Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Five AWESOME Books for Toddlers

Whether it's a tiger coming to tea, a caterpillar with a food fetish or a Gruffalo's kid having a wander - there are so many amazing, fun and educational books out there for toddlers.

Since my first daughter Grace arrived, right up until now with our second, Anna, on the scene, reading has been an essential part of our night time routine. There's not many better feelings as a dad than having your kid on your knee for story time. It has definitely helped build a strong bond with my daughter and I also put a big part of that down to the books (and authors) themselves.

I have read a few absolute stinkers in my time as Head Reader of the House. Honestly, some of the cheap knock off versions of old fairy tales are awful and I'm not a massive fan of Disney's book versions of the films. So I reckon I have the experience now to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

Presented to you is my top five recommended reads for toddlers (or any age really!) I'd love to know yours in the comments.

Fox's Socks (and the rest of the Tales from Acorn Wood series)



http://clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk/products/Tales-from-Acorn-Wood-Foxs-Socks-9780333966235
Written by the queen of books for small children, Julia Donaldson, this is a gem along with it's companions in the series. Lift and flap books are always fun but with Axel Scheffler's beautiful illustrations and Julia's simple yet engrossing mini-stories, the fun is doubled. Her characters are so personable that your wee one will very soon know them and identify what kind of animal they are.

Great Line: " In a cupboard up high, he finds his bow tie".

"WOW" said the Owl!
http://www.theworks.co.uk/p/bedtime-stories/wow-said-the-owl/9780230701045
Tim Hopgood's book is the perfect way for your wee one to learn their colours. And I don't know why but my daughter Grace absolutely loves owls so all the better. We've been reading this one to her since she was a couple of months old and it is still a permanent fixture on the elite pile. The mix of watercolour and pen compliments the simple story of a curious owl discovering the day time and all it's amazing colours.

Great Line: "She couldn't believe her eyes! The sky was a warm and wonderful pink".

The Tiger Who Came To Tea
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25027090
This one is the oldest in my list, having been first published in 1968. Written by the creator of the Mog the Cat series, Judith Kerr, The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a fantastically surreal tale of...well, a tiger coming to tea. I love the fact that the tiger isn't even a figment of the young girl's imagination (the mum can see him too) and the story doesn't try to be clever. It is purely an exercise in stretching the imagination. The drawings too are wonderful; really representing its time. There's definitely a reason why it is still being printed now.

Great Line: "The tiger didn't eat just one bun. He ate all the buns on the dish."

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
http://littlesproutspeech.com/book-club-week-37-very-hungry-caterpillar/
Another one from the late 60s (might say something about my own tastes) is Eric Carle's enduring tale of the chunky caterpillar. On one hand the story is a great way for your kid to learn about different foods and colours. While on the other hand, the plainly positive moral message explains that as you get a wee bit bigger, you blossom into your own perfect individual self (in this case a butterfly!)

Great Line: "The caterpillar ate through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better".

Room on the Broom (in Scots)
http://www.nunthorpeprimary.co.uk/course/view.php?id=3
Seeing as it's Halloween this weekend, I have to mention another top book by Julia Donaldson, translated to Scots by James Robertson. It's a wee bit longer but an engrossing story of a witch picking up a succession of cheeky hitchhikers. We have the Scots version of the book, which a) makes it a bit more of a challenge for me and b) hopefully will expand our daughters' vocabularies in their native tongues.

Great Line:"'Aye!' cried the witch, sae the burd flaffed on board. The witch chapped the bizzum and wheech! aff they soared."

Honourable mentions

I could really just make this a list of seven but I'll just give quick mentions to The Gruffalo's Wean (in Scots) by Julia Donaldson and How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers.



Grace's album of the week


This week, we have been boogie-ing along to The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle by Bruce Springsteen. I, I mean Grace, have always been a fan of Bruce's stuff from Born to Run onwards but just haven't given the time to the first two records. But on the recommendation of a friend I picked this one up at HMV. Only £12.99 as well, which is too good to pass up. And I'm totally glad I did as it shows Bruce demonstrating his lyrical chops via storytelling brilliance.


Anna's score prediction


It's a biggie this weekend for the Gers, away to Hibs. After a rocky start, the Hibees are on a streak but then the Gers are on an even better streak. Oduwa didn't play against St. Mirren, which was just as well, given the thug Goodwin was on the field. But Hibs ain't a dirty side and their expansive play should allow Oduwa to exploit spaces in their play. Anna reckons however, that the Gers simply have better players and think a 2-1 away win is on the cards.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

How to instantly improve LinkedIn



So, I think we can all agree; LinkedIn kinda sucks.

Sure, you can show off your pimped up CV to the world and connect with complete strangers for absolutely no reason...but the user experience is awful.

What's it about anyway?

I often hear LinkedIn being touted as 'Facebook for business people'. Which I suppose might make sense, given that it has its own timeline feature, you can have profile and banner pics, and you can create your own company page too. But, on all counts it massively fails in comparison to the Zuckerberg giant.

Whenever, I look at my main LinkedIn timeline I see a hotch-potch mix of status updates, sponsored rubbish, viral 'inspirational' graphics and suggested roles for me (usually based more than 100 miles from my home). If I do see something that interests me but I choose to click on something else first and come back...when I click back on my browser, my timeline has totally and inexplicably changed!

A simple solution

And this is where my bug bear and solution comes in - the timeline. Twitter, Facebook and Google+ all allow you to categorise your connections and who you follow. LinkedIn doesn't. Of all the social networks, LinkedIn is the one which TOTALLY SHOULD have this feature.

What a treat it would be to be able to stick all my colleagues into one (let's call it a) bundle while all my acquaintances, influencers and friends in to other bundles. I could, if I wanted to, bypass the main timeline altogether and go straight to the people who post quality content and avoid the 'First Word You See' wordsearches (*shudders*).



Another awesome Facebook feature, which would naturally improve LinkedIn would be the ability to unfollow other users without disconnecting from them. Again, this would instantly enhance the user experience in regards to the status updates and post notifications you see.

So there. Two easily adaptable/easily stolen features for LinkedIn to consider. Because at present, I just can't be bothered with it and the only reason I log in is for my company page.

What do you think?

Oh oh oh! And one more - as an administrator on a company page with reporting responsibilities, would it KILL LinkedIn to develop an export function!? Seriously folks, get on it.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Would you take your kid to a football game?



I had a conversation recently about the pros and cons of taking your kid to a football game. Traditionally, I viewed football matches as a place for men. Yeah, yeah I know - so sexist and yes I agree but the reality is that it is still mainly a male past time.

Is it wise to allow your young one to be in an environment where language can be, ahem, choice or where certain songs are at best, questionable?

I am a Rangers FC fan, whereas my wife and her side are mostly Celtic FC fans. She knows full well the kinds of banter, which goes on between both sets of fans. I'm sure it's the same for other rivalries too; Liverpool vs Man Utd, Giants vs Jets, Madrid vs Barcelona, Knicks vs Celtics.

For this post I really just have football (soccer) in mind. Many stadiums now have family sections with things like face painting and goodie bags. However, a football game is still a football game and unless you're packing noise protectors, it's likely there'll be some things you just can't avoid.

So, here are five pros and cons...

Pro

Getting your kid to follow 'your team' from a young age. Embedding the culture of the club in their psyche from the earliest possible point.

Con

Do you really want to be the kind of parent that forces your child into anything? Ultimately, this is denying them the choice to get involved with either another team or even another sport.

Pro

Letting them enjoy a big game atmosphere and lap up the euphoria of being the winning team!

Con

There's a 50/50 chance the team will lose. And when they do, the accompanying language and misery from supposedly adult males would turn the air sour.



Pro

Enjoying the banter and songs on the supporters bus on the way to the game. What's better than everyone singing along to get pumped up for the game.

Con

Depending on the team you support, particularly in the west of Scotland, certain songs are not what you want your innocent young protege knowing.

Pro

Your kid will instantly discover a new hero; whether it's the start forward, the classy midfielder or the burly defender. They will emulate him and use him as a totem for the foreseeable future.

Cons

You will be required by parenting law to purchase the replica kit. Oh and that will also have to have to the player's name and number at additional cost too!

Pro

Having a team and identity as a supporter adds to the enthusiasm your young 'un will develop to get into the sport. Surely this is a good thing?

Con

As any dad who used to play schoolboy football will attest; the chance of 'making it' is a million to one. Suddenly you have a kid who couldn't be bothered with their school work and is filling in their Burger King application form.

Okay, so that's kind of a bleak worst case scenario.

Would you do it? Is there a minimum age before you can hit the big match with little Jimmy or Jemma?

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Happy Birthday!

Where have the past two years gone?

Grace, daughter number one, completed her second year yesterday. To celebrate, we visited Igglepiggle and the gang at the In The Night Garden Live show at Queen's Park in Glasgow. We followed that with a special birthday lunch at Pizza Hut, which was probably just as much for us as it was for Grace...

The show was fantastic. Check out my note in 'Family Fun' for full details but suffice to say, it was well worth the money; they really have it nailed for the children and the parents.

At Gymboree on Saturday, we got a special Happy Birthday song and rendition of Grace's favourite song 'Twinkle Twinkle' too. She is really starting to understand the fact that all these things, along with the visitors, cards and gifts are about her. It's been lovely to see her getting a bit of special treatment (although, as parents, we will keep her grounded in her future expectations!).

Watching her grow and learn over the past two years has just been, and every day is, so much fun. Her speech is coming on, she's getting stronger and can already count to ten. Okay, so she doesn't really understand what numbers are but hey, I still find it impressive!

I would like to see her speech progress a bit faster but nursery looms this year and I think that will really help. We have been lucky in having Julie's dad to take her during the day while we have been at work. However, a young mind really needs more than Papa's conversation, so the extended time with wee people her own age will hopefully turn her words into full sentences.

I think we are doing a good job though. She is well behaved, learns quickly, is gentle with her sister and constantly wants to explore. I can't wait to learn what the year ahead has in store.



Do you have a toddler? Any tips for helping with speech development?

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Social Morality

I seem to recall hearing this phrase a number of times in the last few days: 'social morality'. It's an interesting one because it is perceived to be easy to understand, even though completely vague.
 
'Social morality' to one man, woman or whole culture might be completely opposite to the other. One might say it means things like, 'being good to others and causing no harm' or 'giving money to the poor'. But even both those phrases for example can be broken down and questioned.
 
So let's think about the phrase 'social morality' firstly by its component parts...
 
What is meant by 'social'? Is 'social' to mean interaction among people or just something that is in the public domain for all to see and interact with? Is 'social' to mean that we must not be alone and that we can only function or show our morality if we are in the presence of people? If you ask Google to define 'social' it more or less confirms that a) a collective group or community and b) the idea of company and companionship.
 
We can confidently say that 'social' means some form of togetherness. Being social, whether you do it online or face to face, is what makes us human. Sure, people like me, can be introverted but at some point we need to interact with someone else. Why else would we exist? I'd imagine that is a whole other discussion!
 
Okay, that's probably the easy part. What about 'morality'? If you asked just about anyone what they thought 'morals' or 'morality' meant, they'd most likely give a broad answer along the lines of "being a decent person".
 
Is that enough though? So let's look at it:
 
What makes us decent?
 
a) giving to the vulnerable
b) helping a frail elderly neighbour
c) caring for an upset friend
d) being quiet and reading books all day
e) all of the above
 
I guess it would be easy to say all of the above, except 'd'. That just makes us a bit boring. There's no denying that if that were the case then yes, one might label that person a tad boring. But suppose the reason they were reading was to learn or to write their own book or to simply enjoy a good story; is that not decent? By doing something, at worst harmless and at best, inspiring, is that not decent? They might not carry out outwardly heroic tasks as described in a-c but they are no less decent.
 
Let's think about option 'c'. Say that my friend has just broken up with his girlfriend and I take him to the pub for a consolatory drink. The drink turns into more than a few and we both end up drunk. Because he is upset, he says a couple of stupid things to another guy and a fight breaks out. At the end of it, my friend is in a jail cell for assaulting the other gent. When my friend wakes up the next day he immediately feels remorse. He understands that he has committed wrongdoing and expresses regret at his actions. I simply console and understand that he let his mixture of negative emotions and alcohol get the better of him and that it was an out of character act. I understand that my friend is a decent person with positive morals who, for an instance, failed.
 
So we understand that 'morality' means to live by a set of values in which we understand the basics of right and wrong i.e. do no harm to others and be a good citizen. That is on the understanding that I am not mixing in any religious doctrine here. A Christian or a Muslim's idea of morality will inevitably be bound with rules as set out in their respective books.
 
Combining the two words again then: 'social morality'. We can comfortably say something like, "Living as a citizen of the human race, inflicting no harm on fellow citizens and understanding ours and others' imperfections as well as qualities."

A Weird Week

This has been a weird week. I feel like I have irreversibly changed following the news. The graphic images we have been subjected to this week of that wee boy deepy moved me. Those images, I can honestly say, I will never forget. They are burned into my conscience.
 
 
I cried. I cried when I saw the news reports and then again just lying in bed at night.
 
I mean, I see news reports every day showcasing the worst of humanity but this one really arrowed me like nothing else. The fact is, when I saw those images, I saw my own daughter. Or at least, I recognised that - but for having the good fortune of being born in another part of the world - we are lucky. I don't know if that's the right word to use but I can't think of anything else. When I looked at Grace running round our living room like a crazy person; a big smile on her face, I was simultaneously feeling joy and guilt.
 
 
Why?

Why should we be able to laugh and enjoy these experiences when other parents are busy drowning at sea along with their toddlers?
 
It's a question I have really been struggling to comprehend this week. I don't think I'll ever find a suitable answer and to be honest, I'm at the point where shutting my eyes and trying to de-sensitise myself seems like a better option. But I won't.
 
Facebook announced this week that it had over one BILLION users in a single day. Could you imagine if even a fraction of that number lent its collective voice? I read as many people having a bitch about Google's new logo and it just seemed so...ludicrous!
 
If you are friends with me on Facebook, you will have seen my call to parents to hug your child just a wee bit tighter from now on. I'm sure no parent needs telling. It was more of a call to action to myself to appreciate basic things in life more than I do at present.
 
 
Philosophy

I have been reading Alain de Botton's The Consolation of Philosophy. The second chapter discusses Epicurus' take on living, which was fairly simple but at the same time seems stupidly difficult to achieve. His three tenets of leading a satifying life are: friendship (or companionship), freedom and the ability to think with reason. I'm not going to go into a book study here but suffice to say, I think I can do better on all three fronts. One thing the book has so far helped me with, this week especially, is in prompting me to question the happenins of the world. Unfortunately, my philosophical brain is not yet developed enough to conjure rationale from the needless death of human beings.
 
That's about it. I hope if you read this post I haven't brought you down. I just ask folks to think harder in an age of mindless social media comments and 24/7 live news coverage.
 
 
Do your bit

Lend your support too. I donate to the following charities each month. I donate a fiver to each, which works out as only £20. It's not a lot but it's all I can personally afford at the moment. Try and give a wee bit if you can.
 
 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Open (ed) Eyes



So, golf eh? Who'd a thunk it could actually be so engrossing.

As mentioned before, I can't wait for the football season to re-start but in the interim I've had a good couple of weeks. Wimbledon (unlucky, Andy), the Tour (I'm still convinced they are all robots) and The Open.

Scotland's game

It's the final one there that has captured my interest the most though. I guess maybe because it's in Scotland and it's one of the few things we seem to be good at (alongside, as of Saturday, Ultimate Fighting!).

Paul Lawrie and Marc Warren are keeping a stake in proceedings, although at six and five shots behind respectively it looks unlikely. Then you have the young Irish amateur Paul Dunne making waves leading the pack alongside the super cool Jordan Spieth.

The only old guard sorta guy that I'm still following - and one of the few that didn't get cut - is Ernie Els. He's got a lovely swing (weird to say?) and seems so calm and collected. Still, he's getting nowhere near the young guys.

The scoring has been excellent and you have to wonder how much tighter it would be had Rory McIlroy made it to the tournament.

Memories of old

When I was wee, I used to watch my grampa watch golf religiously. Full days and countless fags would disappear with him hardly moving from the couch. All I remember is the sheer drudgery of it. Old men in awful trousers and v-necks wheezing around long courses. It seem the dullest sport going. Cricket took the 'uncoolest' title (and still does).

However, since Thursday, I seem to have suddenly caught some sort of bug. Maybe it's been turning 30. Maybe it's been being trapped on the couch feeding a newborn with nothing else to do but I can't seem to switch off. I need to know where every player is on the course and why on earth they are missing such easy putts. And of course, how all the Scots players are doing.

The players too, seem a lot cooler. Like proper dudes you can support. The commentators have mentioned the Tiger Woods legacy. Even though the man himself is now a bit rubbish, his impact has been to inspire young players to become athletes; strong, fit and totally dedicated to every aspect of the game. Nike, Adidas, Canterbury, Under Armour et al., can take credit for kitting them out in decent clobber too!

Time to have a go

I've also actually taken the time to work out the rules. Turns out, there's actually very few, which makes things so much better.

So that's it, I'm off to the driving range tomorrow and am thinking about investing in a lesson or two. From previous journey's up to Playsport, my attempt at hitting the ball has not been pretty. You'd think it'd be relatively easy to hit a ball in a straight line. Maybe it is but mine usually go in a freakish 45 degree angle from the tee! Anyway, here's to rectifying that and watching the final round of The Open tomorrow!

My money's on Jordan Spieth to eventually pull out in front.

Do you enjoy golf? Are you also disconcerted about how much your personality has changed in only a few years? Should I buy silly trousers and a v-neck?

Friday, 17 July 2015

With Grace



If I could have dreamt up a better first daughter to have, I don't think I'd want to wake up.

Grace, my first daughter, is an absolute wee gem. Since her baby sister arrived last week, she has stepped firmly into the caring big sister role (being only 22 months old herself!).

Auld wives tales

We had heard a few stories about the older child regressing with a new baby on the scene. I had visions of Grace crawling on her hands and knees, and suddenly forgetting all the new words she has learned.

However, that has totally NOT been the case. Instead, she shouts for Anna first thing in the morning, gives her sister a wee kiss and will hold her hand if she's getting a bit restless for milk.

We got our first pic of Grace holding Anna tonight. Anna was crying and Grace was more than happy to hold her and make sure her sister felt better.

Sisters
Sorry, I know this is all a bit sappy but hey, you only get to witness this stuff once in life, so I'm making the most of it!

The Loch

We were up at Loch Lomond the other day too. I kinda feel like all children should experience the Loch. It's my personal favourite place on earth; particularly the west side of the water. There is a great wee spot just north of Luss called Firkin Point. You can sit and eat at a picnic bench and look up the Loch, which on a clear day offers heart stopping views.


Loving life
So, plenty of snacks were munched and a nice wee family wander was had before Dad got his own treat with a wee stop off at Fyne Ales Brewery to pick up a 12 case!

More trips

Yesterday, we had a nice pre-dinner trip to Rouken Glen park in Giffnock. If you have kids, I highly recommend a visit. Check out my description here.

We're also hoping to make a trip up the A9 next week to Pitlochry before I go back to work. Pitlochry just so happens to be the home of the Blair Atholl Distillery and a really lovely single malt whisky. I'm also dying to see the Queen's View again for some more camera pics. The Pitlochry Dam was one of those places I vividly remember from my own childhood so I hope Grace loves it just as much.

Do you have daughters? Do they get on great? Will it all last!?

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Downfall (and Saviour) of T in the Park

So, T in the Park hit Scotland for another year and this time round in a new home.

Strathallan Castle played host to T and from the TV pictures, looked like it was the right choice.

The Point!

But the purpose of this post is not to discuss how pretty a Scottish music festival venue is. The point is, um, the point of a music festival.

The reason for (what is in all honesty a rant) this post is the degradation of music at arguably Britain's second biggest music event.

Avicii headlining Saturday night on the main stage symbolised a nadir for T. Here was a guy, basically playing a pre-programmed setlist all the while fiddling with some knobs (what exactly, who knows?).

Sure, the guy may have created those songs himself using a bunch of software but the point of a music festival is to experience something special; and performed live by the artist as an experience for the crowd.

Short changed

And sure, you might say, well the crowd looked like they had a special experience (no doubt aided by a shit load of drugs). But the fact is that they could have had the exact same experience, if the actual artist stayed backstage playing Angry Birds. To me, in my opinion anyway, that is short changing the crowd. And the blame isn't just on Avicii, it's on Geoff Ellis too.

Don't get me wrong, I know festivals like T are about more than just the music now but the main stage should be sacred. It should be regarded as the pinnacle for bands or artists, who've earned the right to get there.

Earning the right

Take Florence on Friday night. She has plugged away over the past few years, album to album, ever increasing venue sizes and all with a genuinely inspired voice. Then there was Noel on Sunday night delivering his people uniting set list.



For me, there's no comparison. A trumped up disco versus songs that inspire and bring people together for three and a half minutes...I choose the latter every time.

It's not about dance music vs indie music. It's about the degradation of artistry and even emotion. Our festivals should represent connections. When folks happily throw arms around strangers during Don't Look Back in Anger. Not pogoing on the spot to a rent-a-tune remix.

Get it sorted

On another note, the tales I've heard of people trying to get home on the Sunday night have been grim. Three hours on a bus before the bus actually moved from the pick up point. Get it sorted, Geoff.

What're your thoughts? Am I just too old now? Does a guy dressed like this really represent the best of modern music?

^^ Douchebag ^^
In the mean time, check out my 'Best of T 2015' playlist.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Anna



So, where was I?

Oh yeah, I was awaiting the arrival of baby numero dos. And she finally arrived last Thursday morning at 11:39am, weighing a healthy, ahem, nine pounds!

My blogging therefore, was placed on the back burner while we welcomed baby Anna to her new home. Mama Bear and I are just about settling back into the late night feeds and to no one's surprise I am a bit of a grump on two hours kip!

Beautiful baby

She is worth the sleep deprivation however. We are both besotted and big sister Grace is (I think) happy to share space with this helpless wee thing. I genuinely don't think there is anything more cute than seeing big sister give little sister a wee kiss on the forehead.

Although Anna was a healthy weight, she is definitely still just a teeny baby and you forget just how little they actually do in the beginning. Sleep, eat, puke, poo, sleep. On the occasions she does stay awake, she is very alert to all her surroundings and already showing the same strong neck as her sister did. Newborns are obviously floppy little things but honestly, she can hold that head up quite impressively. I know some folks are totally against bottle feeding but we've done it with Grace and now Anna, and both babies seem to be perfectly healthy (other than the odd projectile). The only thing I will say about formula is the smell. It is seriously seriously bad. Like blue cheese left out in the heat kinda bad.




Visitors

We will no doubt be welcoming visitors in the coming days. I think most people generally give it a few days before showing up to offer their tributes. So far, we've just had the grandparents, which has been nice and being given time to get to know Anna has been welcome.

So that's pretty much been my life for the past few days. We have tried to get out and were on our way to Glasgow's Botanic Gardens on Monday for a wee wander but the typical Scottish summer scuppered our adventure. Mid-July and the rain is at times, depressing. I actually don't mind the odd downpour but sometimes it just goes on and on...and on.

The sun seems to be keeking through the sky today though, so we're off to Loch Lomond for a family outing (expect pics!). 

Oh, and it was our anniversary yesterday! Three years married already and eight years together in total. Time flies when you're having fun...and buying houses, paying bills and having babies.


Lake Garda, Honeymoon, 2012

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Social Media vs Insta-Advertising



First off, I should state at the outset I'm talking about social media from a company's perspective. So this relates to any social activity on a business Facebook page or from a Twitter page selling something or other (might be a company, might be a blogger etc.).

What do I mean by the title? Well, in two short moments I'm going to ask whether or not social media is actually just mass advertising, production line style. Is social media really that 'social' for brands or does it just provide the illusion of genuine two-way engagement?

Feeding the content monster

I'm a social media content editor (to give it the full title). This means, it's up to me to bash out content on a daily basis and present our brand to our followers. You might call this aspect of the job, 'increasing brand reputation'. The other part to this role is supposed to be generating conversation with followers. I say supposed to be because this doesn't happen. And from what I can see on many other brand Facebook pages, I'm not the only one.

Facebook wants you to pay to be seen. Of that, there is surely no longer any doubt and many marketers have bitten the bullet and factored in spend for Facebook in campaign plans and all the rest of it. Twitter, Instagram and now even Pinterest are following suit.

Unless your brand is something people will emotionally connect with or feel they have a strong opinion on, then you have to wonder what the hell you are doing spending time on Facebook or social media in general. There is no 'conversation' if there are no comments. Likes and post clicks don't count and reach is almost meaningless.

My delightfully minimalist (free) representation of the point...

Insta-Advertising

So then I come to the notion of 'insta-advertising'. As in, using popular social networks as a mass production advertising line in order to at least keep the brand identity visible online.

Most brands/companies/employers will at some point hire the services of an agency. It could be a design agency to make glossy ads, an ad agency to sell glossy things and/or a digital agency to, em, digitise those glossy ol' things.

But for the in-house social media content editor like myself, I am to a degree, carrying out all these tasks...

Now, before I go any further I will respectfully point out that by the above sentence, I do not for a second mean I am anywhere near as skilled as the talented agency side folks. They produce great work and are often extremely hard working to make sure clients get a great service.

The fact remains, however, that the social media person has to do a bit of everything in order to 'feed the content monster', as so many bloggers put it. This means, researching, drafting and writing content plans. It means creating, multiple times daily, original graphics and artwork. And it means, monitoring, analysis and reporting all crammed in to one. 

On the line

Almost like a content conveyor belt in the big content factory. Thankfully, I'm paid and treated well...and allowed water at least once a day.

The question then becomes, am I really being a social media editor or am I the Primark of the advertising world? As in, I mass produce low cost material based on populist trends while the agency (the luxury end of the scale) produces the finer bits n' bobs to dress up in for the biggie campaigns.

Again, unless you are a cool or stimulating presence on Facebook, why would someone go out of their way from chatting to their friends to instead engage in convo with a brand? Unless they have a complaint of course, in which case most folks can't wait to get online and vent!

Get real

For the majority of small to large brands using Facebook for business, it's time to get realistic. Even if you have the money to spend on paid activity or a competition to hook folk in; the conversation just isn't going to start. Instead, brands should be looking at using Facebook to judge how well thought of the company or service is.

This information can be gleaned with a combination of hard facts (link clicks, referral traffic, bounce rates and post shares) and vague assumptions (follower growth, post comments, post reach and sentiment tracking). 

Ideally tarted up with some spin for the monthly report.

What do you think? Am I missing a trick somewhere? I have some ideas for the year ahead around socialising events marketing. I'd love your thoughts!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Marking off the days



Another week begins and yet we still have no second child. It's hanging on in there! It has until Thursday, when by hook or by crook, we'll be meeting 'it'. Well, actually, preferably not by hook or even, crook.

Anyway, Mama Bear is not feeling too amused by the situation as you'd imagine. It's hot and humid and ankles are easily swollen these days. Again, I made the mistake of believing too many people who gave it the "oh, baby no.2 is much quicker in showing up" chat. Total rubbish. In future, we'll be taking the due date a) with a pinch of salt and b) assuming we should add two extra weeks on.

Even though, we've been through it before with Grace, it's no less exciting thinking about what the wee yin will look like. Or the kind of character it will develop. Grace has been (and I know I'm biased) an amazing child. She goes down every single night without fail for solid nine to twelve hour sleeps with not a peep. I don't know what we'll do if this baby is different. Suck it up and get on with things I'd imagine. And drink a lot of coffee. See! The trepidation is rife. Just hurry up and arrive already Baby Dos!

The weekend was okay. I can hardly remember it already, which says more about my short term memory capacity than anything else. It's shocking how bad my memory is getting. Must invest in some brain training apps or something. Anyway, I do know that we had some kid free time, which means - as always - we went for something to eat. Honestly, DO NOT take for granted how much more pleasant a meal out is, when you don't have a toddler there for company.

In saying that we had a nice wee walk round Langlands Moss (pic'd below) following a wee de-tour to the see-saw, which in Grace's language, confusingly, means swings. Thanks to Papa Lynch for that one.




I also got a couple of westerns to watch. Fort Apache with John Wayne and Joe Kidd with Clint Eastwood. The latter is already an established hero of mine but I've never really watched much of Wayne. Suffice to say, Fort Apache was a class old school western flick with a terrific performance from Henry Fonda.

Oh and it was the United State's Independence Day on Saturday too. I made a cool wee Instagram image as a homage to all my American heroes. Yes, they are totally stereotypically male icons but when I really thought about, I just couldn't think of any female heroes. Is that a bad thing? I'm sure there must be loads. I guess that's more to do with society and celebrity culture than anything else. Particularly in the U.S.




On a final note, I read a great post by The Minimalists concerning 'outrage' and how we all get upset at the daftest things. And how the age of social media has given everyone the ability to vent their inane frustrations online. I'm going to try and abide by the advice they set out. Have a read: www.themins.com/outrage

Actually, on a final final note; we got to enjoy some honest to goodness sunshine on Friday night. I event put ona  pair of shorts! Grace got to enjoy the sun too, so here's a pic to leave you with...




What did you do this weekend? Do you get outraged easily? Who is your all American female hero?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Football Free Summers Suck



I hate those in-between years without either a World Cup or a European Championships. It feels like there is a void, that something just isn't quite right.

Rangers


And being a Gers fan, it's been even worse. Last season was just about as depressing as it gets; right up there with the administration period. All I want is the new season to get underway for our second crack at the second tier (ugh)!

I've been impressed by what we've heard from Mark Warburton, although I'm not sure about the signings so far. I guess we have to trust in his judgement. The chairman made statements about budgets etc., and being in the Championship again will have had a big say on money being spent.

I can't see this season being anything but a fight between Hibs and Rangers. St. Mirren are ultimately a second tier side (which I know is a bit of a cheek), crowds are always low and the style of football they play is beyond boring. The top tier NEEDS Rangers and Hibs.

Internationals

As for other tournament's happening in the world; the Copa America always seems to pass me by and the MLS is on too late to really get involved with. I do think that league will continue to grow. Buying has-beens from Europe I think is wrong but I guess it adds some prestige value to the league.

The under-21 Euros doesn't interest me. I'm not that much of a geek that I want to watch kids playing football, just for the chance to say in five years that I saw them before they were famous!

And finally on football, I felt heart sorry for that girl that scored the own goal in the England vs Japan women's World Cup game. The images following the game with her crying in to her manager's arms were really heartbreaking. The whole tournament has passed me by and to be honest, this was the first time I took notice, plus it's England...so you know. But it's been great that the country seems to have got behind her and given support. Can you imagine if that was Phil Jones or whoever in the men's team!? They would be publicly flogged outside the Tower of London.

Hopes of a nation

Wimbledon started this week! Another year of Murray-mania and I reckon he's got a real good chance this summer. Nadal isn't the force he is and Federer is beginning to fade (famous last words) so that really just leaves Djokovic (again). I can't see Wawrinka doing it this year and the other outliers, I reckon Murray can beat. He just needs to stop conceding silly points. He has a horrible tendency to dragging out sets where Djokovic would simply dispatch his opponent efficiently. 

But we're on grass, we're on home soil and momentum has been building so I'm hopeful for a second Murray title.

Athletics and the BBC

The inaugural European Games in Baku have been a let down. The BT Sports coverage has only served to highlight how awesome a job the BBC did with the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. The quality of athletes participating (no USA, no Jamaica, no Aussies) means the standard has been lower too. But ultimately with athletics it comes down to presentation and BT Sports just haven't managed it. 

I was really disappointed to hear that the Beeb had been outbid for future Olympics coverage by the Discovery network and Eurosport. Just when so many more people were getting involved in the 'other' sports, television coverage is going to be limited. I hope it's not the case; the Olympics and Commonwealth Games really got me taking interest in athletes and the positive role models they can be to young people.

What's your thoughts on the new football season? Celtic to win at a canter (again)? Rangers to go up this time round? Will Andy do it this year at Wimbledon?