A few weeks ago, Susan Etlinger and I were conducting a Social Media Boot Camp for our Oriella PR Network partner agencies which started a great conversation about social media trends outside of the US. There is so much discussion, particularly between agencies and communicators, on social media here in the States, but not enough about what’s happening in the rest of the world. Depending on who you’re following on Twitter, you might see scattered observations from people’s travel abroad – just enough to pique your interest. Susan had the great idea to talk with each of our partners around the world and post a series of interviews about what’s happening in each of their markets.
Here is the first in what we hope will be a series of conversations with people from some of the best independent boutique agencies around the world. We came up with 5 simple questions to cover the basics and make for a worthy discussion. I suspect there’s a lot to learn from each other no matter how far along each region is on this journey.
First stop: Spain! Deborah Gray (pictured above) is the director at Canela PR in Barcelona and Madrid. I’m crazy about Deborah and her firm (and I love their website). Canela is the Spanish word for cinnamon which is fitting for their spicy edgy work. Thank you Deborah for having the conversation.
Horn Group: What is the state of social media in your region?
Deborah Gray: Until February 2009 the highest ranking social media network in Spain was Tuenti (pronounced twenty). The network was founded by an exchange student who wanted to create a communication channel between students. Tuenti soon evolved beyond being students-only and now is a network “just for friends.” The networks on the site remain private unless a friend of yours invites you into the network – the biggest difference between Tuenti and Facebook.
Facebook wasn’t even available in Spanish until mid 2008 but has since experienced upwards of 1000% growth. The attraction of Facebook has been the ability to meet up with forgotten friends and colleagues. The Spanish Facebook demographic is thirty somethings while the Tuenti target is more focused on teenagers (14-19) and early twenty somethings. And of course we can’t forget Twitter. The country with the greatest Twitter presence is the USA, the second Japan, and the third is Spain. Spanish people use Twitter as a platform to distribute their blog content but also as a way to share knowledge. In the same way, more and more, Spanish organizations are adapting micro blogging in the organizational information flow with tools like Yammer.
An interesting trend that experts are detecting in Spain is that social networks are promoting the use of mobile web. An astonishing 46.5% of Internet mobile users only use social networks. This is the beginning of a new Internet era, the era of mobility, where social media networks will be a key element.
HG: Just for fun, how would you describe your country's adoption of social media on an evolutionary scale: a) cell-like, b) amphibians, c) dinosaurs, 4) primates, 5) man?
DG: For commercial or business use is pre cell-like. But for personal use: beyond man – Jedi!
HG: Are there any trends or incidents that have captured national attention and that demonstrate social media adoption in your country (like Dominos Pizza or the Patrick Swayze rumors in the US)?
DG: In recent months mass media have been discovering social networking tools and are using them as a means to broadcast content. This was exemplified in May with the electoral debate for EU elections, involving Mayor Oreja (right wing candidate) and Lopez Aguilar (left wing candidate). The debate was broadcast and streamed online on the Rtve.es website (Spanish public TV) with the opportunity to upload comments and questions on the Facebook channel prior to the debate that could be used during the debate.
There was also a high profile privacy incident involving a famous football player named Noemí Rubio. Noemi was a football player for RCD Español football team but in her heart she was a FC Barça fan. Both these teams are in Barcelona and are arch rivals. The incident occurred when Noemi uploaded some photos to Facebook of herself wearing a Barça scarf while celebrating Barça’s victory in the Copa del Rey (The King’s Cup). Representatives of RCD Español saw these photos and fired Noemi from the RCD Español football team.
HG: Is social media being used at all in business?
DG: People here in Spain use social media for personal reasons but most companies are still afraid of the Internet and social media. We think there are three main reasons for this:
First, the difficulties associated with the measurement of social media. There aren’t tools to measure the ROI of social media and marketing managers always need the figures. Second, the fact that the message online cannot be controlled scares most organizations. Third, we think it’s an age thing – the average age of somebody in a position to make a decision about social media marketing spending is usually above that of those who are comfortable using social media and really understanding it’s potential. So for now they’re ignoring it.
That said we have noticed some changes as more and more enterprises are using social networks. Some CEOs are using Twitter channels to promote their blog posts on the Internet; some others are using Yammer as a channel of internal communication for employees. Facebook has announced that they will be setting up commercial operations in Spain in the next six months so clearly they see that there is a commercial opportunity in this country. They have announced that they will be targeting the country’s top 100 advertisers as priority customers.
HG: Can you give an example of how you're using social media in your market?
DG: We have used social media in PR campaigns and also for internal marketing purposes. For our client Geo-Xating, we reached out to the geo-caching community via forums and blogs to promote an activity called Geo-Xating, sponsored by our GPS client Mio Technology. Our aim was to encourage as many people as possible to take part in a treasure hunt which led them to discover points of historical interest in the region of Catalonia. We created Geo-Xating profiles in Facebook, Flickr, NavPix and YouTube. We designed and wrote the content for the web page in support of the activity www.geoxating.com and mediated the forum. In a three month period, with no advertising, there were over 15,000 visits to the Geo-Xating web page, which equals an average of over 160 visits each day.
Here at Canela PR we use social media tools to interact not only with journalists; but with our client’s potential clients and colleagues in the PR world. One example is our online press room which is designed as an information source for journalists. It is frequently updated with useful information about our clients including: press releases, images, videos, and products available for testing. Journalists can also subscribe to an RSS feed so that they receive up to date information about the client that interests them the most. We also have a Canela Facebook page where we have added key journalists as friends and use it to invite them to client events and keep them up to date about Canela news. Everybody on the team has their own Twitter account so we can monitor what the rival agencies are doing, and also stay up to date with trends and interesting articles. We are in the process of setting up a group account and Canela channel. And we recently launched Canela Digital which specializes in social media and Internet services.