Social Media From The Frontline With Craig Hughes

By Rob McNair

Name: Craig Hughes 
Company: PeerIndex
Role: Commercial
Twitter Handle: @Craig_Hughes_
Facebook URL:

Introduction: About You/Agency/Employer/Favourite Brands On Social/Daily Schedule

Football, coffee, digital technology and Marketing take up most of my time! I studied Marketing at University and worked with leaders in the enterprise social space (‘Social Business’) at IBM, where I was extremely fortunate to be supported in my research into the impact of social on businesses and individuals. My dissertation was focused on the impact of online influencers in the diffusion of word-of-mouth brand messages, which led me to meet the PeerIndex team…and, before I knew it, I was working and commuting from Coventry to London 3 days a week for the remainder of my degree!

PeerIndex is helping people to understand their influence (big, sexy data challenges!) on the social web. The technology allows us to see who is consistently driving conversation and engagement around relevant topics, and in relevant communities online – Influencers.

My role is Commercial, responsible for sales, with plenty of Marketing and a bit of Business Development thrown in for good measure. The most exciting challenge working in a startup is leaving your title at the door, rolling up your sleeves and just getting things done. I joined as a ‘Social Media Intern’ but my role quickly evolved. Now I create and manage relationship, working with both marketing agencies and clients direct to build influence marketing campaigns for some of the world’s most exciting brands.

As Marketers, we must take every opportunity to enhance our ability to target effectively. We understand that it makes sense to create and sustain loyalty from customers with the highest lifetime value (CLV), and that rewards form a key part of that. It’s exciting that we can now start to understand an individual’s CRV – the Customer Referral Value (see also Customer Network Value). Consumers have always had a hidden value; a propensity to ‘refer’, advocate for the brand and influence others to begin a relationship with the brand. The ability to see, measure and understand CRV at scale has never been possible before. It is now.

Influence marketing is a multi-faceted approach to identifying, marketing to, marketing through and with these influencers. Rather than just being seen as isolated marketing exercises, I want to help brands understand the value and best practices of integrating influencer engagement into their overall marketing strategy.

Who do you respect? Blogs & Individuals? 

I have a huge amount of respect for the people who use their social reach and their influence to help others, to challenge status quo, to force us all to be better or to help us learn to be better. A great example is Owen Jones – @OwenJones84 – (writer, commentator and columnist at The Independent). I follow him because I find him challenging and thought provoking. This guy gets a hell of a bashing mixed in with his strong support but is steadfast and it’s clear he is desperate to see positive change, even if I don’t always agree on his views of how to achieve it.

There are a few positively disruptive minds out there in particular that I have had the pleasure of learning from, such as Euan Semple – @Euan – (introduced social tools to the BBC in 2000) and Jason Macleod – @agiletribe – (developed a tool that captures the relationships between people within an organisation and the knowledge they share as early as 2001, many years before Myspace and Facebook were founded).

Manchester City FC (@MCFC) and Waterstones Oxford St. (@WstonesOxfordSt), are examples of how to build a personality through social that both engages and gives a human edge for us to build an affinity with. MCFC do a brilliant job of bringing their fans, and all football fans globally, closer to the players and the people behind the scenes at the club with a steady stream of exclusive videos, interviews, images and match commentary. Interestingly, they don’t talk back to fans but do make impeccable choices in retweeting fans comments. Waterstones is a brilliant example of how humour can be a powerful tool for bringing a fresh personality to what might otherwise be a stale brand.

What unique and interesting skills or talents do you bring to the industry? 

Researching online influence from an academic perspective and now having worked at PeerIndex for over a year has given me a reasonable understanding of consumer interaction online and how brands can begin to apply that knowledge. That being said, I don’t pretend to be an expert – there’s a huge amount of learning left to do and we’re only at the start of a long journey of discovery.

I don’t have years of experience to call on, so I work hard to learn from the experience of those around me. Ask me again in ten years and I might be more comfortable claiming to possess a valuable skill or talent!

What are your predictions? 

My key social trends, which we will start to feel in 2013:

1) The balkanisation of social networks – As social platforms go on the defensive, putting up walls around their data (such as recent tighter api restrictions by Twitter) and disrupting cross-platform integration (such as the Instagram/Twitter battle). As the average user becomes a bit more savvy in both awareness and preferences, social networks will become increasingly divided, catering for different needs. The new Myspace is an example, alongside Google+, of a social platform being built to service the needs of a substantial, yet targeted audience without feeling the need to immediately topple Facebook.

2) Returning the value in data to the individual – Data is exceptionally valuable and the focus has been on taking as much of it as possible, monetising it for the benefit of the organisation (Facebook, Google, Experian etc). This year we will hear from companies who want to return some of that value to us, the people who create this valuable data. Whether that is in the form of useful information, improved products and services or even rewards, expect to see some of that value being returned to us, the individuals.

3) Social capital – There is a growing realisation from consumers that they have power and influence. We have seen numerous examples of people exercising their collective and individual influence. From the masses pressuring Starbucks into paying more UK corporation tax to all of us feeling more empowered in publicly sharing our bad (or brilliant) experiences as a consumer.

Social capital refers to the reciprocal advantages that individuals and groups have because of their location in social structure. Social media has democratised social capital to a huge extent. No longer are we restricted, as individuals, to localised influence. Now we can all have a much bigger effect on a much broader scale (and our kitty pics travel much further!).

Finally – Google+. Don’t think of G+ as just a social network. It’s the steady integration of all Google products into a single, social ecosystem. Never write Google off!

This post was written by Rob McNair

Rob has experience advising some of the worlds most iconic brands. He thrives on helping improving social media knowledge within organisations with the ultimate goal of making theirs brands more social, transparent and accountable.