Archive for May, 2009

How not to deal with a social media crisis

“There’s a great case study of how not to deal with a social media crisis on the Guardian’s Ethical Living blog.

neals-yardNeal’s Yard Remedies reversed a decision to participate in the Guardian’s ‘You ask they answer’ series after online contributors had already started to post questions aimed at the company.

The piece explores the outcomes of Neal’s Yard Remedies’ decision not to repsond to some pretty searching questions and how bloggers and well known twitterers have helped to spread the story.

When faced with social media crises of this nature companies are very rarely best off saying nothing…

See the full article here.

New York Times appoints a social media editor

nyt-pestonBig excitement over the New York Times’s appointment of a social media editor. Jennifer Preston, a former regional editor on the newspaper, has been tasked with expanding and promoting it on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Digg.

The newspaper has twigged that as well as people who buy it or make regular visits to the website, a lot of readers come through alerts and recommendations from their friends and colleagues. Preston’s role is to help staff use social media to find sources, contacts and information, and to gather and break news. There will also be a big emphasis on tweeting.

What is Preston’s qualification for the job? Very little, according to blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick, who was able to find very little trace of any social media activity, at least under her own name:; and she has only just opened a Twitter account.

But the newspaper says no one knows much about social media, so who cares? That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true that once one dives in one can quickly pick up what one needs to know.

The New York Times itself has a good reputation for engaging with social media; it produces lots of streaming video and real time updates, and reporters are enthusiastic Tweeters. That’s a contrast with other US news organisations, which have a somewhat last-century attitude to the social media activities of their employees.  Staff at Bloomberg staff have been told to stop Twittering about competitors or sharing links to their sites, and the Wall Street Journal is said to have cracked down as well.

There’s probably also an element in Preston’s appointment of bringing discipline to staff’s use of social media. The paper was recently miffed at the way details of a closed editorial meeting were splashed across the Internet. But it makes sense for a major organisation to lay down guidelines and boundaries, as long as – as in this case – it is clearly using the medium to good advantage.

Social media more popular than email!

Social Media continues to rise in numbers. According to Nielsen Online’s latest research, social networking is now more popular than email!

According to the study, 66.8% of Internet users have used social networks, while only 65.1% have used email.

Read more up-to-date stats here.

YouTube gains on traditional TV

Eric Schmidt, chairman  and chief executive of Google was interviewed in the FT over the weekend and talked about the rise of YouTube.

According to Schmidt, roughly 15 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded every minute by a global audience. The figures are staggering, and he rightly points out that you can also sense the impact that YouTube is having due to the controversies it is spawning.

The growth of YouTube clearly  underlines the significance of social media and its potential importance to the communications programmes of companies. Schmidt says: ‘It’s an audience far larger than what traditional television sees; it’s a global audience.’

Despite the rise of YouTube, many companies are still ploughing huge sums into traditional TV communications campaigns. As social media continues to increase in influence, budget allocations are going to have to change. The money needs to go where the customers are.

There are many examples of companies looking to harness the power of YouTube but those that are successful tend to be ones who approach the content in a less corporate way. It has to be more individualistic, more personal, useful to your networks and often fun to be shared and passed on. Companies have also got to be prepared to experiment to see what works best.

And of course the staggering  rise of YouTube underlines the value of video and video clips as a means of communication. Companies need to start using video more to enter into conversations with their audiences and they need to start talking to those audiences in meaningful ways ie they must offer genuine value to their audiences.  Spin will not work. Otherwise people will just continue to watch their own favourite videos and ones recommended by their friends and peers and companies will struggle to get a look in.

You cannot buy attention through YouTube or social media; you have to earn it.

This is now

Ford has launched a fascinating  social media initiative to speak with audiences who don’t read the motoring press or who don’t read motoring blogs. It is a collaborative art project where people are encouraged to share images which express their sense of now and it is linked to the Ford web site. It is an interesting example of using social media in a highly creative way to engage with stakeholders who feel traditional media has nothing to offer them.

At ItsOpen we are developing blogger outreach programmes and increasingly I think companies will realise that they need to use social media more imaginatively in order to gain interest and attention. Traditional ways of communicating do not work well within a social media context. It is time for a different kind of conversation.

Did Ghandi blog?

How is social media going to affect society? What impact will it have on mass movements for change? Pete Burden, who used to act as an advisor for ItsOpen, has written an imaginative post about how Ghandi might have used social media. It raises some interesting thoughts about the role of social media and what contribution it can make to our society.

New uses of Twitter

American journalist Dan Baum has written an account of how he got fired from his staff job at the New Yorker.

Nothing odd about that, except he chose to do it through Twitter, in a series of tweets that he posted earlier this month, between May 8 and May 12.

People are forever coming up with surprising and innovative uses of Twitter, but if I wanted to publish a 4,000-word article, I wouldn’t choose a medium that allowed only 140 characters at a time. Still, as a gimmick to promote Baum’s new book, it clearly worked – people are writing about it all over the place, including here, here and here.

And if you’d like to follow Baum on Twitter, you can find him .

Marketing staff locked out of social media sites

A survey from McCann Erickson UK confirms, yet again, that many companies still aren’t getting the point about social media. Two thirds of the senior marketers polled freely admit that they don’t really know how to use it.

While 86% acknowledge social media is not a fad but is here to stay, almost half (46%) say their companies’ IT department actually block access to popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Clearly that makes it impossible for them to monitor what is being said about their brands – one of the most fundamental reasons why they should be getting to grips with it.

Some common misconceptions also surfaced, for instance that social media is really just for the under 25s, claimed by just over two thirds of marketers polled. That doesn’t really apply: according to Nielsen, people using Twitter tend to be older with 35-49 year olds making up 42% of traffic, and most (62%) accessing it only at work. It certainly doesn’t take account of LinkedIn, which is becoming increasingly important to business professionals.

Other views were surveyed, for instance on how social media impacts on traditional forms of communication and its role in business, commercial communication and marketing activity. Full details here.

Are you listening to the conversations about your company?

Increasing numbers of people are growing suspicious of official messaging
from company web sites, so instead they are turning to social media
networks for views and news.

It is frankly amazing how many companies know that people are talking
about them through social media but still they do not take any actions
based upon what is being said.

Speaking in the book, , Marc Benioff, CEO of, points out that social media is a live focus group that never closes. He points out that customers are having conversations about every company and its products.

Benioff says the questions every company has to ask are:

Do they want to be part of these conversations?
Do you want to learn from them?
Are you willing to innovate on the basis of what is being said?
Do you want to harness the power of these communities for your benefit?

He adds that the days of the dead-end corporate suggestion box and
corporate indifference will no longer be tolerated.

The risks of ignoring these conversations is that they could benefit your
competitors ;you could become highly vulnerable to escalating negative
speculation ; or over time you could become culturally irrelevant and
detached from the new media realities.

The key underlying change driving the emergence of social media and
conversations about companies and their products is that anyone now can
easily create and distribute content using social media tools.  A hugely
expensive printing press is no longer mandatory to publish news. You no
longer need to be a rich press baron to publish information. The
professional elite who controlled traditional media and decided what the
amateurs should read are no longer in power.

No one newspaper or media outlet exclusively controls content.  There is
no scarcity of content. It is everywhere across the web and being shared
amongst people.  Despite advertisers trying to convince you of the
opposite so you pay over the odds for your adverts.

And the fact that more people can create content more easily does not mean that all of that content carries influence or is worth reading, but neither does it follow that none of it has influence or none of it is readable. So, on balance, it is best to listen and see what is worth acting upon and what isn’t. You never know what you might learn….

UK social media stats – new survey

Here’s an interesting new survey that underlines the way social media usage is taking off. According to eMarketer, 39% of UK Internet users, or more than 15 million people, will use social networks at least once a month this year.

In five years time the social networking population will reach 22 million, half of Web users, it says.

No surprise that most users of social networking, forums and blogging are young and male, although more and more women are getting involved. Older age groups too are increasingly represented, as professional social networking among UK employees grows.

The report analyses the way that social networks are growing, also other topics such as the most popular blogs, how social media differs by age group, and how marketers can make use of it.

More details here.