Social Media Reality Check

I’m liveblogging from the POLIS and PR Newswire event, The Social Media Reality Check, at the London School of Economics. Keep refreshing this page for updates!

18:35 We’re getting underway here and I have to say the gender dominance is remarkably tilted to the feminine. Maybe I notice it more as I’m normally at events dominated by men. 🙂 Charlie Beckett says this is the first of 3 events on social media – with the next two weeks covering journalism and trust with social media.

18:40 PR Newswire staff are up, speaking about the results of the survey they have conducted on social media. Michael Pranikoff nowtalking about what is happening in trend in the US around social media. He says at the moment, the trend in PR is to access the influencers and these have traditionally been celebrities. But the research is showing that influencers are online. Pranikoff notes that social networking friendships allow users to become their own distributors.

Social integration is happening across platforms and open authentication. Information that is shared has increased expectations among customers and now groups like @bigpondteam have to list their online times in order to ensure that exdpectations are managed.

Pranikoff introduces location based services and argues that these services are reflective of a mobile culture. He says that there is a trend of organisations reducing use of their websites and increasing use of socil media as a channel for information.

Pranikoff says there is no such thing as a social media expert.
[JJ’s comment: WRONG!]

Pranikoff says that search is going social and that measurement and metrics are now growing in importance. We all have to become datalovers. Pranikoff says that your IT staff have to become your best friend. It’s vital to learn how you are failing.

18:52 The lovely Molly Flatt is up and raring to respond. She says for her, social media is a tool and that what matters is the communication between people.
[JJ’s comment: HEAR HEAR!]

The words obscure the reality. Social media focus on reach is irrelevant if people are not actually listening and engaging with brands.

Molly says don’t become data lovers and don’t monitor; we should be listening. The data is useless. Conversation is in teh context. How does the conversation flow in the blog comments. To actually make anything useful it’s so important to focus on the people not that data.

Audiences are more emotionally interested in the content that each other creates, and not that created by brands. Cyberspace is just a space where people spend time. Context is crucial.

18:57 Tomas Gonsorcik says that there is a complexity with the use of the tool. How people use the tools and can interact could be interesting and learning about that (through review of research) can help businesses invest in organisational change. Need to create relationships to begin with and then move toward customer services. It may not be necessary to use social media to engage in the debates and conversations that social media has the potential to facilitate.

19:01 Charlie asks if the internet is a space that people create for themselves and that as soon as brands try to invade that space it could poison the atmosphere.

19:02 Michael says there’s no absolute right and absolute wrong with the net. Lots of examples of companies that just let the people create and support their own fan pages. Organisations that were traditionally perceived as remote and aloof are now appearing more accessible through audience fan pages.

Michael says that to discount data is problematic because you need to learn why you have failed.

19:06 Michael cites the example of Kevin Smith and the South West airlines as well as the 19 year old friend of SW Airlines as an example of how casual communication can alter public perception.

19:07 Molly responds saying that you shouldn’t rely on the IT dept to gather that data. Traffic to the website is not as important as what is being said outside of the website. So data should be collected by all staff in a firm.

19:09 Question from the floor: is social media advertising overpriced and how would you measure either way?

Tomas says it’s not overpriced compared with other advertising (offline) and what you measure is not just traffic patterns but relationships and loyalty. You develop a community that can help you develop your product and there are great intangible benefits of that.

Molly says probably all marketing is overpriced, but social media is definitely not overpriced and that may actually be a bad thing because it often means brands are not investing well in terms of the time resource associated with an effective social media plan.

19:13 Question from the floor – how do you justify the comment that nobody is listening in light of Rage Against the Machine and Dell Hell and search.

Molly says she didn’t say nobody is listening online, but that brands themselves are not listening to the commentary happening online. Don’t just monitor – actually engage.

19:16 @kcorrick says most of the social media sites so far are only VC funded. How will social media sites ever be profitable?

Another audience member says that some of the investment needs to come from the marketing sector itself. As the marketeers become more open minded and channel funding from other traditional advertising channels, these social media channels will become more profitable.

19:21 I had to pop in there and say that businesses should invest in social media because they will see value in the service.

19:22 Molly says it’s about setting clear business goals and transferring the investment into those channels. Tomas says there are revenue sources in social media will be part of an overall advertising campaigns – social media is going to hard-wired into overall campaign strategies.

19:24 Charlie asks if there is a split in the US and the UK.

Michael says that in the US, everything is a bit frothy – bright shiny object syndrome. Lots of businesses get on the bacndwagon quickly. But because the US is quick to adopt, they tend to be ahead. Doesn’t mean that’s a good thing but it can produce a competitive advantage.

[JJ’s comment: very fair point, and an important one]

Michael says a lot of the traditional ideals are still held in the UK. To some extent there’s a contradiction is terms, because UK also has some of the best journalism sites online.

Molly agrees – VC investment and CEO/CTO investment in the space is more common in the US. Molly cites instances of very gung-ho brand loyalty in the US, and says these probably don’t translate well in the UK.

Michael says that US is way behind in Asia in mobile. The telecommunications and mobile infrastructure has caused the US to fal behind. In Asia they are right past 4G while US is still only just in 3G.

19:31 Question from the floor on trust. Do you expect there to be a backlash, when people don’t want their private conversations made public.

Tomas says that there is not much you can do about preventing others. But there is certainly a responsibility that PR agents have to protect the interests of audiences. Have to relevant and useful.

Charlie says it’s not just about being relevnt and useful because it’s a different ‘place’. Molly replies that there are ethical and legal guidelines about protecting the interests of users. But transparency is completely key to ensure that businesses are acting ethically. Unethical engagement of any kind but won’t be valuable.

Charlie asks if the market will decide or whether regulation will creep in.

Michael says people will trust their friends but not everyone else. Too bad if their friends are wrong. There are differences in rules on healthcare product advertising in the US and the UK. What’s happening is that we are developing as audiences an immunity to context based advertising as on gmail accounts.

Molly says being transparent is part of reinforcing a brand’s aspirations.

Audience member says that the difference between transparency and regulation is that transparency requires disclosure while regulation could actually protect the identity of individuals.

Michael says that guidelines still need development to avoid fakery and to ensure that for all posts, disclosure is clear. Molly says that the distinction between online advocacy and offline advocacy after free samples needs to be thought about.

19:46 Phil Harding (from the floor) asks about authenticity as a perception and about how you identify influencers. Are all influencers really on the internet? Are all engagements (paid or upaid) authentic?

Michael says people are increasingly getting information online in the US (see recent Pew Internet report). Thus influence is coming from online because people are getting information from online. Tomas says need to take a holistic view, and shouldn’t necessarily consider the platform, but rather the value of the perspective. Family, friends and colleagues tend to be offline and their perspectives may be more valued than news reports online.

Michael says that IT people are increasingly seeking the source of information rather than anecdotal evidence. He also notes that friends and family are beginning to communicate online anyway.

Molly cites #likeminds point – how many telephone numbers do you have, how many addresses do you have? The difference is that online, it’s easier to find people, not just by name but by ideas. Some people actually do want to associate themselves with a brand because they are passionate about it. They don’t want to be a friend but want instead to be useful.

Charlie asks if it’s possible to measure passion. Tomas doesn’t think it’s possible to measure passion, but it is possible to identify people who are passionate. It doesn’t matter if you can measure passion, it’s the end result that matters – the outcome of engagement.

Michael believes that we need to invest in ideas. What’s a great idea today may not have longevity, but we learn from failures. We get caught up in terminology like ‘Web 2.0 Evangelist’. Social media helps you communicate what you want to communicate, helps build relationships. Marketers don’t own social media but should filter through the organisation. This is why guidelines and policies need to be in every organisation to prevent inappropriate behaviour. Social media is about reaching out and touching people and we need to facilitate that.

20:05 We’re finishing up here and are being incentivised by free drinks from PR Newswire! 🙂

Thanks for following and feel free to comment on this fascinating session!

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