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.


If you type “Google” into Google, you break the internet

Looks like this joke from the IT Crowd kinda came true today when Google flagged the whole internet as badware


Who invited you to the party?

Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry hesitantly introducing Twitter to five million Brits will surely lead to more companies taking the leap into social media.

And no-one will care.

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.


the power of people publishing

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.



Copywriting above its station


Oops! I posted again

A-list evidence of the mainstreaming of social media marketing: Britney Spears’ people are looking for someone to manage her presence on Twitter, Facebook et al

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.


Presidential sweet

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



swap your friends for a burger

Contrary, social media savvy marketing from Burger King. De-friend 10 people on Facebook and get a Whopper



Trent Reznor – marketer of the year

Matt Mason has a great post today noting that Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV was Amazon’s best-selling album of 2008 – despite also being available as a free download.

Sampling has long been a valid marketing tactic, but giving the whole thing away and still expecting to sell it? And it working?? It’s a cracking anecdote and sparks some great talking points:

  • should companies with copyable products (including books, magazines and tv programmes) routinely offer a free option?
  • Is the trick to lure people in with the basic product free, then upsell them to an added-value version?
  • do people prefer to pay for things they value?
  • would this work as well (or better?) for products in less glamorous sectors?
  • Is the success of this promotional tactic repeatable or will it only work while a novelty?

In my mind it shows yet again that successful responses to market disruption are not always obvious or comfortable.

[update] NIN’s latest contrary tactic is to use bit torrent (usually the scourge of the music industry) to distribute acres of HD concert footage for fans to remix. Again – great engagement marketing