Trust


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. 

@T_Bloore

A very interesting blog post on the FT about changes in the fashion industry caught my attention and I wanted to share the most subversive etail initiative I have ever heard about. 

www.honestby.com is the brainchild of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters. The site will sell a collection of 56 pieces for men and women. But what is groundbreaking about it is its transparency. It is transparent both financially and in terms of manufacturing.

By the time you press “buy” you will know exactly what you are paying for – everything from the material used, weight, who spun it, whether it is organic, a website for the supplier and so on – and you will find this for the fabric, the zipper, the lining, the trim, the label, the buttons, the thread etc. Under “price information” you will find out the cost per meter of the fabric, how much was ordered, how much was used, how much labour was involved, what the mark-up was, and how the profit was used.

High-end fashion has historically been a business built on opacity. Things cost what they cost and the less the consumer knows about the literal value of these, the better off the brands are and the more they can charge. It is precisely this attitude that Bruno wants to change as he thinks it breeds consumer mistrust – and why he wanted absolute clarity in his own brand. He has even gone so far to have said that if orders go up and he achieves economies of scale, his prices will come down.

It seems to me this has the potential to be a real game-changer in fashion, because if consumers get used to having this sort of information available, who knows, maybe they could start demanding it from other brands…

@natfut

honest-by

peasantThe medium was the message in 2011, a year in which revolution and riot were ignited by social media. The persistent insistence that the internet has come to represent a force for democratisation has come under increasing scrutiny. The # is equated to a symbol of equality and freedom, but the extent to which this parallelogram marks out our personal Hyde and becomes a symbol of our own serfdom is something I have recently questioned.

The similarities between social media and feudalism resonate under closer inspection of the ideologies underpinning the two systems. In announcement prior to the announcement of Facebook’s IPO, Zuckerberg announced "we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better…” Feudalism, a system based on social interaction, functioned on a peasants willingness to toil to maintain a space in return for protection, nourishment and submission to authority.

The reciprocity of relations in feudalism echoes the reciprocity of relations in feudalism. Social media is reminiscent of feudalism as we work to rent a segment of cyberspace (a Hyde), be it a profile page, a news feed or a channel, from a corporation (or a magnate) ie Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Like feudal lords these sites (estates) profit through our willingness to work for free and pay for our space through site maintenance. Because we do not give capital for our segment of cyberspace, we pay for it in other ways.

Just as the serfs had no control over their regulating authorities, we too have no space to protest over site updates (for example, the introduction of Facebook timeline). When taken in this context social media appears on an oddly retrograde. It is then that the uprisings of 2011 become the doppelgängers of the Early Modern Peasants Revolution.

Both Luther and Swedenborg were inspired to action partially due to the apparent corruption in the feudal system and the arrival of new media which allowed them to disseminate a message of egalitarianism and revolution. The reformation changed the shape of Europe. However, what has become clear in the wake of the revolutions in 2011 is the difficulty which users of social media have had to impact on any lasting or meaningful change.

@camillaEclarke

journo

The last decade has been something of a whirlwind for traditional media. Old school stereotypes of trench coats, smoky newsrooms and 4pm deadlines have been replaced with 24-hour reporting, the internet and social media.

Despite the challenges that traditional media has faced and will continue to face in the near future, the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, published last week, revealed some extremely positive news for the world’s media.

They were the only industry that saw a global increase in trust.

In a time in which there is global disillusion with government, business leaders and traditional figures of authority, the role of the media to provide the public with facts, transparency and both sides of the story is more important than ever.

I do not think this comes as a surprise. In a world of economic uncertainty I believe that it is only natural that we turn to the industry built on the grounds that it provides accurate and fair information, designed to educate us on important issues.

While trust in all media, that is traditional, social and online, saw an increase in trust, i believe that the biggest opportunity to affirm itself as the place we turn to first for news lies with traditional media.

Traditional media have the advantage of being long-established news outlets with a rich background in news reporting. However, in order to truly fulfil this potential, they must ensure that they embrace the modernism’s that have changed their industry, and continue working towards providing a diverse and content- rich service.

The Edelman Trust barometer also indicated a 75% increase in trust in social media, a figure very difficult to ignore. While traditional media have made great progress in incorporating this into reporting, I believe that there is still much more room for improvement.

By incorporating social and digital content with traditional news articles, publications can create news packages that will enable them to not only reach wider audience, but also develop more comprehensive content and effective audience engagement.

As much as the media industry would like to believe the age old saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’, research by Visable technologies comparing Macys Vs Kohl’s and Target Vs Walmart Twitter interactions demonstrated that this is not always the case.

The report compares the amount of tweets sent out and the level of customer sentiment by the four retailers in the wake of ‘Black Friday’, when brands tend to overload consumers with advertising in the vain hope that they will be chosen over a competitor.

The report proves that too much advertising does not always get results. Kohl sent out 99.7% of the two retailers tweets in that week, yet the level of sentiment for Kohl’s was one of annoyance. However the report goes on to prove that if the material is fresh and relevant to customers, self promotion is not always a bad thing with Walmart sending out proportionally more Tweets than Target but these were seen by customers as original and fresh.

This shows that brands need to be aware of the rising consumer power and tailor fresh and personal communication to customers rather than trying to gain as much coverage is possible.

@t_bloore

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.

(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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