Hello, we are social. We’re a global conversation agency, with offices in London, New York, Paris, Milan, Munich, Singapore, Sydney & São Paulo. We help brands to listen, understand and engage in conversations in social media.
We’re a new kind of agency, but conversations between people are nothing new. Neither is the idea that ‘markets are conversations’.

We’re already helping adidas, Heinz, Unilever, Heineken, eBay, Jaguar, Intel, Moët & Chandon & Expedia.

If you’d like to chat about us helping you too, then give us a call on +44 20 3195 1700 or drop us an email.

Smaller Networks Boom as Facebook Dips

by Jason Mander in News

GlobalWebIndex’s latest figures show the major social networking winners and losers from 2014 – with Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram growing the fastest as Facebook saw declines in all age groups and regions. Jason Mander, Head of Trends at GWI, exclusively talks us through some of the key trends and findings from the new GWI Social report.

2014 was the year of the smaller networks; while Facebook saw a small drop in active usage and the other big players (Twitter, YouTube and Google+) all recorded relatively gentle increases, it was the younger, tier-two networks like Pinterest (+97%), Tumblr (+95%) and Instagram (+47%) which experienced rapid rises in their active user bases.

Top Social Platform Growth

Of course, it’s easier for these smaller networks to record substantial increases as they start from lower starting points; nevertheless, it’s pretty telling that Facebook saw a 9% fall in active users across 2014, and that this decline was consistent across all regions and age groups – peaking among 16-24s (-11%), 25-34s (-12%) and in Asia Pacific (-12%).

One of the most striking trends to emerge from this data is just how many of us have become multi-networkers – those who maintain accounts on a range of social platforms. Outside of China, for example, a third of internet users have visited YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in the last month – dispelling the notion that there is no or little overlap between the audiences of the leading networks. Just look at engagement rates among Facebook visitors: 9 in 10 of them are also accessing YouTube each month, while close to half are visiting Twitter too. On average, in fact, online adults now have accounts on 5.54 networks and are actively using some 2.82 of them.

Social Media Accounts

Predictably, 16-24s are at the very forefront of this trend with an average of 6.55 accounts each; in contrast, 55-64s are maintaining accounts on just 2.85 services. When it comes to active usage, though, 25-34s overtake the 16-24s. Contributing factors to this include 25-34s remaining more loyal to Facebook and being the most likely to use professional networks such as LinkedIn. Equally significant is that 16-24s are the most likely to have adopted the newest networks: they score the highest figures when it comes to membership of Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. So, 16-24s might be the most visible networkers with accounts on the highest number of platforms, but 25-34s are the most engaged.

Time Spent Social Networking

One consequence of these multi-networking behaviours is that we’re spending more and more time on the internet. Average daily time spent online via PCs, laptops, mobiles and tablets grew from 5.55 hours in 2012 to 6.15 in 2014 (with social networks climbing from 1.61 to 1.72 hours over the same period). That’s important food-for-thought given how many commentators have been willing to proclaim that the social networking “bubble” has burst and that the top networks are dying. Rather, we’re actually spending more time on networks now than in the earlier part of the decade – with the rise of the mobile internet, and the ability it affords us to connect to a wide range of networks at any time and from any location, being a major driver of this.

Note: GlobalWebIndex conducts quarterly research across 32 markets, representing nearly 90% of the global internet audience. It surveys more than 170,000 internet users per year, including 30,000 in both the US and UK. Download a free summary of the new GWI Social report here.

Video Killed the Video Star

by Stefano Maggi in News Google+

Until a few years ago, the way marketing thought about video revolved around a very basic concept: the TV advert. This approach meant that a disproportionate amount of strategic, creative and production effort went into the creation of a single piece of content. Although it was adaptable to several formats, could be watched on several channels and inspire related content, the TV spot was a single, isolated element.

Today’s reality is very different. In the past brands’ stories could be told through one, or perhaps a few, TV ads. Today, they need to be part of a conversation, evolving through many different pieces of content in different forms.

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The stories brands want to communicate must adapt with the way people use the internet, and the devices they use it on. They must unfold in channels where people want to engage, without interrupting them, choosing the best times and frequencies that are relevant for people’s lives. This approach is the very foundation of a content strategy; and this includes video content. Progressive brands are embracing this approach and integrating it into their strategies.

This doesn’t mean getting rid of TV ads – quite the opposite. It does mean rethinking them, making them part of a content ecosystem that builds a story that people want to engage with.

The number of different ways to communicate with audiences is growing constantly, stimulated by the social channels themselves. For example, as well as giving an advantage to video content in the newsfeed through “autoplay”, Facebook is experimenting with video channels inside Pages, for people who are interested in video content from a brand; a concept similar to YouTube’s “Channels”.

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It’s not only about choosing communication tools that are relevant to modern media consumption patterns. It’s about developing content for all the interest categories that a brand wants to interact with. Just look at all the YouTube “Creators” that have grown hugely in popularity; what do they have in common? Their focus is on a single specific type of interest, not a generic approach to video content.

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This approach to editorial video strategy is essential for brands that want to develop a deeper relationship with their communities. Studying behaviors, tastes and needs of people is even more crucial now for brands. In the past, TV ads (and their publishing online, e.g. through pre-roll ads) has been totally detached from ongoing editorial plans, or just tied to it by conceptual references.

Today, winning brands are choosing to put editorial planning at the core of their content strategy, where creative is expressed through long-form, mid-form or short form video. TV spots are part of this, extending it, making it more frequent and familiar to people. But it’s just a part of a whole system. A TV ad is now just part of the editorial ecosystem: it’s not the isolated “video star” it used to be.

The ‘New Social’: How Brands Must Change

by Simon Kemp in News

I joined Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg TV last week to discuss how brands need to change the way they approach social media in light of the changes we highlighted in our new Digital, Social & Mobile Worldwide in 2015 report.

As you’ll see from the video of our chat above, the most valuable findings to come out of this report are not the staggering numbers, nor the impressive, growth of all things digital; much as these things are important, it’s the change in the ways that people are using digital connectivity, and why they’re using it, that has the greatest significance for marketers.

If brands are to make best use of the huge opportunities in social, they’re going to need to make a few changes of their own.

1. Mobile Is More Organic
The biggest shift highlighted in this year’s report was the increasing adoption of mobile social – in particular the rapid adoption of chat apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger, all of which are growing at averages of more than 25 million active users per month.

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But that has some serious implications for brands:

  • Very few people choose to interact directly with brands on social media. Instead, almost all of their chat-app activity involves direct, real-time conversation with  friends. They may well be talking about brands, of course, but marketers can’t see this activity, nor can they measure it.
  • If people are sharing branded content, those shares are all organic. They’ve actively chosen to take the content or the link, move to a new app, and then share it. For this to happen, there needs to be a clear, personal benefit to doing so. The traditional ‘share this with your friends for a chance to win’ tactics aren’t going to work either, because there’s no way for brands to track that behaviour.
  • Because of this, we’re going to need to adopt a content approach that’s more about inspiring active, peer-to-peer conversation than it is about stimulating the social media head-nodding of likes and RTs.

Key tip: make marketing worth talking about, rather than talking about yourself

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2. It’s Time To Grow Up
Too many marketers believe the world revolves around their brands. However, just as toddlers learn to realise that they’re not the centre of the universe, and that they need to exist in social harmony with other people, so marketers need to accept that people aren’t living their lives waiting for the next advert or innovation from their brands.

It’s time marketers learnt the key social skills of empathy, consideration and generosity, otherwise we’re going to continue being that kid who turns up to a friend’s birthday party and expects to be the centre of attention

Key tip: it’s not about you. 

3. Think Longer-Term
Most brands still approach social media thinking they’re channels to deliver immediate sales. However, this is a mistake – for two important reasons.

Firstly, people’s primary motivations for using social media aren’t related to learning about a shampoo’s ingredients, or hearing about a credit card’s 1% cash-back offer. People use social media for their own interests – principally to interact with the people they care about, and to tell their own stories. For the most part, they don’t care about brands unless those brands help them with their own, personal objectives. As a result, brands’ social media activities need to be built wholly around their audience’s motivations, rather than obsessing about their own selfish desires to ‘increase likes’ or drive this month’s sales.

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This last point brings us to the second, critical part of the mistake, though: many communications channels are well suited to driving those short-term sales conversions, but no other channel offers the opportunities to interact with people on a one-to-one basis, at scale and over time, that social media do. As a result, marketers would do better to use all those other channels for short-term uplift activities, and focus their social media activities on building longer-term equity and increasing lifetime value.

Key tip: stop getting stuck in ‘one night stand’ marketing, and build longer-term, mutual value instead.

4. Don’t Let Numbers Fool You
Almost every marketer I speak to talks about ‘increasing social media engagement’, but none of them defines it in the same way. What’s more worrying, though, is that many of us are still measuring ‘engagement’ in terms of likes, shares, comments and the like.

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However, these metrics are all too easy to game, and this has resulted in a plethora of thoroughly misguided marketing on platforms like Facebook, where marketers and their agencies have focused on those activities that deliver immediate, platform specific results, instead of more meaningful, brand-oriented change.

That’s the reason why so many brand’s Facebook pages focus on quizzes, competitions, and questions. However, far too many of these posts are designed to maximise results, presumably so that the marketers and agencies involved can tell a ‘good story’ to their colleagues in other departments.

But we’re only fooling ourselves. This sort of behaviour is akin to asking our partners to tell us that they love us; while they’ll almost always respond in the affirmative, such behaviour does very little to strengthen bonds or help us achieve the outcomes we really desire.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this: there is no point in managing a social media presence for your brand unless it adds real brand value.

We must, must, must move on from our industry’s obsession with increasing knee-jerk response metrics such as likes and comments, and instead focus on the activities that are actually going to make a difference – to us and to our audience’s lives.

If you can’t explain in a single sentence how your social media activities are improving your brand’s bottom line – rather than that of the social platforms you’re buying advertising from – then it’s imperative that you rethink your brand’s approach to social.

Key tip: measure what matters, not what flatters.

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5. Be Sociable
The final point is surely the most obvious, but for some reason, it remains the most overlooked. The secret to success in social media lies in its name: we need to be social.

True friendship isn’t built by throwing lavish parties or creating amazing content, much as that might be the way we first get acquainted. It’s certainly built through attempts to mitigate our own insecurities by asking other people to tell us they love us (i.e. ‘click like if…!‘)

Rather, friendship is built through being a friend: by showing we care about the other person, by talking about the things that we share a common interest in, and by being there for them in the bad times as well as the good.

The brands that will succeed in tomorrow’s longer term are those brands who treat their audiences and consumers as equals, not simply as pawns in their selfish quest for world domination.

Top tip: behave like a true friend, and people are more likely to see you as one

We Are Social’s Monday Mashup #246

by Nick Mulligan in News

WeChat is testing ads
WeChat has started testing ads in ‘Moments’, its (rough) equivalent to Facebook’s News Feed. So far, the network has been reluctant to include advertising; with 468.1 million monthly active users, this could be big business. Sponsored posts will be marked ‘promoted’.

WhatsApp for web browsers
Want to chat to your mates at work, but can’t get away with using your phone? No, no, me neither. Anyway, say that you did, you can now access WhatsApp through a web client. Just scan a QR code using your phone and you use the messaging app on your computer.

WhatsApp for browsers

The service works for Android, BlackBerry, Nokia S60 and Windows mobile app users and you’ll have to use Chrome as your browser. WeChat was quick to remind people that it already has a web-based service, which is iOS-friendly.

Twitter brings ‘while you were away’ to iOS
Remember when the Mashup told you about Twitter’s ‘while you were away’ feature? Sure you do. Well, it’s now rolled out to iPhone and iPad users, who will see a quick recap of the top tweets they missed since last time they logged in.

Twitter adds Bing translation tool
Twitter has added a translation service, powered by Bing. Users can now click on a globe icon, which appears in tweets in a foreign language, to have the tweet translated. The new version will appear just below the original text.

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Snapchat to launch ‘Discover’
Snapchat is set to release its ‘Discover’ feature at the end of the month. When it does, it’ll be staking its claim as a publisher, posting its own media and that of other companies, including ESPN, CNN and Vice.

Tumblr introduces Creatrs Network
Tumblr has revealed its ‘Creatrs Network’, with which it hopes to connect Tumblr bloggers with brands that want to use their content in ads and marketing. David Hayes, Tumblr’s head of creative strategy, said:

We think the creative class is really the next generation that’s going to come up and change the world and we think we have the largest creative class of any platform.

Bloggers of the world, unite.

Pinterest’s search results hope to appeal to men
Pinterest is introducing new search filters, aimed at making the network more popular with men. Now, search results will change depending on the gender you selected when signing up. According to the company, men are searching for apparel, technology, travel, gardening, recipes, gadgets, design, luxury cars, tattoos, and, errrrr, camping.

Pinterest buys Kosei
Pinterest advertising is in for a big year. Shortly after releasing its first Promoted Pins, the platform has purchased Kosei, an ad tech firm that specialises in targeting ads based on ‘relationship and recommendation modelling’.

Transfer money via Twitter
Indian bank, ICICI, has launched a ‘tweet to pay’ function. Users simply need to follow @icicibank and send a DM containing the recipient’s username and amount to be transferred. The recipient doesn’t need to be an ICICI customer, either. On a completely unrelated note, my Twitter handle is @nickmulligan.

Facebook targeting on show for the Super Bowl
Facebook is hoping to show off its ad targeting chops during the Super Bowl on Sunday. A number of brands have already signed up to show different videos to different segments of the undeniably huge audience, including Budweiser and Toyota.

NBC and the social Super Bowl
The Super Bowl isn’t just one of the world’s biggest sporting events, it’s also a rare occassion when people actually want to watch adverts. NBC, the TV network that will be broadcasting the event, is looking to cash in on this, creating a Tumblr that will be populated by ad-related content. This is part of a wider social media strategy, which will include an attempt to break the ‘selfie world record’ on Super Bowl Sunday.

Nissan enlists YouTubers for #withdad
Nissan has teamed up with YouTube stars, including Roman Atwood (below) and Epic Meal Time, to create a set of Super Bowl teaser videos. Under the hashtag #withdad, they focus on ways to get the work/family balance right. Like turning your house into a GIANT BALL PIT.

L’Oréal finding a makeup artist through social
L’Oréal Paris is launching a competition, named ‘The Brush’, with which it hopes to find a brand new makeup artist. The winner, judged from a three-minute video by L’Oréal execs and YouTubers, will receive a one-year contract with the brand.

Brands on Martin Luther King Day
A number of brands posted social media content relating to Martin Luther King Day. Some of it was good, some of it was really rather bad indeed.

Interviewing Unilever’s Rahul Welde

by Don Anderson in News

Rahul Welde, VP Media for Unilever Asia, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Russia, says the number of media and technology options for consumers to engage has evolved “way beyond what people had imagined” and if brands are to remain relevant they need to make listening a priority.

In our continuing series of interviews with top industry thought leaders and innovators, we speak with Welde about Unilever’s plans for digital and social media in 2015, its focus on building brand love, the importance of responding quickly and creatively in digital, and Millennials’ thirst for ‘snackable’ content.

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WELDE: We are on a journey that is continuous. We call it a “crafting brands for life” philosophy. Within that we start by putting people first and really try to understand people in the deepest sense. We glean insights out of what motivates them and what is critical to them. Our mission is to make sure that we translate those insights to build love for our brands.

Is there anything you are particularly proud of?

WELDE: If we look back there are a number of areas where we have made a dramatic impact, most notably in the area of mobile marketing. We’ve had a number of cases across markets that leverage the power of a local insight.

For example, the mobile radio program called KKT (Kan Khajura Tesan) that we run in India taps into media dark areas providing a unique mobile radio service. In these areas, people don’t have access to television but they all have access to mobile. They don’t have access to [traditional forms of] entertainment, so we bring this to them [through KKT], whether it’s music, jokes or dialogues from Bollywood movies. We package it to provide that mobile radio service in a very interesting [locally-specific] way.

A fifth of Unilever’s entire media spend is now direct to digital. Is that enough of an investment?

WELDE: We have to do things that are fit for purpose. We are connecting with different sets of people across different sets of brands. We don’t use digital or any one platform in the same way across all the brands and the consumers. In general, it’s fair to say that digital continues to grow very fast in terms of how people use digital technologies and therefore we have to continue to leverage that.

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In the past you have said speed is critical and that organisations have to move faster than ever before.

WELDE: Speed is indeed critical in the new world. This is driven by technology because access to information and information flows are much faster now. To manage this shift we are undertaking several initiatives. For example we have a command centre in our Singapore office that enables us to do real time marketing and agile management of our campaigns across countries all from one location. There are two parts to agile marketing  – one being how you listen and the second part how you respond to what you’re listening to. As the digital technology platforms to evolve, speed will certainly be the new currency.

You mentioned real time marketing. Do you have a specific definition for what real time marketing means to Unilever?

WELDE: I think there many definitions for real time marketing. My definition of real time marketing is simply fast speed of response. Fast has to be in the context of days and not months or weeks, or sometimes faster depending on what the event is. It all starts by ensuring that you are listening to what is happening out there and having a ability to meaningfully respond speedily. There are different dimensions for outreach, what platforms do you use, do you use social media or use other forms, and is there a creative aspect in terms of the message and what and how do you want to bring to life. You have to be topical, you have to seize opportunities and you have to be fast.

In terms of direct sales, is the expectation for social media to lead to that? Do all roads lead to conversion?

WELDE: It is a mix of things. In the process of communication you build brand equity that eventually leads to sales, but that is not the end objective.  In our philosophy, the idea of brand love is more than just conversions; our idea of putting people first is much more than looking at them as consumers. It’s a fairly strong marketing philosophy that I would say is quite beyond the conventions of just converting to sales.

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Does Unilever use social media for research and development purposes?

WELDE: Social media provides great insights into what’s going on, what is topical, what is meaningful to people and what is impacting at scale. It all goes back to listening. There are lots of conversations going on and brands have to be listening to what is going on. Currently there has been an over-emphasis on what is put out and less emphasis on listening.

Much has been written about the challenges of how to market to Millennials. From your perspective, what is the best way to engage this elusive demographic?

WELDE: The key point about the young is the platforms they use. It’s quite clear that the youth use more platforms and that they use them differently from what other segments do. The second point is about the habits of consumption – these are quite distinct and relate more to snacking. Attention spans and the levels of engagement are more ‘here and now’ than deeply thought through. How you (engage Millennials) really relates to the platforms you leverage and what exactly you do through those platforms. The overall package has to be very compelling. The big difference is the snacking versus the long form. For the youth snacking is key.

If there is one thing that keeps you up at night, what is it?

WELDE: It is the excitement and the opportunity that keeps me buzzing at night. There is so much that one can do. There are so many ideas that are thrown at you whether it be concepts, projects or possibilities, and that excitement is absolutely unparalleled. Technology is a big driver of that excitement.