Why every digital communications professional must understand internet culture

Keeping up to date with the news is standard practice for any PR practitioner. Without keeping up with key trends and events, changes in the news and communications channels, you stand a good chance of missing key opportunities and being caught unawares.

But for those in charge of any brand’s social media presence or online brand, keeping up to date with digital trends and internet culture is an absolute must.

Kit Kat recently announced the launch of their new Instagram account with a seemingly innocent image of a bear playing the drums with a Kit Kat Chunky in each hand. Now whilst this was obviously thought of to be a fun image with the potential to go viral in a good way, the internet soon picked up on the bear’s stark resemblance to the Paedo Bear, an internet meme originating from 4Chan in 2004, immortalised through numerous doctored images across the web.

KitKat Instagram Picture

Had anyone at Nestlé, their marketing team or hired agency been a little more up to date on their online culture, someone may have picked up on this. However, the team at Kit Kat had of course never heard of Paedo Bear, were forced to withtract the image and issue a public statement verifying as such.

Another recent social media faux pax comes courtesy of Celeb Botique with the following recent tweet. Shockingly, the individual in charge of running the Twitter account had failed to check the reason for the trend, missing the news of the horrific shooting at the Batman screening in Aurora, Colorado. Aurora issued a public apology, shamefully shifting the blame to their external PR department and failing to take any kind of responsibility for their actions.

What is disparaging is the sheer amount of times we see this happening over and over again.

Much like any seasoned PR practitioner should be able to immediately spot any potential negativity surrounding a news story, so too must any social media brand manager be fully aware of both news and internet culture, at the very least putting in the research to discover why something is trending.

Similar offline cases have appeared long before social media became a widely used communications channel, even before the internet. The difference now being that with things travelling so much faster, anyone representing a brand’s entire reputation on a social media channel stands the risk of destroying that reputation in the blink of an eye.

Having a strong grasp on news, current affairs, memes and internet culture is paramount to successful brand protection and communication online. You’ll find the best digital communications agencies are probably the ones sharing animated gifs, memes and stories before you find them appearing in your news feed on Facebook and they’re the ones you should probably consider when looking to hire a digital agency!

The real value of Twitter

Finally getting round to watching Page One: Inside the New York Times, a great documentary following the New York Times as it faces the digital transformation of the media industry, there was a great quote to be highlighted on the real value of twitter.

David Carr, media columnist at the NYT, and a previous Twitter sceptic, had this to say:

 

“I succumbed partly out of professional necessity.

“Now, nearly a year later, has Twitter turned by brain into mush? No.

“I have a narrative on more things in any given moment than I ever thought possible.

“I get a sense of todays news and how people are reacting to it in the time it takes to wait for a coffee at Starbucks.

“Nearly year in I’ve come to understand that the real value of this circus is listening to a wired collective voice.

“The medium is not the message. The messages are the media.”

List of Twitter Search Operators

Unstructured data leads to a poor user experience, and as soon as you start following more than 100 people, Twitter can be at time completely overwhelming…

Here, from Twitter’s help section, are a complete list of Twitter search operators, perfect for conducting more comprehensive searches on the microblogging platform, but also really great for setting up more advanced custom search columns on Tweetdeck and other social management apps. Get your search columns set up properly, and it will make your experience on Twitter so much better…

Operator Finds tweets…
twitter search containing both “twitter” and “search”. This is the default operator.
“happy hour” containing the exact phrase “happy hour”.
love OR hate containing either “love” or “hate” (or both).
beer -root containing “beer” but not “root”.
#haiku containing the hashtag “haiku”.
from:alexiskold sent from person “alexiskold”.
to:techcrunch sent to person “techcrunch”.
@mashable referencing person “mashable”.
“happy hour” near:”san francisco” containing the exact phrase “happy hour” and sent near “san francisco”.
near:NYC within:15mi sent within 15 miles of “NYC”.
superhero since:2010-12-27 containing “superhero” and sent since date “2010-12-27” (year-month-day).
ftw until:2010-12-27 containing “ftw” and sent up to date “2010-12-27”.
movie -scary :) containing “movie”, but not “scary”, and with a positive attitude.
flight :( containing “flight” and with a negative attitude.
traffic ? containing “traffic” and asking a question.
hilarious filter:links containing “hilarious” and linking to URLs.
news source:twitterfeed containing “news” and entered via TwitterFeed

Twantrum raises bigger questions on reputation management

Consumer Complaints on Twitter - Twantrum

A simple site that monitors consumers bad mouthing brands on Twitter has recently launched, courtesy of three Australians, James Aviaz, Julian cole and Ryhs Edwards. Simplistic in its design, Twantrum uses Twitter’s API real time search to pull out mentions of consumer brands with anger-related keywords, and displays them for all to see.

Twantrum ranks the consumer ranting in four categories dependent mostly on the profanity used by the person complaining. These go from mild, to restrained, to angry, to Mel Gibson, which tend to feature all caps, a huge amount of profanity and a whole lot of anger.

Whilst Twantrum is for now just a bit of fun, it also highlights the very serious need for brands to be monitoring what people are saying about them on social channels, and to proactively engage with them.

The importance of reputation management

Research from the London School of Economics found that a 2 per cent reduction in negative word of mouth will directly boost sales growth by 1 per cent. Whilst this may not sound like much, dependent on the size of the company, 1 per cent can represent a huge amount of money.

Equally, Dell’s own research found that the average detractor costs the company $57, whilst the average promoter generates only $37.

Social media has enabled customers to discuss brands with a much wider audience, and the potential for a detractor to cause real financial damage is huge. Countless studies have highlighted that consumers trust the opinions of other consumers significantly more than marketing messages. Brands absolutely must be aware of who is talking about their brand online, of any complaints customers may have, and must proactively seek to create a positive shift in the mentions of their brand online.

Failure to do so is a risky mistake.

How the BBC lost 65,000 Twitter followers in a matter of seconds

Last Thursday, the 21st July 2011, the BBC lost over 65,000 followers on twitter – straight to a main rival. ITV.

Laura Kuenssberg, formerly the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, recently left for greener pastures over at ITV, and in doing so, changed her Twitter feed from @BBCLauraK to @ITVLauraK, taking her 65,000 Twitter followers with her.

Ownership of social media channels have always been a topic for debate. In my experience, I’ve seen large organisations getting funny about a board executive taking their favorite office plant when they leave, but then wonder why they allowed an intern to leave with the corporate YouTube channel and several thousand subscribers.

It’s time for organisations to wake up and realise that as the more technologically able Generation Y dominates the workplace, public facing employees are building up their own audience. People like dealing with people, and losing a good employee with a strong social audience is akin to football teams losing a star player. When Christiano Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid, a small percentage of fans would have moved with him, because there will always be some people who are more loyal to the individual than the club, the brand, the organisation. But that’s a whole different blog post.

This story heavily emphasises the need for both organisations and brands to implement a social media policy today.

The BBC do have a pretty detailed social media policy in place, hence why when Laura Kuenssberg left, she was obliged (I’m not saying that she wouldn’t have done anyway) to disclose to all her followers that she had left, and pointed them in the direction of her successor, so those more interested in Politics rather than Laura’s new position at ITV could easily switch over.

“But follow @BBCNormanS who’s stepping into my shoes in Westminster – but I hope you keep following me here”

Social media marketing is a great way of helping organisations and employees engage directly with customers, helping drive new business and develop new routes to market. However, you wouldn’t entrust unqualified employees to speak on behalf of your whole organisation at a local conference, so why would you allow employees to speak on behalf of your brand to a global audience without proper training or direction?

Organisations need to have a social media policy in place to govern how employees use social networks in the workplace.