Someone pointed out to me the other day that Contently Managed has been going for three and a half years, while I’ve been doing digital engagement/social media type activities for more than five years now.
Have I learned anything? This blog post’s nearly 3000 words long, the TL:DR version is that perhaps I should have gone in to banking like the careers advisor said, but in all honesty I’ve met too many interesting people in digital to consider otherwise. It’s just a bonus that I never wanted to be rich…
Why did you go, you don’t know your HREF from your elbow
One main reason: the people who I think know their onions say that it’s the conference to go to. So I did. On top of that, Andy Barr – one of the UK’s most digitally-switched on PRs – was doing a talk and it’s always nice to go and lend moral support.
Aren’t these conferences always a waste of money? Can’t you just learn it all by following the hashtag and then waiting for people to post a link to the slides.
Yes you could. But that would be like saying a hamburger is the same as a steak and masturbation is the same as sex with your beautiful partner. You miss out on the finese and the fine points – and the relationship building, which is meant to be a large part of social media.
That’s not to say I wasn’t apprehensive. I was at a £500 ticket event earlier in the year and the keynote speaker’s piece of social media wisdom was “Consider this: one tree falling in a forest – just one tree – makes more noise than the whole forest growing.” Now while I get the point of the metaphor, if that’s the best people have to offer then we’re doomed.
But why go? As with all conferences, the best information isn’t shared on the stages. You get it in the bars and from the networks. You also get to meet really nice and interesting people like Jackie Hole, Gareth Hoyle (or Big Info as I call him) from Manual Link Building, the really interesting team behind wish.co.uk as well as the likes of Geoff Kennedy, Andrew Burnett, Chris Clarkson, Clarke Duncan, the aforementioned Mr Barr, Jane Copland (read this piece – horrifying to think this still goes on), the NiftyMedia team of Sarah Tolan and Bobby-who’s-not-really-a-Bobby and so many others like and Chris Gilchrist from Dundee SEO and WordPress specialists Hitreach.
How kind is The Hodge?
Put it this way – at one point we were waiting ages for a beer at the bar (it was terribly understaffed), Hodge walked past with beers for his table, gave us the whole bucket – without asking for a penny – and then went and stood back in the queue for himself. That speaks volumes. If you want to rewards this level of kindness go sponsor his wedding or pay for the name of his first-born child at Don’t Tweet the Bride.
What did you learn?
I’ve always thought of SEO guys a bit in the same way Bruce Willis thinks of NASA…
What was interesting though was that while I feared many of the talks would be over my head, it was quite the opposite. A lot of the SEO crowd, while hyper-intelligent in the code and link side of stuff – aren’t as nuanced in the world of good content. There were a lot of of talks about how to find good PR people, how to make good content and make it work online, which I found very surprising because – and any journalist, content creator or PR will be the same – that’s the easy bit for me.
The simple steps to good content
And it got me thinking that perhaps one of the reasons SEOs have managed to get so powerful is that – being blunt – far too many marketing and PR types don’t have a clue what they do – and haven’t really been interested either, even if they’ve had to get reports from SEOs. This has allowed (some) SEOs to be fairly black hat about what they do – as long as it got some results. But now that Google’s on a crackdown, they are needing to embrace the more traditional stuff, which has some interesting implications that I’ll come back to later in the week.
Andy Barr also nailed it: PRs should cosy up to SEOs more often as the SEO teams are getting more cash and budget than the PRs.
Anything else? 50 Shades, Gruffalos and lanyards.
Oh hell yes. At one point we were talking linkbait and how a good way to get content shared is to create something from two unusual sources (Lyndon Antcliff’s course explains it far better) for example – 50 Shades of Gruffalo. Now, from that I was challenged to come up with a story that was apt to both sets of fiction. And I’ve done that, but for the love of God there’s no way I’m putting that online. I’m a father and the last thing I want to think is that some kid finds it via Google.
The other challenge I did fall for spectacularly was when talking to the very kind David McLelland from Ribbonworks who was pointing out that you can’t do anything exciting with lanyards in terms of PR or social media, to which I replied in my usual dignified tone, “poppycock dear chap.” Dave then asked me to come up with some stuff.
So, here we go…
PR for Lanyards.
You wouldn’t want to go overboard on trying to push a lanyard firm. Apart from releases about new business wins, trends in the industry and so on, you don’t want to alienate the trade press so keep the stunt-type stuff to once every two months, but also make sure that it is material that may get mentioned in the mainstream press.
Social Media for Lanyards
(of course, the above should be considered the more stunt stuff – your day to day social media work would be talking about your customers, conferences, events and the solutions you provided because social media done well is about your customers/clients and not you.)
Is it worth going to?
No. But I would say that as I’m trying to steal a competitive advantage over other PRs or content creators who don’t go to it. Yes, it’s very worthwhile. The Hodge is a great host, the event was grand, the hotel was nifty. With all your costs included it’s a £500 weekend but well worth it. But if you go because you read this post, you owe me a beer as a thank you.
News today in an article by Gerry Braiden of The Herald that Glasgow football club Celtic FC are planning a redevelopment of the London Road area (here’s all the council documents related)and it includes something that could be seen as a very nice social media touch – if they weren’t planning to charge the fans for it.
Have you seen some of the stuff the Scottish Catholic Church has been putting out recently? Linking a MP’s death with his homosexuality and callling for incest to be approved? Are they deliberately going for the linkbait? Is it easier to do than three Hail Mary’s?
Long story short (as it seems to be going global so you probably know about it): Scottish council bans wee girl blogging with pics. This is a monumental cock-up on a number of levels. Here’s why:
One: Getting kids to embrace social media tools is great (heck, even The Brownies now have a badge for blogging) – it helps develop their language, their writing/photography skills, their confidence, may even get them interested in using technology. To slap that down takes all of that away. It says “Don’t bother, we know best, you’ll do as you’re told. You can only write if we approve what you say.” There goes self-expression eh?
Two: It’s turning PR horrific. There will be those in the council that don’t care this has been mentioned in magazines like WIRED but reputationally? This has got to sting.
Having said that, will it have financial impact? Probably not. No-one’s suddenly not going to the area because of this.
Three: Most importantly, Scotland has a terrible time with food. It’s not a healthy nation, so we’re discouraging someone from taking an interest in food and making things better – we’re also causing a charity to lose out on vital funds.
Four: It’s also a bad day for democracy – making a 9 year old child stop blogging. FFS. Yes, I know all they have done is asked her to stop posting pics of her meals but in essence that hits the blog hard as that form of content is a major part of it.
Argyll & Bute Council were dealt a bloody nose when this blog comes out highlighting the state of school meals. Now instead of coming out and explaining why the meals are so awful and encouraging people to come up with better solutions (you know, like engage with your local residents and perhaps crowdsource a bit), they went old school and tried to stop the messenger. Now they haven’t told her to take the blog down but by stopping her uploading pics of what she’s eating, they’ve killed one of the two main forms of content that goes up.
No. (But I’m convinced there’s more to that than meets the eye – why did it take five months for there to be outrage over that event?)
There’s quite a few ways they could do that, but they could start with the basic idea behind it all: fix the bloody problem, which in this case appears to be school dinners. If you use that as your starting point, the rest falls into place quite easily and creatively.
The SNP have been praised – and rightly so – for many of the ways that they have embraced social media and digital engagement over the last few years, utilising the skills of the likes of Ewan McIntosh and Kirk Torrence.
But today, at the launch of their independence manifesto (or the latest launch – there seems to have been so bloody many) they revealed that there was a ringtone for people to have. And it’s a lovely idea and you could have flashmob stunts with large gatherings all letting their phone ring at the same time.
But the song? Oh dear.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song – One Great Thing by Big Country. But a lot of people know it as the song for this, a lager company:
Now Tennents is a great drinks firm – or at least has a great product but here’s where this choice fails miserably:
It’s almost as old as the outdated tartan and shortbread concept of Scotland. It’s a song for old folk. It says nothing about a modern, progressive Scotland – the Scotland of Mashable, games powerhouses like Take Two, the biotech sector, the companies who helped make the iPod, Dolly and so on.
Also, it hardly does anything for the stereotypical view of Scots who like a drink – hey, now we like drinking lager so much it’s the official tune of independence.
But both of those things are more of a PR fail than a social media fail. And here’s where it failed on that front… there’s two years to go until the vote for independence, that’s a lot of time to be finding copy and material and keeping people interested. So why not crowdsource?
So, instead of telling people what the ringtone for independence was, why not get them to create it? Start a nationwide competition asking people to send in music that would work as a 20-30 second ringtone for a modern Scotland. The non-musical types could just suggest song snippets.
Can you imagine it? Kids (and adults) up and down the country trying to create a ringtone that would have been seen as THE ringtone of Scotland. Others would have been listening to old songs to find something that was suitable.
Then, after (for example) six months you could have had X-Factor or The Voice style whittling down from the best 100 entries to one. The ringtone for Scotland that would have been used for the last year of campaigning.
Now there’s a downside – would all the losers vote against SNP out of spite? But imagine for that first year, people being involved, creating something for their Scotland.
It’s so obvious I can’t work out why they didn’t do it – unless post-Independence they are going to do it for a new national anthem.
(And before anyone asks, I’m pro-Indy so don’t go accusing me of putting the boot in for Unionist reasons)
(And here’s a bit of tittle-tattle – last year this was nearly a song used by Rangers FC for a campaign. I bet the SNP wouldn’t have used it then, given how toxic people view Simply the Best in Glasgow now.)
Who would be a teacher? I mean, really. They have a tough time of it. Parents expect them to be day babysitters without letting them do it right, if a pupil fails it’s not the pupil’s fault, it’s the teacher – it’s a no-win job. You give too much attention to someone, you get labelled. Give too little, you get labelled. All the power is in the hands of the child and not the adult – something many a child exploits.
In days gone by, you would have pupils trawl through the phonebook to get your details and phone you up, annoying you – now they do it on social media instead, forcing teachers to use locked accounts or not be on platforms for fear of what is said if they engage with pupils.
And now, along comes this idea that teachers should provide out of hours support via social media to pupils – and the NASUWT union, along with Dumfries and Galloway Council want to stop this from happening.
Which is wrong, because you know what? It’s a bloody brilliant idea. For everyone concerned – teachers, pupils, the country.
Was skimming through a blogpost by Jeanne Hwang about Pinterest (she’s done a cool CV/resume through Pinterest, which is a nice stunt) but she sums up her feelings on Pinterest by saying “it comes down to the potential“.
And you know what? For a lot of businesses, screw that potential.
Years ago – pre-Twitter & Facebook but very much in the age of websites & blogging – I remember a client had a problem and was appearing on BBC’s Watchdog. I remember telling them that to beat Watchdog we could put everything relevant on their website, seed it about and have the few complaints in context – all before the show had aired. They ignored the advice, thinking it was better to hope that it would go away instead of dealing with it.
Sadly, that’s still the attitude by so many which is why I’m applauding what Ed Staite did with The Sunday Times over the last few days…
Interesting read in The Herald today with a column by Mhairi Clarke about her designer clothing business The Clothes Tree. It talks about how she’s had to learn things about digital engagement to boost her business online. There’s some good observations in it, so go have a read, but here’s some more tips for those like Mhairi trying to wade through the social media waters…