Here are all of the posts tagged ‘Stephen Fry’.

Brands and Twitter

by Robin Grant in News Google+


So after being on the front page on Marketing the week before last, this week we’ve hit the pages of Campaign, with our inclusion in a feature article about, you guessed it, Twitter:

Three years into its existence, the recent media frenzy around celebrity Twitterers, including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, and Barack Obama’s successful use of the medium in the run-up to the US election, has seen the popularity of the “microblogging” site increase 27-fold in 12 months.

Advertisers could learn a lot from celebrity Twitterers using the site to shape their personal branding, creating a close, one-on-one relationship with their fans without constantly filtering their thoughts through a PR sieve.

Robin Grant, the managing director of the social media agency We Are Social, which advises Fry on his use of Twitter, explains: “The advice we gave to Stephen centred on being himself and having genuine conversations with people. It’s the same for brands. It’s about being human, showing your real personality and allowing people to connect with you on an emotional level.”

The article then gets quite bizarre, with Flo Heiss, the creative partner at Dare giving this advice about who should sit behind a brand’s account:

It could be a real person, such as a receptionist, or character made up by yourself

How about an imaginary friend who’s a receptionist, Flo? On to David Bain, an ‘internet marketing consultant’:

it’s cleverer when you don’t anthropomorphise it. What if an inanimate object was to Tweet, for example?

Why is it cleverer David? And what would it say? Amelia Torode, managing partner at VCCP:

It has to be a friendly, chatty brand. A brand such as Coca-Cola would be too large in its entirety. You need to work less at a higher-brand level and go down to the actual campaigns or smaller brands under the umbrella in order to start up the conversation.

Not quite as unhinged as Flo and David admittedly, but I’d point to the examples of brands like Burger King, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Starbucks, JetBlue and even VCCP’s client O2, who are having meaningful and useful conversations at the higher-brand level. As usual, our friend Faris Yakob talks sense:

Previously we had a model of buying attention from media companies. Now we’ve got direct relationships so we have to earn that attention – we have to earn it by being entertaining, useful and also nice.

To be honest, there is no ‘right approach’, but there are some general principles that apply (as expressed by myself and Faris above) and then there is the hard won experience at the coalface, learning what works and what doesn’t, that brands doing it themselves (and the agencies like ourselves helping them) have acquired. Most importantly your approach should be built around, yes, you guessed it again, the business objectives you’re trying to achieve.

This diagram from Fallon’s Aki Spicer of six different potential participation strategies brands could use is a useful thought starter (each of which of course might be used in combination or not at all), but even the approaches I deliberately ridiculed above could be valid in the right circumstances. Fictional characters can work really well as part of a campaign as VCCP’s own Compare the Meerkat work shows, and I’m sure at least one of Zappos’ receptionists is on Twitter. Even inanimate objects might have their place – in fact I’ve been trying to persuade Kew Gardens to get their plant life on Twitter for a while now.

But deciding on a strategy is only the first and easiest step. The hard work is the day after day of micro-interactions with real people, and striking the right balance between the opportunities and risks presented by having a real person as the voice of the brand, which I touched upon in the hotly debated post on learning to speak human. David Armano brilliantly investigates this dynamic in The Age of Brandividualism and his recent follow-up, Battle of the Brands (both of which are required reading here at We Are Social towers):

For each brand on Twitter, there’s an individual (or individuals) behind that effort. It’s both business and personal. The two have become one. The tactic comes from a fundamental truth when it comes to the social spaces on the Web. People want to talk to other people. They want transparency. They want to know who they are talking to.

The potential reward of course, is the ability to spread surprise and delight, turn negative word of mouth into positive and to really engage people with your brand at an emotional level. There is no greater prize…

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On the front page of Marketing today…

by Robin Grant in News Google+
Marketing magazine, 11 February 2009

Yup, that is a screenshot of our Twitter account you can see staring at you

The feature article in today’s Marketing, ‘Twitter enters the mainstream for brand communication‘ covers work we’ve done for three of our clients, with the obligatory introductory mention of Stephen Fry and his 130,000 followers, moving on to part of what we do for Skype:

Robin Grant, managing director of social media agency We Are Social, agrees that, if used wisely, Twitter can help reduce negative word-of-mouth online and assist with brand building. We Are Social client Skype, for instance, uses Twitter to ‘respond to people having issues with or asking questions about Skype’, according to Grant. ‘If we can respond, they tell their friends what brilliant customer service they’ve had from Skype.’

And then some of the work we’ve been doing with Ford:

Ford took more of a campaign approach to promote its latest Fiesta. It backed its ‘This is Now’ TV campaign with blog and Twitter activity encouraging consumers to submit photos and art and design-related discussion posts. Despite Ford’s Twitter activity, though, the car marque’s communications manager Lisa Brankin claims Twitter remains ‘niche in its appeal’. She adds: ‘By itself it is not strong enough but it can be valuable as part of a wider campaign.’

Twitter’s growth is heading in the right direction, but as We Are Social’s Grant argues: ‘Brands need to think carefully about what impact any commercial use of Twitter is likely to achieve before investing any significant resources in it.’

The cover story from Fiona Ramsay about Twitter’s plan to start charging brands (subsequently picked up by Techcrunch and others), starts from a quote straight from the horse’s mouth:

Co-founder Biz Stone told Marketing: ‘We are noticing more companies using Twitter and individuals following them. We can identify ways to make this experience even more valuable and charge for commercial accounts.’ He would not be drawn on the level of charges.

Stone said it could also create revenue-generating features to tap into the way brands use Twitter as a hybrid marketing and customer-service tool.

But Bob Pearson, vice-president of communities and conversations at Dell, said: ‘If it becomes complicated and costly, our instinct would be to move elsewhere.’ Robin Grant, managing director of social media agency We Are Social, said Twitter could charge for display ads or to access customer information for marketing.

I had quite a long philosophical conversation with Fiona about this when she was writing the article, and expressed my scepticism about Twitter charging for brands using Twitter normally (which is not entirely summed up with the quote she used, but it least got across the idea they’d look at charging for added value services rather than the standard free functionality). As I said in the comments of the article:

The challenge Twitter will face is that there’s such a grey line between personal and commercial use.

Aside from the celebrity issue, where they are clearly individuals, but using the service for commercial gain, it’s grey elsewhere too.

If I spend a lot of my time on Twitter talking about business related stuff, where does that leave me?

For brands overtly using Twitter, it’s not black and white either. Look at Ford’s Scott Monty for example (@ScottMonty), who uses his personal account to represent Ford. Even the account we run for Skype (@PeteratSkype) is as an individual not a brand (as is the same for most of Dell’s accounts). And of course Zappos famously have hundreds of employees on Twitter.

Let’s face it, one of the reasons that Twitter is popular is because it’s such an interesting mix of both your personal and your business life – in fact, unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, it lets you be the whole you. Twitter will be risking a lot if they try to change this.

Which has since proved to be correct, with Biz Stone publishing this clarification on the Twitter blog:

It’s great that both individuals and organizations are finding value in Twitter and there may be ways we can enrich the experience. In fact, we hope to begin iterating on revenue products this year.

However, it’s important to note that whatever we come up with, Twitter will remain free to use by everyone – individuals, companies, celebrities, etc. What we’re thinking about is adding value in places where we are already seeing traction, not imposing fees on existing services.

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Twitter’s UK traffic trebles in a month

by Robin Grant in News Google+

Twitter's UK traffic trebles in January 2009

Compared to the graph covering the 12 months up until January, that’s astounding growth (as that itself was just a few weeks ago):

Twitter's UK traffic growth in 2008

To quote Hitwise’s Robin Goad:

Last week Twitter became one of the 100 most visited websites in the UK for the first time. It ranked 91st, placing above online heavyweights such as Expedia UK (96), Gumtree (100), easyJet (101), Digital Spy (103) and Money Supermarket (105).

However, the service is likely even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website. If the people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications (such as Twitterrific, Twitterfeed and Tweetdeck) were included, the numbers would be even higher.

Now of course, you might think this was down to the Stephen Fry effect, but we couldn’t possibly comment.*

What will be interesting if Twitter really does go mainstream (which until today, I can’t say I really thought was going to happen), is that, unlike Facebook, Twitter seems to exhibit the same sort of power law relationships as blogs do. Which means the bigger it gets, the more effective work we’ll be able to do for our clients through it…

*disclosure: Stephen is a client of ours and we helped get him going on Twitter.

Update: Drew Benvie on who all these new users are.

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Real-time reputation management

by Robin Grant in News Google+

At We Are Social towers, we were rudely awakened on Thursday morning to a brewing Twitterstorm to deal with. Robert Scoble was Twittering to his 53k+ followers live from the Davos summit. Here are the edited highlights:

Scobleizer: @AnthonyHocken I hear Stephen Fry’s Twitter account isn’t done by him but rather is done by his PR firm. Lame if true.

Whatleydude: @Scobleizer I believe a PR firm helped @stephenfry set up his account (@wearesocial) …but us Brits can assure you, it *is* him.

Scobleizer: Getting lots of pushback on Stephen Fry from people who say he’s actually doing his own Tweets.

RobinGrant: @Scobleizer @wearesocial helped @stephenfry get set-up and gave him initial advice, but his tweets are all his own – see

mbites: @Scobleizer yeah @stephenfry is the real deal

wearesocial: @Scobleizer @stephenfry is doing his own Tweets! We helped get him set-up and gave him initial advice, that’s all. Could you please RT?

Scobleizer: RT: @wearesocial @stephenfry is doing his own Tweets! We helped get him set-up and gave him initial advice, that’s all.

Scobleizer: @wearesocial glad to help clear that up. A PR company exec told me it was done by PR. I love Twitter took minutes to clear up incorrect info

vendorprisey: @scobleizer Surely the next tweet should read, sorry @stephenfry ?

Scobleizer: RT @vendorprisey: @scobleizer Surely the next tweet should read, sorry @stephenfry ? (My answer: yes. I’m sorry).

This may seem like a Twitterstorm in a teacup, but the threat to Stephen’s reputation (and ours) was real. It was essential that we acted fast to establish the truth before it spiralled out of control (in the end we were able to nip it in the bud within an hour). In fact, it was a microcosm of how we pre-empt and deal with situations like this on behalf of any of our clients:

  1. Make sure you’re already respected members of relevant communities and have built strong friendships in them before any crisis erupts.
  2. Listen carefully to the conversations relevant to your brand at all times
  3. When appropriate, respond quickly in an open, honest and human way

Those friends mentioned in point 1 are the ones who are likely to come to your aid when it matters, just as ours did above – remember that their voices may carry more weight than your own, especially in these cynical times.

This is an approach that works for clients large and small, both in everyday conversations about their brands anywhere in social media and when confronted with much bigger crises than the one above. It was battle tested during Skype’s China crisis last year and passed with flying colours.

If you’d like to know more about how we helped Skype handle that situation or our how we help brands with online reputation management, conversation response, corporate blogs or advocacy programmes, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Stephen Fry on the joys of Twitter

by Peter Parkes in News

Stephen Fry, who in his Twitter bio describes himself as a dancer, couturier, superheavyweight boxer, neo-plasticist and rapper is a constant source of wry amusement. Recommended, if we don’t say so ourselves (disclosure: Stephen is a client of ours and we helped get him going on Twitter).

We’re being sneaky and embedding the original video from the BBC website. They might break it. Don’t blame us.

Update: Stephen Fry spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Analysis programme about Twitter, the web and other geekery (via).

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