Keith Errington

marketing strategy
07860 267155

Social Media

Social Media is a Joke!

Earlier this year I performed my first stand-up comedy gig – something I always wanted to do, but was frankly, very scared of. Delivering business presentations, speaking at seminars, performing on stage in a sketch – no problem, but on stage, alone, with just your memory and your jokes – now that’s scary.

“When I told people I was going to become a comedian they laughed
– well, they're not laughing now” –  Jimmy Carr.

I’ve been involved in comedy writing for a few years now and I’ve become intrigued with the way jokes work. I’ve also noticed that some of the best social media revolves around humour. A little bit of fun goes a long way to lighten the endless stream of mundane marketing posts, self-promoting articles and unimaginative sales messages. Just look at Compare the Market’s successful social media channels featuring Alexandr – almost every post is a joke or humorous comment of some sort. A post that is funny stands out from the crowd and gets attention – it can also make people stop and think.

So injecting a bit of humour into your social media will help attract and keep more fans and followers. But it’s really not as simple as that. Humour is very subjective and has to be appropriate to your organisation and brand. Telling jokes may be okay for a fun, family business, but not appropriate for a staid financial institution. (Which is a real shame,
because many of them could do with a bit of humour, to be honest).

The skill in telling a joke – it’s all about…

Telling a joke well is a real skill, but knowing when and how to tell an appropriate joke is a very rare talent indeed. Like everything else in marketing, it all comes down to understanding your target audience – what makes them laugh, what they get offended by and what terms of reference they share.

Generally in social media, when it comes to humour, less is more – it is better to be sure about the humour and use it occasionally, than to try and force every post to be humorous.

There are a few rules to stick by with social media humour:
  • Never take the mickey out of anything – customers, competitors, or products. It’s a very negative kind of humour and leads to people questioning your right to pass judgement.
  • Never be smutty, swear or tell a joke that you wouldn’t tell to your children or the boss. Remember most social media is in the public domain where anyone could see it.
  • Never tell a joke about bombing an airport – we all know where that leads.
Of course, you may feel this doesn’t leave much – but word play is always fairly safe, and simple one-liners work well – especially on Twitter. Visual jokes are great on facebook and have a high probability of being shared – one of my favourites is a simple photo of a blackboard posted up during a potential fuel shortage.


A simple humourous Facebook post can encourage sharing and create a great viral effect.
And a humorous video posted to YouTube can get a great deal of attention – just look at
Blendtec’s “Will it Blend” campaign or Hubspot’s music videos.


One last rule that applies to all social media posts – but especially to humour – write the post, think about it for a few minutes – consider all the potential viewers/readers and their possible reactions – then, if you are in any doubt – don’t post. Once you post that bad taste joke it’s out there forever haunting your social media efforts.

Writing this post in which I tell you how to improve your social media efforts and then immediately warn you how difficult it is, I feel a bit like a local vicar – “Let me introduce you to the idea of heaven – it’s great – oh and by the way, it’s really hard to get there.”

I leave you with one of my favourite social media jokes:

A dying grandma tells her grandchild, “I want to leave you my farm. That includes the barn, livestock, the harvest, the tractor, and other equipment, the farmhouse and $24 million in cash.”

The grandchild, absolutely floored and about to become rich says, “Oh grandma, you are SO generous! I didn’t even know you had a farm. Where is it?”

With her last breath, Grandma whispered, “Facebook…”


Why is Google so bad at marketing?


For one of the biggest companies in the World whose main business revolves around advertising and marketing Google are remarkably impotent when it comes to their own marketing.

They are currently making a profit of around $10 billion a quarter and are certainly not short of a buck or two, so why don’t they spend a decent chunk of that on marketing?

Google doesn't believe in advertising
In 2009 Microsoft spent around $520 million or 0.9% of revenue on advertising. So how much did the company whose very success is founded on advertising spend? Well,
Google spent just $11 million – which represents a paltry 0.05% of revenue. I can’t think of many successful large international companies that spend that little.

So they don’t really do television, radio, cinema, print or pretty much any other kind of advertising that any sane company would utilise to promote their brand. Now whilst this hasn’t stopped them dominating the search engine market, they now have a whole string of brands for which they are doing very little marketing. Their competitors are, however. I mentioned Microsoft earlier, they’ve been promoting Bing quite heavily through a wide range of advertising channels and have negotiated
a series of agreements with Facebook, and another agreement with Twitter. Where are Google’s agreements with these major players?

Google doesn't bother telling its customers
It is customary when launching a new product to tell your customers about it – it’s kinda important. So let’s say you are trying to break into an established market with a clear market leader who is so far ahead of the game it’s almost hopeless. You have, what could be, a make or break product for the company. It is innovative and potentially poses a real challenge especially given that your company has an enormous amount of brand equity gained in other markets.

Now I’m not head of Marketing at Google, I’m not brand manager at Google+ (do they even have such a role?), I’m only a cynical marketer with a few years experience under my belt, but I would have thought a bit of marketing might help launch the product?

The non-launch of Google+
Apparently not. Google launched Google+ with no advertising campaign or mass marketing blitz. Having said that, it’s not all bad. Google decided to launch their new social media platform as a kind of ‘invitation only’ exclusive club – echoing the way Apple launches some of its product offerings. This was a good idea, ensuring all the ‘in-crowd’ – journalists, developers, engineers, and social media commentators felt ‘special’ and valued. By doing this Google achieved a totally disproportionate amount of positive press coverage on sites and blogs. This led to
a massive early take-up.

However, they failed to build on this, and worse, they had no provision for organisations or brands to provide essential content. Without content, social networks are dead in the water. It is unbelievable that Google failed to recognise the importance of having brand pages from day one.

The secret of the 'public' launch
The next step was to open up Google+ to the public – throw it open to everyone. So did they hold a big party? Announce it on every possible channel making sure their customers knew about it? No. In fact, I monitor the Internet daily, well hourly, and I almost missed this huge event. I can guarantee that the public were oblivious to the fact that it was suddenly open to all.

In fact, I’m fairly sure that the majority of people in the UK are still unaware of the existence of Google+, or if aware, I doubt they  could actually tell you what it is and what benefit they would derive from joining. On my social media training courses I often have communications professionals who are unaware of Google+.

In the UK, pretty much the sum total of Google’s effort to promote Google+ was a single blue arrow.
Why isn’t there a massive TV, Radio, Poster and print ad campaign to raise awareness of Google+, it's features and benefits?

Likewise when they launched – after a long, long delay – business pages, did they advertise the fact – no. It’s almost like they don’t believe in advertising, which is ironic given that’s what their business is founded on.

For an enormous company with massive profits, they seem terribly amateurish when it comes to marketing.

Social Media platforms - barriers to entry
There are significant barriers to entry in the social media market and the key success factors seem to be three things:
  • Having a unique proposition
  • Promoting and marketing to potential users
  • Moving at speed – keeping up momentum.
Google+ had the first, they failed at the second, and they are in severe danger of failing at the third.

Companies are always striving for a unique product – and so they should - but the truth is, that even if they develop one, it is usually only a matter of time before someone else copies it. If you are going up against facebook, you have a major problem because they have enormous resources and a well developed existing product, so whatever capabilities your proto-social network has, facebook can match in a matter of weeks.

So speed and momentum are essential. Google, who let’s face it, should have the resources, appear to be strolling into the market quite casually – with a few unique capabilities that are easily replicated. The only unique feature of the product that cannot be replicated, is that it comes from Google and therefore should be able to leverage the advantage of being linked to all Google’s other products.

So facebook have already moved to match some of the new Google+ features – albeit in such an obscure way –
very few people understand them, let alone use them. Are Google hoping that facebook will upset its users with further unpopular interface and privacy changes? Because hope is not a reliable or a professional marketing strategy.

Google's perpetual beta approach to product launches
Google is known for releasing half-finished, prototype products on the public and then relying on user feedback over time to polish them and produce a finely honed product –
some have called this approach perpetual beta. They are also known for the large number of failures this approach has caused – particularly when there is a related hardware product, or when they are competing against fully finished, mature products. The latest example of this is Google+ brand pages  which are relatively immature and struggling to find followers. Maybe it’s time to change this approach and actually have a fairly finished product at launch – you know – like pretty much every other company has to.

Google may still succeed - eventually
There are
signs that Google+ is succeeding – slowly – and I would be surprised if Google didn’t have a significant share of the Social Media market in the long run, partly due to the synergies they can offer with their other products (Brand pages influence search results for example, so brands will definitely want to have a presence on Google+). But just how much faster would it grow, and how much more lucrative would it be if they marketed it properly?

So why no significant investment in marketing such a major product?

Of course it might be that they
just don’t care about, or believe in, their products but that would be madness, wouldn’t it?

No marketing culture
The only explanation for their complete lack of marketing ability in this area is that Google has a cultural problem at its heart – it is either so arrogant it thinks it’s products should stand on their own and people should just magically be aware of them, or it just doesn’t believe in marketing at all.

Perhaps they need to employ a few people who do?

I should say that I am a big user - and fan - of many Google products. I am also on Google+ but I do use Twitter and Facebook far more. Oh, and I am passionate about marketing - you know - should anyone ask.

Influence: the bottom line. It's micro-contextual.

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. Marketing is about selling things – I know it’s an ugly truth and in these days of social media we all often beat around the bush – but it is the bottom line.

But how do you get people to buy things when advertising isn’t that effective online, when people are reading fewer and fewer newspapers and magazines, and when we are tired and cynical about most other forms of advertising?

Potential prospects are now turning to
blogs, social media and friends for advice on what product to buy, where to buy it (and often when to buy too).

There are two ways to do this. The second, however is usually considered the only option, as the first is seen to be impossibly difficult to achieve, hugely expensive and utterly impractical.

So what is that first impossible way?
Well the best way to get people to buy things is to make a great product that does exactly what is says it is going to do (plus a bit more if appropriate), offer it at a reasonable price and provide excellent customer service.

This is a long term solution that turns everyone who buys and uses the product or service into advocates for the brand – effectively an army of unpaid sales people – who then influence everyone around them, in a multitude of channels.

Furthermore, that influence is appropriate, customised and precision targeted. If you take this route, you will find that bloggers and journalists will magically give the product good reviews, social media will be buzzing positively and review forums will be awash with glowing tributes to your brand.

Now, of course, that’s not possible right? Far too difficult. And besides, you can’t trust the public to sell your brand – they won’t understand how good it is, or what it does, or that it really is value for money. (Too cynical you think?)

So the second route is for the marketeer to try and identify those bloggers, twitter users and other online sources who are influencing the new generation of customers. To cultivate them, pander to them and persuade them to push the brand. Unfortunately, many marketeers have yet to realise that this is just as hard, if not harder than the first route.

But how do we tackle this?
Surely that’s simple? Devise a measurement system to tell us who the influencers are and then target them.

But too often in marketing we are guilty of looking at things from a marketeer’s point of view – especially when thinking about strategy. What we should really be doing is remembering that we are also customers, potential prospects, part of a someone’s target audience – ordinary people in other words.

Rather than approaching this problem with ‘old school’ marketing thinking – 'Let’s devise a system to locate and measure these people, then we can target them with advertising and special offers' – we should be thinking how does influence work in my life? How am I, as a potential prospect influenced when I buy something?

And if we did that, just thought for a moment, how we came to buy something – make a purchasing decision, we would straight away understand that influence is fairly intangible, contextual and governed by a multitude of factors.

It is the contextual nature of influence that is the biggest issue when trying to identify particular individuals/blogs/websites that influence a buying decision.

I might be influenced by
Jeremy Clarkson for example, when it comes to buying a car, but I certainly wouldn’t be influenced by him if I was buying a birthday present for my niece. (Unless she was a car enthusiast of course). So Jeremy will only be influential about certain topics – and it is this contextual nature of influence that makes it impossible to produce one universal measure.

Many of the current systems attempting to measure influence do recognise this and therefore attach topics to influencers – although often not altogether accurately. I may talk about the weather during a very rainy week and have a high level of engagement, but this doesn’t mean I actually have influence over the weather, or more seriously, over umbrella buying.

The micro-contextual nature of influence
But it is deeper that that – influence is micro-contextual. Jeremy Clarkson may be influential over fast, sporty cars, but I wouldn’t take his advice over a family car or a people carrier. He hates particular brands for no particularly logical reason, so I wouldn’t take his advice on those either. And if I am looking for a car with a particular feature – like one with a seven year warranty – he may not have anything to say about that at all.

If a new model of vehicle comes out, then there will likely be a delay before Jeremy Clarkson reviews it, or even mentions it and if a car has been totally overhauled and improved, then his views will be out of date. So influence can be based on a time context too.

There are so many product and service areas that have a deep level of variation and complexity, and are fast changing, that identifying an influencer using a single system is simply not possible – because influence is micro-contextual.

Giving a single number for influence as some systems do, is simply nonsensical in the extreme. And using such a number to make decisions is ludicrous.

Furthermore, your product or service may be quite different to anything that went before, it may be reaching an entirely new market, or it may be crossing over different product/service categories. Existing topics may or may not be appropriate – you may need to look at identifying new topics and new areas – for which there will be no current measure in place.

Bottom line
The only way to truly identify influencers that are:
  • appropriate to your product or service
  • in your market
  • at this time

is to actually do the research.

Nobody else’s system will be right for your particular marketing problem.

There is no short cut.



Starting Conversations

As someone who spends a fair amount of time monitoring the Internet on behalf of organisations and brands – one of the recurring issues clients face is not so much 'What are people saying about us?' but 'Why isn't anyone saying anything at all about us?'

I occasionally have to explain to quite large organisations, that unfortunately have an obscure product, that nobody will be talking about them, as nobody in their right mind actually starts a conversation with – 'I bought the most amazing bit of insurance last week' or 'That radiator valve I bought at Wickes is really very good'. People simply do not have conversations about such things and listening to the Internet will be fruitless.

And even established brands with exciting products often have problems building a fan base or getting a share of the great social conversation.

So here are some suggestions for ways of starting a conversation:

Ask questions
On Facebook, in your blog or on Twitter, ask your fans/followers a question – get their opinion about an existing product or a future development of a service or a proposed product.  By asking a direct question you are not only more likely to elicit a response over a passive post, but you are involving your customers and making them feel like their opinion is valued.

If your product or service is not that interesting (now be honest here) ask a question about the market or about their usage of the product or service.

Start a competition
From your Facebook page or web site – start a competition and blog and tweet about it. Good competitions with a relevant and valued prize (relevant to and valued by your audience – not you) can build a fan base quickly and generate interest in the media too. Try and be as inclusive as possible – give everyone a reasonable chance of winning – this will make the most impact.

Make sure you get the maximum amount of benefit when you have a winner (or winners) – engage your PR machine and again, blog and tweet about it.

Be controversial
If you say something controversial in a blog or a tweet – that is likely to get you talked about. Of course you need to be very careful with this approach as you don't want to alienate your audience or make them think you are fools. But you could put forward a controversial point of view and then discuss its validity in a reasoned manner.

Another key way of getting noticed and talked about is to sponsor a sport, a challenge or a set of awards. Questions, polls and updates, can all be used to sustain interest.

Organise a conference or seminar
This is a great way to create ripples in the social river – think of a subject or topic area that your target audience is interested in or keen to know all about and set up an event around that. Make sure your brand name or organisation name is part of the title of the event. Arrange for someone to blog throughout the event and also someone – or several people – to tweet about it as it happens.

Again, utilise your PR machine and contacts to make the maximum impact in conventional media as well as news websites and key bloggers.

If you do not have the manpower or resources to organise an event yourselves, then sponsor one.

One of the oldest ways of boosting sales is promotion – and this works for social media too. Run a promotion on your product or service and then make sure you publicise this across all channels. If the product is not suitable for this – try offering a free item – make it unusual and relevant to your target market.

General rules
Make any of these initiatives as unusual and unique as possible – the more strange and individual the initiative, the more likely it is to be talked about in the social stream and the more likely it is to be picked up by the conventional media. On the other hand, you could try making it as useful as possible – whereupon it is more likely to be talked about in social media.

Getting people to talk about your product or service – especially if it is boring, mundane or unexciting is difficult, but not necessarily impossible. Try some of these techniques – and let me know how you get on, okay? 
(Right, now, did you see what I did there?).

Overcoming the Social Media Hamsters

Social media is very addictive, it’s very easy to… hang on… just received a direct message… oh… ha… LOL… Now where was I? Oh yes, social media is very addictive and can dominate your working life if you’re not careful. You can also find yourself interacting with the same set of people every day. Whilst spending lots of time on social media with your friends is not necessarily a problem, if you are using social media for business then it’s definitely an issue.

Have you ever watched hamsters? Some hamsters will spend a few minutes a day on their wheel, happily getting some exercise and stopping after a while. Less happier hamsters will get on their wheel with a determined look on their furry face, a glint in their eye and with gritted incisors. And they won’t get off the wheel till they are exhausted, or the darn thing breaks.

This is like some social media users – they spend hours on Twitter or Facebook, conversing with the same few people, often about the same few things. We all know people like that – or are you someone like that, a social media hamster? Again, this is no great problem if you have plenty of free time, but if you are using social media for business, then you will need to deal with this behaviour.

Before you send for Freddie Starr, there are a few simple steps you can take. Set limits for the amount of time you spend on social media – time is money, and the more time you spend in the social media world, the more it costs you – so look at the results you are getting for the time you spend. What would be the effect of halving your time on Twitter, Facebook etc? Make sure you are getting a return on your time investment, or you are not a social media professional, but a social media fan.

And widen your contacts – don’t get trapped in the wheel. Set yourself a target to make contact with a number of new people every day. Re-tweet, like, quote, and comment. Follow new people every day. Talk to people from outside your industry, not always to your peers.

It’s fairly easy to be… oh… that’s funny… must reply to that… oh, good one! So, as I was saying it’s fairly easy to get stuck on the wheel – make sure you overcome you inner hamster.
(*I misread a tweet and found the perfect title for a blog)

Hi, My name is Keith and I'm NOT a Tweeterholic

The other day I was an extra on The IT Crowd (thanks to Twitter - @ITCrowdSupport) – yes the fabulously funny Channel 4 sitcom written by Graham Linehan (@Glinner) of Father Ted and Black Books fame which stars Richard Ayoade as Moss, Chris O’Dowd (@BigBoyler) as Roy and Katherine Parkinson as Jen.

If you’ve ever spent time on a TV or film set you will know that the vast majority of the day is spent waiting around, mostly in silence, followed by short periods of manic activity on set, or ‘hurry up and wait’ as it’s known in the business. So I spent a fair bit of time waiting on the unlit dance floor of a dubious basement night club where the filming was taking place – along with around forty other extras. As we were all playing Geeks – with no acting required – we all wanted desperately to tweet about the experience. It was whilst I was waiting around that I realised that we all had a serious problem...

Spot the symptoms
...the symptoms were telling – small clusters of people huddled over – just outside the doorway, discussions about how many you do a day, along with a slight twitching and nervousness when we were downstairs and unable to feed our needs.

Realising that the only place to feed our habit was outside the club, we went up when we could, produced our little pocket packets and satisfied our addiction. Some of us were doing twenty to thirty a day – myself – I was, and still am, on around five or six.

Yes, I suddenly realised Tweeting is the new smoking, and whilst it is a fair bit healthier and a lot cheaper (until the governments find a way to tax it – as I am sure they will), it does share some of the dangerous habits and social stigma associated with cigarettes.

Socially Unacceptable
Try explaining to your girlfriend or mother why you have to tweet in the middle of dinner or just before dessert, or watch theatre and cinema goers scowl at you as you tweet trivia about the performance you are watching, and don’t even try and justify tweeting whilst driving or operating heavy machinery.

How long before we get non-tweeting sections in restaurants and on trains? How long before we see seven step programmes designed to deal with this addiction? And how long before we can only tweet in the privacy of our own homes?

Okay, so I am about to break the analogy that I’ve already stretched further than a malicious kid with a new Stretch Armstrong toy – but like many new social media habits, tweeting can take a serious hold over you if you suffer from an addictive personality.

How many is too many?
Research shows that people dislike receiving too many tweets from one person – twenty to thirty a day most people find annoying. (In fact, there are many people out there – myself included – that find the new location apps FourSquare and Gowalla intensely irritating for their constant automatic tweets about what someone is up to) – so if you are tweeting for business, then less is definitely more.

If you can’t go a single day without tweeting and get panic attacks when your phone or wifi loses signal, then maybe, just maybe, you should consider some professional help.

Right, gotta go, I’ve just finished my tenth cup of espresso and I need to get m m m more.

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Is Facebook determined to fail?

I want to share some family photos – on the beach with the kids, you know, images to show their Gran - I want to let my friends know I’m okay when I am off work, I want to send messages to ex girlfriends, support a charity and join an active political group.

I want to do all this online – where can I go?

Of course – I'll use Facebook – the network that was set up precisely to make it easy to do all these things.

I want to share these activities without publicising them to the world – I don’t want everyone seeing pictures of my kids, I don’t want my boss to know that I am not totally incapacitated and therefore able to drag myself into work, I don’t want my wife to know I am talking to an old ex of mine, I don’t want charities to see I am a soft touch for donations and I don’t want the government or work to know I’m supporting Greenpeace.

Note that none of these activities are illegal, or even particularly anti-social, but they all require a level of privacy that Facebook was originally designed for.

Now the owner of Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg – has declared that privacy is old fashioned and total openness is the new norm. This reminds me of Gerald Ratner – he ran a cut price jewellery business in the UK which was very successful until he publicly described the products as rubbish (well, actually he used a stronger word than that) and the company nearly collapsed.

But where does that leave Facebook? Surely its one unique selling point is its privacy? Without that it’s just a web publisher. Without that, there is no compelling reason to use Facebook – in fact there is every reason to leave Facebook.

There is now a huge opportunity out there for a social network that does what Facebook used to do. The first major player to offer that combination of sharing and privacy will become phenomenally successful – after all, that’s exactly how Facebook became the size it is.

And anyone will be able to create a Facebook killer – since there will be nothing unique about it anymore.

But don’t you have to be on Facebook because everyone else is? Well, that’s only true whilst Facebook is a closed network – once it opens everything up there is no great need to actually be on it anymore. Your’ll be able to connect and find Facebook users from any search engine or piece of software.

And in the past year Facebook has also strived to be more like Twitter – a service built around a simple capability and which is no competitor to Facebook in terms of functionality or numbers. Why would Facebook do that? It is never going to beat Twitter at what it does unless it matches its simplicity. It’s as if Ford decided that cycles were a serious competitor and started removing the engines, the body work and half the wheels from its cars.

So Facebook is gradually throwing out all the features and capabilities that made it so attractive and unique. What kind of business plan is that?

There’s an old saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and whilst in the online world that can be a dangerous recipe for complacency – here it applies perfectly to Facebook – why change a winning formula?

Whether Facebook succeeds by selling its users information to the highest bidder is debatable – but without a unique selling point Facebook will fail.

Anyone know of a social network that works like Facebook used to and has privacy as a core value?

Let me know...

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Zero cost Social Marketing beats unrestrained marketing campaign

The real significance of the battle for the UK’s Christmas No 1 Single.

In the red corner we have a massive marketing campaign based around the TV series X Factor, that pulls in millions of viewers and airs dozens of episodes – backed up by websites, advertising, TV spots, point of sale, dozens of articles in newspapers and magazines – all run by a multi-million dollar media mogul responsible for Pop Idol and American Idol, who has years of experience. This mammoth marketing machine hasn’t failed to deliver a number one single at Christmas in the UK for the past four years.

In the blue corner we have two music fans and a free Facebook campaign.

Guess who wins?

In the UK we may have witnessed the single* biggest demonstration yet of the power of social media over conventional marketing. It is difficult to see how you can argue with the value of social marketing when a free campaign beats a professionally run and massively funded media blitz.

There has been much written about Jon and Tracy Morter and their campaign to get ‘real music’ back in the charts at Christmas – but few of the journalists seemed to understand the way social networking or Facebook works, let alone get the enormity of what’s happened. They’ve missed the implications for marketing and the huge disparity in the economics of the campaigns.

Not only did the Facebook campaign not cost any money – it actually raised a significant sum for the UK’s homeless charity Shelter.

The other major battle here was between CD sales and downloads. The single that Jon picked for his campaign – Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ [WARNING: Explicit lyrics] was only available by download. Whereas the X Factor’s winner Joe McElderry’s single was also sold as a CD.

The campaign not only stopped X Factor from getting its usual, guaranteed Christmas number 1, but set a record for the fastest selling download single in the UK charts - as well as being the first single to reach No 1 at Christmas on downloads alone.

As the deadline for sales neared, Joe McElderry’s single was slashed to a mere 29p (about 18 cents) just to try and compete. So you could also value the Facebook campaign in terms of the amount of revenue lost in that price cut.

The campaign that started with a Facebook group, then a page, then was tweeted by the comedian Peter Serafinowicz (268,000 plus followers), picked up by the press (and given mostly fairly negative, or at least cynical comments), supported by celebs, the comedian and musician Bill Bailey (120,000 followers), and the good old NME - eventually reached over 980,000 fans on Facebook, has raised over £80,000 (so far) for charity, and sold over 50,000 more singles than its X Factor rival.

Oh and it also cost the bookies an estimated £1 million – they guessed wrong.

(*pun intended)

I should point out, declaring my interests, that I don’t watch X Factor and I did buy ‘Killing in the Name’. Damn fine single in my opinion.

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Why Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn make good company

We are moving towards an era where organisations will simply have to behave themselves.

A lot has been written about the increasing influence of social networking on marketing and the way an organisation interacts with its customers and staff.

It is clear that a major change is taking place, with marketing in particular no longer being driven by pushing messages onto all and sundry. Now we have a customer driven paradigm where users dictate what information they would like to see.

Social networking has enabled organisations to listen to customers and respond in a way that has not been really possible before. But what if we take all these developments to their logical conclusion?

I believe that we are about to see an age where organisations will have to become moral, ethical and well, basically well-behaved. Corporate cultures will have to change and corporate governance, fair trading, best practice and ethical operations will gain a new importance.

As organisations are discussed, recommended and criticised online, in an infrastructure which anyone can access and search – any potential customer, investor or job candidate will be able to see an organisation’s track record, get an idea of their culture and judge them good or bad.

This will force organisations in two directions – some – financial institutions perhaps – will become more and more secretive – hoping that a complete lack of communication will stem the tide of opinion and comment. 

This approach is clearly unsustainable in the long term, leading to a whole range of problems – distance from the market – a sense of distrust from customers in the absence of any information – and even groupthink on the part of the organisation’s leaders as they lack the feedback they would otherwise be getting from their customers.

The more enlightened organisations will move in the opposite direction – encouraging openness – developing watchdogs and engaging with the online population to help improve their practices, products and ultimately, their standing in the world.

So maybe social networking and web 2.0 will actually achieve what no amount of legislation, protest and preaching have yet managed – a world in which organisations act for the best interests of the planet and its people.

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The birth of Meerketing

I’d like to propose a new term for the dictionary‘Meerketing’ – and no, that’s not a South African advertising agency term, but a brand new word.

So what is the definition of meerketing? It’s the ability to plan, develop and implement a flawless and integrated campaign across a number forms of media – not only conventional media but social networking, twitter and the web. Providing a high return on investment and breaking a market sector wide open. As in “Well, it’s a good campaign, but it’s hardly meerketing is it?”

Meerketing is an art, not a science, but the results can be seen in solid numbers. This is not social marketing, but meerketing – where the new hyped media is just a part of a cunning plan to dominate the meerkat, sorry, market.

And, like the animal it’s named after, it may have a high visibility above ground, but there is an awful lot of work that goes on underneath – planning and building – creating links and connections – laying the groundwork for the animals to pop-up all over the manor.

Once the animal has captured our hearts with its playful attitude and cute looks, we respond – working on the animal’s behalf and boosting its popularity.

Although it’s natural habitat is the Web site, TV advert or viral YouTube video, the meerketeer is equally at home with radio, Facebook page, twitter feed, blog, point of sale or poster - in short, whatever is the most appropriate medium for the brand message at the time.

In order to survive in it’s harsh competitive environment, the meerketeer needs to constantly evolve, to react to changing consumer reactions, to respond to customer sentiment and remain flexible – able to generate communications that are on message and promote brand values, no matter the challenge, place or time.

Adaptability within an overall campaign plan is the way the meerketeer successfully colonises the media space.

So lets all vote meerketing into the dictionary – I too wish to beat Sergei at Scrabble.

For all those meerkat fans out there here’s an incomplete list of links:

Aleksandr Orlov - wikipedia entry
The agency behind Compare the Meerkat
Interview with Passion Pictures - the company behind the TV Ads
Daily Telegraph on meerkat success
Mail Online on meerkat success
The Sun meets TV Meerkat
Simon Greenall - the voice behind Aleksandr
Adopt a meerkat -London Zoo
Adopt a meerkat - Chester Zoo
Adopt a meerkat Blackpool Zoo
Meerkat Manor - Animal Planet

(And no, I’m not connected with the campaign - I am using it as a case study of a successful campaign in my Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Business course).

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The High Priest of Twitter

OVER the past year or so, Twitter has risen like a new religion – to grip the masses and the media. Embraced by geeks, celebs, and seemingly, everyone else.

It requires daily worship from the faithful and only devoted followers seem to reap the full spiritual rewards this new movement promises.

It’s a great leveler, requiring no temples, no uniforms, no 14 step plan, no live sacrifices, just a few words amounting to no more than the 140 sacred characters. (141 thou shalt not write).

Like any other religion it has its priests and its prophets,  it acolytes and its heretics, but unlike some religions, there is no clear leader, no guiding hand, no messenger of God.

What it does have, is Stephen Fry, who, especially as far as the Brits are concerned, seems to have become the High Priest of Twitter. Sure there are other Brits with a larger following, but they rarely impart any level of mystic revelation or spiritual advice.

How many priests have had the fact that they were stuck in a lift for a few hours reported by national newspapers? Or whose word instantly crashes websites? Just a tweet from Fry’s fingers can make or break a product or service.

So how did he reach this appointment and develop this level of power? Well, in common with so many other endeavors, it’s been through sheer hard work – although like so many things that this man does, he never makes it look like hard work.

He tweets regularly, and with a passion. And although many of his tweets are simply about his life, that life is not the one that the rest of us lead – it’s the life of a celeb, an intellectual genius and a traveler. And he imparts those tweets with a character – his own. This character of his being sufficiently elevated above you or I, to be interesting – it’s a bit like reading the diary of a friendly alien.

Across the sea, the American branch of the Twitter Church has it’s fundamentalists, its lay preachers, and its own high priests – the likes of Oprah, Martha Stewart, and Wil Wheaton, – all of whom update regularly and offer us their philosophical insights on life. (But then they also have The Onion, Weird Al and Brent Spiner – I’ll just mention these to balance things out).

The thing about Twitter is that its a terribly democratic religion – anyone can join and start preaching – just be sure to be entertaining, hold mass regularly and don’t overdo the fire and brimstone (or tweet too often).

And one day my son, you may rise up the blessed twitterholic rankings, be the head of an huge and influential flock of followers and achieve high priesthood.

(There – wrote the whole post without mentioning Ashton Kutcher once – oh, rats!)

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