Unsocial Social Media: A Recipe for Brand Destruction

August 3, 2009

UK Social Network Statistics (July 2009) posted by Clicky Media reports that on-line social networking has become very much a mainstream activity for UK Internet users of all ages.   The report states that 80% of ALL the UK’s on-line population visited a social networking site in May 2009 and the average UK Internet user spent 4.6 hours on Social Networking sites over  a one month period.

Among the UK’s most popular Social Networking sites Facebook has long ranked #1 with over 19 million active users.  Bebo followed as the second  (8.5 million visitors), then Windows Live Profile  (6.9 million visitors) and MySpace (6.5 million visitors).

Last, but certainly not least in the UK top five social networking sites is Twitter (2.7 million visitors)  which has vastly grown  in site visitors numbers by 3000% over the last 12 months according to ComScore.

In efforts to capitalize on the growing Social Media phenomenon of Twitter, one trendy UK furniture store, Habitat UK, began microblogging on twitter to spread word to consumers about upcoming sales and store promotions.

Sounds innocent enough except, Habitat decided to use trending topic #hashtags at the start of their tweets to gain exposure.  Habitat used top twitter-hash-logo-for-fluidtrend hash tags such as #iPhone, #mms and #Apple–a somewhat clever, yet very messy strategy on their part.  The spamming quickly became noticeable and the Twitter community tweeted about it for days voicing their disappointment much to the embarrassment of the HabitaDt.

Sample tweets regarding Habitat’s poor marketing strategy included:

“…Sad day when reputable brand resorts to using trend hash tags to advertise”


“…not what you expect from an otherwise classy brand…”

Habitat’s response to this backlash was to delete their offending tweets and replace them with some generic product and sales promotional tweets.

But can the reputation damage  this brand suffered be repaired so easily?

Later realizing that perhaps not enough was done on their part to clear up the messy hash tag incident, Habitat released this apology:

I know people have been waiting for a response tweet from us; we are treating this very seriously and wanted to offer a longer message. We have been reading everyone’s comments carefully and would like to make a very sincere apology to any Twitter users who were offended.

The top ten trending topics were pasted into hashtags without checking with us and apparently without verifying what all of the tags referred to. This was absolutely not authorised by Habitat. We were shocked when we discovered what happened and are very sorry for the offense that was caused. This is totally against our communications strategy. We never sought to abuse Twitter, have removed the content and will ensure this does not happen again.

It has been really valuable to hear how users would like us to use Twitter and we are determined to do better for the Twitter community.

I find this Habitat case study well  illustrates the power of social media and how its user-generated comments and conversation can build or destroy a brand. Ignoring a conversation in social media and not responding effectively can greatly  impact a brands bottom line.  If unsocial social media is a recipe for brand destruction, then Social Media Monitoring is surely the only cure. It would be wise of brands to be prepared for the negative impact social media sites can wield via preventive measures in “Social Media Monitoring”.


Steps to effective Social Media Monitoring include:

Start by listening to social media.  Free tools such as whostalkin.com, socialmention.com or Google alerts can help you track down buzz around your brand to get an idea of what a brands on-line social media landscape looks like and to identify brand mentions and conversations around your brand.   If the  brand is global with a huge web presence, then it may be best to use a social media agency to produce an audit or on-line landscape analysis.

Join the conversation. The key to managing and maintaining brand reputation within social media is to be part of the conversation.  Investing time in engaging with customers through social media helps brands build relationships, developing trust and show value to their customers.
If a brand discovers negative or factually incorrect buzz –they should react quickly so the information is not spread further via blogs or micro-blogging sites.    A recipient of bad service will tell at least ten people and many more  if they are a blogger or active on social networks. The earlier a brand learns of dissatisfaction the faster they can react.

Transparent Communications.  Open and honest communications can protect your brand against the perils of social media.  If something goes wrong, brands should not be defensive as it will encourage further negativity.  Instead, brands should simply explain their position, let their customers know how they plan on rectifying the situation and invite feedback.

Social Media Strategy
.   Brands can push down negative posts indexed by search engines  If  a company has a blog, they can respond with a formal blog post making sure that its title features keywords that match the negative posts or content. This will help to add positive search engine results, .Counteract anonymous and negative comments by highlighting testimonials from some of your best customers. In support of the blog post you can use your Twitter account to raise awareness of your response. Depending on the scale of the negative reaction you can respond via video or audio in the form of webcasts and podcasts. If you have an on-line community, you can host the conversation on your own website, confining the negativity to one area and allowing you to respond immediately.

With ever-increasing popularity and immediacy of social networking sites such a Twitter on the rise in the UK, brands would be wise to recognize the value of proper engagement strategies and incorporate social media monitoring in their communications plans otherwise risk becoming victim of unrepairable brand damage.


London what’s your Social Media iQ?

August 3, 2009
Toyota’s Hypermiling Social Media Success

Toyota’s Hypermiling Social Media Success

Wrapping up my tour of social media across the globe with the final stop in London. This week I focused on Toyota Great Britain its use of social media in one successful case and what insight other brands can use to reach audiences in Great Britain – and globally.

The social media campaign centered on raising awareness of the Toyota iQ among influential blogs connecting to people interested in technology, autos and the environment. The iQ is a very small four-passenger car with low emissions and high MPG car designed for hip young city dwellers.

Two members of the content team took a hypermiling road trip (act of driving using techniques that maximize fuel economy) in the iQ attempting to drive 500 miles on one eight-gallon tank of gas and along the way create editorial content that would grab reader interest and drive traffic back to the Toyota iQ blog. The trip hit 18 cites and on every stop the progress was shared through social media.

The key insight in this success was how Toyota created and leveraged unique editorial-style content full of great stories others wanted to read, link to and spread using social media.

The hypermiling attempt reached over 105 million people worldwide and 3.7 million people in the UK alone as a result of coverage on high profile blogs, including Wired magazine, and led to a 200% uplift in traffic to the iQ blog.

The old saying that ‘content is king’ reinforces if you want others to be interested in your brand you can’t just expect them to find you online. You have to have something interesting to say, do it in a non-marketing way and seek out your audience to help them find your message.

YouTube and the United Kingdom

August 3, 2009

In January 2007 British Airways threatened to strike causing the airline to cancel departing flights for two days.

In 2008, United Airlines damaged a passenger’s guitar. When he inquired about reimbursement the airline gave him the runaround. Finally, he was able to get their attention through the creation of a YouTube video.

British Airways needs to heed the strides United Airlines has made in order to ensure the satisfaction of its customers as well as its employees. Utilizing social media to listen to your audience is important in order to intersect any potential problems.

I don’t think customers should have to go to such great lengths like writing a song and posting the video to YouTube in order to secure proper customer service. Everyone should know by now that engaging in customers online has proven to be a success as long as the company is secure enough with its product that they can relinquish control of the conversation.

Social media in the United Kingdom is very influential. Robin Goade found that “The successes of Facebook and YouTube, along with similar sites, meant that social networks accounted for 1 in every 10 UK Internet visits during Christmas week. For the week ending 27/12/08, our Computers and Internet – Social Networking and Forums category accounted for 10.09% of all UK Internet visits, the first ever time it has passed the 10% threshold.”

Social Networks continue to dominate online activity and usage across the globe and this is no more evident than here in the UK. A recent report from ComScore reveals some very interesting UK Social Media Stats. Of the 36.9 million UK internet users in May 2009, 29.4 million visited at least one social networking website.

These are not statistics companies should ignore.

Queen for the Day

August 2, 2009

The use of social media in the United Kingdom is increasingly becoming the main reason why the InteBeboLogo.gif picture by kstel2rnet culture is rapidly growing among young adults.  Bebo, the second largest social networking site in the U.K. shows the influence and impact social networks have on British teenagers.

 Bebo, a significant competitor of Facebook allows teenagers to stay in touch with college friends, connect with friends, as well as share photos and discover new interest.   The U.K. teen favorite has 22 million unique visitors and of the five top social networking destinations in the UK, Bebo has the highest number of page views, at 11 billion pages views monthly according to Comscore data.  AOL who acquired Bebo for $850 million in cash last year said Bebo users spend an average of 40 minutes a day on the site.

8784597230.jpg picture by kstel2

 As the influence in social networks in the U.K. continues to grow, it is important for brands and marketers to use sites such as Bebo to market to younger consumers. While Bebo’s success stems from the teenage ripple effect of “everyone else is using it,” Bebo may have trouble expanding beyond the audiences of the U.K. as other sites, such as Facebook is successfully doing.   To sustain a competitive edge against Facebook, Bebo is available to mobile phone users thanks to a deal with Intercasting Corporation last year.

Some 40 million Bebo.com site users will now have availability to produce and share content, view photos, send and receive messages, post comments and search profiles on their mobile devices through the Anthem platform.  Bebo also has a deal with T-mobile in the U.K. where it has an existing partnership with operator Orange.

With AOL’s acquisition of Bebo, brands should recognize the social networking site as an instrumental way to target young adults in the U.K.  The partnership helps to secure brands with the growing power and potential Bebo has to leverage them quickly to target audiences. This tactic will help brands engage with communities or audiences for faster more reliable results of their message or product.  With AOL’s help, Bebo has the impressive capabilities to surpass Facebook and accelerate growth in the U.K. and to other countries.

Does Super-viralocity Equal Sales Potential in the UK?

August 2, 2009

Social MediaAs we come to the end of our blogging and coursework for Global Communications in a Digital World, it seems fitting to end where we began.

In our first blog post, we each named one US brand that uses social media well, and one that doesn’t (either because they are doing it wrong, or doing nothing). 

Today, if I had to choose one global brand that uses social media well, I’d reference my blog post on Doritos Sweet Chili in Brazil.  Using augmented reality (AR), Doritos created product packaging that creates the illusion that a virtual, computer-generated object actually exists in consumers’ worlds.  As of May 2009, 23,000 of these objects have been released on www.doritos.com.br/.

And if I had to choose one global brand that has missed the mark, I’d reference a recent campaign from London-based agency Nudge. In 2009 Nudge created a Facebook app with self-proclaimed “super-viralocity” for the launch of Britvic’s beverage “Tango with Added Tango.” 

Tango Head Masher 3000The “Tango Head Masher 3000” app accesses Facebook users’ profile information, photos, friends’ information, and other content to enable consumers to create photo mashups using their own photos.  Consumers can replace friends’ images or faces in a photo with ridiculous images offered by the Tango Head Masher.

These photo mashups can be posted to the Tango Head Masher gallery on the campaign’s Facebook page.

Given the popularity of Facebook in the UK, this was a logical platform from which to launch Tango’s product.  According to market research firm comScore,  80 percent of the UK’s online population visited a social networking site in May 2009, a nine percent growth across the board in a year.  Of teens and early twenty-somethings, Tango’s target demographic, 86 percent of Internet users visted a social networking website.

The Facebook app is part of a full-scale consumer marketing campaign, including a Britvic-sponsored voice-activated freephone helpline that jokingly “offers advice on any side effects consumers might be suffering from after consuming Tango.”   As a reward for calling, consumers can enter a prize drawing for “some great Tango swag including a Sony PlayStation, some Sennheiser headphones, a Cannondale Bad Boy 2009 hybrid bike and a Sony iPod docking hifi system.”

Currently the Head Masher app has 10,745 monthly active users, but has garnered only 2 out of 5 stars based on consumer ratings.  Further, all of the posts on the campaign’s Facebook wall have been posted by members of Nudge’s staff.

Nudge claims that The “Tango with Added Tango” social media campaign is in still its soft launch phases, meaning they will have the opportunity to optimize the app later based first users’ initial impressions.

But Nudge needs to do more than just optimize the app.  They need to infuse their social media campaign with a key element of Doritos’ strategy – sales potential.

Consumers can create an infinite number of mashups using the Tango Head Masher 3000, but where’s the incentive to actually purchase Britvic’s product? 

Consumers could not activate the social media element of Doritos’ campaign without purchasing a bag of chips; consumers don’t need to purchase a can of Tango with Added Tango to use the Tango Head Masher 3000 Facebook app.  This could be problematic for a brand campaign whose primary mission is to sell more product and keep consumers coming back for more.

As we head into our week in London and are asked to develop digital communications strategies that both engage consumers and keep them coming back for more, let’s take a look at where we began.  Let’s ask ourselves the most basic of questions – what has worked for brands in the past and what hasn’t?

This is How You Tango

August 2, 2009

80 percent of the online population in London are actively engaged with social networking sites. That’s approximately 30 million UK citizens. This demographic usually in the 25-34 age group spend roughly 5 hours on social networking sites.  Facebook leading the way has the most popular social networking site in the UK. Also, in 2008, 65% of households had Internet access. Therefore, companies have invested in launching online efforts to reach their consumers.

BritVic, the number 2 soft drink British producer in the UK. The company owns a number of leading brands in the UK including Britvic itself, R. White’s Lemonade, Tango, Pepsi, 7 Up, Robinson’s and J20, and launched Gatorade in the UK after securing the rights from PepsiCo. Tuesday of July 14th, the soft drink maker recorded revenue of 249.1 million pounds in the 12 weeks to July 5th, which is a 5.9% increase from the previous year.

Tango,is the BritVic brand known for it’s edginess and appeal. The marketing team have done very creative work, to keep people engaged and interested online. In 2006, the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) recognized Tango Clear for developing a basic spoof campaign. The Tango ad was released virally with the help of a website formed by the fictional Swansea North Residents Association. the local action group were protesting the damage caused by the Tango film crew. After just one day of the viral release the site had received almost 200,000 hits. Due to it’s online popularity, the video finally made its way to television.

However, the creativity doesn’t stop here. In 2008, the BritVic brand Tango launched an integrated campaign to promote Tango. In a strategy to bolster sales, the company launched ‘Save Tango‘ campaign, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, that aimed toe raise public awareness of the threat Tango is facing as a carbonated drink for those individuals who rather consume healthier products. The website created for the campaign had a video component, a blog, a call to action for the customers, a online petition, and a game. The campaign was ultimately a success which caused an eight per cent increase in sales. To compliment the efforts, the company rebranded with a new design packaging. A limited edition can was premiered with the wording Thanks instead of Tango.

New Design

New Design

Limited Edition

Limited Edition

Tango doesn’t rely on their laurels. They continually launch new campaigns to engage their customers. Their recent endeavor with the help of Nudge London, a social networking agency, has launched a Facebook application, Tango Head Masher 3000. In it’s infancy, the campaign only has 76 fans and on their main Facebook page for Tango only has 706.

Tango has definitely made an impact on their customers, yet could definitely make some social networking improvements.  Streamlining their social media campaign to the actual Facebook page would help keep those 706 fans. Yet, they have high potential in reaching their British market.

“Just Dance”

August 2, 2009

One busy London train station, 350 dancers and an unsuspecting public = Viral Marketing Magic for T-Mobile.

This week I decided to review T-Mobiles recent and incredibly viral campaign that brought the company’s motto “Life’s for Sharing” to life. The goal behind a viral marketing campaign is to use social networks to produce or increase brand awareness. If you have not seen the video yet, take a look. It is safe to wager that T-Mobile certainly increase its brand awareness after this:

In my research what I have found is that across all countries the successful viral marketing campaign is one that connects people over a common feeling of community, excitement, celebration or enjoyment. In Brazil we saw people getting excited about a giant bag of Doritos but we know it wasn’t just the cheesy goodness of the chips it was the entire brand experience the product delivered. In Brazil, Doritos understood how to tap into the interests of its people and then used social media tools to keep their interest and involvement. T-Mobile figured out how to do the same thing in the UK.

As a mobile phone provider a company has an interesting challenge because people are attached to the service a mobile phone provides but not necessarily where they get that service from and at the end of the day the customer cares about price and quality of service. So, how can a brand get the publics attention and stand out among its competitors?

In this case T-Mobile turned to the folks at Saatchi & Saatchi London to create a flash mob of dance on January 15, 2009 at Liverpool Station in London. The result was a viral marketing sensation with 13, 378, 210 views on YouTube. This was a big win for T-Mobile because they made a connection with people beyond the purposes of a cell phone. This is how you can create brand loyalty. We also know that YouTube recently replaced Wikipedia as the number one social networking site in the UK so this strategy leveraged an online tool that the Brits are already inclined to use. T-Mobile went were the conversation was already happening and gave people something to talk about. You can see the reactions of the unsuspecting public here. The honest and authentic reactions from the people in this video are worth millions in marketing dollars.

One thing is for sure – “Just Dance” isn’t just a catchy lyric from Lady Gaga but a sure-fire way to garner the publics attention. It’s also been proven that large choreographed dance numbers in the middle of train stations can work in Belgium too. This one is from VTM in Belgium. Although it is for a different company the strategy is the same. VTM created an event that communicated beyond the service or product the brand provides and connected with people.

As I prepare to join the rest of my GlobalCC classmates for a week in London I am secretly hoping T-Mobile attempts to pull off another hit!  No doubt I would join in on the dance party.

Feel free to follow all of us on Twitter at our group tweet account http://www.twitter.com/globalcc