Make every piece of social content count

I hate the phrase ‘content is king.’ Content isn’t king. Content is as common as dirt, and there’s far too much of it about. If you really think the world is waiting for your brand to pump more ‘visual creativity’ into the space, you are deluded.

We want to see pictures, stories and opinions from friends, family and independent, likeminded strangers. The last thing we need is more white noise from brands who make the following statements in their weekly content meetings:

“Let’s make sure we push all that out in social too.”

“Tell the intern what you’re doing so she can put it on Facebook.”

“We need to be relevant. We should definitely do a Wimbledon/summer festivals/Egyptian riots themed quiz.”

“But people can never get enough pictures of cats/food/Cara Delevingne.”

However. There is a place for brand-created content in social, as long as every single piece is designed to serve a purpose and provoke a reaction. We’re not talking retweets or likes. We’re talking about three simple categories:

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18 brilliant books on word of mouth

Remember books? Yeah, those things that are like really long blogs, made up of a massive string of tweets, which we used to call ‘sentences’. You can download them onto an ereader or, if you’re really old-school, buy them all wrapped up in paper like a sweet-smelling present from the past.

Most of us are now doing the former; last year, Amazon’s sales of ebooks outstripped those of print books for the first time. But the problem with ebooks is they’re difficult to share, and sharing is surely the moral imperative of our time. What’s more, I am a massive personal advocate of the print book as the ultimate in innovative technology (I’ll be talking more about that at an upcoming event on ‘Writing The Future’ with The Royal Society and the Arthur C Clarke Award – stay tuned).

So here at 1000heads London HQ I oversee a modest library from which any ‘Head (or trustworthy friend) can borrow. Our selections are crowdsourced internally, with an ongoing budget for purchasing any decent suggestion.

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Social needs introverts too

My name is Molly, and I am an introvert.

There, I’ve said it. Few of my colleagues or acquaintances would believe it. My job as Social Business Director at 1000heads demands some of the most ‘extroverted’ activities you can imagine – speaking at international conferences, running training programmes for clients, internal evangelism – activities that demand constant sociability and public gregariousness. And I love it. I absolutely love it.

But those who know me well also know that I regularly retreat into ‘Molly zone’, craving time alone to think and work. I will book out meeting rooms to escape open plan intrusion. After a long day of interaction, I will more often than not run away to spend time with a book rather than join others for beers.

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Why Burberry rules London Fashion Week

Burberry is an awesome brand.

Not just because it is one of the chief reasons London can lay claim to being the world’s fashion capital right now. Not just because CCO Christopher Bailey comes across as such a lovely, down-to-earth chap. And not just because their spring/summer 2012 collection includes such gems as this gorgeous lapiz crochet trench coat.

Burberry may be ‘the biggest luxury brand in social media’ (thanks to a wide-reaching use of social technologies, its own social network ,and a huge number of fans and followers) but that doesn’t impress as so much as how the brand is using those tools and engaging that community. For example:

“You have to create a social enterprise today; you have to be totally connected with everyone who touches your brand. If you don’t do that, I don’t know what your business model is in five years.”

Amen Angela Ahrendts, Burberry CEO.

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Gary Vaynerchuk: being social is about word of mouth, not platforms

If you don’t already know about Gary Vaynerchuk, you’re in for a treat. Back in February 2006 the New Jersey-based entrepreneur set up Wine Library TV, an outspoken, down to earth, idiosyncratic video blog and online community hub for wine enthusiasts. It now attracts over 80,000 viewers a day, and its founder has become a New York Times bestselling author, one of the top 100 people followed on Twitter and a SXSW headliner.

Vaynerchuk is a notoriously provocative and inspiring speaker (the video of his ‘follow your passion’ speech for Web 2.0 Expo NY is a must-watch). And in his most recent keynote at this week’s Digital Summit Atlanta 2011 the so-called ‘King of Social Media’ has been making waves by declaring that “word of mouth is the currency” of social media and businesses need to stop focusing on the tools, start opening their eyes and ears, and focus on people’s behaviours, motivations and interactions.

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If they can do it…

Yesterday, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney announced that it would allow its advisers to use social media platforms, providing all 18,000 advisers access to LinkedIn and Twitter in June and graduating to Facebook soon after that.

It is the first large financial firm to do so, marking a sea-change in the industry’s resistance to adopting potentially confidentiality-threatening tools. Morgan Stanley’s only real social toe-dipping to date was the infamous report on How Teenagers Consume Media they commissioned from a 15-year-old on work experience.

However, Andy Saperstein, head of wealth management says, “Many of our clients have been demanding social media. Many of our advisers have been demanding it.”

Of course, it’s the clients that probably made the most impact. Staff are one thing, but when the guys who pay you big bucks start to demand something, you sit up and listen.

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Neuroscience fiction

Feeling a bit end-of-winter fuzzy? Awash with Wednesday ennui? Fed up with days filled with frustration, procrastination and possibilities that never quite manifest?

Then read this.

Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia—hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city. Each cell contains the entire human genome and traffics billions of molecules in intricate economies. Each cell sends electrical pulses to other cells, up to hundreds of times per second. If you represented each of these trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain by a single photon of light, the sum total would be blinding.

The cells are connected to one another in a network of such staggering complexity that it bankrupts human language and necessitates new kinds of mathematics. A typical neuron makes about 10,000 connections to neighboring neurons, which means that there are more connections in a few cubic centimeters of brain tissue than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

The three pound organ in your skull—with its pink consistency of jello—is an alien kind of computational material. It is composed of miniaturized, self-configuring parts, and it vastly outstrips anything we’ve dreamt of building. So if you ever feel lazy or dull, take heart: you’re the busiest, brightest thing on the planet.

Now tell me you don’t feel a little more, well, special? It is from Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, the new book by neuroscientist David Eagleman, who delivered a fantastic lecture at the Southbank Centre this week and who is indisputably the Brian Cox of the brain (with added humour and a better haircut). Here he is talking about possibilianism at PopTech last year (possibly).

I – like anyone who has suffered from mental health issues, delusions and addictions (which is pretty much all of us, to differing degrees) – have had to engage at close quarters with the alien machinery inside my skull. The past decade has been a battle, sometimes a distinctly bloody one, to mediate the fractious rivals inside this soggy pink parliament and channel its hungry, impulsive power into moderate and productive pathways. With each small, slow success I have moved a little further from fear to fascination, until now, with the help of people like Eagleman, I am in an almost obsessive state of grateful, curious wonder about how I act out ‘I’ every day.

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Personality matters more than platforms

When I say the phrase ’social recruiting’, what do you think of?

Agencies putting job roles on Twitter? HR building relationships through LinkedIn and trawling blogs? Or even unscrupulous recruiters creating Foursquare ‘places’ near competitors advertising new jobs? All this and more was discussed a few weeks ago at the #trulondon Social Recruiting Unconference, and very interesting it was too.

But this just blows all that out of the water.


We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.

We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.

For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.

Send questions, or a resume/cover letter/links to clips to my email address below. If you already have your dream job, please pass this along to someone whose skills you covet. Thanks.

Matthew Doig
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

This (which I found via the awesome FleetStreetBlues) has unsurprisingly spread like herpes through a newsroom, being retweeted and posted to Facebook pages and blogs by journalists worldwide. But what’s great is that that happened not because of some convoluted social strategy but because the copy itself is simply so ballsy, personal, disruptive and refreshing.

As Matthew Doig’s own surprise at the reaction attests, this was so successful because it is so obviously authentic to his team’s style and attitude. That’s being social – being interesting, individual and honest.

If you achieve that, the platforms will largely take care of themselves.

Have you seen any other job ads that *really* made you talk?

Molly Flatt

The future of work

Since the start of the year, I’ve been heading up our Social Business Consultancy here at 1000heads, and I’ve been spending a lot of my time this month listening rather than talking; seeking ideas from a huge range of people on what a ’social business’ of the future really should look like and the challenges in implementing some of those changes now.

Our social consultancy clients include Mars, Heineken, Nokia, Cancer Research UK, Veria and LocateTV, so we well know that being social can mean something very different depending on what sort of company you are – the approach has to be bespoke.

However, I’m also a believer in starting with what the ideal social business might be and being bold in challenging businesses to question and evolve themselves as radically as possible.

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