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Leveson & the Royal Charter – vested interest squabbling means collateral damage for social media

Royal Charter
The implementation of the Leveson Report’s conclusions was always going to be fraught by difficulties: different vested interests; short-term emotional vs long term needs; political faction; and the emotional context of the debate. But, as far as social media and networks are concerned, we maybe had a right to expect that simple ignorance would not be added to this list.

Yet, as discussed on this blog before, a 2,000 word media report with one paragraph  on social media is not a great way to start. In January we noted:

“any legislation produced by politicians and civil servants who are largely ignorant of the day-to-day workings and impact of social media, based on a report which ignores it, will not produce a great result”

Indeed, in social media terms the debate seems to have concluded before it has really started – with a ‘deal’ between fragmented political parties which has found both support and opposition from a fragmented mainstream media. But where is the voice of social media – OUR voice – in all this? Well, lost, really with unintended consequences to come.

Personally, like many I remain ambivalent about the ‘free speech vs privacy/decency’ debate in terms of the mainstream media. I understand the visceral concern over ‘red top’ dirty tricks in respect of vulnerable individuals – and the media appeal of hacked (and Hacked Off) celebrities. But I also fear that we have not thought through the implications of a regulatory regime which is ultimately controlled by government through appointments to the panel and by politicians through legislative oversight. So I also understand the concerns of the liberal (and conservative) free speech lobby.

But my main concern here is the last minute tacking on of ‘the Internet’ to the terms of reference in the Royal Charter with social media suffering inevitable collateral damage. It seems the thought behind this reflects the same minimal attention devoted by Leveson.

It’s not that easy to find the Royal Charter draft text (see here) – and you have to go to appendix 4 for the relevant definitions. Here they are:

b)  “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:

  1. i.                     a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or
  2. ii.                    a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a 
newspaper or magazine);

d)  a person “publishes in the United Kingdom” if the publication takes place in the United Kingdom or is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom;

e)  “news-related material” means:

  1. iii.                  news or information about current affairs;
  2. iv.                  opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or
  3. v.                    gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.

Now this is very scary stuff. There are all kinds of opportunities for confusion and cock-ups. Taking each of these clauses in turn.

First, who is liable,  ie what’s a website, these days? How does that differ from a ‘platform’?  We’ve heard various unofficial statements this week from that this does not mean an individual. So:

–       what about an individual journalist who just happens to publish on his own blog?

–       And, conversely, what about shared blogs – is two contributors OK, or three or 10?

–       What about shared accounts on other platforms, Twitter, Facebook etc which may also be deemed ‘websites’?

Second, it only matters if it is ‘in the UK or targeted primarily at UK citizens’Good grief, how dumb. That warm feeling you’re getting is reflected heat from international lawyers rubbing there hands together with glee.

Third, it applies to news, opinion or gossip.

So in effect this Charter, and its regulations and million Pound penalties, although intended for UK mainstream press offenders, will also apply to ALL individuals and groups who publish anything interesting.

Of course the get out clause is the definition of a UK publisher. From now on my blog’s gonna be in Bhasa Indonesia or Esperanto – from a ‘website’ in Finland.





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Leveson’s dog didn’t bark in 2012

The Leveson Report’s publication last year got huge mainstream media commentary  eg front page + 16 subsequent pages in the Guardian the day after. This is probably all to the good but Leveson did miss a very big trick: 2,000 pages in his report and just one (actually a paragraph) referred to social media.

Ok, it wasn’t in his formal remit BUT the importance of social media does need to be addressed, not least because of its impact on mainstream media, for which it represents a huge additional economic pressure (see Grubbe St Hack Attack). While Web 1.0 broke the distribution model, social media challenge both the content creation and distribution models. This creates another kind of existential threat which cannot be ignored, because of the importance of mainstream media to the way our democracy works.

Formal media brands are a very important constitutional pillar and their established role in society is lost at our peril.  On the one hand, we must not shut down free speech/free publishing in its modern form, e-Grubbe St etc. But on the other, the impact of social media may be deeply UN-social – it may undermine the accepted societal function of traditional media in democracies, developed over about 3 centuries, without sufficient thought being given to what should replace it.

It’s a long-term problem but the current debate is driven by short-term concerns. The reputation of the former ‘Fleet St’ is not great right now, while that of the broadcast media is hardly spotless either. And it does not help that there is also a general crisis of confidence in the political system – and we are, at maximum, just 2 1/2 years from a General Election.

We should all be concerned that any legislation produced by politicians and civil servants who are largely ignorant of the day-to-day workings and impact of social media, based on a report which ignores it, will not produce a great result. In 2013, let’s please have a real and informed public debate – and let those who have any involvement in social media think beyond the individual and commercial to the common good.

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Can social media success really have an impact on share price?

Contrary to expectation, markets are very emotional places…and individual share prices are often influenced by sentiment as much as the fundamentals. Every IR and PR professional knows this and they know the power that 3rd parties like the financial press have to drive sentiment.

Many believe that social media can have a similar impact but there’s not been much hard data to support that view.

However as reported, our recent Social Media and the City study DID find some pretty interesting links between strong social media performance as measured by PRINT™ and positive share price movements.

The detail is in the study but, for the statistically challenged (like me) the scattergraph below shows the correlation between the PRINT™ Receptiveness score at the beginning of November and the monthly change in share price to 28 November. These were all statistically significant (r > 0.207, N = 100, p < 0.05). This effectively means that if one variable were to rise or fall, chances are that the other would too. The p bit means there is at least a 95% probability that this relationship is not happening by chance – a level at which studies in the social sciences are generally accepted to be true.

On the basis of these initial findings we think someone should fund a longer, more detailed study to determine whether or not this represents a real and consistent lead indicator.

We’re open to offers!

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Aviva and Barclays lead sector in corporate social media use

Yesterday we looked at how the primary sectors represented by the FTSE 100 fared in our Social Media and The City report. Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology companies put in the best combined performance, followed by Oil & Gas Producers, both ahead of more consumer-facing industries like Retailers and Media.

Today, we’re looking in a bit more detail at the Banking, Financial Services and Life Insurance sectors – a collective group of 14 companies that have seen their fair share of criticism over the last few years.

By plotting these companies on the chart below, which maps their respective Awareness Quotients (a measure of status) and Engagement Quotients (a measure of participation and interaction), we see that only Barclays and Aviva occupy a leadership position. HSBC’s score seems mainly driven by status, with little social media engagement. However, RBS, Hargreaves Lansdown and Standard Chartered show higher engagement than awareness scores, suggesting a willingness to listen and participate.

Although spread across all four quadrants of the grid, the banks perform best overall within this combined financial sector group. With the exception of Aviva, life insurance companies lag the rest of the financial sector – a big surprise given that most are well-known, consumer-facing household names.

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Social Media in The City: How sectors compare

The Social Media in the City report we launched this week looks at the comparative social media performance of the FTSE 100 companies. But we also looked at how FTSE 100 sectors with 3 or more companies perform: to see how average sector performances compare; and to highlight any major variations within sector.

There are some surprises.

The table below, ranked based on the average Social Performance Index (SPI) scores, shows that seven sectors score above average (100). They are not necessarily the most obvious, consumer-facing candidates. Shell’s and AstraZeneca’s individual strong performances helped their respective sector groups, with Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology and Oil & Gas Production sectors commanding the two highest average SPI scores. Unsurprisingly, General and Food & Drug Retailers take the 3rd and 4th positions and Media the 5th, but Aerospace & Defence in 6th place is a surprise above Banks, Food Producers and Gas, Water & Multiutilities.

The chart below maps two general factors that contribute towards this performance – the Awareness Quotient (a measure of status) and the Engagement Quotient (a measure of participation and interaction). A low EQ combined with a high AQ suggests the PRINT™ score is driven disproportionately by scale rather than social engagement.

Awareness Quotient (AQ) bundles the PRINT™ attributes Popularity and Network and tends to favour larger, more established companies with larger communications spends. Engagement Quotient (EQ) bundles the Receptiveness, Interaction and Trust attributes.

The full study data allow us to analyse each sector in much more detail, and we’ll be highlighting some of these over the coming days.

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Two thirds of FTSE100 companies failing at social media

We had a feeling all was not well in corporate use of social media…

Our new Social Media in the City report, published today in association with the PRCA, shows that the majority of the FTSE100 are failing to engage effectively with social networks. As a result they may be at a competitive disadvantage by not connecting well with corporate stakeholders. Our research also suggests a link between social media performance and share price movement.

There are some creditably strong FTSE 100 performers, including companies from surprising sectors, but it seems that most still do not regard social media and networks as important for corporate communications. This is despite the fact that social media are used by a variety of stakeholders, by commentators and by mainstream media.

Research highlights and lowlights

  • Our study has found statistically significant correlations between social media performance and subsequent daily share price movement; higher social media performance scores associated with positive changes in share price
  • Two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies perform below average on main social media networks
  • Shell, AstraZeneca and Sainsbury lead new ranking of best-performing companies
  • Best performers come from some surprising sectors, e.g. mining firm Vedanta and computer chip maker ARM Holdings both appear in the top 10
  • The highest performing FTSE sector is pharmaceuticals & biotechnology, followed by oil & gas producers and retailers
  • Only 20% of FTSE 100 companies are actively using LinkedIn company pages to engage

The research was conducted in November this year. We used our quantitative PRINT™ performance measurement system to assess the corporate social media profiles of all FTSE 100 listed companies. Performance scores were derived for each social media network and combined to create an overall Social Performance Index (SPI).

The SPI leadership group is unexpectedly diverse. While the top 20 includes four of the FTSE 100’s six retail companies, this group also includes non-consumer facing brands like mining firm Vedanta, computer chip-manufacturer ARM Holdings and BAE Systems. Only one bank, Barclays, makes the top 20 group.

There are some surprising sector laggards. The Insurance sector as a whole, for example, scores well below the FTSE 100 average and only one company, Aviva, even makes the SPI top 30.

Most FTSE 100 companies (95%) have LinkedIn company pages, attracting a combined 2.6 million followers. However, less than a quarter of the FTSE 100 list any of their products or services on company pages, which are usually not actively managed – only 20% posted a status update in the 30 days prior to the study.

Is social media performance a lead indicator for share price movement?

Previous Sociagility studies have shown similarly close correlations between PRINT™ scores and measures of brand value and growth, as well as market share.

This study shows a statistically significant correlation between the SPI score and market capitalisation. It also shows statistically significant correlations between PRINT™ Receptiveness attribute scores at the beginning of November and share price movements during the rest of the month (r>0.207, N=100, p<0.05), indicating a 95% probability that this is not happening by chance. Higher social media performance scores were associated with positive changes in share price.

Health warning: correlation is NOT the same as causation… However, we think these results are interesting and at least give in-house corporate comms teams a strong argument to get the resources they need to up their game.

Different strategies … or none?

This study suggests that under-performing companies are incurring a reputational disadvantage internationally compared with competitor companies that engage with social media successfully. Yet social media performance really matters for corporate brands: it is a competitive issue and this should be of concern to the whole C-suite, and to investors.

Specific company plans to improve social media performance must of course depend on an individual approach, taking into account a host of factors we cannot know about. We have made no attempt to investigate or understand individual company strategies. But major differences in performance do emerge purely from the data. In some cases these are clearly driven by a deliberate strategy – in others, apparently, by the absence of one.

We understand that, for many corporate communicators in more traditional companies, the #1 priority is brand defence and that social media may seem risky but as Francis Ingham, Director-General of the PRCA says: “It is a far greater risk to let social media policy simply stagnate.”

We’ll be focussing on different aspects of our findings in the coming days. Meanwhile, if you’d like to download a copy of the full report, you can find it at

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Why corporate engagement with social media is a competitive issue

We’re just starting our study of how well the UK’s largest public companies, the FTSE 100, perform on social media platforms. But does a good social media performance actually matter for corporate audiences?

We wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t think so, and it’s reassuring that a majority FTSE 100 companies apparently do too… or at least they think it matters enough to have a social media presence of some kind. But not everyone’s equally keen.

Who’s on what?

First, by ‘corporate’, I mean the overall business, rather than its constituent companies or brands – although for some ‘company brands’, this is the same brandname. Specifically, for the purposes of this study we are looking at the entity actually listed on the London Stock Exchange, the plc.

Others may have done more complete breakdowns of which companies are on which platforms but these often look at the consumer-facing brand(s), not the corporate entity. For our study, the percentage breakdown for the four common platforms that PRINT™ assesses is as follows:

  • Website: 100% of the FTSE 100 have something aimed at corporate audiences.
  • Twitter: 72% have created some kind of corporate Twitter account
  • YouTube: 65% have a corporate YouTube channel
  • Facebook: Only 56% have a corporate Facebook page, perhaps indicative of a platform perceived as being more consumer-focused

It’s hardly surprising that all the companies have a corporate website – even if some are pretty basic. But the numbers drop off after that. So which audiences are the companies that do have a corporate social media presence trying to reach and why is that relevant for the others?

Corporate & financial audiences

Of course there are a whole host of potential ‘corporate’ audiences: employees, trades unions, suppliers, local communities as well as regulators, legislators; not to mention commentators and a broad spectrum of ‘traditional’ media. All these groups include many important individuals who are active users of social media. For them, it’s just another way to have a relationship with a brand or company – or simply keep track of what they are doing.

But what about investors? Do they really care about tweets and Facebook likes… they are just interested in facts and figures, right?  And in any case, surely better for listed companies to avoid the risk of engaging via these informal forums and channels and stick with the safe formalities of the annual report, face-to-face presentations, earnings statements and the traditional mediated route of the financial press.

This view is short-sighted for a variety of reasons. For a start, shareholders and potential investors are people too – and likely to be participating in social media, especially in the UK and USA.

Second, both private investors and the ‘wholesale’ City institutions like insurance companies, banks and brokers, routinely use social media analysis to help in their buy/sell/hold decisions on individual shares. Furthermore, City commentators, not least the financial press, use social media to track news and opinion – and themselves engage in creating social media content.

Fragmented control = fragmented corporate messaging

Ever since the advent of the web 20+ years ago, the Internet in all its forms has become a public mirror (sometimes distorted) for brands and companies, showing the good and the bad, highlighting successful strategies and exposing corporate fault-lines. Yet some FTSE 100 companies still seem to be adopting an old-school, pre-Internet (let alone pre Web 2.0) approach to managing the social media aspect of their online presence. Specific audiences are assigned specific platforms leading to a dangerous potential for gaps, contradictions and confused or incoherent messaging.

A typical example is Twitter. Many companies just use Twitter corporately as a broadcast channel devoted to journalists with content consisting almost entirely of references to news releases. Why is this happening? Well, it could be a well thought out strategy but my guess it’s probably because someone in the Press Office was seen to ‘get’ Twitter, so he/she got it forever.

There’s similar issue with Facebook. The perception – aided and abetted by Facebook and digital agencies – is that it’s purely a consumer platform and the only role for companies is advertising. Yet many organisations use it successfully to reach out to local communities, job seekers and even business partners – all traditionally within the remit of the corporate communicator.

A competitive issue

Unsurprisingly, our own point of view is that social media undeniably have a large and increasing important part to play in corporate communications – including the daily struggle for investors’ confidence and money. Furthermore, how well a company engages corporately through social media is a competitive issue – both as a risk to be managed properly and an opportunity to gain advantage.

It’s therefore an important issue not just for corporate communicators and marketing directors but for company Chairmen, CEOs, Finance Directors and their Boards.

And because of that, we’re really looking forward to seeing how the FTSE 100 stack up!

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How Social is the City?

Has ‘the City’, that bastion of British financial institutions, heard about social media yet? Well some parts certainly have. The Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the City of London Corporation itself have all embraced social media to at least some degree.

But what of the big companies listed on London’s Stock Exchange?

Anecdotal evidence is that participation is patchy so we thought we would carry out a comparative study of the FTSE-100, the largest UK-listed companies.

Many of these companies own famous and well-promoted consumer and B2B brands but we’re keen to focus on the City/corporate social media profiles (i.e. the owned social media) that serve the entity which is actually listed on the London Stock Exchange.

So, this week we’re contacting all the FTSE-100 companies we can (unfortunately some don’t list any contacts at all on their websites!) to help validate the online profiles we’ll be assessing as part of our biggest comparative analysis of social media performance yet (here are some of the others).

Then next week we’ll start our research and, by the end of November we hope, we’ll publish the results.

If you want to register now for the report, just send an email to [email protected].

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London 2012 ‘Socialympics’ Report [+Infographic]

We’ve just published our report into the London 2012 ‘Socialympics’ and also made available the underlying dataset, which runs to some 43,500 data points.

We reckon this is the longest and most comprehensive study ever undertaken into the comparative performance of key Olympics sponsors in activating their sponsorships through social media and networks. It used our PRINT™ performance measurement system to provide a purely quantitative assessment of sponsor brands’ performance on websites, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube over nearly 5 months from 18 April, 100 days before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, to the end of the Paralympics on 9 August.

Key Findings

You can download the full report here, but below is a quick visualisation of the change in rankings from 16 July to 9 September (click to enlarge)…

…and a few highlights:

  • Some brands (e.g. BMW, Cadbury, Cisco and P&G) benefitted from starting early while others (like adidas, British Airways, Coca-Cola, EDF and VISA) concentrated their efforts later on when Olympics fever was at a peak.
  • By contrast, a significant number of brands did not appear to engage with social media at all – or only sporadically.
  • For some, it appeared that social media activation was undertaken in isolation or as an afterthought – or as merely an amplifier for advertising campaigns.
  • Few campaigns seemed to be centred in ‘social’ or had social fully integrated.
  • Some smaller brands outperformed larger ones on the Sociagility PRINT™ rankings by adopting what appeared to be a more proactive policy of engaging in real social dialogue.
  • Ambush strategies by non-sponsors did not appear to generate impact in social media sufficient to compete with sponsors.
  • The brands that led the Sociagility PRINT™ rankings were those that used social media to focus on engagement not just brand awareness.

Results available as Open Data

After tracking 25 brands for 145 days across 4 social networks and 5 dimensions of social media performance, we’ve amassed 43,500 individual data points. In the spirit of Open Data, we are making the data from this study available for anyone to use, reuse and redistribute, subject only to a requirement to attribute and share-alike.

The full data set can also be downloaded from:

No doubt there will be lots of qualitative and anecdotal studies of this year’s Games but we’ve tried to make useful quantitative contribution towards  planning for the next Games and towards a more rigorous approach to planning the social media aspect of sponsorship activation.

Let us know what you think.

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So farewell then…London 2012

As the echoes fade in the London 2012 stadium, time for a review of the London 2012 Social Scoreboard and the social media performance of the sponsor brands which it has been tracking for the last four months.

We’ll be producing a short report in due course but meanwhile here is a round-up of the changes we’ve seen.

Early movers

It is estimated that around £ one billion to £ two billion will have been spent by the major sponsors on this year’s Olympics. Have they had good value?

When we started our daily tracking, 100 days ahead of the opening ceremony, our intention was to allow everyone to see how well these brands were activating their sponsorships, in social media terms at least. (And, of course, to showcase PRINT™ , our proprietary performance analysis)

The first trend we identified in our weekly analyses was that there were some clear early movers – among them P&G BMW and Cadbury – who seemed to be doing well. Within weeks, there were big changes in the rankings as others started to engage. Soon, all the top 10 spots had changed with one exception. That exception is P&G, which quickly established itself as one of the major players in this year’s ‘socialympics’ with its well-thought ‘Moms’ strategy.

Dedicated vs mainstream

A second strategic difference soon emerged. Some sponsors, like Thomas Cook, were using dedicated Olympics focussed channels with success, while others were adding Olympics content to their main sites and accounts – also with success. It remains a matter of debate as to which is the better approach. Our own conclusion is that there are advantages to both strategies and much will depend on the individual brand and its resources. It may be that a less well-known brand with limited resources should focus on its existing channels – but on the other hand, reaching out more specifically to an ‘Olympics’ audience may allow greater engagement. ‘You pays your money and you takes your choice’!

Daily changes

As  the Olympic torch reached the UK, we launched the London Social Scoreboard, allowing everyone to interact directly with the daily ranking data – and allowing head-to-head comparisons to be made between sponsors. P&G still topped the list but new challengers emerged like BP, BA and Cisco. As more and more brands launched their activities, the rankings moved around, as anticipated.

Big Guns vs engagement

Over the next couple of months , the top 10 positions moved around a good deal and the different strategies of the leading brands played out .While leadership in the overall rankings changed, day by day, analysis of the Status and Potential rankings showed other, sometimes greater differences. Brand size, heritage and spend showed up as higher scores on the Status scale, reflecting the advantage of the big guns with their big budgets. But only a deliberate engagement strategy led to high Potential scores.

Too late…or nicely timed?

We began a series of weekly analyses for the Holmes Report and by the end of June, with one month to go, we were wondering if brands like McDonalds and EDF had left their moves too late – but within days, both brands announced and started Olympic campaigns in earnest. Both brands immediately benefitted from their greater engagement, rising quickly in the rankings, as did British Airways with its ‘Home Advantage’ campaign. What began to show at this stage however, was how well integrated the social aspect of sponsorship activation was with other more traditional aspects of marketing – or not.  In time, EDF would show that its approach to integrating social was considerably superior to McDonalds.

Two weeks to go

With two weeks to go, all the leading brands began to up the ante. The social media landscape was so changed from when we started that we reviewed and reassessed every one of the brand sites, channels and accounts used to drive the scores on our scoreboard, including more mainstream ones.

Coca-Cola, British Airways and adidas now took the top spots with EDF also claiming a leading position, on the back of its Energy of the Nation’ Twitter-powered London Eye lightshow.

This highlighted a key difference in strategy. Those who established a dedicated Olympics presence early on benefitted from months of active engagement targeted at Olympics fans. Others, by holding on, benefitted from concentration of maximum effort just as wider consumer “Games Fever’ peaked.

No ambush

One of the running stories at this Olympics , as always, was whether the ambush marketers would succeed in outperforming sponsor brands. As far as social media is concerned, there seems to be no real evidence of that.  We compared adidas –  a late starter in the ‘socialympics’ but the most experienced Games sponsor of all – with Nike, its well-heeled global rival. This showed that adidas out-performed in social media, especially in terms of  PRINT™ ‘engagement’ criteria like Receptiveness and Interaction, despite Nike’s aggressive ‘LondonS’ ambush campaign.

And so to Rio

Already, with an eye on Rio 2016, some marketers have been asking whether the IOC could or should further tighten the rules around social media to prevent athletes, brands and Games visitors from ‘abusing’ sponsors’ rights. It is on these rights, of course, that the IOC and its member sports federations depend for their funding. So, any legal laxities have serious financial consequences.

It remains to be seen whether subsequent formal London 2012 Games analysis will show brands that they have lost out in some way in the ‘socialympics’ but my guess is absolutely not. It seems likely that social media, in the main, will prove to have been essentially amplifiers or accelerators of the broadcast and brand content created.

But by the same token, it surely will show that, for sponsor brands, it is up to them to make the social weather. Those that have actively engaged socially (and integrated social with their other activities) will surely be happy. Those that have not, need to ask why.

But trying to organise legally against the inevitable proliferation of social, user-generated platforms seems to miss the point. If London 2012 has shown anything, it is that the social tide is unlikely to ebb any time soon.

Where’s a modern day  King Canute when you need him?

If you’d like a copy of our report, the London Social Olympics 2012, please write to us at [email protected]

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