Gayle Tomlinson: Getting past the tech speak, social media is a must

Gayle Tomlinson, head of social media, Trinity Mirror Regionals, is a digital champion for wwWomen, an initiative to support women setting up new business using digital opportunities


I wouldn’t call myself digital savvy. That may seem strange coming from someone whose job title is head of social media within the digital editorial team of Trinity Mirror regionals – it couldn’t be any more nerdy.

When I started this role at the beginning of the year I knew my core skills were more people-related than tech-orientated.

Yes, I know the difference between Facebook and Twitter. I could bore you to tears on the intricacies of those social networks and how to get the most out of them.

After recently going on a taster course with Ignite 100 and Code Club North East I now know a little HTML. But when people start using words like “interface”, “big data”, “embed code” and my all-time favourite, “agile development methods”, I want to run a mile.

I find myself quite often in meetings where I wonder if these people are actually talking the same language as me. I was in our offices in London’s Canary Wharf the other month where words like ‘render’, ‘story ID’, ‘responsive’, ‘first loads’, ‘socially shareable’ were common currency.

It dawned on me recently that these words are just another form of office speak. Similar to words like ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘learnings’ and ‘going forward’ – all words that I’ve unfortunately found myself uttering at some point during my career (and then wondering what kind of person I’ve turned into!).

If you can cut through the noise of the tech speak and actually listen to the conversation we were having in Canary Wharf it was about people and their behaviour in accessing news.

We were looking at ways to make it easier for people to access our journalism on their mobile phones (responsive) and to allow them to share content they had enjoyed reading with their peers via facebook, twitter and other social networks (socially shareable).

The language being used made it sound like a dark art, but ultimately the subject matter of our conversation was no different to one Edward and Elizabeth Mallett probably had three centuries ago when they launched the UK’s first daily paper, the Daily Courant. Albeit they would have been focused on print, rather than mobile, and the life cycle of a newspaper rather than sharing on social media.

Realising that my mental barriers to accessing technology were more about my ability to master a type of office speak or a new language than my ability to code or construct helped me immensely. Of course, developers, who create amazing looking websites and the brilliant bells and whistles on them (we call these ‘product’ at Trinity Mirror), are massively talented people who have mastered a trade. But there are many areas of the tech and digital world that are easily accessible to the rest of us regular people.

Facebook and Twitter are examples of this. These are two platforms which can open up a huge range of potential for businesses. Both allow businesses to reach out to local and international audiences within just a few minutes of setting up a login.

For us at Trinity Mirror they are vital platforms allowing us to let people know about the stories we are writing.

When The Journal launched its NEtwitterati last year (the search for the North East’s most influential on social media) we were surprised to find out that many of the people we spoke to ran small businesses and for some, 80% of their new business was coming from Twitter.

The NEtwitterati clearly showed us there are people in the North East who are accessing these skills but recent research from the BBC showed a third of small and medium sized enterprises don’t have a website and the figure rises to 50% when voluntary organisations are included. Put simply, this isn’t good enough.

Independent analysts Booz and Co. estimate full digital take-up could add £63 billion value to the UK economy.

wwWomen wants to pull down the tech speak barriers to allow more women to have the confidence to use digital tools and to get their businesses online. It’s an initiative I’m keen to support. Before taking on this role I was self-employed and used the internet to help me find new business.

I know that sometimes all you need is someone to get you started, to give you the basics, or just to give you a little bit of encouragement to try something out that is brand new. That is what wwWomen wants to achieve.

wwWomen’s next event will be on Monday, November 17, at 11.45am to 2pm at The Core, Science Central, Bath Lane, Newcastle. For more information, contact 0191 426 6408 or check out wwWomen’s facebook page.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer