How much social media is too much social media?

by ttucker23 on January 27, 2017

Image from Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 1: Nosedive
Image from Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 1: Nosedive

Do you find it hard to keep up with your social media? All those feeds to scan, all those posts to share, those Snapchat streaks to maintain?

Let’s face it, social media is great, but it can burn you out and get you down if you’re not careful.

That’s why every few months I take time out to review my usage of social media, both for personal and business reasons (I work for myself so often the two are entwined).

When I review my social networks, I want to determine:

  • Am I getting value from the networks I use?
  • Do I provide value for my followers and friends?
  • Is this a good use of my resources (mainly time)?

The results of my social media audit are interesting (at least to me)…

Here’s a snapshot of my social media usage

Social media apps.

I use seven social networks at least daily or weekly:

  • Facebook – mainly with friends and family
  • Facebook messenger – more intimate conversations
  • Twitter – mainly for business
  • Linkedin – 100% for business networking
  • Instagram – a bit of fun
  • Snapchat – experimentation – I like to see how new channels ‘work’ (it’s relatively new for me this one)
  • WhatsApp – exclusively for use with my tennis club pals, organising matches and get togethers

On a more random basis (say a couple of times a month) I’ll look at the following:

  • Goodreads – I’m an avid reader of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I like to share what I’m reading and find out what others are reading too.
  • Pinterest – when I get time (not often) I’ll take a look at my feeds and update my boards. I mainly use this for inspiration.

There are a bunch of apps I use that have ‘social components’. I don’t normally think of these as social media, but they do provide great community benefit, for example:

  • MyFitnessPal – inspiration from others on maintaining healthy habits
  • Flipboard – keeping up to date with news and insights from recommended sources
  • YouTube – I tend to use this for looking up bass guitar videos (as bass player I’m addicted to Scotts Bass Lessons at the moment) and movie trailers

What have I learned from reviewing my social media usage?

Taking time to review this gave me a few insights:

  • If you’d have asked me off the top of my head, I probably would have said that my limit was three or four social media channels. It’s much more.
  • Each social channel fulfils a very specific need for me. If I can’t easily see how it fits into my life it gets dropped.
  • My ‘experimentation’ channels are the place where I try to define what purpose the channel has for me. I dropped Path after it filled no need in my life.
  • Twitter is the channel that I consume the least. It’s become much more of a one-way channel for me, although I do have some exclusive connections on there that I value. And it’s great for covering events and occassions– it’s how I’m keeping up with the Australian Open tennis at the moment, for example.
  • Many of my most used apps have some kind of ‘social component’ that radically improves the experience (MyFitnessPal, Flipboard, etc).

So that’s me right now. I’ll probably do this again in six months to see what’s changed.

I’d love to hear what you think. Which social channels do you use? Which are the most important to your life and work?

Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.


3 ways to write list posts for higher engagement

by ttucker23 on September 30, 2016

‘So does this mean the end of the list article?’

That’s what a fellow content marketer asked after Facebook announced that it’s fighting back against bogus headlines with its new anti-clickbait algorithm.

The answer is ‘no’. The list article is here to stay, and here’s why…

Readers love list articles

Far from being a recent digital phenomenon, the listicle has long thrived in specialist and general interest magazines, as well as longer formats like books (think Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).

There are various theories as to why list posts work so well, but it boils down to this: ‘[a list] promises upfront to condense any subject into a manageable number of discrete facts, or at least factoids.’

In other words, there’s a strong editorial benefit for the reader. You’re making it easier for your audience to read your content.

That said, if you want to stay on the right side of Facebook’s algorithm, you’ll need to do it well. I want to focus here on the three types of list article that you can write, with a few thoughts on best practice for each.

1. The ‘top tips’ approach

A short list of tips is a great way to offer benefit-driven content for readers in a hurry.

Abreena Tompkins, instruction specialist at Surry Community College, researched over 300 articles and discovered that: ‘The brain can process no more than nine items in a sequence, and it actually does this much more efficiently with three or five.’

For this reason, I suggest that tips articles are best restricted to 3, 5, 7 or 9 in number. Although you can go higher to generate curiosity about your topic (just don’t expect people to remember them).

2. The ‘curiosity’ approach

When you want to pique curiosity, it seems that unusual numbers get more attention. Gilad Lotan has written a fascinating post on Medium sharing his insights into why odd numbered lists perform significantly better on Buzzfeed than even numbered lists.

If we look the bar chart by audience score we see… odd number length listicles (highlighted in red below) tend to have a higher audience score on average, where in our dataset, the number 29 tends to have an advantage over the rest.

Unusual numbers

3. The ‘best of…’ approach

Use this when you’re rounding up products or events that you want to highlight. For example:

The best numbers for this approach are round numbers ending in ‘0’. According to a Forbes article, there is a reason for this:

Recently, marketing scholars Mathew S. Isaac of Seattle University and Robert M. Schindler of Rutgers University conducted a simple little test of this web norm. They searched the term “top [number]” in Google using all numbers 1 through 100. Those ending in zero dominated, followed closely by those ending in five.



Nothing beats a good list article for gaining attention and engagement. But bear in mind that there are plenty of good listicles out there competing for attention, so yours has to stand out.

If you follow the formats above you’re more likely to hook your reader and getting them to read on.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so if you’ve got any advice for people writing listicles, please leave it in the comments below.


Loving the Apple Watch

by ttucker23 on November 6, 2015


I got my Apple Watch back in June. On Father’s Day to be precise.

It was a bit of a whim really. Well, let’s say, an increasing professional interest crescendoing in an impulse purchase (egged on by my gadget-loving kids).

My limbic system craved the shiny new Apple thing.

My prefrontal cortex persuaded me that it was necessary for work (which is partly true, as I am hosting a session on Wearables for the Content Marketing Association so, you know, I need one).

I was intrigued by the post on Mashable this morning, where Marc Newson is reported responding to critics of the Watch who say it’s been a fail on Apple’s part:

As far as I’m aware, it’s been enormously successful however you gauge it. The point is, it’s the beginning of something. I think people, consumers or analysts, whoever, are so impatient. Everyone wants immediate, instant recognition, instant understanding.

He’s right. It’s far too early days for people to writing off an entire product category. It may not be the instant success that the iPod, iPhone or iPad created, but my experience with the watch has shown me that the wearables category has huge potential.

Here’s an unstructured brain blurt on what I’ve found so far being an Apple Watch user. (Note of caution – I am an Apple fanboy, but I’ve really tried to be objective here).

1. It’s not (yet) a must-have

I got an iPod in 2002 and told everyone and anyone that would listen that they needed an iPod.

I got an iPhone 2009 and told everyone I could that they needed an iPhone.

I got an iPad in 2010 and told everyone they needed an iPad.

This is the first Apple device that I’m not hell-bent on recommending. I mean, I like it, a lot. But it’s not a gotta-have-one-coz-it-will-change-your-life type of device. Not yet anyway.

Having said that, I did persuade two of my friends to buy one. To be fair, they didn’t need much persuading, as they both work in media and technology. It was a nudge not a shove. (I’m still waiting for my commission from Apple).

2. It has changed my behaviour

I find myself spending increasingly less time with my phone and more time with my watch.

This is especially true for light interactions, such as glances and notifications. I had to set these up, as I don’t want notifications for everything (it can  be overwhelming), but the most useful nudges include:

  • Text messages
  • WhatsApp alerts (myself and my pals at the tennis club use this to inform each other of who’s playing on what evening)
  • Activity prompts (exercise, standing, etc)
  • Sports news and results (Wimbledon app, Bleacher Report app)
  • Social media direct messages (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin)
  • Alerts for TV shows (On Air app)

This may seem trivial, but it’s enhanced my life. Who knows, it may signal the end of the mobile device’s affront on our natural conversation.

3. It’s not (yet) a content device

I guess this is a no-brainer, considering the size of the screen. I have only experimented with a few content applications, such as the BBC News app and Flipboard, but it is really only useful for giving you a headline.

That said, it does a good job of handing you back to the iPhone for the full article if you want to read more after the headline and intro. I’m excited to see what content producers do for this kind of wearable device (and we’ll be learning more about that at the CMA Digital Breakfast next week – tickets are still available).

4. Battery life is okay

It’s not that bad having to charge your watch overnight. And it easily lasts a full day – sometimes a day and a half.

The bigger issue is the drain on the iPhone battery, as the bluetooth connection puts a strain on that. But after intensive use for the first few weeks I’ve now managed to settle into regular usage and I get a full day’s battery life for both devices.

5. Apple Music is awesome

This came together really well for me. The new Apple Music service launched soon after, and although I have a few UX grumbles, I really like the curated content, recommendations and playlists on there.

The watch allows you to play any of the playlists on your iPhone (and sync one playlist if you want to go out for a run without your phone) and so I bought some bluetooth headphones and I have to say this is just great.

It may not sound like much, but controlling your pause, play and shuffle modes from your watch is so much easier than getting the phone out each time.

6. Siri has got better

I use Siri occasionally on my iPhone, but I’m using it all the time on the watch. Because screen space is limited, typing is difficult, it makes perfect sense to speak into it to compose texts and so on.

Add to that the fact that Siri has improved by a remarkable degree, in both speed, responsiveness and accuracy.

I thought this might be just me but another UK user I know has had the exact same experience. Clearly Apple have planned this as a crucial aspect of the Apple Watch experience and have done some serious upgrading to the Siri service.


Here’s the thing that iPhones taught us – a smart thing is better than a non-smart thing. The idea of going back to a Nokia brick just makes me shudder (we gave one to my 11-year-old daughter as a first phone, and it’s reminded me what a miserable experience pre-smart phones were).

I didn’t wear a watch for years until now, but now I’ve worn a smart watch, the idea of a dumb one seems absurd. Seriously, why wear a watch that only tells the time, when a smart watch can give you so much more?

The Apple Watch seems to be the far and away market leader in terms of sales, so I feel I’ve made the right decision. And even if it wasn’t the market leader, it fits so well into my Apple ecosystem of music, messages, and so on, that it’s the natural choice for me.

I guess the major issue is the price. I swallowed the £350-odd I spent on it, but that was because I (persuaded myself) it was necessary for my work.

It’s not going to hit the mainstream, though, until it comes down significantly from that price level.

And when it gets that inevitable killer app, just watch it fly.


Vloggers offer huge content marketing opportunities

March 11, 2015

This week I hosted the March Digital Breakfast for the Content Marketing Association. The theme was Bloggers, Vloggers and social media personalities. It was a packed house at TCO London in Shoreditch. For the first time we had standing room at the back to accommodate all who wanted to attend. This shows a high level of […]

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Putting the user at the heart of your content

June 5, 2013

As part of my role with the Content Marketing Association I organise and host the monthly Digital Breakfasts. It’s one of the highlights of my month, as I get to talk to some of the most experienced and inspirational minds in the UK’s creative industries. This month we led on the theme of ‘User Centred […]

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The visual web is not a trend, it’s a vital content strategy

May 24, 2013

The shift towards a more ‘visual web’ can no longer be dismissed as a mere trend. Look around and the signs are clear – publishers, brands and organisations need to create compelling visual content to acquire and retain users. Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr is the latest sign that this shift needs to be taken seriously. […]

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Time for a pause?

February 1, 2012

One of the highlights of 2011 for me was the APA Content Summit 2011, which took place in London last November. As always it was a fascinating event (disclosure – I work as a consultant with the APA) that presented attendees with many interesting ideas to digest about the future of content and publishing, but […]

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Apple’s Siri and what it means for the user experience

October 19, 2011

Siri, the iPhone’s killer app Like millions of others, I queued for the iPhone 4S last week (I don’t usually queue for new products on the day of release, but this time I was keen as my 2-year-old iPhone 3GS has been regularly crashing on me). There are many improvements (especially if you’re upgrading from […]

Read the full article → creates a new user experience for music

June 22, 2011

Like many others around the web I’m captivated by, the new online music sharing service. I’ve just been exploring for the past 24 hours, but here are some random observations on the user experience: It blends some of the key digital trends of today, social+gamification+music, and it’s a powerful combination. The Facebook integration is […]

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Hult’s Masters of Digital Marketing: Digital Publishing Module

May 10, 2011

I’m just getting started with my students at Hult International Business School, where I’m the course tutor on the elective module on Digital Publishing. We have our first class tomorrow. I’m already excited by the amount of energy, enthusiasm and insight generated by the students, as evinced by their work setting up blogs and writing […]

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