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Brands for a social age

Archive for the tag “reputation management”

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!”

The tricky issue of influence

Influencer ranking tools have been a hot topic of conversation lately. Last week when Klout, the original influencer-ranking tool, changed its ranking algorithm there was a sharp backlash on social media. What emerged was that some individuals had been adapting their online behaviour to try and ‘game’ their Klout score, and now they were angry that the rules had changed. To me this seemed to be a lose-lose situation. For the individuals it showed a huge lack of authenticity, and for Klout it demonstrated how its data can be flawed.

With this in mind I was pleased to be able to listen to Azeem Azhar (@azeem) the founder of Klout competitor, Peerindex, at yesterday’s #dellb2b event in London. He provided his take on just how good the current tools are, and how he thinks influencer rankings can be used.

My view is that the current tools (the third competitor in this market is PeopleBrowsr’s Kred) are blunt instruments that should only form one small element when assessing influence. And this appeared to be shared amongst the gathering of social media, technology and business thinkers at #dellb2b.

When Azeem asked the room ‘Who believes influence can be measured in a single number?’ just one hand was raised amongst the sixty people or so present (@bejaminellis you know who you are!). The consensus was that there is a huge problem when applying a single influencer ranking for an individual when influence is such a subjective area. For example one person’s influencer could be another person’s non-entity, or an influencer in a certain subject in one geography could be irrelevant to those in another.

Azeem admitted that ‘There is no single accurate definition of influence at the moment’ but he believed that one could emerge over time, moulded by market forces. “There needs to be a standardized definition of influence. That will emerge from the to-ing and fro-ing of the market, and for that there needs to be competition.”

As luck would have it one of those competitors, Kred, in the shape of PeopleBrowsr’s Andrew Grill @andrewgrill, was in the audience. He agreed that the definitive influencer ranking doesn’t exist, and questioned if it ever would. Andrew said: “We have a really big responsibility. We are scoring humans, can that ever be definitive? I think it’s important that there are three or four companies out there doing this to give healthy competition.”

So is that the future? A ‘basket’ of different influencer rankings that gives an aggregated picture of how the individual scores in terms of online influence? That solution is probably little better than the single rankings.

From my practical experience in mapping influencers for brands the best solution is to use human analysis, rather than automated rankings. By using monitoring tools to gather data about a particular topic, then diving into that data and tracing relationships and information flows between individuals you establish if individuals have reach, relevance and respect around the brand (or issue) you are working with. These insights can then be used to create comprehensive profiles of each influencer, and to map the links between them.

Three elements of influence – reach, relevance, respect

I do use automated influencer ranking tools on occasion to double check named individuals. Most often though I use them to fuel some banter with @samhilary on who is further up the Peer Index NMA list. (he’s winning!)

Andy Gray and Richard Keys, victims as well as villains

From a personal perspective, I fully support Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ departures, from Sky Sports. Their comments and behaviour were disgraceful. Gray’s sacking and Keys’ resignation send a strong message to those who break sex discrimination rules in the workplace.

However, from a professional standpoint I think the wrong people are taking the heat on this. Yes, Gray and Keys were high profile pundits, but they aren’t in charge of running the organisation. The culture of casual sexism apparent in the multiple YouTube examples of Gray and Keys’ behaviour, can only thrive if management allowed it to do so. The bosses at the channel and the senior producers have to take ultimate responsibility.

I’m sure that the ‘star culture’ around Gray and Keys made it difficult to impose appropriate behaviour onto the locker room atmosphere of the Sky football studio. But that’s no excuse.

The increasing ubiquity of social media allows individuals to publish the inner workings of organisations to the outside world simply and easily. Sky is just the latest in a long list to be stung.

That personal publishing power isn’t going to change, so it’s organisations that are going to have to. Have a think about your own company. How would it fair if its inner workings were exposed? What lingering pockets of poor behaviour do you put up with on the basis that ‘it’s never going to change, and its not really doing any harm’. Once these shortcomings are put in the public domain there’s no room for such complacency.

In our work with organisations to improve their ‘social fitness’ a (perhaps surprising) amount of work is based on internal communications, governance, policies, and what constitutes ‘appropriate behaviour’ internally. We encourage our clients to think about the ‘inside out’ organisation.

‘Inside out’ means that a brand’s strength and reputation are rooted in the authentic behaviour of employees, which becomes the core of a compelling and true brand story. Companies like Dell, with it’s mass social media training of staff, or Best Buy, with it’s Twelpforce social customer service, are already treading this path.

Gray and Keys, are villains, but also victims of two things. First, the transparency and power of social media, and second, their employer’s failure to respond to the new rules of branding.

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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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The U.S. Navy’s social savvy

On one level it surprises me that the U.S. Navy ‘gets’ social so thoroughly. Shouldn’t a large, complex and hierarchical organisation like that find social concepts like transparency and authenticity hard to adjust to?

Giving it some further thought, maybe it should be no surprise that an organisation that lives or dies (literally) on the quality of its communications and intelligence, should embrace social behaviours.

This Fall (that’s autumn for us Brits!) the U.S.Navy has come up with a ‘Social Media Handbook’ for personnel. Within its pages there is plenty of sound advice, and there is much here that can translate across to any civilian organisation, or business.

For the ‘time poor’ here are some highlights focusing on the U.S Navy’s overview on social, usage guidelines for personnel, and crisis communications.

U.S. Navy’s take on social

“The rapid growth of social media platforms and technologies have flattened and democratized the communication environment in ways we are just beginning to comprehend” – Adml, Dennis J. Moynihan, U.S. Navy Chief of Information (Spot on, and who can argue with an Admiral?!)

Guidelines for personnel (extracts)

  • The Navy encourages service members to tell their stories. With fewer Americans having served themselves in the military, it is important for our service members to share their stories of service with the American people.
  • The Navy asks Sailors to live their core values online, and understand that communication in social media is both public and international – even when they think they are just talking to family and friends.
  • When commenting about Navy matters, Sailors and Navy personnel need to be transparent about who they are and should identify themselves and their rank and/or position. They should also be clear that their opinions are their own, and do not represent their command or the Navy when commenting publicly on Navy topics.
  • Replace error with fact not argument, if you are engaging someone else online. If you see an error or misinformation, correct it courteously and factually but do not engage in a heated argument.
  • Admit mistakes. If you make a mistake then admit it and correct it immediately. If you do edit a posting online, make it clear that it has been updated or edited — don’t just try to make a change and pretend you never made the error. If people can’t trust you to own up to your own mistakes you will lose credibility.
  • Remember that everything posted on the Internet even for a second may live online  forever.

Crisis Communications (extracts)

  • Using social media to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis has already proven to be an especially effective use of the medium due to its speed, reach, and direct access.

  • You can’t surge trust, so your best course of action is to leverage already existing social presences. It is important to have a regularly updated channel of communication open between you and your key audiences before the crisis hits so they not only know where to find you online, but know that they can trust the information they get. (This chimes with our view on the importance of cultivating community in the good times, as per point five in this earlier post.)
  • Create a centralized location to funnel information. If you don’t have a command (centralized) presence then the people most interested in the crisis will more than likely decide as a group where they want to find information and start their own group. Whatever the case, you need to communicate where the people most affected are communicating.
  • Monitor incoming content posted by your users on your social sites so you can understand what information they need and what is happening to them.
  • Post cleared information as you have it, and there’s no need to wait for a formal press release. When you have solid information that your audiences want to know, post it.
  • Answer questions as often as practicable. Avoid just posting information on a social media presence – that is what command websites are for. (A fundamental point that many comms teams ignore in a crisis.)
  • Monitor external conversations regularly and correct inaccuracies. This is the best way to stop rumors before they run rampant. Use search engines and other monitoring tools to track discussion on the topic.
  • Share and cross -promote critical information with your network of trusted social media sites.
  • Encourage on-scene and first-responder personnel to engage via social media. You can do this by having them either use their personal accounts or feeding you information to post on the official command social sites.
  • Promote the social media presence on outgoing materials like press releases, e-mail signatures, links on the home page and even in conversations with reporters.
  • Analyze success of crisis communication via social media by looking at click-throughs, conversation, replies and reactions to postings, etc.

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Five practical steps towards better social reputation

As we head into the end of the year (how did that happen!) thoughts inevitably turn to how we’re going to do things differently in a bright, new, 2011. I had this in mind when I presented to a group of corporate communicators at PR Week’s ‘An issue ignored is a crisis invited’ conference on the 20th of October. So, as part of my session I focused on five practical steps that reputation managers can take to restructure their comms approach, and move their teams’ skill-sets and mind-sets to a place where they are better prepared to handle issues and crises in the socially enabled world.

I took five well established pillars from the ‘Old world’ issues and crisis management text-book, and considered how they should be evolved to prepare brands for the demands of ‘New world’ social reputation work. The five existing pillars are on the left in the image below, and the evolved approach on the right.

So, taking each in turn.

1. From a communications team, to an engagement team

A serious reputational issue playing out in the mainstream media has traditionally been handled by PR specialists and senior management, supported by legal teams. These are still crucial people to have in the war room, but the demands of social media require some additional skill sets too. A well-rounded ‘Engagement Team’ will now include social customer relationship management specialists, technical teams able to optimise content created for your response, analysts with the ability to make sense of the online conversation around your brand issue, and experienced community managers with the appropriate skills to know if, when and how any engagement should happen.

2. From media monitoring, to active listening

If you’re reading about a damaging issue in your mainstream media press cuttings, it’s too late. Once an issue has been amplified out of social media and into the mainstream you’re already in a ‘reactive’ position, and many companies have been caught out because of this, for example, Capri Sun.

In contrast active listening puts you on a proactive footing, listening out for issues in a real-time and persistent way. It’s also ‘active’ because you intend to take action, or assess possible action, on the basis of what you learn. Each brand or organisation can set up an active listening solution that suits them. This could be a specialist tool like Radian 6, or Brandwatch, free tools like Tweetdeck, but crucially all of them require human eyes (and brains) to make sense of the data through analysis.

3. From press releases, to content creation

Drafting template press releases, which cover likely crisis scenarios, is a standard technique to save time during a crisis. So should you do something similar for social content? Draft some tweets? Pre-record YouTube videos? Frankly, no. A social reputation situation will move in real-time, and in a dynamic manner. Rather, invest in your team’s technical and content creation skills. For example, have you got useful brand outposts like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube for your company? Do the team know how to use them? What socially enabled content could you create to tell your story during a crisis? Have you done the necessary preparation work with your legal team to speed up sign off procedures during a crisis?

4. From media and scenario training, to appropriate social behaviour

At a recent presentation on the future of journalism at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, the Editor in Chief of Reuters, David Schlesinger, made the following comment. “The more you try to be  paternalistic and authoritative, the less people will believe you. The conversation about the story is as important as the story itself.” This is an insightful backdrop against which you should re-apppraise how you prepare for reputational threats in the social age. Preparation is still the key to successful crisis comms, but you need to prepare in different ways now. It’s less about ‘front of camera’ and ‘press conference‘ skills, and more about social psychology. Remember you’re no longer talking to the intermediary of the mainstream media, you’re going direct to the public. They want transparency, authenticity, honesty and speed! Your team needs to be trained how to do this. The first step is to create some social media guidelines, then scenario plan and test the team’s ability to respond appropriately in a live environment. The n keep testing, learning, and getting involved in the conversation.

5. From stakeholder lists, to community influencers

The role of third-party advocacy to respond to a crisis remains as relevant as ever in the social age, it’s always better to be defended by others than defend yourself. In the pre Web 2.0 world a comms team would focus on individuals and institutions that could provide this advocacy through mainstream media. Now it’s also necessary to think about the online advocates you can mobilise. So how do you make this happen online? Work at it, and do so over time in the same way you might look to lobby important stakeholders over time. First, landscape who is influential around your brand and vertical, next undertake some community outreach and community building. Finally, grow some roots into that community, gain trust and understanding. As a result when an issue or crisis hits you have increased the likelihood of the community coming to your defence, the ultimate in crisis recovery. Preparation is now about preparing your community to defend you, not just your own people.

In summary, we’re in a situation now as reputation guardians where we have to think more broadly, and at the same time more rapidly, if we are to effectively protect and enhance the reputations of our organisation, or brand.

Would love to hear any comments. Happy Christmas!

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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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Five Twitter tips for angry athletes

It’s been a great week for name checks of Twitter in the UK mainstream media. First, England cricketer Kevin Pietersen vents his frustration at being dropped from the T20 squad through his Twitter account, swiftly followed by a rant from Hampshire player Dimitri Mascarenhas when he was also overlooked by the selectors. This Twitter storm has been picked up in every sports bulletin on broadcast outlets, and pushed around the home news and sports pages of the print media ever since.

Both men have now apologised, but you have to ask ‘Who is advising these guys on social media?’ Why is it that no-one has got through to them that these platforms are equivalent to standing on the pitch doing a live TV interview after a big match. Would they swear then? Would they air their grievances with the selectors to the massed viewers? No, they would not.

Some basic training in what Twitter is, and how to use it would stand these sporting celebrities in good stead. Here are five simple tips to get them started.

1. Everyone is listening – don’t think that what you say on Twitter won’t be analysed just as closely as in other forms of media.

2. Pause for thought – the written word can come across more brutally than verbal communication. Pause, read your words again, how will they land?

3. Add value – focus on the value you can bring to Followers, you’ve got great access to the inner sanctum of elite sport, share it!

4. Get your head right – don’t Tweet when you’re angry (and certainly not when you’re drunk!). Of all people athletes should know the importance of positive psychology for top performance.

5. Build an authentic personal brand – Twitter provides a chance to show the ‘real you’ without the distortions of the mainstream media. Make the content authentic and interesting, and you’ll build following.

The irony is that by continuing to drop the bat in this way (sorry!) these stars are risking their governing bodies banning the use of platforms like Twitter. This is only going to hurt the game, their team and mostly the individuals. Twitter gives sportsmen and women a great platform to have their voices heard, build their personal brand, and connect with fans. This will bring them value, opportunities and win-win relationships as social media continues to grow in importance.

Let’s get the fans talking about KP for the right reasons – his genius shots like this one.

What do you think?

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Want to make more money? Have a crisis

It was really fascinating to read today’s results news from Domino’s Pizza. The company is attributing a significant part of its uplift in online sales to social media activity, and innovations like its Foursquare loyalty scheme.

But those of us with slightly longer memories will recall that Domino’s was in the news for social media activity of a different sort in only April last year when two employees went rogue on YouTube. The company dealt with the crisis well, and showed  that it knew how to have its voice heard in the ensuing conversation. It’s clearly stepped up a gear since then, and is now seeing the benefits of proactive engagement with active social communities, not least to the bottom line.

Seems to me that it’s Dell Hell all over again. Get battered in social media, take remedial action, have your eyes opened to the power of the crowd, start earning the right to be part of the conversation and then see the benefits to our company’s performance. In Dell’s case at least $3 mln worth of value. 

So, dear CEO,  forget those expensive management consultants, to boost profitability enjoy a social reputation crisis instead.

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ITV’s World Cup ‘shocker’

Well, they say bad news comes in threes. First, ITV’s website streaming live World Cup matches, ITVLive, crashed during the very first game of the competition. Next, viewers of ITV’s HD Channel missed Steven Gerrard’s goal in England’s first match vs the USA when the channel cut to an ad break. Finally, in the last 24 hours ITV pundit, Robbie Earle, has been dismissed for selling his allocation of  World Cup tickets to a brewing company, who then used them for a marketing stunt.

All in all a very bad start to the tournament, and a situation ITV needs to get a grip on before it becomes a ’death spiral’ of bad news.

So far the signs aren’t great that ITV really knows how to go about turning the situation around. The on-air apology to HD viewers from Adrian Chiles at the half time interval on Saturday was less than fulsome. Then, the explanation afterwards was slow in emerging and didn’t strike a genuinely regretful tone. Within social media, where the furore has been particularly intense, ITV has made some basic apologies via its twitter feeds @itvfootball and @itvlive. However, more significant action is required if ITV want to turn things around and regain control of the agenda.

Here are some tips to help ITV move the coverage away from its gaffes, and back to Robert Green the football!

1. Be bothered

The World Cup is a big deal. People are passionate about their national team. Emotions run high. ITV needs to reconsider its ‘corporate’ tone of voice in its statements. Adopting a more ‘human’ tone will convince its audience it shares their passion, and is genuinely sorry if it has spoiled this once in every four years experience.

2. Actively listen, and learn

The massive amount of online buzz around each of these incidents provides a great resource for ITV. Listening in can help ITV inform the content of any response, identify detractors and advocates, and measure the effect of any communication. Use this rich information to your advantage, don’t run scared.

3. Put some skin in the game

Saying sorry and being empathetic is a start. But the connected and authentic world of social media will respond more positively to actions, and evidence that ITV is putting itself out, in order to make amends. Here are a few ideas for ITV’s comms team.

 – Use some of its remaining ticket allocation to get some deserving kids to a game, or several games. Why not run a competition for the kid with the best story of courage to come to the Final?

 – Provide some value added content for your HD viewers to make amends for the ‘Gerrard goal’ incident. How about rescheduling an ad break to show the goal ten times, in super slow mo, and all its HD glory.

These are just two possible opportunities that can be found to turn this crisis around. What is crucial is for ITV to act fast, and in the right spirit of humbleness, openness, and authenticity.                 

Let’s hope ITV’s, and England’s, early performances can both make a sharp recovery before the end of the tournament.  

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