strategic and tactical digital communications skills that employers are seeking from public relations and marketing job candidates. This is a report dedicated to getting PRs skilled up in digital and social media.
Perhaps the most telling piece that brought me to my conclusion was the post that Adam Singer posted on Top Rank Blog, which was later reworked by Lee Odden on Brian Solis’s Blog. This looked at the skills and capabilities that are needed to succeed in a digital environment and the questions that brands should be putting to their PR and marketing partners to make sure they can deliver.
All of these posts have excellent and insightful comment that I agree with, it’s very positive to have so much emphasis placed on real social and digital understanding and skills, and the abilities of agencies to deliver on these skills. Moving away from just saying â€˜we do social media’ or hiring in one individual responsible for social media across the agency, but going beyond the offering and looking at the practical implementation of services and the importance of SEO and web development skills.
You might say that Brian Solis and Lee Odden talking about the importance of social media is no surprise, they have been doing that for years, but what interested me is the depth of investigation and conclusions that are wide ranging and go beyond the social media evangelists alone.
We’ve all seen a dramatic rise in the number of agencies and â€˜specialists’ offering social media services over the last few years, and assuming these people are putting the work into understanding their environment, including the basics of search and web development then it’s a positive move indeed. However, we’ve also seen a lot of agencies talking the talk but not walking the walk.
For example, A few months ago we were invited to pitch by a brand that was looking to change their PR partner. When I asked why the brand was looking for a change their answer was simple: The incumbent agency had done a great job to date and achieved excellent traditional PR results, but the brand wanted to step up its focus online and needed an agency that could deliver social media services, something their existing partner could not do. This seemed straight forward enough, but I had already looked at the existing PR partner’s website before the meeting and smack bang in the centre of the home page was a big push on their social media offering. So why the disconnect? Had the agency forgotten to tell their client about their services, or was it a case that the reality was very different to the promise?
So, I support the discussion around skills and implementation, I welcome brands being forearmed with specifics to reference in a meeting scenario with agencies because I hope this will truly show the PR industry the importance of not just advertising social media services, but actually having the skills to back it up.
September 16th, 2009
Yahoo is set to unveil a major marketing campaign to change consumer perception of the much troubled brand during Advertising Week in New York. So where does that leave meme if people already think Yahoos product’s are dire? We shall try and figure that out!
How does it work?
Basically, like Twitter, you follow users and their updates are pictured on your wall, users follow you and inturn they get your updates.
You can comment on any updates, in anybody’s profile, whether you are following them or not, it also allows you to re-post or re-tweet if you like the update.
Other things you can do with meme
- Insert a video URL from YouTube or Vimeo and share
- Upload or link to a photo and share
- Link to an MP3 file on the web and share
When adding one of the above you can also write a description to go with it.
What is it most like?
The application I would compare it to is a lightweight version of Tumblr
What would I like to see added?
Meme is currently in Alpha but I’m surprised there is not some sort of Flickr tie in, hopefully that will come in the future. I would also like to see some sort of bookmarklet, to allow you to bookmark multimedia elements without having to copy and paste them. Yahoo also needs to open up meme to third party developers so that they can start creating applications for it.
Is it a Twitter killer?
Silly question, well not at present anyway. One question I will ask though: if the two products had been released at the same time, who would have come at on top?Â As a basic platform with no 3rd party apps meme has more features than Twitter.
What do I like about meme?
I like the boldness of the design and the ease of use of the site. I also like the wall element, its very visual and works especially well with hi-res photos.
Mark out of 10
Top marks for having a go but ultimately only a 5, this space is heavily dominated by Twitter and unless they have some new ideas instead of re-packaging old ones I can see a story in Techcruch with the headline ‘meme now deaddead!’ You never know with the technology space though and i’m sure there will be more to come.
September 15th, 2009
Two articles in the Observer this weekend about history and the way we think now were more than a little chilling. Polly Curtis writes that thousands of UK pupils are being allowed to drop history at the age of 13 and three out of 10 schools no longer teach it as a standalone subject.
Tim Adams tells us in the same issue that in all fields of arts, there is a growing reluctance to engage with the present and instead to escape into the past.
To me, thereâ€™s a pristine contradiction apparent here. On the one hand, we seem to be accepting that history is not absolutely essential as a field of study that all children should be encouraged to play in â€“ one that feeds creativity in so many different ways and encourages (if taught well) inquisitive, enthusiastic and balanced ways of thinking.
On the other hand, we fear the chaotic present and seek solace in an aesthetic that feeds on the past, a conditional and partial view that does not bear rational historical inquiry. Retro can be playful, but itâ€™s rarely executed with any innovative style and induces a profound sense of dislocation because itâ€™s not what we are. I feel repulsed by the Beatles computer game and the disinterment of the back catalogue because it does not inform my present in new ways.
But that does not mean that I find the past repulsive, quite the opposite. Learning new things about the past and knowing how to work with that information is a skill I was taught with great passion at school (thanks Mr Steynor) and has stayed with me ever since. It gives me a grounding, a tool for measurement and analysis, and a sense of time and place.
We could forget to teach classical and medieval history â€“ maybe that would not matter so much. But to ignore the study of the richest period of all time â€“ that embraced by modern history â€“ is beyond belief. The past century has surely been the most profound and creative period in recorded history, with so many new forms of creativity and questionable aesthetics to be debated and enjoyed. We should also be bearing witness to the degradations of extreme politics and economics â€“ and remembering the lessons from those appalling experiments.
Our digital economy depends on truly creative stimulus â€“ and in this process, the fission and fusion from the study of history that feeds minds is absolutely necessary.
Actually, Will Hutton in the same edition of the Observer makes a passing point in his bravura defence of the rightness of having a huge national debt with a comment on the fact that the UK is catching up with competitors in innovation. While his main point was about science, the argument should be extended to include the arts. And history is a fine balance between both. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s worth teaching.
September 11th, 2009
This week marks the third anniversary of the launch of Liberate Media’s blog, which naturally got me thinking and reminiscing about the launch of our company and how the environment around PR, social media, and everything in-between, has changed over the years.
Casting my mind back to 2006, I know it’s really not that long ago but play along, social media as an opportunity for brand communications and an opportunity for the communications industry at a whole was still at a very early phase of development. Sure, we’d experienced the now infamous and much discussed Dell Hell case study, so the evidence was mounting on the effect and power of online communities, but only a small percentage of agencies and brands were experimenting, let alone embracing social media.
From personal experience I’d discussed the effect of social media on PR with my then boss, who assured me that it was just another fad and â€˜nobody cares what I’m doing every minute of the day’. That kind of summed up the traditional PR agency approach at the time, which is why my co-founder and I decided to get out fast and set up our own consultancy that would embrace social media and any other medium that helped us to embrace a more community driven and conversational approach to PR, rather than the hard sell and â€˜who cares what a few nutters think’ approach that had done so much damage to PR over the preceding years.
Admittedly, over the first year or so it was trial and error with social media, but wasn’t it, and in fact isn’t it still, the same for everyone? Clients were not as willing to invest in social media and generally experiments with projects were as far as we were allowed to take it with many brands. The main issue was education and evidence, the move from traditional marketing to understanding a social environment was a huge leap and the good old ROI question became an excuse not to engage in some quarters, rather than a real search for measurement as it is in many others, even though the ROI of traditional PR was questionable at best.
As brands became more comfortable, saw more success stories and understood the benefits of engaging with their communities the debate moved beyond making a case to prove social media, at least for the pioneers, and leaned more towards experimentation and development to find the best way of building campaigns. In reality there was and is no handbook, no real experts or gurus who have it nailed, although some like to label themselves as such, what we have is development and learning, those with more experience and those with less.
What has changed is the belief in social media and the hunger to get involved. Now the cynical may say that the explosion of those people offering social media services, from web developers to PRs, to social media specialists to SEOs to digital agencies, advertising agencies, and their mothers, over the last year or two is because there is money to be made, and the simple economics of the situation would back that up. However, in too many of these cases each person/agency/company that has a rightful claim to be involved in developing a relevant element of social media is in fact trying to stake a claim for ownership, even though they know in their heart of hearts they can’t do it all. Social Media should belong to PRs/digital agencies/SEOs/ (delete as appropriate) well it shouldn’t, it doesn’t and it won’t.
The one thing that social media has proved to me over the years is you can’t fake it, at least not for long and those that are trying to own social media are missing the point. To understand social media and therefore operate with in the spectrum of skills required to run relevant campaigns you need multiple skills, not just marketing/PR/digital/search/content but all of it.
That’s where I believe the evolution will take place over the next three years. Not in one sector taking ownership, but a new sector developing, not just of people who â€˜get it’ but of those that forget ownership and build skill sets not just departmentally but as individuals, who understand PR/content development/search/digital as a whole and those that can become actual social media consultants not just pushing budgets towards their slice of the social media pie.
So, I said at the beginning that this post will be a look back at the development of social media and PR over the last three years, and I’ve banged on about social media in the main, mostly because I feel that is a large part of the future of PR. Traditional PR, in my opinion, will still be relevant, just as search and the many other digital disciplines will remain relevant, but as a part of the wider offering. The confusion begins when we refer to social media as the online aspect of the campaigns we run, the conversations we have and the development of community only online. At its heart the social aspect doesn’t have to be online. One of the most natural parts of human behaviour is the need to be social and communicate, and not just online, the theories are relevant to communications as a whole.
This is where I believe we are heading, to a new space outside of petty bickering about who is right and who started it and who owns it and blah, blah – who cares? It’s really not a hard concept: we listen, we understand we get involved by being useful and develop relationships and reputation. I think that’s a pretty relevant description of social media online or offline. Although it probably will become redefined, relabelled and rewired, that’s where we need to be heading as communications professionals, be that online, offline and everything in between.
Will we get there in the next three years? Probably not, but we’ll keep experimenting and improving.
September 10th, 2009
The schools and colleges are back in full swing as young people dust off the summer sand to prepare for the next stages of their learning journey. Very soon, students will be returning or taking their first steps in our universities. Itâ€™s always a vibrant time with hopes and expectations tussling with fears and anxieties in young minds, this year maybe more than ever with the recession still corroding the employment market.
Conversations with academic friends this summer have intimated how university and college students are asking blunt questions about the value of their degree in relation to the jobs they hope to hold when they complete their studies. And throughout the long vacation, Iâ€™ve also seen the first signs that the political parties are revisiting their education agendas, partly in preparation for the coming general election early next year but also in response to the crisis of cash and confidence that is rapidly developing.
The Government goal of having 50 per cent of young people in higher education cannot be achieved now and Lord Mandelson has re-opened the debate on the social mobility role of elite universities, while also signalling an end to the cap on fees.
Equally important, the Government has again pushed the higher education agenda towards acceptance of more â€œat homeâ€ students, studying part-time or taking two-year degrees. Is it also time to make a radical change, not turning back the clock to the â€œsecond-classâ€ polytechnic system (even though most of those institutions succeeded brilliantly in their mission) but accepting the economic and cultural necessity to have a degree-standard vocational education sector?
Students struggle with increasing debt, unlikely now to fall in the future, are right to ask about the economic value of their studies and qualifications. In digital education, itâ€™s a given (whether backed by relevant research or not) that many degrees are not worth the e-paper they are written on. Produced in haste by university departments hustling for more students (=more cash) to please their masters, these courses often do not provide the digital sector with the graduates it needs.
And they are desperately needed. As Danielle Long writes in her recent Long View for New Media Age, there are rising vacancies in the UKâ€™s digital industry and in the magazine itself Suzanne Bearne and Will Cooperâ€™s recent cover story focusses on the need for the sector to implement a more aggressive recruitment strategy.
That means attracting talent from a wide pool of graduates but also means accepting the high cost of training most of them. Surely there is a better way that gives undergraduates the degree education they want and need â€“ a model built on the successful German Fachhochschulen model or more broadly the Australian Vocational Education and Training system. Would this provide more fulfilled professionals with the skills and attitudes companies in the digital and the whole economy need?
Whatever the reformed education model looks like, there is likely to be a mismatch between what the economy needs and wants â€“ and what it will get when the public sector recession starts to bite next year.
All the more galling then to read the OECD annual report released this weekÂ comparing education systems internationally. It makes a strident call for governments to spend more on higher education â€“because the positive economic benefits alone are compelling.
Despite the rather self-satisfied response from the UK government to the OECD appeal, the underlying pressures on the current foundations of UK education must surely force a radical, rapid and positive change, with or without spending increases.
September 8th, 2009
We all know that Twitter has come a long way in a short space of time. Below are my thoughts on how Twitter has progressed as a search tool.
Due to Twitter opening up its API at a very early stage, third party Twitter apps have became a large part of the Twitter phenomenon.Â Twitter search tools were among the first to appear and were used primarily to monitor conversations at relevant events. Quotes were taken from the events, which helped to create a quick and easy blog summary.
Moving on from conversations, Twitter became a real-time breaking news service, with searches showing the latest information on news events of all types, a good example of which being the earthquakes in China and Mumbai bombings.
Twitter Searches were evolving from pure conversation to a hunger for instant real-time news. Twitter is now quicker than any news station when it comes to breaking news.
The next stage of Twitter was for it to be used as a real time help and recommendations search tool.
Can anybody recommend a good SEO partner?
Does anybody know of the best budget hotel to stay near central park NY?
These sorts of questions would lead to numerous people sharing experiences and sharing of links, especially when TINY url came into play.
Other searches started taking place in Twitter focused on Jobs, local events, classifieds, trends, sports scores and information, gig guides and events.
Finally the Celebrity search. Celebrities are often searched and quoted for sound bites in national and local papers via Twitter searches on their personal profiles. Celebrities also use Twitter as a quick fire response and personal promotion tool, for example: most celebrities on Twitter tweeted in response to the death of Michael Jackson.
As more people use Twitter the search possibilities will grow, but for now Twitter is the premier search engine for real time news searches and quick recommendations. Search engines are now being built with Twitter searches in mind, e.g. Microsoftâ€™s Bing has its search results sitting alongside its Twitter results for keywords.
A threat to Google?
September 4th, 2009
Guest blogger Lorraine Warren, who is Director of Postgraduate Education and senior lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the School of Management at the University of Southampton, on the three types of ‘digital native’.
As my colleague Lisa Harris points out in a recent post, there is quite a bit of evidence against the existence of the â€˜digital nativeâ€™ student, that is, someone who has grown up with the technology and uses it proficiently and naturally.Â ["How competent are new students with technology (really)", www.lisaharrismarketing.com].
In our experience, many students are actually quite weak in technology skills and reluctant to engage in new learning styles based around social media.Â Worryingly, they sometimes think they are proficient when their skills are actually quite basic.Â If that is so, what needs to be done?Â My own recent blogpost, ["Digital Skills â€“ Raising Aspirations?", www.doclorraine.com] identifies three levels of ability:
- Passives â€“ adept at using technology for basic communication and accessing information â€“ they consume the outputs of others
- Creators â€“ network more actively, create and upload material, yet largely within their own circle of friends
- Disruptors â€“ maintain a strong online personal identity, download applications, use social media to develop connections outside their sphere of existing influence.
My experience suggests, in terms of numbers, a pyramid, where most students are passives, with only a few aspiring to be disruptors:
Whatâ€™s more, those in the passive category may mistakenly consider themselves to be quite skilled.Â If our students are going to impress employers, we need to challenge this firstly, by enabling them to have a more realistic appraisal of their skillsets and secondly, raising their aspirations to become Creators or Disruptors.Â Such students will stand out from the crowd in a difficult employment market.