Social Media Uncategorized

11 simple steps to scupper your social media strategy

This far in you’d think brands would’ve started to figure out this social media malarky. There’s plenty of best practice advice available, and dare I say it, common sense should help. But still, there are plenty of examples of how brands shoot themselves in the foot with their social media strategy.

There’s no cookie cutter approach that fits all brands (and that includes your personal brand), but there are certain things you should try to avoid. Lets look at a few here:

1. Randomness as a social media strategy

Some accounts don’t seem to have any purpose. Social media is part of your comms strategy, whether you’re using it for customer service, promotion, or education. Therefore, like your PR, customer emails, or advertising, there should be a plan as to what you’re trying to achieve and the messaging you’re trying to convey. Sharing random articles, posting sporadic updates or only sharing your latest blog updates is not a social media strategy and nor, is it an effective way of building an engaged community.

2. Hashtag hijacking

A surefire way of generating some negative attention is to jump on the popularity of a hashtag when there is absolutely no connection with your brand. This has been done to disastrous effect with tragic news stories, but the trend du jour seems to be hashtags around popular TV programmes. Most often it comes across as lame, desperate and accentuates the lack of conversation around your own brand.

3. Me, me, me

Like dating, it’s a turn-off if you just talk about yourself all the time. When you’re trying to grow your business its understandable that you use your social channels to share your blog content. But people have trouble connecting with brands at the best of times, so solely sharing your own content comes across as just self-promotional. Sharing informative, useful content written by you AND others, however, will make you a helpful, valuable resource.

4. Bitching with other brands

Tesco Mobile made a bit of a name for themselves by having an edgy approach to social media. They went against the grain and took on naysayers in a humorous way. Others brands started getting drawn into conversations and some fun conversations were had. Unfortunately, this appears to have emboldened some brands into being bitchy about competing brands. Sadly, it just makes the brand look petty. Know the line not to cross and play nicely with the other boys and girls.

5. Retweeting every nice comment made about your brand

Yes, it’s great when someone says something nice about your brand. And fair enough, sharing a little of those nice comments can be useful in reinforcing to others that your product / service / advice works. Just don’t over do it. Filling your audience’s social channels up with comment after comment quickly becomes annoying. And don’t even think about retweeting the retweets of your tweet!

6. Not replying to questions from people

With bigger brands, volume can be an issue – but not an excuse – when it comes to replying to comments. It may just be me, but when someone asks you a question, it’s rude to ignore them. You wouldn’t do it in a physical store, so why online? So if you’re going to be active in social then make sure that someone is there to answer the questions, as well as posting your content. Remember, it’s supposed to be a conversation and conversations need to be two-way.


Endlessly sharing famous or inspirational quotes is not a social media strategy. It just shouts “I’ve nothing interesting to say so I’m just going to pad it out with something ‘inspirational’ that someone else once said that has probably already been endlessly tweeted by other brands who don’t know what else to say”. Or something to that effect. If you want to inspire others, do it with your own original thoughts.

8. Flogging your wares

Imagine talking to a friend in the pub and someone tapping you on the shoulder and saying “I couldn’t help but overhear you mention the word ‘car’ and wondered if you’d like to buy some motor insurance?” You’d tell them where to go, right? So, why do some brands act the same way in social media. Monitoring software is a great tool, but be considerate when joining conversations uninvited. If you want to jump in, be helpful not sales-y. Be useful, foster goodwill and you’ll have a better chance of turning the prospect into a customer when they reach the appropriate point in their buying decision-making process.

9. Buying your friends

Trust me, if anyone promises to get you 5000 followers for $100 dollars, then just hit ‘report spam’. Spending money to buy popularity is a precarious social media strategy. Quality will be low and engagement non-existent. Far better to grow organically by being really interesting and really helpful. This is all beginning to sound like a guide to making friends in real life, isn’t it? Funny that.

10. Outsourcing your voice

This is a contentious one and plenty of big brands do this. There are agencies who provide a full social service, creating assets, sharing content and responding on your behalf. What they lack, however, is authenticity. Their voice is not your voice, it can be a close facsimile, but they’ll never have the passion that you’ll have for your own brand. They also will be detached from what is happening inside your business. A maintenance page going up quickly whilst a problem is fixed may not reach the agency in time, who are busy running sponsored campaigns driving traffic to your website. That disconnect can be costly.

11. Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Hopefully you’re monitoring the impact of your social activity. Preferably in a meaningful way. It’d would be great if you can show how it’s impacting your core business (i.e. generating leads / sales), but at the very least how it’s increasing engagement with your prospective customer base. Please, though, don’t just count followers or fans – if that is the only thing that’s important you might as well go buy those 5000 followers for $100. If they’re not interacting with you, does it matter how many have clicked the follow button?

Once you’re looking at engagement metrics consider the sentiment of those interactions. 4000 mentions from a tweet isn’t a good thing if 95% of them are negative. You need to balance volume with what is being said. Is your social media activity generating positive conversations? Are people sharing your content (because they like it, not because you made a mistake or did something shocking)? If not, then you need to review your approach.

As mentioned up top, there is no cookie cutter approach to social media. You can do whatever you like – and maybe some of these tactics will work for you – but just be considerate of your audience. The social part of ‘social media’ is a big clue. People are on there to mix and share with others. As brands we need to tread carefully on their turf. Timing, relevancy and value should be the watch words of your social media strategy. Better that than bull in a china shop.

Social Media

How to avoid the #SocialFAIL

If you were on Twitter this weekend, you’ll likely have seen a couple of brands receiving considerable attention for tweets posted by their official accounts. Whilst management at Tesco Mobile may well be grinning today, the mood will likely be a little more uncomfortable in the offices of The Sun newspaper.

The Sun Showbiz account, live tweeting during Saturday’s episode of X Factor, made an ill judged attempt at being funny and topical by making a joke at the expense of beleaguered contestant Tamera Foster, who is alleged to have stolen make up from Boots. However, drawing missing child Madeleine McCann in to be the punch line of the joke drew the ire of tweeters on Saturday night.


It took nearly an hour and a half, but the account issued an apology for its mistake.

sun apology

Conversely, Tesco Mobile received plenty of praise for its response to a tweet knocking the brand.

tesco mobile comeback

This tweet went viral – at the time of writing it had been retweeted 6,401 times. It was a very well judged response. The original tweet by the member of the public had humorous intent, so the Tesco Mobile staffer responded in kind, being more playful than most brands would dare.

Interestingly, it’s not uncommon for Tesco mobile. If you check their timeline you’ll perhaps be surprised by how interactive and irreverent the account is – it even playfully spars with its competition.

Your social brand

In looking at the accounts it’s clear that both brands have taken a brand-led approach to conversation rather than a corporate-led approach. They have a view of how they wish their brand to be perceived by consumers and have decided that engaging through the use of humour is a good way to reflect that. The trouble is everyone has a very different sense of humour and you get to a certain point with jokes where you lose part of the audience. The art is in understanding where that line is and knowing when not to cross it.

Many brands struggle to put personality into their social profiles. Most tend to want to play it safe for fear of something going wrong and there being a backlash. Others are braver, realising it’s that personality that sets them apart from their competition.

So what do you need to consider for your own social media accounts?

Know your plan

Do you know what you want to achieve with your social channels? Many consider it a customer service channel, others view it as a brand building route. Many use it for both. Like with all your activity, you need to be aware of your objectives before you start. This will shape how you behave.

Know your voice

If you’ve ever done any brand development work you’ll have gone through exercises that ask questions like “what does your brand look like?”, “what does it feel like?”“what does it sound like?” The last one is key in this instance. At the very least you’ll have a tone of voice document (and if not, write one), that details how you should talk to your audience in your comms and advertising. Your social media conversation is an extension of these activities. It should be the same voice.

You may look at some of the great stuff brands are doing in social media and want to emulate it for your own brand, but using edgy language and humour because others successfully do it isn’t good business sense if it doesn’t fit with your brand. Instead, know your voice and find creative ways to engage your audience.

Everyone on the same page

Once you know your voice, you need to make sure everyone on staff representing the brand in social media knows it too. It’s not something that should just live in the head of a marketer. If your Customer Service personnel use social media to assist customers then they need to be well versed and comfortable in the way that your brand will talk. Imagine how jarring it will be if multiple employees are talking to customers in different tones of voice. You don’t want robots, but you do want consistency.

Likewise, make sure that anyone operating a social media account for your brand is fully aware of how you want them to behave. If the brand calls for you to exhibit a ‘quirky sense of humour’ make sure your employees know exactly what that means. They need to be briefed, trained, maybe do some workshops to give them some practice. That way you don’t have a staff member manning the account alone over the weekend, posting something you might regret.

This is about empowerment, not restriction. I’m not a big fan of corporate social media policies. They tend to focus on what you can’t do. I prefer guidelines – advice on things to consider when posting; about using common sense. Empowering people to make good decisions comes down to clear objectives, good planning and plenty of support. It gives you your best chance of making sure everyone is prepared to respond appropriately in the moment.

Know what to do when it all goes wrong

Okay, so you really don’t want to get to this point, but I’d urge you to think about what happens if things do go wrong. Can you answer these questions now, let alone when your brand is under fire in the socialsphere?

  • Can you quickly get a summary of what has happened and who is involved?
  • What is the plan to tackle the crisis?
  • Who in your business needs to be informed?
  • Do you remove the content?
  • Do you issue an apology? And how?
  • How do you ensure it doesn’t happen again?

You don’t want to be making this up on the fly, because you don’t know who will be around to pick up the pieces and your response could determine how your brand is remembered.

Play nicely

As an aside, Tesco Mobile did very well out of this situation, but poor Jay Feliipe took a lot of flak, which was probably not their intention. So it was nice to see this little exchange later over the weekend, with Tesco Mobile reaching out to him to offer him something to make up for all the negative attention. A nice touch. I wonder what it was?

tesco gift

Update 21/10/13 22.20 pm:

Ha ha, Tesco Mobile certainly have a sense of humour. Jat Feliipe, taking the comeback with good humour has since tweeted out a photo of the gift he received from Tesco. For a young man with specific requirements in his dating life, he’ll probably appreciate a selection of male grooming products and a copy of The Rules of the Game by Neil Strauss. And I’d hazard a guess that’s a Tesco Mobile SIM card in the background!

Nicely done, Tesco Mobile, nicely done.

Thank you @tescomobile for the gift much love for you!!

— Felipe (@JayFeliipe) October 21, 2013

Social Media Uncategorized

Digital Marketers: A Call To Advocacy

You’ve seen it before, the head-shaker. The comment left in social media that makes you roll your eyes and mutter “FFS!” under your breath.

It’s usually either blatantly wrong, unfair or just plain moronic. Either way, there just isn’t anything you can do about it.

As a representative of the brand you know you can’t retaliate, you can’t appear defensive and you can’t tell them where to stick their custom if they’re not happy with your perfectly reasonable offering. It won’t reflect well on your brand and you have no desire to be lampooned as the next brand #socialFAIL.

So you bite your tongue, cast a few colourful expletives into the wind and try to move on.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. There is another way.

Give a little love

Did you ever see the Kevin Spacey film ‘Pay It Forward‘, released in 2000? The film centres around a boy doing a social experiment to make the world a better place. Rather than repay favours he pays a favour forward to three other people. They do the same in turn. And thus the good deed spreads.

Okay, think that, but with less sugar coating.

My idea is for digital marketers to unite to defend their league. To say the things to your comrade’s customer that cannot easily be said. To defend other brands in their moments of need.

We see this advocacy from consumers, from fans of brands. A sour comment gets quickly countered by a handful of positive reviews. Sadly, not every brand has the devotion of fans of Cadbury’s, Innocent Smoothies or Apple and those that do engage in conversation and debate are few and far between.

This is where we must pay it forward. To defend our brethren in the hope that one day they will defend us.

This is no chaotic, mob mentality. There are rules to this uprising. It’s not about being abusive to a brand’s consumers or customers. It’s about pushing back with reasoned arguments, with logic. It needs to be sincere. You need to have a connection or emotional investment in the brand you’re defending. Otherwise, it’s fake and counter to the spirit of advocacy.

So each and every digital marketer needs to take the following vow:

I will defend the brands I love with reasoned, well constructed debate and I will do so with a smile on my face and a glint in my eye.

Fight with logic

The genesis of this idea came from a recent personal experience. A local independent cinema, fighting to stay alive in today’s competitive entertainment market, had generated considerable community support through a number of initiatives, including a Saturday Kids Club showing old films for a £1 admission. Recently it announced on it’s Facebook page that the Kids Club would be taking a break until the Autumn to enable them to fit in the considerable array of major Summer releases.

All hell broke loose in the comment section.

From my perspective, the business decision was evident. A small, financially strapped company has an opportunity to generate much needed revenue by increasing the number of showings of popular new summer blockbusters. To do so they need to pause – not stop – the low revenue discounted showings. By increasing revenue in the Summer it increases the likelihood of the business being able to continue to operate in the long term and provide year round good value entertainment. I should add that the standard ticket prices at this particular cinema are £2.50 off peak and £3.50 at peak times. It’s not like they switched to the £9.30 ticket prices of the Cineworld down the road.

After 10 negative comments ripping the independent cinema, defended so vociferously by the community in previous months, I’d had enough. I should add I have an emotional investment in this old fleapit – it was the cinema of my childhood. The place where I began my love of film.

I said the things that perhaps could not be said by the staff. I pointed out the business need, the need to generate revenue to enable the long term survival of the cinema and to enable them to continue the fantastic pricing on offer. In essence, I told them to calm down, stop complaining and start supporting.

Within hours there were more Likes on my comment than negative posters and even a few supportive comments posted from other customers. The Cinema never responded to the post, they didn’t need to.

Call to arms

So, my fellow marketers it’s time for action. We need to step forward when our comrades cannot. We need to defend the brands we love from the irrational, from the over-empowered, from the individual who wants something for nothing but with a premium service. We have to stand tall. We will put the customer at the heart of our business and look for long term win-win solutions but we will not stand for your crap.

Let’s do this! Who’s with me?

Business Performance Customer Experience Mobile Product Development Social Media

3 principles of realtime interaction in an Always-On culture

It’s remarkable how quickly the Always On culture has established. It’s insinuated itself within our lives to the point people often remark they cannot remember what they did or how they coped before it. Social and Mobile are, of course, at the heart of its meteoric rise. The adoption of both as ‘must-haves’ in our lives has changed the way we, as individuals, behave.

As a consequence it has also changed our expectations. Urgency and immediacy are the expected norm. Like much in modern life we want things now. The big difference is that the new channels have given the consumer a voice. The relationship between brands and people has changed. The message – controlled by the brand – has now become a conversation, with the individual exerting more influence than perhaps is comfortable for brands. Brands need the individual. They must work together in collaboration. And that’s not the future, that’s now.

Shifting the approach

So, if the behaviour of the comsumer has changed, has your brand adapted and followed suit? Sadly, brands are often hippos to the consumers’ gazelle when it comes to changing behaviour. Look at mobile: consumer use has reached a hygiene level and many brands are still discussing the need for a mobile-friendly site.

What’s needed is a shift in thinking from top to bottom through your organisation. We can’t keep doing things the old way.

Here are three principles to consider…

1. Understand the moments that matter for your audience

Success in business stems from having a clear idea of who is your intended audience and what need your product or service fulfils. That concept extends throughout your company whether it’s Sales, Marketing, product development or customer service.

Regardless of your department, you need to answer the questions: Who, what, where and when? Who is your customer? What do they need/want? Where will you find them and when do they need you?

To be particularly effective in this ‘Always-On’ culture, you have to understand the moments that matter for your audience – when is it they need your product or service (or those of your competition)? If you can deliver at that time, you’ll develop / strengthen the relationship between the customer and your brand. Likewise, fail at that moment and the customer will be gone.

Let’s consider Product. In this case, for an insurance company. As the brand I may think that I should simply replicate my desktop site onto a mobile site, complete with its homepage sales messages. However, as a consumer visiting via my phone, am I there to buy a new insurance policy? Maybe, but unlikely – it doesn’t strike me that that is something I’d want to research on a small phone screen.

So as a brand setting it’s mobile strategy, I need to think about what my customers are likely to want in the moments that matter and prioritise the appearance and functionality accordingly.

If I’m already a customer, the moment that matters to me would be an emergency situation, such as a burst pipe, where I want to be able to use my phone to quickly find your telephone number, be able to access my policy details and maybe even a simple way to file a claim or record the damage. I don’t want to find a site unoptimised for mobile that requires me to hunt for a support number and with no help information easily available.

2. Anticipate & Prepare: Realtime is too slow

Real time is too slow. Your response is a reaction to something happening and this can take time. The gap between the event and your response can often determine the success of your activity. This applies to responding to a comment in social media, content marketing, your promotional mix or product functionality. So it becomes more about anticipating what your audience wants  – and when – and then being ready to answer the call when the moment that matters arrives.

For instance, if content marketing is part of your strategy you’ll want to be aware of and prepared for the conversations you know will be happening – Oreo’s set up for the Superbowl is a great example of the big pay-off of anticipation and preparation. You’ll need to determine which of those conversations are relevent for your brand to participate in. However, more importantly, you need to be prepared for the conversations you don’t know are going to happen. They will be the true test of your planning, structure and resources. Can you react in time?

An example:

Within minutes of the Pope resigning earlier this year, (my employer) began to see tweets linking the brand to the news (i.e. jokingly wondering if the job would be advertised on Jobsite).

Firstly, it was great to see our brand-building work paying off by being mentioned, but also it presented us with three opportunities:

1) to engage with our existing social community

2) to produce sharable content that’ll reach a wider audience

3) an opportunity to generate valuable social signals for the search engines to help our rankings

With the help of our agency iProspect, our team produced a spoof job ad advertising for the role, but using modern business language (i.e. ability to build a global strategy, whilst recognising local differences, strong negotiation skills, office with a view, use of a company car, etc.).

From the news breaking to posting the ad on our blog was about 3 hours. It would’ve been quicker if I hadn’t had to deliberate over whether it was right for the brand to have a little fun with a religious subject. Which illustrates a key point about being prepared – yes, you need ideas people, creatives to produce assets, a clear and responsive sign-off process, but you also need to have a clear idea of what you’re comfortable doing with your brand. How do you want to behave and how you want to be perceived?

To answer my Pope question I referred back to one of my own principles: I won’t take advantage of or mock someone else’s misfortune, particularly when someone has lost a job. However, in this case, the outgoing Pope resigned by choice and we weren’t ripping religion, so I was comfortable to sign off the creative.

The response to that post was fantastic. We had more shares of that post in the first few days then we had for all blog posts over the previous 12 months. To top it off, 77% of the traffic to the blog post came from new visitors to the site, so we’d succeeded in reaching in the new audience.

Awesome Reactive Content from @jobsiteuk – Seeking New Pope For Immediate State #contentmarketing

— Chelsea Blacker (@ChelseaBlacker) February 11, 2013

The principle of anticipate and prepare also extends to your advertising mix. Are you prepared for what happens after your audience see your advertising?

Take TV advertising for example. Your ad appears on screen – what happens next?

Whilst TV is often used as a tool to raise brand awareness, it can prompt realtime action.Depending on what you’re selling this can be difficult in the space of an ad break.

So you have to anticipate and prepare.

1) Can your audience find you? Make sure your web address is in your advert for starters. Bear in mind though, people don’t always type in the URL directly. Sometimes they will do a brand, product of keyword search. With competitor bidding allowed on Pay-per-click you can’t just rely on being no.1 in the organic listings for your brand name. You also need to be in the first paid slot. So make sure you’re using day parting on brand term campaigns, giving you 100% visibility for a period after your ad airs.

2) Once the visitor lands on your website, do you make it easy for them to achieve their goal or have a process in place to capture their details for future activity?

3) Is your site mobile friendly? Increasingly consumers will be visiting via mobile devices – what will they see? Is it usable?

4) Anticipate they won’t have time to purchase / sign up to your site before their programme re-starts, so deploy behavioural retargeting to reach those that did not convert first time around.

3. Bring value to a customer at a receptive moment

Value = answering a question, providing a service, providing escapism (i.e. a game or humour)

Receptive moment = at the right time rather than realtime

The absence of value for the customer makes your interaction spam, noise or frustrating, and doing it at the wrong time can be instrusive.

Providing customer service via social media is considered a best practice no-brainer, even if its still not actively happening in many companies. However, according to a consumer privacy study by Netbase and JD Power there is perhaps a disconnect between what businesses think should happen and what the consumer wants. The conclusion of the study was:

Consumers find social listening intrusive…except when they don’t.

It’s obvious when you drill down that us consumers are fickle creatures, who clearly want things our own way – in part, a result of the empowering nature of social.

The study showed:

  • 51% of consumers want to talk about brands without the company listening in
  • 48% want companies to just listen in to improve products
  • 64% want brands to respond to social comments only when spoken to

So you’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s why it’s important to understand what your audience needs and provide value at the right time.

Another Jobsite example. We monitor and engage via a product called Radian6. One Easter I’m standing in line at Starbucks playing with my phone as I wait. I open Radian6 and see a jobseeker venting on Twitter about our service. There are several tweets getting progressively worse about the jobs we’re sending her aren’t in the right location and she’s ticked off.

On a normal day our customer service team would respond and fix the problem. But its Easter and I don’t want to leave it, so I respond back to her, calm her down and promise we’ll fix it when the office opens on Tuesday. She was appreciative and said something that stayed with me “thank you, I just wanted someone to listen“.

As it turns out, she hadn’t actually told us where she wanted to work, so it was easy fix to remedy the situation. This became a win for us because we’d anticipated the need to monitor, we engaged at the moment that mattered and we provided value by listening and delivering on a promise.

Away from social listening, another good example would be National Rail Enquiries.

They know that travel can be frustrating – customers are sensitive to delays, cancellations etc.  – so they’ve developed a number of realtime services that are there at the right time to make the experience better. This includes a mobile app, a text service, a phone line and social media updates.

Personally, I use the mobile app to plan journeys – even when sat in front of my PC – it’s just quick and simple. I use it on trains and on stations – it can be quicker and more informative than the departure boards.

National Rail Tunnel Damage

Interestingly, they even share photos of damage to tracks and tunnels with customers via Facebook. Brands usually prefer to hid defects in their service, but in this instance I believe it’s done to make the delay more tangible for customers. If you can see why a train is late, you may be more understanding of the situation. Whilst National Rail Enquiries can’t make the trains run on time they can at least keep their audience informed in the moments that matter to them.

Your happy customer

Times are a-changing. You can’t just rely on your advertising budget to win new customers. The one way broadcast is on the decline. You’re now part of a conversation. Are you ready for it?

Remember, know who your customers are and what is important to them. Know how you can help. Be ready for that time. Look for the moment they need you and then deliver.

Business Performance Customer Experience Social Media

Smile! You’re Feeding the Facebook Machine

Yesterday Instagram revealed that  as of January 16th, it will have the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification.

This disturbs me.

I’ve been a fan of Instagram for a long time, though not a prolific user. I admire their journey, how they built this incredibly popular tool and network with just a handful of staff.

The day they sold to Facebook, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, the founders got their big payday, the pay-off for all the hard work they put in. Can’t blame them. On the other hand, I had a sense of dread that Facebook were about to royally fuck it up.

Guess what? I think that just happened.

I’m a believer that a company can’t create a community. You can *faciliate* a community, by giving common-minded individuals a platform and the tools to connect. But you can’t force them to talk to each other; you can’t make them share their personal stuff.

For every Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, there are thousands of empty social network platforms that just didn’t take off or thrive (jury is still out on G+). All those successful platforms worked only in part due to the technology and tools. It’s the users that have made them successful.

Today, I think the community of Instagram users are feeling a little betrayed. Today is the day they realised they are in fact the product.

If you’re not paying for the service you are the product. These businesses have to make money eventually and the data you give up as a user is like crude oil to these new business giants.

Facebook paid $1Bn for Instagram and now they want some return. It had to come evenutally.

It’ll be interesting to see if any details emerge regarding the number of accounts deleted due to this change. I’m already seeing tweets and posts from individuals to that effect. I for one haven’t decided what I’m going to do with mine yet.

However, I suspect it won’t kill the network. Indifference is likely to be the common response (or lack thereof). The masses are generally unaware of what is happening to their data – they don’t see their holiday photos as valuable data – so I can’t see them leaving in droves.

There will be some media outcry, blogs will be written, indignant tweets will posted, then it will fade away. And the oil will continue to flow through the pipeline.

UPDATE: 9:20 am 19th Dec. 2012 – Last night Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom issued this statement to clarify the situation. He says there is much confusion in the media and it is easy to mis-interpret legal language. He acknowledges they need to behave like a revenue producing, sustainable business, so changes will be necessary. This was the section that drew my eye ‘it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.’

So there you have it. It’s not their intention to sell your photos. But then, they didn’t exactly come out and say they would not sell your photos. If their paymasters at Facebook say they have to do it, then I guess…

So we’re none the wiser really. Guess we have to wait and see how the language changes and then make a decision before the 16th January.

Social Media

Are you a Facebook Fanatic?

It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that I may be spending far too much time in social media. And they may have a point. I have five accounts on Twitter, two on Facebook, plus underused pages on Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Foursquare and Quora. I’ve at least kept away from Pinterest.

Whilst I do have quieter times, I just can’t help coming back. I blame my iPhone for that.

Thankfully, I’m not alone. Take a look at the infographic below from

Whilst some of the numbers are incredible, I can’t help but feel an affinity for my fellow obsessed social souls.

How bad is it for you?

Customer Experience Social Media

Social Media: Are you listening to the good stuff too?

“Oh no. Have you seen what this guy said about us on Twitter?”

Words to strike dread into any Marketer.

“Stop what you’re doing, we need to fix this. Now”

If you monitor social media mentions of your brand, you’ve probably experienced a variation of this scenario yourself. It’s not fun and depending on what’s happened it can be a small inconvenience or a major headache. Like any good social media-aware marketer this is why you monitor and you know how you need to respond.

You have a strategy for dealing with negative comments and feedback – that’s great, you definitely need one.

But what about your strategy for dealing with positive feedback?

Huh? Come again?

Silence is not golden

It’s very easy to focus on the negative but what are you doing with your positive feedback?

  • Are you acknowledging it?
  • How are you using it?

Let me tell you a story.

Earlier this year my wife and I took our first overseas holiday with our toddler. We wanted to simplify the journey by removing any hassles – such as the shuttle bus journey from Long Stay parking to Departures at the airport.

We researched online for chauffeur services to collect our car at Departures and return it to the door on our return. There wasn’t much info around and no notable brand names in the market, so we had no pre-established ‘trust’. It was difficult to choose, especially when pricing was similar. So we went with the cheapest one and thankfully we had a great experience.

At both ends of the journey, we had waiting for us friendly, helpful chauffeurs – polite, reassuring and ready to answer any questions we had. These two guys, probably amongst the lowest paid in the company, convinced us through their manner and actions to use the service again. They cared about our experience and it showed.

So impressed, my wife felt compelled to write to the company to thank them for the great service. And their response?


“What a wasted opportunity” said my wife.

Sharing the love

So what could they have done? Or more to the point, what could you do in your business to ensure you don’t miss a similar opportunity?

1. Acknowledge it

  • Firstly, ask yourself this: who in your organisation will receive the feedback initially? Do they know what to do with it or who to pass it to? You have your onsite feedback form or email address which sends customer comments to a designated person in your business, but what happens if they write you a letter like my wife did? Who opens the mail? Do they know who to pass it to?
  • You need to acknowledge the feedback. People tend not to bother to pass on positive feedback, so if anyone goes to the effort of doing so, make sure you respond. At the very least thank them. It’ll cement the good feeling they have just associated with your brand.
  • How about doing something a little special and give them something? Along with your note, it could be a discount on their next purchase or an invite to an exclusive event.

2. Use it

If you’re in a crowded, price sensitive market with little brand loyalty, how can you stand out? Your margins probably don’t allow for another price cut, so why not be known for a great customer experience?

Firstly, you really do have to have a great customer experience if that is going to be your USP. You can’t blag that one. You have to examine your whole customer-facing service to see what works and what doesn’t, including speaking with your customers, and then make positive changes. Yes, it may mean spending a little money now, but it is an investment in repeat business in the future.

Okay, so you offer a great service and your customers love you for it. In fact, they love you so much they can’t help but talk about you. So how can you harness that?

  • Testimonials – stick them on your site. It’s Social Proof. People hitting your site from a Google search may have no idea who you are or whether they should trust you with their personal information or credit card details. So show them what other customers – people just like them – think of you. When in doubt, people will follow the crowd when making decisions. Make it easier to see the crowd.
  • Video testimonials – talking of which, actually SHOW them the crowd. Ask your happy customers to give genuine, unscripted endorsements for your service, using short video clips. Retail sites using video on product pages often experience an uplift in conversions because of it. Try it with testimonials on your landing pages.
  • The great thing about videos on your site is that they’ll show up in Google results for searches on your brand name (assuming you optimise them correctly). A nice proof point for anyone checking out your reputability
  • Use them in your email newsletter or reactivation emails. If you’re trying to get previous customers back to purchase, add in recent customer comments into your email comms. It may have been some time since they’ve used your service and they may need reminding of how great you are (or you might want to repair your reputation if you weren’t so great in the distant past).
  • Testimonials don’t just need to go on your own site. There is a lot of value – both social proof and SEO – in gaining positive reviews on sites such as Google Places, Yelp and foursquare. Customers won’t always come to your site to form an opinion, they’ll check out what their peers say on review sites too. Why not add a link on your site to Google Places (Google incorporate review data into their search listings, great if you have a good score) or include a link in your reply to their Thank You email, saying how much you appreciate the positive words and would they mind helping out by posting a similar review on Google Places (or whichever is appropriate to your business).
  • If customers are saying nice things about you in Social spaces, such as Twitter and Facebook, share them with your own Followers. Just don’t overdo it –a stream of ‘look how great we are tweets’ can be annoying. Do it subtly and occasionally, just enough to remind people that their peers appreciate your service/product.Harness the positivity of your new advocates – invite them to participate in shaping your brand and offering. Create a group that can either meeting in person or online to discuss ideas, issues and new creative. Make them part of the process and it’ll strengthen their advocacy. Remember, don’t blindly follow their requests, but understand their needs and incorporate those ideas that make sense for your business and your customers (win-win).
  •  Share the good new inside your business. Chances are your colleagues don’t get to see much of the feedback from customers – though they might hear about the problems. Let them know about the good stuff and show them how they’re contributing to the positive experiences of your customers.

It’s very easy to be held hostage by negativity; afraid a criticism may damage your business. But focusing only on the negative is just fire-fighting. By addressing the problems AND harnessing the positives you’ll enable your business to both improve and grow.

How have you used positive feedback? I’d love to know. Please feel free to share your experiences in the Comment section below

Business Performance Personal Development Social Media

Digital talent: riding the wave of change

In his post ‘Social Media requires a different perspective on talent – developing a social workforce’, Felix Wetzel referenced a comment from Brian Halligan’s (Hubspot) presentation at Dreamforce:

‘No traditional marketing skills and background are required, instead “hire people who speak digital without an accent. Hire people that blog, have twitter followers and are on G+”

I’m sure it’s a bold and contentious statement for many, but from where I’m sitting it has merit.

For me, Social and Digital are about attitude. The skills can be learned, but it’s more about whether you ‘get it’. We’ve long since passed the point where we should be discussing the potential of the internet as commerce and communication channels, yet to some the thought of discussing – let alone doing – social media, ecommerce or digital is worse than a trip to the dentist. The words ‘tweeting’, ‘klout’ and ‘conversion optimisation’ don’t even appear in their vocabulary.

No, to be a success in the digital age you need to freely and readily embrace change.

The attitude I mentioned, includes the ability to question and experiment. Any of those pioneers at the dawn of the commercial internet had that ability in spades. They looked at the web and saw a way to challenge the norm, the traditional, and do something in a new and better way.

And because they needed staff to make their venture work, they hired people with the right attitude and skills – but not necessarily internet experience – who figured out a way to make it happen.

When I joined Jobsite in 1999, I was an unemployed photographer; our Marketing Executive was a part time doorman and our SEO expert was hired out of the kitchens of the local army barracks. None of us had any marketing experience, let alone any internet history.

Over the subsequent years, as the internet community and talent pool has grown, new hires into the team came with valuable web experience. Regardless of background, the ones who truly made a mark are those that continued the tradition of curiosity.

Today, as I welcome two new recruits to the team I now lead 12 years later, I urge them to question the way things are done, bring alive their ideas and not to be wary of experimentation. Standing still is no longer an option. Neither is being afraid of change.

And change is coming. Like the internet was a catalyst for change in traditional commerce, now social and mobile are changing the web. As traditional marketers were afraid of digital, now their counterparts must in turn face their own challenge. You cannot be a marketer today and not embrace social media. You cannot be a marketer if you can’t see how Mobile is totally changing how your customers are going to be using your product. Stand up and face the oncoming storm, throw open your arms and embrace it.

As Felix concludes:

Depending on where you stand, it’s either beautiful or scary.

From where I’m standing, it’s a bit of both. And that’s why it’s so exciting, right?

Business Performance Social Media

Unfollow the anti-social media policy

t irritates me when I hear Twitter, Facebook et al, blamed for loss of productivity and foot in mouth faux pas by employees. That inevitably leads to the discussion regarding banning the networks from the workplace or the introduction of a lengthy social media policy within the business.

Stop blaming the tools – it’s the people using them.

Extra Thick Crust, Hold the Common Sense

As Scott Stratton (@unmarketing) put it at Jobsite’s FreshThinking seminar, “Stop hiring morons”.

That may seem a little harsh, but let’s look at an example.

Dominos staff filmed themselves doing disgusting things to food in the kitchen before serving up to customers. They posted it on Youtube and were promptly fired and arrested for their endeavours. That wasn’t Youtube’s fault, it was the morons messing with the pizza.

Every time something like this happens, I just shake my head. Didn’t it occur to them that sharing this publicly meant it wasn’t going to end well for them? It’s common sense. Well, for most of us.

The Unpleasant Aftertaste

So what happens? Businesses panic, and before you know it, access to social sites are restricted or banned from the workplace and/or stringent social media policies are introduced in an effort to control employee activity (which ironically, is the opposite of being social).

This backfires on multiple levels:

  • Your staff will hate you. That won’t look good on your employee satisfaction report.
  • It won’t stop them. You know those shiny smartphones everyone has now? Makes your restricted access network at little redundant, doesn’t it?
  • You’ll lose their trust. You’re effectively saying they’ll only say something stupid so best shut up and let you do the talking.
  • You’re hurting your business by restricting your employees’ development. Get over the whole ‘it’s just people talking about what they had for breakfast’ nonsense. If you’re hiring the right people, they’re using it to learn from others through article sharing and discussion, they’re monitoring your competitors and the industry, and they’re making connections and forming relationships with potential new customers or employees. And if they mention what they did at the weekend, well, it makes them – and your brand – more human. And when was that such a bad thing?
  • And the biggest blow to your business? You’re oppressing the best source of ambassadors of your brand.  You could have people freely talking about the great stuff you’re doing, but if you’d rather be in control of the message that’s fine. Oh wait, did I mention you can’t control the message? People are saying whatever they want about your brand, whether you like it or not. You could perhaps influence that conversation by participating…oh wait, you can’t, you’ve cut off access to those that care about your brand the most. This social stuff is difficult, isn’t it?

Actually, no it’s not. We just make it that way.

The Ultimate Topping

Stop hiring morons and give your employees access to social media and forget about the rigid social media policy. Policies tend to be lengthy and focused on what you should not do. Instead, educate your staff. Show them how to use the tools – for their own benefit, not just for the business (it’ll pay off in the long run, as socially aware, responsible staff who enjoy their work, will just love talking about the great things you do).

Most importantly emphasise common sense when tweeting, posting, updating.  Take a leaf out of the Royal Navy’s book – their social media ‘policy’ consists of just two questions:

  1. What would your mother think?
  2. What would your commanding officer think?

If that doesn’t stop you from posting photos from the Stag/Hen weekend nothing will.

If you feel you need a little more reassurance than those two questions bring, consider writing a brief employee guide to social media use, rather than an epic, riling social media policy.

The guide should be short, focused on the positive and emphasise common sense. It should not be about restrictions, it should encourage use, authenticity and pride in the work you and your colleagues have achieved, whilst raising awareness of the individual’s responsibilities. Ultimately, it should encourage the exercising of good judgment.

Whatever your eventual approach, remember don’t blame the tools. Hire talented, responsible people and encourage them to get involved. If they believe in your product and actions, then you’ll have a strong advocate to help develop and grow your business.

And you’ll never have to look suspiciously at your slice of pizza.

Business Performance Social Media

Social Sports: the ball is in your court

Sport is big business. The competition on the field is nothing compared to the competition off it for fandom, viewership and in this economic climate, the fan’s dollar / pound. Recognising its potential, Sports businesses are looking to social media to help them reinforce and develop their relationships with fans – and of course to broadcast their product in as many different channels as possible.

Global brands such as New Jersey Nets, Manchester City (image above) and multi-billion dollar entities such as the NFL (3.1 million Facebook fans and counting) are already forging ahead with engagement via social media, including foursquare check-in competitions, Commissioner Q & As and team and player fan pages.

Whilst the Big Boys of sport are already finding success, would this work for other, smaller sports? What would this approach bring to leagues and clubs that are fighting to raise awareness and put bums on seats?

In his blog post ‘How football clubs can use mobile and social media to their advantage’, Felix Wetzel suggests “Opening up these channels would give live events a completely new dimension. It would bring even more energy and most importantly whet the appetite of all the people that are not in the stadium and consequently drive attendance for live matches in general”.

If this is indeed correct, are smaller leagues and clubs taking notice?

To put this to the test, I took a look at a minority sport here in the UK – Basketball – and looked to see how the top flight, the British Basketball League (BBL) utilise social media. I have a very limited familiarity with British Basketball having only seen a few games back in the ‘90s when there was a team nearby. So I was viewing this with fresh eyes.

There are two parts to my review – how the League uses social media on an ongoing basis and how it’s used for an event – in the latter’s case – the 2011 Playoffs Final in Birmingham, the showcase event of the season.

The Social Day-to-Day

Facebook Updates from the League

The BBL is clearly aware of the importance of having a social media presence. They have both a Facebook and Twitter account, and actively promote them in a prominent position on their website. They actually have both a Facebook Group (929 fans) and a newer Fan Page (611 fans), which is a little confusing , plus 633 followers on Twitter. I was a little surprised the Facebook figure was not higher given the 12 teams of the BBL have a combined 6,300 facebook fans.

Both channels are used to broadcast news stories from the league (all links point back into the article on the league website) and score updates during and after games. To a much lighter degree, Facebook has some conversational status updates (i.e. “Who do you think will win between X and Y tonight?”), whilst there are number of retweets of BBL Club accounts’ tweets on Twitter.

As such the league do a very good job of keeping fans up to date with news and events via two of the most popular social networks. Rather than rely on fans visiting the league website, they take the news to the places where their fans are hanging out. This is a good starting point.

Where they don’t do so well, is engagement. Their approach is broadcast, not conversation. I suspect a fair amount of automation in their social activity – likely due to resource, like many organisations. It looks like they use the RSS feed of articles posted on the league website to distribute to the social hubs (using Twitterfeed).

Whilst there is nothing wrong with streamlining activity to make it more efficient, the downside of this approach is that you can be unaware of what is happening in your online community if you’re not present. So you see a lot of news articles, some fan comments and questions, but no response from the league. Ignoring your fans is not a great way of developing a loyal customer base.

As an example, as a paying attendee to the Finals, I enquired via Facebook as to the schedule of events on the day. Attending with a small child, this information was important to me and not available on their website. Sadly the question went unanswered, probably due to an unmanned account.

The Finals Day

Let me just say the BBL Playoff Finals were one of the best, value for money sporting events I have attended. For £21 per ticket, you could see the Final, the All-Star game, a Schools Final, a French acrobatic Basketball Display Team and several other events. The day was very well organised and a great showcase for the BBL.

In terms of social media activity on the day, I had low expectations – and that is not anything to do with the BBL per se. Social media use as an event enhancement is still in its infancy. The NBA and Premier League examples mentioned above are more the exception than the rule, and I wouldn’t expect anything significant in a smaller league, particularly as geo-location adoption is still in an early (but rapid) growth phrase.

Fan Photo Tagging Competition

What I was pleasantly surprised to see leading up to the day was a fan photo tagging competition on Facebook, with a prize of tickets to the Final. It was encouraging to see them experimenting with this approach. Hopefully it proved successful, enabling more innovation in the future.

Upon arrival at the venue – the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham – I checked in on Foursquare. I was the only one, but it was early. Perhaps that would change nearer tip-off… It did, but sadly it peaked at 4 people. My chance at the ‘Swarm’ badge will have to wait a little longer. Maybe next year. It would be unfair to put this on the BBL. It’s a reflection of geo-location uptake generally.

A scan of Twitter around related terms revealed very little in the way of conversation from fans during and after the game, the majority being score and news article updates from the League or clubs.


The great thing about all the new social platforms, apps and technology is that there is so much to play with. It’s a great opportunity for an organisation to experiment and strengthen its customers’ loyalty towards it product or service. With the BBL, for starters, I would suggest:

  • Monitor and participate in the conversion around the BBL brand (Radian6 is great for this). At very least, respond to direct questions via Twitter and Facebook. Preferably, start and encourage conversation.
  • Merge the two Facebook accounts. You’re doubling your efforts and reducing your impact. Go with the newer Fan page (has benefit on being able to message all your fans) and don’t forget to switch the link on your website homepage

The NBA on Youtube

  • Consider other social networks. A Youtube channel would be a great way to share what is a very exciting and visual sport. Check the NBA page on Youtube as an example. Put game footage up there. Let fans add their own videos. Perhaps run a fan video competition. The same approach could be taken with a Flickr photo account. In both instances, let the fans add content – make it theirs, not a corporate place – and you’ll strengthen their interest and connection
  • Make it easy to share the website articles by adding social share buttons. Given the popularity of their networks, I’d certainly recommend a Twitter Tweet button (from either Twitter itself or Tweetmeme) and a selection of the Facebook suite of buttons (Like, Share, Send, etc.). This gives fans an avenue to share content of interest with their friends, removing the reliance on the league to be the only source of distribution.
  • On game day during the season and at events, encourage the use of a hashtag, such as #bbluk or #bbl2011, so fans on Twitter can follow and join in the conversation (just don’t use #bbl as it means “Be back later” in Twitter parlance).
  • Make use of geo-location technology by running a game day check-in competition. Using Facebook Places or Foursquare (or both), any fan who checks into the venue will be eligible for the competition – be it to win merchandise or perhaps a prize draw for entry into a half-time free throw competition.

Overall, I think the BBL are taking very positive steps into the social arena and it could pay dividends. Their approach going forward will be crucial. Social media use is growing at an astronomical rate and other sports are already staking their claim to space within it. If basketball in the UK is to thrive, the League should embrace social with a passion and view it as a central pillar of their acquisition and retention strategy.

How else could the BBL use social media to engage with its fans? What have you seen from other sports or clubs that has worked successfully? I love to hear your thoughts so please fill free to chip in via the comment section below.

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