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In an internet age that has become ever more socially-saturated, devising and delivering something that offers true differentiation is becoming increasingly hard.  ‘Pheed’ is the latest social network to launch and whilst the platform itself doesn’t appear to offer anything … Continue reading

Instagram: Why Digital Darwinism is a Good Thing


Manchester’s Northern Quarter is up in arms.  The denizens of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston are revolting.  This Easter weekend, hipsters nationwide are NOT happy bunnies.  Why?  Because Instagram, darling of artisans, students and cool people worldwide, has been snapped up by Facebook for $1 billion.

Despite Instagram having a userbase of over 30 MILLION users (thanks in no small part to the recent release of the Android version), the app is apparently a sacred space for ‘cool’ people to attain subcultural capital and rebel against large, corporate digital behemoths vying for our digital data.  The app allows users to take photos, apply filters and be truly unique (as another 29,999,999 people).

While I’m clearly being facetious, the backlash against Instagram’s ‘sell-out’ has been surprising.  People have been using and enjoying this FREE service for a year and a half, whilst 13 guys in Silicone Valley have worked hard to support and develop a great little app for everyone to use.  For free.  Yet their payday has come, their hard work has been rewarded, yet suddenly they are the bad guys.  Why?

YouTube was started by two chaps in their garage – you can’t get much more raw, authentic and anti-corporate than that.  However, Google acquired YouTube and over the past few years, the service has developed into a mainstay of popular culture, so much so that we now have TELEVISION shows ABOUT YouTube clips (take a bow ‘Rude Tube’).

However, people were against YouTube being taken over at the time.  They claimed, just as they are doing with Instagram, that ‘they like things how they are and don’t want the service they know and love to be changed’.  Imagine if YouTube hadn’t evolved?  Imagine if smartphones, nay, MOBILE phones hadn’t evolved – we wouldn’t enjoy half the convenience, information and communications benefits that we do now.  It is with noted irony that people moaning about Instagram selling out to a ‘corporate’ are doing so on their Apple / Google mobile devices.  Hmm.

So while I argue that progress is a good and necessary thing in the digital space, what exactly is this progress?  What does this purchase of Instagram represent?

Without a shadow of doubt, Facebook is making a shrewd acquisition into the mobile space.  Instagram is the world’s largest mobile-based social network – fact.  Mobile is an exploding area in digital communications, simply because smartphone capabilities are evolving at such a rate – and this means this is a huge area of focus for businesses, brands and services.

Up to know, Facebook has enjoyed phenomenal usage on mobile devices thanks to its iPhone and Android app.  However, Facebook has also admitted that it has struggled to monetise and capitalise on this huge surge in mobile usage.  The purchase of Instagram may not immediately address this, since the app makes no money (at present) – however, it is clear that Facebook is moving with the times – and that means really moving into the mobile space.

So, there’s no doubt that Facebook will look to develop Instagram.  This is inevitable.  However, contrary to hipsters’ fears, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  If something is good, people will flock to use it in large numbers.  Large numbers = significant interest from big companies.  It’s a natural digital evolution.  But this does not mean that the service, or indeed, the CONTENT, need change.

After all, just think where we’d be if YouTube was still stuck in a garage.  Or for that matter, if Steve Jobs had not decided to make an Apple phone.

Progress is a good thing – especially in the digital sector.

(I may not be a hipster, but I do have a beard and work in digital – which means I love Instagram too.  The shot at the top of this post was taken by me, using pre-Facebook Instagram, this Monday.)

Hire Me. Seriously. (The Yorkshire Chapter.)

For those new to me and my social job search, please take a moment to read ‘Hire Me. Seriously.’

At the time of writing, it’s been 2 months since I first sat down and penned my ‘hire me’ post.  8 weeks down the line and it feels like so much has happened – including what I’m looking for.

After much introspective thought and discussion with the fiancé, I’ve decided to focus my job search up north, with Leeds / York  / Harrogate the preferred destinations.

Despite the fact that this long-considered option is intended to bring about a much better quality of life, the fact remains that I am still very much looking for a career move, not simply ‘a new job to facilitate a move up north’.

So to recap, this is what I am looking for:

* A social media / digital marketing / copywriting role that allows me the chance to work for / exposure to big brands.
* A business that is based in or around Leeds / York / Harrogate.

My dream, dream job (aside from playing up front for Spurs) would look something like this:

* Social media / digital marketing role within a great consumer brand OR as part of a friendly agency
* The opportunity to build, implement and maintain a diverse SM presence
* The opportunity to learn from experienced digital marketers as part of a friendly and passionate team
* Scope to take on other bits of digital marketing e.g. blogging, e-marketing, SEO etc.
* As much free coffee as I can drink.
* An eccentric dress code – military, spaceman, cowboys etc.

OK, so I might be pushing it with towards the end, but I really am all about branding, marketing and communication through digital channels – I love nothing more than engaging and connecting with people and growing business.

And if you’re reading this wondering what I can bring to the table, you could always check out my LinkedIn profile, but here’s a snapshot:

* Social Media – setting up branded presences on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, iTunes, Delicious.  Community management and engagement
* Strong copywriting background (online & offline) including SEO
* External agency management
* Contract management / supplier negotiation
* Marketing planning
* E–marketing experience – building and sending emails to c. 30,000
* Web analytics (Google)
* Garageband / iMovie editing on Mac OS

I would like to think that I’m a nice gentleman to boot – I make good cups of tea and coffee, contribute a bit of fun to an office and have impeccable taste in music…

So calling all Yorkshire-based brands, agencies and businesses – I’m here, I’m motivated and I’m eager to take on a new challenge within your business – come and get me through one of the following…

Email: callumsaunders @

Hire me. Seriously.

Make no mistake: I love the company I work for.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people; I’ve been given huge opportunities for personal growth; I’ve been mentored by some top guys and I have also had a lot of fun along the way.  However, in perhaps one of the most introspective blog posts I’ve ever written, I’ve acknowledged that it’s time for a change.

I’m not unhappy with my current role in any way; the time has simply come to step outside my comfort zone, take on a new challenge and get stuck into a new opportunity.  Whilst I have a rounded digital marketing skill-set, I believe that now is the time for organisations to really make use of social media.  Twitter has gone from strength to strength over the past 2 years, proving many of the doubters wrong.  If consumer brands don’t yet have a Facebook page, many people ask why.

Social media is here to stay – and I am PASSIONATE about it.

I’m very lucky to work for an incredible business that prides itself on its honesty and integrity.  Having talked with management and the CEO, I’ve cleared things in my mind and decided that it is time for a new challenge – and I’m lucky to work for fantastic people that allow me to make this public.  This freedom to openly express this interest has allowed me to be open, honest and start putting the feelers out – which for me personally, is a wonderful opportunity.

So here I am – at this bold, challenging and scary crossroads.  It took a lot of thinking and a lot of courage to admit to myself that I need to challenge myself once again – but here I am.  I will be blogging about the job search process over the next couple of months and keeping you all updated on how I’m getting on.  But as we start, what am I looking for?

•    Social media role within a great consumer brand OR as part of a friendly agency
•    The opportunity to build, implement and maintain a diverse SM presence
•    The opportunity to learn from experienced digital marketers as part of a friendly and passionate team
•    Ideally, working somewhere in north London / north of London
•    Scope to take on other bits of digital marketing e.g. blogging, e-marketing, SEO etc.
•    As much free coffee as I can drink
•    An eccentric dress code – military, spaceman, cowboys etc.
•    A salary of £1 million.

OK, so the last three may be some facetious fun, but the rest is pretty much bang on the money!  And if you’re reading this wondering what I can bring to the table, you could always check out my LinkedIn profile, but here’s a snapshot:

•    Social Media – setting up branded presences on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, iTunes, Delicious.  Community management and engagement
•    Strong copywriting background (online & offline) including SEO
•    E-marketing experience – building and sending emails to c. 30,000
•    Web analytics (Google)
•    Garageband / iMovie editing on Mac OS

Plus I’m a pretty nice guy (I like to think), can make excellent cups of tea, contribute a bit of fun to an office and have impeccable taste in music…

So here we go – I’ve officially kicked it off.  I’m hoping that ‘putting myself out there’ doesn’t result in an overwhelming silence, but I’m taking the first step in looking for a new challenge.  You can find me in the following places:

Email: callumsaunders @

Recruiters: Your Candidates ARE Using Social Media. Are You?

Like any communications tool, Twitter is a multi-faceted and flexible channel.  Originally touted as a ‘micro blog’, users quickly latched on to the diverse range of possibilities offered by the channel.  Marketing one’s personal brand is simply one of many uses for the network – and one that job seekers are starting to employ to successful effect.

The recruitment industry is awash with debate over social media.  Is it the future of recruiting?  Does it open job seekers’ personal lives up to scrutiny?  Is it yet another administrative burden on overworked recruitment consultants?  For every advocate, there exists a detractor, especially where Twitter is concerned.  But, as we prepare to enter 2011, we’re finally starting to see tangible success stories.

Following recent news that a third of job seekers now use some form of social media during their job hunt, I asked (on Twitter, naturally) whether any job seekers had experienced any success using Twitter as a tool during their job search.  The result?  A fascinating email conversation with a lovely job seeker who has experienced phenomenal success using Twitter to look for employment opportunities.

Here is what Jane (not real name) had to say:

“Well I was applying for lots – and I mean lots – of jobs through advertisements online but getting nothing, so I decided to take a proactive approach.  I immediately drew up a list of PR agencies I would love to work for and added their official Twitter handles, the HR departments (if applicable), and some key employees.  I also found it useful to set up Twitter feeds for job websites, so all relevant vacancies for me would be in one place.

I then decided on an approach to my tweets: occasionally, I would send a tweet about my job hunt, or ask specific questions of people – do you know of any vacancies etc.  This way, I could start two-way conversations with the right people.  I wanted my Twitter account to appear authentic, so I continued my usual (mundane!) tweets too, but also stated giving my opinion on media stories etc. – this way potential employers could see that I knew what I was talking about.

I then noticed that a company was hiring so sent them a tweet about it.  They asked for my CV straight away and the rest was history!  I didn’t even have to go through an official application process; just sent my CV and a few days later, I was called in for an interview and got the job!  The fact that I’d made contact through Twitter really impressed them – they even made me one of the people responsible for their official Twitter account!

Since leaving that job I’ve been trying the same tactic.  This time, I’m looking to move areas, so I added all the influential media people in that area.  I’ve managed to build up a real rapport with some of them and we tweet regularly.  In fact, I have built up such a chummy relationship with one that I managed to secure an interview with the MD of a PR company on the back of it – because I’d been mentioned to him in the office before I even contacted him.

I don’t think you can rely on getting a job by waiting for vacancies to be advertised – you’ve got to go out and do the leg work yourself.  It’s always worked for me (even my first ever PR job was on the back of a speculative email) and it isn’t hard just to give your normal tweets a bit more purpose.”

Whilst Jane’s social success story is by no means ‘common’, it is by no means rare either.  Twitter has cemented itself as a communicative staple of modern life and job seekers are starting to realise the potential this has to offer.

Despite this slowly growing pattern, the recruitment industry is by no means a sitting duck.  With a workforce of millions, the percentage of job seekers actually being *this* proactive will be fractional.  However, recruiters do need to start considering whether they are missing good candidates simply through social ignorance.

If recruiters have a presence on Twitter, there’s no reason that potential job seekers won’t look them up.  If recruiters interview a candidate, they can continue that conversation online – and build that all-important rapport that Jane mentions so pertinently in her email.

As Twitter and social media become ever more engrained in people’s lives, it begs the question, ‘what are we doing to accommodate that?’  Jane – at the moment – is in the minority.  But more and more candidates will start using tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to target employment opportunities directly.

Do we want to miss out on that segment?

Or shall we, as an industry, be collectively brave enough to jump in and communicate with our job seekers in the places they frequent?

An Inconvenient Truth: Job Boards Exposed.

As the recruitment industry ‘supposedly’ moves towards a new era of social recruiting, the role of job boards has come into question once again.  Andy Headworth penned a blog on this topic this morning, asking whether job boards are trying to kill off social media in order to protect themselves.  You can see my comments on this matter, and indeed, Andy’s post, right here; but this is a huge issue, which I thought worth addressing in a post of my own.

Let’s make one thing absolutely crystal clear.  Despite the huge advances in social networking, online visibility, personal branding, digital targeting, community building, the recruitment industry remains very firmly entrenched in old practices.  Yes, of course there are thought leaders, early adopters and social advocates using these new tools effectively, but an equally large percentage of the industry remains sceptical, unconvinced and ‘afraid of change’.

The simple truth is that while this continued scepticism and hesitance to embrace exists, job boards are in a perfectly safe position.  Far too many recruiters are perfectly content to throw large sums of money at various job boards, all of whom claim that they can deliver x number of applications per month – and too many of us are happy to accept this.  Social media could threaten job boards one day if everyone gets behind the platform – but job boards have a much more pressing issue to worry about.


At the Stopgap Group, I have worked with colleagues to create, implement and refine a robust matrix for job boards.  As someone who is responsible for spending considerable sums of money on marketing and digital advertising, it’s only right that I know what that investment is delivering.  And for many job boards, the results are not good.

Since we implemented this matrix last year, we have halved the number of job boards we do business with and saved a substantial amount of money.  After referencing applications from job boards with our database, it transpired that certain job boards had delivered NO placements.  And I’m not talking about niche start-up boards or little known ones – one of these was a huge national player who had consistently poured honey in my ear, telling me that they delivered x number of applications per month.

What they didn’t tell me was that none of them were relevant candidates.

So you see, social media and social recruiting could well be a threat to job boards – one day.  But until every recruiter measures those job boards and holds them accountable for actually delivering the product they promise to – relevant candidates
– they can literally get away with daylight robbery.  And that’s wrong.

To back up these claims, here are some figures from the previous quarter.  For obvious reasons, I have excluded to name the boards in question and have also combined 6 job boards, but hopefully the figures will speak for themselves:

1,222 4,717 3.86 541 (11%) 4 (0.7% of those considered relevant)

What would you do if you had access to this type of information?  Would you continue to throw money at job boards, or would you start questioning their return on investment?  Knowledge really is power, and for us at least, it’s helped us to save money, invest in the right boards and work closer with job boards to deliver us the products we want – the right people.

The digital landscape is ever-changing; an organic phenomenon that is constantly adapting to new environments.  There’s no doubt whatsoever that job boards will eventually face competition from social media and social recruiting.  But for now, I honestly believe that job boards have more pressing concerns – namely, those who pay their fees are starting to wake up and hold them accountable.

Facebook Places – Death Knell for Foursquare?

Facebook has launched Facebook Places, the social network’s first major foray into location-based services.  Clearly a direct challenge to the more established (and rapidly growing) Foursquare, will this latest service take off, backed by the network’s global clout, or has Facebook arrived too late on the location-based services (LBS) scene?

On the face of it, Facebook has a ready-made success story.  Having spoken to colleagues, friends and Social Media pals, all of us have far more friends / connections / contacts on Facebook than Foursquare.  In my own case, this is a ratio of about 20:1 in Facebook’s favour, meaning a Facebook check-in service would be much more informative in terms of seeing where certain friends are hanging out.

However, one of the potential pitfalls for Facebook could well be an increase in ‘virtual litter’.  I’m sure that all of us have a few Twitter friends who insist upon checking in at every possible location in the vicinity – dry cleaners, doctors, supermarket, corner shop, pub, off licence – and automatically feeding these check-ins through Twitter.  Subsequently, our Twitter streams are packed full of ‘I’m at so-and-so’ updates – something which, if done frequently, is proven to annoy followers.

Another possible bone of contention concerns issues of privacy – a topic that is by no means new to Facebook.  I helped to run a networking event recently, with many attendees ‘checking in’ on Foursquare.  This mass ‘swarm’ attracted a Guardian journalist who was researching a piece on cyber-stalking using LBS – great for him, bad news for me and my delegates!  With many people continuing to misunderstand the level of their ever-changing Facebook privacy settings, could Facebook places unwittingly facilitate an increase in unwanted attention?

From a marketing perspective, Facebook has already been proven to provide some of the most targeted advertising available.  The addition of a location-based service could spell very bid things for marketers – and even more effective advertising.  But Foursquare is growing – and placing all of your eggs in one basket may not be the best option just yet – even if it is the largest basket in the industry…