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digital research methods
CC image courtesy of Duncan Hill on Flickr

Since moving back into academia a couple of years ago, I've been thinking about digital marketing research and in particular, digital research methods.  My belief is that the digital age requires a rethink on how we approach and treat data, and that there's a need to develop a new and innovative research methodology.

I advise my dissertation students (of social sciences, digital media, and marketing) to expand their literature search to include grey literature (particularly, reputable industry surveys, research reports, and blog posts). These sources are often more current than academic literature, and complement theories with for example latest social media usage statistics, mobile adoption, changing digital consumer behaviour (such as conversational search) or the effect of Google's and Facebook's algorithm updates on small businesses' ability to compete effectively online.

When it comes to Methodology, I favour an experimental approach largely driven by the nature of the business or research problem. In my PhD (Webfilm Theory), I used a mixture of Actor-Network theory and Discourse Analysis, and the beauty of ANT was that it allows you to pretty much follow any nodes. It's a meta-methodology!

For researching social media communications and online communities, I recommend to my students Kozinet's Netnography as a good starting point. And in terms of methods of data collection, I teach them how to use real-time data (e.g. from Facebook / YouTube analytics, search data, or Google Analytics).

Let's demonstrate this novel approach to research with an example involving the analysis and evaluation of search data!

Digital Research Methods - Search Data

Non-traditional data can be collected from search engines, for example, the terms people use to find information using Google.

This could also involve analysing and evaluating the html markup, content and link profile of other sites, to understand how they perform in the search engines (essential for competitor analysis, if you're a business using digital to sell online).

Below are two methods from search engine marketing that demonstrate why search data can be highly relevant to academic or business research.

1. Customer search analysis


Knowledge of consumer behaviour in relation to online search is essential to developing content and strategy that meets customer needs.

This isn't just relevant for market research - I've recently conducted an analysis into consumer search behaviour around suicide (in a post titled How to Kill Yourself). Try using this type of data instead of a focus group to uncover consumer behaviour around your research topic.

Data type

Primary, e.g. search volumes / related search / auto-complete (Google suggest), etc.


Google Keyword planner, Webmaster Tools, related search / auto-complete,, ubersuggest

Further reading

2. Competitor SEO Analysis


Knowledge of a competitor’s SEO strategy and profile is essential to discovering competitive advantage.

This applies primarily to business and marketing research, not so much social sciences. A while ago, I conducted a (light-hearted) competitor analysis of London's first Cat Cafe vs. the UK's first Cat Cafe (in Totnes) and discovered that the former's success had largely been driven by digital PR / use of social and the resulting earned links.

Of course you could extend the competitor analysis to social and online community research - just supplement the search analysis with Netnography on their Facebook / Twitter / any other social network pages.


Primary, i.e. html / meta data; Domain authority / backlink profile


Screaming Frog SEO spider, Open Site Explorer,  Majestic SEO

Further reading

Digital Research Methodology - Conclusion

CC image courtesy of PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE on Flickr
CC image courtesy of PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE on Flickr

The digital age has resulted in an explosion of 'big data'. Large-scale real-time customer data is now readily available for free, and search and social media data are excellent primary sources to conduct research, both in the social sciences and business and marketing (e.g. consumer behaviour).

For academic researchers at all levels (including student dissertations, PhDs and post-docs), a comprehensive search of sources must increasingly include grey literature and real-time sources such as industry-specific blog posts and other content available in the public domain. The risk of ignoring grey literature is that the resulting research will be at best out of date, and at worst, simply wrong.

Last but not least, a modern digital researcher must have a digitally native mindset. S/he must be able to master digital research and survey tools (such as Google forms / Google apps), collect and evaluate digital and social analytics data (such as Facebook Insights, Google Analytics), and overall be very comfortable with technology.

Above all, s/he must be a citizen of the Internet!


One of my International Marketing Management students, Lex van Lynden, is running the Edinburgh Marathon this year for charity. He's a complete marathon beginner and had asked me for help with creating awareness of his run and raising money for charity using digital and social media.

Why run a Marathon for charity?

amnesty international logoWhen we met up to talk through ideas, I wanted to find out more about his motivations. He is raising money for  Amnesty International - a charity that I myself have supported for a very long time. Lex' main reasons are:

I am passionate about Amnesty because they are helping people around the world and I am raising money for a charity that I believe in. Amnesty International and its 7 million members and supporters help to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.

guantanamo bay
CC image courtesy of Walt Jabsco on Flickr

In the initial brainstorming, I thought of ideas to connect a marathon run to the Cause. For example, when I think of AI I typically think of torture, or humiliation; in particular, the sickening images of Guatanamo bay come to mind.

I thought one way to bring those two together might be for Lex to humiliate himself and document his humiliation for all the world to see (i.e. through social media). For example, he could promise to run the marathon sporting an 'Benjamin Button style' old man haircut, and upload pictures of himself to social (as well as encouraging others to do so). As a result, a bank of 'humiliating' images of him would live on the internet forever!

The point was: the message of AI needs to be communicated in a simple, easy to understand way. Everyone knows who Amnesty are but I suspect it's mostly a general, fuzzy awareness. The best way to tell their story is to address a very specific issue.

Picking a campaign cause

newborn baby
CC image courtesy of Gates Foundation on Flickr

I invited Lex to present his mission to students of my MSc Digital Marketing, who are currently working as PR agency DX on a live Digital PR campaign (find out more about them on The Digital Scot).

After briefing the agency with Lex' campaign objectives (key goal: raise £450 by his Marathon run, 31/05/15), and giving a few deliverables, they worked on it in a morning sprint presenting their response at lunch time.

The student agency's big idea was to raise awareness of AI and the cause through:

  • telling a specific current AI action / story (Pregnancy Shouldn't Kill)
  • hooking the story in to an upcoming UK / EU calendar event i.e Mother's Day (15 March UK; 10 May 15 Netherlands / Germany)

There were some other strong ideas, including a slogan ('Cheques for Lex', or something along those lines 🙂 ) and a weekly 'PayDay' including call to action, allowing Lex to solicit weekly payments perhaps in return for updates on his progress / photos / other goodies.

Lex (and I) were very impressed with the students' proposal, and he used some of their suggestions to help with his marathon charity run. For instance, he modified his JustGiving page to tell a specific story, and has 'branded' his page and social accounts with the same image - a great photo showing his recent is Edinburgh half marathon success!

Sponsor Edinburgh Marathon Runner Lex

marathon charityLet me finish this post with a CTA (Call to Action):

I want you all to sponsor Lex' marathon run - especially if you're Dutch (support a fellow countryman!), or a mother (ask your sons / daughters to donate to Lex instead of buying a mothers' day gift this year. You'll give other children a greater chance of having a mother).

To end with Lex' words:

...South one of the worst places in the world to become a mother. They need to face issues such as lack of vital healthcare, overstretched nurses, ambulance shortages and general lack of support. Because of all that, many don’t survive.

With Mother’s day coming up, it is important to think about our own experiences and try to imagine how difficult it is to be a mother elsewhere in the world.

Donate to Lex today - and help end human rights abuse in the world.







This week I attended a guest lecture on digital student recruitment by Christian Bremicker, Head of Social Media and Online Marketing at Benedict Education Group in Switzerland - specifically its internationally renowned Business & Hotel Management School (BHMS).

I'm currently teaching a New Media Marketing module to MSc Students of RGU's International Marketing Management, where digital marketing including social media feature prominently.  To give my students a real-life case study of using digital media in student recruitment, I took them along to Christian's talk as part of their afternoon lab session.

Digital student recruitment class

While I can't and won't reveal specific business data or any other secrets from his excellent and persuasive talk, here are some tips and ideas to consider if you're keen on using digital channels, especially in international student recruitment (one of BHMS' key target markets).

Effective student marketing in the digital age

digital marketing funnel
CC image courtesy of Eric delcroix on Flickr

Christian is an experienced marketer working in a commercial environment - BHMS is a private Business School. He treats digital not as an 'add on' but, like any good marketer should, as a key and cost-effective tool in an integrated marketing strategy.  Specifically, he uses digital channels to fill the top of the marketing funnel thus generating leads into the sales pipeline.

BHMS' target audience are international Generation Y, and it goes without saying that student recruitment strategies for this segment must be digital (and mobile) first!

In a nutshell, Christian's digital marketing strategy aims to drive quality traffic (= his international target audience) to the BHMS website, where these leads are captured and nurtured via an online chat (with REAL people, not robots!), on the road to conversion (applying to / studying @ the Business School).

I love it because it's simple and effective, and it focuses on the bottom line. Christian also shared some recent success metrics, which I'm not going to publish here but let's say it's impressive.

Digital student recruitment

digital student recruitment - quote
CC image courtesy of Ken Whytock on Flickr

While the underlying approach (1. get people to site; 2. capture leads through live chat) looks simple, digital student recruitment is in fact hugely complex due to the characteristics, behaviour and most importantly customer needs of a global digital audience in their 20s.

I have previously talked about how to earn the attention of this audience in a post on teaching Generation Y. It follows that student recruitment strategies in the digital age MUST consider the following Gen Y audience characteristics:

  • Short attention span: your website has 3-5 seconds to make an impression
  • Mobile first: mobile features prominently in the customer purchase journey (often first touch point)
  • Audience fragmentation:  'segment of one' marketing

BHMS has tackled these key challenges in a number of ways, including:

Short attention span:

  • Easy, fast user journey (website UX);
  • Multi-touchpoint (e.g. social ads, PPC, organic social);
  • Personalisation (e.g. using data from user website browsing data to inform live chat)

Mobile first:

  • Responsive website;
  • Key conversion tool (live chat) is both mobile and desktop

Audience fragmentation:

  • Hyper-targeted paid advertising;
  • Global - local integration (e.g. leads generated through digital handed to local experts in territory to close)
  • Personalistation (using both digital data and cultural insight to tailor application experience to individual's behavioural, psychological and cultural needs)

There was plenty more meat in his presentation, especially in regard to international student recruitment and the challenge of China - a country that is a key target market for Western and in particular English-language Universities. However, as Christian eloquently pointed out (and which I've explored in a recent talk myself), traditional or even progressive Western digital strategies (both channels and approach) won't work there (e.g. Facebook isn't even allowed across there. One of my past students from China told me that people who get caught using Facebook may get a 'phone call' from an official).

Social media for international student recruitment

Finally, let's look at the role of social media in Christian's digital marketing strategy. It's important here to differentiate between organic and non-organic (i.e. paid) social media marketing.

BHMS have a global Facebook page and use both organic and paid social media for student recruitment.

Social advertising (on Facebook) is unsurprisingly Christian's best-performing (most efficient and effective) acquisition channel. This stuff works! I'm not going to go into detail here but paid Facebook advertising when used right is a low cost channel to generate traffic that also convert into leads due to the extremely targeted advertising options. It's a fantastic option for recruiting international students since he can reach most of them here; thus focusing his budget very effectively and efficiently.

In terms of organic social media, Christian uses it mainly for brand building and to help keep BHMS top of mind (he tracks engagement metrics and monitors real-time data and comments from social to continually improve social content and the overall social customer experience of his prospects).

BHMS facebook

Theirs is a global brand page i.e. one vanity URL but different local pages served up and managed in territory (this is only open to brands on application, takes a little while for Facebook to do, and tends to be open to brands with significant and regular paid advertising spend, naturally...).

Key success factors of BHMS' use of social media for student recruitment:


  • Global / local branding - the image of the bell above is the same on all Facebook pages, with the text localised to each language (Welcome / Willkommen / etc.)

Organic channel optimisation

  • Use of Facebook cover photo as marketing real estate (branding, link to site)
  • Integration with website (e.g. live chat app tab)

Acquisition marketing

  • Paid advertising (both to existing global FB community and new prospects i.e. non-likes)
  • Efficient and effective use of Facebook advertising platform to drive target traffic to website at low CPA

Conclusions: Student recruitment in the digital age

international student recruitment
CC image courtesy of Saint Louis University on Flickr

All in all, Christian's talk provided an excellent case study for how to effectively market to digital international students. BHMS' approach to online student recruitment is one that I would fully endorse, and recommend to other Universities keen to reduce their student acquisition cost through the use of digital channels.

This really isn't just about acquisition either, but also about brand-building and engagement. BHMS' focus on customer needs at each stage of the purchase funnel, to make the experience of applying and enrolling as easy and enjoyable as possible.

In conclusion, BHMS have truly taken a modern marketing approach - one that is customer-first and guided by their prospective students' needs at each stage of the decision-making process.

Twitter logo
CC image courtesy of info_grrl on Flickr

How should academics use social media? What does a digital academic look like? Do you need to be on social media, if you're a University lecturer?

I have my own view on social media of course (my Twitter tagline is 'own mind, own views' for a reason) and it goes roughly like this:

Social media are communication channels. It pretty much makes sense to be approximately the same person on social that you are in real life. Social isn't you, it's just a channel that you can use to communicate with others (people, brands, people-brands, organisations, etc.) online.

You can use social media for both personal and professional communications, and it's also a useful tool to keep up-to-date with what goes on in your area of expertise (teaching and / or research). For instance, I use it Twitter to keep up with news and research about my subject (digital marketing).

Academics and Social Media

linkedin logo chocolates
CC image courtesy of Nan Palmero on Flickr

As an academic in 2015, you need to be visible online and have a public profile. Not on Linkedin? You don't exist in the eyes of your students (they will google you). Fine (perhaps) if you teach Greek or Maths, but not if you teach media, communications, or PR.

In addition, having a profile means you can be found online and get opportunities coming to you. For instance, I'm an external examiner for the Dublin Institute of Technology and about to produce my first Henry Stewart Talk all on account of this site here ranking for certain search queries in Google.

If you too want to learn how to use social media professionally, the upcoming Google+ hangout by, How to be a Successful Digital Academic to Boost Your Career, looks like a great step to get you started:

You may already be on Twitter and LinkedIn but how can you use these and other tools to enhance your research and widen public engagement? How much time should you be spending on your digital academic profile and what are the risks to your professional image and organisation?

The hangout takes place on Tuesday 27th January 2015, 12 PM GMT and will last one hour.

The event's landing page has more info (including who's on the panel), and the session is bound to give you a few tactics and practical tips that you can implement for yourself in 2015!


This year has seen quite a few changes on Facebook, which has seen my perception of what Facebook is altered a fair bit.

I used to believe in social media as an excellent 'free' organic marketing tool - if you were good (i.e. your content engaging), then you had a half decent chance to build a community around your brand and generate advocacy - that's exactly what I did when building VisitScotland's Facebook brand! Those were the days when a picture could get over a thousand shares, even if your community was only 50,000 or so.

My first point of call to find out what Facebook is was to ask Google.

what is facebook
Google search 'What is Facebook', Dec 14.

Google thinks Facebook is a verb.

Anyway, free social media. It feels like the golden (pioneer) days are over. I wrote about Facebook annihilating organic reach in my 2014 prediction of  the end of free marketing. Facebook has indeed turned the tap off and reduced organic reach by 50% this year, which means, essentially, no one's going to see your stuff in their news feed.

With that in mind, what is Facebook in 2015? Is it just an ad platform that you should use, like Google AdWords? A digital media 'publisher', perhaps, selling adspace?

With the end of 2014 in sight, these are good question to ask.

What is Facebook (in 2015)?

1) Facebook is an Ad Platform

Use for: Acquisition marketing

The most obvious one. Facebook reduced organic reach by 50%, and in 2015 there will be even greater reduction of organic visibility - (Hootsuite provide tips on Facebook marketing in 2015, given these changes). Smart brands in 2015 (as well as, and especially, SMEs!) should learn how to use Facebook Ads Manager  (and bigger ones need to be aware of  Facebook Atlas).

The big thing for marketers is that managing Facebook is turning into a multi-skilled role. You now don't just need community management and organic and content optimsation skills, but also how and why to use Facebook as an advertising platform. A bit like a Search Manager who'd look after both SEO and PPC.

The challenge for SMEs is that they will have to pay for their content to be seen - certainly there is little ROI in spending plenty of time creating content and posting updates that most of your audience will never see (and unlike in email marketing, you don't even own your customers' data!).

Is Facebook worth it? I'd say yes. If you're already using AdWords, test a bit of your budget on Facebook Ads instead (to drive customers to conversion on your mobile-optimised landing page 😛 ). And don't use offline / print etc. - it costs too much, and you can't measure it.

2) Facebook is a Shop Window

Use for: Branding / WOM

shop window
CC image courtesy of Anguskirk on Flickr

This of course depends on your business objective. I was speaking to someone at the Aberdeen Business networking event at RGU a couple of weeks ago, and for his school, Facebook is a 'shop window' to the experience his students might have.

They can't get that experience from their website, he thinks (which either means the site is **** - I haven't seen it - , or that community is especially important in this industry - i.e. WOM, recommendation, seeing what other people think). Education, according to marketing theory, is a service (not a product) and needs to be 'sold' through existing and past customers' experience of the service. Hence it's about marketing the experience, and I think this is where review and rating sites come in too (e.g. TripAdvisor in the Tourism industry).

Generally, there's no harm in using Facebook as a Shop Window, if you have the time. It's part of your overall brand ecosystem (which includes social brand channels) and can help your online visibility. The trick is to integrate it (and social on the whole) with your other digital channels (e.g. website, email), so that your customers have one coherent experience with your brand, no matter what channel they're in.

3) Facebook is a Customer Service Channel

Use for: Customer service

This is especially true for large brands. This is a reputational issue, and that is why social more than anything has made customer service an integral part of your marketing strategy. Managing reputation through effective social customer service should now be part of the PR department's remit.

customer service marketing
CC image courtesy of Mark Smiciklas on Flickr

What this means for your Facebook strategy 2015 is that you could simply use it as a customer service channel. After all, 'social media' are communication channels first and foremost (albeit more democratic ones). You can use them for anything - they're just the transmitter.

You could save yourself the hassle (time and money) of posting engaging content (that is essentially just an underhand sales message anyway) and instead give your Facebook page over to your social customer service agents, who help your customers in real time. This probably wouldn't work in all industries but in service-based ones this makes sense.

If you do it well, then it'll also positively affect your brand image and the overall 'Shop Window' (see point 2) looks good. A win-win.

Is Facebook worth it for your business (in 2015)?

facebook mobile
CC image courtesy of Maria Elena on Flickr

It depends. I'm a great believer that not every business needs a Facebook page. Think of B2B for example, or indeed countries such as China where there's not much point in having one!

I also believe that it's hard to measure the general / organic value of Facebook (similar to TV), though of course you can measure it very well if you use it as a social ad platform.

Big global brands will probably need to be on Facebook (most of them also still have ads on TV), and they will have the resource, budget and strategy to decide exactly what to use the channel for.

Another (important) point to consider is that Facebook and other social media channels are largely accessed from mobile devices - so your content etc. has to be optimised for a mobile audience's needs.

For SMEs, my general advice would be this:  think about your business objectives first, and see if / how you could use the communication channel of Facebook towards them. If you haven't acquired a single customer via your Facebook page in the last 3 years, then chances are you won't in the next  3 years either - unless you change how you use it (see points 1-3).





Rarely do I see a client-side Social Media Manager job advertised in Edinburgh so it was with delight and surprise that I found a current job opening at the Scottish Government earlier this week (search their vacancies here).

A bit of background: I used to work as a Social Media Manager for VisitScotland, the national tourism organisation based in Edinburgh. It's a very exciting career but by no means a walk in the park. What you see on the surface (i.e. Facebook pages, other social channels - the 'glamorous' stuff) is just the tip of the iceberg. Below is a graphic that illustrates some of the components of a Social Media Manager job (in small organisations, one person will often be expected to do all it).


Social Media Job requirements
CC image courtesy of Mark Smiciklas on Flickr


Despite no longer working client or agency side, I keep an eye on jobs in social media and related digital disciplines, especially in Scotland. I collect things like job descriptions in digital, all as part of the ongoing research to ensure our MSc in Digital Marketing remains current and to be able to advise our students on the jobs market. Not that I need to worry about our graduates finding jobs - only this week I was approached (again) by someone seeking digital talent (in a few months' time, there'll be a bunch of very talented new Digital Marketers hopefully!).

But back to the point - there's a great job out just now, and the deadline is 6th October, so you better hurry! Details below.

Social Media Manager Job in Edinburgh (Scottish Government)

NB / Caveat: I don't think this is in any way related to the YES / Scottish Independence campaign. In fact this looks like a newly created role - the job description states its purpose as follows:

As Social Media Manager, to establish yourself within the Scottish Government as a recognised authority on social media methodology, usage, innovation, and emerging trends with a knowledge base relevant to all areas of SG and to translate that knowledge into practical advice and actions.

And what type of person are they looking for?

As a minimum, you need to have a degree or postgraduate degree in a 'relevant' discipline (Media Studies? Marketing?), as well as:

  • Proven experience in initiating, managing and evaluating social media campaigns
  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of the social media landscape
  • Experience of writing for digital channels
  • Knowledge of the policy priorities of the Scottish Government and its Ministers

The salary is reasonable - starting from £32,572 (up to £41,184 at the top end of the scale). All in all it looks like a great opportunity - though as with all civil service jobs, you'll need to be accepting of restrictions on "expressing views on matters of political controversy in public speeches or publications" (this quote is from their Person Spec / Further info PDF).

Might be an idea to delete all those controversial Tweets before you apply 🙂

customer complaints department
CC image courtesy of Gordon Ednie on Flickr

I'm a sucker for good social media customer service. By that I mean a brand who doesn't (just) use social to 'engage' (why, I don't need engaging about your latest product thank you very much - I just need it to WORK!). I'm talking about a brand who actually cares about and responds to customer feedback and queries initiated via social, and does so in a way that makes sense.

Making sense = Focused around actual customer needs, making my life easier, removing (not creating) obstacles.

Too often it's (still) the case that the person who handles Twitter doesn't know what the team dealing with email is doing, let alone the team handling the phones (I've recently had a rather disjointed experience when trying to pay council tax in Aberdeen).

customer service twitter
CC image courtesy of on Flickr

As an ex- Social Media Manager / Head of Social, I've explored the use of social media for customer service and lead on a strategy that hooked social into an existing telephone and email customer support team, exactly to avoid the above situation. The key to social media customer service is a seamless experience for your customers, no matter what channel they contact your business on (or what device, for that matter).

The system I set up allowed the company to have a scalable, cross-team approach to  providing customer service on social media (Facebook and Twitter), as well as extracting qualitative feedback reports and evaluating community content to feed into different business areas (e.g. marketing, customer service, corporate communications). Yes, we still had people on the phone - but the phone agents were also the social customer service agents, dealing with questions coming in from this channel (but still tied back to the original customer service team and their KPIs).

Social Media Customer Service - Best Practice Example

A company that seems to understand this is Scottish Hydro, and I thought I share this example to illustrate my points. I got in touch with them the other day via Twitter, as their website didn't appear to have registered my meter readings (and they kept sending me email reminders despite my having entered them).

Scottish Hydro Tweet

Rather than going through the cumbersome process of following each other on Twitter and sending DMs (140 char limit!), they directed me to this brilliant webform:

Social Media Customer Service - Form


Simple but effective! They just collect all initial queries and channel them through to the right department.

Social Media Contact Form

You can even choose what communication channel you'd like them to use for their response (email, in my case. Always good to have things in writing hehe).

Social Media Form Scottish Hydro


Another advantage is that the simple form allows them to keep a record and measure the number and type of queries and channels used. This means they can set benchmarks and measure and improve effectiveness (and ROI) over time.

Most importantly, however, this is social customer service focused on actual customer need: fast, useful, and  a service that makes my life easier.

The first rule of social, after all, is that it needs to be either entertaining or useful (for your customer, not for you), and if you're neither, you're doing something wrong.





Social networks in Germany used to be, in the olden days, ruled by homegrown German companies. When I first started working in Consumer Marketing responsible for Northern Europe (including Germany), it was important to consider the local differences in social media use.

Facebook, in 2008, simply wasn't leading the social networks in Germany, and therefore not too important. Instead, you had the Facebook-like studiVZ, meinVZ, and later hot new startup WKW (Wer-Kennt-Wen), a social network founded by Patrick Ohler and Fabian Jager in Koblenz - 45 minutes from where I grew up 🙂

However, look what happened in 2009:

Social Networks Germany

 Social Networks in Germany - WKW shutting down

And now, 5 years later (w00t!), WKW is closing its doors for good. Yes, the German social network that at its height attracted up to 187m visits / month, will self-destruct and all user data will be deleted, on the 1st June 2014

Here are a couple of articles about this - though I'm afraid I couldn't find anything in English:

WKW Visits
I've a small interest in Wer-Kennt-Wen and its demise for a couple of reasons (alongside the fact that it was a 'homegrown' startup, in terms of it was near where I grew up):

  1. a friend who I went to primary school with works there (in a senior position). Actually he was thinking of changing jobs but his LinkedIn hasn't changed yet..
  2. I have a profile on there and, while I don't actually ever log in, have over the years collected random people all from the area that I grew up in. Plus, I'm connected to all of my family on there including mum, sister, nephews etc.

Neither of the above will make me miss it too much however. WKW had become pretty much unusable since an overhaul / relaunch last year, which took away the simplicity of the UX (= the appeal for my mother and other internet dinosaurs) and turned it into something too fancy and modern for its own good.

Below is my profile - I thought I include a screenshot here, before one of the most charming social networks in Germany bites the dust, and deletes me, cutting me free from my German roots. FOREVER!!!


WKW Profile

I am grateful for the supply of fresh Twitter fails in the last two weeks. It's been providing me with good live teaching material in digital marketing and PR! ACHTUNG! One image potentially NSFW, and only included for illustrative purposes.

Vodafone Twitter FailUp until now, I've used classic Twitter fails in my teaching, such as Vodafone's corker from back in 2010 pictured here. Other good examples include politicians (Greenwich Tourism boss Neil MCollum having to quit in 2011 after slating the area he was meant to promote, saying he'd make sure his 'wallet is not visible' during visit ).

Read this post for more fun Twitter gaffes by politicians.

New Twitter fails 2014

A couple of new examples of Twitter use with potentially negative reputation have kindly been supplied by US Airways and the NYPD (New York Police Department) in the last two weeks.

(1) US Airways - Porn tweet

What?  US Airways - tweeting a porn image at a customer

When? Mon 14th April 2014


The airline @ replied to a customer, attaching a pornographic image (see below)

US Airways Porn Tweet

Fail Analysis: The Twitter fail here isn't necessarily that they accidentally tweeted the image (it was a simple mistake - someone had tweeted it @ them first, and US Airways then somehow managed to attach the image to a tweet to a customer...)

The Fail lies in the fact that they left it up for an hour, according to this BBC article, before realising their mistake!

What they should have done: They could have avoided this mishap by simply checking the front-end after their response, which is best practice anyway. Not just punt it out and then go for a cup of tea, thus allowing it to be retweeted and shared, and hit the online media and news sites.

I've including the image here even though it's somewhat obscene - as this is a stark example, and perhaps the best one yet, of how quickly you can become a global news story - for all the wrong reasons.

See also: US politician Anthony Weiner tweeting an image of his erection to a woman (2011)

(2) NYCP (New York Police Department) - #Hashtag Fail

What?  NYPD asking users to tweet positive police photos under a campaign hashtag

When? Tue 22nd April 2014


The New York Police Department tried a bit of social media marketing by asking people to post photos of themselves with its officers under #myNYPD

(Yes. I know. Bad idea)

NYPD Twitter Original Post

Here are just two of the responses posted:

NYPD Twitter Fail Occupy

NYPD Twitter Fail

Fail Analysis: They should have been aware of the culture of hijacking #hashtags, especially as this is fairly common and has happened to numerous brands (most recently, British Gas' #askBG last October).

What they should have done: You can never completely control hashtag hijacking - but if you do want to run a social media campaign around a hashtag, there are better ways. E.g. you could display the Twitter stream on your website, filtering out any inappropriate content (through automatic or manual moderation), and promote the landing page as your live campaign site.

See also: Starbucks' #spreadthecheer (2012), McDonald's #McDStories (2012)

Final Words

The danger and reputational risk of Twitter isn't necessarily the platform and the size of its audience - Twitter still doesn't have mass appeal, and it probably never will have (sorry, Twitter!).

The danger is pick-up by mainstream media, online news sites and blogs, and the resulting mass coverage and amplification to mainstream audiences. Most of these fails were widely reported on global news and media sites, including the BBC. The BBC sites reported global traffic of 64 million unique visitors in January 2013. That's 64m potential eyeballs on a story like that!

McDStories twitter fail


There is a new PhD studentship in Social Media / Big Data Analytics offered by The IÉSEG School of Management (in Lille & Paris, France).

This is the research area:

The content of the PhDs will be defined in the field of social media analytics and its influence on companies’ communication strategies and their relationships with their customers.

Cheese shop in Lille, FranceA focus is on Big Data - so they're actually looking for people who can program (e.g. Computer Science graduates, and ideally with a degree in marketing or business too). The person spec lists as essential (among other things) "Programming skills of at least one statistical software language such as SAS/Base, SAS/Macro, SAS/Stat, SAS/IML, R and/or SQL". Not for me then (but then I don't really need a PhD Studentship in Social Media ..).

Great opportunity for someone though - in fact there are not one but TWO studentships available. You'll get a three years salaried research contract and you'd have to move to France- check out the photo of the Lille cheese shop to whet your appetite 😀

To find out more and apply, read the further particulars of the PhD studentship in Social Media / Big Data on It all starts in September 2014 - good luck!