Businesses must have a presence in Social Media

Something that has come to a head in our family this weekend is trying to get answers out of our pay tv provider, which got me thinking more about how businesses need to have a presence in the Social Media world in order to converse with clients, and when they do have a presence to actually use it as more than just a press release!

The only reason we pay for TV.

The only reason that we pay for TV in our house is so that my husband can watch the MotoGP and SBK races live in HD. We are paying almost NZ$100 per month for this, tomorrow morning my husband should be able to watch the first MotoGP race of the season. Unfortunately this won’t be happening…. why? Our pay TV provider (and there is only one to choose from in our little country) can’t reach an agreement with Dorna the owners of the GP. 

Here is where Social Media is coming to a head for this provider of pay TV. 

There are many threads started on the a fore mentioned forum that my husband frequents, slandering the provider. So many people are upset over the lack of coverage for something that they believe they have the rights to as they pay for the service. Until today we had not reached a decision on our views as to who was holding this process up, we had noticed that our Aussie neighbors on Thursday didn’t have an agreement either so thought we would be ok, and that maybe it was the owner that was holding out for too much $$$. However this morning we noticed that our country’s name is missing from the list of countries with broadcast coverage on the MotoGP website….. and the press release made by Dorna today has even listed cruise ships as an option for watching the races while you were travelling….. but not us…… 

This got me thinking that maybe it was our provider who didn’t want to pay too much for the coverage……

Being of the Social Media generation I immediately took to the providers Facebook page. What do you know? They have put a news release up for the fans of the GP saying that negotiations had stalled but they still hope to show the coverage….. what has ensued is comment after comment after comment from disgruntled customers. Noticeably some comments about posts being removed by the provider…….. Obviously moderating the posts and what was said about themselves! – Which is their right, especially if there is objectionable language or the like in the post. But it is making their customers upset…..

One post however got me thinking. One unhappy customer commented that he had cancelled his subscription (like many others) and that he had started a new group who would do the same if the provider didn’t come to an agreement with Dorna. This group supposedly has 900 members. Now this doesn’t seem like heaps, but when you think about it, these members are probably going to be spending about the same as we are, so over a year, this is over $1 million in lost revenue for the provider. Now this is only this mans little group, imagine if out of their estimated 1.6 million subscribers they lost 100,000 of them due to this lack of coverage – I don’t think this is overestimating the figure either. That would be almost $120 million loss in revenue.  That is not something to sneeze at! Needless to say I think that their profit (as posted on their website) last year of $122 million means that they can afford to make a deal on this coverage to make their clients happy.

What my Pay TV provider needs to learn…..

“What do you think they need to learn, Rebecca?” I here you ask. I think they need to learn to be more open with their clients. They also needed to have a staff member man their Facebook page over the weekend to diffuse the HUGE amount of flack they are getting on their page from unhappy customers.. many of whom have already cancelled subscriptions because there will be no coverage. There is no point having a Facebook page, making a press release and then not responding to their customers! Social Media is about interactions and relationships between people. It is not a one way dictatorship. 

With the advent of live streaming these customers don’t need the provider anymore, for NZ$151 they can get a full access pass to the full coverage over the internet for the WHOLE season, plus all the videos from previous seasons….. This compared to $1,200 for a year when we really only watch the free channels except when watching the bike racing is really making me feel like we won’t be hanging onto our subscription for much longer either!  The only reason why we are hanging on at the moment is because the SBK has coverage, (same owner by the way… so why an agreement can be made for that and not the GP I can’t figure out) and if they do manage to sort the coverage out for the GP it will be in HD, and to be honest our streaming internet in this country is pretty pitiful, so it would be jumpy and not great to watch streamed anyway. So our preference, even though more expensive overall is to stick with our provider…. however we will be reviewing that over the coming weeks depending on the developments.

What can I take away from this?

What can I learn from this situation? I think it really brings home the 4C’s concept that we have been looking at during our readings for my class. Author Niall Cook in his book about how social software will change the future of work discusses that there are four primary functions of Social Media. 

Communication, Cooperation, Collaboration and Connection. 

Social media for businesses is supposed to make a way for us to communicate with our customers, its a way for businesses to cooperate with each other and in my case by using creative commons be able to promote my company better, in the sense of collaboration I am able to read others blogs and articles on how they made their companies better, but most important at all Social Media creates a connection between people. 

I say most important and I think that it honestly is the most import aspect, I also think this is where my pay provider has really let the ball down, they have communicated with their customers, but they aren’t maintaining a connection by answering their customers directly on this issue which has now escalated into something more than it needed to be. 

 

Fingers crossed however that we still get to watch some racing this week! 

 

 

Someone stole my post!?!?!

Well, no, not actually. Nobody has stolen my posts -that I know of…. But the comment that T0715 gave on my post regarding the use of images really got me wondering about how safe what we write and what businesses write and post on websites, blogs, and other Social Media outlets really is?

Copyright – more than I expected

I did some research into copyrights and found that things had changed since my childhood memories! I remember going through the faze around 9-10 years old at primary school where we suddenly had come across the concept of copyright and every drawing that we drew, or story that we wrote we started drawing © at the bottom to say “this is mine, you can’t copy it”! 

However we now have international laws covering original works. The Berne Convention is an international treaty which ensures that the rights of someone who created a work in India for example has their rights protected not just in the originating country but also in those that are part of the convention. 

 

Image used under Creative Commons from Wikipedia’s wiki on the Berne Convention. The countries in blue are signatories under the convention.

 

Based on the above image there are very few countries NOT part of the Berne Convention. Which must be a good thing when you are talking about the global phenomenon of Social Media!

 

Did you know?  – cause I didn’t!

Did you know that as soon as you have written something, taken a photo of something, or recorded something it automatically has protection under copyright laws? I didn’t!. I always thought that you had to apply for copyright of your written works etc much in the same way that you have to apply for trademarks. The work doesn’t even have to be published to be covered! 

But what does this mean for me and my blog, and also my business with the pictures that we publish on the auction website that we do most of our sales through and our Facebook page?

It means that no one can take and use my work without my permission as soon as I have finished it and published online.

But what can I do if someone does?

Options for getting your rights back

There seems to be HEAPS of blogs and articles around what to do if someone copies your work. This blog talks about how you can leave it, or take action, and the methods of how to do that. Some methods (like contacting the offending persons provider) look to be more in depth than I would be worried about, but then I am not publishing anything (at this stage) that I would be worried about people using. This blog really talks about how the blogger protects her works, firstly by sending the offending person a note explaining that he work is copyrighted – please pay a fee for using it, pay her to write you something specific or remove it, and by the sounds of her blog she most of the time gets some kind of action. Her blog is really worth the read on this topic. One other blog worth mentioning is this blog where the blogger talks about using google alerts to search for your content, or how to use the webmaster tools to see how your page has been linked. The three mentioned above are some of the better blogs on the topic that I have come across and well worth the read!

I think for me, the big issue would be why the person is using my works. Are they using it to further my ideas and talk to more people about it? In this case I think I would be fine with them doing what I have above, spoken about someone else’s blog, but linked back to it so that my readers can read my original text. Or are they using it for an assignment like my own? In this case I would definitely want to be mentioned as being the author of the works where they got the idea. Or are they using it for monetary gains? Then I wonder if I would be ok with it? I think for my little business if someone were to buy something off me, and then sell it on I would be pretty upset if they used the image that we originally took and sold the garment with as the picture on their listing….. 

 

Its an interesting topic and one which I think everyone (not only those in business) who publishes work on the world wide web should look into. Firstly to make sure that you are not stealing someone else’s ideas, images or content, but also to ensure that someone else isn’t using your ideas for their own gain! 

How giving a little, can gain you a lot!

I have been chatting to my husband about my blog and the different topics that I have been covering. He mentioned a case on a forum that he frequents which I thought was a really interesting way to target your “target audience”, talking to them directly – therefore not wasting money talking to everyone else as well – spend a little of your own money, but get a big reward for it! So I decided for my next blog I would investigate the use of the social media tool of forums for businesses!

The case of the motorcycle tyre

The general synopsis of this story is that the national distributor for a type of motorcycle tyre had a new model of tyre that had just come on the market and become available for distribution. But how to advertise and make the motorcycling community aware of this new model? They went direct to their target audiences forum and posted a competition. They asked the forum users to vote for one member from the North Island and one member from the South Island to each receive a free set of the new model of tyre for their bikes. The only provision was that the member had to place feedback/review the tyres on the forum for the other members to read about their experiences every 500-1000 kms. 

The initial competition had almost 4,000 views, and the resultant forums started by the winners had roughly 8,000-10,000 views between the two forums! The coverage that this competition created for the distributor was incredible! They were able to promote a new product direct to their target audience on the most prominent motorcycle forum in the country, it cost them two sets of tyres and just the time for someone to set up and monitor the competition. It doesn’t get much more cost effective than that!

The results? They ended up selling MANY sets of tyres. Why? Because they had introduced the product in a way that had consumers reviewing the product direct to their peers. Peer review adds a huge amount of weight to the buying power of the product, especially in the arena of forums. 

Forums are basically small communities where people with similar interests can discuss news, events, things that happen in their lives or just (as one of the topic headings in my husbands forum says) “rant or rave” about life in general. I say similar interests, because a person with interests in scrapbooking, who wants to discuss with other scrapbookers about scrapbooking, would not necessarily frequent a motorcycle forum for such conversations….  Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that you can’t like scrapbooking and motorcycles…. but you get what I mean…… 

So in this way, the use of their target markets forum to directly get in touch with their customers and ensure that they got to know about the new product (everyone loves to get something for free… so a great way to get attention) and had a fair review of the product directly to these customers from two of their own members meant that this was (in my opinion) a very smart way to advertise yourself. 

Just in case you were wondering how I knew that there were many sets of tyres sold as a result of this competition…. the review forums- after the first initial few reviews – ended up turning into a discussion forum with others that had bought the tyres themselves, these buyers added their own reviews to that of the winners of the competitions. Which only added to the exposure and popularity of the new model of tyre.

But how can I use this concept with my own little company? 

Win a free makeover/outfit?

As I already have a Facebook page for my fashion business I thought it might be best to look at a way that I could use the above concept to help grow our likes and get people interested in our products. 

I had already thought that I might run one of those “like us and share our picture before the end of June” competitions and “go into the draw to win free shipping” or “go in the draw for a $20 gift voucher”. But this idea of giving product away and asking for customer reviews seems like an awesome idea! 

So what can I give away to a lucky customer? Clothes! And what does every women want – a makeover! So here came my idea of asking customers to nominate a friend for a makeover/new outfit, and allowing our fans to vote for which lucky person receives the new outfit. As we stock clothes for sizes ranging from a NZ size 6-30 we can outfit a lucky lady what ever size she is. I would also request the winner post a picture of themselves in their new outfit on our facebook page just to cap it off!

I think the main concept when trying to promote your business or product is to go to the target audience, and I believe that my target audience frequents Facebook, and LOVES competitions where you can win free things. The other concept here is customer participation. Just having a competition where customers need to ‘like’ and ‘share’ on Facebook doesn’t draw in their interest, they remember you for the time it takes to like you and share your picture, and that’s it! However being able to nominate someone to win something, and then being able to vote on the finalists and possibly the winner maintains interest!

Can I use that image on my blog or company’s Facebook page?

My next quandary which came about over drinks with one of my best friends last week (we left the husbands at home with the kids! Yay!)  –who happens to own her own business and has just started using Facebook, so a good person to bounce ideas off – is regarding the use of images on our Facebook pages, and in my case also my blog. 

An embarrassing fact…..

As mentioned in my “about me” page I’m the sales manager for an internet based company selling overruns and cancelled stock from our main fashion manufacturing company (which I am one of the accountants for!). I started a Facebook page when I initially set up the company and here’s the embarrassing thing…..  in the last 6 months I am now up to 18 likes…. and to be fair, 1 of them is me…. 4 of them are probably my family/friends, and another 4-5 are staff from our main company and my assistant who now does the main day to day dispatch work for this little company….. so we haven’t gone so well on the likes thing. However the sales has been ok, we’ve sold over 1000 garments in the last 6 months, which is around 40 garments per week on average, however I would like to see this average over 100 – which we did do some weeks, but I would like to see this consistently happen.  Part of my plan for doing this paper (besides going towards finally finishing my degree after starting it in 2008!) was to help me better understand what I needed to do to make us stand out, gain a larger customer base and basically run more efficiently using Social Media as the main tool. 

My idea – that wasn’t probably such a good idea

Whilst talking to my girlfriend over said drink(s) I told her that I really liked what you see in women’s magazines where they will show a celebrity or a model wearing an outfit and then tell you how you can “recreate” that look, and I thought maybe I could start doing something like that with our clothes, however the idea was to use an image of a celebrity or another fashion retailers lookbook like image. Now I knew right away that another fashion retailers image was going to be a no go. Initially the thought runs through you head saying I am just a little tiny company at the end of the world compared to them and are not actually going to be taking any of their customers away as most of my customers seem to be farmers wives who live away from shops and who buy their clothes online. But then I started thinking of copyrights, intellectual property rights etc. 

Some interesting reading

So where do I go from here…. RESEARCH! I used my friend Google and searched about the legality of using images on Facebook. I found some interesting publications on how to use images from facebook, how fashion retailers should use social media and also copyright infringement. What did I learn? Basically to be careful! One idea that I got from an article regarding fashion retailers using social media was to use staff members wearing our clothes to make our own lookbooks on Facebook. Another from two articles -one about journalists using social media images and another about copyright infringement  gave me the idea to look for creative commons images on flicker etc. where the owners of the images give you the right to use images with certain restrictions (usually to link it back to them, or name them as the owner of the photo). Which I think  might be a good option for me when looking for celebrity photos. 

The worry for this assignment

I think one thing I have struggled with in regards to my blog is adding photos and images etc throughout the blog to try and make it interesting. The readings we have done on good blogs have shown lots of images on the blogs as a good layout, and I have looked at some of my classmates blogs and seen after every paragraph there is an image. However the readings mentioned above talk about how the everyday blogger normally doesn’t realise that they are infringing copyright by using those images on their blogs! I think part of my struggle with this is that it just isn’t me to put a random photo/image of something that slightly works with what I have said, even if it is just an expression. So I have struggled with the need to look at this as an assignment, where I will probably get better marks if I have used many images, but also as a blog where it is an expression of what I have to say, which if I am saying it doesn’t have a lot of random images attached. 

Where do I go from here……

From here, I will start looking into creative commons images available so that I can start creating lookbooks based on images of celebrities wearing outfits similar to those that we are selling ourselves. I think I will also look into the idea of liking other fashion designers facebook pages and share some of their images just to show that we are following then latest trends etc. 

Phew! There is a lot to think about when promoting your company through social media and the hard thing for a little 2-man-band like my own is being able to create the images to appeal to peoples senses whilst either sticking to a very small budget or not “stealing” other peoples images to use as my own! There is lots still to learn and investigate!