making sense of social

Social isn’t just a problem Google can solve

Google’s latest effort to enter the world of social, Google+ launched today. Possibly the most interesting thing about the launch is the number of people who have passed comment without even trying the service. ”Google doesn’t get social – this will fail” they cry. (Invites certainly are scarce, I haven’t yet had a chance to have a play, hence why I shan’t be going into specific features.) Read More


Want to win a car or a holiday? Enter a Facebook competition, because no one else is.

In the rush the “engage” fans, and grow fan numbers, hundreds of brands are being very quick to give away fantastic prizes in competitions on their Facebook pages. The problem is very few of them actually think any more beyond this point. They get a prize, create a tab with the competition (those have read the guidelines and know not to use the wall etc for promotions) and think their job is done. In the race for fans very little thought is put into how people will find it and why people will actually want to enter this competition if they find it.


Unsurprisingly this results in hundreds of competitions a week being started by brands that only get a handful of entries. I’ve seen competitions giving away cars with less than 1,000 entries, and holidays to New York with less than 50 entries. With a one in fifty chance of winning a trip to New York you’d be silly not to enter.


This glut of competitions is resulting in a new breed of Facebook user, the semi professional competition entrant. They scour Facebook brand pages, hunting down competitions, prizing the lacklustre ones. And they’re doing it methodically, liking the pages where they have to, and promptly unliking once the competition is over. I’ve seen the same names popping up in competitions for a range of different brands. With the sheer number of competitions launched every week, giving away anything from iPads and TVs to holidays and cars these people must be doing quite well for themselves.


There is of course nothing wrong with these individuals (unless they are breaking the rules to try and win), who wouldn’t try and win a TV if only four other people had entered? But they are symptomatic of a broader problem, an obsession of quick wins in social. Want to get some fans? Throw up a competition behind a ‘like gate’. Sure you may get a few more people liking your page, but are they really fans of your page? Until brands start taking social seriously they will continue to put out these kneejerk competitions.


Now if you excuse me, I’m going to try and win an iPad.


UPDATE: Today I actually did win a car on a Facebook competition. Well, the use of one for 6 months. I think at last count I had 11 votes for my entry. I don’t even want the car.



Google +1 – another great idea by Google engineers for Google engineers.

Google unveiled their recommendation service, +1, yesterday. It’s a simple enough system, you can essentially recommend search results in Google with the click of a button:

This service has the potential to be very useful, no doubt. But to how many people? You can only get recommendations from your network who also have (and use) a Google account. It’s only going to be useful to the 10% of the population who have both a Google account and friends with a Google account.  How many of your friends have a Google account that they are signed into when using Google? 90% of my friends don’t have an account. And of the 10% of my friends that do, only a fraction I want recommendations from.

And that’s the second point. The numbers of potential contacts that I can get recommendations from is low, but, they’re all pretty similar. They all have early adopter tendencies; they tend to be up on the latest trends etc. And most of them work in a similar industry to me, follow other similar people etc. Google tools are great, but they are used by a niche set of people. And getting recommendations from a group of people in that niche is only marginally more useful than from just one person in that niche.

The issue is Google never really scaled beyond search. A handle of people have accounts for YouTube, even fewer for Gmail. How many of your friends have a Google account that they are signed into when using Google. Now compare that to how many of your friends have a Facebook or Twitter account. Big difference.

For services like +1 to be useful they have to both be used by a large chunk of your network, and have different types of people from within your network recommending. Otherwise it just becomes noise. Google needs to encourage more users to sign up for accounts, and sadly, this service won’t do that. Google should be encouraging users to sign up when they download chrome, which people have been doing in their millions.

Having said all that, it is very reassuring to see Google launch a tool that I am actually considering using. What do you think? Will you use it?

Credit goes to @steevbishop for the snappy title



It’s not just WHAT you say in social, but also HOW you say it

There a whole host of articles out there telling you that you need to engage with consumers through social, interact with your audience, talk to them, listen to them. And it’s good advice. You need to ensure that you are adding value with the content you are producing, with the conversations you are having.

But it’s not just about the content, not just what you say, it’s also how you say it.

How you talk, the choice of words you use, when and where you use them, and how often you talk all contribute to how you are perceived by your audience. It’s a hugely important aspect of how you communicate online.

For example, the difference between WE and I has a huge impact on how your messaging will be read. One is more authoritative and suggests a bigger organisation. The other is much more personal, and explicitly tells people that you are an individual.

Language choice can also help you connect with your audience, or make you stand out like a sore thumb. Different people talk in different ways, and use different words for the same thing. I talk very differently to my parents than with my friends, I have different styles of speaking when I’m talking to colleagues and to clients. And I change the words I use when talking to young children.

In order to have meaningful conversations with your customers, you need to speak the same language, and pick your words carefully.


How many social media managers does it take to run a Twitter profile?

Different companies have different approaches to managing their presence in social spaces. Some entrust the accounts to a single person, others to a group of people, whilst some companies even have teams for single, specific account.

Having multiple people managing a brand’s outposts isn’t a bad idea per se; in fact for many larger brand it may be a necessity. But a user needs to know what to expect when they engage with these outposts. There are two options when you have multiple people managing a single account. You either ensure that these people follow strict rules about how to talk, ensuring that they are talking as the brand.

Or you allow each person to bring their own tone of voice to the account, but you clearly state that users are engaging with a specific individual. This can be as simple as appending their name to the end of a tweet or status update, or having separate accounts for these individuals.

You need to decide which approach to take to ensure you are delivering consistency. A common irregularity on brand accounts is that some individuals chose to say “we” and others chose to say “I”. On a single account this can get confusing, and leaves the audience confused as to whom they are actually talking with.

The solution is simple, clearly outline your approach; decide whether or not your account warrants more than one person managing it. Do some research, how big is your brand currently in social media. Are thousands of people talking about your products but no one from your company is responding? In which case you might to fortify your social media presence with a solid team of individuals. What are your long-term objectives for the accounts? What specifically are you looking to get out of your presence? Is it customer service, brand education, improving relationships or driving sales? How many people will it take to meet these objectives? And possibly most importantly of all, how much can you afford to spend?

Then decide who is best placed to be managing your profiles. If you want to be delivering customer service through twitter, then someone from the customer service department needs to be involved.

Then give these people the knowledge they need to properly run these profiles.

And as always, continually monitor and review your progress. If you are having huge successes on Facebook, but the level of engagement is being marred by only having one person managing the presence then it may be time to re-evaluate. And similarly, if you’ve put together a team of ten people to manage a Facebook page, but the growth hasn’t been quite what you anticipated, it might well be time to scale back.

Ultimately, the number of people you have managing your brand online depends on how active your consumers are in the social space, and how active you want to be with them. Getting the balance right can be tricky, but the first and most important thing to get right is to have a clear approach as to how you want to be represented online.


Are we choosing wisely when we pick our brand guardians?

A brand is a company’s most valuable asset. It is what sets them apart from competitors. It defines who they are, what they value and how they act. And in a world where people can quickly and easily connect with brands online companies should be incredibly careful how they manage their brand online. And yet countless brand profiles across social media are being managed by people who are wholly unqualified to do so. Read More


We don’t consume media in isolation, so why plan it that way?

When it comes to marketing and communications planning, there’s a lot of talk about how brands can’t just broadcast messages out anymore. We are living in a brave new world where the consumer has the power over the brand conversation, and the broadcast model doesn’t work anymore. That’s all good, and you won’t find many people arguing the opposite.

But it’s not just stopping the broadcasting; it’s about recognising that your target audiences are actually people. We need to talk to people, not just key demographics. The reason the broadcast model doesn’t work anymore is because the way people consume media is fundamentally changing. We need to look at the shifting consumption habits when we think about how best to engage with these audiences.

The second you start seeing audiences as actual people and not just an age range then you realise that isolated channel thinking is ridiculous. How many people consume content from one channel in isolation these days? I watch live TV, read the newspaper and talk to friends on IM. And more often than not I do it all at once.

This is the reason that few social media campaigns work really well when they have been considered in isolation. People don’t consume media in isolation. The most effective campaigns are the ones that are delivered as part of an integrated effort. It’s effective because it allows people to seamlessly move through channels, engaging with content when and where they want to. It’s effective because it’s a much more efficient approach to marketing, maximising the reach of your content through multiple channels. Social media needs to be considered in the broader communications planning, not in isolation.

Because others are always more adept at being concise than I am, I’ll end with a quotation, from the ever succinct Nick Gill, that essentially sums up my somewhat rambling post into a lovely sound bite (it’s less than 140 characters too):

Consumers don’t separate their consumption; why do we continue to separate our marketing responses?


Channels are important, but they should never be the starting point

We live in the age of the buzz word. One week it’s engagement this, the next it’s social currency that. And as much as I love a good buzzword, with a constant stream of new mots du jour it’s easy to forget what is really important when it comes to creativity. The idea, the piece of content, it’s all just STUFF. When all is said and done we are all content producers. We are all just making stuff.

Whether it is a social media campaign, a digital banner campaign, a series of TV adverts or print billboards, at the end of the day it is content. Content that conveys a particular idea. And when delivering these campaigns the idea should always come first.

An idea is channel agnostic. It’s a thought, a feeling, something that makes you stop, think, laugh, or cry. At the very beginning, before we think of channels or executions we need to think of the idea. What do we want people to think, feel and do when they see (or hear or experience) our idea? Why are we doing it? We need to base our creativity in strategic thinking, in finding ideas that a relevant and right, that are meaningful.

It’s only once we have these answers that we should think about what is the best medium to tell people our idea. Will the idea be best conveyed through an engagement piece encouraging user participation and content generation, or perhaps a highly targeted digital banner campaign?

There are obviously channels that are more appropriate for certain ideas: certain elements are going to be best conveyed through video, other will get more impact with a print campaign. A lot of thinking needs to go into getting the channels right, but this comes after we’ve got the idea.

Channels are important, but they should never be the starting point.

using twitter

If you work in social media you need to be active in social media

It’s scary but there are countless numbers of people working in social media, be it specialist social media agencies, digital pr agencies or traditional marketing agencies that clearly have no clue social media. And the reason is mind numbingly obvious, the reason they have no idea what they’re doing is because they aren’t active users themselves. It’s no surprise that people that don’t actively participate in social media struggle to come up with ways to engage users, or worse, do things that make active users cringe in disbelief. Read More