Posts Tagged 'social media'

Just *what* do you want?

If, in the future, we’re all going to be sat at our desks blogging, Tweeting, Flickring and whatnot, for the rest of eternity, we’ll probably need e-numbers to get through it.

Whether or not that was one of the reasons behind Skittles taking their home page all social media-like, we’ll never know. But they are one of the more high profile brands to experiment with the various tools online. Whether it’s worked or not is another matter.

To recap: anybody logging into their Twitter last Monday would have probably found a slew of tweets with the hashtag #skittles. These were then fed into the Skittles home page which was updating all mentions of the sweet on Twitter.

After a while people started cottoning onto this and includes tweets about paedophiles and the like to watch them get onto the home page. Social media types are a nice bunch, but we do have a somewhat borderline/evil sense of humour.

Regardless, Skittles were THE trend on Twitter that day, even if it’s difficult to say if this takeover was a good or a bad thing. In the short-term, it definitely worked. The brand was being talked about and I’d imagine there’s a high chance consumption of the rather icky sweet went up among users of the mircoblogging tool.

But there’s still one nagging question here – just what exactly were they hoping to achieve?

Yes, it was a bold move. Yes it was reasonably innovative for such a mainstream brand. Yes, it got them talked about for a short period of time. But, to be blunt, what for? And what now?

Currently their homepage brings up their Wikipedia entry. Which is nice but, um, what precisely are we meant to do with it? Sure, it’s more informative than a garish flash page, but if I wanted to find out about Skittles on Wikipedia I’d, well, go to Wikipedia.

At Econsultancy, Patricio Robles is similarly nonplussed:

“What exactly did Skittles reinforce by turning its homepage into a Twitterstream? That’s the $64,000 question the people in charge of the Skittles brand should be asking themselves because the truth is that buzz doesn’t build, reinvigorate or reinvent brands.

A coherent message does.

I think that’s something marketers need to keep in mind when they experiment with the ever-growing world of social media. If brands see social media as little more than a cheap tool for getting some short-term attention, they might as well stay home. Branding is a long-term game.”

And that is really the problem a lot of brands or companies have with the internet in a nutshell. Most media people have probably been in at least one meeting where somebody asks “Can we get this on the internet / blogs / Twitter?”

Even if it’s the kind of thing that fits well with any given social media site, the ‘what now’ question remains. Skittles have got some great short-term publicity and have shown a lot more social media savvy than a lot of other brands, but now that they’ve got Skittles out there in social media, what do they intend to do with it?

This may well be part of a slow strategy to get Skittles out there bit by bit. If it’s just doing it for the sake of, well, doing it then they’ve got their buzz and then, a few months down the line, everybody will have forgotten about it.

Building a social media presence, be it for your own work, a brand, a personality, a TV show, or whatever isn’t just a case of putting it out into the internet and leaving it.

Sometimes this does work, admitedly, but this usually means you’ve got a simple little thing that users love and start doing their own thing with.

But more often than not, the brand is thrown out in a great blaze of glory and is then sadly neglected when it’s this second step on continual engagement that can yield the greatest benefit in the long run.

And on a slight tangential note, if you want an excellent guide on how to pitch your brand across Twitter, Kai Turner’s post on Mashable is one of the best possible pieces you can read.

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Getting social with Nathan Barley

Bobbie Johnson from the Guardian has had it with social media. It’s easy to sympathise.

“Listen. I have blog. I use Twitter. I idly flick through lists of people I’d forgotten I ever knew on Facebook. I’ve even got a MySpace page, although I don’t like to talk about it. They are great ways of connecting people, and they’re very exciting when you start using them, because they allow virtual contact in ways that are analogous to – if not the same as – real life. You know, communicate with people. That old thing.

Nobody talks about people down the pub laughing about Bale’s expletive-laden bullying as a “social drinking sensation”. They don’t call people giggling about it on the phone as a “social telecommunications sensation”. They call it joking, or they call it gossip, because that’s what people do. Whether they do it online or offline, down the pub or on Facebook doesn’t matter. “Social media” is mainstream – we don’t need to claim any more victories for it.”

Quite so. I’m at a point where I roughly agree with Bobbie as well. I’ve probably spent as much time as anybody hyping up ‘social’ media tools. It was a convenient term, much like ‘new media’ was back in the emerging days of the internet.

It has now crossed into the mainstream. That, I think, we can safely say. But, as Bobbie points out, having Christian Bale’ s rant pinged around Twitter doesn’t act as proof that it’s taking over the world (such proof, for what it’s worth, is pretty easy to accumulate elsewhere).

Wadds wrote last week about the change that was coming in Twitter and other forms of social media (I’m still using the term as it’s convenient) and I think we’re seeing it now.

Now, unless I’ve completely misread his column, I don’t think Bobbie’s calling for the death of social media; rather that he wishes social media people would stop banging on about how great social media is on social media sites.

Christ, I feel incestuous just writing that last sentence.

There reaches a point where, in any technology or movement or whatever you want to call social media, where it edges onto the mainstream and suddenly everybody is an expert on it.

And, as ever, with any kind of new, erm, thing (sorry, I’m casting about for words here and can’t find the right one) there is a lot of bullshit. And a lot of people who get involved for little discernible purposes other than to self-promote their usually overhyped wares.

We’re probably at this stage now.

Now, this isn’t a post where I run screaming at Twitter yelling “YOU’VE CHANGED AND I DON’T LIKE IT” on my part either. But the site – and many other bits have become a mite trying at times. Largely because of the jargon and the self-promotion and the self-satisfaction and God alone knows what. [Insert your own examples here. I’m tired, ok].

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Social media is still important. It is, and will continue to, make an impact on our lives – how we view, consume and engage with both the media and the world in general.

But the likes of Twitter et al are also communication tools. And just as we all use our mobile phones to communicate in different ways, the same could be said for these assorted sites. They are a way of communication. No more, no less. How you choose to use them is up to you.

So, with that in mind, it’s not a surprise that PR (and journalism and the like) is naturally drawn to Twitter. After all, PR is a communications industry.

And, just with any new development, there will always be people in an industry who cotton onto it quicker than others. I guess you could call these people experts.

Whatever title you give them, these will be the people leading the way in training, enthusing and helping their colleagues or industry get the best out of the new technologies.

What’s quite interesting is some of the best people I know in this area have gone quite quiet over various social media outlets (God, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I can’t stop writing the term. I’ll stop it soon, I promise). And that’s probably as good an indication as any that social media’s moved into the mainstream.

It means that they no longer need to shout from the rooftops and are probably getting stuck into work and training and other such things. They’ve not moved on, they’ve just got more on their plates as every area tries to get a piece of the action. And this is a good thing, probably.

No doubt there will now be a slew of blog posts in the coming months claiming social media is dead (we’ve already had this with blogging). It’s not. It’s evolving.

Those who start proclaiming the death of social media are probably either trying to get attention or acting like the cool kid at school who spends ages raving about a band only to disown said band when everybody else realised how good they are. This isn’t the same as fatigue or frustration, which is what Bobbie appears to have.

I still love many aspects of social media. It’s integral to a lot of what I do. Twitter is increasingly useful for work, del.icio.us is a daily essential, I’m using wikis a hell of a lot more and I’ve only just realised how useful Tumblr can be.

But this does not mean I need to run around letting the whole world know I’ve just created a new wiki (although I’m as guilty as anybody of pimping my blog over the assorted networks).

This probably comes across as quite a jumbled post, but I think that’s a reflection of where things are at currently.

Social media tools are being absorbed into the mainstream but the principles guiding them are not new. Gossip is gossip, news is news, no matter how it becomes so. And talking about these wonderful new tools is easy. Doing something with them is considerably harder.

Twitter – and other sites you can lump under the SM umbrella – is useful, fun and interesting. Going around declaring yourself an expert in this probably isn’t. I removed the phrase social media enthusiast from my profile a week or so ago because I realised it made me sound like an utter wanker. And, frankly, I don’t need any extra help in that department.

I’ll finish by lifting Kat Hannaford’s comment from Bobbie’s piece, because it’s delightfully ranty, and pretty much spot on. And she’s one of my favourite, funniest Tweeters:

“Twitter and all the assorted other social networking brainfuckery has sapped the joy right out of the internet in recent months, and it’s taking all my willpower not to tell people to sod off, stop embarrassing themselves, and crawl back to the nook at Shoreditch House that they crawled out of.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to go look at pictures of cats to reinstall a glimmer of hope within me about the benefits of the internet.”

Amen to that. Pictures of cats will still be popular no matter what stage of the web we’re in đŸ™‚

You don’t want that social media project…

Chris Applegate posts a list of 20 familiar signs that a company really doesn’t want to get engaged in social media. It’s brilliantly funny, if not also a tad depressing (but then isn’t all the best humour) as it’s instantly familiar to anyway working in a social media sphere who’s had any of the 20 conversations.

Suw Charman-Anderson follows up with an internal version. Both are spot on. And while the web geeks amongst us giggle, they should also be compulsive reading for anybody or company thinking of getting into social media.

I’ve come across all these comments over God knows how many years in all walks of life. I’ve spoken to a few people who are so enthusiastic about social media but work for companies who take about six months to take any kind of decision on it. I’m quite thankful mine’s pretty proactive and willing to try new things.

Social media isn’t like other popular areas where you can just wade in go “hey, we’re great” and leave. What worked before offline won’t necessarily work online.

The best thing anybody can do if they want their company or client to get into social media is read and listen. Engagement also helps, but I’d honestly say just immersing yourself in blogs, wikis, pods, Twitter and forums and getting a feel for how they work will do no end of good.

If a blogger has a pop at your company, chill. Maybe it’s better to understand the reason behind the rant than panicking or getting worked up about the contents of the post. People say bad things, it happens.

Viral videos are called viral for a reason. If it’s something you’d want to send your mates at a slow day at work, then you’re onto a winner. If you struggle to watch it through, it won’t.

And while mass emailing bloggers may seem like a quick and efficient way to work, it probably won’t generate that much positive coverage. Certainly not compared to if you’ve taken the time to read, engage and see what’s relevant to this particular blog.

It’s not hard to do, but I suspect these won’t be the last conversations Chris and others have on this topic.

[I’d also quite like to add 21. Client puts something on the internet with no links in or out and wonders why nobody visits.]

Going south of the river…

Or look what we’ve gone and done.

For a culture, that spends a fair bit of its life working online, social media types are, well, pretty sociable in the real world. For one thing, they throw great parties and hold regular meetups. One of the nicest things about Twitter and blogging meetups, is you can turn up and not know anybody and people will still, likely as not, know who you are. Even if not, you’ll at least have a topic of conversation to get you started, which is ideal for people such as myself who aren’t natural minglers.

One of my favourite meetups is Lewis Webb’s Shoreditch Twit, an informal gathering in Shoreditch for people on Twitter. There’s nothing much to it – Twitter (geeks) meet down the pub, often with some kind of theme (the last involved free games of table football. I rule at table football). The only downside is Shoreditch is in east London and is a bit of a trek to get home, south of the river.

Via a Facebook conversation with Lolly, I mentioned I was thinking of doing a South of the River Tweet up (sorry, that sounds a bit wanky doesn’t it). A couple of Tweets and emails later, and with Rich also offering his services, the Dirty South Tweet was born, for us Southern types who don’t want to have such a long journey home. It is, if you will, the Shoreditch Twit on tour. Or something.

Of course, it’s not just South Londoners who are invited – any Twitterer, be it north, south, east or west or even, God forbid, outside of London (what do you mean there’s a world outside the capital?) are more than welcome to join us to, well, drink. And chat. And that’s about it.

We’re still in the process of sorting out there whens and wheres, but should have something concrete very very soon. In the meantime, there’s the blog and the Twitter stream – show them both some love by Tweeting or linking đŸ™‚

Any excuse for a drink, really….

What’s really fantastic about this is the idea came from one quick musing on a Facebook post and has already started to take shape just 48 hours later – and the Dirty South Tweet blog is already doing over double the traffic this place does on a good day.

What’s even more fantastic, is just a few years ago, this bunch of people probably would have only known each other in passing, maybe meeting at the occasional event, but rarely making the effort to contact each other via email to say: “Hey, let’s get a group of us together and head out to the pub for a drink.”

Forget your marketing, PR and whatnot for a while. Twitter, Facebook and blogging have made it easier for like-minded people to get together down the pub, without having to utter the words “I’m meeting somebody from the internet,” and having to explain it’s nothing to do with sex.

It’s one of the reasons I love social media. It’s not called social for nothing.

Stephen Fry Twitters. Twitter flutters.

This has to be one of the most exciting email titles I’ve ever received: “Stephen Fry is now following you on Twitter.”

Ok, so it may have been an automated email from Twitter, but there’s no doubt that this is the real Stephen Fry following me and, at the last count, 515 others.

After announcing the news on his website earlier today, he’s nearly hit 800 followers as I write this, and has caused a massive stir in the Twitter community. This isn’t just any celebrity – this is Stephen Fry, who has got a devoted online fan following and makes a big effort to interact with his fans.

He’s already had a small impact – anybody who didn’t know he’s on tonight’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks does know and just one small Tweet, with typical self-deprciating humour, has probably boosted viewing figures for the show a bit.

It’s also set the mircoblogging tool buzzing and is currently the topic of conversation, with people equally excited as I was that Stephen Fry is following them. Or begging for him to follow them.

You wonder how many of the fans from his website forum have signed up because he has. And without wanting to sound too hyperbolic, could Stephen Fry be the person responsible for taking Twitter even further into the mainstream? How many will join just to follow him?

Of course Stephen Fry isn’t the only celebrity on Twitter. Andy Murray’s on there as well, providing a small snapshot of his life (which sounds, in all honestly, exactly like you’d expect a young, reasonably level-headed tennis player to sound). There’s probably a few others I don’t know of. But somehow, Stephen Fry really is an A-list celeb on Twitter. And one that will probably interact.

This Tweet from CMRLee probably expresses what many Twitterers are feeling today:

“I’ve never seen anyone joining Twitter to cause as much excitement as @stephenfry. This is my first experience of Twitterstarstrucknes.”

It’ll be interesting to see how his Twitter feed develops. Will it see other celebrities joining? Would it work for other celebrities who’ve got very different personas and fanbases from Stephen Fry?

One thing’s for sure, Stephen Fry can show a lot of other celebrities the way when it comes to using social media online. He could teach a lot of PR people a thing about this as well.

Exeweb: a social media success story (before we even had social media)

My friend Steve deserves many hearty slaps on the back and no small amount of congratulations. Exeweb, the forum he created for Exeter City fans, recently celebrated its tenth birthday.

But this isn’t another Exeter City football post from me – Steve’s site is a perfect example of social media in action, and has been such years before the term social media was ever invented.

Going further, you could put forward a significant argument that Exeter City FC would not exist were it not for Exeweb. More of that in a minute.

One thing that is immediately striking about Exeweb is the sense of community on the message boards. There’s a familiarity between posters you don’t often find on forums. Indeed, many of Exeweb’s users know each other offline but got to know each other through Exeweb.

The site has enhanced the activity that brought them together in the first place – supporting Exeter City. Strangers have met up for drinks, shared lifts to away games and even formed their own football team out of it.

Ideas are exchanged and friendships are made, and for exiled fans, the forum is an invaluable resource. These are not geeks or early adopters – they’re just football fans coming together online to share their passion.

Last May, when Exeter made it to Wembley for the Blue Square Premier play-off final, a London-based Exeter fan, Alan Crockford, hired out a nearby pub specifically for Exeweb users and their families to meet and drink before the game. Many new friendships were formed on that day and created a sense of togetherness that wouldn’t have been present if the fans had scattered around assorted pubs.

But Exeweb has gone beyond adding to fans support of the club. It has, quite literally, helped save the club from ruin.

Five and a half years ago, the club was taken over by businessmen John Russell and Mike Lewis. The previous chairman, Ivor Doble, was in his 70s and looking to sell. Russell and Lewis came into town as the proverbial white knights.

Lewis had been involved at Swansea City, where he’d controversially sold the club to £1 to revilled owner Tony Petty. Such was the force of hatred towards Lewis in Swansea at the time that he couldn’t travel to away games at the Vetch without police protection.

Russell, meanwhile, had been chairman of Scarborough when they were relegated from the League. He also had a conviction for obtaining property by deception. Had the fit and proper owner test been in place at the time, it is unlikely he could have taken over the club.

But at the time the pair talked the talk and promised to take the club to new heights, as all owners do. Were it not for Exeweb, they would have taken the club to new lows.

A few months into their reign, certain Exeweb users – a couple of them local journalists – started noticing a few promises and claims from the pair didn’t add up.

Money promised from a chairty event that, bizarrely, saw Michael Jackson speak at the park hadn’t materialised, and a promotional shot that featured new manager Neil McNab had been taken BEFORE the previous manager, John Cornforth, had been sacked. These were just a small number of the strange stories coming out of St. James Park.

Slowly, but surely, more and more members of Exeweb came to realise Russell and Lewis weren’t exactly the saviours of the club and the site’s message boards started to contain closer scrutiny of the pair’s dealings – scrutiny that suggested the club was in serious financial problems.

At the same time, the club’s Supporters’ Trust had been slowly gaining momentum, again thanks to Exeweb. Originally set up to help the club find funds to purchase striker Gary Alexander, the Trust’s aims had changed to getting fan represntation on the board and ensuring the club survived the financial crisis.

Exeweb gave the Trust a much wider audience thanthe offline world could provide it. Some of the key players in the Trust had their passion for Exeter reawakened through Exeweb, or got to know each other through the site.

At the end of the season, Exeter were relegated from the League and the nowRussell and Lewis were arrested (and subsequently convicted a few years later) for fruad. Exeter City FC was in massive debts and Ivor Doble had neither the money nor the energy to help the club.

In stepped the Supporters’ Trust, with volunteers – many of them brought together through Exeweb – giving up their time to do everything possible to save the club. And they succeeded by the skin of their teeth.

The club was hours away from going into liquidation when the Trust managed to get together a deal for the creditors and ensure Exeter still had a professional football club.

Granted, Exeweb couldn’t take the credit for this. But many of the individuals who helped save the club in the weeks after Russell and Lewis’ arrest wouldn’t have got involved had it not been for Exeweb.

As Damien Mills aka Egg, Trust member and one of the earliest critics of Russell and Lewis said in a recent discussion about Exeweb:

“In the summer of 2003, a series of meetings took place at the Exeter Airport Business Park premises of Ian Huxham’s Potbury Signs. Those meetings were, IMHO, absolutely critical in securing Trust control of the club and, in turn, its very future.

I can’t pretend to speak for all those present, and readily admit my memory isn’t what it might be, but I’m fairly sure that some of the key players within that disparate group of people – think former directors Barry Sansom and Geoffrey Styles to name but two – were brought together by ExeWeb.

Certainly, Terry Pavey, who played a very significant role back then, would tell you his passion for the football club was reawakened by stumbling across ExeWeb while exiled in Kent. Moreover, I’m firmly of the opinion that Russell and Lewis might just have ‘got away with it’ were it not for the opposition to them which, to a large extent, grew out of the site.

In short, I think anyone with ‘a bit of Exeter City in their heart’ owes Steve a debt of gratitude – all the more so when you consider ExeWeb is a labour of love for which, it seems to me, he receives plenty of brickbats and nowhere near enough plaudits.”

The Trust is now the majority shareholder in Exeter City. The fans, in this case, really do own the club. I consider myself proud that I’m a shareholder in the club I love.

For all the talk surrounding internet football venture MyFootballClub.co.uk, it’s got nothing on Exeweb. Steve’s site may not own the club, but many members of Exeweb are shareholders. Moreover, it brought together the fans at the club’s darkest hour, and was able to quickly galvinise them into saving Exeter City FC.

Steve has maintained Exeweb largely with his own time and money, and the help of volunteer moderators. Over the years, he’s had a fair few angry calls from people at the club, annoyed at things that have been posted on the forums – although many at the club know how important the site is.

He’s even had offers to sell up. He refused, to ensure Exeter CIty fans could continue to have an independent voice.

Exeweb’s popularity has spread. It has its own fan page on Facebook and there’s plenty of Exeter City supporters who use Facebook as a supplement to Exeweb. As social media tools expand into the mainstream, expect Exewebbers to filter into them.

Steve probably never set out to create a perfect example of a powerful social media tool. He probably never even envisioned the role it would play in the club’s future when he first set it up. But achieved his aim to provide a place online for fans of the club to chat. And that’s expanded beyond his wildest explanations.

I’ll leave it to the man himself to sum things up:

“As it’s evolved over the years, news sterted to pop up on the forum before I could type it up and if there anything people don’t know, they ask and get answers and opinion. As a model of web usability, that is as damned near to perfect as you can get!

What I’m trying to say is that I think this site is unique. The fact it’s survived ten years is testament to all of you as much as it is me.”

Steve, the web and all Exeter City fans salute you.


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