Posts Tagged ‘social media’

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.

Social media reputation management: getting it right and getting it wrong


How to deal with negativity on social media platforms is one of the issues I’m asked about most frequently during training workshops.  Most organisations will at some time or another, have to face criticisms or complaints online.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of negative comments, the best way to respond is quickly, transparently and authentically.

But occasionally a bigger crisis occurs and last week there were two examples which neatly demonstrated the right and the wrong way to deal with a social media tsunami.

First up, Adecco who allegedly ripped off an idea from blogger Turner Barr, Around the World in 80 jobs and turned it into a strapline and campaign for their own ends.  There has been a huge amount of criticism on social media channels and Adecco’s main Facebook page is flooded with comments criticising them for seemingly stealing someone’s idea and passing it off as their own.  In response they posted a statement which is little more than an exercise in PR fluff, in it they say:

We have seen and heard your sincere concern about our recent youth employment initiative and take your feedback very seriously. We deeply regret if we hurt Turner Barr. This was never our intention when we set up our “Around the World in 80 Jobs” contest. We clearly see that Turner is an inspiration to many people. We feel there should be more of such initiatives that inspire people to live their dreams and achieve their ambitions. Unfortunately, we moved forward with a name and contest that clearly upset Turner and his community. We sincerely apologize for that mistake. 

When Turner contacted us about his concern, and we understood the full situation, we immediately engaged with him to try to make things right. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground so far.

So what’s wrong with their approach so far?  Well firstly, it’s patronising to its audience.  The statement has a faux sincerity that is grating to read, it also doesn’t really tell us that much.   And while I’d never suggest trying to respond to every comment, having posted the statement to Facebook, they haven’t (so far) been back to engage further.  Secondly, they appear to be completely ignoring the issue on other social channels.  A quick search for ‘adecco’ on twitter reveals a huge number of people tweeting in support of Turner Barr and criticising Adecco but the sum total of their response is one tweet last Friday linking to a statement on the matter.  In that tweet they use the phrase:

We’re sorry for some recent negative comments on our global youth employment initiative

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? They’re sorry that they got something wrong or they’re sorry to be receiving end of so many negative comments?

Now obviously they could be involved in legal proceedings which means they’re unable to get into more detail but whatever they’re doing, they need to do it fast.  Of course in all of this the biggest problem is that what you say when something like this blows up is actually only a tiny part of dealing with it effectively, it’s what you do that matters.  Social media simply holds a mirror up to your organisation and reveals it as it is.  Rather than try and paper over the cracks you have to fix the issue.

Which leads me to Kickstarter, who had a similar social media crisis last week but who dealt with it in a completely different manner.  They came under fire from many different individuals and organisations when a ‘dating tips’ manual received funding despite the fact that it was, at best, a how-to on sexual harassment and at worst, a manual to encourage rape.  Their response was quick, decisive and included real action.  The tone of their apology is authentic and free from corporate speak.  They have explained the background and the action they’ve taken (no publications of this type will be allowed on Kickstarter in the future and they donated $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organisation).    The huge number of positive comments on the blog post demonstrates how positively people have responded to Kickstarter’s approach.  Yes there are a few counter opinions in there but the vast majority of commentators are congratulatory.

The key difference between them and Adecco is that Kickstarter have taken action and then been very clear about what action they’ve taken. Whereas, so far, Adecco have hidden behind a statement that is not just disingenuous but as it stands, has only served to add fuel to the fire.

My latest work projects

macbook pro

A brief update on the latest projects on which I’ve been working.

I continue to run lots of training workshops on social media and online pr, I’ve been doing this for four years now and have worked with all sorts of different organisations. Training is bespoke, either full day sessions (on all aspects of social media), platform specific, or more presentation style events.  Here are just a few of those I’ve worked with over the last six months: Econsultancy, Arts Marketing Association, Museums and Galleries Scotland, Mediacontact, University of Bristol Students’ Union, Cornerhouse Manchester (public sessions) plus many PR and digital agencies.

In October I was lucky enough to be asked to work on one of my favourite projects, the Creative Tourist Manchester Weekender, I was tasked with using social media to help promote the many events that were taking place and to measure the results of our online activity.  Over the weekend itself I was also on the ground, helping to document everything by taking photos and capturing audioboo interviews with participants and attendees.  You can see a Storify of the weekend here.  For anyone in the tourism business, you might be interested to know that Creative Tourist now has a consultancy arm, Creative Tourist Consults, which specialises in cultural tourism strategy and digital communications.

I continue to write the monthly social media ‘Web Pro’ page for the brilliant .net magazine and am hoping to report from sxsw for them again.  Other writing commissions have included a, soon to be launched, ebook for My Newsdesk, aimed at small businesses and SMEs, it’s for anyone new to PR and wanting to understand how you can use it to promote your business.

I’m also coming to the end of a significant piece of work developing a social media strategy for a large organisation, this involved conducting a thorough audit of their current activity, producing a detailed recommended strategy and providing follow up training for staff.

And finally, around 60% of my time is taken up working as a director of Pyjama Drama, a franchise business that provides drama & creative play classes for toddlers and children.  We have 27 franchises across the UK and are growing fast.

If you have a social media or writing project with which you need a hand, or a training need, please do get in touch.  You can view some testimonials on my LinkedIn page.

Facebook Promoted Posts for Profiles: WTF


In the tech world, Facebook comes in for quite a bit of stick, its business model as an ad supported platform is fundamentally flawed, its mobile strategy is essentially flawed and let’s not get into outrage over privacy issues and so on…

But the reality is that in the mainstream, non tech world, Facebook is still, by some considerable margin the king of social networks.  I’m sure I’m not unusual when I say that the vast majority of my non tech friends use Facebook as their only social network.  However, all that might be about to change.

In May Facebook announced promoted posts to pages (pay so that more of your userbase will see your updates) and as this rolled out to all pages they also tweaked Edgerank so that even less of your (page) updates will be seen by your Facebook community. Coincidence? But even that could be considered to be fair game, hey it’s a business, they have to make money, if you want to use it as a marketing channel for your own business you have to accept it won’t be free etc.

However, they’re now rolling out the promoted post options to people’s personal accounts.  So as an individual I can pay to have more of my friends/connections see one of my updates.  And this is where I believe Facebook may start to lose the very audience that is essentially loyal to Facebook and up until now haven’t been concerned with, or even aware of, most of the other contentious issues.

As the screenshot above shows, there is so much room for promoted posts on profiles to fail.  Aside from the risk of an insensitive ‘hey you want to promote that post about how depressed you are?’ situation, how will users feel when their feeds are cluttered up with paid for ‘look at ME type posts’.  It truly feels like a desperate attempt to bleed every last cent out of the platform.  There is another issue too, on Facebook’s sign up page it’s very clear with its message:

“It’s free and always will be.”

Clearly if some users are able to pay in order to obtain more prominence within the network then you can’t really claim it’s free.

For now it seems that promoted posts to profiles is only available for some people.  Facebook announced it a couple of weeks ago by saying that it’s ‘testing promoted posts for people in the US‘ but it’s definitely appearing as an option on UK profiles too (in response to a tweet I sent out earlier today, 10 UK based people with whom I’m connected had been randomly offered the opportunity to promote a post).

Perhaps they are genuinely only testing it and will withdraw it but if not, this could be the point in history that Facebook starts to lose appeal to its core user base.  And that’s the point from which is is very difficult to return.

Number 10′s social media story

Storify is one of my favourite online tools

Every time I’ve ever demoed it to someone unfamiliar with it, they always love it and it’s not hard to see why; it has a great UI, is simple to use and has a ton of different potential applications; from curating a news story, a conference or event, to pulling together a discussion taking place on twitter or other places on the web, used in the right way it gives a story depth and resonance.

It was with interest then, that yesterday I saw that Downing Street has started using Storify. The irony of course was this was just as the news broke about the fact that Olympic volunteers have been tightly restricted from using social media while at events.   Storify makes perfect sense as a PR tool, you can carefully craft exactly the story you want your audience to see, with no messy bits that haven’t been approved.  But what number 10 need to understand is that, like any good story, it’s only going to be interesting with colour and variety; if you create a corporate, vanilla version of an event, no one is going to give it a second glance.  The ‘Olympic Cabinet meeting – 200 days to go’ Story from Number 10 is little more than a glossy press release with no commentary or content from third parties (which is of course, the beauty of Storify).

So Number10gov you may find that Storify doesn’t work for you, because if you insist on having complete control over every element of your social media ‘story’, you’ll find that no-one will give it a second glance.

Social Media & Digital Predictions for 2012

Tech and media bloggers fall over each other to herald in the new year with predictions that 2012 will be the ‘Year of….’
I’m adding my voice to that cacophony but with the proviso that I will come back in December, revisit them and we can decide whether I was completely off the mark, somewhere near or, in fact, the leading new oracle.

So my 5 predictions for 2012:

1. From real-time to slowing down. Heard a lot of talk about this at sxsw in 2011 but seeing an increasing number of blog posts about it from tech early adopters and certainly feeling it myself. Have we all gorged ourselves on ‘real-time’ instant communications to such an extent that we are feeling the need for abstinence? Inevitably when these new technologies were created, we all crammed ourselves with them in a feeding frenzy. But frequently now I want to shout “SLOW DOWN”, it’s not a race. Faster isn’t always better.

2. The rise and rise of the storyteller. It’s arguable that storytelling is already the comic sans of the digital world, so much is the term being banded about but there are two sides to this that I want to flag up. Firstly, this is the year that I think more and more organisations will come to understand the importance of storytelling when developing their content for social media content and secondly, the rise of live storytelling in the UK (see The Moth for an idea if you’ve never been to a live storytelling event). The first London Storytelling Festival took place in October 2011 and other small events are popping up all over the UK, like Tales of Whatever, in Manchester. This can only be a good thing. There is nothing and I repeat, nothing that warms the heart as much as a good story.

3. Listening as much as reading. Audio is on the up. Audio stories (see no 2 above and please, if you’ve never done so, go to This American Life this instant and listen to one of the podcasts) and audio for reporting. I know this isn’t new but I think 2012 will be the year that audio in social really explodes.

4. A return to long form. Five years ago, Twitter turned the heads of bloggers and they skipped off into the sunset holding hands, leaving behind a trail of broken and abandoned blogs. This was desperately sad as many brilliant writers went from posting 3 or 4 times a week to once a month if we were lucky. It’s great that so many are returning to those blogs, dusting them off and reacquainting themselves. Yes I know that blogging generally has continued to grow in the last 5 years but I’m talking about the really good, thought-provoking bloggers that you can’t wait to read. There aren’t many of those.

5. The year social media stopped being talked about as a separate ‘thing’. Will 2012 be the year that the overall knowledge level as risen to such an extent that we can stop the echo chamber discussions about whether social media ‘matters’ or how to measure engagement. Personally I’m hoping on this one but realise it’s a long shot.

So they are my wise {sic} predictions. Let’s see how we get on…

*Image: J W Waterhouse’s The Crystal Ball, courtesy oubliette (reproduced under Creative Commons license)

What a difference six months makes…

Poor neglected blog.  It’s been six long months since I’ve posted.  Except it feels like about six minutes.

Anyway, so much has happened.  Many interesting developments in my own life and about a zillion fascinating things in tech land.

But tonight in particular I was reminded how quickly things can change out there in computer land.  Six months ago I did a blog post titled, ‘Where were you when?‘, it sort of related to the historical UK election and hung parliament but also to the increasing importance of location based services (having just come back from sxsw where that was all anybody was discussing).  And for six months now, on and off in training gigs, I’ve been using a quote  I scribbled down at sxsw (and apologies to whoever said it, I didn’t make a note of the name):

“Your current location (and location habits) will further enhance the delivery of your digital experiences.  Content will become increasingly aware of its surroundings and configure itself accordingly”

What a difference six months makes indeed. Google launched Google Places, which allows you to search specific for specific venues (hotels, restaurants, shops etc) by location, Facebook launched Facebook Places, a mobile app that effectively mimicked Foursquare and Gowalla by letting you share your physical location with your friends by checking into places.  And tonight they weighed in with another major, location, based development: Facebook Deals, effectively letting businesses offer deals to customers who ‘check-in’ to their venue using the Facebook app.  So again, not a new idea but what makes it so important of course it that when a heavyweight like Facebook do something, it has the potential to change everything.  For even small businesses who have a physical rather than online sales operation, this is a chance to turn ‘friends’ into actual cash sales.  This round-up by The Next Web tells you all you need to know about today’s Facebook announcements.

Here’s to the next six months.

Social media fatigue and tweeting taxi cabs

After coming back from SXSW I was suffering a bit from social media fatigue. Despite deliberately avoiding panels that had social media in any part of the description (always a rehash of the same stuff; the gems at SXSW are in random, bizarre and more pure tech based panels – oh and Clay Shirky), the endless talk about location based services being the next social media landgrab left me feeling a bit, well, bored of it all. Apart from my chat with the lovely James Hart of course ;)

And I’m even more dulled by the never ending “10 ways to demonstrate social media ROI”, “5 ways to build a blog”, “3 ways to skin a cat” blah blah blah.

Then I saw this post by Will McInnes about how taking a break from work, on holiday in the real world, made it even clearer to him how much of a feedback loop the world of social media can be, “Because it has got a bit cluttered and noisy and samey and frankly, a bit overwhelming hasn’t it?” I couldn’t agree more.

But then, just when I was feeling particularly jaded, I had a lovely experience that reminded me of why social media can be hugely enabling. I’ve talked before about the power of social media to build communities but down in London last week I came across a fantastic example. Tweetalondoncab are a collective of London black cab drivers who have got together to offer direct bookings of black cabs via twitter. It’s a great service and one I’d highly recommend. But it’s not the service itself that I wanted to mention, it’s the way in which their use of twitter has helped to build an offline community for the drivers.

My driver was @cabbydavid and he explained how twitter has been fantastic for building a network of like minded friends,”I love it, if it’s 2am and I’m quiet, I just tweet that I’m going to xyz cafe for a cup of tea and I meet up with some of the other cabbies for a chat”. He went on to say that using twitter had expanded his circle of friends and made the whole experience of being a London cab driver, just, well, better. Simple, effective and a reminder that social media doesn’t have to change the world, sometimes it’s enough that it helps us connect with others.

As an aside, we talked briefly about how they could incorporate Foursquare or Gowalla into their services. I’m still pondering this one; tie-ups with cafes, bars? 10% discount offered for cab journeys from various specific check-ins? If anyone has any bright ideas, I know @cabbiescapital would love to hear them.

Oh and I reckon @jackcabnory‘s audioboo election updates will be well worth a listen.

*image Patrick Mayon

Are we any nearer to the Tipping Point?


Econsultancy launched their Social Media and Online PR report yesterday, providing a comprehensive insight into how businesses are currently approaching social media (or not) in the UK. The headline to fall out of the report is that the overwhelming majority of companies (86%) plan to spend more money on social media in 2010, and a further 13% are planning tokeep the same level of budget.

But I think of equal interest is whether we’ve moved on in the last 12 months: are businesses really embracing social media or is there still more talk about it than actual action.

In my recent experience the only larger business that are really embedding social media into their business are either a) those with someone at board level who understands it or b) younger businesses without a pre-existing company culture to stifle it. The report bears this out citing lack of knowledge (50%), lack of senior buy-in (33%), lack of resource (32%) and company culture (28%) as the main barriers preventing clients from engaging in social media activity.

It’s also interesting that smaller organisations (turnover less than £1m) are significantly more likely to be heavily involved in social media.Makes perfect sense, it’s much easier to change direction if you’re a nippy speed boat than a lumbering cruise liner.

I was genuinely surprised that when asked what people viewed as the main benefits of social media, “increased direct traffic to website” was only viewed as a “major benefit” by 56% of respondents. I mean what? Brand awareness, customer engagement, reputation management are all vital but perhapsnot understanding how being able to demonstrate ROI by measuring the effect of activity on brand owned spaces, is why we’re not, as an industry, winning the battle of trying to convince clients why they should bother in the first place.
The first three are lovely and what we know to be valuable but on which we can’t as yet put a price tag, the last one can make it easier to open the door to the sceptic at the top table.

Overall it seems thereis still along way to go before social media engagement (is it just me or isn’t digital engagement starting to sound like a better term?) is anywhere nearbeing an accepted part of business operations. As an industry, education and best practice not quick wins, will be the only way to move this on.

That Tipping Point is a way off yet.

Image by Nicora