Monday, 10 December 2012

An eye for an eye, etc.


Last week, a tragic event occurred in England. A nurse, after receiving a prank call from somebody purporting to be the Queen of England, transferred a call through the hospital switchboard to a senior colleague. 

The senior colleague, who also believed she was speaking to royalty, then divulged information on a patient to them.

The pranksters in question were from a radio station in Australia.

The call in question quickly went viral. In fact, as soon as it was broadcast and put on the site, it was global news. Questions were asked. Brows were furrowed. How could this kind of security lapse have been allowed to happen?

Punishments were demanded. Sackings were demanded. Copy and paste status updates abounded on Facebook. ‘How could this be allowed to happen? REPOST IF U AGREE’. I no hun. Tragic.

And then something truly tragic happened.

One of the nurses, the one who had originally put the call through, took her own life.

The news quickly went viral. It was global news. Questions were asked. Hands were wringed. How could this have been allowed to happen?

Punishments were demanded. Sackings were demanded. Copy and paste status updates abounded on Facebook. ‘How could this be allowed to happen? REPOST IF U AGREE’. I no hun. Tragic.


But when we really look at the the cold hard facts, who is really to blame, and is there/should there be any blame apportioned?

I look to Twitter and Facebook, the pulse and echo chamber of society today, and sometimes what I see saddens me. 


People who have no interest in biblical teachings talking of blood on hands, an eye for an eye, misquoting passages, demanding punitive action to be taken against those responsible.

I am not a religious man, but I know piety when I see it.

Can nobody see that this is a tragedy that, to a certain extent, we all played a part in?

We crave gossip and tittle-tattle. We love ‘banter’. When somebody is hurt by our deeds, ‘we were only having a laugh’.

The media want your eyes on their page. They want to sell your page views, your unique impressions to advertisers. So they (we) give in to these needs. We bully, we belittle and we speculate.

But what happens when an innocent person has their life smashed to pieces in the process?

Funnily enough, we choose to become observers again. We blend into the crowd - the mob. And we chase a new victim.

Let me get one thing clear - I abhor the prank call format in radio. I think it’s cheap, deeply unfunny, and often very boring. It’s a format responsible for the careers of number of presenters (who I won’t name) that I have to say are about as funny as laying in a bath full of nails whilst listening to a Throbbing Gristle box set.

But these presenters are not the cause of this tragedy. This is a collective responsibility that we all share.

The media, the tweeters, the copy-and-pasters and the aural voyeurs. We are all to blame in varying degrees. So why don’t we take a look at ourselves before blaming others.

Lets ask ourselves what we as individuals, and as a society bound together by flesh, blood, trinkets and technology, can do to stop another individual taking their lives as a result of mainstream and citizen-led ridicule.

And if you see fit, why not donate a bit of money to suicide prevention charities that dedicate their resources to trying to prevent vulnerable people from taking their own lives?

But most importantly: the next time you have a though pop into your head that is cruel, discriminatory or could cause upset to others - please think twice before you post it. PLEASE.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Instagram vs. Twitter: Who really wins when we all lose?

Instagram vs Twitter


You might have seen the articles today about Instagram, and their decision to withdraw support for Twitter Cards for their platform. It’s caused a shit-storm on the tech scene, with Mike Arrington, The Verge and many other sources weighing in with their opinion on the decision.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has came out with an apologetic yet defensive response at the LeWeb conference stating that the decision was made to protect their data, and ensure eyes were heading to their platform, and not viewable on other platforms. Something they’d never do to Tumblr. Or Facebook.

Are they really trying to tell us that this decision wasn’t a bit of tit-for-tat retalitation over Twitter blocking Instagram from using their Friend Finder API? Yes, they really are. They say they have a ‘really good relationship with Twitter’, despite recent events.

But how can that really be true? Are the team at Instagram really asking us to believe that when making this decision, the Friend Finder API issue wasn’t considered as a black mark against Twitter’s name?

Of course it was. STOP BULLSHITTING US, KEVIN.

The biggest losers in all of this is, of course, you and I.

We all want connectivity. In terms of what a Utopian future of what online connectivity is, we all dream of having seamless, open collaboration between platforms. What happens on Instagram goes to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. It’s simple for us, and the advantage of being able to create once and publish everywhere is a standard that many companies are adopting, whether it’s in-app, on-site, or even via their CMS.

What Twitter, Facebook and now Instagram are doing is essentially trying to work in the most counter-productive/intuitive way possible for users, and justifying it by saying that they own our details and content on their platforms (actually, to be fair, Facebook allow you to download and remove most of your data - they are a lot more transparent than Twitter and Instagram at the moment - shocked much?).

The problem with that argument is: if you piss of your users, it doesn’t matter if you have their personal details. Did you see what happened to Myspace? That’s right: if you don’t play nicely with others, you are going to lose relevancy with your users pretty quickly. They won’t give a shit if you have their details - they won’t care what you have to say. And in the social web we inhabit, that’s lethal.

So Instagram, Twitter, any social platform that operates in this manner: learn to play nicely. Learn to be a bit more open than you currently are. Customers will forgive you if you pivot with your product - just don’t be stupid and pivot on them.

What do you say?

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Getting the digital begging bowl out

It's that time of year again when I get out my digital begging bowl and ask you all to help a blogger out...

Could you take a couple of minutes out of your day to nominate this site, www.thewhatnoise.com for the annual Top Ten Social Media Blogs contest?

I know it’s a bit of an ask, and potentially a bit of a pain in the arse, but here’s a few reasons why I think that you could vote for me, if you wanted to.

If you could read these reasons whilst listening to this amazing track from Edwin Starr, I’d really appreciate it:



  1. I share relevant information: as a Community Manager for brands such as Ministry of Sound, Real Radio and Smooth Radio, rather than simply writing about social media and the challenges it faces from the outside looking in, I’m actually there, day-in, day-out, talking to consumers on social channels. Many of the case studies on my blog are from projects I’ve undertaken - no white papers about projects that others have worked on. Tangible, useable information.
  2. I’m from ‘outside the bubble’: I don’t live in San Francisco, New York, London or Cupertino. I live in Manchester, and I’m originally from Southampton. You can’t get much more out of the bubble than that. It gives me hindsight, and gives me the liberty and freedom to say whatever I like, without worrying about treading on a VC’s toes, or upsetting a precious entrepeneur, should I ever wish to write about a startup. So that’s what I do.
  3. I don’t publish press releases or promotional pieces and present them as meaningful content.
  4. I love the fresh, fresh feeling of Batiste Instant Hair Refresh in my hair after a long day.
  5. I don’t just talk about how ‘great’ the Old Spice viral campaign was - I ACTUALLY USE OLD SPICE. To clean under my arms, in intimate areas, and, in extreme circumstances, to clean my teeth. In your face, Ray Mears.
  6. I support a deeply unfashionable football team - Southampton FC. So I’d really appreciate winning something for a change.
  7. I own THESE, thanks to my wonderful girlfriend:
  8. I once tried to bring bell bottoms back into fashion single handedly. It didn’t end well, but I think that means that I’m a fearless risk-taker of some kind.
  9. I listen to the ‘Chocolate Cake’ sketch by Bill Cosby at least once a day.
  10. If I don’t have ten things in a list, it makes me nervous

If those reasons are not enough to sway you into a genuine, well intentioned vote for this blog, then I understand. Really, I do. But if you want to...

What do you need to do to help a brother out?

Well, all you need to do is

  1. Head to the Social Media Examiner site.
  2. Add a comment to the bottom of this post.
  3. Nominate www.thewhatnoise.com - but only if you want to.
  4. Let them know why you are nominating me. If could be for a variety of reasons, but please only do it if you genuinely like my work, or it’s helped you in some way in any time.

I’ll keep you updated on my Facebook page as to whether or not I get shortlisted for the award. I hope I do, but there are loads of fantastic blogs out there on social media, and I’m just a little fish in that huge pond, so any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks for your time, and for your vote - normal service will be resumed shortly.

Ben

Monday, 3 December 2012

Social Client Review: Sprout Social






If you’ve been researching social tools for yourself or your business, chances are that at some point you’ve come across Sprout Social.

Sprout Social is a social management and measurement tool that’s pitched at slightly higher-end companies.

Initially ran on a freemium model (it has now changed it’s pricing structure), I initially started using it for our social properties here at Real Radio and Smooth Radio.


Here’s the price rundown:




After testing it for a couple of months, I decided to recommend to the business that we upgrade our service with them to the deluxe package. It allows us to manage all of our Facebook, Twitter and (personal) LinkedIn accounts from the same place.

In addition to this, you can also measure referral traffic in Google Analytics if you plug your account into their platform.

It produces nice, clear and engaging reports, really breaking down the impact that your campaigns are having and presenting it in a view that everybody from your boss to the CEO can understand.

From a user-experience perspective, the platform looks pretty neat, with all of the features broken down into six buttons at the top of the page.




Home: Provides a general overview of your account activity and impact.

Messages: Allows you to see every message your accounts send and receive. This can be broken down to individual accounts, or used as a group view. It also allows you to assign certain tasks to team members, and check on the status.

Feeds: Is a place where you can view your Twitter and LinkedIn timelines and reply to them. It also allows you to connect your Google Reader to enable you to share your articles pretty quickly with your audience.

Scheduler: This is where you can check the scheduled messages you have going out, amend them where necessary and play around with a feature called Sprout Queue. It’s essentially a way of queueing content to it can go out at the most relevant time to your audience.  You can set this yourself - in fact, I’d recommend it, as it means you can actually know when your update is public, and be available to respond.

Discovery: This is where you can search for keywords, terms and content relating to your assets and campaigns. It’s great if you have a specific campaign that you want to track, or if you just want to follow and respond to customer queries/mentions of your brand across Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, the wider web and blogs.

You can also helps you to find influential users, and helps you to spring-clean who you are following, grouping together inactive/sporadic accounts where you can see them, and suggesting other people and brands that may be more beneficial to follow.

Measurement: This is where Sprout social really comes into it’s own.

Using Sprout’s measurement system, you can get a fully-consolidated report that encompasses Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter stats. You can also break these down for more detailed reports across the platforms.

In addition to this, it also allows you to run wicked Twitter comparisons, which allow you to compare how well you are engaging your fans compared with other accounts. 






All of these reports are downloadable in PDF or CSV format, which is great.

So, add this all together and you have a comprehensive social media management and measurement system - right?

Not quite - I think it could do better in the following fields:

Google+: There is currently no support for G+. Although I know that this is not unique in the social platform management eco-system thanks to G+’s API currently being closed, it would be great if a  few other paid platforms would have had this sorted by now, in the way that Hootsuite has. Having spoken to their CEO, Justyn Howard, I know that they are working on it - I just wish that they’d hurry up. But then I am impatient so.

Usability: Although the staggering amount of information available to you is mind-boggling at times, the user experience can be a bit slow and clunky at times. Compared to other social management platforms it's actually quite slow, although I would say that information is the focus of the product here, rather than speed.

Final thoughts:

Sprout Social is fantastic, but in a crowded market, it's not for everybody, and I'd only recommend it for large businesses and power users.

Why? I don’t think it would work as well for a small business as Hootsuite does. It’s more of a measurement and scheduling platform than a real-time engagement platform. I’d struggle to really justify spending a minimum of $39 (£24 GBP) per month for access to the information when you have so many other helpful suites, such as Hootsuite, which also offer integration with services such as Tumblr, Instagram and more (via it’s app platform). It’s just not comprehensive enough from the management side.

Analytically though, Sprout social is head and shoulders above Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, its closest competitors. It provides the most user-friendly analytics that I’ve seen in a social platform, and is clearly the focal point and centrepiece of the service. Adding Google analytics into the mix, along with the easy comparison tools, sets this quite a distance away from the rest of the pack.

So for that reason, Sprout gets a seven out of ten from me. Like most social management suites, it’s just not there yet, but I hope it does, as they are an incredibly likeable company.

7/10

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

It's Viral: John Lewis/Jagger Lewis

Real Radio Wales

Just thought I'd dash off a quick blog post to share with you a nice piece of work that's been produced by Real Radio Wales to share online.

It's a nifty little response to the latest John Lewis Christmas advert, based around our breakfast show presenters, Jagger and Woody.

Just a bit of fun to lighten your day, hope you enjoy it!



Here's the original in case you haven't seen it too:


Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What are the best social management & measurement tools?

Social Media Measurement
Attribution Some rights reserved by chefranden

It’s always difficult when you start out to get a handle on how to measure your social media efforts.

When you are posting to your wall, and not seeing a response, why are you not seeing a response? Which posts were the most popular and why? What should I be doing less of? What time is the optimum time to post?

All those questions, and the worst thing is that a simple Google search brings up a multitude of answers.

The way a greengrocer sells a cabbage is different to how Nike sells it’s new football boots, but the actual measurement metrics that you use can be the same. And therein lies the rub.

You’ve defined your online and offline strategy, but how do you manage that strategy digitally? How do you know that you are being successful?

The answer to these questions and more reside within your business. It’s the seeds you sell. It’s the cars you build. You want to sell more of those? Then you need to talk to people about them. And that’s where social comes in.

But how can you measure the success of those conversations? Pick a target - any target.

You want more people in your shop? Measure footfall over a two week period.

You want more people to buy tickets to your latest show? Be a pal and make it easy for them to find it, and then track the conversions (amount of people who bought a ticket) in Google Analytics. People aren’t converting? Either your product needs to be improved, or the way you are positioning it does.

How many people are talking about you on social platforms? With Twitter that’s pretty easy to measure - a lot of the information shared on there is public, and you can measure a great deal of it with tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Topsy and Sprout Social.

Track mentions of your product, and track mentions of products related to yours. Anybody in your area fancy a bagel? Well, why don’t they come and have a try of one of yours! Find them, because they are talking about you. And you can be granular.

With Facebook, it’s a little trickier. Whilst a lot of information is available publicly, the way that it is measured is down to the privacy settings of the users, and the quality of the insight-scraping is scrappy at best.

In the coming weeks I'm going to share with you the social measurement and management tools that I use on a regular basis, and give each a fair, unvarnished review. I hope it'll help.

I'll be back with a handy review of Sprout Social next Tuesday - hope you can join me!

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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Social Media Reporting: What you should be measuring

Social Media Measurement

How do you measure your social media goals?

Do you measure them at all? 


You should be, because your competitors probably are. It's important because if you ever want to become a market leader in your given field - whether it's a B2B crane business, or a radio station, you need to know if you are growing, and being successful at what you do.

But first things first. You cannot become a market leader IN social media. So stop chasing the big numbers because they are sexy. Stop coveting the followings of Nike, Lady Gaga and Barack Obama - the realistic numbers may be much, much smaller for you, but they can be as effective in terms of scale. I could show you a page or account with sixty or seventy members which has a better engagement rate (fans vs % of fans talking about that brand) than any of the giant brands mentioned above.

But those small numbers aren't very sexy, are they? Well, there's a reason for that: numbers aren't sexy, silly. Stop focusing on the numbers, and focus on how social can help you achieve your business goals.

These are the questions that you should be asking yourself when it comes to finding out what to measure on a social platform. I've dropped a few handy prompts in to get you thinking. A full-blown social strategy will take time and effort - and probably a whole book to explain the nuances of. But I hope these questions will start to get you thinking about what to measure and benchmark to enable you to grow.

Social measurement questions: 

  1. What would you classify as a successful business in your field?
  2. What are your business goals?
  3. How can social media help you achieve those goals?

    REMEMBER: Social media is first and foremost a communication platform. One that you use to communicate with friends, family and people that you share interests with on a daily basis. You're going to want to talk to your customers, aren't you? Well, here's your opportunity!

    Conversations exist for a number of reasons, but never forget that there is a transactional action inherent in all of them. But to increase the likelihood of the transaction that you want to take place happening, you must first build your influence with that person. Think of it like this: if a stranger asked me to empty their dishwasher, I'd tell them to do one. On the other hand, if my girlfriend, mum, dad or nan asked me to, I'd do it in a shot - because I have a connection with them. As a brand, you are never going to have that sort of affinity with your audience - but it still doesn't stop you from having a positive connection with them. Work towards that.

  4. Which top level stats should I be measuring?

    Conversation and conversion. Initially conversation. Retweets, @replies, comments, likes (of your content, not simply your page) and +1's on the relevant platforms

    The amount that you talk with your audience is incredibly important when you first start out. You can hand out flyers, put a sticker up on your door or send out a mail-out pointing them towards your social site. But that all means nothing if once they get there it's just an empty space. Invest some time and energy into making your social spaces as rich as you would do your own surroundings. It can make the difference between somebody remembering your brand as one that gives a shit, or one that does.

  5. What qualifies as success?

    Remember, this is where the bottom line of your business comes in. If you run a coffee shop, are you noticing the same faces coming back in day after day to order? Are they the people who you are reaching out to with social?

    If you are an eCommerce platform or site, how many of your referrals are coming through to your site from social sources? And how long are these users spending on your site?

    I've carried out research across core brand websites in my business (Real Radio, Smooth Radio and Real Radio XS), and I found that whilst our social referrals are traditionally lower than standard direct links or SEO activity, they are of a higher value. In fact, they visit twice as many pages, and spend twice as long on the site per visit. So our social audience are some our most loyal visitors and listeners. We value them highly, as you should with your special customers.

    If you are a B2B business selling cranes - then how many trade journalists are writing about you? How many people are talking about relevant subjects to your business on your LinkedIn group? Just because you are in the construction industry doesn't mean that you don't have advocates. Be an authority, empower your advocates, because in the world of B2B more now than ever, a small hat-tip in the right direction can make all the difference.
So, to sum all of these questions up, if you would really like to know what you should start with measuring socially with your business, I would recommend the following:

1. Conversation

2. Reach

3. Referrals

4. Impact on business goals


But most importantly of all, when you are sat around having a conversation with this community you have fostered, remember that for all of the measurements that you are taking and the money you could be making, that these are the people that matter. Your advocates on social matter.

Because they are special. They are valuable. They are what is keeping the lights on where you work. And don't you forget it.

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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Edgerank has changed again? Then stop being lazy and deal with it!

Crying Child

There’s been more than a bit of coverage over the past few weeks about how Facebook, in light of their IPO a few months ago, are altering Edgerank for brands to reduce the amount of paid exposure you are getting in a user's newsfeed.

But what’s the actual motivation behind the gripes? I’ll tell you what they are from a community managers point of view - and I think you’ll find it unpalatable.

It’s because Community Managers don’t want to have to work any harder. And that’s a shitty attitude to take.

My gut feeling about the changes when I first heard of them was ‘great, now I have to go to my higher-uppers and stakeholders, and tell them that the reason they aren’t getting as much reach is because they aren’t spending enough money.’ Bit selfish? Yes. It is. I gave myself a slap.

It’s the kind of flat-earth, ‘don’t want to know’ attitude that we are supposed to be fighting.

Facebook, like Google, is entitled to monetise access to it’s core proposition - it’s massive user base. They have bills to pay and lights to keep on, and innovations to drive on their platform.

They are not a public service, they are a business built on monetising users details.

You are not entitled to completely free marketing from Facebook. And somebody following your brand isn’t going to lose any sleep if they see less of your updates in their news feed if their only interaction with them has been by getting them to click ‘Like’ on your page in exchange for some goodies.

As a user, my newsfeed is starting to resemble the floor of a trade show, rather than a place where my friends hang out when they are at work and share stuff. It bores the arse off of me. And I am a Community Manager.

There are currently too many branded messages in news feeds. But my friends are there, (and their friends, and so on) and I don’t want to move to a network where I might not be able to keep up with them.

Facebook know this, but they also know that a user’s patience is finite. They’ve learnt from Myspace’s mistakes.

And I’m glad they have. I agree with this latest move. Want to even the balance? Then it’s down to you to produce better content.

If you want an ad-free equivalent to Facebook? Try Diaspora (open source goodness) or Google+ (for now). But don’t count on many of your friends being there for the time being.

You are on Facebook. Your friends are on Facebook. Brands want to be on Facebook and reach you and your friends. And that’s why Facebook are monetising your newsfeed.

QED.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Why you should have a social media strategy

Y U No Strategise?

Do you have a business? If, so, do you have a business strategy? Do you have a social profile for the business? If so, then you need a social media strategy.

But the word strategy, in itself, is pretty scary. Even if you are an experienced business person. I’ve written strategies, and it’s a scary prospect.

But here’s the secret: It doesn’t have to be scary. All you need is to bear in mind this simple acronym, and all will be well.

K.I.S.S:

  1. Keep
  2. It
  3. Simple
  4. Socially



Want an image to help keep that in your head? Your wish is my command...

KISS - Keep it simple socially

Here's the secret: You don’t have to sit down and churn out a fifty page social document. You aren’t a big brand*.

So you have to be smart. Just incorporate it into your business strategy (you have one of those? I hope so!). You don’t have stakeholders to please, you just have customers. If you have staff, then you have help to implement your goals. Break it down. Encourage your colleagues and employees to KISS (not literally, that breaks work policy).

If you are a small business, you can succeed in social media. Don’t let people tell you otherwise. Don’t let people tell you it’s a pipe dream.

You don’t need big budgets, just big ideas and ambition. Make no mistake, social media is the new battleground for mindshare in the internet age, and it’s always on.

Don’t miss out. Make sure you weave social into your business. It’s not about return on investment - it’s about communication. Do you want to out your store somewhere busy and familiar, or do you want to open it in a shed somewhere in the Scottish Highlands?

Think about it that way. Simply. And assume that your competition, whoever they may be, is already on social, and doing it better than you. Does that keep you eager? If not, then question why you are in business!

I wish you every luck on your journey. I’ll be with you every step of the way.

*And if you are a big brand, and you want to write a comprehensive social media strategy = then just hire me.

Monday, 29 October 2012

'Honest' Content, Jimmy Savile and the BBC

Jimmy Savile

Unless you are from overseas, or have been hiding under a rock for the past month, there has really only been one news story in the UK press - and that is Jimmy Savile.

The distasteful allegations and subsequent media fallout has engulfed the British press, which has been whipped into a state of almost-unheard of hysteria. ALMOST.

At the centre of this storm? The BBC.

A publicly-owned company, the BBC have got themselves into major trouble. Many departments had the opportunity to prevent Savile from being a danger to young children, but a combination of bureaucracy, ‘turning the other cheek’ and a lack of proper investigation allowed a man like Jimmy to hide in plain sight for so long.

But throughout this whole case, who do you think has been the most vocal critic of the organisation has been? Well, funnily enough, it’s the BBC.

The Monday night edition of their Panorama programme launched a stinging critique on the organisation, with criticism of the working culture at The Beeb that allowed this to happen.

Jimmy Savile Documentary


It was fantastic.

And for all of the talk that we are hearing with regards to content marketing, you have to admire the BBC for putting their head above the parapet, and opening themselves up for internal soul-searching and questioning.

How many private companies would be this honest about their mistakes?

What do you think?

When you hire somebody to provide content, are you looking for somebody to help you cover up your mistakes, market your business and unequivocally support every decision you make? If so, then you are going about it in the wrong way.

The landscape, as of this past week, has changed, and will continue to change. You can no longer expect or demand unequivocal positivity and loyalty from your bloggers and employees, and it could be the best thing that ever happens to you.

After all - what kind of business could be successful without a little bit of honesty? How can you expect to be trusted to solve a customer's problem if you can’t be trusted to own up to it, acknowledge it, and solve it yourself?

I guarantee that the first company to swallow this bitter pill and run with it will get the rewards they deserve.

We have now seen a company holding itself to account, delivering an honest and just critique that was demanded by the public but instigated by the company.

Now you will be expected to do the same. So get ready.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Defining your social media strategy: a quick pep talk

Socially Awesome Penguin - social media remix

How do you measure your companies social media goals? DO YOU have any social goals?

Tough questions, aren't they?

It’s not easy. Especially seeing as the only social platforms with effective built in analytics platforms are Facebook and blog sites such as Blogger and Wordpress. Most of the time, we are relying on companies to feed us information about Twitter from their API. It’s not ideal, is it? We’d all like the data to be more accessible, but I’m aware that this can come with a cost.

The truth is with social media strategy and measurement is that there is not a universal answer to how a company can measure their social success against their business goals.

But you should definitely be doing it - because you can be sure that your competitors are.

If you are already doing it, and measuring to boot - who are you measuring yourself against? Your own social media goals, or are you just keeping up with the Joneses, wanting more followers than your closest competitor?

Let me tell you something - if you are trying to compete with a rival organisation in terms of follower/friend numbers, you’re making a big mistake.

Never, ever compare yourself, favourably or otherwise, with your competition on social networks, and use their numbers as a benchmark for your own success. It’s a fools errand.

Why?

Because they are probably doing the same thing to you. Which means that neither of you are trying something different. Neither of you are being creative.

What do you do when you finally overtake your competitors on social networks in terms of engagement (comments/@replies/+1’s/retweets of your content, your own conversations feeding this engagement)? Don’t know? You’re not prepared? Then you are in trouble.

Social Media Cat

The key on social platforms is engagement - so spend the time having conversations with your audience, invest time in growing your platform, and yes, take case studies and best practice tips from competitors and market leaders.

But don’t copy, or make the mistake of competing in an arms race with your competitors on social.

Put your customer first. Invest in them. Set your own benchmarks - and then grow them.

And try to remember why you are there in the first place. Remember that you are the human representative of a business, and conversations are how you spread the word about your business in the real world.

So go forth and be social!

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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Authenticity, social media, and knowing what truth really is

courage wolf

“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Honesty and authenticity is a thorny issue when it comes to social media. Bloody hell, it’s a thorny issue when it comes to life in general! You only have to take a look at the honesty peddled by politicians and those in positions of power to see that their version of honesty is really nothing more than a half-truth, balanced between facts and beliefs.

So, really, unless we’re talking about the sun rising and setting, death or taxes, I think that we can all afford to be a little bit more flexible with our perceptions of truth. There is no universal truth, and if you were to find it eventually, you certainly wouldn’t find it on Twitter or Facebook.

Our perception of truth, if we’re honest with ourselves, is that the truth is something we agree with. It’s why Barack Obama tells us his truth. It’s why Mitt Romney tells us truth. It’s why this woman is telling her truth to people when she says that Obama is a communist...



She’s lying, Barack’s lying, Mitt’s lying, we’re all lying. We have to come to terms with this, in real life, as in social media. And I’m not just talking to us as individuals - I’m talking about brands too.

So speak up!

This doesn’t of course mean that you need to remain silent.

Never be afraid to express your own worldview. Don’t be afraid to have bold opinions, as a business or an individual.

Don’t sit on the sidelines as a business in social media: actively engage with your audience, know them and focus on them. Agree, or disagree with them. Treat them like adults, for crying out loud.

If that means that you lose a section of the market? Then so what - you’re not Facebook. Most businesses that try to be universal, ‘everything to everyone’ on social media and in the real world fail miserably, or fail to attract enough people that give a shit - that want to talk to you.

Take Bodyform in the example below:



Having a sense of humour, and not being afraid to take the piss out of a boring, boorish Facebook post on their wall.

That’s a brand being honest. And that’s why it’s going viral.

You know what? Sometimes we all know that we can be unreasonable. We all say stupid things, and have unrealistic expectations. I think it’s refreshing to see a business openly say to somebody ‘I think you’re a bit of a knobhead’.

THAT’S HONESTY. That’s their truth. That’s them being authentic - knowing their audience would love it too was obviously their aim, but we all know that.

I think that the sentiment I’ve been trying to express over the course of this authenticity series of blog posts is summed up perfectly in this quote by Maya Angelou:

“Let's tell the truth to people. When people ask, 'How are you?' have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don't want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.” Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Now feel free to give me your honest opinion in the comments section below. I promise not to cry.

Friday, 12 October 2012

One minute case study: The Plane Crash

The Plane Crash - ticket


Last night I was lucky enough, along with my girlfriend Ana, to survive a plane crash, thanks to an engenious piece of social media/digital marketing.

Channel 4 screened their eagerly-anticipated documentary experience 'The Plane Crash' last night, and as somebody with a naturally morbid curiousity, I was keen to watch it and be a part of it. Luckily, Channel 4 had it covered.

The masterstroke of the whole programme was, in my opinion, how they made an effort to keep the programme as simple as possible, whilst not driving everybody towards social media channels every five seconds like we're ADHD-riddled morons. I didn't see one hash tag attached to the show - which is nice. It's the sort of programme that due to it's scale and serious content matter that didn't really need to be oversold via social.

The cleverest part of the experience was the online check-in process, giving people the opportunity to feel like they were involved in the programme. Kind of like a death lottery - but one you had the option to tune into, and didn't involve any loss of life.

It tapped into people's fears, and people's familiarity of checking in online to create a great piece of content that spread virally through Facebook and Twitter.

The Plane Crash - Facebook checkin


The reason it went viral, however, wasn't BECAUSE of social media, it was just a great idea that utilised social media. No annoying hashtags, no dribbling muppets on TV reading out Twitter comments about the show beginning with the word 'LOL! I fink...'

Simple, effective, fun. I liked it a lot.

And what did I do first thing this morning when I got into work? I logged in to check my seating position - revisiting the website, and sharing the result. Good news! Ana and I would both have survived! Some people I work with, however, weren't so lucky.

The Plane Crash - survival notification


It even had some nifty data to play with, showing the seats that people were most likely to pick. Funnily enough, seats next to the exit were the most popular.

The Plane Crash -  online checkin
A smart use of the data available, presented in a smart and engaging style.

This is the sort of engaging, smart multi-platform experience that Channel 4 should be investing more in post Big Brother. More please.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

'Social Media Expert Wanted'

Social Media Cat Expurrt

Thought I'd take a break from normal transmission to share this nugget of a job with you:

Social Media Expert


Sent to me by a mate, I opened it thinking I’d find another funny status update from Failbook, or an Oatmeal comic (which it seems I cannot escape any more, or have the option to hide from - a bit like Paddy McGuinness or a Nuclear war).

But it wasn’t.

It was a post on somebody’s Facebook wall asking for somebody to refer a ‘social media expert’ to them.

When they were called out on it by another individual, he/she comes back with the feeble reply of ‘loads of grads are social media savvy’. Well yes, but you don’t come out of college or university as a ready made expert. I should know - I was a bit of a muppet by all accounts until around the age of 26.

My fear is that people actually think that it's fair to somehow snag a graduate fresh out of university, call them an expert, pile work on top of them that they may not be prepared or skilled for, and pay them a salary that for London is verging on scandalously low for a professional. I’ve lived on it there, in fact I moved up there in 2004 on a salary of £12k - shopping on £5 per week is not a fun experience, let me tell you.

It’s not fair.

The phrase ‘expert’ used in conjunction with social media is toxic to many people in our profession for a reason. Why?

I think Peter Shankman sums it up best:
“Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge.”
Taking that logic and expanding upon it, I could vouch for my expertise in a number of key skills:

Things I am an expert in:
  • Spending at least 20 minutes at a time on the toilet
  • Not understanding card games
  • Using Spotify to listen to music from the 1980s
  • I am a skilled Barista - well, I make three cups of instant coffee EVERY DAY. But it’s good coffee - my trick is to put the milk in first
  • Fright Night (1987)
  • Fright Night 3D (2011)
  • The Lost Boys
  • The Lost Boys 2 screenplay
  • Folding my own laundry
My point is this - yes, you could get a graduate, hire them in and call them a social media expert, but it’s the same as making a six year old a television producer because they watch a lot of it.

I wonder if this ‘dynamic and established American brand’ is aware that somebody acting on their behalf is suggesting getting a graduate or a ‘second jobber’ to fully handle the social media aspect of their launch in the UK? Handling the strategy, working with multiple departments, generating ideas, implementing them? Really?

Really?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sportsmen & sportswomen on Twitter - let them be heard loud and clear

Brian Clough and Muhammad Ali

I may be about to voice an uncomfortable truth here, but bear with me, as I hope that you’ll understand by the end of this post.

I think that sports men and women, particularly footballers, get an incredibly rough deal on social media sites - and I don’t think it’s fair.

Why? Well, let me explain.

Professional sports, whilst being entertainment for me and millions of other people around the globe, is actually a job to some. One with irregular hours, lots of travelling, and no real guarantee of job stability - offset by a wage packet that takes these variables into account. On top of that, imagine working at a job that you’ve been training for all of your life - since you could kick, throw or dribble a ball, you’ve been focused on one thing - being the very best at what you do. And once you get there, you have to remain the best, until somebody else, or your body, tells you otherwise.

It’s a tough life. Given, there are plenty of benefits. But it’s still tough.

Now - add to that the expectations of thousands, and in some cases millions of people. The expectation that you should not only be a fantastic sports person, but also a superb role model. If that wasn’t bad enough, you are expected by everybody you come into contact with to be a fantastically, authentically great human being. Perfect on the field, exemplary off of it. All under the gaze of the world’s media. And us. On Facebook. On Twitter.

You mess up?  You mean you’re not a genuinely great human being? YOU. ARE. TOAST.

In the past of course, it was much easier to cultivate a professional image. You just turn up at pre-approved press events, give a soundbite to a journalist, smile for a pre-approved photo opportunity, then shove off down the pub for a fag and a pint.



These days, the glare of the media spotlight is inescapable. It is easy to say of these young men and women that they should just keep their heads down and do the best they can. But it’s not the way the world works any more. To a certain extent, they are trapped in a golden cage - and we’ve joined the press in prodding them through the bars, delighting when they step out of line on social media or otherwise.

Joey Barton does not fit the typical archetype of a footballer. A reformed convict with a troubled career on and off the field, it was surprising to many when Joey joined Twitter and started to open up and engage with the world. Offering opinions, quoting George Orwell and referencing The Smiths. He upset a lot of people in the process - offering opinions on Alan Shearer, John Terry and other pros. People also laughed at him - a footballer with the supposed temerity to shake off his past and acknowledge his mistakes (past and present), whilst stating his opinions and worldview clearly.

In the NFL, of course we had the case of the Green Bay Packer T.J. Lang criticising the referees and the NFL after the stand-in referees they chose for the game against Seattle mad the bad call to end all bad calls.


It’s natural, of course, to get angry and upset where sports are involved. And Lang was part of a game that he thought his team deserved to win. He felt that he was robbed by a bad decision, he lost his temper, and he took to Twitter to have a rant. Cue hysterical retweeting and finger pointing from fellow users.

But I couldn’t get angry with either of these cases. Joey Barton and T.J. Lang are, I’m sure, more than capable of acting like idiots sometimes. But professional sport is a fundamentally emotional battleground, as well as a physical one.

Winners, losers, ups and downs. As a sports fan (primarily a football fan), I love it. It provides a plot, a storyline, a high stakes game in which I am elated when my team wins, and dejected when my team loses.

It’s what social media was invented for, to a certain extent. Our culture and society is built on stories, and stories need characters. We need people like Joey Barton. We need people like T.J. Lang.

We need sportsmen and women to be partial - why should they be denied it? Because they are in a supposedly privileged position? That doesn’t wash. They are flesh and blood, just like the rest of us.

Give me the sportspeople expressing their true selves on social media over that ridiculous advert starring Bobby Moore any day of the week. And just remember - if we strip opinion, controversy, conjecture and partiality away from sport, we strip away it’s human heart - which means that in the long run, we will end up seeing less of this...

And more Gary Linker (God forbid)

So, how about we give them a break?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Authenticity: Brands, Charities and the true power of sharing

man with megaphone


I was having a discussion with a good friend of mine yesterday whilst the idea of this blog was germinating in my head, and he raised a very interesting way of illustrating this point - how authenticity and honesty can sometimes be misconstrued by others as rudeness or ignorance.

Celebrities and brands are asked a fair bit by fans and companies to support their charitable cause by sharing it on Facebook or retweeting it on Twitter. You'd take a look at the cost to the user to share a charitable message and think - 'well, it costs me nothing to send it, I'm raising money for charity, which is a good thing, therefore they SHOULD share it'. If not, you assume that either they didn't see it, or don't like the cause. 'How can they not like the cause? It's my cause? I care about it deeply and everybody else should too. I'm not buying any of their products/albums/etc. anymore'.

WAIT! STOP! TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND DON'T TAKE OFFENSE. Nine times out of ten there is a very simple reason why, and in a way it could end up benefiting the charity you are trying to raise funds for.

When you try and explain this, you have to be very careful, because the slightest misstep can end up with you coming across as a massive, swinging dick. But I'm going to do my best to give it a go.

Simply put, it’s impossible to share every charitable request that you get as an individual or a brand. It’s not possible to make a snap value judgement on every charity, and to endorse every charitable event.That is why most influential people and businesses nominate key charities to work with, and set out to raise as much money as possible for those causes.

Most celebrities, brands and media organisations do the same, and it does make the work that these individuals and organisations do for charity more impactful and worthwhile.

If you dedicate yourself to a small selection of charities, you can make a concentrated effort, and use your social influence to get a response. The results can be impressive. If you become known as the brand or company that retweets every single 10k, every single 24 hour sing-athon, every single request for a retweet, your cache in this field drops rapidly - the value of your retweet is actually pretty low if it's retweeted by a serial retweeter. Your link will not get much attention from your intended audience, and it will just become, as Dave Gorman thoughtfully labelled it, 'wallpaper'. It benefits nobody in the equation, especially the person you are trying to help by sharing the appeal.

Being truly honest and authentic on social media is about saying ‘no thank you’ almost as often as you say yes. In fact, it could be argued that the more you say no, the more valuable your positive responses become.

If a brand that you follow or a celebrity that you know doesn’t retweet your cause, please do not be offended. The chances are that they either didn’t see your request, or have chosen for very valid reasons not to share. It’s not because they ‘don’t give a shit’, they’re not ‘uncaring arseholes’. Think about it - quite simply you cannot support every charitable cause out there. I certainly don’t. I can't. It's just not possible.

Want to get real results? Think about it. Plan your campaign socially. Try calling the company directly, or sending an email. Be creative. Stand out. Look at the ways that charities market themselves and emulate them. Also, read The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith. It contains lots of valuable, insightful and actionable advice on how to use social media to change the world for the better. If you don’t have the moolah for that now, go and visit The Dragonfly Effect’s website - it’s packed with interesting information, advice and downloads.

If you’d like to know more about the charity that I do support in my personal (non-working) life, CALM, then please visit their website, as I think you’ll find it interesting.

If not, then find the charity that means something to you, your friends or your family, and dig deep for that. Use the Dragonfly effect. Be a social charity master.

But more importantly, don't just shout into space, or into people's faces, and don't get mad if you don't get a response. Find your niche, find your powerful allies. Fundraise on Twitter in an authentic, honest and smart way. 

I guarantee it'll get you the results you need.