Influencer outreach vs Creativity and relevance

I was asked to write about something I was excited by this year in social media for someone’s blog. Rudely they never followed up so I thought I’d pop it up here.

Something I was tickled by this year and something I’d like to get more involved in / see more of was a lovely piece of work by Target McConnells for Safefood with Viper Higgins an “investigative journalist” who has a well-earned, substantial following on social. The end film encouraging people not to undercook burgers is probably the best piece of influencer/brand partnership I’ve seen. Viper’s tone and style of humour seem untouched; it certainly feels like he had total creative control of the film. This is what made it so shareable and engaging and talked about. Even in the most cynical places… other ad agencies.

It was a lovely counterbalance to this current culture of Influencer Marketing. One where we see a lot of brands paying someone with a big following to promote their product, no matter how relevant or talented they are, and with seemingly no restrictions on which products they’ve already promoted that same week. There’s no craft, no real added brand value – just blatant promotion often without any indication that it’s an #ad. It just rankles with me. They are the modern-day equivalent of the girls in the daisy dukes and bikini tops promoting car sales. I hope the future will see more and more creators/creatives become Influencers. Or more Influencers become more creative and engaging when they promote products.

Social media isn’t just about reach, it should also engage the audience and add value to the reader’s day in some way. And if brands are just happily lazily paying an “influencer” or doing some slipshod media partnership it will turn people off social media and we’ll all be losers then. Let’s reward the Vipers of this world and create meaningful, memorable, shareable work!

How universities use social media

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Universities are really getting a great deal out of social media.  It gives them a cost-effective and efficient way to promote their faculties and courses to potential students, publish content and to keep their under-grads informed of what’s going on.  Twitter and Facebook tend to be the most useful.  To give you an idea of how much this has caught on in the States, here’s a mind-blowing directory of John Hopkins University’s social media channels.  Nottingham Trent University win Facebook as far as I can see with a stand-up page that helps students with a virtual tour, an accommodation search engine and a course search engine.  It’s all practical useful information and hosted in one convenient place.

In terms of talking to potential students it’s pretty crucial since a lot of research prior to selection is done online.  Especially for talking to foreign students.  If they can’t attend the open day, for example, there are a host of ways the institutions can introduce themselves using social media.

Virsocial media, consultant, marketing, facebook, twitter, PR, online reputation, advertising, ATL, digital footprint, Social media ROI, brands, university, universitiestual open days are now quite common place allowing students to look around and ask questions without having to travel.   Yale, as you can imagine, also has a top notch social media presence.  Their Facebook page has a state-of-the-art Virtual Tour hosted by two of their students.

A lot of students do their research into their prospective colleges online, and it can be a concern as to what they hear and if it’s accurate.  Whilst it’s hardly feasible to attempt to obliterate any negative or false online information about your college or course, you can do your best to have some level of input.

Try hosting a forum, either on your website or through a group on LinkedIn,  so you can get an idea of the kind of questions being asked.  A Facebook Q and A session could work well at peak times, if promoted and announced in advance so it gets enough traction.  Hosting Google Hangouts with recent grads or current students to answer questions is a great way for you to allow students to hear straight from the horses’ mouth.  These hangouts can then be posted on your YouTube channel for future reference.

It’s also worthwhile to listen to the conversations online and be available to pitch in answers, and also get insights into what topics are trending.  In Ireland, for example a lot of students ask questions on so it would be worthwhile having a profile on there so you can answer them accurately.  Google Alerts and Twitter search are also good ways to listen out for questions.

All of this can help inform your marketing strategy.  For example one pitch I worked on, the main questions popping up time and time again were concerning misinformation students had about a financial aspect of the course.  In another project I worked on, they weren’t convinced about the location.  These are topics that you can then address in future communications.

Whilst Facebook can offer fantastic functions through its apps and a great visual way for a university to promote itself, Twitter is also a very useful communication channel.  It can serve multiple purposes – from answering student enquiries, to reporting on sports and cultural events, to having conversations with stakeholders and announcing changes to courses etc.   Butler University are a great example of Twitter Best Practice.  They used to talk through their mascot Butler Blue but shut that down last year for some reason.  Shame, I thought it was cool, gave the page an edge and some personality.

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LinkedIn is another incredibly important channel for universities.  It’s a good way for them to promote their past alumni and to strengthen their credentials.  Yale have a very slick page.  LinkedIn sees the future in the younger audience and have gone as far as reducing the age of access to 13.  Yes, that’s right 13.  The mind boggles.  It’s a natural fit if you think about it, allowing students to start networking and promoting their “personal brand” from an early stage.

YouTube is obviously a channel than any university’s target audience would frequent.  UCL have a bespoke channel on YouTube for prospective students.  UCD also have a Meet our Students channel.  Some universities and colleges actually host lectures on their YouTube page to give a taste of their product, as it were.  You could lose a month of your life browsing through the content on the Harvard YouTube channel.

What about Google+ I hear you cry?  (Not).  Insead in France actually use G+ very well with an excellent content strategy linking back to their blog.  G+ is a really great channel, visually and user-experience-wise.  And obviously pretty important for SEO.  But I just don’t see it catching on.  However, if you’re posting up content on your blog/Facebook, there’s no harm or huge effort in popping it up on a G+ page as well.

These are the main sites, obviously other ones are in use and I’ve included links through to show some examples – Instagram, Tumblr, Soundcloud, Flickr.   Also some bespoke educational sites too like  iTunes U which doesn’t seem to be faring too well as this article points out.


KLM – best in class

KLM have had some ups and downs with their social media efforts.  Certainly no one can blame them for not embracing social media, so you can forgive if their over-zealousness gets them in trouble sometimes…. Offensive World Cup tweet, their frankly creepy Surprise and potentially pervy Meet and Seat.

But they are dedicated and a fantastic example of Best Practise for customer service on social media.  Having really begun in earnest during the Ash Cloud disaster of 2010 – looking at their sites now will show you just how genuinely customer focussed they are.

Their Twitter account has their estimated response time updated every five minutes and clearly visible in their cover photo.

klm twit

Their Facebook page also has this function.  Not only does it have great content – travel tips, news and a timeline that goes back to their foundation (I love it when brands use the timeline properly),

klm fb

it has a host of apps that can be perused on their Social Journey page on Facebook.

You can … drumroll… book a flight on the page, which might seem obvious, but very few airlines have included this no-brainer function on their Facebook pages.  Another example of a genuinely useful function is the socially smart TripPlanner allowing fans to engage with friends and organise a group trip.

So whilst KLM may get a bit of stick about some of their less tactful activities – no can say they don’t pull out all the stops for their Followers and Fans.

Heinz meanz biznezz

Heinz (and We are Social) are my social media heroes.  They come up with really sound, hard-working insights that seem so simple but work so well.  My favourite campaign of theirs is the Get Well Soup idea – send a personalised can of soup to  with a sick friend good tidings! DOne via Facebook it was financially savvy too.  They’ve also done a sweet grow your own tomatoes campaign and reward their loyal fans with exclusive offers such as when they allowed Facebook Fans to get their hands on a limited edition balsamic ketchup first.

Best Twitter conversation ever

A lot of what makes a brand stand out is the tone of voice used.  It’s integral to the brand personality and says a lot about the company.

innocent bottom

Here’s the wonderful Innocent with “Stop looking at my bottom” written on the bottom of their cartons.

And Google with a “Stats for nerds” hyperlink


Tesco Mobile took this the next level and ran riot on Twitter late last year, creating a lot of publicity and making friends along the way (Yorkshire tea, Jaffa Cakes, Cadbury…).  #wishihaddonethis


Burger King – pretty, pretty cunning

Burger King are the King of social, imho.  Well within their category anyway.  So whatever they do it’s worth keeping an eye on.  Everyone knows about their controversial Whopper Sacrifice campaign on Facebook that encouraged a spout of Friend Denunciation in return for a free Whopper.  This time the crazy Norwegians have taken the whole Genuine Friend thing a bit further with the Whopper Sellout.  

It was a brave move and must have taken some convincing to the marketing bosses, but I think it was pretty clever.  The value of a real Fan is something new in Facebook marketing, and is definitely an area that is worth exploring and brands investing in. I can’t tell you how many Facebook page competitions I’ve run where the entrants are either compies, or totally physically incapable of enjoying the prize at stake (entrants from India hoping to win a movie pass that evening in Dublin).