It’s a SPAM world

9 12 2011

photo credit: Dave Parker

I am sure I spend way too much time on social media sites, but I do find social media as a phenomenon fascinating. And the ways that organisations use and abuse them, doubly fascinating. As a true tool of the people, social media sites are often difficult to understand and navigate for an organisation more used to controlling its content and how it is viewed and used. But common sense should prevail. Let the sermon / rant begin now!

On of my more recent annoyances is competitions that require you to send on to your friends in order to get an entry. Often these are through Facebook, but sometimes via email as well. Do my friends and acquaintances want me to be filling their inboxes and walls with advertising purporting to be personalised by me? I think not.

Often this is enough for me to exit the site and not enter the competition. If it was just asking to post to my wall, that would be fine, but not asking for the names of friends to send their message to. In many ways this is the latter-day version of Multi-Level Marketing or the party plan, where you turn all your friends into potential sales.

One recent exception to this annoyance was the David Jones version where the message you sent was a personalised Christmas card with the photo of your friend inserted into the photo. Note to retailers – an inexpensive giveaway such as this is much more effective than a straight sales message. The link is here.

My other pet SPAM hate is (again on Facebook), companies that send out messages saying “if you *Like* our page” or if you are the 1000th person to *Like* our page”…. Now surely they realise that the list of people they are sending this to are, in fact, people who have already *Liked* the page. So by definition, you are sending me a message that is not for me (unless you want me to *unlike* and *like* again? That hardly seems to meet the needs of the marketer).

Think people, think. Before you send a message, think about who you are sending it to. What do you want them to do? What is in it for them? Why should they do what you want?

If you are going to do marketing, please make it clever and relevant, not parasitic and annoying.

Sermon rant ends.

Developing your company’s social media policies

28 10 2011

bandwagon - or bandwidth wagon! picture credit: liako

In this day and age, even the most conservative organisations have a social media presence – or at least an awareness. Organisations that deal with high risk activities such as police, hospitals. Just as having a web-site and email is now a mainstream part of business operations, having a social media presence and operations is becoming a normal part of operations for most businesses today.

For organisations that are sales or marketing-based, thinking about social media is a relatively straight-forward effort. Basically you want to attract as many of the right people (buyers) as possible and funnel them through a sales / service / value-add process. You might want to siphon off any customer-service efforts, and keep an eye out for criticisms and complaints, ensuring that you know how to deal with them effectively and convincingly.

Other organisations – particularly those with a government / conservative / service focus, might have different needs, aims and issues for social media. These need to be carefully thought through before you jump on the bandwagon – or the bandwidth wagon!

Here are some of the things you might want to think of when developing your social media policies and strategies.

1. How can social media fit in with your Business Plan? Social media is a tool and a medium. It needs to be part of your strategic business planning as well as strategic communication planning.

2. What opportunities does social media offer for your to do your business better / cheaper / more accessibly? This will determine which platforms you want to use. Where is the value proposition?

3. Who will be doing the social media aspect of your business? While you Gen Y employees might be most familiar with the platforms and social conventions of social media, they may not be au fait with the politics of your business. As with other media contacts, this person mneeds to both understand the business and the medium.

4. How will you resource your social media involvement? Social media happens 24/7. messages get sent and resent in a split second. WHile you may not need to monitor 24/7, you do need to have timely responses.

5. How will you deal with criticisms / negative comments / misinformation? Best to know this up front. Deleting comments may bring accusations of censorship. (However you might want to establish some moderation rules about acceptable posting so you can remove irrelevant posts, abuse and spam) Responding at length can make an issue out of a minor comment. Leaving up misinformation – especially if it is positive to you – can bring lawsuits about truth in advertising. The important thing is to have thought about this in advance so it doesn’t catch you by surprise.

6. How will you record both your output on social media, and also the input you get from your customers and community? For some organisations this will have legal implications, however it is good practice to have these records anyway.

7. What policies will you have around your employees and social media? This has implications in terms of code of conduct / safe workplace issues, but also in terms of your processes around social media.

8. Will you have a main social media platform or different platforms for different parts of the business? For instance, television statsions often have different platforms and pages for different shows – versus, one main platform with pointers to different aspects of your business.

9. How will you attract business to your social media platforms? It is not a case of “build it and they will come”. Social media now needs to be part of your marketing campaign – both to sell your business and to attract people to “membership” of your social networks.

There are plenty of social media policies on the internet to work from, and plenty of examples of exemplary use of social media – Brisbane City Council’s use of facebook and Twitter during the 2011 Queensland floods demonstrate an excellent value proposition for social media and the reveiws are available online.

Social media is here to stay – but your business will want to use it intelligently.

Desperado – PR stunts that FAIL

8 10 2011

OK, so I am a great fan of collecting “what doesn’t work” in PR and marketing.

Often these stunts – providing they didn’t happen to you – have a bizarre “what on earth were they thinking” feel about them. While I accept that hindsight is 20:20, none-the-less, some of them you have to think “surely they could see this was a bad idea”.

Perhaps they are driven by desperation for some bigger, better, more bizarre, headline-grabbing stunt. Perhaps the client was pressuring them for something clever and witty. Perhaps it was group think, where a group of likeminded people reinforce each other’s opinions without examining any other opinon (see: confirmation bias). Or perhaps a session at the pub was involved.

However this next one fell so flat that it barely made a ripple.

For those of you who aren’t in Australia or have been lucky enough to avoid this knowledge, Kyle Sandilands is a would-be radio shock jock. He was a judge on a few tv reality “talent” shows (Big Brother, Australia’s Got Talent, X-Factor, Australian Idol) where he was the judge you loved to hate.

Until it all came crashing down when he was disgraced in an incident on radio where he and his on-air partner Jackie O, strapped an underage girl to a lie-detector machine and asked her about her sex-life. The obviously distressed girl, when pressured, revealed that she had been raped when she was 12 years old. Kyle’s response was “Right…is that the only experience you’ve had?”, thereby equating violent rape of a child with sexual experience. They did then end the “interview” and offer the daughter and the mother (who apparently knew previously that the daughter had been raped but had brought her in for this interrogation on live radio) counselling.

Clearly this whole incident was wrong on so many levels. From memory, Kyle was suspended from his radio show and sacked from the television show.

Then there was the time he said that loved Australian comedian Magda Szubanski should go to a concentration camp if she wanted to lose weight. Magda’s father had been a Polish resistance fighter in WWII. Magda herself said she didn’t care what he said about her but was offended for people who had experienced concentration camps.

So clearly we are not talking about someone with good judgement about how far to go in saying things to get attention.

So now he is back on the radio, but without quite the high profile he had before.

So the latest stunt (which I did not hear live – this is not a radio show I listen to) was this:

In the midst of their show, Kyle and Jackie O played a song then had a conversation as if they were unaware the microphones were still on.

The conversation related to a woman having come forward alleging she had had a love-child to Kyle. Not really attention grabbing at the best of times since children out-of-wedlock has not been scandalous for several decades. And Kyle is divorced so there is no wife to be horrified by this event. The audio is available here if you would like to hear it yourself.

A couple of news media picked up the story but it was hardly cause celebre scandale (anyone who would like to correct my French, please feel free).

So the next day dawns and Kyle and Jackie O announce that it was a prank designed to distract the news media.

Since I did not hear about it until someone else blogged about it, I can only say “pathetic”. A fairly tasteless attempt to seek attention that fell flat and ultimately will have had the effect of undermining their credibility both as sources of information (even about their own lives, in case anyone is interested) and in exposing their desperation to seek attention and raise their ratings which are in decline (quelle surprise!).

So after the fake prank was revealed (Twitter had already smelled a rat almost immediately), Kyle released the following statement:

“I’m not interested in pranks. I don’t like them… I thought I don’t want to prank anyone other than other media organisations.”

Sounds a little like sour grapes. If you don’t like pranks, don’t do them because you aren’t any good at them.

And depressingly, I have given him way too much airspace here.

If you liked this you might also like When PR gets it wrong.

when PR gets it wrong

14 09 2011

Sometimes marketing and PR companies try to be too tricky….and fail big-time.

Case No 1. Toyota Stalker Campaign. (Saatchi and Saatchi) A California woman is suing Saatchi and Saatchi and Toyota after a guerilla marketing campaign which she claims “freaked [her] out”. After clicking on an email which offered her a personality profile, she started receiving emails from a man who knew things about her and said he was heading to her house where he wanted to stay. He was in trouble with a motel manager (who sent her a bill for damages). A MySpace page had been set up in the same name.

The campaign was aimed at young males who the company profiled as liking to prank each other. A friend signed you up for the hoax, chose a character who would them bombard the victim with emails, phone messages, text messages and videos for five days.

In their defence they claimed that in agreeing to the terms of the personality profile, the woman had unknowingly agreed to having emails sent to her.

More details here.

Case No. 2 ConAgraTV Dinner Con (Ketchum)

If you were going to annoy a load of people through a con – would you pick people with an active blog and a large following?

That’s what ConAgra did. They invite a load of food bloggers – those dedicated to natural whole and organic foods, low salt, no preservatives, etc – to a special dinner to be prepared for them by chef George Duran, host of Ultimate Cake off.

Then they served these bloggers a TV dinner, complete with the usual perservatives – Marie Callender’s three-cheese lasagne. Now while they apparently had reasonable approval rates (62.5% approval rating), the bloggers were not pleased to be conned and made their opinions known – where else, on their blogs.

ConAgra has said they will not be using the hidden video footage of the dinner.

More information on this one here.

Case No. 3. Comcast Phishing emails
Blogger Carol Tice writes about a suspicious email she received from Comcast telling her her computer was infected by Bots! and they have a great product to help her, Constant Guard.

The email was set up very much like the phishing emails that try to get you to click on their links and buy their “antivirus” product. Closer inspection showed that in fact the email said that her computer “may” be infected. Too little, too late.

Again, another too clever by half marketing campaign that probably got deleted by most people who received it, and disbelieved by the rest.

Carol’s blog is here.

Message to PR and Marketing companies: We don’t like to be conned!