Friends Reunited, the popular site based upon the Classmates concept, is now free. From today the UK's first major social networking website has dropped it's subscription fees to increase it's audience.
This is important because Friends Reunited is one of the few social networking websites created with a business model in mind. Friends Reunited was launched in 2000 and purchased by ITV for £120m in 2005. Since then it's been overtaken by the free and more modern social networking websites of Facebook, Bebo and MySpace.
These websites are easier, with better customisation, and rely upon advertising for income. Though we know this doesn't always work too well.
So what does Friends Reunited dropping their subscription fees really mean? Not much. I'm going to make a prediction that we probably wont see another major social networking site competing with the likes of MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. Instead we will see more niche interest networks, and the gradual convergence of all social networks as we see greater social network portability.
Most of the best bloggers are really just the best online community managers. They've used their blogs to be the beacon, or one of several beacons, of a bigger online community. ProBlogger does this brilliantly. Because of their success, companies believe they need to hire bloggers. They need good bloggers, maybe former journalists? They can write well. Maybe technical or design geniuses? They can create the best looking blogs on the internet.
The truth is something much more basic, it's empathy. Or the ability to see hrough the eyes of their peers. That's a darned-hard skill to quantify. You can't point a potential client to a blog widget and shout “you see, they're empathy is bigger and placed higher up the page than ours!”. Great blogs have almost nothing to do with SEO, design or the technical stuff and almost everything to do with giving an audience what they want. The SEO, design and the general buzz are by-products of writing for the audience.
So this is where it gets really tricky. Companies see a brilliant blog with lots of comments and racking up the sells. Then you hear the dreaded request: “we want that, but better”. But the blog is a single medium. In some cases it might be entirely unnecessary. Sometimes a forum works just fine, sometimes just churning out a white paper to the fifty members of a facebook group is brilliant. Maybe something as cost-effective as a twitter-stream is what a community of busy retail buyers want.
This blog is changing a little. It's going to be about community management. I've done a little soul-searching and decided that's where I see my career (and most of yours too) heading.
And since they don't teach it at Uni, i've got less competition.
I got my University results back today.
I got a First (78.5% avg.) Degree. Which i'm really pleased about.
I'm less pleased about my University.
My biggest complaint is too few lecturers made any effort to discuss how the subject is changing, What are the major influences? What are the opportunities in the future? What do we need to learn now to be employable when we graduate?
And why would they? There aren't any textbooks explaining the future. So this is where lecturers have to add value to the reading. This also leads into my second biggest complaint; using the same slides and readings every year. Many of the assignments were only slightly different from the previous year, and some module guides/lecture slides were dated as far back as 2001.
When you pay £12,000 in tuition fees, you simply expect more.
So now i'm taking the scary, and rather thrilling, self-employment route. Over the past two months i've found myself specialising in using new and old tools to build online communities for companies. It's going to mean a change of direction of this blog. Thanks for reading.
How many Account Executives can raise their hand up and say, honestly, "my job can’t be outsourced"?
I’ve been busy moving house recently, in my quest to get the internet installed i’ve spoken to several Indian call centre staff. They’ve been extremely good, far more pleasant and helpful than the world weary folk at BT. Even the more technically tricky stuff (Mac Codes and installation problems) they’ve proved capable and adept.
So why can’t PR agencies outsource much of the daily account executive work to India?
Looking through my first PR job description I can’t see too many roles there which demanded my physical presence.
What can be outsourced?
- Media monitoring
- Distributing press releases
- Working with clients on press release amendments
- Researching key journalists and previous articles
- Pitching and follow up calls?
What can’t be outsourced?
- Generating PR ideas/newsworthy story angles
- Meeting with clients
- Pitching for new business
- Arranging press days
What value do you bring to your job that can’t be outsourced?
Telegraph Headline: OGC unveils new logo to red faces
The Daily Mail: New £14,000 logo causes blushes in Treasury office
Telegraph: It cost £14,000 to create, but clearly no-one at the smart London
design outfit that came up with the new logo for HM Treasury thought to
turn it on its side. The logo, for the Office of Government Commerce, was intended to
signify a bold commitment to the body’s aim of “improving value for
money by driving up standards and capability in procurement”.
Daily Mail: When the Office of Government Commerce decided to embark on a fresh new
image, signifying their commitment to their aim of "improving value for
money by driving up standards", little did they realise the impact it
Verdict: Great journalists think alike.
Telegraph: According to insiders, the graphic was already proudly etched on mousemats and pens before it was unveiled for employees, who spotted the clanger within seconds. Staff have apparently now stripped their office of souvenirs bearing the logo, which could appear on eBay within days.
Daily Mail: Sharp-eyed employees quickly noticed the glaring error, but unfortunately for bosses the graphic had already been reproduced widely on office stationary. There are now fears that items with the embarrassing logo could appear on eBay despite the valiant efforts of staff members to frantically remove all trace of the design from their offices.
Verdict: At least one of the two made the half-arsed effort to restructure the story slightly. Still very similar paragraphs.
Telegraph: A spokesman for OGC said: “It is true that it caused a few titters among some staff when viewed on its side, but on consideration we concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters OGC – and it is not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on Government spend."
Daily Mail: A spokesman for the OGC said: "It is true that it caused a few laughs when viewed on its side. On final consideration we concluded the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters OGC and is therefore not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on Government spend."
Verdict: The spokesman said the same thing to both newspapers, nothing strange there.
Telegraph: The OGC was created in the early days of the Blair Government when the premier brought in Peter Gershon from GEC Marconi to improve spending efficiency. .
Daily Mail: The OGC was created when then Prime Minister Tony Blair brought in Peter Gershon from GEC Marconi to improve spending efficiency.
Verdict: You know, I think this might’ve been lifted from a press release too…
Telegraph: Brand expert Michael Hamilton said while the logo’s double-entendre was probably not deliberate, it could prove an added bonus for OGC. “They’re going to get more column inches than they could ever have expected before. If I were them, I would be pretty pleased.”
Daily Mail: Brand expert Michael Hamilton said that the logo could eventually prove to be a success, despite the mistake. He said: "They’re going to get more column inches than they could ever have expected before. "If I were them, I would be pretty pleased."
Verdict: They both found a brand expert in time to quote for the story too, what luck!
I’m angry because journalists aren’t doing their jobs. Both The Telegraph and the Daily Mail knew the OGC were creating this fake story to generate awareness, and both were happily complicit. That’s lazy and it demeans the work of the PRs. So now we have to resort to masturbation-esque logos to generate a story? What’s next? What about the poor PRs who have dignity?
Two divergent themes emerged about podcasting this week. Neville Hobson noted the cancellation of two podcasting conferences. Neville wondered if businesses had lost interest in podcasting, and whether this was specific to the UK? A few comments suggested that perhaps every business that was interested in podcasting, now knew how to do it.
Meanwhile, eMarketer reported podcasting is thriving with a 68% the recall rate compared with 10% on television. eMarketer predicts podcasting ad spend to hit $240m this year and $435m by 2012 – which is still rather paltry by the $5bn expected to be spent on Social Media in 2012.
So what’s really going on?
No-one seems to know. There is no reliable source of podcasting statistics. eMarketer’s latest report puts the total podcasting audience (people who have ever downloaded a podcast) at 25m, and the number of active podcasting audience (people who download a podcast once a week) at 7.5m. Yet this is based upon samples of the population rather than measured statistics.
How many podcasts are there? This is anyone’s guess. Steve Jobs claimed there were 125,000 podcasts available through iTunes. How many aren’t available through iTunes? No-one seems to know.
Podcasting has higher barriers than other elements of social media. You need a great voice, a healthy dose of charisma, some tech skills, the equipment and the perseverance to reach an audience. Likewise, podcasting isn’t as easy to consume as blogs or videos. You need to know how to download it and subscribe to it.
Perhaps the biggest problem is finding podcasts. It’s easy to stumble upon a blog post through a Google search, or a video in YouTube. It’s a lot more difficult to find podcasts. Podcasts need to be found.
If we can conclude anything, it’s that podcasting is a very niche activity which might never hit the mainstream like blogs or online videos. However, those who can find the niches can reap benefits either from greater awareness in their company, or from premium advertising rates.
How good are you at PR? Can you get customers to wear your clients’ t-shirts?
That’s the ultimate brand test isn’t it? Making a brand so universally popular that customers choose to wear their t-shirts in public (niche Firefox conventions don’t count). I can’t think of many brands that manage it.
What’s really fascinating is none of the UK’s top 10 brands would pass the t-shirt test. You wouldn’t wear a Vodafone t-shirt would you?
So, what would make you wear a brand’s t-shirt, and how can we use that for PR? How can we make a brand so damned cool that we would wear their t-shirts in public? I don’t know, but it’s definitely worth finding out.
The t-shirt test is a great PR objective. It’s lofty, somewhat measurable (orders of t-shirts) and clearly reflects the popularity of a brand better than any research ever could.
McDonalds and Burger King both announced interesting initiatives this week. Burger King launched the £85 burger and McDonalds hired Bruce Oldfield (designer for Princess Diana, among others) to design new, more fashionable, store uniforms.
Both are going for the premium market.
Judging from the last few months, McDonalds are going to win. Redesigning stores for a better look, giving staff better uniforms and even an education – these are sustainable tactics to reaching the premium market.
Introducing a £85 burger is just a little insulting to Burger King’s customers: “here’s a burger you can’t afford, but don’t worry, because you can afford our premium *wink wink* range of burgers which aren’t quite as good".
Mass-mailing journalists is what scared agencies do. They’re scared the story isn’t good enough for their key publications that matter. So they mass-mail in the hope of getting lucky. Getting lucky? Yes, getting lucky. Catching a reporter at the moment they need a story to fill space. Or catching a magazine the exact time they happen to be covering that topic.
Getting lucky happens. It’s probably best not to rely on it though.
The better agencies put together a list of 5 to 10 key publications for each client and work their approach to score hits in these publications. It might be taking the journalist out for a coffee or creating a video on a topic the journalist regularly covers.
It might be reversing the process entirely and advising the client how to do things that gets the hits in these publications. Maybe it’s even grassroots and targeting the readers of the publication first. Let the journalists hear about the story from their own readers.
There are a gazillion approaches an agency can use to gain publicity for their clients. Mass-mailing journalists is one of the worst. Try something new and fun, because PR should be fun.
Social Profile, an apps package for Facebook, has just e-mailed me a list of people who live within 10 miles. Along with what people think about them.
Highlights include :
"Trusted by 1.4 people in 5" and "loaded with cash" – (what’s his address again?)
‘People you might know’ is popular on Facebook and LinkedIn right now, but there is a major difference between people I might know through common acquaintances and people who live locally. More importantly, giving me the opinions of others on my neighbours (figuratively) is a major invasion of their privacy (and likely mine too).
The bottom of the e-mail notes there are 7796 more profiles I can choose to explore. I’m guessing that’s everyone on Facebook within 10 miles.
I hate Tweets from people who are travelling. Really, why does that interest me? Your plane is delayed? Train is late? Lady is snoring next to you? I really don’t care…but the transport companies should.
Perhaps more than any other medium right now, people are criticising transport companies on Twitter. Almost none stop. I wonder how hard it would be to get two people from customer complaints to monitor Twitter mentions and begin responding to these complaints? Make the situation right. Someone’s train is late? Comp their journey. They will mention it to hundreds maybe thousands of followers.
Even better, monitor your competitors. Do you see a disgruntled customer? Invite them to trial your service for free just one time. I’d bet my house that it would get mentioned on their Twitter stream
Simple, maybe. Effective, Probably.
The SEO battlefield has shifted a little bit.
Now a single great picture or video can get you onto the first page of search results. This isn’t new information; it’s been around for almost a year.
What’s amazing is very few agencies seem to be doing anything about it.
The same agencies that would be horrified not to appear on the first page of search results for their key terms, aren’t trying to produce any videos or pictures. The same agencies which gingerly push out written content to rank highly aren’t even trying to explore the real power of Universal Search.
We’re in the content business, and this alternative content is now more important than ever.