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Archive for August, 2011

What does it mean if you include your employer’s brand in your Twitter name?

Whoa! Let’s back up and rephrase that highly assumptive opening sentence.

What does it mean if you include your employer’s brand in the name of a Twitter profile operated by you?

In other words, can a Twitter profile operated by you, but which includes your employer’s name, truly be regarded as “yours”?

A recent post on the Brand Republic blog, featuring the case of Laura Kuenssberg, served to highlight that this is currently something of a grey area.

But I doubt very much that it will remain so for long.

Literally overnight, @BBCLauraK became @ITVLauraK. She took circa 60,000 followers with her to her new employer.

And, as one comment on the Brand Republic piece points out, she had been tweeting exclusively about her work at the BBC. The Beeb would have had a legitimate claim that people were following their Political Correspondent, not “some krazy chick called LauraK.”

They would have had a legitimate claim this is, had they shut the barn door before the horse bolted.

This is all about value exchange.

A high social profile has potential value to a potential employer.

Likewise, an employer’s brand has potential value (kudos even) to a potential employee.

Employers and employees have always considered this kind of value exchange. “What value will this person’s CV add to our organisation?” versus “What value will this organisation add to my CV?”

The rise of social platforms has just added another layer to an existing dynamic.

But whereas considerations on both sides of the fence about CV value might have gone unspoken, considerations about social value need to be openly discussed.

What if, for instance, you’re a digital agency looking to hire a new developer? And what if you’re considering two candidates with identical coding skills and experience? Both feel like a good cultural fit, both have the same salary expectations, but one is an accomplished tech blogger with a five figure following of relevant people on Twitter.

It would be highly assumptive of said digital agency to hire candidate B (accomplished blogger) on the expectation of being able to access his or her community but without any kind of up front discussion and agreement.

In these circumstances the potential employee brings to the table a potential asset. A hard earned and valuable asset. And he or she hasn’t used the potential employer’s brand to establish its value. It is a proprietary asset in the potential employee’s name. It is for he or she to decide whether that asset is for sale (“yes I will be ITVLaura”) or rent (“yes I, Laura, will tweet about ITV stuff as and when I feel said stuff is relevant to my followers”).

Whether, and how, that potential value of the employee’s asset might be realised to mutual benefit should be as much a topic of up front conversation as holiday entitlement and working hours.

Your personal brand and your social profile are precious. And, like the full set of  AC/DC albums on vinyl, they should probably be protected by some kind of pre-nuptial agreement that guarantees you continued custody if you and your employer should ever “divorce.”

What if this hypothetical digital agency actually decided in its wisdom to hire candidate A, an accomplished coder with no social profile to speak of?

It would be highly assumptive of of said candidate to incorporate their new employer’s brand into their Twitter name as a shortcut to growing a following, and expect to take that following with them if and when they moved on.

In this case the value equation works the other way and the employer has equal right to “pre-nuptial” protection of its brand name and the potential effect on its reputation of an employee tweeting in its name.

That these things should be discussed in advance rather than in hindsight clearly isn’t as obvious as it should be.

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Or, put another way, Hipstamatic is a “proper” business as well as a (very) good photography application.

I posted last year about how, from the outset, Hipstamatic was walking the walk in terms of monetisation. It clearly had a business plan to go with its idea and its excellent execution.

It’s time for an update.

It’s time for an update because I’ve had first hand experience of how that business plan has moved on, and of how Hipstamatic has turned into a proper business.

This picture tells a couple of important stories.

1) Hipstamatic’s business has moved on from a) charging for the app, and b) charging for add-on “Hipstapaks” containing new lens/film combinations. They now offer merchandise and analogue products like the iPhone case featured above through their Hipstamart. You can create an account and order this stuff online as opposed to buying the Hipstapaks through the app. It’s a “proper” e-commerce set-up.

2) Barely legible in the footer navigation at this blog-cropped size is a Customer Support function. This too is “proper” as I’ve found out to my delight in the last couple of days.

I ordered an iPhone case partly because I like all things Hipsta, but mainly because it comes with a tripod adaptor.

However, for reasons which I believe were beyond Hipstamart’s control, the case has thus far failed to arrive.

Being the impatient type I took a double-barrelled approach to “reaching out”, both via Get Satisfaction and via Customer Support.

Having experienced the extremely flaky, if not non-existent, customer support functions behind far too many over-hyped but under-financed web 2.0 brands my expectations were low.

Way too low as it turns out.

I had genuinely helpful, genuinely concerned responses within hours (Customer Support) and within minutes (Get Satisfaction).

My problem has been solved by Angelina in Customer Support. Quick, professional, customer-focused. Very impressive.

The kind of impressive that can only be delivered by a proper, robust business with proper, sustainable income streams.

“Proper” comes at a price that all too many app-based businesses (or rather non-businesses) evidently can’t afford.

What is really exciting for Hipstamatic/Hipstamart is that the price of “proper” doesn’t include any loss of brand cool, cachet or hipness.

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We ended the week with a nice kind of riot.

We took the kids to see Potted Potter at the Edinburgh Fringe.

CBBC’s Dan and Jeff summarised and parodied all seven Harry Potter books in seventy riotous minutes of clever humour, slapstick and audience participation.

For example the game of quidditch in which the audience took part off stage…

… and onstage. Dan can barely contain himself as the most precocious kid you have ever seen plays the part of the Gryffindor seeker in pursuit of the snitch (played by Jeff).

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It turned out to be a social occasion as much as a piece of theatre.

And there are a couple of lessons that some brands could learn from the way that Messrs D & J instantly created and “managed” their audience community.

1) They were genuinely enjoying themselves. You could see that they were having a laugh. From where I was sitting what they were doing didn’t look like work. How many brands are operating in social channels because they feel they ought to rather than because they really want to?

2) They were brilliant improvisors. They seamlessly incorporated (sometimes precocious) audience responses into a fluid, off piste rendition of the script. We (the audience) weren’t “moderated” or “controlled”. We were encouraged, appreciated, and embraced. We were genuinely influential. A lot of brands could learn a thing or too from this optimistic, glass half full, reward-centric attitude to audience participation. There is a perhaps understandable tendency for brands to focus on risk management rather than the rewarding aspects of engaging with real people. To me that is social with the handbrake on.

Go see the show if you can.

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