12 Questions With Mike Wright

by • April 12, 2017 • Experts Talk, InterviewsComments Off on 12 Questions With Mike Wright1746

Social media and the campaigns that drive brand success are nothing without the people who make things happen!

Each week we profile one innovative industry executive and get them to answer 12 questions. Then, we share their insight with you!

So get ready to listen in… Or read of course! The choice is yours! Let’s get started:

Hey guys it’s Linleigh! And I’m back with our 12 Questions Podcast. This week, we are featuring former Head of Social Media at JOE Media and the Daily Mirror. Now a social media consultant, Mr. Mike Wright is here to tell us how it all got started.

You can also listen to the podcast here:

Hi Mike!

Yeah. So… I’m currently a social media consultant but let me explain how I ended up here. I started off about 10 years ago as a local print journalist, very much not in a digital era. And it was during my time in local journalism I took more and more of an interest in the digital transformation and social media. Zipping forward I was the Deputy of Social Media for the Daily Mirror, where I spent a lot of my career in social media. Then, more latterly, I was the head of social media at JOE.co.uk. And more recently I have just moved into social media consultancy where I work with media companies to help grow their social media presence and engagement.

Great! So we are going to dig right in then and ask you right off the bat:

About Social Media In General

1. What is your personal favourite platform social media platform?

It is an interesting question. So my favourite platform at the moment I would say is Snapchat; even though I am going to caveat with that by saying I think I am quite a bit old for Snapchat. (Is he though? Find out here). I am in my early thirties so I don’t think I am the key demographic really but I have gotten really into it over the last year because I am the oldest of a large family. So my younger siblings are in their early twenties and they are on Snapchat primarily. So that’s how I kind of keep in contact with them. My little sister is very good at capturing moments of absurdity in my family home – of which there are many. But just using it to document events or things that go through your day… it’s the most creative and innovative platform. It is really fun to use.

And also, the genius of Snapchat which at first I thought it was a complete failure, it is hard to find people. So it tends to restrict who is in your circles to kind of intimates. And that coupled with the ephemeral nature of the fleeting pictures… just makes it more… I find it more of an authentic experience. I feel like I can be more of myself there, because the people there get me and know who I am and what I’m doing. It is a genuine place for humour and kind of an honest sharing; whereas with Facebook or Instagram, either one really is kind of a doctored persona because everyone and their dog can see it.

A fine line between marketing and humble bragging… that is more Facebook. Having said that, I do enjoy Snapchat but in terms of daily use, I probably use Twitter most heavy for professional reasons but… I mean for me, Twitter is still a go to place in terms of news agenda. I really enjoy it. It can still be a really exhilarating space when you got big breaking news and there are national conversations going on. Having said that though, I think that they are making changes slowly to Twitter. Fundamentally, it all feels like the same experience I was having 8 or 7 years ago, so I kind of find it a quite sterile experience. So based on that alone, I would have to say Snapchat is still my favourite.

2. What is the platform you use most for work? 

So at the moment I am working with a sort of media start up called Football Whispers. Hitherto, their business models always led them to… well, actually, a little bit about the company. They have got a lot of algorithms that garner very interesting insights as to football (for our western friends… this is also known as soccer) that other people may not have. So for instance they have an algorithm that kind of collates the transfer route throughout the football league to give you who the most likely transfers to go to through. So it is quite an interesting system. Hitherto their business model being with affiliates for driving traffic and engagement (i.e. The Sun, ESPN and Yahoo). I have come on board now to help them grow their organic social media presence. So we are starting from scratch really, focussing on Facebook and Twitter; getting the basics right.

That said, I do think if you want to have a serious social media brand you need to be on Snapchat and Instagram as well. I think that is very much where the conversations are, but that is where we are focused at the moment.

With media companies there is actually… it’s not just engagement. There obviously n interest in driving people back to your own site, building traffic and what have you. And Facebook and Twitter seem to be the ones they go to.  But like I said, even if that is your MOE, you still really need to be on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

So this next one is a bit of a loaded question…

3. In your opinion, what is the future of social media?

It is difficult. What I will say… is caveated with I think it impossible to work out where we will be in 2 years, let alone 5 or 10! And like I said, in 2011 who could have seen how Snapchat could completely upend the social media landscape and transform it. So I kind of hope… just because we have reached a point where there is a lot of well established social media companies… that we will have another Snapchat in the not too distant future that will completely revolutionise the landscape, and give us features that we couldn’t imagine now and transform the way we interact with each other.

But, looking at it from this vantage point 2017… the defining thing at the moment would be the flame war going on between Facebook and Snapchat. Facebook has a history/track record of exterminating or acquiring its competitors. So with Gmail it went into all out war. They had posters up that said: “Carthago Delenda Est” which is Latin for “Carthage must be destroyed” and comes from when Rome was destroying its arch enemy Carthage. (You’ll find out why he knows these fun fact later!) But it just goes to show you the mentality of Facebook. They go into full-in all-out war.

Yeah. Just look at the Snapchat, Facebook war you were just talking about.

I mean… yeah! They have just completely copied stories. There is no other flattering way to put it. Apart from just wanting the feature for their platforms, it is a way to depreciate the unique selling point of Snapchat. So if that feature is everywhere there’s a better chance of people on Snapchat (or also who aren’t on Snapchat) migrating to Instagram because there friends are there.

But, when Snapchat first roughed Facebook and struck out on its own. It was a bold move. Just the shear scale of Facebook… they will break 2 billions active users this year I’m sure… like why would you start a fight with such an overwhelming force. I’m a pluralist. I don’t there to be one dominating force that takes over social media. But with Snapchat it has innovated… it has defied gravity, and it is still growing. Who knows if it will ever reach the scale of Facebook. Facebook is still growing massively. But I do think that boundary will be defining. Snapchat is one of the few places that were genuinely innovative recently and I think the fact that everyone is copying it kind of a fill it to Snapchat. I mean when was the last time Facebook came up with a genuinely innovative new feature? It has been a while. So I think that will be defining.I also think that whoever wins that – it might not even be the case of winning – it might just be that we have a stalemate and a key.

In terms of the more general social media, I think it’s kind of obvious, but I think video will become more and more prevalent. So the younger users I think that is what they are more used to. Videos are a more accessible form of/easier format to consume media in. You see how Facebook, with its algorithm is kind of making it the most dominant format. But, I think we are going to go from short-form content (so like 10 seconds) … videos of people stacking it, falling down stairs… more long-form content will surface.

Facebook recently broadcasted a Spanish football match. Therefore, I think 5-10 years from now, we will all be consuming more of that long-form content on social media.

With that in mind, let’s go ahead and dig a little deeper. 

About Great Social Media Campaigns

4. Please tell us about the one social media campaign you liked the most this year.

Actually, one that stands out is one that I saw in the last couple of days. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Waitrose did a quite interesting 360° video. Its just a 360° video of some fisherman fishing in the Maldives catching tuna via a line method. So it is kind of like them showing how they source their fish in a sustainable way. I have seen some very interesting 360° videos but not a lot. But I thought it was a very interesting use of that format. It is quite a compelling video. There was only about 40 odd seconds to it and it was quite a genuine piece of content. So I thought that was a nice, genuine, authentic piece of content. It kind of ticked all the boxes really for a social media campaign.

5. So then, let’s talk a project you have worked on recently. 

Uh yeah, so I think I mentioned something earlier, but we are sort of building up the audience and kind of starting from scratch really in a way for Football Whispers. And obviously they are very interested in building an audience, and also having them coming back to their website. But in terms of my job, it is quite an interesting and fun project to be in.

So obviously, at The Mirror, I was kind of helping a legacy organisation, with a great history and great journalistic tradition adapt to distribute media, getting their journalism on social media and in front of younger audience. At JOE‘s again, I was kind of about growing the audiences through high quality viral content; like genuinely viral. One of our videos was a parody of last year’s John Lewis Advert with Trump and Hilary (see below… and try not to laugh! I dare you!) which was the most successful video I have been involved with. But in both of those you are kind of dealing with large organisational structures.

Now, and especially because we were only first growing the reach, then engagement i.e. likes, comments and shares. My project is very much about generating engagement. So its about finding creative content that genuinely delights or football fans are feeling it. So, also tapping into the genuine football fan experience and conversation. So it is quite a nice place for me to be really.

6. So, then what makes a really good social media campaign?

I think the key thing here is authenticity. So, whenever I’m talking about social media, and what makes good content – especially, when you are here to kind of grow engagement – you are looking to get people to engage with it i.e. on Facebook a reaction, comment and ideally a share which is the hardest thing to do. In order to get that engagement, you have to sort of push a psychological button really; to make people feel something.

And with journalism… most journalists should do that. I mean, you go back hundreds of years and you picked up a newspaper, it was kind of a menu of emotions of stories of survival. So social media is kind of about finessing that process that is already so natural.

So for brands, you aren’t just displaying your products, you have to be able to generate an emotion in the viewer. If you do that in an authentic way people will call you out on it quickly. So some of the best ad campaigns I have seen had a genuinely powerful message behind them.

There was one of an Australian Netball team, with these fantastic athletes that cut back to the young girl playing netball. Do you remember the brand/who that was for?

I’m pretty sure it was an Australian Netball team… I wanna say the Diamonds maybe?

Right. (Wrong. We both got it wrong. It was created by Samsung… oops!)

It was a really compelling piece of content with a really nice message behind it. And obviously, at the end of the day, the message is buy our product but to have that authenticity… that is key. If you don’t have it, or you strike the wrong note on social media. people will let you know pretty rapidly.

Yeah, I think more and more people are actually starting to kind of… expect transparency a little bit and its really throwing brands for a loop.

Yeah, the other thing we need to break into is obviously, there is building a campaign from scratch, but obviously brands are getting better at reacting to the news agenda. And when you get that right, it can be fantastic.

For example, the Hawksmoor Steakhouse in London they have quite a good social media manager so they picked up the news that emerged of Donald Trump likes his steak well done with loads of sauce. They jumped on that as another reason why he’s such a worrying character.

On the flipside of that, it can go horrifically wrong. There was the #WhyIStayed hashtag a while back (in 2014) and it was really powerful on Facebook sharing why the stayed with abusive partners. And then, I think it was Digiorno Pizza jumped on it saying:

All because they hadn’t looked at what the hashtag was about before posting it, which is uh… case in point of what not to do reactive social media in any sense for a brand or journalism. You need to sense test in a comprehensive way before you put things out there. I think with any advert, you have to have that. And it can be a difficult in any process. In my job, when I go through social, I often wait to see what has worked or look at what hasn’t worked and that can be an uncomfortable process. You don’t want to hold off people’s work or be in effective.

Online, you have to really go through bad feedback and take it on board. But also, especially from a brand point of view. There needs to be a process where you sit in a room and ask: “How can we tear this apart?” You know people on social media aren’t all there commenting good will. A lot of time, people want to kind of be funny or they want to be awkward/troll you. So predetermining what the trolling or criticism could be, would be incredibly useful to any brand or agency publishing extensively on social media.

7. So with that in mind, what is the KPI to watch.

So again, I am going to refer back to Waitrose’s 360° degree advert, with a commercial piece, you put spend behind it. And with that, I was looking at the engagement, and it had under 300 shares and about 2k reactions. So if you look proportionally compared to the masses of views it received very low rates of engagement.

So of course, views can be bought with spend in a way , but if its not good content you won’t get the views. Therefore, views aren’t a good measure of success. The real metric is engagement. If you look at how people are engaging with your content, that is organic in a sense, because you can’t force someone to engage with your content. And if people are genuinely engaging positively with it, sharing it… sharing it, that is a much more authentic metric for success.

3 seconds is a view on Facebook which is not a high bar. 10 seconds on Facebook is often talked about is a success, but if you watch a tv programme for 10 seconds… its an abject failure really. So you do really have to look at as well as the engagement, how long are people watching it. Quite often I have to explain to people the difference between Facebook and YouTube to people. Because often, when people want to put a video on Facebook, they often want a 6 minute creatively illustrated content without subtitles. So I then, have to explain that Facebook is very different. With Facebook, you are scrolling through very quickly and essentially, people don’t want to stop on content unless it really compels them. They want to keep moving. Its a real battle for attention. And personally, I don’t think 3 seconds determines if your content was successful or not.

Yeah exactly, Facebook isn’t the platform where you consume long-form content at the moment. It is very short-form, kind of spur of the moment, scrolling; whereas YouTube your scrolling the videos. Its a whole different thing.

Exactly, you are in a completely different mindset. So when I’m on YouTube, I land on a video and you are focused on that video; you have already made that commitment. Facebook is completely different. One minute is a long time for a Facebook video. One and half would be my absolute max for optimum purposes. People kind of look at you and go “What can you say in a minute?!” But the point is, if I am scrolling through Facebook say I’m going to spend 10 minutes, 1 minute of that is quite a large proportion. Especially if you are in for 5 minute bursts. They want to consume and they want to keep moving. So your content has to be all-kill. Its really got to hold people longer. I’m not saying its impossible, but in general, the mindsets of people consuming media are different from platform to platform.

8. Where do you see social media fitting into the marketing mix of the future?

I think I kind of touched on this before, but it is very hard to predict social media. One thing that is hard to argue though is that it is going to grow demographically. If you look at younger people today they are already immersed in social media and a part of their routine. The same was true for newspapers. A lot of people chuck it up to “Oh that is just old people” because it was so entrenched into their routine of consuming media.

But coming back, really from a demographic point of view and the way things have been going, Facebook is just growing at such a phenomenal rate still. By the end of this year, I reckon Facebook will be used by 1/3 of the worlds population. So I think it is fair to say that looking at those trends it is only going to grow, and therefore become even more so a growing part of what you do. I think if we go back into the campaign side of things, you have to make social media a big part of it. That said, people aren’t going to stop watching television adverts any time soon or the advertising in the physical space around us.

Social media is going to continue to be a growing space, and also if you are going to reach out to the young people coming of age, with their own disposable incomes… that is probably where they will spend most of their time.

9. What is the biggest obstacle faced by social media?

As I said before, one of the key things in social media is authenticity and that is difficult to create. Firstly, you need to have really good creatives who really understand the platforms and the audiences. But they also have to have great ideas too to fuse the two. And that… that’s not easy.

That said, even when you have all of these things, creative ideas are creative when executed with an x-factor which will help things to really take off. And in journalism creates content for social and it explodes, an outside factor helps it. For example the Trump video we did above. That exploded in a way! so prior to that, the highest views we’d ever had was 20 million views, but that one received landed nearly 120 million views. I think firstly, because it was a genuinely funny, and the John Lewis Christmas advert had just come out recently and everything really just fell into place, because, overall it wasn’t a super complex ideas for us. But I think what REALLY powered that video was the emotion behind that video that currently can’t be quantified at the moment. It was a shock victory. People didn’t really know what to make of it. And if you remember those days after Trump got elected… Trump supporters absolutely jubilant and people who didn’t support Trump pretty despondent. But from an emotionally charged atmosphere, I think that is what really took off.

That video gave them sort of an emotional outlet because they needed it amongst the period of levity and serious existential questions. So that authenticity is very difficult to create as well as the external factors that you just can’t control.

The one the thing I mentioned quite briefly, was that the consumer has their voice as well now. They can feedback into the mix. So again, going back to the Waitrose ad. I was looking through the comments, which as someone who has to deal a lot with Facebook comments, its always nice to see how someone else manages them. While there was genuinely nice feedback, very quickly, there was a guy who was a fish monger on there pointing out that “actually line fishing can’t be sustainable”. So it turned into quite an intricate debate over the technicalities of sustainable fishing. And you have got to be ready for that. People will be into the feedback and ready to respond to that in an honest way. And if you are getting called out on something your organisation has done that is wrong… you’ve got to put your hands up.

So the flip side to that is that I saw a promo video on Facebook a while back pushing the demo for a video game and the demo wasn’t downloading properly. So what happened was you found people going back into the comments section saying “Don’t bother. It has taken me six hours and I’m not even half way through the download”. Therefore, if its a problem with your product you can guarantee  people will let you know extremely quickly. So yeah, consumers are much more sophisticated now and have a voice therefore if there is any weakness in your product or presentation it will be exploited so you have to be water tight. With loads of brands having Facebook pages now, people will just go on your Facebook page now and say: “I found a dead rat in my ______” while it is quite an extreme example, knowing how to respond is a skill set in itself. If you get it right, great if you get it wrong it will be screen grabbed and shared making the situation far, far worse for you.

Furthering that, brands hiding things has been quite controversial. So I think there are some interesting things around that and a lot of lessons to be learned yet.

You know what… I understand the feeling. There have certainly been Facebook comments where I wanted to just crawl into a box thinking like “Oh god I was this would go away.” But for example, with our comments say at the Mirror most publishers will not actively police or monitor the comments just from a legal standpoint. Because, if you promise to monitor and moderate them, you are responsible for them.

So for me, I am very much on the side of free speech. So if people are criticising us; unless they are being abusive or really nasty we tended not to hide that. So really, it is quite a difficult judgement call- or even if they were criticising what was in the story or what have you. But generally hiding things for embarrassment is not a good idea. People will catch on and call you out for hiding their comments. So if you can, it is better to have an honest dialogue with people, but there are… people can quickly cross the line on social media; with Facebook a little less than Twitter because of your name and pictures tagged to it.

What I have found is that just by responding to people in an honest and measured way is probably the best way to go.

10. So then in terms of newbies in the industry, what is one piece of advice you would give them?

So I think if you are working in any part of the social media industry, this is probably going to sound painfully obvious, but just immerse yourself in social media. But particularly, immerse yourself in the experience that your users/consumers are having. So for example when I joined Mirror, as the Deputy of Social Media, I didn’t use Facebook a lot. I just found it such a claustrophobic space filled with humble bragging and people I met at one time or another, family friends and etc. At the time, that was where our audience was. So rather than cutting through the noise, I just followed a lot of media brands and brands in general, so that helped me to use it regularly because it gave that channel a purpose for me aside of connecting with friends. The genius of the Facebook algorithm is that is just keeps serving you more and more relevant content based on your interests and likes. So for me, its a great platform to provide an understanding of my audience and why or why not they are engaging with my content.

From my point of view that kind of information is invaluable/crucial because I need to know how people are engaging with content. This ensures that when I am writing content I need to keep it in mind. Additionally, by learning the nuances of the content I can sure not only the text is in-line but the format as well. I.e. Facebook Video. 8 to 10 are viewing videos silently. By making it square, it fills the screen. That is the best way to consume media. (No tilting/pinching etch) The same goes for Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Unless you really immerse yourself in those platforms, you won’t ever know and understand the intricacies and nuances of the platforms. Because you can make big inadvertent errors just through ignorant errors can be made in the process.

11. In your opinion, which is the “ad format of the future”?

I think, as I mentioned earlier, video is very much where things are at the moment. But as previously stated, things are very short-form at the moment i.e. 3 seconds is a view 10 seconds is kind of a win in terms of Facebook. You know, most videos are only about a minute long… not much longer but I think we will see Facebook move more towards longer form content and that is what they want to do. So, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight (a kind of satire show in America) they started posted their longer 20 min long videos to Facebook and some of those did phenomenally well; especially during the election with the trump stuff they did. So yeah, I think there will be more of that, and as people get used to having long-form content on social media… that will take some time. Brands are going to have t follow suit to stay relevant. i think you will start to see the evolution of the 1 min video transition to the 2, 3 and 4 min videos with good narratives and creatives. So it will certainly be a more complex and drawn out evolution of the short form video we are seeing at the moment.

Fun Fact

12. Finally, tell us one thing someone would NOT be able to find about you from looking at your social media profiles. 

This is going to sound so… incredibly geeky! So in university… actually let’s take it back to when I was a kid. I have always loved swords and history. I had a fascination with it as a kid so at university I studied Classics; Ancient Worlds, Greek and Latin. I never had the opportunity to take it in primary school, I guess I wasn’t smart enough or something! So with that in mind, I have recently started relearning Greek in my spare time; trying to read it. So while that’s probably a bit grandiose, there were a lot of great things written back then and without any other modern languages… it is fun and keeps me busy in my spare time!

Well then, next time we will have to prepare a little test for you! Until then, that you for coming by, and thank you all for reading/listening!

You have been listening to WeRSM’s 12 Questions Podcast featuring social media consultant Mike Wright! See you again next week!


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