Tweet the Power!

August 15, 2009

Twenty years ago, the rap group Public Enemy dropped one of the greatest rap songs of all time, Fight the Power! It appears two decades later, my brothers and sisters from across the pond have begun to fight the power via twitter.
Gordo brownOver the past week, I’ve been trying to master social media in the UK, it turns out that Gordon Brown,  Britain’s Prime Minister, would provide one of the best examples of social media mobilization campaign. The Leader of the Labour Party has begun to defend Britain’s National Healthcare System (NHS) by joining a Twitter campaign defending the health service from attacks by Republicans intent on derailing President Obama’s healthcare bill.

Britons angry at the attacks have organised a campaign on the micro-blogging site, which has also been joined by the health secretary, Andy Burnham. The social networking site crashed yesterday with the volume of messages for the #welovethenhs campaign.

twitterIt is because of a social media tool like twitter that this cross continental campaign is possible. This will no doubt be an exciting exploration of how social media tools impacting politics. This situation wasn’t created in a vacuum but a culmination of several factors.
UK is an engaged social networking community. Of the 34 million internet users, 27 million actively visited a social network site. However, individuals in London are leaders and are even more actively engaged. The city was recently declared as the new twitter capital of the world. The city has embraced the idea of creating a community on line to share and communicate. They have taken it a step further and have mobilized to influence change and stand up for themselves.
Moreover, this situation has generated additional attention because of the use of traditional media as well. Brown and other ministers have begun campaigning on American soil giving interviews to tell and share their story and not let the country be exploited and misrepresented unfairly by the hard right.
I can’t help but wonder would American’s collectively rise up against another country via social media? I doubt most Americans would rally around just one issue in another country. We all know the exploits of the Obama campaign to use social media to secure the election. However, this case should serve as a solid reminder to US politicians to remember that politics are no longer local, but global. 2009 may serve as another summer where we’ll see power may belong to the people as you gotta Tweet the Power!

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Skypin’ Around

August 3, 2009

Social media seems to be enjoying a great degree of popularity in the United Kingdom. According to eMarketer, 39 percent of UK Internet users (over 15 million people) will use social networks least once a month in 2009. Recognizing the potential, many advertisers and marketers have not missed the opportunity to tap into social media to help their clients.

One case study stood out to me—Albion’s award-winning Skype Nomad campaign, in which they sent a woman on a 33-day world  tour to near and far-away places from which she communicated via Skype.  (A fun assignment except for the possibility of sleep and food deprivation, though.)

It seemed like an efficient and creative way to demonstrate and showcase the product to its intended audience. As someone interested in learning more about Skype, this campaign resonated with me primarily because of the way Albion and their client chose to communicate to their audience to achieve their business objective of helping Skype raise awareness of the company’s mobile solutions.

Skype Nomad followers engage in conversation with the Nomad.

Skype Nomad followers engage in conversation with the Nomad.

Beside the fact that they knew their audience (early adopters), three other things  stood out about their approach:

1. They made it personal.The Skype Nomad, Rebecca,  posted updates about her daily experiences (good and bad) on Twitter and Facebook, among other social networking sites, photos on Flickr and (with some help from the Albion crew) videos on YouTube. The Nomad’s initial posts focused on the technology and whether/how it was working, but as the 33-day campaign progressed, followers also saw how she was reacting to her environment and circumstances: “The mountains so great that u can’t help but feel small. These mountains that minutes earlier I was cursing are now my comfort,” she wrote after what sounded like a particularly trying day from a technology perspective.

2. They were authentic. (See #1.) There was no sugarcoating—when Rebecca was having a bad day, her online friends and followers new. (“When she was down, or the technology didn’t work, she was brutally honest,” according to the Albion website.)  Followers also knew when something was good or worked, because they could see her using the product out on the field, much like they would be.

3. They started (and maintained) a conversation.While on the road, Rebecca “asked the community to help her make decisions about her trip.” This helped engage stakeholders even further by inviting them to be participants instead of just observers. (Albion states that after establishing a relationship with the audience and posting her field-based product demos on YouTube, sales of the 3 Skypephone rose.

Not only did the campaign result in increased awareness of Skype mobile solutions in the UK and the U.S. (9 and 18 percent, respectively), but Albion reported the following data points because of the campaign (or Rebecca’s personal and authentic ongoing conversation for the campaign’s duration):

  • 800,000 unique blog visitors
  • 140,000 Flickr page views
  • 300,000 YouTube video views
  • Over 175 stories in global blogs, press and television

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”

and

“…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”.

habitat-uk-twitter-fail

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.


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.


Viral Campaigns – A “Must Do” in Brazil

July 19, 2009

Before launching a social media communication/advertising/marketing plan in Brazil, brands should take the following into account:

These facts therefore not only change the way in which brands allocate advertising dollars but more importantly alter the format of the ads them self.  It also means that simply adding brand advertisements i.e. banner ads to Orkut (Brazil’s dominate social media platform) is not the answer.  In fact the proverbial social media plan just won’t do it either.  Instead, the solution lies in turning traditional advertising on its head and creating a new path; one that is focused on creating and generating buzz that can then be spread through social media sites with more authenticity and a sense of community.

Seasoned marketers already know that word of mouth and viral marketing is one of – if not the – most effective marketing technique.  According to the United Kingdom’s blogstorm, “viral marketing campaigns are an amazing way to generate a huge amount of buzz and brand awareness whether they are carried out online or offline.”  Given Brazil’s social media influence, online viral campaigns become all the more relevant. 

1dc106945fcaf829218bf6a63d07f5e53580db93_128x96One Brazilian company – Dreamjob.com.br – has already figured this out with the launch of their “Worst Job in The World” viral campaign. 

The video features beautiful Brazilian models and a large amount of sarcasm (which undoubtedly helps ratings) has been viewed on YouTube 773,716 times and has received 233 comments in the past two months. 

Last year, blogstorm posted “The Top 10 Viral Marketing Campaigns Of All Time” that companies aiming to launch social media campaigns in Brazil can emulate. 

The list includes:

  • Nike’s “Touch of Gold”
  • Quicksilver’s “Dynamite Surfing”
  • Transport for London’s “Do The Test”

While not all companies can – nor am I suggested they should – employee overt sexual innuendos or extreme sports, they should pay attention to the power that viral campaigns can have on the ability to reach intended objectives.