Archive for June 2010

What type of brand are you online?


Ripstop nylon is the primary material used in ...
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There are four types of brands online, and you can distinguish between them by listening to and analysing the conversations about the brands. This is an insightful takeaway from one of the most interesting presentations at the Social Media Marketing 2010 conference in London earlier in June. The presentation from web monitoring company Synthesio presented these four types of brand, showed the nature of conversations about them online and then showed some best practice examples of how such brands can engage online.

Given that we’re a social media agency, and we’ve just published our Social Media Monitoring 2010 review , we were interested by these four types of brand. We certainly recognise some and the types and the characteristics of them. The full presentation is at the bottom of this post, but Synthesio’s four types of brands online are:

1. The Boring Brand

The boring brand does not generate spontaneous interest in it - insurance, home cleaning products and some FMCG brands can typically fall into this category. Whilst there is an average level of buzz about the brand the conversations rarely express positive or negative sentiment, presence online tends to be low and there are few long conversations about the brand.

A great example of where a typically boring brand has been turned around is Compare the Meerkat. You can also often generate interest in these brands by focusing not on the product itself but on other elements of the experience, such as the Keep Britain Biking site for Devitt Insurance.

2. The Functional Brand

Functional brands go beyond the name or image of the brand, the products they represent have to deliver a certain level of service or experience - mobile phone companies or business hotels would be typical examples. These brands have a high volume of buzz, and a relatively high proportion of these are expressing positive or negative sentiment. They also have a high presence in social media, but the conversations still tend to be more descriptive than discursive. There are typically a lot of individual comments about the brand rather than long discussions and debates online.

3. The Exciting Brand

Exciting brands are ones that people desire and that signal much about consumers who buy them. Apple would be a typical brand in this type. These brands generate a lot of buzz, although much of it is neutral in nature (people discussing the brand rather than expressing an opinion either way). The brands have high presence in social media and also tend to attract discussions between people rather than just a lot of individual comments.

The best thing for such brands to do is to find a way to nurture this enthusiasm and these conversations. The best such brands will turn these volume of conversations into positive word of mouth and value for them.

4. The Vital Brand

Vital brands are ones that concern issues you really care about, concerns and needs that are important to you. Health and environmental brands are typically in this category. They attract a lot of buzz online, although this tends not to be overly positive or negative in sentiment. There is a high presence in social media and a very high proportion of comments are discussions between people online rather than just isolated comments.

Do you recognise your brand as being one of these four? Is this a good way of segmenting brands online based on discussions about them?

How to Monitor and Measure Viral Marketing Campaigns?
View more presentations from Synthesio.

Managing your reputation online – responding to criticism


online_message_reaching_wider_audienceYou’ve probably heard how a Greenpeace attack on Nestle’s business ethics resulted in a social media encounter that damaged Nestle’s reputation worldwide.

Or, more recently, how BP has been facing daily attacks from a fake BP Twitter account about the oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. Both situations highlight the importance of online reputation management.

A recent article about social media and online reputation management, published by Director magazine, suggests that businesses are weary of using social media for fear that it’s like “giant focus groups” but with two crucial differences - ”the questions can’t be controlled and the debate takes place in public.”

That’s not to say that businesses should avoid using social media. Quite the opposite in fact, given that the benefits of using social media far outweigh the concerns that organisations have about safeguarding their online reputation. After all, even if your business chooses not to engage in the online conversation, people are talking about your products and services whether you like it or not. Surely it’s far better to acknowledge the presence of these conversations rather than ignoring them to the potential detriment of your business, especially given that any business would be adequtely prepared to enter the world of social media without fear with the right social media strategy and social media policy in place.

In fact, brands who take on board the criticisms they hear on Facebook, Twitter or through social media monitoring, and then try to improve on them, will be the ones who continue to grow and prosper. Every single piece of information that is picked up online, be it good or bad, is a valuable learning. As Twitter co-founder Evan Williams stated, businesses need to work on their “ability to embrace criticism as well as praise” when it comes to social media.

A good example of a brand that has taken Evan’s advice is Domino’s pizza. Instead of cowering in shame or responding angrily to negative online reviews and comments about their products, Dominos pizza met the criticism head on. They made a documentary describing the extent of their problems and the efforts they were making to improve their products and services. They posted the documentary on YouTube, including the fairly harsh responses from a focus group which deemed the pizza “devoid of any flavour”. The cameras then followed the chefs as they made improvements to the pizzas and then asked focus groups to re-test the new and improved version. They also added a completely un-moderated section to their website to allow people to say whatever the hell they liked about the new offering.

What’s refreshing about this reaction is that it’s completely transparent and wholly honest. Dominos acknowledged the shortcomings their customers highlighted and made every effort to address the issues.

Even more intelligent is the fact that Dominos clearly thought about their long-term business strategy rather than the immediate need to quell any negative comments. They openly addressed the issues that their customers were complaining about so that these same people would  spread word of their proactive response via the same fast-spreading medium. In other words, if you act on negative comments and turn them into positive experiences then the people who you’ve listened to are likely to become your biggest advocates and will start doing your marketing work on your behalf.

To find out more about manging your reputation online and responding to criticism come to B2B Marketing’s seminar about online reputation management.

Are Virgin America’s free flights a good social media strategy?


Virgin America, The Best Airline I've Ever Flown
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Virgin America is giving away free flights to social media influencers it has identified on Twitter. There is (it assures us) no catch. It has used Klout, a tool which analyses influence on Twitter, to identify influential people in the Toronto area and offered them free flights on its new services to Los Angeles and San Francisco. These influencers only have to pay taxes. They are not being asked to do anything in return for this. They are just being asked to enjoy a flight, free Wi-Fi onboard and a launch party in Toronto.

This is an interesting social media strategy. Typically examples of blogger and Twitter outreach have seen brands ask them to do something in exchange for free product or experiences. They might offer them something for free or invite them to an event, for example, but would ask them to cover it on their blogs, on Twitter, take and share photos or recruit their friends to discussions. Virgin America’s approach is refreshingly different. And also refreshingly clever.

It is often a shame when brands dictate what they want bloggers and Twitter users to do when they engage with them. Usually they have not understood what each of these influencers is looking to achieve with their blog or with their followers. A successful social media outreach strategy will treat each of these influencers as individuals, recognise that they are interested in different things and allow them to use their involvement with your brand to further their own blog or social media aims. For example, if I write a design blog, I might want to review the interior design and lighting on Virgin America flights. If I am a plane fan, I might compare the airline with competitors. And if I am a small business owner, I might review the offering from a business perspective, looking at cost and ability to work onboard. Each influencer wants to talk about different things in different ways.

With this in mind, there are two ways to work with influencers online as a brand:

  1. Research each influencer and treat them as individuals - building a relationship with them and understanding their interests, their aims and what you can offer them or ask them to do that will help them as individual bloggers or Twitter users
  2. Enable influencers to experience your brand or service and trust them to cover it as they so choose. You focus on giving them an experience they will enjoy and allow them to write and cover the experience in a way that works for them. Of course they may not write at all about your brand - although if you choose carefully people typically will.

The second of these is the braver option as brands will feel that they lose control over what may be written about them. In many cases, however, it can be the cleverer option. As in Virgin America’s case - give influencers an experience that you know is good and trust them to cover it in any way they choose.

What do user experience design and a triathlon have in common?


White Lake Half Ironman Triathlon Swim Start 039
Image by cygnus921 via Flickr

There is more than you might think in common between designing social media tools and online communities and doing a triathlon. When I first took up triathlon I hadn’t a clue how it worked. I knew it involved three sports, swimming, cycling and running, in that order, but I had no idea of the logistics of transitioning from one to the other: how to set out my gear, the fastest way to transition, what to put on and in what order. It was daunting. So how did I learn? I watched others. The more races I participated in, the more I learnt and the quicker I got. As I progressed I picked up new tips, became more efficient, paired it down to what I needed to know and as a result saw my performance improving.

No longer an observer I was now an active participant.

Social interaction is pretty similar. When you are using social media tools and online communities you’re not sure what to expect, you might think it’s not for you or you may feel nervous about participating. You might start as an observer, taking a look around, see what others are saying. Then you may start to recognise familiar features and design patterns (although you might not necessarily call them this!) and you begin to formulate how you might proceed. It’s only when you find a subject that is of interest to you that you might start to actually engage and begin your social interaction journey.

So how do we make this journey easier for users? With social interaction people are no longer just consuming content they are interacting and creating it. They have a variety of ways they can do this, through blogs, forums, questions and answers, debates, ideas, and competitions. Then there are the numerous ways in which these are presented, take blogs for example, we can show the title, the date of the post, who wrote it, a content teaser (an extract of the main article), an image, social properties, such as the number of views and comments, and social actions, such as rate, comment, share, subscribe, report, like and tweet. Some blogs show all of these, some show only a few – but which are the important ones – how do we give the user enough to show that there is interaction taking place and make them in turn want to interact without swamping them with loads of data so that the user experience is not impaired?

When using and designing these features we need to ensure that the appropriate features are chosen to enable successful engagement.

Three social media marketing trends from the crowd at #smmuk10


The Open Road
Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Today’s Social Media Marketing 2010 conference (search for #smmuk10 on Twitter) was a great mix of theory and case studies, presentations and debates, clients and the odd social media agency. We presented on why ongoing engagement is worth more than buzz and showcased our work in the retail industry with T.M.Lewin and Jimmy Choo.

In the final session of the day, I took part in a panel discussion on trends in social media and the areas where social media marketing will develop in the next 12 to 18 months. The panel debated and sourced ideas and then used the audience to vote for the ideas that the collective wisdom of clients and agencies in the room thought were the important trends to watch. The top three trends are below (and I’m rather pleased that my suggestion about geolocation tools made it to the top spot!)

Trend 1: Geolocation tools and the convergence of online and offline experiences

We’ve written before that we think 2010 is the year of location-based social media tools and geolocation is certainly becoming a much talked about issue at conferences and with clients. At this conference we presented our own case study of CatchAChoo, the trainer-hunt we developed and ran for Jimmy Choo using Foursquare and Twitter. There is also a lot of benefit that businesses can gain from working with Foursquare and other tools as they develop (even small businesses as this case study shows).

Geolocation is an interesting development. There is a much-recounted (but rarely-cited) statistic that says that 80% of all data 0nline has a geolocational element to it. But in most cases this data isn’t used. The steady rise of smart-phones (with their in-built GPS systems) will make this data more useful to users and easier for people to add to. It’s a trend to watch and for brands to capitalise on where relevant for their social media strategy. Geolocation tools are growing, and brands can benefit hugely from them.

Trend 2: Increased focus on ROI

There was a prediction that clients will increasingly focus on (and have to prove) the value or ROI of the work they do in social media. And so they should. Brands should not be using social media unless they have a clear view of what they want to achieve - the business aims that social media can contribute to. And when they start to use social media tools they should be ruthless in their measurement of success. This is critical because it shows that brands are thinking about social media in the right way and for the right reasons. Success and ROI is rarely a measure of how many people ‘Like’ you on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter. Real ROI comes from showing the impact your work has had against real business aims - increased sales, reduced cost of new customer acquisition, new ideas into the business. Real needs, real measures and a real focus on ROI.T

Trend 3: Consumer resistance to brands on social media

An emerging trend, associated to the privacy debate, was thought to be increasing resistance from consumers about brands engaging with them in social media. The real trend here is a need for brands to use social media and engage people in the right way. Trying to engage people in Facebook is often not the right answer. Infact Facebook is a place where people are often talking and sharing with friends and connections and don’t want to be interrupted by a brand. Better to choose the right place to engage in the right way. If not then consumers may start to filter out brands and brand messages and exert more control over their own experiences online.

What are your thoughts on these trends? Is Geolocation the next (or current) big thing?