02 November 2015

The power of electronic graffiti

Author :

In January 2015 during the fall out from then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s captains call Knighting Prince Phillip, Tony Abbott famously dismissed social media as “electronic graffiti.”

"I'll leave social media to its own devices. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media," Mr Abbott said on Australia Day. "You wouldn't report what's sprayed up on the walls of buildings."

Given the Government, and corporate Australia, spends millions of dollars a year to monitor social media and it’s impacts, the statement seemed to be at odds with the day to day reality of today’s business environment. As digital services such as Twitter, Facebook and Goggle disrupt traditional business models the importance of listening to electronic graffiti seems to be a no-brainer.

For such a young industry, social media as a barometer of public perception and opinion has already been ingrained in today’s society. More people get their news from social media than traditional publishing companies, and the invention of social media has done more to ingrain a 24/7 news cycle than anything else could have.

News stories are breaking first on social media before traditional media outlets have the opportunity or time to write the story and get it to air, or the printers.

Social media has rapidly become an effective tool to measure the public mood. In the lead up to the Liberal Party spill in September 2015 media outlets such as Sky News kept a running commentary on Twitter, highlighting leaks as they were receiving them as Malcolm Turnbull marshalled his numbers for the leadership spill.

Experts from the LNP tweeted about the need for stability and as the two sides counted numbers, Australia’s twitter population took part in the conversation, making the goings-on behind closed doors of Parliament House an experience hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in.

While the impact of social media on the leadership spill cannot be measured, to say it had no impact on the voting decisions of the 55 Liberal Party members who voted against Tony Abbott would be naive at best. The people of the nation were speaking, and social media gave them a voice.

Social media can be an effective tool for being heard, although it has been said Twitter is a bit like standing in a crowded bar, shouting to yourself. Standing out from the crowd of people also tweeting to be heard can be a difficult and somewhat daunting proposition.

How to be heard on twitter.

Be authentic – developing an authentic voice in 140 characters can be difficult but it’s worth the time and effort it takes. When using Twitter, or any form of social media, it is important to come across as a person, not an automated and scheduled promotional tweet.

Automated DM’s are a death sentence – We’ve all had it, two seconds after following someone on twitter a DM appears with a generic “Thank you for following me, make sure to follow me on ‘insert social media links here.’ It is highly doubtful that people get those messages and think “oh yippee thanks for the tip, I’ll run off and do that straight away.” Frankly, automated DM’s are impersonal and make people feel like a number.

Hashtags – Twitter is the place where hashtags were born. They link like minded people and make sourcing information easier to find. Developing your own hashtag for your promotion or event is fine but if it’s too unique, who is going to find you? Using generic hashtags to get information out there is a better way to source followers and clients who may be looking for your services. One tip here, which I’m seeing more and more lately, is don’t attempt to hijack trending topics with tweets completely unrelated. The amount of times I see generic links in trending hashtags for websites and discount education offers is uncountable. All that does is make me block accounts, not follow them.

I’m the most popular person on Twitter – not every follower is a number worth having. After the 2013 Federal election, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s twitter followers skyrocketed. It turned out that someone in his team had bought twitter followers; random accounts, mostly from overseas with two or three tweets. Buying followers is only good if you’re the one selling them and making money from it. Otherwise it’s window dressing and frankly not worth the cost. It’s better to let your followers grow organically. Like anything worthwhile, growing your followers in this way takes time, but the wait is worth it.

Interactive presentations always work best – putting together a good tweet for a promotion or marketing is a bit like assembling a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of a clear blue sky. It takes time and effort to get all the elements in the correct order. Statistically I’ve found the tweets that garner the most interaction come with three key elements; an image, a link and the copy. The image catches the eye of the person who is going through their timeline, the short amount of text leading to a shortened link drives the eye towards the link and the link is something the reader will physically interact with if the tweet is well enough composed. Getting all your ducks in a row can be a bit hit and miss, but investing in the time should mean a better quality of interaction over time.

The personal touch – Just as you may feel you’re shouting into the wind on platforms like Twitter, so to do all the other people out there. Make the effort to connect with your audience. If someone takes the time to tweet to you, reply. Although social media marketing is a world of words, images, links and hashtags, the importance of customer service and customer engagement can’t be underestimated.
Ultimately like all forms of marketing that rely on the wave of public opinion or interest, social media marketing requires determination, listening to your audience and an internal champion to drive the engagement level.


When you first start to actively use social media as a way to engage an audience it can feel like a lonely and frustrating place, but if you put in the effort and make the content high quality you can, and will make a difference to your bottom line.



Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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