In our fourth episode of 15 Minutes With we’re back talking to Social Media Manager, Will Bonaddio. He had such good insights that we just couldn’t fit it all into a single episode.

Will draws from a wealth of experience in the social space, bringing incredible insights to the episode. He is an award-winning marketer who has previously worked agency-side on brands such as Disney, T-Mobile and Domino’s Pizza and in-house as Social Media Editor-in-Chief for McDonalds in the UK. He is now part of the social strategy team at FutureLearn. Will talks through some of the challenges and insights from his experience at the cutting edge of social media in the UK.

His perspectives on balancing personality and cancel culture in the evolving landscape of social media are not to be missed.


Ways to Listen

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Shelley  00:14

Welcome to 15 minutes with on today’s episode we pick up speaking to Will Bonaddio, the social media expert for a second time, the first 15 minutes simply was not enough. We had so many questions to cover and so much content that is an absolute pleasure to reintroduce to you today, Will Bonaddio.

What happens when the tone is off? Or the message doesn’t lend as expected. And so you get people responding in a negative way. Or you get people sort of saying, hey, that content was not what we expected, or you get trolls? How do you deal with that? What are the sort of the pitfalls?


Will Bonaddio  00:50

Yeah, so we’ve all been there. If you haven’t yet, I envy you. Sometimes you go through creating a post and you love it. And it looks great on your big screen or in your meeting room, and you’re all agree. And then you post and it flops or worse, does brand damage. And trust me, I’ve done all of the above. I think when I was working for bigger brands, I had basically a direct line into the legal and comms teams, and we’d say, Does this have your blessing? Now, that would slow things down a lot. But at least I had full confidence that if anybody came to me and said, Why the hell did you post that? I could say it’s full approval from everyone. Fair enough, like you know, hands up, made a mistake, but it’s not like I just came up with it and posted it. And now we’re in this big mess. So I think yeah, having your your tone of voice document and make sure that everyone bought into that gives you those guardrails, so you’re already on the right track. If you’re unsure, the more people you can show it to the better. But then I think there’s so many ways that it could go wrong, what we’re trying to do it at the moment with Future Learn is, we’re really trying to find our tone for social specifically, not as a business, but on social media. And what we’re finding actually is that the more funny, irreverent stuff that works so well for certain brands, it doesn’t really resonate with our audience, that’s not to say you know, it’s not like people hate it. It just doesn’t do as big numbers as certain other content. So we’re not saying anything offensive, but we are trying different tones and different routes in just to see what’s going to resonate best. Don’t be afraid to do a bit of that, you know, I said to the team, let’s use the next month. This is when I first joined, like just try stuff, let’s see what’s working, never rude, never, you know, offensive or anything like that. But just different tones, self deprecation. Does that work? No. Okay, well, what about being knowledgeable, okay, maybe that doesn’t work, as well as being motivational, etc. Try those things out at a low level, don’t start promoting them. But I think the really important thing is just to try, because it’d be very easy for me to go away and say, Well, look, every time these brands are funny, it does really big numbers. So I’ve gone away and now I’ve just spent three weeks working on this strategy, this is what we’re doing and then actually it flops. Testings at a low level. In terms of things going wrong, you can go wrong in many ways. Like it could be the post that you did, it could be your latest TV ad that you actually in the social team has nothing to do with that every time you’re posting, people are commenting on that. Or it could be something that, you know, the founder has done. GoDaddy, the internet company, their CEO, or founder rather, like shot an elephant posted it on social media. And obviously, the backlash was massive, and so many other examples of that. I don’t mean, just call out GoDaddy, but that’s just the one that springs to mind. So I think it’s really important in that situation, to I mean, I love a process. Can you have like some sort of crisis document, you know, what are the levels of crisis? And what are the actions that we take? In those examples, I’ve just given. Make sure that people in your team and beyond are on board with it. And really try and stick with it if you can. And I think something that I’ve been guilty of or seen other people be guilty of is sometimes, not always, it can be a bit of a storm in a teacup. And when you are in amongst it feels massive. And you have people from outside of your team saying we’ve got to post a response to this, that we’re going to pin to the top of our pages so that everybody’s aware of our response is. And in some ways that could do more damage, because not everybody is aware of it. So really, I would recommend some sort of social listening tool, we use one, I don’t need to name it, because I don’t work for them. But it was it was Sprinklr, which I recommend, but not only can they see like any negative comments that are coming through, but you can also set it up that they can say like the velocity of negative comments. So okay, we always see, you know, 5% negative comments. But suddenly, overnight, we saw a massive increase of those. So therefore, you know, you’re getting this email just to take a look at it. So it’s not like that can be really helpful. But yeah, I think making sure that everybody is agreed on what you’re going to do. And I think I mean, literally at the time of recording Peloton are going through a bit of a storm at the moment. They just had to lay off 1000s of employees. And I think it’s really interesting to see how that’s being dealt with. So if you go on the b2b, sorry no the b2c channels like Facebook, Twitter, etc. They’re not talking about it. I go on LinkedIn a lot. I love LinkedIn. I know people at Peloton so I’m seeing a lot of conversation on it and you know, people you’ve left saying, you know, I’m now open to work, you know, getting 1000s of shares and likes, etc. So if you were just looking at that you would see it is massive that how, I don’t know the answer to this, but how much do the consumers know about this, I’m sure they would care about it, if they didn’t know about it, they’re obviously not talking about it on those channels. But if you look at their LinkedIn at the moment, they’ve now done a post where they’ve literally created a database of people that they’ve had to layoff saying, you know, we recommend these people, we stand by them, which people are saying is a really classy move, I think they’ve done that really nicely. And really well. So that’s one way of dealing with it. You’ve also seen, I’m sure, the KFC example where they ran out of chicken. So they did a, you know, an award winning response where it was very human, funny, kind of a one pager that they put in the press, and then obviously went viral on social media, I think in that instance, they’re allowed to be a bit funny, silly, because it’s their problem. You know, it’s not like something has affected. I mean, apart from affecting chicken lovers, it hasn’t affected people’s, you know, it hasn’t hurt anyone, really. So you’ve gotta judge it. And it’s really hard. But I think with those tools, like a guide, what you’re going to do in which situation and really go for my tweet that went badly wrong, versus, you know, a member of staff doing something really terrible, what would your response be, and just remember that, yeah, the more human you can make it, the better. And also don’t necessarily think that everybody is talking about it, just because all of your colleagues are.


Shelley  06:21

It is really hard to know, when, you know, like a bad response on social is damaging, because not all bad responses are damaging,


Will Bonaddio  06:31



Shelley  06:31

And arguably some that even that we might consider to be still actually promote the company massively, because they go they essentially go viral. So I mean, bad press in a sense, or as they say, any, you know. Any publicity is good publicity. But it is a little bit like that, it’s hard, you know that there can be some massively damaging stories out there and responses to pieces of content on social media, but arguably, you know, they’re sort of doing their job as well. So it can be quite difficult to know what that line is. But I love your advice on having the guidelines, and also having multiple levels of, of sign off and perspective within the business. So it doesn’t just lie with one person and their idea of what might be what might be suitable


Will Bonaddio  07:13

Totally. And I appreciate that sometimes slows things down, you know, sometimes by days, but I think if you’ve got those guardrails in place, it gives you permission to do some of the more viral things if you know, it takes certain boxes, and you know, there’s little to no chance of it being taken in the wrong way. And I think you’ve got that freedom to do it. But yeah, I mean, surely what you were just saying, we’ve seen overnight, Adidas, has done a posts, showing women’s breasts, come in all shapes and sizes, and then they’re promoting their new sports bra. And understandably, some people are saying, That’s amazing, great that you’re doing this. And then understandably as well, I would argue some people say I can’t believe you’re showing this so inappropriate that you know, you’re showing nudity on my channels. So I think they will have I mean, hats off to them. I can’t imagine how that legal and comms meeting went before posting it. I can see it really from both sides. Like I understand why people think it’s inappropriate, I can also totally understand why people think we should be talking about this more, I really do stand in the middle of this one. But I think I’m part of a advertising Facebook group where we talk about ads because I’m an advertising nerd. And what we’ve seen is, you know, some people I’ve shared in their, tick, I think Adidas definitely wanted that. First person said, I’m really offended. And second person said, Why are you offended? That’s ridiculous. This is exactly the kind of conversation we should have. And I said to them, that is exactly what Adidas would have wanted, but I’m sure with that, and, you know, the Colin Kaepernick example, from Nike, where, you know, he took a knee and he was suspended from American football, people were burning their Nikes, etc. Again, I think they would have done that as a calculated, okay, we know people are going to be outraged. But we also know that people are going to really love this and love the fact that we’ve taken a stand for it. So I think again, they would have said, well, what, how bad could it go? How good could it go? And what we’re going to do every eventuality of that. And I would imagine Adidas have done the same.


Graham  09:02

And we’ve used the term viral a lot, right? Kind of through the conversation that we’ve been talking. And I think there is a, certainly in my experience, a misconception that you can plan to go viral, you know, you can kind of go we are going to create a viral piece of content and then everyone sits in a room and does it. I think and this is, you know, kind of asking for an opinion on this like is that you could argue that people like Dollar Shave Club, when they produced their original launch ad, there was an intention that that was going to go viral. And it was written in such a way and produced in such a way that it was highly unlikely that it wasn’t gonna happen.


Will Bonaddio  09:34



Graham  09:35

But that is a little bit of like capturing lightning in a bottle. I don’t know that it’s something that you can just on demand produce a viral piece of content.


Will Bonaddio  09:43

No, I agree. I agree. I get worried when I go to conferences, or listen to podcasts. And people are just talking about those things, because they’re great. You know, the John Lewis, you all need to do a John Lewis ad. They are great but exactly that they’re hard to come by. I think you’d probably want to aim for to try and do one or two, if you can, in a year, but I think they’re really hard to do. And that’s why you’ve got to consistently be posting about stuff as well. But yeah, the the benefits of activity like that in terms of like long term brand building, harder to measure, because you might not necessarily see an instant return on sales unless it gets really big, but stuff like that, over the long term can really help drive new business. So I think you should be aiming to do stuff that people care about. That’s remarkable. That’s interesting. I mean, that’s what social media is meant to be. And that’s what good advertising is, you know, people don’t hate ads, they hate bad ads, people like content. And if that’s an ad, then so be it. So I think that’s what you’re trying to be aiming for all times. But yeah, it’s hard to do. There’s dedicated creative agencies that will try and do that. And it doesn’t always pay off. But friends of mine, I used to work on the Disney account for six months, friends of mine, who have worked on it for much longer. They were saying, even with a new Avengers Trailer, they still need to put money behind it. Because you can’t be at the whim of the algorithm. I think the Dollar Shave example. It’s an old one. It’s a really good one. But it’s any viral campaign now. And it’s harder, really, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s harder to think of one that immediately springs to mind in the last year. Whereas before, I think we could reel off a whole bunch of them. But yeah, even with an Avengers Trailer, you’ve got to put money on it. Because if you’re the will of the algorithm, that could be something big news that just hits that maybe that post didn’t do quite as well as anticipated. So I think the fact that they were doing that this suggests that yeah, it’s gonna be much harder than it was.


Shelley  11:32

Will, do you have any tips, any insights, anything that you think we haven’t covered?


Will Bonaddio  11:37

Live video had a big moment during the first lockdown in the UK, March 2020, and video live everywhere, because people obviously couldn’t be out and about seeing people as much, it’s then kind of taken a backseat, the algorithms seem to show it less, but we are definitely seeing more of a focus on it from the platform’s themselves now, and live shopping, almost like QVC, etc. You know, it’s coming to social, it’s big in certain markets, not really in the West yet, but I get the impression that that is going to be coming up and I think hand in hand with that you could do a whole podcast about it that just gonna say is, you know, Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFT’s. I know, I sound like like a tech bro when I talk about those, but they’re, they’re definitely getting more airtime. And as parts of web 3.0, I do think they are going to play a part, I think we’re at the testing phase of it now. I think there’s going to be a lot of rubbish associated with it both in terms of ways that people are activating it, particularly brands who are just trying to jump on it, I would recommend people kind of hang back, wait and see what’s working, and then go from there. But I do think it’s interesting, because rather than just selling, you know, pictures of apes, what we’re seeing more of is actually resulting in people owning parts of businesses, or you know, by buying this NFT, you’re basically saying almost like a subscription service, it could be for example, I am not working with McDonald’s anymore. I do not know this at all. But I could imagine that the fabled gold cards that you showed at McDonald’s to get free foods that could work as an NFT, that could work as something that, you know, by investing in this, you have unlocked something. So I think that’s a really interesting space. And I’ve mentioned earlier about communities that seems to be a real focus on for social and brands and for the platforms themselves. And I think NFT’s can really be part of that. And I think brands are focusing more on community, because like I say, it means they can do the job for you. But it’s also really good way to improve your product, if you know what people are saying about it. And if you’ve got that community, ideally, you want to own it yourself. So I think we’re gonna see more of that as well look at what influencers are doing. A lot of them are moving off of Facebook or YouTube. And they’re creating their own kind of own sites, because this is the thing you can have a million fans today, if Facebook said, You know what, we’re closing the brand page platform, we’re not doing that anymore, you would lose them all overnight. So how can you think about kind of future proofing that and you know, not being at the whim of the algorithm? We talked about it today? How can you have an audience that every time you try and speak to them, you get through to them instantly? That’d be amazing. So I think we’re gonna see more people, brands as well focusing on that. And then finally, I think voice, so Twitter spaces, Discord, etc. I hate the idea of that myself. But I think there’s a appetite for it. I think putting brands in that kind of live, anything can happen example will, we’ll be frightening for many, that it seems to be the way that consumers are going and brands will keep talking to them. And they need to be considering that. So I think it’s exciting times I think it’s more, you’re not going to be able to just post something and then forget about it as a consumer or a brand as feels like it’s gonna be more live more always on more really talking to people. And that is scary. But that seems to be the way that things going and then we couldn’t do a podcast without talking about the metaverse. I think, I hope this bites me in future but I think the jury’s still out. I think I was a big advocate of virtual reality back in 2016. I love the idea of virtual reality. But the fact is, it’s an effort. It’s an effort to put it on your face. Even people who’ve got it say they don’t use it that much. Whereas the phone, you’re using it, you know, hundreds of times a day. So keep an eye out on the metaverse and you know, being in virtual reality or being able to go into this second world and interact with people. I’m very interested. I’m following it very closely. But the jury is till out for me.


Shelley  11:54

Me too. Will, thank you so much for your time. We have covered incredible stuff. I think this is going to be super, super helpful for a lot of people, brands, individuals and the full spectrum of brands, big small everything in between. Thank you so much for your time. We really, really appreciate it and hope to have you back again soon.


Will Bonaddio  15:53

My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me guys, it’s been really fun.


Shelley  15:57

That was Will Bonaddio, social media expert talking to us about judgement and humour, about response guidelines, being human, democratic perspectives and decision making, and the need for advertising. To everyone listening. See you next time.