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.

Product Development Uncategorized

Making an ass of your assumptions

When faced with a problem it’s very easy to go with the obvious answer. If we expected X to happen but instead we got Y, then we can only assume Z must be the reason.

If presented with a hard fact, we tend to fill in the blanks to make sense of why something didn’t happen the way we expected. Sometime we’re right. There is a reason why it’s the obvious answer. But like stereotypes, which can be based on repeated traits, assumptions can also be wide of the mark.

We need to think differently. We need to dig beneath the surface.

To do so, it’s important to understand the data, but we also need to put ourselves in our customers shoes and look at it from their perspective. Data can give you the what, but not the why.

Scrap it, start again

Let’s look at an example. My previous employer,, launched an iPhone job search app.

It was built in response to the considerable mobile traffic growth they were experiencing. It was a basic app, nothing fancy, but focused on the core need of the jobseeker – to search and apply for jobs.

It had several hundred thousand downloads, drove a lot of activity, but it only averaged 1.5 stars out of 5. This was pretty much in line with the other job hunting apps in the App Store.

The initial reaction to the score?

The app is not good – we need to either upgrade it or build a new one.

But that didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t think the score was a fair reflection of the app. Yes, I knew there were things that needed to be improved, and we were working on them in the background, but I felt the app was better than its rating.

Why was it so low?

Digging for treasure

It didn’t take too long to find the answer. Aside from the star rating, Apple allow customers to write a review of their app experience. When your app is getting positive reviews – 4 and 5 stars – then this is a great piece of social proof that is likely to encourage other shoppers to download the app. However, negative social proof can have the complete opposite effect and put prospective customers off.

Once you get over the initial sting of reading the reviews you realise how much of a gold mine of information it can be if you’re interested in improving the customer experience.

With a little reading it became apparent that most of the reviews were from people frustrated that they couldn’t find or get a job, and were projecting that frustration in their review of the app.

It’s an unfortunate fact within recruitment that most people are unsuccessful with a job application. At best, one person is going to be really happy (if they got the job), some might be disappointed but had a positive experience during the process (e.g. good recruiter service or getting short listed), but most are frustrated due to not even getting any feedback to their application let alone invited to interview.

The initial thought at this point is “well, we can’t do anything about that, that bit is out of our control”. Which is true, a job board plays little to no role in that part of the recruitment process.

So I guess we can’t affect the scores then? We’re stuck at 1.5 out of 5. Let’s move on.

Not so fast. Let’s look at this differently.

Finding out the why

We’ll start with user behaviour. When do users leave feedback on apps?

It’s actually not that easy to do. If a user is being proactive they could visit the App Store, find the app and leave a review. This does requires a bit of effort on behalf of the user, and I’d hazard a guess most people don’t have the time or inclination to do that.

So when else?

When you delete the app from your device.

And when are you likely to do that? Perhaps when you’re frustrated because you can’t find a job?

So its possible that businesses, regardless of offering, are getting poor ratings because customers are being asked to rate the app at a time when they’re unhappy.

You can test this hypothesis quite simply – flip the scenario and ask your customers at a time when they are happy and see what happens.

With job hunting the most positive times would either be when the jobseeker gets the job or when they’ve just applied for a job. Unfortunately neither were options for Jobsite due to process and technical limitations, so we theorised that the next best time would be after using the app on three occasions. With the high abandonment rate of apps, we reckoned if you’re using it for the third time, you must be finding it useful.

So we introduced a timed pop up – see example image – inviting them to feedback on the app.


The big reveal

The results?

The app rating jumped from 1.5 to 4 out of 5 immediately!

We hadn’t improved the app in any way, we’d just captured the views of the silent – and happy – segment, who until that point had had an obstacle strewn path to review the app.

One of the great things about having to resubmit the app to the App Store following a change is that the ratings displayed are for the new version. So any positive impact is felt immediately, as you’re not having your average score dragged down by all the previous low scores.

It’s worth noting though, you’ll still get the bad reviews – the product still needs work – but now they’re just balanced out with the good ones. In the meantime you’ve built strong social proof in the App Store and a better star rating equals more downloads.

So what are the lessons learned?

For a start, assumptions can be dangerous. When we’re pushed for time, it’s easy to look at ‘facts’ and take them as gospel. The star ratings said the app was no good, but your future business planning cannot be determined by hundreds or thousands of bits of customer feedback distilled down into a simple 5 star graphic. You need to go a step further and unearth richer data to make informed decisions.

You’ll come across roadblocks – such as an industry working a particularly unhelpful way – so you’ll need the resolution to not accept things as set in stone. You can either work out how to disrupt that industry (tip: focus on what would really make the customer happy) or you can perservere and find a way to work the system to your advantage.

This all takes time, time you perhaps don’t have. Consider this though, do you want to get lots of things done and maintain the status quo or do you want to get less things done but do them really well and shift the needle?

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 Conversion Testing Uncategorized

How to fix the REAL reasons behind your abandoned shopping carts

In early November at the Conversion Conference in London, I had the good fortune to hear Charles Nicholls from SeeWhy speak about abandoned online shopping carts.

He cited a Forrester Research study from earlier this year that examined the reasons why website visitors abandon online shopping carts. The top 5 were:

  1. Shipping and handling costs were too high – 44%
  2. I was not ready to purchase the product – 41%
  3. I wanted to compare prices on other sites – 27%
  4. Product price was higher than I was willing to pay – 25%
  5. Just wanted to save products in my cart for later consideration – 24%

Interestingly these 5 reasons can be classified into 2 groups:

  • Issues relating to cost
  • Issues relating to readiness to buy

Whilst you should quite rightly review your shopping cart process to increase conversions, addressing both these other issues may in fact have a greater impact.

1. Cost

Comparison sites, such as and, have made it very easy for consumers to find the best price for a product, dramatically reducing the research time and frustration of visiting multiple websites. Whilst that’s great for the consumer it’s meant the business owner needs to ensure her prices are competitive if she is to secure the sale from an ever more transient audience.

It’s not just the product price; the shipping charges are a bigger concern. Buying a discounted book at £6.99 suddenly looks less attractive when you discover you need to add £3.50 to cover postage. In some cases it’s suddenly more expensive than shopping instore.

The two most common ways of addressing this are unconditional and conditional free shipping.

With unconditional free shipping the company absorbs the cost, either by holding the product price and eating into the profit margin or by upping the price to cover the postage. Both can be unhealthy for a business in the long term. It might be okay for a promotional period but you have to do the maths to know whether you’re attracting enough additional business to offset the cost.

The alternative might be conditional – offering free shopping once the consumer purchases a set amount. If you set that threshold at the right point you’ll find your average order price will increases as shoppers add a second item to their order to qualify for the free shipping.

This is the most popular offer from recruiters, with a survey quoted in the NY Times, stating that 71% of surveyed businesses would use this approach this year versus less than half taking the unconditional route.

The same article, however, highlights the risk of experimenting with shipping, referencing a case study that revealed that Timberland would need to generate 40% more sales to justify the cost of an unconditional free shipping promotion.

2. Readiness to buy

You may think there is little you can do if someone is not ready to buy. Many businesses will rely on the potential customer coming back when they have made a decision, but it’s a rather risky approach to take.

So what can you?

Speak to them – why are they not ready? Understand the issues and look for solutions. It may be that they just need a little more information. Run a survey like KissInsights or call if you have a telephone number.

Price comparison – if you’re confident about your prices, why not save them the hassle of research and show your prices versus your competitors. If you’re the cheapest, great, but if not demonstrate why it’s still better to buy from you (i.e. warranty, free accessories, loyalty points, etc).

A Free Whitepaper example from

Whitepaper & tools – Offer them a free whitepaper, guide or tool relevant to the product they’re considering buying in exchange for their email address. By giving the visitor something of value, you’re positioning yourself as an authority on the subject and providing a positive brand experience. As such they’ll be more inclined to part with their email address (for you to remarket to) and you’ll be a step closer to a future sale.

Scarcity & Urgency – how can you create a sense of urgency to encourage a quicker or immediate sale? Add a time-sensitive price (i.e. Offer ends Monday), or limit availability (i.e. Limited edition prints).

Build Confidence – when they say they’re not ready to buy, maybe they’re just not ready to buy from you. Maybe they don’t have confidence in you just yet. So what can you do?

You need to provide assurance. That could be via authorative trust marks, such as secure transactions seals, badges from trade association or industry body membership, logos of media you have appeared in/on or customer or influencer testimonials (social proof). These will help build credibility and confidence in your brand.

Finally, if you can afford it and have the resources, give them a Free Review. This can be just a sampling of your service, but like the Whitepaper, should give them something of value. The customer feels they are getting something for free (who doesn’t love a freebie?) and at the same time you get to showcase your business and product to them.

It’s not easy selling online; so many factors are out of your control. Leaving it to chance however, will not grow your business. Understand you customers, understand why they don’t buy and then address their concerns quickly. Then sit back and watch your conversion rates and revenue rise.

(Actually that’s just the beginning, there is a lot more work to be done, including continuous conversion optimisation to ensure you’ve got right. But, hey, that’s a story for another day)

What changes to your site or ecommerce pages have you made that helped you reduce your shopping cart abandonment? I’d love to hear your tips, please share them in the comments below.