Whatever Happened To My Blog and Roll?

I was hunting around for some information the other day and I recalled that it had been dropped into a blog post I’d written a while ago.

Turns out, that post was WAY BACK in 2016.

I was a little bit embarrassed with myself that the last serious blogpost I’d written was three years ago. For someone who is supposed to position themselves as a writer first, it is a little pathetic.

I have produced 614 blog posts for Seldom Seen Kid since I started in 2008. At one point I was publishing three to four times a week.

It seems that the slowing down in real social media innovation has affected the level of output, along with, y’know, life and work.

I’ve been thinking about what 2020 will hold for social media recently and it seems that we’ll be addressing the same old concerns about privacy, control of data, operating models… we’ve hit a point of maturity where we really are making minor tweaks and marginal gains.

This is all taking place with the backdrop of social media leading to mental health challenges, people using social media for nefarious means, confusion over what content is real and what is not.

Social media isn’t a fledgling experiment, lurching from one interesting innovation to another anymore. It’s become a part of our collective conscious, self censoring what we put on the Internet in case it comes back to bite us later down the line.

Drew Benvie recently gave a Ted Talk about making social media a force for good. I urge you to read the highlights on the Battenhall blog.

Social media has had a bad rep, and it looks to be evolving into a darker place.

We can change that, but only if we think about the wider implications of our actions and conversations we’re having.

Publish Less: Quality Beats Quantity

People want better content – stop publishing crap for the sake of it.

Digiday yesterday published a post based on comments from the team behind the Economist’s social media presence. In the post, the Economist’s team talk about how they realised that ‘We were wasting time churning out tweets’.

We’ve certainly seen the switch from quantity to quality content over the past two years as people become more fatigued by the (sorry) ‘always on’ nature of social media.

Back in the day we’d advise clients to publish five tweets and one to two Facebook posts every day. The intention was to stay top of mind and appear omnipresent in the newsfeeds.

Looking back now it was the right approach – everyone was getting to grips with the novelty of being able to overshare so it was important to try and rise above the noise.

Now, as the industry has matured, and people reading content have become more discerning in what they expect to see from brands, the requirement to focus on quality over quantity has prevailed.

We’re now advising clients that it’s more impactful to create a few pieces of amazing content, rather than diluting the newsfeed with content that sinks quicker than the time it takes to type it.

Publishing 25 tweets a week is insane. It is drain on your team’s creativity; it’s a drain on your budget; you can never ever win – no matter how much content you publish, someone will always be able to out-publish you.

If it’s good enough for the Economist, it’s good enough for me.

Digital Campaign Foundations

I recently gave a talk at NationBuilder’s ‘Ingredients of a Successful Digital Campaign’ event. The focus of the 7 minute (!) presentation was the role of the consultant in developing a digital strategy.

I thought i’d share the full text to add context to the points I talked through at the event. As ever, thanks to Toni and the NationBuilder team for having me!

Digital Integration
Regardless of your sector, online and offline communications go hand in hand; they are totally integrated.

Previously, people would talk about your brand down the pub and you’d never get a true insight into how you were perceived without looking at expensive market research. Now, people go on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Periscope etc and you can find out in an instant what they think of you.

Digital campaigns give us a great opportunity to connect with audiences in ways only made possible in the last 10-15 years – the caveat being that in order to connect effectively you need to work around your audience.

I’ll keep coming back to audiences because they are more vocal than ever; you’ll get feedback you like, feedback that you don’t. What you can be certain of, is that they’ll let you know what they think.

What Is Strategy?
Before we get to the strategy development, I think it’s worth spending a moment to outline what a strategy actually is. Digital comms is a blend of art and science, so let’s do the science bit first by setting a control for the discussion.

Strategy one of the most mis-used words in a marketer’s vocabulary – I’m as guilty of it as anyone else – so let’s set a common understanding:

Aim – the overall desired outcome we want to achieve
Strategy – how we’re going to go about what we want to achieve
Objectives – what needs to happen contribute to us succeeding
Tactics – what we’re going to do to make it happen

So, a strategy outlines how we’re going to meet our imperative. Let’s see how that manifests itself.

Role of the Consultant
What does the consultant actually bring to the table?

Please forgive me for a selfie-related analogy… when it comes to strategy, I see the role of the consultant very much akin to the chap holding the phone taking a selfie with his family. Well, I assume it’s his family.

As a consultant you need to know what your end goal is – why are you doing what you’re doing; in the case of the selfie, it’s to get everybody in the same picture, preferably smiling, with a good amount of the background in shot so it’s Instagram-worthy.

You need to know who should be in the picture; preferably with as little opportunity for others to photobomb as possible.

You need to prepare everyone so that they know what their role is; in this case, smile on 3!

Finally, you need to have a steady arm; you need to ensure the end outcome (the picture) achieved what you set out to do in the first place.

A consultant’s role is to make sure that everyone has performed their roles to the best of their abilities to meet the needs of the client.

How do we get to find out what the client’s need are? The answer is actually pretty simple; we need to ask questions.

A client or prospect will come to us with a problem, issue or challenge they’re facing: we need to sell more product through our website; we have a corporate reputation issue on Twitter; we need to build our brand awareness with an online community.

We need to ask questions to help us understand what the client wants, what the community needs and then we can work out the bit in the middle: the strategy to bring the two together.

So, what are those questions? I’ve got 11 to get you started, but there are probably many more to throw in here. They broadly fall into 3 categories.

1. Set The Scene
We need to understand what the client wants to happen as a result of a digital campaign: We need to ask

1) What is the objective of your online presence & how does this tie into the overall business or communications objective? – This tells us the big picture, what should people expect from the client’s online presence?

2) How do we want people to think, act and feel when they see and interact with us online? – Are we looking to give them information to share; do we want to make them feel special; do we want them to associate us with a particular conversation topic?

You’ll notice this is no different to developing an offline strategy – the only aspect here is that the action is carried out online.

2. Define Your Audience
You need to know who you’re going to try and talk with, so there are four main questions to address:

3) Who are our audiences? – The answer here is not ‘Millennials’. Your answer should be based on interest groups; a cross section of Millennials may fall within an interest group, but Millennials as a whole, are not an audience.

4) Where are they online? – By understanding where your audience is online, you can work out how they behave and the best way to serve content. Are they in forums and looking for conversations; are they on Buzzfeed and looking for amazing content to share?

5) Where are we online; what are the gaps? – If we’re aiming to engage with people interested in fashion, do we have a credible YouTube or Instagram channel. If we’re looking to engage with people interested in politics, should we have a blog or a profile on Linkedin?

6) Where are our competitors online and what are they doing?/How do we stand out? – The Internet is saturated with brands, companies and organisations vying for attention – what can we provide to our desired target audiences that will make us stand out?

Again, you’ll notice this is no different to developing an offline strategy – the only aspect here is that the action is carried out online.

3. Refine Your Execution
Finally, how are we going to do what we need to do?

7) What are our key messages and stories? – We know what the desired audience is and how they behave, what do we want to tell them? If you don’t have an immediate news hook, you’ll not have any success!

8) How do we want to communicate them?/How should we communicate them? – Do we have loads of long form content ripe for reading? We need to compromise and turn those whitepapers into web-appropriate content; quick videos or infographics for example.

9) What does success look like? – We know what our aim is, what are we going to measure to ensure we’re successful. Are we looking for engagement, loyalty or sales?

10) How do we implement? – This is where we finally address what we need to do; are the right online channels already in place? Do we need to go and hire a photographer to take some amazing pictures? Do we have access to any talent to help connect our story with the audience?

11) What are we implementing? – Finally, the fun bit, and the aspect that we most naturally go to first: what tactics shall we use?

With all the information you’ve gathered with the first ten questions, you should be in a position to come up with amazingly creative, or simple yet effective campaign tactics that meet your needs and those of your target audience.

Again… it’s the same as creating an offline strategy, it’s just played out online.

Getting The Right Blend
Once you have your answers, you’ve got your plan in place and you’ve come up with a great campaign story, you need to work out how you’ll execute.

This is where you need to think about capabilities and resources. Do you have a team who can create amazing videos? Can you call on creatives who will bring your stories to life visually? Do you have people who can manage an influencer outreach programme? Do you have in-house resource to build a website or app?

As a consultant, either in-house or agency-side, you need to work out the best placed teams and people who can help you achieve the right result.

Working With Partners
That might mean that you’ll need to work with partners. There are lots of companies who can help you to put those foundations in place to help you succeed.

The key to working with partners is trust and building an honest and transparent working relationship.

Collaboration. Share as much knowledge as you can and collaborate to find the best solution to the challenge you’re facing.

The technology that is available to us to help run campaigns is astounding – we should embrace it and not be afraid to keep asking questions.

I’d love to know what i’ve missed and to get your thoughts on successful digital campaign strategy development, leave a comment below!

Four Reasons Community Managers Need to Know Paid Media

The convergence of social media and paid media means that Community Managers must add another string to their ever-growing bow.

Much in the way that using a tool like Radian6, Sysomos or Netbase to understand how a community behaves has become an essential skill, Account Executives right through to Directors, need to know what Paid Media can bring to a communications activity and how to execute.

The emergence of paid media as a communication tool in social media has meant that advertising budgets are being pushed more to the social media realm; recent GroupM research has suggested that this year more than 50% of ad spend will now be put towards digital advertising.

1. Organic reach is dying
The days of thousands and thousands of likes on Facebook posts are over. Facebook have all but ensured that if you want your content to reach the large fanbase you’ve spent the last five years building up, you will need to pay for the pleasure.

It’s easy to hypothesise that Twitter or Instagram will be the next platform to begin throttling organic reach – they need to because…

2. Platforms need to monetise to survive
Getting paid to get people in front of your content is one of the simplest ways to make a quick buck. But it is essential; without platforms there are fewer ways to connect with the switched generation and if the shareholders and investors don’t see a return, they’ll pull the plug.

People do not want to be bombarded by adverts; that means platforms need to make the content they *can* publish work harder.

3.If you don’t do it, someone else will
The landgrab for paid media ownership has been ever-shifting; whether it’s media, advertising, marketing, PR, social media or digital agencies, everyone sees the value that Paid media can bring.

To be able to run and maintain a paid campaign must be a requisite for anyone hoping to succeed in the digital communication space. If you’re unable to do it, someone else will and that means less revenue for your agency and could mean you’re overlooked for that big role you want.

As someone who has managed many different communities over the last eight years, I don’t want to sound the death knell for Community Management, but the reality is that many big brands are pulling that role in-house to dedicated teams. That leaves agency teams with fewer opportunities and a big question: what do we do if one of our main revenue drivers dries up? Become Paid media experts, could be one of the potential answers.

4. You learn about measurement *really* quickly
Social media is converging with direct marketing; what direct marketing is really good at is measuring success.

If you can learn the metrics that make paid media accountable, you’ll learn a valuable analysis skill that can be transferred into different roles and applied across different tasks.

If you are a Community Manager and don’t know how to publish a dark post on Facebook, letalone publish a promoted tweet, now is your time to learn and develop an expertise that will take you out of social media and into marketing.

If you are currently working in the social media space and do not have responsibility for Paid Media on your channels, go and claim it.

If you think #PR and #socialmedia should stay away from Paid Media, pack up and go home

Running Paid Media campaigns now must be considered part of the ‘must have’ armoury of PRs.

Much in the way that using a tool like Radian6, Sysomos or Netbase to understand how a community behaves has become an essential skill, Account Executives right through to Directors, need to know what Paid Media can bring to a communications activity and how to execute.

I do not believe that Paid Media should live with media buying or ad agencies. There is no better person placed to run a Paid Media campaign than a Community Manager.

They are engaging on behalf of their brand every day. They know what people in that community like, don’t like, react to and ignore.

In a previous role, I was working alongside another agency on behalf of a client. The client put the control of the Paid Media activity with the other agency, whilst we looked after the community management.

We noticed a sudden surge in negative commentary within our Twitter community. It was odd as generally the community were positive towards us. After investigation it turned out that some Paid Media activity had gone live, and it had terrible targeting; the agency running the activity had got it all wrong. We identified what the issue was, suggested changes, implemented the changes and subsequently the negative discussion declined to minimal levels.

Because we knew what the community wanted, the language that would be used by potential new community members and those people who did not like the company we were working with, we could optimise the Paid Media activity accordingly.

The targeting errors were so obvious to us because we knew the language that would resonate. We knew that because we were in the community everyday.

PR is all about communication. That means using the right visuals, presentation, tone and vocabulary to connect. Media buying agencies and advertisers can offer scale, but they can not offer innate understanding of behaviour; that’s not their role.

If you are a Community Manager and don’t know how to publish  a dark post on Facebook, letalone publish a promoted tweet, now is your time to learn and develop an expertise that will take you out of social media and into marketing.

Social media’s convergence into marketing continues as Facebook’s organic post reach diminishes to comical levels.

We’ve continually asked ‘who is responsible for running social media’; advertising; marketing; PR; brand comms… the last seven years have wielded no answers and now Facebook may be, inadvertently, starting to force marketers’ hands.

The answer is that we are all responsible for social media. Yes, you will put the power of tweeting into the hands of one person, who will report into a ‘social media manager’, but that function ultimately lives within the overall communications function and requires input from each unit.

If you are currently working in the social media space and do not have responsibility for Paid Media on your channels, go and claim it.

It will be so beneficial in the long run.

Edinburgh Airport: A Missed Social Media Opportunity

On Sunday, after a short weekend break in Edinburgh, I was waiting with many other passengers in the departure lounge at Edinburgh Airport (well, pub) before boarding a flight back to London.

The wait was suddenly punctuated by the blaring of a fire alarm in the terminal and an automated message to leave the area, guided by staff.

With no staff on hand, other than a couple of folks from the airport pub, we wandered with the rest of our fellow passengers to another gate away from the scene.

As we settled into some seats, there was a shortage of staff and no information so I decided to see if any information was available on Twitter.

I found that Edinburgh Airport (@EDI_Airport) were on Twitter but had not tweeted since January 16th.

Myself and a couple of others in the same situation tweeted what was occurring:

After a little while, 20-30 minutes or so the alarm had stopped, and with no further instructions forthcoming from the airport staff, we began walking back to our departure gate.

Still nothing from Edinburgh Airport’s Twitter account.

I feel that this was a missed opportunity from Edinburgh Airport to use their Twitter handle to share information with folks who were on site.

They should of course have not published anything until accurate information was available, but it would have been helpful, given the lack of communication from the ground staff.

Indeed, a simple “Fire alarm activated at the airport. Investigating.”, followed up by a “Fire alarm was false. Airport back to normal” would have been helpful.

I appreciate it was a Sunday evening and Twitter would have been bottom of the list of the airport communication team’s priorities.

That’s often the problem though, isn’t it.

Social Media Has Become Passionless

I’m a real believer in that whatever you do, make it count.

Whether it is for you, your client, your friends, family or the communities you serve, if you don’t deliver the absolute best work you can, you are failing yourself.

Having a passion for the work you do is a powerful motivator in getting to a point where you can begin to achieve this.

Social media, and all the opportunities it brings, is a great connector of people who are passionate about causes, issues or brands. A like or a follow might look great to your client, but what it tells digital marketers is that they have found a new person who is keen to find out what you are saying.

Hopefully, they’ll like what you’re saying and share it with their friends.

What we need to continue to do, and I think that we as social media professionals are losing this, is to have a passion for the people we’re looking to connect our clients to.

We should be looking to get them thinking about why they want to follow a company, NGO or brand; what can we offer them that makes their online experience richer, or even better, leads to an offline action.

It’s very easy to retweet or share, we’re becoming hard wired into doing it without thinking, so our story needs to make people think and reflect.

We know that a link or a like is a virtual handshake that is ultimately trying affirm our identity as an individual; whilst we’re chasing this though, I think we find ourselves losing what makes social media great – the ability to make people talk with each other regardless of where they are in the world.

The Internet has democratised information exchange, but at the same time devalued the information being exchanged.

We need to re-assert the value of an online interaction and make it worthwhile for us, our clients, but most of all the folks we’re trying to reach.

Regaining passion for creating meaningful relationships with communities would be just the reboot we need.

UPDATE: Paul Sutton echoed these sentiments in a blog post a couple of days ago, which he kindly shared with me. I urge you to take a look.