The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Social Media That Is Actually Social …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with social media.

Actually I should rephrase that …

For a long time I’ve had a problem with people who claim social media is all that matters.

Part of it is because too many companies have approached it as free media.

Part of it is because too many agencies have approached it like it’s a magazine.

Part of it is because ultimately, everything can be social, not just things on certain platforms.

And that’s why, for all the hype it gets, the amount of social media campaigns that have actually been truly social [as in, gained traction and awareness beyond their core audience eco-system] is relatively small.

Please note I’ve said ‘campaigns’, not one-off tweets … which, apart from the fact the idea of a ‘campaign’ on social is kind of an oxymoron … makes it even smaller.

And then if you add ‘successful’ to that group of criteria, it gets even smaller … with arguably only Ice Bucket Challenge and #MeToo being worthy of acclaim, which, let’s not forget, were both causes dedicated to righting human wrongs.

Which is why I have fallen in love with this social media campaign from Doncaster County Council for naming their 2 new grit-spreading trucks.

Please read it.

Read all of it.

I know it’s super-long but I guarantee you will love it.

Every single line and suggestion.

For me, it’s single-handedly the best social media campaign of 2017.

No, seriously … because a conversation from Doncaster County Council about their Road Gritters achieved over seven million impressions in 48 hours.

Seven. Bloody. Million.

I love this campaign for so, so many reasons.

I love that they treated their audience with a brain.

“We would like your name suggestions for two of our new gritting vehicles, please. Keep em clean and be original – we’d prefer not to spend the next few days trawling through responses of Gritty McGritface and Gary Gritter. 🙄”

I love that the people running it were empowered to respond to negative comments with wit and focus rather than – as is the norm – to back down and beg for forgiveness when someone challenges them.

“For those who say the council shouldn’t be wasting their money on this, we say getting the community interested and engaged in how their town runs is a good thing”

I love there mischief and humor with lines including …

“When you look at your grandchildren, what side of history do you want to tell them you were on? #DoncasterGrittingWorldCup”

But most of all, I love that one of the winning names was …

Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney

… proving there is justice in the World.

Yet again, we see a campaign from an organisation that doesn’t have ‘social media experts’ dictating their approach being more successful than the output of an entire industry who claim to be the most informed people in their field.


Well, as much as I have met some truly brilliant social media strategists in my time, the fact is the vast majority fail because they forget the importance of understanding one key element in creating a social media campaign.


Look, it’s not just the social media industry that is making this mistake, everyone in communication is … preferring to rely on data than some good, old-fashioned, get-in-the-weeds exploration and discovery.

This is not some anti-data rant, it’s just in our quest to drive speed and efficiencies, we are walking away from understanding the texture that makes any data worthwhile … the stuff that helps you develop ideas that feels it comes from the culture rather than an observer of it.

The Doncaster County Council campaign should serve as a reminder everyone about how to make great comms.

In these days where it seems the emphasis is on the platform, the reality is we’re all still trying to connect with humans so spending time to really understand how they think and do stuff is still the key to making ideas that makes a difference.

Not purely in terms of optimizating effectiveness, but in terms of how people feel, think and act.

You know, the stuff that makes sustainable differences to companies rather than this short-termism we have all fallen victims to because to quote John Le Carre, a desk is a dangerous place to view the World..

19 Comments so far
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Great post and love “Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney”.

Hope Otis had a great day.

Comment by Pete

He did mate, thanks.

Though despite having a [fireman themed] party with his mates, an ice-cream cake and a lot of love – which, to be fair, he absolutely adored – this was his highlight:

Comment by Rob

so otis prefers the things only he can enjoy?
definitely your son. thank fuck hes saved by jills genes.
glad he had a fucking great day.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s better campaign management than I’ve seen from any digital agency.

Comment by DH

Yep. Though I am sure I will get told I’m wrong – and maybe I am – but having a social media campaign actually roll out into the mainstream social dialogue [note: dialogue, not just awareness] is surely a sign of success … despite some probably then going on to claim it doesn’t matter as they weren’t the people they were trying to engage or something. Ignoring the fact social means there are no bloody boundaries in the first place.

Comment by Rob

i hate agreeing with campbell. stop it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Having been to Doncaster, this might be the best thing that ever happened there.

Comment by DH

why the fuck did you go there? no one goes there if they dont have to. freak.

Comment by andy@cynic

A cousin I’d never met. Who I’ll never meet again.

Comment by DH

I wonder if they feel the same way.

Comment by George

so these digital agency fucks claim to be able to do everything but the stuff that has captured the worlds attention has absolutely fuck all to do with them. why the fuck is no one calling them out on this? you dont count campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thanks. Nice to know.

Comment by Rob

This is incredibly appropriate to something I am working on right now. Thank you Robert, I will be spreading this around the company, though I fear I won’t achieve the same level of success as Doncaster Council.

Comment by George

Good post, good campaign. I’d just add one observation that you hint at but don’t make explicit and that is their smartness in asking the key question that social media strategists rarely do. Namely, what could possibly go wrong?

And having identified it, they make it clear to their audience that they’re aware of it and, as you say, treat them like humans.

If memory serves me correctly, the whole thread contained virtually no ischief makers. Job done.

Comment by John

Are you complimenting me?

Not just what I’ve written but what I highlighted?

Who are you?

And yes, you’re right … there was hardly any mischief and when there was, they dealt with it clearly and cleanly and didn’t pander because they not only expressed their ‘views’ upfront, they had clear reasons to defend it when it was pushed. And they did it without ever slipping into the corporate monotone of the patronize. Epic.

Comment by Rob

I’m a nobody failure so you should discount the importance of the compliment.

Also, I have a nagging doubt that maybe this was just the social media guy or gal acting on their own and that if it had gone through proper channels, it might have been less good.

Comment by John

Yes, I was thinking that too, but it also means they know what they’re doing which is already better than many higher paid ‘experts’ in ivory towers.

Comment by Rob

‘Garridge”. Love it. Even after all these years, you just can’t take Nottingham out of the boy. And a belated HB to Otis, too.

Comment by Ian Gee

[…] might be counter-intuitive, but as the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Doncaster County Council grit machine campaign showed, sometimes the most sensible thing we can do to create change is to embark on utter […]

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