Category: social

Our musings on Social Business that we put together for a recent pitch using have been featured on the Haiku Deck website.

It only took about fifteen minutes, compared to an hour or so it would have taken if we’d taken a more traditional PowerPoint approach. There’s more on using Haiku Deck here.



A new tool launched today that promises to delve into the sentiments being expressed about particular topics right across the Social Web.

Veooz (pronounced, we are informed, ‘views’) tracks trending topics across the major platforms and uses semantic algorithms to determine how positive or negative the general sentiment is. This is a step forward from simply knowing that a topic is trending. Analysis of this kind will help businesses avoid finding themselves in the midst of a twit-storm for leaping-without-looking into online conversations.

Let’s have a look

On the front page of, there are a number of trending topics to have a look at. For instance, after Prime Minister’s Question Time this lunchtime, it is not surprising that ‘David Cameron’ is being widely mentioned. Here’s a snapshot of Veeoz’ interpretation:

It’s just semantics

It’s not surprising that a Prime Minister who is not wildly popular (even within his own party) should have a negative rating, perhaps. But have a close look at the Influential Tweets. The top one is distinctly negative. What about the other two? @SaveTheChildren use the word ‘pressure’, but given they are a charity and a pressure group hawking a petition, this can hardly be seen as negative. The bottom tweet is telling, though. The key words here in rating sentiment are likely to be “condemnation” and “ugly”, however the PM joining in with the condemnation of condemnable scenes is probably a good thing.

Let’s take this further

Danny Rose is a young British footballer who was subjected to racist abuse last night during the game in Serbia. He got himself sent off for his reaction during a skirmish after the match. Many would think his reaction, although hot-headed, was quite understandable; perhaps even laudable. Why then such a hugely negative rating for the young man?

Look again at the ‘Influential Tweets’. @piersmorgan uses the words “Disgusting” and “disgrace”, but not about Danny. Instead they are directed at the scenario he found himself in. And yet, “Danny Rose” has a 96% negative rating.

Early days

Clearly it is early days for sentiment analysis and semantic search techniques. Pulling out the level of detail that would be required to provide an accurate assessment was the kind of thing Alan Turing dreamed of. We’re obviously a long way away from that. Especially for a free-to-use system that is still in beta.

For big brands, though, with large and vocal followings there may be a degree of insight available to those with the time and energy to mine the data. Amazon will be rightly pleased with the reception Kindle Paper White appears to be getting, for instance.

For you and I, though, let’s remain sceptically intrigued.

Let me start by saying that anyone claiming your business can be more profitable simply by being on Facebook is a charlatan. Or an idiot. And I’m not sure which is worse.

For me, a Social Business is one that is outward looking. It genuinely cares about satisfying its customers. It not only acts on their feedback, it encourages feedback. A Social Business is innovative and responsive. And it isn’t necessarily on Facebook or Twitter.

Nice guys don’t get rich

Unfortunately, running a business in this way takes a lot of time. You must constantly analyse what is working and what is not. You must solicit, collate and build a plan around customer feedback. You have to stop running the kind of business that your bank manager wants to see in order to make it more social. All in all, it’s far easier to run an unsocial business. In fact, in terms of profitability and gross revenues, it seems make more sense to run an actively anti-social business. There are countless examples to back this up; in the banking sector; in flagrant multi-national tax avoidance; in tech companies’ increasingly closed, proprietary systems. The list goes on and on and gets longer each day.

If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you’re a nice person. And if you’re running your own business, large or small, you still need to sleep at night. We firmly believe that being nice and being in business need not be mutually exclusive positions.

A key characteristics of nice people is that they are open and welcoming to new people and ideas. They are willing to listen act on what they hear. It’s called empathy. The same is true for businesses.

Consider Twitter

In the early days, Twitter was held up as an example of openness. They had a simple but effective platform, but they were willing to let others develop on top of it, building their own ideas and ultimately growing the userbase for Twitter through their own efforts. Now think about the reception they get when they announce increasingly restrictive terms of use and effectively stamp out many fledgling businesses. I’m not judging Twitter one way or another. They’re clearly doing what they believe to be right, but I would argue they are losing their empathy. Whether this will be detrimental to their long-term goals is still up for grabs.

Time is money

According to Steven Covey, one of the habits of highly effective people is taking time for yourself; going to the gym, walking the dog, sitting and thinking. He calls it Sharpening the Saw and uses a story to illustrate the point.

“A man walks through a wood and finds a lumberjack logging a tree. It’s hard work. After a while the man notices that the lumberjack’s saw is blunt. “You need to sharpen your saw”, he says. “But I have all these trees to chop up”, responds the lumberjack. “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my saw”.”

In other words, we need to make the time to stop and regroup, reorganise our thoughts, and consider new ways of approaching the future. We need to do this both as people AND as business people. A truly Social Business will build this time into its operations. And it may end up being a lot of time. And, in the short-term at least, time is money.

This is what kills many small businesses efforts on the Social Web. As we know, the Social Web is great for gathering feedback and engaging with your customers. However, most businesses aren’t set up to be Social from the start. They are built around a product or service that they believe to be great, so that is their main focus. When they decide to raise their heads and look at their place in the wider world, it can be quite scary. They are not prepared for the sheer number of man-hours that can be consumed. They have no mechanisms for using feedback constructively. So they flounder and withdraw.

Unless your business has a willingness to listen and people who care enough about their customers to act on what they hear, your Facebook page isn’t going to help your business grow. Your initially enthusiastic Twitter timeline will be unused and useless.

Take the time to stop. Spend time listening. Then act with empathy.

And sleep soundly at night.

It’s now possible to share anything from anywhere.

Apple’s latest iphone software builds facebook and twitter sharing right into the core of the phone. Newpaper websites encourage button clicking and story sharing. There are even waste bins that upload pictures to Facebook to encourage recycling.

This is known as frictionless sharing, where anything that could prevent you posting your thoughts, location and pictures of kittens is eliminated. Of course, the point of this is to cause an increase in the amount of data that is transmitted stored about you. This data is valuable both to the mobile phone companies that charge you using it, and for the social web companies who want to provide advertisers with exact profiles about their users. And, of course, it’s a bonus for those consumers among us who want to post those pictures from that night out or that holiday without having to think too much about what they’re doing.

But what does it mean for businesses?

It goes without saying that businesses engaging on the social web all have strict policies in place, that they’re working to an editorial plan for content creation, and are scheduling posts to reach the audience when they are at their most engaged. (If you’re not, you’d better get in touch)

However, because of all this frictionless sharing from your audience and their peers, your carefully planned updates are in danger of simply sliding on by. Like  the beer bottles slung down bar tops in comedy western movies, they’ll keep skidding on until they crash to the floor, but without the hilarious consequences.

There are three possible solutions.

First, increase the amount of time you and your colleagues spend creating useful and interesting content. Just keep hammering out the updates in the vain hope that some will be seen.

Second, increase the repetition. Simply repost the information you want people to see two, three or four times per day.

Third, work even harder to make your updates even more relevant and even more shareable.

Of all of these, the third is the best option. Although the first two would not be defined as spam in the strict sense, they feel spammy and that’s probably worse.

Remember that nobody is here to hand you a living wage. If you want to cut through the noise, you have to sing your song with clarity. The only real way to make your updates sticky enough to attract a big audience is to make them so interesting that they get lots of shares, RTs and reposts.

Understand that not every post is going to garner a wide audience, but believe in what you are doing. Many of the beer bottles will hit the floor. It doesn’t matter Just make sure you’re slinging the best suds in town.

If you spend any time in a stationery shop, or if you have an internet connection, you’ll probably know that Bic have launched a range of pens designed for women’s hands.  The product itself may be great. I’ll never know – I don’t have woman’s hands, so I’ll never really be able to feel the benefit. Normally, I’d look to reviews on Amazon to discover the pros and cons, but sadly they are so loaded with scathing irony that the design merits (or otherwise) are completely left out.

Designing a pen ‘for women’s hands’ is always going to come with certain risks. Especially when women have managed so well with the existing unisex product. In fact, all the pages devoted to different colours, styles and pack sizes carry reviews about the concept rather than the pen. None of them will make happy reading for Bic. I’ve read them all. There are almost a thousand all told.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this morning I had this email waiting for me:

I wasn’t alone.

I also found this tweet in my timeline:

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

At least Victoria has the benefit of having lady’s hands, so there is some sense in her receiving the email. But how did it end up in my inbox? I have two theories.

Firstly, I admit that I have looked at the lady-pens previously when the storm of condemnation first hit twitter. I don’t check out every hysterical micro-blogging outburst – I have work to do. I did look at this one, though. So Amazon tracked my visit. Fair enough. I’m tracking your visits, too.

If I wasn’t such a cynic I could imagine that Amazon have looked into their vast databases and pulled out a list of products that people are looking at but not buying (please, god, people didn’t buy these pens, did they?) and have simply sent out a little “You Looked At This But Possibly Forgot To Buy It” type email. Maybe that’s what I’m looking at.


But I am an incredible cynic. I know a bit about how these things work. Retailers make money selling stuff to customers. That’s obvious. But they also make money – masses of money – by charging brands for promotions. If you want your packets of stuff at eye-level on supermarket shelves, it’ll cost you. If you want to discount your products and have them on the ends of the aisles, that’s going to cost you more. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that some bright spark from Amazon has spoken to another bright spark from Bic and said “We’ve had millions of page-views for your lady-pens that haven’t converted into sales. People must have forgotten to buy. Give us some cash and we’ll send out some reminders”. And the bright spark at Bic agreed.

If you also received an email advertising the lady-pens, don’t get upset about it – it’s costing Bic money. They’re continuing to pay for their unspeakable daftness. They’re also inventing a process so packed with meta-unawareness that it could be explosive.

And so we enter the world of post-ironic marketing.

Here’s how it could work for you:

  • Come up with an idea. Any idea will do. Brain-storm it in the office. Maybe focus-group it enthusiastically with a bunch of punters who don’t really care. Anyway, do what ever you need to do to convince yourself that it’s a Really Great Idea. Try not to think about it too much, though.
  • Let the Hive Mind pull you up on your enormous lack of tact and insight, shoving mock reviews hither and yon and alerting the world to your idiocy.
  • Wait a couple of weeks. People are stupid – they’ll soon forget.
  • Spend some cash reminding everybody that deliberately avoided your piss-poor product that it is still available. Maybe discount it a little to sweeten the deal.
  • Watch the sales roll in.

This is only the next logical step in a process that has been serving the Mail Online well for years now – bait the intelligensia on twitter with increasing outrageous views; watch the page views come pouring in; sit back and count the ad revenue.

And for those of you thinking that I’m only coat-tailing on a debacle to get some eye-balls of my own; I refer you, gentle reader, to the headline.

Stories give life colour.

Everything has a story; the tree in the forest; the ball of scrumpled up paper in the bin; how one became the other.

You have a story. Your business has a story. We want to help you tell it.

Facebook’s timeline feature is a great place to tell stories. We use ours to tell stories about simple ideas and clear explanation through history.

Here’s what we’ll do for you:

We will put the story of your business into your company’s Facebook timeline absolutely free of charge. All of the major milestones and achievements recorded for posterity. Or until Facebook collapses. Whichever comes sooner.

For free, you say?

What the hell – why not? It’s your story and it needs telling. And from a business perspective, although it will provide your customers with a bit of background colour about who you are and what you do it will almost certainly not make you a an extra sale. However, the way you go about using the social web might pull in some extra punters. We’d be delighted to talk to you about that. But we’ll build you a solid foundation first.

Tell us your story

Get in touch and let’s get cracking.

making history 1066 style



There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the ROI of social media. We had our say on the subject almost a year ago. And the prevailing sentiment seems to be that we were right.

If companies continue to only refer to themselves and their offers, their messages will blur into the background hubub. And in many cases that would be a shame. Most organisations are too scared to embrace the true potential of social media. That potential can be summed up in one word. Banter.

Banter is a great word. It’s even slightly onomatopoeic. Banter is the back-and-forth of normal conversation. It is witty. It is often irreverent. And it has nothing to do with closing business. It is fun to listen to, even in overheard conversations. It will make people stop and think. And it will make people want to join in.

So continue to flout your current offers, or throw out click bait to drive people towards your blogs and websites. You never know, it might make you a sale or two. But you will definitely bore most of your audience to tears.

Instead, throw out some wit. Show the true tenor of your business. Use an authentic voice. Then people will listen. Yes, it’s scary and that’s precisely why you need to do it.

Want to join in the conversation? Say something wonderfully witty below, or get in touch with us for some one-to-one banter.

By our social web talents, according to their social web needs

Massive corporations have taken control of the internet. It’s time for us to take it back.

Yesterday’s internet was all about impressing computers. Today, the internet is all about impressing people. The social web makes us all the arbiters of taste. We collectively determine success. BigCorp, Inc. cannot compete with the passion and talent that we each possess.

New web, new work

The social web has brought together thousands of interested, motivated people with a desire to make the world a better place. There are loose affiliations of marketeers, designers, FaceBookists, WordPressistas and Twitter-junkies sharing ideas, inspiration and encouragement. We want to pull these people together into a new kind of new media business. A business arranged along the very same lines as the social web itself. A business that aims to wrest control of the social web from Big Corp, Inc. and tired agency models. A social web of social web experts making the social web a better place for everyone.

Freelancers, charge!

The web enables many of us to work flexibly but freelancers only ever see a tiny proportion of a much larger project. By combining talents, freelancers can work flexibly and collaboratively alongside people with other skills, feeding in thoughts at all stages of a project and seeing the whole thing through to completion. And that means greater job satisfaction.

And we certainly won’t be expecting to have anyone work for nothing. We all have bills to pay. But there is no need for an organisation to absorb all of the profits from your hard labours. Our new way of working will see profits split equally between all team members.

Custom customers

Each project is unique. Customers shouldn’t have to shoulder the overheads of retaining designers they don’t need, or change consultants they will never see. Our new way of working relies on self-forming project teams comprising only those with the required skills. Projects can be delivered quickly and cost-effectively. New ideas can flourish. Amazing things will happen.

Join the revolution

If you want to hoist the flag, get in touch. Or leave a comment below.

The irkafirka story

It has been a year since I first challenged illustrator Nick Hilditch to illustrate a tweet every day. He took to the task like a Hercullean jack russel, and now has an extraordinary portfolio of doodles to show for it. But what about me? What have I learned from the process?

Here are the top three things:

People are terrific

Since the first irkafirka, the response has been amazing. We now have 2,300 followers on twitter and 170 ‘fans’ on FaceBook and we get amazing feedback every day. For our first birthday, we chose to give back some love and blithely set ourselves the unreachable target of raising £5,000 for Comic Relief. As expected, we fell well short of our goal, but £1,140 is still a fair chunk of change. And frankly, we’d have settled for £100.

You don’t need to be original to be amazing

We didn’t realise it at the time, but there have been others that have taken tweets as inspiration for illustration. As we’ve said here before, originality is nothing new. irkafirka certainly proves that. Our ‘competitors’ include Twaggies, @BeckIntl, Museum of Modern Tweets and TweetsIllustrated. Even telecoms giant Orange had a bash. But thanks to Nick’s gaudy style and the banter we generate on twitter, we consider ourselves to be twitter’s favourite colourers-in.

No money goes a long way

Business value was the furthest thing from our minds when we started irkafirka. To be honest, it has come no closer to our minds since. But, because of our relationship with Nokia and the sale of the occasional print, we have managed to turn a small profit from our endeavours. Of course, we have very few costs to cover, which helps. And thanks to AppMakr, Layar and Hopalla, even our adventures into mobile apps and augmented reality have been extremely cheap. But if you have a bright idea, irkafirka shows that it is possible to get it off the ground without spending a fortune.


There are three basic lessons companies need to understand about social stuff:

1 – It can not and will not make your company or its products sexy or desirable

2 – It almost certainly will not have any kind of positive effect on your bottom-line

3 – It takes a huge amount of time and you’ll probably get it wrong anyway

Betfairpoker, an online gaming site, seem to understand this. As a result, their unusual twitter persona is really quite popular.

Eschewing the usual corporate social media strategies of yelling about how great you are, leaking offers, and driving clicks (which could be legally ruinous in Betfair’s line of business), their success comes from a unique and engaging brand of silliness. Here are some recent examples:

Of course, it’s not just a stream of situationist one-liners. There is a fair amount of chat and banter as well. And the occasional nod to the fact that some people like to gamble. But does it make you want to sign up for Betfair’s services and throw all your hard-earned cash against a mountain of unbeatable odds? Me neither. However, if I was in the market for an online gaming service, I know where I’d go. I’d go to the company that is clearly setting itself apart from the crowd. One that isn’t afraid of being different. One that, on the surface at least, doesn’t seem to be blinkered in its pursuit* of profit at all costs.

Betfair are clearly playing the long game* here. I’m sure that the red-tape surrounding the gaming industry is at least partly responsible for the sideways approach. But it is the only corporate account that is worth following.

A final note of caution before you remodel your tweet-stream in a like manner. The charm and guile of the Betfair account appears to come from a single voice. Quite what will happen when that voice leaves to write the first social media sitcom for BBC3 is unclear.

*Two gambling related metaphors. This stuff doesn’t just crawl from under the hall carpet, you know…