7 Dec 2010

Google - Reputation Ranking

Raising your Google ranking is high on most online wish-lists. The New York Times' report suggests that  a spectacles reseller was able to gain excellent Google ranking due to dozens of complaints on forums.

The New York Times thought that the multitude of comments, largely negative, were mistakenly interpreted as popularity by Google’s algorithms. In fact what was happening was some rather shady grey/black hay SEO work as explained in detail here - tssk!

Google has rushed in a fix to resolve this issue. As usual, not much has been given away about how they arrived at a solution. What is certain is that people saying bad things about you could now directly impact your search rankings. Take this seriously.

Get your reputation, SEO and social media right and you'll be fine. Don't skimp. Your reputation is worth something, after all you've probably spent years building it up, don't throw it away.

New Blog - But this one continues . . .

I've started a new blog here - http://sanjitchudha.wordpress.com/ - to accomodate interests and comments on other matters and to ensure that this blog remains focused.   I'll continue to blog here too.  

28 Oct 2010

The UK Internet Economy

Measuring the impact of the internet on the UK economy is notoriously hard.  Boston Consulting Group have made a brave stab at giving it a go.   The results?   That the internet contributes at least £100 billion to the UK economy, about 7.2% of GDP.   There are regional differences and it comes as no suprise that London leads the way.   That said, the East of England and Scotland aren't far behind. 

According to the report, commissioned by Google, if the internet was an economic sector it would be the fifth largest and outweigh the construction, transport and utilities industries in the UK  Around 60 per cent of the £100bn figure is due to internet consumption according to the report.   The remainder of the money is from the UK's internet infrastructure, government IT spending and net exports.  For every £1 spent online to import goods, £2.80 is exported helping to make the UK the world's leading nation for e-commerce, according to the report - this compares to exports of 90p for every £1 imported in the offline economy.

It's a great report so do take a look.

Leadership in a Socially Networked World

The world of social networking is still viewed as a frontier, a dangerous one at that.   It shouldn't be.    

Proactive business leaders who are dealing with the issue and helping employees, are finding that social media is well within their comfort zone.   How and why?   This great piece from CIO.com tells it like it is.    

In an earlier post I referred to the importance of treating social media as part of the marketing mix and ensuring that tracking and ROI were paramount.    Together these pieces reflect my view of what social media can do for organisations and how.   To enable it to happen of course, you need to get the experts in.   We, at Creative Nation, can help.

In related news it looks as though MySpace has finally woken up to the basic principles of SEO, user centred design and usability.   A major re-design of MySpace will roll out in the next few months, get a sneak preview here.

27 Oct 2010

Google soars: Digg and The Times wither

Hot on yesterday's post came a comment to Paid Content from someone naming themselves 'Times Worker'.   It may be someone being mischievous, it may be someone with a grievance OR it may be someone telling something close to the truth.

As Google accounts for a record amount of web traffic (6.4%), Digg expires . . . or at least withers away.    Digg's demise has been put down to the departure of the founding members on large payouts and the re-design.   But I'd question that.   The rise of Twitter may also have something to do with it.   Digg's social bookmark model seems 'quaint' by comparison  with Twitter.   I was an early adopter of Digg, but I also confess to having gradually stopped using it in favour of Twitter and other social media over the last couple of years . . . and the thing is, I didn't miss Digg.

26 Oct 2010

The Times' Paywall: A Health Warning

Nielsen estimate The Times has just over 360,000 unique users behind it's paywall (these are people who have registered and been through the payment gateway to the other side of the wall).   The Nielsen figures include traffic generated by users who were given free online trials, or get free web access thrown in with their print subscription to the Times' publications.

A health warning in terms of the accuracy of the figures is appropriate. Nielsen measures these things slightly differently to, say, a report from the pay engine or conventional web analytics services. In addition you should bear in mind that some 'users' are people who have paid for one-off access (£1 to access The Times sites for one day) and therefore of little value down the line.   

  • Nielsen state that The Times and Sunday Times websites experienced an 88% drop in unique users (UK only) since the erection of the paywall
  • The Times had 3.1 million UK unique users in the second quarter of 2010 according to Nielsen. This figure has fallen to 1.78 million overall now, and it is on the basis of this differential that Nielsen estimates the number of paying subscribers
  • Nielsen estimate that one in five subscribers have paid a £1 (or one days' access).

Clearly the initial figures will include many who have trialled it (me included). We don’t know how many of these people go on to become subscribers (I know I didn't).

The 362,000 unique users figure Nielsen has reached seems to be quite high, in my view. News International has yet to release any data. It would be interesting to know how they pitch their reach to advertisers for example. Targeting and personalisation have been mentioned. After all, signing up to the Times paywall online involves nine required fields of personal data.

The Times' argument is that the very act of subscribing online suggests a more engaged audience. Nielsen attempt to corroborate this by suggesting that in Q3 Times paywall visitors averaged 42% more pages per person a month than the average Q2 pre-paywall visitors .

Whilst the argument that subscribers' data enables better targeting and value might be true for, say, FT.com (where the scale is subscribers is indisputable) I suggest it has dubious value based on the figures we are discussing here. I doubt that the fall-off in ad revenues is matched by an uplift in subscription revenues – the product just isn't that unique.

According to Nielsen, the over 50s account for 52% of the paywall group; the over 65s account for 16%. The footprint of the over 50s group has increased whilst that of the 25-34 year old age group is now 13% of the paywall group compared to 22% of the general audience - a big fall. Nielsen goes on to say that households earning between £50,000 and £80,000 make up a larger part of the paywall group at the expense of those earning less than £20,000 and that paywall audience also tends to be older.

So, an older and wealthier audience is always good (look at the success of the Telegraph and Mail). However, this audience is also very demanding of quality, a lack of gimicks and faultless customer service . . . they want a Rolls Royce. As we all know, Rolls Royces cost. Add to this the advertising campaigns The Times has engaged in and the sweeteners it has doled out, more costs. The door on social media sharing is firmly closed, so there is no low-cost marketing effort designed to bait (younger?) users with targeted content. It just doesn't stack up in my view.

This suggests what we all probably knew anyway, that young people will not pay for this type of content. It is freely available everywhere. 'Opinion' pieces from a right-wing commentariat will not attract young audiences.

Advertisers and agencies are right to be concerned. According to John Baylon, group digital trading director at Starcom MediaVest, of most concern will be the dip in the number of those 25- to 34-year-old visitors.

  • Where is the future audience? 
  • Where is the diversity in The Times' appeal? 
  • Should advertisers looking at broad based brand campaigns really spend the big bucks with The Times?

14 Oct 2010

Building a brand

In a perfect world, there would be no boundaries within companies and organisations.   The practice often falls far short of the ideal theory.

Creative Nation (the creative production consultancy I am part of) address just that in their latest post.   It also brought to mind the discussions which took place at yesterday's Jump event organised by the lovely people at eConsultancy.   We talked about how the silos need to be broken down to create the seamless experience that customers expect.   How true. 

Why should consumers expect to receive a different message or customer experience when dealing with the online off-shoot of an offline company, servive, product or organisation?   The obvious media issues aside, the message should be the same.   Companies, organisations, service providers and product development and sales need to start having conversations with customers.

In a world where ROI is king, we all need to start thinking about how we can dissolve barriers and work together.   Digital remains in the vanguard of these moves and many companies are starting to make moves in the right direction. 

Tomorrow sees the AoP summit where simlar issues have long been discussed.   In addition, there will be round tables on subjects like the place of content in the digital world, ROI and monetisation and how organisations can work better internally to deliver ROI.

We live in interesting times!

29 Sep 2010

September 2010

It has been a busy month with a short break in-between.   I am now working with Creative Nation as Digital Director, find out how and more about what we do from Creative Nation News.

Whilst on a brief break (to France) I got to thinking about how France was changing and how some of those changes (social and economic) seemed to entrench stereotypes, theirs of us, ours of them, everyone about everyone else.   Then this came long - it's a hoot!

We've been engaged on some branding projects recently and whilst researching that I came across this little nugget - blue is the colour for sure.   Personally I can't help thinking it a very 'safe' option, implying seriousness and solidity in much the same way as Estate Agents used to tell you to pain your front door dark blue in the 1980s.

Whilst on the subject of branding I was quite taken by this post from Felix Velarde about why Brands should engage with the social web.   I'll be speaking at a conference in October on how Social Media has the scope to not only help Brands but also how it can (positively) change their internal structures and dynamics.   Whilst on that subject, this post from Christian Howes of WebTrends tells it like it is . . .

. . . and finally, I couldn't agree more with this post from Inspired Outsiders, genius and so true.  

15 Sep 2010

Social Media and Marketing

Some of the hype surrounding social media could do more harm than good for businesses. Let me explain why.   Social media, used wisely and well, has the ability to do wonderful things for your business, but it's not the miracle diet pill of the marketing world.

We've all seen them, the 'twankers'. There’s no denying that social media continues to experience impressive growth. The potential for engagement and innovation is almost exponential.

Some executives remain sceptical about adopting a social strategy and I can see why. Social media is a young discipline. Few, if any practitioners have a background that is based in marketing (there are some admirable exceptions . . ahem!).

Social Media advocates often argue that the set in stone rules of traditional marketing stifle innovation.   This is unfair.

It's probably fairer to say that traditional marketing fails to innovate as well as social media today. Traditional marketing is top-down. It was never developed as a system of thought and practice designed to create genuine one-to-one customer interactions.   There is the rub.

Assuming social media is more influential than traditional media:

  • Digital spends have increased massively over the past decade, those in print has steadily declined - yet revenues from digital have scarcely met those lost from print.
  • People aren’t prepared to pay for general content any more. Whilst newspapers struggle, other broadcast areas' fortunes are increasing steadily.   TV experienced a minor drop in penetration but studies now show increasing adoption in younger users.
  • Free streaming services like Spotify have not reduced global radio audiences - quite the opposite.

So, what is my point?

Falling broadcast and traditional media numbers have little to do with rising social adoption.

Broadcast media is a fluid, adaptable medium that continues to be the information service of choice for many people. We relax with the Sunday papers.   We trust what we know.

Social media marketers must acknowledge that integrating successfully with other marketing channels and creating a multi-channel presence is the way forward.

Only by embracing tracking, analysis and cold, hard numbers can it ever work.  

There is no other way.

20 May 2010

Spotify cuts prices as streaming services multiply

Spotify is halving the cost of its ad-free music streaming service (in Europe) from £9.99 a month to £4.99.   This is a naked bid to woo more customers.  Mobile users have been kind to Spotify, but the numbers just don't stack up - 320,000  premium customers from over 7 million resistered users (just 4%).

The new Spotify tariffs:

Spotify Unlimited: £4.99 per month for ad-free music with no mobile access, offline, MP3 play or high-bitrate streams

Spotify Open: Ad-free, with no invite, mobile, offline, MP3 play or higher-quality streaming and limited to 20 hours a month

The £9.99 Spotify Premium package remains in place for higher-fidelity mobile access

Spotify Free also remains but still requires an invite

The new price (4.99 a month) is aimed at mainsteam target consumers, people who are the larger part of Spotify's seven million plus registered users and whose primary need is for desktop streaming.

In March, We7 showed the way for Spotify when it revealed a premium model at £4.99 per month for unlimited web-based play with the £9.99 per month model enabling addtional mobile access.

Napster too recently relaunched as a lower-priced, £5 per month streaming service, with five free MP3s each month.

Mog.com launched a per month All Access streaming service in the U.S.A in December and is soon set to launch in the UK.

£5 seems to be the magic number that consumers may sustain.   Which streaming service will survive?

5 May 2010

News Corp subscriptions

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp will unveil what they described as an “innovative subscription model” next month. During the Q3 earnings call yesterday it was also announced that the group made revenues of $8.8 billion. Murdoch said the the group has been speaking with a broad base of potential partners.

One caller asked if there would be charges for charge for entertainment as well as news (clearly bearing in mind the imminent launch of the Times' paid-for-content model) , the response was affirmative.

Murdoch went on, “Everybody’s been negotiating with Apple about television shows, films - we do VOD, everything’s on there.”

So, will the new offer be be a competitor to iTunes Store, utilising News Corp's Hulu TV? We'll have to wait and see - watch this space.

Murdoch's approach to building a broad, cross-media empire is starting to make sense. As I've noted in earlier posts the time ripe to re-architect his various interests to take advantage of the synergies it offers.

We know that the Times websites will cost £1 a day, £2 a week or free with a print subscription from June, thoug details on the latter bundle are hard to come by.

Perhaps, as I've always maintained, Times Online could charge subs along with a BSkyB satellite TV subscription . . . Why stop there? Other News Corp offerings - say, movie tickets or previews - are just as likely in my view.

In a universe where content is king, and where News Corp controls a large proportion of the means of its production, it wouldn't suprise me if we are seeing the makings of the largest cross-border integrated paid-for-content model yet.

4 May 2010

The Times, they are a' changing . . .

News International staff have been told to expect a 90% fall in traffic once the Times paywall is introduced in June this year.  No suprises there. 

The success metrics staff have been set include how successfully they have maximised advertising revenues, commercial revenues and subscription revenues, as well as the extent to which the paywall helps stem the fall in newspaper sales.   It was always going to be about money.   I wish them luck, it's a bold experiment.  

My gut feeling is that it won't work - the Times+ model costs a fortune and isn't all that compelling a reason to fork out for access to the Times websites.   As a consumer I want a high degree of relevance when I'm looking for content - I don't care about free tickets to Glyndebourne.   This is, as I've said before in this blog, about retention and cross-selling to maintain revenues within the Murdoch empire.    

Apple will shift its iTunes strategy by entering the cloud-based music streaming market, after it shuts down Lala, the music streaming service it acquired last year. It will face stiff competion from Spotify and We7. Spotify's recent upgrade allows users to import their music libraries into Spotify, putting the platform in direct competition with iTunes.

The digital downloads market in the USA and Japan is flatlining, with European markets set to follow a similar curve, the music industry desperate to find new ways of capturing audiences and revenues.

16 Apr 2010

Digital developments . . . .

Addressable advertising has hit the news again.   The launch of BSkyB’s AdSmart service around their on-demand service Sky Player will provide the blueprint for integration on its satellite platform next year.   It marks the debut of a mass-market targeted substitutional advertising (TSA) model on linear TV in the UK.   It's aim?   To deliver more relevant messages to TV viewers plus the accountability and personalisation common to digital media, enabling TV ads being tailored to specific households, even individuals.  

That said, addressable TV advertising will take time to build up to a meaningful critical mass.   It certainly has the potential to bring new revenues into TV, an industry desperate to revive its ailing fortunes.   As ever, media agencies will need to build up their understanding of the technology . . . and frankly with many still struggling to grasp digital, it may take some time!   TV measurement needs to shift from outputs to outcomes in orer to match the sophisticated targeting and accountability of online - there is a long way to go yet.

Spotify is in the news again with reports that Lady GaGa earned a paltry $167 from Spotify's million plus streams of her hit Poker Face.   Whoops!   Below is a graphical representation of what music creatives earn from the various distribution methods (click image to see it larger).

Google’s UK earnings have reached yet another record high of $842 million between January and March 2010.   This equates to a nine percent rise from the last Quarter of 2009 and 15 percent from the same period a year ago.   Google execs were delighted with this on the recent analyst's call.

The Hut Group, which rescued Zavvi.co.uk last year, is making a £14 million ($21.7 million) investment for acquisition prior to a float on the stock market. This is the first major digital flotation we've seen in the UK for many years and indicates that there is life in digital yet . . . . it's not all about the ads or paywalls.

The Hut powers the online retailing of physical goods on a white-label basis for diverse clients including WH Smith, Tesco.com, Lovefilm and Argos and also operates its own fulfillment service and own-brand digital retailer, theHut.com.

An interesting example of how social media can create awareness and foster green themed developments came by recently.   Myoo is a community for environmental and social innovation and brngs to the fore creative solutions to environmental challenges.   It's a far cry from making chairs out of old coke bottles!

Apple are delaying the launch of the iPad outside the USA . . . . where they have, incidentally experienced massive problems with meeting demand.   In the meantime here in the UK, digital publishers have been falling over themselves to show off apps designed for the iPad.   Bizarrely, the Daily Express are in the vanguard!

That's all for now, more later.   But before I go, if you want a free subscription to Marketing Week delivered to your door sign up here - don't say I don't give you anything!

15 Apr 2010

Recommended Agency: Creative Nation

Creative Nation provide the production consultancy and project management of creative output you need to deliver great results for your brand.

The showreel below showcases some of what they can do . . . but there is much more.   Find out more from the Creative Nation website and blog.

Creative Nation Showreel V3 from Creative Nation on Vimeo.

Creative Nation are interesting for many reasons.   Their excellent work aside, Creative Nation's innovative business model suggests a new template for the agency business model.  

Creative Nation work by establishing a brief with a client and then assembling the talent to match the requirements.   So far, so good.   But, the difference lies in their approach.   Instead of a permanent staff pool (with the cost base and talent limitations that implies), Creative Nation operate a flexible pool of talent tailored to suit each brief.   For clients this means minimal costs with maximum impact and delivery.  

I have worked with them in the past, so you might see this as an endorsement . . . I confess, I am a fan.

9 Apr 2010

Paywalls: It's payback time

It's payback time for consumers of free online newspaper content as the paywalls come down.  

LexisNexis - once thought to be the one stop shop for news aggregation and search - has begun sending out letters warning of the withdrawal of some of its titles. Guess which ones?

The Times newspapers announced that the paywalls would come down in June.   The long march away from free content starts now.   Mr Murdoch's appearance at the National Press Club (in the USA) saw him argue that people would pay when there was nowhere else left to go.   No, he's not going mad.   But it does underline my earlier thesis that he views the BBC (and Google) as competition.   Why?

The answer is this.   If you are building a system of paywalls you will obviously lose ad revenue.   The BBC can't benefit from ad revenue as it cannot carry advertisements but it may well benefit from an audience uplift to it's network of (very good) websites.   So, what can Mr Murdoch do?  

Ranting aside, Murdoch can recast his newspaper empire as an adjunct to his broadcast/film interests.   In this way he can create a synergetic cross-media whole from what currently seems a disparate grouping of media entities.   Then, fasten the bonds with a 'club' of some sort (Times+) where you get free tickets or reduced subscriptions to other Murdoch owned or sponsored initiatives . . . .

What you now have is a self-sustaining model predicated less on expensive consumer acquisition and more on customer retention (cheaper and more profitable in the long run).   It's the oldest and simplest rule of marketing.   In this way Murdoch can manage the decline in ad revenues from the print editions, which the uplift in online ad revenues has in no way plugged I might add, and thus stem the flow of cusomers away from his products.   Finally, he can upsell advertisements across platforms in a way that the BBC cannot commercially (though it does effectively with it's content).   Oh - and of course his customes are paying customers so are also likely be seen as more attractive by advertisers.

One big problem.   Few, if any, of Murdoch's competitors in the UK show any sign of going down either the paywall route or withdrawing their content from Google and other search engines.   The BBC is also very much alive.   There is little or no proof that audiences will pay for conent they think they can get free elsewhere.

The painful truth may well turn out to be as Thomas Jefferson put it:

"I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper."

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Nathaniel Macon, January 12, 1819

With the plethora of news and comment available to us, do we really need newspapers as we once did?   Is a managed decline actually the only way forward?   Has Mr Murdoch in fact hit on a way of managing that decline as profitably as he can within a short timeframe?   I think he might have.

18 Mar 2010

Growth in 2010?

UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) recent released their census results. AOP members are drawn from digital publishing and include the likes of BBC, Channel 4, Sky, Reuters, Telegraph, Times, Guardian and Daily Mail as well as niche B2B publishers.

The AOP forecast that in 2010 the growth in digital revenues is expected to be 10 percent.   Online publishers seem to be losing confidence as the ad downturn continues. The survey also concluded that: 

  • 75% of respondents plan greater digital investment
  • 60% plan to do more technology-partnering
  • 50% of respondents expect to increase staff this year
  • Nearly 50% say ad sales is a top-three priority
  • Almost 33% also put editorial skills in that bracket
  • 25% say that database skills are a top three priority

So, it's a mixed picture.  Most investment is taking place in the development of pay walls.  However, the broadband boom of recent years presents publishers with a new growth opportunity - video advertising.

The end of publishing as we know it?

Think again.  

The simple truth is that there are now probably more means of distribution and more ways of generating hype around a book or newspaper exclusive than ever before.   The trick is in how it's done.   This video tickled me because of the simple, logical and highly intelligent creative.

7 Mar 2010

Paid-for content: Why it may not work

A salutary lesson in what people really are prepared to pay for online has come my way from Nielsen.

In summary, consumers are most likely to fork out cash for online movies, music and games rather than socially created content or communities or existing free news content tha is repackaged. Seemingly, consumers are also more likely to pay for online theatrical releases, music and games - in short, things they already pay for. The Nielsen survey consulted 27,000 consumers across 52 countries.

  • 85% prefer that free content remain free
  • 79% would stop using a web site that charges them, especially if they can find the same information at no cost
  • 78% believe they should be able to use newspaper/magazine web site content free if they are offline subscribers
  • 71% of global consumers say online content will have to offer considerably more value than that which is freely available before they will pay
  • 64% of those surveyed believe that if they must pay for content online, there should be no ads
  • 62% agree that once they purchase content, it should be theirs to copy or share as they choose
  • 47% of respondents are willing to accept more advertising to subsidise free content
  • 43% say an easy payment method would make them more likely to buy content online

The consumers surveyed remain ambivalent about whether the quality of online content would suffer if companies could not charge for it.

Forrester research seems to bear out the Nielsen findings too.

16 Feb 2010

Music and Newspapers: Parallels in paid-for-content models

Last week Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr questioned the sustainability of the emerging ad-funded music streaming models and called a halt to any further deals.

The deals with WE7, Spotify and MySpace Music will remain in place, for now.

Mr Bronfman said, “Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry and as far as Warner Music is concerned will not be licensed . . . . “.

He went on to suggest that getting all the music you want free, with the option to pay for a few bells and whistles was doomed to fail. Now it seems that pretty much the entire digital industry is warning music companies not to pin their hopes on advertising revenues to plug the shortfall from declining physical sales. The parallel with newspapers and their paid-for-content models is stark.

A breakdown in negotiations between YouTube and music collection agency PRS seems to be behind these calls for a cessation of the ad-funded model. Google has also attracted the music industry's ire after demanding the option to build up advertising income to a sustainable level prior to paying the rights holders fees. Other content distributors echo Google and call for modest revenue deals in what they still see as an emerging market.

The furore is understandable. Radio 1 is known to pay up to £20 a minute for music. In accepting far less from digital content distributors, rights holders' acceptance is unlikely. The gap between falling physical sales and fixed or rising costs isn't being bridged by growth in digital downloads either.

Newspapers face an identical problem. Physical newspaper sales are falling. Yet the costs of news generation remain fixed, or are rising. Advertising revenues are on the decline too and though these may recover it is unlikely that we will see the heights we saw in the noughties. The damage is also exacerbated by the extensive free provision of news content, as much by newspaper websites as the BBC and Google.

News International (owners of The Sun, The Times, Sunday Times and News of the World) who also have interests in satellite broadcasting (BSkyB in the UK and Fox in the USA) seem poised to bundle their newspaper offering into a 'club' with associated 'member rewards' available to their TV customers. The costs of news generation will be reduced as the economies of scale come into play. Cross-selling to their very strong TV base means an instant uplift in subscription revenues, and is also great for retention. Advertising revenues can also be upsold and cross-marketed on the diverse platforms. So, Mr Murdoch's enterprises will start to rival publicly funded broadcasters like the BBC who, though free are prevented from such commercial activity (in the UK at least).

The Guardian and the Telegraph are likely to develop their existing community and 'club' initiatives whilst maintaining a limited free model. The likely focus for both will lie with developing new content and apps for every access model conceivable. This move has already been signalled by the focus on clubs, content, commerce and community that both publishers have outlined.

The paid-for-content model is, in its infancy and likely to face many more hurdles. News International and BSkyB have deep pockets, a history of undercutting competitors and promoting their offerings aggressively. As they will also be most likely to launch first, theirs might the model that sets the terms of the debate going forward. It won't be without challenges. What is certain is that if there is nothing in it for the consumer, publishers will lose out. In our democratising media age, the customer is the king maker.

UPDATE (28/02/2010)
So, the BBC has announced cuts in it's operations and budgets and the Times responds with a carping editorial . . . roll on the battle to be top dog - Both organisations ask you to pay, which offers the best deal?

15 Feb 2010

Startling video

This one made me stop, its is heartbreakingly beautiful with a haunting score and tells a story really well:

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

10 Feb 2010

This made me laugh

We've all been there - being presented to by agency types (and there are types who work for agencies JUST as there are individuals). This particular agency type has scary hair and is great at talking the talk (never listening) and has zero interest in the product or proposition. This particular agency type is just feeding you a generic presentation.

Well, if you don't know what I mean - see this:

9 Feb 2010

Social Media: What is the co$t of doing nothing?

A lot, depending on how you look at it . . . . . food for thought:

Social media for brands: What people REALLY want . . .

The truth about social media for brands . . . . .

People want to do THINGS!

Brands and Social Media

Following on from my post about what brands need to think about when it comes to social media and its use for online PR, comes hot news about Vodafone.

The facts:
Late on Friday 5th February 2010, a member of Vodafone’s social media team posted a homophobic remark via the company's official Twitter account. Around 8,800 Vodafone followers received the remark in their tweetstream, I was one of them . . . .

Vodafone admitted that “a severe breach of rules” had taken place, but only after Twitter's amplifying effect took hold.

Attempts to delete the offending comment were scuppered by retweets that amplified the offence. Vodafone apologised repeatedly to its followers . . . using a copy and paste apology . . . oh dear.

What could, and should, have been done:
So, what could have been done better?

1) Accept that human error happens - how you deal with it is what matters.

2) Some errors are worse than others. Posting offensive remarks to thousands of customers is beyong stupid . . .

3) The democracy of social media prevents you hushing things up. The damage is done at the point of publication. The social media network will not allow you to cover things up. The bigger the brand, the more seriously the error will be in terms of its repercussions via retweets.

4) Do say sorry . . . . once. Do it properly, once.

5) Take extra care if you 'own' your company social media profile. It is too easy to accidentally post to the wrong account if you are juggling between a personal and a corporate account. Take time to consider your posts and where they are going to . . . .

6) Some kind of security would be a great idea, especially in situations where profile owners are off-site or based away from scrutiny. But don't persecute the social media profile owner in your company either - be human about it, but sensible.

7) Educate profile users about social media, your reasons for using it and the benefits it brings to the company.

8) Stop and think before you publish. Always.

Social media gaffes of our time:
Habitat - Habitat handed over their Twitter profile to an intern, assuming that social media was just a jolly jape presumably . . . . Result? Habitat were suspended from Twitter following consistent abuse, despite warnings, about piggy-backing trending topics for commercial gain.

Virgin - Virgin Atlantic cabin crew used Facebook to call passengers "chavs" and claimed that the airline's planes were full of cockroaches.

Telegraph - During last year's budget extravaganza, telegraph.co.uk set up a Twitterfall to provide real-time updates of the budget. Tweets were created on the service that included the tag "#budget". Twitter users (savvy lot) spotted the unmoderated twitterfall and embarrassed the paper with a stream of tweets such as "Breaking news: Barclay Brothers to pick up your tax bill in unprecedented act of philanthropy. #Budget" – and far worse than that too . . . . but, that is for another time.

Creative executions

I really like this one. It's an educational film called 'Does TV make you fat?' and was aimed at 9-14 year olds. It's fact packed but entertaining, not too long and pitched just right . . . . the esence of a good video creative.

Take a look:

Does TV make you fat ? from Denis van Waerebeke on Vimeo.

The video was directed by Denis van Waerebeke for the 'Bon app├ętit' exhibition. Design was by Nathalie Prunier and animation by Jimmy Audoin. The sound design was created by Ruelgo with the voice of Mark Jane.

8 Feb 2010

Women: The silent majority?

Agencies and advertisers are missing a massive trick when it comes to targeting women. Admittedly this nugget focuses on the US, but the lessons for the UK are just as stark.

7 Feb 2010

Social Media Marketing - A simple guide

Social media marketing is earning a role in the integrated marketing mix, kind of. As a practitioner I know that social media marketing - SMM for short - is transforming every business division from the inside out. I'm less convinced that brands operating in hierarchical set-ups are getting the message.

Here in the UK a recent survey by Major Players concluded that organisations and marketers need to get a grip on the ins and outs of social media – fast.

Innovate and evolve

This is a recurring theme. Many businesses jump into Social Media without crafting a strategic plan rooted in goals, objectives, KPIs or an understanding of best-practice models. Questions like 'what will be the likely impact of engagement on the brand / organisations?' are rarely asked, let alone understood by senior personnel or the social practitioners and advocates involved. Social media is too often placed in a silo called 'digital marketing', as though it were a discrete part of the business with no relationship to actual processes, actions and reactions elsewhere. Big mistake!

So – here is a view of just some of the opportunities available, and to be avoided, when using the social Web. I'll refine and update these as I go along. . .

Create a survey of fans
Surveys are an effective way to garner feedback to continue to earn ongoing relevance to your existing and new customers. Surveys can range from satisfaction levels, behaviour around the prospect or act of referrals, votes towards new policies and services or be used purely for entertainment. At the simplest level, surveys inject variety into the Facebook stream to foster new opportunities for engagement and communication.

“Friend” recent customers with your corporate profile
Strictly speaking, this activity goes against Facebook’s Terms of Service so go carefully. Facebook periodically flags and deletes branded profile accounts as they’re discovered. Twitter is more open to this approach.

Use Facebook/Twitter user data to profile customers
Social media is nothing if not an experiment. Along the way it provides enormously useful insights into your users' psychography (their interests, passions and motivations – cause based connections for example). Examine your social graph to gain an insight into possible initiatives and trends.

Create a Facebook app around the brand
As the old adage has it – 'yup, there's an app for that', in fact there are often too many. Their lack of utility or longevity springs from their usually being, well, useless. Facebook apps are not guaranteed to earn an audience simply because they’re created. Users' adoption of new apps are related to their friends' activity rather than an allegiance to a particular brand. Make an app relevant, stimulating and ideally 'issue' or 'entertainment' based and you'll likely be on to something – it's that pesky psychograhy again!

Driving traffic to corporate materials through status updates
Where are you sending your users? Chances are your users are landing on a message-rich, yet lifeless and generic web page or company home page. So, you are using a highly interactive and social environment to drive traffic to a static dead-end. Hmmm, not good. Consider linking to issue / campaign specific pages and ideally captivating, interactive or viral content.

Buying targeted CPC ads
Targeted CPC (cost-per-click) ads on Facebook are only as effective as the intention and experience to which they’re tied (see above). Many businesses use these ads to increase the number of fans on a fan page or to promote corporate material. I would suggest using them to drive traffic to clearly pre-defined experiences. However, do bear in mind that buying ads is perhaps the least effective element of the mix.

Monitor Twitter/Facebook and other social media for PR problems in real-time
A PR problem can materialise at any moment, with little warning. Monitoring what your customers are saying about your brand (and to whom) enables you to be proactive in addressing the reported problems internally, in tandem with an external 'push' to correct the . . . . misapprehension. There are myriad free tools to help you monitor what is being said about your brand - Technorati, Blog Pulse, Google Trends and Alerts, Omgili, Tweetcloud and Tweetbeep . . . . . and way more besides.

Contact Twitter users tweeting negatively about the brand
As users venture into using social media in ever-greater numbers, so they are also learning that social media, like Twitter especially, can act as an echo-chamber for complaints and suggestions to brands. Brands that monitor this space are more likely to respond. OK, it could be argued that this encourages users to complain in a public forum. What would you rather? That they complained to you and your processes ignored the complaint or mis-handled it? Or are you assuming that no-one complains about your brand and services? Think again.

Contacting users tweeting negatively about your brand is a tactic shared between PR and customer service and requires solid work flow processes tied to it. It’s very easy to confuse who should respond to which tweets and who already did, versus which tweets require response.

Create 'events'
Too often I've seen people confine themselves to Twitter alone, or just Facebook, without considering using both in addition to LinkedIn and myriad other social options such as surveys and email invites to create buzz around an event. Not only does this provided great user feedback and engagement, it can help guide the tone and style of your event as well.

Provocative text drives clicks
Interesting. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” To earn attention nowadays requires a level of creativity that mirrors the methodologies of creative advertising and marketing fused with the grounding of strategic communications. Pay attention to planning and editorial programming to ensure relevance and appeal. Avoid the merely sensational or 'trending' as users will see through that pretty quickly.

Invite Twitter users who tweet positively about a brand to do . . .
Consider using positive tweets as the basis for an advocacy or official ambassador program. As this tactic becomes ubiquitous, consumers are getting wise to their power in social media. Consumers expect something for their loyalty. Consider this prior to engaging.

Time Tweets to maximise views
There is an art and science to what we tweet and when. When using social media think like a media programmer. Content, timing and promotional style will dictate the size of the audience and their expectations. For example Monday and Friday are a great time to Tweet. In the UK, the morning slot from around 7am to noon is perfect for local/territory based messaging.

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5 Feb 2010