The power of social media to tell and hide stories

What do the following four pictures all have in common?

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[su_accordion][su_spoiler title=”Reveal answer”]They are all examples of where social media has been used to positively shape a brand and/or engage customers/followers in an authentic way.[/su_spoiler][/su_accordion]

 

A personal or company brand can take years to build up and gain the trust of customers, fans and acquaintances. Yet we’ve seen countless examples of where ill-thought out social media campaigns and even simple social media posts can backfire and damage a brand in seconds.

This week I’ve been drawn to four examples of where clever social media presence can build a brand. Some of these examples are quick thinking campaigns, while others are clearly more strategic and planned.

 

Tom Daley announces he’s in a relationship

imageThis week my Facebook feed was filled with retweets and YouTube shares of Tom sharing his story (see video here).

Tom’s YouTube video hit 7 million views in 2 days. His T,witter post to the video received 70k re-tweets and 83k favourites in that same time period. In the video, Tom shares his story in his own time and his own words. By sharing the story himself, he is able to take control of the message and shape the narrative. Tom speaks of how, whilst he is still attracted to women, he is currently in a relationship with a man and he couldn’t be happier. The heartfelt video is authentic and provides a platform for Tom to be open and honest about his personal life. The release of the video coincides with a new high profile TV series Tom will be presenting, and a prime time TV interview this weekend.

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The above fact was partially true when it came to the media coverage of Tom’s story. Sharing a personal story like this is never easy, and no matter how much planning you put into it, you cannot always control the reactions. The Guardian newspaper has a good summary of the media’s response, and the importance of not applying labels to people. A few key quotes are shown below:

Reporting of the diver’s announcement that he is in a relationship with a man but also attracted to women, suggests that being bisexual is still taboo.

The mainstream media can’t quite get it straight, in any sense of the phrase. Does this mean Daley has “come out”, as the Huffington Post has asserted? Or that he is merely in a “gay relationship” the staid and cautious phrase used by the Telegraph and ITV? Likewise, the LGBT media isn’t much clearer on the matter, and instead seems intent on claiming Daley as a new gay icon – even the UK’s largest LGBT news agency Pink News earlier used the headline (interestingly, since corrected but visible in the URL): “Tom Daley comes out as gay”.

The only facts that speak for themselves are that Daley is dating a man, and wants to be honest about the fact so the media doesn’t try to make assertions about his personal life and preferences for him.

[link to full story]

 

The tweet (above, right) shows Tom’s response to the video’s reaction. For an insight into how this positively affected Tom’s personal brand, read The Guardian’s review: Tom Daley’s YouTube video is an impressive display of strategic control.

 

Amazon droning on

Over the weekend my Flipboard feed was filled with stories about drones. Then on Monday the BBC reported

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is testing unmanned drones to deliver goods to customers, Chief Executive Jeff Bezos says.

Could it be true? Could Amazon really be considering developing and deploying a delivery service that looks like it is out of the film Minority Reports? Based on their website and the news hype you’d believe so.

That said, a deeper dive behind this press release (and confirming the press releases weren’t dated April 1st) reveals what may well be a clever marketing stunt, fuelled by social media and the peaking the media’s interest. As The Guardian newspaper report:

Jeff Bezos’s ‘plan’ for drone deliveries is little more than a publicity stunt – timed for the biggest online shopping day of the year.

If his TV appearance hadn’t included the magic word “drones”, Bezos’s vague aspirations to change an aspect of his company’s logistics probably wouldn’t have made waves. Lucky for him, he did – winning his company positive publicity just ahead of what is usually the biggest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday.

Floating an exciting-but-impractical innovation for a swath of press coverage is such an old PR tactic you’d hope no one would fall for it, and yet everyone still does.

Bezos’ neat trick has knocked several real stories about Amazon out of the way. Last week’s Panorama investigation into Amazon’s working and hiring practices […] is the latest in a long line of pieces about the company’s working conditions […]. Amazon’s drone debacle also moved discussion of its tax bill […] to the margins.

 

Waterstones respond with Owls

Waterstones took a clever tongue-in-cheek spoof response to Amazon’s drones (see article here).

What struck me about this response was the light-hearted British humour and the speed at which Waterstone’s were able to turn the video and press release around. Going further, Waterstone’s showed commitment to their social media post, through diligently following up with commenter’s of the video. As someone whom is not a Waterstones shopper, it made me warm to the brand and give the brand character and personality. If nothing else I will remember the Waterstones name next time I am shopping for books – so their post clearly meets their aims.

If you need 5 minutes downtime, do fly on over and read the post and comments.

 

M&S drive customer engagement through Percy Pig

imageAt the recent Forrester Customer Experience Forum, Marks and Spencers (M&S) spoke of how they have taken control of their social media presence and have integrated it into their customer service engagement strategy. M&S sell sell clothing for women, men and children, furniture, gifts and a supermarket food and drinks. Their typical retail consumer are 55-65 year old women.

Social media: Why M&S is listening to the word on the web gives an insight (from 2009) about M&S’s early social customer engagement.

More recently, M&S have taken to social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to engage customers, particularly younger consumers. When setting up these channels, they found Facebook already had a Group for “Percy Pig” – a character from one of their sweet ranges. This group was run by a community of avid Percy Pig fans who shared pictures and stories of the character. Whilst not wanting to lose the fans, M&S wanted ownership and control over their brand – so asked the group to take ownership of the group and what fans would like from the group. Since owning the group they have run several successful customer engagement campaigns, including:

  • The group has 240k+ fans of the Percy Pig group
  • Run fan competitions to ask whether Percy should have a girlfriend?, whether Percy and his new girlfriend, Penny, should get married? to ask fans what flavour of sweets Percy and Penny should have for their wedding
  • Engaged fans to create new products which M&S have then put into production

Whilst this type of approach may not work for an investment banking division, I’m sure similar concepts could work in retail banking areas – particularly as they strive to engage younger consumers.

What are your opinions on these examples, and where have you seen other positive examples?

 

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