Bin Laden – Twitter Comes Of Age

Like many I woke up to the great news of the death of Osama Bin Laden this morning.

And as soon as I watched the pictures on the BBC, I turned to Twitter for the more information and insight from around the world.

An everyone was playing their part:

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land was commenting on how re story was trending, Monte Lutz believed that Twitter was outscoring Facebook on the story by around 10:1, but the most authentic coverage was coming from a tweeter in Abbotabad. The tweets from @reallyvirtual are to be preserved for future generations.

Here was a guy, the owner of a coffee shop in downtown Abbottabad who heard a helicopter overhead which he thought as unusual. ” I need to swat it” he said, clearly annoyed at the late night disturbance. But as time moved on, he clearly became aware that something major was happening. “I’m told it’s not one of ours” “could be a drone”.

Until finally this amazing realisation, “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”

In addition @storify provided a consolidated picture of events as they unfolded.

So I think this; that Twitter today had a great day. It found it’s place and as the growth of Twitter that follows this story inevitably happens, more and more people will call on it for news and updates from people on the ground as a natural reaction.

@reallyvirtual later tweets included this “wondering what music to play in the coffee shop today”.

Life goes on.

Nearly half of all Twitter users don’t read a word you say – that many?

Here’s an article I came across, bizarrely enough, on Twitter the other day. I’m not sure where the author has gathered the information, the source isn’t quoted, but it makes the claim that although the number of people subscribing to Twitter continues to grow inexorably, those who ‘use’ the site are relatively small in number.

The headline says is it all – Half Twitter users don’t read a word you say.

So what?

If you imagine that Twitter is another channel to push your message out to your audience, then of course that message will continue to be mistrusted. That’s not engagement. Remember, the key to winning on the social web is to listen and then to engage.

I continue to see company Facebook pages that don’t allow people to post messages. Is the expectation that people are just waiting to hear what they have to say like the sermon on the mount?

Twitter and Facebook can only really be called ‘social’ media if they facilitate conversations and discussions between brands and their customers and prospects. Those who follow a brand on Twitter are doing so for a variety of reasons, to wait for discounts, find out when the next store is opening etc etc. But more and more, these people are going to have questions. When is the next offer? When is the store opening in my neighbourhood? And they will ask these questions and expect answers – quickly. Those people will be listening to what you say becasue you’ll be saying it to them directly.

That’s the real power of social media.


The Social Egosystem

This article by Brian Solis, paints a fascinating picture.

He echos much of what I have written about here previously in relation to our ‘me’ brands and the narcissism of today’s consumers.

What’s clear is the need for brands to identify their biggest potential influencers. It’s summed up best by this quote “Brands seeking reach, presence, and connectivity must look beyond popularity and focus on aligning with the influential beacons who serve as the hubs for contextual networks or nicheworks.”
But what really permeates throughout this article is the firm belief, which I share, that actions by brands, via social tools, can indeed be measured and deliver an ROI that brands will expect in the future.

I know from my own experience, when an agency sits and squirms at the suggestion that their funky viral project should carry an element of measurement, it’s the first sign you should run away. And when they say that a calculation of  ROI cannot even be attempted, show them the door.

The refinement of Twitter will, allowing better profiling based on keywords, history and other variables means that this microblog could well become the dominant force of the social web. The launch of new Twitter indicates that they are developing more ways to keep users on the Twitter site itself and away from various third paty ‘clients’. Combine this with their growing ability to analyse user data and in turn what that means they can offer advertisers and you can see where this is going.

I’ve read recently more and more complaints about Facebook and its user interface. The constant changes are becoming an annoyance. When people become more familiar with new Twitter’s ability to show images, video and sound, the reasons we have for spending time on Facebook may decline

In the week that “The Social Network” is released, Zuckerberg surely needs to get his team to raise their game back at the ranch and avoid the red carpet?

What do you think?

The New Twitter – New and Improved?

Yesterday, the head honchos at Twitter invited a select group to a presentation of the new offering people a faster, but crucially a much richer experience.

Here’s the official line.

Over the next week, they will be inviting you to use the new version on your own Twitter page. So what’s new about it?

Firstly and most strikingly is the format of the new design. The right hand side of the page now accommodates any media elements that were before a click away. So if somebody tweets a video clip or picture, you can now see this without leaving the page. You can also now see the origin of a tweet by clicking an icon that opens up the thread. The threads to direct messages are now also going to be visible.

Additionally, you will now be able to see a greater amount of information about those tweeting.

To make way for this new functionality, Twitter have taken back a large amount of the background. So in future, you will need to sharpen up on your profile biography, the content of your tweets themselves and worry less about your wallpaper imagery.

Just why they have felt it necessary to launch new Twitter, is surely a response to the rise of various Twitter clients – Seesmic, Hootesuite, Tweetdeck etc. etc. They are now trying to keep us at by taking the best of the functionality that these clients offered and appending it to the main site.

And why would they be doing this?

To offer advertisers the amount of impressions necessary to attract the big bucks.

Indeed, co-founder Biz Stone said, the new Twitter opens up “new revenue-generating opportunities.” Well, 90 million tweets a day can’t be ignored.

Here is Twitter’s publicity video for the new format.

I think it all looks pretty cool and I can’t wait to use it myself.

I would love to know your thoughts on the new look and your opinions on the reasons behind the change.

Digging Your Heels In

Stubborn, intransigent, awkward and obstinate. We’ve all behaved like that at one time or another. Usually between the ages of 2 and 7. But for a “Professor of Marketing and an Expert on Branding” to continue to insist that social media is “…a new and relatively insignificant communications tool that has limited potential for a very small proportion of brands” as he did in the latest issue of Marketing Week, is astonishing.

At the Engaging Times Summit in Chicago last month, the great Stan Rapp announced his conversion to social media. Indeed one of his memorable quotes was “Stop advertisng, start dialoguing”.

Rapp’s conversion was based on the very numbers that the Professor rests his arguments on. Ritson says of Tesco’s Twitter page, “And what about Tesco? It’s arguably Britain’s biggest and best run brand and yet it has a grand total of 281 followers. Are you starting to see my point?” No Mark.

What this says to me is that Tesco have yet to grasp the potential that social engagement tools offer. In fact, having just checked their page, it appears Tesco are really confused! I’m not clear which Tesco Twitter account is the official one, but (which I suspect is the official version) last tweeted in April 2009! Do they promote it on their advertsing materials, their website or even their till receipts?


In fact the tell tale sign that brands haven’t grasped the potential of Twitter, is that it isn’t promoted at all on their ‘Contact Us page!

Well, if they’re not tweeting, the it’s a good job they don’t promote it!

Go figure Mark.

“Doing to is bad. Doing with is good. Doing for is great”

Is the most memorable quote from Stan Rapp at the ‘Engaging Times’ Summit held in Chicago this week:

Two more:

“Today’s consumers are the most narcissistic in history. We’re all looking after brand I.” another from Stan.

“Don’t bother wasting money on social media until your organization can competently handle a customer phone call or email.” Don Peppers

The first is a succinct observation on fact that millions of us now manage our own “I” brand, primarily through Facebook. The second, a warning to those who think this funky stuff looks too cool for school and want to jump straight in.

The link between the two is not just that they are from two of the most important thinkers in marketing in the last 25 years, it’s that those of us with “I’ brands are all too willing to trip companies up when they let us down, don’t deliver and disappoint us. And this negativity can be devastating. Just ask Tiscali Talk Talk and SouthWest Airlines.

Here’s another quote: “Customers wouldn’t feel the need to embarrass us en masse, if our customer service channels weren’t so completely broken.” Bob Knorpp, The Beancast

The marketing buzz in the US right now is about two things – listening and engaging. By connecting the two, businesses and organisations can respond to the conversations their customers and prospects are having. That’s great. But, the real winners are those who have taken an additional, crucial first step; accepting that the world has irrevocably changed forever and that they no longer control the message.

It’s not a comfortable thing for businesses and marketers to acknowledge. But those who think they are in control are doomed. Maggie thinks that by turning her toy steering wheel in the backseat while Marge is in the front, she is driving the car. Some marketers are labouring under the same illusion as little Maggie Simpson, and she never grows up!

The good news is that those who get it – really get it and are prepared to accept the letting go that this entails, can win and win big.

While @ThatKevinSmith and his 1.6m followers are destroying SouthWest Airlines because he was too fat, United are issuing extra airmiles to people tweeting about delayed flights from the departure lounge. By the way that’s ‘delayed’ not ‘adjusted’ as SouthWest refer to their changes in flight schedules!

The thousands of employees that make up Best Buy’s twelpforce are answering customer service issues minute by minute under some common sense and open ended guidelines – if you don’t know, don’t publish, never use the customers name etc. etc.

They have wiped out Circuit City and made Radioshack a virtual irrelevance. Best Buy are now in UK – be afraid!

So whilst there are huge opportunities to grow sales, increase web traffic, develop new products, carry out research, or whatever your objectives are through social channels, the first place to look is your own backyard.

Are all of your customers happy all of the time? Of course not. What aren’t they happy about? Address these things first. Turn negativity to positivity without asking for proof of purchase first!

Whilst the Old Spice campaign was brilliant in its design and execution, don’t get carried away. Make sure your house is in order before you dive in.

Old Spice tear up the rule book

I felt the same on Wednesday having seen the Old Spice campaign on social media, as I felt after Gorbachev and Reagan came out of a room at the White House all those years ago. The world will never be quite the same.

For a Brit, Old Spice means cheesy 70’s TV ads, so it was even more impressive for P&G and their agency, Wieden and Kennedy to succeed in the way they did.

In a nutshell, a series of TV ads run over the last few weeks introduced the brand character ‘I’m the Man Your Man Could Smell Like’. But on Wednesday the campaign was taken to a whole new level. Having seeded questions across social media for the last two weeks – “what would you ask the Old Spice man” 87 videos were recorded in Portland Oregon on Wednesday and broadcast live on youtube in real time. Staggering. As well as answering questions from influential twitterers such as Ryan Seacrest and Alyssa Milano (with whom he engaged in a 4 tweet video conversation) Old Spice man also answered those posted by average internet users who had posted their questions on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs.

The legacy of this campaign won’t be known for a time yet, but women creating a posting their own videos in response to Old Spice man, plus a ‘smell off challenge issued to the Old Spice man.

Is the this a sea change in the use of social media by big brands?

It’s always the ones you least expect

Some of the companies and groups who you would least expect to be working so well within the sphere of social media, are really crushing it in the US right now.

The Home Depot (think B&Q) have a ‘best in class’ Twitter strategy operating right now. They’re ticking all the right boxes to make this thing work for them: transparent, right level of frequency, engaging in discussions, answering customer questions, not too personal etc. etc.

The other surprising group who are making this work are realtors. Blogging is now an integral component of any self respecting real estate agents activity. They’re building their networks and generating leads through these networks rather than skipping the friendship building stage. They really seem to get it.

If estate agents can make this work…….

You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties.

You know how it is when you’ve meticulously planned a house party? Chairs have been carefully arranged, playlist set and ready to go, lights dimmed to suitable level etc. etc.

And then the guests arrive.

They say their “hellos” and start the smalltalk. Politely accept a canapé and take their first drink. More and more arrive.

And then the early guests disappear. Gradually more and more people are congregating in the kitchen. People have loosened up a bit. Gossip begins to flow. Secrest are shared with strangers. THIS is where the real party is!

You can’t go in there and corral everyone back in. They’re likely to just make their excuses and leave early.

And so it seems it is with businesses and social media.

People are realizing that the really cool people, are hanging out in the kitchen – on Facebook, Twitter or on Blogs. Company websites – the host’s living room for the sake of this analogy – is where the party line (sorry!) is being followed. There’s nothing wrong with the living room of course. It’s beautifully designed, comfortable and feels just right. But more and more, people want the inside track – secret offers, direct dialogue, a proper and human reaction to a complaint or question.

The kitchen is now where the real party is happening.

LeBron ‘King’ James launches on Twitter

Anyone who has been following the free agency circus over the last few days will have heard that LeBron James has launched on Twitter. What makes this so stunning is the speed at which he was gathering followers. Whilst the two other main free agents – Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh – continued to send oblique tweets giving no clear sign of what their plans were, LeBron kept his counsel – until Yesterday morning and the launch of @kingjames on Twitter. Within an hour he had 50,000 followers and by the end of the day had amassed over 200,000 once word got out. His opening tweet, gave away nothing of his plans – we wait until 9pm ET on ESPN for that, but what this move signalled was the central role that social now plays in all our lives.

As a new fan of the NBA and the Chicago Bulls, I have been riveted to Twitter since midnight on June 30th for any signs of where the King was going, hoping against hope that he was coming to Chitown. It had taken over my world! We now seek news from our peers rather than established news channels. We can talk to each other about these things, discuss and create our own rumours.

For now we wait for LeBron to decide, but the waiting room is now officially called Twitter.