Building a Gaming social brand

It’s gaming mega-franchise launch season with Halo 4 released this week, and Call of Duty Black Ops II set to explode onto the scene on November 13th. As these top gaming titles continue to cement their status as the biggest entertainment franchises out there, the stakes for marketers in the sector get higher and higher.

To provide our perspective on how gaming sector marketers can take full advantage of social media, and potentially reduce the huge launch budgets that now characterise the industry, we’ve produced the lovely whitepaper below. Enjoy, and do tell us what you think :)

Social Brands 100 – the road show

On Wednesday this week Headstream took the story of the Social Brands 100 to a group of thirty marketers at an ISBA event in Edinburgh.

The beautiful and cultural City of Edinburgh was a suitable place to end our SB100 road show 2012, which has seen us discuss in-depth insights and findings with over thirty-five brands that featured in Social Brands 100 this year.

We’ve had the chance to have some brilliant conversations about social brand performance and benchmarking with lovely people at: Bing, British Gas, Burt’s Chips, Cancer Research, Chiltern Railways, The Great Collective Dairy, Deloitte, Diabetes UK, Douwe Egberts, Estee Lauder, First Direct, giffgaff, Global Radio, Go Ahead Group, Help for Heroes, Holywell Spring, London Midland, Manchester City FC, The Met Office, Mongoose Cricket, Museum of London, National Rail Enquiries, The National Trust, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Nike, PayPal, Penguin Books, RSPB, Sainsbury’s, Thames Water, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Money, Virgin Trains, White Stuff and Wonga.  Phew!

We even dropped in to Number 10 for a chat about how to measure ROI from social activity, (wins prize for meeting venue of the year!)

And we’ve taken the stage at Haymarket’s ‘Driving and Proving Social Media Value’ conference in June, and the IAB’s ‘Great British Social Media Festival’ in July, as well as gigging at some internal conferences with brand teams at global companies (if you’d like us to come to your next team get together give us a shout @headstream).

Reflecting on all of these conversations the following six subjects are the ones that kept coming up as the priority issues around social media for brand and marketing teams: 

  1. There is increasing buy-in from boards around social media, and as a result budgets for social are increasing 
  2. Uncertainty about how to prove the efficiency and return on social media investment is holding back further commitment to social spend at some brands     
  3. Some brands’ social performances remain restricted by legacy structures and ways of working. For example, how does a brand and marketing team built to deliver periodic campaigns now adapt to news-jacking and creating content at the speed of social? 
  4. A training and development challenge exists. Brands need to increase the social media capability in their teams to match the greater number of customers using social media to engage with them 
  5. High performing social brands are investing in real-time content creation teams, with a particular focus on images, video and data visualisation  
  6. Brand teams are exploring the potential for social media to boost organic search results

How does this fit with your latest thoughts on social media? As ever we’d love to know what you think.

Kick starting the Digital Economy

A hot topic during the party political conference season has inevitably been how to reinvigorate the UK’s economic growth. There are lots of initiatives out there, but IOHO one of the most exciting opportunities for the UK is to translate some of its leading academic work around technology, digital and computer science into commercial success. After all why shouldn’t the next Twitter, Pinterest, Rovio, or Google come from UK shores?

We believe a good way to make this happen is to bring together academic and commercial networks, and create the conditions for collaboration to bloom. That’s why Headstream is sponsoring and taking part in the Creative Digifest event at Southampton University on October 11th.

Sir Tim Berners Lee – Inventor of the World Wide Web

The presence at Southampton University of global thought leaders like Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Dame Wendy Hall and Nigel Shadbolt has created a vibrant environment for digital innovation to flourish. Headstream has been working with the Digital Economy Group at the University, and South of England industry body, Business Solent, to help bring together the business community with the academic world at the Digifest event.

If you’d like to come along all the details of the day are here, and tickets can be booked here. The keynote will be delivered by Andrew Keen, CNN contributor, entrepreneur and author of Digital Vertigo, and there are plenty of networking sessions, workshops and demonstrations from technology start-ups.

Our very own Julius Duncan will be on stage, and Head of Innovation for Headstream Tom Chapman will be running a workshop on how interactive technologies are set to change our lives

If you are looking for inspiration and potential partnerships it’s set to be a great day. You can also follow the action on Twitter @sotonDE and via the #sxsc2 hashtag.

Fashion hunting with #smwstyle

This week from Bogota to Barcelona thousands of social media enthusiasts are gathering for Social Media Week. While every participant comes with their own agenda, be that to learn, network or create, they will all bring one thing in common –  #smwstyle.

Whether you’re the type that spends hours agonising over which hat to wear or if your approach is more impulsive, you will all create the #smwstyle of 2012.

To celebrate the sartorial diversity in our wonderful industry, Headstream is collecting photos from SMW sessions and gathering them on Instagram around the #smwstyle hashtag. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get our own #smwstyle updates.

So if you have a particularly funky pair of shoes, exceptional spectacles, or hipster iPad case please get involved with #smwstyle and post away.

Happy Social Media Week one and all, let’s do it in style!

Doing it hipster style

Dear travel company – how social is your brand?

Can you believe there are only 99 days until Christmas! Get those lists ready folks.

That also means that the key booking period for many travel companies will soon be upon us as millions of customers look to cure the post-Christmas and New Year blues with a holiday booking to look forward to. To help travel brands make the most of social media during this crucial time in the business year we’ve put together a white paper on ‘Building a Travel Social Brand‘.

It’s the second in a series of Headstream whitepapers (the first looked at the Retail sector) and is designed as a practical aid to any travel industry marketer looking to maximise returns from social media in 2013 and beyond. We’d love to know your thoughts.

Helping retail marketers build a social brand

Here at Headstream we believe that getting social media included as early as possible in the business and marketing strategy process is key to its success. With this in mind, and to help out those retail sector marketers who are embarking on strategy planning for 2013, we’ve created the ‘Building a retail social brand’ white paper.

It is an essential guide for any retail marketer, and through a combination of case studies, analysis and trend spotting sets out to answer the following questions:

- How can retail brands get more out of social media, and increase return on investment?

- What does social media best practice amongst retail brands look like currently?

- What is the next social innovation that will impact the retail sector?

- What immediate steps should you take to ensure your social media planning and execution is successful?

Retail has been transformed by the move to e-commerce since the advent of the web, and continues to be one of those sectors most rapidly affected by social media innovation. The increasing penetration of smart-phones and tablets that allow shoppers to access their networks while in-store ensures that this pace of change will continue, and that there are exciting times ahead.

We hope you find our white paper useful, and as ever we’d love to know your thoughts.

Proving social media value

Yesterday Headstream spoke at Brand Republic’s ‘Driving and Proving Social Media Value’ event (#SMVevent).  Here’s what grabbed our attention…

Social media measurement – are we nearly there yet?

Consensus on how to measure social media’s effectiveness remains some way off amongst UK based marketers, if yesterday’s Social Media Value Event in London is a guide. Despite this ongoing, we’d say perennial, challenge there was undimmed optimism around the power of social media to reach people, and achieve interaction in new and unexpected ways.

Dan Brooke, TV veteran and Channel 4’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, neatly summed up this dichotomy. He eulogised social media as the “stairway to heaven” for Channel 4, where heaven is “viewers watching and engaging with our programming”. Taking examples from the Purple Cow Udderbelly user generated video campaign, and the Black Mirror spoof campaign, he outlined how C4 is using Facebook for pre and post transmission awareness, and using Twitter to engage during shows. However, when it comes to putting a definitive figure, or value, on the effect of this activity Brooke’s view was – “It’s hard to say”.

Channel 4 are tracking some interesting metrics. Of all UK Tweets about television programming C4 reckons 20 to 30% are about programmes on its channels, which is ahead of its 11% viewing share. Brooke has also commissioned an econometric study to examine ROI of social media. While this showed that ROI was “very high” (due primarily to comparison with higher cost traditional paid media activity) the figures are too low to be statistically significant. So, for the moment Brooke continues to believe in, and invest in, social on the basis that “in our bones we know it (social) is a fair trade wind for us.”

What’s inevitable in his view is that “TV is going to move closer to social, and social is going to move closer to TV” through innovations like Zeebox and Samsung Smart TV and their successors. As the social TV experience becomes increasingly integrated Brooke believes it will help his industry “analyse the cause and effect of social.”

Across the course of the day the desire amongst brand budget holders for a consistent and widely understood way to measure social’s effectiveness was apparent. But the conclusion, as summed up by Brooke and other speakers, was that anyone looking for a quick fix is going to be disappointed.

Baastian Ellen, Director of Social Media at, said that for him the challenge is to evolve current analysis methods that focus on ‘last click wins’, and create ways to track a customer’s online journey all the way along the sales funnel, and determine how social media contributes each step of the way. This is a common goal, particularly amongst online only businesses.

So what is Headstream’s view? We believe assessment of social performance has to become more rigorous and forensic, focusing on the strength of interaction, rather than scale, buzz or reach. We have established a methodology to do this across a brand’s overall social performance, through our Social Brands 100 initiative.

For specific pieces of social marketing and communications activity the key success factor is establishing the right objectives at the outset, and not confusing outputs e.g. increased following, Retweets, with outcomes e.g. product sold, brand recall/awareness improved.

Starting with a clear understanding of the marketing communications objective that is being pursued, and how it links back to an underlying business challenge is key. This can then be turned into a campaign goal which is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Time bound). Only when these fundamentals are established should the creative concepts and tactics be developed.

As the concepts and tactics are being created the appropriate metrics and KPIs that will enable us to tie the activity back to the SMART goal are agreed, and appropriate tracking tools and benchmarks established. This approach avoids the common mistake of making a ‘metric’ e.g. conversation rate on FB, number of Likes, an objective in its own right. This means you can report back to your board that the activity created xx of sales/consideration/leads, contributing to an underlying business goal, all proved by appropriate metrics and tracking. This is going to have much more impact than reporting that Facebook fans have doubled (!), and will build the case for further social media activity.

What methods have you used to prove the effectiveness of social media within your organisation? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Social Brands 100 – who’s the Daddy on Facebook?

Diving into the Social Brands 100 data gives us all sorts of interesting insights into which brands are performing best on specific platforms. A ranking of the top ten performing brands on each of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and foursquare can be found on Slideshare.

Some of the patterns emerging from these platform rankings are:

  • The Facebook top ten has just one FMCG brand included, but that is number one placed MaxiRAW. Travel and Leisure, and Telecom brands share three top ten places between them, with bus and rail companies particularly effective on the platform.
  • The media sector takes four places in the Twitter top ten with MTV taking two slots for MTV Geordie Shore and MTV UK, while the BBC and Capital FM also feature.
  • YouTube is dominated by Technology brands with five spots occupied by the likes of AVG, GoPro, and Sony Xperia, each of them using the platform for user guides and application ideas.
  • Google just misses out to Red Bull to be the number one ranked brand on Google+. Like YouTube this platform’s top ten is dominated by technology brands.
  • foursquare is being used best by the Travel & Leisure sector, with Starbucks taking top honours. Retailer HMV gets a top ten position here, the only appearance of a retail brand across the platform top performers table.

This breakdown by platform performance is one of many insights within the Social Brands 100 publication, downloadable from

Which brands do you think are making the best use of platforms?

Social Brands 100 – the final ranking

After nine months of planning, and five months of nominating, analysing and judging the Social Brands 100 ranking is live! The full findings are now available to download at We would love to know what you think of this year’s roll call of social brand leaders.

Congratulations to every brand listed, you prevailed over another  200 brands that were put forward at the nomination stage. To be included in the 100 shortlist is an achievement in itself, and the range and quality of brands present this year is superb. The popularity of the crowd-sourced nominations has inevitably resulted in many ‘new entrants’ into the list, and a subsequent reshuffle of brand positions from 2011.

The highest ranking brand this year is Innocent, of smoothies fame, a worthy winner that proves year-in year-out an ability to maintain a personal and human connection with its fans. While there are other household names in the top ten, Cadbury, Starbucks, ASOS, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cancer Research UK, there are also some less obvious names; The Met Office, ARKive, British Red Cross and giffgaff. This is something Social Brands 100 is proud of.

As outlined in earlier posts to use a methodology that ranks brands from different sectors, and of different sizes, as fairly as possible is our primary concern.

To do this we evolved our 2012 methodology from 2011 in two ways. Firstly, we increased the number of platforms, and metrics from those platforms, collected and analysed. In total we selected nineteen metrics from eight different platforms and carefully ascribed weightings to them that reflect where consumers are (fish where the fish are!), and how platforms are used. This gave us what we call our ‘Data Score’ for each brand (full details are on pages 11 and 43-46 of the Social Brands 100 publication). Secondly, we increased the weighting of the Data Score in relation to our ‘Panel Score’, which is derived from our expert panel of judges scoring each brand. This reflects the increased scope of the Data Score to assess metrics such as effectiveness and value of content posted by brands in social spaces.

Of course, you may well  have your own opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of this methodology to judge your particular brand’s social performance, and consider that certain platforms or weightings could be changed. It is possible to ‘bespoke’ social performance measurement through our subsequent brand specific research. However, the intention of the Social Brands 100 methodology is to find a common ground that indicates whether the fundamental social principles of win-win relationships, active listening and appropriate behaviour are being adopted.

Amongst the insights and highlights from this year’s ranking and analysis are:

  • The highest ranked brands create genuine one-to-one connections with individuals on a consistent basis
  • Charity brands emerge as the best performing sector with three charities in the Top Ten, and over 25% of the top twenty.
  • Google+ made its mark as a new entrant with 49 of the 100 brands adopting the platform
  • foursquare remains a niche platform for the Social Brands 100 with 18% adoption compared to 22% in 2011′s ranking

The top ranked brands by industry sector were;

  • Automotive – Ford
  • Charity – Cancer Research UK
  • Entertainment – The Ellen de Generes Show
  • Fashion and Beauty – Lush
  • Financial Services – Wonga
  • FMCG – Innocent
  • Manufactured goods – Gibson
  • Media – Guinness World Records
  • Retail – ASOS
  • Services – Met Office
  • Technology – HTC
  • Telecom – giffgaff
  • Travel & Leisure – Starbucks

Many of these brands will be joining us at an event to celebrate the Social Brands 100 at 4PM (GMT) today (May 29th). To follow the conversation go to @socialbrands100, and track the #sb100 hashtag. We will be taking questions from Twitter as well as the audience, so please feel free to get involved.

There is a host of additional information, detailed analysis and case studies in the full publication that is available for download, here. What do you think of  the Social Brands 100 ranking this year? We’d love to know!

Social Brands 100 Methodology in detail

With just one week to go until the launch of Social Brands 100 the SB100 book is at the printers, and the finishing touches are being made to the launch event plans!

On May 29th the final ranking of the shortlisted 100 brands will be revealed for the first time, based on each brand’s Social Brand Score. This Social Brand Score is the sum of a Data Score (the score on which the shortlisting of brands was decided), and a Panel Score generated by an expert panel of judges that has assessed and scored each of the shortlisted 100 brands.

Ahead of the launch of the ranking, here is a slide deck that outlines the Social Brands 100 methodology in detail.