Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Forward, different and intelligent thinking

Friday, February 8th, 2013

A typical close to the weekend characteristically involves a quiet night in with a couple of glasses of wine. Except Sunday 03 February saw 108.4 million worldwide awake, alive, alert and enthusiastic, glued to watching The Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the annual US Super Bowl.

But aside from the highly anticipated advertising brilliance, came one of the latest creative strokes of genius when within minutes of a blackout, Oreo tweeted this ad with the caption “Power out? No problem.”

Now, this may not seem so impressive should it have taken months of planning and weeks of execution, but it didn’t. Thinking ahead and having the right people in the right place at the right time meant that Oreo could act fast and jump feet first straight into an opportunity – an opportunity that secured them thousands of retweets and ‘likes’ on Facebook, and meaning that the most powerful bit of marketing during the advertising industry’s most expensive day may have been free.

Needless to say, us healthcare bods (in the most part) can’t jump on chances at such a pace, with the ‘real world’ somewhat unaware of the multitude of regulations under which we operate. However, there is a vast amount that we can learn from FMCG initiatives and ways of working. For us as an agency, it’s crucial to ‘bring the outside in’ to the healthcare setting, all underpinned with the expertise we’ve acquired through the years. It’s not about going against the grain for the sake of it, but ensuring that our campaigns resonate, capture attention and have legs beyond the health pages.

It’s therefore more apparent than ever that whispering isn’t going to capture attention and drum up support, but forward, different and intelligent thinking will.

Are lawyers taking over Twitter?

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Do you look before you tweet? If not, you may want to give some serious thought to the recent legal cases emerging from Twitter.

Earlier this week, Tory peer Lord McAlpine, who stood accused of alleged child sex offences by a bogus BBC Newsnight report, decided to bite back at the Twitter users who had sullied his name by tweeting the allegations.

Lord McAlpine’s legal team identified 1,000 original tweets and 9,000 retweets and according to the Daily Mail, “is looking for ‘substantially more’ than the £185,000 he has already agreed with the BBC for the Corporation’s botched Newsnight investigation.”

Next up was Sally Bercow, the wife of the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, who coincidentally happened to be among the list of Twitter users who libelled Lord McAlpine through Twitter. In addition she also faces legal redress after tweeting the name of the girl allegedly abducted by maths teacher Jeremy Forrest. Not a good week for Mrs Bercow.

Twitter birds aren’t always the brightest bunch…

 According to Charlie Brooker’s latest entertaining rant, a teenager has recently been jailed for posting tasteless jokes about child murder on the internet. While no details were provided, possibly for legal reasons, there is no question that Twitter and more widely social media is not the ‘online pub chat’ it once was.

While specific legislation is already in place to regulate Twitter in the form of the ‘Improper use of public electronic communications network – Communications Act 2003’, the Bercow case demonstrates that this is not just about a straightforward ‘code of conduct’ or even specific legislation, but concerns almost any legislation. According to reporting in The Guardian, in the initial stages of dealing with the Bercow case, the court made a section 39 order under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, banning identification of the girl.

All this demonstrates that it’s no longer malicious internet trolls who face punishment from the powers that be. At worst, the increasing legal challenges to Twitter users might result in organisations being silenced by their own defence lawyers. If legal teams are made to approve every tweet an organisation broadcasts, the essential heart of social media is lost. The BBC’s nervous clampdown on journalists tweeting about the Corporation’s troubles is one example (shouldn’t BBC journalists be able to tweet their own news?). On the other hand, these legal cases might teach us to be better communicators. David Aaronovitch, writing for The Times, proposed 10 golden rules of Twitter that serve as a good start, but however you formulate your own codes of conduct or processes, it should enhance your communications, not dilute or weaken them.

The amusing tale of the phantom followers

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The golden rules of public relations and social media practices are to act with integrity and transparency, whether you are acting as an individual building your personal profile or on behalf of a brand or organisation. So what happens when you try and bypass these principles and build a fake social media following? Earlier this week, the Sunday Times published a story about the increasing number of people buying false Twitter followers to bolster their online reputation. The article explored two case studies where individuals multiplied their number of followers by thousands, one intentional and one seemingly oblivious. Mervyn Barret, a candidate for the post of Lincolnshire Police and Crimes Commissioner, was astounded to see his followers rise from 330 to 17,014 over the course of a week. Even more astonishing was that Brazilian porn stars and Argentine Justin Bieber fans numbered highly in Mervyn’s new fans! Humiliated by the array of false followers, a source claimed that it was the work of an overenthusiastic fan, as “Mervyn would never dream of doing anything like this” (but further details of the ‘fan’ were not forthcoming!) The other case study featured was celebrity fitness guru Alexandra Wilson, who bought an extra 10,000 followers to “give herself an entrepreneurial edge”. Shortly after wasting her money on a cheap cheat for fame she affirmed that it “didn’t work” after all.

Social media start-ups should be aware that money can’t buy you friends, even on Twitter.


To further explore this bizarre concept, The Sunday Times set up a dummy Twitter account and in four days bought 4,500 followers for a total of £35. One of the sites that offers the service is, created two months ago by an unemployed former accountant who operated the business from his front room. Although too ashamed to give his name, he did admit that his activities were “a bit seedy and not a nice thing to be associated with”. The ‘packages’ he offers range from a ‘beginner’ pack of 500 followers for £13 to ‘bulk specials’ of 200,000 for £79. The man behind the site claims to have made £8000 from the scheme, which he sees as small scale in the “lucrative” fake follower market. What is most worrying is not the values of the people behind such schemes, but the fact that people actually believe it will boost their online influence. The truth is there are no such ‘quick wins’ in the world of genuine social media engagement and that respect and reputation is earned not bought. As social media expert Mark Shaw summarises nicely, “It’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about the number of listeners and if all your followers are fake then nobody’s listening to you”.

Thanks to Izzy Rose, on work experience with Virgo this week, who contributed this piece to our blog.

Is Twitter founders’ new ‘Medium’ platform a game changer?

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Even for social media addicts it is hard to keep up with the huge number of social networks out there. If you opened an account with each one you would probably be a square-eyed, drooling mess. On the other hand, whether you are using social networks for business or pleasure, you don’t want to get left behind either. Last week, Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone launched the beta version of Medium, a platform for collaborative publication of content on any chosen topic. This may sound similar to a number of other platforms; so what makes it different? And is it worth the hype?

How Medium works
Pages on Medium, called ‘collections’, are themed posts of pictures or writing which appear in grid format. You can create your own collection or contribute to an existing collection. Users can promote posts they think are most interesting with the ‘this is good’ button.

At the moment only a select group of people are able to contribute, although once the site launches fully, anyone with a Twitter account will be able to take part.


The Wonder Years comes to social media

A crowded environment?
Comparisons have been drawn between Medium and several other similar platforms…

  • Tumblr offers a publishing platform on a similar basis, allowing users to write content longer than a tweet but shorter than a blog post
  • Pinterest allows a similar experience, though entirely picture oriented. Both Pinterest and Tumblr allow users to rate posts so that the most popular content is more visible too
  • Squidoo, created by marketing guru Seth Godin, which allows users to create a page called a ‘lens’. Using their lens, users share expertise on a single topic or issue with a wide community. You can update a lens regularly, although lenses are commonly articles or groups of articles on a subject, so don’t warrant frequent updates like diaries or blogs
  • and other content curation platforms allow you to gather content from various web sources and collate them on one page, though they aren’t intended as places to write and publish original content
  • Wikipedia is perhaps the King of them all. But Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, so you wouldn’t publish content of an entirely non-academic nature

What does the launch of Medium say about the evolution of social media?

One of the most interesting aspects of Medium is the link to Twitter. Users must login via Twitter, which means that the huge, worldwide audience of Twitter users will go some way to guaranteeing the success of Medium. The creators also have a proven track record in launching similar platforms successfully, such as Blogger, which was launched in 1999 and enabled anyone to create a free blog.

Regardless of the already captive audience, the concept is well judged, even to the point of the platform name. The name Medium suggests that the platform is the medium of the future, but could equally reflect that the platform is a genuine happy medium or balance of everything social media has to offer.

If we speculate that Medium will be a success, does this mean that blogs will become less influential? It’s a difficult question to answer, but there are people who think the golden age of the blogger has been and gone, and that we are now in the age of ‘influencers’. The success of Twitter has meant that more people access content via their tweetstream, rather than accessing content by following a specific blog, perhaps through an RSS feed. This means that successful bloggers are more likely to be effective Twitter users too.

Many of the principles of blogs and Medium are similar, but perhaps the most significant observation is that Medium and social media generally are becoming increasingly collaborative. Greater emphasis seems to be on cooperative publishing between groups of people, and less so on individual bloggers. So while a successful marketing campaign might reasonably target a specific blogger, Medium means that you are better off speaking to, and contributing to an entire community. This might be stating the obvious, and it is easy to say that collaboration is the buzzword of the moment. But how this actually plays out and starts to affect online relationships, particularly those between brands and individuals is yet to be seen. With that in mind, this old-fashioned blogger will be signing up for a Medium account as soon as he can!


Technophobia: Does pharma have the cure?

Friday, April 13th, 2012

There is mounting angst and debate about how social media influences our society. Not least are the concerns that we are talking less and tweeting more and that brand empires can be built or destroyed at the click of a bitter blogger’s mouse. Yet an article published by Forbes this week argues the flipside; that the emerging field of social customer service is actually an untapped opportunity to transform interaction with disgruntled clients or customers seeking support. These methods can add the human touch to our previously desensitised customer service systems. Hands up, who wouldn’t like to see the end of the automated phone system in favour of genuine engagement with customers in online spaces?

We all know that social media channels are about open, multi-channel conversations. Listening to customers and identifying what is already being said in the online environment is the key to understanding customers and improving relationships with them. Yet all too often digital strategies are planned from the starting point of wanting to promote a specific idea, usually something we ‘think’ our customers need or want. Social customer service reminds us to flip this on its head, set aside the marketing or brand agenda, listen to our customers and find the most appropriate opportunity to respond.

So which companies are tapping into this social customer service trend and getting it right?

The banking industry is an unlikely contender for leading the way in customer service, but online banks such as First Direct have implemented a range of social strategies to build relationships with their customers. Firstly they have recognised that in a social world it is not enough to be merely reactive. The @firstdirecthelp Twitter feed not only provides 24/7 replies to customer enquiries, it also pro-actively starts conversations with Twitter users who may have issues or questions about First Direct products. More complex queries or ongoing customer service issues can also be identified through Twitter and taken offline to prevent further escalation. The First Direct website also gets their customers involved in live tests of new ideas through the FirstDirect Lab. This helps to ensure that the customer becomes a ‘partner’ in the process and feels valued by seeing their feedback brought to life.

Similarly, savvy consumer brands such as ASOS know how to tap into their young clientele’s love of modern technology and lack of time. At the end of last year they offered customers 15 minute Skype sessions with ASOS stylists in the UK. The pilot was a huge hit and caused a wave of positive feedback across social media platforms.


Crucially, ASOS also keep their customer service Twitter (@ASOS_HeretoHelp) page separate from their brand page, ensuring that there is never a conflict of interests when dealing with customer complaints. The added benefit being that happy customers using the brand page are less likely to encounter negative feedback.

So how can pharma embrace the social customer service trend?

With significant cuts to sales forces over the past decade, social customer service provides a potential new route for the pharma industry to engage. While it may not always be possible to apply the same approaches as the examples above, strategically the principles remain the same. Most important is to identify the spaces where it is appropriate to ‘listen’ to conversations to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of our audiences. This can help inform many strands of a communications programme, not least to help tailor bespoke patient support programmes.

Ultimately, the principles of social customer service are aligned with the increasing movement towards a patient-centric approach to healthcare and as such, represent a good place for any pharma social media initiative to start.

Is life just one big game?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Game (noun) – an activity that one engages in for amusement; a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules.

As GAME enters administration and shuts many of its stores, it seems all elements of gaming are going digital.

Whether it’s a teenager vying for pole position on the Angry Birds leader board, a commuter using a sudoku iPhone app or a family playing Wii, online gaming is rife.

As a consequence, there’s increasing chatter about gamification in the world of health. There was yet another study published this week suggesting that mind games can help to slow the progress of dementia and improve healthy people’s mental activity. But while this body of evidence continues to grow, it seems the benefits of gaming stretch far beyond mental health.

Organisations are wising up to the potential of gaming techniques when it comes to helping people to engage in their health. Whether in the home or on the go, gaming allows people to engage with family and friends and harnesses the support and influence of those around us. ShapeUp, for example, combines social networking, gaming and incentives to improve health, based on the premise that people are more likely to succeed at reaching their goals when they work together with the people they care about.

Whilst consumers now have access to a vast amount of health information, has this explosion in information led to knowledge and understanding, and ultimately to healthier lifestyle choices being made? Could gamification result in people taking greater responsibility and proactive steps to improve their own health?

Creating fun challenges and applying gaming mechanics such as points, levels, leagues and prizes are resulting in compelling online and mobile tools that are driving consumer engagement and behaviour change.

Pharma companies have also embraced the gaming trend in a variety of ways. Take Boehringer Ingelheim for example. It is hoping its new Facebook game, Syrum, will provide a new platform for stakeholder interaction regarding disease awareness and the workings of the pharma industry. Whilst via Kaggle, it aims to challenge the online science community to come up with model that can help accurately predict the biological response of molecules.

Regardless of its application, gamification leverages human’s enjoyment of playing and our natural impulse to want to take part. By capturing attention in a fun and friendly way, we can be motivated to become actively engaged.

In the healthcare world, could gamification help change consumer behaviour and improve health outcomes? It’s a definite possibility. Game on, we say.

Follow @VirgoConsumerHEALTH @VirgoHEALTH

Twitter and breaking news – how will the latest news corporations’ social media policies affect this perfect match?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

This week, Sky News announced they’ve rolled out new social media rules for their employees, which restricts what their reporters are allowed to tweet about. This includes a ban on retweeting “information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter”, and reporters have been told to “stick to your own beat” and “always pass breaking news lines to the news desk before posting”. Within days, the BBC followed suit which raises the question, how will these restrictions impact how we find out about the latest news via social channels?

There’s no doubt that Twitter is now widely recognised as a key portal for hearing the latest news in a swift and succinct manner. All news outlets have flocked to the site to provide frequent, timely updates on the latest stories from around the world. However, alongside this, we’ve also seen an increasing number of journalists take to the micro-blogging site to use it as a tool to source and communicate about some of their stories.

What’s the result of this? Journalists are building their own reputation as leading news providers by racing against the clock to post the latest exclusive story on Twitter before their competitors beat them to it, including journalists within their own company and even before their organisation. Twitter has given such reporters the opportunity to promote themselves as well as give their associated corporations a ‘face’ to the news. However, this has also led to news outlets facing ownership issues over Twitter profiles, a major example last year being a name change of @BBCLauraK to @ITVLauraK, essentially causing the BBC to lose 60,000 Twitter followers to their direct rival ITV.

It seems the relationship between breaking news and Twitter is becoming slightly tense as there is increasing pressure on broadcasters to maintain their value of providing the public with the latest scoop rather than trailing behind their smart and savvy reporters. Perhaps a slightly cynical perspective but ultimately it feels like Sky News/BBC are just trying to keep hold of their reputation as THE breaking news broadcasters with the introduction of their news policies. Sadly, to do this, they’re not only restricting the use of media that is intended for open and instant communication but it’s also putting them in a risky position against other news breakers who are still letting their journalists break news more freely. It’ll be interesting to see whether any other news outlets jump on the bandwagon and the impact it’ll have in the coming months. So the big question remains, who will break first?

The elephant in the ‘breakfast’ room

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

This week saw the launch of the Government’s first ever national campaign to raise awareness of the signs of bowel cancer. ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ encourages those with persistent symptoms to present promptly to catch the tumour earlier, with an ultimate aim of improving survival rates across the UK.

In spite of the condition being the third most common cancer across the country, to date there’s been clear reluctance to focus the public spotlight on it. Be Clear on Cancer has of course been backed by leading charities, such as Beating Bowel Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK, both of which provide exceptional ongoing support to patients and their families.

The launch of the initiative has received extensive press interest but the way in which it’s been welcomed by the media is somewhat ironic. Despite the whole point of the campaign being to raise awareness of the symptoms of the condition, it seems a proportion of editors have shied away from the nitty gritty ‘below-the-belt’ symptoms and left key campaign messages out of their reporting. We do appreciate it’s not exactly what you want to hear blaring out of the radio during your morning ablutions or digest while eating your bowl of cornflakes. However the media are such a powerful communications vehicle, and in this day and age there must be a more palatable way in which to educate the public via these still important traditional routes so that we can talk more frankly and hinder the number of cases soaring?

There’s a raft of disease areas where Pharma, healthcare professionals and charities can really collaborate with the media and work together on the best means to communicate to the masses/stimulate discussion that suffer the same taboo, and each deserve the appropriate air time!

In the meantime, on behalf of all those supporting #BeClearOnCancer, the initial symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • blood in your stools
  • a change to your normal bowel habits that persists for more than six weeks
  • abdominal pain and/or unexplained weight loss

Embarrassed? Uncomfortable? You shouldn’t be.

Is engagement the key to charity’s austerity challenge?

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

With the economic downturn, many charities are really feeling the pinch (59% of UK charities are negatively affected according to the Charity Commission’s last report Charities and the Economic Downturn). Of these charities, 62% say that have experienced considerable reductions in contributions, specifically housing, health and education charities.

So are charities needing to become more creative in how they attract donations? Certainly, the recent collaboration between Dulux and UNICEF, which invited people to own a colour, is a brilliant example of a fresh and more importantly engaging approach to fundraising which we mentioned in a recent blog.

In a bid to make it easy for people to donate, we are seeing more and more charities turning to social media sites which can be linked directly to sponsorship platforms such as JustGiving, which help supporters to collect funds and eliminate the hassle of filling out sponsor forms.  In fact, this has helped 13 million people raise over £930 million for more than 12000 charities since 2001. Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter have been most successful in driving these donations – in September 2011 it was reported that over 27% of all JustGiving’s on line donations were driven directly through Facebook and the highest value donations were received through Twitter.

So the question is in tough times are charities the first to suffer or is creativity and engagement the key to success? Well, last month’s high profile ‘Children in Need’ campaign seems to refute this having raised a record-breaking £26 million.  The question is was it the content that drove the rise in donations or was it the integration of donations via social media and texting alongside the traditional that broadened the scope and made it all so much easier to give.  ‘Meaningful’, multi-channel, or a combination of both, is that the way to improve charities fortunes?


Mistakes revealed: Online media… a journalists’ friend or foe?

Friday, October 14th, 2011

It’s no secret that the demand to gain access to information at the touch of a button (or should I say the touch of an ipad!) has seen the evolution of online media. With news and material communicated around the world in a matter of seconds, is it time for journalists to realise the world is watching?

With an estimated 2 billion internet users worldwide, an error of judgement can be broadcast globally in a matter of seconds. No one will easily forget the Daily Mail’s reporting on the ‘guilty’ – or not ‘not guilty’ – Amanda Knox, that in its rush to break the story first, broadcasted an inaccurate report to the world. Unfortunately this kind of action just adds further collateral to the current Leveson inquiry (but that’s a whole other debate altogether).

Just this week, we’ve seen another ‘oopsy’ moment when freelance foreign correspondent Rob Crilly’s irate tweets to the Telegraph editor over his modified article, were automatically posted on the Telegraph website. Rob’s actions remind us that the World Wide Web is aptly named – our online actions are available for the world to see in a flash. Despite both these errors being swiftly removed from the public domain they have stimulated widespread reporting and show that online mediums allow the ever watching world to see mistakes which print media never could.

Despite all this, the likes of Twitter provide a resource many journalists cannot now live without and figures from the fourth annual Digital Journalism Study found nearly half (47 per cent) use Twitter as a source. It has revolutionised the way they work and instantaneously broadcast information. It has in fact proven to be mutually beneficial for both journalists and the audience, so like many friendships, they may have fallings out once in a while but they will almost always kiss and make up and come back for more.