Friday, May 30, 2008

Using instant messaging to communicate with Influencers

This video from iMedia Connection gives a brief introduction into the use of Instant Messaging to reach your influencers:

Containing a demonstration of how Meebo is used to interact with this tech-savvy audience by Seth Sternberg, the CEO of Meebo, it shows messaging, video and personalisation as key functiontionality he believes creates an engaging experience.

However 3rd Partyhas yet to show how successful this medium is... so Paul Martecchini (quite rightly) suggests, marketers first need to try different messaging platforms to see what works.

Alls well that Groundswell

Apologies for the bad title of this posting... its been a busy day so far!

I've started reading the book 'Groundswell' , by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff at Forrester, as well as several friends of mine who have found it as well.

But just how do you start a social media project within a company? Josh Bernoff's interview by Harvard Business has some great simple steps to follow to try and achieve this:
  1. Start small with one idea (not loads)
  2. Get executive buy-in
  3. Communicate what you are doing
  4. Get a quick win, quickly
  5. Learn from others (within company, peers, your own social network, etc.)
  6. Measure your success

Here's the video of the interview

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fake blogs are illegal

From yesterday (28th May 2008) the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 law came into place.

This legislation is available to download from here:

Of particular interest to those companies that set up fake blogs (e.g. for marketing & PR purposes that pretend to be someone else) should be this phrase about what is now illegal:

Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his/her trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.
Various companies have tried this underhand activity in the past, so it finally looks like this practice (e.g. by Coke Zero) will come to an end in the UK!

Social Media Monitoring & Analysis

Having recently read the Aberdeen Group research paper on Social Media Monitoring and Analysis, I was asked by a client about its usefulness (before they read it themselves).

Now Aberdeen Group papers are usually written in a fairly dry manner, with terminology that can initally baffle the inexperienced (e.g. their use of the term "laggards"), this one is no different. However once you have read a few you get used to it (almost).

The paper does contain some very useful information about social media measurement as well as observations and insight picked up from those they have surveyed in the entertainment, PR, retial and other market sectors.

A service like this (e.g. Magpie's Brandwatch) is useful for managing your company's online reputation and if the report says:

"61% of Best-in-Class companies currently deploy social media monitoring and
analysis solutions"

....perhaps you should consider if yours needs to do the same?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Personal blogging is set to grow

The digital culture moves more towards blogging if the recent report from eMarketer is anything to go by. They believe that by 2012:

  • More than 145 million people—or 67% of the US Internet population—will be reading blogs at least once per month.
  • The number of people creating blogs in the US will reach over 35 million

But as the blogosphere grows, do we not need personal blogging standards? Tim O'Reilly caused a mild stir in the blogosphere when last year he proposed a Blogging Code of Conduct.
Note: This is entirely different to having company blogging and other social media standards.
For a good example of this,
see IBM's social computing guidelines!

Now there are many reasons for this continued adoption of personal blogs (and perhaps for some,
it is a kind of therapy). However, the current text/posting blogging method will not be the sole driver of this potential growth.

I believe that this rise in usage will be fuelled by:

1. Video Blogging:
This will be facilitated by:

  • The ubiquitity of video cameras on mobile phones with the eventual convergence of the devices we now have.
  • The availability of video sharing sites such as YouTube and their easy of use and production of online video.
  • The adoption of social media by the younger generation, the same demographic who have the latest mobile phones
  • The rise of celebrity video bloggers (e.g. Amanda Congdon of Rocketboom, a pioneer of video blogging or vlogging, who has recently returned to screens everywhere)

2. Other micro-blogging formats:
As I have
mentioned in a previous posting on micro-blogging / micro-content, these new ways of communicating are growing in their popularity. Some are even calling this Blogging 2.0 and claiming this could be causing friction with the more established bloggers.

However, whatever the driver, blogging is here to stay in all its formats. Its strongly recommended that companies monitor the dialogue that is going on. Fail to understand this method of self-expression and you could be missing out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brand Tags

What does your brand or logo mean to your customers?
Find out what others think about your brand on this clever brandtags site:

Be prepared for some nice surpises and some shocks!

The death of journalism? (not yet dammit)

Time & again I come back to to the work of Paul Gillin, from his 'New Influencers' book, to the work he contributes to other publications.

But his recent blog posting "How New Influencers are Reinventing Journalism" is definately worthy of a read:

"The secret is to be reader-centric in a fundamental way. The content is driven by the readers and reacted to by the readers. We're really just a curator of consumer-generated content."
Get used to this. It's the online journalism model of the future.
This probably hurt a few of those old dogs out there in "snail (Daily) Mail" land..

Friday, May 23, 2008

Investor Relations 2.0

Its possible now to use modern digital communications to have a dialogue with:

  • Customers
  • Influencers
  • Press/Journalists
  • Students
  • Potential Employees
    and so on....

But how about using social media as an Investor Relationship tool?

Well, this is what Dell have done when they set up their Investor Relations Blog at:

Set up after a drive by Michael Dell to understand opportunity better and winning back investor confidence, this was seen as a good way of engaging with shareholders and the wider financial marketplace.

When launched on 1 Novemeber 2007 (and even now) IR blogs were few & far between. However, leaning on the success of Direct2Dell (where Dell has really learnt about the power of blogging) and observing the general increase in the blogosphere, the aim was to evolve & learn, providing "Ubiquity and Democracy of information", meaning delivering equal and accessible information to as many people as possible.

Now, there are regulation issues for any large company. Fair disclosure using social media is a tricky area - all the same regulations apply. But it doesn't change what you say, you obviosuly have to understand that you're having a dialogue. You can obviosuly cover general issues and not just financial ones and provide what Lynn Tyson, VP of Investor Relations at Dell calls:

"something beyond just the balance sheet"
So, is it successful?

Yes! To date the site has consistently grown and from the topics covered is obviously providing a better understanding of Dell. Its also getting a quality dialogue from the comments it recieves.
To quote Lynn Tyson, creator of thier IR strategy called "21st Century IR"

"There is little downside to the conversation"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Blogging issues

Blogging and other social media has created its own issues for individuals:

But as if that wasn't enought to worry about... once you've built a community, keeping them is your next priority:

Note: 3 posts in one day, that's got to give me a complex about something....

Considering a team blog?

There are several different types of company blog:
  • Marketing
  • PR
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • CEO or Figurehead
However, various companies I know of are now using a multi-person blogging approach. Combining postings from different people to create a blog that varies in perspective, writing style, passion, etc.

This is good because it can leverage the expertise of different users (e.g. marketing and SME) to provide a more comprehensive. However it can be confusing for the reader and may not provide the required focus. It does also means you have to provide blogging guidance to several people - meaning you have flexibility of viewpoint across several axis of opinion.

Here's some guidance that may be useful:
  • Make it obvious who's posting (some blogs use an image/avatar/photo of the writer, some even use different colour font/backgrounds)
  • Make sure you have a range of writers (e.g. 3 different PR department people, doesn't necessarily provide a broad enough subject area)
  • Make sure that one person doesn't dominate the postings if you want a balanced view
  • Measure the traffic of different postings, to see which articles and writers are more popular (its up to you if you want to do something about this)
  • Make sure all writers are aware of your guidelibes for social media conversations

Let me know how you get on.

Successful brands listen

I've reccently read the posting: The New Economics of Brands by Umair Haque, who is Director of the Havas Media Lab and contributor to many notable publications on digital technologies.

One of his quotes about company communications really resonated with me:

"The future of communications as advantage lies in talking less and listening

Note: However, I do think that he has not made the clear differentiation between brands and advertising. It is possible to advertise a product or servcie, without necessarily creating a brand (and vice-versa).

Now listening in humans is either a learnt or natural skill that many people do not have. The the same is also true of companies. Learning to listen correctly, to hear not just what you want to hear, is especially hard, hard, hard!

So, is listening correctly part of your company DNA?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Corporations and Blog Storms

Sunshine after a rainstorm is refreshing and welcome. It shows that even though you have to stay in hide away from the grey clounds and damp atmosphere, eventually they pass and brighter times come around again.....

The same used to be the case for companies who had 'bad news days'. They would sit out the bad news and spring back when the public had forgotten (or something more important had taken the focus).... Well, that was until social media made a playground out of bad news and online activists were given the tools to constantly wear away at the walls of a company's reputation.

“With consumers increasingly using social media to share feedback on their
care experiences, it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to ignore
or hide from bad experiences,”
Lynda Kate Smith, vice president, Care Business, Nuance Enterprise Division

However, this activity gets worse when this activism goes viral. Then, rather than this being a constant 'negative buzz', your company is subjected to a barrage of barracking.

This recent posting on the Social Media Influence blog by Bernhard Warner of Custom Communications shows the history and impact of a company (he doesn't name for obvious reasons):

Customers share experiences

According to the recent report by the Society for New Communications Research on the link between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media:

  • 59.1% of respondents use social media to “vent” about a customer care experience
  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer care experiences shared online
  • 81% believe that blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously

This report clearly shows that there is a growing group of highly desirable tech-savvy consumers who use social media to research companies & products. These individuals will clearly not use companies with bad reputations for customer care and are quite prepared to tell others online about their views.

It should not be news for companies that these people exist. But it should provide insight into who they are and what they do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

River Island creates UGC site for Graduate Fashion Week

I don't usually mention clients by name (usually as either there’s an NDA in place or I don't want to involve them directly in my blogging) however I did want to mention this new micro-site by River Island:

This site, to accompany the company’s ongoing sponsorship of Graduate Fashion Week, has some key Web2.0 functionality such as:

This is updated daily so far and by several different members of the River Island / GFW team. Each gives a slightly different perspective, but all are real people, each with their different perspective and stories to tell.
(According to eMarketer: Blog postings do Influence Female Customers)

UGC Competitions:
Themed user generated content-based competitions to encourage users to upload images of themselves in different River Island stores. It will be interesting to see how these competitions vary over the weeks and how virally they are adopted by the web community.

Video clips:
There are already several clips on their ‘insider-tv’ section, showing what its like to work at River Island (not bad at all thanks!). Expect more and differing video content here as the campaign progresses.

So, does it do the job? Yes, I think it does.

  • Its aimed directly at their target customers (primarily younger females), who are the most prevalent users of social media
  • It satisfies visually, by use of photography and video, this media-hungry demographic
    It provides a reason for re-visiting by the competition idea
  • It ties the work of River Island and their sponsorship of GFW, without unnecessary hype or overt pushiness.

Note: Thanks to Debs for the swift review of article.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Corporate Blogs - The Discovery Age

Corporate Blogs are becomming just another way for companies to communicate with their audience / users / consumers / customers / etc. However they also come with some particular benefits and risks which I have covered in a recent training presentation / guide.

Its also clear that: being transparent, having clear objectives and keeping up the committment to blog is also something that some companies find harder than others. (e.g why is it that the Carphone Warehouse CEO no longer blogs, but the CEO of Waitrose does?)

In 2006 a Porter Novelli & Cymphony research paper found that 80% of those companies surveyed believed blogs will be more important in 5 years time.

So have we now reached the right time for corporate blogs to come of age?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The lack of social media

Where have all the social media gone?

David Bowen in one of his recent regular commentaries has pointed ot that a lot of companies have yet to fully engage in the use of social media on their main sites. He believes this is for two main reasons:

  1. Structural:
    Most of from That the corporate site is not the right place and the real activity in social media happens elsewhere (e.g. micro-sites, partners, etc.)
  2. Risk:
    Its not unusual for large companies to observe others making miskakes firs. But just watch them subsequently claim they've been doing it all along, just because they put a couple of social bookmarking links on a few hidden pages.
However, I'm also sure there are other factors Mr Bowen has missed:

A. Cultural differences and the evolution of the transparent company.
There are still a lot of organisations out there that still believe they own their customers opinions of them and even some that don't realise that customers can't hear what is being said as they are too busy listening to each other. They therefore don't realsie that facilitating these comments and participating in the conversation that they are potentially improving their market opportunity and brand perception.

B. As well as companies (senior managers and marketers) not understanding the value of social media, they can't just take the blame and obviously a lot of agencies still don't "get it". Jim Nail of Cymphony recently polled an Ad Age audience "Who's to blame for the slow page of development of marketing on social media?"

With the choice between client Marketers and Agencies... 59% picked both.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Online reputation management

A quick 'Hat Tip' to Andy Beal for his 'reputation management for dummies' column

Do Reputation Management Services Work?
Well, BusinessWeek mentions that this new industry promises to help counter negative search results on the Web. Hiring one of these fixers may make nasty comments go away:

I've already seen TNS's Cymphony product (previously mentioned here) and am due to see Magpie's Brandwatch tool (previously mentioned here), both of which are useful for monitoring the buzz about product and brand, which obviously feeds a company's reputation.

So... is there a way of integrating these online reputation tools into other graphing services to come up with a way of understanding and visualising the Corporate Social Graph?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The changing face of modern PR

"The future is coming and will crush PR agencies unprepared to meet the advancing wave of change." This recent article by Todd Defren at PR Squared provides some interesting ideas on the 'evolve or die' and covers such interresting topics as Personal branding vs Company Branding and the move from reactive to proactive engagement.

He's been motivated to post his thoughts having read The Authentic Enterprise, a fantastic report by the Arthur W Page Society (a highly regarded association for senior PR and corporate comms people) . This report contains a lot of hard-hitting and useful facts for the senior corporate communicator, but I think this PR-focused quote sums it up:
The simple reality is that, like the journalists, analysts and managers who have been our main focus, we no longer have a privileged position in the areas that used to define our function.

However things *ARE* changing and PR has actually been awoken (in places), partly through the use of social media and a need to engage with customers rather than just communicate at them.

This article from Mr PR2.0 himself (Brian Solis) maps and explains the evolution (including the use of the Social Media Press Release)

Rumours of PR's death have been greatly exaggerated!
(That in itself is surely a bad piece of PR?)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New business blogging presentation

After discussing the production a corporate blog with a current client, I've redeveloped a presentation I had previously put together and posted it up to Slideshare for my new client and everyone else to see.

This presentation covers the basics of setting up and maintaining a company blog, including the benefits to be had and potential issues faced.

As always, I'd welcome comments on ways to improve my work.

Monday, May 12, 2008

scared to say something wrong?

Thanks to Igor over at for pointing out this funny cartoon from

What it does convey is the amount of influence bloggers and other new opinion platforms now have, especially when commenting about companies and their brands.

From sustatined negative comments about SME's on Amazon, feedback blackmail on Ebay, through to hate blogs aimed soley at one company*, comments in social media can affect an organisation and its reputation.

But have we reached a point where blog blackmail of a company is possible?

* Some good / bad examples:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Engaging with a Community - some guidelines

Sean O'Driscoll in a recent blog posting, has given some very useful guidelines on how to manage an online community and how this needs to be a mind-set change with the orgainisation first.

This does raise an important question about how much you restrict your community manager (and this applies to bloggers, social media participants, etc.)

Business Blogging Blunder

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Critical of standards

I've recently posted about the new BSI guidelines / PAS (Publically Available Standard) 124 for company website standards, which provides a procedural framework for implementing and managing a company website.

Although the framework within PAS124 sets out to provide various business benefits, such as:

  • reduce the risk of doing something wrong
  • maximise investment
  • improve speed-to-market
  • provide a suggested governance structure

......this new standard hasn't necessarily met with universal approval:

However, I do feel that Marcus from Internet Retailing may have missed the point about the purpose of this standard, he may have a point about it being charged for. Surely this can only hinder its adoption?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Marketing & Product

There's a fantastic presentation from Paul Isakson on the future of Advertising, Brands, etc.

He tackles the issues of product, communication and marketing, but frankly puts forward the idea that those who are not engaging.... "are screwed"

Content is the new currency and Engagement is the new Marketing... discuss.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Video, its all about YouTube

There are a number of video websites out there and there is a lot of viewing going on. In fact online video is being blamed for the demise of traditional USA TV watching.

In a recent survey by Universal McCann on Social Media, to the question "Thinking about using the internet, which of the following have you ever done?", the number of people who have watched video clips online is:
Daily: 22%
Weekly: 37%
Monthly: 16%

That makes a total of 75% of the 'Active Internet Universe' (their term, not mine) who watch clips relatively frequently.

However if you're considering where to put your video company assets online are only two rules you really need to know:

  1. It’s all about YouTube
  2. It’s all about YouTube
Following its now somewhat distant acquisition by Google in October 2006, YouTube has continued to rule the online video landscape. Today in the United States, YouTube dominates online video more than Google dominates search.

But brands are making big waves using online video, either is an entirely positive way or otherwise. For example, this clip of disney videos is corrupted in a powerful and wonderful AvenueQ-type way. In no way is this part of the original Disney philosphy:

However, if you are new to online video and want to know how you can still produce cost-effective clips at reasonable quality, then this guide by Duncan Riley may well help.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Web2.0 and your business reputation

A recent video clip posting from web consultant and fellow Linked In Business Strategist Lars Hilse usefully explains how companies can optimise their business reputation:

He's made some very important points about how modern social media methods (e.g. blogs) allow a disgruntled customer to tell not just 3 friends but 3000 people (highlighted in Pete Blackshaw's new Book) . He has also put forward a few comments on how to address this.

What I'm also glad to see if his use of portable video content for blogging. This paints a rich picture in a matter of minutes and gets a lot of information across. Great work so far Lars, lets hope we see some more of these.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

company website standards

Many of the world’s leading organisations don’t have formal brand and technical standards defined to govern their websites. Even those that do are apparently failing to effectively implement or enforce them, achieving full compliance with less than 20% of their own web standards. The websites of these organisations significantly under-perform or damage the brand as a result.

PAS 124 (Publically Available Specification 124) provides a framework to help organizations deploy website standards efficiently and harness their full potential.

It has four main sections:
• Defining website standards
• Implementing website standards
• Managing website standards
• Guide to the key categories of website standards

Here's the joint Press Release from Magus and the BSI:

Standards have several key significant benefits. A company brand is reinforced by ensuring consistency of brand presentation and messaging, plus its provides a consistent & high quality user experience.

A brief overview is here:
(thanks to Simon @ Magus for the corrected URL)