Twitter Stock Price: 4 challenges in takeover territory

Twitter Lane, UK

Twitter Lane, UK

Twitter’s stock price is beginning to look like a side-on sketch of some of the mountains I’ll soon be visiting in the Lake District. Last week it took another nose dive due to extensive site downtime following a site update that went wrong. Leaving millions of people unable to access Twitter Analytics, then escalating to a near full-service downtime. This happened across a full 24-hour period, although official reports don’t acknowledge this.

Twitter takeover rumours are rife as the micro-blogging and developing advertising network continues to dip further away from IPO value. Its core business is under pressure as it seeks to appeal to a global audience, attempting to offer something other social networks cannot. One thing is for certain, Twitter has won the attention of mainstream media in the UK for its speed of news.

In a nutshell: Twitter needs more global active users and to continue developing monetisation methods that do not infringe on organic experiences.

As part of managing online reputation and digital marketing campaigns, Twitter is a proven critical resource. So a falling stock price and long-term signals that user-growth is stalling makes my digital mind tick. What happens if Twitter gets laid to rest in the social media graveyard?

Twitter isn’t the only weapon in the social media arsenal, but it does provide the most access to its data and hasn’t been decimated by online advertising like competitor networks (think Facebook’s crack down on organic reach).

Having personally tweeting non-stop for the last 7 years, there is no doubt the network has matured but with this a number of challenges. Whilst Twitter is still a buzzing social network today, there are a few challenges it needs to address for future success:

#1 Noise

The reason Facebook’s organic reach was locked down is because the social site had to make a big decision with the way it displayed newsfeed content. If all your friends and pages you followed could display straight to your feed, then the noise (also spam) on the site would appear uncontrollable. Facebook made the radical decision to prioritise your newsfeed, using algorithms to share what (it believed) mattered to you most. Twitter now faces the same challenges, but is not acting fast enough.

#2 Capitalising on unregistered users

One of the strategies of website marketing is to understand where your lost traffic opportunities are and then capitalise on them. For instance, I may have a ‘404 page not found’ notice that is losing me traffic; by plugging the gap I maintain higher web traffic. Twitter has been slow to recognise this by not utilising the pre-logged-in pages on the site. They began changing this at the end of last year. For a long time, my login page was still flashing pictures from mid-2000 (crazy).

#3 Communities

Among the public relations community on Twitter is chatter about trying alternative social networks. Whilst Twitter is a valuable resource today, stock troubles and takeover rumours are impacting the reputation of the social site. Whilst social media network mapping is a valuable way of identifying online communities on Twitter, I do find it surprising that it hasn’t attempt to build community features into the network. Hashtags are great, but they’re too public (therefore can suffer from spam).

#4 Advertising value

Speaking from personal experience, the value of Twitter Ads is still not understood. Whilst some organisation do choose to invest heavily for results, many still ‘trial and test’ small figures. This must be to do with reputation or an issue with where Twitter sits in the marketing mix. Perhaps the idea of (primarily) PR practitioners running advertising campaigns feels uncomfortable to some organisations? Perhaps these are clues to improving Twitter’s market positioning?

[UPDATE: In a move that signposts a major structural change at Twitter, the company announced yesterday evening that four executives will be leaving.]

See beyond your age: 26 life lessons at age 26

lonely playground

lonely playground

Last Monday I hit the beginning of my late-twenties and started to think about life lessons.

I find it difficult to comprehend that I was 18 years old eight years ago. Family photos show the quick transition from boyish complection to manhood. Time stops for no man; the years are racing.

For me right now, life is a treasure chest of opportunities. Whether that is translated through my appreciation of philosophy, joy of reading, understanding of the arts (yes, I’ll include heavy metal in this category!). After years of curiosity, I’m even turning my hand to amateur photography for the first time.

Whilst an enthusiast for life, I’ve also experienced some tough life lessons. Losing a close-friend, turmoil of relationships as people transitioned from university, the depression of being stuck in a job that wasn’t right. Sadly, natural parts of life and more to come.

At the end of the day does age matter? Not in my eyes. It’s your attitude, thoughts, and actions that really count. In my head is an excited eight-year-old chasing dreams and the surly older man who is told that he thinks beyond his years.

So in a similar style as Stephen Waddington’s wise observations from middle-age, I’ve contributed some of my own life lessons below. Broadly categorised into the main things that matter in life; purpose, relationships, career, learning, approaching life.

Perhaps when I hit middle-age some of my approaches to life will change? I’m still learning. The below shows where some of my thinking currently stands.

Purpose

#1 Live for pleasure

The primary form of intrinsic good in life is pleasure. It’s safe to be directed by a hedonistic lifestyle if it operates within ethical guidelines.

#2 Be lead by convictions

The most turbulent personal years was when I hadn’t formed my own convictions. Be true to what you believe in and put this before everything else.

#3 Freedom of enquiry

Be thankful that you live in a liberal society and don’t be afraid to approach life as a sceptic.

#4 Be inspired by others, but don’t imitate

When it comes to role models, life is full of potentials. Be inspired but don’t try being somebody you’re not. Perfect yourself.

#5 Challenge perceptions of success

Your life is not an advertisement; material gain will not bring you happiness. Your journey through life might be a mess, you will have to work hard.

Relationships

#6 You’re never an expert

I’m certainly not.

#7 You’re not singular

Where possible put yourself before others, act as a couple and contribute to your communities and society. Self-obsession makes life impossible.

#8 Build bridges

Do not burn them. Treat people as you would like to be treated. Don’t let emotion overcome you in difficult situations.

#9 Keep calm. Carry on.

You’ll meet lots of different people through life. Don’t count your friends, value the relationships you have.

Career

#10 Do what you love

This goes back to #1 ‘live for pleasure’. You’ll spend almost ¾ of your life working, make sure you enjoy it (this is the secret to success).

#11 Beyond money

Whilst it’s not always possible, try to think of money as an outcome of enjoying work. This is challenging in the entry-level roles of a career, but I’m certain it makes a difference. Being motivated by money alone is not attractive.

#12 Be prepared to work

Nothing in life comes for free, you have to work for it. Rather than aim for the successes in life, think about what you’re willing to struggle for. Do you want a big salary? Then be prepared to work through late nights for it.

#13 Respect

Everyone is different. Everyone knows something you don’t. Don’t be quick to pass judgement, you have no idea what people are dealing with behind the scenes.

#14 We’re all human

We all face the struggles of life. We’re all naked under our clothes. When things get tough, realise that the world is much bigger than the contained situation you’re dealing with. I find perspective alleviates stress.

Learning

#15 Learn something new each day

Try to learn something new each day. No, Google is cheating. Actually talk to people and leave the confines of the home and office. True learning is through experience.

#16 Never give up

Nothing was worse than struggling with dyslexia as a child, but having a passion for reading and writing. It was frustrating, but I beat it. Today I manage and almost hide my dyslexic traits entirely. How? I can recognise the way I think and know the mistakes I make.

#17 Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

I’m not telling you to mess up a multi-million company merger. Just don’t be afraid to try new things, receive advice from others, and build on your abilities. Learn from your mistakes, create something incredible.

#18 Listen

Stop talking. Listen. You’ll learn a lot.

#19 By guided by passion

In life I’m a child lost in a sweet shop, chasing interests and being guided by curiosity. Let your learning be guided by your passions.

Life lessons

#20 Balance

Technology has merged our careers with personal life, try to keep these separated. Use the off button, otherwise what’s the point in living?

#21 Dealing with hardship

Life can be difficult; some situations are tough to understand. Stay true to yourself and eventually try to use experiences to help others. That’s why I made the decision to contribute this post to CALM last year.

#22 Support

You’re not giving up by letting others support you. Always be willing to support others. The human race is biologically one big family.

#23 Actions

There is a difference between action and intention. Make things happen in life, otherwise you’re just speaking empty words.

#24 Look after yourself

Sadly, we’re not immortal and the decisions we make with our health today may impact the rest of our lives. I’m still trying to look after my body better.

#25 Love

Without love, life is not possible. Nurture love, try not to understand its complexities, but appreciate it.

#26 Age

See beyond your age. Don’t let it sway your approach to life.

Are the days of traditional retail banking numbered?

In two years’ time the revenue models of traditional retail banking may be under threat from rapid digital advances being spearheaded by the new EU Payment Services Directive which came into force this month.

As part of the lengthy document which provides the legal foundation for the creation of an EU-wide single market for payments, is the requirement of Access to the Account (XSA2); banks will need to provide API access to third parties.

It means the EU have recognised digital developments in the financial space since 2007 require legal and regulatory changes to be relevant by the technological standards customers now expect.

Back in 2012 Gartner foresaw the oncoming digital disruption:

“… banks need to stop relying on reactive product delivery and start providing a delivery model transformation that uses public and private Web application programming interfaces (APIs) and apps. This new approach will enable banks to deliver needs-based services that are relevant to the context, location and technology customers are using, which will lead to proactive delivery that either anticipates a customer need or improves their financials. It will also allow banks to respond quickly to new opportunities, and third-party developers to build the banking solutions they need.”

It highlights a pattern that organisations experience who are brave enough to expand digital capabilities to meet evolving market expectations; that the decision to involve digital can’t just remain with marketing, because digital is more than a communication channel.

It must be accepted as a cultural and business-model challenger, usually following the steps of competitors already making waves in the same space. This is none truer than in financial services where the entire sector is going through a digital transformation which is putting financial institutions in a catch-22 situation; continuing ‘business as usual’ to fit firmly in regulatory guidelines or innovating beyond comfort boundaries.

Either way, the financial services sector is being ‘displaced, diminished and disintermediated’ as argued in Bye Bye Banks? A timely book that interviews senior executives in financial services institutions about the state of the financial services industry, asking if the days of the traditional retail bank may soon be over.

The book is concise, offering a 5 minute version of the argument or in long-form version will take you a couple of hours to read (two train journeys for me) and it will challenge your views about the future of the banking industry. The arguments presented aren’t necessarily evolutionary, they are a natural progression of what digital disruption has done to other industries such as SMS messaging in the mobile market.

Technological leaps in the mobile industry used to be rated by hardware changes in (mostly) Nokia phones; the introduction of polyphonic ringtones, colour screens, and so on. When Apple introduced the iPhone in January 2007, closely followed by the launch of a 3rd party app store which gave developers the opportunity to reach millions of people instantly. This gave rise to apps such as WhatsApp which quickly eroded into mobile network revenues as SMS became less relevant. In fact, Bye Bye Banks quotes Ofcom who attributed £300m decline in UK mobile revenues to declining SMS use.

  1. This is when a service has been displaced. Daily interactions have moved from SMS messaging to online messaging apps.
  2. Diminished is when the existing (traditional) business model is put under pressure and the relationship with the incumbent service declines.
  3. Disintermediated is when the relationship between the new service provider no longer requires the services of the incumbent.

Applying this approach to the requirements of traditional retail banks to provide standardised API access could mean the functionality of banks being provided through tech providers, such as Google and Apple. In turn customer interactions become associated with the tech company, rather than the bank brand; this is when a bank’s relationship with its customers is challenged. The final step is disintermediated, perhaps as the bank (as a third party) is longer required, as customer mass makes peer-to-peer lending a viable possibility.

One thing is for certain, the shape of financial services is going to radically change over the next two years.

Book review of Managing Online Reputation by Charlie Pownall

Qantas A380 crash

Managing Online Reputation: How to protect your company on social media
By Charlie Pownall
Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 236 pages

Managing-Online-ReputationFull of valuable anecdotes, practical social media guidance, and explanation of cultural internet jargon makes Managing Online Reputation by Charlie Pownall a perfect beginners guide. Suitable for those learning about online reputation for the first time or senior practitioners who need convincing of the importance of digital.

If we assume there are two types of PR book the market; theoretical and experience-based books, then I would place Pownall’s book into the later category. The pages drip with Pownall’s experience and insight into the media industry.
If you want to know how fast information travels online, then the story of the Qantas A380 crash in 2010 is named; online scepticism exampled when one of China’s high-speed trains crashed in 2011; and a number of examples showing the negative effects of disgruntled employees and customers.

Occasionally media communication theories will pop-up but they are not focused or challenged in detail in comparison to other books on the market, such as Caroline Black’s or Averill Gordon’s. So if you’re a PR student you may want to read Managing Online Reputation alongside one of these more established academic books.

Where the book may receive some criticism is lack of practical technical detail around actually managing online reputation. For instance, the importance of search engines is mentioned but in limited detail without explanation of tackling SEO issues. The same applies to Wikipedia which is mentioned four times in 230 pages of book.

Another critical aspect missing from the book is the process of measuring reputation through ongoing monitoring. Despite the popularity and critical necessity of social media monitoring tools such as Radian6, Brandwatch, and Pulsar – the book doesn’t mention them once.

From experience, it’s practically impossible to begin monitoring online reputation without the support of monitoring tools, as they scrape the data from social media which leads to the categorisation of threats in the theories later outlined in Pownall’s book. This is why the #PRstack project last year served the purpose of categorising the 3rd party tool market.

So even though the book mentions at the start it won’t provide a “template” or “silver bullet” for each task, it’s exactly this which leaves me to believe managing should be omitted from the book’s title. Pownall flawlessly shows how online can be integrated into a reputation management programme, but you’ll need to find a reputation book written by a digital specialist for the next step.

Like all books, this one has its strengths and weaknesses. The ultimate test is how often will I be reaching for it on my bookshelf? Time will tell.

[CORRECTION: There is a reference to a social monitoring tool in the book, CIC a China-based listening firm.]

My three words for 2016

Michael White, Lansons, Berlin

Happy New Year! Another year, 12 months to make a difference.

If you’ve been following my writing for the last few years you may know that on January 1st I focus on three words that I use as a guide for the rest of the year. I use these words to refocus my efforts as the months roll on.

The dates for ‘my three words’ span from my University years, through various stages of my career, to now; a digital account director. A lot has changed over the years, priorities change. One thing for certain, it’s been a real adventure and I’m damn lucky. Some people wish away their entire lives, surviving for the weekend. Not me.

Click on the dates for the blog posts written at the time:

2015: Charity. Creativity. Insight.

2014: Balance. Contribute. Health.

2013: Stability. Growth. Decisiveness.

2012: Missed this year. It was also fairly unsuccessful.

2011: Understand. Grow. Support.

Deep down I knew one word would be change for 2015. I changed my job, where I lived, and possibly matured my mindset; it’s incredible how different I feel from my 24-year-old (2014) self.

I’ve provided consultancy to 40+ organisations, including charities and social enterprises. This was only possible through support by family, friends and colleagues – plus tireless revision/reading. It was a year full of charity, creativity, and insight.

Now it’s time to look ahead to 2016; over the next 12 months what should my three words be?

My three words for 2016

Coaching – Without the help, support, and belief of family, friends and colleagues I wouldn’t be where I am today. I never forget this and must now owe the world something in return, by better supporting the personal and professional journeys of others. I consider this one of my most important career objectives for this year.

Charity – For the first time ever I’m repeating a word from a previous year. You can never have enough charity and I can always do more. Last year I did more charity based work than 2014, in 2016 I want to make a bigger impact. Perhaps even commit to a cause I’m passionate about? We’ll see.

Adumbrate – This is a deep one. It’s possible to know the mere outline of yourself, of your personality, but require it to be ‘filled in’. By this I mean building on my passions such as philosophy, critical thinking, and getting involved in causes I believe in. Having a more personally wholesome New Year.

Michael White, APPC quiz

So there we go, my three words for 2016. Let’s hope the year lives up to 2015.