Social Media

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There’s a buzz in the air, or should that be a fluttering of wings? Anticipation is high for Twitter’s initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s got the people in finance excited, but should the people in communication also care?

The plan, as it’s currently understood, is to sell 70 million shares in order to raise over $1 billion. At this point Twitter will change, it has to change because it will have gained one new very important stakeholder to answer to, its shareholders.

Shareholders demand power and influence, and they’ve paid for it. If they’re funding a company they expect to see returns, and this could mean big changes for a company, like Twitter, which has never made a profit.

To understand what may change, let’s look at Facebook. It’s been nearly a year and a half since Facebook’s stock market launch, and in this time the company has worked on ways to make money. As a regular user you may notice your Facebook feed is no longer exclusive to your chosen people and products, but now includes a number of sponsored or suggested posts. Adverts are also an area for development, for example auto-play video adverts are in the pipeline, and mobile ads are being constantly developed.

What’s the impact for us? Twitter has been a very useful tool for many communication professionals. Many companies use Twitter to help manage their customer service, run successful campaigns, and monitor their environment. When Twitter goes public there are a number of things that may change, including the following:

  • We may be able to look forward to Twitter offering a range of new, paid tools to be used in the running of integrated communication campaigns.
  • We may have to fight harder to ensure that our message fights through promoted posts and adverts.
  • We may have to reinforce the credibility of the messages which we do promote.

From another perspective, it’s very interesting to see the monetary value of new media platforms. Twitter and Facebook are undoubtedly two of the biggest social networks, and it’s fascinating to understand how our friends in finance value them.

Update: I want to reccomend this article by Belle Beth Cooper on the Fast Company website, it introduces some of the biggest changes Twitter has made that you may not be aware, and the implications that these may have.

British Gas faced a nasty backlash when they tried to have a go at a social media Q&A. It’s debatable whether such a tactic would ever have been a particular success, but as it coincided with the announcement of a 10% price increase to hit customers this winter, the Q&A was a resounding failure.

The social media team faced around 16,000 tweets, the majority of which angry and unsupportive. The replies to the Q&A didn’t satisfy the audience either, with many replying that they were just hearing the same old corporate blah and not actually being engaged with. Essentially British Gas riled the lion, then through itself into the lion’s den.

The idea was nice, and probably based on good communications practice and previous Twitter successes. Let’s give people an opportunity to discuss an unpopular decision with the customer services director. Except it didn’t work.


In some cases engaging audiences like this would have been an excellent success, so what was the problem?

People are not able to relate to British Gas like they can with other brands, they’re a big corporate brand who supply an expensive commodity – no number of fun adverts will change that.

People are also unable to sympathise with British Gas regarding their price hikes, nor can they easily avoid the impact of the costs. And the costs will significantly hit their budgets leading to a deterioration in their lifestyle – whether it means they’re out of pocket, or a bit colder.

This isn’t just a social media issue, this is a general communications issue – you need to understand what tactics to use in what situations with which audiences. Get it right and it works. Get it wrong and it can get ugly!


I visited the Hobbit in Southampton some years ago, and while the night itself is hazy (not necessarily as a result of alcohol, rather the length of time that has since elapsed), the place made its impression on me and I was enchanted. So, when I heard that the pub was facing legal action from the Saul Zaentz Company, a Hollywood company holding the rights to many of  Tolkien’s works, I was as shocked as many of the other fans of the pub were. They were being to asked, or should I say told, to rebrand an image they have had for 20 years, an image key to the identity of the pub.

The support for the Hobbit has been remarkable, from almost 50,000 fans on their Facebook, over 6,000 on their Twitter and several celebrity supporters including Gandalf (or Sir Ian Mckellen to non-middle earthians) and Stephen Fry.

According to reports the Saul Zaentz Company is willing to offer a licensing agreement to the pub. However the campaign clearly is not over according to their own page.

It seems that this whole thing could turn out to be advantageous to the pub, as long as they are able to retain their name. With new support from huge celebrities and new UK/Worldwide coverage, they could see themselves benefit from a boost to business, particularly with the release of the Hobbit film. As a one-time customer who fell slightly in love with the place I completely support the success of this campaign and I hope that the hobbit succeeds versus the evil of Mordor! Now excuse me as I start a 12hour LOTR marathon!


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 A common theme over my blog is the importance of gaining experience while studying a degree. As important as this is, our degree would count for nothing is we were not receiving world-class education from intelligent and informed tutors. I would like to say we are quite lucky in this respect, but what is particularly great is when our university invites guest lecturers in to teach us. This semester one of our modules includes a series of brilliant guest lectures, which so far has included crisis communications and digital communications. Today it was the turn of Aakriti Kaushik, PR Manager for Global and European PR at Premier Farnell. With an impressive CV Aakriti came to lecture us on cross cultural PR, something which seemed coincidentally relevant to me after my recent article on understanding cultural sensitivities.

Key things that I brought away from this lecture included the importance of understanding what works in one region may not work in others. Aakriti brought up the example of the Ben Heck show, something which had been a huge success in the USA but did not manage to translate to other cultures.

It is important to research local cultures before designing communications schemes, she highlighted this with the examples of the Ford Pinto, meaning penis in Brazilian slang. In reference to Premier Farnell she explained how their new brand name, Element 14, did not translate into Chinese and as a result they had to find an alternative.

Finally, an interesting point was raised about social media. This platform has changed the way we communicate, and allows messages to flow instantly around the world. It is important that while using social media that we ensure our messages are suitable for all of our audiences across all cultures.

Recently I have been taking a huge interest in global communications and how we respect cultural differences, so this lecture was perfectly timed and has upped my interest in the subject.

English: Red Pinterest logo

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Every so often a website comes along and takes the world by storm, but the way Pinterest has sprung up from relative anonymity to the hottest social network feels quite unique.

I am ashamed to say when I first came across the site, six or so months ago, I simply did not get the point. Its purpose appeared to be so fashion bloggers could share shoes. Later I signed up for an account, and then finally when the site got its recent blast of interest I jumped on the bandwagon. And guess what? I frequently repin pictures of shoes!

So other than to share shoes, what is the purpose of Pinterest? I decided to share some of the best articles I have read recently about the site and its potential usages.

That is just a sample of the many useful and interesting articles which share brilliant information and ideas about making use of Pinterest. So the big question, is Pinterest here to stay? What do you think?

English: The new Myspace logo Français : Le no...

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I have not visited the website in years. The app on my phone has never been used. But maybe one day soon I will be logging into MySpace, and what is more I may well be logging in with Facebook!

The death of MySpace is well documented, I have even written about it myself on this blog, but while we may have assumed it is simply a ghost from the mid-noughties, MySpace is fighting back, and there is life in this machine! After Murdoch’s disastrous experience with the site it was sold to Specific Media who have been concentrating on promoting the music side of the site. It seems this approach has been paying off as they have increased their membership by one million and last month had more hits than either Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest.

The recent addition of a new music player means MySpace’s competition is no longer the Facebooks and Twitter of the social web but rather music services such as Spotify. While they may not be on the same level as Spotify yet they have the potential to make a success from this avenue.

Another sign that MySpace have moved away from its old social media role is the fact you can sign in with Facebook. While this is a common feature of many websites it does seem ironic that they are using the site that killed them to bring them back to life. It does in many ways demonstrate that they are distancing themselves from Facebook as competition, which is probably for the best as attempts to do otherwise have previously failed.

It is still difficult for MySpace, while they retain their name they will probably never shake off their reputation as the social network that died, and those of us who deleted our profiles will need a lot of persuasion to rejoin the site. I do wonder why they did not take the best of MySpace and rebrand it, or begin a new site, however there must still be power in the MySpace name for them to have kept it.

Will you be rejoining MySpace? What would it take to persuade you to get a MySpace account?

There are a couple of clues around the place which show how much I like Twitter. The regular articles about it, the previous appearance on the #socialstudent list but mostly the active timeline.

One reason I like it is that it is genuinely changing the way we communicate, particularly with organisations. In the past if we were unsatisfied we would write a complaint letter, maybe contact the local press in extremes. If they wanted to sell to us they would create an advert or write a press release. Now we can interact directly, easily and most importantly publicly with each other. We can share our frustrations or praise and they can solve our problems or sell to us, all on one social platform.

To illustrate how important Twitter is to organisations I want to look at three recent Twitter stories.


I wrote an entire post on their Twitter activity so I will try not to repeat myself. Their recent campaign has received mixed opinion, and from the community I follow and interact with it is generally negative. People have found the campaign feels cheap, makes them uneasy and generally does not improve their opinion of the brand. On Tweeter even said she would be put off buying the bar by the campaign!

Having said this, fans of the celebrities promoting Snickers via Twitter may find the campaign less offensive and perhaps it has met it’s objectives.


A rather amusing story about the fast food chain. While trying to engage their audience on Twitter through the hashtags #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers it ended up encouraging a flood of negative responses attached to its hashtags.

This is a simple reminder that we cannot control Social Media in the same way we can control other methods of communication. You can try and predict human behaviour but that’s not always possible.

As the PR Daily article notes very little damage will have been caused by this hiccup. McDonalds already had its share of haters and this simply gave them opportunity to partake in light activism and others to have a laugh at McD’s expense.

LA Fitness

This is a case of when social media turns against an organisation. After the story of … was shared by the Guardian (read here). Twitter declared war on the organisation leading to them dropping the charges completely and sharing a string of Tweets trying to explain themselves (@LAfitnesstips) but is it a case of too little, too late?

Customers of LA Fitness have reportedly already cancelled their contracts in protest and they are suffering from some severe reputation damage. There is never a good time to lose custom but this is a particularly bad time.

They will probably recover, but this story is on the net forever, they can’t undo it and it may come back in the future to haunt them!

I doubt there are many out there who still doubt the power of Twitter, but personally it still fascinates and sometimes surprises me just how important it has become for communicating.

Are you a Twitter lover or still not convinced? What are your favourite Twitter stories?

Image via @MissKatiePrice

Perhaps as a follower of Katie Price you were somewhat confused by a selection of Tweets about the economy. Or maybe you were bemused by Amir Khan’s sudden interest in stamp collecting and Sir Ian Botham’s passion for the cello. These bizarre Tweets were all revealed to be part of a stunt for Snickers with the three personalities posing for photographs with the chocolate bar as an explanation for the change of topic in their Tweets.

Was this an example of a successful social media stunt? It encouraged conversation, gained media coverage and promoted the brand recognition, so in that respects it seems to have been a success.

On the other hand Sean Walsh on the Freestyle Interactive blog raises an interesting point about the ethics of this stunt. The Office for Fair Trading previously released the following statement about companies using celebrities to promote their products online:

“Online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid for promotions are deceptive under trading laws.”

As noted by Freestyle Interactive it is unclear whether the celebrities were paid for their Tweets, however I agree with Sean Walsh that the stunt does make me feel uneasy, it feels cheap and generally I would not be happy to see many campaigns like this on Twitter.

It raises an interesting question about what celebrities and significant personalities on Twitter should be able to promote. Are they able to promote charities, small companies and other organisations which benefit from their backing but are unable to talk about brands that pay them money without making it clear that they are being paid to say this. This seems the best solution, however I am sure that Twitter includes many violations of these guidelines.

What are your opinions on this stunt? What do you think about promotion on Twitter?

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Reading about the social media restrictions placed on Olympic volunteers had me thinking about the ways we can control the information that is shared on social media.

Social media has encouraged us to share our lives openly with many people but there are things that organisations can not have shared for a variety of reasons from security to competition.

How do we control information that has been unofficially put on social media? The simple answer is inevitably it is extremely difficult, but there are two important approaches that can be taken, proactive and reactive.

Proactive: Naturally it is important to ensure as an organisation that you have policies in place to ensure that staff or individuals know precisely what they can share and what information is prohibited. Most organisations have these in place but there is plenty of advice on compiling such a policy. As we know the online world moves very quickly so it is important to ensure that the policy is regularly reviewed and updated.

Reactive: I also believe it is important to have an official presence on social media platforms. If a fact is released which is inaccurate this source can react and correct the mistake. In other cases when information is released without permission while they may not be able to prevent it, it does mean that the organisation may receive the news sooner and therefore have more time to react. A social media presence does not necessarily have to be an active poster, it could simply be used to monitor information for use during a crisis or as an aid for general organisation activity.

The two approaches are most effective when combined. Human nature means we love to share information and therefore even if an individual is aware of a policy and the repercussions of sharing information they may still not behave as desired. In this case it is important to be able to react effectively.


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