Interview with Hugh Stephens, inventor fo Schedugram, by Giulia Mastrantoni.
«Can’t you fix it somehow?», people kept asking him. «I can’t. Instagram’s decisions, Instagram’s rules», he used to say. It was 2010 and Hugh Stephens was not the inventor of Schedugram back then. He had just funded Dialogue Group, his company specialised in social media, risk management, strategy and training.
What his customers kept asking him was how to schedule posts on Instagram. It was totally impossible, though, since Instagram had a very strict policy about spam and didn’t want to allow users, especially brands, to schedule posts. In 2013, when Schedugram became a reality, it gained popularity at once and Hugh became an icon for anyone dealing with the social media world.
Inventor, communicator, startupper. But you define yourself as a problem solver, on your website.
I do. You always have to face problems and you need to solve them quickly. That’s what I really do: I solve problems. Schedugram was a solution to a problem.
Speaking of Schedugram, it is linked to your society, Dialogue Group. How did everything get started?
I used to study medicine, can you believe it? I just figured that it was not what I wanted. I liked the idea of creating something of my own, something that had to do with what I loved – technology, communication. So I did it. I had a good background in technology, though, and had a few experiences in consulting and communications as well.
What was Dialogue Group about?
We gave enterprises and brands advices about social tools, that included social media. I managed risk, dealt with strategies and, of course, Facebook was starting to become useful for businesses. We could solve pretty big problems for people starting to explore the potential of social media.
It’s a program that allows you to sort of schedule posts on Instagram. You can’t do that actually, because Instagram’s policy wouldn’t allow you, but you can program the computer so that it automatically logs in into your account at a certain time and posts something that you have already prepared. You can do it with as many accounts as you like, with as many posts as you like.
That’s impressing. Didn’t it scare you, starting something so different from what you had thought would be your life – medicine?
I was a bit worried about the gains-and-losses part. When you start your own business, you have to think about that and studing medicine hadn’t much to do with it. But my work experience had provided me with adequate skills. It’s really a combination of things, that’s what it is about. I took the chance and it worked out well.
Did your use of social media change after you invented Schedugram and started working on social media as a full time job?
I’m not that active on Facebook, actually. I am a fan of Twitter and I have a LinkedIn profile. I was never really a big Facebook user, because I don’t see myself as someone who needs to share his life – I don’t feel the need to post pictures and so on.
Do you check on people’s Facebook accounts before a job interview?
As an employer, I try to separate what’s private from what’s the professional image of the person. Their Facebook accounts should be private, I feel. But I Google their names, so I check out their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. If they have a blog, I might have a look.
Do you feel social media destroyed privacy?
They changed privacy. People still have a strong sense of privacy.
How do you feel about posting “personal stuff” to Facebook in order to promote your products or yourself?
You have to show your personality, otherwise no one will notice you. But you can still be professional, even when you’re showing your personality. As an example, you can show what your desk looks like or what your lunch looks like. That’s not unprofessional, but it’s not advertising your product or company in a direct way either.
Do you feel technology is the only option for young people as concerns their future careers?
I don’t think technology is the only solution. There are a lot of opportunities linked with technology, but one of the things we don’t realise is that even something like a cafè might still have a pretty good future. The key part is finding out what it is that you really want to do and be absolutely sure about it. You can tell when someone’s passionate about something, as well as you can tell straight away if someone is just looking for a post-graduate job, any post-graduate job. What about dreams, then? I know that taking chances might be risky, but it may also work out. So don’t give up on your dreams, never. You will have to work hard, but don’t give up. And make sure you continue learning.