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

Mairi Clark, senior PR and marketing manager, IAB

The Charlie Sheen saga has been both captivating and depressing at the same time. While it’s like watching a car crash, I am not the only person who has performed out of character by subscribing to his Twitter feed and hungrily absorbing every nugget of strange mutterings.

Let’s put the ethics of watching a human being having a breakdown to one side, as we approach the fifth birthday of Twitter, it’s fascinating that after treading the Hollywood line of having a publicist for his entire career, Sheen has gone down the road of doing his ‘media’ himself.

The impact for the social media industry will be interesting to watch. Until now, not very many people realised there was this growth area of promotional social media, where celebrities are paid vast amounts of money to promote products.

His rise of popularity on Twitter has been of benefit to many companies and even charities, which have made use of his #tigerblood hashtag.

It’s that kickback that’s interesting. In a month of Twitter errors – Red Cross staff drinking, Chrysler complaining about drivers  – the way brands are reacting to errant Tweets says a lot about the companies’ social media drivers. While Red Cross have been excellent, Chrysler took the corporate line. Red Cross used its Twitter faux pas to great advantage. After Tweeting a witty response, it was then endorsed by DogFish – the brand the staff drank and then Tweeted about – whose fanbase reacted by Tweeting people to donate blood, and the whole thing became a unexpected marketing  hit.

What marketers need to remember about social media is that by its very definition, it’s about people. And the problem with people is that you can’t control them. So the first thing you should do is loosen the control.

And only then, are you #winning.