Why Social Media Is Important to Brands

Review of Haymarket’s Social Brands conference, with a focus on how social and digital media is changing business and communications.

Storified by Julio Romo· Tue, Feb 12 2013 04:37:13

Haymarket’s #SocialBrands conference brought together leaders from the PR, marketing and digital and social worlds to discuss the implications of social media on business and the changing communications landscape.

Social and digital channels are empowering stakeholders. They want to participate with brands and not just consume corporate messaging. People today have the ability to very publicly share their online, let these be positive or negative. These shares are so public that they are changing in real time the perception that audiences have of their brands. Companies can no longer fully control how they are perceived. What they can do though is adapt how they communicate.


Customers who actively participate in a social community often stay longer with a brand. One example from @VincentBoon on ROI #socialbrandsShaun Hewitt
Companies today need to have communications that are agile and flexible. Something that came through at the conference.
Great keynote at #socialbrands from #larssilberbauer Lego social team is agile and works in "near time"Christian Dankl

What is important though is to make the brands and the content relevant.

Data is essential in helping brands get closer to their audiences.
Make your output relevant and make your customers feel like you are connected with what is going on in the world #SocialBrandsLouise Wallis
I have argued for a long time that the data is only as good as the questions that are asked. Nokia for example have hired analysts to crunch data to gain extra knowledge from people that are talking about them.
Interestingly Nokia have hired analysts into inhouse social team to crunch data #socialbrandsNixonMcInnes
Data and analytics are essential new disciplines for PR and marketing. Disciplines that should be at the heart of how we communicate.
Social is about metrics, linking these with business objectives, says @willmcinnes. #SocialBrands <— Couldn’t agree more!Julio Romo
Agree with @CraidHepburn ‘s assessment: Tools and stat reports aren’t enough to measure social – you need qualitative analysis #socialbrandsDarryl Sparey
Equally, when you look at metrics it is essential to not try and focus solely on Return On Investment (ROI), namely because social and digital indirectly adds value. Focus should be on Return On Engagement (ROE) – the engagement and how it leads to brand loyalty and turnover. Social after all is a communications channel.
Social has a value to your business. Stop looking for a ROI in social as a single channel. #socialbrands @breventsShaun Hewitt
Twitter is not a social network. It’s an information network says @brucedaisley #socialbrandsAndrew Bruce Smith

Understand that Twitter is an information channel helps define Tom Foremski’s view that ‘Every Company is a Media Company’, a view that I shared at the #SocialBrands conference.

We have to remember that, as Bill Gates said in 1996, ‘Content is King.’ Content though needs to be created from the perspective of understanding the audience that we want to engage with. Communication after all is a two-way process.
Data and Analytics empower brands to understand their audience and shape their messaging accordingly. Data needs to be embedded in communications. Geek is the new gold.
Siloed communications, where marketing, public relations, advertising, events are planned and activated separately fail to maximise outreach and engagement. Teams should be integrated, bringing together expertise that can be called upon in real-time.
An example of how integrated communications generated results, is that of Oreo at the 2013 Super Bowl.
With a team of 15 headed up by agency 360i, they were able to #newsjack the Super Bowl black out and pushing a tweet graphic that generated more engagement that their $3.5 million tv ad during the game.
The recurring theme of #SocialBrands is Oreo cookies’ Superbowl blackout social media advert. Mentioned in four different talks nowPeer Lawther
Brands have the tools at their disposal to communicate stories that are relevant in real-time. Flexibility is the key.
Cultures need to change. Some are going down this road. Others are being held back while watching what their audiences are saying about them. It’s like watching a car crash that can be avoided.

FT Weekend Magazine November 16, 2012

The Financial Times is ‘one of the world’s leading business news and information organisations,’ recognised for its authority, integrity and accuracy. The prestigious Global Capital Markets Survey considers The FT as one of the most important business reads, with a reach of 33% of the most senior corporate and financial decision-makers surveyed in the world’s largest companies.

Total circulation for The FT stands at 600,000. This includes 313,000 paid digital subscribers who get access to premium content that sits behind a paywall.

Every Saturday though the newspaper publishes it’s FT Weekend Magazine. This glossy supplement has a very different style than the weekday FT.

The CIPR Greater London Group had the privilege recently of hosting a breakfast with the Magazine Editor Sue Matthias (@suematthias), her deputy Alice Fishburn (@AliceFishburn), as well as Associate Editors Natalie Whittle (@NatalieWhittle) and Sue Norris.

We wanted to know the workings of The FT Weekend Magazine and the Do’s and Don’ts when pitching to a supplement that reaches influential high-net-worth audience.

Speaking at the meeting, Sue Matthias reminded us that her magazine has a very different audience to the newspaper. It is not a business magazine. And to confirm this fact, Sue highlighted that 70 per cent of FT Weekend Magazine readers do not buy the FT on Monday to Friday.

Audience demographics for the magazine tell us that readers are aged in the late 30s to early 40s and are split evenly between men and women.

Reading The FT

Unlike the newspaper online, the magazine DOES NOT sit behind a paywall. Content is available openly to everyone that logs on. This generates a ‘second life’ for content that has already appeared in print.

The magazine presents content in a reportage style, focusing on features and investigations. Pictures and other visuals are very important.

Feature lengths vary between 1,200 and 4,000 words and have lead times of between 1/2 months to a few days.

The working week for the magazine starts on Wednesday afternoon, just after they have put the coming weekend issue to bed.

Sue advised PRs that the best time to contact The FT Magazine team is on a Thursday or Friday. Between Monday and Wednesday you are more than likely to be ignored.

Matthias prefers approaches via email and NOT via phone. Equally, and with The FT being an international title with regional online editions, remember to establish a relationship with your closest FT bureau, let it be in Singapore, Beijing, New York or San Francisco. If you are based outside of the UK then pitch to them as the magazine team keeps in touch with the FT’s foreign bureaus.

Sue’s top three tips when pitching to The FT Weekend Magazine:

  1. Know The FT Weekend Magazine and the section to which you are pitching. There needs to be a connection. And keep the feature idea broad, relevant and flexible. If they like it they, then be prepared for your concept to be restructured.
  2. Be aware of times and deadlines. Pitch with as much notice as possible.
  3. When selling-in, only do so via email. And remember to have an eye-catching subject. Then wait. DO NOT follow up with a phone call. Let them come back to you.

Remember that with content online the FT Magazine will very rarely (read NOT) include linkbacks to clients. So don’t ask for this.

For many PRs The Financial Times Weekend Magazine is an aspirational title. But getting in the magazine is not about the PR, it is about the magazine. If it’s good enough for them then it is great for you. Simple advice.

City of London at night
City of London ready for Olympic Business Deals (Pic. londonview.com)

Mayor of London Boris Johnson today welcomed the opening of the London Media Centre (LMC), which will host over 6,200 accredited and non-accredited journalists from 832 media organisations from around the world during this summer’s London 2012 Olympics.  The centre will be a home to journalists visiting London to capture the numerous business deals that are likely to be signed during the Olympics.

While journalists covering the sporting events will be based at The International Broadcast Centre within The Olympic Park, non-sporting international reporters and bloggers from 66 countries visiting London during the Olympics will have access to a state of the art media centre in the heart of Westminster.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘This will be a summer like no other, presenting an unparalleled opportunity for London to show off its wares to a global audience of billions. An inquisitive army of reporters, camera crews and photographers are migrating to our city to see not only sporting history in the making, but everything that makes a host city tick. From the iconic to the little known, we want these media professionals to be offered an unparalleled experience of the capital and a smorgasbord of great stories. This will ensure that future tourists and businesses get a taste of why London is the best place in the world to visit and invest in for years to come.’

London hopes that this summer’s Olympics will also provide a marathon of deals that will showcase the city as a creative business-friendly destination.

The capital will not just see an influx of journalists from around the world, but of public relations practitioners who will be managing the communications for clients and employers alike during the games.

UK Trade and Investment recently stated that the games could see a boost to UK Plc worth £13bn over the next four years. But this figure might not include the deals that will be sealed during the games and will act as a tonic during the current global business malaise.

With under 20 days left until the opening ceremony, it will be the business pages that will be worth looking through during the #London2012 games.

This year’s GSMA Mobile World Congress 2012 brought together last week in Barcelona an industry that has been working during the past year to guess and meet the mobile needs of consumers and businesses.  Over 65,000 attendees and 3,000 journalists were asked ‘How do you redefine mobile?’  This theme was much more than about new handsets or associated technology.  It was about how the industry can continue to embed itself in our daily life.

While handset manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Nokia and BlackBerry grabbed the headlines at this year’s congress, it was the operating systems and the application of these that grabbed a lot of the discussion.  Mobile commerce was one such subject that was hotly discussed.

Mobile connects people with people.  It connects business with people, opening a host of opportunities for news and media outlets, as well as businesses that rely on direct to consumer sales.  Just look at the new Guardian advert about the Three Little Piggies to see how new is now shaped by the opinions of people on the move.

While Google and it’s Android operating system was everywhere, Apple and it’s non-attendance were the still benchmark for the many handset manufacturers.  Samsung unveiled not just the Note handset, but also a partnership with Visa that would facilitate it’s Near Field Communications (#NFC) capability.  With a NFC-sim in place, Samsung will be providing athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games with handsets through which they can pay for goods, educating the public about the benefits of contactless mobile payments.

Samsung London Olympics NFC enabled mobile

Athletes will just need to open a pre-installed app and with just the swipe of their phone over a RFID Visa reader they’ll be able to pay for purchases of up to say £20.  Any purchases over a set preset amount will require the user to enter a security PIN number.  Visa hopes to launch this NFC payment service to the public later on in the year, though with a few conditions: you will need a Visa debit or Credit card associated with the service, you mobile operators will need to send you an approved SIM card and your NFC enabled phone will need to be approved by your bank.  Seamless it isn’t, but a step in the right direction it is.

Meanwhile, Japanese Mobile Operator NTT DoCoMo unveiled their own NFC offering, which was more consumer-friendly and has been in use in Japan since 2004.

NTT DoCoMo pioneered mobile payments by ‘encouraging’ Sony to design what is now the NFC FeliCa chips that have become the contactless default payment system in Japanese handsets.  NFCTimes.com reports that today ‘more than 60 million phones in Japan pack the contactless FeliCa chip, which comes from DoCoMo’s joint venture partner Sony Corp. The chips and associated secure memory can support a range of payment, ticketing and other applications.’  The operator makes it’s money by collecting transaction fees every time a subscriber uses the NFC system.

Extending the service beyond payments, NTT DoCoMo unveiled services where NFC could be used across borders and for mobile ticketing through the Boardwalk Mobile Ticketing, which uses NFC on mobile devices to create a seamless way to engage with events that require ticketing and through which event promoters can further push additional content.  In Japan, NTT DoCoMo also provides the subscriber with the opportunity of charging purchases to their monthly bill.

With the continued rise of geo-location marketing pushed by the likes of Foursquare and Facebook, the missing piece in the payment and promotion system is appearing in Asia, where seamless services have produced high consumer sign-up numbers, something that Samsung and Visa need to consider when they roll their own services in western markets

According to Ovum the ‘GSMA estimates that there are now over 100 deployments around the world.’ High-adoption for mobile payment in emerging markets is partly driven by the fact that mobile phone ownership in these markets vastly outnumbers payment card ownerships.  In developed markets, the incentive to use NFC and other mobile payment options need to be established through promotions to the user – discounts and coupons that can be redeemed with ones own handset.  Location services such as Foursquare could add value and increase sales.

Brands today require a mobile strategy as part of the communications activities.  Reaching people wherever they are is going to be central, especially when you consider that at some point within the next 24 months more people will be accessing the web through a mobile device than a desktop.  Views and opinions will be in real-time, offers made when target customers are in location.

Mobile and telecoms have embedded themselves in our daily life.  They are the channel for business and real-time comment and opinion.  They are wire that connects people on social networks.  Mobile is redefining itself, and it will continue to do so.  Develop a mobile strategy and accept that real-time business is already upon us.

George Lucas was right, 'The audience IS listening'

Facebook has brought together an audience of incredible numbers.  The social networking giant is today a community of people that keeps on growing, creating for businesses an opportunity to reach out directly to consumers.  But here lies the question, why are businesses still looking like ‘rabbits in the headlights’ and failing to truly engage with audiences that can help many survive during these hard economic times?

Today, Facebook has over 750 million users worldwide.  For many businesses that figure is a fantasy, after all, are we going to engage with so many?  So let’s narrow this figure down into more manageable and relevant numbers.  In the US there are over 154 million ‘active’ users, Indonesia comes in second with 40 million and a 16 per cent penetration rate, while in the UK there are 30 million users reaching half of the population. Malaysia has over 11 million users accounting for nearly 1 in 2 residents, while Singapore has a very active 2.5 million with 54% of people being on Facebook.

And the figures don’t stop there.  Here are some more, more than have of Facebook users access the network each day, half of which do so through their mobile phones.  And those that access Facebook through a smartphone or other mobile device are ‘twice as active as Facebook compared to non-mobile users.’

For many companies and organisations, these numbers are very 2-dimensional.  The audience is there, but the history and culture of 20 century business dictates that for many they still broadcast to them through a given Facebook Page.

Audience engagement is much more than a Facebook Page and the apps and tabs that these Pages have.  It is about, well, engagement.  It is about listening and delivering.  In business it is about meeting needs.  And to meet business needs you needs to re-invent itself, spending time speaking an engaging with your various audiences.

Many companies are focused on the comfort of your own structure.  Safe in the knowledge of how they have always delivered their business.  But what about your audience?  Have they been happy in how they have received your business?

As Facebook show’s us, people today are connected online.  For many they check their network, their community first thing in the morning.  People seek input, advice and support from their community that they have before they have spent money.  Today, people are happy to share bad experience, which shapes many companies brands and reputations.

While engagement is certainly not as cheap as business thinks it is, it creates a much more personal relationship than brands have ever had with it’s audiences.  It creates the loyalty, the holy-grail of business relationships that many aspire for.

Think about it this way, how do you like being talked at?