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If tweets were referendum votes then, come June 23rd, the UK would be departing the EU. Looking at the period beginning early 2016, spanning the official launch of both the ‘Brexit’ and ‘Bremain’ campaigns, and culminating in the London mayoral election, it is clear that the latter, #StrongerIn Bremain campaign enjoys a small but significant lead in the number of unique accounts pledging support. However, it is the Brexiters that appear more ardent in their beliefs and more vocal in their call to arms, tweeting roughly twice as much as their Bremain counterparts.

To try to gain a greater understanding of the distribution of Brexiters and Bremainers throughout the UK, the socioeconomic context in which they exist and the correlation (if any) between Twitter activity and actual referendum outcomes, we have created a model that combines the absolute number of tweets, the number of unique accounts and the total populations for each local authority district (LAD).

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LADs known to have concerns regarding high levels of immigration and demonstrating above average support for UKIP, the country’s Eurosceptic and right-wing populist party, were (somewhat predictably) Brexit strongholds. Burnley, Eastbourne, Hartlepool and Bournemouth all ranked highly in Brexit ratios and all fit this profile. However, UKIP voting alone was not a definitive predictor of Brexit performance.

Clacton, Boston, Thurrock and Rotherham all recorded high levels of UKIP support in the 2015 election but do not appear at the forefront of the Brexit campaign as fewer residents utilise Twitter and those that do tweet with low frequency.

Brexiters also tended to lean Conservative and showed strength in traditionally Conservative strongholds such as Woking (one of the safest Tory seats in the country), Northamptonshire South and West Dorset. The results for Manchester, however, ran counter to this idea of traditionally more conservative populations favouring a departure from the EU. An ultra-safe Labour seat and beacon of multiculturalism, its inhabitants had relatively more unique Twitter accounts and total numbers of tweets in favour of the Brexit campaign – though, admittedly, the number of the Bremain accounts was also high.

The #StrongerIn camp was, in general, more predictable, led by university towns with a strong base of Labour support (Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff and Exeter were frontrunners). Scottish urban centres also leaned in this direction. Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland’s most populous cities, showed a predominance of support for the remain campaign by unique Twitter account numbers but almost even number of tweets for both camps.

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These results come from a preliminary analysis of the data and it may be that as the volume of referendum-related Twitter content increases in the approach to June 23rd, so the results shift. Of the top seven most populated places in the country, only one – Manchester – sits definitively in either camp. The other six remain undecided but with strong showings from each camp. It is in these large urban centers where the Twitterendum will be most intense, and we expect this to be highly contested in the coming weeks.

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Of course, tweets are not votes. Twitter users do not reflect the UK population as a whole. Twitter users account for roughly a quarter of the population (23%) and tend to skew young and urban. Perhaps most pertinently, Twitter may be less representative of the British because of something inherent to Britishness. Twitter is very much a public soap box and, for a nation so often aligned with a strong sense of propriety, it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

So, while the Twitterendum results should not be used as an analogue to real voting attitudes, these observations can still provide an interesting barometer through which to measure the winds of sentiment sweeping the nation. As the debate heats up in the coming weeks and traditional media becomes saturated, we’ll continue to turn to this model to see what further insights we can glean, so please join us for regular updates of our Twittterendum coverage!

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Lucas Galan currently serves as the Head of Analytics Productization at W2O Group’s London office. Connect with him on LinkedIn!


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As the PreCommerce Summit in London concluded, the final panel discussed global trends for digital engagement.  Discussion opened around a question proposed by Gary Grates, Principal W2O Group, which summed up the key debate posed at the event: as an unintended effect of our adoption of digital, have we created a society in which it is more difficult to relate?  Are we losing our humanity?

  • IMG_8243Cynthia Storer, former CIA analyst, answered from a security standpoint that the trend she sees is laziness in interaction and interrogation of information.  We now oversimplify information and situations.  We eliminate nuance.  In our hurry to find answers and synthesize the dearth of information available to us from an ever growing number of channels, we use cognitive short cuts and tend to look for classifications that can be summed up in a short-hand, 140-character sentence of dichotomy: good or bad.  Humans have never been this simple and it is lazy for us to assume this would change based on digital tools we use to express our humanity.  Humans are humans.
  • Pradipta Bagchi, VP & Global Head of Corporate Communications at Tata Consultancy Services, built on Cynthia’s points to highlight the need for online and offline interactions to be integrated.  From his perspective,  we are having more interaction, but it is less meaningful.  For example, in India, a telecom giant had bots answering customer service calls.  Someone figured this out and called stating their issue was a desire to marry the CEO’s daughter.  The bot responded: thank you for your comments, we will get back to you shortly with a solution.  In the end, machine to human interactions fall flat.
  • Bob Pearson, President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, took an anthropologic view.  He discussed how humans are programmed to learn via play to enable survival.  For example children learn to walk so they can travel.  There is a purpose to why we have this innate sense of curiosity, desire to interact and drive to discover.  In the case of Millennials, they are comfortable with digital tools because they grew up playing with them and now they are part of their survival mechanism – how they communicate.  Older generations are uncomfortable with this because we didn’t have these digital tools, so the adaptation process is different – though usage patterns have shown that digital tools continue to be rapidly adopted across all age groups.  So digital isn’t really the culprit here, it is human nature to play with these tools and human nature to use them as a part of how we evolve our communications.
  • Gary closed this topic citing his approach to teaching at the university where he is a professor emeritus.  When he walks into a classroom, no one is talking to each other, they are all bent over their phones.  So the first thing he does is force them to introduce themselves.  And the students respond with surprise and wonder at how connected some of them are offline (ie, this guy is actually my neighbor!).  Digital should not supplant, but complement and facilitate face to face interaction.  On the other hand, our dedication to digital will likely result in a boom for another industry: interest in chiropractic services after so much time bent over our devices!

A question from the audience probed how we can factor multiple online personas into our understanding of people.

  • Pradipta responded first highlighting how platforms naturally push us to segment our personalities.  For example, Facebook is a visual and personal channel and Linked in is more professional.  The persona you have on each isn’t different so much as the weighting to your specific qualities related to your professional life or personal life shift.
  • Bob chimed in using issues management as an example.  If you are managing an issue, the first step is to separate out the noise from the reality.  We see this in particular with protests and the emergence of “slactivism”.  Initially, a digital platform will lead us to believe the magnitude of an issue is quite high based on a perception that 200,000 people are retweeting and liking things.  However, if you look at a different channel for cross over, or look at how many people are contributing to the conversation versus observing it, the numbers rapidly decrease.  The question for me is around how we get people to become more passionate about a topic so they are true activists versus just amplifiers.  Retweeting doesn’t fund a cause.
  • Gary added another anecdote about BP.  Several years ago, there was a group of angry environmental protestors outside the gas station in his town; however, the station lowered its gas prices, and the next day that group of protestors was replaced by lines of cars waiting to fill up.  The price change ferreted out the false positive of passion for the environmental cause, and leverage sensitivity to cost.
  • Cynthia mirrored this interest in human nature.  For the security industry, the spider web of personas is very important.  Cross-referencing those caricatures of a person exposes the base values that a person holds true.  Humans are humans and we rely on basic truths to define ourselves which means that across personas we can often find that thread and stitch together a valuable profile.

Another audience member took this question further to ask about how these personas help predict human behavior.

  • Cynthia elaborated that humans use routines to frame the way we make sense of and interact with the world.  These routines make us feel comfortable and safe.  You don’t have to think about how you are presenting yourself because it is true to your routine self-perception.  These routines make it easier for us to predict or forecast human behavior.  For example, we knew Bin Laden always lived with multiple wives and children so wherever he was hiding would need to be family appropriate.  We also knew he didn’t approve of blowing up school buses so we could discredit any claims to terror acts of that nature.  We do this all the time offline.  We say so-and-so is going to be late or so-and-so will take the public transport because we have learned how to predict their behavior on past actions and their values (lack of punctuality and cost-sensitivity).
  • Bob took this question in a different direction by talking about the recent election in Britain.  Polling didn’t predict the outcome of the election.  Bob believes this is because polling relies on short-term memory which means people can only recall 3 – 7 things and not even accurately, just their interpretation of those things.  So if you marry what people say in polls with their online behavior – which is subconscious or, at least, doesn’t require recall – you start to see more predictive patterns.  And this can get even more insightful using geolocation to look at specific voting districts.
  • Pradipta supported Bob’s points with an anecdote from his company’s app, Elect UK.  The app measured social sentiment, noise and activities of the parties and politicians.  In the end, the app was more accurate than polls as it showed the demise of the Lib Dems.
  • An audience member concluded the session by making a point around the value of the right question.  The audience member shared that there was a poll just before the voting booths opened that asked not who people would vote for, but who they thought would win.  The result favored Cameron.

The panel closed with a final audience member asking: what digital tool has had the greatest impact on their personal lives?

  • Cynthia – Smartphone, it is how she checked in for her flight.
  • Pradipta – Social platforms which have replaced traditional news sources.
  • Bob – It isn’t invented yet, but SnapChat for business.
  • Gary – FitBit as now his wife calls him at work to tell him to move as she can monitor his movement online.

Annalise_Coady_CMYKThis is a full manuscript of the opening keynote at our 2nd Annual PreCommerce Summit in London, 2015.

Thank you all very much for coming. I hope that on the way in, you had a chance to look at the art we have up, which owes a great debt to the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte, who blew minds back in the 1920s with a painting of a pipe and the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”: this is not a pipe.

Magritte was making a statement about art and about reality, and how the two shouldn’t be confused. A painting of a pipe is not a pipe. It’s a representation. It’s only shorthand for something real.

It’s fun to imagine what Magritte might have thought if he was born a century later and was coming of age during the digital revolution we’re living through. I like to think he would have come up with concepts like the ones we have on display.

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We’re one step further into the surreal. The art of photography used to require hours in the darkroom, film and artist both marinating in noxious chemicals to modify an image to bring out this color or that detail. Now, we tap our phone to capture an image, tap again to add a filter, tap again to send it to the gallery that is Instagram. Is that art? I’d like to know what Magritte thinks.

And what of love? Does old-fashioned courtship have an analogue in swiping right on Tinder? Clearly there is an overlap between love in the Jane Austen sense and love in the Tinder sense, but app-based hookups? Ceci n’est pas l’amour.

The list goes on and on. AirBnB isn’t a quite a hotel company. Uber isn’t quite a cab company. Buzzfeed isn’t quite a news company. N’est pas. N’est pas. N’est pas.

Many of you who are younger never knew how perilous the telephone was. Back when communication was carried by wires, talking, especially with those in other countries was exorbitantly expensive and difficult to arrange. I spent time abroad with my family as a child, and the telephone calls back to the UK had to be booked a week in advance, and still might not necessarily go through. Connectivity was a luxury and precious.

Flash forward to my life as a young professional, when I was living abroad. But rather than paying pounds-per-minute, I was talking using Skype, broadcasting not only my voice but my image across thousands of miles. For free. Is Skype a 21st century telephone? Almost, but not quite. N’est pas.

The point of all of this is that we’re limited in how we think about digital because we don’t have the language yet to describe the new world. Like Magritte, the best we can come up with is shorthand, using old words and concepts that almost, but not quite, describe reality. Shorthand for something real.

This can be a liability, because it hides complexity and often hides the darker side of technology. Those who took the easy route and assumed Uber is just a next-generation taxi company probably failed to see the lawsuits coming. There is now, particularly in the United States, mounting pressure to define the status of Uber drivers as something other than free agents with cars. What, exactly, is their labour status? It’s a question worth billions.

What’s clear is that the digital tide is not receding and will not recede. There are more active mobile connections now than there are people in the world. The average consumer engages with 18.2 pieces of online content before making a decision, which is both amazing and potentially paralyzing.

And HR Zone says three quarters of employees have seen their role or career change as a result of technology in the last 12 months. Let me repeat that: three out of every four people have had their job changed by technology IN THE LAST YEAR. It is a wonder we feel off balance with reality constantly shifting.

Please do not misunderstand me. The digital revolution has made us smarter and more productive, and it has connected us in ways that are nothing short of extraordinary. But handling, profiting and thriving in this environment requires careful thought and precise language, so we can tell the pipes from the paintings of the pipes, so to speak.

And that’s part of the reason that I’m so excited to have such an incredible range of presenters today. All are individuals who are grappling not only with change, but ways to ensure that we understand technology so we can minimize risks and maximize gains.

Our afternoon is split into 3 sections, and we’re going to start with the good news and look at how digital has influenced the wellbeing of society from a handful of different angles, including the ways we can use new tools to improve human health and accelerate aid efforts to the world’s most vulnerable. To help us wrap our heads around that, we’ll invite to the stage:

  • Dina Rey – Head of Digital Group at Roche,
  • Anna Gruebler – Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Altviz,
  • Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer
  • Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF.

For the second part of this afternoon, we’ll look at how technology companies are evolving in this digital age. Or is it a matter of revolutionising. Our speakers will be:

  • Steven Overman – CMO at Eastman Kodak.
  • Kester Ford – Director of Product Marketing at Datasift.
  • Simon Shipley – Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel.

And post our break:

  • A former CIA Analyst and the star of Channel 4’s show Hunted, Cynthia Storer,
  • VP and Global Head of Corporate Communications at Tata Consultancy services Pradipta Bagchi,
  • And our own President Bob Pearson will summarize how technology is impacting the way we live, work, and create in this digital world.

We’re also thrilled to have here with us Lord Chadlington and Steve Milton, who will participate in the programme along with my colleagues Colin, James and Gary.


I think the conversations have truly shown we are in the middle of the new industrial revolution and we need to remain fluid and open to new ideas and opportunities whilst yet being mindful and aware of the true impact on our lives, organisations and communities that digital technology can bring. We are still human and digital technology will not be the only factor in our future. Human nature prevails. La nature humaine est  prédominante.

Thank you to all our speakers as well as my wonderful colleagues for their fantastic moderation. I want to thank the W2O Team behind the event, you know who you are. And I would like to thank you all here today in London’s living room as well as those who joined us via live stream for your enthusiasm and participation. I am looking forward to connecting with you at the reception or in the digital world. Remember this is not a pipe!

We are living in a time where we are ‘always on’ with multiple devices providing us with information but also distracting us and exhausting our time. Technology has become a natural part of our daily life, where having different multiple online personas for work, life, and play is common. It has also become a source of angst.

With an influx of new information and online digital platforms almost daily, the digital landscape is evolving and consumers are now more empowered than ever. Brands can no longer fully control their narrative and need to find and understand the people who are most relevant to their future determining how they consume and share information as well as how they listen to each other as individuals.

This rapidly changing world can sometimes feel both like a massive headache and an incredible opportunity for marketers and communicators. C-suite leaders must be able to adapt to these changes if their organizations are to survive. Staying nimble and being able to predict how the industry will evolve before it happens is all part of the job. What we see from working with our clients and helping them stay one step ahead of competition is that regardless of which industry you are in or who your audience is, we are all facing similar challenges when it comes to digitalization. Being so imbedded in our client businesses is what allows us to build the community where innovators and leaders can come together and share their best practices and learnings.

Breaking away from your everyday routine and meeting those who are walking in the same shoes as you, is a proven method to generate new ideas or new solutions. Following on the success of last year’s Social Intelligence Summit we are excited to host our second annual thought leadership event – PreCommerce Summit London 2015.

The event, coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, will bring together experts from across industries to discuss how we work, live and create in the digital world. We will be considering the impact and opportunities of the mobile generation and will provide perspectives and host panel discussions with key leaders, such as:

I’m hopeful you are able to attend this important forum. Don’t miss the last chance to register to attend the summit on the 14th of September in London via livestream or in person!

More information on the event and the speakers can be found here www.w2oevents.com.

Navigating the future takes more than just educated guesswork. It combines knowledge, adaptability and a willingness to garner new inputs from new sources.

The W2O Group Pre-Commerce London Summit is your personal GPS to succeeding in the future!

As a marketing analyst, my day is governed by digital media. My nights are equally dictated, as I am guilty of sleeping next to my phone, just like 83% of other Millennials. Tech-dependant as we are, I’d expect this “generation of digital natives” to be very fond of online experiences. In fact, according to statista, 85% of UK 16 to 34-year-olds used Facebook in 2014. Can we infer from these numbers alone that digital experiences are always the preferred choice by us Millennials? As you might have guessed, I intend to make it a tad more difficult by contrasting some digital vs. offline experiences:

Education: While traditional education has undeniable benefits such as direct peer and teacher interaction, over 6.7 million students were taking a minimum of one online course in 2011 – an increase of more than half a million year-on-year. Online education will enable people from poorer families or rural areas receive valuable skills. Interestingly, print reading is highest among 18 to 29 year old US students, according to a Pew study, as the text book layout benefits comprehension and distractions and skimming are less likely.

Work: Similar to traditional education, being physically present at work has huge benefits, such as your boss knowing what you are up to. However, home offices will be an important factor in juggling work and family, as a survey in the Microsoft whitepaper points out. Further benefits of home office are a less stressful environment, a quieter atmosphere, commute elimination and increased environmental sustainability.

Dating & Friendships: Dating apps allow us to roam potential partners whenever and wherever we want. Some portals such as EHarmony and OkCupid ask personal questions that supposedly match you to people with similar opinions and interests. Therefore, online dating is a form of offline speed dating, as you don’t have to waste precious minutes getting to know someone to figure out later that their love for cats doesn’t match your allergies. Digital, in this case, gives you a wider range of opportunities, while you will most likely want to meet your online encounter in real life before getting married. Regarding friendship building, technology also works as a facilitator. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 57% of US teens have met a new friend online, with 30% having made more than five. Due to their love for video games, boys are more likely than girls to make online friends.

Family: Most of us can speak from experience that being around your family in person is superior to a Skype call, where the video quality is sub-par. Nonetheless, apps and platforms allow us to reach out more often and share little, yet important moments as well.

The endless list of things we do online includes mobile banking (enabling female farmers in Africa build their own businesses) or sharing hobbies, such as cooking, sports, art and photography. Due to Instagram filters, everyone can now be a “photographer” and we can share our successful or not-so-successful cooking experiences with the entire world. We can also share calories burnt after our first mile or half-marathon and make our Facebook friends envious. Most of all, we can find people who share rare hobbies such as a fondness for pigeons. It’s much easier to find like-minded people online or strangers to talk to confidentially. Privacy goes both ways online: you can be anonymous and share fears and thoughts, but at the same time, you can gossip and insult others without being identified. Negative factors seem to increase online where it is also much easier to voice your opinion to a greater audience. The latest incidence being the refugee crisis in Europe, where a lot of celebrities voice themselves supportively online, but allow fans with negative sentiments to comment and reach this wide audience as well.

As it turns out, the digital landscape is widely complex. Deciding on what experiences are more enjoyable online is further hindered by factors such as your audience’s background, preferences and motivations. As the recent Economist article “Myths about Millennials” points out, “individual differences are always bigger than generational differences.” One should not make assumptions about a group of people just because they were born in the same time period.

Generally speaking, however, digital is always better. Not because we replace real experiences with digital ones, but because digital adds options to our means of communication. Every communication tool in history has had its pros and cons, but the tools have been improving over time. Improvement meaning enhancing communication, bringing us closer together. We started with smoke clouds and can now communicate with people on several continents at once and in colour. We want to share information and experiences – sad moments, achievements and joy. Yes, there are still many improvements to be made, technically and personally (be it privacy issues or us constantly looking down on our phones while walking in the streets). Ultimately, communication is what we’re all about and digital communication is a further added benefit along the way – and not just for Millennials.

After this peek into the facets of digital, I want to invite you to join W2O Group’s PreCommerce Summit that is part of London’s Social Media Week, to further expand your knowledge. Hear industry experts talk about marketing’s future and share your opinion on whether digital is always better. You can RSVP here: http://w2oevents.com/

In the past six years, I can count on one hand — one finger, actually — the number of times I’ve attended a conference and not been an active participant in the Twitter conversation onsite. It was 2009, my laptop was at the office, and I did not yet have a smartphone. You can bet that was the last time I traveled without multiple devices, a smartphone being one of them.

As a millennial — yes, one of those — I began my career at a time when Twitter was only for the tech elite, Facebook was still “The Facebook,” and LinkedIn was a glorified resume. Now, similar to how no one can remember a time when anything got done without email, I can no longer fathom — nor want to — a world where social media wasn’t a driving force behind how business gets done, and done well.

In my past life as a healthcare conference producer, social media wasn’t yet the widely adopted medium for communication and collaboration that it is today. Speaking faculties and conference agendas were created from research and whatever publications and articles were available online, and events were publicized via mass email campaigns and cold calling. Just a few years later, the landscape had already changed drastically.

In my next role as an editorial content producer at a technology publisher, hashtags were the new sources for news stories, LinkedIn was the first point of contact, and QR codes were all the rage. To stay timely, topical and relevant was to keep up with the rate of change in social media adoption and use. Today, that thinking still holds true. Only now, the cost of not participating is something that individuals and brands alike can no longer afford.

We’ve all heard that “content is king,” and from a content generation perspective, Twitter is one of the most valuable — and all too often, underrated — sources. If someone had told me back when I was putting together conference agendas that there would soon be a channel that would provide, in real-time, insights on the topics and trends that your target audience cares most about, I might have traded an arm or leg for access. Now, that information is just a screen tap away.

But the wealth of benefits that Twitter provides goes well beyond social intelligence — topic and audience targeting, influencer analysis, idea generation and the like. While it’s true that the incredibly rich data that Twitter provides — when paired with the right analytics, active listening tools and analysis in place — creates an unmatched opportunity for social optimization and ROI-inducing initiatives, to me, the most valuable aspect of the channel has been the relationships that is has allowed me to cultivate. And for that, I could not be more appreciative.

While conferences and networking events might have previously been where industry colleagues would be introduced to one another for the first time, now, these onsite interactions are simply an extension of the relationships that began through a series of 140 character posts. The number of times I’ve approached — okay, ran toward — industry colleagues with whom I’ve connected on Twitter first, and recognized solely from their profile picture, is a bit embarrassing. But the amazing opportunities, incredible learning experiences, professional connections, and friends, that I have made, simply because we were engaged via the social medium first, makes it all worthwhile.

Case in point being earlier this year, at W2O’s #HITsmCIO event at HIMSS’15 in Chicago, where provider innovation, information and technology chiefs gathered together to discuss the proliferation of social media in healthcare. UPMC’s chief innovation officer, Rasu Shrestha, M.D., one of the Twittersphere’s most active — an quite frankly, awesome — digital health leaders, shared that when it comes to hospital and health system use of social media, “it’s less of a question about whether you should do it; it’s can you afford not to.” I would have never gotten the opportunity to meet, know, and most importantly, learn from, Dr. Shrestha in the same capacity if not for Twitter, where his perspective perfectly echoes what we advise our clients, friends, and ourselves, regarding social media engagement.

For House of Cards fans, during one of his infamous first-person narratives to the camera, Frank Underwood noted that “imagination is its own form of courage.” For anyone who has yet to take the leap or see the value in social media from a personal perspective, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. Imagine yourself interacting with and learning from individuals you had previously only read about, fostering relationships with an unmatched network of thought leaders, and carving out a voice for yourself in the space. It might take a bit of courage to put yourself out there, but just imagine the possibilities.

And for those brands who have yet to harness the power of social engagement and intelligence — from healthcare and digital health, to technology and pharma, through B2B startups to well-established B2C staples — the time to imagine how these social channels can drive opportunity and incredible value for your business is now. Remember, it takes imagination — and courage — to see innovation and opportunity where others cannot, and social media engagement is no exception.

For more information on how social commerce and SoMe intelligence is driving change, enabling opportunity and creating a competitive advantage across the marketing and communications landscape, be sure to follow #PreCommerce on Twitter for updates and notable information from W2O’s EMEA annual PreCommerce Summit, taking place in London on September 14, 2015.

Please see here for more information on the event. In the area? Come join us – registration is free!

TREND-AFRICABefore moving to London, I spent four years living in Nairobi, Kenya. A few years back, while getting ready for an anniversary weekend, I distinctly remember receiving a phone call from my boyfriend’s brother (who was in London) asking whether we were safe. Immediately confused, we started scanning the internet to see what happened. Minutes later twitter posts appeared about a terrorist attack at Westgate Mall. The date was September 21, 2013. At the time, it did not surprise me that Twitter had the news before anyone else. But looking back, I see it as a clear signal of the rising influence of social media throughout Africa, a trend that only continues to grow.

It would be a stretch to say Twitter is used by every Kenyan, or that Meru grandparents are posting regular pictures of their kids on Facebook. But since the first tweet was sent from Kenya in 2007 to receiving its own local feed in 2013, over 5 million tweets have been sent from the country. Twitter is the third largest social media platform in Kenya with Facebook dominating and Linkedin a far second. Over 4 million users in Kenya, (around 10% of the population), make Kenyan social media a force to be reckoned with. These online users represent urban populations with growing pocket books, and a thirst for information from around the Globe. Of course, Kenya is one of fifty four African nations with online chatter, and while social media has not penetrated all nations on the continent, the numbers continue to rise. So what does this emerging social media trend in Africa imply for the future of online marketing and communication? Here are a few interesting insights I picked up from the Kenyan market.

  1. Mobile is king. We hear this everywhere, but it is even more relevant in nations like Kenya where development has skipped the personal computer all together. I took a ten hour bus and forty five minute motorbike to visit my friend’s family in rural Kenya near Lake Victoria. While they had no electricity on their compounds, guess what, they had cell phones! The police station nearby had a shop where people could pay 20p to charge their phones. Ninety-nine percent of internet usage in Kenya comes from mobile devices. Personal Computers are too expensive, and electricity is too scarce. As CNN says, not only is Africa a mobile first continent, but it is a mobile only continent. This means mobile marketing is the way forward, and in markets like Kenya, think Facebook and Twitter communication. Not everyone has a smart phone, and Kenyans often access twitter and Facebook via SMS. Safaricom (the largest mobile provider in Kenya) answers immense amounts of customer service via Twitter. In these formats, online chat is available via SMS, a necessity in a country where not everyone can afford smart phones. Realizing this, Google recently started offering g-chat via SMS as well. Do not forget mobile money. Through Mpesa (a mobile product that allows people to pay for things via their mobile phone), Kenya has the largest usage of mobile money in the world. Since credit cards are limited to the extremely wealthy, Mpesa has allowed people around the country to gain access to financial institutions without formal bank accounts. Find a way to connect your products to mobile money, and you can sell to the masses.
  2. Market research is possible, and it must be taken with a grain of salt. With only around 10% of the population in Kenya, there are a lot of people missing from the online conversation. But those who are present are more likely to be your customers – the urban middle class youth. It is also important to note that these youth are incredibly influential on the wider population. But remember there is a huge gap with reference to the elderly, and the very poor, so if you are looking for information on them, social media may not be the best method.
  3. Cultural sensitivity is paramount. CNN found this out the hard way after talking about Obama’s visit to a ‘hotbed of terror’ ~ Nairobi. Nairobians responded with over 75,000 tweets in one day to the hashtag #SomeonetellCNN forcing a senior executive of CNN to fly to Nairobi and apologize. They still are in jeopardy of losing a marketing deal from the Kenya Tourism Board. This means whether you are selling products in Africa or not, be careful about stereotyping a continent, or making assumptions in your communications. People are not forgiving to being stereotyped, and are loyal to brands that show respect. Earn yourself the next generation of brand loyalists, and be smart about how you talk about different nations, there are several twitter wars going on between Uganda and Kenya, and people do not like being lumped in a bunch!

While I was there for the awful Westgate Attack, rather than deeming Nairobi as a hotbed of terror, I saw a nation willing to fight back and use Twitter to do it.

If you want to learn more about how social media is changing the world, come to the #PreCommerce summit in London and hear insights from world-class industry experts and leaders, in spaces from health and technology to government intelligence. The Summit will be a great platform to geek out about how social media helps us understand the world!

If you’ve been in a communications role for a decade or more, chances are you have lots of experience in traditional comms. In recent years, there’s no question that social media has had a significant impact on communications. While social media has overwhelmed many communicators with a dizzying array of platform choices and a firehose of data to make sense of, it also provides them with new ways to connect with reporters, influencers and customers more efficiently than ever.

Over the years, one thing hasn’t changed: communications is fundamentally about building relationships. To me, social media augments ways communicators can build those relationships. Like I’ve said before, it doesn’t replace phone calls, email conversations with or face-to-face conversations with reporters. But many times, a brief back-and-forth discussion on Twitter or via the comment thread in a blog post can go a long way to answering questions from reporters (and many times, your customers too). This is especially true if your company uses its social presence to respond to news-related items.

One thing that has changed: press releases aren’t what they used to be. While there’s still a place for them (company earnings information, acquisition news, corporate reorganization updates to name a few), social media platforms provide companies a more efficient way to communicate news. The problem is that not enough companies use social media to communicate and respond to news.

I’ve blogged about what I think it takes to be an effective communicator in 2015 (see here and here). Hint: combine that newsworthy sensibility with a little bit of tools and technology. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but doing so will yield solid results.

One example: a tool I mentioned before called Nuzzel. It’s a website/ mobile app that highlights articles people you are connected to are sharing. While that’s useful on its own, the real power is that you can use it on any public or private Twitter lists you create. See my Pioneers private list in the Your Custom Feeds section near the bottom right in the image below. In my view, that alone makes creating Twitter lists worth the hassle. Imagine clicking on one link to see the stories that 25 of your top reporters are sharing, or the 17 strategic topic influencers, or the top 15 subject matter experts in your company. All it takes is to create those private (or public) Twitter list, then connect your Twitter account at Nuzzel.com. From there, you are one click away to seeing what’s being shared most on Twitter or Facebook at any point in time.

Image for Lionel's Summit Post

 

If you’re not sure who the online influencers are, or if you need help identifying the topic conversations that are most relevant to your brand, W2O can help. Our analytics services are built to help communicators and marketers understand the online conversation that’s happening about your brand, identifying strategic topics that affect your brand (and that you can impact) as well as identifying individuals who are most influential about your industry, your competition and your brand even as they change over time. Those are people you need to foster relationships with. In many cases, those influencers are reporters you already know. Engaging them via social will deepen the existing relationship—especially when you focus efforts to adding value to their online conversations.

On September 14th, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. Social media has forever changed our world and it’s our responsibility to evolve with it! More on what to expect from the event here. Register for free here, or by clicking on the image below.

London Summit

Something about changing one’s environment — whether it be in a different city, state or country — always has a way of impacting perspective. It could be the architecture, the food, the temperature, different dialects or foreign languages. Some of it is psychological as we are bombarded with new stimuli that our brain isn’t used to. Often it is a combination of things but at the end of the day, it can lead to new breakthroughs.

Photo Credit: Simon Ling, W2O Group
Photo Credit: Simon Ling of W2O Group

Recently, I had the luxury of spending the better part of two weeks in London. For several of those days, I worked out of our 45 person London office. While I had met most of the folks from the office at least virtually and another handful in person, I had never had the chance to hunker down and interact with them in their native environment. Nor had I had the chance to break bread with them, drink coffee with them, visit clients, grab a pint, sit through team meetings or listen in as they tried to explain to one another the exact meaning of American phrases like “navel gazing.”

While I knew that the team there was exceptionally smart and hard working, I didn’t realize to what degree this was true until I had the luxury of invading their space. Fortunately for me, they were kind hosts and went to great lengths to make sure I was able to get the most of my trip there. The good news is I did… and then some.

If you’ve been to London before, you know just what a global city it is. Our office is a true reflection of that. With members from Spain, Lithuania, Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia and a dozen other places I’m leaving out, there is a real international feeling to the office. Most of the conversation happens in English but occasionally you can hear French, German and Russian spoken — sometimes to colleagues, often to clients. I occasionally caught myself listening in… not that I could catch much of what was being said (my french is decent as is my Russian but I only know about 20 words in German so I was dead in the water there). It was fascinating.

During my London stay, there were numerous lessons learned. Some were inferred from my time in our London office, others were taken from interacting with clients, friends and colleagues while I was there. In no particular order, here we go:

  • If you work in London (or EMEA for that matter), you work a long day. While the mornings may start off a little more casually than in the States, people are generally in the office between 8:30 and 9:30 and then are often expected to be on calls until 8:00 or 9:00 PM at night to accommodate New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It gets worse if one’s book of business includes clients in Asia.
  • To the last point, there ends up being a weird lull in the first third of the day in between the 30-45 minutes of email cleanup in the morning until about 2:00 PM when the east coast starts to come on line. It took a couple of days to get used to this lull but once you do, it is an incredibly productive time that can be used for local meetings, client work and thought leadership. The closest thing I’ve seen to it is on the west coast around 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM where ET and CT have wrapped up and the UK still sleeps.
  • I mentioned the international piece before when I was describing our office but I am truly amazed at how international London is. And it’s not just tourists. Business people on the Tube, street vendors, waiters. You hear a dozen different languages and can see from the clothing, hair styles and culture that you are living in a true melting pot. I know NYC is similar to this but to me at least, it feels like more of this is driven by the service industry and its natural employment of so many immigrants. If you want to be global, a London presence is a must have gateway into EMEA.
  • The Subway or “Tube” as it’s called is the lifeblood of the city. While NYC is similar in its dependence on public transportation, I was amazed at the profound impact the Tube strike had on my first couple of days in London. Part of the problem is that the roads in London are so narrow, traffic is bad even with most of the commuters using public transport. When one of the major people movers shuts down, traffic grinds to a halt. Worse yet, estimates show that the shutdown causes £50 million in lost business revenue. Ouch!
  • Due to the “global” first approach (particularly in our office), better thought through frameworks and processes seem to arise. This is a necessity as any work done needs to potentially scale into dozens of other markets and languages. If the process is flawed out of the gate, it only gets worse through iteration and repetition. A great example of this is an easy to understand statement of work (SOW) template that my colleague, Laura Mucha, put together that clients love AND it contains a staffing plan making it easier for teams to kick off new projects.

There are easily ten other things I picked up on my travels but these were a few of the more obvious ones. I should be back in the UK in September so keep your eyes open for more observations then.