Posts Tagged 'media'

Social media for business 101

Social Media have been attracting significant attention thanks to their explosive growth all over the world. Figures suggest that well in excess of 1 billion people around the globe already use social networks, and that millions more join them every week.

Facebook and China’s QZone report more than half a billion users each. Even more startlingly, reports suggest that the time spent on Facebook alone each month is approaching 1 trillion minutes – an astounding 62,000 years worth of sharing photos, commenting on walls, and ‘Liking’ videos, every single day.

With such huge audience potential, it’s easy to understand why companies are rushing to establish a social media presence of their own.

However, effective use of social networks entails much more than creating a Facebook page or Twitter account for your brand – especially if you hope to see a meaningful return on your investment.

The Evolution of Social Networks

The current excitement surrounding digital social media might suggest that they are a recent phenomenon, but their roots go back more than 30 years.

As early as the late 1970s, systems like Usenets and Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) paved the way for the kind of online interaction that lies at the heart of today’s social networks.

In the second half of the 1990s, the rapid growth of the Web fueled interest in ‘cyber communities’, and the first recognisable social networking service – Six Degrees – launched in 1997.

However, the launch of Friendster in 2002 is widely recognised as the birth of the social networking model we’ve become familiar with today, and although its popularity has waned in recent years, Friendster is seen as the primary influence for platforms like MySpace and Facebook .

Relatively speaking, social networks are still very much in their infancy though, and the recent launch of Google Plus demonstrates many still believe they offer huge potential.

So what can social media do for your brand?

Debunking Social Media Myths

Before we explore how to use social media for business, it’s important to clarify a few common misconceptions.

Social media will replace all other advertising media

It’s unlikely that social media will actually replace anything; rather, they’re simply one more – albeit very powerful – addition to the array of channel options at the marketer’s disposal.

Social media are free 

Sadly, this is a long way from the truth; while the media space itself may be considerably cheaper than it is in newspapers or TV, the time involved in creating effective social marketing means social channels still require substantial financial investment.

Marketing has no place in social media

A number of researchers have reported this to be the case, but there are plenty of case studies to suggest that, when done properly, people even welcome branded activity in social media. The caveat to this is that social marketing must offer real value to its audiences, and not adopt the interruptive model we’ve become used to in mass-media advertising.

Principles for Success

There are no set rules for social media marketing, and even the most admired practitioners are still learning what works best. However, the following guiding principles will help you get started.

Do It For A Reason

Before you can develop a social marketing strategy, you need to know what you hope to achieve. Will you use social media simply to deliver advertising? What about customer service? Do you expect your social activities to generate revenue?

Critically, you need to identify social marketing’s role within your broader business strategy, and how it will complement and build on other activities.

People vs. Platforms

Ultimately, social media are simply means to an end; their popularity lies in the fact that they help us to interact with other people. Consequently, users gravitate towards those platforms that help them do this best, and if a superior alternative appears, people are quick to change their behaviour (remember Second Life?).

One key factor of long-term success in social marketing is to develop a strategy that is flexible enough to adapt to new platforms and behaviours as they become meaningful parts of your audience’s world.

It’s also vital to remember that most people use social networks to socialise, so it’s vital for brands to adapt their approach to suit the channel. Critically, brands can’t act in the self-centred ways that often characterise conventional advertising.

Brands are merely guests in social media, and even in situations where they are the guests of honour, they still need to behave with some degree of humility and social grace. Above all, they need to appear natural – anything cold or forced is will stand out as being very awkward next to heartfelt conversations between friends.

Deliver Real Value

The average social network user has connections to hundreds of people, organisations, and brands. As a result, their ‘social stream’ is full of different content, much of which has been shared by family and close friends.

Consequently, it’s very difficult for brands to capture people’s attention; unlike the interruptive paradigm of TV advertising, social marketing must compete with videos of unbelievably cute kittens, photos of last weekend’s party, hot celebrity gossip, and countless conversations about everything in between.

The only way to ensure your brand doesn’t get lost is to make sure everything you do adds real value to your audience’s world. This involves building activities around what your audience cares about; not around what you want to sell.

By creating and sharing a variety of entertaining content, and joining the subsequent conversations around it, Chupa Chups and BBH have built a Facebook community of more than 1 million ‘fans’ for the brand’s mascot, Chuck:

Conversations vs. Campaigns

Historically, marketers have used advertising as a way to introduce their brands, products, and services – in many ways, advertising is the business equivalent of a chat-up line.

Over the years, these chat-up lines have become ever more elaborate, but one key challenge has remained: how to evolve a series of disjointed one-liners (campaigns) into a lasting relationship.

Social media makes this evolution much easier, offering marketers a way to include two-way communication within their marketing mix. In so doing, social media allow marketers to establish a regular exchange of mutual value.

The ‘value’ the brand offers can take many forms – entertainment, information, rewards, etc. – but it’s the conversations that this content inspires that deliver the majority of the value back to the marketer.

By understanding what their audiences want, need and like, marketers can better tailor their approach – indeed, social channels can be used to deliver highly effective R&D, market research, and customer service, all at the same time.

What’s more, brands aren’t restricted to direct conversations with their audiences either; with the help of today’s online monitoring tools, marketers can also track other public conversations about their brands, and identify new ways to deliver incremental value.

Be Prepared For Awkward Situations

The old adage states that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and nowhere is this more evident than in social media. Although the kinds of conversation we see in social media are nothing new, social platforms allow people to have them on a much greater scale.

Some brands have already witnessed what happens when things go wrong in social media, but it’s likely that we’ll see many more examples of brands being called out by disgruntled consumers in social media.

It’s worth noting that such situations can arise regardless of whether your brand participates actively in social media or not. Given this, it’s likely that, sooner or later, something, somewhere will go wrong, so it’s well worth preparing for such an eventuality in advance.

Be Responsive And Adapt As You Go

One of the greatest limitations of traditional advertising is that it can be very difficult and costly to change campaigns that fail to deliver what the advertiser intended, especially where media must be paid in advance. The conventional broadcast reality is ‘ready, aim, fire’, and if the shot is wide of the target, you need to start again.

Social media work quite differently, offering marketers real-time control over their communication activities. Critically, the interactive nature of the channel means that we can stop, start, or change different elements very quickly, depending on the audience response (or lack thereof).

Take Things Slow And Steady

The Supremes shared some wise words on social marketing as early as 1966:

You can’t hurry love;
No, you’ll just have to wait.
Love don’t come easy;
It’s a game of give and take.

For most brands, ‘success’ in social media takes time. It takes a significant amount of effort and commitment to build lively, enduring communities, and marketers can’t dip in and out as they might do with conventional advertising.

As in most relationships, though, social media is more about a journey than a destination. While it’s vital to have clear objectives before you set out, the things you learn along the way will inevitably influence where you get to, and it’s worth allowing yourself the flexibility to adapt to new and unexpected opportunities as they arise.

Next Steps: Getting Started

These principles should help you begin to formulate your brand’s social media strategy, but there’s no substitute for experience.

Fortunately, social channels are well suited to a ‘test-and-learn’ approach, where you can constantly evolve and refine your activities based on interactions with your audiences and the results they deliver.

Once you’ve developed the core of your strategy, try it out on a small scale, with a particular focus on watching, listening, and learning; you’ll quickly identify what works for your brand, and what you’d prefer to avoid repeating.

Inspiration From Brands Using Social Media

Through its ‘Twelpforce’ service, US technology retailer Best Buy uses Twitter to great effect, involving employees throughout its business to deliver tips, advice, and support to a variety of different audiences:

Popular Singapore bar, Brewerkz uses a wide variety of simple but effective social media activities to drive business at its outlets, proving that even brands with small budgets can make great use of social media.

The brand has a popular Facebook page where it shares a variety of news and social content:

Brewerkz also makes effective use of Foursquare, a location-based social networking service that allows people to ‘check in’ to physical locations and tell others what they’re doing:

What tips would you offer businesses about to start out in social media? Why not share them in the comments.

This article originally appeared in the August-September edition of Orient, the Official Publication of the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore

social media – global vs. local: can one size fit all?

This was my presentation yesterday at the Social Media World Forum in Singapore.

Despite research that ‘proves’ “local pages perform much better than global ones”, the reality is that the performance of any social media presence depends entirely on what you are trying to achieve.

There’s also the critical issue of whether you can afford to set up presences in each of your brand’s locations.

My advice is always to do what’s best for your audience, in the context of your brand and its objectives.

Doing so requires a solid understanding of what that audience uses social media for, what they hope to gain from a relationship with your brand, and how they’d like to get it.

That requires some careful strategic planning.

This presentation asks many of the important questions that will help you start that strategy, and offers some examples of different approaches to implementing it too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

digital, mobile and social media in india

Here’s the latest report in our BBH Data Snapshot series, this time profiling the Digital, Mobile and Social Media landscape in India.

Just like the recent China edition, this report is packed with useful data, stats, and soundbites – here are a few appetisers:

  • Mobile is more than 50% bigger than TV in India;
  • The number of people using Facebook in India is
    greater than the population of Australia;
  • 18% of India’s 12 million rural internet users walk
    more than 10km to access the web

You’ll find many more jaw-dropping stats in the full SlideShare presentation below.

As befits a report on social media, this document is designed to be shared freely, so please do pass it on to anyone you think might benefit.

And if you’d like a PDF copy, you can download one here.

All comments and feedback very much welcome!

digital, mobile, and social media in china

Here’s the latest in our BBH Asia-Pacific Data Snapshot series, with some truly stunning numbers on the digital, mobile, and social landscape in China.

You’ll find more of these snapshots, including profiles of Indonesia and The Philippines, on our SlideShare site.

how to make friends and influence people

A simple guide to social and engagement marketing, designed for people who don’t live and breathe it every day.

If you’ve got any principles you’d add to the list, please do share them in the comments!

just did it

You might have noticed that it’s been a bit quiet round here for the past few months.

That’s because I decided to take my own advice.

Around this time last year, I made a commitment that 2010 would be about less talk, more action.

I’ve stuck to that commitment, but after this prolonged silence, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to.

The context

I spent the first few months of 2010 trying to encourage clients to make better use of social channels.

It was a tough challenge; while most of them seemed interested, none of them seemed ready to commit to anything.

Their main fear was that these ‘new channels’ were unproven.

None of them wanted to be the first to take the plunge, so I was caught in a Catch-22: nothing could happen until someone changed the equation.

It soon dawned on me that I would have to be the first to do it – on my own brand, and with my own money.

So, exactly 5 months ago, I put a little experiment into action.

My ‘brand’ was my DJ alter ego, eski, and my simple objective was to share my mixes with as many people as possible.

It’s probably worth noting that, before I started this experiment, fewer than 100 people had ever listened to my mixes online.

That number looks very different today.

The Results

If you’d told me 5 months ago that I would achieve so much in such a short period of time, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

I appreciate the irony of that.

Sure, I was less skeptical than my clients, but I didn’t realise just how powerful social channels could be.

But I now have tangible proof that they really do work – here are today’s ‘stats’ from eski’s facebook page:

Many of those 50,000 have found me thanks to this simple banner:

I’ve also promoted the page by posting on other related pages on Facebook, and through some basic twitter activity.

But aside from the numbers, what has this ‘little experiment’ taught me?

1. Time is your most valuable resource

I always knew time was the biggest ‘cost’ when it came to social media, but I was still surprised just how much time and effort it requires.

Sure, the media costs next to nothing, but the content needs significant commitment and dedication, and the surrounding conversations need constant fuel, even when the audience is passionate about the subject.

I spend an average of 10 hours a week creating content, and then another 15-20 hours interacting with people.

That’s the same number of hours as a full-time job.

2. Content is everything

People usually only do things when they see a personal benefit – even if that benefit is simply feeling good about themselves.

Again, no surprises there, but this experiment has shown me just how fickle audiences can be.

The only reason people ‘Like’ eski, and keep coming back to the page, is that they like the music.

If I don’t publish content for more than a few days, return visits drop very quickly.

3. Targeting is saving

The difference in cost-per-conversion between my targeted and un-targeted ads is about 5,000%.

No, that wasn’t a typo.

If hadn’t targeted my ads so carefully, I would have needed to invest more than $50,000 to achieve the same results.

Needless to say, I spent an awful lot less.

There’s no easy answer on how to do this – you’ve just got to spend time understanding your audience, what they like, and what they want.

But then, that’s true of any channel.

4. Just do it

It goes without saying that proof is considerably more persuasive than strategy and theory.

So, if you really believe something works, find a ‘brand’ of your own to prove it on.

And if you don’t have anything suitable to try your ideas on yet, create something!

If you think laterally about what you enjoy, you’ll probably find something relevant – a ‘DJ’ might not be the most obvious choice when thinking of brands, but ultimately it’s still the same thing.

You might do it with your own photography, cake decoration, or anything else – the trick is to choose something you care about.

The reason why doing it for yourself (i.e. your brand, your money) is so important is that your level of involvement changes everything.

I quickly realised just how much emotional involvement impacted my judgment; it coloured my decisions, and it brought totally new perspectives to my ‘marketing’ activities – especially when it came to how to spend my money.

But, as a result, I understand the whole process so much more clearly.

Now, I have a solid case study that shows how to grow something from nothing, but I can also talk objectively about the experience from both sides (i.e. client and advertiser).

I know what it feels like to take those first hesitant steps.

I know what the first tastes of success feel like.

I know what it’s like when you get things wrong.

I know how it feels when someone criticises you or your brand on your own page.

But most importantly, I’ve had lots of experience dealing with it all.

And that’s worth way more than any number of theory charts.

5. Stay true to your purpose

One of the starkest discoveries has been that numbers can be distracting and addictive.

Seeing a fan base grow every day can easily become an aim in itself.

But an overemphasis on numbers quickly destroys what you set out to do in the first place; growth for its own sake has no benefit, and will eventually destroy your soul (more on that here)

I started this experiment to learn how to use social media to build a brand, and that will remain the objective.

The fact that it’s been so successful simply means that I can now start experimenting in different ways.

6. Rinse and repeat

Like many other people I’ve talked to who’ve done something similar, I only wish I’d started sooner.

In fact, I’ve enjoyed building the eski page so much that I’ve already set up another 2 pages of my own (more about them another time), and I’ve also joined teams on 5 other related pages.

So, in the process, I’ve succeeded in another of my resolutions for 2010 as well (from here):

How about play rises instead of pay rises? More time to do the things that feed your souls, not just your bank balances (think Google’s 20%).

7. Never stop learning

Although I’m amazed at what has happened over the past 5 months, this is still just the start of the journey.

I’ve barely begun to optimise my activities, and I’ve only explored a fraction of the tools available to make things more interesting.

So, I’ve set an even more challenging objective for 2011.

But that story will have to wait until the next big milestone…

In the meantime, I hope you have a great festive period, and I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011.

mobile youth

I’ve been a big fan of MobileYouth‘s content for some time, so it’s probably time to share some of it here too.

This particular presentation is a succinct collection of soundbites and thought-provoking nuggets, but you’ll find loads more information and inspiration on their slideshare.

like for like

As many of you will already know, Facebook recently moved from “Becoming a Fan” of a brand to simply “Liking” it.

The change is now live on the site, and I’m already noticing some brands taking advantage of the shift.

One example that stood out is this sneaky little advert from Heineken:

I like the creative aspect – what’s not to like about a brand cheering me up on a Monday?

But here’s where the clever bit comes in.

The button at the bottom of the ad – the option to “Like” – appears to be set up like the normal “Like” button that appears below friends’ status updates and photos.

However, click on this particular “Like” button, and you’ll become a ‘fan’ of Heineken.

That means the brand’s status updates and other activity will show up in your News Feed until you choose to ‘unfan’ them.

From a certain perspective, this seems quite a clever use of the feature, but from another point of view, it seems dangerously close to spam.

What do you think?

The image at the top borrows shamelessly from this rather intriguing Facebook page. If it’s yours and you’d prefer me not to use it, please just drop me a note and I’ll take it down.

smoke signals

Success isn’t about channelsit’s about connections.

So don’t limit yourself to ‘media’.

Success is much more about where, when, and how to engage.

Thanks to Tiago over at Cultural Fuel for sharing the clip

escaping the spiral

One of the most enduring themes of the past decade has been the decline of traditional industry models.

Record companies and newspapers have been the biggest losers, yet demand for the ‘products’ these companies deliver has risen dramatically during the same period.

The two trends seem to be in conflict: how can something experiencing increased demand simultaneously lose its value?

Has classical economic theory come totally undone?

Let’s take a closer look.


As recently as the 1990s, a music collection of  100 albums (about 1,500 songs) was something to be admired, taking pride of place across a whole wall of the living room.

Today, even cash-strapped teenagers carry that much music in their pocket everywhere they go.

But still we crave more.

Numerous new services attempt to satisfy our insatiable appetite for a fresh and varied playlist – Pandora and Spotify are obvious examples.

Yet almost none of these seem to be making much money.

It’s the same story for news.

As technology has advanced, instantaneous, ubiquitous news updates have become the norm, and we’ve become so used to these ‘info fixes’ that we even experience symptoms of withdrawal if they’re taken away.

Demand for news hasn’t just grown; it’s exploded.

So why are news agencies disappearing at an inversely proportionate rate?

What’s going on?

From the outside, the reason appears very simple: these industries have become too caught up in what they think people are buying; not what those people actually want.

The music industry is still obsessed with selling albums, because that’s been their core offering for decades.

Of course, at the time of their inception, albums were a highly efficient (and profitable) distribution medium.

The same goes for newspapers.

But, as Dave Trott points out, people don’t buy the media.

They buy the content that those media carry.

And if they can find that content more efficiently (and cheaper) elsewhere…

A false equilibrium?

Despite initial appearances to the contrary, the trend of rising demand and falling profit in these media-based industries is actually in keeping with classical economic theory.

The model suggests that people will tend towards the most efficient satisfaction of their needs: that they try to maximise the benefits they receive, while simultaneously minimising the associated cost (in terms of money, time, effort, etc.)

As Adam Smith posited in 1776,

“…what every thing really costs… is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.”

He went on to assert,

“What every thing is really worth to the man who has acquired it… is the toil and trouble which it can save to himself.”

Let’s look at those two statements in context:

  1. From the consumer’s perspective, the cost of acquiring music and news content is not a pure price consideration: factors such as the effort needed to acquire and consume the product, as well as opportunity cost, are equally important;
  2. The worth, or value, these products deliver is hard to measure, because the benefits they deliver are usually intangible (except where unique access to news provides a financial benefit to the consumer).

The key issue in these industries is that people suddenly have access to identical value at a much lower cost.

So what changed?

What are people buying?

People don’t buy media; they pay for access to content.

But if that content is available for free, why would they choose to pay for it?

Free access to music has been around for years via radio; the main issue has been a lack of listener control in the playlist.

The only legal alternative has been to pay for the privilege to listen to what you want, where you want, when you want, by buying albums and singles.

But given the costs involved in this alternative, another popular solution has been to acquire an illegal copy.

Piracy is nothing new; it has affected the music business since it began.

However, until recently, the quality of an ‘original’ was always noticeably better than that of a cost-effective copy.

The advent of digital formats like MP3 changed all that. Today, people can quickly and easily create a copy that is identical to that which they would get if they bought it from the original source.

The problem for the record companies is that there is literally no difference in the quality of pirated content.

Furthermore, the industry’s continued protectionist approach to ‘selling’ music means that it’s often actually easier to find pirated copies than it is to find the original*.

Returning Adam Smith’s concept of ‘real cost’, this means that people have fewer and fewer reasons to pay the cost associated with original content; the only remaining motivator is conscientiousness.

Meanwhile, the situation with news is even starker: the industry itself has trained us to believe that news should be free, through ad-supported models such as CNN or freesheets.

When people have been so used to legal access to free news content, it’s easy to understand their current reluctance to move to services requiring payment – particularly when services like the BBC continue to offer free access.

Bene-fit for purpose

The only sustainable hope for these industries is to rethink what they’re actually offering.

The process is actually very simple:

What do people really want?

Where is it most relevant to them?

How can we deliver it to them and make a profit?

The critical step is to move away from thinking about how to improve the existing product, and to focus instead on identifying and understanding the benefits people seek.

New news

Why do people crave news?

It might be for a variety of reasons:

It provides information that helps us make decisions about our own lives (Will it rain tomorrow? Is there a crazed gunman on the run downtown?);

It offers a common topic we can talk about with others;

It shares opinion and that stimulates our minds and provokes further thought of our own;

It entertains and stirs emotion;

Perversely, it helps us put our lives in perspective, reminding us that “there is always someone worse off than yourself” (this is the only reason I can find for our continued obsession with ‘bad’ news).

However, none of these things belong to conventional news channels.

Indeed, most of those channels exist because they provide an audience for advertisers, and, arguably, they’ve never been truly focused on the audiences themselves.

Where would these benefits be most relevant?

What could we do to deliver it to them then… at a profit?

Change the tune

The task with music is a little more difficult, because it’s intangible and transient.

What exactly is music, and why do we love it so much?

What benefit does it provide?

It’s a question that has many different answers, because music means different things to different people in different contexts:

Sometimes it’s an all-consuming experience, like a concert;

Often, it’s something we use to define our personalities;

Sometimes it’s a means of escapism (like ‘cocooning’ on a crowded subway);

Sometimes it provides a reassuring background distraction;

Like fashion, it’s something that’s constantly evolving and fresh, providing us with something to talk about, and offering us things to look forward to.

I’m sure you can think of many more benefits (why not share them in the comments?).


It’s safe to assume that people’s desire for new music and fresh news will continue to grow.

As such, musicians and journalists are not – contrary to media scaremongering – on the verge of extinction.

The only thing that’s likely to disappear is the existing media model.

So how will we access these benefits in the future?

Much as I hate to inflate an already over-hyped solution, I believe the answer is ‘something social’.

Services where people already go to seek similar benefits – to talk to people, to find out what’s new in their world, to seek emotional stimulation – are the most obvious places for them to seek music and news benefits too.

I believe we’ll see an increasing number of social services combine these offers in their bid to become our ‘one-stop shops’ for all such content.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t include TV and movies too.

Services such as Facebook have a great opportunity to became the de facto source for news and new music, although I suspect it will be a new, as-yet unheard of successor, who’ll bring about this next step in the web’s evolution.

So what’s new?

I suspect that, although you’ve nodded your head a few times during this post, you don’t feel there’s anything revolutionary in its content.

But that’s possibly because, in this simple format, it all seems obvious.

And I think that’s the problem: perhaps it’s so obvious, we’ve been missing the forest for the trees.

But, the good news is, the solution is very simple.

If we focus on the benefits that people seek – the real value that they perceive in the things they consume – then we have a chance of delivering it to them at a profit.

Sadly for some, it may be too late to save the mass media model, but the rest of us have a real opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Thanks to Willsh for setting this thought process off with these lovely posts: one, two.


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