Aggregated predictions: what really will happen with social media in 2011

Around Christmas-time I was foolish enough to list my social media predictions. They were a combination of ‘more of this, less of that, same of the other’, and you can still read it if you’re foolish enough to base an entire year that hasn’t happened on the ramblings of one poor gangrel creature.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one. There are plenty of other gangrel creatures out there, with their own predictions, so I thought it would be interesting to see what other people have said, aggregate them all, and see if we have any agreements. While there are plenty of one-offs (for example I think I’m the only person who predicts the rise and rise of digital agencies at the cost of PR agencies) there are, amazingly, congruencies between people.

Here’s what I’ve found below, but you can see the Google doc I used to compile this, together with the links to the bloggers I read. I got as far as halfway through page 4 of the Google results before I started to lose the will to live, and I might even pick this one up again, but for now, this is where we’re at.

Mobile

There were various takes on this, ranging from the increased importance of check-in sites such as Foursquare, through to the influence of technologies such as the iPad. I bunched them all under mobile, and this is the most important popular prediction, with 11 mentions from Socialnomics, ReadWriteWeb, Fred Meek, 4TM Guide, Lockergnome, Social Media Examiner, The Next Web, Trevanian Legg, Ron Medlin, Social Media B2B, and Concepts Marketing.

Alignment with business goals

The gurus are being expunged, dormanted, deleted. Next most popular was the prediction that 2011 will see people really tying social media to business results, with 8 mentions from Conversational Currency, Socialnomics, OneForty, ReadWriteWeb, KnowledgeBlog, Social Media Examiner, Infusionblog, Trevanian Legg, and me. I went on to say that these would yield disappointing results, and I’m happy (or sad, or despondent, or maybe a little morose) to say that KnowledgeBlog and Social Media B2B think so too.

The rise of Facebook

I said that I don’t see Facebook declining any time soon – unlike, say, Google, and who’d have thought that eh? – and I’ve been joined by Fred Meek, Social Media Examiner, The Next Web, Hausman Marketing Research Letter, Ron Medlin, Likeable Media and Contently Managed – that is, 7 other thinkers who also think Facebook will continue to dominate, whether through expansion, flotation, collaboration, monetisation, or something else ending in ion.

Amusingly enough, 4 commentators think Facebook will decline in influence, mainly through the rise of niche networks. They are Forrester, ReadWriteWeb, Trevanian Legg and MSL Group. They are, of course, wrong.

More group buying, particularly Groupon

In total 5 commentators think that social or group buying, particularly that exemplified by Groupon (or, in fact, actually Groupon since its valuation last year north of one billion dollars) will be significant over the coming year. They are Socialnomics, KnowledgeBlog, The Next Web, Social Media B2B, and MSL Group.

More content-driven programmes

All social media should be driven by content, but Social Media Examiner, The Next Web, Infusionblog, Social Media B2B and Contently Managed think this will happen more in 2011, with tools to help marketeers do this, or to enable their audiences to do it for them.

More consolidation among the large networks

This is something I didn’t mention but I do agree with. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn are irresistible and I don’t think the likes of Diaspora (the open-source so-called Facebook killer) et al are going to make a single dent. So I agree with Socialnomics, KnowledgeBlog, 4TM Guide, Social Media Examiner and Contently Managed on this one.

Again however, there are dissenters. Social Media B2B and GigaOm think there will be a rise of importance from niche sites at the ‘big’ systems’ expense. Silly sausages.

Anonymity and vetting

This is something I really hadn’t considered but does make sense. One of the primary concerns I noted while training at the Social Media Academy last year was that of privacy, that is, how much should I let people know, and how can I tell if people are genuine online? Four commentators mention privacy/vetting issues, and they are Conversational Currency, Socialnomics, ReadWriteWeb and GigaOm.

Video

This one surprises me, I have to say. ReadWriteWeb, Tim Ferriss, Concepts Marketing and Contently Managed all mention the ascendancy of video to some degree. I guess this ties in with the ascendancy of mobile in that we’ll all be glued to our displays watching video while we accidentally fall into water features.

That’ll do pig

I don’t want to give the impression I’m being a bit hasty here but I really need to crack on. Take a look at the Google Docs spreadsheet for the full picture. I might add to it as I go along, but really, go and take a look to see what else people comment on. Of the remaining topics that are mentioned by at least three sources we have metrics (which I guess ties into business goals), advertising, more social search (and less social search!), more workplace acceptance, continued importance placed on social media, the culling of so-called social media gurus (using a blunt instrument I presume), the intriguing and some would say tautological concept of Social Google, more Quora (of quorse – sorry), and more Twitter - again, counterbalanced by some who say less Twitter. Nothing more thrilling than when people disagree.

Everyone needs to get out more

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

So today is Wednesday which means I write about… hang on, let me look it up… tum te tum te tum… ah yes, here it is. Social media!

Right.

Over the past month, in the UK, we’ve been subjected to the constant advances of politicians throughout the election. Thankfully it’s all stopped,  but at the time I did notice a phenomenon that I keep seeing around me and that I think is significant.

Which is: when you’re inside something, when that something is your world, there’s a tendency to think it’s the same for everyone else too. And the reality is, that it isn’t.

To take the political example, I have a strong feeling that Cameron, Clegg and Brown woke up every morning thinking that the world is a world of politics. They would meet their aides, shake people’s hands, look interested when being shown lathes, and generally be in that world till they fell asleep and night and dreamed of kittens.

But for someone like me, it isn’t a world of politics. I’ve never even met a politician, that I’m aware. I’ve never been to a political event. I voted, sure, but I count myself among the people who think that politics is pretty irrelevant to their lives. It all seems so pragmatic, so ineffectual when considered against seemingly overwhelming global forces.

Enough of the politics. What I’m trying to say is that there’s a tendency to believe that what you’re doing is treated with equal significance as everyone else, even when it’s something as (supposedly) important as politics.

And I see this in social media too.

The people I follow on Twitter, tweet about it. The bloggers I read, blog about it. So there’s a real possibility that, working in social media, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a world of social media.

It isn’t.

I know it isn’t, not just because there are trees, birds and sky out there, but because during the election, despite sky-high ratings for Clegg, he just didn’t cut it in the real world. If it were a world of social media, he’d have won hands down.

Is this post making sense? I know what I’m trying to say, but I’m not sure it’s coming across. Basically, as communicators – whether politicians, PR people or social media types – we need, often, to break out of our little world and see it from someone else’s point of view. That way, we start to appreciate what’s really going on, rather than what we think is going on.

I’m lucky. I do something else too – that is, I write. OK, so I write about social media, but I like to think that I can do this from the outside in, as well as the inside, um, in. So should all communicators. It’s not a world of PR, or of advertising, or of social media. We need to get out more.

Good grief, I’m one of the smartest people in social media!

This is according to Smarter Social Media.

They’ve been through lots of people and apparently I’m one of the top 100. I find this astonishing, particularly as I’ve pretty much stopped blogging recently.

As is often the case, they’ve been a bit coy about their criteria. Is it bean-counting? Is it ubiquity? Or do they just like my avatar? If so, why did they publish the wrong photo of me?

Nevermind. One thing I do think they’re getting right is listing the people, not the blogs. This was one of the reasons I stopped publishing my PR Friendly Index of blogs. It’s about bloggers, not blogs, and in fact more than that it’s about presences on Twitter, Facebook, and a whole raft of other social media platforms. And across all of them it’s about what they say and how they contribute.

So perhaps people think I’ve contributed, which is nice.

I have to say, after a fairly trying time working in social media I had decided to get completely out of the scene and concentrate on copywriting instead. But I keep getting drawn back into it, so perhaps this is coming at the right time.

In fact, maybe those three prospective clients who all postponed their projects last week might think about starting them up again…? Or perhaps I should take advantage of some slack time and post about how great other people think I am.

Well done badgerman!

Not badgerwatchingman

Not badgerman. Click image for source.

A friend of mine has received recognition for his wildlife blog, Tales from The Wood – The Diary of a Badger Watching Man.

It’s well deserved. The blog is very well written, giving unique and fresh insights into aspects of wildlife from a first-person perspective. ‘Badgerman’ – for that is his suitably anonymous online moniker – gets up at sunrise every Sunday to track animals, and ‘specializes’ in monitoring badgers at local setts. This passion, together with his evident flair for writing and observation, makes for a fascinating read.

It’s also very gratifying when someone you helped get into blogging really starts to ‘get it’. Badgerman – who shall remain anonymous – brought the subject up a year or so ago simply because he wanted to do some more freeform writing. It’s an admirable objective in itself, and one of the reasons I started blogging too. A blog is a perfect, self-contained little writing exercise, in which you learn how to be concise and effective. Plus, you learn stuff. And it’s free. What is there to lose?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so I told badgerman – whom I shall refer to as ‘bm’ because that name is too long for me to keep typing – all about WordPress, how easy it was, and how blogging can become not only an intriguing pastime but one that can lead off in all sorts of interesting new directions. So he did it. And now he’s being recognised for it.

Naturally (forgive the pun) he’s pretty excited about it, as you can see on his latest post. And so he should be. I anticipate that his stats will shoot up on the back of the publicity, and indeed all it takes is one opportunity like this to have quite a profound impact on one’s life. I truly believe this of blogging. Since I started, it’s opened many doors. Admittedly some of them should have had a red cross daubed on them, but others have led the way to new, exciting ventures.

I say. Ding dong. Click image for sauce.

I say. Ding dong. Click image for sauce.

I have to admit that originally I thought bm would do something more along the ‘pro’ route. Instead, he’s writing about his pastime, and now I think about it, this makes much more sense. In a way, you could say that’s how I started out. I still recall the excitement of seeing my blog post appear via RSS on Google Reader, and getting my first ever comment. For me, social media was just fun, and it ended up being my job. Who’s to say bm won’t find a position under Kate Humble? (pun intended this time).

So, well done bm, and to all those stuck-up sticky-beats who think blogging’s dead, think again.

The PR Friendly Index is no longer about PR. Is PR even about PR any more?

badlogoI’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the PR Friendly Index recently. Given that I’m not working in social media exclusively any more, it’s a pain in the arse to maintain and other indexes do this better (and keep getting better too), I’ve been thinking of scrapping it.

However, before doing so, I thought I’d have a look at the blogs listed and see what they’re up to.

And get this: hardly anyone writes about PR any more.

I know, there are all sorts of definitions of what PR ‘is’. My friend Kerry Gaffney has summed it up well in the past: you don’t talk about ‘newspaper PR’ or ‘radio PR’, so instead of talking about ‘online PR’, you could argue that social media is just part of, well, PR. This is a fair argument, especially when PR backs up into marketing. You could argue that anyone talking about communicating a client’s benefit through word of mouth to appropriate audiences is doing PR.

But strangely, when I started my blog, I did it to find out mostly about PR, and a bit about blogging. Sounds perverse, it’s true, but I’d only comparatively recently started working in a PR agency and I thought it would be a good way to accelerate my learning. This is why I put together a blogroll of PR blogs. And the more I got into the blogging, the more I became aware that we needed ways in which to ‘measure’ blogs, so I put together my first index.

Since then I’ve had all sorts of comments, mostly complimentary, but some of them have told me that a lot of the blogs don’t really talk about PR.

And they were right.

I started at the top and worked my way down. This is how it went:

[Slightly out of breath after run]

Oh, of course this blogger talks about PR, let’s skip it, move to the next one.

[Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link. Coughs a bit.]

This one mentions PR. It’s in.

[Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link. Starts wheezing, goes to look for some pineapple juice.]

Etc

This continued most of the way down the list. The further down I got, the more people still occasionally mentioned PR. I suppose this makes sense: you get loads of social media juice by talking about social media. That reminds me, must get more pineapple juice in.

If you talk about fuddy-duddy old PR – you know, outreach, the media, organising events, talking to journalists and all that boring stuff – you wind up further down. That’s why I’ve been anticipating a drop in my readership since a became a fuddy-duddy old copywriter again.

I was so surprised/alarmed by the near-total obsession with social media and lack of PR that I returned to the top and went through the ones I’d skipped. And I had to take a fair few of them out too, because all I could see was Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, and maybe a few pictures of the nice holiday they’d recently had in the Seychelles.

With the result that we now have 367 blogs in the index. That’s about a third of the original set. And no, I don’t include myself in the new list. I’m sure that, about a year or so ago, they were waxing lyrical about PR, not almost exclusively socia media.

Here’s the list, in the order they appear in the last index. They’re blogs that either talk about PR, or just about mention PR enough to make me think they talk about PR. Note I haven’t added links because I don’t believe in link love any more either. If you think it’s interesting enough to share, then please share (POST EDIT – Thanks to Judy Gombita for noticing I hadn’t updated my PR Blogs list – you can see these blogs to the right of this page now):

  • PR Watch
  • The Bad Pitch Blog
  • PR Blogger
  • The Buzz Bin
  • Pop! PR Jots
  • A PR Guy’s Musings
  • Strategic Public Relations
  • Wadds’ tech pr blog
  • Spinwatch
  • sixtysecondview
  • PR Newser
  • Murphy’s Law
  • Heather Yaxley
  • PR Conversations
  • PR Studies
  • Flack Life
  • Piaras Kelly PR
  • ToughSledding
  • Corporate PR
  • Strumpette
  • Post Edit: Getting Ink (happy now Sally?)
  • PR Meets the WWW
  • Sir Robert Bond Papers
  • PR Disasters
  • In Front of Your Nose
  • Simonsays
  • All Things PR
  • PR Voice
  • DummySpit
  • Teaching PR
  • Ron Torossian
  • Paul Stallard
  • Fusion PR Forum
  • First Person PR
  • Flacks Revenge
  • Public Relations Rogue
  • Final Spin

PR people, social media may be part of PR but it’s not all of it. You do other stuff too, right? Or are you all trying to strike the same pose to attract new business? Isn’t PR sexy enough to be talked about any more? Don’t you have any challenges? Have you all sussed it out so much that it’s not worth discussing? Or is PR actually just about social meeja now?

Because if I were on the lookout for a PR agency I’d be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t obsessed by whether or not I have a social media policy, or how to get along with Twitter, or describing how great blogging is.

I’d sum it up thusly:

talkingabout

I don’t know whether this is good or bad. What do you think? Is this a problem of definition? Do you still talk about PR, just not online?

I’d imagine if you’re not on the list any more, you think bad, right?

MIPAA presentation part two: monitoring and engaging in social media

mipaa_logoThis is the second part of a talk I was due to give to members of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) through an invite from Heather Yaxley, on improving Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for marcoms materials; monitoring and engaging in social media; and the challenges and opportunities of evaluating influence.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it owing to duvets of snow, so I published part one online instead. You can see the presentation at Slideshare and as a Google Presentation.

What is social media?

There are many definitions, and you can probably find lots of them easily enough yourself. I prefer short, simple definitions, and one that I think works well is that social media enables people to interact with each other.

This means they share stuff – jokes, links, recommendations – and link up to each other so they can share more stuff with more people. There’s possibly something significant here, in that these could be very basic human instincts, but that’s for the academics to figure out. Right now, you need to know how to find the people who are talking about you, your products, your people, brands, services and competitors, because they’re talking to each other, not you!

If SEO is enabling people to find you using the algorithms of search engines, then your objective is to find those people using the word-of-mouth of social media. And ultimately, your objective is to become the ‘go to’ resource for your speciality. That applies equally offline or online, and it’s as good a communications objective as I can think of.

Find your influencers

So, first you need to find the people who are talking about you. Remember the keywords you identified in part one? This is where you can use them to find those people, who are having those conversations, using those keywords.

The slide gives you a good list of places to look so I won’t repeat them here. You’ll develop your own preferences and techniques, and that’s fine.

So, after looking, you have essentially a ‘flat’ list. You really don’t know who is worth listening to in that list. So, rank them. You can use Yahoo Site Explorer to count the number of links coming into a site and, specifically for blogs, use the Technorati Authority figure to count the number of blogs linking to a blog.

Now, I’m sure some people will read this and fume. Popularity is not the same as influence, because influence depends on what you’re saying and how it affects your audience, and the difference in their behaviour before reading you, and afterwards. If you have several thousand pounds, sophisticated computer algorithms and server farms at your disposal then by all means, employ them. If, however, you want an insight into who’s talking about you with the greatest reach, then these metrics are good enough.

Listen to them

So you’ve identified who to listen to. If you have a list of three sites then that’s easy enough to monitor. But your list is probably going to be much longer, at least 20, and it could go above 100. It’s impossible to visit them all individually, especially if you’re looking across news sites too.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a really simple way in which websites could send, or syndicate, their content out whenever they’re updated?

This is what RSS does. It stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS  strips the formatting from a page and sends you just the content when it’s updated, in a feed. This is just like a news feed or a financial feed, and whereas you would use a TV to watch your financial feed, you use an aggregator to watch your RSS feeds. Think of RSS like a channel, which you tune into using a TV set.

Another analogy: it’s like Outlook but for RSS instead of email. In fact, Outlook can take RSS feeds too now, so you might want to look into that if you’re comfortable with Outlook.

However, the best aggregator imho is Google Reader. Again, you might disagree, but it’s so feature-rich, so flexible and versatile an powerful, for me it’s a no-brainer. You just have to set up a Google account and you’re laughing.

So just go through the blogs you’ve identified and subscribe to them. These are your core bloggers, that is, they’re the ones you really want to watch closely. Put them in a folder in Google Reader, and you’re done.

You still ideally also need to be listening out for more cross-industry news, so do searches on search engines that generate RSS feeds, such as Google Blog Search. These are your key conversations, so bundle them into a folder too.

You now have a nice system set up. You can monitor your core bloggers for what they’re saying about you, while monitoring the key conversations in the broader landscape for emerging issues and more core bloggers.

Make sure you spend plenty of time listening. We could also call this section ‘Learn’, because this is where you learn about your bloggers as a community, and as individuals. You learn not only what they’re talking about but how they say it. You learn about their culture, and will eventually learn how to talk to them in the way they like being spoken to.

Engage with them

After listening and learning, if you want to start engaging people, make sure you reach out to the right people. It sounds obvious but you need to match the right content to the right bloggers. This isn’t just in terms of what they’re talking about, but what they’re trying to do. A blogger who wants to show thought leadership might like an interview, for example, while another who wants to educate people will appreciate help with ‘How to’ posts.

If you’re a PR person this probably seems fairly obvious. That’s because there’s a good fit between social media and PR. Essentially, your blogger relations are going to be similar to media relations.

When making your first overtures towards bloggers, some people take the approach that it’s better to comment first, introduce second. I’ve personally had great success with the straight-up introduction, that is, send an email to the blogger, or to the forum moderator or website administrator, explaining who you are, who you work for, and how you can help. They’re generally fairly receptive if you do it right. For the love of all that is holy please don’t send a mass emailer. Please.

Influence them

If you look at the slide, you’ll see a rather stark equation. Equations? In communications?

It’s not rocket science. All I’m saying is that good relationships plus time equals influence. If you practice good blogging relations, give them what they need, help them be better bloggers, then they might start talking about you. If you’re going from a standing start, then just one blogger writing about you is a great thing. Over time they might become your brand advocates, and they start doing your good PR for you.

Notice how no one has been compromised here. The bloggers get what they need to be better bloggers, by giving great content out to their readership. Meanwhile, you get good, credible coverage online that initially not many people will read, but the network effect is such that, over time, this momentum can pick up.

People will be reading what your bloggers write because they want to read it – that’s why they subscribed to their feeds. And whatever they write will stick around online, occasionally to pop back up according to the issues of the day. This can work both ways of course – bad online PR can bite you – but good online PR can be tremendously effective.

This ends part two of the presentation. Tomorrow I hope to get part three uploaded. Then again, I did say that after part one, and that was over a month ago…

Virgin Media is about to activate its social media

If you want to know what people are saying about you, you must listen.

Parts of Virgin Media are already doing this, and the company plans to do more of the same.

The bad…

The backstory: given that I’d been trying for two months to get broadband since my house move, I  recently posted a non-too-complimentary missive about both Virgin Media and BT.

Virgin Media had been my ISP for three years and yet they seemed incapable of connecting me. Eventually they told me there was a ‘tag’ on the line – whatever that is – and that, if someone had checked this from the outset, I could have had a lot less bother. It turned out that the problem was really with BT.

So I left Virgin Media (from now on VM for the sake of my fingers), and decided to pursue BT. This was the second circle of hell, and six weeks later, I’m finally online.

… the good…

At the time of posting I decided not to turn it into just another whinge. I thought it would be interesting to pack it with keywords and links that should have made it as easy as possible for these suppliers to find me, especially given that this post would end up on my Twitter feed and Friendfeed, erm, feed.

Sally Whittle picked up on this, so it seemed fair to expect others to. I thought it would be an interesting social media experiment. I thought, “Let’s see whether those companies are actually on the lookout for posts about themselves. Potential consumers will be out there looking for reviews of ISP performance, so I wonder whether ISPs themselves are looking out for, well, reviews of their own performance.”

And VM found me – three times*. I was approached by Alex Brown and Paula Wills with an offer of help, and they put me in touch with Asam Ahmad, who is involved with VM’s online PR (note: I haven’t included Twitter links here for the reasons you’ll see below)

… and the coffee

So, Friday before last, I met up with Asam to talk about social media monitoring.

As with the Friendly Chat interviews I conducted last year, this took the form of a fairly open-ended conversation – no ‘ambush’ interviews, no recordings, just me furiously scribbling on a notepad in longhand while trying to concentrate on what was said and avoiding spilling my coffee. And this is what we talked about…

Turns out that, later that day in fact, VM was to receive the results of a major report on potential areas of social media activity. Conducted by an external agency, this looked at all aspects of social media, across all platforms, including VM’s competition. 360 degree reviews are commonplace in PR, and this sounded pretty comprehensive to me.

Obviously Asam couldn’t share the findings with me – he didn’t know them himself! – but he was able to tell me how this came about.

Activists activate

It seems that VM already has ‘activists’ who are already clued up, and already on Twitter, with alerts set up across various platforms to pop up when a mention of its name comes up. This is probably how Alex and Paula found me in the first place – and kind of what I was hoping would happen when I posted. Moreover, they had the foresight to put me in touch with Asam.

Activists is a good name. Companies need activists to forge change – and how things are changing.

These VM activists are already improving their internal comms. Asam has already found that, within a company of thousands of employees, he’s finding it really useful simply to follow colleagues and get an idea of what they’re up to. Informality is key. You can have any number of  ‘awareness days’ or ‘focus groups’ but a company’s ability to create horizontal, small-world networks across its organisation could yield immensely powerful forces for positive change.

This very much reflects the findings of the recent AT&T Enterprise 2.0 study (disclosure: I worked on the report while at Fleishman-Hillard) which also found that employees felt they were benefitting from internal networks.

This is important. The next generation of employees will already be using these networks and will expect to be able to use them in their work – as, equally importantly, will their clients. In my first ‘real’ job I was surprised to have access to email: now, I expect it to be there (who doesn’t?), and it’s a tool I use every day. Facebook, Twitter et al will be equally as important, and more powerful, in the future.

From Virgin Media to social media

So VM already has a loosely affiliated group of activists. It’s now figuring out how it can use social media strategically. This involves asking critical questions such as:

  • Where does social media sit? This is crucial. There is a very real risk that, as VM people continue to use social media, they may inadvertently become an ad-hoc frontline for customer support. While this is an area VM are keen to explore, Asam quoted a wonderful example of the MD of NTL:Telewest business using a twitter contact to pass a sales query on to the appropriate internal contact. While it’s great that the MD was able to do that, we’re talking seriously re-wired flows of communication here and obviously this is not a sustainable position.
  • This leads to the next question: how is it resourced? At the moment, Virgin Media’s social media presence is growing organically – their activists are looking at the best ways to use the tools at hand and much of it is done in their spare time. However, if they go out with a big bang, there is a risk that everyone will start to expect immediate service from something that’s in its early stages, and only managed by a handful of VM’s activists. This is why I haven’t listed any Twitter links here. I don’t want these people to become inundated. Yet. Clearly they will need to have internal lines of comms set up that enable the team to pass issues on for quick resolution, and that resource needs to be justified.
  • And justification depends on measurement, in which case, how do you measure success? I see this as A Big Question for social media in the coming year. How do you quantify your social media efforts? As budgets become ever more tightly squeezed, those owning the purse-strings will quite rightly demand to know what the returns are, given the inputs and the risks.

This is actually an age-old PR question: how to place value on relationships. My take on this is that, in meeting Asam and exchanged a few tweets with Alex and Paula, I now think of VM as a group of people rather than a corporate brand. Furthermore, VM has secured a ‘good’ story alongside a bad one, a point very astutely recognised by Rob at It’s Open.

There are other benefits. Asam himself follows journalists and they, in turn, follow him. Not only does he find it useful to get to know them on a daily basis – as he does with his colleagues – but he has insight into what opportunities the journalists are looking for and, in best PR practice, match what he has to offer with what they want. Furthermore they get to see, through following him, how he interacts with customers. It’s open and it’s transparent, and whereas these are just catch-phrases for social media, they’re good.

This is signal, not noise. I interviewed Sally Whittle, a very social media-friendly journalist, last year, and she testified to the drowning of journalists in the ever-increasing noise of social media. It’s true that journalists tend to be hunting for news, given their brief. But what’s wrong with a bit of fishing too?

At the end of the day, the Virgin Media activists found me. What needs to happen is for more of the company to become ‘activated’ too, but in a structured, planned, strategic fashion. The critical questions are around which parts of the company become activated, and how they interact with the rest of it. Virgin Media, to their credit, are addressing this problem now.

And at the end of the day, they found me. BT did not.

* Postscript: To date, BT still haven’t found me. Or, if they have, they haven’t contacted me. I should add that I’m now with BT quite simply because I’m so well acquainted with their support systems and I have a couple of named contacts, so I figure that if anything goes wrong (again), I can schmergle my way through the system and get help. Still, everything seems to be working. I’m listening to some cool Cuban music streamed through Spotify courtesy of BT. Nice.

The Flackenhacks: darn it, I didn’t win.

So, this is the first blog post about the Flackenhacks 2008.

I would love to have won the ‘Wank 2.0: User-generated twat’ award but sadly had to give way to Richard Bailey who wasn’t present to collect his. I had my speech ready and everything (can’t repeat it here – remember what happened to Russell Brand).

In Richard’s defence, I do have to say that I admire his forward-thinking approach to teaching students about PR. Having met one of Porter Novelli’s excellent graduates tonight, I think we need high-calibre people open to all forms of communication and he’s one of the people trying to make that happen.

Anyway, the night started off promisingly: I couldn’t find the club, but fortunately a fellow Flackenhacker was equally lost and we found the (cut-off due to roadworks) street together.

After that it was plain sailing. At the front desk we had all the stickers arranged in alphabetical order, but we quickly found out it’s difficult finding people alphabetically when the stickers are across two tables. I managed to mask my hopeless ineptitude at locating stickers by pretending to ‘do a shuffle’ until/unless someone else managed to find them for me.

From then on the evening progressed well: awards were announced, prizes were given. As I say, I was prepared to accept the – I repeat – ‘Wank 2.0: User-generated twat’ award but obviously I wasn’t twatty enough to have done so. Must try harder.

Highlights for me were meeting:

  • Really great people staffing the front desk. Say what you like about PR, it does employ people who can damn well sort things out.
  • Other people who found themselves astonished to be affiliated to PR (myself included – I mean, what is it all about? I mean, really?), and yet had incredibly important things to offer.*
  • Great people who are pointing towards where PR should be, such as Tiger Two Tiger.*
  • Stephen Waddington, a fellow PR blogger, with whom I agreed.
  • Some journalists.

* Today, I read/saw on Shel Holz’s blog, an excellent video on The Most Dangerous Idea in PR. Part of it discusses how PR will soon start subsuming advertising, creative and digital. My take on this, having been initially employed as a copywriter and then social media thingy within PR: yes, but you’ve got to start making space for them.

So, all in all a fantastic evening, thank you to Peter who made sure everything ran smoothly. See you next year!

Hello Communications Director!

About a month ago I was contacted for some details about this blog because it might feature in Communications Director.

And today – it’s in! Thanks to an eagle-eyed client spotting it this morning and scanning it for me.

I don’t think you can access it online but if anyone can point me in the right direction to get a link, that would be great.

Meanwhile you can see Communications Director’s contents online and while they do mention the word ‘cooper’, it’s in the context of ‘cooperation’. Perhaps I should adopt that as my own personal active verb? If Scoble ‘izes’, then perhaps I can ‘ate’. Maybe I am the Cooperator to his Scobleizer.

Who’d have thought it, eh? Cripes.

And I think I should also take the opportunity to say that Feedburner is up the duff again. Last night my subscriptions were well over 300, so either I’ve said something sufficiently offensive to cause a third of my subscribers to abandon me, or Feedburner’s gone bad. Given past Feedburner issues, I’d say the latter. Problem is, the Feedburner blog seems to have ground to a halt in May and I can’t find their online status anywhere. So, any pointers in that direction would be really useful too. Not that I can do anything about it…