What makes good social media content?

How to work with influencers by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift Red Tour

Last weekend I was part of the crowd of 20,000 teenage girls seeingTaylor Swift at the O2. I realise I am no longer a teenage girl, but for a few hours I let my hair down and sang along to Love Story like the best of them.

In between the support act (The Vamps) and Taylor herself coming on, they played a video clip up on the big screens. The video talked about the launch of her RED Tour and the promotion around both the album and the tour itself.

Why did this interest you may ask? When did this blog become a review of teenage pop icons? Well actually, not only was I pleasantly surprised with the concert itself (believe it or not), I was also massively interested in the social media activities surrounding the tour and album promotion.

Of course there was the hashtagging before, during and after the concert – nothing new there – but what really interested me was the excellent use of influencer engagement. Before the launch of her RED album, Taylor Swift (or her record label) approached the 13 most active fans from around the world and invited them to follow her around in the run up to her album launch. Those who ‘followed’ her online could quite literally ‘follow’ Taylor Swift during her week long media tour. And the idea? These already very active followers would take to their social media profiles and document the media tour using #TaylorFollowers.

I think this is brilliant. A perfect example of online behaviour becoming part of our offline lives – bringing ‘following someone’ to reality (in a non creepy way). So why was this so great? Three key reasons:

  • Number 1: It rewarded fan loyalty. There’s nothing like proving to a fan that they are valued, and this does it in the best way possible for your typical Taylor Swift fan – put them in front of their idol, congratulate their loyalty and give them a platform on which to have a voice in something that they are very passionate about
  • Number 2: Inviting and encouraging user generated content gave an impression of organic promotion. We’ll always be more welcoming to something our peers have told us vs. a brand or company. Combine our peers with our favourite celebrity telling us something, then you have a very powerful promotion machine
  • Number 3: It increased the reach exponentially. Not only was it using the organic reach of the 13 chosen fans (cleverly chosen for that  very reason), it expanded it to a audience that may have previously had very little to do with Taylor swift. Me, for example

There’s no better way to promote a brand (and let’s face it, a successful celebrity is a brand) than through content created by those that rate the brand so much. It’s a classic case of authenticity and trust.

The concept of influence is hotly debated. I believe there is no one definition of influence; more an expression dependant on what you’ trying to achieve. Here Taylor Swift was trying to launch her latest album to the biggest audience possible; one that will be as receptive as possible. And the best way to do that? For her it was engaging her most loyal, socially active, influential fans.

And those are three key principles that could be applied to any brand, activity or indeed, celebrity. Whilst a brand not so exciting or head turning as Taylor Swift may not have the same size of fanbase or reach, there will always be influencers of opinion and those driving for something – be it promotion, change or just wanting to raise awareness. And it’s these people that are your most valuable assets. Get on their wrong side and you’re over; get on their right side, and the only way is up.



The social world of serendipity

This is from an article I wrote for Pharmaceutical Marketing Europe

No one would disagree with the premise that social media has changed how we communicate, but when it comes to the discussion of how best to use social channels, there is still disagreement around the extent to which brands should focus on placing content or planning for organic discovery. 

With the emergence of social media came an evolution of the paradigm for digital content discovery: the primacy of search to deliver trusted, timely and valuable information has now been displaced by sharing. 

And here lies the importance of serendipity. With our social feeds acting as a vehicle for the accidental, but delightful, discovery of something useful, we find content that we didn’t even know we were looking for.

Some people will tell you that the era of social media and serendipity is over, and that social campaigns should be planned for at the same level of detail and accountability as other cross-channel campaigns. Perhaps so in major consumer categories, where branded content – or its hip new cousin ‘native advertising’ – seems present at our every social turn. But in healthcare, serendipity is a phenomenon yet to be fully explored. 

Real discoveries of serendipitous content can be thought of as ‘happy accidents’. For the pharmaceutical industry, that can sound worryingly synonymous with ‘unsolicited’, but this simply highlights that the power of social for pharma lies within disease awareness. 

As digital pharma teams, we spend a lot of time placing our content exactly where people go looking for it – the familiar truism of ‘fishing where the fish are’. But this isn’t really enough. If social is to deliver on its potential for serendipity, pharma teams need to do more than sit back, relax and hope that their audiences visit the Facebook page their agency sold them – they need to provide the prompts that are so necessary to encourage voluntary sharing. 

This is achievable by focusing on three key things:

1. Understanding behaviour
To plan for success through serendipity, understanding the psychology of sharing is a must. As individuals, we share content for a number of reasons: to say something about ourselves and what we stand for, to add perceived value to our communities, or simply because we love it. If you are on the receiving end of ‘the share’, you just might stumble across the information that drives you to an action that ultimately results in a diagnosis.

2. Understanding audience personas and journeys
When it comes to social media, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Therefore, profiling your audience is key. By understanding the demographics of the social journey, as well as the implications of these on trust, preference and expectation, you can organically become part of the conversation.

3. Actually adding value

The chance of serendipitous discovery is more likely when we offer something – be it advice, content or a service – without asking for anything in return. This means actually listening to insights and meeting real identified needs, instead of following social suit with a Facebook page.

If you are still wondering where your social efforts are best placed, turn your attention away from Facebook towards StumbleUpon – a giant collection of the best pages on the internet, seemingly generated at random for your viewing pleasure. How do they do this? Understanding preference, behaviour and personas. Serendipity at its best.

Read, love, share

Anyone can create a Facebook brand page. Or can they?


I’ve learnt over the last few weeks that Facebook do not make lives easy for page managers!!

I have a wish list of things I think Facebook should do – Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re listening, take heed.

Wish number 1 – stop making things so hidden!! What I would like is a list of rules that clearly state: you can do this, you can’t do this, do this and you’ll get closed down, don’t even dream of doing this…you get the point. Credit where credit is due; it is all there, but you have to be some sort of MI5 spy to find it.

Take for example, the cover photo rules. So I know that no more than 20% of my cover photo can be text – easy enough. And I also know that I can’t have a call to action in my cover photo. But, my definition of a call to action and Facebook’s definition could be very different. It’s a term we use a lot in PR to get a community to take action – usually around a disease area or some type of health activity.  My interpretation of what the Facebook rules do not allow is some kind of ridiculously large arrow pointing to the like button…which is fair enough. I would say, two pretty different takes on the term ‘call to action’.

Then there’s all the different default settings – not letting other people share on your timeline, the notifications settings, the positioning of images…to name a few. All things you need to think carefully about – but first of all you need to know that these exist!

Wish number 2 – have insights on posts that others share to the timeline.  Whilst insights is amazing, and almost a bit freaky in terms of the data it pulls, I really would like to know how posts by others are fairing. But hey, maybe I’ve become data spoilt!

However, on the plus side, once you’ve done it once, you’ve gone through so many different scenarios, you’re a pro!

And actually, whilst there is a bit of leg work in terms of getting to grips with the settings, there are some really nice features that work so well for the kind of work we’re doing. Timeline lends itself so nicely to telling a story –  you can go right back to when you launched and call out any key milestones, share historical content and generally get your positioning out there. Who said we couldn’t rewrite history?!

Then there’s the posts themselves and all the different features – back dating, post dating, location tagging, people tagging, pinning, marking as a milestone…the list goes on. What you want your community to see, they’ll see.

And then there’s the satisfaction of hitting ‘publish’ on the page. After the blood, sweat and tears that goes into deciphering Facebook’s Ts and Cs you get to sit back and watch the notifications rack up.

If you ever need ratification of the power of social media, it gets displayed right there in front of you: content sharing, organic engagement and likes without begging for them!

So I think my conclusion is page managers need a check list as reassurance before hitting publish. And just in case Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t follow my blog,  I’m going to make one. Stay tuned! 

Read, love, share.

The social media side effect

This is an edited version of a blog I contribute to elsewhere on the web.

People working in the world of pharma would be justified in beginning to think that their profession has never been sexier. Hollywood is turning what has historically been perceived as a dry profession into an arena in which love stories and thrillers are made.

If you’ve ever watched Love and Other Drugs – a rom-com where Anne Hathaway falls for a drug rep – you’d be forgiven for thinking that those of us who work in and around pharma were now being viewed in a positive light.

But Hollywood is hardly famed for its naturalistic representation of anything (let alone something as complicated as our industry) and so anyone hoping for the attentions of an Anne Hathaway look-a-like (or their male equivalent) on the basis of their job should probably just keep waiting.

A darker side of the industry is hinted at in the upcoming Jude Law movie Side Effects (trailer embedded below) in which Steven Soderbergh explores the ramifications of the industry’s approach to selling anti-depressants in a way that may be thrilling on screen but which is unlikely to do much to prevent criticisms of pharma’s role in society.

And it’s this bigger question of pharma’s role in society that yet another new film about the industry addresses.

In the strictly non-fictional documentary ‘Fire in the Blood’, director Dylan Mohan Gray explores the negativities of drug patents and the access restrictions this can mean in the developing world.

As very coherently put by PJ Online (the journal of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society) in their review last week, this is the third part of what could be considered a recent trilogy of bad publicity for the industry:

So what do all of these things mean for us actually working in pharma?

Well, it means we have a whole new audience taking an interest in our world – a whole new group of people interested in what we do, why we do it and at what cost.

What this means in a connected world is the opening of a Pandora’s box of online activity, one that for those companies who have already put themselves out there in the social ecosystem is likely to prove testing for their social infrastructure and guidelines.

A great PM Live article poses an appropriate metaphor in urging these companies to ‘strengthen their social immune systems’ by looking to use their online communities as ambassadors in times of crisis.

But can most companies realistically look to rely on this mechanism? Again – if you currently manage any pharma social activities ask yourself “Do I really have an online community who are likely to make credible ambassadors?”

If you manage externally-facing social activities in the industry right now, and the answer to the above question is “no” then you should probably conduct a quick review of your processes and run some scenarios on how a new influx of informed (and inevitably negative) opinion might play out for you.

In this new world where anyone is fair game in terms of wider social conversations, it’s essential to understand where conversations are happening, why they are happening (both from a conversation driver perspective and from a deeper understanding of social trends) and what our role and responsibility as the pharma industry is in participating in these.

As the release of both these factual and fictional takes on pharma’s ethics highlights, never before has listening been quite so crucial to keep abreast of online conversations and to understand their implications for your business.

Whilst Hollywood does not generally drive direct consumer engagement with pharma’s social profiles, what it’s already doing is making the whole pharma conversation just that little bit more mainstream.

After all, humans are, by nature, curious individuals, so the chance of watching Love and Other Drugs, for example, and then heading off to Google Pfizer are pretty high.

So will a suited and booted Jude Law prompt your average Jo to turn to their social channels for a little more information on psychiatric drugs and their side effects? Yes, it’s more than likely. And this goes double for the issues raised in Fire in the Blood.

This isn’t to say that companies should go out there with a strongly worded opinion in response to this documentary, but it does highlight more strongly than ever the need to be prepared.

Being prepared means having the ability to listen to conversations and to then take leadership where leadership is required. It means real-time listening – and listening in the context of wider issues – and knowing how and when to respond.

The ability to understand and act upon inputs such as response rates, tone of voice, and the implementation of effective governance decision trees and their associated responsibilities, will weed out the socially strong from the socially naive.

And let’s not forget that social media can, and will, drive traditional media coverage. Effective online crisis management can, and will, prevent this from happening.

But only if you know these issues exist.

We as an industry must be ready for social trends to mirror popular culture and satisfy our inquisitive natures, and have our listening and response protocols up-and-running, and be ready for engagement.

As pharma becomes part of everyday conversations, let’s see who leads the way, and who is left scrambling to pull together an SOP.

Who knew Jude Law could teach us so much?

Read, love, share.

Watch and learn!

Over the last week I’ve come into contact with a few really cool examples of just how powerful social media can be. So for all you doubters out there, please, read on. And even if you aren’t a doubter, it’s always nice to have those examples in your back pocket that can stop people in their tracks.

My posts tend to have a healthcare related stance but these examples are actually totally unrelated to healthcare. For me, it’s important to look outside your day-to-day world to see just what the possibilities are, be inspired and learn how to push those boundaries.

The first example is about a tiny village in Switzerland. Their challenge? They needed people to visit their one hotel and one restaurant. Their real challenge? A mountain village of 80 inhabitants is not most people’s first choice for a dining location. I’ll let this video explain the rest…

So what’s important here? The take-away for me is that you don’t need a huge amount of money to be successful in social media. The citizens of Obermutten clearly spent a small amount filming and editing, but then they let the power of social media take Obermutten to the global stage. And in a classic online word-of-mouth scenario, the little Swiss town has made its mark on the tourism map.

My next example actually comes from a documentary that aired on channel 4 this week – you may have watched it, The Fried Chicken Shop. An odd choice you may think, but it somehow managed to captivate me even beyond the hour it aired for. Into the shop walked a guy who ‘worked in social media’ and out came his hilarious recommendations for the shops’ social media presence. ‘What would you hashtag? Spicy chicken?’ he asked the bewildered chicken server. And then came the influx of #spicychicken tweets. Within minutes, not only had the twitterverse managed to find this guys handle (only knowing him as Nick) but his followers were doubling by the second. After an hour, his followers had gone from 52 to 2600 and #spicychicken was trending. Less than a week later, he now has over 4000 followers interested in his #spicychicken tales.

A silly story you may think, but there are again some key points that can be applied to any social media campaign: be current, be emotive and be human. Thousands of people jumped on #spicychicken because it was a classic ‘he’s talking about it, so I’m going to talk about it!’ type scenario. To not be involved was to miss out.

The content itself was funny – you couldn’t help but find it entertaining. So be emotive with your content and people will naturally talk about you. And finally – and I think some companies forget this – just be human; speak to your audience as real people, and not an obtainable metric.

My final example is from the Australian transport agency, and it really goes to show how good content is really all you need. They took a pretty dry subject – train safety – developed a really cool animation and then sat back and watched social media work its magic.

A classic case of some awesome content going viral, purely because the medium was engaging, the content relatable and the vehicle popular. Anyone working in social media dreams of reaching these kind of viewing figures!

So three key learning’s about social media: invest a little (but not necessarily a lot), have good content and behave like a person talking to a person. Easy, right?!

Read, love, share.

The language of conversation

It seems that some are still questioning why social media strategy sits with PR agencies as opposed to a digital or creative agency, or indeed any agency at all. For me, the answer is simple – nobody understands messaging, engagement and overall language better than PR experts. This is something we’ve been doing since the term ‘public relations’ was first coined, and in this new world – although on the whole I refuse to call it ‘new’ anymore – of digital PR, the power of language is more evident than ever.

‘Who cares about language?’ some may ask – just give me a branded Facebook page and a couple of videos on YouTube and I’ve ticked the social media box. No, no, no! This is where some brands are still falling down at the first hurdle. In fact, they aren’t really even reaching the first hurdle. To achieve brand longevity and a sustainable social media presence, it is vital to use language that is audience specific, ignites conversation (in a positive way!) and gives you a social identity. If you can achieve these things, then you are on the way to reaching those people – be it patients, carers, families or medical professionals – that are looking for support.

If you’re a patient, perhaps recently diagnosed, chances are you are feeling apprehensive, concerned and more than likely curious to find out more. When you turn to the big G, the last thing you want to see is brand and company messages shoved in your face in a completely unnatural and downright intrusive manner. What’s really going to make you click on one of the results out of hundreds of pages of search results (SEO aside) is something engaging, meaningful and organic. Something that resonates with you and your current emotions. And the power of language choices as a brand is not to be underestimated here.

Then of course there’s language in the native-tongue sense – a big consideration in global social media campaigns. As I’ve been researching and thinking about this post, I’ve started to wonder if really there can be a truly global campaign at all. Today we have to consider language variations, cultural sensitivities and platform reach, but can we really do this via one campaign?

The social media space in India is showing a nice trend that addresses some of these challenges. In a country with a whole variety of languages and dialects within one set of geographical parameters, we are seeing unexpected popularity in image sharing platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for their abilities to share and communicate in a universally understandable way.

So I suppose in a way, my two points here could be contradictory: words and language are fundamental, yet image sharing is the global solution. I, however, think that the two can in fact be complimentary and work hand in hand. And that goes back to my original thought; know your audience, know your objectives and know why. As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words.

Read, love, share.

Blog facebookStart with a blank canvas, visualise Facebook friendships.