A (nearly) comprehensive look at (some of) #oi15

Last week I headed to #oi15 in Cardiff. It’s a conference I always look forward to but have sometimes come away a little disappointed, I was hoping that this year I wouldn’t have that feeling. With a packed schedule, I was particularly looking forward to sessions on social business from Andrew Grill of IBM and digital transformation with Amanda Neylon, Head of Digital at Macmillan Cancer Support – it was a great to finally see some third sector representation on the bill.

I’ll take you through some of the key points that I took away from some of the sessions that I was in.

The day started with a great opening keynote from 22 year old Steve Bartlett of Social Chain – a company I hadn’t heard of before the day. If you haven’t either, go and check out their website and what they do, it’s fascinating. From their own words they ‘own and manage almost all of the social media pages in the UK’ and work with brands to advertise on those channels, reaching millions in one click.

One question from the audience was around how they choose which brands to advertise on their channels, given their younger audience demographic. The question was well answered; they simply only advertise stuff that is relevant, but it did get me thinking as to whether the equivalent of social chain exists for an older demographic that different brands would benefit from. If you know it does, leave a comment below.


Off to the first session of the day I went.


From Social Media to Social Business – @AndrewGrill

Was looking forward to this one after hearing Andrew Grill speak on the CIPR Social Media panel podcast series a few weeks back, well worth a listen by the way.

Andrew was great. He told his thoughts on how brands had gone too far with their social channels and were now not in fact social at all, just merely another marketing channel – this is not new theory, but the context was brilliant.

A key point for me was around the language being used, not only understanding the language of social in a business sense, but also how to use or change the language you use when thinking about introducing it into your business. Not so much ‘this is how social media can help you achieve what you’re trying to achieve’ but more ‘wouldn’t it be great if there was a tool that you could use to conduct market research on your target audience’ a subtle difference, but one that made sense to me when faced with social media often being seen as trivial and adding no value to the workplace, when there is in fact huge potential and benefit for investment.

In essence, social business is a culture change. It’s not so much about accepting social media as a useful tool, it’s more about acting more social in the way we work.

‘It used to be what you know meant how powerful you were, with social business it’s actually what you can share’

More interesting stuff: a reoccurring theme of ‘the social switchboard’ not being the way to use social for a business. I had heard that analogy before, liked it then and still like it now. As much as possible, social should be used to take and answer questions, not to just point people to different places.

Andrew also discussed the idea of a ‘social media fire drill’ – basically if shit hits the fan things go wrong, who has access to what and how do you 1. Shut it down if you need to or 2. Get access to put things right if you need to. How often do community managers do this as a drill and do you think it’s useful? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.


I thought this session was excellent. Up next was Jeremy Waite.


How to Build Relationships Faster – @jeremywaite

Another really good session, just with less notes. The key things I took away from the session with Jeremy were:

2015 marketing challenges are how to connect with customers.

Self explanatory.

How do you get big organisations to think and act like small businesses who know each customer personally and build trust with them?

It’s a great point. If I get a genuinely personal service, I’m likely to return, but how do you upscale that? I think social media can play a big part in the personalistion of a service, and giving your brand and service a personality, showing that you know and understand who your audience is.

Technology is getting in the way of relationships – we need to focus on the people.

Agreed. It’s about the people and the platform is just the tool used to speak to those people.


And on we went to our pre-lunchtime session with Adobe.


Stop thinking Facts, start thinking Emotions – @jwatton

I actually read this as ‘Emoticons’. Not sure what that says about me. This was probably my least favourite session of the day.

The notes I took were around how marketing is now continuous, we’re always on and we should be consistently on with all of our channels that we are using to communicate, something I very much agree with. I would say having an open channel that isn’t being used is worse than not having a channel at all.

John also spoke about how social media allows us to be in the right place at the right time with our messages, but we mustn’t abuse the fact that just because we can be in lots of places on different platforms at different times with our messages, doesn’t mean that we should. Only if it’s relevant and timely.

Finally John spoke on no matter where the customer is interacting with the organisation, via whichever channel they choose to, it’s important that the same message are being delivered to give consistency to your brand/organisation.


Some good topics, but nothing that we haven’t heard before. Lunch came and went, and then I headed off to the JustEat session, almost as if it was planned.


Don’t Be The “Nice Guy”:
How a Confident Tone of Voice Improves Social Media Engagement – @meanwritehook

Some really great points to take away (sorry) from this talk, I thought. Possibly my favourite quote of the day: ‘Marketing and customer care are like chicken and chips – better together.’

Basically this session was saying don’t be the nice guy, find your tone of voice and be confident in it when using it.

I thought how Anthony explained how JustEat came to this was great. They looked at their brand as a person. ‘Who the heck are you?’. How would that person react to different topics, should/would they get involved in those conversations, how does this person handle a bad situation? These questions shape their tone of voice, the type of content they post and what conversations to be involved with, directly related to their brand or otherwise.

This was a really simple way of looking at things, and I’ll definitely be exploring that approach as I think it really could work, but I’m not entirely sure how it transfers to different audiences, sectors and audiences that aren’t as light-hearted as JustEat. Like health, for example.


Next up was Digital Transformation with Amanda Neylon of Macmillan Cancer Care, definitely my favourite session of the day.


Embedding Digital Thinking – Starting with Social – @AmandaNeylon 

I think what Macmillan have achieved with putting digital at the heart of their organisation is really impressive. Last year they had 9.2 million interactions with their audience (donor, fundraiser, someone they support), 45% of those interactions were through digital services, a big figure. Only 2% of those digital service interactions were what they call ‘high touch’ – basically anything that is a two way exchange – that was a figure they want to see rise, and social media is a really good way of making that happen.

Some more facts: they have a digital team of 60 people and 3 dedicated people in their social team. They have achieved top level buy in with social media and built on the enthusiasm of over 1,000 staff, given formal and informal training sessions, created supporting information for staff to refer to, created a weekly social email for the organisation about what sort of content they as an organisation are posting and encouraging staff to do the same and they have introduced clear roles in social media and introduced it to job roles.

Now two thirds of their organisation are trained on social media and ready to help amplify their messages to an even wider audience. That’s an awful lot of brilliant work, don’t you think?

Amanda also addressed the issues they faced around #IceBucketChallenge, which I have blogged about before. There were a few questions in the room (from me) about what they’d do differently next time, and the response was paying for Google search words associated with different challenges; that’s what got them the most bad press, but they did raise £4.6 million from it overall.

I think this is a textbook example of introducing social to the heart of an organisation, showing value and real benefit to their work. It was great to hear how they are doing it.


So, onto the final session of the day. If you’ve made it this far then I salute you.


A 360 approach to planning – @mattappleby

A really interesting end to the day around planning campaigns in an integrated way.

Matt talked us through how traditional media like TV is still powerful, it’s just consumed differently by different audiences. The older generation consumes it through the TV, while the younger generation is consuming it through a variety of different devices.

Matt also looked at the skills of the PR industry, which he said had rapidly expanded in the last 12 months and are now much more integrated with marketing and digital than ever before.

They key thing for me from this session, though, was looking at owned, earned, shared and bought media and identifying where they overlap to maximize their activity and reach. So where traditionally TV and Radio may have been separate form of advertising or campaigning, digital and social now blurs those lines, but also offers opportunities for continuity across all channels and maximizes the opportunity to tell stories, create communities and reach more people.

The day officially ended with a panel session discussing some key topics, and I’d urge you to head over to @Miranda_Bishop on Twitter and read her blog about it all, as she was rather unexpectedly involved.

And that was that. A packed day of great sessions and lots of talking to fellow #oi15 attendees about what we’d heard. A great year for #oi15 I thought, and looking forward to seeing what they can bring to Wales in 2016.


Got something to add? What were your #oi15 highlights? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me @willdotbarker.


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