How to set up a B2B Twitter account

Blog Post - HOW TO - Set Up A Twitter Account For Business

What?  You still don’t have a business Twitter account?

Never mind, these useful tips will see you tweeting in minutes.

Tip 1 – Business or person?

First of all, determine whether you wish to use Twitter as a person who is part of a company or as a business.  For the former you will need an address like “Tomat4CM”, while for the latter you will need to see if your brand name is still available.  Given that by the time you’ll read this blog there will probably be close to half a billion Twitter accounts in the world, chances that you will still be able to find your company’s correct match are slim, so you may have to compromise and think laterally (for example, by adding a country, or business status, or even a sub-brand).  Once you have found it though, get it and hang on to it.

Tip 2 – Customise

Spend a little time customising it by adding a picture (your logo obviously if it’s a pure business, or a mugshot if you’re using your Twitter account as hybrid) and of course some pertinent description.  Don’t be boring, it’s social media and you want people to discover you, so be bold and imaginative, but without making false claims.  You are now ready to take off.

Tip 3 – Be a leader, not a sheep

The  biggest mistake newbies make is that they start following everyone, thinking that they have to be seen to be active.  This is the wrong approach.  If you want people to follow you make sure you push content that is relevant and useful.  Are you addressing your customers?  Then start sending brief announcements or even links to blogs (don’t forget to shorten those long URLs!).  Twitter is ideal for sending special offers and promotions, as well as tips.  If you make these tips unique to this media you will soon find that many of your customers will follow you.  Don’t get too hung up about the number of followers and, above all, do not, under any circumstances, behave like a bot, sending out dozens of tweets a day of little or no relevance.

Tip 4 – Re-Tweet, but in moderation

Re-tweet (that is, broadcast tweets that have been issued elsewhere) if content is relevant and make sure that you publicise your Twitter account in the same way as you would your phone or web site.

Tip 5 – Know more…

If you really get into it and want to know more, check out Mashable where you’ll find an entire chapter devoted to best practices for businesses.  Socialmedia Examiner is another good site. You can even ‘like’ them and, of course, follow them on your own newly created Twitter page!
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Tweet Inspiration

It can be hard coming up with great tweet ideas for your business. That’s why we created @updateideas Simply follow for daily inspiration that’ll help you update your business or brand’s social media accounts.

Freedom of Internet under attack

Blog Post - Freedom Of The Internet Under attack

In an unusually concerted effort by the media, the Internet came under scrutiny this week from a variety of UK sources.  First the Daily Mail highlighted in a prominent article titled ‘Dr Google’ that too many women diagnose themselves on the Internet, often wrongly.  One has to consider why women alone were the focus of the research, since it is obvious to anyone that anyone, regardless of their gender, would be looking for health information on the web.  This odd piece of research was followed by an attack by a group of MPs on free internet access in order toprotect children from pornography, also widely reported by the same paper and others.  The MPs call for an automatic ban (censorship essentially) in order to protect vulnerable minds.  Lastly, The Guardian in a much more enlightened article commented on  a recent study by Jonathan Zittrain on how the commodification of the Internet may lead to its demise as a platform for freedom of expression.  In essence, Zittrain says that by creating ‘walled gardens’ such as Facebook, Google+ etc, where information is no longer allowed to flow freely across the whole platform, we are effectively censoring content.  My summary is obviously an oversimplification of the study, since it also considered the role of devices and the different experience of accessing the Internet from a PC and a smartphone.  Read it as it’s a worthwhile piece of journalism/research.

Two very strong and rather unsettling themes are at play here.  The first is based on the world of business, represented by the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google and for whom the Web is just a an amazingly profitable source of income.  In order to generate income Internet access has to be related to advertising and this has also naturally led to issues of protecting other corporate interest through copywriting, for example, thus leading to further restrictions on unfettered access.

The second theme is the political aspect of it all.  As usual, politicians were the last to embrace the world wide web.  Initially they paid little notice to it, allowing it to grow freely with few controls.  However they soon cottoned on to the advantages of having their own strong web presence, as well as becoming more sensitive to the pressure of strong lobbying groups, either commercial (see above) or ethical/religious ones.  So in recent years many politicians have jumped on the Internet bandwagon and have flogged it to pursue their own agenda.  For the most part, with the exclusion of the most enlightened ones, politicians fear the Internet, just as they fear anything that gives the general public unfettered access to information.  Like it or not politicians are in the business of control.  We elect them to run things on our behalf and they take this aspect of their job very seriously, even in an age when allowing people to express their opinion online would offer a greater democratic representation of popular intentions.  Controlling the flow of information is therefore very appealing to most politicians and all too often these checks are based on the lowest possible common denominator, a principle which is also applied in policies at various other levels (see for example education or health).

The powerful combination of these interests, coupled with the popularity of gadgets such as those mentioned in the study by Zittrain should be a cause of real concern for us all.  Having been a pioneer of the web I recall fondly the anarchical way in which the web was used in the early ‘90s.  It was for the most part then used by academia, but there was a real sense that ideas could freely circulate across the world, unfettered.  Of course, freedom is a precious and fragile gift, like the thinnest glass, and can soon be shattered by more sinister interests (see the entrance of less savoury individuals in bulletin boards and similar), hence the inevitable accretion of rules and regulations.

Going back to Zittrain, I don’t think we can expect a resurrection of a totally unfettered net.  After all, total freedom of expression is much more than just a technological quest, but is in essence a philosophical choice.  We could only achieve freedom of expression if we respected totally and absolutely our right to be who we are as individuals (provided of course this wouldn’t harm anyone else), but we are still quite far from this goal, even in the West.

Measuring the value of PR

Blog Post - Measuring the value of PR

On return from a short break I came across the article on Measuring PR in Marketing Week published at the end of May, among the inevitable backlog of reference items one finds at such times. While most of the dross was duly binned I thought that this timeless piece of PR debate deserved some observations.

Reading the piece in question I found myself smiling as some of the discussions cited reminded me of Aquinas’s disquisitions on how many angels can balance (or dance) on a pinhead and similar medieval metaphysical essays. I have no doubt that while we now scoff at such topics, 13th century philosophers approached these issues with the utmost seriousness, probably throwing mud at each other in long illuminated manuscripts and – who knows – one or two may have even come to blows over it…. and so it seems now with the long debated treatment of ‘measuring’ PR.

That we live in a society obsessed with measurement goes without saying. Yet while some things can be measured, others – such as beauty – simply elude measurement. As many ingredients that make up PR involve issues that are by definition subjective, it’s obvious that attempting to convert it to a rigorous science doesn’t work, but I sympathise with the desire to create some order and to ‘box it in’ mainly so bean-counters with limited imagination can make sense of it.

I am not a keen advocate of AVE and I agree that its simplicity is also its downfall. In a previous incarnation – client side – I devised a statistical model that included some basic corrections to standard AVE parameters, such as weighing specific publications in terms of business potential and other factors that were of interest to the company I was working for. At the end of the day, although I may been hugely smug that the data I presented to my board was as accurate as possible and a true a reflection of how effectively our money was spent, including output/input correlations, it made no difference whatsoever. Whenever there was a crisis guess which budget was always going to be slashed first?

Now I am on the other side of the fence and I can see how things work across a variety of clients. For example, I have come across clients whose main concern is exclusively with the quantity of output (and subsequent publication of course), as their decision makers are simply interested in achieving greater column cm coverage than competitors. The fact that some of the competition may be misguided is seldom taken into consideration. At the opposite end of the spectrum there are organisations that wish to be seen only in exalted scientific circles and nothing else. Therefore, quite how you would apply a common standard of measurement to such subjective range of options and choices is beyond me.

My other concern about measuring PR is that a lot of the discussions are still focussed mainly around printed media (yes, I have read the article and I am fully aware that social media was mentioned!). But we are living in an era of changes. Editors are seeing their circulation figures drop by the minute and the entire marketing communications arena is being shaken to its core. Channels that were working (and could be more easily measured) a few years ago, have simply become obsolete and a quasi-anarchical status is now prevailing. Measuring any complex system such as online interaction in social media for example, especially as channels continue to diversify and mutate, will soon become as complex as predicting the weather, and meteorologists will tell you how laborious the whole process can be (despite the biggest computing power in the world being used by this profession, we are still far away from reliable predictive models). My own take is that the world of media will therefore become increasingly more chaotic, creating a situation where the study of its outcomes would be of greater interest to quantum physicists, rather than PR practitioners.

I have therefore no doubt that such complex scenario will keep academics and senior executives in professional PR bodies happy and in business for a while, but while at best some temporary standards may appear, how long would it take before these became obsolete? And, above all, what would be their relevance in the real world?

So while I am not saying ‘don’t bother measuring’, as clearly we are expected to demonstrate returns on investments to our clients, neither am I believing that having a common standard could possibly provide a panacea for our professional uncertainties and self doubts as an industry, or even a guarantee that our clients would make the right choices. History is indeed littered with evidence of choices at all levels that were often not made on mathematical evidence, but on mere perception of facts. In some instances we have to be grateful that was the case, or we may not now be around to write so freely.

Let us therefore value perception more, as well as having more confidence that if our professional standards can’t be measured as precisely as those of a chemist, we are nonetheless relevant to the business arena in which we operate and we can make a real difference, but only if we act with knowledge, passion and integrity we will provide relevance to our customers.

Is all media converging?

Blog Post - Is all media converging?

In recent years, there has been a lot of debate focussed around the decline of printed media. Indeed, there are clear signs that readership and advertising rates have dropped significantly over the last decade, while other media channels such as online or digital have thrived.

While national newspapers appear to suffer most, regional papers seem better at maintaining readership, or at least managing a much slower decline.  In the USA, the well-known billionaire Warren Buffett is even investing in newspapers, which should encourage us all to do so the same, given Mr Buffett’s excellent investment record.

An interesting thing is happening though.  Virtually every printed publication has got its own web site, and in some instances these sites are of very high standards, in effect a mirror of the printed paper, especially those available on subscription only.  The greater availability of mobile devices and bandwidth is enabling online newspaper content to develop from basic text and images to a more interactive level, too. There is now a dual and converging movement: TV and radio have a distinctive and growing web presence, and so do newspapers and magazines.

Take the BBC web site, for example.  Only a few years ago there was a clear demarcation between radio and TV content and what was online.  Now you can find news and TV programmes online.  Similarly, many papers and magazines, for which the main distribution channel is still print-based, also feature media clips on their web sites.  So, while all these channels are distinct in their primary delivery method, they are now converging on the web.

The next decade is going to be interesting.  Our reading habits will change dramatically, as illustrated by the advent of Kindle.  I don’t think printed media will altogether disappear, but I would place a bet that anything printed will in future demand a high premium.  More access to good quality online sources may become more restricted (paywalls) though I suspect that there will be movements towards a revenue sharing operation, so that ‘tokens’ could be traded for access to paid sites, rather than fixed daily/monthly amounts.

Generating sufficient income for the media in the new world of digital communications is inevitably going to be more difficult and requires greater creativity.  But I don’t think this will be a bad thing.  After all, the world of printed media has so far been very slow in adapting to the new media landscape and adopting new marketing strategies.  The time has now come for them to demonstrate that they can respond to the new challenges.

The future’s Graphene

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On Monday of this week The Independent published a long article on the story behind graphene, the new material that could literally revolutionise the way we communicate and do things.  If you are keen on learning more about graphene the web is absolutely teeming with information on the topic, from theory to possible practice, so I won’t mention the details.  But the potential of this material is so huge that even in these times of austerity the UK government has actively supported the creation of a National Graphene Institute to the tune of several millions.

The point of the article in The Independent, however, was a simple one: graphene was discovered by scientists who had been able to “play” together, speculatively, with some sellotape and graphite.  Graphene isn’t the only invention that came about in response to our innate ludic instinct.  Some of our most important inventions came about not through hard graft (that came later) but serendipity.

Over the last two decades or so we have experienced a lull in scientific and technological innovation (the Internet is way older than that and so are the basic tenets behind mobile communications).  I am certain that this is due to at least two factors.  The first is that we have become accustomed to being ruled by bean counters, obsessed with immediate or very short term returns and for whom anything that wouldn’t bring a quick buck was always anathema.  The second is that a business culture of excessive controls has been prevailing.  With some notable exceptions a large majority of today’s high level business managers are control freaks, obsessed with putting in place tighter and more stringent procedures aimed at ensuring that every second of a worker’s time is spent achieving maximum returns on investment, as well as other diktats.  However, by suppressing the innate creativity that is inextricably linked to the mystery of humanity and hiding it behind a sea of red tape, innovation has got killed off (and it’s doubtful that real productivity has increased either).

Take for example the recent news that the new boss of Yahoo has decreed that none of their employers would be allow to work remotely.  You don’t need to be an Internet business insider to know that Yahoo is dead meat.   They have been unable to reinvent themselves and innovate.  Nobody really knows what the company stands for (email? search engine? advertising?).  However, instead of fostering innovation by freeing people to invent and innovate they have decided to lock them up (back to control freakery).  This will inevitably achieve the opposite effect.  So I predict that in less than a decade Yahoo will just be history.  But in the meantime, someone else, playing with their computer, maybe with the help of a few friends, would have probably come across something with the potential of changing our lives.

Do you really want your business to be at the cutting edge?  Give your people time to be themselves, don’t suppress inquisitiveness, nurture it, and mind that playfulness can quite often be the root of great creative potential.

The dark side of Linkedin

Do you get days when you feel like writing about controversial matters and challenging perceptions of much loved things? Well, I don’t know about you, but I do…often! Having recently written a short piece about the demise of Trade media I thought it was time to turn my attention to LinkedIn.

I have attended countless seminars on online media and LinkedIn is often cited as one of the most virtuous channels, particularly for B2B relations, with an inherent peer review that prevents you from pretending to be something you are not (unless you make up a completely phoney identity, but then you wouldn’t get many recommendations, would you?). But is LinkedIn so inherently virtuous?

Ask yourself first of all why you created your LinkedIn profile in the first instance and I bet that two answers will come to mind. One: you created it when you were looking for a job and it was the in-thing to do, and Two: you were dragged into it either because your boss told you to or, if you were freelance, you registered so that you could get to know (and sell) to other people (essentially the same as looking for a job!). These are barely the selfless reasons, such as exchanging information in groups and so on, that are often advocated when this online channel is promoted!

I personally like using LinkedIn, following and – if I can – contributing to a number of groups. Some groups are more democratic than others and let you share freely, others are ruled by control freaks (often these are groups created by some vested interest) so you don’t stand a chance. Some discussions can be very constructive and you may even strike up a friendship of a sort. Others may degenerate, though I tend to avoid confrontations and have waved goodbye to a number of groups ruled by aggressive individuals.

When you use LinkedIn, however, you should also ask yourself first why you are there yourself. You can still enjoy it and make good use of it, but please don’t think of it as the ‘holier than thou’ online channel, as this it ain’t; it has a much darker and selfish side…

Strategy first, content later.

 

Content marketing is rapidly becoming all the rage. With the explosion in social media, and a huge range of tools and techniques available to business, everybody is suddenly becoming a content marketer.  This is true in B2C and is fast becoming the norm in the traditionally slower to react B2B sector.

The result? Noise – a lot of it.

The current situation is almost anarchic. People and companies are hurling a mass of information into the public arena in the hope that something will resonate with their audiences.

The reality is that although there is a wealth of good information being created a lot of useful content is being drowned out.  Of perhaps greater risk is that the rush to communicate creates the potential for serious media crises.

The problem is that many businesses have reacted to the social media phenomenon without taking the time to develop a carefully thought out strategy.  Consequently, there’s no clear intent or consistent delivery of brand values, while messaging in terms of content, style, frequency and impact is at best indifferent.

Let’s be clear: content marketing has the potential to be a powerful and extremely valuable business process.

But like any business process it requires planning, management, review and revision.

So before throwing yourself, and probably many of your colleagues, into the swirling waters of content marketing, ensure you have a clearly defined strategy with solid management techniques.

Here are just a few of the questions you need to consider:

  • What do you want to achieve – what will a successful outcome look like?
  • What are the key messages or brand positions that you want to communicate?
  • Who are you targeting and what makes these people or groups tick?
  • How will you gain their attention and then consistently engage with them?
  • Who in your organisation will manage the process?
  • How will content be created and quality controlled?
  • Will a third party organisation need to be used to help you create content, manage the communication tools and analyse results?
  • How will you measure the effectiveness of the process?

So many questions and probably too few answers.  So if you’d like help in developing, managing and implementing a robust content marketing strategy then get in touch with an experts.