Essentials of social media engagement [research infographic]

Engaging their community on social media is what all community and brand managers are striving for. Social media may be the best place to interact with audiences, but without clear understanding of the psychology of how people engage , brand efforts may fall flat and fail to reap the expected social media ROI.

In my latest paper, I discover top characteristics of social media engagement every manager should keep on top of their mind.


The paper goes on to explains in more detail driving factors of social media engagement and its benefits for brands. It is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Management – watch their space or get in touch for more details.

PS: To find out more about creating an infographic from research papers, click here and here. This time, I created mine with Canva

Autoethnography, or when your hobby is your work

You might know that I enjoy sports and in particular Crossfit; I wrote about it in a post in 2014 where I explained what it was I why I liked it. This was during my PhD and I was up to my eyeballs with my research. At the time Crossfit was really just for fun.

Recently, I put on my marketing goggles and started thinking about Crossfit as a consumer. I also thought about the brand and what it represents – trying to debunk the massive craze around it, which has now also spread to France, thank you very much.

So here I am now, annoying every body at my Crossfit gym (which by the way is amazing, check it out if you live in or visit Bordeaux). I’m interviewing the owners, coaches and members, taking pictures and hanging around with my computer, taking notes…basically pretending to work out between two interviews (or maybe the other way around).

Another great aspect of mixing work with fun is to be able to use yourself as a case for investigation. Indeed, I am discovering how to do an auto-ethnography (analysing my own practice as a Crossfit consumer) and it is really fun…and confusing! I guess as an every-day life consumer and researcher I kind of always analyse my own consumption patterns, but doing it consciously and with a purpose is different.

I do not have yet firm results to present but I will share them here when I do. In the meantime, I’m already thanking all my masochistic participants and great colleagues who are with me on this journey. I welcome all feedback and questions on the topic, especially if you know about extreme sports or auto-ethnographies 😉

And to finish off, a true statement by my favourite vilain #thejokerisalwayright



Capturing the real consumer engagement

During my PhD, I created a measure of online consumer engagement. In other words, it is a list of questions that people answer to help gauge their level of engagement with a brand, product or even community.

With this tool, we can find out how emotionally, behaviourally and cognitively engaged consumers are. This is really useful, because most online metrics at the moment only allow you to say how engaged people are by counting “likes”, “comments” or “shares”… If this was enough to know how people REALLY react to marketing content, we would live in a dream-world!

My results show that people with high online consumer engagement  are more likely to trust, commit and be loyal to a brand.

The tool is therefore useful for managers who want to find out the engagement level of their audience and improve it to sustain their growth.

The infographic belows explains what my metric of online engagement is about and how it works. 4 years of hard work nicely summarised for you!

infographic, engagement, consumer engagement, emotion, thinking, action, behavior, behaviour, metric, measure, score

To find out more about the metric, the project and related publication, you can go on the blog of The Journal of Marketing Management, here or get in touch with me directly.

Getting through the PhD and its emotional roller coaster

I gave a speech about “Getting through the PhD” about a month ago at the University of Glasgow. It was intense to stand there, talking to PhD students in their first year and give them advice….more like slices of life and experience.

In this blog, I have written about my various struggles and tips to get through the writing up stage, as well as the data analysis, or the editing process. Here, I want to focus on one slide of my presentation about the psychological stages of the PhD, and how much of a roller-coaster this whole journey can be…just like this:

phd thesis psychology stages mental doctorate

It was really crazy to see how much the students, even in their first few month of the PhD, could relate to this. Because this is a fact: you go through ups and downs emotionally and mentally all the time during the PhD.

Now, this is certainly not characteristic of PhD life alone, but I think the confusion and isolation you might be in really reinforce these fluctuating states of mind. In the end, there are a couple of things that really helped me get through the rough patches, and among them the true support of my supervisors. I did learn to work  independently and make my own decisions, but I always kept this almost blind faith in them and in their advice.

And you, do you experience these stages, whether you are into a PhD or another long or though project? How do you cope with the difficulties?


Doctor of what? What I really learned from the PhD is not what you may think.

I’ve been asking myself, when preparing my Viva, and even after that, what were the things that would really stay with me forever from doing a PhD, what would make a difference to me, and not to my CV.

It is not the knowledge of how to crunch numbers and do statistics. It is not the endless paper reading, and summarising. Nor the academic writing skills. It’s not the findings I got from my empirical data. Not the expertise in fancy “online customer engagement”

My most treasured PhD learnings are humility & resilience.

Humility, because I started off very full of myself and well-trained to be a proper “young potential”. I was sure of my topic and ability to make it, and certain I did not have much to learn from anyone. I quickly learned that this self-assurance was well over-proportioned and I had much to learn. In hindsight, being a bit cocky is not necessarily bad. It helps you push doors and is a sign of ambition. But I like to think I am now a humbler version of my 2011 self. Understanding and accepting that I am forever a learner is the first take from my PhD. At least now I know I talk a lot of nonsense…As long as my students don’t!


Resilience comes next. Getting a doctorate is a though thing to do. Not because it requires above-average skill and intelligence, but because it is a long journey and quite unrewarding on a day-to-day basis. You embark on a 3 to 6-year project that will lead you miles away from where you intended, and that will make you face constant hurdles that only you can figure out. You get stressed. Most often, you’ll be isolated: your friends, family and even colleagues won’t really understand what you are doing. There are no pay raises or annual incentives to look forward to. No team waiting for you in the office. No colleagues to coordinate with, no clients to get a rush from. No boss to be on your back, really. Resilience comes with a sense of purpose and strong self-management skills.

Humility and resilience are my key takes from the PhD because they are the strongest changes I have seen in me, and those most likely to last, I hope. Like learning how to swim!

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write since I finished my PhD last June (then life catches up and you blog about Christmas commercials before you know it). Here I am now, drafting a talk about “Getting through the PhD” for my beloved Glasgow University PhD successors, and my idea to tell you about this came back. I hope you’ll enjoy these thoughts and the students in Glasgow as well.

And you, which changes have you seen in yourself as a result of your work, PhD or big life events? What made you more resilient or humble?

Top survey design pitfalls and how to avoid them


A lot of us students, marketers and business people are at some point faced with the task to create a questionnaire. After doing a few myself and helping colleagues and friends in this process, I’ve noticed how hard it is to design usable and purposeful surveys. Whether it is for industry-driven market research or academic studies, I think some basic principles should never be forgotten.

Here is my list of top survey mistakes and how to remedy then.

  1. Cramming it all in

Based on the principle of ‘you’re never too careful’, survey designers often think: “Just in case it might be useful, I’m going to add this question in”. Make sure that every question is absolutely vital and that you are going to use it in your analysis. Let’s be honest, questionnaires are often a pain for respondents. If a question is there “just in case”, remove it. Be concise and purposeful.

  1. Forgetting the research question

We often get sidetracked when writing a questionnaire. Always having in mind the research objectives we aim to address is key (assuming you have clear research objectives). The questionnaire aims to “measure” the concepts you’re interested in. Not more, not less. Always match a questionnaire item with the objectives of the study. If there is no match, the question should either be re-formulated, or deleted.

  1. Forgetting the respondent

The questions you have in your mind as an investigator don’t necessarily make sense to the respondent. Think of the language they use, the words they are familiar with, their personal and social context; their education level. Avoid complex questions.

  1. Starting with specifics

Questionnaire should go from general to specific questions, from simple to more complex. For instance, if you aim to test the interest for a product, first explore general interest, then see if the needs it aims to tackle are present, go on to ask about the specific attributes and functionalities of the product, maybe then its price too (always keep sensitive questions at the end not to scare respondents away).

  1. Not knowing how you are going to analyse the results

The way you design a questionnaire influences the type of analysis you make and insight you get from it. A multiple-choice question is not analysed in the same way as a Likert scale, or as a semantic differential question. Did I lose you here? It means that you need to think of your question type, scale type and answer strategy carefully to know how to analyse the data. It might seem daunting but have a look at the books I recommend below.

Following these tips will help you enhance your survey design skills. There is much more to surveys than this, and I am still learning too, but this should be a good start!

For more details, see the list of books below.

Additional readings about survey design:

  • About questionnaire design only: Ian Brace, 2013 – really comprehensive, addressing all survey-design issues.
  • About marketing research: Hair, Bush and Ortinau, 2009 – on survey design in the broader marketing research agenda and with a focus on digital environments.
  • About general business research: Bryman and Bell, 2015 – on survey design within general business research. Top reading for business students and practitioners.
  • About web surveys: Don Dillman, 2011 – specifically addressing web surveys.

Overeducated, or tips about the PhD viva

I am rarely overdressed. But having passed my viva, I might now be slightly overeducated. Here is a post about the viva, how it was for me and what I learned from it.

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated”. Oscar Wilde

What it is. The “viva voce”, or more commonly named “viva” is the oral examination taking place at the end of the PhD. It allows examiners to ask you questions about your work and ensure you deserve the title of doctor. Unlike most other European countries where both private and public defences are held, in the UK, you only have a private one. It is composed of an internal examiner, an external examiner, a chair and possibly your supervisor. That’s it.

How it was organised. Having submitted my thesis at the end of May, my supervisors were really efficient in organising the viva for the end of June. I knew who my examiners were and was happy with that choice, which was a good start. I knew I could not speak with them before the viva and that I did not have to prepare a power point (more differences with other countries). All I had to do was to know my thesis inside out. After 4 years of working on it day and night, I was pretty set on that point.

How I prepared. Ultimately, I must have spend 4-5 days preparing. A couple of days reading it all again, and another couple of days preparing my answers to a list of questions, freshen up on some methodology aspects and read the latest publications in my field. I also attended a “viva preparation” workshop at my uni and had a mock viva with two friends, both tremendously helpful. I traveled to Glasgow a couple of days ahead, fairly relaxed. Once there, I did not prepare much more and tried not freaking out over what could go wrong. I did however panic during the hour leading up to it.

phd defense

How it happened. At 11am on June 26th, 2015, I got into the room, was greeted by my examiners and offered a drink. I sat down; it started. The viva lasted just over an hour. The examiners were really clear in their comments and questions, and fair. Half of the comments were suggestions to improve the work for publications; the other half things that needed clarification or modifications before the final submission. I ended up with 7 minor corrections to complete in a month. After an introductory statement about the overall quality of the work, they asked questions about each chapter, from the first to the last. It started with conceptual questions, then methodological ones, some about my findings and analysis, and finally questions about contribution and limitations. This linear approach was really good for me, as I allowed me anticipating what was ahead. I got stuck on some questions, mastered others, but overall the whole session felt really more like a friendly discussion.

Top tips. Here is my advice if you are close to submission or preparing your viva.

  • Know the work of your examiners. Cite them where applicable, if you know them before submitting
  • Update on the very latest publications in your field
  • Practice with an audience (whether they know your topic or not)
  • Rest. Don’t study until 4 am the day before
  • Don’t think your work is perfect. Accept what you don’t know and have not done.
  • Business as usual. On the days leading up to the viva, eat as usual, work as usual, relax as usual.

Reading further: 





Killing the PhD submission myth

On the day of my submission, I was a woman on a mission. I decided I would not rest, eat or be aware of the world until it was done. The funniest part is that it was not quite as I had expected it, not quite the myth I had built around it. I envisioned feeling accomplished and strolling around after submitting, almost with a ray of light following my enlightened self and light as a feather — technically, I carried 5 copies of my 300-page syllabus around campus, so I did feel lighter after handing them over.

But truth is, I felt exhausted, no very relieved and quite lonely. Speak of an anti-climax!

Let me explain…(and give you a small pathos alert)

Firstly, once submitted, you still have to have your viva voce, which can be a deal breaker even if the written piece is good. So, you are not completely off the hook.

Secondly, the persons I wanted to share with were busy, at work and/or in another country that day and I could not call or see them. A big part of happiness is sharing it. Bless my colleague who came all the way from Edinburgh to see me that day.

Thirdly, anticipation, stress and weeks of poor sleep had come to their pinnacle and I was really drained…all I wanted was to cuddle my pillow, but I also felt too much tension to really relax.

However, I was still very happy and proud…it was just not as jubilant as in my dreams. The myth of the submission was killed, but the thesis submitted, and that’s all that matters.

Now, let it embrace its 6-people readership and me my pillow.

The science of editing

noun_65548_ccBeing in the last stages of writing-up your PhD means facing the very mind-numbing process of editing. Apologies to all the professional proof-readers out there, but when you are not devout to the beauty and exactness of the written word, this is really hard and annoying. The challenges you might face when editing your PhD, or any significant written piece, are multiple:

You’ve written it. This might seem quite obvious, but since you’ve produced the work, it’s almost impossible to cast a fresh pair of eyes on it, no matter how many days you try to put between readings. Sometimes, you also just don’t have time to put it away and go back to it.

You’re not writing in your mother language. Also very obvious given the quantity of people that get a PhD in a foreign language, but this is a true challenge: you don’t go from passing your TOEFL to writing in perfect academic English overnight.

It is boring. Let’s face it, you might be very excited by your PhD topic, editing 300 pages about it several times is not the most thrilling part of the process.

I amnoun_11282_cc currently on the very last stretch, and it is hard for me to reflect properly. I have decided not to pay a professional proof-reader to do the job for me as I don’t think the amount of edits would be worth the money invested. Instead, I’m tackling the issues this way:

Attending an editing seminar offered by my university. I did simple language and syntax exercises that helped me pinpoint areas where I was weaker.

Asking a linguist friend to proofread the the intro and conclusion. Her feedback and comments comforted me in the idea that I did not need the job done on the whole thesis, and also helped me identify a few recurring mistakes. Depending on your written English proficiency, you might not need this done at all, or you might need it for the whole thesis…it’s up to you to decide.

Printing. For a reason that really escapes me, I realised that I find mistakes much more easily when reading on paper. This is really not environmentally-friendly at this scale, so I am printing double-sided and two sheets per page.

How did you find the process of editing and proof-reading your PhD? Are you dreading getting to it? How did you/will you tackle it?






Doctoral evaluations, lessons learned

Every April at the Adam Smith Business School where I am studying, doctoral students undergo their annual progress review. They submit a report and present the work they’ve accomplished in the last 12 months. On this ground, a panel of professors evaluates if they can continue being in the programme.

In other words, collective panic attacks are in order.

This year, I’m close to submission and didn’t have to present, which allowed me time to sit back and think about the things that make or break this kind of evaluation – assuming they must take similar forms in other universities.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you cope with PhD evaluations:

DO believe in your research. You’ve done a lot of work, don’t undervalue your output. Present it with pride and defend what you’ve done, no one else is going to do it for you.

DO keep your slides simple. Overloading your slides will just confuse the audience or give them a headache. Slides are there to help you, not show everything you’re saying.

DO attend other people’s presentations. Especially if you are in the early stages of your PhD, and even if their topic is obscure. You’ll get the tricks of the trade by seeing other people do well, or not so well.

DON’T give a business-like presentation. Avoid overly minimalist slides or aggressive communication style. At least in the UK, and when you are being evaluated. Your audience wants content and proof of progress, not a Dragons’ Den pitch.

DON’T dismiss comments or questions. Even if you don’t like them. Keep an open mind to suggestions. Professors sitting in your panel have experience and despite their sometimes twisted minds, it is unlikely that they will purposely try and embarrass you.

It might sound easy or obvious but we know that when stress or uncertainty takes over, these principles are easier said than done, so I think it’s worth putting them down and reflecting on what we do.

Do you have any other tips from your own experience?