Nasty Twitter tactics to watch out for

By Neil Patrick

I’m on Twitter daily, so I get to observe in sometimes gory detail how various folk use and abuse it. And lately I've noticed a nasty and cynical tactic getting more prevalent.

It’s the latest incarnation of what I call “binge and purge”.

It’s easy to spot when a Twitter account is doing this. When they follow you, scroll down their time line and you'll see how many people they followed at the same time they followed you. Binge and purgers will typically follow accounts en masse. Several hundred a day. Day after day. I’m sorry to tell you that despite following you, they are not interested in you and what you think or have to say. They just want to get as many people as possible to follow them back.

They have naively concluded that having a zillion followers trumps everything else. Big mistake.

It’s a bit like having a rather lame party or event to organise for 100 people and knowing that few people will really want to come. So you send out 1,000 invitations, because if you only sent 100, only 10 people would actually show up.

If you want to go to a lame party, be my guest.

The binge and purgers’ error is that they see celebrities and famous people as their role models.

As I talked about here, there’s a mass of celebrities and other famous people who follow very few people on Twitter. But because of their high public profile, they don’t actually need to do very much to get a lot of followers on any social media platform. They don’t really engage; they just tweet all about their daily lives. And their followers are essentially engaging in a form of voyeurism. It’s a lucrative formula which is exploited by thousands of gossip and celebrity magazines and websites all over the world.

And whilst I think this is a completed wasted opportunity, I get it. They see it as a low cost and easy way to help keep their face out there.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. They are social media role models for no-one.

But sadly, many ‘normal’ organisations and people who ought to know better, have taken this non-typical and flawed model and assumed that social media success is about having a zillion followers, whilst following as few people as possible. I recently read a post which asserted that unless a Twitter account had 10 followers for every person they followed, it was not worthy of being followed.

This is absolute nonsense.


Because it makes a second flawed assumption that social media is like old media. In other words, a newspaper which has a higher circulation deserves to be paid more for its advertising space than one with a lower circulation. In old media this was more or less true. In social media, it’s also complete nonsense.


Because social media is about relationships and people, not old school advertising. It’s active not passive. It’s real time not scheduled. It is collaborative. And it is not, repeat NOT about me, me, me. It’s about US, US ,US.

It’s not an advertising vehicle.

It’s a place where we can grow our networks of friends, learn from each other, get feedback from our customers, share information, build communities, watch our rivals, help our friends and best of all sometimes just chew the fat…together.

Binge and purgers neither desire nor find any of this. Because they are on an ego trip.

Goodwill not reach is the measure of online influence - unless you are using social media in completely the wrong way. And you do not acquire goodwill by dumping your followers within a day or two of them following you back. It just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

It’s the industrialisation of social media. A cynical and exploitative attitude where connections (that’s you and me) are viewed as raw material. And this mechanical approach kills the very thing every genuine decent person or organisation wants; real relationships, based on trust and mutual goodwill.

I can only see this cynical, exploitative and idiotic trend continuing. But all is not lost. Just keep an eye in your new followers for a few days and watch which ones have quickly unfollowed you. There’s your proof they are a binge and purger. Dump them immediately.

And don’t get sucked in to the mythology that you can’t be awesome unless you have a zillion followers.

Why you shouldn’t follow famous people on social media

By Neil Patrick

I observed an interesting thing this morning on Twitter. I found myself looking at a few verified Twitter accounts. In case you don't know, these are the profiles with a little blue dot on them and a white tick inside it.

Apparently Twitter allocate these at their discretion to the accounts of well known people so that we know that this is their real Twitter account not a faker or imposter trying to hijack their fame.

Actually you don’t have to be especially famous to get this. If you’re a broadcaster, actor, newspaper journalist, sports personality, you’ll probably have one.

But the little white tick is not a quality or merit badge. It just tells us that the person is well known and they are who they say they are.

It doesn’t mean they are worth following on social media.

A famous person yesterday (possibly)

When I looked at a dozen or so of these accounts, I spotted a few things they all had in common:
  • They have many, many more followers than people they follow. This tells me they are not interested in what anyone else has to say. It doesn’t tell us that they are actually saying anything worthwhile. 
  • They rarely share or comment on anyone else’s tweets. In other words, they are not interested in anyone else or engaging with others. 
  • Their tweets are all about the boring details of what they are doing and/or how fabulous their life is. Hello? We don’t care (except for the minority of stalking obsessives that is) 

When I look at the people on social media who I follow and am interested in, almost none of them are verified accounts. They may have less than a hundred followers or several hundred thousand. But these are the truly fabulous people. The people who provide us with things that are interesting, valuable and helpful.

These people understand that we must give to receive. That no-one cares about the details of their day to day lives. That social media, just like real life is a two way street.

These people enrich my life every day. When they engage with me, they make me feel good. They inform and challenge me. They show me that they care about others more than themselves. That’s why I like them and that’s why I follow them.

Whether their Twitter profile has a little white tick or not.

The Best Advice I Received for Blogging on LinkedIn Pulse

By Karthik Rajan

The month was August, the year 2014. I saw a small icon show up on my LinkedIn profile. It was an icon for a pen – an icon that gave me the gateway to pepper the digital space. When I decided to take the plunge, I shared with my mother that I planned to blog. She gave it a quick thought and said, “Son, one advice – do not advise.”

The assuredness of her voice on the phone threw me out of balance. I asked her, “Can you elaborate more?” She added with a smile, ”No matter which part of the world and irrespective of language, when given a pen and paper, people have a proclivity to become authority figures on do this and do not do this.” She added, “Just share your experiences, trigger the reader's curiosity and let the audience draw their own conclusions, respect them as individuals and they will in turn respect you.”

Her advice made me think. How much do I remember from instructional classroom work vs. the stories outside of it? The childhood shenanigans and bonding with friends and family seem to be the memories without expiry date. On the other hand, concepts taught came a distant second. Reflecting on my own experience reference points, I saw myself nodding in agreement with her advice. Many of us think, few do. On this activity, I decided to act. The best way to describe it is through William Wordsworth’s words - “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” 


My experiences in the last 9 months gave me some things to ponder.

What I learnt about easy reads vs. disciplined moments

Many blogs are easy reads, packed with content like top 10 lists (listicles as my friend Dustin McKissen affectionately calls them). They have an ability to reach large audiences, but what about recall rates in the long term? On the other hand, sharing experiences – it takes a disciplined moment to get hooked on, a little while to make inferences but the memories are valuable. Emotional writing laced with context, is worthwhile in the long run. Without realizing, I was picking sides on the long-term metric (KPI) for thoughts on the digital space: Blending in to be forgotten or standing out to be remembered.

What I learnt about the commonalities between leadership and blogging

Leaders are endowed with power to take, but great leaders eschew the trappings of position but enhance the might of relationships. As a blog writer, we do stand on stage near a lectern, as scary as it may seem, just like leaders we have a choice to be pedestrian or great. It is very tempting to lecture (there is a time and a place for that) but it takes conscious choice to do the less obvious – reflect back the power of importance bestowed upon the blogger by the reader.

In a few meaningful words

My Mother’s timing of advice was impeccable; it did help me orient my blogs. The outpouring of responses from you all has been fantastic. A heartfelt thank you for the reads, likes and more importantly the comments, emails and phone calls. Just the learning from those conversations are a few blog posts. More importantly, I have learnt a lot about you. There are many bonds I have built. I really appreciate the relationships and memories.

Sharing experience, before your first blog

For those of you on the cusp of that very first blog, I understand the fear of the trolls, the unknown and many more knots in your stomach. The reality is that there is an army of souls- nudging you with words of encouragement, leaning in with thoughtful commentary that will expand your horizons and sharing with you their most precious - time.

If my experience is anything to go by, I am inspired to share - Just do it. When you take that plunge, I look forward to reading your first blog. Just let me know.

Ed: This post is reproduced with the full consent of the author. I'd like to thank  Karthik for his kindness in allowing me to share it here.

Why we shouldn’t pay to listen to gurus

By Neil Patrick

Yes I know what the title of my blog is.

I am not an expert, thought leader, influencer, innovator, disrupter or hacker. I am just a bloke in Cardiff with a blog where I record and share my thoughts about the world of work and business.

Understandably though, a few folk have challenged me because of the title of this blog and my Twitter handle. I’m okay with that. And my answer is this:

Richard Branson isn’t a Virgin. Probably.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about why I think paying to hear a few minutes of anyone's opinions and ideas is not something they should charge for or we should pay for.

Yet this idea has spawned a huge industry which at least at the edges has become devoid of value.

It was my mailbox which led me to write this post. In my emails today was yet another “invitation”. It was a big local business event being advertised with numerous “expert” speakers who in exchange for some of my money would apparently inspire, inform and motivate me to become a success. By attending, I could be transformed!


Now I am the first to admit I don’t know everything. I never did and never will. And the experience, ideas and knowledge of others is something I place great value on. So I network widely AND closely. I read a great deal. I write almost as much. I consume quite a few TEDx talks. I receive and try to answer numerous emails and messages every day. I have often very long discussions with people all around the world via Skype. I get involved in LinkedIn discussions. I try and help others in any way I can.

Hopefully we all benefit. If someone wants my opinion on something, they can have it. For free.

I don’t work for anyone for free. But if you want a few minutes of my time or even a couple of hours and I think I can help, I will. You’re more than welcome. No charge.

I often do talks at business schools, forums and conferences. And these are nearly always completely unpaid. It’s my investment in my profile and reputation not my cashcow.

Yet I believe that a 30 minute chat with someone delivers more value to us both than if we listen to each other’s conference spiels. Whilst any one of us can get insight and inspiration from learning about someone else’s experience, I think it is fairly unlikely we will get it from a business conference speech.

Here in the UK, we have just finished the pains of the political party conference season. During this, I watched David Cameron deliver his speech to the Conservative party conference, to rapturous applause.

Depending on your politics, and media preferences, Dave’s speech was either a triumph or a catastrophe. His carefully scripted words may have thrilled or appalled you.

But they almost certainly didn’t transform you or your future. They didn’t make you a better person than you were before you heard his speech. He didn’t learn anything about you and you learned little more about him. Neither of you increased your goodwill towards each other.

Conference speeches are an extension of the cult of personality which is why politicians love them and take them so seriously.

Critically they are one way communication. The speaker speaks and the audience listens – if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, they heckle. If you are very unlucky, they may as the HR boss of Air France discovered this week, rip the shirt from your back.

But rarely does the communication of valuable know-how happen via the medium of a conference speech.

This is understandable because as any smart person in business knows, it’s more or less impossible to share valuable ideas in depth with any audience, unless that audience shares a common set of problems and the communication vehicle is a two way dialogue.

Unless the speaker knows exactly what your problems are and exactly how they can be solved, it is frankly impossible and unrealistic for anything of true value to every member of the audience to be communicated.

And the bigger and more diverse a conference audience is, the more likely it is that this communication breakdown will occur.

You simply cannot communicate transformations for people through the vehicle of a conference speech. Because you cannot possibly know what each person’s unique needs really are.

This is why I will continue to network closely. Continue to have meaningful conversations with people. Continue to try and help people any way I can. And continue to engage with people with no money changing hands.

And it’s why I will not be buying a ticket for this conference or probably any other soon.

I have more important people to spend my time with. Like you.

Is social media a bubble and what does that mean for us?

By Neil Patrick

I love social media. But I’m worried it's becoming a bubble. Over the last couple of years, it’s been displaying some typical features of bubble-like behaviour.

We’re witnessing endless expansion of the main platforms. A rush of investor cash into ‘the next Facebook’. Irrational IPO valuations. A sense that we must get in or miss out. The rise of exploiters and gamification. Rising quantity but falling quality of content. And an ever rising number of scammers, fakers and fraudsters.

Gary Sharpe posted his take on this phenomenon the other day:

The evils of the social media scene have made the networks places of corruption, vice and crime. The levels of fraud, returns-on-incompetence, digital de-reputation, self-servicing, rip offs, anti-knowledge, time wasting, money-down-the-draining, preying on the weak/naive/desperate, copy-cats, liars, cheats and ill-informers has reached epic proportions.

Gary never minces his words!

I track stock market sentiments about social media platforms and there’s some definite nervousness showing especially around Twitter:

Only one platform, Facebook has managed to deliver the sort of revenue growth that investors expect to see. All the other platforms are struggling to meet this key objective.

Another of my respected online friends, Jesse Colombo, Forbes columnist, analyst, and bubble expert had this to say about LinkedIn way back in 2012: 

The general public, in my view, still has irrationally high hopes for the commercial success of social media companies and LinkedIn, one of the last vestiges of the social media dream, is expected by many to carry the torch for the sector going forward. These irrationally high hopes can certainly be seen in LinkedIn's astronomical 1,000 P/E ratio (source), which is far too rich even when taking into consideration the company's healthy expected 5-yearearnings growth rate of 64.69%. Richly-valued growth stocks, such as LinkedIn, have a strong tendency of plunging if there is even a slight disappointment in revenue and earnings growth.

Jesse’s cautiousness about Linkedin has proved to be well founded. Just look at the stock value since he wrote this in 2012:

Now I am assuming that you are neither an investor, nor a shareholder in social media.

But you are probably a user.

And if your use of social media has any sort of connection to your business or career this stuff matters.

So this post is about my take on what I see ahead and what we as users should do about it to protect our vested interests.

The outlook

First I see some consolidation ahead as undercapitalised platforms get acquired by others who see potential synergies arising from such acquisitions. The struggling share valuations make such acquisitions more and more likely. The worst case scenario is an event triggering total collapse of investor confidence in the sector. If you think that’s unlikely, think Lehman Brothers.

The implications

Weak revenue and profit growth is the principal reason for growing investor disillusionment with social media firms. This means that we can fully expect to see a steady rise in things we as users mostly don’t like – limited free access, more paid-for elements, more demands for personal data to access content and apps, more intrusive advertising, higher quantities of junk content.

More intrusive data capture

All data has value. And when you're a social media platform owner you have bucketloads of it. Better still you acquire it more or less for free. And you can secure pretty much unlimited rights over what you do with it - provided you describe these rights within a long and legally dense set of user terms and conditions which no-one ever reads, yet still clicks the “I agree” button.

More noise

We are already at saturation point. The sheer volume of content pumped daily into my social media channels is completely beyond my capacity to consume any but a truly tiny fraction of it. All our capacities to consume media are finite. But the supply is rising exponentially. The only possible mathematical outcome is a continual fall in the overall level of media consumption as a share of what’s produced. In other words, if you produce online content, you can only expect your overall consumption levels to fall in future.

What to do about it

So against this backdrop, there seem to me to be several sensible actions to take if any of your career or business interests are connected with social media:

Build real communities that share your beliefs

Having a million Facebook likes, a hundred thousand Twitter followers and 10,000 Linkedin connections, is going to become less and less valuable, unless they are a truly connected audience that has active goodwill towards you.

Earn your goodwill by being kind to your online friends

Goodwill isn’t created by people being so amazed at your profile stats, that they are wowed into following or liking you. Goodwill is created by showing people you care about them.

Focus on quality over quantity

The exponential growth of content and the finite capacity of people to consume it, means that content quality will become increasingly important.

Build trust

We don’t create trust by slick presentation, or shouting about how great we are, or bludgeoning people into submission with sales messages. We create trust by our actions that show we care about the people we are connected with. And by being willing to help them, whilst asking for nothing in return.

Own your own media

Social media platform owners have all recognised that crowdsourced content is a fabulous (free) source of assets for their businesses. By putting our work onto Facebook or Linkedin, we are surrendering our ownership of that media and placing our fate in their hands. And if you have any sort of online content, it’s essential that you own its domain. In other words “Don’t build your house on rented land.”

I’m not saying don’t post on Linkedin or Facebook, I’m just saying that if that’s all you do you cannot realistically expect to see value growth from these activities in future. The only sensible decision is not to have all your eggs in someone else’s basket(s).

Expect change - permanently

It’s easy to forget that social media has already had a string of casualties in its brief period of existence. Remember MySpace? Friends Reunited?

I believe that social media platforms have lifecycles. But because the pace of tech change is now so rapid and mature platforms so slow to change (Facebook is apparently working on introducing a ‘major innovation’ - a dislike button), I think there will be more casualties sooner than we might think.

When we try and predict the future, we are almost certain to be wrong. But I hope these observations are at least helpful in framing your own expectations and actions in the coming months and years.

I would love to hear your reactions to these forecasts!