Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Getting Strategic with Social Media

During my week on placement at Speed Communications, Wadds kindly invited me along to the Don’t Panic Strategic Social Media Conference. The conference boasted an impressive line up of leading industry figures and the room was full of delegates from the world of PR. It presented me with the opportunity to hear how social media can be implemented in to a campaign to solve real client problems. Here are a list of my highlights.

Rob Brown from Staniforth and author of Public Relations and the Social Web kicked off proceedings by offering up evidence that the companies who are investing most into social media are the best performing ones. Rob said that companies need to be strategic when using social media and warned of the dangers of social media in the hands of an inexperienced person.

Rob discussed the drawbacks of social media analytics and cited the difficulty of using sentiment as a metric. To a younger audience the terms “wicked” and “sick” now hold positive connotations, but sentiment analysis is unable to identify this, making the results inaccurate.
Rob also introduced the Slapometer, a website that allows frustrated voters to bitchslap the three party leaders. So if you’ve had quite enough of the election already, why not vent your frustration with some mindless online violence and cast your vote with the back of your hand. The three politicians have been virtually slapped over 20 million times between them.

Stuart Bruce founder and MD, Wolfstar, was second on the bill and provided the audience with some great case studies. The Leeds-based consultancy has created a social media newsroom for First Direct. The newsroom was initially set up as part of the internal communication strategy and aimed at providing staff with a space to receive news and be part of the content, however it has now become a place for customers to get a taste of the working culture and the weekly hits have gone from a lowly 7 to over 2,500.

Stuart said that companies should concentrate on quality not quantity when it comes to Twitter followers. Leeds Loves Food is a collection of influential food bloggers and Tweeters who formally did not have a collective platform until Wolfstar created one for them. Wolfstar then offered the 102 followers the chance to interview celebrity chef James Martin which provided them with an opportunity not available to local press. By improving stakeholder engagement and building small communities with important and influential people, Wolfstar has created a genuine community by making social media strategic.

Merlin Sinclair from the The Westminster City Council was the most animated of the speakers and gave great insight in to the client side of social media. After a Twitter heavy morning it was surprising to find that only 2% of Westminster residents use it and consequently Martin’s department did not either.

Martin’s team utilised social media in other ways, for instance in their SatLav campaign which provided the people of Westminster with a GPS service to find their nearest toilet. A rather trivial story soon gained coverage as far afield as Canada and in total was covered 75 times for a very small budget. The service itself still helps over 70 people caught short in Westminster a week.

Martin went on to explain the reasons behind the success of his newsletter, he attributed the success to using words like “discount”, “free” and “offer”, using short sharp sentences and providing people with redeemable vouchers to spend on leisure services. Martin suggested that social media is incapable of generating national coverage, an opinion which was not shared by the Tweeting delegates or by some of the other speakers. Martin produced the biggest laugh of the conference when he proclaimed the mantra “Don’t engage with nutters” when asked about how he deals with persistently negative bloggers and trolls.

Stephen Waddington, MD of Speed answered the question all delegates were asking, “Why the hell is there a copy of The Beano on my table?” The point being that D.C Thompson is one of the last remaining publishers on Fleet Street and has retained his 50,000 readership by providing quality content that is tailor made to his audience.

Wadds went on to illustrate how local media had missed a trick online by using the same boring template and constantly chasing national stories and attempting to give them a local angle. He showed the brilliant SR2 blog created by Sunderland Journalism student Josh Halliday, which is not only visually interesting but it provides content strictly relating to the people of Sunderland.
Wadds identified the Guardian as being a market leader online and sited their microblogs for big sporting events and hyperlocal news bloggers as the future of news online.

Sarah Lundy from the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board provided fantastic case studies and was my highlight of the whole day. Sarah explained that her job was not strictly about consumer marketing as a lot of what she does involves stakeholder engagement with quality local businesses who ultimately are what attracts people to the area.

Sarah wowed the crowd with the fantastic viral that created a huge amount of national and international coverage for the seaside resort. It not only proved social media can provoke national coverage, contrary to the belief of Martin Wilson, but it also gave a big boost to the Tweeters who were arguing that “content is king”.

Sarah also explained how she cleverly uses Flicker instead of commissioning photographers to provide content for blogs, tweets and even press releases. Wadds had earlier made the point that mainstream media are not utilizing social media when it comes to acquiring images of real time events, citing the Haiti disaster as an example.

Robin Wilson from McCann Erikson rounded off the day by suggesting some useful information about free social media analytical tools. How Sociable, Ice Rocket and Blog Pulse were all described as great tools to give you a basic understanding of what people are saying about you, however they can at times be rather inaccurate. Robin also discussed paid for analytics which included a tool that can use artificial intelligence so that things like sarcasm and satire can be detected, it is worth pointing out that these could set a business back £10,000 a month.

Robin giggled as he talked the audience through how he used social media as part of a campaign for a Durex product which enhances the female orgasm. The “Things that make you go O” campaign aimed to associate the product with things women put in their handbag rather than their medical cupboard. They sponsored a Take That concert and encouraged women to video themselves recreating an orgasm in a big pink frock outside the venue and then send it in to the big screen inside the concert. Robin included the case study to point out that by providing their audience with something to talk about which detached itself from the rather personal subject matter.

There was a fierce debate on Twitter under the hashtag #stratsm to whether content or conversation was king. From Robin’s great example it seems the two kings can be bedfellows.


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