Monday, 15 August 2016

Not the greatest blog post 'ever'!

These Olympics have had many standout moments. The BBC’s coverage, as with 2012, has been exceptional too. And the athletes; well, what more can you say about their heroics.

Hasn’t this been the greatest Olympic Games - EVER?

Well, no. Or yes. It depends on where you’re from or who you are or what sport you love etc.

A feature of the British coverage and punditry has been the grating platitudinous way every fantastic record set has been called, e.g. “the fastest ever” or “the greatest ever”.

Ever. Ever. Ever!!!

Why does it have to be the “best ever”? Why can’t it just be recognised for what it is? Years worth of practise, dedication and sacrifice distilled into one glorious moment.

Do the athletes care about records when they have a medal proudly slung round their necks? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t. I respect the hell out of every one of them regardless of time/distance/height recorded (and even whether they got a medal or not).

We don’t have to be the best, or strongest, or fastest ever to deserve plaudits. If we set goals and perform well, beyond our own expectations then it's job done.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

I use these Chrome extensions. You should too.

Buffer (or Hootlet)

Nobody wants to see four Facebook posts in a row. Even on Twitter, multiple re-tweets from you on your follower's timeline can lead to a quick ‘unfollow’.

Buffer gives you the option to schedule for later and on the free version, you can add two accounts. I have my personal Twitter and Facebook pages linked. There are paid options to add more accounts and analytics.

The extension is probably the best I have come across both in terms of functionality but also in ease of use. When you find a webpage you want to share, simply hit the extension button and it will open up a post composition box. If like me, you have Facebook and Twitter connected, it will have two boxes. Each one completely set up for optimal posting on each channel, i.e. Twitter character limit, Facebook link preview etc. It even lets you edit the Facebook link preview right within Buffer, which I think gives it major kudos.

I also mentioned Hootlet, as this is the one I use at work. It’s not quite as great as Buffer but works on the same basis and is satisfactory if you are doing most of your stuff on Twitter.

Account required? Yes.

Pin It

I love Pinterest. And before anyone starts with the ‘only or middle aged women’ stuff, please stop. It’s boring and wrong. Follow me if you like and see how wrong your assumption really is.

Pinterest is positioning itself in search more than as a straight up social channel. But it is still super fun to use and does have elements such as ‘liking’ and comments on pins. I simply enjoy ‘pinning’ cool stuff I see for my own collection.

The ‘Pin It’ extension is essential then because it means that no matter where you are on the net (with a few exceptions) you can hit the extension button and pin an image from a page onto your Pinterest profile. As much as I love Pinterest, I spend the majority of my time on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t have as much time to go on Pinterest every day and have long pinning sessions, so being able to do it as and when, makes it much easier.

Account required? Yes


I have been using MediaCore Capture for a while now at work to record some on-screen tutorial videos. I know there are more powerful options out there but this is both free and super easy to use. It also records in HD and gives you the option to add audio as you record.

When you finish your recording, you can preview the video before naming it and downloading the file. The file can then be directly uploaded to YouTube for editing and publishing.

Account required? No.


Screen grabbing using your keyboard is okay to a point. Unless you use two screens, in which case it is a colossal pain in the ass (it grabs both screens, which means cropping etc.).

Lightshot is great because it lets you specifically pick the area of the screen you wish to grab through cursor selection. Once you have your selected area, you can add annotations and text as well as print your selection or share it via social media. I’ve found it useful lately as I’ve been creating some ‘How-To’ documents in work and it has saved me a ton of time.

When I think back to the dark days of Microsoft Picture Manager…*shudders*.

Account required? No.


Do not make a spelling mistake or use poor grammar again. There is no excuse with ‘Grammarly’. This free extension will highlight any instances of a misspelt word or punctuation errors.

The free version will also offer up synonyms as well as giving you the option to switch between British English and American English.

Account required? No.

Update: As I’ve just found out, Google Drive is not supported so it won’t work with Docs.

Save to Facebook

It does what it says it does. I do a heck of a lot of reading now using Facebook and I really don’t want to be dragged off the app to read an article elsewhere. This neat little extension allows me to save articles from anywhere online into my Facebook saved articles folder to read later.

You might also want to try out Pocket or Evernote but, you know, Facebook is taking over, so get with the programme.

Account required? Yes.

If you love making sure your hashtags are relevant to topical issues or trending lists then this extension is ideal. As you hit the ‘#’ and start typiing it will recognise your word and tell you whether or not it is widely used or not.

This is also handy for those of you who love hashtagging #absolutely #every #word #you #can #think #of. Because it will show you first hand what an arse you are being.

Additionally, if you click on the extension button it will take you to the RiteTag website witha list of current trending topics.

Account required? Yes.

Giphy for Chrome

Liven up your Facebook post or tweet with a ‘gif’. These are the wee looping images, usually with witty text overlaid, you see across social media.

A gif can transform your boring status update to something more fun, comical or even dark. Simply hit the button and search for whatever’s relevant to your post and paste the link into your post.

Account required? No.


I have a terrible memory and so I write reminders. Having a desk cluttered by post-it notes however, is good for nobody and it’s 50/50 whether or not I look at my notebook.

Similarly, apps such as Evernote and Keep are great but often get cluttered by other documents and so the to-do’s get lost.

Wunderlist is a simple ‘to-do’ listing app for Chrome and mobile. The benefit of having the Chrome extension is that you can quickly add To-Do’s based on anything you come across on the web, e.g. a content idea for social that you want to revisit.

Both mobile app and extension are free.

Account required? Yes.

The Great Suspender

Finally, the Great Suspender is a practical little extension for Chrome, which ‘suspends’ any tabs you haven’t been using in a while. When you go back to the tab, you simply need to click the page and it will be restored.

The benefit is that your browser is not slowed by multiple tabs running lots of operations on your internet.

Account required? No.

Have you got any great recommendations?

Note: I got some inspiration for this post, and indeed, some extension tips from a Hootsuite blog recently. Read it at:

Monday, 8 August 2016

Tales of the Irrational #1

‘Style’...what’s it all about? Is this something a guy should even be bothered writing about?

I like to think I’m not bothered about how I look. But I am. I’d like to state that I couldn’t care less about what I go to work in each day but I do. I get quite stressed about it, to be honest.

And it’s TOTALLY irrational.

Clothes are just clothes. Man made fabrics to cover our unsightly bits. So why the hell do we pay lots of money on them and create so much stress around them? There is no real reason.

People will say things like ‘clothes can make you confident’ or ‘clothes define your persona’. But that’s ultimately bullshit. It is BS because those kinds of statements are based on a false premise (that clothes are needed at all).

Hang onto your britches there boyo! There’s the irrational part. Of course, clothes are needed and therefore stress is going to occur and money is going to be spent. We are self-conscious animals.

I don’t think I will ever figure this out. Much like I will never figure out how to get a pair of chinos that fit perfectly.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

5 Ways to Get the Most from Your Instagram Page

So you finally caught up and created an Instagram account for your brand. You’d read so much about why your business is missing out on reaching tons of customers. And even though you wondered what the hell you would post, you’ve gone ahead anyway. After a week and a couple of photos of your company stationery, you are completely stumped as to what to do with this channel. I’ve been there.

If you are a brand with no obvious personality to front up as the ‘face’ it can be a challenge. Especially if you don’t sell extreme sports, luxury goods or impossible lifestyles.

Say instead, you are a website but don’t exactly rank as the coolest site in the world. Or you sell hardware and your audience is middle aged dudes. It’s difficult.

Fear not! It isn’t quite time to go throwing all your marketing pennies at Facebook Ads. You can still take advantage of Instagram’s greater audience reach. But be warned, it will take effort, time and above all else, a wee bit of imagination.

I’m talking from experience too. Working in Corporate Comms and Marketing can sometimes do for creativity what Donald Trump does for Mexican-U.S relations. It is easy in social media to find yourself morphed into a content churning monster. So, before you go all green and scaly, read these five suggestions and get creative!

Use Hyperlapse and Boomerang

These two apps from Instagram are your first port of call. If you can’t create something fun from Hyperlapse or Boomerang you need a big fat slice of fun cake pronto.

Hyperlapse allows you to create a timelapse video (everything goes super fast). So, you could painstakingly draw out a cool design (architecture, floor plans, quotes, fashion...anything) and your followers will be able to see the whole process in a fraction of the time. Perfect for the attention span-less social media user.

Boomerang is a micro-looping app. Basically, it will loop about two seconds of activity. So you have to give it a bit more thought than Hyperlapse, and timing is crucial. Let’s say you are showing off how to strike a nail into some timber (feel the manliness), this wee bit of looping could be a cool way to show it off. Or maybe you just have a group shot of your colleagues and you all leap into the air...insta jumpy madness. Social gold.

Take advantage of Snapchat filters

Snapchat lets you download your filtered, edited snaps. If you are unfamiliar with the channel; you can take a pic and add various acid inspired (probably) overlays to yours or someone else’s face as well as throw on some text and emojis.

Naturally then, if you want to a) appear relevant and b) show off a more fun side to you and your business, this is a good way to go. And if you’re comfortable with it, you can also ask your brand followers to follow your own Snapchat channel.

Best used for selfies or teamie pics.

Instagram Stories

Instagram has just launched its own version of Snapchat. It doesn’t (yet) have as many options by way of funny faces and geo-filters BUT it is native to Instagram so you have to make use of it.

The premise is that you take pics or vids and they collate to form your ‘story’, which will delete after 24 hours. So, as above, you want to use this to creative effect. Although, it might be fair to say that Instagram has a broader customer reach than Snapchat, which is pretty much about goofing off with your buddies. On Instagram, I’m thinking there could be stuff like mini-tutorials, day trip diaries and just about anything else you could imagine...that team day out at paintball, anyone?

Get pics from events

Are you headed off to a big glitzy awards do? Or maybe a plain old run of the mill trade show? It’s the perfect opportunity to get plenty of pics for your page.

Show off your stand, get some pics with you and other exhibitors/guests, give your followers some insight to your day or evening by using the video recording function.

Social media users love to be nosey, so give them what they want. Make sure you tag whoever you photograph and add your location so anyone else there can find you through location search. All the little details go a long way.

Use Hashtags

This is a no-brainer. People use hashtags to focus in on a particular topic, find other pages to follow and get inspiration. Instagram also uses hashtag click activity to highlight similar content to users based on how much they interact with those hashtags.

Therefore, it is absolutely essential that for every idea mentioned above (except Instagram Stories - you can’t), that you include hashtags in the text of your post. You can add in a whole load of them too as you don’t have the same character restriction as on Twitter. Include; the place, the topic, the subject, the guests, the theme, anything ironic, anything funny, sarcasm...anything. But don’t just throw in any old words or trending phrases. It has to be relevant or you’ll quickly look like a bit of a git. And people get turned off by gits.

The long and short of it

People trust people. If you approach Instagram with an endless stream of banal brand logos and products, you’ll only get so far. Show off your personality, even if that means getting in front of the camera occasionally.

You only have one spot for a clickable hyperlink in your user bio (which, by the way, you should update regularly to highlight new offer pages etc. And yes, that is six tips) so don’t worry about getting tons of web conversions from your posts. You’re playing the long game here; building relationships, trust and affinity. Be cool and eventually people will gravitate to what you have on offer.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Keeping Up Appearances (But I'll Take Value First, Everytime)

You won't struggle to find an article telling you how to create the perfect Facebook post. Or, how to optimise your content for its ever evolving algorithm. Creating posts titled '10 AWESOME ways to make your social images POP' is a reliable staple for many a marketing blogger. Good on them. Unfortunately, it's almost entirely superfluous.

One thing I have learned in my time producing, scheduling and optimising social media posts is that fans/followers care about one single thing: value. Whether that 'value' is humour, information or a product, they don't care how it is presented to them. Nor does presentation matter much to Facebook's algorithm (that word actually makes it sound way more scientific than required). If a user likes, comments on, or shares a post; that will take precedence over a nice image.

Case in point, I spent the better part of a year piously teaching colleagues how to create the 'perfect' looking Facebook post. It had to be slick as to make sure our overall brand didn't look amateur online. Posts should be short. They shouldn't have a visible hyperlink. Images should be 1200x628. Title and description copy should be enticing. Ultimately though, all of that is my own preference. I personally take pride in creating Facebook and Twitter posts but it took a while to understand that our customers simply don't care. 

One of our local (i.e. someone not based in Glasgow and outwith the marketing team) Facebook page editors posted a link to a recruitment drive at Edinburgh airport in November '14. It was a fairly bog standard cut and paste job description with a dull image of an airport.

This post reached over 85,000 people, had a long list of comments with friends tagging friends and in the end was shared nearly 100 times.

In context, posts from our national Facebook page are lucky to reach 5% of that on a normal basis. The case in Edinburgh wasn't a one off either.

The reason? Value. Our local page editor knows their customer and what they want. They gave it to them. Free of the fancy packaging but filled with value because the post had the recruitment email address, details on how to recruit and a phone number for more information.

I think marketing teams can definitely learn from colleagues outside of their own bubble. Too often, marketers simply don't give a thought to what the customer wants more than what they think the customers needs.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

What's An Ocarina, Anyway?

Not me. I'm not sure this guy is invested enough in the game.

Every so often I get an itch to fire up some old retro games from my nerdy teen past. Chief among all previously prized consoles is the N64. 

The problem I have however, is that I traded my N64 and Playstation years ago when the Gamecube launched. After a short love affair with that machine I purchased an Xbox and latterly a Wii. Always upgrading for the newest, flashiest graphics and always sucked in by the advertising campaigns. 

The Wii was the last of the Nintendo generation I purchased (and still own). Since then I've been an Xbox 360 and PS4 player. Yes, I'm 31 years old and still love videogames just as much; even if my game time is now limited to an hour or so a week. 

The fact is however, that with all the latest innovations and technical upgrades of recent machines, nothing has come close to Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Final Fantasy VII, or Mario Kart - in all their blocky, bleepy glory. I admit I have an obvious tie (and bias) to these games because they formed part of my youth. A large part. 

I guess if I could dedicate ten-hour sessions to newer games like Fallout 4 then I might form a similar bond. I guess, it just got me thinking about the relationship between storytelling quality against aestethic pleasure with little in the way of satisfaction. Zelda on the N64 now looks very much a 90s game, yet the story and execution is still mind-blowing (I have it downloaded on the Wii). 

That's not to say a game like Fallout 4 doesn't have an excellent premise. The problem is that because of the power of modern machines like the PS4, producers can pack so much more in. And that isn't necessarily a good thing. There are so many more choices a player can make, which is cool until you realise you have only completed 0.6% of the game after a few hours of relentless play. At which point, either frustration or boredom takes over and Fifa is fired up. 

Marketers should keep this analogy in mind the next time they are trying to do something for the sake of a 'viral hit'. Sometimes players and customers would just prefer effectiveness, simplicity and satisfaction.

Friday, 29 April 2016

All About the R.E.A.C

Isn't it a funny thing how easily we are sucked in by the prestige of certain brands? 

For example, I recently stayed for a long weekend at the Hilton Berlin. I'd always wanted to stay at a Hilton because I perceived it to be the number one brand in affordable but prestigious hotels. Oddly, I think my desire to book into the Hilton began via the re-booted Hawaii Five-0, which had Hilton as a show sponsor. Practically at the end of every episode, Steve and Dano would be sipping cool beers with the big blue 'H' somewhere in the background. What can I say? I'm an admitted sucker for advertising.

Anyway, I digress. As it turned out the room we booked wasn't up to much.

The city of Berlin on the other hand is utterly gorgeous.

The view looked onto a concrete courtyard and easily into neighbouring rooms. The lamp shades were stained and the furniture was visibly marked. The TV didn't work either. And when I asked at the front desk for it to be fixed, my request was either ignored or forgotten (no difference, really). At a cost of over 400 euros for three nights, I expected more.

Conversely, we stayed at a Premier Inn (budget UK chain) back in November in Edinburgh. It cost £100 and came with no frills attached. The room was spotless, the bed was infinitely more comfortable and the reception staff welcomed us with nice big toothy grins. 

Money and appearances really don't stand for much unless it is backed up by sincerity and value. The same is exactly true of social media marketing. 

The most polished, slick content marketing might drive some web traffic but it's likely the conversions will happen when trust is built on a foundation of good value. 

To be fair, I did complete a (dis)satisfaction survey and the manager of the Berlin hotel emailed back with an apologetic message and offer of complimentary upgrades for a future visit. With two kids it's unlikely, we'll be hitting Berlin as a two-some again any time soon.

Funnily enough this story stuck in my head after a meeting with my manager at work today. We were chatting about the RACE model of marketing. Reach - Action - Convert - Engage. I was immediately struck by how odd it seemed that 'Engage' came last. I know 'REAC' doesn't make as handy an abbreviation but surely should be the modern version. 

And so the Berlin Hilton should have this in mind in the future. 

Reach out to customers with the offerings of complimentary upgrades ahead of the visit. Engage with guests beyond checking in and out. Act by ensuring they have everything they need and actioning any complaints immediately. Then convert a satisfied customer with loyalty programmes and request for advocacy.

Wanna pin this post?