Friday, 23 May 2014

Britain Thirst (sic) - shaming Britain one typo at a time

This week, in the midst of the European and local elections, an article appeared on professional content-bucket Buzzfeed regarding a political party called Britain First, an offshoot of the British National Party.

In Buzzfeed/Upworthy terms, what I read shocked me.

According to the article, over 300k people are fans of the Britian First page on Facebook - far more than the three mainstream political parties, and over three times the number of fans than the Liberal Democrat party.

At first I was wary: how could a political party with so little representation nationally have so many fans on their Facebook page? I smelt a rat.

However, upon checking the Facebook page, and discovering to my dismay that two people I know like the page in question, I am having my doubts about this.

The page is consistently adding fans, and it’s majority user base is in the United Kingdom.

Britain First Facebook Stats

There are no sudden growth spurts to indicate the bulk-buying of fans, which is a subject I’ve covered in previous blogs.

The only reason that I can see for the page’s popularity is their constant, incessant sharing of patriotic imagery, coupled with strong calls to action - asking people to like and share their content if they agree, and goading people who do not share the images with the inference that they somehow condone mass immigration and child abuse if they don’t. 

Classy political discourse.

I have no problem with people choosing to support a political party if they genuinely believe in the ideals that party stand for.

But I think this is more of a case of mistaken identity than anything else.

From what I can see, the images that are being liked and shared the most are little more than clickbait. 

Lee Rigby, Princess Diana, Winston Churchill. Three people who are stitched into the fabric of our society for a variety of reasons. They resonate with people. Tragic, heroic, caring.

Britain First is exploiting this. By asking somebody to like and share a picture of Lady Diana, you are avoiding having an actual conversation about your policies. Yes, you are creating engagement, and getting new people to your page, but you are not really having conversation about your policies. Britain First - I doubt that the vast majority of your Facebook audience know what your policies actually are.

And the reason that most political parties don’t share pictures of Lady Di, Lee Rigby and Winston Churchill is that they don’t have the permission of the families of these people to do so. They don’t want their relatives exploited for political gain. 

You should know this, Britain First -  Lee Rigby’s mother asked you not to use his name or likeness in any of your promotional literature. 

Lyn Rigby

Are you genuinely proud to do that on Facebook?

Are you proud that you are using pictures of the dead (who aren’t around to grant permission for you to use their images or likeness) to get engagement for your page?

Are you happy to reduce the terrible murder of Lee Rigby to a Facebook post?

If so, you don’t sound like the type of party that I’d vote for. You sound a bit ignorant, and quite frankly thick.

You are a party that marches down Brick Lane, a place where thousands of people go for curry, culture and a bit of fun on a weeknight, claiming that you’re doing it for the memory of 'great Christian crusaders' like Lady Diana.

The same Diana who is represented in all her glory on the wall of my favourite Brick Lane curry house.

I bet you more British people have enjoyed a nice curry in Cafe Bangla than like your Facebook page, Britain First.

I bet you more British people like the country how it is, and where it is going, Britain First.

I bet you that the spelling and grammar on the curry menu in Cafe Bangla is a lot better than the spellings on your Facebook page, Britain First.

Ringo Starr

Thursday, 10 April 2014

'So Ben, tell my why you don't go to social media conferences?'


Lyrics below, for your information:

"Let's Get Social"
lyrics by Phil Mershon:
vocals by Mary McCoy:
music by Dave Curtis:
band: Dave Curtis; Danny Campbell, Tonga Ross-Ma'u)

Verse 1
I'm showing you things you'll like
Trying to get engagement
Here's some photos from my life
My cat, my kids, some bacon

Verse 2
I'm hoping you'll share my stuff
And tweet it to the world
If you help me grow my Klout,
I promise that I'll share yours

So connect with me, let's have some fun
Let's show the world how this gets done

Let's get social (social) with social media
Let's get social (social) with social media
Where we can spread the word and grow our reach
And find our fans in their newsfeed
Let's get social with social media

Verse 3
We're searching for the story
That'll bring us instant fame
So we shoot our "viral video"
And we post it to the Gram

Verse 4
We're looking for the secret
Of Facebook's Holy Grail
We try to keep from paying
That leads to hashtag #fail

(Repeat pre-chorus and chorus then to bridge)

Hey now y'all, can we just get real?
Do we care about our fans or is this just another deal?
Said another way, have we lost our way?
Social's about the people, remember they are people
Do we really need another fan, like or share?
Do we need another post to show up everywhere?
I hope as we scatter we never forget
That our posts live forever even when we go to bed


Friday, 21 March 2014

Lily Cole and the nonsense paradigm


 Yesterday I had the misfortune to read one of the most baffling pieces of sixth-form prose that I'd ever set eyes upon.

Lily Cole, supermodel/actress/clever-clogs has recently launched an app and website by the name of - in which she boldly proclaims will not only boost the UK's happiness (and in turn it's GDP, natch), but foster a gifting economy, in which favours are traded freely between people.

Or, in Lily's words:
The first manifestation of this idea, for me, has centered around the gift economy, a concept written about mostly by anthropologists but that the British government understands as having a bigger presence in the UK than GDP. The difference between the gift paradigm and more typical exchange paradigms sits largely in the rumour of reciprocity.

In exchange paradigms, return is quantified and direct. In giving paradigms, reciprocity exists but it is generalized and not quantified. When something is done for “the other” – for the act of giving – a subtle bond is understood to be created between the two people. And that action is understood to trigger reciprocity. Imagine what happens at scale: social cohesion.
So I deeply believe in the social value a gift paradigm might offer, and set out on this seemingly impossible journey to build tools to encourage one. Again, and again, I told people about the idea and they have gave to it – time and resources, from legal work to the development itself. I have been blown away by people’s generosity, and so it has become, on many levels, a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have built a social network that allows people to post “wishes” – things they may want, need or offer, which are then shown to other people on the platform based on location, on existing friendship groups, and through matching content (i.e. #cooking). The only currency is an abundant one: saying thank you, which is always public.
Still with me?


And to top it all off, it's being funded by the UK tax-payer to the tune of £200k - small-fry I know, but remember, technically this makes us her investors. Did we get a chance to do our own due diligence on this?

So far, people have mostly been requesting either world peace or new shoes.

I'm not going to spend a whole article criticising Cole for having the temerity to have an idea, or take the piss out if the fact that a supermodel can get a double-first from Cambridge. A lot of the criticism of her seems to revolve around her already-privileged lifestyle (an estimated £10 million fortune), her humble bragging ('after a fascinating day with the UN foundation, I visited the White House on the way home') and her highfalutin name-dropping ('A few weeks ago, I spoke with the world wide web’s inventor, MIT’s Tim Berners-Lee'). So far, so standard celebrity. It's nothing new.

But Lily - just to be clear, being very clever doesn't mean that you aren't capable of being misguided.

This gifting economy that you are speaking of - doesn't that already exist? 

People are sharing their time - with families, friends and loved ones. In addition to this, they are also volunteering at food banks and donating charities.

Take a look at this chart from CAF - you'll see that the UK is sitting pretty in sixth place.

World Giving Index

In addition to giving their time freely they are also expected to spend more time at work, to contribute towards the economy, and to pay income tax on what they earn - trying in vain to plug the gap where the government has failed to ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share.

Hours worked in Europe

The problem with this is it provides nothing - literally nothing of any tangible use in the battle against inequality, and the mean-hearted concepts that prevent people from taking part in the sharing economy.

So Lily - on top of all the sharing we're already doing, you want people to get together and walk each others dogs?

It's a nice idea, sure. That's why people are already doing this up and down the country. People are setting up youth clubs and societies to protect and look after the vulnerable and the elderly - engaging with people currently banished to the outskirts of society.

And the shittiest part of the equation? Many of these organisations will never see anything close to the £200k that you received from the government to put out an app which enables people to wish for expensive shoes and foreign holidays.

We live in a sharing economy - it's just that some people put more than their fair share in already, Lily.

Stop asking them to walk your dog for you and give the money back.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

#PricelessSurprises? They'll end up costing you in the end

James Corden, The Brits and Mastercard
Pic hat tip:

Many of you by now will have seen that news story on the #PricelessSurprises/@MasterCardUK Brit Awards debacle, which in true social media fashion broke this morning and was splashed across the internet in what seems like a nanosecond.

Lots of pithy Tweets, and lots of fun had at Mastercard's expense. But how can something like this be allowed to happen in the first place?

The truth of the matter is that these arrangements occur all of the time. There have even been TV programmes dedicated to it. But businesses still engage in these shady tactics to get engagement and conversation started.

However - there is a distinction. You cannot tar every business which asks for promotion via social media with the same brush. If, for example, you are co-promoting an event with a brand/artist/etc., it is reasonable to ask for a mention or a share of some of the content you are collaborating on, possibly mentioning each others Twitter handles, maybe even cross-promoting one another's social media accounts. As long as the relationship is mutual, transparent (i.e your audience are aware of it) and reciprocal, then there shouldn't be a problem. This article on Social Media Explorer explains the benefits of partnerships of this kind really well.

The problems begin, however, when one half of the arrangement starts behaving in a dictatorial manner. And that's what The Brits and Mastercard are guilty of.

Mastercard have managed come out of this looking both greedy and stingy at the same time. To make press passes to an awards ceremony conditional on tweeting nice things about the sponsors is noxious in the extreme, and to try this trick on journalists is stupidity in excelsis.

That's ultimately the problem with those pesky journalists - most of them know what a good story is. Writing about #PricelessSurprises at an awards ceremony is not a story. Being bribed by a PR flack in exchange for a ticket to an awards ceremony? That's a much better story - even I can see that, and I'm no journalist.

The Brits and Mastercard could have had some great coverage of their event if they had just laid on these so-called #PricelessSurprises to people for nothing - not mentioning it, just doing it. After all, when you're sponsoring the event, and you have your branding everywhere, what's wrong with giving a little something away in exchange for, well, nothing? As it is, the supposed opulence and bare-faced hubris of the event is somewhat tarnished by the miserly approach of it's main sponsor.

Couldn't have put it better myself, Jon - grammar and punctuation aside, of course.