This. Is. Powerful. Stuff.

When Labour MP Kerry McCarthy was named Labour’s ‘Twitter Tsar’ back in August last year, several commentators rightly predicted that this year would see the UK’s very first ‘Social Media’ election.

Indeed, we now have a glut of MPs and parliamentary candidates tweeting about their campaign trail; the electorate can ‘like’ or become a fan of a political party on Facebook; the Liberal Democrats released an iPhone app to coincide with their manifesto launch – Social Media really has become the playground in which we, the general public, are being wooed.

But whilst this spate of activity highlights the possibilities of branding, marketing and mass communication, it has been another element of the forthcoming election that has really highlighted the incredible importance of Social Media as a real-time communications platform – the much-publicised Leaders’ Debates.

In similar vein to BBC Question Time (Twitter users regular tweet their opinions on the show as it is aired using the hashtag #BBCqt), the Leaders’ Debates have drawn a staggering amount of real-time comment, debate and interaction, using the hashtag ‘#leadersdebate’. Similar communities of people do exactly the same for Match of the Day, Doctor Who – the list really is limitless. But the Leaders’ Debates have drawn such a level of engagement that really is difficult to ignore.

People are once again engaging with politics in the UK – this fact is impossible to deny. There has been a huge surge in people registering to vote, which although most likely fuelled by a desire for change, once again shows how involving this election campaign is turning out to be.

But what this Social Media interaction really shows is how online channels such as Twitter really are providing people a ‘voice’ like never before. Although in no way comparable to the liberating role Twitter played during the Iran election protests, the huge interest in this election is highlighted by the fact that people are using Social Media to talk about it – and Social Media affords everyone a voice – one of the most fundamental principles of democracy.

As a marketer, I don’t need to be told of the possibilities that Social Media holds for brands and businesses. But in our rush to create dynamic, commercially viable SM campaigns that deliver lashings of ROI, perhaps we should start every campaign looking at the core element highlighted by the Leaders’ Debates.

Social Media is a communications tool – where the user has the power.

As Social Media marketers, we do not dictate the conversation and no longer direct a one-way flow of communication. The consumer audience now has power like never before – they have a voice – and it is our job to ensure our voice is part of their conversations.

Current. Concise. Creative.

A picture tells a thousand words. Quite simply, this is a supreme example of advertising. Hats off to The Guardian; great marketing.

Connecting HR – The Tweet Smell of Success…

Aside from several lesions to my shoulder courtesy of lugging stands and promo materials halfway across London through rush-hour (thanks @garelaos!), there’s plenty that I took away from last night’s inaugural ‘Connecting HR’ event.

The Square Pig in Holborn played host to a noisy cacophony of HR and social media enthusiasts, all casting avatars aside and emerging in the flesh (they live!) to network and solidify relationships that until now, have been nurtured online. Hats certainly need to be doffed in the direction of Jon Ingham and Gareth Jones, organisers of the event, as well as sponsors Courtenay HR, who put on a terrific evening.

From various conversations, I’m sure that the Twitterverse and Blogosphere will both be saturated with talk from last night, all of which I look forward to reading immensely. But for meantime, here are a few of my thoughts on the event.

First off, I’m not an HR professional, which is somewhat ironic considering the theme of the event! Nevertheless, I attended in a social media / marketing capacity, which is how I support the Courtenay HR brand and wider Stopgap Group and earn my crust. Nevertheless, after three hours chewing the fat (and consuming various imported beers!), I came away from the event with a thousand fresh perspectives and ideas buzzing around in my head. Here are a few of my findings:

i) Social Media is NOTHING without people

Forgive me for stating the bleedin’ obvious, but ‘social’ media really is all about human beings. I am a huge technology geek and make no secret of my love for social media. However, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – every one of these revolutionary platforms is absolutely nothing without people driving it. We love Twitter – which is why we ran ‘Connecting HR’ – but it’s easy to forget that the reason we love it, is because real people are behind it. Social Media is simply the channel – people are the content and the reason to keep engaging with the platforms.

ii) HR and Marketing are intrinsically linked

I started the night (rather foolishly) thinking that marketers and HR professionals are very different creatures, however as the night and various conversations progressed, I realised in a true moment of epiphany, that HR and marketing are natural bedfellows. Marketing is about connecting with people. HR is about connecting with people. Social Media can be employed by either industry to build credible and lasting relationships with people. As Forrest Gump would say, ‘that’s all I have to say about that’.

iii) Marketers and HR functions need to be FOUND

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and although this sounds highly anachronistic, the Romans are all using social media. Employees are people too (yes, it’s true!) and the majority of people now use some form of social media in their daily lives. One of the most effective ways of reaching people is to connect in a way that’s familiar to them. People are comfortable operating within LinkedIn, using Facebook, talking on Twitter, so why take them out of this environment? The advent of social media has meant that we as marketers / HR practioners no longer find people, they find us. Social media is one of the ways you can ensure that your business can – and will – be found by the right people, at the right time.

So as I wrap up (from a personal perspective) last night’s inaugural Connecting HR event, these are simply three key points that really shone out for me. Feel free to agree – feel free to disagree! But if you’re all as talkative as you were last night, I hope you’ll leave some interesting and insightful comments, here, on Twitter, on LinkedIn – hopefully I practice what I preach and you’ll all be able to find me in the way that suits you best.

Callum

@callumsaunders
@courtenayhr
Connect with me on LinkedIn
The HR Professionals’ Network
The Stopgap Group Blog

The Parable of Social Media

Once upon a time, there was a small classroom in a local school. The teacher used to come in every day, ordered his pupils to sit down and began talking at them, using methods he had crafted over many years. The children were docile – they didn’t know any different. One pupil put his hand up to ask a question. The teacher told him to be quiet. The boy was.

Then Social Media came along. The classroom grew exponentially, until pupils from all over the world were all in the same classroom. They started talking to each other. They started to make small groups for those with similar interests. They stopped listening to what the teacher was saying.

Frantically, the teacher tried to shout louder. He tried direct mail, one-way e-newsletters, telephone marketing, print adverts, even giant posters! But nothing caught the children’s attention. They didn’t want to be spoken to. They wanted to speak to each other.

The teacher was in a frightful state! All of his methods were no longer working – what was he to do? Concerned, he went to visit the head-teacher, Sat in her office, he quietly explained what had happened. “Whatever am I to do?” he enquired. The head-teacher, a wry smile on her face, turned to him and calmly assured him..

“Be part of the conversation.” She said.

Getting up, the teacher returned to his global classroom, where children from all over the world were now having thousands of conversations with each other, sharing news, swapping stories and getting together with others that held similar interests.

Walking up to one of the groups, the teacher listened to what the pupils were talking about. Slowly, he realised that it was something he knew lots about. Waiting for a pause, he then proceeded to talk with the pupils. They listened to him. They liked the fact that he was talking with them about the things they liked. The teacher grew happy again. He used this new method to go round the global classroom and teach the pupils the things he wanted to teach them.

They started to listen to him again.

And everyone was happy.

***

It amazes me how many marketers are still stood in front of the chalkboard, using traditional methods to engage a global room of consumers. Like it or not, Social Media has changed the world, and marketers need to change with it. Consumers no longer sit in rows like docile sponges, soaking up direct marketing that is thrown their way.

Put down the chalk. Walk amongst your audience and listen to what they are talking about. What they want. What makes them tick.

Listen.

And then engage.

Real-Time Marketing

Being ‘reactive’ in the days of Web 1.0:

See / hear demand for particular product or service. Discuss with Marketing Team. Agree to run a print advert in a leading magazine that will be published in three weeks time. Three weeks passes, print ad runs, target audience no longer has need for product / service required three weeks ago.

Being ‘reactive’ in the days of Web 2.0:

See / hear demand for particular product or service. Act upon it:

The deluge of snowy weather currently causing chaos around the UK may be keeping many marketers from their offices, but has this stopped the flow of marketing communications? Far, far from it.

Several outdoor brands (as well as supermarkets) are turning the winter weather to their advantage, pushing out marketing communications through – you guessed it – social media.

‘But there’s no ROI!’ the doubters continue to scream. ‘We can’t measure anything!’

That’s right – we can’t measure the value of being instantly reactive and being able to offer real-time marketing to our customers. Why?

Because it’s priceless.

Aviation Advertising: Benefiting from BA’s Balls-Up

Although two years does not qualify as a long and illustrious marketing career, I’ve been around enough senior marketers to know that referencing your competitors in campaigns is an issue that splits hairs and divides opinion across the board.

I, for one, believe that each marketing campaign has its own set of rules, whilst many companies in certain sectors employ ‘comparative marketing’ as the de facto practice (supermarkets being the worst, and most repeat, offenders).

Although British Airways has now had its proposed Christmas strike deemed illegal in a High Court ruling, the past few days has seen a glut of aviation advertising, all of which has very cleverly referenced the farcical goings on at BA.

Here’s my favourite piece of press advertising from this week; a simple strapline from BMI. When commercial opportunity knocks, referencing the competition can be a clever and effective strategy – especially with copy this good.

Breathtakingly Simple…

Following on in a similar vein from the previous post, I have stumbled across yet another example of simple copy that results in a big impact. This American advert for Wonderbra, by Saatchi and Saatchi, simply uses the brand name, inserting an extra ‘d’ to connote the effects of the product in question.

Quite simply, breathtakingly simple.