Friday, 31 December 2010

The 2010 Manchester SEO Awards

Limit your acceptance speeches to thirty seconds please.

Best use of pectorals in social media

Old Spice

The Mashable award for useful social media news

The Next Web

Honourable mention: Mashable

Best use of impromptu audience clapping

St. John's Ambulance

The Robbie Savage award for social media buffoonery

Dr. Pepper

Best use of comedy hashtag award on Twitter


The most-annoying member of the Spotify advertising team award


The Ann Summers award for comedy sponsored links
Ann Summers

The three-days worth of research for a Manchester SEO blog award

Psycholinguistics and SEO

The least-read blog on Manchester SEO award

Psycholinguistics and SEO

The wish I hadn't sold my Xbox advert campaign award

Most popular search query for Manchester SEO referrals award

Farmville user female statistics

Most creepiest search query for Manchester SEO referrals award

Asda chicken licker

Honourable mention: Farmville user female statistics

The 'If I see this link posted on Twitter one more time...' award

XKCD's map of online communities

The bit-rubbish-but-quite-charming technology advert of the year award


The Zooey Deschanel award for the prettiest website in 2010

Monet 2010

The geekiest thing I saw in 2010 award

Most tenuous metaphor used to describe social media in a blog

Social media: A campfire at a music festival

Honourable mentions Social media: A doctor's waiting room

The Doc Brown award for coolest iPhone app downloaded in 2010


The thanks for reading this blog in 2010 award

You lot.

helped us reach

Aldermore logo
Aldermore medal

Sunday, 12 December 2010

News on Twitter: What I learned from the Topshop protest

Yesterday, 30 or so protesters flash-mobbed the Topshop store in the Arndale centre to demonstrate against alleged tax avoidance by the company.

The protest happened to descend on the shop as I was walking past. This isn't an event which normally happens everyday, so naturally, I snapped a picture and posted it on Twitter. Blame my brief tenure in the magazine industry for that.

Within three hours, the photograph had been viewed over 1,000 times. The Twitter update which included the picture had been retweeted over 40 times (most significantly by the Granada Reports and Channel 4 News Twitter feeds) and the photograph had been published alongside the news story on the Manchester Evening News and, later, the BBC website.

The incident (while hyperlocal and incredibly small-scale; this wasn't Watergate being broken on Twitter) did provide an interesting insight into how the social network is being used as a news channel. It also highlighted a few disturbing things about the site which I hadn't considered before. As ever, please drop a comment below if you feel the desire to...

Twitter as a news-sourcing channel

I'm told that journalists aren't using Twitter in the correct way. In this instance, I will disagree.

The BBC were ridiculously quick to get in touch and their Have Your Say account had @ mentioned me 30 minutes after posting the photograph (their Twitter feed suggests a similar level of efficiency for other breaking stories on the site)

Ten minutes after their @ mention, I was talking to a researcher from BBC News.

Ten minutes after that, I was giving a quote to a staff writer for a news article.

So, within 50 minutes, the organisation had obtained all the material they needed for the story. That's impressive work. Furthermore, after the story was posted, the same account sent me a DM which included a link to the report and a thank you. That's good customer service.

A similar hat tip goes to the Manchester Evening News (although they didn't get in touch), which had posted the photograph within an hour of the protest. Someone must have been paying attention.

Would a bit of context kill you?

But, why was I in the Arndale Centre when the flash mob descended?

I was Christmas shopping. I had met up with a few mates for lunch and, while they went into Selfridges, I nipped into the Arndale Centre to have a look for a present for a friend.

Of course, no one knew any of this when I posted the photograph. All they knew was that I was taking photographs of a demonstration. For all anyone knew, I could have been a protester myself.

As many of the photographs and videos from the recent student demonstrations in London were taken by their attendees, it wouldn't have been a massive leap to assume that I was there for the demonstration itself.

And this lack of context causes problems.

Say you were one of the people outside my social circles who saw that tweet. All you know about me is my Twitter username and that I posted a photograph of a demonstration.

It's easy to jump to conclusions, so now I'm an activist (I'm not), I have an issue with Topshop (I don't), I associate myself with the four people who got arrested after this particular demonstration (I don't) and, even worse, I have anarchist tendencies (I don't).

Extreme examples? Probably, but you can see my point. What you post online affects how people perceive you. I upload a photograph of a demonstration and all of a sudden, I'm the 'kind of person who protests' (I'm not).

Without context, we fill in the blanks. Blanks become opinions. And opinions can affect your employability, your friends and your future.

Extreme examples? Of course. But tell that to the five self-proclaimed activists who started following me yesterday on Twitter. They think I'm one of them.


We all use language differently and we each have variety of ways to express feelings and situations. In face-to-face conversation, this gap in lexical emphasis isn't usually a problem. However, when people read something online, they apply their own semantic guidelines.

Take my tweet on Saturday. Of course, Topshop wasn't getting 'trashed' in the conventional sense; that suggest people damaging the store and its stock. I was using a colloquialism.

But, because there wasn't the space on the tweet to elaborate, that's what people assumed. So much so, that the Manchester Evening News initially reported the store as 'being trashed', which distorts the truth of the incident.

As people are unlikely to revisit a news story for clarifications or amendments, readers come away thinking certain things. 'Trashed' suggests that the protesters were vandals. 'Trashed' suggests that Topshop must have done something terribly wrong to deserve such actions.

Language shapes opinions and Twitter doesn't offer the opportunity for detail.


The incident served as a reminder that Twitter is a service which is fuelled by interest. Despite the increased coverage of my account through the channel, the number of additional followers gained was minimal.

Many of my tweets are SEO or social media based. And many of the people who retweeted my photograph just weren't that interested in social media or SEO news and views. More fool them.

Users follow accounts which post relevant content to them. Regardless of how many retweets a message get, it doesn't automatically mean a drastic increase of new followers if the content as a whole isn't aimed towards a specific audience. It's not just about metrics...

Factual accuracy

The photograph was taken from a good few feet away from the protest. I didn't have a particularly good view and occasionally my line of sight was blocked by the crowd in front of me. I was, to all intents and purposes, an unreliable narrator.

Still, because I highlighted the story on Twitter, I was considered the leading source of information. I'm sure there were those better placed in the crowd to explain what had happened, but they weren't posting the information on a social network.

And I think this is a major problem. When I spoke to the researcher at the BBC, I was very careful to say what I saw, rather than what I thought I saw. But, I'll go out on a limb and say that some people might not have the same approach in a newsworthy situation.

I'd imagine that these eye-witness reports shape how news is reported; who is the victim and who is the villain. If you're more than liberal with the facts, it's kind of worrying.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Advice for graduates: Using social media to job hunt

On Wednesday, I was invited to speak at the University of Manchester, talking to a group of students about how they could best use social media to increase their chances of getting a job in after their graduation.

While the recollections of my own student years have gradually disappeared down the memory hole, I was interested to return to university to share my own experiences and thoughts on how someone could develop an online CV which spans several websites.

One stat which I keep reeling out during talks on employability and social media comes from a survey from; that 43 per cent of employers search t'internet when they receive a CV from a potential candidate. And by 'search the internet', we're talking about name searches on Google, Bing, Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

Out of those employers searching for candidates, 35 per cent found something online which caused them not to hire the candidate.

But don't turn off the lights on your blog or Facebook account just yet. The fact that just under half of employers are searching the web for potential candidates actually offers a massive opportunity for those postgraduates looking to move into a full-time job.

And here's why.

Because out of the employers that looked up an applicant, a large proportion found something online that impressed them about that candidate. So, what did they find?

A blog

I'd argue that blogging is one of the most important assets a graduate looking for a job can have. In my estimation, employers are looking for a candidate to have (among other things) an interest; a sign that a person isn't just applying for a job because of a desire to pay the rent, but rather because they have a genuine passion for the industry they're looking to move into.

And a blog is one of the best ways to demonstrate this. A relevant blog, I hasten to add.

  • If you want to work in advertising, write a blog about the campaigns you like.
  • If you want to work in copywriting, start a blog about copy which caught your imagination.
  • If you want to work in social media marketing, start a blog about social media campaigns. There are plenty of them to study.

You get the idea. Two posts a month, every month. Repeat as necessary. It's not a huge drain on time or resources when you consider the outcome. Because I guarantee that a person who blogs about what they want to do for a living is a lot more attractive to an employer than someone who doesn't blog at all.

Plus, you'll get the chance to learn more about the industry you want to work in.

A Twitter account

Students should tweet more. If you want to work in the digital industry, it's the singular most powerful tool you have in your arsenal. And here's why:

Twitter gives you a direct line to the people who hire people.

And here's what you can use it for:

  • Display a passion and an interest for your chosen career path. Link to content which interests you. Link to your blogs. Let people know about your interests.
  • Learn from people already working in the industry. (What are the hot topics in the industry? What do they link to? What is their job really like?)
  • Find job opportunities (yes, they're posted on Twitter)
  • Demonstrate your knowledge about an industry
  • Create relationships with people. For while they may not have a vacancy for your dream job, but they may know someone who does)

Use lists to find these people (many of these are organised by profession), but don't harass people for a job as soon as you find them.

Engage, acknowledge, share.

Also, try not to take your phone out drinking with you. Remember, don't post anything you wouldn't want your mother to see; you can lock the profile down so only friends see your updates, but that's not really the point of Twitter.

As an aside, a number of the students who attended the talks on Wednesday have recently signed up to (or already use) to Twitter. If you want to give them a bit of friendly advice (or keep an eye out for them for a potential position), they are (to the best of my knowledge):


Lock it. All the way down.

Watch out for profile pictures. I believe that the default setting of Facebook is to normally leave them all viewable regardless of whether you're a friend or not. The option to make them inaccessible to the public is separate from the other settings and can be found under the traditional privacy options via a link called 'edit album privacy'.

Rich media

If you want to move into a creative role, rich media is a godsend. Display your photos on Posterous, Tumblr or Flickr. 'Don't hide your work in a draw,' is an old writer's saying. The saying is true for most things.


Have a LinkedIn profile. It's like an online CV anyone can read. Make sure you fill out all the informational boxes: your experience, honours etc.

If you feel inclined, take part in some group discussions. I'd advise keeping to the local groups, just because it's less crowded; it's more relevant to the relationships and connections you're trying to create.

And the rest

Social media gives you the opportunity to advertise yourself in an entirely new way. Job hunting doesn't just have to be limited to sending out a CV and waiting for the phone to ring. These online channels give graduates the opportunity to demonstrate what they can offer a company; a passion, an interest and an inventive way to advertise their services.

And don't just stick to this advice. Be inventive. Be creative. Have fun.

But, trust me on the sunscreen.

And finally, here's some decent resources if you're interested (with a healthy marketing and social media bias):

Mashable - Leading social media resource for news and advice.
Guardian Technology - The major technology stories from The Guardian.
The Next Web - Another great resource for web and social media news.
How Do - North West news site focused on creative, marketing and business news in the North West.
How to get your first job in SEO - Some nice online advice, regardless of the career you're after.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The origins of social media and SEO

A very specific lexicon has formed around search engine optimisation and social media. But where did all these words originate from?

Thanks to Etymology Online for providing many of these definitions.


Early 15c., "to pledge," from M.Fr. engagier, from O.Fr. en gage "under pledge," from en "make" + gage "pledge.


O.E. folgere "retainer, servant, disciple; successor."


Meaning of "identifying mark made by a hot iron" (1550s).


Late O.E., gewær, "wary, cautious."


"Loudspeaker for high frequencies," 1934, agent noun from tweet.


"Devotee," 1889, Amer.Eng., originally of baseball enthusiasts, probably a shortening of fanatic, but may be influenced by the fancy, a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing).


c.1300, from O.Fr. mencion "call to mind," from L. mentionem (nom. mentio) "a calling to mind, a speaking of, mention."


1690s, originally an art criticism term, "assemblage of figures or objects in a painting or design," from Fr. groupe "cluster, group."


O.E. freond, prp. of freogan "to love, to favor," from P.Gmc. *frijojanan "to love."

Search engine optimisation


Early 14c., from O.Fr. cerchier "to search," from L. circare "go about, wander, traverse."


c.1300, Fom O.Fr. engin "skill, cleverness," also "trick, deceit, stratagem; war machine" (12c.), from L. ingenium "inborn qualities, talent".


1844, "to act as an optimist," back formation from optimist. Meaning "to make the most of" is first recorded 1857.


Mid-15c., "one of a series of rings or loops which form a chain," probably from O.N. *hlenkr (cf. O.Swed. lænker "chain, link," Norw. lenke, Dan. lænke).


C.1600, from M.L. analyticus, from Gk. analytikos "analytical," from analytos "dissolved."


1650s, "pertaining to fingers," from L. digitalis, from digitus. Meaning "using numerical digits" is from 1938, especially of computers after c.1945; in reference to recording or broadcasting, from 1960.


1560s, "buying and selling," prp. adj. from market.


Early 15c. "to take notice of," from M.Fr. advertiss-, prp. stem of a(d)vertir "to warn" (12c.), from L. advertere "turn toward," from ad- "toward" (see ad-) + vertere "to turn".

Sunday, 14 November 2010

One day in July

A little bit of concept writing for something I'd like to get off the ground next year...

We walk into the hotel's bar, bustling with guests. The majority of the crowd linger next to the bar, chatting and sipping on their pints. A few sit on the leather couches lining the room. Most of them are wearing their Sunday Best, as demanded by the invitation.

Welcome to the reception of Sebastian and Jennifer Marsh.

But none of the audience have actually met the happy couple.

Many would have seen the wedding via their internet connection. They have seen the YouTube videos of the nervous bride in the weeks leading up to today - a video diary detailing every aspect of the big day.

More recently, they would have seen the updates from the church; videos and photos uploaded during the day via more technologically savvy of the wedding party. Speeches, photos, the works. Everything went as planned.

Back in the hotel, a Twitter stream, projected on the side of the wall, is occasionally updated by members of the wedding party in the other room.

“They both look so gorgeous,” reads one tweet.

"They'll be very happy together", one of the audience tweets. "Looks like the perfect wedding."

A door bursts open from the function room to the side of the room. The crowd falls silent.

The bride, tears streaming down her face, rushes through the door and disappears into an adjacent room, swiftly followed by a pair of bridesmaids, each carrying the same pained expression.

Gradually, members of the wedding party begin to saunter through into the room. Shell-shocked.

A best man.
A father.
A mother.
A sister.
A husband.
And the one that got away.

"What happens now?" asks the best man.

"Now, we have to explain," the husband replies.

The group spread out across the room and, separately, begin to tell their side of the tale.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Raising brand awareness of Facebook via games

There were some fantastic sessions at yesterday's Social Media in a Corporate Context conference. However, I want to discuss one case study mentioned during the event, simply because it impressed me the most.

Claudia Bach, marketing and PR manager for Reckitt Benckister, was giving a presentation on engaging with Generation Y (social competent youths) and the ways her company (more famous for their separate products than their own brand) had embraced social media in order to encourage graduate recruitment.

She made reference to a Facebook game that the team at RB had created. A company making a Facebook game? For recruitment? Colour me curious.

The title, inspired by the rise of Zynga offerings such as Farmville and Mafia Wars (simple adventures which give users a sense of achievement) simulates life as an employee at the company.

Stick with me here.

The title sees players complete tasks in order to progress up the career ladder. Users answer emails, take calls, make decisions; all the while earning experience points. It sounds dull. It's not.

The aforementioned game sees you enter the company at a low level. From there, you eventually rise up into the managerial stratosphere. It's all very nicely presented and users can customize their office with a variety of swanky chairs, computers and desks (all purchased via experience points you get for completing a task).

So what makes the game so clever?

Here, RB are distilling their corporate culture into a fun and friendly format. It's easy to write blogs and tweet in order to get your brand message into the public domain. With this game, RB actively encourage users to behave and think like an employee. Players get rewarded for following company ethos and philosophy as they progress through the title.

It's a very clever way to sell your brand and firm to an audience. You can learn more about the company without having to scroll through reams of 'about us' text on their website and, given the audience and their attention span, this is critical.

They've also created the perfect tool for the audience; Facebook is the ideal channel for their target market. The progression/reward format also encourages repeat play as well as adding a competition element between friends.

What's more, the game is fun. While answering work emails and phone calls may not be interesting behind your real desk, here you're given the opportunity to make snap decisions with the future of your company at stake. It's engaging and makes you feel that, if you worked for RB, your opinion will be just as valued.

Finally, the title effectively makes users aware of the company and what it does. There are numerous references to brands and products throughout the game. It's a subtle awareness tool designed to tell people what the firm does and the big-name products you could be working on.

If this doesn't get your social media juices flowing, nowt will I'm afraid.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

How I Met Your Mother/Microsoft Product Placement

Yesterday's broadcast of US sitcom How I Met Your Mother had more than a few nods to Microsoft-related products. The interwebs spotted them. As did Manchester SEO.

Bing Maps

Xbox 360

Monday, 4 October 2010

The seven deadly sins of a social media strategy


Do not be lustful for the content of others. If you admire a piece of work, credit the author or website rather than passing the news off as your own. Lust clouds the judgement, causing those under its gaze to lose sight of the real goal: writing content good enough for others to lust after.


The gluttonous social media account fills its feed with updates. Be wary of constantly posting content, lest your followers or fans become weary of your presence. Feed your status bar with relevant information at regular intervals and all shall be well.


Greed can consume a social media profile. But the greed for followers, fans, comments and website traffic can become tragic. Heed this: do not succumb to the whims of the weak-minded social media profile with constant RT-to-win competitions, for they are annoying. Create sustainable relationships on Twitter or Facebook and the numbers will follow.


It is easy to be envious of the work of your contemporaries. But do not let that envy prevent you from taking part in social media. Good social media campaigns comment and RT on the fruitful labours of others. Do not allow your envious pangs to cloud your judgement in your quest for success.


Pride is one of the worst sins for a social media account; a profile which does nothing but blow its own trumpet and celebrate its own client wins, staff expansion and account successes. But, be warned. A boastful social media account is not an engaging one. You are more likely to draw in friends with your modesty and humility than you are with your pride.


The sloth account does not care for @ mentions or direct messages and it has no desire to respond to comments or questions. It would merely like to be left alone. Be not slothful, for a slothful social media strategy is not a successful one. Answer your messages with the promptness you would care for your own enquiries.


Temper your mood before committing fingers to keys. Remain pleasant in the face of criticism and listen to the opinions of others before unleashing your wrath onto the heads of those who follow your messages. Be reasonable and understand that no good comes from a blasphemous tongue.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Technology gets emotional - six adverts to make you weepy


In brief: Chap prepares for a date with girlfriend. Ignores date for the entire evening. Prefers to use Twitter instead.

Subliminal message: You can tweet about everything. Even if it is about buying fruit. OMG Strawberries. #fiveaday

Soundtrack: Freelance Whales - Generator First Floor

Slush rating: 7/10


In brief: Everyone is a PC. Even famous people.

Subliminal message: PCs are cool. Really.

Soundtrack: N/A

Slush rating: 2/10


In brief: American student meets French girl. Plans their life together from his laptop.

Subliminal message: Don't talk about life-changing decisions. Just Google them instead.

Soundtrack: N/A

Slush rating: 9/10


In brief: iPad is magical.

Subliminal message: iPad.

Soundtrack: Gold Lion - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Slush rating: 3/10


In brief: Annoying student wishes her PC would stop crashing. Tells Microsoft. Global computer manufacturer begrudgingly agrees.

Subliminal message: After seven swings at it, Microsoft computers finally work.

Soundtrack: N/A

Slush rating: 2/10

iPhone 4

In brief: Various lives are improved via the magic medium of Apple Facetime.

Subliminal message: iPhone is magical.

Soundtrack: When You're Smiling - Louise Armstrong

Slush rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Twitter hashtags explained

Twitter hashtags, for the uninitiated, are those wee blue links at the end of tweets which start with a hash symbol (#). They look like this:

You can see some examples of hashtags out in the wild courtesy of Chris, Simon and Linn.

Ok. I know what a hashtag is. What does it do?

If you click on a hashtag you'll be taken to a page which shows every single tweet – from every profile (whether or not you're following them) – which contains the same hashtag. The below example shows the usage of the hashtag #manchester:

What do hashtags do?

Hashtags are a simple way for Twitter users to monitor what people are saying about particular events or things. It enables you to quickly find out news, opinions and views on one subject from across Twitter. It's like a library cataloguing system, putting all the related tweets in one place.

What sort of events do people use hashtags for?

Anything. The UK general election had the hashtag #GE2010, while the recent sighting of the International Space Station had the hashtag #ISS. Twitter hashtags don't have to be reserved for global or national events though and the feature can be used to promote things like regional news and small gatherings. The monthly Manchester SEO meetup uses the hashtag #mancseo, while the Manchester Social Media Cafe uses #smc_mcr.

Say I went to a Manchester SEO event. How would I know what hashtag to use?

Tricky one that. You can usually find the hashtag for global or nationwide events by taking a look at the trending topics on the right-hand side of Twitter (once you're logged in). For local hashtags, your best bet is to use a website like Trends Map to see popular hashtags in your region. Otherwise, just keep an eye on your Twitter feed; if the event is popular, someone will probably slip the hashtag into a tweet.

But who decides what hashtag becomes popular?

The majority. A global issue may have dozens of different hashtags, although one will probably emerge victorious as more people comment on the occurrence. For example:

Say, West Bromwich Albion win the Premier League. There will probably be a few hashtags for this:


Usually, one of these terms (say, #WBA) will be used more frequently than the others. Thus, more people will accept this hashtag as the correct one to use in the situation. The others will shrink into painful obscurity and end up on Celebrity Come Dine With Me.

Local meetups (particularly those in Manchester) will usually already have a set hashtag listed on the website.

But how do I keep track of a hashtag?

There are a number of ways. If you're a web user, you can monitor any uses of a hashtag by searching for it in the box on the right-hand side of your Twitter page. You can also save searches for easy access in the future.

If you're using a programme like Tweetdeck, you can set up a column for a hashtag by pressing the 'add a column' button on the top left and typing your search into the box.

If you're on a shiny iPhone, simply go to the search function of your preferred Twitter app and type in your hashtag. Again, these can also be saved for quick access later on.

These sound great. I want to make a hashtag. Tell me now.

Hashtags have to be simple and short. There are two real reasons for this:

  • People are lazy and don't want to type out massive amounts of text
  • Smaller hashtags let people say more on a tweet. (Twitter messaging allows 140 characters)

So, keep your hashtags simple and relevant.

But why has this person done a hashtag about doing the washing up? That's not going to be a communal activity?

Hashtags can also be deployed for comic effect and many users use the feature to describe their personal feelings towards a situation or action. It's a bit of personal narration designed to raise a smile from their followers.

For instance:


Right. Anything else I should know?

Not really. If you have any questions, drop me a line on Twitter and I'll be glad to help.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Working from home - how your personal tweets have professional implications

Last year, a study by an American firm found that 40 per cent of updates on Twitter were 'pointless babble'; tweets about visiting the dentist or what someone had for breakfast - those updates with no 'substantial' worth (Although good dental hygiene and a healthy balanced diet are both very important).

As you'd expect, some proportion of this 40 per cent feature some sort of personal opinion: judgements, sentiments, thoughts.

Indeed, companies spend millions each year in order protect their brand reputation from these sorts of opinions. Tweet about a bad dining experience and you'll likely get a grovelling message from the establishment in question. Pass judgement on a new fashion line and the store account will usually get back to you. You get the picture.

We all have opinions and we all like to share them. Particularly if they're opinions about your job.

Had a bad day at work? Co-worker smells funny? Hungover?

Share it on Twitter. These people did:

"Dude, I'm not going to work with a hangover."
"I'm home. Went to work. Did no work. Got paid."
"Stupid bored at work.. only an hr & 30 min left though."

Suppose for a moment that these people had previously identified themselves as employees of a particular company (via a tweet or personal biography).

You can see the complication...

Obviously, companies don't want customers finding out that the staff is uninspired, unmotivated or still drunk from the evening before. It reflects badly on their brand, their customer service and the ability of the HR department to hire well-rounded individuals.

And even if the staff aren't slagging their company off after-hours, would firms still need to be concerned about their social media activity? If an employee has 'outed themselves' as a staff member, would their (ill-informed) opinions, (negative) sentiments or (lewd) comments be connected to the brand?

And crucially, would someone be less inclined to hire an agency based on their staff's personal opinions?

Apparently, yes.

Take this from the Yahoo! guide to the personal use of social media (blog guidelines in this instance):

"All Yahoo! employees can be viewed (correctly or incorrectly) as representative of the company, which can add significance to your public reflections on the organization (whether you intend to or not). Yahoos who identify themselves as Yahoo! employees in their blogs and comment on the company at any time, should notify their manager of the existence of their blog just to avoid any surprises."

The BBC take a similar stance in their social media policy:

"When someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies."

In a nutshell, if you're 'outed', you've got a responsibility to the company to act responsibly.

Amber Naslund, the director of community for Radian6, wrote an interesting piece for Brass Tack Thinking which highlighted the problem for 'outed' employees on social media. In her blog post, she wrote:

"You’re now a representative of that brand, publicly. The lines start to blur between what’s personal and what’s professional, and all the disclaimers in the world won’t always mean that you can or should post whatever’son your mind. The personal and professional profiles you keep might be and feel physically separate, but Google doesn’t know the difference, and sometimes, neither do your customers."

If you're prone to swearing, this is not an insignificant problem.

Amy Dutton runs the social campaigns for Thames Water and, as an active social media user herself, she says she is aware of the crossover between her professional and personal Twitter account.

"I am very careful not to comment negatively on issues/news that are associated with the water industry. I state in my bio that my tweets are my views and not Thames Water's...We don't have a formal social media policy but we all know not to be too negative or outraged about things on personal accounts."

"Most of my followers know who I work for...some of my followers I actually gained through my association with work and will now often tweet good things on our behalf."

This benefit is reflected by Dominic Conlon from Manchester advertising agency Head First.

"We do that [personal promotion] for some of our clients - even pushing campaigns that we didn't do because we like/believe in the product," says Dom.

"We believe in courtesy and respect. Each of us who tweet [as employees] are just nice :)," he adds.

Still, what happens if you or your colleagues are too naïve (or simply don't want) to stick to the same noble philosophy?

There have been a number of high-profile cases of employees losing their jobs because of their personal Twitter content; objections, criticisms and opinions have been the downfall of many. In most documented cases, the aggrieved employer releases the same statement. Here are two recent examples:

"We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of photos and material that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard."

"The views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set."

It would appear that personal comments from staff require a brand-management solution...

The issue becomes even more complicated if your personal account also acts as your professional one. If you're the clear representative (and I'm thinking of freelancers or managing directors, here) for your own company, how do you balance your output to satisfy friends and social-savvy clients? How much self-censorship should be employed to keep both audiences interested?

Larner Caleb, freelance copywriter and regular contributor to The Drum, takes a strong view on the subject.

"If I had to be my own compliance officer in terms of making sure I kept every single tweet 'client safe' well, I for one wouldn't follow me," he says.

"If you can't be yourself on Twitter, then you don't really have a real presence on Twitter. I can't say I've really lost any clients through any of my tweets (I've certainly lost followers, but that definitely wouldn't stop me being myself) but the value I've had out of being myself on Twitter has been enormous."

I'd be interested to hear more thoughts on this. Drop me a comment or get in touch on Twitter.

Until then, you can read a whole batch of internal a social media guidelines from a number of different companies here.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Due South - South Manchester Tweetup

Last Wednesday, Nicola Cooper Abbs and myself put on the first South Manchester Tweetup; an event for the suburban Twitterers of Manchester to get together, share a beer and have a chat.

The evening itself went great. We had hoped that a meetup in the deep south would attract Twitter users who don't usually make it to the regular digital soirées of the city centre, so it was ace to see so many new faces (as well as some old friends). We had quite a nice mix of individuals and businesses and, by all accounts, fun was had by all.

In all, I guessed that around 50 people turned up, so we'll be looking to do another one next month. But there will be more on that in the future.

Thanks to Helen at Didsbury Life for rallying so many West Didsbury business to the cause, as well as Airy Fairy Cupcakes for bringing some treats in tow. Also, cheers to everyone that turned up.

If you've got any questions about the South Manchester Tweetup, drop me or Nicola a line and keep an eye on the #southmcrtweetup hashtag for more news about next month's event.

In the meantime, here's a few photos from the night. Thanks to Helen and Nicola for these.

Monday, 16 August 2010

South Manchester Tweetup

The inaugural South Manchester Tweetup takes place tomorrow. It starts from 7:30pm at the Slug and Lettuce in Didsbury Village - they've kindly cordoned off the right-hand side of the bar so, if you're coming, we should be very easy to find.

If you've never heard of South Manchester Tweetup before, the premise is pretty simple. Dozens of networking and digital events take place in Manchester every month. However, they're all in the centre of Manchester and it's possibly not the most convenient location for those who live in the suburbs.

South Manchester Tweetup is a way for Twitter users in the south of the city to meet, have a drink and enjoy a natter. And that's about it. We've had nearly 60 people sign up for tickets, so it should be a good night.

If you want to pop along, you can register for a free ticket here (you don't need to bring it along with you, it's just to give us an idea of numbers).

Thanks to Nicola for helping set this up and cheers to those who have promoted it via Twitter (Especially Helen @ Didbsury Life, who appears to have persuaded half of West Didsbury to come along).

Monday, 9 August 2010

SEO copywriting - honesty is always the best policy

Commercial copywriting needs to sell to the reader. Obviously, copy needs to make a product sound attractive, useful and necessary. It has to shout value from the rooftop, expressing an item's benefits and worth; constructing an argument even the most thrifty consumer would be a fool to ignore.

Of course, exaggeration plays a big part in this.


Realistically, your product will not cut unemployment, solve world peace or fix the frequent appearance of the Fail Whale. But, as an SEO copywriter, it's your job to make the reader think it will.

Still, how far should you take your pursuit of a sale?

I've been giving some thought to honesty in copywriting this weekend. David Mitchell penned a fantastic blog on the virtues of honesty in advertising, while fellow Manchester SEOer Katrina highlighted a side-splitting eBay entry posted by a relative. The blurb, for a perfume, follows:

"A timeless fragrance with a heady, sunkissed feel, wrapped in the exotic lushness of faraway lands. An elixir for the senses, imagined like a voyage outside time and space. Colours profuse, nature bewilders and sensuality reigns.

A fragrance that embodies the true essence of the designer himself - sexy, feminine and uplifting.

A unique blend of accords create an intoxicating scent like no other with incandescent top notes, a mysterious heart and sultry dry-down. The bottle plays on the contrast between urban and exotic realms, fusing vintage with modern designs.

Unfortunately it smells like cat piss on my skin."

Obviously, commercial copywriting shouldn't tell downright porkies. Someone is going to call you on it and an appearance on Watchdog will soon beckon.

But, nor should it be so brutally honest as to deter customers. After all, you want some sales for your client.

It's time to tread the thin line between enthusiasm and lies and, as a copywriter, you need to be blinkered about your product. Fail to recognise its flaws, exaggerate its qualities and promote it as the invention of the 21st century. Learn to love your product and reflect this affection through your copy.

Basically, pretend you're the type of person who queues outsides the Apple store on launch day.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Social media mascots - eight of the best mascot campaigns

Old Spice

Old Spice Guy became famous in July when, for just one day, the brains behind the 'Smell like a man, man' campaign, chose to film real-time video responses to questions posed to the fictional character. The mascot, played by Isaiah Mustafa, received global attention, resulting in a 107 per cent increase in Old Spice sales.

Pudsey Bear

The famous yellow mascot of the annual Children in Need charity drive. While the Twitter account is most active during the actual event, the stream shows the possible potential social media has for charities on the service, highlighting the ways organisations can promote a noble cause during and beyond a televised event.

Aleksandr Orlov

Compare the Market chose to represent their brand with Aleksandr Orlov, better known to many as the furry Russian founder of Launched in 2009, the campaign successfully ran across Twitter and Facebook; to date the Twitter profile has 40,000 followers, while the Facebook presence clocks in at just under 756,000 likes.

The Andrex Puppy

Aside from being synonymous with good bathroom hygiene, Andrex is closely associated with its mascot; a timeless Labrador puppy. While you wouldn't normally consider Twitter as the ideal medium for a toilet roll, the account shows what additional brand exposure you can get if you utilise the services of an adorable mascot.

The Roaming Gnome

An American invention, albeit voiced by Brit Harry Enfield, the Roaming Gnome has enjoyed success as a social media mascot. The premise of the campaign is simple; the gnome roams the globe, promoting hotels, destinations and flight deals.

The Roaming Gnome was born in 2004 as part of a viral campaign for the company. It has since become the de facto spokesman for the brand.

Barney Stinston

CBS' flagship comedy 'How I Met Your Mother' runs a comprehensive social media campaign centred around Barney Stinston, one of the show's protagonists. The character regularly tweets and updates his blog, complimenting the storyline of the programme and acting as a cost-effective marketing tool for the show between seasons.

Richard Castle, the central character from ABC's drama 'Castle' is the mascot of a similar promotional campaign.


The Sea World whale gained a cult following on Twitter for its humorous take on life as the world's most famous underwater mammal. The account was indefinitely suspended in February following an accident in the park which led to the death of a staff member.

The Michelin Man

Self-proclaimed mascot of quality tyres, the Michelin Man has amassed nearly 1,500 Twitter followers. The account is another example of how you can use an (arguably) uninspiring product and create a social media presence through engaging and quality content.

Other mascots

Digital Switchover
The Energizer Bunny

Any more to add? Drop me a line on Twitter.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Facebook statistics - By the numbers

Facebook celebrated 500 million users yesterday. Here's some more stats to satisfy your desire for information about the big blue social network...

The average Facebook user:

Has 130 friends

Spends around 1250 minutes on Facebook per month.

Creates around 70 pieces of content (updates, links, comments) per month

Uploads five photographs per month

Watches 5.6 Facebook videos per month

In the United Kingdom:

There are 27,020,020 Facebook users (43.7 per cent of the total population)

The United Kingdom has the second highest number of Facebook users (5.54% of global audience)

51.8% are female (13,576 100) while 48.2% are male (12,626,280)

Most users in the UK are between 25 and 34 years old. (26.5% of UK national audience)

62.5% of the UK online population have a Facebook account

31 per cent of users state they're single

43 percent state they're engaged, married or in a relationship

Global users

70% of the Facebook audience come from outside the United States

The top ten audiences are from (in millions):

1. United States 128,936,800
2. United Kingdom 27,020,020
3. Indonesia 26,277,000
4. Turkey 22,924,780
5. France 19,351,420
6. Italy 16,858,340
7. Canada 15,756,400
8. Philippines 15,284,460
9. Mexico 13,788,560
10. India 11,534,480

Between 2009 and 2010, Taiwan was the fastest adopted of Facebook, registering a 884% growth of users over the period

If Facebook would be a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world

There are 65 million mobile users of Facebook worldwide

User behaviour per month

20 million videos are uploaded globally

More than 2 billion videos are viewed through Facebook's video format

Woman post 55% more content than men

The average user writes 25 comments and likes nine things

14 billion pieces of content are shared across the entire site

3.5 million events are created

1.6 billion status updates are made


20 million users like new pages every day

There are around 5.3 billion likes for pages across the site

There are 1.6 million active pages

There are 700,000 pages for local businesses

The average user likes 2 pages per month

The most popular pages relate to movies, television shows, books and bands

The least popular pages related to religion, pets and bars

The most popular brand pages on Facebook (globally) are:

Coca Cola
Red Bull

The most popular brand pages in the UK are:


The most popular pages on Facebook (globally) are:

Texas Hold'em Poker
Michael Jackson
Mafia Wars
Lady Gaga

Games and applications

There are over 550,000 active applications

55% of Facebook gamers are female

28% of all Facebook gamers have purchased in-game currency

The average gamer plays six social games

Of the 200 million users who log into Facebook every day, 15% play FarmVille

80 million users regularly play FarmVille each month

Zynga, FarmVille's creators, are responsible for five of the ten most popular Facebook games including Mafia Wars and Texas Hold'Em Poker

In 2009, Zynga's revenue was estimated at $270 million


*Disclaimer - I take no responsibility for incorrect stats or information.

Like Facebook? Try Twitter.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Smut, Twitter and you - Thoughts from Social Media Cafe

Tuesday's Social Media Cafe shone a light into the darkest corners of social media. It was a torch which illuminated the areas of Twitter and Facebook no one talks about in polite conversation; the seedy parts you wouldn't want your parents to see.

Local blogger Mindy Gofton brought an interesting discussion to the table. Her Manchester SEO company had recently acquired a contract for a firm which distributed, among other things, 'cheeky' e-cards. The debate focused on the ethics of promoting this type of blue content across social media and whether marketeers had a moral or ethical responsibility to shield the campaign from those who might deem it unsuitable.

But that's an issue for another blog post.

During the session, a conversation between Paul Greenhalgh and Gillian Donovan addressed an interesting point relating to the topic.

Were there any negative consequences for those who chose to follow these sorts of risqué accounts on Twitter?

It's a good question. The channel is notoriously public and, unless profiles are protected, anyone can access an account in order to see who is following who. Their conversation speculated whether it would be appropriate for relatives, friends or employers to discover you were following the profiles of Agent Provocateur or Nuts Magazine.

And people check to see who you're following; during the session, regular social media cafe attendee David Edmundson-Bird commented that he paid a special interest in the accounts his new followers were monitoring.

He isn't alone.

We all make assessments about people in the real world and our behaviour on social media is no different. When faced with a new Twitter profile, users make an assessment about character based on the relatively little information given to them.

Indeed, looking at the types of accounts a user is following is one of the easiest ways to judge someone's personality. We all have our own personal tastes and, naturally, these tastes are echoed in the users we follow on Twitter. Whether you’re interested in SEO, Top Gear, football or cricket, it's more than likely that you're following accounts which compliment these hobbies.

However, an issue arises when you've got an interest which might not be considered so wholesome. Do you necessarily want to convey your fondness for alcohol, gambling or naughty pictures to the world via your follower choices? Probably not.

You have a reputation to consider.

If one thing came from this social media session, it's that taste and decency are subjective; what you may deem suitable for consumption may not be shared by another user.

Your reputation can easily be damaged by the appearance of a lingerie shop in your following list. And there are bigger issues to consider than ruffling some features; which employer wants to hire someone who spends their time reading updates written from behind a shelf of brassieres?

I'm aware that this line of argument may seem defeatist. Twitter is a wonderful channel for engaging with like-minded people. It's a service which enables users to discuss hobbies, chat about relevant topics and interact with people like themselves.

Surely, it defeats the point of social networks to suggest users filter their followers in order avoid offence or the merest suggestion of impropriety? If this were the case, Philip Schofield would be the only person with any followers.

Sadly, the reality of Twitter and its public nature means that, for the majority of the time, the person viewing your profile isn't going to share your own opinions. Especially those opinions relating to appropriate content. And, like it or not, they will use all the information available to form a judgement about you.

The only question is, what opinion would you like them to have?

Many thanks to Josh and Martin for organising another great Social Media Cafe.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Being human - five easy tips to make a company account more personal

Establishing an official company account on Twitter can be a tough job.

At its core, Twitter is a channel for social interaction and the majority of users are reluctant to follow an account which promotes a business. For many, Twitter isn't a site for business.

For most, the social network is a channel for talk; a place where people can find friends, share news and swap stories. It's a service which depends on conversation and, at first glance, a professional account can't hope to compete with the personal tales of mates and colleagues. Particularly when so many companies are reaffirming preconceptions of business on Twitter with banal and soulless updates. In short, users have a right to be sceptical.

With the odds stacked against them, it's imperative that corporate accounts offer as much personality as possible. Do away with the formal and bland; inject some humanity into your office feed with these five easy steps.

Provide a profile picture

Companies are often accused of being inhuman on Twitter; a robotic voice hiding behind a company logo. Combat this with a photograph.

One of the simplest ways to let people know that you're a living, breathing person is to add a snap of the account author in the profile box. It immediately establishes a connection with the audience and it's a lot easier for users to interact with someone if they know what they look like.

Take a look at Walrus Bar, Sweet Mandarin or Kelloggs for a good example of this.

Introduce yourself

People want to know who they're talking to.

Put your name in the profile biography so people can see who they're having a conversation with; users are far more likely to get involved with your brand or cause. Even if it's just a name or a reference to a personal Twitter account.

Take this example from the Creative Tourist team.

Introduce the team

If multiple employees are tweeting from the account, consider letting the audience know which person is responding at any one time. The simplest way to do this is to sign off each message with the author's initials.

A number of big brands do this very well, although a few Manchester Twitter accounts have also applied the strategy. Below, you can see the feed for local travel firm On The Beach.

Add your own design

Personalise your Twitter design with your own colours or branding; it'll go a long way in the quest to establish a personality. Add a background image and it'll give the account an individual character, making it more memorable.

Better yet, include a picture of life at the company (maybe a team photo or a shot of the company headquarters). This background space offers an opportunity to reveal the people behind the brand. Use it.

The Business Desk North West provide the following example.

Provide variety

Make sure your tweets offer a genuine insight into life as an employee at the company. Talk about your day, mention projects you are working on and share staff news. Include photographs of the team and link to relevant stories which you find interesting.

This insight offers users a human angle. Manchester Airport is a good place to start for an example of balancing work and play on Twitter.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Are you a Twitter vuvuzela?

The vuvuzela has come under a bit of pressure of late. The abundance of the plastic trumpet during the World Cup, which when blown sounds like an angry wasp having a nightmare, has led to critisicm from armchair fans; many of whom dislike the constant drone of the instrument over the action of a nil-nil draw.

Indeed, this is the first time that many have had the opportunity to listen to the calming sounds of the humble vuvuzela.

These viewers have never been on Twitter.

Since its creation in 2006, Twitter has always been a haven for the vuvuzela. Sadly, these vuvuzelas aren't of the colourful trumpet variety, but rather profiles which have a number of similar qualities to the instrument; accounts which do nothing but repeatedly drone on the same dull note. One constant, dreary B♭ of self-promotion.

"Check out our services."

"Have a look at our fantastic services."

"Phone us to ask about our fantastic products."

"Our products and services are fantastic. Check them out."

It's enough to make you beg for a fail whale.

Twitter isn't the place for a vuvuzela. It's a channel perfect for a full brass band; a concert hall which begs for a medley of team news, blog posts, photographs and conversations. A stage suited for a cresendo of interaction and brand awareness.

So, put your vuvuzela back in the box.

Because unlike the World Cup, people aren't going to put up with the din just to see out the final whistle.

Friday, 11 June 2010

How to: Avoid the World Cup on Twitter

It's the World Cup! A time for nations across the globe to come together and celebrate an aerodynamic sphere rolling around a piece of grass.

Naturally, Twitter is going to explode; feeds full of news, views and insight from the action in South Africa.

However, if you're concerned about World Cup fatigue, there are some precautionary steps you can take to avoid being deluged by a torrent of football-related news. But only if you're getting your Twitter stream from Tweetdeck. Which you should all be doing anyway.

Filters are fun

It's relatively simple to remove tweets from your stream. Simply click on the settings icon in the top right corner. It's the one which looks like a spanner.

Select the 'Global filters' tab and enter the words you never want to see from your Twitter chums.


And presto, any tweet mentioning your undesirable hashtag or word will no longer appear in your stream.

For reference, here's a list of the words and hashtags you probably want to avoid for the next month or so.




World Cup
Andy Townsend (But most people already have this filter on anyway)