Overcoming barriers to social media

It’s no surprise that we’re big on B2B here at HN. But we’ve always maintained that the one thing that underpins all our communications is that Holy Grail of marketing: H2H, or human-to-human interaction.

It’s also no coincidence that the rise of social media has corresponded with this more personal way of doing business, but it hasn’t escaped our attention that not everyone ‘does’ social. So what are the barriers to social media and how can you go about breaking them down?

1: Time

Quite possibly one of the greatest barriers to social media — and the reason many companies turn to us — is time. Particularly when business is good, social media can seem like an unnecessary distraction. We all know about the dangers of neglecting our human relationships though, and it’s no different in business.

Look at tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to speed up the process of scheduling and posting, and Feedly and Curata to access quality content quickly.

2: Inspiration

Hand in hand with lack of time goes lack of inspiration. It can be hard to be creative, witty and social every day.

The scheduling and curation tools mentioned above will help — you can create a bucket of great content when the ideas are flowing. You can then drip-feed it out over the following days, weeks and months as you see fit.

Websites like Days of the Year offer a more useful, if quirky, source of inspiration — we’re particularly amused by the upcoming ‘No Beard Day’!

3: Culture

Number three on the list — and possibly the hardest to overcome — is culture.

We often hear that “this company will never be social”, but, when you look at the figures, it soon becomes apparent that social media can help you:

  • drive website traffic and sales
  • slash lead-generation costs
  • provide great insights into your audience

This is where you need to educate and motivate your workforce. You could even gamify the process, creating internal leaderboards for those who are most socially active.

Want to read more about the inherent value of social media to your content strategy? Why not check out our article on why social posts are such a vital part of content success. Or, if you want to carry on the conversation feel free to share your thoughts, questions and tips in the comments section below, or tell us about it on Twitter or LinkedIn.




Social Posts – When do you write yours?

In a recent post, we posed a question: when should you think about a hashtag campaign? If you didn’t catch that Take5, then I’ll summarise the answer for you: hashtags should be generated at the beginning of the asset creation process, when you’re in full creative flow.

But what about the social posts that support that same asset? They’re essential to the success of your content, so when should you create those?


At HN, we reckon the answer is that it should be done alongside the asset itself.

All too often, the tweets, LinkedIn updates and Pins that support an asset will be written in isolation of that asset, in some cases months after it was actually created. But research has indicated that as many as 75% of B2B buyers, and 84% of C-levels, use social to research purchase decisions.

Against those kinds of numbers, making sure that you’re embedding social activity in your content creation is a necessity.


By creating social posts at the same time as an asset, you’ll find that the quality of your posts, and the time taken to make them, should both improve for a couple of reasons:

  1. The writer’s head will still be ‘in’ the project, so they won’t have to waste time skim-reading (or watching, if it’s a video) the asset again to get the gist of it.
  2. The key messages that you want the asset to convey will still be fresh in the writer’s head, so they can ensure that the social posts also cover those key points, instead of having to try and remember (or guess, if the asset was written by someone else) what those key messages were when they come back to create the social posts later.

Of course, you may need other posts to support your assets later – perhaps linking to a different campaign, or a seasonal event. But if you start embedding the creation of a set of social posts in the content creation process, you’ll find that you can quickly increase the power of your social posting – and potentially save yourself some effort, too.

What do you think? Is social activity fully embedded in your content creation activities? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn – we’d love to hear from you.

Twitter direct message character limit – to 140 characters and beyond

We recently published a Take5 detailing a major change to Twitter’s direct message capability – namely that you can now send users a direct message people without you both having to follow each other. Almost before the keyboard had cooled down from writing that post , though, Twitter announced another change to direct messaging: the 140 character limit has been changed for direct messages, to 10,000 characters (or roughly 2,000 words, assuming each word has on average 5 characters in it). So to answer a question that we suspect many of you are wondering…

Does it matter?

As we mentioned in our last Take5 on this subject, the changes Twitter is making don’t mean that marketers can now use Twitter as a sort of EDM platform: it’s bad etiquette, for a start, and in any case since the user has to opt into the change your prospective audience may not be very large. So in that sense, the length of the DM could be said to matter very little.

However, we also mentioned that the changes do make Twitter a potentially powerful platform for supporting your customers – and this latest change only adds to that potential. With the ability to write longer and fuller messages than before, you can provide your customers with far more constructive help via Twitter – potentially answering their enquiry in its entirety without having to move the conversation to another platform. It’s also far easier for customers who receive great service to tweet their good experience to their followers, which can only be a good thing. One piece of advice – if you do start receiving customer enquiries through Twitter, it might be a good idea to periodically request your Twitter archive (under ‘settings’) so that you have a record of what’s been said.

What do you think?

What do you think of all the changes coming to Twitter? Have you taken advantage of them yet? Let us know in the comments section – or on Twitter – and have your say.

Changes to Twitter direct messaging – marketing gold?

In case you haven’t heard, there are some pretty big changes being made to the Twitter direct message (DM) functionality. The one we feel that’s caused the most excitement in the marketing world is that users can now opt to receive DMs from anyone, regardless of whether they’ve followed them or not. But does the change live up to the hype?

The opportunity
People have been talking about Twitter’s potential as a customer service tool for a long time now, and this new feature makes the platform an even handier way for customers to get in touch with you.

For example – I needed to change an Easyjet flight, and after a lengthy and unsuccessful interaction with their phone system, I tweeted them – and got a response back almost immediately:

Easyjet DM invite

The update meant that we could have a private conversation via Twitter, which resolved my issue far faster than calling them would have (the flight was moved with no problem, you’ll be glad to hear). One could just as easily have a similar conversation about technical configurations for a technology solution, or to book an engineer in to visit a customer site.

The risk
Some marketers might be tempted to try and use this new feature as an alternative to email marketing – after all, if anyone can reach you, then you can also reach them, right?

Not so fast. Firstly, there’s no data on how many users have opted in to this new feature – so there’s no guarantee that such a campaign would be successful. Secondly, remember that people have opted in to your email list – but they haven’t opted to receive DMs from you. If you start flooding people’s inboxes with sales messages, you’ll soon find yourself losing favour with your audience. Best to keep that sort of content for your email campaign, and focus on Twitter’s new features as a way to enhance your customer service.

What do you think? Do you see value in the new Twitter DM features? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn – or leave us a comment on the blog.

Twitter’s comment feature: now available in a tool near you

What’s the feature?
You may have seen it advertised on the web, or even used it yourself recently. When, on Twitter, you click the ‘retweet’ option, you’re now given the opportunity to add a comment.

Twitter comment - no text

You can add your thoughts on the tweet…

Twitter comment - with text
… and post them alongside the original tweet:

Twitter comment - posted

As one might expect, this feature is also available in Tweetdeck (since it’s owned by Twitter). Simply press the retweet button…

Tweetdeck - retweet button

… choose the ‘Quote Tweet’ option…

Tweetdeck - comment

… and add your comment.

Tweetdeck - post

A powerful feature…
This is a great feature for businesses because it means you can do much more with the tweet you want to share with your group. Quoting a tweet takes up fewer characters than retweeting it (just 22 characters), giving you more space to add your thoughts and context to the tweet and adding more value to your audience.

… now available in Hootsuite
The first thing we thought when we saw this feature (apart from ‘wow!’) was ‘does this work with Hootsuite?’ This is because at HN we use Hootsuite as well as Tweetdeck for scheduling our social media posts, and those of our clients. Though initial enquiries seemed unpromising…

Hootsuite convo

… our vote on Hootsuite’s ‘features we’d like to see’ page must have made a difference, because now you can! When you click the ‘retweet’ button as normal, you now get a third ‘quote’ option:

Hootsuite quote button

If you click it, a link appears in the tweet box:

Hootsuite quote text
Just add your comment to it and post or schedule as you would normally. Simple!

Have you used the ‘tweet with comment’ feature? Can you use it in your social media tools? Let us know on Twitter, LinkedIn, or by commenting on our blog.

Hashtags: more than just an afterthought

Here’s a question for you: when you’re creating social media content to support an asset, when do you create the hashtags? All too often, we see people doing it once the asset’s been finalised, and the whole social media post becomes a sort of bolt-on to the piece itself.

In our experience, the best success comes when the hashtags are created at the very beginning of the creative process – often at the same time as you’re brainstorming the piece. At this point, everyone’s thoughts are (or should be) tuned to what the customer wants to hear – what messages will resonate with them, drive them, and inspire them to hear what you’ve got to say.

Contrast that with the end of the creative process, where thoughts are more likely turned towards getting the asset finished, and (depending on how long the asset has taken to create) people’s creativity may be ebbing.

When it comes to creating a hashtag – which needs to move your audience to engage with and share your content – which of those two environments would you rather be in?

The hashtag you choose to support an asset shouldn’t just be catchy; it has to relate to the same customer needs that are driving that asset’s creation. Think of it almost like a campaign driver; a word or phrase that evokes the emotion, or the attitude, you want the asset to foster in your audience. By planning your social activity at the same time as your asset creation, you’ll not only come up with a better hashtag – you might find yourself discovering a whole social campaign theme that you wouldn’t have thought of if you were just bashing off a few tweets or Facebook posts once the asset was finished.

How do you create hashtags for your assets? We’d love to know. Leave us a comment, or get in touch on Twitter and LinkedIn, to let us know.

Campaign hashtags: use your own or someone else’s?

It’s a simple enough question, and one that most of us have probably pondered as we’ve sat, pen poised, over a blank piece of paper entitled ‘Social media campaign’.

Should the hashtags you use already exist on the internet – say, #UX if you’re creating a campaign around user experience – or be totally new – for instance, #HNMarketingrocks? (Let’s get it trending!)

Something new, something borrowed…

The honest answer is that you want a mix of both, because each hashtag serves a slightly different purpose. Hashtags are what people use to search through content on social media. By using other people’s hashtags, your tweets stand a better chance of being seen by the masses.

At the same time, creating your own catchy campaign hashtags that your community are keen to share can help make your content stickier by generating interest as it spreads through your social communities.

Both of those functions are important for a campaign, so both need doing. In essence, the way it works is that hashtags borrowed from other sources will draw traffic to your social media profiles, where you can then share your custom hashtag with the world.

Once your community starts sharing your campaign hashtags, you can use them to monitor interest in your content. If your campaign hashtags are good enough, they should also start to generate interest in the content itself.

Less is more

Don’t go hashtag-crazy, though. Creating a variety of tweets, pins, or Facebook posts using different hashtags will ensure that your audience will see them all in due course. So, it’s best not to cram them all into every post (and don’t try to use hashtags on LinkedIn – they don’t work there).

It might take some practice, but, once you’ve got the hang of it, you will find that the right combination of original and borrowed hashtags gives your content’s reach a considerable boost.

One last thing

If you’re looking at the likes of Amnesty International’s #GayTurtle or Doritos’ #CrashTheSuperBowl campaigns and thinking, ‘my custom hashtag will never be successful’, then remember: your hashtag dosen’t need 80,000 shares.

Even the largest of B2B audiences is relatively small when compared with the kinds of audiences the aforementioned B2C companies are targeting. Your campaign hashtag doesn’t need to trend worldwide to be a success – it just needs to be trending amongst your audience.

So don’t be scared – get out there and start hashtagging!

Which kind of hashtags do you tend to use most? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Should you respond to favourites on Twitter?

Simple enough question: should you respond to favourites on Twitter? We took this question to a LinkedIn forum, and the conversation it spawned was fascinating.

Some people were completely in favour of responding to a favourite:



They make a good point – after all, social media is designed to spawn conversations, so when someone alights on one of your posts, why not say hello and thank them for their time?

Other respondents, however, were not in favour:



Now, although we feel that a simple ‘thank you for favouriting our tweet’ shouldn’t ruffle any feathers or come across as over-eager, we can see their point that responding to a favourite with a gushing invitation to connect further would be a little disconcerting. So…

Our conclusion
We have to side with the commenters who said that it depended on the context of the favourite.



Though social media is all about engagement, there will be times when responding to your favourites would be impractical (if you have hundreds, for example) or feel very forced. At the same time, if the person was someone we really wanted to connect with, we might go further than a simple ‘thank you’ and work to cultivate the relationship.

What do you think? Should a company or an individual respond to favourites or retweets on Twitter? Have your say in the comments section or on Twitter or LinkedIn.