No, Jane Sarkin (http://tinyurl.com/8vn9o5l) 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_in_the_Air_(2009_film)) in the US; and what Yahoo’s appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO (http://tinyurl.com/9kyldwp)reveals 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 (http://tinyurl.com/d7cewhz), became an instant geek hero with his exotic haircuts and infectious Tweeter feed (https://twitter.com/tweetsoutloud) 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 (http://tinyurl.com/8cs3o3b), 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 (http://tinyurl.com/8zlycuv) on permanent play. It is equally relevant to corporate or technology clients. What do the travails of Barclays (http://tinyurl.com/9uafbwe) and Standard and Chartered (http://tinyurl.com/8j8oqco) 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

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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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

Social media week in London provided an excellent opportunity to analyse influence. Too often when there is a breaking story, I whish I could have turned back the clocks by a few days to see how the story originated and spread whilst focussing on who the key people were in the conversation and what they did to help propagate it.

This blog post will illustrate several key concepts that are unique to TweetLevel and Edelman.

  1. Conversation map analysis shouldn’t be conducted post event but through real time metrics allowing you to understand what time of engagement behaviour an influential person has. After all what’s the point of a static map when conversations aren’t the end result but a flow of information over time.
  2. The key players in a conversation are not just the most popular but those who start the ideas, spread and curate them. We call these people the new influentials.
  3. Timing is critical. This isn’t just about what time of the day they tweet, but when they take part in the conversation. For example many of the idea starters initiated the dialogue a few weeks before #smldn even started. As a marketer if I could know who these people were in advance, then it would have been the perfect opportunity to engage with them.

 

Dynamic conversation map

Red dots: idea starters, Yellow dots: curators, Blue and Green dots: Commentators. Some idea starters are also amplifiers (as shown by the size of the bubble) Source: University of Southampton–Web Science Team (Ramine Tinati) in collaboration with Jonny Bentwood at Edelman

What we can learn from this..

  • Idea starters engage early in the conversation (often weeks before the event)
  • A good three weeks prior to the event starting the people who would eventually be the thought leaders in social media week has initiated the conversations around the topics they were going to be pushing. Not surprisingly they were doing their own marketing.
  • From an objective point of view, they hadn’t managed to engage a large number of other people into this dialogue as they were instead waiting until the event started.
  • As a marketer I would if I was aiming to influence people, I would look to see who is engaging early and seek to interact then – if we wait till later then the conversation is too saturated to be heard.

Time jump conversation map

The following slide show takes you from 29 Jan where just a few people were discussing the event to a screen shot every few days up till the end of 17 Feb.

Slide3 Slide9

SMWLDN - RTmin set to 300

What I believe this shows you is that some of the key people in conversations are not the those who normally jump out. Namely, the person who creates the ideas or the person who has the huge audience that helps spread them. It is in fact the “yellow dots” in the above images. These influentials are curators – those who are niche experts and connected to idea starters and amplifiers. This group helps to link and grow conversations even though most tools in the market would ignore them {this is why TweetLevel puts a high focus on how information flows, its origin, connectedness and NOT just popularity]

Slide3

Taking another example from the WC3 event last year, if you look at the final map you would hardly notice some of the key individuals who make this topic travel so far.

In this instance you may think that Tim Berners-Lee and Google Research were the key folks involved.

 

Slide5Slide6

Instead what you can also find is that early in the dialogue an individual who has relatively few followers is instrumental in making the conversation spread.

Timing is everything

imageif you also analyse when people tweeted about the event, the amount conversation does closely mirror the actual main conference itself. Nevertheless, the thousand tweets in advance were as we already know populated by who we would know to be the idea starters and leaders of the event.

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The second analysis focussed on the time in the day when the tweets were made. These also coincided with keynotes and social gatherings post event.

Quoting a favourite adage of mine, we need to fish where the fish are. If we hope to have any chance of engaging with the people that count, we need to make sure we engage at the right time.

Who is influential – link to top influencers on TweetLevel for #smwldn

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What you can clearly see is that this list isn’t biased to the most popular but instead draws its focus on:

  • Context
  • How important they are to the flow of information
  • Timing

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What does this mean?

As we continually look to identify and understand influence, we must instead look to understand engagement behaviours. This means looking to engage early in the conversation with the people that count knowing that they will be the idea starters as the milestone continues. We need to also build relationships with the curators, knowing that even though they have a limited audience, their connections are vital to enable a conversation to flow.

originally published on Technobabble 2.0

Being a member of the Edelman Tech Team provides a constant challenge, no two days are ever the same and you will learn to expect the unexpected.

You need to always be up to date with the latest industry news and developments. My favourite part of the day is the morning paper rounds, reminiscent of BBC Breakfast’s news round up, which helps to keep you up to date with all the latest industry news and development. Part of my daily role also includes account support, liaising with journalists, pitching media stories, proactively news jacking and reporting.

Since I have been here I have worked with a broad range of clients including HP, LinkedIn, SocialVibe and Norton. Because of the range of clients that the Edelman Technology team represents, the work is very varied. So far I have worked on social media programmes, proactively sourced product placement opportunities and helped to introduce start ups to the UK media. The diverse interests and partnerships of our clients mean that although you will be based at the centre of technology you will begin to learn about other aspects of the media industry, from mainstream consumer PR to public affairs and digital. Last week was particularly busy and part of my role included inviting press to a David Guetta event and following up on some work we had undertaken with the Prime Minister.

Edelman takes the development of their employees seriously and the company runs some great training sessions with industry experts. So far, I’ve attended session on issues as far reaching as crisis management, analyst relations and brand strategy which has helped to provide me with invaluable insight into the media industry.

@CamillaEClarke

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.

TweetLevel and BlogLevel are two purpose built tools for the PR industry that aim to be a GPS for navigating influence. At its heart is an open and transparent algorithm that seeks to measure who is important within each social media channel.

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Resting behind the methodology are several key insights:

Influence without context is irrelevant

Understanding measurement is more than simply putting a name into an algorithm. It’s a process. If you are looking at influence, then go for Justin Bieber – however, if you are looking to get the right people to speak about you and engage on your behalf then understanding context is critical. This is what the first step in TweetLevel that we always recommend anyone follows is context. Using Boolean logic, anyone can enter a search term to identify who are currently the most influential people about a certain subject. Only when you have identified who these people can you source relevant measurement metrics. The process that it follows is:

  1. Which people have the largest share of voice about a specific search topic
  2. Ranking the top 100 people by their SOV, we then import these names into TweetLevel to identify their influence score
  3. We recommend that brands should focus on people with a score between 65 and 85. Above that score people are significant but are in the realms of the “Today Show” and PR pros must question how likely is it that their message will want to to be heard by this target.

Much as we would like to engage with every relevant person, the sad truth is that most people do not have the time or resources to do so. We therefore need to prioritise which people to focus on. This process explains how to find them.

Popularity does not equal influence

The above statement is bold and almost 100% true. I am not naive if you are popular then by default you are more likely to be influential. However, this is just one factor that can measure how important someone is. The numbers of followers someone has is interesting to me but not as key as how somebody engages in relevant conversations or create ideas that then resonate through the social web.

Engagement is not the same as activity

People have long understood the difference between broadcasting and engaging. As communication channels become more dynamic and interactive, true influence is derived by having two-way dialogues, asking questions and by posting interesting and informative content.

This is the time of the new influential – idea starters and amplifiers are both influential in their own way

If you compare the lists of top tweeters from TweetLevel with other tools on the market, there will be a marked difference in that in our lists you will see some people with comparatively few followers and yet with a higher influence score than their peers who may be extremely popular. The reason for this is that TweetLevel identifies which people create ideas which are then amplified. This isn’t to say that both types of people aren’t important but more that they are both key targets and should be engaged with.

We are at a tipping point where sociology and technology can assist us in engagement

imageContinuing the argument above, we are at a wonderful position whereby sociology and technology are merging to assist us in understanding how to engage with different audiences in the most appropriate manner. TweetLevel can identify what type of person an individual is by their online behaviour. We call this the ‘Topology of Influence

We believe that influence is derived by how information flows between different people. Backed-up by the Web Science team at the University of Southampton, influential people can be: idea starters, amplifiers, curators, commentators or viewers.

People within these different categories all portray behavioural attributes that when complemented are more likely to promote the spread of a message. For example with Idea Starters I would engage in a deep structured discussion and with amplifiers I would understand their need to satisfy their readership and provide them with pre-packaged information that they can easily repurpose.

TweetLevel measures influence and more…

Understanding which people engage with is just half the story. Nothing irks me more than hearing someone has emailed their boss saying that “so-and-so has just retweeted us and they have 30 thousand followers”. Big Deal.

What is more important is ‘has there been a significant change in the amount of conversation that you have catalysed’ and ‘defining whether people are talking and sharing the points you want them to’. These are key measurement metrics which Tweet and BlogLevel also measures.

image   image image

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However, I would always counsel having a consistent measurement approach:

  • At the beginning of a campaign: to set a benchmark and ensure your message is relevant
  • During the campaign: are there peaks at the right time? Do we need to course correct, issues hijack or amend our message?
  • At the end of the campaign: how have we done? Have the right people engaged? Has the right message been echoed and spread?

What the tools can and can’t do

TweetLevel and BlogLevel are tools that help PR pros take what would be either an expensive or time consuming process into a free (these sites don’t cost) and quick job (reduces the analysis time from days to minutes). However, they don’t fully automate the identification or measurement role – this is intentionally done as a human mind always needs to validate and sanity check the results.

There are of course other excellent tools in the market. However, TweetLevel and BlogLevel are not trying to compete with them. These are purpose built to mirror the way we work so we do not need to retrofit our work to complement their tools. These are games or perks but simply a way that we can do our job better.

Of course there are some added extras that go beyond measurement – for example identifying what individuals most frequently discuss, who they influence, who influences them and other people who talk about similar subjects.

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I like to say that these tools are in continuous beta. As new developments arise or demand for specific features are required, we will update the tools accordingly.

What’s next?

To answer this simple question I would like to refer you to a simple quote that Jeremiah Owyang once said to me:

If you want to influence me, be in a conversation with me – wherever that conversation takes place.

I will be discussing both TweetLevel and BlogLevel at the forthcoming #measurePR chat on 30 August at 12-1 pm ET. I hope you can participate and join the debate. @jenzings will be hosting and my thanks to @shonali for organising.

Hello strangers!  Or Hello familiar people that we talk to a lot in the real world but who also happen to read our blog occasionally.

Are you well?  We’re very sorry that DERTy Talk has been absent for so long.  We’re almost entirely sure you hadn’t noticed our absence, but nevertheless we. are. back.  Sort of.

There’s been a lot on of late.  Presidential visits, a footballer on the front pages, ash clouds.  Aside to all this real news, May may well go down in memory as the month we’d care to forget, which is why we didn’t bother recording it on DERTy Talk.  Adding insult to injury Mother Nature doesn’t seem to have got the memo about Bank Holidays being sunny this time round.  Tis a pity.

Anywayz.  Next week is JUNE and we will resume the ordinary, regular service of DERTy Talk.  For now we just wanted to share some actual talking from some splendid people who participated in our #SocialEnt event yesterday.  Thanks again to Gail, Jon, Matthew, Simon and Emma for taking part and for leading what was a very lively and informative discussion.  It was the highlight of the week, it’s true.

Enjoy their wisdom shared in the videos below.  Should you have missed all our other content from the event you can find it here.

This morning Edelman’s DERT team announced the results of their fifth annual survey on Value, Engagement and Trust in the Era of Social Entertainment. Gail Becker, President of Edelman’s Western U.S. Region presented the results and hosted the event along with Jon Hargreaves Managing Director of Edelman Technology in Europe and a panel of experts including; Matthew Hawn, Vice president Last.fm, Emma Barnett, Digital Media Editor, The Daily Telegraph and Simon Nelson, the Digital Business and Strategy advisor and former controller of multiplatform commissioning at the BBC.

We will be sharing the full slideshow on here later today and posting up video snippets of the event for now here are the highlights and some of our thoughts, let us know what you think.

The key stats from the survey:

· 4% of U.K. consumers feel positive about the move to a paywalled service

· 45% of people in the U.K. and 57% in the U.S. believe social networking sites are a form of entertainment

· Personal enjoyment and visual/sound quality continue to top the list of purchase drivers with “being one of the first to have new entertainment” dropping significantly (to 14%, down from 40% in the U.K. and to 17%, down from 41% in the U.S.).

· More than half (52%) of all respondents would like to use a computer to access further entertainment content, and 30% would like to be able to access that content on their mobile phone

· 49% of people in the U.K. and 52% in the U.S. believe they are spending more than a year ago with their mobile phones to access their entertainment, while 59% (U.K.) and 53% (U.S.) spent more time with their laptop

As the study revealed last year, the internet remained the second most frequently turned to form of entertainment for the second year in a row. While television remained the most frequent form of entertainment both in the U.K. and the U.S. (49% and 47% respectively), dropping 8 and 11 percent respectively since 2010.

The Internet as connective tissue

Most sources of entertainment are less used, this just means that people are spreading their consumption wider. It seems that to succeed in the era of social entertainment, entertainment companies must invest in multiple channels of distribution to enable consumers to access their content wherever and whenever. Five years ago the entertainment industry viewed the internet as a threat, but now it’s an opportunity for those same companies to monetise internet content through simple revenue models indeed the internet can be the connective tissue bringing content together.

Overwhelmingly, consumers (84% in the U.K.) feel negatively about the move from free to paid entertainment services. The survey also reveals that paywalls created by entertainment sources for previously free services are being met with feelings of frustration and distrust by users. Some cite the lack of improvement in quality of service, while others state they would suspect a profit motive driven by greed.

The study also delivers insights on how content providers can try to overcome feelings of distrust about paywalls by delivering value in other ways. 87% of U.K. respondents consider visual and sound quality important in making their entertainment purchasing decisions and nearly half (47% in the U.K.) consider the number of devices with which they can access the entertainment.

The DERTy types at Edelman (that’s those of us who work in the Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology practice) are gearing up for the launch of this year’s study:  Value, Engagement and Trust in the era of Social Entertainment.  We go live tomorrow so watch this space…

But what do you remember most about the entertainment landscape if you think back to 2007? We thought it would be interesting, ahead of releasing the new findings, to take a look back at the headline stats from the last five years.  Wow how far we’ve come…. Early studies were dominated by the debates around illegal file sharing, how much consumers were willing to pay for content and the emerging power of social networks.  In some ways a lot has changed – and in other ways nothing has.

We should add that the methodology for the study has changed a little across the five years as we’ve grown to look at a wider pool of consumers in the UK and US.  So a statistician wouldn’t be happy about comparing year on year.  However – we think this little slideshow gives a nice little summary of the evolution of the sector.  If you’d like to know more about each specific year, what was asked and who was asked, then please just drop us a note in the comment section.  You can see last year’s findings here.

If you can’t attend the event tomorrow, you can still take part by using the hastag #SocialEnt.  You can also have a listen to our podcast last week, with Matt Locke, Richard Sambrook and Luke Mackay, which sets up some of the themes of tomorrow’s study.

Last year’s Mobile World Congress was greeted with cautious optimism that has since been replaced by real enthusiasm within an industry that continues to explore its potential

In preparing for this year’s Mobile World Congress I’ve been taking a look at the trends and insights that emerged from last year’s congress and seeing how far the mobile industry has come since then.

Edelman’s Kevin Bossi noted that last year’s event was approached with a kind of cautious optimism that was understandable after a year in 2009 that showed growth in mobile data services but financial instability around the world.

In 2011, this cautious optimism has given way to real excitement around a mobile market that is continually pushing its boundaries and seen as a driver for social and economic development. As ever the scope of the industry continues to grow and this offers up opportunities at the same time raising questions about how businesses define themselves.

The trends and themes from last year’s Mobile World Congress point to an industry that is reaching deeper into the lives of consumers while still exploring how far existing and new technologies can be pushed.

New Enthusiasm, Old Challenges

There has been excitement around new developments in devices with tablet computing taking hold in the market and new networking technologies like LTE hopefully solving mobile data challenges. Apps and gaming have also shown that the opportunities within the mobile market are still vast and not always easy to predict.

From looking at these innovations and the trends from MWC10, the question of the operators’ role in the mobile ecosystem is still one that has yet to be answered. It isn’t an easy question and one that is becoming even more difficult to answer. Pricing, bundled services and increased penetration won’t be generating buzz in the exhibition hall but they are all very real for operators as they try to convert network traffic into revenue gains. Operators have an uncertain future as they watch a vibrant market and seek to carve out a leadership role in it.

What is certain is that the mobile industry as a whole is being seen as a force for good. Mobile Money services are expanding as operators partner across verticals, mHealth is bringing efficiency to healthcare while the increased depth of wireless networking and affordable handsets bring more people online. While the buzz amongst technology journalists has been about the role of mobile phone and social networking in uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, they are already being used in the democratic process in Africa particularly in Uganda as well as regions across the continent.

Lessons to Learn

Emerging markets aren’t just taking advantage of new services as we saw at MWC10. Some of the largest brand presence at the event were from vendors and operators from outside of Europe and North America. Expect to see Huawei , ZTE, HTC on the hardware side and China Telecom, Bharti Airtel and Turkcell to be well represented again this year. Revelations about the Chinese government’s aid to its equipment vendor was not surprising and will not slow these companies down as they continue to take market share from Western mainstays in the equipment market.

What will be exciting is to see what lesson both operators and manufactures from emerging markets have to teach the industry about new services and what they see sustaining growth in the future. Players in emerging market will have some distinct lessons to share and it plays into an overall theme of this year’s congress. While technology is certainly at the core of the mobile industry, meeting the unique needs of different markets, communities and ultimately consumers is its goal.

A User-Centric Congress

Since last year’s congress there has been an increasing shift toward the user with a stronger emphasis on how people are using new technologies not just the technologies themselves. Consumers are more frequently asking themselves, “What can this technology do for me? What need does it meet and how does it improve the way I’m living my life?”

The tablet computing market has shown just how important it is to explain the usage scenarios of a device, not just the device capabilities. That is at least for competitors to the iPad that need a strong rational for why their device is superior and best meets the needs of the consumer.

Nowhere is the user more important than in the app market. MWC10 was awash with talk about apps ranging from mHealth to social media and what will be the next Angry Birds. The proliferation of apps and smartphones have allowed for greater levels of customization and allowed devices to offer suites services that can define a user’s experience.

More than ever it feels like the consumer is able to shape the future of the market and we’ll see this theme play out along side announcements around tablet computing, near field communications, LTE and gaming. All facets of the mobile industry from devices, the network and apps are all showing us something new and hopefully we’ll see a few surprises at this year’s event.

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom

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