Three Minute Squiz With… Steve Arnold

Steve Arnold is one of the best communicators we’ve ever met. And he speaks a special language – social media. Not only does he get how the platforms work from a technical perspective, he’s got an intuition for connecting with people. That’s made him one of the most sought after digital strategists in the country. So he’s a handy bloke to know, and he’s been a great friend to The Squiz. Please welcome Steve to this week’s Three Minute Squiz. 

How and where do you Squiz?
Either in bed, at breakfast or on the bus, depending on what time I’m up and about.

You’re a Pom. Where’s home and what brought you to Oz?
In no particular order – curiosity, love and professional growth. Despite being a Pom, I didn’t come to Australia for the famous weather and beaches!

You recently had a destination wedding, and we imagine there’s a lot of pros and cons tied up with that exercise. What took you offshore?
Given our family and friends are from all over the world, we really wanted a neutral ground where everyone could turn up, relax and have fun. We were very conscious of the time and money our party would spend for a destination wedding and expected everyone to baulk at the idea of long distance travel. Instead, each person jumped at the chance for a group holiday in an exotic location with a big party at the end of it. Plus you don’t get any blow-ins!

What led you to a career as a social media guru?
I started my career as a digital copywriter, back when Facebook was just a glint in Zuckerberg’s eye and Google was the hot new thing for marketers. When social media became a point of curiosity for companies, I put my hand up to figure it out. I haven’t looked back since, and I’ve found myself becoming a better marketer because of it. Social gets you so much closer to your customer than other channels and helps you quickly learn what communication works and what doesn’t. I found that fascinating 10 years ago, and I find it even more so today.

Give us your three tips for putting together a great post…
I could give 10, but he’s my absolute top 3…
1. Think about the emoji your audience would react to your post with. The stronger the emotion, the better the post.
2. Treat copy equally to visual assets. Copy can add so much context for audiences and it’s often overlooked.
3. Review your post as if it’s being scrolled past in a newsfeed or as an Instagram story. Ask yourself why would someone stop and read it?

It seems like the future belongs to social media platforms. How do you see it?
I think the major social media platforms have a couple of crucial years ahead of them. There’s increasing scrutiny of their impact on people, politics and privacy which may lead to further regulation, and the upcoming US election will be a tipping point. Social media platforms are definitely not going anywhere. However, I think you’ll start to see a lot of the bigger platforms becoming simpler in their proposition (eg Twitter), as well as an increase in new players to the market offering something different to specific audiences (eg TikTok).

You’ve struck out on your own after many years as a social media whisperer to some of Australia’s biggest companies. Tell us about your new business…
I started Empathy Social to simplify what social media can do for companies and to remove all the BS. I’ve seen and heard of so many businesses try a social media campaign, not get the desired outcome and then be put off social media for fear of failure. Often enough it’s because the activity isn’t aligned to a measurable objective or it hasn’t referenced what customers are thinking, feeling and doing. Empathy Social aims to fill these gaps, whether it be process design, campaign planning, strategic guidance, compliance management or employee engagement. No project is ever the same and I’ll continue to evolve as the platforms do.

Who would you kill to sit down to dinner with?
Ai Weiwei, Sheryl Sandberg, Anthony Bourdain – individually they’d be awesome and collectively even better!

Your favourite book/writer?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov*. It’s equally funny and profound, and it inspired Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

Favourite meal at your favourite restaurant?
The Blame Canada burger from Bar Luca. Such a treat!

The best piece of advice a friend gave you?
A very close friend once told me ‘Trade your money for time, not your time for money – you’re definitely going to run out of time first’. This has put everything I do into perspective since.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What’s your worst and best habit?
Best is being grateful, worst is swearing too much.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
The Israel Folau settlement and Elon Musk defamation case in the last couple of weeks have been reported widely and just go to show how the wrong social media post can cause a lot of trouble for companies and individuals. However, six months ago, Dylan Voller filed and won a case against three of Australia’s largest media publishers for comments made by the public on company Facebook posts. This story didn’t nearly get the same number of column inches, and it’s a massive warning sign for companies and individuals who are asleep at the wheel of social media.

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