30 Dec 2013

2014 Predicting the Predictable (Yawn)

Being Predictable boring.
If you want to predict your success for 2014 in business, in engaging more influencers, in increasing sales, in promoting your product, services, unique selling points, benefits for the customer yada yada yada blah blah … then its simple. Stop churning out the same predictable uninspiring content as everyone else and be willing to try something new and relevant to your business and your objectives.

  • Ask the right questions
  • Listen more
  • Really listen more
  • Weigh up the risks of standing out versus the risk of blending in
  • Make a Plan
  • Join the dots with networks on and offline
  • Take action
But then you knew I was going to say that, right? Geezo, I hate being predictable. Maybe Facebook is dead, after all that study of 25 people might have been completely accurate. Maybe you do need an Instagram account even though your business has no images to share. Hang on. Predictions are all well and good and they do have a value but are they relevant to your business, budget, target audience, location? Are they wide sweeping statements aimed at generating discussion amongst marketers or are they really useful to your organisation?

If I can help with social media marketing strategy, training or communications then feel free to get in touch. You can find me on LinkedIn or email annie at annie boyd dot com.

20 Nov 2013

The Auto-complete Truth #WomenShould

A very powerful ad campaign by Ogilvy for UN Women which needs no further introduction or comment. Find out more about UN Women by following them on twitter @UN_Women and monitor the response to this film with the hashtag #WomenShould.

18 Nov 2013

Time To Challenge The System?

One of my first ever jobs was as a front of house receptionist in a large hotel. We operated a bizarre system for arrivals and departures known as the 3 Day Live which involved identical black folders and lots of registration cards. None of the receptionists understood why a hotel that was open 7 days a week worked to a system that involved just 3 days, but I was a junior so kept my mouth shut and muddled through. At check out there were long queues and confusion but as the system was the brainchild of my line manager, his ego ensured it stayed in place. 

When I worked for the airlines someone in marketing came up with the idea to offer business class passengers the delicacy of strawberries and cream ice-cream during Wimbledon fortnight. How lovely! However it was a scorching hot summer and the ice-creams became a gooey sticky mess before we'd even taken off. Nice in theory, impractical in reality.

The management never questioned the queues at reception and in all my years as a flight supervisor/ product rep I never met anyone from the marketing department. If they had set foot in an Airbus galley the ice-cream idea would never have got off the ground.This lack of communication is a familiar challenge for large organisations especially when it goes unnoticed and unchallenged. 

Answer honestly. 
  • How well do the departments within your organisation communicate? 
  • Is the right information being reported to the senior team? 
  • What information and feedback do the senior team share with other departments? 
  • What does your organisation do with all that data it collects? 
  • Do you spot trends in data and use that to shape decisions?

Digital reports provide a huge amount of insight into consumer behaviour but they are only part of the puzzle. Technology is your friend but a person, a real life human being, still needs to identify and ask for specific data in relation to measuring success against business goals. Internal communication systems then need to support the sharing and discussion of that information to turn knowledge into action. (Action being product dev., the planning and shaping of marketing campaigns, staff training, identifying strengths and weaknesses etc). The data won't support business development whilst its gathering dust in the corner and it won't supporting business growth if only half of the team know what's happening. 

That all sounds like common sense but as a consultant I experience many different working environments, in a wide range of sectors and I know the reality is that often departments work in isolation. It's not intentional, it's simply habit that is supported by out of date systems, designed for organisations that have drastically changed in the last 5,10,15 years. In sticking with the habit and never challenging the system (with a smile not a raised fist) they are missing huge opportunities. 

Talking and openly sharing information saves time, effort and money. It boosts morale and helps teams identify objectives and achieve shared goals, enabling organisations to be proactive rather than reactive. Is it time to address the internal systems and working cultures that are potentially holding you back?

If I can help with strategy, training or consultancy feel free to get in touch. You'll find me on LinkedIn or email annie at annie boyd dot com. 

You may find these articles about communication useful;

Cartoon images via dementeddenizens.com

5 Jul 2013

Elvis Has Left The Building

This flyer was pushed through my door this morning. Usually they go straight from the letterbox to the bin but this caught my attention and made me laugh. Often the best marketing campaigns are simple and straight to the point. Marketing doesn't have to cost a fortune or be overly technical as these home made flyers prove. Clever wording, an image and a contact number covers all bases.

This particular Elvis delivered a second flyer highlighting his window cleaning business... I'm tempted to employ his service purely to see if he turns up in a flared trousers suit with rhinestone collar. I'll keep you posted!

Maths, Marketing and Breaking The Rules

Mary and Jenny are picking apples in the orchard. Mary works faster than Jenny and has 40 apples in her basket. Jenny has 34. They throw 4 apples away because they are bruised and both eat one for lunch. How many apples do they have in total?

Who cares?!!! In maths lessons I was far more interested in what Mary and Jenny were going to do with all those apples than boring old sums. Were they budding entrepreneurs or victims of child labour?

There are endless, well intentioned articles online about social media marketing, some are bursting full of facts and figures, percentages and statistics, gadgets and tools. Others are written like rule books with statements about what you should and shouldn't do and what you can and cannot say. Then there’s the numbers game, if you haven’t got 1,000 followers you’ll never get far. Most importantly, if you follow the Golden Rules, you’ll be aware that it’s a big mistake to ever, EVER mention on twitter what you are having for lunch. Talking about food seriously bores the pants off people.

But ......hang on, lets put our business hat on and go back to the orchard.

Mary and Jenny have 68 apples for sale. They've worked hard sourcing the finest product and know how good it tastes. They can sell their products individually or they can bake apple pies and sell everything to Bob who owns the local coffee shop. What option would make the biggest profit for the least effort? Would they need 1,000 likes on their Facebook page to be successful? Would it be beneficial if their sales pitch involved talking to customers about those big juicy apples?

When social media was brand spanking new everyone was cautious, brands made mistakes and lessons were learnt. Marketing experts generously shared their opinions and experiences and somewhere down the line those conversations were translated into 'The Golden Rules'. Habits were formed and barriers were created.

Rules are made to be broken, or at least questioned. Shake things up a little, be a rebel, add a little cinnamon to that apple pie and then at lunchtime, when people are hungry, tweet about food and tempt them to your stall.

If I can help with social media strategy, training or consultancy feel free to get in touch via LinkedIn, or email annie at annie boyd dot com.

30 Jun 2013

Is LinkedIn morphing into Facebook?

Is LinkedIn morphing into Facebook? 

Personally I prefer to separate my work from my private life. Lately amongst my network on Linkedin I've noticed that the lines between business and pleasure appear to be blurring. In the last week I've spotted announcements of births, deaths and marriages, ‘like’ to win competitions, a dirty joke and the odd expletive. Swearing in a work environment may or may not be offensive based on your sector or personal opinion, but is it acceptable to the wider network who view your updates? Will your profile be overlooked if potential employers know you're about to get married and disappear on honeymoon for a month or that you've returned to work after a period of illness?

I work in social media and train everyone from the office junior to the CEO on how to use social networks effectively. Anyone can learn which buttons to press, that’s the easy part, but the challenge can be focusing on the objective. Why are you using LinkedIn? What do you want to achieve from investing time in it? Who do you want to connect with?

I wonder if those who are going down the ‘Like’ this post to win route are being clever or lazy? How good can business be if you need to offer a share of your lottery winnings to get people to notice you?

Encouraging people to subscribe to updates by 'liking' your Company Profile is strongly recommended but if the content is poor what impression does that give of your product, service or organisation? 

Personally the more updates I see of little interest or value, the more I reach for the hide button, which you’ll locate if you hover your mouse to the right corner of the update.

I’d love your thoughts on this. Have you noticed a change in the style and topic of updates amongst your network in the last few months? Is this change an improvement or an unwanted distraction?

Please feel free to share your comments on this blog, on LinkedIn, Google+ or on twitter @AnnieBeee. You’ll notice I've missed out Facebook, that’s reserved for close friends, family and where I’ll happily to take a share of your lottery winnings.

If you are new to LinkedIn and want some top tips then this article covers the basics.

18 Mar 2013

Ear Muffs - the perfect social media accessory?

Ear muffs. The perfect addition to your social media kit?

I've been using social media to promote businesses since 2008 and whilst I still love it, I am frequently driven insane by all the noise. The dictionary had a particularly apt definition of that word;

Noise - a disturbance in a communications system that interferes 
with or prevents reception of signal or of information.

There is an endless amount of information online about social media. Some of it is educational and entertaining, some of it is trumpet blowing, jargon-filled nonsense. The latter is the 'noise' which interferes with the signal, and stops businesses getting the most practical and relevant advice for social media marketing. It impacts on their confidence as conflicting messages cause confusion.

Last week I took the reigns of a clients social media accounts, setting up and managing them for 5 days as part of a product launch. It was insightful as I got the chance to escape the noise and enjoyed being undercover, finding new people to follow, reading and sharing content that was different, and learning something new. This is why I fell in love with social media in the first place and it was thrilling to be re-acquainted with that experience. I was like a kid in a candy shop.

On LinkedIn I noticed that very few of my clients 400 connections posted status updates. A missed opportunity but a striking comparison to my own, where it's an endless feed of news...or should that be noise? On the twitter feed people were chatting, rather than posting links to articles entitled '10 Apps You Can't Live Without' and '5 New Measurement Tools that will Change Your Life'....less drama, more inspiration. How refreshing!

The experience made me stop and think about how my own sector behaves online and how I react to it. If I find it noisy and boring I imagine other people feel the same, including the very people we are aiming to attract and impress. If I too am guilty of adding to the 'noise'...after all, here I am sharing my opinion.... then I'm going to make an effort to turn down the volume and only tell the stories that will hold your attention, not 'change your life'. It's tricky to look at your own business or sector through an outsiders eyes but it's an exercise worth doing.

The result? It's time for me to de-clutter, lose some connections and change the channel. In the same way that a marriage needs a date night, I need to focus my energy on having the kind of online conversations which made me fall in love with social in the first place, and shut out the noise from those shouting too loud. 

Comments welcome.

22 Feb 2013

What would you do if money was no object?

At the end of a busy week where I've sat on packed trains with miserable looking commuters, off to the daily grind, this little film by Tragedy And Hope is crying out to be shared. Take a moment out of your day and ask yourself the question 'How would you really like to spend your life'?

When I first start working with new clients I ask them 'What would success look like?' What do you want to achieve? What is your objective for investing time in using social media? We need to mark a starting point in order to monitor results and measure success. We need goal posts to keep the strategy on track. It makes sense, it's good practise, it helps us to grow and develop. Most importantly it helps us to react to outside influences and tweak the strategy accordingly.

In life in general the same theory can be applied. I consider myself to be very lucky in that I get to do a job that I really enjoy. Sure, there are parts of it which I find challenging, there are bits I don't like and there are times when I am stressed but on the whole I know I've found the right path for me. The best thing about being a social media consultant is that I'm not stuck in an office. I have the freedom to be out and about and I get to meet some really cool people. People who amaze, inspire, impress me with their knowledge and creativity, with their get up and go, with their ability to make things happen - even when all the odds are against them. These people have set themselves goals, they have something to work towards and they are flexible in the path that takes them there. 

Everyone has different ambitions, goals and dreams. Some desire designer clothes, fancy cars or big houses. Others dream of living a simple life in a remote place. Personally I think the advice in the film is invaluable......figure out what would make you happy, master it, get paid for your knowledge and spend your life living, rather than just existing. Often, the only obstacle in your way ...is you.

Comments welcome.

13 Feb 2013

Happy Valentines Day

Hearts (The Valentines Day Video) from Moist Creation on Vimeo.

It's Valentines Day and I can't think of a better time to write about my love affair with Vimeo. 
Vimeo is a gorgeous social network full of creative, intelligent, thought provoking films and people sharing their art and discussing their work. I am inspired by the film makers and their view of the world, the content is so varied and so beautifully put together. 'Staff Picks' are a short cut to the best films on the site and an easy way to lose an hour without noticing the time passing!

I use Vimeo for many things - for work I find great content for blog posts or training workshops and presentations. In my personal life I often send a wee film to those I care about to cheer up their day or to let them know I was thinking of them.

The film I've chosen to share is entitled 'Can you Imagine a World without Love?' by Xander Bartole & Sebastian Ungrad and will hopefully make you smile this Valentines Day.

If you've got a few minutes spare I'd suggest you also watch this beautiful film by Poppy de Villeneuve which I've used in a previous blog about the art of communication. Enjoy!

1 Feb 2013

Isle of Cumbrae

A client has just sent me this beautiful photograph of the Isle of Cumbrae, or Millport as it's more commonly known. This is going to be the view from my office next week and it's so gorgeous I just had to share it. 

I'll be getting the ferry from Largs, which brings back memories of my Granny treating us to ice-cream from Nardini's and many a 'summer' holiday spent walking along the esplanade in the pouring rain. Happy days ....isn't it great to be Scottish?

Update 7th Feb -  The ferry had a technical problem so I owe a very big thanks to the team at National Watersports Centre Cumbrae for the best commute to and from work EVER! They even let me drive on the way back to Largs, bouncing over the waves (screaming like a girl!) and having the time of my life. I highly recommend a visit! Keep up to date with their news on twitter @Sail_Cumbrae .

23 Jan 2013

Quick Question....

Is there a song that motivates you when you feel like giving up? A tune that lifts your spirits? A song that makes you get up out of your chair and dance around the office like a craaaaaaazy person?

I'm doing a bit of research for a project I'm working on and would really appreciate it if you could share your top tune in the comments below, or tweet me @AnnieBeee with the hashtag #Motivation, thank you!

p.s Bruce Springsteen 'Dancing in the Dark' does it for me.

Since I posted this article last night lots and lots of suggestions have been put forward, many I don't know but I'll be checking them out. I stopped the list at 50 ... if your suggestion isn't there apologies but thanks for taking part ;-)

1) House of Pain - Jump Around
2) Dope -Take your Best Shot
3) La Roux - BulletProof
4) Pete Seegers - We Shall Overcome
5) Elvis - Burning Love
6) McFly - Star Girl
7) Kenny Loggins - Footloose
8) Any song by Bellowhead
9) Katrina & The Waves - Walking on Sunshine
10) Mint de Ville - Spanish Sunshine
11) Deelite - Groove is in the Heart
12) T- Rex - I Love To Boogie
13) Communards - You Make Me Feel
14) Scat Man
15) Michael Buble - Just Haven't Met You Yet
16) Olly Murs - Dance With Me Tonight
17) Oasis - Round Are Way
18) Springsteen - Thunder Road
19) Chemical Brothers - Galvanise
20) Miss G - On a Mission
21) Bryan Adams - Summer of '69
22) Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer
23) D Byrne/ Express 2 - Wicked & Lazy
24) Seal - Crazy
25) Prince - Little Red Corvette
26) Manic - Flashdance
27) Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want
28) Stokes - Last Night
29) Waterboys - Whole of the Moon
30) Neil Young - Cry No Tears
31) TMBG - Birdhouse in Your Soul
32) M People - Proud
33) Tom Jones - If I Only Knew
34) Van Dahl - Castles in the Sky
35)Tina Turner - Proud Mary
36) Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive
37) Bon Jovi - Living On A Prayer
38) LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem
39) Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
40) Energy 52 - Cafe Del Mar
41) Optimistic - Sounds of Blackness
42) Shakira - Hips Don't Lie
43) Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
44) MeatLoaf - Bat Outta Hell
45) Laid Baker - Baker Man
46) Marvin Gaye - Martin, Abraham and John
47) Rihanna - We Found Love
48) Various Artists - Perfect Day
49) Dans Macabre - Saint Saens
50) Suburban Legends - High 5

22 Jan 2013

Prayers for Grandpa?

It's easy to say one thing and mean another, even when you talk the same language.  A friend forwarded an email today entitled 'Why Teachers Drink' ...it made me smile so I thought I'd share it here. It's a great reminder to spell-check your blog articles, consider the language you use, and the audience reading it. 

After all, you don't want to get on the wrong side of Grandpa, remainders or the residents of LapLand!

*These examples are taken from a viral email which has no obvious source, so sorry not to credit whoever put it together but thanks for sharing!

17 Jan 2013

Facebook 'Graph Search'

This week Facebook launched ‘Graph Search’. Every time a change is introduced my news feed fills with status updates similar to the one above. Inaccurate information which spreads like Chinese whispers. An issue for Facebook, and for those who market their products on its Pages, is the privacy concerns of users. Yet Facebook continues to dominate the social networking space and is a very powerful marketing tool.

The following articles provide an insight into Graph Search, its potential and its limitations.  

I have tried to source articles which use layman’s terms because the majority of us associate Pandas and Penguins with a trip to the zoo, rather than Search Engine Optimisation.

It will be interesting to see what happens next, with Google pushing Author Rank will Google+ finally come to life? Watch this space.

9 Jan 2013

Internal Communication - Will SHOUTING Help?

Why invest in offering customer service online, expensive measurement tools and resources if the end result is to ask customers to write a letter of complaint and wait 28 days for a response?

Happy customers are crucial to the success of any business and companies are often nervous of social media, fearful of customers posting negative comments about their products online. Strategies are created for Reputation and Crisis Management, which is smart thinking, but the real challenge facing larger organisations is often closer to home, in the form of Internal Communication.

For the last few weeks I’ve been having an issue with a large multi-national company, let’s call them Smiths. Smiths are so huge that they don’t really need my business. I am just one isolated customer in a huge sea of never ending consumers.  Smiths have a very active social media team who search twitter and online forums for disgruntled customers to help. When I tried to get support via twitter I was given a phone number to call as I needed someone higher up the chain to solve my issue. Numerous calls later, still no joy.

I'm now frustrated and annoyed. I could take to my twitter account and make a fuss. I could name and shame ‘Smiths’ in this blog. I could do the online equivalent of shouting and waving my fists. Apart from the fact that's not my style I’m not going to for the following reasons;
     1) I'll bore the pants off my followers, no-one cares except me. (see article about vampires)

2) No matter how loud I shout, Smiths aren't listening.

Smiths pay a fortune for a social media measurement tool to analyse the sentiment of tweets and monitor their online reputation. These tools are impressive, the information they provide is fascinating, enlightening and of value if used correctly. That's great, but it's likely the Boss doesn't want or have time to review ALL of that information…. So the staff will just summarise it, put together a four page report, just the main points, a general overview. Somewhere in the process my little blog and tweets would get lost. The same thing will happen with the report from their text messaging survey shown above. How many disgruntled customers are being ignored?

Smiths tick all the boxes, email marketing, social media, text messaging services, up to date website, special offers, rewards schemes. They have policies and procedures coming out their ears. What they are missing is customer service and effective communication. It's crucial to join the dots, talk to the department next door, feedback information from the bottom to the top and vice versa. My issue with Smiths shouldn't be difficult to fix, but none of the departments are aware of what information is being given out and no-one is willing to take responsibility or provide me with a response or a solution. The answer? I've cancelled my contract and signed up with another supplier. 

5 Jan 2013

All That Jazz

image courtesty of pursuitist.com

At 14 I bought ‘Take Five’ by Dave Brubeck, it was the first jazz album I ever owned and introduced me to a world I knew nothing of. I was mesmerised by the music, even if it wasn’t cool amongst my peers. I have been a jazz fan ever since. Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Kenny Ball, Miles Davis and Madeleine Peyroux have carried me through the various stages of my life. It is a love affair that I enjoy alone as it’s safe to say my friends aren’t fans of jazz …. and never will be if their comments are anything to go by!

When Dave Brubeck passed away in December I searched twitter for other fans that were paying their respects to the 91 year old musician and sharing their memories. It was wonderful to find other people who appreciated his talent and to have online conversations with them. A shared passion, an appreciation, a respect for the legendary jazz man.

I learned a lot from the tweets that evening, there were so many links to YouTube clips, sound bites, blogs and news articles. At last, I had some pals to share my love of jazz with! I didn’t bother posting anything on my personal Facebook profile as my friends just don’t ‘get’ jazz. My post would have been ignored, comment free - I was more likely to get a response talking to the wall.

Why am I writing about this on my business blog? Two reasons.

1) Passion! When you talk passionately on a subject, show enthusiasm, have inside knowledge, share information, react with excitement or emotion……it creates a response from others. Finding common ground is the best way to build relationships and create an online community.

2 )   Fish where the fish are ……. Before you set up a social media account for your business do some research, listen to conversations, search for specific subjects. Where is the best place to invest your time and which network will deliver the best response/ results?

If you are reading this blog and don’t recognise the names of the musicians then you are in for a treat.  Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and listen to Stan Getz playing Ligia. You'll never look back.

4 Jan 2013

Kick Start and Spring Clean

My Granny drummed into me that to bring in the New Year your home should be spotless and ready for a fresh start. It’s a tradition I stick to and one that I find oddly reassuring.  Now as I return to work I need to refresh my plans for the coming months. I like to be organised and I like having a system, it’s crucial to delivering work on time, but I really dislike routine. Routine is a bit too safe, boring, monotonous, often the easy option ….and who wants to be predictable?

The same thinking can be applied to your social media presence. Remember that strategy you developed? The one that’s hidden in your documents folder or buried at the bottom of the drawer? Time to re-visit and refresh it! What habits have you fallen into, and what points have you overlooked?

Are you promoting the same message/product, in the same format, over and over again? Are you stuck in a routine? Is your audience still listening or are they fed up with the same predictable posts? If you’re not excited or motivated by your own social media activity how on earth do you expect to engage your audience?

  • Have your objectives / resources / services changed?
  • Has your target market changed?
  • How varied are the topics and guest authors on your blog?
  • When was the last time you changed the cover image on your Facebook page?
  • What posts were best received in the last 3 months and what posts sunk like a stone?
  • What’s new, innovative, exciting in your sector?
  • List 5 things you discovered about your audience from recent activity on social media 

January is the perfect time for a shake up! A time to swap predictable for dynamic, unique, entertaining, informative or eye catching........ because who wants to be average, ‘nice’, or run of the mill? 

If I can help review or develop your social media strategy feel free to get in touch with me at annie at annieboyd dot com.