Chinwag & Our Social Times Facebook Marketing 2012: My thoughts

On Wednesday, I went along to Chinwag and Our Social Times’ Facebook Marketing conference. The main reason for attending was, as you might have guessed, to find out more about Edgerank.

Running Dogs Trust’s Page puts us in quite an enviable position, numbers-wise, given the community has swelled to over 440,000 people entirely organically; it was 1,000-strong when I started at the charity in 2008, as the Page had been there – well ahead of many other UK non-profits – since December 2007. We’ve seen every single iteration of the Pages structure. Numbers are, clearly, not everything, and they certainly don’t guarantee engagement, but they do add a certain amount of serendipity, shall we say, and give us more options for more organic growth than someone starting out now in such a saturated environment.

Still, with Facebook restricting the number of people who see posts, the jig is up. We always aimed to create quality content, but now Facebook is basically throwing down the gauntlet and demanding it. Which, though it’s a cold-shower style reminder that the community of people like you that you and your team helped build doesn’t actually belong to you, is actually a very welcome challenge. Tools are just tools – Facebook is not the objective – but each one has its rules and its culture, and if you’re going to demand attention on a busy, crowded platform, you’d better have a good reason for it.

Beyond getting some tips to improve content – or at least reassurance that we’re starting to think about it in the right kinds of ways – I also wanted to know more about Facebook ads and using them judiciously around certain campaigns or issues.

So, my real stand-outs / takeaways from the day:

  • Hearing directly from Andy Pang of Facebook was excellent. Although he didn’t say anything I couldn’t have guessed, and a lot of it was an understandable sales pitch for the kind of metrics and campaign success Facebook claims to be able to achieve, it was actually really good confirmation that I have the right understanding of where Facebook is going. Sometimes what seems obvious isn’t, and here it’s nice to know that things are exactly as they seem. Facebook is looking to get us to treat our communities with respect, create fantastic content and then to pay them to help properly disseminate it, and that really is all there is to it.
  • Dom Dwight of Yorkshire Tea gave a presentation that was so on-brand it was actually funny: personable, warm, entertaining. More importantly, he was willing to talk about content that does and doesn’t work. We’ve known for a while that video viewers are more demanding and have a shorter attention span than ever, and I think that – like YT – we need to consider better ways to get our video messages across. In common with every other organisation, we’ve had to undertake our own little culture shift internally as new technologies emerge, and we’ve had the absolute privilege of getting a lot of our front-line centre staff on board over the last couple of years. They’re amazing, and we want to do them proud, so we need to give them even more tools and tips to help us help them.
  • We Are Social‘s Tom Ollerton, talking about Heinz, was also great at picking apart a certain level of detail beyond ‘this was really cool’, by bringing up specific errors that helped them through the various iterations of Facebook Campaign (eg always send an email confirmation if you’re giving away a product!).
  • Hearing about the thinking behind Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and their Thanks a Million campaign and getting insight into Richard Ayers work with Manchester City FC and the BFI covered a huge range of interaction, from the conceptually simple (though expensive) to online engagement that comes from building slower offline community relationships. It was nice to see a wide range of community size, reach and budget. In a funny way, it did come across how it’s so much easier to be simple when you have a lot of money to put into it.

And the things I would have liked to see more of:

  • A couple of people I was chatting to agreed that a greater focus on ads and the difference in performance between different kinds of ads would be good. A few people mentioned that social elements got much better click rates and brand recall rates (ie if your friend’s name is in the post, you’re more likely to remember / buy), but perhaps a break-out session on the nitty gritty of sponsored posts vs other forms of advertising would be helpful in the future.
  • There was a LOT going on, and some variation in format beyond presentation and panel would probably help the day become less of a blur towards the end. The “quick-fire” agency case studies were ten-fifteen minutes from each one, and fraction dry  – not a criticism of the speakers at all, just perhaps not the ideal format. I think throwing in a Pecha Kucha type session there, or perhaps splitting up groups into smaller break-outs that allowed more interaction from the audience would be idea.
  • 22 speakers… 6 women (one of whom had a seriously curtailed piece due to timing issues). One speaker with an ethnic background other than White British. All speakers aged 25-45. There are so many interesting and amazing people in this field, that – without taking anything away from the uniformly excellent people we heard from – a little diversity would go an awfully long way

And yes, I did put most of this – praise included – on my feedback form, rather than just waiting to blurt it all out online. Under my real name, too. So there.

All-in-all, I did feel it was worthwhile attending and, on top of the individual tips I took away, I had a mental list and scribbled notes* under the general heading of WAYS TO MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER AND BE GENERALLY BRILLIANT OMG. We all need a little kick up the backside now and then, and seeing the great work that other people are doing online is an excellent way to self-administer it.

*During Tom’s presentation, I wrote down a quick-fire list of 10 off-the-top-of-my-head, fun, ridiculous, it might never work ideas and everyday “we could do this right now” suggestions and I’ve already brought up three of them in the office. I was actually listening to Tom at the same time. I’m quite impressed by my bit of multitasking there, and recommend that you try the same yourself if you haven’t brainstormed like that recently. Preferably not while someone else is talking, cos that’s just plain rude. I mean, really.


  1. Thanks for the blog post, Alexandra, really appreciate it. Take your points about the formats and number of speakers. We started out with a much slimmer programme but as things turned out, there was so much to talk about, I couldn’t resist trying to squeeze more in. Point taken though.

    Also agree on the formats. Unfortunately, the venue didn’t have a space for more break out rooms, but it’s something we’ll look at, likewise for Pecha Kucha or similar for speedier sessions. I was trying to avoid having a day full of 20 min pitches. Kinda worked, but needs some finessing.

    Thanks for noticing the number of women speakers. We’re working on that front to try and get a better balance of speakers.

    Proportionately, I think we did pretty well last week and it’s something we’ll try and do more of in the future. If you, or other women in the industry would like to present or join panels, do let us know! As much as anything, it’s knowing who to approach for topics, usually with a limited time to find speakers.

    Thanks again for coming to the day and the fab write-up.


    1. Thank you Sam – I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

      I think there are masses of women in the industry who would be delighted to talk – especially in the third sector (which is disproportionately female). I’m always happy to speak if I think I have something new or interesting to contribute, but there were also plenty of other women around me in the audience – why not ask them to come and tell you about what they’ve put into practice since the last session for the next one? The advantage there is that you already know who they are!

      Thanks again – look forward to seeing what you come up with next.


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