Even after spending twelve years as a journalist, I still get a warm tingly feeling when I see my name in print – especially as it doesn’t happen so much now that I’m working for the dark side. I’ve just learned that I’m quoted in the latest edition of Revolution/Brand Republic for a story they’ve run on the work we’re currently doing with Yell Group:
Lance Concannon, director of social media at Prompt Communications, added: “Businesses cannot afford to ignore online channels. This is where brand reputations and customers’ buying decisions are played out. Savvy consumer-facing brands such as Yell understand that social media must be included in communications strategies.”
The problem with all this blogging and social media stuff is that while plenty of companies are interested in this area, few are willing to go on record and discuss what they’re actually doing. This is understandable, but of course makes it difficult to get customer references and generate the press coverage we need to let people know what sort of services we offer and what kind of organisations are using them.
To have a client like Yell Group, which is happy to stand up and say they’re working with us in this area, is great for us. I just hope that as we move forward more companies will be willing to discuss their social media activities, because that would be good news for everybody. Social media is still perceived by many as a very woolly discipline, but if there’s a bit more visibility in terms of what ‘real’ companies are doing in this area, that will help demystify the subject and demonstrate some of the tangible benefits.
We were recently approached by a global enterprise tech company that’s interested in tracking discussions of its brands in blogs and social media specifically in the EMEA region. This is a surprisingly common request. Of course I always give them the spiel about the global nature of the blogosphere and the futility of trying to divide it up along conventional geographic boundaries – but this kind of thinking isn’t really compatible with the practicalities of working with a multi-national company. If Joe is head of EMEA PR, then Joe is only interested in EMEA blogs, and it’s my job to figure out a way of delivering or they take the business elsewhere.
The difficulty is that there’s no kind of identifying tag which lets you easily and automatically ascertain the geography of a blog – you can’t simply perform a search for blogs only from the UK, or Asia or Western Europe. The only way to figure it out is to manually examine each blog and hope the author has explicitly stated a location in their profile, or at least left some sort of clue in one of their posts.
It’s tricky and time consuming, and it really needs to be done manually. So many companies in this space are trying to develop fully automated monitoring systems, but I think when you look at the requirement to segregate blogs geographically (combined with the technical problem of separating genuine blog coverage from spam-blogs and false positives) the only way to guarantee high quality results is to underpin whatever automatic blog monitoring tools you may be using with a strong element of human intelligence.
Some people in the industry don’t like the sound of this, because it essentially means that you need to have a member of staff taking the time to read each piece of blog coverage to decide whether it’s genuinely relevant to your client. This, of course, costs more than a software solution which could do the job automatically at the push of a button – but the truth is that no such system exists, and anybody who tries to tell you they’ve solved the problem is most likely trying to sell you snake oil.