Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

5 ways to build social media engagement

Why are we obsessed with vanity metrics? Like Love Island, we know they’re bad for us, but we keep coming back for more. There’s a guilty pleasure in notching up followers, or clocking more likes on a post. But measurements that involve sheer numbers, such as follower counts and likes, don’t actually prove very much. They aren’t particularly good indicators of how well you’re really engaging your audience.

Love the ones you’re with

The social media platforms know this, which is why Twitter has been so keen to shut down growth-hacking tools (like TweetAdder and SocialQuant) and why this month we heard that Instagram has been experimenting with removing likes, citing them as an unnecessary distraction.

Instagram says it wants to focus on enabling expression and fostering connections. As users, this may sound great, but what does it actually mean? If likes and follower count don’t indicate engagement, then what does? Obviously, social media owners still want you to buy their advertising! But there are many ways to improve engagement organically, without spending a penny.

We are family

Research shows it’s much cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. So it makes commercial sense to engage with people who are already following you. Here are five great ways to do this.

1. Create original, meaningful content that is unique to you – and useful and interesting to your audience. Examples include informative blog posts (industry tips, reviews, checklists), infographics, videos (interviews, how-to’s), surveys and competitions. Once you’ve created this content, share it across all your social media channels. Make it easy for people to find you by adding appropriate hashtags (slightly different for each platform, eg: YouTube or Pinterest).

2. Establish a specific tone of voice and use it throughout your content. Are you going to be formal or informal? Chatty or aloof? Politically-driven or neutral? Agree a style guide for your brand – and stick to it.

3. Facebook’s new focus on privacy means it’s now prioritising Groups. Consider setting up a Group that you can link to and promote from your existing Facebook Page. Choose an interest or cause that’s related to what you do, and build a community of people around that. Give members special offers, discounts and exclusive content to keep them interested.

4. Encourage engagement other than “likes” – if people “react” with a heart, applause or even a dislike, and especially if they comment, Facebook ranks this organic content higher in its algorithm.

5. Test and experiment. Try different types of content and change your tactics. Note what works and what doesn’t work. Keep on iterating. Be open – don’t be afraid to ask people what they’d like to see!

Don’t you love me, baby?

Facebook is still reeling from last year’s scandals (Cambridge Analytica/ Alt right extremism) and is having to dramatically tighten up the way it handles user data. With Facebook and the other tech giants coming under further scrutiny, the situation is only going to intensify.

This means it’s increasingly hard to reach users on both Facebook and Instagram unless they really want to be reached. It’s not surprising that marketers across the board are seeing a drop in engagement.

The flipside to this is that it’s really worth putting time and resources into boosting your organic reach, and into improving your relationships with existing customers. I hope the tips above will work for you. Let me know how you get on in the comments, or ping me on Twitter @JemimaG.

Thanks Mecca Ibrahim for help with this post.

And thanks Element5 Digital on Unsplash for the photo!

PRWeek Crisis Comms panel

How to deal with a PR crisis

If you’re a small business owner like me, it’s hard to imagine a time when one corporate mis-step might generate headlines. But a PR crisis can affect anyone, whatever the size of your organisation. It’s good to at least be aware of potential threats. What risks are you exposed to? What things could possibly go wrong? And how would you handle it if they did?

PRWeek’s Crisis Communications event on Wednesday (above) was a sharp reminder that none of us can ever take goodwill for granted.

Kirsten Walkom from Save the Children talked about how charities are currently struggling with the halo effect – presuming public trust in them will be higher than it actually is. This perception gap isn’t helping as the charity world faces an unprecedented series of crises: from Save The Children suffering legal action for rescuing migrants at sea to Amnesty International mistreating and bullying staff to the grim ongoing allegations against Oxfam.

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Selfie photo by Julian Gentilezza

Snapchat’s sociologist defends the selfie – but it’s not for the reasons you’d think

In 2010, Nathan Jurgenson was holed up at home in Washington DC writing his PhD thesis when he noticed something strange was happening. Two big snowstorms had hit the city, there had been nearly a metre of snow and DC was in shutdown.

“Everyone was posting these photos of the snow on Facebook. They were using this Hipstermatic app. It made the photos look like they were from the 1960s…full vintage photos.”

Back then Instagram had just launched, Snapchat hadn’t been invented and Hipstermatic was the cool new thing. Phone cameras were basic and the new filters were a great way to enhance images. But Jurgenson wasn’t interested so much in the photography as in the use of nostalgia:

“Why particularly vintage? Out of all the things you could do with a photo?”

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Open book by Social Cut on Unsplash

Create a social media plan you love in 8 easy steps

Social media is not about hard sell, or building up fan numbers. It’s about you and the relationship you have with your audience. Like all good relationships, it’s about building trust, having meaningful conversations and connecting with the people that matter.

Don’t get stuck on vanity metrics (numbers which look good on paper but actually don’t help your business goals). Try to do what you enjoy. Not only will you be more successful on social media but you’ll also have more fun. And if you’re having fun and being genuine, you’ll get a better response from your audience. It’s a win-win.

Having a strategy – and sticking to it – is essential to build engagement. It’s worth putting aside a couple of hours to make a quick, high level social media plan. Two hours invested now will mean you reap rewards later: set out your intentions so you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

The Social Media Reboot is a mini version of my Social Media Launch Pack. It’s 4 pages of templates for freelancers, sole traders and micro businesses (where you’re likely to be managing your own social media – and you’ll find it easier if your online voice reflects you).

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Women looking at security cameras by Matthew Henry

Why 2019 will be the year of ethical tech

For the last decade or so, we’ve been hearing a lot about big data.

“Data is the new oil!” said Clive Humby in 2006, after working on the Tesco Clubcard. And everyone agreed that data was a thing, and set off to find out how to make the most of it.

But the way in which our data is being harvested isn’t good. Because of course, since the early days of Tesco Clubcard, it always was our data that was the raw material: our decisions, our habits, our likes, the type of people we were and who we lived with.

These “insights” are now being used to drive psychological behaviour and we’re no longer talking just about marketing. We’ve moved beyond those clearly defined display ads. And way beyond which type of supermarket deal we might be interested in.

Politics and dark patterns

In her TED talk, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci says we’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads (she’s a great speaker, well worth 20 minutes). Technologist Jaron Larnier refers to the big tech companies as “Siren servers” – they use beautiful things to mask sinister motives. Last October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned EU regulators that personal data is being weaponised against users, calling for tougher privacy laws in both Europe and the US.

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ITV News at Ten Friday 7 December 2018

Do we all need to delete old tweets?

I was on ITV News at Ten on Friday, talking about Kevin Hart, The Oscars and social media.

Kevin Hart is an American comedian and actor who was all set to host next year’s Oscars when homophobic comments he’d tweeted in the past were resurfaced. Hart initially tried to hold on to his Academy Awards contract, but public pressure was too much. He was forced to apologise – and stepped down from hosting the Oscars on Friday.

I wasn’t asked to comment so much on the specific case as on the wider issue of historical tweets coming back to haunt us. The reporter wanted to know if we’re now living in a universe where no-one’s allowed to have an opinion on anything and all public figures must be squeaky clean.

Well – of course not. Life would be pretty boring if everyone was a cookie cutter copy of everyone else. And society isn’t well served by one-dimensional social media profiles which simply airbrush out what the people behind them are really thinking. Continue reading

Using Iris to track conversations (photo by John Schnobrich)

Using Iris to track conversations around design thinking

I’m writing a content strategy for Design Club. We want to build a network of 50 after school clubs in 2019, and need volunteer mentors from the design community to help us. Designers tend to love the idea of what we’re doing – but most of them haven’t heard of us.

Brandwatch is great at tracking conversations over time on social media. And its new AI analyst, Iris, can pick out a spike in mentions of a specific word or phrase and give an instant summary of the things driving that surge: these could be links, influencers, pieces of viral content (videos, gifs or images) and/ or hashtags.

Design Club is a non-profit social enterprise and we need to find a low cost way to raise our profile. Social media is an obvious channel, but we need to use it effectively. As a starting point, Iris is helping me understand relevant conversations that are already happening online.

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Ethics panel at the ODI Summit

ODI Summit: can we take back control of our data?

Open data is a nebulous concept. What does it actually mean? Openness is generally considered to be a good thing. And we all know data is valuable. So open data must be double plus good, right?

We tend to get confused about what’s “open” and what’s not (hardly surprising when few of us read the terms and conditions on anything). As Tim Berners-Lee pointed out at the fifth ODI Summit yesterday, most of us don’t realise we shouldn’t be using Google Maps on event invitations, because that data is copyright Google (he recommends we use OpenStreetMap instead).

At the same time as being trigger-happy with other people’s copyrighted data, we’re even more foolhardy with our own. What we really don’t want is what Sir Tim calls “promiscuous data” – that’s personal data which goes off in all sorts of directions we don’t want it to.

The Open Data Institute believes that open data is the glue society needs. It is campaigning to establish data as “an infrastructure not a commodity”.  If we all share data and collaborate, we’ll save ourselves billions of pounds annually. But if we’re individually confused about what we should and shouldn’t share, the companies and organisations currently managing our data for us are even more conflicted.

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Binoculars V by Chase Elliott Clark on Flickr

3 easy ways to use Google Analytics for social media tracking

I’m a lightweight user of Google Analytics. My questions are simple. What do people like to read? Which links are they clicking on? What keeps them coming back? My goals are to improve engagement and ensure the stuff I’m writing is relevant.

As a consultant, I have to understand what my audience wants. It’s good for me to know if something is useful or interesting. And if people like a particular topic, I can give them more about that. And less about things they don’t care about.

Social media analytics (eg Twitter, Facebook) are useful. But Google Analytics is invaluable once people have actually arrived on your website. It’s the best tool to measure user acquisition, behaviour and interests. If you haven’t already done so, read how to get started with Google Analytics.

Once you’ve set up Google Analytics for your website, here are 3 easy ways to track the effectiveness of your social media strategy.

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Dan meets Kate in The Circle - screenshot from All 4

When the catfish wins, everyone loses

I’m so gutted for Dan! He seemed like the one straight-up, trustworthy guy on Channel 4’s new reality show, The Circle (screenshot above). But Dan got nothing but public humiliation while his fellow contestant, Alex (aka “Kate”) walked off with the £75,000 prize.

In case you missed the show, which ended last night on Channel 4, here’s a summary: 8 contestants are holed up in an apartment block for 3 weeks, only able to communicate with each other via social media (using a specially made platform called The Circle). Every day they “rate” each other: the highest rated contestants become “influencers” and choose another contestant to “block” – or expel.

Fatal attraction

Dan and Kate quickly became friends, but Dan is being fooled. Kate is a catfish: she’s not a girl with a sweet face at all, she’s a “social media comedian” called Alex. At the end of 3 weeks, the highest-rated person wins. That person ended up being “Kate” (in part thanks to Dan’s consistently high ratings).

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