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Snapchat: Tech titan or fleeting fad?

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We’ve all seen them – the countless animal-eared, sunglass-clad, hat-wearing selfies – taken using Snapchat. It’s a wildly popular social media platform, especially with today’s young people – it’s a fun, impromptu and fleeting way of communicating, with photos or videos only appearing for up to 10 seconds.

In the most eagerly anticipated tech IPO since Facebook in 2012, Snapchat went public last week – and its shares have been up and down since. In the light of this uncertainty, we wanted to take a look at Snapchat’s functions and values as a new social media phenomenon, and consider what it might be worth.

Unlike Facebook, which strives to create a record of its users’ lives, “Snapchat offers liberating impermanence”. And its figures show that this is a popular concept: Snapchat has revealed it generates over $400 million in annual sales and has 158 million people using its app on a daily basis.

Although this isn’t as many as Facebook, with about 1.2 billion checking their Facebook account daily, Snapchat claims their users are much more engaged than Facebook’s – two-thirds of them check the app every day – and the average daily user visits the app 18 times a day, spending an average of 25-30 minutes a day sending and watching snaps from friends, celebrities and advertising brands.

And there’s no doubt that the app is quickly evolving from a ‘chat’ platform that gave Snapchat its name. Over the years it has steadily increased advertising and added news. Last month, Snapchat launched its annual filters for UK brands, and last year began selling its Spectacles – eyeglasses that can take photos and record videos. So does this mean brands should be on Snapchat? Is it an effective channel to convey a business message?

I think time will tell. When Snapchat first become popular, the novelty of masking selfies and wacky filters was fun, new, and different from the sleek offerings of Instagram. And I do still think Snapchat can be fun…when I remember to use it. But it’s not indispensable to me – I skip the ads, I don’t use it for news. In fact, a recent survey claims that 69 percent of its respondents said they ‘always’ or often’ skip adds on Snapchat, and 61 percent said they didn’t follow any news organisations on the app. So it seems it’s neither a necessary tool for communication nor a reliable source for information, and paid-for brand adverts don’t seem to be worth it over 50% of the time.

The Sunday Times issued a warning before the app went public, listing six reasons why Snap’s float could flop, from growth not equalling profit to lack of proof from the app that it can actually make money. Meanwhile, I’m starting to wonder, although its user figures are impressive, whether the whole concept of disappearing photos and videos is simply another digital fad.

I’m not saying there is no value in Snapchat for brands. Adidas or Amazon are good examples of brands using Snapchat effectively. They have used the app to help show their brand’s personal side and reach a young demographic in a way which engages them. Snapchat connects with audiences ‘in the moment’, in a unique and creative way. But it’s still very much new territory and we’ll have to wait to see long-term effect and measure success.

If you’re a brand thinking about how you can use Snapchat – whether you should be on it, how to use it, its advertising functions – my advice is to tread carefully. Think about your market, test the waters, and take it slow. You can always talk to a team of digitally-minded PRs (like us at Twelve) too…!

From Black Friday to going green: E-commerce v. traditional retail

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With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a weekend of gift-buying, deal-grabbing, elbow-shopping chaos over, we started to think about think about how the environment bears in all this (it is one of our sectors, after all). The battle between traditional retail and online shopping in driving sales is ongoing but we wanted to know which is greener, and how can a consumer, who wants to shop in the most environmentally-friendly way, tell?

Online heavy weights like Amazon are quick to boast about the environmental benefits of e-commerce, stating on their website ‘Online shopping is inherently more environmentally-friendly than traditional retailing.’ But can the reality be quite this black-and-white? This might be a great strapline that hooks in ‘green’ shoppers, but as quite research-based PRs, we want to know if this can be backed up!

Retail v e-commerce processes

Retail carbon footprints are generated from a range of processes, from IT infrastructure to vehicle emissions and packaging. It’s difficult then, to measure the eco-impact of each scenario for every consumer purchase, as the factors can vary so much from product to product, even in a single retailer.

Overall though, purchasing online should bypass travel to and from physical brick-and-mortar shops, and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions and yield a lower carbon footprint, unless this journey was taken entirely on foot or by bicycle. This, I suppose, is the black-and-white answer Amazon would give.E-commerce

Consumer habit

Consumer habit, however, can also impact on the eco-friendliness of the purchase, and the route to this purchase in today’s world is rarely direct due to the multitude of options. For example, if you drive to a shop, buy something, change your mind and return it, carbon emissions will be higher you making a double trip to that shop. Modern delivery methods, like Amazon Prime, which offer next day delivery, and more recently just one or two-hour delivery options, also pose a significant toll on the environment. These quick options make it more difficult for delivery companies to combine shipments to the same area, so the distance driven per item increases, as does the carbon footprint.

Similarly, if you see something in-store, then choose to buy it online, this can offset any deductions related to the final e-commerce purchase. Failed delivery or click-and-collect have the same effect.

A green outcome?

So we haven’t really got an answer for which option is greener for the environmentally concerned shopper. Thinking about buying from companies you know to be environmentally-friendly and responsible, opting for eco-friendly packaging (or as little as possible) and if you’re buying online, buying in advance and not choosing short delivery times, all add up to a greener way of shopping.

For anyone in the retail sector, including Amazon, it’s vital to specify to consumers what steps you’re taking to be a green option. Communicating this clearly is key: Consumers know what’s important to them when they purchase but they need the full facts from you. If you’re looking to do this, to communicate and show your environmental merit and what it means as a retailer and for the planet, we know just the team for the job…!

Value for money and the importance of good communication in education

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Every time I visit or work with a school I am always struck by the dedication and determination of the staff.

They are always, always trying to help their children learn and thrive.  They are not ‘just doing a job’.

This is why communication is so important, because people – parents, the media, government – need to know about the good work going on in your school, college or university.

Another factor which always strikes me in schools, and even more so in universities, is the sense of collaboration and willingness to share best practice.

If all you want is for your pupils or students to learn and thrive, of course you will gladly share any tips and ideas you have learnt which help this happen.

Again this underpins the importance of good communication, telling people about your best practice, your successful interventions.  Which is why it was disappointing to see this headline in Schools Week:

DfE doesn’t know which interventions are ‘value for money’, education secretary says”  We need to encourage any attempt to identify and share good working practices.  Being honest about looking for evidence is to be applauded not criticised.  The example Justin Greening cites of the Parent Engagement Project is a good one.

This was a huge project conducted by Bristol and Harvard Universities among almost 16,000 pupils in 36 schools. It showed that by sending a weekly text to parents about homework, pupils made an additional month’s progress in maths, compared with a similar group whose parents did not get the texts. Child absence rates were also reduced, which given that the link between absence and attainment is proven, is another huge boost from the intervention.

We can’t all work on this grand scale, but for our individual schools, college and universities we can communicate the daily efforts we make to improve teaching and learning.

Here are our top tips for improving communication and sharing best practice among your stakeholders

  • Ensure you have a regular communication channel to the outside world

Consistency beats intensity every time. Give regular, well planned feedback to your key stakeholders. A simple blog or newsletter is always better than nothing.

  • Develop a regular column or forum for explaining how your schools works such as a ‘Did you know?’ feature.

Here you can describe any internal processes you have for improving or exploring ways to improve teaching and learning. Parents are endlessly fascinated about what goes on in the staff room or behind the scenes. For example, what is your system for checking school marking and feedback to children on a school-wide basis? It may be ‘old hat’ to you but to a parent it’s a new and reassuring activity.

  • Use the power of third party endorsement

Invite a ‘third party’ to comment or review an activity you’re especially pleased with and describe their feedback in your external communication. It could come from a conversation with your Chair of Governors or a meeting you had with the head of another school, but having external endorsement is always reassuring and interesting to parents.

  • Make the mundane magical

Describe how you and your governing body go about checking and challenging the school over certain tasks, such as reviewing standards or pupil progress. Again this may be a routine activity to you but describing it and quantifying it helps other people see the work and care which goes on behind the scenes.

The core message is to keep communicating, because if you don’t tell people about the efforts you go to every day, how will they know?

And if you have discovered an intervention which has really benefitted your pupils or students, the world needs to know about it!