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The 6 Cs of Social

Is Social Media really so difficult to get right? Being successful takes time, but first up is ensuring that when you you emerge into the bright lights of the internet, you make a difference. The right difference. Or you could do what Poundland did…

Social for brands

As a freelance digital and marketing contractor I have a brand that I need to curate and develop. Clearly I’m no Coca Cola or McDonalds, but the same principles apply to me as to a corporate. Here I set out what I believe the basics to be. In a list. What would the world be without lists?


Brands must be consistent, and avoid attempting to comment on everything and anything Using topical hashtags will achieve impressions and some growth if your message is relevant to that subject. Avoid jumping on hashtags for the sake of it.

Your followers need to know what to expect from you, and ideally when you’ll say it. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Morning/ Afternoon etc. It will be necessary to test this, but once you’ve found it, stick with it.

While I choose to maintain 3 primary public and one private social accounts, it’s always “me”. My audience knows what to expect.


Many brand social platforms tread an ultra cautious PC line and relying on simply recirculating  news. Having an opinion and a personality will gain following and respect in the long-run.

That conviction needs to come from your business having a meaningful interest in, or relationship with, the subjects that you discuss. Should you require your marketing team to develop a detailed knowledge of a sport for the sake of a passing campaign? The depth of that recently acquired knowledge will soon be exposed.

Without a significant investment in time and learning, you run the risk of simply re-cycling what has already been said, which in itself has the value of the contents of a wheelie-bin. Better to stick to one’s knitting.

Here’s a thought. Why would somebody with an interest in the 6 Nations Rugby follow the RBS social feed, instead of their own club, players and associated rugby union feeds? They wouldn’t, unless that feed had content that could only be found, or found first, on the RBS feed.

I post on matters that I understand and believe in, and that I have an opinion on. If I’m challenged on a point, I don’t need to sit and formulate an answer, and think through how it relates to things I’ve said previously. It’s hard to be caught out this way.

Crisis Planning

Forward thinking businesses embrace employee empowerment, and that absolutely is a great thing. However this opens up new risks.

There have been many instances of social accounts going rogue, however briefly that may be. When the British Milk Council announced changes, an employee took matters into their own hands. There was quickly a very public exchange between the disgruntled employee and the management, with only one winner.

Formulating a clear plan for regaining control in this scenario and managing it need not take much work. Who is involved? How can they be contacted? What is the escalation plan? Securing the account etc.


With instances like the one above, brands have every right to be reticent about handing over responsibility for their social feed(s). But if every communication is formulated by a marketing team and signed off by Compliance and/ or Legal, the content will be old and dry.

Southern Railways, arguably one of the least popular rail franchises, put a 15 year old work experience in charge of their 161K follower Twitter account.

They struck PR gold with this. Of course, timing is critical in this, as is a sprinkling of luck. Doing this while the track is melting under would have yielded a very different result.


Although this was a campaign where social was only part of the media mix, Pinarello strayed over a line when it was widely viewed as patronising the entire female cycling fraternity. Maybe a little more consideration towards the sexist overtones next time.

If Pinarello mis-judged their campaign, just what was happening at Poundland in the run-up to Christmas is anyone’s guess, with its Elf on the Shelf campaign. Maybe better to be a little less Frankie Boyle, and a bit more Michael McIntyre?

Balancing Courageous with Conviction is helped by Consideration.

On occasion I will challenge brands online, particularly if I think what they’re saying or doing is wrong or poor. That said, I would not overtly attack or deride a brand, individual, or section of society. When Thameslink were criticised for their service, they sent a cheeky (?) tweet comparing the poor service to Poundland chocolate. Maybe Thameslink thought that Poundland were up for some fun, having seen the Elf Christmas campaign. Not a bit of it!


The word corporate has distinct connotations. In this context I’m using:

“of or shared by all the members of a group”

Digital undeniably offers brands the opportunity to communicate in a less formal manner should they choose to. That said, social should not be used as an opportunity to develop an alter ego, unless you really want your prospects and clients to be perplexed about who they’re dealing with.

A brand that is traditional in it’s dealings with clients, staff and business partners might not be best served by developing a social presence based around clip art and off the wall quips. The brand needs to carry through.

Relax a little? Yes! Loosen that tie. But maybe not ditch the bowler hat and brolly for a mankini and flip-flops! 

Young elephant seal

Good and Bad



Lush recently attracted vast amounts of intention when it seemingly went on the attack against under-cover policing. While under-cover policing should be subject to due scrutiny, what was not evident was the connection between Lush and this particular issue.

They certainly found themselves on the receiving end of a lot of coverage. Much of the coverage was centred on the perceived attack on the police, and it wasn’t clear why they had chosen this cause.

Was it opportunistic PR activated through social, or was it a brand with a social conscience speaking out? You choose. Unless things have changed, I’m with “opportunism”.

Arena Flowers

One of my favourite feeds is Arena Flowers. So far as I can tell they say nothing about flowers, and have over 35K followers. Do they make money from this? I have absolutely no idea. I thought about asking them, but figured I knew what I’d get back in return!

But here’s the thing. If you have somebody who is genuinely funny, and where topical humour or an alternative take on life comes to them naturally, why not use them? It must be 10x quicker, cheaper and more topical than farming content in a communications workshop.

TESCO Mobile

The TESCO Mobile Twitter feed just manages to stay within the main brand, but it’s sailing pretty close to the wind in my view. I’m sure that their audience analysis will show a younger audience who appreciate the informality and humour. Whether they could, or should, take it any further from the main brand is an interesting question.


The old adage goes that it’s best to be talked about than not at all. Generally I’d subscribe to that for a brand. With due thought, social is one channel that can be used judiciously alongside more traditional ones.

Start small. Test. Learn. Listen. Adapt.