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?

Tweeters – Are You Paying Attention?

I love industry events. International conferences to morning seminars, I love them all. Whatever the type they present vital opportunities to meet new people and hear new things.  Communication professionals tend to be particularly keen on these, for obvious reasons.

For me twitter is an important part of the event experience. Most obviously this relates to engagement. The platform is perfectly designed for the type of interaction an industry event encourages, allowing you to both converse with the other people in the room and share what is happening with the outside world. Make sure your phone is fully charged, grab the hashtag from the screen as you enter the room and away you go.

As well as general engagement more direct networking has been transformed by Twitter. Keen to make contact with a particular attendee? Unaware of who might or might not be in the room with you? Need an excuse to approach? No time to schmooze in between sessions? Twitter solves all these and more. Contacts can be made and relationships established, quickly and seamlessly. Modern communication at its finest.

I would not classify myself as a particularly prolific tweeter in general (one or two a day normally) but that changes when I’m at an event. And last weekend I happened to find myself at an event, although not the industry kind. I attended The Battle of Ideas at The Barbican, an annual debating Festival where “different strands of social, political, scientific, academic and cultural discussion are brought together”. Not exactly the type of event I’ve been referring to from a content point of view, but identical in terms of format.

The action packed schedule included a dizzyingly diverse array of sessions, from ‘Is Europe Boring?’ to ‘Goodbye to press freedom’. Everything from health to technology to media to the law was up for discussion. Whatever session you happened to be attending there were hundreds of other delegates sitting in any number of parallel sessions. The attendees were as diverse as the agenda – journalists, students, academics, but also professional representatives from all the subject areas under discussion.

So there I was, ready for a day of stimulating debate. I settle down in my seat, got out my phone and started tweeting, almost automatically. And to my surprise I found myself to be almost alone. Well, comparatively speaking. There were three other people (all in other sessions) tweeting while I was. There were over a hundred people in my session, but only one other person tweeted during the entire discussion. Don’t get me wrong, overall people did tweet throughout the event, just not on the level I was used to. Not even close.

The Battle of Ideas is a well-respected, generally popular event and there were certainly no problems in terms of audience engagement. The difference here is that the audience were keen to engage in the old fashioned way, by asking questions at the end. I found myself wondering if I might be missing a trick here. By focusing on my next tweet have I been missing the chance to really engage with the ideas being presented to me? Have I been falling into the trap of worrying to much about the screen in front of me and not enough about what is actually going on around me?

Obviously I won’t be giving up my event tweeting habit any time soon, but I will be striving for a better balance in the future. 

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!

 

 

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

The Quirky Factor = priceless PR

As the nights draw in and my thoughts turn to the fact that a thieving vagabond stole my warm coat off a restaurant coat peg last winter (who steals a coat?!), the onset of autumn does bring some good with it. Yes, it’s hibernation time and that means one thing: autumn television is upon us! Hurrah.

And this also means, love it or loathe it, The X Factor has returned in all its primetime glory. Cue a large chunk of the British population (16.2 million to be exact) turning into die-hard weekend devotees of the most talked about talent show on the planet. Whilst a small part of me would like to boycott The X Factor, I hate to admit that it can be kind of watchable. It is also impossible to ignore its colossal popularity and PR gravitas, which was wholly verified yesterday. Protesters flooded social networking sites after contestant Gamu Nhengu, who can actually sing, failed to make the final 12 on Sunday whilst two other contestants got through on their ‘quirky’ factor, despite fluffing up their auditions.

Yesterday morning a fan site entitled “Gamu should have got through” was inundated with more than 135,000 registrations. The site averaged 500 new registrations every few minutes, and ITV has revealed that it has received more than 500 official complaints about Cole’s decisions on Sunday night.

Blimey. I know it was a odd decision, but it’s certainly telling when over 200,000 people can be bothered to sign a petition for a contestant on a singing competition, yet a recent research by The Data Partnership has revealed that 63% of Brits would not sign up to a charity’s Facebook page.  I know the marketing world seems to be constantly talking about the importance of social media, but here is the cold, hard proof about how powerful the marriage of brand awareness and social media can be. If something has got on people’s nerves, pair an immediate communication tool with an angry mob and you have a force to be reckoned with: X Factor bosses are now under immense pressure to disqualify one of the contestants that got through instead of Gamu. The immediacy of social media makes it the perfect tool for ranting, and boy did they rant.

I’d like to quote a commentator on the Brand Republic website here, as I simply couldn’t put it better myself: “When the ratings go up again and there is an X Factor spin, can we all just bow to whoever does the comms planning on this. If you want to know what the modern media world is like and how to live in it, you don’t need to look much further.” Enough said. Look – I’ve even written a blog on it too!