Tag Archives: key insights

The lowdown from LinkedIn – it’s all about the individual

A few weeks ago I wrote a story about LinkedIn and their aggressive approach in turning their platform into Temptation Island when it came to moving jobs. My ire was drawn from all the fabulous new ways they’ve conjured up to move jobs. Clever display adverts that put my head under a fancy job title, jobs I might be interested in floating down my newsfeed and a daily digest of jobs I might like on a weekly basis, usually at my weakest on a Monday.

The post had quite a lot of interest from business owners, to recruitment consultants to, would you believe it, LinkedIn themselves. They got in touch and wanted the chance to explain their vision and why my view, though valid, might have different facets unconsidered in the original piece.

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Brands and Twitter


So after being on the front page on Marketing the week before last, this week we’ve hit the pages of Campaign, with our inclusion in a feature article about, you guessed it, Twitter:

Three years into its existence, the recent media frenzy around celebrity Twitterers, including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, and Barack Obama’s successful use of the medium in the run-up to the US election, has seen the popularity of the “microblogging” site increase 27-fold in 12 months.

Advertisers could learn a lot from celebrity Twitterers using the site to shape their personal branding, creating a close, one-on-one relationship with their fans without constantly filtering their thoughts through a PR sieve.

Robin Grant, the managing director of the social media agency We Are Social, which advises Fry on his use of Twitter, explains: “The advice we gave to Stephen centred on being himself and having genuine conversations with people. It’s the same for brands. It’s about being human, showing your real personality and allowing people to connect with you on an emotional level.”

The article then gets quite bizarre, with Flo Heiss, the creative partner at Dare giving this advice about who should sit behind a brand’s account:

It could be a real person, such as a receptionist, or character made up by yourself

How about an imaginary friend who’s a receptionist, Flo? On to David Bain, an ‘internet marketing consultant’:

it’s cleverer when you don’t anthropomorphise it. What if an inanimate object was to Tweet, for example?

Why is it cleverer David? And what would it say? Amelia Torode, managing partner at VCCP:

It has to be a friendly, chatty brand. A brand such as Coca-Cola would be too large in its entirety. You need to work less at a higher-brand level and go down to the actual campaigns or smaller brands under the umbrella in order to start up the conversation.

Not quite as unhinged as Flo and David admittedly, but I’d point to the examples of brands like Burger King, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Starbucks, JetBlue and even VCCP’s client O2, who are having meaningful and useful conversations at the higher-brand level. As usual, our friend Faris Yakob talks sense:

Previously we had a model of buying attention from media companies. Now we’ve got direct relationships so we have to earn that attention – we have to earn it by being entertaining, useful and also nice.

To be honest, there is no ‘right approach’, but there are some general principles that apply (as expressed by myself and Faris above) and then there is the hard won experience at the coalface, learning what works and what doesn’t, that brands doing it themselves (and the agencies like ourselves helping them) have acquired. Most importantly your approach should be built around, yes, you guessed it again, the business objectives you’re trying to achieve.


This diagram from Fallon’s Aki Spicer of six different potential participation strategies brands could use is a useful thought starter (each of which of course might be used in combination or not at all), but even the approaches I deliberately ridiculed above could be valid in the right circumstances. Fictional characters can work really well as part of a campaign as VCCP’s own Compare the Meerkat work shows, and I’m sure at least one of Zappos’ receptionists is on Twitter. Even inanimate objects might have their place – in fact I’ve been trying to persuade Kew Gardens to get their plant life on Twitter for a while now.


But deciding on a strategy is only the first and easiest step. The hard work is the day after day of micro-interactions with real people, and striking the right balance between the opportunities and risks presented by having a real person as the voice of the brand, which I touched upon in the hotly debated post on learning to speak human. David Armano brilliantly investigates this dynamic in The Age of Brandividualism and his recent follow-up, Battle of the Brands (both of which are required reading here at We Are Social towers):


For each brand on Twitter, there’s an individual (or individuals) behind that effort. It’s both business and personal. The two have become one. The tactic comes from a fundamental truth when it comes to the social spaces on the Web. People want to talk to other people. They want transparency. They want to know who they are talking to.


The potential reward of course, is the ability to spread surprise and delight, turn negative word of mouth into positive and to really engage people with your brand at an emotional level. There is no greater prize…

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NB – This is cross posted from the We Are Social blog, where there are already some insightful comments – head on over and join the debate.

Social media is good for your career

Advertising Age reports on a study of 400 CMOs (that’s Marketing Directors in English):

Only 16% of respondents said their companies have any routine system in place for monitoring what people are saying about them or their brands online.


The survey comes, however, as big marketers are paying growing attention to monitoring and leveraging social media. Procter & Gamble has a Social Media Lab that’s about 18 months old, and Unilever last month hosted a word-of-mouth summit at its US headquarters dedicated largely to understanding how social media affect its brands.


Another big marketer, Johnson & Johnson, became acutely aware of the trouble social media can cause when complaints on the microblogging site Twitter led it to pull the plug on an ad campaign for Motrin in November.


One problem for marketing executives is that they’re not clearly in charge now of managing the customer experience, customer loyalty or social media today, given that public-relations, sales, consumer-affairs and research-and-development departments all have a stake in those areas now.


Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, said marketing should take the lead in overseeing the customer experience and satisfaction. And he said addressing deficiencies in tracking and analyzing consumer feedback and buzz may be the key way CMOs can stake a claim to leadership.


This accurately reflects reality as we experience it – we work into both Marketing and Corporate Communications Directors on different clients. Although the most effective engagements tend to be when we’re working with a combination of the Marketing, PR, Customer Service and Research departments, there’s clearly a land grab in progress. It’s those that commission us whose careers’ are seeming to benefit – and not just for the mercenary reasons the CMO council gives, but because they’re the ones doing the valuable learning as social media changes the face of business for ever…

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The future of advertising and agencies

This week, the IPA published a report snappily titled Social Media Futures – The future of advertising and agencies in a networked society. A 10-year perspective, the launch of which was covered both by the FT:

Two-thirds of advertising agencies are not prepared for the industry changes prompted by social networks and new forms of digital media

and Campaign:

For agencies used to what one senior executive calls a “broadcast mindset”, the social networking phenomenon and the way it empowers consumers can seem seriously scary. Which makes this week’s warning from the IPA that, when it comes to social media, the majority of agencies “aren’t getting it” all the more disturbing.

The Campaign piece includes some good analysis of the state of play, including this from Mark Collier, Managing Partner at Dare:

Social media should be viewed as a discipline in its own right and doing it properly will require genuine specialists who live and breathe it. But it will need to be closely allied to core marketing strategy and execution if it is to be relevant and effective.

And this from Steve Henry, the former TBWA\London Executive Creative Director:

The current agency model needs rethinking because it’s run out of steam. Remember that a lot of digital agencies are ten years old and you have to ask if they’re flexible enough to seize the opportunities on behalf of clients. Many clients are starting to feel that the agency they need doesn’t exist. That’s to say one that understands the mechanics of social networking as well as delivering the upstream strategy and thinking.

These are the very reasons we set-up We Are Social in June last year (combined with a similar malaise in the PR industry), and I’m confident that what we’re doing addresses Mark and Steve’s concerns head on.

As part of the launch of the report, the IPA also held an event on Monday evening, which Nathan, Sandrine and myself went along to – nicely summed up by PHD’s Dan Hosford:

Essentially, the IPA gathered a group of industry social media champions across agencies & media owners. Then bored them

There’s more detail, if you want it, in posts from Anjali Ramachandran, Graeme Harrison, Amelia Torode and John V Willshire.

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The future of the social web

You’re going to be bombarded with lots of buzzwords in this post – don’t be put off. By the end, you’ll have a vision of the future of the web you never thought possible. Let’s start with Alisa Leonard-Hansen‘s presentation explaining portable social graphs:

Now, let’s move on to Jesse Pickard and Shiv Singh‘s presentation imagining their potential, using the example of Facebook Connect:

They gives us a glimpse of what the next few years will bring in terms of the whole web becoming social. To quote Charlene Li:

in the future, social networks will be like air. They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be

We’ve already implemented Facebook Connect on our site, allowing you to use your Facebook identity to log-on and post comments and for your Facebook friends to get told about those comments in their news feeds (when Gawker Media did this, user registrations were up by 45% and comments up by 16% compared to the previous week).

To really begin to see the potential for yourself, have a look at how The Insider is using it, JC Penney’s recent Beware of the Doghouse campaign or the early efforts from Vimeo, Brightkite and Eventbrite.

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Why do people use Twitter?

One of the eternal questions you hear asked about Twitter, especially by those who don’t use it themselves, is why?

Of course, there’s a myriad of different answers, but these two films come close to answering the question.

The first was put together by Christian Payne (@Documentally) and Matt Rawlinson (@Barnstormed) from vox pops they conducted at a gathering of Twitterers in London in September last year – the first ever Twestival:

The second was filmed by Hamish Campbell (@hamishcampbell) at Twinterval, another gathering of London’s Twitterati in December, and perhaps delves a little deeper than the first:

If you feel like doing some anthropological fieldwork of your own, you’ll be glad to know that Twestival has gone global – on the 12th February there will be local Twestivals all around the world, bringing together Twitterers for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity: water.

We’re going to be at three of them ourselves – we’re organising the Paris Twestival, which we’re confident is going to be one of the biggest and best, Nathan is helping out with Sydney’s and what’s left of the team will be partying hard here in London.

While I’ve got your attention, why not have a look at the last set of stats on Twitter usage in the UK, see Chris’ commentary on why the British tabloids are so hostile to Twitter or follow me on Twitter

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Panasonic’s influencer campaign at CES

Bloggers Speak with Panasonic NA Chairman Yoshi Yamada

Brian Morrissey in Adweek covers the latest influencer campaign from Panasonic:

Among the hundreds of journalists at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week there are five people producing reams of copy, photos and video about the show, new product demos and press conferences. Unlike the reporters, though, they are popular bloggers in Las Vegas courtesy of Panasonic.

The Panasonic program is one of several undertaken by brands carving out a new take on the old notion of advertorial. Rather than relying on magazines, they are contracting with influential bloggers who bring with them their own powerful distribution networks. Rather than a long-form narrative, content is fit for the Web via blog posts, Twitter updates and YouTube videos. And the key differentiator: instead of dictating the content to lead to a sale, brands typically keep their distance to maintain credibility.

Panasonic wanted to build cachet among Internet influencers for its array of tech products. As part of its “Living in High Definition” push, Crayon [a social media agency] recruited five bloggers to travel to CES on Panasonic’s dime. Panasonic footed the bill for their travel and passes to the event while also loaning them digital video and still cameras. The bloggers, which include popular Internet figures Chris Brogan and Steve Garfield, will also meet with Panasonic executives and preview products.

It’s good to see the sort of work we’re doing getting mainstream coverage in Adweek and that savvy brands like Panasonic understand the competitive advantage campaigns like this can bring.

However, Brian is wrong to view these sort of campaigns as ‘advertorial’ (and in the same article bracket them with ‘pay per post’ type campaigns) – what Panasonic have done (and we do with our influencer campaigns and advocacy programmes) is generate genuine, emotive and far-reaching Word of Mouth, which is substantively different to crude advertorial (or even dispassionate editorial) copy.

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Five social media New Year’s resolutions for your business

I thought I’d take a crack at compiling a list of five social media New Year’s resolutions that apply to all businesses, large and small. If you’re wondering why these resolutions are important, find out why my company does what it does or subscribe to our blog.

1. Learn by doing. Reading blog posts from the great and good of social media is a good way to stay abreast of the latest trends and techniques, but you’ll only really start to understand the potential and significance of social media by using it yourself. And while there may be political and budgetary barriers to overcome before getting your company engaging in social media, there’s no excuse not to take part yourself on an individual level. So, get going! – Join the conversation on Twitter, poke some long lost school friends on Facebook, upload your holiday snaps to Flickr, have a play at being a DJ on Blip.fm, brush-up your profile on LinkedIn, find a community of people or a blogger who shares your interests and even consider setting up your own blog.

2. Start listening. People are talking about brands at all hours of every day, in countless forms of social media, and you can guarantee that somewhere they’re talking about your business and that it’s having an impact on your bottom line. While I’d advise companies that it pays to get expert help with this, especially to understand the actions you need to take as a result of these conversations, a good first step is to start listening with some of the freely available tools out there – set-up some Google and Twitter alerts, try out the Social Media Firehose, find the communities who discuss your business on a regular basis and most importantly, click through and read the conversations and hear what people are saying.

3. Put a strategy in place. The impact of social media crosses existing organisational structures which makes it hard for one person or department to take ownership. Ideally a comprehensive strategy would involve Marketing, Corporate Communications, Customer Service, Product Development, Market Research, Legal and Human Resources. It’s not going to be easy, which is why you might consider working with a specialist consultancy to achieve this.

4. Start blogging. We advise all of our clients to do this, regardless of what business they’re in. A blog is a good way of reaching a really important constituency of your customer base – the ones that care enough about you to read your blog, as well as the press, shareholders and other key stakeholders. However, the real reason we make this recommendation is the transformative effect it has on businesses – it forces you to be conversational, and quickly allows you to work through a microcosm of the changes that social media will inevitably force on your business anyway. Some good example blogs to show your colleagues are Avis’ We Try Harder, Waitrose’s The Grocer’s Blog, Glasses Direct, innocent drinks, the Majestic Wine blog, Orange’s The Feed, Littlewood’s Love Label and SpinVox’s blog.

5. Start engaging. You can do this in many ways, whether it’s someone from your customer service department responding in real time to people complaining about issues on forums, inviting some relevant influential bloggers to your next press event, or incorporating a conversational element to your next marketing campaign. Bring in some external expertise, test a few different approaches out and learn from the experience – and above all else, be interesting, relevant and honest.

That’s it – if you stick even to two or three of these resolutions you’ll be better placed than most of your competitors to navigate your way through the combined challenges of the recession and the changes social media are bringing to the business landscape.

Robin Grant is the Founder and Managing Director of We Are Social, a specialist consultancy that helps brands to listen, understand and engage in conversations in social media. As part of you following the first resolution, feel free to say hi to him on Twitter

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Social media more popular than ever

An almost unbelievable couple of graphs from Robin Goad at Hitwise, the first showing that 10.09% of all UK internet visits last week were to ‘Social Networking and Forums’.

UK Social Media traffic Dec '07 - Dec '08

And the second showing Facebook’s inexorable growth.

UK Facebook traffic Dec '07 - Dec '08

There’s some more in depth data available in Hitwise’s UK Social Networking Update
from July this year, and it’s worth remembering these sort of growth
curves apply across social media, with this graph showing a similarly
stratospheric rise in UK blog traffic.

UK blog traffic May '05 - Jun '08

As Robin Goad said at the time:

over the last 3 years UK Internet traffic to out Blogs
and Personal Websites category has increased by 208%, compared to 70%
for News and Media. Another interesting fact is that the market share
of blogs is greater in the UK than the USA: 1.09% and 0.73%
respectively in May.

The trend also seems to apply even to Twitter

UK Twitter traffic Jul '07 - Jul '08

Again, a nice quote from Robin Goad:

UK Internet visits to Twitter have increased by 631%
over the last 12 months, with 485% of that growth coming this year.
Twitter is more popular with Brits than Americans: last week the site’s
share of UK Internet visits was 70% higher its share of visits in
America. Twitter cannot yet be considered mainstream in the USA, but in
the UK it’s getting there.

I’d also point out that the Twitter data above pre-dates the Stephen Fry effect (disclosure: Stephen is a client of We Are Social‘s and we helped him get going on Twitter).

Roll on 2009…

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How to choose a social media agency

Philip Buxton, the former editor of Revolution, has written a great checklist for brands choosing a social media agency:

  1. A new approach – since everyone claims to ‘do’ social, look for those seeking to develop new models for approaching it, not those seeking to map on their existing models
  2. Technology – everyone claims to have unique talent, to be ‘leading’, to have great clients, and real expertise. Technology, fortunately, can’t be faked, demonstrates genuine investment and expertise, and really can be proprietary and unique. So, which agency has developed/is developing their own technology to support their new approach?
  3. Measurement – the true value of real engagement by brands in social media is really hard to measure. I’ll be dropping my bank as soon as I don’t need them anymore because of the way it treated me when I was a student – good social media strategy will have a similarly long-lasting effect. Nonetheless, some agencies are having a very credible stab at it. Just steer clear of the ones who claim it’s that simple
  4. Existing credentials – being good at something, in my view, is a transferable skill. Muhammad Ali liked to say that if he’d been a dustman (I’m translating of course), he’d have been the best dustman in the world. I believe him. So, is the agency now claiming to be brilliant at social media brilliant at what it already does?
  5. Case studies – trade journalists will tell you that finding people to talk about social media is not a problem. Finding people that have real projects to talk about is a good deal more difficult. What has the agency really done in this area?

My shortlist would be made up only of agencies that tick all five boxes

At We Are Social, we would agree with him…

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