I meet a couple of great guys the other day. Steve and Paul from Coup Media. Coup Media are a Social and Mobile Agency. Here is how they describe themselves:

Coup Media – Nice guys

‘We’re a group of digital specialists, social marketers, and technologists who know all about delivering business by harnessing our increasingly social web…’

As it happens, we were discussing last September’s Oi Conference. Hopefully you were there and remember Mark Schaefer and the gang that did such a good job. As we talked it suddenly struck us. Wales is really very ‘social’ these days.


Mark Schaefer at Oiconf 1 (Photo credit: Sarah-hoss)

Paul, the terribly clever CEO of Coup, mentioned that he feels like he and his team have been beavering away between Cardiff and London for a few years and have worked pretty much in isolation – yet over the last few months, and he accepts this might be only his personal perspective, Wales has suddenly ‘caught up’.

Oi Conference was actually another case in point. Back in September we had 200 people in a room in Newport taking part in one of the most sophisticated social media conferences to ever hit the UK much less Wales. And perhaps the most amazing part of it was the sheer appetite for the information on offer that the extremely knowledgable crowd had.

We covered everything from what platforms to be on, to how to make your business ‘social’ and all sorts of stuff in between. Mark Schaefer’s keynote was at another level as he discussed online influence and social media as the great ‘democratiser’.

The audience (including the guys from Coup Media) LOVED it.

So much so we are doing it again in June next year.

The audience was engaged and questioning, they missed nothing and sucked everything on offer straight up like some voracious social media monster! And they asked for more.

So a market that a few years ago could have been accused of being a little behind the times shall we say, is asking for a social media master class delivered by some of the leading names in the industry. Mark Schaefer, global blogging super star, will be joined by people like Tom and Tamsen Webster. Tom works for Edison Research and is a Big Data expert. This is the real, technical stuff people!

Mari Smith Social Media author and speaker

As well as those guys, this appetite has brought our star guest out of California and back to the land of her upbringing. Social Media legend Mari Smith who lived in the UK for 20 years and is of Scottish heritage, is headlining our gigs, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to consider it was the reaction of the Welsh audience that day back in September that has convinced these guys to come over.

I know Mark himself was absolutely energised by the attendees and the vibe at the event and we almost simultaneously had the same idea to bring him back, and to make Oi conference bigger and better than ever!

But there are lots of other examples of how Wales is social I think. We seem to have zoomed from getting a decent level of broadband and 3G coverage (thought there is still clearly work to do in this area) right through to the same kind of thought leadership in the social media space that is coming out of the universities teaching social media in America – arguably the hot-house of the next social media generation?

Its seems to be such a growth area here right now. From agencies like Coup to ‘one man bands’ trying to grow their own businesses through the power of the social web, to the fabulous people at the Cardiff School of Journalism who are setting up to work with the citizen journalists of tomorrow. We seem to a fantastic energy for this stuff.

Graduates from Cardiff School of Journalism

As you’ll all most likely be aware I do a lot of ‘volunteer’ consulting for SME’s especially, through this blog and face to face, and everyone wants to know about social media. From Charities to Beauty Salons everyone wants to get in on the act. We have app makers and web developers coming out of ever nook and cranny. So much is going on in Wales that I am starting to think it might actually be because its Wales?

We are an incredibly social Country, in the traditional sense of the word. We have also always been famous for our creativity and content production. From ancient bards to modern TV production companies, Wales has always been a major centre for the creative industries in the UK.

And now that ‘creative sociability’ seems to be coupled to an unquenchable thirst for this thing we call the social web. We really want to understand it and do it better. That’s not unique in itself, but is it so powerful here because we are Welsh?

Is it because we’ve always wanted to be connected to each other? And have always been connected: within our towns and villages, communities and even industries. To reach out and help people and create things and influence others is a very Welsh outlook.

On line and off line, there seems to be a tremendous energy about us at the moment wherever you are, from Cardiff to Wrexham and all points east and west.

What do you think? Am I seeing something that’s not there? Or am I underestimating the ‘social’ movement? Whats your social story?

What’s your evidence of how Wales might consider itself among the leading nations in the UK in this sector?

Let me know in the comments below, or email me directly on [email protected]

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13 replies
  1. Tony Dowling
    Tony Dowling says:

    Here is a comment from Eiry Thomas, a regular contributor who has emailed a comment, but is happy for it to appear here. Its a great story and exactly what I am talking about when it comes to ‘social’ Wales

    Hi Tony,

    Good blog today and congrats on the success of the Oi conference.

    I’m not sure if there’s a sufficient level of buzz in Wales yet but I’m contributing my bit, even as a retiree. The developers that I’m working with at Chaos Trend in Swansea are creating state-of-the-art apps for me and I’m already generating work for illustrators, narrators, translators, e-commerce supplier etc. The apps will include English, Welsh and US English text and narration, which will demonstrate Welsh talents globally, whenever apps and books are bought.

    A bilingual junior version of the project is already available on the WJEC/ NGfL site, accessed free of charge. There are stories, fun digital grammar exercises and maths games. I hope your young twins will enjoy them. I provided all the material free of charge, including 26 stories, written this year. I like to think that the 60K hits per day on the NGfL site includes lots of global interest inl a new Welsh initiative.

    The main project is meant to help create jobs in Wales and I’m working very hard towards that aim.

    I hope that this is useful feedback relating to your blog.

    Hwyl fawr,


  2. Paul C Robinson
    Paul C Robinson says:

    As an Englishman who defected to Wales, but currently working abroad in Birmingham, I can whole heartedly say the answer to this is Yes, but no!
    Allow me to explain, by way of a non social media example.
    Wales has a passion, drive and enthusiasm like Ive never seen anywhere else in the UK. And I say Wales, not necessarily the Welsh, as there are many, like me, who feel it and respond accordingly.
    However, like some bizarre twist to Newtons third law, there is also the other end of the spectrum, and I feel its that which has held Wales back (that and to paraphrase an episode of Doctor Who, the entire South Wales coast could fall into the channel and ‘London’ wouldnt care).
    Wales needs businesses that are moving forward, pushing boundaries. When you look at Cardiff as an example, ‘it’ as an entity wants so hard to be up there competing with the London/Manchester/Edinburghs of this world …. but its almost like nobody, or should I say, not enough people want to put the graft in.
    Allow me to give an example.
    January 1st 2009. Crawling out from under our hangovers, my new year house guests and I ventured from the dizy heights of the Aber Valley down to Cardiff bay for a bit of hair of the dog, and a nice quiet evening to restore the balance from the party the night before. We hit Cardiff Bay at 5.30pm. 2 venues were open, a coffee house that was locking its doors as we approached and a pub. We sauntered into the pub to be told last orders had been called 5 minutes ago. My guests, from Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol and London were gobsmacked that nowhere was open on a public holiday evening.
    Granted, that was now almost 4 years ago and I expect things have changed even in that short time. Also, I am quite the believer that it is because we arent carbon copies of the other metropolises? … metropolii? metropols? …. Cities …. thats the appeal. We are South Wales, we do things our way! But there needs to be more of the Tony Dowlings, Aimee Batemans, chaps at Coup, pushing forward & forcing the change.

    Yes, Wales is the most social place I know …. but no, we dont seem to have the right people in the right places, allowing the full potential. Bringing it back to the specific topic, while there are the likes of Coup, And Sybil at SLR Marketing (Tony – have you met Sybil? Great friend of mine, remind me to put you in touch) who are absolutely leading the way in getting Wales on track in digital media, there are a lot of traditional ‘dinosaurs’ out there, just not listening. Just like that bar on New Years Day … they need to be open to attract the business thats clearly waiting!

    I hope that all makes sense! Kind of ran away from me……..

    (take 3 …. keeps losing my comments! Apologies if they all appear at once)

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hey Paul, Hmmmm…. yes I think you might have a good point in terms of the get up and go? Maybe Wales is still suffering the hangover of the 80’s when we were literally beaten into the sort of shape only now we are starting to come to terms with. That side of us is a little dark and complicated and maybe food for thought, or at least another blog.
      Having said that, I still think there are a lot of the ‘right’ sort of people around. Perhaps its a question of building communities around these guys to support and allow them to catalyse everyone else?
      In the amazing comment from Eiry, and the brilliant comment from Tom at NativeHQ (below) there are two amazing examples of the enormously high levels we are not only capable of, but achieving.
      For one, in the social space, and the digital world particularly, we arent talking about just potential – there are tons of examples of Wales winning!
      Thanks for taking the time, and persevering (thanks WP!) to post this great comment. Very interesting perspective

  3. nativehq
    nativehq says:

    As a leader in a welsh company that has specialised in social media for the past four years, I have to agree that we have insights into the field that can often transcend those of companies in London and elsewhere, ‘abroad’. When we started, our first contract was with National Theatre Wales helping them to establish an online community that has since grown and now has 4000 members from the theatre industries in Wales. Using social media in groundbreaking projects like the Passion of Port Talbot with Michael Sheen have strengthened our reputation for innovative uses of social within the arts. Interactions on the community site have transformed the industry in Wales and national theatre companies all over the world look to them as leaders in adopting social technologies in the world of theatre.

    Building on that we have recently worked with a leading London based theatre company to develop an online community for artists to collaborate on emerging performance art projects. They had previously been working with a London based agency who were unable to progress the project. In Wales, we have a stronger understanding of ‘community’ than our colleagues in London and it shows.

    We are currently training political staff at the Assembly in Cardiff Bay on using social media in the context of democratic engagement and we hope that they will be able to use the technologies to bring constituants and politicians closer as we seek ways to resolve the political issues in our new, emerging democracy. Yes, Wales has the potential to be a thoroughly networked nation, although that does not mean that challenges associated with digital exclusion and the lack of connectivity in rural areas can be ignored!

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi Tom, great to see you posting here, and thanks for such an amazing example of the work you guys at nativehq are doing.
      Its exactly the sort of thing I was talking about in the blog and its simply brilliant to have these real life examples, and established sustainable examples at that, of where Wales is leading the way.
      I did kind of gloss over it, but I think this kind of chat really illustrates why digital inclusion and our specific geographical and connectivity issues are such a huge deal for Wales especially. We have so much to give in this space, surely it makes sense to bet it all on digital?
      Thanks for the comment, a really valuable contribution to this conversation!

  4. Andrea Morgan
    Andrea Morgan says:

    Hi Tony

    Sorry for delay in writing this response but I have been being too “social”. I am also English and living in South Wales, I agree with Paul in some aspects there seems to be a divide between those driving forward and those stuck in the status quo or regional culturalisms. Is this just in South Wales, possibly not! My passion for social media developed whilst living in Wales and has progressed at such a rate that I am now launching a business that has been created in a way by the relationships I have made in Social Media, let me explain more…

    I am lucky to have developed friendships with some amazing people through social media, including the wonderful Mark Schaefer who actually introduced me to you as you know. I also have close relationships with some big brands which due to my ‘influence’ are supporting my new business. This kind of thing couldn’t have been possible prior to platforms such as twitter.

    Attending the Oi Conference it was wonderful to see so many people who are driven to take Wales forward socially, there is a fantastic social network within South Wales that are eager to learn from each other and support each other. There are many innovative social companies based in South Wales, many bloggers, and many twitter icons. Yes rural areas are hindered by connectivity but I personally have to say that being social has changed my life for the better – so yes Wales is Social! Can it do better? Well part of being social is always striving to do better and so yes! Bet let’s not focus on the on the negatives as there is so many amazing positivities happening here that we should be celebrating.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Amazing comment! Thanks Andrea, that’s a great story. I didn’t know about your new venture, you must tell me more!
      Good luck with it, and thanks for taking the time to comment!

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