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.


  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.


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?


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?