About 10 years after the term was coined, are podcasts entering a golden age? Certainly, intelligent content is no longer the preserve of the BBC. 99% Invisible has been impressing for a while, but this season’s mega-hit is Serial – a real-life crime documentary where Twin Peaks meets the Wire. Do try it. Apps are getting better too – Overcast calls out to be trialled with its clever smart speed feature.
Amazon appears to be getting into travel. Skift reports that the retailer-phone-maker-cloud-computing giant has approached hoteliers about listing on Amazon Travel. Does their brand and expertise stretch that far?
Passwords are our private diaries. Memorable and unguessable by necessity, they become a safe haven for our personal in-jokes and unspoken fantasies. The Secret Life of Passwords delves into what they say about us.
App of the week. Remember Draw Something? If you liked the smash hit Pictionary-style drawing/guessing game, then check out Draw Type – it’s a keyboard add-on for iPhone that takes Emojis one stage further by letting you draw cute (or unsavoury) images for sending by SMS or WhatsApp.
I loved the Olympic opening ceremony. For the first time, here was a major event that spoke to me and actually felt like the modern Britain I know and the London I am proud to live in.
This article celebrates what an extraordinary achievement it is for Danny Boyle to get his vision realised (and, to be fair, for it to be allowed to be realised). In these kinds of situations, it’s all too easy for a genuine vision to get blanded out by committee. As Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know what the key to success is, but the key to failure is trying to keep everybody happy”
I’ve written before about how easy it is to kill good ideas and this thought rang all too true to me:
Smart people can kill a terrific but vulnerable idea faster than anyone, because they have the analytical ability to create a firing line of objections to anything new and hence dangerous.
Are you thinking hard enough about what you really provide to them – rationally and emotionally?
Is it really only news you sell, or is it reassurance? Or a signal for other people of your status? Is your magazine selling entertainment – or is it a way to pass the time? Or feel connected? Or feel good about yourself?
How can you take these underlying values and translate them into other product forms (guide books, insurance services etc)
I’ve previously written about my view that people will pay for content if you make it easy. But if they won’t pay for your brand, you really are in trouble
Quite rightly, forward-thinking brands are connecting with their audiences via facebook fan pages. It’s a readymade network of peer groups and allows saliency and reputation to be built. It’s a social database that can be accessed for commercial means – to announce a promotion, drive traffic to a site or augment another brand experience.
ITV’s X-Factor are doing this especially well. By crafting provocative, open-ended questions and posting them while the programme is on air, they are tapping into increasingly popular TV+laptop behaviour and creating real-time water cooler moments. I saw one thread about the twins have over 10,000 comments in it. That sort of engagement has never been possible until now.
Unlike email newsletters, publishing content onto fan pages can and should be done quite regularly – certainly at least once a day.
And this is where brands need to spot the danger. All new media bring new communication opportunities. You can speak to your fan base whenever you like. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Just as no-one wants to receive too many (any?) emails from you, over-communicating on facebook risks flipping the consumer’s mindset from “I love your brand!” to “hmmm… stop talking all the time. You are so needy.”
LinkedIn appears to have cornered the professional social network market with admirably clear positioning and a genuinely useful site. But I believe they could do even better:
1. Become the CV/resume platform The design of public profile pages are too dry. Couldn’t the layouts have customisable themes to suit personalities and professions? They need to let people better express their portfolios and achievements. LinkedIn have the opportunity to become people’s CV/resume on the web and should take it.
2. Make conversations easier Conversation and connection is at the heart of their brand. Group functionailty and social graph integration could be much richer. LinkedIn could be a service people encounter daily.
How about providing free online spaces for people to brainstorm topics or generate feedback on pitches and product ideas?
3. Get more people to go Pro LinkedIn offer three account upgrade options, ranging from $24.95 to $499.95 per month. I’m sure that’s good value for some professional recruiters, but isn’t there an opportunity for Pro-style badges for the mass market? Done right, people would feel a professional obligation to have a Pro account – it’d be like putting on a good suit for an interview. Flickr seem to have this right at $24.95 per year.
4. Enable real-world networking Every day all over the world, people attend conferences hoping to make new connections. How could LinkedIn add value? Could they provide dynamic pages on your upcoming events showing who else in your network/target is going to be there too? Could they be more proactive on Twitter, using hashtags to partake in conversations around hot events and topics. Might they even run/sponsor networking sessions at the bigger conferences?
5. Own the advice space
LinkedIn could be the platform for professional advice. Sites like Horses Mouth are getting traction in the mentoring space, but LinkedIn have the scale to take a huge share in this. Most successful business people would be flattered to share their experiences if it was made easy.
Businesses are all getting to grips with the sensitive and tricky task of dealing with the wonderful world of bloggers. Most companies are extremely careful to be respectful of this emerging news channel.
“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.
“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.”
While this will doubtless cause much shocked Twittering, you have to admire Ryanair’s clear, if blunt, stance. It’s absolutely in line with their no-frills, low-cost positioning.
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.
Simply ‘being on facebook’, ‘having a blog’ or ‘getting a Twitter account’ won’t make your brand cool. In fact, get it wrong and it’ll be brand negative – like your dad dancing. Wearing a baseball cap. On backwards.
This is not because new media is a voodoo understood only by the geekorati. Far from it. As always, it’s about applying brand basics to new opportunties.
1. Own the category
Good brands know all about laying claim to the broader territory they operate in. It shows confidence, assumes leadership and educates consumers and customers alike.
Let’s say you sell coffee. Don’t make your blog just about your product activity. That might be fascinating to your colleagues, but not to the rest of us. Broaden your thinking and write about great coffee generally. About the bean growing process, about the best home espresso makers, about the Sunday papers and capuccino moment.
2. Know your brand
You know that old exercise about “if this brand were a car, what would it be” or “if it were a film”? Well, you’re going to need to know the answer to these questions. Knowing your brand’s tone of voice and view on the world is essential if you’re going to convincingly take part in online conversations. Southwest Airlines and Dell are getting it right.
3. Be where your customers are
It’s good to have a forum on your website and engage with people. But it’s better to be elsewhere too. You should come across as passionate and really taking part in the community. Practically, this means taking part in conversations wherever they happen, not just on your doorstep.
Get involved in whichever forums your customers use, no matter who runs them. But that does mean genuinely making a contribution, not just talking up your products. It’s the difference between being a gatecrasher and taking beer to the party.
I sometimes hesitate to bang on about how revolutionary Twitter is as a communications platform. It’s almost becoming a cliche, and lauding 140 characters of plain text can come across as an overclaim.
But when you see how the medium excels with breaking news stories like this (and thankfully, early reports are that everyone got off the plane safely), the potency of immediate sharing by anyone with a mobile – including pictures – becomes clear.
In the 7 minutes it’s taken me to write this post, over 2,100 people have posted tweets incorporating the word plane.
This is no gimmick – it’s the right way to manage her reputation through engaging with fans where and how they spend their time. It also allows her to side-step media spin and position herself exactly as she wishes.
More traditional products and services must wake up to the opportunity and threat here – their brands are already being talked about on the net – they’re just not involved in the conversation.
With the best product pun since Salt ‘n’ Lineker, Ben & Jerry’s have scored some great pre-inauguration PR by renaming their Butter Pecan line to Yes Pecan – highly talkable and bang in line with the brand’s witty, socially progressive positioning