Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Harnessing Social Media for social good

We were sent this article by Heather Sewell from ICE and thought it was worth sharing. Thanks Heather.

Harnessing Social Media for social good

The rapid growth of social networking holds massive untapped potential for reaching our communities on key social and public health issues, says Suzanne Goldenberg from ICE.

In an era where we’re surrounded by social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and blogging is increasingly commonplace - more ideas are being shared by more people, and more quickly than ever before.

Social networking is still a new and evolving form of communication and is a great way to create discussion, debate, voice and opinion. This means there’s great potential to reach out to hard-to-reach and seldom heard audience groups to discourage risky health behaviours on issues ranging from alcohol and drug misuse, to smoking, mental health, cancer awareness and sexual health.

Social Media or social marketing?

There are numerous examples of how social networking technology is bringing about sustained behaviour change for both individuals and communities, in partnership with organisations across the health sector.

However, one of the barriers to fully harnessing social networking approaches to date has been the common misconception that Social Media and social marketing are one and the same. Whilst Social Media refers to new forms of digital communication which use internet and web-based technologies, social marketing is defined as “the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals, for social or public good”.

In other words, social marketing is about going directly into communities to engage key audiences on social and public health issues, and not simply sitting behind a computer screen. That said, the two can work together: in some instances, social media can form an important part of a wider, fully informed social marketing approach.

Targeting your audience

The “groundswell effect” of digital and social media solutions is raising the expectation that they will inevitably now form part of any communications strategy. This not the case! Whilst it’s certainly true that these techniques can be very effective in supporting and moving the behaviour of targeted audience groups as part of a social marketing strategy, it’s important to recognise that this type of intervention will only work if our research and insight tells us that a specific audience prefers it or is already using this media to communicate.

For instance, ICE is currently working alongside The Deborah Hutton Campaign and its partners across central government and other charitable initiatives, on a social marketing initiative which is using social media channels as its primary form of engaging young people.

This peer-to-peer project is supporting young people in planning, producing and sharing their own films about the dangers of smoking, using social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube to help them deliver these messages to other young people. This is a really exciting and innovative campaign, as I think it’s a great example of how target audiences can become active participants who shape positive messaging and enact change for themselves, rather than just ‘consuming’ messages.

Similarly, the intervention stage of a skin cancer awareness campaign being undertaken in partnership with Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Network has included the development of a social networking site where 11-16 year olds can take part in interactive avatars: answering correctly then allows them to accumulate credits and enhance their online personas.

The principle behind this interactive tool is to raise aspiration and also awareness about the dangers and the safe levels of sun exposure, and there are now plans to roll out the concept nationally alongside key cancer awareness networks and charities.

A multi-channel approach

Undoubtedly, these examples show that Social Media technologies provide new pathways to reach out to hard-to-reach audience groups, which I believe will be utilised more and more by the health sector in the future.

However, the real key to promoting sustainable behaviour change will be in ensuring that these interventions are well researched, citizen led and focused at all times. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work, and any use of social media must be shaped to positively resonate with different segmented groups. Ongoing evaluation of these techniques, to gauge their effectiveness, also plays an essential part in refining the approach and informing future consultation and engagement.

By Suzanne Goldenberg, Business Development Director (South East), ICE

Article provide by ICE Creates


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

How do I control my Company Image in Social Media marketing?

The simple answer is you can’t. You can have the most professional profile on whichever Social Media network you use, but the community around you is free to say whatever they wish. And there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Just as when an unsatisfied customer may bad name you to a friend, your image is no longer your own. It’s shaped and defined by the community around you.

So what to do?

Well, first of all, do your best. If your products and services are the best they can be, then you can’t do any more to improve your client’s reaction to them. If you’re good, then people will talk about that. If you’re bad, likewise, but as some people are more inclined to spread a complaint than a compliment, perhaps they’ll talk even more.

Make sure that the input you do have, i.e. the content on your pages and your dialogues with users, is useful, informative, entertaining and DOES NOT push a marketing message. Your expertise and the personality of your company should come across in the help you give to users and how you conduct these relationships. Direct marketing messages, such as we’re used to on television or elsewhere on the web, will generally be ignored by the majority of the Social Media community. It’s not what they’re here for, and at worst, they could even be alienated by them.

Keep track of the Social Media buzz.

One of your main objectives in your Social Media marketing is to get people talking about your products and services. The problem is, even with the best will in the world, it’s possible that it won’t always be positive. It’s fairly easy to spot this negative feedback if it’s on your own facebook page or any other web presence that you may have, but what if it’s elsewhere? Suppose a disgruntled customer posts a negative video to youtube, but you don’t find out until a client mentions that they’ve seen it… along with the 3 million other viewers that have come across it in the 6 weeks since it was posted. How could you even hope to repair that damage?

If the video was a fire spreading, it’s much easier to deal with the campfire before it engulfs the forest. Various third party applications (like Google Alerts) allow you to monitor whenever keywords, such as your brand or products, are mentioned on the web. If you’re alerted to a negative post as it appears, you can quickly respond, appeasing the user or giving your side of the story.

Hopefully this may stop the fire spreading, but if not, at least your message is carried with it.

Have a clear Social Media policy for your Employees

Social Media websites are extremely popular and are drawing in more and more users daily. There’s therefore a good chance that some or all of your employee use Social Media in one way or another. Obviously you don’t want to impinge on what your staff does with their spare time, but if they have a complaint about their work, you don’t want them to tell the world either. We all might have a moan about work from time to time, but with the advent of Social Media, these moans can now be available for everyone to view online. In a worst case scenario, the moan may even go viral, and quickly reach vast numbers of people.

So how can you avoid this? There’s always the option to make sure none of your employees ever have anything to moan about, but that’s not very realistic. In truth, you can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. The best you can do is reduce the chances by educating your employees to the dangers of loose lips in Social Media and to make them aware that you’re watching!

Always be honest, open and transparent in your Social Media marketing

So you’ve got your facebook page all set up, filled with interesting content and ready to go. But then, you get no comments, or worse still, negative ones. What do you do? You might be tempted by the idea of being a little sneaky, and pretending to be one of your own customers. Post a few positive comments here and there and everything’s good, yes? Afraid not.

Don’t underestimate Social Media users. You may think you’ve covered all the bases in your subterfuge, but the Internet is so vast and complex, that a canny user may be able to expose you. Say you have a member of staff post a comment, with no visible links on facebook to your company. One of your fans takes it upon themselves to check their credibility, and comes across their linkedin profile filled with links to your company. The intrepid fan is unlikely to keep this to themselves, and before you know it, you have a reputation for trying to deceive your community.

I’m sure you’re honest, open and transparent in all your business dealings, but you really can’t afford to be anything but when it comes to Social Media.