The Social Phone doesn’t come with an IVR menu

Save the date!

Local Social Summit – London – 9-10 November 2011

When big brands think local

This week sees the third Local Social Summit in London. I’ll be there, curating a panel of great thinkers sharing their views about what happens when national (or international) brands start connecting with their customers at a local level.

Think about it.

The marketing team sit in an obscure corporate headquarters and create the rules around which the brand gets portrayed by the company. Often those rules create absolute positions – fixed views of what people should understand about the brand – that seem to have missed the shift in expectations that the social explosion have started to create in their audience.

Now consider the challenge they face when it comes to interacting locally with that audience. I’d argue that you can’t successfully run that from Corporate HQ – but even if you try to, for large brands, that means a substantial team of people being involved.

And, unlike the typical large organisation, your customer won’t distinguish between ‘Marketing’, ‘PR’ or ‘Customer Service’. They won’t conveniently direct their social call-outs to the part of your organisation that you’d really like them to take it up with. The Social Phone (to borrow a phrase from Radian6) doesn’t come with an IVR menu. (Maybe that’s one reason people go social rather than telephone customer services).

So if that marketing team have any chance of meeting that challenge they need to figure out how to corral the organisation’s responses to the social phone. And so do PR. And Customer Service. And so on.

That means combining a degree of enablement, mentoring and strategy to equip the people on the ground with what they need to respond. And that runs counter to the established wisdom of old-school marketing. Or PR… etcetera.

I’ll be joined by Duncan Ogle-Skan of EMO (who advises his clients’ how to do this), Leanne Tritton who runs PR & Communications agency ING Media, together with Alistair Watts of Hand Picked Hotels and Janis Prescott at Mini UK, both of whom do this for real.

The last mile

joined-up marketing?

A voice in the wilderness?

I met with the panellists I’m with at Local Social Summit next week, and we were discussing several issues that we want to cover next week.

High on the list was a subject I’ve talked about many times before: how you attribute value to social media marketing. Over the past year, as an industry, we’re getting better and better at figuring out some things to measure in the online world itself. This is good news… but it’s not always the most important thing.

How do we track what happens at the point of sale? How we measure that ‘last mile’  is going to be critical to understand the value of social marketing – where ‘social meets local’ is a wonderful place to make that connection count.

Please come along and join us if you’d like to add to the debate – the panel details are below:

Social Media Marketing  – The Rules are Changing
With the rise of social media and powerful self-publishing tools (Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia etc) the conversation between brands and consumers has changed forever. In this session we will explore the new rules and what this means for advertising, marketing and PR. All of which have been changed in a flash and forever. We will also dig into what engagement, the conversation and the attention economy really means for marketers.
Moderator: Mike Weston

    • Sokratis Papafloratos, CEO TrustedPlaces
    • Paul McCrudden, of the #6weeks project fame
    • Carolyn Watt, Profero
    • Nathan McDonald, Managing Partner – wearesocial

Social media gets… well, anti-social

I wish I could be more surprised about this news, but there’s a local/social media site in the US (and as of last year I believe over here now too) call Yelp who have been accused of some, let’s say ‘anti-social’ business practice.

There are a few sources for this, but this article in the East Bay Express (with thanks to them for the excellent illustration I’ve borrowed here) sums up the allegation pretty well.

Sandlines has a lot of interest in the intersection of local information with reviews/user generated content and to me this is up a level from what I’d feared about this intersection. I’d been concerned about customers using their ability to post bad reviews as a negotiating stick as something that fundamentally undermined the integrity of review services – much as happened on Ebay before ‘negative feedback’ was banished.

But Yelp appear, from this article, to have taken this to a whole new level.

Qype, who’ve been cast as a company who’ve, erm, borrowed liberally from Yelp’s business model have, I hope, left this element Stateside?

As I was writing this article Yelp’s CEO published a response on the Yelp Blog – sandlines is not qualified to offer judgment on which side of this dispute is correct.

However, I remain firmly of the view that – if your business is publishing customer reviews (whatever the business) – then editorial integrity should dictate that you do not mess with those reviews for reasons other than decency and accuracy. You certainly should not (IMHO) massage results in return for commercial consideration.

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Location goes mainstream

I’ve posted before about better pin-pointing of location from devices on the move – and it’s a subject that has long been close to my heart. But thanks to AdViking to drawing my attention to Greg Sterling’s post last week about the inclusion of Geo-tagging in Windows 7.

It’s a natural development from Geode’s firefox plug in – and will further refine the capabilities of tools like Feedjit I noted before.

But this really is going to be an interesting one to watch on the privacy boards: if your operating system will be able to pinpoint your (fairly) precise location – and you’re on, say, a corporate network – then the implications for employers (for example) to check up on all kinds of things gets much more potent.

Now, let’s put this together with some of the commentary last week on Google’s decision to use searches related to ‘flu’ to identify areas where epidemics might arise. One of the more interesting responses came from The Register:

“The problem, (Marc) Rotenberg says, is that data aggregation calls attention to specific data stored on Google’s servers, making it that much more vulnerable to, say, a subpoena or a national security letter. “Let’s say that instead of Flu Trends, Google’s doing SARS Trends – tracking a very serious communicable disease,” he explains. “If there’s a big SARS upsurge somewhere, the government would be at Google’s door asking where did that data come from.” “

So this goes a step further: it’s not just about what you type into Google, I wonder if this could lead to any information on your computer being fed back to the authorities and then triangulated back to a pretty accurate location. What will the privacy/amnesty international take on that be? I watch with interest…

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Yell Mobile app: 21st century beckons



Seems like the nice folks over at Yell have flipped into the 21st Century, having dropped the door-drops like a soggy slab of toast. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I will.

I’m a fan of the Google Maps mobile app, which replaces the (paid for) apps I used to have on my WinMo and Palm OS devices in the past, complete with the benefit of ‘current location’ from the mobile network. I appreciate GPS may be ‘better’, but in London this is quite sufficient… as it was in Brighton recently.

The Yell app will have to be pretty good to better that… though I do see ample places where it could be improved, I’m unconvinced that either Yell or Google will make those improvements any time soon… but I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else who’s used either/both?

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Editorial independence, the Daily Mail and the BBC

Paul Dacre

Paul Dacre

Peter Wilby, over on the Guardian’s site, is complaining about Paul Dacre (editor of the Daily Mail and set for much grander things as he celebrates his 60th birthday this week) complaining about the BBC. Apparently Dacre’s comments are ‘self serving’ (and worse).

Now there’s a surprise. Editor of major news outlet gives speech in which he says something that is true to his (and his employers’) interests. Hold the front page.

The various titles down at Wapping seem equally happy to take a poke at the BBC whenever possible too. Both the Times and the Sun (and their respective Sunday iterations) have been known similarly to attack Auntie on sometimes flimsy grounds. Witness the News of the World’s (pernicious? self-serving?) lead last weekend about the amount of money paid to top execs over at the BBC. I noted that no mention was made on the packages paid to senior execs over at Wapping – or indeed at sister company Sky.

So does Dacre have a point? The Daily Mail is part of a larger group that has a large swathe of regional papers (Northcliffe Media) who are falling on harder times at the moment, not least because of the rise of decent online content, and the BBC is investing heavily on 65 ‘ultra-local’ websites. This won’t help Northcliffe Media any – and it’ll be interesting to see what they try to do with their ‘ThisIs…’ brand website extensions to those local papers.

It is Sandlines’ view that the local markets are the next really interesting battleground online. I’ll be watching with a great deal of interest. Who knows, perhaps something will come out of it that actually helps the people these sites are trying to reach – and the advertisers who are trying to talk to them. Sandlines lives in hope.

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Can you compete with the Google giant?

Over on Razorshine, my old pal Kanani has been shopping – in the real world – and hoping that Google would help him. As the organisation dedicated to ‘…organi(sing) the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” this is perhaps not an unreasonable expectation. Especially when, as Riaz says, the new Westfield Shopping Centre has linked to Google Maps to show us how to find them. Ah well.

It raises a question that someone asked me a couple of weeks ago over a pint – and which has come up several times recently: is it possible to go up against Google and win?

Privately, many inside Microsoft would say that perhaps it isn’t – at least for Microsoft.

So if you’re going into business doing anything around the ‘organisation’ and provision of information, does that mean you should pack up and go home?


Google does an outstanding job most of the time – but they are not perfect, or infallible. And, for all their 16,000+ employees, they still cannot do everything. At least, not all right now. Pick the right one of those areas and you’re in business… perhaps.

Then there’s the new semantic search technologies that are touted as the foundation of a ‘web 3.0′ world. Google, of course, will play in this sandpit, but it’s a different approach to presenting information than that which is hard coded into Google’s corporate psyche, so the jury is not quite in yet as to whether they’ll rise to the challenge.

Of course, there is also the entire ecosystem that has sprung up around the way Google makes money. One friend of mine calls this ‘feeding the monster’. Shopping comparison and much affiliate marketing could be described as falling into this bucket. And it’s a healthy one, even in a downturn.

But one of the more interesting perspectives is coming from a book I’m reading at the moment – Randall Stoss has published a near-insider’s view of Google in ‘Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know” ( I link to the ebook, but you can get it on Amazon too). And it’s a compelling view. Doubtless I will mention it again over the coming days.

It’s curious in how it compares Google’s ‘open’ view of the world with the essentially closed environment that social networking (well, mainly Facebook) is once again introducing to the web.

Just as Google wins the legal battle to index the content of pretty much any published book it likes – and extend beyond the virtual world – it’s curious that its biggest threat may well come from the web itself. Food for thought.

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Cheeze knows you’re here

I was checking out the latest from over at Cheeze’s excellent marketing blog and spotted, almost incidentally, a really cool app sitting in the sidebar: ‘Live Visitor Feed‘ by Feedjit.

Apart from a small detail in error (it believes my London suburb is in Kent… it’s not, it’s London and it would more likely be Surrey anyway) it’s pretty interesting.

I’ve noted before that local targeting is challenging in the UK… local IP’s are much more difficult to pin down outside the UK, or at least they were. But Feedjit claim that they “…can determine the geographic locations at the city level of 90% of your website visitors.” That’s pretty impressive.

Now the interesting question is what we are going to DO with this information? I have some ideas… for another post.

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Yell drops door drops; doormat sighs in relief

Yell.Com: no to doordrops

Yell.Com: no to doordrops

No, not the end of Yellow Pages deliveries (yet), but I saw today that Yell have pulled out of a recently launched (August) venture to compete with asrecommended by publishing a consumer car insurance guide. The pilot went well, and 1.5 million copies a month were thudding onto doormats – and the plan was to grow that to 40 million.

My doormat is sighing with relief.

I think I hear the odd environment lobbyist cheering somewhat, too.

Can a magazine really be the right way forward to promote insurance…? A ‘service’ that means, almost by definition, that 11/12 of the audience will find it irrelevant each month as they are not in the renewal cycle. What on earth were they planning to say each month?

To paraphrase the old adage, “I know that 92% of my ad budget is wasted, I just don’t know with 92%.”

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Ubiquitous marketing

So another entry to the buzzword bingo chart, Forrester Research have published a report under the heading ‘Ubiquitous Marketing’. Whilst it’s not quite James Lee Burke, it is nevertheless a good read… and plays well with Sandlines’ manifesto.

Taking an inevitable cue from Minority Report, this research identifies a few key trends that ring very true:

  • consumers don’t much like – or trust – advertising
  • marketers are finding it tougher to make advertising work
  • people move about, and as they do, their needs change

Their conclusion? Marketing needs to be contextual, reciprocal and successive. In other words, we need to morph marketing broadcasts into something that looks more like a service: relevant and useful, building on previous exchanges.

Digital marketers who have embraced the concept of marketing as a conversation should rejoice: their stock will rise yet higher.

Consumers should, also, be happier – if it leads to fewer, more welcome marketing messages. Broadcast or ‘one size fits all’ marketing starts to look more and more like spam every day.

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