Microsoft and Social Media Leadership Forum

by Justin Hunt

We are putting together some really exciting events for members of the Social Media Leadership Forum over the next coming months.

I’m really excited to hear that Microsoft is looking to host an event for members before the end of the year. It will be fascinating to hear first hand how Microsoft – one of the world’s best known brands – is engaging with social media and to learn their insights and experiences.

If you are a major brand and you want to engage successfully with social media and learn from some of the world’s leading organisations about what they are doing, then please contact who can explain how you and your colleagues can become a member and learn more from these great companies.  Don’t get left behind, playing catch up!!

The Camelot Group joins the Social Media Leadership Forum

by Justin Hunt

The Camelot Group has become the latest leading organisation to join the Social Media Leadership Forum ( which is managed by ItsOpen (

The Social Media Leadership Forum is designed as a friendly place through which leading organisations can share their experiences of social media, learn from each other and gain valuable insights to help ensure their social media presence pays off.

As well as members presenting their experiences to each other, we do invite industry experts to speak with members. We also regularly collect feedback and develop the programme with members to ensure it is highly relevant and useful for them and the companies they serve.

A lot of interest is building around the next key event with Facebook in September which I am really excited about. This will enable members to investigate more about what this immensely influential social network can offer companies; the key tactics for engagement and how to ensure engagement with Facebook works to enhance brands, build awareness and boost the bottom line.

If you feel you are at risk of being left behind with social media or would like to learn more about how to use these powerful new tools to remain relevant with your stakeholders, then please get in touch with Simon () and he can provide you with all the joining information.

ItsOpen clients and social media research

by Justin Hunt

A lot of the companies we are working with are very interested to know more about the level and nature of  the coverage they are getting across social media sites, and the impact this could be having on their reputations. They may have detected coverage they don’t like, or they may sense that something is being said in forums that could be holding back take-up of their services. Or else they might want to know how their competitors are getting involved.

We are finding that search engines, or even official monitoring services, are not as effective as a specialist researcher going deep into forums manually and diving into blogs, for example, to find out what is actually going on.

Even Google comes up with the wrong results sometimes when you are looking for something. Clients really appreciate receiving bespoke reports which are specifically relevant to a particular topic, knowing that it has been researched by people in the know, rather than automatically served up by web crawlers thatdon’t understand the nuances of business sectors or the sensitivities of issues.

When I say specialist researchers, we use people who have written for publications like Prospect or the Economist, to research online topics. We believe it needs that level of expertise to extract real value and insights for companies.

The sheer volume of data and information being generated by social media is enormous. However within this data there is often gold dust that can give you opportunities and help inform the development of wider communications programmes and also help you with ideas for new product and service developments.

But it is important to remember that there are so many areas now where automated search cannot reach. That is why personal expert manual insights – although time-consuming – are critical.

Going cold on email

by Rob McLuhan

Ben & Jerry’s has raised eyebrows by dumping its email campaign in favour of social media. The brand used to send out monthly newsletters, but recipients apparently told it they would prefer to be contacted via Facebook and Twitter, so it is now sending out only one email communication a year.

It’s part of a trend that Gartner flagged up in February, with research showing that a fifth of organisations will be relying on social media within four years (see our post here).

But is it wise to simply switch from one to the other? E-mail has been a hugely successful marketing channel in the past decade, and it’s hard to feel that it could have suddenly become irrelevant. Surveys have consistently shown that businesses that incorporate email as part of a multi-channel marketing strategy get better responses than those that don’t.

It’s easy to get mesmerised by the exponential growth of Facebook – it seems only like last week that it passed the four million user mark and already it’s up to five million. But these are small numbers compared with email users. In addition, the techniques for targeting and addressing them and measuring the outcomes have been honed over years, and are far more sophisticated than anything that social media can yet provide.

A funky ice-cream brand may have particular reasons for wanting to focus on Facebook and Twitter, and it could well be a viable approach for smaller brands with modest resources. But big brands should keep all their bases covered.

Do Twitter ads work?

by Rob McLuhan

Do Twitter ads work? That’s a question that since Twitter launched its Promoted Tweets in April, an ad format based on keywords that comes up in search results.

Since last month, advertisers also have the Promoted Trends option, a daily listing at the bottom of a list of worldwide trending topics on each user’s Twitter homepage, which they are using to provide links to landing pages.

Brands to have tested the water so far include Disney, Sony, cable TV channel TNT, Nike, and Starbucks. But there’s no word as yet on how the ads are performing.

Sceptics think that most of Twitter’s 105 million users will simply learn to screen them out, even though some marketers will find them appealing simply because it’s Twitter.  The first surveys on the subject are keenly anticipated.

Old Spice hits the spot

by Rob McLuhan

Here’s a fascinating example of how the advertising world can get itself bang up to date through the use of social media.  Procter and Gamble, not on the whole known for a relaxed attitude about how its brands are covered in the media, decided for once to go to the opposite extreme, allowing marketers for its Old Spice brand to try a novel and potentially risky approach.

The brand collaborated with its marketing agency, getting together a team of creatives, writers and tech geeks and working with an actor to create video commercials and release them on the Internet in real time (via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs). The spots were quick to do – basically a few seconds around some comedic theme. They were also created from comments about the brand gathered by two social media experts, who were essential elements of the team.

Iain Tait, Global Interactive Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy, explains: “We’re looking at who’s written those comments, what their influence is and what comments have the most potential for helping us create new content. The social media guys and script writers are collaborating to make that call in real time. We have people shooting and we’re editing it as it happens. Then the social media guys are looking at how to get that back out around the web…in real time.”

And apparently it worked. At the end of the first day the clips had been viewed four million times, and the team churned out another bunch the following day.

More details here.

Unacceptable tweets

by Rob McLuhan

I’m still trying to process CNN’s remarkable decision to fire one of its senior editors for what it considered an ‘unacceptable’ tweet (“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”)

The tweet was a message of sympathy for the passing of an Islamic cleric who took a stand against the misogyny for which much of Islamic society is  known.  But he also endorsed terrorism and suicide attacks against the US and Israel. Clearly the latter trumps the former in the minds of most Americans.

A senior British diplomat, Frances Guy, got into the trouble for the same reason, writing on her blog that Fadlallah was a ‘decent man’. She wrote; ‘When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person.’ For this Guy was forced to issue an apology and retraction.

Extraordinary. But at least that was a more measured response than CNN’s. American liberals are incandescent about the company’s ‘gutless decision’ to fire Nasr, complaining of a black vs white, good vs bad mentality that is taking over US politics, in which nuances simply aren’t accepted any more.

Is this a story about social media, or about American politics? Both, obviously. A news broadcaster would have been vulnerable to attack if it had sided with Nasr, and with the right in its present paranoid state it was never even going to try. But how remarkable that a 140 tweet can be headline news and get an otherwise valued member of staff fired – just like that.

Social media effectively removes the barriers between our brains and the outside world -if we use it habitually, our thoughts and imaginings are laid bare for everyone to see. We become public figures, vulnerable to public opinion just as politicians are, and increasingly, like them, liable to pay for indiscretions with our jobs.

Domino’s do well

by Rob McLuhan

Good to see Domino’s specifically linking its growing success to social media. The pizza firm has posted an increase of nearly 29% increase in pre-tax profits in the first half of the year, with like-for-like sales growing by 13.7%.

According to CEO Chris Moore, much of this is down to Domino’s boosting its online activity. Its Facebook site now has more than 36,000 fans, with many more following individual store sites.

Moore also claims to be leading the way with social media initiatives such as affiliate marketing, a ‘superfans’ programme and a link up with Foursquare, the location-based social media site. As well as driving sales, this is also helping to develop customer loyalty, he says.

Can the iPad save Fleet Street?

by Justin Hunt

Writing in this week’s Spectator Magazine, Mark Wood, former editor-in-chief of Reuters and CEO of ITN, recognises that newspapers are losing money hand over fist and considers if Apple may have devised an electronic format that could save the day.

In a fascinating piece, Mark says: ”The clock is certainly ticking. Microsoft gives newspapers ten more years at most as printed artefacts. One Financial Times executive has suggested that the FT will be out of the pink newspaper business in five. Other publishers give it longer: but the time frame is years rather than decades. To stay ahead of the game, newspapers and magazines …will have no choice but to migrate to an online format that people will want to keep paying for.’

Whatever impact the iPad has on newspapers, I think that they are going to have to change in terms of what they offer and how they share their content. The biggest effect the internet has had on newspapers is that it makes news easy to access for free. So getting news in your newspaper is not particularly special and it is often totally out of date by the time you read it.

The Social Web has fundamentally altered how news is created and distributed. A crisis in a country will often lead to citizens creating the news: tweeting; distributing photos; and blogging. How do newspapers respond to these developments?

Also the appeal of the Social Web is that people can talk with their friends directly and share information with them. They are clicking on links, moving around and are dynamic. They are not sitting quietly holding a static newspapers anymore, obediently reading what the editor of the newspaper wants them to read. So how will newspapers respond to that development?

The introduction of another smart and well-designed application from Apple which delivers internet content in a different format does not alter the fundamental underlying behaviours that people are exhibiting on the web. Which means that iPad or not, newspapers now face readers who have more power at their finger tips and far more choice than they ever did before. And, what’s more, the value of social media sites to people lies in the fact that they can create their own media now which is relevant to their lives.

So, to conclude, it is likely to take far more than the iPad to guarantee the successful future of newspapers as they move online to connect with their readers. But I’m sure good newspapers will successfully reinvent themselves to enjoy the benefits of the social media age.

Creating the future newspaper

by Justin Hunt

The Journal Register, a US newspaper company, has signalled the death of traditional news gathering by adopting a completely new, social media-driven process.

Editors and journalists ask the readers online what they would like to have covered, emailing them and sharing ideas with them. They are sharing draft stories with their readers and getting them to comment on them. This is news as a collaborative process.

Rather than journalists saying, ‘we decide the news and here it is, take it or leave it,’ they are involving readers in the process of news generation.

It is a fascinating development and you can’t help thinking that a lot of newspapers who are struggling in the midst of this new world of communications could learn a lot from this company’s example – however foreign it may seem to their assumed patterns of behaviour.

However I think this example works on many levels: sure it is a good insight into how newspapers need to change and the changing relationship between readers v journalists. But also it illustrates, at another level, how businesses and brands need to be more collaborative. They also need to be more open and accountable and involve their stakeholders more in what they are doing and in the shaping of their services and products. Pioneers in this field like Dell are already well ahead of the herd and are adopting these techniques.

What is happening to newspapers is bringing into sharp focus some of the issues that other organisations are facing, as social media continues to accelerate and affect how people think and share information.