Archive for September, 2009

Don’t assume that online conversations aren’t interested in you

I have a professional interest in the asset management industry. The
rather dry weekly FTFM supplement in the Financial Times each Monday is
therefore compulsory reading.

Imagine my surprise when I came across an article on page 2 of yesterday’s
supplement called “Bloggers clash over operational costs“.

The article is actually about a debate taking place on a blog hosted on
the FT site about an earlier FT article, and so the piece is somewhat
self-promoting. However, it is interesting to me that a lively, informed
debate is taking place online about how much asset management firms care
about operational costs. It just goes to show, no matter how specialist
your niche, there is always potential for a relevant online conversation.

At ItsOpen we spend a lot of time talking to clients about online
conversations. Many corporate communicators feel that the only
conversations that happen online are either between consumers comparing
products or between individuals with ill informed opinions.

In truth, new online conversations are cropping up all the time -
communications teams should ensure that they at least have a means of
listening to them in place.

If people are talking about the operational costs of asset management
firms there’s every chance there will be someone talking about your
business, its strategy or its performance some time soon.

Openness inspires trust

It’s fascinating to watch traditional media struggling with the concept of social media every bit as much as businesses. The Washington Post has just issued new guidelines which some journalists see as a pointless attempt to impose control.

Stephen Baker, a journalist at BusinessWeek which is owned by the Post, complains that to forbid writers from tweeting or posting anything biased it is going too far.  It would mean they couldn’t express opinions about global warming, or the Middle East, or political sex scandals, or the controversy over health care.  He says:

‘It seems that the Post wants all the good stuff from blogs and social networks – extension of their brand, traffic to their site – but without any of the problems that come from losing control. Yet the power of these social tools grows from the very freedom of expression that the Post editors are trying to rein in.’

Baker has a particular interest in describing the editorial process of BusinessWeek, which under the new guidelines is verboten. He argues that actually some openness about newspaper’s decision-making would inspire greater public trust.

Trust, in effect, is what it’s all about, learning to give employees the latitude to express themselves, relying on their good judgement and their identification with the organisation to ensure that they don’t go too far. Businesses need to create guidelines that are helpful rather than restrictive, and put appropriate monitoring processes in place.

All this takes effort and imagination. Simply issuing edicts isn’t going to do it.

ItsOpen Social Media Insight Reports

 As you might already have noticed, we have introduced a new section to our blog called Insight Reports. Here we are going to be regularly publishing a series of complimentary reports about different aspects of social media.

The first one is about Financial Services Communications and Social Media, as this is an area we have been asked about a lot. It is full of insights and fresh examples for readers who are interested in how social media is changing the information-sharing landscape in this important field.

You can quickly download the report here.  We would be interested in your feedback and if there are any particular areas you would like us to cover in our future reports. Please feel free to pass the report around and share it with your colleagues.

Riky Gervais on social media

There’s an entertaining interview with comedian Ricky Gervais in The Guardian today where he talks about the role of his blog.

His personal blog gets 300,000 hits a day which he says is more than most daily newspapers.

He uses his blog to protect his reputation and correct misquotes. He says:

‘I don’t do it for people who have slagged me off or don’t like my work…I do it for people who I feel have wronged me. If they misquote me, I think I’m totally justified in saying, ‘I didn’t say that.’ Your reputation is still the most important thing that you’ve got.’

More organisations are begining to realise that a blog and podcasts and strategically well executed social media techniques give you direct access to your audience. You don’t need to be totally dependent on traditional media. And you can correct mistakes quickly and easily.

You can read the full interview here.

And you can follow Ricky Gervais on his blog at

Lick Frozen Yoghurt runs social media competition

Lick Frozen Yoghurt in Brighton is made with fresh yoghurt from a local dairy in Sussex. The farm follows all organic farming practices. Their yoghurt and ice cream are delicious and their social media policies are worth sampling.

After discovering that customers enjoyed taking pictures of themselves eating frozen yoghurt or ice cream, they are encouraging people to post their photos on their site, and this enables them to get a free natural yoghurt. They are listening to their customers and they are rewarding their loyal ones who will then naturally be energised to tell others.

You can also follow them on Twitter.

FedEx looks to social media to humanise the business

Fascinating interview/case study here about how FedEx is using social media.

Good points: they have a strategy in place. A lot of companies still don’t have an overall guiding social media strategy.

If you don’t, and would like help creating one then try us.

What I also like about FedEx is that they see social media as a way of humanising the business. There are so many large monolithic companies out there who appear not to care one fig about who you are when you call, how long you are on the line for etc etc. Social media is a golden opportunity to put some humanity back into your business.

Also what FedEx has clearly realised is that social media is a way of communicating directly with their stakeholders. Again there are many organisations who still persist in spending fortunes on traditional media advertising, broadcasting messages out – often inefficiently, when their customers are using social media and can be engaged with there in more personal and meaningful ways.

Read the full piece here.

The Ecologist turns off the presses

The Ecologist magazine is no longer available in print. The magazine has switched off the presses and is only available online at In print, the magazine’s director, Zac Goldsmith, says the publication is limited and can never reach the audience it aspires to reach. ‘Online our potential readership is limitless. If we get it right, we can reach millions,’he says.

 Of course there are sound environmental reasons for The Ecologist to be saving trees. But you do begin to wonder how long it will be before other magazines and newspapers turn off the presses. Could this be the start of a trend?

At last, measurability with social media advertising

Few marketers these days want to start a campaign without a good idea of what return-on-investment they can expect. That applies as much to social media as to any other marketing channel.

So its good to see the market leader Facebook teaming up with Nielsen, the market research company, to provide the kind of measurability that businesses need. The project, called Nielsen BrandLift, uses opt-in polls to measure consumer attitudes and purchase intent from display advertising that has appeared on the site.

The idea is that Nielsen will carry out regular surveys with the site’s advertisers, and these will appear on Facebook’s homepage in the same space where people see sponsored messages today. “Together we will be able to provide the missing elements to clients seeking better understanding of how Web content and online advertising affect consumer behavior,” says John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen’s online division.

Nielsen BrandLift will launch in the US with select test partners this week and roll out to all Facebook advertisers in the coming months. More details here.

Social media: a stroll in the park?

Here’s a comment that has attracted a bit of attention. It comes from Jordan Rohan, a digital media consultant speaking at this week’s OMMA social media conference in New York.

Jordan was complaining that social media marketing doesn’t automatically lead to sales. It’s like Manhattan’s Central Park, where people go to chill out, watch other people and hang out with friends and family, but not to shop. So apart from a few food vendors there’s not much sales action going on there. On the other hand the real estate around the park is worth an awful lot. Ditto with social media: not many businesses make money from campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, but they should pay attention to the real estate prices. “We will eventually figure out how to harvest all this, but it’s difficult to make money in Central Park,” Rohan says.

It’s a nice image, but it seems a mite misleading to me. Advertising campaigns need to impact on the bottom line, but they are also about raising brand awareness and gaining consumers’ trust. Social networking sites are where a lot of consumers are to be found these days, and brands have to be there too if they want to be noticed and keep a high profile. It’s as simple as that.

In a way, Jordan’s comment makes more sense as a criticism of brand awareness campaigns as opposed to product advertising, which is a whole other story.

Marketers on social media

Marketers and agencies are getting together at this week’s OMMA Global Conference on social media in New York, which should produce some fascinating insights into the extent to which brands are getting their heads round channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Master-cTake this comment from Rob Master, Unilever’s North American media director. Two years ago he was asked how social media could be used to help market unsexy brands like Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Lipton Tea? He hadn’t a clue, he admits. Now he wonders how he could have been so unimaginative. “We’ve gotten a lot more focused and a better understanding of where the consumer is going,” he says. Social media plays “a role underneath everything we’re doing.”

According to Master, Unilever has invested heavily in raising the company’s understanding of social media, including a drive to educate marketing staff on using Twitter.

Monty-bFord’s Scott Monty has gained a reputation for some savvy thinking about social media. At the conference he talked about how Ford set out to “humanise” the brand. “It was about how to connect people with Ford. The common elements of a great company are great products and leadership to drive the vision forward — sticking with a plan while being flexible. We applied that to social media strategy, creating a broad vision statement that would bring us forward, even without knowing what the future would hold.”

Social media isn’t like other forms of advertising, Monty stressed. You don’t just show up at a party, hand round some business cards and leave. You have to invest some time and cultivate relationships.

More on Monty’s remarks here.  I’ll flag up more comments from the conference as they come.