Social Media, social networks and apps : Both Smart and Dumbphones Hate You!


Social Media and Networks are the thing. Living the social life is a matter of do-or-die nowadays for anybody willing not to be left out.

Who wants to be this kid girl, let us call her Lucy, left out of her group of friends for having the wrong smartphone, yes an iPhone, when her f(r)iends would all make use of their Blackberry – and BBM – to get, and stay, in touch ?

Social development is not individual. 

Basically, social media beg to differ by being … social.
This does easily make sense when just having a look at Facebook for instance. An account with no friends suddenly feels quite useless.
Geek or not, being willing to use or just discover social media overall and some new kids on the block in particular may prove difficult.
Not that it has become such a mission impossible to download an app and create an account but, rather, that social media need to be social.
Find yourself in the kid girl’s position and you are up for some tasteless deja-vu.

Push adoption or rely on adoption ? 

Still keeping up with Lucy and her iPhone ? Do you think that even if Lucy installs the latest and fanciest, iOS-only, app, her friends will all turn to an iPhone ?
The answer is most likely a solid no.
So what about making the most of discovering new apps, new social networks and tools ?
I found myself in that position quite a few times. I happen to be one of the very few registered users of Line (messaging app, to make it simple) in France. And looking at members of my 500+ address book (boasting contacts in various other countries in the world), only three of them happen to be found on Line.

That is three out of hundreds while only one of them is a French contact. The other being … Japanese.
So how can I really proof-test the product when so little people do actually use it and the only users are not people I would often get in touch with  ?

Discard your friends. 

How do you enjoy this slightly rude statement ? Blunt joke aside, there is still truth in there.
That is the result of my look into my own list of unusable apps. A very dramatic reading of a situation where those fancy products I have downloaded will only begin to make sense once my very own circles adopt them and the behaviour to make use of them too.
That is never to happen.
Too bad my Line, too bad my Ding Dong, too bad my Path and so many others.
My close circles are not your close circles.
As a tester more than any kind of geek or early-adopter, I first want to test things, in context, prior to judging them and making use of them if they pass. However, with quite a lack of like-minded people, this very first step of testing and sharing gets down to the ground from the very start.

Bear with it and be more social. 

When contacts, networks or even devices prevent any kind of development towards the proper use of social tools, there is little to be done.
First, just bear with the fact that friends and family may not be feeling the need to beta-test every single app being released.
Then, be social. Not only is it the point of social media but that may offer an opportunity to connect with more like-minded people and finally be able to ring the Ding Dong bell with more than a couple of people.
And last, can you not live with it, please check this new app : “Get me a Psychologist” … .

How to optimise your Twitter engagement

twitter bird optimised

Everybody tweets. Twitter has now been adopted both by the public and brands; people have to be on Twitter to exist (kind of) and timelines are now looking like never-ending rolling text. The village square has become quite a metropolis in fact.

So, as an individual or small business, how can you show up in the crowd and make some noise of your own ?

There are a lot of “how to” articles about social media and Twitter in particular. Yet, having gone through some of these and tried some of the tactics, here are my takes.

1) Yes, content matters

As obvious as it sounds, tweeting random opinions about the most random things in your life does not make (much) sense.

Looking like a real person is definitely important but tweeting all weekend about your football team or whatever cocktails you are sipping will quickly become a pain for followers and will not drive much people to follow you.

2) Make tweets long enough

Sure, tweets are intended to be short. But they can still be long within the limit.

A short sentence can be impactful. But then it may only be a quote and/or a remark once in a while (unless you want to sit in some “quotes to use” list).

A longer message will get more re-tweets and more visibility. As well as there are chances it does have more content (and a link to develop) with a referencing through hashtags.

120 characters is a proper length knowing that you need to leave room for people to “RT” with their handle.

3) Shorten links with known tools 

People trust what they know. One sure way to see your links not clicked is to shorten them using “tiny url”. That is basically what I have found in every spam tweet I received and so have people out there too.

Trusted sources can also be useful., for instance, is a known tool which also adds metrics to the shortening. Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, WordPress, etc … also do it and can be seen as trusted sources.

Oh and I did not say it before assuming it is basic when only 140 characters are available but you are shortening links, right ?

4) Use #hashtags

Yes, some people will agree and some will disagree. With Facebook introducing hashtags and the growth of Twitter there has been a tag fever overall.

However, hashtags make sense (and I say it while having not used them for years in the past) and help visibility.

People tend to search social media with hashtags now (so do I). Twitter is not “read” through the timeline but also (mainly) through lists and keywords. Which people make relevant to their industry (think #SocialMedia for instance).

Further than that, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, to mention but a few, do use hashtags. It then just makes sense to optimise the communication and keywords for all these media especially if having a presence on all.

A reminder though, more than 5 hashtags is too much. And putting a hashtag on an actual sentence does not make much sense #doyougetmypoint ?

5) Use images. 

Another obvious point. Images increase visibility and re-tweets.

We do live in a visual world where reading text is basically a pain (if it is not sexy even just a bit).

In the same way as a blog post has to look nice on the eye (not a massive block of text, some images or graphics, …) so should a Twitter timeline. At least that is what you want people following you to see.

Not every tweet shall be a picture and the latter must be relevant but why not make use of Pinterest or Instagram to include nice, eye-catching images in your Twitter communication. Not only would it increase engagement but also drive to your other (visual) sites which do also have a good SEO positioning.

6) Time and tailor your tweets

Putting a lot together because tailoring is not only adapting the tweets to the audience and being consistent. This should be business as usual somehow.

Tailoring also goes with time and geography.

First, the timing. There are times when users are most active, when tweets get read and when people interact more.

Use tools to define these for your audience (Tweriod for instance or other analytics tools) then plan. Ideally, you need to tweet all day. Or at least not once in a day, sending a dozen tweets at the same time. Hootsuite or Tweetdeck would allow to schedule tweets during the day or Buffer can even allow to dispatch tweets over a number of times set by you.

Then, prefer high engagement times to send the most important tweets. Basic indeed.

Now, if your audience is on a worldwide level, the preferred times may change and so may the content to be published. That is where the tailoring has to happen.

An easy example: the usual high availability times are around lunch time or after work while commuting back to work (train, metro, …) for instance. I could see, in my own reports, that this trend was to be found too with a lot of engagement after lunch time, in Europe. However, looking at replies or re-tweets, most came from the USA. In fact, my lunch time slot for Europe was actually USA’s morning time slot.

My tweets being in English and the content (startups, social media, …) applicable to all that shall not be a major issue but a brand could be missing its right target by not ensuring touching the right population and even more maybe with a message that is not right.

7) Find your niche

A niche market or niche topic indeed. But some matters are mainstream.

That is not the niche I mean anyway. I would say tweeting niche in regards to time and period.

I was mentioning the noise of Twitter earlier. Twitter has grown into a huge crowd and everybody is trying to raise their voice above their neighbours. To stand out in this crowd and noise, there are some ways for individuals and smaller brands.

Make use of the time niches. To say it clearly, there are times when there is a lot less activity on Twitter and timelines tend to refresh more slowly, where content is not only content (remember the football line ?).

These times, for instance, are weekends and holidays times. Be active – and relevant – when others are not.

I can see a surge in engagement just by being active and tweeting at weekend. It does not have to be a lot, just a handful of serious and clean tweets with proper content (and hashtags) to make you climb this step and raise your head above the crowd. Then, build on it.

So, here are my views on how to improve Twitter engagement. And there are thousands of others out there that may be true too but these simple tweaks work for me at least.

Agree ? disagree ? Or want to add to the list, please feel free to start the discussion with a comment.

[Image credit (CC): PixaBay user – OpenClips]

Line is coming … and I am happy

Line Logo

Line is here …  .

Or at least on the way as I read in a piece stating that Line is coming to Europe … and France.

I have actually been having it on my phone for a few months already but I must admit I am still facing one of its major issues : users.

I currently have less than ten identified friends/contacts on Line.

On the bright side that feels like a nice private circle.

On the darkest side, it still feels quite lonely.

Outside the 230 millions users Line boast, they still have to conquer the hearts – say the habits – of French (speaking of my direct surroundings) and European populations.
That is apart from Spain where they do already have quite a huge presence (40% of smartphone users having downloaded Line).


The main hurdle to face for Line : getting rid of Whatsapp and being acknowledged as a messaging/social platform rather than just yet another web messaging app.

This is where the true value of Line does lie. Not only in the free calls but in the integration of social and, hence, appearing as a shaken mix of Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, … .

With videos on top and additional options to come (video calls, music, …) the target of 300 millions users by the end of the year seems to be a reasonable one.

I will keep pushing. Will you ? Let me know with the short poll below.

Images : Line’s website

Where is my niche ?

Where is my niche SamsTown

Blogging advice : blog often, provide quality content, push it on social networks and … find your niche.

But where is your niche ? 

Just a few condensed bits of what is being advised on the Web almost every second. By social media experts, by social marketing experts, by whoever has an opinion to voice (or re-voice, through Twitter, curation, etc …).

I am one of them. I do re-tweet some tweets and I give these kinds of advice.

But, now, why is everybody not a (niche) blogging guru then ?

Blogging takes time. I mean serious, proper, blogging takes some time. Be it only to write down a piece, proofread it and publish it.

Not to mention discarding it, crying over it (“my content is so poor I should die”) or just basically not finding the way to put it together.

Then, blogging, as I am lightly mentioning it above, requires content. Proper quality content.

Anyone can blog about their daily routine or clothing of choice or whatever topic feeding itself of its own self. But writing about business, about processes, about rules, etc … calls for serious knowledge, analysis and, overall, work to be done prior, during and after delivering a piece.

I make it sound awkward because otherwise this actual piece would sound like an easy one to write. Bear with me.

On to the niche point.

I spoke about niche as this is a point often showing in the five, six or ten advice for bloggers-to-be or the “How a business should get their blogging right” articles.

The point is, for a business, the “niche” is supposed to be their business field. And if they are quite mainstream, they either sell a product or a service which may serve as foundations for finding their “niche”. Say, their preferred topic and the set of keywords to pair with it.

Now, on to tech blogs (the likes of TechCrunch, The Next Web, etc …) their niche is tech, digital, World 2.0 should we say but the boundaries have expanded a lot here. Especially with the content of posts ranging from tech reviews to digital news while defending writers’ opinions.

Those look like standing in between the business and individual blog.

So, when it comes to my Sam’s Town part, where should my niche stand ? I speak startups and entrepreneurs of course but they go along with social media and marketing. A startup is an actual business which implies company management, customer experience and many other corporate disciplines.

On top of that, I am the one voicing my opinion here, even if reviewed and restrained, this is an individual blog speaking about business.

How niche is that ?

Well then, let us shorten this advice list and focus on understanding business, analysing and sorting the content available (on the Web and in your brain) and providing a well-written, quality piece. Make it worthy, engaging and push it to the wide world.

And if your niche is not as niche as it should in the end, just make sure you are the top dog in these parts anyway. In it dawg ?

Social media tools for blogging … or not


Social media and networks are one of the biggest revolutions having happened in business over the past years or decade. With the birth of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and … WordPress, our digital world has changed a lot and our real life has taken the same blow.

Who does not have at least a couple of social media accounts ? If not dozens (I must admit).

With those tools has come the time of Me. I showcase my own self on Facebook, tweet about me and my life which I advertise visually on Instagram and Vine (or Instagram video now) and I summarize it all, using all my writing power on my – one or more – blog.

Quick snap of life 2.0. When it comes to businesses, the trend is the same even if Twitter and co are still in adoption process.

Arise App store

We had these tools. Still have them. But a major evolution took place with the app store (and its Google Play rival) and the smartphones becoming the common tool for anybody out there.

Apps also mean a lot of various tools working for, with, around social media.

So, when it comes to the blogging part I initially mentioned, posting on WordPress means that the post may be tweeted, posted on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc…, curated on with its featured image pinned on Pinterest and so on.

A multiplication of the reach.

But even prior to that, tools like a Pocket (formerly Read me later), Evernote, Google Reader (R.I.P), etc … play a major role in gathering content and topics for articles to come.

And I am not mentioning more technical tools/plugins destined to improve ranking, SEO, etc … .

Shed the tools and get sh!t done!

On to my point. Just off from a TNW Academy session with John Saddington, yesterday, I have retained one major point : “hit the “publish” button”.

Indeed, I am using a fair amount of tools in my blogging process, before, during and after – and I am not even close to some more professional friends. But while I do use all this stuff and try to make my content better and my posts longer and smarter and whatever else, I am not publishing.

I am even struggling at being done with the writing. I almost have no drafts pending.

That is worse, in fact, I have plenty of notes in Evernote, material in Pocket and Dragdis, even bits on a waiter’s pad (…) but these do not make blog posts.

Blog posts are what this post is. A completed, published one.

Be it not perfect, long enough, documented enough but at least making sense, making a point and as we often advise startups, better a released Most Viable Product than a perfect one never reaching the market.

Agreeing or disagreeing to that ? Let me know your thoughts.

[Image owner lonnietaylor, via / under Creative Commons]

The good, the bad (and ugly) use of Twitter for customer service

Social media. The word is everywhere and corporations are getting there little by little, for marketing, for engaging customers, driving sales Good, bad, uglybut also to provide customer service or support via Twitter.

This is a “new” trend and large companies are actually setting up accounts – or using some current ones – in order to provide an additional contact option for their customers and offer an extra level of service.

The adoption of Twitter by brands has been quite good so far but mainly in order to do content marketing, not necessarily answer customers.

Yet, with Twitter allowing people to easily give shouts at these company accounts, it does seem that the market itself has pushed – and still pushes – towards this use for customer service.

However, regardless of being top of the crowd and officially offering support via Twitter, companies do have to get their act together with a proper structure and a clear understanding that the level of service expected is no different from what customers may expect when entering a shop or an agency and facing actual employees.

Some companies tend to do it right and offer good service.

How good are they ?

From recent experience, HSBC, for example proves to be quite responsive (usually one of the pain points as these company accounts do face crowded timelines) and the “operators” behind the account do post a tweet to introduce themselves when taking over.

Not much of a difference but it does give a sense of humanity to the (Twitter) handle.

Airlines also are in my “good” ones with Air France and Easyjet. Slightly different positioning for these two yet a level of customer service quite on par with each other.

The second might struggle a little bit more with responsiveness, as seen by some people tweeting again to ask for answers but I still do like the fact that both accounts tend to follow their customers in order to provide answers through private messages as soon as it is not an easy fix.

Not only does it save some (to a lot) of timeline space but it also shows a sense a privacy that is enjoyable from a customer point of view. Reminder : tweets are public and while people following my account may know about me reaching out to an airline about an issue, I would appreciate that not every single person, bot, alien or whatever else out there follows my dialog with the company.

One last bit on the good usage of Twitter. I did mention earlier the companies with no specific support account but which people can still touch through their standard Twitter account. Good handling of Twitter requests on these accounts may depend on the community manager(s) and/or the company’s policy but how enjoyable and rewarding is it when a “message in a bottle” sent with little hope to a brand’s handle ends up being answered in the right way (e.g. not by a “go f**k yourself!” but rather a “how may I help you?”), quickly and efficiently enough.

Enough with congratulating big companies here, that is what most startups do everyday and even if their good handling of Twitter requests may stem from a need to gain visibility, fix beta product used by early adopters or just make sure they set the foundations right with their first customers, the quality of service offered is definitely something every company out there should look up to.

Evil Twitter How bad can it get ?

Well, this is where it does get nasty. Twitter being yet another means of communication, some may think it can be handled in the same way as phone or email.

That means sitting some people in front of the screen and providing them with recommendations on how to deal with customers (scripts … ) : expanding the call center to social media.

From personal experience, French telecom company SFR is now on my list of sworn enemies after I spent a week running through all their departments before trying to end the pain by making use of their Twitter handle (dedicated to customer support).

The sad bit here (apart from the fact that most of the other contact means are pretty unresponsive) is that this was a good example of call center Twitter.

The responsiveness while not being that bad showed that handling a busy timeline requires tools and/or added staff.

Yet, the understanding of requests definitely was nowhere near what people would expect. And that is a fact, any issue or request can only be a 140 characters one. Meaning customers have to ensure they can summarize the question but, also, that people doing the support on the other side must, at least, be able to understand the request and, further than that, be able to ask for clarifications if needed.

Which, when done in public, while facing a crowded timeline, does get nowhere but close to a mess.

This is where DMs are a must-use.

Another recent example shows how understanding (e.g. being able to not only understand the written sentence but also the context and who the customer is – or is not) is Bank of America’s handling of some rants in which their handle was used.

How is it even possible for the operator behind BofA’s Twitter to offer assistance with their account to the twitter of OccupyLa whose wording was rather about telling them how much they suck better than asking for details on savings accounts.

Customer service through Twitter is something truly new. It bears a new concept as this is basically a public square where everybody can shout at each other while wearing a mask.

The handling of that does not require call center skills (people at OccupyLA would surely not spend ten minutes on an expensive-as-hell support phone number, listening to brain-melting messages just to get a chance to hit at the company. On Twitter, it takes seconds and a few words) but a very different set of skills and mindset as well.

Twitter, a necessary tool at the moment ?

A dedicated user myself, I can only say yes, definitely. However, looking at the good and bad points, it does require some thinking and structuring before jumping in; whatever the use.

But as soon as a company does make the decision to make use of Twitter (and social media in general) for actual customer service and support (I leave aside marketing being slightly less crucial), they need to ensure getting things right and not consider it as part of their basic usual customer support framework.

That is basically the same as hiring a skilled social media marketer when it comes to developing online presence and content marketing.

I love Twitter as a tool, as a media and I definitely like customer support being handled through this means but companies have to ensure they have the right skill and mindset to make it successful.

It is not marketing as people see it but, as a reminder, any message getting out to customers is marketing.

Any bad message or usage is, in the end, bad marketing.

Customer service is marketing too. Make sure to use Twitter (and all social media) in the good way to deliver a good marketing message.

Everything corporate is marketing

Everything corporate is marketing