Colin Kelly was well-known to many across Scotland's Central Belt as one of the more popular voices of radio station Clyde 1 before leaving in 2010 but he's also a well-connected social media operator who regularly gives talks, presentations and advice to businesses across Scotland on the topic.
We caught up with him just before his upcoming talk at New Start Scotland to ask him his thoughts on the current state of social media. Feel free to take his advice below and use it in your entries for the Social Buzz Awards (there's still time to enter but you need to email us to find out the new deadline and register your interest.)
What got you into social media?
Back in the early days of Twitter I was presenting radio programmes. I was worried I'd sound a bit desperate asking listeners to text me all the time and realised I could use searches on Twitter to find out what people were talking about locally. Then I could make contact with them off air and get them to call my show.
This led to a new audience - a more tech savvy, entrepreneurial type of listener which helped take the audience figures to record levels and really this was before Twitter went mainstream and EVERY radio DJ started talking about it. It also meant every day, I had my finger on the pulse of what was going on in realtime, instead of using newspapers as the basis of my programme.
Who does it well - either as an individual or company?
Red Bull, Adele and Andy Murray do it brilliantly, but at a more local level I'd pick out an internet sports broadcaster called Quipu TV. They are a Scottish company and they engage really well with customers and sports fans in general on Facebook and Twitter. Positive proof that if you are social and give good service day in, day out people will respect you and stick with you through the ups and downs that every start up has.
Is it for every business?
I think it's for the vast majority of businesses but there will always be a few who just don't want to be social and they'll never see benefits. That's the key - it's about your attitude rather than the sector you're in or what you sell.
Is there a lot of snake oil about over social media?
Every so often I come across someone who's been let down by a self appointed social media 'expert' promising "600 likes by Friday". Don't get me wrong...they got their 600 likes, it's just some of those 600 were teenage goths from Siberia and unlikely to buy wedding dresses from a shop in Lanarkshire. The good thing is, most people in Scotland are pretty sceptical about anyone promising a 'quick fix' and understand you have to put work in.
There’s an old argument that PR/marketing/advertising should own social media - should any of them?
None of them should and if they do that's a mistake. Social media is an opportunity to modernise the business, to open it up and to break down cross departmental barriers. It's about becoming a better business.
The training we deliver involves thinking critically about the business, focussing on the aims and objectives, who the audience is, thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of the staff so that 'social media' goes right to the core of the business and is embraced by the company from the boardroom to the shop floor. I'm not saying the Chief Exec needs to sit down and write Tweets five times a day (although many Chief Execs would see benefits if they did) but they absolutely need to understand it and be involved in the strategy.
Why is there such a fear over traditional ROI? Surely it’s the best metric to be using?
I think a lot of people are just trying to make more money out of it by inventing a new 'science' to try and understand social media! You do need an element of patience and shouldn't go in to it with the sole intention of making money.
It's about showing what kind of business you are, listening, learning from the audience and being willing to engage and I do believe there are benefits well beyond the bottom line. But I'm not into all this 'pay thousands for a bit of software that measures sentiment'.
There comes a point when you have to ask yourself, 'is this worth doing?' and if you're doing social media well, the answer should be very obvious.
What are your favourite social media sites?
Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. I guess I'm in a funny position because although I run my own business now and spend most of my time delivering social media training, or traditional media training there's a bit of me that will always be a journalist. I still create a lot of content either as blogs, or articles or videos of gadget reviews. I love having my own distribution channels, market research tools and a place where people who don't know me but need the services I provide can find me. These three networks give me all of that.
In your eyes, what’s the biggest barrier to adoption of social media? And how would you tell people/firms to overcome this?
Bad businesses, closed minds, people clinging on to power and protecting their hierarchy or wanting shortcuts to 'free advertising'. The best way to overcome it is to ask yourself what a 21 year old would think if they spent a day working for you. If they wouldn't like it you've got a problem and embracing social media and getting good training from someone that really understands business will turn things round and make you more open and engaging.
If you had to choose one platform - for you personally - what would it be and why?
The one I feel most loyalty towards is Twitter. It actually introduces me to things I didn't know, interesting people and ideas. It saves me reading newspapers and has led to several real life business collaborations and regularly makes me money. I wouldn't be working with NSDesign if it hadn't been for my use of Twitter back in my radio days and the fact that Gary Ennis used me as an example of good Twitter use. 99.999% of the world's tweets are utter garbage but by using a 3rd party tool like Hootsuite you can filter all that out and very quickly have an extremely valuable resource at your fingertips.
What’s the can’t live without App on your Smartphone (and what make is the phone)?
I have an iPhone 3GS which is nearing the end of its useful life and my favourite app would be Hootsuite, the social media management tool which lets me update Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ all from the one place and set up tailored columns for certain things I'm interested in.
What’s the must-have Apps on your tablet (and, again, what make is it)?
I've just bought the new Google tablet Nexus 7 and am still getting the hang of it. There's an app there called 'Currents' which many daily newspapers and news websites are on. It's a really neat interface and automaticaly updates with the latest content anytime it connects to wifi. So I can get the train into the office and know exactly what's going on in the world by the time I get there.
What motivates you when you’re down/seeking creativity - what’s the one thing that gets the brain going when you have to dig deep?
I'm a proud new Dad to my 5 month old son, Michael. Last Thursday, he discovered his feet and has been playing with them ever since. Spending time with him sorts everything out. Unless it's time spent trying to get him to go to sleep at night in which case it makes me more stressed and down that I was before.
Given that the way most social media institutions - Facebook, Google, Twitter - are making their money is through the most traditional of ways - advertising - is this a failure of thinking? Surely if social media is such a paradigm shift, we wouldn’t be relying on advertising just like we have done since 1955?
It's a bit different in that they're using targetted ads so in theory they're more useful both to the company doing the advertising and the user receiving them. But a large part of me feels it actually IS a paradigm shift and we're NOT relying on advertising like we used to.
Yes, it's underpinning the networks themselves BUT if you ask the businesses - especially small businesses on these networks what they've cut back on you'd probably hear they're doing less advertising in local newspapers and on local radio and having more conversations on social media. So I think social media has led to less advertising in general and more good communication.
Should the phrase “social media” be abolished as there is so much to it - it can be linkbuilding, community engagement, community building, sales, SEO, blogging, gathering and seeding visual information - should we be at a stage now where people get to specify what part of this their talents lie in?
If you ask a 16 year old what 'social media' is they'd look at you like you had horns. It's just how they communicate, it's not some seperate 'thing'. So I agree, in a few years we won't hear that phrase at all. And I think we already are seeing people specialise and highlight their talents. We have SEO wizards, some great bloggers, others that specialise in video etc.
Companies seem to be concentrating their efforts on Facebook - is this a dangerous move?
Not at all, if that's where the audience is and what they want to concentrate on they should go for it. Lots of businesses make the mistake of trying to do everything and spread themselves too thin. I'd suggest they think about Twitter because I think it has huge potential for the majority of businesses, but if it's not for them or they don't have time then absolutely stick with Facebook.
A huge element of social media seems to be based around customer satisfaction but should companies - and customers - accept that you won’t always get it your own way?
I think many already do. Customers don't expect things to be perfect but they do expect openness and fairness. They'll judge companies on how they respond when things go wrong and companies have to be willing to accept a bit of criticism from time to time. The companies doing social media well already get this.
Where do you see social media being in five years time?
Like I've said, we won't be calling it 'social media', it'll be fully integrated into the way we communicate just like the telephone. It'll have killed off some bad businesses who failed to modernise and engage and thought they could just coast along and it'll have helped some smaller business grow.
For those thinking of getting into social media, any tips or pointers?
Always remember you are continually being judged on how you use it yourself. Every message you post contributes to a picture people build up about you. Some of these people will never meet you, might not get your humour, or see what you're like in real life, but they'll use everything you say to form an opinion of you which could make the difference between them wanting to work with you or not.
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