Stand Out

How will you stand out?

DESI 2019 is coming, here is how you can use Social Media to stand out.

“Arms are my ornaments, warfare my repose.”

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote.

Next week, the UK will host the world’s largest Defence and Security trade show!

DSEI 2019 promises to be the biggest yet, drawing companies of all sizes to London to unveil products, demonstrate new concepts, secure new contracts, make new acquaintances, and meet friends and associates.

With DSEI now within touching distance, we wanted to share a few thoughts about how vendors, exhibitors and other attendees can maximise their efforts using the force-multiplying effects of social media; especially at expansive and busy events like DSEI 2019!

Ajax unveiled at DSEI 2017

All the exhibitors and the visitors are investing significant time and money to attend. So here are four quick suggestions and a short case study to consider to get the best “Bang for your Buck” at DSEI, and any other major event where time is limited, attendance is in the thousands and opportunities can easily be missed.

1. Set the scene and build anticipation.

DSEI happens only every 2 years, all notable events are well publicised ahead of time. So start setting the scene, tell your audience that you will be attending. As the event approaches, give details of what you have to offer and WHY people should come to your stand.

Please, don’t just say “We will be on Stand X-89”. Tell the reader what they will see, what they can learn and what they can experience, and most importantly, be clear what value they will get from investing their time with you!

What will visitors to your stand learn?

What enduring message do you want them to hear, understand and take-away?

If you have a big announcement, tell attendees when and where that announcement will be made. If not, tell them about specific features of your stand; “We will be hosting drinks at…” or “Our specialists in XXX will be on hand to answer questions at…” “Get rare, insights and understanding from our Chief Designer”

Anticipation can also be built by offering ‘sneak-peeks’ or a “glimpse behind the curtain”. Show just enough to grab an audiences’ attention and generate interest, without revealing the whole story – Like a film trailer.

Identify those members of your team who can tell their stories, not just the CEO but the designer, the apprentice, the engineer, the end-user. Allow and empower them to tell genuine, emotively engaging stories. These authentic and meaningful stories will have far more impact than a press release or bland social media post.

2. Use the event's #Hashtag and understand the events overall message.

Use the hashtag that everyone else is using; #DSEI or #DSEI2019. That makes it much easier for others to find your post. Hashtags work on all the major platforms; LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Understand what the event’s key messages are, and how yours align or parallel these. Look for those common themes that support your messages and engage with those other accounts and users who are already covering those issues – or you’ll simply be talking to yourself. Monitor any trending topics, and where they are relevant and you can add value – contribute –

remember our Golden Rule Number 2 – “Give to Get!”

Explore some of the more unusual angles; how are products used by emergency services or in disaster relief? How is this innovation saving lives? How does this programme contribute to the nation’s prosperity or national security?

At DSEI 2019, make sure look at the conference programme and the issues being discussed and use this as timely trigger points for relevant messaging.

3. Understand your audience.

Really take time to understand who it is you are trying to talk to, and what you wish to achieve.

Understand why they will be attending; what they may be seeking to achieve whilst visiting DSEI 2019 and consider how you can help them achieve this.

Many attendees will already have a considerable following on social media and maybe a deep subject matter expert in a particular area. You don’t need to sell a car show to a fan of sports cars, but you do need to articulate WHY they should attend the show and visit your stand and more importantly WHAT they should be telling their friends and followers.

Identify your allies, advocates and ‘fellow travellers’ – they are out there! Invite them to your stand and make them feel special, for minimal effort you will see notable “Return On Influence”.

Don’t forget to have something visual, something worthy of a photograph or a short video.

Posts with images and especially videos are many more times likely to be liked and reposted/shared!

4. Exploit the existing network.

Social media is an exceptional tool to support, reinforce and force multiply traditional business networking. And…

There is a new Army in play – The #MilSocialMedia insurgency, not just #MilTwitter, but you’ll find Defence and Security accounts and topics on all the major Social Media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Linkedin.

In recent months, much to the disapproval of some, the British armed forces have seen an unprecedented boom in social media use – encouraged, empowered and guided by new policies like #DigitalArmy.

Generals to young Officers and Soldiers are now commenting, spot-lighting, sign-posting and sharing freely. The debate and discussion around Defence and Security issues is now commonplace and often lively. Many are becoming regular content creators, bloggers and provide a wider range of audiences new insight into military life through their stories, images and dits – all with a healthy dose of self-deprecating military humour!

These audiences are your audiences; either directly or through indirect sharing, amplification and influence, both online and offline.

Any business that is not investing time and resources in Social Media in the defence and security industry is putting itself and an increasing competitive disadvantage.

To show what can be achieved, here is a quick example.

EasiBridge UK is a (very) small manufacturing company operating from a garage in Exeter. What [dstl] would call a “Fred in his Shed” outfit, reminiscent of the boffins of the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare who made limpet mines, sticky bombs and designed the famous FS fighting knife (or commando dagger).

 EasiBridge may have remain in relative obscurity had it not attracted the attention of bridging and container fetishist @ThinkDefence. Suddenly, EasiBridge had a shop-front; images and videos were shared and demonstrators invited to attend innovation events. Now the simple, man-portable bridges are deployed with the Jungle Warfare Centre and with other specialist units. More designs are being developed and EasiBridge is moving to new premises.

So what?

It should be clear, that using free social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, and engaging with the #MilTwitter and wider #MilSocialMedia community can generate a disproportionate return of effort, and increase engagement and communications impact when attending global events like DSEI 2019.

The Defence & Security Equipment International event takes place at the Excel London on 10-13 Sep 19 – www.DSEI.co.uk

If you are attending DSEI 2019 follow @Ric_Cole   and @PaulEllisUK from @i3_Gen and we will look out for your interesting and and value adding content.

For more information about social media training, advisory and management services offered by i3 Gen, visit the website – www.i3Gen.co.uk

If you would like us to come and have a chat whilst we are at the show, send us a message either on Social Media or through our website.

keys LI

The Keys to the Kingdom – Who runs your social media accounts?

Whether a senior officer looking to get some extra support for their social media activity or a unit or formation looking to develop their online presence (and posture and profile – PPP), choosing staff to assist, manage or curate any account should not be taken lightly. Consider what Knowledge, Skills and Experience (KSE) that individual or team brings to the party and how training and external support can be used to achieve the desired communications effects and support the commander’s intent and the requirements of an increasingly #DigitalArmy.

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Narratives, Stories, and Facts

‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics’ is a phrase popularised by, and sometimes erroneously attributed to, Mark Twain.

It speaks to the malleability of ‘Facts and Figures’ when seeking to convey a point of view and grant it some degree of authority — because of course, if you provide independent evidence that seemingly supports your argument, then it should be that much more persuasive!

Right?

Wrong; Facts and Figures alone are not persuasive. They are cold, dull, and decidedly unengaging. It is the story that is woven around them that becomes persuasive; the story that engages our emotions, challenges us to think, and drives us to react.

Successful Sales and Marketing professionals know this, either by instinct or training.

Early on in my career I attended a Sales Training course and got into a lengthy discourse with the instructor about the importance of clear facts and figures as part of the sales process. I was adamant that if we produced clear evidence that a particular product performed better, was better value and had a track record of satisfied customers; then the ‘selling’ was all but done; it would be a clear and logical decision. Why would anyone not choose the ‘obviously’ better product? [I did say this was EARLY in my career :)]

In contrast, the course instructor was equally adamant that “facts were not persuasive” — he was not arguing that they didn’t have a role to play, but that the selling process had very little to do with the facts of the matter.

Much later in my career, I attended a different sales course that taught the Solution Selling™ methodology — on the first day, the buying process was summarised in a very clear and succinct manner:

We buy emotionally for logical reasons!

This principle applies to all of us, in every buying situation. The only variance is how much logical justification, for our emotional decision, we need to feel comfortable; this, in turn, is often related to the cost, and/or the level of buying authority we have.

That simple phrase underpins the whole process of Sales and Marketing and the wider topic of Influence.

In seeking to influence, our primary goal must be to engage our target audience on an emotional level. This applies whether we are trying to influence them in a buying process, or significantly, in a political or military scenario. Once we have gained emotional ‘buy-in’, we must also provide congruent information that allows them to feel justified in their (emotional) decision.

This may be stating the obvious, but it’s important to keep this front of mind when we consider how to engage a target audience.

Narrative does not equal Story

In recent times, we have faced torrents of ‘Fake News’. These stories are designed to engage and challenge our emotion-based decisions. We’ve typically ‘decided upon’ these views after having read a clear and authoritative ‘narrative’ about this issue or that or we’ve already been beguiled by a well-crafted story.

Afterwards, mere facts and figures would not be effective in persuading us to change or at least question our comfortable, justified position. In most cases, if we are sent a fact-based challenge to the original ‘narrative’, we probably will not invest the time to even consider this opposing perspective. We are already emotionally invested in our Point of View.

This is the problem with ‘Narratives’ versus ‘Stories’…

Isn’t this just semantics? Aren’t Narratives and Stories just different words for the same thing?

Well actually no, they are not the same thing, but both do have their place in a communications and influence campaign.

At this year’s NATO Strategic Communications conference in Riga, Alex Aitken, Executive Director, [UK] Government Communications stated during the panel Q&A (1h40m mark) that

“a story is different to a narrative. A story has character, plot, setting, conflict, and resolution, whereas a narrative is an explanation of things.”

He goes on to urge us, in our democracies, to be better at telling stories!

The power of Story is built into our core psyche.

We need to remember, a story does not mean a work of fiction. The oral tradition helped bring about the growth of civilisation and the advancement of humankind ever since.

Stories inspire! Stories scare us and keep us safe! Stories make us feel part of a community, and different stories can bring us into multiple communities.

Stories Influence!

In the absence of a compelling or engaging story; we make one up and tell ourselves it — it helps us order the world, understand the complex and be able to in turn relate issues to others.

As the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett wrote in book II of his Science of Discworld series (well worth reading) …

“The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo Sapiens (‘wise man’). In any case it’s an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan Narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.”

So how can we be better at telling Stories?

Well, there is much great content out there on telling good stories, and it is very much in vogue in the Social Media and Content Marketing domains — so much so, that the topic is being overrun by very lightweight pieces of content that are little more than clickbait.

However, my point of view is that a good story needs to start and end with people — we need to have empathy in some manner, if we don’t care about the characters then we won’t remember the story. A forgotten story has no influence and moreover is never retold!

Many people have spent years trying to understand the art of storytelling and some have gone on to create guides and frameworks to help us all tell better stories. Back in 2001 Jason Ohler adapted some work by Brett Dillingham to create a simple but powerful visual portrait of a story.

Visual Portrait of a Story

In 2012 The Content Marketing Association combined this Visual Portrait with other research, notably that of Christopher Booker on the 7 archetypal story plots, and created this very useful Infographic — The Seven Steps to a Perfect Story.

My friend, Jeremy Waite, who is a great marketer and wonderful story-teller in his own right, has posted a number of articles on what makes a great story, and in 2014 wrote considered the 7 plots from a Business and Brand Perspective.

A more recent post of Jeremy’s, from December 2016, is a masterclass in preparing compelling presentations — I encourage everyone to invest a lot of time reading it; follow the links and references as well. It will pay back dividends! The Shape of My Perfect Keynote? He demonstrates it again here when he deconstructs the highly engaging and entertaining (I know I was there) keynote of the Canadian Astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield.

Every good storyteller knows you need to have meaningful and memorable soundbites. They are the hooks we remember both the stories and the storytellers by.

Jeremy picked up on this a while back, and last September published his latest book ‘Ten Words’ — again I commend it to you along with the accompanying PodCast series.

Jeremy Waite - Ten Words

To give you a flavour of its content and how powerful and influential words can be — have a read of this: The Best Business Advice I’ve Ever Received — when you read the selected quotes in that article, they clearly all share the same two traits: People and Emotion

. This is where a ‘narrative’ falls short as a vehicle for influence.

When a narrator describes a scene or provides a link between situations — they are performing a mechanical act in the story — they are outside of the story itself.

When a narrative describes, clearly and factually, an important situation or issue, they are trying to rise above the emotion, they are seeking to present a picture, an explanation.

The narrative is important as a backdrop. A strategic framework for communication.

A good narrative will provide a model from which we base our stories upon and should cover the following factors:

  1. Purpose
  2. Objectives
  3. Key Messages
  4. Planned Counter-Messages
  5. Supporting Content
  6. Desired Effects
  7. Target Audiences
  8. Specific Activities
  9. Management Processes
  10. Identified Communications Platforms and Media
  11. Measurement and Reporting

A narrative is a strategic plan whilst our stories are the tactical execution of that plan.

A narrative should provide us with talking points, but then we must be trusted to take those talking points and make them into our own stories.

We are all different. We have different styles, influences, vernacular and colloquialisms and of course different audiences. This is why, to be authentic, we need to tell our stories as individuals, not as ‘repeaters’ of Official or Corporate communications.

Good Marketing is all about devising and telling great stories.

When it comes to Story Telling in Marketing, in my opinion, there is none more capable and more influential than Seth Godin. He even wrote a book on it, “All Marketers Are Liars” it’s title caught my eye ?, however, as you can see, it has since been updated.

In it, Seth presents case after case of influence through stories. That’s his style by the way, he doesn’t tell you what you should be doing, but tells you stories about things he has seen and how they have worked or haven’t — he allows you to draw the lessons from those stories, and every one of his stories has people, setting, plot and emotion!

In this book, he shows the power of Stories to overcome the plain objectivity of fact; the book jacket text states

“All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, even if it is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better — and look cooler — than $20 no names… and believing it makes it true.”

The reason Seth chose the provocative book title was itself an example of good story craft  in his introduction to the book Seth wrote:

“I wasn’t being completely truthful with you when I named this book. Marketers aren’t liars. They are just storytellers… I was trying to go to the edges. No one would hate a book called All Marketers Are Storytellers. No one would disagree with it. No one would challenge me on it. No one would talk about it.”

Again, People and Emotion!

If you are new to Seth Godin, then I strongly recommend you buy his books and subscribe to his daily blog– the blogs are normally 1 or 2 paragraphs of pithy, insightful and usually thought-provoking commentary.

How to win with Story Telling?

My career has been in Business to Business Marketing, and more recently I have been working within the military sector, combining the skills and practices of business marketing with that of Strategic Communications and Information Operations.

There is a lot of common ground between Marketing and Warfare, especially regarding strategy and planning.

A great book that draws analogy and provides great guidance to marketers is Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout — first published in 1986 and updated in 2005 — the book remains highly relevant and well worth reading.

Another of theirs is the short and punchy — The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing which I will draw upon next. (You can read a 2000 word summary of the book here).

Assuming we know how to devise and create emotionally engaging stories. When it comes to winning with stories, the first 2 laws are paramount.

#1 The Law of Leadership — It’s better to be first than it is to be better!

Because it is easier to get into the minds of your audience first, than it is to convince them that you are a better choice than the one that did get there first.

#2: The Law of the Category — If you can’t be the first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

If you are not first in your category then you make up a new category name and claim leadership within it — this technique is especially prevalent in the Tech Sector!

So clearly, the best strategy is to tell our story first and to tell it well!

If we do this then we will carry your audience with us and they will stay loyal against an onslaught of ‘challenging narratives’.

If we are not first; if some other ‘narrative’ or more likely, some other stories are influencing our target audience, then the absolute worst strategy is to try to ‘win the narrative’ by challenging their stories; especially if they are fake stories! All we do is give these fake stories ‘credibility’ and ‘fuel their propagation’.

It is far better to create our own stories and tell them louder and better — create our own category where we are the leader, and the target audience is engaged with us.

As an example: Whilst, personally, I fundamentally disagree with President Trump on pretty much everything; I do acknowledge his mastery of telling stories; engaging the audience and simply not engaging with any contrary story position. What do his critics and competitors do? They challenge his stories with facts, in the belief that facts alone will cause his emotionally invested audience to change their point of view! The ‘trump approach’ has such a disregard for facts, they know they are not persuasive, they even went as far as presenting ‘alternative facts’!

To challenge President Trump, President Putin, or any other Populist or Authoritarian based Narrative model — we need to create a NEW set of stories; our own stories, that the target audience will empathise with and that we can tell loudly and proudly!

To challenge an audience’s belief, we need to present an emotionally engaging story that they can invest in, and one that is more advantageous than the ones they are currently believing.

By the way, if the current ‘true story’ is quite negative, a target audience will readily consider a positive alternative story, regardless of its veracity — this is what happened in the case of the Skripal Poisoning. — The factual narrative was quickly undermined by a tidal wave of alternative stories from Russia. These presented a slightly less negative perspective for the audience to consider, and add into the mix, influential voices from within the UK supporting these ‘questioning stories’ then very quickly, the objective narrative lost a large degree of its influence effect.

FACTS and TRUTH

Throughout this article, I have argued for the power of good storytelling and have downplayed the role of factual narrative. This may seem as if I don’t place value on Truth. If this is the case then let me assure you that I consider Truth to be paramount. Anything that is built on lies will, sooner or later, collapse; the later it is the more catastrophic the collapse will be!

I started with an emotive quote, so to conclude, here is a prescient proverb that was first recorded in Dr Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia (1732).

“Craft must have clothes, but truth loves to go naked.”

I recently learnt, that Malcolm Mclaren, of Sex Pistols fame, wrote that above the doorway to Vivien Westwood’s King’s Road Fashion Shop, SEX.

I learnt this from Jeremy Waite’s excellent Ten Words PodCast (Episode 3) and to come full circle he very cleverly linked this quote to one from Mark Twain.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. - Mark Twain

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

-o-

i3 Gen is a specialist consultancy that brings together Business Marketing with Military Strategic Communications and Information Operations. The combination of which brings added insights and value to both civilian and military clients.

We believe that to Influence we must first gain Interest, and to do that we gather Intelligence, before, during and afterwards.

We’d love to hear your story! Why not get in touch?

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What type of marketer are you, Preacher or Missionary?

You have probably heard the expression, “Preaching to the Choir!” or variants of that phrase?

So that we are on the same page, or to stay within metaphor — ’reading from the same hymnbook’…

Preaching to the Choir means that your audience is already convinced and is on message, therefore, unless you are objective is to reinforce the message and build deeper understanding and agreement, there is little more to be achieved. Good examples of this are the huge get-togethers that the likes of Apple, Salesforce and Microsoft hold (many others do so too).

When discussing Messaging for marketing, I build and extend this metaphor as follows, and to be clear, I intend no religious content or offence here either.

We can consider our potential audience as broadly divided into those ‘inside the church’ and those ‘outside the church’; the church being those who already agree with our Point of View and those outside are people whom we might want to convince to come inside.

Inside the church, the audience can be divided again into the Choir and the Congregation. Needless to say, the Choir are our strongest supporters; they need little attention to stay with us, yet often the Choir gets the most of our attention. The Congregation are also on message, but perhaps a little less dedicated; they need a bit more of our attention, however, if we treat them well and we meet or exceed their expectations, then they will stick with us too.

It does not take much to see our close communities as being inside the church; perhaps our leaders, employees, strategic partners and maybe our reference customers are all like the Choir? The Congregation would be made up of our customers, partners, suppliers, influencers and other supporters.

Most marketing messages and content I look at seem to be targeted at our closest two communities, those inside the church, and we are like a Preacher; delivering our messages to a willing, warm and receptive audience. We know how to speak to them, we have a common understanding and shared perspective. It is comfortable to do this and understandable. We certainly shouldn’t ignore these communities, after all, we do not want them leaving the church, especially when we are frequently told with another marketing cliché that “it costs many times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain existing ones.”

However, if we need to grow our market or extend our influence beyond these close-in communities, then we must venture outside the church. We must, in essence, take on the role of a Missionary!

The audience outside the church is vast and dispersed, and the further away they are from us the harder we have to think and work to reach them; this is part of the reason it costs ten times more! We need to spend time understanding their perspective; their values; what’s important to them; what and who influences them; where do they gather and very importantly we need to understand how to speak to them! We then need to spend time establishing our credentials; build trust and understanding; gain permission to talk to them about our message and why it is relevant and valuable to them.

Once we have invested the time and effort to understand who and where they are, then we need to ensure we use this knowledge when we decide what we want to say in order to engage and communicate. If we intend to be successful, then our strategy, tactics, language, and expectations must be very different from those we use to our first and second level communities who are already bought-in.

I use this metaphor when coaching to help to emphasise the need to challenge ourselves when creating marketing content with the objective of building markets or extending influence. If we use our own language, our comfortable jargon and terms of reference, then it will be much harder to reach our target audience, and we will drastically reduce the levels of engagement and subsequent likelihood of meeting our objective.

So my clear and obvious conclusion; if we want to reach new audiences, then we need to be more like a Missionary and less like a Preacher.

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Building Information Operations into the DNA of our Armed Forces

This article was first published on Medium and LinkedIn on March 1st 2018.

For some time now there have been many individuals, both inside the military and in the private sector, that have been calling for a greater emphasis placed on building Information Operations capabilities into our Defence, Security and Stabilisation organisations.

Furthermore; In recent months there has been a notable growth in the number and volume of those voices calling for a greater focus on the domain of Information Operations.

These voices include some of the most senior officers in the British Armed Forces; most notably General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff in a widely covered speech at the Royal United Services Institute; and General Sir Gordon Messenger, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in an interview with Deborah Haynes of The Times, states:

Winning the “information war” will be crucial in the next big fight. Commanders must realise that exploiting data to make decisions on the battlefield is as important as having the most powerful tanks, or more so.

It is also clear that our adversaries at all levels are increasingly adept and bold in their use of Information Operations; this is self-evident!

There will be some that respond that we already are investing in specialist Information Operations capabilities; such as the creation of the 77th Brigade which is also part of the new Information Manoeuvre Formation which brings together 77th Brigade with the ISTAR Brigade and the 2 Signals Brigades — mentioned by CGS at RUSI. There are also equivalent or at least similar specialist units within some of our NATO partners and other aligned forces, for example, Israel and Australia.

While these investments in specialised units are essential, in my opinion, the specialisation in itself is an indication of ‘laggardly’ thinking with regard to ‘Information Operations’.

I was particularly pleased to read, in the Full Times Interview Transcript, General Messenger’s answer to the question that Information Operations is not just about 77 Brigade:

“It is everyone. 77 Brigade are — I was there on Friday — they are a good organisation, they are absolutely a joint organisation. What they do is pan-environment and there is some very, very clever sometimes quirky people who are adding real value. I think what we have to do is elevate some of the principles of that into the broader DNA of defence.”

That is a key point — we need to bring the skills, competence, understanding and confidence of Information Operations into every part of the Armed Forces DNA / Doctrine from the enlisted soldier all the way through to our General Staff. Only then can we seriously contemplate gaining ‘Information Advantage’?

So how might we go about achieving this?

To begin with, we need to look to the adoption and leverage of ‘Information Operations’ in wider society and the private sector. Of course we don’t call it ‘Information Operations’ here! We call it Social Media, Digital Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Market Intelligence, Relationship Marketing, Networking, Blogging / VLogging, Photo-Sharing, Community Management, Data Intelligence, Cyber Security etc.

Quite simply; it is the tools and techniques that successful businesses have widely adopted, and the pervasive use of technology and social media throughout our daily lives. It is clear that Information Advantage is now part of our Society DNA, it is no longer just the specialist geeks or nerds.

Of course, deep expertise will always lie with specialists, and when we need to call upon these expert practitioners for specific scenarios or training and guidance, then we need to have them on hand. This approach is also true in the private sector, and we all know someone whom we go to to ask for ‘techie’ help when needed in our personal lives.

Fundamentally, we need to improve the ‘marketing’ capabilities throughout our Armed Forces, and not have it located in specialist units alone. This needs to cover the foundations of good marketing and will extend through Digital and Social Media Marketing into the domain-specific Influence and Intelligence aspects of Military Information Operations.

For those that would argue that this is not part of core military doctrine; then you should look back. Throughout military history, the influence of words, perceptions and morale was always far more effective than kinetic effects ever were.

So what does this mean for our Armed Forces and related organisations?

Well, let’s start off with an issue that was discussed at the last Social Media in the Military Conference and was also put to General Messenger.

“We allow our soldiers to use lethal weapons but generally speaking we do not allow them to use Social Media.”

The conference raised the questions of Risks and Control, and this was echoed by General Messenger also.

Yet, there are very real and easily identified risks with Weapon Systems and general behaviours within our Armed Forces. How we deal with these risks is training! We start with basic training, and we build upon that progressively, the extent of which will depend upon the particular career path. We also review these skills on a frequent basis and ensure they are current. We have sanctions in place for transgression and re-training available too.

Q.E.D.: We should have Basic and Intermediate Social Media training as part of Basic Training for all soldiers.

This training should cover awareness of all the major social media platforms and other relevant digital tools (i.e. fitness trackers); secure configuration and use covering Personal Security and potential impact on Operational Security.


We should also train on best practices such as; having an engaging and authentic profile; what content works for what purposes; how to link across social networks; what tools exist to help you use Social Media effectively and safely.

Finally we should demonstrate what intelligence can be gained through Social Media platforms and the wider Internet — if for no other reason then to demonstrate why good Digital Hygiene is important.

There must also to be a change in the attitude and awareness of our officers and leaders.

There are, as ever, trailblazers who are already championing the cause.

In the private sector, we recognise that some of the most influential effects happen through Word-of-Mouth — it is the oldest form of marketing, and the explosion of Social Media has essentially digitised Word-of-Mouth.

Word-of-Mouth manifests in many guises; formal marketing programmes seek to leverage Influencer Marketing and Content Marketing campaigns. For these to be effective, they need to be both authentic and add some value to the target audience. Otherwise, it’s just another form of advertising and will be largely ineffective — much like most of the output from Public Affairs Offices and Strategic Comms units!

Another form of Word-of-Mouth is that of Employee Advocacy — this can be extremely effective and influential. This is where our Armed Forces Personnel need to be encouraged to write and share about their work and experiences. Employee Advocacy speaks not only to our own communities of interest; family, friends, potential recruits and the wider public but it also demonstrates to the world at large, our passion, competence and commitment.

Reputation is built through repeated actions, spoken about in tales! q.v. The British Special Forces are recognised to be the best in the world — both by our adversaries and allies! Social Media can amplify and accelerate reputational influence — it can also destroy it through incompetent use.

However, our military leaders need to encourage and support those personnel that want to write about their experiences in either short form or longer articles or blogs or better still videos; we should also not try to ‘control’ these voices as that jeopardises their authenticity and subsequent influence. If we provide the right support, framework and expectations then our people will be our greatest influencers!

As an observation; in my experience, those who join our military are proud, passionate individuals, and if they voice criticisms, it is only because they wish to see improvements in the organisation they care deeply about.

Finally, we need to accelerate this process and build Information Operations into the DNA of our Armed Forces and related organisations?

When 77 Brigade was formed, it was recognised that it would take way too long to try and build the desired capabilities organically; from the outset, the plan was to bring in, via the Reserves, experienced individuals with expertise, insight and passion from the private sector.

Yet, even with this stated intent, the wider army recruitment processes have got in the way,  there needs to be a recognition and exception handling methodology that supports the innovation and change needed to build Information Operations into the DNA of our Armed Forces.

In addition to the Basic Training recommendation above, there is a huge opportunity open to our General Staff and Commanders to bring in Private Sector specialists to develop Information Operations capabilities throughout our Armed Forces. This opportunity was also recognised by General Carter in the Q&A’s that followed his lecture at RUSI.

Private Sector organisations and individuals with Information Operations skills and experience and an interest and understanding of the Defence, Security and Stabilisation arena could be hired to train, oversee and, for an interim period, manage Information Operations at Regimental or equivalent appropriate command level.

To build Information Advantage into the DNA of our Armed Forces we need to break free from the constraints of processes created for the ‘whole of the Armed Forces’ that handle the traditional, out-moded approach.

We must build in organisational agility and exception handling that recognises the needs of innovative, oftentimes quirky, and sometimes uncomfortable thinking and approaches.

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10 steps to Building Social Media Effectiveness for a Small Business

Many small businesses I speak to have a fairly low regard for using social media for business.

Their attitudes to social media include that it is irrelevant; using it but it doesn’t work or tried it and it didn’t work; they don’t have the time for it or simply they don’t understand it enough.

If this is your view, then I strongly recommend a rethink!

Why?

Well, most forms of outbound marketing techniques are becoming less and less effective. Time and money spent on online or offline advertising, direct marketing, email, telemarketing and even some aspects of digital marketing is, frankly, wasted!

If you don’t believe this, then ask yourself, how many times you have responded positively let alone actually acted upon any form of outbound marketing? Did you welcome the interruption? Did you click on that banner ad or respond to the spam or even pick up the phone when you saw a print advert?

You may have made a mental note to follow-up or look the business up in the future. But, more likely, you resented the interruption and at best you will ignore and forget about them.

Why would you want to be wasting your money like that?

There is a better alternative.

It is time to get serious about social for your business!

Here are ten steps to take to make social media marketing effective for your business.

  1. You need to ‘be in it to win it’: This may seem like a “doh! Obviously…” thing to say, but most small businesses are only partly ‘in’ social media. There are several different types of social media platforms and networks and you need to be active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. You can, of course, have differing levels of activity, but you need to be on them and have your accounts all linked up, it matters!
  2. Continuously build out your network: This is perhaps the hardest part in which to build momentum. However, it is very much like rolling a snowball. The more people you add, the more visible you become and the easier it is to grow. An effective process is to search for the topics that are relevant to your business and follow those who post about them. Then check them out and follow people from within their networks that are relevant and interesting. Then check out the new people you have followed and repeat the above. Don’t be tempted to buy followers or pay someone to grow your network rapidly.
  3. Share, share and share again: Whilst building out your networks you will come across great content and posts from other people. Share it on – ideally make a comment– pointing out why you think it is By sharing great content, you build a reputation within the ‘subject matter area’ and you will help to build your network as a consequence.
  4. Can you do XXX? No, but I know someone who can! – The adage of what goes around comes around, or the law of mutual back scratching is never truer than on social media! Freely refer people from within your network and be sure you are known for your areas of expertise also.
  5. Do you have an opinion on things? Have knowledge and expertise? Can offer tips and pointers on how to do stuff? Well write it down and share it, even create a video or two! Creating useful and interesting content is the key to driving social media effectiveness and ultimately generating inbound enquiries to your business. You can create a blog site either attached to your website or on a hosted blog site like Blogger or WordPress.com. You can also publish on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse or simply write some short posts on Facebook. Be  generous with your views:

    THIS IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT – Don’t skimp on it!

  6. Tell the world: Make sure when you create content you tell people about it. Not just on Twitter but all the networks you use. Cross-link and cross-post across your different platforms. Tag people or brands whom you have quoted or referenced and also people you think would be interested. Do this at least five times with different headlines and on at least three different platforms. Finally aim to do this at least once every two weeks as a minimum, ideally once a week. Write it on a Sunday afternoon or whenever you can find a little time – little and often is better than something meaty every three or four months.
  7. Get visual! Pictures make us pause; they are easy to take in and they grab our attention for a brief moment. Pictures help your content get noticed and your audience is more likely to read on and engage – even if it is simply to share your post to their networks. Good headlines with the picture will greatly increase the likelihood of this.
  8. Do you use hash? Hashtags are everywhere now and whilst you do not want to overdo it, you do need to make sure your posts have 3-5 pertinent hashtags. They label your content and help people find it easily, especially those outside of your network. You can now use hashtags on all the main social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and now LinkedIn. The best way to use them is keywords from the post headline, then supplement your post at the end with other associated topic hashtags.
  9. Get Tooled Up! By now you are probably thinking, “I was right… I don’t have time for all this!”. Well, using the right tools will make all the difference. YOU can run a base level social media marketing program spending as little as 30 minutes a day. On average, I spend an hour a day split up into 20-minute chunks, morning, lunchtime and evening.

    The tools I recommend include:

  • HootSuite for social media posting, reading and management across all major social networks – web-based and app. This is my first port of call for social media management. It has loads of features but is straightforward to use.
  • Tweepmaps for audience monitoring (followers/unfollowers). A great tool to keep on top of your network, best used every 2-3 days.
  • Buffer for content and posts; This is the biggest time saver. In the free version, you can schedule 10 items ahead of time meaning if you post six times a day (a good level to aim for) you can have nearly two days pre-scheduled. If you use it daily, then you can always be on top of your social posting calendar. You can also schedule retweets as well. However, I recommend paying for a subscription and then you can load up much more content. For example, you could schedule a week’s worth of content on a Sunday evening and then use your daily time for reacting, replying and managing your network.
  • Other premium product are SproutSocial and BrandWatch, which are very useful for tracking social influence, reach and engagement. It also includes extensive reporting and competitor/topic.
  • PLUS — Make sure you use the inbuilt analytics features provided by the social networks. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc all provide great insights for free.

10. Top 10 things to track:(The list within a list) – As with anything worthwhile you need to be able to track your progress and see how effective different activities are. Social media growth does take time, but it does not take years. Done right you can have a network of thousands in just a few months.

The top 10 things you should track are:

    1. Overall audience/network size and growth of your network over time (split out by each of your networks).
    2. New followers / Prune those that unfollow you if they are not adding any other value to your network i.e. as a source of relevant content.
    3. Reach and engagement of your social network posts (including retweets, shares and mentions).
    4. Most influential/engaged members of your network (review size of their networks and level of activity).
    5. Popularity and engagement of your content (views, likes, shares and comments).
    6. Comparison of engagement using different post headlines.
    7. Competitor activity on social media (active on your target hashtags and area of interest).
    8. Business time and money spent on social media activities (necessary to build a Return on Investment view).
    9. Inbound enquiries from social media and what content triggered the enquiry.
    10. Revenue associated with social media activity (sales from inbound enquiries, referrals, customer retention and repeat business).

You can find most of this information included within the social network’s own analytics tools as well as some third-party tools.