Tech innovation and enthusiasm is clearly alive and well in our nation’s capital. Last Thursday, I attended the Digital Capital Week 2011 Core Conference, an all day affair at the Artisphere, where entrepreneurs, creatives, developers, marketers and communicators from around the world came together to network and share information.
One of the highlights for me was the Disruptive Entrepreneurs panel, where Ruha Devanesan introduced us to PeaceTones, a nonprofit that supports talented, unknown artists from developing countries build their careers while giving back to their communities. PeaceTones trains artists on their legal rights and marketing techniques, and helps them distribute their work internationally.
The music industry has changed so much in the past decade. Music today is digital and easily shared, making it difficult to monetize less direct consumption—even for the big record labels and well-established artists. For musicians from earthquake-ravaged Haiti or the impoverished favelas of Brazil, the struggle to “make it” is nearly impossible to overcome.
PeaceTones leverages the power of social media platforms to spread these artists’s work globally. They film personal narratives and create music videos for their artists and then teach them how to self promote using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms. PeaceTones also uses Kickstarter, the world’s largest platform for funding creative projects, to raise funds to launch the artists’ albums. This effort has been tremendously successful in helping these artists share their music with a global audience. And the best part is that 90% of all product sales go directly to the musicians and their community’s development goal.
Later in the day, I attended the Responsibility in Media in a Global Age panel where Alex Howard of O’Reilly Media declared identity to be “the biggest issue of the digital age.” The group discussed how, when working a story, today’s journalists need to be “data scientists” and know how to tap into the ever-evolving tools that help verify someone’s identity. Food for thought: networked identity – what qualifies as an individual in a new media environment? What happens to self-identity when presented through networks of social connections? For example, does an enterprise Twitter account with multiple authors presenting a single “voice” qualify as an individual? I’ll let you chew on that…
We all know that it’s increasingly challenging for media to manage breaking news and fact check for accuracy, but as this panel discussed, the social tools being used to share information in real time (i.e. Twitter and YouTube) are having a massive impact, especially in areas of extreme conflict, as we saw with the Arab Spring uprising. Anthony De Rosa of Reuters shared, “especially in the developing world, the notion of responsibility is changing. You need to know when to burn access in order to get the story out fast. You either report what’s happening now or you get left behind.”
Also in this session, Google’s Caroline McCarthy (formerly of CNET) shared one of her favorite Twitter handles: @MrDisclosure, a whistleblower who tweets when investors don’t disclose their investments in their tweets – check it out!
Toward the end of the day, I attended the Winning Mobile Campaigns, hosted by Ogilvy client, Ford. Panelists agreed that it’s unclear if QR codes have a future. “It’s a bridging technology, not the final destination.” They also shared their thoughts on some of the exciting technologies we can expect to see used in mobile marketing campaigns of the future. Some of my favorites:
I was delighted to see one of my very favorite startup CEOs on the Winning panel – the mind-blowingly brilliant Brian Wong, of kiip, a company that offers marketers an entirely new model for in-game advertising. Kiip’s long-term goal? To “own every achievement moment on the planet.” For example, people are rewarded for exercising for a certain length of time or for leveling up on a game they play on their smartphone. As Wong says, “we think of happiness as a resource. We’re trying to mine happiness rather than create it. We’re learning more every day about how to tap into those key moments and create affinity for a brand.” Pretty impressive thinking for someone who isn’t yet legally old enough to rent a car!
Overall, a fantastic conference, and I look forward to attending again next year. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the most exciting technologies you’re looking forward to in mobile marketing campaigns of the future.
FHM Germany replaces website presence in favour of Facebook
By the end of July FHM a re-known lifestyle magazine in Germany will dismantle its homepage. Instead, FHM wants to manage its internet activities via a Facebook fan page. “We are where our readers are, on Facebook. Interaction with our readers is our most important focus”, argues a representative of the publication.
OK, everybody seems to be on Facebook and of course giving up a homepage in favour of a Facebook page will save some resources and costs. The decision raised some buzz in social media in Germany when marketing experts and social media discussed the pros and cons of becoming dependent to a third party with its own interests, and how this would result in less opportunities in terms of branding, functionality and tracking.
What is even more interesting is the fact that FHM sees “no future” for its homepage. Looking at the numbers confirms this view. Only 8.000 users per day visited the page, its Google visibility was relatively poor as were the inbound links. As the old site seemed to have low relevance for the target group it would be interesting to know what makes FHM think that this would change on Facebook.
Simply transferring an apparently unsuccessful concept to another platform would not be a very strategic answer and it would not even be very consistent from a financial POV as any budget spent on a concept with low perception would be a poor investment.
As social media is not a one-size-fits-all solution the answer to the question of whether a brand should move to Facebook or not is a quite individual one. But the answer is always NO if it is done without a content and engagement strategy that is tailor-made for the new address. And by the way, it’s a myth that success in social media comes for free.
A company cannot just start a twitter and/or facebook account without having any competences in this field. Well, (technically) it can. But acting in an unfamiliar but public arena generally bears risks and this is especially true for social media. But what if a company does not have the man power – or the know-how – to professionally run a social media campaign? Fortunately, there are PR agencies that offer professional advice.
But when social media is all about transparency and authenticity how can that be handled through an external PR agency? Ok, this seems to be a no-go and could mean the end of all social media activities in the above mentioned case.
But wait – taking a closer look at the issue, there is an approach to outsource major parts of an enterprise’s social media activity without interfering with the social web’s ethos. Most important thing here: major does not equal all. A successful outsourcing of social media marketing requires active partnering and contribution from both the enterprise and its chosen agency.
At the end, it is much more crucial that the created content sticks to the social web’s rules and expectations than the question of its originator. It is important that a consistent delivery of quality content is guaranteed. And that is a task a social media specialist who is familiar with the company’s business can fulfil even better – if he is not stuck in time-consuming approval processes.
Whoever uses Facebook, Twitter and Co. knows them: people who just spread nonsense in the social web universe. At least the Twitter question has changed from “what are you doing?” as in the early days of 2006 to “what’s happening?” What should be clear is that “I’m drinking coffee” is not a message at all.
A few tricky brands took advantage of the overload of information and implemented the concept of “oversharers” in their social media strategy. Pringels for example gives annoyed users the chance to rebuke their friends’ share-mistakes with a button, called the “Overshare” button. Whenever it is activated your friend gets an e-mail from the Pringels help service that leads them to the Pringels website“helptheoversharers.com”
On average, approximately 1% of a site’s audience generates 20% of all its traffic through sharing of the brand’s content or site links with others. These “influencers” can directly influence 30% or more of overall end actions on brand websites by recommending the brand’s site, products or promotions to friends.
What this seans is that successful social media marketing isn’t simply about amassing thousands of followers, but instead precisely identifying the most influential members of your audience and recognizing them for their value. By directly engaging one influencer with exclusive opportunities, special offers, and unique content, you are indirectly engaging thousands of other people who are part of this influencer’s social sphere.
The first step is to indentify the 1%. What motivates them to promote your product or brand? For most people spending time to share content with friends or followers is not about fortune, it’s about fame. Make them famous, let them know that you see what they are doing and feed them with special content. Engaging in social media means before all else you must listen, audit and rate the social audience in your to communicate in the end with the right influencers.
I came across the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s history of Facebook privacy statements yesterday while investigating reactions to Facebook’s new information-sharing features, and the response they elicited from legislators. It got me thinking about the profound communications problem many companies are just beginning to confront.
Privacy is being forced to evolve - yes, by companies like Facebook and Google - but also by consumers who are sharing more and more about their lives without regards to their own privacy, and now, by their growing interest in legislating the issue, by our governments.
Brands that play in this space - and these days, which brands don’t - have to find a way to maintain the trust they have with consumers while experimenting with different privacy regimes (in the case of platforms like Facebook), or with the wealth of data that social platforms can make available to them. With so much changing, so fast, it seems unlikely that companies or consumers will willingly walk away from the potential benefits of tapping into the data, or, in the case of consumers, happily handing it over to derive some other benefit.
So while the world waits for the forced evolution of privacy to come to some sort of generally accepted conclusion, what to do? It seems to me that the only way to navigate these shifting sands is to follow some very simple communications rules:
There’s certainly more a company can and should do, but it seems to me that companies often lose sight of simple communications precepts that help them demonstrate to their audience that they care, as they invariably do, and take their audience’s concerns seriously. At the end of the day it amounts to following the golden rule, but don’t the pressures of business life often make it seem much more complicated?
Nate Cochrane pens his rules for social media etiquette on Australian new site, iTNews. And in a style true to the very fundamentals of social media which encourage active sharing and participation, he has made a point to list the rules he outlines as a work in progress and has opened it up for discussion on the site.
One of the rules that he points out is one that we tend to forget: ‘Quality NOT quantity’. Too often PRs get flack for doing a last minute dash to sign up as many people in their network to become friends/ fans on their clients’ Facebook groups and pages or on their Twitter handles.
As PRs, we need to continue to educate our clients that the real value does not lie in the sheer volume of people we sign up but rather in the quality of the people we engage (even if it’s only a handful!).
Consider who your target audience is, where do they frequent and how to reach them. Who is in your fans/ friends extended networks. Are they the right audience to target?
Using Twitter as an example, it’s important to do the analysis and drill down into who the person is that you want to connect with, get to know them, follow them for a while and find out what they write about. Also have a look into who follows that person, are they the appropriate person for your client to be reaching out to or is there someone in their Twitter network that is better?
The following tool can help you determine the most appropriate people to follow:
If we want to get some real and long lasting results for our clients, the key is to make sure that we’re speaking to the right audiences!
For those of us who spend countless hours a day in front of a computer screen, chances are, we’ve spent some portion of that day on video sharing sites such as YouTube, Blip.TV or AOL Video. According to the web analytics site, Compete.com, YouTube alone had over 76 million unique visitors to the site in May 2009 alone.
With millions of people watching hundreds of millions of videos per day and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily-ten hours of video is uploaded every minute according to YouTube-the task of guiding users to your video content, can be quite a challenge!
In June, I provided tips for “Implementing Video in Your PR Campaigns,” and discussed “Best Practices for Creating Video Content.” But once you have begun creating video content and posting to video sharing sites, how can you ensure that your videos will ever be viewed?
Dramatic events throw a nation into turmoil. A disaffected constituency rises up and, spurred on by communications technology, quickly organizes. External forces have the power to ensure that this enabling communications technology continues running – as well as the power to shut it down at will.
This is one way of describing the situation Twitter and NTT America found themselves in earlier this week when Iranian protestors – and their supporters in the US and elsewhere – demanded the company reschedule planned maintenance that would shut down the service at a critical time.
I don’t raise this point to draw comparisons between Iranian protesters and Hutu militias. For what it’s worth I’m on record as advocating that Twitter reschedule its maintenance.
On the contrary I draw this comparison to illustrate a point. The US did not jam radio broadcasts in Rwanda in 1994 out of concerns of violating international law and involving itself in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.
When Twitter and NTT America rearranged their plans they took sides in the internal affairs of Iran.
However much I may agree with the move, this raises ethical questions. Setting aside generally-accepted lobbying practices, should companies involve themselves in the politics of a sovereign nation? (And as you think about the question, remember how some US companies involved themselves in Latin American politics during the Cold War).
The questions become murkier when you consider the news that Twitter’s planned downtime was rescheduled, at least in part, as a result of a request by the US State Department. Whatever you views on this issue, requests made by the US government to technology companies have been the subject of recent controversy (to put it mildly). Should companies cooperate with the US government when cooperation forces them to – by definition – side with the political aims of a group of people in another country?
Let’s switch gears for a minute and think about Facebook. The recent murder of a security guard at the Holocaust museum in Washington DC prompted Michael Arrington to write, for a second time, about a Facebook policy that permits hate groups to be active on the site. Facebook employees responded to Arrington’s post by defending the policy on free speech grounds.
Whatever my personal feelings, I can see – and I hope most others can as well – that both sides have approached this issue thoughtfully and with the goal of taking what they perceive to be the right, moral course of action. And yet they are, of course, in opposition.
With our lives increasingly inextricable from the social Web; powered-by and transpiring within the cloud; with nations declaring that internet access is a civil right; as ‘vital as water and gas’; companies such as Twitter, Facebook and NTT America are going to face more and more of these impossible ethical quandaries – no-win scenarios that force them to choose between choices that are both right and wrong.
Dealing with these scenarios is fraught with risk and communicating the inevitably complex reasoning and good intentions that go into any ethical decision is incredibly difficult.
It is also – as should be clear in these recent cases, unavoidable.
What ethical responsibilities do these and other companies – and the cloud itself – have to end users? We need to start thinking through the scenarios and coming up with some answers.
Anyone who currently uses Facebook or is thinking about using Facebook to publicize a brand should be aware of the Facebook Usernames offering coming this weekend.
I’m sure it’s going to be a mad rush for everyone trying to secure a user name and Mashable suggests securing a username may not be as easy as it sounds.
If you have not already given some thought around a Facebook Username in the context of PR, you might want to read the FAQ’s that Facebook has posted on its blog.
I’m keen to understand how the global recession is impacting social media and particularly the North American powerhouse, Silicon Valley. I’m interested in the develpments occurring at Silicon Valley mostly because today we can consider it the backbone behind a lot of the big Web 2.0 companies.
Belts seem to be tightening in all industries across the board - banking, automotive, retail and so on - yet we’re still seeing big injections of capital in many of the Web 2.0 companies.
Take micro-blogging service Twitter for example. It was announced this week that Twitter has managed to raise $35 million in venture capital in spite of the challenging economic climate. This capital has come from Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital.
Are venture capitalists finally seeing the real value of Web 2.0 in helping deal with challenging times ahead?
I think that social media will come out on top in these tough times as people start using it as a means of cost-saving on entertainment. This is especially important at a time when people are becoming increasingly budget-conscious and are rather choosing to bunker indoors and save their pennies.
I’m a good example of this. I seem to find myself on fewer outings to the movies and instead I keep my cinema experience to my lounge room with my LCD TV, entertainment system and complete surround sound system. In fact, I can’t remember the last movie I saw at the cinemas but I could rattle off at least five DVDs that I have watched at home. I also spend less time travelling and more time talking to my friends overseas via Facebook and Twitter.
There are a plethora of online technologies and digital devices out there that provide consumers with their own portal to entertainment. Aside from big screen TVs that bring you a cinema at home, there are also notebook PCs to consider.
Notebooks are another means of cost-effective entertainment to online services such as online gaming, online video, video conferencing and instant connection to friends and family via IM, social networking sites, email or Skype with those embedded with broadband solutions.
Interestingly enough, consumer experts are also already tipping that many Australians will use the planned $950 Rudd Government cash handouts to splurge on games and gadgets, following record spending on electronics last year (as reported by the Courier Mail).
I’ll be watching these developments closely but please feel free to share any information specifically around how you think social media will fare in light of the global recession.
David Carlson: Social Media and Traditional PR