It seems that major events were the impetus for most steps forward the BBC has taken in engagement. At yesterday’s Social Media Influence conference in London, Pete Clifton, Head of Editorial Development for Multi-Media Journalism at the BBC, spoke about the lessons they had learnt and the steps taken. And to me it seemed that major events were the catalyst for much of this change.
Event 1: The 1997 General Election Campaign
The BBC news website grew out of an experiment during the 1997 General Election in the UK – an important time and a major campaign which saw the Conservative Party being replaced by Tony Blair‘s New Labour after 18 years in power. The BBC put up a few pages to cover the event as an experiment of how news could work online. The plan was to take this down over the summer following the campaign, but a second event stopped this.
Event 2: The death of Diana, Princess of Wales
Just as the site was to be wound-down, a second event occured that would also merit from some special treatment online. The death of Diana, Princess of Wales in the summer of 1997 led the BBC news team to set up a second set of pages – updating these and letting viewers email in their tributes and opinions. The first interactive news article on the BBC’s site was born and the site was not taken down. The importance of news online was realised and so the full BBC news site launched later that year.
Event 3: 7/7 bombings in London
By 2005, the BBC News website was well used and formed an integral part of the channel’s news outlet. The events of 7th July of that year in London helped in the shift of perception from multi-media news being something that sat apart from main editorial activities to something more integrated. When news-wire and London Underground reports were still reporting a power surge on the tube network, and nobody really knew what was happening, BBC News received an email containing a picture of a bus where one of the bombs had exploded and an eye-witness account of the events. Interacting with viewers through multi-media and online was now making the news. In fact the opening sequence on the main TV news bulletin the following evening was entirely UGC – videos shot on mobile phones from inside trapped Underground carriages.
These major events seem to have shaped the BBC’s activities and strategy for news online. In fact it is now an integrated part of the news offering and will soon no longer be a separate team, but will sit with the rest of the newsroom.
Joanne Jacobs from Xenial Media gave a great example at yesterday’s Social Media Influence conference in London of how blogs were used internally in an Australian hospital.
The hospital wanted to improve morale and the satisfaction level among staff. Their solution was relatively cheap and made good use of social media. They installed screens in kiosks across the hospital and choose a handful of bloggers from different departments in the hospital. These were trained in how to write short (50 word) blog posts about what they were doing and what was going on in their department. They blogged during their day and they posts were streamed live to the screens. Letting everybody in the hospital know what was going on and helping them to connect with others and feel a collective sense of pride in what they were doing.
This example was apparently very successful. It was relatively cheap, engaged staff and, critically, involved a period of training to mean that those who were doing the blogging felt comfortable and able to do so. Great example!
Talking about consumer feedback and measuring it online he showed that not only is most feedback still emailed directly to the brand (54% of cases) but 55% of people would go first to a company website or blog to get information, and not somebody else’s site. In this context therefore, it is critical that you not only have a compelling and informative website (to increase the use people get from visiting it) but also that you listen and respond to comments and feedback you get (to encourage this kind of engagement).
In fact both of these elements are about thinking that your web presence is less about just marketing (pushing out a message) and more about engaging. Alex stressed that it’s important to make your website personal. This can be as simple as using personal phrases (such as “Meet us” or “Get involved”), to exploiting video on our site or integrating some community elements (such as blogs or forums).
For Alex, every product should have a video and every brand can have a community. Videos are the easiest thing to spread virally or embed. And he thinks that there is a community element to every product – people need it in their daily lives or they wouldn’t buy it.
For me, this shows that the best way of monitoring and controlling your brand’s image online is to be proactive – much of the key to success is probably something brands themselves can control.
The guys organising the Social Media Influence conference in London next month (at which I’m speaking) have pulled together a list of the top ten brands and looked at their presence on YouTube. They used Business Week rankings and then looked for the most popular videos for each of these firms. See their posts and the videos here and here.
There are some great videos in the list, but it’s a quick analysis shows something interesting. Of the ten videos in the list:
six are either made or commissioned by the brand itself. These all portray a positive brand image
four are not controlled by the brand. Only one of these portrays a positive brand image
What is interesting here is that those brands who are actively controlling their image through social media are broadly speaking allowing a positive image of themselves to spread. The most popular videos on YouTube of them are by them and are positive. Those not as active in social media suffer from a more negative brand image.
Thanks must go to my colleague Jeannie at FreshMinds Research – these thoughts are mainly her’s. And just for amusement my favourite videos from the list are below.
Controlled by the brand
Unilever and Dove Evolution produced a great advert that quickly became viral and was copied by Greenpeace recently in their campaign to make Unilever change their palm oil sourcing policies.
I’m at the Retail Business Show today, meeting people and attending talks and presentations on social media and online branding. I love events like this – they are great sources of inspiration and new ideas and also help to reinforce things you think yourself. Today has helped with the latter – Matthew Yeomans from Custom Communication said something that we truly believe at FreshNetworks: that customers have really good ideas.
His talk on social media and brand reputation online showed ways that brands can interact online and also some successful (and less successful) uses of social media and other new ways of doing things. Two great examples that show good and bad use of the online space by brands come from different sectors and different countries: Nokia and Sony. Both thought it would be great to increase their presence online and thought that it would be powerful if they could leverage their brand advocates to help with this. In fact they both had a very similar idea – get their brand advocates to use blogs and diaries to show positive interactions with their product. The problem is one did it well and another less so.
Nokia’s idea was to find the most active Nokia bloggers online, give them the newest Nokia phone and send them on a round-the-world trip on condition that they blog daily and send back photos and videos sent with the phone. The site (Urbanista Diaries) has the blogs and photos and is using these in marketing – running ‘where was this photo taken’ competitions as a second wave word of mouth campaign. It works – Nokia is upfront about what they’re doing. They use real customers to blog and produce content and have an engagement strategy that continues the campaign.
Sony was less successful. The launch of the PSP was accompanied by a blog that purported to be from users of the product. It wasn’t; the blog was actually being run by journalists who were blogging as if they were the PSP’s target consumer group. This was discovered and spread rapidly online. To their credit Sony took down the site and after just a day and all they were doing was running what could have been a powerful word of mouth marketing campaign. Perhaps they were nervous of letting their actual customers do the blogging and so they wanted to control what was said, and how their brand was portrayed online.
These examples show both that customers have good ideas but that firms can sometimes be nervous about harnessing customers online. The Nokia blog enabled Nokia and other consumers to see how an expert interacted with their product, the kind of photos and videos they could take and other advantages of the product that may not have been discovered without this. The Sony experience shows that firms can be reluctant to actively harness their own consumers online; perhaps nervous about what they might say (remember: customer opinions can be bad as well as good) and about launching something they had little or no control over.
There is a need to provide a means by which customers can share their ideas but also in a way that’s harnessed by the brand. Some are happy to let their customer ideas feed directly into marketing campaigns and activities online (as in the Nokia example) whereas others might want to keep the ideas private, in a way that the brands can control and harness but without the risk that their image may be tarnished externally. This is where private social networks are powerful – the ability to create an innovations lab that is invitation only and that firms can use to test their ideas, getting and responding to feedback (good or bad!). These can be strong communities – you recruit your most active online commentators from a broad or specific consumer segment and tell them that what they are saying and commenting on is feeding directly into your brand’s innovation process. The results are incredible!
We’re actually talking about private social networks later this afternoon at the Retail Business Show and I’ll be posting the slides here another time.
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