Check out Twitter’s new-look profile pages – seem familiar?

Twitter has unveiled a “new and improved” design of profile pages for brands and users, but some commentators have pointed out the similarities to that of another prominent social network.

The refreshed look, which will roll out to all users over the coming weeks, incorporates several new features, including: 

  • Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger so the best content is easy to find.
  • Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.
  • Filtered Tweets: Now you can choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Select from these options: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies.

 

Local accounts that have switched over to the new profile so far include AFL (pictured) and Hyundai A-League.

The new design has attracted comments over its similarities to the brand page design of competitor social network Facebook. Mashable’s Stan Schroeder says the similarities are inescapable: “There’s a square profile photo in the top left, and a large ‘cover’ photo on top dominates both pages, for example. Below the profile photo you’ll find the basic info about the user, and under that is photos and friends.

“The only real difference there is that on Twitter’s user profiles, photos are placed below your followers, and Facebook has it the other way around. It’ll be interesting to see what the users think of the new look – especially those that are not overly fond of Facebook.”

Compare the below to the AFL’s Facebook page and make your own judgement:

Twitter profile design 2014

 

Chinese social media represents both a huge opportunity and challenge for brands

The sheer scale of the growing consumer market in China has been widely reported, though how their population use social media differs vastly from the west. There are a great many lessons we can learn from China’s highly developed social media environment, while also leveraging some strategic fundamentals that are common to both markets.

 

China provides scale and a unique culture

As the saying goes there’s one born every minute and Shanghai alone has a population of around 23 million people, equal to the population of Australia. And there’s a reputed hundred plus cities in China with a population greater than Sydney alone.

Traditionally, the inclination has been for international brands to start marketing to the tier one cities. However, social media also presents the opportunity to reach second and third tier cities, faster and a lot more cost effectively than traditional advertising channels.

Today, it is crucial to understand the nuances in consumer behavior by city tier, category type and socio-economic development level. Indeed, many people point to the fact that China’s second and third tier cities represent the biggest opportunities and arguably the most important consumer segment on the planet.

Overall population growth is slowing but the aspirational urban population is rapidly expanding and there are some interesting and uniquely Chinese population traits. As China’s urban population grows, the ‘balinghou’ is perhaps the most significant group.

The balinghou, are the so-called ‘little emperors’ born out of the one child policy. While their parents experienced political struggles and economic hardship, the balinghou were the first generation to grow up under genuine social stability and growth. Their pursuit of personal satisfaction, self-fulfillment and pleasure are the biggest traits of the segment. They are supported by active economic contributions of their parents and four grandparents, the 4-2-1 phenomenon.

The balinghou has, to a great extent, changed the lifestyles and moral values of Chinese society today, with consumption by this generation expanding more than 20% annually. The balinghou, who are now in their 30s with families of their own, have become the core drivers of consumption in China. While their spending patterns are now more grounded, today’s generation of ‘Millennial’ consumers are replicating the desire to live in the moment. This trait could not be better illustrated than in the concept of FOMO (or fear of missing out) and their addiction to mobile technology.

 

Planning and buying media in non-digital channels is inefficient

In the same way that Texas is different from California, China has many distinct markets. While the written language is predominantly the same across the country, there are a reputed 292 living languages and 56 ethnic groups. With so many separate markets, planning and buying advertising in non-digital channels is challenging and inefficient. Social media can provide an effective consumer engagement solution in the same way that it does in a geographically diverse market such as Australia.

According to Internet World Stats, China has the world’s biggest internet user base of 513 million people, more than double the 245 million users in the United States. The Chinese market is also one of the most active social media users with multiple accounts, mainly on mobile and the majority actively following key opinion leaders.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would never dominate in China, even if they were permitted to. The Chinese government have blocked their access, but significantly, there are numerous Facebook and Twitter imitations, many feature more advanced platforms and they each have millions of active users.

China’s social media landscape. Graphic courtesy of CIC:

CIC China Social Media landscape

 

Examples of some of China’s leading social platforms:

Sina Weibo, literally, ‘Sina micro blog’ is largely a mobile-focused social network and mass communication platform. Its Twitter-esque usage model is often leveraged by celebrities, brands and industry experts.

Tencent Weibo is similar to Sina Weibo in terms of functionality and demographics.

WeiXin or WeChat is a voicemail-based social networking service and is one of the few platforms to operate in both Chinese and English.

Douban is sort of a Chinese MySpace, popular with special interest groups and communities. It’s mainly used for networking around specific topics.

Renren (literally, ‘everyone’), was born as a network for re-connecting school friends. It has a reported 100 million active users and pretty much looks, feels and does what Facebook does. Renren is innovating fast to stay relevant in the fast-growing mobile space.

 

An effective and customised brand strategy is key for Chinese consumers

When adapting western marketing strategies for China it is vital that both adherence and respect to local cultural nuances is maintained for success. Ideas developed with this in mind can have a powerful impact when they get amplified through social channels.

 

How to win in China with social media?

For marketers to win in China there are a number of challenges to overcome to leverage the strategic opportunity:

  • How to work through Chinese regulatory, IP implications and distribution opportunities,
  • selecting the right local partners to provide advice in regards to cultural nuances for content,
  • how to leverage key opinion leaders – Chinese are skeptical of formal institutions and authority and disproportionately value opinion leaders in social networks,
  • how nimble and responsive can you be? With opportunity comes risk. Competition is fierce and businesses need to tread carefully, negative news travels fast and with scale, and
  • keeping on the leading edge – market fragmentation means local partners can provide essential technical and platform expertise.

 

Data integrity – a big watch-out

The ‘bear traps’ of getting it wrong in China are many and varied. Choosing a partner with integrity and with the appropriate quality checks put in place is vital. In an analysis of global tourism brands Core undertook in China, we uncovered that a significant number of Chinese ‘followers’ of tourism brands are not on mobile devices nor are they following key opinion leaders. This would suggest that a phenomenon called the ‘Water Army’ of fake followers is amplifying the numbers being reported and paid for through their current programs.

 

Enduring strategic fundamentals

The fundamentals of strategic and executional best practice from the Australian market also hold true:

  • Ideas work. Make content authentic relative to the brand and user orientated – be socially relevant,
  • focus on understanding what works and why. Adopt a test and learn approach.
  • Support overarching brand goals with sustained ideas amplified by social media efforts – driven by real data,
  • celebrate innovation. New models need to be created to effectively manage engagement and communicate brand identity (home market knowledge is important too), and
  • champion the geeks! The right analytical tools need to be deployed to gauge performance.

 

James Hudson of the Australia China Business Council sees China as, “A great opportunity for Australian business and brands to take advantage of potential scale and margin opportunities in China”. He further explains, “Finding the right partner for distribution and marketing is critical as competition increases with businesses wanting to tap into China’s growing urban middle class”.

Innovative clients are asking how to win in China and demanding local knowledge. Therefore Australian agencies need to take steps to partner with service providers in China, to enable brands to leverage the power of Chinese social media, and maintain strong knowledge of brand, data, technology and partnerships in both markets.

 

If you’re interested in understanding how to engage the various segments of Chinese consumers, both in China and in Australia, Marketing is holding a breakfast seminar on Thursday 3 April in Melbourne.

Digital teens: boys shun traditional media, flock to gaming and social

Gaming and social media are the best places for marketers to find notoriously hard to reach teenage boys, a study from TNS suggests.

The research agency’s ‘TRU’ study, which interviewed over 800 teenagers between 12 and 19 years of age, reinforced the differences between male and female teens when it comes to media consumption. Certain magazine titles and TV shows are considered ‘rites of passage’ for young girls, making them easier to target – 60% read magazines, with Dolly, Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan the top three titles, while dramas, such as Home and Away, are their favourite shows.

In contrast, few teenage boys engage with traditional media, with only 7% nominating reading magazines or other forms of media as a pursuit they like to spend free time on. Playing video games and going online were the two most popular media-based activities for this group, with 49% and 29% electing these as a preferred uses of spare time respectively.

Preferred media pursuits in spare time

The findings come at a time when teen buying power is at an all-time high, according to Tania Kullmann, managing director at TNS Australia. The average spend per week among teenagers has now reached almost $100 per week, or $5000 a year. This is higher among boys, who average $124 per week, than girls, at $70 per week; and ranges from $56 per week for 12-13 year olds to $192 per week for 18-19 year olds.

Clothing and apparel was their number one area of spend, particularly among 18-19 year olds and girls, while mobile phones and technology to help them stay connected with friends followed a close second.

“Teens define themselves through their clothing, hairstyles, places they eat, and whom they associate with… and seek validation through brands,” Kullmann says.

Big, mainstream brands are favoured, with Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonald’s and adidas ranking among the top five.

While traditional media is still an effective channel for targeting teen girls, online methods are emerging as more fruitful, particularly for boys, the report suggests. Both boys and girls spend 2.5 hours using the internet a day (a figure as high as 3.5 hours for 18-19 year olds), a time that is all about social networking where they ‘hang out’ with friends in spare time at home.

“Social media sites are increasingly prominent ways to communicate with Aussie teens, especially for reaching older teens,” Kullmann says.

But for targeting boys, marketers need look no further than video games, the report concludes. “With half of all teen boys nominating video games as a preferred way to spend their free time, the medium offers the potential for a captive audience.”

Booming middle class helps Indonesia escape GFC

GFC? What GFC? Looking at the rate of growth in Indonesia, it seems as though the country was safely booming in its own bubble. According to research released by Nielsen yesterday, Indonesia has surged past global predictions and reached US$3000 per capita income at the start of 2011, a decade earlier than expected.

According to Nielsen, Indonesia’s middle class has been driving this rapid growth, and is now standing at the third largest in the world. They make up 48% of the Indonesian population, and account for 44% of all FMCG spending in the country.

Over the last five-year period, the middle class of the country have put much focus on improving the comfort of their lives, with ownership of rice cookers doubling (from 30% to 64%) and possession of a DVD player growing from just 6% in 2006 to over 39% today.

“Middle class households have focused their spending on items that improve their quality of life. That encompasses a whole range of consumer goods such as home electronics and appliances to health and beauty products. They tend to like to combine the convenience and fresh offerings from traditional retail channels such as wet markets with the price-savings and expansive product offerings of the modern trade,” says Catherine Eddy, managing director, consumer, at Nielsen Indonesia.

Nielsen released the following trends about this influential group of consumers:

- value for money is key for nearly all (97%) middle class shoppers

- 88% want to experiment with brands

- 53% shop in a modern trade outlet at least twice a month, and

- 90% look for stores with ‘attractive and interesting promotions’.

While the middle class are big viewers of television (96% watch TV every day), the most interesting trend in media consumption is the surge in mobile ownership. 71% of the middle class own a mobile phone, and half of them are using it to access the internet. More than 35% already possess a smart phone. 94% of them are also connected to social networks, with 89% owning a Facebook account.

“Penetration is already high, and purchase intent for smartphones is also strong. These devices are fast becoming the primary platform for a variety of activities, such as watching video, accessing the Internet and connecting to social networks. This is a key area for marketers and content providers to focus their efforts, provided they know what consumers are looking for,” says Irawati Pratignyo, managing director, media at Nielsen Indonesia.

Nielsen provides some key insights on how business owners can reach the middle class consumer:

- kids are playing a role in modern shopping: 95% say that they ‘hardly ever refuse’ the invitation from their kids to go to the minimarket

- convenience is key: today’s middle class consumers are pressed for time, with the demands of work and family life. Products that make life a bit easier are clear winners

- appeal to the fact that they are smart shoppers: they know how much items cost and where they are located in the store. Create a welcoming environment, promote value for money and win their loyalty

- Connect with them: they are increasingly online, and they discuss brands and products there. Engage with them on social networks, and

- Be relevant: tailor marketing – especially online and mobile campaigns – to them. Appeal to their need-states.

Why social media has gone mainstream

The hype around social media just keeps getting louder. Every week a new campaign and a new platform is released. So why has social media gone mainstream?

Online networks, including social ones, evolve and take on a life of their own. In the real world, for multi-celled organisms to exist a number of cells must work together to make something bigger. When individual cellular components work together multi-celled organisms evolve and these can evolve into complex life forms over time. A branch of these complex life-forms have evolved and eventually became humans. Human civilisation has in turn evolved to where we are now because we have mastered the art of continually grouping together into teams, tribes, cities and nation-states to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Networking and collaboration is fundamental to what it means to be human. In our bodies are atoms working together to create cells and cells working together to create our organs. In our brains neurones work together to create our thoughts, feelings and language. In your company people are working together – to create something bigger and more exciting than the sum of its parts.

We can take this thinking and look at the development of the personal computer and see a very similar pattern emerging…

Before anyone had a computer or a smartphone, everything was a social event. Meetings were face-to-face, or over the phone at least, and communication in general was human-to-human based.

In the last 30 years things changed. Initially the personal computer made everything a private and secluded affair. Games, for example, could be played without the help of another human and work could happen sitting in front of a screen. The advent of the early internet showed how powerful many computers networked together could be, but from a personal perspective computing was an insular activity. 

The first social networks, forums and blogs worked with a huge number of anonymous users. While this was a step forward in person-to-person networking, the anonymity allowed people to behave in ways that they would never dream of in real life. This left many of these networks to be the domain of the very early adopters and special interest groups. The rules that govern effective social networks were yet to be developed.

What has happened recently, particularly with Facebook, is that is has become far easier to transport your real identity around the web. This means that increasingly people are joining new social networks with their real identity: their real name; their place of work; and other details that define them as a person in a movement – sometimes referred to as the Open Web. Naturally this makes people think more carefully about what they say and how they behave on social networks – because they own their comments the common rules of society come into play. When a persons reputation is attached to what they say it makes them think carefully about what that comment might mean to others. 

Of course people can still misbehave in social networks, like they can in real world networks, but the networks are now being governed by majority rule so this behaviour is quickly dealt with. This makes cooperation and collaboration much easier and because of this the barriers to entry are dropping at an astronomical rate. Companies can now start to feel more secure in setting up their own networks knowing that majority of users will join to get value out of the information that is provided and quickly deal with other users who lessen the overall value of that network.

So when thinking about why social media has become so widely adopted and pondering about where it is going avoid getting distracted by in the leaps in technology. These are important, of course, but it is the behaviour of the network and the developments of new social norms that are really driving the progress. Every individual in this massive network is doing what he or she is pre-programmed to do – communicate, collaborate and continue the march of our civilisations evolution.

The future of the social web will see openness and ownership of communication adopted on a much greater scale as the tools to do so become more wide spread and easier to adopt. The potential economic benefits of social media will force this to happen. Companies can and will want to access to increasingly granular data about their stakeholders – employees, supporters and consumers. Knowing which individuals are saying what, how they are behaving and who is influencing them is critical and valuable information. 

When Facebook releases its new developer tools in April this year there will be an even bigger push towards the open web – something that many market analysts are predicting will make the eventual float of Facebook bigger than that of Googles initial public offering.

The rules governing online social networks are beginning to mature. Unsurprisingly they closely reflect those that exist in offline world.

Bebo gives peace a chance

Social networking platform, Bebo, has announced its partnership with Vision of Humanity to launch ‘Peace is Breaking Out’, a global competition for the design community to create a picture of what peace means to them in the form of a new international peace symbol, or logo.

According to a poll conducted by the platform in the lead-up to the International Day of Peace, Angelina Jolie is the favoured celebrity peace ambassador among users capturing 41% of votes, outdoing Bono (18%), Ewan McGregor (18%) and Bob Geldof (6%).

Bebo users were also asked what peace meant to them personally and more than 52% of the respondents chose ‘no war and social equality’, followed by ‘a world without violence’ (18 per cent).

Steve Killelea, founder of Vision of Humanity, said, “We are looking for a design that will resonate with a global audience and is a visual representation of a more harmonious world.”

The winner will receive a trip to Washington, DC, where their design will be unveiled at the Global Symposium of Peaceful Nations being held in November 2009.

Dr Rachel O’Connell, chief safety officer at Bebo, said symbols remain a powerful means of communication and are very often steeped in meaning.

“We expect the activity on Bebos Peace hub to reflect the appetite for positive social change amongst this group and are using the International Day of Peace to signal a call to action to our users to create a peace symbol, imbued with meaning, for a new generation of peace ambassadors,” O’Connell explained.

Weekly podcast: Dunbars Number

Podcast

Marketingmag.com.au has teamed up with the guys at Love Digital to bring you this weekly podcast on all things digital.

In this weeks show:

Companies utilising social networking for consumer dialogue

Companies of all sizes have begun to engage customers and prospects on social networking services, according to a report released by market analysis firm Datamonitor.

The report, ‘The Rise of Social Networking and Emerging Channels in Customer Service’, indicated that much of that activity has been pure marketing, but some leading companies have begun to offer customer service and support through social networking.

“Given the boom in popularity of social networks, enterprises of all stripes have started to look for ways to market their brands to potential customers through these services,” said the report’s author Ian Jacobs, senior analyst for customer interaction technologies at Datamonitor.

“Whether it is through online contests, coupon and discount offers or just an extended presence to shine positive light on brands, social networking has become a darling of the marketing world.”

The increased corporate presence on these networks has also led to service interactions between company and customer. The report revealed that some of these interactions result from a direct contact from a customer to a company (akin to a phone call into a contact centre).

But with new social media monitoring tools, companies have also begun to inject themselves into customer conversations – if a user complains online about poor service, the company being complained about is becoming more proactive on solving the issue directly with the user.

Jacobs pointed out that, when done properly, social network-based customer service interactions drive increased intimacy between company and customer.

“Social networks will not be a flash-in-the-pan craze and will not simply disappear or burn themselves out. Companies that choose to simply ignore this trend will relegate themselves to the outdated, fuddy-duddy camp – an important distinction depending on a company’s desired demographic – and more worryingly, maybe even to obsolescence,” explains Jacobs.

Why do we need Social Media Club?

Warning: The tone of this post has a healthy degree of cynicism and sarcastic undertones. As a result of tone and content, expect a healthy degree of negative comments and sideswipes. Let the fun begin…

Over the last few weeks we have seen the casual get together of the social media coffee mornings now generate the US originating brand Social Media Club in Australia.

So what about this club?

From www.socialmediaclub.org/about I gleaned that:

Social Media Club is being organised for the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media. This is the beginning of a global conversation about building an organisation and a community where the many diverse groups of people who care about social media can come together to discover, connect, share, and learn.

Pity no one mentioned the users in this. On the web, the best, best practice is determined by the users not the channel or the medium or the ethical standards, or the media literacy or even the technology.

I will watch with interest, because these guys might have something interesting to say, but I wont have to join to benefit from that. However, I will also reserve a decree of cynicism. Social Media took off with kids, talking directly to each other, sharing their thoughts, pictures, hobbies, music, etc. None of them joined a club; they were drawn to it – what needs fixing about that. Commercial infiltration is whats going on here. But, commercial infiltration of the social media space is anathema to these people. Think of it like a park. Nice place to hang out with your friends and share in activities with others. As soon as the place gets filled with advertising hoardings, burger vans and park wardens telling you not to tread on the grass, you just move on because the place is no fun any more.

Social Media Club is now an organisational structure that has currently been set up in all the metro areas of Australia and seems to be run by self-designated individuals who have decided they are there to lead the rest of us minions in social media, with the best benefit being, we can get together and talk to each! We can listen to a speech by a self-appointed social guru, the guy that set the club up and next month, you can listen to one his mates, if you are very lucky. We don’t have to pay for the privilege here in Australia (at the moment) isn’t that just bloody marvelous value.

Initially I actually thought the concept could be good. I submitted ideas for speaking topics, etc. Then I started to see the manifestation of it and like Gavin Heaton who withdrew from nomination on the Social Media Club board, I ditched the idea as a bad one. I actually joined Social Media Club Canberra on Facebook as opposed to SMC Sydney, as a bit of dig, as I won’t be attending any events in Canberra as I live in Sydney!

Jye Smith stated on his blog:

I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of creating social media clubs. I smell rules and policy.

I actually smell a PR sell to clients, Oh yes Mr. Client I set up the Social Media Club and chair the board.

What we need is to leave social media to evolve through test and learn techniques and strategies with our respective clients. I don’t believe that clients and their agencies want to have open debate on their evolving social marketing practices. It is hard enough everyone getting his or her head around this channel. If there is something to share then that’s what case studies are for.

When it comes to networking with my peers, I can pop along for coffee on a Friday (although I rarely do, as I am not a morning person). But get this novel way I want to share with you, when I need help and insights from my peers in the social media space, I pick up the phone.

Why do I need a club?

Social Media Club I envisage will soon be publishing industry guidelines, then charging and telling us of all the benefits of paying to join their club and to follow their pre-determined rules to enforce us to behave in the way they want us to. Pre-program the masses to behave, there is loads of money in it, and just wait for the pay-to-attend SMC Conference, the regional Chapters of Social Media, it is like a setting up a religion and I believe there is loads of money in that too!.

Back in 2008 Laurel Papworth questioned the policy of WOMMA (The Word of Mouth Association) policy. This policy WOMMA said was only to accept membership from organisations not individuals. Totally farcical, given that the social media landscape that generates WOM (Word of Mouth) is individuals. Maybe that’s why the new leaders of Social Media Club in Sydney, slammed this entrepreneurial social media practitioner, she may dare to question the forthcoming rules that they, our self-appointed leaders, have in mind for us.

The web is very fluid. I picture it a bit like a lava lamp. Initiatives like social media emerge, take off, take shape and grow and then fade and disappear as another bubble comes along. Sir Tim Berners-Lee put the www together to be open, free and unregulated. Creating rules for any facet of it is going to be like herding bubbles. These bubbles have a short life of their own and defy regulation. Governments from America to China have tried to regulate, but ultimately they fail because the users choose not to be regulated. And so it is with social media. Everything, including the users, are too fluid. As soon as you have it all organised, documented, certified and protocoled, you will wake up to find that it has faded and the users have moved on to the next disposable web-thing and then your club is a bit pointless.

So, I guess you realise The Club is just not for me, granted it maybe for you. Now off to meet a few of my peers for some chilled unstructured sharing time!

Social media helps PR grow another leg

Marketingmag.com.au welcomes Trevor Young is the PR Warrior,
a battle-hardened public relations and marketing communications
consultant, blogger, speaker and trainer. Trevor is principal partner
of strategy and communication advisory firm parkyoung. Prior to co-founding parkyoung, Trevor was for 10 years a co-founder and joint managing director of Spark PR Pty Ltd, and a former director and co-founder of brand experience agency, Ignition Marketing.


I’ve followed for some time the argument (mainly overseas and now outdated) that the emergence of social media will be the death of public relations.

Errr, nup. I don’t think so.

To the contrary, I’d go so far to suggest social media is potentially the best thing to happen to the public relations industry since, well, the advent of the telephone (still a very important tool in our business).

Why this is so is pretty obvious.

Public relations is all about the strategic use of communication to develop and nurture positive relationships with the people who matter to your business.

PR utilises a range of tools and tactics designed to get people talking about brands, products, services, issues or causes. Purveyors of the discipline are adept at educating and influencing people, generating buzz and awareness, and increasing levels of understanding.

In days gone by, PR practitioners have relied heavily on print and broadcast media as a third-party conduit through which to tell their story. It’s no secret this has been an uneasy alliance at the best of times and for a variety of reasons (this is a topic I will leave for a later blog post).

Today, while the media is still vitally important (and no less valuable), the big story is PR practitioners can now use social media to take their message directly to the people.

Let me say that again.

PR practitioners can now use social media to take their message directly to the people.

How good is that?

The balance of power in a communication sense, while still weighing heavily in the media’s favour, has shifted somewhat to companies and brands and their PR representatives (in reality, much of the power is now in the people’s hands).

If PR is about persuasion and influence – educating consumers and informing stakeholders, opening up the channels of communication and getting key influencers and opinion-leaders on-side, creating talkability and third-party endorsement – then having the ability to converse freely with people over and above simply going through the media is a wunnerful thang.

Social media is also having a secondary effect as the media has started to use it as a source of ideas for stories.

Who knows? Standing out in the blogosphere or Twitterverse may bring you to the attention of the media. It’s been known to happen numerous times.

Also, a tip-off to a journalist might lead them to checking out your client on the web, which in turn might develop into a good article or interview.

Then you have the emerging situation where some journalists prefer to be pitched via social media. Smart PR people are already on to this and are getting through directly to pitch their idea rather than competing with the hundreds (thousands?) of voice and email pitches made by their competitors.

Will it be a case in the future where if you can’t Twitterise your pitch (i.e. 140 characters), you’ll be ignored by the media? (Don’t laugh, there are several journos in the UK where this is the case).

Ultimately, public relations professionals are well placed to thrive in a hyper-connected world.

Who better understands the process of two-way communication where content, conversation and relationships are paramount?

Companies, brands and organisations – now more than ever – need to cut through the clutter and get their message out in to the marketplace with passion and clarity.

Conversely, they also require experts who are adept at ‘listening’, who understand the issues, who can monitor what people are saying, identify the trends and influencers, and respond accordingly.

If you believe PR is merely about short-term tactical media publicity, then social media will probably be one giant pain in the arse for you.

While TV, radio, newspapers and magazines remain powerful mediums, growing social media platforms such as Twitter and blogs – which are numerous, disaggregated and grassroots-orientated – are chipping away at traditional media’s influence and authority.

If PR is about two-way communication and now there are scores of new channels through which to communicate, the question is not should you use social media but, can you afford not to?

The independent digital specialists frustration honour roll

How to quickly to get on the wrong side of people who can help you!

There are many brave, bold, wonderful people, who have left the corporate world, to be independent, offering their highly tuned skills, experience and networks to organisations. They are intensively experienced in their individual space and deserve to be recognised for their contribution. Sadly they are often exploited by organisations that gladly take their IP and represent it otherwise. Unfortunately the value of the advice on offer is negated by more established traditional forms, resulting in mistakes being made as our communications ecosystem has changed, which is an ever-growing trend with the emergence of social media.

This article is in support of the many individuals who offer highly valuable services to organisations as individuals and who deserve to be recognised for the exploitation factor they have to endure.

This is the frustration honour roll for all of those wonderful people who are at the heart of the digital industry!

The frustration honour roll

1. Ask these independent specialists to come in and drill them to give their thoughts free of charge (in return for coffee!).

2. Get lots of proposals and thought leadership thoughts, don’t pay and represent these ideas as your own input to company strategy – cut and paste …Yawn!.

3. Pay them the minimum and screw as much work value out of them over and above cos you think you can!

4. Tell these people, that the organisation isn’t quite ready for these ideas after they have given you the route to real commercial value through new spaces, like how to do social media properly, then try and do it yourself with no experience other than your Facebook page.

5. Make them work with some (NOT ALL BEFORE YOU BEAT ME UP!) badly educated agencies that earn buckets loads of more money for executing these ideas badly because they haven’t had the benefit of hindsight from the specialist who gave you the idea in the first place.

6.  Don’t pay on time, what little you do pay

7. Never give credit where it is due. Publically announce at speaker events that these initiatives are your own

From Twitter responses, specific to digital complaints from these worthy people:

8. Prefix every site with The. ie – We want to be on the Twitter and have people rate us on The Digg. @jaredwoods

9. People that leave comments who are only interested in link building. @inspiredworlds

10. Use the word fad in reference to the internet. @joelyrighteous

11. By writing fake comments on peoples blogs! – el stupido behaviour. @neerav

12. They hate it when you get your zeroes and ones mixed up. One sure way to piss them off. @sboiling

13. Overt plagiarism – note this from @neerav

14. Leaving Twitter comment aside for a moment, last but not least: just not recognising the value of individual contribution to a company because it doesn’t come neatly packaged as traditional marketing services but offers better focused value, is a poor excuse for not doing your job properly in today’s evolving marketing climate.

I have had many experiences, over 22 years in business to form an opinion from agency-owner, agency-side, client side and independent. I currently operate through a collaboration with many individual digital specialists and bloggers internationally that has made me realise the fantastic talent available in uncovering the experiential value of the individual.

I listen and learn, many hours a day. I read and re-educate myself as the digital space evolves, to extend my day to many hours during the working week. I know there are many like me, where value is knowledge. But what value is put on that knowledge?

Crumbs from a king’s table and late payment are not worthy of the experience that these many highly knowledgeable individuals have. This is not a whinge, personal or otherwise, knowledge is paramount in this evolutionary period we are all working in. Sharing that knowledge has a real tangible value.

Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, but where the hell is Microsoft?

Markus von der Luehe from AdKnowledge, emailed me the other day and asked who I recommended he interviewed on their use of social media. He wanted to use the content in a presentation he was making. I really wasn’t going to give names in the industry, what was the point? So I sacrificed one evening of my kid’s time, in return for bribes of Tim Tams, to give him their insights.

I did warn him that a 16-year-old and 14-year-old are pretty vocal about likes and dislikes, and as predicted they made their viewpoints very clear!

After leaving Markus for a couple of hours with the teenagers, I am not sure if he thought I was like Madonna and never let my kids watch TV or if actually the truth really hit him. If they do watch TV, they watch it online, only about an hour a week do they sit in front of a box. They spend the rest of their media consumption online. There is no Madonna mummy status from me. In fact I am wondering why we have TVs in all bedrooms, the rumpus, the kitchen and living room. None of us use them anymore.

The teens are using new media at every available opportunity, always on in the background is the web, laptops sitting next to the mobile phone that is sms’ing and iPod plugged in one ear. It is not just an entertainment channel, Generation Y are researching on the net for student assignments, for content that forms their opinion on everything from religion to their music choice. In my day we had to pile through textbooks! The net is just a natural fabric of their society and they do not see the difference between the world of physical reality and the virtual world.

While considering their conversation with Markus, I couldn’t help but realise where the hell is Microsoft in all the play about social media channels? Facebook, Google, MySpace, Twitter, Blogger and so on that dominate the pages written about social channels, yet Gen Y is using a Microsoft platform continually for their online social-ability; they are all over MSN messenger. In our home, messenger is permanently pinging messages to and from these teenagers’ laptops. They evolved the MSN language, they use it more than all forms of social media for ongoing connectivity, so where the hell is Microsoft’s strategy to expand messenger in to a wider social channel like Twitter is? They have a gold mine, a nugget and seems like they don’t get how important this emerging generation of consumers is for them. Worse for Microsoft, the brand of choice, when Markus asked the teen brigade was “Apple”, meaning on a channel they are using weekly up to 20 plus hours there is no brand association with messenger, MSN and/or the Microsoft brand.

Microsoft has lost the battle for Yahoo! you would think they would look at ways of developing their own Twitter style tool on messenger, much like Facebook are endeavouring to do. For me messenger is potentially the most important untapped channel of influence of this emerging influential consumer. In fact just generally you would think Microsoft would be coming up with some pretty cool technologies and tools for the social media experience.

Also to add I have recorded our families search habits in a diary and Google isn’t so hot anymore! We are collectively using over five key sites to get our information… Microsoft Live lose again on this one, I wonder if the Google world domination is ending too and we need to re-wire our thoughts about the future even more? Crikey!