Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Pastures New.

The time has come, the walrus said, for this jaded old adventurer to pack up his staff and head back north to find himself a single brand that needs his particular school of manipulation magic.

With the help of a LinkedIn job seekers account and the understanding of the good folks at Tank, I'm moving house and role some two hours up the A1 to the East Riding of Yorkshire. I'll be taking up a new position as Senior Marketing Manager for JD Garage Equipment, the UK's leading independent designer and supplier of workshop and engineering equipment. No more delicious coffee from Outpost Coffee Roasters (unless I buy it online), hipster vintage shops or sly breakfasts at Flavours in Hockley.

The last five years with Tank have been a pleasure and I'll miss the team dearly, but the future calls and I need to be closer to family. Tank has evolved to be a veritable PR and digital powerhouse and it's been a pleasure to watch the team grow around Trevor's vision. The Midlands has been very kind to me, but I miss my roots. My favourite brands have always been the B2B, tech, engineering, mechanical, AI, mining and automotive... so JDGE is a win from the beginning. A challenge keeps this old brain fresh and thinking, plus James and Nick Everard - the two brothers who own this multi-million-pound company - have offered me virtual autonomy with solid plans for video and outreach. Our clients range from BMW and Lambogini to Audi, Maserati, Porche, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes Benz and even high-end commercial repair and spray shops. More of an all-'round role, it'll be a joy to do more work behind-the-camera and get my hands dirty again.

I've found a converted barn in North Newbald, only 10 minutes from work, with its own water supply and a walled garden for the pooch - very handy in a zombie apocalypse. The electrics and plumbing are shocking, but I don't mind a project. To put North Newbald into context, it's home to the whipping post used in the last public flogging carried out in Britain and the phrase "He's a bit Newbold" is used locally to describe someone who, shall we say, 'thinks outside of the box.' The beast can come into the office (on a trial basis) and there's great walking along national trails and around the wind farms of Sober Hill.

I'll be carrying on this blog, potentially more frequently as there are fewer distractions out in the middle of the Yorkshire Wolds. Heck, I may even have a go at vlogging (if I can think of a suitable topic that wouldn't just work better as a podcast) now I've got a decent 4k phone.

I wish all the team at Tank, and my old friend Star Commander Palmer, the very best for the future. H, Lou, Claire, Dex, Molly, Eileen, Addie, Stoney, Michelle, J-Dogg, Ed, Dan, Fi and the rest, I can't recommend their diligence and professionalism and sheer team talent more highly. They are spacemen (and spaceladies) amongst monkeys. I achieved what I achieved at Tank by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Watch this space, and thanks to everyone who put the word out for me while I was looking.

I suppose I'll now be commenting from client side, rather than agency side? This could be fun...

Thursday, February 07, 2019

How do you go Incognito When Viewing LinkedIn Profiles?

Finally updated:

A colleague of mine at Tank was conducting some private research the other day, and asked me a question I had to think about: "How do you go incognito when looking at other peoples LinkedIn profiles?"

This is actually pretty simple, and I see it all the time in my 'Who's Viewed Your Profile' area. It's strange, but I think we all view the words "This member chose to be shown as anonymous" with a degree of suspicion and annoyance, but people do it for a variety of reasons. While it does niggle me that I pay to see who'd been looking at my profile and this is easily circumnavigated, I do see why some folks (especially recruiters and researchers working via their private profiles) might want the benefits of a little smoke and mirrors.

nothing to see here - just passing through

Anonymity isn't natural for social channels. Visibility and transparency drive ad revenue and promote engagement. As a consequence, the ability to do things like this are often hidden away and not as easy to find as we might like. As such, you'll not find this information easily unless you go looking for it:

Click the 'Me' icon (the little round picture) at the top right of your homepage then select 'Settings & Privacy' from the drop-down, to get to your settings page.

Under 'Privacy' tab there are a few interesting options worth exploring, but the one we're looking for in this instance (scroll down a bit) is under 'How others see your LinkedIn activity'. Click on the 'Change' prompt under the Profile viewing options.

Select what others see when you're viewing their profile'. You'll then get 3 options like below.

Pick an option - normal, enigmatic, or full on spy - and it'll auto save.

Bear in mind, this is your settings from now on. If you want this to go back to how it was you'll need to reset this using the same process as last time. Remember, LinkedIn is about connections. Keeping your profile like this, long-term, kinda defeats the object.

If you'd like to connect with me on LinkedIn, let's do it.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Is it Legal to use Movie GIFs in Social Media Posts?

I get asked this A LOT.

I love a good GIF - you only have to look at my Twitter - and I'd even say that using them to illustrate my posts and for commentary (with mostly pop-culture and film orientated clips) is a big part of my personal visual brand. Copyright and regional legislation is a confusing nightmare on GIF usage, so here's my 'official' (what I tell clients and panicky account managers) and 'all in one place' take on the matter.

Fair Usage

It all depends on how you define 'fair usage'. Put simply, this means that if the original content is used for a "transformative" and limited reason, like a parody, for commentary or criticism (again, see my Twitter) it's ok under US and UK law.

Transformative means that they are using the source work in a totally new or 'unexpected' way - like remixes by Pogo or CassetteBoy. This is because they don't undermine the market for the original work. Basically, people aren't going to watch a Mad Men or Parks and Rec. GIF instead of watching the original programme.

Fair use law creates an opening for copyrighted material to be remixed and repurposed, as long as the new use doesn't create any economic competition for the people or organisation that holds the actual copyright - yes, you can make money out of sound bites etc., within reason.

What are your intentions?

Where it gets tricky is the notion of 'intellectual property' and intent. If you own footage it's (obviously) cool to make GIFs out of it, but if you don't (like, say, making GIFs out of footage of sporting events and tweeting them out saying "Goal!") that's naughty. Why? Because the original content is made to show just that - goals - and pulling out the highlights devalues the original. During the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee had a zero tolerance, no-GIF policy, for this very reason. The owner of the footage would be perfectly within their rights to slap you with a cease and desist order and sue your plagiarist ass.

Another area is individual representation. By this, I mean that performers and celebs have the right to use local "right of publicity" laws that let public figures control how their image is used. This is usually applied to defamatory actions and mash-ups, however, rather than just clips - though how the clip is associated (for example, politically) could be a trigger for this. Don't take people out of context or repurpose them (too much).

On the whole, if you want to be sure, get written permission from the copyright holder and any actors, embed GIF content that's not our own (and let the site you link to take the heat - thanks Giphy) or make your own GIFs from our original content. Avoid sports, especially recent stuff. I'm an individual, not a brand, my personal accounts are totally a different matter and I'm comfy with that - do as I say (to be sure) not as I do. Use those that are inherent to platforms - use those provided IN Twitter, Facebook etc. then (while not ideal) it's down to the platform.

Clear as mud? In short, yes, you're probably ok. Legally it's a grey area, just don't use them in a defamatory way or for financial gain and don't take the piss. If you're a business/brand jump through some hoops.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Social Media Predictions for 2019.

Here we are again...

This year I’m going to keep this short.

In the last 12-months, the powerhouses who run our social media lives have had it rough. Digital and search are changing and video is EVERYWHERE. Social is an integral part of our society but the customer (or product, depending on how sceptical you are) is starting to see through the veneer of its usefulness. Business is still loving it and spending billions on ads and Instagram influencer campaigns - thankfully - but what those post-Brexit budgets look like is anyone's guess. Legislation and regulation. Brace y’self Mark.

In the UK, come June, we will allegedly need a passport or credit card to prove ID if we want to view online pornography. The UK is the first country to take this (massive) step and yeah, they kinda slipped that one under the radar. The UK Gov. (see Conservative Party - who already introduced surveillance laws requiring, among other things, that ISPs store a record of every citizen’s browser history) wants to bring in legislation that addresses “the Wild West elements” of the internet, especially social media. Matt Hancock (our Minister for Culture and all things Digital) has said the fresh regulations will happen in the “next couple of years” to address things from sexual exploitation to cyberbullying.

Watch out for more political PR opportunities in the form of channel mistakes (like letting people publish pictures that might randomly offend a random someone, or failing to act quickly enough to take down extreme political or religious content). Then watch out for the politicians jumping on them to further justify slapping more restrictions on the industry and, ultimately, controlling the horizontal and the vertical.


  • Stories and ephemeral content. Everywhere. Seriously, as far as the eye can see.
  • Nano-influencers.
  • Transparency.
  • Chatbots and Messenger conversations.
  • Voice recognition, AI and optimising for voice search.
  • Tik Toc.
  • Paying for things using social channels (like WeChat or Baidu).
  • Video/streaming (obvs) and channels being 'broadcasters'.
  • GDPR (in social).
  • Podcasting (yes, really).
  • TOR.
  • Conversations.
  • Gen Z.


  • Fake (uncited) news.
  • Fake influencers.
  • Traditional search engine optimisation.
  • Snapchat.
  • Internet Explorer.
  • Publishing any old bobbo.
  • Baby boomers.

Just a quick one this year. Good luck, folks, it’s going to be an interesting one.

Let’s be careful out there.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Why I’m not complaining and I'm happy for social channels to have my data.

So here we are, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica debacle, feeling data-defiled and as though we dropped the informational soap in social media prison, poised to delete our Facebook accounts. Honestly, get over it.

Facebook has done nothing you didn’t sign up for. The media are loving it and Zuckerburg is apologising left, right and centre in a year he was hoping to crack on and fix the unwieldy behemoth that his baby has become – it’s news. Giving our data away to Facebook and Facebook apps is something you and I signed up for. Did you not read the small print? Don’t worry, no one does.

We live in the information age. Arguably, with the possible exception of the industrial revolution, one of the most exciting times for the 'civilised' world. Facebook is an unavoidable part of the connectivity of the western world. It has over 2.13 billion monthly active users and Mr. Zuckerburg is worth about £50 billion. In the UK the highest number of users is 25 to 34-year-olds, with (in this age range alone) 5.2 million lasses and 5.5 million blokes using Facebook in any given month.

We’re addicted: posting; messaging; liking etc. boosts our social capital and decreases loneliness and isolation. Sure, we have those friends who are part of some digital underclass that aren’t on Facebook, but they don’t get invited to parties (events) and (let’s face it) we think they’re a bit weird unless they work as undercover cops or they’re in a religious cult that thinks “technology is evil” (which is also weird).

There’s a deep connection between Facebook and the reward centre of the human brain. It fuels our narcissistic streak (to whatever level) by giving us social affirmation, but it also keeps us in touch with friends, family, and colleagues. It lets us promote our causes, fight injustice, coordinate disaster efforts, reach our customers, remember birthdays, rekindle old friendships, share ideas, and connect with those who live far away. It’s also free and let’s face it - is the last thing we see at night and the first thing in the morning.

So here’s the thing. What about giving away our data in exchange for free connectivity? As someone who writes ad strategy, executes a metric f**k-tonne of social ads and has built numerous apps, this is a good thing. We are, essentially, the product. Get over it, that’s always how it has been. It’s the payoff and we sign up for it. How is this a revelation? Our data is what keeps Facebook free. People like myself use the information you give Facebook to create targeted advertising, and that’s the key word here, TARGETED. If you get random ads for things you’re not interested in that’s some marketing bod doing an awful job, not Facebook’s fault.

If someone exploits that data - they’re to blame, not Facebook. It’s the user who chooses to use Facebook Login to let all kind of sites use their data – LOADS of big companies from Apple to Android use this. Again, via the permissions we gave through agreeing to the terms and conditions we probably didn’t read.

Giving our data away is powerful. It makes information semantic so that it comes to us when (or before) we need it. It offers me deals on walking boots from Millets because there’s a sale on and they know I’ll be interested. It guides me to the information I’m interested in and chooses related videos for me to watch and local gigs I care about. It fuels my hobbies. It shows me other related communities and asks me if I’m interested. It brings me news I’m passionate about. It broadens my mind. It opens my horizons to new products and services. I want that. That’s a good thing, and important for the development of search and online marketing - if it works for business we'll fund it.

So don’t delete your Facebook profile. That’s just a knee-jerk reaction to the media and taking a pair of scissors to your nose. Sure, be pissed off with those who exploit our data against the rules, but our data helps us get what we need, without looking for it, and that’s something I want to be a part of. Facebook is free and useful. It's also learned from this and it'll evolve. Let’s blame the right people and get over it.

Crack on.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Inevitable Digital Predictions for 2018

For the past 12 years I’ve written a prediction for the next year based on reader trends, my research, and how the digital landscape is developing. Things actually move slower than you’d think. There are curve balls and new platforms, sure, but trends and the digital landscape are technology and user up-take dependent. I’ve never been totally wrong, thankfully, just occasionally ahead of my time by two or three years. So here goes for 2018.

Augmented reality edges more towards the mainstream

With Apple’s newly released technology and the new ARKit framework allowing developers to create augmented reality apps more easily, this is one to watch. I’ve always been a big fan of AR and VR, and with Facebook invested in Oculus and PSVR making VR more accessible in the home, things are looking interesting.

To date, augmented reality has been a gimmick more than a genuinely useful smartphone tool, but things (and adoption) are changing. In the last year users haven’t moved on from the mildly addictive disappointment of Pok√©mon Go, but finally the technology is catching up (if we can afford it). People are trying virtual Ikea furniture in their home and virtual make up at the beauty counter. Only the other day I was asked to put on a set of VR goggles by a ‘chugger’ in Nottingham. Marketeers are getting wise to it, and I can see more money spent in this direction in 2018.

While Snapchat spectacles weren’t massive they did prove concept, though (unlike a few years ago) I’d suggest you don’t put all your eggs in the Snapchat basket. Make the most of Snapchat – especially Geofilters – while it’s still around (and make way for the Insta-jam).

I still dream of my devices drawing data from my social/Amazon purchase preferences, applying this to real world data, knowing what I’m interested in and directing me to sales or things of interest. “Hey Nik. You have a dog. How about 20% off HiLife dog food over here in Pets at Home. Follow these arrows!” Technically, it’s possible.

More focus on Generation Z

Millennials are SO yesterday.

Generation Z are the folks who were born between 1995 and 2010. These are, at the oldest, 22 and are starting to enter the post-university workplace.

Only a few of them vaguely remember the 20th century. They are used to a high standard of living (in the western world) and total connectivity. They suffer less from the burden of traditional values and their loyalty will come from positive brand experiences over names and legacy – they will prefer brands to reach them socially and are more likely to buy online than in the high street.

Allegedly, they have shorter attention spans, due to the availability of easy-to-consume data, moving media and information. They are connected socially, but sceptical of traditional channels and security conscious - making them sceptical of those they see as hungry for their data. Access to information and connectivity are viewed as a fundamental right. They are arguably more conservative, with values formed by sexual harassment scandals marring politics, brands and institutions trusted by their peers and from Trump-era/austerity politics.

Events like 9/11 passed them by, and it is world events like the Syrian refugee crisis, Brexit, rapid advances in technology and the legalisation of gay marriage that have shaped their way of looking at the world.

They value transparency and personal engagement from brands, something businesses will need to adapt to. Like Millenials before them, they value the power of influencers and referrers over publishers and deferrers.

Generation Z are coming, and bringing their modest disposable incomes with them. Make friends with them now.

The chatbots are coming

Get used to talking to machines and speaking to smart-arsed pizza bots.

It's not exactly Terminator, but better burn it with fire now to be sure.

More ‘disappearing’ content

By this I mean the more immediate and short-lived content that disappears after a user has seen it or after 24 hours, such as via the likes of Snapchat, and Instagram Stories. If your brand is on Instagram and not using Stories you’re missing out on a BIG part of the platform. Storytelling is all the rage, as far as the Gen Z and Millennial user is concerned.

A lot of brands don’t get this kind of disposable, behind-the-scenes, ephemeral content – it kinda scares them – but more and more businesses are getting hip to the power of stories to demonstrate trust and credibility, giving their customers a look behind the curtain, getting followers involved and invested and sympathetically transforming their online presence. Expect to see more. It’s what followers want and the channels that do this are where the B2C audiences are. Celebrity Pages on FB already have this feature. Watch for Facebook rolling this out for business Pages next year - I’ll bet my dog on it.

More and more and more mobile visitors

Take a look at your Analytics data – nearly half your visitors are already hitting your site from smartphones. Do we shop through websites and e-com platforms or do we just go to Amazon and eBay? Facebook will be almost entirely mobile, with 80% of ads being served to mobile devices already. If you’re not ready for this your already WAY behind – get bootstrapped and think strategic and mobile.

The continued influence of Influencers

People trust influencers more than paid advertising or any messaging. Younger customers especially (pre-generation X) look to fellow customers and those with a neutral agenda, who they trust through experience, to inform their purchasing decisions. They don’t look to celebrities, but to personalities. It’s almost word-of-mouth.

If you’re not looking at influencer marketing in 2018 you’re missing out on a MASSIVE revenue generator, and I guarantee your competition will take full advantage of the gap in your campaign strategy.

Influencer marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s measurable and targetable. Finding niche audiences following budding personalities, grateful for sponsorship or for a chance to start in product reviews, can be cash well spent.

Actually, thinking about it, we're probably due for a backlash against influencers - especially those who take sponsorship in the form of goods, holidays, cash, whatever - probably under the umbrella of fake news and celebrity/reality fatigue. Probably one to watch.

Video and live streaming

More of the same, as per the last three or four years, to be honest.

More steaming. More animated cover images in channels. Better audience connectivity. More opportunities. More big live events and launches. More Facebook TV. More unboxings. More moving stuff. Get involved. Facebook is actively paying publishers, from BuzzFeed to CNN, to create more video content.

If you don’t stream Netflix to your iPad in the bath you’re very soon going to be the odd one out. Expect more video advertising in streaming communities from YouTube to Twitch, and easier ways to create your content through social media advertising. Facebook has already tested giving content creators the ability to add 15-second commercial breaks into their videos – hinting at a more TV-style approach down the line.

Crushing fake news and spam

Everyone has a bee in their bonnet about fake news right now, and it’s justified if it’s being used to undermine elections and swing decision making. The Collins Dictionary word of the year for 2017 was actually two words, unsurprisingly thanks to Mr. Trump, “fake news”.

While taking a stand may seem like the influence of the ‘nanny state’, the amount of spam and poorly written hype posted to social channels is just one part of the battle the platforms have in re-establishing trust with their audience. Social channels understand that any channel a user clicks through to reflect on them and the quality of their data, even if it’s posted by others.

Link-bait sites, flagrant misrepresentation and urban myth publishers are being filtered out already by Facebook - through crackdown on linking protocols for publishers, manual peer review and citation from the likes of Snopes. Be ready for more of the same, as well as vetting of our motivation and the quality of our messaging when it comes to paid advertising in platforms. Users want a safe experience and the truth, without it they’ll go elsewhere.

Alexa, Siri and Cortana - oh my.

Have you thought about how you can design for 'smart speakers' or how they are changing query based search? Got an app that'd work for audio? Think about it. The price point is right and they're becoming commonplace in the home, PDQ. Expect to be asked about the possibilities from curious clients in '18.

Other things of note? Watch out for AI in SM, Messenger chatbots and automated customer service chat, more gamification, and something so off the wall and out of left field (probably a new channel) that there's no way on gods green earth we could ever see it coming.

So there you go. No massive revelations, just a collation of what we know already. 2018 promises to be another busy year for us here at Tank (our digital PR agency) and it pays to have an eye to the future of our digital markets – hey, it’s my job.