Thursday, 28 April 2011

An open letter to Twitter




Dear Twitter,

I didn’t really want to write this letter. It’s especially hard as every time I start thinking of all that we have been through, from the death of MJ, to that failed #fuckthebanks hashtag that I tried to start up on Twitter in a fit of revolutionary pique (and anger at Santander). It wasn’t very good, was it?

Anyway...

People of Twitter - I’m actually pretty angry at you at the moment. Angry and disappointed, like Geoff when he berated PJ & Duncan in Byker Grove.

You’ve let me down, you’ve let yourselves down, but more importantly, you’ve let Social Media down.

Why is that? Oh, you don’t know? Well let me fill you in...

Let’s start with wishing suicide on a 13 year old for having the temerity to release an (admittedly shit) song.

Followed by a course of bullying from angry Manchester United fans. Upset at only winning one nil at the weekend, their fans turned to Twitter to pour scorn on their young midfielder Darron Gibson, just for having the temerity of not being as good as He Who Can’t Be Named Due To Legal Reasons, or Wayne Rooney. Upset at the level of uneducated abuse, Gibson chose to leave Twitter hours later.

And who could blame him?

When I’m asked to explain Twitter in meetings and presentations, I often describe it as a reaction to the world around us. But, with some of the reactions and tweets that are posted on the network, a CEO at first glance could almost (almost) be justified in thinking that Twitter was merely an open sewer which allows the most obnoxious, thick people in the world to pour bile down the throat of whoever they happen to hate at that moment in time.

I thought that was what Youtube was for?

I love using you Twitter, but jesus, some of the shit I see on there from supposedly ‘educated’, tech-savvy people makes me want to pop my eyes with a ballpoint pen.

Is there a better way for us to battle the rise of the idiots now a large majority of them have Twitter accounts, and a small minority of them are, somehow, influential?

Do we drown them out, ignore them, or do we move on? Or, am I just being a snob?

I’m reaching out to you Twitter - throw me a bone. Or some abuse.

Thanks,

Ben

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out




FOMO - Fear of Missing Out.

It’s another neat acronym that you can use to sum up how technology is shaping our lives, our hopes, our fears and our anxieties.

In this great piece in the New York Times, Jenna Wortham speaks of the feelings of uneasyness that being constantly wired bring her, especially on a quiet night in with a DVD. And, of course, her Smartphone...

“As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.”

So, in addition to making us dumber, does the internet also make us more socially anxious? And does social media make us feel better, or worse about ourselves? Are you feeling like a shrinking violet, or even a Judgy Judgerson?

I don’t think so.

To me, social media and the internet is all about sharing where you are, what you are up to, where you are and who you are doing it with. It’s about sharing content with the people you like, and the people that you love.

All of the pathological feelings of attachment to technology, to ‘being busy’, and social anxiety would still be there if we lived in an age before technology. Social media may enable the condition, but it is not the cause. We are inherently social. To share and to tell stories is in our nature. To want to belong is to be human.

The pace at which we live may be the problem instead. We are always ‘on’. Both my girlfriend and I check our phones and read blogs/Twitter/Facebook before we go to bed (it’s only through sheer willpower that I don’t use Foursquare to check into my bed. The need for information in people is so great, that now we have a 24 hour multi-national internet culture, we all rush to devour the information that is constantly at our fingertips.

Learning when and where to switch off should be the solution. And realising it’s better to know a lot about a little than a little about a lot.

Ultimately, if you want to get things done, I’d probably recommend switching off the computer. Or closing your internet browser. And your smartphone. Get out a notepad. Call your mate. Get some fresh air.

We are in control of when to switch off.

He says. At 11pm. From behind his laptop.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Why does a company need a social media policy? It's the law!


I’ve been working on a social media policy for my place of work. Although I won’t reveal which company it is, rest assured it’s raised a few questions in my mind, and crystalized a few points in my head.

There is a lot of talk at the moment of social media and it’s relation to law in this country. We all know how social media can effectively circumvent traditional company, press and legal guidelines. If you are influential enough, you can publish a story on a social platform and get it shared. Twitter gives you access to a public platform that can be a curse and a blessing, depending on how you approach it.

For every councilor getting fined, there are thousands of representatives on public social sites using them to their best and fullest extent.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need a policy and legal documentation in place.

In fact, I’d go as far to say that if your company doesn’t have a social media policy, you need to GET ONE NOW, STUPID!

This is not a case me flip-flopping, and this should never be used as an excuse to squash internal and external debate on issues relating to your company. As long as you are responding to any issues in a timely matter, content on a social site is not a major area for litigation.

It just makes sense if you don’t want to get sued.

BBC Radio Manchester recently had an issue where their Twitter account was accidently used to send a personal Tweet about the person in question being stuck on a plane next to some drunk scousers. That caused a lot of red faces at the Beeb, who promptly sent an apology and have decided to privately reprimand the person in question. Completely fair. Any disciplinary action should be kept internal, and should not be blasted out into the public arena before due diligence, accountability and action is taken. If at all.

Maybe some journalists should be doing the same, but that’s just me getting on my soapbox, and if public interest applies (something that was published on a public platform from a trusted source should be taken as public by default), then we have a right to know.

AS a company, you need to know in black and white what you can and cannot say on social platforms legally, and everybody at the company needs to be aware of this.

Sadly, Zappos and their mission statement of ‘being real, and using your best judgement’ don’t stand up now that the digital legal eagles are circling Twitter.

We know that our perceptions of brands are influenced by what we see and read. If you want your company and it’s representatives to keep publishing shit-hot content, GET YOURSELF COVERED, and get a policy in place, and educate your staff. Take time to train them to be more effective. Socially savvy people are hiding in your company, and training will unearth some real stars that can help shape the open future of your ourbound communications. The cost to you and your company may far outweigh any potential compensation pay outs if you have offended or defamed an innocent party on a social media site.

What do you think? Have I got a point, or am I just talking a load of chuff?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Facebook Questions - Good or Bad?


I thought it was worth sending an update to you all to let you know (if you didn't know already) about a new feature that’s been introduced to Facebook's brand pages - Questions.

It's great for gathering opinions from your friends, family, and most importantly - YOUR audience. Everything from where they eat, to what their favorite movie is of all time. The only limit is the questions that you can think of.

This is a great feature, and a whole crapload lot of fun. The more questions we can ask of our audience, the more we find out about them, and the more content we can get out of them.

When somebody answers one of your questions, it then shows up in their feed. If somebody else sees that feed, and the question is good enough, they will answer it.


Check out an example of Facebook Questions in action from the official What Noise? Facebook page



As you can see, the snarky nature of the internet (or more to the point people being honest) means that the majority of people voting said that they didn't like it. But the interesting thing for me was that people from outside of the group actually saw the question in their feed, and got involved.

This alone proved to me what a good tool this could be for engagement, and for growing your reach beyond your immediate audience.

NOTE: But only if you use it properly. Obviously, if you ask shit questions (which I can be guilty of sometimes),  it's annoying and totally useless.

I can't wait to see some brands and how they use this function. Or how they don't.