The best social media gaffes

When running to social media accounts as or for a business, it is of course important to do so professionally and carefully. A company’s social media profiles are portfolios to the business as a whole. I personally check a company’s Facebook or Twitter feed to see what they’re like and how busy they are, etc. From misspelt text to inappropriate messages, once it’s out there, someone will see it (even with a swift deletion!), especially when is comes from a large company with a big following. Here are 3 social media gaffes from years gone by!

HMV – Leaving former employees with Twitter access!

The music and entertainment giant was famously in the news for the wrong reasons when a bunch of former employees posted messages to the company Twitter account after being made redundant.

HMVTWEETSFor starters having too many people with access to the main company account is a bad idea, as messages can become mixed with people towing different lines.

You can see in the photo, that messages sent on the official feed can be quite damaging. Sure enough HMV came under fire from other Twitter users.

Lesson: Change passwords when someone with social media access departs the company. Keep users to a minimum of trusted, sensible individuals.

Transport for London customer service deliver some unwelcome advice

TFL-Social-Media-FailUsing social media for customer service is a great trick, so long as the staff are trained, polite and courteous! Unlike one individual at TFL (Transport for London).

No matter how disgruntled the customer is, customer service should always be helpful. Here you can see the London Overground account’s reply to a message, which whilst is not that rude, is not very helpful!

Lesson: Be polite on social media, especially if you’re a big company! Train staff to deal with a whole range of messages and complaints.

LG’s feel the backlash after mocking iPhones

lg-france-tweet-on-bendgateDuring the period when Apple were under fire for their latest iPhones suffering from unplanned bending, LG attempted to poke some fun at them. However, it soon backfired when users noticed a tweet sent by LG was uploaded using “Twitter for iPhone”. This created a trend across Twitter of people poking fun back at LG. Lesson: Don’t criticise other people’s products if they’re actually quite good!

To conclude…

However you use social media and whatever your company size, it is important to remember the basics and be pleasant. By thinking about things before you post you can avoid any gaffes like the ones above.

What do your customers think of you?

researchDo you know what your customers think of your business?

Is your marketplace fully aware of what you do?

I’m sure you have a clear view of how you want your business to be perceived by people but what do they actually think? Good business is about strong relationships and asking your customers for their opinion is a great way to show you care. Getting feedback from your customers is also a great way to confirm how well you are doing, and maybe find ways you can do things even better.

Relationships are key

Most of our work is B2B (business to business) where our clients tend to have ongoing relationships with their customers – which can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, ongoing relationships suggest you are getting things right most of the time, but on the other it can be difficult to break out of the day-to day trading cycle. I talk a lot about the benefit of having a marketing communications plan, and building some research into that plan can really pay dividends.As a rule people don’t really tell you what they’re thinking unless you specifically ask them for their opinion, or they have a complaint!.

Research can deliver real benefit

  1. Do your customers appreciate the full range of your products & services or do they only know about the bit they use now?
  2. You might be dealing with one part of a business but are there other departments/divisions you aren’t aware of?
  3. Your customer might me satisfied with your service but are you missing an opportunity to make them love it?

It is important to appreciate that research – particularly for B2B SMEs – isn’t all about statistics. Asking customers to give you ‘marks out of 10‘ can be useful as a benchmarking exercise but the real value is talking to your contacts outside of the normal customer/supplier relationship and give them the opportunity to tell you what they think.

Approaches to research

Essentially there are 2 different approaches to research:

  • Systematic
    • Web-based/Social Media
    • E-mail
    • Mail
  • Personal 
    • Telephone
    • Focus Group/Group Discussion
    • Individual Face to Face

I have listed each group in increasing order of cost. There is some evidence that the higher cost methods can deliver better data though, in my experience, the additional benefit typically doesn’t adequately cover the extra cost. Although we find ourselves discussing a whole range of research options with clients, in practice the projects we run are typically either Web based (normally a Survey on a website) or Telephone based – the most cost effective options for each approach.

Which approach is best for my business?

There isn’t an easy answer to this question but here are some pointers that might give you something to think about…

Customer Base

If you have a lot of customers, personal research can get costly. Using a web-based or email approach here can work well and the cost-benefits of this approach really mount up when the numbers get larger. If you have a smaller customer base, it is likely your day-to-day relationship with each of them is closer so a personal research approach may be more appropriate. If you are in a niche market with a modest number of customers, the cost of a personal approach won’t spiral out of control either!

Data Management

Research is a bit of a waste of time if you don’t do something with the results! It is useful to have quantitative data in a spreadsheet or similar format where it is easy to compare different results and look for trends. It is also easier to compare one year to the next Systematic research normally makes it easier to record and analyse data. Many on-line systems – even standard web forms – include functionality to record feedback directly into a downloadable spreadsheet. This can save time and money. It also eliminates data-entry errors. Personal research will normally require that feedback is recorded manually though as you will probably be working with lower quantities, this normally isn’t a problem. On the upside, the process of data-entry allows important comments that may be made by a particular individual to be more readily picked-up Even with a systematic approach, you should always give people the opportunity to comment.


There is no question that a systematic approach, although lower cost, is likely to deliver a significantly lower response rate. You are likely to need to ask your target audience to take part several times and even then, our experience suggests that you probably won’t see higher than 20-25% response. The personal approach should yield significantly higher response – as much as 60-70% in some cases, but preparation is vital: Pick your researcher(s) carefully. You really need to use an experienced professional, not just someone who reads a script – when you may as well just use an email approach! Although you don’t want a script-reader, it is a good idea to have a ‘Questionnaire’ to structure and guide each conversation. If nothing else it helps make sure that key points aren’t overlooked. Even with a personal approach, consider introductory email or letter. This can make a considerable difference to response rates.


It never ceases to amaze me how few businesses do any form of research yet if well planned, research need not cost a great deal and can deliver real benefit in understanding how your customers think, what they want, and how you can best position your business to deliver. Think about it….

How to make your events more engaging

Most of you will have attended one or more business events at some point. Be it a generic networking event, a trade show or even a business dinner, events can be used to create lots of engagement.

Picture the scene, a room full of people, all with a smartphone in their pockets and wanting to get involved.

Here are 4 ways to create engagement at business events, from an organisational viewpoint.

1. Social Media

Perhaps an obvious one, but social media is key to creating engagement around events. Social media posts can be sent out before, during and after the event. This means there can be a build up to drum up interest. Simple things such as asking who will be attending or sending out invites to the specific event raise awareness. An official event #hashtag is a must! During the event, live posting key updates will often create a buzz for people to interact with, even if they are not at the venue. Imagery of a busy room or a popular stand at an expo will also spike engagement. After the event, social media can be used to to garner feedback of how it went, usually by posting a link to a quick survey or simply asking for comments.

2. Presentations

Most events have one or more speakers talking about a variety of different subjects. Sadly many pof these are less than inspiring and often simply a straight sales pitch,. few create real engagement with the audience. A good presentation aims to tell a story. It’s fine to big yourself up. Naturally this is likely to happen when demonstrating how you can help your target audience. However, a presentation should captivate the audience and give them something to either relate to or engage with, rather than simply be a sales pitch. I can thoroughl;y recommend TED Talks for good, engaging presentation ideas.

3. Visual Media

Coming more to the fore recently is visual media. At an event, being able to show people who aren’t there what they are missing is a great thing to do. They may be persuaded to come to a similar event in the future. Periscope (more info here), is a tool that allows anyone with a smartphone to live stream what’s going on. For example, a key part of the event could be streamed so that anyone can view it, raising exposure. On top of this, the original live stream can be saved and re used afterwards as a resource.

4. Direct Audience Participation

Using techniques that make the audience do something, are often a useful way of getting them involved and interested. Things such as voting on a question with a show of hands, carrying out a rough survey with yes or no cards or any other use of props, all get the audience to give their opinion and will in turn lead to a discussion. Prize draws are also a good way to get attendees involved, as free things always gain attention!

The long and short of it…

Whatever your choose to do at an event, make it interesting and utilise the tools at your disposal. You don’t have to over complicate things. Instead, by making the audience feel involved and making noise on all appropriate platforms, you will end up with a better event and significantly more engagement with your market place.      

There is no magic wand for marketing success

A while ago, an article in marketing magazine suggested that one reason that Twitter has been so successful over the past decade is that they had “brushed away all the complex faux-scientific guff that marketing has become, and instead focused on what really matters: being a unique and useful business”. It was a phrase that really resonated with me. Having been in marketing over the past 20 plus years, and having seen the impact that the internet has had on this profession, there is no doubt that Faux Scientific Guff, has taken over the industry, and we need to win it back! As a member of the CIM and a Chartered Marketer, I have always understood that marketing is all about communicating the value that you add to your potential customers, and ultimately this comes from being a unique and useful business.

There is no Magic wand for Marketing Success

Since the advent of the web as a marketing tool, too many marketing companies have promoted the idea that there is this magic formula to marketing. One which, if applied to any business, is the magic wand that delivers success. Furthermore, they have sold their services by promoting the idea that there are measurements that can be applied to your marketing efforts (usually very technical & impossible to understand for the layman) to suggest that your marketing is sub-optimal, and that by improving these measurements your marketing will magically deliver success. Well, I am going to make a bold statement:

"There is no magic wand for marketing success"

Furthermore, there is no simple metric that can be optimized or formula that can be applied in the real world with real businesses to deliver marketing success. It is still about being a unique and useful business and making sure that your customers & potential customer realise this. So I am clear, let me repeat that.

It (Marketing) is still about being a unique and useful business, and making sure that you communicate this to your customers & potential customers

OK rant over.

Marketing statistics metrics are a tool not the objective

In saying all this, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t think the measurement of marketing efforts have value because they do. In pre-internet days, measuring the effectiveness of your marketing was challenging and expensive, meaning that for most SME businesses it was about throwing resources at it and hoping that some would stick.

Now, that is no longer the case and the plethora of data and statistics available, if used intelligently can really assist in making marketing more effective and allowing focus on areas that seem to be delivering value.

Let’s talk about SEO

Let me take SEO as a case in point. There is no doubt that search engines (OK, let’s not beat around the bush – Google) are a vital factor in the way people access information & make purchasing decisions. From the moment marketeers realised this, they have been selling the idea that “get to the top of Google and all your problems will be over”. This has resulted in “marketers” focusing on making their marketing relevant to Google rather than their customers. The result being that even if they did get to the top of Google, the message did not effectively communicate the uniqueness and relevance of their business to the people doing the searching.

I would suggest that this is a perfect example of the tail wagging the dog. The focus should be on ensuring that your message is relevant to your customers & demonstrated the skill, expertise & value that you add. That way when people do find this material, it will be much more likely to move them closer to wanting to deal with you. And the fact is that because this is exactly the type of information that search engines want to deliver to their users, they are going to work with you to help them find it.

Sadly though as a sales pitch this is a much more wooly proposition than, “it’s all about getting to the top of Google, let us do A, B and C, and you will be at the top of Google and all your problems will be over”.

In the same way other tools – email, blogs, websites, content marketing & social media etc – are just that “Tools” to use as part of the marketing mix, and marketers should concentrate on using them to communicate their message, rather than focusing on the tools themselves.

Stats should be used to drive marketing, and not the other way round.

Real, Effective Marketing for SMEs 

In the 21st century, marketing is about the use of the fantastic tools available (Websites, email, search engines, social media etc) to communicate the value you add to your marketplace.

So whilst there may not be a magic wand, or scientific formula for success, effective, measured marketing is more attainable now than ever for SMEs. Furthermore, when implemented in a consistent and sustained way it will deliver results.