Thursday, 31 May 2012

Either/Or Arguments and Social Media

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend Sascon, a rather fantastic conference held in Manchester. I attended the last day, and managed to catch a rather fantastic panel discussion on the future of social, and making sense of the seemingly intangible ‘ROI’ question that companies seem to be searching for.

One thing niggled at me though. And that was the way that experts in social media seem to compare every platform to Facebook. Is Google+ the new Facebook? Why isn’t it a Facebook killer? If it doesn’t kill Facebook, that means it’s failed. The same questions are also posed about Quora, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and a number of other platforms. It’s a harmful comparison, both to the companies in question, and our industry as a whole.


Facebook is no longer simply a social media site. It’s a large public company. It’s AOL. It’s Google. It’s Apple. It’s Microsoft. It’s Yahoo. It is at the very centre of a large portion of the world’s online experience. And it should be judged on those terms.

Social Media is not just about Facebook. It’s about a variety of different sites and sources that enhance our online experience, and allow us to answer questions, share photos, share knowledge and connect with friends new and old, online and offline. Every site is different. Every platform has it’s unique features and user bases.

Would you compare the Rolling Stone website to the Dalston Oxfam blog? Both serve a very specific audience, and could be classed as music websites. Completely different audiences, though. A lot like Facebook and Twitter. And Facebook vs. Tumblr... Or G+... Or Quora... Or Reddit. You get the idea...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

What is All About Then?

A lot of people have, in my opinion, jumped in to explain Microsoft's new research platform away as a Facebook competitor. Let's get one thing straight - it's not a competitor to Facebook. And it was never meant to be one. It's a pointlessly reductive argument, and as Microsoft pointed out, it's meant as a complimentary tool.

It does, however, have an ulterior motive that is so obvious that it's almost as comically hidden as one of Doctor Evil's 'secret' hideouts: they're trying to harvest the brains of our best and brightest students.

Microsoft basically want smart people to go sifting through information on the internet for them, and find the most relevant results - thus improving the relevancy of their own search results.

Who better to do that than students, who (unlike in my time at University - not that I'm old man of the hills) use the internet to research topics for their dissertations. Now, if they're smart, they'll want to use somewhere online to store all of the relevant websites and search results they find. If they're collaborating with others on a project, why not use a platform like It allows people to collaborate and share search results quickly with one another - which has it's obvious uses.

Here's me searching for stuff about my favourite football team on there (shameless plug for Southampton FC coming up - sue me).

Pretty handy for Microsoft - having all of these people searching through your search engine and pulling together bundles of relevant content. Very clever...

More proof that Microsoft want to mine smart kids and their data? Check out this little function I found in the settings...

You can change your browser's search settings to default to! Just think of the data they'd collect on student's browsing habits if they turned this on! GOLDMINE.

So good work Microsoft - thanks to them you might start to get cleaner social signals from your search thanks to, and more relevant, smarter data (depending on who adopts the service) from Bing soon - and that's something that even Google might be worried about. Doubtful - fanciful even, but not improbable.

So - let the brain-harvesting commence!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Neat animation: How Facebook became the world's biggest social network

I don't want to generate more heat than light with this blog post - I just want to direct your attention towards this fantastic animation from The Guardian on how Facebook became the world's largest social network, and the challenges it faces pre and post-IPO.

For more information, head to the veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of data that is The Guardian's datablog on Facebook.

Disclosure: The company I work for is part of the Guardian Media Group - although in fairness I'd be sharing this anyway because it's really cool.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Instagram: Hashtag me up, baby! [Infographic]

There are lots of really, really cool infographics out there about Instagram. And why not? It’s an inherently addictive medium, that has turned us all into what can only be described as functioning filter addicts. And as Kanye West said, Imma let you see one in a bit (paraphrasing badly) - I want to talk a bit about why I love it so much.

Besides all of the buzz around the product being really cool, and the coding of the app being simple, and the fact that it’s just been bought by Facebook for $1bn for all of the above reasons and more, nobody really seems to be talking about what really gives Instagram it’s edge over all of the other photo-sharing apps out there: The Community.

What Instagram have managed to do so successfully, is to make you feel as if you are not alone when you are taking and uploading photos. There are thousands of them, and the great thing about it is that it’s so easy to join one and get going - all you need is to know what the hashtag is.

I live in Manchester, and I get a huge kick out of taking pictures of all of the wonderful buildings around this great city and sharing them with my friends. But beyond that, one of the things I really love is interacting with other people that like to do the same things. Which is why when I found out about the #igersmcr hashtag, it really started to make sharing my photos on Instagram fun.

It made me feel like when I shared pictures, I wasn’t alone in doing so. And that’s what an online community is all about.

And yet they call us addicts?!

I’m sorry, I can’t be cynical about it - I fucking love this app. Sue me.

How to Spot an Instagram Junkie

Friday, 4 May 2012

Social Media and my attention span

I have to admit it: as a Community Editor, one of the hardest things to do in life is gain my attention.

My mind is a frazzled mess of stats, graphs, charts, status updates, likes, +1’s, Tumbles, Tweets, Pins, Subreddits, Diggs after a day in the office. Not great for my loved ones.

Friends, loved ones and my family must despair of me at times. My obsession is essentially my job, which is a mixed blessing. Sometimes, to my shame, communication on the digital platforms win out over the person sat in front of me.

I try to be mindful of this, as I’m sure many people in my position do. How do I do this? I read a blog on a crowded train or tram. Reading about mindfulness whilst blissfully unaware of what is occurring at that very moment.

I love my job, but sometimes, you do need to step away from it, and see it through your own eyes, and through that of your loved ones. Not through an Instagram lens!

This isn’t a critique of social media - just a reminder that people are at the centre of it, and sometimes the most affective way of communicating is by reaching out to the closest person to you and giving them a big fucking hug.