4 October 2011

The power of Social Media

I’m fascinated by the power of social media and its ability to reach out to a network of people and connect with them. 

I was reading a blog post by Jonathan MacDonald yesterday where he was talking about something he had witnessed in an underground station – a guard being verbally abusive to a traveller who eventually suggesting to “sling him under a train”. 

Jonathan’s video became front-page news thanks to in part to the explosive nature of his story and the social network that enables it to travel far and wide seemingly under its own steam.

In his blog Jonathan singles out the 8 things that he says enabled him to unlock the power of social media:

1. As I always carry either a camera or camera phone, when I saw the guard’s behaviour I pressed record – this is because I try and record things that may be of value to citizens as that is my favourite subject

2. As I have a blog, I wrote a blog post, uploaded the video to YouTube, embedded the video in my blog and published it

3. As I am on Twitter, I sent out a few Tweets about the post (asking people to ‘RT’ which means Re-Tweet), including some directly to the very powerful Twitterers. I did the same on Facebook too.

4. As some large press organisations are on Twitter or online, I ensured that they would find the story too by directing them to my blog post

5. I then waited overnight for people to start talking – which they did. I re-joined the conversation that was now vibrant across the web

6. As I have a contact page on my site, anyone who wanted to get in touch with me could – so by mid-morning Friday (16th Oct), many journalists used my contact page to ask whether they could speak with me about the story

7. I made myself available to be interviewed – meaning trekking all over London from studio to studio – showing willing makes it easier for the press to write and film more

8. I wrote this follow up post as an account of the events and hopefully as guidance and encouragement for others to do what I did – then repeat from point 2

In other words: all Jonathan did was see something that shouldn’t be tolerated and use the ammunition he had in his hands – video/blogs/network – to give it a broader audience.

As a marketer understanding how to help brands make the best use of social media is an ever evolving (and perhaps never ending journey) and at The BSG (www.thebsg.eu) we’re lucky enough to be on this journey with some of the best brands in the world.

Finding powerful stories that connect with consumers is key – too often brands fail to take on-board the basic premise that people love to get behind a good cause and are less willing to really engage when they think they are being sold to.

“Britain has become a world leader in Litter” – Bill Bryson.

It’s a shame that Britain once famous for it’s iconic brands like Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Harrods, Typhoo tea and HP Sauce is now on its way to being the leaders in Litter.

If you haven't noticed it so far, just take a look next time you leave your office or your home... have a glance at the filthy motorway verges, the plastic bags fluttering in the trees, the fast food wrappers lying in the gutter, plastic bottles scattered all over our parks and gum on our pavements. 

Clean Up Britain (or CLUB as they like to be called) is group of individuals who’ve got together with one shared ambition – to rid this country of its rising tide of litter. 

“We need to make dropping litter as socially unacceptable as drink driving” – David Cameron

The cost of picking up litter every year is estimated to be in the region of £1B and at a time when economies are struggling it’s ridiculous to think we can afford to throw money down the drain – but that’s exactly what is happening.

· Picking up litter cost Local Authorities nearly £1 billion in 2010 (CLUB national campaign)
· The amount of litter dropped in Britain has increased by 500% since the 1960s (KBT)
· An estimated 1.3m pieces of litter are dropped on Britain's roads every weekend (KBT)
· On average, men drop 3times as much litter as women (Symphony Environmental survey)
· McDonald's is the most littered fast food brand in England (KBT 2009)
· Coca Cola accounts for nearly 5% of all litter (Litter Heroes survey)
· 300,000 pieces of chewing gum were recently peeled off Oxford Street in London (KBT)
· Removing chewing gum costs London £10m a year (KBT)

To think that the cost of scraping chewing gum from our pavements could have paid for increased policing (and maybe even prevented some of the rioting) is a sobering thought and when you break it all down £1B could have paid for:

· 42,500 new police constables (starting salary £23,500)
· 60,000 new nurses (starting salary £17,000)
· 2,500,000 hospital beds (at £400 a day)
· 5,000 libraries (£200,000 a year)
· Nearly 300 million meals on wheels for pensioners (285,714,286 at £3.50)
· Tuition fees for 111,111 students (tuition fees at £9,000)
· 40 new secondary schools (£25 million to build)

So why am I blogging about Clean Up Britain you may ask?

The first reason is potential. It is both highly visible and totally preventable so it staggers me that the government funded ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign has been so ineffectual.

The second reason is it is something I feel very passionate about. It’s not often these days one feels national pride, but as an adopted ‘Londoner’ I too often feel ashamed by the state of our capital city with it’s littered sidewalks and parks.

And the third is because I believe CLUB are in a great position to really make this campaign count. That’s why The BSG have decided to get involve and offer CLUB our professional expertise to help them find corporate partners to actively support the campaign and in turn help CLUB make a difference to people’s lives in Britain.

“To help CLUB change the attitudes and behaviours of the 48% of the British population who admit to dropping litter is a huge challenge and one the BSG is proud to be involved with” – Rod Connors.

As an ex-Marketing Director at Nike, Rod Connors and CLUB Founder-Director John Read, have embarked upon a mission to find corporate partners who are willing support a sustained and high profile campaign, to change the behaviour and attitudes of the many millions of men and women in Britain who drop litter.

To do this CLUB has to be able to mobilise grass-roots activists who are both passionate about spreading and prepared (like Jonathan) to go the extra mile to help clean up Britain.

During the London riots we saw how social media could be a powerful force for both good and bad – used to coordinate the looting and then to mobilise an army of civilians who came out in force the following morning to clean the streets.

What CLUB believe it that when communities of people are galvanised behind a powerful common goal, social media can be hugely powerful way of mobilising large sections of the population – and then anything is possible.

I’d love to hear how YOU think that CLUB really can make their Clean Up Britain message stick and how it can change people’s attitudes and behaviours towards litter:

· What do you think of the campaign? Do you think that Clean Up Britain is something that people will really get behind? If not why not?

· Do you have any thoughts about how we could unlock the power of social media? Do you have any examples of good causes who’ve used social media to brilliant effect to inspire us?

· Are you’re interested in finding out more about opportunities to come on board as a CLUB partner? How can you help?

Please tweet me your thoughts @thebsg_danb  or alternatively is you want to get involved then you can really help by:

· Signing the People's Pledge at http://www.cleanupbritain.org/
· Sending john.read@cleanupbritain.org your photos of litter 'blackspots'
· Following @cleanupbritain on Twitter and tell whether you think it is fair to ask companies whose brands are constantly littered, to make a contribution to the costs of cleaning up litter?
· Taking action yourself and set up or join a local 'litter pick' group. If you already belong to a local organisation, please tell them on Twitter, so they can put people in touch with you.

Thanks to @thebsg_rodc for the input and @jmacdonald for the blog that got me thinking http://www.jonathanmacdonald.com/?p=4042

28 September 2011

“Anything simple always interests me”

Funny thing you notice about having children is how simple life is. I was at the park with son the other day and started playing with some kids he didn't know. I watched him stroll up to the group of kids, size them up then sit down and begin playing. When we left he proudly told me he’d been playing with his friends. I bet if Ben had a Facebook page he’d have no problem making friends if the performance in the park was anything to go by.

So how come marketeers find it so hard to keep things simple? 

I’m convinced most of the time it’s because they don’t understand social media – after all the majority of marketeers in senior positions haven't grown up with social media – and I include myself in that. The rest of the time it’s because they accept bad advice – when in fact the best thing they could be do is rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in. rather than trying to learn social media from a text book.

Bring on the world awash with Whopper Sacrifice’s and Skittles update-the-rainbows because we don't want to see geniuses like Hugh Laurie deflowered in advertising monologues that don't seek to engage the consumer.

So when ENO posed the question: ever thought how odd your online life is? It connected. I watched their charming video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDycZH0CA4I and I reflected on how social media has made the world a more complicated place and wished I could have gone and watched their opera.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)