Hashmemes – catch one if you can

As Twitter is invaded by the masses and loses its cool, experienced users are parading their know-how by littering tweets with increasingly arcane codes: RT for re-tweet of course, L: for location and # for hash-tagging a post with a topical or popular word – #iphone or #lost for example.

Some of this is the simple fun of working within short sentences – the Twitter equivalent of OMG! txt spk – but I think hashtags mean something more.

Hashtags allow people to join a virtual club easily and temporarily. And to leave it just as quickly. People can just dive into a conversation, make a pithy observation about the #brits and dive right out again. No need to subscribe to an email list, no forms to fill in, no facebook group to join. It can be a no-complications, one-tweet stand.

They are perfectly suited for an world where attention is ever-more scarce and people are wary of sharing personal data. But they’re also wonderful fun – the ideas flitting in and out of existence in perfect harmony with their true value and popularity.

They’re hashmemes if you like.

Right now #oscars is in vogue but once the red carpet is rolled back up, it’ll disappear as a living idea until the next time enough of us shine a torch on it.

Hashtags.org allows anyone to see what’s hot at any moment, and even includes graphs describing most hashmemes’ beautifully short lifespans.

Marketers have to work pretty hard to jump on such fast-moving bandwagons. Indeed the only way to do it is to keep running. Only if you’re already up to speed with the conversation can you expect your brand to contribute something useful and credible.

Driven to distraction

Is there nowhere the Top Gear brand can’t go?
Full marks for lateral opportunism and carrying through their trademark irreverent wit

Keep it real. Really.

In a previous post, I discussed how switched-on stars are using social media to side-step unwanted spin.

Today, TheNextWeb have a revealing story showing actor Ashton Kutcher to be even more cutting edge: he used live streaming mobile service Qik to record the baiting of paparazzi as he and his wife Demi Moore arrived at an airport.

As well as being a sobering insight into the flipside of celeb life, the skirmish shows how the balance of power is shifting between brands, media and consumers. By presenting footage openly to fans, Ashton and Demi make it harder for anyone to misprepresent them. Smart.

This matters to regular products too, especially those in ‘controversial’ categories such as oil, fast food or where marketing to children is concerned. In these cases, ensuring your side of the story gets across untainted is vital.

But mainstream brands often struggle with social channels and many simply opt out. Conversations about them still happen, pictures still get posted and opinions still get formed – it’s just that they’re not involved.

It needn’t be difficult. If you’re transparent, conversational and, most of all authentic with your use of new media, you stand a much better chance of being heard.

Sometimes, competition sucks

When the 800lb gorilla in your market brings out a product close to yours, it’s gonna hurt. Especially when theirs is free.

Which is why I admire Spanning Sync. They’re a funky software outfit who’ve been quietly sync’ing up Apple and Google Calendars for a small fee for some time. Suddenly, things have got a bit noisier with Google announcing a service that brushes ominously past their territory.

Spanning Sync could have been forgiven a few reflective days to chew over their response, but instead had their blog post up in a flash. They were “very excited about” the news and happily linked through to Google’s page.

This is a really smart move. How many traditional companies would ever even mention the name of competing products outside of closed boardrooms? To actively tell your closest customers about them is certainly contrary – and absolutely the right thing to do.

1. Control the agenda
Geek news travels reallllly fast. By competing to bring this information to their customers before they heard it elsewhere, Spanning Sync gained the chance to influence the positioning.

2. Champion the category
By welcoming Google’s product, Spanning Sync looked magnamimous, confident and like fellow fans of the sector.

3. Point out your edge
Spanning Sync were sure to convincingly point out the differences and benefits of their offering – without coming across as churlish.

4. Be prepared
The speed of Spanning Sync’s blog posting indicates that they were ready for this day. Having thought-through tactics for market eventualities is smart. At Guinness in the 90s we developed shadow brand plans to game what competitors might do.

snow business

As Britain gets giddy with it’s once-a-decade proper snowfall, it’s nice to see enterprising brands having fun and creating free marketing.

Here’s a snow sofa (or ‘snofa’) created by mydeco in Hyde Park.

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And Innocent Drinks are joining in the spirit by publicising a Twitter snowball fight
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