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

By Amy Kean, senior PR and marketing manager, IAB. .

Sorry for the slightly inappropriate headline, but it’s based on , written in defense of the new fancy Uniqlo exercise, which appears to have received mixed reviews. Not from the general public, obviously (I doubt they care that much) but from us folks who work in digital, or more specifically social media.

In case you haven’t seen it, you enter your Twitter name into the snazzy red and white page and it provides you with a Tweet Show, displaying all your recent tweets and replies in time to a piece of rather odd music.  , it’s nothing groundbreaking, but for what it’s worth having watched the show until the end I think it’s pretty and am more aware of Uniqlo and their new range of tshirts than before. I’m even thinking about buying one. What’s your view? Do you like it? Does there need to be an element of stickyness to keep you coming back? Does that even matter?


What it hasn’t done is persuade me to vote for any particular political party, cured the common cold or brought on the second coming of Christ (which would have been amazing given the time of year, must try harder next time Uniqlo.)  It’s nice, and engaging, and appears to be a cute enough branding exercise. So why do people seem so unimpressed?

My point here isn’t to stick up for Uniqlo, because quite frankly I’m not that bothered by it. But it’s the reaction that interests me. Social media is more drenched in debate than any other discipline I’ve encountered. And to be honest it’s a lot more complicated, too. It’s incredibly labour intensive, totally subjective, and often totally works in theory but not always in practice.  Think Facebook groups with 4 friends, intense microsites with only a few fans, UGC campaigns with a couple of entries, that kind of thing…

“Guys? Guys! Wouldn’t it be a great idea if we found out who the most influential ice skaters are online, and then let’s ask them all to draw a picture of their favourite tree, and then what we can do is get all the people in Norway to vote for their least favourite and then what we’ll do is turn the winning picture into an ornament made entirely of shoelaces. Wait a minute, what are we promoting again? Guys??”

At the IAB we love to applaud any digital work that looks great, puts the consumer first and appears to have been born from a solid strategy, and we let everyone else bitch about it to their heart’s content!  Real, pure social media that researches and interacts with the online audience on their terms and informs a long term communications strategy is one of the best things to happen to businesses in years. And some work needs a bit more time, thought, effort and understanding such as Marmarati and the recent work for the RNLI – two of the best campaigns I’ve seen in years across any media.  

But for some time now I’ve felt like defending that strand of social media activity that is just… simple. Doesn’t take up too much of people’s time, throws in an entertaining tune and maybe makes people laugh for a few seconds.  It’s still social, even though it didn’t involve an online treasure hunt or crowdsourced sequel to War and Peace. And media is getting more social. Its visualising my data which is already available and packaging it up in a nice enough way that compels me to want to share it with my friends and show them how cool it is and at the same time how ‘cool’ I am for knowing about it. Its cultural validation at its very core.

As we’ve said on this blog before, it’s all about the objectives, so I for one find it problematic to critique social media work without knowing what those objectives are.

I think that whilst social media is all about creating wonderful relationships with consumers and enlisting advocates like never before, a lot of it is still about selling stuff. And whilst the delivery mechanisms for marketing may have changed over the years, the core principles of advertising should probably still apply. Fun? Nice? Gets the message across? Sorted.

Harriet Clarke
April 6, 2010

obviously all the people that didn’t like it don’t have very interesting tweets, hence their tweet show was pretty dull…

Jack Wallington
April 6, 2010

Hear hear Keano!

This is a problem in all digital created by “experts” who try to prove their expertise through criticism rather than celebration.

It’s infuriating. In the past I’ve asked for great examples of video and display ads on BrandRepublic, yet all “experts” could do was criticise other people’s work and celebrate their own. Not exactly the kind of community that instills a sense of support and genuine creative energy to improve the overall market.

I know everyone’s a competitor and the social media industry is very competitive right now – but only by working together and supporting each other’s work will social media specialists start to portray the mature, controlled and strong image this area desperately needs right now.

Personally I thought that Uniqlo example was funny because it was simple and didn’t try to do anything more than that.

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