Andrew Burnett is a well-kent social media operator across the UK. Not only was he the first person to rank for the phrase Social Media Scotland, he's also the Head of Social at YardDigital and chief keyboard polisher (his words) at AndrewBurnett.com where he often shares tips and advice on the sector.
He's also a stalwart of the Edinburgh Coffee Morning gathering every Friday at Centore and well worth catching for five minutes to see what his current thoughts on social media are...
What got you into social media?
I've been doing social media since before it was a term I had ever heard of. In 2001, I started working in technical support for Macromedia and discovered forums. It soon became very apparent to me that the 'official channels' were mostly limited to those who had more severe problems. I found that design and development communities were much wider in terms of both problems and solutions reported, so started frequenting them. There is a certain etiquette that is expected within forums, which came quite naturally to me. I didn't know it at the time, but these were my beginnings in social media.
Lots of people aim to rank first in certain phrases - was it good to rank for Social Media Scotland?
Other than for vanity, no. I am, however, incredibly vain as you can no doubt tell from my immaculately coiffed hair.
Who does it well - either as an individual or company?
There are constantly more companies and individuals using social media, the majority in a middle ground of mediocrity, not amazing, not poor. With that said, there is hardly a day goes where both extremes aren't put on public display too.
Just last week, I made a joke on Twitter about having to educate someone in better whisky after they had a bottle of Glenfiddich on their desk. After a few rounds of banter, Glenfiddich are now giving my colleagues and I a private tasting next week so I can see how good it is - I'd say they'd played that pretty well, wouldn't you?
Is it for every business?
In short, yes. Not every platform is for every business, not every usage is for every business. I firmly believe an ROI model for social media can be made for practically any business. Individual platforms may come and go, but the paradigm of social communications is not one that can be wished away anymore.
Is there a lot of snake oil or bullshit about over social media?
More than you could shake an oily snake, or indeed bull pat, at. This is to be expected though, after all, the snake oil was introduced to the West on the back of a very lucrative event in history, namely the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. What we see with social media now has definite parallels.
There’s an old argument that PR/marketing/advertising should own social media - should any of them?
Simultaneously all of them should, and, none of them should. There are elements of social media which are an obvious fit into PR/marketing/advertising, but without a certain cohesion it matters very little where the ownership lies. For example, if marketing take ownership and run a brilliant campaign which cannot be fulfilled, suddenly customer services are under siege. It is not as simple as defining ownership.
Why is there such a fear over traditional ROI? Surely it’s the best metric to be using?
Fear over ROI is, generally speaking, due to a lack of understanding. Either client side or, more often, agency side. Even as simple a question as "what are your goals for social media?" often is one to which there is either not an answer or "engagement" is proffered.
What’s your favourite social media sites?
In terms of destination sites, I don't have any favourites really, I focus much more on aggregators of content.
Twitter consistently surfaces great content for me, from peers I respect. That combined with the likes of strawberryj.am helps me get the sweeties, wherever they may be hidden.
Facebook, for me, is mostly personal, although the lines blur as many friends are also peers.
StumbleUpon is another one I really like, though it is a lot more for a random experience, something to take a quick break with.
I love the discussions offered by Reddit, as well as how great community it is - some of their support for each other is very touching indeed.
I did also get myself an app.net subscription, but to be honest have yet to see any real benefit to it.
If you had to choose one platform - for you personally - what would it be and why?
I would pay for Twitter, I genuinely would. Twitter has almost become a protocol, much in the same way that email or sms has. It is integrated into so many apps, although, of course it remains to be seen how much that will change as they continue to alienate and block the efforts of third party developers.
What’s the can’t live without Apps on your smartphone?
On my iPhone, the apps I really use and need daily are Twitter, Mail, Chrome, Clock, 1Password and, Words with Friends.
What’s the must-have Apps on your tablet?
My tablet is an iPad, the must have apps there are pretty much the same ones as on my phone, but with a few additions, most notably, Flipboard, Facebook and now and again the Tumblr app.
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?
From family, friends, peers it would need to be a smile or a laugh, a pat on the back, recognition - I think we're all pretty much like that though, right?
If we're talking about the arts, the music of James Brown at a sufficient volume does wonders to blow the cobwebs away.
On the other hand, if you're wanting to know about drugs I would have to say Islay malt whisky.
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?
Ok, so, I think here we need to distinguish between the three:
Google has always been an advertising company. Their raison d'etre is to serve adverts at you in ever more ways, relevant ways, granted, but nonetheless that's their game.
Facebook, well, is it really working? I don't know. I see news of their stock price and can't help but think of other behemoths who have fallen.
Twitter, well, here's the thing, if Twitter were up for it, they could make buckets of cash, by charging users directly - sort of like an app.net which has actually achieved critical mass already. I don't see advertising working for them longterm. On that note, I did spot a decent article the other day about how Twitter could make money without advertising.
With the shift in paradigm, perhaps the days of advertising are slowly drawing in? I have long believed that endorsement is the currency of the web, but with social media pervading our every waking moment, 2nd and 3rd screens becoming reality, perhaps simply having paid placement on content channels is no longer a viable method of advertising.
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?
Sorry, but that's a daft question. Should we abolish the term "mammal" because there are so many of us? No. Sorry again, that was a daft answer. What I mean is simply that it is rapidly getting toward the stage where it is no longer a specialist term, but a collective term for many social media - on a side note, social media is already a plural.
Companies seem to be concentrating their efforts on Facebook - is this a dangerous move?
I would never recommend putting all of one's metaphorical eggs in one basket. Similarly ignoring relevant platforms is not a wise move either.
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?
Should they? Absolutely. Do they? I think that's still a long way off. It's not something we've achieved as individuals and societies offline yet, to imagine it will happen online first is, probably, being over confident in humanity. Maybe I'm just cynical. What is good for all concerned though, is that the customer cannot simply be swept under the rug.
Where do you see social media being in five years time?
All around us. Even more than now. I see a disconnect between "the internet" and social media. We will have accepted and embraced concepts which will allow us to auto generate a digital trail, perhaps still with an element of pre-authorisation for some services. We shall place more trust in the machine.
For those thinking of getting into social media, any tips or pointers?
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