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social media

Are you a South West entrepreneur thinking ‘why bother with Twitter’?

Today I was asked to write a blog post about Twitter – so I’m happy to oblige.

Why? Well, as a media consultant and journalist I often hear comments like ‘why bother with Twitter?’ or ‘I’m on Twitter but I’ve no idea what to do’.

These phrases are familiar because a few years ago that’s exactly what I thought. When I became self-employed in 2009, I had a Twitter account which sat there doing absolutely nothing. I would occasionally send out a tweet but couldn’t really see how much good it would do for me in business.

However after about 18 months, for some reason, I really thought about it compared with other social media platforms. I realised it’s potentially a great way to connect with people – and here’s the key thing – very quickly with minimum effort. Also as a journalist, I’m often looking for good stories so this could be an effective way to achieve another good outcome. So I set myself a challenge – to give Twitter a year and try to systematically build my audience to work for me more effectively.

I put out of my mind the fact that Twitter is global, has billions of accounts, loads of spam accounts and can be risky in terms of trolling etc. I trusted my common sense to deal with these issues as they arose (and they have from time to time and I’ve dealt with them as needed). I decided to use Twitter according to my agenda, my audience and my desired business reach. Therefore good connections for me are in the south west and London, they are people rather than organisations and one key thing – I share, I share a lot, I share as much as I tweet and I share things which interest me or which I think are generally interesting. If you do this, I guarantee at some point someone will say to you ‘I really enjoy your Twitter feed you share some good stuff’ or ‘Oh yes, I saw you talking about that on Twitter’.  You are creating your own news service.

Fiona 2013 - 3

Very quickly, having made that decision to take Twitter seriously, it became addictive and I got engaged in various conversations. I then decided to think about the best times to tweet – and you will find me talking most in the evenings and the mornings.

However the pivotal moment came when I saw a tweet asking for someone who could write a script and who had experience in the education sector. I answered as I met those criteria with a phrase ‘that’s me’. That tweet led to another tweet, which led to an email which led to a telephone conversation which led to a paid-for trip to London for a meeting which then led to a project which paid me £3,000. This was a short-term piece of work which I could relate directly back to a single tweet with a company which would never have found me – or vice versa – if it wasn’t for this amazing social platform.

That sold me on Twitter and I’ve had many great outcomes since. I’ve been offered work by people who’ve engaged with me, made the effort to research me online and then offered me work. I’ve been able to place publicity for clients and myself, and I’ve raised my profile in my own community in the south west. I will often go into a room full of business people – many of whom I’ve never met – and  people start talking to me as if they know me. Talk about the best ice-breaker.

Another outcome is that those who are beginners now pay me to get them started on Twitter – a totally unexpected outcome. So I’ve actually put my ad hoc strategy into something more strategic and started to apply it across Facebook and, more recently Pinterest. I don’t claim to be an expert, I just understand the concept of social conversation over the internet and how to control some of that conversation. I’m still discovering and I often go to workshops by others to increase my own personal knowledge.

My top tips are:

Really be clear as to what is a good outcome on Twitter for you. That way you can track success.

When you make a clear connection – take the conversation from the virtual world to the real world.

Share, share, share.

And finally please follow me @mum3fi

 

Now I really have got a little Klout! – Have you?

Today I have done a little dance around the room because my Klout score has gone up to 65 – the highest it’s ever been.

This may seem like a small victory but it’s taken me four years to get to 60 and a week to jump five points – so I believe blogging more often must have something to do with that. It’s not so much the blog itself, as only a few people take the time to comment on the blog page. It’s the interactions and comments on other virtual spaces, the shares and the likes which seem to make the difference.

 

What's your number?

What’s your number?

There are many analytics around Klout – which will interest those of you who use figures, numbers, systems, columns, detail and ROI stuff. I tend, according to my profile (and it’s true) more general results – like seeing 65 pop up unexpectedly on a Monday afternoon.

When I started learning about social media and its potential three years ago, and learned about Klout and the fact that it measures your true influence across the internet, my score was 28. That was at a time where I messed around a bit with Facebook, had a Twitter account but did nothing with it – and the same with LinkedIn. I’ve not really done Pinterest, Flickr or other things which are now more common.

 

Gradually my influence rose as I became more active. As I became more active I saw more results. I gathered case studies for stories, ideas for stories, have made friends and have made connections which have brought me clients. But it’s not been overnight, it’s been gradual and it’s required work. But I can point to at least two clients, one long term, which have been the direct result of doing stuff in the virtual space. You would be surprised who is watching you and saying nothing but absorbing that information. I’m not talking about this in a creepy sense, but more in a ‘putting yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind’ sense.

When I reached the golden 50 – I got a free gift of business cards – thanks very much. That was when I found out that in the USA, there are many high end business activities or events that you cannot access without a score that high. Big internet companies will filter guests by looking at how ‘engaged’ they are. I suspect that this will be coming our way too, though we’re not there yet.

So everyone, don’t be afraid of Klout. If you like facts and figures, it will give you all of that data. If, like me, you just want to see results and are not hung up on the detail, then know this one fact – if you engage, you will be engaging and if you’re engaging, you will be engaged – and I’m not necessarily talking romance here!

 

Review my new column – out in Wiltshire on Thursday!

It’s with some pride that today I can shout about my new FAMILY column in the local weekly newspaper in Wiltshire. Rush out and buy it on Thursday! Or even better buy a subscription.

The Gazette & Herald, which covers Chippenham, Malmesbury, Devizes, Calne, Marlborough, Pewsey and all the villages in between, is sister paper to the Swindon Advertiser, the Wiltshire Times, Wiltshire Business and other publications.

New family column for Wiltshire weekly newspapers

My first Family pages for the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald on Thursday.

I’ll be writing about anything and everything which affects families and parents in these areas of Wiltshire, but I want to be interactive. I would welcome any suggestions for subject matter – both serious and more light-hearted. Interviews with people who live or work in the county  are a key factor.

If you are a parent in Wiltshire who has had to grapple with difficult issues eg. domestic abuse, eating disorders, bereavement, obesity, mental health issues, bullying, caring, chronic illness, disability, debt, homelessness – please share your stories. What can others learn from your experience?

If you’ve got a consumer problem that you’ve been struggling with, I’ll try to help. Or if you are a parent who has achieved something amazing, let me know.

Sometimes I’ll be having a rant on something that’s annoyed me, there’ll be consumer items, guest blogs, and lots of mentions of social media. The more interactive the better. If you comment via letter, Twitter or Facebook, I may use those in the following week.

This is an adventure and I’d like you to join me – fionastuff@gmail.com

Putting the DIY into PR

I’ve worked with many small businesses and charities over the years and have found that plenty would like to have a regular presence in the media or online but few have the budget to match.

PR takes time, and while a couple of articles in the press may help with instant publicity, often what is needed is a long-term strategy to develop a brand and continuous plugging away at getting customer recognition. Many small organisations lack the skills internally and can’t afford to hire someone on an on-going basis, so how can they build a media profile?

Fiona and I have been puzzling about how to tackle this issue for a while. We were talking with social media whizz, Jackie Hutchings and fellow blogger and journalist Jo Smyth, it turned out that they’d been pondering the same thoughts too.

So we’ve decided to join forces and run a course on – to put it bluntly – do it yourself PR.

We have more than enough experience between us to teach the basics on how to get started on social networks, to engage an audience, blog and write a press release. We find that many small business businesses have stories to tell but they don’t know how to communicate them effectively on or offline. There is a method in writing a decent press release, and there are strategies to deploy to give that story more chance of being used. This day will help delegates understand how the media works, what makes a good story and what doesn’t.

We are prepared for complete beginners, who find Facebook, Twitter and Google+ a complete modern mystery, and for those who use social media but would like to engage in a more effective way. By the end of the day you should be able to identify and write a good story about your news and know how to maximise the ways of communicating that message. Our aim is that delegates walk away with real, practical skills to build on what they already know.

And the final thing is, this course is aimed just at women.

We want a relaxed vibe to the day, where questions (however basic) can be asked with no judgement.

My DIY PR takes place at the Mechanics Institute in Milton Rd, Swindon on Tuesday, October 23rd.

 

Anyone interested can book here

http://mydiy-pr.eventbrite.com

 

A few things I hate about LinkedIn….please don’t sell at me!

Today’s blog is a bit of a rant. I cannot help it but within the space of 12 hours, two things about LinkedIn have really annoyed me.

It’s also made me think about the role each social media offering plays in my life, both professional and personal.

For me, LinkedIn is a professional site where I can share insights, news, interesting bits and bobs with other business people.

These might be people I admire, I like, I’ve worked with or I simply know or they’ve requested to be linked to me and I’ve checked them out and thought ‘yes’.

I do try not to directly market to individuals with whom I am linked. I try not to do this because frankly I hate it being done to me. I usually post information about what I’m doing, appeals for help etc on my profile or status and leave it to others to engage directly if they are interested.

I’ve found that if I’m linked to an organisation like a hotel – I might get individual messages relating to events which I usually delete. Today, I’ve been targetted by two separate individuals in two different ways and it’s safe to say I’m fed up.

One was a person from overseas, asking me if she could talk to me as she’s got ideas for television programmes and would like to talk to someone about them. There followed a basic list of about five ideas. Great.

I get numerous requests like this on an annual basis and they take up lots of time. People often think they’ve got a great idea for television but have no idea how to take the next step. Well, let  me give it to you straight – go to an established independent production company in the UK and ask for a hearing. Unless you are hand in hand with someone within broadcasting that’s one of the only ways to be heard. And another fact, less than five per cent of those ideas will get beyond first base. I know this because I’ve tried it many times, and yes, I’ve had some success.

Hearing the ideas, explaining how tv works, helping with contacts takes a lot of time and effort. Plus I don’t know how the system works in Australia (where this person is purportedly based), it could be totally different but I doubt it. And if it’s America, you’ll probably get all literature posted back to you unopened.

So, harsh as it may sound, I declined the message. Only to get two more with lots of question marks and exclamation marks as though I’ve done something heinous. In the end I send a brief reply outlining the above. So I’m now giving notice – if I don’t know you well on LinkedIn and you want that type of information – I’ll give it to you at my normal daily working rate. Please DM me, I’d be more than happy to hear from you.

Don’t yell at me with your marketing message on LinkedIn – that’s not what I like. Tell me quietly and I’ll consider…..

The other message came from a man asking me to buy his book. It’s related to raising money for charity, it’s a dreadful personal story. The first time I received this message, I replied in some detail. I’ve received it again, the same message clearly sent out as a round-robin request a few months later.

How do I feel about that? My empathy is the same but I still feel like I’m being barked at in a very personal way. If I want to buy a book I will, please don’t try to make me guilty enough to buy it. I went through a hard time with a terrible illness a few years ago and I started to write a book about it – but don’t worry I won’t send you personal messages trying to sell it to you. I’ll let you know about it in passing and the rest is up to you!

Is there an etiquette to this type of marketing? I don’t really know. I just know what really annoys me.

And by the way, I’m holding a DIY PR day for business women on October 23 in Swindon to help you do your own PR stuff.  If you are interested – just contact us through this website. I won’t be sending you direct messages on LinkedIn!

 

What has Twitter done for you this week? Come on – share the pr love!

Today, I decided to talk about a week where social media has really started to show its power.

I’ve been taking social media seriously now for the last two years, sometimes feeling as if I’m too embedded in a virtual environment – a bit like that scene from the Stargate movie where they put their heads through the ‘watery’ porthole which sucks them in….

But I think it’s paying off in so many ways. First and foremost it’s the friends I’m making all over the world – I can’t believe that someone from Singapore, or San Francisco finds anything I say remotely of interest. This week, I’ve connected with Jason in America (no I’ve never met him) and we’ve decided to mutually appreciate each other for a month. So choosing positive key words to describe someone you’ve never met – and probably never will – across Twitter. Might seem a bit pointless but it’s strangely fun and all in the best possible taste.

Also I’ve been flagging up a DIY PR event we’re holding in the south west next month for women in business. I had four inquiries on the first day I started tweeting about it. I wasn’t expecting that!

With my even more business-like hat on I’ve got two lots of paid work in the last two weeks purely through messages put across on social media. How did that happen? I think it’s a question of engagement and being there – that simple, replying at the right time. And, of course, we are good at what we do…

None of that covers the countless RTs we’ve enjoyed and I’ve enjoyed from people all over the place – as you can tell Twitter is my favourite site though I’m also active on Linked In and Facebook.

On the downside I did have one nasty attack as well. Someone thought it would be funny to call me names – I didn’t know this person so I just blocked them. After  saying ‘sad little man’ – if, of course it was a man at all.

Twitter and social media outcomes

Get tweeting – don’t be afraid to show off a little….

All in all, I’m enjoying my time online and it’s paying off in unexpected ways. Long may it continue….

At a time of pride over the Olympics – we’re celebrating too!!! Find out why?

Today I feel hugely proud of our company, Mellow Media Ltd, as I have just attended a meeting which brought to a close three months’ work on an amazing project.

We have played an important part in running, developing and implementing a marketing strategy to raise well over £4m in just six weeks.

Let’s just think about that for a moment – that’s £666,667 a week or £95,238 every day. 

Anyone connected with me on my social media network could have picked up my messages and tweets about Westmill Solar Cooperative or @westmillsolar.
It was the brainchild of Wiltshire farmer and entrepreneur Adam Twine to create a solar power station on his land but, instead of allowing a big company in to run the station, offer it up to people within the wider community. A less lucrative option for him – but in keeping with his green ethics.
Investors could bid for shares by putting in an investment of between £250 and £20k maximum. If successful, the cooperative will allow one investment, one vote. The aim was to make the cooperative accessible, open to as many people as possible and giving all an equal say, regardless of their investment or wealth.
Adam has created a similar project before, on the same site, Westmill Windfarm – that had taken years to come to fruition and had also raised a similar sum in community shares but  over a longer period, 12 weeks – and a different economic time -2007. Five years on, it has over 2,000 investors and is providing strong returns on that investment.
This time, while the integrity of the project was clear, it seemed a tall order to raise that much money. Together we came up with a marketing strategy which involved much PR, advertising, leafleting, e-mailing and other features. In our case, we looked after PR, advised on other parts of the strategy as and when required.
We’d worked on the project from mid-May working towards the opening of a share offer in mid-June which would stay open for around six weeks – a cut-off date of July 31. The aim was to raise more than £4m from would-be investors to create the UK’s only community-run solar power station.

In fact the world’s largest community run solar power station. 

 

Hundreds invested millions in UK's largest community run solar power station

This was a big ask. We are in a long-term economic depression with many businesses being happy just to survive. And many families suffering a stagnation or drop in income.
In our favour,  we had a small, but illustrious team of people hoping to raise that kind of money in a short space of time. And fantastic partners who would step in to help out and support us as much as possible. And the offer on the table was a strong one – returns way above anything a bank could offer at the moment, or for the foreseeable future.
But, of course, PR is never guaranteed. This felt like a test of the value of PR as it’s so difficult to quantify. It’s about brand, messaging, information sharing and story-telling all rolled into one. So we stuck to our basic principles of telling a story well, with accuracy and always a picture. And we always had something new to say – a new nugget, a new angle.
 When the share offer closed on July 31, it was over-subscribed by some margin. The message had clearly got out there. How did that happen?
As it was a project rather than a ‘slow burn PR strategy for the long-term’, I tracked some of the coverage we received.  I found almost 100 separate items both online and offline. More than 50 per cent were online, and often, but not exclusively, within the specialist ‘green’ or ‘renewable energy’ sector.
More than 30 per cent were articles and features in the local press – within a 40km radius covering Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Bristol.
There were around eight radio interviews or mentions in that period and two exposures on regional television. As for the national press, there were five items in total, on and offline.
None of this included the fact that traditional written articles which appear in a newspaper, magazine or paper publication also tend to appear online – so the online total was probably much higher.
As the ideal target was reached, our role has now ended. But has it? When involved in a project like this which had a very specific beginning, middle and end – something always remains.
For me it’s a deeper respect for those who work in the renewable energy sector, who do so, often in the face of much cynicism because they feel it’s the right thing to do. Even though they might have to justify their position often.
Friends have been made, connections forged which will continue in to the future. And it’s this legacy, at a personal level, which will mean the most.

I don’t want to talk about Rebekah or Charlie Brooks – okay?

We all know it was all over the news yesterday, don’t we? Among the chatter and noise, there were a few voices of reason – saying ‘shut up!’, ‘contempt of court‘. I responded to a couple. Is this going to be the case where the social media chatter and speculation and judgements cause a court case to collapse? Is that in anyone’s interests?

That’s all I plan to say on that matter. However in a quieter corner of social media land, I stumbled across an interesting debate on whether or not it is legal to ‘name and shame’ a company online when they’ve not paid their bills or allegedly given bad service. I joined that chatter as it interests me as a journalist – though, I’m no lawyer.

It was a timely debate because only last week such a message about a company in the Bath area was put on Twitter and I flagged up how damaging that can be with the social media outlets we all have access to these days. It’s easy for someone to vent their spleen over such things. Within seconds though, many Tweeters had defended this company and supported it. I felt it right that I re-tweet those comments to redress the balance. For me, the fact that that happened did re-dress the balance. So even if that company had that negative comment on its Twitterfeed on its website, for example, the positive comments would come in behind and cancel out the effect. If the company then went on to deal positively with that complaint (as it should any way), a negative can become a positive.

So back to the debate. Can you post statements online about a company’s bad service, non-payment or any matter about a company or organisation – would that make you subject to legal action? My answer is yes, you can put anything you like online about a company even if it’s defamatory. But like anything, beware the consequences. We do live in a democracy and we should have freedom of speech.

Defamation can be defended. If what you are saying is true and you have paperwork to support your claim, it’s fine. If it’s your experience and then you claim it’s true, ask yourself can the company defend itself against such claims? If it cannot, you are fine. Truth is the best defence – though there are others such as fair comment and public interest. These are harder to prove.

For me it’s about common sense.

Also beware of ‘malicious’ intent – it’s fine to say “I’m having a problem with such and such company, is anyone out there having problems too?’ but it’s not fine to get Twitter followers to continually malign that said company, especially if they have no direct experience of it. What I don’t know is if it’s fine for people to keep re-tweeting negative messages. I don’t think this has been examined in court yet.

People have a very funny view of defamation and libel. It’s the same with invasion of privacy. As journalists we often come across this. Don’t assume that just because you don’t want something said, that it won’t be expressed.

Don't tell tall stories online - stick to the truth....

I once had a recruitment agency in the Swindon area which threatened to take me to court if I mentioned the fact that one of its former employees was taking it to an industrial tribunal. What nonsense! I almost shrieked with laughter.

Industrial tribunals are public events and the press are informed of them – any journalist can go along and report on proceedings. If someone lies in those proceedings (same with a court) as long as a company is approached for a right of reply, a journalist is free to print that lie with any response (contemporaneously). If the company doesn’t like it, that’s tough and  completely irrelevant.

I recently had someone talk to me about an inquest and how could she stop a journalist attending as a family member had passed away suddenly and it was traumatic all round. I gently told her that she couldn’t. An inquest is a public event and journalists are informed. It’s often fifty/fifty whether they will turn up or not – but they are perfectly entitled to do so. In this case, as it happens, no journalist attended.

I had another case where I was producing a short film about a Cheltenham-based company which was clearly  ripping people off for thousands of pounds. We contacted the boss  – remember, you can only defame a person, not a company – and he responded with legal threats.

The day of transmission, he turned up at the studio with a lawyer and sat in a room with us outlining why we were defaming him, his fellow director and therefore his company. It was a long drawn-out meeting but we knew he had no real defence. The pivotal moment came when I said ‘you’re right we are defaming you’. He was silenced by this. I went on to say ‘but there are defences for doing so and one is ‘it’s true’. His solicitor nodded in agreement. The item was aired that night.

The funny thing was, about two months’ later,  I had a call from this man’s solicitor. He wanted  me to know – and laugh ironically – at the fact that he had been employed to defend this business man’s honour (and I use the term loosely) and had not been paid! Probably never was!

Cyber-bullying….are you at risk? Or a family member? Consider this….

Would you notice if a cyber-bully targeted you?

Cyber bullying – we’ve all heard of it haven’t we? In this age of social mediaand the freedom of the internet, there are risks.

 

People can be lovely, supportive, connected but occasionally someone can be vile or abusive. Or just plain horrid.

 

This bullying can take many forms. It can actually creep on you unexpectedly. How do I know this? Well, it recently happened to a close member of my family and it took me some days to realise what was happening…

When a member of my family changed schools recently, he left behind some friends that well, let’s just say, were best left behind. He had had some issues with one or two before and, although sorted out, it was no bad thing to have left those individuals behind.

Unlike when I was a child though, these days youngsters can keep in touch in a way they couldn’t before. That means keeping in touch with friends who have gone elsewhere to school. And those children know other children. I think you might be getting my drift here.

This family member mentioned to me that through Skype, he was keeping in touch with friends.

Through those friends, other so-called friends were also making contact.

For a while that worked okay. Then those other ‘friends’ (and I use the words advisedly) started sniping at him. Firstly it was criticising his ‘text speak’ suggesting that he should know how to spell properly. Then it was appearing to send a message and then deleting it. No swearing, nothing obvious, in fact really petty. Initially it was treated as such.

After a period of time, Skype turned to texts. Texts turned to at least one swear word that I’m aware of. Texts turned to sniping remarks. Trying to make him feel small and stupid. Again, really petty stuff.

But it suddenly occurred to me that I was viewing this as an adult in my 40s, not as a child would view it. For a child, this is serious stuff. This means that this petty person could be influencing people who really matter, friends who really matter to that child. He was fearful of losing true friends as a result of this means of being sniping and petty and needling. This was beginning to hurt.

Even when I argued that true friends would not be influenced, it cut no ice.

Again, I realised that it’s much easier for an adult – and a journalist at that – to brush off such criticism, such personal sniping. It’s not easy for a child.

I also realised that if the recipient of petty comments is hurt by them – that’s bullying. It also becomes firmly rooted when the person doesn’t stop when the child tells them to stop. The only reason this didn’t spill over into Facebook is that this family member doesn’t have a profile on that social media site. He’s too young and not allowed.

This was a lesson learned for me as an adult and, hopefully, for him as a child. As a family we’ve now discussed it. Cyber-bullying may not be blatantly obvious but the effects can be upsetting and it can happen over a very short period.

When a final text arrived accusing my family member of something trivial, I replied, warning that individual to leave him alone or I would be paying a visit to parents. I know where this person lives.

Since then no texts, no contact, to my knowledge. I hope the warning was enough.

But from now on, I’m much more aware of my family member’s interaction over the internet and texts. It’s worth remembering that it’s not just the obvious risks, but other, seemingly ridiculous, nonsense can creep up on a family unawares.

Have you forgotten Meredith? It’s all about Miss Knox.

Let's not forget Meredith....

Social media world is buzzing tonight with the freeing of Amanda Knox, as an Italian appeal court quashes her conviction for killing Meredith Kercher, from London.

 

It’s interesting as a UK resident to see the American reaction to this result – it seems many, many people always believed Amanda Knox to be innocent.

 

Even Oprah Winfrey apparently did a programme

involving Miss Knox’s parents.

 

In fact, the reaction suggests that Miss Knox will almost be welcomed home as a hero. All in keeping with the impression I have of this lady, an outgoing, all-American girl, confident and, to me it seems, a bit in-your-face.

I wasn’t there to hear the case in its entirety and as my Italian allows me to ask for an ice-cream and that’s all – well, it wouldn’t have made much difference any way.

 

But on seeing this reaction, I just keep thinking what about Meredith Kercher and her family?

 

What must they be feeling now? Does any one care about them? Will we ever truly know what happened to poor Meredith?

This family has kept themselves very private during this latest twist in a tale of murder and sex.

And while, it’s right that any miscarriage of justice is revealed, what about the victims in all of this?

We must not forget that at the centre, there is a family whose child was murdered in horrible circumstances and there is, to me, something grating about celebrating an all-round awful situation.

A man is serving a sentence for his involvement in the killing of Meredith. But this appeal case does raise so many questions about what happened to her.

 

I feel so uneasy about all of this. I don’t want innocent people to spend time in prison but let’s not forget that a young woman died here and her family don’t have the answers.

 

So as I see the buzz and watch the media reports, my heart goes out to the Kercher family – because for them, nothing has changed. Meredith has gone and they have to deal with that day in, day out. Tomorrow won’t bring a day of freedom for them.

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