New Deals for Facebook Places

31 01 2011

Today sees the UK launch of an incentive package for Facebook Places that will be a blow to Foursquare and Gowalla and pits Facebook against the growing might of Groupon in the consumer offer sector.    Facebook Deals rewards users who check-in to participating shops, restaurants, coffee bars and visitor attraction using the recently launched Facebook Places, location-based application.

Launch partners include Starbucks, Yo! Sushi, Argos, Debenhams, and Mazda.  Alton Towers is rumoured to be offering free tickets to users checking in via Facebook places on February 18th.  Facebook will use a golden ticket icon to identify locations where there are deals in place.  Joanna Shields from Facebook said: “Facebook Deals represents the power of word of mouth marketing …over 200 million people use Facebook on their mobile phone. We are now offering businesses the opportunity to connect with people in an entirely new way.”

 

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5 Reasons Why Quora Will Miss the Mainstream

25 01 2011

Robert Scoble; American blogger at Scobleizer, technical evangelist, and author, wrote on Boxing Day a post entitled ‘Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?’

PC Magazine, Techcrunch, TNW and FastCompany echoed the sentiment and the UK’s conservative ‘Daily Telegraph’ brought in the new year with an article entitled ‘Quora will be Bigger than Twitter’.  I think they may be wide of the mark and here are 5 reasons why:

1.  It lacks ‘new-ness’ There isn’t anything in the content that is radically new.  Yahoo Answers provides a Q&A format with voting up and down.  Twitter provides interaction and Wikipedia provides information.

2. It’s Not a Network You don’t really have a community around Quora.  The Follower/Following numbers on your profile lack any real relevance.  Because usually they are built around pre-existing networks on Facebook or Twitter the follower totals aren’t evidence of an authentic Quora based network.

3. There Aren’t Many Girls In fact the demographic so far is very, very narrow.  It’s skews male, 25-34 and educated to graduate level.  It’s also high income and exceptionally white.  You can’t be mainstream if you don’t appeal to everyone.  At the moment it is geeky and the audience is pretty much the same as Slashdot.

4.  It lacks Serendipity With Twitter and Facebook you see a lot of things that you don’t expect to.  The structure whereby you follow topics means that you see on Quora pretty much what you expect to see and it’s a bit dull. There I’ve said it.

5. It’s Really, Really Hard to be Mainstream How many mainstream social networks are there versus the number that tried and failed?  If Google struggles then it’s clearly a tough task.





Don’t Let Blue Monday Get You Down

17 01 2011

Bliue Monday coverI’ve been left in no doubt that today is the blue-est of the calendar year.  It’s in the papers, on the radio, I’ve been told on email and twitter is awash with tales of woe.

So where did this notion come from?  It’s medically proven, there is even a formula.  Well no, the truth is it was a PR stunt for a now defunct travel company that has in just a few short years seeped into our national consciousness.   The idea, I imagine was to stimulate holiday bookings just when we have the post-Christmas blues.

As PR stunts go it has been pretty effective in gaining media attention, although the brand it set out to promote has fared less well.  This evidence for the date being the most depressing day of the year was first published in 2005 in a press release for the Sky Travel Channel under the name of Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University.  Well sort of… Cliff was at the time a part-time tutor at  a Further Education centre attached to the University.  There is even a scientific formula:  ([W + (D-d)] x TQ) ÷ (M x Na)  where weather is W, D is the ability to pay, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions is Q, motivational levels are defined as M and the feeling of a need to take action is Na.   Clearly cod science.

Over the years commentators like Petra Boynton and Dr Ben Goldacre have got hot under the collar about Blue Monday and have given a red flag to the daft mathematical formula.  It has however has morphed into a bit of media fun that we needn’t get down about.  The fact that the formula predicted that the saddest day of the year was a Monday was claimed as a coincidence by Cliff Arnall in 2005 but the Blue Monday moniker it too tempting to resist and a Monday it has been for seven consecutive years.

The appetite for the story is apparent enough; January is a gloomy month and we all want confirmation that we’ve passed the nadir and are back on the way up.  Moreover with the demise of Sky Travel it has been used on successive occasions to promote awareness of mental health issues.  That’s not such a bad thing.  So chin up, it might never happen.





Quora and How to Become the ‘Next Big Thing’

5 01 2011

A brief glance at my twitter feed at any point of the day yesterday and someone, somewhere was signing up for Quora.

Anxious not to be left behind in the social stampede, I followed the herd.  What I found was a nicely designed if fairly unremarkable social utility that feels like the love-child of Twitter and Yahoo Answers, with a bit of Digg DNA thrown in for good measure.  I actually quite like it, but so far I’m waiting to be convinced that the information I can get from posting questions on Quora isn’t available from a combination of Google and a bit of social search on Twitter.

What did stand out was the sudden surge in interest.  It isn’t simply that I move in geeky social circles, a quick look at Google search numbers shows that searches for Quora have increased ten fold since Christmas.  I know that no two social sites are the same but it has taken me over three years to amass a meagre 99 Facebook friends. My band of brothers and sisters on Quora hit three digits in a few hours.  Something had to be going on.

A quick trawl suggests that third-party recommendation from a trusted source is as powerful as it ever was and perhaps more so amongst those eager to discover the ‘next big thing’ in the social sphere.  Step forward one Robert Scoble; American blogger at Scobleizer, technical evangelist, author, former technology evangelist and oracle to 156,775 followers on twitter.  On Boxing Day he blogged ‘Is Quora the biggest blogging innovation in 10 years?’ effectively endorsing the site as the next big thing.  PC Magazine, Techcrunch, TNW and FastCompany were amongst the many media outlets that piled in.  Even the UK’s conservative ‘Daily Telegraph’ opined that ‘Quora will be Bigger than Twitter’.   Searches for Quora bear out the hypothesis that it all kicked off on Boxing Day.

Time will tell as to whether the early adopters stick with Quora and if the current flood of  interest is enough for the site  to break through in to the social network stratosphere.

Bear in mind also that Quora only went public in June.   For now it’s all about the hype and proof if proof were needed that if you have something to launch, the right kind of endorsement is still an crucial part of the mix.





Jaffa Cakes and the New PR

4 01 2011

As I type Jaffa Cakes is a trending topic in the UK on Twitter. Why? Well mainly because as ‘cakes’ rather than enhanced biscuits they are exempt from the UK 20% VAT rate that comes into force today.

The manufacturer McVities classed its Jaffa Cakes as cakes, but in 1991 this was challenged by UK Customs and Excise and the case ended up in court.  McVities argued that Jaffa Cakes were miniature cakes showing that biscuits would normally be expected to go soft when stale, whereas cakes would be expected to go hard, something that an out of date Jaffa is inclined to do.   The court ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake and therefore VAT free.

What has that got to do with PR (new or old) I hear you cry.  Well PR has always used news hooks and the VAT hike to 20% is a on of today’s headlines.  The social web picks up on quirky stories particularly where there is a contentious debate at the core e.g. Jaffa; cake or biscuit?  There is no doubt that if a product trends on twitter it will shift a few packs from the shelves, particularly if there is a price advantage central to the news story.

So have McVities done anything to fuel the social media debate?  Actually although there is a well followed Facebook page, the biscuit, sorry cake, manufacturer has been surprisingly quiet on the subject.   I think they’ve missed a trick.  There was plenty that they could have done; they could published details of their 1991 legal arguments on Facebook,  engaged in debate using the (apparently dormant) twitter account or simply issued a press release that would have fueled the debate both off and on-line.

The PR industry has always known how to make the most of a news story.  The new PR means that you need to be ready to do that not just through conventional media but through social channels.  That you way you can have your cake…








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