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the past, present and future of social media (or why facebook is pretty much dead to me)

By on Jul 28, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Clearly, as someone who has earned a living off helping brands devise and implement social media strategies for around 15 years, I’m off message with this post. Or am I? Social platforms come and go. I remember setting up my first bulletin board system on an Apple IIe back in the mid-eightys. I clearly recall building a 5000+ person email list on Yahoo Groups in the early 90’s. I ran facilitated web chats with a variety of experts in the mid-90’s. And I created a whole slew of bulletin boards, both personally and professionally, around the same time. I’ve always been an enthusiastic (usually) adopter of just about every social platform to emerge, and sometimes die, from the late 90’s until today. For some time now, I’ve realised that my use of social media has segmented across three distinct use cases, based on my perceptions of time and the usefulness of contacts and communities across it. Let me explain: The Future: I use LinkedIn, almost exclusively, to connect with and keep track of people who, in the future, might be personally or professionally relevant to me. LinkedIn is like a safety net. People I can call upon later to provide support for a project as a freelancer. Who I might want to employ. Who I might want to work with or for. I have friends, as well as professional contacts, there. But the key thing is that I want to stay in touch with contacts on LinkedIn because, if they aren’t relevant today, they might be tomorrow. That and it’s my number one source of professional content, these days. The Present: I use Twitter for the present – through the people I follow, and those who follow me, I learn, in real time, about the world. They aggregate and filter content, then deliver it to me. Twitter has replaced RSS and google alerts for me, and the human filters it applies are, for the most part, better than the technological one’s that proceeded my enthusiasm for the platform. The Past: Facebook has, for a long time, been sort of a storage closet of my past. It’s where I learn, usually after the funeral, of the passing of a friend from years ago. Or of a fundraising effort for a friend in need. Well, that or a fundraising effort by a friend from long ago who wants their mates to finance a charity walk the length of the Great Wall of China. Basically, Facebook is dead to me as a social platform of preference. And it’s not just a personal thing. I’d have a really difficult time, in most instances, recommending that a client focuses their energy, or budget, there. How many brands do you follow on Facebook? What’s the last piece of branded content you engaged with? I’m guessing those two questions are ones that most people, most of the time, wouldn’t be able to answer with any accuracy or conviction. “I loved what brand X posted the other day”. Yeah, right. The thing is, on LinkedIn, where your professional reputation is at stake, a like means,”share this industry news with people who I might, now or later in life, have a commercial or industry related interest in connecting with.” It has meaning. On Twitter, a re-tweet is an expression of interest, maybe professional, possibly personal. A nod to collaborative filtering and sharing. Again, it has meaning. On Facebook, a like is more of a bookmark of something you might wish to go back to later, or possibly a nod that you’ve seen something, but not necessarily a sign that you wished to share that content, saw value in it, or agreed. I realise, probably more than most, that Facebook is the dominant social network. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a bit shit. To me, anyway, it’s like Friend’s Reunited – a curiosity to those who care about the past, but not something that will have much value to those focused on the now or the future.      ...

speaking at the european communication summit, brussels

By on May 20, 2014 in Uncategorized |

I’m going to be presenting at the European Communication Summit, Europe’s top event for in-house Communications leads. The event takes place in Brussels on the 10th and 11th of July and has a start-studded line up of presenters including AOL’s David Shing, Lars Silberbauer-Andersen from Lego, Jimmy Mayman, CEO of the Huffington Post and many others. Details here:...

building an ecommerce website using wordpress

By on Nov 6, 2013 in Uncategorized |

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to roll my sleeves up and get involved directly in building a website. That all changed, over the weekend, when my wife convinced me to build a website for Just Sheep, her new online business selling wool blankets. They’re lovely products, by the way. Because I’m familiar with WordPress, which I use for Cybersoc.com as well as my (now defunct) blog about St. Albans, I decided to set up a fresh instance, buy a domain name, and install a theme. The first install went badly, and I went a bit beyond my own capabilities making alterations to the theme, so I ended up wiping the the WordPress database using the MySQL control panel provided by my host. To be clear, I don’t actually know what I’m doing half the time, but I do tend to understand how different configuration settings are likely to work, and actually enjoy trying to sniff out the bits of code that determine positioning, system messages, etc. After the fresh install, which wiped out a good 4-5 hours of work, it’s all been pretty smooth sailing. The theme I bought and installed integrates really nicely with WooCommerce, an e-commerce service I’ve never used before. It handles inventory, pricing, postage calculation and all that fun back office stuff. It also has a nice shopping cart based ordering system for customers, with PayPal enabled check-out. I’ve also set up google analytics and google adwords for the site as well as a fresh paypal account, ebay account and amazon marketplace seller account. There’s still a lot of work to do on the site. Our product photos need to be re-shot by a professional in a studio, rather than by us in the living room on a Sunday morning, and we need to get unique product codes (UPC) for the products before we can sell on Amazon. A logo is being created. The text content needs to be reworked- there are just basic product descriptions at present. And, although I’ve already set up Pinterest and Twitter accounts, there’s more work to be done planning and setting up social media services. If you’ve not built in WordPress before, or it’s been a while since you’ve done so, I strongly encourage you to give it a bash – it’s not just an immensely powerful CMS, it’s also reasonably easy to get your head around. It’s also quite fun, if you usually work at the strategy, planning and content end of things, to actually bring a new website to life through your own...

linkedin drives highest percentage of social traffic to corporate websites

By on Oct 22, 2013 in Uncategorized |

LinkedIn has emerged as the major traffic driver from social media to corporate websites in a recent study published by Investis IQ, as reported by Social Media Today. LinkedIn, according to the study, is responsible for 64% of click throughs from social media to corporate websites. Facebook, for the sake of comparison, drives just 17% and Twitter 14% (but rising). See graph below from Social Media Today: The results of the research aren’t particularly surprising – people use different social services for different purposes, with business users, the people most likely to visit a corporate website, most likely to be reached by brand communications in social media on LinkedIn. This finding doesn’t signal a necessary shift from Facebook for consumer brands, but is important for more “corporate” brands, particularly in the B2B space. Also, whilst it’s true that direct click throughs are both useful and measurable, having a brand presence on multiple social services still has a positive impact on search visibility, so it remains important to spread content, even that aimed at corporate audiences, across multiple channels where possible. What is key is that LinkedIn has changed dramatically over the last year or two, from a place where users look for new jobs to an important content hub both for brands and individuals seeking greater visibility amongst business oriented audiences. I used to worry when I saw members of my team updating their LinkedIn profiles – now I see it as an important tool for reaching professional audiences and keeping them engaged over...

ten steps to strategically align your digital and social media programme

By on Oct 6, 2013 in Uncategorized |

In many of my posts over the past year or so, I’ve found myself questioning the value of digital and social media but make no mistake, these posts are not attacks, rather pleas to the industry to do a bit of necessary growing up. Brands don’t need a social media strategy any more than they need a press release strategy, a payroll strategy or a Christmas party strategy. They need a digital and social media programme that is aligned to their overall business strategy. Yet many brands and organisations still approach it from the wrong end of the equation – by deciding they should “do” digital or social or Enterprise collaboration before actually knowing why, or even whether, they should be investing in these areas. It’s like choosing a hammer before realising you actually need a drill because what you really want is a millimetre perfect hole. Fans and followers, retweets and likes, click throughs and shares are all great IF they lead to outcomes of strategic importance. They are meaningless, however, in isolation. If its not clear why you’re investing in social media, all the statistics and measured outputs in the world won’t deliver a positive return on investment. Here’s a ten step approach to help you make the most of your investment: Take the time to understand your business strategy Identify and prioritise important strategic objectives Understand existing processes for achieving those objectives Look at the resources required to deliver those processes Understand what stakeholders – employees, investors, customers, etc – need to be engaged so as to turn those processes into desire able outcomes (and don’t forget to tease out their motivations) Map it all back to digital and social media, finding the sweet spot(s) where you can leverage these tools to deliver more effectively or efficiently Define a programme for doing this Tie the desired outcomes into existing measurement frameworks Implement, measure, analyse and iterate Capture best, and worst, practice and share the knowledge...

the end of digital marketing?

By on Oct 4, 2013 in Uncategorized |

Proctor & Gamble’s Global Brand Building officer, Mark Pritchard, hit the marketing trade press headlines by declaring, in a keynote at Dmexco, that “the era of digital marketing is over”. I couldn’t agree with him more, but you have to read beyond the headline to understand that Pritchard isn’t suggesting that brands will shift away from digital, only that it has, and will continue to, become more integrated with all the other brand building and marketing activities: P&G’s marketing team has stopped thinking of digital in terms of the “the tools, the platforms, the apps, the QR codes, augmented reality, holograms or whatever is coming next” or as a “mysteries medium with its own set of metrics”, but for what it is: “a tool to build out brands by reaching people with fresh, creative, campaigns”. Pritchard added: “Let’s celebrate the end of digital marketing. Let’s focus on creating the great ideas that move people and build great brands. And let’s leverage the tools, platforms and technology to make them bigger and engage with people like never before….” For more years than I can remember, I’ve been encouraging brands and organisations to think about generating digital and social media content by turning some of their internal processes – innovation, product and service delivery, research, editorial production – into content generating activities. I’ve also spent a lot of time helping brands understand that approaching digital and social media from a strategic perspective, with activities in digital being part of an overall, holistic approach to marketing and communications, is far more likely to generate meaningful outcomes than the typical approach of choosing to “do digital” or “do social” then trying to figure out what to do there. It’s nice to see senior figures on the brand side are starting to get this. Indeed, Forrester has predicted that 2013 will be the year that “Digital Marketing” becomes just “Marketing”. The same report discusses the importance of breaking down silos to enable digital and social media: Budget should also be reorganised out of channel silos and into new cross-platform teams organised around consumer segments, with experts on the relevant media, channels and devices for that particular vertical, Muchbach says. The report also advises marketers to maintain a shared “centre of excellence” for broader campaigns to help achieve scale for overlapping initiatives and to establish a multifunctional group from the marketing, R&D, IT and operations divisions to track how digital elevates their parts of the business to improve the brand experience for consumers. So what’s all this mean? Soon, with any luck, we won’t think of digital and social media as siloed activities, divorced from overall business strategies and contributed to and controlled by only one business function, but as activities that are integral to multiple business functions, processes and programmes. Digital and social media can and should be discussed at the top corporate table, but that’s only going to happen when we’re able to demonstrate real evidence – not fans and followers, comments and likes – of having played a role in pushing the needle forward towards meeting strategically important...