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Social Media: The Importance of Being Aware

Social Media Officer, Hayley Devlin, discusses the importance of awareness days/weeks/months.

As a cancer charity, we see awareness days a lot. October, famously, is for Breast Cancer Awareness. In January, we have Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and in June it’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week. In November, it’s a triple whammy: Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Mouth Cancer Action Month and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Here’s an example of a Facebook post we ran for Lung Cancer Awareness Month: 


Our Social content calendar features a whole host of ‘awareness’ days and they’re not always cancer related. There’s Deaf Awareness Week in May, Random Act of Kindness day in February and (our personal favourite) World Emoji Day in July.

But why tie in some of these seemingly frivolous days with our content? Shouldn’t we be posting about different cancer types all the time anyway?

Social media is, essentially, just a big conversation. It’s a loud and busy one, and it’s easy for your voice to get lost in the crowd. Awareness days, weeks and months are great because they usually trend, making the conversations visible to people who might have otherwise missed it. As social gets more saturated, reaching new audiences organically (without any spend) is becoming increasingly difficult. The #AwarenessDays are great, because they’re a conversation that lots of people are already having, and present us with the opportunity to add in our two cents, reaching new people along the way.

Of course, cancer awareness days/weeks/months are particularly important to us. They give us an excellent springboard to create content we know will not only be relevant, but that people are also looking for. One of our top performing posts of the year came from Cervical Cancer Prevention Week in January. It had a staggering organic reach of 362,319, was shared 2,048 times and earned 5,115 likes. To put that into context, our top performing post this year was our tribute to Caroline Aherne. It had an organic reach of 549,909 people and earned 6,554 likes. It was also a video, which we know the Facebook algorithm still favours, so the fact that our cervical cancer awareness post did so well is a testament to how important they are. 

Here’s an example of a Cervical Cancer Prevention Week post:


On top of allowing us to showcase our cancer information and support services, the more ‘fun’ days are a chance for us to think more creatively. They give us the opportunity to showcase Macmillan using an angle we may not normally go for. For #WorldEmojiDay, we created a timeline out of emojis to help show how we’ve grown as an organisation since our beginnings. The World Emoji Day tweet had 38,477 impressions, which is more than double our average (average of about 13,000).

Our World Emoji Day Tweet:


On #WorldKindnessDay, we used a quote from the Not Alone Campaign and a tip from The Source to encourage people to share their own tips on the platform. We used #WorldHelloDay to introduce some of the experts we have on the Online Community. We’re always on the lookout for new awareness days to consider for our content planning.

Mind you, I don’t see us posting about International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day at any point soon!

To find out more about our awareness days/weeks/months, follow our Facebook and Twitter social media channels.


Periscope and Facebook Live logos

Live video: Experience the world through someone else’s eyes

In this post, Bernard Muscat, Senior Social Media Officer at Macmillan, aims to demystify live video, identify key live-streaming platforms and provide best practice tips for creating engaging live content.

We are seeing a large increase in live video content on social media.  By tuning in to live video, users can experience the world through someone else’s eyes. For example, you could be at home in the UK and watch live events from the streets of New York City, Bangkok, or Melbourne, if someone is holding up their device and live-steaming.  Users watching the live video are able to follow live, respond and interact with the live content.

Read more +

R.I.P Twitter?

Social Media Manager, Carol Naylor, talks about Twitter’s proposed character limit change. Is Jack Dorsey set to ruin the clarity of our 140-character lives? Or is this a change that we will slowly grow to love?

I heard it on Whatsapp first; one of my team woke up to the news and posted it to the group chat we all share.

Image showing Whatsapp conversation between Hayley, Carol and Alice. Text reads, Hayley - According to the news, the boss of Twitter has 'dropped his biggest hint yet', that the platform is going to drop its 140 character limit (broken heart emoji_ Carol - R.I.P Twitter... Alice - (crying face emoji)

I’m really not a morning person but that certainly woke me up. We’ve all heard plenty of rumours like this before but figured that even Twitter execs would ultimately recognise what made their service so valuable to us. Apparently not.

This is what Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter (@jack) had to say:

Jack Dorsey's tweet

I checked the comments – unsurprisingly there were loads but I could only find one person who approved. So what on earth would lead Twitter to think this was a good idea?

Let’s think it through:

Competing with “the other social media network”
Facebook currently has about three times as many users as Twitter [1]. So clearly it’s the platform to beat. Consequently lots of Twitter’s recent updates have been intended to match features in Facebook. Often this has been at the expense of Twitter’s own culture. Changing their favourite star to a heart symbol brings it a bit closer to Facebook’s ‘like’, even though it totally ignored the way that many tweeters were using the feature – as a bookmark or acknowledgement rather than an endorsement.

And why change your service to be more like the competition when Facebook is already so good at being Facebook?

Greater depth of conversation
It’s true we’ve all complained about the restrictions of 140 characters in the past. And, as Jack Dorsey pointed out, it wasn’t actually an original feature, only being introduced to cater for tweets being made via SMS (which was popular back in the mid/late noughties, remember?). So I can understand the logic here.

But the problem is that we’ve got the hang of it now and we rather like it. In fact we’re quite proud of how clever you can be in only 140 characters. It’s like digital Haiku, and, given consumers’ ever-decreasing attention spans, it’s very appealing. Changing the character limit now is the equivalent of making everyone learn Cantonese in order to post and, once we’ve all mastered it, saying “No, just kidding you can use English”.

Keeping hold of users and content
About a third of all website traffic [2] is referred from Social Media posts. Facebook is the top source in this respect, but Twitter bobs about in the top five. Think about that – you’ve got 21% [1] of all internet users signed up to your service but mostly they just use it as a jumping off point to other web sites. That’s gotta sting a bit. No wonder there’s so much confusion over Twitter’s business plan and how it’s supposed to generate revenue. Facebook doesn’t have quite such a problem and even they’re trying harder to hang on to users with the introduction of locally hosted content like Instant Articles.

Searchable text
This is understandable. At present anyone wanting to exceed the 140 character limit on Twitter has to embed their content in an image to get around it. There are even online services to help you do this. And some of them look pretty cool.

Example of creative way of putting text into Twitter image

However, since most search engines don’t use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), all this wisdom is invisible to searchers.

Lessons from the direct message (DM) limit change
There’s a precedent. Limits on Twitter’s direct messages were increased to 10,000 characters last year – there were no riots, reports of pestilence or other manifestations of the apocalypse (let’s leave flooding out of it for now). In fact this has been really useful for Macmillan by allowing us to offer more detailed support to people affected by cancer. However, that’s largely because DMs are private and we can deal with confidential issues properly without having to leave the platform.

Is there a demand?
Having said that users don’t want this, there’s probably a small contingent that does. We don’t know much about how this proposed change might be implemented but it’s possible that Twitter will adopt Facebook’s technique of truncating a post after a few hundred characters and adding a link to “more”. It’ll require a culture change amongst users but it might still be possible to scroll through headings and just expand content that looks interesting. But, as marketers get the hang of it, how long before tweets just become a succession of click-bait headings? For example, “This woman was cynical about Twitter 140-character limit – you won’t believe what happened next!!!!”

Without being a mind-reader, those are all the reasons I can dream up in favour of an increased character limit. It wasn’t so hard to think of all the reasons why it would be bad idea:

Loss of immediacy
For most Tweeters the service is primarily a news source. When a news story breaks we want to know what’s happening and we want to know now. When the BBC reported the death of David Bowie it took them over an hour to get more than a sentence online about it. So I took to Twitter to get more information in the meantime – what kind of cancer was it? What was his ex-wife going to do on Big Brother? Is his son Duncan the one who was christened ‘Zowie’? And I got some of my answers just scanning down my newsfeed. Obviously when the public become the news reporters some errors or agendas will creep in, but that’s not a big problem when you can scan a whole range of tweets to get a general overview. How easy will that be when you have to read through a 10,000 character post to get the information? Even using the “more” link approach there’s no guarantee that you’d see important information first. “Above the fold” is still just jargon to most people online.

The dangers of a walled garden
This is connected to the idea of keeping as much content as possible on your platform – why would users want to go elsewhere and see other peoples’ advertising if you provide everything they need? This worked well for Internet service providers (ISPs) like AOL and Compuserve in the nineties – many of their users would refer to their services as “the Internet” not realising that it was only a small part. It got picked up by Rupert Murdoch and Fox in the early noughties as a political tool – it’s very powerful to be the sole source of news for some demographics. That worked okay for them offline but online users had become more sophisticated and didn’t like being herded. Despite that, both Facebook and Twitter seem to be favouring this tactic; it’ll be interesting to see if their subscribers are happy about that.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Twitter have created a very useful demand online and have been fulfilling it successfully since 2006. It’s not longer a unique service but they still dominate the micro-blogging landscape. Why abandon something that is so fundamental to their offer?

That leads on to the next danger. If Twitter don’t want to cater exclusively for a short-form audience, then someone will. It’s no coincidence that within 24 hours of Jack Dorsey’s announcement, social media channels (especially Twitter) were buzzing with talk about Peach, a new iOS-only app from the founder of Vine that also functions like a walled garden, but is nevertheless being hailed as a challenger to Twitter. No one can tell yet whether it really is a giant-killer, or will go the way of Ello, but there’s always another app ready to step up if it fails.

So I’m not going to give up on Twitter yet but take heed guys, I’m signing up to Peach ….just in case*.

(* – As soon as it comes out for Androids obvs)

[1] http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms-2/
[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/02/03/social-media-now-drives-31-of-all-referral-traffic/

Illustration of a crowd of people holding a sign that reads 'For Sale 1,000,000 likes'.

Why you shouldn’t use auto-follow apps on Twitter

We’re learning a social lesson this week! Senior Social Media Officer, Bernard Muscat, uncovers the mystery of all those misplaced likes.

At Macmillan we don’t use auto-follow apps, but there are apps that can be linked to your Twitter account, that automatically follow back anyone who follows you. There are also dodgy organisations called click farms. They employ dozens of people who work day and night (for very little money), to create fake social media accounts that boost the following of other accounts. Read more about this or watch a clip.

Typing ‘buy Twitter followers/Facebook likes/YouTube views’ into eBay will return a large number of options, at very cheap prices. These fake accounts start by following a number of accounts operated by real people, in the hope that these accounts use auto-follow apps. What the click farms behind the fake accounts want, is for their bots to be thought of as real people. If you think the engagement on an account doesn’t add up, here are a few extra clues. Fake accounts:

  • often have realistic names, like this account.
  • retweet tweets that have been retweeted thousands of other times, often by other fake accounts.
  • rarely send any original tweets.
  • use a mixture of letters and numbers in their usernames.

This account, Custom Cutting Boards, is an example of one that has invested quite a bit in buying followers to make the brand look popular. A cutting board with a pig in the middle would never get oevr 3000 retweets otherwise and curiously, they haven’t tweeted since September.

These bots also have a tendency of following accounts that are very popular. A few hundred of them followed Macmillan’s main account over coffee morning week, when #MacmillanCoffeeMorning trended all day.

To summarise, fake profiles do not help your business in any way. In the short run, they may make your brand seem more popular to the uninitiated, but fake followers will never ask intelligent questions, never engage with your brand, never act as brand ambassadors. Because they are bots. Soulless, characterless, faceless bots.

If you have logged into Twitter using any apps you are not sure about, you can revoke access using these steps:

  1. Go to www.twitter.com.
  2. Click on your profile picture on the top right.
  3. Select ‘Settings’ from the drop-down.
  4. Choose ‘Apps’ from the list on the left.
  5. Select ‘Revoke access’ for any app you don’t use or are unsure of.


Questions about this post? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @mac_digital. We’d love to hear from you!

Thumbs up and thumbs down - pros and cons of introducing long copy to social media

Long copy takes to social

Digital Editor Hamilton Jones sheds light on the introduction of long copy on social channels, weighing up the pros and cons for the Macmillan website.

Since the rise of social media, people have been accessing information online in a completely different way. Driven by short character limits and even shorter attention spans, social media’s fast paced nature has traditionally seen it play a very separate role to that of the website. But that could be about to change.

The past weeks have seen announcements from two major social networks that indicate a move towards long copy on their platforms. Twitter is looking at lifting the 140 character limit across their whole platform, having recently done so for their direct messaging service, while Facebook’s in-built publishing tool, Instant Articles, is currently being tested by major brands worldwide.

The move by both parties invites brands to expand their social presence by sharing much longer pieces of content, content that perhaps would usually have appeared exclusively on their website. The impact this is likely to have could result in digital editorial and social media teams working much more closely to create cross-platform content.

At Macmillan, the Information and Support section of our website contains thousands of invaluable long copy pages for both generic and cancer specific information. By using tools like Instant Articles, we may have the opportunity to share some of this information across our social networks, helping us to reach more people affected by cancer than ever before.

While this may sound like a fantastic opportunity, sharing some of our long copy on social media has its downsides too. By creating a hub of all of our content on our social networks, we are taking users away from our website. While having more traffic on our social platform is a good thing, it also means we do not have as much control over how we interact with and reach our audience. By driving users to our own website we have the opportunity to capture better data and provide them with a more personalised experience.

So what does this mean for Macmillan? Well, watch this space! Over the next few months as these changes roll out across Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps more widely across all social channels, it will be interesting to see how we, as a digital team, adapt to and embrace these changes.

Thoughts on this?
Tweet us @mac_digital or leave a comment below!

Happy Twitterversary: Digital Twitter account's 5th birthday

We celebrate our Twitterversary

It’s been five years since we launched Macmillan’s digital Twitter account @mac_digtal and what started as a digital hatchling in 2010, has blossomed into a hashtagging T-Rex. 

Over the years, not only has our Twitter following grown, but the Digital team here in the office has more than doubled in size. This means more news, more exciting projects and more digital activity. Okay, so we’re no @macmillancancer (305,000 followers to date!), but we think of ourselves as small yet mighty, finding the most interesting topical news and delivering it with a smile.

In the last 90 days, we’ve averaged one new follower a day- which we think is pretty great- and we’ve kept those followers up to speed with just about everything, from new digital innovations and charity campaigns that interest us to job opportunities within the team.

Cut yourself a slice of that leftover Coffee Morning cake and take a look at our top 5 tweets of all time:


Top tweets


9 retweets: Celebrating 5 years of the digital twitter account.


Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.25.27


14 retweets: Encouraging our following to take the survey and share their thoughts on the website redesign.


Top tweet of all time asking our followers to check out our new site launch and take the survey to tell us what they thought. It got 21 Retweets.

Needless to say our hashtagging game has of course been #excellent….

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 12.36.58

and our top mentions show that we especially love to tweet about what our Head of Digital, Amanda, has been doing. Well she does do a lot!

Top mentions: @amandaneylon, @macmillancancer, @robsterlini, @we_are_nomensa and @youtube

Do you follow the @mac_digital account? If not, there’s no time like the present. FOLLOW US HERE.

Our tweets