Marketing Technology » Branding http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook Combining marketing and technology to develop new markets and grow existing ones Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:47:54 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Five steps to a successful corporate Twitter presence http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2008/12/08/five-steps-to-a-successful-corporate-twitter-presence/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2008/12/08/five-steps-to-a-successful-corporate-twitter-presence/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2008 13:16:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/11492.aspx As Twitter gathers pace, we are seeing more use of the micro-blogging community by companies and brands. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but like blogging that went before they will come unstuck if they don’t take the time to understand the platform before just wading in.

First let me state my opinion about companies and brands using Twitter – or any social media for that matter. The “screen name” you use says a lot. On Twitter I see an increasing number of accounts that are identifiable only as a company or brand name, rather than an individual. Personally, I’m not a fan of this. My logic goes something like this:

  • For me, social media is about human interaction.
  • People are human. Brands and companies are not.
  • The people who work for those brands and companies are.
  • I would prefer to interact with real people using their real names than anonymous company or brand names.
  • I would rather someone use their real name and include their brand/company in a profile than the other way round.

I accept that this is a personal point of view. Yours may differ. But companies need to tread carefully.

With this in mind, and appreciating that some companies will want to use brand, company and department names for their Twitter account – my definition of a corporate Twitter account, here is a suggested five steps etiquette guide for them:

  1. Listen. It’s easy to set up and subscribe to a search of your brand or company name.
  2. Add value. Provide useful content for those that choose to follow you.
  3. Only follow when followed or mentioned. Having an anonymous entity follow you is a bit like receiving spam – you don’t know who it is or why you’re getting it. If your following:followers ratio is more than 2:1 then you are probably being a bit desperate.
  4. Reply. Respond to every tweet directed at you.
  5. Use replies rather than direct messages. Be transparent about what you’re saying to others on Twitter.
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Cook’s Hierarchy of Social Media Backlash Motives http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2008/12/05/cooks-hierarchy-of-social-media-backlash-motives/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2008/12/05/cooks-hierarchy-of-social-media-backlash-motives/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2008 15:19:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/11481.aspx I’ve
been thinking a lot about social media backlash lately – when companies
find themselves on the receiving end of a social media kicking. I
recently asked some colleagues for examples and got a handful of great
references, including Jeremiah Owyang’s excellent chronology of the most high profile hidings.

Jeremiah has attempted to categorize these based on their impact, as follows:

  • Category
    1: Consumer revolt and use social media tools to tell their story, the
    brand doesn’t flinch, and there is no mainstream media coverage.
  • Category
    2: The backlash extends beyond just social media tools, the brand makes
    changes based on consumer feedback, and coverage extends to mainstream
    media and press.
  • Category
    3: Consumers use social media tools to spread backlash and there is
    considerable mentions from mainstream press. the backlash is more
    severe resulting in significant changes from the brand (hiring, firing,
    processes, policies or new teams put in place). This becomes a case
    study for social media books and is often discussed in social media
    culture.
  • Category
    4: Number three plus short term financial impacts to the brand
    resulting in reduction of sales, revenue, increased costs, or impact to
    stock price less than 30 days.
  • Category
    5: Number three plus brand backlash from social media tools resulting
    in long term financial impacts to the brand including reduction in
    sales, revenue, increased costs, and most importantly, stock price
    lasting over 30 days. In the most extreme cases, it causes closure of
    the business or bankruptcy.

I feel that there’s a missing factor here that needs to be considered, which is the motivation for the backlash. With that in mind, here is my suggested hierarchy of social media backlash motives and the things that companies ought to do to counter them:

Misuse
Misuse
is rarely intentional. The Internet makes it easy for people to
repurpose incorrect or out-of-date information that they believe to be
authoritative and accurate. The biggest culprit here is information
posted on Wikipedia.When you come across examples of misuse, you should
offer help by providing the right information or – if you cannot be
impartial – point people to an independent source.

Misinformation
Misuse
that is left unchallenged often leads to misinformation as more and
more people repurpose the same opinion. Inaccuracy spreads online
faster than accuracy. It can be self-correcting, but that’s by no means
a given.In most cases* misinformation needs correcting, but companies
need to be very careful to use proportionate force.

* There
will be times when the motive behind misinformation is actually
malicious. In these cases, it will never get corrected and could even
fuel a bigger fire. Proceed with caution.

Mischief
It’s
easy to mistake the motive behind mischief for malice, when all people
want to do is ruffle your feathers, teach you a lesson or vent their
frustration over something your company has – or hasn’t – done. In most
cases they want to know that someone from your company is listening and
might even apologize or even solve their problem. In my view this is
the most common motive behind social media backlash.Unless there is
clearly a malicious motive, there is no reason not to respond. Even if
you can’t fix the problem, at least show that you’re listening.*

*
Hint: in order to show that you’re listening, you have to actually
listen. You can search blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and many other
social media platforms for your company or brands and subscribe to the
results by email or RSS.

Malice
Malicious
backlashes are intended from the outset to do damage. They are few and
far between, but general originate from people who have a real axe to
grind. They could be disgruntled employees or suppliers intent on
hitting you where it really hurts, denting your reputation and worse
still your revenues or profits.Where legal recourse is warranted,
you’ll have no option but to use it, but I suggest it should be the
last resort after all other avenues have been expended. Instead, try to
use the networks of supporters that you have built by participating in
social media (which you have done, right?) to fight your corner for you.

I’m sure there’ll
be disagreement about some – if not all – of this, but I’d love to hear
your thoughts. Does this work for all the examples you can think of,
and could it be used alongside Jeremiah’s impact categories to help
build a profile of the kinds of social media backlash that companies
are experiencing now and in the future?

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April Fools Day: Marketing Opportunity or Not? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2008/04/01/april-fools-day-marketing-opportunity-or-not/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2008/04/01/april-fools-day-marketing-opportunity-or-not/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2008 10:01:45 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/10493.aspx We’re always asking brands to be more human, so what better way for them to do this than play an April Fool on us?

I saw a story this morning, which I assume originated from BMW, for a new model with technology that gave dogs who choose to relieve themselves up the owners prized possession an electric shock. By storing energy from braking and converting it to electricity, the peeing pooch gets a few volts up his own big end.

I personally found it mildly amusing, and I guess brands should be applauded for making us laugh. BMW could have made it even more interesting by integrating the piece with their website though.

But can every brand be as witty? Scanning the rapidly changing list of April Fool’s pranks on Wikipedia, most of them look pretty tame and make me wonder whether the companies involved should have even bothered.

What do you think? Is April Fool’s day a marketing opportunity or a reputation risk?

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Trackback to any web page http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/12/21/trackback-to-any-web-page/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/12/21/trackback-to-any-web-page/#comments Wed, 21 Dec 2005 15:30:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/992.aspx I expect there to be quite a bit of nervous shuffling when the world’s marketing directors see the latest Firefox extension from Google in action.

Called Blogger Web Comments, its name is a little misleading. Installing it will actually shows you what bloggers around the world (not just those using Google’s Blogger service) are saying about the web page you are looking at. It even dances around to helpfully catch your eye when there are things to look at.

Effectively this little piece of code connects a blog post (good or bad) to the company, brand, product or opinion being discussed, regardless of whether the original page is part of a blog or not. So now every website is a blog, whether you like it or not.

How long before it gets added to the Google Toolbar?

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Brand blogging in Asia http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/08/25/brand-blogging-in-asia/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/08/25/brand-blogging-in-asia/#comments Thu, 25 Aug 2005 10:11:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/502.aspx A couple of contrasting blogging stories from companies using blogging to create community around their brands in Asia.

In Malaysia, Sunsilk is running a mini TV series to promote the brand to teens and young adults. Impian Illyana, a 5-minute programme to be run daily over 13 weeks, follows student Illyana, who works part-time in a book café run by her older sister, as she deals with problems like rivalry and another girl for the affections of a boy.

The series is supported by an SMS campaign which invites viewers to suggest what Illyana should do next, and offers prizes for spotting the moral of the episode’s story. Online, viewers can download ringtones and wallpapers for their mobile phones, and can access the fictitious Illyana’s blog, where they can post comments.

Time for another debate on the pros and cons of character blogs, I fear. Looking at the number of comments (unfortunately my Malaysian English slang is not what it used to be, so can’t comment on the comments, as it were), there certainly seems to be a lot of interest, but at the end of the day it’s a character blog created to support an advertising campaign.

Mars, on the other hand, is doing some great things with the Cesar brand in Singapore, having launched My Cesar, “Your companion to online blogging”. This blogging community encourages Singaporean dog owners to “create your own personal doggie blog where you can impart your thoughts about your favourite pooch.”

I have always thought there is huge value to FMCG brands from creating blogging communities for their consumers, and Cesar shows how much fun you can have on a limited budget, yet still reap the benefits for your brand.

There are just 24 blogs in the community so far, but I expect this to grow quickly over the coming weeks.

Cesar could have done the same thing as Sunsilk. They could have set up a blog for the dog in the adverts, turning him (or her) into a canine character blog. But they didn’t. They understand that consumers no longer want brands to talk at them, but give them the tools to talk to others.

Welcome to the conversation.

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Hill & Knowlton gets blogging http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/08/09/hill-knowlton-gets-blogging/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/08/09/hill-knowlton-gets-blogging/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2005 09:45:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/403.aspx We officially announced our blogging community to all our 1500+ staff in 38 countries today (although Steve “bloodhound” Rubel already sniffed it out, thanks to this post).

Every employee is being encouraged to complete a slightly tongue-in-cheek questionnaire, which provides them with an assessment of whether they have the desire or time to blog for our brand.

Feel free to give it a go yourself – it’s open to everyone (you just won’t be able to apply for a blog unless you work for us).

We have two inaugural blogs, but I’m looking forward to welcoming some new team and individual blogs over the coming weeks.

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Faux-blog haters, sharpen your pencils http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/07/20/faux-blog-haters-sharpen-your-pencils/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/07/20/faux-blog-haters-sharpen-your-pencils/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2005 16:43:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/376.aspx What is it with the drinks industry and their ad agencies? Following Captain Morgan’s aborted voyage into the blogosphere, news comes from Marketing that Smirnoff have created “a dedicated blog-style website” to support a £4m on-pack promotion to boost sales over the summer.

It’s located at http://www.uriplanet.com/summer (the “blog” URL is http://www.uriplanet.com/blogpage.html) if you want to take a look. This is the first I’ve heard of it, yet there are posts (and comments) going back to April. One can only assume that the copywriters have been busy again.

I’m not against faux, fake or character blogs completely, but I do find them rather tedious and I think most of the marketing-savvy consumers that Smirnoff is trying to attact will see right through this attempt to patronise them. You really have to wonder what went on in the room when the agency was pitching this idea.

Either way, the debate looks like it’s coming back to the top of the agenda.

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The Flora campaign that just makes me wanna shout! http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/07/14/the-flora-campaign-that-just-makes-me-wanna-shout/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2005/07/14/the-flora-campaign-that-just-makes-me-wanna-shout/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2005 12:19:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/362.aspx If ever there was a missed blogging opportunity, it has to be Flora’s current cringeworthy campaign for their cholesterol-lowering pro·activ range.

For those lucky enough not to have seen it, the campaign revolves around the “diary” of Lulu (Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie to her friends – try saying that after a wee dram), one of Scotland’s most famous warblers.

In a joint advertising and online push, Lulu is apparently writing a diary between now and 1 August keeping us up-to-date with her “bid to reduce my cholesterol in just three weeks.” It won’t surprise you to learn that she plans to do it by taking the Flora pro·activ Challenge.

Here’s an extract:

New alarm woke me up, such a shock, it’s too loud. Had a quick shower, followed by a breakfast of toast with pro·activ spread.

Took the dogs for a walk in Regents Park before meeting my agent for lunch. Having declined dessert, I have a pro·activ yogurt when I get home (how’s that for self control!?).

Hmm.

Today is only day four, so I guess we’re in for plenty more of the same.

I have no idea whether Lulu is actually writing this stuff or not (I sense not as it seems very false), but I think this campaign would have been so much better run via a blog. By giving someone with Lulu’s celebrity status the tools to really act as an ambassador for their brand, Flora could have got a lot more publicity and used her to engage in a proper dialogue with their customers.

In fact, why not go even further and offer a Flora-branded blog to anyone who takes the challenge so that they could share their own experiences along the way? Now that would be a Boom Bang-a-Bang!

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Blogging community predictions http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2004/12/16/blogging-community-predictions/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2004/12/16/blogging-community-predictions/#comments Thu, 16 Dec 2004 12:14:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/173.aspx The Big Blog Company picks up on Michael Gartenberg’s predictions for 2005 that more people will lose their jobs over their weblogs but more corporations will create official blogs. Jupiter Research’s Gartenberg also makes the point that far too many of the latter efforts “will just be marketing fluff disguised as weblogs”.

I completely agree with tBBC’s Adriana Cronin-Lukas that guidelines will be required to help employees thinking of posting to their personal weblogs about their jobs or employers, and that a lot of the “fluff blogs” will just exist as a knee-jerk response to others, without any proper thought about why or how.

Both predictions further illustrate why businesses need blogging communities.

I would also add prediction 4a:

And more agencies will tell clients they know all about blogs, when they don’t. Forget about corporations seeing the weblog light, uninformed agencies will see the weblog dollar and their clients will pay twice – first, for the “advice” that they will receive and then for the damage it will do to their brand.

As a result, there will be more examples of bad corporate blogging in 2005 than you would care to shake a stick at (but at least that will provide something for the rest of us to write about).

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Where do your blogging loyalties lie? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2004/12/16/where-do-your-blogging-loyalties-lie/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/2004/12/16/where-do-your-blogging-loyalties-lie/#comments Thu, 16 Dec 2004 09:16:00 +0000 admin http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/niallcook/171.aspx Poynter Online reports that LeMonde has set up a blogging community for their subscribers. This is a very bright move, and they clearly see some of the benefits I talked about in my last post (although there is a big difference between creating blogging communities designed for employees and those designed for customers).

I do wonder about this strategy, though. Whilst it is a nice, non-monetary point of differentiation for what is essential a low-cost purchase, two things immediately strike me:

  1. What is the impact on the LeMonde brand if content on users’ blogs is left to stagnate, or attracts unwanted controversy?
  2. As other brands experiment with similar blogging communities, will consumers be forced to choose where their “community” loyalties lie? For example, I might choose to be part of a Guardian rather than a Telegraph blogging community, but if Sony were to then create a blog community, I might rather be part of that. So what happens to my Guardian blog – are we going to see “blog portability” in the same vein as mobile phone numbers? Using RSS, could I post to multiple community blogs at the same time (and increase my readership)?

I don’t think anyone can really know the answers at this early stage, but it does further demonstrate to me why corporate blogging communities make sense. As a consumer I am loyal to many brands in many sectors (and at the same time loyal to none), but as an employee I am (in theory) loyal to just the one.

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