Teaching a young dragon fairy new social media tricks


Local social media marketing expert (no, really) Mili Ponce shows this social media enthusiast a thing or two, at an evening with JCI Cambridge

I’ve seldom had good experiences with people that have branded themselves social media marketing people. All too often, they’ve taken social media tools as channels to broadcast stuff without any consideration for feedback loops – over which they trip up in any Q&A session. Then there was this horror show in 2012 that had me, Puffles and Sue Llewellyn (who also knows her stuff, coming from a journalism direction) spitting with fire.

“So, what did Mili know that you didn’t?”

By its huge scope, there will always be something on social media that any self-proclaimed social media expert will never know. I said this in a social media workshop at the weekend when someone in the audience pointed out a feature on Facebook I was unfamiliar with. But teaching me things that I didn’t know was just part of it. Values and manner of communication matter too.

“What does that mean?”

Speaking truth to power for a start. She’s spent many years learning and building up expertise in the fields of IT, social media and digital marketing. In a nutshell, clients don’t pay her to tell them things that make them feel comfortable. Quite the opposite – even if it’s at the risk of not getting a further commission. Why compromise your values, your expertise, your experience and potentially your reputation for short-term gain? I noted with interest the number of occasions where she said ‘I can do this for you, but you’re wasting your money if you do.’ (How many times have external consultants said this to senior civil servants over the past couple of decades?)

A kick up the backside that I needed

Self-aware to a fault, but needing someone else to put things starkly to my face perhaps? I’ve mentioned in previous blogposts that 2014 is going to be a year of transition work-wise. Website, branding, how I use social media, and an increased sense of purpose locally are all things that I’ve given much thought to, but undertaken little action on. Those of us at the workshop judging by the Q&As seemed to come away with a much greater sense of focus on what we needed to do in our respective fields.

A different route, but similar experiences along the way

Although we come from very different backgrounds – Mili is from Peru – throughout her presentation I was nodding throughout. Her background is a private sector IT background. My background is a public policy civil service background. Yet many of the lessons on how to use social and digital media in the corporate world were pretty much identical. She also talked about the importance of learning to code, how other countries’ experiences of social media use were not necessarily the same as the UK’s, and how when engaging with professional specialists such as lawyers and accountants, it’s important to get someone who understands and is comfortable with all things digital. The example she gave was with competition giveaways, and how from a marketing and social media perspective they are a waste of time and money – as well as being a legal minefield. With the latter, there’s no point having the most expensive legal advice on competition terms and conditions if it has been drafted by a lawyer who hates & is ignorant of social media.

“What do you know that she does not?”

Again, it’s not a case of who knows what, but more trying to apply social media to whichever area you happen to be working in, while approaching other uses of it with an open but critical mind. In Mili’s case, there is the obvious focus on the drive for sales – and how social media can be best used to support the bottom line. In public policy, it’s much more complicated in terms of what you are trying to deliver. But that complexity doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons and insights to be learnt from the private sector. In particular the relentless focus on purpose and impact really stood out for me. At the same time, Mili also got me thinking about how some of her approaches are also applicable to the voluntary and community sector locally in Cambridge. Even more so given Puffles’ quick response to a tweet put out by our local volunteer centre

…swiftly followed by

…but which then got me thinking about doing something positive rather than ranting. I was in the centre of Cambridge at the time to catch up with the Teachers’ rally on strike day – see Elodie Harper of ITV Anglia here – as well as getting an outfit for this:

Yep – no rest for the wicked!

Anyway, I popped into the volunteer centre and had a quick chat with them about all things social media – and Net-squared’s free monthly social media surgeries in Cambridge (see here). We had an open, friendly, frank but supportive conversation about social media and the local voluntary sector. It was also a learning process for me too as I continue to fill in the jigsaw of where South Cambridge is with social and digital media. As it turned out, in Mili’s presentation there are a whole host of other ‘analytics’ that can easily be manipulated and/or otherwise should be downplayed.

What reassured me was that what I discussed with the CVS was consistent with what Mili was saying – and she has a far higher profile than me and Puffles. At the same time, it’s also nice to know that there are others out there that ‘get’ all things social and digital media locally. Furthermore, some are probably more knowledgeable about the tools, albeit in a different market than me, and are thus potential allies in trying to get institutions in Cambridge as a city to take digital and social media than they currently are. And going by my current experiences, I feel that this requires co-operation and supporting each other, rather than seeing each other as the competition.

Next steps?

Mili re-enforced messages about diversity of content. Some of you may be familiar with my social media digital video guides – see here. I want to move onto making short digital videos on community issues. Hence my interest in Hills Road SFC’s evening class on digital film making (somewhere in here). Lack of takeup last term meant it got cancelled and I got a refund. 10 x 2hr weekly evening classes are ideal for me as a learning style, so if anyone in/around Cambridge is interested in learning how to make short digital videos on community issues, sign up for that course. (Please).



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