Friday, 27 July 2012

On Bringing Civility Online

I’ve never been one of those people that sits in a rocking chair, lecturing people on their morals, spelling or language. It’s deeply hypocritical of me, and if I wanted to be a professional hypocrite I’d have got into politics.

What I will share with you, however, are my views on rudeness and impoliteness online. I read a fascinating article the other day on one of my favourite blogs - The Art of Manliness - that seemed to sum up how I felt on a deep level about some of the posts, and things that I see on the internet, and the world around us in general.

In the article, titled Being a Gentleman in the Age of the Internet, Brett and Kate McKay set out a list of tips on how to behave appropriately and respectfully online. I’m not going to dwell on gentlemanliness, as I think it’s a responsibility that we all bear. In an age where bullying stretches beyond the school gates and into our places of work - even onto our social media sites and smart phones, I think that we all have more of a duty than ever to engage in a civil way online.

Let me get one thing clear. This is not me talking about how posting anonymously on the internet is a damaging, frightening trend that’s going to bring about the downfall of our society. It’s simply not true. Regardless of your political or ideological beliefs, anonymity on the internet has about more as many changes to governments, foreign policy, groups and individuals than any other medium I know since the printing press.

But let’s be clear here: whilst it’s very noble and V for Vendetta-esque to stand up for a cause you believe in online to bring about change, and improve the world, it shouldn’t be used as a boulder to hide behind whilst you sling insults and abuse at another person online. Because, ultimately, that’s what we all are.

I love this video - I feel it sums up the phenomenon perfectly:

As you can see, the outburst online in the video ruins somebody’s whole day. The person on the other end of it? Well, they got their stuff a couple of days later. Who’s the bad guy here? To my mind, certainly not the service provider.

We are in the middle (I think we always have been) of a great technological leap forward. And whilst it is in my opinion churlish not to embrace change, and the way that we communicate, from language, punctiation and grammar to preconcieved notions of what friendship and following really means in the social media sphere, it’s equally important that we keep talking to each other. Addressing each other. Listening to each other, rather than simply just broadcasting and shouting people down for being different to yourselves, too normal, not normal enough to you or just because you’re having a shitty day.

I know that life can be a savage, unkind place. I know we can all behave badly at times (I know I have). We have all been an arsehole at some point in our lives, and if you think you haven’t, you’re probably either wrong or, well, you just don’t exist.

In this brave digital frontier we are creating, surely rather than mimmicking the occasional cruelty and aggression of the world outside your window, we should try to be the best representation of ourselves online, rather than just being a rude arsehat. All of us. Together. What do you think?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Google+ Hangouts On Air + Smooth Radio + Live Music = WINNER!

Last night I was lucky enough to be involved in sharing a Google+ Hangout on air with a global audience, thanks to the guys at Google+ and Google UK.

This had been a long time coming, and something that I had been discussing at length with the UK team over at Google+ for a couple of weeks now - we had been looking for a streaming solution for Smooth Radio's latest Love Live Music event - a big gig on Pier Head, in lovely Liverpool.

We had the lineup, we had the stage, we had the infrastructure - but what we really wanted to do was reach beyond that, and share the experience with people regardless of their location around the country - or the world, for that matter.

Google+ delivered big time for us - it allowed us to be able to embed our streamed gig not only on our website at, but also to our Youtube channel, Facebook page, shared on our Twitter feed and of course LIVE on our Google+ page

I guess what excited me about this experience the most wasn't just the opportunity to work directly with Google on getting a Hangout On Air  was the fact that we could bring the experience of having the fun of a free concert on the waterfront to people at home who weren't able to make it for a number of reasons.

The event went really well, and it proved to me that whilst people may always talk about the behemoth that is Facebook, and compare Google+ to it, shining an often harsh light on it and screaming about the users that it has, as if it correlates with the overall quality of the product - which just isn't true. Both platforms have their benefits - unique qualities that make every social platform unique, and deserving of attention.

You can watch it below - at three hours it's a bit long, but believe me, there are some great performances on there, and I hope you enjoy watching it.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Facebook Page Admins: Please Stop Posting This Rubbish

I’ve seen the above 'only about 10% of people that 'like' a fan page will see the status updates' post a lot over the past couple of weeks. Or months. In fact, ever since Facebook relaunched timeline. And it's gone viral...

Where does it come from? I don’t know - like most memes the origin of it is unknown. But it is a load of old shit.

Facebook have been limiting the amount of posts that we have been seeing - but they've actually been doing it for a very long time. It’s called Edgerank, and it’s actually quite a good idea. Their thinking behind Edgerank is that yes, people want updates in their newsfeed, but they don’t want every single update, from all 350 of their friends, and the 600 brands they follow. Some posts are more important than others.

So the posts are broken down into affinity, weight, and time decay.

So how much you’ve got in common with a brand or person, how popular it already is, and how recently it was posted. Pretty simple, and pretty necessary. How annoyed would you be if a status update from Netflix pushed some good news a friend had to share out of your newsfeed?

A lot of the moaning seems to come from the fact that brands online are getting a bit bent out of shape at the fact that their inane status updates aren’t reaching enough people.

It’s childish - the equivalent of a company chucking a tantrum because their brand isn’t automatically number one in the Google search rankings.

You want to have loads of people see your posts? Then pay for it in the form of an advert, sponsored story or pay for a promoted post to reach your whole audience - people who have their own lives and own things to be getting on with. Do you really think that Facebook would let you bypass Edgerank and their own revenue-generating system by clicking a ‘Show in newsfeed’ option in a menu? That would just be stoopid. Don’t be stoopid.

You want to get into people’s news feed? Then post relevant content. Make your content interesting. Sadly, your links alone are not enough. People are on Facebook - it’s their fun time. Their ‘me time’.

In may ways, Edgerank can help your brand. In times gone by, if you posted something, it would probably barely reach 10% of your audience at a time. If ten people or brands posted after you, regardless of the content you shared, your post would be bumped from the news feed. Now your post can get traction in your audiences news feed if it's relevant to them, or is popular and posted at the right time. It's about quality as much as it is about timing now, to make sure that your posts are GOOD.

So if your content isn’t connecting with a wide audience, it’s not because Facebook are trying to put you out of business on the network - it’s because your content isn’t good enough. Take a hint - improve it.

Monday, 9 July 2012

One Minute Case Study: Storms In The Northeast

*This blog comes with one of those heavy disclaimer things I like to tag at the start of posts like this - IT'S A WORK THING.*

One of the brands that I currently work for as part of GMG Radio (as it's currently called) is a great one called Real Radio. It's a collection of regionally-branded radio stations that's spread across the north of England, Scotland and Wales.

As a station, they pride themselves on being close to the communities that they broadcast across, and as such, social media is rightly a part of that activity. We set up the regional Facebook accounts at the start of 2011 to provide a central hub for conversations that we wanted to have with our audience on Facebook.   A couple of weeks ago, we found the out the power of using social mediums for sharing timely, relevant content in dramatic fashion

We’ve seen a great example recently of Social engagement at it’s very best, perfectly delivered in the Northeast by which was hit by a sudden and terrible storm.

In addition to keeping the audience updated on air and online with the latest news regarding the storm, the teams also took to our Facebook and Twitter to share news, updates, and most importantly, pictures of the event.

Living as I do in the north of England, I was fascinated by some of the pictures that appeared on the page - especially the one showing lightning striking one of Newcastle’s most famous landmarks, The Tyne Bridge.

The pictures generated a huge amount of social buzz on Facebook and Twitter - in particular on the Facebook page, which saw some pretty spectacular results.

The total number of conversations about the storm on June 28th stands at a mammoth 7,273 - an average of 1,212 comments, like and shares per post. That's a number purely based on virality - no paid-for activity at all.

Even Coca Cola (43 Million fans) didn’t get more than a hand-full of during the same 24 hours when they post to their main wall. So, thanks to the content being so spot on and timely, our posts massively outstripped theirs for conversation and engagement.

In summary: This is how you can connect best with your audience - by living in the same world as they do and sharing in a conversation about the subjects that matter to them. Not rocket-science, but social media gives us a window into how successful this can be when we get it right. The right content will reach the right people if it is good enough.