Hyper Connected

I’m at the Social Media Influence conference today, taking in talks on a variety of topics such as ‘The Future of Online Listening’, ‘Social Analytics and Customer Insight’ and ‘How to Talk Your Way Out of a Crisis’.

But more on that tomorrow.

What inspires me now is a figure that was just given on stage that:

“By the end of 2010, the average American will own six connected devices. People in the UK will, on average, own 4.5.”

Unfortunately this stat wasn’t attributed to any source so I can’t validate it [I’ll look for the slides tomorrow], however – I thought I’d throw the question out onto Twitter

From my own collection, I count seven. But fifteen minutes (and 30-odd responses later), I’ve managed to pull together an average of 8.7 devices per person.
Which – aside from a few random cases – is quite telling and raises a few points and questions:

  1. My followers tend to be a bit more tech-savvy/heavy (and would therefore own more devices). Fair enough.
  2. If pushed, would the average person know that their internet radio or their TV is ‘connected’?
  3. In this constantly changing, yet ever more connected world we live in – what challenges will this present to the marketeers of tomorrow?

My point is – the internet of things promises a lot. It turns out that your average Joe’s data is going to be contributing a lot to this also – where are the opportunities?

Have a think on that and, while you’re at it, how many connected devices do you own?




The Social Media Rollercoaster

Round we go...Summer is coming and – between the torrential downpours – the sun will be shining once again.

Last weekend, while queueing up* for Adventure Island‘s RAGE rollercoaster on Southend Seafront, I began wondering how theme parks could use social media and further engender positive word of mouth.

And, it was after reading Joe’s post earlier this week around the Social Season Ticket, did I then decide to put my thoughts down on paper – so to speak.

To my mind, theme parks and attractions have a fantastic opportunity when it comes to social media. Standing in line amongst the other would-be screamers, my brain started buzzing. So much so, I made notes –

‘Wouldn’t it be cool if each main attraction at a major theme park had its own Twitter account broadcasting not only for ‘on brand’ messaging [ie: ‘Boo!’ for the haunted house] but also – and much more importantly – up to date queue time information. As a guide for the more socially-savvy guest, this service could prove invaluable.’

This is not an untouched area in this industry. Back in February, Alton Towers announced they were a launch partner for Facebook Deals here in the UK. According to their site:

“On Friday 18th February 2011, the Alton Towers Theme Park opened a day earlier than planned for the Half Term holiday, offering exclusive use for anyone who checked in with Facebook Deals on that day. Guests were able to enter the Theme Park with up to three friends, completely free. 100 lucky people will also claimed a hotel stay on the night of 18 February 2011, completely free!”

Very swish.

As with any industry, it really does depend on how much time and money theme parks want to invest in making this a success; is it a case of a simple Facebook promotion [Like ‘Thorpe Park’ on Facebook and get 10% off your ticket entry] or do you want to go the whole hog and have Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare integrated across every branded touch point [including your entrance ticket].

My advice?

As ever, choose an objective and stick to it

  • Want to increase footfall?
    Great, run an online ticket promotion
  • Want to sell more gifts + toys?
    Offer Foursquare deals at specific stores across the park
  • Want to help control traffic around the park?
    Introduce ride-only Twitter accounts which tweet when the queues reach over an hour

One last idea from me –

Why don’t theme park ride photographs post straight to Facebook?

This is such an obvious and quick win. Photos get uploaded to Facebook, guests like the page and then are able to tag themselves post-visit. Ultimately, sharing branded experiences with their Facebook friends using branded photos.

It’s certainly better than forking out £8.00 for an old school photograph that you’ll probably get crumpled up on the way home…

All of that aside; as an avid theme park fan myself, if Twitter was used as an information service for each ride? I’d be there like a shot.


*Yes. This is how my brain works even on my day off

Disrupting with The Kaiser Chiefs

Over the weekend UK-based ‘indie’ band, The Kaiser Chiefs, went public with their latest album offering ‘The Future is Medieval’. What makes this launch unique different is that for the first time, Chiefs fans can create their own version of the album and then make money from the sales of that bespoke version.

As the website puts it:

Once complete, fans will be given their own page on the Kaiser Chiefs website to sell their version of the album and, for each one sold, the curator gets £1.

Not. Bad. At. All. It’s certainly got our chins wagging today…

Why is this so good?

Mashable says it’s because ‘the fans are turned into producers’, ‘The fans get financial rewards!‘ says Marketing Magazine and The Next Web have gone so far to call it ‘a brilliant stroke of social media‘ and cite that the real beauty is that ‘every album will be different’. Yes. Quite.

Here at the ‘heads we’ve got a different take. For example, Tom Messett, senior presences manager and all ’round fan of rewarding engagement says:

“It’s about creating awareness… It is a stunt. They will have it exclusively like this for about four weeks then slap their real version (probably the full 20) on iTunes when everyone is talking about it and all their fans are posting about their exclusive version, if some famous people do one then they might get some traction, as well among frontier communities. It is disruptive, and in this market, that is good.”

He has a point.

Of all the headlines I’ve read over the weekend and the course of this morning, many different buzzwords are being thrown around, ‘the future of social marketing/music/commerce’ etc – delete where appropriate.

It works because:

  • Music industry disruption is always welcome (but nothing new*)
  • It rewards the real fans; both financially and through social kudos (imagine if your version of the album gets into the top ten – sweet)
  • Personalisation is key, and they’ve delivered that both with the playlist selection and the album cover
  • Your fans become the sales people
  • It’s proper, actual content curation

But, as with any fan-pleasing innovation, there are the naysayers:

Overall, this kind of member-get-member scheme is nothing new to the industry. As always, it’s the packaging and the communications around it that sells. The website is lovely to use and to look at, the premise is simple enough and – eventually – one wonders what kind of lasting effect (if any) this will have on the industry as a whole.


*that nothing new part? Where do we begin?

Three album launches that disrupted in their own way. The difference with these being the disruption came from the artist(s) themselves as opposed any kind of agency tie-in/support.


What will you do Next?

Here in the UK, high street clothes brand Next are running a competition entitled ‘Make me the Next model 2011’. Basically, they’re asking the general public to help choose the new modelling talent for their next big campaign.

The prizes?

Well for two overall winners will each enjoy a £2,000 shopping spree at Next, the chance to star in a photo-shoot for Next and a special introduction to leading model agency, Storm. Fantastic, right?

Earlier this week tweets started appearing encouraging others to vote for the underdog; as this morning’s Metro Newspaper described, said underdog is the ‘unconventional’ looking Roland B.

Currently, Roland is sitting pretty at the top of the rankings and probably – thanks to a rather huge online following – lengths and breadths ahead of the rest of the competition.

So what do you do Next?

If we examine the competition mechanic more closely we can see that there is every opportunity to remove Roland from the competition after this early stage. To quote:

“The online public vote at next.co.uk/model will decide the Top 250 – all of whom will be invited to London on Friday 29 July, 2011 for a special one-day course at Next’s Runway Academy.

The lucky hopefuls will meet industry experts who will offer invaluable advice on all aspects of modelling, while our panel of judges will choose a Top 50 shortlist to return for the following day’s fabulous, fun-packed, live Grand Final on Saturday 30 July, 2011.”

Whether or not the panel of judges choose Roland B to progress to the final 50 remains to be seen but there is a huge opportunity here and Next would be mad to skip over it.

Next is a part of the old guard when it comes to high street fashion chains; @NextOfficial – while sitting at nigh-on 8000 followers, pales into comparison when you look at TopShop (160k) and ASOS (120k). However, when you look at the more widely-known (and used) social network, Facebook, Next have a very respectable half a million fans.

And this is where things get interesting. Next obviously have a lot of fans out there but by the looks of things, so does Roland B. As my colleague Tim Denyer said to me earlier on today ‘It’s about knowing your audience’ – The board may insist on catwalk models but your fans, the ones that make and break your brand, obviously want something else.

The opportunity here is that this competition has opened the door for Next to be really disruptive and actually embrace change. By allowing Roland B to progress through to the final and – dare I say it – become one of the winners of the overall competition Next is able to make a statement to the rest of the industry along the lines of:

“Our clothes are for everyone. Not just the models we put in our catalogues and our commercials. Everyone.”

Roland B is representing the underdogs of this world and, with the internet behind him, he may well score a victory for them too.

All that remains to be seen, especially now that the story has hit the mainstream press, is whether or not the brand capitalises on his following and support.

Alright it’s not chicken-flavoured Pril, nor is it Bieber in Korea, but there’s a reputation issue on the horizon if this falls over – and Next need to be sure they make the right decision. The people are watching.

Vote for Roland.

FMCG: Getting social with multi-brand corporates

It’s a new month, so it’s time for a new theme here at 1000heads HQ. For March we’re going to be talking about all things FMCG. So where to start?

Having worked with a fair number of larger FMCG brands in the past, today I want to talk about corporations that manage large multi-brand portfolios. Should they be involved in social? What are the options? Who’s doing it already (and who isn’t) and of course, who’s doing it well?

Let’s say you’re Unilever.

You’ve got 40+ sub-brands (in the UK alone) operating under the Unilever banner, each executing their own marketing campaigns (with varying degrees of social media throughout) should you as a global umbrella brand, be embracing social media to help further your cause and message?

And if so, how do you go about employing that strategy without over-shadowing your sub-brands like Lynx/Axe or Dove.

In a word; yes, you should be embracing social media to further your cause – whether it’s highlighting the fantastic work that your sub-brands are doing across the world, finding new ways to humanise your corporate image or simply engaging with those showing an interest in your company culture – this is an easy win.

Keeping Unilever as the example for a second (and using the highly scientific method of typing ‘brandname on twitter’ into Google), you can see the following

There they are, top three results all seem to be Unilever branded presences each pushing out their own necessary messages.

The number one result, Unilever Global Media.

Branded and official, the presence hasn’t tweeted since April 21st 2010. Up until that point, the stream is mainly made up of RTs of various Unilever stories and has little to no actual engagement with its 900+ followers. Now admittedly, the Unilever Press team do a good job here, but the global media presence is being severely overlooked.

Must try harder.

How to make it better?
Re-start the feed, get someone from the global media team (and who cares about social) behind it and start engaging with the community. From just a cursory look around their website, Unilever has some amazing stories to tell; both from an umbrella/global perspective and on a local/sub-brand level. Come out and tell us about them!

A brief interlude —

Before we go any further, we have to make one thing clear:


However, it is a good litmus test on where a brand’s social strategy (if it has one) is at. From the Unilever perspective it seems like someone thought it might be a good idea to start a Twitter account and then has either let it die off or has been slapped down by corporate comms (this happens more regularly than we’d like to think).

Either way, something has been started here and it would be a shame to see it go amiss.
Moving on.

Looking elsewhere, to Diageo for example, the world’s leading premium drinks company has a top three ranking also –

Number one is @Diageo. Perfect, right? Wrong. But, before we get to that, let’s look at what comes in at number two – @boycottdiageo!

Even though they haven’t tweeted since 2009 AND the fact that their blog presence doesn’t seem to be linking through any more, this is isn’t exactly a great look for the Johnnie Walker brand owners.

Coming back to the top entry for a second, with a paltry 53 followers and zero activity to date, @Diageo is another wasted opportunity for another large umbrella brand. This time ’round mind there’s extra losses with the ‘Boycott Diageo’ name appearing at number two.

Potentially problematic (but easily solved)

How to make it better?
First, kick start the Diageo Twitter feed with a proactive ‘telling our story’ engagement strategy [linking to both corporate comms and any ongoing marketing efforts], as well as a super hot reactive strategy that not only nullifies any untruths being communicated about the company as a whole, but also has a keen eye out for potential long term advocates/new business.
Yes, B2B over Twitter. Amazing, I know.

Second, roll out departmental streams reflective of those that live front and centre at Diageo.com, i.e.: News & Media, Careers, CSR etc… The benefit here will be two fold: not only would it sharpen the messaging but it would also help push down that nasty (and dead) ‘boycott’ stream that currently lives in Google’s search rankings.

Let’s try one more —

@UnitedBiscuits are the manufacturer of biscuits, savoury snacks and crisps including McVitie’s, Penguin, go ahead!, Jacob’s, Twiglets, Hula Hoops, Mini Cheddars, McCoy’s, and KP. I know this because they have it in their bio.

Perfect! That’s a start guys…

In comparison to the other large multi-brand corps I’ve covered so far, United Biscuits actually seems quite active – their stream includes a healthy mix of Corp PR, HR shouts and the occasional customer care fix too.

A great foundation (now it’s time to build)

How to make it better?
The recommendation here would be to more clearly define the objective of this channel and then, once this is in place, amplify and engage accordingly with clear owners defined by industry-wide accepted standards.


In conclusion –

OK, so I know the methods involved here aren’t the most scientific in the world and I also know that social media engagement is not judged on Twitter alone. We’ve kind of established that already.

However, if you’re asking yourself should multi-brand FMCG companies have their own online strategy? Then the answer has to be a clear YES.

Day in and day out these multi-national businesses face communications battles that have to be fought across many different fronts both online and off. Making sure that your social media channels are both owned and active is should be par for the course for the brands listed above and more. Be it PR & corp comms, CSR, HR & recruitment (grad schemes etc) or simply highlighting the latest and greatest sub-brand work.

This is one trick that you cannot afford to miss.

Travel & Tourism: Got Klout?

I’m an ardent supporter of all things Foursquare-related; be that through either [on a consumer level] meaningless badges acquired through a specific number of check ins or [on the brand side] a fairly robust off-the-shelf loyalty card system – I think the possibilities with the platform, should it hit critical mass, are endless. But that’s just me.

Something that is yet to measure Foursquare’s impact in social media [but yet shares a similar ‘is it any good or not’ debate] is KLOUT

The self-proclaimed ‘Standard for Influence’ uses over 35 different variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure ‘True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score’. Influence, according to Klout, is the ability to drive people to action.

This is something I can on board with, certainly.

All right there is a healthy amount of well-deserved scepticism, but when big hotel chains start getting involved in this kind of thing then it’s time for the rest of the industry to sit up and take notice.

A few examples —

Since September last year the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas has been building out what it refers to as ‘The Klout Club’ – whereupon checking into the hotel in question (actual checking in, not foursquare checking in), you may well be asked ‘What’s your Twitter name?’ so that your Klout score can be measured there and then.

The Palms believe that this will allow high-ranking influencers to experience their ‘impressive set of amenities’ in hopes that these ‘influencers’ will want to communicate their positive experience to their followers.

You got a bajillion followers with an awesome Klout rating? You get the jacuzzi!

Foursquare mayorships this ain’t.

There’s more…

Earlier than that, in June last year, Virgin America was using Klout to pick and choose which influencers to reward with their free flights to Toronto program. OK it was a tie-up to a new route launch but, as adding a social media element to your PR goes, I’ve certainly seen worse.

Key takeaways?

As we move into a more open world and social media becomes much more widely accepted, these industry early adopters are laying the ground for other, larger influence campaigns in the future and yet, while folk will often try and game the system, it seem that building your online reputation may well be having some long term benefits.

I’m fairly sure that with all the good will aside, KLM definitely picked the more influential of their passengers to bestow their gifts upon [and don’t even get me started on which online voices the Old Spice guy started tweeting to], all of which begs the question:

Which is more important; the amount of people you make happy, or the amount of people that know you did it?

Answers, debate and commentary welcome below…

Travel & Tourism: KLM

We’ve been talking about running different themes here at the ‘heads of late and one that continually pops up over and over is that of Travel and Tourism; who’s engendering positive word of mouth and who isn’t.

Not one to focus on the negatives, I thought I’d kick this session off with a focus on my favourite social-airline; KLM.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (to it its full name) has been playing around in social for a few months now and their activities to date really are quite interesting. Rewind back to December last year and you’ll find this delightful ‘social (media) experiment’ around putting smiles back on the faces of KLM’s travellers.

I’ve talked about ‘Surprise and Delight‘ before and how brands (big and small) can reap success in this area; believe it or not, creating smiles and happiness is a fantastic way to build both customer loyalty and positive conversation.

The great thing about KLM is, they didn’t stop there. After testing the water with the above marketing campaign, they then added social to the care side of the business – with their ‘Extended Service on Social Media‘ initiative.
To quote:

“Want to get that seat by the window, rebook your ticket, or find out how to bring your surf board? Tell us on Facebook, or send us a ‘tweet’!

Ask your question on any day of the week, between 8:00 and 23:00 hours, and we will reply within the hour.

Requests such as rebooking your flight, we try to arrange for you within 24 hours. By using “instant messages” or private messages, your personal data remain protected.”

Good job guys.

Finally, to top it off, last week they launched this neat little viral video to demonstrate the new space available in their business class section.

Being charming, funny, informative and coming in at 1min 40s precisely, the video hits the sweet spot just right. So that’s Marketing, Care and now Comms; all covered off with smart use of social media.

And why? To create positive word of mouth, brand loyalty and of course, ultimately – an uplift in sales.

KLM – we salute you.