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.