Category Archives: Social Media

20 Mar

Twitter: autoposting, shortlinks, hastags and mentions

Following on from my previous blog post on corporate social media use, here are a few tips to writing good messages on Twitter (or tweets). A similar post about Facebook will follow.

 

No Autopost

If you have blog, it may be tempting to set up autoposting. This means the site automatically spits out a tweet (if you connect your account) with the blog post title and the link.

Sounds useful enough but there are a few reasons NOT to use it

  1. if you publish your blogpost at midnight, that’s when your tweet will go out. Who will see it?
  2. Your headline may not be snappy enough for a tweet
  3. It won’t make use of hashtags or tagging (see below)
  4. If you post, then go to bed/go out – you won’t be there to manage any responses

 

Shortlinks

I know you don’t *need* to use shortlinks any more (now Twitter allows long links) but I still think they look tidier, don’t you?

Its the difference between:

The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://carolinebeavon.com/2013/03/17/the-4-elements-of-corporate-social-media/

and

The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://bit.ly/XPITmZ

If I’d wanted to write much more, the tweet would have looked like this

New blog post > The Elements of Corporate Social Media – comments welcome http://carolinebeavon.com/2…..

Use the Bitly service to shorten your links – this service also helps you keep track of clickthroughs!

 

Hashtags

A hashtag is a handy way to add your tweet to the messages about a certain subject.

Twitter works by showing you the messages by people you follow. However, if you had a particular interest in, say, Leverson, then you could search for the #leverson hashtag and see everyone who’s been tweeting about that subject and using the hashtag.

It also means you can block the hashtag (on some Twitter clients) if you’re not interested! (ie #xfactor)

(Note: interestingly, Facebook is reported to be introducing hashtags to updates very soon!)

When you’re writing a tweet, do a search for relevant hashtags on this story, and add one or two to your Tweet (if you can embed them in the wording even better, you’re saving yourself characters!)

The Elements of Corporate #SocialMedia http://bit.ly/XPITmZ

Corporate Use of #twitter and #facebook http://bit.ly/XPITmZ

Don’t go overboard – multiple hashtags is a waste of space and makes your tweet look spammy!

 

Mentions / Tagging

If you start a tweet with someones Twitter handle, the message will only be seen by them, and the people that follow you both.

If you put someone’s Twitter handle into the middle of a message, it will be seen by all of your follows, and they will be alerted to the message.

If you are sharing a blog post – make sure you @mention any companies, people or organisations featured. This will alert them to the content, and hopefully they’ll retweet it.

Similarly, if you are simply welcoming a new client, celebrating an award or talking about a person – try to find their Twitter handle and use that in the message.

If you are worried about client confidentiality, ask them if it’s ok to publicise that you’re working together!

 

Don’t Go On

It can be hard keeping your thoughts to 140 characters – but the shorter your tweet the better. Not only will it be snappier but it will be retweetable. This means that people can forward the tweet onto their followers.

However, if the message is too long, they many not be able to retweet (RT)  it (depending on their Twitter client), they may have to edit it first, or the end of the tweet may drop off.

 

Structure

If you are worried about losing important information when your tweet is RT’d, make sure the less important info is at the end  – ie any comments or hashtags

ie.

New blog post > The Elements of Corporate Social Media http://bit.ly/XPITmZ Comments welcome

If someone RT’d that, the is a chance that the end of the message may “drop off” the end of the tweet. It’s important that the “comments welcome” is the bit that dissapears, and not the link.

 

What other advise would you recommend for good Twitter writing?

 

17 Mar

The Elements of Corporate Social Media

This is a work-in progress – feel free to comment below! Thanks

 

I am very interested to see the variety of different ways companies use social media.

Some use their Facebook pages to promote their Friday snacks, others use Twitter to talk up their company products and values.

Both of these uses have their place, but should form part of a wider social media personality. Think of the social media forum as a party – don’t be a wallflower whispering in the corner, but don’t be the braying loudmouth in the centre of the room lecturing anyone who will listen.

I like to think of social media covering  4 main areas – each one of them defined by the type of company:

Promotion

This is the most common reason for companies jumping onto social media – to sell their products and services to an audience – so lets get that out the way first of all.

Of course you want to sell things, you need to make money to pay the bills after all, but sitting there broadcasting about your achievements and products will be a massive turn off to your followers (remember that guy at the party banging on about his new Range Rover? Don’t be that guy).

Make use of the information or biography section of your profile. Facebook has a whole range of boxes and options for pages nowadays,  and don’t forget to add your offline contact details (telephone number!). On Twitter, make sure your profile description has a link to your website. If you haven’t visited your LinkedIn profile for a while, it might be worth a visit. They’ve introduced a host of new features, including a products page – get on there and start explaining what you do.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t tweet or post about what you do – but offering examples or showing you “at work” is often more interesting to a potential client than just, “buy this”.

Don’t assume everyone who has come across your account wants to buy your product today – Facebook isn’t the Yellow Pages. Someone hasn’t necessarily come across your page after searching for “plumbers in Tipton”. But that doesn’t mean they they might not want a plumber in the future, in Tipton.  If they like you, they’ll remember you.

The People

Which brings me to the interesting part. You. Customers demand their companies have a human face – we’ve had too many years of automated phone lines and anonymous corporations – now we want to do business with a person. Social networks give you a chance to show what you’re like. If you’re going to be heading into someone’s house to do their plumbing, they’d like to know a bit about you first.

A photograph of you and your staff is a good starting point with an introduction of who’s who. Remember how the supermarkets show you staff member of the month posters? Why not keep that in the staff room? because they recognise the value of the people.

Showing snaps of you all at work demonstrates what you do, pictures of new equipment, your office or completed jobs shows  customers what to expect, gives them an insight into your working practices and makes you seem approachable and human.

The Company Values and Personality

Social media is an outlet for revealing more about your company’s core values and beliefs. Yes, this will be revealed through the staff, but there will be some more solid “brand ideals” that you’ll want to get across.

If your company was a person, what would it be like? How would it speak? Would it crack jokes or be serious and professional? Emulate your idea about your company through the tone and subject matter you post.

A solicitors office would have a very different “personality” to a plumber, use that personality to attract and engage an audience and give them confidence in your brand.

Expertise

You know what you’re doing – you’ve been doing it long enough. Now prove it. The best way to show you’re the right company for the job, whatever job that is, is by showing you know the industry in which you operate.

Post interesting links on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with your opinions – do you agree? Disagree? Are you surprised? Shocked? By proving you’re up to speed with industry events, and have an opinion on them will demonstrate your expertise.

Be cheeky – but not too cheeky. Comment on other people’s work, media stories and viral videos doing the rounds with your insight if it fits in with your business.

 

If you can cover these four bases via your social media profiles, when relevant to your company, you’re definitely on the way!. 

06 Mar

Posterous Spaces Closing Down Email

I’ve just received this email from Posterous Spaces about the service closing down. I paste it below

Posterous Spaces

Hi Caroline,Posterous launched in 2008. Our mission was to make it easier to share photos and connect with your social networks. Since joining Twitter almost one year ago, we’ve been able to continue that journey, building features to help you discover and share what’s happening in the world – on an even larger scale.

On April 30th, we will turn off posterous.com and our mobile apps in order to focus 100% of our efforts on Twitter. This means that as of April 30, Posterous Spaces will no longer be available either to view or to edit.

Right now and over the next couple months until April 30th, you can download all of your Posterous Spaces including your photos, videos, and documents.

Here are the steps:

 

If you want to move your site to another service, WordPress and Squarespace offer importers that can move all of your content over to either service. Just remember: you need to back up your Spaces by April 30.

We’d like to thank the millions of Posterous users who have supported us on our incredible journey. We hope to provide you with as easy a transition as possible, and look forward to seeing you on Twitter. Thank you.

Sachin Agarwal, Founder and CEO

You’re receiving this email because you signed up for a posterous account.
—————————————————————————————————————-
23 Jan

Google+ – do you hangout? Would you hangout?

google_plus_logo

 

In one of my roles as a social media / content manager, I am currently looking into the world of webinars, and online group discussions – and specifically the pro’s and cons of Google+

The idea is to schedule a regular event for discussions around particular area of business.

The content/format is still under discussion, but I am more concerned right now with the broadcast method.

When Google+ launched, I was as excited as the next geek, (but then I was excited about Google Wave, nuff said).

Plenty of people seemed to be using it for one-off events, regular scheduled hangouts and general chatting.

However, I wonder if the hype had passed, or if people were put off from using it, if they were not a Google+ user.

I took to Twitter, to find out:

View the Twitter responses on Storify, here

My concern is that it is does appear to be “social media” people who are currently using it.

Is it a barrier to the less techno-lusty? (this business is not focused on social media, so will need to cross a wide interest and ability level)

 

I’d love to know your thoughts?

If you have hosted a hangout, have you found your users are happy to get onboard?

 

31 Dec

New Year Resolutions – Social Media and Blogging

I’ve decided to group this years New Year Resolutions into several categories

Social Media

Health and Well-being

Productivity

—————————————————–

I use social media a lot, but sometimes it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and become distracted with ineffective activities.

As someone who is trying to build a freelance business, I need to be more focused in my online actions.

So, this years New Years Resolutions are:

  1. Rethink my social media presence
  2. Blog more regularly
  3. Comment more
  4. business branding

Rethink My Social Media Presence

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

As a freelancer working in a range of fields, and having changed careers radically in 2009 (from radio to digital content) I think it’s important to keep track of social media presence, and if necessary, have separate accounts for separate interests. I’m aware that some people I’ve connected with have NO interest in certain areas of my life

  • This means I sometimes hold back on  posting
  • There is the potential to lose some people along the way

I have recently set up a series of accounts purely for my infographics design work

I will then occasionally retweet these to my main account as well, if of wider interest.

But do I need to go further  – should I separate personal and work accounts completely? Do I need a social media presence for other elements of my work?

The New Years Resolution

Conduct a social media audit

  • what accounts do I use
  • what do I use them for
  • what works well on the various accounts
  • do I need to stop using anything? (might be knocking on your door, Pinterest)
  • set up new accounts if necessary

Have you done anything similar? What are the pitfalls? Any advice?

Blog More Regularly

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

I’m always telling people to blog more regularly  – “you don’t need to write a full article” I say, “just pull together an idea and get it up there”.

It’s a great outlet for showcasing work, knowledge, for sharing ideas and connecting with people – and as a freelancer it’s always good to be visible.

The New Years Resolution

I’m going to take my own advice and revive this blog with more ideas and thoughts.

I’m going to do what I promised months ago, and start blogging for MyJQ – a Jewellery Quarter hyperlocal blog in Birmingham

Put more ideas on my design blog (although I’ve not been too bad at doing this recently)

 

Comment More

Even though I do get excited when someone comments on a blog post of mine, I am woefully lazy when it comes to commenting on other peoples. Maybe it’s because I do most of my article reading on my mobile, and it’s difficult to comment via mobile. Maybe I’ve been put off by the few times I HAVE commented and either being attacked, or the website has crashed and my well crafted comment has been lost in the ether.

The side effect of thinking about commenting, is that I will read the article fully, not skim it, and take in the information.

The New Years Resolution

Consider commenting on every article I read, and if I have something to contribute, do it!!!

 

Business Branding

Now I have a cbviz website, Twitter account and Facebook page – it might be a good idea to tie them all together with a logo and some business branding.

I am critically close to the end of my business card stash and have just set up a business bank account, so all in all, it’s a good time to get some new stationery printed off.

The New Years Resolution

Design a logo – apply to Twitter, Facebook, other social media accounts and website

Get business cards printed

14 Oct

Reliable Witness – Pt 1: setting up the social media accounts

Reliable Witness was a trans-media project, commissioned  by the Birmingham Book Festival, during September/October 2012.

Managed by Red Lantern’s Lauren Davies, the project saw a live performance and social media begin a story that the audience would be invited to finish, during an interactive installation.

As Social Media Manager I was responsible for running the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the project, which included:

  • the project accounts
  • the character accounts

Method

  1. Set up the accounts
  2. Set up a method for posting and responding to messages
  3. Giving the characters “character”
  4. Introducing plot points and storylines

Phase 1 – setting up the accounts

When I was brought into the project the writers were still in the early stages of developing the story – but the key characters had been defined.

  • Darren – the boyfriend
  • Amy – the girlfriend
  • Ross – Darren’s best friend
  • Clare – Amy’s friend
  • Fiona – Ross’s girlfriend
  • Nadine – Darren’s ex girlfriend
The brief was to create and run Twitter and Facebook accounts for these characters – and make them appear as real people.
I set up each character with a Gmail email address, which would later prove useful for posting messages.

Facebook

Page or Profile?

Should the characters have Facebook Pages or Profiles?

Profiles are traditionally kept for individuals, not businesses, brands or products – these are encouraged to use the page facility.

Initially I had intended for the characters to have profiles – however Facebook have certain sign-up requirements (such as the need for a mobile phone number) to prove legitimacy and reduce spam accounts.

Whilst there are websites that can generate mobile phone numbers for this purpose, I was reluctant to venture into this territory.

In addition, Facebook has also been known to shut down profiles that are considered to be acting inappropriately/outside their terms of use:

  • You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  • You will not post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.

Although highly unlikely, I was concerned that the Facebook accounts were at risk of being closed down, and so I opted for the more legitimate pages option.

Why Facebook Pages Worked

Experience has shown me that people tend to use Twitter for business/less personal interactions, whilst Facebook is for real life friends and family.

Hence, people are far less likely to befriend someone  they don’t know on Facebook, thus reducing the activity and impact of the characters.

Introducing the characters as pages was essentially admitting that they were not real, but users are more likely to follow pages than connect as friends, with someone or something they don’t know.

Setting Up the Pages

Information – Setting each character up with a page meant I had to decide how to classify them.

I decided not to choose “fictional character” (so as not to make it blatantly obvious that these were made-up) but instead use  the range of professional occupations allowed within pages – ie business person, teacher, doctor etc.

In retrospect I realize some of these were a little far-fetched but within the limits of the Pages set up there were little alternatives. 

I knew the rough ages of some of the characters, and invented the rest based on friendships etc, and set each character up with a birthday (which continued onto Google when I set them up with Gmail accounts  – to be explained in a future post)

Photographs – Some of the characters had already been cast for the live performance/installation, so we asked them to provide us with a natural head shot and any other shots they wanted. I used these to create a profile picture for the character and add some photographs.

I also scanned and used some of my own holiday snaps (landscapes only) to create some back story for the characters.

  • ie. The actress playing Amy sent me a picture of her in a hotel room, and another of her ice skating. I combined these pictures with some shots of Reykjavik from one of my own holidays.
  • I also used personal photographs of Paris on Nadine’s account – the character has been living in France for several years.

Supplemental Characters

In addition to setting up accounts for Darren, Amy, Ross, Clare, Nadine and Fiona – I also wanted to create a series of supporting characters to generate conversation and tease out story points via Facebook.

I decided to create several characters who were friends of both Darren and Amy, others who were friends with Darren and Nadine (a previous relationship), a few friends of Nadine’s, plus Darren’s mum (pic right) and sister.

There was also the character of Big Frank. who videoed the live-performance aspect of the project and ill-advisedly posted it online, thus provoking reaction from the main characters.

These characters were given simple profiles, and were not active in any other discussions other than those related to the plot.

Twitter

Whilst the technicalities of Facebook made it harder for the characters appear real,  the same issues did not apply to Twitter.

Each character was given their own Twitter account, using their unique email address. Profile pictures were matched to the images used on Facebook, and descriptions hinted at their occupation, interests and location.

In order to explain the fact all the main characters joined Twitter at the same time – and to I generated some early conversations between them, which alluded to Darren encouraging them all to join when he did.

Nadine, not part of that circle of friends, joined Twitter some weeks later and was less active on the network.

30 May

Got an online community? Here’s how to work with Facebook and Twitter

Are you in the lucky position of having a very active online community on your own website? A busy comments section, or a chatty forum?

Bravo – in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter fever, it’s often hard to get a dedicated community involved in a discussion on your own site. It’s a powerful thing: the discussion is likely to be focussed and relevant to your user and all the discussions go on under YOUR brand’s name. The user knows where they are, who you are and what you stand for. There are also obvious benefits to your on-site advertising revenue as well!

However, a forum on a specialist website, or post comments, can easily become a walled garden. Your community is active, but may not be growing. Despite the increase in sharing tools (eg ShareThis) members rarely flag up their activity off-site so potential new users may not even know you exist.

If you want to maintain the rich discussion on your site, whilst also promoting it to the outside world, you could try setting up accounts with the big boys – Facebook and Twitter.

Graphic showing comment symbols(Note: several of these ideas may not be relevant if your forum runs on a membership-only basis, or deals with particularly sensitive or private issues.  In these cases I would suggest setting up a friendly, simple introductory page explaining who you are, the purpose of the site and the forum and why members get involved and linking to this as opposed to particular discussions). 

 

 

Keep Branding Consistent

Marketing 101 this, I know, but you’ll be amazed how many companies do not have consistent branding across all of their accounts. Use your regular logo/images and use descriptions (or edited version) from your website so people know the site is genuine. If you are not already on these networks, chances are someone else has set up an unofficial page  – make sure your new account stands out as the official one. (If someone has set up a fan or unofficial site – make contact with them, they may be happy to promote your arrival!)

Be Open

Don’t be tempted to match a members-only environment on your site with one on Facebook or Twitter. You are not trying to replicate your on-site community – this is a tool for promoting the discussion and you want it to be as visible and discoverable as possible. 

Don’t Cross-Post Everything

Graphic showing comment and Facebook symbolsThe benefit of the larger social networks is that they’re SO easy to access via phones, tablets and of course, computers. If you replicate all the discussions on Facebook, you are giving your customers an excuse NOT to visit your site.  

Keep your unique selling point – the fact that all the conversation happens on YOUR site. By selecting occasional content to flag up on FB or Twitter, you are saying “here’s what you’re missing, get involved”.

Be smart with your messages

Don’t just cross post the title. Instead, draw new audiences in to your community with phrases like “Great discussion going on about England’s chances LINK” or “Dave reckons England are doomed – what do you think? LINK“. 

Deep link

Make sure the link in your social media message links directly to the content – none of this “front page, find it yourself” nonsense. The user won’t do this: they’ll get fed up and probably won’t return or click on one of your links again. 

NOTE: If your site runs on a members only basis, deep linking will not be relevant here as the user will immediately be faced with a login screen. Send them to a friendly introductory page instead, or use the link to promote your community on a general level, instead of a specific discussion. 

Short link

Use a tool like Bitly. Not only does this help with analytics (Bitly can tell you the number of clicks the link has received) it also makes the messages look tidier and easier to retweet/forward. 

Monitor

(this goes for all social media usage)

Make sure you have at least one eye on comments and postings referring to your brand. Use a desktop tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and have searches running for the various iterations of your name including abbreviations and nicknames. This means you can respond to any feedback swiftly (and in private if necessary)

Point Back

If someone asks a question that is answered in a forum post, send them the link to a relevant discussion (or introductory page if members-only) and encourage them to get involved. If it is not already covered on your site, either create some content or start the discussion yourself, and point them to that. 

Hashtag

Graphic showing hashtag and comment symbolsYes, on Twitter hashtags are sometimes overused (or used inappropriately), but they can be useful for engaging with a whole new audience.

Keep an eye on trending hashtags and, avoiding spamming, get involved in the debate. Similarly, keep an eye on relevant events or discussions happening and make sure you your brand is in the mix.  if there is a genuine link i.e. “Great to see #internships in the headlines: one of our hot topics this week LINK” or “We’ve been having this very debate recently LINK #internships”

Engage with Other Accounts

There are likely to be a host of organisations similar to your own, or working in the same field, already on these social networks. Find them and connect with them. Chances are they’ll help promote your work by retweets your messages or mentioning you in Facebook posts. All this helps drive users to your site. Also don’t forget to return the favour – start talking about what they are doing too – share and share alike!

 

Twitter and Facebook are still great ways to promote your brand – due to the sheer numbers of users and the diversity of interests. Handled well, you could generate a lot of interest for your on-site discussions.

 

15 May

SEO Copywriter – a move to the dark side?

Witch Burning

Image courtesy of Mullica

In the next few days I have an interview for an SEO Copywriter position – which has prompted a very unexpected reaction from my friends and colleagues.

My background: broadcast journalism – 10 years of writing news scripts and documentaries. More recently I have “gone digital”, completed an MA in Online Journalism and worked with clients on social media strategy, content and data visualizations. 

It is not a huge leap for me to consider roles which require some technical understanding of the internet, search and content.

So, WHY has there been such a dismissive reaction to this particular role?

Three letters – SEO.

The ones who know what SEO stands for (Search Engine Optimization, for those who do not) are what I call the “good” people of the internet. They are journalists and hyper-local bloggers, trainers working with not-for-profit organizations and university lecturers.

They do worthwhile work. They are good people.

To them, anyone who actively goes after search engine ranking via SEO is, as one put it, “creating all that crap online”.

You Give SEO a Bad Name

Yes, there are some very unscrupulous activities online – web marketing is a big business and naturally companies will be tempted to take the fast-easy route. Various black-hat techniques, link baiting, hidden text, cloaking an, of course, spamming, are a blight.

However, as Google improves its crawling techniques, and its spiders evolve more “human” sentiment, so the cracks will show in traditional “black hat” techniques. It was interesting to see that content was a particular focus of Google’s latest update (nicknamed Panda) and sites that were using article spinning, anchor text and paid links saw their rankings hit.

Google process of judging a website’s content as a reader would, has the potential to drive content quality UP, instead of down.

It’s just a shame that this does not necessarily mean the end of link-farms and poorly-written, keyword stuffed articles. Google is not the only search engine, and some companies get enough business from the less-fickle Yahoo and MSN to not worry about quality content.

The Prisoner

Reader or Crawler?

I find the worst web content has been written for a crawler – to generate a high page ranking.

However, with the increase in popularity of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and bookmarking tools (e.g. Delicious, Instapaper) the reader now plays a much more active role in the process.

They are now much more than just a number, boosting impression rates. They now have the potential to share, recommend, link to and blog about content they like, whether that is to their friends, or to a niche, specialist circle.

An interesting piece of copy with the relevant material highlighted, tagged and organized will keep the crawlers, and your readers, happy.

 

See also: Buying Social Media Followers > quality V quantity

30 Apr

Should you buy social media followers?

Can you buy friendship?

It’s an interesting question and one even more relevant today as friendships now exist online as well as in the real world

I recently got into a (mini)debate about this subject over on LinkedIn, where a fellow user posted an article, offering a service of buying Twitter followers.

(See discussion on LinkedIn comments  – note: exists within a group – membership required)

To summarise  – the poster was offering to get followers for your brand / product via click-sites like TwiendsYou Like HitsAdd Me Fast. These are a simple, fast way of getting a lot of followers.

However, I wonder – what is the VALUE of those followers?

You may find a small handful who are interested in what you have to offer but the vast majority won’t be. You are doing the equivalent of the junk-mailout, hoping enough will stick to make it worth your while.

With a mailout, you are hoping the recipient doesn’t throw your letter in the bin and acts upon it.

With a mass-follower approach, you are hoping they follow you back, and act.

But act on what?

Are they going to follow you back – because you followed them? Some may. Others will look at your tweets at ask “what’s in this for me?”. If your Twitter stream is full of sales messages, or even worse, nothing at all, it is unlikely that they will let you into their circle. (and even if they do follow you back – an unfollow is likely if you bombard them with sales pitches)

Are they going to buy your product after a simple Twitter follow? Are they going to be so impressed that you’re found them, that they’ll immediately switch to your brand?

You are not generating any form of loyalty by engaging in mass following.

Social Media is “social”

get twitter folowers

My advice to any client is to treat social media in the same way you treat making friends/contacts. You do not walk into a dinner party, hand out a load of flyers with your phone number, and walk out again. In reality you have conversations, engage and entertain.

With social media you need to literally “make friends” with your followers. You need to nurture those friendships, avoid upsetting them and keep the conversation going.

Ironically, one of the Twitter follower websites mentioned by our friend in the original article, seems to actively promote this “quality over quantity” approach. (See infographic left – click for original)

There is some excellent advice here – which all point to the social element of social media

It’s a shame that clients are falling for this “mass clicking” approach, when – in the long run – it won’t benefit them at all.

 

16 Feb

#BINSgate > a few thoughts

An interesting spat broke on Twitter this morning.

At the centre of it all, wannabe Birmingham mayor (yes, Birmingham is in the process of deciding if it wants an elected mayor not not)  Gisela Stuart (@giselastuart) took an open pot shot at the local website, Birmingham: It’s Not Shit

Note: in the spirit of transparency and all-that, I must now insert some form of disclaimer here that I know the chap behind BINS – @bounder, and my better half  (@probablydrunk) often pens articles for the site. However, I have been aware of the site for years, often interviewing Bounds as a response to the yearly poundings of Birmingham in various travel guides.  

Get a Grip

I’m not even a Brummie (I am originally from Wolverhampton) but even I feel incredibly proud of this city. Yes, it has it’s issues (which urban area doesn’t?), and the city is constantly on the back foot defending itself from it’s industrial, grubby past but anyone who’s stepped foot in the city (especially after a long absence) is genuinely surprised at it’s transformation. Which Brummie hasn’t puffed their chest a little when someone from “out of town” nods their head approvingly at the Bullring or Brindley Place?

What makes us different from the host of other rejuvenated cities such as Newcastle, Manchester and Belfast, is that we don’t shout Birmingham’s name from the rooftops. Instead we take the knocks on the chin and wait patiently until someone notices our new hairdo.

For years Birmingham, and in fact most of the West Midlands, has been seen as the dirty, noisy, arguing folk living next door to the glamorous south. It’s something people in this city have grown to accept with a huge dose of grace and humour.

Close it Down??

Which brings me to Birmingham: It’s Not Shit – and Stuart’s call to for it to be closed down.

For starters, it is a website run by a fiercely proud Brummie who uses a tongue-in-cheek style to draw attention to the good things happening in this city. Accusing @bounder (and his writers) of a lack of pride is an enormous insult to the people actually doing something to change perception, both inside and outside of the city.

Secondly, she called for the site to be “closed down” (then “renamed” in a later tweet), revealing a lack of understanding. I can’t work out if she’s misread the title, didn’t visit the site before commenting, or simply has no sense of humour – either way, it was pretty badly handled.

ADD: Gisela Stuart has now apologized to BINS (“Apologies to @BirminghamiNS and thanks all for putting me right!”) and the matter is now put to bed.

01 Feb

How journalists can follow the story/find contacts online

(a few notes/ideas of using online resources for journalism from a recent 30 minute workshop with 2nd year Online Journalism students) – this is by no means definitive, so feel free to add any suggestions, comments below
There are so many ways a journalist can follow the story, search for contacts or get leads online – but starting off is the hardest part.
In this blog post I’l be running through a few very easy steps to jumping in – often using tools you may already be aware of.

SOCIAL NETWORKS

eg Twitter, Facebook (less mainstream ones mentioned in Other Tools below)
YOUR PROFILE
I would suggest having a professional account, especially if you already have an account and use it for day to day chatting to friends, posting pictures of nights out etc.
If you need convincing – perhaps these reasons will help:
Reason 1 – potential to upset bosses
Countless examples of people being fired for criticizing their bosses, talking about getting another job. being unprofessional, being offensive etc. drunk pictures, sweary tweets. keep them separate.
This doesn’t mean you cant be human on your professional tweet, just not an animal.
Reason 2 – your company could claim ownership of your followers
Recently a man was sued for his followers, He was using his own account to promote the companys work – when he left, they wanted him to leave his Twitter account, and his followers, behind.
Reason 3 – Content may not be suitable for your personal account
Friends don’t necessarily want to see your work
some may not like the work you are doing … may not be suitable
Imagine youre doing research on neo-fascists – and you decide to follow a few groups for research – do you want your friends seeing that?
Now, whether that is true or not – it shows that if you are searching for something a little unsavoury, illegal etc or dealing with people, it is best to have a separate account.

 

Name: If you already have an account using your full name, consider changing it to a nickname, and using your full name on your professional account – remember, a potential employer/contact will probably do a search for you – which account do you want them to find?
Also, avoid a username that alludes to your current situation – eg Davethestudent, or JohnBCU – in 2/3 years you won’t be a student any more. Also avoid employer names for the same reason.
picture – I would choose something clear and recognizable – it’s amazing how many people at events will come over because they’ve seen you on Twitter.
So now you have your account set up, the question is …
WHO TO FOLLOW
Who’s on there
celebrities
councils
MPs
sports
experts
other journalists
General advice
you’ll end up following lots of people
don’t be afraid to stop following people if your interest changes
e.g. you’re working on an education story – so you’ll follow lots of teachers  – for example. once the story is over, you don’t need to keep getting their updates
use lists  – group the types of people you are interested in so you can see them all together
Finding that first person
  • name search people/organizations/publications you know
  • check articles on the subject  – is the writer online?
  • check organizations websites – a lot now promote their social network accounts
  • Google search subject area + social network name …
Next step
Youve now found someone to follow …
  • check their profile – they may have other accounts, organizations mentioned
  • who are they following? (very useful) who follows them? (not as useful)
  • Lists – the lists they follow and the lists they are a member of – find similar people
  • look through some of their tweets – who are they talking to / replying to?
WHAT FOLLOW
Hashtags (Twitter)
As well as following people, you can follow events (whether temporary or ongoing) with hashtags. These are words, preceeded by a #, which users use to show the subject of their tweet.
With certain services you can search and follow hashtags .. which can be set up for TV shows (eg #xfactor, or for individual conferences, events.
Lists (Facebook, twitter)
If you find a list of interesting people, you can follow the whole list, instead of the individual people. Again, certain readers let you do this.
Groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, google groups)
Join groups, follow conversations, get involved …
HOW TO MANAGE
Ideally this shouldn’t be something you are sitting down to do once a day, but you are notified about updates as-and-when, to suit you
Various ways to interact with Social networks
  • official website – Facebook.com, twitter.com
  • phone app – eg Boxcar for Iphone (covers Facebook, Twitter, email etc) – most smartphones have built in notifications for Facebook/Twitter or apps you can add
  • computer desktop application – eg Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Destroytwitter
  • via SMS
  • via email notifications
DestroyTwitter2 – http://bit.ly/ykTwOX
_________________

RSS FEEDS

a way to keep an eye on websites without having to keep checking them
Sign up to a Google Reader account
Ways to Subscribe
  • search for subject area/names via SUBSCRIBE button
  • manually add URL via the Subscribe button
  • click on an orange RSS button on a website
  • click on RSS button on URL bar in browser (most show if there is an RSS feed available now)
How to Read those feeds
Google Reader, but many other RSS readers sync with your Google Reader account
  • Google Reader website
  • desktop reader – eg Feedemon, RSS Bandit
  • phone app – eg Feedler, Feedly, Flipboard
  • online readers – (list from Geek Adda http://bit.ly/w6Amie)
____________________

They Work for you

 Allows you to keyword search MP’s speeches in Parliament
——————————-

GOOGLE ALERTS

A way of keeping an eye on whats happening
_______________________

OTHER TOOLS

LinkedIn Specifically
How Journalists Can Use LinkedIn http://tnw.co/ypyo3e
Useful to have professionally
good for job hunting
find company contacts – and approach
Follow companies
Browse company stats
Also
Youtube, Flickr, Soundcloud (music site) – a lot of content – a source for contacts
Quora –  a questions and answers website – very professional. not as busy as it was but still useful
Meetups.com – people organising meetups – useful for finding sources, interviewees, interest/action groups
Podcasts – Itunes … search for subject areas – a lot of interesting content
23 Nov

Myspace OFF Google search? UPDATED

I do a LOT of music searching online – I write band biogs, Facebook events and Tweets … I need a great one stop shop for band info (line-up, tour dates, pictures) – and, despite the fact it’s the biggest social network on the web, Facebook is NOT it. It still needs to serious work to bring quick-to-find information together in one go.

Myspace may have had it’s problems (it’s pretty much killed itself as a social network by allowing people to personalise their sites to the extent that they became unreadable and not coming down hard enough on spam in those early days) but it’s still the single best resource for bands. Facebook just doesn’t do it yet, and even bands own websites are either over-stylised, and hence are a navigation nightmare, or are out of date.

Myspace offers all the information in one place. Plus, it’s also normally the 1st or 2nd search when you Google a band.

Well, it was…

Today I’ve noticed a MAJOR shift in the placing of Myspace in the Google search – it doesn’t exist.

I know there’s a LOT of anger about this from bands who use Myspace as their sole online presence – and it’s not going to do Myspace any good at all surely?

Can anyone cast any light on this?

_____________________________________

There is some speculation that this is down to the deal between Facebook and Myspace. Facebook famously does NOT share it’s information with Google, is the search engine now being pedantic and saying, no Facebook online? Right, no Myspace either …

—————————–

Out of interest, I’ve just received this circular message from Myspace:

Monday 22 November, 2010
From: Myspace UK
Subject: The wait is over…

The new Myspace is here

Since you’ve been so loyal to us, we wanted you to be one of the first to see the newly, redesigned Myspace.

Updated and new features include:

(list embedded and wouldn’t copy on iPhone) will update later …

See what’s new

We’ll be rolling out more changes over the next few months, so stay tuned for more updates.

Your fans at Myspace UK

16 Oct

Adventures in … Social Media Desktop Clients

Image representing HootSuite as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

As part of my job I manage several social media accounts. This includes Twitter and Facebook (profiles, fan pages, and groups).

From a perfect social media desktop client I need to:

  • monitor all of these accounts simultaneously
  • receive notifications when someone comments or messages – with the option to pick and choose which notifications I receive, and how
  • be able to schedule tweets and status updates
  • I must be able to pick the image that goes with the update, if I include a link

I know Facebook tagging from a 3rd party app is pie in the sky right now but if Social Media Santa is listening, then come on – it would be good.

This is in no way an exhaustive list a- and I would love to hear your suggestions for what I should try next …

I have, until now, been using HOOTSUITE. It does all of the above, (apart from Facebook tagging). It’s an unbelievably powerful site – you can monitor a bunch of accounts (including Facebook) , you can schedule tweets, easily pick the image to go with a Facebook post – it’s wonderful. However, recently Hootsuite has been failing to send a lot of messages. There has been come discussion of this on the Hootsuite forum but as yet, no solutions. So the hunt starts for a replacement for Hootsuite.

Image representing TweetDeck as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

TWEETDECK

I have been using Tweetdeck for my personal Twitter accounts (x2) for a while now. The pro’s are that it is very easy to use, it’s slick and smooth and syncs with your iPhone. It also never fails, unlike Hootsuite, to pick user names when you start typing them in (Hootsuite is a little hit and miss).

However, it only supports ONE Facebook account, which is fine for just me, but not so helpful for multiple account management.

DESTROYTWITTER

Here logic goes out of the window. After all my bitching and moaning about the perfect uber-social media manager, one that can handle multiple accounts, I have actually fallen head over heels in lov with DestroyTwitter. It’s totally inappropriate for corporate use (one Twitter account only and no Facebook) but it’s so handsome and slick and gorgeous that I’ve actually switched from Tweetdeck, now using it as my main personal Twitter account. The workaround for my second, less busy account, is to set up a name search – so if I am messaged, I will see the update in that column. DestroyTwitter has destroyed Tweetdeck for me, and I thought that was perfect.

So after my brief flirtation, and switching to DestroyTwitter, the search continues for the perfect corporate Social Media management tool …

SEESMIC 2

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Image via CrunchBase

The first thing that strikes you about Seesmic 2 is that it looks beautiful. It’s kinda interesting (with spinning menus) and generally is a pleasure to use. Unfortunately it falls down on 2 major points for me:

  • you can’t schedule tweets
  • you can’t control which notifications you receive – the only options are “on or off” and “sound or no sound”. I really don’t need a notification when my All stream gets updated – I really don’t. However, but turning it off you are then potentially missing @ mentions and DM’s.

Sorry Seesmic, you just don’t cut it. With those 2 issues, it’s not even worth pursuing.

SENDIBLE

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Image via CrunchBase

Now we move into more corporate realms. I am currently testing out the FREE level of account  where I can have up to 4 channels. As I monitor 2 different companies accounts, I have decided to split them using Tweetdeck for one, and Sendible for the other (if Sendible comes good and saves my mind I may consider paying for a larger account and switching them all to it).

I could fully understand why the Twitter devotees would hate Sendible. It’s a corporate, marketing, scheduling machine – it’s all about the message and NOT about the conversation. Whilst you do have the option to read the feed of your Twitter account, it’s not the first thing you come across.

However, it does put all replies and messages into ONE in box so you don’t have to flit around the various accounts to find out what people are saying which is wonderful (See note below) – unfortunately there is no way of knowing, if you are off doing something else, that anyone has messaged as there is no option for a desktop or audio notification. Frustratingly there is an RSS option, but this does not cover the INBOX, only the messages you send out. Work on this, and Sendible may be perfect.

NOTE: The inbox feature is flawed. Messages I was sent last night are in the inbox, but ones that have come in the past 30 minutes are not. I’ve even tried a good ole F5 kick up the butt, but nothing. Sendible – you were looking so good – but you have failed.

So, what do I try next?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

07 Aug

Facebook: groups V fan pages

I am currently working with several companies to develop their online marketing via Twitter, Facebook etc.

A new client currently has a profile, which they actively use, and a Group. However, I wonder if this is the most effective way of marketing their company, besides which, having 2 searchable profiles (group and page) is confusing to the searching user and hard work to maintain.

I am proposing they focus instead on a Fan page.  However, with more than 2500 members of the group, moving away from it is a big decision. Or is it?

I have started investigating the pro’s and con’s of a Page, against a Group, and I am still convinced that, for a business with ongoing activity, a Page is the better option.

  • A Page is Open: once a person “likes” the page, updates will then appear in their News Stream. The only way for Group members to find out what you are doing is for you to invite them to an event or message them. Many people are now event and message weary on Facebook.
  • Cross Promotion: a persons activities within  a Group are not posted onto their wall – so other people are not exposed to the group or it’s activities. A fan page, however, is open and Likes, Comments etc, appear on that persons wall. This leads to free promotion to their friends.
  • Easier to join – like buttons on sites etc automatically add people
  • Clear message – Groups can turn into a free for-all with random people posting random things on the wall. The Group messages are then lost in a sea of irrelevant chat. A Fan page allows the reader to pick JUST the page owner, or page owner and others. The message is more focussed.
  • Remote posting/monitoring – You cannot post to a group remotely (from a 3rd party programme like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, only a Page) For round the clock management and monitoring, a Fan Page is easier to monitor, along with Twitter and other accounts, from one location.
  • Analytics: Fan Pages come with detailed analytics of members, interactions, quality of posts etc so you can monitor how your page is doing. Groups do not have this luxury.

How to make the jump:

  1. First thing is to HIDE the profile – we still need it as a base for the new fan page – but we don’t want more people to join it.
  2. Launch a fan page, Anyone now searching for the product will find the Fan Page NOT the profile – this is what we want.
  3. Promote the fan page on the Group and  the profile page encouraging people to LIKE
  4. Place a button on every page of the website/other social networks, which people can simply click to “like”
  5. Phase out activity on the group but continue to advertise the Fan page
  6. Close the group.

It may seem like a risky move but the effort currently going into promoting through the group, which people are not reading, interacting with or mentioning on their own site, seems wasteful.

27 Jun

6 tips for good blogging (and social networking)

Recently I began writing a blog and looking after the social interaction for a music venue.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way (NOTE: this is a work in progress and will be updated – feel free to comment with any suggestions below):

* Polls work. People love them. Asking people for their opinion on something gets them excited.

Image representing PollDaddy as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

A recent poll asking simply “Which band are you most looking forward to seeing” not only attracted a lot of visits, but also a lot of click-throughs to the ticket selling page. (I’d put links for all the shows below the link to the poll).

* Talk / reply / comment – responding to people’s comments is a sure fire way to drum up interest in what you are doing. Even a simple acknowledgement of their response it better than nothing

* Horses for Courses: Different bands draw traffic from different social networks. All blog links are placed on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace (which never delivers). The header is also fed onto the venues ticketing website.

Facebook and Twitter do pull in readers, but it entirely depends on the band. Almost 100% of the traffic to a Carl Barat story came from Twitter, whereas the bands Exit Calm and Band of Horses pulled in traffic from Facebook. Older bands seem to generate the majority of traffic from the ticketing website onto the blog, not vice versa.

I always tag the bands in the post  – LIKE them on facebook, befriend them on Twitter – then use an @ to link to their page.

* Buzzwords are great – think, what will people be searching for on a particular day? Events that are going on, celebrities? Without unnecessary shoehorning, a post about the World Cup  or Glastonbury festival can be very effective.

* Double tag: working for a venue, it is quite easy to “double tag” a post – i.e. talk about 2 different bands in one post. A review of last nights show, doubled with a review of this evenings works well.

* Multiple tag: a new format of post I am experimenting with is the “news roundup”. By following all the bands due to play the venue over the next few months, I put together a “Road to Wolves” post with smal tidbits, links etc about those bands. One post in, and it has proved popular.

WHAT NOT TO DO

* false promises: it seem to be clever to write the headline “Meet s0-and-so’s support band” – for an introductory piece about the smaller bands on the bill. With a lot of visits I pressumed people were generally interested in finding out more about the support band. Unfortunately a high bounce rate and a glance at the search words (Meet so-and so”) proved that people wanted to know how to meet the headliners. The post was offering something it could not deliver.

26 Apr

Do they want you, or your contacts? (updated)

We’ve all heard the phrase – it’s not what you know, but who you know.

But: if your job involves promotion/marketing – where do you draw the line between your friends, and your contacts?

In this social-networking world we find we have more contacts than ever before. Many are perhaps real-life friends from school or university, but others may be people you met briefly at a party back in 2007 or, perhaps, you’ve never met them.

For PR professionals, a wide circle of influence is vital: being able to pull celebrities to an event, get column-inches in the right magazines and make sure the song is played on every radio station. Social networks  increase that circle even further, but unless you run a strict friends/work division online, your friends soon become your professional audience.

I am seeing more and more examples of people being expected to use using their personal social network accounts to promote the product. Are companies employing people because of the size of their friends list? And more’s the point – SHOULD we be expected to use our friends, for our employer?

I admit I am guilty of using my personal social networks to promote my DJing work, but I feel this is acceptable to a point as it is “ME” doing it .. but recently I was asked to promote an 3rd party event through my own accounts. I balked slightly, reluctant to thrust this event onto my friends, relatives and acquaintances.

By the very nature that some people will use their friends as social (and business) currency, does it prove the point that contacts ain’t what they used to be?

02 Apr

iPhone Apps: search

After jumping into the iPhone apps world with both feet, I thought I’d run through my favourites. Watch our for more posts in this series.

SEARCH/RESEARCH

Google (free) (Itunes link)

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I am a big fan of the Google app. Not only can you search by typing, but there is an incredibly clever and effective Voice Search tool, which has never let me down. Tell it what you want to find, and it will do it (useful if you are browsing on the move and can’t quite get those words typed in as you walk).

There is also an APPS button, giving you weblinks to all the useful Google gizmos and gadgets, Mail, Calendar, Docs, Talk, Tasks, Reader, News, Notebook, Photos, Translate, Maps, YouTube and Earth.

It would be helpful if there were also links to the iPhone apps, but you can’t have everything!

9/10

Google Earth (free) (Itunes link)

Anyone who has used Google Earth on their PC or Mac will know that it is a very intuitive and useful tool. By using your location, it can pretty much find any business you want and display the results on a map. Perfect for those last minute errands! From this you can access the website, call them or head straight there.

However, the one down side is that Google Earth does not double as a SatNav. I’ve found my business, now I need to go there – I have to type the address into my SatNav (either on my phone or my old school NavMan). If Google Earth could team up with a SatNav company, then it would be full marks from me.

7/10

Wikipedia (free) (Itunes link)

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

The Wikipedia App is actually a much better interface than the Wikipedia website. The search is faster, and the pages open already minimized into section headers so you don’t have to endless scroll down through information you don’t need.

There is also the option to view the page on the full Wikipedia site, although I am not sure why you would want to!

10/10

IMDB (free) (Itunes link)

Ok, so this is a specific search tool for MOVIES, but how many times have you been out and about and needed to settle an argument about who starred in which film with so-and-so and Kevin Bacon?

Like Wikipedia, this app is so much better than the full webpage. It opens on a screen showing a search bar and several options

  • MOVIES
  • TV
  • PEOPLE

And shortcuts to

  • MOVIEmeter
  • STARmeter
  • New on DVD and BluRay
  • History

Plus ABOUT and SETTINGS

The search bar is obviously incredibly useful, and I don’t find the MOVIES, PEOPLE or TV buttons useful as they link to US listings and celebrity trivia.

The search, however, is fast, easy to navigate and an actor quickly brings up a list of his best known movies, mini biog and a link to his full filmography, whilst “movies” pages show star rating, a few photos, release date, genre, plot summary and top billed cast and crew as well as trivia and links to explore more.

Great for settling those annoying arguments with your friends!

7/10

22 Mar

Ian Huntley coverage (news and Twitter)

Following the news that Soham killer Ian Huntley was attacked in prison over the weekend, I decided to have a look at the reaction this story was getting online.

First, a quick look at how the story was handled in 2 very different newspapers.

Using the ManyEyes Word Tree visualization, I copied articles from The Guardian and The Daily Mail to see how the name Huntley was handled, and which words followed it in the articles.

Can YOU guess which visualization belongs to which newspaper?

Report 1 was The Daily Mail, report 2, The Guardian. The Soham Murders were a very “Daily Mail” story,  and highly emotive and accusatory language was used. The Guardian’s report was more factual.

I was also interested to assess the reaction to the story on the social networking site Twitter.

For sake of experiment, I created a spreadsheet of all the tweets mentioning “Huntley”. (I chose Huntley over “Ian Huntley” so the search would not be limited to the more formal tweets from news outlets etc. I hoped “Huntley” would give a more casual, public point of view.

  • I opened a new Google Spreadsheet
  • I inserted the following code in A1 – =importfeed(“http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=huntley”, “”, “”, 20)

This created a spreadsheet of the last 15 tweets containing the word Huntley.

I now have the option to use this spreadsheet in a variety of ways:

  • cut and paste the tweet contents into a web application
  • export the document as an Excel file
  • publish the spreadsheet
  • create an RSS feed from the spreadsheet

Now to visualise the text.

First, I decide to use Wordle – a site that created word clouds from inserted text, or an RSS feed.

I initially used the RSS feed from my published Google spreadsheet  – which created the following word cloud.

Unfortunately, this cloud was tainted with user names, and the subject of the true gist of the tweets were lost

(MTF)

  • Still trying to nail LIVE data ..
  • a quick news report (recorded and edited on Iphone)- probably from The Computers show on Wednesday night
  • a podcast
26 Feb

Birmingham Social Media Cafe #bsmc 26th Feb

I’ve missed the last few Birmingham Social Media Cafes. This has been a mix of oversleeping (once) and being slightly put off by being cornered by estate agents wanting advice on using Twitter at past meetups.

This week, however, I decided to go along, get stuck in and learn the art of polite mingling!

It was a very different social media cafe, and a great one too! Paul Bradshaw (@paulbradshaw) brought along a load of his BA Online Journalism students who didn’t take long to get stuck into things. Bear with guys, it gets easier, trust me!

It was hosted by @dandavies, representing the Meshed Media, and kindly supplying the coffee!!

Also there, 2 women from West Midlands Police marketing department, keen to find out more about social media and how it can help them connect with the public.(I tapped them up for potential live blogging and events coverage, fingers crossed something comes of it!)

I also had a great Apple-themed chat with @jigar_patel  – now I started it by gushing about my new Iphone, but he’s inspired me to purchase some kind of MacIbookpro type thing … maybe in the summer!

Also had a good old chat with Jennifer from the Social Media MA!

Great – for me, BSMC has got it’s mojo back!

18 Feb

Breaking Waves A Google Waves Experiment

Link to Breaking Waves: Birmingham Snow Wave

Breaking Waves A Google Waves Experiment

BACKGROUND OF GOOGLE WAVE

Google Wave was previewed to Google employees on May 27th 2009. Described as a “personal communication and collaboration tool” it was gradually rolled out from September 2009 via invitation. A combination of instant messenger and email, users could send messages to their contacts in a chain (similar to Google Mail) but then move back UP the chain, and insert text, images, video etc to add to the conversation.

The hype surrounding Google Wave had been immense, yet my initial experiences of it were less than favourable. I found the site restrictive, hard to navigate and slow. However, I was also clear to me that a tool that allows multiple people to edit one document and add content had some potential.

It had been widely tipped as a useful tool for businesses, and even education, when the process of the presentation or the lesson is the focus, but would it work for journalism, where traditionally the process is building up to a finished product ‐be that a bulletin, article or a report?

MY IDEA

In Gatewatching (2009) Axel Bruns described a new sphere of news that was the “publicizing <…> of whatever relevant content is available anywhere on the Web (and beyond)” (Alex Bruns “Gatewatching” 2009 p 2)

Today’s journalism is a conversation, not a lecture. I wanted to launch a crowdsourced wave, where people could publish information about a particular story, whether that was images, video, copy, quotes or maps. Most importantly, I wanted to encourage NON‐journalists to participate as well.

The number of content sites encouraging the public to get involved in the news process is increasing (e.g. Wikipedia) but I believed my Breaking Waves project was an unusual enough idea to gain some interest.Google Wave can be used as a live chat room, as a live‐blogging tool and as a content editor, and it was THIS final tool that I wanted to investigate further.

The focus was very much on news gathering, or rather, content gathering. I was hoping the experiment would take shape as people contributed and that a solution to how this content could be distribution (if at all) would present itself.

MY METHOD

I started by simply playing with Google Wave, getting used to the systems and experimenting with a few of the installed gadgets (maps and polls as well as the editing system).

This was, as I had hoped, going to be more than just a wiki. The fact that collaboration could take place in real time could, potentially, start debate on the site, and content could spring from that. This was not about many people editing one persons article, but users adding content to, essentially, a blank page. The possibilities were endless.

I launched the wave with a subject that I hoped would spark some interest and generate plenty of content. At the time Britain was suffering some of the worst snow storms in years, and what better a subject to get the Brits talking, than the weather.

The online community were already heavily involved in crowd sourcing postcode based snow updates via Twitter (eg. B18 3/10 light snow), which were being fed into a map. I was confident that interest in participation would extend to my site, with non‐journalists posting human interest content, and the journalists who were involved bringing a more  formal, news edge to it with news reports, comments etc.

The wave was launched in the Google Wave interface, but I soon embedded it into the Birmingham experimental news page Hashbrum and made it public. Once that link was “tweeted out”, people began to participate, adding pictures and video.

I decided early on that there needed to be some structure to the Wave, or it could, as I had seen with simple conversations, become quite chaotic. Below the title I loaded several pre‐defined wavelets entitled LINKS, MAPS, PICTURES, VIDEOS and MISC, I hoped this would sort out the data, and keep the wave organised.

The question remained, what to do with the content?

I set aside another wavelet, at the top of the wave, simply called COPY. My plan was for this to house the final document, a long form report bringing together all of the content posted by others. However, I soon realised that this was not the point of the project. Users were participating for the sake of participating, the focus was not a final article.

Browsing the many public waves on Google Wave, is it interesting to how it is being used.

The Chicago Red Eye blog holds daily Waves where readers can discuss the top story of the day with the editor. It is not dissimilar to a comments page, but is truly live, and takes place at the same time every day so people make an effort to join in.

Another interesting use of Google Wave is one pooling together information following the recent earthquake in Haiti. It contains a series of networked waves, covering topics such as food and water, nursing, evacuation and emergency care. Experts are sharing information, expertise and advice, plus there are plans to link up Twitter accounts to the site, so news of future disasters can be handled quickly.

The communication model has changed: in both cases both the company running the wave, and the “readers“, are part of the process, and the process IS the product. Chris Wade was one of the trainee journalists to get involved, despite his initial reservations about Google Wave.

“everything seemed to make quite a bit more sense. Multiple users contributed their pictures, maps and videos of the snow, and Google Wave was a brilliant way to bring all these together. It was ideal for a project like this”

Another contributor, Matt Walker, told me via Twitter:

“It has the potential to replace IM/Social networking/collab stuff etc.”

I decided to shelve the idea of a “final copy” section to the wave, and instead let the user submitted content be the article. There was already so much “traditional” news coverage of the situation, I hoped visitors to the page would prefer to browse a section of their choosing, whether it be articles, pictures or video.

I have also recently launched another Wave, this time with a music news focus. The welsh band Lostprophets (social media devotees themselves) have been on the promotional trail this week with the release of their new album, expected to debut at number 1 in the album charts. I wondered if this might be an interesting opportunity for young music fans, who are happy to share images and content online already, to get involved with this project and pool the extensive coverage that the band were already getting.

I was hoping to use an RSS feeder to bring in content linked to the band (with hash tags or Twitter feeds) but the current RSS Google Wave gadget (rssybot) is not functional. Once this is working, it would be a great addition to the feed.

I also need to properly promote the feed and get it out there to the right people.

FINDINGS

The Birmingham Snow Wave was successful in as far as people participated in the process, although the numbers of contributors were disappointingly low. It has received 14 content posts since launching.

As with any new project, it was hard to find the volumes of people who would be interested in taking part. Despite the hype surrounding Google Wave, it now seems there are invitations, once rare and coveted, going spare. It seems the initial interest has been limited to the technical and business world.

Struggling to find participants was also not helped by the subject matter. The Snow in Birmingham was far too niche a topic and several journalists from around the country said they would have participated, had it been a national focus. I think with Google Wave still in such an early stage, the broader the subject the better.

However, the participants that did contributed to the wave, 4 in all, seemed to enjoy taking part and liked the experimental and unusual take on news gathering.

It obviously appealed to journalists, with 2 young students getting involved. Another user was a friend of mine, who heard about the project and wanted to “have a play”. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, it is much harder to find interesting content. Instead I found that embedding the wave into a blog website and promoting that URL instead, sparked some interest and a few requests for Google Wave invitations.

My second Wave, Lostprophets Album Release, a very recent addition, may stumble for a different reason ‐ the audience. Google Wave, although causing a bit of a stir among the technology world when it launched, has not really broken into the mainstream, and certainly not into the younger market. However, I would like to pursue this line, and experiment with Twitter feeds to pull in and coverage online.

USABILITY

One of the resounding criticisms of Google Wave has been usability. One of the participants in the snow wave, non‐journalist Karen Davies commented:

“I found it really hard to use and navigate…I consider myself quite savvy when it comes to computers and to social networking sites. Google Wave is really ‘clunky’. I really like the idea behind it all but I think they haven’t put enough thought into the layout and interface.”

In the same way that many Twitter users do not access the service through the official website (instead, using an app such as Tweetdeck), so Google Wave would expand. We must not forget, however, that Google Wave is still in the beta stage, with no plans to make it totally public until the end of 2010.

LEGAL/ETHICS

One of the benefits of Google Wave is its non‐linear approach to comments. Blips can be added at any point in the wave which can spark interesting debate, but as with any user generated content, this can potentially cause problems with people posting defamatory, obscene or copyright material.

So who is responsible for making sure that doesn’t happen?

I am still waiting for clarification on this issue, but a recent Twitter conversation with
Birmingham blogger and social media expert Jon Bounds suggests that it is in Google’s hands.

A public wave is the responsibility of Google, as it sits on their site and not of the person that starts the wave. (In the same way you are not responsible for the comments to a video you put on Youtube.) Does this change if you embed the wave into your website or blog?

Google has taken down Blogger blogs before now, will they step in if Google Waves become legally unsound?

CONCLUSION

So does Google Wave work as a collaborative news tool?

I believe it does, but it takes another step away from the traditional news model as content is crowd‐sourced from the public, and the tradition of a “final piece of work” is removed. The content is simply organised and becomes a scrap book for people interested in the story.

Sites like Posterous, Dipity and Tumblr are already aggregating content and pull in feeds from Flickr or Youtube via RSS feeds or from email, but Google Wave allows for direct interaction. This can, in theory, be added to an RSS feed as well ‐ bringing the best of all worlds: user comments and automatically added content.

Once the service has been opened up to everyone, and new applications (a Tweetdeck for Wave for example), gadgets and robots are being designed for it, then we can truly see it’s potential.

29 Jan

Grafitti + Twitter = Tweefiti

As part of a new Birmingham arts project, this weekend that will see one of the city’s grafitti artists spraypaint inspirational messages send in on Twitter.

The theme is “life feels better”, and Aerosol Arabic will be outside Bullring shopping centre on Saturday and Sunday creating a unique piece of art from tweets sent into the @lifefeelsbetter account, which will also appear on a Twitterfall.

It’s a nice idea, and a nice push for Twitter. However, do enough people use Twitter yet? We all know Facebook is the behemoth of the social networking world (350 million users and counting), but have enough people adopted its more minimalist rival? It’s big news in the media/tech world, but every one else? A lot of my friends join Twitter, then leave again saying “I don’t understand it” or the classic “it’s not as much fun as Facebook”.

It’s a great idea, however, and it will be interesting to see the response it gets

The Bullring Arts Project launched on 25th January 2010 and Brummies are being encouraged to send in their pictures, artwork, writing or music to http://www.lifefeelsbetter.co.uk

[mappress]

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020