Friday, 24 December 2010

Why Social Media predictions are pointless

I’m sure that you all realise that it’s that time of year where all of the great and good in the world of technology, sports, music and everything else in the world, start making predictions about what the next year will hold in store for their relative fields?

Me? Frankly, I can’t be bothered. I’ve given up trying to make predictions, as I’d rather focus on the present and just work with what I have, not a hypothetical social toolkit that chances are may not exist in 12 months time.

And besides, at this time of year, I think we should be taking stock and counting our blessings above all else. I live in a developed country. I spend my time worrying about online communities, rather than worrying about where my next meal is coming from. I have clothes on my back, and it’s all because I work in a job that, if we’re talking about predictions here, back when I started my education, DIDN’T EVEN EXIST.

Back in 1987, online communities were barely even seeds. The social media evolution of the past six or seven years hadn’t even happened yet. Nobody I knew, or my parents knew, had a mobile phone. Things are a bit different now, aren’t they? Well, a bit. Some people were predicting that we’d be living on the moon by now.

There are two types of people in this world when it comes to technology. Those who predict, and those who just do it; who disrupt the apparent order that enables us to make secure predictions. who aim to change the way we do things not by hypothesising, but by showing us the change and taking us with them.

Don’t play it safe by making a link-baiting predictions list - use your time more constructively. Make an impact socially, implement a new project, just get out there.

Ghandi said it best: Be the change that you want to see in the world.

So, today when I sat down in front of my laptop to try and bash out a 'this is what I think will happen in 2011' blog post, I accidentally received a really cool gift - the gift of perspective.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Why the UK will always lag behind in social media



As you may know, I’m a bit into the idea of online and social communities. It’s kinda my job, you see. And I love it.

The thrill of creating a campfire, a room or a garden online and filling it with like-minded people, and sharing relevant information with them gives me a real buzz. And I don’t think that will ever wear off. social media levels the playing field with regards to platform, and with a few tweaks and a lot of hard work, you can grow a quality fan base that will provide you with as much of a lifetime value as some of the big brands.

But at the moment, living in the UK, I still don’t believe that we really ‘get’ social media.

Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons, although firstly, I want to dismiss the straw man argument that it’s down to scale. In social media, as in life, size is not as important as quality.

One of the key reasons is that if you think about it, does the UK economy, heavily based on service and manufacturing, really value technological innovation, or even really understand it, or the people that do?

The worst thing about this is that I feel that as a nation, the UK is heading backwards. We never had much money when I was growing up (cue Hovis music), but I remember the first computer I ever owned was a good old, Alan Sugar-approved Amstrad CPC 464. It had British-bas developers. British-based games. It seemed homegrown. There was a refreshing lack of uniformity about the technology, and although it was hardly state-of-the-art, it was ours, and it was brilliant.

Ok, so were hardly pioneers, but we had a decent start-up offering us good home computers at a good price, which allowed programmers to publish public domain games that helped to not only influence a generation of geeks, but also a generation of popular culture too (Charlie Brooker has been weaned on this stuff, don’t forget).

Fast forward nearly thirty years however, and what do we have now? We live in the age of the internet. Not only our we actively engaging online, our kids are, and our grandparents are some of the speediest adopters around. And yet, when it comes to technological innovation, we are lagging so far behind the states it’s scary.

I love AudioBoo, and Mark Rock has done a great job with this start-up, gaining some pretty key advocates along the way (Stephen Fry, The BBC, *ahem* me...), but is it really going to be all down to him and a few key associates to drag Britain kicking and screaming into the digital age? It shouldn’t be. BTW, keep up the good work, Mark.

I don’t think adoption is the problem. I think that it’s funding more than anything else.

Why do you think that Pete Cashmore left Scotland when Mashable started getting succesful? Why is every single great social website or idea seemingly based in either California or Colorado? It’s not because of the weather (looking at you, Boulder). It’s the fact that there are investors over there who seem to understand that the true financial power of the internet is based upon disruption. And that’s where you will make your money.

Social Media has disrupted business whether we like it or not. It is not a fundamental change in the way we communicate. Telepathy is a fundamental change in the way we communicate. What it has done is forced companies to listen to their audience, and respond to positive or negative feedback, sometimes publicly.

Here in the UK, we do not reward disruption and innovation. We try to stamp on it. We have experts appear on TV talking about ‘Internet Service Protocol’ and ‘Broadcom licenses’. We pass a digital rights bill that pretty much prevents the hackers (Zuckerberg’s) of tomorrow fulfill their potential. Basically, if it’s not a shop or a fucking money-printing machine, you’ll get laughed out of any Dragon’s Den in the country. And that was before the recession. Even Channel four don’t believe in it

Even in Facebook marketing, most of our digital companies are being knocked into a cocked hat by Fox News! Regardless of what you think of their politics (I’m no fan), they know their audience, and they’re funding social initiatives, sharing stories with, and investing in their social spaces. You only have to look at that, and then look at how boring and staid our pages look to realise our attitudes towards social differ from across the pond.

FOX is what we should be aspiring to socially. PEPSI is what we should be aspiring to socially.


The US tech industry wants to disrupt. We want to contain. And we don’t even know enought to do that properly in places.

It would be great if we could start breeding tecnological, social innovators in this country. After all, we are the masters of the pub converstation, the terrace chant, and the mass phone vote. I would just like to see the innovators of tomorrow being given a chance, and being given some money by our short-sighted government(s).

Whether we like it or not, digital and social are the next battleground that we have to face as an economy. And at the moment, the best we can offer has been largely (wrongly) ignored.

So my wish for Christmas and New Year is for more money to be pumped into affordable tech education and new start-ups. And not just from the government.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Thank you for joining my campfire!

CHEERS EVERYBODY! The beer is alcohol-free, by the way. Photo by Laura Somers.

One of the happiest days of my working life was this Friday, when I found out that one of my favourite sites, Social Media Today, had chosen to syndicate one of my articles.

I wrote my post, ‘The Campfire Effect in Social Media’ on the number 111 bus back from Manchester Piccadilly Gardens on my trusty, battered-up Blackberry, and emailed it to myself to finish when I got home. The funny thing was, I didn’t edit it that much, which is unusual, given that I am usually pretty anal about these things, being a former pro copywriter.

The social campfire seems to be an analogy that has gone down really well, and it started me thinking why this was.

Ultimately, as I’ve said quite a few times before, social media is a campfire that we all gather around to share stories. If you have a certain expertise, something you believe is useful that you can bring to the conversation, you should definitely be on there.

Many companies simply rush onto there, blindly chasing profits, when they shouldn’t be chasing anything at all. The recession may have made you desperate, but that’s not how you want to come across to your potential fans and followers. Give them calm, reasoned and useful content.

Around a campfire, this would be a great anecdote, joke, or observation. Your perspective and experience are invaluable, and are taken at face value if you communicate effectively initially. In other words, first impressions count.

The campfire feels warm, and feels welcoming. It's what we should all be aiming for 

Thank you all for following my blog, and for following me on Social Media Today.

As a token of my appreciation, I have three Rockmelt invites to give away.

Rockmelt is a cracking social browser, built onto Google Chrome API. It’s sleek, sexy and quick. I’ve been using it a couple of days, and it already seems intuitive to me. Try it now, but be quick!

Happy surfing everybody, and I hope you have all had a great weekend. 

Tell me what you'd bring to the campfire - leave me a comment!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Campfire Effect in Social Media

Picture Credit: Ian Patterson


I've been a very busy boy over the past couple of months. I'm currently working for a great company, in what is the biggest and most enjoyable work challenge of my life.

I often say to people that in order to be in contact with your audience, you need to inhabit the same spaces they do. Create a 'campfire', where people can feel comfortable having a conversation with you. But what happens if your campfire spawns another campfire? What happens then if somebody else from the same fire then breaks off and starts another? And so it continues, until you have a festival's worth of campfires, all discussing roughly the same thing.

What happens then? Where was the original fire? Can I get from one side of the campsite to the other? Why can't I interact with everybody?

Once you have a festival full of similar campfires, it can be very difficult to find your way again.

I was hired to be put in the middle of that festival, and told to help people find their way. To join all of the campfires. And that's what I am hoping to do.

If your company sounds like it's approaching the festival campsite scenario, you need to refine. I can't stress that enough. If you offer millions of choices, make sure there is a single concrete purpose behind those choices. If not? Consolidate. Marry content. Don't separate it. One campfire, multiple conversations. It's the way life works. We don't walk into a different room every time we talk about something different.

The logs are your company, and the fire is the passion you put into your social media strategy.

That's possibly the silliest thing I've ever said, but I think (hope) I've got a point.

Comment below if you think I don't, or you want to make a good point!

And if you have to read one book this week, make it this one.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

New Twitter: New Facebook or New Coke?




Hope that you are well. Apologies for the brief radio silence on the blog, it’s been an incredibly busy two weeks since I left London and relocated to Manchester with my lovely girlfriend Ana, and I’ve been really busy moving in and, well, working. So no blogging.

I’m currently sat here in lovely Islington (thanks to Emilio, Sarah and Tom for putting me up), putting the finishing touches to my Twitter presentation for tomorrow at the Marketers Forum. The new video and photo functionality on Twitter could be very exciting, and I wonder what it means for third-party apps, and how they can build the new functionality into their existing platforms.

Do we really want streaming video within our Twitter feeds? Is it really a location, in the same way that Facebook is a social location? Obviously not, but this move seems to be an indicator that potentially that is where the guys at the top want their platform to go…  

What do you think of their chances of success? Is this a smart, or a stupid move? 

Check out the video below previewing the new changes, and if you are coming to the event tomorrow, then see you there!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Does Ping Pong?



After a typically cryptic invite, and much debate in the tech and music press, Apple have launched their new music-based social network, Ping, to a suitably salivating audience of tech geeks and fanboys. I'm not one of those bloggers who like to steal a march, and pretend that they have more hours in the day to sit up and review a new network and give it the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. It's too early to say whether Ping will be successful, and I'm not going to write a stunningly deferential review or a snarky obituary just yet. I'm going to have a bit more of a play with it and let you know when I feel like I can make an informed opinion.

That said - I think that Ping will fail.

Why? It's not an authentic enough experience for me.

The whole point of social media is to provide a forum for people to share experiences, to share pictures, events and music videos. Myspace put music and self-expression at the heart of it's service, and for a while, it ruled the roost, until it was usurped in the user-experience stakes by Facebook. Facebook, being an essentially silent platform, eventually added brand pages and music to their offering, allowing artists to express themselves and connect with their fans where they feel comfortable. Comfort - now there's a nice, warm, cuddly word/feeling...

Let me ask you a question - how many of you feel comfortable just hanging out in a shop?

Well, that's what Apple are asking you to do. Facebook serve advertising, but they are not primarily an eCommerce platform. Myspace have advertising and very heavy brand sponsorship, but they are not checkout heavy.

Ping is like the free coke the estate agent gives you when you come in to chat about a mortgage. They want you to, first and foremost, buy something, or go away. Sharing will always be secondary with Ping, as it's primary function is an eCommerce store.

That's not to say that eCommerce stores can't do it properly - ASOS and Amazon do a great job of creating a community that generates it's own content. They don't pressurise you into doing so, and they are honest and upfront about the fact that they are an online store.

Apple have just repackaged the iTunes store, got a few big artists on there, and yet they expect people to just blindly start using it, without asking any big, difficult, un-cuddly questions. That is not going to happen.

I love sharing content, and I love sharing information. Any site, network or service that allows me to do that is great in my book. But please, do me a favour first - declare your interests! I don't want a personal shopper, I want to share cool stuff with my friends. That's what social media, at it's very core, is all about. I certainly wouldn't say 'buy this album now', or 'listen to this thirty-second sound file THEN BUY IT'. I just want to share.

So Ping: you have a lot of questions to answer over the coming months. So get pally!

Have you used Ping yet? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

MessageParty: making the social anti-social since 2010

Is it just me, or is this advert for MessageParty slightly depressing in a post-apocalyptic, 1984-meets-iPhone kinda way?



It’s for a chat application that is pitched as location-aware.You can have a messenger conversation with a group of people at a conference, check in with people in a bar and talk about football, chat to people at the bus-stop about the weather...

Hold on a minute, isn’t that what basic human interaction is about?
 
This product to me is the antithesis of what social media is about. Social media should always supplement real-life interaction, not replace it. I can’t think of anything more depressing that standing at a bus stop in total silence, typing about how much I like cats and football to somebody stood next to me who I don’t even know, and probably won’t even see again. That’s not conversational, that’s just vomiting useless personal information.

Also, if I was making a presentation and a load of people were engaging in an IM conversation whilst I was presenting, then I think that I could safely assume that I’m not doing a good job, but also that if they have a strong opinion, they’re not very good at expressing it, and would probably prefer to snark about it to somebody they’re trying to impress two rows forward.

Whichever way you look, it's certainly the opposite of the cheery, leaf-kicking corporate image they're trying to put across...


Messageparty: Officially the most boring party on earth? Prove me wrong...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

It's Foursquare vs. Gowalla vs. Facebook Places... Or is it?



Yesterday, Facebook launched their new location-based features. Guess what it’s called? That’s right: Places.

A lot of people will be asking what this means in the long-term for Foursquare and Gowalla, and as usual, nay-sayers have already written both companies off as yesterday’s news, which is slightly lazy.

Who says Foursquare is finished? Not me.

Yes, Facebook is capitalising on the geo-location boom by adding the Places service to their mobile application. And yes, a lot of people new to geo-locational tagging will naturally default to that service.

But it’s all about the right mix of positive user experience, customer service and look and feel.

Yes, we know that Facebook cannibalised Myspace. But did Google Buzz cannibalise Twitter and Facebook? No, because it failed to provide a positive user experience, looked tacked-on and dated.  But it’s still here, and I’m still using it for certain purposes. Ditto for Myspace and Twitter.

Why?

People will always want choice. The choice to choose to have their email account with one of the big four providers. They understand that their information is currency, and they won’t want to channel all of that information into Facebook.

Foursquare is young and agile enough to be able to adapt their service, and maybe offer new services that Facebook in its current form cannot offer. It has a head start in building client relationships. I’ve been lucky enough to chat to both Naveen Selvadurai and Ian Clearly of Foursquare when we were getting our brands Foursquare presence and special set up, and they literally bent over backwards to help. I even spoke to somebody on the phone to help set the special up. It felt to me like it was a star-up that cared about building bridges with a brand. For all of its qualities, I just don’t feel the same about Facebook. Places just feels like a land-snatch to me, but that’s me reacting to it on an emotional level I guess.

It depends how you want your ice-cream. Do you want three different types of vanilla, or do you prefer an online strawberry sundae?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

New Digg - better than old Digg? [info-graphic]

The new Digg has just launched, and I've got an invite to test out the new alpha version (along with millions of other people, including Bill Cosby hopefully).

I'm having a play with it at the moment, and I'll let you know what I think of it shortly, but in the meantime, here's a nice info-graphic I found on http://www.popjolly.com/

School Online
Via: Wwww.onlineschools.org

Monday, 16 August 2010

What we can learn from Fabio Capello's treatment of David Beckham?



Last week, Fabio Capello dropped David Beckham from the England squad.

On it’s own, this may have been a big story anyway (Beckham is one of the
biggest stars in the world, and helped to revolutionise personal branding
amongst sportsmen in the UK). But the way in which he did it was the most surprising.

He didn’t do it face-to-face.

He didn’t even give Beckham a call.

He did it LIVE ON TV...

To quote:

“Thank you for helping me during the World Cup, but probably (he) is a
little bit old.“I won’t be picking him for any more competitive matches, David
is a fantastic player, he was really important, but we have to see the new
players for the future because the age is important for a lot of people, not
only for David.”

Wow – this is one business announcement that should have been announced
internally first.

That is bad social business.

Why?

Fabio used the wrong line of communication: he chose an indirect medium to broadcast a message to Beckham, whether that was his intention or not. This is just the same as firing one of your employees over Twitter, or announcing mass redundancies on Facebook (you wouldn’t get many ‘likes’ for that one). It’s insensitive, and shows a lack of communication skills. Capello should know a lot better than that, as he is an experienced manager. To be poor at communication within a company is bad, as it can dent morale, but if you make that lack of communication public, watch your brand sentiment take a nosedive.

As a boss, you have to offer protection to your employees, and show tact.
Beckham may be 35, and he may not be fit enough to grace the Wembley pitch again, but he deserved to be told with a degree of dignity and diplomacy, and not broadcast over the airways in slightly more than 140 characters.

So please think about your friends, colleagues and co-workers before you
compose your next Tweet or status update. You could end up damaging friendships, as well as your brand's reputation.

And my message to Beckham? Well, thanks for the memories!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

I Like Buzzin' Fly!



Buzzin' Fly is one of my favourite labels of recent times. Set up in 2003 by Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt, the label runs out of Camden, and puts out some of the finest deep house and techno I have ever heard.

They are also a great example of how an independent label makes good use of social media and digital marketing. Although there are only three people working at the label (including Watt), they have a full set of good social media tools running from their incredibly functional website. Visit it now and have a look for yourself. Proof positive of a small indie label using social media effectively.

Keep checking this site for more on Buzzin' Fly - a feature is in the pipeline.

In the meantime, here's a real summer treat for you in the form of 'Shelter' by Jay Shepheard - this is a deep and as sunkissed a track as you are likely to hear this summer - enjoy.



Jay Shepheard 'Shelter' (Original Mix) (Extract) by buzzinfly

Monday, 28 June 2010

Social Media Bullshit, And How To Smell It!


 So I’m reading a load of Social Media blogs, and the usual touchy-feely stuff is coming through again and again and again. The usual Marketing Talk, and the endless self-promotion of so-called experts. I work in Social Media, yet I feel very little affinity to the self-appointed sages that seem to litter the online sphere at the moment.

I don’t like being negative, as I feel that too much negativity is like filling a rucksack with stones – a heavy, pointless burden that nobody wants to share with you (unless you are a masochist – if so here, have mine).

What a lot of people, and a lot of businesses don’t seem to understand is that the best tools on the market for Facebook page optimisation are free. Just look at Mashable for starters - most of the stuff your bog-standard S/M expert will tell you is on there first, and for free. You are being ripped off, and being kept in the dark about by the snake oil salesmen I see so often coming into work, hawking their two-bit social media plug-ins for upwards of £15k. It’s poor, it’s rubbish, and there is no excuse for it. It’s offensive that people will look to rip people off in that way. And that’s coming from somebody who works in the music industry (sorry, cheap joke – that’ll be 79p please).

All of the best inventions and shifts in the way we operate have been cheap to implement at the base level. You can draw an amazing picture with a nice pencil, if you have the focus and the ability. You can maybe make the lines a little more defined by buying a better pencil, but then you’d have to have the ability to draw in the first place.

A so-called social media expert would have you believe that if you buy a better pencil, you will be better at drawing. A good Social Media teacher will show you how to draw better with the tools you already have, and teach you with equipment that is cheap or free. And probably wouldn’t drown in pencil analogies like I just have. Tut tut, Stroud.

So the next time you get somebody pitching a Social Media product to you, just ask them the following questions.


1. Can you explain your product in one sentence without using jargon?

2. What other products are there like this on the market?

3. Who was your touchstone and who were your influences when developing your product.

4. How is this better that the free products on the market? In English please...

5. How much?

6. Why?

7. How can you break this price down into work undertaken? (i.e. Does this cost justify the man-hours they are putting in?)

And if you’re still none the wiser, here’s a simpler method:

Avoid this:



And watch this:


SMC Seattle May Event: How to Call BS on a Social Media Guru from SMC Seattle on Vimeo.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Diaspora: A Newer, Friendlier, More Open Facebook?



I'm really excited about Diaspora.

After the massive (mostly justified) hoo-ha over privacy settings on Facebook over the past few days, hearing about this new, *free* (i.e you keep your private data private) open source social network is a real breath of fresh air, and could potentially be bad news for Facebook, which has yet again been rocked by new privacy allegations, after some cheeky scamps made a site that exposed just how public your data is.

(as a sidenote, it's interesting to see the 'I'm not racist but...' status update/misinformation is spreading very quickly. Looking at the way racists use social media looks like a bit of a dissertation-in-the-making).

The way I see it, Facebook is essentially a very old company posing as a new, cutting edge company. It is a glorified mall for you to hang out in, and whilst you can have fun with your friends in it, you get the sense that, well, it isn't really yours. This counts for brands as well. The whole experience seems to be run like a lease, and the landlords aren't very responsible with your information, farming it out to every site on the web in an attempt to seem open and honest - although not with you, the user. You want to leave? Fine, but we'll keep your information forever. Hey, you should have read the small print.

You may not be able to get your information back (yet), but you can pack your bags and go elsewhere. And if you are a brand? Well, then you can build a neat, bespoke social page that will really stand out.

Until then? Well, my advice is to basically share less if you don't feel comfortable.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Why Social Media Experts Make Me Vomit!


I wish that I could say that I don't know, or haven't met anybody like this in my line of work before. It's part of the reason that I set up this blog (apart from showing off, obviously).


Social Media coverage, interest and chatter is reaching saturation point at the moment, and a lot of former 'SEO/Viral Consulants/Experts' (read: chancers) are hopping on the bandwagon, trying to lure you in with a lot of touchy-feely Innocent Smoothy-style marketing guff, basically telling you how fun it is to talk to your mates, and buy stuff, and keep in touch, on the internet. Really, you don't say.

So, to get back to the reason I set this blog up: I believe that everybody, whether they are a business or a normal person like you or me, can master the art of business on Facebook and Twitter. It's not rocket science, and you don't need to pay a company like this thousands of pounds to make your online presence nauseating. It's a sham. You can learn these skills. It just takes a bit of time, and a bit of reading. I will share as much as I know with you as I can. I'll tell you what I think is cool, and how to do it. I'll tell you what I think is shit. I'll be a bullshit filter for you if you want.

Deal?

Hope so.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Tweeting: Don't be a Dalek, just be yourself!


 I was having a good chat with my mate Sam this afternoon about the role of Social Media in eCommerce and the music industry. Sounds like a hoot (no pun intended), doesn't it?

Obviously, I won't bore you with the finer details, but the conversation started after a discussion started by at the way we Twitter, and how some companies and invividuals within them just refuse to understand Twitter, and just insist on shouting prices and information at people like a modern day sales gestapo.

This should never be the case. I mean, nobody really wants to shop with somebody who is just going to tell you to buy their product, or just fuck off? Unfortunately, that's how some businesses operate online, just barking offers at people and broadcasting prices at them whilst saying 'out now!' or 'buy now!' Real stores are, for the most part, not ran by Daleks. So why operate like this online? Why replicate the products you can find in a shop, but not the good customer service and product knowledge?

Be The Local Guitar Shop, Not The Music Superstore

One of my favourite places to hang out when I was younger was a guitar shop in Southampton. It wasn't the biggest, or cheapest guitar shop in town, but you could get a good deal if you paid in cash. The coolest thing about this place though wasn't it's products, or prices - it was the fact that you could go in there, hang out, play guitars and talk to people about music (which in the late 90s was pretty shit - remember Gay Dad? Space? Catatonia? You get the idea). The staff were friendly and knowledgeable - they clearly loved hanging out and playing music all day too. And you could spend a few hours there, only leaving with a 50p plectrum or some strings. But you had a good experience, and you'd definitely get all of your guitars, strings and things from that store. Not because it was the cheapest, but because you had a relationship and a loyalty to that store.

So, in short, in the online world, where you don't get the benefit of face to face contact, you need the next best thing - a friendly, helpful online presence. One that helps, and respects people rather than pissing on their goodwill by shouting prices at them. We can see what the price is. And you have to sell a lot more of them if you don't help out and be yourself around them.

My Picks Of The Week:

Nice Pair of free Moby Downloads from his last album (disclaimer - I work for Ministry of Sound!):



Nice bit of dirty Dutch house from Silvio Ecomo & Chuckie - Moombah (Afrojack Remix)



A Classic from The New York Dolls



 Another cracker from Burns



And finally, this wicked free download from Disappears - Gone Completely - pure Iggy-esque carnage!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Carpet Right Customer Services FAIL - A Warning from Facebook


Just a quick note to any companies and customer service reps out there who happen to be reading this blog - these days, you can't put the phone down on a customer and expect the feedback to go away.

Facebook and Twitter haven't created negative feedback - they've merely given people a wider platform. If this issue would have been nipped in the bud with an apology, a bit of empathy, and some reassuringly good customer service (you are, after all, talking to a human), then this message probably wouldn't have gone out!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Social Networking: It's Your Privacy, It's Not Free!


Just a quick follow up post to my earlier one about the problems with Facebook hiding our updates from the newsfeed.

One recurring theme that I have come across in many forums and blogs is that Facebook, Twitter etc., are all free services, as we do not pay a flat monthly fee, or get charged a pound or a dollar whenever we sign in. Therefore, when it goes wrong, we should shut up and take it.

In one sense, that is true. In another, it is so wrong it's laughable.

Social media is inherently and potentially costly. We are providing these massive companies with a wealth of personal information in exchange for using their services. Although this is something that I have no real problems with. What I also don't take issue with is that Facebook then make money out of our personal data by charging marketers to target their advertising towards us. That's part of the deal - read the terms and conditions.

What I do have a problem with, however, is the assumption on some of our parts and their part that we have no say in any changes to privacy, or mistakes in their service, as we are not paying customers. WE ARE PAYING FACEBOOK - we have paid them with our name, location (just wait until they unleash their Foursquare-killing geo-tagging service at the end of this month), email address, likes and dislikes (spread even wider now with their new open graph 'like' buttons), and we have invited our friends to get involved too.

So, next time you have a problem with Facebook, don't be afraid to be a nag. Shout loudly, complain, blog, Twitter. Because you are a paying customer, and you deserve a better level of customer service! Don't be afraid to rock the boat to get postive results.

And before I retreat to my Threads-esque underground paranoia bunker, can I just say that I can guarantee: if a major record label tried this kind of sh*t, they'd be nailed to a cross.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Facebook Newsfeed Down For Some, World Waits For Answer (Well, Geeks Like Me At Least)

*UPDATE: Problem appears to be sorted, although stay tuned for more updates.*

Just to give you all a quick update - logged onto Facebook This morning, only to find that the previous healthy chat and posting and response rates on Facebook had all but died.


The reason? Our updates are not showing up in our fans newsfeeds! Why?

After searching the FAQ's, the 'help' centre, all of the possible sources, Facebook haven't dignified us with a blog posting or a response, as they clearly think because they have a free service, we should just put up with the bad customer (that is what we are - we have paid them by providing them with our personal information).

According to this page, Facebook will have the problem (with the servers) fixed by this Friday (the 14th). For users (and brands), who, like me, who like to keep their fans updated of the latest info, this is not good enough.

We'd like this fixed now Facebook, so please pull your finger out and get back to us. You owe us all an explanation.

Just remember that you are well within your rights to complain - it is not a free service, you are paying them with your personal information, which they are making money from.

SORT IT FACEBOOK!

Friday, 7 May 2010

4 Reasons To Not Leave Social Media To Your Intern



Facebook? Check.
Twitter? Check.
Myspace? Check.

Ok, you've got all of the social media bases covered if you are in the music industry. But the important question besides 'What do you do with it' is 'Who will do it?'. It's s difficult question to answer, and sadly, one that many labels have not quite figured out yet. Here are a few tips.

Don't Broadcast: To some labels, Social Media is seen as a broadcasting system for their latest releases - so they send out several messages about releases, tours and events an hour, often saying the same thing, to an increasingly pissed-off audience who are not beholden or as financially invested in the label as you. So, in short, they will leave. This can be fixed with proper social media training and implementation.

Don't leave it to the intern: To a lot of labels, social media is seen as secondary to all other forms of communication, and is often palmed off to an intern. THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE. Social networks are your main point of communication with your biggest fans - they like you. They want to be given more reasons to like you. They want value. They want cool music. They are your core audience, and core demographic. Surely they deserve a bit more than a few spammy status updates and some broadcasts dictated by an intern. Give your fans value (communication + exclusive content), and they will love you even more.

Listen and learn: Just remember that it's good to talk to your fans, and involve them in your decision-making process. I mean that - don't just pretend to listen - that's possibly the most annoying thing you can do, and you will shed savvy fans quicker than you can say 'BUY THA NEW BIEBER SINGLE ITS DA BEZZT LOLZZZZZZ'.

But most importantly, be yourself: If you are a balls-out rock and roll label, ACT UP! If you are a serious minimal techno label, APPEAL TO THE TRAINSPOTTERS! You have a lot more in common with your cans than you think - so don't be afraid to chat to them as your equals. Chances are, they'll think you're pretty cool, so don't be afraid to recommend other bands and other labels. It's a conversation starter, and a way to gauge what your fans are in to apart from you. Using your fans as A&R? That's the true power of social media my friend.

Ben's music picks of the week (favourites old and new):

The Chemical Brothers - Swoon (Parlophone):



The brothers back on form? You'd better believe it. Loving this delicious slice of electro house with a bit of a classic Beloved-esque vocal refrain thrown in for good measure. HAPPY FUN TIMES!


Burns - Technique EP:


burns- teknique from Thomas Bachellier on Vimeo.

Can't find any clips of his upcoming mix album 'This Is Burns - European Sex Music Vol.1', but it's out June 7th. This is pretty damn hot, and we're going to be hearing a lot from him this year.

Rad Omen - Rad Anthem


RAD OMEN - "Rad Anthem" from Nicholaus Goossen on Vimeo.

You can download this bad boy for free from their bandcamp site. It's brilliant, but the video is even better. Genuinely unsettling, but in a good way.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

5 Tips for Social Media Productivity


It's hard to stay focused on your work in the busy environment of the music industry at the best of times. There's always a song to be heard, an artist to interview, or a new deadline that you already needed to have out of the way by yesterday. Chuck social media into the mix, with the multiple Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Myspace interactions that are needed to work effectively, and you are already in for one hefty dose of screen time. And that's not even taking into account your Smart Phone.  

It's tough, but sadly that's the way that work is. As some people say, you don't go to work to do work, you go there to get interrupted. But that doesn’t mean that you can't get your work done promptly, effectively and without the minimum of fuss. You have the right to join the online conversation with your brand, and you also have the right to do it without interruptions. After all, it's how you get the best results. Here are a few steps to achieving the best social media environment. 



  1. Go Mobile: Can't concentrate at your desk? Too much conversation, or too little conversation? Then why not move? Hop on a laptop, or head to another part of the office where you know that you won't be disturbed. Make sure you take a to-do list though, to keep on track, AND to marvel at how much more you can get done if you are sat somewhere interesting, without the world and their mum staring down your neck.  



  1. You don't need email/chat when you are social networking: Let's face it, we've all been in that situation where we're working away on a project/talking to users/writing a blog posting, when the little blue box in the bottom right of your screen appears with another 'high priority' email from the office worrier about a project due in two months time. But we still read it. And then respond to it. And then another. And another. Before you know it you're updating Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, your HR department, your manager and your partner's best mate on your various goings on. FOCUS! Get rid of the interruptions - shut outlook, shut MSN, focus on one browser window. You can either do one job well, or several to a competent level. Choose the former. 



  1. Still can't think? Go for a drink. Chained to your desk? Need to think of an idea to boost a Social Media campaign for one of your artists? Sat under some striplights  staring at an empty desk and some toilets? Nice one, that's possibly the least inspiring place to sit and try and come up with an idea that will get fans and artists excited and connected. How can you correct that? Well, it's a lovely day outside, why not go for a walk around the block? Why not go and chat to a colleague about their day? Grab a drink of water (not coffee), and go and sit somewhere quiet with a pen and a pencil. Don't 'think outside of the box' - leave the bloody thing! 



  1. Explain: Explain to staff members what you are doing. Some might get a bit annoyed that you initially take a bit longer to respond to their  emails, but stick to it if it works for you, keep calm, and explain what you are doing. Or maybe even set up an away message saying that you will respond to their email in a pre-defined time window.  If you're half the dude I think you are, then you'll come back with a wicked answer to their query that required a lot more than the usual two seconds thought you give to an email. 



  1. Listen to something cool: Whether it's a podcast of your favorite music (my current favorite is the Hospital Records Podcast), or maybe one of the wicked interviews over at Big Think,  listen to something that will get you thinking, and listen to something you enjoy. Who knows, the idea for your next campaign or blog posting could be hiding away there, so keep your ears open. 

Got any more for me? Then chuck a few words my way in the box below...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bebo - AOL's Loss, But Who Will Gain?

We all remember AOL, don't we? Well, I do at the very least. I remember painfully slow dial-up connections, ICQ and AIM from back when I was a teenager. Oh, the fun I had with that, waiting an eternity to log in, hearing the familiar call from my mum downstairs.

"Nan's trying to call! Get off the internet!"

And then I moved to London, got broadband and never looked back, or used AOL services again. And it seems I'm not the only one - check this graph out (courtesy of Neoseeker.com)



That’s a pretty sharp decline isn’t it? And it coincided with the widespread proliferation of high-speed broadband. AOL was viewed as an Anachronism, and as it was merged with Time-Warner, a large, corporate one.

In 2008, in an attempt to reach out to a new audience and look for new avenues, AOL bought British social networking site Bebo for $850 million dollars. That’s a lot of wonga.

And what did that do with it? Well, nothing. No relaunch, no development, no integration into their other services (bar that lame duck AIM). As a result, the site has been left to stagnate, and trails Facebook’s 35 million active users (active being defined as updating your status every day) with 12 million active users, a large majority coming from Scotland, Ireland and the UK.

So, now AOL want to get rid of something that they paid close to a billion for, and have since spent nearly nothing on, yet still has 12 million active (mainly under 18) users.

In a memo sent to AOL staff yesterday, they stated:

"As we evaluate our portfolio of brands against our strategy, it is clear that social networking is a space with heavy competition, and where scale defines success. Bebo, unfortunately, is a business that has been declining and, as a result, would require significant investment in order to compete in the competitive social networking space. AOL is not in a position at this time to further fund and support Bebo in pursuing a turnaround in social networking."

The long and the short of this is that AOL rushed into the purchase of Bebo. It wasn’t fully aware of Bebo’s demographic, and once they realised that these kids were hard to sell to (as they don’t have their own money yet), they didn’t know what to do with it. So they pulled the plug financially.

This has been a long time coming, and is not necessarily a surpise, but talk of Bebo shutting down is pretty premature in my opinion. I know a lot of companies that would kill for an active userbase of 12million teenagers, and would know exactly what to do with it.

Disney?

Sony?

Nintendo?

The choices are limitless, and the rewards of purchasing this network could potentially be huge if somebody buys it with an open mind to ‘re-skin’ the brand as something to really appeal to teens, something AOL have failed dismally in doing.

Watch this space.



Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Unvarnished: Cyber-Bullying Made Simple?


Workplace grudges. Whilst I would like to say that we all have them, the vast majority of us do not. I genuinely like (or at the very least respect) every person I have worked with on a professional level, and I would have no problem with saying that. After all, what's the point in harbouring bitterness, or even a grudge? Somebody once said that bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Everybody loses.

But in the online world, a world that frees us from our traditional roles and responsibilities to be polite, respectful and courteous, we are free to say and do as we please (within reason). Whilst on certain levels this may be A Good Thing, a new site that has been launched could bring some of the carnage, flaming and trolling of the internet into our home and professional lives.

The sites name is Unvarnished, and it ended it's Beta testing last week. Launched by veterans of sites such as LinkedIn and eBay, the site allows users to rate their co-workers and bosses positively or negatively. Comments cannot be deleted from an account, but if the person in question does find one of these comments, they can take ownership of their profile and respond to the criticism. reviews are rounded up, and you are given a rating out of five, not unlike a video on Youtube, a track on iTunes or a DVD on Amazon. And it's really easy to do, as you can use Facebook Connect to sign in, adding that all important social media element to the whole, malignant process.

I'm sure when bosses or HR departments hear about this, they are going to go crazy. Finally, a reputation-gauge that goes beyond a person's CV, or their references! AMAZING! This is what people really think of them, so this is how good or bad they really are at their job! BRILLIANT, RIGHT?

Wrong.

With the rise in cyber-bullying amongst school children, and the water-cooler toxic culture of the workplace, is giving people the option to anonymously slate their peers or their boss really such a good idea? Whilst I understand the need to at least have a conversation about work practises, surely they should be had face-to-face? And when does a work gripe become a personal grudge? Since when has it been justified to sit there, glass of wine in hand, laptop on your knees, happily writing anonymous braodsides about somebody at work you just don't like. Wrong hair? Funny smell? Doesn't take part in your shitty chain emails? Then why not post a comment saying they failed to deliver on a major project. After all, it's totally anonymous. Head to head for a promotion with a colleague? Then just give them a bad write up on Unvarnished, then hope your bosses read it. Simples.

In the music industry, there is a lot of back-biting, back-stabbing and office politics. In short, it's pretty much the same as any other industry. I have worked for some cracking people in my time (my current employers are an example of this - I really enjoy working at Ministry of Sound), but I have also worked at some terrible places, where workplace bullying is the norm, and certainly places where this form of passive-aggressive bullying would be welcomed with open arms.

Who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys? That's not for me to say, it's not my place to slate or berate people online. It's immature. But I personally hope that everybody who posts a bad review about somebody on unvarnished feels a little bit dirty for doing so.

I'm very concerned that a site like this. Whilst giving you a certain degree of control over the conversations that are being had about you online, you cannot control your own profile, or delete comments that aren't true.

And although it may never take off in the UK, there are still plenty of reasons for concern for people the world over.

Unvarnished claim to be opening up a space for candid discussion. Well, let me put this challenge to you. If you are not essentially a front for cyber-bullying, then allow people to control what is said about them on their own profiles, and do not allow anonymous posting. If you care about the truth as much as you say you do, then honesty should not be an option, it should be mandatory.

I stand by everything I say, and I would expect others to do the same.

Unvarnished: Truth in Reputation?

Cyber-bullying for grown-ups more like.

For help and information about workplace bullying, visit read this Advicenow guide, and contact ACAS if you feel you are a victim. Nobody needs to, or deserves to be in this day and age.

PS: I'm not linking to the site, as I refuse to have anything to do with it!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Social Networking - It's The First Quarter Roundup!

Guess what? I'm on annual leave next week, and I'm looking forward to every moment of it. The first quarter of the year is over, and already there have been a lot of developments in the social media sphere - I've written down a few of my thoughts on the biggest ones below

Foursquare: After a few irritating, stalled weeks on my Blackberry, is now working like a dream. Initially, like with most good ideas, I wondered what the fuss was about - but then again I guess more than a few of the 400 million Facebook users thought the same thing about social networking at first. It recently beat the 500k checkins a day mark, and looks set to go stellar in the next few months.

The big challenge for me to get my head around is how it's going to translate into a successful tool for the music industry. I've already sent it around my office, and all of the noises have been pretty positive. We're working on a few ideas at the moment. I'm not telling you them yet though. Mwah-ha-ha.

iPad: I've heard a few tastemakers and important people online wondering firstly, what is it going to replace, and secondly, contrary to Apple's claims, is it really any better than a cheap laptop/netbook.

My two penneth on the matter is that I think that it will be pretty successful, and that, as always, Apple will find a way for it to become indispensable to us. It will be harder for them this time around though - the iPod was a clear update on the previous clunky, truely dreadful portable MP3 players, and, well, the iPhone is simply an immense piece of kit. The appeal of the iPad is harder to distinguish, but we will see. The proof of the iPudding is in the, well, you get the idea. I won't be rushing out to get one just yet though.

Facebook: Facebook recently passed their 400 million users marker, and it is now the default location for people on the internet. With this in mind, brands have been greedily circling, waiting to pounce on your information to dessimate around their company, ensuring that sales people will start flooding your FB inbox with Viagra emails. Either that, or, well, they just want to inform you of special offers and incentives that you might not have otherwise heard of. Or they want to improve their customer service, or gauge feedback on products and services. Either way, Facebook's up-and-coming new privacy settings, which I would stake good money on giving less privacy to users and more leeway for brands to access fan information.

I think that more access for brands is a good thing. Why? Well, firstly, everbody has a right to privacy, but if you really value your personal information, don't share it in a semi-public forum. There is no shame in being ex-directory on the biggest phonebook in the planet, but please don't complain if you have the option to abstain.

Secondly, more access for brands will enable the good ones, the ones that care and understand the networks, to find out what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. And that could ultimately be good for everybody's pocket.

Facebook's eagerness to please brands and their core users alike is in stark contrast to Twitter, who have kind of fallen by the wayside. Where are these premium services they have been promising for so long? A no-show on these at SXSWi was very disappointing, although @anywhere is a nice feature.

So, all in all, the first quarter of the online year has shaped up pretty nicely, and a lot of services are poised pretty nicely, like a ball ready to be volleyed into the back of the net. So we'll see what happens in the coming months. What it holds for the music industry? Well, we'll see.

Wish me luck on my week off!

And here's a couple great track to send you off into the Easter break - both from Professor Green. Enjoy!









Thursday, 25 March 2010

Social Media Talk - Bullshit Baffles Brains

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting on here as often recently. Trust me, it's not because I don't like you, or that I am dead. Or maybe I am. Woooooh.... Waaaaaahhhhhh.... Ghost noises, etc... Only joking... Or am I?

I am. Sorry.

But one of the big reasons is how tired I am becoming with the whole 'Social Media' bubble.

I mean, everybody's an expert these days, aren't they? Go on, seach Twitter. How many people describe themselves as social media mavens (I hate that description, it makes you sound like a character from Willow), visionaries, or maybe you're just a good old fashioned 'expert'.

So, let me start my rants with a simple list of definitions. If you're out in the Social Media wilderness, here are some handy, plain English translations and definitions for the type of Social Media people you will meet on the internet.

The Social Media Expert: Somebody who has read or at the very least access to an RSS feed of Mashable.

The Social Media Visionary: This person has a gift, but it's not in the obvious way (i.e. they are good at Social Media). This second type of person has the gift of self-promotion - they have graduated from the school of Twitter and Facebook Spamming with honours, and they are not about to let you forget about it. Most of their information comes from, yes, you guessed it - Mashable. The rest of it comes from either the wildest recesses of their imagination, or a well-thumbed copy of Wired that they found in the Job Centre. Avoid at all costs, as it will cost you a lot of money to get away from these snake-oil salesmen.

The Social Media Maven: They've clearly read and misinterpreted The Tipping Point; they have a vague background in marketing, and they have a vastly inflated opinion of theirselves. They don't want to chat to you about how to make money from Facebook, or improve your relationship with your customers - they want to 'create a multi-faceted engagement experience which creates synergy between your content hub and your social media channels, thus improving the customer engagement experience in a way that is tangible when strict metrics are applied'. Which is basically what I just said in half the time. So, once again, avoid.

Most are the human equivalent of dud cheques - expensive to cancel, and the charges are astronimical. Avoid.

Over the coming weeks, I'll be doing my best to talk about social networks in a measured, reasoned manner, without resorting to empty buzz-phrases. In the meantime however, here is a clip of a man being shot whilst taking out his bins. Enjoy.