Our Social Selves

Five tips for more effective use of social media



Many of us use social media every day of our lives without even thinking about it, we use it in all sorts of ways – to communicate, to publish, to broadcast, to share, to promote – there are many different ways we use it but what does ‘social’ actually mean to us?

If you follow my blog you’ll no doubt be aware that my overriding passion is retail and in this sector, social media is playing an increasingly important role, way beyond what many dreamt possible. So what is social and what does it mean to be ‘on’ social media?

There are many definitions of ‘social’ but to me it describes a state of being, a type of behaviour; one I like: “relating to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations”.

Many of us, I would suggest, have been guilty at some time or other of liking or retweeting an article almost without thinking, certainly not taking the time to actually read it (yes I count myself in that number and have sworn never to do it again). In our haste we miss the point of social media, we broadcast without thinking.

” Generosity of spirit is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your audience”

I’ve learnt an awful lot about social media after more than 6 years on twitter and it seems to me that there is protocol to be followed if we are to make the most of our social (media) lives; I’ve listed my personal favourites below, the last of which may be surprising:


  1. Be generous

This means being generous with your thoughts, doesn’t equate to having to agree even though a retweet can be interpreted as a sign of endorsement. Generosity of spirit is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your audience;

  1. Be engaging

It’s been said many time before but worth repeating; always try to add value through opinion, thoughts, ideas or suggestions. Social media is awash with benign, nebulous and sometimes downright crass statements that it is often rewarding to read something which adds real value;

  1. Be personable

By this I mean, be nice; terrible word but in this context it accurately describes how our persona, especially if it is our professional persona, should be portrayed. Social media should always be a friendly, safe environment in which to express and share our thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution;

  1. Be grateful

So it follows that we should be grateful – and that means showing it – to others who engage with us and share our thoughts with their audience.

  1. Be provocative

This may at first appear contradictory with the above however it’s really just an extension of adding and creating value. No one wants to hear the same old same old, being provocative for me means stimulating debate by looking at something from a new, different dimension. Social media is all about debate, learning, finding out so go on, don’t be afraid to challenge perceived wisdom – just do it in a friendly, positive way.

Above all – social is for sharing, whether it be thoughts, content, blogs – such as this one, pictures, video, news – the list goes on. The way in which we conduct ourselves on social defines us.

Finally, if you thought none of this really matters, consider this; according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 77% of companies use social media to identify candidates for positions.

Think twice before firing off that Friday night tweet from the pub!



Andrew Busby is ranked 25th most influential UK retail twitter account and founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board


More than just a brand


If you follow retail and / or technology, it will not have escaped you that earlier this month, Apple reopened its store on London’s Regent Street. I say store but perhaps the term doesn’t quite do it justice. Rather than seeing it prior to opening, devoid of any customers, I went along a few days afterwards to see what all the fuss was about – armed naturally with my (preferred) Samsung android phone.

First, I should say that I’m not an Apple fan, I just have a natural aversion to the brand; but that doesn’t prevent me from admiring what the computer company has achieved. And Regent Street is the embodiment of that.

What struck me first was not the fabric of the building nor the sheer numbers of people in the store – rather it was what they were doing, or more accurately not doing – which caught my attention. It was more like some sort of convention or networking event. People were standing, sitting, casting their eyes over the latest iPhone, chatting informally with store staff but most of all they seemed to simply enjoy being there.

And then it dawned on me; this wasn’t a shop at all. Yes you could make purchases and carry goods away with you but this was something more, much more than an ordinary store – this was a shrine, a mecca – a cathedral to all things Apple!

OK, so the trees and the bare tables might not be to everyone’s taste and the stools at one end may remind us of primary school as opposed to being an environment in which to part with our hard earned cash but none of this seemed to detract for the faithful.

“Apple understand their Why, they understand why they are in business, they understand what they stand for and the new Regents Street store oozes their Why”

This was where they came to gaze, to enquire, to seek help, to handle, to share, to admire – to be amongst like minded people – this was where people came to honour and revere the brand. Even the layout could be likened to a religious place with tall pillars either side, seating by which to simply come and sit and contemplate and the huge screen at one end admirably mimicked the high alter, drawing in the masses.

As the much admired author and TED speaker Simon Sinek put it in his book ‘Start With Why’, Apple understand their Why, they understand why they are in business, they understand what they stand for and the new Regents Street store oozes their Why.

For a confirmed android user it was all pretty amazing but the message behind it is very clear. Retail brands now more than ever before need to create an experience if people are to visit their stores in numbers again and again. Millennials seek experiences as opposed to simply shopping. They want to be inspired. They want their lives to be enriched. They seek added value in some way or other.

Like it or not, Apple delivers this – and that is why the store should attract many more people – to gaze and simply wonder at what a great in-store experience really looks and feels like.

Andrew Busby is founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board

Marmitegate – PR gold


According to Unilever CFO Graeme Pitkethly, the price spat this week between Unilever and Tesco has been resolved; for now that maybe true but to think that this will be the last time we witness a supplier and a retailer come to blows over pricing would be to kid ourselves. The dye has been cast.

In a nutshell, Unilever wished to pass on a seemingly arbitrary 10% price hike in the cost of its products to the retailers as a direct result of the weakened pound. This of course was to ignore the fact that prices weren’t similarly reduced when the pound was strong (a lesson learnt from the oil companies perhaps?)

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, ex Unilever Exec of course, wasn’t having any of this and delisted many Unilever products from Tesco online and stocks in store were allowed to dwindle. The stand-off lasted several days but happily, unlike Govia and the RMT, it was resolved before the nation really did come to a standstill, starved of Marmite and PG Tips.

But of course nothing is quite as it appears. Tesco is clearly in a different place today than it was two years ago when Dave Lewis took over at the helm. The brand was toxic and what Lewis realised was that this urgently needed repairing if Tesco were to recover ground in the face of the relentless march of the discounters. Unilever was a heaven sent opportunity.

In a recent interview with retail business consultants PatelMiller, that most respected of retail analysts, Richard Hyman said this;

“The single most important thing that they (retailers) need to do, is to strengthen their brand relationship with their customers”

In this latest dispute with Unilever, it would appear that Lewis has taken this to heart. Whilst the pricing issue was clearly fundamental and needed addressing, by far the most important aspect for Tesco and Lewis was the PR opportunity it presented. Whilst many consumers will know of Unilever, they may not be as likely to know all their brands, much less care. What they care about is the availability of their favourite products – and in the face of a corporate bully, Tesco has stood up for the little man; who would have thought it just two short years ago – Tesco – champion of the consumer?

As has been said many times elsewhere, brands are best.


Andrew Busby is a retail specialist, founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board