Me, Friends Reunited, and Radio 4

So out of the blue I got a call from BBC Radio 4 to go in and talk about the recent relaunch of Friends Reunited on the You and Yours programme.

“Friends Reunited has relaunched?” thought I. Fortunately I managed to pull enough from my dusty memory banks sufficiently quickly to convince the assistant producer I was their man.

Two days later and I was outside Broadcasting House, having fairly thoroughly researched the topic. That was fortunate, because the questions they asked me – live, on air, in front of millions of listeners – weren’t actually the questions they told me they were going to ask.

I knew all about its history (set up by Julie and Steve Pankhurst in 2000, 3,000 users after one year, 2.5 million after two, 15 million by 2005 then sold to ITV for blah blah blah). I’d even figured out why some networks succeed and others fail (combination of luck and basically just being better), and why some major acquisitions hadn’t worked out (mostly the same reasons). This is because the assistant producer told me that’s what they were going to ask me.

Imagine, then, my surprise when Julian Worricker turned to me and asked my opinion of the site having played around with it. Fortunately, I had played around with it, for about an hour, without actually getting anywhere with it. Unfortunately, I had to be frank and say so, sitting right next to Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of BrightSolid, the company behind the Friends Reunited relaunch. He didn’t seem to mind: he was very well media trained and put up a good fight, I thought. For what it’s worth I thought he was an extremely nice chap and we had a very good chat before the programme.

Julian also asked my take on the name. Again, I wasn’t entirely positive. But I tried to get some conciliatory stuff in, such as Friends Reunited’s brand recognition and the way that focusing on nostalgia is potentially effective (although, I fear, in reality, not very).

Anyway, you can listen to the clip here. I’m probably not supposed to host it but heck, I pay my license fee and if the BBC wants me to take it down, I will. I was frankly surprised when a BBC radio journo friend of mine asked whether they were going to taxi me in. “No”, I replied, “But I’m interested to find out that’s the kind of thing my license fee is paying for.”

If they do use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, then I will graciously crack, in which case you can (at the time of writing) listen to the programme here.

So, I’ve had my fifteen minutes of fame. I just wish it hadn’t started with me coughing and saying ‘Excuse me’. How terribly British of me.

I really am not one of the most influential PR bloggers in the UK. Honestly, I’m not.

So it was with considerable mirth that I read Gorkana’s latest blockbusting news – that someone has, schlock horror, discovered who the most influential PR bloggers are in the UK! Wow! That was quick of them! The Ad Age Power150 has only been around for, what, at least five years. Apparently it’s news to Gorkana however.

And I’m 7th on the list. Sorry, 8th. Sorry, 9th already. They’re popping out of the woodwork as I type.

A quick backstory to the Ad Age Power150 (as far as my memory serves). It was originally Todd Andrlik‘s Power150, which I came across quite a while ago and thought it was a neat way to ‘measure’ blogs. Take of the publicly available metrics such as Technorati Authority (remember that?), normalise them out of ten, add them up, and you get a list of influencers. So I took that, applied it to the list of 100 PR bloggers that I followed at the time, and created my own list.

Naturally Todd wasn’t too happy that I’d copied his idea, so I put an attribution at the bottom, and in later versions of what became the PR Friendly Index I adapted a more graphical approach (that would appear to be broken on this new template), without normalising, which gave me something of a USP.

Along the way Sally Whittle also asked me for some help with her top secret project, which begat the Tots 100, and Jonny Bentwood also started his list of analysts along similar lines.

The PR Friendly Index got me a lot of attention and in fact I’d say it’s the main reason I appear on lists nowadays. Many people linked to me, not least because I provided little badges for them complete with code that included the links. But it just became too tedious to maintain – which, in a neat circular kind of way, is what Todd found, which is why he gave it, or sold it (I know not which) to Ad Age.

So it’s probably fitting that it all comes back to Ad Age, which is where the Gorkana list comes from (actually it’s a list from 10 Yetis, but Gorkana are shouting and pointing at it, as if it’s news which, just to be clear, it is not).

However, Ad Age really is just bean counting. Which brings me to the title of this post: I’m not influential. Look, Drew Benvie is below me. Drew is UK MD of the group that includes Hotwire, Skywrite and 33 Digital. Steve Waddington co-runs Speed, which I visited the other week. Metrica is an entire company of measurement professionals (whose competition entries I wrote two years back so I know them quite well too). These people are all much more influential than I am. It just happens to be that I got more scores via various metrics once upon a time because I had some good ideas occasionally. Honestly.

So I really wouldn’t go by the figures. I don’t really think Andy Barr, head of 10 Yetis, has had a very inspirational idea in peeling out the UK PR people from the Ad Age Power150 (it’s been done before). I’d find out who these people are first, and then take a punt.

Tracking the KPIs of Social Media | SEOmoz

Over the past year or so I’ve become fairly convinced that measurement through solid, universal frameworks of understanding is the key to success. However, often what I find is that clients either don’t really care about it, or that, if they do, they only really care about the ‘good’ metrics such as ‘Friends of friends’ in Facebook, which is akin to the alchemy of AVE.

The Conversion funnel is as good a place as any to start. Believe me, I’ve presented this to entire roomfuls of so-called marketing types who have never heard of it which frankly astonishes me (and did astonish me at the time – I really did have to stop my jaw from dropping). It’s been around for a long time, it’s simple, and, I believe, it works. Just take each segment of the funnel and figure out what you’re trying to achieve with it, and from that figure out how you’re going to measure what you’re trying to achieve, to see if you’re achieving it.

I’ve used AIDA in the past, which may be a bit simplistic because it doesn’t take into account repurchase. I’ve used a much more complicated version of the funnel which left people looking mystified. But this one is the Goldilocks funnel, I think. It’s just right.

And, praise be, the entire blog post is pretty good. I’m not sure it quite manages to bridge the gap between online activity and conversion (ie “Did we manage to sell stuff?”) but that’s something we’re all trying to do, and it probably falls into the space between your website and your ecommerce platform. Right?

Anyway, as I always do when I ‘repurpose’ (ie steal) other people’s content, don’t just sit here reading this, go over to SEOMoz and check out the full piece. I like.

What PR people really think of journalists

David Strom’s December story at RWW about the “Ten Biggest PR Blunders of 2011” mentions things that happen every year for as long as I’ve been in this game. The story isn’t so much about blunders as pressure to please the client being passed onto journos, but boy, did it rark up a PR person in the comments section.

This is great.

There’s a meme that regularly does the rounds, in which journalists (the ‘hacks’) lambast PRs (the ‘flacks’), listing their various shortcomings and idiocies.

However, in this case, a flack decided he/she had taken enough, and decided to bite back.

Whereas I’ve worked in, and for PR agencies for some years now, I’ve not worked directly with journalists that often, so I can’t comment on a lot of this. But I do recognise some of it, and in fact, when I forwarded it to a friend who works for the BBC, she thought it was hilarious. In fact, she thought the original piece that triggered this was grossly unfair to flacks.

Anyway, you decide. It’s amusing and infuriating in equal measure.

Who’s Using Google +? / Flowtown (@flowtown)

Nice infographic from Flowtown here.

Google+ is a strange beast. On the one hand, I see it every day because my home page is set to Google, and I’m always logged in, so I see it whenever I fire up my browser. So, you could say it’s won the homepage war, mainly because it’s been around longer than Facebook (and because I want to search for things quickly rather than wait for Facebook to fire up).

On the other hand, apart from playing around with it a bit, there is VERY little activity there. Flowtown shows that only 17% of users are active, and while I don’t have comparable figures for Twitter or Facebook, it doesn’t sound that great to me.

And while Facebook is a true platform, in that people can build their own apps and deliver them to this richly connected environment, Google+ resolutely is not. Everyone is helping Facebook to grow, while only Google is growing Google+.

As is often the case, only time will tell. I recently came across a study I did from a couple of years back in which ‘some’ of the brands were on Twitter. Today, they all are. So perhaps this will happen with Google+. In the meantime, Flowtown tells us that 61% of the top 100 brands have Google+ pages. Maybe B2B is where Google can establish a social media foothold. But going head-to-head with Facebook could be picking a fight it cannot win..