Get On With It: An Interview With Will McInnes, Non Executive Director, NixonMcInnes

Will McInnes

For a man that lists “making the world a little bit better” among his interests, Will McInnes isn't doing too badly. He's co-founder and MD of social media agency NixonMcInnes, he's a non-exec at Wired Sussex and he's spoken at TEDx Brighton about radicalising business. Only a “little”?

What social media means to me,” Will says, “is the opportunity to be connected to people I know and people I don't know.” The word opportunity is one that Will returns to a lot. Another of his favourites? Change, and how businesses can adapt to it. “The future is radically different for brands and big organisations,” he says. For him, the real question is where it's going to lead to.

This is a question Will likes to think about sociologically rather than technologically. “Fundamentally we're humans and we've been around a long time,” he explains, “technology is changing us but we're more constant than the technology is.” In other words, we're just doing what we've always done on new platforms. Or “on steroids” as Will puts it.

Will believes that the many changes we're going though as a society are making us more transparent. Citing the scandals of MP expenses and phone hacking as examples, he speaks about organisations, brands and individuals adapting. Perhaps related to this are Will's thoughts on social media engagement. “Work out what is actually going to be of any value to [your audience],” he advises, “and what role you can play in that.” But he stresses that there does need to be an element of that transparency in the process. A brand needs to be realistic about what it is and stick to it; “there's nothing worse than being the disco dad brand desperately trying to get down on the dance floor.... and missing real sizeable, tangible opportunities to make a difference.” 

It's important, too, for brands to understand that social media isn't all about the exciting stuff (like disco dancing). Will advises brands not to overlook what their customers are really looking for. There's no point investing in up to the minute social technology if you're not covering the basics like responding to customer enquiries. “Sometimes it's about brass tacks,” he says, “sometimes there are really straightforward ways to achieve a huge amount of 'win'.

When asked what advice he'd give to brands thinking about getting involved in social media, Will is extremely quick to answer. Quite simply, he tells them to “get on with it!” Though he concedes that there may be a number of legitimate reasons for companies not to be using social media yet, he thinks they're mad. “You're losing years of lessons learnt,” he says, “years of opportunities to build stronger relationships with customers.” He talks about the way social businesses like Netflix and Amazon have triumphed over their non-social counterparts Blockbuster and Borders. He asks “do you want your organisation to be the winner or the loser in this Darwinian jungle?

Quite simply, in the opinion of Will McInnes, “the time is now.”  

See Will McInnes at SoCon2011 on the 20th of October at The ICO, London
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Interview by Kate Anderson. Photo (cc) Ivan Pope.