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Joey Barton talks social media marketing

5 marketing tips from a Premiership footballer

After a prolific rise to almost 1.7m Twitter followers in about 10 months, it appears that Joey Barton knows a thing or two about social media, or at least he has a natural handle on it.

At First 10, we've been working with Joey for about 12 months and it's remarkable how quickly he's understood and adapted to the social media landscape. From helping raise the profile of the Hillsbrough campaign to the rib-poking of Piers Morgan and commentary across sport, politics and culture, he's become somewhat of a Twitter enigma.

Having just designed and built Joey's new website - - we can reveal that it has received some pretty serious attention with 135,000 unique visitors in the first 24 hours of go-live, those visitors spending an average of 5 minutes on his site, placing over 1,000 comments between them in 2 weeks with 60% doing so via a mobile device.

After Joey had posted about what he'd experienced since the launch of his site, I wanted to ask him a bit more about it, to understand what marketers and 'regular' brands might learn from him and share that on Smart Insights.

I called and asked Joey for 5 success factors that he thinks would translate for other people or organisations. Here's what we discussed…

1 - "We're all brands."

"I didn't like the idea of 'Brand Barton' at all, in fact it has made me really uncomfortable, it sounds a bit 'Max Clifford' - that contrived, awful, celebrity PR - everything that I hate. The term still grates sometimes.

That said, I've realised that the fact is that we're all brands, and the word brand is just marketing speak for how you make people feel and how they end up talking about you. I'm just true to myself, I say what I think which seems to be remarkably unusual, who'd have thought that. As someone who's made a mistake or two, I'm all too conscious about my brand image, about how differently I am perceived vs how I see myself. You have to be transparent and open online, find your voice and purpose, it's the only way."

2 - "Building an online platform takes time more than anything else."

"You can't expect results without putting in the hard work," says Joey. "I started out pretty ad-hoc on Twitter and it took a while to really understand it, to find my voice and appreciate how it's used. Followers are real people, and a community is literally built and lost one person at a time.

I've found that it's important to remember that it's not about the follower count, though that does serve as an indicator, and instead to think about people and the feeling that those people have about you [as a brand], and responding to that. We're living at a time when you [or brands] can get online for free and be heard. There are loads of platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well as blog platforms. No excuses. You need to be a part of the conversation that's going on, or start your own. Just having a profile isn't enough, you need to use it."

3 - "You need your own hub"

"It didn't take long for me to realise that Twitter alone just doesn't cut it. It's a tool, a means to communicate like Facebook, and it's not the be all and end all, far from it. After a few months I knew that I needed a way to express myself more fully, to be better understood and not get frustrated with Twitter by thinking that it's something that it isn't. It's why I wanted my site, a place where I can talk about the things I want to and grow it as I learn more. Beyond the cool creative stuff I found that creating the site content was challenging; understanding the detail and ensuring it had a real point - a reason to existence - and making sure that it continues to have one."

4 - "We're all publishers."

"This is the biggest deal for me as someone who gets a fair amount of stick in the mainstream press, some of it deserved of course. The mainstream media are increasingly less relevant, they're slow to adapt online, they're politically controlled and at the end of the day it's the people who are in control, not the media.

The point here is that brands are well placed to create the best content for that hungry audience, people want to be entertained and informed. Brands really need to publish great content - to work hard to earn the attention. It's hard which is why it's worth it, I'm learning that right now with the demands of a new website [See point 2], not just creating the blog posts but taking the time out to sit down and respond to comments every few days."

5 - "Fear is a killer."

"There are millions of reasons to not bother but the reality is the world is different, it must be for people in marketing especially, it would be easier for me to take my salary and sit at home, but I know that I need to be a part of the conversation. Even with some of the trolls and abuse that I get in Twitter - which is sometimes seriously hard to take - I think we've all got to keep pushing and trying things. Finding ways to connect, though this is optional for me it surely isn't for brands like Coke, Starbucks or whoever, any brand really. How can brands not be grabbing a hold of this with all their marketing budgets?

The key is not being scared to open the conversation, to watch what happens for a bit and then just jump in. I was hesitant and excited to use the comment system on my site, I am keen to open the floor to other people and have the debate, take the considered feedback - it was hard not be scared about that. The thing is, interacting with real people on shared thoughts and ideas has been a truly eye-opening and amazing experience, I'm loving it."

What do you take from this? It certainly felt that there were synergies for B2C and B2B brands - let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Share your thoughts

  • Joey Barton has grown to fame and has gained Twitter followers due to notoriety rather than effective social media strategy. Frankly, he’s an idiot and his outspokenly idiotic tweets are what have given him that notoriety. If you’re a brand, you shouldn’t really be following Joey Barton as an example. He’s a vile, disgusting man with a violent background, his tweets reflect his lack of intelligence and I personally believe the majority of his followers probably relate to him and follow because of that. Yes, having 1.7 million followers is good, but as a brand would you really want 1.7 million Joey Bartons following you? I can’t imagine a brand where their target audience is angry, violent thugs. Joey Barton has burned his football colleagues faces’ with cigars, started fights on the football pitch and has been caught on camera on numerous occaisions spitting in people’s faces. I don’t think “any publicity is good publicity” is really applicable in this case.

    As a professional in a social media organisation, I would flat out refuse to work with Joey on moral grounds. He’s a despicable person, he’s idiotic and I would want no association with him. Assisting someone like that is something i’d want no part of.

    PS this article is stupid.

    • Hi Dan, do you want to answer this “stupid” post or shall I just delete it?

      • I think delete, Dave – not like it adds to the quality of the conversation at all? Mr Sparxy misses the point of the debate and wants to judge everyone by the looks of it.

  • JW commented on August 10, 2012

    Or you can simply choose not to bow to “peer pressure” and forgo social media entirely, especially if you value your privacy and have no real brand to push…

  • I have recommended this article to many of my executive friends who to be honest at first thought I was self medicating. But I have to say well done Danyl.

    This is a must read to all those who strive to explain SM marketing and the importance of understanding it’s complex cross platform nature. Point’s 3 and 4 are very good and well received.

    • That’s great feedback – thanks Gregg. What’s interesting about working with Joey is that (unlike conventional brands) there’s a natural simplicity where it’s about people first, selling isn’t the point so he doesn’t fight with social media. This simpler view means that the tools, for content creation or sharing, have context and the cross-platform nature just happens. In business, our clients fight with it much more, it becomes about the tools, and so the complexity grows.

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