Who owns social media?

by Justin Hunt

Of course no one owns social media. Social Media is the way people express themselves using powerful new tools, and they cannot be controlled. No one can stop someone tweeting a piece of news, for example, which can then trigger off a groundswell of activity online.

Companies have been structured into hierarchies, with information traditionally moving from the bottom upwards and top downwards. This is how most companies are modelled. But social media travels freely, regardless of company structures – anyone with a phone can quickly find information and share it with their friends. It is so accessible, and there are so many ways for people to use social media online and express themselves without having to have a meeting first, write a proposal, make a business case, seek permission or go through interview processes.

Social media is very fast, 24 hours a day, accessible, open and democratic. So if you have something interesting to say, then you will be rewarded with people online voting you up the pecking order or sharing your content. They will not read or share what you say simply because you hold a certain position in a company. Nor will they necessarily respect you because you hold a certain position in a company. It is what you say and what you share, and how you say it and how you share it that counts.

Against this backdrop – or rather infiltration of life with social media through phones, laptops, blackberries, iPads, TVs, game consoles etc – companies naturally need to put in place social media strategies.

So who owns the strategies? There are a variety of models in the marketplace, including a centralised approach where a team stipulates company policies and guidelines, sets out best practice, and oversees training of people, so that these then officially engage on behalf of the company – and so on. Some companies are more engaged than others, depending on the cultural condition of the business, the types of people within it and their mindsets, and how it is structured.

There is an interesting piece about this from Intel. They admit they cannot turn all their employees into social media experts but they realise they need to provide training and guidelines to protect the brand. Having spent so much on those ‘Intel inside’ ads, they don’t want someone to blow it by tweeting something damaging.

Intel’s approach is centralised, which clearly works for them, but in the social media world there is no so-called ‘centre’. Valuable insights and information can break from anywhere, which means management of companies has to be more open-minded and more open in structure and in sharing of information.

There needs to be more opportunities for staff to participate in the making of decisions. It is a difficult balance to strike between maintaining control and being open. The degrees of tension that companies experience, and how they manage that tension, will go some way, I think, to defining their successful transition to a more open and connected world.

BBC 6 Music reprieved

by Rob McLuhan

The BBC’s threat to axe its alternative music station 6 Music was always going to be a battle ground for social media. The cynics, including me, assumed that it was never meant seriously – the Beeb’s real concern was that after eight years so few people knew of its existence, and after the inevitable outcry from its adoring niche audience, and the newspaper headlines that followed, it would become much better known.

So no surprise that the BBC Trust has now stepped in and rescinded the management’s decision. No surprise, either, that the reversal is being hailed as a triumph for social media. As has been noted, in earlier times a few outraged letters would have been printed in newspapers – and ignored. At the most, a paper might have started a campaign, which might or might not have worked. This time, 180,000 people joined a Facebook campaign and millions of tweets were made on the subject. The BBC also received more than 25,000 emails and nearly 50,000 online responses.

But who was in the driving seat here? Did the BBC buckle in the face of a rebellion by its customers. Or did it provoke the rebellion for its own nefaarious purposes? If the latter, it’s an interesting example of how social media can be harnessed to achieve a particular effect. Yes, it’s manipulative, but only in the sense that all marketing is manipulative, and if everyone ends up getting what they want, what’s to complain of?

Lego retold

by Rob McLuhan

The story of customers coming to the rescue of toy manufacturer Lego is one of the most striking examples of the potential of social media, told here by Jake McKee, who at the time was the company’s global community relations specialist.

By the end of the 1990s Lego had lost touch with its customers and didn’t know what they were doing with its product. It even had a policy of not talking to them. As a result, the company had stopped innovating, and sales were stagnant.

McKee realised that the product’s fans held the key to the future. Not the kids, who had little to spend, but adult hobbyists, who on average spent $1000 a year on it, and were frustrated that the company didn’t listen to them. So much so that they had created their own communities. By reaching out to them, and simultaneously persuading his bosses to come down from their ivory tower, he was able to reinvigorate the company.  Product innovation, word-of-mouth and sales all saw significant jumps.

This predates the age of Facebook and Twitter but it’s a powerful reminder of the importance of opening up to customers.

Word of Mouth marketing event

by Rob McLuhan

If you happen to be in New York on July 20, here’s a one-day event you might like to check out. It’s called  ‘How to be great at word of mouth marketing’, run by Gaspedal.

There will be twelve seminars, on subjects such as ‘How to be awesome on Twitter and Facebook’, ‘How to work with bloggers and influencers’, and ‘How to create offline word of mouth’.

There will also be twelve case studies, including Dell’s Caroline Dietz talking about how the company revolutionised the way it engages its customers. Other brands featured will include Dominos, Estée Lauder and Makers Mark.

Finally there will be group discussions with authors on social media, including Jeanne Bliss, Douglas Atkin and Paul Gillin.

For a taster, check out this clip of Estée Lauder’s Sam Decker talking about how the company uses fan feedback to improve customer service and build trust (scroll down to find the July 1 post).

ITV incorporates social media into news bulletins

by Justin Hunt

Further evidence - if you needed it – of social media becoming increasingly more pervasive. We are going to see broadcasters incorporating social media more into their programmes. This is just the start.

Social media is going to be accessible through more and more platforms.

Watch PepsiCo’s social media monitoring operation

by Justin Hunt

Here’s a YouTube of how PepsiCo is monitoring what people are saying through social media about its brand.

The company has a control room with banks of screens. It looks like a TV production room. But maybe it’s a glimpse of the future: showing how brands will need to re-organise themselves to keep fully informed about how stories and comments about their campaigns are playing out across the social web.

Sharing links in emails

by Rob McLuhan

Is it a good idea to include sharing links to social media in your marketing emails? One would think it couldn’t hurt, yet an email marketing company that recently surveyed its customers reports that only 13% did so. However those that did enoyed significantly higher click-through rates – an average of 30% more.

The number of links provided also has an influence on click through. Most of the icons were for Twitter and Facebook, as one would expect, with MySpace and LinkedIn featuring less strongly, and Digg hardly ever. But whereas messages with just one icon showed an average of under 9% higher click throughs over messages with no icon, those with three or more generated over 28% higher click-throughs than those with one icon, and 55% higher than those with none.

Food for thought. More details here.

Dell update

by Rob McLuhan

A newspaper based in Austin, Texas, has done an interesting update on the use of social media by its friendly neighbourhood computer giant, Dell.

After launching a social media and community department four years ago, to manage consumers’ burgeoning use of the Internet, the company now treats social media just as much a part of doing business as conventional advertising, the paper says, using it in all its departments to connect with customers.

Some 3.5 million people communicate with Dell via Twitter, Facebook, Direct2Dell and IdeaStorm, according to the company’s latest statistics, and around 1.5 million customers follow it on Twitter.

Recently it recruited three high-profile social media experts, including Adam Brown, who was previously director of digital communications at Coca-Cola.

Read the article here.

‘Power’ Twitter tips

by Justin Hunt

Chris Brogan has produced a list of ‘power’ Twitter tips. It is a long list. But there are a couple of nuggets in there for businesses.

In particular I like: ‘invite your customers to Twitter, then make it worth it for them’

I think too many companies view Twitter from their own narrow perspective and not enough from the perspective of their  diverse range of stakeholders.

Also, I just don’t think that pumping out links to press releases to every stakeholder is a credible strategy. To journalists and analysts yes, but not to every stakeholder of your business. Twitter needs to be used more imaginatively.

In an established media context, companies don’t offer the same story to every newspaper, radio station, and publication regardless of the different editorial styles and demographics, so why should they use social media as if it is read by one passive monolithic audience?

I also liked this tip for businesses: ‘use Twitter as a personalised communications tool, not another blast’

I couldn’t agree more.  Social media presents a unique opportunity for businesses to present themselves in more individual ways, and to treat customers and stakeholders in more personal ways.

The participative social media culture invites businesses to drop the corporate mask, get involved, and be more friendly.  Think First Direct with its friendly, real customer service and less like a big stony hearted, impersonal Government department helpline.

It is essential that businesses use these tools to reach out to their stakeholders, to build influential online coalitions with the aim of creating online fan communities.

The aim is to be less of a  stranger to your customers and stakeholders in this networked world, to listen to them, to take on board what they are saying and to talk with them. This is so you win their trust and acceptance and become recognised members of their communities.

Then if a problem or issue raises itself they are less likely to go screaming off, forming a mob, and generating diastrous comments about you. They will instead come to you directly and listen to what you have to say.

Some companies are behaving as if they can act despite what is being said on social media or in denial of existence. Such a position is unsustainable.

Facebook claims now to have about 400m active users worldwide. I think if the FT or Times had those numbers, then companies would be investing in resources to get their messages across!

Disney’s CEO on importance of social media engagement now

by Justin Hunt

It is really worth setting aside a short amount of time to watch this fascinating FT interview with Bob Iger, CEO of Disney.

Iger  succinctly explains his views to FT editor, Lionel Barber, about the importance of organisations embracing social media to remain relevant to their audiences.

He underlines the fact that companies cannot expect audiences to come to their web sites any more and says that you ‘have to fish where the fish are’.  He says a critical reason for embracing social media is that Disney wants to remain relevant. As  a brand it doesn’t want to allow itself to be relegated to the old platforms; and it wants to be there first so it learns quickest.

A great quote from Iger in this interview with Barber is when he says: ”The status quo is not a strategy.’ He emphasises the need that the world is changing  and that Disney has to look at that world from the perspective of its consumers and not from the perspective of people who don’t want to embrace social media for a host of reasons.

Iger argues that social media presents a platform to learn from customers, listen to customers, communicate with customers and trade with customers.

Disney has  the right mindset from the top – and that matters a lot.  Iger sees social media for what it is. He is not threatened by it. He wants the business to adapt to it quickly and that is what Disney is doing.