Category Archives: social media

Instagram Stories

2015Aug InstagramStories

By now you’ve got Instagram stories on your Instagram account.

I’ve been playing with it and the results are fun, so far I’ve created a “documentary” of a Dutch summer (5 seconds of sunshine on my living room floor), and a progress report of a cup of coffee. Here are the basics on using Instagram stories.

My personal tips to add.

(1) Text is always white, so if your photo is very light it won’t show up, you can get around this by adding a bar of colour in the background. The pen function is always added behind the text, so you can add it before or after typing.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 17.09.08

(2) Stories disappear from the story bar after 24 hours, but if you share them to your Instagram timeline (or Facebook etc), they’ll stay in your feed forever.

(3) If you share video create in Stories to Instagram it will be cropped as a square in the middle of the screen. So if you’re planning to share make sure the action and any additions you’ve made are in the centre the screen.

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(4) You can upload photos, existing video, Boomerangs and Hyperlapses to Stories, just swipe down on your screen to reveal a gallery of content. Note it will only allow you to select content added in the last 24 hours, you can “trick” it into allowing older images by taking a screenshot of an old photo (for example).

(5) Engagement on Instagram Stories is pretty hard to measure. While the Story is live you can see comments (and respond), and see who has viewed it by clicking on the tally of viewers at the bottom of the screen.

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Once the story disappears so do the comments, and so do the view numbers. If you need this data you’ll need to collect it manually BEFORE the story disappears.

If you share the Story to Instagram you will see the number of video views, but likes are not collected. You can look back through the feed under the heart button to count them, but that seems laborious.

(6) Audience is only your followers, and anyone who looks at your profile. Stories only works within the mobile app, there’s no search and no hashtag discovery. You could exploit this with a “follow us for exclusive stories” to build your audience.

Businesses Are Telling Stories

So far the stories I’ve seen have mostly been from individuals often  playing with adding stickers, text and drawing to the image. They’re playful, which makes sense given the ephemeral nature Instagram stories. Most brands aren’t active on Instagram stories, only one of Hubspot’s 16 best brands on Instagram boasts a Story on their account. Similarly only one of the 12 Best Brands on Snapchat (according to FastCompany) has taken to Instagram Stories so far.

But brands are getting into stories, from my Instagram feed it seems to be mostly travel brands but others have entered the fray;

  • GE, already used to snapchat, came up with a series on Volcanos, and another on cloud computing and transportation (see screen grabs below).
  • Wholefoods is making special offers on Instagram Stories
  • E!News uses Instagram Stories to promote, well, news stories

I’m looking forward to seeing what brands do with this new tool. What’s the best you’ve seen? What’s your story?

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 10.06.42

Images: Story  |  Rossyyume  |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Instagram of aquarium by MrMarttin, used with his kind permission

Chat; the New Web

2016 July Chat

In those heady early days of the web personal sites were the rage. Who can remember GeoCities? I had a book review site online back then, I don’t anyone read it – not even my mother. As the web became more prevalent and a commercial option personal sites were pushed to a fringe and later into blogs.

Then came social media, with the biggest platforms attracting millions of accounts (that’s Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter et al). Increasingly social media is being exploited by business and absorbed into communications and marketing teams as another channel. Random conversations are harder, and the troll element can make using the platforms a pretty horrible experience.

Along came messenger tools, with WhatsApp listed as the second biggest social network in some analyses.

Rise of Messenger

Which is great for individuals. But much harder for businesses to exploit, they have to automate responses and processes. For example you can order a Domino’s pizza via an emoji sent via FB messenger. What a world. But to do that you need to first set up your “favourite order” and payment info on a Domino’s account and connect it to your Facebook account. So there’s a process designed to get your pizza order out to you.

This is a simple transaction. It’s essentially a yes/no question you’re answering. Other uses of messenger and chat apps are more ambitious. My bank now offers support via chat, which is a brilliant idea, except that it’s all in Dutch… now my Dutch is OK for day to day things, but my spelling is pretty atrocious so I end up flicking between Google translate and the chat bot – the chat bot gets bored. (I am aware I have just ascribed a human emotional reaction to a piece of software).

Chat bots, the tools companies use to make messenger apps scalable, can only answer the questions in its data base; the “known knowns”.  Which means they can serve as a sort of “FAQ” service, which can be helpful to cost-cutting businesses but less so customers with complex questions. Which means that companies are looking to AI to broaden the range of solutions offered and make the responses smarter.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the ability of machines to learn and apply reasoning and from a geek perspective it’s exciting. Tech companies are competing to see who can pass the Turing Test. But it’s also a way for businesses to scale conversation, that essential element of human interaction could one day be done by machines.

The experiments in artificial intelligence are exciting and sometimes disturbing; Microsoft’s chatbot Tay was racist within a day. For something more fun, Project Murphy uses Skype and image swapping and watches your reaction to judge how well the match worked.

Most recently I found a website that is completely given over to a chat function. There is no other content at all, and you’re forced to engage, here’s the background.

So of course I tried it.

The engagement possibilities are limited, you’re clicking on a button to go forward, sometimes choosing between two options. It’s got some of the socialisation right, the humour in the interactions works and the Bear Bot cleverly waits a couple of interactions to ask my name. It’s a simple trust builder.

But then it goes a bit wrong. When asked a question I didn’t have enough space for a fully thoughtful response, and couldn’t edit it when I discovered the size limit.  Despite entering nonsense I earned “six fish” for my contribution and the thanks of the Bear Bot. This didn’t really increase my trust – pretty sure my contribution is not being “kept in mind” unless by that they mean “saved on a server somewhere”.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 10.34.05I kept going. But I don’t get to talk in this chatbot, I’m once again a passive consumer of the information chosen for me. And then suddenly there’s a suggestion of inviting someone else into the conversation. That someone is Oliver Reichenstein, he’s kinda a big deal in user design, here’s an interview where he talks about some of his ideas.
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I said no and earnt zero fish for that answer.

But seriously was Oliver there? It seems a poor way for him to spend his valuable time.

Overall the experience of the website as a chat was disappointing.  It seems to be pitched as a way for me to discover information – I was given one interesting link early in the conversation but I’d have found the information faster with a simple search. The interaction feels regressive, most of the time I was given one or two choices, like e-Learning in the 90s. I’d enjoy the interaction on an old-fashioned discussion forum more – if you find the right group the interaction and expertise are awesome.

Having said that I do appreciate that the company is trying something new, I’m curious to see how their experiment evolves.

In Conclusion

Chatbots are useful, they may even be able to support us on more open tasks that deal with the “known knowns” using strong databases, good process design and AI.

But until we pass the Turing Test conversation and interaction will not really scale.

3 Other Uses of Social Media

2016June Social Media Day

Snapchat is four, Instagram is six this year, Twitter is ten, and Facebook is twelve. As the social media platforms grow up and head into their teen age years how do they actually get used?

For Social Media Day I’m profiling three uses of social media for companies that you might not have thought of.

Real Time Marketing

Since Oreo won the internet when the lights went out on the Superbowl, companies have tried to use social media in real time – most often around big events. A London Fashion Week Topshop, the only high street brand on the runway, analysed twitter chat on the event and translated it to recommendations on billboards outside their stores in six cities across the UK.  There was a measurable impact on sales and more than 3 million people interacted on the hashtag #LiveTrends.

Pulling off a successful Real Time Marketing Campaign is a combination of having the right tools in place to analyse social media, the right people in the room to create a great response, and the authority to publish quickly. (The last is critical, if every post needs a legal review and three person sign off, then RTM is not for you.)


Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 16.09.12Social Media can provide customer service platforms. In the Netherlands most customers use at least one social media platform, so many of the larger companies here provide customer service via, at minimum, Facebook at Twitter. The gold standard of service on social media has to be KLM, their teams are so good at it that they put their response time into their twitter header, they aim to keep it below 20 minutes.

It takes significant training, good tools, and a sizeable team to run this, 150 social media agents around the world provide global coverage and respond to around 70,000 queries each week (source; KLM).

Crisis Management

Oddly enough it’s often a crisis that propels companies into using social media, requiring a cultural change to a more open model of communication that’s challenging for communication teams.

Social media also turns out to be a good medium to communicate in a crisis.

  • Mass reach, even people not on a platform can read your notes
  • Possible for individual questions/comments
  • It’s increasingly expected as people get their news from social media
  • Easy to update

Crises are by nature unexpected, but companies that plan on how to manage a crisis, and keep their social media team involved, are more able to respond appropriately. Examples could include a product recall, a supply fault, death of an executive, a case of fraud coming to light, or an airline emergency.  There’s lots of advice out there for managing a crisis in social media, in all of them preparation and speed are key.

In rare cases the way a company responds can improve the company’s reputation, two examples from very different industries.

O2, a British telecom company. During a rather long outage the community manager responded on twitter to every question or comment, even the angry and abusive ones, with personality and humour.

DiGiorno, in a now famous mistake DiGiorno responded to the #WhyIStayed hashtag with the comment “Because you had pizza”. Seems innocuous, except that the hashtag was being used to raise awareness of domestic violence. So their tweet did not go down well. However they quickly deleted the tweet, issued a simple public apology. And then apologised to every individual tweet who called them out. For weeks.

For crisis communication on social media to work, you need the social media experts involved in creating your crisis plan, and a team to execute the plan. You may also need to temporarily increase the size of your social team – during one crisis that I worked through we had 30,000 messages each day.

For all three of these social media strategies you need social listening tools, analysts and experts, and the authority to run with the strategy. Dial up your social media efforts. Happy Social Media Day.

Image: The Social Media Marketing Mix  |  Alan O’Rourke  |  CC BY 2.0

2015 Looking Back

2015_12 owl eyesWhew, we made it. It’s the end of a challenging year for me, but looking back some pretty cool things happened.

This is the season of lists, a quick search for best of 2015 on Google gives me “about 9,020,000,000 results” in less than a minute, which is more than on per person for the entire world. They range from the sensible Best Tech of 2015 from Mashable to  Viral Videos of the Year from Buzzfeed. So rather than add to that I’m going to highlight things that struck me during the year.

In the News

Much of the news this year has been tough, frightening, even gruelling. Some amazing things happened as well, sometimes coming out of disaster. Following the devastating earthquake in Nepal, for example, geeks banded together to map the disaster and support rescues.

Meanwhile Anonymous have taken on ISIS; masked activists are taking on real world evil using a virtual medium is a tale that sounds more Hollywood than reality and yet here we are.

In more strange news, the British public has petitioned their parliament to ban Trump from entering the UK based on what they term “hate speech”. At the time of writing more than half a million people had signed the petition, easily exceeding the 10,000 threshold needed to force a discussion in parliament.

And then there were the thousands of acts of random kindness that didn’t make the news, but did make someone’s day.

Best Hashtags of 2015

Ireland voted to make gay marriage legal in May, with many young people travelling back to Ireland in order to cast their vote in the #HomeToVote campaign.

Following the Paris attacks in January and in November the world showed its solidarity with France, by lighting up national monuments with the French Tricoleur. Despite the seriousness of the events and the sorrow of so many, the Belgians maintained their sense of surreal humour in the response to the police lockdown of Brussels in which people were asked not to disclose police activity on social media. They posted cat pictures, under the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown, scroll down to see how the police responded.

On a lighter note, a festive hashtag brought out the best and worst of literary puns.

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Biggest Social Media Fail

Surprisingly some companies still haven’t grasped that there are risks as well as benefits to using social media, or that there are ways to test or limit those risks. Here are some of the biggest fails of 2015.

(1) Starbucks launch #RaceTogether

The intention behind this was probably good, working towards better race relations in a divided society where #BlackLivesMatter campaigns were under way. But the idea of discussing race issues while you get your coffee didn’t resonate with customers and  the  reaction was swift and harsh, the campaign was soon withdrawn.

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(2) Woolworths tries to hijack Anzac Day

For those not from Australia or New Zealand, Anzac day is the day we remember those who died in wars. It’s taken seriously and the name “Anzac”, which stands for Australia New Zealand Army Core, is a protected term.

So when a supermarket chain tried to use it in a campaign it did not go well. There was significant backlash on social media, with abuse of the “meme generator” they’d installed on their site, followed by a request from the Veteran’s organisation to end the campaign.

(3) SeaWorld and their #AskSeaWorld campaign

If your company has a reputation issue then offering an “ask anything” opportunity on social media is a Bad Idea.

SeaWorld, or their social media agency, didn’t agree with that statement and launched a #AskSeaWorld campaign. The response was predictable;

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 15.55.39

SeaWorld win biggest social media fail of the year, not just because of the poorly thought out strategy but because when the inevitable backlash started their reaction was to label people as trolls and posted responses such as “Jacking hashtags is so 2014. “. Not cool.

Big Moments

The end of Google, or rather the end of Google as we know it. Alphabet was born, as an corporate holding company allowing them to be recognised for more than their search/advertising industry.

Apple vs Taylor Swift, and she won. The music industry seems to still be transforming.

Hoverboards became a thing in the “future” specified in Back to the Future, and we all wanted one. Then some of them caught fire.

Best book of 2015

2015-12-24 08.40.35Best book of 2015 (as in that’s when I read it) was Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. It’s a breath of fresh air, with inspiring discussions about business and leadership, a fascinating glimpse into the workings of arguably the world’s most creative company, and there are generous dots of humour. It’s so good I messaged a friend quotes from it until he bought his own copy. I will review it more fully in the New Year.

Best TED talk of 2015

A timely reminder in the season of family togetherness.

Also loved Ernesto Sirolli’s “Shut up and Listen” talk; he’s humble and charming, yet wise.

Heros of 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.19.40The people on the island of Lesvos who have put their lives on hold to pull people out of the ocean. Saving lives every day despite dropping temperatures. The politics around the Syrian crisis are messy and complex, but these people have got to the crux of the matter; the people are coming and they are dying.

If you can spare a donation there’s one organisation, Proactiva Open Arms, that is totally donation funded, started by a bunch of guys from Spain, and you can donate online.

Personal High Points

This was a strangely good year for travel; In my last job I met with colleagues from around the world visiting Dubai and Johannesburg for the first time. I also enjoyed some memorable personal travel; I spent time with my family, and helped my mum achieve a lifetime dream of watching a grand slam tennis tournament. In September I made it to Milan to see the World Expo, I was lucky enough to get VIP treatment there and got to see a lot in just three days. I headed to Dublin for the WebSummit, which is a sort of geek heaven. And to finish the  year I rocked up to Vienna to meet up with friends from around the world for a sort of “Un-Christmas” celebration.

A great mix of travelling for family, for pleasure, for work and for learning. I’d like to have more of that in 2016!

The biggest change for me this year is in my work. I finished working for a large company at the end of August, and in October started my own company, Fantail Consultancy, working in Digital and Social Media consultancy. It’s a scary thing to do, but also fantastic in so many ways. I get time to think about the world of digital – and sadly that was missing in my previous role. Decision making is fast, I’m learning so much, and the support I’ve had from my network is great.

So far it’s been a good decision. 2016 is going to be exciting.

This is my last post for the year, thank you for all the feedback, comments, and tweets we’ve shared this year. See you next year!

Image; Owl Eyes  |  Tim Hamilton  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Building Your Content Calendar

Content calendar

Using social media creates a content monster that needs to be fed. In most organisations a lot of thought and planning goes into the concept, design and development of content. Today’s post is a framework for building that content plan. I am focusing on social media, but the principles of building this plan work for other types of content.

Think about your content in terms of layers.

Content can be broken out into three types; evergreen, events and spontaneous. Each requires a different approach but when used together will increase the impact of your social media presence.

Evergreen Content

Sometimes also called drumbeat content, evergreen content can be planned and developed ahead of publishing.

  1. Use dates that are important in your industry
    Think more broadly than company specific dates. For example Philips, manufacturer of X-ray machines, posts on Marie Curie’s birthday.
  2. Build out from campaigns and events
    If you’re running a campaign on a specific product build brand content that supports your campaign message. For example, if a bank is running a campaign around savings products then the brand content could include articles on the psychology of saving.
  3. Build a theme
    Even if there is no specific date to connect it to you can build content around a theme, for example designate May as “Internet of Things” month and produce content around the trends, technology and developments in this field, of course you can connect this content to your own connected products,
  4. Build a series
    Use a specific rhythm to activate one idea. For example there’s a “Meatless Monday” trend in certain healthy circles if you’re a food company you could use this and promote vegetarian menus every Monday. Alternatively use a series of longer articles to go into depth on a specific area of your company’s expertise. f

To make this work

Research relevant dates for you and determine which themes/ series you want to build on.

Develop quality content, which means spending on design, photography, writing or filming the content you need.

Don’t be afraid to re-use this content, either posting highlights onto twitter/facebook, or repurposing it for other platforms.

Keep cultural differences in mind, not everyone celebrates the same thing, in the same way, or even on the same date. (Mother’s day is widely celebrated – but not on the same date).


There are already a number dates to use on social media; those company announcements, conferences, events and campaigns that your company attends or produces.

Product launches are known months, or even years in advance, adding brand content to support the launch can increase the impact of the campaign.

Company leaders attend and speak at events throughout the year, decide which of these would be of more general interest, take any “infographic” or suitable images from presentations and re-use them on social media.

To make this work

Add the known events and campaigns to your calendar, include the event/campaign contact person.

Work with the event/campaign lead to develop content that supports their plans.

Use a simple hashtag for your own event/campaign and encourage a wider audience to publish under it.


Your company wins an award, there’s the announcement of a merger (or divestment), you’re finally in the ranking you’ve been working towards, you hear of an significant date that matches your company’s portfolio – on the date itself.  Every content team I’ve ever worked with has “last minute” content needs. So while I’m a big fan of planning ahead you also need a little flexibility to take advantage of these opportunities.

To make this work

Prepare likely potential images for your asset library, eg relating to awards ahead of time. The more diverse your asset library is the more likely you are to have a suitable image to hand.

Use your social listening tools to monitor awards in your industry, and watch for the announcement of relevant rankings.

Maintain good contact with the colleagues who handle last minute announcements. Explain to them that you don’t need to know the content of the announcement which may be confidential, but if you know the timing and the sort of content they’ll need you can work with that. Encourage their input into the asset library, to build relevant assets.

Putting the three layers together we can see that the impact of your content, whether measured in exposure or share of voice, increase when the layers are combined.

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Planning Ahead

All three forms of what does a content calendar need good planning to be successful, but how far ahead to you have to plan?

The honest answer is “it depends”.

For this blog I have a plan that’s about 2 months ahead, with a content deadline of about a week before publication. But that timing needs to change if you’re collaborating on content with a team or you have approval steps needed. Large organisations are more likely to have deadlines further ahead of publication and the plan for content themes is probably running 6-12 months ahead.


I use a google calendar, I can look at anywhere, on any device, I can add assets and links as I go. But my blog drafts are written directly into wordpress (not best practice). That works for a one person company and would probably scale up to a small team. For large companies there is an amazing array of sophisticated tools on the market. They enable planning and collaborative development of content, publication, sharing/editing of posts and assets, and reporting on content performance.

None of this is that hard to work out, but maintaining quality content requires a rare combination of creativity and discipline, with a dash of flexibility to take advantage of those out of the blue opportunities.

Image; Paper Craft Calendar | Berlin | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

3 Ways to Release the Content in Your Organisation

Balloon_ReleaseAt a recent meeting of Digital Experts (run by Advatera) the most common challenge raised for social media managers was sourcing content. Most participants knew there was content somewhere in the company but struggled to release it for use on social media. Most reported that they’d asked people to give them content but that hadn’t helped. The reality is that few people will think about your content needs and will need to be led into giving you the content you need.

One common cry from over-stretched social media managers is “I ask for content, but I don’t get any sent to me”. I recognise the frustration, but I can also see things from their colleagues’ perspective; it’s something extra in a busy day. However if you can lead them to give you content you’ll unlock the company stories needed for your social media presence.

Repurpose the ugly stuff

Almost every company produces reports on a grand scale, inside these reports are ugly tables of data. You can use that data to create infographics which have a visual impact that works on social media.

For example, the UNHCR’s data on refugees is transformed into a visual showing the scale of the crises in refugee source nations in the last 24 years. This is shareable, the original report is not.


Take another look at your annual report, sustainability reporting and employee satisfaction reports. Very often these are produced with infographics, add a requirement to the briefing that a certain number of “mini-infographics” are produced for sharing on social media. It’s much easier to build this into the production stage than add it afterwards.
Tweet this
Look also for other data in the company, years ago we included “cups of coffee drunk per day” in a series of company data images. Of course that was the image that got the most attention.

To make this work

Add specifications for images for social media in your designer briefing. You’ll need to say the size, file format, any limits on the image and as far as possible identify the data points you think would be worth sharing.

Leadership Quotes

Your executives speak at events, press announcements, Annual General Meetings, staff meetings and write statements for company publications.

Pull quotes from these sources and present them in a branded template with a head shot, add a link to the report or event, and magically you have content to share.

You can also create events for them to speak, it would powerful if your leadership posted their new year’s resolutions for example. You can make a simple template for this

To make this work

Start early, particularly if you’re looking for new quotes, leaders’ calendars are stupidly busy and finding time to ask them for thoughtful input can be challenging.

Employees as Ambassadors

I guarantee your employees are active on social media, there will be people willing to co-create the content and share company’s branded messages on their own social channels. This has the benefit of reaching a different audience from your own company’s channels, and showcasing your employees pride in the brand.

In some countries – including the Netherlands – this is tricky, the Works Councils/Unions are really concerned at any expectation that work life crosses into private life.  Philips found a way to build a brand ambassador community that didn’t pose that risk using an employee community on the internal social network. They addressed potential concerns by;

  • Using an ‘invite-only’ community on the internal social network
  • Members invited once they’ve completed their initial social media training, ensuring social media knowledge of all participants was at a good level
  • Members are invited to contribute to content
  • Sharing content is always voluntary for each campaign
  • The company does not list, share, or monitor personal accounts of employees

The model of working was first tested on world coffee day in 2014. A series of image templates was developed that met house guidelines on brand and left room for a coffee slogan. On the brand ambassador community members were asked for their ‘coffee slogans’, those with the most likes were used to create assets for world coffee day. And all community members were able to share the images on their own social accounts. Here’s one from my former colleague.

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To make this work

First build a community of people willing to contribute to content, and promote your brand. Work with your brand experts to develop templates for use across campaigns. For each campaign collect the internal input 2-3 weeks ahead of the campaign date, this might sound last minute by other campaign standards but this step can help build momentum for the publishing phase.

You’ll notice that to make each of these work you need “pre-work”, there are no quick fixes. Years ago in digital it felt like we were the last to know, we’d beg for content and then get it right before it needed to be published because the running assumption was that publishing was no more than pushing a button. I think we’re seeing the same sort of tension for a lot of social media teams. The answer is to have the discussions about what’s needed for social media earlier in the process, join the editorial process earlier and discuss with the content writers what will work on social media.

Image; Balloon Release  |  Garry Knight  |  CC BY 2.0

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