No, Jane Sarkin ( has not been laid off, that plum job at Vanity Fair complete with enough corporate freebies to equip a home (and a second home) is not actually up for grabs, your place of work may not actually be about to change to Sixth Avenue, New York.

But thousands of jobs matching precisely that of the features editor at one of the World’s most iconic lifestyle magazines are up for grabs in PR agencies across the globe. In fact demand for such skills has never been higher; the job description could read:

· Must be able to predict and capture coming trends and zeitgeists

· Must be able to analyse the impact of those trends through meaningful cultural, economic and social insights

· Must be able to definitively prove the existence of the same through quantitative and qualitative examples

· Must be able to coherently and compellingly identify and explain the difference between short term fads or crazes (skinny jeans) and long term shifts in style and taste (environmental activism)

· Must be able to illustrate both with precision, style and wit with respect to consumer behaviour, attitudes and lifestyle choices

· Must be able to provoke, entertain and inform in equal measure

The above skills are now at a premium because the PR dynamic has completed a shift; from ‘pitching’ and ‘placing’ our clients’ stories (stories, built around their particular brand of toothpaste or enterprise software), PR agencies are now tasked with ensuring their clients’ brands are included in other people’s stories. This shift has (or should have) transformed the way PR agencies work. Product features and competitive positioning have become subordinate to a genuine understanding of how these products and brands actually touch people’s lives and influence their conversations.

And the starting point for this is not the product or feature; on the contrary, the starting point is people’s conversations. In exactly the same way a features editor must surf the wave of popular culture and conversations, providing interesting and entertaining insights on the same, PR agencies must find a way to fit their clients’ products and services into these stories. Brands (ie products) no longer drive the media agenda; successful ones find a way of exploiting it.

This could mean that the latest episode of Desperate Housewives in HBO International could provide the ideal platform to highlight the trend towards luxury suburbs in India; what George Clooney’s Up In The Air reveals about the stress and pressures of business travel ( in the US; and what Yahoo’s appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO ( about work/life balance and the ability to really ‘have it all’ in Europe. Feature writers, columnists and editors are absolutely certain to be covering these trends; the agency’s role is to ensure – where appropriate – their clients’ brands are included in the conversation in (a positive manner, of course).

The increasing impact of social media makes the parallel between the PR agency role and that of a features editor even more obvious. Bloggers and people who tweet are notoriously suspicious of brand-led rhetoric and less likely to participate in conversations driven by brands than those which are organic and perceived as being ‘genuine’. Geeks all over the globe basked in a new-found prestige following the successful landing of NASA’s Curiosity on Mars, and not merely because of the amazing technology at work. One of the young engineers in mission control, Bobak Ferdowsi (, became an instant geek hero with his exotic haircuts and infectious Tweeter feed ( which now boasts over 50,000 followers. Smart lifestyle brands can cash in on this type of ‘organic’ trend; does this mean that brain outstrips brawn even in an Olympic year, is geek fashion no longer an oxymoron, can a physics qualification really beat a sports scholarship to attract the ladies? All of these conversations can be extended and leveraged by brands. The key is to move quickly and carefully (ideally, with a sense of discretion and humour) introduce the brand. As President Obama so ably demonstrated (, unlike marketing or advertising, PR/social media has the advantage of instant response. This means brands can react and surf on the conversation of the moment and – where appropriate – associate themselves with the ensuing dialogue.

This could take the form of engaging in social media dialogue or proactively pitching a feature on the trend ‘du jour’; in short, agencies need to behave increasingly like feature writers.

This logic is not limited to the fun, consumer end of the PR agency – you know, the one with crates of Red Bull and Xbox’s Dance Central ( on permanent play. It is equally relevant to corporate or technology clients. What do the travails of Barclays ( and Standard and Chartered ( reveal about attitudes and practice towards corporate governance in truly globalized businesses? What lessons can be learned, what tools, processes, services (brands) can be introduced into the conversation? What does the proliferation of Cloud technology mean for competitive positioning? Does data securely residing in the Cloud render the concept of geography meaningless; will low cost markets soon become high value ones? What products and services (from international contracting companies to security providers) could be associated with this discussion?

Once again, the perspective is squarely that of a feature writer; the trend/story comes first, the product association second.

The ‘feature editor’ perspective is one which I’ll be investigating in detail in later posts, but I believe it remains the most fundamental shift in PR since (and probably because of) the advent of social media. Agencies which can – literally – think and write like features editors are going to be the ones best placed to drive visibility for their clients over the coming years.

I can’t promise the number of freebies typically associated with a Conde Naste features writer, but behaving like one from an agency perspective will certainly bring its own rewards.

Post by: Roger Darashah

A wonderful article from the Economist appeared earlier this month highlighting the fact that – for all the dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit being unleashed across so-called growth markets – only four emerging-market brands make Interbrand’s list of the world’s 100 most valuable: Samsung and Hyundai of South Korea, Mexico’s Corona beer and Taiwan’s HTC . . .

The piece pointed out how complicated it is to establish and rolling out a brand globally; ensuring that it has resonance and genuine meaning across multiple markets.  And now, having spent six months working in India, I would like to add my humble insight to the debate!  I believe that there are some principles that apply to brand globalisation regardless of from where they emerge, but that they are particularly relevant to BRIC and other emerging market brands.  The challenge is that these principles are far from intuitive, in fact, they may at first sight appear the opposite . . . . .  Here goes:

1. Forget about your legacy and heritage; everything that went into establishing your brand identity in your home country.  That will mean nothing abroad and may even act as a barrier to generating traction in new markets which are at other stages of the development cycle.

  • Huawei was founded by Chinese People’s Army officer Ren Zhengfei, following the introduction of then Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping’s “open-door policy” encouraging entrepreneurial activity.  It maintains strong links at board level with the Chinese Communist Party, whose patronage explains much of its success to date, but hardly the type of credential on which to take the brand global
  • Acer started life as the ‘Australian Educational Research Council’ in 1930 thanks to a Carnegie Foundation grant designed to promote ‘the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding’.  The first research undertaken was: the standardisation of scholastic and mental testing for Australia; a study of the number of children aged 10 to 18 in each school grade or type of occupation; and the fundamental problems of the primary school curriculum.  A far cry from sleek laptops or mini PCs!
  • Nintendo was originally founded to produce handmade hanafuda playing cards (, before becoming one of the most prominent figures in today’s video game industry
  • Mitsubishi started in 1870, as a shipping line before diversifying into coal-mining,  shipbuilding, and marine insurance.  It did not enter the automobile business until 1970, when an automotive division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was launched as a separate entity.

This is the toughest and most counter-intuitive principle; established (national) brands are rightly proud of their roots.  The problem is that these legacies are not necessarily transferable (or always relevant)  beyond the home country.\

2. Global brands should not always focus on targeting customers . . . . .  Again, this may appear counter intuitive, but it’s particularly true within the B2B and services space.  One emerging market IT services company I’m familiar with is recruiting at a rate of 70,000+ employees per year; its principal concern is to identify and hire the best and brightest from which ever country they can be found.

This means competing – literally – with the likes of Apple and Google for top talent.  A global brand in this context is about meaning something to business and technology graduates, demonstrating a track record in innovation and a genuinely meritocratic hierarchical working environment.   The idea being that – even if the company does not manage to recruit all the brightest talent – when these people assume positions of power and responsibility later in their careers, the company’s global brand values will still have meaning then selecting vendors or partners.

In this context, the sole focus of the global brand is on potential employees and future contacts; nothing to do with current sales which are ticking along nicely under the current legacy brand.  These types of choices are essential given the time and expense involved in globalising a brand; identify exactly who your primary audience is . . . . it may not be the obvious target.

3. Globalisation is not about geography; they are much more about communities, wherever they are based.  Market segmentation has well and truly given way to community engagement  . . . . . there is absolutely no reason for this to be restricted by the confines of geography.  Manchester United claims to be football’s most valuable brand with more fans in Asia than in the UK (one could argue that there are more Manchester United fans in Essex than in Manchester, but that’s the subject for another post!).

Global TV enables the club to appeal and have genuine meaning to fans whether they are based in Clayton (,_Greater_Manchester) or Kuala Lumpur (  Geography is completely irrelevant.

4. The most important ‘C’ for global brands is not for ‘creativity’ but ‘compliance; and that means process, process, process . . . . .

All the above will count for nothing in the absence of clear structures and processes to ensure brand compliance across all geographies and all platforms.  And this also includes within the home market.  As the brand guardians of companies such as Shell ( , Apple (  (on an extreme scale) the recent Olympic Games ( attest, a fundamental feature of global brand management is compliance.  ‘Rogue’ campaigns are much easier to implement and harder to police when implemented across far flung geographies; irrespective of their short term gain, ‘off brand’ campaigns will ultimately undermine the global message and value of the same.

To quote again from the Economist piece:

Emerging-market firms are evolving in much the same way as Japanese firms did in the 1960s and 1970s, from humble stitchers to master tailors. In 1985 Philip Kotler of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management observed that Japanese companies had shifted from “injuring the corners” of their Western competitors to attacking them head-on. The same pattern is beginning to repeat itself, but on a much larger scale.

The same could be said for Korean and Taiwanese brands such as Samsung, LG Electronics, Asus; each demonstrating the level of counter-intuition required to make their brands genuinely global.

Post by: Roger Darashah

Lifting the lid on Twitter’s big taboo

Twitter logo

I recently read with alarm in the Wall Street Journal about the truly distressing plight of increasing numbers of marketing executives:

Melanie Notkin, founder of Inc. says: “I can’t ignore them,” Ms. Notkin says of her more than 19,800 Twitter followers. As a small-business owner, Ms. Notkin says she doesn’t take long vacations. But even on a weekend at the beach, she warns those around her of her need to check her phone.

“We need to appear active,” Douglas Quint, co-founder of Big Gay Ice Cream, says. “We want to appear in people’s Twitter feeds once or twice a day.”

On the eve of her trip to the Southwest, Eva Chen, beauty director at Teen Vogue, sent a tweet: “Huzzah! I’m officially on vacation!” Over the next five days, while driving through Arizona, she tweeted more than 120 times, checked-in more than a dozen times on Foursquare and posted more than 30 photos to Instagram.

In the case of the prolific Ms Chen, she may as well on be on vacation at all . . . . . . 120 tweets in 5 days; in addition to the Instagram posts and Foursquare check-ins. It sounds rather like a day in the office to me!

The need to ‘carry the brand’ throughout their waking moments has forced these executives to – literally – become slaves to Twitter. According to the WSJ: “the most compelling social-media handles, whether a brand, a small business or a person inside a larger organization, usually are the work of one individual, with a unique personality and voice . . .”

I’m all in favour of living the brand, but encapsulating into the identity of a single person has its downside. Quite apart from the risk to brand equity (and followers) should a ‘power Tweeter’ leave the organization, I wonder how genuinely authentic such communications can really be. Most people do not see the World the optic of a single brand, experiences are made up of a variety of insights, prejudices, tastes, opinions and loyalties; some of them rational many of them completely irrational.

In fact, that’s what makes Twitter so engaging – people share literally what’s on their mind, what excites, stimulates, amuses, annoys and means something to them. Twitter enables me to catch up on the state of the European bond market ( and check out the Onion’s latest take on Jennifer Aniston’s new beau ( in many cases retweeted from the same person! Twitter becomes far less compelling if we see a corporate agenda crudely concealed behind the feed; worst of all it becomes predictable.

Returning to Twitter’s modern slaves, I would encourage them to – literally – get out more, experience life, feelings, emotions, doubt, uncertainty . . . and express them online through a personal account. They are sure to find life outside the brand liberating . . . . or at least their friends and family might appreciate it.

WSJ again:

‘For most heavy tweeters, it isn’t a burden, or even a work obligation, to stay “on brand” and connected. It’s a choice. “I don’t find it to be an intrusion of my vacation,” says Aliza Licht, senior vice president of global communications for Donna Karan Co., who has amassed more than 413,600 followers on her @DKNY Twitter handle.

More revealingly she adds that she also checks work email while on vacation. “It’s not comfortable for me, my personality, to be away,” she says. Her husband and young children are “accepting” of her social-media connectivity, she says. Sometimes her husband suggests tweets.’

“Accepting” of her tweeting . . . sometimes her husband even suggests tweets . . . . ?!” Hmm I’m not sure I’m convinced. When I had the temerity to pick up the BlackBerry during a recent vacation to share an amusing story about a head of state suggesting that hitting a rugby referee with a rock could be justified ‘under certain circumstances’ (, my wife’s reaction could hardly be described as ‘brand compliant’ (unless the brand in question included surgery without anesthetic in its portfolio). Her perspective is that vacations are there for a purpose and that purpose does not include work (which she associated with my picking up the BlackBerry).

I believe that she is right – but in more ways than she realizes. For brands and brand ambassadors to be credible they need to reflect multiple experiences, opinions, points of view, insights . . . . most of all they need to include some element of spontaneity and surprise. A brand ambassador who never removes the corporate avatar from his or her online musings is missing out and . . . . ultimately, doing the brand in question a disservice.

So power tweeters of the world, use this summer’s vacations to remove the chains of brand compliance and express yourselves! United, we can put an end to this modern form of slavery!

Let me know what you think!

Post by: Roger Darashah


A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.

..and yet the above quote from Frank Herbert is exactly what many people ignore when trying to understand who is influential on any given topic. Conversations are not fixed points in time but are dynamic and agile with different participants contributing throughout.

Why This is Important?

If people are trying to influence a conversation to ensure their message resonates throughout their target audience it is essential that they target the right people, at the right time in the right manner. Too often people only focus on who are the right people but haven’t access to the right tools to help with the later areas.

Working in tandem with Ramine Tinati from the the University of Southampton, we analysed multiple conversations via a unique tool called TweetFlow for common trends. The results were astounding and has directly impacted the way I work.

In previous discussions, I have explained how:

influence is defined by how information flows in a conversation

As part of this, much of the focus has been on two of the primary personas within the topology of influence. The idea starter and the amplifier – however, what I have only recently realised in my own Eureka moment is that a forgotten but critical player is the curator needs to be engaged with. This person, often overlooked due to their relatively low popularity has proven to be a significant driver of influence.

When analysing the three types below, it is clear to see that as marketers we must adopt both technology tools and sociological profiling to help us interact with people. Idea starters start early in great detail but often do not engage when the conversation reaches maturity and amplifiers publish and move on. If we were to engage with these two types when a conversation has been established in the market for some time because we rightly understood that these two people were instrumental in making this happen, then we would be wasting our effort. Instead it is the local expert who maintains the conversation and enables it to grow.

Maturity of Conversation Flow via Influence

Taking the Gartner hype cycle concept, I have adapted this to the growing maturity of a conversation topic. As marketers, we need to identify at what stage of a conversation we are engaging in, so that we in turn can ensure that our limited time and focus is spent concentrating on the right people who have the greatest chance of influencing others.

Stage 1: Conversation Trigger

Regression analysis of conversations often point to a few individuals who initiate the concept. These ‘idea starters’ often collaborate with curators to refine the concept and amplifiers to help publicize their thoughts. Engagement with the idea starter via collaborative discussion holds the greatest opportunity to influence the conversation.

Key influencer: Idea Starter

Preferred Engagement Behaviour: Collaborative discussion

Stage 2: Peak of Concurrent Conversations

When an ‘amplifier’ becomes interested in a conversation, it has the opportunity to reverberate around communities. With a large audience, an amplifier’s voice is disproportionately loud and for this reason has often been the target of many influence campaigns. Engagement with group has the greatest chance of success provided a relationship exists. However, this opportunity is often extremely hard to achieve and hence marketers have instead opted for influencing the influencers of this group (i.e. idea starters) or using paid methods (e.g. advertorials). Nevertheless, what cannot be doubted is that when an amplifier publicises content, it generates a huge volume of conversation.

Key influencer: Amplifier

Preferred Engagement Behaviour: Pre-packaged content that is easy to reproduce


Stage 3: Trough of Early Adoption

As any blogger will tell you, after the initial excitement of a meme, there comes a quick and sudden lull in conversation volume. What is most apparent is that the early catalysts for discussions no longer actively participate in the conversation. This is a crucial stage as it is here where the traditional key influencers of idea starters and amplifiers make way for the curator. Curators are the niche experts who are known within their circle as the go-to-person about a niche area. They may not have a huge number of followers but they maintain the conversation when others have left.

Key influencer: Curator

Preferred Engagement Behaviour: Q&A, scenario discussion


Stage 4: Slope of Enlightenment

For an idea to manifest, it takes time and evidence-based discussion to prove that it is an idea worth following. It is at this stage that once again we see the curator as being a focal point in idea adoption.


Stage 5: Plateau of Mainstream Adoption

You may never get as high a degree of volume of discussion as with the Peak of Concurrent Conversations but it is at this final stage where key commentators are dominating the conversation. Adoption of the idea is widespread with the initial idea starter and amplifier having progressed to other areas some time ago.


Proof of Theory – TweetFlow

In this video created with TweetFlow, you can see how idea starters start early in the conversation, amplifiers give it mass growth but it is the curators who make it last.

TweetFlow–created in partnership between Jonny Bentwood (Edelman) and Ramine Tinati (University of Southampton)


The Topology of Influence in Detail – idea starter, amplifier, curator, commentator and viewer

Idea Starters – this small collective of people are the creative brains behind many of the thoughts and ideas that other people talk about. Even though they may not necessarily have a large audience themselves, their insightful opinions often flow and are repeated throughout conversations long after they have left. They are typically well connected to other idea starters (where they collaborate on thoughts) and amplifiers (who they often rely upon to spread their views). Idea starters tend to be well connected to curators and amplifiers.

Amplifiers – these people frequently have a large audience and following. Their expertise may be deep but often they rely upon other contacts to provide opinion to which they then let their readership know about. They often have professional or commercial motivations such as journalists or analysts but are also more often than not self-created experts and avid sharers of information. Their advantage and their burden is their huge number of followers they need to keep satisfied. This behaviour ensures that they need to receive pre-packaged content that they can easily repost, retweet or repurpose so that their audience does not diminish. Amplifiers are frequently well connected to idea starters as the source of their content.

Curators – this group though having a far smaller audience are perhaps one of the most influential groups. Long after the idea starter and amplifier have left a conversation, it is the curator that maintains discussion. This niche expert collates information about a specific topic and is frequently sought after for advice about this specific area. They often take part in discussions with idea starters and are avid readers of topic-specific amplifiers.

Commentators – these people individually have little influence. Their behaviour often resembles little more than adding a comment without contributing greatly to the conversation. Their influence should not be ignored but should instead be viewed as a collective to measure the trend of opinion around a subject. An interesting factor is that this group are often self-moderating – when negative comments are posted often these contributors will often intervene to correct inaccuracies or a unfounded negative views.

Viewers – In the conversation this invisible group who we call viewers don’t leave a foot print except through Google. Indeed it is through Google, and the impact of viewers on search results, that these other groups become influential and evolve their role within a conversation. Authority rests with the search patterns of those who simply observe in a democratic world.


In order to stand the greatest for marketers to influence a conversation, they must appreciate what maturity stage the conversation currently is at. Upon doing that they will need to target the most appropriate person from within the topology and engage with them according to their behavioural characteristics.


End note: We are currently beta-testing the next iteration of TweetLevel which will allow anyone to identify what type of influencer a tweeter is via its algorithm. If you would like a beta-access password, please contact @jonnybentwood

  1. This past week, I attended the 2-day Social Media World Forum Europe conference. It was absolutely impossible to attend every relevant and interesting session across the two days. Try as I might, I missed some of the highlights from the conference but captured some great sound bites on Social Business strategy and community management from the Social Business and Social Media Marketing tracks on Day 2. Tweeting from my own account (@jacqui_flemimg) and @TweetLevel, here are my “notes” from Olympia from day 2.

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  3. Before we get into the day’s session, I have to share the #BuzzBear from Meltwater. How cute?! He is now hanging out with an Intel space man on my desk… riding a camel. 
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    Just had a lovely chat with @DanPurvis from @mBuzzUK at #SMWF and he’s handed me a #BuzzBear… how cute!
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  6. I spent much of day 2 in the Social Business track. This isn’t particularly relevant to my work with @TweetLevel, but is more of a personal interest of mine (and the topic of my husband’s Masters’ dissertation). I took A LOT of notes on Wednesday, so here are just some of the highlights. 
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    ‘Creating a social business’ panel at #SMWF #SocialBiz talking about the journey from social media strategy to social biz strategy. Yes!
  8. There’s me on the left at the ‘Creating a social business’ panel with Kyle Thorne (Social Media Relationships Manager, Virgin Atlantic), Peter Parkes (Head of Social Media, EMEA, Expedia), Karina Buch (COO, Crowdengineering), Pieter van Nuenen (Director of Corporate Communications, NXP Semiconductors) and
    Ben Padley (Global Digital Engagement Director, Barclaycard). 
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    #SMWF #SocialBiz @BenPadley ‘s biggest piece of advice “Get everyone much closer to it” with content creation and executive buy-in.
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    Rules of engagement for #socialbiz? No – empowering employees needs training and coaching, not command and control “rules”. #smwf
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    Great sound bites coming out of #SMWF Day 2. I’m at the #SocialBiz track today, follow #SMWF for snippets on brand measurement & mobile.
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    Biggest mistakes in #SocialBiz? “Endless debate in social ownership” says Kyle Thorne @VirginAtlantic >> Completely agree.
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    #SMWF @peterparkes, It’s easy to think #SocialBiz is about Policy (HR), Process (Mkting/ PR) and Platforms (Geeks)… Don’t forget PEOPLE.
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    Asked #SocialBiz panel about social support. @VirginAtlantic aims to make it part of cust experience, @BenPadley humanising responses #smwf
  16. I think it is important to note here that I’ve omitted some notes I took in relation to Kyle’s answer about social support at Virgin Atlantic. Kyle and I continued the conversation after the session and I don’t think he meant what he said about “queue jumping” to come across quite as it did.
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    Couple of great questions about how to engage with C-suite #digitalmuppets. @BenPadley brought teens in for reverse mentoring. #smwf
  18. I’ve heard that Edelman (my employer) has done reverse mentoring as well – what a great idea!
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    Next #SocialBiz panel, internal communications & employee engagement. @j_flem would love this! (I’ll take notes for you) #smwf
  20. (@j-flem: Here are the notes)
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    I have yet to hear anyone at #smwf #SocialBiz mention ’empowering’ employees. It’s not all just about education and support. Not top-down.
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    Education, support, process. These are all words reflecting command and control biz culture, #SocialBiz is about letting go, I think. #smwf
  23. Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business is a great book by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler that I would urge anyone interested in Social Business to read. 
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    I think this is what @andreasmav1 from Aviva is trying to say… #SocialBiz is a learning exercise & sharing internally is important. #smwf
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    Aviva’s @adreasmav1 talking up importance of conversational tone/ style in comms, driven internally by younger employees #SocialBiz #smwf
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    Panel agreeing that #SocialBiz internal collaboration is not ‘Facebook for the enterprise.’ When have you uploaded a doc to Facebook? #smwf
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    #SMWF @abarendrecht @ApacheCorp does not do ROI analysis on their social investments because #socbiz just makes sense [to mgt/the org] #sm
  29. Now I must admit that I almost didn’t stay for enterprise social media case study presented by Jennifer Dixon (Head of Internal Communication) and Nick Crawford (Social Media Strategist) at BUPA, and that would have been a huge mistake! What a great and inspirational case study. One of the most important points I took away from this session; by slowly engaging top executives in internal social media, BUPA were able to earn buy-in for their external social media strategies and influence cultural change within the business. 

    I am not sure Nick Crawford meant to say this in so many words — and it does contradict the core message of Jenny’s presentation — but this is too funny not to share:
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    BUPA’s @nick_crawford presenting a #SocialBiz case study: “This is coming from the CEO, so you might not want to get in our way”. #smwf LOL
  31. BUPA Live is the internal social network/ collaboration tool BUPA brought in to replace their ageing Intranet. Here are some sound bites from @Jennidixon on the project: 
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    “I sent [MD] to go talk to his kids about Facebook” – BUPA’s @jennydixon on getting her MD comfortable with blogging #SocialBiz #smwf
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    Internal communication tools/ strategies help execs appreciate how external social strategies work/ meet biz needs. #SocialBiz #smwf
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  36. How did you get BUPA’s top execs comfortable with writing a blog for the first time?
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    Coaching, not rewriting and not ghost writing. Write as you speak or video blog. @jennidixon ‘s tips for how to get execs onboard. #smwf
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    How did BUPA choose @jivesoftware? Long list of requirements, outcomes, Gartner/ Forrester research and a 6-month pilot. #SocialBiz #smwf
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    Employees who use internal social network are demonstrably more productive and satisfied with work, says Bupa. #SMWF
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    How to justify budget for internal network tool? Link it to business outcomes. @jennidixon gave 30 execs back time, ROI. #SocialBiz #smwf
  42. So the next panel session was not my favourite, sorry. Nick Stringer (Director of Regulatory Affairs, IAB UK), Andrew Gerrad (Head of Social Business,Like Minds), James Firth (CEO, Open Digital Policy Org), Guy Stephens (Strategy Consultant, Capgemini & Chair of the Social Media Governance Forum) debated social media governance. The panel was supposed to address the importance of governance in developing a successful strategy for social media, however they talked more about governance and less about actual strategy. Here are a couple of sound bites:
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    How do you prevent yourself from over governing/ under governing? Great Qu to #SocialBiz #smwf panel. Important to get the balance right.
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    “If you get the philosophy right the plumbing will follow.” Great quote from #SocialBiz #smwf audience. Bit oversimplified, but good idea!!
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    Who owns the Twitter account? The company or the person? We need more than 10 minutes to debate this! #SocialBiz #smwf Depends on brand?
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    @JimAnning Like it. Most companies are struggling with the philosophy and over complicating it. Sometimes you just have to get stuck in.
  47. Next, I attended a fabulous afternoon keynote on the ‘Socialisation of Business’ by Joshua Graff (Marekting Solutions Director EMEA, LinkedIn). Disclaimer: LinkedIn is a client. 
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    #SocialBiz requires business culture that is open to feedback and open to customers… Social media is not about control. @joshgraff #smwf
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    . @joshgraff @LinkedInUK now showing a video case study about how HP PSG uses the platform. (Client, DM for case study!) #SocialBiz #smwf
  51. Here is the case study video shown during the keynote:
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    HP LinkedIn case
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    “You don’t want your Saturday night to meet your Monday morning, it can get messy.” @JoshGraff on why context matters. #SocialBiz #smwf
  54. I’m going to stop there with notes on the Social Business track. It was a great track with some pretty good speakers and a packed audience. The best thing about the Social Business track, no doubt:
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    Best thing about the Social Business track has definitely been the Chair. Bit of a Clive Anderson with hair. #Smwf
  56. Finally, I’d like to leave you with some of my favourite sound bites and insights from day 2 – these are from Social Media marketing and Social Biz tracks:

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    “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” #SocialBiz #smwf Worth tweeting @thomaspower but what’s for lunch? Platform tech, metrics, people?
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    Pinterest works great in a B2B channel, you have to be creative and think about the medium before creating content #buttloadoftraffic #smwf
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    Reach out to your audience, don’t expect them to come // #SMWF Strategies on developing online communities
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    “It’s not about klout. It’s about their social capital. It’s about their social influence.” #socialcrm @SocialMediaWF #SMWF
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    Blogs/ posts that don’t “go up at the end” don’t get engagement — no call to action! Great point from the #SMWF panel moderator.
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    “Don’t be afraid of being niche. If you have scientists, let them be scientists.. don’t try to be 2 things at once.” @nickreynoldsatw #SMWF
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    @ScottMonty says: consumers trust less, peer recommendation key when we buy big-ticket items. Interesting pres by #Ford. #SMWF
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    LEGO at #SMWF: “Time to penis” is how long it takes before somebody comes up with something obscene with new LEGOs.
  65. That’s all folks!
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  1. This past week, I attended the 2-day Social Media World Forum Europe conference. It was absolutely impossible to attend every relevant and interesting session across the two days. Try as I might, I missed some of the highlights from the conference but captured some great sound bites on influence and measurement from the Social Media Marketing track on Day 1 and the Social Business track on Day 2. Tweeting from my own account (@jacqui_flemimg) and @TweetLevel, here are my “notes” from Olympia from Day 1.
  2. Chris Brogan, of Human Business Works, kicked-off Day 1 and I must admit I was a little gutted I missed this as it turns out he is regarded as a social media rock star who says stuff like this:
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    ‘We don’t make trends, they just happen’ @chrisbrogan #smwf
  4. The first session I attended was a panel discussion on the evolution of conversation. The panel lacked a solid narrative, but I was impressed with Benjamin Ellis (blogger/author), Delphine Remy-Boutang (WW Social Media Director, IBM Software Group) and Kerry Bridge (Social Media Manager, Global MB , Dell) and their insights on conversation and social media strategy. 
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    Listening to @DelphineRB and @KerryatDell on ‘the evolution of the conversation’ panel at #smwf currently on the role of internal training
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    .@DelphineRB: A tweet only last 8 seconds. We have to convert that conversation into a transaction’ for sticky marketing.
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    An old saying, but still very true: “Think global but act locally.” @DelphineRB on global strategies, and use best practice #smwf
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    Social media is becoming “less about platforms, more about how companies adapt internally” and organisesays, @benjaminellis #smwf
  10. Benjamin brought up a very good point here — social media isn’t just about platforms and “engagement” but rather how a business adapts to the era of the social customer. This supports the idea that most brands are looking at social media and influence backwards, replying on scores and fan numbers rather than business goals and objectives. More on that later.
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    Qu. to the panel, will visual content change anything? Simplicity, agility, stay true to tone of voice, curation… #smwf
  12. The raging popularity of visual content is really no different when it comes to strategies for bringing relevant content to communities. This point was emphasised by Delphine who felt that it was most important for brands to say true to their established tone of voice through visual elements. 

    Instagram, Pintrest… What does the panel think will be the killer technology for 2012 for social media marketing? A lacklustre question, but it yielded perhaps the best quote and tip of the two days:
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    “Who has studied storytelling…?! The killer tech for 2012 is storytelling” @benjaminellis #smwf Find the story >> best tip yet today
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  15. Second panel of the day now on Social media engagement measurement and metrics with Allister Frost (Head of Digital Marketing Strategy, Microsoft), Reggie Bradford (CEO, Vitrue), Jonathan Bean (COO, Mynewsdesk) and Patrick Salyer (CEO, Gigya); there were just a few too many vendors on this panel for my taste. The panel skirted around the role of business objectives in social media measurement, perhaps due to the fact that the vendors wanted to talk about real-time analytics and data science? 
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    Social media engagement measurement and metrics panel now at #smwf; what are the killer metrics? KPI – how about business objectives?
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    CMO dashboard is becoming more important for the industry… Err, not just CMO function, #socialbiz is everyone’s responsibility, no? #smwf
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    “What do you do with that data and how do you execute against that?” very relevant point at #smwf by measurement panel
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    Human beings want to engage with other human beings… real engagement is about listening & responding no matter the channel. #smwf
  20. Fair enough, but how do you measure “real engagement” and what do you measure? How do you engage with “hyper social customers” and translate this into sales/ ROI? 
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    “Not sure I buy into hyper social customers” driving sharing says @AllisterF, it’s about the useful value exchange, if not we reject #smwf
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    Measurement and metrics #smwf panel talking about SEO, search, ROI and optimised websites. Still no mention of business objective metrics.
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    ‘Behavioural modelling with real rigger and science is the future’ of social media ROI, says @AllisterF #smwf
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    Is engagement is the thing we should be measuring? Should we be looking at biz objectives to drive metrics? Great ?@vikkichowney #smwf
  25. Finally, eConsultancy’s Vikki Chowney asked the killer question! Business objectives are as unique as your business and should drive metrics and KPIs, said Allister, however we still need to look at engagement metrics, though he agreed we need to move beyond this. Some wise advice:
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    From @AllisterF “As unique as your business. We should be measuring engagement metrics… but we need to move beyond this.” #smwf
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    .@AllisterF urges us to ‘step away from the screens and use this data in a way that will make our business stronger.’ #smwf #smmeasure
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    . @allisterf says DO measure engagement, it’s easy, but real value is when you get business people to apply econometric data modelling #smwf
  29. Given that we are in an age where every company is a media company, I find it interesting that #SMWF Europe invited a publishing company to present a case study on measurement, but I can’t fault Cathy’s presentation. She was perhaps one of the best speakers of the two days. 
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    Next up in the engagement and measurement session, a case study from @cathyma from IPC Media #smwf
  31. Here is a link to Cathy’s slides:
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    @cathyma #SMWF Social strategy and measuring success presentation slides…
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    The holy grail of social media success… how does your business make money? Business objectives, user needs, tech drives everything. #smwf
  34. Yes! Now we are getting somewhere. Start at the beginning – what do you want to achieve?
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    Three core metrics from @CathyMa, acquisition, retention and monetisation. Very basic, but core before you begin the tracking journey #smwf
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    #SMWF love it, keep in mind: ” Not everything that can be counted counts, & not everything that counts can be counted” Einstein #socialmedia
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    IPC connect social brand experiences with their print publications (product). #smwf
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    Final points from @CathyMa, IPC; getting the right people is a starting point. Tools like #TweetLevel help w/ metrics 😉 #smwf
  39. This is a VERY important point from Cathy and a cheeky plug from me. Altimeter’s recent report on The Rise of Digital Influence dives into this further. I strongly recommend ; -) 
  40. After a networking break (read: quick snooze in one of the event’s FatBoy beanbag chairs) Twitter’s 
    Bruce Daisley (UK Sales Director) took to the stage for the afternoon keynote. I believe it’s fair to say that we were all expecting something a little different from the keynote. 
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    #SMWF Afternoon keynote now from @brucedaisley, UK sales director at Twitter.
  42. The view from the back of the room…
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    “When we talk about Twitter at Twitter, we talk about it as an information network, not a social network.” @brucedaisley #smwf
  45. (This comment sparked an uproar on Twitter.)
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    2/5 of people on Twitter don’t tweet. @brucedaisley #smwf
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    .@brucedaisley Hashtags are the new URL, the glue holding the community and information together. #smwf
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    People are interested in some sort of reciprocation online. @brucedaisley #smwf If you can’t give something free, offer something of value.
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    Twitter’s @brucedaisley showing paid for and earned media via Twitter and ROI. Twitter is just one channel, not used in isolation?! #smwf
  51. I mentioned earlier that the audience seemed to expect something a little different from Bruce Daisley. Speaking with those sitting around me (and on Twitter) there was a palatable sense his keynote was bit too “salesy” and that he was preaching to the choir. 
  52. The final session in ‘Engagement and Measurement’ included Lee Griffin (Commercial Director, TBG Digital), Dr Simone Kurtzke (Social Media Manager, Visitscotland), Henry Juszkiewicz (Chairman and CEO, Gibson Guitar Corporation) and Azeem Azhar (CEO, Peer Index) talking about monitoring and measurement. It would be impossible to sum up this panel discussion… it was very odd. The two practitioners, Henry and Simone, appeared to agree that it is impossible to pay attention to all social media data, but you do the best you can. Lee and Azeem meanwhile had their own agenda. 
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    Monitoring and measurement panel now discussing the value of data and insights to inform strategy and spend #smwf
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    “Not all data is equal, you can ignore some stuff… It’s important to evaluate qualitative data” and insight. @socialscotland #smwf
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    Gibson Guitar’s @heneryej explains that data is bad and confusing, screen out data and get to the meat of things, that one idea! #smwf
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    #smwf @henryej “social media for Gibson is about long term engagement, so we monitor that, not more”
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    Crunching data in a sensible way is about looking for the signal in the noise says Lee Griffin, TBG Digital (via the data geek) #smwf
  58. So I think we’ll leave it there for day 1. To be continued… (on day 2, that is). 

HomelessOne of the most talked about pieces of news to come out of this year’s SXSW was not shiny new tech but the “Homeless Hotspot” campaign by BBH Labs, the innovation unit of the international marketing agency BBH. According to Jenna Wortham writing for The New York Times, BBH outfitted 13 ‘volunteers’ from a homeless shelter with Wi-Fi hotspot devices and T-shirts bearing their names: “I’m Clarence, a 4G Hotspot.” They were reportedly paid $20/ day (£13) to go to the most densely packed areas of the conference and were allowed to keep whatever customers donated in exchange for the wireless service. What BBH dubbed a “charitable experiment” has undeniably backfired with industry pundits and media calling the campaign “exploitive” and “tasteless.” Wired magazine even described “Homeless Hotspots” as something which sounds like it is out of a “darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia.” But is it really all that bad?

BBH has defended its thinking framing the initiative as an attempt to “modernise the Street Newspaper (similar to the UK’s Big Issue) model employed to support the homeless populations”. This has only triggered further criticism. In the past 24 hours, an official response from BBH has been released: “Obviously, there’s an insane amount of chatter about this, which although certainly villainizes us, in many ways is very good for the homeless people we’re trying to help: homelessness is actually a subject being discussed at SXSW and these people are no longer invisible… we wanted to share a few key facts: We are not selling anything. There is no brand involved. There is no commercial benefit whatsoever.” You can read the full comment on BBH’s Homeless Hotspots website.

The campaign for SXSW has failed so spectacularly and so publically. Using Edelman’s TweetLevel tool to evaluate Twitter buzz over the past couple of days, the campaign’s hashtag "#HomelessHotspot" was itself virtually invisible until hybrid media picked up on story on Monday (12/02/2012). The most shared links for the topic, again from TweetLevel, reflect the fierce criticism and debate this campaign has triggered in social and hybrid media since the close of SXSW (interesting to note here that articles by traditional media (BBC, Telegraph, The New York Times) are not fuelling the debate but are only reporting on it.

So why has this initiative failed so spectacularly and so publically? It’s mostly a matter of perception. Countless social programmes promote jobs for the homeless and encourage (and/ or require) the benefactors to participate rather than give hand-outs; the Street Newspaper/ The Big Issue and Habitat for Humanity, for example. But this wasn’t a social programme, let’s be frank here, this was a PR campaign by a marketing agency and the agency failed on one of the most critical principles of any digital marketing campaign; context. As a result, the campaign left users and pundits feeling uncomfortable and with a negative perception of the BBH brand.

The objectives of this campaign were mostly sound and pretty good – connect the visiting SXSW technology community with the local Austin community by highlighting the social problem of an ‘invisible’ homeless population – but the context, and some of the content, was all wrong. BBH lacked a fundamental link connecting the plight of Austin’s homeless with the core audience and objective for the marketing agency.  Instead if feeling like they’ve done something for good, users said they felt awkward about the whole thing. That’s not good at all. 

You may argue that this was a CSR or even a local community support initiative (BBH does) however contextually BBH – a UK-based agency – did not have a building block of sustained social credibility local market/ community to support such a campaign. We all know that context is king. BBH failed to question; what kind of marketing message are conference goers receptive to in this context? And, is the platform (in this case the homeless participants) contextually relevant to our business and our customers. If this campaign initiative was run by a local charitable organization or local city of Austin chamber of commerce type organization, it’s quite possible we’d be talking about an ingenious campaign designed to promote the local community with the technology elite who descend on Austin once a year. But why an agency? What is the connection?

Surly, as a marketing agency BBH should have known better? Question what you will about the motivations for the campaign, the truth of the matter is that contextually, the language of the campaign was all wrong as well. The mechanics of the campaign gave observers an impression that the initiative lacked purpose and therefore the language used fell flat and communicated exploitation of the homeless participants instead of municipal support. Speaking about the criticism detailed in media reports, journalist and freelance writer Mic Wright said, “It was all in the language. [The homeless participants] WERE the hotspots.”

Behind the scenes and once you visit the BBH website, you might feel otherwise, but as digital marketers we know that the first 5 seconds is what counts. Saneel Radia, the director of innovation at BBH Labs who oversaw the project, told one reporter that the company was not taking advantage of the homeless volunteers. He said, “We saw it as a means to raise awareness by giving homeless people a way to engage with mainstream society and talk to people,” he said. “The hot spot is a way for them to tell their story.” But giving a homeless man a t-shirt that effectively says “I am a homeless hotspot” – where is the tact in that?

If BBH had employed events staff to wander around the show broadcasting wireless hotspots, we would have had no problem with this. It is that fact that they felt the need to make a point with employing the homeless and made it so visible that impacted reception of the campaign. Within the context of SXSW, this simply didn’t gel and the experience left users and pundits feeling uncomfortable. Better, BBH should have employed local community members and activists/ influencers with a message to SXSW attendees to get to know local Austin, the good and the bad. In fact, we’ve used TweetLevel to find a simple list of influencers in the Austin, TX area talking about the homeless. In terms of delivery, a cleanly designed app would have neatly connected SXSW conference goers with stories about their adopted home for the long-weekend. In the right context, with some killer content, this could have been a powerful campaign.


clip_image002Corporate data breaches and security incidents pose a growing threat to businesses around the world. Such events are increasingly common, with companies and organizations from Google to Sony to the Stanford University Hospital falling prey to data breaches, news of which was subsequently splashed across national headlines.

Incidents like these, combined with the increasing number of ways to track what people are doing online, are affecting consumer attitudes. Edelman’s new global study, Privacy & Security: The New Drivers of Brand, Reputation and Action Global Insights 2012, reveals that seven in ten people globally are more concerned about data security and privacy than they were five years ago, and a full 68% believe that consumers have lost control over how online personal information is shared and used by companies.

Businesses, however, are not doing enough to meet these concerns. A majority of people (57%) report either no change or a decline in the security of their personal information in the last five years. This is problematic, because consumers think that businesses should be grappling with these issues and that it is their responsibility to do so. The vast majority (85%) say businesses must take data security and privacy more seriously, and a plurality say businesses – as opposed to governments or individuals – are responsible for protecting the security of their personal information.

Edelman’s study also indicates that data security and privacy issues have the potential to affect a businesses’ bottom line. Customers are taking data security and privacy into account at the checkout counter; surprisingly, when it comes to smartphones, personal computers and tablet computers, data security and privacy are as important to them as a product’s design, style and size.

Businesses are also suffering from a trust deficit due to peoples’ concerns about data security and privacy, particularly in the financial and retail sectors. While 92% of people say security is important to them in when doing business with the financial sectors, just 69% trust the industry to protect their personal information – trust lags by 23 points. In online retail, the gap is even more dramatic. While security is important to 84% of those doing business with online retailers, just 33% trust them to protect personal information – a 51 point gap.

To earn people’s trust in their ability to protect data security and privacy, businesses must manage these issues like a core competency, engaging with them in a meaningful way on a daily basis. Businesses that ignore data security and privacy do so at their own peril, because consumers will abandon companies they do not trust to protect their personal information. Those that prove willing and able to manage data security and privacy effectively, however, will bring unexpected value to consumers around the world by demonstrating that they understand the importance of protecting the information people hold most valuable.

Read the full study here. We’re keen to hear your thoughts…


ENTER MUS-GRAMMYS 226 LAIn today’s social media driven world it seems like all companies are using social media and are trying to be the experts in the field. But as we all know creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle and frequently shouting about your brand is not likely to make you an expert in social media. 

This post comes as a result of the Twitter storm that was sparked around Adele the night of the Grammys. This suggests that personalities work better than brands with online conversations often backfiring on brands and advertising often taking over true conversations. Instead, it is about being able to create content which users can discuss, share and recommend while also supporting customer service and experience.

There is no doubt that brands must embrace social media. The fast-changing landscape means that many companies remain confused about exactly why they are on social media sites – beyond the usual talk about building a fan base there are many ways that brands can interact with customers using social media including handling customer complaints, offering discounts and listening to online conversations.

There are only a small number of brands that are using social media to really connect and interact with customers. For example Dell, has a social media ‘listening command centre’ that identifies customer service issues along with brand evangelists. KLM also is using social media to improve customer service and gleam customer insights. They have a unique 24hr customer service platform on Facebook and Twitter, employees held up large poster with individual letters and created a living alphabet that was videoed and sent to customers to spell out customer questions. Unisys also has a social knowledge sharing platform for employees to network and share information.

Another great example of a brand excelling in their use of social media is American Steak house ‘Morton’s’, who identified that a social media guru tweeted about craving a @Mortons steak after a long flight. Morton Steak House acted quickly and used this as a media opportunity organising a number of employees to greet the influencer with a juicy steak at the arrivals gate. This highlights the importance of noticing a PR opportunity and acting fast.

Looking at these brands examples gives useful insights into why these companies are succeeding in social media.The small handful that really are using social media successfully are listening and communicating with their customers by two way communication that is not overly brand biased. Improving customer service is a key theme flowing through the above examples; customers who feel like they are listened too and understood are likely to be more loyal to the brand. Successful brands are talking to customers about what they actually care about.

Brands who demonstrate understanding, creativity and innovative thinking which moves them out of their comfort zones seems to be winning ingredient. 


The ancient Mayans are often accredited for their ability to investigate celestial objects in the night sky with primitive tools. Archaeologists have found tablets, which provide evidence of their ability to accurately predict positions of objects, lunar and solar eclipses, often many years ahead.

However much of what the ancient Mayans were practicing bear remarkable similarities to what we now refer to as ‘big data analysis’.

In 2008, the McKinsey Group described the trend towards big data – the technology and practice of handling unconventionally large datasets which, after years of experimentation, has recently seen rising prominence. 

One of the earliest adopters of big data analysis is that of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN. As a matter of fact, the internet was invented as a method to collaborate and handle the vast amounts of data generated at the facility. Yet what started off as technology for scientific investigations, big data analysis soon quickly found itself in areas such as finance and banking.

Today’s organisations are beginning to recognise that by analysing petabyte upon petabyte of data, meaningful insights and predictions can be accurately made. Yet over 1,700 years ago, Mayans were already analysing data from the observable universe – an unstructured database with 93 billion years’ worth of data.

The Mayan’s obsession of analysing astronomical ‘data’ was not centred around scientific investigation, but more on predictions and justifying rituals. The decision to engage in military conflict was based almost entirely on the movements of Venus and Jupiter.

Interestingly, the modern day practice of analysing big data suggest that we could be following similar movement.

Today big data analysis is being used to help justify macro-social and economic decisions – from investments, economic policy to crime directives and healthcare provision.

Earlier this year, analyst firm IDC even reported that the US Army has implemented a big data cloud program to collect data from unmanned aerial vehicles, to gather intelligence information in near-real time and relay it back to its troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The life of the ancient Mayans revolved around their religion, which they supported through their obsession with astronomical data. This influenced their culture, their every decision and provided what they believed were predictions for the future.

Are we creating a technology-led religion of our own through our obsession with big data and what legacy will we be remembered for when future archaeologists discover our civilisation?