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Brands for a social age

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The Social Brands 100 – launched and live

A significant part of my 2012 so far has been taken up with masterminding the creation and launch of the Social Brands 100 ranking. It’s something the whole team is really proud of, and after the market’s reception on launch day (May 29th) it feels like we’ve created something that leads industry thinking on social media best practice, and measurement.

The full findings are available to download at www.socialbrands100.com, the photos from our London launch give you a flavour of the event, and if you’re really interested you can see me making a few comments on video here.

Below are some thoughts I published on Headstream’s blog on the day of launch. Here’s to next year!

“Congratulations to every brand listed, you prevailed over another  200 brands that were put forward at the nomination stage. To be included in the 100 shortlist is an achievement in itself, and the range and quality of brands present this year is superb. The popularity of the crowd-sourced nominations has inevitably resulted in many ‘new entrants’ into the list, and a subsequent reshuffle of brand positions from 2011.

The highest ranking brand this year is Innocent, of smoothies fame, a worthy winner that proves year-in year-out an ability to maintain a personal and human connection with its fans. While there are other household names in the top ten, Cadbury, Starbucks, ASOS, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cancer Research UK, there are also some less obvious names; The Met Office, ARKive, British Red Cross and giffgaff. This is something Social Brands 100 is proud of.

As outlined in earlier posts to use a methodology that ranks brands from different sectors, and of different sizes, as fairly as possible is our primary concern.

To do this we evolved our 2012 methodology from 2011 in two ways. Firstly, we increased the number of platforms, and metrics from those platforms, collected and analysed. In total we selected nineteen metrics from eight different platforms and carefully ascribed weightings to them that reflect where consumers are (fish where the fish are!), and how platforms are used. This gave us what we call our ‘Data Score’ for each brand (full details are on pages 11 and 43-46 of the Social Brands 100 publication). Secondly, we increased the weighting of the Data Score in relation to our ‘Panel Score’, which is derived from our expert panel of judges scoring each brand. This reflects the increased scope of the Data Score to assess metrics such as effectiveness and value of content posted by brands in social spaces.

Of course, you may well  have your own opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of this methodology to judge your particular brand’s social performance, and consider that certain platforms or weightings could be changed. It is possible to ‘bespoke’ social performance measurement through our subsequent brand specific research. However, the intention of the Social Brands 100 methodology is to find a common ground that indicates whether the fundamental social principles of win-win relationships, active listening and appropriate behaviour are being adopted.

Amongst the insights and highlights from this year’s ranking and analysis are:

  • The highest ranked brands create genuine one-to-one connections with individuals on a consistent basis
  • Charity brands emerge as the best performing sector with three charities in the Top Ten, and over 25% of the top twenty.
  • Google+ made its mark as a new entrant with 49 of the 100 brands adopting the platform
  • foursquare remains a niche platform for the Social Brands 100 with 18% adoption compared to 22% in 2011’s ranking

The top ranked brands by industry sector were;

  • Automotive – Ford
  • Charity – Cancer Research UK
  • Entertainment – The Ellen de Generes Show
  • Fashion and Beauty – Lush
  • Financial Services – Wonga
  • FMCG – Innocent
  • Manufactured goods – Gibson
  • Media – Guinness World Records
  • Retail – ASOS
  • Services – Met Office
  • Technology – HTC
  • Telecom – giffgaff
  • Travel & Leisure – Starbucks

Many of these brands will be joining us at an event to celebrate the Social Brands 100 at 4PM (GMT) today (May 29th). To follow the conversation go to @socialbrands100, and track the #sb100 hashtag. We will be taking questions from Twitter as well as the audience, so please feel free to get involved.

There is a host of additional information, detailed analysis and case studies in the full publication that is available for download, here. What do you think of  the Social Brands 100 ranking this year? We’d love to know!”

Four themes for 2012

We’ve been kicking lots of ideas around in the Headstream office in the run-up to Christmas, thinking about what we might see in the social/digital world in 2012. There were lots of great opinions, and 2012 seems set to be just as exciting as 2011! Personally, I’ve gone for these four ‘Big Themes’ for 2012.

Four themes for 2012

The ‘GooTwitFace’ phenomenon
Google, Twitter and Facebook will continue their products and features ‘arms race’,  becoming increasingly like one another in their battle to win brand budgets. The beneficiaries will be all of us, and brands in particular, who will be able to use enhanced pages, apps and analytics.

Understanding data
Handling, and understanding, the huge amount of data created by social media will continue to be a big challenge for brands and organisations. However, the tools to help us do this will improve dramatically. We’ll look back on early versions of ‘Influencer tools’ and wonder at their limitations.

Integration of social into CRM
Organisations will increase the resource and time invested in properly integrating social customer service into their overall customer experience. This will be particularly notable in the financial services industry.

Location based marketing increases
Ever increasing penetration of smart-phones and tablets will see increased spend on location based marketing, particularly in the retail sector. Offering customers an enhanced experience in-store by adding a ‘digital layer’, retailers will be more proactively involved in the online research process that is happening in-store already.

Would love to know what you think, and let’s see how these look in December 2012!

Finally, have a very Happy Christmas, and peaceful New Year.

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Are you ready to ‘let go’ of your brand?

The old saying, ‘If you love it let it go’, is increasingly relevant for brand owners. Decades of prescriptive brand guidelines, exclusive deals with big media, and command and control public relations have been blown open by social media.

For brands to survive in our networked, transparent and co-creative world, they will need new attributes. Like an anxious parent sending their child out into the adult world, you know that you can no longer guide their every move, and can only hope that you’ve given them the values, skills, and character to thrive on their own.

Recently, brands have been experimenting with ‘letting go’ with varying degrees of success. Skittles were one of the pioneers in 2009, with a bold idea to allow the crowd to provide the content for their web page. After early accolades, the site descended into chaos, as mischief-makers posted offensive comments. Vodafone has had a similar experience using an unmoderated twitter feed for its ‘mademesmile’ campaign, and other examples abound.

In this context, it’s interesting to see Expedia Australia’s innovative approach to handing over its brand to people outside the organisation. In January Expedia Australia ran a competition to attract wannabe Facebook page administrators with the promise of an Aus$10,000 prize.

After ‘liking’ the Expedia Australia Facebook page anyone could enter, with the chance to be one of three people moderating the Expedia Australia FB page in February. The moderator that shows the greatest ability to build community, engage, and create content will win the prize.

Some commentators have asked if this is simply a predictable ‘competition led’ device to increase the ‘likes’ to the FB page.  That seems rather cynical, it’s much bolder than that.

The incentive to get involved is not simply the monetary value, but a brilliant platform for the chosen moderators to demonstrate their abilities, and most likely get a job offer from Expedia, or another company. This well thought through reward structure creates high levels of commitment and creativity from the guest moderators, attracting new fans and engagement, by reinvigorating the Expedia FB page content with fresh thinking.

This ‘fresh thinking’ is also the risk to the brand, as these individuals aren’t as steeped in the brand as the in-house team will be. However, with just three people to work with, rather than the entire social crowd, Expedia will be able to advise on tone of voice and ground rules, to minimise the chance of a misstep with the community.

More crucially Expedia can do this with confidence because it has already proved its ‘social fitness’ by taking significant steps into social branding. The company’s Twitter presence is well established, and is a proactive centre for customer relationship management. Meanwhile the behaviour and content via Facebook is appropriate, and engaging, indicating the company has invested in the governance and training to allow its people to do social well.

This ability to moderate, and the track record of genuine engagement in social, is what sets this activity far apart from the Skittles and Vodafone mistakes of the past.

So, if you’re going to let the brand fly the nest, please spend some time giving it the values, skills and character, to thrive in the big, wide, social world.

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Hamleys feels the force of social

Will Hamleys back down in the face of the animal lover lobby, too? Less than two weeks after an online and social media campaign compelled John Lewis to change the end of a TV advert that had dog-lovers up in arms, now the same effect is hitting Hamleys.

The famous London toy store’s decision to feature live penguins and reindeer as part of it’s Christmas promotional push has created a passionate back lash on the company’s Facebook page. The nature of these protests means that the ‘anti’ Facebook page is the next step, accompanied by calls to boycott the store over Christmas. Some people feel that John Lewis caved in too quickly to the demands of the crowd, and Hamleys are resisting so far, while presenting their argument logically. The problem is that logic gets put behind emotion during these ‘social campaigns’, and the brand is challenged to match the force of emotion that the crowd displays. Raw emotion is one of the four new forces of ‘Social Nature’ that I’ve talked about before. The others are real-time, interaction, and community. For Hamleys this last one is now the most important. A community is being built around the protest against it, will a community mobilise to come to the brand’s defence? One ‘pro-Hamley’s’ Facebook page has been launched, but so far it has one follower. For the reputation team at Hamleys it’s time to decide where their priorities lie. Is the short-term sales promotion more important than long-term reputation?

I would advise a graceful climb-down, some cuddly penguins instead, and a Facebook competition to go and see real reindeers. Entrants must ‘check-in’ to the store first, of course. What do you think?

(Update 02 December)

Well it’s happened. Hamleys have decided to cancel the live penguins at the store. Looking at the positive reaction to this on the company’s Facebook page, confirms that they have taken the right call. An ‘anti’ Facebook group attracted over 350 ‘likes’ while the ‘pro’ penguins group attracted just 16. It’s time now for Hamleys to find the opportunity in this crisis, and use the exposure to now engage with the crowd that has gathered around its social storefront.

 

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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. 

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