Google's view on the Recommendation Economy

Today you may tapping your latest request into the friendly white abyss that is the Google Search Box, just like any other day right? WRONG.

Today, (if you are logged into your Google Account) you may just see a little something different in your search results. A tweet from a friend, a blog post from someone you subscribe to on Blogger, a Flickr Photo from your favourite photographer or maybe a post from a brand you follow on Facebook. Why?

Because as of today Google is beginning to roll out it's Social Search feature to Google Account holders. (See the video below for a demo).

The recommendation economy thrives on the fact that we trust our friends and those we follow more than advertising or even editorial content from those we don't know. However until now the search results we have been served up for many years have always been somewhat lacking of that social integration.

Google's actions in this area show that one of the biggest powerhouses on the web believe this too - that we value what our friends share, like, post and blog about, just as much (or maybe even more) than the stuff that SEO's and PPC specialists have been trying to push to the top of our daily search grind.

Over To You:

Do you want to see your social feed in your search results? Will you be using Google Social Search?

As always thoughts on a postcard... or just in the comments ;-)

The changing face of a digital PR agency

This morning I have mostly been thinking about the changing face of the PR agency in world of digital PR. Sounds riveting doesn't it. Well maybe that's a wee exaggeraion, but it is interesting. These thoughts were formed in part from a heated conversation about whether or not an Ad agency model would be more appropriate in the day and age of social, which struck up on twitter with @adamvincenzini, @dannywhatmough and @MaxTB on twitter, and offline with @vikkichowney (Reputation Online) and @arunsudhaman (The Holmes Report) at the #PRCAExperts briefing in Holborn this morning.

PR Agency Chat

It's an interesting question = would we be better off moving our agencies to a mixed disciple model, with creatives, planners, account people and producers, rather than sticking with the traditional Account Management hierachy that most agencies still use.

In my own experience here at Lexis, where we have a creative and planning department, digital, design and then the traditional model of account executives, managers, directors and associates, I can see the value of either side of the field.

The traditional model creates and nurtures people through a hierachy to be well rounded PRO's, who can turn their hand to most elements of the PR life with equal grace and competence, but may end up lacking the specialist expertise in certain areas to provide that allusive level of being a "trusted advisor" as David Meister so elloquently expressed in his book of the same title.

The model employed by most large advertising agencies, and in some cases by some PR agencies has it's merits also - providing true "expertise" in different disciplines of the marketing process, meaning that quality can be ensured at every step. This could well work for PR as we see more and more agencies needed to be competent in social media, SEO, media buying and design. These practices require real in depth skill and knowledge to achieve a level where one can be deemed an "expert" which only the most talented PRO would be able to achieve across the board.

So what is the best approach? What has worked for you? Share your stories in the comments below.

Other Thoughts on the topic: Danny Whatmough: Is the PR Agency Model Broken? // Social Matters: http://bit.ly/fJZDir

Facebook, Privacy & PR

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with the folks from PR Week for the Video Podcast to discuss the recent changes to Facebook's privacy policy, and how they have handled the PR around it. Here is the vid;

This was filmed ahead of last night's announcements from Facebook about the next steps in Privacy control with the "masterswitch" that will be rolling out to users in the coming days.

Below is the video posted on the Facebook blog from Mark Zuckerburg about the new changes. Which, in terms of content is great. It terms of delivery however... well it speaks for itself - AWEFUL. A monotone CEO is every PR's nightmare, let alone visibly reading from an AutoCue. Now we all know Mark has never been the best communicator, he is no Steve Jobs, and we have no reason to expect him to be.

However as I mentioned in the podcast - we are talking about one of companies that is encouraging and enabling, sharing, openness and sociality - and they respond to a problem that effects nearly 500 Million people in a totally unsociable way.

So what can we learn here?

Simply:

  • Respond early and openly - don't hide in the shadows of a looming crisis, move swiftly
  • If your brand image is one about friendship and community - choose spokespeople that reflect that brand image
  • If you are socially enabled business - BE SOCIAL - use what is at hand to your advantage - a direct link into the homes of over 500 million people is a tool worth using when necessary

Social Media Measurement - A Search For A Unified Theory, PART 2

Blowing our own cover…

You see the honest truth is that, as anyone who has been around advertising, direct marketing, experiential, public relations or “New PR” for any length of time knows that at some point the ROI figures that make or break client relationships were at some point or another made up. This is not a new point, and I do not wish to labor it here, but it is a good one to make, as it puts all of this debate around the measurement of social marketing in context. The fact is at some stage or another in the offices of professionals around the world men and women sat down and looked at their sums and made assumptions about how much what they were doing for their clients was worth. These assumptions were not fool proof by any means, but neither were they shots in the dark, but either way at some stage a leap of faith was taken and these professionals put down their tent pegs and said, “this is how we are going to do it”.  At which point it became purely a matter of who could come closest.

If a man stands at a distance from a wall and then periodically halves that distance and halves it again, and then continues to repeat the process he will get to within a point that subatomic forces will not allow him to actually ever come in true contact with the wall, however he comes close enough that he rounds down to zero and concludes he has indeed reached the wall. (More on that here - it's called Zeno's Paradox) In much the same way with this kind of measurement was refined and refined by those who sought to answer the question until they came within what they deemed to be small enough measures of discrepancy that they rounded down and concluded they has indeed reached their wall – that all hallowed ROI figure.

However in an industry as young as my own, if is difficult to make such assumptions, as we currently still seem a great distance from that point in which can round down. This is for a a variety of reasons, although the traceability of online interaction is so clear, the way in which people interact is not such a tangible, and indeed measurable fact as it may at first seem. This is in part due to the ever changing ways in which people use the web, services like Second Life, Twitter and even the likes of the Disney owned Club Penguin (in which children can interact within one another by manipulating the life of their own Penguin on it’s own island) are changing the way that people use the web, meaning that in reality if we are to ever reach our rounding down point we must consistently and regularly reevaluate the criteria which we measure the social web with.

Having said this however, it is fair to say that even with the new and emerging platforms that the web has to offer, the task at hand has not changed from the three pillars that I outlines above, reach, perception change and call to action (CTA) are still the primary goals of our clients, and these goals have clear results in people, be they on the web or in the coffee shop.

If you missed part 1 of this article - find it here: PART 1

The Value Of A Blog

So I have finally succumbed to the idea of setting up my blog in a little more personalised state. So if you head over to http://jamespoulter.co.uk you will find "Sunday Latte Lamentations" in a somewhat under construction phase.

I am setting up on WordPress (hosted by lovely fellow @leesmallwood - a thoroughly decent chap) . Which obviously means a overhall of themes and widgets, but also a re-evaluation of why I blog, what I blog and how I blog.

After a lovely morning spent down in Kent @ Huggies HQ (Client: Kimberley Clarke) meeting some of the UK's finest Mum bloggers (@glowstars @YoungMummyUk @Kellyfairy to be precise) really made me think.

I started out blogging as a way of documenting my thoughts and poetry that I began writing in a more serious fashion about 3 years ago (hence the title of this blog - spurred by a poem I wrote by the same name). It really was just the thoughts, ideas and melody that roll out of the life rhythm that is being a Londoner. However over time that changed and moulded into what my blog is today, an amalgamation of social communication-marketing-culture thing, with a quasi-Christian slant on the world. Which interestingly is never what I set out to be about, it just kind of happened that way.

After chatting to the Mums this morning it appear that my experience is not to dissimilar to a lot of bloggers out there, we all start with a passion, a realisation that others might give 2pence about our thoughts, and a desire for a connection with those who share that passion, but over time things get in the way that dilute that (SEO, Google Analytics, #tags).

By no means am I saying that this dilution is a bad thing, I think is just inevitable, however I do wonder what it is that keeps people like you coming back to read these musings.

So that leads me back (kind of) to where I began, as I re-evaluate the way I blog I would love to know why it is you read what I write. What topics interest you, what would you like more of or less of? Or do you honestly just end up clicking inanely on whatever tweetdeck serves you up? (I know I am guilty of that).

I am not out just to please the crowd, but if writing, blogging, journeying, or whatever you call it is truly about passions, and a desire for connection, then it's always nice to know what you connect with, what you are passionate about, what makes you tick.

So please - let me know.

Monday Musings: The Gutenberg Effect

Morning All. Welcome to your Monday. Here are some digital nuggets to sink your little nashers into for the week of March 8th. Kicking off with a video spotlight: How The Interenet is Changing Advertising.

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This cracking little "epipheo" presents captures very succinctley something which as been nagging at my brain for a while. Something I like to call "The Gutenberg Effect". For me the technological shifts that have truely rocked the world have always brought about a new way of thinking and with that new way, an outburst of creativity has spread like wildfire.

Looking back to creation of the printing press, what Gutenberg achieved was not only a technological shift, but a cultural one that allowed people for the first time to hold the printed word in their hands and read it for themselves. A technology that was a key driver in the cultural shift that ultimately ended up becoming The Reformation.

We have seen this process repeat throughout recent history with the creation of commercial radio springing up from the creativity of HAM radio set users in the early 20th century, and then far more recently in the boom of satellite television. Each has created a shift in the way we communicate with one another. Each has demanded something new of the sender and recipient of communication. With print it was undivided attention. With radio it became a background medium, with TV a shared collective experience.

The internet in general, but increasingly the social web provides a different form of communication. A new kind of shared experience, that is not media specific, time specific or geography specific. An experience that is neither broadcast nor narrowcast. Yet is still a shared experience, but that experience is fundamentally different, as for the first time the way in which that experience is consumed lies in the hands of the recipient, NOT the sender.

This means big things for the advertising and marketing industries. It means a change of mindset, a different thinking is required, as we can no longer control or stipulate that a communication has to be consumer OUR way. But be open to the fact that our communication will be consumed, when, where and how the recipient wants. The sooner that marketers get that this shared experience is a movable typing twittering tubing experience, not a media experience, the better.

More on that in the coming weeks...

in other news...

A fantastic dissection of HootSuite for the unitiated from my chum Gemma Went

10 Great Newbie Twitter Mistakes Made By Businesses from Mike Johansson on Social Media Today

And a great presentation from Coca-Cola on Social Media care of Robin Grant @ wearesocial

A quest for a more integrated approach...

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For those of you who came along to the @lonpr event last week at the Ogilvy PR offices - here is the deck that myself and Rachel Clarke presented on social media monitoring and measurement as well as a little about ourselves.

I will be posting up some more detail on these measurement slides in coming weeks so stay tuned for that!