Wednesday, 29 February 2012

It's viral: Kevin Allocca on why videos go viral



This is a great video from Youtube trends editor Kevin Allocca.

In it he crystallises three things that helps a video to go viral.
  1. Tastemakers
  2. Communities of participation (Reddit, Facebook, Twitter)
  3. Participation (everybody can access, share and take part in it in some way)
What do you think? Do you have another reason that you think is as important as the three above?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

When Infographics go bad!

I love infographics. There, I said it.

In my job, for me, to be able to actually see the data presented visually a Very Big Deal to me. I collect and consume them, and I won't lie - it's because of the pretty colours, pictures and fonts. A good infographic is like a work of art. I even have a collection of them on Pinterest (next to my Horror Movie posters and spooky images, of course), which is maybe a bit too much(?)

Which is why it annoys me when companies looking to make a quick buck out of their product put together ones that are patently untrue. I feel really cheated - especially cheated in fact.

I sometimes feel that they try to shield really shoddy information behind a load of pretty images. Never forget that infographics are there for one reason, and one reason only: to promote the company that put it together. That's not a bad thing necessarily, but it can be, when the information is skewed for their benefit.

Which is why I was frustrated when I saw this one, carried out on by the digital agency Beyond.



What annoys me about it? The contradictory information.

It says that the rate of sharing per average Facebook, Twitter or G+ user will plateau over time, yet at the same time, it claims that more frictionless, and more personal sharing will increase.

Which one is it, then?

It's heavily-skewed towards pretty anecdotal information on what and how the way people might share, which is a noble aim, but if anything, I would say that given the fact that they say personal and frictionless sharing will increase, there is no evidence to suggest that sharing will decrease at all.

Over time, sharing to social networks will mature. It, however, will not plateau, or even shrink. We, as humans, are constantly evolving and constantly sharing, which is why we are drawn to networks like Facebook, Twitter, G+, Reddit, StumbleUpon etc.

Sharing provides validation, which is a powerful, primal feeling. We all live to be validated by others, as well as ourselves. If we share widely, we are seen as influential. We are hot-wired to need this sort of validation, this 'Leader of the Pack' mentality.

The more widely we share, the more likes, +1's, comments and retweets that we get, the more we do it. In my opinion, this will not change anytime soon, but I'm open to counter arguments!


Thursday, 23 February 2012

It's Viral: Dergin Tokmak "Dancing on Crutches"

I love this video. It's currently burning up the front page on Reddit, and with good reason...


Why did it go viral? Well, as with most viral videos, the reasons are pretty simple: it's cool, inspiring, and has a great backstory.

From The Daily Dot:

Cirque du Soleil performer Dergin Tokmak lost most of the control of his legs as a child after contracting polio. But that never stopped his passion for dancing.

Sometimes, life can seem pretty bleak - especially when you are sat in front of your computer all day. Then something like this pops into your inbox, and you immediately feel uplifted. This guy didn't let his disability get in the way of being a fucking fantastic dancer. And that's a great story. 

Hats off to you Dergin - keep on dancing.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Breaking News on Twitter part 2: authority is everything

Many of us were shocked by the sad death of Whitney Houston last Sunday. The news reverberated around the planet, and this was reflected in the amount of buzz on Twitter.

But when does a story like this go global? What causes it to go global, or trend on Twitter?

Many people suggest that breaking the news on Twitter leads to extra kudos from the community. But in fact the news only really took off on Twitter after it was broken on Associated Press’s Twitter account - a verified source.




Whilst breaking news will always happen on Twitter, the citizen journalist lacks one thing that traditional news rooms and media outlets have - effective social media guidelines.

They may sound like a constriction to some, but in fact, without these guidelines, where would geniune, verified news come from on social media?

The ability to break stories will always be important - but remember that authority is everything, and people will always look to mainstream media for reference and confirmation.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

It's Viral: Sad French Bulldog Listens to Adele

This video has surged in popularity since Adele's six awards at The Grammy's.

Pets are always popular on Youtube (well, they're popular with humans, full stop), and mixing this with Adele given her current level of fame means that this video was bound to go stratospheric.


Animals going viral? Who would have guessed?


Monday, 13 February 2012

Twittering breaking stories: tweet first, or ask questions later?



There has been a lot of conversation and focus this week on the constantly-evolving role that social media ties in with traditional broadcast and print mediums.

The BBC and Sky are asking their reporters to not Tweet news before it’s filed on their official mediums, or before it hits the airwaves. That one one level may seem constricting. But is it necessary to protect their reputation?

Sky News, for example, argue that this means that the information that you share on a branded account is subject to the same editorial concerns as any other piece of journalism, and unsubstantiated rumours and opinion shouldn’t be associated with their brand. I can see their point.

I would also say that I get certain commentators points about not being able to compete the with BANG! NEWS! NOW! echo-chamber culture that we live in. But there is a very big difference between being first, and being right.

I know that some beat reporters and journalists are concerned that not being able to retweet an influential source of news that doesn’t belong to your brand shackles them, rather than protects them. But think about it - if you were a Fox anchor, and CNN broke a news story before you, do you craft your own response, or do you just retweet their content?

Here’s what the BBC had to say about it.
“We prize the increasing value of Twitter, and other social networks, to us (and our audiences) as a platform for our content, a newsgathering tool and a new way of engaging with people,” the BBC’s social media editor told The Guardian. “Being quick off the mark with breaking news is essential to that mission. But we’ve been clear that our first priority remains ensuring that important information reaches BBC colleagues, and thus all our audiences, as quickly as possible – and certainly not after it reaches Twitter.”
Personally, I think that this is a great opportunity really work on the online content that you offer.

We all know that the BBC produces online content that is the envy of the world, thanks in part to the unique way they are funded. But it also means that they have a  responsibility to report truthfully, and with integrity - something that is not certain from other sources (citizen journalists, political bloggers etc). So I can understand their stance on social media, which on the whole I think is pretty open and fair.

So yes, whilst breaking stories is important on Twitter, you will never be able to be as quick as the citizen journalists. You will never be quicker than the man on the street in the middle of the riot with his camera out.

Look to provide insight. Look to find or produce stories and updates that people will read because they are compelling, not just because they are there. 140 characters can break news, but used correctly, it can be the gateway to a wealth of engaging content

Can you beat Twitter when it comes to breaking news? Yes. But try to remember that it’s the story itself that does it, not just you.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A3CKH2AJ7R8Y

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It's Viral: Collapsing Cooling Towers

This is a neat little video by renewable energy company Ecotricity, although I can't help but feel a little sorry for the cooling towers, which you aren't meant to, as they represent the Big Bad Energy Companies.

Still, highly shareable, so expect this to pop up in your inbox, G+ or Facebook feed shortly.



Thanks to Laughing Squid.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

It's Viral: Clint Eastwood and Chrystler

You may remember a while back that I mentioned that the key to a great viral phenomenon was telling a great story.

Well, here's my favourite one of the year so far - and yes, it does help that you having Clint Eastwood in it.

If you haven't seen it yet, sit back and enjoy...



Sunday, 5 February 2012

Case Study: They Made.Com people angry!


Here is an example of how not to use social media if you are a brand...

At the moment, we are 'doing up' our house, so to speak (read more about that here), and we are buying a metric tonne of homeware, paint and furniture. It's expensive, but ultimately worth it, as spending a bit of money on your house shows that you actually give a shit about yourself. We don't own too much, but the stuff we do own, we like to be nice.

One of the biggest purchases we have made over the past few weeks was this delightful sofa...



We got it from Made.com, and Ana (like the amazing home improvement geek that she is) wrote a blog post about what a great find it was.

The delivery date was an estimated thirteen weeks, which is a bit long, but with Made you pay for the fact that you get nice products directly from the designers, and you don't have to go to DFS and get hassled by a man with a fat tie, white socks and too much hair gel.

So we were prepared to wait. And wait we did. Ana kept on checking the due date on the Made.com site, and saw that, as of Wednesday (February 1st), the sofa was still running to an estimated delivery time - which you'd think would have at least been confirmed by then.

So Ana decided to get in contact. And that's where I feel it's fitting to hand over to her, in an excerpt from her blog post:

So we ordered the bloody sofa and were told that we had an estimated delivery date of the 21st of February. Fine, no probs, we new it would take a while as like they say on their site, items are made to customer demand. Come the end of January I checked the delivery date again. Still estimated. I tried to click through to the so called Real Time Tracking System they have in place for 'every step of the way', and it just took me back to their website. Ok, again no probs, I'll just ask them when they are able to confirm the delivery date so I know when this sofa is going to be: in my house for sure/ I can make sure I work from home/ we can move the current sofa we have.

So I took to their fairly active Twitter account and asked them. (*As note here I just want to add that made.com don't have a phone number).

"@madedotcom Hi! I have an estimated delivery date for my sofa, I was wondering when this will be confirmed? It's currently estimated for the 21st Feb, so will I hear closer to the time? Thanks."

"@anahavana Please email contact@made.com, thank you"

Ok, well that's a bit annoying as surely at least try to answer my query, but whatever, I'll email you.

So I emailed the same question, both from my email account and via their online contact form. I waited. I waited until closing time (5pm) and nothing. So I waited again this morning, surely they would be checking their customer emails first thing and drop me a quick like just to reassure me that they are looking in to it? Nada.

Then I got pissed off.

I know that email and social channels have made us all (or maybe just me) more impatient with response times and I know that I am guilty of being frustrated when people don't get back to me straight away via email. But this is a business! They have £900 of my money! They should check their fucking emails! Not only that but I could see that they'd been active on their Twitter and Facebook channels, so someone was obviously there checking them. So I tried Twitter again asking if they could reply to my email. Completely ignored. I tried a few more times. Again nothing apart from a tweet promoting a new item of furniture. So I tried Facebook. I wrote on their wall, they deleted it! I wrote on their wall again. Deleted straight away!
And that's where I came into the story.

I tweeted about Made.com too, and promptly got a response, not from them, but another annoyed customer by the name of James Pollard, who sent me the following testimonial:

Back in November 2011, my wife and I ordered a sofa and a chair from Made.com. We’d been in our new house for about a month and had gotten tired of sitting on an office chair and a kick-stool to eat dinner off of an overturned cardboard box. After a LOT of trawling around online for something that looked stylish and affordable, we came across two items on Made that looked ideal. Obviously the 8-10 week turnaround time between ordering and delivery is a long wait, but we figured it’d be worth iteventually. 
Somewhat unexpectedly then, my wife received an e-mail from Made just a week later, saying that the sofa we ordered would be delivered in the next couple of weeks. This was even better – we’d have something to sit on over Christmas! So we both took a half-day off work to ensure that we’d be around to take delivery of it; rather annoyingly, it turned up at exactly the same time that I left the house and she arrived, but I don’t hold that against Made.  
However, within half an hour, I’d had a phone call from my wife: “The sofa’s trashed.” Trashed how? It had two tears along the top and back of the upholstery and on one corner the material was coming away from the frame. In addition to that, the four chrome-plated legs were battered beyond belief, each harbouring several dents and scratches. We immediately suspected that it had been a return that they’d had in their warehouse that matched our order. So my wife went onto Made’s website and used their in-page contact form (no e-mail addresses or phone numbers available) to voice her displeasure. This was at around 1pm that afternoon, but she didn’t get a reply until just after 5.30pm that day – presumably as the operator answering was just out of the door.  
As expected, they asked for photos, which were sent over, but we knew wouldn’t be looked at until the next morning.  
The next day, a reply comes through that offers a full refund and they’d come and pick the sofa up or we could keep it as it is and they’d give us a part refund or some Made.com vouchers. My wife was not impressed. Even if the sofa was pushed up against a wall or into a corner, the damage would be visible to anyone. We had to ask for a replacement to be sent in addition to this one being picked up. There was no immediate reply to that. In fact it was after a few days, my wife posted a question about her query on Made.com’s Facebook page; she thought someone would have to see that, as the page is obviously managed quite routinely, making mention as it does of all the press attention they get and the awards that are showered upon them. It was deleted within minutes.  
I posted a similar comment on their Facebook page – again, it was quickly removed from view, so I Tweeted them. “Customer services will be in contact with you shortly!” came the reply. However, ‘in contact with you shortly’ in Made’s vocabulary is several hours later and by e-mail. 

Firstly, James and his wife have clearly been mucked around a lot by Made. I wouldn't have received this far-from-glowing review unless my girlfriend and I had Tweeted about it.

How, how HOW? In this day and age can a company honestly expect people to be satisfied with a customer service (and Twitter and Facebook are customer service channels, whether you like it or not) channel that doesn't include a way to directly contact them?

Contact forms on websites are seen by many as impersonal, and a they lack transparency. In this day and age, it's the internet equivalent of posting a letter  - you don't really have a clear idea of when, or if it's going to arrive at the final location.

With social media, not only have we reached a level of digital maturity now to expect the company to be on there, but they are also expected to go above and beyond.

Some people say that this is impatient, but it isn't. Look at it another way: say you went into a restaurant, and waited ages for your food to turn up. You want to find out why this is, so you call the waiter over. He ignores you. But that's ok, maybe he didn't hear you... He's busy making sure that the new customers are seated properly, and they can look through the wonderful-looking menu. So you approach the waiter, and try to ask him poitely where the food is. He looks you up and down, curls his lip, and puts his hand over your mouth. And then he walks away. Your food turns up eventually, but you vow never to return to the place.

That's the experience Ana, myself, and lots of other people have experienced from Made.com. Here are a few grabs from their Facebook wall/online showroom:



There you can see a load of responses to Made.com's rather slovenly customer services, along with responses from the Made that were clearly a panicked response to being caught deleting posts.

Let me get this clear: if you delete posts on Facebook, you are not deleting the problem. In fact, you are creating an echo chamber for discontent.

If you care enough to find a brand on Facebook and Twitter to ask a question, you can be damn sure that you're going to want a reply when you find them. How would you feel if you weren't being listened to?

Fortunately, this story does have a happy-ish ending.

Ana was contacted by Justin from Made.com on Thursday, apologising for the issues relating to the delivery time of the sofa (which will now be arriving in mid-March), and made promises to have a phone-line installed in their office (which will be picked up 'WITHIN TWO RINGS!'), and have a dedicated customer support email address.

They have also apologised (in a way) on their Facebook page below:


So all's well that ends well, we hope. I'll let you know when the sofa turns up, as I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat.

And I hope Made.com have learnt from the customer service snafu they made this week.

I'm sure some great people work there. But if you are a brand, and you're reading this blog, I only want you to take away one thing.

Social media is not a broadcast marketing channel to peddle your wares - it's a two-way communication channel, it's an echo chamber, and if you ignore somebody on there, it's like ignoring somebody in a crowded room - you may not want to hear the bad things said about you, but others will. So be prepared to act appropriately, and most importantly, LISTEN.