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Brands for a social age

Archive for the tag “earned media”

Is social growing up?

The mood music around social media has shifted significantly in the last 12 months.

At Headstream we’ve had the privilege of chairing Brand Republic’s Social Media  Strategy conference in 2010, and 2011. What was noticeable at this year’s 5th July event was a refreshing honesty that few brands have ‘cracked’ social as yet, and that early integration of social into the broader marketing strategy is the route to success. This was in contrast to last year’s event where the mood was more triumphalist, and at times reflected the view that social was ‘just another channel’, that had been mastered.

As a result, the day was full of great opportunities to learn from the challenges and surprises brands have faced in social, as well as their successes, and to have an honest and open discussion about the challenges we share as marketers responding to social.

Here are some stand-out moments from the day for us.

1 – It’s all about the customer

Jonathan Williams, Director of e-Marketing at Trader Media Group (owner of Auto Trader) reminded us that ‘getting closer to customers’ is at the heart of social strategy. He emphasised the gilt-edged opportunity that social networks and two-way conversations are giving brands to achieve this. Kathleen Schneider from Dell, echoed Jonathan’s point, saying that CEO Michael Dell’s mantra has always been ‘Find ways to get closer to your customer’.

2 – Should we get hung up on complex ROI formulas?

For Dell the fact that social media has allowed it to get closer to customers in multiple ways is enough ROI in itself to justify the company’s heavy investment in social. Similarly, Cheryl Calverley, from Birds Eye Iglo Group, said the fact that social has ‘made word of mouth measurable for the first time’ is a significant ROI for any brand.

3 – Integrate social as early as possible in strategy and planning

Stressing the need to integrate social into brand and campaign thinking as early as possible, Melissa Littler, Marketing Director at online retailer Brand Alley, said ‘Social works best when it isn’t a bolt-on, when it’s thought about from the outset, and creative is optimised (for it)’. Peter Markey, Chief Marketing Officer at insurer RSA Group, said that the ‘More Than Freeman’ campaign for RSA’s UK insurance brand More Than, had ‘considered social from the start’. This was reinforced by Asad ur Rehman, Director, Global Media (Foods) at Unilever, who said “Social strategy has to be integrated. Embed social upfront in your marketing strategy or your business strategy, it cannot stand alone.”

4. Earning the right to engage

Asad encouraged the room to keep adapting traditional marketing thinking in order to respond effectively to social. “As marketers we need to switch our gears. First we need to earn the right to sit at the (community’s) table, then we have to earn attention, then and only then, we might have earned the right to deliver a product message.” Asad cited Lynx’s ‘Keeping Keeley’ campaign as a great example of this approach.

On the same theme, Peter Markey, said that the personality brought by the More Than Freeman character earns the brand the right to engage with customers who typically only contact their insurer once a year, at renewal. Peter also shared the insight that early in the campaign the tone of voice used on social platforms by the character was ‘too quirky’ and didn’t engage, but by observing interaction levels, testing and learning, a more effective tone of voice was developed that earned significant engagement.

Keep the customer at the centre, integrate social early, see the bigger picture on ROI, earn the right to engage, and be ready to test, learn, fail and adapt.

All great points, and signals that social is no longer the new kid on the block.

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Twitter – a force for good

There has been plenty of commentary today about Greater Manchester Police’s decision to tweet every call to its 999 call centre. Some of it has focused on the variety and diversity of calls on the @GMP24_1 account, some on the fact that it is a pre-emptive strike ahead of next week’s governmental Spending Review, and others on the spoof accounts set up.

But, for me, it’s shown the potential for social media in its best light. Let’s consider what it’s achieved. Firstly, huge amounts of mainstream media press coverage, secondly, a better understanding of what the police service is faced with everyday, thirdly, an insight into the rich tapestry of life in the UK, and finally, a heightened profile for the Greater Manchester police service. For my money that is a pretty impressive set of ‘metrics’ to measure the success of this simple idea against.

Perhaps more exciting is to think about the potential for this on a national scale. All UK residents would be able to see into the world of their local police force, it would build respect and understanding for the job the force does. By aggregating this data you would be able to draw out incredibly powerful insights on crime hot-spots, social trends, and police force service levels. At its best it could contribute to lower crime rates through public engagement and interaction.

When it comes to Twitter’s potential to do good, we’ve only scratched the surface.

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Maximising value from your social brand strategy

Headstream had the enviable job of chairing Brand Republic’s ‘Achieving Maximum Value from Your Social Media Strategy’ conference (#brsms) in London last week (01 July). It was a day full of insight and practical advice thanks to an excellent selection of speakers, and a format that included plenty of interactive panel and workshop sessions. Here are some of the highlights:

The day kicked off with British Telecom’s Vincent Sider . This is the second time I’ve heard Vincent present, which confirmed my first impression that he’s one of the smartest thinkers in the social arena. Responsible for developing and implementing a social media customer service strategy for BT Vincent gave a sneak peek of ‘Debatescape’, the bespoke listening tool BT has developed to service its social customer service efforts.

He made the interesting point that however sophisticated the technology, nothing can replace human analysis when it comes to sentiment tracking, and that “sentiment analysis remains the biggest issue” when it comes to online listening.

Vincent’s ‘big idea’ is that game mechanics (by which he means the behaviours of recognition, reward, and building status over time seen in multi-player computer gaming environments) will become the model for the whole of the social web. Individuals will build their profile and status over time, and brands that enable these individuals to realise their goals will be  the ones that succeed. He gave an example of Knorr Canada’s ‘Salty’ (link) campaign that created a community, enabled dialogue and rewarded participation.

Vincent’s steps to successful social activity are: Plan you story. Listen. Publish. Listen and reward. While I’d argue that that listening should be the first activity, the reminder to listen again and then reward is very apt. A lot of brands miss this step.

According to Vincent underlying all activity should be one fundamental principle: “Listen and engage with kindness”. Forget that and problems occur because, “you aren’t kind”, or “you don’t deliver”.

Next up was Trevor Johnson, Head of Strategy and Planning Facbook, EMEA. Trevor is always worth a listen and made a strong case for the benefits Facebook brings to brands as an advertising and engagement platform. Pointing out that “earned media only happens in social media”, he said only Facebook provides the opportunity for brands to “integrate people into adverts” with ‘social context’ formats e.g. ad copy which shows if you friends have ‘liked this’, or video tailored with an individual’s profile picture.                     

Trevor pointed out that engaging a community through a Facebook brand page has allowed Starbucks to create dialogue with nine million people. He also sounded a note of caution around leaving  the responsibility conversing with this community to a junior in the organisation.

“Your comments on Facebook should be as important to your CMO and senior marketers as your latest television ad is, it’s the same profile of communication, as Nestle discovered”. (Nestle reference is to the brand’s recent disaster  handling its Facebook community.

Citing the examples of Spotify, and Levi’s Friends Store using Facebook Connect to allow individuals to import their ‘social graph’ into the website experience, Trevor concluded that Facebook is all about “serving information based on people’s friends, to make experience richer”.

Overall, a fascinating insight into Facebook’s direction of travel. The company remains way ahead of anyone else, and even the likes of Google are still in ‘catch-up’ mode.

Headstream’s own Chris Buckley then presented his thinking on the principles that brands should have in mind when embarking on social media strategic thinking. He touched on the importance of appropriate behaviour in social spaces, win-win relationships and introduced the concept of ‘social currency’.

After a series of roundtables to give practical advice to delegates on social strategy, thanks to everyone who joined mine, the afternoon session was dominated by some excellent panels.

It was a particular highlight to have Will King, founder of King of Shaves, involved in the panel on building communities around content. Hearing a business owner and entrepreneur’s perspective gave some clear focus on the business imperative for being involved in social.

One of his killer insights, covering both his approach to business overall, and social, was: “Your biggest competitor isn’t actually your competition, but not knowing what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.”

His point was supported by the ever effusive Maz Nadjm ,Sky’s Community Project Manager, who impressed on the audience the need to identify “What is important to you and what you stand for, before embarking into social media activity”. Having established ‘why’ you are getting  involved the next step is to secure internal buy-in, a task that shouldn’t be underestimated. Maz spends 70-80 pct of his time ‘educating’ internal, and external, audiences on the benefits of social.

Next up was that perennial favourite ‘How to measure the ROI of social media’! Fortunately the excellent panel; Nadine Sharara, Head of e-Commerce at Space NK, and Ricky Chopra, Speedo’s Digital Marketing Manager, focused on their practical experience running campaigns. A common theme was the importance of focusing on who the genuine influencers are, and “focusing down on the active and proactive people”, according to Chopra. Similarly, for Space NK  blogger outreach activity has seen them “Understand who the real influencers are…who are the top five who influence everyone else?”.

Chopra was insistent that ROI is measurable if you are prepared to make the investment in measurement and analytics. Speedo have adopted a ‘score card’ approach to assess on a month by month basis how they are tracking in social, through a variety of criteria e.g. how many unprompted actions have there been, how many positive mentions, how many negative? According to Chopra it’s down to a willingness to work at it “Don’t be lazy, you can measure it (ROI on social) using a blended approach as you would have done with a traditional integrated campaign.”

In the next session on ‘Embedding social into an organisation’ Paul Hood from the Daily Mirror gave some interesting insights into the Mirror Group’s approach as a “legacy business’ coming to terms with the disruption of social.

“At the Mirror our focus is on our content being appropriate for social spaces. We are taking small steps, identifying content verticals and ‘passion centres’ amongst our audience, and focusing on them first.”

Sandra Leonhard, Director of Web Strategy and Business Development for TUI Travel, and MD of Cheqqer, described social as the “second major disruption for the travel industry”, matching the advent of budget airlines for impact. Her advice was for organisations to approach social media at the “brand level” and ensure there is no “silo mentality” where one part of the organisation works in isolation.

The ‘graveyard shift’ went to the panel exploring,  ‘What’s next. Going beyond Facebook and Twitter & Looking to the future. The panel of Martin Verdon Roe, Trip Advisor, David Courtier-Dutton, from Slice the Pie, and Ilicco Elia, Reuters, made the usual gag about “if we knew that we’d not be sitting here, we’d be making billions”, and then indulged in some crystal ball-gazing.

Martin saw the future as mobile and that “globally, mobile will be the big driver for growth”, alongside increased social graph elements such as ‘Trip Friends’.

But the last words have to go to Illico Elia, who envisioned a future that rings very true with me.

“What you (brands) have to realise is that your sales effort is going to have to become more and more personal. Every person in an organisation will need to become a brand advocate, it’s not about building new resource, rather it’s making sure everyone (in the organisation) takes responsibility for being a ‘face’ for the organisation.”

Absolutely. 

What ‘not to do’ in social media

Here’s a pithy slideshow from my planning colleague Mike Phillips about ‘What not to do’ in social media. Some relevant points ahead of my panel slot at PR Week’s – PR and Digital Media conference on Tuesday next week! There are some wise (and slightly rude) words here. Enjoy, thanks Mike. #prdigital

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A framework for social media measurement

With demand growing for social media activity to clearly demonstrate ROI this interesting deck from U.S. based research group Altimeter provides a neat, and compelling, framework. Some interesting real life examples referring back to Dell, Nike and Best Buy campaigns . 

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Is the Daily Mail running scared?

After a week-long break (gulp) without a connection to my social sphere (31 May – 5 June), two trending topics hit me on my return. First, the Daily Mail’s scare story about BT ‘spying’ on customers through social media, and second developments in the marketing and communications industry as agencies reorganise in response to social media’s inexorable rise.

So where’s the connection I hear you cry? Well, it’s all about influence. Who has traditionally owned it, and who owns it in the social age.

National newspapers (and their proprietors) have traditionally been the influence ‘super powers’, able to decide elections , change legislation, remove politicians from office, and probe into the private lives of anyone in the public eye .

Similarly, in the world of big business and brands, it has been the above the line advertising agencies that have traditionally had the greatest influence with clients, and a voice in the boardroom.

Social media is threatening both of these conventions.

The Daily Mail is beginning to realise that it can no longer pedal it’s alarming brand of scare stories without going unchallenged. Advertising agencies are realising that their clients are more interested in how their brand can resonate in social media, not what (theoretical) audience their latest 30 second ad slot reached.

The Daily Mail’s reaction, to keep grinding the online ‘privacy’ axe, is short-sighted, and smells of desperation. The truth is they will have to accept a new world order where the objects of their stories bite back, and where conversation replaces propaganda. Ironically they have a strong platform in place to engage in social media through their highly successful Mail Online website.

The advertising industry’s reaction is much more constructive. Seeing the disruption that social media has caused they are moving to improve their conversational skills, and ability to win third-party endorsements, by developing PR and social media skill sets.

The difference is that the agency business is used to making change happen, while the newspaper publishers have been in denial that their ‘super power’ status is now changed, forever.

Vive La Revolution! (sorry, I was on holiday in France)

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Promoted Tweets – Social Reputation gold

Twitter’s new ‘promoted tweets’ feature could turn out to be a hugely significant development for Social Reputation practitioners. For anyone who hasn’t caught up with Twitter’s plans yet, in a nutshell, it allows brands to place a special promoted tweet at the top of the Twitter search results for a selected word, or brand name. Early adopters of the format are Starbucks, Virgin Atlantic, Red Bull and Sony Pictures.

In some ways it’s similar to a ‘sticky thread’ in a forum, a post that stays at the top of the discussion irrespective of the time of posting. It’s this ability to buck the usual ‘real time’ rules of Twitter that makes Promoted Tweets so interesting for those looking after a brand’s reputation.

Put yourself in the position of a brand that is facing a reputational firestorm online. The community is angry, Twitter is abuzz and you need to get your point across to try and restore some balance. Up until now any comment placed into the Twitter stream by a brand would rapidly get ‘pushed down’ into the conversation by subsequent Tweets on the same subject. By using Promoted Tweets you will be able to ensure that your content appears at the head of the results when individuals search terms relevant to your situation. A carefully considered Promoted Tweet, signposting readers to additional content that supports your argument, will become a key tool in turning detractors around. What’s going to be interesting to watch is how successfully brands can bring together the skills required to really make the most of this golden new tool.

As outlined by Twitter COO Dick Costolo, at the Chirp conference for Twitter developers last week, in order to be successful with Promoted Tweets, brands will have to do more than simply purchase the space. Promoted Tweets that aren’t replied to or retweeted, in Costolo’s language those that don’t have ‘resonance’, will be pushed out of position. So, success will be down to mastering both paid media and earned media skills. In a crisis situation the key will be doing that at speed, and in a way that sees the brand join the conversation as a prominent, yet welcomed voice. Get that right and another of the Promoted Tweet’s unique attributes will kick-in, the fact that it’s an ad format that’s easily shareable. People who find the content engaging will retweet it to their own streams creating a powerful visibility beyond the Twitter search results pages. 

Social Reputation gold.

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