Posts Tagged 'Web 2.0'

You don’t want that social media project…

Chris Applegate posts a list of 20 familiar signs that a company really doesn’t want to get engaged in social media. It’s brilliantly funny, if not also a tad depressing (but then isn’t all the best humour) as it’s instantly familiar to anyway working in a social media sphere who’s had any of the 20 conversations.

Suw Charman-Anderson follows up with an internal version. Both are spot on. And while the web geeks amongst us giggle, they should also be compulsive reading for anybody or company thinking of getting into social media.

I’ve come across all these comments over God knows how many years in all walks of life. I’ve spoken to a few people who are so enthusiastic about social media but work for companies who take about six months to take any kind of decision on it. I’m quite thankful mine’s pretty proactive and willing to try new things.

Social media isn’t like other popular areas where you can just wade in go “hey, we’re great” and leave. What worked before offline won’t necessarily work online.

The best thing anybody can do if they want their company or client to get into social media is read and listen. Engagement also helps, but I’d honestly say just immersing yourself in blogs, wikis, pods, Twitter and forums and getting a feel for how they work will do no end of good.

If a blogger has a pop at your company, chill. Maybe it’s better to understand the reason behind the rant than panicking or getting worked up about the contents of the post. People say bad things, it happens.

Viral videos are called viral for a reason. If it’s something you’d want to send your mates at a slow day at work, then you’re onto a winner. If you struggle to watch it through, it won’t.

And while mass emailing bloggers may seem like a quick and efficient way to work, it probably won’t generate that much positive coverage. Certainly not compared to if you’ve taken the time to read, engage and see what’s relevant to this particular blog.

It’s not hard to do, but I suspect these won’t be the last conversations Chris and others have on this topic.

[I’d also quite like to add 21. Client puts something on the internet with no links in or out and wonders why nobody visits.]

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Journalist in not getting blogging shock

It’s hard not to raise a smile at Dave Hill’s gentle fisking of his local newspaper’s rather arbitrary leader on why teh blogging is rubbish. The column is the kind of thing you’d have expected half or dozen a so years ago when blogging wasn’t as mainstream or as popular as it is now, and everybody (read: the media) seemed convinced citizen journalism via bogs was going to take down traditional media and rule the world and journalists were worried they’d become redundant. Or something.

Fast forward to today (or, if you happen to be reading this light years in the future, 2008) and bloggers haven’t exactly killed off the medium of print, although they have changed the nature of journalism, and how that change will finally pan out is unclear.

But the two are sitting, if not exactly comfortably together, in closer proximity than perhaps was expected. Most major papers now have blogs where journalists and, horrors, the great unwashed interact. Even more shocking is the number of journalists who maintain their own blogs. In their own time! Lawks! Who’d thunk it. Look, there’s one. And here’s another. And, my gosh, another. They’re bloody everywhere.

And what’s more it’s not just journalists who can write and have opinions. A lot of other people do it rather well, often in a niche area. One of the trouble with journalists is, unless we end up seriously specialising, our knowledge is spread a little thin and there’s invariably people out there who know more about the topic than we do. Which is, I think, largely a good thing. Holding the fourth estate to account and all that. And, blimey, occasionally you can learn something. Hell, transparency, which is pretty hot on the web these days, is a good thing. After all, journalists call for it all the time, right?

Ok, blogland does have more than its fair share of tub-thumping nutters who do like causing a shit-storm and enjoying the controversy. That’s largely the nature of a free and open platform for publishing. I’d hazard a guess than the majority of the tub-thumping nutters can also be found among the retired colenels in the letters pages of local newspapers. At the very least, they’re no less nutty than some of the people who write in.

But one of the great things about blogs and other social media is how they’ve changed the nature of newsgathering.

Certainly, today’s journalists are as likely to be tracking a breaking story online using Technorati, Summize and Twing as they are door-knocking (and both have their merits and disadvantages, and are best used in conjunction). Similarly, they’re turning into a great source of news as more newsworthy people get blogs. 

So it’s just slightly depressing to read the following comments in the leader column:

“It’s accepted practice – particularly if a public figure makes controversial remarks on a blog – for newspapers to use them as source material for their follow-up story, subject to the paper contacting the person quoted to check that what appeared is accurate.”

“For a blogger to moan that what they themselves put in the public domain has somehow been pillaged because a newspaper hasn’t acknowledged them smacks of breath-taking petulance.”

And is also one of the fastest ways to severely hack off the blogging community.
I’m not disagreeing with the idea of using blogs as source material, providing the information is verified. There’s fair comment, and taking chunks to build the article around is, in my book, fine, but it helps if you at least let your readers know where you got your information from. Hence trackbacks and links and the like in blogs.
But there’s a world of difference between quoting a blog (or any other piece of work) and lifting the whole thing wholesale, not that national organisations would ever do such a thing.
Put this another way. I have no problem with people quoting or referencing this blog, especially if they find it interesting. To me, it’s a great way of getting feedback, extending conversations, getting points of view I wouldn’t have thought of and, yes, a slightly nice feeling that somebody actually thinks what I’ve written is worth reading and discussing further. And that’s a feeling I got in journalism as well. But if anybody thinks they can lift an entire post, they’ll get an invoice off me for work. Like they would from any freelancer. And I’m not in blogging to make money. If I was, I’d have been out on the streets long ago.
It may seem like I’ve probably just sat grandmother down and spent over an hour teaching her to suck eggs with the help of every egg-sucking training aid on the market. But sometimes it’s worth repeating these things, especially when you combine said leader with the Gripe section in the last issue of The Journalist (thanks to Pink Sunshine for sending me a copy).
When you have a member of the NUJ’s national executive write the following:
“Too often, blogs seem like slags or slogs, probably both; disappointing slogs through slaggings off. Perhaps when blogs have grown up a little more they’ll be better. For many, still, maturity seems a long way off.”
it makes you realise that even though blogging is very much part of the media, there’s still a large number of journalists who don’t or won’t get the potential benefits to their own industry.
[In fairness to The Journalist, there were several good pieces on why bloggers and web-writers need to be accepted into the Union, and how social media can be used for journalism].
Not every journalist makes a good blogger, and certainly not every blogger makes a good journalist. But there’s so much more to the internet, and the communities, and the conversations that take place around these communities. Conversations that don’t necessarily need newspapers to facilitate them.
Quite whether the two writers of the respective columns utilise social media for journalistic purporses, I’ve no idea. But I know if I were at a local paper, I’d like to be engaging with people who can shape my paper, buy my paper, engage with my paper, produce ways to make my paper more profitable, and ultimately help gather news for the paper.
Because, at the end of the day, journalism, local or otherwise, done well will be read accordingly. And journalism done well than engages online with its audience stands a chance of being read, shared and trusted by far more people than a print run could manage.
[And, just to round things off, I stumbled across the initial post from Dave Hill via Martin Stabe]

Everybody’s Tweeting

Twitter may be down on a depressingly regular basis but it still seems everybody’s signing up to it. Radio 4’s Today programme is the latest. Downing Street got a fair bit of publicity for theirs (possibly the one piece of forward thinking they’ve done all year) and even Andy Murray has one as well. At least I think it’s him. Sounds grumpy and teen-speak enough. His brother Jamie also has a more chatty feed.

Now while Twitter definitely isn’t the new Facebook – slightly more limited appeal for a start – it’s increasingly becoming an effective PR/promotional/fan tool, as well as a news feed, and a place to network and make general conversation. It’s not quite mainstream, but if it doesn’t at least go beyond the early adopter/geek crowd this year then it probably never will.

That mainstream and traditional media companies and organisations are increasing getting their Tweet on suggests that they have enough regard and appreciation of it to make it worth their while to sign up and maintain a feed.

And yet Twitter’s regular outages and downtime will get people irritated and looking elsewhere and could yet be its downfall. FriendFeed and Plurk have been mentioned as alternatives, although whether they’ll take off or not remains to be seen. Is there even room for so many microblogging social media friend aggregator tools?

A few questions to finish: I’ve not signed up to FriendFeed yet but have seen a lot of positive press around it. Is ti worth it? And while I’ve signed up to Plurk, I’ve not really used it much. I can see the differences, just, I think. But is it worth maintaining both a Plurk and Twitter feed? And am I missing some major use or difference for Plurk that will make me want to embrace it as much as I have Twitter?

Social media: where the hell are we going?

Hands up who remembers the dotcom bubble burst of the late 90s? Recently, I’ve sometimes mused to myself on the possibility of it happening about but with social media. Every day, there’s a new social media app, often with a ridiculous name, to be discovered. And at least half of them I haven’t got a clue what to do with.

So it’s with a small degree of relief on my part to read Livingston Communications muse on a similar topic and conclude social media isn’t about to burst, but scale back a tad, probably shaking out some of the worse/more unsustainable sites.

It’s an excellent post, especially the first point:

“1) Too many communicators have the shiny object syndrome, yet don’t have domain expertise. That means we’re seeing a lot of bad social media this year. In turn, you can expect corresponding failures and a reaction against social media.”

One of the saving graces for social media, though, is many of the sites and applications seem to be born out of an idea of how to make something better or improve communication – something that will work for the group rather than immediately designed to make money. Take crowdstatus, a neat little site still in alpha – it was born out of the creator’s desire to make communication easier and it’s easy to see the potential uses. The note on the about page, to me, sums up this attitude nicely:

“This is a personal project for the moment so don’t ask me about business models :p”

Social media at the moment feels like its reached a tipping point of sorts. The secondary and tiertary adopters are now using these sites a lot more while some obvious cases, like Facebook, have gone beyond any expectations.

To some extent these new users will follow the early adopters, but they’re also likely to be more discerning. They’ve not drunk the initial kool-aid and will be asking questions such as “How can this help me in a personal/professional manner?”

I’ve started training, in the loosest sense, colleagues on how to get the best out of social media and, along the way, they’ve fired some difficult, direct questions at me. Sometimes it’s easy to show the value of a site like Twitter to PR, or netvibes to your personal way of working.

But with many of the other sites it’s somehow difficult to justify exactly why it’s worth spending time getting to grips with it and often it’s just a case of play and see if it suits you.

And this is where the shakedown comes. If you’ve got an overcrowded marketplace, there will undoubtedly be some casualties and financiers tighten their belts and new users ask why they should be using two or three similar applications.

Take Plurk, which I like but don’t use often, against Twitter, which is unreliable but has embedded itself in my life. It’s hard to tell if it’ll become Facebook to Twitter’s MySpace or Betamax to Twitter’s VHS. The most common question I’ve had in the past few weeks is ‘why should I use site x over site y?’ And there’s no good answer. At that point, I drop my geeky semi-early-adopter mentality and start thinking about if site x or site y is more useful to me in a work setting. And I’ll confess sometimes I get overloaded with the amount of new sites that pass by my eyes and wonder how or why the hell I should keep them all going.

Blogging is now embedded in online culture. Sites like Facebook have become part of our everyday lives, regardless of how much you use it. Twitter’s becoming a great source of not just conversation but also breaking news and news gathering.

I’m not quite sure what the final point is, other than that social media is here to stay but will eventually fall back into line with the basic laws of economics and the markets. And, at that point, as Livingston Comms say, “a more measured, intelligent debate will take place.” It’s a debate I’m looking forward to, even if the enthusiasm for social communication tools is fun at the moment.

Charlie Beckett: Reinvention the the key to the survival of the industry

Excellent piece from Charlie Beckett in the Press Gazette on what journalists should do to survive in a web-centric world:

“Not all this new-media stuff works. There is a limit to both the amount and the quality of what the public will provide. There is a danger that journalists will spend more time repackaging material for different platforms than creating content.

It is time to bring the “online team” or the “digital director” in from an office down the corridor and in to the middle of the newsroom. Everything from your email system to your Facebook site needs to be reconfigured.

Packaging and style will become less important than delivery, originality and interaction. Some people may regret that. I don’t. Some “classic” journalism will survive because a knowledgeable specialist will always have an audience. But the successful journalist of the future will be networked. This means becoming multiskilled. It means being able to connect lots of different content with a variety of customers.”

All good points and timely and relevant. Every journalist should at least be ware of these new web-centric newsgathering and publishing techniques and take time to at least look into what these techniques can do for them.

Journalism is changing. PR is changing. The media is changing. There are teenagers who’re starting to think about a career in journalism who will have grown up with the web. These are the readers and journalists of the future and will already be geared up to properly use the web, both as consumers and producers. The question is, are the current crop of media professionals ready for this challenge?

Exeter bomb blast: the social media afterthought

Now the dust’s settled both around Giraffe restaurant in Exeter and in the general world of breaking news, and yesterday’s events are becoming clearer, it’s interesting to see how the coverage of the event has also settled down both for traditional media and more Web 2.0 sources.

While yesterday the best sources for breaking news were the online Exeter City fans forum Exeweb, and Twitter, today things have settled down somewhat. The thread on Exeweb has slowed and hasn’t been updated in a while, while Tweets on the issue have been restricted to those from traditional media accounts like ITN and the Guardian [1].

Likewise, Technorati and del.icio.us have sporadic entries, but nothing traditional media hasn’t already told me.

[A quick aside here – partly to blow my own trumpet, but partly because it fits in well here – POLIS director Charlie Beckett followed up his very nice comment with a blog post praising what I wrote yesterday, which is as unexpected as it is flattering (and humbling). But where did Charlie find my piece? Via his colleague on del.icio.us. QED.]

But where it gets really interesting is Digg. If you search upcoming stories for Exeter then the majority of articles ‘Dugg’ are from traditional sources: the BBC, the Telegraph, etc. [2].

Now, I’ll admit this has only been a cursory glance and any research I’ve done hasn’t been as thorough as yesterday but there’s still a few strands of hypothesis we can draw from this.

The main point being, when you have a breaking news story, traditional media is a lot slower than online sources and social media tool and, in many cases, less reliable. This also suggests that people are moving towards these tools rather than more traditional sources when they want to find out more information.

However, once the story moves beyond it’s initial ‘breaking’ stage (usually 24 hours, or an overnight gap), traditional media reasserts itself. The posters on Exeweb or Twitterers are likely to have the time or access to compete with media outlets, so at this stage the fastest, most reliable sources online will revert to the familiar brand names. They have the lines to the police, they eyewitnesses, and the politicians and now can be seen to be across the story.

The big loser in all this now is not social media, which can happily exist outside of the mainstream media and isn’t solely news-orientated, but the Express and Echo, Exeter’s local paper.

Yes, the Echo have continued to add updates to their site, but I still can’t read today’s coverage, which is maddening – the message to buy the paper for full information has been on the site since they posted a brief summary of their lead story, and they’re already telling us to buy Saturday’s paper for the update. Which would be great if I still lived in Devon, but I don’t.

Now, the Express and Echo may well have some of the best journalistic coverage on this topic, and today and tomorrow’s papers may well be ground-breaking award-winning stuff, but it’s really too late. Any smart reader, Exonian or otherwise, will have gone to somewhere like Google News, done a search for Exeter and read a lot of the pieces available there, most of which contain not just yesterday’s story but up-to-the-minute articles with today’s events (the Telegraph’s is particularly good). In the meantime, the Echo sits with none of this.

Taking this logically to its conclusion, why would I – the online reader – then need to buy tomorrow’s Express and Echo or visit it’s website when I know there is better information elsewhere? In looking to maximise the paper sales, the Echo could potentially lose out on readers both on and offline.

[By the way, if you want to contact me with any links or aspects of this online case study I may have missed, or anything that may be interesting or relevant to the blog or, for whatever reason, you don’t want to leave a comment, there’s a contact form on the About Me page.]

[1] Assuming you can actually get onto Twitter – it’s having another bit of downtime/crash. Honestly, it’s more tempramental than all of my ex-girlfriends morphed into one.

[2] Anti-fascist campaigners may want to note the amount of Diggs BNP links are getting (and on Technorati as well).


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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