Tag Archives: Manchester

Social Media: Fighting Fire with Fire

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

In the wake of recent riots, social media has received a bad press. The government claims social media “fuelled” riots and helped orchestrate organised vandalism and looting. Unlike the government, GMP (Greater Manchester Police) have embraced social media as a tool to prosecute, and publicise the prosecutions, of those involved with the recent riots.

GMP also used social media as a live platform during the riots to quash rumours and deter potential rioters. Greater Manchester Police’s early adoption of social media has demonstrated the trust social media can create with publics in times of crisis.

The Internet age has made winning and losing trust more complicated, faster and measurable than ever. This was demonstrated last week by the rioters, who were able to organise and publicise the riots quickly and on a mass scale. The digital revolution has enabled more people to have a voice. Anyone can publish their views and share them instantly.

This ability to publish instantly, combined with increased social networking sites creates a powerful tool that influences the views of people we trust (our friends). Communications has been turned on its head; the public now create the conversations and messages, putting marketers in the back seat.

Throughout the rioting in Manchester last week, GMP were engaging with the public and collecting evidence through the Twitter community by listening to conversations. This strategy can also be applied to business. Listening and engaging with your public through social media is vital, as the right kinds of conversations can inform sceptics and encourage new business. The wrong kinds of conversations can be monitored, evidence can be collected and companies can change.

In the end, building trust through social media is quite simple; it’s all about having more conversations with more people, about the things they care about. Many people (and the government) forget that social media is “social” and listening is at the heart of it.

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‘Copycat Kids’ Trash Manchester Businesses

It would seem that the masked rioters creating mayhem in Manchester yesterday – August 9th – were roaming gangs of teenagers. On several levels, this should give us reason to reflect.

The likelihood is that these ‘copycat kids’ were in it for the kicks. There’s also the buzz they get from taunting the police, and the possibility of grabbing some loot from smashed-in shops.  It’s unlikely that these people are politically motivated, although some may cite economic and social disadvantage as possible driving forces.

How much do we know of the socio-economic makeup of rioters in Manchester and other English cities?  Is it likely they’re organised and operated from behind by some mysterious left-wing Svengalis?  Or was the Tottenham shooting last week a catalyst for the underlying grievances of a growing group of disadvantaged and unemployed under-25s to emerge spontaneously, collectively and violently?

Although reprehensible, it’s only half the story to label all these people (in all these places) as ‘criminals’.  Yes, they’ve committed criminal acts against the homes and businesses of hard-working and innocent people – and should be held to account. 

What we need to look at, however, is whether the so-called rioters are impressionable young people craving some excitement in their otherwise dull and predictable lives?  Or are they immature, vulnerable and naive people following politically motivated ‘leaders’ who know how to whip up a groundswell of anger – exploiting the dispossessed status of so many young English people – by the clever manipulation of social media and smartphone communications?

Heaven forbid, it could just be that some of the rioters have a case!  Maybe the condemnation by the Establishment and the middle-class masses of Baby Boomers has completely missed the point?  Maybe it is they who are responsible for creating a whole generation who’ve been priced out of the housing market, higher education and well-paid middle-class careers that are reserved for a new privately-educated élite?   Or maybe we should round up a posse and drive those pesky bankers out of town?!

The enlightened liberalism that’s been sugared by decades of economic good fortune has blinded today’s older generation to the fact that there’s a huge swathe of humanity on their doorstep – albeit living on the poorer side of town – for whom rioting (or something akin to it) is an attractive, or only, option.  Democracy clearly doesn’t work for people at the bottom of the pile, simply because the rules of the winning Establishment have been drawn up by the winners themselves.

People taking to the streets is nothing new of course.  For the French, it’s been in their DNA since the 1789 Revolution – et vive La France!  Scarcely a year goes by without their students or unions blockading something or other.  In England, we’ve had our moments too.  Think: poll tax; miners’ strike; Iraq war.

In those cases, the protesting was by people who had a stake in English society.  This therefore gave their actions a greater sense of legitimacy.  Peaceful protest has ben recognised as being part of the English way of doing things for centuries.  Protesting turns to rioting only when peaceful means don’t work. 

In the case of many rioters over the past week, it could safely be said that the many economic and social grievances which currently abound in our society have not been addressed.  This, to some people, would lend justification to their actions.  Many would also say that Tory policies have aggravated an already-sensitive situation.

What isn’t yet clear is whether those who were rioting in our cities were mainly opportunists, jumping on a bandwaggon for cheap thrills – or whether there was a political dimension to the acts of at least some of those involved. 

As of 10 August 2011, it looks likely that there were some politically-minded agitators involved, and the rest followed their lead.  Whether they can sustain unrest at a level that will make a political difference is debatable, especially given the Establishment’s track-record of successfully keeping a lid on foment created by undesirable ‘fifth columnists’.

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Manchester United show red card to Facebook advertising

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester 

In the space of a year, Manchester United have acquired more than 14 million “likes” on Facebook. This is a fantastic display of Manchester United’s clout as a brand and it would be expected that the club would take full advantage of Facebook as a marketing platform.

Yet Manchester United have come out this week stating that they will not be advertising on their Facebook page.  The club launched the page last July which was regarded by many as quite late. Maybe this late entry into social media was because Manchester United didn’t know how to approach social media marketing as a football club?

With Manchester United’s Facebook page acquiring 14 million likes in under a year, it would seem to be an obvious move to advertise on their page. This hasn’t happened and the club have decided to opt out of Facebook advertising as they feel it will stop the growth of the fan base.

United’s Head of Marketing, Jonathan Rigby, has been quoted as saying,

“”We don’t sell off Facebook and are resisting until we are satisfied it will not mess up the growth of the Facebook page. Our big concern is that if we get it wrong then the fan base will stop growing.”

This fear that advertising may stunt the growth of Manchester United’s Facebook page is understandable, but what benefits could Facebook advertising bring to the club? Obviously Manchester United advertise, but unlike conventional advertising, Facebook ads can target and segment markets depending on the information on users’ profiles.

This segmentation could be used in countries where Manchester United are looking at the potential for growth, such as the US, India (where Facebook already has 40 million fans) and China. Facebook ads can provide all businesses (regardless of size) with the potential to target specific audiences – and it can be done efficiently and cost-effectively.

Manchester United also refuse to embrace other social media platforms, such as Twitter. The club have stated that they don’t feel there is a “role for Twitter”. With recent reports in the tabloids relating to Manchester United players and their use of Twitter, it is understandable why the club are cautious to have a Twitter platform.

Manchester United’s scepticism about the effectiveness of social media is hardly surprising. And it’s clear why they want to keep their Facebook page “for the fans”. It’s an admirable decision and, speaking as a United fan, I feel the Facebook page should be about the club – and not the profits.

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Muddy Waters plays on Chorlton railway station Manchester 1963!

Now that Metrolink trams have come to Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, discovering this video of blues legend Muddy Waters performing on the old Chorlton railway station in 1963 (Wilbraham Road for Chorltonville!) is 24-carat nostalgia!

That was the year when Lord Beeching wielded his axe to the British railway network as car ownership began to take off. Little did he know that the whole transport infrastructure would come full circle!

Thanks to Alan Ward at Axis Graphic Design in Chorlton for drawing my attention to this gem!!!

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Marketing 101 – Social Media Marketing

Written by Nicholas Beeson – Marketing Associate at Buzzwords Manchester

Social media has changed the way we interact with our friends, family, customers and colleagues. It has enabled consumers to become opinion leaders, leaving marketers only one option: to listen to their customers’ opinions.

Social media can be explained as, “The sum total of people who create content online, as well as the people who interact with one another.”

Through social media, consumers are now able to add their own opinions and content to sites. This has enabled them to form opinions between one another on social networking sites, blogs and forums. As a result, marketers have developed Social Media Marketing (SMM) which can best be described as;

‘A term used to encompass any online marketing strategy or tactic which uses social media as the medium for its communication. Further use of social media is where the marketer engages in discourse with members of the general public (potential customers) in virtual communities.’

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are at the forefront of social media sites and, as the world knows, they are growing exponentially. Expert Larry Webster states that social networks are “Member-based communities that enable users to link one another based on common interests and through invites”.

Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all provide users with different experiences. Ultimately, however, they all give users the ability to find and connect with friends, family, colleagues etc. Social networking sites enable marketers to advertise, improve online exposure/reputation and nurture pre-existing brand advocates. Although the security and privacy that these sites provide is often questioned, they continue to grow and influence modern society.

As an example: when a US blogger called Vincent Ferrari felt that he had been insulted by an AOL customer service representative, he decided to take revenge. Ferrari posted the audio recording of the conversation online. As word spread, 300,000 listeners requested downloads of the audio file, the story was picked up by thousands of other bloggers and websites, and eventually made national news. This is a great example of the power blogs have and the true freedom consumers now have to vent their frustrations and offer opinions.

Businesses are also using blogs to add a human connection to a previously bland corporate image. Marketers have realised the importance of blogs as they can create massive exposure and also engage consumers on a personal level. Micro-blogging site, Twitter, gives business the opportunity to put out short 140-character blogs that can be just as effective as conventional blogs in moulding and influencing public opinion.

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Who’s Driving the Social Media Bandwaggon?

The slightly opportunist stance of GolinHarris in announcing its new, flatter agency structure shouldn’t obscure the fact that PR and marketing services are undergoing a major sea-change at the hands of social media and the ongoing online revolution.

Who cares how a PR agency organises itself?  Even its clients shouldn’t be too concerned – providing the end result is a better service.  We can only assume that something along those lines was behind the GH announcement! 

Of course, revolutions spark some big changes.  Some would argue that it’s inevitable PR agencies will wrestle with their own internal response to the rise of social media, and everything else that goes with consumers and clients grabbing the marketing initiative.

Others would say that, ultimately, agencies will have no choice but to respond in the most optimal ways available.  Juggling with staffing structures, departmental responsibilities and individual skillsets is something that any responsible and responsive service sector consultancy will do (or should do) as a matter of course.

In the PR industry, change has never been as dramatic or as sustained as it has been over recent years.  With change comes opportunity, especially for the fleet of foot.  It could be argued that publicly announcing just how ‘fleet’ you really are is a shrewd new-business move calculated to attract clients who may feel they’re on the receiving end of some serious inertia as far as their existing agency is concerned!

Being seen to be pro-active will always contribute to PR success.  Responding to the ways clients and markets can be reached by co-ordinating social and digital media with ‘traditional’ PR skills is a sensible route to take when your competitors may be struggling to understand what is happening in their hitherto stable world.

And yet, making changes in response to market needs by shifting accountability, job labels or responsibilities may be too premature when the full implications of ultra-new media are still throbbing their way through every marketing channel. 

Whilst it’s probably better that even an embryonic response is better than no response to the demands of market complexity in an ever-shrinking global village, there’s a danger that the diversity of recent reaction among some of the bigger PR agencies will, in the end, be self-defeating.

 
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PR in Manchester – Changes begin with MediaCityUK

(Written by Nicholas Beeson)

The recent relocation of the BBC to Salford’s MediaCityUK has provoked a lot of discussion in the PR world. A recent article featured in PR Week, discusses the impact MediaCity will have upon PR in the northwest.

The construction of MediaCity alone has cost the BBC in excess of 189 million pounds and will see high profile news outlets such as Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast relocate to the new Salford headquarters. The move will also see 2,300 BBC staff making the move north, but how will this impact on PR in the region?

To many, the move is seen as symbolic as the BBC try to improve relations with audiences in the north and portray the BBC as representative of the UK as whole (not just London). With all the hype surrounding the construction of MediaCity it would be expected that agencies are getting excited by the pending move.

This proves not to be the case, as Brazen founder Nina Webb says:
“I haven’t re-written my business plan on the back of it.” (referring to MediaCity).

Although the enthusiasm of MediaCity might not be shared by all, there’s no doubt that new PR opportunities will arise from the new BBC North headquarters. Many of the programmes that are being relocated are interviewee-intensive which will of course provide opportunities for agencies with clients based near MediaCity who can comment on news issues.

MediaCity is also being touted as a catalyst for growth in the regional creative industry.  The relocation will enable many agency people to create new relationships with journalists.

In many ways, the BBC’s relocation to MediaCity is great news for Manchester and the northwest. A greater emphasis may be placed on stories coming from the north, although it has to be said that London as the centre of the media universe is not under threat!

The danger with all this is that many people could overestimate the potential impact of MediaCity, and the whole exercise could prove to be a massive white elephant – as Julian Bailey, Head of Media Relations at Morrisons, so neatly puts it:

“As a PR professional based in Bradford,” he says, “I will continue to spend more time in London than Salford”.

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