Online PR


Dec 2011

Are Microsoft immature, or smart?

Posted in Business tactics, Online PR | 0 Comments

Ben Rudolph is what tech companies like to call an “evangelist”. Personally, I think a more realistic term is “paid fanboy”, but there you go. He works for Microsoft, specifically focusing on the Windows Phone 7 brand. But why’s he appearing in the news this week?

Well, it’s because he’s giving Windows 7 handsets to those who tweet their Android issues at him, and use the hashtag #droidrage. Yes, that’s correct. Tell him why your Android phone sucks, and he’ll send you a Windows 7 phone. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal. Unless you’re Google.

This is essentially the equivalent of being at school and offering anyone who calls Jimmy “fat legs” a chocolate bar. Few people are actually doing it because Jimmy has fat legs; they’re doing it for the free chocolate. But regardless of what their motivation is, Jimmy gets a load of bad press.

#droidrage could potentially become a trending topic in the United States today, and that’s going to cause Google a fair few PR problems. But what’s the right response? Offering Android handsets to those who tweet using the hashtag #wp7hasnoapps? Or being a little more mature and weathering the storm of bad-press anecdotes, some of them potentially fabricated?

It might be a new approach Microsoft are testing to see whether they can shake things up a little bit. Given that as I write this, news is going out that the head of Windows Phone 7 has been replaced, a new direction might actually be on the cards.

The legality of the issue is a little hazy, because neither the fans or Rudolph are saying anything libellous. But I think anyone who’s not waiting for Google’s reaction with bated breath clearly doesn’t have much interest in the future of the smartphone market. Android has a whopping market share (51%) simply because it’s not tied to one brand, as iOS is, and that’s its primary advantage. But if it starts to appear flawed in any way, all it will take is the average user becoming aware of the flaws, and Android’s grip on the market may begin to slip.

It’s a dangerous approach to marketing Windows 7 phones, but who knows? It just might work, provided Microsoft can get away with it. Thoughts?

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Feb 2011

SEO with humour – the Oatmeal.

Posted in Online PR, SEO, Viral Marketing, Web Design and Usability | 1 Comment »

Out in the wild digital wilderness that is the internet, there reside a wide variety of websites. Some are funny, some are serious, some appropriate, some not so, and of course, only a select few are huge. For a few it’s a phase – fad sites that will fade in time. But for most, they are content to suck in millions of hits per month, and of course they’re never going to die down due to the colossal communities that have built up behind them.

Here’s a video of Matthew Inman, owner and sole staff member at The Oatmeal (and also the sole creator of, one of the biggest dating websites in the USA), a site devoted to hilarious infographics about a variety of frustrations he comes across in life and thinks others may identify with, making a presentation to a conference about how to gain five million unique visitors a month. Enjoy it – it’s informative and if anything, hysterically funny.

Now, after you’ve recovered, think about what he said. You may need to watch the video again, his infographics are so funny it’s difficult to focus on what he’s saying, most of the time. But his point is a valid one – if you’re not writing, drawing, talking or even singing about a subject your audience can identify with, whether they’re laughing, crying or nodding seriously – then you’re going to fail at generating the ideal amount of traffic.

What Matthew does is simple. He finds an idea (the ever-updating iPhone model problem, for example), makes a short comic-infographic about it, then posts it up. Of course, his take on the subject is unique and his drawings are instantly recognisable, so they tend to go viral – but with an important difference. Because his work is unique in style and look, it’s still attributed to his site even if the source is a viral recommendation to you, by a friend. The Oatmeal still gets mentioned, and even better, people type in “the oatmeal”, find him on Google, and search a considerable portion of his site.

Bounce rates, in theory, should be lower when you’re hunting for a site you want to learn more about. Sure, you’re always going to land on the homepage, and while that makes no difference to you, the HLD (homepage linking domains) of that site will skyrocket if you decide it’s worth the link from your own domain to theirs. However, the disadvantage to this predictably lies in the fact that the owner/webmaster won’t know where people are talking about it, short of an ultra-delayed notification as Google Alerts slowly catches up.

I’ve got a fair few ideas for viral comedy sites like these and the absolutely mind-blowingly huge ICanHaz network. Looking at how well he’s done, it just might be worth giving it a shot – I’m sure anyone would be happy with a 5m-hits-a-month level of ad revenue, right? Enjoy the weekend!

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Jan 2011

Is Egypt blocking of social media a cause for revolution?

Posted in News, Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

It would seem that as of this morning, all social media websites, and even Blackberry services, have had their access from within Egypt completely blocked. Seemingly responding to a slew of protests on Twitter and, presumably, the other social media sites too, the Egyptian government has blacked out all informal means of communication that could be used to criticise the President.

For the President’s PR team it’s a horrifying solution to a problem. But it indicates that, without a doubt, the new form of nationwide consciousness raising comes in the form of tweets, status updates, the odd email and blogging. In terms of online, polls, forums and emailing into news networks are, for the most part, dead.

There’s a revolution coming in your country – there always is, beneath the surface, a multitude of the angry, the broken and the betrayed – and when the wave breaks against the shore, it’ll be hash-tagged to high heaven.

Do you wonder where the big reactions to news are, why there are no longer spiels of LiveJournal entries and forum threads about the raising of a terror alert to orange? Because it’s all flooding through Twitter at breakneck speed, everyone shouting into the void at once. Blogs are singular entities. Seeing an endlessly-updating feed of people hating your governance of an entire nation is going to hit you fifty times as hard, because you’re looking at the digital equivalent of people protesting outside your house, rather than just sending a strongly worded letter to your office.

The pictures, as I speak, are beginning to flood in, and things do not look great. Thousands of protesters and seemingly almost as many riot police are clashing in nonviolent and very violent ways. Mostly it seems to be an offensive – photographs would have us believe, at least – on the part of the police. And tying this in with the lack of social media access seems a little too sinister to be unlikely. It’s sad that this is spreading across Twitter’s non-Egyptian contingent, and definitely showcases how much modern governments fear the internet’s capacity to allot their citizens (with access to the web) “free speech”.

I’d love to say it actually was, but realistically, it’s not as free as we’d like to believe. Sarah Palin’s facebook page is evidence enough – say anything negative, it vanishes in minutes. Say something positive, it stays permanently. With the Egypt stuff, it’s likely they’re monitoring internet usage pretty firmly, and evidently people are smart enough to be using proxies and other work-arounds to get the word out. But it’s clear evidence of our over-reliance on social media – when it’s gone, we flop around like fish on the dockside, the hook of the ban firmly embedded in our cheek, looking into the eyes of the fisherman as we desperately reach for keyboards that are drifting down to the sea bed.

Alternatively, we could put it bluntly and without the excessive maritime metaphor – the Egyptian government just took the step many governments would love to, and they’ll suffer for it more severely than they seem to think.

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Dec 2010

Will we ever see a Wikileaks-type site targeting the marketing sector?

Posted in News, Online PR | 0 Comments

I’ve been saying this for the last day or so, and I’ll take this opportunity to say it again: anyone who’s passionate about the exposure of clandestine government activities (read: myself) must feel like every day is Christmas Day these past two weeks or so. Wikileaks has been an impressive site for years, but this time it’s really hit the jackpot.

You ever wondered why those poor people died during a helicopter attack on foreign soil, two of them Reuters employees? Well, point your fingers at terrorists no longer, the culprit was revealed in a video that was one of seventy-six thousand files leaked to Wikileaks by Bradley Manning, a man I can only refer to as a hero from this point forwards. Why is he a hero? Because he, as many other people have since said, upheld the constitution which maintains he must protect his country. And he did, by exposing the rat-like scoundrels running the show.

It’s hard to compare this level of government exposure to anything else. Watergate was largely focused on Nixon – a two-faced failure of a President, but a single individual nonetheless. This time around, there are a lot of people implicated. The responses, however, have ranged from bizarre to nothing short of hilariously dim-witted. Some government representatives have claimed this will put people’s lives at risk, which is nothing short of ridiculous. But my favourite comes in the form of America’s favourite Crazy Politician, Sarah Palin.

Her Twitter account called Wikileaks founder Julian Assange guilty of treason. As another site recently pointed out, quite rightly, treason was not quite the word. Treason, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government”.

Julian Assange is Australian, and his servers are based in Sweden. I’ll let that one sink in for a minute.

Arguably, the second definition proposes that treason “the action of betraying someone or something”. But who was he really betraying? No one, really, just exposing a government that for too long has hidden behind vague statistics and a “for the greater good” mentality that’s more dangerous than helpful. Of course, all governments are guilty of this, but as America is the country targeted by Assange, and their identity as the “world’s unasked-for police force” is everlasting, seemingly, it’s nice to see them panic.

But what if this hit the marketing sector?

Imagine the exposure of companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Microsoft, on the same scale. Of course, I’m fairly confident Steve Jobs isn’t the head of a company responsible for a six-figure death toll, but to leak this much confidential information, communication (“cables”, to use the recent governmental jargon for “messages” we’ve had to absorb to follow the Wikileaks stuff in the news) especially, is astonishing. This would wreck most major corporations, and it will be interesting to see how the diplomats representing the USA around the world will recover.

But if we exposed a corporation, would the reaction be different? We knew Coca-Cola released the Dasani water brand (tap water, just less safe – at one time anyway – and no longer as cheap as your water bill), but we all still consume their products – I drank a can of Sprite less than four hours ago. Our reliance on major corporations is becoming more crucial to our continued happiness than our reliance on the government that dictates a lot of our daily freedoms. We assume the government is a corrupt, bloated, power-hungry monster, and we go about our day, most of us, without giving it too much thought. But corrupt companies we do care about.

Now I think about it, I suppose it’s a tad hypocritical of most people to start caring about the corruption and dark side to the United States government, as most people didn’t care as much before Wikileaks hit the big one. The sad fact of the matter is, it took this much information all at once to get most people’s attention, and I’d wager the same would be the case when it came to the marketing sector. Recently, I wrote about the Beatles finally sticking their music on iTunes (I say Beatles, I mean Yoko, McCartney, Mrs. Harrison and Starr), and I noticed that even the BBC was gearing their programming towards the Fab Four.

Does this disturb us? Not one bit, and we’re happy to ignore that little advert for the Beatles on a supposedly sponsorship-free channel. Why? Because it’s easier. Don’t get me wrong, marketing is an essential part of all our businesses, but problems come in the execution. Be brazen, be open, be cocky, but never attempt to distract people from prying too deep into your inner workings. Why? Because soon a Bradley Manning will start as an intern at your company, and within months you’ll be spread across the global news network like a bad stain.

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Nov 2010

Has rock-star technology overtaken actual rock stars?

Posted in Online PR | 1 Comment »

At 2:59PM GMT, November the 16th, Apple fans and technology enthusiasts around the world sat waiting to hit “refresh” on Apple’s homepage. Then the clock struck twelve, and the site took a good minute or two to load on even the fastest of connections. Could it be a streaming service to rival Spotify? A Facebook partnership to push Ping onto iPhones around the world?

No, it was the Beatles back catalogue finally being released on the iTunes store.

I cannot have felt more disappointed than I did at that moment. The Beatles? I’m not sorry if I offend anyone’s pedestal-using sensibilities from here on out in this post, but the vast majority of people do not care about The Beatles. I’ll just let that sink in, for a minute. Had it been a technological announcement, a revolutionary one from the company which has churned out the iPad and a new iPhone in the past 12 months, alongside the latest model of MacBook Air, the internet would’ve combusted with the firey rush of tweets and status messages. And Jobs would be grinning once more at his balance sheet.

Music is a thing of the past when it comes to importance. The X Factor, Pop Idol, even YouTube have engendered a gradual degradation of the “musical icon”. Of course, the scale of concerts will continue to increase, and the viral nature of the web means new stars will reach global fame in decreasing time-spans. But it’s important to remember that they’re all just musicians, and we don’t place the same importance in them as the men, women and children of the Sixties placed in John, George, Ringo and Paul.

I could take or leave The Beatles. I’m aware of their significance, their contributions to the music industry as a whole. It’s not the selling box-sets that gets me, or the fact that Yoko Ono saw fit to deny the music market of an easier way of accessing her late husband’s work (but we won’t go into Yoko Ono, that’s a whole other blog post). It’s more the fact that Apple, of all companies, has made the mistake of assuming people don’t see technology as the new Beatles.

The iPhone really is their latest single, and the MacBook their reliable back catalogue. Apple are rockstars of the technology sector, and announcements about a world-famous band from half a century ago just don’t cut the mustard, especially when they’re afforded more secrecy and importance than some of their major releases. The only equivalent would be Microsoft announcing the Zune store had picked up Michael Jackson’s back catalogue – the key difference being that he’s not around to reap the benefits of royalties.

That’s all the decision is, really – money. Same with the recent Beatles Rock Band game. Things you’d never have seen Lennon put his name on are being branded by Yoko as she slowly begins to realise that holding the Beatles back-catalogue back from the iTunes store is an exercise in financial stupidity. For all the talk about peace and showing the world we’re bigger than statistics, the surviving holders of the Beatles rights aren’t hesitant to make money. But why is Apple so excited?

The money. They know they’ll be loaded in terms of album sales this week, next week, and for the foreseeable future, before the sales fizzle to a trickle. Most people gave up and bought the CDs for less money, then uploaded them – as happens quite often when it comes to iTunes and its bizarre, penny-pinching pricing regime. I’m this close to Christmas, and therefore this close to a Kindle, and found out Harry Potter wasn’t on the Kindle Store. Why? Rowling believes in only reading “real” books. So do I, but is she really expecting people to lug round thousands of pages on holiday in 2010?

Let’s not beat around the bush, Apple have disappointed people (namely me). But depending on the reaction (they’ll be trending anyway, so to hell with it, right?) we might see Apple rein in the theatrics until something truly amazing is revealed. Like a MacBook that costs less than a second-hand car.

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Sep 2010

Will the US Government make brand promotion harder?

Posted in Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

Say "no" to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.This morning, I read about the bill that Senator Patrick Leahy is attempting to push through the US legislative system that attempts to clamp down on all piracy and websites considered by some to be a threat to their copyrighted material. This could kill everything from innocent filesharing sites to YouTube, and it might not even stop there. The same feeling of outrage and disappointment with US politicians had sifted its way through my mind last year when rumours flew about that the UK government were after the same thing.

YouTube is a godsend. Every indie film-maker who has ever lacked an outlet or a website-streaming system must’ve seen God the day they discovered it. Around a decade down the line, it’s the biggest media streaming site on the planet. Unfortunately, countless uploads mean the odd TV show that’s still in copyright will slip through the net, but the corporations responsible will usually take it down pronto.

But when promoting products, films, music or brands through social media (YouTube can make a claim to all this is occurring through its channels and vlogging/video responses systems), word-of-mouth is crucial. Fan pages, status messages, Tweets… what happens when people start quoting songs? Or using clips from copyrighted films for a top ten video? Are they banned then? Where does the line get drawn?

Mashable made an interesting point today, that one of the biggest brand trends on Facebook was getting the community to join in on product promotion. “30,000 fans,” says Ford, “and we’ll give away a new car.” But what happens when someone starts copying their idea or their text? Is it infringement? Is there no longer a tolerable grey area? Free speech, to the Americans, is arguably one of the most important aspects of the US Constitution, and a beacon of light across the world. But how free is our expression when the government are knocking on our doors rather than Sony BMI?

What’s worse is that company lobbyists are now trying to push a bill through that wouldn’t need to exist if consumers weren’t constantly pushed towards piracy. Last week, I bought a series pass for series seven of Grey’s Anatomy. I plugged my Macbook into the HDTV and it tells me the program isn’t allowed to play in HD on a non-compatible (non-Apple, let’s not go around the houses here, Steve Jobs) display.

Now, I’ve paid my money, so I’m not about to go grab it off a torrent site. But honestly, will other people? Yes, and you can’t blame them for it. If someone consumes, and by consumes I mean buys a television that should be able to play a programme they paid for, why stop them? Apple are a particularly bad example of this, and notorious for their aversion to third-party compatibility. But if you’re going to ban people from choosing their own clothes, the Marxist “any shirt, so long as it’s red” technique isn’t going to do you any favours.

It calls into question the future of social media. How much can we reasonably discuss? Will libel now come into play when someone moans about their job on a forum, or on Twitter? What if someone manages to upload a film to Facebook? Does Facebook then appear on the US government’s hit-list? Are Google really going to let their own government destroy a significant chunk of YouTube’s traffic?

Do me a favour, American citizens. Find a petition, and sign it, now. If you work in social media, or at any company where free speech or the odd dodgy upload might appear, fight for your right to exist. Or prepare for the internet to resemble Victorian England.

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Aug 2010

Can blogging make millions?

Posted in Blogging, Business tactics, Content creation, Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

It seems like such a ridiculous goal, doesn’t it? To make an incredible amount of money from something as simple as a blog about, say, writing white papers, or about social media. But there are a few who blog and rake in an impressive revenue each year, and one of those few is Michael Stelzner.

Reading the incredible account of his meteoric rise to internet fame and economical success via the blogging medium, it got me thinking. Why aren’t we all doing this? I’m a copy-writer, and I’ve written millions of words relating to every subject you can think of over the few years during and after university.

But it takes social media knowledge to drive traffic in. People aren’t going to bother visiting a site unless one or both of the following two conditions are met: a word-of-mouth recommendation, or a larger online social media campaign. But how do we achieve these two goals? Social media, social media and social media.

Firstly, if you’re aiming to grow your fan-base with a loyal cult following, then the foremost thing to consider when attempting to start it off in the first place is your network of colleagues and friends. Everyone knows that when a colleague or a friend makes a new website, you’ll all visit, have a poke around. Some will even return regularly, provided it’s interesting and updated often.

However, that’s only a few, and you’re going to have to work hard. No one enjoys having a friend push their blog at them purely for the sake of the site’s hit-counter. But people do like the odd nudge in the right online direction by someone who knows someone who’s writing some really funny, smart stuff on a daily basis.

However, if you’d like to take the more formal route, or you’re a solitary warrior writhing in existential agony and feeling like you’re one of the army of unread bloggers , then you’re going to have to consider social media as your best, and only option. In this day and age, newsletters are not read like they used to be, and we’re probably not going to visit another news site by seeing an advert for it on the one we’re already reading.

However, we might just have a quick peek if the site turns up on somebody’s Twitter account, or regularly forms a part of someone’s Facebook profile. Of course, when they visit and enjoy your content, there’s the small chance of the gold-dust re-tweet, and once that happens it tends to spread like wildfire through people with similar interests.

Take last week, for example – I had someone spontaneously find this article, read it, and tweet about it. I don’t know them personally, and two of their followers re-tweeted the link to this article. There was no prompting, no request at the end of my blog asking those who enjoyed my work to talk about it: it was free advertising for writing someone enjoyed.

These kinds of digital thumbs-ups are important, because eventually you’ll find your way onto the “must read” list of someone big, and that list often now finds its way onto the web. When I first started to write for a publication called Resolution Magazine, I wrote a long screed about the simulation of cultural identity. It was something I’m proud of to this day, but not half as proud of that as what happened to it.

Kieron Gillen, founder of New Games Journalism and arguably one of the best in his field, included it in his Sunday Papers post that listed his favourite bits of writing during the week. To be endorsed by such a major face had a serious impact on my confidence and the success of the article, and the fact that we got a fair amount of traffic simply by repeatedly turning up in his list.

It’s not impossible to become the blog to end all blogs – you’ve just got to utilise the same method that started political revolutions, the Renaissance, and Twitter – word of mouth. If one person says your site is fantastic to a room of ten people, and they in turn do the same, in a day’s time you’ll have 100 more unique visits. Things multiply if you keep the quality up, so do so, and thrive.

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Jul 2010

Facebook: rise of the status-update

Posted in Business tactics, Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

Facebook, subject of many an endless morning spent looking at galleries of pictures, tagging, commenting, and playing Mafia Wars. It seems like such a wasteful activity, until you count in marketing data, film promotions, band fan groups, political groups and the hundreds of thousands of uses it seems to be developing with each day.

In June, the site hit over 141 million unique visits in the US. So, in one month, the site’s visitors were over twice the amount of people living in the UK, that’s nearly half the population of the United States. It’s a huge figure and demonstrates how large and far-reaching the networking site has become.

But people are no longer simply creating holiday galleries and messaging and commenting about each other, as they were in its infancy. The ever-increasing list of Facebook features available to all users from the moment of registration is getting longer all the time, and this has opened the door to businesses who have finally recognised that the Facebook picture of their drunk CEO is going to matter.

Have you ever seen someone get caught out via Facebook? Everyone who’s aware of the social media industry has likely heard at least one dark tale of the consequences of careless social networking. Lost jobs, lost boy/girlfriends, broken marriages, legal suits. Privacy on the web is now at a premium, and with the average net-user racking up an increasing amount of social media and communications accounts, it’s becoming harder for businesses to keep track of the reputation of individual employees.

If you’re a company that deals in products or services that would encourage people to find you via the web, think about what else they might be finding. Your PR rep with the public gallery of his drunken week in Bangkok is suddenly going to look a lot less competent when another company is sizing you up for a merger.

But what to do? We can’t ban these people from Facebook or make them go private. If anything, social networking has become such an integral part of modern online PR that doing so would seriously cripple your online presence as a company. However, setting account privacy settings or moving certain photos into an area unlikely to be seen by a business is a wise idea.

Sure, when you’re dealing with a new company, you Google them. Of course, when you’re dealing with an individual, their social networking profiles will come up (and it may interest some to know that Facebook actually received higher traffic than Google in May) alongside their company profiles. LinkedIn contains very few risks – for all its “cool office-worker” image, it’s an online CV with few social interaction capabilities.

However, that MySpace account you had when you were fourteen – you know the one, “Bio: I hate PR!!! lol!!” – may haunt you when you’re looking into working for Saatchi & Saatchi. Think about your online presence, and, even better, pre-empt the haters. Set up fan groups for your company, but be open about it – the last PR disaster you need is to be seen secretly making yourselves look popular. Why not offer your clients a social space to meet and talk, to recommend you and link to you in their comments and status updates?

Offering them a way to interact via a medium that could, in ten years, become our main source of communication, is wise. Embrace the new if you want to stay on top of your target market, and get interested in their interests. If they’re “liking”, wasting hours on Farmville and posting pictures from the office drinks night, then consider whether your CEO might want to mention his love of pixelated pigs on his profile.

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Jul 2010

The true cost of a business’ social media integration

Posted in Business tactics, Online PR, Social Media, Web 2.0, Web Design and Usability | 0 Comments

Drifting through the web on a peaceful Monday lunchtime, I stumbled across possibly one of the most interesting and informative infographics I’ve seen. Created by Mashable, titled “Google’s Long History of Social Media Attempts” is an entertaining insight into one of the biggest web companies in the world, and its continued struggle for social media presence.

Reading down the years, a clear pattern emerges: Google have bought their way into more social media companies and invested in more projects than the majority of all businesses, globally. But for all their attempts to break the ice with the new generation of socially and digitally savvy teenagers and twentysomethings, something’s gone slightly awry. No one seems interested.

Now, for a company as large as Google, it seems almost absurd, doesn’t it? They’ve got millions, if not billions of dollars to spare on new projects, and everything they touch is hailed as a viable alternative before it’s even in alpha. However, putting successful projects such as Blogger to one side, Google are in a unique position – one of, if not the biggest web presence of any company in the world, but with all the social media success of a ten-year-old with a mobile dongle and a dream or two.

Google Me has been rumoured to be a direct competitor to Facebook. After severely underestimating the continued growth of the social-networking giant, Google now face a dilemma that is familiar to smaller companies like Bebo and the ever-falling-behind MySpace: how to get back into the face of the people.

It seems simple enough, but Google’s single greatest strength has simultaneously become its greatest weakness. The majority of internet searches go through Google’s famous search engine. But placing results for Google Me above Facebook, or even as sponsored links, could cause opinion to turn against Google and perceive the company as biased.

The same goes for small businesses – how to break into social media? If you’re a web company with Zuckerberg-esque aspirations, then you’ve got your work cut out. But you’ve still got a head-start over Google in terms of getting ranked higher and higher without it looking slightly too quick for the few cynics and conspiracy theorists.

You’ve also got, I’d wager, a smaller budget than the colossal entity that is Google. This also gives you an advantage – a smaller budget requires more careful planning, and less public humiliation when a big project falls through. An interesting look into Google’s inner workings tells many tales of failed projects and Google’s personal investment in the employees that push it further in the direction of global dominance of all online media.

If you’re a web-design company, maybe even just a solo entrepreneur, this seems daunting and, if anything, completely de-motivational. But never fear – you can network, you can join communities, and you can build up your web presence the way you want it to evolve. With countless failed projects behind their doors and a few too many beyond them, Google are now beginning to look like a company desperate to break into social media.

Your advantage comes from your unknown status. By lacking the stigma of a money-wasting corporate entity and focusing on one specific idea rather than anything with even the remotest prospect of serious monetisation (Jack of all trades, master of none), you can put forward ideas in a less critical environment. Public reaction, especially via the web, is crucial to the initial success and the build-up and expansion that follows.

But social media maintains its presence in society, a theory confirmed by The Social Network, the film about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s rather controversial history, that will debut later this year. Taking Facebook off the internet and into the cinemas places it in the hands of yet another audience, and the genius of it is that it was never officially commissioned or sanctioned by Facebook in any way whatsoever. Hopefully, Google will be in the front row taking notes along with web-design graduates.

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Jul 2010

Catch the worm

Posted in Advertising, Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

“The early bird catches the worm.”

So it’s been said since the beginning of time immemorial, or at least it feels like it. The first to anything tends to benefit the most, and of course in today’s economy, also tends to monopolise and monetise it to high heaven. This isn’t mean, or possessive – just good, solid business sense. The main reason that Twitter’s official @earlybird account is such exciting news for any business looking to use the micro-blogging specialist for advertising purposes is just this – monopolise and capitalise. Come first, win the race, take it to the bank.

If you’ve ever used a book of vouchers at a shop or, god forbid, gone for an item you’d never normally had bought in a sale, then this will appeal to you. Long story short: it’s a Twitter account manned by Twitter staff, giving you updates on discounts and offers from the companies they work with. It’s the closest thing to full-on advertising on the site, so it’s a big first step for a company with a colossal prospective audience.

Twitter currently has around 70m accounts. If even 1% follow @earlybird, any company advertising with Twitter will instantly gain an audience of the best part of a million people. Now picture 10% joining. Makes your bank account tingle, right? If I was a company with the budget, I’d be getting a slice of this action as soon as possible, because it won’t be long before we’re inundated by mega corporations (Apple, Microsoft) who’ve hit @earlybird with the force of a swan’s wing (which can apparently break your arm).

Of course, there’s also the viral nature of Twitter to take into account. Those 700,000 people, that 1% potential follower statistic (if it goes down well with Twitter users, that is) could then turn round and re-tweet. This has the potential to at least double the amount of eyes that see it, and grab more people’s attention and direct it in @earlybird‘s direction. However, there are many different sites picking up on the new account, and giving different takes on the service.

The Guardian, being cautiously neutral as usual, have spoke about how Coca Cola received a mind-boggling 86 million impressions after running promotional content through Twitter. This is a big return on an investment that, for all intents and purposes, only costs the thirty seconds required to write and hit “tweet”. Realistically however, I’d imagine Twitter are making a pretty penny out of it too. It just goes to show what you can do by exploiting what appear to be officially endorsed channels on various social media.

But should use these channels over more usual advertising channels? Well, when you think about it, people are more likely to see it, and definitely more likely to read it, pay attention to it and therefore absorb it. WordPress (we’ll discuss this site’s social media identity in a future post), Twitter, Facebook – it doesn’t matter where your social updates come from, realistically speaking these guys have more access to you than other users. They can post things to you via email, through your dashboard, or a multitude of other hidden means.

What this means for you, the blogger, the status-checker and the Twitterer, is that you’re now opening yourself up to social media’s new wave of advertising in a way that’s not intrusive, annoying or outrageous – simply helpful. We see adverts on sites as an invasion of the information we want to absorb and mentally download. However, discounts, sales – are these adverts, or just a nudge in the right financial direction? It remains to be seen whether @earlybird will be a success, but going on Coca Cola’s statistics, I’d say it will be.

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