Snap and its little ghost

Snapchat is going to change your life (whether you like it or not)

You can’t escape it: Snapchat is going to change your life. Here is how.

It was very early and very cold and I was staring blankly at a milk carton. Then, I saw it: a hashtag. A hashtag on a milk carton. You know something has become mainstream when it appears on something as far-removed from the web as milk.

This is legacy of Twitter, and more importantly, its users. Hashtags are now used across most social media sites, on billboards and other places. This is part of a wide pattern: social media sites explode into the mainstream and change how we behave.

Remember life before Facebook? Sure you do. But things were very different. Facebook changed how we stay in contact with people and how we share our lives.

Each of the mega social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and so on) have left their mark on our behaviour.

Now it is Snapchat’s turn. Snapchat is often mistakenly viewed as just a messaging app for young people. But, it will bring about the next big shift in the web.

This is how Snapchat is already changing our lives:

  • Photos and videos are becoming rawer, more realistic and less polished – the Instagram backlash has begun
  • You tend to pay more attention to things if you know they are going to disappear shortly – the Twitter backlash has begun
  • Snapchat wants to become the “first screen” in your life – the backlash against television continues

Return of raw

Instagram helped us change ordinary photos into beautiful photos by giving us easy-to-use filters. This gave birth to millions of highly stylised, polished photos of food, babies, yoga poses etc.

Snapchat has given us the opposite. The images shared on Snapchat are instant, unpolished, often graffitied with text, emojis and more. They’re going to disappear shortly, so people just create them and send them. This return to raw, realistic photos is already creating a little ripple of a backlash against what web expert Aleks Krotoski calls the “super me.” That is the artificial and amplified version of ourselves we project on social media.       

Blink and it is gone

Our online lives are permanent (most of the time). Years of posts and photos are available in a few clicks. Snapchat is the opposite of that. All the messages on it disappear quickly, never to be seen again. (Well, not really, but more about that in an upcoming blog post). This urgency grabs our attention. We want to consume the information wholly and fully before it is gone. Compare that deep engagement with the shallow flicking that our other timelines induce, such as Twitter.  

TV dies another death

Twitter has dominated the “second screen” market. So, if you are watching a programme on television, you might also be following the conversation about it on Twitter. Snapchat isn’t interested in being the second screen, it is aiming to be the first screen. For example, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards were watched by more people on Snapchat than on TV. How? Snapchat is positioning itself as a media empire. It has a feature called Live Story that covers events by combining users’ videos and images with exclusive access-all-areas footage from its reports at the events. Its Discover section includes 15 media partners (like Mashable and Mail Online) who produce exclusive content for Snapchat. And yes, that content disappears after 24 hours, so you better watch it quickly!

You mightn’t use Snapchat, but how it operates is already changing the web. When it changes the web, it changes how we behave. It won’t be long before Snapchat’s influence spills into the mainstream and onto a milk carton near you.

Whitney's big hair and social media success. Image courtesy of Huffington Post

Guaranteed success on social media

Did I just write guaranteed success on social media? Can I guarantee it? A little part of me was scared to write it, but yes, I can. You can too. It is simple and proven and you already do it in other parts of your life. Now, all you have to do is take those tricks and do them on social media.

Big hair

What do you remember about the 1980s? I remember, as a child, standing in our garden after being told we were emigrating to America. When I got there, I remember big houses, Whitney Houston’s big hair, big cars and an outdoor swimming pool at the end of our road.

I also remember the five-storey school I went to. I remember feeling like I had landed on a different planet. I remember not knowing how to do joined-up writing like the rest of the class. I remember the tension and bullying in the class when the teacher left for a few minutes.

Get involved

But, there was a valuable lesson learnt. Being shy, at first, I kept quiet and life was hard in school. Then, I started to open up, talked to a few people. They were interested in Ireland and we became friends. More friends emerged and the tension disappeared.

I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences of new places and a new crowd. The way we often handle that – talking to people and building relationships – is the same way we need to approach social media.

Immerse yourself

It seems simple, but many organisations ignore it: we must become a real member of that social community. This is how you do that.

Daily diet

Here at Concern Worldwide we’ve had some great success on social media. That is because we learnt that lesson: talk with people, not at them. Initially, we thought it only worked on Twitter. Then, we applied it to Facebook. Now, we’re applying it to Instagram, YouTube and beyond. The results are always the same: deep engagement and wide reach. It is not just us. Last night, I talked with Lawrence Ampofo, the founder of Digital Mindfulness, and they have started to use this technique too and have seen big improvements on Twitter and SoundCloud.

I’ll give you an example of how it works. Every day on Twitter, the web team in Concern has a list of tasks that we have to do. We call it our daily diet:

  • We reply to at least five tweets
    • (This can be hard at first, read this to find out how best to approach it)
  • We re-tweet at least five tweets
  • We try to keep the number of times we tweet low – maybe three a day

Listen first

The reason this works is because it slowly builds relationships with people. You listen and talk with them and they respond. Then, their followers will notice and get involved. It seems simple, but lots of organisations think social media is there to push their views on people. But, most people prefer you to talk with them rather than at them.   

This focus on listening first, talking second, has guaranteed us success on social media.

Now it’s your turn

Pick your most important social media site. Resist the temptation to talk first. Instead, listen and enjoy your daily diet. Success guaranteed.

The Sea Troll by Theodor Kittelsen via Wiki Commons.

Let’s go hunting internet trolls!

People shout abuse at Concern Worldwide’s web team. Well, let me re-phrase that, they tweet abuse at us – often in capital letters. It happens regularly. But, we decided to turn these internet trolls to our advantage. Join us as we go troll hunting!

Twitter can be invaluable. You can use it for lots of great things. It has changed how we consume information. But, lurking in this galaxy of information are many trolls.

According to Wikipedia, a troll is “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people.”

Here is an example of what they say:

What about looking after poor and hungry children in Ireland first! Don’t see any African nation ever helping us!

 That’s mild. The tweets we receive are often racist, targeting the people we help in the world’s poorest countries.

Years ago, we weren’t sure how to handle stuff like that. But, then we realised that each comment presented us with an opportunity. We set ourselves an objective: to engage with trolls and try to convert them into people who supported our work.

This is how we did that:

Pick your battle

Our policy is to engage with (almost) all trolls. But, if it is clear from their profile that they are incapable of a conversation, then we don’t engage. That’s a rarity though.

Be prepared

You know what issues people might have with your organisation. So, think about them beforehand and prepare your side of the argument. Given the brevity of Twitter (140 characters) you might want to create some content on your site that will support what you’re trying to say. Then, you can link back to it. Here is a page we often link to these days.

Questions please

Make sure you answer the question you’re being asked. Often with trolls though, there is no question, just a statement. So, use this as an opportunity to ask the troll a question. Engage them in a conversation. Send them a link to one of your videos and ask them what they think. The first step in converting a troll is starting a conversation with them. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

People are watching

People are curious to see how you will react to trolls. Keep this in mind when you’re replying: there are other people watching. So, use it as an opportunity to highlight your content – link back to your site or other social media. Use something like to track the number of people who click on your link. You’ll be surprised how many people are watching the conversation.

Detractor to supporter

Turn your trolls into an opportunity to talk with more people in a more meaningful way. View these exchanges as a positive way to tell your side of the story. Happy hunting!

This blog post was originally published on Just Giving Blog


John Sweeney of Suspended Coffee - a social media genius

What I learnt from a social media master

A lot of people talk drivel about social media. But, every now and then, you come across a person who has a pure instinct for it; someone who naturally understands people and naturally understand social media. Yesterday, I talked to a master of social media. This is what I learnt.

First, the numbers

In less than three years, Suspended Coffees has gained more than 288,000 likes on its Facebook page. Its engagement with its followers is both deep and wide. All of this was done organically with no ads or promoted content. Most companies would kill for a committed and rapidly-growing community like that.

Master at work

The master behind its growth is a former plumber, “with no social media training” as he said himself. That man is John Sweeney. A few years ago he had a revelation: that kindness matters. By being kind to each other, we can create a more balanced, a more humane and a more understanding society. So, he started Suspended Coffees and it has become a world-wide movement.

We talked yesterday about his work and our work here at Concern Worldwide. This is what I learnt:


We must follow our instinct. Often that means taking a risk, doing something without all the information we’d like. But, to grow we have to try new things. So, take your idea for a new Facebook post and give it a go. Review the results and then try to improve it.


This may seem obvious, but lots of organisations fail on it: people react to personalities. People do not react as positively to bland, mundane branding and messages. What is the personality of your Facebook page? Find one quickly, if you want to be successful.

Universal cause

Suspended Coffees focuses on kindness. We can all understand that. It is a universal human behaviour. Think about your audience on Facebook. Think about the people you are trying to reach. Then think about your organisation. Think about what you’re trying to do. What common value do you and your audience share? Find that and start to talk about it.


People can sense a fraud. So, be honest. Does the image you are trying to portray, match your behaviour? It should. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to either change branding or behaviour. You decide.

Real social skills

If you understand how to listen and talk with people in real life, you’re at an advantage on social media. Long before John Sweeney heard of Facebook, he was good with people. Facebook has just given him the chance to reach more of them.

Time well spent

I learnt a lot from John in our brief conversation. You’ll see some of these ideas shortly on Concern’s Facebook page. Could John help your organisation? Everyone can learn from a master.

This blog post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.