Go Global Or Go Local

By Claire West, Fresh Business Thinking

Are you using the potential of local search to its full potential? Most businesses aren’t. However, businesses that target their ads locally can reach new customers in their area who are searching for a business just like theirs.

What about Global search? What are the opportunities there?

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Managing a social media crisis – The do’s and don’ts

By Ruben Pillai, Marketing Co-Ordinator at Blackjack Promotions


Last week, American Apparel found itself fighting a Twitter backlash after it used the site to promote a ‘Sandy sale’ at those directly affected by the hurricane that left parts of the US devastated. On tweeting the words  “In case you’re bored during the storm, 20% off everything for the next 36 hours”, the brand received a barrage of complaints, with users branding the move ‘tasteless’, ‘insulting’ and ‘low’.

Arguably, its not what American Apparel did that caused the issue (on the flip side of the bad comments, some pointed out that offering a little welcome relief to tens of thousands of bored American’s stuck inside while the storm raged was, well, nice), but the way in which they launched it somewhat flippantly via a tweet.

Twitter is now a global communication tool on a scale that no one could have predicted even as little as three years ago, and it can be used to great effect. While American Apparel were being rapped in the Twittersphere, New York marathon runners were using the site to organize relief and aid for those worst hit on Staten Island.

For brands, the freedom of expression that Twitter allows can be something of a blessing or a curse. It’s great when consumers follow what you are doing, retweet the bits they like and generally interact positively. It’s not so great when you have to defend your name or your actions via the Twittersphere. Social media is a powerful tool, so put a foot wrong and you’re setting yourself up for at best a customer backlash, and at worse a media storm.

For this reason more and more brands are adopting a crisis communications strategy. Long gone are the days in which companies had 24 hours to come up with a crisis response. Thanks to Twitter the reality now is that catastrophic events need to be dealt with in real time or else run the risk of rumours spreading.

Not that coming up with a crisis communications strategy is an easy or straightforward task. There have been plenty of examples where brands have got crisis response via Twitter very wrong, while others who have taken a measured approach came out of the other side faring OK. With this in mind, here are my dos and don’ts of crisis communications management in this age of immediacy.


Do – remain calm under pressure


The recent Lance Armstrong debacle has caused a headache for every one of his sponsors who have been forced to drop him. By far the most high profile of these is Nike, which didn’t immediately terminate its contract with Armstrong, but ultimately took the only available course of action in the face of ‘insurmountable evidence’.  Some people may question why Nike didn’t immediately sever ties with the shamed sports star immediately as allegations came to the fore. Actually, I think it’s quite refreshing that the brand didn’t jump straight to conclusions and panic, instead standing by their man until the facts became crystal clear. It can be easy, in the age of Twitter, where stories such as this gain momentum leaving a brand as big as Nike, with its 750,000 plus followers under immense pressure to ‘do the right thing’ Usually brands bow to pressure and make quick decisions to ‘save the brand image’, which ultimately did result in Nike dropping Armstrong a week or so later.


In fact it’s not really the relationship that Nike had with Armstrong that has come under scrutiny, much of the Twitter bashing has centred around how the sports giant could drop Armstrong, but didn’t drop Tiger Woods when he was caught out having an affair (in my view the two aren’t comparable – Nike’s partnership with both Armstrong and Woods has been a professional one, with Wood’s problems having come in his personal life and Armstrong’s being within the professional arena). Interestingly, Nike has not used its Twitter feed to enter into any Armstrong related conversation unlike the charity Livestrong, which Armstrong until recently chaired. More on that in a bit.


Don’t – take your eye completely off the ball


Ok so I’ve said above that knee jerk reactions aren’t the best way to plan out a crisis communications strategy, but being seen to do nothing at all can be equally as damaging to a brand.


Last year WH Smith learned this lesson the hard way, after a Twitter user tweeted a photograph appearing to show that the retailer had moved its copies of Gay Times and Attitude to keep them out of sight. The picture, which was uploaded over the weekend, received hundreds of retweets, leaving the brand to deal with a Twitter storm by the Monday morning. It quickly issued a statement explaining its actions but by then it was too late – the damage was done.

Effective crisis communications requires a brand to keep one eye on the ball at all times, in order to respond within an appropriate time period.


Don’t – view social media as a secondary news channel


Back to the Armstrong debacle, and a very Twitter-centric approach taken by Livestrong. Livestrong used Twitter to announce that Armstrong had stepped down as chairman in wake of the scandal, with many subsequent media reports opening with ‘Livestrong confirms Armstrong step-down via Twitter’ or similar. Was this the correct thing to do? With the severity and enormity of the story, was it enough to ‘just tweet’ about it and let the leaves fall as they may? I think that more should have been made out of it, with a press conference called at the very least. There were numerous questions which needed to be asked and the public definitely deserved to hear Livestrong’s responses, although a press conference was called a couple of weeks later to confirm a replacement. Twitter is a magnificent social media tool which enables brands to communicate with consumers and fans in a way that they have never been able to before, but in this case I think the human touch, given the nature of the whole scenario would be have been more appropriate.


Do – take responsibility for social media blunders


A colleague has been let loose on your Twitter account and has tweeted something decidedly ‘off-brand’. A swift delete might seem like the easiest option – but should it end there? Recently an employee from a US brand called Kitchen Aid tweeted something unsavoury about Barack Obama. Kitchen Aid deleted the Tweet and issued an apology, making clear that the offending tweet did not reflect the brand’s opinion. Next up the head of Kitchen Aid talked on the record to popular tech-site Mashable to apologise for the tweet, taking immediate responsibility. By speaking openly to the press she pre-empted any ‘social media fire’ that may otherwise have burned bright. There’s proof that it worked too, Mashable went on to publish an infographic demonstrating how quickly mentions of the brand reduced as the apology and media interviews were broadcast.


Of course rectifying a colleague’s ‘outburst’ on Twitter isn’t always quite that straightforward  look at the damage that footballers are bringing to their own clubs and to the FA as a governing body with their various and often foulmouthed rants regarding the recent racism enquiries. How the FA’s image will emerge on the other side remains to be seen. One final tip I’d offer (to brands and footballers alike) is to always take a deep breath and count to ten before sending out a tweet when emotional. Once a tweet is out there, it can be out there for your followers and the general masses to remember indefinitely, regardless of whether you immediately delete it or not.

Getting verified on Twitter – ‘How To Get The Blue Tick’

Just two years ago, social media was thought to be largely superfluous unless you were a large brand, concerned with reputation management. More recently, it has become essential for businesses to not only have a website but also engage with their customers through a comprehensive social media presence. Here, SEO & Social Analyst Hannah Rainford explains the benefits for companies becoming active on social media sites such as Twitter and how to go about getting verified.

In the last 12 months search engines such as Google and Bing have made a concrete effort to deliver the most authentic search results by adjusting requirements for web quality. Whereas websites were previously judged on how many links it had on its page, a company’s ranking on a search engine site can be aided by how socially integrated its web page is, based upon its presence on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

In particular, Twitter has taken off as the most popular avenue for companies to engage with its customers online, regardless of its specific industry or market. Companies and consumers are able to interact closer than ever before and engage in direct dialogue. With this increased engagement however there is also a dark side. Impostors can fraudulently create Twitter accounts claiming to be celebrities, high-profile individuals, and even companies to send out false tweets to the online community.

To address this issue, Twitter  developed ‘verified status’, the ‘blue tick’, which is a badge on a Twitter account which signifies that Twitter has established its authenticity. The ‘blue tick’ is most commonly used for celebrities and high-profile individuals as they typically do not have the same advantage that companies do in terms of linking their Twitter page back to a website. The verified badge helps users to distinguish legitimate sources of information for their followers.

Unfortunately, neither companies nor celebrities can verify their own page. Twitter has full discretion as to whom they will verify on its own proactive basis. There are, however, several key tips to bear in mind when a company hopes to get verified on Twitter.

Link your Twitter profile to an official website. Remember to include the Twitter’s follow button on your web page so that even if you are not selected to be verified your followers will still be able to find your official twitter feed.

Build your case. The majority of accounts on Twitter are verified because there have been fraudulent accounts set up which are discrediting a brand’s messaging. If this is the case, you must make sure to document and report impostors and false tweets to Twitter and explain your case for needing that blue tick. Tweet @verified or e-mail the help centre for more details.

Advertise. Twitter won’t guarantee verification, but it is acknowledged unofficially in the online community that companies have a much better chance of being verified if they advertise heavily on Twitter. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that you will see a return on your investment.

At the end of the day, the blue tick is not the ‘be all or end all’ for your company’s social media presence online. It is much more important to take other considerations into account when developing your Twitter page, such as determining your niche and developing a targeted, planned approach which engages with your customers. By developing an integrated social media presence linking your Twitter page to your website, you have a much greater chance not only of increasing brand recognition and improving your search engine rankings, but also being verified on Twitter without having to put your case forward.

As the SEO & Social Analyst at Jellyfish UK, Hannah is responsible for identifying opportunities within the digital landscape for clients, managing the implementation and reporting of activity across social platforms and communicating these internally across channels. For further insight on SEO and Social Media, Hannah also blogs here.

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Twitter Versus Chatter in the Workplace

A Welsh recruitment and training firm has pioneered an experiment in communication activity. Three departments from within the New Directions group of companies agreed to interact only via social media channels for a full working day.

On Wednesday of this week, the teams spent their day using only Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate their business needs to one another.

The aim of the social media experiment was to identify how reliant, if at all, businesses have become on digital communication. The New Directions teams traditionally work face-to-face with their daily workload, and sit only metres apart.

Leah Seltzer, Head of Compliance for New Directions commented prior to the experiment: ‘My initial thoughts are that communication via social media may be too time consuming. I am also apprehensive about the lack of human interface and intonation which may lead to misunderstandings. Despite my reservations this will be a very exciting experiment, and I look forward to taking part and seeing the results’

The experiment commenced at 8.00am on Wednesday 20 June with the Compliance department giving the Social Care and Nursing teams a count of their files currently going through registration. Traditionally the two heads of department would meet face-to-face to discuss any outstanding issues, missing paperwork other business-critical requirements.

Sarah Blackmore, Head of Social Care remarked on the opening communication: ‘There was an immediate frustration regards the data we needed from the compliance team. Being able to have a conversation over a morning coffee quickly resolves outstanding issues. To only having 140 characters to deliver a business-critical message is not easy’

On final count the teams amassed over 200 interactions with each other throughout the day – the majority of which came via Twitter. When questioned, individuals cited Twitter as the most user friendly and speedier option in communicating messages and requests. Discussions at the end about the experiment identified that the teams usually interact around 10 times a day; this allows all information needed to be relayed satisfactorily.

At the end of the day all three teams were asked to vote – Twitter versus chatter. The result was a clear swing in the camp of chatter with 100% in favour of traditional methods of communication. As one member of the New Directions team said in a final Tweet ‘It’s good to talk’.

Kirsty Knowles who manages the New Directions Nursing function enthused: ‘We love social media for our business, in promoting our services and good news to candidates and clients alike. But, when it comes to running a business it just doesn’t cut the mustard’.

The New Directions teams highlighted that social media was not an appropriate forum for internal communication. Although the business uses it to raise profile, promote services and engage audiences, the nature of work they undertake is far too data heavy and sensitive to conduct over the web.

Group Communications Manager for New Directions, Ruth Dalton surmised “As a company, we rely heavily on social media to promote our services. Since I started with the business in November 2011, these teams have actively embraced this. I think this experiment proves that when it comes to communication within the workplace, nothing beats face-to-face conversations.”

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