It’s surprising how many organisations might have corporate values like ‘respect’, ‘integrity’, ‘listening’, ‘learning’ and ‘innovation’, but don’t act these out on social media.
None of those positive values are displayed on a page that simply broadcasts positive information and metaphorically puts its fingers in its ears to comments it doesn’t like.
Don’t ignore people. In most circumstances, I advise at least one attempt to have a productive conversation.
2. Don’t talk like a corporate robot
Make sure you write your response how you’d say verbally it to someone face-to-face. The person you’re replying to will not be persuaded, impressed or charmed by a corporate press statement. If someone’s angry or upset, your tone will either calm or exacerbate the situation.
Sign off with your name. Nobody wants to talk to a logo. It makes you look more accountable and reminds the person you’re speaking to that you’re a human.
I have written The Comms Manifesto, partly because I want something I can show people when they have the wrong end of the stick about what I do.
Modern and professional communications has nothing to do with spin, lies and propaganda.
This is my idea of what we do.
Occasionally, one of my scrawls seems to strike a chord, and I’ve had lots of nice feedback on this one. Quite a few people said they were printing and sharing it, so I thought I’d share a downloadable, good quality PDF here.
Communicators often confide in me that they don’t really like using Facebook (and other social media) for their organisations because people will probably post snarky things in the comments section of each post. Especially if they’re communicating potentially controversial work.
The general gist of what I hear is this:
‘If we talk about this, we’ll have to handle all the negative feedback and it might be easier if we just don’t start the conversation at all.’
So what they do is whisper what they’re doing. They say the bare minimum, and avoid talking about the great stuff for fear of setting off a debate on the less popular.
Lots of my work in the last few years has been about encouraging organisations to own what they’re doing.
To be bold, to believe in it, and take criticism on the chin.
To not deny your organisation the community support and awareness it desires, for the sake of avoiding those who won’t like it.
Here’s the thing:
None of us work for perfect organisations, since they are pretty much always run by human beings and we all get things wrong
It is impossible to make a decision, service or product that will please everyone
So if you’re waiting to promote an entirely positive project, you’ll be waiting a long time.
They’ve launched a scheme that allows people with autism to help communities be more aware of autism and the difficulties individuals face.Shops, banks, hairdressers, cinemas are given tips on how to interact with people who have autism, and people with autism can wear a wristband, show an app, or carry a card to indicate they’re autistic – if they want to.
A survey showed 11% of adults and 13% of parents and carers said they would not use the band. Totally valid and I think I’d feel the same if in similar circumstances. Everyone’s experience is different. But it’s only meant to help those who want to take part, and the team know not everyone will feel it’s for them.
So why be shy?Of course some people will not like the idea at all.But the team have done their research and their intentions are great – promoting understanding and acceptance and reducing the stigma that many individuals with autism and their parents and carers experience. And they’re willing to learn and adapt.
Their video explaining it has been widely shared and viewed on Facebook. Here are some examples of the great conversations they’re having – confidently explaining what they’re doing, and totally respectful and understanding of those who are not keen on the idea at all.
All the while, they are raising awareness, which is the objective.
We’re often we are told by our employers that we should be telling the good stories of the organisation. We should be promoting services, and getting good coverage.
But communicators are more than just in-house reporters. We listen, we inform or/and shape decision-making, we are community managers, and we take the rough with the smooth.
So let’s not be afraid
And let’s remember:
People who don’t agree with you about what you’re saying can still be productive and civil if you can show that you’re working for the same outcome.
We can predict why some people won’t like it, and acknowledge that we understand their point when they tell us so
We don’t always want to deny the chance to be involved to people who will love our posts, just because some people won’t like it
Leave a comment on this blog post if you like, I won’t mind if you disagree.
These three Twitter tips for comms pros may seem simple, but they make a big difference.
We comms professionals are often bonkers busy, so we can be tempted to just share a link to a story with the headline as the text of the tweet.
But this isn’t the best way to get people to engage with your tweet, or click read more.
In our Social Media Comms Academy, we learn how to create content that gets LOADS more likes, productive comments, retweets and clicks — and ultimately more real-life outcomes that help you meet your goals.
(We’re open for new members of the Social Media Comms Academy from August 16th to October 1st 2021 by the way – we’d love you to join us!).
Anyway, here are just three tips pulled out from our training that help you get better Twitter results.
You can’t do all of them at once, but you can try them out with various things you’re working on — to make your tweets more captivating for your audience.
Tip 1: Don’t share the headline
If you’re sharing a link, the headline will show in the Twitter card that the link generates.
So don’t bother repeating it: people can already see it.
Use the space in your tweet to draw people in, and write something else to accompany the link.
And if you or a colleague are responsible for publishing the story on the web, make sure the web page’s featured image is there, and that it’s one that will intrigue or attract whoever is looking.
Tip 2: Write words that increase the chance of your audience being interested in the story.
You need to build interest, by giving people a reason to know it’s something they’d like to read/watch/hear.
So do a content spotlight, or add some humanity.
A) The content spotlight
Look at the story you’re sharing, and find the most interesting sentence, or a quote, or a fact.
Make that the text to go with the hyperlink.
It will give people a reason to want to read/watch/listen to the rest.
B) Add some humanity
Talk about the story as you would to a friend.
Why do you recommend someone read/watches/listens to the content? Can you share something interesting about the making of the content?
This example has a typo, but you get the gist:
Tip 3: Save people a click
Most people won’t be bothered clicking on a link that brings them to your website, YouTube, Vimeo or anywhere else really.
A) Embed your video in the tweet.
Twitter links to external video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo don’t always display in a way that is optimum.
And for your audience seeing it, it can take around 3 to 4 seconds to open the video up in a new app.
Most won’t tap that link.
So when the video is embedded in your tweet, it’s quicker to view.
And Twitter will either autoplay it, or present it in a way that’s designed to make us want to click.
People are more likely to give it a second or two before they scroll past, especially if you have added captions.
This is your chance to pull people in.
Those few extra seconds, where people view to see if it interests them, is a bigger advantage that it sounds.
If the video you tweet is longer than the permitted 2 minutes 20 seconds, either edit it, or cut it it to the first few minutes.
Then, if your audience wants more after that, they can click the link you’ve added to the tweet.
B) Thread it out.
If you have a written story, do it justice by tweaking it to be Twitter friendly.
Break the story down into bite-sized elements, and tweet it as a thread.
Then people don’t have to decide to leave Twitter to find out more, because there it is on their app, enticing them into your lovely world.
To be clear: clicks to your website are not the be all and end all.
Better some people find the story on Twitter, than no people find it on your website.
Bonus! Tip 4: Make your text look nice
A load of sentences squashed together does not attract the eye.
I’m not a stupid person, but a load of information in a big old chunk is harder for me to read and understand.
Make it easy to read for everyone.
Edit out anything you don’t need.
Break up the text.
Use return spaces between sentences.
The extra white space makes your text more enjoyable to read.
It’s social distancing for sentences: spread it out, and luxuriate in the room you can make in a tweet.
Which of these would you more readily notice in a busy feed of tweets?
Ironically, when I initially drew and shared this cartoon back in 2017, I misspelled the word ‘irrelevant’. And of course, if I’d shown it to anybody before I tweeted it, they would have pointed it out and saved me my typo shame!
If you would like to become a member of the most supportive, fun and useful social media training programme, join the Social Media Comms Academy.
We know that’s not what attracts people’s attention in a noisy and complex world.
The solemn comms our bosses often demand is the kind of thing we all scroll past on our phones.
Because each and every day, we rarely have a quick check of our favourite social media channel to be informed, or be preached at.
We go there for a few moments to be distracted or amused.
“The more serious our work is, the more crucial it is to be light-hearted, funny and creative.”
That’s a quote from me.
I’m not quite the comedy genius that Cleese is, but I have found myself saying it lots lately.
We have important, powerful, behaviour-changing messages to share. and conversations that need to be had.
We’re not going to get anyone’s attention being boring.
We’re not going to build trust and dialogue by being distant and worthy.
It’s why I drew this silly unicorn, for instance.
Because I’m serious about reminding comms people how talented they are. It made some people smile, got shared, and it provoked conversation about the role and skills comms professionals have.
The business case for humour on social media
If you work for important and serious not-for-profit organisations like councils, charities, & housing associations, you can use humour online to get huge reputation wins, masses more engagement & positive media coverage.
Housing associations on Facebook need to cut down on the information sharing
You want people to know information that will help them. Your colleagues think your job is to inform people or news, events and advice.
But nobody joins Facebook for that.
It’s social media. Not ‘information’ media, not ‘corporate news story’ media.
People go there to be distracted, amused, and connected with others.
It’s counterintuitive, but you need to reduce the amount of stories that your colleagues think people should know.
And then you increase the amount of Facebook posts on topics people want to talk about.
Stop behaving like a broadcaster, start behaving like a community builder
If you want to build relationships and have a thriving community of people who interact positively with your brand – please let your audience chat about ordinary things in our lives.
We don’t want to fill in surveys about your organisation. We don’t want to hear your news, or about whatever schemes you’ve got going on.
Not yet anyway.
Let us have a bit of small talk to loosen us up, get us comfortable chatting, to grow trust in each other.
Housing associations on Facebook need to embrace the ‘fluffy’ subjects
Far from being trivial, and not aligned with your organisation’s goals, small talk about the weather, local places and people is essential in your content planning.
Your social media strategy needs these lighter topics in the mix to grow your audience and increase engagement.
For an organisation that provides homes, the topic of pets is highly relevant.
Our friends at Housing Association, Clwyd Alyn, shared this post after their first masterclass with us in April – it’s such a lovely example of an engaging post that gets people talking to your organisation is a positive, friendly way.
This ‘fluffy’ subject is actually very serious when it comes to social media engagement.
For those of us with pets, these animals are big part of our lives. They prevent loneliness.
Reducing isolation and loneliness may well be part of your organisational aims.
Pets get us out and about walking, even if it’s just to go to the shops to but them food. They make us feel needed. Physical and mental wellbeing is almost certainly on your agenda.
And we want to talk about our pets, and share pics of how cute they are.
Build trust with your audience by chatting about things they care about, not just telling them what to do and sharing information about how great your services are all the time.
Posting getting people talking about their pets is a great way to try this.
Learn more about how you can create incredible, sector-leading social media
Our Social Media Comms Academy is designed to give you all the strategy, tactics and advice to grow thriving communities on social media.
As a member, you get a hole year to access our vast library of video lessons and masterclasses to find how your organisation can nail it every time: on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and TikTok.
You’d never think it, if you just relied on listening to conference talks and reading CVs – but ALL of us make mistakes, have campaigns that tank, and persist with ideas that don’t work.
There are some fab lessons in there.
And while we might think it’s brave to be open about these unsuccessful projects, it’s actually hugely beneficial to Alexander and the brand he represents.
It’s not brave – it’s confidence that you know your stuff enough to not hide the ‘downs’, and only ever mention the ‘ups’.
The truth is much more impressive than the pretend, perfect versions of ourselves.
In this article, I can see evidence of a highly strategic and creative mind, and an organisational culture that doesn’t squash innovation.
Those mishaps, false starts and lead balloons he mentions have taught his team what works for SYFR’s audience, and what doesn’t.
You don’t get that stuff in a textbook.
For each of the failures, there are probably 20 or more successes. Not trying anything new or creative will never get that kind of pay-off.
Why be embarrassed by sharing the harder parts of your story?
Ultimately, the brand and Alexander himself come off as way more competent and likeable – because it’s refreshingly truthful.
We feel better about our own struggles when we see role models face obstacles too. We trust that what is being said has value, because it’s not a glossy, aspirational misrepresentation of reality that we’re used to.
So maybe you yourself as a communications professional can try being more authentic yourself?
Social Media authenticity in a nutshell
It’s all about getting in touch with how you actually talk, how you see the world when you’re not in work mode and letting people join you for genuine conversations.
Lots of people have told me they experience this too.
I’ve realised a few things that helped me as I’ve got older and wiser.
Procrastination links to motivation
I work well under pressure.
Or to put it more honestly, I only work under pressure.
I suspect it’s because I see the imminent reward of completing the task, and am excited by the prospect that the work will have a good outcome. Or I feel that urgency that I’ll miss out or let someone down if I don’t act right now.
Like I have in the past, you may berate yourself for procrastinating, when in fact you are fine as you are.
Perhaps you’re just more motivated by more short-term goals.
OK, you might leave each small thing right to the last minute, but that’s just how you roll.
The benefit of procrastination
By the time you’re starting, right on deadline, you’ve done some (often subconscious) work already, while you were putting it off.
Thoughts and ideas have been brewing in your mind.
I believe benefits come from a long period of thinking about the work (while you’re avoiding doing it), and then an intense period of concentration, turning those thoughts into something cool.
And really, we shouldn’t surprised religious organisations would be good at social media, as building communities is something they’ve been doing for centuries.
I’m not a believer myself, but I have fond memories of my Catholic upbringing, and I do love seeing more inclusive and welcoming comms from religious institutions.
So anyway: this week, we have a user generated content of the week – from the Church Of England.
Instagram is a place that can make people feel inadequate or unhappy comparing themselves to others, so it’s a great place to add a filter that brightens it up and help people feel better about themselves.
Like with a lot of good not-for-profit comms – not everyone is going to like this.
For everyone who thinks it devalues something holy, there are others who love a fresh way to express their faith.
The greatest comms pros know things are worth doing even if they don’t please everyone
5. Understanding that attention, novelty, and relevance gets real results
It’s taken a while, but finally, we’re throwing away old-skool myths about return on investment.
Many people think the job of comms is 100% about sharing information, and promoting services, messages and products.
Success is about the long game.
Chatting to your audiences, so they get to know the people behind the logo.
You’re investing in brand-building.
The more people like and engage with you about something that interests them, the more they are likely to take notice of you when you have something important to say.
Communities are built on trust.
Real relationships aren’t transactional.
And you’re never going to go viral by just telling everyone about your services.
That’s what all the brands who replied to the Weetabix tweet were doing.
Starting conversations their audiences actually want to join.
As for Weetabix: they know they are reaching new audiences (or reminding old audiences they’re there), and training the Twitter algorithm to understand that their brand is relevant and interests people.
Nobody was saying the product itself is disgusting, by the way. It’s just the idea of combining Weetabix and beans that caused people to retch.
If anything, it evoked memories for those of us who were brought up on Weetabix that it’s a nice breakfast option.
Yesterday I put some on my Sainsbury’s order for a bit of tasty childhood nostalgia.
It got everybody talking about Weetabix – and you cannot buy that kind of reaction.
The tweet even made it into a discussion in parliament*, where Weetabix endorsements were so enthusiastic that made me wonder if these MPs have shares in it.
*Trigger warning – this tweet contains Jacob Rees Mogg and may not be suitable for those with weak stomachs.
All in all, Weetabix created an iconic comms cultural landmark that showed, through something as silly as breakfast, that we, the comms community, have reached social media maturity.
It makes me think of all the times in my career when people told me that Twitter should be dismissed as people ‘just talking about their breakfast’.
It IS that, but so so much more.
Social Media Managers Comms Academy is open for enrolments
This is for you if you want to grow your social media following, make more creative content and get loads more likes, shares and positive comments.
All at a time that fits around work and home commitments.
Empathy is one of the core elements to getting your social media content and tone of voice spot on.
First off, knowing who your audience is: (it’s not everyone!) – then getting their attention by demonstrating that you know just how they feel.
When you design your ideas, empathy is what separates the boring, corporate messages, from the top-notch engaging content.
Here’s a post that demonstrates this beautifully.
Not-for-profits in particular have to do a lot of work to remind their audience that there are real people behind the logos.
Your audience’s opinion on your public service or charity brand’s reputation will improve if they think of the heroic individuals who work there, rather than news headlines or recalling that one time they has a bad experience with you or a brand like yours.
They need to know that real people care about what they think, not just what you have to do.
You need to be human, not corporate.
At Comms Creatives, we believe empathy is more than a ‘soft skill’ – it’s actually a technique that the best comms experts use.
“Ten months on, in Lockdown 3 in England, like many we’d found that the engagement had dropped significantly on our social media posts asking people to #StayHome and follow the government guidance.
We felt we needed a different approach to cut through the Covid fatigue, and after a team chat decided to be honest and human about it.
Our comms team understood how our audience felt – almost a year on from the first lockdown, we were pretty fed up with it too.
But we also knew the vital importance of people continuing to follow the rules, because of the extremely high case numbers in our local area, the highly contagious new variants of the virus, and the resulting pressure on the NHS.
So we put together a post saying just that.
Basically: ‘We get it. We’re human too. We’re fed up too.
But we are asking you to keep following the lockdown rules because otherwise our local NHS will be overwhelmed, and more people will sadly lose their lives.’
We used a very simple graphic, deliberately different from the government issued Covid-related comms graphics, to distinguish this post from others people might have started to scroll past.
And we took the plunge and posted it on our social media channels.
We kept an eye on it for a few hours, in case we’d misjudged it! We also responded to comments where relevant as they came in, to emphasise the human message.
We were really chuffed with how well it was received.
Very soon on Facebook it had dozens of positive reactions, comments and shares, including in the local Facebook Groups we’re members of.
We’re a fairly small borough council, and within a few hours it had been shared more than 100 times which is a huge result for us.
A few days on, there’d been nearly 500 reactions on the original Facebook post (none negative, which is a miracle in local gov comms in our experience!), almost 200 shares, more than 60 comments (again the majority supportive), and a reach of almost 25k.
It’s been a really positive experience for us as a team too, feeling that we’ve managed to engage with our intended audience with a really important message, struck a chord which connected with them and hopefully encouraged them to keep following the rules, for the common good.
Following the positive reaction to our attempt at #HumanComms, we’ve since put out another post in a similar style (both in tone and visually) about the use of our parks and playgrounds in lockdown, which also received good engagement and responses, so maybe this will grow to become a whole campaign!
For anyone in a similar position, wondering whether to post something slightly different to the norm, we’d recommend being brave and going for it – it definitely paid off for us.”
Making a difference takes bravery and boldness.
A massive ‘hats-off’ to Joanne and the team at Surrey Heath Borough Council for excellent work, which ultimately keeps us safe and saves lives.
Plus, the artist is local, so by working with this illustrator the council comms team is:
Championing and highlighting someone that local people will know or will be interested to know about
Supporting the role of the council in stimulating local enterprise
Commissioning someone who knows the area and its culture, and is more likely to create content that resonates with their audience
Can illustration inspire your creativity?
Maybe you can experiment with using illustration to make a point in a slightly different way that the usual graphics or posters?With Christmas coming up, it could be a good time to draw or paint something that you can use as a social festive message.
Or maybe you can think about collaborating with or commissioning a creative person within your audience?Bringing in a different person to help with a small project often injects a new and interesting perspective or creative message.
Hearing a commsplanation is exceptionally annoying
Knowing why your colleagues do it doesn’t make it less irritating when they come up with hare-brained suggestions about TikTok, or excellent advice about using social media to do more storytelling (duh, like I’d never thought of that!).
I never thought we’d be able to afford such a pop icon from our marketing budget!
We didn’t need to hire a superstar though.
But you don’t need someone everybody in the country knows. You need someone who everyone in your audience knows.
Cheltenham Council and Tweedy
We all know, Facebook isn’t the easiest place to get reach and engagement from your audience.
As I write this, Cheltenham have had 14.3k views on this video from Tweedy the clown.
He’s a local legend.
I don’t know him, and clowns actually freak me out, but if you’re from Cheltenham, you probably know Tweedy.
Perhaps he evokes feelings of nostalgia from appearing in pantomimes local people went to as kids.
Collaborating with, or asking from help, from someone known, loved and familiar is a genius move.
Tweedy adds his own style to the message and communicates in a way a council comms professional wouldn’t. (Unless the comms pro happens to be a clown, which I think will be a rare occurrence.)
As far as I’m aware, Tweedy did this out of a sense of community spirit and I take my hat off to him and the lovely comms team at Cheltenham Borough Council. I’ve heard they’ve got a few more tricks up their sleeve coming up soon too.
Councils using Cameo celebrities for public health messages
In 2020 during lockdown, celebrities like Steve Guttenberg and Lindsay Lohan found guest appearances, gigs and filming had dried up, these celebs saw video app Cameo as a way to keep working.
If you’ve not heard of it, on Cameo you can pay a relatively small fee to get a short video message from a well-known face.
It’s great fun and depending on who you book, pretty cheap. Paul Chuckle from The Chuckle brothers is only £44.99. Snoop Dogg is $999.99.
It might lose its novelty by next year, but for now, famous appearances on your social media channels is a good way to get attention.
Here, Essex Council get notorious Netflix star and possibly dodgy animal rights activist, Carole Baskin, to spread the word about staying safe from Covid 19.
Not something I’d ignore in my home feed.
Oldham Council paid £34 to get Jay from the Inbetweeners to talk about coronavirus guidance.
If you don't follow the local guidance on #Coronavirus, #Oldham could face a local lockdown so play your part in helping to save lives and preventing the spread of this virus. We ALL have a role to play 👉 https://t.co/fWEJWxfQrr
When we booked the Hoff, we experienced an unexpected turn of events…
Dave (I call him Dave now), sent me a message that asked me to get in touch with his agent.
‘Does he want to work with us?’ I thought. That would be amaaaazing!
I rang the number he gave me of his agent, Judy.
I heard her lovely New York accent say “Hello?”
I told her why I was calling.
She didn’t have the foggiest clue what I was on about.
“He said what? Run me through this again.”
I don’t think Judy liked me. I suspect I sounded bonkers, desperate, idiotic. I’m a bit too awkward to be moving with the Hollywood movers and shakers.
Anyway, she was seeing his Hoffness the next day.
Lesley and I hastily put together a proposal. Great social media adheres to the same principles for superstars as it does for not-for-profit brands. We know we could do a memorable and fun campaign for King Hoff.
Was this in our business plan? No. Of course not.
But anyway, it turns out a few days later, neither Judy nor David wanted to work with us, and I don’t blame them for that.
We don’t have a portfolio stuffed with icons and legends to prove our worth. We tend to work with charities, housing associations and councils.
Once again, David Hasselhoff had told us to ‘Hoff off’.
But it was a right laugh – I had got to the stage of excitement where I thought Lesley and I might spend Christmas with the Hoffs, and it gave me some light daydreaming relief from COVID worries.
And the Hoff, for at least a few minutes, was aware of my existence.
Creative thinking is not just something we do at work when we’re designing campaigns.
We can apply creative thinking to all parts of life and work.
I encourage our students in comms teams to spend ten minutes every now and then practicing creative thinking, to make your day-to-day comms a little fresher and more interesting (for you AND your audience).
Fancy five minutes trying out a creative exercise right now?
Come on then.
We’ll use the airline Delta’s tweet as a starting point.
This tweet caught my eye because it so beautifully summed up how much of us feel about this year.
It subtly says: ‘if only we could just get away from all the misery of 2020 and move on’.
It’s not just shouting ‘hey everyone, are you cheesed off with this year?’. That’s very general and a question anyone could ask.
The creativity comes from how it’s relevant to the brand and their audience by using a a flying metaphor we are familiar with – ‘ let’s get a one-way ticket out of here!’
They’ve indulged in an excellent bit of creative thinking.
How you might use this as creative inspiration for your social media one day?
Think about metaphors that relate to your brand. Maybe you might use it to come up with some cool comms one day?
I’ll use a council as an example. One service everyone is aware of is waste and recycling collections.
Councils get rid of waste for us.
So maybe you you could have an image of a bin collector emptying the year 2020 into the bin lorry.
It’s just a silly idea I had while writing this, and I doodled it to show you what I mean.
You don’t have to act on every idea, but the more you have, the more creative you get – it’s like going to the gym and building muscle.
And the more ideas you have, the more likely it is you’ll have one idea that is utter genius. This is called divergent thinking.
Don’t be afraid of silly ideas, just have lots and get your brain in creative shape.
There’s inspiration everywhere.
Maybe when you’re in the shower, or having a coffee break, you can take five minutes to think of metaphors that relate to your organisation. Write them down somewhere and maybe they’ll come in handy later.
You might imagine that the phrases social media managers hate to hear would be “we’re out of coffee”, or “there’s nowhere to charge your phone”.
But there are phrases that strike even more fear into social media managers.
To celebrate National Social Media Managers Day, we’re chuffed to have a guest blog post from an extremely talented freelance social media manager and content creator, Alex Duffy.
Alex Duffy is a Social Media Manager based in Liverpool, England.
Well, it’s a job that allows you to be creative and interact with loads of people using interesting tools such as photos, videos and the occasional meme.
It’s also a job filled with bizarre requests and a lack of understanding from colleagues,who frequently refer to you as “the person that does the Twitter”.
No matter how often we hear them, there’s phrases that make us sigh and roll our eyes.
It’s often a request to do something impossible, or a comment about the work we do.
Grab a seat, read these ten phrases, and use #SocialMediaManagersDay to tell us how many of them you’ve heard.
“Make it go viral”
Picture this: you’re having a lovely day at your desk, sipping the perfect cup of tea. An email drops into your inbox. You open it cautiously. The email reads “Can you make this go viral for us?”
You open the attachment. It’s a Powerpoint presentation about an upcoming HR event on pensions.
You scream and throw your computer across the room. Grabbing your pitchfork and torch, you charge outside. Your uncontrollable rage has consumed you. You shove a small child out of the way.
You kick over a bin.
You glare menacingly at an old lady, who scurries away in fear. This world will feel the pain and suffering it has inflicted on you.
Perhaps that second paragraph was a little dramatic (but only slightly).
Perhaps the phrase “make it go viral” draws from naivete instead of malice. However, it’s a phrase that makes social media managers foam at the mouth.
Making something “go viral” isn’t a case of pushing a button; the majority of viral posts simply happen without a huge amount of foresight, and they’re typically on topics a wide range of people can enjoy.
The majority of us won’t ever create a post that’ll go truly viral, but we’ll promote your product or service in the best way we know how.
“Put it on all social media channels”
Let’s start by discussing the issue with putting something on every social media channel. If you received a 7-minute landscape video and you were told to “put it on all social media channels”, how would you do it?
Twitter and TikTok would clip your video to a shorter length, your engagement on TikTok wouldn’t be as high due to the aspect ratio, and while Facebook may serve it to more people, the chances of people watching until the end are low (unless it’s a really interesting video).
This idea isn’t limited to just videos; graphics may perform differently depending on the social media channel, and the quality of a photo/image may mean it’s better suited to Stories than the main feed.
Even the message itself may only be suited to certain channels due to its intended audience.
Sometimes you can tweak the content or message, but this only adds to your workload and may not be worth the return.
>The people telling you to “put it on all social media channels” likely don’t know how social media works, and don’t understand that not everyone will be interested in their message.
We hate to hear it, but usually explaining this to them helps colleagues understand.
If they ask again, scream and/or pound your head against the keyboard.
“The event’s tomorrow”
“So let me get this straight. This event is vital for the continued success of your team?”
“How long have you been planning it for?”
“Around eight months”
“How many people are involved?”
“So why did you only ask me to promote it the day before the event?”
People have a strange misconception about social media. They believe that because messages can be shared instantly (far quicker than other avenues such as print or TV), results will also be immediate. That’s simply not true. Nobody is looking at social media 24/7, and therefore your message will be lost if it’s not regularly communicated with plenty of notice.
If someone have an urgent message, for example a sudden closure, social media is a great way to share that.
If that message involves something that’s been in the works for months, there are very few excuses for not planning promotion earlier.
The more time someone gives their social media manager, the more time we have to develop cool ideas to advertise it and the more time we have to raise public interest.
“We want a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account”
Some people mistakenly believe that good advertising means being physically everywhere. In fact, good advertising is knowing where and how to communicate.
Imagine someone is hosting an event for staff members at your business. They want to target staff who hope to become managers at their specific company.
To do this, they create accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram purely to advertise this event. They also email staff internally, place posters around the building and tell people about it at other events.
When the event arrives, it gets a decent turnout. However, there’s two problems.
First, their social media posts only reached around 10 people, and they have more than that at the event.
Second, because the event has finished, the social media accounts are now pointless.
The event was likely successful because of the internal advertising. They used channels which all potential guests could access, placed visuals in areas staff would most likely see and encouraged others to tell their colleagues.
The social media accounts may have provided a minor impact, but was it as useful as targeted advertising?
Here’s the point I’m trying to make: specialised accounts aren’t always the best way to put your message across.
A lot of the time, it’s better to use the channels you already have.
“Can you put this flyer on Instagram?”
“Can we get [CELEBRITY] to tweet about it?”
This is always a strange request to get because a) it makes the assumption that social media managers have a rolodex of celebrity contact details and b) it also assumes that audiences will only listen to messages if a celebrity speaks about it.
Influencer culture plays a big part in getting people invested in a product or service, but that depends entirely on who’s advertising and what’s being advertised.
Believe it or not, social media managers can’t get Beyoncé to advertise your bin collection service or get Taylor Swift to make an appearance at your networking event. If we could manage that, we’d be partying with celebrities and making guest appearances in DJ Khaled music videos instead of working in social media. That doesn’t mean getting a celebrity involved is a terrible idea; it works particularly well for strong causes such as charitable events.
Sometimes, a message is just a message. It doesn’t need bells and whistles to be communicated.
Sometimes, it just needs a straightforward social media post.
Which takes us to our next point…
“We need a video”
Video is the “big thing” on social media. It’s what platforms such as Facebook and Instagram want you to invest in, and what the likes of TikTok has seen massive success with.
A good video is an “event”, something which keeps your audience engaged and has a significant impact on them.
Does everything need a video though? Does the announcement of a new departmental strategy need a 3-minute video including interviews and cutaway shots? Do photos from a team away day need to be converted into a slideshow?
Long-form video content can be fantastic, but it’s also time-consuming, requires loads of planning and needs technical skill to be done well.
Ask yourself if a video would add anything to your message, or if it could still be easily (and more quickly) communicated through other methods.
Video isn’t bad, but it’s not always a necessity.
“We should be on TikTok”
Let’s get this out of the way first: TikTok is SO enjoyable.
It’s so easy to just sit there for ages scrolling through funny or relatable videos.
Gen Z are doing amazing and creative things with it, and they’re using their voice to support movements such as Black Lives Matter.
However, that doesn’t mean every company needs to be on it. Not all audiences use it enough to justify a presence, not all businesses have the right brand style to succeed on the platform, and not all social media teams have the time to add another channel to their arsenal.
Many of us have that colleague who thinks they’re the messiah when it comes to social media.
They can’t tell Twitter and Facebook apart, yet they’ll tell you on multiple occasions about this “exciting new social media platform” and ask why we’re not on it.
They most likely mean well, but they don’t quite get it. Just because a social media platform exists doesn’t mean we should be on it.
Also, TikTok is more than just “funny dances and filters”, believe it or not!
“We’re not dumbing it down”
If you work in a business which uses a lot of technical language or focuses on knowledge or education, you may relate to this one. Imagine you’ve received a news article written by a member of staff, who wants you to tweet about it.
The article is filled with technical jargon and complicated language, and you want to make it more accessible. You get in touch with the member of staff and ask for more information so you can write your social media posts. They respond with “Why are you dumbing it down? We’re not doing that”
In a way, they’re right; we’re not dumbing it down. What we’re doing is making the post more understandable for a wider audience. As social media managers, our job isn’t to simply copy and paste information.
We need to adapt content so that it suits our target audience. If our followers are primarily caregivers, we would use straightforward and empathetic language. If we’re sent content that’s technical and impersonal, we should adapt that for our audience.
Content with complicated language often only benefits those who wrote it and those in similar careers or circles. When you make your content easier to digest, you invite a new audience to consume it. Information like this should be spread freely, not created solely for the benefit of those who developed it.
“Anyone could do your job”
If none of these phrases have sent your blood boiling, this one might just do it.
In the grand scheme of things, social media is still a relatively new job. It doesn’t have the longevity of print or radio, and for many businesses it’s still an unknown concept.
It’s also seen as “something young people are obsessed with” instead of a legitimate communications function. Social media management is a job that’s simultaneously “something silly that doesn’t mean much” and a platform where, if you don’t post about this single thing, you’re ruining the company.
Social media managers do a lot of work. They create content (often including photos and videos), develop content calendars that could change in a moment, respond to angry people online, deal with crisis comms, support or train other staff members, working at events and more.
They’re often tasked with doing things not within their job description, usually with very little notice. They deal with abuse from people online and a lack of support within their organisation.
It’s a great job, but one which comes with wellbeing risks.
Please don’t say things like “anyone could do your job” and “your job isn’t important”. It’s a vital part of any organisation and needs to be respected.
Thanks so much to Alex for writing this. Funny AND cathartic! Don’t forget to take a look at Alex’s website and hunt him down on social media.
If you liked this post about phrases social media managers hate, you might also like Comms Facepalm Bingo.
I hope you know that you’re not alone if you find your comms strategy dream does not always match the reality.
I drew a doodle to illustrate this.
If you’re a comms pro, social media manager, or marketing person, you might think, ‘How do other people do amazing work so effortlessly?’.
The thing is, you actually know how to be strategic, but you often seem to be in circumstances that don’t allow a strategic approach to happen.
And sometimes your comms strategy is a document that gets written, signed-off – and never looked at again.
Don’t feel like a failure.
It’s easy to imagine that the successful comms and marketing pros are strategic all the time: they put their creative ideas into practice, they say no to anything that’s not in their plan, they get recognition from their bosses, and they get awards because they’re the most talented and worthy.
You wonder, ‘how can I be more like them’?
Here’s a secret: most of those successful people ARE like that – but only for a few days per month, or year.
All you know about is what they got right.
Your hero didn’t win awards by telling people all the times they were late to a meeting, with dry shampoo in the hair and cat hair all over their jacket.
The high achievers don’t do presentations about when they took on too much work and let someone down with a half-finished job.
They are human too, but they tell you what they did that was good, and sounded like it was part of the plan.
The truth is, most people at some point are swimming in chaos, flapping about, and hosing down fires. Because life, and work, isn’t straight-forward.
A comms strategy made for perfect world (that doesn’t exist!)
Many strategies are made with a stable environment in mind, and a rose-tinted view of how complex organisations behave.
However, even in the healthiest working cultures, you’re in an uncontrollable situation. Your colleagues and clients each have different personal and professionals ideas, goals, and ambitions. They have good days and bad days, which will affect how they work with you.
There are things they don’t know about our profession, that they don’t know they don’t know.
Leaders tell you they want one thing, but actually want something else.
Your market research may tell you that your audience likes something, but actually they don’t want it.
External factors – pandemics, news agendas, the economy, even the flipping weather – can throw us a curveball. No wonder our jobs are difficult!
Then there is us.
We can fix some things, but not everything
We see lots of ways we could improve our working practices, and we want to get rid of this blasted fire-fighting, reactive way of working.
But when someone you like asks you to do something last minute, and a chief exec is shouting at you about media coverage, your garage is on their phone saying your car is knackered, and YOU’RE knackered – you just go, “Ok, I’ll see what I can do”.
Then later, when you’re on your fifteenth coffee of the day it occurs to you “WHY didn’t I say NO?!!”
There are times when life is going ok, and you’re in a good place, so you can be on a mission.
You take on those little battles and improve things. Say no. Speak truth to power. Mastermind the most genius strategic campaign of the century.
And then there are times when it’s not worth the hassle.
Sometimes we hold on to our energy to just get into work and do an ok job, so we have something left to give attention to what’s going on right now – our grief, kids, illness, heartbreak, or a new love affair. The life stuff that matters more than work.
You can’t give 100% of your effort to work 100% of the time (no matter what we say in interviews).
That’s just how it works.
You CAN improve things – but there will still always be dream days and reality days.
You’re not alone.
You’re doing great work – just not all the time, because that would be impossible.
I think the way to have more dream days, and better comms strategy, is to make time to learn cool techniques and get support from other talented people.
That’s why our Comms Creatives online courses all come with video lessons, live coaching, and lovely networking groups to discuss the realities and share the dreams of being in comms.
Yes we build your skills, but we also grow your confidence and unleash your creativity so you can do a fabulous job in an imperfect world.
This is a practical guide to maintaining creative social media during the coronavirus crisis.
Actually, all of the advice here is relevant at any time, but it’s pretty vital now.
There’s loads more I want to tell you, but I’ve brutally edited it down to 5 areas that I think will be most useful for comms, PR and marketing pros right now.
Focus on what’s important to your audience.
There are things you will want to tell people about your organisation, services, products.
But, especially in the early weeks of the crisis, it’s so important to put your own concerns second. Think hard about what your audiences cares about right now.
Empathy is a superpower.
In their own way, your audience is likely to feel stressed, disorientated, worried, and frustrated. Acknowledge that. Even if it’s just to say “It’s has been a very tough few weeks,” like Jet Blue’s CEO did.
“Donating our wedding dresses to wonderful women is the least we can do to bring happiness and joy to their wedding day, making them look and feel their best.”
That is a creative and sophisticated way to communicate. Lush.
This good feeling allows me to feel good about their brand, and shows that they are not just squeezing the situation for money.
Last week, when Lesley and I decided to give NHS communicators over £19,000 worth of free places on our online Social Media Expert Course, we did it to make ourselves feel good, so we didn’t feel quite as powerless to help.
On the other hand, a few days ago my bikini wax salon told me about their business concern and why they want to stay open. It felt like my safety – and public health – was the last thing they cared about.
I won’t be letting them remove hair from my nether regions once this is all done.
2. Bring good news stories where you can.
We all need these rays of hope.
If you can find a way to be uplifting, you’ll reach your audience in a meaningful way that builds love for your brand.
Plus you’ll get the benefit of the warm and fuzzy feeling of shining a little light into the darkness – which is good for your stress levels.
Congratulations to these two – they got engaged at our Tonbridge store this week 💍
He had planned to propose in Iceland but as their holiday was cancelled, he chose the next best thing 😉
After people raised concerns online that Monzo might go bust, the bank responded by going back to number one on this list – focusing on what’s important to your audience.
Monzo know people are seriously worried about how the crisis will affect their money.
Rather than dwelling on if they will or won’t go bust, they showed they are in control, by offering their customers reassurance about their money, and positioned themselves as the people who can help (as opposed to being a company in need of help).
We're here to help if coronavirus is affecting your money.
And your eligible money in Monzo is protected up to £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) 😌https://t.co/Icg9fsRuOj
So, that’s some general advice on communicating on social media during the coronavirus crisis – I hope it helps.
If you’d like a little more personalised help or advice for your organisation – give me a shout.
For a few months, I’m offering private video advice calls, where you can get advice, reassurance or ideas for your communications and marketing.
I can help you with managing your brand’s social media during the coronavirus crisis, tricky messaging, social media strategy, and taking a creative approach to your communications.
And if you want to bust some stress and keep your creativity flowing, have a go – for free – at our #31DaysOfCreativity challenge.
I would highly recommend doing this #31DaysOfCreativity challenge from @commscreatives – I completed it in January and it was fantastic, not only did I learn lots of new skills from the tasks, I connected with so many new people… something that is more valuable than ever now! https://t.co/zhgA3BcTTJ
The best comms and PR is produced by people who put their neck on the line to push a concepts they believe in, who fight for the more unusual projects to be given a try, and work hard get leaders and decision makers to respect their judgement.
Without education and the chance to play, we wouldn’t be the creative communicators we are today. It will make a very special gift to give a child in need a backpack, 10 exercise books, 10 pencils, a football, a skipping rope and a story book. Available from the Unicef website.
Being a creative comms person is not the easy option.
You create something a little different that you think is pretty good – but you don’t know how it will be received by your audiences, & colleagues
It’s emotional. Nerve-wracking.
Ever since I started out as a press officer (ages ago, ‘coz I’m old) & I sent that first press release, no matter how many times I put what I’ve made into the world, my body always tells me I’ve probably got it wrong and everyone will soon realise I’m an idiot.
A little lurch in the stomach goes ‘danger!’.
“What if I accidentally sent an embarrassing typo? What if this video gets misinterpreted? What if… argh!”
When we stick to the ways we always do things, or go with the most inoffensive option, it reduces our worries that our comms will be badly received.
But the outcome of being safe, predictable & boring?
Being ignored by our audiences. Because they get used to seeing the same old same old.
And people just scroll past.
We have to create thumb-stopping content that is unusual & makes people react emotionally.
Creativity is VITAL to our work if we want to capture people’s attention, & make a difference with our comms.
61% often or always take on more work than they can handle
63% are often or always given work last-minute, and with unrealistic deadlines
52% often or always have insufficient time to complete their work
50% often or always find they can’t ‘switch-off’ when they get home from work
50% often or always find themselves ranting to loved ones about work
Just three of the hundreds of comments that describe anxiety, tiredness and overwhelm :
“The biggest stress for me is too much work, and it’s made worse by the fact that I myself accepted it. I want to do it, because I can do it and do it well. But then I get overwhelmed by how much I have to do.”
“I’m given no time to plan, and never feel like I can work strategically. I used to love working in PR and comms but I’m ready to give up on my comms career.”
“Perfectionism drives my work-related stress – and lack of confidence. I never feel that I am doing enough … and that others are better, and getting better results.”
Aren’t the companies we work for addressing this comms stress with mental health awareness schemes and policies?
Nope. Not effectively, or we wouldn’t see these shocking results.
My view is that organisations we work for are the cause, not the answer to this crisis.
Our employers have created a toxic culture where it’s normal to take on too much work: we’re expected to get on with the job with little time for training, and a big dose of imposter syndrome.
That is what people said in the survey, that’s what I see every week.
And we actually can’t rely on our employers to fix this, because they only see stress in relation to the average of 29 working days lost in each work-related stress.
There I’m going to discuss the common problems we face, what causes it, and who’s to blame.
But for now, here are a few ideas on how we can tackle ‘the workload dilemma’ day-to-day.
A reality check for PR and comms professionals
If you love your work, and you want to make a real difference, there are so many opportunities to find, and be given, interesting and rewarding projects to work on.
But what about when this is combined with people giving you more and more tasks and activities, and when you don’t have any clear priorities – it’s an impossible nightmare.
I have amazing new ideas!
They want it done today!
We could get people interested in this!
Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to take everything on.
If you make yourself ill, you won’t be able to do anything
Stress is bad for your body
Tiredness means you make more mistakes
Workload overload saps your enthusiasm for a job you love
Do overtime if you want, but if you do that too much, you’ll make those hours the new normal.
We all have busy spells, but if it lasts for more than a few weeks, it’s going to impact negatively on your health.
Like parents on a crashing plane, we have to put the oxygen mask on first before we help others.
You are good enough. The work you do, in the time you’re paid to do it, is great. You CAN prove yourself in a way that doesn’t make you ill.
And you are more important than any job.
Try saying no more often
I hate saying no. If you do too, you can try what I say: ‘I can’t, unfortunately’. It is true, as mostly, we would love to help but don’t have capacity.
Make your own priorities
Even if you don’t say yes to everything, it can still feel overwhelming.
If you put equal energy into everything, you can end up ‘juggling’ – going into autopilot, and doing lots of OK work, but none of it makes you proud. And it makes you feel like you’re never performing at your best.
Brace yourself perfectionists, you’re going to hate this next bit.
To use our talents effectively, we can’t do it ALL to our best ability.
So decide to do just a few things brilliantly. Prioritise. Be known for something you did that was truly excellent.
Then put minimum effort in all of your work that is not high priority: 20% of your work you can put in high effort, and the remaining 80%, you do bare minimum.
Better that some of what you do is your absolute best, than all of your work is average, and you’re stressed out.
Try it for a month, see how it boosts your effectiveness, motivation and health.
It can be just quicker and easier to wang out a story or tweet your service out with little thought.
So what about that stuff that we really want to do well? That stuff takes guts to do well.
Brilliant work and bravery go hand-in-hand.
Our lives aren’t in danger, but it can be a bit scary to do something new, creative, or because these thoughts sometimes go through our minds:
Being creative means putting your unique ideas out for the world to see and what if people think it’s crap?
If you get loads of feedback to a social media post, it’s going to take ages to respond to all the comments, and you just don’t have time.
Doing something that gets attention may well be seen by someone who hates your organisation and they might say something negative which will damage your brand’s reputation.
Colleagues don’t always ‘get’ comms. They may understand ‘the business as usual’ stuff you do, but when you do things differently, they might get on your case, or worse, slag you off behind your back.
So creative, engaging social media doesn’t just take skills and creativity – it takes guts.
And I want to say: ‘NICELY DONE, BRAVE COMMS WARRIOR’!
Because you know that the benefits of creating well-designed and engaging content far outweigh the risks.
And if you want to learn more techniques for creating more engaging social media content, and ALSO have a coach and a group of other comms professionals holding your hand and helping you find the courage to do work you feel totally proud of …
Become a member of our pioneering social media training academy