Tag Archives: Twitter


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

Social Peacocks: Social Media Display and Brand Affiliation in 2011

Back in 1959, Erving Goffman published a book entitled ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’, which, amongst other things, explored the theme that we ‘perform’ different roles dependent on specific ‘stages’ and situations we find ourselves in.

Although Goffman’s lauded name has become synonymous with this sociological concept, this is a theme that has run throughout history. Plato spoke of the ‘stage of human life’, whilst Shakespeare penned the pertinent phrase “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

It’s now 2011 and with the advent of social media, the concept of displaying ourselves on a stage has become more pertinent than ever before. We live in a world that is permanently switched-on; ever-connected. Sharing all aspects of our lives, from big news such as engagements and pregnancies to banal trivia such as what we are watching on TV, sharing on the social stage has become very much de rigeur.

With over 600,000,000 active users, Facebook has rapidly risen in less than a decade to become arguably one of the biggest ‘stages’ in modern life. Our social circles are no longer limited to close friends we see regularly; instead we can now ‘perform’ to old school ‘friends’ (I use the term loosely), casual acquaintances and old work colleagues as part of an ever-increasing audience viewing multiple ‘stages’.

But over the past two years, social media marketing has also made significant strides, with brands and businesses seeping osmotically into our online lives. The updates we receive from friends and family are now intertwined with communications from retailers, car companies, food brands, charities and local restaurants – in short, anyone that we actively choose to ‘like’.

Whilst recent research shows that many users are motivated to ‘like’ brands and businesses for the chance to win prizes and receive exclusive discounts, research has also started to highlight the growing trend in ‘liking’ brands in order to visibly display association with that brand to a peer network on social media channels.

This form of ‘display to convey’ is nothing new: take coffee tables adorned with meticulously arranged ‘high-brow’ literature / magazines; t-shirts adorned with branded logos; carrier bags displaying which shops we have just frequented. All around us, we display our consumer preferences through related collateral, be this actual or aspirational.

And this age-long trend has continue into the social sphere. Whether it’s using geo-locations to ‘check-in’ at a trendy bar or ‘liking’ a fashionable brand on Facebook (Apple, Aston Martin, Tag Heur et al), we are now sharing more and more of our consumer choices with a much wider audience. Why?

I conducted some research in various LinkedIn groups, asking the question, “Why do you click ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page?”, which threw up (amongst others) the two following responses:

“I already feel a big connection with the brand and want to let people know I like it.”

“The reason I did [like a page] was much more related to the identification I have with the brand rather than a special feeling […] they are a reference for me.”

Even from these two ad hoc quotes, we can glean that social media users (which in 2011, comprises the vast majority of us) are building, constructing and displaying their chosen ‘identities’ on one of the world’s biggest stages. Humans have always desired to display a side to themselves, be it status, wealth or sexuality – however the advent of display in social media has given rise to what I call, the social peacock.

I’m not for one moment claiming that this is the sole reason for consumers to ‘like’ a brand’s page. As previously stated, material incentives such as prizes and discounts are huge ‘like-drivers’. Social channels have opened up another level to customer service, with dedicated teams on Twitter, Facebook and Skype becoming standard practice for companies in the Utilities sector.

But for many social media users, ‘liking’ brands has become a way to collect badges and trophies that speak about them as a person; it allows them to project a desired image of themselves and their life choices. Like it or not, we live in a global economy driven by capitalism, and much of our perceived identity is intrinsically linked to the brands (as opposed to products) that we consume.

Who knows what the future may hold, especially since one of the rising trends in social media is the focus on local communities and niche ‘pockets’ of users sharing niche interests. But for now, clicking ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page remains very much a way of conveying choice, status and image – and marketers would do well to ensure that ‘social peacocks’ are one of the key groups they focus on.

@marksandspencer: intelligent social media marketing

I’m often accused of packing my posts full of flowery verbiage and using alliteration with alarming alacrity; however this one is brief and succinct.

Today I simply wanted to highlight a fantastic piece of social media marketing from Marks and Spencer.  This morning, the retail giant tweeted the following:

Why is this so spot-on?

•    It communicates M&S’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charity commitments through a social channel
•    It offers consumers the chance to be involved with, and contribute to, the brand’s activity
•    It utilises technology (Foursquare) to encourage check-ins
•    It utilises a hashtag – #MS4sq – to drive PR / digital buzz
•    It references the charity’s Twitter handle, thus engaging their social team
•    It drives footfall amongst consumers with a worthy mechanic

Whether this drives an extra billion pounds of sales of not, the fact remains that behind social execution lies rational, intelligent digital marketing strategy.

And this is what turns branded social media activity into effective social media marketing.

The Imperial War Museum’s Social Media Artillery

It’s always nice to see brands executing social media strategies fantastically.  The fact that we notice ‘good’ examples is perhaps testament to the fact that so many brands are still struggling with social strategy.  Nevertheless, much can be learnt from those performing well, of which the Imperial War Museum is most definitely one.

I recently started following the IWM on Twitter. I did so after a friend re-tweeted some content of theirs, which I found interesting, pursued and subsequently visited their website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.  This example clearly pays testament to the brand marketing power of Twitter, but alas; I digress.

In those social channels, I found some brilliant examples of great social media marketing.  The reasons these were so impressive can be attributed to the fact that all of these platforms adhered to the following cornerstones of social media:

i) Adding value – giving consumers / brand advocates a reason to engage with your social presence through exclusive content
ii) Facilitating UGC (user-generated content) and allowing consumers to contribute to the ‘brand’

The brand’s YouTube channel is featuring four videos for LGBT month, ‘Military Pride’, highlighting the personal experiences of four gay servicemen.  This clearly ties into a topical national event (LGBT month) whilst relating back to the museum’s raison d’être.

The content is engaging, eye-opening and of real interest and of course, offers ‘fans’, advocates and enthusiasts access to exclusive, relevant content.

The second piece of social media activity that caught my eye was the museum’s ‘Beauty and the Belfast’ competition.  Users are encouraged to ‘find beauty’ on London’s iconic HMS Belfast and submit their photographs to the brand’s Flickr page, with the winner receiving a private guided tour on the 67th anniversary of D-Day this June.

Again, this utilises social media channels (Flickr) in an innovative fashion, all the while encouraging audience participation and relating the whole project back to relevant, on-brand topics.

Finally, the museum’s excellent Twitter feed manages to highlight useful pieces of historical information, publish news about attractions and deal with customer queries in an unobtrusive, informative and engaging fashion – Twitter nirvana.

So what can we learn from the Imperial War Museum’s social media artillery?

•    Genuine social media kudos is leveraged through authentic interaction, engagement and participation
•    Your customers are your fans – social media should be a platform for advocates to engage with, not a channel for one-way communications
•    Social media should always be relevant, on-brand and topical – anything else is just noise

If we all followed the Imperial War Museum’s example, how refreshing – and engaging – would social media be?  This iconic museum is taking audience interaction and engagement to a new, unprecedented level of authenticity.

I, for one, look forward to seeing more brands do the same.

Tweeting as a Brand? Get it RIGHT.

Trawl the Twittersphere and you’ll come across a plethora of branded Twitter accounts, from players as big as Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and The Body Shop to small local businesses, boutique shops and niche agencies.

However, despite the exponential marketing and branding opportunities presented by Twitter, it can also damage your brand if handled incorrectly.

Yes, social media is a dynamic, evolving entity – but if using social media channels for marketing purposes, one still has to adhere to effective marketing practices.  Here three of my very simple ‘dos and don’ts’ when tweeting as a brand:

i) ‘You’ is no longer ‘you’ – ‘you’ is the brand

Sounds obvious, but many people overlook this fundamental point.  Yes, we are all adult and understand that there is ‘a person’ constructing these tweets, but the content needs to be written from the brand’s perspective.

As a lover of literature, I follow many publishers on Twitter.  One of the brands with a rich heritage consistently tweets what ‘they’ are looking forward to cake that afternoon, that ‘they’ are reading a current book.

People are following the brand because they have an affinity with that brand, its products and its offerings – not because they want to know what the Marketing Executive is up to that evening.

ii) Txt spk is lk, SO nt kool.

Again, sounds obvious, but colloquial ‘text’ speak is not acceptable.  As a social media marketer, I fully acknowledge the difficulty in conveying lots of information in 140 characters – including a link!

However, shortening a sentence or rethinking your copy is worth the effort.  Sortening every word ‘2 mak it al ft in’ looks unprofessional, shoddy and as if it’s been texted in by a teenager.

Remember to convey your business in the best possible light – and professional language is very much a part of this.  The channel may be different – but your message is not.  Stay on-brand.

iii) Are you following me?

I could write a whole blog post on this – and probably will!  But the true beauty of social media is its transparency, honesty and credibility.  Of course, you want a large following immediately, but trawling through potential ‘followees’ and following them in the hope of a follow is simply not ‘cool’.

There are many programmes that allow Twitter users to ‘auto follow’ people who tweet certain words – for example, if I ran a biscuit business, I could choose to follow the next 100 people who tweeted the word ‘cookie’.  But what does this achieve?

Many brands going down this route end up following 8,000 people, while only 300 people are following them.  This smacks of desperation and loses credibility in the eyes of savvy social media users – the people you are trying to attract.  Try and focus on engaging and connecting with people organically.  Yes, it may take a while to build up a loyal following, but the patience will be rewarded tenfold by engaged customers and authentic conversations.


You can see my tweets (as brand ‘me’!) over @callumsaunders

Farcical Friday – Follow Friday Loses Its Way

In writing this, I’m aware that I’m being hypocritical.  After all, I often engage in the Twitter phenomenon known as ‘Follow Friday’ (#FF).  But in recent weeks, I’ve really started to question the value of this social practice.

I read an interesting blog post this week by Kevin Ball, in which he highlighted some fascinating work by Mark Granovetter conducted in the 1970s.  Part of Granovetter’s findings showed that:

“We have strong ties with people in the same network as ourselves and these are slow in creating change.”

He also claimed:

“People with strong ties are in the same circles, they listen to the same sources and they learn nothing new from one another.”

And I think that social media can be just as cliquey.

If you think about the concept of social media as part of a grand concept, the possibilities are mind-blowing.  A connected world in which we have immediate access to human interactions – to collaborate, share, learn, converse, help, advise, support.

Don’t get me wrong; despite these philanthropic possibilities, I also enjoy the banal, informal chat and banter that channels such as Twitter provide.  But I see enclaves of users mixing purely in their immediate circle and communicating only with each other – and as I stated at the outset, this is something I am also guilty of.

And here’s where #FollowFriday comes in.

Every week, I tend to see the same people telling us to follow the same people – in many instances, we’re all following that person anyway.  The premise of Follow Friday is very good indeed – but how many of you actually start following someone based on a recommendation of your peers?  Say you follow 100 people and each person shares 3 Follow Fridays.  Do you start following 300 new people?  And in a week’s time, a further 900 people?


For me, Follow Friday has become a way of publicly doffing one’s hat to someone they like – a way in which to show someone that they like them.  But in terms of a genuine mechanic to share like-minded people and promote digital integration and collaboration, I think that Follow Friday falls short, especially considering the sheer volume of Follow Fridays that are published every week.

The premise of Follow Friday is excellent – but I feel many Twitter users have lost sight of its original purpose.

Jekyll & Hyde: the Curse of Multi-Personalities on Twitter…

Now that Twitter has cemented itself as a valid tool for individuals to use in a ‘professional’ capacity, many users of the ‘micro-blogging’ site are choosing to create separate accounts for personal and professional use – and why not?  After all, a ‘professional account’ allows one to convey a ‘professional persona’, and reduces the risks of alienating business contacts with inane chatter about last night’s football, right?

On the surface, it seems that this is, indeed, the correct modus operandi.  Harking back once more to the old ‘Facebook = personal, LinkedIn = professional debate’, separate Twitter accounts seem to be a viable practice in order to ensure you communicate with the appropriate people through the appropriate ‘channel’.  But this, in my opinion, is where potential issues start to arise.

People’s increasing use of Facebook in a professional capacity has undoubtedly started to blur the boundaries between the ‘personal’ networking site and its professional competitor, LinkedIn.  Nevertheless, this willingness to embrace the former as a professional tool is still very much academic; the fact remains that these are two, very separate, Social Media sites – but the ‘identity’ of the user remains the same – Callum on Facebook and Callum on LinkedIn.

Which brings me on to my Twitter conundrum.

I have no doubt that the opines contained within this post will split opinion and cause a great deal of constructive criticism – however the fact remains that Twitter is one channel, just as Facebook and LinkedIn are both unique channels.  If you use Facebook for personal use and LinkedIn for professional use, the fact remains that you are on each individual channel ‘as an individual’.

Now, I’m not talking about managing a corporate account – after all, I manage three, comprising accounts for Stopgap, Fitzroy and Courtenay HR. This is not the issue in question: after all, I am Callum and Stopgap is Stopgap – two separate entities.  I refer instead, to ‘individuals’ (the clue’s in that label folks) who have a ‘John Smith’ account along with a ‘John Smith {company name}’ account.

I recently set up a ‘professional account’ (@Stopgap_Callum) in order to establish a professional presence in order to differentiate my professional followers from my personal followers.  But after a few weeks of operating in this Jekyll and Hyde fashion, I’ve come to the conclusion that this simply does not work.  Why?  There are numerous reasons.

•    Many, if not all, of my ‘professional followers’ are also following ‘personal Callum’.
•    People are sending @replies to both @callumsaunders and @Stopgap_Callum, in order to gain my attention, and thus a response, through the quickest channel.  Twitter, after all, is a communications tool.
•    You know what?  I actually want to share many of my interesting ‘professional tweets’ with people I know only follow my personal account.  Why should they be subject purely to tweets concerning Tottenham’s latest signing, when I have knowledge to share and real value to offer?

We live in an age of digital transparency – all of us have a substantial digital footprint, which means people can build a picture of us through Social Media channels whether we like it or not.  So why the need to create split personalities on Twitter, when this is just one channel in which we make up our overall personal brand?

Studies have shown that users tweet about different topics at different times of the day, which makes sense really.  When at work, I have my ‘professional hat’ on.  In the evenings, I’m just plain old Cal.  And since Twitter is an online extension of our personalities, it naturally follows that online behaviour follows this pattern.

Now, I’d be foolish to sit here and say that you should tweet professional messages during the day, then regress to a drunken yob in the evening, tweeting everything from offensive swearwords to sexist comments and derogatory remarks about your workplace.  Common sense should surely prevail, since Twitter remains a publishing tool through which you are publishing accessible content – one should feel free to be oneself, but individuals need to be aware that people can access your messages if they look hard enough.

The point I wish to make is that I am not a Victorian doctor who is able to drink varying Social Media potions and become different personalities.  I am one individual.  I may chose to keep my Facebook account separate from my LinkedIn account, but these are two channels in which I have one identity each – not two.

Twitter may have great use as both a personal and a professional tool, but the fact remains that it is one channel.  For better or worse, we only have one identity as individual people, and this is why Twitter should reflect this: unless of course, you are indeed Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde.