Well, that’s another month chalked off from 2016, which means it’s time for another roundup of articles that caught my eye over the past 31 days.
Despite expecting August to perhaps be a little quieter than usual, I feel like I’ve consumed even more excellent pieces than usual – perhaps I’ve just had a little more time to read them than I normally do or maybe there has been an extra serving of good reads this month.
Either way, I don’t mind!
On this month’s list is a wide range of things to devour, from social media stats to, of course, the launch of Instagram Stories via an old man staging a sit-in protest in a public telephone box – no, really!
And don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten the guinea pig update! Both Lizzie and Angus are fine and happy – they’ve particularly enjoyed being able to help us mow the grass in our garden.
Now, on with this month’s list – don’t forget to take the time to click through and read the full pieces…they are definitely worth it!
I love case studies, especially open and honest ones written by the people they are about, so this glimpse at the last 12 months inside The Economist’s big push on social media is a real gem. They’ve grown their social media tema from 2 to 10, grown their followings by 55%, seen their engagement rates rise by 90% and even scored a 31% increase in digital subscriptions. They’ve also learned a lot along the way, and this post pulls out eight whoppers for us all to take something from.
We’re not interested in competing on the same scale as the world’s largest publishers; we are not aiming to reach everybody. Rather, we aim to build awareness of The Economist among the globally curious. Our internal research shows that there are more than 70 million English speaking “progressives” globally. We strive to find and deliver our journalism to them. Focusing on a specific audience, rather than reaching for infinity and beyond, means we can resist the temptation to dumb down how we present ourselves on social media.
Now, I’ll admit; I saw this headline and immediately thought ‘no shit Sherlock’ – I’ve never been one to eat lunch at my desk. Every day I make sure I leave the screen behind to go and find somewhere to eat my food and read a book. I then take a stroll in the fresh air while listening to a podcast. It definitely helps – in fact, on the rare occasions when I don’t make it outside for lunch, I genuinely start to feel unwell by the middle of the afternoon.
Anyway, I digress. Despite my initial scoffing at the headline, I carried on with this article and it was a very interesting read. If you’re someone who stays chained to the keyboard over lunch, I urge you to break the habit and follow Kat’s lead.
I was never a big believer in lunch breaks — I thought my martyrdom and time spent chowing down at my desk truly helped to boost my productivity. However, in just a week of doing it, I can now officially say I’m a believer who will be shouting their praises from the mountaintops for years to come. It was only a week-long experiment, but you can bet I’ll continue on with my beloved breaks.
I certainly wasn’t short of articles about the arrival of Instagram Stories to include in this month’s list; whether it was predictions of the death of Snapchat, any of a plethora of ‘things you need to know about Instagram Stories’ lists, or news of Facebook acquiring MSQRD animated selfie filters and what that could mean for the next stage of these stories, I was spoiled for choice.
However, my favourite was undoubtedly this interview with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom by Tech Crunch, where the Instagram bigwig basically admitted what everyone else online was saying; that Instagram Stories are just a big old rip-off of Snapchat’s feature with the very same name. That sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, and Systrom comes across well for being so open.
Still, everyone in our interview room knew there was no avoiding the Snapchat question, so I just put it bluntly. “Let’s talk about the big thing. Snapchat pioneered a lot of this format. Whole parts of the concept, the implementation, down to the details…”
“Totally,” Systrom interrupted me. “They deserve all the credit.”
I was flabbergasted.
Facebook had blatantly copied Snapchat before with failed products like Poke and Slingshot. It had ripped off entire startups like TimeHop, which Facebook recreated as On This Day, or features like Twitter’s hashtags and trending topics. And when asked where the ideas came from, the company’s executives always said something like “we see behaviors from our community and we try to build on top of them” or “I don’t spend too much time looking at what other people are doing or not doing.”
But Systrom bravely told the truth
Is your Vice-Chancellor or President on Twitter? In the UK at least, there aren’t all that many tweeting VCs. I can see why they wouldn’t want to do it, of course I can. But I can also see the potential for wonderful things if they were to engage. The current President of the university of Nebraska, Hank Bounds, joined Twitter when he took office and the rest, as they say, is history. He’s written up his Twitter journey in an essay for Inside Higher Ed and it’s really rather a good read. Print it out. Show it to your boss and see what you can make happen.
For me, it’s become a way to continually hear from stakeholders about how we can work together to shape a stronger future and position the University of Nebraska as a leader in higher education. The university has four campuses, with a one- to two-hour drive in between them, so Twitter is also a way to keep a finger on the pulse of multiple campuses and be accessible to faculty, staff and students in an ongoing way.
Writing good copy is not just a skill; it’s an art. Replacing something dull with something carefully crafted will quickly make your writing more enjoyable, more relatable and more readable. This short but sweet piece is packed full of top tips to light up your copy – enjoy!
Words hit your reader’s brain the way a flavor hits their taste buds: some combinations delight, others are boring, and some tug on the gag reflex. Regardless of the ideas you’re trying to convey, the words themselves can make all the difference.
The Olympic Games happened in August – you might have noticed, we did rather well. On the eve of the Games, the BBC put out this particularly interesting case study on Bradley Wiggins – specifically his brand and how he’s gone from Wiggo in 2012 to Sir Bradley Wiggins now. There are plenty of lessons to be learned here and not just the usual ones you find in branding case studies – well worth a look.
The branding matches the identity created around his team. It focused on values he had sought to emphasise since 2012. A man not just inspiring cycling, but making it accessible to everyone – a message that he can carry beyond his final Olympic Games.
By focusing as much on inspiring others as his own achievement, Wiggins has ensured that his name comes with more than just a yellow jersey or gold medal attached.
Ever wondered what working in social media is like? Hopefully my blogs give you at least something of an idea, but this write up from Jessica Smith does a grand job of explaining it. Whether it’s the flexibility to write your rules or the fact that, depsite having their own opinions, many people just won’t get it, there’s plenty to relate to here.
Brace yourself. If you want to work in social media, you’re going to come across a whole slew of other “experts”. Be patient, be kind and educate. There will be days when you want to throw in the towel or hand over the keys to let someone else drive, but fight the good fight. Your point of view (rooted in experience) will one day be appreciated and valued over a random opinion.
Guess what? Facebook updated its algorithm again last month, this time in a bid to clamp down on clickbait headlines. In theory, that should mean that lots of publishers have to change their approach to writing headlines on their Facebook content, so this examination of four types of headlines that attract higher levels of engagement on the platform is a timely and useful one. I’m certainly in favour of headlines that are not just being grafted onto a post to make you click through.
So the ‘…you won’t believe what happened next’ headline structure is not a good approach. Another popular headline trope on social media is the question-driven piece, that poses an alternative (and usually false or contrarian) finding or viewpoint to the one expressed in the actual piece itself. This model is also not entirely to be counted on.
A new report from the Engaging News Project finds that “compared to traditional headlines, people had slightly more negative reactions toward the question-based headline.”
While we’re talking Facebook headlines, this piece about writing better headlines for your Facebook ads is well worth a look too – I used some of the tips here to set up some ads for my band’s upcoming debut EP and it seemed to do fairly well.
Much as I have grown to like LinkedIn over the course of 2016, I’m still particularly invested in their groups. Most of the ones I’ve been members of have either been full of self-promoters or have simply been dead. Perhaps more group owners should take a look at this excellent guide to running groups well from Fi Shailes – there’s plenty of solid advice to take away.
Good group managers treat everyone equally, and should only speak up / post when they’ve got something of value to share. They also follow the same rules as everyone else – no exceptions.
Last month, we saw a number of bonkers rules around the Olympic Games and what you supposedly could and couldn’t say about them on social media. Well, this month I’m bringing something similar to the table, albeit with a far more important message behind it. Sadly, a lot of people seem to have just accepted that Twitter is straight up terrible at dealing with harassment and abuse. However, it proved itself to be elite-athlete standard at stopping users posting Olympics GIFs during the games. Unsurprisingly, this pissed off a number of users, and this Buzzfeed piece sums it up pretty well. Yes, copyright infrigement is a serious matter. But, if Twitter has the tools to act so quickly in this instance, surely they can do more to deal with the horrendous abuse that many of its users are subjected to on a daily basis?
Many questioned why Twitter seemed to be reacting much faster to possible copyright infringement than it does to the abusive messages so many users experience on a daily basis – or why the company doesn’t consider some abusive material worthy of taking down at all.
The fact that I’ve gone from horrible, abusive language to a piece about TheLADbible is purely coincidental. Much as I dislike the world’s fastest-gorwing news site for young men, its growth has been quite something. They have also become noticeably milder in the last couple of years – I still don’t have any interest in their content, but the shift is pretty clear – so this behind-the-scenes look at who they are and what they do is certainly an eye-opener, particularly their approach to social and the staggering amount of shares their content receives.
The laddish legacy brings challenges, and not only those to do with ethics and the anxiety it might cause potential investors: the lads’ magazines of the 90s and 00s discovered that while crude, laddish content is attractive to young men of 11 to 16, the 18-plus segment is more sensitive about sharing.
Twice this month, those helpful folk at comms2point0 have synthesised some big slabs of data around internet and social media usage in the UK, one set from OfCom and this one from the Office of National Statistics. There’s not much in the way of commentary I can add here, other than to strongly encourage you to head over to comms2point0 and click through the slides of stats from the ONS – it’s full of good stuff.
The most common reason for using social media was to find out what is happening in your local area. Forget Kim Kardashian. It’s what’s happening in your community is what makes 41 per cent use social media.
We all love a bit of inspiration, particularly when it comes with added nice images, so this roundup of some of the best UK Universities worth following on Instagram is a joy for the eyes and will give you plenty of ideas. And, before you say it, I didn’t JUST include this article because Warwick made the list (thanks Eric!)…that was simply an added bonus!
Universities in the UK are all over Instagram and while this is just a small sampling of what’s being posted/created/shared, here are 21 examples of accounts worth following
A late entry into this month’s list, but well worthy of its place. Chris’ tale of London Underground rush-hour woe is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t put all of your eggs into the social media basket – particularly when your audience is stood in a spot where they are unlikely to get signal to see what you’re posting. Sure, post messages to your social media channels, but don’t forget all the other tools you have.
Just because you have a social channel, it doesn’t mean you should focus all your attention on it.
It should be part of your overall communications approach, rather than the sole medium – especially when traditional, less thrilling options actually remain 100% effective at getting a message across to precisely who needs to be advised, when and where they need it.
I’ve definitely saved the best until last this month; in a story that perfectly captures British local journalism, summer silly season and an excellent use of live blogging, relive a tale that had me gripped for an afternoon earlier this month – the moment when an OAP in Essex took a stand against the man and staged a sit-in protest in a Billericay phone box, that was due to be decommissioned and taken away. It’s a wonderful and touching journey and I can’t recommend it enough! No, it’s nothing really to do with social media and it’s definitely nothing to do with higher education, but sometimes you need to finish with some light relief.
Despite a total of 12 signatures and three objections to the proposal, ‘contractors turned up from Norfolk’ to remove the box on Monday (August 15).
From about 1pm, Rashid Ovi sat inside the box, refusing to move until negotiations with Essex Police saw him leave of his own accord about 5pm.
That’s your lot for this month! What did you really enjoy reading in August? Let me know below!