Vicky Pollard and #SoMeSW

Ages ago, I was asked to present at the monthly social media meet up in Bristol called Social Media South West (#SoMeSW). Happy to oblige, I wanted to get more stuff tried and tested at ONS first for us to debate it at the meet up, so it’s taken a little while for the date to come around. Likewise, my secondment at No10 got in the way, but I figured people might also be curious to know how things ran there as well.

You’ll see the presentation is in three sections.

  • My time at No10
  • ONS (news, campaigns, colleague engagement and analytics / insight)
  • Break out / chatty bit for people to pick apart what we do at ONS and offer up suggestions, improvements and the like.

For the ONS bit (and like any job, I’m sure) it’s difficult to cram everything into a couple of slides. I didn’t want to ruin the flow of ideas coming coming back at me but likewise, I didn’t have space to include the nuances of things we’d thought of or tried. So as people were talking, with buttoned lips, I found myself saying in my head ‘yeah but’ and ‘no but’ much like a fictitious Bristolian. Fitting I thought, given the location of the meet up.

Anyway, the session was really useful. People were very kind in complementing what we do, but like everything, there’s always room for improvement. Here’s a handful of them and I’d like to thank everyone for their participation.


Subject: News
Suggestion: Respond to trending topics.

This would complement a recent push at ONS to be response to topical events. A recent G7 meeting, house prices and even the Farnborough International Air show are all examples of content being turned around within a few days. A step up I’d like to try would be to keep an eye out for trending topics, when something comes up and we’ve content ready-made, put it out again. Not quite like the way Beat by Dre and We Are Social create fresh content as stuff is peaking, but a good step forward nonetheless.

Subject: Colleague engagement
Suggestion: Understand obvious barriers.

The challenge laid down was, ‘how do staff use the web outside of work?’ We’ve all got an ability to use technology to help complete our jobs but for some, that might be it. I wondered if we should organise in a quiz / social media treasure hunt for a room of 20 people where answers are submitted over twitter etc. It’d be a soft introduction to the technology and also create some warm leads to ‘convert’ to social for work purposes.

Subject: Campaigns
Suggestion: Ask users questions as well as broadcast our content.

We don’t do anywhere near enough of this and we should. Two examples that come to mind are around youth employment and uses of census data. Both were positive and I think we should harness the strong community we’ve built – especially on twitter – to make our interaction more two-way, as opposed to largely talking about out content.

Subject: Reporting
Suggestion: Deeper insight and measure the quality of what we’re doing

I’m pleased with the level of reporting we do which keeps pace with what matters, but also not to getting bogged down in the minutiae to actually get on with stuff. That said, social is developing into a treasure trove of data that could be explored further to be more intelligent as to who we develop relationships with and also how our works affects people in the longer term. See these two presentations from #MeasureFest from Rebecca Carson at Brandwatch and Beth Granter at Brilliant Noise.


Laying the #socialsmackdown @wearesocial

Social Smackdown

We Are Social is a great agency I reckon, so whilst in London on secondment at the minute, I made a jaunt to Farringdon to join its 4th meet, which is branded #socialsmackdown (sadly not much chat on the #).

An 0815 start but it still attracted the likes of McDonald’s, Primark and MTV to attend. No public sector other than Met Police who unfortunately I didn’t get to chat to. The format of the session was 3 x 10 minute talks and Q&A with Beats by Dre, Panasonic and Nokia.

Beats‘ talk covered its campaign to sell the speaker product, Pills, positioned as the polar opposite to its head/earphone products. Positioning was loud and brash and I loved it.

Beats by Dre product positioning

The most impressive takeaway though, was the 1 hour turnaround Beats and its agencies worked to, to create responsive content. Using a WhatsApp group chat to collaborate, things got spotted, created and approved very swiftly.

Beats by Dre 1 hour turnaround

A neat way of working with almost Batphone-like comms between everyone at once, rather than getting lost in emails. Something the BBC are trialling too.

They talked a bit about a selfie Kim Kardashian posted which was trending in the US, still going across Asia and starting to take off in the UK.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Beats’ execution was posted that morning, within the hour of being suggested as a piece of responsive content.


(A bit harsh, but bang on for the brand, and if you will post stuff like that, Kim…) Social fits really well for a brand like Dre. It doesn’t have to try hard, it just has to be on the money with what it does. Interestingly it was the only brand to say how much sales it could attribute to its social activity.

Panasonic talked about its Why DSLR campaign which looks to position its mirrorless technology as a better alternative to DSLR.

It turns out there’s a lot of 3rd party content around the subject so Panasonic’s site aggregated it on its unbranded site with ‘DSLR RIP?’ running on Google Adwords. Whether the content is 100% balanced and impartial I don’t know. With the site in place, Panasonic did a lot of listening for DSLR chatter and responded 1:1 with links to the evidence.

This feels more like a slow burn brand building exercise and unusually (for Panasonic, apparently) the brief didn’t have sales targets but rather keyword and sentiment tracking, to show how the brand was becoming more front of mind. The challenge still remains at point of sale in store, where typically the sales staff are photographers themselves and loyal to Canon and Nikon. Something I (in a previous life) had to contend with on Samsung where at retail, Sony was the brand of choice.

Nokia‘s talk focused on their effort to create responsive comms, piggybacking on trending topics of the day. Like Alex Furguson’s retirement…

…and the iPhone 5c launch which directly competed with Nokia’s own USP of brightly coloured phones…

When asked about objectives and how they evaluate, the speaker confirmed for this responsive work, she had ‘share’ targets, broken out across channels, so a branding / share of voice metric.

So all in all, a really good hour or so. Best takeaway for me was the agile way Beats gets its content together. We’ve done a bit of that at ONS, but nothing with stats in it because of the lengthy sign off and brand position.

One thing I’m not sure about today though, was the title of the session, as it wasn’t really a ‘smackdown’. It’d be interesting to have some sort of voting component or battle: Nokia making one point, Beats responding with one better, Panasonic chipping in too. I’ll see if I can sort it with Dave so we can use the dispatch box.

A social media whirlwind, but a good one

Yesterday was the busiest social media day I can remember in my 15 months heading up the team here.

Labour market statistics were announced in the morning which is always a big ticket publication. In the afternoon our Director General, Glen Watson, was interviewed on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show to generally promote ONS and also reel off some ‘factoids’.

Radio 2’s ‘factoids’ are a daily feature on the show and facts are obviously something we have loads of. The Twitterati were quick to point out the definition of a factoid being ‘an insignificant or trivial fact’, which is a fair point and one we sought to clarify quickly, as you should in these situations.

To capitalise on the interview, we tweeted and Facebooked some of the facts – with images – throughout. This was a little more lighthearted than our usual stuff and predictably, it got shared around very quickly. It was helped along by Radio 2 and QI’s social media editors too.
ONS factoids shared by Radio 2 and QI

On Twitter, all images were 220×440 pixels to ensure the whole content could be viewed in preview. That ratio doesn’t work for Facebook because the way images are presented in a user’s newsfeed varies by device and platform. So we adjusted a handful of the images into squares, a common format across social, namely Instagram, which Facebook owns. (If it’s of interest, here’s a handy guide to dimensions on several platforms.)

Overall the campaign went down well, although I think it’s fair to say the content didn’t resonate as well for our core audience. But it did reach new folk. Our Twitter channel got a jump of 862 new followers (12x the daily average) and Facebook got 214 new likers (26x the daily average – admittedly Facebook isn’t a channel that works brilliantly for us, though it is improving). More importantly, engagement on Twitter was 7x the average and Facebook was 6x the average.

We Storified our posts and some user responses so that the content can live on.

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing’s blog.)

Another day, another Storify

Not a week goes by it seems without us using Storify. It works really well to house our social content as it builds over time.

This Monday and last, Mind the Gap: London vs. the Rest aired on BBC Two, and a lot of our stats were used. It seemed too good an opportunity not to re-publish some of our content in real time, and it went down well. We saw a good amount of comments, questions and retweets, though not on the same scale as the factoids whirlwind a few weeks ago.

Kate Davies also hosted a Q&A session on Twitter around the recent Retail Sales Index release. Whilst we’ve done these before, this was the first one to be fronted by a statistician. Again, it was successful in engaging users and something we should roll out with our other tweeting statisticians and work hard to reach bigger numbers.

At the end of last year, we tweeted to ask what content users would like to see in an upcoming publication on young people in the labour market. This was the most responded to piece of content we’ve ever put out (either by reply or direct post to us), and all suggestions were really constructive. That eventual content was published last week (along with a graduates publication not long before) and Storify worked nicely to close the loop to show how we asked, users said and we did. Again, this is something we should do more of.

Until the next one…

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing Blog.)

Writing for social media @ONS

The social media team tries to edit content supplied from all corners of the organisation in to one of three copy formats. On Monday we were able to share this with statisticians and the like in an all day training session looking at best practice, user personas, copy formats and writing exercises.

Setting the scene

The objective was obviously to improve everyone’s writing skills but longer-term, the outcome has to be evidencing better engagement off-site, more traffic to the site and more time on the site compared to a user coming to it by other means.

(By the way, I find that outcome stuff really exciting and going back to my post about the magnificent #MeasureFest, I look forward to drawing some workable insight now we tag all our social media urls.)

I started the day by setting the scene a little, showing that more and more people are talking about us in social media and that our content is seeing better engagement levels.

Life in the newsroom

Then Mark Frankel, Assistant Editor of BBC Social News, gave us insight into life in the newsroom and their approach to social media editorial. The bulk of his presentation was spoken, although he did show us a video on how they do the do, and he pointed to their practices and guidelines.

Best practice

Next up, Catherine Toole from Sticky Content walked us through digital copywriting best practice.


ONS users and copy formats

Our own Head of Insight, Alison Saunders, gave the first outing of our new user personas which no doubt will be blogged about more here. I then ran through our three copy formats for social media:

  1. Headline. Subject, number and link. No messing about. Example
  2. Nugget. Did you know? (without asking it). Example
  3. Draws you in. Makes users *want* to click as the content’s so profound, emotional or sticky. Example

The rest of the day was spent practising rewriting social media content that was once published, but now following this process (I appreciate this isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it’s amazing how often (the royal) we miss the basics):

  • Write for a user persona
  • Pick the most suitable format
  • Write the message in 100 characters
  • Frontload it. The first two words are most important

Now what?

Feedback was really positive and a day later all participants received a parcel in internal post (made on a shoestring) with the most important dozen slides from the day and an invite for a coffee next week to discuss ‘them and social media @ONS’.

Invitations after writing for social media course

As much as better writing (and as a result better user engagement / referrals) is a measure of the day’s success, I think response to the coffee invites are as well. It’s a bit of a call to arms I suppose. I’d like to recruit more ‘HootSuiters’ and do lots more campaigning whilst we continue to see engagement and referrals go up.

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing blog.)

Social Media Week @ ONS

This week London played host to its annual Social Media Week. It came at a neat point for ONS’s social media team who have been busy stepping things up a gear for optimum referrals, engagement and monitoring.

We published a series of internal comms articles on patterns we’re seeing from our our monitoring work and what’s in store for social media at ONS, specifically around mobile, semantic web and insight and conversion rate optimisation. I also presented at all three ONS sites to over 100 colleagues eager to understand more about ‘Social Media @ ONS’. I also held drop in sessions at each site for one to one chats which covered everything from the very basic to how we can take exposure to some releases even further – all of which was very encouraging. Between them some questions that arose were:

  • How can we promote social media – and indeed our outputs – to our respondents?
  • How can we monitor the comments section of newspaper website articles and respond accordingly?
  • Could Population create a campaign to push some upcoming releases?

Overall attendance and participation in the sessions was really good and encouraging. Attendees plotted themselves on a scale of advanced (11%), intermediate (44%) or light (45%) social media experience which demonstrates that we have some work to do to increase staff social media skills.

The week has been a good learning curve for us and planning is already underway for the next one in February. We would like to do more (like our colleagues at BIS) focusing on developing social media skills.

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing blog.)