Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

This tweet appeared amidst a Tweetdeck sea of grief and eulogies, prompted by the death of Steve Jobs.

I caught my breath a little. And I was caught in two minds.

On the one hand it was classic, no-holds-barred Mash satire. Funny, frankly.

On the other the Mash tweet “broke” at the same time as news of Jobs’ death was breaking for many people. It wasn’t just topical satire. It was real time. I wish I had grabbed an image of my Tweetdeck screen at the time to show the context in which the tweet appeared. Too early? Too disrespectful?

I thought about it but decided not to retweet.

And I thought nothing more about it until I saw this xkcd cartoon, entitled ETERNAL FLAME. I have included both the animated gif version and a static image showing the rollover text.

On reflection this is all about context.

The context in which the Mash tweet appeared was created by me.

Twitter is primarily a professional tool. It is a highly efficient means of accessing and disseminating relevant information. And its efficiency in this role is a direct result of the people whom I’ve chosen to follow.

Given the industry in which I work this highly efficient information transfer network contains more than its fair share of evangelical, earlier-than-early adopters of just about any object that Apple decides to produce. It’s not surprising therefore that, on the morning of Thursday 6th October, Tweetdeck resembled a 140 character wake.

The Daily Mash doesn’t share this context. Its church is much broader than mine. As you can see from the image above, more than 100 people took a different path to me and did retweet it.

It is also the nature of Twitter that you see Daily Mash headlines out of the context provided by the full content of each article. If you read the Mash article in full you’ll see that there is no disrespect for the man. Indeed, Paul Stokes, founder of the Mash was kind enough to confirm this for me.

We don’t make fun of tragedy on the Mash. Yes the headline might bring some people up sharp, but the piece is probably as close to an affectionate tribute that you’ll ever get from the Mash.

The Mash piece was written by site editor Neil Rafferty and is modestly described by Stokes as…

…a brilliantly constructed and perfectly judged piece that summed up in a few hundred very funny words what other commentators struggled to get to in thousands.

A sentiment echoed by at least one Mash reader…

Which begs the question what exactly was the Mash article satirising?

Looking at it again I think the Mash anticipated and highlighted the ridiculous over-reaction of a small but vocal group of Apple devotees. It’s one thing to admire the man. I personally think it was a little over the top for people who had never met him to gush publicly and uncontrollably to the extent that they did about the extent to which he had changed their lives. Maybe it wasn’t actually that far fetched for some commentators to compare the reaction to the death of Jobs to that of Princess Diana.

This (over?) reaction, not the man, was the subject of their satire. A point I missed because of the insular context I had created for myself.

Satire is about providing much needed balance. Indeed, it often fills a vacuum left by the serious coverage of an issue in this respect.

When it came to balanced serious coverage of Jobs’ death, one article stood out from all others for me.

Unlike so many of the tweeters who provided my initial context, Stephen Fry had actually met Steve Jobs. And, unlike said tweeters, his measured assessment of the man and his contribution was both heartfelt and objective. It is a dignified and insightful piece of writing.

The Mash, xkcd and Stephen Fry all read the context better than I did.


Read Full Post »

What does it mean if you include your employer’s brand in your Twitter name?

Whoa! Let’s back up and rephrase that highly assumptive opening sentence.

What does it mean if you include your employer’s brand in the name of a Twitter profile operated by you?

In other words, can a Twitter profile operated by you, but which includes your employer’s name, truly be regarded as “yours”?

A recent post on the Brand Republic blog, featuring the case of Laura Kuenssberg, served to highlight that this is currently something of a grey area.

But I doubt very much that it will remain so for long.

Literally overnight, @BBCLauraK became @ITVLauraK. She took circa 60,000 followers with her to her new employer.

And, as one comment on the Brand Republic piece points out, she had been tweeting exclusively about her work at the BBC. The Beeb would have had a legitimate claim that people were following their Political Correspondent, not “some krazy chick called LauraK.”

They would have had a legitimate claim this is, had they shut the barn door before the horse bolted.

This is all about value exchange.

A high social profile has potential value to a potential employer.

Likewise, an employer’s brand has potential value (kudos even) to a potential employee.

Employers and employees have always considered this kind of value exchange. “What value will this person’s CV add to our organisation?” versus “What value will this organisation add to my CV?”

The rise of social platforms has just added another layer to an existing dynamic.

But whereas considerations on both sides of the fence about CV value might have gone unspoken, considerations about social value need to be openly discussed.

What if, for instance, you’re a digital agency looking to hire a new developer? And what if you’re considering two candidates with identical coding skills and experience? Both feel like a good cultural fit, both have the same salary expectations, but one is an accomplished tech blogger with a five figure following of relevant people on Twitter.

It would be highly assumptive of said digital agency to hire candidate B (accomplished blogger) on the expectation of being able to access his or her community but without any kind of up front discussion and agreement.

In these circumstances the potential employee brings to the table a potential asset. A hard earned and valuable asset. And he or she hasn’t used the potential employer’s brand to establish its value. It is a proprietary asset in the potential employee’s name. It is for he or she to decide whether that asset is for sale (“yes I will be ITVLaura”) or rent (“yes I, Laura, will tweet about ITV stuff as and when I feel said stuff is relevant to my followers”).

Whether, and how, that potential value of the employee’s asset might be realised to mutual benefit should be as much a topic of up front conversation as holiday entitlement and working hours.

Your personal brand and your social profile are precious. And, like the full set of  AC/DC albums on vinyl, they should probably be protected by some kind of pre-nuptial agreement that guarantees you continued custody if you and your employer should ever “divorce.”

What if this hypothetical digital agency actually decided in its wisdom to hire candidate A, an accomplished coder with no social profile to speak of?

It would be highly assumptive of of said candidate to incorporate their new employer’s brand into their Twitter name as a shortcut to growing a following, and expect to take that following with them if and when they moved on.

In this case the value equation works the other way and the employer has equal right to “pre-nuptial” protection of its brand name and the potential effect on its reputation of an employee tweeting in its name.

That these things should be discussed in advance rather than in hindsight clearly isn’t as obvious as it should be.

Read Full Post »

Comedy depends on you sharing a set of reference points with your audience and if those are very divergent then they just won’t simply get your jokes.

Helena Lewis Hasteley, Assistant Editor, New Statesman on the Radio 4 Today programme, Thursday 21st July 2011.

Paul Stokes from The Daily Mash sent me a link to the above Today programme conversation about whether satire can cross the Atlantic, mainly because the Mash gets a favourable mention.

But the above comment struck a chord with me in light of several conversations with clients recently.

Everyone has had a good, long quaff of the word-of-mouth, earned-media, social buzz Kool-Aid.

And everyone is still acting like their brand and their content has a divine right to “go viral”. It doesn’t.

However, your brand and your content has a much greater chance of being talked about, of earning that earned media, if the person doing the talking or the sharing is confident that the people doing the listening or the receiving will get what they’re on about.

The effort required to lovingly craft this geeky in-joke for instance is only worth it if the creator is confident that it will indeed be an “in” joke.

As it turns out there were indeed enough shared reference points for this image to do the rounds amongst the early adopter Google+ crowd.

And it’s why television and social channels work so well together. The broadcast exposure afforded to an idea by TV advertising pretty much guarantees that it will tick the “will people know what I’m talking about?” box in the eyes of anyone deciding whether to share your content or a picture of a cat.

A true viral effect is akin to the nuclear chain reaction that creates the awesome power of an atom bomb.

And your average atom bomb is triggered by a fair amount of TNT forcing the fissile materials together to generate critical mass.

TV advertising is your TNT.

Whether your idea has viral, fissile power of Plutonium is another matter entirely. (Most don’t have that power).

This one by Nike did.

And, as luck would have it, the Nike client nicks my TNT analogy.

The TV will get you that moment. That’s that dynamite. But what Facebook enables is you to translate that into connection.

Jesse Stollack, Global Digital Director Brand & Innovation, Nike


Read Full Post »

11.30 pm Heading to bed. Light on under the door to eldest daughter’s bedroom.


11.31 pm WiFi modem on. Flickering LED light indicates that bandwidth is being used. Coincidence?


11.32 pm WiFi modem switched off.


11.33 pm Light under bedroom door goes out. Assume that iPod Touch, rendered useless for the purpose of communicating with other 14 year olds by the lack of WiFi, has also been switched off. “Busted” as they say.


11.34 pm Proceed to bed. No words exchanged.

Read Full Post »

A couple of summers ago I got chatting to a guy in the queue to pick up a hire car at Palma airport.

Turned out he was an independent cheesemaker from Devon. We nattered for a while in the air-conditioned office whilst our respective families melted in the Majorcan heat outside.

Then I watched, aghast, as his hard-earned holiday imploded.

His phone rang.

He stood to one side to take the call.

He was clearly agitated.

It turns out that he had just effectively been summoned back to the UK for a make or break meeting with Tesco. Fly back or lose your listing was the gist of the call. And, no, it can’t wait until after your holiday.


Every Little Helps and all that but I find Tesco increasingly hard to like.

Then you see a tweet like this.

On the one hand there’s nothing wrong with playing commercial hardball.

Tesco would probably argue that this wouldn’t be happening if the Premier Foods brands in question were strong enough to command a higher price.

But I’m at the point with Tesco where I question their motives. I don’t think they care about the right things. Or they don’t care enough.

I get the impression that Morrisons is doing rather well just now. We don’t have one near us. But I’d flock to it if we did. My anyone but Man Utd attitude to football has now transferred to Tesco.

And I’m heading that way with Facebook.

I question its motives in the same way that I do with Tesco.

It is very good at what it does and it is immensely powerful. So maybe it doesn’t have to worry about people questioning its motives.

At least not until a viable alternative comes along. Will people then flock to that?

Google+ is trying to find out right now.

I haven’t had a play yet. But I have read a mixed bag of tweeted remarks and blogged punditry. Most recently this thoughtful piece on, of all places, the All Facebook blog.

Some of the Google+ tweets have been very funny in a snarky way. But I’ve resisted the temptation to retweet any of them for cheap laughs. Partly because, until I get an invite, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But mostly because I really want Google+ to be a viable alternative to Facebook and I don’t want to contribute in even the tiniest way to strangling it at birth.

Snarky, funny tweet. But I stayed strong and didn't RT.

Tesco and Facebook are both very big and very useful.

But they’re both increasingly hard to like.

Is it inevitable that brands of this scale have their motives questioned?

Is it inevitable that brands of this scale create vacuums for viable alternatives?

Read Full Post »

Crowdlistr is a simple, smart idea that adds value to Twitter users who are interested in community. It allows you to open your Twitter lists such that, rather than self-curating, other users can add themselves. It facilitates a crowd-sourced approach to creating a Twitter list.

You create a list in Twitter, then sign into Crowdlistr using Twitter OAuth, click a button to open the list(s) of your choice and you’re done. Crowdlistr gives you a bespoke URL for that list, at which other people can add themselves with a single click.

Crowdlistr was conceived and executed by Yahel Carmon, a smart guy who can code and who was nice enough to answer my questions about his creation.

I stumbled upon Crowdlistr on behalf of the EdTwinge crew.

(EdTwinge is a crowd-sourced, Twitter-based, Edinburgh Festival Fringe review service – click for a fuller explanation of the service and the maths behind it.)

We’re gradually revving things up ready for this year’s Fringe, and part of this is generating a Twitter list of acts and performers at the 2011 festival.

I wondered whether it would be possible to open our list up to allow the acts to add themselves, rather than us having to conduct laborious searches.

Enter Crowdlistr via Google (Crowdlistr is the number three return at the time of writing).

I created a list of 2011 Fringe acts (pre-populated with 70 known acts) and then opened it up via Crowdlistr. And, for about ten days (at the time of writing) I’ve promoted the list in tweets from the EdTwinge Twitter account and via a link in the bio.

So far about 40 acts have added themselves to the list, of whom 14 have also subscribed to follow it, as can be seen from the grab of the Crowdlistr dashboard below.

Two things struck me about the early progress.

Firstly, all the crowd-sourced additions to the list are genuine Fringe acts. No bogus additions. No spammers.

Secondly, if you compare (already) this year’s open list with last year’s closed lists, there appears to be a clear correlation between adding yourself to a list and a propensity to subsequently subscribe to that list. A much higher proportion of this year’s list members are subscribers. (And remember that I had pre-populated the list with 70 acts, so 14 out of 40 people have added themselves and subscribed).

I decided to “reach out” to Crowdlistr’s creator, Yahel Carmon, and put these points to him to see if EdTwinge’s experiences had been shared by others. And he was kind enough to respond and share the insights below.

We’ve had a gratifyingly spam-free experience of Crowdlistr thus far. Has our positive experience been share by others?

Contrary to my original concerns, spammers adding themselves to lists has yet to present itself as a problem. I had always planned on adding spam protection features (options for requiring approval, captchas, follower minimums, etc.), but the need never came up. I think there are 2 reasons for that. First, a lot of spambots are automated, and the process of Twitter OAuth authentication for a user adding themselves to a list via CrowdListr cannot be done by a bot. Second, I don’t display any central directories of ‘open’ twitter lists that would make such an effort worthwhile — all promotion is done by list owners, so even if a spammer were looking to exploit it, it would be too diffuse to be worthwhile. There is, of course, a bit of spam protection built-in to Twitter: if you block an account, they’re not only removed from any list you own, but they cannot re-add themselves.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there seems to be a positive correlation between people adding themselves to a list and then also subscribing to it. Again is that an experience that has been shared by other users?

As far as people adding themselves to lists and then following them, yes, that has in fact been the case. From casual observation, I’d say about half of people who add themselves to a list proceed to follow it. This is, by the way, totally unprompted; the site doesn’t give any prompt for people to follow the list. (It would, however, be trivial to make this a quick-one-click follow for them after they’ve added themselves to the list; I may in fact add this feature.)
Crowdlistr’s usage has been picked up by exactly the types of groups I built it for: communities looking for easy ways to self-organize on twitter. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic of the ability of hashtags to create lasting community amongst a group on twitter; they’re occasionally great for transient events, but there’s often so much noise around which hashtag people use. If you were tweeting at Monkey Conference 2011, regardless of how prominently the organizers display the ‘official hashtag’, tweets will be diffuse amongst #monkeyconf, #monkeyconf11, #monkeyconf2011, #monkey2011, #monkey11, #mc11, #mc2011, etc. People should be able to opt into joining a community’s conversation, and that be the end of their effort; obviously, the attendees of #monkeyconf are going to keep tweeting about monkeys even after the conference ends; why not create a way for people to easily keep tabs on that conversation?
That’s an interesting point to end on. The relative merits of hashtags and lists in terms of sustaining a community on Twitter. If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to share in a comment.

For me, this spam-free dabble with Crowdlistr, and the conversation with Yahel has once again demonstrated the ability of social channels to restore your faith in human nature.

Read Full Post »

I received this notification on Facebook this morning.

It does not compute.

LinkedIn is for professional networking.

Facebook is for friends.

Ne’er the twain shall meet.

Thanks but no thanks to BranchOut.

And bloody typical that the only immediate response options are Like, Comment, Accept. No “Thanks But No Thanks” option to be seen.

I’m with Jemima Kiss and Nev Stokes on this one.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: