Social Networking

Throwback Thursday: Social Networking in the 1600s

Coffeehouses vs. Social Media

Social networks are constantly under attack for destroying productivity.  This infographic claims that the use of sites such as Twitter in the workplace is costing the American economy a massive $650 billion each year.

But this is not the first time such concerns have been expressed. In the 1600s, worries arose surrounding a new social, media-sharing environment: the coffeehouse.

Coffeehouses were just as evil as social media

England’s first coffeehouse opened in the 1650s, with hundreds following suit. Coffeehouses offered more than just a hot beverage; people would visit to read and discuss the latest news and there were even specialised coffeehouses for discussions on specific topics, eg politics or shipping.

However, not everyone approved. Opponents moaned that coffeehouses were a distraction from productive work. Sound familiar?

Just like social media, critics accused the novelty of the coffeehouse of taking over lives and killing productivity. However, coffeehouse advocators saw it very differently.

Samuel Pepys would have been a Twitter-holic

Samuel Pepys made countless references to “the coffeehouse” throughout his diary, depicting the lively conversations he enjoyed there. This may have been due to their lack of recognition of social distinctions, where patrons were encouraged to engage in conversations with strangers from different walks of life.

This also sounds similar to modern social networking. Conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn Groups or even TripAdvisor do not segment contributors by social class. The nature of this widely open platform is what provides the scope for otherwise unattainable opportunities and knowledge.

This notion of facilitating the mixing of new people and ideas is what made coffeehouses ‘crucibles of creativity’.

From coffeehouse to Lloyd's

Businessmen used them as meeting rooms from which to transact business. Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, popular amongst shipowners, captains and traders, became the famous insurance market Lloyd’s. Not quite the counterproductive enemy which the commentators had made out…

Although some bosses degrade the use of social media at work as “social notworking,” others embrace corporate versions to encourage collaboration, discover employees’ talents and reduce the use of e-mail. McKinsey (2012) found that the use of social networking within companies increased the productivity of “knowledge workers” by 20-25%.

The spirit of social media reflects that of the coffeehouses, which helps illustrate the potential for innovation and productivity, despite the negative commentary. It is therefore clear that, on the topic of dangers associated with new technologies, we can learn a lot from the past.

A final thought...

How many of you are reading this blog on your smartphone from your local coffeeshop?!

photo credit: NY Times

Marketing your company through social media

Lamb CMC's essential tips to consider when thinking about building a social media presence for your company.  Probably the fastest growing area of our business, both in interest and actual work has been communication services involving social media. We have written a number of times here about how Linkedin and Twitter need to be considered as a key element of your external brand positioning, so we won’t preach here, but rather assume that if you are reading this then you have made that leap of faith to give it some serious consideration.


So what should be in your mind when thinking about how it should be delivered within your organisation?

Well the very first thing is to realise is that this is a strategy that will by its nature spread across the whole your organisation. It cannot nor ever will be delivered as a single thread that will not influence all else. It is a public broadcasting medium, therefore you need to appreciate that what is said here could extend many times beyond your direct following or networks. People sharing or retweeting could potentially give it a huge outreach that will overlap all your other communication channels. So think organisation-wide and develop a concerted strategy before pressing send.


Know your goals

Most think that it is the size of your community that is the key aim. Of course that is important, but knowing what you want to achieve with that community is of much greater importance; is it to drive brand awareness, traffic back to your website or is it perhaps sales? Your social communications strategies must accord to these goals and always have them in mind.


What is your ROI?

Whether managed internally or externally there will be a cost and with that you need to have the measurements to know that the campaign is meeting your goals. Whether short, medium or ultimate aims, be clear about how it will be measured.


Should I worry about Follower numbers?

In a word, no! It is more about having influencers – people that are trusted and have engaged followers themselves. Look out for bloggers, acknowledged experts, interesting “celebrities” in your sector and active tweeters; all of whom can help spread and evangelise your messages.


Look out for other communities to be active within

There are some obvious channels to use, Twitter & LinkedIn being two here, plus Facebook, as with its new Timeline platform it finally makes some sense for businesses to profile on it. But there are equally many other communities that have been created to be shared amongst like-minded people. Look them out and get involved as you never know who might be on them.


Klout score analysis

Understand the data

There are a plethora of tools on the internet that can help you delve into the effectiveness of your social media presence. Everyone has their favourites; here at Lamb we use HootSuite  as the dashboard for monitoring the various accounts we have. Aside of the usual timelines, mentions, messages, etc it has a great search tool for looking at Twitter trends as well as being able to tell you when and how many times a tweet posted has been retweeted, thereby showing the outreach of it. We use Klout and its inbuilt scoring matrix to gauge how effective our accounts are. Its algorithms assess amongst other things, your activity, the quality of your followers and the outreach of your tweets to build a number score. Very simply the higher the number the greater your perceived Twitter clout or Klout is considered. It also shows how it goes up and down, which can be a great indicator of any specific messaging done. SocialBro is great for lifting the bonnet of your Twitter account and seeing who’s following you, who they really are, how active they are and how influential they are for you.


Make everything social

Ultimately one of the prime motivations of all this is to raise awareness. A big part of which is to drive traffic to your site and likewise raise its profile in the Google search rankings. This is now almost entirely driven by how active and contemporary your site is, therefore it pays huge attention to the social media content within it. Don’t miss that trick then and make sure your site captures and displays that content where Google will find it.

Twitter in action

As regular readers of our blog will know, we are social media enthusiasts and have made it a key part of our work to try and show why every brand should at least contemplate its use. I think it would be fair to say that most people see the benefits of LinkedIn as a 21st century addition to the old fashioned networking, but not so many see the benefits of something as eclectic as Twitter, with its fast moving, up to second micro-blogging. It really is a medium where the art is to be in constant touch with it and to actively participate, rather than sit on the sidelines as a watcher. Part of our social media service delivery is to manage the Twitter accounts for some of our clients that use them and we were recently involved in an event that we believe shows the real worth of Twitter.

One of our clients, Howe & Co is probably the best regarded human rights law firm in the UK, if not internationally. They have represented in many high profile cases, not least of which the settlement rights of the Ghurkas, publicly led by Joanna Lumley. With their status, their Twitter account (which only started a month or so back), whilst small in number, counts some highly influential people, one of which is the MP Peter Carroll, himself vocal on all manner of human rights issues.

At around 9.30pm one evening a week or so ago, Mr Carroll posted the following tweet:

"@relresuk @realmissfiona I would think that the lawyers @HoweAndCo could help with this. They fought for the Gurkhas & they are brilliant"

Because we use some of the many social media monitoring tools, we were immediately alerted and responded to the tweet in the name of Howe & Co, inviting some direct follow up. We also forwarded the tweet on to Howe & Co, who similarly responded immediately.

Cutting what could be a long story of the next few hours, the plea for help was on behalf of Jane Worroll, the daughter that had exposed the abuse of her mother Maria at the Ash Court Care Home. As part of an employment tribunal by an ex-employee she was being summonsed to provide her videos in defence of the ex-employee. For obvious reasons, she found this whole idea horribly distressing, especially as the summons had been delivered earlier that evening for her to present them the next morning.

With social networks and Twitter especially sharing the news, it had come to the attention of The Relatives & Residents Association, who support, inform and campaign on behalf of older people in care & who had worked closely upon this case, TV Presenter Fiona Philips, who was involved in the original Panorama programme as well as the subsequent news coverage and as already said, MP Peter Carroll. Adding Howe & Co into the equation it meant that some solid advice was given as well as some much needed moral support. With this in place, Jane Worroll received the help she needed and with the support given, Howe & Co made a firm connection with the charity.

Pleasingly this episode was recognised by Fiona Philips and she reported it and the support given by Howe & Co in her regular newspaper column in the Daily Mirror.

I will leave you to ponder the respective merits here, but for a simple act, well executed and some intelligent thinking by Howe & Co about social media, their whole worth of their business has been lifted into a hugely positive place of its own.


If you'd like to follow either us or Howe and Co. on Twitter then our links are below:

Lamb CMC

Howe and Co.

10 Tips for effective brand guidelines

Lamb CMC's list of their top 10 tips for creating effective brand guidelines.

We get asked a lot about brand development and guidelines. So rather than posting again about how to create an engaging brand (which Mark touched upon briefly in a previous post), this post is a quick guide to 10 of our top tips to producing brand guidelines.

A well considered document will ensure the guidelines are effective at communicating your brand and describing how to produce it consistently without killing the ability to be creative with it.


1. Who are the guidelines for?

Consider who is going to be receiving, reading and using these guidelines and tailor the content accordingly. Write with language to engage that audience. Steer clear of jargon and try not to assume technical knowledge if it is going out to all levels within the company. Consider the benefits of multiple versions of guidelines; a technical production reference, a quick guide one sheet for logo and colour use, more indepth guidelines including brand personality, tone of voice, etc.


2. Keep it simple

We appreciate that this is easier said than done but if you want your guidelines to be embraced by all then you need to ensure that what you are explaining is easily understood. The extra time it takes to consider how to simplify the use of your brand now will save a lot more time in future; time that would be spent amending the guidelines retrospectively to verify what you meant originally.


3. Design the guidelines in your brand style

Make sure the document you are producing is truely representative of your business and embracing your brand. If your brand identity is a quirky, young, energetic feeling then make sure your guidelines aren't stuffy and dictorial.


4. Show clear examples of your brand in use

This tip is often surprisingly overlooked in many brand guidelines documents we see. How better to explain how to use your brand than to show it in various real-life examples as you intended.


5. Consistency

Make sure when explaining your brand that it is consistent in how it recommends use of your company's brand. If you are contradicting yourself every other page then what hope will the reader have of understanding how they are supposed to use your brand.


6. Keep tracks of where your brand is used

This tip is more specific to the visual identity aspect of your brand but worth including in your brand guidelines. If there are ever any changes to your logo, colours, font, etc. you need to be able to track back wherever the previous version has been used so that you can replace with the updated version. Examples could include stationery, website, intranet, aggregator sites, affiliate marketing, social networks, email footers, presentations, document templates, signage, etc.


7. Make your materials available

The number one reason we see for inconsistent use of a brand identity is down to staff hoarding out-of-date materials and not having access to a library of correct files. Eliminate this issue by setting up a download section on your website where all logos, current guidelines, imagery, etc. are stored and are easily available to all. Make it password protected if you must but trust us, it's a lot easier to update one set of logos online compared to replying to hundreds of individual emails requesting these marketing materials from various people in your company.


8. Involve your staff

If you want your staff to embrace your new brand then they need to truly feel like it is theirs. They need to understand why and how you have developed their brand and they need to understand how to use it going forward. Form a project team consisting of staff from all levels within your company who might encounter the guidelines and get regular feedback from them during guidelines development. Do they understand the document? What improvements do they suggest would help with the guidelines? What can you do as a company that will make it easier for your staff to use the brand? Involving your people on the ground and getting their feedback can throw up some great issues that would never have been appreciated within the marketing department alone.


9. Have a sign-off process

Assign a brand manager within the company who has been involved with the brand development process and understands your brand inside out. Stipulate that all new creative should be approved by this person and give them a 48 hour turn around period to allow this. This is especially important in the early days of a new brand while staff and external agencies are still getting to grips with any new styles. By doing this you will be able to ensure that you are delivering a consistent and correctly applied brand message to all communications leaving your company.


10. Review your guidelines regularly

The aim of guidelines are to explain, advise and guide use and reproduction of your brand. That doesn't mean that your brand is set in stone from now to eternity. Your brand will continue to evolve and guidelines must be revisited and updated continually and then made available to all again. And to this end, make sure you include version numbers and not just on the front page. Ensure you include the document version number on every page incase the document ends up getting split and passed around internally which invariably it does.


 So to recap:

  1. Who are the guidelines for? Write them accordingly
  2. Keep it simple to understand
  3. Design the guidelines in your brand style
  4. Show clear examples of your brand in use
  5. Keep your instructions consistent
  6. Keep tracks of where your brand is used
  7. Make your materials available
  8. Involve your staff
  9. Have a sign off process
  10. Review your guidelines regularly


There is just one more thing... Involve the professionals early on

We really recommend consulting a professional branding service to help you with any brand creation, development or guidelines. The same issues come up again and again and we know what to look out for and how to avoid certain pitfalls with preemptive planning and briefing which will ensure your branding project runs smoothly and successfully.

Twitter - Can you afford to not be part of the conversation

We've all heard about the benefits of getting your business represented on Twitter and connecting to your network of customers but have you considered what the consequences of ignoring this social network might be? Potentially there could be a P.R. storm brewing around your company reputation while you are oblivious to it. We had a bit of bother here this week, when one of our clients, became the victim of some spurious tweeting as they had been erroneously identified as a company that has been making unsolicited calls about pursuing mis-sold PPI policies. I think we all know about these calls, texts & emails that are unwanted and intrusive. The details of this episode are of no more importance so we will spare names, etc. But it raised a very serious issue about reputation management if you have a Twitter/social media presence, as our client does or if you do not, which we feel is worthy of a few mentions here.

Shockingly, given that the company had been mis-identified, they became the victim of some brief but quite spiteful tweeting, which had it gone unnoticed, could have caused a nasty bump in their reputation. By its nature Twitter is at its best when breaking news and the story spreads fast and wide. As it was both we and they got on top of it and wrote a suitably worded email to the person that posted it, pointing out the error and demanding an apology. Which for the record was willingly given, the tweet deleted and an apology posted.

However it raises point number one. Twitter is a written medium in the public domain and as such is bound by all the same libel laws and protections as anything else similar, like a Facebook post, a comment on Linkedin or an email (where there is now strong legal precedent). It is therefore incumbent upon anybody posting anything that they remember this fact and think twice before submitting anything controversial.

On the flip side I think our client handled their own situation perfectly and responded straight away, made direct contact, politely pointed out the error and demanded the withdrawal which is point 2. In an environment like Twitter, necessary responses really must be thought through but as far as possible, immediate, time can quickly become an enemy.

What has really got me thinking though, is point 3. What had happened had our client not had a Twitter account and were blissfully unaware that a reputation fire was burning around them. The simple truth of social networks is that in reality there is no opt in or opt out, the only difference is if you are not active then you have zero control over the conversation, but if you are then you have the opportunity to be proactive and shape what is being said.

The statistics of what is posted on Twitter are staggering; 250 million tweets per day, over 100 million active Twitter users and if like me you are part of that community then you will see first hand how breaking news spreads instantaneously across it. Perhaps the most famous example being the posting of the amateur film when the plane came down in the Hudson River, or the death of Amy Winehouse beating the BBC to spread the sad news.

This subject is particularly relevant at the moment due to the news this week regarding the jailing of a student who made racially offensive comments about footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter. This is another example of how comments made online can be treated every bit as seriously and are governed by the same laws of libel as comments made in the press or elsewhere.

So I am pleased that our client has escaped the clutches of a bad press day this week but I am now just a wee bit more worried, nay paranoid about whatever else may have been missed. My advice, join the conversation and of course, make sure you use an expert to help you. As you know the Lamb door is always open for a cup of tea and a chat...

Linked in to LinkedIn?

Mark Huxley speaks about his continuing love affair with LinkedIn, the importance of staying connected with industry peers and how he has rekindled various old professional relationships that might otherwise have been lost. He discusses why LinkedIn is such a crucial social media tool for professionals worldwide and what you might be missing out on if you choose to ignore it.  ______

I have been a member of LinkedIn for quite some time now and to me it has become an integral part of my working life. I love the connections I have made, more so I have relished the countless numbers of my own working past that I have reconnected with. I follow many of the debates that the Groups throw up with a passion and it has become an automatic go-to place for much of the research I do. I cannot then fathom those that I speak to who refuse to use it or have a closed mind to all the benefits it can bring.

I think it is the truth to say that LinkedIn is the single form of professional social media that we recommend to every single client we work with. To me it is the world’s largest online directory of professional people, the companies they work for, the Groups that interest us all, the endless volumes of research and communication tools as another tool. None of us would not use the phone or email, so why would someone elect not to use LinkedIn?

Some statistics…

  • 150 million users Worldwide
  • 8 million users in the UK
  • 2 new members sign up every second
  • Circa 4.2 billion searches made on it in 2011
  • More than 2 million companies now have profiles on LinkedIn

So why do we advocate it so widely? Firstly and most importantly, unlike all other social media channels it exists for one reason alone; it is purely for professional people undertaking their professional lives. In that task, it cannot be doubted that they have utterly succeeded.

If you make the leap of faith and start using it, after some polishing of your LinkedIn skills (which many a trained professional can help you with) you will soon be:

  • Keeping in touch with an entire network of people, crossing many professional boundaries. With their own activity everything will be current, saving you lots of hard work in keeping track of what they are up to. Don’t forget friends beget friends, so you will be able to constantly build your own network, sharing friends old and new
  • You can invite your rolodex of business cards to come join your network
  • Share and collaborate upon what you are working upon and for that matter anything of wider interest to you and them
  • By joining the myriad of Groups that it has, you can drill into specific sectors and topics, seeing the current thinking and rumours on the street.
  • Actively join in discussions, either asking questions or sharing sagely opinions
  • Keep in touch with companies that are of specific interest to you, who’s joining, who’s left, what are they doing right now
  • Research more about the people you are going to meet for the first time. What is their role at the company, how long have they been there, where did they come from, what have they done in their past
  • Take out one of the paid for packages and you can see who’s been looking at your profile, really helpful if you’ve been targeting a specific person or company

Frankly the list is endless and every day LinkedIn creates new services that are aimed at making all our professional lives just that little bit easier and more interesting. If I finish with one word of caution, then it is that LinkedIn is only a tool, like your phone or email. The real art of networking is still the face-to-face time that makes the whole working relationship work. They are still founded upon friendship that harbours trust and builds the opportunities to prove worth in work, act or deed, which leads to the long-term relationship. This must never ever be forgotten!