Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I don't care if I frictionless share...

I think that quite a lot has been made of the frictionless sharing debate. A bit too much, in fact.

This article comes mostly from a Tweet, and the ensuing debate between Bobbie Johnson and Meg Pickard, two people I respect a great deal.

I'm not going to wade into what was a minor kerfuffle - but what I am going to say is that, broadly speaking, I'm with Meg on this one.

Frictionless sharing, whilst it may be annoying to some people, is very easy to filter out of your Facebook experience.

The way that I see it, your experience on Facebook is a lot like your experience with a computer/phone/TV. To get the best experience out of it, you have to customise.

Your information is currency on Facebook, and they don't want to lose you. They have unveiled a whole host of options so you can not only 'turn down the volume' on friends that have certain apps installed (Spotify, Pinterest, The Guardian), you can also choose to read the terms and conditions of these apps and choose not to install them yourself.

Personally, I think that frictionless sharing, within reason, is great! I think you should have an option of what you share, and I still believe that even though you are travel within the realms of the open graph, you should still be able to traverse the web for content at will. I think the Guardian app on Facebook has been a fantastic success, when I click on a link, I'd like to still have the option to read and engage with the article as it was intended - on the site.

That's why I like the way Yahoo! News have adopted it. I like frictionless sharing, but I like to be nudged every time it happens...

Is that pedantic? Am I missing the point? 

Either way, I like sharing what I'm listening to on Spotify. I'm not embarrassed about listening to Hall & Oates and Toto as well as Pavement and The Smiths. I like the fact that I could be recommending a new band to somebody on Facebook whilst I'm listening to it. It's great!

Frictionless sharing is neither good nor bad - it's either your thing, or it isn't. You have a choice to be involved, and there's nothing arcane about it, unless you consent to give your details to a organ-farming app.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Thank you!

A couple of brief, though heartfelt thank you's are in order here.

Firstly, a big thank you needs to go to Mark Brooks of Social Networking Watch for a great interview and write up on his site, which I think you should definitely check out and add to your RSS.

And last, but definitely not least, a massive thank you to all of the new readers that have ventured to my blog over the past year. In fact, everybody that's ever read, commented, shared and liked one of my blog posts.

Introducing... CENSORED Tweets?

Twitter have always been watching what you write, and censoring accordingly. Now they are making that process more transparent, and it's got the web all in a tizzle.

Uprisings, good or bad, have been shared, and reacted to in realtime on Twitter since the services inception in 2006 - and look! The world hasn't spun off of it's axis. So why the fuss now?

Here's the rub: If your government doesn't like what you have to write about them, Twitter will help them to censor it. Just one step towards keeping the world a safer, less litigious, more profitable place for Twitter? Yes and no.

Censorship of any kind is nearly always a bad thing. Where conversation is stifled, it creates a vacuum. You cannot stop a conversation - it will just shift to another medium.

But at least now Twitter are tacitly giving people the heads up that their service shouldn't be used to plan or organise armed insurrection. That's fine - it just means the kids here will go back to BBM, and elsewhere they'll go back to their closed networks and secret groups. One network's loss of relevancy is another's gain.

Twitter is a reaction to the world around us - it is not the means for mass protest, but I will always be concerned that governments will try to censor information about events and policies that the public in a certain country should know about. I'm not a tabloid journalist, but I believe that authority is there to be challenged, and lies are there to be rooted out. Creating a reverse Iron Curtain on Twitter could be bad for user trust on the platform.

I'm not arguing that Twitter can't be an echo chamber for cretins, racists and the like. But that's life - if you want free speech, that means everybody gets a voice - no exceptions. So I'm opposed to the censorship, but if Twitter want to stay viable, sadly they may have to relinquish some of their taboo-breaking legacy, and tuck their shirt in, so to speak.

It's a shame in my opinion, but hey - that's the path they've got to take, rightly or wrongly, if they want to play nice with governments and make money.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

'People will always need...'

Pic by Nico Ordozgoiti

You get some really funny ideas in the shower.

I started thinking about Kodak, and it's sad fall from grace, largely caused by it's inability to be able to pivot quickly enough, and embrace the digital age.

A previously unassailable brand titan, brought down to earth by a variety of factors.

But the one reason that I was thinking about was the one sentence that we all use in our everyday lives without really thinking about it's relevance: 'People will always need *insert item here*'

I'm sure we all heard people use that phrase for a variety of reasons. It's probably not given you an cause for concern - or them. But it's a very dangerous sentence.

It's the same kind of thinking that got the musc industry into so much trouble. After all, people will always need CDs, won't they? They'll always want physical products.

People will always need DVD's, won't they? After all, it's the experience of holding onto that little shiny plastic cover that we'll always cherish.

Let's get one thing straight: the only things we are hot-wired to do as people is to survive, socialise, and maintain relationships.

Businesses saw the internet, and assumed that they could apply the same principles to it as they could to the 'real' world of cash registers, queues and physical products. They should have seen the fall coming.

The internet has enabled disruption of previously unassailable markets. It has changed the landscape, and it has been responsible for innovations and developments in technology, business and freedom that were previously unheard of.

For every Kodak, there is an Instagram. For every HMV, there is an iTunes. For every iTunes, there is a Spotify. For every netbook, there's a tablet. For every Myspace, there's a Facebook. For every Facebook, there's a... Well, who knows?

Never assume that people will always want, or even need your product or idea. Be prepared to change, pivot and remain agile.

If you don't, you will end up going the way of the dinosaurs, or the Gutenberg press - fantastic to look at, but ultimately museum-bound.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Neat Twitter visualisation - but is it really relevant?

Today I stumbled across this really interesting visualisation of the 2012 Republican nomination race.

This is the type of data visualisation that I like to see - major props should go to Hotspots.io for taking an already interesting race, and placing it's context within the world of social media.

However, I do have a couple of caveats.
  1. Twitter is a reaction to the world around us. The fact that the debate was a popular topic on Twitter was mostly down to the fact that it had been heavily covered in the press, and featured on television. This is not down to Twitter generating it's own news and blabber. This story would have been popular in the pre-digital, pre-social age. Think Kennedy vs. Nixon. That is a confrontation that still echoes down the ages. Twitter wasn't around back then, but basic human interaction was. We should marvel at how readily accessible the information is - but we shouldn't believe that this story wouldn't have generated the same response if it had been broken pre-Twitter.
  2. Sentiment is valuable. Whilst it's great that we can see how many people are tweeting about these stories, the valuable information is how Twitterers are actually responding to these stories. After all, a crowd may clap as one, but each individual could have a different reason for doing so. I know how many people Tweet about the brands that I work with. What I work hard at is digging into that top-level data and finding out what they think! Opinions are like arseholes - everybody's got one.
Still - it's a nice, smart visualisation of top-level data, and I'd be interested in seeing what else Hotspots has to offer a serious social media manager/community editor.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Search plus your world? What's so bad about that?

I've been reading about and following the whole 'social signals' discussion for some time. In fact, last May I wrote a very critical blog post of Google's social search features.

It was a bit of a swipe, and now that I've had time to reflect on it, and actually use social search, both as a person and as a Community Editor, and I now realise that, whilst it may be a bit creepy to some people, it's actually quite handy to see search results that my friends have shared with me.

And now Google has revealed it's real trump card in the battle for dominance of the social web (and that's what it is) - Search, plus your world. And I can see why Twitter are so pissy about it.

They missed the boat.

Twitter, I'm sure, could have been involved in this latest venture. Google will have known how popular social signals from Twitter were when they had a deal with Twitter (which expired last June), and with Plus now starting to gain traction amongst users, they felt that now was the time to reveal their masterplan.

You see, the one thing that social media has taught companies is that people basically like to listen to their friends, and organisations that they trust. In that order. If my girlfriend goes to me 'Hey, do you fancy grabbing a pizza? I know this wicked place around the corner', I'd be bang up for it. However, if Pizza Hut said the same thing to me about one of their restaurants, I'd be highly dubious.

Search as we know it will slowly morph from being a system run on complex algorithms into a living, breathing recommendation network. SEO will still count - after all, a friend's recommendation of a Youtube video won't do you much good if your roof is leaking at 2am in the morning.

However, if you want to know how to fix a plug socket without exploding, I'd much rather click on a link to a useful piece of information from my friend who's had the same problem than have to go to another website, conduct another search, and then fumble around for information. That may sound lazy to you, and to a certain extent, it is. But whilst the internet is fantastic for asking and answering the difficult questions posed by society, it is also a place you connect with your friends, and hang out.

In a fragmented, often lonely society, having just that little steer in the right direction by a friends recommendation can only be a good thing.

And you know what? If you don't like the feature, you can go and use Yahoo, Bing, Ask or the plethora of other sites. That is until Bing's partnership with Facebook finally takes off here in the UK.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Facebook pay-to-play for brands? Not really...

I read a really interesting article this week from Simply Zesty, which is a blog that I often enjoy reading. That sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise, but I'm not! 

It was about Facebook increasingly becoming a crowded market for brands, which is difficult to break through unless you have the finance to fund paid ads.

To a certain extent I agree - but once again it depends on the type of engagement metrics you are looking at.

If you are looking at responses, sheer number of fans and all-singing, all-dancing campaigns, then yes, you are always going to be at a disadvantage to brands such as Converse and Nike. 

But that is not to say that a well-crafted status update, a timely picture, or interesting link will not garner equally proportionate results.

That's the key in this - proportion.

There is no denying that Facebook is an increasingly crowded market place. Unless you have a large marketing platform, it is hard to add thousands upon thousands of fans. But before you dash for the credit card and sign up for ads, think about what you actually want to get out of your brand presence.

Do you want to get people through the door? Then maybe start small - turn the people that like your page into advocates. Many businesses simply give up if they initially don't get the response they want. But keep at it. 

The people that have sought you out on Facebook, have searched for your name, have seen the prompt in your shop/place of business/mail-out. These are the interested parties you need to engage before chasing the promo-freaks and prize pigs. 

Go for the meaningful fans and build a relationship with them - that's where you'll find the true value.