Monday, 10 December 2012

An eye for an eye, etc.

Last week, a tragic event occurred in England. A nurse, after receiving a prank call from somebody purporting to be the Queen of England, transferred a call through the hospital switchboard to a senior colleague. 

The senior colleague, who also believed she was speaking to royalty, then divulged information on a patient to them.

The pranksters in question were from a radio station in Australia.

The call in question quickly went viral. In fact, as soon as it was broadcast and put on the site, it was global news. Questions were asked. Brows were furrowed. How could this kind of security lapse have been allowed to happen?

Punishments were demanded. Sackings were demanded. Copy and paste status updates abounded on Facebook. ‘How could this be allowed to happen? REPOST IF U AGREE’. I no hun. Tragic.

And then something truly tragic happened.

One of the nurses, the one who had originally put the call through, took her own life.

The news quickly went viral. It was global news. Questions were asked. Hands were wringed. How could this have been allowed to happen?

Punishments were demanded. Sackings were demanded. Copy and paste status updates abounded on Facebook. ‘How could this be allowed to happen? REPOST IF U AGREE’. I no hun. Tragic.

But when we really look at the the cold hard facts, who is really to blame, and is there/should there be any blame apportioned?

I look to Twitter and Facebook, the pulse and echo chamber of society today, and sometimes what I see saddens me. 

People who have no interest in biblical teachings talking of blood on hands, an eye for an eye, misquoting passages, demanding punitive action to be taken against those responsible.

I am not a religious man, but I know piety when I see it.

Can nobody see that this is a tragedy that, to a certain extent, we all played a part in?

We crave gossip and tittle-tattle. We love ‘banter’. When somebody is hurt by our deeds, ‘we were only having a laugh’.

The media want your eyes on their page. They want to sell your page views, your unique impressions to advertisers. So they (we) give in to these needs. We bully, we belittle and we speculate.

But what happens when an innocent person has their life smashed to pieces in the process?

Funnily enough, we choose to become observers again. We blend into the crowd - the mob. And we chase a new victim.

Let me get one thing clear - I abhor the prank call format in radio. I think it’s cheap, deeply unfunny, and often very boring. It’s a format responsible for the careers of number of presenters (who I won’t name) that I have to say are about as funny as laying in a bath full of nails whilst listening to a Throbbing Gristle box set.

But these presenters are not the cause of this tragedy. This is a collective responsibility that we all share.

The media, the tweeters, the copy-and-pasters and the aural voyeurs. We are all to blame in varying degrees. So why don’t we take a look at ourselves before blaming others.

Lets ask ourselves what we as individuals, and as a society bound together by flesh, blood, trinkets and technology, can do to stop another individual taking their lives as a result of mainstream and citizen-led ridicule.

And if you see fit, why not donate a bit of money to suicide prevention charities that dedicate their resources to trying to prevent vulnerable people from taking their own lives?

But most importantly: the next time you have a though pop into your head that is cruel, discriminatory or could cause upset to others - please think twice before you post it. PLEASE.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Instagram vs. Twitter: Who really wins when we all lose?

Instagram vs Twitter

You might have seen the articles today about Instagram, and their decision to withdraw support for Twitter Cards for their platform. It’s caused a shit-storm on the tech scene, with Mike Arrington, The Verge and many other sources weighing in with their opinion on the decision.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has came out with an apologetic yet defensive response at the LeWeb conference stating that the decision was made to protect their data, and ensure eyes were heading to their platform, and not viewable on other platforms. Something they’d never do to Tumblr. Or Facebook.

Are they really trying to tell us that this decision wasn’t a bit of tit-for-tat retalitation over Twitter blocking Instagram from using their Friend Finder API? Yes, they really are. They say they have a ‘really good relationship with Twitter’, despite recent events.

But how can that really be true? Are the team at Instagram really asking us to believe that when making this decision, the Friend Finder API issue wasn’t considered as a black mark against Twitter’s name?


The biggest losers in all of this is, of course, you and I.

We all want connectivity. In terms of what a Utopian future of what online connectivity is, we all dream of having seamless, open collaboration between platforms. What happens on Instagram goes to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. It’s simple for us, and the advantage of being able to create once and publish everywhere is a standard that many companies are adopting, whether it’s in-app, on-site, or even via their CMS.

What Twitter, Facebook and now Instagram are doing is essentially trying to work in the most counter-productive/intuitive way possible for users, and justifying it by saying that they own our details and content on their platforms (actually, to be fair, Facebook allow you to download and remove most of your data - they are a lot more transparent than Twitter and Instagram at the moment - shocked much?).

The problem with that argument is: if you piss of your users, it doesn’t matter if you have their personal details. Did you see what happened to Myspace? That’s right: if you don’t play nicely with others, you are going to lose relevancy with your users pretty quickly. They won’t give a shit if you have their details - they won’t care what you have to say. And in the social web we inhabit, that’s lethal.

So Instagram, Twitter, any social platform that operates in this manner: learn to play nicely. Learn to be a bit more open than you currently are. Customers will forgive you if you pivot with your product - just don’t be stupid and pivot on them.

What do you say?

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Getting the digital begging bowl out

It's that time of year again when I get out my digital begging bowl and ask you all to help a blogger out...

Could you take a couple of minutes out of your day to nominate this site, for the annual Top Ten Social Media Blogs contest?

I know it’s a bit of an ask, and potentially a bit of a pain in the arse, but here’s a few reasons why I think that you could vote for me, if you wanted to.

If you could read these reasons whilst listening to this amazing track from Edwin Starr, I’d really appreciate it:

  1. I share relevant information: as a Community Manager for brands such as Ministry of Sound, Real Radio and Smooth Radio, rather than simply writing about social media and the challenges it faces from the outside looking in, I’m actually there, day-in, day-out, talking to consumers on social channels. Many of the case studies on my blog are from projects I’ve undertaken - no white papers about projects that others have worked on. Tangible, useable information.
  2. I’m from ‘outside the bubble’: I don’t live in San Francisco, New York, London or Cupertino. I live in Manchester, and I’m originally from Southampton. You can’t get much more out of the bubble than that. It gives me hindsight, and gives me the liberty and freedom to say whatever I like, without worrying about treading on a VC’s toes, or upsetting a precious entrepeneur, should I ever wish to write about a startup. So that’s what I do.
  3. I don’t publish press releases or promotional pieces and present them as meaningful content.
  4. I love the fresh, fresh feeling of Batiste Instant Hair Refresh in my hair after a long day.
  5. I don’t just talk about how ‘great’ the Old Spice viral campaign was - I ACTUALLY USE OLD SPICE. To clean under my arms, in intimate areas, and, in extreme circumstances, to clean my teeth. In your face, Ray Mears.
  6. I support a deeply unfashionable football team - Southampton FC. So I’d really appreciate winning something for a change.
  7. I own THESE, thanks to my wonderful girlfriend:
  8. I once tried to bring bell bottoms back into fashion single handedly. It didn’t end well, but I think that means that I’m a fearless risk-taker of some kind.
  9. I listen to the ‘Chocolate Cake’ sketch by Bill Cosby at least once a day.
  10. If I don’t have ten things in a list, it makes me nervous

If those reasons are not enough to sway you into a genuine, well intentioned vote for this blog, then I understand. Really, I do. But if you want to...

What do you need to do to help a brother out?

Well, all you need to do is

  1. Head to the Social Media Examiner site.
  2. Add a comment to the bottom of this post.
  3. Nominate - but only if you want to.
  4. Let them know why you are nominating me. If could be for a variety of reasons, but please only do it if you genuinely like my work, or it’s helped you in some way in any time.

I’ll keep you updated on my Facebook page as to whether or not I get shortlisted for the award. I hope I do, but there are loads of fantastic blogs out there on social media, and I’m just a little fish in that huge pond, so any help would be much appreciated.

Thanks for your time, and for your vote - normal service will be resumed shortly.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Social Client Review: Sprout Social

If you’ve been researching social tools for yourself or your business, chances are that at some point you’ve come across Sprout Social.

Sprout Social is a social management and measurement tool that’s pitched at slightly higher-end companies.

Initially ran on a freemium model (it has now changed it’s pricing structure), I initially started using it for our social properties here at Real Radio and Smooth Radio.

Here’s the price rundown:

After testing it for a couple of months, I decided to recommend to the business that we upgrade our service with them to the deluxe package. It allows us to manage all of our Facebook, Twitter and (personal) LinkedIn accounts from the same place.

In addition to this, you can also measure referral traffic in Google Analytics if you plug your account into their platform.

It produces nice, clear and engaging reports, really breaking down the impact that your campaigns are having and presenting it in a view that everybody from your boss to the CEO can understand.

From a user-experience perspective, the platform looks pretty neat, with all of the features broken down into six buttons at the top of the page.

Home: Provides a general overview of your account activity and impact.

Messages: Allows you to see every message your accounts send and receive. This can be broken down to individual accounts, or used as a group view. It also allows you to assign certain tasks to team members, and check on the status.

Feeds: Is a place where you can view your Twitter and LinkedIn timelines and reply to them. It also allows you to connect your Google Reader to enable you to share your articles pretty quickly with your audience.

Scheduler: This is where you can check the scheduled messages you have going out, amend them where necessary and play around with a feature called Sprout Queue. It’s essentially a way of queueing content to it can go out at the most relevant time to your audience.  You can set this yourself - in fact, I’d recommend it, as it means you can actually know when your update is public, and be available to respond.

Discovery: This is where you can search for keywords, terms and content relating to your assets and campaigns. It’s great if you have a specific campaign that you want to track, or if you just want to follow and respond to customer queries/mentions of your brand across Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, the wider web and blogs.

You can also helps you to find influential users, and helps you to spring-clean who you are following, grouping together inactive/sporadic accounts where you can see them, and suggesting other people and brands that may be more beneficial to follow.

Measurement: This is where Sprout social really comes into it’s own.

Using Sprout’s measurement system, you can get a fully-consolidated report that encompasses Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter stats. You can also break these down for more detailed reports across the platforms.

In addition to this, it also allows you to run wicked Twitter comparisons, which allow you to compare how well you are engaging your fans compared with other accounts. 

All of these reports are downloadable in PDF or CSV format, which is great.

So, add this all together and you have a comprehensive social media management and measurement system - right?

Not quite - I think it could do better in the following fields:

Google+: There is currently no support for G+. Although I know that this is not unique in the social platform management eco-system thanks to G+’s API currently being closed, it would be great if a  few other paid platforms would have had this sorted by now, in the way that Hootsuite has. Having spoken to their CEO, Justyn Howard, I know that they are working on it - I just wish that they’d hurry up. But then I am impatient so.

Usability: Although the staggering amount of information available to you is mind-boggling at times, the user experience can be a bit slow and clunky at times. Compared to other social management platforms it's actually quite slow, although I would say that information is the focus of the product here, rather than speed.

Final thoughts:

Sprout Social is fantastic, but in a crowded market, it's not for everybody, and I'd only recommend it for large businesses and power users.

Why? I don’t think it would work as well for a small business as Hootsuite does. It’s more of a measurement and scheduling platform than a real-time engagement platform. I’d struggle to really justify spending a minimum of $39 (£24 GBP) per month for access to the information when you have so many other helpful suites, such as Hootsuite, which also offer integration with services such as Tumblr, Instagram and more (via it’s app platform). It’s just not comprehensive enough from the management side.

Analytically though, Sprout social is head and shoulders above Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, its closest competitors. It provides the most user-friendly analytics that I’ve seen in a social platform, and is clearly the focal point and centrepiece of the service. Adding Google analytics into the mix, along with the easy comparison tools, sets this quite a distance away from the rest of the pack.

So for that reason, Sprout gets a seven out of ten from me. Like most social management suites, it’s just not there yet, but I hope it does, as they are an incredibly likeable company.


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