User Generated Content

User generated content

In my last post I wrote about the Engagement Ladder, the top rung of which is user-generated content, I’ve been thinking more about this form of content and looking for some positive examples, here’s what I’ve come up with.

User generated content can be a great loyalty builder for brands, but there are some things to consider before you launch your campaign.

Is your brand ready? You’ll be giving up some control of your brand, if your marketing, legal, risk teams aren’t ready for that reality you’ll need to do more work internally.

Is your brand positively viewed? If you open up your brand for user input while your brand is in a crisis the blowback will be swift. Starbucks famously started a Christmas campaign in 2012 with the hashtag #SpreadTheCheer, a nice idea, and large screens were installed to display the messages in stores. Unfortunately the company was in the middle of a crisis around paying tax in the UK and the tweets focussed on that rather than the festive season.

Does your brand have a tribe? You need a group of your customers/clients to be engaged enough to want to build content for your brand, otherwise there’ll be no response.

Can you create a fair process? You need to respect the rights of the content creators, which may include offering fair payment, and you need to be clear on what you are promising to do with the work created.

There are three ways to elicit content from your customer groups.

Open Call

Publish a request for customers to submit content, sometimes this is done as part of a competition. It sounds generous, giving all customers a chance to contribute, and it can work, but your brand needs to be positively regarded and you need to be clear about what you’re planning to do with the work. One example of a celebrity crowdsourcing a design did generate a concept book cover, but also generated plenty of criticism from the designer community. The more open your make the call and selection process the more likely you are to get the backlash. However this may still be a good option for a shorter or local campaign. There are a number of companies using hashtag based selection on Instagram to share themed posts (#ThankYouAmsterdam for example), and the results are positive for both parties.

Selective Approach

Research who of your customers is already creating great content, or look for social media influencers whose work matches your brand. Invite them to contribute content.

Spotify are using some of their subscribers’ lists in ads, building on their existing fanbase, I’m sure they’ve researched the lists and contacted the subscriber before building the ad.

Existing Community

Your brand already has a group of committed fans, who are independently building content.

One of the best examples out there, demonstrating the loyalty and ingenuity of customers, is IKEA Hackers. Although at one point IKEA tried to close the site.  The site showcases ways that IKEA products have been repurposed; cabinets become a  bed base, vases become a bathroom wall, and a folding desk saves space. A smarter approach might have been to engage the IKEA Hackers and look for ways to support their activities to enhance the IKEA brand.

Lego have successfully built a community of super loyal fans,  their brand is based on the human needs of playing/building together and the pride of creation so their online platform Lego Ideas ties into the brand and gives their fans a chance to develop new lego sets – the best of which go into production.  They also support the robot building lego league, although it was not started by the company.

One of my favourite example of a personality doing this is the wonderful, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o who uses #FanArtFriday on her Instagram account, the images are beautiful and reflect her career. She’s genuinely excited to share them.

user generated content

Three things to think about before you start;

  • company readiness
  • process including legal rights and payments
  • your commitment to using the final work.

Spotify and Lego show us that user-generated content can work for a company, but it takes brand commitment and a tribe.

Image:  Artist   |   M McIntyre   |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Engagement Ladder

Engagement Ladder

There’s a figure that gets quoted about engagement; 1, 9, 90. Which is a ratio representation of engagement.  For everyone person who contributes content, 9 might like it and 90 will see it. It’s a little simplistic, and there are more forms of engagement now so it’s helpful to think of the engagement ladder.

Engagement Ladder

Starting from the lowest rung of the ladder

Seen / Read

How many people saw your image, watched your video, read your content. This is the lowest level of engagement as it requires the least amount of effort from your visitor. It’s roughly equivalent to reach, although you might want to consider how much of your content was viewed or read.

It doesn’t tell you much about the person’s attitude to your brand, or their likelihood to purchase. We’ve all read stuff we don’t agree with, sometimes because we don’t agree with it. To compare this to a classic sales funnel it’s at least awareness.

Liked / Facebook Reaction

The next rung on the engagement ladder is a like, a G+, a Facebook reaction. It’s low commitment, a one click easy reaction, Facebook reactions tell you a more. Personally I’m pretty quick to like posts on Facebook or Instagram, much less likely to do so on Twitter.  As likes are visible to others this level of engagement does indicate that the visitor has a possible interest in your brand – but be careful. Facebook rates all reactions the same, but a thousand “angry” reactions won’t translate to sales for your company.

Commented

The third rung is comments, or reactions to your posts. If you’re posting on social issues, as Banana Republic did in the screenshot below, you’re likely to attract a lot of comments.

It takes more effort to comment on a post, positive comments are a public endorsement of your brand. It’s going to take some effort on your part to analyse the comments, or to parse the sentiment analysis provided by social listening tools.

facebook comments

Shared

If a person shares a post, retweets, embeds your video, they’re increasing your reach as your content is now (potentially) reaching a new audience.  They’ve also added your brand to their online reputation, this doesn’t map easily to a step in the sales process, but sits between evaluation and decision. They’ve added your company to a mental list for possible future purchases.

CTA

Some of your content might included a specific Call To Action, or CTA. For many companies this is exactly how they sign up more customers or subscribers, you can see some examples of great CTAs in this article from HubSpot. (And I’ve just shared content from a brand I have never been a customer of, but I’m aware of them, and they remain a potential supplier if I’m ever in a purchase decision for their services in the future).

Your CTA might be a subscribe, follow, download, or purchase option.

Created Content

The ultimate brand accolade, when users generate their own content related to your brand. But it’s a tricky area, with brands needing to pay attention to copyright and privacy issues.

Spotify have taken the step of using the real titles of subscribers’ lists in their own ads, it’s a campaign strategy that is infinite since their users will always be creating new lists. It resonates with their audience really well – seeing your own list picked up for an ad is cool, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

When your customers take the step of creating content around your brand and sharing it you can bet you’ve got the ultimate level of engagement.

Image: Ladder | Rich Bowen  |  CC BY 2.0

Response Matrix

Brands building a presence in social media have to manage the comments and responses. It can seem overwhelming, indeed if your company hits a crisis it may be overwhelming. A response matrix is a simple tool that can reduce the pain of responding to social media responses. It still relies on the expertise and good judgement of your social media or webcare team, but it guides them and simplifies training.

Step 1 Analyse Types of Responses

To create your own response matrix think about all the types of responses you might get across your social media channels. There are five generic types of responses you can use as a starting point.

response matrix step 1 analyse responses

  • Positive any thank you, or kind remark from one of your customers.
  • Question it’ll have a question mark on it
  • Error a statement about your products, service or company that is factually incorrect
  • Negative a complaint about your product, service, company etc
  • Troll someone who is posting in order to stimulate a reaction from you

Step 2 Define Your Response

For each type of comment or post you receive define the way in which to respond. I’ve given generic examples below.

response matrix step 2 define your response

  • Positive thank the contributor
  • Question answer the question, even if that means sourcing an answer from another part of the company – remember the customer does not care about your organisational structure
  • Error correct the facts, acknowledge any frustration
  • Negative solve the complaint if possible, explain if not possible
  • Troll monitor and do not respond

Step 3 Detailed Actions

You will need to go into more detail on the action steps for some posts. For example if a negative post is a product complaint you will need to detail the actions to be taken to correct the issue, and the actions may depend on whether the product is under warranty or what sort product it is.

In general customers expect a fast response on social media, KLM are responding within 7 minutes on twitter today. However there may be specific “hot” issues that your web care team need to refer to other teams. Work with those teams to make sure that quick responses are possible.

If there’s a common complaint you can even create a standard text. Many years ago I worked for a Dutch company whose legal name included the word “groep”, which is Dutch for “group”. Periodically we received comments from people stating that we had spelt group incorrectly – we had a standard text to use as a response for that, it began “thank you for being so observant…”

Response matrix step 3 detailed actions

Step 4 Combine into a Flow Chart

Your final response matrix should be a decision tree, a tool to help your web care teams act on customer posts on social media. This is a massively simplified generic version, but I’ve collected real versions published on the internet on a Pinterest board shown below.

Response matrix step four combine into a matrix

Step 5 Publish and Train

Publish your social media response matrix, itTrain your web care teams on your response matrix, they need to;

  • correctly and consistently evaluate the posts
  • use the defined process to respond
  • use a consistent tone of voice, which might be more informal than your usual corporate voice

Response matrix step 5 publish and train

I recommend a regular review of actual cases handled using the response matrix to ensure that it is covering all relevant issues – a tool that is not relevant will not be used. A quarterly review as a minimum, but you might want to use a higher frequency in the first phase.

Effective response relies on the web care teams using good judgement, the response matrix can’t replace that, you can never define every possible response.

Good luck creating your response matrix, and if you publish it online give me a shout, I would love to pin it.

Organic Growth

organic growth seedling

This is an old term that’s garnered a new twist in the era of social media.

Organic Growth in Business

Organic growth for a business dates back to at least the 1950s and refers to the growth in a business that relates to improvements from its normal operations, here’s how Scottish craft brewery company BrewDog has increased their growth -organically – over the years.

  • increased output
    In 2012 BrewDog moved to a state-of-the-art brewery, their output in 2013 was double the output of 2011. With developments to the brewery production was more than doubled by 2015.
  • increase in customer numbers
    BrewDog is UK-based gained new customers in 2008 by expanding exports to Sweden, Japan and America.
    They have also grown by opening their own bars, and now have a total of 44.
  • a new product release
    BrewDog began with one beer, Punk IPA, and has added dozens of others,  including the punny Jack Hammer, seasonals such as Hop Fiction, and the alcohol free Nanny State.

BrewDog are famous for their self-promotion and stunts, but their double digit growth figures tell of effective organic growth.

Organic Growth in Social Media

Organic growth in social media usually applies to growth in number of followers that comes from what you provide on your account, rather than paid promotion or paid advertising. It’s a baseline growth in your account figures before you look at the impact of campaigns.

  • effective content
    Philips worked on creating an instagram account filled with wonderful content around the theme of #LightIsLife, and increased their follower number by 50% in six months (engagement figures also went up)
  • Word of Mouth or Great PR
    When the JoeBama memes caught the imagination of a nation during a fraught election campaign they were featured in all sorts of standard publications, earning the originators thousands of followers.
  • Crisis
    Less happily when your company is in the news for negative reasons the number of followers might increase, along with the number of comments and negative reactions.

Although it’s getting harder and harder to grow an audience based on organic growth alone, it’s increasingly a case of “pay to play”, it’s worth monitoring your organic growth. Unless you’re in a crisis it does tell you something about the appeal of your content.

It’s a useful term and one that’s easy to understand in social media terms if you know the general business use.

Image:  Seedling  |  US Dept of Agriculture  |  CC BY 2.0

Social Media Fails (again)

2016march_social

We’re all on social media all the time, and the social media platforms are stretching into new areas of our lives – Facebook now has an “at work” option called Workplace.  So how good are we at using it? Back in 2013 I looked at some Social Media fails (and one brilliant response), now I’m looking again. Are companies making the same sorts of mistakes? Have we got better at using social media?

Some of the same mistakes occurred.

Confuse private and public accounts

Justice Department tweet errorThis tweet came from the US Justice Department, clearly not something a US Justice Department employee should ever be saying, so what happened? The twitter app lets you switch easily between accounts, and many people use the app to access their personal and professional accounts. In this case the staffer’s access to the twitter account was revoked, the tweet deleted and an apology issued.

We’re still making this mistake. I advocated keeping accounts separate, or even using separate devices, but I think that this error has become so common that people understand the error and it doesn’t seem to result in lasting damage to the organisation. If this happens to you apologise, delete tweet and move on.

Misuse of  Sensitive Hashtag/Event

Cinnabon failed Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher died, and the internet mourned. Cinnabon tried to gate-crash the wake with this image, recycled from their May-the-fourth post. The geeks of the internet were not impressed, many pointing out that she was much more than Princess Leia, that she’d hated this hair style, and anyway it’s crass to use someone’s death to promote your product.

As a best practice do not comment on a celebrity death unless they had a direct tie with your company or organisation.  If there’s an emergency or an event where people are in danger only comment on the event in ways that are offering practical support.

Some Social Media Fails were more prominent in 2016.

Geography is Hard

Coca cola geography

Social media posts almost always have images now, and that opens up a whole new world of pain, as Coca Cola found out when they used a map of Russia in their Christmas promotion. They managed to annoy Russia by not including Crimea, and then Ukraine by adding it.

There are a surprising number of tricky borders around the world and a surprising number of sharp-eyed people ready to comment on it. You’re in a no-win situation, you’re bound to annoy someone so avoid maps of contested areas in your imagery if you can.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence got a bit hyped in 2016, if Microsoft’s experiment with “Tay Tweets” is anything to go by humans aren’t ready for it. In just 24 hours twitter taught Tay to be a racist bully.

Within days Microsoft ceased the experiment.

Social Media Amplifies Your Bad Decision

UN hires and then fires Wonder Woman

The UN has a whole organisation devoted to gender equality which states that “UN Women is the global champion for gender equality”. But the UN’s track record isn’t so convincing; just three of the 71 presidents of the UN General Assembly have been women, and all of the Secretaries General have been men.

So when they announced that the new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was a fictional character, specifically Wonder Woman, it didn’t go well.  There were protests within the UN, negative feedback in the mainstream media, and across social media.

This is a case of a bad decision being amplified in social media, and it seemed to lead to a change at the UN.

Racism Isn’t a Joke

Racism isn't a joke

Maybe the people running the MTV Australia twitter account on the night of the Golden Globes thought the humour would work since America Ferrera and Eva Longoria were making fun of how Latina actresses are often mistaken for each other. But it’s one thing to make a joke about your own race/nationality and very different for a company to make a joke about someone else’s. Just don’t.

On the same theme; know whom you’re talking about. Total Beauty confused Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah and Whoopi confused

Fake News

Fake news reached a whole new level in 2016, and is set to reach new depths in 2017. There are thousands of US examples out there but I’m going to choose a less contentious example from the UK.

The Grim Reaper was busy in 2016, and with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds dying within days of each other we were primed for more bad news. So when Queen Elizabeth II stayed home from Church with a cold a fake BBC account reported that she had died and people fell for it.  The report was quickly debunked, leaving twitter embarrassed but relieved.

Which leads to a prediction for 2017; this will be the year we get smart about our news sources. Once I’m earning again I’ll be supporting one or two sources of good journalism.

So what’s changed?

I didn’t find examples of people jumping on trending hashtags any more, or of people sharing information that shouldn’t be made public, so we’ve got smarter. The errors now seem to be more in the area of content creation, social media managers need to understand how their promotional content might land in a global market.

We’ve got better, but the job has got tougher.

9 Myths of Social Media

Social Media Myths and Reality

I have heard all of these, and there’s some truth in each one, but they’re mostly myths. Here’s my take on 9 of the most pervasive myths.

1 It’s Free

100% myth.

The reality, the platforms are free to use. But as a business you will pay for people to create and publish content, you will pay for tools to monitor what is said about you on social media. In the beginning (back in maybe 2009) you could build an audience with great content. However those days are gone, you will now “pay to play“. You will pay to promote your content, or your accounts, and you will pay to advertise on social media.

2 Big Follower Numbers is Success

50% myth.

There are plenty of services out there offering to sell you followers, periodically there are articles where a celebrity has been caught out; if only it were that easy. The reality is that you need to think about the quality of those who are your fans/followers, bought followers are unlikely to be interested in your content, unlikely to engage with your brand, unlikely to follow your content to your website or (eventually – see myth 7) make a purchase. Big follower numbers are not the whole story.

However if you’re tweeting with zero followers you’re talking in an empty room. So you do need to build an audience, and generally speaking, a brand will want a bigger audience because;

  • it represents more of their consumer base
  • the potential to grow an audience as a way to “meet” new potential customers.

3 You Content Can”Just Go Viral”

95% myth.

The reality is that brand-produced content that “goes viral” does so with massive budgets behind it. End of story.

Here’s a list of costs by one viral agency willing to publish their prices. They give a range between $3,500 – $350,000.

4 Be On Every Platform

80% myth.

The reality is that you need to be on the platforms where your consumers/clients/stakeholders are, provided you can support your activities there well. I’d suggest you can also play with new platforms or tools, to see if they fit your business and audience. But be very wary of opening everything at once. I’ve seen a number of “social media strategy” documents advocating opening accounts on multiple platforms, without regard to whether the organisation can sustain the accounts. I’d advise start with one or two, as you learn consider more.

5 You Can Post The Same Thing On Every Platform

50% myth.

The reality is that each platform has its own characteristics, from how the platform functions, to image sizes, to audience expectations. So the best practice is to publish separately created posts to each platform.

However – and there are two parts to this – you can be referencing the same story/video/campaign with the multiple pieces of content.  You may be using different platforms or different accounts to address different audiences. Philips Hue is a good example of this.

Social Media posts

The second reality check is that many small organisations do not have the resources to be creating multiple version of content, yet need to manage both Twitter and Facebook accounts (for example). In this case go ahead with using the same images, but try to put in an extra few minutes work to craft text that works for each audience. Please please please don’t just link from Twitter to Facebook or Facebook to LinkedIn, it’s annoying.

6 The Audience Will Just Turn Up

95% myth.

The 5% of truth is that people who are already famous will attract massive audiences in social media as soon as they arrive. When Edward Snowden joined twitter he gained half a million followers within hours (and the follower numbers are now above 2,5 million).

The reality is that you will need to work hard to build an audience and it will take time. You can promote your accounts on existing websites and events. You will need to pay to promote your content and/or your account. (See Myth 1). If you’re not providing useful, valuable content your audience will quickly dissolve, so you also need to have something to say.

7 You Can’t Run Your Social Media In-House

75% myth.

The reality is that many organisations can and do run their social media from within the company, and if you can resource the social media management within the company it’s the best option.

However many companies cannot completely resource their social media efforts, in much the same way as call centres are outsourced social media service channels are often outsourced to specialised companies.

In terms of content creation not all organisations have the resources to create the images in-house and hire freelancer design people to work on it for them. The reality is that for many companies it doesn’t make sense to have this skill in house full time.

8 Social Media is a Sales Tool

75% myth.

There are frequent announcements of “buy now” buttons being launched on various platforms; Pinterest lets people shop without leaving the site, Instagram has a shop now button. However both have reported low sales results, so far social has not been a good sales tool.

Dominos pizza via twitterThe reality is that social media comes earlier in the consumer purchase decision process when a person is researching a product, and later when a consumer is looking for product support.

This is a space to watch though, pizza orders can now be made via WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook messenger using just an emoticon. When it’s that easy social media becomes more interesting as a sales option.

9 Social Media Needs Its Own Strategy

55% myth.

Yeah, I call myself a social media strategist and I’m saying this is partly myth. But here’s why; the reality is your social media activities should be supporting your business strategy. You cannot develop a social media strategy without first understanding the company’s vision, strategy and the communication/marketing messaging. Social media won’t work if it’s not consistent with your company’s other activities. You do need a strategy though, built on the foundations of the company’s strategy and communication goals. It’s just that it isn’t an independent thing.

We live in a decimal world but I couldn’t think of a tenth myth. So there’s my nine myths of social media and the reality in my experience.

Images: 

Dragon  |  Jeremiah Tran  |  CC BY-2.0

The Komodo Dragon  |  Adhi Rachdian  |   CC BY-2.0

 

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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 17.04.59

(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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 10.55.04

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

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.)

Service

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

In Our Own Bubble

2016June Bubble

The information superhighway took a turn for the worse, we now travel down it in our own comfortable, insulated and isolated bubble.

We can now get any information about any subject at any time online. There’s so much information available that we cannot consume it all, so we make selections. There are more than 500 million tweets per day, but only about 20,000 make it into my twitter timeline, and I only see a subset of those. There are 420,000,00 status updates on Facebook each day, a few hundred of those make it into my feed and I read only a few of those. Then there is Linkedin, YouTube, RSS (yes I still use RSS), and general news outlets.

It’s way too much, so we apply filters. A big part of the filter is who I follow or connect to, in general I follow people who have similar interests or views. As my major news sources are now online I’m unconsciously applying a filter to what news I get.

But there’s another filter being applied that we might not be aware of. The major platforms are also filtering what lands on our screen in our Facebook feed, and (coming soon) our Twitter feed, and our search results. Meaning that Google results are customised based on your search history, your browser, your language choice, your computer. Here’s how it works.

We know that news shapes our world view; in this TED talk Alisa Miller talks about the amount of time given to various news stories. As news organisations reduce costs and dismantle their international news bureaus the international coverage has reduced. She’s speaking from a US perspective, but a similar dynamic plays out in other countries.

If you add together the distortion in what is published, the “customised” news presented in social media and search, and our own filters in choosing who to follow and what to read, it’s fair to say that we’re living in a bubble. Throw into the mix the human tendency for confirmation bias and it’s easy to see that people become increasingly entrenched in their views, both less likely and less willing to hear evidence that doesn’t support their view.

In the last few weeks I’ve seen emotional discussion on politics from both sides of the Atlantic as the US heads into a presidential election later this year and Britain heads to a referendum, dubbed “Brexit“, later this week. It’s not pretty, in both cases it’s a polarised discussion.

It’s because of the level of polarisation, and the anger I’ve seen that I started digging into this. I’ve long thought that social media platforms were poor places for serious discussion for five reasons;

  1. Clutter; Facebook is a blend of photos of cuteness, personal confessions and travel photos. Right next to a photo of my niece walking a tightrope doesn’t seem to be the best place to compare a candidates track record on gun violence.
  2. Godwin’s Law; sooner or later someone is going to drop the N-word. Either of them.
  3. Reading Comprehension; sooner or later someone is going to misunderstand you, perhaps willfully.
  4. Not in Person: in person I could read the person’s body language to pick up on sarcasm or irony (better than in an online discussion)
  5. Asynchronous; nothing worse that waiting hours for a reply to your well-formed attack on a person’s point-of-view. (This should be understood as a tongue-in-cheek comment, see no. 3 above).

So I wasn’t surprised to discover that there is a known phenomenon called the “political spiral of silence“, which means that nuanced, thoughtful points-of-view which are likely to cover some of the middle ground are lost in the noise of social media.

The outcome is a debate so polarised that it’s destructive. How can we change this? What would it take to make your social media and search results more inclusive?

Start by reading opposing views, and having open discussions. We can agree to disagree, can’t we?

Image: Bubbles  | Michael Carson  |  CC BY-NC 2.0