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Could Social Media help fix ‘Broken Britain’?

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

There is a crisis going on in the UK with youth unemployment. Depending on which reports you read, there is between 750,000 and nearly 1m 16-25yr olds unemployed fueling fears of a lost generation of jobless. The need to tackle this issue has become a top priority for the incumbent government and should be near the top of the agenda for all parties as we run up to the general election.

A report to Becta from the Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) at London Metropolitan University  on The influence of new media technologies used in learning on young people’s career aspirations throws up some interesting insights, some of which are below:-

  • “that young people may not understand that technologies, including new media technologies – are increasingly becoming a key feature of labour market sectors that fall outside of the creative sector, or that general or ‘soft’ learning skills that can be developed through the use of these technologies (such as problem-solving, communication, risk-taking) are of use in other more traditional occupations.”
  • “most students felt that learning to use technology would provide them with greater opportunities in the future labour market. As a Nottingham focus group pupil said, ‘technology is everywhere now so I’m sure I’ll have to use a lot of the skills that I’ve learned in a lot of what I do’.”
  • “Our findings suggest that young people in areas identified as ‘disadvantaged’ are using new media technologies in both their formal and informal learning and this can enhance students’ enjoyment and motivation in their learning. We also found that a large number of these students expressed a real interest in pursuing careers in the creative sector which use new media technologies. However, their enjoyment in learning and their career aspirations were constrained”

Social Value

Various current schemes (many are mentioned in the Becta report) are in place to encourage industry to help create jobs and training programs but I would like to come at this from a different angle and look not at the reams of ‘qualified’ people coming out of higher education with degrees or qualifications that can’t find employment, but the ones who have fallen out of education, the under privileged, the disadvantaged ethnic minorities and the socially excluded. This is a wider issue that has other, far more harmful ramifications from a socio economic perspective. These are the people who are associated with crime, gang life, anti-social behavior…the kind of stuff that is fueling the ‘broken Britain’ echo chamber. I would like to ask and explore whether the rise of social media and the need for businesses to understand the new communication tools and techniques to connect with their customers could have a bigger role than is currently being realized.

Social media, and I mean this in the widest possible sense ie Social Networks, mobile, gaming, file sharing, music production etc has a near 100% penetration rate among the youth of Britain. What I find more interesting is how this group of people actually use these tools, predominantly to communicate – precisely the thing that many corporate organizations are trying to figure out. Mass media may have lulled them into a false sense of security in terms of how to engage with their customers, how to talk to them and how to get them talking to each other. Social media has exploded into this area and all of sudden the need to understand the language and tactics of the social web have real business value. There a new forms of business literacy today that did not exist two or three years ago and having grown up with, and become proficient in them makes some ‘kids’ more qualified than many ‘grey hairs’ in industry

Raising Self Belief

If by showing, previously disillusioned, excluded young people, that the skills they have developed by growing up with and using social technology on  daily basis, can be transferred to the workplace and more so…are actually in demand by media, technology and communications companies, we might be able to raise their personal expectation and self worth levels. I am not saying that this could directly translate to jobs and a reduction in those all important employment figures (which I understand would be a sizable hurdle from a project funding perspective) but it may have an impact on other areas of society . I think the promise of employment at the end of a scheme would be setting the bar way too high in terms of outcome, what I think is needed is to raise some of these young people’s aspirations just enough to make them think they aren’t as worthless as they may have been told and so that maybe, they can see a route to employement but initially I think the challenge is to get them somewhere constructive, off the streets and try and open a window of opportuinity. Whether that becomes a door and one that they eventually can walk through is much further down the line…but you need to start somewhere.

There seems to be no current government schemes in place (unless I have missed something, and please correct me in the comments if that is the case) that will tackle this group using social media as the cornerstone, so its an area I am keen to explore more. I would welcome any help, research, pointers, general chit chat ,contrary opinions or stumbling blocks!

Why social media should be on Football Clubs’ radar

January 6, 2010 1 comment

My name is Ed, and I support Southampton FC. It’s been a while since I said that in public!

Anyone who follows football (soccer for the US dudes) may have noticed The Saints slipping further and further down the leagues in the last few years and they now reside in the third tier of English football. They succumbed to the same problem that has been plaguing many clubs, some much bigger than Southampton…they screwed themselves financially. I won’t go into the details as its fairly basic stuff, but this season, the same fate has befallen Southampton’s great south coast rivals, Portsmouth FC. This is by no means a post to gloat or rub the proverbial salt into Pompey’s wounds, rather one about how inept most football teams are at communicating with their fans.

So, Pompey continue to slide towards administration and seem to have resorted to the same tactics that other clubs and indeed businesses have done in in the last 12 months – pretend it isn’t happening and hold the ‘official party line’ of – All is good.

Tired PR tactics

The most recent post addressing the issue is here, clearly coming straight from the PR/Legal department. Read it, its non sense!

“Portsmouth Football Club has not been formally served with a winding up petition and is shocked and surprised this action has been taken in respect of VAT, PAYE and National Insurance Contributions which either have been, or are about to be paid, or are disputed.”

Shocked? That is what happens when you don’t pay the bills…your creditors come for you.

I remember when Southampton were going through similar financial hell last year and recall vividly how the tired, corporate spin each week on the official site would proclaim ‘All is well, carry on as usual’ It is so insulting to assume the fans, who are the clubs customers SHOULD be kept in the dark. It reeks of the kind of corporate arrogance that social media is gradually eroding in the business world. Organisations can’t pretend all is well with their product or service (in this case the football club) when the customers (fans) are seeing the reality – staff not being paid, team getting humped each week, costs being cut etc. And yet it continues….

Social Media

One way to keep the fans abreast of what is going on, really going on at the club would be to open a dialogue with them and social media is pretty good at that. So what is happening on the biggest social channel – Facebook?

Pompey have no official Fan page. In fact, if they wanted a nudge as to what their customers are demanding, they should check out the What Is Going On Group ! and yet nothing from the club.

They aren’t alone though, Even Man U do not ‘officially’ contribute to their page and they have 300,000 fans!

Chelsea have the right idea. Their Fan Page integrated with the official site, regular updates etc – is this systemic of a club not up the creek. They have no fear of being open? Liverpool as well do a good job and have over 1,000,000 fans. Arsenal, not too bad either.

I haven’t checked them all so apologies if your club is social media awesomeness personified, I am making a general point about how bad most sports teams are at engaging with their lifeblood – the fans.

Fanatical Brand Loyalty

I have been focusing on Facebook as the channel as I think Fan Pages lend themselves perfectly to sports teams  – where people are actual Fans. If brands such as Starbucks can do such good stuff through their fan page, then sports teams really have no excuse. The US sports teams are much better at it and examples such as New England Patriots show what can be done. We also see more of the athletes themselves embracing the tools, all be it under constraints from the various governing bodies.

Football fans are the most brand loyal people. It is the most adhesive, one sided relationship I can think of (maybe religion but that’s for another post!). If you support a team, really support a team, then even if you want to change allegiance…you can’t! It affects you on a cellular level and the clubs need to realize this. The non-playing staff at football clubs will move on to other jobs in other industries and in most cases don’t have any affinity to the club in the first place other than they pay their wages ( or not in Pompey’s case), they need to realize the fans make the club, they are the paying customers.

If major corporations are realizing they need to be open and honest with their customers then Sports teams need to wake up to that as well. It isn’t going to make the millions of pounds of debt vanish, but it may create a siege mentality amongst the fans and keep them coming through the gates and spending money. As soon as you create a them vs us scenario in terms of information, you are on the slippery slope. When you insult your customers intelligence by spitting out press releases that contradict reality, you are almost at the bottom of the slope and in the shit pit.

I don’t think sports teams realize the potential they have to bring the fans and the players closer and the kind of brand equity that will buy the club. Most clubs have ‘fans forums’, and by that I mean physical meetings once in a while where a few hundred fans are allowed into a staged conference with the manager, Chairmen, players etc. This is good but impractical to do on a regular basis. Social media can provide the next best thing and if nothing else will create the feeling that the club cares and respects the fans. If they can’t at least do that then they deserve to drop down the leagues…and stay there.

Google real time search – The start of a game changer?

December 8, 2009 3 comments

I think this is a big one! Google announced yesterday that they will   launch real-time search within days. They will integrate the full   Twitter firehose feed, as first mentioned by Mashable back in October, Myspace , Yahoo Answers, Jaiku and the plethora of blogs they already crawl. They will also have public pages from Facebook. There is a question over exactly how much access they will have here  and it is safe to assume they won’t get the same love that Microsoft will, given their investment in Facebook back in 2007.

Many in the industry saw this one coming. At the MSM09 Conference last month, there was talk of Google buying one of the incumbent vendors (I was one of the talkers) and I guess it may have come down to price – cheaper to do a deal with the data sources than to buy a Radian6? Not sure, but it certainly throws up some interesting questions for the many, many players in the realtime / social media monitoring space:-

When will the data be plugged into Google Analytics?

How much will Google charge?

Will Google produce a sentiment engine to accompany the data streams?

Are we screwed?

I also think this is good news for agencies, consultants and coaches who have been struggling to get their prospective clients to see the benefit or need to be involved in social media, to join the conversation. This should make it easier! Get them to watch the video below and then ask again if they think they should be involved.

Do the tools mask what social media really is?

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I have a ridiculous amount of godparents. My mother says she didn’t want any of her friends to be left out so my brother and I have around eight each! This, of course, has many benefits. In my early years it ensured a high yield of gifts on birthdays and at Christmas, and this week I was invited by one of my godfathers to a Livery Dinner held by the The Worshipful Company of Salters. Oh yes!

Out of my league

I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My godfather was a solicitor and having Googled the Livery Companies, I had an idea of the company I would be in plus there had been talk of having to wear white tie and tails…and I am still not really sure what that is. Anyway, I found myself amongst diplomats, MP’s, chairmen of some massive corporations and high ranking chemists, with some of the wearing robes, medals and animal hide! It was patently clear I was way out of my league on so many levels and when I explained I was in the social media, emerging technology ‘field’ there were various glazed expressions and one “…how funny!”. Awesome.

Very minor epiphany

During the dinner I, again, found myself trying to ‘pitch’ the industry to Dr. Gordon, a chemist from Geneva who knew way too much about wine. He was fascinated by the theories and possibilities of social media that I was attempting to explain, but couldn’t see any practical purpose for himself. He used email to stay in touch with his family and had heard of Facebook and Twitter but certainly wouldn’t consider himself a social media ‘user’. Reaching for examples or case studies that I could launch at him, I asked what his favourite pastime was? “Easy, wine.”

“Cool”, I replied, “there are loads of ways to use social media for wine …” And then the minor epiphany happened. He cut me off and said, the only thing he had really done online was buy wine at an auction through a live feed. He went on to say how amazing it was to feel so connected to the actual event and could bid in realtime, see the auctioneer, other bidders etc. “And you said you have never used social media?” I said. “What, that was social media was it?” was the answer!

Look past the tools

My point is that it is so easy to see social media as the tools or platforms that grab the headlines rather than a wider capability to connect you to people and places, which is where the real magic is. Dr Gordon had a ‘real’ human experience using social media for what it is meant to be…and he apparently got a good deal on the wine!

Mix your wine with social media

November 19, 2009 Leave a comment

I spotted an article in the FT a couple of  days ago about the success Majestic Wine have been having in the UK. You can read  the article here and here. This is coming at  a time when First Quench, owners of  Threshers, a former leader in the UK booze  market have gone into administration .

No doubt, the fact that all the major  supermarkets are now stocking the full  range of alcohol has been the main driver in  First Quench’s downfall, but it was  interesting to  hear Steve Lewis (CEO at  Majestic)  champion social media as the key  driver to  their 24.6% increase in online sales.

“We’ve unleashed the potential of the twenty-somethings in our business, improving the blog written by staff and selling parcels of wine which are too small to send to stores as online exclusives to create a sense of urgency. They sell out within hours.”

We all know the success story that is Gary Vaynerchuk and how he took his family owned wine business from (a pretty healthy) $5m per year operation to a $50m beast and in the process made himself a star of the social media world.

So, I think we can assume that social media and wine mix very well!

Report from Monitoring Social Media 09

November 18, 2009 2 comments

Yesterday I was at the inaugural Monitoring Social Media 09 conference. We had representatives from leading brands, agencies, monitoring vendors, bloggers, researchers…and probably a few social media gurus (although I didn’t actually meet any with the title on their name badge, which was a shame!), all coming together to share knowledge and experience on social media monitoring and measurement – one of the current buzz topics in the tech/media space.

Luke Brynley-Jones (CEO of Our Social Times), did a great job in putting the conference together and managed to attract a good range of speakers and panellists. The hall was almost full up until around 4.45pm, which is pretty good going and it was good to see a mix of nationalities and a decent gender ratio. One complaint from a few delegates (via the twitter stream) was that there was only one woman on the panels. This was a little strange especially as, in my opinion, some of the best presentations were from Katy Howell, (Immediate Future), Anne Longley (Mediaedge) and Celia Pronto, (STA travel).

I am going to regurgitate some of my notes below and try and pick out some of the highlights.

Morning Session

Alan Moore kicked things off with a good one on how social data is changing the game. He touched on the movement towards a VRM model, something I have recently been reading about and am hoping to get more involved in.

He explained how different business models need to evolve based on networked economics. Towards the end he talked about how are a t the back end of the industrial revolution,  which dehumanised us and made us ‘mass consumers’ and targets of mass media – social technology gives us our individuality back. Nice!

Next up was Neville Hobson (Head of Social Media for WeissComm Group) who co-chaired the event, he spoke about some of the trends he has spotted regarding monitoring for some major brands and what is turning them on such as:-

–          Achieve more for less cost

–          Increased accountability

–          Direct Access to customers

He also made the point that people search for content, not web pages.

Antony Mayfield of icrossing spoke about the importance of activity in networks and not in individual conversations and the need to combine data analysis with storytellers/insights. I agree.

The Girls show us how it’s done

After the break, Ann Longley covered off the business case for social media monitoring. Lots of good insights here to use as ammo next time you are in the boardroom pitching, such as:-

–          Earned media is now more influential than paid

–          Monitor to identify problems. Examples used were kryptonite locks,  and Dominos

–          To identify fans, advocates – examples included Coca-Cola

–          Brand audits – historical as well as future

Anne also touched on that we are beginning to see integration with CRM systems and this will be a big trend in 2010.

Katy Howell put in one of the more engaging presentations while explaining some of the problems with social media adoption in big organisations. Some key takeaways from this were:

–          Introduce social media via stealth!

–          Monitoring is just Step 1. It is a good way to get C-level buy in, but it is essential to overlay other metrics to get a full picture of brand health, business intelligence etc

–          Create a corporate policy for social media. This is so important and a service which many organisations and agencies are neglecting at the moment.

Next Celia Pronto gave the best case study of the day, detailing how STA Travel has been trailblazing. It was useful for everyone to see the theory and buzzwords (don’t broadcast, try to connect, it takes time etc etc) actually put into practice. STA have done a great job with STA travelbuzz, recruiting customers to become reporters and producing some quality content.

The results – Sentiment, up, intent to purchase/recommend, up.

Afternoon Session

After lunch Giles Palmer, (CEO of Brandwatch), took the stage complete with his movember offering on his upper lip! He, animatedly, explained the numerous problems with extracting the meaningful data from the social web. I don’t envy him, and some of the key points were:-

–          Getting the right data is a pain in the arse!

–          Many vendors will buy in the data from aggregators (boardreader, backtype etc)

–          The amount of filtering needed to actively monitor a generic brand name (he used Shell as the eg) is huge.

Giles also thought that the price for the data will increase as access becomes less ie Twitter and Facebook will charge more for access in the future. This was the only point I disagreed with as I believe one of the big boys (Google or Microsoft) will provide the data much, much cheaper once they acquire one of the incumbent vendors.

Brad Little ( Nielsen) was up next discussing Free vs Paid tools.

I enjoyed this one as Brad encouraged everyone to ask the difficult questions of clients before jumping in feet first with tactics and tools. For example:

–          Do they really want to know what is going on, collaborate, be human?

–          What are their objectives? Coverage, save time, give control?

Other key takeaways were:-

–          advocacy will become a key metric

–          good analysis needs big resources in people

–          combine monitoring  with other research methodologies – buzz isn’t enough

–          You need active client participation for success – (Yes and double Yes!)

–          Monitoring – Research – Strategy  – these are different disciplines

A good panel discussion followed on, what was wrong with social media monitoring , including Asi Sharabi, who’s blog post on the same topic, inspired the conference. Some of the main issues discussed were:-

–          60% of UGC is spam. Spam detection needs to be better

–          Sentiment analysis is currently very hit and miss without humans

–          Price can’t be based on volume – has to be a license

–          Workflow & collaboration is a key feature

–          Much of the blame can be placed at procurements door. Clients buying solutions aren’t asking the right questions.

Robin Grant (We Are Social) gave a good case study on the work his agency have done with Skype. I especially liked his Netvibes dashboard which was built in house. My only question here would be how effective that would be for a generic brand name like Shell?

Last up and a late replacement for Chris Thomas was Marshall Sponder (Webmetricsguru) talking about the future and some of his issues with the monitoring vendors such as, they all differ in terms of data output for the same keywords and there is a need for meme clustering for the client (questions, customer service, sales leads etc).

The final panel focussed on the future with Matthaus Krzykowski throwing in that he has seen some industry specific monitoring tools which have up to 90% sentiment accuracy. Plus, more debate on if and when we will start to see some agreed measurement metrics which we can all abide with.

All in all, a success. It will be interesting to see how far we have come at MSM10

More news, pics, links etc from the event can be found here.

Measuring success in social media

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

measuring_success I have been thinking for a while about what constitutes success in social media  and are we still caught up in the old metrics that served display, CPC and before  that, broadcast media? By all accounts (unfortunately I couldn’t make it across  the Atlantic to be there in  person) Katie Paine’s Social Media Measurement:  Establishing ROI (Full  slidedeck is here) was an  excellent presentation and  highlighted how some,  socially optimized,  companies are measuring the hard,    financial metrics that  will directly impact their bottom line. About time too!  She also brings to light  the old metrics which simply won’t (or shouldn’t) cut it  anymore.

Social media measurement has to start web metrics and these non-financial impacts are certainly important. However, as Olivier Blanchard put it, they are like hugs – everyone likes them but they won’t pay the bills! (Olivier also has a pretty awesome slidedeck on social media  ROI here). Impressions, fans, followers, retweets, views etc  don’t, and never will equal success in social media. That only comes with sales, donations, efficiencies, the ability to change sentiment and opinion towards your company. And these can all be measured with a combination of web analytics, social media monitoring, human sweat, corporate financial information…and time.

We, as agencies, consultants, planners or analysts, may have to get ready to be kicked out of a few meetings and turn down the quick money on offer from doing a social media ‘campaign’ or broadcast message. We should focus on the clients who are in it for the long haul, who want social media fully integrated into the marketing strategy, who want their departments (sales, customer service, PR, marketing)  tapping into the same knowledge base and data insights gleaned from social media.

Measurement will always be imperfect when trying tie it squarely back to a purchasing decision but we don’t have to hide behind that and use it as an excuse for not focusing on the difficult problems. Just because the client doesn’t ask for ROI to be measured properly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We all know if we can show financial and brand building value to an organization then social media will gain a bigger slice of the budgets, which is nice! But, this will also lead to something much more impressive – businesses will become more customer centric.

Let’s face it, no one is curing cancer here, but to think the purpose and value of social media activity is to put the next ‘cool’ video or app in front of as many unsuspecting people as we can is really depressing. If we are in this for one thing that could be considered valuable or ‘game changing’, it has to be the humanizing of business again (Chris Brogan blogs, talks about this all the time). Certainly, that is why I am in this. If we can help businesses care more about their customers and give the consumer a better, more personal, more informative experience with brands then that has to be  a good thing. The only where we are going to get there is if we measure and prove success.