helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By , Associate Director – Social Media, Tamar

Before I start this blog, I must apologise for both the tenuous nature of my analogy, and the actual origin of the story too. Both may make you chuckle, or they might simply make you wonder “What the hell was he searching for THAT for?” – but hopefully you can see past my eccentric search habits and make it through to the end of my story, for therein lies the gold…

Late on Tuesday afternoon, I found myself typing “Moira Stuart” in to a Google search box. Having had a minor ‘brush’ with the legendary newsreader the day before, I was wanting to find a bit more about her, based on a few stories she has told on the Chris Evans radio show. I doubt she’s much of an SEO connoiseur, but if she was I’m sure Moira would be pleased to know that the results page returned for (what is basically) a brand search on her name was pretty nicely filled. She can tick the ‘Universal Search’ boxes, with both image results, video results and news results being returned on the page, and short of having an official site, she’s got the front page fairly well sewn-up.

But one thing struck me as a little bit odd when I did the search… The third image result that was being returned was not in fact a picture of the lovely Miss Stuart, but Eastenders actress and openly-gay personality Pam St Clements – aka. Pat Butcher. “That’s a little odd”, I thought to myself…

[NOTE: Since you're probably all doing the same search now, I should clarify that today's results seem to have omitted the image, though a search on a mis-spell, "Moira Stewart" still returns the unusual result]

Being a curious searcher, and wanting to know more about this anomaly, I clicked on the image, to be taken to a ‘Digital Spy’ discussion thread. The title of the thread was ‘Valerie Singleton – Revealing Interview!!’ (their exclamation marks, not mine…) and half way down the page it seems to have degenerated in to a rumour-mill of theories about which famous TV presenters might or might not be lesbians, with one poster commenting:

“I think Pam St Clement lives with Moira Stewart. (Unless that is another urban myth!)”

No proof, no citations – not that you’d expect them in a gossip thread mind you, but in the world of Wikipedia maybe I’m just used to a bit of proof! Aside from a few comments speculating further on the rumour, that’s as far as it went. But this one single posting on a message board has now seeped in to the first page of results for a search on Miss Stuart’s name.

Whilst you might think I’m getting a bit too PR’y to refer to Moira Stuart as a brand, the analogy stretches over in to normal brands just as often. The power of a single posting on a message board – no evidence, no citations – shows how much the worlds of social media and search have become intertwined. If you work for a brand and find yourself in a position where a scurrilous rumour – or even a TRUE rumour which you’d rather not publicise – is being returned in the search results for your brand name, you’ll be wishing you’d gotten round to working out how to ‘optimise’ your social media presences a little sooner…!

(I feel it’s only fair to end this tale with a clarification – there is no evidence to suggest that Stuart does live with St Clements, or indeed that she plays for that proverbial team… not it’d matter if she did, obviously… I’m sure they’d make a lovely couple… er, I’ll stop now!)

Rob Salmon
March 5, 2010

Doesn’t that just show you how much prominence the engines are giving to social in their algorithms. Very interesting…

March 8, 2010

Great article, Henry.

Will this also be the year when we see more celebrity agents spending serious time protecting/building the clients’ brand reputations and profiles within social media?

Amy Kean
March 9, 2010

Well, I think celebs could all learn a lot from Lady Gaga in this respect Coming to an IAB whitepaper near you very soon!

Henry Elliss, Tamar
March 9, 2010

I don’t know about Lady Gaga (I try to avoid her where possible…!) but I think Iain is right. Reminds me of a comment made by the one of the Davos attendees on the prominence of social media – something along the lines of “Being a publicity-shy celebrity will no longer be possible from here on in…”

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