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Is Snapchat the Future of Social Media?

[I ran our Good Relations Digital Academy last week with Will Scougal, Head of Creative Strategy at Snapchat.]

Snapchat is the fastest growing app among millennials, with over 200 million users sharing 800 million videos and photo a day. It’s a huge audience who are highly engaged with the platform—but are you?

Relatively few marketers have integrated Snapchat into their communications programmes or truly understand its significance and potential. Until relatively recently, this was how Snapchat liked it.

Their Head of Creative Strategy Will Scougal explained at our Good Relations Digital Academy event this morning that advertising is now warmly welcomed – as long as it’s in keeping with the platform’s way of doing things.

So what are these terms? And how can marketers navigate them effectively? Our top three takeouts from Will are:

1. It’s all about ‘playtime’

One of the things that makes Snapchat special is that it allows users to pop a filter on top of the ‘snaps’ (pictures or images) they send to friends. Raise an eyebrow or open your mouth and the filter will animate along with you – it’s a whole lot of fun and hugely engaging. Will explained how brands have developed filters, plugging into topical events like the Super Bowl or offering something special, like a sneak preview of an unreleased song by megastar Drake. The beauty is the amount of time Snapchat users spend playing with the filter – literally playtime engaging with the brand.

2. Location, Location, Location

Brands can use geofences to make filters only available in specific locations. It’s a tactic used by McDonald’s and KFC very successfully at their restaurants – and a fantastic way of creating content that’s time/place specific. Great communications involves great targeting so this location based activity enables brands to tap into a customer’s behaviour at a given moment.

3. Time Machine

Snapchat’s original USP was centred on the self-destructing nature of the messages which disappear after a short period of time. There’s lots of opportunity to play with this time window, whether it’s promotions around time-sensitive events or placing a natural limit on special offers. The World Wildlife Fund’s created a series of selfies showing endangered species #LastSelfie to highlight the threat of extinction. Clever!

A point of view
Snapchat’s users are a generation of people who don’t consume traditional media in the way their parents did. They won’t come looking for you; you need to go to them. At Good Relations, we always recommend that brands and companies should be allocating budget for experiments to try out new platforms and new opportunities. Is your social media strategy fit for purpose? Do you have the content to drive a truly engaging social programme? Contact me to find out how we can help you.

ABPI Digital Update: Insider Reactions

Pharma marketers in the UK still feel their hands are tied when it comes to digital communications, despite recently updated guidance from the ABPI designed to clarify best practices. Two thirds of the front-line staff Weber Shandwick spoke to in an informal survey said the ABPI’s guidance has not clarified the dos and don’ts of social media in consumer-facing communications activities. What’s more, their feedback was that the ABPI and MHRA are failing to keep pace with developments in the digital space – and that this could ultimately put patients at risk from misinformation that goes unchallenged.

The regulator published its long-awaited digital update in June but there didn’t seem to be much open reaction at the time. We were fascinated to see what industry insiders made of the detail so ran a small straw poll of our own. The consensus among respondents was that lack of clarity is making it much harder for brand teams to secure funding for digital projects. Business sponsors, we’re told, are not committing to long term funding because of the uncertainty and this is creating a vicious cycle.

Disappointment – and danger

It’s no secret that health companies have been looking for guidance around the use of social media in a regulated communications environment. There’s a clear sense of disappointment from the marketers we spoke to that the ABPI’s updated guidance not only misses the mark but also misses an opportunity to redress the balance of inaccurate health information that exists online. It seems budget holders are finding it easier to say ‘no’ outright to digital, rather than focusing on what can be done, and patients will ultimately be the losers if the regulator doesn’t keep pace with technology.

There’s a vast amount of health-related information online and much will help rather than harm. But, just as forums and social networks can make everyone a journalist, so they empower everyone to offer a medical opinion, potentially to a large audience. Trouble is that internet users don’t necessarily have years of impartial scientific and evidence-based knowledge – and you certainly wouldn’t trust a GP who didn’t. It’s open season for anecdotal health information unless pharma (along with government and other relevant bodies) is prepared to enter online conversations in order to present reliable scientific facts. This is the integrity that the regulations are striving to protect.

Our survey respondents felt this situation would only become worse unless the regulator provided more guidance. I find GSK’s corporate approach interesting – they are trying to counter out-of-date or non-accurate third-party information by presenting factual, branded drug details via the health.gsk site By focussing on what can be done, rather than always worrying about what can’t, a company moves forward. There’s plenty of innovation. Pfizer’s online GP surgery is an example of how pharma is trying to embrace interactivity. Meanwhile, Amgen has 3D video to bring complex science to life in a new and engaging way; Genzyme uses augmented reality to demonstrate how calcium can build up in your heart. These are all innovative examples of digital storytelling and show it is possible to deploy the cutting-edge technologies more familiar from the FMCG space while still respecting the regulatory framework.

The digital dilemma

So what do pharma marketers want from the regulator—a list of everything they can and cannot do? I suspect there’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer here. It may be that extensive commentary on positive campaign elements would help mark the boundaries. However, rather than focus purely on the regulator our respondents said there needs to be internal change within their own organisations. Some pharma firms are trying to shape the broader discussion at corporate level and my feeling is this approach will then lead to developments at brand level. For example, Boehringer has published its Twitter strategy and contributes to blogger podcasts – actively working to be part of online discussion around innovation in digital pharma, and to be transparent about the challenges. Our survey has revealed that lack of business buy-in is not helping lower the barrier, so once the wider business sees the value of digital there will likely be greater willingness to try new things.

Innovation, along with genuine community interaction, will ultimately help pharmaceutical firms strengthen their reputations. Brand utility and patient support can show how pharma can be a genuine partner in the health of the general public. Innovative products, coupled with smart communications campaigns, help tell this story. The journey needs to be a step-by-step progression for each business. However, the real challenge is not the regulation but rather that ‘doing digital’ is a way to implement a commercial goal and not a strategy in itself.

Key Considerations for Digital Communications in Healthcare

  • Involve legal, regulatory and medical teams from day one in a collaborative experience which helps generates a positive outcome as all stakeholders understand the rationale behind an initiative.
  • Document project objectives, moderation and monitoring plans, review schedules, reporting procedures and training compliance in line with the latest ABPI oversight best practices.
  • Much online buzz around healthcare is originally inspired by news, so activate a strong digital news content programme and distribute through a dedicated website that is optimised for sharing.
  • Address topics of patient discussion and tap into trends by creating services like mobile apps which have a practical and functional use – the community will respond positively if you are create something that meets its needs rather than an organisation’s perceived marketing needs.
  • Be transparent with your audience, explaining why the regulatory and other issues you face make it harder to be interactive.

Mobilising Brands

From the high street to the boardroom, smart mobile devices that connect consumers to content, communities, businesses and brands are everywhere. Half of new mobiles sold in Western Europe in 2011 are forecast to be smartphones — the implications of the ‘mobilisation’of everyday life matter profoundly to anyone involved in the business of marketing and communications.

How many brands are taking advantage of mobile as a channel to engage directly with audiences 24/7 wherever they may be? Are marketing teams aware of the potential that mobile holds for personalised andinteractive communications? Do marketers and communications leaders know when a mobile strategy isappropriate, and are they aware of the pitfalls and how to avoid them?

Smart Marketing: Mobilising Your Brand