Should Advertising Regulate in Social Media?

1 09 2010

Today the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it extend its remit to cover “marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter”.  The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has decided to extend the digital remit of the ASA and has today published a document detailing the new remit and sanctions.

I have some serious and personal concerns about the document.  In justifying the extension of its remit ASA refers to 3,500 complaints in 2008 and 2009 about the content of organisation’s websites.  How does this relate to social networks or social media?  Throughout the document there is constant reference to “other marketing communication” (sixteen times on 14 pages) with only a very loose definition of what constitutes “other marketing communication” suggesting that it is concerned principally with the primary intention “to sell something”.  Marketing communications is so much broader than that.

The plan is to carry out a review of guidelines in 2013, two years after the implementation of the extended remit.  This shows a fundamental misunderstanding and disregard for the speed of change on-line; for example in two years Twitter went from zero to 10 million tweets per day.  Spotify, which is fundamentally changing the music business, is less than two years old.

There is also a contradiction in terms of definition.  The guidelines exclude “press releases and other public relations material” and yet the definition of “other marketing communications” includes items that could be considered to be public relations material, for example the promotion of unsolicited (or solicited) consumer endorsement.

I would endorse all of the objectives of the CAP code with regard to the prohibition of misleading advertising, the protection of children and social responsibility.  The intentions here are good there is no doubt of that.  I just can’t help feeling that in regulating the social media space, bodies that concern themselves with advertising and have advertising in their title feel more than a little out-of-place.

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SEO and the Written Word

19 05 2009

In the rush to populate web copy with keywords the most important thing is sometimes forgotten.  The copy needs to well written, lively, interesting and relevant.  It is astonishing how often this is forgotten in the charge to upload text that will rank highly in Google.   

Engaging content can have a direct impact on search engine rankings and consequently on traffic.   Some websites sacrifice the need for good written content because their search engine optimisation advisors have influenced key words and their placement in the text to such an extent that the site no longer informs or entertains.

What this process fails to acknowledge is that the quality of the content is critical to receiving high rankings, because it will affect the number of pages viewed and the stickyness of the site.   Crafting words is a core skill for the majority of PR people.  We also need to consider how to deliver quality content in all of its other forms – still images, audio and video.  Whilst using the agency or in-house digital camera is useful for the old application for important work we will still tend to use a professional photographer.  The same should apply for audio and video content. 

Words still lie at the heart of all of this.  The right words will bring audiences but in the the wrong alignment they will drive them away, perhaps never to return.





Reputation Management in Black & White

5 05 2009

This Thursday (7th April) I will be presenting on the “PR Challenges of the Social Web,” at the KMP Digitata & How Do Seminar in Manchester.  I will look at how reputations can be affected, how reputations are built and lost and how you can manage your brand’s reputation through the use of PR and social media.

Ever since the explosion of social media and the revolution of social networks, companies no longer have control about what is said about their brand.  Social media is highly influential and the use of blogs, online communities, twitter and messageboards mean that people (consumers) are empowered to say whatever they want about brands and companies. These sources of information are incredibly powerful tools, and have a great deal of credibility in the eyes of other consumers.

The other presenters will be Jon Keefe of KMP and Simon Rogers, of Market Sentinel.  The event takes place at the Manchester Digital Development Agency starting at 9.30am and finishing at 1.30pm.

Click to book tickets 





Ewan McGregor’s Fake Twitter

9 03 2009

Scottish actor Ewan McGregor is the latest victim of the Twimposter craze.  Close to 20,000 fans have fallen for the scam  and according to social media celebrity validation site ‘Valebrity’ even Ewan’s motorcycling mate Charley Boorman confirmed that McGregor’s twitter was the real McCoy (though there is no confirmation that this was the real Charley Boorman).  

Not so it seems, this the latest in a long list of bogus celebrity social web presences. Other victims have included Eddie Izzard, Star Trek favourites Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner (although he now tweets for real) and the Oscar winning Kate Winslet.  It is becoming a minefield for both the celebrity PR machines and the fans who are piling into the social social web so that they get closer to the twitterati. 

The fake McGregor, although a clever ruse, will have been an easy spot for any fellow Scot.  On the (also false) MySpace profile linked to the twitter stream Ewan apparently said  “I love motorbikes, my home Scotland, doing charity work for Unicef. Of course my wife and my wee little girls”.  “Wee little”? Oh please what kind of talk is that?





Oscars Leak Rumour

21 02 2009

Rumours are circulating the internet that the winners list for the 81st Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been leaked.  The evidence is a letter supposedly from President of the Academy, Sid Gannis.  This blog has no intention of publishing the list but if you are determined to have a look, the letter ‘real or fake’ can be found here.

All the evidence suggests that the list is a fake. Only two partners of the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers are supposed know the results before the envelopes are opened onstage and so the president should not have this information, let alone have committed it to paper.  What it demonstrates is that with the surge in peer to peer media and the explosion of user generated content has become very difficult to keep a secret.  I hope the letter is a forgery because if it isn’t it is a spoiler in every sense. 

The way the web is now we want instant answers.  The Academy’s PR machine has shown itself to be as reactively poor as it is pro-actively brilliant.  I am sure that they would claim they should not dignify such leaks with a reponse but in an increasingly transparent world that lack of any official word on the Academy website can only fuel the rumours.





Follow Friday Five #1

20 02 2009

 

19mmtransparent5diceIt has become a fad on twitter to suggest people to follow on a Friday. Twitter users suggest names and then make the suggestions searchable using the hashtag #followfriday. 

In the same spirit this blog will suggest five blogs to follow…on a Friday.

  

 1. Wadds Tech Blog    The personal blog of Stephen Waddington, head honcho at Rainier PR.  This week with an interesting take on a twitter spam pub game.

2. A PR Guy’s Musings  Stuart Bruce is a trailblazer in online PR. Always good to see what he has to say. This week he wades into the PR/SEO debate.

3. Ian Dale’s Diary  The one stop shop for gossip, humour and commentary on British politics. This MP’s blog has a phenomenal following.

4. PR Media Blog  Full honest and upfront disclosure, this is the ‘powered by Staniforth’ blog, Staniforth being the PR agency I work for.  Lots of my colleagues writing lots of good stuff.

5. NHS Choices – Behind the Headlines A great piece this week debunking the Facebook gives you cancer story in the Daily Mail.





WOM on SocNets, is it the Future?

17 02 2009

Last night I got involved in a heated debate about PR and search engine optimisation (SEO) .  Partly because the debate was on twitter and it was late into the evening (I think most of us were on UK time) it was fast moving, free flowing and it also involved many of the people who know most about the emerging roles of digital PR.

The discussion became confusing at times…talk about distributed conversations.  I think however that the main points can be summarised as follows, (and there may be I admit a little bias towards my own views here):

  • Public relations on line can play a significant role in SEO or raising the rank and therefore importance of sites in Google and other search engines
  • It is an inexact science, there are probably lots of ways to make this work but they are not publicly available or widely discusssed in the PR community
  • Some SEO agencies know this and are hiring PR people
  • Some PR people know this and are hiring SEO people
  • The PR industry has lost out so far to the SEO industry in selling skills in this area to major companies and brands
  • Planning and use of analytics will be key to how the PR industry develops in the field
  • WOM in SocNets is the future (or even the present).

I want to take issue with the last point not because I disagree but because it points up a problem.  I’ve been in PR a long time and have been involved with the social web in various ways for a good few years but the phrase threw me and I had to look it up. When I found that it meant Word of Mouth in Social Networks I felt like a fool…of course.  Let’s demystify and let’s not be too enthusiastic about the next big thing before it happens.

It is true that social reputation and peer to peer recomendation will assert themselves in the digital space but let’s not downgrade search just yet.  I went to Twestival in Manchester and met lots of mates ….it was packed with PR people and digital marketing people, so I conclude that at the moment we are talking to each other a lot of the time.

For the time being search and content are critical for the PR industry but let’s keep and eye on the growing importance of SocNets.

Many thanks to Tim Hoang, Stephen Davies, Stephen WaddingtonJed Hallam, Jaz Cummins, Lewis Webb, Melanie Seasons, Pete Goold, Ian Delaney and many more!

Stop post (that’s stop press for the blogging era): read Stephen Waddington’s take on the debate here and Jed Hallam’s note from the geekfest here.








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