What is really behind the ‘social’ campaign brief?

The industry isn’t short of smart people. We constantly hear how to ‘do social media’ right and how people are ‘doing it wrong’. For example, we now all know likes don’t mean sales and that content is the bed rock of campaigns. Why is it then that many campaign wrap ups still heavily feature metrics such as ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ and so much content produced is really bad (i.e. irrelevant and poorly distributed?).

Here’s my hypothesis:

Getting people aligned around an idea is not easy. Getting consensus on something you know to be right is one of the toughest jobs of a leader. And it’s even harder if you aren’t the boss and are trying to get the boss to do what you know to be right.

This is a scenario that I’m sure happens a LOT in the agency world.

Client: We need to do something social. Can you come up with a few ideas for us?

Agency: Can you give us some more details on what the parameters should be?

Client: Not really. Our Board is keen to do something to increase our brand awareness with social. It would be great if you could come up with a few ideas that could wow them?

Agency: Right. What kind of budget are you looking at?

Client: We’re not too sure. Can you give us a range of options on what’s possible?

Agency: Yes we can do that. However it would be helpful if you could give us some ballpark figure. Also what would you say success looks like?

Client: Well that’s difficult to say. We’re aiming to increase brand awareness so anything that delivers that would be considered a success. Oh, and anything that the board really like.

Now if you’ve worked in an agency setting, I’m pretty positive you’ve been involved in a scenario such as this. Here’s my take on what’s at play in these scenarios.

From the client standpoint – they probably work within a hierarchical organisation where commands come down from the board/senior management team. These commands are rarely questioned and those in the chain of command live in constant fear of getting results that are often judged on the whim of a strong personality or a group of people with different expectations of what success looks like.

From the agency perspective – as much as they try to understand what the client really wants or what lies behind the clients requests, there comes a time when they just think, ‘hey we need the revenue. Let’s just go along with what the client says and give them a generic campaign’.

While this scenario might fill some with despair, the reality is many in these situations can only deal with the scenario they are in. The client is unlikely to tell their board that they don’t get social so shouldn’t be involved in it and the agency is unlikely to walk away from the potential revenue. Hence we often arrive at campaigns that aren’t rooted in solving any real problem. Or put in ‘wanky’ business speak, moved the needle in any meaningful way.

I’ve probably oversimplified the situation, but in my view unless much more attention is paid to understanding the organisation culture, motivations and structure of individuals both on client and agency side, we’ll constantly go round in the endless (and tiresome circle) of clients getting disappointed with so-called social media results (whatever that means) and agencies coming up with campaigns to satisfy these requests but never properly scratching the itch. By the way, if you’re interested in understanding this more, I’d strongly recommend reading Attenzi – a social business story by Philip Sheldrake.

Disagree? As ever, I’m happy to be told or proved otherwise.


Thinking about social, luxury and China

I attended a fascinating conference in Paris a few weeks ago. (I meant to publish this then but work and child got in the way). It was the L2 thinktank. A research firm I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of before particularly because of the quality (and honesty) of the research work they produce is really insightful.

The crux of the conference was about how luxury brands could take advantage of markets like China where the online world is vast compared to Blighty or the good ol US of A. I was even allowed to throw in my two penith in about what to consider when building an integrated global campaign.

I’m not going to lie. It was a stats fest but in a good way. Here’s some of the key nuggets that I jotted down.

  • Only 8% of luxury companies localise their social presences for language
  • Household incomes of over $30k is considered luxury in China
  • Russians spend on average 10 hours per month on social networks compared to a global average of 4.5 globally

Other things I was impressed by:

  • The presenter of the Digital IQ stats ability to deliver a great presentation despite someone snoring, very loudly, in the audience. (I believe he took advantage of the ‘drink wine with lunch’ policy).
  • The cookies served in the coffee break
  • Me spilling an entire cup of coffee but managing to miss the lady I was speaking to

If you’re into the luxury market scene, I’d highly recommend checking out the L2 guys

The law catches up with Twitterers

Not a day goes by  now when some footballer doesn’t get into trouble for posting something they shouldn’t have on Twitter (or some other form of blogging platform). Sometimes it’s relatively harmeless such as Ryan Babel, other times it takes on a more sinister tone. Sheffield United’s Connor Brown and his alleged comments on Twitter over the Ched Evans conviction is the perfect case of footballers not really understanding the power of the publishing tools they possess. In fairness, to footballer it appears that many don’t understand the laws of the land when it comes to publishing. After the whole Giggs incident, it seems the law is finally getting a hand on policing the internet by arresting Twitter uses who named the victim as well as investigating Sky who accidentally amplified matters.

Maybe sites such as Twitter need users to download and read a code of ethics or idiots guide to publishing law before being allowed to sign up.

Getting back in the game

It’s been far too long. Babies, work and being lazy have gotten in the way but spurred on by @Whatleydude I’m getting back in the blogging game properly.

Rather than getting bogged down about what area I should write, it’s going to be on anything and everything that captures my imagination (and frustration).

So to kick things off, I’ll start with a nod to my best piece of writing to date (and probably in my life). I had the pleasure of writing a chapter in a book called ‘The Social Media MBA“. My chapter is on creativity within the social space but there are a lot of other very smart people who have pulled together their ideas and experience on what businesses need to navigate the social media world.

Well worth a read, even if I do say so myself.

(Oh yeah. Here’s a podcast with me banging on about it)

What is influence?

What is influence and how do you measure it? It’s the eternal question that PR and marketing types constantly ask themselves. A case in point comes from the guys at the Brass who’ve created a Twitter influence measurement tool not too dissimilar to our own Chatterscope and are experimenting with it as part of Social Media Week London (#SMWLdn)

For those whom social media is very much part of their day job, measuring influence from an analytical standpoint is, has been and will continue to be a challenge. And that’s because it’s inherently not something that can be measured. Influence on someone else comes down to the sum of a person’s right and left-brained take on things. Of course, we can track specific metrics on campaigns (and this is where PR professionals need to embrace analytics) but it’s important to place as much weight on the irrational, fuzzy, element in campaigns as well.

My approach on how PR and social media people can report on or track influence for clients comes down to balance. Companies and brands should have a pretty good idea of what influence they wield offline and then seek to replicate this online. The two should exist in tandem otherwise you end up with a well-known brand name that gets exploited online or more commonly an online sensation that gets forgotten about when next week’s hype comes along.

First rule of online PR – What goes online stays online

Last night, we held another of one of our digital dinners. Sessions in which we invite clients and journalists for a bite to eat, a few glasses of wine and an informal discussion on the some of the latest trends within the social media and digital PR fields. Understandably given the adoption and amount of press coverage received by FacebookTwitter and more recently Foursquare, many in the room were well versed in the potential such networks can offer marketing and comms programs.

Personally for me, it was interesting to hear the views around the table about the different approaches being taken to integrating social media within crisis communications. After picking apart the bones of crises suffered by Eurostar and Toyota, the question arose about how much of a lasting impact do social media crisis really have on the customer psyche.

This is an interesting point for any PRs in charge of managing a client’s online reputation. In the days of print, the old adage was, ‘today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper’. So what if a client has a barrage of negative comments on twitter one day? With the sheer overload of information that customers face, the chances are someone else’s crisis will come along tomorrow and your clients will be forgotten right? Well not quite. Unfortunately, the internet is very much like stag parties. What goes on there, stays there.

As far as online reputations are concerned, this means having to put out more of the good things your client does to outweigh the negatives. The bigger the crisis, the harder it is to foster a positive image over the long term.

That said, we all agreed sometimes an online crisis isn’t always the end of the world as when handled well, they can be transformed into trust building opportunities. The key however is handling them well in the first place.

Priority of social media channels

The last few weeks/months have seen quite a few social media crises. From Eurostar to more recently Vodafone and Toyota. As those who are involved in social media comms will know, while a crisis hits where it ends up is anyone’s guess.

With regards to the Toyota crisis, there has been an interesting exchange on Twitter between the Michael Valvo UK PR manager for Toyota and Danny Rogers, editor of PR Week UK about an article on how the Japanese carmaker has responded.

For me the most interesting part is Michael’s response on priorities in getting facts and assurances to customers ahead of responding to a press request.

I completely agree with the approach here however I wonder how many conversations are going on in board rooms about which channel takes priority when the ‘excrement’ hits the fan particularly amongst executives who view social media as something for the kids.

Something like this perhaps?

Operations: Boss, we’ve got a problem. We’ve screwed up a batch of widgets and will have to recall them.

Finance: Bugger. How much will it cost?

HR: Do we need to fire anyone for it?

Sales: Can we shift them anyway at a knock down price?

Customer service: How many complaints are we going to get?

PR: We’ll need a statement for the press. Should we set up a twitter channel and Facebook page to keep anyone interested in the loop?

All (except PR): Ha ha ha!!!

[Plug: My colleagues, Morgan McLintic and Lucy Allen will be running a free webinar this Friday (February 12) on crisis management in a social media setting. Click here to register]

How to avoid being a social media w***ker

There’s been quite a lot on twitter recently about social media ‘gurus’ and ‘experts’ as demostrated by this cartoon from Hubspot.

clipped from blog.hubspot.com
Social Media Gurus Anonymous Cartoon
blog it

To be honest, I’m surprised it’s taken so long for the backlash. Taking a leaf from Jon Silk‘s book, I’ve deceided to put together a list of my own on how not to be a social media tool.

1) Don’t call yourself a guru

2) Have an understanding of what makes a business work (ie turnover, P/L, share price, competitors etc)

3) Be active and transparent on social networks

4) Acknowledge your mistakes and faults (ie don’t bullshit a bullshitter)

5) Love the tech but understand there is a time and place for it

Social media: Keeping things local and global

Earlier this week, I chaired the latest instalment in the LEWIS digital dinner series held at the Great John Street Hotel in Manchester. The forum allows us to explore ideas and views from business local business leaders and influencers on how social media affects them. The discussions tend to be a mix of personal opinion, professional curiosity and stimulating thought. And this discussion was no different. One of the hot topics of debate was how social media really does allow the local element of a community feel local. As observed by one attendee, social media can really help a community retain its essence particularly in an age where news and the flow of information is global.

In a week where the antics of the BNP and Question Time dominated the headlines and thoughts of the nation, I believe social media affords the chance for everyone to have a say and have their say counted irrespective of where they live or from what background they are from.

Social media isn’t about the tech

Last week I had the privilege of chairing a discussion on what social media means to businesses with my Bristol-based colleages.fridge-twitter

Now usually such discussions tend to focus on Twitter and Facebook – and we did discuss both in earnest. However, this time conversation turned into more of a philosophical, and at times ethical, dimension on how people communicate. (Well aside from the fridge twitter talk. Thanks to Marc Cooper of the Bristol Evening Post for remembering this bit).

Although there was some sceptism on what the future holds for the likes of Twitter, a point we all agreed on was that irrespective of the technology, people will always be interested in knowing what others are up to and people will always want to tell others what they’re up to. In my opinion, this is why a Twitter-esq service will always be around even if the technology that facilitates it changes.