Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

5 lessons to learn from a social media master

Four years ago at SXSW I encountered Gary Vaynerchuk for the first time.  With a group of typically cynical Brits, we went along to watch him talk.  I’d vaguely heard of him before but had never seen him speak.  Someone said to me, “you’ve never seen him?” and then followed comments like, “ah, he’s something else”, “just wait and see” and “he has a cult like following, especially in the US, his fans ADORE him”.  And so it was that I was initiated into the world of ‘GaryVee’.  Onto the stage bounded a man with the energy of an irrepressible toddler, it was like sitting downstream of a jet engine.  The cynical Brits smiled politely while the Americans in the audience whooped and cheered throughout.  Then something happened to us.  It was impossible not to warm to this guy, his enthusiasm for business and technology and social media was genuinely infectious (even to a bunch of miserable English folk) and by the end we were hooked too.

Gary Vaynerchuck is best known for how he effectively used social media to grow his family’s retail wine business from a small outfit to a hugely sucessful company.  And what started off as short YouTube videos filmed with a flip camera, turned into the enourmously popular Wine Library TV.  Now he also has a large consultancy business and has written several books.  Yesterday he did a 5 hour live streaming session as part of promotion for his latest book (called, in typical understated Gary V style ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook‘.). Fans (and he has many) could come on and ask him anything one-to-one.  This epic session reminded me how intuitively good he is at social media and how much he can teach businesses large and small about how to use social media effectively.

So here are here are my 5 lessons to learn from Gary V about mastering social media:

  1. YOU DON’T NEED A MASSIVE BUDGET: the videos of Gary talking about and tasting wine where recorded by himself using a flip camera, they’re fun, informative and very much his own style. Good social content doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
  2. SHOW THE HUMAN SIDE OF YOUR BUSINESS: Gary’s style is very individual, some people find it over the top but many people love it.  Regardless, no-one can say it’s not authentic.  It’s a cliche but people don’t want to talk to faceless corporations, they want to talk to people.
  3. ENGAGE!: Despite having nearly one million followers on twitter Gary responds to everyone who tweets him.  That’s some commitment but he knows it builds loyalty and relationships with his followers and that ultimately sells more books (and wine and social media consultancy services!)
  4. PASSION IS CONTAGIOUS: Whether you sell wine or widgets, people will respond if you demonstrate your passion for your product or service. That has to be genuine passion, not dreamt-up-by-a-marketing-agency-passion.
  5. IT TAKES HARD WORK, COMMITMENT & TIME TO BUILD A COMMUNITY: Coming across Gary Vaynerchuck at this point, it might look like a breeze, you may think well it’s ok for him, due to his investments he’s hooked into some of the most influential people on the planet when it comes to social media, he has a huge following, he has NY Times best-selling books under his belt. But all that didn’t come without tireless work and non of it happened overnight.  One of the most common issues I come across in my training and consultancy work is businesses not appreciating the resource it takes to get the momentum going.

If you’re in the early stages of using social media to build relationships with potential customers and wondering how to make it work better, check out some of Gary V’s videos or books and prepare to join the cult.

Top 5 books for 2012


I’m not going to add to the plethora of ‘Predictions for 2013′ posts (FWIW I’d say: sexting apps, streaming video apps, more social local mobile), instead I’m going old school with a list of my favourite 5 books from 2012.  Yes actual printed books, not even Kindle versions. A caveat that they’re not necessarily books that came out in 2012, although 4 of them are, but books I read in 2012.

  1. We Learn Nothing by Tim Krieider.  Certainly one of the finest non-fiction writers alive today.  He gives new perspectives and insight into every day situations.  If you’ve never read any of his articles, start with The Busy Trap, one of the New York Times, most shared articles this year.  Perfect writing.
  2. The New Kings of Non-Fiction, edited by Ira Glass. If you like stories about life and people, you’ll love this collection of essays.  Similar to the kind of stories you’ll find on This American Life, or used to find on John Peel’s Home Truths.
  3. How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you, The Oatmeal. One of the most popular living cartoonists, he’s pretty much taken over the internet.  If he’s new to you, take a look at Making Things for the Web.  You’ll be hooked.
  4. Born to run by Christopher Mcdougall.  Whether you’re a runner or not you can’t help but be drawn into this incredible story about Mcdougall’s search for a better understanding about the impac of running on the body, the multi-billion dollar trainer industry and a tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world.
  5. The Intention Economy by Doc Searls. The only business book in the list, this is a fascinating view into the “customer driven economy” of the future.  When social media becomes social business but with the depth of insight that you’d expect from the co-author of the seminal Cluetrain Manifesto.

I’ve just started Nate Silver’s, The Signal and the Noise about how to use data and trend information to make accurate predications. It’s proving to be a fascinating read.  In a recent interview he mentioned that he may give up political forecasting and look at economics.  If he does, make no mistake, he’ll be one to listen to.  The man is a genius, well either that or a witch

What have been your favourite books of 2012?


The DO Lectures

There are so many conferences and events these days you could make a full time job out of doing the rounds.  Whether industry specific or themed on a topic, each one claims to be able to offer you insight, information and leading speakers…

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t go to many events, probably 3 or 4 during a year.  I also very rarely go to anything relating to the sector in which I work; PR, social media, digital comms.  Why? Because I can get all the latest industry news from my favourite blogs, because they are, more often than not, merely an echo chamber of the same conversations on loop and, most importantly, because when I give up time to listen to people speak, I want to learn something completely new or be given a different perspective on the world. And sometimes I want to hear about stuff that really matters.

Which brings me to the Do Lectures. I’d been watching this event from afar for years; I was fascinated by the range and quality of the speakers and intrigued by the setting (I’ve stayed at fforest a few times on holiday, it is a one of my favourite places in the world but I couldn’t see how it would work as a venue for an event).

And so, after years with my nose pressed up against the window, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend this year’s Spring event.  I recorded my initial thoughts on Audioboo immediately after the event but I’ve subsequently been asked the same questions about Do several times and  as DO put on different events: one day workshops and the 36 hour start-up programme, now seems as good a time as any to set down my answers:

“Tickets are expensive, is it really worth the cost?”

As mentioned I was fortunate to be invited as a guest BUT my in answer to the question,  I would not hesitate in saying that the ticket price is absolutely commensurate with the value of the event.  It’s three full days of astoundingly good speakers and workshops, topped and tailed with half days either side of a welcome and good-bye, plus night time entertainment that is equally mind blowing.  And I can’t think of any other event where the food is so incredible (cooked on site at fforest).

“Isn’t it weird sharing a tent with someone that you don’t know?”

There are no soulless corporate hotels at Do. Yes you’re camping and yes you will probably be sharing with a person you’ve never met. It may sound daunting to some but honestly, it’s another part of what makes Do special. It isn’t very often that you’re chatting to someone you’ve just met and then you both realise that they’re the person you slept next to the previous night. Yep, that happened to me.  The unique environment of Do is an essential part of why it gets underneath your skin so comprehensively.  You’re immersed in every aspect of it.

“What do the speakers talk about?”

This is more difficult to answer because the specific topics are so broad and wide ranging.  Whether it’s the challenge of creating the Eden Project, hours spent hand crafting incredible kitchen knives in Brooklyn, escaping the world of advertising to write fantasy novels or bringing together a local community to take on the might of big industry, the speakers all have one thing in common: they get on and make stuff happen.  It’s exciting and inspiring and it takes your breath away.

An unoriginal but good comparison, is to say it’s like TED but in a field.

So is Do for you? That depends on your motivation for attending events. Do you love PowerPoint, bullet points and case studies? Then the answer is no.  Do you want to be challenged, feel exhilarated and leave with a head stuffed with questions and ideas? Then the answer is yes.

It will be interesting to see what else will come out of Do and whether they will stick with the existing format of a four day conference, David has said in a recent post that:

“The long-term plan for The Do Lectures is to start a school for entrepreneurs. A school where you go to start your start-up. On a farm that grows companies instead of food. An ideas farm. An accelerator of great business ideas.”

Whatever happens, you can be sure it’ll be interesting.  In the meantime I’d highly recommend you take some time to watch some of the videoed talks.

You may also want to listen this interview with David Hieatt on the Guardian or this comprehensive round-up of the 2011 Do from @Documentally.

A big thanks to @davidhieatt, @175viatribunali, @greenape, @richard_king

Top 5 favourite tools & apps

A quick post to share my current top 5 favourite tools & apps (this isn’t a post about new apps, more those tools I’m using a lot):

*ifttt – With the tagline: ‘Put the internet to work for you’ – is a brilliantly simple yet clever idea which automates your use of the web.  For example every time I post to Instagram, ifttt saves it to Evernote for me.  Every time I favourite a tweet, it plugs it into Instapaper.  There are some fantastic ‘recipes’ from other people you can use or you can create your own.  Which bring me on to….

*Instapaper – Save web articles to read offline.  Brilliant on the iPad and equally useful on the laptop.  I constantly come across interesting stuff on twitter and elsewhere, now I tend to store them up and read them in a bunch, and (obviously) you don’t need wifi access.

*Feedly - I still use RSS loads, to catch up on new stuff.  Feedly remains my favourite way to sort through my google reader subscriptions (although yes, Flipboard is very pretty), particularly as I can switch between views – from ‘latest’ to individual topics ‘history’ or ‘saved’ stuff.

*tweetbot – twitter client for the iPhone.  Very slick and intuitive UI.  Miles better than official iPhone (although who remembers how much we loved tweetie?)

*Evernote – Note taking on steriods.  After years of persevering, I’m finally starting to get real value out of this.  The more you use, the better it gets.  Although I still feel like I’m barely scraping the surface of all the ways I could be using it

What are your current favourite tools & apps?


The 7-day no phone crash diet

I’ve just done something that I haven’t done for over three years, well 10 years depending on which way you look at it.
About three weeks ago I was coming out of the gym, pulled my iphone out of my pocket and wham, dropped it on the floor and completely smashed the screen.  So it had to go away to be repaired with the words buzzing in my ears from the insurance company that it could take “up to 10 days to be fixed”.  10 days?!! Were they out of their minds?

Now I pause at this point to acknowledge that I fully realise not having a phone for 10 days is hardly catastrophic in the scheme of things but it’s given me a short sharp shock into the reality (positive and negative) of a life lived in the thrall of the small screen.

So what did I find?

*I am utterly and completely addicted to tapping away on my bloody iphone.  There I said it.  Obvious, right? Well yes and no, I did realise how much time I spend swiping up and down timelines, checking in, checking emails, sharing photos, looking at photos, commenting on photos, updating, sharing, searching, listening to podcasts, checking the weather and numerous other trivial and not so trivial actions but when it’s not there anymore you really feel the gaping hole that was there and appreciate just how much time you waste spend on it.

*Without the phone, I let go of twitter since without the real-time aspect, I lost interest.  It just didn’t have the same grip.

*The three things I missed most: Instagram, mobile search and my beloved This American Life podcasts, particularly while travelling.

*For a couple of days when I was out and about I borrowed my son’s, basic to the core, Samsung (see the pic).  And for a brief time there was something nice about having a phone that only does two things: make calls and send texts.  Without any clutter on the phone, I didn’t have the ever present, unconscious ‘tap tap’ in my head, that causes me to launch twitter, check email, browse Instagram and on and on (from the minute I wake up until, quite literally, the moment I go to sleep).  I’ve always been someone with a surfeit of nervous energy.  In that respect technology is bad for me, it compounds my tendency to be constantly fiddling with stuff.  Without my phone I was, stiller.

So, I missed my phone and…I didn’t miss my phone.  I was inwardly ashamed at how utterly delighted I was when it turned up a whole three days early, you’d have thought I’d was being reunited with a long lost love. It was interesting (although I don’t want to repeat it). I’m trying to learn from the experience and be more mindful of how technology can seep under your skin without you really noticing how deep it has embedded itself into you.

Tell me a story

This week I spent two days collecting stories with @Documentally (well he did the collecting, I shoved him in and out of taxis and generally acted as his caddy).

It was a fascinating couple of days and we got some really interesting content, which will be available on Creative Tourist soon.

Talking to such a variety of different people and asking them to tell us their stories, made me think more about how story telling is at the heart of us all. Our own stories are a fundamental part of what makes us human, it’s how we connect with others and what defines us as individuals. I think story telling will also increasingly become a part of how organisations, brands, businesses reach out to their audiences, since in telling a story you create a resonance that can’t be replicated in any other way.

Some other things I learnt this week:

Mapping Manchester’s Stories

I’ll be working on a project next week with @Documentally for creativetourist where we’ll be looking to capture stories of the people, places and history of 5 areas of Manchester: Northern Quarter, City Centre, Spinningfields/Deansgate/Castlefield, Oxford Road and Salford & the Quays.

Who do you think we should be talking to?  It might be artists, creatives, historians, long time residents or someone who has worked in an area for a long time and watched it change, cafe or shop owners, writers or just interesting characters with a story to tell about ‘their’ particular area of the city.

Which, do you think, are the special, treasured buildings and places that we should be featuring?

Do you know of any secret art or hidden gems?

Tell us via @creativetourist @katiemoffat or email me.

A new chapter with a dramatic twist

Exciting times.

I’ve just become a shareholder and director in Pyjama Drama, a fantastic company that offers drama, movement and creative play classes to two – seven year olds.  A bit of a departure from what I’ve been doing until now?  Well yes and no.  I’ve always loved drama and although I didn’t take it any further than A-level, I’m completely convinced of the value that children get out of learning drama skills; namely creativity, communication and confidence. I should probably make it absolutely clear, that this isn’t about teaching children how to become a ‘star’ a la Britain’s Got Talent, it’s about helping them to develop their creativity and imagination.

Pyjama Drama has been going a couple of years and has 11 franchises across the UK.  There is an absolute ton of potential and it’s really exciting to come onboard and help grow and shape the business.  As we’re still effectively a start-up and everything will be ploughed back into the company, I will be carrying on with my other work for now and dividing my time between the two.  Hopefully some of my pr and social media skills will help us to raise the profile of the business.

I’ll still be keeping this blog running but do have a look at Pyjama Drama, (we’ll be giving the site a complete overhaul very soon) and if you know anyone who has drama skills and is looking for a new venture, then send them our way.

What do your lists say about you?

Ever since they were launched, I’ve liked Twitter lists. When I joined Twitter in 2007 it was actually pretty tricky to find people you might want to follow, it was, at times, like looking for a needle in a haystack. Lists can really help newbies to start getting value from Twitter fairly quickly. Services like Listorious allow you to search for lists by topic. And it’s only taken Twitter nearly four years to sort out their own lists, moving from a much hated ‘suggested users lists‘ to a set of suggestions based on interests. But what I find most interesting about lists is what it says about how people categorise you. Jay Baer came up with a neat little tool that allows you to look at the lists you’re on in one easy to browse list. If you then import this into Wordle, hey presto, you have an instant visual representation of how you are perceived.

In honour of my new site, for anyone who has arrived here without knowing me, I thought I’d do my own. It’s pretty accurate and if nothing else, Wordle always make a lovely picture….

Could you just?

Yesterday I came across this fantastic post 'Please Design a Logo for me. With Pie Charts'.  Do read it, it's genius. 

Also very timely.  A bit of a rant coming up but I'm getting an increasing number of requests to provide information/advice for free, along the lines of "could you just send me that list of blogger details you mentioned?" or "what's the best way for us to measure xyz and could you just let me see how that works?"

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to provide advice, input, suggestions for existing clients and indeed with peers, potential clients, others in my network.  But there comes a point where knowledge sharing turns into getting stuff for free.

I'm a freelance consultant, that means my knowledge and skills are how I earn a living. The proliferation of content for free on the web, especially around social media and PR, seems to be resulting in people thinking that these kinds of requests are OK.  But really it's like asking your lawyer or accountant to give you some free advice.  And I can imagine the response you'd get to that.


Image by mezzoblue