Complete a survey on corporate social media challenges

I’m working on a report for my new consultancy, Sociagility, on the internal and external challenges organisations are facing from social media. It looks at how organisations of different sizes and in different sectors and geographies think they are doing against different challenges, and how important these are.

You can contribute to the research by taking this survey. At the end, you can request to see your own report, benchmarking your organisation against others, and can sign up to have the report emailed to you when it goes live.

At the heart of this research is understanding the importance that organisations place on key contributors towards becoming ‘socially advanced’, and how well different types of companies and markets are performing against these. We feel that it’s critical for anyone responsible for social media initiatives in their organisation to know that they are doing the most important things well, but equally there is little point spending time on effort on things that aren’t important, as this could be better directed elsewhere.

This is where we need your help. In order to survey and benchmark the importance and performance of socially advanced organisations, we need to know how and what you think. We are interested in all different points of view, but especially want to hear from corporate social strategists and senior marketing and communications executives in medium to large companies across the globe.

To get you in the mood, here are some early findings so far (and here’s a bit more of the detail):

  • The biggest gap between importance and performance is in the area of metrics and return of investment.
  • Internal issues rank highly – many organisations rate their own social media policies low on the scale, even though most think they are one of the most important elements of becoming socially advanced.
  • Being true to the brand is becoming an increasingly important characteristic – although many organisations don’t think they are achieving it.

Take the survey here – it consist of just 5 questions that should take no more than 10-15 minutes.

And please spread the word too. We’d like as broad a participation as possible across different organisation sizes, sectors and geographies in order for it to be relevant and valuable to as many of you as possible.

Thanks in advance.

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Quora: What marketers need to know

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new kid on the social software (I’m loathed to call it ‘media’) block. Quora is, in essence, a social network based upon questions and answers. It’s amassing a huge following and the Twitterati in particular simply cannot pass off another opportunity to show the world how clever they are by taking part.

I resisted the lure until yesterday when I finally signed up, and I have to say that it is strangely addictive. By the time you’ve answered a question, followed a topic or two and automatically followed everyone that you’re already following on Twitter, you may as well write off the rest of your day and spend some time understanding how it works.

If you don’t have a day to spare, then here’s a quick guide to what I think Quora means to marketers:

  1. Thought leadership – what better way to demonstrate your firm’s expertise than by answering questions on the topics you want to be associated with? Search for and follow the topics that match your thought leadership strategy and start answering some questions.
  2. Market research – if you care what the digerati think, then Quora could be a great way to find out. I haven’t done a scientific experiment (yet), but I’m pretty confident that you’ll get more, better quality answers than if you asked your Twitter followers. Ask a question and see what answers you get.
  3. Influencer marketing Quora could be the answer to the elusive influence question. Each topic has ‘Top Answerers’ and the algorithm for calculating these doesn’t seem to be based just on the number of answers. Track the top answerers for topics relevant to your brand and follow them.
  4. Reputation management – As with other platforms, chances are that people may be asking or answering questions about your brand or products. Chances also are that they may be spreading misinformation by answering incorrectly. Quora allows you to suggest edits to others’ answers as well as answer yourself. Search for questions and answers mentioning your brand and contribute where you can. If your brand is well known enough to have its own topic, then follow it then update your preferences to get notified by email when a new question or answer is created.

If you are going to engage with Quora, then remember the basic rules of community management:

  1. Be honest about who you are Quora allows you to add short bios to demonstrate your interest in a topic/question – keep them short and to the point
  2. It’s about marketing, not sales By asking and answering questions intelligently you will gain credibility that might turn into sales. Trying to flog your products or services in response to a relevant question will get voted down.
  3. Respect others’ opinions Contribute and extend the range of response rather than pick fights with others who have answered in good faith.

If you have other advice for marketers interested in how to use Quora, then follow and respond to my questions on Quora itself:

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Hello boys… I’m back!

Right. So I’ve been a bit lax here as of late vis-a-vis writing stuff. I could give you a hundred different excuses, but what’s the point. The fact is that sometimes you have stuff to say and sometimes you don’t. C’est la vie.

It just so happens that I’ve spent more time watching and listening to others these last few months than I have talking. I’d recommend it to you all. A little less conversation is sometimes a good thing.

So, refreshed and refocused, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and start contributing again.

But before you go thinking I don’t know one end of the keyboard from the other, let’s have a chat about the 40,000+ I’ve already written of my next book, working title: The business marketer’s guide to social media (please, someone, suggest something cleverer and catchier than that).

B2B marketers have always had the short end of the stick. Complex products, long sales cycles and multiple buyers conspire to make their jobs much more difficult than that of their mass-market consumer-focused brethren. The same is true for social media too: if I asked you for the most memorable social media marketing you’ve seen recently, I bet that nine times out of ten it would be a consumer campaign.

Does this mean that B2B marketers just don’t know how to put together a memorable social media campaign, or that they’re more focused on making it work in real business terms than making the headlines?

I stopped writing a few months ago now, but I’m nowhere near finished. I needed to take some time to think and observe, to ask myself what business marketers really need from social media – and how my book could help. I’m not sure I know just yet, but I’m hoping that my return to blogging might help me engage in a discussion with social media strategists in B2B organisations and, ultimately, in finding the answers.

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Social media, big agencies, blah, blah

We’re off again. Yet more articles in yet more so-called industry publications bashing the “agencies don’t get social media” stick. This particular one got my goat because it’s by someone I respected.

A few thoughts in response (I didn’t comment on the article because I refuse to register on a site just to provide an opinion – easier and quicker for me to do it here).

I have news for everyone. The “Slide 29 Syndrome” isn’t specific to digital communications nor to social media. In fact, the smart agencies have learnt from the first wave of the Internet and implemented things designed specifically to avoid this shortsightedness. As a result:

  1. It wouldn’t be an account exec making the call. Any agency who puts an important RFP response in the hands of an account exec probably isn’t taking that opportunity particularly seriously.
  2. Whoever heads the digital specialist group would already know about the RFP because they are members of the senior management team.
  3. Even if this particular scenario was true, the whole pitch team would be brought to book by the CEO for not identifying the relevant skills required earlier in the process and collaborating to deliver the best response to the client.
  4. It’s nothing to do with billing hours. This is a new business opportunity, so utilisation doesn’t even come into it.
  5. Most importantly, as another commenter pointed out, most of the time social media isn’t the answer to the problem – or even part of the answer.

Rather than continually trying to make out that individual consultants, small boutiques, independent agencies, large consultancies are somehow better than each other, I suggest we all just get on with the job of delivering the best results for clients desperate to understand how to achieve their marketing objectives using a strategy that combines the most appropriate mix of techniques and tools.

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What is influence anyway?

I’m currently involved in a project to support Hill & Knowlton’s sponsorship of the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference next month, which involves analysing the different media, influencers and topics driving the conversation.

One of the things we are doing is measuring the most prominent tweeters (the COP15 Twitterati – latest table here and Twitter list here). We’re doing this purely by volume of tweets mentioning specific keywords (translated into about eight languages), so there’s no magic pixie dust until we get to the job of semantic analysis to extract the people and topics being referenced.

However, I thought it might also be interesting to look at the correlation between the volume of tweets from our top 15 and their respective influence, as measured by Edelman’s TweetLevel methodology. The scatter plot appears below (click for the readable version), but in summary:

  • There’s a positive correlation between volume and influence at 0.33, albeit a weak one
  • The r2 value is 0.11, suggesting that around 11% of influence is attributable to volume

Correlation between Tweet volume and influence

I intend to explore this further. I’ve long thought that online influence measures are fairly ropey, and it would be interesting to see exactly how much volume really is the only useful measure. We keep banging on about quality being more important than quantity online, but is that really so?

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FTC Guides on Endorsements and Testimonials: What it means in practice

On 1 December 2009 new guidelines (Guides) from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising come into force in the United States.

The most significant development in this revision is the inclusion of social or consumer-generated media as a form of endorsement. Whilst there is much in the full 81-page Guides (PDF link) that brand owners should review, the following actions are the most pressing when considering any campaign.

  • Review the full Guides available at
  • Review existing and planned endorsements in light of the Guides
  • Ensure that marketing staff and agencies are aware of the Guides and their implications
  • Monitor the activities of consumers who participate in social media marketing campaigns
  • Put in place specific social media guidelines for employees to advise them of their disclosure obligations when participating in online discussion (Hill & Knowlton’s are available here as a model).

Perhaps one of the most frequently missed points is that the FTC Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act. They are not themselves binding in law. Worth remembering.

A full briefing note on the topic is available on the Hill & Knowlton Scribd channel.

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Announcing Hill & Knowlton’s New Social Media Principles

Almost a month ago, I asked for help to update Hill & Knowlton’s social media principles.

This afternoon, our CEO sent out the final version to all staff worldwide. We’ve already updated our public principles on our website, but I also wanted to share the full document here and explain a little about the process we’ve been through, what we’ve changed and why.


Our principles are split into three sections: personal use of social media; professional use of social media on behalf of our company and clients; and use of our official social media platforms. You might say this separation isn’t necessary, but we have found that not all of our staff operate in all these spaces so we want to make sure they can quickly identify the bits that are relevant to them.

You might also say that this makes them too long, and the only guideline should actually be “use your common sense”. That is undoubtedly a valid approach but if we are talking about being accountable to ourselves, our clients and the social media community, that simply doesn’t wash.

Our principles are centered around encouraging staff to participate appropriately not restricting their ability to do so. As communications professionals, it is essential that we are able to explore, understand and participate in social media in order to credibly advise our clients how to do the same.

A few other things worthy of note:

  • We have a 24/7 email hotline – as well as our extensive digital practice – where staff can ask questions about what is/isn’t appropriate. Again this is designed to help, not hinder.
  • We have defined a complaints procedure designed to be fair to everyone. Too often, we see knee-jerk reactions that don’t look at the issue objectively.
  • Unlike version one, this time we have asked all staff to click a link in order to confirm that they have read and understand the principles.

The Process

For those of you trying to conduct a similar exercise in your own organization (or with clients), you might be interested in how we did it. If not, skip to the next section. Bear in mind that this was an update to existing guidelines not creation from scratch.

  1. We put the existing guidelines on our internal wiki platform and invited everyone to edit or comment on the different sections.
  2. Someone took all the feedback and created an updated version of the guidelines
  3. This was circulated as a draft to that community, socialized with senior management for comment and shared externally on this blog
  4. Final feedback was incorporated (mainly clarifications) before being signed off by the CEO, COO, CMO and digital practice head.

The Principles

Links to the text of each section of the principles can be found below.

Please feel free to use, copy or adapt these principles as part of your own social media policies. It would be nice if you could let us know if they’ve been helpful too.

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Help us write our social media guidelines

In May 2005, Hill & Knowlton wrote and then published our first personal blogging guidelines. Two years ago, as we started to give our clients more and more social media marketing advice, we updated these to create a wider set of social media principles.

Now it’s time to update these again. We’ve consulted widely internally, and would now like to hear what the people we might encounter online whilst representing our clients think.

So we’ve published the current version of our internal draft. You can review it below or on Scribd.

Please leave a comment here or on Scribd and let us know what you think, what works and what doesn’t, and what your experiences of PR and marketing agencies participating in social media have been.

We’ll review all the comments and the end of the week and update as necessary, before adopting internally and publishing the final version here.

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Social media influence cannot be measured

A few different projects have got my mind focused on influence this week. The first is planning the research design for the centrepiece of my book on social media in B2B (can we measure the influence that social media platforms have on the different staging of the B2B buying cycle?). The second is connected with our cooperation next month with Twitter at the Cannes Lions.

In both contexts I am reaching the conclusion that influence cannot be measured, and thus is a futile metric for exploration. Sure, you can ask people how much influence something has or has had, but do they really know? And what is influence anyway? In my mind it is a power that makes someone do something, not a property that any individual possesses. Invariably when an individual does have influence, it is only over a specific thing. Even the most influential people in the world (politicians, one could argue) have no influence over whether I will buy a Sony or a Panasonic television this weekend.

In a public environment, you might (just) be able to attempt to measure influence by looking at people’s networks, the re-communication of their utterances, but to me this is just reach. Someone who says something that reaches 100,000 people is no more influential than someone who reaches just 100, if all of the latter act on that communication but none of the former do.

In short, influence needs to be measured in context and at the receiving end not the transmitting end. That is not something you can do by looking at their blog posts, tweets or Facebook profile.

So do we continue to try and measure things that cannot be measured, or do we measure things that can be measured and can give us as marketers comparisons that we understand.

I think it’s the latter.

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Calling all business marketers

Not content with burning myself out last Christmas finishing my first book, Enterprise 2.0, I have just signed a contract to write my second. And this time on an even shorter timescale!

For this next title, I’ll be focusing on consumer marketing’s ugly step-child, business-to-business marketing – and specifically the application of social media principles to what has in many cases becoming a rather formulaic aspect of the communications mix. Yet when you consider that roughly one-third of searches on Google are business-to-business in nature and more than 50% of Google’s and 39% of Yahoo’s advertisers are business-to-business companies, then the importance of the Internet in the purchasing cycle cannot be overstated.

It follows then that it is no longer an option for business-to-business marketers to dismiss social media as a consumer craze, and my aim with this book is to raise the profile of successful business-to-business use of social media and help companies discover, select, integrate, exploit and measure these techniques as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

Wish me luck! And if you have any great stories of business-to-business social media marketing you would like to share, please feel free to comment.

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