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Mar 2011

What we’ve learned.

Posted in Blogging | 3 Comments »

Well, it’s been a big rush, but after a brief chat today, me and Jason have accepted that convincing the many, many people who viewed the video of his proposal to fiancée Stephanie to actually vote for the happy couple to enjoy a free, luxury honeymoon was just too difficult. The three of us made an effort to make this work, but unfortunately there are some people out there who have colossal resources when it comes to click-happy online friends who don’t mind a five-minutes-or-less registration process when voting for someone they care about.

I commented earlier today that it says a lot about people when there’s 4,104 views on the counter, and only 570 votes. Sure, there were quite a lot of people who would’ve viewed it to double check (I probably account for almost a hundred visits to that page, not so sure about views though) but that’s not the point. It’s, if anything, a commentary on how unwilling some people are to spend a few minutes registering or logging in via Facebook to help a friend towards their dream honeymoon.

Am I disappointed that our little Twitter and Facebook campaign failed? Yeah, of course I am, and I feel bad knowing Jason and Stephanie are going to have to work out what they’ll do instead. But it’s taught me that there’s a lot more to social media campaigns than I previously believed. You can’t just say “jump” and expect trampolines. You need to own a few, first. Internet users are like children – if you want something from them, you have to give them an incentive and a means to claim their reward all within a minute or less, or they lose interest.

I don’t know if I’ll ever do a Twitter campaign of this kind again, but I will say that it was definitely nice to use a few tools to help someone and make them happy. I think you can offer a lot to someone in today’s economy – vouchers for HMV could be domain-name registrations, if you’re geeky enough. But a nice wedding present would’ve been the honeymoon. For anyone who’s been following the progress on this blog, don’t lose heart, because it is possible for these things to work. You’ve just got to really take it on as a full-time job, and that’s something neither myself nor the happy couple were able to do.

Until the next time, and once again – congratulations to a happy couple who may not have won, but are still happily planning a wedding and the rest of their lives together, because the latter is really the thing that matters.

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Mar 2011

The Jason-Stephanie campaign – update #3.

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

Okay, so, this could be going better.

It’s week four of the campaign (no update last week due to the huge interview with Michael Chorost which resulted in four posts over the regular three), and Jason’s video is just out of qualifying for a holiday by sitting in fourth place. However, this is not the end of the world, as an interesting opportunity is arising.

With three and a bit weeks to go before the competition ends, there are two videos each with just over 500 votes taking first and second place. However, there is also a video in third that only has 400 votes. Jason has around 370. The gap has closed once again, and if we can take it now, we’re fine. The main strategy would be to get to 1,000 votes, so far in the lead that it’s tough to usurp him, let alone have him finish outside the winning trio of happy honeymoon couples.

A lot of tactics have been discussed, and unfortunately it’s come to light that due to the lack of any campaigns on behalf of some of the other videos, we may be competing against people that are either manufacturing votes, or simply using their Facebook and a rather unique community angle. The angle is simply a stronger sense of community than ours – namely, that two of the top three video posters are devout and active members of the American Christian community, and out of them and Jason and my journalist circle, we’d wager the former are more likely to go the distance for someone who has their respect. This, in itself, is really quite sweet and I wish I had this behind me, but I don’t, because I’m not introducing God to universities campuses across the American Northwest.

But how do you manufacture that kind of popularity? Jason’s Facebook and Twitter have been ablaze with requests for votes, and I’ve done a fair bit of work with Twuffer and the MoreDigital Twitter, in addition to my own and retweeting his. The hash-tagging does help, but do hash-tags sometimes make it seem a tad less inviting, and more like spam? I’m not sure. But I will have to approach the people I know who have the pull to really draw some attention to this, and ensure that he stays in the running.

It’s not about the fact that the blog’s been following this, because if we didn’t succeed, I’ll write about what we may have done wrong, what we did right, and I’ll still have a blogpost. But this is also Jason’s honeymoon, something that won’t happen again in his or his fiancée’s lives. We need to crush the opposition, and I only have to say it once:

Battle stations.

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Sep 2010

Keeping it fresh: new targets for social marketing

Posted in Web 2.0 | 0 Comments

Trying to think of new and interesting ways to keep your business’s social media marketing alive and kicking can be tough. When you get stuck, it’s important to find inspiration and the news is a great place to start. I’ve had a look at what people are talking about this week and how this can help your businesses social marketing campaign.

The kids are alright:

Last week I wrote about the Mommy bloggers and this week it’s all about the tweeny bloggers. Think of it as the revenge of the tween (young teen, to the unitiated) fed up with their mothers endlessly blogging about their nappies, then their first day of school and even their first kiss, the tweens have started to take control. The Independent reported that 15 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds are already blogging and one in four are interested in starting.
As we are all aware social media is huge amongst teenagers, so targeting the younger segment of this age group is a sure fire way to get yourself noticed. Send a tween blogger your product, ask them to review and watch as all their friends begin saying to mum and dad ‘I want one of those!’

Bugging you:

According to the New York Times, as America is trying to eradicate the recent infestation of bedbugs, the pest control companies are having a war of their own- which ad will be seen first by those searching for pest control online? The New York Times article says: According to Google, general searches for “bedbugs” have increased 83 percent in the last year and 182 percent for bedbug-related searches in the last four weeks compared with the same period a year earlier.

If there is a sudden epidemic, let’s say bedbugs or swine flu, it may be a great opportunity to generate traffic, but don’t forget your ethical compass. Nothing is more likely to alienate potential customers like jumping on a public health bandwagon. It may be all about making the most of the moment – but unless your product is relevant, be cautious.

Be more open minded:

It can be easy to get caught up in trying to drum up business in the UK and the USA. We forget that money can actually be made elsewhere and we may not be as clued up as we think we are when it comes to social media.
India, for example, is currently in the midst of a social media phenomena- Bubbly. It already has 2 million users and is popular with Bollywood stars and big companies. It is basically a voice- based Twitter, using text alerts and dial-in codes to record and receive voice updates on mobile devices. When a user records audio messages and updates, followers can listen in whenever they want.
The idea for Bubbly came from America and presumably must have been targeted to India where mobile phone usage exceed internet usage. So, if you have an idea, think about where it would really work. Do your research and don’t be afraid to target countries you are not so familiar with.

Silver Surfers:

This may seem pretty obvious but you may not be aware about just how much and how fast social networking among older adults is growing. 42% of online adults age 50+ now use social networking sites, nearly twice as many as the 22% who did so a year earlier, according to a study by Pew Research. They are officially the fastest growing demographic among social network users.
This is a big step for the world of social marketing. It is a real chance to get a product out there to what could be a new market. What’s great is that when a mature adult says they like something on Facebook, their friends will listen. Older people still do have an authority that youngest users just don’t quite have yet. Get the oldies on your side and you’re laughing.

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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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Nov 2009

The Astonishing Success of Justin Halpern

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

They say that social media has the potential to make anyone a star, although it’s rare to see this actually happen to your everyday person who is noteworthy for nothing apart from his or her presence on a social networking website. Regular people nowadays can build thousands of followers, but every now and again, social media really does make a celebrity out of normal people. Take Justin Halpern, for example. The 29 year old from San Diego started a Twitter account to document the amusing things his father said. With fewer than 100 tweets sent, the account had amassed over 700,000 followers. And now, the CBS television network in the United States is considering turning the amusing quotes into a television comedy series. The LA Times also reports rumours of a book deal.


The BBC reports, via Hollywood Reporter, that Halpern may well co-write the show. Thus, we have a situation where a 29 year old who lives at home with his aging parents is soon to become a writer for a major television network, all because he began a Twitter account.

Of course, this isn’t particularly common. With more and more individuals and companies signing up to Twitter, being noticed in the crowds become harder and harder, and what was once a high follower count is now relatively normal. However, anything over 100,000 followers is obviously still a very large number, even if quite a few of them are corporate account or, at worst, spam. It is, however, still something of which we could never have dreamt recently: this person doesn’t even have to write for a blog or maintain any sort of public persona outside of posting things his father says onto Twitter. In that regard, Justin Halpern isn’t even the creative force behind the content.

This brings us to another interesting point, however. How much of something’s success is due to the creative aspects of the idea, and how much of it is due to the person who takes that idea and manages to do something with it? One could argue that all the best content in the world would go begging for an audience if it weren’t for people who knew what to do with it. In this regard, Justin is just as important as his father: He knows how to structure his father’s “content” such that it appeals to a large number of people. It probably helps that Halpern has experience in the world of online publishing: formerly a writer for Holy Taco, Halpern is now employed at Maxim.

Even with online publishing experience, it is still astonishing that someone could develop the following this Twitter account has in such a short period of time. To be fair, “niche” blogs are all the rage right now: websites that do nothing but post specific content like Failblog, Don’t Even Reply, and FML document messages all of a similar variety. There are many more sites like this which are doing equally well, and Halpern’s Twitter account fits neatly into this fashion, but is still an amazing story of success.

For businesses, the lesson is slightly thin; however can be summed up as a case of finding a catchy selling point with social media. Often, this appears to involve taking very obvious and common occurrences (such as the amusing things one’s family members say) and turning it into a cult success. Despite the television show and book deals, imagine if Justin had begun the Twitter feed with the intent of directly monetising it, coming to the project with a conversion plan and a secondary product that the tweets served to market. “Conversations” and branding aside, this has to be the goal of the majority of our social media endeavours.

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