All posts by Louise McGregor

I am the founder of Fantail Consultancy, created to help companies, NGOs and individuals improve their online presence. I've worked in digital at the intersection of communications, technology and business for more than a decade. And I'm still crazy about digital.

What Does a Great Leader Look Like?

What makes a great leader?
This month the Harvard Business Review asks a pertinent question; “what makes a great leader?” From the image accompanying question, the answer seems to be “a white guy”.

We know that images have a bigger impact than text, we know that role models are hugely important, so I decided to tease this out a little and have a look at what happened when I searched for images of “leader”.

The first search I did was “leadership icons” on Google. I thought that by using a search for icons the results would be relatively untainted by any news items. Here’s the result.

Leadership Icons

Most of the icons are explicitly male, and wearing a tie. Apparently that’s our standard impression of a leader.  In fact when I clicked on “more images for leadership” I still had to scroll past about 80 images to find one that had a figure that could be identified as specifically female. Let’s call her Eve, here she is.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 14.15.07

You’ll notice that Eve is ahead of a group of people as if to lead them, but she’s not alone. Apparently Adam can lead alone, but Eve cannot.

If I search for “leadership” in Google there is an image using a fish metaphor for leadership that ranks higher than any image featuring a woman.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 16.05.46

That’s just one search engine, do others perform any better? Bing and Duck Go Go deliver roughly the same set of images. My hopes rested on Yahoo!, with a female CEO perhaps it would be reflected in their search results. I tested it and the answer is,  maybe. At position 45 there is an icon of a woman leader.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 14.28.23

A leader who bears a passing resemblance to Marissa Mayer, in as much as icons can resemble people. However she’s very lonely on the page, I found no other representatives of women leading in the next 50 or so images.

Just for fun I tried the same test looking at “programmer icons”, the results were depressingly similar, although google did manage to have a female appearing icon in the first group.

I’m not blaming Google et al for this, search results are a reflection of our collective choices, over the lifespan of the internet we’ve created more images of men as leaders, and chosen images that depict tie-wearing males to represent leaders. I’d like to see this imbalance redressed; perhaps if we all started depicting leaders with a range of icons and images reflecting the range of people in leadership roles. And any designers out there working on icons, or photographers working on stock images, please include a gender balance and a mix of ethnicities in your depictions of all occupations. Of course changing the number of icons won’t automatically result in massive increases in the number of female CEOs, but it may help women leaders be seen as normal, and help young girls and people of colour to have that level of ambition.

Going back to the HBR issue; it features an article on the 100 best CEOs of this year, of which just 2 are women. The “white guy” on the front seems to be Lars Sørensen who topped the leader-board this year.

More than a Tweet; Cold Hard Cash

Money for Social MediaIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 7 of a 7 part series.

It’s free to use social media as an individual, but that’s not the case for businesses. There is still a lot you can do on a small budget, but costs rise steeply with the scale, complexity and ambition of your social media strategy.

Beyond staff salaries the costs come in three buckets; content creation, tools and promotion.

Content Creation

The best content for social media can be in the form of text, long form articles, images – photography, graphics and infographics, video, and streaming video.

It’s a very rare company that has the expertise in house to handle the creation of all forms of all content. If you want great looking content you’ll need a designer. I’ve found that using freelance designers works well once they’ve built an understanding of your brand.

There are some ways to manage costs here;

  • use a standard format for infographics, particularly if you’re using a single data point for an image. This will cut down the designer’s time needed to create content and give you a more consistent brand look.
  • Look for tools that format images per platform, Canva is one tool, but there are others out there. Reformating/resizing can be done easily and possibly in house.
  • If you’ve got a piece of content that is valid for a longer term like a report, ask the designer to create a suite of infographics at once so that you can re-use and promote the content with original content.
  • Get your social media managers/community managers trained to use photoshop. This is NOT the same as replacing the designer, but it might allow them to work with quality templates to add variations to text.


There are a lot of tools needed to support an effective social media presence, and the costs range from free to big bucks.

For example social listening tools; for my current needs I use tweetdeck and google alerts, and there are other free/cheap tools around, but large corporations invest huge sums into tools like Radian6 (Salesforce), Engagor, and Sysomos because the volume of mentions in social and the complexity of their social media structure require it. The same range exists for social publishing; from free use of the native platforms – including platforms like wordpress and medium for longer form content – through to large-scale complex tools like Sprinklr and Percolate. These large scale tools enable companies to save costs of production, planning and publishing. They’re worth it in large complex companies – really, I worked on the business case for one.

How much you need to invest in tools comes back to the scale and complexity of your company and the ambition level.


The open secret of social media; increasingly you “pay to play” on platforms. As an example, in a recent campaign for a new charity I’ve been working with the best performing post for organic reach had 295 views, the worst performing of the boosted posts in the same period had a reach of over 3000. Often the spend isn’t that high – in this case it was just 18 euro that gained that reach.

Spending for reach is strongest on Facebook, but Twitter and Pinterest also enable promoted posts and Instagram may follow suit.  Platforms allow you to target your audience based on demographics and interests, and the cost of “reach” will depend on the value of your target audience.

In my experience we’ve had better results promoting content rather than an account, promoting accounts on twitter may increase your follower numbers, but tends to decrease the total engagement in my experience.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY: NewArt Museum

The NewArt Museum decide to use free tools as much as possible in this initial phase,  they want to focus their efforts on Facebook and Instagram, and Facebook’s native platform offers plenty of scope for scheduling and reporting. Instagram doesn’t offer scheduling options and has had a history of closing any apps that allow scheduled publishing to the platform. The team do set up a shared calendar to plan and co-ordinate content for publication.

There is a web designer engaged to the project already, the scope of that is extended to included design of assets for sharing on social media.

A promotional budget is set aside, this includes money to promote posts on Facebook, money to work with influencers on Instagram and money to offer prizes as part of the campaign. The dream for Instagram is to curate a series that interprets the hashtag #NewArt in inventive ways.  The social team start reaching out to influencers.

Image: Cash Munney  |  Tom Godber  |  CC BY-SA 2.0

More than a Tweet; Measure to Improve

MeasureTapeIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 6 of a 7 part series.

As with most online activities you can measure pretty much everything. That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage!

There are two types of measurement to think about; measuring success and measuring the process.

Measuring Success

The really important measure is around whether you meet your business goals. These are drawn from the strategy you’ve defined earlier. For example;

  • Increasing sales (or qualified leads)
    If this is within your online sales environment it is relatively easy to measure using tagged URLs or cookies, but often people buy in a physical store based on their online experience. In which case you could use a discount coupon to social media buyers to estimate the social influence or you may need to research whether in store buyers did see your social media campaign.  The last option sounds complicated but it could be as simple as sales personnel asking “did you know about our Facebook campaign?”
  • Brand awareness and brand recognition
    If you’re using social media to build brand awareness and brand recognition you can measure via survey whether more people recognise your brand.
  • Brand Perception
    If your goal was changing how your company is seen then you can measure via surveys whether the public perception of you has changed.
  • Improved Service
    Some companies make significant use of social media to provide services to their customers, KLM the Dutch airline does this particularly well, solving thousands of customer queries per day on their social media channels. This has become a brand builder for KLM.

One of the tricky things about these measures is that the change measured might not be entirely due to social media, since it’s unlikely that a company will improve only its social media without other communications, marketing and campaigns happening at the same time. To tease this out you could use specific questions within a survey, ask customers, or ask your followers on social media.

Pick 1-3 KPIs that align with your business goals and measure those. The “K”  in KPI stands for “Key”, if you’re measuring more than 3 they are no longer the key performance indicators.

Measuring the Process

There is a loose relationship between the number of followers you have, the amount of engagement, and the number of people who take action. I have sometimes likened this to the traditional sales funnel, but it’s a very very leaky funnel.

  • Followers
    “Followers” is often dismissed as a vanity metric, and I agree that if you are running a twitter account with the goal of getting a million followers it is a vanity metric.
    But the truth is if you have zero followers you’re not having any impact, and the more followers you have the bigger your potential reach and the bigger your potential impact. I should qualify that – quality followers – fake accounts, dead people, and bots don’t count. That quality requirement is why you should never pay for followers. Follower and fan numbers tell you that you’re getting some traction with your activities.
  • Reach
    Measure how many people saw your posts – this is likely to be a lot less than the number of people who follow you. Twitter feeds move fast, and not all your followers on Facebook will see all your posts in their timeline.
  • Engagement Rate
    How many likes, retweets, +1s etc do your posts get divided by some measure of the audience.
    It’s a good measure of how  your content is being received but it should be treated carefully since it is presented as percentage. A large drop in engagement might be that your content got worse, or that your audience grew massively, and the new arrivals are less engaged. When using this measure I look at the trend, and at the underlying figures of total number of engagements and audience. It’s worth remembering that engagement by itself is not a strategy, it’s part of the process to reach your strategy.
  • Click Through Rate
    The number of clicks from social posts through to your website, divided by the reach of those posts. If your goal is to drive traffic to your site then this is a crucial measure.
  • Applause rate
    The number of shares/retweets/+1s etc divided by the number of posts. This is a measure of content quality, and is therefore useful for those creating content. However it doesn’t seem to be commonly used (Engagement rate is preferred) and it comes with a caveat; we know that pictures of beautiful babies or cute kittens will generate a high applause rate, but unless you’re in a very specific industry that won’t help you reach your business goals.
  • Fan value
    This is a perennial marketing question, and the real answer is that varies for lots of reasons, explained very well by Oliver Blanchard. To be pragmatic and arrive at a useful answer for you, you would need to calculate the value generated by your facebook page/youtube channel/twitter account, and divide that by the total number of fans/followers (on a per channel basis). This becomes a useful measure when you are trying to justify investment in the channel.

There are many more measures possible, as discussed in this handy  Guide to KPIs for Content performance.


But the reality is it’s time-consuming to measure everything. Pick the measures that give you information about how you are reaching your business goal, understand how each of those measures is tracked and what the limits might be and measure those.

Your process goals tell you whether you’re on track to meet your business goals. They also tell you whether you need to alter your content, frequency of posting, time of posting, or promotional budget. You should be looking at them at least daily.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArtMuseum

The NewArt Museum’s goal is to increase the number of younger people, between 18-30, visiting the museum.

The measurement for that business goal is very clear; number of young people visiting the museum should go up. Measuring that is trickier, you will need to ask visitors some information.

NewMuseum takes a baseline measurement by asking all visitors to complete a short survey as they leave the museum during a single week. One of the questions is around age; and gives age brackets for the visitor to choose from. They also ask which information source people would like for their museum news; (paper) newsletter, email, newspaper, social media, to help shape the future communications.

In about the third week of the new initiative they make the same survey, but ask those in the target audience some additional questions. One finding is that that the target age group works during the week, so could only ever visit on a weekend. This insight leads to the museum opening on Friday nights with music and events aimed at the 18-30 age group.

For the social media part of the campaign the goal is building an audience in their target age group. The chosen platforms are facebook, instagram and experimenting with periscope for some “behind the scenes action”.

On all platforms they measure follower numbers and engagement. When they get closer to re-opening day New Museum tries two things; Firstly a targetted discount ticket offer via facebook for which they measure click through rate. Secondly a campaign on Instagram using the hashtag #NewMuseum which asks people to post images of things they thing are design icons. The social media team will choose a favourite image of the day and reward that person with two free tickets to the opening. The social media team then measures the reach of the campaign, and looks for comments that indicate people want to visit the museum as indicating intent.

Image: Maßband  |  Net Doktor  |  CC BY-NC 2.0





Refugees Welcome; Zuidas Cares

zuidas caresAnd now for something completely different – this week’s project is supporting the social media behind Zuidas Cares as they run a donation drive collecting urgently needed warm clothes and toiletries for newly arrived refugees in the Netherlands.

Like many in the Netherlands and across Europe I’ve seen the images of people walking across this continent, taking to rubber dinghies to cross the narrow straits between Turkey and Europe, and people trapped in train stations and makeshift camps while our governments struggle. The response so far has been too little, and not co-ordinated. I think governments, NGOs and individuals have been overwhelmed by the scale of the migration.

This is the biggest forced migration of people since World War 2. Many countries are affected by conflict or war and the result is refugees/asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Syria and Somalia. (Source UNHCR).

Of those countries Syria is the biggest immediate source of refugees, and the refugees are fleeing more than four years of war. If you haven’t been following the news here’s a handy guide from BBC.

Syria has gone from being a destination country for refugees from Iraq to having about 11 million people forced from their homes. Some 7-8 million of those remain within Syria, living under conditions of war and extreme poverty. The majority of those who have left are in camps in Turkey and Lebanon.

A relatively small number are making their way to Europe, by whatever means they can.

Of course accepting a large number of people into any country creates challenges – where will they live, how will they support themselves, where will they go to school, can they live in a different culture. And it’s very normal that people experience some anxiety about the impact such a group will have in Europe.

But many many people have stepped up, saying they cannot stand by and watch people die. A group of Spanish life guards, Proactiva Open Arms,  are working to pull people out of the water in Lesvos. Volunteers have been handing out water, food and clothes to refugees en route. And Danish people ashamed of their country’s official response have been transporting people to Sweden.

It seems that individuals can step up.

I’m stepping up; by supporting this donation drive for those who have made it to the Netherlands.

Please spread the word about this donation drive by; liking our Zuidas Cares Facebook page, and sharing content from it, following us on twitter and sharing that content. Tell your friends, challenge your friends to donate their coffee money for a week. Ask your family for any warm clothes that are in good condition, clean but could be spared.  The Dutch winter is not kind.

This week I am donating my time to promote this. Next week I am donating whatever warm clothes and toiletries I can.

I challenge all Amsterdammers to make a donation.

If you cannot donate in person please consider donating one day’s lunch money to The Red Cross.

Thank you.

More than a Tweet; People

sharingpeopleIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 5 of a 7 part series.

There are two aspects to explore in relation to people, one is finding the right people, the second is creating a culture that supports your strategy. There will be some links to help you go further, and we’ll see how the NewArt Museum faced the people questions.

Inspired team

I have this weird idea that when people like what they’re doing and are inspired about it they’ll do a much better job. This is even more important on social media – after all it’s increasingly where our customers first meet us. For the team working on social media there is a diverse set of skills needed. Here are my top five;

  1. Communication skills
    The social media team will be talking, albeit in text form, to customers and stakeholders. They need to be skilled communicators, able to understand online comments, and react in a productive way.
  2. Writing skills
    Someone needs to create all that great content, that person needs strong writing skills.
  3. Design skills
    Increasingly social media is a visual medium, with images used on many tweets and almost all Facebook posts, so you’ll need some design skills in your team (note; installing photoshop on your computer doesn’t make you a designer).
  4. Analytics
    Improving your performance in social media relies on someone crunching some numbers. Major platforms give you feedback on likes, shares etc, but you will want to analyse which posts perform best.
  5. Company knowledge
    Your social media team need to know your company, the history and the brand (beyond the visual identity). They need to know your audience and what will work for them, and they need to understand how the social media strategy connects with the company’s vision and strategy.

You’re unlikely to find all of these skills in one person, but equally I’m not suggesting you need to hire five people. If you have the luxury of a bigger team look for people with a mix of skills that overlap. If it’s just one person – you –  then focus on the first two skills, force yourself to learn enough analytics and outsource the design. If you cultivate a good relationship with a freelance designer they’ll soon understand your brand and deliver great graphics. Even larger companies often end up outsourcing a chunk of the design work.

Hire interns. In the past I’ve seen excellent contributions from interns as designers, content creators, and community managers. I would advise against simply handing over social media accounts to interns and giving them free rein – interns new to the company are unlikely to have the company knowledge needed. But equally the interns I’ve seen have come with great ideas and given solid input, so don’t assume they’ll just be posting automatons for your social media plans.

Personally I want to work with people who are self-motivated, interested in what they do, forward looking and positive;  I do recruit for attitude. In addition for social media roles I look for an opportunist mentality, someone willing to experiment.

In my experience the good ideas for content creation and use cases for new platforms don’t come out of long meetings, they come out of a conversation that sparks and idea.  The good ideas and the exploration of new platforms comes naturally to those who are inspired by working in social.  I accidentally caught two of my team making a vine about the circular economy; it took about fifty post-it notes and an afternoon but no out of pocket costs. Just their willingness to try something.

Committed Leadership

It’s almost impossible for a project to succeed in an organisation without the support of the leadership.

Commitment is different. Think of a plate of bacon and eggs; the chicken was supportive, the pig was committed.

So the leadership not only need to support the execution of the project they need to be visible on social media as well. This could be a small role – eg short video interviews onto Facebook and twitter, or it could be a highly visible role – eg; Richard Branson. But their presence on social media removes a lot of internal discussion, and it is a credibility point for the organisation externally.

Organisational Culture

The organisational culture needs to support the use of social media. There needs to be a culture of openness and sharing with collaboration as the norm for the “social” part of social media to really fly. The social media manager cannot create content in a vacuum, and the community manager cannot respond to customers without the support of the organisation.

This means as few rules as possible, make it easy for people to share content within the company, celebrate and reward great uses of collaboration. Find some ways to cultivate the building of a social media presence – it’s probably going to change how you work inside the company.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

So far the social media accounts have been looked after by the communications manager with a little secretarial support. For a relaunch and the campaign they’re planning this is clearly not going to work.

Two interns are chosen; one from a design course to focus on visual elements and developing assets for social media, and one from a journalism course to focus on the written content and doing some community management work. The interns are both avid social media users themselves and the designer has a reasonable following on instagram already. Some analysis of the accounts of other museums and the NewArt Museum’s own accounts gives them ideas to share and their enthusiasm energises the other content developers who have struggled to see how social media content can be developed.

They start brainstorming about running events; supporting “wiki loves Art“, holding a “Night at the Museum” event with instagrammers, inviting influential instagrammers to curate the museum’s instagram account, children’s art classes, a “child artist” lecture series. They’re looking forward to the next content development meeting to discuss all these ideas.

Image; Sharing | Andy Woo | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

More than a Tweet; Infrastructure

abcIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 4 of a 7 part series.

By infrastructure I mean all the building blocks that make it possible for you to start in social media as a company, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, and it might seem like the “not fun” part of social media. But if you haven’t put these in place you’ll spend a lot of time solving problems as you go.

Most of the things are not visible to your audience, but their absence will eventually be observed. And if you’re ever unfortunate enough to strike a crisis in social media you will struggle to respond well without these building blocks in place. Think of it like an iceberg, the visible part of social media is the presence on platforms and the content produced, but most of the work is below the surface.

I’ll explain what these building blocks are at a high level, give some resources to help you and take the next step with the imaginary NewArt Museum.


The word governance seem off-putting, but it’s really about figuring out how things should work. It’s helpful to think of it in three parts.

  1. Roles and responsibilities
    How will you make decisions? Who needs to be involved? Often you will need high level steering on a strategic questions, and then agreement on who makes decisions on a day-to-day level. If this is not in place you will risk either no-one taking needed action, or in-fighting for who should act.
    My three recommendations;
    (i) on a day-to-day basis put as much decision making in the hands of the social media managers as you can.
    (ii) Form a team from senior stakeholders to steer overall strategy, often it’s on the social media managers’ recommendation (why ignore expertise!) but it’s important that stakeholders in your organisation are committed to the effective use of social media. This is more likely to work when they’ve been included in making the decisions the stakeholders are most likely drawn from the communications and marketing teams, but will often include representatives from risk/compliance/legal teams.
    (iii) Document the roles against each process, I’ve often used the RACI techniques which feels horribly detailed the first time you do it, but does force you to think through the steps of the process.
  2. Processes
    Define the processes you’ll need for the long term effective management of your social media presence.
    – opening social media accounts (who, how, why)
    – closing social media accounts
    – planning content
    – creating content
    – responding to comments/reactions
    – issue management (including errors made on a social platform)
    – social media in crisis communications
    – reporting
  3. Guidelines, policies and  playbooks
    You will need to think through all aspects of presenting yourself on social media. Most companies build this into playbooks and guidelines and cover;
    – naming
    – visual branding (headers and avatars, use of images in posts)
    – tone of voice
    response matrix
    guidelines on using personal accounts to share company information on social media
    – platform specific guides, for example hashtag use on twitter.

Accounts on Social Platforms

Drawing on your naming convention register the required social media accounts. Acquire as soon as possible, and watch for new platform launches to acquire there as well.

What if your company’s name is already acquired by someone else? If the account is being used honestly and fairly then you’re out of luck and need to come up with an alternative, perhaps by adding “the” to the beginning, or an underscore between words or a suffix (eg; ING uses @ING_news for their group account). If the account uses your name to impersonate your company or to send spam you may be able to reclaim it; check the platform’s terms and conditions for how to do this. From experience the main platforms have got better at solving this quickly as they have seen business use rise.

Acquire names pre-emptively. Your strategy will determine which platforms you should be most active on, even if your resources don’t limit you. But acquire names early for future use.

Make sure your accounts use consistent branding, link to your company website, and from your company website to the account. In this way visitors will know that it really is your company posting.


When you use social media for fun, as an individual, your needs are simple. When you use social media for a company the needs get more complex;  social media listening, secure protection of accounts, content creation and scheduling publication. The more complex your organisation, and the bigger your social media presence the more likely you are to be paying for some of these.

I’ll go through the free and paid options for these; note that lots of tool suppliers have “freemium” models so it’s pretty easy to test and play with the tool before investing.

Social Media Listening
You need to know what people are saying about you across social media; to provide webcare, to monitor a campaign, or to uncover issues.

There are several free tool options for social listening but none of them do everything, and not all give you real time options. For individuals, freelancers and small companies with limited social media presence a combination of these will probably be enough.

For bigger companies this won’t be enough and they’ll look towards Radian6 from Salesforce, Engagor, or Synthesio to filter through the thousands of mentions of the company globally. (Assessing which one is right for you is a challenge; luckily Forrester assesses this space regularly and you can also use software comparison sites such as Trust Radius which include user reviews).

Social Risk and Compliance Solutions

There are plenty of social media fails around where someone tweeted from an official account in error, or where accounts were hacked. For companies in regulated industries there are also a range of compliance policies to follow, eg; you don’t want customers sharing account numbers online if you’re a bank, or medical information if you’re a hospital.

There are some serious solutions out there, once again Forrester assesses them. The one I have used is Nexgate, which can act as a vault for all account information, apply policy limits to what can be published, and monitor what is posted on your social media channels for any compliance issues.

This is heavy duty stuff. For most people it’s more than what is needed and you’ll be OK if you keep protocols in place (one good reason for people using a work phone for social media rather than their own phone), set strong passwords and monitor accounts frequently.

Scheduling Publication

Yes you can schedule posts. More than that; you should schedule posts.

In this category there are several free tools once again. Some are specific for the particular social media platform, and a word of warning here – Instagram doesn’t allow scheduling, but obviously you can still plan your Instagram posts. Hootsuite offers a free service that will let you publish to multiple platforms, and it’s fairly easy to use. If you’re a heavy twitter user then Tweetdeck is a super-simple tool and allows you to listen to specific hashtags, see your own mentions and respond within the tool.

Whatever tool you look into also consider the mobile version – you want to be able to do everything from a smartphone that you can do from a desktop.

Congratulations on making it this far! This post is longer than usual and even then I think I could probably write a post about every item listed above.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

The communications manager is responsible for the social media deployment. She begins by forming a stakeholders group to be responsible for the strategic decisions; the group includes the curator of the exhibition to be running at launch, the artist liaison manager, and the brand designer who is an external advisor.  Together they work through the high level decisions and agree that the social accounts need branding with the brand team’s designs, and that content development will need work from the brand team and the exhibition team, so a working group across all three teams is set up for content development.

The communications team is re-enforced with two interns for the purpose of the launch and the team set about pro-actively acquiring accounts on social media platforms using NewArtMuseum as the standard name. The accounts to be used are connected to a social media management tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer.

Their strategy is to focus on Facebook and Instagram, as these are both image focused platforms, and to try to find a way to build user generated content into the campaign. They’ll also experiment with periscope as they get closer to launch date, given it’s short lifespan it seems a good option for “sneek previews”. Twitter itself will be used for more press type communications.

The communications team set out the ways of working in a playbook,  and start working on content development with the curator and the brand designer. They want to start building and audience and creating some buzz before the museum re-opens.

Next week in this series; People

Image; ABC easy as 123 | Michael Verhoef | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Drones for Good

droneAt Expo 2015 in Milan I spotted some examples of drones being used in ingenious ways, as a navigation aid in a sand dune environment for example, connected to a four wheel vehicle with its very own built-in “drone helipad”.

So far my exposure to drones has either been the militaristic  or the artistic sort. I started to wonder about other uses, commercial uses, and not the hyped up “Amazon will deliver to your fourth floor apartment window”. So I did some research. Here are some of the coolest uses I found.


droneagNicknamed “precision agriculture”, drones are giving farmers better data and more detail on their crops. Enabling them to target any treatment, and follow a crop’s progress.

I saw a couple of examples of drone use for agriculture at the EXPO, at the Kazakhstan pavilion where they were using drones to target insecticide and fertiliser use.

The Dutch pavilion also showed a pair of potato farmers who use drones to  assess areas that need more seeding, watering or fertilising.

A great way to save costs, but also to reduce the chemical run off to waterways, agricultural use is seen by some as the biggest potential market for drones.

Inspecting Oil Rigs

Oil rigs and wind farms sit out at sea in tough operating conditions and need regular inspection. Using drones has taken the inspection time from 8 weeks down to 5 days, a massive saving of operational costs.

Real Estate

Drone photography and video is seen as a great potential marketing tool in the Real Estate industry – but it’s subject to various regulation in most countries. In the UK and Australia commercial drone operator permits are possible, but in the US the FAA is banning commercial use of drones, although they might be fighting a losing battle.

A second potential use is for monitoring real estate development projects, a site visit from the ground as it were.


Drones are used for creating sweeping views in advertising, TV documentaries, and movies.

It means that some of those shots once out of scope for those on a limited budget are now possible. Good news for indie film makers, not so good for helicopter pilots.


Pretty sure you couldn’t make the high level shots in the Rockin1000 without drones (now someone will tell me it’s a camera on a super boom).

Burning now issues permits for drone use at the event and limits the number to thirty. It’s also produced a guideline on drone use to address safety concerns.

Less commercial but still interesting developments are uses of drains for humanitarian aid and wildlife research.


Drones have been used as tools for disaster relief in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake on a scale unseen before. In part because the technology has matured, and partly because the country already had transport issues reaching its isolated villages. Combined with crowd-sourced work from volunteers around the world, the drone images are helping researchers document damage and prioritise rescue efforts.

Amazon and Domino’s both had PR wins out of trialling drones for delivery but there could be a sensible application; delivering medicine to isolated areas. Medicines are high value yet small, and so could be worth the investment. A Gates Foundation funded team are working on this, and Deutschepost DHL have apparently been testing it as a means of delivering to an isolated island.

Wildlife Research

While researching for this post the video below turned up all over social media. It’s a view of whales that is taken from the air, and obviously doesn’t disturb them in their habitat. And for anyone worrying about the dude on the paddle board, these are Southern Right Whales, baleen feeders. Of course they could still wipe him off the board with a flick of the tail.

The whale video is more opportunistic observation, but scientist have also been using drones to research wildlife in more inaccessible areas, for example monitoring orangutan populations in Indonesia.

It’s not a new idea, WWF Nepal began using drones to monitor the endangered one-horned rhinoceros and tigers more than three years ago.

Future Uses

I’ve seen a few documentaries recently that have used camera techniques and helicopters to increase the understanding of ancient structures like Angkor Wat and Stonehenge. Surely there’s a role for drones here.

There is also space for “drones as a service” companies, offering drone + operator for a single use, in fact a number of drone start-ups are already developing companies to cash in on this concept.

Some predictions suggest that the next big use of drones will be as Christmas presents, I do get the appeal – another toy to play with, even though some people don’t seem to understand when it might not be a good idea to play with the toy. The genie is out of the bottle on drones, and countries/authorities need to find ways to regulate and licence drone pilots for responsible use. After all, we all need a licence to drive a car.

Image: Drone and Moon (cropped) | Don McCullogh | CC BY 2.0

More than a Tweet; Strategy

strategyIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 3 of a 7 part series.

I’ll explain what a social media strategy is, give some resources to help you and take the next step with the imaginary NewArt Museum.

Social Media Strategy

Your vision defines what you want to be, your strategy answers the question of how you’re going to get there.

This should be closely aligned to the business goals, and take into account the competitive environment, HBR and McKinsey both offer advice on the sort of things you need to consider in developing a strategy. Mintzberg offers some different perspectives on definitions of strategy, which one works might depend on your organisational culture.

What business goal are you trying to achieve? Your activities on social media should be contributing to business value, and you must be able to measure the business value. This sounds difficult, but with a well defined business goal it becomes much simpler.

As you define the strategy you also need to find ways to involve stakeholders and build commitment from senior stakeholders, particularly those who hold the purse strings.

A strategy often contains an element of planning, that’s fine, but keep it high level, talk about phases rather than detail. Including this will help you keep your strategy feasible.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

It’s easiest to use an example to think of this. Imagine you run a museum, and your goal is to attract younger visitors. You must use the social media platforms relevant to the audience, Instagram for example is popular with 18-29-year-olds.

To achieve that goal the museum will create exhibitions that appeal to a younger audience, reach out to art students and campaign on platforms that match their target audience.

One of the Museum directors commits to acting as the sponsor of the whole programme and she delegates the communications manager to be in the lead for the social media strategy and deployment.

Although the launch of the “new” NewArt Museum is some months away the communications manager wants to get started there’s a lot to do!

Image: Strategy | GetCredit | CC BY 2.0

More than a Tweet; Vision

visionIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 2 of a 7 part series.

In each part there will be an explanation, some examples, what happens when it’s not done well, some tips and resources. To close I will use an invented case study based on the NewArt Museum to demonstrate the step.


What is the vision you have for social media? What does it bring the company/organisation?

The vision should be expressed in a sentence or two, and it’s forward looking and ambitious.

A good vision statement will help you build buy-in, and it will help you make decisions for all the following steps.

It might be “We use social media to raise awareness of our brand” which positions your social media efforts into content publishing and community management. It could be “We use social to support consumers” which means your efforts focus on social care and possibly some community management. From these two examples I think you can see that defining this first is key.

In large companies it’s likely that you will want a high level vision, while various business teams within the organisation will need to define their purpose in a more specific way. In a previous job our vision for the Enterprise Social Network included “this is the way we will work”, businesses and projects then could use the concept to challenge existing processes and refine a vision for their own use of the tool. For some it because a support tool, for others it was a collaboration tool, others used it to support global communication around new programmes.

Without a well defined vision that is aligned with business goals your next steps risk losing focus, and you will struggle with subsequent decisions or conflicting demands of stakeholders.

Here are some tips on writing a vision statement, and a whole presentation on vision statements. Plus just for fun, some examples of really bad vision statements.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

I’m going to  use an invented organisation to demonstrate each step in this series. Introducing the NewArt Museum.


The Museum was famous and well visited when it was first opened, but recently visitor numbers have dropped, and the analysis shows that the majority of visitors are in a 40+ age group, with very few visitors are in the 18-25 age group. The Museum has secured a art grant aimed at changing this and launched a programme under the name “Secure our Future”.

They have developed a new vision for their business; The NewArt Museum is building new audiences of art-lovers, and supporting contributions from new artists.

Translating this business vision to one for social media = leading a community of young art lovers who engage with the museum and promote its activities.

Next week in this series; Strategy

Image: Binoculars IV | Chase Elliott Clark | CC BY-2.0

The Two Most Important Words for Managers

thank youYears ago, during all the pressure of a work crisis, one of my team members who had just joined the team worked tirelessly with a demanding colleague to solve a tricky problem.  He was dedicated and patient, I was relieved he could find a solution by about 6pm.

By then I was in a meeting deep in discussion with colleagues, but one of the advantages of working in a glass building is you can see out. I spotted him leaving with his head down, bag over shoulder, hands in pockets. I excused myself and raced to catch him by the lift.

“Thank you” I said “I saw how hard you worked to solve that today and you’ve done good work!”

He smiled and straightened up. “It’s my job” he said shyly.

The look on his face made me realise just how important it was and in that moment I knew I’d be OK at this management thing (still learning!).

And those two words “Thank you” are the most important words from managers and leaders, and not just the generic “thanks for your hard work”. When you follow thank you with specific feedback that shows you have noticed their work the effect is powerful.