What can we learn from the Shippam’s paste Twitter affair?

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Let’s start at the beginning… A few weeks back a Twitter feed appeared, purporting to belong to Shippam’s Pastes, and manned by ‘Ben’, an ‘executive social media intern’. Being new to the world of social media, he was quite honest about his intentions and shortcomings:

The feed read like a social media engagement for beginners’ rulebook, sometimes perhaps a little too literally:

The Tweets led many to question who was behind the account. Was it a hoax? A genuine attempt at ‘engagement’ from a naive intern? Or a stroke of marketing genius from a largely forgotten brand (à la Old Spice…)? As the Guardian revealed over the weekend, it was indeed a hoax. The man behind the account explained, “faking a spectacularly inept attempt to ‘do Twitter’ just seemed funny – as did picking a real, but nearly forgotten, brand to do it. A large part of it was also simply wanting to see what happened.”

Funny is certainly how the feed was perceived, picking up over 9,000 followers before it was closed down. We learnt of Ben’s nights out in Wetherspoons, and his failures in seducing the local chip shop girl, as well as admirable attempts to help us consumers engage with fish paste, of course:

Having seen so many corporate failures on Twitter, as the author remarked, “A company attempting to get involved with an internet ‘thing’ like Twitter and cocking it up entirely is also completely believable.”

The feed played on the idea of ‘engagement’ being seen as the holy grail of ‘doing’ social media and ensuring the whole thing is ‘fun’. In reality though, the feed had very little engagement, being largely a broadcast of disparate thoughts and product references. It broke all the best practice social media ‘rules’, and yet was a great success.

So what can we learn from this? Largely a reminder of the old mantra that content and creativity are key, and even more so in social media, where everyone’s fighting for our attention. Ironically, given the account was fake, original ideas such as this is what brands should be doing. Content which is genuinely engaging and disruptive will attract our attention and make us click ‘follow’ (as the success of the Waterstones Piccadilly feed testifies, as well as our old friend, the insurance quote comparing meerkat).

We must not of course forget that this account was not authorised by the brand, Shippam’s. I would, however, be very interested to see their web analytics for the past few weeks, and also to see if there’s been any rise in sales. If I ever feel like a ‘batenberg sandwich of the sea’, I certainly know where I’ll be heading.

Weekly Media and Comms Round-Up – 4 Nov 2011

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Causing a social media stir this week has been an entirely unsuspecting contender – Shippams fish paste. The brand’s Twitter feed is supposedly run by a social media intern who helps users ‘engage’ with the brand’s crab paste. As The Wall pointed out, “The account is clearly having a laugh at the marketing industry and its need for brands to have a digital media strategy, no matter how established or tedious, like crab paste, the brand may be”. Whatever the motives, the feed is genuinely amusing and has grown to almost 9,000 followers, as well as drawing a lot of attention to the company’s products, of course… *

Westminster Council’s director of comms and strategy recently unveiled their guide, Evaluating Your Communications Tools: What Works, What Doesn’t, suggesting that evaluation programmes should be based on ‘real outcomes’, including ‘measurable changes in audience perceptions and awareness’. The report has the backing of the PRCA and AMEC, and can be found online here.

Meanwhile, Adam Singer writes about metrics ‘Your PR team isn’t tracking… but should be”, focussing on web analytics, including referring sources, branded search engine traffic, and inbound links.

Providing insights into where best to place links in Tweets to maximise click through rates was the focus of a recent study by Dan Zarrella. Sampling 200,000 bit.ly links, Zarrella created a Tweet heat-map to highlight CTRs, concluding the most effective place to insert a link is at around 25% of the way through a Tweet.

Finally, our friends at PressIndex have continued their study into the UK’s top PR agencies, this time looking at levels of engagement with fans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, We Are Social were found to have the most popular fan page, and were also the most active.

 *At the time of proofing this blog (11am), the Shippams Twitter handle no longer exists. More details when we have them.

Weekly Media and Comms Round-Up – 28 Oct 2011

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Although this particular blog may be biased (for the first time ever, I hasten to add), perhaps the biggest story of this week has been the acquisition of Glide Technologies by Nasdaq OMX. You can read the full press release here, but essentially what this represents is the ‘first and only fully-integrated workflow solution for investor relations and public relations professionals’. It’s certainly an exciting time here.

In other news this week, PR Week reported on the changing role of PR based on the findings of the PR Census 2011, in conjunction with the PRSA. Topping the list for growth in importance over the last two years was online comms, along with reputation management, SEO and comms strategy development, all of which are also predicted to grow in importance over the next two years. Areas highlighted as having decreased in importance for PR were event planning and organisation, sales promotion and publishing and editing.

Evaluation-wise, the Green Book Blog has published an interview with analytics strategist Seth Grimes on sentiment analysis. Grimes is interested in using integrated analytics, such as linking content-sourced data with data from transactional and operational systems, to produce valuable Business Intelligence insight. The blog makes for an interesting read for anyone looking to take media monitoring to the next step.

One company looking into this is HP, who this week launched a study showing that data from social media can be merged with company data (ticket sales, customer demographics etc) to predict customer behavior with up to 90% accuracy. It highlights how critical it is for marketing to be integrated with IT to truly provide business value, allowing correlations to be drawn between conversations online and real-time transactions, for example.

Until next week.

Weekly Media and Comms Round-Up – 21 Oct 2011

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‘Can you use social media to predict the future?’ asks Fresh Networks from Wired 2011. Social media obviously produces a lot of content, and Professor Hertz argues that the key is to mine what is useful, highlighting that “the X Factor is ‘research gold dust’, as not only does it generate a great amount of social media buzz, but it also involves a public vote”. (My own efforts to predict last year’s winner of Big Brother were sadly unsuccessful).

MediaWeek has published a comprehensive article on how the recession has affected media agencies, as ZenithOptimedia predicts that global advertising spend will grow by around 4.1 per cent this year.

A study by the Ipsos Mori Reputation Council report found that Comms Directors engage less with social media now than in 2010. The findings led Anthony Hilton to muse, is social media monitoring worth it? Hilton likens engaging with bloggers as intervening in a pub argument. The comments section has prompted some lively debate.

PressIndex this week released a study of the top 150 PR agencies and their social media presence, concluding that “taken in isolation, the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers a PR consultancy has is meaningless” and crucially, “It’s not the size of your social community; it’s what you do with it that counts.”

Finally, the FT this week highlighted the evolving role of the CIO, highlighting that they are now more responsible for Business Information, pulling insights from social media and executive dashboards to drive strategy, for example. How this role compares to the Chief Influence Officer written about by Phillip Sheldrake will be interesting to see.

Weekly Media and Comms Round-Up – 14 Oct 2011

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After Apple’s dominance of the news agenda last week, it was Blackberry’s turn this week. I’ll refrain from repeating any of the jokes circulating on Twitter, and mention what seems to have angered users the most, namely RIM’s handling of communications around the crisis. CorpComms Magazine provided an analysis of the damage to RIM and Blackberry’s reputations, including insight from Glide’s CEO, Sam Phillips.

PR Week this week reported of the sale of College Group to a private equity firm, suggesting it could pave the way for more PE deals in the PR industry. Danny Rogers believes that despite all the doom and gloom, the sector does have some strong growth areas, notably digital content solutions, and reputation management.

A new study from ISBA and Havas Media Social shows that seven out of 10 marketers believe their CEO understands the importance of social media, while nearly eight out of 10 view it as a long-term investment.

Another study of CMOs this week, however, from IBM showed that although 82% say they plan to increase their use of social media over the next three to five years, only a minority actually currently track brand conversations happening online. The research lead highlighted the benefits of real-time monitoring to companies: “CMOs who successfully harness this new source of insight will be in a strong position to increase revenues, reinvent their customer relationships and build new brand value.”

Whilst on the subject, here’s seven free tools to use to help measure your social media effectiveness. (Regular readers will be aware of my views on tool number 7…)

Until next week.

Weekly Media and Comms Round-Up – 7 Oct 2011

News this week of the PRCA introducing individual memberships was received negatively by the CIPR, who accused them of copying the CIPR’s model. PRCA Director General, Francis Ingham, posted a thorough response to the news reported on PR Moment.

This week we also saw the founding of a coalition between the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), Council of Public Relations Firms (CPRF) and Institute for Public Relations (IPR), with the aim of establishing global standards for social media measurement. The coalition aims to address challenges such as setting standards in ‘content sourcing, influence, sentiment, engagement and ROI among others’.

Facebook, for its part, is making marketers’ lives easier by launching new metrics as part of its Insights capability, allowing companies to measure user engagement. Wildfire on the Wall explained in detail what this means for marketers. Google+, meanwhile, suffered a slight embarrassment this week as Michael DeGusta revealed that senior Google management simply aren’t using the platform, or rather, ‘not eating their own dog food’.

Given the industry we work in, it would be remiss not to mention the biggest news story of the week, so I will let Mashable do the leg-work here with their article on the Top 10 most quoted Tweets about Steve Jobs.

Finally, Glide’s own Alistair has published the fourth part of his 5-part series on The Newsroom of the Future, this week focussing on how to use your newsroom to facilitate conversations elsewhere, with some really great examples.

The Social Media Newsroom Part 4: Facilitating Conversation Elsewhere

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This is the fourth instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.

Parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series look at some specific suggestions for things you can do to make your Newsroom social, with some good and bad examples of where other companies have done so. Today I’m having a look at how to use your newsroom to support your social channels and in part 5 I will look at how to make your content more personal.

How to use your Newsroom to encourage conversations elsewhere

Conversations don’t necessarily need to happen on your newsroom as you probably will need to moderate these comments and might not have the resource to do so. You may want, for various reasons, to actually have conversations with people elsewhere. In which case, use your newsroom as a way of directing visitors to the places where they can have a conversation with your business or individuals within it.

Example:  SEB, Erica Blomgren, Twitter

SEB have a nice newsroom (I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a “social media newsroom” though) and one thing I do like about their site is that they are open enough to show contact details for their experts across a range of subjects in the newsroom site. They give direct dials and email addresses opening the way for offline conversations to happen.  They are risking more spam and unwanted sales calls by doing this but they clearly think this is a price worth paying in the name of openness and accessibility. Credit to them for that.

When one of the experts listed is active on twitter they also show a link to their twitter profile. One expert that is using twitter on a daily basis to communicate news and opinion on her area of expertise is Erica Blomgren. What I like about the way she uses twitter is that it’s very focused, so people following her know what to expect, she posts regularly, and she is willing to respond to questions and give people answers online. Overall a great example of how to use twitter in a financial services context. Now SEB just need to encourage some of the other 50 experts to do likewise!

Example: BASF, Facebook

Now check this out for an impressive example of making the effort to respond to people!

BASF, a leading global chemical company based in Germany, has a Facebook page and they use to share stories about concrete in English. You read that right. Concrete on Facebook.

So they share the story and what happens? For a start 32 people ‘like’ the story but three people also post a comment in response. One comment is in English, one in German and one in Malay. What do BASF do?  They respond to each post in the language of poster!  Bravo.

The interesting thing here is the interaction between Facebook and the company’s newsroom. The conversation on Facebook has taken place because they posted an interesting story on their newsroom and people have responded to that. There is the possibility to comment on the article page itself but no-one has chosen to do that, preferring instead to post on Facebook.

What BASF should try and do next is bring some of these channels together more – for a start allowing people to like an article, tweet or share it is a simple win (I’m surprised this feature is missing given how well they’ve done other things) but perhaps they should also use the Facebook social plugin or a tool like Disqus to make it easier for people to respond to their articles? Maybe then they’ll truly deserve the moniker of ‘Social Media Newsroom’ that they’ve given themselves?

Now if a company as “boring” as a chemical company can post interesting content on a regular basis on their Facebook page and engage with people there, your company can probably do so too! Where there’s a will there’s a way.

In the fifth and final part of my series I will be talking about how to make your content more personal and to bring out some of the expertise of your own staff as individuals into your news content.