Aimee Hudson
28th November 2018 - 8 mins read
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ritish Gas, Seaworld, JP Morgan and author EL James are among those who, to put it politely, have seen their social media chats trend for the wrong reasons.

So, what can we learn from these social media disasters? How can you do it right?

 

Timing

Timing is a key component for social media Q&A success. Holding an interactive session when you are already creating headlines in the traditional media for the wrong reasons is a recipe for disaster.

British Gas was the victim of one of the more memorable scheduling disasters, opting to give customers the opportunity to ask Customer Services Director Bert Piljls questions on the day it announced a 9.2 per cent price hike.


The #AskBG hashtag was used by thousands of customers airing their grievances and those who took the opportunity to poke fun at the energy giant.

The lesson here is clear - these social media sessions should be restricted to when you either have good news to tell or when you are not in the news at all.

 

Right person

In the same way you need the right person for media interviews, you must think carefully about who you are going to put forward for question and answer sessions.

You need someone who is senior enough to make decisions so that bland, generic responses can be avoided.

And some natural humour can be helpful.

But you also need someone who you can trust and who will need little moderation.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is no stranger to controversy and a Twitter question and answer session a few years ago predictably created plenty of headlines.

Most controversial was his comment of ‘nice pic. Phwoaaarr’ to a question from a female customer, which led to allegations (and headlines) of sexism.

 

Memorable hashtag

Memorable hashtags can promote and create a buzz about your question and answer session. Ideally you want something short but still descriptive.

You should also check the hashtag is not being used for anything else.

And perhaps most importantly of all, make sure it can’t be misread – a lesson the promoters of singer Susan Boyle could have done with before they opted for #Susanalbumparty.

 

Show some self-awareness

Not every post you receive in these sessions is going to be on the subjects you want and some may mock what you are trying to achieve.

The key is to not take yourself too seriously and to respond with similar humour.

Although not strictly a question and answer session, Waitrose responded cleverly when its #WaitroseReasons hashtag was hijacked by posters making fun of its upper class reputation. It said it had found the tweets ‘funny’ and had ‘enjoyed reading most of them’. 

 

Prepare for the negatives

As with media interviews it is important to spend time considering the negative issues which could arise during the question and answer session.

Prepare lines to take which can be given in response and consider creating a page on your website which you can link through to for answers needing more than 140 characters.

 

Wider issues

As well as possible negative topics, it is also worth considering the wider issues which could arise during the question and answer session. These could be issues affecting the wider sector or perhaps some new Government policy which could have an impact on the industry. Currently, you could face questions about the impact Brexit or Donald Trump might have on the sector. Prepare some lines to take for these wider issues.

 

Not suitable for everyone

While a question and answer session may seem like a great way to boost engagement and get positive messages out, it is not a format that is suitable for everyone.

If your brand or area of work is divisive, the session will act like a magnet for critics and keyboard warriors.

When 50 Shades of Grey author E.L James held a Twitter Q&A it is fair to say it did not go to plan. As well as plenty of users taking advantage of the opportunity to question her writing ability, the author was also faced with more serious questions about her books promoting an abusive relationship.

Similarly, when SeaWorld held a #AskSeaWorld session it backfired massively, with people taking the opportunity to bring up animal welfare concerns and ask when the park would be closing down.

 

Promote

You need to promote your question and answer session ahead of the event. Begin posting about it a few days in advance using the hashtag you have opted for - this has the added benefit of enabling you to see any questions which come in early.

Also use your email lists and other social media networks to raise awareness of the sessions and encourage your employees to tell their friends.

 

Don’t be afraid to walk away

About the only thing JP Morgan got right about its infamous Twitter Q&A session was deciding to abandon the idea 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place.

The company found itself inundated with negative posts when it promoted a live chat with one of its executives, which was intended to be about leadership and careers advice.

 

With questions including ‘did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?’ it was clear it had completely lost control of the hashtag.

Sensibly it took the decision to prevent further damage by returning to the drawing board.

 

Crisis plan

If your question and answer session does go ahead and goes horribly wrong, make sure you have a crisis plan in place to limit the damage, including how you will manage the media if it sparks their interest. 



We realise that these examples of social media Q&As could put you off holding one of your own. But that is not the aim. The idea is to make you aware of risks so that you can prepare for them and avoid making similar errors.

We firmly believe Q&As can generate highly productive conversations which can develop excitement around your brand and products. It just needs considered planning to avoid the pitfalls.

Mark Mars, Managing Director of Thirty Seven, said: “Just like an in-person press conference or an open discussion, Twitter Q&As provide a way for the audience to ask questions and hear responses directly from the host. But, all you need is Twitter. And anyone can do it.

"A Twitter Q&A is a great way to engage with your audience as it allows them the opportunity to talk to you in real-time conversation, in a more human way.

"Twitter Q&As are a great opportunity to get insightful feedback and for your audience to know you are taking their views seriously."

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

How to avoid writing content no one will read

Adam Fisher 6th April 2018 — 5 mins read
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o put that quantity in context, according to TrackMaven, over the past five years, the average number of blog posts published per brand per month increased by 800 per cent. 

Everyone wants their written content to engage, entertain and entice their readers, but with this content overload – or ‘content shock’ as I have also seen it called -  it is increasingly hard for your words to stand out.

So how can you ensure your written content gets read?

 

Adopt a conversational style

It might break certain grammatical rules, but adopting a conversational style when writing your content will help your readers feel you are talking directly to them.

When I write, I always try to use the same informal language I would use if I was talking to a friend.

That doesn’t mean I write exactly how I talk, but, to adopt a quote from American novelist Elmore Leonard, I don’t want my writing to sound like writing. Formality is boring.

I avoid long words and unnecessarily complicated language and I place a lot of emphasis on the words ‘you’ and ‘I’ because I want to make it personal. I want to foster familiarity and for you, the reader, to believe the content you are reading has been produced specifically for you and not everyone on our mailing list.

And I ask a lot of questions. Why? Well because conversations are full of questions. The only difference in my writing is that I also (hopefully) provide the answers.

 

Make your writing look appealing

Inserting picture and infographics and including lots of white space into your content will certainly help, but there are other subtle techniques you can deploy to make your written content more appealing.

Readers find huge paragraphs and big blocks of text daunting and ultimately off-putting. If you look at newspapers, and yes I know print circulation figures are in decline, almost every paragraph consists of just one sentence.

Similarly, long sentences can be a big turn-off. If your sentence is longer than 30 words it needs to be split up into smaller sections.

You may have been told at school not to start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’.  But now is the time to break those rules because there is nothing wrong with this in the grown-up world of content. And it is a great way of keeping sentences short and snappy. (See what I did there!)

Pull-out quotes, click-to-tweets and sub-headings are also great ways of breaking-up large sections of text.

 

Show you are human

People are interested in stories about other people.

The human touch lights up content and prevents the author sounding distant, detached and boring. It also builds connections with your audience.

I often include experiences from my career and even parts of my home life to illustrate points in my writing and the content which includes these examples and anecdotes is often the best performing.

Why? Because it make the content more relatable and also validates why I should be in a position to offer advice.

Strong personal opinions can add the human element we look for in an increasingly automated world.

At Thirty Seven, we thrive on creating authentic content which is original, credible and packed with human interest. Via: @37agency

 Offer something unique

Type ‘content marketing’ into Google and it returns more than 33 million results.

So your content needs to offer something different to stand-out from the noise.

That doesn’t mean you can’t write about the issues that other people in your sector have already been speaking about. But you need to offer a different perspective, point of view or an interesting twist.

You need to be able to add to the conversation, not repeat it.

Narrowing your subject down will help. I blog a lot on media training issues for our sister company Media First.

That is a broad subject area, so I often break it down into specific areas where it can be easier to add something unique or unusual. For example, I have written blog on how to handle specific types of questions, such as personal ones, and particular types of interviews, such as doorstep interviews.

 

Know your audience

The best way to attract readers is to ensure you know who you are trying to appeal to.

If you don’t know enough about your readers and the questions they are looking for answers to, it is unlikely you are going to be writing on topics that are relevant.

 

Spend time on the headline

The headline is obviously crucial for attracting people to your content. It is the gateway.

But it is a balancing act.

Over promise and you are in danger of creating click-bait which could result in people visiting your website and leaving again almost immediately (this is known as a bounce rate).

Under-sell it and you are not going to attract the number of readers your content deserves.

So how can you get the headline right?

Numbers are a good tool, particularly odd ones, and questions are enticing – just look at how often the Daily Mail uses a question in a headline on its website.

Words like ‘how’, ‘why’, and ‘who’ also have reader appeal. 

And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, keep it short.

Sites like CoSchedule will analyse your headlines and give tips on how to improve them.

 

Nail the intro

The introduction is a crucial part of any written content - it is the hook to get people to invest time reading the rest of what you have written.

The first thing I would say here is don’t repeat your headline in your introduction. This is something I see quite a lot of and it is incredibly dull and pointless.

It is also a good way of ensuring readers will quickly lose interest.

To entice the reader your introduction needs to show them they are going to read something relevant, timely, unusual or controversial (without offending them).

As with the sentences in the rest of your content, you need to keep your introduction short.

 

Promote, promote, promote

As much as I would like to tell you it is all about the writing, promoting your content properly is vital.

Email marketing, social media, PR, guest blogging and paid promotion are just some of the tactics you can consider to attract more people to your work and ensure your content marketing works.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Adam Fisher
6th July 2018 - 3 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.