Twitter or TV?

At the iMedia conference in Brighton this week there was a good deal of discussion about social media and how best to measure it.

Oddly though, there was little consideration of the fact that different verticals will be able to benefit from social media in very different ways.

One way of looking at verticals is to place them on a grid where one axis runs from low to high emotional importance and the other axis runs from low to high rational importance. Verticals with high emotional importance contain products that we buy because they “say” something about us. Verticals with high rational importance contain products that we buy because we need them.

Using the emotional-rational grid we can divide verticals into four sectors:

High rational, high emotional (HRHE) verticals like travel, motor cars and electrical devices. These are verticals where the functionality needs to be right, where we are risking relatively large amounts of money, and where part of why we buy is because we feel comfortable with the brand

Low rational, high emotional (LRHE) verticals like fashion, print media and charity. These are verticals where we are not risking a great deal, where we don’t really need the products but where we do feel emotional engagement because the products we buy “say” a lot about us

High rational, low emotional (HRLE) verticals like banking, retail and utilities. These are verticals where the functionality needs to be right, where we are risking relatively large amounts of money, but where we are not emotionally engaged with the brand

Low rational, low emotional (LRLE) verticals like washing powder and petrol. These are verticals where we are not taking great risks and where there is no emotional involvement with the brands. While products in these verticals are important the functionality they deliver is generally simple.

HRHE verticals can use social media very creatively. As well as using social media to research the marketplace by listening to conversations and to manage their reputation they can actively “campaign” messages through social media.

LRHE verticals are in a similar position – able to exploit their emotional connection with consumers through social media, although they may need to work harder as there is little they can say about rational benefits.

HRLE verticals however will find it far harder to exploit social media for campaigning. They have little emotional connection with their consumers and proactive use of social media platforms will frequently be considered intrusive – who wants to hear from their bank on Facebook? They can however use social media for market research and importantly for managing their reputations. For instance few people are likely to praise a bank’s service to their friends but many will criticise it if something goes wrong.

LRLE verticals are the Cinderellas of social media. No one is interested in them: why would you blog about washing powder or review a cleaning fluid? For brands in these verticals social media are far less important. While they should monitor conversations just in case a big issue starts to brew, they need to do little more than that.

Both HRLEs and LRLEs need to employ advertising techniques to add a layer of emotional connection to their brands. But for HRHEs and LRHEs that are considerable opportunities to enhance their brands through social media.

The lesson here is that brands should consider whether they are in a vertical that can usefully use social media for active campaigning or merely for research and for more reactive communication. A failure to understand this can result in wasted budgets and in losing the opportunities that more powerful media activities can deliver.

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Should PR “own” social media?

The PR industry seems to be trying to own social media. I wonder whether this is really appropriate?

Recently I went to a seminar on social media organised. To be honest it was pretty poor although it was a competent, if dull, introduction to some of the basics of social media marketing.

But only some of the basics. The focus was heavily on traditional PR techniques. Not only did the seminar fail to address advertising as had been promised, the speaker (and there was only one speaker all day!) seemed to feel that traditional PR techniques were the only key to social media.

Now of course some PR techniques do have an important part to play in social media. But you can go way beyond simply seeding blogs and posting photos on Flickr in this space.

Social media can be used very effectively for many other things including:

  • customer service
  • marketplace analysis
  • new product development
  • search marketing, paid and organic
  • recruitment

None of these were covered in the seminar.

Perhaps that was because these disciplines are not central to PR.

In addition, PR agencies may be tempted to conflate social media with online PR techniques. So I was subjected to a lecture on SEO PR – which hasn’t got much to do with social media (and which, as explained, didn’t seem to have much to do with SEO either)! And I was told that the way to measure campaign effectiveness was to measure the effect of seeded blogs: there was no acknowledgement of the need to track blogs that hadn’t been seeded.

All in all, my exposure to how some PR people think about social media was, well, less than inspiring. So uninspiring in fact that I asked for my money back from the seminar organisers.

That was a week ago. I haven’t heard tweet from them so far. I suppose they thought I wouldn’t bother to blog about it!

[Later note – after 10 days (but only a day or so after this post – the power of social media perhaps?)  I had an apologetic phone call from the seminar organisers and the promise of a refund. So I have taken their name off this posting.]