It’s all a matter of opinion

The most important feature of social media, in my eyes, is the information and points of view you have easy access to, but we have seen many a tricky situation spring up recently.

We have seen the public disciplinary of Ashley Cole for a tweet againts the FA and news of changing laws that will rule social media and what can be said online.

You can now find out about your favourite brands and people more quickly and easily than you have ever been able to before. You have access to  information straight from the horse’s mouth and not from a third-party, as well as being able to see opinion from both sides of the argument.

Although we all know that a lot of the content is still generated by third parties, as a form of word of mouth, (arguably the form of communication most taken notice of) it holds weight when sent straight from the brand or people within it or an individual and not a marketing team. Of course it is better again when somebody perceived to be unconnected to the brand reviews it in a positive light. The effect is even stronger if the unconnected person is a celebrity with a large following on social media – we have all seen the effect of Stephen Fry mentioning a product on twitter.

The tourism/ hospitality sector have both benefitted and fallen foul of word of mouth communications online – tripadvisor is just one website which allows visitors to write what they think. Travellers make, amend and cancel bookings all on the opinions of strangers. Would you normally take notice of the guy on the street who tells you a story about their holiday or would you ask people you know?

We have recentlyalso seen how a company can fall into the trap of asking the public what they think, only to become the subject of ridicule. In my opinion, the Waitrose campaign was no negative thing – we are all still talking about it and they gained some real feedback…but most of the industry think it was a massive fail.

So, there are the positive effects of brand endorsement, access to information which may help with decisions and brands trying to force positive endorsement, there is also plain opinion – we seem to have entered a realm where everyone feels the need to publish their thoughts in a very public arena.

For example, when something happens like the abduction of April Jones or the continuing Saville enquiry everyone immediately has something to say about it.

The person eventually arrested for the abduction of April Jones was the subject of an online trial before any evidence was even collected. The allegations, opinions and ill feeling towards Jimmy Saville who was once held in such high esteem have been aired by a public who have been allowed to voice many thoughts on the situation without all of the information – and some seem to be distressing others with simple observations.

So the question is – should you write what you think? Would you speak your thoughts out loud? What are your thoughts on what people should be allowed to say online?

Advertisements

PR, Marketing and Social Media – it’s all communication

Working in an agency and now in and in-house position it never ceases to amaze me the arguements that arise for and against the use of different methods of communication and which is seen to be most successful – PR, traditional marketing, digital marketing or social media.

In recent years it is not surprising that many, especially small businesses, have turned to online communication particularly social media (with varying results). It is an obvious choice when limited budgets are available and has been promoted as the method of promotion that everyone can do.

The general public who before 10 or even 5 years ago would not have been involved in marketing, other than maybe carrying a business card or putting a classified ad in the local paper, now operate with the belief that they know how to communicate to the wider public. Whether a correct assessment or not we have seen the emergence of true two-way communication with target audiences able to share their own opinions and more than willing to do so.

J.J. Colao, Forbes Staff quotes Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot , in the post, HubSpot Ready To Pounce As Traditional Marketing Gets “Obliterated” : “The Millennial generation, he says, have permanently changed the way that people expect to interact with companies and brands. Those that attempt to pass off shoddy products and customer service face the surprisingly potent wrath of social media. Netflix, he notes, likely could have gotten away with their price changes with barely a whimper 10 years ago. To adapt, companies will be forced offer value in their marketing techniques and interact directly with customers like never before.”

So what does that mean for marketing and communications strategies?

Your target audience and even those who are not considered as your audience can view, follow and make judgements about your products, brand and overall company with the ability to make comments in real time, for all the world to see.

So, with a vast majority of the population now active online making comments on the world as they see it, particularly on social media channels, it is seen as the main method of communication to reach the most people. But we have also seen in Forbes article referenced above it is also the method fraught with dangers.

The question that marketeers are now having to defend is: If you can reach so many people through online methods, without the need of a middle man – why not leave traditional methods behind?

In a Marketing Profs guest post by Margie Clayman of Clayman Advertising Margie asks: Why Are Marketers Hating on Traditional Marketing?

This is part of her answer and a comment that makes a lot of sense to me, even though with 5 years experience I am fairly new to the profession: “The only thing I can come up with is that—maybe—if you did not work in marketing before social media exploded or if you did not study marketing, traditional concepts may seem intimidating. Folks who seem to be “gurus” on social media may not really feel that they can come out and say, “Gosh, I don’t really understand this.” And so, alternative realities are created.”

Referring to the second half of that quote, I work on social media everyday, analyse, reasearch, develop strategies and compile content, but I would not call myself an expert. Things change so quickly online that you would need to constantly study it to be an expert.

Although I may seem sceptical, I agree with Ted Mininni’s observation made by GroupM in a post about brands needing an online presence, “The Internet affords consumers with easy access to information, and interaction with companies, whether they purchase from a web site or not. Internet use continues to grow in popularity, thus, the study concluded marketers ignore having a cyber presence at their own peril.”

The problem is if you put too much effort or focus on one means of communication you run the risk of ignoring and alienating large proportions of your potential audience.  Adarsh Thampy, conversionchamp.com talks about just this in his post Is traditional marketing dead? “Assuming you live in a perfect world where all of your customers use the same medium, understand your marketing message thoroughly, and is happy to get involved with your cause via the same medium, content marketing maybe the only marketing ever left. But, the world we know is far from being perfect. Not everyone likes to be engaged via social media, not all of your customers are searching for a solution online, and not everyone is consuming high value content via your blog or video streaming sites.”

So, the question is, if all brands NEED an online presence and putting too much focus on online communication could alientate some of your audience what are the best tools to promote your brand?

In my opinion – All of them!

Remember that PR, marketing, traditional and online including social media are all methods of communications and just as learning styles differ from person to person, the way people like to be supplied with information and news also changes. Most people now take in information from lots of different sources and talk about all when using their preferred social media channel, but, spreading your brand too thinly is just as much of a threat as over focusing in one area.

Make sure you research and review the aims of your campaign, focus on know what your messages are and know who your audience is.

When you know what you are trying to do, what you need/want to say and who you are saying it to you can work out how best to send them the information. Integrate your strategies for your different tools and draw them in as they relate to the strategy.
Don’t get me wrong all plans can change but knowing what you aim to do from the beginning will help you constantly assess the situation and alter your activity as needed.

All change.

A quiet few months

Over the past few months I may have seemed quiet on the blog front but have been very busy on the living front – amongst other things I’ve been getting to grips with being allergic to light and also managed to change jobs.

Moving from a small agency of 8 people to an inhouse company with thousands worldwide and hundreds in the UK is an eye opening experience – at least my team is still small!

I’ve also jumped sectors and industries moving from consumer tourism and leisure to B2B materials handling. I can now say I know one end of a forklift from the other and defitnatley know a pallet truck and a reach truck when I see one.

In coming weeks there will be discussions about consultancy versus inhouse, consumer versus b2b, online versus offline and online strategy versus guidelines – a whole host of subjects that I have been experiencing from both sides.

It’s been a busy few months but I had a plan when I finished uni and how many people can say they are exactly where they planned to be at exactly the time they wished for it?

 

 

Social media – dependent on human behaviour

As social media grows and becomes established as a means of communications, marketing and communications departments are becoming increasingly concerned with measurability.

But, social media works with people and so results are dependent on human behaviour.

There are conventionally two spheres of social media evaluation; social metrics and business metrics. Social metrics are ‘soft’ metrics, things like follower numbers, retweets, impressions, subscribers, shares and comments. Business metrics are altogether harder, looking at website visits and source data, URL click-thros, conversion rates and average spend; they’re about sales and the bottom line. That’s your Google or website analytics data. (Paul Sutton’s the social web social media, PR 2.0 & digital communications)

Sean Clark’s ROI in Social Media: Taking the Numbers Out of the Equation on the other hand identifies the problem of social media’s young age in evaluating results.

The key, as with any communications strategy is to agree the aims and the results, which will be evaluated, early on in the planning process therefore defining expectations and ensuring all parties are fully aware of the restraints and opportunities which are in place.

How businesses can use social media

Ok, so after reviewing the basic facts and background of social media lets look at how it can be used.

As any marketeer knows communicating to consumers and communicating to businesses is very different and the same rules apply when using social media tools.

The main mediums are: twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, facebook and blogs but they aren’t all relevant for business comms.

twitter is used to disperse information, YouTube and Flickr to host the content, LinkedIn for employees and the business itself to showcase its expertise and blogs to collect it all in an alternative space to a corporate website. Facebook is on the whole a method for communicating with consumers so should be thought about carefully.

All mediums give a company the opportunities to let their audience behind the scenes and see the real people behind the corporate image. All the while showing off their expertise and capabilities.

It important to look at all the options and relate these to your business and your strategy – are they relevant? The same issue was raised by Mike Jeffs in his blog last week, where he also included an article by econsultancy – “Why your best social media strategy might be not having one.” – the article details the risks involved with adopting a social media presence for a brand and is something all companies should consider.

Social Media background

Here I am researching the history of social media and the different mediums that can and are used and I’ve come up with a huge amount of facts, figures and top tips.

The research I’ve been doing backs up my first post, but also shows the huge potential that individuals, the media and businesses can now take advantage of.

Here’s the background

It has been reported that by December 2010 there were 255 million websites live on the internet (mccollinsmedia.com) and there must be more now. All of those are trying to gain the attention of the user…so does your website stand out?

We live in a world where there are many means of standing out but they also supply many opportunities to make mistakes and spread yourself too thin.  Social media and all of the tools within supply a fantastic platform but who is involved.

Here’s a video by Socialnomics09 that show’s just how much social media has exploded into our lives over recent years.

So, how do we use it to a business advantage…?

From a quiet world…

In a world with so much noise is there room for anymore?

In the past 100 years we have developed from a world with communication by telegraph, post and telephone to radio, TV and fax. And now, we have the internet and the rise of social media.

We had delayed two way communication between family, friends and business and one way from government and royalty.

TV and radio bore the beginnings of celebrity – however slow at the beginning, creativity and storytelling had a new outlet – it had a route to the masses which could take place simultaneously and not individually. People could listen and watch together, it allowed many across the country to experience the same thing, at the same time.

As interest in the people on screen grew and technology developed, the public began to want more. Newspapers supplied the masses with what they wanted and gossip which once lived in pump rooms, assemblies and parks had a space on pages which could be kept and passed around.

After years of a comfortable media existance technology jumped again and the internet and mobile phones became available to everyman – communication became instant.

Still one way from business or media to the public – as the world wide web gave a new platform for old means! But, friends and family found new ways to keep in touch – no longer waiting for days for post. Chatrooms also made way for strangers to meet across borders as geography became irrelevant.

And now, with the social media era we have more channels than ever before, more means and ways of speaking to people from all walks of life. The masses can reach key figures from the realms of politics, TV/ film and music and everyone can be someone, promoting and supporting those who may never have been found.

We have become a world where everyone can have a say and everyone thinks they should. With so many looking to make their opinion, talent or selves known may be running out of room?

But, there you are searching through the noise and just as you think there is too much shouting, you find something like the Dark Side of the Lens and are reminded of the peace, the power and the potential of all things.