Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Top Five for 2009

Not necessarily predictions for social media in 2009, but more thoughts on trends:
  1. Digital decluttering: people will realise they’ve got so much digital stuff they need to read, update, respond to, comment on etc that it will threaten to take over their day job. So they will start decluttering their digital life. This will mean de-friending people you hardly know, unfollowing people that you never really talk to, de-profiling yourself from social network sites you hardly use. 
  2. Valuable Content: brands that give people content that is either valuable/useful or very talkable will be the ones that engage with people in the best way. I know it’s old hat, but the principles of the Beeb ‘inform, educate and entertain’ will be a mantra for many.
  3. Word of Mouth: as brands’ traditional broadcast or 'shouting' communications become less trusted, people will turn to people more than ever for advice on purchases. Therefore lots of brands will be looking to run on and off line WOM campaigns to drive engagement and subsequently sales. However, only the brands that do it long term and have a reasonably talkable product will suceed – a crap product will always be a crap product.
  4. Customer relations: as customer service experiences are readily talked about in social media and spread like wildfire, more emphasis will be put on customer relations strategies. I reckon many brands will look at combining PR types and CR types to provide a better way of giving customers great service.
  5. Wishful thinking: I don’t really have a fifth prediction but Top Five’s are a tradition, so my fifth is more wishful thinking, Please Oh please will someone invent Gorkana for Bloggers.
Festive greetings to one and all.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Social peek: tool to snapshot social media

Social peek is a nice little tool that gives you a snapshot of what is being said about a key word in social media. You type in the word and the tool looks at Last.fm, delicious, technorati, twitter and wefeelfine

It brings up snippets of posts mentioning your key word every few seconds. You can click through to the actual post of twitter, Last.fm, etc.

It was built by McCann Erickson in London [before I joined McCann in Manchester, so I can't claim any credit] and I stumbled upon it by accident. 

Social Peek is a fun little tool that you can use to do a bit of exploration in social media and some real time brand tracking, but is probably a bit limited for any proper analytical work.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Summary of twittersphere: HP and Forrester

A very succinct post by Jeremiah at Forrester summarising HP's recent research into the twittersphere. The main findings are there are that there are an estimated 5 million people on twitter, 68% are active and most have about 85 followers. The majority of users have been on twitter for 7 months and tweet once a day. A quarter of tweets are directed at other users.

As Jeremiah points out, the trick is finding out who are the most influential twitterers for your brand or product and then starting a conversation with them.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

How the Police are using social media better than many brands

I was lucky enough to attend a great event on Friday: the Don't Panic Social Media Conference in Manchester. There were some top speakers including Tom Murphy from Microsoft, Meg Pickard from the Guardian Online and Simon Wakeman from Medway Council. 

The highlight though, came from a completely unexpected source: The West Midlands Police [WMP]. [Check out the website even if you don't live any where near the Midlands, it's fab. Seriously]. 

When Chief Inspector Mark Payne took the stage, there were a few puzzled looks [and probably a few guilty ones too]. Even I thought 'what are the police going to teach me about social media'. How I was to eat those mis-chosen thoughts. 

Chief Inspector Payne, [still nervous of calling a policeman by his first name] was not only informative, but a brilliant presenter - probably one of the best I have seen [I did see Steve Jobs present and I'd say Mark was the complete opposite: humble, self effacing, funny, open; and probably better]. Without gushing too much [can you get arrested for gushing?], the WMP is a great case study on how to use social media for serious issues and add a bit of humour too.

Firstly, the YouTube channel is great. It covers real crime scene footage, instructional videos and appeals. CI Payne showed us this footage of a raid in Coventry:

Secondly, they've got a Facebook Page here that helps them connect with 16-25 year olds - a group of the community the police have traditionally struggled to talk to. The Page works because it is full of useful and entertaining content - it  gives info like contact emails and numbers for urgent and non urgent enquiries [I wish Brixton police had this when I lived there]. It has 1300+ Fans, which is more than many Brand Pages. 
My fav was the Police Puppies photo album. A brilliant way to show the human side of being a policeman [or is it person?]

Thirdly, and I love this, was the Plodcasts. Podcasts from coroners, CSIs, PCs. Genius. The podcasts are interesting, informative and contain info that the police want to get across. And it's working - they've had 20,000 downloads and CI Payne gets lots of emails asking when the next one is coming out.

A question from the audience asked about the dangers of getting negative comments on the FB Wall or YouTube videos and CI Payne responded:
"People will say bad things about the police no matter what. This way we know what they are saying and we can respond - as long as we say something sensible. Often we don't have to because people from the community  come onto the Page and defend us - usually by talking about their own experiences with the police."  
He also added:
"We're working it out was we go. I've got it wrong a few times, but overall it's working. We're talking to segments of the community we struggled to reach before" [these aren't his exact words but I hope they do him justice].

IMHO the reason why this works is because the WMP:
  • Are open
  • Are human
  • They listen
  • Provide useful content in the right context
  • They don't try and be 'yoof'
  • They respond i.e. engage in conversation
For such a conservative and usually closed organisation [no offence meant], this is a particularly bold step. And so far a successful one. I wish more brands had the courage and the open attitude of the WMP.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Should there be a code of ethics for bloggers?

I ask this cos a mate of mine, who is the head of comms at a major service provider, was getting pissed off that a blogger had posted an unfounded rumour about the company he works for and didn't obey the 'rules' of a journalist.  The blogger didn't second source the story, didn't ask the company for its POV and had no evidence to substantiate claims.  

I tried really hard not to get drawn into defending blogging and talked about how to respond to the blogger. My advice consisted of:
  1. Getting in touch with the blogger to give his POV - he tried and the blogger wouldn't respond after several attempts.
  2. Refuting the post with a comment on the blog - which a competitor had done.
However, the rumour was picked up by The Times and a story was printed referencing the blogger. I thought this unusual, particularly as the blog had recently been set-up, the blog was relatively anonymous and had no heritage in the service provider sector.

So, I'm now in two minds: should bloggers follow some sort of rules or should they post on whatever they like in whatever way they want?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Thoughts from WARC WOM conference

A quick note about the WARC WOM Masterclass Conference yesterday - it was pretty effing good! Loads of case studies, great speakers from Fallon, BuzzAgent, Weber and Contagious.  

My favourite was Prof Walter Carl from Chat Threads who I couldn't help geeking out over after he showed us some fabulous simulation models for word of mouth campaigns. These models predicted sales outcomes from  ambassador programmes for different product categories. Once I've got my head around the maths, I'll write about them in more detail as I'm sure there is loads I can learn and apply to measuring social media. Here is a sample: [drool, drool]
My initial thoughts are that many communications disciplines - advertising, PR, direct marketing - are trying to get in on the traditional WOM action. But, they are approaching it in different ways, which I'm not sure can be called WOM in its purest form. These are:
  1. Cunning Content - creating some really cool content [and promoting it] that gets people talking. This was the creative ad people's approach.
  2. Targeting Influencers - identifying the most influential people in your category e.g. bloggers, advisors etc and engaging them in conversation. This was the PR peeps approach.
  3. Recruiting ambassadors - finding fans of your brand/product, bringing them into the fold and giving them something to talk to their social network about. This was the traditional WOMsters approach and, IMHO, what WOM really is.
One thing that I probably didn't agree with was a case study that an Ad agency put forward as a WOM campaign that involved doing a massive publicity stunt that subsequently got people talking [and coverage in the media]. Nowt wrong with publicity stunts [some of my best friends do them] but I don't think it's WOM.

It was really interesting to hear that camp 1 - Cunning Content - used paid for advertising or PR to promote the content that gets people talking. I don't know why, but this doesn't quite feel right - but maybe I'm being old fashioned. 

The thing that really made me smile was that when camp 1. showed the results of their campaigns it was usually in the form of media coverage and Ad Value Equivs i.e. traditional PR metrics.

Then, I nearly laughed out loud [then became depressed] when I saw a delegate write down
 WOM = PR tactics + Ad budgets
This is definitely something to think about.

And finally, there was a good discussion around the role of social media in WOM. The over riding conclusion was that social media accelerates WOM, but it is the medium in which WOM takes places, rather than WOM itself. Particularly as BuzzAgent dude revealed that 80% of WOM conversations take place off line.

My conclusion? 
PR+Social Media+Media+Ambassadors+Cool Content = new WOM
[The temptation to say WOM 2.0 is overpowering]
More to come, I promise.