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!

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.

Why I’m unplugging on social media day

Mashable has deemed the 30th June to be Social Media Day – “A day to celebrate the revolution of media becoming social”. It’s the second year of the annual occasion, but this year, I won’t be partaking in the celebrations.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media has undoubtedly changed our lives, and for the most part, for the better. We’re able to communicate with friends easier. Share photos without sending monumental zip files over email. Interact with brands on a more humane level – there are a thousand and one benefits.

However, it has come at a price, and this goes for the internet too. The problem is our inability to unplug.

Connecting online is something we do almost unconsciously now. I pull out my phone to check in somewhere, to take a photo, to edit, upload and share that photo, to tweet, to check links friends are sharing. The list goes on, and it all happens without thinking about it.

I’m regularly advising clients on how to use social media more efficiently in the workplace, and at work, I’ve become militaristic on organising my time on social platforms. Working in an agency, and even more so, freelancing for six months, taught me that very quickly. Being so plugged in can be a huge detriment to productivity if not managed right, hence I strongly recommend any client of ours to have a social media policy in place (contact me if you’d like us to help with yours).

However, it all seems to fall apart once I leave the office. I get sloppy, and browsing becomes lazy. The commute home is led by a check on Twitter, Facebook, and then another check after dinner, and last night I even found myself on Facebook in bed. I idly browse through friends photos, uploading some of my own, check on the progress of some of my client’s pages. It doesn’t really stop.

I’m addicted, which I guess is partly why I do what I do. But tomorrow, I won’t be celebrating social media day. I won’t be tweeting. I won’t be on Facebook. I won’t check LinkedIn, and I won’t be blogging. I won’t surf. I won’t browse. I won’t poke.

This social media day, I’m going to be unplugging, and I’ve scheduled this post. Besides, the 30th of June is my fiancée’s birthday, and I’m taking the day off to go hot air ballooning.

 

Ok, so I might tweet a photo…

Hot air baloon fail

(this post was written and published at Receptional.com on the 29th June 2011)

Why voicing your political beliefs on twitter is worse than doing it at the dinner table

Something over the past few weeks has been bothering me, and since noticing what it was, it’s now really starting to get on my nerves.

It’s people tweeting political messages.

Growing up, I was taught there were two things you should not discuss at the dinner table. Religion, and Politics. Both are very similar, in the respect that people can feel very strongly about what they believe. The reason for it being such a social faux pas to discuss over the dinner table is not only that people feel uncomfortable with their beliefs being questioned, but also due to individuals’ strong feelings relating to their political or religious beliefs. That ‘discussion’ can very quickly turn into a heated argument, especially when people make short, flippant comments, without properly considering their point before they make it. This ultimately leads to an awkward vibe over the table, where everyone has lost their appetite, and would much rather just go home then sit and listen to any more of the crap coming out the persons mouth sitting opposite.

One of Twitter’s downsides (and in some ways, it’s the thing that makes Twitter so great) is that you only have 140 characters to get your message across. This forces the author of the tweet to be very blunt, and owing to the nature of tweeting, authors are often not properly considering whether their tweet may be offending some people, especially when it comes to something like politics.

140 characters allows you to voice your opinion on a subject, but leaves no room for explaining your argument, or why you feel that way. This is why I believe that politics and twitter do not go hand in hand. It’s like taking those awkward one liners that ruin the dinner party out of any context, putting them in a frame and hanging them up for all to see.

  • “Anyone who votes Tory is just a bad person or a mental person. There’s no other excuse really”
  • “Anyone who votes Labour needs a slap”
  • “Only a muppet who doesn’t understand politics would vote lib dem”

Tweets such as the ones above (all real, and taken from the general twitter stream) are directly attacking individuals and their voting beliefs, and quite frankly, there is not much difference in directly attacking religions either. There is no reason to directly oppose someone’s political beliefs in such an unfounded way, regardless of your own.

Coming up to an election, many of us are faced with the decision of who to vote for, and I like many have very considered and strong beliefs on who I think should be running this country. I’m not saying ban tweeting about politics altogether. Twitter is a fantastic medium for communication. However, there needs to be much greater consideration of the content of the tweet when discussing a subject people may feel very strongly about. 140 characters isn’t enough to get much of a logical argument across, but it is enough to offend.

New Tory poster campaign a stroke of viral genius?

This week saw the launch of the Conservative’s latest nationwide campaign, seemingly aimed at reaching out to those who have never voted Tory before.

Along with the usual YouTube videos, leaflets, tweets, etc, there are also three accompanying posters.

The Tories’ last poster campaign, you know, the one sporting a rather smoothly airbrushed David Cameron, looking more like Morph then a regular human being, didn’t take long for the blogosphere to say something about it.

Doctored versions of the poster started springing up everywhere, from Facebook to websites such as mydavidcameron.com, which even uploaded blank templates for people to edit as they saw fit.

And it only took a few hours Monday morning for exactly the same thing to happen again:

If the Tories had replaced their entire poster campaign from the previous in order to stem the effort non-conservatives were going to with parodying their messages as The Independent had reported, they failed. Before lunchtime #ivenevervotedtory was trending worldwide on Twitter:

  • #ivenevervotedtory because actually I think Gordon and Alistair have done a great job … mwahahahaha
  • #ivenevervotedtory because that New Labour, New Danger ad campaign still gives me nightmares
  • #ivenevervotedtory because I believe in genuine co-operative values not made up twaddle
  • #ivenevervotedtory because of their position on Europe. Oh and because they remind me of all the stuck-up braying arses I was at uni with!
  • #ivenevervotedtory because Phil Collins will come back if I do
  • #ivenevervotedtory because they are home to homophobic bigots and promote an unequal society
  • #ivenevervotedtory because Jim Davidson does. And you don’t want to be associated with that c**t

By mid week, the ‘I’ve never voted Tory but’ poster parodies had made pretty good coverage, both online, and nationally. They had spread across all manner of social networks and news sites, from Facebook to New Statesman. Seemingly a fail for the Conservatives, and a win for the Government. However, was this exactly what the Conservatives wanted to happen? (Cue evil genious laugh)

As Paul Owen wrote in his blog over at the Guardian, the new posters practically beg to be altered. The slogans are set out on big blue oblongs, making them so simple to edit my 5 year old cousin could manage it, and that half sentence; “I’ve never voted Tory, but” pleads for defacement louder than a whitewash wall in the middle of Hackney.

The defacement of the posters helped elevate public interest in the original campaign to levels well above what our political apathy often allows for, and at far lesser cost. Plus, by the end of Monday, #ivenevervotedlabour had replaced #ivenevervotedtory, which was no longer trending:

  • #ivenevervotedlabour because ultimately they run out of other people's money
  • #ivenevervotedlabour and never will because the bastards have stolen my hard earned pension
  • #ivenevervotedlabour because they are a bunch of joyless self righteous authoritarians who want to dictate how we all lead our lives
  • #ivenevervotedlabour because their policies are designed to keep poor people poor
  • #ivenevervotedlabour because ALL Labour Governments run out of our money in the end
  • #ivenevervotedlabour Because quantitative easing is the economics policy of Mugabe

The Tory tweeters had come out in force, in their Uggs and Jack Wills, probably sitting in the Sloaney Pony in Parsons Green, tweeting furiously on their iPhones.

If anything, the tweets from both sides provided a lot of public opinion, more so than you’d expect to get from spending thousands on focus groups.

As the dust slowly starts to settle and the posters continue to bounce through peoples’ inboxes, you’ve got to ask, was this a stroke of viral marketing genius? 

Cold fingers…

As the country is slowly brought to a standstill, Chameleon soldier on. Since Christmas, us Tech PRs all managed to soldier in to the London office, through tretcherous conditions Sir Ranulph Fiennes would have thought twice about…

That’s if you’re to believe what the BBC have been saying about the ‘Arctic Freeze’ we’ve been facing over the past week. Truth be told, most people in this country are just looking for a day off work. Not us! Even when someone decides to leave the heating off over the weekend, and we come in Monday morning only to be faced with temperatures that could send a shiver up a polar bear’s back.. I stole Lucy’s fingerless gloves just to cope..