Category Archives: Digital/social media

Get it off your chest

I am currently working on an event to be held in February of next year called a Citizens’ Dialogue. Vice-President Reding will hold a ‘town-hall’ style debate, at which she will answer questions people have about EU action in three areas – responding to the economic crisis, your EU rights and the EU of the future. In order to make the process as inclusive as possible, we have launched an online dialogue, in association with Delib and Democratic Society, for people to submit concrete ideas. Two themes are live at the moment and the third will go live on 16 December.

This is a chance to make your voice heard. We can’t guarantee that everything suggested will happen. But this is a way of feeding ideas in that will be put in front of the people that are making the decisions.

Over for another year

Many thanks to everyone that took part in yesterday’s Multilingual Blogging Day, also known as #babel13. More than 30 blogs took part, ranging from cabbage and cake recipes and sewing, to a multilingual test on your language profile via life stories and a list of the most useful words.

There was some great tweeting as well



and many, many others.

All the blogposts I found are on my new blog Facebook page. Do let me know if there are any I have overlooked.

Using social media to boost your career

I was invited tonight to give a talk to the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy London chapter on using social media for your career. Here’s my presentation (the title was given to me). I think it’s fairly self-explanatory (except for the blank page which had things flying in from the sides). That had one fairly important point, which you’ll have heard from me before, that the paradigm is changing: power is now built as much through knowledge-sharing as through knowledge-hoarding. I also pointed out that doing talks, workshops and training sessions on social media had opened up a totally new field of skills for me.

A big thanks to Louis Hughes, who did a couple of days of work-shadowing with us, for putting together the presentation.

Get your blog on

For the third year out of four, I will be running the European Day of Multilingual Blogging. A rather grand title for what is really just me encouraging people to write their blog in a different language to usual, to highlight the value of multilingual communication. You can sign up here. It was originally started to show that although English is the dominant language of the Euro-blogosphere, many are blogging in a second or even third language, and also that the English-language bloggers aren’t totally deficient in language skills themselves. If you’d like to take part, but don’t want to blog yourself, feel free to invite a friend or colleague to guest post on your blog. As last year, I’ll start posting a list of who is coming once we get past thirty sign-ups.

Please spread the word!

Twitter – solving problems in real time

I’ve blogged in the past on Twitter as customer service, rather than communication/PR, usually when it’s bad practice. So I thought I should highlight where it works well, especially as this story combines well with another of my recent crusades, which is to reduce email overload.

I got back from a long holiday yesterday, jet-lagged, with no fresh food in the house, and too tired to go out shopping. So I did an Ocado order, to be delivered this morning. When I got the confirmation text earlier, it said that the veg box was missing. As this was the main reason for the order, I was a little miffed. So I took to twitter:


I guess I just thought they should know that people use their service for particular reasons and this sort of setback can undermine confidence.

I quickly got a reply.


@euonymblog Gosh! Please contact us on 08456561234 or email and we’ll have this looked into.

— Ocado (@Ocado) August 25, 2013

What was good about this was that the “Gosh!” seemed to acknowledge that I was right to be a bit miffed. And there was a solution proposed.

I was about to send an email when it occurred to me that phoning would get the problem sorted much more quickly, if there was a solution to be had. So I called. After a couple of those irritating phone menus and a bit of muzak, I got through to a person. She immediately arranged for an extra delivery tomorrow morning. Problem solved within an hour of raising it. Job done.

What is interesting about this is that although broadly similar in approach to dealings with Virginmedia, I am left feeling pleased that the problem has been resolved, not irritated that I have been fobbed off, as I usually do with Virginmedia. What lessons are there here, when I compare it to bad experiences I have had?

a) I felt Ocado were trying to help me solve a problem, rather than fobbing me off.

b) It was a problem that could be solved, which is not always the case.

c) This is about food, and however inconvenient, I could easily have found an alternative supply. Problems seems worse when you are locked into dealing with one supplier, eg mobile phone or broadband and they don’t seem to be responding quickly. Especially when it’s a service you rely on for other areas of your life.

d) I phoned, rather than emailing, and the customer service on the phone was much better than Virgin – I got through quickly, there weren’t reams of security checks and the person I spoke to dealt with my problem herself, immediately. Rather than getting frustrated waiting for a reply, the whole issue was dealt with quickly and simply.

e) the user experience of Ocado website and apps is much better than Virginmedia. So I have been able to go onto the website and confirm quickly that a new delivery has been arranged.

f) the communication felt human and authentic. This is a point I make constantly when doing training on social media – be a human. This is where many corporate accounts fall down: if the user feels they are just getting a stock answer or an automated feed, they will be alienated.

None of this is rocket science. But it does show that used right, in the right circumstances, Twitter can be a powerful customer service tool.

Teaching a lesson on social networking

I’m on holiday in Borneo at the moment, where my brother is Co-ordinator for the international secondary section of a school. I’ve had a wonderful time, Malaysia is an amazing place and there are lots of photos around on Twitter and Instagram if you’re interested in that side of the story.

I have been made to sing for my supper (or rather three weeks free accommodation) as I was asked to go in and do a lesson for the iGCSE in Global Perspectives on social networking. The course is a bit like General Studies in the UK, encouraging students to think about the world around them and how it works at local, national and global level.

I’m no kind of teacher, but prepared a Social Networking Lesson Plan and a presentation, and thought I would share them.

I was trying to get them to think about sensible use of networks, without overly emphasising negative aspects – after all, a lot of good can come from these networks. My main messages were

  • The internet never forgets, so think now how your social activities might impact your future
  • Sharing your password is a bad idea, except with your parents.
  • Don’t believe everything you read on social networks – engage your critical faculties.

It seemed to go OK, especially with the final year class. There are some differences to overcome in a classroom of different cultures and nationalities, but that makes it interesting too!

Every time I get in front of a class, for whatever reason, I am filled with admiration for teachers. Coming up with ideas to stimulate and educate, keeping the momentum up in the class, controlling unruly elements and trying to steer that energy in a positive direction; it’s like juggling fireclubs. I couldn’t do it…

A quick practical guide to Twitter

Most of the presentations and training sessions I do on social media tend to focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’, as I think that you need to get that right first. As I heard at the Westminster eForum event on Wednesday:

But sometimes you do need to look at the ‘how’ and the ‘what’, so I’ve done a quick guide to Getting your head round Twitter. It doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive, but is there to help those that aren’t quite sure where to start. If people find it useful, maybe I’ll do a Next Steps guide!

Policy priorities for social media

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have been bombarded yesterday with tweets with the hashtag #WeFEvents I was at an event organised by the Westminster eForum, on policy priorities for social media. By the last session it had got a bit too brand value/ROI/marketing for my needs, but the first session on legal issues, and hearing from Richard Allan, head of policy at Facebook EMEA was very useful. Here’s the Storify:

What is social media for?

I’ve recently been at a few events on digital issues, and I’m off to Helsinki early tomorrow morning to do a workshop with colleagues there on digital communication. So I guess these issues have been at the forefront of my mind. In that light, I thought that the little anecdote of what happened today was pretty illustrative and worth sharing.

My brother lives in Borneo and I am visiting him in July. I had booked my ticket through Trailfinders, so he has asked me to talk to them about booking his ticket back to spend Christmas here. I went on their site, hoping to send them a message asking about it.

Their submit an enquiry form requires a level of detail I’m not ready to provide. Their contact us page is only telephone numbers and physical stores. I just wanted to ask if they can book a trip that starts and returns to outside the UK, so I thought, I’ll send them a quick tweet and ask if that’s possible. No sign of a twitter name on their site, so I did a search and found this article: ‘Social media gimmicky and not for us’ says Trailfinders

I think the position of Trailfinders makes a serious error and that’s about seeing social media as a marketing tool. Maybe the problem is the name: calling it ‘social media’ puts it in the same mental box as ad spend and newspaper/magazine coverage. What we are really talking about are tools for connecting people, to do whatever it is that they want to do with our organisation/brand/company. Seeing it as part of your marketing is why companies (wrongly) staff corporate twitter accounts with comms people, not client/customer service people. If I contact Virgin media by twitter about a problem, I don’t want them to reply with a phone number, I want them to answer my question. This is how people talk to each other now.

This attitude to social media also highlights something else I try to encourage people to consider, which is that the value of social is its intelligence function. You can quickly find out what people are saying about you. A search for ‘trailfinders’ on Twitter found a mixture: one irate guy whose flights had been changed and he hadn’t been informed, and several people highlighting how good the service is. Why would a company not want a more or less free way of finding out exactly what their customers are saying?

We’re in a transitional phase and I understand that it will take time for mindsets to change. But companies and organisations need to think about talking the language of their customers, and that also means connecting with them in ways that work for them. I’ve had great on-the-phone service from Trailfinders, but I have to admit that their inability to communicate with me in a way I feel comfortable with does make me feel a tiny bit less positive about them.