Everybody’s Talking At Me: Social media and your mental health

Everybody’s Talking At Me: Social media and your mental health

Another day another bloody awareness day, penguins, vegans, sugar.  However this one is worth paying attention to (as are all the others, obviously), it’s Mental Health Awareness Week (#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek).

Social media has come under a lot of scrutiny recently, around the effects on our mental health.  Is Instagram making us all depressed? Is Twitter making us all snarling balls of rage? Is LinkedIn causing us all to become parodies of ourselves.

As far as running a business is concerned, I’m all too well aware that social media, rather than lightening the load, is often just another thing to add in to a busy to do list.  Added to that, time spent on our phones is eating into family time, our relationships and an ability to hold a conversation without checking the latest Brexit tweets.

Whether you are a business owner, marketing a business, expected to use social media as part of your role, or simply scanning Instagram in your spare time, you can suddenly realise that it’s making life difficult.

So here’s the Armadillo Handy Guide to keeping your social media life as healthy as possible.

1. Look for the helpers

Social Media gets a bad rap for its effects on mental health, bullying culture and trolling habits.  But it’s also a wonderful place, full of supportive people who will be more than happy to provide some support or light relief.  On of the great victories of Social Media is that it has shone a spotlight on mental health issues (Mental Health Awareness Week being a case in point) and provided a place where people can share, discover or just hang out.  It has allowed people to talk about their mental health without having to look anyone in the eye. It can be a lifeline to those people who have found social interaction, or leaving the house difficult at one time or another.

Make sure you have identified your tribe to turn to when needed.  I have a list called The Biscuit List, of people on Twitter that I like to read that are guaranteed to make me feel better.

Authors such as @matthaig and @technicallyron are glorious examples of this, and the world is a better place because of them.

2.  Listen out for the echo chamber

I can see how social media can be held responsible for making people’s mental health worse.  Certainly news reports around suicide and self-harm, particularly amongst young people, can be terrifying.  However recent studies have found that it’s not as damaging as first thought, specifically to teens.   What I think it does do, is amplify feelings that already exist.  So if we feel low, social media could make that worse.  If we are fine and dandy, it’s probably going to be OK.

The main reason for this is that we follow accounts that resonate with us, and then we are suggested similar accounts.  Before you know it, you have a feed filled with similar messages and similar world views.  Great in some cases, but potentially damaging in others.

Take a few moments to look at your feeds and pay attention to how they make you feel.  Is it full of unrealistic body images or lifestyles that make you miserable?  Are you constantly finding new things to be angry about?

Try to mix it up a little.  Personally I think the world is significantly improved with dogs in jumpers and @inotternews, but that’s just me.

3.  Watch your screen time

Do you know how much time you spend on your mobile phone?  Honestly?

It’s something that I’m very conscious of.  I am well aware that screen  time and my mental health are related.  I don’t think that too much screen time causes mental health issues, as much is a symptom of them.  I know that if I’m particularly anxious, I will check my phone more often. It’s almost like a nervous tick.

The latest iPhone update has introduced Screentime.  This will tell you how much time you spend on each app on your phone.  You can also set limits for yourself for individual apps, and your phone as a whole.  What’s more, you can also do this for your children!  I still secretly delight at my son’s fury when his phone shuts itself down each night at 8:30.

We have all now heard of social media’s addictive qualities.  Those likes and shares can have the same dopamine hit just as a cigarette, so it’s important to have boundaries.  Try to check your social media at certain times of the day.  It might be over breakfast, with your mid-morning coffee, in front of The Apprentice, but having set times of the day will really help keep it all contained.  More importantly, try not to check your social media while you are also doing something else (if you learn how to do this, let me know how).  Multitasking is a fool’s errand, so if you need to focus on something TURN IT OFF.

4. Enjoy the silence

This is a major one for me.  Social media is my living, so it’s difficult to put it down. However sometimes, the noise can be deafening.  Trying to keep that many clients in my head, answering endless Whatsapp updates and thinking of something witty to say about Line Of Duty can be overwhelming.  There are days when I want to scream into a pillow.  Quite a lot of them actually.

So I try to be extra vigilant about turning if off (I did say ‘try’) and finding plenty of things to do where phones are not required.  Yoga, running, reading.  I’ve tried to replace my phone with my kindle on my bedside table.  As an aside, may I also recommend Box Sets with subtitles, as you haven’t got time to check your phone as you instantly miss what’s going on.

The work life balance is even more important than ever, and even harder to maintain.  Don’t be on 24 hour call, and don’t expect those around you to be on 24 hour call either.  Remember when “I’m sorry, I was out” was enough!

You might also consider turning off your notifications.  That way you can use it when you want to, not when the world is calling.

5.  Keep some perspective

We all know this, but you need to remember that not everything on social media is true.  You may be stressed about work, home, money, family and it can often look like everyone else has got it all figured out – but we really haven’t. Not everyone is making as much money as they say, or living their best lives, and those #makingmemories usually ended in a row in the car on the way home.

Get some social media perspective

6. Prioritise

You can’t do it all.  Don’t feel you have to be an expert on every social media platform.  Pick one that suits you, and what you’re trying to achieve, and do that one well rather than spread yourself too thinly.  Similarly, don’t feel that you have to accept every request or follow every person who follows you.  Your newsfeeds and timelines will end up overrun with rubbish and you’ll be in a permanent panic.  Streamline your Twitter feed with lists, putting certain accounts into categories which will make things easier to keep track of.  You can also get mobile notifications for people who you really don’t want to miss – meaning that you don’t have to keep checking every 5 minutes or worry that you have let something slip by.  Have a look here for more details

7. Haters gonna hate

There are undoubtedly, some wronguns on social media.  They may be people who annoy you, or are more actively aggressive.  Feel free to block.  There’s no law against it and you don’t need to justify it.  If that feels too severe a sanction, there are also more subtle things you can do.  Muting people on Twitter allows you to still follow people but not see their tweets. On Facebook, you can change your newsfeed preferences to hide certain people and pages and prioritise others.

But there is absolutely no need to put up with abuse.  I’ve reported several people for abusive comments on Twitter (these generally followed me saying something about Jeremy Clarkson) and complaints are dealt with swiftly.  Also harassment on social media is taken seriously by the police, if you feel things are getting out of hand and you feel threatened.

And finally ….

8. Use your powers for good

Your phone can also be your friend.  These a huge range of handy apps to help take the stress out of life.  Here are my favourites

Headspace. The lovely Andy will take you through a variety of guided meditations for every woe you may have in your life from sleeplessness, anxiety, grief, or just general life grinding you down.

Runkeeper. Running is great stress reliever and Runkeeper is the best app I’ve found to help you along.  Mainly because I like the amusing voice settings that call out your progress.  ‘Conscience’ is my default setting of choice

Podcasts. I love a podcast and they are a favourite way to relax these days.  There is another blogpost in here somewhere about my Top 10 podcasts but if you’re not listening to David Tennant chat to Olivia Colman, you really should be.

So all in all, social media doesn’t have to be hazardous to your mental health, and it could do some good as long as you, in the words of Jerry Springer,

“take care of yourself, and each other”

To find a list of good mental health people to follow, take a look at my Twitter List

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit the Mental Health Organisation website. If you or someone you know is struggling, then call The Samaritans free at any time on 116 123.

What do you think?  Do you think social media has a positive effect on your mental health, or make everything worse?


The Kids Are Alright: How to keep your children safe online

The Kids Are Alright: How to keep your children safe online

I spend a lot of time worrying about my children on social media, even though they don’t have accounts.  Unfortunately for them, the work I do makes that less likely for them, not more.

I’m a big fan of social media, and the power it has to inform, persuade and raise awareness.  However I’m acutely aware of its downsides, particularly where children and young people are concerned.

I know every generation must say this, but it just seems to radically different to our own childhoods, where we could go for days without hearing from our friends and often that involved their Dad answering the phone first.  The nearest we got to inappropriate content was that Judy Blume book and looking up rude words in the dictionary.

First the good stuff.  The internet is a great thing for children. They have a world of knowledge at their finger tips, they can discover any information about any subject on earth.  The only limitation is their imagination.  Sadly they seem to spend it all looking at videos of people playing video games and opening boxes but hey – who am I to argue.

It also allows them to keep in touch with friends in a way not possible before.  That feeling of connection is important and shouldn’t be overestimated – even if it can’t replace actual human contact.

Social Media isn’t going away.  I still meet people who don’t use Facebook, or have no idea what Instagram is.  You don’t need to be a complete master or use it all the time – but you need to have a basic understanding of what they all do.  If you’re going to teach your children to look after themselves in the world, then you had better learn what that world is.  This is not the Wild West, this is their reality and it should be yours.

Hopefully your children feel that they can talk to you about things that bother them, but you do need to have at least a vague idea of what they’re talking about if they do.

You teach your children to ride a bike, eat in restaurants, road safety – so why on earth would you leave them to work this out on their own.

I see three main issues with kids online, and it’s worth discussing each one.

  • Safety
  • Bullying
  • Anxiety and self-esteem


This is the major worry for most parents, although not necessarily the biggest real danger.  However, make sure your children are aware how to keep themselves safe. Online grooming is terrifying and I don’t want to complacently say that it could never happen in my family, but the more aware everyone is, the safer everyone will be.

First rule, for goodness sake obey the age restrictions.

Action For Children have produced this handy guide.

Action for Children Safer Internet Day


I know so many children who have Instagram Accounts, Facebook and Snapchat accounts when they shouldn’t.  The age restrictions are there for a reason.  Even if some of their friends have them, don’t feel that they all do.  They don’t.  Certainly don’t let your children have accounts if you don’t know how they work.

I mean I know I used to get served in a pub from an early age but hypocrisy serves me well here.

My children are under 13 so don’t have any social media accounts, but that doesn’t mean I can rest easy.

My eldest son has an ipad, which includes imessenger and he has an email account. we have a laptop, they watch Youtube and play on the X Box.  I should confess that my son thinks he has his own Youtube channel but actually it’s mine.

The internet contains a world of unsuitable content – so make sure you have set up your parental controls directly from your router.  We have BT Internet and their filters are good – although we came a cropper a while ago when I found my son had looked up what something meant far sooner than I thought he should!  However we have also set filters on Youtube and the Xbox.  Make sure you know how to do this, because you do need to!

Our rules are

  • Ipads and laptops can only be used downstairs in family rooms.
  • If you don’t know what something means, ask. Don’t google!
  • I will check your internet history and will know if it’s been cleared, that you’ve looked at something you shouldn’t.
  • Don’t befriend anyone you don’t know, and you can make sure that it’s definitely them.
  • Don’t share personal information
  • If something doesn’t feel right, then ask.
  • Know how privacy settings work and how to block people


When they are older, I will set their accounts up and set their privacy settings for them.  I also want to know their passwords.  That doesn’t mean I will read their messages or abuse that trust though.

  • Bullying

For me, this is a bigger concern than grooming.  Both my child being bullied and being the bully.  Again, you teach them to behave in restaurants and talk to grown ups, teach them how to behave online. When we were younger, if there was bullying it tended to be contained either in school, or the journey home.  Today, there is often no escape for them.


At the moment, our discussions are

  • Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t be happy everyone reading.
  • Be careful about who you allow into group messages and who you don’t. Excluding people can be hurtful.
  • Don’t send pictures of yourself, or ask people to send pictures to you that you either aren’t happy with or would mind your headmaster seeing. CLOTHES PLEASE!
  • Be kind to everyone as if they were in front of you.
  • Be respectful

Self-esteem and anxiety

Which brings me to the last issue. I can’t fathom how you begin to grow up in a world where you can document your every move, where all your mistakes are registered for eternity and you get to see and edited version of everyone else’s life.

There is no surprise that anxiety and mental health issues among young people are increasing.  The fear of missing out (that’s FOMO to you and me) along with a warped view of reality and the increased pressure to be fabulous all contribute and you need to offset it somehow.

I don’t have answers for this one – but you can do your best.

  • Tell your children that life isn’t perfect. Show them how photoshopping works, talk to them about how noone’s life is all that it is cracked up to be.
  • Encourage them to take photographs of other interesting things. I’ve already told my son that when he’s 13, he can only have an Instagram account if he promises that the majority of photos will not be of himself.
  • TURN IT OFF. I’m a fine one to talk, but encourage them to know that you don’t have to answer every message.  You can put it down and that the world won’t end if you do something else for a while.
  • Have actual friends. Social Media is great for staying connected but it doesn’t replace face to face contact – encourage your children to leave the house or have friends over as often as possible.

Also, think about your own social media use.  Your children are not there as content.  By all means share their triumphs, your love and your pride, but don’t post content that could embarrass them – even if they were only three at the time.  Teenagers are embarrassed about EVERYTHING, and normally embarrassing photos are reserved for the best man’s speech.

After all that, really the only way to keep your children safe is to educate yourself up and talk to them, and make them feel that they can talk to you.  You can’t protect them from it, so you may as well hop on board.

If you are still a little clueless, then ask me about my parenting sessions.  In them we go through all the social media sites, how they work, what they do, what your children think they do, and how to make them as safe as possible.





3 steps to drown out the noise on Twitter

3 steps to drown out the noise on Twitter

Do you struggle to keep up with Twitter, or anything more than the last 15 minutes of your timeline?  This is one of the main concerns my clients bring me.

How many people should you follow?  It’s a fine balance between having a broad network and drowning in a sea of noisy and confusing posts.

If you are using your account for business, it’s especially important to make sure you don’t miss the good bits.

These 3 simple housekeeping tips allow you to focus on the information you need, and silence those people you don’t want to hear from right now.

So here, allow me to make your life easier.

1.  Lists

Nestling next to your likes, Lists allows you to file relevant Tweeters into carefully orchestrated and beautifully ordered lists.

You can have as many as you like, and you can choose to make these public or private.   I make most of my lists private as I don’t want to make it easy for my competitors!  They include

Social Media Experts/News, Local Business, Networking groups, Clients, Target clients

I can then select any of these lists and see only the tweets by these people.


2.  Turn on Notifications

If someone is extra special and you never want to miss a tweet from them, then simply turn on mobile notifications.  A notification will then pop up on your mobile home screen whenever they send a tweet, whether you are in Twitter or not.

N.B.  This is useful for close contacts who don’t tweet very often.  Not so good for those who are at it constantly.

3.  Turn off Retweets

Now I’ll be the first to admit, this is not really in the spirit of Twitter but, sometimes, needs must.  If you don’t want to unfollow someone, for whatever reason, but they appear to have retweeting diarrhoea (you know who you are) then a subtle turning off of their retweets should quieten things down and they’ll never know.  This is particularly useful for those contacts who take part in every networking hour going.

So there you have it, bringing ruthless efficiency and calm to the chaos of Twitter.

You’re welcome.

Time to write your Christmas list

Time to write your Christmas list

OK, I’ll admit, there is not even the scent of Roses in the air, and I haven’t even put a jumper on yet, but many people have already begun their Christmas campaigns.

Retailers have been on this for weeks already, but you may not have planned your social media campaign yet.  However, you really need to get your skates on.  Before you know it, the John Lewis ad will air, and the season will begin in earnest.

Whatever your business, it’s not enough to Instagram a quick photo of a mince pie and hope for the best.  Even if your business doesn’t directly profit from the Christmas season, the general feelings of cheer, goodwill and bonhomie (forget the humbug) can give a warm glow to your business relationships.

So, don’t leave it until the last minute, you need a plan.

Ideally your Christmas campaign should tick a couple of boxes

  • Make people think generously about you
  • Encourage people to talk to you
  • Drive sales either in the short or long term

Depending on your business, you can thought-provoking, funny, endearing or any combination.  A thought-out approach is the key.

The festive season lends itself really well to timed campaigns: Christmas countdowns, shopping days, advent calendars, the Twelve Days of Christmas, are all things you can take inspiration from.

Now, like all good children, it’s time to sit and write your Christmas list detailing everything you would like.

Here are a couple of things you should be thinking of.

  1. Seasonal branding

On a very basic level, this means slapping a Santa hat on anything that moves (or doesn’t), but we can be a little more imaginative than that.  A seasonal theme to your logo or brand templates gives a cohesive look to any social media campaign.  These can be carried across Facebook Headers, social media posts, printed materials and even Christmas cards.

If you can, think of ways to tie in the festive season with your actual business, rather than just some random Christmassy graphics.  This campaign from Penguin last year was sleek and stylish, totally on brand and relatively inexpensive.  They carried the theme throughout all of their social media too.

penguin christmas campaign

Sites like Canva have some great templates to use or look for a graphic designer to create you something really special.

Changing your logo to be slightly festive has the added advantage of rolling out across all of your posts.

  1. Christmas movies

Remaking Elf in the office might be a bit of a stretch, but video content is a great way to add Christmas cheer.  Video messages make a fun alternative to company Christmas cards (and better for the environment too) and short, snappy videos are perfect for your social media feeds.  There are so many clever tools and apps available these days, they’re not too hard to magic up either.  Let your imagination run wild.

  1. Lend a helping hand

Make your content as useful as possible to people over the Christmas period.  Everyone is busy, in a rush and quite frankly need all the help they can get.  Hints and Tips, gift guides, how to guides all come into their own.  People will thank you for them.

  1. Encourage User Generated Content

A clever hashtag in the right place can be all you need to get people talking about your brand at Christmas time.  But there’s lots of things you can be doing offline to promote this too.  Think of Starbucks and their festive cups.  Encourage people to check in or take a photo to share.  If you’re in the Christmas gift market, make sure your tags and packaging encourage people to share their gift on social on Christmas morning. Ensure that your social media handles and campaign hashtags are clear for them to see.

  1. Do your bit for charity

Nearly all charities will have a Christmas campaign, so get involved.  That could be simply sharing their posts, volunteering or donating.  Either way, help them spread the word on your social media feeds. If you already have strong ties with an organisation, it might be worth getting in touch with them now to see if there are any joint initiatives you can do, or events you can organise.

So, don’t wait until Michael Buble is back on the radio, get your plans together now.

If you’d like more of these ideas, or more advice on putting together a campaign, then get in touch.

You can book a One-to-One Half Day Digital Strategy Session between now and Christmas.

I’ll spend some time looking at your business, and the competition. Then we’ll sit down for the morning and look at some ideas and content plans.  You’ll leave with a To Do list and a written To Do list and fully mapped out strategy for the big day.

Alternatively, sign up for one of our group workshops.  If you want to maximise the effects of your efforts, then the Facebook Advertising Masterclass will give you all the tools you use Facebook’s most powerful paid advertising tool.

For an overall refresh of your marketing, join our fundraiser workshop Kick Your Social Media Into Shapeall proceeds of this course will go to #PassTheSmile


The Greatest Show – what P.T. Barnum can teach you about marketing

The Greatest Show – what P.T. Barnum can teach you about marketing

The world is full of business books, podcasts and guides.  Many of them have their uses and, if you find them at the right time, they can revolutionise your business.  But sometimes, they just don’t cut it, and inspiration strikes in less conventional places.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Greatest Showman.  I took my youngest son to watch it at the cinema on a dreary Saturday morning and we loved it.  We have the soundtrack, the piano music and even a Ringmaster’s hat.  Aside from it being glorious, it came at just the right time and really struck a chord with me as to how I run my business.  There was a need for more elephants obviously, but it was more than that.

It has been out for a while, so if you haven’t seen it, grab it on DVD/TV and, if you’ve already seen it, watch it again.

The story plays a little fast and loose with the actual P.T. Barnum story, but we can forgive them a little artistic licence.  Barnum himself published his own Business self-help book in 1880 with his book, “The Art of Money-Getting or Golden Rules for Making Money,” and has inspired the likes of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs ever since, so he must have had something to say.

So, putting an eternal love for Hugh Jackman aside, here’s what you need to learn

A million dreams is all it’s going to take

Alright so he didn’t actually have his life mapped out, but he was certain he was going to be successful and never wavered from that.  He had a goal and he stuck to it.

His dream was to create a better life for himself and the woman he loved (cue music) and he was prepared to do whatever it took – even though it took years to achieve.

Having a vision for the world, and the business, you want to create makes every other decision easier, from branding, to Twitter posts.  Even if you start small, everything is better if you have a dream of where you’re heading.

The Greatest Showman “Men suffer more from imagining too little than too much”

You can risk it all and see 

Doing anything involves a little risk, and the best things offer a lot of risk.  This doesn’t always have to be financial, it can be trying something you’ve never done before and trying out some new ideas.

I’m what you might call ‘risk averse’ – I struggle to decide on a new haircut.  However, it’s something I’m working on and getting better at.  Making calculated risks and investments is essential and needs to be done.

Whilst I don’t advocate lying to the bank about your flotilla of ships, from a marketing point of view, it could be experimenting with video, more elaborate campaigns or investing in advertising and exhibitions.

The Greatest Showman “Comfort is the enemy of progress”

Be prepared to change your mind

There’s a difference between being risky and foolish, and largely the difference is tracking what works and what doesn’t.  If something isn’t working, don’t throw it out completely, but look at why it doesn’t work and think of new ideas.

Be open minded about where those ideas come from and they can come from the most unexpected places (even musicals).  For Barnum, it was his daughter’s comment that “he needed more things that are alive” and a couple of random thoughts created the circus that made his fortune.

The Greatest Showman - noone ever made a difference

Haters Gonna Hate

It was PT Barnum that said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”

The critics hated PT Barnum, and the critics even hated The Greatest Showman (Mark Kermode, we are no longer friends) but it made no difference.  It’s not important who doesn’t like your product or service, it only matters who does.

It’s even possible to turn that criticism into a positive, if it helps to define what you are as much as what you are not.  It was Barnum’s critic that first described his show as a Circus.

Find Your Tribe

What this means is that essentially you must find your tribe.  I prefer Abraham Lincoln’s “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

Maybe peanut shells is where it’s at.

Decide on your target audience and stick to it.  Forget the rest, concentrate on them.

The Greatest Showman “You don’t need everyone to love you, just a few good people”.

Don’t Hide Who You Are

I spend most of my time telling people to be their authentic selves in business, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.  However, the rallying cry of This Is Me, probably sums it up best.

Creating a professional image is one thing, but clients and customers want to see more than that, your values, your principles and everything in between.  Vulnerabilities are what makes us human, and people buy from people, so don’t be afraid to be open and honest and let your personality shine through.

The Greatest Showman I am brave I am bruised Greatest Showman

Don’t try to be something you’re not

Barnum’s near ruin came because he tried to be something he wasn’t.  He was successful in his field, but he felt he needed more, that somehow, he wasn’t enough.

Turning your back on what made you successful in search of something bigger, something worthier, something better, doesn’t always work.

Be careful of trying too hard to attract an audience that doesn’t fit with your brand values, or brand personality, because you feel it will give you something you’re lacking.  If you feel you’re not good enough, new clients aren’t going to change that.

“Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough” 

Other downsides include pesky opera singers trying to steal you away from your wife, so be careful of those.

Remember why you started

Opera singers aside, like the true Hero’s journey, Barnham finally remembers why he did what he did to begin with.  Making a better life for his family, giving his acts a place to belong, enjoying his work and their company.  Not only is this what made him happy, it’s what made him successful.  And if you can do both, then you’ve got it made.

The Greatest Showman Noblest Art is that of making someone happy

So, there you have it in a nutshell, everything you need to promote a successful business in one hour, forty minutes.

What movie do you think gives the best business advice?  Taxi Driver? The Shawshank Redemption? Let me know.

And if you can’t quite work out how to make your digital marketing Come Alive (can you see what I did there), then take a look at our Digital Strategy Sessions