How to Reach a Teen Audience: YouTube Personalities

Posted by: in Communication, Content, Culture, Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends, Technology, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on August 28, 2015
Eileen OBrien Blog Post

Nash Grier and one of his 31M fans

If reality TV has redefined the concept of celebrity, social media has taken it to a whole new level. A recent survey found that 8 out of the 10 celebrities that matter most to teens are YouTube personalities – the other two were Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. Many of these “celebrities” don’t even have a discernable talent, such as singing or dancing, and (like the Kardashians) they are famous for being themselves. But tweens and teens are responding to their genuineness and the ability to potentially connect with them via social media channels.

Many of these social sensations look like the kid bagging your groceries. In fact, if that kid bagging your groceries is Alex From Target then he is “famous” and you can talk to his agent about a product endorsement fee. Variety calls them Famechangers: “Teens’ emotional attachment to YouTube stars is as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrity; and YouTube stars are perceived as 17 times more engaging, and 11 times more extraordinary, than mainstream stars.”

I witnessed this firsthand at DigiFest in New York City where about 1,000 screaming fans paid to see these personalities in real life. I talked to 17-year-old Nash Grier who has more than 31M followers aggregated across different social channels. Grier explained the dynamic, “It feels like a family – every single one of my followers, we kind of have a relationship. I always try to find some time in the day to tweet some people back to see their support and love.” I guess the definition of the word relationship is different when you are talking about 31M followers, but both the fans and personalities appear to earnestly believe this.

Grier prefers to call himself a “content creator” and notes that only adults distinguish between media and social media. He was very polite, and smiled and posed for multiple photos with all the young girls that tentatively, and sometimes tearfully, approached him. My colleague, Angel Hakim, wrote also wrote about this topic, Influencers vs. Creators: How the Landscape is Changing.

What constitutes authenticity?

These social media celebs call themselves brands and, very astutely, understand the value of their audience to potential sponsors. However, they don’t perceive themselves as spokespeople or advertisers. “I’m really mad at commercials because they are so whack,” said Grier. “I feel like kids are just fed all this stuff and they are supposed to buy it. There should be some content behind it. There should be an incentive to make them want something.”

The idea of native advertising and using content – or celebrities – to sell products isn’t new or unique to this age strata. However, I find the constant reference to authenticity among this group ironic. “One old piece of slang that has not survived is ‘selling out.’ …Frontline asked a group of teenagers what the phrase meant to them. Nothing, they replied. Yesterday’s sellouts, mocked for their contracts, are today’s brand ambassadors, admired for their hustle,” wrote Amanda Hess in The New York Times.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves as today’s tweens/teens and YouTube personalities grow up. What do you think?




By: Eileen O'Brien

Director of Media & Engagement, passionate about using social media for healthcare.

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

The Depressing Success Rate of Corporate Initiatives

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on August 27, 2015

Ever wonder why a new initiative, such as a product launch, a cost-cutting measure, a business strategy, an M&A integration, or even a turnaround effort didn’t succeed or even take hold as expected? Believe it or not, it probably has nothing to do with the initiative itself, but rather the way your organization chose to communicate it.

Our latest issue of Common Sense for the C-Suite explores common challenges and best practices in the development and implementation of effective corporate initiatives.

Common Sense Volume 4 Issue 3 Cover 8.28

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

A Contrarian View on Innovation in Advertising & PR

Posted by: in Advertising, CMO, Innovation, Integrated Communications, Integrated Marketing, Media & Engagement, Public Relations Practice, Social Media Insights & Trends on August 27, 2015

Lifecycle of a Technological Revolution_today

With the revolution of media and technology disrupting the marketing industry, and business models altogether, marketers are trying to navigate through the storm. On the communications side, TV dollars are shifting to digital. But, digital ads aren’t nearly as effective nor transparent as we want them to be. The traditionally distinct and siloed roles of marketing communications (once upon at time, just known as ‘advertising’) and PR are converging.

Because of the advent of social media, and the frustration with traditional and digital advertising, marcomm is moving into earned media with influencer marketing, native advertising and more responsive campaigns and editorial content teams. Because of the rise of the new influencer – everyday people and celebrities using blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, SnapChat, Periscope and other platforms to create personal media companies – PR is expanding beyond traditional media relations and ‘the pitch’, and into influencer marketing, sponsored content and responsive editorial content teams as well. It’s a race to the middle where the lines are blurred. That’s why agencies and publishers are partnering to create wholly new content companies that service brands.

If we take a step back from the race, though, things haven’t changed much since 2009. The big three: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had launched and matured as three distinct and valuable social communications platforms for users. Since then, other social platforms have launched – Foursquare (and Swarm), Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, SnapChat, Meerkat and Periscope being the most touted. But, each of these just feels like an iterative evolution of the discontinuous leaps that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube made. Platforms, and the content they enable, shifted to become more visual, shorter and ephemeral. When Meerkat and Periscope launched, didn’t it feel like they already existed? And, the fundamental rules for how to engage audiences on those platforms is the same; we must adhere to the Reciprocity Theory.

So, I actually take a contrarian point of view: innovation has slowed in media technology. We’re at the tail end of our current technological revolution’s lifecycle, moving past the discontinuous revolution and into the iterative evolution. While folks in the industry are making claims that: “Advertising is dead.” Or that, “Data will tell us what content to make, so we don’t need creatives anymore.” I’m claiming that we need creative more than ever. The discipline just needs to evolve too. As the roles of advertising and PR converge, storytelling becomes an even more critical discipline for marketing.

Just pushing the message through TV and radio and print and display ads is lazy creative and lazy advertising. Great creative has always been about great storytelling. Now we just tell that story across new media platforms/channels in partnership with the new social influencers and in partnership with our customers. Sometimes those influencers and customers are the same. Great creative (‘the story’) is the glue that holds the story together, wherever we’re telling it. It’s what inspires people to participate.

In the late 2000s in the entertainment industry, we began exploring transmedia storytelling. This is where we would develop a core story – characters and the world in which they lived. And, then we’d plan out those stories across media (books, graphic novels, movies, TV, web series). It was a shift away from the linear model of: writer publishes book –> studio buys book and makes movie –> network turns movie into TV series. Instead, we developed it all at the same time. They lived together as extensions, or chapters, of the same story instead of separately as different and distinct adaptations of the story. This style of storytelling became particularly popular in the fantasy/gaming/comics genres, as we could delve deep into the story of a world we were creating.

Now, in marketing, we have the opportunity to take the same approach. How do we create a core story – the story of our brand, which reflects the story of our customers and employees – and tell that story through new (and traditional) media platforms and people? Like a vision, the story we tell requires an intuitive leap of faith. It must inspire. It must create new possibilities. Is that so different from great advertising fifty years ago? Maybe. Maybe not. But, in an increasingly ephemeral world, wouldn’t it be nice to have some moments that impact and last?


This post originally appeared on The ReciprocityTheory blog.

By: dfossas

David Fossas leads Strategy & Planning at W2O Group, converging analytics, media and technology to give companies a strategic, competitive advantage. He has designed and executed social business strategy and change management initiatives across functions such as marketing, public relations, investor relations, customer service and IT to modernize organizations’ communications practices and improve their operational excellence. David has been a frequent speaker with C-level executives, facilitating conversations around the impact and business considerations of social media, data and strategic communications. Serving in corporate strategy roles at Big Fuel Communications and Intrepid Pictures, David has an entrepreneurial background identifying market opportunities and launching strategic initiatives. He began his career at International Creative Management and Endeavor Agency (now WME Entertainment) on teams representing award-winning talent such as Guillermo del Toro, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Boyle and Baz Luhrmann.

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

5 Questions for Lynn Fox, Newly Named Managing Director in WCG’s Tech Practice

Posted by: in Analytics, Communication, Communication Strategy, Culture, Employee Interviews, Inside WCG, Insights, Technology, Thinking Creatively, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on August 26, 2015

W2O Group announced today that it has acquired Fox Communications, a boutique communications firm based in San Francisco. Fox Communications Founder Lynn Fox, widely considered to be among the top communications practitioners in Silicon Valley, will now lead media and engagement as a managing director in the technology practice of WCG, a W2O Group company.

Speaking on behalf of WCG’s tech practice and the agency overall, we are thrilled to have Lynn join the firm. She is a tremendous talent and wonderful collaborator. I sat down with her recently over dinner in San Francisco to ask her some truly penetrating questions about her new gig, how we found her, tech PR, tech press, lessons she’s learned and her advice for tech CEOs.

Q: When I first approached you earlier this year, you told me you weren’t interested. You were very polite about it, but the message was clear. What changed you mind? (I mean…besides my wit and personal charm.)

A: And I was serious too. I was extremely happy with my clients, my work and my lifestyle — I was a really good boss to myself! What changed? Over the period of time when you first started stalking, errr….courting me, I was getting schooled by the tumultuous changes in media. Simply put, while companies in this tech bubble are demanding more press stories than ever before, the bar for landing a great feature story — or even a decent funding announcement write-up — is far higher, because journalists are spreading less time over more tech beats. 

Because of that, I have changed religions. I went from being that PR snob who makes career-limiting demands to report to the CEO, to the “marketing ecosystem” snob who wants to bring the religion of data-driven PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned) media strategy into tech culture.

Q: We talk a lot about WCG’s analytics capabilities and how we use them to identify influencers that matter most to tech clients. We, naturally, employed a similar method to find you. Specifically, we analyzed the online engagement between our fellow tech PR practitioners and WCG’s ranked list of the 50 most influential reporters/bloggers in tech. The data told the story of just how connected you are with top tech media (congrats again on your incredibly high ranking). Did our method creep you out?

A: I was creeped out and intrigued, all at once. At first, I thought you were using a marketing gimmick on me, and I was a little put off. But when you explained exactly what you did, and how it worked, I was kind of floored, because on the PR side of things, we had given up on using analytics. I’ve never engaged analytics in a way that really made a difference in PR. Now that I have seen what is under the covers, I am blown away and want to bring that approach to tech. 

Q: You clearly have incredibly strong relationships with press. How did you accomplish this and how do you maintain it?

A: Relationships with people are the most cherished part of my life, and that absolutely includes my friends in the tech community —  reporters, PR people, marketers, biz dev people, engineers, VCs and everything in between. I absolutely adore the people I get to interact with every day, and I think that comes through. 

But that isn’t a very useful or scalable answer to your question. I think tech journalists still pick up my calls and answer my emails because I only bug them if I really think I have a story they want to tell their audience. I value these people’s time, and want to bring them something they really want, even if they don’t know they want it until we talk.

Q: You’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in tech and some legendary CEOs. What are three things you learned along the way that were true moments of clarity for you?

A: I should preface by saying that I’ve learned all of these things the hard way:

  1. Success is not permanent and failure is not fatal. This is not a new concept, but one that has proven to come true over, and over, and over again.
  2. Never take anything personally. Full stop.
  3. Be respectful to every single person you meet. They will either be your boss or your customer some day. 

Q: How has Tech PR changed over the past 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?

A: Tech PR as a field has been pretty constant. What has changed is who we engage with, how we engage with them, and how our success is measured. Ten years ago, a feature story in the New York Times had at least a one-day shelf life, and you could track the timing of a business surge with that placement. Today, the same New York Times story has a 15-minute shelf life that will only be extended through social engagement. To surround the right audience with the right message at scale, it takes a much more integrated effort that is supported with analytics that help us get even better over time.

Bonus Q: What advice would you give tech CEOs when it comes to media relations?

A: As soon as possible, learn the difference between a marketing message and news, and you will go very far.

By: Rob Cronin

Rob leads WCG's digital health practice. You can reach him at and

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

#SomeonetellCNN Africa is the New Social Media Marketplace

Posted by: in Analytics, Communication, Culture, Facebook, Intern/Internship, Marketing Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends on August 25, 2015

TREND-AFRICABefore moving to London, I spent four years living in Nairobi, Kenya. A few years back, while getting ready for an anniversary weekend, I distinctly remember receiving a phone call from my boyfriend’s brother (who was in London) asking whether we were safe. Immediately confused, we started scanning the internet to see what happened. Minutes later twitter posts appeared about a terrorist attack at Westgate Mall. The date was September 21, 2013. At the time, it did not surprise me that Twitter had the news before anyone else. But looking back, I see it as a clear signal of the rising influence of social media throughout Africa, a trend that only continues to grow.

It would be a stretch to say Twitter is used by every Kenyan, or that Meru grandparents are posting regular pictures of their kids on Facebook. But since the first tweet was sent from Kenya in 2007 to receiving its own local feed in 2013, over 5 million tweets have been sent from the country. Twitter is the third largest social media platform in Kenya with Facebook dominating and Linkedin a far second. Over 4 million users in Kenya, (around 10% of the population), make Kenyan social media a force to be reckoned with. These online users represent urban populations with growing pocket books, and a thirst for information from around the Globe. Of course, Kenya is one of fifty four African nations with online chatter, and while social media has not penetrated all nations on the continent, the numbers continue to rise. So what does this emerging social media trend in Africa imply for the future of online marketing and communication? Here are a few interesting insights I picked up from the Kenyan market.

  1. Mobile is king. We hear this everywhere, but it is even more relevant in nations like Kenya where development has skipped the personal computer all together. I took a ten hour bus and forty five minute motorbike to visit my friend’s family in rural Kenya near Lake Victoria. While they had no electricity on their compounds, guess what, they had cell phones! The police station nearby had a shop where people could pay 20p to charge their phones. Ninety-nine percent of internet usage in Kenya comes from mobile devices. Personal Computers are too expensive, and electricity is too scarce. As CNN says, not only is Africa a mobile first continent, but it is a mobile only continent. This means mobile marketing is the way forward, and in markets like Kenya, think Facebook and Twitter communication. Not everyone has a smart phone, and Kenyans often access twitter and Facebook via SMS. Safaricom (the largest mobile provider in Kenya) answers immense amounts of customer service via Twitter. In these formats, online chat is available via SMS, a necessity in a country where not everyone can afford smart phones. Realizing this, Google recently started offering g-chat via SMS as well. Do not forget mobile money. Through Mpesa (a mobile product that allows people to pay for things via their mobile phone), Kenya has the largest usage of mobile money in the world. Since credit cards are limited to the extremely wealthy, Mpesa has allowed people around the country to gain access to financial institutions without formal bank accounts. Find a way to connect your products to mobile money, and you can sell to the masses.
  2. Market research is possible, and it must be taken with a grain of salt. With only around 10% of the population in Kenya, there are a lot of people missing from the online conversation. But those who are present are more likely to be your customers – the urban middle class youth. It is also important to note that these youth are incredibly influential on the wider population. But remember there is a huge gap with reference to the elderly, and the very poor, so if you are looking for information on them, social media may not be the best method.
  3. Cultural sensitivity is paramount. CNN found this out the hard way after talking about Obama’s visit to a ‘hotbed of terror’ ~ Nairobi. Nairobians responded with over 75,000 tweets in one day to the hashtag #SomeonetellCNN forcing a senior executive of CNN to fly to Nairobi and apologize. They still are in jeopardy of losing a marketing deal from the Kenya Tourism Board. This means whether you are selling products in Africa or not, be careful about stereotyping a continent, or making assumptions in your communications. People are not forgiving to being stereotyped, and are loyal to brands that show respect. Earn yourself the next generation of brand loyalists, and be smart about how you talk about different nations, there are several twitter wars going on between Uganda and Kenya, and people do not like being lumped in a bunch!

While I was there for the awful Westgate Attack, rather than deeming Nairobi as a hotbed of terror, I saw a nation willing to fight back and use Twitter to do it.

If you want to learn more about how social media is changing the world, come to the #PreCommerce summit in London and hear insights from world-class industry experts and leaders, in spaces from health and technology to government intelligence. The Summit will be a great platform to geek out about how social media helps us understand the world!

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.