Why Mitt Romney won’t be the next President of the United States

Now, there’s a controversial statement if ever there was one. I’m really going to have to work hard to convince you of my argument. But I’m not going to focus on the fact that Romney is a robotic, tax dodging, vacant, venture capitalist who would probably sell his own mother, with zero social skills, as, surprisingly, some people quite like those qualities in their politicians. No, I’m going to focus on Romney’s spectacular failure to understand, embrace and apply digital channels and social media to his campaign. The consequence of this is that he is failing to speak to young voters, which leaves him looking incredibly out of touch with the country as a whole. 

The 2008 Presidential election was the first election where social media played a part in campaigning. Barack Obama did a sterling job of motivating the youth and the disaffected of the USA to vote for change. And he succeeded. The key to his success in my opinion was to take his message direct to those who he wanted to vote for him. So, he took his campaign to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. The next campaign is already focusing on old friends such as Facebook and Twitter, but Obama now has a presence on Foursquare, G+ and Pinterest. Rather than take a lead on social platforms, Romney really looks like a follower. And not just a follower, but a follower of Obama. The following trends take place across all platforms that the candidates have a presence on however, to keep things simple, I’m going to focus on their respective Twitter profiles:

As Roy Walker used to say on Catchphrase, say what you see. First things first, look at the summaries of the two individuals. The President has his campaign hashtag, and mentions the fact that he’s actually the President! Romney’s profile mentions that he used to be the governor of Massachusetts. Clearly it wasn’t worth him mentioning that he’s got something important coming up in November, or who he represents or why you should vote for him. Very poor. Secondly, let’s look at the followers. Obama has over 17.5m followers. That’s 17.5m who want the latest news and updates from the Obama camp. 17.5m million people that Obama will be able to send a direct message to on the day before Election day, reminding them to get out and vote. Romney? Well 669k followers is nothing to be sniffed at however compared to Obama, he isn’t at the races. Now, Twitter followings are not the be all and end all. In the Republican Primaries, Newt Gingrich had the most Twitter followers however Newt is clearly a lunatic who would just say anything to get votes. Bases on Mars for instance.

The key to success for the candidates is the actual engagement that they have with their followers. Let’s look at the below messages. Obama’s messages focus on inspiration and hope (quotes from Nelson Mandela) and transparency – links to tax returns from both candidates. Romney however is all about blame. It’s everyone’s fault, the Fed, big government and Obama. In fact, why not tell Obama. Here’s how to contact him. Hello, now this is interesting. Does Obama ever use Romney’s Twitter handle in his posts? No, of course not. Why should you go and check out the other guy when he’s the authority. Romney however is actually directing people to Barack Obama! And those disaffected that are following Romney are being directed to messages of hope and positivity with Barack Obama. Talk about an own goal!

 

When it comes down to it, I’m not surprised. Romney is not an A-list candidate. And the Republicans have not put together a media support team which skill and expertise for winning the election. Candidates that stand against a sitting President tend to be poorer candidates as the A-list candidates want to have a clear run, not take on someone with an established media presence that is likely to win. Which is why your Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and other ‘heavyweight’ candidates are not standing. Romney reminds me of a kid that will do anything to get what he wants yet rarely gets. Kind of a bully in all honesty. But he doesn’t quite fit in with the whole American good ol’ boy image that Republicans love, which is why Republicans are happy to let him stand. If you asked a red blooded Republican, what they would prefer, 4 more years of Obama or 8 years of Romney, I think they’d plump for the former. Obama is such an inspiring figure yet Romney comes across as someone that you’d tell you could’t come out because you were washing your hair. Romney is a whiner and a blamer. He’s spent his whole life ducking and dodging and this comes across with his online profile. He throws money at problems to make them go away but all this does is make him seem even more out of touch with the man on the street.

One final point on Mitt Romney. Mitt’s family spent some time South of the Border and he has an extended family of Mexicans. Now what if Mitt was Mexican? Well if you want to know what would happen in the freaky parallel universe, why not follow MexicanMitt on Twitter. He’s the most Mexican man in the world and you can follow his campaign to become President of the United Estates! 

Obviously I’ve predicted that Barack Obama will win the 2012 Presidential Election. I’m really going to go out on a limb here but I predict that George P. Bush will one day be President. Maybe not in four years. Maybe not in eight. But he will be. With an ever increasing Latino population in the United States, it’s almost impossible for not just a Bush, but a Mexican Bush to fail in a bid to become El Presidente of the United Estates! Ajua!

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Putting the hell into Shell…

I’m sure the Marketing and PR teams at Shell have had better days than today. You may have seen in the news today that Greenpeace staged a campaign that caused the shutdown of 74 petrol stations in the UK. Greenpeace’s motivation for the protest was as a direct result of Shell’s plans to start exploratory drilling in the Arctic. Not the most politically sensitive subject. And there are certainly not a lot of positives to find within that subject.

However…

Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic has given birth to possibly the greatest social media hijacking that I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s been so successful  that one of my LinkedIn connections even posted a link to the hijacked site, under the impression that it was indeed genuine. On face value, there was nothing suspicious however upon further examination of the content, it’s clear that something isn’t right.

Our story actually begins a few years ago with the Deepwater horizon disaster. A Twitter account was registered purporting to be BP’s PR and began tweeting false messages which caused a huge amount  of damage to BP’s brand. Eventually BP upped it’s game however it was never able to attract as many followers as the bogus site. Earlier this year, inspired by the bogus BP account, a Twitter account was registered, pretending to be an official Shell account. In fact, to gain legitimacy, respect and followers, it even retweeted official Shell tweets and engaged in conversation with the official feed. Once it had established itself, the guerrilla marketing began, with a series of messages, which portrayed Shell as an environmentally irresponsible firm that was only interested in profits and damaging the planet. The campaign naturally went viral and gave the legal team at Shell yet more sleepless nights as they attempted to track down the owner of the site – naturally Twitter refused to give up details of the owner of the account as it is not an issue of national security. The campaign to damage the Shell brand took yet a further twist with the launch of the utterly brilliant Arctic Ready website – http://arcticready.com/social/gallery

Arctic Ready looks just like a Shell website, with appropriate links back to the Shell homepage and navigation toolbar however rather than being a Shell news site, the site is user generated and appears to encourage visitors to create their own content to support the plans for Shell to drill in the Arctic, by voting for the images to support the marketing campaign. Visitors can also share, like and post their favourite campaign to their social media platform of choice. Naturally, there are a lot of people out there who are just desperate to create content that could possibly damage the Shell brand. Great content such as this:

Or this:

I’m sure you’ll agree, the images look fantastic, and look like they could easily be official Shell advertising. So, what should a business do if it finds itself having its brand hijacked? Throw legal at the problem? Yes this is probably the number one option for any organisation, but, to be honest, it’s not an effective way as it causes further problems and resentment. You’re certainly not going to win over those who hold a different view to you. Quite simply, if you’re organisation has PR issues, you could always increase your levels of transparency, highlighting the benefits of what you are doing and attempt to engage and communicate with those who are against your brand. You may not necessarily win friends but you will certainly earn their respect by listening to their thoughts and opinions. 

Your digital life

Back in the digital stone age (pre-facebook) I often found the digital footprint of those online to be quite fake and false. Kind of like a dating site where people describe themselves as being how they would like to see themselves – then ultimately failing to live up to those expectations in real life. Then came Facebook and we all became totally transparent, sharing, commenting, saying who we’d dated and not really giving a shit about privacy and what we were revealing. Then came LinkedIn (in a bigger way, it’s been around longer than you think) and we upped our game professionally, enhancing our CVs, whilst at the same time, restricting who saw what on our Facebook. Somehow Twitter sort of sits in between, but that’s a discussion for another day.

My point is, is that we now have quite separate and distinct online profiles. Or personal and professional if you like. You don’t talk to your boss about the new band that you like so you don’t post links to tour dates on to LinkedIn, and you probably don’t talk to your friends about your company’s new brochure, so you don’t post it on to Facebook. We know the rules and boundaries and generally, we’re all a lot more savvy than we were 2-3 years ago (raise your hands if you lock your Twitter when applying for a new job? Thought so ;)).

So, we’ve got the personal and professional lives nailed, in a social networking context. But there’s one area of our lives that is difficult to transfer online, and it’s not something that we give a lot of consideration to – your private life.

Earlier this year I made a decision that has completely changed my life. Those of you who I see in real life on a regular basis know what I’m talking about however this is a complete mystery to the majority. It really hammered home to me how important it is to manage various aspects of your life and ensure that all content that you produce online really is relevant to your audience – whether it you brand you, or brand business. As a business, you keep the internal stuff internal. All the politics and hassle that goes into producing the final product is all kept in house and all that the audience sees is the finished product. And I think the same applies when you are posting content on to social media as an individual. Is what you are saying relevant to your audience? If you start posting really personal things, you’ll turn your audience off and you’ll stop getting through to them.

If you ever have any doubts about whether your postings are relevant to your audience, maybe don’t post it. It probably should be kept in house.

Check the terms and conditions…

If you’ve been on any news site today you surely can’t have failed to spot an article about Facebook removing any non Facebook email addresses from your contact page, and replacing it with your username@facebook.com email address. Did you feel outraged, violated and used? How dare Facebook do this to you? In fact, how dare Facebook do anything that you don’t like, from changing the timeline, layout, how you engage and connect and view your connections and likes? How dare they.

Before you wipe that froth from your mouth, I think you should check the terms and conditions. You’re not going to like this, Facebook own you! When it comes down to it, when you get something for ‘free’, you are the product, being sold on to those who want to know more about your likes and dislikes, in order to tailor their marketing campaigns to you. You are effectively a sheep, being fed grain by a farmer. You eat the grain. Then the farmer changes the grain to fatten you up and get you behaving differently so that he can get a better price for you at the market.

Now, as a marketeer I don’t think this is a bad thing (the getting customer information part, not the sheep part), and Facebook is just a conduit for connecting products to customers however if you object, you can always leave…

…except you can’t. You may have noticed over the past few weeks that you’ve suddenly got about 10 more friends. Have a look through your friends list. Can you see friends of Facebook past who ‘deleted’ their profiles? You can’t actually view their profiles however Facebook have helpfully kept their profile on life support, ready for the day when your friend returns.

Epilogue:

I noticed this about a month ago and I really wish I’d written about it at the time, so that I could have ridden the wave of moral outrage and generated some serious traffic for my humble blog. Oh well, next time eh!  

Responsive social media

I’m feeling a tad guilty about this blog already. This is not a blog about a large company failing to use social media wisely, or me trying to to get some information to fulfil an order. That said however… there’s a valuable lesson to be had here. Last night I went to see the excellent Roddy Woomble (cheesy Scottish music according to Time Out. Clearly they’ve heard him) at The Borderline. I wasn’t getting a great reception on my phone so when the show ended I received a few messages that had obviously piled up over the night. Mostly standard stuff however one jumped out at me:

Now, I’m a busy guy. Visit to where? I’ve been pretty busy this past week and I’ve checked in at a few places, visited a few places, ate in a few restaurants and drank in a few bars. Was this referring to the gig I was at or to the restaurant that I had dinner in. Intrigue piqued, I did a little bit more digging, logging into Twitter itself to see if I could find out what this referred to.

Ah, so it’s in response to my check in at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen on Wednesday. Had a lovely evening, sitting in Hyde Park with a pitcher of Pimms with a friend. A rather pleasant evening I have to say but if I’m honest, when I saw what the message was in response to, I struggled to remember what night we had been there. Now, as mentioned above, I don’t want to get on this guy’s back. It’s great that he responded. He can now work on developing a relationship with me and any others who have checked in over the past week or so.

But there are lessons here:

  • Respond in a timely manner. I should have received a response on Wednesday night/ Thursday morning.
  • Add a bit of context. Mention the venue in your message, e.g. ‘Did you enjoy your visit to the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen?’
  • Encourage people to follow you. ‘Why not follow me to receive an offer on your next visit?’
  • Spread the word. Ask for a Re-tweet and offer a prize of free pitcher of Pimms, drawn from the Re-tweets. The more RT’s, the better chance of winning.

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, just have a conversation with customers and prospects. They’ll appreciate it!

Boys and girls, this blog is going to take a holiday for the following week, mainly because the author is going to take a holiday for the following week. See you in June!

Excuses excuses

This morning, as is now my routine, I was listening to the Today Programme on Radio 4 when I heard a rather peculiar article about Yell rebranding as Hibu. That’s Yell, as in Yellow Pages. Y’know, with the Yellow branding that’s really recognisable in the UK. Now, the new identity has been developed by Landor to be rolled out across all offline and online channels to reposition the beleaguered company. To make matters worse, Mike Pocock, the CEO of Yell/Hibu has claimed that the name Hibu ‘doesn’t mean anything’. Pretty shocking considering how powerful the Yell brand is within the UK.

Now, I mentioned above that the company is ‘beleaguered’. Let’s just say it isn’t doing very well. However, not so badly that they can’t scrape together a few shekels to appoint one of the costliest agencies around. But there’s a bigger issue at hand here. Have you tried to use Yell? It’s shit! Seriously! I tried to use it to search for the service of my present organisation, using the office postcode as my location and guess what? My company was not top recommendation. In fact the top recommendation was for a firm based in Bromley – over 9 miles away! Obviously this firm has bought this space to promote it’s business but I don’t really care whether they can serve me or not. I want to use a location based site to find an organisation as convenient to my location as possible. Yes, paid ads must be a consideration to make the business work however failing to deliver results that suit customers just isn’t going to wash. Which leads me to conclude that the problem is not the extremely recognisable brand, but the service that’s actually on offer. Rather than spunking a fortune on appointing an agency, Mr Pocock would have been better investing said fortune on improving the service.

Which leads me on to GM. Last week GM announced that they were pulling $10m worth of ads from Facebook because they just weren’t working and that it was so hard to get cut through via social media.

Yawn!

Seriously? They attempted to back up this claim with an illustration of social media to demonstrate how difficult it was to get your head around social media and make that impact. Oh, woe is me GM. Poor you.

Now, isn’t this the same GM that is rife with bureaucracy and incompetence, that had to drive to Washington 4 years ago, cap in hand, looking for a bail out? It’s it also the same GM that produce crap cars.

But obviously, it’s not GM’s fault that their social media campaigns are not working. How could it be? They only produce crap cars and those that use social media are clearly incredibly stupid. Yeah right. Conversely, those that use social media are incredibly savvy and if GM had decided to listen to what people were saying about their brand rather than picking up the metaphorical megaphone and shouting at them, maybe, just maybe, they might get an insight into the issues that people have with their cars?

Ultimately, it’s easier to find a scapegoat for your company failings however blaming social or digital channels for your failings is simply not on. Rather than attempting to ride the social media wave to guaranteed profitability (as realistic as the American dream), why not invest in listening to what people say about your brand, harvest this data and use it to improve your product. If you listen to your audience and apply their (tested) suggestions, you’ll create an army of brand advocates who will be more than happy to talk about your brand in a positive way on social and digital channels.