Brand Republic Twitter Event (#BR140)

I’m a little late writing this up as it happened on Tuesday, but luckily my mental age is not so advanced that I can’t think back two days (provided you’re not asking me what I had for dinner).

Brand Republic‘s Twitter Event: Winning Formulas (sic)* to Maximise the Potential of Twitter, was targetted as a workshop for people only just dipping a toe into Twitter, and involved the following:

  • An introduction to Twitter and examples of good and bad use by brands from Mark Palmer (@MaverickMark)
  • A case study from me about @dogstrust
  • An interview between Brand Republic’s outgoing editor Gordon MacMillan (@GordonMacMillan) and Dan from Innocent, the smoothie company (@innocentdrinks)
  • A panel involving me, my ex-Shiny colleague Stuart Waterman – now Web Editor of karaoke chain Lucky Voice (@luckyvoice) and Kerry Bridge, Head of Digital Communication at Dell (@KerryatDell)

I feel quite happy with the approach I’ve taken recently in analysing events not in terms of a step-by-step run through – you can get that by doing a hashtag search for #BR140 – but by doing a few positive and negative take-outs from the day.

The Good:

  • The interview format for Dan worked very well, and having someone there from a big, recognisable brand talking with absolute honesty about their failures as well as their successes was fantastic. His positive attitude towards Innocent’s followers and faith in transparency and honesty were refreshing. It helps that he’s an engaging speaker. Taking it away from the speaker and presentation format – which I’m not knocking, especially as it worked for me! – was timely and added more of a workshop feel.
  • Pitching was to the right level of audience, and the different items on the programme rolled fluidly from one to the other. Around 25% of the people there hadn’t used Twitter before, and most of them seemed a lot more confident and happy at the thought by the end of the day.
  • As a speaker, I appreciated the thoughtful organisation done by Mark beforehand, who invited questions from us that the panel could address (as a backup in case the audience was uncertain) and reminded us of the key areas to cover.
  • The balance of the panel and speakers was good. Agencies, start ups, charities and big corporations were all given their due which, to a mixed audience, was important. We all want to know we’re getting ideas from ‘people like us’ at the same time as opening our minds to behaving differently. I relentlessly tweeted quotes from Dan because it was nice to know that a big company has the same attitude to tweeting as us!
  • I have to give a heads-up to the lovely scones, jam, cream and tea. Mmm.

The Bad:

  • There wasn’t much really. We had a bit of a technology fail, which was mostly down to a Mac’s screen resolution getting pissy with the projector screen. It really could have been worse, though.

The Standout Take-Outs:

  • Mark’s exhortations to be honest – if there’s one thing worse than a fail, it’s a fail that’s blamed suspiciously on people unable to defend themselves *cough* Habitat intern *cough*.
  • Dan’s “just go and do it” advice. We operate on much the same principle. And I would advocate always trying out the tools under your own name first before trying to do it professionally; in fact I suggest it very strongly every time a new centre wants to tweet for us!
  • Kerry’s advice to deal with crises in the right space; if people are worrying on Twitter and YouTube, respond there, taking every step you reasonably can to offer good customer service.
  • Stuart’s reminder that it’s supposed to be fun, and that people following might not mind being sold to occasionally, but that’s not why they signed up. Be prepared to go off-topic and off-beat to get really engaged followers.

The Summary:

You probably won’t want to attend the next such event in February if you’re already confident and opinionated about Twitter, as it’ll probably be a touch too basic. But if you’re floundering, it’s a good, non-judgemental environment in which to air concerns and have your questions answered, from basic how-to (someone asked about hashtags, for example) to worries about time management.

Then again, even if you are pretty confident, you can never know it all about Twitter and you can always learn from someone else’s example.


*The actual plural is ‘formulae’. Given my wealth of typos, it’s probably wrong that this bothers me as much as it does.

Hill & Knowlton Social Media Round-Table July 2009

Last night I was invited to the stunning Soho Square offices of Hill & Knowlton, to talk social media with a bunch of non-profit types. This was quite different from the ‘usual’ gatherings in a number of interesting ways.

1. The attendees were far more senior than usual– heads of digital, working with CEOs, in one case charity founder. This was really positive, as internal buy-in is a relentless struggle for many a community manager. These are the people that need to sit around a table with the likes of me, who actually do the day-to-day job and be convinced that it has value and that the risks can be addressed.

2. It was, therefore, not the usual suspects. All of us knew H&K a different way; we started developing a relationship with them through @CandaceKuss who’s a dog lover and former breeder of guide dog pups and who admires what we do online given our limited size and resources. We’re used to seeing some familiar names and faces on the discussion circuit now, and these weren’t them.

It was the first time, for example, I’ve come across a member of the Stonewall team, and there was also someone from the Royal Albert Hall. Fascinating, because of course we have different issues – it’s easy to say ‘let go of the product/message’ when it’s yours, but in the case of the RAH, of course, it’s not THEIR product.

3. It seems to have spawned something even more useful. While there was a certain unavoidable lack of focus in such a broad discussion, steps were taken by the lovely Sara Price and Gaylene Ravenscroft to plan where to go next – they were prepared to throw the format out if it didn’t work. Instead, preliminary decisions were made to have more structured workshops in the future, beginning with a focus on metric – hallelujah!

Metric really is the key to everything social media – and so it should be. It should be an integrated part of communications and we wouldn’t dream of trying any other comms strategy without it. It is the key to knowing if you’ve achieved your objectives, it is the tool with which you persuade the reluctant, it is the essence of communication. And despite the plethora of free goodies out there, most conversation-tracking tools are swingeingly expensive for a charity our size. A workshop that helps us get the very best out of what we can get our hands on – and turn that into fundraising, volunteering, rehoming and other engagement stats – would be very helpful indeed.

In fact, my only disappointment with the session was with the ‘listening guide’, which was designed for pure novices (“go to and click Get Started”); apart from Blogpulse I heavily used all of the tools mentioned – in fact, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been involved in the discussion in the first place. It would be good to see this taken further – perhaps an Advanced Guide? – moving forward.

Learning something new is what I live for – I look forward to doing that in the next session.

Twitter and weekend baking experiments. Oh, and book clubs.

Richmond Park Deer

Richmond Park Deer

I know – just the kind of header that tells you that this post has no single specific purpose but might cover a lot of disparate topics. I haven’t even included the deer.

Maybe I should divide this up so you can just cast an eye over the stuff you’re interested in.


I wrote quite an impassioned defence of the new-found popularity of Twitter. Far from killing it, I think it might just be what makes it better than other social networks now.

Weekend Baking Experiments

No photos here, frankly because they weren’t the most attractive looking results. And we’ve eated (sic) it. Ashley request oatmeal raisin cookies so I made an oatmeal raisin cake instead and that suited him fine. The random Internet recipe did not – I discovered halfway through folding in the flour – have any temperature, cooking times or tin recommendations. So I put it in a round silicone mould and baked it at 200 degrees, checking every 15 minutes. It took about 45, but eventually burnt a little on top while remaining a little squidgy at the bottom. I suspect, therefore, it’s best off as a tray bake. I must remember to bring back a 13 x 9 x 2 tin from Florida; American recipes so often fit this shape and it’s not that common here for some reason. Anyway, it tasted good. A little like what my cousin calls Dead Man’s Pudding, though I don’t see that as a bad thing.

I decided quite late on Sunday that making soft baked pretzels from scratch for the first time ever would be clever. Despite some sticking-to-the-baking-parchment issues, they tasted great, especially coated in salt (the poppy seed ones were a little bland). Had one for breakfast, and they held up well overnight.

Book Club

The first rule of book club is not making a reference to Fight Club. Oh, darn it.

Anyway, I’ve been invited to join a writers club on Facebook that I hope will make me actually do some more work on the Grown Up Monster Book. Largely it’s making me jealous of everyone else’s great ideas and hard work, but already I feel like I owe the fellow members my hard work which is what these groups are all about, right? Shared guilt is the way to go.


There were lots. In Richmond Park. So I crept closer and closer to try and get a decent photo with a DSLR lacking a proper telephoto lens, and this fellow obligingly let me snap quite a good shot. I have to sort out the rest of them and get them on Flickr. Then you’ll see them appear down the right, hopefully.

So, how have you all been?

Reasons To Be ‘Social’: Part Three

I’ve been having a very interesting exchange on Twitter which – as usual with such exchanges – has enabled me to clarify what I think and raise questions in my own mind to chew over. That’s half the beauty of Twitter right there, really.

Here’s the exchange:

@bounder:”conversational media” a better term than “social media”?

@dogstrust: Is it all conversation? Arguably Flickr & YouTube isn’t. Social encompasses conversation but conversation leaves some out, I think.

@bounder: flickr is, youtube can be – i think leaving the bits out where people are using the same tools to broadcast is a good idea

@dogstrust: I’m still not sure why “conversational” is better. Conversation is a vital part, but is it all of it? What’s wrong with ‘social’?

@bounder: it doesn’t really mean anything is the problem (and it has the same odd connotations as “community” has picked up)

@dogstrust: It doesn’t? Doesn’t it just mean interacting with others? That’s all the definition I ever wanted… Open to alternatives, tho.

@bounder: i really don’t think the word “social” means anything at all – it doesn’t describe an action – conversation does.

@dogstrust: Does ‘social media’ need to describe an action? Isn’t it describing the platform for action? Not arguing, genuinely interested!

@bounder: i think the description of the platform is too fuzzy to understand, and nave never been happy with the term

@bounder: for example, i’m not a YouTube expert, but I think a lot about how people use it (the action rather than the platforms)

@dogstrust: So they’re using a particular medium in a conversational way. The umbrella platform is still a group of media that are social, no?

The conversation is still ongoing, so by the time I finish this post, it might well have changed what I’m thinking right now. Still, I’ll launch ahead.

I’m not a fan of jargon. I appreciate that there are some uses for it, particularly in scientific or philosophical contexts where there is the possibility of cutting through a whole load of unecessary explanation if you use a handy jargon shortcut. Sometimes the term appears as if by magic . Social media is just an evolution of the term “social networking”; an evolution that happened, in my opinion, because people generally aren’t actively networking in the professional sense but just having a conversation. This is of course @bounder’s point. But I still don’t see the need for a change of jargon.

There are two reasons:

1. Changing the way everyone thinks of something is near impossible – think how long it takes to reclaim a slang derogatory term. People are now thinking “social media”. We can call it whatever we want, but the wider world won’t catch on and it just makes us focus on correcting a linguistic point somewhat unnecessarily. This is the minor reason.

2. The major reason is that ‘social’ is a perfectly good and reasonable description. Conversation is a large part of how human beings -a social animal – communicate. It is the cornerstone of my professional social media approach. But where ‘conversation‘ still has a strongly implied sense of verbal communication (that’s not the entirety of it, of course, by a long shot but that is how it is still widely read), ‘social‘ includes lots of elements which I think apply particularly well to web 2.0. It’s about informal gatherings of groups with a common topic. If that’s not social media, what is?

As I see it, social media are not the activities but the platform for the interaction. If it’s an inaccurate term, by all means campaign to replace it. I’m not married to the term; if there’s a good reason to bin it I’ll help lead the charge for more accuracy and meaning. I’m just not convinced that that good reason is really there.


Media Trust – Managing Social Media

I’ve been a wee bit cheeky and broken a rule of social media – being topical and timely – by only blogging about this even three days after it happened, but in my defence I did tweet throughout! We were unable to attend the whole event, which featured the following line-up:

Chair – Daren Forsyth, former Director of Innovation and New Media, Media Trust / BBC

Michael Waugaman (Consultant) – Seeding, growing and managing a community

Jasmine McGarr (Tempero) – Voice of moderation: safety and reputation management

Dean Russell (Precedent) – An overview of third sector social networking

As well as a case study from us, and the chance to be in the second Q&A session. J presented, overcoming her nerves, and I piped up in the Q&A since many of the questions were from people wanting to know about the everyday nuts and bolts. We were lucky enough to see Dean Russell’s presentation; lucky because he speaks an awful lot of common sense about how to start, which websites to consider, how to gain internal buy in and the ‘voice’ you should be trying to project. Luckily, he likes Dogs Trust – I beamed when he said he really enjoyed following us on Twitter because of our good professional / personal balance of tweets.

As is often the case with these events, the Q&A gets to the heart of the issues much more than the presentations, no matter how good they are. It is where the meat of the problem is finally chewed on, and I was asked one of the best questions I had been so far: “If you had to choose only two sites to focus on, which would they be?”. The woman in question had very little time or resource. I said Twitter and Facebook because you can achieve the most on these two with the least amount of time; we’ve just rehomed a second dog thanks to Twitter conversations, and in a year 40,000 people have amassed on Facebook, which makes it easy to send out updates to a lot of people quickly. But it was definitely an interesting question, and one that I hadn’t been asked before.

Then I was asked the other question – “do you think your job will be the same in 3-6 months time?”. The way it was asked, it was very clear that what was meant was “isn’t your job just a bit made up and a fad?”. Perhaps it would be if all I did was specialise in very specific community moderation, but I am involved in all aspects of digital marketing. Right now we’re looking into integrated online and offline campaigns, for example. I replied “probably not, but I’m alright with that,” and went on to explain how to me, social media is just another form of traditional, good old-fashioned customer service and marketing. I have found that my particular skills lend themselves to the online world more than the offline, but the end result is still the same.

I’m just a writer who has a knack for online customer service, and forming relationships. Nothing strange, shortlived or particularly new about that, is there?

UK’s Top Female Social Media Guru & Speaker 2009?

Well, goodness me, my manager must love me. She’s just nominated me for the above accolade here. What’s even lovelier is that there were people I don’t directly work with nominating me as well, and agreeing with the choice, which is really rather touching.

We’ve done a lot of talking in the past 12 months at various conferences and gatherings (just see the other posts under this category), and it’s really great to think that some of that has lead to people being impressed with what we do. Of course, we don’t do it to get people impressed with us as individuals, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t very nice to be thought of in this way.

Just today, we heard that because of a retweet from a loyal and lovely follower, a second dog is on course to find a home through our Twitter feed (see right!). This is why we do what we do; that’s our ultimate professional validation. Appearing on a list like this just adds to that, and also has a personal dimension in that we the individuals are going about it the right way.

It’s also really great to see women in this line of work being singled out; I’m not usually one for gender-specific competition (it’s much better to just be good than to be good for a girl) but I know from experience that technology is an area in which women still have to fight their corner. It’s very pleasing to see BitchBuzz colleague Vikki Chowney on there as well.

I’m smiling brightly and in the mood for more cupcakes.

Twitter: my two cents (again)

I’m not going to apologise for writing more about Twitter because I use it every day for work and pleasure. So why wouldn’t I write about it? Rest assured this is not another “slebs on Twitter” or “is Twitter full of twits?” tired and hackneyed ‘article’. It’s just one persons thoughts on things that would improve and, conversely, destroy Twitter.

Things That Would Improve Twitter:

  • A built in ability to group tweets, TweetDeck style.
  • A small html box under the profile on which to put a donation button, picture link etc. I stress small again.
  • If @replying to two people at once was delivered to both of them. And following on from that:
  • Having replies that don’t include your @name first delivered to you (including RTs, so you can thank them).

Things That Definitely Wouldn’t:

  • Any kind of ‘friending’: the virtue of following is that you don’t need permission.
  • Paid-for features you used to get for free (I’m open to new ones that are only useful to pro users).

Very small, non-earthshattering things, these, but they’d make my life easier (or more difficult, depending on which list you’re reading). I plan to come back and add to this as things occur to me.

If you’re not interested in Twitter… it doesn’t matter!

Oh, Twitter. I love you, I really do. I enjoy the mixture of information deployment, news gathering, casual conversation, like-minded connection and, yes, ego-stroking you offer. I do not hold you up as the answer to all things social media, and I know that like everything else online you have a shelf life. I use you for work, and I use you personally. You’re great.

I do understand that when people everywhere are talking about you, that’s going to attract a few reluctant cynics. Some are converted, some aren’t. But it’s the arrogant attitude of some of the new people joining (many of them tech folk who obviously feel they’ve turned up embarrassingly late and underdressed to the party) that’s driving me mad. Yes, it’s annoying when people over-evangelise Twitter, but most of us – even those of us who demonstrate our use of it as advice to others – really aren’t that much of a scary Twitter Hive Mind.

So, and I’m switching ‘you’ from Twitter to the newcomers now, why join with the attitude that “you’re not sure you have time for this” (that person’s now gone in a cloud of hissy fit) or “what’s the point of this?”. The first tweet used to be “trying to work out Twitter”. Now it’s more commonly something knowingly marketing speak from those who haven’t understood that marketing on Twitter has to be honest and authentic – no worry, they’ll learn – or “so, everyone’s doing it and I think it’s all just egotistical nonsense”.

Well, coming from you it is. Because you’ve come on there to see how many people are interested in you not to see what you’re interested in coming from other people.

Look, it’s okay to think Twitter is rubbish – more than okay, it’s your right. And it’s your right to waste your time on something you think is pointless, and your right to say so. But it’s also my right to wonder why on Earth you’d want to bother, and to think you’re quite irksome and patronising.

So, we all have our rights.

(The difference is, I’m the one who’s right).

Amnesty International: Brainstorming social media

Last night I was privileged to be invited to pay a visit to Amnesty International UK alongside a small crew of social media bods (from the strategy consultants to the community managers like me). The topic was Amnesty’s use of social media and, in particular, their network,

Clearly the details of the discussion will, for now, remain inside Amnesty’s walls. But for me it was hugely interesting to see how a different – and very much international – organisation operates online. Dogs Trust and Amnesty are, at heart, very different kinds of organisations. Dogs Trust is a collection of centres in the UK doing the front line work, all managed from and supported by an HQ hub, working in one country with one over-arching goal which is the good welfare and treatment of dogs. The International reach is there, but limited, and mostly advice-based.

Amnesty is an attempt to marshall the collective power of driven individuals to further a common goal – the good welfare and treatment of people – but on thousands of fronts: stopping violence against women, pressuring restrictive governments to allow greater civil liberty, condemning torture… the list is brutal and endless. The International reach is phenomenal.

But what’s interesting is how little of this matters to the basic principles of social marketing and speaking to people online. Because, although there are individual difference (what approach you take with Twitter, for example, when you’re trying to discuss a million topics at once), the overall approach is the same no matter which website you use, what language you speak and what subject you’re talking about. People all over the world use the Internet pretty much the same way, and although the individual approach can be tweaked for the organisation depending on the desired end result, the ideas that came up in discussion were all pretty much universal.

And almost all of them were basic, old-fashioned common sense.

I was heartened to meet a group of people who all think of the web in the most clear, logical, common-sense terms. They all work hard and have brilliant ideas. I can only hope they thought my contributions were as useful, and that I’ll be invited back to find out more in the future.