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santa ipadThe hotly anticipated 2011 Christmas shopping season saw a rush of retailers for clambering to offer better door-buster and free shipping deals than the next. So, as a nation of consumers, did we live up to our end of the bargain?  John Lewis Group and Next are among the retailers to have already published their data. With numbers still expected from others – for high street and online – it may be another week until we have a full picture of economic data that will make a concise story. In the meantime, eConsultancy ran a nice round-up of Christmas 2011 ecommerce stats published thus far. Of interest:

· Online sales in December were up 30% year-on-year, and the last week before Christmas saw almost double the sales compared with last year, according to stats from MetaPack

· 640,000 tablets were given as gifts to adults, with the iPad dominating the market with 72% of sales

· 4.2m iOS devices were activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

· Christmas Day was the busiest day of the year for mobile clicks, with volumes 36% higher than the early month peak on 11 December 2011 and 50% higher than the average for December

Now here is an interesting stat:

· Boxing Day 2011 was the biggest ever day for online retail in the UK, according to Experian Hitwise, and represents a 19.5% increase from last year.

This is a measure of visits, not sales, however. Consider another stat to come out last week – More smartphone and tablet owners are researching products that purchasing them – 80.8% compared to 41.4% – it will be interesting to see how the e-commerce sales numbers stack up for Boxing Day and whether all this traffic converted into sales, or disappointed shoppers perusing the clearance sales with a Turkey hangover. My money is on the stuffing.

@jacqui_fleming

Following on from F8 in September, Zuckerberg’s empowered speech may have left you wondering exactly what Zuckerberg meant when he claimed that he would “expand the notion of a more social web?”

The web has for some time been hailed as a global force empowering democracy and freedom of speech, with the social media being placed at the forefront of this battle. Yet the current rivalry between Facebook and Google could almost be interpreted as an archaic war for cyber control of web users. Indeed at a glance, Facebook’s challenge to Google seems like a challenge to the dominance of the worldwide web at large (after all, Google is the site that offers the most comprehensive analysis of the relationship between websites).

The decision to integrate apps into Facebook means that users may never have to venture outside the site. Zuckerberg himself recently stated that ‘Facebook is a collaborative tool’. Facebook currently has over 800 million active users who visit the site more than once a day, although this figure still isn’t as high as the 1.5 billion hits Google receives daily. Yet the ease with which Facebook membership is rising posits a potential sea change in the way in which we use the internet. With the integration of Spotify, Guardian, and even Twitter onto Facebook you may be wondering why you would ever need to open your internet explorer browser again.

Google’s attempts to encroach on Facebook’s territory in the last few years have not exactly epitomized success. Google+ is the fourth in a series of attempts by Google to enter the social networking sphere (remember Google Friend Connect, Google Buzz and Google Wave?) and membership on the site is believed to be little above 40 million members worldwide. In fact, Google has refused to comment on how many members are on the site inciting Forbes to publish an article entitled Eulogy for Google+.

However it remains to be seen whether the rise of Facebook will lead to the demise of the web at large. Facebook has, recently been in trouble for data sharing and the site is increasingly being viewed as ‘creepy’ by members.  Just like Google, Facebook stores a myriad of user’s personal information including private messages, the use of the like button and apps- but more interestingly also stores information about user’s friends, family and educational background. The site even detects subtle changes to a member’s lifestyle, enabling advertisers to target mothers-to-be for instance with baby products. This all sounds eerily similar to the decision by Google to remember your search information. So internet users might see the expansion of a more social web, but will this mean anything more than a transition of power between key magnates online?

The quote in the title was an interesting comment from my LinkedIn Marketing Solutions client Joshua Graff which really got me thinking about why brands would and debatably should use professional networking platform LinkedIn over social networking site Facebook to market their brands.

Facebook can of course sometimes be a good forum for brands to engage with customers, but it isn’t always. Research and my personal experience shows that people primarily use Facebook to be sociable, whether that is organising your Saturday night plans or messaging old friends users are in different frame of mind to when they log on to LinkedIn where they go to search for jobs, make business decisions and primarily to gain insight – 85% of members.

LinkedIn is arguably a more professional and safe place for brands – whether they are consumer or commercial – to engage with customers. It offers marketers a powerful audience of educated and affluent business influentials (80% of decision makers being on LinkedIn). 42,000 of the Business Elite in Europe (BE Europe) visit LinkedIn everyday creating a forum where business decisions are made. Marketers can also gain really rich data about their followers, for example how senior they are, how much their average income is etc.

Be great to get other people’s opinions on the benefits/pitfalls of these two social platforms for businesses -so tell me what do you think?

Some of you may well have seen this research from the Guardian earlier this week, which aimed to highlight the top journalist tweeters in the UK – headed by Neil Mann, aka @fieldproducer, digital news editor at Sky News.

There just seemed to be one problem – the list was, perhaps unsurprisingly, absolutely dominated by Grauniad hacks, with half the top ten being employed by the paper running the research. The highest placed non-Guardian ‘paper scribe on the list was the FT’s Tim Bradshaw who came in a lowly eighteenth, while the Times could only muster one journalist in the top 50 – Michael Savage, in at #35.

Shurely shome mishtake?

We’ve run the findings through the tweetlevel  algorithm instead to give it some more context, and the same list appear in a very different order, with Charles Arthur the highest placed hack on the list, and afore-mentioned Tim Bradshaw rocketing up to eighth.

Check out the revised list here.

top tweeters grab

Picking a couple of other tech journos at random, there were notable exceptions in the original list: from The Times, Murad Ahmed would have been in the top fifty; the Telegraph’s digital media editor Emma Barnett would have triumphed in at #20; while arguably one of the UK’s most influential tech industry bods, Mike Butcher, would have come in joint with Tim Bradshaw.

To be clear, we’re not saying ‘our list is better than yours’, nor are we saying our methodology is better – we’re just saying that if you’re producing a list of the influential people in your industry, it might be a good idea to widen the scope to people who don’t work for you.

Let us know what you make of our version of the list originally produced by the Guardian. For more info on the algorithm used, make your brain hurt reading this.

Is Facebook a content or conversation source?

Back in May, Matt Locke, Richard Sambrook and I had a conversation about the future of Social Entertainment.  (In case you are thinking “My that’s a wonderfully catchy, if opaque, buzz word. But what on GoogleEarth does it mean?”; Social Entertainment is a term we coined a few years back to represent the idea that as social networks grow to parallel the influence of mainstream media channels, so too would traditional media companies need to progress their content and communications to fully embrace the social sphere).  Not rocket science, perhaps, but we’re interested in the implications of Social Entertainment, especially with regard to how entertainment companies communicate with audiences.

It’s highly probable that no one listened to the podcast back in May (I haven’t asked for the statistics lately, in case my worst fear was confirmed and we had chopped down trees, but no one was around to hear the loud thud of timber on the forest floor).  So if you didn’t, let me summarise: We talked about some meeja things and at the end Matt and I made some predictions for the next 12 months.

The erudite Mr Locke suggested that the talent rather than the media brand would continue to increase in influence and that this posed both a problem for the brand and an opportunity for talent looking to take advantage of the currency of their social profiles.  The case of @ITVLauraK (nee @BBCLauraK) perfectly illustrates this issue.  Both Tom Callow at TheWall and Jemima Kiss at the Guardian sum up the ramifications better than I could.  Congratulations Matt.  You were right.

Back in May, I felt the interesting shift would be the inverse of our original Social Entertainment theory.  I.e. Social Entertainment originally concentrated on how traditional entertainment companies could leverage social channels to engage audiences.  I predicted (again, perhaps not radically) that Social brands would expand to become fully fledged media channels and businesses.  This was based on increasingly professional content finding its way onto YouTube – but I thought that Facebook, Twitter and the like would increasingly become media channels – producing and distributing content, not just hosting conversations around it.

Interestingly, our annual research shows a conflict in consumer perception, here.  As this graph shows, consumers now think of social networks as a form of entertainment.

However, when asked who are the top-of-mind entertainment companies, consumers do not name new social or internet brands.  No Facebook, no YouTube, no Spotify.  Only the old dogs are named (I can’t actually show you the brands, but we do have this info should it be of interest.  Let me know if so).

And so here we are at the 22nd September 2011 and the f8 conference.  Much has already been written about the social updates (I’d recommend the Mashable picture gallery, if you’re looking for a quick summary of what it’s all about).  But I’m most interested to hear about how content companies and entertainment channels are going to be integrated in Facebook. Is this the coming of age for Social Entertainment?  True my prediction, unlike Matt’s, has yet to come to full fruition.  But with the f8 announcement, we may well be one step closer. The integration, assuming the often vitriolic users embrace it, will mean that Facebook becomes a powerful, if not the de facto, promotional channel for content owners and publishers.  This presents an opportunity but also a challenge for entertainment brands.  Content has always driven conversations. But some content is more naturally geared to social conversations and ‘lean forward’ programming than others.  For all entertainment brands, programs and channels, not applying Social Entertainment is, from today, arguably not an option.  It’s a simple dilemma; innovate and  collaborate, or risk not being talked about at all.

In fashion circles, ‘The September Issue’ of a magazine is a pretty big deal, capturing the fashion week trends that will inspire the year ahead. We’ve got our own September Issue. But it’s of the DERT (Digital, Entertainment, Rights and Technology) Trend Report, and we like to think it’s just as special as last month’s, next month’s and any month thereafter.

This edition looks at the latest in eco-friendly motoring, retail, festivals and books. Enjoy.

@AJGriffiths

(alt. title@ “how Gary Neville ever managed to play for Manchester United”)

Wanted; serious media hound, must possess exquisite writing skills which are perfectly adapted and adaptable to the needs of our clients (from corporate brochure to rap), must enjoy granular, detailed work such as formatting and proof reading, must possess and be prepared to nurture a deep pool of media contacts (from daily newspapers to the most obscure subscription trade title) and – most of all – must be prepared to take direction and work as part of an extremely structured team. Hobbies and interests? If you must, but see below for hours of work; and make sure it’s nothing too dangerous as we don’t provision much time for illness or injury. Hours of work, 9h until 18h (that’s just the weekends, we reserve the right to finish later during weekdays). In short, we are looking for a PR apprentice who is capable of and prepared to learn the roles of our esteemed industry.

Also wanted; social media guru, must live and breathe new media, possess a large and lively personal social media profile, must be prepared to improvise, work independently and convey the essential in 140 characters or less. Neither structured pros nor proof-reading nor formatting are likely to feature heavily as part of the role. Working hours are not structured, but you will be expected to deliver insight and response in real time from your mobile (wherever you may be; whether queuing for lunch or moshing at Glastonbury). Speaking of moshing; do people still do that? We are very interested in your hobbies and interests you see. In fact, your outside interests could actually be good for business, especially that of our clients; particularly if you regularly blog about them. Oh, yes we are quite relaxed about your blogging and Tweeting on company time; in fact, depending on your aforementioned outside interests, we’ll actually require you to furiously blog and Tweet on behalf of our clients. To summarise, just about as far a departure from the traditional PR apprenticeship as you could imagine.

And here’s the dilemma . . . agencies need both of these people. Despite the demise of Rupert (or perhaps because of it) traditional print and online media is not about to disappear. The proven skills required to deliver compelling PR will still be required; and that includes an attention to detail and pure copywriting skills. However, agencies also need social media experts to help give a voice to their clients’ products and services, to help position them across the increasing range of user generated content platforms and to continually monitor online opinion and feedback on the same.

So what’s the solution? I realize that this will prompt hails of “cop out” but I actually believe that there are two approaches to this dilemma. The challenge is basically to figure out which to apply to which candidate:

· Approach 1. The apprenticeship; social media mind sets should be coached and trained to deliver a minimal level of detail, copywriting and structure. They should also be required to undertake ‘due diligence’ in terms of media knowledge, press contact and drinks with the usual array of trade press misfits (insert your own).

“Traditional media mindsets” should likewise be supported to understand and participate in a minimum level of social media life (i.e.. on a personal level through Twitter, online communities etc.) and learn to effectively select and communicate the benefits of various platforms.

· Approach 2. Play to their strengths; in footballing terms, Gary Neville was never going to make a centre forward (despite his finishing), and Romario never likely to track back and defend. They were specialists, and what amazing specialists they turned out to be (well, Romario).

While Manchester United and FC Barcelona can afford such luxuries, can PR agencies afford employees who are not going to “track back”? In this case, adhere to deadlines, write up minutes from meetings or, even, proof read? I believe that agencies can employ specialists; but on certain conditions:

  • The size of the agency or department; while such social media specialists are great within a structured and functioning team, they are going to be of less use in a start up environment where staff are expected to do everything from cold calling prospects to making the tea.
  • What is the social media specialism? Does it fulfill a current or future client need, is it really a specialism we are talking about, or simply someone who never learned to punctuate
  • Does this person possess experience or knowledge that is not currently covered by the existing more generalist staff. This is a vital consideration if you decide to accommodate a genuine specialist, in order to avoid resentment amongst the incumbent team.
  • Finally, above all, do you want to see this person working for the competition? If not than you’d better him or her!

So that’s the agency dilemma and my dual approach (cop out) to addressing it. Specialists (particularly social media ones) can cause disruption and resentment within a team due to the nature and relative informality of their work. They can also prove a secret weapon for agencies who can genuinely harness them.

I’d love to hear any feedback on the dilemma and my suggested approach; at what size can a team/department start considering social media gurus as stand-alone hires? How can you tell if the candidate before you requires Approach 1 or Approach 2? What’s the best way to incorporate them into an existing team to maximize performance and minimize disruption? How should they be trained and measured?

If nothing else, let me know your thoughts on my incorporation of Gary Neville in yet another blog about PR!

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