Category Archives: Social Networking

Sport and social media – west coast perspective

Brendon Kensell, Managing Partner of Kensell & Co, an M&A and corporate growth consultancy, has just posted a piece on sports and social media.  Some of the stats Kensell quotes are astounding with 460 million fans who ‘like’ sports teams on Facebook and almost 100 million fans ‘follow’ teams on Twitter. But he suggests fans are getting frustrated with the one-way nature of Twitter and that the time is right for new sports social media start-up – JockTalk.

JockTalk provides fans and athletes with far richer engagement opportunities than are currently available through existing social media platforms. Because JockTalk publishes to Twitter and Facebook fans who are not interested in richer engagement can still listen to what the athletes they follow have to say. But, for those fans who want a proper, two-way conversation JockTalk provides the ideal platform.

JockTalk fills a number of the holes that exist in Twitter. It allows for 300 characters instead of 140 available in Twitter and the different is incredible. I wonder who decided 140 characters was enough? It is hard to even ask the question in 140 characters and whilst it does avoid waffle for athletes and fans they seem to need and want more.

Sports social media is changing and whilst existing platforms like Twitter and Facebook are trying to keep up, the time is right for a new player.


Rooney and Wilshere’s Nike advertising on Twitter banned

The future of Twitter advertising was thrown into turmoil today by the ASA’s action banning the campaign by Nike. The BBC covered the story earlier today and explained that the ASA were unhappy that Rooney and Wilshere had promoted Nike without it being explicit that it was advertising.

I think you have to be a pretty stupid sports fan given the state of sports media advertising and sponsorship to believe that Rooney and Wilshere love Nike so much that they are going to mention them on Twitter without it being part of a sponsorship agreement. It was hardly a sophisticated ploy to dupe the public and I have heard far worse. For example, bogus fan accounts being set up to ask a player what boots he wears and thereby allowing the athlete to reply subtly promoting his sponsor.

The pace of change in sports social media and social media advertising is such that authorities will struggle to keep up. Without a sophisticated knowledge of social media advertising they stand little chance understanding the way it is being used for promotional purposes and run the risk of driving it underground. Perhaps the solution is from new social media platforms that focus on the specific vertical markets such as sports which is the domain of JockTalk.

JockTalk is a sports social media platform for true fans and athletes that publishes to Twitter, Facebook and other social sites and enables athletes to monetise the content they are creating in a legitimate way. For many, they share all or part of the advertising revenue they earn with the good causes they support as the platform is set up to do this as a direct request from athletes – they’re not all bad!

That said, athletes can still promote sponsors and brands through the content they publish on JockTalk and you only have to look at Spanish footballer Iniesta to see that this is the way sports social is going. Iniesta has million’s of followers and promotes to them all the time but often no more subtly that Rooney and Wilshere. New rules are needed for a new world where sports social media is breaking down previously unknown boundaries.


Mashable offers favourable view on JockTalk

With JockTalk appearing at Demo12 at the same time as Beta launch there is an opportunity for the great and the good of the digerati to get their hands on the concept and offer some feedback.
First out of the blocks is Mashable with an insightful and very positive review of the platform. Their analysis is spot on and it is comforting to know that the simplicity and power of JockTalk can be communicated so effectively in a world that is becoming increasingly complex as a result of digital explosion. I am now really looking forward to the reviews that will follow the presentation later today.

The evolution of Sports Social Media

I was recently invited to get involved with a social media start-up called JockTalk ( I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to new social media ventures because I am the type of person who likes the ones I use and use the ones I like and that keeps the paying field small – mainly LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (a bit and mainly for the kids). However, the more I heard about JockTalk the more convinced I became that this is the future of sports social media.

Photo of stage at DEMO12

There are a number of social media plays trying to fix the “monetisation of Twitter” problem and JockTalk certainly addresses this opportunity. A revenue share with athletes means that the content created can be monetised through ad revenue. However, what is really great about JockTalk is the level of fan engagement built-in. It is obvious when you get under the hood, that athletes have been involved in scoping it because each feature fulfils a flaw in the way Twitter supports fan:athlete engagement. There is a Q&A section, athletes can rank top fans and the platform publishes to Twitter and Facebook so it doesn’t require a massive behavioural change for athletes and fans to get involved.

What I most like about JockTalk is that it is designed to deal with all sports. As a fan this is crucial because like many fans, I enjoy multiple sports. I don’t want to go to a different social media platform for each set of athletes (soccer, Rugby, Baseball, Cricket etc.) I want to be able to put all my sport in one place. As a Twitter user with two profiles – one work and one social I already have compartmentalised my business Tweeting from my sports Tweeting and so JockTalk allows me to enhance this even further. The site is in Beta but you can take a peek here:

The team is presenting at DEMO12 this week and I can’t wait to see the feedback. It is often said that the simplest things are the most effective and JockTalk’s simplicity and power are sure to be a hit.

The Digital Prairie – still up for grabs

I have recently completed a digital marketing audit for an SME in a fairly niche sector involving enterprise software. It has reminded me that the digital opportunity is still largely unknown in some sectors and first mover advantage exists for the brave and nimble. Although the main thrust was PPC and Natural Search performance, I also reviewed use of social media – partially toward better natural search results.

I looked at seven companies in the sector and evaluated their use of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia. The following table sets out what I found:

Top Level Audit findings

The difference between Company 6 and Company 1 is dramatic. Both are successful businesses but only one uses Social Media channels in a meaningful way. It is no surprise that Company 6 also has the best natural search performance and also engages with PPC – one of only two of the companies reviewed to do so.

Clearly not all buyers are engaged with digital marketing channels and so companies can still be successful without engaging in the space. All the companies I looked at had a website and although some were better than others I suspect all are supporting the sales cycle. However, it is clear that the Internet is becoming increasingly important in generating leads in the majority of sectors and so there is catching up to be done.

Trade between individuals, companies and even countries is as a result of networks, and networks exist both on and offline. Just because companies are not engaged with digital networks doesn’t mean they are disconnected entirely. However, throughout history human beings have migrated to faster, simpler, sexier means of communication and the social media channels reviewed above fit that criteria.




The Numbers and Connections

“The success of human beings depends crucially, but precariously, on numbers and connections.” This quotation comes from chapter one titled “The collective brain” in Matt Ridley’s excellent book called “The Rational Optimist“. In this chapter Ridley describes a world that thrived due to the increasing connections between humans and the trade effect that resulted. He also talks about innovation networks and division of labour all enhanced by the increasing connections we have and diminished or even reversed when connections are lost.

With the rise of the Internet human beings have never been more connected and each day, as technology advances, social behaviour adapts and connections increase. This increases our ability to trade goods and ideas and innovation is enhanced. This got me thinking about “Crowd Sourcing” and how genuinely innovated this is.

I noticed that over the summer, First Direct launched the “First Direct Lab” – described as “crowdsourcing platform that will give customers a stake in the online and telephone bank’s digital marketing efforts”. I have a bit of a problem with this definition as I think it gives customers a voice, not a stake. There are no consequences for them offering poor advice. However, I can see it makes sense to engage more with customers and isn’t that just the point?

Crowdsourcing is simply another way to engage with customers in the same way that surveys and customer panels can. They facilitate a conversation rather than listen to the results of marketing efforts. There is significant evidence that they work and Gary Hamel, business guru, provided various evidence in his book “The future of management”.

So to my question about how genuinely innovative crowdsourcing is. My conclusion is that the technique is innovative based on the new technology available now and its ability to facilitate wider conversations. But ultimately, the idea is as innovative as the first person who said – “gather round you guys, what do you think about this?”.

Public vs. private information

Sky just announced that football pundit Andy Gray has had his contract cancelled as a result of the leaked revelation that he made sexist remarks about a female assistant referee whilst speaking to his colleague Richard Keys, off-air and the leaked videos later published via YouTube. The recording and video was allegedly leaked by a Sky employee as it was recorded on Sky “time”. 24 hours later Richard Keys resigned claiming there were dark forces at work.

This once again raises the question of what is private information and what is public and how organisations and individuals control the flow and react to breaches. Keys was quoted as saying “if off air conversations were made public then there would be no one left working in the country”. I think he is referring purely to the media but his point is relevant. Social media exploded the story as Twitterers and the like distributed information about the YouTube videos. Both men have lost their jobs because there [allegedly] personal views were made public.

Whether women need protecting from this type of discrimination is arguable, and in this case, it can also be argued that Keys and Gray both made comments that directly related to the job they do and the industry they represent. With such influence comes responsibility of course but up until Saturday no one was wise to their personal views and the work they did was not in question. There are similar stories about employees being suspended from major blue chips because of their political views and activism which has become known because of leaked documents – BNP membership being a well-known case.

If, as Keys suggests, all private conversations were made public, where would we be? With the growth of social media is it really possible to keep one’s personal views private and does this increasingly mean that we all now have to be careful that our personal views are not made public if they conflict with the job we do? How do we judge who will “rat us out” and who won’t? Does the need to be politically correct mean employees have a new anonymous weapon to score points against rivals or disliked colleagues? Views?


Marketing Week: Customer Experience Master Class

On Wednesday I ran a customer experience master class for Marketing Week as part of the Customer Retention conference. With a colleague, we shared some thoughts with just over 10 senior marketeers during the one day workshop about why having a customer experience strategy is critical to services businesses today and introduced some models that they could put into practical use.

Although over ten years old now, I used the concept of progressing economic value introduced by Pine & Gilmore in their book (Experience Economy 1999) to explain why customer experience strategies can help businesses differentiate. For those unfamiliar with the concept it deals with the evolution from commodities to goods to services and then experiences with increased differentiation, premium pricing and closer alignment with customers needs as you move up the progression. The book uses a coffee example to illustrate the progression from commodity (bean) to goods (ground coffee/packaged coffee) to service (Cafe coffee) to experience (Starbucks coffee) and it easy to understand from this the increasing pricing and differentiation associated with each step.

The big challenge of course is getting from a service to an experience – an experience being something memorable for the right reasons; it is easiest to be remembered for delivering a poor service as the image from Passive Aggressive reveals:

We waited...

Most organisations seem to struggle with the balance between mass customisation and commoditisation of services. If you read my blog about Starbucks I alluded to this very problem. In their drive toward lower cost service delivery they have made decisions about the technology they employ that actually damages the customer experience (IMHO). They hoped to increase the interaction time between Barista and customer but in the process devalued some of the theatre.

The nature of the feedback shown in the photo links me nicely to the subject our guest speaker Guy Stephens spoke about which received a great deal of interest: using social media as part of a customer service strategy. Social media is a fairly instant feedback technology and is increasingly used by disgruntled customers to make their feelings known – perhaps not in as interesting a way as with the use of ketchup and mustard.

It was very interesting to hear about the issues big companies were facing when dealing with social media. In one example a member of staff who used social media in their private lives had decided to get involved on the Twitter feed to try and help customers or deal with the issues of disgruntled customers only to be told not to by PR and legal teams. Similarly there were stories of brand conflict and a lack of clarity about how the process would be managed.

There is clearly a great deal of confusion from big brands about how to deal with social media and of course the problem is not helped by the fact that most senior managers are (in general) poorly educated about social media not being from the “born digital” generation. Nevertheless, customers are using social media sites in their millions and are commenting and debating their experiences (good and bad) with brands all over the world.

Social Media of course is only one set of touch points that brands have with their customers. We ran an exercise at the event to identify different touch points and see if we could get anywhere near the 100 or more that one of our travel clients claim they have. We managed to get well over 50 before turning our attention to user journey mapping and the connections between the various touch points at our disposal.

Finally we discussed measurement strategy and the common errors that companies make. Once again I found that most organisations don’t have a clear measurement strategy and few of the people at the workshop had clear links between the measures and KPI’s they used on a daily basis and the business plan and objectives. Of course the solution is obvious and everyone knew the answer before I presented it but it is clear that in the cut and thrust of the day to day lives of a marketer it is often hard to address this key issue.

Delivering a differentiated customer experience didn’t feature as a strategic goal of any of the companies we met and yet during the afternoon’s practical sessions more than one described their organisations strategy as being to differentiate (rather than lowest cost or focus for those familiar with Porter) from their competition. All seemed to leave the workshop believing it is important but I worry about their ability to make anything actually happen given the silos that exist within organisations. Perhaps a major competitive shift will be the driving force but I think this is an incremental opportunity given the scale of the task.

Have Starbucks broken the code or solved the puzzle?

Photo of Howard Schultz - Starbucks CEO
No wonder he’s smiling

So we can all rest easy now that Starbucks have managed the “crack the customer experience code”. This was reported across the “wire” after Starbucks CEO, Chairman and President Howard Schultz reported record earnings and explained that Starbucks had lost its way and would rediscover its “laser like focus on customer experience”. In fact the code cracking report wasn’t quite true and what Schultz actually said was that they have been able to “crack the code at creating and environment where people are treated well, they’re respected and they’re valued” as Carmine Gallo reported for Business Week.

I like what Schultz has to say and he certainly comes across as a man who is passionate about what he believes in which in essence is that if you get the staff environment right you can get the customer experience right. I believe the staff element is a contributing and potentially critical component of the customer experience but there is more to it than that.  I am not sure that you can really crack the code of customer experience or even that there is a code to crack.

The code analogy is a useful starting point when thinking about how to discover the solution for providing a differentiated customer experience but in fact we need to move on to puzzles quite quickly. A code is a secret language designed to hide the meaning of a message and I am not sure that the mystical secrets of customer experience have been deliberately or unconsciously hidden from us. More likely this is a puzzle where all the pieces are visible and known and our challenge is to get them in the right combination in order to reach the solution. For this we need a vision of what the end should look like so that we can started fitting together the pieces.

Schultz certainly understands a key piece and that is that front-line staff are the brand in human form.  He also talks about the need for theatre and this is further investigated by two previous Starbucks marketeers in the blog “Brand Autopsy”. The post I link to here describes in detail the internal issues surrounding espresso machine selection as it would seem Starbucks have selected a semi-automatic machine for stores that need high through-put and manual machines for those where the pace is slower. The rationale for the selection by Starbucks besides speed is that the semi-automatic machine would provide the Barista with more time to interact with the people because they would be spending less time making coffee.

The blog authors draw the wrong conclusion to me when they say that the automatic machine would not “detract from the customer’s experience because their experience is based upon the need for speed. I don’t agree with this and also don’t think it reflects Schultz view of the world. If speed is the only differentiating factor then it is going to be short lived as anyone can make a fast espresso when it is the machine doing the work. Surely the need for theatre exists in every Starbucks and long run shareholder value is not created by building a brand that is based on volume in what is the epitome of the experiential industry?

The business model seems to me to rely to heavily on staffing with low skilled and low salaried people. If you analyse the earnings report the revenue growth is marginal and the operating margin is up due to costs savings from stores closed in 2008 (100 in the US) vs. store openings in the US of 53 in 2009. Internationally store openings are up year on year but references to “in-store labor efficiencies” in the earnings report that have driven costs savings in store operating expenses do not point to an experience rich strategy.

There are examples of this low cost staffing model working, say at ASDA in the UK, but the recruitment strategy is fundamental.  ASDA use assessment centres to select store staff and they were the first and I believe are still the only grocer to do this. Expensive yes, needing of time and energy also yes but they get staff that like people. David Smith, formerly Director of People at ASDA is writing a book on the subject and spoke about his experiences at this years CIPD annual conference and how ASDA transformed the way they selected their people.

Another code breaker that brings the brand dimension to the argument is Lois Boyle who wrote in 2007 about “cracking the multi-channel code: The Brand Experience“. Her explanation of how brands create a differentiated and personalised experience I particularly like. You do this, Boyle says, “by creating a differentiated brand that can be translated into meaningful benefit and then delivered in an engaging experience that will connect with the hearts of customers and prospects” and goes on to explain that this is a process that “must be defined and managed”.

Too often the creation of a differentiated customer experience is

Twitter: an application in need of some problems

What's the big problem?
What's the big problem?

I recently interviewed Ashley Friedlein for a Podcast for Foviance and the subject of Twitter came up. Ashley and Econsultancy have found an application for Twitter which fixes a problem that many organisations face when trying to get feedback from event or conference attendees.

Ashley explained that whilst they give out feedback forms at every event the response is often poor. Having filled out a few myself, the timing never quite seems right. You often get the form at the beginning of the day and are reminded to complete it at the end. By then I can barely remember which conference I am at let alone how well the individual speakers have performed.

So the solution Econsultancy have come up with is the provide a Twitter “#” tag at the event and to collect input via Twitter during the conference. It relies of course on the venue providing suitable wi-fi or gps reception and despite popular opinion, not everyone uses Twitter so it may not address the entire audience for every type of conference. But, for EConsultancy and the type of digital marketeers they attract I can see it being a viable solution. Thankfully, they haven’t gone as far as putting the comments up on a big screen behind the speaker which could be the modern equivalent of throwing rotten vegetables at an unpopular performer.

Whether there is a revenue model in it for Twitter is unclear. It could be that #-tags are able to be sold and therefore made unique – a current flaw in the approach is anyone can use the same #-tag. One thing I feel certain about is that 140 characters is more than sufficient to provide meaningful feedback about the conference experience.