Using Social Media in Times of Crises and Riots

Social Media is both the cause and the saviour.
I want to thank @codepo8, for writing up his thoughts on the power of social media, during these recent times of the london riots.

I must admit, it got me thinking. During the London Riots, I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until Sunday, that I was even aware that something was happening. And even then, it was only because a friend in the US emailed me about them.

But then as I started watching, and reading more about it, I realised the extent of what was playing out on the streets of London. Instinctively I took to the social webs, and was sat there in the living room, watching the news on the screen, and scanning twitter and facebook, to make sense of what was happening where.

It was scary at first – the thought of it happening, in our back yard, in our neighbourhoods, in our streets, was terrifying. Living in Wimbledon I wasn’t directly exposed in any way, but at the same time, so many people I knew would be, and I was afraid for them, as much as I was for the people that were there.

Seeing direct accounts from friends, both virtual and real drove home how real this was, but also helped me to see what I could do, and how I could be involved.

To provide some context, this wasn’t the first time that I was in a city where violence and public disorder had been happening. I was in Pakistan, the night Benazir Bhutto was shot. That happened the night before we were meant to fly out of Pakistan, back to London. That night, I barely slept, if at all. There was looting on the streets, vans set aflame, the roads were full of people in rage, burning buildings, protesting, and acting violently on the streets of Islamabad. We had just a day before been near the very place where Benazir Bhutto had been shot, and the fear was palpably in the air. Petrol stations had been shut down, and the family we were staying with fortunately were able to source petrol, and cars from neighbours, to be able to drive us to the airport. We were going to get taxis, but there were no taxis on the streets that night. Everyone had been told to go home, and stay indoors, whilst the whole of Pakistan was set in chaos. Our uncle worked in the police force in Karachi, and he was as worried for our safety as we were for his. These were not pleasant times indeed. Unfortunately, back then, the only news source we had was the TV, and the reporters on the screen. I couldn’t reach out, or speak to anyone. I couldn’t know what my neighbours or the rest of my family in Pakistan was experiencing. Most importantly I couldn’t be involved in what was happening, other than as a captive victim sat at home, watching on in fear. Fortunately when we did set off to the airport in the early hours of the morning, the roads were relatively empty. We drove through traffic lights (slowly of course), but we didn’t stop, as that would open us up to being attacked, or being targetted, if there was anyone around wanting to cause trouble. The airport was surrounded with armed guards, and they were restricting people entering the airport terminal, so that only travellers and their cars could enter, keeping law and order.

Now the difference between both incidents was that with the London Riots we were able to sit online, and use social media to start mobilising cleanup crews, and groups of people came together to start putting the world back to normal.  If it had been left up to just the authorities, and the existing set of public services it may have just been too much to handle, and would have probably taken a lot longer for things to be restored to normal.

In times of crises, or difficulty, it is crucial for ‘social media’ to be open, transparent, and publicly available for people to be able to use and communicate through.  We have seen how powerful social media can be to establish responses, and also during humanitarian, or natural disasters, teams of people, and entire communities can be mobilised just to support causes, or send much needed provisions.

It should never be a question of whether we allow these Social Media channels to remain open or not – but how do we as a society provide the much needed support, and guidance to these young people who feel left out from society, feel excluded from the mainstream, or have just been unable to make a clear moral choice in the face of peer pressure, to make inappropriate decisions.  What we should be examining is not how can we stop this riot from happening.  But instead, why did it even happen in the first place?  And then, once we’ve found the structures in our society responsible for the feeling of social exclusion, and separation, we need to find constructive ways of addressing them differently.  Through better education, greater personal support, and the encouragement of individual and team contributions.

People living in an inter-connected society should never feel alone, or disconnected.  That is if we do our job right, of making sure that the technology is an enabler, and not a hindrance to the process.

We Understand Through Stories

I’ve been thinking about this one for a long time, and after much thought and deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that everything we ever understand has to be framed in the context of stories.

There is no real ‘knowledge’ or ‘information’ that cannot be told in the form of stories, and whilst we may learn ‘facts’, or ‘information’, it is almost always, only possible to make sense of it, in the context of having learnt something that provides a foundation upon which the story can be told.

If you think back to the teachers you enjoyed the most at school, it was almost always the teachers who did a good job of keeping your attention. Now anyone will be able to relate to speakers who are slow and boring, and monotonous, who don’t tell stories, but preach facts, and consequently lose our attention and our respect, along the way.

In contrast, the people that we all cling towards, or gather around are the ones who have great ‘stories’ to share.  They are the ones that we warm to at parties.  They are the teachers that we remember.  The one’s who gave us more ‘context’ than just the information itself.

As the mind itself, can only ‘store’ information in an ‘associative’ manner, it can only really ever build on the knowledge it has, and can never learn something completely new, unique, or different, without finding some way of making sense of it or connecting it to something that already exists in it.

Nothing is so unique, different, or special, that it can’t be explained in terms of something else.  Everything is somehow connected to something else, somewhere along the way.  So to have the greatest impact, through social media, try to make what you share, something that is either a story in and of itself, or connects with, or is a part of a story, that a person either pieces together, or weaves into an existing frame of reference, or context.

The best stories, are the ones that leave us feeling uplifted, and inspired, but in which we can find something personal to resonate with, and follow along with, and feel like that we’re ‘part’ of the story being told, as much as being the observer to another telling their story.  It’s a tough art indeed, but a necessary one, I believe, for it then enables you to artfully tie together narratives, and descriptions, into stories that connect with the individuals, not leave them watching from a far, unengaged, and with no desire to participate or interact.

The Importance of a Social Media Strategy

Some interesting research came out of the German Brand Science Institute, back in August 2010, that reported on why Social Media Projects Fail.  Their European Research lasted 7 months, was conducted in 12 countries, and involved 563 marketers from 52 brands.

One of the key points that I pulled out, was that of the companies surveyed, 81% of companies didn’t have a clear Social Media Strategy.  Now I don’t know of anyone that’s expressly written about why Social Media Strategies are important, or just how crucial they are to the success of Social Media within an organisation.  But given I couldn’t find any good solid writeups, I thought I’d put down my thoughts/perspectives on the matter.

When you get in a boat, and start sailing, without a map, any landmarks, any guiding mechanisms, an exact location that you want to reach, and knowledge of how to sail, chances are when you start to sail in the Ocean, you’re going to hit against some turbulent seas, lose sight of all your landmarks, and everything is going to just starting looking the same.  One thing to the next. If you had an exact location that you wanted to reach, some charts of the land ahead, some compasses, or a telescope, and someone with some experience of sailing a boat with you, or communicating with you, you’re much more likely to be able to get out of any sticky spots, get close to where you need to be, and be able to course correct, once you’re closer to shore, until you reach your intended destination.

Launching into Social Media, without a clearly defined Social Media Strategy in place, and no prior experience of working with Social Media, is a bit like heading off on a boat, out to sea, completely ill equipped for what you’ll encounter.

Whilst a Social Media Strategy isn’t going to guarantee your success, it definitely will steer you in the right direction, provide you with a solid map of the land you intend to navigate ahead, and give you an exact ‘target’ or a ‘destination’ that you can aim towards.  That doesn’t mean that your Social Media Strategy should be a list of numbers of fans you want on Facebook, or the number of followers on Twitter.  Far from it.  If your Social Media Strategy has more numbers and targets in it than words, then what you have isn’t a Social Media Strategy, but a list of KPI’s that will help you know when you’ve reached your destination, and how far along you are to getting there.

However, targets alone, do not a Social Media Strategy make.

Just in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, Social Media isn’t about you, your brand, your products, or your services. It’s about what your customers need. When it comes to Social Media engagement, and consumption from brands, especially for marketing purposes, people are fickle. They can be in love with you one day, and out of love the next. What matters to them is how to look cool. How to be hip. To be ahead of their crowd. To be entertained, amused, inspired, educated even. So your Social Media Strategy document needs to be really clear about what you’re going to do for your target audience. How are you going to build a community that meets their needs?

Whilst it’s important to include guidance about who does what, and how, and when, as well as clear lines for escalation/customer resolution, you’re most crucial component to your document is your conversation strategy.  What are you going to be talking about, and why.  What potential assets will be needed.  Who else will be partnered with.  You need to have a clear understanding of where you’ll be opening up the gaps in your conversations, and where you’ll be encouraging your audience to join in and participate.  You’ll also need to understand how to layer your conversations in such a way, that over time, the long term result that you’re after is achieved.  Sometimes, that can mean 6 months, of providing value, and content to your audience, without getting anything specific back from them, other than their attention, and enthusiasm.  In addition to your Social Media Strategy, you’ll need to create and prepare a content calendar.  A living breathing document which will help you implement and achieve the objectives of your strategy.  But until you know clearly what it is you want to accomplish, and have described in your Strategy document in detail, the different ways in which you’ll trigger, and engage your audience, throughout the course, of the year, don’t even begin to start creating your content calendar.  As the content you share, and the perspective from which you share it, is entirely shaped by the perceptions you plan on creating for your audience, of you, your brand, your products/services, and the type of content you want for them to find useful and interesting.  That in turn will dictate exactly who your audience ends up being, so make sure there’s enough in there, to net a large enough audience, so that within it you might even net a few paying customers down the line.

Predicting the next big trend, in Social Media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, what’s next? People were predicting for a while that Foursquare, or Gowalla would be the next big Social Media play. Heck, for a while, I started to think that perhaps location based services, or even predictive services, like Plancast, would be ‘the next big thing’. But as time progresses, and new tools and platforms continue to emerge, like Quora, I think there’s very little evidence of any new ‘game changer’ on the horizon at the moment.

Location based services have their own intimate challenges balancing privacy, with public broadcast of your location. Whilst they have a bunch of potential, there’s just not been that ‘compelling’ use case that arose through Twitter. The community element hasn’t been as captivating for people outside those circles, and whilst innately useful, they haven’t yet morphed into the essential services that Facebook, or Twitter have become for so many of us.

Having recently heard Michael Wu, from Lithium Technologies talking at #Digital Surrey in May, and also starting to do more research around the science and concepts of Gamification, I’m forming the opinion that ‘gaming’ social media is going to be the next big trend. Now when I mean gaming, I’m not talking about those people that ‘game’ the growth of social media communities, for the sake of artifically inflating the size of a given community, or driving large volumes of unqualified traffic. No, when I talk about gaming, I’m referring to the process of acknowledging, rewarding, and encouraging participation within a given community, or context, to encourge greater engagement.

There’s science, and research, to suggest that through non-monetary based rewards, acknowledgements, and conferring of virtual honour, and status, it’s possible to encourage, and generate repeated behaviour, by members of a community. Naturally, it’s not going to apply to everyone all of the time. But if the success of CyWorld, Moshi Monsters, Farmville, and Habbo Hotel are anything to go by, clearly there’s a huge untapped potential, through gamification, that leads to repeated engagement, community building, and the furthering/progressing of the evolution of online community that we haven’t yet begun to see.

Whether the next big thing manages to isolate out the mechanics of gamification, or has them deeply entrenched within it’s platform/play, I don’t know. But my gut instinct tells me that as the amount of Social Media tools/platforms/channels grow and increase in number, we’re going to need reasons to keep coming back or participating. And we’re going to need more reasons than just, ‘because our friends are there’.

Tech entrepreneurs may be busy building platforms, and tools, and services, but they need to identify what the intrinsic value might be for users, and reward them with positive feedback. On top of that, users will need to feel as if they’re a part of a community beyond just having a problem/pain that’s been solved by the platform. Maybe then we’ll have the makings of the next big thing, but not before.

You Never Know Who’s Listening

Social Media can present a real minefield at times, and so it’s always best to err on the side of being too cautious, rather than not.  At least until you find your feet.  That said, I think it’s always important to imagine that anything that’s said publicly through Social Media could be heard by anyone, at anytime, and to always think through long term the potential consequences of what you say, especially when you’re being critical of someone else, or a brand or a product, whether you work with them or not.

A great example in point, was a twitter exchange that happened back in November, 2009, between @KingofShaves (the founder, Will King), and @charliedm an employee at Porter Novelli (the agency that happens to handle Gillette’s PR).  You can read about the full exchange between the two here.  But suffice it to say, it caught my attention at the time, and has stuck with me ever since.

In brief, @KingofShaves retweeted a message they saw in the general conversation that was happening at the time:

“Time for everyone to boycott gillette and go @kingofshaves #henrylecheat”

It was natural, to join in the conversation, which related to Thierry Henry ending the hopes of Republic of Ireland entering the World Cup, and Gillette sticking by him as a sponsor of his.  Then @kingofshaves saw the following tweet from @charliedm:

“A lot more people would switch to Azor if it wasn’t a cheap plastic piece of rubbish that leaves you looking all Sweeney Todd”.

Naturally anyone who understands the power of Social Media would immediately see that as an opportunity to engage with a disgruntled customer, to help change their experience, and create a more positive association with your brand/product.  Except, upon investigation, it becomes clear that @charliedm works with the PR agency Porter Novelli, who work for Gillette, so suddenly that ‘criticism’ becomes very very biased, and potentially unfounded.  They engage in a twitter exchange of sorts, and the long and the short of it is, that ultimately the PR agency publicly apologise, and the apology is accepted.

Now ordinarily, I’ve been a Gillette consumer for years.  I tried Wilkinson briefly when they brought out some new razor, but having started out with Gillette in my late teens, I had kinda just gotten used to it.  I do remember thinking the product was much better when I first got it, and to be honest, I’ve been less and less impressed with it, as time goes on.  But being a guy, and being naturally lazy, it’s usually been easier to just buy replacement blades for the device I have, rather than buy a whole new razor shaving kit.  Partly that was ignorance, and partly that was just not having the time to look into it more closely.

Now as a consequence of this one negative off the cuff comment, and the ensuing conversation that occurred, being in Social Media, naturally the story caught my attention.  As a consequence, whilst learning about the consequences of bad mouthing a clients competitor publicly, I also got a chance to learn more about an alternative product, that previously, I would have just ignored.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just the brand name, or the packaging, but I’d always considered King of Shaves to just be a cheaper inferior product.  Fortunately, now that I know just how much difference there is in King of Shaves products, and also how much better the product sounds, I’m going to have to try it out for myself.  Of course, I would have never considered switching products before, but just that single tweet was enough for me to start learning about the alternative, in a way that I never would have otherwise.

I’ve yet to buy a King of Shaves product, mainly because I’ve still got a few Gillette replacement blades to finish off, and I’m not a keen fan of just disposing of things unnecessarily, but when I do finally finish up with my last blade, and am done with my Gillette, I’ll definitely be investing in a new King of Shaves razor, just to see if it really is a better product.

So, the moral of the story, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, unless you don’t care about what other people think, and are only interested in getting attention. (Just be conscious of the fact that that attention could be both positive, or negative, you don’t get to choose!

Growing The Total Media Social Media Team

The time has come, to expand the Social Media team, here at Total Media, and so, I thought I’d try a slightly different approach to recruiting in for the role.
I’m looking to hire a Junior / Graduate Social Media Community Manager.

However, rather than just accepting CV’s directly, I’d like to see potential candidates for the role get creative in their responses.  Ideally, as a candidate, you may already have expressed through one of your existing social media presences why you want to work in Social Media, and what kind of role it is that you’re looking for.

But on the off chance that you haven’t already, here’s a few pointers to help you along the way:

In your responses, tell me;

What do you know about Social Media? Where and how did you learn it? and why did you go to all that effort?

Why do you want to work in Social Media?

What is it that appeals to you about this industry/profession?

Also, what do you have to offer?

What makes you special, unique, or different to every other candidate that’s out there?

Finally, I’d like to know a little something more about you.  What makes you tick? What are your hobbies, and interests?

What do you do when you’re not tweeting, or blogging?  Essentially, what makes you you?

Once you’ve prepared your responses, post a link to it in the comments below,  (and make sure to use your email address, when leaving a comment, so that I can get in touch with you!)  You’ll get extra points for being creative, or different.

The opportunity to work with me at Total Media, means that you’ll get a chance to show off your skills as a community moderator, get coached on being more effective online, as well as learn how to work with Social Media Monitoring tools to identify conversational trends, individuals of influence, and learn to think more strategically about Social Media.  The role is ideally suited to a Social Media Novice, who wishes to develop their skills further, get involved, hands on, with building out communities, and also over time, develop their own thought leadership within the Social Media world.

We shall not be changing the world overnight, but over the course of a few years, you will become an expert in the art of navigating all things Social, and be able to build powerful, engaging, immersive communities that build brand advocacy, and stimulate conversations online in your sleep.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, then get responding, through any platform/medium of your choosing, and leave your response in the comments below.  I shall look forward to screening candidates, and choosing the brightest of the bunch to come visit, and talk more in person.

And just in case you’re interested starting salaries are going to be between £18-20k dependent on experience, and how effectively you demonstrate you know your stuff.

The Levels of Twitter Proficiency

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally got spurred on recently to publicly share my thinking around the typical evolution of a Twitter user (call them a tweeter, or twitterer, or whatever else you want to label them as). I’ll be interested to hear what other people’s take on this will be, seeing as I’ve come to these conclusions through watching my own evolutionary use of Twitter, but also in observing how people have adapted and learnt to use Twitter with the occasional prompting and guidance from me, where I’ve introduced them to Twitter in the first place. For each level of Twitter proficiency I’ve also suggested remedial actions and next steps to help get comfortable with that level of Twitter usage before attempting to progress to the next levels.

Level 1 – The Twitter Newbie
The Twitter newbie is generally the first stage when it comes to developing Twitter proficiency. At this stage the person has little or no clue as to why they would even be using Twitter, but nonetheless they’ve joined in, or signed up, to join the conversation, generally because someone they trust or respect has urged them to do so. Either that or they’ve decided that Twitter is important enough that they should be on it, but they’re not quite sure of what it does or how it works, and don’t really know what value it could possibly have for them. But everyone keeps harping on about it, or they’ve become curious enough to want to know more about it that they finally decided to sign upto the service.

Now that they’ve signed up, they don’t know what to do next? At this stage the most important thing to do is to find interesting people to follow, and start to see your Twitter stream filling up with tweets that are interesting to you. The tweets that interest you could be educational or informative or entertaining or be any kind of news that’s of interest to you. It could even just be people that you admire, respect, or look upto. Whoever it is that you choose to follow, it has to be of interest, and of use to you personally, otherwise it’s just going to be a waste of your time and attention.

I remember what Twitter was like without following anyone, and even though I first heard about the service and signed upto it in 2007, the fact that back then no-one in my address book was on Twitter meant that I never logged in again until about a year later, when I finally met people that were actively using Twitter. Until I was following people that I was interested in listening to, I just didn’t understand, or see what the point of Twitter was, and trust me an empty Twitter page, with no tweets on it, none of your real friends or anyone you even remotely know on it, and no way of figuring out where you might find anyone interesting or useful was a real wasteland of a Twitter. Fortunately Twitter have realised how important it is when you set up your account to have someone to follow, and so, they’re starting to create a bunch of suggested people you can follow based on your interests, etc; over time I’m sure that will improve and get better. But back in 2008 the only way I found myself getting any use from Twitter was after I had ‘real life’ friends that were all using it, and so I accomplished Level 1 of my Twitter training and had learnt enough to officially become a Twitter Newbie, and follow some cool/interesting people on Twitter.

Level 2 – The Twitter Novice
Once you’ve been listening to other people on Twitter for a while you start to get a flavour of what Twitter is like. Through being a spectator, you’ll have started to figure out some of the Twitter conventions like @TwitterName is one person talking to another, you may see the occasional ‘old school’ RT ( the retweeting convention that was used by most folks on Twitter before ‘retweets’ were built into the system). You may also have started to develop a ‘listening’ habit, clocking onto Twitter just often enough that you can see what everyone said since the last time you logged on. You may however still be a little wet behind the ears and whilst it’s all well and good everyone else sharing and listening, you’re kinda unsure, possibly even a little afraid of tweeting out anything, just in case you say the wrong thing or you say it in the wrong way. My suggestion to you, just start tweeting. Get you’re first tweet out the way, whatever that might be, and just get comfortable with ‘broadcasting’ yourself. Start out by sharing things that you are comfortable with sharing. Be it links to articles you found interesting, what you’re upto, where you are, what you’re thinking. At this point anything you say or share doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you get comfortable expressing yourself, and publishing tweets out into the Twittersphere. Inevitably, you may get prompts of support, encouragement from your friends, and perhaps even the occasional retweet from others. But whilst you’re a Twitter novice, the only thing you need to focus on is tweeting something out regularly, on a consistent basis. Part of this is to help you to practice expressing yourself in 140 characters, and part of it is to help you start to find your ‘twitter voice’. As generally we’re not used to expressing ourselves in 140 characters and it does take a bit of time, and some practice to start to be able to condense our thoughts and distill them down to bite sized expressions. With practice and regular usage you’ll start to get an intuitive feel for what’s right for you, and that’s something that will only develop the more you practice and use it, so continue to listen to the people you follow, but also start to throw your own tweets into the conversation, regardless of how self conscious you are.

Level 3 – The ‘Twitterer’
Once you’ve gotten used to absorbing bite sized chunks of information on a regular basis, and you’ve developed the skill and ability to condense your thoughts, ideas, and generally what you’re upto into cogent expressions of 140 characters, then comes an ‘evolutionary’ leap in your Twitter proficiency. It’s not something that happens overnight, but it is a transition that gradually occurs over time, in such a way that you don’t even realise it’s happened. Suddenly Twitter has become part of your regular ritual. It’s become ‘conversational’. You’re flowing effortlessly between reading tweets, and tweeting out yourself. When you come to Twitter it’s almost like the place where you find your ‘chums’ and buddies all hanging out. There is no longer, in your mind any distinction between the tweets you’re reading from others, and your own tweets, as they’re all part of the same organic fluid conversation and banter that’s flowing between you and your Twitter community. You may even start to know and recognize certain ‘characters’ within your community and their individualistic and unique traits, that in your mind make them who they are for you.

At this stage, you have ‘arrived’ so to speak to the basic competency level of Twitter where people get that personal satisfaction out of using Twitter and perceive immense value in their Twitter community as a whole. The experience is now intrinsically a personal experience to you as you begin to feel yourself becoming a member of your community. You may or may not have met the people you tweet with in person, but you will definitely feel like there are some folks you would just love to meet in person. If you have started to meet some of the people you tweet with in person, then you’ll have had a really really good time, discovering even more of the many awesome things you have in common, beyond your conversations online through Twitter. A kinship starts to develop with other people who tweet, and when you say you use Twitter, it’s usually with pride and a confidence that you share that information. This is where most people aspire to get to, and once they get here, it all starts to make sense, and Twitter just becomes so much more important and valuable than it seemed back when they first started their sceptical first steps into the world of Twitter.

The only way to get to this stage is through practice, and regular use. The more time you can put into this, the quicker you’ll see the rewards. But like with developing any other skill, or learning a language, if you just keep on practicing it, you will eventually become proficient in it.

Level 4 – The ‘Twitterati’
Once someone has become a ‘Twitterer’, they may comfortably stay at that stage of Twitter usage, and feel content, and complete and get all the value they need from Twitter and never know any different. They may not need to grow beyond that level of competence consciously, and they may not realise or be able to understand just how ingrained Twitter has become to them. However, there is, I believe, a subtle distinction and difference that develops over time, between someone who’s comfortably using Twitter on a day to day basis ‘conversationally’ with their community and someone who uses Twitter for more than just the ‘community’ conversations. These are the people that use Twitter in all of the previous ways mentioned before, but also now start to use Twitter as a filter. They turn to their community before turning to Google if they want any help, or suggestions, or want to find something or some information. They spend less time reading RSS feeds directly, and more time reading what people are sharing or talking about. They dip in and out of Twitter as they need to, and can afford to, time permitting. They genuinely value and appreciate the people in their community. They consciously use Twitter, selectively ignoring and filtering out people that no longer interest them. They’re comfortable enough with themselves that they no longer care about who follows them and who doesn’t. They’re only focussed on the value they’re receiving from their community on Twitter and the value that they can share with their community on Twitter. There will naturally be more people following them than they can or care to follow back, but not because it’s a numbers game, but because people genuinely find them useful, and interesting. These people are relatively respected for the topics they regularly share their thoughts on. And most importantly they’re some of the humblest, most down to earth people you could ever meet. They don’t consider themselves authorities, but their peers and community do. They don’t profess to be or try to be anything but themselves and in doing so their natural talents and gifts just shine through effortlessly. The ‘Twitterati’ is not something you join, but it is the natural evolution of any ‘Twitterer’ who through a process of time and experience naturally emerges from the shell of their ‘Twitter’ self, into themselves online. They tend only to emerge when the person is working where their passions and talents are, and they are naturally ‘joyously content’ with their lives personally, as that then filters through into their Tweets). The stage of ‘Twitterati’ is perceptibly different from the ‘Twitterer’ because you’ve become as comfortable being on Twitter as being off it, and have the confidence to dip in and dip out as you need to.

Level 5 – The Twitter ‘Pro’
Whilst becoming a Twitterati is ultimately the highest stage of Twitter, that I can comment on, through my personal observations, there is one more ‘stage’ or level of Twitter competency that I could only really place, independently of the ‘Twitterati’, but clearly is more complex and evolved.

That is the stage of the Twitter ‘Pro’.

This is the stage at which you have started to manage multiple Twitter accounts, to manage multiple conversations. At this stage, you’ve saturated your personal twitter account, with all the conversations that you’re interested in being a part of, and following, and you’ve decided to create a separate twitter account for a dedicated topic of discussion, or a specific product/brand/identity or persona that you represent, or that represents you.

This stage or usage of twitter is generally only reached or arrived at by people that are intensively interested in very distinct or different conversational contexts. Alternatively it’s a skill level that agencies, corporates or brand spokespeople need to develop in order to competently represent their finders and to genuinely be of value to the community.

In conclusion, I just want to be really clear, there’s no short cuts to jumping from one level of proficiency to the other.  the only sure fire way is to practice, practice, practice.  Unfortunately, anything less, and you will be sussed out by more learned members of the community.  The good news is that once you’ve skilled yourself up, you’ll start to discover these subtle differences between different levels of Twitter usage experientially, and you’ll appreciate just how much progress you’ve made yourself.

I’ll be interested to hear what you all think? Where are you in your twitter proficiency?  Do you think it’s all a bunch of hocus, and that there aren’t clear, defined levels or stages of twitter expertise, or skill?  Thoughts, comments, suggestsions, feedback, all welcome in the comments below ;)  I look forward to further refining these thoughts and ideas, with your input.

Auto DM on Twitter – Just Don’t!

If you’re new to Twitter, and have recently found out about one of the many services that let you send an Auto DM on Twitter, then a word of advice – DON’T!

Twitter is about personal relationships. Auto DM is like Spam email, cold, impersonal, and ultimately pointless. I say this from personal experience of Auto DM’s, having tried it out, when it first appeared in the Twitter eco-system, received much feedback from people, and also experienced DM Spam myself, from following others, so when I say don’t Auto DM on twitter, I’m not just saying it because I don’t like it, I’m saying it because it just doesn’t work, and the general consensus in at least my Twitter community is to not do it, ever.

A Bit of Background on Auto DM’s
Some of you reading this might be wondering what I’m going on about, so let me just explain how Auto DM’s work.

With Twitter, you can only send someone a DM (a Direct Message), if they are following you. You don’t have to follow back anyone that follows you, in order to be able to send a DM, but you can only receive DM’s from people that you are following yourself.

When twitter first started out, we all experimented with different ways of using Twitter. I remember when services first surfaced that let you Auto DM, and many of us tried them out. What happens is that when someone new follows you, these Auto DM services will recognise that someone new is following you, and automatically send a pre-set message from you to the person that has just started following you.

Why Auto DM’s are Pointless and Spam
If someone has made the decision to follow you, when we were first starting out on Twitter, we all thought it was nice, and polite etiquette to thank the people for following us. In fact, we were all kinda new to it, so we would take the time to watch the individuals following us, and acknowledge new followers as they trickled in, in their two’s and fours.

Whilst that behaviour is fun and quirky for the first few people that you follow, once you start to engage with a few hundred people, that can start to get just a little overwhelming, for one, and also somewhat annoying to the people following you, if all you’re doing is thanking people for following you, and cluttering up other people’s twitter stream with lots and lots of thank yous.

Most people who follow you on twitter have already decided that you’re of interest to them, or will decide as much depending on the quality and content of your tweets, and the most respectful thing that you can do to your audience is to be yourself. The fact that by following you someone has given you a direct line of private communication with them is a fact that should not be taken lightly. It’s as good as having someone’s ear, whenever you need it, and should consequently be used as sparingly as possible. Abuse of this privileged position means that the value of the recipients private channel of communication, i.e. their DM’s, drops the more it gets cluttered with messages that aren’t direct communications, or conversations from the person sending the message, as is the case with Auto DM’s. It’s like having a red phone that goes direct to the White House, and if that phone line gets filled with advertisers and marketers promoting themselves then there’s little point in the President needing to answer those calls directly himself. If on the other hand it was only used by other Political officials such as the Prime Minister or President of another country, and they only used it in the most urgent of situations, then that channel of communication would have infinitely more value both to the President of the US as well as the officials in other countries.

So the next time someone starts to even suggest using Auto DM’s, tell them no. Your followers will then respect you that much more, and be ever more receptive to what you have to say, when it really matters the most.

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Becoming a Social Media Planner/Strategist at Total Media

Just wanted to publicly announce, that I’ve recently joined Total Media, as their Social Media Planner/Strategist.

I realised that my strengths really are in Social Media Strategy and Planning, and so made the tough decision of leaving my previous role as an Insights Manager, where I was reporting on Social Media Activity and monitoring conversations to identify trends and patterns, and insights.  As much as I enjoyed the challenges of working at the frontier of Social Media Engagement, and Activation, I soon realised that my true passion is in the planning of and the strategy around Social Media.

So continuing on the  mission to find the perfect Social Media role for my skills, background and experience, I’ve joined Total Media, where I will get the opportunity to potentially work with clients as diverse as Penguin, the Bahamas Tourist Office all the way through to the British Library, and the Tate.  (You can also take a look at the full list of Total Media clients).

Total Media excel at traditional Media Buying and Planning, across press, radio, television, outdoor, cinema and digital formats for a range of both B2B and B2C clients.  I’ll be helping integrate Social Media into existing campaigns, where the opportunities exist, and also working directly with clients to help develop, and refine their social media strategies where needed.

I’ll be working out of our offices in High Street Kensington, and if you’re ever in the area, then feel free to drop by for a chat, and a coffee. (Though it’s probably best to plan it in advance!)

As I work with Total Media, and start to push the boundaries of Social Media further, I’ll also be calling upon friends in the community to come by, and share some of their experiences, and show my colleagues that Twitter isn’t the only thing we talk about, when it comes to Social Media, as cool and as fun as it is ;)

If you’d be interested in learning more about the most cost-effective way of getting more exposure through Social Media, or are keen to see if we can stretch your Marketing budgets further (like Total Media did with the Renault Retail Group), be sure to get in touch. Likewise, let me know if you’d like to come and share you’re expertise and who knows, perhaps we might be able to share some knowledge back ;)

In the meantime, watch this space!

How Powerful is Social Media?

The recent Festival of Media, in Valencia (on the 18th – 20th April 2010), had an interesting poll for the audience, asked by someone online. The question was :

How many times more powerful than traditional marketing channels do you consider Social Media to be?

The result? 37% of the audience considered Social Media to be more than 4 times more powerful than traditional marketing channels:
The Vote - Results

Now just to set some context here, the Festival of Media, in Valencia is billed as a “global festival of media creativity“, and “brings together the international media and marketing industry to celebrate the best in media thinking and creative communications strategy and to explore the media developments that are transforming the industry“.

In 2009, “45% of delegates were directly responsible for advertising budgets and strategy“.

Just glancing through the Delegate List, you can see that the advertising and traditional media channels are all heavily represented, and at fairly senior levels.

This result isn’t from a bunch of Social Media Evangelists, all getting together to have a Social Media Love in, but really from people currently dominating the current Media Landscapes, and really in touch with where things are at, from both an operational, and a direct line of accountability perspective.

Now admittedly, I wasn’t at the festival, I don’t know how many people were in the room at the time that poll occurred, and if you watch the full video below, you can see that Jack Klues, Managing Partner, at VivaKi has just finished up his talk, on Coca Cola, before they move into the poll led by Patience Wheatcroft. However, if we work on the assumption that most of the delegates in the audience were present, and that this session was a part of the main conference, then

I think it’s safe to assume that Social Media is considered to be significantly more powerful than traditional media, by the larger majority of delegates.

So how many times more powerful do you think Social Media is compared to traditional media? (and yes I appreciate there will be some bias, given the audience and general thinking of my community at large, but still, I’d be interested to know what the general opinion out there is)..