Category Archives: Social Media

To conquer social you must become social…

OK, so it hasn’t quite got the impact of the similar, albeit slightly more famous line from Batman Begins (2005)  but the sentiment that sits behind it is the same. It may be true that social networking probably isn’t of major interest to the lone knight himself (can’t imagine Batman being that keen to encourage ‘likes’ or having a particularly great score on Klout!) but it does continue to be ever more important to the lives of us lesser mortals.

Consequently businesses are flocking to social platforms and often because they think they should be there rather than because it forms part of a strategic plan for brand management, customer engagement or strategic analysis. It’s often the case that companies embark on building a social media presence out of a negative compulsion to manage risk, borne of a fear that they need to control what people are saying about their brand. I recently gained firsthand experience of this with my own business…

My Life | My Choice is a tense urban drama that aims to explore the reality of gangs and weapons

Some time ago my company Lime Social Marketing, Media & Communications produced My Life | My Choice –a short film that explores issues relating to gangs and weapons as part of a structured educational programme delivered in schools. I was therefore surprised when a group of the actors started a campaign to get the film released.

My attention was drawn to the ‘unofficial’ channels being used to promote the film and the difficulties in controlling what was being said. Should we post links and information, try to divert the flow of traffic, intervene? As quickly as these concerns emerged, a calm, more rational thinking took over. Exercising any control over content being spread virally would be about as easy as trying to prevent a tidal wave by standing on the seashore armed with an umbrella. So I did the only thing I could, I ‘liked’ the fan page and endorsed the campaign.

Cast from My Life | My Choice start 'unofficial' campaign to get the film released

The simple fact is that if people want to talk about or share something online they are unlikely to wait for anyone else’s permission or support to do it and once that genie is out of the bottle, there’s nothing you can do to change it, the moment has gone. But then why would you want to? Having people talk about your work is a great way to promote it and actively taking part in the dialogue can bring a whole host of invaluable customer insight and feedback.

Businesses need to let go of their fear, accept this simple reality, but above all not get too hung up about control.With the plethora of social platforms that are already available and the advent of new ones like Google+, if you don’t get on board and ride that wave you’ll simply be swept aside by it.

So perhaps the phrase should actually be “to conquer fear we must become social” –the old adage, if you can’t beat them, join them has never been more apt!


What’s in a #Hashtag?

A friend recently commented on the strange accessory to my tweets –a series of seemingly random symbols, letters and numbers that made no obvious sense.

This was of course a hashtag. I had been using it whilst tweeting from a conference and it occurred to me that hashtags are something often taken for granted by seasoned tweeters but probably quite confusing if you are noticing them for the first time.

So here is a quick overview…

The humble hashtag is a particular favourite at events, conferences or just general conversations about stuff like favourite TV shows. By using a hashtag, subjects can be easily searched and followed. Quite simply it provides a way to catalogue a collection of tweets and bring some order to what might otherwise be a chaotic online space.

For an event this means that even if you are not attending in person, you can set up a search and monitor the whole conversation as it happens without the need to follow every single user that is participating (which would be impossible).

You can therefore take part in conversations based upon themes or topics rather than purely on who you are following. The same applies for your favourite TV shows – you can join realtime discussion as the show is on, so it’s like watching TV with hundreds of friends (often connecting you with new ones).

If enough people make use of the hashtag it’s then more likely to appear as a trending topic and this helps to spread information on Twitter (while also helping to organise it).

Here are a few simple hashtag tips:

1. Don’t overuse them –you risk diluting their usefulness and fragmenting conversations.

2. Search existing hashtags –you can join and add to conversations by looking at what’s already being used. Events, conferences and TV shows will often have their own tag allowing you to join in with an established community.

3. Keep it relevant –if you are commenting on a particular hashtag make sure there is some context. Remember, whatever you write is added to that search string so enrich it by being pertinent.

So to sum up, hashtags are a simple way to organise information, they can extend your reach and help build new connections. Time to start tagging your tweets!

Lessons in Social Media Practice #1

For many, blogging brings a certain amount of fear. Fear of not writing enough, fear of writing too much, fear that no-one will read, fear that people actually will read. So what is it about blogging that paralyses people who are usually so socially capable?

We Are What We Tweet event

The We Are What We Tweet Event offered an exploration of social media use in a variety of settings

As a follow-up to the We Are What We Tweet event I recently spent some time discussing the merits of blogging as a mechanism to build an engaged audience. Many people are completely comfortable doing this in face-to-face situations –sharing ideas, thoughts and perspectives or simply chatting is something that comes completely naturally to most.

Blogging really should be the same –a rewarding activity that isn’t too difficult or time-consuming. So partly for my own benefit and partly in response to that discussion, here are a few ideas…

What’s your motivation?

Are you sharing life’s stories, trying to build a brand, documenting or publicising your event or business, or seeking to stimulate thought and debate. It doesn’t matter what it is you want to do but it is worth putting a bit of consideration into it first.

Think about your goal or message –it just might help you to collect your thoughts and get going. It doesn’t matter if you just want an outlet for self-expression or you have a very specific aim but spend a bit of time reflecting on this and it will help to shape your writing.

And don’t be afraid to change your goals. It may be that you are not too interested in building a readership at first but as you gain in popularity you may want to think more about your aims and where to take your audience next.

Understanding who makes up your audience is a valuable step towards writing in a way that attracts them

Who is your audience?

Speaking of audience, imagining who is reading, or who you would like to read your blog can be a good way to develop your writing. It gives you a focus, a direction. You might want to imagine you are talking to a particular person and whilst it’s often the case that your implied or imagined audience can be very different to your actual audience it doesn’t hurt to begin with this approach and refine it as you go. Of course having an audience also brings another consideration…

Can you handle the spotlight?

Part of the initial fear of blogging can be the sudden realisation of putting your thoughts ‘on the record’. What might be fine as a private conversation or comment might not be something you want to have permanently engraved on the web. It’s worth remembering that regardless of your audience, implied or otherwise, blogging leaves an almost indelible mark that people could see, even if you were to subsequently delete your blog.

Finding your voice

It’s worth deciding the tone of your writing. Organisations in particular often opt for a very corporate approach, which is fine if this reflects your reader but it’s also worth considering that whoever your audience, they are still people and therefore the rules of social engagement are the same. People want to hear from other people, with personalities and opinions, so it follows that a friendly humanistic approach is likely to engage an interest.

How often and how much will you write?

Blogging is a bit like marriage (is that the sound of mouse click closing down my blog page?) or any other long-term commitment in that it takes a bit of time, dedication and nurturing to cultivate success. So you should decide how often you are going to talk to your audience in order to build rapport without setting unrealistic expectations.

You should also think about how long your posts will be and set yourself a word count. Many prefer blogs to give bite-sized topic summaries of 500 to 1000 words. You don’t always have to say everything in one post, if you have lots of really interesting stuff break it down into a series of articles. This enables your reader to digest your point and a series of short snappy posts will encourage your readers to come back for more.

Planning, and even writing your posts in advance doesn’t mean you can’t be genuine and spontaneous but it will help you to have a steady stream of content. There are no hard and fast rules but there is a link between frequency and traffic so set a schedule and stick to it.

Clearly defined topics can help to develop your audience

What topics should you choose?

It often helps to write about things that you are knowledgable on and interested in. This helps you to write with authenticity and expertise which will definitely come across in your writing.

Apply that same principle of planning to each individual post and have a checklist. As a starting point you may want to include:

  1. A short, compelling or intriguing headline;
  2. A strong first sentence to “hook” your reader;
  3. Pictures (if you use them) can be great at both illustrating your point and grabbing your reader but if possible try to use ones that are high quality and original;
  4. Breaks in the text. Short paragraphs, numbered lists, bullet points and subheads all help people to read posts quickly and easily.

Remember that online readers often scan first until they find something that “grabs” their attention so it’s worth considering how your blog looks as well as how it reads.

Promote yourself

Chances are you already have a ready-made audience of friends, acquaintances and colleagues on social networking sites. Use your social networks to promote your blog. Paste links and encourage friends to visit. You can also ask them to repost the links on their own pages. Since the people in your network are friends, it’s pretty certain that a significant number will actually help you.

What does success look like?

Just as you’ve considered your goal, it’s also useful to track that goal in order to continually improve your blog and develop your skills. It may be helpful to establish some kind of process for reviewing what is and isn’t working. Things you can easily monitor include, comments and traffic. If you want to dig a little deeper consider web tools like Google Analytics or use simple tools that often feature as part of your blog platform.

Right, having written this I now understand all the things I’m doing wrong so I’m off to take my own advice and build a global audience!

Happy blogging…