Social media in action - the future is visual

Social media in action - the future is visual

Maud Davis, who course leads many of our CIPR Advanced Certificate in PR courses and also teaches on the Foundation, went along to the recent Social Media in Action conference staged by our good friends at Corp Comms magazine.

Maud Davis, PR Academy

She was so full of enthusiasm that we asked her to tell us something about it - here are her thoughts and reflections on the day:

Maud told us:  "Every tutor at PR Academy loves to see their past students progress through their career. So when I heard that former Advanced Certificate student, Emily Gibbs, was speaking at Corp Comms magazine’s ‘Social media in action’ conference last week, I jumped at the chance of going along to catch up with her.

She is now corporate communications manager at the Financial Times and I still remember how envious we all were when she told us how staff had been given a free ipad to help them become more involved in the company’s digital strategy.

That was a couple of years ago.

When I caught up with Emily, she was joined by an impressive line-up of speakers ranging from The Environment Agency, Aviva, Telefónica Digital, Sainsbury’s, The Soldiers’ Charity, Blippar,, RSA and Weber Shandwick.

While every speaker shared very different experiences of how they use social media and the challenges they face, one common thread emerged.  Video is king…or infographics, pictures, cartoons, word clouds.  In fact, any visual medium.  Even Blippar’s image-recognition phone app!

You’ve only got to look at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to see the huge number of images and videos posted, commented on and shared. Any smart organisation is embracing the power of the moving, still or evolving image by making it a key tool in their social media activities.

Emily spoke of the challenge faced when trying to encourage staff to use their own personality on social media, but still work to FT guidelines. In 2001, they launched a social media hub called ‘Neo’. Less like a traditional intranet for pushing out content, it acts like Facebook, as a place where all 2,000 staff have a profile and where they can collaborate freely, share content as well as collect news. Plus it is also available as an app.

In the screen grab she showed, images dominated. Video clips too.  The Financial Times’ own studios make it easy to create and edit film in house and regular ‘lunch and learn’ events for staff are filmed and shared. The organisation has also moved to corporate gmail and now the challenge is now to incorporate both as a collaborative tool.

Aviva is another organisation that has increased its use of video as a corporate communications tool.  “Video is very important to communicate,” said Sue Winston, head of communications at Aviva who explained that the company uses YouTube, Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare and is re-energising their Flickr site because of increased journalist requests. Last year, the corporate division produced 23 films and Sue explained that they are giving an even greater focus to film and infographics . (Here’s an example I found of how they have used an infographic on 2011’s business performance.) Sue said that they have also produced a document on how everyone internally can produce and use film and will be exploring how to use video blogging as a corporate communication tool.

Telefónica Digital has already embraced film and images as can be seen from the new digital hub which aims to position the company as a thought leader in the sector.  “Video is the best story telling medium,” said Shivvy Jervis, head of digital media at Telefónica Digital whose TV reporting background has helped her drive through an editorial feel for the company’s digital hub site.  An e-consultancy report shows that less than 10% of branded content is shared, so they deliberately avoid corporate branding in videos and this has enabled their video programmes to be embedded on third party sites such as the Huffington Post.

Other speakers at the social media conference praised the power of video and images to create behaviour change, build awareness and aid corporate reputation.  Examples included:

    •’s burglary experiment which resulted in 18,000 people who asked for an insurance quote after seeing or reading about the video.
    • Lily’s Robinson’s handwritten letter asking Sainsbury’s to change the name of its tiger bread to giraffe bread (a genuine story!) which led to a peak in website visitors from 3,500 to 60,000 during the day that the story broke.
    • ABF The Soldiers’ Charity’s 'Thanks, Soldier'  campaign which generated 25,000 likes on its new Facebook page in just four weeks and earned the charity a best digital campaign award from Corpcomms magazine.

But before we all get carried away with fun visuals and compelling video – it can have its downsides too as Roman Gaponenko, head of digital EMEA, Weber Shandwick pointed out. He cited the recent horsemeat issue as an example where cartoons, advertisements, infographics, graphics and videos have helped accelerate the story’s viral spread.

Ooops – too late! I’m already sold on visual as a social media tool. "

Wow, Maud - what a great day, thanks for sharing some fantastic case studies and tips - Ann