Archive for August 2010

How social media is changing the way we travel


A train passing through the central station of...

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I am about to embark on a trip alone across Europe overland - mainly by train. It’s almost 15 years since I last made a similar trip. Many things have changes over this period - I’m older, have travelled a lot more and am now more likely to stay in hotels than camp rough - but the biggest change is the way that social media is helping me do things I could never do back then. On that first trip, I had no mobile phone and not even an email address. Now I have many tools at my disposal to help plan and do more.

1. Planning the trip

Then: 15 years ago my only planning tool were two big books - a set of European train timetables that I had to pour over to check if I could get from one place to another, and a Western European guidebook. I couldn’t find out anything about the journeys I might take except for when the trains would be, and I risked falling into the trap of only going to places in the guidebook. I could only plan, not book, and I put my faith in some timetables and 0ne guidebook.

Now: I have bought some guidebooks - but only for cities that I am planning to spend a lot of time in. My main planning tools this time have been online - a mix of more traditional tools (including the fantastic European train directory at The Man in Seat Sixty-One) to reviews sites (such as Tripadvisor), individual forums and blogs about certain destinations and even Twitter and Flickr. I’ve been able to research the different options, discover places I would never have found about in guidebooks and even check things such as what the overnight trains I am getting look like, what people say about them on Twitter and use these user reviews and images to decide when I want to travel in a seat, when in a couchette and when it is worth paying extra for a sleeper compartment.

2. Keeping people informed

Then: Without a mobile phone or email address the only way I could keep people informed was by finding a public phone box and calling home. I had an unwritten agreement that I would call home every five days to let people know where I was. I had left a rough plan with them and that was it. I don’t know, but I imagine there were some worried moments when I missed my planned call as I had to choose between queuing for a phone at a station in Rome and jumping on the train that evening to Sicily (I chose the latter!).

Now: This is an area of real change. Not only do I have a plan that some people can see on TripIt, but social media and mobile internet means I can inform individuals but also anybody who is interested in what I am doing, seeing and experiencing. And where I am. Twitter will let me update people in real time, tell them where I am and even share photos of what I am doing and seeing (if you’re interested you can follow me @mattrhodes). Foursquare is a great tool to allow me to quickly and easily share exactly where I am - the hotel, restaurant, station or beach I am on. People back home will know what I am doing and will be able to share the experiences I am having.

3. Keeping myself entertained

Then: On long train journeys and overnight you need ways to keep yourself entertained and distracted. Back then I had a MiniDisc player and a set of compilations I’d put together before I went. I had some books and then had to rely on meeting people who knew of things to do and things that were on in the destinations I visited. Or I had to rely on myself stumbling upon them - which once found me in a hard rock festival in Hungary…

Now: I’m still taking a lot of books, but rather than making my own compilations I am taking Spotify - and am crowd-sourcing a playlist so I can hear things I wouldn’t normally listen to. If you want to add some tracks to my list find it here: Make Matt a holiday playlist. I can use Twitter to find out what is on in destinations and what people think of them.

So what does this mean for the travel industry?

Social media is changing the way we travel. The way we plan, the way we book, the way we act when we are travelling and the way we report on it (in real-time and after the event). We are using review sites to book hotels and events. We are using Twitter and Flickr to find out what people really think of places we are going to or things we are going to do. We are using these same tools to report, often in real time, on what we are experiencing.

In this environment those in the travel industry need to take social media seriously, and find ways to make it work hard for them and their brand. They should be listening to what people are saying about them, their destinations and services and about their competitors. They should be identifying their advocates and dealing with those who are less positive about them online. They should use their experience and expertise to add real value to the discussions and debates in social media. And they should capitalise on the real-time discussions and reviews to showcase what people think of them, and also to start to service people in social media.

We’ve blogged before about how the travel industry can use social media and it is one of the industries where social media can make a real impact on a brand and a business. Right now, I am just grateful for the way social media has made planning and reporting on my travels much easier than 15 years ago - follow me to find out what I think of the places I visit!

Social media case study: Cadbury spots v stripes campaign


Cadburys chocolate

Image courtesy of sudeep1106

You may have seen Cadbury’s new spots and stripes underwater advert. It’s the one that starts off a little like a high-resolution marine screen saver but then develops into something that resembles a mini film.

If you have watched it, did you know what it was advertising? Or did you have to follow the call-to-action at the end of the ad and visit the website URL to find out what the hell was going on?

This new campaign by Cadbury really seems to recognise something that we’ve said before -  social media doesn’t just take place online. Their advert is incomplete without referring you to their social media site ( And this site would not stand alone and be as successful without the advert driving people to it.

As an official sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the thinking behind the current Cadbury campaign is to  split the nation into two teams, the spots and stripes, to compete in game play in the lead up to London 2012. All people need to do is join one of the teams by signing up on the website to begin scoring points for their chosen team.

Cadbury will encourage people to engage with the Spots v Stripes site through dedicated social media channels, like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, in combination with more traditional marketing methods  like TV and outdoor advertising in keeping with their online/offline theme. And while the site definitely plays on social gaming interaction, you can score points for offline games like running or crazy golf and can also download games from the site to play offline.

Perhaps the key sales driver for Cadbury from this whole campaign will be the introduction of a brand new product - the Challenge Bar. The Challenge Bar is a milk and white chocolate bar divided into three sections; one spotty, one stripy and one chunk in the middle which the Spot and the Stripe must play for.

The launch of this new chocolate bar will be supported by traditional offline marketing, but each Challenge Bar has one of 20 different games printed on the inside of the wrapper to get consumers playing for the “winners” chunk and driving people online to claim the points for their chosen team. The campaign will also see Cadbury touring the country in order to get the whole of the UK involved with both the Cadbury and olympic games, and, more than likely, promote the Challenge Bar.

Given that the campaign only launched last week, it remains to be seen whether this fully integrated offline and online  campaign will really take off. What is interesting to see though is that Cadbury has recognised that offline is converging with online - something that all digital marketers need to be aware of.

Read more of our Social Media Case Studies

Learn from Abercrombie & Fitch: Embed social media in every customer touchpoint


Image by ீ ๑ Adam via Flickr

“Have you checked us out on Facebook?” As I queued to pay at Abercrombie & Fitch in London over the weekend I kept hearing this phrase over and over again. In fact as everybody paid for their purchases the sales assistants asked them this very same question. Some may have found this annoying, some may have found it forced, and some may have found it distracting. But it is actually a sign that Abercrombie & Fitch is taking its social media strategy seriously. And a great example of just how to embed social media across your customer touchpoints and with all your staff.

Developing a social media strategy and how you will use the various channels and tools at your disposal to engage your customers is only the first step. Now you need to actually engage people. And to do that people need to know where you are.

There are many ways that you can grow your social media channels. And it is often best to start small with a process of thorough seeding. Identify a small group of people in your target audience that you can work with - they may be brand loyalists, people you interact with already or those you know would be keen to work with you. You can then work with these people to start to build content and engagement in social media. You can create a starting point from which you can grow. But once you have begun to seed the site, and you are ready to open it up to your whole customer base you will want ways to increase the number of people you are engaging and how regularly you engage them. The question then comes: how do we engage more people in social media?

There are many ways to do this. Initial seeding with brand loyalists will help to spread the word about what you are doing. Outreach marketing in other social networks - such as Twitter - and engaging with bloggers and relevant forums will help you reach new audiences. And you also have the options of advertising, running competitions and other more traditional ways of promoting what you are doing. Of course, your aim may not be to reach large numbers through social media. But if it is, the best way to do it is simpler that any of these: use every existing customer touchpoint.

We’ve written before about how social media does not just take place online, and the best way of growing and embedding social media is to fit it in to your existing processes and customer touchpoints. Rather than social media begin something that is separate to the other ways you engage and interact with customers, it should complement and add to it. You should examine every customer touchpoint and talk about social media where relevant and where possible. If you mail out envelopes to customers, you should put your social media channels on the back. If you include telephone and other contact details in marketing material, you should put your social media channels there too. And if your staff actually meet or speak to your customers you should talk about social media with them.

Abercrombie & Fitch get it right. There are a few moments at the till when the assistant is usually quiet - the customer is finding their money or waiting for their bank to authorise their credit card. It uses these moments to talk about their social media activity - and in particular a campaign they are currently running on Facebook. And with 1.5 million people liking them on Facebook, they are clearly doing something right.

So if you want to grow and engage more customers in social media the best way is to embed it into your existing processes. You currently have many customer touchpoints so make the most of them. And let social media complement what you already do rather than sitting on its own.

My social media internship at FreshNetworks


Projector light
Image by renaatje via Flickr

My name is Kristin Labisch and for the last couple of months I have been an intern here at social media agency FreshNetworks.

Before I started my social media internship I found it quite difficult to imagine the type of thing I would be doing. I really didn’t know how a social media agency functioned or the kind of work I would be given to do.

Most of my friends and family thought that my social media internship would involve doing just “Facebook stuff”, but I soon found that “Facebook stuff” doesn’t nearly describe what work at FreshNetworks is like.

Yes, there are 500 million people online on Facebook, but with  93% of the world not on Facebook I applied for the internship at FreshNetworks  to learn more about social media and how it can be used to help generate real value for businesses, rather than just how to use Facebook or Twitter. In fact one of the first things I learned is that whilst some brands will say ‘we want to be on Facebook’, that isn’t a social media strategy. And it usually isn’t the right answer for them.

I also saw the internship as a way to help me answer the many questions I found myself asking about social media. And actually, much of my internship has been spent working on these unsolved questions, as well as trying to work out what has not been asked yet by looking towards future developments in social media.

And this is why working at a social media agency like FreshNetworks was so appealing to me; everyone is always open to new ideas. Whilst they believe in taking an analytical approach to social media, there is no stiff or inflexible theoretical framework and each client is looked at on a case-by-case basis to assess their unique conditions, circumstances and strategic needs.

Because of this, work at FreshNetworks never gets monotonous. Every part of the team (and yes: this also includes the interns) is considered a valuable asset - an individual with their own ideas that will be welcomed at any time.

I know this is not a direct advert for FreshNetworks, so I will refrain from saying that I have never experienced a more welcoming and enjoyable working atmosphere with such an enthusiasm and passion for ideas. So I will put it another way: If you want to work with and learn about social media, have creative ideas and want to get to know creative minds, follow my lead and apply here for an internship. It’s not easy - it’s fast-paced and can get hectic, but the experience is rewarding and memorable.

Overall, my experience as an intern at FreshNetworks has shown me that there are endless opportunities for using social media both personally and for business. I can now describe to my family and friends how social media goes way beyond just “Facebook stuff” and can prove what a good social media strategy and the opportunities that some social media monitoring can bring to brands and businesses.

Fancy learning about social media with FreshNetworks?

At FreshNetworks we are always keen for Interns who want to learn about social media , shadow our teams and run their own projects for the business. If you would like to apply for a community management, marketing or social media strategy internship here at FreshNetworks please email your CV to

FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in July


number five
Image by TheTruthAbout… via Flickr

As a social media agency, FreshNetworks aims to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities, marketing and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in July.

1. Social media monitoring review 2010 – download the final report

Over the first few months of 2010 we conducted an in-depth review of the leading social media monitoring tools in conjunction with our sister company, FreshMinds Research. We compared how Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos performed when monitoring conversations about global coffee brand Starbucks, analysing over 19,000 online conversations.

Many thousands of you have already read our posts about the review and downloaded the final whitepaper. If you haven’t yet, you can find a more detailed analysis of all these tools and more in our final report – Turning Conversations into Insights: a Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools.

2. 93% of the world is not on Facebook

In June, Facebook announced that it had reached 500 million users. This number is incredible, and perhaps even more impressive is the rate at which the social network is growing. Just five months ago they had 400 million users. But whatever we might think and however impressive these numbers are, Facebook is not an all-encompassing social media tool. It does not reach everybody and it is not always right for us to use. 500m is a large number but is only a small proportion of the online population. And if you take the whole global population (as we did more to make a point than for the accuracy of this statistic), 93% of the world is not on Facebook.

What does this mean? Well Facebook is often not the right place for brands to play - just because the numbers seem big doesn’t mean it is the most suited to help your social media strategy.

3. Social media does not just take place online

One of the biggest dangers with social media is to assume that it is only exists online. We see this in the way some brands approach social media – developing a social media strategy that is focused on the tools they are going to use rather than the business aims they are going to contribute to. We also see this in the way some brands allocate budgets for their social media work – associating it with their ecommerce or digital spend can mean that they need to work harder to make sure that social media efforts integrate with what is happening offline.

In truth, the rise of social media for marketing is less about technology and more about brands realising the benefits of closer engagement with customers and others. Social media tools provide a great way to do this but always remember to think how you can get this engagement offline too.

4. Why a museum is the UK’s top brand on Twitter

The Famecount dataset is, like much data, not perfect but it does highlight some surprises that we can all learn from. The brand it has as the top Twitter brand in the UK is one such surprise. Rather than the big FMCG, fashion and media firms they include in their brands ranking, the top UK brand on Twitter for them is a museum, @Tate.

There are some structural reasons why the Tate will attract followers. Twitter is great for events and experiences and a museum has lots of these. But the success and popularity of the Tate is about much more than this. It’s thanks to the way they use Twitter. In this post we look at the three simple characteristics of the way the Tate uses Twitter that all brands can learn from, and that contribute to their success.

5. Developing a European social media strategy

An issue for many brands who are developing a social media strategy is how they translate what they do in one country into other markets in which they operate. As a European social media agency, we are very used to helping clients take a US or UK strategy and then roll this out across the rest of Europe. And in doing this we have looked at organisations who have done this well. And those who have done it badly. The usual mistake is to assume that what works in one country can be taken and implemented in another country with no changes. More often than not this is not the case.

In this video post, Matt Rhodes talks about how to approach developing a European social media strategy and why what works in one country might not work in others.