HMV Boss: How Do I Shut Down Twitter?

31 01 2013

A departing communications staff member at HMV scored a social media first when he or she began live tweeting from what was described as a mass firing of 60 employees.  The first tweet to appear said. “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired. Exciting!!  #hmvXFactorFiring”.

The tweets kept coming for a full 15 minutes before the Marketing Director apparently discovered what was happening was alleged to have been overheard saying “how do I shut down Twitter?”  According to the live feed the Marketing Director is not one of those at risk of redundancy.  Clearly the organisation hadn’t considered the social media risks when they called the comms team down to the HR department.  The tweet stream gave a clue as to the level of senior involvement in social media when it referred to the fact that HMV had used an intern to set up the account.

The tweets then stopped abruptly and were erased from the account – apparently the Marketing Direct found out how to shut the channel down.   Business closures are never very pleasant and I hope the HR team and the remaining senior management see the rebel tweets for what they were which was a gallant last stand by employees loyal to the brand.  Anything else would be another PR disaster for the brand and any going concern that survives the cull.

For those of you that missed them here are the tweets in full before they vanished into the ether.

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Red Bull the Drink that’s a TV Channel

15 10 2012

When Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the surface of the moon in July 1969, an estimated 500 million people worldwide watched the event.  When Felix Baumgartner in a suit reminiscent of those worn by the Apollo astronauts, leapt from his Zenith capsule 24 miles above the Earth’s surface the audience was a mere 8 million. The difference was no broadcast channel was carrying the live footage.

Red Bull’s Stratos Channel on YouTube beat the previous record for a live YouTube broadcast by seven and a half million.  The Channel has also racked up an astonishing 367 million views in total with three quarters of a million subscribers which should serve it well with YouTube’s latest search algorithm.

The event was significant because Baumgartner broke records for the highest jump and became the first man to break the sound barrier, but the way it was viewed was significant too.  It has been true for years that you don’t need to be a broadcaster to broadcast, but this was a defining moment in demonstrating that event TV doesn’t need a conventional TV channel.   Red Bull isn’t just the sponsor it’s the media owner and that’s a much more powerful position to be in.   You can see the highlights in this 90 second round-up – courtesy of Red Bull.





Why Facebook Hasn’t Hit a Billion Users

5 10 2012

Yesterday Facebook announced that it had passed the billion mark. It made news around the globe.  This was part of a media onslaught that also included the unveiling of Facebook’s first agency made commercial.

I have serious reasons to doubt accuracy of the figure.   Earlier this year the company I work for was asked by the Student Loans Company to ascertain what proportion of their target audience were Facebook users   We guessed it would be most but we wanted to provide a robust response.

We took population data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and matched it against age banded user data published by Facebook.  This was not entirely straightforward because the age bands that Facebook uses are not the same bands as the ONS uses.  Undeterred we found the following.

UK Population by age:

  • 20-24 – 4.31 million
  • 15-19 – 3.91 million

To get an 18-24 approximate figure we took the 20-24 figure and added 2/5 of the 15-19 figure. This gives us 5.87 million for the size of the population. Facebook data for this age group said that there were 7.33 million users.  So to answer the question that would mean 125% of the UK population aged 18-24 have a Facebook account.  The only reasonable explanation is that a good proportion of people have more than one Facebook account.  Anecdotally we know this to be true.   There are also a lot of fake accounts – 83 million according to Facebook’s own figures.

The billion user story is great for PR, at a time when Facebook really needs it.  There may be a billion Facebook accounts but I’m confident that they haven’t hit a billion users, yet.

If I’m wrong Mark, feel free to say so in the comments section below.





Jimmy Carr and the Decline of the Press Release

26 06 2012

David Cameron’s allegation that Jimmy Carr was tax dodging put the comedian into crisis mode last Friday.  Five years ago there would have been a press release and possibly a brief statement given to a carefully chosen news channel.  It can’t have escaped your notice that Jimmy Carr put his statement out on Twitter, even though it took five tweets to get the full apology out.

“I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to ‘make light’ of this situation, but I’m not going to in this statement,  as this is obviously a serious matter.  I met with a financial advisor and he said to me “Do you want to pay less tax? It’s totally legal.” I said “Yes.”  I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement.  Although I’ve been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), I’m no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly.  Apologies to everyone.  Jimmy Carr.”

Although Carr hasn’t emerged entirely unscathed it is broadly agreed that he did a good job of defusing the story.    So why Twitter?  He has over two million followers, that’s more than the circulation of any newspaper.  He was able to decide the timing of the announcement and he could ensure it was free from comment or selective editing.  So if celebrities are side-stepping the press then they don’t need PR people either?  Not so.  Carr sought the help of  his trusted advisor entertainment PR guru Gary Farrow on the handling of the apology.

Not every celebrity has a multi million follower list and certainly few corporate accounts can boast that sort of number, but if you are at the centre of a media storm is doesn’t matter whether you have 200 or two million, people will be watching and Twitter provides a faster, more effective route than the press release.





SXSW – Biz Stone: Content as a Means for Social Change

12 03 2012

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Biz Stone is back at SXSW for the first time since Twitter blew up there in 2007. In the first of a series of stories he tells is about the birth of Twitter. Twitter wasn’t conveived as a channel for serious communication, it was meant to be fun and social. In the prototype stage, one of the first things Evan Williams tweeted (before the real tweets began to flow) was “Sipping Pinot Noir after a massage in Napa valley”.

By 2007 there were about 5000 twitter users and they “were all the dorks that go to SXSW”. It gave them the “South-West bump” and after that there was seldom a major world event that didn’t feature Twitter. When Biz was called by a journalist and asked about his involvement in a student uprising in Moldova he had to look up Moldova to find out where it was.

The remaining stories cover creativity, being prepared to fail, illustrated with reference to Wim Wenders ‘Wings of Desire’ and the compound value of doing good. Whilst the stories that Biz tells are only loosely connected, they are linked by a theme that links the future of marketing and corporate success to philanthropy. Its his philosophy for business and he walks the talk. Twitter had a CSR person years before it had a sales person.





LinkedIn and the Meaning of Connections

6 03 2012

I’ve just passed the 500 mark on LinkedIn and it feels wrong.  Let me explain.  I can’t possible know 500 people.  I’m fascinated and largely persuaded by the work of  British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

His theory known as ‘Dunbar’s number’ is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable relationships. That’s the sort where I know someone, they know me and we understand our relationship.  It is commonly held to be around 150. Dunbar says the “limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size”.

So how did I get here, my LinkedIn group was a list of people who I knew well personally or more commonly had worked with as colleagues, client, supplier or partners in various projects. So what went wrong? Why don’t I really know all of the people who I purport on-line to be connected to?  Here is my list of ways in which I think it’s gone wrong.

  • I’ve been on LinkedIn for around five years. Some people I knew well then, I don’t know well any more.
  • In building up my initial contact list I was probably over enthusiastic about finding and adding people.
  • A desire not to offend. I wrote a note to someone a couple of years ago politely declining an invitation to connect as we had no previous connection.  I received a vitriolic reply.  I still decline these invitations but accept others where the connection is tenuous.
  • Confusion. I think many people have a different view to mine on the nature of LinkedIn and networking on-line in general.

It may not matter but my network is clearly, to me and anyone that looks in, now a loose one. LinkedIn doesn’t annotate my actual number of connections any more. I’m like many other people a 500+.

Is there something I should do differently? There probably is. I should regard my online network as the loose association that it is and concentrate more on my real world network.  Obvious when you think about it.





How Twitter Fuelled the Glitter Fake

21 01 2012

The fake Gary Glitter debacle only just failed to eclipse the weirdness of discovering in the very early hours of New Year’s day that Rupert Murdoch had joined Twitter.

Something happened between those two events that helped the OfficialGlitter account to appear to be really run by the shamed popstar and garner over 15,000 followers.  What happened was that  Twitter suspended official verification, which meant that there was no real way of knowing whether the account was real or not.   Actually twitter has turned verification into a money-making exercise, available only to advertisers and partners.

The Daily Mail, ITN and The Sun all added fuel to the fire with articles about the supposed social media comeback.  Column inches were even devoted to the announcement of a tour and new album.  This would surely not have happened if the official process was still in place.

If you search OfficialGlitter on twitter you’ll see that a huge amount of unnecessary upset was caused by the so-called social media experiment.  The idea that social networks fuel child abuse is arrant nonsense. Parents do need to be vigilant about who their kids associate with, on the wed as elsewhere but this isn’t about government regulation.  It was Gary Glitter’s infamy linked to the notion that it could actually be him that  created the problem here.

Twitter should bring back official verification.  #verifyback








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