Monday, January 24, 2011

Some good social media advice from the Pope

Not the first person most people would turn to for social media guidance, but Pope Benedict has come out and possibly inadvertently given the world some great social media advice.

The Pontif has come out in reaction to strong conservative catholic rhetoric that's appearing on blogs and youtube posts criticizing some heads of the church for not being catholic enough.

"We must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its 'popularity' or from the amount of attention it receives," wrote Benedict.

While many including myself may question some of the catholic church's advice to the world, when it comes to getting the message out there, he's bang on. He does admit that he isn't a big online user but his view that social media voice needs to reflect the voice of the user is a valid one.

"There exists a Christian way of communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others," he wrote. "To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one's own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preference and judgments that are fully consistent with the Gospel."

He, as everyone should be, is concerned about going 'off message' just to get hits. If you are preaching the word of the Lord or promoting your brand, you have to have the right tone and reflect the voice of the source - you then put out good content which will be well received by the right people.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mercedes gets it wrong after not getting it at all

Dear Mercedes Benz,

Where do I start?

First, you launch a campaign that completely misunderstands how social media works and why people love it and then you make a HUGE very basic PR error in your attempts to push this ham-fisted campaign.

You sent out an announcement detailing grand prizes for your competition, one of which wasn't a real prize?? Two things happened - you either had the Masters Golf tickets and it fell through on their end, which is unlikely. The other, more realistic option is that someone screwed up and said 'Masters Golf' instead of saying 'US Tennis Championships'. D'oh.

You could blame the young underling at the bottom of the process, fire them, their superior and then carry on. OR you could re-evaluate how you promote your brand - this, for me, is a crappy mistake on an already crappy idea. You don't listen, you don't get it and you have processes that allow basic PR blunders.

I would guess you have a lot of very well-paid PR and marketing people working for you, all of whom think this is a great campaign. I would probably look again at who you have and what they do.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What makes banks scared

Banks suck. We all know it - they are now untouchable monoliths that can treat us badly, take our money and then ask us for a bailout when things go sour. But this isn't news - what is news, for me anyway, is that there is something that scares banks.


Bank customer services are invariably terrible. If you find yourself a victim of their incompetency, good luck with that phone line. After taking 27 turns through their automated system you find yourself waiting and waiting and waiting and...well, then usually nothing. I rarely leave such a situation feeling happy with my bank. But what can you do? We need them and it's such a hassle to change banks and they are all as bad as each other...right?

After discovering @Ask_WellsFargo I feel a little differently. A quick look down the Twitter account finds more apologies than I've ever heard uttered by any bank employees. Ever. Every complaint is met with a sincere apology followed by an invite to DM with the bank to get the problem sorted. I am also guessing that since the Twittering complainees seem to be generally silenced after the @Wells_Fargo message, the complaint is usually dealt with.

So why is Wells Fargo, and Bank of America's @BofA_Help, Ally Bank's @AllyCare and other banks so sorry on Twitter but so ambivalent on the phone?

Because Twitter is loud - complain about @wellsfargo or @bankofamerica service and more than 5,000 other customers see it instantly. And that's bad for business, much worse than a offline burned customer, who may offer some second-hand complaints to 10 people. Online moaning is scary for them, as is the word 'viral' - banks are well aware of what can happen if a heinous act of bank villainy gets out onto the web proper.

Just looking at these banks' attempts to rectify Twitter complaints gives hope to us all. The future is social media and that means hopefully, a bit more of the power is switching to the little guy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A worrying financial trend?

Last weekend Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent spent his time telling his four million followers to invest in H&H Imports Inc, making himself a cool $10m. Is this the start of a trend that the SEC should be taking notice of?

Fiddy, who recently made $100m  by investing in a bottled water firm that was bought by Coca Cola for $4.1bn, is now stretching his newly developed Wall Street muscles and urging his Twitter followers to invest in HNHI, a company he and his G Unit funnily enough own 30 million shares in.

His weekend of tweeting saw the stock rise nearly 400% after many of his followers jumped on board. He tweeted instructions on what to look for and why people should invest in the firm, which makes audio products that are being endorsed by Monsieur Cent, promising people will "double their money" and also promised investors that he would "technically work for you".

Of course, this could be a sound investment and proof that social media is a great way of getting the inside track on Wall Street. But then again it might not.

It is doubtful that many of 50 Cent's followers are particularly financially savvy or indeed very affluent, especially in this climate. Also, his caveat of telling tweeters to "just get what you can afford" probably doesn't cover much of the SEC regulatory stipulations when it comes to financial advice on stock trades.

The investors have indeed doubled their money from the buzz round the stock but most pros will tell you that a small firm that hocks audio accessories might not be the safest bet in depressed 2011 America. It will be interesting to see what the SEC says about celebrities telling their followers to invest in them via Twitter and it will be even more interesting to see how long Mr Jackson holds onto this stock...and how much his fans lose out on.

UPDATE: It turns out 50 Cent has now made $50m from this cunning enterprise but has conveniently deleted the tweets he sent out over the weekend. Here's some screenshots though, just for posterity (and maybe for the SEC to look at).

He's also since posted: “I own HNHI stock thoughts on it are my opinion. Talk to financial advisor about it.” and “HNHI is the right investment for me it may or may not be right for u! Do ur homework”. Retrospective financial advice - nice.

UPDATE 2: Here's a prospectus for HNHI that explicitly admits that the firm may never be profitable, says the auditors have the company down as a concern and that the stock may be worthless. 

Great blog here from CBS explaining how illegal this may be.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Proof that Coca Cola is miles ahead in social media

Coca Cola recently sent a young social media team round the world in an attempt to document what makes people happy around the world using social media to its full. Doing so it proved that it is miles ahead of most of the other big brands when it comes to understanding how social media works - proof here, pictorially:

This is a word cloud derived from the firm's press release on the adventure. As you can see, the most populous words it used - 'family' 'people' 'friends' 'happiness' 'team' 'experiences' - are what social media is about. There is no mention of sales, revenue, offers, or money because that isn't what communicating through social media is about. The drinks giant got people communicating, got them interested and got them talking about their lives, all the while getting the brand even more global presence.

Well done Coca Cola, you get it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Millennials' trump card?

Being a 'Millennial' (born between 1981 and 2000) I was happy to read this article in Forbes that foretells how poor myself and my generation is likely to be thanks to the Great Recession and the Baby Boomer generation leaving us with a dust bowl for an economy.

I have spent the last few years as a finance journalist and there is no doubt that this 'recession' isn't just going to go away. This is the new normal and it is going to be tough for Millennials to garner the wages they expected when they were at college in the first part of this century.

But there are ways in which we, as a generation can play a trump card and move onwards and upwards in the new 21st century economy and I think social media will have a lot to do with that.

This article reminded me of a maxim my father always said to me when I was growing up and considering my place in the professional world: "If you can do something useful that no one else can, you'll have work". He always stressed that I needed to bring something new to the table and become an indispensable asset.

Simply, we are the social media generation. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter - these things were built by us, for us. We are the generation that will develop how the world talks to each other and how businesses do business with their customers. As such, we can bring something to the table that the older generations cannot - we know social media, we know how to communicate and we know how it all works. We will be who businesses need as this decade progresses if they want to keep up and carry on being successful.

It isn't going to be as easy for us as it was for our parents or grandparents in the world of work. But we need to show those generations what we can do to change their businesses and world for the better. We need to offer them something indispensable that they cannot do themselves.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What I learned about social media from Quora after four seconds

Quora is the big new thing. Everyone is talking about it and in about three hours it'll be worth about $10 trillion. But what I learned after about four seconds is that not enough people really understands where social media is going and this new site will only illustrate the confusion.

Quora is like a real time Wikipedia for people who want to know stuff. Post a question and someone who knows what they are talking about may be following such questions and may answer it for you. It's a great idea and it will be huge this year, no doubt.

Being an experimentalist in social media I obviously began by following all threads social media/PR/marketing/viral/Twitter/Facebook/blah blah blah. Straight off the bat you see hundreds of questions and answers linked to these subjects. And four seconds in I saw that many people do not really understands what is going on. We have been given these awesome tools that can do so much but we don't know how we can use them. But everyone wants to use them to make loads of money. But they don't know how. But they know they can. Argh. It'd be enough to drive one to drink if it weren't before 10am.

Most questions ask where is it going, what is it doing, how do I get on board - and the answers differ wildly. Don't get me wrong, they are some great ideas and some smart people on there but social media theory and direction seems to be a lot of people wandering around in the dark.

So will Quora help us pool our thoughts and help bring it all together? You better start following some questions to find out....

While Quora will add to the wonderful multi-colored mush that is global social media I don't think it is going to help us answer the big questions just yet - it's only created more confusion.