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Sep 2010

How Coronation Street can help your business

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

When you think computer games what normally springs to mind? Teenage boys sitting in dark playing shoot ‘em ups, or racing each other in high speed games surrounded by baddies and scantily clad women?

What you are probably more unlikely to imagine is 55-64 year-olds playing games, and even less likely that they are playing a game that involves old cobbled streets and Ken Barlow, but this is, in fact, the reality.

On November 1st ITV is launching an online gaming application for Coronation Street. The new virtual street will be known as Corrie Nation, will launch on Facebook and, a month before the soap’s 50th birthday.

Characters Steve McDonald and his wife Becky in the new game

Characters Steve McDonald and his wife Becky in the new game

When you think about it though this shouldn’t really comes as such as a surprise. We all know how huge Facebook is, it has over 500 million users and a lot of those users have fallen for the world of social gaming.

Take Farmville, Cafe World and Petville. Currently an astonishing 62,073,318 people use Farmville. This is a game that allows members of Facebook to manage a virtual farm by planting, growing and harvesting virtual crops and trees and raising livestock. It is the most popular game application of Facebook.

Corrie Nation will work in a similar way. The users will compete against each other to build a 2D Weatherfield, where they can add characters which are the same as the ones that are in the show and then do various tasks to get to higher levels.

The popular game Farmville

The makers of Coronation Street have realised that after reading a recent Ofcom study, media consumers are increasingly spreading their attention across multiple devices. Gone are the days that people merely watched a TV show, now they want everything that comes with it, the live updates, the game, the interaction (incidentally Coronation Street is also starting a blog).

According to New Media Age magazine, social games are played more frequently by 55-64 year olds than the age group 18-34 which you would probably expect. Interestingly, what it also discovered was that out of those surveyed, 34% of them have responded to marketing activity and at least 18% have clicked on an ad.

So what does this mean for you? It seems that this new type of gaming, social gaming, which is steadily growing rather than slowing down, is the place to advertise. It’s a great way to engage the consumer.

It was the director of digital production at ITV, Patricia Wagstaff, that came up with Corrie Nation, she said:

“Coronation Street enjoys a unique place in the hearts of the British public and with an appeal which spans generations, the brand has the potential off-screen to match its phenomenal on-screen success,” she said. “Corrie Nation is a great example of engaging with the Coronation Street audience in new ways and exploiting this world-class brand to deliver further revenues to the business.”

She understands that the social gaming world is a means to make money over anything else and at the moment this seems to be the way to go.

The same Ofcom survey, mentioned earlier,  revealed that people are watching less TV. The viewing figures for Coronation Street show the same thing, today there are between eight to 12 million viewers per episode, whereas in the late 90s and early 2000s there were 15-20 million per episode.

Sixteen to 24 year olds, instead of watching TV, spend 58% of their media diet on computers, mobile phones and other hand-held gadgets. As the gap between what adults and the youth are doing in the world of social media closes, companies can do what Coronation Street are doing and take advantage of it.

Coronation Street will hopefully gain new viewers and make a lot of money from advertising. Young people like to play these games and the older generation are proven to click on advertisements they see.

As a small company you may not have the budget to set up a social networking game, but what you can do is target those who have and get your name out there with advertising.

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Aug 2010

Mum’s the word: How to use Mummy Bloggers

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

Let’s forget about all the teen-based online attractions for a minute and take notice of the latest thing making waves on the web, yes it’s the mummy bloggers.

Ok, so if you’re not a mother, it’s probably unlikely you have come across these, but put ‘mummy blog’ into Google and see how many you are faced with:, and to name but a few.

Starting in America, like most things, mummy, or ‘mommy’ blogging as they like to call it, is a big deal. And as with most things that are a big, companies realise that this means money and will find some way for them to get in on the act.

But what exactly is this ‘mummy blogging’? It’s basically a mum, or sometimes a dad, talking about their experiences of parenting. It’s the ins and outs of what is like to have a child, covering everything from nappies – which are good to use? Recipes – what work well with children? And great days out – where to go? Can you see a theme here?

Recommendation is the common theme running throughout these blogs. Women are one of the most influential consumer groups and it is thought that typically they are the ones who buy products for their children and make decisions on the big household items to buy. So, if a woman sees that another woman liked a product or a place they will be more likely to use it or go there.

How can you use the mummy bloggers? If you have a product that you think could be useful in any way at all to mums, families, couples, then target them. Ask them to write a blog about it. Even the big shot companies are doing it.

This year Universal Pictures contacted the most well-known mummy bloggers in the USA at the time of the release of their movie Despicable Me. One mum Jennifer Donovan, who has been blogging for six years, was flown to the LA, put up in a luxury hotel and met all the stars of the film. Of course, she then blogged about it and openly admits a little more time was devoted to it, than perhaps if they hadn’t given her the trip.

The head of digital, online and mobile marketing at Universal, Doug Neil said: “We believe that the parents can be big influencers for us, and helping to sell the film and get their interest in promoting the film to their audience, as a stamp of approval for being a good wholesome safe film for families.”

In the UK, things are on a smaller scale, but advertisers and PR agencies are still keen to get their products out there and they know that mummy bloggers are a great way to do this.

As a business, it is an affordable and effective way to get your product seen and talked about. Elisa Camahort Page, the chief operations officer of , a leading US-based community for women bloggers, said: “Blogs also act not only as a loud speaker for the person writing but as entertainment for those reading.

“People are twice as likely to report turning to blogs for anything about information-sharing,” she says, citing the results of a recent BlogHer survey that compared blogs to other social media. The BlogHer directory lists almost 22,000 blogs and about 28 per cent of those are about parenting, she says, with fresh voices joining the blogosphere all the time.

So, particularly if you are small business, it is clearly worth targeting bloggers is an ideal opportunity. The mummy bloggers are often looking for ways to make a little money or to get freebies, so will be more than happy to try out your product.

Remember they are mummies and they write these blogs because they genuinely love their child and are devoted to giving them the best things in life (well, we hope so anyway). Without wanting to stereotype, women do enjoying sharing ideas and discussing things that work well, especially when it comes to children. So, writing a blog is just an extension of that. It’s creating that word-of-mouth buzz that would normally cost big bucks. And if the blogger doesn’t actually like your product, it really isn’t the end of the world, because online any news generated really is good news.

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Aug 2010

Trading Places: can your small business use Facebook Places?

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

As proved by Starbucks and Converses and use of the word ‘movie’, you can bet you you bottom dollar (pound) that if the American’s are drinking/wearing/doing it, it won’t be long before we are too.

Launched last Thursday, and currently only available in the States, is the new Facebook application ‘Facebook Places’. Places allows you to ‘check in’ at your current location, giving friends the opportunity to see your whereabouts immediately. Are you coincidently attending the same event? Brilliant! Have you skipped their dull birthday ‘do to attend something far more glamorous? Not so brilliant…

As if this wasn’t likely to become addictive enough, you can also tag those that are with you, like you would in a photo or status update, as well as browse other people who are checked in at the same place. Obviously, this has raised numerous privacy issues – something which the site is all too familiar with dealing with.

But what’s the implication for small businesses? Aside making it even easier for skiving employees to be caught out by a social networking slip-up, there are several advantages to using geolocation technology.

Twitter has offered geolocation for tweets since last year, as well as its ‘local trends’ feature allowing local business the ability to promote themselves as a ‘trending topic’. Location tagging network Foursquare also found popularity with small businesses, many which used the opportunity as a free platform to get themselves noticed amongst local customers. Of course, now that Facebook’s caught up, the site’s tendency to crush its competitors (i.e. The Myspace Effect) could see changes in the way geolocation is implemented elsewhere.

Facebook’s huge online presence means this latest development is likely to be even more effective for small businesses aiming to benefit from geolocation technology. Businesses in less commercial regions are advised to offer incentives to customers on geolocation networks in order to generate interest and draw people in from more tech-savvy areas. Teaming up with other local businesses to do this can be even more profitable for the companies involved, as well as the local area.

Geolocation content also has the advantage of operating in realtime, and by featuring in conjunction with social networking sites it offers businesses the opportunity to utilise valuable social interaction. Many businesses already use static location services, such as GPS, but the social aspect of applications such as Facebook Places are much more effective when it comes to networking opportunities.

Of course, businesses (large or small) will be well aware that no amount of advertising can beat social recommendations from real people, and Facebook Places could well be the answer into generating such valuable publicity. Yet whether a rise in corporate use of geolocation technology from those keen to make their make their mark using social media might result in little more then irritating promotional advertisements and more organised after-work socials is yet to be seen.

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Aug 2010

Good week for/ Bad week for in the online world

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

Good Week for…

1. Small businesses:

Expert Nicola Clark from Marketing Magazine reveals that small businesses do have the social media advantage over larger companies. She said: “Small brands are at a massive advantage because they are not at risk of being a faceless brand.

“What I think a lot of big brands are trying to achieve through social media is to create a community where it doesn’t actually exist, whereas with smaller brands you genuinely do have that community – you do have that touch point.”

2. Doing the Rubik’s Cube:

After thirty years of trying to find the minimum number of moves needed to solve the Rubik’s Cube, it appears a solution may have been found.

A team used a bank of computers at Google to discover that the magic number is 20. The research found that 100,00 starting positions out of a staggering 43 billion billion can be solved in 20 moves or less. Hmmm, pretty sure we still won’t be able to do it.

3. Using Blackberry’s in Saudi Arabia:

It had been reported that the country was going to ban Blackberrys from 6 August, as they were unhappy that the handsets automatically scramble messages, which get sent to servers in Canada.

However Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications regulator has said it will continue to allow service for the time being, while they try and work out if they can put a Blackberry server in the UK.

4. Social media movies:

First The Social Network is directed by David Fincher starring Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake.

Now there’s Catfish, a low budget thriller with Facebook as a key plot element. It tells the story of two film-makers who document a film about one of their brothers who falls for a girl he meets over the internet. Catfish was an instant hit at Sundance and has had excellent reviews. Check out the trailer, it looks amazing, no?

5. Social Media itself:
Simply Zesty in Ireland shows that 85% of the UK is connected to the UK, and 25% write blogs, 65% read blogs and social networks are the largest activity on the web.

Bad Week for…

1. The boy who let his girlfriend be hit by a baseball:

In some ways this is good as he has become an internet sensation, but bad because it shows him clearly moving out of the way as the ball comes towards his girlfriend. The shame.

The video, at the time of writing, has racked up 83,120 views and there is even a Facebook page dedicated to him. The incident took place during a Major League Baseball game between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, Astros Third Baseman Chris Johnson drove a foul ball in the direction of a couple sitting in left-field. The boyfriend, who is called Bo, saw the ball coming, allowing his girlfriend, Sarah, to get hit. Not only was the incident caught on camera, but he was interviewed afterwards and given the nickname ” Bo the Bailer”.

2. Mark Papermaster, the guy from antennagate:

Apple’s senior executive has been let go after the recent scandal involving the iPhone.

What’s got everyone talking is that apparently the problem with the antenna was known for years, way before Papermaster even joined Apple. He had only been working their for 16 months. So who is too blame, if anyone, is it the PR team handling the situation, the designers or Papermaster?

3. Newport State of Mind:

The spoof video Newport State of Mind, which became an instant internet hit, getting hundreds of thousands of views, has been removed from YouTube due to a copyright claim.

EMI say that permission should have been granted to use the same basics as the Jay Z and Alicia Key’s original Empire State of Mind.

4. Craigslist:

The popular online classified advertising site is facing accusations that the ‘adult services’ section is in fact a breeding ground for under-age prostitution. Two young women placed an advertisement in the Washington Post saying they were repeatedly sold through the site to men who ‘paid to rape’ them.

Craigslists has come under fire before for charging $10 for adult services ads, whereas other sites do so for free.

5. iPad:

It looks like the Dell Streak, which is a 5 inch tablet device, is going to cost a lot less than the iPad.

Launching August 12, it will cost $299.99 with a two-year AT&T contract, and $549.99 for an unlocked edition, that is less than half the price of the iPad 3G.

It is however smaller than the iPad and is in some ways just a glorified smartphone. What do you think, should Apple be worried?

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Jun 2010

How to keep your social media campaign moving forward.

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

So you’ve got a small business, it’s coming up to a year old and things have kind of come to stand still. All the exciting plans you had for social media marketing have pretty much amounted to nothing and in your depression you haven’t logged on to Twitter in over a month.

Do not panic. This is much more common than you may think. With everybody talking about the power of social media it’s easy to think that it solves everything and brings in thousands of new clients daily.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Achieving results from using social media actually requires hours of patience and persistence, it definitely doesn’t happen over night.

Here are a few tips and ideas I’ve come up with to help keep your social media campaign moving forward but also how to keep it fresh and exciting and drawing in visitors.

1. Remember that even though you are using social media to help your business, it is not business media. The key word is ” social”, so you have to be social. Communicate with as many people as you can, look alive not just a corporate machine churning out tweets at the same time every day.

2. Assign a part of your day for purely social media work. Don’t leave it until the last part of your day and likewise don’t do it as the first. Use it as a break from your normal work and then it won’t seem like a chore but something fun to do.

I would personally recommend spending 15 minutes a day at least on each social media site. That time should be divided up. To be successful in the online world you need to a) spend time listening and checking out what is going on, whether it’s your rival, your fans or the news. You need to know what is happening, keep your finger on the pulse so you can react accordingly. b) Reply to the things people say to you, let them know you are real. Retweet some of their tweets, comment on their things. Again it comes down to interaction. c) you need to add new content, this is what gets you noticed by the search engines.

3. Be consistent with all of the above. If you talk to your followers on a regular basis they will soon become loyal . Just a small lapse will send them into the arms of another company, it’s a fickle and fast moving world where you have to communicate to stay ahead of the game.

4. Do something a little quirky, try something no one else has done, it may not work but it will get you noticed. Why not try something like having a guest tweeter for the week?

5. Find ways to engage the internet savvy generation. It’s not going to work offering them things that take ages to collect like vouchers. Pizza Express have the right idea, they send emails out offering 2 for 1 main meals. You can print it off there and then.

Or what about the app Foursquare, their recent collaboration with 8coupons in New York meant that Foursquare users received automatic notifications with discounts when they were in a 3 block radius of an 8coupon deal. This went down pretty well because it was relevant and instant, two things that are crucial to bear in mind as they are the two things people want most.

And finally link all your social media sites together and start to communicate, communicate, communicate. Be patient, you won’t see results straight away  but with a bit of perseverance you will.

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May 2010

Small businesses use social media: True or False

Posted in Social Media | 4 Comments »

If asked whether small businesses currently use social media, most of us would reply ‘of course’ and wonder why I’m even bringing it up. Well, all I seem to read about nowadays is how small businesses are benefiting from social media and using it to expand their businesses. Even my colleague Christos Reid wrote an blog titled ‘Businesses are growing through social media’. However, I know a number of people who have small businesses, admittedly many of whom aren’t in the ‘digital’ industry, that don’t use social media as their main tool for growth. This got me thinking and led to some research to see if this was really the case.

Expelling the myth

One of the most interesting things I found was a survey carried out by Citibank which clearly shows that small businesses are not, in fact, using social media. Out of the 552 small businesses surveyed throughout America, in the last year 37% of small businesses have not used a website to increase business for their company and a huge 84% have not used e-commerce to sell their services or products. What’s more 62% don’t even use basic email as tool for drumming up business. These are quite astounding statistics, in a country were about 76% of the population use the internet regularly, yet such a tiny proportion do not use it to fully benefit their businesses.

Of those who do have a website, 74% say that it has been effective at generating more business. So, why haven’t others picked up on this? This isn’t the only contradictory piece of information found in the survey. 63% said that word of mouth is the most effective marketing tool, yet they hadn’t translated this to the online world. 81% said they haven’t used Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin. Of those who do use social media sites, 47% said they didn’t think they were of any use to their business. 21% thought the sites are most suitable for personal rather than business use, and 18% said they thought they didn’t know how to use the sites well enough to benefit their businesses.

That’s just basic marketing techniques, if we look at slightly more advanced methods like SEO, PPC or banner adverts, over half of the businesses surveyed haven’t used them either.

What on earth is going on?

Now we know that American small businesses are not taking full advantage of social media, but we don’t really know why. I have tried to find statistics for the UK, but there does not seem to be an equivalent survey. It would be interesting to see if UK businesses are also shunning social media or if we are more technologically savvy.

It seems that age does matter, the older the person behind the business, the less likely they are to use social media as a marketing tool. It makes sense, the younger generation or millennial generation as it is known, have grown up with social media sites, they didn’t have pen-pals, they had friends and followers. Whereas the older generation have had to adapt to it. My dad is still slightly miffed by the whole thing, he asks me why I can’t just talk to these people and why I have to spend hours spying on my ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. If he can’t understand that, then I can’t see him using Facebook as a means to gain extra clients.

The Citibank survey confirmed this, showing that small business executives of 45-years-old and over are less likely to use online tools than younger business executives. A healthy-ish 27% of executives under-45 used social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools in the last 12 months, while only 16% of those who are 45 or over used them.

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

If the case is that the older generation simply don’t fully understand how to use social networking to help their business, then surely this is easy to solve? The Citibank survey shows that those who do use social media for their small business have found it beneficial. Gradually more and more people will start doing the same. Social media is a great marketing tool and anyone who does use it is likely to say the same. People need to see that social networking is not as daunting as it looks, and once you’ve got the hang of it, you will see your business grow.

Some people refuse to use social networking sites because of security fears. So, what you can do is encourage those around you who don’t use social media sites, to start a Facebook page or Twitter account:

  • Remind them that now you can have a pretty secure Facebook page, which will only allow those you want to see things.
  • If they don’t want people to see certain things, don’t put them up in the first place, it’s as simple as that.
  • Update their sites at least twice a day to get the most from it.
  • Help them find groups or trends to follow that they will find interesting and relate to them, so they can start getting involved with dialogue.
  • You want them to realise that a part of these sites is about self publicity. If you post your blog on Facebook, it generates traffic to your blog. Once the social media shy see this, they will see the power and benefit that these sites offer.

Once they have found their footing with a personal account, it shouldn’t be hard to help them move over to a business account. There are hundreds of videos and blogs that can help. They will soon see that it is more beneficial using Facebook to network with business clients, than just with old friends.

And the future?

The Citibank survey found positive answers for the future. 72 % say they are likely to use a website for marketing or expanding their business in the next 12 months – up 14% from those who do today. 24% are likely use e-commerce to sell their products or services online over the next 12 months – up 50% from those who do today. And 30 % say they intend to use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin for marketing or expanding their business – up 58% from those who do today.

Get Tweeting for your business!
Whether this is all just wishful thinking, only time will tell. What this has showed us, however, is that bloggers, SEO guys and social media commentators believe that small business are already using online channels to the full, and reaping the benefits. We’ll just have to wait and see if all this hype will turn into money for small businesses.

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