Tag Archives: social media

18 Sep

Stop: you’re doing infographics all wrong

Infographics can be a really effective way to communicate. Whether you’re a journalist, a researcher or a PR professional, using a visual format COULD be the perfect way for you to reach your audience.

However, the internet is full of terrible examples of infographics that offer little value to the reader.

Here are five ways people are getting it wrong.

noun_question_316359

You’re doing it for the wrong reasons

When a client approaches me to design an infographic, I ask them a simple question.

“Why do you want one?”

I’m happy when a client answers:

  • “We have a lot of interesting information that we’d like to get across to our customers”
  • “We’ve just finished a big project and we’d like to tell our investors all about it”
  • “We know our audience responds to this format, so we’d like to present our latest report in this way”

However, alarm bells start ringing when I hear:

  • “Another company down the road has one, and we think we need one too”

That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Perhaps that company has a different product or audience. Even if they are in the same industry, with the same audience, they may simply have got it wrong – who says it’s right for them?

  • “Because it will drive a lot of traffic to our website”

Sadly, only a small percentage of infographics ‘go viral”. You are bound to be disappointed if you looking just for clicks. Think about your infographic as a useful communication tool for people interested in your company/product/story. If it’s of wider interest, those people will share it.

If you chase the audience you may end up dumbing down or editing your content – creating a less useful tool.

  • “I saw one in the paper and it looked cool”

Infographics in magazines and newspapers tend to be content-rich and tell a specific story. Often they’re used to supplement a longer article, helping tell a more complex story. They may have been weeks in the making, with a team of journalists and designers.

Now compare this to the information you’re working with, the time to have to spend on it and the resources available. Will yours look so cool?

noun_peacock_38192

Too much “graphic”, not enough “info”

Equal weight should be given to the information and the graphical elements of your infographic.

Too many examples exist online than are thin on content because the creator wanted to produce something that looked good and would attract attention. However, if there’s no content to keep the reader engaged, everyone has wasted their time.

If you don’t have enough information for a strong full-page infographic, think about other approaches. perhaps a smaller graphic would work? Don’t rule out doing some extra research to add more information. Sites like data.gov.uk can be handy for finding national data that could support your arguments.

 

noun_aim_128625

You’ve forgotten about your audience

During my training sessions I constantly remind attendees about their audience.

Treat an infographic like any other form of communication – a report, article, Facebook status update or press release. In each of those you should be tailoring your content, message and language to the audience.

 

Who is most likely to find your infographic interesting? What do we know about those people? (old, young, male, female, professionals?)

Having this sorted will help you answer some further questions to decide what to feature in your infographic.

  • what do they know about the subject? (how much do you need to explain?)
  • how will they feel about the information?
  • what do you want them to do?
  • what information do they need / want from your infographic? can they find it quickly?

Also, trying to tailor your infographic to “everyone” means you risk engaging no-one.

noun_message-in-a-bottle_8770

You don’t have a clear message

This goes back to the “why?” question in the first point.

What are you trying to say? Take a good look at the information you’re intending to use in your infographic – what is it saying? Are you trying to:

  • demonstrate your company’s good work over the past year?
  • persuade the reader to do something?
  • explain why something has happened?

Make sure you keep this in mind as you are designing – even write it on a post-it and stick it to your computer, so you don’t forget.

I always get my information in shape first. I’ve got a handy process involving lots of post-it notes and big sheets of paper that really helps me assess my information and help me decide if I need to edit it or add to it. It also helps me decide what’s important and begin to develop an overall structure for the final piece.

This helps me stay on message.

noun_skills_225624

You’re trying to do too much

Whilst I use quite a few during my training, I have a fundamental issue with those long thin infographics.

My main issue is that  – with no page size to work within – there is no editing or quality control and the creator is tempted to throw everything into it, to make it “better” (read “longer”).

An infographic is not a magic spell that will solve all your problems. Throwing more content into it will only make it less effective. Instead, think – can you break your information down into several smaller infographic images, instead of a full-page? These can be handy for social media, adding to reports or on slides.

Plus – each graphic could have a different message and focus, you could easily create graphics for different audiences.

 

29 Mar

BestByWM: report infographic and footers

#bestbywm is a white paper investigating social media best practice in the West Midlands, UK.

Find full report here:

Following a survey of local authority communications teams I was invited to generate a series of infographics for the report. This included:

* a full page results infographic
* a series of footer infographics showing social media stats
* a simple infographic showing the cost of communcation channels

 

Bestbywm A Bestbywm B Bestbywm C Bestbywm D Bestbywm E

31 May

10 Ways I Stay Productive

As a freelancer it’s very easy to fall into bad habits – working from home, lots of different projects and being my own boss means long days of low productivity, and no clear division between work time and free time.
Since I left my “proper” job in 2009 I’ve been trying a host of ways to get things done – these are the things I’ve learnt work for me.

1. Find Your Work Hours

It’s taken me a while but I’ve found I am super productive early in the morning – irrespective of how tired I am. I had several years working on a radio breakfast show so getting up at the crack-of-dawn doesn’t terrify me, but the point is – find your optimum working hours. I know people who prefer to work in the evening or overnight … whatever works for you, make sure you stick to it

2. Go to Work

One of the perks of working in an office is the division between hometime and work time. I miss the walk to work, those few minutes (in my case) to prepare for the day. Even wearing work clothes changes your mindset.

This is lost when you stumble from bed to sofa in your PJ’s.

Eventually I plan to have a home-office, but for now I have a rented desk not far from where I live. I’ve also found co-working spaces, sneaky corners in coffee shops and other locations really handy.

In short, don’t work jn the room where you live.

3. Reboot in-between tasks

This is something I’ve only recently discovered, and is good for both me and my laptop.

I reboot my computer when I change projects. My jobs tend to be very varied, infographic design one minute, and planning social media training the next – so it’s good to have that mental refresh.

Plus. I’m often dealing with big files and my laptops not a robust as it used to be – so a reboot is a useful way to stop it grinding to a halt!

4. Next Task Approach

This is a trick I leaned during my time working for Think Productive. Don’t make endless to-do lists of tasks that can’t be done because they depend on something else happening first. Ie: No point adding Book Plane Tickets to my todo list, when you haven’t Booked Holiday yet.

I only have tasks I can achieve on my list, and replace them with the next doable task when it’s completed!

5. Keep a separate project list

As well as a todo list, I also have a list of all my current projects, and the stage they’re at. I use a great Ipad app for this, called Sticky Notes. It’s essentially a series of pages with digital post-it notes. I have 2 pages:

Post_it_structure_planning.PNG

Page 1 contains post-its of 4 colours

Each post-it contains my Job Code, job title and the price I’ve quoted for it.

  • PINK – currently working on
  • GREEN – confirmed projects but not currently working on
  • YELLOW – awaiting initial meeting
  • BLUE – random projects I need to decide on

This page helps me manage my workload – I like to have 4 “currently working on” with between 4 and 8 “confirmed but not currently working on”.

Page 2 contains a host of those projects that I’ve been contacted about, but nothing’s come of them yet. I keep them there to chase up when I get a moment, or can refer to if they do spring back in action.

6. Filter and Auto colour emails

Whilst I use Sparrow on my Iphone, I try to do most of the email management on my PC. where I run Postbox. I have 2 main email addresses, with a few random ones too, so it’s a good place to see everything together.

As with most email systems, you can set up filters. Whilst I heavily use filters for social media notifications (and have a regular email reminder to check the folder every few days) the most useful thing helps me deal with those “bacon” emails that come in, ie software updates, service announcements and other content that isn’t spam, but isn’t vitally important right now

I’ve simply built up a filter that turns the text of these emails (in the inbox) pale grey. They’re still there, and I’ll tend to check and delete a few times a day, but they’re in the background when I’m focusing on work.

7. Turn of notifications

I’m a pretty heavy social media user but only recently have decided to turn off all notifications from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Instead, I allow myself to check these accounts whenever I want, so that Social Media and Email Tension doesn’t build up. I’m getting a lot more done and am more relaxed about having long stints of working, knowing I can check them whenever I want.

8. Check email on the hour every hour

I try (although I do fail at this often) to only check my email every hour, on the hour. It’s an easy time to remember, and means I can focus on work for an hour before it comes round again. I have Postbox open at all times, with notifications turned off, and simply switch to that window to see new messages. It takes a second if there’s nothing in there, and with filtering and colouring (as above) it’s easy to see the important emails first.

9. No meeting days – 3 a week

I’ve learnt that I much prefer having a full day to work, without having to dart out for midday meetings. To this end, I try to keep at least 2/3 days a week free from all meetings. On a Sunday night I’ll check the next 2 weeks and add all-day calendar events to the days with no meetings – with the intention of keeping these free.

Similarly, I prefer meetings first thing in the morning or last thing in the day – it means I still get a good few hours to get stuff done!

10. One collection point – Evernote

Evernote

I’ve spoken at length about my love for Evernote. It’s getting better with every update. I use it as my central management system – where I send everything.

As emails come in, I’ll smart-grab sections of text (WIN-A) instead of forwarding emails and archive the email.

I go through my RSS feeds twice a day in the Feedly app – and save a bunch of images and articles into Evernote

I store all my briefsheets (single documents I use to store information about individual projects, including those bits of text from emails)

I also send all my draft images there, and email the client from within Evernote.

Have a free months trial of Evernote Premium here

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!. 

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

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 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

Image representing Seesmic as depicted in Crun...

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

Image representing Sendible as depicted in Cru...
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

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?

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.

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020