Social Business - Using Social Media for Business in Africa

I was asked by an energy business to speak at their annual conference in Marrakesh, Morocco on Social Business - Using Social Media for Business in Africa.

Here is an updated version including my voice-over included as new slides: 

Campaign Review – The Glenlivet Guardians’ Chapter

In 2013 one of my favourite engagements was to work on The Glenlivet account for Aesop, and on their biggest campaign to date ... The Guardians' Chapter.

In the role of Digital Director I wrote the digital strategy, advised on social media strategy, content curation and measurements and built up the development team. It was a great example of fully integrated planning and delivery, mixing the best of on and offline engagement to create a true world first.   


What is it?

When a whisky brand usually creates a new whisky it is up to the master distiller to choose from the aged casks which spirit will make the perfect dram. He does this pretty much alone and the customers’ only interaction is to buy the whisky once it has been bottled. We set out to change that.    

The objective?

Instead of the whisky fans being at the end of the process, switch it around and put them at the start. Give The Glenlivet’s fans the chance to choose the whisky that would be bottled, rewarding their loyalty and creating a world first along the way: appropriate for “the whisky that started it all”.


First, The Glenlivet’s Master Distiller Alan Winchester created three expressions: 3 different whiskies, all with their own characteristics, flavours and tasting notes.

Now, the hard part, how to get over the barrier of “participation inequality”. There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to taste the whisky, but unless we gave it all away for free, precious little of it to go around. How can you vote on a whisky you haven’t tasted?

The solution 

We created a personality for each of the three whisky expressions, relevant to their taste and ingredients of The Glenlivet’s history and brand: Classic, Exotic, and Revival. Read more about the specifics of each whisky here.

As well as Global Tasting events in America, UK, Canada, India, South Africa, Japan and beyond, we also created a content space online called the Guardian’s Hub where each of these three expressions was brought to life, with articles including the likes of Classic Bars, Exotic tailoring or Revival architecture, were regularly served up, giving those who might not get to actually taste the whisky, a chance to define their own taste. They were then able to use this journey to help vote on the expression that most represented them.

The Glenlivet Guardian Chapter - Voting.png

Through voting apps at events, and on the Guardian’s Hub online, participants could vote for their favourite expression, or change their vote if they were so persuaded, and with your vote being made public, you had added incentive to share with your friends to help support the dram you most wanted to see bottled.                

The Glenlivet Guardian Chapter - Home.png

The results

The campaign ran for 4 months and had massive interaction on the Guardian’s Hub, at the events and through social media. People voted in 39 countries around the world and at the end, celebrated the final winner ... The Exotic, in shops in March 2014.  



A good brief and client is one thing, but you need a great team to pull it off. On this project I was involved from the very start and worked closely with a brilliant planner. We gelled immediately and in one room over just a few hours managed to shape and reshape then define the core of the idea in a way that would both look and feel right, but also be technically profound. This ensured that everyone else involved on the project had a clear focus. I have to say was a joy to work on.        

After the campaign finished I was given a set of the three very rare Chapter Whisky Expressions as a momento

After the campaign finished I was given a set of the three very rare Chapter Whisky Expressions as a momento

Nice feedback from Ian, The Glenlivet's Global Ambassador

Nice feedback from Ian, The Glenlivet's Global Ambassador

I even appear at 43 seconds into this video

Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign

"You don’t hire the agency, you hire the people"

I did a radio show entitled "Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign" earlier this year, it went down really well.

For those who prefer long form, they transcribed it here:

Part One: Things to know before hiring an agency for your social media campaign

Part Two: What a Social Media Agency Shouldn't Do

Or, listen to the radio show here.



Things you should know if you work in digital communications: some history

I was rendered unusually speechless on Monday evening and I wanted to put you in the situation and ask what you think. The scene is a Social Media Week conference, 150 professionals interested in digital communications, are packed into a room and as an aside a speaker says “Hands up who has heard of Alan Turing?". How many hands do you think go up?


Yes, three. Three hands go up in the room to signal that they know of the man who by played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer.

Come on, something is wrong when people don’t know the origins of the technology that allowed social media to exist, right? I wanted to ask the room if they know who Tim Berners-Lee is, but I refrained; I might leap into the Thames if I didn’t see 150 hands go up.

Does history matter?

Have you lost the love for Facebook?

I signed up for Facebook years ago and for a while it consumed my life. I hunted down old school friends, then after that I added people I barely spoke to at school, and eventually I ended up accepting Friend Requests from completely random people I am not sure I have ever met. To keep the buzz going I was ‘Liking’ pages and adding games like a mad man, and then, suddenly, it hit me: I was bored.
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From parody to charity: How @lizjonessomalia’s 172 tweets raised £25000 in 2 weeks

In the last few weeks social media has taken a battering but at the same time a great case study for how social media can be a force for good was born.  @LizJonesSomalia the Twitter account parodying Daily Mail reporter Liz Jones’s trip to Somalia has raised almost £25000 with nothing more than comedy and timing.

Liz Jones, better known for her insightful writing on such varied topics as 'If you're too bolshy to put on some lippy, why should any firm give you a job?' and the unforgettable 'If face creams really beat ageing, I wouldn't have had a facelift' was sent to report on the devastating famine in Somalia, from a refugee camp in Kenya. Understandably, almost every free thinking person thought this somewhat crass, but only one person channelled their energy for good.

Through the @lizjonessomalia Twitter account, over the duration of her visit, the wit of the Daily Mail’s own parodier @DMreporter kept 8500 followers amused with some of the darkest satire I have seen. The tweets are so cutting they are should read them from start to finish, but here are my top five:

  • I'm speaking English slower. I'm speaking English louder. Still these people don't understand me.
  • I saw a man with a solid gold machine gun today. I wanted to take a picture using my Hipstamatic app but Aasiya told me to leave him alone.
  • People in Somalia take Ramadan very seriously. Let's hope it ends soon, I can't bear to see people not eating.
  • Very hard to get quotes on the record. Most people too weak to talk, or too distressed to be comprehended. Frustrating.
  • The refugees are lovely too. One little girl said how sorry she was to hear of the difficulties I was having selling my house. At least I think that's what she said. There was a lot of coughing.

Obviously famine is not funny and the spoof writer commented “I’ve tried to be really careful about never making famine, drought or death the target of the joke. This account is not about that. It’s about highlighting the crisis in East Africa and opposing the staggering crassness of sending a crossbreed of Glenn Beck and Anthea Turner to Somalia to cover it”.

The audience was engaged by comedy but also propelled to do something more by the references to a JustGiving page resulting in almost £25000 raised in just 2 weeks.

I think the quote from @DMReporter sums it up best "Isn't there something perversely brilliant about Liz Jones being sent to Somalia inspiring a charity drive in opposition to her? If that doesn't send her a message about her value as a journalist then nothing will".

The bottom line:

  • Two weeks
  • 172 tweets
  • Grew an audience of almost 8500
  • Almost £25000 raised for the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal

The learnings:

  • Timing is everything – this worked because the timing was right
  • Content and message – great writing is critical, but so is balancing the serious message so people willingly share it

I was really heartened to see social media used in this way, what do you think? Please comment below.


Why not donate?



For those with a strong stomach (the writing as much as the subject) then you can read Liz Jones’s final article.

#themeet140 Aberdeen, Monday 12th July, Musa, Aberdeen.

A guest blog by @johannabasford

When the rumour started circulating that #themeet140 might come to Aberdeen, I knew this was a hashtag we had to grab onto with both hands. Having enviously scanned the happy tweets following Tweet-ups and previous #themeet140’s ‘down South’ I was determined we had to bring this most Social application of Social Media to Aberdeen and host an event in the Granite City.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how strong the Twitter community was in Aberdeen, I suspected there would be a lot of heavily corporate accounts, but not so many of the seriously cool individuals whom you stumble across randomly, then wonder how you survived without a daily dose of their life. ‘What the hell’, we thought, ‘we’ll give it a go and see who turns up’.
With heavy support from the cycling accountant @ali_mcgill, we teamed-up with social media Mad Hatter Mark and planned the first #themeet140 at the re-launch night of Aberdeen restaurant, gallery and live music venue, Musa.
We tweeted and plugged the event relentlessly for 2 weeks. Then, we waited…
The response? Around 40 people squeezed their way up the Musa stairs and made a little part of Twitter history! What began as a slightly nervous little gaggle of excited people, exchanging hellos and handshakes, quickly evolved into a sprawling mass of chatter and hearty laughter. With no room to move, the handshakes were quickly abandoned and a relaxed, merry swarm of Tweeters appeared.
The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, helped along by a wee dram from John at Glen Garioch and of course a plentiful supply of BrewDog – thank you to you both. There was also the much anticipated arrival of the Blue Cheese Ice Cream … did you love it or hate it?!
The characters who turned up were everything we could have hoped for and more; friendly, warm, open people, big personalities, hugely generous with anecdotes, a light undercurrent of eccentric and all with a passion for meeting and speaking to new people. It cheered my occasionally weary heart to see just how many exciting and inspiring Tweeters there were in our little corner of the world. When it comes to social media, it would seem the Aberdeen community is strong and rapidly expanding – a fact which both delights and excites me!
Following the marvelous (yes marvelous) success of the first #themeet140 Aberdeen, we’d love to host another. What do you think?

Some photos from th evening are here.

Stop moaning and walk in their shoes.

At the Likeminds social media conference earlier this year a very brave attendee asked the panel a very provocative question – how to stop her colleagues using social media?

She explained that she worked for a company with many scientists and felt that they were not the right voice of the company. 

The panel did their best to pick it up but there was palpable astonishment in the air. “Why stop them?” was one comment?

After the event I read a tweet from a fellow attendee that they were “haunted” by this question and during the event there were many times I heard this questions discussed.

This shock is understandable on one hand but on another it shows the world most social media enthusiasts working in a company live in: the world of “why”. Why does social media matter to me? Why should I care?

Unless we walk in the shoes of these brave few we can never hope to help them change minds.

Sing along with the common people… The real power of social media (guest blog)

I am delighted to bring you a guest blog post from Claire Croft @cm_croft, New Media Manager at Durham University. 

Once people discover that my day job entails all things web-based, I’m often quizzed on what this sudden social media frenzy is all about. Fad or future? - people ask.

I generally respond with a story.

I used to work with someone – let’s just call her ‘L’ for now – who often checked her Facebook account in the office at lunchtime. It was late 2007 and Facebook was exploding in a big way across the UK, rapidly becoming a great source of lunchtime banter in our office (as in many other offices around the country, I’m sure). Anyway, one particular afternoon, L logged in to her Facebook profile and let out a shriek (in a manner only other North Eastern girls could ever emulate). HE had sent her message. The Australian. The One Who Got Away. The boyfriend from years back who disastrously returned back Down Under. The love of her life. OMG - this was one lunchtime we would never forget.  A few weeks of flirty messages back and forth ensued. He came to visit her, she went to visit him, and by the following June, L was wafting her Australian visa around the office and handing in her notice. Fast forward a couple of years, and she’s now happily settled in Sydney with Mr Right, a house and a permanent job.  

Well, it’s a good story, the cynics generally concede, but was Facebook really so pivotal? Granted, he might have done a bit of cyber-stalking and located her email address. Or, dare I say it, found her postal address still written down somewhere. But hours spent agonizing over the wording of an email or letter could easily have left him wide open to silence and rejection. A short, spontaneous Facebook message via a mutual friend on the other hand, provided a space which was somehow less brutal, more casual and open.

Social networking is ultimately an experimental space where we can solicit feedback and exchange ideas without the constant fear of falling flat on our face. As such, its impact is far more widespread than the destiny of my friend L and her Mr Right. Take the recent general election for instance. Ok, so social media didn’t quite do for Cameron what it did for Obama, but it played a huge role in shaping public opinion. I’m not talking about Sarah Brown’s tweets, or the Tory take over of You Tube on election day, but rather about the things which the electorate (that’s you and me) posted and discussed. Compare, for instance, the 100,000 fans on the Conservatives’ official Facebook page with the 600,000 views received by the David Cameron ‘Common People’ video spoof on You Tube. Or, for that matter, the 300,000 people who joined a Facebook group entitled ‘I bet I can find a million people who DON'T want David Cameron as our PM’. The point is that people engaged more with each other through informal groups and threads than they did with the so-called ‘official’ channels. This election wasn’t won and lost by politicians using social media, but by the way in which the common people like you and me seized it back to debate the issues amongst ourselves.

In no other election have I become so acutely aware of the political stances of my friends and colleagues. Facebook profiles, Twitter feeds and blog entries between them debated the questions we were all asking – from minute policy details, to the impact of Gordon Brown’s infamous gaffe, to the colour of Nick Clegg’s tie. Few people are ever so forthcoming in ‘real’ life about political allegiance, yet social media provided us with a forum in which we felt comfortable defining ourselves as blue, red, yellow or green. As the election grew nearer, a surprising number of Facebook users went as far as trading in their profile picture for their choice of party campaign poster – my own news feed was awash with the likes of ‘Vote Labour’, ‘I agree with Nick’ and ‘Cameron for PM’ . This wasn’t the political apathy of previous elections – politics was alive and well in this new, non-judgmental, discursive space.

While the televised prime ministerial debates of old media were focusing on their own opinion polls and some obscure thing called the ‘worm’, what we were seeing via social media was something quite different. This was where the real debate happened, where absolutely anyone who wanted to could join in and sing along with the common people…

So to return to the initial question, recent events have left me in little doubt about the truly transformational power of social media. This is something which is capable of connecting us in ways never before possible, making the unexpected happen and turning debates inside out. Try it. I can’t vouch for exactly where it might lead, but you might be surprised.  


I am very gratefull to Claire for this post and want to know if you agree or disagree?  I would love to know what you think, please leave your comments.

#themeet140 tweetup

#themeet140 tweetup is a very pleasant, random crowd, gathering every so often in London, Cheltenham, Glasgow ... Follow us @themeet140

#themeet140 was unwittingly thrown together by @chrish10 and @markofrespect after meeting at media140 and Likeminds events. We felt that despite our passion for social media, and Twitter especially, it was no alternative to getting interesting people together over food and drinks. So, we put it out there seeking a crowd with a shared interest.

Our first #themeet140 was held at the fantastic Tibits in London on the 21st April where over 20 of us had a great laugh: we decided to put it on again when we were in the same place together, or when the time felt right.

No agenda, just come to see old friends and make new, discuss social media or just pure banter. It is the social part of social media and we love a diverse crowd. 

Oh, just one thing, leave the business cards at home. 

Any questions, just ask Mark @markofrespect or Chris @chrish10

Recent events

Glasgow - Wednesday 26th May 2010

London - Thursday 20th May 2010

Cheltenham - Tuesday 18th May 2010


Blogs featuring #themeet140

My name is Michelle and I’m a Twittaholic by Michelle Rodger @tartancat

When bad weeks go good by Angela Higgins @Ange77H

Social Media gets ’social’…and we like it by Chris Hall @chrish10

Photos from previous events (send us your links!)

#themeet140 London 21st April photos, thanks to @hedgewytch

Michelle Rodger (@tartancat)
29/05/2010 16:49
#themeet140 blog post as promised,

chris hall (@chrish10)
29/05/2010 09:11
RT @markofrespect: “When bad weeks go good My #themeet140 story!” by @Ange77H. Wow. That made my week.

 chris hall (@chrish10)
28/05/2010 21:43
Mooo. New Cowbell post: Social Media gets ’social’…and we like it! #themeet140 story

What’s in a name? Is ‘social media’ out of date?

I love hearing new names for ‘social media’ such as social business, social communication etc. The rush for nomenclature in any new area is of constant fascination to me. No, not because I love jargon but because I love the pressure-cooker environment in which new terms are proposed, debated, devoured and used. What sticks, what does not? I have seen this before though.
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The concept of a brand as a veneer is dead but are we expecting too much of brands, as they explore social media, to allow them to fail?

At Likeminds I asked the second session panel whether we are expecting too much of brands using social media to allow them to fail? My premise is this: we descry a brand when it doesn’t engage in the social space, but shoot them down when they try to engage too fast and fail.
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