Category Archives: Social networking

Are you Lissted?

Journalists have adopted Twitter wholeheartedly, so wouldn’t it be useful to have them all in one place, accessible to PR professionals and businesses alike?

Lissted is an attempt to fill that need.

It is an easy to use tool that allows users to select on location (UK, USA as well as worldwide), sectors (which can be broken down in a number of subsets), by individual or outlet.  You can even see someone’s Klout score if you really want.

For those wanting to invest (between £99 -£ 149 a month) there are additional features such as tools to monitor key terms, sentiment and influencers – reputation management rather than media relations (no value judgement intended).

While it is quick amass a wealth of Twitter addresses that you can follow, is it really useful?

I like it and it is a short cut to acquiring journalist’s Twitter addresses although PR databases generally offer this information.  Nevertheless it is probably an easier to use method although some will prefer doing it while building lists and campaigns on their current systems.

However if a business believes this will give it access to millions of pounds worth of editorial coverage it could be disappointed.

Why Lissted is not a complete solution (at a basic level) for gaining coverage for businesses:

  • Journalists often do not talk shop online – I rarely see them asking for specific stories, people, companies etc.  It is often used as a personal social media tool.
  • Journalists have to follow you or your brand to find stories, they often don’t follow back, unless they have time to search.
  • If journalists do follow back can you provide good copy, do you know a good story?
  • Do businesses have the time to monitor and analyse in addition to their roles?

Listted is a very useful addition for those looking to expand their Twitter horizons in regard to journalists.  However e-mail and databases are still are the language for media relations communication although there will be stories of success using this approach.

It might be that the reputation management is the selling point (as the access to Twitter addresses is free).

Lissted is a useful addition and I have used it to follow several PR and marketing journalists all within 10 minutes of signing on.

Myspace to make comeback?

Myspace’s revamp is an improvement but is it enough to make a difference to attracting users?

Myspace, the social media tool of just a few short years ago (News Corps thought it was worth £361 million in 2005) is trying to make a comeback.

But can it reclaim some market share?

Probably not to any notable extent against Facebook and Twitter, and it is not realistically aiming to usurp its social media successors  with its new makeover.

Yet the site, which has 54 million users according to comScore, is looking to build-up numbers, gain more traction, especially in the music industry and with music fans in general, and most importantly regain some initiative and momentum.

Whether this latest revamp has any substantial results seems to be doubtful based on comments to be found on varied news channels and blogs.

For those that are intersted Myspace’s video might be of interest.

PR starts with marketing or at least a strategy

At a recent client meeting about launching the organisation’s social media it was clear that a well-defined strategy was absent.

Plenty of issues, ideas and risks were mentioned in a haphazard way.  It became clear that without going through a planning process the social media would be disjointed, disorganised and perhaps disappointing.

Results, value, ROI are the recession buzzwords and so without a clear targeted strategy that encompasses the issues of the organisation (including being especially risk averse in this instance) it is likely that a successful programme will be compromised from the start.

It is all very well to skip any real planning and “get stuck in.”

Yes, time pressure is there and well as the pressure to drive results, but rushing in without going through a planning phase is a false economy.

But this planning strategy’s roots went deeper than social media.

There is a need for a clear general communications plan.

It is no good having social media guidelines, trained staff and objectives if the foundations are not there: what are we trying to communicate for the organisation and to what ends.

Social media is an offshoot of PR, and it is an offshoot of marketing.  It should serve the marketing needs of a business.  Yet, how often does it come into a campaign for SMEs?

(The organisation in question is more than a micro outfit, it is substantial to say the least).

So, in this case, the social media campaign looks to be beginning with the marketing planning, something that should be more common that perhaps it is in the PR industry.

Social media salaries – is the only way down?

socialmedia salaries
Social media salaries will suffer from too many people being able to offer them as there is no barrier to entry, won’t they?

Social media salaries can be attractive to say the least.  But is this a transitory stage of the social media profession, one where things might not remain so upbeat for those making a career in this brave new world?  I think it might be.

Social media is at a stage where there is a notable skills gap but also a desire or pressure on companies to “join the conversation.”  Add a lack of resource, time and staff that understand social media and you have a recipe for over inflated wages surely?

Outsource to an agency to run everything and bills can mount up quickly.

But can this state of affairs exist for long, probably not.

The reasons for this seem fairly evident:

  • Social media is becoming more familiar to non-marketing professionals and those that might be seen as keepers of the blog or Twitter page that already reside in the business.
  • More and more younger professionals, having grown up with social media, are available and are willing to work for quite low wages in many cases
  • The ROI has not been proved to many businesses and so they are unwilling to pay large sums

So perhaps the days of outsourcing community management projects are coming to an end for all but the big brands, and social media will become part of a PRs or marketer’s role in SMEs.

Indeed, at a recent CIM talk on social media benchmarking an attendee from a leisure company complained that he was being quoted the princely sum of £700 a month!

It does not seem an unreasonable sum to outsource social media all in.

What it shows is in this one instance the value of social media to a company, and a director level professional’s appraisal of its worth.

(That is not to say that a manager of blue chip accounts with the attendant pressure might not command attractive wages).

While agency social media roles look attractive at present, surely that will erode for many.  The question is will it be quick or slow?

Online Community Management for Brands (social media)

Paul Fabretti, digital director at Manchester consumer PR agency Brazen, is someone worth catching if you are interested in social media.

Paul, who works with brands such as Ronseal and Monopoly, handles 12 million fans through 14 different channels.

In his Wednesday talk at the CIPR North West he gave his views on the ingredients that make up a successful social media presence for brands.

First Paul explained what he meant by community management, which is developing and nurturing an audience with common interests towards a more favourable perception of the product or service.

It is about customer service as well as sales, and it is about doing the hard work as well as the fun creative element, planning as well as being reactive.

Paul pointed out that in these recession PR times when clients want more ROI, more demonstrable value managing a campaign that is highly time intensive, which they might not appreciate, is a challenge!

(I have come across or heard of businesses using cheap labour and this can be a mistake, so this is going to make things tougher).

Paul continued that there is the issue of when to respond and to whom on an account that is 24/7, perhaps aimed at a multi-national audience with various viewing behaviours.

Paul pointed to B&Q’s times of reply and service by social media being stated as opposed to customer service lines, which are given.  It was important, he stated, to set expectations.

As much as the creativity it is the organisational aspects that demand attention.  This is from planning resources to having crisis plans in place as Paul pointed out: it doesn’t take much to destroy a reputation.  (Online consumer rage is something that will be tackled here in the near future, and I won’t mention Qatar Airways).  Proper processes reduce risks explained Paul.

It is the more mundane things that need attention: learning to listen, paying attention to soft analytics (qualitative) as against hard stats.  On this last point Paul recommend that paid for analytical tools always beat free ones even though they are of a high standard in many cases.

In summary the key points are:

  • Check volumes/channels
  • Categorise content/issues
  • Know who/what to respond to
  • Use a professional tool (to schedule, moderate, assign)
  • Plan ahead – content gathering
  • SHTF plan – a euphemism for crisis comms

While this seems in large measure to be straightforward marketing planning, some common sense and a lot of hard work, it is the attention to detail and thinking through everything (again and again) that stands out, after all a long-term campaign and reputation can be wiped out in hours.

Paul is talking at the CIPR in London on the 12th July and whatever level of understanding and experience you have, he will be worth listening to for his clear delivery and insights.  Well worth asking a question or catching him at the end as he will give valuable advice and feedback.

There is a downside to Pinterest for B2B PR and marketing

Pinterest for B2B PR

Pinterest has all the ingredients to become the next big thing for social media – the truth, and you don’t need to be a digital guru, is it is probably well on its way to becoming a stable of the social media world.

It is easy to use, easy to connect, fun (depending on your point of view) and has the potential to reach tens of  millions as it more widely adopted.

It can work for business, not just for PRs or marketers of consumer companies, but solid B2B PR.

If a business has a product that is demonstrative, can be shown visually, it can work.  Designers, architects, advertising agencies all spring to mind as being made for Pinterest.

And while businesses selling time, professional services essentially, might struggle, there will be some that could benefit (trainers for instance) providing their audiences are on Pinterest – a point that needs to be considered further.

But there are at present reasons why it might not be right for B2B, and here are some to consider:

Time – Social media is time consuming, it can be valuable but to do it well takes time.  If there is limited resource for a B2B company surely LinkedIn or Twitter might serve the business better than a new social media channel.

Tumbleweed – Pinterest is easy to set-up and get to grips with and so a new account can be set-up in a few minutes.  But the challenge of social media is to keep thing fresh with regular interesting content.

It is more harmful to start using a new social media channel, stop and leave a jaded looking account.  Having an extra social media site to maintain is an issue for all channels, LinkedIn as much as Pinterest.  But if you have a limited resource decisions have to be made and LinkedIn at this moment in time is a better option for most , not for all, businesses looking to improve their online marketing.

Copyright – How do you protect your content, how do others protect their content from your (innocent) indiscretions?  What are the legal consequences? There have been no major legal cases as of writing that I am aware of concerning Pinterest, but it is an issue that could dog businesses looking to really engage through Pinterest.

Numbers of users – comScore noted that Pinterest had 10 million users by January of this year – the fastest site to reach this landmark for unique users.  But 10 million or even 20 million are not so many, Twitter reached 140 million around the time of its sixth birthday this year.  Pinterest has not reached a critical mass that makes it valuable for businesses yet, it will probably do so, but not yet.

Demographics – In the US Pinterest users are 83% women / 17% men, in the UK it is reversed to some extent: 56% men / 46% women and the age ranges were typically 10 years younger in the UK.  This could be good news or bad depending on your product or service.

Pinterest is a good tool for business, but any social media done well needs to be approached with a little bit of vision, a strategy and most of all a commitment.  Larger businesses can call upon the resource to engage through Pinterest, but for many SMEs it might be a luxury they cannot afford.

What’s your Klout?

Klout

While we are busy racking up followers, friends or connections, getting a re-tweet or comment here or there, how much do we analyse the effectiveness of our social media output?

Probably for many it is based on just that: amassing a large number of followers, with some nods towards interaction.  How else can you do it?

One free tool available on the Internet is Klout.

Simple and easy to sign-up with and use, it assesses the power of an individuals or company’s social media through algorithms that give feedback on three key elements:

How many people you influence (True Reach)

How much you influence them (Amplification)

How influential they are (Network Score)

If we take Twitter (there are other social media that can be analysed such as LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook) I have a Klout score of 37.88 out of a possible 100, up from 34.65 a few days ago.

My true reach is 286 (rather than the nearly 800 followers I have) although I am not sure if the lists I am noted on are included, there are about 50 and range from one follower to several hundred.  It is an important point as I have more followers on lists than the almost 800 cited.

Network influence is 41 and and amplification stands at 14.

I am also influential about “lawyers, journalism and Manchester.”

I thought I saw “Alan Carr” the other day in that list, but  it must have been my imagination.

It is quite fluid system, scores can go up and down.  When I looked at “I Love Manchester’s” scores, as a test, it went up straight after the riots when many wanted to show support for the city – so first test passed.

With a claim of over 85 million Twitter accounts assessed, you are free to compare scores, quite impressive as the majority of accounts are not signed-up to Klout.

I will mention two more features.

The first is a grid, reminiscent of a marketing or business matrix.  This is an account’s “Klout style,” mine is between “casual and listening” and “focused and consistent.”  As with the other indicators comparisons with friends or rivals accounts can be made.

It adds: “You actively engage in the social web, constantly trying out new ways to interact and network. You’re exploring the ecosystem and making it work for you. Your level of activity and engagement shows that you “get it,” we predict you’ll be moving up.”

I am getting falshbacks to school reports.

The other is “Klout perks.”  If you are an influential social media operative you can try or be given gifts,  with the aim of promoting the brand – being influential on journalists and lawyers might not be helpful in this regard, but Manchester might be.

So for any PR that has to justify social media or simply for interested parties who want the gratification that their hours of tweeting are changing the world, it is a fun, easy and perhaps a useful tool.

The Achilles’ heal of citizenship journalism – the strange case of Amina Arraf

citizenship journalism
Citizenship journalism is not as reliable as many people take it for – this is where newspaper journalism often wins out and maybe why it will endure

In some ways it is surprising that the Syrian uprising is being covered to the extent it is in the UK broadcast media.

Yes, the events in Syria are marking a radical shift in thinking and politics in the Arab world.  Yet with so little substantiated news it is surely very hard for this story to dominate news agendas as it should.

There have been no iconic images such as the one of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young women who lost her life protesting against the almost certainly fraudulent Iranian elections results two yeas ago.

And with next to no verifiable footage taken within Syria, independently minded journalists banned by the Assad regime have to rely on the accounts of refugees streaming across international borders.

In Turkey, President Erdogan, who has been building up strong economic and political ties with Assad’s regime has offered refugees from the town of Jisr al-Shughour – which has been the target of a concerted military assault – protection on the understanding they do not talk about their experiences to journalists keen to update reports.

So when the established media cannot report there is a vacuum.

It is left up to citizen journalists such as Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari, a 25-year-old gay woman in Damascus to tell the world what is going on.

Amina, within a few short months, was able to give an insight that no journalists could.

The blog was attracting hundreds of thousands of hits, and no doubt was used as a source by many reporters.

Then Amina was abducted, but by whom?  No one was sure although one of the many branches of the Syrian secret police or security services must have been involved – an online campaign to free her resulted.

However, it has been unmasked as a hoax, a complete fraud.

It was the work of a US student residing in Edinburgh, Tom MacMaster and possibly his partner Britta Froelicher (although MacMaster now claims it is his work alone).

Even the pictures of Amina were stolen from the Facebook page of a Croatian girl living in London who had no connection to the material being used on the blog.

MacMaster had the gall to explain his deception:  “While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone – I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.”

There are many issues raised by such behaviour but I want to concentrate on just one:  The reliance of news sources where there is no legal or editorial safeguards to ensure a commitment to follow standards of integrity and professionalism.

Of course no news outlet is free of bias, but the issue with Citizenship Journalism is that those basic standards we expect from a news source might be there or not, through design or lack of it.

This is one reason why established media outlets such as national newspapers do not have to feel threatened when there seems to be others with greater access, speed or credentials disseminating news.

Corporate marketing & social media – SAScon debate

The issue of who owns social media and how it is best applied is still being grappled with by larger enterprises.  So the SAScon debate on social media on this issues was particularly interesting.

The panel was:

Will McInnes of Nixon McInnes

Phil Jones of Brother UK

Neil Hardy of Co-Operative Travel

Ivan Croxford of BT

And Malcom Coles

I will start with a Phil Jones quote: “Social media is B2me.”

Will McInnes followed with “sustained conversation is expected with social media.”

Quite simple pronouncements, yet many big enterprises get it wrong, perhaps it is years of pushing through messages through mass media channels and not having to interact as much on a one to one basis in their marketing:  Sainsbury’s being one possible example of how difficult larger businesses fail to grasp this.

Maybe smaller concerns are more geared at establishing a one-to-one relationship.

On the question of who owns social media and how it should be applied, well, there was a multitude of answers.

I was surprised, not that I should have I suppose, that customer services was a strong candidate for ownership (as Ivan Croxford pointed out at BT customer services had embrassed social media).

My vested interests said PR.  It could be marketing as well.   But it really depends on the application.

Neil Hardy looks on Twitter as a helpline for instance.  The conclusion surely is that it it is a versatile instrument and will be used as best fits purpose?

Phil Jones again: “Social media should be integrated, should engage and lead to “marriage.”  I agree.

Malcolm Coles: “Social media helps engagement with customers that do not use current channels.”   In this alone is must be seen as essential.

What came out of the debate was a recognition – as you would expect – that social media has to be applied and that its exact role is still developing.

I will leave the last word to Malcolm Coles about the need to experiment to find out social media can be best applied: “Getting it wrong is not a disaster.”