Microworkers – a case of ethics?

July 29, 2010


Cherry Picked recently blogged about a new site, ‘Microworkers’ – “Think of it as Santa’s Little Helpers for odd jobs. Except you’re not Santa, and they’re not doing it for love. Don’t have time to edit a cover letter for that must-have job? Simply become an “employer” and hire someone (a microworker) to do it for you. Can’t seem to attract traffic to your work-of-art blog? Start a campaign and watch your numbers rise. You can even ask workers to product place your latest business venture on discussion forums.”

 I have to admit I was intrigued, we are all looking for ways to earn that little bit of extra money right? So I clicked through to the website, but as I started to read more the first thing that came to mind was surely this isn’t ethical!?

 According to the homepage employers are asking people to blog about their products, post reviews to websites and blogs, become a Facebook fan, follow them on Twitter and the list goes on.

I can understand if businesses are trying to find people to review their products, as long as the reviewers are honest. However there is an ongoing debate about whether paying bloggers to review products is ethical (see my last post on the ethics of food blogging) and asking people to become fans of your brand on social media takes it that one step further!

Personally I believe that it is not the amount of fans or followers you have on Facebook and Twitter it is how many are engaging with your brand and providing valuable feedback and real referrals.

If you are paying someone to become your fan or follower then how likely is it that they are going to be interested in your brand and really engage with it? Is it likely to help you promote your products and/or services? In my view, probably not, it is likely to just make you feel better about yourself, being able to reach those milestones of 100, 200, 1000 etc fans.

So when you are looking to set up your social media strategy or reviewing it, think about what you really want, hundreds or maybe thousands of people who ‘like’ your brand or maybe just a couple of hundred people who really love you brand and are engaging with it?



Social media censorship – Can companies control what employees are saying about them?

July 22, 2010

I was meeting with a client recently who raised the issue of staff’s interaction on social media and whether the organisation should have a social media policy that would ‘forbid’ its staff to comment about the company on their personal social media profiles (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Although this may sound like an appealing way to avoid any ‘damage control’ situation, it may well bring more problems then solutions…

• In this day and age, people are used to expressing their opinions and ideas and sharing information on the internet. Trying to ‘forbid’ them to do such a thing could backfire and create just the opposite, i.e. having them whinge about the company’s new rigid (to be polite) social media policy

• Unless your CEO and/or managers are ‘Facebook friends’ of every employee, it can be practically impossible to monitor what your employees are posting on their profiles

• By forbidding any comment about the organisation, you are not only stopping any derogative posts, but also all the possible praises your employees might like to share about your organisation.

Although I wouldn’t recommend such a strict social media policy, I would certainly encourage organisations to develop ‘social media guidelines’ that look at the use of social media in the workplace and educate employees on the repercussions various comments made on their personal profiles can still have on them and/or the organisation.

Personally, I believe the first step should be to speak to your employees about their involvement on social media. Ask them if they are using any of the channels. If they do, they might even have incredible ideas on how the company could benefit from engaging on social media to raise its profile among potential customers or even simply to create an ‘employee community’ through a Facebook page, for example.

I believe the key is for organisations to remain open-minded. Whether you like it or not, people are talking about your organisation online and a culture of ‘transparency and openness’ towards your main stakeholder, that is your staff, might well turn in your favour!

Have you come across organisations who have implemented a social media policy or guidelines? I’d like to hear about the benefits and shortcomings of such a policy.


2009’s most successful gum launch

March 8, 2010


The last 12 months have seen their fair share of social media campaigns for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands. In Australia, we can remember the Pepsi ‘Refresh project’ and Crust Pizza’s #CrustFreePizzaFriday Twitter campaign among others.

Chewing gum is not typically what I would call the ‘hip’ thing in consumer land so launching a new gum would probably be quite challenging. However one company has managed to cut through the clutter successfully.

Wrigley launched in Australia its ‘5’ gum in mid 2009. According to a Wrigley ad featured in Convenience World (February/March 2010 issue), the company claims it to be ‘the most successful gum launch in 2009’ with the gum delivering $8.7 million in sales since the launch. It became the #2 brand in the gum category after just 11 weeks in the market.

This is what, in my humble opinion, made this launch so successful: 

  • The gum’s packaging is black (with a vibrant colour on the side for each flavour). This packaging really stuck in my head as it was the first black packaging for chewing gum I had seen. A few months later, Mentos launched it’s Aqua Kiss gum – with black packaging as well – and a small presence on Facebook (312 fans at time of writing)
  • Wrigley used a good marketing mix including advertising (see YouTube clip below), sampling, in-store point-of-sales and an online campaign called ‘5 Feed’

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Using social media to drive promotions and customer service

February 8, 2010


I really think more businesses are starting to ‘get’ the potential of social media and the way in which some businesses are using it is very impressive and clever.

For instance, we can all agree that the @BigPondTeam has really done some great things leveraging Twitter. Twitter is the perfect channel for having a whinge and I know from personal experience how some people love to whinge about Telstra and BigPond (I used to work at a Telstra Shop many moons ago). Then all of a sudden this big corporation replies to your frustrated tweet (and pretty quickly, I’ll add), asking if they can help. What? Is this the same company where people complain about being on hold for what seems like hours at a time?

The biggest surprise was the goodwill it generated quickly among Twitter and the trend of users going directly to the BigPond or Telstra Twitter profiles with problems instead of calling up or visiting a Telstra Shop.

Similarly, @StarlightCinemas decided to give away some free tickets to help promote their outdoor cinemas using Twitter. Not only does this work online, as winners are likely to engage and report via various profiles if they won but they are also likely to go offline and tell friends, family and colleagues they won, who will then ask them how it went. Basically driving word-of-mouth on and offline – so simple and yet so effective. I would love to know if their social media activity coincided with an increase in numbers for this year’s season.

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The many uses of Twitter

January 22, 2010


I’m constantly being asked by friends, family and colleagues – What is the point of Twitter? To be frank I actually thought the same thing when it was first introduced to me.

I couldn’t work out why anyone would want to know about the mundane aspects of my life! I still hold to that philosophy but I can now see both a business and social application for the ever popular Twitter.

Businesses that use Twitter well are those that use it both to disseminate information but also to respond to customers queries. Telstra Bigpond is one company that comes to mind. @BigpondTeam I suggest you give them a try if you are having any service issues. Just tweet about your issue and see how fast they respond.

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Social media: the latest popularity contest

November 19, 2009

If the cafeteria in the film Mean Girls was representative of the social media realm, on what table would you be seated?

In what has been deemed as the perfect insight into the intricacies of the typical high school caste system, Mean Girls has taken a light hearted approach to a much more serious issue of harsh social divides; the geeks sitting separate from the jocks, the spoiled princesses and their gaggle divert their eyes from the misfits, the cool Asians sit in the opposite corner from the Goths and so.

Ruthless as it may be, every group and individual has a place. They know their social rank and order.

Unfortunately these high school idiosyncrasies resonate all too closely with the reality of the Twitter realm today, with everyone encouraged to take note of their social media ranking. Suddenly how popular or influential on Twitter seems to matter.  

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Is Twitter a time waster?

November 5, 2009

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Before going on a six-week leave overseas last July, I was on Twitter daily and would regularly share comments, links and any other 140-character bits of information I thought was interesting. 

The story has been quite different since my return in early August. Being away from technology for so long reminded me of the great sensation and freedom associated with not having anyone knowing what you are doing, thinking or sharing at this exact moment.

I see people tweeting away continuously and wonder how they can possibly be focused on their task at hand and be as productive as can be. If you’re always looking out for the next link to share or click on, can you really be effective with what you are working on at the time?

But then again, I would argue that Twitter has been the key to great realisations. I have seen plenty of examples that show the benefits of Twitter:

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