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An interview with Jon Morter, a social media pioneer and campaigner.

Blog post   •   Jul 30, 2013 09:57 BST

Jon Morter is a Rock DJ turned social media pioneer and campaigner.  With his wife Tracey, they have created some of the most well known social media campaigns including the likes of the Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No.1 and the campaign to save BBC 6.  He now runs the social media company Big Other with Jamie Turner.

1. You began your career as a Rock DJ and you’re now an award winning ‘social media campaigner,’ how did this change come about?

I do still DJ a little when I can, but yes when I started out as a Rock DJ I had no aspirations of ever being a campaigner as such, plus online didn’t really exist back then. I first started to use ‘social media’ (a term I’m a little uncomfortable with but there’s no real alternative) around 2001 (i think) with Friends Reunited and marvelled at its possibilities. A year later John Otway managed to score a top 10 hit single by using an e-mail campaign, something that I was involved with as a fan but it certainly lodged itself in my head...again how effective online could be if utilised in the right way.

Facebook was what really showed me how powerful social media could be. I played around with it in my spare time and experimented with the effectiveness of pages and groups. I really saw first hand it’s potential and was determined to exploit it!

2. Why do you think your #80s tweets and your Rage Against the Machine campaigns were so successful?

Well #80sTweets was let’s say a well-timed fluke (if that term exists!). One Monday morning on my way into work I stopped off at Pret in London Bridge to grab a coffee. Whilst I was waiting in the queue I checked out my Twitter on the phone and it struck me that I was finding out all of the current affairs and news before even getting into work. It was all very immediate, and I thought to myself how Twitter would have looked in a past time, so I tweeted some very ‘old’ news for the sake of it and made an #80sTweets tag without thinking much more of it. To cut a story short by that Friday afternoon #80sTweets was trending No.1 in the world and had even surpassed #ff & #followfriday. This wasn’t planned at all, but really showed me how one small idea can escalate!

WHY was it successful? I’m not sure to be honest, but maybe it resonated at the time with many as being quirky (this was early 2009 so not as many ‘joke’ or parody accounts just yet)

Rage was successful by being a simple campaign with a very clear goal and me ensuring as many people as possible knew this. If it’s too complex then many people will switch off, that’s just human nature in my opinion, so essentially I was saying ‘If you do this, at this time, then THIS will happen’

3. Would you say that your social media campaigns were used to defend something you feel strongly about?  Do you think this would have been possible without social media?

Yes absolutely, many of my campaigns have occurred because I’ve ended up getting pissed off about something! Social Media has played a vital role in that for sure although I tend not to get involved in other campaigns that I don’t feel strongly about.

4. Your Rage Against the Machine campaign was a lot more successful than it’s predecessor, the one for the Rick Astley song, why do you think this was?

Mistakes. They’re brilliant, and I made plenty of them with the Rick Astley campaign. Keep in mind that the Astley ‘RickRoll’ campaign was created by me very much off the cuff with just 3 weeks until the Christmas chart rundown, so I left myself a big mountain to climb with pretty much zero experience of that type of campaign. I hadn’t read the chart rules at all...I hadn’t properly understood the functionality of Facebook groups...in fact in general I had presumed too much, and lo and behold it failed. The following year however was a different animal altogether. I knew the rules, so I knew how far I could bend them without snapping plus another year of experience with Facebook and Twitter too.

One other thing...I didn’t panic. We had many occasions during the Rage campaign where it all could’ve imploded. One huge example is the entire group being pulled from Facebook, and I suspected foul play from elsewhere (there was a certain element that were trying to “derail” the campaign and I could prove it at the time). Rather than panic I managed to find a contact at Facebook for it to be restored...

5. Your BBC 6 campaign seemed to be very complicated as a result of other people setting up their own accounts to save BBC 6 too.  How did you deal with this?  

Yes the 6Music campaign was a whole new ball game when it came to digital campaigns. The Facebook group in which myself and Tracy were admins was started early and grew very quickly indeed (180,000 in a matter of weeks). We were told very clearly from a few of those inside the BBC that it was imperative for as many people as possible to write to the BBC Trust with their concerns. Simply shouting about it wasn’t going to be enough.

As the campaign grew bigger more and more people created websites, other pages, Twitter accounts, arranged protests, and many other outlets. Unlike the Rage campaign where it was pretty much me running the show (a few people made websites and I asked them to pull them), the 6Music campaign had numerous people ‘doing their bit’. We didn’t really get too involved in what others were doing as we just wanted to concentrate on getting everyone to write to the BBC Trust. I even worked with 38 Degrees to create an ‘easy’ template for people to send.

Once the positive decision was made public I was asked to speak on Sky News that evening whilst some of the others involved spoke on other channels. It was never ‘our’ campaign as such...we just ran the biggest online outlet for it

6. What other social media or digital marketing campaigns have you been involved in?

Not long after the Rage campaign I was invited to work on an official campaign for the Rolling Stones re-release of their Exile On Main St. album. It was an honour to work with such legends and was a thrill to see it hit the No.1 album slot soon after. Nirvana, Sex Pistols, Rod Stewart campaigns have all followed which has been a delight considering I’m a fan of all three!

Last year I worked the social media campaign for ‘The Justice Collective’ Hillsborough tribute single which was also a privilege to be involved with. This was successful in becoming the 2012 Christmas No.1 and raising legal funds for the families of the Hillsborough victims.

7. Which has been your favourite and why?

That’s a tricky one! If I had to pick only one of my campaigns then naturally it would have to be getting Rage Against The Machine to No.1 and breaking a Guinness sales record in the process. I still get days where I think about it in astonishment that we all pulled it off

8. What current projects are you working on?

I’m doing a lot of travelling around right now speaking at numerous functions/conferences/businesses/festivals about my digital antics. I find this very rewarding indeed!

Project-wise I’m working with a few musicians, a former X Factor contestant *cough cough splutter*, two festivals, and a charity amongst others

9. At Digital Shoreditch you presented on condescending social media content.  What are your particular social media pet hates?

Do you have all night? In a nutshell I was seeing so much rubbish in my newsfeed from brands I’d previously ‘liked’ spewing out utter childlike drivel. Stuff like ‘What colour are Bananas? Comment below then click Like’. Utter crap. Why on earth treat your fans like they’re 5 years old? I was gradually unliking all of these brands and thought to myself ‘This could really damage a brand’s reputation that they’ve built up over the years in other media, yet potentially wrecked on Facebook’

A great example is an online DVD/Games retailer that I used since 1999 yet now I no longer use them. Why? because I’m fed up with their persistent desperate requests for me to click ‘Like’ and ‘Share’. In my eyes that brand has lost my custom due to their annoying social media strategy, simple.

10.  Do you have any recent examples of brands using social media badly?

There’s plenty, just go check out the Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook and take your pick

11. What tips do you have for brands or businesses for when they’re using social media?

Be yourselves, not what you think you should be according to some self-proclaimed social media ‘expert’ (and there’s thousands of them...some are indeed good but boy are there loads of buzzword-heavy ones spewing. Just type in ‘social media guru’ on Twitter then stand back).

Post good content that’s relevant to who you are. If you’re a company that makes Tractors then if I’ve liked your page I want to see loads of content about Tractors, not ‘What’s your favourite sandwich filling’ or crap like that.

You can follow Jon on twitter - @JonMorter

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