Oi Conference takeaways

Last week I ventured to Bristol’s social and mobile innovation conference, Online Influence. There were plenty of innovative case studies from a great line-up of speakers. The sessions were engaging, entertaining and informative.

It was a socially active event as you’d expect, and the event was well-organised down to the little touches such as nook pods which were handy for breakout chats and giving my phone some much needed juice!



The keynote from Jeremy Waite of IBM was full of upcoming trends and new products, including the very Humans-esque Jibo robot.

On a personal level, I must admit I liked the idea of being able to capture moments through photographs without missing out on the action.

Personalisation was mentioned as one of the most important trends over the next year, and we looked at how to get data when no one wants to log in anymore.

The takeaway message and one that I think stands strongly for us at ONS is that people don’t buy what you do but why you do it.


Think like a journo

A talk on the pitfalls of brand publishing said we should be thinking like a publisher – creating a meaningful dialogue with customers, and a journalist mindset matters.

There is a mismatch of what most content marketers make vs what most people want. Common mistakes that publishing teams make are:

  • setting the wrong objectives
  • lack of editorial skills
  • unwilling to relinquish control
  • a corporate “fear of having an opinion”

The ONS Digital Content team tackles a lot of these known mistakes daily. We have a dedicated team of data journalists bringing numbers to life – we don’t have statisticians trying to be marketers.

Right time, right content, right context

My favourite talk of the day was from Owen Williams, Social Media Lead at BBC Wales.

Owen showed examples of capitalising on moments – using the right hashtags at the right time in the right context. A big surprise was Pancake Day being the most popular day for BBC online!


Owen talked about the importance of involving and engaging social practitioners so they have enough information to engage. The key is in the comments and conversations on social media come to life.

Return of silent films!

A point that was raised repeatedly was how many people watch videos without sound (85%)! This demonstrates the importance of creating engaging video content that captures the viewer from the start (3 seconds in, says Owen).

Video content should be compelling enough so that people don’t need sound. If they aren’t, people will scroll on by – people are looking for thumb-stopping moments!

One point I heard throughout the day was a reassuring one as we apply it at ONS. This was the belief that content from one medium cannot be transferred to another, the context of the content so important. A phrase we hear ourselves saying as a social media team time and time again is “this isn’t going to work for a social audience”. This was echoed during Owen’s presentation.

The key takeaways from Owen’s presentation were to measure, iterate, evolve and to accept serendipity, that’s part of the beauty of social media.

Be a perfectionist

Sharon Flaherty of Brand Content’s session “How to ruin your content marketing” had some useful tips and looked at how we often ignore the essentials:

  • are you getting your facts straight?
  • how many pairs of eyes does your content go through?
  • are small inaccuracies slipping through?

While visual content is rising, businesses still needs words.

There is a growing demand for experiments and innovation. Users expect a level of personalisation so try to add this to your content whenever and wherever you can. Consider what makes a good piece of content (who cares!), not just do things because stakeholders want you to.

Content spreads because it inspires a community, reinforces a belief, or refutes an argument (something we see a lot at ONS). Before you create it, ask who’s going to amplify it and why? Who will share? Always consider the audience, this will make you more successful.

Sharon also mentioned how it’s good to bring journalists in-house to bring new insights and behaviours. Journalists have a different publishing mindset, seeing stories differently. This is something we’ve also done at ONS.

Role of customer services

We’re spending more time as a social media team responding to customer service queries, and Sharon touched on this giving an example of investing in call centres when more and more people communicate through social.

We need to move with the times and go where the people are.

Sharon shared that millennials expect customer service via social media channels and that centennials will expect it even more, and they expect responses fast!

The theme from Adobe complemented Sharon’s presentation. Adobe led an interesting session on the power of great experiences and how consumers increasingly expect an immediate response to posts or queries.

A case study from Heathrow showed them thinking about the customer journey and putting themselves in the customer’s shoes. They put themselves through the airport experience and looked at 8,000 bits of feedback (good and bad). This led to an understanding of the customer experience that couldn’t be achieved by research alone.

The key takeaways for me were putting design and customer experience at the heart of the business, let the customer design the experience, people don’t want hyper-personalised service – they want something that is adaptive, and the importance of real-time response and interaction.

Beat the system

The entertaining and inspiring Steve Bartlett of Social Chain highlighted the power of social media with some brilliant case studies and campaigns.

A key takeaway from this talk was that people like to think they’re beating the system.

An example used was a campaign for Boohoo.com where a “staff card photo ID” was tweeted along with a rumour that using the staff code on the card gave you 50% off the site. Although boohoo.com regularly has 50% off promotions this sneak peek PR trick lead to the most searched and most revenue on a single day as people thought they were getting an exclusive deal and beating the system.

Be topical

Simon Baker of ITN talked about today’s digital audience and that they demand regular topical content, and we need to define what the topical context is of our brand.

“Is the content authentic, topical and truly adding value to the viewer?”

We’re passionate about continuously adding value to the user at ONS. We try to identify moments in time where people are already engaged in a topic. By leveraging social trends, we can add value to existing conversations and debates.

What makes a brand?

The penultimate session of the day from Ben Hollom asked why are some organisations are referred to as brands and some as companies?

Brands have value.

Recognition, credibility and trust attract advocates and clients and helps brands stand out from competitors.

“Think sniper’s rifle rather than scatter-gun approach and be seen as an expert or thought leader.”

LinkedIn and Twitter helps grow audiences and convert them into loyal advocates, amplify content to grow your reach, building your reputation as a credible expert – but all of this needs good content.

A sustainable content plan is curated – topical, relevant content shared from credible third-party sources, posted on a regular basis to keep the plan “ticking along”.

The most popular style of content is often the more lightweight recycled “top tips”-style pieces and lists, something we are seeing more of on our visual site (check out our “five facts about…” articles!).

A strong message of positioning key individuals as thought leaders was something I could relate to, as we champion our network of tweeting statisticians across Twitter who get involved in discussions, raising their visibility as experts in their field.

Social media is cheaper than traditional customer service channels

The final presentation from TUI’s Head of Social and fellow emoji enthusiast Rachel Hawkes raised some points that rang familiar with experiences we’ve had at ONS. She championed fostering a test and learn approach and went through several TUI case studies, one of using live sessions on Facebook leading to dropped call volumes, a customer service channel shift mentioned several times throughout the day.

It’s cheaper to answer on social rather than answer calls, but you need the technology and capability to support it.

Innovation motivates and excites teams to do bigger and better work and Rachel raised the importance of having a structure in place with resource dedicated to test and learn.



I learnt a lot and chatted to some interesting people, comparing experiences and challenges. For me, it was reassuring what we do at ONS is very similar to what other organisations are focusing on (the customer first – before content, format and platform).

Being a data-driven organisation, we believe data can help you to understand audiences – where are they, what they care about and how they would like to talk to your organisation.

We’re driven by customer need and always try to be as helpful and useful as possible.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite tips from Oi 2016:

  1. People don’t buy what you do but why you do it
  2. Always measure, iterate, evolve and accept serendipity
  3. Mix the mindsets – the more perspectives you can get on an idea, the better the final product will be
  4. People expect fast customer service on social media so simply posting is no longer good enough
  5. Put design and customer experience at the heart of everything you do, that way everything you do has purpose
  6. Learn from your customers, let them shape experiences with your brand so you evolve with them, not against them

Lauren Bradford

Social Media Manager

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