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 ComparetheMeerkat.com. 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.