Category Archives: Social Networks

What’s not going to happen in 2013

So by this stage, already one  week into this gloomy, gloomy year, you’ll have read the millionth ‘what’s going  to happen in  2013’ list, so I thought I’d approach the topic a little differently. This is my ‘what’s not going  to happen in 2013′ list.

1) Tablets will not be the magic bullet for publishers. Only ever wishful thinking and hype on  the part of publishers, 2013 will be the year that the industry collectively slumps in its chairs and reluctantly admits that it’s still  harder than ever to make money from the  printed word. This has been driven in part by the poor  quality of ‘tablet editions’ – many are little more than a linked-up PDF. Another ominous sign was Murdoch’s decision to close his tablet paper, in The Daily, in December, after losing  $30m a year.

The same goes for print books; while tablets are a great  innovation for consumers, for publishers it only means tighter margins as Amazon executives rub their hands together with glee. But that’s not to say there’s not some success from the more esoteric operators. Legal publishers like Thomson Reuters are investing heavily in professional-grade e-readers, able to cope with  the very specific demands of the professional services, such as dynamic searching and note making. We’ll see more innovation in this area I think, but not for a mainstream consumer audience.

tablet  colour

2) Specialist social media PR agencies will no longer (generally) have competitive edge. Let’s face it, any account executive in any PR agency can set up a Facebook page or talk about  twitter content plans. What was once the  domain of the few is now firmly in the  mainstream, at least when it comes to the agencyland bubble. However, what this means is that those specialist agencies are (or should be) looking beyond the obvious, and are moving into exciting and dynamic new areas; branded content, experiential, app development, SEO, all founded by great ideas that get  people talking, whatever the medium. Success will become defined by  those willing to pioneer, and a huge agency grey area will  start to swirl.

3) SEO will not take over the PR/social media mix. For all the talk of  SEO usurping content-led social media and PR, the latter  discipline will continue to prove its worth on all fronts; from a creative, strategic and ROI basis. What we’ll see is a merge; traditional SEO agencies will continue to embrace great content and golden links from high traffic news sites, recruiting or acquiring PR talent and  agencies in the process. Meanwhile, forward-thinking PR agencies will continue to hire SEO talent, to bolster the credibility  and  knowledge–base of their own offering. 


4) Consumers will not tire of Facebook. Pah! As if anyone seriously thought that would happen. While Google+ continues to update its proposition and talk in hushed  tones about how it will help search results, how many of us really use it? Or even enjoy the experience? While Facebook adoption might plateau in Europe, America and  the Asia Pacific, there will be  always be new growth areas. A bit like the tobacco industry. And it’s still the best, most dynamic and  exciting way to reach and engage with a mainstream consumer audience. Facebook will increasingly become the lead-channel in  integrated marketing  campaigns. Maybe we’ll even see traditional websites and (gasp) the 30 second  TV spot  disappear. Probably not for a while, but one thing’s sure – no matter how many times Mark Zuckerberg sells our data or betrays us, we’ll keep coming back for more, me included.


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Engaging with bloggers – dos and don’ts

Blogging is now firmly part of the mainstream. As print media circulations continue to decline, a multitude of new voices are emerging, self-publishing content as so-called “citizen-journalists”. Mummy bloggers are perhaps the most well-known, followed by food bloggers (have you seen how many people take photos of their food these days?). But it’s not restricted to these groups, because for every niche interest – and I mean every niche interest – there’s a blogger somewhere, writing to an engaged community of readers.

And what’s most interesting is that bloggers are increasingly blurring traditional media boundaries. In many cases it’s bloggers – not the mainstream media – who are able to bring us the real inside track on an issue, less inhibited by the commercial restraints imposed by a publisher. In short, bloggers are increasingly savvy and out there producing, in some cases,   outstanding content, read by huge audiences.

What this presents for SMEs is a compelling opportunity; by engaging with a particular blogger, a brand can gain valuable advocacy from an influential voice and also benefit from the Holy Grail of marketing; peer recommendation. Why is that so important? Because as consumers grow sceptical of advertising, peer recommendation is now seen as increasingly more credible than any other form of media.

So that’s clearly a good thing. But unfortunately, there also lies the problem. While PR relies on tried-and-tested processes (writing and pitching in a press release, for example), blogging requires a more careful, selective approach that many companies are still figuring out. And that means many are still getting it badly wrong, to the frustration and detriment of everyone involved. Here’s a few pointers:

 One size does not fit all

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to engaging with bloggers; some won’t ever feature brands, some will want payment, some will never get back to you. So that means never blanket emailing out your press release to a list of bloggers and hoping for the best. Just as you’d take time to understand what particular journalist or section of a newspaper would be most appropriate for your product, do the same with a blogger. So that means taking time to actually read what they write about and developing a bespoke pitch to reflect that. Think like (and be) one of their readers; what angles would most be interesting? Also think beyond a pure sales pitch as no one wants that (unless of course, it’s a blog about sales pitches).

Detail is important

Do your homework. It’s often the little things that count, like getting a blogger’s name right. You’d be surprised at how many people get that wrong. Or pitching in your product because the blogger has already got an interest in whatever it is you do. One person I know writes almost exclusively about social marketing and PR, yet last week got approached by a brand that makes diet pills, with a view to writing a review on them. Huh?

Appreciate they are not (usually) paid for this

It’s important to remember, most bloggers do what they do out of a passion for it, not because it’s their full time job like a journalist. But despite that, they will be approached by brands all the time. So remember this next time you’re pitching in a story or chasing them up for a response. And don’t treat them with any less respect just because they don’t do it for a living.

Be clear about what you want

While you shouldn’t expect a blogger to run an advert for your particular product or service do be clear at the outset what your expectations are so there’s no miscommunication – from both sides. Always deliver on what you say you will, and similarly, expect a blogger to deliver on what they agree to.

Think: what have I got that is of value

By and large, bloggers are interested in bringing their readers added-value, usually in the form of content, as well as increasing their own readership. So when formulating your pitch, get creative and consider how you can achieve these factors. If you’re a drinks brand for example, have you got a taste expert who could provide some reader advice, or could you look at running an exclusive sales offer or competition? Failing that, every blogger is appreciative of more traffic, so is there any way you can plug their blog through your newsletter or website?

Starting small can make a big difference

Don’t expect to get every blogger in your industry sector to talk about your product right away – or at all. Start small and cultivate respectful relationships with bloggers you’re interested in and think could make a good fit with your brand. Successfully reaching a niche audience who have a genuine passion for what you do can in many cases be far more effective than reaching a mass audience who have indifference towards you.


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Social media metrics – avoiding ‘over-information-itus’

The beauty of social media is that everything is measurable; clicks, impressions, engagement, web traffic, blog views, you name it. There’s a wealth of data available resulting from every single piece of activity you do. So it figures that all this information makes it easy to measure the effectiveness of campaigns right? Unfortunately, not always.

With all this information comes problems; namely a common and acute case of acute ‘over-information-itus’ where there’s so much data that your head spins and your brain becomes mush. Or, even easier is falling into the trap of simply ‘counting’ metrics, such as Facebook ‘likes’ or video views, without matching up the data with your marketing objectives.

When analysing the impact of any campaign, it’s a good idea is to have a ‘measurement dashboard’ in place; a checklist of key metrics that you apply to every piece of activity, helping you measure the impact of any social media and justify any investment in this area. While your marketing objectives will vary from campaign to campaign, typically they’ll exist within a fairly narrow genre; sell more products, boost brand awareness or drive web traffic. With that in mind I’ve developed a basis dashboard you can use when analysing your own campaigns.

Audience reach

A no-brainer. Just as you’d calculate how many people you reached with your event or ad campaign, you can do exactly the same with social media, and the good news is, it’s easy. Let’s say you’ve uploaded a brand video to Youtube, you’ve tweeted about it, put it on your blog, posted it on Facebook and outreached it to two mummy bloggers. Simply count the total number of views across all platforms. On Facebook look at the ‘insights’ page on your brand dashboard, which is increasingly sophisticated.  For twitter, you’ll need to use a free tool to calculate audience reached, such as Tweet Reach. Your blog will have its own back-end analytics telling you how many people have viewed your post. And don’t forget to count the audience of any third party bloggers who have featured your campaign – to do this either use a tool like Alexa [], or ask the blogger nicely for their daily uniques (good luck with that!)   


Reaching a large audience is good, but engagement is more important. It’s far better to have 100 people interested in what you’ve got to say and therefore more likely to buy from you and tell their friends about you than 1,000 people who are indifferent. Engagement is a key indicator into how effective your marketing message is in terms of galvanizing your audience into action.

Measuring engagement in Facebook is easy. Again, check out the ‘insights’ button and look at the ‘talking about this’ tab. Other indicators of engagement are number of comments on your blog, number of twitter re-tweets and @tweets, and number of Youtube comments and interactions. Always remember to contrast engagement levels against a ‘base’ level to give you a frame of reference as a percentage increase i.e. at a time when you’re not running any specific campaign activity.

It’s also a good idea to look at the sentiment of what people are saying, as well as key conversation themes – is your activity driving positive on-brand conversation, or negative, off-topic conversation, for example? There’s a number of sophisticated paid-for tools that can do this, and they don’t come cheap. However, you can check out a nice little free tool called Social Mention which measures both these elements and is well worth a look.

Community growth

In theory at least, reaching a big audience and successfully engaging with them should lead to your community growing as more people decide they like your brand, and want to hear more from you. You should measure how this is increasing (or god forbid, decreasing). When we talk about ‘community’ we mean any social media member community that you own – so count increases in Facebook fans, twitter followers, Youtube subscribers, blog subscribers, or whatever social media platforms you’re using. A handy tool for tracking twitter growth is Twitter Counter.

Referrals + Social media conversation

Like it or not, social media has to ultimately come back to sales, or at least play a role in the sales cycle.  So first of all, you need to drive people to where a conversation can take place, typically your website. And the good news is research has shown a customer arriving on your website from a social media channel is much more likely to buy from you than if they’ve come there directly. This is where ‘referrals’ come in – the more referrals to your website you’re driving from social media channels the better. Google analytics (ask your web guy or girl to install analytics tracking on key pages of your site) is the best tool for this and will list which websites are referring traffic back to your site. If your social media activity is effective, then you will start to see these channels appearing in the top ten referrers.

Secondly, it’s important to look at the business value of your social media activity – the hard sales bit. You can measure conversion through properly set up web analytics, but this isn’t terribly easy unless you have access to a specialist. An easier route could be to calculate your average conversation rate and average spend per customer, and apply this value to a percentage of the total traffic arriving on your site from social media. And if you carry out PPC activity, then you can attribute your average pay-per-click cost to each piece of traffic from social media.

And remember, this is not an exhaustive list. Keep flexible and add additional metrics that suit your specific objectives, and help you justify your social media budgets.


Image used under Creative Commons via jrbrubaker

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Life before my iPhone (and a recent cruel twist of fate)

I’ve just taken part in an experiment with the Sydney Morning Herald into what it’s like to go for a week without an iPhone. It wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be, and here’s the full diary I kept (many of my witty observations were cut out, I feel). In a cruel twist of fate, today I actually lost my iPhone, so now I’ve got to go through it all again. Urghhhhhhh.


  • Only a short walk to work, but I like to catch up with emails and see what the UK office has been up to while I slept. Oh, wait, I can’t. Get immediate feeling of anxiety and dread, until I realise it’s just a 10 minute walk until I can check my laptop. Phew.


  • A strange sense of calm washes over me when I realise I can’t “be got hold of”. I like “not being got hold of”.  In a moment of weakness I briefly consider using a phone box but the handset looks suspiciously greasy. Give it a miss. Get into the office to find that three people have emailed me asking where I am. Ooops.


  • Middle of the week, meaning it’s now sufficiently long enough after Saturday night to justify drinking alcohol again. However, lack of planning and Google maps mean that I’m left walking up and down a street for 10 minutes before I have to find it ‘manually’ – i.e. stopping someone to ask for directions. This immediately restores my faith in the good will of humans.


  • Lack of headphones on a train to a client meeting means I have to endure the conversations of a group of school children. From what I can gather, “Darren” has cheated on “Sonja” but she’s “ok with it”. I wonder how socially acceptable a pair of ear plugs worn in public would be.


  • After work drinks in the Beresford. Have an epiphany of sorts; if a social media consultant doesn’t check into a bar, is he really there? I think about this for a while as I realise I can’t use Foursquare or Scvngr.


  • I realise going for a run without headphones on is actually much safer as I can hear the cars.


  • See some great street art in an ally way in Surry Hills. I’m collecting examples for a post on my blog but I can’t capture it. Damn.
  • One of the many curses of the iPhone is to “quickly’ check emails before going to bed, which inevitably leads to a sleepless night as I think about work. For once, on a Sunday night I don’t do this, meaning I sleep like a baby, dreaming of Monday when I will be connected once more.

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Help me on my crowd-sourced holiday

I’m off to Melbourne at the weekend, the first time I’ve ever been there. Usually I’d take a stack of guide books, leaflets and maps. I’d spend hours pouring over them, planning my day; what bars to go to, the best sights to see, the quirkiest restaurants to eat at. If I didn’t cover off everything in my list I’d get depressed and stressed. I’d feel I’d somehow wasted my time and money. You get the picture.

But not this time.

This time I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to keep things firmly 2011 and have a completely crowd-sourced holiday. That’s right, I’m binning the books and, using only my iPhone and a range of social networks, I’m going to go it alone.

That means from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave Melbourne, I’m basing my trip on information I can glean from Twitter and Facebook, venue suggestions and tips on Scvngr and must-dos on Foursquare.

This could lead to a dreadful holiday experience, careering from random venue to random venue. Or maybe it will lead to the most amazing, spontaneous holiday ever. Either way, it’ll be fun finding out. Look me up at if you want to help out. The results will be published right here, very soon…

Image used under Creative Commons courtesy of Endlesstrail

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IKEA do it again with Store View (and how shit hot Scandinavia is when it comes to digital)

We’ve had Google street view, and more recently the racy Diesel island view, but now we’ve got IKEA Store View.  It’s a nice piece of interactive work by Forsman & Bodenfors to launch a highly anticipated new IKEA store in Vasteras, Sweden.

Let’s not forget the kind of mad excitement a new IKEA store can generate in a neighbourhood, and this is all about capitalising on that sentiment.

Visitors to the site can get a 3D sneak preview of inside the store covering a staggered 40,000 meters. They even get to meet the manager, ‘Freddy’ with hidden competitions throughout the store to win IKEA goods.

Ikea are consistently innovative when it comes to digital, and Scandinavia are shit hot when it comes to online work. In fact, this view was confirmed when I watched a Mumbrella interview by foul-mouthed but bang-on Mark Comerford at Hyper Island, a digital “creative leaning academy” in Sweden.

He puts this down to the region having pretty much universal internet access, followed by ubiquitous broadband access, meaning digital companies are used to having this powerful infrastructure to play with. He also says Sweden is used by UK and US companies as a test-bed for new apps and technolgoies, to see how they’ll play out in this highly connected environment. More of this later as it’s an interesting issue for sure.



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Return to the real world – the rise in social gaming

Keeping up with what’s going on at the SXSW conference in Texas can be tough, with a myriad of new apps, technologies and god knows what else being talked up across every blog and tech news site imaginable. But, a bit like London Fashion Week, it’s not the catwalk fashions themselves that are going to necessarily appear on the High Street, it’s the overarching themes that are most likely to translate into the mainstream.

So, clumsy fashion analogy aside, what I’m finding most interesting about the reports from SXSW is that a lot of talk seems to be focused on apps and services with a social gaming element, where users score points or are rewarded for a particular action in the ‘real world’.

While social networks like Facebook and Twitter impact on our real world behaviour to some extent, for example how we organise our social lives, seek information and view issues around privacy, in the next few years social gaming apps are set to fundamentally change the way behave and interact with the ‘real world’. And this is next generation social gaming; more than simply checking in at a venue on Foursquare.

Take Scvngr, which is the tip of a potentially enormous digital iceberg. Part social network, part game, Scvngr allows users to check in to a location, just like on Facebook Places or Foursquare, but then goes a step further as users are encouraged to take part in a series of fun, real world ‘challenges’ to earn points, such as turning a fast food joint foil wrapper into an origami bird or performing a dance routine outside a shop and filming it. These acts then earn points which translate into freebies and discounts.

The chief executive (or Chief Ninja, as he calls himself) of Scvngr reckons that over the next 10 years, developers are increasingly going to create a ‘game layer’ on top of real life society, which I guess, could blur the boundaries between computer games, and actual life (for the more confused members of society, anyway).

And, just as Facebook’s Razon Detra is “connect and share”, this new wave of apps are all about “going places”, “having fun” “exploring”, you name it. This is all incredibly positive, as it’s all about encouraging people to have fun and experience life fuller. Maybe we can call it ‘real life 2.0’. It’s certainly an interesting challenge for marketeers in finding new ways for brands to be ‘fun’, and at a push even a challenge for video game producers, who could see gamers flock away from screens to ‘real world’ activities, as everyday life becomes more like a video game.

So, whether real life will become like the film Scott Pilgrim or not, either way it will be fun finding out, and it’s nice to see the return of ‘real life’.

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