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As KitchenAid pulls a ‘Jonesy’, the evidence is incontrovertible that a word – or tweet – out of place can be disastrous for brands in the online content age
Alan Jones’ most recent tirade, when he used the still-raw death of Julia Gillard’s father as the punchline of a hurtful joke at a Young Liberals’ event, shocked even the staunchest of the prime minister’s opponents.
Despicable – and as deserving of public rebuke – as his words and actions were, they did not come completely out of context. Jones’ persona – his brand, if you will – is synonymous with utilising controversial and outspoken tactics that many would consider bullying. So it is ironic that Jones himself has claimed that he is a victim of cyberbullying at a time when it is very much in the public eye. Technically, Jones is probably right, but in the eyes of many he has merely reaped what he has sown and the damage the affair has done to his brand’s reputation is entirely self-inflicted.
Interestingly, domestic appliance manufacturer KitchenAid recently found itself in almost exactly the same situation as Jones.
During last week’s US presidential candidate debate between Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, the brand tweeted: ‘Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics,’
And with that, KitchenAid joined the ranks of Westpac and Chrysler Autos in the Twitter hall of RDT (really dumb tweets).
The brand quickly removed the tweet and issued a sheepish apology: ‘Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand’s opinion.’
No doubt the offending tweeter has since been fired. What are the odds on 2GB following suit?
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Friend or foe?

A new survey suggests Facebook is on the way out (again). But are Australians really falling out of love with social media?
Stop the press and hold on to your hats, everybody: Facebook is going under!
95 people told us so.
Well, OK, that’s not exactly true. They told the Ipsos Mackay report, which is a qualitative social trends study that recently took ‘a snapshot of the nation’s mind and mood’.
Along with discovering a number of people don’t like our Prime Minister (shocking!) and a number don’t like Tony Abbot (even more shocking!), the report found that ‘a key complaint amongst some was the culture of narcissism and self-absorption that appeared to be rife on Facebook’.
Cue the headlines insinuating that it’s only a matter of time before Australians stop using Facebook altogether. Such as this article in the Sydney Morning Herald starting with the line ‘Australians are beginning to turn away from Facebook’…
We had no idea smh.com.au was so acrobatic, because that is a fairly big leap to make based on the mixed opinions of 95 Aussies. Especially considering that the very same paper reported less than two months ago that while it lagged behind the global growth average, Facebook use in Australia was up 15 per cent from 18 months earlier, and that average time spent on the site had increased from 7.5 hours to 8 hours per month.
Aside from the fact that 95 people can hardly be called a representative sample of society, what the study actually found was that people are getting fed up with the ‘narcissism and self-absorption’ they’re dealing with on the site, but are unwilling to leave the site because they fear it will affect their social lives.
The truth about user-generated content
So as a public service announcement, we have decided to help these clearly conflicted individuals by revelaing:
There. We said it. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but Facebook is all about that Holy Grail of the digital marketing world – user-generated content. Which means if you don’t like the content, find different users. Sick of narcissistic and self-absorbed posts? Don’t make friends with narcissistic and self-absorbed people. Or even better, be a little more discerning with your own posts.
If anything, Facebook is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to eradicating these people from your life, as it supplies an online, interactive report card on how your nearest and dearest are measuring up as engaging humans.
We’re willing to bet that anyone who still loves interacting via Facebook have interesting, funny friends who keep them entertained by providing content – in the form of posts and updates – that is actually worth reading. Either that, or they’re too narcissistic and self-absorbed to notice…
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Out of control?

People are dying because social media has taken free speech to new levels
Governments are starting to fear it. Police forces and security agencies around the world monitor it. Here in Australia, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon wants to be able to access it pretty much whenever she (or the AFP or ASIO) feels like it.
The ‘it’ is free speech. Famously enshrined in the US Constitution and generally accepted as an inalienable right in most Western democracies, it has become something of a problem child of late – a teenager that is getting in to trouble because of using.
Not using in the Cat Marnell sense, but because of using social media. At the time the US Constitution was written, and at the time democracy in the modern sense of the word became a protected right, free speech was limited to talking to a few – in one location. Now, because of social media, free speech can involve talking to many – millions, in fact – all around the world, at the same time.
And that’s why governments are worried – because they are unable to control it and, as a result, are powerless to prevent the sort of responses we have seen in the last two weeks.
US president Barack Obama made just that point in his address to the United Nations General Assembly overnight. You can see the crux of his speech here:

This sentence is worth repeating: ‘In 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell-phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.’
And therein lies the irony. The words of individuals – Jesus and Muhammad among them – and have always had the power to change the world. But it took YEARS for those words to attract a significant enough following to become world-changing. Now, though, the words of anyone can gain significant followers in an instant – meaning free speech (and how that speech is interpreted) is, at least in the short term, in danger of doing more harm than good.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

21st century crusade

The Innocence of Muslims, the controversial ‘anti-Islam’ film shows that online and social media content is a new form of cyber warfare
Sadly, it’s not just cute videos of cats and Korean pop stars that have the potential to go viral.
As we saw this weekend in Sydney, and for the past week around the world, there are far more serious consequences involved when a piece of content makes its way around the world at lightning speed – and far more sinister motives behind its distribution.
Social media spreads the wrong message
The film that sparked the outrage and violence, The Innocence of Muslims, was reportedly only shown once in a cinema. To a crowd of around ten people. It is a poorly made, embarrassingly crude film that has generated publicity through social media, with the help of a few individuals whose motives, while still unclear, seem to focus on stirring up even more hate between Islam and the rest of the world.
The film has been linked to the murder of the American Ambassador and three other Americans in Libya, and widespread violent protests (complete with US flag burning) elsewhere. In addition, Al-Qaeda has called for Muslims around the world to attack US embassies and consulates – and several have heeded to demand.
In Sydney, several of the most extreme protestors were pictured waving the black flag that has been adopted by Al-Qaeda, and wearing T-shirts and headbands with the words ‘Sixth Pillar’ displayed. This is thought to be a reference to Jihad or ‘Holy War’, declared in some Islamic teachings to be the sixth pillar of Islam.
The main players…
It was revealed late last week that ‘Sam Becile’, the man allegedly responsible for creating the film, was actually a fake persona created by convicted criminal and Coptic Christian, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. According to an article in The Australian, US authorities and the Associated Press discovered the links between the ‘Sam Becile’ identity and that of Mr Nakoula after tracing a phone back to Nakoula’s Southern Californian residence.
Even more worrying than the creation of the film is the fact that ‘Sam Becile’ had originally claimed to be Jewish Israeli, obviously intending to direct Islamic anger over the film toward Israel and Judaism. The Coptic Christian link continues, however, with Morris Sadek, a blogger and head of the National American Coptic Assembly, recently outed as the reason the film made it into public consciousness.
According to the Religion News Service, Sadek is translated the film into Arabic (so it could be shown on Arabic news networks around the world) and alerting the Egyptian press to the existence of the film. He allegedly also spread the film through his own social networks and blog.
A content-based war
We blogged some time ago about Stuxnet, a computer virus aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear reactors and allegedly created in part by Israel and the US. We also wrote more recently about Flame, the latest cyber-weapon in the mix. If these complex viruses are the heavy artillery, then YouTube videos and social media campaigns are the militia groups of this new, Web-based combat.
Perhaps less sophisticated but no less dangerous, the creation of and reaction to The Innocence of Muslims have shown that digital content, strategically disseminated, has the potential for catastrophic real-world results.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

The content liability

Can the law keep up with the evolution of search, social media and online content?
Trolls have been all over the Australian news recently, with high-profile rugby league player Robbie Farah and television personality Charlotte Dawson feeling the spite of the anonymous hate-mongers.
As a result, the politicians are getting in on the act, with NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell publicly offering his support to Farah’s demand for tougher sentences for trolling, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard subsequently agreeing to meet the Wests Tigers ace to discuss the matter.
It remains to be seen whether Australia will go down the UK path of introducing new laws that force websites to reveal the IP address of anyone posted offensive material so they can be prosecuted. But even if that does happen, will those laws be effective in legislating a medium that is so fluid and constantly changing?
There are even profound implications for brands that employ social media and content marketing strategies. As The Message reported last month, a new ruling makes Australian companies responsible for the comments posted by others on their corporate social media sites. But such a ruling can only take into account the platforms that are available now, not the ones that will, inevitably, have developed in a few years (and probably superseded today’s offerings).
Are libel laws outdated in the online content age?
And now search engines are being held responsible for the potentially libellous nature of people’s search terms. In Germany, the wife of a former German president has included Google in a legal action to stop rumours about her private life.
As the BBC reports: ‘When the name Bettina Wulff is typed into Google’s search engine, suggested search terms include the words “prostitute” and “red light district”.’
The search giant is being issued the same cease-and-desist order that has successfully stopped traditional German media outlets publishing allegations (supposedly spread to damage Mrs Wullf’s husband Christian’s political career) that she was once employed as an escort.
Google argues that the auto-generated text simply reflects what others are already searching for online and so cannot be construed as libel on its behalf. And while it may seem ridiculous that a search engine with hundreds of millions of random users is as potentially culpable as a magazine that makes a conscious decision to publish certain allegations, the law does not agree.
Indeed, in March 2012 Google was ordered to disable the autocomplete function relating to search results for an unnamed Japanese man, who said his name was being associated with crimes he had not committed.
The growth of social media and the spread of online content has been enormously empowering for individuals. But should companies then be held liable for the choices those individuals make?
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Advantage Obama

The US election promises to be a hard-fought contest, with social media and online content a major battleground
If we were in any doubt that election time in America was slowly creeping up on us (and, let’s face it, with the length of campaigns these days, when isn’t it?) Barack Obama has taken part in a live AMA (‘Ask Me Anything’) on social bookmarking site Reddit.
The tech-savvy president has been unwavering in his embracing of social media and the like, but a live, uncensored Q&A is a big, brave step for even the boldest politician.
Predictably, Reddit crashed under the weight of traffic several times during the AMA, but the President still managed to answer multiple hard-hitting questions, from queries about his first-term policies to demands for the famous White House homebrew beer recipe, which Mr Obama graciously shared with the Reddit community.
While opinion polls show Obama is heavily favoured by younger voters, his appearance on a site like Reddit was a strategic move to include those Americans who are often overlooked by traditional ‘family-facing’ campaigns.
The content battleground
What is interesting is that Obama’s Reddit AMA wasn’t exactly a trailblazer. In fact, his Republican opponent Mitt Romney beat him to the punch earlier this year when he hosted an AMA on Yahoo! But where Reddit is seen as being on the up (hence its popularity with young, trendy, budding leaders and millionaires, Yahoo! Answers day in the sun has long been and gone.
Which perhaps speaks volumes about the two candidates’ grasp of what is needed to win what will be a close election. On the one hand Obama’s choices reinforces the impression that he is a man at home in the world of social media and online content. On the other, Romney seems uncertain in the online arena, as if he expects another stuff-up.
It’s advantage Obama so far, but there remains a long way to go…
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Is Your Social Media Strategy Off Target?

Public criticism posted on Facebook and Twitter means companies should get off social media, right? Wrong!
The mainstream media is currently full of it. Full of the news that Target, like Channel Seven, Qantas and others before it, have experienced a social media backlash, that is.
In this instance, it all started with a comment on Target’s Facebook page from a mother and primary school teacher Ana Amini that the retailer is selling clothes that makes young girls ‘look like tramps’. Other people – lots of other people – clearly agree with Mrs Amini, with her Facebook page attracting some 60,000 likes and 3000 comments.
All of which demonstrates the reach and power of social media, and the content disseminated through it. So why are commentators queuing up to imply companies should exit social media as the benefits of being on it are outweighed by the risks?
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Gabriel McDowell of Res Publica, an adviser to corporations on social media strategy, said recent missteps had been compounded by the wrong people running company Facebook pages.
‘Control should be taken from advertising and marketing agencies, who are used to pushing a message, and handed to public relations people, who are better equipped to deal with fallout. “Even though the social media process can’t be totally controlled, it needs to be managed,” he said.’
Fair point, you may think, until you realise Res Publica just happens to be… a PR agency! So the Herald has used a quote from a self-interested party to support the angle of its story. Talk about disingenuous.
The point of social media
Social media is not about public relations. Social media is about interaction, about engaging with customers. Yes, people may question or even criticise, but someone like Mrs Amini clearly felt she had a genuine point to make. And the fact that she made it has given Target a chance to consider her well-made points and address her concerns.
To say this ‘scandal’ is proof that social media has the potential to do far more harm than good to – and for – companies is completely wrong. Social media has empowered consumers, has given them a voice – and a collective voice – at that that demands to be heard.
Companies and marketers should always be listening to their consumers – it’s how you know if you’re doing the right thing by them and providing the products they want. So to get off social media or, worse, to simply view it as a means for scoring some PR points would be the worst thing possible.
Moreover, just because you may no longer be on social media doesn’t mean social media itself no longer exists. Consumers can still criticise you (or praise you, for that matter) on Facebook, Twitter, etc, but your absence from the conversation denies you that right of reply, that ability to say to people, ‘I’m listening, I’m hearing what you say, I understand your concerns and I’m going to do something about it.’
The content solution
Technology may be evolving at an incredible speed, but people aren’t. Our innate human needs remain the same and one of them is that when we deal with people, we want to know that we matter to them, that we are listened to and that our concerns are heard. Social media lets companies do that by monitoring the conversation and engaging with people.
And there is now an extra reason to do that, with the ruling handed down last week that companies are responsible for the comments posted by others on their corporate Facebook page. So if someone has posted something racist, sexist, otherwise offensive or libellous, the company is responsible.
Monitoring social media has therefore become a necessity, so why not see this as an opportunity to engage through it. Accept criticism and ask others if they feel the same way (as they obviously do in the Target case) as a means of improving your offering to customers.
The content you create – in terms of responding to customer comments – can turn social media into your best friend. Running away from it, on the other hand, is a sure-fire way of making it your enemy.

The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

The V word

How DPV has turned a TVC into an online content splash
These days, a commercial is measured not only by how many products it sells, but also by how much online content it generates. Many brands have paid many agencies many, many dollars to come up with the answer to that crucial question: how do we get people talking, tweeting, posting and ‘liking’ us?
Because we like you so much, we’re going to give you the answer for free.
You get a pretty, naked girl to say ‘vagina’.
Yep. That’s the big secret, folks – as tampon brand Carefree has proven with its recent Australian television commercial (although they also threw in the words ‘discharge’ and ‘period’ for good measure, which really got the tweeting thumbs a-flyin’).
Of course, Carefree has a good reason to use those words, as it was advertising a product directly related to them. In fact, the ad rather begs the question: why has it taken this long for a feminine hygiene brand to actually come out and use the v word?
It’s almost as though women are sick of having a pretty significant body part talked about in vague euphemisms, with a strange blue liquid used as some sort of visual aid.
In case you haven’t seen it, here is the ad in question. As well as commercial television airplay, it has had over 23,000 YouTube hits as well, which doesn’t exactly qualify as viral content, but does prove people are talking about the product – which doubtless makes the content marketers at parent company Johnson & Johnson very happy!

In fact, the ad is becoming a content staple in all forms of media. It has been discussed everywhere from The Project to Mumbrella and popular women’s website Mamamia. But the ultimate measure of its success in pop culture terms is that it has even spawned a YouTube spoof…

So what do you think? Should we send the little ones (and of course all the men) into trauma therapy? Or should we tip our hats to Carefree for de-mystifying the secrets of the female body and making a commercial that (for once) can’t be misinterpreted as an advertisement for the adventure sports industry?
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.


McDonald’s turns to content marketing to beat the global economic crisis
Fast food giant McDonald’s profits have taken a hit recently, with new figures revealing that its second-quarter earnings fell by 4.5 per cent. The reason, according to CEO Don Thompson, is higher food, labour, occupancy and business-investment costs, coupled with lower consumer confidence.
But rather than reigning in promotional spending and hoping to ride out the downturn, McDonald’s is actually increasing its marketing activities to promote the ‘value’ of its offerings. Or, as Mr Thompson put is in business-speak: ‘This is a time for us to focus on guest-count growth and market-share gain. And so we really go at this very hard in times like these, even though it means an investment.’
Key to the strategy is letting people know how affordable – in terms of money, if not long-term health – a trip to Maccas can be. This means promoting (and even adding to) its value menus in markets that include Australia – which is where content marketing, and specifically social media content marketing, comes in.
McDonald’s Facebook page has over 20 million users, making it the clear market leader. In fact, it has amassed roughly the same number of likes as Burger King, Wendy’s, Chic-fil-A and Pizza Hut combined.
But as well as hammering home the affordability message (a post about the comedic possibilities of its extra value menu generated 701,000 likes and 896,000 people talking about it), McDonald’s marketing team clearly understands that online and social media content doesn’t have to solely or directly refer to a brand’s offering. Instead, surfers are tangentially linked to an iced smoothie, while engagement is generated through simple questions like, ‘If you could travel to any McDonald’s in the world, where would it be?’
Content marketing to the rescue? McDonald’s certainly thinks so…
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Here is the YouNews

From entertainment portal to news site – YouTube has just got serious
In yet another blow for traditional media, YouTube has staked its claim as a serious news site by enabling users to upload clips with blurred faces – in the same way that news organisations do in some television reports.
YouTube already attracts four billion views a day to its motley collection of videos, and while many of them can be classified as ‘entertainment’, the Google-owned site is recognising how many people are now turning to it as a source of news – and how much of that news is being produced by ‘citizen journalists’.
As a result of last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami (footage of which was viewed 96 million times in a week on YouTube) American think tank the Pew Research Center has instigated a 15-month study of the most popular news videos on YouTube. The results are instructive.
The centre concluded that ‘at any given moment news can outpace even the biggest entertainment videos’, with news events (like the tsunami and the killing of Osama bin Laden) the most searched items in four out of the 12 months of 2011. Furthermore, 39 per cent of news videos were uploaded by ‘citizen journalists’ – in keeping with the peer-to-peer nature of social media that makes it so appealing to so many.
And while the centre points out that more people still receive their visual news from television at present, it may not be long before that changes.
Clearly, YouTube wants to be ready for such a viewing shift, with Amanda Conway, policy associate at YouTube, telling The Australian: ‘YouTube is proud to be a destination where people worldwide come to share their stories, including activists. We hope that the new technologies we’re rolling out will facilitate the sharing of even more stories on our platform.’
Although the ability to blur faces at the click of a button is still in its infancy, with Ms Conway pointing out that the ‘emerging technology… sometimes has difficulty detecting faces depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality [meaning] it’s possible that certain faces or frames will not be blurred’, the possibility will definitely appeal to those – like activists – who would prefer to remain anonymous for various reasons.
Moreover, it enables citizen journalists to capture events and hide the faces of those featured, reducing the potential risk of legal action down the track. It’s an intriguing development…
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