Tracking…not always used for bears and parcels

Organisations seem to be getting obsessed with how many Twitter followers they have or how many people like them on Facebook, what they are failing to notice is whether these people are even interacting with their brand?

I noticed the other day, at the top of a local high end lifestyle magazine that they printed how many Twitter followers they have and how many likes they have on Facebook and it got me thinking. Why do companies get sucked into this false pretense that if 1 million people are following them on Twitter it means that these 1 million people are also buying their product? I’m sure there is a percentage of these people and in some case it could be as high as 90% that actually interact and purchase from an organisation they ‘like’ on Facebook, but in most cases the overwhelming majority don’t.

We are all guilty ourselves of seeing a brand’s Facebook page that we like, or we like to be seen to like and hitting the ‘like’ button (I am genuinely sorry for the amount of times I used the word ‘like’ in that sentence). But the likelihood of you ever returning to that page is pretty low. Organisations don’t seem to be using their personal experience of social media and transferring it into their professional usage. Maybe this is highlighting a need for younger members of the organisation to be taking a lead on social media communications or maybe it is showing how quick organisations are to take up social media but how slow they are to actually understand the inner social workings of them.

Instead of the ‘local high end lifestyle magazine’ stating how many people ‘like’ them on Facebook why don’t they print how many unique page views they get a month or how many returning visits they get? Both of these statistics would say far more about them than their Facebook likes do. What I’m trying to get at is there are ways for organisations to track customer interaction with their website and social media that are far more valuable than the amount of followers they have on Twitter.

Trackers (not the types used for bears or parcels!) can range from free programs like StatCounter that do basic monitoring including how many unique views, return visits and page loads your site receives. StatCounter then complies these into a weekly report and email them straight to you. The best thing about StatCounter is that it’s easy to install by simply pasting an html code onto your blog or website. As well as free services you can also find plenty of paid for tracking programs ranging in prices and the amount of monitoring they do. Trackur is a popular program offering services from influencer analysis, allowing you to find out who is talking about your product the most to an archive of every conversation had about your brand online. Depending on what exactly you want tracking will determine whether you really need to spend a lot of money on a program like Trackur or whether using a free service like StatCounter will be enough for you.

Although saying you have 1 million followers on Twitter and 2 million likes on Facebook might be impressive figures, being able to tell how many of these people are frequent visitors or influential bloggers is actually more useful for an organisation. This is another example of organisations taking up social media to follow a trend, without really knowing how the tools work and how they can be effectively used. Instead of obsessing over how may likes you have I urge organisations to look closer at traffic statistics to see whether their social media presence is really working for them.

How compatible are PR and ethics?

Ethics. Yes I am going to tackle the topic that sends shivers down the spine of any PR professional that still has a conscience in 600 words.

Obviously 600 words won’t touch the sides of an in depth discussion on ethics, but working within the public relations industry you are surrounded by the subject. Your own ethics, your agencies ethics, the client’s ethics, their public’s ethic and the list goes on. With so many people’s ethics and so many types of ethics needing to be considered this really can turn into a mind field for the PR practitioner.

Ethics have been debated and theorised for centuries and it’s not always as simple as good and bad, but you can breakdown ethics in their simplest form to the following 3 theories:

  1. Ethical Relativism – this theory believes that ethics will depend on the person, their personal views, culture and traditions.
  2. Utilitarianism – this is Aristotle’s view of you must behave in a way that does the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.
  3. Deontological theory – is essentially the opposite to Utilitarianism and is from Immanuel Kant’s school of thought that you should always do the ‘right thing’ even if this could cause harm.

Public Relations has the duty of communicating with the global public on a daily basis. This duty comes with great responsibility for the messages that they are sending out to be moral and ethical. The PRSA has its own Code of Ethics for American PR practices while both the CIPR and the PRCA have Code of Conduct’s that include ethical practice guidelines. These codes mostly contain guidelines that are essentially common sense, Adrian Wheeler states in his article on the CIPR website ‘A question of ethics’ of PR professionals: ‘we must restrict ourselves to behaviours which are fair, honourable and above board.’ This statement simply but effectively sets a foundation for public relations that if kept would mean that the industry would no longer be tarred with the brush of it being a ‘black art’. But as soon as PR moves into the light of transparency, someone within the industry is exposed and casts the shadow back over.

In recent months this shadow has been cast by one of Britain’s biggest lobbying PR agencies. Bell Pottinger and their scandal where they were exposed for editing client’s Wikipedia pages has sent waves through the media and PR industry. Although what Bell Pottinger have done is not illegal, the ethics of their actions have been seriously called into question. Wikipedia is based on the website being an openly editable and free encyclopedia. Although people use Wikipedia knowing that some of the information may not be entirely accurate, it is in no way perceived as a promotional tool and as its guidelines suggest users shouldn’t edit articles that they have personal or business interests in. Some people believe that Bell Pottinger’s actions are not unethical and that editing incorrect information on a client on Wikipedia is fulfilling a duty to the client. But it is this thin line of what is ethical that PR finds itself treading, on a daily basis. With new forms of media like blogs and social networking sites becoming tools for PR practitioners, the ethical use of these media by the industry is continually being revised.

With so many different views on what ethics are, it makes it impossible for a PR campaign to be completely ethical to everyone all the time, but by using your common sense you can often judge whether a campaign is ethical in its widest possible way. With new media like Facebook and Twitter being used as tools for public relations, to ensure that this use is ethical the rule of transparency is key. Although you have a responsibility towards your client you also have a responsibility to the public and communicating ethically and transparently towards them is essential. Public Relations is more than capable of being ethical, it just depends what ethics they are using!

Why word of mouth is still top

Yes even in this modern day I still believe that word of mouth is one of the most important tools for promoting and the sustaining of reputation for an organisation.

A lot of businesses especially those too small to warrant spending hundreds of pounds on advertising and promotion, rely on word of mouth to promote their organisation. But it’s not just these businesses who are benefiting from this age old promotional tool, even multinational corporations are reaping the rewards of the modern day word of mouth. Word of mouth marketing or WOMM as the jargon generators have labelled it, has become a fully fledged marketing tool.

Word of mouth is still effective in its traditional form. Conversations between people are incredibly powerful, especially when imparting knowledge. If a customer has had a positive experience in a shop and the next day they tell a family member or work colleague about their experience, they have instantly positively promoted this brand. The opinion of somebody you know and trust is hugely influential and best of all for the businesses it is free. Of course it works both ways, if the experience was a bad one then rather than promoting the brand it will have a negative effective, and potentially loose you customers.

Today word of mouth doesn’t just come from face to face conversations, the popularity of social media and user generated content has meant that WOMM can now be done online as well as offline. Blogs have become a very influential tool and if you break down the concept of a blog you come back to a word of mouth conversation, only in this case the conversation is done online and can be potentially heard by millions of people worldwide. For this reason bloggers are frequently targeted by PR officers to write about a product or brand, so that their word of mouth can be turned into a positive promotion. As with the traditional means of WOMM, online word of mouth can also be detrimental. If a popular blogger has a bad experience with a company and writes about it, it can do a lot of damage to that brand. It’s not just blogs that facilitate online WOMM social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter can also be used.

With the popularity of word of mouth growing, WOMMA the Word of Mouth Marketing Association was set up. An independent organisation for the ethical and effective use of word of mouth marketing, WOMMA wants to ensure that this practice isn’t misused and exploited. WOMMA’s biggest battle is the ethics of the practice and their stance is defined by their 3 principles:

  1. Honesty of Relationship: You say who you’re speaking for
  2. Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
  3. Honesty of Identity: You never lie about who you are

Essentially they believe in complete transparency when using word of mouth, something that other PR practices could take note of…

People love to talk it’s human nature and the conversations we have often shape our opinions of the world, word of mouth marketing has harnessed this and molded it into a marketing function. WOMM is a fantastic promotional tool and can be even better for reputation management, this of course is only true if your basic brand or product is good. It is a risky tool to rely on, as word of mouth is really down to other people’s opinion of your organisation, however if you are confident with your corporate identity and the products or services that you are offering, then this shouldn’t be a problem!

Guerrilla Marketing

You would be forgiven for thinking that guerrilla tactics are something used when fighting the enemy, but today you are just as likely to see them being used by marketers and PRO’s as you are by soldiers.

Much like the military equivalent guerrilla marketing is usually a low cost and unconventional means of marketing. Some of the tactics used can include street art, graffiti, flash mobs and sticker bombing. The term was created by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ published in 2007, where he outlines easy and inexpensive strategies for making profits for your business. The essence of guerrilla marketing is that you don’t need to shell out thousands of pounds/dollars to create an effective marketing campaign, sometimes the most effective campaigns are ones that use uniqueness over expense.

Guerrilla marketing can take all types of forms, as long as its spontaneous, inexpensive and seen by the public it’s a guerrilla tactic. They can range from QR codes being stickered on lamp posts to large scale flash mobs where hundreds of people descended on a public place. Guerrilla marketing can also be used by anybody, from small businesses to large companies like T-mobile and charities. These tactics started out by being used by smaller businesses as a cheap alternative to expensive marketing campaigns, but as their effectiveness became apparent they were adopted by large agency’s including Saatchi and Saatchi in the famous T Mobile flash mob television adverts.

So guerrilla tactics are nothing new, but why are they becoming so popular? Well as with everything, the internet has blown it out of the water. Now that internet enabled phones are as common as bank cards, when people see these guerrilla tactics out on the street they can film or photograph them, instantly upload them to YouTube, Facebook or any other social networking site and within minutes it has gone global. This has now became half of the appeal of using guerrilla marketing, most of the promotion is done free of charge by the public.

It’s not just sharing the tactics that digital technology has done for guerrilla marketing, it has also enabled new types of tactics. Augmented reality is the use of computer technology to enhance or change a real world environment. Thought to be more suited to computer game developers, the technology has now been adopted by public relations and marketing in promotional campaigns. Adidas used the technology to launch their new Scottish football shirt in a shopping center (click the picture below for the video)

Although an undoubtedly more expensive stunt, this use augmented reality technology is another form of guerrilla marketing. It spontaneously interacted with the public in a public place whilst promoting a new product, and it worked, the stunt went viral and Adidas uploaded their own footage of the stunt via YouTube.

Guerrilla marketing is a great way to break through the advertisement white noise that has been created. It’s very difficult to truly get the attention of your audience today, with so many adverts being forced upon us every minute of every day, we begin to block them out, but guerrilla marketing finds a way to penetrate this. A good guerrilla marketing campaign will catch your attention and promote an organisation without you realising it is essentially just another advert. It is truly refreshing to know that there are still traditional methods of promoting a business (even if it is helped along by digital media) that are cheap and effective.