Archive for the 'social networks' Category

How to use Twitter for marketing and PR

twitterIn the absence of any great social networking or Web 3.0 developments since Facebook, Twitter has appeared and become the Next Big Thing even though (go on, admit it), you Don’t Really Get It. I don’t blame you for thinking this, because in the virtual world, something has to be the daddy, even if it doesn’t deserve it.
If, like me, you read blogs by advertising mavens, marketing gurus and the gods of PR, you will know that Twitter is a much-discussed topic. After much argument, the opinions of the hundreds of conversation igniters have been dissected, examined and finally distilled into what can be safely considered the consensus view. So here it is, the definitive answer to the question: “How do I use Twitter for marketing and PR?

The daftest Facebook spam I’ve received so far…

obamaspam
Further proof of the decline of the #1 social network, but it did make me laugh.
Opening this email reveals the message “Barack Obama (Washington, DC) has confirmed you as his fourth cousin once removed on We’re Related“, followed by a supposed Facebook link that’s oh-so-tempting.
Hobnobbing with Gordon Brown et al is obviously so boring for Obama that he has to surf social networks during G20 meetings.

Are we in a post-genre era?

The erosion of attention spans as a consequence of the digital era is not a cutting-edge theory. The oceans of information at our fingertips can’t all be read, watched or listened to, so we skim and snack and that habit is going to affect the way we think.
Maggie Jackson’s claim to this idea is doing the media rounds as she promotes her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. She’s interviewed on the Point of Inquiry podcast.
Those of us who were raised in households where the TV was dominant and where the radio was the rebellious medium can remember how the major youth tribes were influenced by the social conditions of the time. Punk was rooted in the disconnection with a polarised and extreme political landscape (when there was a real difference between the left and the right), and the subsequent movements – New Romantics, House etc. – underlined the attitudes towards sexual identity, drugs, violence, that the young did not share with their elders.
The recent Adbusters post about Hipsters was bang on target: they call the point we’ve reached “hipsterdom”, a point where all the countercultures and tribes come together. There’s no originality and the ability to shock is very diluted.
The culture we now have is one where the more people we know, the fewer we know really well. With music, the more genres we’re exposed to (in original or mashed-up form), the smaller or shorter-lived are their associated tribes. It’s got to the point where adults are now more likely to share the musical tastes of their teenage children than at any other time.
Music genres no longer matter because new media has taken their place. It’s handsets instead of hippies, PS3s instead of punks. Have their been any big, new musical tribes this century? No – certainly nothing new. Some of the new things were Playstation 2 (2000), the iPod (2001), Myspace (2004).
In the UK, mobile phone penetration amongst 16-24 year olds leapt from around 70% in 2000 to over 95% in 2007.
In fact, technology and the digital space now moves so fast that they spread and kill off these tribes. Youth will always find places to meet away from the adults, but it’ll take an unknown catalyst to cause them to do so in society-changing numbers.

War on the Amazon

A pro-Intelligent Design movie, Expelled, which apparently bombed in the USA has appeared in DVD format on US Amazon, exposing a peculiarity of the online retailer’s site.
Media reviews of the film suggest it’s a terrible Michael-Moorish attempt at pushing the ID / Creationist agenda into science classes, but that’s not the point.
All it took was a heads-up from the popular science blog Pharyngula to encourage a flood of sceptics to make the DVD’s ratings crash.
Two points here.
The obvious one is that it’s peculiar how a piece of media, no matter its quality, can receive reviews from people who have never seen it, and are relying on second hand opinions, trailers and promotions. With all of the added Comments functions available on US Amazon, it looks like it’s turning into a social network rather than a retailer.
The second point is that it does appear that we are witnessing the polarisation of such views, both in the UK and the US.
Being on the relatively sane side of The Pond, it’s easy to laugh at the absurdities of the American Christian far-right religious agenda, but the tolerance of such views has a different colour in Europe where many of the nation states are generally secular.
I’ve written before about the dissolution of views based on ethics – how, up to very recently, it was difficult to argue against any ethical issue without running the risk of being labelled as something nasty and thuggish. I include religious views here, as over recent months there has been a greater willingness to examine each and every ethical and religious issue and expose them to daylight. Green ethics came first, the questioning of religion is only just emerging from the hard-line atheist corner and going mainstream.
There are several drivers for this in the UK. The credit crunch has forced consumers to think with their pockets and not their hearts; the political cycle (the politically-correct Blair years) is turning; the English are getting restless over the perceived unfairness of devolution.
There will be international influences too, and it will be intriguing to see whether the science v religion battle that’s raging in certain US arenas translates to this country.

Footnote: One of the scientists interviewed in the movie was Pharyngula’s author, PZ Myers. He was waiting to see the film but was promptly evicted from the queue, which is ironic considering the film’s position that ID-proponents are unfairly treated. Oddly enough, Myers’ guest, Richard Dawkins (also interviewed), was allowed in to see the film.

Nailing creativity

davinciTrying to make sense of a career in advertising outside of the three main disciplines (creative, strategic planning and account management) has been rather like navigating a boat while sailing solo in a storm, but without a chart, a compass or a strong stomach. Or a boat.

Like Vanessa Feltz during her manic writing-on-the-table episode on the first Celebrity Big Brother, advertising is the most paranoid of sectors. Never before have I seen so much navel-gazing and worrying about its relevance. And yet, so long as people continue to shag and buy stuff, the future of advertising is assured (if you want historical proof, then check out the story of the ancient prostitute in George Parker’s book “MadScam“, advertised on his blog). You just need to follow the smart money.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the goldfields are no longer found in old media, which is why any advertising inmate worth their salt needs to pay attention to new media and the opportunities offered by technology. This is why I vaulted over to two consecutive IPA events last week. The first was a 44 Club seminar “The Creative Product of The Future”, and the second was Google’s view of the “Changing face of the internet”.
The 44 Club talk was delivered by Amelia Torode and Steve Vranakis of VCCP, and I have been pondering it all week. The supporting blog provides some examples of very creative thinking from the early 20th century, a time before technology and mass consumerism threatened to turn us into sloths.
Leapfrogging advertising’s easy years – when a tiny number of TV channels reached nearly everyone – we have, in one respect, come full circle, in that advertisers have a greater need to exercise imagination to engage consumers by crossing media borders. Blanket TV advertising is so late 20th-century.
In fact, TV itself is decreasing in relevance if Google’s Dan Cobley is correct. The takeaway fact from his talk to the IPA was that everything ever stored digitally – music, video, the whole lot – everything you have ever watched – will fit on an iPod by 2020. Never mind that 20Gb iPod – in 13 years time you’ll be carrying around zillions of Terabytes in your pocket.
That was probably the only solid prediction to come from Google, which is rather chilling when you consider that the onetime golden child of the internet is now looking more and more like a big corporation gobbling up the real online entrepreneurs.
In fact, the sort of targets that Google is gobbling seem to fit VCCP’s observation about media fragmentation causing a focus on creativity. We do tend to lump all that internetty stuff together as one media, when really each fancy Web 2.0 widget and geegaw, if it works well, is capable of working on its own.
Ok, there are different ways of embedding YouTube into online content, but there are tons of people who browse YouTube raw, as will users of del.icio.us, Flickr and digg.
Today’s plasma and LCD TVs are glorified PC monitors; so merge TV watching, gaming, social networking et al, as well as the fancy things you’ll be sharing with your mobile and iPod…. is that one medium, or many?
Many of the clever young things are building things online and connecting to us in a plethora of ways. These online entrepreneurs give the rest of us a chance to create. I would venture that there are more people exploiting the opportunities to be creative now than a decade ago, although that’ll mean there’s an awful lot of rubbish out there (the equivalent of most of the channels between 110-300 and 700-900 on Sky, except that for each crap channel there must be 10,000 dreadful blogs and photo sets).
This means that the creators of advertising that work must be good, really good, to get the message through. I’ve noticed Experian ads popping into my Facebook newsfeed and I can honestly say that it totally pisses me off, because I didn’t expect it and I am not inclined to check my credit rating. I expect it on old media and even on blogs, but Facebook is almost like a new medium. We don’t like our new media time interrupted, so your advertising had better be more subtle, personalised and relevant. That takes creativity.

How to show your opinion without saying anything

old60.jpgAlmost without trying, I seem to have acquired membership of 26 Facebook groups. Most of these memberships occurred on a whim, including the one I started – “Ad Farts: old gits in ad agencies”. I’m an appallingly poor administrator and yet I wonder exactly how many other groups are as badly run as Ad Farts.

It was amusing to see the group included in two of the profiles of media grand fromages who appeared in this week’s Campaign. It is immensely gratifying, but I think that many Facebookers choose groups to make a statement about themselves, rather than to get involved in any meaningful discussion. This isn’t a criticism – there are far more important things to do with our time – but to me this says that there’s something about Facebook being more than a social network.

It’s a social utility – you flag your interest in a topic and, very much like bumping into the same people at different noisy parties, you become familiar with them through their presence than by their conversation.

Oddly enough, the only group I ever really got engaged with was one that was being trolled by hostile youngsters. The group was a pro-Richard Dawkins forum. Normally a smugly self-assured hang-out of atheists and secular humanists, it quickly became vigorous, hostile, and tremendously fun when the young God-botherers took on all comers. Insults and threats were thrown around like confetti. And then, after a few weeks, they left.

The group is dull and safe again.

Warm fuzzy feeling

friendThis is the nicest thing about Facebook.




Self-important bit

baby
I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.

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