The Social Penguin Blog in Hiatus

Hello all,

Just a note to say sorry for the lack of new content here. I’m really struggling to resource The Social Penguin Blog. This is mainly due to the fact that I’ve started my own business and recently have become a Dad and time is at a real premium. I don’t want this to be the end of the blog and I am looking into options for keeping it alive while maintaining quality. If you know any great writers (or are interested yourself!), please do get in touch.

Dave the Social Penguin is well, so don’t worry about him. In fact, he’s getting pretty settled himself and is in a serious relationship with a rather hot penguin called Deborah.

In the meantime, I’m still regularly writing about social media, digital and content marketing over on the blog for my consultancy, Velocity Digital. Check it out here if you so desire.

Thanks for reading.


5 Tips for Excellent Social Media Customer Service

I was asked to write a guest blog by Mike after entering in a Twitter debate with Virgin Media a few weeks ago. After reading his blog post about Virgin Media’s poor social customer service, I was shocked that they provided such poor online service. 28 days to respond to an email says it all really!

I’m a blogger and work as a social media manager and have learnt social as I go along, trying and practising new ideas all the time. I have put together a few guidelines that I have developed over the past year which may help you if you’re just starting to provide social customer service. I don’t believe there is a ‘right’ way of doing things; it depends on your business and what works for your brand. I hope you will find the following pointers useful and things to definitely avoid!

1) Don’t wait for customers to contact you directly. Track your brand name with a good social media monitoring tool and offer proactive help. I love this example from Tesco, who proactively responded to this unhappy customer in friendly conversational tone.

Tesco could have then followed this up with a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) and actually sent this customer some Krispy Kreme donuts to cheer up him; this would really have gone above and beyond. You can read more about RAOK in this Trendsetting report from 2011, which actually features some work I did with Biotherm Beauty back in February 2011.

2) Be fast. 81% of Twitter users expect a response the same day and 30% expect a response within 30 minutes! That’s why a good process and team organisation is essential so you could respond quickly and with the right information. Taking these statistics into account, I recommend setting an initial target of acknowledging customer queries within 3 hours and resolving the same working day if they are complex. I predict customer expectations will increase dramatically so continually look to reduce that time all the time. If you are a financial services company as well, social media can really help to solve any grumbles before they become written formal complaints.

3) Integrate social media into your existing customer service function. In most companies, PR and Marketing teams do not have access to customer data. So apart from flagging to Customer Services, PR and Marketing teams are unable offer a great deal to help the customer if the query is related to their account. Start off small and train a few customer services staff who are enthusiastic and get social. Monitor all interactions and assign customer queries to them. Look to resolve the query on the customer’s chosen channel (social media) and do not discuss personal details in the public space. Always move to private message or DM if it involves checking customer data and if it becomes too complex you could offer to phone if the customer prefers. Once you have sorted the issue through private message or DM, take it back to the original tweet or comment. This shows you have actually delivered good service and doesn’t leave people on your page or channel wondering what the resolution was.

4) Offer value on the chosen channel. Make sure you actually offer to help in your response, don’t just copy and paste a call centre number! This is what Virgin did and it really irritates me when I see examples of this. If your customer chose that specific social channel to get in contact with your brand, there is a reason. Redirecting your customers to a website or contact number means they have to do more work, providing a bad customer experience. Escalating social customer service problems to other media is also time consuming – for both the company and your customers.

5) Follow up. Don’t forget to follow up after you’ve helped the customer – are they happy, do they need anything else from you? You can build long term relationships and brand ambassadors by providing good customer service. Social customer service focuses on solving customer issues so that they become ambassadors for the brand. This in turn drives tangible benefits to the bottom line which will be appreciated from above believe me!

If you struggle to get people to understand the importance of social media, I like this quote from Marcel Lebrun of’s Radian6. He says “Think of all these communications as a social phone that’s ringing. Someone needs to pick up before they ring off and go elsewhere. Time is of the essence.” So don’t wait 28 days to reply an email, that inevitably leads to a frustrated tweet from the customer and then direct them to the call centre number which they are quite capable of Googling.

Natalie Kitcher is a social media manager and beauty blogger. Check out her beautyaddict blog.

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Friday Freak Out – Pointless Twitter Customer Service (@virginmedia)

The Penguin has been asleep, and I ‘m sorry I have to wake it with a rant, but I’m sure you can handle it readers.
In my home, my TV and broadband is supplied by Virgin Media. I’ll not bore you with the details, however I had a bill-based query to run past them. I took to the phone, and after a highly confusing (and long) discussion with a person in a foreign contact centre (grrrrrr!), I was none the wiser. My next step was to take to their website, fill in a contact form and await a response. How long do I expect to wait? 24 hours, perhaps 48 at the most. I think that’s reasonable in today’s world, especially for a business of that size. Three days later. Nada. Not a sausage.

So, I took to Twitter…

(I did send it via the contact form…)

28 freakin’ days!!!

Brace yourself, here it comes…

There we go! The big Twitter fob-off. A fob-off that contains a chuffing smiley at that! Basically translates as ‘we can’t be arsed helping you, so we will pass you to our call centre and they can deal with you’. Frankly I would rather be tied to a chair for week and be forced to watch the Ganhnam Style video while having my toenails removed by a beaver with blunt teeth than call you again.

The reason I took to Twitter in the first place was I saw it as a way to have a dialogue with someone I could actually communicate with and hopefully get a resolution. The phone didn’t have this effect. Three days and no email response left me without an answer. A 28 day expectancy rate is just ridiculous and to even communicate that is laughable.

What’s the lesson here?

If you’re going to offer Twitter (or any other social platform) as a place for customer service, don’t just see it as an opportunity to pass the customer on to your call-centre or site. Like many others, I don’t want to call an 084 whatever number from my mobile just to have a truly frustrating experience that gets me nowhere. People expect service regardless of the venue for the request. Offer high service levels across all contact options, and if you can’t properly support one, don’t bother going there. Oh and one more thing – put your contact details somewhere prominent on your site. Far too many businesses tuck this info away in the hope that nobody will bother them. Oh and one more additional thing – FAQ’s are not the answer to the world’s issues.

Have I had a resolution?

Yes. Over the phone. I had no choice.

I help businesses get better on customer service via my consultancy, Velocity Digital.

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Mike McGrail Launches Velocity Digital

Hello Social Penguin readers! I’m delighted to announce that after weeks of planning, dreaming, sweating and indeed fretting, I’ve launched my first ever business – Velocity Digital. I’ve set up a consultancy offering a number of services based around digital marketing, with a focus on social media and content. Of course, my approach is fully integrated and it does not stop at social and content. My business is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, however I have the ability to work across the United Kingdom and wherever else I am needed. If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts here on The Social Penguin, you’ll know I take a ‘no nonsense’ approach to digital, that, blended with transparency and measurability are the keystones of the approach I will be taking with all Velocity Digital clients. Anyway, my site will tell you more about my new venture, so why not take a peek?

Keep up to date with Velocity Digital on the Velocity Blog.

If you would like to discuss working with me, feel free to drop me an email.

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How to Find Great Content Within your Business

‘We don’t have anything interesting to say’

I’ve heard that so many times over the past few years, normally in response to me telling a business that they need to start producing content. I can only think of one occasion when this transpired to be true, the rest of the time, after a brief investigation, it transpires that the vast majority of businesses do have something interesting to say. Content discovery is a big area, but there are a few simple themes that you can use to identify content pieces within your business…

1 – Customer-based stories

Has your business gone that extra mile to help a customer (or even better, a person that wasn’t yet a customer)? If that customer is willing to be named and even give a testimonial, you have a ready-made story that will only serve you well. You could have a section of your blog (you do have a blog right?) devoted to great customer tales. Be sure to alert any customer-facing staff to the need to be recording any special instances of customer service.

2 – Staff-based stories

Do you have a member of staff that has a strange hobby? Perhaps a remarkable tale of achievement? Maybe your Sales Manager is one seriously funny dude? Whatever it may be, tap into that and bring it to life via content. Put that funny guy on camera or get the person with the strange hobby to write an introduction to it. Creating this type of content adds personality to your business and brings the people that make it all happen to the fore. This can go a long way to building relationships with customers and prospects.

3 – Heritage-based stories

No matter how old (or young) your business is, the story of its formation may well be a very interesting tale. If you do have some serious heritage, take a look back through the years and show people the development of your business over time. Jack Daniels does this very well, by pinning all of its content and messaging on heritage. If you are a new business, why not keep a diary of the startup process? It is something I am currently writing (see it here) and the response has been fantastic. It is ready-made content that will again show passion but also allow an insight in to the workings of your brand.

Heritage works

Use your businesses heritage to your advantage.

4 – Process-based stories

Perhaps your business creates a product that has an unusual manufacturing process? Those who really like your product may well be interested in how it is created. Bring that process to life via imagery, video and dare I say it, infographics and all of a sudden you are creating engaging content that adds some nice value for your customers. This is also a chance to show how innovation, quality or even a ‘green’ approach are at the heart of your business.

So there you go folks, four themes that may well help you break the surface of your content basis. How are you finding stories within your business? Are you struggling with idea generation? Been loving the content coming out of a particular brand? Do tell!

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Samsung in Major Blogger Relations Fail

Update 03.09.12 15:47 – Samsung have personally apologised to Jeff  in an email – ‘We put you through undue hardship and we are trying to rectify the situation’. The official statement failed to apologise for the hardship, which shows a lack of real care. Jeff sent the email to The Next Web. I’ve added the full text to the bottom of this post.

Update 03.09.12 13:38 – Samsung has now issued a statement in response to this issue, scroll to bottom of this post to read.

I awoke this morning to a flurry of tweets regarding a rather large blogger outreach/relations fail by the tech giant Samsung, it would appear, in short, that Samsung invited a number of bloggers from India based mobile/tech blog, Unleash the Phones to the IFA (Consumer Electronics Unlimited) in Berlin with the intention to use these poor bloggers as ‘shills’ for the launch of their ‘Note 2′ phone. It is worth noting that brands often carry out this type of activity in order to give access to their latest products to bloggers, it works well when done on the basis that the blogger can remain impartial. Samsung don’t seem to understand this…

So what actually happened? According to reports, Jeff from Unleash the Phones was flown out to Berlin and put up in a hotel, courtesy of Samsung. Before Jeff went on the trip, he had been asked to supply his clothing measurements for some kind of uniform. This naturally will have aroused a little bit of suspicion, however he carried on regardless, buoyed by the prospect of access to Samsung and a plethora of further tech brands at the IFA show. From the moment Jeff & co arrived in Berlin, things started to get very strange, and quite frankly a bit crazy. I’m going to break this down in to bite size chunks of WTF!?! for you…

  • Jeff had been asked in the invitation email if he wanted to attend as a reporter or a ‘promoter’ he chose reporter and clearly stated that he would not be blatantly promoting Samsung
  • When they arrived at the hotel, they were met by Samsung people, given their room key and a Samsung shirt that was to be worn to ‘orientation’ in the morning
  • As if the uniform wasn’t bad enough, they were then told that they had to be present at the Samsung show booth, all day in uniform (head to toe uniform) and that they must demonstrate the phones to show attendees. Dear lord!
  • At this point, Jeff stated again that they were not there to promote or demonstrate the Samsung product. they were then whipped off to a meeting with a PR person during which Jeff reiterated his/their stance
  • The bloggers were told they had some spare time, so they grabbed a coffee and discussed the situation, during the caffeine-stop he received a call from Samsung:

“We got a call from Samsung India saying ‘You can either be a part of this and wear the uniform, or you’ll have to get your own tickets back home and handle your hotel stay from the moment this call ends…

A few minutes later, we got a call from the Samsung India guy who said that our flights on the 6th have been cancelled, and that they’re bringing us back on the 1st instead. But this is only if, and only if, we agreed to wear at least the samsung branded shirt at the unpacked event, and not blog about any of this incident”


Yes, you are reading right, Samsung threatened to abandon these bloggers in Berlin. Wow.

Now they did go to the event, wearing the Samsung shirts, but did not work on the stand. They had very little choice as their plane tickets would be witheld otherwise. It transpires that their original return tickets had been cancelled. Shocking.

The event is still running and Jeff has luckily been told by another phone brand that they will put him up in a hotel and fly him back home to India.

What Samsung Need to do Now

At this point I must say that Samsung have not responded to this alleged issue. I’ve taken the content for this news piece from the originator of the story, The Next Web (look at the number of comments the post is racking up and you’ll see the level of feeling about this incident), who have contacted Samsung to verify the tale and attempt to get a comment. If there are untruths in Jeff’s tale, Samsung need to come out tell their side of the story. If the events did unfold as above, they need to publicly apologise and quickly at that.

Samsung Statement

Samsung have issued the following statement:

“Samsung Mob!lers is a voluntary community of active Samsung mobile device users, who are offered the opportunity to participate in our marketing events across the world. At these events, all activities they undertake are on a voluntary basis. No activities are forced upon them.

We regret there was a misunderstanding between the Samsung Mob!lers coordinators and the relevant blogger, as we understand he was not sufficiently briefed on the nature of Samsung Mob!lers’ activities at IFA 2012. We have been attempting to get in touch with him.

We respect the independence of bloggers to publish their own stories”

Not a particularly solid response. I expect this to rumble on for a good while yet…

Samsung’s Email to Jeff

Here is the email sent to Jeff that apologises to him for ‘undue hardship’. It wil be interesting to see what happens if they do meet and I’m sure Jeff will tell us all!

Thanks to The Next Web for breaking this story.

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What Does A Great Blogger Outreach Email Look Like?

Blogger Outreach is a difficult process and one that many PRs, brands and marketers really struggle to grasp. This post isn’t going to explain the process and its merits (this post does some of that), but it will give one simple piece of advice – how to send an introductory email to a blogger.

I’ve never seen a good one…

Back in April I highlighted a particularly awful blogger outreach email I’d received. I’m going to make a bold but honest statement here… I have never received a quality introductory email from someone looking to build a relationship with me and my blog. Ever. So what would one look like? In my opinion, this:

Dear (insert the bloggers name, if you can’t find it, then take a serious look at yourself)

My name is Davy McDavid and I work for Obese Purple Monkey Pills Inc, a manufacturer of slimming aids for obese purple monkeys (you’ve introduced yourself and the business, a nice simple start)

I’ve been reading your blog and particularly like your posts on the plight of obese purple monkeys, you seem to have a strong grasp of the issues effecting these poor primates. (note the fact that this picks out a particular theme from the blog in question. What it doesn’t do is over-egg things by saying ‘I’m a huge fan of your blog and have been forever, you are a truly awesome guy’ which is the norm. That just reeks of bullshit. A little compliment is a nice touch.)

I wanted to introduce our company and discuss the possibility of partnering with you. (Straight to the point.) We have a selection of great content that I believe would appeal to you and your readership. I understand how well respected your blog is and I wouldn’t be contacting you if I didn’t believe us working together would only enhance that. (Tells the blogger what they, and more importantly their readership would get from the partnership and shows a level of understanding of bloggers and what drives them.)

I understand that you have had no prior relationship with our business and that you may not even wish to consider working with us, however if you would like to discuss this further, you can email me on or alternatively, call me on 020800000000. (This recognises that the approach is perhaps a bit ‘out of the blue’, but also makes it very personal in that it supplies a valid email address and even a phone-number. Often outreach emails are very faceless which creates zero confidence or will to communicate.)


Davy McDavid

Common sense

Did you notice something while reading that sample email? Every bit of it is just common sense and courtesy. It is to the point, honest and most importantly, highly relevant the the blog in question. Why is it so hard for this to be common practice? Time may be an issue. A lack of understanding of bloggers? No doubt. Of course, the intro email is just a tiny part of the process, there is work to be done before sending it and indeed after. A great intro email is obviously not a guarantee of success.

Am I asking too much? Are there more factors that make this simple approach impossible? Perhaps the mass email approach is too ‘successful’ to be dropped? What do you think?

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How Twitter Can Help You Settle in a New City

I have a confession to make: I judged people who use Twitter. I thought people who tweeted were raging narcissists with poor grammar. Oh, you tweet? Yeah, I just stopped taking you seriously. That was the old me – before I quit my job and moved to a new city.

Get to Know Your City

A funny thing happens when you’re the new kid in town and have no job. First, you spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Second, you open up to the value of social media. Four months ago I joined Twitter, and I’m glad I did.

During my second week in the city, my car got a flat tire, and I found myself in a rough neighborhood. Like bullet-casings-in-the-street kind of rough (damn you, GPS). Long story short, after I tweeted about my plight, I got a text from an acquaintance with the name and number of a reliable auto mechanic nearby.

Not only have I found a mechanic, but a fantastic sushi place, discounted train tickets and free networking events. Using Twitter to aggregate job posts and city news saved me time and money. Because let’s face it, who has time to check 40 different sites for that kind of information?

Make Friends

Sometimes a surge of desperation comes over me when I meet new people. I go into speed dating mode like I have two minutes to win them over. (Look, I can turn this cocktail napkin into a swan! Please like me!) Nobody likes a Desperate Debbie. I needed to leverage my network better so I turned to Twitter.

I followed people who lived in the city and engaged the influencers and those active in the social scene. If they mentioned an affinity for cupcakes or craft beer, I clicked “follow.” Simply letting people know I’m new to town opened up doors. Followers whom I had never met contacted me with the names of people they suggested I meet. Those people introduced me to more people and so on.

Find a Job

Few things suck more than being unemployed. Just like everyone else does when it’s time to find a job, I dusted off the old LinkedIn account and shouted to the world, Hire me! But I knew that wasn’t enough. You see, in my line of work—marketing and PR, social media is a big deal. You need to have a voice, and you need to shout a little louder than everyone else.

I jumped on any piece of industry news or trending topic I could find. I followed recruiters, company VPs and media sources. I even put in my Twitter bio that I was looking for a job. And then a cool thing happened. People reached out to me with advice, and in a few cases, freelance work. A well-known news contributor asked me to pitch blog topics after I tweeted an article of hers.

The point is that you never know who’s listening (or reading in this case) so why not put yourself out there? I’m not suggesting you fire off any ‘ole tweet like “I just barfed up fish tacos.” Best to keep those to yourself. Please. The point is to tweet relevant messages that align with your goals and engage with people who can help you. Because guess what? Moving to a new city is scary. You need all the help you can get. Put the power of social media to use.

Have you used Twitter or other social media to help you settle in to a new town? Any big success stories? Or horror stories? Do tell!!!

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Friday Freak Out – Crappy Freaking Infographics

Infographics have been hot property on the web for a few years now. They are everywhere. Some of them are even really good, full of interesting facts and appealing visual quirks, delivering the data within them well. They are handy for SEO too I believe. You can look at the advantages of infographics, in the shape of infographic here. Ok, that’s the sensible part over…


There are too many truly awful attempts out there. As soon as I see a nasty one I immediately dis-credit all of the content held within. Us humans like things that look nice, they draw our eye and suck us in. If your infographic is the female equivalent of Susan Boyle, as opposed to Megan Fox (sorry Susan. She does read the Penguin you know..), it will struggle to make any impact and generate the interest and social shares you so desire.

Why go down the infographic route when some well-crafted copy may well have the same effect? Infographics take a serious amount of time (and often money) to to do well. A well-versed writer adept at getting information across in a succinct and punchy manner should be able to rattle out something of equivalent value in a couple of hours. You then need to take the time to get that copy out there and get people sharing and talking about it – the immediate impact may be slower than using an infographic however crappy infographics get found out pretty quickly. Focus on the quality of the written copy and the results should be as strong. Infographicing for the sake of it is just plain silly!

Am I being harsh on the humble infographic are are you also sick of the site of rubbish efforts? Do tell!

Image credit – Me. No-one has such little skill!

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Remember the Social Media Gurus? Measurement Killed Them.

Over the years, I’ve written my fair share of posts about social media gurus, ninjas and so forth. There was a time when the web was full of them, offering fast solutions and immediate wealth in the blink of an eye. It was all a lot of bullshit and unfortunately many businesses fell for it. People with next to zero experience of social media for marketing (and in many the cases the wider digital marketing area) were clambering to be the next ninja on the block. It was a bloodbath and one that I watched with amusement but also with more than a hint of concern. I think that time may have been called on the SM guru.

Is the Social Media Guru Dead?

Firstly, anyone putting themselves out there as solely a ‘social media consultant’ etc should tread very carefully. The guru age has undoubtedly tainted anyone that publicises themselves as a SM expert. The fact is, to truly be in a position to make the most of social media for a business, you need to be taking a holistic view of digital and beyond. Integration is key and treating social media as a standalone activity is the trademark of gurus everywhere. I believe that an increase in awareness of social media and digital marketing in general from within businesses is leading to a safer landscape for those who are seeking assistance. The phrase ‘it is really difficult to measure ROI’ will no longer fly and that is where those who are ensuring that measurement is at the heart of their offering will prosper.

Trust is a Killer

Clear and transparent measurement builds trust. Without it, those paying for digital services will struggle to ever really understand and indeed trust digital. This isn’t just ‘well 72% of your tweets got a click this month’. Stats like that can only be hidden behind for so long. In order to be truly valuable, the business must see exactly how their digital budget is generating business. That’s new and retained customers, people entering the sales funnel and where they came out and so on and so forth. Is it difficult? It can be without taking the time to get the right processes and metrics in place. When these things are rushed, the value drops immediately. Technology isn’t really a barrier either, with Google Analytics available to all for free, there is no major road-block in place, it is a case of using a mixture of the right free or low-cost tools. Of course there are expensive paid solutions out there, but they are often out of reach financially for the average business. Trust can be built with valuable stats and numbers, however there are many other factors of course. That’s a whole different blog post.

Is This Really a Guru Free Social Media World?

No it isn’t and perhaps it never will be, however I do think the numbers are rapidly diminishing and this is due to stronger awareness within business, actual examples of return from social media existing and an increase in quality and available resources.

What do you think? Has the presence of the guru faded? Are you in business and feel more comfortable with the benefits of social media? Are you a guru that is prospering? Whatever your thoughts, please do share them in the comments section below. 

I’m in the process of setting up my digital marketing and communications consultancy and can help you to measure and assess the impact of your social media and digital marketing activities. See here for more info.

Image credit – Me. No-one has such little skill!

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