Four Brands Rocking Social Media Hard

As social media bloggers, we spend a lot of our time telling everyone how to “do” social media. Use hashtags – but not too many. Reply to commenters. Choose a tone of voice and be consistent etc etc etc. Often we include examples of people who get it so, so wrong. But who’s getting it right? Read on to discover my top brands on social media.

Glasgow Subway

Glasgow Subway Twitter

The Glasgow Subway is a pretty straightforward mode of transport – it’s in a circle, you can go clockwise or anticlockwise, and they run at short “intervals” rather than on a timetable. What could they possibly have to say on a Twitter account? I had the pleasure of hearing Elaine Magee and Stephanie Todd, the voice(s) of the Subway, talk at Social Media Week Glasgow 2012, and they provided some insights into how they keep it interesting. Their number one goal is to give the Subway a bit of personality to match the colourful residents of Glasgow, and to engage followers in a conversation. They not only Tweet service announcements, but tidbits and trivia about the subway, information on what to do and see around Glasgow (travelling by Subway, of course) and instigate a bit of banter with their followers. On top of this, they’ve run some great campaigns, including a real life treasure hunt around the city.

Sony Electronics

Sony Electrics Pinterest

This is a great example of a brand doing more than just Twitter and Facebook. Sony take a unique approach to the visual platform, finding creative ways to get followers excited about their products. Pinterest has a predominantly female user base – recent stats show women are five times more likely to be on Pinterest than men. This could be why the most popular boards and images include fashion, crafts, humour, quotes, how-tos and animals. Sony has tapped into these trends, going beyond products shots and the hard sell, in favour of getting followers truly interested in the brand. One board, “I Can Haz Gadgets”, is exclusively shots of animals with Sony products; another depicts the fashion of their music label’s artists; yet another is full of crafty ways to personalise and protect your gadgets. Their board dedicated to what their followers are lusting after is the icing on the delectable, pinnable cake.


Brewdog Twitter

The craft beer scene is getting more and more attention in the UK, and one of Scotland’s stars is Brewdog. A huge part of their popularity has been down to their pushing of boundaries, both with their hoppy beers and their punky branding. On Social Media, their brand has a “personality”; a bearded, swearing, beer glugging personality. Their biggest online success to date has been their democratic beer, a collaborative project with their online fans. Over the course of a week, Brewdog put every brewing decision to their followers and craft beer enthusiasts via Facebook, Twitter and their blog. From beer style to the name of the brew, votes were cast using the hashtag #mashtag. The final brew? A 7.5% American brown ale called … yep, you guessed it. #MashTag.


Sharpie Instagram

Much like Sony, Sharpie shares what their product can do rather than sharing pictures of their product. And what can Sharpie do? Draw. On anything. This results in a colourful, likeable, shareable Instagram feed. While most of their posts are illustrations (using Sharpies, of course), Sharpie shares photos of different things that can be, and have been, customised using Sharpie pens. This ranges from wall plugs to white-framed sunglasses. Most recently, Sharpie had their fans attack some white marks with their new neon range, and showcase them under UV lights. Their approach targets teens, with a focus on getting fans involved and inspiring creativity. This means its fresh, visual and engaging, to constantly dodge teenage boredom.

Over to you

What are your favourite brands using social media? Let me know in the comments, or tweet Dave the Penguin @social_penguin and he’ll get the message to me. He’s reliable that way.

Why Social Media is Like a Handshake

The humble handshake has been the greeting of choice for many for centuries. As a way of introducing yourself it is pretty flawless. However, a poor handshake can be a very negative start to a relationship, this got me thinking, is a person’s first interaction with a company’s social media presence the online equivalent of a first handshake?

Nobody likes a weak handshake…

You know the type I mean? You thrust your hand forward, make eye contact and are ready for a nice strong introduction to the individual in question and before you know it, your hand is encased in a soft, weak grip that gives you little confidence in the owner of said hand. Its a poor start to a relationship and one that can be directly compared with a consumer being faced with a sub-standard social media presence. What would be the components of this weak handshake equivalent?

  • Poor branding – always make sure your platforms are customised with quality imagery, each key channel has various levels of customisation available
  • Being unresponsive – are your customers/prospects asking questions that are are going unanswered? Major turn off.
  • Lack of quality updates – a barren page with infrequent updates gives a poor impression, it makes your business look like it is there for the sake of it and it not taking things seriously. Try to be regular but of course maintain good quality and relevance

These are just a few pointers that could give your social media the equivalent of a feathery handshake (continued post image)

Too Hard! (credit -

Don’t be too firm…
The polar opposite of the soft, fluffy handshake is the Incredible Hulk style finger crusher. This is probably more common among men, but squeezing too hard is just as bad as being soft. Don’t overstep the mark and leave a red imprint on the other person’s hand. Some things to look out for in order to avoid a marrow – mushing social media handshake:

  • Huge amounts of sales/promotional messages – yes, you can use social media to sell, but if that is your main aim you are barking up the wrong tree. If a person’s first view of you in a social sense is a screed of discounts and promotions, they are likely to run a mile. Too strong a handshake!
  • Too many updates – yes I said in the weak handshake section that a lack of updates is something to avoid, but a massive frequency is likely to overwhelm a social media user. This is especially true on Facebook, you are trying to enter people’s personal lives here, don’t be a pest!
  • Too many things going on – Taking Facebook as an example again, the flexibility that FB offers via apps is now pretty staggering. Be careful no to overdo it though, there are so many Facebook Pages out there with numerous apps running, creating a confusing experience for the user and potentially shifting their focus from your key Facebook aim

The perfect handshake…

Is a firm one, coupled with eye contact and a nice smile. Your social media blend should represent that with solid service (firm), an engaged approach (eye contact) and a nice tone of voice (smile).

Is my comparison with a handshake wide of the mark? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I love a good chat.

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The Social Penguin talks to Maz Nadjm from Sky TV

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Mike spent some time today talking to Maz Nadjm who is the Community Product Manager for bskyb, the UK entertainment giant. Maz is responsible for Social Media at Sky TV and talks to The Social Penguin Blog about his past, the challenges that  large-scale businesses face when working in the Social Media sphere and why he loves everything Social Media has to offer…
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Social Media Marketing – So Where Do I Start?

The world of Social Media marketing can be a little scary if you and your business has not dabbled before, with this in mind we thought we would like to give you our recommendations for starting out.

Listen Up!

Remember when your Mother always told you to listen? Well that is the best advice possible when starting to use Social Media as a marketing tool.

Let’s keep it very simple, head over to Twitter Search and type in search terms that relate to your business. Now if you are a well known brand it would make sense to start with your company/brand name, type it in the search field and see what comes back! The beauty of Twitter search is that it gives you results in real time from across Twitter, meaning you can see exactly what people are saying about you at any given time. Of course there may be some bad comments in amongst the good so be prepared for that. Now if you are not a particularly well known brand/business you may not be generating much chatter on Twitter, not to worry, at this point (obviously try your name as well) it is helpful to search for areas that your business operates in, if you sell jeans, search for jeans or perhaps fashion and see what the buzz is.

What do you get back from this? Great comments? Bad comments? Ideas about how you could do things better? Information on your competitors? Quite possibly you have seen all of this and more, don’t rush in and engage though, especially if you are reading negative comments. In this case you need to consider a response and be willing to work to resolve the issue with the customer/complainant to their satisfaction. Chances are your brand/company has been being praised/derided in the social space for a while, so holding back a little longer is ok,  you need to construct a response and a set of rules for engaging before you make contact because once you start you cannot be seen to stop. Go cautiously but don’t take too long to get involved! Recognise nice feedback too, not just the bad!
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Goodbye 2009, hello Social Media in 2010…

 2009, what a year huh? The word on everybody’s lips was Recession and the doom and gloom surrounding it. The past year may be one that many will choose to forget but for us Social Media  enthusiasts it was a year that saw advances and innovations like never before, advances that have helped to change marketing as we (used to) know it and given people that chance to demand more from their favourite brands, companies and services. 2009 truly saw the creation of a instant two way relationship between consumer and marketer.  Some have taken note and built strong over-arching social media strategies, whilst others have decided not to engage or even listen and have felt the brunt of the people!

The success and failures have been big – some of the top stories based around social media can be read in this blog from Chicago Now - , these are the big stories that made headlines but for me the true success stories are the smaller businesses making use of platforms such as twitter to great effect.

In my local area (Edinburgh, Scotland) I have been impressed with Moo Cafeteria and their great use of tone of voice in their tweets, one that reflects their ethos and atmosphere. Their mix of fun tweets and business orientated content makes them a joy to follow. I have to give much respect to Heart of Midlothian FC who were the first Scottish football club to embrace twitter, using it to direct fans to new content, competitions and in recent times updating fans on how the adverse weather may be affecting fixtures.  I could go on with the mentions but I could be here for a long time! I think Scotland is embracing twitter and I am glad to be watching many of the businesses and individuals who are blazing the trail!

What Awaits us in 2010?

 It is important to consider the social media outlets and the level of competition amongst them, whether that be video services such as youtube or metacafe  , social networks such as facebook  or myspace or microblogging services such as twitter  (will a serious twitter competitor emerge?) these platforms (and the  rest!) are involved in a battle for your time and as marketers we have to love that. These venues will be striving to give businesses more options for interacting with their customer bases, I can see new and improved social network advertising options that cleverly blend with the overall social communication lines. The social media service providers need to start making money soon, expect to see major changes (some good, some bad) to the way they work sooner rather than later.

The facebook ad model has flaws but I think the basis of a really effective tool is there. Even with this in mind I cannot emphasise enough my feeling that a well constructed social media strategy that uses the listening power of social as a foundation can offer you way more than using budget on socially targeted ads.

Why target a person based on keywords when you can listen to what they are actually saying about your business and address them in a customised way? You don’t even need to sell to them at any point (if they are talking about you they are more than likely already a customer or considering becoming one), go softly and build a relationship, it will benefit both parties more in the long run. Remember, take on any criticism or complaints head first, be seen to help and ensure any issues are resolved! Sorry, that went a little off track there, but the main thing is to analyse every new option out there and make sure it suits your needs and fits in with your strategy, do not use something for the sake of it!

What about the adoption of SM within your business? I feel that 2010 will be the year when those who have not yet implemented any kind of SM strategy will sit up and take notice. Who is going to facilitate that? You, the people that live and breathe it on a daily basis, the people that understand SM the most are the people that use it the most! You learn by doing and it should be the same for business (with a sensible level of prep!).

But my Boss Wants to see the $$$!!!

It is clear from speaking to many business owners/decision makers that they need to see ROI from social activity. Usually they state that they want a monetary return on any marketing activity, whilst they understand the importance of brand awareness they cannot allocate resource based on that alone. This comes down to education, it is amazing how many people get bogged down in cash ROI and fail to see that they can set their own ROI metrics that can be achieved directly with SM activity.

The sheer volume of information, theories and evidence based around business and social media means that you have the power to influence the people within your business and help them to understand the value. It will be a long hard slog in some cases but worth it in the long run. If you need the Social Penguins to come round and do some convincing let us know!

Internal Use

Social Media in business does not stop at customers, it has many a worthwhile use internally, allowing people to collaborate, communicate and share information in a fast and efficient manner. Does your business  use any social media internally? Companies should be looking to use SM for the benefit of their staff and the business and in turn their customers. For great examples of internal use of twitter I cannot recommend ‘Twitterville’  by @shelisrael more! It is a great read for all SM heads! A great way to assess what you can gain from using SM internally is attempting to draft a Social Media Policy  for your company, give it a try.

People on the Move

Smartphone adoption is at a high and with the roll out of 3G accelerating, marketers have to ensure that mobile is at the forefront of their thinking at all times. This represents a huge opportunity to harness the power of social media and use it to influence consumers at any point of the day. Sit on any public transport vehicle and you will see a high percentage of people using their phones to search/communicate and engage more than ever before. Never before have marketers had the power to expose themselves to customers and potential customers at more points during the average person’s day. The social media venues are well aware of this and the technology of apps is constantly being adapted and improved to allow users to communicate with their social media circles at all times.

The practical nature of this is fantastic for business. A user can be on the high street shopping and before they buy a new dress, can take a photo of them wearing it, upload it to facebook/twitter etc and instantly receive opinions. Consumers are researching and gathering opinion more than ever before, mainly because they have access to more information at any time they want it.  So many people have said to me that there is no way that a mobile app would suit their product or service, I have disagreed many times and asked them to think beyond their actually product but more towards what it means to their customer, once they do they can see the advantages of a mobile presence. This does not stop at apps though you must ensure that your web content is easily digestible and sharable on phones and other mobile devices. Think what you like to do on your mobile web and apply it to your business and make it work!  Make it simple and efficient. We live in a new exciting world of the split second, don’t waste time!

It Is Nice to Share!

Once upon a time if you found something you liked whilst ‘surfing the web’ you would pop a link to it in your (most likely!) hotmail email and send it on, this was your only option and most of us did it a lot! Now we have social bookmarking and the options to share in many a new way and this is a trend that I think will continue to grow in 2010 especially in a mobile capacity.  People can use services such as stumbleupon to alert their friends to content they love instantly, that content could be your new product or a great review of your new product (of course it could be a bad one, but take the rough with the smooth yeah? If it is bad, open up comms!). It is incredibly important to allow the user to share your content at any point, reagardless if they are on your official site, using a mobile app or interacting on one your social network presences. This can be achieved simply by using an interface such as the Mashable example below. Build it and they shall share!

Share it!

Build it and they shall share!

The number of places online that a user can share their info is staggering, it is worth researching these and getting used to using them!

Well folks that is that for this post, hopefully it was an interesting/useful read. Mike and the Penguins could have gone on forever but we know you are all busy people!

All the best for 2010!

Mike, Penelope the Penguin, Dave the Penguin, Cynthia the Penguin and Kevin the Penguin.

The Future of Facebook?

This caught my eye yesterday and really got me thinking about the future of Social Networks/Media. I am going to get my thoughts together on this soon and post them here. Anyway this is pretty funny! Big props to the designer!

The future?

Crazy Social Media Diagram…

The SM world is an intricate one and this mashup of diagrams I found via Google Images, helps you to understand how big it is…

The Social Solar System

The truth is out there!

Thanks to whoever created this! Remember not every SM outlet will be suitable for your business and it is important to consider each area carefully before dipping your toes.

Don’t Get Social Network Tunnel Vision!

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I was in a meeting recently and a colleague was talking about Social Networking, he was getting very bogged down and seemed to think that the networks were the only SMM outlets. I though I would give him a summary of some work I had carried out in a previous role to show him how the SMM sphere reaches far and wide. It is very much a summary and does not mention/consider the whole sphere but he found it useful so I thought I would post it here too.


In a previous role I had a high street retail client selling toiletries, fragrance, health and beauty products and more. I was tasked with looking at what we could achieve for them from a Social Media Marketing point of view. When you are considering SMM use for a retail brand, you are already on the front foot as they have tangible products that can be sold online, meaning that you have a clear end goal for any SMM activity.


The first thing I looked at was how we could best use the networks to create a dialogue between the brand and its customers and potential customers. Rule number one when using networks is  – ‘If you don’t have anything interesting to say, then say nothing at all’ people too often open up networks profiles on Facebook, twitter etc and instantly start pushing out constant promotional messages. This instantly puts off users and creates no form of engagement. I decided that a great way to engage with these people would be to produce a number of health and beauty tips, case studies and tutorials that would give people added value and a reason to build up a relationship of continual engagement. The content did not just come from us, we asked the users to share their tips, creating a feeling of involvement for the user (and droves of UGC – User Generated Content). Anything we produced always used products that were available from the retail business in question. This allowed us to promote the products but in a clever way as we gave the user something in return.  The Facebook fan page was used as a hub for conversation and the added content and very quickly built up a strong following (all content was also placed on the official site, this is very important for SEO purposes but also aids in achieving the end goal – a sale!)  Outside of Facebook we used Twitter and Bebo in similar ways. Twitter more a pointer to new content etc. In this case I was looking at the Social Networks as the keystone of the campaign.


Once I had created this base it was important to look at SMM as a whole. See below for a summary of the other outlets that I used.


  • Youtube – optimised video tutorials e.g. makeup tips
  • Blogging – employed industry experts to blog with tips etc – blogs were placed on site as well as on blog sites such as WordPress
  • Wikis – build a Wikipedia based around the business and its products but still with an educationary angle
  • Forums – Allocated resource to participate in forum conversations based around health and beauty (please note this can be a risky strategy)
  • Social bookmarking – implementation of bookmarking on site to ensure users could quickly share content using Digg, Twitter etc


By creating presence across the above, we had implemented a strong and engagement integrated SMM strategy which created community, engagement, brand awareness, customer to brand dialogue, a number of new customer service outlets and last but not least sales! This activity had a massively successful effect on the SEO of the official site. I will not go in to the details of how SMM can help SEO at this stage as that is a whole different ball game.


A few things to remember:


  • You need to create and maintain a tone of voice that suits your brand/business etc
  • All of these things take considerable time to set up and manage, once you start you cannot really stop
  • Have a plan based around the product/service that your business offers
  • If people are asking you questions via these mediums, be sure to answer the promptly. If they are complaining, do it even quicker and make sure any issued are resolved. Do not delete negative comments etc, be seen to address them and this will bode well for you.
  • This is not a free ride, it will take dedicated resource but the advantages can be great.
  • Remember there are always people out there with an interest in what you do, however obscure that may be, so go find them and engage!


I hope that is of use to you and feel free to ask any questions. This is designed as a summary, I could talk about SMM until the cow come home and I know you (we!) are all busy!