Simon chats with Mel Kettle, Author of The Social Association.

Show Notes

Mel Kettle is a long time advisor for non-profits and small business on social media, and has just released her first book, The Social Association. She talks through her advice and thoughts on social media in 2018 for all sorts of business types.

You can contact Mel here:


Simon Dell: I’m lucky enough to be joined this week by Mel Kettle, who has a huge, huge, long LinkedIn profile about all the fantastic jobs she’s done, but we’re going to start talking to her about the fact that she is a first-time author. So, the first thing I want to say Mel is congratulations. How does it feel?

Mel Kettle: Thank you. It feels amazing. I have wanted to write a book for a really long time, and started many of them, and got about half an hour into writing it and thought, “Nah, I’m bored. This is really boring. I’ve got to find another topic.” And then I started writing the novel, and I bored myself within about five minutes because I thought, “I’m never going to be a JK Rowling. I haven’t got the imagination anymore.” So to finally get this book finished was such — I had such an incredible sense of accomplishment and I’m already thinking about the next couple, so look out. There’ll be more.

Simon Dell: Tell us about this one. It’s called The Social Association. And obviously given your background, I’m guessing there’s a fair bit in about social media.

Mel Kettle: It’s pretty much all about social media. So I do a lot of work with associations and nonprofits, and I was looking for resources to refer to my client in that space and couldn’t really find any that were relevant from an association-specific perspective. So I thought, “I’ll just write one.” And you know, given my previous efforts in writing a book. I thought yeah, this might not happen. But once I got into it, within the first half an hour, I was really interested.

And so, it came out in February. The full name is The Social Association: Five Key Skills Not-For-Profits Need to Increase Member Engagement, Generate a Return on Investment, and Create a Thriving Online Community.

Simon Dell: That’s a long title.

Mel Kettle: It is. That’s why I normally just call it The Social Association.

Simon Dell: I was going to say you haven’t bought the domain with the full title in it.

Mel Kettle: No, I haven’t.

Simon Dell: I’m guessing despite the fact that it is obviously focused about those not-for-profits, I’m going to guess that anybody running a business of a certain size will get something out of it as well.

Mel Kettle: Absolutely. And I thought about that a lot when I wrote it. And so, while there’s association and nonprofit examples throughout it, there’s also a lot of examples from the for-profit space, so from retail, from hospitality, from small business, solopreneurs, as well as big corporates, because we can all learn from each other. And just because you’ve got a massive budget and you can do things with squillions of dollars, there’s always things that nonprofits can learn from that and vice versa.

It was really interesting. I was at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego recently, and one of the most intriguing speakers was a guy called Duncan Wardle. He was from Disney. He was ex-Disney and he’s now out on his own. And he said one of the things he used to always do when he was at Disney was hire people from nonprofits with a non-profit background because they were really clever at doing really innovative things on a really small budget.

Simon Dell: With no money, yeah. I can imagine that.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, and he said even though they had tons of money at Disney, what he loved about all these people from nonprofit was that they were just so clever with the ideas that they came up with because they were so used to doing things with the sniff of an oily rag.

Simon Dell: Right. That makes sense, yeah. We’ll talk a bit more about Social Media Marketing World and the book a little bit later. I just want to go back because I like to do these kind of things in the correct timeline. And the first question that I ask everybody is: What was your first job? And by first job, I mean the very first time that you were paid to do something.

Mel Kettle: I was going to say I worked at David Jones for five years, but that wasn’t actually my first paid job. So my very first paid job was when I was probably in my first year of uni, or it might have been in year 12. No, I’m pretty sure I was in my first year of uni, and my father worked for an engineering firm that did a lot of traffic management surveys. And they had this very sweet gig at Jindabyne in winter where they wanted to measure or count the number of people who used the Thredbo — the tunnel, you know, the ski tube thing.

And so, my job was to spend a week at Jindabyne getting shuttled to Thredbo, or to Perish, or wherever this skitube tunnel thing was. I can’t remember now. It was a long time ago. And standing there with a clicker, and clicking every single time somebody went through. But we were there for a week. The weather was atrocious. So, we ended up only doing about five shifts over the course of the week. And there were three shifts a day. There were eight of us. We shared this huge house at Jindabyne and we had an absolute ball. And because I was in my first year of uni, I was the youngest there by miles, but we just had so much fun.

And I remember they were so far behind on their budget in that they had all this money that they hadn’t spent because everything costs a lot less than they had budgeted. So, they took us out to see Transvision Vamp one night at the Jindabyne Hotel. It was in the 80s.

Simon Dell: Wow, Transvision Vamp.

Mel Kettle: It was in the 80s and I think we had a swanky dinner every night we were there. So, that was my first paid gig.

Simon Dell: Was that Transvision Vamp… They had a few hits, couple of hits.

Mel Kettle: This was in their heyday in 1989. And it was just so much fun. And because the weather was so appalling, we just stayed inside in the jacuzzi for most of the day because it was too cold to ski and too cold to be outside. So, I think I did two shifts or three shifts.

Simon Dell: I’ve gone off on a tangent now because I’m trying to think of the name of the lead singer of Transvision Vamp.

Mel Kettle: I can see her face, but I can’t remember her name.

Simon Dell: Bleach, blonde hair. It’s kind of silvery blonde hair.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, very powerful voice.

Simon Dell: Yeah. She was the subject of a lot of teenage boy crushes back then.

Mel Kettle: She was.

Simon Dell: ’89, so I would have been — yeah, I was 15 at the time. So yeah, absolutely. That would’ve been major crush time back then.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, and there were a few, a couple of the other people on this project who were just minions like I was, were 20-year-old guys. So when they were heard we were going to see transmission bam, they’re like, “I don’t know if I can afford it.” And the project leader is like, “No, I bought the tickets.” And I got paid so much money for this week. It was just ridiculous. They paid my uni bills for the next six months.

Simon Dell: Sounds like a fairly cushy job.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, it was. It was pretty cool. Everything else paled in comparison after that.

Simon Dell: I was going to say because I went back through your LinkedIn profile and you’re one of those people who has diligently filled out most of that back to 1996.

Mel Kettle: I know.

Simon Dell: That’s a fair way back. We don’t have time to go through all of them, but I wanted to pick up a couple that I thought were really quite interesting. And the first one I think was the QPAC role, that you were marketing manager of Brisbane Festival.

Mel Kettle: Actually, the job before that, I’m just going to go back a little bit further. The job before that… So, my first real job when I finished uni, that didn’t involve alcohol or cash registers, was working as a conference organizer. There was a fair bit of alcohol involved because it was a really stressful job.

So, I worked for a small company for a couple of years doing that, and then I was headhunted by a multinational marketing agency who had won the gig to run all of the events for Microsoft in Australia. But they didn’t have any people to run it, so they hired me to lead up the team, and there were six of us, and we did 300 events in one year. So anyone who’s ever run an event knows that that’s pretty full-on.

Simon Dell: Yeah. And obviously, as Microsoft events, they weren’t small events.

Mel Kettle: Some of them were small, but some of them were enormous, yeah. So some of them were just breakfast for the sellers, and users, and resellers. But the two big events we did, we did 17 City Road show three times a year and I had one person on that full time, and we did the big Microsoft tech-ed conference, which the year that I did it was in Brisbane. I pretty much lived in the Brisbane Convention Centre for 12 days.

I think it took seven days to bump in and about five hours to bump out. So, that was a lesson in logistics for me. But then after that, I had a bit of a nervous breakdown, so I quit that job and moved to Queensland for a quiet life. And that was when I got the QPAC job.

Simon Dell: Obviously, you must look back at QPAC now with a sort of fondness.

Mel Kettle: That was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

Simon Dell: You only did that for a year by the looks of things.

Mel Kettle: It was only a contract. Back then, I was the marketing manager for the Brisbane Festival, which for anyone who doesn’t know, is a massive performing arts festival. And at the time, they just ran out with all contractors and we were hired. I was hired for nine months. And then a year later, they rang me and said, we’re getting ready to gear up the team for the next festival, are you interested? And I’d just been offered a permanent job in the Queensland government and I said, “Can I get us to comment, and will you match my pay?” And then said, “Yes, we can request to comment, but no, we’re not going to match your pay.”

Simon Dell: Taking the cash and running. What was marketing something like that like back then? Because that was the year 2000. I mean, I suspect you were up to your eyeballs in traditional media back then. There was obviously no Facebook. You did any e-newsletters and things like that at that point?

Mel Kettle: No, god no. I did a brochure. I think it was about a 36 or a 40-page brochure. And my appointment into that role, I discovered later, sent shockwaves through the arts community in Brisbane because it came from an IT background, and I came from Sydney. And Brisbane was incredibly parochial back in 2000, and it still is, but quite as much as it was then. And so, that was a really interesting experience. And I being naive and grappling with massive imposter syndrome, because I was just a conference organizer, how do I get this big gig, didn’t actually realize that I had caused all these issues until about six months in.

But there were two really big challenges that we had. One was that the Sydney Olympics were on in 2000, and we didn’t know how that would impact on our ticket sales. And the second thing was that the festival was in September and the tickets went on sale at the beginning of July. And on the first of July, the GST was introduced into Australia for the first time and we had no understanding of how that would impact on ticket sales either.

So, it was a really interesting experience with these two huge external factors that we had absolutely no control over. And we couldn’t — we had absolutely no idea what impact they may or may not have. And as it happened, they didn’t have a negative impact at all and the festival was, at that time, was the most financially successful festival they’d ever had and we made a massive profit. And it was the only performing arts festival in Australia that year to make a massive profit or make any profit.

Simon Dell: Do you still go to the festival every year?

Mel Kettle: I go to some events every year. It was pretty difficult to go from having every single performing arts being free for a year to having to actually put my hand in my pocket and buy tickets. But I have a far greater appreciation of the effort and the energies that go into it now than I did then. And I’d always been — I grew up in the arts going to performing arts, going to the theater, and to musical concerts, and to the opera, and to the ballet.

My parents were extremely cultural and huge supporters of every element of the arts industry, whether it was performing arts, or visual arts. So, I’ve always had this massive love of that industry and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to work in it and I’m really glad that I only worked for one year, because it erased a lot of my love by finding out the reality.

Simon Dell: I can imagine. Jumping forward, when did you discover social media? Can you remember the point when you suddenly went, “Hey, this is a thing.” Was there a specific line in the sand, or did it happen over time? What was the moment when the light bulb went on?

Mel Kettle: I’m just going to say this question was not scripted at all, but I can’t remember when I first found out about social, but I can remember when I first got — fell in love with Twitter, and it was at a Networx event that you spoke at. And you and Cat Matson and I had a big chat afterwards. It was in April 2009, and I remember thinking — 

Simon Dell: Did you research this before we had this conversation?

Mel Kettle: No, I didn’t. Someone asked me this the other day. I signed up for Twitter that night after hearing you rave about what an amazing tool it was. And I thought, “Oh, I’d looked at it before and thought it’s all about what people have for breakfast. Who really cares?” And so, I signed up that night. I think you actually helped me sign up, and I just fell in love with it right there and then, and fell in love with everything about Twitter. I was a bit ambivalent about Facebook and LinkedIn, but Twitter was it for me.

And I had great conversations, met incredible people online and later offline. And about three months after signing up to Twitter, Lisa Ma from Networx rang me and said, “I see you all over Twitter. You must be an expert. Can you come and speak at a Networx event in a month about how to use social month for business?” So I said, “Of course I can.” Never say no to anything. “Of course I can.” I hung up the phone.

I thought, “Hmm, I haven’t done a public presentation in a very long time.” And Googling, “How to use social media for business.”

Simon Dell: It’s actually a common theme. When you go back to look at… What was that? 2009, 2010?

Mel Kettle: 2009.

Simon Dell: In the Wild West days of social media — and the people I’ve interviewed… You know, Nick Bowditch said the same story where he kind of — he just happened to have done one thing on Facebook, and all of a sudden he was the expert on Facebook. And it happens that so many people around that time, 2009 through to about 2012 when everything was so new, that they only had to show one sort of glimmer of enthusiasm or skill, and suddenly everyone wanted to book them to talk, or were giving them jobs, and all that kind of thing.

Mel Kettle: I know. It was just amazing. And so, in 2009 after that, that was probably in June or July 2009 that I spoke at that Networx event. For about the next two years, every single referral and piece of business I got came from somebody who knew me via Twitter. It was insane. It was insane and it was an amazing time.

Simon Dell: How do you feel Twitter has changed from back then to how it is now? We’re closing on 10 years, aren’t we, of Twitter?

Mel Kettle: We are. It’s funny because Chris Brogan put on Twitter this morning, he said, “What would it take to revive Twitter as our go-to place?” And I said to him, “I miss the chatter because so few people want to have a chat these days or even just say hello.” And he responded and said, “Agreed. Those were the days.” And other people have said very, very similar things. Somebody said, “Ban politics as a subject matter.” Other people said more engagement. Other people say making it okay not to be an asshole and attack people. Well, yes, or let’s have a time machine.

I’m just reading the comments. Somebody said a newspaper subscription. But I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed in Twitter is that it doesn’t have that element of humanity, and conversation, and that care and support. And that’s really sad.

Simon Dell: That’s a really good question. And I think about it now, and I think there’s two underutilized parts of Twitter that I think if they sat down and went, “You know what? We need to think about how these operate better.” And number one is the lists. And I’ve started recently building lists of people, trying to categorize them, so that if I’m interested in… 

I mean, I’ve got a list for example that’s called ‘people to believe in.’ So, people that I’ve heard speak, people that I’ve heard on podcasts, or read books, and all that kind of thing. I’ll add them to that list because they’re the sort of people that you would place — if you sat there and went, “We want people to lead humanity forward.” These are the people. I mean, they might not necessarily all agree with each other, but they’ve all got a certain level of intellect that you just buy into their story straight away.

And I think Twitter uses lists enough so that you can compartmentalize that conversation. So, I have one for finance people. I have one for blockchain people and it’s hard to navigate in and out of those lists. I find it’s not a particularly intuitive, fantastic user experience to do that.

Mel Kettle: I agree, and I love lists and have used them for a long time. I keep it really simple. I’ve only got three lists and I follow somebody else’s list. That’s manageable for me, but I constantly go in and out and add people and delete people. I keep my lists quite small, no more than about a hundred people on each list, because they’re people whose opinions and whose content really resonates with me. And as soon as it started — and they have conversations a lot of the time as well, which is important to me. But yeah, I agree. Lists are so undervalued.

Simon Dell: The second thing that I think Twitter should do is that there’s this massive gap between people who have a blue tick and the rest of the general population. And to me, there should be three tiers. Number one is the blue ticks, the famous people, like we need to know that that is actually Kim Kardashian on that Twitter account, or Barack Obama, and all those kind of things. We need to understand that.

But we should also be saying to people, “Do you know what? Even if you’ve just got 3,000 followers, or 500 followers, or 200 followers, and this is actually you, we’re going to certify it as you.” Which means we know it’s you, you’re using your real name, your Twitter handle might be @somethingelse, but you’ve got your real name in the title. You are a 100% genuine person. And then everybody else who is a troll account or anonymous account…

Because the thing I find frustrating with Twitter is those anonymous accounts that you can say absolutely anything that you want and there’s no repercussions of it. The last thing I was going to say is that we should then be able to say, “I don’t want people who aren’t certified, or aren’t real people following me, or being able to respond to me.” I understand that would kill Twitter, the basis of Twitter completely, but that’s where I think it should go.

Mel Kettle: I’ll be safe because I’ve got a blue tick.

Simon Dell: Yeah, I don’t. How did you get a blue tick?

Mel Kettle: Oh you know, because I’m awesome. They opened it up. 

Simon Dell: [LAUGHS]

Mel Kettle: Don’t laugh. I am awesome. Otherwise, if I’m not, why would you be interviewing me?

Simon Dell: Exactly.

Mel Kettle: They opened it up to the public a little while ago, probably maybe two or three years ago. And for a really short time, you could apply for the blue tick. And so, I applied and got it first go. But I know a lot of people who didn’t get it when they applied. There’s a lot of people I think should have a blue tick who I know applied but didn’t get it. So, I don’t actually know how I did over some of these people because I’ve got about 10,000 followers, but that’s not as many as most people with a blue tick. But I do like that.

And I have heard on the grapevine that Twitter is re-looking at the blue tick process and considering making it easier for people to apply to get the blue tick.

Simon Dell: I would find Twitter much more useful if I just sat there and said, “The only people that can talk to me have a blue tick.” Because I’ve been in those situations where probably six months ago, I disagreed with a journalist’s comment about how interns should always be paid, because I ran my own agency, I had lots of interns who came and worked for free. I would go and work for free if there was a job that I wanted to learn about. I’d go and spend time in there working for free.

And then I just got lynched by everybody on Twitter with an extreme left-wing viewpoint about exploiting workers, etc. That was a horrible experience.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, I can imagine.

Simon Dell: That really turns me off the platform. Suffice to say now, I don’t make any comments which is again not what’s supposed to happen.

Mel Kettle: Mm-hmm. I think I’ve been really lucky with my Twitter experience. I’ve never had a negative experience like that. I’ve had a couple where I’ve had some robust discussions with people, but I haven’t had the full force of a troll. And I’m really grateful for that because…

Simon Dell: To be fair, she wasn’t a troll. She was a journalist and she was recognized as a journalist. But the backup, the troll army that came…

Mel Kettle: It’s everybody else. It’s the troll army that see a bit of argy barge or robust conversation, not even argy barge and just go, “We don’t like this. We don’t like you.” And who knows how they think? I don’t. I’ve got a couple of friends who’ve been trolled on Twitter and on Facebook, and it’s just believably ugly. And you know, there’s groups of people and all they do is generate this army of trolls and say, “Righty-o, today, we’re going to go and attack this person for no apparent reason.”

Simon Dell: That’s probably a good stepping stone onto something else I wanted to ask you about, is small businesses, and all businesses, I think one of the fears that they have stepping into the social media forum is that negativity, how to deal — and not necessarily just with trolls, anonymous trolls, but people who are happy to have their name and their face on a Facebook account or a Twitter account. How do you think businesses should approach that negativity or those challenges?

Mel Kettle: So, there’s a couple of different types of negativity. There’s somebody who’s politely disagreeing with you or politely saying, “I didn’t love the service, the product, the experience” with you, and that’s managed in one way. And the way to manage somebody who’s polite is to — the recommendation I give to my clients is to say, “Thanks very much for your feedback. I’d love to discuss this with you further. Can we take it offline?” Either me a phone number, I’ll call you, or can you call me or email me on these contact details, and we’ll solve the problem, come to a resolution?

Now, not everybody is happy to do that but a lot of people are. And then you’ve got the people who just want to create trouble, and those people, again, you still need to say — because you publicly need to be seen to be responding. So again, you need to address that in some way. But with those kinds of people, you can work out pretty quickly whether they’re legitimate or whether they’re just troublemakers. And if they’re troublemakers, you can use language or try and shut them down in some way politely.

There’s a couple of people I know who say two responses and that’s it. And then it’s obvious if they’re a troublemaker, because you can tell from the tone and the language. And then you’ve got your trolls. And then — actually there’s a fourth group, which is people who just use profanity and language that you don’t accept. And what I say to my clients is that you own your Facebook page — well, Facebook owns it but you’re in control of it.

And so, you should have really clear terms and conditions and rules of engagement on your Facebook page that you can point people to if you think that you’re going to have trouble makers. And then you can make it very clear that this is the kind of behavior we accept. This is the kind of language we accept, and anything else will be blocked and/or deleted.

Simon Dell: I like that comment about two responses and then after that — that’s spot-on. And I’ve seen certainly with Messenger, because a lot of businesses use Messenger now as a customer service tool, is that if the argument keeps continuing in Messenger, then at some point it has to stop. And if it’s happening on the page, would you actually advocate deleting people or blocking them from the page eventually if it keeps going?

Mel Kettle: Again, it depends on the language and the tone that’s used. And you can — I think you can tell from somebody who’s genuinely upset from somebody who’s just wanting to be a pain in the ass. And genuinely upset people — and I’m not a big advocate for blocking or deleting any way because people can see how you respond.

And if you — and this is a really good argument for putting a lot of energy into creating your community on social media because then if people are horrible to you, and your community doesn’t feel that that behavior is justified, they’ll stand up for you. And you’ve just got to look at what happened with Avid Reader in Brisbane last year when they had some trolls on their page.

And I think it was Benjamin Law sent out a tweet saying, “My beloved Avid Reader is being trolled. Can you go and give them a five-star review on Facebook if you’ve been there?” And within a couple of days, they had four thousand five-star reviews versus 400 trolls. And their community were just so willing to support them because they knew how hard they worked, how loyal they were to their customers in their community, and what lovely people they genuinely were as individuals who worked there.

Spend a lot of time building up the community and giving value to them, and making them feel valued and supported, and giving them content that helps them so that then when you need their help, they’ll be there for you.

Simon Dell: Do you know what? I look back on those days when I used to do my social media presentations and things like that. And that was one of the highlights. I said that’s the space that you want to get to as a business. You want to have a group of people on your social media channels that would defend you before you get a chance to step in and defend yourself. And that’s the kind of holy grail of social media.

Mel Kettle: It really is. It’s this community of people who you know. They know you, they like you, and they trust you. And they don’t just like you, they love you. And so, nurture them.

Simon Dell: What are some of the early steps that a business should take to start building that community? Because again, I think as much as the trolls scare people off, actually where to start probably scares most businesses off as well.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, it does. And you know, trolls are such a small part of it and they impact on such a microscopic number of people. Most of my clients and most businesses that I have worked with and that know will never come into contact with a troll because they’re just not subversive enough or they don’t have enough issues that trolls go and get behind.

Simon Dell: Confrontational?

Mel Kettle: That’s the word I was after, thank you.

Simon Dell: Do you know what? That’s normally me who forgets the words. I expect people to prompt me. That’s the first time in 22 podcasts that I have managed to get it right for someone else.

Mel Kettle: Excellent, thank you. Glad I could help. But just getting back to work, the very first thing… I talk in the book about, and I have to mention the book at least once. I was going to mention it 26 times. But I talk in the book about a ladder of social media engagement. And at the very bottom of the ladder, you’re not doing anything because you either don’t know what to do, you’re too scared, or you just don’t know what’s out there.

And then the first thing that a lot of people do when it comes to social is they just observe. And they’re looking to see what social media platforms are there that their business could be on. They’re learning what’s available and they’re looking to say, “Okay, where is our audience? Where is our market? Where is our skill set? Where do they all converge and what should we start with?

Simon Dell: So then they — let’s say they start a Facebook account or a Twitter account, and they’ll start broadcasting out their information. And this is all very — most people start just with the one-way communication where they’re taking information off their website and sharing it, or they might be sharing an opinion. But usually, it’s very… Today, we did this. Tomorrow, we’re doing this. Come to our event. It’s not really interesting or engaging content, but it’s just getting them used to the process.

And it’s sort of promoting themselves. And I say to my clients, you’ve got to go through that process because that’s how you learn. But once you feel that you’ve got a bit of confidence, then start having conversations with people and just start commenting on other people’s posts. Put in calls to action in all of your posts, which might be as simple as, “I read this article and I loved it. What do you think?”

Or “We notice that our clients have this problem. Is this something that challenges you?” So, ask a question. And don’t necessarily make your call to action something where people have to put their hand in their pocket and buy from you. At this stage, you just want to get to know people. So, you want to ask as many questions as possible and answer as many questions as relevant. And even just things like, if you’re on Twitter, start a conversation with somebody. Comment on something that they’ve written or shared and say thank you.

Say, “Hello.” Or say, “Hey, I’m new on this platform. I love what you’ve said.” And even though — people definitely don’t talk as much as they used to, particularly on Twitter people, will respond to that because people like to be asked questions. And when you ask somebody a question, it makes them feel needed. And so, they’ll inherently respond whether it’s just in their mind or whether it’s actually taking the time to type an answer. In some way, there’ll be that action that you want.

Simon Dell: The other challenge that I find businesses have with social media, aside from the trials and aside where to get started, is drawing the line between the investment, be it cash or time, developing a Facebook account, or a Twitter stream, or an Instagram account, etc, to actually generating revenue. And if you’re a small bricks and mortar business or you’re a business, service-based business, a lot of people struggle to find that connection to say, “Here, I’m going to invest this.” And therefore, it’s going to deliver this return on investment over there. How do you tackle those questions?

Mel Kettle: There’s a couple of things that people use social media for. They use it to find out information about products and services, and they use it for customer service. So as a business, when you start your social media accounts, you need to be looking at it both from a marketing and sales perspective. But more importantly, in terms of customer service, people are a lot more inclined now to go to social media to ask questions, or to share feedback, or comments, or criticism about your product, or your brand, or your service whether you’re there or not.

So, if you’re not there responding then you don’t even know the damage that that’s doing to your brand a lot of the time, unless people then might ring you, or email you, or come into your store and tell you that they’re unhappy because you haven’t responded to them on social. So I think while the return on investment is really, really important and you want to make sure that you’re getting that, it’s also important to remember that it’s a slow burn. So, I equate it to — like when you’re going to a networking event, you don’t go to your networking event and set up a stall at the back of the room and say come and buy my product or come and buy my service.

You get to know people and you build a relationship with the people who are your target market or your target audience. And then over time, they get to know you, they get to know what you have to offer. And then when they need what you have, hopefully, you’ll be top of mind and they’ll go and buy what you’re offering. And social media is the same. It’s about showing value and showing up so that people can see who you are, why you’re the expert in that space, or why you’ve got the products or the services that will solve their problems.  And then when they need it, coming back to you.

Simon Dell: It’s hard as well for some of these businesses to consistently generate interesting content. And I have for 22 episodes of this podcast picked on accountants as the example of a service-based industry, that it could sometimes be described as not particularly interesting. How do they tackle that? Where do they go to produce it? How do people be interesting?

Mel Kettle: So, I have worked with a few accountants. And let me tell you, I know every single thing there is to know about setting up a self-managed super fund because I think I’ve written 57,000 fact sheets on what you have to do.

Simon Dell: You lucky person.

Mel Kettle: Oh, I know. And I’ve got a lot of clients in that same situation, and I just say to them, “What are the questions that people ask of you? What are the questions that come through your call center?” Or if you’re a small business and you don’t have a call center, then when people ring you looking for an accountant, what are the top three or four things they ask? And then create content around that. And the other thing that a lot of people forget is, you don’t have to create all the content that you share. You can be curating other people’s content, and that makes you look generous and that makes you look good in the eyes of the people whose content you’ve shared, but also in terms of your clients because it’s a very generous thing to be name-dropping somebody else and not assuming or not showing that you know everything when you can’t know everything.

And then the other thing is that most people create a piece of content, let’s say a blog post of 500 words, and they only use it once. They only use it on their blog. They might share it once on Facebook, put it on LinkedIn once, share it a couple of times on Twitter and that’s it. So, look at what you’ve got. What content can you recycle? If you’re an accountant, we know there’s five key dates every single year that most people forget.

There’s the day you have to lodge your tax return by. There’s the day you have to close off your taxes — 30th of June is sort of a key date, and then there’s that date in October and the other date in May that you need to know about lodging your tax return. If you’re a small business, then you need to know all the dates around lodging your BAS. So, that’s five or six blog posts that you could write right there.

It’s BAS time again. These are the top 3 things you need to know. And you can write that same blog post four times a year and most people won’t realize, especially if you just tweak the language slightly.

Simon Dell: If you’re an accountant out there, Mel has just given you a master class on how not to be boring. I hope they appreciate that.

Mel Kettle: And then if you’re into video, and video is the biggest thing since sliced bread at the moment, create a couple of videos. And you might interview a couple of your clients if you’re an accountant. You might have a couple of your clients interview you with all the questions that they want to know. And maybe look at who your audience is, but if you’ve got a mix of mum and dads who need personal tax, plus small business, plus maybe you’re not-for-profit, then do an interview with each of them. Get them transcribed, convert them into a couple of articles and blog posts that you can share on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on your blog, on Medium if it’s worth it, an article in your newsletter, an electronic newsletter, and your hard copy newsletter, which surprisingly some accountants still do. And then think about…

Simon Dell: I’ll challenge you there because I think a hard copy newsletter is a great idea still for a lot of businesses.

Mel Kettle: I think it is for a lot of businesses as well. But again, you need to know your audience and you need to know your market.

Simon Dell: I used to have a client who is a home brewing chain, and they send out an e-newsletter. And there was one of the classics where they put all the content in the newsletter, so the newsletter was of course — it was ridiculous in length. It would take an hour to read, where you’re supposed to click through the links into the blog post or the articles on the website.

And so I told them this. So for two newsletters, they reverted to my suggestion which was just do an intro paragraph and then a read more here, and then that clicks through to your website. And then they reverted back and I said, “Why have you reverted back?” And they said, “Two people complained that they used to like the old version of the newsletter because they used to sit on the toilet and read it.”

I said, “Sorry, how many people complained?” And he goes, “Two.” I said, “How many people do you send this out to?” He goes, “6,000.” And I was like, “Oh, Jesus Christ.” For god’s sake, print them out and post it to them if that’s important. Anyway, that was the sort of struggle sometimes. And no doubt, you’ve dealt with those kind of challenges.

Mel Kettle: Mm-hmm.

Simon Dell: So tell me a little bit about Social Media and Marketing World. Whereabouts was that?

Mel Kettle: Social Media Marketing World is in San Diego every year. This was the third time that I went and I loved it so much. I’ve bought my ticket for next year already.

Simon Dell: Lots of people there?

Mel Kettle: 4,000? 4,500 this year? So, it’s grown. Last year, I think there were 3,000 or 3,500. So, it’s growing every year. And I think there were about 60 of us from Australia who flew over, and there were about 40 or 50 countries represented. And what I love… There’s a few things I love about it. They offer a virtual ticket as well, so you don’t have to go and spend thousands of dollars. You can just buy the virtual ticket and get access to all the presentations online. You can watch in your living room.

But I keep going back every year because I just love the people who I’ve met, the friendships I’ve created, the networks that I’ve formed over the last couple of years of going. And there’s probably about 8 of us or 10 of us from all around the world. And this year, we met up the day before the conference started for half a day just to share what’s happening in our business worlds, and we’re all the same, similar-sized consultants. And where we need help, and what we’re doing, and how we can do things differently. So, that alone made it worth me going.

Simon Dell: Was that your highlight or did you have another particular highlight?

Mel Kettle: That was definitely a highlight, but probably one of my favorite sessions every year is the opening keynote that Michael Stelzner gives. Mike is the founder of Social Media Examiner, who put on the conference. And he does research every year that asks — and he goes out to marketers and marketing professionals, and he asks them a series of questions around their social media use.

And his opening keynote distills down the research outcomes that he’s found. He converts them into a report that comes out normally in May every year, but he just gives us a sneak peek of what some of the highlights are of the data that he’s found but also what else is happening in social media world that he has his finger on the pulse of that we might not. So, he normally gives an update about Facebook, about Instagram. This year, he gave an update about video.

One of the things that really stood out really loudly and clearly from almost all of the speakers was that we need to be more human and we need to remember that social media is called social media, not sales media. And that we need to think about how can we be more human with our brand, with our message, with our product, with our people, with our interactions and engagement. How can we be focused a lot more on quality of engagement, and quality of follower and audience versus focusing on the numbers for the quantity? Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve got 100,000 people who like your Facebook page if only two people ever interact.

Simon Dell: That’s interesting because to be honest with you, ever since day one of social media, I think that’s been a mantra that I’ve certainly said to people and I’m sure I’ve heard you say to people.

Mel Kettle: I bang on about it all the time, yeah.

Simon Dell: Yeah, and it’s funny that here we are in 2018. We’re still having that conversation that it’s about quality and not quantity.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, but the number of people I know in social media space, and you would know them as well, who say my client is concerned because they’re not seeing their follower numbers increase. And it’s like, “Well, you need to educate them that it’s not about the vanity metric. It’s about the actual quality of the conversation.”

And one of the things that Mike spoke about was Facebook has changed the algorithm again. And one of the things it’s focusing on is the quality of the comments. And if you have comments on your Facebook posts that are long, that give value, and that share value, and that indicate value rather than an F for following or a one or two-word response, then they’re going to bump that up to the top of the feed because they’re going to — the algorithm will assume that those comments are more valuable to other readers than a one-word response.

Simon Dell: Again, it’s the old age problem of the fact that clients think numbers mean new business or more possible new business. The more followers, the more likely the website’s — someone’s going to come to the website, the more likely the phone is going to ring and things like that. It’s a hard battle explaining that to them consistently that that’s not always the case and very rarely the case.

Mel Kettle: That’s exactly right. The analogy that I often give is, a few years ago, my brother and I had to sell our family home after our parents died unexpectedly. And we had — I think the first open house, we only had three buyers through, and we were really disappointed except one of those people made an offer and we sold it to him. It didn’t matter if they were a hundred people that went through, it only takes one person to buy. And that’s what I think a lot of people forget about.

And they don’t tend to forget about that when it comes to other aspects of the sales process in their business, but they do when it comes to social media. And I think partly that’s because there’s been so many people who’ve just focused on numbers, and numbers are important, and numbers matter, and the more people that like your page or that follow you on Twitter, the better. But that’s not the reality.

Simon Dell: We’re coming to the end of this now, and I know you and I could probably chat for another couple of hours and all this, but maybe we will. Maybe we’ll do a second.

Mel Kettle: We can do a part two.

Simon Dell: Yeah. Great minds think alike. A couple of questions I want to wrap up with. I have the final three, but there’s one that I wanted to ask you about because — I was going to frame this in a way that makes you sound old, but I don’t mean it. I was going to say the favorite client that you’ve worked with in the past however many years. Because I think everybody has a favorite deep down that they’ve worked with. What’s been your favorite?

Mel Kettle: That’s a good question. My favorite job, and they weren’t really a client, but my favorite job was when I worked at the Brisbane Festival because I learned such a massive amount. But my favorite client, I’ve worked with a research center. This research center was my first client, and I still do a little bit of work for them. And I’ve been in business now for 12 years this year. And what I love about this client is they always listen to what I have to say. They use me for my expertise and they actually listen to it. And a lot of clients say they want your expertise, but then they argue with you.

And I’m all for a good argument. But when I say to them, “I don’t think you should do this for these reasons.” I’m not just saying that because I like the sound of my voice. I’m saying it because I’ve got lots of experience and I know that what they want to do might not work. And so, this research center would probably be my favorite client or the client that I enjoyed the most.

Simon Dell: I echo that as a fellow consultant. The clients that are the best to work with are the ones that listen to what you’re actually saying to them. And yeah, I completely agree. An argument is a healthy thing, a discussion about what you’re suggesting to them is a healthy outcome. But to consistently listen to advice and then ignore it, or to tell you what they need you to do, kind of defeats the objective of you being there in the first place.

Mel Kettle: Exactly. I had a client quite a few years ago who said — we did a marketing plan for her and this was social media was just happening at the time, so it was seven or eight, nine years ago, maybe. And she said to me, “I’ve got an opportunity to have an ad in the Brisbane Times, or the Brisbane News, or one of those free giveaway papers in the city. And she was a small business. She heads a beautician. And at the time, I reckon every second ad or probably two out of every three ads in these papers was for a beautician.

And I said to her, “It’s a waste of money. They might have pitched it that you’ve got a good deal, but it’s not a good use of money.” And of course, she didn’t listen to me and she spent $400 or whatever it was on this ad. And then I mentioned it to her, I said again to her a few weeks later, “How did the ad go?” And she went, “I got nothing. I can’t believe I got nothing out of it.” I’m like, “Really? We had a conversation for half an hour about how it was a waste of money and you still don’t understand why?”

Simon Dell: I remember a similar conversation I had with a fish and chip shop in Mount Ommaney which sadly is no longer there because it was a fantastic fish and chip shop. And they’ve been approached by — it was either Nova, or B105, or Triple M, one of those three to do an ad campaign across the whole of Brisbane.

And I said to them, “You’re a fish and chip shop in Mount Ommaney and you have possibly a reach of maybe five kilometers. Maybe 10 is a push.”

Mel Kettle: And more likely two.

Simon Dell: More likely two I said. I said, “Your fish and chips are good but they’re not that good.” And here, you’ve got a radio station that wanted them to spend something like $20,000 on an ad campaign for the whole of Brisbane. And I was just like, it’s ludicrous. And what annoys me more than anything else in that context wasn’t so much that the client had listened to the radio station, but the radio station had the gall to suggest that as a solution to them, knowing perfectly well that it wasn’t a good idea.

Mel Kettle: Yeah, that’s just money grabbing.

Simon Dell: That’s generally why I dislike radio stations.

Mel Kettle: There’s very few small businesses that are location-based that would benefit from something like that. I think the only one that I can think of is my absolute favorite bakery in Morningside, Flower and Chocolate. And the only reason I know that they could benefit is because every morning, there’s a lineup of people halfway down the street to get in. And when I stand in the line and say to people, “Where are you from?” Every single time, I get an answer that’s along the lines of Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Mount Ommaney. People drive for miles to go to this bakery, especially on a Saturday and a Sunday morning.

Simon Dell: Maybe people would drive miles to go to a fish and chip shop. Maybe I…

Mel Kettle: But the problem with fish and chips is that they get cold, and you want to eat them within about 10 minutes of getting them home. So, our favorite fish and chip shop is in the next suburb to where I live. We love fish and chips in this house. But I know if they don’t get home and on the plate within about seven minutes of Sean picking them up, they’re cold.

Simon Dell: Somebody is going to get beaten up if they’re not home — if they’re not home when Mel’s plate warm, then Mel gets angry.

Mel Kettle: But we’re a four-minute drive from the fish and chip shop, so that’s about — I’m not prepared to go a whole lot further away, buy it, and bring it home.

Simon Dell: We’ve not even touched on all of your food stuff as well. Because for anybody that knows Mel, there’s a whole nother world of Mel’s food. 

Mel Kettle: I’m trying to work out. I’m in a bit of a baking frenzy at the moment, and one of my goals this year is to bake every week, which is awesome because it’s a real stress reliever for me. But I don’t really like cake and I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I’m trying to work out, “How can I bake for my clients?” And I think I’m going to have to say to any client who hires me in Brisbane, or in Sydney, or in Melbourne, you have to give me a kitchen. But if you want me, I’m happy to bring morning tea because then I can bake beautiful cakes, and slices, and brownies, and not have to eat more.

Simon Dell: You get Mel’s expertise and a cake every week.

Mel Kettle: And a cake.

Simon Dell: What client could possibly turn that down? If you’re working in Melbourne, you’d have to go make it down there. It’s not like you can’t really be putting on a…

Mel Kettle: Some cakes travel. I’ve definitely been known to travel with bread when I went to Adelaide a few years ago. They have the most beautiful fruit loaf at one of the vendors in the Adelaide markets, and I came home with three loaves of it. You can carry your luggage and you can smell it because it was still warm.

Simon Dell: You’d have to change your business card now that says, “Mel Kettle, have cake, will travel.” Something like that.

Mel Kettle: That’s a great idea. I should do that.

Simon Dell: Last three questions. The third to the last question. What’s a brand that you really like? You’ve mentioned the bakery in Morningside, but a brand that you look at and admire everything that they do, not just the social media, something that you buy all the time.

Mel Kettle: Flower and Chocolate is one of my favorites. That’s the bakery. And what I love about them is they’re really — I thought they were being really innovative with their marketing because they’ve generated this massive momentum by only having certain products on certain days. They only had brownies on a Friday. They only had bagels on a Friday. They do beautiful different flavors of their sourdough on Saturdays and Sundays, and they do donuts and cronuts only on a Wednesday, or I might be getting the days wrong. But you know, it’s all on their website and facebook page.

I interviewed Lachlan, the owner, for one of my podcasts a while ago and I said to him, “That’s so clever. How did you come up with that?” And he said, “It was born of necessity because we have such a tiny kitchen. I couldn’t bake everything every day.”

Simon Dell: It’s a dangerous policy because if you want a doughnut and you go in there in a day, and you’ve fallen in love with their donuts, and you go their not available…

Mel Kettle: Everybody knows because they’ve been really active on Facebook from day one, and they say — so I think I forget what today is donut day, but the day before, he’ll say, “What flavor doughnut should we do tomorrow?”

Simon Dell: Okay.

Mel Kettle: And he’ll say, “We’re doing this one, this one, and this one. Do you want this one or this one?”

Simon Dell: The idea is one thing. But if you don’t communicate it properly, it’s a completely fail. You have communicate properly.

Mel Kettle: They communicate it really, really well. The other brand that I love is also a small business bakery in Brisbane, Dello Mano.

Simon Dell: I see a theme coming through your favorite brands here, Mel.

Mel Kettle: I don’t really eat cake. We’ve ascertained that.

Simon Dell: I don’t eat cake but all my favorite brands are bakeries.

Mel Kettle: Flower and Chocolate do the best bread in Brisbane, so that’s why I go there. Dello Mano, they started out at the market, the Brisbane Powerhouse markets years and years ago. And they had a philosophy or they’ve got a really exclusive and quite expensive very high-end product. So, a small brownie that you could eat in two bite is about $5. So, it’s very high-end. It’s incredible quality ingredients, and they’re made with so much love. You can just taste the love in them.

But Deb Peralta, who’s one of the owners with her husband, she had a philosophy of generosity. And she said, “I know I’m never going to be able to sell my brownies to somebody who hasn’t tasted them.” And so, she and her team would be at the markets religiously every weekend just giving away trays and trays and trays and trays of brownies so that people could taste them and then fall in love with their product and then buy them.

Simon Dell: Again, it’s a classic ploy. One of my favorite brands I always hark on about on here Guzman y Gomez because I’m hopelessly addicted to their burritos. Whenever they open a store, it’s always free burrito day on the first day no matter how big they’ve got. There’s always free burrito day. Subsequently on those first days, everyone’s there who hasn’t had a Guzman burrito, and it’s trying the product, and you know.

Mel Kettle:  Or who has and knows how good they are.

Simon Dell: Yeah, absolutely, if you can get in that queue. Okay, so second to the last question then. What’s next? Obviously, the book… Where can people buy the book, Mel?

Mel Kettle: So, you can buy my book on my website, And depending on when this episode comes out, it’ll be on Amazon at some stage. We’ll work out how to do that or find someone to do it for me. But at the moment you can get it through my website, which is And there’s a click through on the homepage.

Simon Dell: I shall do an introduction to my very first interviewee in SDS number one, Emiliano Giovannoni, who’s just put his book on Amazon. If anybody knows how to do it, he can do that.

Mel Kettle: That would be fantastic. Thank you very much.

Simon Dell: If people will just hang on for a little bit, they’ll see it on Amazon. Is it one of those print to order things?

Mel Kettle: It’ll be an e-book on Amazon, and I probably will do the print-on-demand as well because I’m getting quite a bit of interest from people in the US and the UK. And shipping from Australia is a stupid amount of money, but that’s another issue. So yes, I will have the e-book available on Amazon and also on print on demand for people internationally.

Simon Dell: Final question, if people want to get hold of you — we didn’t answer the last question, what’s next? Sorry, we got sidetracked by promoting your book.

Mel Kettle: This year, I’m trying to raise my profile in the association and not-for-profit space and I’m doing a lot more work with associations and nonprofits. I’m speaking at quite a few conferences. I’m available to speak at conferences.

Simon Dell: Another plug in there.

Mel Kettle: I’m running a series of social media day workshops in July for associations and nonprofits around Australia and in New Zealand. But the next thing I’m going to knuckle down and focus on is writing another book. So, I’ve got a few ideas for a few more books. And…

Simon Dell: Can you share one of those with us?

Mel Kettle: No, because I’m just working — well, not really.

Simon Dell: That’s okay. I don’t want to pressure you.

Mel Kettle: There will be… Not really because I’m still working out the order and the sequence and exactly what they’ll be. But it’ll be primarily for the association and nonprofit space, and looking at member engagement and how to maybe get your members to work as influencers for you because that’s a big area where I think a lot of businesses, a lot of associations don’t know what to do, and how to get their members to act as a volunteer army for them.

Simon Dell: Last question then: Where can people come and find you? Obviously, we’ve mentioned a number of times. But where else?

Mel Kettle: If people Google me, I own the first three pages with my name. I probably own the first six pages, actually. So, I’m on Twitter and Instagram, @MelKettle. I’m on Facebook @MelKettleBiz. Website, obviously,

Simon Dell: There’s no other famous Mel Kettles out there, is there?

Mel Kettle: There’s actually two others I know who also do PR comms jobs, and one of them is a man who works for a railway in the UK because every now and then I’ll get a Google alert for him. The first time I did, I read it and thought, “That sounds like something I’d say but I don’t remember saying it.” And then I’d scroll down and saw a picture of this man, I went, “Oh. No wonder I don’t remember saying it. It’s not me.”

Simon Dell: Mel, it has been absolutely fantastic. For one last time, if anybody wants to buy the book, It’s going to be — I haven’t read it and I will read it, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic read for anyone interested in helping learn about social media for their business. So, once again Mel, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate having you on, and thanks again and goodluck with the sales of the book. I hope it goes gangbusters, especially in North America because then you can do a tour of North America and do signings and things like that.

Mel Kettle: That’s my plan. I go once a year to the US and my goal is twice a year, so I need to get a speaking gig, or some workshops, or something in the second half of the year as well.

Simon Dell: If you’re in the US, for God’s sake, book Mel for a speaking tour.

Mel Kettle: Or Canada, love to get back to Canada.

Simon Dell: Nice places.

Mel Kettle: I have a Canadian passport so I can get there really easily. You don’t need a visa for me in Canada.

Simon Dell: Alright, thanks very much. 

Mel Kettle: Thanks, Simon. That was fantastic.


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