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.
Every public presenter today should assume his or her remarks will be tweeted and aim to find just the right words that will succeed with both the audience in the room and the audience on Twitter. These parallel aims require different skills and, ideally, today’s public presenter prepares to succeed at both.
Recently, I attended CSC’s Technology and Business Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida. While there, I listened to half-a-dozen presentations and developed tweets for use by CSC’s social news bureau. I observed in this time what statements were most “tweetable” and these observations may help you as you plan your next presentation.
My observations don’t make for a comprehensive or final list at all; however, they offer a “sideline perspective” that can help you write your next speech or write one for someone else.
In three days of listening to presentations, I observed that the most “tweetable” remarks from the conference speakers had one or more of the following traits in common:
· They were declarative. “We appeal to customers that want more than sidewalk sales of computing capacity.”
· They were opinionated. “Loyalty cards are buying my business, not my loyalty.” “The greatest enemy of application modernization is legacy thinking and parochialism.”
· They use colorful analogies. “There’s no pixie dust in the cloud.” “Cloud is a little like legos.”
· They were short. “Your data is not enough.” “Climate models are the epitome of big data.”
· They were surprising. “All CIO surveys are a waste of time.”
· They were predictive. “We believe today’s innovations are approaching the levels of the dot-com era.” “I believe hybrid is the way we are going to experience cloud over the next 5 to 10 years.”
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.
Shortly after Friday morning’s US – Slovenia World Cup match, which ended in a draw following a absolutely terrible contentious officiating call, I logged onto Twitter to join scores of US soccer fans tweeting their collective disgust over the outcome only to reach Twitter’s ‘fail whale’ screen…my second ‘fail whale’ in less than a week of World Cup play.
These fail whales led me to do a bit of research about the popularity of Twitter around sporting events and how this is being utilized by marketers.
As it turns out, both the World Cup and the NBA Finals have been a bit overwhelming for Twitter. Records for posts in a single day have been broken and re-broken, with major peaks occurring around the times points are scored. As Benny Evangelista of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in a recent blog post, Twitter has experienced several site outages, slowness, bursts of error messages, duplicated or missing tweets and timeline problems that can be attributed to the World Cup.
Beyond a discussion of why Twitter’s architecture is unable to handle the tweet traffic of so many sports fans, this points to an interesting shift in the demographic of Twitter users (see Claire Cain Miller’s excellent NY Times article here). Where once the social networking site was composed primarily of early adopters in hi-tech hot spots, it has become apparent that the makeup of Twitter has started to reflect the interests of the general population.
As Twitter more closely mirrors a cross-section of the US and the world at large, it has become a valuable tool for measuring the buzz associated with any given product or event. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog post, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries describes how Twitter is now one of the primary measurement tools for determining which brands are winning the World Cup marketing battle. Much to the dismay of official FIFA World Cup sponsor Adidas, Nike has dominated World Cup online chatter, with a dominant share of Twitter mentions.
While ambush marketing has long plagued official sponsors, the rise of Twitter and social media creates new headaches for official sponsors. As brands learn to capitalize on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, their successful domination of world events is leading savvy marketers to ask whether the sponsorship of a major sporting event is necessary in the era of social media.
For the next Olympic Games, should companies shell out millions of dollars just to have exclusive rights?
While I believe that sponsorship of major events continues to have a significant ROI, sponsors must be aware that the marketing game has changed. As Nike has successfully demonstrated, to become the brand most commonly associated with the World Cup, a company must make use of social media to drive creative content across the Internet.
When considering the ROI for sponsorship of major events, one thing is certain–sponsorships alone will not ensure a victory. Word is still out on if scored goals will.
By now, almost all the western world — and a good chunk of Asia and Africa — have all heard of Apple’s latest breakthrough product, the iPad.
The sheer number of impressions this launch has generated is in itself impressive. But what is even more impressive is the use of early adopters and key influentials to drive the story, enthusiasm, excitement and buzz for Apple, not the company itself.
Remember that Apple is not a company that is that into social media, yet check out the Twitter hashtag #ipad and end user blogs to get a sense for the mountain of coverage and interest generated for the iPad.
How does it do this? Good old-fashioned smart PR and a communications strategy that relies on the magnification effect of early adopters and influentials to amplify launch noise via traditional PR, Word of Mouth (WoM) buzz and aspirational excitement.
Here’s some of the ground rules:
1. Carefully pick and choose your hero product(s) for the year and put as much wood behind these arrows as you can. The iPad was THE launch of 2010 for Apple. The company maintains ongoing influencer relations, a thorough reviewer’s program, and ongoing engagement for other products, like their laptops, iPods, etc., but the focus was iPad and later this year iPhone OS version 4.0. That’s it. Laser-like focus, picking and backing your product bets, not spreading the wealth across a wide product range that all cry out for PR support, even though they may be close to end-of-life (EOL) and have reached the downward side of the S-curve. The other products bask in the halo of the hero products. See what the iPod did for Macintosh sales post launch? See what the iPhone has done for iPad sales?
2. Focus on long term influencer and early adopter relations and engagement. These are your natural allies. Cultivate them, let them talk for you because they ultimately carry far more weight and credibility than your own Press Releases, blog posts or advertising. Engage with not just technology influencers, but with business, social and celebrity folk that give you brand cache and style. It’s no accident that Stephen Fry is an Apple fan boy, so is half of Hollywood, thanks to decades of engagement with product placement on set and off set, with the stars themselves. Every episode of Seinfeld has a Macintosh and a small statuette of Superman in the background. Check it out next time re-run comes on. At one point, Jerry Seinfeld had a Mac too (and probably still does even though he did ads with Bill Gates last year).
So how does this translate into the iPad launch? How do these uber-strategies map with launch tactics? Well, here’s a synopsis:
The iPad launched officially on April 1, but embargoes were set for March 31. This means a wave of launch buzz and hype 24 hours prior to people being able to buy one (not counting the rumours and speculation in the prior nine months).
Key influencers were seeded with Product Verification & Testing (PVT) units three to four months out in some cases, depending on when these units were deemed stable enough and of sufficient quality to pass muster for people that will forgive non-production machine foibles because they love the technology and because they consider themselves Apple-insiders. These units went to key Apple business partners/friends (remember Google CEO Eric Schmidt got a pre-production iPhone and not so surreptitiously flashed it at Davos, where it stole the headlines rather than dry economic prognostications?), celebrities, technology gurus, etc. Also note that they all honoured the strict Apple NDAs — no insider wants to be ostracized and get thrown out of the club.
Journos/key bloggers in the US (a very select few, high impact folks) had their iPads under NDA for a week prior to launch, enough for them to play and enjoy, but not enough time for them to be too heavily critical. Launch reviews reflect that and it’s commonsense when you think about it. The shine always rubs off the shiny new toy the longer you have it. This early enthusiasm sets the tone for the launch coverage, providing the initial launch gestalt.
Celebrity Twitter-ers helped fuel the social media buzz. Stephen Fry was on the US West Coast at launch (funny how that happened) and put up video of the un-boxing of his iPad. He openly Tweeted he had one a day prior to the rest of the population. Robert Scoble did the same thing, except for the video of the unboxing (he later went out and bought two more iPads because his family kept hijacking his — and Tweeted about it). Reviews popped up the day before the official launch by Walt Mossberg and David Pogue in the US — two of the most highly respected tech journos in the country. Surgical media placement and engagement for maximum impact rather than a broad ‘hit as many as you can’ approach most companies take.
Foreign (that is, non-US) media got flown to a glitzy New York event and even if there was no pricing for their markets, they got to play with units at launch in salubrious surroundings and with high profile Apple execs. They in turn also had the opportunity if they were keen enough to buy their own units in the US, which judging by the coverage, a good few did, thereby continuing the buzz momentum.
And the result is, as you can see, a wave of initial great coverage that drives WoM, then sales and sets the tone.
More importantly its a self-reinforcing cycle of clever, surgical market engagement that fuels Apple’s mystique as a cult rather than as a technology company.
And the interesting thing is that other companies with ‘insanely’ great products could be doing the same to build their own mystique and stories. Mass communications doesn’t have to be massive, just smart.
Postscript: The iPhone OS 4.0 was announced a few days ago. Only Apple developers are supposed to have the beta code for testing. Stephen Fry, who last time I checked can’t cut a line of code, Tweeted yesterday that he had just installed it on his 3G iPhone. General availability for the masses is not expected until the northern hemisphere summer/autumn (fall).
At the Australian launch of Windows7 today, Microsoft has invited Twitter followers to take part, with the event being streamed live through Ustream.tv . These followers have the chance to engage directly with senior Microsoft executives, and during the Q&A session, every fourth question will come directly from the Twitter feed.
However, a number of journalists are not keen. First they would prefer questions only come from journalists at the event itself. Second, they’re worried the Twitter questions will be filtered and that only the easy ones will be answered. Third, they’re concerned it will take up too much time and give real journalists less opportunity to table their questions. But with only 140 characters and no follow up, it’s not likely to be a time consuming exercise.
One alternative suggestion put forward by a journalist is to run a Q&A by the likes of Slashdot and Digg, where questions are crowd sourced, than a top ten are posed to the interviewee and would better represent what the audience wants to know.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how it goes and the reaction. Twitter is now common place on TV with live studio audience shows using it to get questions in real time from viewers.
How many other PRs, particularly from the tech sector, are incorporating Twitter feeds like this into big events? What has the feedback been? Keen to hear what people think.
Should anonymous commenting on blogs, forums, social networking sites and microblogging sites such as Twitter be allowed? Is it ethical?
I’m inclined to lean strongly towards the negative argument. l’d suggest that anonymous posting goes against the very fundamental principles behind social media and the importance of authenticity and transparency when operating in online communities. It’s therefore very interesting to see that there are new online tools and services popping up that encourage this very behaviour.
Two of the latest examples are as follows:
One of the services implies tweeting for ‘good’ and the other for ‘bad’.
I’ll be interested to see the sorts of tweets that get shared on both of these services. I’m particularly interested to know what sort of tweets make it to the ‘Tweet From Above’ service. If there’s something good to share – a fabulous CSR initiative by a company, something great that a colleague has helped you with, your love of Sunsilk shampoo – why not put your name to it and share it with the world?
I can understand the reason for not putting your name to posts that comes from ‘Tweet From Below’, but surely this is just another service that has the potential to flare up cyber-bullying!
Are there any valid reasons for commenting anonymously? The assumption would be that one would only do so if they have something to hide. Perhaps what they are posting is factually incorrect or perhaps they are simply gossip mongering. Whatever the case, I don’t agree with it.
I’d be keen to hear if anyone has any thoughts on when anonymous commenting would be permissible.
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!
My colleague Sam North, former managing editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald in Australia, has responded strongly to Umair Haque’s Nichepaper Manifesto. He doesn’t blog but has given me permission to post his thoughts. A little long for a blog post, but thought I would share it all:
If the Nichepaper Manifesto is some sort of harbinger of the future then God help us all. Unfortunately its broad sweep of generalities, trite statements and ill-informed comments are typical of the newspapers-are-dead lobby. I defy anyone to get their head around such an amalgamation of nonsense. The day the article was sent to me today (Wednesday, August 5), as usual, I read the AFR (a specialist finance and business newspaper and website which seeks – and many say succeeds in doing – to develop a perspective, analytical skills, and storytelling capabilities that are inimitable by rivals . . Nichepaper, anyone?), The Australian, the SMH and the Daily Telegraph. All three strove to impart meaningful, lasting knowledge by extensively educating, enlightening and informing me about many issues, particularly the Ozcar debacle in Canberra and the terrorism arrests in Melbourne.
Far from radically reinventing what news is, both those issues had the previous day been the subject of astonishing news breaks by The Australian, with the paper exclusively revealing that Godwin Gretch had admitted to writing the fake email and – even more astoundingly – revealing that the massive police terror raids were being carried out even as our papers were being delivered.
The SMH and The Australian had sections on local news, world news, arts, sport and business (Nichepapers?) and separate liftout sections on Money (SMH), Higher Education, Wealth and the Australian Literature Review. Both papers have interactive websites with the last figures I saw showing smh.com.au with more than 4.3 million unique browsers each month and theaustralian.com.au with 1.4 million.
The Nichepaper Manifesto says Nichepapers ‘’are different because they have built a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain – finance, politics, even entertainment – and offer audiences deep, unwavering knowledge of it.’’
One would have thought that the SMH, The Australian and the AFR – along with their attendant specialist sections – offer all that, plus something more: eyeballs.
The latest circulation figures show that, far from the sky falling, the top three quality broadsheets in Australia – the SMH, The Age and The Australian – slightly increased circulation over the previous 12 months. And, in fact, the three papers have increased circulation over the past five years. And, while I can’t talk for The Australian, I do know the SMH and The Age remain profitable.
News (of the current definition, not the yet to be disclosed reinvented definition) still sells. The Daily Telegraph in London increased daily circulation by around 100,000 during the recent period when it was drip-feeding stories about the spending habits of British parliamentarians.
It is true that advertising has tanked in newspapers. But my theory is that everyone loves a new toy and the lure of the bright, shiny new media was difficult to resist. But in the light of a post-Christmas hangover sometimes those toys are looked at in a more critical light – they might be trendy, but are they better at doing the job?
Nielsen research released in April showed that more than 60 per cent of Twitter users have stopped using the service a month after joining; the two latest ANZ job advertisements surveys have shown an increase in newspaper job ads in June (0.9%) and a decrease (0.4%) in July, while online ads fell 4.8% in June and 3.6% in July.
What it all means, I’m not sure but I’ll finish with a blog in March from Tim Pethick, the young entrepreneur who successfully launched Nudie drinks, among other products. He told of his product Sultry Sally chips, a low fat brand available in Woolworths. Woolies, which had launched a rival product, told Pethick that he had to engage in mainstream advertising to boost the sales of his chips. Pethick wrote: ‘’to be forced into a position where I have to take a traditional, main media approach is anathema.’’ His fears were multiplied when a partner suggested advertising on 2GB.
‘’My heart sank. Strategically, I couldn’t think of anything worse. We are talking radio; worse, AM radio; worse still, talk-back radio; even worse, a radio station that everyone knows is only listened to by a few old punters – way, way off target and brand for us.’’ Needless to say the product walked off the shelves, with stores emptied of Sultry Sally chips. ‘’It is working like nothing I have seen before,’’ wrote Pethick. ‘’I love the fact that the old ways still count for something; I love the fact that I can still be surprised, be wrong and learn from it.’’
Actually I won’t finish on that, I’ll finish with the Nichepaper Manifesto which writes that ‘’Nichepapers are the future of news because their economies are superior.’’ ‘’What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness’’. And what is the lost art of profitability by awesomeness?
I quote: ‘’When you can make awesome stuff, you don’t need to find “better” ways to sell it. The fundamental challenge of the 21st century isn’t selling the same old lame, toxic junk in new ways: its detoxifying and dezombifying it, by learning how to make insanely great stuff in the first place.’’
As you can see, Sam holds a firm view towards the newspaper lobby and its future, perhaps being an ex hack and all that. But he makes his points very vividly and with passion, just as Umair did in his original post.
Of course, plenty to debate here for everyone.
There is a new web application that we have been using within our Digital Influence practice that I believe can be beneficial when beginning just about any initiative. It’s called “Tag Crowd” (http://tagcrowd.com/) and essentially, it allows you to make your own tag cloud from content that you either upload or copy and paste. You can also add in a URL and they will create a visual tag cloud of the word frequency contained in that entire site.
So how would this tool be useful in a PR setting?