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We try…Meta-Row at Metabolic London

We try…Meta-Row at Metabolic London

As we come to the end of week two in our #30for30 campaign, new classes and fitness inspiration have been very welcome here in the Sport & Fitness team. Partly because we love trying the latest creations of course, but mainly to help break up the endless runs and spinning classes that have been churned out day-after-day to date.

So, when I heard about Metabolic London, and their innovative Meta-Row class, I was instantly intrigued (if not slightly intimidated) by the class description. It simply read: “Not for the faint-hearted. This class is brutal and will test the best”. Despite my better judgement, I signed up then and there.

Sunday morning soon came around and I was on my way to Mornington Crescent for the class. Having dropped off my bag in the changing rooms, I was good to go. Meta-Row was London’s first boutique group rowing class when it launched in summer 2017. The gym itself is unlike anything I’ve seen before – a huge open space decked out with black walls and more equipment than you could ever wish for.

Scott, the instructor for our class, gathered us together to walk everyone through what we were about to do. Asking if anyone was nursing a hangover, I must admit I was tempted to raise my hand – only to make it less embarrassing for when I inevitably passed out mid-class, but I ultimately thought better of it.

The class itself is made up of row and total body circuit intervals, with interchangeable rounds. With all of the rowing machines lined up, we kicked off with a four minute row. Straight on to the first circuit, which entailed a combination of medicine ball throws, burpees, squats and crunches. One round down and I’m already feeling it. No time to let up, however, as we are into another four minute row and then back on to the mats for the next circuit – featuring kettle bell swings and lifts, followed by a crawl into a press up.

Back on the rowing machine we went – this time for a five minute stint – to try and beat our stats from before, cheered on willingly by the ever-present Scott. A final circuit which included “explosive” burpees and I was well and truly spent. Despite the physical trauma I’d just been through, the feeling of achievement was unparalleled.

The best thing about Meta-Row is it’s suitable for all levels of fitness – you can go at your own pace. At £10 for your first class, it’s cheaper than the majority of boutique classes out there, and you’ll do well to find a better workout. We’ll be back, just as soon as our DOMS ease up.

How to grow instagram for your start-up


Frequently termed ‘The King of Social’, Instagram started as a simple picture sharing app, used mainly between close friends and some carefully-selected family, to display the ‘best’ snapshots of your life. It was a refreshing alternative to the swathes of imagery that confronted you on Facebook, each one only slightly different to the last. It’s single-picture format enforced a kind of self-control not seen elsewhere. Of course, this wouldn’t last forever. Years later we have video, galleries and stories, and Instagram has expanded far beyond your own social circle. It has, however, kept its highly-polished aesthetic and fetish for ‘authenticity’.

Photo by @argonautphoto (Aaron Huey). Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly, #NavajoNation. Headed to #BearsEarsNationalMonument in Utah on assignment for the magazine. More photos from the region here and at @argonautphoto all this week!

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Now the app is one of the biggest Social Media sites in the world, with over 700 million users, 400 million of which are active daily! It’s impressive to say the least and the potential audience reach on this platform is ever growing. It took only four months to gain the last 100 million followers, whereas the previous took six months.

So, what makes it such a great platform? It’s seen as considerably cooler than Facebook, more interesting than Twitter, and more useful than Snapchat. Instagram has become incredibly sophisticated in storytelling, and doing so in an artistic manner. The ability to fluently and diversely communicate a brand or individual’s story has become indispensable. Authenticity is key to modern marketing, and Instagram is the platform that allows this ‘intimate’ insight into a brand. And what better brand to apply it to than a Start Up? A company that is rooted in individuality, ingenuity and passion. One that is already trying to tell its own story, and express its personality, unlike many conglomerates that churn out an all-encompassing ‘brand’ worldwide.

Engage your audience

So, we know Instagram has the audience and the tools to effectively tell your story, but what techniques can you employ to make Instagram work for you? As a Start Up, it’s important not only to put out great content, but to actively engage with your following, and users who you feel would be interested in your brand. This engagement, or ‘community managing’, is what will help you grow your channel, awareness, and ultimately your brand. It may seem like a lot of work, but just taking the time to reply to comments and reach out to users and brands can make all the difference.

Hashtag it

Building this community can be done several ways, but the most immediate is through hashtags. By putting up to 30 relevant hashtags underneath your post you can make yourself visible to the potentially millions of daily users who are engaging with account and brands like yours. Engaging with other users in these hashtags is the next step to generating conversation; and this is worth remembering. Social Media is not a one-way street, you need ask questions, respond authentically, get people interested and keep them talking with you and about you.

If you are local business, such as a restaurant, boutique or event, then you can utilise these hashtags to target a specific audience. Likewise, you may also use geo-tagging to involve the local community in a location-targeted campaign. These techniques allow you to build a community both offline and online.

Collaborate and listen

Many brands have taken to cross-posting and collaborations to bolster their online presence. This is a mutually beneficial process that sees both brands raise awareness, and is particularly applicable in a Start Up environment, where both have a chance to establish themselves in an industry. It’s not just other brands that you might consider this tactic with; featuring your customers is an increasingly valuable tool in promoting your brands merit. Not only will this provide potential customers with authentic, positive feedback for your brand, but it also rewards fans for being fans. In doing this, you encourage them to continue to share their interactions with your brand on Social Media. It’s a win win, they get to interact with the brands they love in an authentic way, and you get exposure and great content for your own channels. Just make sure you always credit them!


For me?! @chapabouttown is ready to chow down on some Turkey and Duck Dinner! 🍗 #FuelledByCanagan

A post shared by Canagan (@canaganpetfood) on

Do what works for you

There’s a plethora of techniques to employ on this ever-expanding channel. To do it perfectly, you would be using a variation of careful curated daily posts and stories to provide the most artistic storytelling experience you can. You could run competitions, and cross-post and promote other brands. You could shout about your brand down every relevant avenue, and target it perfectly with paid posts and influencer marketing. This is a lot to take on, especially as a Start Up. It can seem overwhelming, but it is also wholly unnecessary to try to do all of them at once, and to sustain them. Our advice would be to cherry pick what works for your brand, and remember that creativity and authenticity are at the heart of successful Social Media marketing.

Get Creative

If you want to champion your brand on Instagram effectively, the main thing to consider in this whirlwind of possibilities, is creativity. Instagram is a platform that welcomes creativity more than any other. This is the point of difference needed to stop users endlessly scrolling through their feeds and focus on your post. This is the first point of engagement with a consumer, and one of the hardest things to engineer. You want to disrupt and simultaneously engage; having a creative edge here is key.

‪How to grow an avocado tree:‬ ‪1. Find an avocado stone‬ ‪2. Wash it‬ ‪3. Add some cocktail sticks‬ ‪4. Half submerge it in water‬ ‪5. Wait‬

A post shared by innocent (@innocent) on

Of course, this is perhaps easier said than done. But with a proper strategy, and some practise, you should quickly find yourself building your brands presence and identity online. Building and maintaining this presence is of huge value to brands and businesses, after all 32% of all internet users are on Instagram. That’s a big slice of the pie to be missing out on!

Facebook Campaign Saves “Gay” Bulldog’s Life

 Being the animal lovers that we are here on the digital team, we were relieved to hear that a recent Facebook campaign saved a Bulldog’s life.

The American Bulldog dodged doggy heaven all thanks to a Facebook campaign, which saw thousands of dog lovers taking to the social networking site in a bid to save the pooch from his terrible fate.


The dog, pictured above, was returned to the Tennessee shelter where it was purchased after its owner found it snuggling over another male dog, which led her to believe it was gay.

Facebook user Jackson TN Euthanasia posted about the dog last week:

“He hunched over another male dog so his owner threw him away because he refuses to have a ‘gay’ dog! Even if that weren’t the most asinine (sic) thing I’ve ever heard, it’s still discrimination! Don’t let this gorgeous dog die because his owner is ignorant of dog behaviour!”

The post asked visitors to save the dog, who at the time was a day away from being put down, by sharing the picture. It worked – the photo was shared more than 4,300 times and racked up more than 1,300 comments.

The story has a very happy ending; several users offered to rescue the dog, and a woman has officially taken responsibility to adopt it.

The moral of this tale? Never underestimate the power of Facebook!


Thanks to Hanna Sörensson, for cover image.

The Future Of The Fashion Show

The London Fashion Week, the hottest ticket in town, is normally only experienced by a privileged few. However, it’s 2013 and Topshop has partnered with Google to launch the first interactive live streamed fashion show.

Catwalk fashion show runway london fashion week

Courtesy of Ines Hegedus-Garcia,

A customised YouTube feed will allow live-streamed content from the red carpet and behind the scenes. Google+ will host a digital diary fronted by the models and access to stylists behind the scenes. Google Hang Outs will allow people to speak directly with the design team at Topshop HQ. The “Be the Buyer App” will enable users to get tips from buyers on how to put catwalk looks together. HD micro-cameras, worn by the likes of Cara Delevigne, will allow viewers a models eye of the catwalk. The London Oxford Street store will allow shoppers to take photos and upload images to an interactive window display. There will also be a live ‘tweet off’ where followers of @Topshop will be challenged to review the show in 140 characters or less to win VIP tickets to the next show.

Burberry set the trend in 2011 of offering fashion fans access to aspects of the shows that had not been previously available (putting live clips on YouTube and displaying backstage images via Instagram and Twitter) and it is no coincidence that the man leading the innovative runway experience, Topshop CMO Justin Cooke, is the former vice president of global communications at Burberry.

Could this collaboration change the way designers think about catwalk shows forever?! Let us know what you think.


Natwest Social Media Crisis – The Importance of Immediacy in a Social Media Crisis

In the digital age we live in, when we are not happy with the service a company has provided us, more often than not we turn to Facebook and Twitter to seek immediate support.  But what happens when the right information isn’t readily available to us?

natwest-5 A new report from Birdsong:  Social Media Reconnaissance reveals a number of failings by Natwest in actively supporting its customers via Twitter during the IT collapse in late June.  Despite the surge in followers and influx of mentions of @natwest_help, extended branch hours and weekend openings, the bank’s Twitter account did not actively extend its social media presence or increase replies until very late on in the crisis, choosing a ‘business as usual approach’.

The new report from Bird Song: Social Media Reconnaissance showed numerous elements which shows that Natwest failed to increase its Twitter support to match the measures taken by branch staff and call centres.

As the problems unfolded, the followers of @Natwest_Help escalated at a rapid rate, growing by over 200% during the crisis, taking the bank from one of the least followed to one of the most followed UK bank accounts.  During this time the number of mention @natwest_help grew 8 times more than its original amount.

The report also reveals the slow reaction time from the bank.  Despite the influx in followers and mentions, the bank maintained standard tweeting hours of 9-5 at a time when branches were being opened later.  It took a week for the bank to start maintaining a later presence on Twitter, until 7p.m.

In addition to this, for the weekend that the bank opened, the Twitter account was left to broadcast automated messages, offering no active support, only a link to direct followers to online help.  The tweet alone generated 800 links ( of people seeking support.

This has also been the case for both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways in December 2010 and was the case for O2 last week.  Since the start of the national coverage disruption, the @O2 account has grown by 50%.

National crises such as the Natwest fiasco, demonstrate just how dependent we are on the web and computer networks, and the ability to adapt to the consequences of a major systems breakdown.  Therefore it is imperative that companies such as Natwest act immediately, enforcing a social media strategy that would see to support those who have been affected.  Putting social media on the back burner could have a detrimental effect on the reputation of the brand, resulting in a leap of unwanted negative comments, which ultimately could lead to customers taking their business elsewhere.


Cover image courtesy of lamoix,

This must be… genius

If ever there was a brand which had mastered the art of utilising multiple digital platforms to market itself in the eyes of consumers, Heineken is that very brand.

First came ‘The Serenade’, Heineken’s app designed to provide us with a quirky platform to secure a date for Valentine’s Day, and then came an innovative Facebook campaign, which encouraged designers worldwide to create a limited edition bottle in celebration of Heineken’s 140th birthday. This is a brand which is forever on the hunt for new ways to market itself, to make a statement and ultimately to encourage consumer buy-in.

But Heineken goes beyond those channels used by even some of the world’s most savvy household names to create its own opportunities, tapping into the news agenda and latching onto major global events to reach wider audiences.

In previous years, during the Olympic Games, Heineken has made a name for itself by bringing its ‘This must be Holland’ concept to the relevant hosting regions, on a bigger and more creative scale each time.

This year is to be no different, as Heineken provides us with a virtual taste of just how London’s Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally to most of us) will be transformed into the iconic Holland Heineken House during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The brand has designed and released a virtual tour, which gives consumers a glimpse of how the ‘This must be Holland’ design concept will fuse classic Britain with the spirit of Holland. Beginning with a CGI of Alexandra Palace glowing in orange, with the Dutch flag flying over the Palm Court entrance, the virtual tour takes viewers inside the venue and into an arena, Olympic Club, athletics area and Great Hall, which then becomes the medal ceremony. This is set to be one unforgettable, suitably orange, venue!

Heineken’s global activation manager, Hans Erik Tuijt, believes this Holland Heineken House will be the most memorable house yet. Well, if the finished product is anywhere near as impressive as the virtual model, then we’d expect it to attract above and beyond the 100,000 visitors anticipated during the Games.

Here, consumers have been given an opportunity to engage with a campaign before it has been brought to life and, as a result, we are given more chance to share the content far and wide…..just as Heineken had intended us to.

See below to view the virtual tour of Holland Heineken House London 2012:

Kraft Macaroni’s brilliant ‘likeapella’

I can never help but smile and click ‘like’ whenever I come across a selfless campaign by a brand that shows them giving something back to their fan-base.

One campaign that I came across last week, which was no exception to this rule, was the recent Likapella video released by Kraft Macaroni, with the purpose of individually thanking 4,600 of their online fans.

In case you missed the story and have no idea who or what I am talking about, Kraft Dinner, known as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in America, are a popular and inexpensive convenience food, better known in the USA and Canada. At the end of April this year a post was sent out on the Kraft Facebook Page urging fans to ‘like’ the Facebook post, as they “never know what could happen”.

Two days later – low and behold – a video called Likeapella appeared on the Kraft Facebook wall showing Kraft reciprocating the ‘likes’ of the 4,600 fans that had responded to the post.

Within Likeapella, a barbershop quintet perform a song that individually thanks the 4,600 fans that responded to the original post, name-checking many mid-song and pointing to a scroll containing the remaining fan names.

A fantastic and very shareable piece of content that adds personality to the brand and drives fans to its social feeds as they lie in wait for the next stunt to go off – Note: Yes I am now a fan of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and yes, I would indeed very much like to have my name sung aloud by a chorus of men in yellow waistcoats and bowties.

You can view the video here:

A couple of other brands that have seen the benefit of thanking their online fan base would be Porsche and Heineken.

You might remember at the beginning of last year when Porsche celebrated reaching 1 million fans on their Facebook page by putting all 1 million fan names on a specially customised 911 GT3R Hybrid car, which now sits in the Porsche museum. However, did you know that when the car manufacturer reached the 2 million mark, they printed the names of all 2 million fans on a Cayman S? You can view the video here:

Pretty impressive, right!

Heineken decided to take a different approach and instead thanked their fans with hugs:

It’s really refreshing to see big brands giving something back to their communities and making their fans feel included in their campaigns. Hopefully, this is something that we will see more of in the future, greater emphasis on engagement and building a loyal fan-base over obvious sale pitches that will result in an alienated community.


Cover image courtesy of: Mike Mozart,

Instagram bought by Facebook – how will this affect the Instagram community?

Unless you have been asleep for the last week, chances are you have heard the news that Facebook has bought the 2-year-old app ‘Instagram’ for a whopping 1 billion USD. Breaking it down that works out at $80million per employee and $33 for each of their 33 million users. An offer I’m sure was very hard to refuse!

The news of this broke on Monday morning when Mark Zuckerberg himself took to Facebook to announce the new integration.

This was met with a mixed reaction. Many loyal Instagram-ers pledged to delete their account following the news claiming that Facebook would destroy it. The main reason for this reaction being that the whole world is yet to find out about Instagram, and that’s how users like it. As successful apps go this one is pretty niche, and although they have a strong 33 million following, the users represent its quirky arty nature through their photos. People fear that with an industry giant such as Facebook taking over the app it will turn into yet another mainstream public service. It’s comparable to when Coca-cola bought shares in healthy brand ‘Innocent’ – to an extent it could be seen as degrading the brand personality, replacing it with connotations associated with the buyer.

Not all responses were as extreme and others seemed amiable to the convergence of the two social networks claiming they already share their photos on Facebook, so it makes no difference.

At first, I was unsure as to which party I agreed with. As an avid Instagram user, I can understand the opinions of those deleting their accounts. The quirkiness of the app is why I like it, and in a way, it’s a ‘cool’ secret that I share with my community on there, which is significantly smaller to my Facebook community. And I, personally, do not share my Instagram photos on Facebook; only a select few make it onto Twitter. So it does feel like an intrusion on Facebook’s part.

However, Zuckerberg clearly states that Instagram isn’t changing.  They are supporting the (now very wealthy) creators of Instagram in improving its services and help enable others to use it. As much as I love the app I could list a few of its flaws, and if Zuckerberg and his team can help fix these then surely it’s a win-win situation. Instagram remains the same brand with help from a super brand to make it better.

The founders of Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, are probably thinking this is too good to be true. Their two year old business has made them millionaires overnight and they are able to continue developing as if it was still there own.

In addition, Instagram is a free app, meaning that sooner or later users would have had to start paying or the developers would have had to start rolling in ads. Which I’m guessing would have sparked the same boycott as this news has. How else would they have repaid the investors? From this perspective, Facebook has saved Instagram from a foggy future.

Alas, as many have learnt, nothing is too good to be true and I fail to believe that Facebook are doing this out of the kindness of their cyber heart. After all, Instagram is one of the largest mobile social networks around, and Facebook needs mobile to work…

Digital Developments 2011 round up

It’s now 2012, and what a year 2011 was. Especially within the digital PR world…

We saw more flash mobs than Fame, welcomed 1000s of start-ups and witnessed the sad loss of the creative genius that was Steve Jobs.

With so much drama the PHA Digital blog couldn’t possibly omit a round-up of the biggest and best social media developments of the year!

So here you have it, the top five digital changes of 2011:

1. Google+ 

The long-awaited launch of Google’s rival social network was bound to cause a stir, but no one could predict the extent of this. When it first launched Google+ seemed to solve all the problems that Facebook had started. Better business pages, more privacy and an easier way to organise our friend lists. But five months on, you never really hear anything exciting about Google+. Maybe 2012 will be its year…

2. Spotify & Facebook

Digital giants Spotify and Facebook teamed up to create a musical experience for all their users which would be hard to challenge.

3. iPhone 4s

What many people believed to be the iPhone 5 was actually released as the iPhone 4s. This caused a stir worldwide with millions camping overnight to be the first to own one. What was different about this iPhone is the revolutionary technology which came in the form of ‘Siri’. As if it has come straight from Minority Report, ‘Siri’ understands and speaks to you.

4. Facebook Timeline

Facebook’s new timeline has caused quite a stir online. With many people reacting negatively to the new layout, it could be a risky move, especially with Google+ now in business. However, there has been no trace of inactivity so far. And in my opinion, users will learn to love it as they have done with all Facebook’s previous changes.

5. New Twitter 

Well, with the introduction of Google+ and Facebook’s new timeline, Twitter had to do something to maintain its social standing. And they did this in the form of very subtle changes. This is what sets Twitter apart from other social networks; they don’t need to make headline-stealing changes to their social network – they already have a solid USP.

It goes without saying that these changes will transform the way we use and interact with technology in the future, and indeed influence any new changes we’ll encounter in 2012.

The speed in which these technologies are developing is phenomenal as are the possibilities they open to us. I wonder what 2012 will bring…

Happy New Year!

Social media is changing

It has been a year of many changes, what with the new iPhone 4s, the new Twitter and now the new Facebook Timeline. Many of you may have noticed a significant change to your profile, if not you will do in the next couple of days and it will look like this:

Social Media Apps Future

Courtesy of Jason Howie,

I wrote previously about what this means for brands and their fanpages. However, this left one question unanswered…what does it mean for our personal profiles?

My profile settings changed this week, meaning I’ve had the chance to test-drive it for myself. Now, the appearance has changed dramatically, as has the content. Your friends are now able to view your entire Facebook history with a click of a button.

At first, this may seem as if it’s venturing into ‘stalker’ territory. But there are ways to control the content shown on your profile and subsequently what others view. Below are a couple of tips on how to keep your privacy in check:

Hide from timeline:  You are able to view all content you have ever posted, which in some cases (and definitely in mine) this can be quite embarrassing. As demonstrated in the picture below you can hide this activity from your timeline, so nobody will have to see your cringe-worthy holiday videos.

Control App Privacy: The new Facebook design enables friends to see what you read and look at. You can alter this quite easily; when installing an app you can customise whom your activity is visible to. There is even an ‘only me’ option in custom, meaning it can remain completely private if you wish.

Let us know what you think of the new design, love or loathe?