Social Santas and Christmas fun


At this time of year, what better excuse to get people out of the FreshNetworks office than a synchronised cycle ride round central London dressed as Father Christmas? And all for no reason whatsoever, apart from the fun of it.

Tourists thought we were delightful, cabbies called us a menace and the police tracked our every move - convinced that, at any moment, we might start a student protest.

With mince pies in our bellies and iPhones strapped to our Boris Bikes we tweeted all the way to Buckingham Palace. Arriving just in time to catch Prince Philip who stopped his car to ask what we were up to and to wish us a Merry Christmas all round.

Thank you Barclays and thank you Boris. We love your bikes. And thanks to Asylum Films (our favourite London production company) for making the movie.


Facebook takes Rage Against the Machine to Christmas No.1


Rage Against the Machine on Facebook

Rage Against the Machine on Facebook

Rage Against the Machine (RATM) have just had their first UK Number 1. They got it thanks to an extraordinary underground Facebook campaign, beating X-Factor winner Joe McElderry.

The successful single, Killing in the Name, was released over 15 years ago. RATM spent nothing on marketing and yet they made it to Christmas No.1. Whatever your opinions of Rage Against the Machine, Simon Cowell, Facebook or Joe Mcelderry, this has been a great show of social media might.

A week ago X-Factor Winner Joe McElderry appeared to be a shoo-in for Christmas No.1. Every year, for four years, the Winner of X-Factor has been number one at Christmas. But this year Jon Morter (@Jon_Magic), a HiFi Technician from Essex,  decided to set up a protest campaign on Facebook and promote Rage Against the Machine as a possible contender.

Why does this classify as an impressive victory for social media? Here’s a brief summary of what each single had going for it:

Joe Mcelderry and the X-Factor machine

- 13 weeks of prime time TV appearances
- 4 years of X-Factor Christmas No.1′s (i.e. a great process for getting the result)
- Professional promotion – Simon Cowell’s company has been pulling out every stop.
- A pleasant song for Christmas – ideal stocking filler for mum’s across the UK
- 3 months of press articles, morning TV chat show appearances & radio interviews
- Online and offline advertising spend
- Store sales - Joe’s got a physical single that’s on sale in all good record stores - 500,000 in HMV alone (their largest ever singles order). The RATM single has not been re-released so it is not in store.
- Playlists - Joe gets lots of radio airplay thanks to being on key playlists
- Massive discounting - Tesco are selling Joe McElderry’s single The Climb for 29p. That’s less than half the 67p you’d pay for Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine.
- Point of purchase marketing - both in store, and also on the homepages of iTunes, Amazon, and (the four major MP3 retailers in the UK).

Xmas#1 adverts facebook

Rage Against the Machine had:
- £0 marketing budget
- an offensive song that caused 138 complaints last time it was played on Radio1 (Killing in the name)
- an unofficial facebook group set up by a fan
- a “charity angle” - I don’t think the donations to Shelter have been a large driver of success, but they helped prevent the campaign being seen as bullying of Joe and raised over £65k.

This seems like an appropriate way to end 2009 – a big year for Social Media.

Mobilising people in social media: the #welovethenhs debate


heart-shaped buttons
Image by alice-palace via Flickr

Update: in the first week of the #welovethenhs debate on Twitter, 18,000 people shared over 37,000 stories.

In the last two days, almost 11,000 different people on Twitter have entered into a debate about the benefits of the UK healthcare system. Between them they have shared over 20,000 different stories that range from individual experiences to debates and evaluations of the merits of public health care over a private health insurance scheme. The levels of involvement are impressive and have been driven primarily by people sharing their own personal stories rather than being driven by a corporate or organisational Twitter campaign.

This discussion and debate is a great example of people coming together on a shared topic of interest. They are telling their stories or giving their opinion and tagging it with the #welovethenhs hashtag so that others can find, read and share what they have said. At it’s very simplest this is a great example of how social media work, and in particular of the kind of dynamics that exist in an online community:

  • People with a story to tell write about it and tag it, so that
  • People who want to find similar stories can easily sort through the information that has been shared, and
  • These stories can then be passed to other people and shared again so that more people can read it

People who don’t know each other can read and comment on each others’ stories - they are connected not by the fact that they actually know each other, but that they are interested in similar issues and want to talk about the same things. There are, of course, limits to hashtags as a way of sorting information on Twitter, but for quickly escalating debates like this they are a useful way of showing the strength and weight  of opinion on a particular issue.

But perhaps the most interesting element of the NHS debate on Twitter is the subject matter itself. With less than 12 months to go before the next General Election in the UK, the public are having a debate about an issue that is always a major component of any election campaign, and they are doing so in social media. And Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined in the discussions with his own opinions. Expressed via Twitter.

We’ve posted before about how Social Media can sometimes be the wrong medium for politicians to express their opinions or to make announcements (especially about Gordon Brown’s YouTube trauma). But this is a case where users themselves have started and are having a discussion on an issue that is of keen political, and electoral, interest. If they are this engaged now, on an issue of great interest but sparked by remarks by a US politician then we might be looking at an interesting and engaged set of debates on Twitter and across social media during the upcoming General Election.

I hope all the Parties have their social media strategies sorted.

* For up-to-date statistics about the #welovethenhs hashtag go to what the hashtag?!

  • Brown joins NHS Twitter campaign (
  • Britain To Civil Servants: Go Forth And Tweet (
  • #welovethenhs takes over Twitter (
  • Twitter Army defends UK healthcare system (

Get involved and make the most of your online community


Tin Can Phone - KnotImage by Jeff_Werner via Flickr

Today I was speaking at the MRS Online Methods conference on London - a great day with people sharing ideas on online research and how to engage customers online.

I was speaking specifically about how online research communities are actually just online communities that people use for research but that they should also use for other things (PR, marketing, customer service, innovation…the list goes on). And about how the client can, and indeed should, get involved in the process. It’s when you don’t do this when online communities fail to live up to their promise. We need to think community first and research second, rather than just tagging a forum onto your online survey. That’s when you get the real benefits and when you start having some fun.

The presentation I gave is below. As always these things are better presented but the point should still come through clearly. Thinking just about an online research community misses out on the big opportunity. An online community is a direct line to your customers. Research is a great place to start with this but you need to think bigger.

To make the most of this the client has to get involved:

  1. Add value to the community by being a visible part of it, either to respond to specific points, join discussions naturally or even to take a major role in community management
  2. Incentivise the responses but don’t do this with money. A good community is a vibrant social environment; adding money into this turns things into a market. It changes the dynamic to the detriment of the community itself. Think of what else you can give people. Think about what knowledge and ideas you can trade for their ideas
  3. Make sure you represent the community in the business and that your brand is making full benefit of the powerful resource it now has
Getting the client involved in the online community
View more OpenOffice presentations from freshnetworks.
  • Customer service is the new marketing (
  • Pricing, WOM, PR Efforts Get Recession Boost (
  • One Hell of an OCM List of Responsibilities (
  • Marketer // Customer (

Web Mission 09: Investors, Oracle and Hitching


After spending yesterday morning at Plug and Play, the Web Mission 09 team spent the afternoon meeting with some Silicon Valley investors. Each firm had a five-minute slot in which to pitch their idea. It certainly felt rather dragon’s-den like, with the key difference being the entrepreneurs on Web Mission 09 tend to be running businesses which are already successful and have clients, products and traction in their market.

The highlight of the pitching came from Simon Campbell of ViaPost. He went for a full-on re-enactment of Steve Ballmer’s famous “I love this company” speech and it certainly got some attention.

That evening we had a night off from formal events. I managed to get tickets to see Gavin DeGraw play the Great American Music Hall. It’s a lovely venue and proved to be a great night out. Oh and if you’re a DeGraw fan, you can hear his new album early on Spotify, the web’s best music service.

This morning was one of the most discussed sessions of the week: a full day at Oracle getting an insider’s view on their Enterprise2.0 developments and plans. Highlights included finding out about Beehive, Oracle’s Collaborative Enterprise Platform, an insight into their Social CRM offering and one-to-one meetings with the Global head of M&A.

Beehive is a central plank in Oracle’s social and collaboration strategy. It provides enterprise customers with team collaboration tools (blogs, discussions, tags and wikis) and tools for synchronous collaboration (conferencing, presence, instant chat and voice chat). They are pitching it against a host of Microsoft tools and claimed that a deployment for a 5,000 person firm would save a company 54% on hardware costs and 70% on software if buying Microsoft.

I had to rush back early to San Fran. I’d left it a little late and decided that rather then wait for a cab I should walk to the train station. Crossing over yet another 5-lane dual carriage-way I noticed a sign to San Fran and decided, for the first time in 15 years, to see what would happen if I tried to hitch a lift back to the city. Within ten seconds a car stopped for me.

By co-incidence it was driven by a software developer who built the Imbee, a Social Network for kids with strong parental supervision capabilities. Even more of a co-incidence, Imbee, like our own community platform, is based on Drupal, the open-source modular framework and content management system. So we spent a happy 35 minutes discussing the 100,000 strong Drupal developer community. He even dropped me off at my door. Thank you.

Read all of Charlie’s WebMission 09 blog posts here.