A novel car campaign

by Rob McLuhan

Hyundai is the latest car maker to shift to social media for its advertising. It’s innovative launch campaign for the 2011 Sonata this summer uses conventional television ads but centres mainly on testimonials from prospective buyers on YouTube and .

The company’s Facebook page invited applications to join a test drive campaign and post uncensored comments recorded by a hidden camera. These are also featured on the TV spots and YouTube.

More details here.

The risks of doing nothing with social media

by Justin Hunt

Some leading organisations are reticent about engaging with social media, others are more proactive. The risks of doing nothing though are high.

Here is a list of a few of the risks if you do nothing with social media:

1) You will not see or hear what your customers are saying about your brand and product and services

2) You will not be where your stakeholders are

3) Disaffected customers could coalesce around you in seconds and you will not be prepared

4) Your brand/organisation will lose relevance

5) Your recruitment will suffer because new talent will not have time for an organisation that does not use the latest social media tools for business communications

6) Your competitors will move into this space and gain advantages over you

7) Customer complaints will fester and go unanswered

8.) Your recruitment costs will continue to rise whereas social media can slash the cost of recruitment

9) You will squander the opportunity to set the news agenda by using tools like Twitter to publish your results

10) NGOs will capitalise on your dinosaur-like attitudes by moving swiftly and setting up groups on Facebook and building online coalitions

11) Investors will read forums for insights into your business which you will not know about

12) You will not reach stakeholders who do not read newspapers or who do not watch much television

13) You will fail to see how journalists are using social media for research for their stories

14) You will be vulnerable to a Twitter story leading search engine queries about your firm

15) Opportunities for coverage of your stories will shrink as traditional media shrinks

16) Contact books based on established media will lose their influence as bloggers become more influential

17) If a crisis breaks, you could be advised by a PR agency whose mindset -led by an old board – has been deeply defined by the rules of established media. Which means the advice you receive could be suspect as it is not attuned to the new fast-evolving culture – even though they might say it is!

18) Younger members of your organisation who are more open to social media will feel disenfranchised and morale and productivity will drop

19) You will miss out on opportunities to leverage these new tools to boost your communications messages

20) Your company will be seen as faceless and not accountable or open

21) Your communications will be based on a broadcast model at a time when users of social media are not impressed by adverts shouting at them to buy products and services

22) Your press releases will not gain coverage

23) Your content will not be easily found

24) Your messages will become inaccessible

25) People will not visit your website in significant numbers or for any lengthy period of time

26) You will fail to capitalise on the marketing opportunities presented by these new disruptive social technologies

27) You will fail to see the value in treating your customers as partners and jointly developing new products with them

28) There will be no opportunities for you to have direct one-to-one conversations with your customers

29) You will be left behind, be playing catch up and fail to use social media to expand your customer base

30) People will not know the true story about your business

31) If you are slow to engage with social media you will be slower to learn and you will lose competitive advantages.

I could go on. Essentially the status quo is no longer a strategy, as probably most of you know. You have to be where your stakeholders are, whether you like it or not.

Feel free to add any other points. It would be great to have your thoughts too!

They can’t do it all!

by Justin Hunt

Been having some amusing phone calls with in-house heads of communications who are being bombarded with calls by digital and PR agencies and ad agencies all claiming to now offer social media.

The fact is that none of these agencies can do everything – whatever they might say. No one can be in the best in everything and one size does not fit all within this market.

I had a conversation with an experienced observer of the digital scene who said he knew of well-known agencies who often dropped the ball in certain areas where they claimed to be highly competent in a very glossy way.

ItsOpen (itsopen.co.uk) has been in social media for more than two years and some of our team have been involved in social media longer: I was writing about social media for The Guardian in 2005 and have the article to prove it!!

In the early days, it was extremely hard in some situations to get the attention of some companies who simply thought social media was a fad which could not be taken seriously. Some still hold that view, despite the mounting numbers and hard evidence to the contrary.

Many agencies are now simply adding on social media because they feel they should. Not because they actually specialise in the area.

Social Media is all we do at ItsOpen (itsopen.co.uk). We are not good at everything and we aim to concentrate on what we do best, based on the feedback we get from our clients and stakeholders.

PR agencies may claim to specialise in social media but many of them don’t. In fact, the boards of these companies – who set the culture – are often immersed in an established media mindset. I know examples of chairmen of famous PR companies, listed on the stock market, who simply see social media as another channel. It is hard for them to think
otherwise as their rise can be attributed to their brilliant understanding of established media and the contacts they built through established media. They spend their private time with representatives of the same mindset who simply reinforce the culture.

Wise clients know who is simply chasing a slice of the social media pie and those that are genuinely committed to social media, have something different and valuable to offer, and are naturally interested in all the latest thinking, and were before the change driven by these highly disruptive technologies began breaking into the mainstream.

Many leading companies have learnt – often to their cost – that their established media PR agencies with their established media credentials, are not always best equipped to help them successfully navigate the fast moving and unique culture of social media.

ItsOpen’s social media training – a sneak peek

In this video you’ll see snippets from Justin’s introductory session to a full day social media workshop that ItsOpen gave to a FTSE 100 client recently.

The training workshops ItsOpen do are highly tailored to a given company’s industry and the issues they are facing.

If you are interested in our social media training we would be very happy to hear from you. Together we will discuss and plan the day and come up with the best tailored training solution for your company and your staff.

Reversing the paradigm?

by Rob McLuhan

Sharing free information is what makes the whole social media thing so powerful. But what if you had to pay for it?

A crazy idea, surely, that would defeat the whole point of social networking. Information as a free commodity is increasingly what makes the world go round. But Sean Carton argues in that for some people exclusivity is something to be sought after. Take Google’s beta trials – the cache of being asked to participate is so great for a certain audience that the restricted number of invitations are traded like a sort of currency.

Carton’s point is that as people become used to having free access to information, that which is restricted will start to have a greater appeal.  What, he asks, if businesses began to monetize social media access not by seeking more followers or subscribers or “friends” but by restricting access?

‘What if Justin Bieber charged a subscription fee for his tweets? What if you could only get “exclusive” Lady Gaga pictures when you paid for the privilege? What if you could only become a fan of a brand (with access to insider information, special deals, etc.) if you were either invited through some exclusive process or had to pay to get in?’

Reversing the paradigm faces various obstacles at present. An obvious one is that networking sites aren’t geared for a ‘pay-to-play’ model. But sooner or later businesses are going to start thinking about how they can use information not merely to draw attention to themselves but also to add revenues, and there may be an opening here they can work on.

Read Carton’s interesting piece .

Anyone for bespoke social media training?

by Justin Hunt

When it comes to established media training, companies are spoilt for choice. But here at ItsOpen we think that leading organisations are woefully under-served when it comes to receiving specialist social media training.

Through our work for The Social Media Leadership Forum we are getting plenty of fresh insights into what constitutes best practice. Together with our members we are learning a lot about the complex  challenges large organisations face from social media and the opportunities social media presents if these new technologies are used well.

Quality independent  training is, we believe, the way forward, as this will help improve the quality of social media engagement and understanding across organisations. We at ItsOpen already provide training services to a number of large organisations,  and we are putting together a new programme of  specialist social media training from September onwards – this will cover topics such as:  helping companies develop online conversation skills; extracting the maximum value from YouTube; enhancing your brand through Facebook and using Twitter to achieve your communications and marketing goals.

We are currently at draft stage, and discussed what we wanted to offer on our weekly team call yesterday. It was agreed that we will also continue to offer highly bespoke training services to meet the specific needs of companies and their teams. If you feel your company could benefit from independent specialist social media training which is useful, relevant and engaging – with plenty of opportunities for interaction – then please get in touch.

It could be your media team, or your investor relations team, or your marketing team or your customer service team. Social media touches all aspects of the business – it is not going to go away and it is best to be prepared and to start to develop your thinking and skills to improve the quality of your decision making going forward.  It will also help to empower you to properly assess the quality of ideas and proposals you receive from your PR or digital agencies.

If you are interested it would be great to hear from. You can reach me at:

US case studies

by Rob McLuhan

Here are a bunch of useful case studies that offer insights into how American businesses are taking advantage of social media.

One concerns Intuit, which at tax-form filling time has 20 million customers for its online tool, but can’t rely on getting them back each year. It learned that half of its customers use Facebook and have 150 friends on average, and wanted to turn these networks to its advantage.  It encouraged them to post a review after finishing their taxes and share it via social media. 50,000 people shared reviews, and three quarters of those who viewed them and clicked through were new customers. Four times as many people were likely to click on a review than on a banner ad.

See here for more details, plus case studies on American Eagle Style Shop, Turner TV and others.

The new ethics of being transparent

by Justin Hunt

The ethic of transparency needs to be adopted by those companies who wish to flourish in the social media age. There is a need to hand over control through openness and information ; and to prosper companies should be open in terms of listening and involving their constituents in all their key processes as far as they can. Transparency will build a relationship of trust with your stakeholders and open up new opportunities.

Jeff Jarvis, named as one of the 100 worldwide media leaders by the World Economic Forum at Davos, who blogs at www.buzzmachine.com,  argues that he does not believe that  PR agencies are equipped for the social media age as they are not likely to be transparent.

‘PR people are trying to use the tools of web 2.0, Google, search, and social media to update their practices…..They have also been burned,’ writes Jarvis in his book, ‘.  Jarvis adds that PR advisers should try to convince clients that it is in their interest to be transparent and honest as obfuscations and lies can be exposed so easily online. ‘We expect companies to have sites, to share information, to be factual if not fully transparent. Openness is the best PR you can have. Still, because they only advise, PR people aren’t often in the position to change how a company is managed,’ writes Jarvis.

I am  sure there are plenty of PR agencies who will want to tell Jarvis where he is wrong, especially as he accuses them of joining ‘in any new digital fad that comes round the corner’ to educate their clients about them. However Jarvis makes some important points about the ways in which leading companies have to engage with the social networking culture: you need to speak with a human voice as if you were speaking face-to-face and be honest when admitting your mistakes and when you are disagreeing with the public. He also critises PR agencies for using social media tools to simply update traditional PR stunts.

A lot of important and well-known organisations have seen their reputations badly bruised through social media – some have been ravaged . More will follow. As social media becomes  increasingly more influential and pervasive, it surely will not be long before more CEOs, marketing directors and directors of corporate communications recognise that they require the best specialists rather than a one-size fits all approach to their  company communications.

Barclays joins the Social Media Leadership Forum

by Justin Hunt

We are really excited with the news that Barclays has just joined The Social Media Leadership Forum.

To have all these major companies now coming together regularly to discuss social media developments and issues provides an excellent platform for learning, experience-sharing and for practical insights.

The Social Media Leadership Forum is managed by ItsOpen, (itsopen.co.uk) who created the initiative last year.

If you are part of a leading organisation and would also like to get involved with all these other major companies, please contact

Email isn’t over

by Rob McLuhan

It’s easy to think that social media has eclipsed email as the new must-have advertising channel. It’s what everyone is talking about these days, while email is so over.

Not so. A recent survey from eConsultancy showed 42% of US consumers saying they prefer to get ads for sales and offers via email, compared with only 3% who preferred social media.

The reality, as Steve Rubel argues, is the same as it has always been, that marketing channels work best when they are used in combination, and that applies as much to email and social media as to anything else.

‘Quietly and steadily,’ Rubel says, ‘email marketing is evolving and turning more social, thanks to a blitz of homegrown innovations, acquisitions and start-ups that are reinventing the platform. Many companies are building end-to-end “social CRM” tools that will help marketers manage their relationships by mashing up existing customer touch points and social-networking sites.’

Rubel goes on to identify some of the key players in this space, such as  Constant Contact, Rapportive and MailChimp. See his piece here.