Posts Tagged 'Facebook'

Quick, probably not very well-thought out post about law and teh interweb

Putting to one side the majority of the unpleasantness surrounding the Baby P case, one of the interesting aspects – from a media point of view – has been the problem of the online world and any court orders relating to reporting.

Without having delved too far into the story, it’s obvious that there’s some form of court order in play here, otherwise we’d have had Baby P’s name by now, along with the names of two of the accused [1].

The crime led to an outpouring of rage on assorted sources on the internet – blogs, forums, and Facebook groups, among other places.

Because of the way the internet is – huge swathes of information all quite easy to retrieve – it’s not exactly hard to find out the names of those involved, hence the naming and shaming that followed in the aftermath of the court case.

It doesn’t take a genius the piece together the information in the press reports, crossed referenced with a bit of smart Googling. Some of the older articles with names are in assorted caches.

Much of the ire seems to be focused on the fact that that the media hasn’t named the couple who were jailed over Baby P’s death, but as Judith Townsend at Journalism.co.uk points out, naming Baby P isn’t about any notion of justice (whatever that may be), or about the Facebook campaign. It’s about confronting the reality of an online world.

Everybody who joined the Facebook group or named them online is in contempt of court. But they’re not to know the ins and outs of contempt law. Why should they? Even journalists can be a bit fuzzy on some of the laws, unless they regularly work on court reporting or in a specific field.

Most laws relating to contempt were created to ensure a fair trial; to ensure that no matter how horrific the crime, no matter how apparent the guilt, the defendant gets a fair, unprejudiced trial.

Much of the law (I’d imagine) around the Baby P case are to protect other children involved in the case, not the accused or the guilty. The law is surprisingly clear on this.

That was fine when print and broadcast were the only ways of getting your news. The judge made the order, the journalists would sometimes contest it, but if they failed then the information didn’t get printed or broadcast. Simple.

Today, it’s never been easier to join the jots, the access cache, and to publish the names (or other relevant information online). And the orders don’t apply to non-UK websites.

As the law stands, there’s been a lot of Contempt of Court committed around the Baby P case. But who should be served with any action? Facebook? Blogger? WordPress? Google? Forum administrators? Individual bloggers? Individual posters? All of the above? None of the above?

Libel and the internet may not be perfect, but in this regard the law is streets ahead of Contempt of Court and the internet. The Baby P case has demonstrated that it’s virtually impossible to enforce Contempt laws in an online world (although I wouldn’t go as far as saying its impossible to get a fair trial).

Clearly, the laws surrounding Contempt and a fair trial need an urgent and serious overhaul. Quite what that should involve will take a far better legal brain than I, and probably about 99% of the country, have.

[1] It’s (thankfully) been a VERY long time since I’ve had to deal with child cases and courts, my immediate guess was a Section 39, although as that doesn’t apply to dead children, it might be a different court order. Section 11? I’ll have to pick up my copy of McNae’s again here as I think I need to reacquaint myself with the assorted orders to do with children and young people.

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How to win friends and influence Tweeple

Qwitter’s launch last week seems to have thrown the Twittersphere (God, what a horrible world) temporarily, as plenty of the site’s users suddenly find themselves in a bit of an etiquette dilemma.

Basically, Qwitter’s an application that sends you a quick email whenever anybody unfollows you, along with your last Tweet. Kind of like one of those ridiculous exit interviews companies insist on putting you through. Or the kind of social media tool that neurotic recent singletons, who pour over every minute of a a failed relationship, would love.

So far, so pointless. But if there’s on thing the internet doesn’t need, it’s a rather useless service that feeds insecurities of online friendships. God alone knows we have enough problem with that offline, and Louis Gray has a pretty good analysis of Qwitter:

“What Qwitter has done with this unnecessary “service” (and I use that term loosely) is turn a very mundane, passive act that usually reflects more on a person’s available time than a follower’s actions into an act of aggression with some seemingly dubious “reason” behind it. I can see this turning ugly, as friends who discover that friends sometimes unfollow them take it personally. This means instead of realizing that on Twitter you can go back and forth with a kind of ebb and flow as needed, those with hurt feelings from being unfollowed proceed to email demanding logic, reasons, and possibly even threatening retaliation or repercussions. Qwitter feeds insecurity and neuroses by making something simple into some kind of seeming failure or insult.

The thing about the internet is that it has a tendency to turn aggressive in a hurry. Twitter has, until now, avoided that Internet Troll atmosphere and been a relatively happy place to connect with people online in a very low-key and self-directed way. There are a few Twitter Trolls, but not that many, thanks largely to the anonymous unfollow and anonymous block features. Qwitter changes that, and for what?”

One of the main reason to love Twitter is the free swopping of ideas and conversation between people you wouldn’t other meet, but it doesn’t matter if the following isn’t reciprocal.

I follow plenty of people on Twitter who haven’t returned the compliment, and nor would I necessarily suspect them to. Just because I find what they have to say interesting, doesn’t mean they’re going to think the same about what I say.

And vice-versa. I have a lot of random people following me, some of whom I’ve followed back, some of who seem interesting but I’m not too concerned about following them back, and some who – like some of those I follow who don’t follow me back – I’m sure are lovely people, but there’s no interest there for me. 

To any of those people reading this, sorry it’s not personal! I’m sure I’ve probably lost a fair few Twitter followers because there’s a fair bit of football chat on my feed (which I am conscious of, and have considered setting up a separate feed for) and the sheer banality of some of my Tweets.

But it’s definitely not like Facebook, where there’s a definite awkwardness about having people add you who you’d rather not add, or debating whether you should add colleagues, or ex-girlfriends, and the like. Twitter’s a lot more laid back, and is all the better forward.

Sally at Getting Ink has also been thinking among similar lines, this time in relation to the Twitter Karma application:

“I follow people on Twitter on the basis that I find what they post interesting and relevant to me. It doesn’t necessarily follow that what I say will be equally interesting and relevant to them. So, let’s imagine I’m following someone interesting, but they’re not interested in me – do they then become LESS interesting as a consequence? Should I only be listening to people to listen to me?”

Nonetheless, it feels like Twitter’s slowly moving from the childlike to the adolescent – like the acne-ridden teenager who suddenly becomes aware of the social groups and has to decide (or try) to fit in with them or not. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m not sure.

How Twitter works best isn’t as a popularity contest or a desire to be loved, but, as Mike Butcher says:

“It quickly became apparent that this was turning into the best use of Twitter of all. Not for long, winding conversations you might have on instant messaging, but short, to the point wise-cracks between people interspersed with a little status update here, a small observation on life there. Twitter was no longer about ’status’ or ‘what are you doing’. It was about conversation, ‘what are you thinking’, ‘what are we talking about’.

The key difference is that people who say “take this conversation over into IM” don’t get it. IM can’t do what Twitter does. You can’t instant message into “the cloud”. With Twitter you can. You can shout or whisper whatever you want to say out into the ether and anyone online can hear you. And anyone following you, even if you don;t follow them, can reply – then you may well become connected.”

And Charles Arthur notes, in his typically blunt but nonetheless spot-on style, there’s only so much Twittering you can take:

“It’s simple really. In an attention economy, there’s only so much time I can listen to what colour your curtains are. Then, I’ve got to get on and earn some money. Please, no hurt feelings though. In the meantime, I’ve resolved to try to tweet useful stuff. Though the temptation to put any old rubbish in is huge, I have to admit.”

I’ve made lots of contacts and a few good friends through Twitter already, and a lot of people in my feed often stick up very interesting links (I’m probably rather bad at doing this). It’s relaxed, interesting and fun. Kind of like an online version of Central Perk, if you will.

What it doesn’t need is people suddenly starting to take it too seriously, which is what a lot of the worry and chatter around Qwitter and Twitter Karma feels like. Have a cup of tea, relax and we can Tweet about it.

***

While I’m on the topic of Twitter, a couple more examples of how the social-networking-cum-microblogging-cum-conversation site is continuing its quest for world domination rise in popularity and usefulness.

Following on from Stephen Fry, no lesser celebrity than Britney Spears has entered the Twitterverse. Or rather a mixture of of her and, possibly, the occasional Tweet from Britney herself.

It’s very different from Stephen Fry, but is a good example of how those working with a big star or somebody slightly less gadget and web-obsessed (those are good thing by the way, before Stephen Fry gets hurt) can use a Twitter feed.

There’s some nice openness and accountability – very Web 2.0, especially this Tweet – with conversation and a team (or possibly just one woman, Lauren) updating the feed reasonably regularly. It’s a good balance for a star like Britney and is a good model for any other celebrity thinking about using Twitter.

What’s more, it gives Britney devotees, of which I’m sure there are many out there (I can’t class myself as one of them, although Toxic was a great pop record) a chance to get closer to her than any celebrity magazine could offer.

Now there’s a thought. Could Twitter kill off Heat magazine?

***

The other sign that Twitter is slowly marching on came in a phone conversation today. I was in PR mode, pitching a small item to a few local papers, and rung an old university friend and colleague who worked on one of these papers.

I’d barely begun explaining what I was ringing about before he cut in to tell me that he knew what I was ringing about and had already mentioned it to his editor, all because of a couple of Tweets I’d done earlier in the week.

Now – if either as a PR or a journalist or both – if that doesn’t get you excited about the power of social media tools like Twitter for ‘traditional’ media work, then I guess nothing will.

Kitting out media for the future

Joanne Geary asks a very interesting question: How should we tech out our newsrooms? I’d like to extend that question to tech-ing out any media operation.

As has been repeated ad-infinitum on here and pretty much everywhere else, the way we consume our media is changing and all organisations – radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and PR – have to adapt to this. How we produce our news, our features, our press releases – it’s all changing and we should at least know what we’re doing with it.

So that means knowing how best to utilise Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, forums and other forms of social media. But you can take a journalist to a computer but you cannot make him write. Or, as Joanna says somewhat better:

“But understanding the benefits of multiple platforms needs someone to use these platforms regularly. Training only goes so far. If you do not use YouTube or Facebook, for example, how can you really understand how they can be used in story telling?”

And even people who do use these things may not understand how useful they can be to news or PR. It’s intergrating sites or tools that could be classified as ‘play’ into the working way of doing things.

She’s also spot on when she says that people need to see how these tools can work for them – following an example from start to finish, be it tracking down a story using Twitter, Twing and Facebook, or using social media formats like Seesmic, YouTube and Bebo to get your PR message out there.

But I also don’t think there should be a rush to get those in the media to incorporate everything and anything social media related into their work. Sometimes it just won’t work for the story your writing or brand you’re promoting. Other times, you may even be overcooking the social media and starting too many different conversations that just get lost.

But equally, just because it doesn’t work the first time somebody starts using blogs, podcasts or a MySpace page, they shouldn’t be allowed to abandon the ideas. In an ideal world, everybody would have access to a range of platforms – videos, blogs, audio podcasts. But if they can’t have these instantly at their fingertips, they should at least get constant support and training from colleagues who are regularly engaging in social media.

Perhaps most importantly, each individual has to find out for themselves what works for them. Perhaps some will enjoy getting their hands dirty and engaging on forums. Perhaps some will love setting up Facebook groups, or Bebo pages. Others may suddenly find a joy Twittering to their heart’s content from a wet press launch. But it is only with the right support from all levels of management right down to new, geekily-enthusiastic colleagues, that the media can move forward when it comes to using social media.

Online Marketing and Media ’08: What I did on my day at the conference

If there was one overarching theme from the first day of the Online Marketing and Media ’08 Conference it was creativity. Creativity and engagement. Creativity, engagement and communities. Creativity, engagement, communities and conversation. And nice red uniforms. I’ll start again shall I?

Ok, there wasn’t one underlying theme but the Spanish Inquisition aside, the four elements listed above were repeated regularly throughout all sessions I was at and some of the workshops. The message is clear. The level of conversation has changed and if you’re not engaging with communities who connect with your brand on whatever level then you’re at best losing out and, at worst, leaving the door open to some serious damage online.

Respond. Engage. Listen

New Media Age’s editor-in-chief Michael Nutley set the tone with his keynote overview of the industry. In many respects much of what was said shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody in the room, yet it pulled many different strands together neatly. For traditional media it was both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because of the possibilities and terrifying because it was clear how easy it would be to get left behind.

Trends, said Nutley, were here to stay. Nobody wants to go back to 56k after experiencing broadband. And while Facebook et al may be slightly less indispensible than broadband, the social media landscape and conversation has cemented itself into far enough into our culture to have profoundly changed how we get our information and engage with brands.

But it wasn’t just Facebook, MySpace and Bebo that were regularly brought up as social media conversation-enablers. YouTube, lastfm, Flickr, del.icio.us, WAYN, moneysupermarket.com, Top Table, Lego enthusiast communities and many more even more niche sites were mentioned throughout the day.

The message here is clear. These conversation about lego, travel, food, pictures, video, music and brands are happening online and if PR and marketing professionals want to be part of this they need to be prepared to enter the conversation and, occasionally, get their fingers burnt.

The dialogue is never ending either. Nutwell gave the example of Nike, who’d built such a successful social social community for runners surrounding the launch of their new trainer that when the marketers wanted to move onto focus on a different area they found the community had grown organically to such a stage that it couldn’t realistically be abandoned. But Nike also had a valuable commodity on their hands  a direct line to consumers who were prepared to enthusiastically engage with the brand.

Then there was the example of the wine company who did their research on forums and blogs and sent out cases of wine to the most influential of these. They were rewarded with a large spike in sales, but when other companies tried to copy the tactic, the success was a lot more muted.

Yet engaging with the online community – especially leading opinion makers, with samples of good occasionally – is necessary. Sally Cowdry from O2 told the audience of a similar success with the Cocoon handset, again by offering free samples.

Yet their were notes of caution here. One aspect which will terrify some CEOs, marketeers and PR professionals is once the brand or product is thrown out into the wilds of the internet there’s no control of what may come back.

As Cowdry emphasised, you’ve got to be prepared to offer yourself up to criticism, so if you’re engaging with the communities you’ve got to really believe in whatever issue or product you’re having the conversation around. Because if you get it wrong, then one of the first things anybody could see if they type the keywords into Google is a long post or forum thread tearing strips off the product you were hoping to promote.

To that end, any engagement has to be done transparently. All communities, be it clubbers, students, people discussing travel arrangements, or Lego enthusiasts, will react badly if they discover you’re covertly setting up ‘clean’ blogs or user profiles to promote a product or defend a brand without making it clear it’s affiliated to whatever the brand, product or topic is. Again, that’s likely to have a seriously negative impact on your Google rankings.

But starting the conversation is very different and if you hit the right note with the right campaign, piece of PR, or just the right post on the right community, then that conversation will organically grow with your brand at the centre of it.

To that end, Leo Ryan from Ryan MacMillian produced some fascinating data from the London Elections. Using various social media analyzing tools – like Technorati, Facebook Leixcon, Google Trends, Clusty, del.icio.us tagclouds and others – for the London Mayor election, the stats showed Boris had better buzzmetrics than Ken on just about everything bar blogs, where Ken was slightly more talked about it. In particular, the Boris-related chatter on Facebook was nearly three times that of Ken.

But what was interesting was this conversation was taking place around Boris’s announcements and NOT the debate between Ken and Boris. When Boris put out a new release or a new policy, traffic and chatter would spike, unlike when Ken tried to debate Boris’s policies. In some respects, it’s not unreasonable to assume that part of Ken’s strategy was blunted because he was simply repeating the online conversation rather than starting it.

Whether the chatter for Boris was positive or negative isn’t so easy to ascertain and, unlike using the free services, more powerful paid-for tools were needed here.

But Leo Ryan’s talk, the most illuminating of the lot, showed it was easy to track your social media footprint (in the above case, Boris and Ken’s footprint) using readily available free tools. The results wouldn’t produce perfect results every time and would have to go through several levels of cleaning or analysing.

So that means checking results against each other, finding the key phrases, refining them and playing the results of the tools off against each other, rinsing out aspects that may skew the results (for example, an unrelated term cropping up on a regular basis in the tools).

Taken together the tools – Technorati, Summize, Clusty, Google’s assorted services, Twing, Blogpulse and others – offer a way to spot who’s talking about you, what they’re saying and, perhaps just as important, what they’re not saying. It’s a great way to gauge the level of feedback and can be done in a morning.

Conclusions (but by no means the end of it all)

In truth, most of the conclusions that I drew from the day were already mentioned in the first paragraph, bar the nice red uniforms (and I’d prefer white stripes with mine anyway).

Firsty, this social media malarky isn’t difficult. Yes, some of today may have, in my case, been preaching to the converted but it really does emphasise how easy it is to start engaging with communities and track results. Anybody who gets scared by these tools shouldn’t be. They’re not necessarily the be all or end all but neither are they like a piece of tricky technology that only a select few can master. Anybody can get involved and engage if they want to. And chances are they already do, be it fan forums, review sites and research before purchasing a product, exchanging travel tips, sharing YouTube videos and the like.

And it’s never been easier to find and share this content, be it through social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us and Digg, music sites like Lastfm, networking places like Facebook and LinkedIn, even the reviews section of Amazon. It’s all out there.

Secondly, the nature of the conversation has changed significantly from a few years ago and will continue to evolve. Traditional advertising models still have a place but are no longer as effective. Given the controversy over Facebook’s Beacon project, and the fact that it’s becoming easier than even to skip adverts on TV, be it watching online, using Sky+ or other recorders, communities don’t want people talking at them. They want to be engaged with, to have their say, to get responses. Conversation is a two-way process, but many companies treat it as if there’s only one person with anything to say or worth saying. That attitude’s a surefire way to the deadpool.

But, above all, it’s worth trying new things. It’s worth being creative. Not every potential viral will be shared around offices by bored workers on a Thursday afternoon. Not every attempt to engage with bloggers, forums and other sites will be a success. But it still doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Starting the conversation in an open, transparent and prepared-to-engage way stands a good chance of getting whatever is being promoted talked about online. It’s not the same or in place of traditional media outlets but its still just as valuable.

Hey, journalists, I’ve not forgotten you!

While the above all sounds very marketeer-like, the journalist in me can easily see how these tools and insights into the social media conversation (sorry, I’m doing it again. I’ll try and stop that) could be useful. Using the right tools – again Technorati, Google Alerts, del.icio.us, Digg, Summize, etc – it should be possible for the modern Web 2.0-literate journalist to have a handle on a story or their patch either through an hour’s work online or, better still, waiting for them in their inbox each morning.

I’ve already shown how useful tools like Twitter, Google, Technorati and forums are when you’re tracking a breaking news story, and that’s only going to increase as more users adopt assorted social media.

If the conversation is happening online, then that, in a way, is no different from the conversation down the pub. In my time I’ve been taught by assorted journalists that firstly the pub is a great source of news stories and, secondly, is a good benchmark of if your story is relevant to your audience – ie can you imagine people talking about it down the pub.

Well, now you’ve got your virtual ‘pub’ in so many locations Blogs, Facebook Groups, Google Groups, Twitter, feedback sites, the lot. Not only are these a great way of getting stories, but also to build contacts for the future by listening and engaging in the conversation with communities.

See, I’m doing it again. Journalists, publicists and marketeers may be after different ends but the means can be the same.

Tea goes Web 2.0

This is one of the reasons why I love the internet. A while ago, somebody on the A Cup of Tea Solves Everything Facebook group proposed members meet up for afternoon tea in London. Somebody else then proposed a rolling global tea party for those who couldn’t get to London, and indeed didn’t even live in the UK.

So, I blogged about it because it seemed like a rather lovely idea and, frankly, any excuse for a good cuppa. Since then, I seem to have weekly inbound links coming in from a variety of blogs around the world, all highlighting the worldwide tea party.

Now as the date – June 28th – approaches, I’m getting even more hits on my original blog post as people look to find out more information.

What I find rather lovely about all this, is all started from one person’s suggestion on an active Facebook community and now seems to have gone far larger than anybody could have predicted. One person’s already taking about it raise money for the victims of the Burma cyclone.

Even a few years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. And it’s why I love social media and Web 2.0 tools. Nothing was done to promote it, it’s just taken a life of its own.

So, if you’ve come her for info on the global tea party, the Facebook group and the two original threads are the best places to find out more.

And after all that, I need a cup of tea.

Facebook wants you to have more friends

Today I logged into Facebook to be confronted with a series of suggested friends, many of whom were friends of friends, or several mutual friends in common.

On one hand, you can see the logic in this. You may have missed somebody who you didn’t know was on Facebook, or there may be somebody in there who is useful to add for work/social life purposes. It isn’t called social networking for nothing.

On the other hand, there are people who I’ve specifically not added, despite having many friends in common. It’s not that I don’t like them, I’m just quite picky when it comes to accepting friend requests. If they then add me, that puts me in a slightly awkward position.

Also, there’s another privacy issues here. I know Facebook have revamped their privacy settings, but how many people have taken the time to properly learn and make the most of them. Chances are there are a few people you don’t want anywhere near you on Facebook, or finding out too much about you. This little add-on makes that a little easier.

I still get a lot out of Facebook and can see plenty of uses for it, but I’m fast coming to the conclusion that they should offer a privacy tutorial. This at least gives users a more informed option as to how to handle the privacy settings on their account. At least that way you’re not forcing them into a profile lockdown, while alerting them to the potential dangers (and I use the word dangers loosely; it’s certainly not meant in the political or media hysteria sense) of having so much personal information available to all and sundry.

[Elsewhere: Sorry for lack of stuff on here. Busy. Work. Football. Will. Post. More. Interesting. Stuff. Soon.]


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com