#IOU – Twitter enters the payment services market

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When Apple launched its latest iPhone in September one of the most talked about features was the Apple Pay service, which will allow iOS users to pay for good and services through their smartphones and has the potential to revolutionise the way we pay for things. And recently it’s been rumoured that Facebook is close to launching a new payment system also that will allow users to transfer money via the social network.

Not one to be left behind, and beating Apple and Facebook to it, Twitter has just launched its own innovative new way to pay for things – by tweeting of course. It’s teamed up with French mobile payment company S-money, a subsidiary of banking group BPCE, (France’s second largest bank), to offer users a new way to send each other money. The service allows anyone with a Twitter account and a bank card to ‘tweet money’ regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender to know the recipient’s banking details.

To make an S-money payment over Twitter, the sender and the recipient must first link their Twitter usernames to their S-money accounts, and the sender must also install the S-money app on their smartphones. After that, it’s as simple as sending a tweet to @SmoneyFR with the hashtag #envoyer (‘send’ in French), the amount in euros and the Twitter username of the recipient.

Although a relatively fun and innovative way to pay, it remains to be seen whether the service will be a success or even expanded outside of France. So far the S-money app has just 100,000 downloads, leaving plenty of room for growth.

In truth, the service isn’t vastly different from the mobile to mobile payment services that have been launched by banks throughout Europe recently. These services allow users to transfer money through their phones by downloading and logging on to the relevant app on their smartphone and then using the recipient’s phone number to send them money, a service which S-money also provides. So what’s the compelling reason to use Twitter?

Since its launch, Twitter’s profitability has lagged behind that of Facebook and other rivals. It’s considered by many to be a ‘niche’ social media network and it still relies heavily on advertising for most of its revenue. Twitter’s success in developing additional services on its platform, as Facebook has done, will be key to its future profitability and industry observers will no doubt be watching the success of this new service closely.

But do social media users really want to use their accounts for anything other than status updates, tweets, looking at photos, and keeping in touch? Can Twitter and Facebook ever hope to be the new eBay or PayPal? Only time will tell…

Last month, Twitter started trials of its other new service, dubbed ‘Twitter Buy’, which enables an initial test number of users to buy products and services directly from their Twitter feeds from various partners such as Burberry and Home Depot. The service embeds a ‘Twitter Buy’ button inside tweets, and is enabled by San Francisco-based start-up Stripe. Twitter is expected to expand the service to more users as well as increase the number of retail partners in the coming months.

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Thou shalt tweet responsibly!

By Daragh Cassidy

We all know of The Ten Commandments but how many of us know The Nine Twitter Commandments?

A Church of England diocese has made a first by issuing a list of Twitter ‘commandments’ to its staff and clergy, such as urging them to consider God when tweeting to the masses!

The Bath and Wells diocese said it had compiled the nine rules to help “spread the word of God in the most effective way”.

The guidelines range from practical security advice to more faith-based instructions, such as asking would-be religious tweeters to ask themselves: “Would I want God to read this?” before they type anything.

The diocese also advises staff not to hide behind anonymous profiles and to always reveal their identity. Other rules stipulate that users shouldn’t divulge too much personal information when tweeting, that they should always respect the law, and to remember that tweeting can leave a permanent digital footprint.

Diocese’s nine Twitter commandments

  • Don’t rush in
  • Remember tweets are transient yet permanent
  • Be a good ambassador for the Church
  • Don’t hide behind anonymity
  • Be aware of public/private life boundaries
  • Maintain a professional distance
  • Stay within the law
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Be mindful of your own security

In fairness, it all sounds like pretty good advice, which anyone could do well to consider, regardless of their religious affiliations! Although compared to The Ten Commandments some of the rules do seem a bit on the dull side, no? And whether God approves of the new rules we’ve yet to be told!

However, the Church of England should at least be given credit for recognising (like any other organisation should) the importance of a well-defined social media policy and the value of educating staff on how best to use the medium.

So what next for the Church and digital marketers…The Eight PPC Google AdWords Commandments?

Might I suggest the first?

“Thou shalt not waste copious amounts of money bidding ridiculous sums on everyday keywords!”

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The tweeting Great White sharks

By Daragh Cassidy

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Authorities in Western Australia have found a novel way to warn people about the dangers of swimming in the country’s shark-infested waters. They’ve created a Twitter account for sharks which automatically posts tweets whenever they come into close contact with beaches!

Scientists have attached small transmitters to hundreds of sharks in the region, including Great Whites, to monitor their movements near public beaches. Whenever the sharks swim within about a one kilometre distance of a beach, the transmitter triggers an automatic alert which is picked up by a computer. The computer then sends out a tweet from the Surf Life Saving Western Australia’s Twitter account (@SLSWA) to warn surfers and beach goers about the potential dangers.

Screenshot 2014-01-14 12.11.14The tweet even gives the size and breed of the shark, and its approximate location. Each transmitter can last up to a decade so they also provide a huge amount of invaluable scientific information about the behaviour and migration patterns of sharks.

Sharks are common around most of Australia’s shores and the country’s love of surfing and the outdoors, combined with its great weather, means people spend a lot of time in the water and more and more surfers and swimmers are coming into ever closer contact with the fish. The unfortunate result is that shark attacks on people are on the increase around Australia and Western Australia is now the world’s deadliest place for shark attacks. In November a surfer, Chris Boyd, was fatally attacked by a shark and became the sixth person to be killed by a shark in the region in just two years.

Recently there has been huge debate in Australia about how to tackle the problem of shark attacks. Some Australians have called for the widespread culling of sharks to be reintroduced in order to control their numbers; a practice outlawed decades ago in order to protect the once endangered species. However environmentalists and animal rights campaigners have vigorously opposed any moves to reintroduce the legal killing of the fish, calling the idea senseless and unwarranted. But with shark attacks on the rise, something needs to be done.

Authorities in Australia have long patrolled beaches for sharks using helicopters and boats but there was often a delay in relaying the information to beach goers. The recent spate of attacks has prompted local government to try think of new, and more efficient ways, of warning people about potential dangers and preventing incidents. Using Twitter, which warns people of the dangers almost instantly, and leaves the sharks alone, seems like the perfect way to protect the lives of beach goers…and save the sharks too!

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Not another social media #fail

The perils of social media were laid bare once more when a planned question and answer session on Twitter with the American investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co backfired badly for the company.

No doubt attempting to appear au courant with all things marketing and digital related, the bank asked Twitter users to send in questions via the network to its vice chairman Jimmy Lee with the hashtag #AskJPM. Jimmy was there, as the PR agents put it, to “answer your questions on leadership and life”.

However, the idea soon descended into farce with most people using the upcoming “event” as the perfect opportunity to mock the company and make their hostile feelings about JPMorgan well known.

A woman who said she was a community organiser and “next gen freedom fighter” asked if Mr Lee thought it was “ok to outright lie, cheat and steal”. “Matt” wanted to know Mr Lee’s favourite type of whale, while another user known as “Guerrilla Educator” asked if anyone in Mr Lee’s family had ever been foreclosed upon.

The user “Wu- Tang Financial” pretty much summed things up nicely when he loudly asked: “IS IT A FAIR ASSUMPTION THAT YO SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM DID NOT PROPERLY PROTECT YA NECK?”

The event, scheduled for lunchtime today, was quickly cancelled by the company before it had even officially begun, who admitted that it was a “bad idea” (well at least they were honest!) 

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Ironically, JPMorgan was an underwriter of Twitter’s recent initial public offering of stock so one would have presumed they knew exactly what they were getting into. Besides, banks are hardly the most loved of institutions at even the best of times so the level of hostility directed towards JPMorgan should hardly have come as a surprise. 

A Q&A session with British Gas in October unleashed a similar level of loathing by the public and made world headlines for the company for all the wrong reasons. And who can forget last year, when a McDonald’s Twitter promotion using the hashtag #McDstories was hijacked by customers who used it to spread their horror stories of the fast food giant across the social networking site.

The British Monetary Policy Committee (who?) also had a Q&A Twitter session recently. Thankfully this passed off slightly better, presumably because no one really had a clue what to ask about monetary policy or quantitative easing.  

The lesson? While Twitter and social media have powerful benefits for companies it needs to be remembered that social media is also a two-way conversation between a company AND its customers and it can be a very public and easy place for companies to get things wrong. The seemingly best of ideas can quickly turn into the stuff of PR nightmares.

A company always needs to have clear social media objectives and to have a well-defined plan in place too. Having a well resourced team of social media experts is also important. And remember, just because everyone else seems to be doing something on social media doesn’t mean you need to too!

The future’s bright…the future’s #Twitter?

Although long considered the most important social media network, a new report from American investment bank Piper Jaffray shows that Facebook’s popularity is fading fast among the important teen market.

According to the bank’s 26th semi-annual market research report Taking Stock with Teens, Twitter has overtaken Facebook as the social media network that is most important to teenagers. 26% of respondents named Twitter as their “most important” social site while 23% said Facebook was most important to them, down from a high of 42% a year ago.

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Worldwide, Facebook claims to have over one billion users, dwarfing that of Twitter. In the all-important US market, Twitter had 49 million active users on average during the second quarter of this year. In comparison, Facebook had 198 million users on average in the same period. However, if the report from Piper Jaffray is to be believed, those figures could reverse dramatically over the coming years.

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Despite the growing popularity of Twitter, it remains a social media platform that a surprising number of people and businesses are uncomfortable with, at least for a slightly ‘older’ generation. Many people still don’t ‘get’ Twitter in the same way they understand and use other social networks such as Facebook and people tend to either love the site or not at all. However, the research from Piper Jaffray would appear to suggest that Twitter is a social platform that businesses can no longer afford to ignore.

Nevertheless, Twitter shouldn’t become too complacent either. The report also claims that Instagram has rocketed in popularity with teens. 23% said Facebook-owned Instagram was their No.1 choice, up from just 12% a year ago, suggesting Facebook was wise to acquire the site in 2012 as a backstop against losing younger users to competing, simpler networks.

Who needs the internet for success anyway?

You can’t read their tweets, pin them on Pinterest, see them on Instagram, watch them on YouTube, or circle them on Google +.

They certainly don’t engage in any Pay Per Click advertising and you can’t even buy their products online. They do have a website (thank God!) but it’s basic and more interested in talking about ethical business standards than actually selling the company’s products.

So who are we talking about? A small local retailer probably springs to mind. However, the answer couldn’t be further from the truth.

The company in question is Primark (or Pennys as it’s known in Ireland) and the clothing retailer has just enjoyed another “outstanding performance” during the past few months, according to its owner Associated British Foods (ABF). It expects total sales to be up 23% in the six months to 2 March, while like-for-like sales – which strip out the effect of new store openings – are set to be 7% higher. And last year its sales jumped 15 percent to stg £3.5 billion pounds.

The chain has been expanding rapidly over the past few years too. It opened 19 new stores last year, taking its total to 257. Its expansion into Europe has seen it open new stores in Spain, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands to add to those it already operated in Ireland and the UK.

It is also faring much better than rival clothing retailers. Over the crucial Christmas trading period, like-for-like sales at Marks and Spencer fell by 1.8% for example. Meanwhile, the shares of ABF have surged 16 percent this year, beating H&M’s 4.3 percent gain and a decline of 1.7 percent at Zara’s Inditex.

What’s truly remarkable is that all of this success has been achieved without any type of explicit digital marketing strategy or social media engagement by the company whatsoever.

Yes, as already mentioned there is a website, but it’s ridiculously basic and doesn’t let you buy anything online. Primark does have a Twitter page but it’s a fan page run by lovers of the brand and not the company itself. It does have its own Facebook page but its 500,000 or so ‘likes’ pales in comparison to Zara which has over 16 million. As for Instagram, Google +, YouTube and Pinterest…forget about it. Primark probably doesn’t even know or care what those sites actually do. And it definitely doesn’t do PPC advertising or online banner ads either.

So… why the lack of online engagement?

Well, the lack of digital marketing hasn’t hurt the company so far. And as the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. And Primark has no plans to fix this anytime soon. It makes no apologies about its Web strategy and has no plans to add online sales to its site either.

Secondly, developing an online business isn’t easy or cheap, according to Mark Hudson, a partner in the retail practice at consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers. It requires a supply chain flexible enough to handle the demands of large flagship stores alongside small online orders, and smart enough to give timely, accurate information about whether an item is in stock or not. Processing an online order for clothing typically costs retailers between 5 and 15 euro so customers need to buy enough to offset that.

While Inditex is “extremely profitable online”, stores where customers don’t spend as much per visit, such as H&M, are less profitable, according to Credit Suisse retail analyst Simon Irwin. The average spend at Primark, home to thousands of products for less than 10 euro, is even lower than that at H&M.

Finally, while social media may work well as a channel of communication, a recent study from Forrester Research suggests it does almost nothing to drive sales. As a result, Primark might feel that the relentless focus by companies on social media and Web 2.0 technologies is unjustified.

Whatever your thoughts, the continued success of Primark and their unorthodox digital strategy in this post-internet era is fascinating. But should the company continue to do what it’s doing or will it succumb to the social media and digital marketing game eventually?

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Little Miss Hashtag

If ever proof were needed of the huge, if slightly worrying, influence which social media has on some people’s lives nowadays, then here it is!

A Twitter-loving couple have taken to Facebook (where else!) to announce that they have named their brand new daughter Hashtag.

Amazingly, this isn’t the first baby whose name has been taken from the social media field.

In February last year an Egyptian man named his daughter Facebook in celebration of the January 25 revolution in that country.

The social media platform, together with Twitter, was widely praised by Egyptians for their ability to mobilise protesters and oust dictator Hosni Mubarak from power.

So…what other social media names could we give children? Google +, Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn perhaps?

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