The tinker, tailor, soldier, spy of social media

George Smiley in the film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
George Smiley in the film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

There’s a bit somewhere in the middle of the George Smiley spy trilogy where the characters reach a point where they know their place in the world is facing huge change, an era of cold war and Empire is coming to an end, and while their methods seem increasingly outdated they carry on regardless for want of anything else to do.

As bizarre as this may sound these amazingly atmospheric set of novels provided a nice parallel for two social media events that I went along to last month.

Now, those of you thinking that’s a pretty tenuous attempt to cram in any reference to my current obsession with fictional 1970s, cold war, Mi6 novels might probably be right, but consider this:

Tinker: the challenge
Firstly just like most current social media gurus the main characters use an esoteric jargon to describe all their business (the circus, cousins, wranglers etc see here)

Secondly they create a world where the characters are facing era-defining change and an overwhelming sense that their place in the word is under immense challenge.

Over the past five or so years that must be how the old media have been feeling, with challenges not just from social media and changing consumer habits, but also in terms of Leveson and hacked off.

Tailor: The digital newsroom
I think it’s probably fair to say that so far big media hasn’t fully worked out how to handle social media or more importantly how to re-monetise their own business models in the face of it.

That’s why I was so keen to hear from NCJ media and their newsroom 3.1 concept at a recent CIPR event that I hosted.
In our region the group is still a major player with three very strong print titles based in Newcastle. Despite this digital is proving both a challenge and an opportunity with more than a third of visits to their website now coming via social media.
As a response to this the group has launched Newsroom 3.1 and moved to digital first strategy with a shared news team across all three titles.

They have also appointed specific social media editors on all the main titles and are starting to reap the rewards through increased engagement and more than 6.8 million friends and followers across the group (the Newcastle titles have 236,659)

Solider: fighting the content war
The news team told us that this shift has led to “different ways of telling stories but lots of the same skills used in different ways.”

Interestingly they don’t use any paid promotion or native advertising and the team insist that the best SEO is getting the best stories with the strongest headlines.

Their mantra about print and online was “nothing is impossible in the future of news” but the main sense I got was that traditional media is really getting its game together (finally) on social media and hyper local opportunities.

Spy: hunting out the secrets of 2015?
At the excellent AHCM conference Drew Bennie from Batenhall consulting talked about the growing corporate policy of digital and social first, which gets direct to the core audience but can also be used to influence the overall media landscape.

With 90 per cent of all media now on a screen we’re seeing a huge behavioural change in the way we consume media and news. Moving into 2015 the big global social media are still growing but so are the smaller private networks.

According to Batenhall’s statistics social media became the biggest form of media online for the first time in 2014 and although this shift really enables us to access a valuable direct audiences, users are getting harder to access and understand.

Social media in a corporate sense has taken on an extra dimension because in America some corporate accounts need to be regulated due to the impact on stock prices. Twitter is now viewable on the trader’s Bloomberg screens. Drew says that this is a seminal moment in corporate use of big brand social media you can read more in his report here

As for 2015, here are a few trends cribbed from the presentation:

Customer care
The good are getting really good and the bad are getting worse. Tesco alone this year generated 1 million tweets.

Video is becoming much more important
In the celebrity and brand world YouTubers are the new superstar influencers. Video can work for all types of organisations when you remember that 90% of all media is now on a screen. When it comes to creating content he advises: “make it shareable and don’t just exist in one place.”

Anti-social is the new social
The rise of destructible and private social networks especially among the young is a key trend moving into 2015.

The Internet of things will be huge…
Especially for healthcare. Wearables and health monitoring set to be big for both the NHS and corporate markets.

Decline of the big social networks among younger people
Already marked among ‘Screenagers’ with many moving towards private apps, rather than Twitter or FB.

That’s it for 2014 folks, thanks for following and I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year.

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