Twitter

Secrets of a Professional Tweeter

Last week I was pleased to join the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce to speak at their Creative Connections event in the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

The real treat of the evening however was listening to David Levin.

David Levin - professional tweeter and freelance writer

David Levin – professional tweeter and freelance writer

David is one of the UK’s handful of professional full time tweeters.  That’s what he does for a living – all day every day.  He’s worked for BBC One’s The Voice, Channel 4, Radio 1 and brands such as Adidas and MoneySupermarket.  He started off by running the Twitter account for the Dolphin pub in Hackney (@The_Dolphin_Pub) during the London riots and his fame and demand for his unique service has grown from that success.  His objective is basically to give personality to a brand (he writes the tweets for loads of brands as well as a handful of celebrities) and to attract followers & achieve high numbers of retweets.

Can you believe there is such a job?  I had no idea.  It works in two ways – either David sends his client a load of pre-written tweets & they just select some & post them up themselves or he does the tweeting for clients within an agreed set of parameters & in a certain brand approved tone of voice.  Fascinating eh?  I bet there are a few people reading this blog that would fancy that as a career.

His talk encouraged lots and lots of questions from the audience and we discussed everything from how annoying it is when you notice your competitors have been buying (usually overseas based) followers to how you should respond to criticism of your organisation posted up on Twitter & how it’s best not to go into complete meltdown as some brands have done to their detriment (such as Twix and many others).  A story has just broken earlier this week about Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust and their manipulation of user content on their website (it’s alleged they have been removing critical user comments and augmenting positive comments with comments from their own staff) so it will be interesting to see how they handle that.  He also told us a very funny & slightly risque (for the crowd present anyway!) about how when he was doing some tweeting for the Apprentice, he mistakenly thought that the wattle named by a contestant as the least favourite part of his body was a colloquial reference to his genitals & David helpfully tweeted as such.  Hahaha.

L-R David McConnell (Arts Council NI), Louise Turley (NI Chamber), David Levin, Mary McKenna

L-R David McConnell (Arts Council NI), Louise Turley (NI Chamber), David Levin, Mary McKenna

We all laughed when someone in the audience explained how she had been “knocking her pan in” to get new Twitter followers – poor David (not being from Northern Ireland) had no idea what she was talking about.

My own talk was about How to Build a Kick Ass Business Network and my slides, if you’re interested in taking a look, have been uploaded to

Slideshare.  You can access them here http://www.slideshare.net/MMaryMcKenna/how-to-build-a-kick-ass-business-network

Mary McKenna speaking at NI Chamber Creative Connections event

Mary McKenna speaking at NI Chamber Creative Connections event

My messages to the group at the event were all about how in today’s world, if you’re not visible and active online and easy to find & connect with then there are whole worlds of conversations that are happening out there that you aren’t part of.  I’d like to cross link this blog with an excellent recent blog on this topic from Emer Coleman.  Again – you can read Emer’s blog here http://www.emercoleman.com/2/post/2014/03/why-senior-leaders-in-ireland-need-to-improve-their-online-presence.html

In case you’re wondering what David’s secrets to success are in notching up those high numbers of retweets, his top tips are to use quizzes in your tweets and also to make frequent references to star signs.

Interested in your views about this and also any hints and tips you might like to share with the rest of us.  As always, please do continue the conversation in the comments below.

Digital Future Gazing – 10 predictions for 2013

Breakfast with bright young things in the Soho Hotel

Yesterday I attended the 4th annual Digital Trends forecast presentation from digital PR agencies 33 Digital & Hotwire in the achingly trendy Soho Hotel.  It’s a world I don’t often stray into – marketeers, PR people, social media agencies, brands, influencing – inhabited by bright young things and beautiful people.  So what was I doing there?  I went because Peter Sigrist, MD at 33 Digital is part of my Twittergang & I wanted to see him present and also because who isn’t interested in future gazing & horizon scanning – especially when someone else is putting up the skittles & inviting everyone else to knock them down.

As it turns out, the bright young things were also well informed, fun and sincere & the event was very enjoyable.  I considered what impact the 10 predictions may have on my own public sector world – and my musings on this are below.  You can access the report in it’s entirety here www.digitaltrendsreport.com – it also contains some very cool b & w photographs.

Peter wants to encourage lively debate about the forecasts so feel free to join in on Twitter.  Use #hw33trends

  1. Internal Social Networks – yep – I like this one.  We’ve been using Yammer for years at Learning Pool & we know many of our public sector customers are trying to get started with something similar.  Our experience has been that it helps our dispersed team keep track of each other & it savagely reduces internal email.  In bigger organisations it allows everyone to communicate with each other on a more level playing field and it lets senior teams understand their own organisations better.  The challenge next will be to see if internal social networks will foster new ways to achieve business objectives and even sales.  We’ll see.  For anyone starting out with an internal social network, make it easy for your team to use & be patient.  There’s bound to be a few mistakes along the way but everyone learns and your organisation becomes more resilient as a result.
  2. Data Porn – the age of the data geek is finally here, Big Data has arrived.  The PR agencies are excited about the release of the 2011 Census data in early 2013.  This time around the data will be there in a format where everyone can access it & slice & dice until the cows come home.  What does this mean for the UK public sector?  A recent Policy Exchange report estimates that fully capturing the big data opportunity to drive up efficiency and cut out waste in the UK public sector could be worth a total of between £16 billion and £33 billion
    a year.  What’s keeping you folks?  For anyone out there who’d like to know more about what Big Data is, there’s a new e-learning course in the Learning Pool catalogue that we developed with the Cabinet Office & explains Big Data for public sector beginners.
  3. Digital Health – in 2011 global healthcare costs totalled £3.8 trillion according to McKinsey & in the US costs were 20% of GDP.  This prediction is about government encouraging people to measure & monitor their own health data to ultimately help them to help themselves to become more healthy.  I think whether we like it or not this is definitely on the cards.  I heard Nick Seddon of think tank Reform talk about this idea at length at July’s CIPFA conference and given that he was previously at Circle Healthcare he probably has a good idea about the way things are moving.  On a more positive note, people these days want to take charge of their own health.  We’ve seen that in our own team during 2012 with a number of people finally kicking the cigarette habit & the proliferation of bicycle purchases.

    Peter Sigrist, MD of 33 Digital, revealing the first 5 predictions

  4. When businesses learned to be good – I like this one too & definitely agree that this is on an upward & escalating trajectory.  This topic even formed part of the CBI’s recent annual conference which included an entire panel session titled “Growing with Society – the need for new Business Models” led by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman.  Modern businesses are becoming more transparent, more connected (and in a way where serendipity starts to play more of a role) and more community focused – both internally & externally.  For the public sector, I predict that the coming years will see a complete blurring between government, the private sector and the not for profit space as a new type of organisation emerges to deliver services to citizens.
  5. Smaller can be better – the rise of the niche social network and a move away from Facebook & Twitter.  This one is all about creating communities of interest where the measure is not the size of the community but the degree of engagement.  It’s what we’ve been doing for a few years at Learning Pool with our own specialist Learning & Development community and this is a fairly well developed idea within the public sector with many niche Communities of Practice available in recognised places like the LGA’s Knowledge Hub.  Peter talked about examples of “sub compact publishing” such as Bobbie Johnson’s “Matter” project – very interesting and described as – basically the opposite of all the received wisdom about online publishing — they only publish long pieces, they don’t publish very often, and they expect people to pay for content.
  6. Sentient World – this is where it starts to get a bit scary.  Social media gave interested parties the ability to listen to what we say; the sentient world will give them the ability to see what we’re doing.  Foursquare has launched a service for business this past week and one of their original co-founders is apparently working on a version of tweetdeck for Foursquare.  One for the public sector to sit back & think about I believe as we watch the early adopters.  Sometimes called the Internet of Things, to the layman it’s sensors & transmitters within inanimate objects connected via the internet – fridges that order more milk, shoes that can tell you how to get home, a lamp that when you switch it on in London lights your sister’s lamp in Co Tyrone so that she knows you’re at home, mirrors in shops that tell you more about the coat you’re trying on, thermostats that learn which rooms you don’t go into so they leave them colder.  I loved the story about the Fitbit & the leaderboard & this is something we will definitely be trying out in Learning Pool as the New Year kicks off.  Who can walk 1,000 miles first?  My bet is on Eddie Ryce.
  7. The Rise of Storytelling – every FTSE100 company now has a community management team.  Two years ago none of them did.  This is about using compelling stories with a beginning, a middle and an end to bring audiences to you, get them to stick around & ultimately to buy more stuff from you.  I see lots of examples of public sector organisations pushing out stories about the places they are in & the people they serve.
  8. The Un-Boxing of TV – yep – agree with this.  I can’t watch tv any more without Twitter banter running in parallel & everyone I know is the same.  Can’t think of a public sector application of this one as all that is televised is council meetings & I don’t think anyone watches them anyway.  Maybe use this medium & idea to push out campaigns about public health or to encourage more engagement in local democracy?  I have a horrific metric for you however – 70% of trending topics on Twitter are TV related 😦
  9. Selling’s from Mars, engaging’s from Venus – remember that you can only manage what you measure.  It’s easy to measure sales.  Engagement isn’t as easy to measure.  We had a good laugh about Twitter campaigns that have backfired & one that we discussed was the Waitrose campaign that asked people why they shop at Waitrose – cue hilarious results (Harrods is too far to go midweek, because I was once in the Holloway Rd branch & heard a dad say “put down that papaya Orlando”, Asda doesn’t stock peacock/unicorn feed, if you buy a full tank of helicopter fuel you get 10% off champagne and so on).  Rather than backfiring I think that campaign was a resounding success.  I think the public sector understands that if you want citizens to engage, you have to hold conversations on topics they are interested in but perhaps we don’t see enough of this happening.
  10. The User Experience of Social – this one is about thinking through the entire user experience that people have when they interact with us in more than one place.  In my opinion no-one does this right.  I’ve recently been accessing estate agent websites on my smartphone when I’m out & about & they are a curse – every last one of them.  This is about waking up to the fact that channels do not contain siloed audiences – the same people are using multi channels.  Everyone including the public sector needs to think a lot harder about UX from multiple devices & including more”helping hand services” that align service offerings & save time & energy for the user.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed yesterday’s event, even if I can’t extend the Soho Hotel breakfast to you.  I saw Jon Foster of Futuregov yesterday & we were debating whether or not local authorities really should start thinking more like brands.  We concluded that they probably should.  It’s certainly time for everyone to take better control of their conversations and interactions in a more holistic way.

As always, I look forward to your comments & your own predictions for Digital for 2013.