Don’t Tweet at Me in that Tone of Voice


Setting tone of voice in social media is a challenge. How do you balance the assertiveness and authority with a sense of engagement and approachability? How do you strike a tone that delights your customers and attracts new prospects? And what is that “distinctive” personality that can only be expressed through text and how do you create it consistently?

Tone of voice is not just a problem for social media. In a business world where communication occurs largely through the written word – in email, messaging, enterprise social networks and so on, a misplaced word or misconstrued meaning can cause much drama.

Consider the hastily worded email that you sent after a bad meeting. Or the tweets you made in response to a troll. What about the situation where you really wanted to recall an email but realised that you could not?

IBM has been experimenting with language and semantics for some time. Their Watson platform specialises in natural language processing, and with the Tone Analyzer service, you may just catch an overly aggressive email in the nick of time.

How Tone Analyzer Works

We often rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help us profile individuals. It is still widely in use despite being largely dismissed as a scientific method – but I have always found its indicators lacking. I much prefer Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. It measures:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism


This framework is used by IBM to assess your social tone of voice. Watson also gives you a score on writing tone and emotional tone. You simply cut and paste your text into the field on the demo page and have Watson analyse your words. It then returns a visual assessment. This is the assessment from the first half of my last blog post. You will see, the post was:

  • 80% analytical (good for this kind of article)
  • 96% confident (I do want you to believe me)
  • 87% agreeable (please, please like and hire me).

You can also integrate this platform into your enterprise tools using the API platform. That could make for a very different form of communication within and beyond the enterprise.

But here’s a question – would you dare to run your marketing copy through this system? What would you find?

Talking Social and Digital Trends on the Echo Junction Podcast


GavinHeatonx300 Podcasts are one of my newly discovered joys. A well curated list of subscriptions basically means that you can remain up-to-date with your fields of interest independently of the mainstream media. This is particularly useful for topics that are too niche for the media or too controversial – which is why my personal subscription list includes podcasts on the topics of digital and social media, Australian history, and the history of writing and language (often including large amounts of swearing).

Podcasts also mean that you have a greater role in programming your own media content, so if you don’t like what you hear, you can unsubscribe and find something you like more.

One of my regular casts is Adam Fraser’s Echo Junction. With dozens of podcasts recorded this year, he has been seeking out and presenting some of the best thinkers and doers in the online world for the last year or so. He meticulously researches, prepares questions and challenges his guests to connect the dots between the enterprise and digital worlds. Some of the best episodes include:

Back in April 2015, I joined Adam to talk social business and the enterprise landscape, and last week we got together again to think about the future – 2016 – and what it might hold for the world of social and digital. It wasn’t an interview. It was a discussion. You can listen in here (and argue with me on Twitter).

Forget Millennials – Trust is the Secret Sauce of Online Commerce


The topic of “trust” is one that we return to over and over again. No matter whether we are wanting to build awareness, consideration or purchase for our business, or establish ourselves online as thought leaders, every word we write, every video we produce and every image we take and share online has ONE CLEAR MISSION. To build trust with our audiences.

When Acquity Group surveyed 2000 US-based consumers on brand engagement, there were plenty of insights and data points. Take a look at the infographic below for a neat summary.

But look deeper. The underlying theme of every data point isn’t the shifting power of millennial consumers. It isn’t about the devices we choose or use. It isn’t even about what we buy or when. It is the REASON we TRUST.

And when it comes to social media, the TRUST EQUATION is simple:

TRUST = Reputation + Action

So the question you need to be asking yourself about your next campaign, your next innovation or project is not “who can I target” but “How do I build trust”. And if you answer that question, you may find that the rest of the marketing funnel falls into place.



Will Social Media Make Politicians More Likeable?


Over the last few days, Australia has found itself with yet another Prime Minister. It is our fifth Prime Minister in five years.

What is fascinating is not just that there has been so much change but the speed with which that change has taken place. In fact, some time ago I suggested that with social media, we are all swinging voters now. And so the transformation in the highest office in the land happened in broad view of the voting public – we were privy to a vast range of opinion mixed with insight as and when it happened.

While the Liberal Party met to decide whether Tony Abbott would be trusted with another six months as Captain, ABC reporter, Chris Uhlmann reminded us that behind the public persona of any politician is an individual – and that at times such as this, that individual faces great pressure and personal challenge. “We forget politicians are human”, he said.

But broadcast media has framed the political landscape in a particular way. It constructs meaning very specifically – broken into catchy slogans, sound bites and images. The meaning, messaging and positioning of every action, announcement and “door stop” interview have been carefully crafted and rehearsed towards a specific outcome – to appeal to particular segments of voters. And in the endless repeating of these messages, the words and actions of our politicians have lost all meaning. We are living Baudrillard’s simulacra, caught on endless loop.

When Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith first created the Texts from Hilary blog, I thought it was genius. It was so clever, in fact, that I suspected that it had been created as part of a deliberate strategy to “humanise” the Hilary Clinton brand. My next thought was that the Australian Labor Party (or one of its supporters) should take the same approach and apply it to then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. It seemed like a no-brainer:

  • A proven and popular model to engage the imagination of the voting public
  • Low cost, high impact media that allows non-scripted communication in a shareable format
  • Distance between the creator of the account/content and the person herself.

But the “Texts from Julia” account never appeared.

About six months ago, a Texts From Malcolm Instagram account appeared and has been steadily gaining a following. Like the Hilary account, it uses text overlays to create imaginary conversations between well-known players on the political scene. In a way, politicians are becoming the cats memes of the internet – instantly recognisable, unusually intimate and slightly irreverent.

Now that Malcolm Turnbull has taken over the big chair at Parliament House in Canberra, this account has become even more interesting. And given NSW Premier, Mike Baird’s blisteringly strong social media performance over recent weeks, it seems that political media strategists are keying into the vast potential of social media. And it makes me wonder – is Texts from Malcolm a clever setup by the former Communications Minister? Will it create the necessary distance and psychological space between the knock-down political action and the voters to engender a new form of electoral trust? And, ultimately, will social media make politicians more likeable?

We’re entering a new understanding of media communications with politicians leading the experimental charge. Brands and businesses largely remain on the starting blocks, but politicians and their advisors – whose very jobs rely on the goodwill and support of the people, are clearly realising that there is advantage to be made in the occasional tweet, video or blog post. It will be interesting to watch this play out in the coming months.

When a Brand Ambassador Takes Control


They say that you can’t control social media. They say that the message is in the hands of your customers. But is it really? What happens when that customer is on your side. And which side, exactly, is that?

During the US summer, Target received a range of online complaints about gender focused signage. In response, the company decided to take on the feedback and transform the shopping experience, making it more gender neutral.

In making this kind of change, Target no doubt, expected some response on social media. But it seems they didn’t expect a customer advocate to step in and take control of the conversation. But that’s exactly what one brand fan did.

Over a period of about 16 hours, a fake account setup with the Target logo and the name “Ask ForHelp” trolled the commenters on the official Target Facebook page. Provocatively arguing with other customers, the account was eventually suspended.

This kind of activity has occurred in the past. Two comedians from Atlanta, Ben Palmer and Nick Price setup an account with the name “Customer Service” and spent time randomly arguing with customers on various brand pages. And while all this makes for light entertainment, no doubt, there are social media managers working furiuosly behind the scenes to clean up the fallout.

While the Target page has been cleaned up, there are plenty of screen captures circulating. Here are a few samples. But the question is – how would you respond? What would you say to your CEO. And where do you go from here?




The State of Social Media in 2015 – A Future Business Roadmap


I do love a review of social media. It reminds me of how far we’ve come and maybe gives an inkling of where we might go. It can also provide a guide by which you can assess, review and benchmark your clients and their activities. BUT. And with social media there is always a BUT.

For the vast majority of those who work in social media roles, or who work in social media with their clients, reports such as the Percolate State of Social Media 2015 are more practical than you might expect. For they provide a roadmap to future business capability.

That’s not a benchmark, it’s a roadmap

Every second on the internet, masses of content is being produced. Around 2500 Instagram photos are uploaded, almost 10,000 tweets are sent, 2000 Tumblr posts are published, 1800 Skype calls are made and 50,000 Google searches are conducted. It’s mind blowing. But it’s not useful.

What IS useful is thinking through the implications of this:

  • Media is being produced by individuals not just by media companies
  • Content is curated, shared and distributed entirely through digital channels
  • “Phone” calls are making the phone obsolete
  • Knowledge is sought on demand.

Looking deeper, we see not the symptoms of these technologies but the behaviours which underlie them.

  • We prize creation over consumption
  • We value networks over channels
  • We crave connection over function
  • We seek satisfaction over perfection

If we take a similar approach to the headlines from the Percolate report, interesting opportunities appear:

  • Social media moves beyond social – we need to build “social media” capacity within our organisations in preparation
  • Customer service shifts to experience – customer service is no longer back office, but front of house. Time to prepare our teams as ambassadors rather than problem solvers
  • Crisis management hits the risk radar – have you developed a crisis plan? Now is the time
  • Social business is everyone’s business – similar to the first point above. But think about social media not as a marketing function but as a core business capability. This is where the digital rubber meets the transformation road.

Social becomes business

The fundamental shift that is recognised in the report is not the NEED for social media, but the need for SOCIAL BUSINESS. As social impacts all aspects of your business from the boardroom to the reception desk, the need for an organisational wide strategy and enablement program becomes paramount.

How can this be done programmatically – and (despite the name of this blog) without chaos?

The answer lies in becoming a responsive organisation. Using agile methodologies applied to business functions and outcomes. It means disrupting yourself before you are disrupted. Now is the time when social becomes business.

It’s Not Stalking, It’s Social Selling. Three Lessons for Corporate Social Success


A few years ago, while working with SAP, I setup a social selling program for our leading global sales team. Given their initial reluctance – and the bad wrap that social media held within corporate circles – I developed a deck with the title “It’s Not Stalking, It’s Social Selling”. The title alone got us over the first hurdle – the natural distrust of technology and social networks that almost all of us feel when first venturing into the vast social network space. But what followed was an eye-opener for both me and the teams. And those lessons continue today.

Here are three vital lessons that I learned years ago, but continue to learn from today:

1. You’re only a leader when you have followers

When I boldly pitched this program to senior executives, I had a sense that it was groundbreaking. That no one had done this before. But it also needed to succeed, so I had to tread carefully. It had to be successful. The first focus for “social selling” was Twitter. We built a program, trained the teams and gingerly began engaging with customers. What response did we get?


Then a couple of clients emailed to explain that they LOVED that we were engaging this way. But they were not ready yet. Don’t expect engagement. Interaction. Sales progression. The program was too early. It was worth nothing.

2. Go with your instinct but follow the data to reach a discovery

Following on from my disastrous first steps, I realised that I had followed my instincts not the data. While my instincts were correct, they led to the wrong conclusion. Yes, the shift was on for digital engagement and social selling. But no, at that stage, Twitter was not the right channel (but these, days, hmmm – maybe we should talk). When I conducted a personal branding audit, I realised that the teams had an untapped resource right at their fingertips. LinkedIn. There was a network already in place. They were comfortable in using it. And our clients were also present.

Go with your instincts – but back it up with data. Setup a hypothesis, test it and learn. Save yourself the grief of a too-soon failure.

3. We are all experts

Hardly any of us can view our skills, experience and achievements objectively. Naturally, we judge our own capability according to our own efforts and the activities of those we trust most – and if we all work, operate, collaborate and share with like minds, we often don’t end up with innovation but with “group think”. Keep this in mind.

When I began shifting the social selling program from Twitter to LinkedIn, I conducted a brief audit. I rang participants to understand their online behaviours. I asked about how they used LinkedIn, what worked for them and why. I also looked for best practices. I found there really were LinkedIn gurus within the company whose abilities and profiles were far superior to my own. They used LinkedIn in a qualitatively different way. So I canvassed their opinions and insights too.

I learned that each person’s view of expertise is limited to their worldview. The first step in transforming practice is to open that worldview to the “glare of the guru”. And this is where data comes into play again. If you have been using a social platform for years, have a few hundred followers or connections and feel like you have “joined the conversation” – then you’ll be an expert. But are you an expert at scale?

If only I had LinkedIn’s social selling index back then. It’s a daily-updated dashboard that measures how effective your personal brand is, how well connected and engaged you are on the LinkedIn platform, and how well you build relationships. Importantly, it also measures you against your existing network – as well as your industry – so you know how you compare across two measures, not one.

Of course, it’s focused entirely on driving greater use of LinkedIn, but if that is where you are starting with your social selling program, then it’s perfect.

Based on my profile, it seems I need to engage more on LinkedIn (ie consume content, comment etc) and find more prospects (no doubt with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator). At least I now have action points based on data. So look out, if we’re connected, I’m coming to talk to you about what I’m good at. But don’t worry, it’s not stalking, it’s social selling.


Hootsuite and the Instagram Integration You’re Still Waiting For


Instagram has been wildly successful in building an alternative and deeply connected community of users. And I say “community” for a reason. Far more than the one-to-one-to-one connection that has made Facebook so popular and adoptable, Instagram’s connection architecture provides an easy way to connect people with similar interests and passions. And it does so whether that passion lasts only an instant or a year.

And while some brands have been able to build vibrant communities around their Instagram accounts, it’s often a hit and miss affair. It’s hard to keep track of the growth of a community base, almost impossible to gather key metrics, and even the simplest publishing functionality is notably missing.

Until now.

Hootsuite has announced that Instagram will now be integrated into their social media dashboard. This means that Hootsuite users will be able to:

  • Schedule and publish Instagram content
  • Monitor and engage with conversations on Instagram
  • Create team based workflows.

With content marketing becoming an ever-more important component of marketing strategy, this new integration provides marketers with a simple and easy way to bring that content marketing strategy to life.


To get started:

  • Ensure you have the latest version of Hootsuite installed on your smartphone
  • Turn on Instagram notifications in the Hootsuite Settings
  • Start publishing.

Now, for the bad news.

While you can schedule Instagram posts, you still need to manually post to Instagram from your device. The Hootsuite integration just notifies you at the appropriate time that the post is ready to go. So, unfortunately, those wanting to seriously engage with Instagram as a brand and marketing channel will need to struggle with the lack of API integration.

This means Instagram will remain a promising but ultimately immature channel for most serious brand marketing activities. At least for now.

Five Insights into the Psychology of Twitter


Statistics and sampling are an amazing thing. Even if, like me, you have a healthy scepticism about the way that data is analysed and interpreted, it is difficult – if not foolhardy – to downplay the inevitability of data. Just look at the various disputes around the veracity of climate change – where statistically irrelevant interpretations have derailed important decisions, changes and commitments. Eventually, even the hardiest data curmudgeon will need to yield to the truth of the climate science data – perhaps only as their seaside apartment is swept into the arms of the sea. For though there may be outliers and anomalies in the data, sampling – where carried out correctly – can yield tremendously accurate insight. As Margaret Rouse explains on the TechTarget website:

Sampling allows data scientists, predictive modelers and other data analysts to work with a small, manageable amount of data in order to build and run analytical models more quickly, while still producing accurate findings. Sampling can be particularly useful with data sets that are too large to efficiently analyze in full — for example, in big data analytics applications.

And it is sampling that makes Twitter one of the more fascinating social networks and big data stores of our time. While Facebook grows its membership into the billions, its underlying data store, its connection and interaction architecture and its focus on first tier networks also limits its capacity to operate efficiently as a news source and distribution network. Twitter on the other hand, with its 200+ million members, provides a different and more expansive member engagement model.

During our recent forum presentations on the voice of the customer, Twitter’s Fred Funke explained the view that Twitter was “the pulse of the planet”. Using tools as simple as Twitter search or Trending Topics, Twitter users can quickly identify topics that important to them – or to the broader local, regional and global communities. And, of course, with the new IBM-Twitter partnership, there are a raft of tools that allow businesses to go much deeper into these trends and topics.

In doing so, however, we have to ask. What are we looking for? What information will create a new insight? Which data points will reveal a behaviour? And how can this be framed in a way that is useful?

Five Buyer Insights that Drive Engagement

Just because interactions are taking place online doesn’t mean that they occur in isolation. In fact, our online and offline personalities are intricately linked. And as the majority of our digital interactions take place via text, linguistic analysis will reveal not only the meaning of our words but also our intention. Some things to look out for and understand include:

  1. Buying is an impulse: As much as the economists would like to believe we act logically, we know that buyers are emotional creatures. We buy on whim. On appeal. On impulse. And there is no greater impulse these days to share an experience (good or bad) via Twitter. Look particularly at the stream for comments tagged with #fail. It is full of opportunity for the responsive marketer keen to pick up a churning customer having a bad customer experience.
  2. The customer journey is visible: While we are researching our next purchase, digital consumers leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that can be spotted using analytics software. For example, we may tweet out links of videos that we are viewing on YouTube, share blog posts related to our pre-purchase research and even ask directly whether a particular product lives up to the hype. Just take a look at the #lazyweb stream around the topic of Windows10.
  3. Understand the pain to optimise the opportunity: When engaging via social media, it is important to understand the challenges or “pain points” that your customers (or potential customers) are facing. Rather than spruiking the benefits of your own products, focusing on an empathetic understanding of your customer’s needs more quickly builds trust and is grounded in a sense of reality. The opportunity with social media is to guide the journey, not short cut it.
  4. Case studies build vital social proof: No one wants to be the first to try your new product. Showing that the path to customer satisfaction is well worn is vital. Use case studies to pave the way.
  5. We buy in herds: Mark Earls was right. Not only do we want social proof, we prefer that proof to reflect on our own sense of belonging to a group or movement. Remember that we go where the other cows go, and structure your social media interactions accordingly.

The folks over at have put together this infographic on the psychology of Twitter. They suggest that we tweet for love, affection and belonging. It may be true, but sometimes we just also want to vent. And every vent is a market opportunity.

psychology of twitter

Forget Big Data, It’s Time for Big Narratives


It is easy to get excited about big data. After all, it’s lots of small pieces of data woven together into a patchwork that stretches our imaginative capacity. Just think, we’re creating more data every two days than was produced from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003 (or so Google’s Eric Schmidt claims). That means that every photo, status update, movie, podcast, purchase, share and any other form of interaction that we make on a digital forum – PLUS all the metadata of that interaction – is adding to a massive pool of data that sits like a great digital artesian basin underneath our digital experience.

The question about all this data, however, is what do we do with this big data? Sure we can mine it, connect internal and external data. We can use it for retargeting. Or forecasting. Or analysis. We can put it into charts and infographics and in doing so, add our own efforts to the big data explosion. But it feels like we are just scraping the surface. It feels like we are in our digital infancy when it comes to big data.

But there are a few companies who are innovating on the edge and taking a different approach. For these companies, big data is just a means to an end. The real value is not in the data but in the capacity to tell stories with that data. It’s the realm of big narratives – and it is as exciting as it is terrifying.

The team at Narrative Science have been focusing on machine learning and linguistics for some time. Their natural language generation platform takes big data and applies artificial intelligence to it in such a way that reports are not just visual but contextual. That is, there is the result and the reasoning all-in-one report.

I have written about QuillEngage previously, the platform that turns your Google Analytics data into a summarised report email. So I was interested to see what would come out of their new Twitter report.


Based on an analysis of my Twitter traffic and the traffic of my recent followers, Quill examined around 13,000 tweets to produce the report. Most interesting to me was the analysis of my own tweets and the topics that “my community” engage in. While my follower numbers and ratio put me in the “99th percentile of Twitter users measured by followers”, the report provides little in terms of suggestions for growth / improvement. But it does confirm what I suspected. And in most cases, that’s how many marketers are using big data at present – as a sense check. A validation.

But as technologies like this get better, more automated and programmatic, there’ll be less sense checking. Less validation. And more action. It’s just that that action won’t be taken by you or I.