The Jurassic Park question of social media

Brace yourself. What I’m about to type might be a bit controversial – not every brand or company should be on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

There. I’ve said it. I’ve dared to suggest not using social media. But before I get thrown out of the Marketing Club for daring to speak ill of social media – let me just clarify…

Yes social media is an exciting new channel and a great way of communicating with many different audiences but just because a social media channel exists, it doesn’t mean you should be using it. If you’re sitting there trying to work out how to use [insert latest social media tool here] then maybe the answer is more simple than you think. You shouldn’t. Not every social media channel is right for your company, organisation or brand.

Yet it still puzzles me why some marketers rush to embrace ‘the next big thing’, not because it’s right for the brand, the company or the objective at hand but because ‘everyone else is doing it’. And when they do utilise that next big thing, they don’t tend to do a great job of it. Why? Because the focus is on ‘doing something’ rather than ‘doing the right thing’.

For those of us who can remember that far back, we saw this with the birth of websites where a plethora of badly laid out, badly designed sites appeared that did nothing for the brand and were simply an online version of an organisation’s printed brochure. But the rush to get online was insatiable. More recently we’ve seen QR codes appearing in the most bizarre of places – from revolving posters to the side of buses. Now, as tempted as I am to access a website via a QR code, I’m not running down Oxford Street, smartphone outstretched, in pursuit of the number 55 or loitering at a poster site waiting for said poster to appear again. There seems to be a rush to use these things without really thinking them through and social media is no different.

This is where I suggest we take inspiration, and dare I say direction, from a somewhat unusual source in marketing intelligence – the 1993 film, Jurassic Park.

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There is a key point in the film, the part where everything goes a little bit wrong – security fences fail, dinosaurs escape, people get eaten – when Jeff Goldblum’s character, in response to the accusation of being anti-progress, states that they “were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”.

For me this is the killer question when it comes to any company approaching its social media strategy but one that rarely gets asked.

When I’ve spoken to companies about their social media activity it strikes me that many are ‘doing’ social media but not really sure why. They have a Twitter account – but aren’t really sure if they are using it right. They have a LinkedIn page – but aren’t sure what they are supposed to do with it. They have a Facebook page – it’s blank and they’re not really sure why they’ve got one. One may ask why so many people are rushing ahead with execution without any clear strategy, guidelines or purpose? It seems madness. But as this is their social media presence these questions of strategy and purpose are just glossed over because… well… because we have to have a Facebook page don’t we? Well actually no, you don’t.

So, before rushing off to set up your page on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or any number of social sites, first ask yourself the Jurassic Park question: yes you can set up the page, but should you? What exactly are you trying to achieve and is it right for your audience, your business and your brand?

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A Naked Victory? Who has benefitted from Prince Harry’s Las Vegas antics?

ImagePrince Harry was born with scandalous blood and we can’t get enough of it. Harry may be a PR nightmare, but he’s only treading in the echoes of his heritage. Think Sarah Ferguson’s toe sucking, Princess Margaret’s alcoholism and P-daddy Philip’s innumerable muffled rap-gaffs.

I am sure by now everyone has had a peak in The Sun or Googled the photos of the 3rd in line to the throne.  The internet, newspapers and social media have all been clogged up with opinions on the outcome of these leaked photos here we weigh up the negatives and positives.

Marketing and media magazine, The Drum published the PCRA’s results on the opinion of 143 top PR brains in the industry earlier this week.  43% believed that the photos have had a negative impact on the Prince’s reputation affecting the hard work that had gone into building his public profile through the Jubilee and Olympic period.

The more reserved among us would probably agree with this statement; how can naked photos of a member of the royal family all over the web and in our newspaper pages possibly be positive?  As well as the Prince himself surely his security are feeling slightly red in the face, failing to prevent other partygoers snapping the Prince’s compromising position on their mobiles.

Has The Sun’s controversial decision to publish the photos paid off?  With the majority of people having already seen the photos online and the thousands of complaints that have flooded the Press Watchdog about their unnecessary publication, it would appear not.  However, they are a hot topic of conversation so if it was exposure they were looking for then they’ve got it.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, the same survey showed 15% believed that the photos have in fact had a positive effect on his image evident across the social networking world.  16 000 Facebook users have joined and 10 000 are waiting to be accepted to the group ‘Support Prince Harry with a Salute’ where members of the British army and the public have stripped in support of their Prince.  Ex-hussar Jordan Wylie, who founded the army Facebook group, said: “It was outrageous Harry was criticised for his antics in Las Vegas because he is just one of the lads.  He might be a Royal but he is also a hardworking Apache helicopter pilot and he wants to have some fun.”

Across Twitter #knowthecode has sprung up thanks to The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority who have turned the ‘massive breach of royal protocol into a marketing gem’, pushing the phrase, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’.  Their online oath encourages us to sign a pledge of allegiance to the code ensuring that holiday antics do not leave the city; by midday today 92 364 had visited the website and clicked their support.  The irony is that if what happened in Vegas had stayed there this company would be without their campaign and without much of the attention they have received over the past few days, you probably would have never had heard of them.

Quick to join in on the action Lynx launched an advertisement on the back of Prince Harry’s escapades apologising to him for the apparent ‘Lynx effect’ swiftly printing posters with the words ‘Sorry Harry if it had anything to do with us’.

Harry has always had the image of a Playboy Prince but thanks to some nifty PR from Clarence House the Playboy Prince is now the people’s hero, helping keep the peace in Iraq and tirelessly working for charity. The new generation of royals (Wills, Kate, Harry et al) are prettily media savvy. And despite rumours of more photos to come from an even wilder weekend on Richard Branson’s private island, I imagine the PR cogs are already in motion and such wild antics will have to be left to our imagination!

 

 

The Un-menshn-ables!

Louise Mensch – Tory MP, chick lit author and wife of Peter Mensch, the manager of Metallica, Jimmy Page and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – has joined forces with former Labour technology expert Luke Bozier to set up a new social networking site to rival Twitter. 

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The site called Menshn.com was launched last week in the US to capitalise on the presidential election and is designed to curate the conversation around set topics. Upon its US launch, Menshn offered three discussions, one for the Obama campaign, one for the Romney campaign, and a third generic one covering the US Election in general, but has now been expanded to cover a wider range of topics. At present the site looks rather bland compared to its rival Twitter, with some interesting topics of conversation on what is essentially three glorified chat rooms, including which presidential candidate has watched the most pornography!

By having only set discussion topics Mensch and Bozier hope this will limit the mundane and random updates people post on Twitter (that’s what happens when you have over 60,000 followers) and generate actual debate and conversation. Essentially menshn.com is a more topic-based Twitter comprised of chat rooms, designed to enable people to have conversations rather then simply broadcasting their thoughts. The other difference is users are gives 180 characters to play with rather than just 140 and instantly gain 100 followers upon joining. Similarly to Twitter the site revolves around following people but it does not include retweets or, ironically, mentions.

It has since been launched in the UK sooner than expected, responding to UK interest and to capitalise on England’s EURO2012 match against Italy over the weekend. The UK launch was originally planned just before the Olympics.

So far the reaction on Twitter, blogging sites and even menshn.com itself has been negative, describing it as a vanity project, criticising lax security and questioning what exactly it can offer that Twitter already doesn’t, considering Twitter can be tailored through sites and applications such as Tweetdeck to follow certain conversations or topics. Other commentators have responded favouring how subjects on Twitter can morph, allowing people to engage in what-ever-you-want chitchat.

Not to be outdone Mensch and Bozier aren’t the only politicos in the process of setting up their own social networking site. The Kremlin has also announced it is creating its own Facebook-style social networking site, following failed attempts to limit online Opposition activism after the recent street demonstrations. The popularity of the internet in Russia, which has recently overtaken Germany as the European country with the most internet users, means any Chinese-style attempt to assert control from above would be doomed. Whether a government-created social networking site will succeed remains to be seen, but while other platforms free of government censorship and control remain free to use this looks unlikely.

I remain sceptical when it comes to new social media sites and having looked at Menshn it still has a fair few creases which need ironing out. In an already saturated market, any new social media launch needs to offer something different, alternative and most importantly easy and worth using. The most recent successful example is Pinterest, now one of the fastest-growing social media sites, but one based purely on image sharing. Users of established sites such as Facebook and Twitter are reluctant to leave, or switch to new sites. Google has been trying to break into the market since 2003 and has only had limited success to date so any new sites are likely to struggle to gain traction, but I wish these new sites the best of luck and look forward to following their progress. 

 

Keith Millar

Timeline: will brands be ‘liking’ Facebook’s latest development?

“Brands are people too” apparently, well according to Facebook at least, whose controversial Timeline feature was rolled out to all brand pages towards the end of last month. The new pages have received a mixed reception, largely because the redesign removes the ability for brands to create landing tabs to incentivise fans to interact and engage with them. The removal of these gateways, where fans were forced to “Like” the page in order to access richer content, means that now, all visitors will be directed to a permanent universal landing page, regardless of whether they have liked the page or not and hence the ability to establish a unique experience has gone.

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Facebook’s introduction of Timeline has increased the need for brands to demonstrate innovative online marketing like never before. Simple quick fire statements will no longer suffice. Brands now have to be seen to be maximising the facilities social

media is throwing their way. As a result, brands will need more staff, which means bigger budgets and companies are not necessarily queuing up to recruit newbies!

Facebook’s Timeline does still deliver a rather striking and effective package, with the new configuration making it far easier for Facebook users to share material, a key asset to brands. Many people have praised the aesthetic appeal of Facebook’s Timeline, with its unique, yet fairly easy to follow presentation of apps and photos.

Another perk of the new format is that brand page owners can highlight what’s important-such as a post, or a story. The new layout also allows the brand to control who can post on their timeline or add tags to your page. 

There is also the rather unmissable addition of the cover photo. It will be interesting to see how creative types will utilise the new cover photo.  Moreover, Facebook’s Timeline assists brands in telling a story, which can immediately make a brand more personable to a consumer.  Users can gain more of an in-depth understanding of a brand’s history, whilst enjoying the aesthetic appeal of bigger, bolder imagery.  The timeline takes users on a journey that transpires their original perception of a brand. One can see the appeal of taking a trip down memory lane with the Facebook Timeline, and for brands this personifies them, in a way they haven’t been able to before, or at least in a pre-Pinterest world, but will brands truly benefit from the creative refurbishment of the Facebook profile?

There is clearly a demand from brands for new ways to interact with their fans through social media, as in recent weeks both Twitter and Google have similarly introduced brand pages. However it appears we are still in a period of transition to an ultimate perfect solution.

That said Timeline’s brand pages are definitely a great asset for brands such as Coke and Red Bull  to showcase their work, purpose and history. Timeline is continually evolving and soon brands will be able to post coupons onto there, for users to share them with friends. While the new Facebook format does mean that people will be required to invest more time and effort in maintaining the general upkeep of brand pages, Facebook Timeline is a very promising offering to brands. Brands should maximise the opportunity to showcase themselves in an interesting and easily accessible way for consumers and therefore use social media to widen the audience and boost engagement and brand association.

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Slacktivism – Never Mistake Motion for Action

Three weeks in and the dust has settled on Kony”, unless you live under a rock with dodgy wi-fi and a faulty modem you can’t have missed all the hoo-hah. The ‘Make Kony Famous’ video quickly racked up 70 million views in a matter of hours, a task which took Susan Boyle a whole six days, and has now reached in excess of 100 million views; not to mention an innumerable amount of Kony-related tweets and Facebook posts.

Whilst this is all well and good (and I’m sure will make a fascinating infographic), it will make little difference on the ground in Africa, and fails to get to grips with the real, and more complicated than a 29-minute documentary can explain, situation within Uganda, Sudan, CAR and the Congo, where the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is also active.

The Make Kony (not to mention Jason Russell) Famous documentary was essentially one massive awareness campaign, not a call to action. The majority of us had never heard of this guy Kony beforehand, but now we know him – success for the main objective. Yet awareness and social media will do very little to end atrocities in Africa. But Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber have shared the link so we  must follow.

The film has received significant criticism across the web for various reasons:

  • questions over the finances and transparency of Invisible Children;
  • links to evangelical Christianity;
  • Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda or now dead;
  • support for a military dictatorship, which has committed crimes just as bad as the LRA;
  • glitzy shots of the planet, Hollywood-style production values and a high-impact soundtrack are perfect for attracting an audience but self-defeating in getting them to give money;
  • it does not focus on the issue of civil war and development, instead it is focused on one man;
  • it is another example of the white man’s burden of having to share a video to save the black man in Africa;
  • it makes a hero of a heinous criminal while making money for its creators.

But perhaps most strikingly, the film and similar campaigns promote ‘slacktivism’. Once you’ve seen one Kony 2012 video you’ve seen them all.

A previous blog posted by a colleague of mine states “the social media revolution can offer us the chance to help create, contribute and form news agendas much faster than traditional media ever can”. But how engaged are we with this social media revolution, if we really are experiencing a social media revolution at all?

In 2009, Twitter was predicted to help topple the communist government in Moldova; as for Iran – what happened with its 2010 Twitter revolution? There was no true Twitter revolution in either country, just a bunch of Westerners tweeting in English. The same is true of the Arab Spring; there was no social media revolution tweeted in Arabic, and there certainly won’t be one in Uganda.

What all these “social media revolutions” have in common, is once the Twitter noise has died down, it is still unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality of conflict resolution.

Using social media to clients advantage is part and parcel of PR, but effective PR is more than just awareness rising.  An effective campaign needs to have action backed up by social media, not social media back up by social media. The effectiveness and longevity of the global ‘Occupy’ movements was due to the fact it was based in action supported by social media.

The problem with slacktivism is it allows us to believe we are making a difference and that social or political change can occur through the click of a button. This kind of social action is based in the moment and rarely leads to prolonged engagement. These campaigns let us absolve ourselves of responsibility. We think we have done something about *insert tragedy here*, by telling others about it.

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Campaigning organisations and PR’s should stop launching cheesy stunts and peddling propaganda that decision makers simply ignore, and instead encourage supporters to find and engage with a cause they believe in and actively lobby for change.

While campaigns like this are effective in that they are quick and easy, taking only seconds to tweet or share, they do not create long-lasting change. Slacktivism doesn’t build momentum for the next stage of the campaign.

Unless as PR’s we can present an issue in a way that compels slacktivists to act, their cause will ultimately fall foul of the old adage: “After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.”

Step aside Google+, Twitter & Facebook there’s new social media in town…

2012 has already seen the news packed with social media stories. From bald Barbie Facebook campaigns, Ed Milliband’s Blackbusters blunder, McDStories hashtag horror,  Katie Price’s Snickers Stunt to LA Fitness’s Twitter storm.

With social media continuing to be a clear influence on our behaviour and on brands’ marketing strategies  it is no wonder that more sites are popping up with new ways of engaging and interacting with audiences.

Two which we think have great potential this year are Instagram and Pinterest.

So what do these social media tools have that the giants don’t? Is there really room for them in this seemingly saturated market?

Instagram

Instagram has gained popularity over the last year and was named iPhone App of the year. It is now considered the largest mobile social network  with over 15 million users and is recognised as a great choice for brands. This new platform allows consumers to tell their story instantly via shared photos.

Recent brand initiatives using this technology include Levi’s “Be A Levi’s Model” campaign, where individuals were encouraged to strike a pose and upload a photo in the hope of becoming a future model. Another example is Tiffany’s latest campaigntrue love in pictures’, which uses an Instagram gallery to allow followers to share their photos. Other brands such as Burberry, Mango, Starbucks & ASOS have used it as a way of creating content that their followers regularly engage with and talk about.


Pinterest

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard site which allows individuals to pin images to digital boards, link back to other sites, share posts with followers, like and re-pin content. One of the best features of Pinterest is its ease of use – you can share and browse content simply and quickly. Its uptake has been fairly rapid over the last few months and brands are beginning to tap into its potential. It’s also proved to drive more traffic to retailer’s sites than Google+.
As HubSpot point out, “the trick to succeeding on Pinterest isn’t necessarily about showing off your products or services directly. It’s about finding creative ways to show how those products and services fit into the lifestyles of your target audience”.

One brand that has used Pinterest particularly well is Greek yogurt company Chobani. With boards ranging from “Nothing but good” to “Flavour inspiration” it is clearly connecting with followers from a lifestyle perspective and enabling  users to understand its brand, rather than just focusing on the products it sells. Other brands using Pinterest well include Gap, Whole Foods, Etsy and Better Homes and Gardens.

Pinterest is currently only available by invitation, so if you want to join you can either request an invitation or get in contact with us at Limelight – check out our Pinterest boards here: http://pinterest.com/limelightideas/

These two social media initiatives aren’t as big as the giants (yet!), but I’m sure over the next few months more and more brands will use them. They offer a refreshing new platform to share content visually, and I’m already hooked!

 

Danielle Barrett

2012 is here, but are we prepared for it?

As we take our first few tentative steps into 2012 we thought we would cast our eyes forward and look at what the year has in store for UK marketers. The Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012; it is set to be an action packed year. But with so many brands competing for the limelight, how can they make sure they stand out from the crowd? Which offline and online media trends can marketers exploit in order to get ahead? As is so often the case, the answer is right before our eyes – to be prepared for 2012 we must learn from 2011.

2011 witnessed social media continue to expand its influence over the marketing industry. Many brands moved their entire digital spend to Facebook and it seems this pattern is set to continue in 2012. In particular the posting and sharing of videos online is transforming the advertising and marketing industry. Saatchi & Saatchi’s spoof of the royal wedding for T-Mobile, which featured Prince William and Kate Middleton lookalikes, was named 2011’s ad of the year among viewers in the UK. It was viewed an estimated 24,485,000 times globally after being launched in April 2011. The advert brilliantly tapped into the excitement of a nation and is a good example of successful offline and online strategies working together in harmony; a pattern we are likely to see a lot more of in 2012 with more and more adverts going viral online.

We couldn’t look back at 2011 without mentioning the phenomenal success of the John Lewis Christmas ad; ‘The Long Wait’. The advert touched the hearts of a nation and is a great example of a brand utilizing personality. In order to stand out from an increasingly busy crowd, brands need to make sure they create relationships with consumers and foster loyalty – John Lewis achieved this brilliantly. As explained by actress and screenwriter Mae West; “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is”. A charismatic personality is crucial to a brand’s success and this isn’t going to change in 2012. With the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee fast approaching; 2012 will foster a greater sense of national pride in Britain. 2011 has already witnessed brands keen to adopt a more patriotic stance and this is all part of the personality brands will try and display to their consumers.

Another theme that looks set to dominate the marketing industry is the squeeze on price. The worldwide economic recession shows no signs of abating and 2011 saw price based promotions gather pace. Brands therefore need to make themselves budget proof, whether this is by being seen as the best in their field or by creating a strong relationship with their consumers. Brands must encourage customer loyalty to ensure when shopping budgets are cut they do not lose out to the often cheaper supermarket own brands.

Moving away from online and offline content the technology sector is also expanding and impacting on the marketing industry. The rise of the ‘second screen’ seems unstoppable. 2011 saw more and more people consuming media through smartphones and tablets rather than through more traditional platforms and this presents an interesting challenge to brands and marketers. According to Nielsen’s 2011 mobile connected devices report, 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone users use their device while watching TV, usually in a social sense. This research is backed up by the testimony of BBC i-player creator Anthony Rose, who claimed television ad-breaks were becoming “tweet breaks”. A number of televisions shows now invite viewers to ‘tweet’ along while watching and this trend will be boosted by the rise of internet connected smart TVs. This is a new and rapidly growing marketplace, marketers need to be proactive and create compelling content that will engage consumers. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionised how we interact with content on-the-go and mobile devices will continue to play a significant role in 2012.

Finally, with the emergence of cloud technology and the continued rise of wireless internet our lives and homes are now more connected than ever. Almost any modern device can have an internet connection and as a result video can be displayed almost anywhere. Video is becoming the preeminent communication tool of our society. Research from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index shows that by 2015, 1 million minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Therefore it seems certain 2012 will witness brands continue to adopt video content as an important communication tool online.

Clearly there is no shortage of options for marketers in the current environment. Social media, mobile, viral videos and more traditional methods mean marketers have a variety of platforms with which to engage their consumers. However with so much choice, brands need to take extra care not to rush into marketing decisions. Campaigns need to be carefully planned to ensure they are communicating with the right consumers in the right way.

Have a great year everyone!

Ian Savage