With an ever increasing demand to use mobile technologies, and more importantly the increasing demand for mobile data, we are likely to see an ever increasing number of ground based mobile antennas improving our national mobile coverage.
But in this chase to improve data connectivity is anyone considering the flipside of the coin?
Do we all really want data/mobile access everywhere we go?
I remember my time in London as an infrastructure engineer, I was pretty much on call 24/7/365. I used to relish tube journeys where just for a few minutes I would drop out of mobile reception ensuring some time without intrusion.
As a semi counterpoint to my last post, is anyone ensuring that we protect not only the landscape from the infringement of mobile transmission towers from an aesthetic perspective; but also attempt to protect the solitude and escapism that can be attractive in the more remote parts of this already heavily populated country?
Speaking for myself here, I always carry my mobile with me whilst out on the hills, either mountaineering or fell running, in case I have an accident and need to call for help. But I don't rely on it.
In addition, when I am out in the mountains the last thing I'd want would be someone disturbing my thoughts with a mobile call or for that matter the person next to me whittering away about a subject or world that just for that moment I'm trying to forget about.
In the dash for 24 hour connectivity are we as a species going to lose anything about our character if we are always hooked up to a global network of communication?
Do we need our isolation in order to be able to reflect on the busier moments in life with better perspective?
Or, at least, should those that do want the isolation be able to choose to visit these locations without the intrusion of other visitors bringing their technology with them?
Obviously there are a number of technologies that are already out there in regular use that negate the need for mobile transmissions in order to operate.
Satellite dependant technologies already jump geographical boundaries that the likes of GPRS and GSM are unable to compete with.
But the use of satellite phones for voice communications is still a rarity mainly due to the prohibitive costs of hardware and network subscriptions.
GPS devices are common place in the mountains, although I do find them a more regular sight in the less remote locations with leisurely Sunday walkers ensuring they are fully kitted up with the latest and greatest of outdoor kit.
GPS, however, does not allow you to perform communication between other device users, instead simply allows you to discover and track your location.
Technologies can bring economic benefits to remote regions but, like the highways that came before them, they can also bring intrusion and unwelcome change.
From an overall stand point I am an active supporter of ensuring that wired broadband technology should be available to all, in all areas.
But from a wireless or air-bound perspective, I'd like to think that we as a nation would perform some protection of the sanctuary that can be found in the more remote parts of our busy island from the ever growing world of mobile technology.
Throughout this year, as I've talked about previously, we've been doing more and more digital work in collaboration with traditional agencies, in particular PR agencies.
The work, on the whole, has been very successful for all parties. The partnership seems to compliment the strengths of each of our skill sets well.
With a PR agency's idea and communication skills combined with our digital media expertise we've produced a variety of products from micro-sites through to more viral ideas that have generated a lot of social media interest.
Having worked for a PR agency for nearly 5 years, I'm fully aware how too often PR is overlooked or PR budgets cut to ensure extra monies are spent on the shiny gloss of the main advertising campaign.
In this age of social media, PR has a very important role to play. We are all learning how to become more engaging, yet PR agencies have made personal engagement their business for years.
Combine PR companies experience in engagement with the bespoke capabilities and instantaneous nature of the digital media format and you're cooking on gas, or you should be.
In order to fulfil this relatively new market requirement we've seen a few specialist agencies filling this gap.
This week the internet has been a-buzz with talk of We Are Social's involvement in the Eurostar problems. We Are Social are one of the specialist agencies that deal with this kind of service, offering expertise in the digital arena with years of experience in PR.
While the Eurostar case is not an example of a perfect implementation of PR in a digital environment, in fact it is anything but, I don't see We Are Social as being to blame for this. It is, however, an illustration of the potential power of the combination of PR in a digital environment.
The facility to tailor content delivery or capture real time content and then publish responses to those conversations in a real time environment enables PR agencies to engage brands with their audiences like never before.
The daunting element for many brands with this is its real time nature and equally the uncontrollable aspect of unrestricted feedback. In order utilise this channel to its full potential decisions need to be made on a real time basis with the experience required to make those correctly.
Clients need to trust their agencies to advise them correctly about the right course of action to take; this trust should have been built up via working examples of collaborative work already completed.
Another recent social media campaign that seemingly missed the point of digital engagement in a real time environment was the Toyota social media campaign in Australia. User generated content or product has, or should have, all the call signs of being driven by peoples own interpretation of a subject.
Toyota put a challenge to their internet fans and the creative community to create a new advert for its Yaris model. The process that unfolded was far from the transparent process that this kind of campaign expects and demands. It followed that the feedback and response it received was inevitably not positive in this community driven environment.
With good PR experience this kind of mistake should have been avoided; and had it not been avoided they would have at least had the experience on board to deal with the backlash that followed.
Digital media, and the social media landscape that has evolved out of it, present brands with a great opportunity to raise awareness in a positive and personally engaging fashion.
Ensuring you have the right advice and experience to complete the work well is an essential component for success.
I look forward to a new year that includes many more digital projects delivered in collaboration with the expertise that PR agencies bring.
Twitter Lists - Network redundancy for the Twitter conversation cloud
I wasn't going to write a post on Twitter Lists; I thought everyone will be writing posts on Twitter Lists across the blogging world.
But then why make life hard for myself, it's certainly one of the hottest happenings of the last few weeks and something I'm actively involved with.
Lists appeared for me last Wednesday, one day they weren't there, the next I had a new link on my Twitter homepage and an intrusive promo at the top of my page.
So I set about exploring . . .
While I understood the concept of how lists were going to work before they were launched, until I actually saw them in action I hadn't really grasped how they could potentially change the face of Twitter very rapidly.
Users following others lists will not only strengthen their nodal network connections rapidly, effectively offering a vast increase in potential network value redundancy, but they will also improve network reach enormously.
Take Mike who knows Dave and Emily through his connections at his agency. Emily used to work at another agency and knows many more connections from her time there, some of which Mike has never heard of.
One of those connections places Emily on a list of agency contacts and Mike investigates, he decides to follow the list. Multiply this effected by x amounts and you suddenly have a very connected network of like minded people.
This should ensure a greater sharing of information between similar users, which in turn should increase the overall value of Twitter as a social media tool.
Prior to lists, finding people from your industry or mindset, who you had never heard of before, was often labourious process that might not have been achieved without the use of third party tools.
A knock on effect of this increased network strength and growth will be the potential for users to increase their following numbers dramatically overnight.
However, I think most will approach this cautiously, not wishing to outbalance their following numbers against their follower numbers, or am I the only one that considers this factor any longer?
Either way it should improve Twitter market penetration, with 58 million visitors to Twitter in September 2009 globally, their market growth is certainly on a sharp curve upwards at the moment. I'll be interested to see what effect the adoption of lists by users will have on this growth.
There will inevitably be some humorous blog posts appearing in the near future detailing the names that people have used, sometimes unwittingly, to classify their followers into lists.
It will also create a new competitive element for people to aspire to improve, along with the current concerns of improving follower numbers that most have.
One item of great interest to me will be the third party manipulation of the list data that will become available. Often the spin-off products from Twitter offer some very interesting data applications, giving greater insight into the platforms information.
I also expect the likes of TweetDeck and Seesmic to have full list integration in the near future. I'd hope to see some option to migrate existing TweetDeck Groups into lists, something that TweetDeck founder Iain Dodsworth seem to confirm when I queried him on this early last week.
Whatever happens next, I think the launch of Lists for Twitter will have a positive effect on the application.
I'd be interested to hear of any lists people have discovered that you think are worth sharing.
Shared lists, now that sounds like a good idea . . .
I'd started writing this post back during the Iranian elections when I was delighted to see the voice that Twitter was giving the oppressed voters of Iran.
Since then Twitter has gone on to prove as equally as powerful a tool and voice of free speech for numerous other causes.
Recently we've seen the Trafigura case and almost on the same day the Jan Moir story receive the Twitter megaphone treatment.
A publishing tool with the ingredients that Twitter offers has never been available before and it seems those components are ideally suited to the domain of public opinion and free speech.
I spoke recently of Twitter and other social media platforms power to enable human intrigue and self involvement. The adoption of social platforms in these other mentioned cases are tapping into similar elements of the human psyche, those that cause us to express outrage and opinion.
Twitter and it's brief format involves less cognitive involvement and effort to enable the expression of opinion than the writing of blog articles or an Amnesty International style fax campaign.
The viral nature of the RT and then promotion or highlighting of a news event in the trending topics creates a buzz about the network that encourages all users to investigate further and perhaps get involved in the process themselves.
Its multi-interface availability and relatively simple API and publish process allow it to produce content from locations that might otherwise be problematic, bypassing issues of political censorship or mobility.
The most commonly used applications and the Twitter web interface are simple to use, allowing most with even the most basic grasp of technology to get involved in a trending topic or developing news item quickly.
There is however a downside or at least another side to this simple and readily available functionality.
With the same ease that some people access a story in order to add a positive element to a campaign, others can access it to add not so positive input to a campaign.
Towards the end of the Jan Moir story, or the orchestrated campaign as she so named it, there was an uglier side to some peoples involvement. One driven by emotive passion, I suspect in most cases, with physical threats to Jan Moir apparently appearing. I didn't witness these, but I'm not surprised or alarmed that they did occur.
With this easy access will inevitably come other opinions that might not please all, but hey this is the nature of free speech. As with the printed press in this country, of which Jan Moir is a contributor, there are plenty of articles published that we won't all agree with.
Impulse, intrigue, curiosity and a requirement to feel involved and involve others in what is effectively gossip is a powerful force in our human nature.
I've recently been involved in a on-line campaign for a brand that harnessed the power of this need and combined it with social media to great effect. It got a serious message out to many people, which in turn did a great job of raising the awareness of the brand in question and their expertise in this area.
Social media is the perfect transport for this kind of interest and traffic generating work. It uses the conversational element of the technology to feed peoples intrigue and interest and encouraging them to involve others and share their personal facts or perspective on an issue.
The commitment required to manage a social media campaign can be one of the biggest turn-off's for marketeers considering using tools such as Twitter to promote a message or a brand.
It doesn't however necessarily require a vast commitment of resources and carefully worded on-brand responses to utilise the power of social media to your brands benefit.
All it can require is the careful generation of a perspective or perhaps statistical data that an individual can associate with themselves and then the functionality to share this with their community.
Intrigue and other human impulses that occur to us naturally will do the rest of the foot work.
Developing the idea that creates the perspective or data that others might want to share is the hard bit. Keeping it on brand and in tune with a brands key messages, also making the idea creative and interesting enough to entice people to get involved are a tricky combination.
Once achieved though there shouldn't be any need to start managing Twitter accounts or allocating resources to manage Twitter accounts, simply provide visitors the facility to tweet the result and let them promote the message for you.
Social media is still being treated very warily by some, sometimes you just need to take a step back and see what other approaches there may be, other than the obvious one that's staring you in the face.
What makes us social and is social media a good thing?
Why do we do this?
Why do we feel the need to share, communicate, converse, promote ourselves with our fellow human beings to varying degrees?
How has the evolution in our methods of doing these said things affected our personalities and positions within the natural pecking order in comparison to forms of communication that have come before this on-line world?
What motivates us all to participate in these new forms of communication and how do we as an (digital) industry attempt to encourage further participation either by utilising existing platforms or by the creation of new interfaces.
Finally, from a moral stand point rather than from a commercial perspective, does encouraging further participation on these social interfaces actually serve a purpose that is beneficial to us all as a race?
We're all different, that much is apparent and is one the key results of our sentient abilities as a species.
For most our habits, that define us as the individuals I spoke of earlier, seem to take shape slowly as we find our feet in this new on-line community. We find more confidence to act "naturally" the longer we spend in the company of a particular interface and its associated community.
But also it takes a while to convey the full picture of our individual nature truly, rather than the snapshot that we can sometimes be judged on through a passing comment or an off the cuff remark.
This is no different to what we'd usually see in a physical meeting between strangers. There may be some that push right on in to a room, declaring who they are and why they are there, others who introduce themselves slowly and gradually disclose more over time. The sincerity of each of these approaches can only really be fathomed with time.
I was reading an interesting post on Adina Levin’s blog about the use of leader boards on web applications and how this affects our motivations and actions when using a particular application.
The post reviews a discussion on whether the presence of a scoring system affects peoples actions, perhaps making them deviate from what would be their normal reaction to a social process. Citing Twitter and the pursuit of new followers as an example of a scoring system of sorts; do you find yourself making decisions on Twitter in order to increase your following that might be contrary to your usual actions?
Twitter is a great people watching portal, following conversations and how people portray themselves, the roles they take within their communities, their follow habits and etiquette.
Self analysis, I'd hope, is inevitable. Taking the time to go back and read your Twitter stream on regular basis to see if what you're tweeting about is a good portrayal of what you are hoping to convey about you and your place in this complicated equation of thoughts, needs, messages and social position.
This assumption in itself though is an insight to my own requirement for self analysis and assessment, why should anyone else feel the need to do this?
Do we meet less face to face than we used to? In my mind I'm running through working and social circumstances as they were perhaps 50 years ago and comparing them to today. Perhaps more of us would have worked in large scale production environments, working in large teams rather than the smaller service industries that employ many now. When we wanted something done we'd have talk face to face rather than send e-mails, did this give us the opportunity to be more honest about our approach or vice versa?
Or does the temporary façade of anonymity of on-line services provide us with the self confidence to speak our minds more freely?
Here I am typing this post here in the comfort of my own home, listening to music I enjoy with a cup of tea at hand. I'm not sitting in front of you all, who are mostly strangers, discussing this rather philosophical subject.
Does what I'm writing now convey a more valid image of myself than perhaps I'd manage face to face?
Personally I believe the on-line social communities, like face to face, or written word communities of other media formats, or spoken word on the likes of radio that have come before the internet, all reveal the individual characteristics of each of us.
For some the internet will be a social revolution that takes their personal make-up and propels them to heights that wouldn't otherwise have been achieved with other interfaces. Others will harbour fears of social regression against the internet with its lack of physical contact.
We will we as a race suffer from the change in format for social exchange?
I don't believe we will, we'll likely just adapt and evolve.
Will this effect our personal lives and relationships we have with friends and family?
I am sure it will have an affect, but I doubt it will be a significantly detrimental effect and may well for many have a thoroughly positive affect. If detrimental, no more so than the arrival of stage coaches, post delivery, telegraphs and telephones that have preceded the internet.
I'd been interested to investigate the social exclusion aspect of the internet and whether the financial requirements needed to grant access to the internet has a had a detrimental effect on society. But I suspect that we could, as before, point back to similar developments within our evolution as a race that have had the same exclusivity of access.
Finally, how do we in the digital industry develop and design platforms and applications that facilitate social interaction naturally? This is such a vast subject that I'm not going to insult it by trying to cover it in the closing paragraphs of this post, I'll save some thought on it for another day.
However, it seems Twitter has managed to achieve this goal. By providing a simple set of rules and syntax that has encouraged first early adopters to partake and now the upsurge of use by the general public has allowed them to progress and perhaps now refocus the applications original function.
Twitter has managed to push itself through the early stages of uptake and entered a self propelling curve of adoption through its establishment as a trending technology within our new social landscape.
But this wasn't by chance. Without the right balance of parameters such as security, incentive of target driven goals (leader boards), spam reduction and a good bit of user interface development and an open API, I doubt Twitter would have seen the success it is now witnessing.
Social media, I believe, will continue where other mediums have gone before, growing in popularity before some other new communication order takes hold.
But it has seen the merging of two facilities of previous mediums of communication before it, the ability to address the mass semi-targeted audiences of newspapers and television, and the more personal and two-way communication of the telephone.
For some it will be an opportunity to self promote, for others to follow leaders in their wake, others to shout without listening, to others to engage and listen, and for some to ignore and to continue without interest or involvement.
Twitter - Use it as you see fit, but don't expect us all to like it!
This post started as one idea and has evolved into another.
I was going to rant and rave about how to use Twitter and how I see it as a communication platform, taking on everyone's opinions as equal and adding them to my understanding of the world.
Then I paused . . . and then thought who the hell am I to dictate how anyone else should use the Twitter platform?
Surely it's a democratic platform, with the exception of banning a few spam accounts people are pretty much free to say what they wish and we are free to follow or not follow them as we wish.
Sure, in an ideal world, I'd have you all doing what I'd like and that's not just in Twitter! But hey, this is the real world!
Anyway, so in this fictional world of "Ed", I'd have everyone follow everyone back as long as the account had some value, i.e. conversation rather than just irrelevant link publishing or "make $1000 in 5 mins" tweets.
I always saw Twitter working as a method of finding out more about your specific industry or interests with others who share those passions or common grounds. Sharing your own ideas and personal form of engagement back with that community.
This community should consist of those just starting out, finding their feet, industry leaders and everyone else in-between. We all have something interesting, insightful and valuable to say on our good days and who are am I to say others have got nothing to add to my knowledge . . . I'm nobody.
You work at your content, mixing up interesting on-line content you find with conversation between your community. Developing trust and building relationships with other people within your network.
You use the multitude of tools that are out there to filter and group your following stream to ensure you find what you need when you need it; if I was to pick a favourite mine would still be TweetDeck although to do keep meaning to spend some more time with HootSuite.
Find more people that might add to your community by reading other interesting users feeds to see who else they are talking to.
Isn't this how it's supposed to work?
While I wouldn't wish to push my ideals on individuals use of Twitter, I'll quite happily have a go at brands on Twitter.
While doing the research for my 10 brands on Twitter post I followed many global or national brands to see how they were using Twitter. I would say of those I followed only 20% of them followed me back.
This shocked me.
Okay, so they may not think I have anything interesting to say, but do they need to make this so apparent by not following me back? Because that's what it feels like when they don't.
But don't worry, I don't take it personally . . .
I feel brands should follow everyone back that isn't an autobot or spam account. Then using one of the numerous applications on the market filter their interest stream down to the conversations they want to listen to.
But, hey it's a democracy, I'll leave you to define how I perceive your on-line brand.
Anyway, that's about it. Everyone should be free to use Twitter as they wish, but don't expect everyone else to agree with your use of the platform.
If you're unsure of how to go about using it personally or for a brand, then get some advice from someone who claims to know more . . . and then get a second opinion.
But remember we've all got more to learn on just about everything, and if you're choosing not to listen to anyone but a select few you might just miss that gem that revolutionises your thinking.
Is social media the perfect tonic to pre-recession greed?
I'm sitting here reading reports of HSBC and Barclays billion pound profits whilst still waiting for the economic gloom to lift from Joe Average's life.
I don't think anyone is unaware that the worlds economic situation is far from rosy at the moment; we are, as the financial reporters keep stating, "in the depths of a recession".
As the reports surface of the city's slow recovery, or not so slow, the public outcry can be heard to be rising in volume. Hang on, we helped you and now it's back to the them and us scenario, the haves and have nots.
We found ourselves in this recession on the back of some very dubious lending of extended equity to everyone from individuals to big businesses, the bubble could never burst.
And then it did . . .
The banks and other large institution became monsters. Not only were they asking for our money to help them out of the hole they'd dug, but they are adding insult to injury by laying off large numbers of staff.
We see the occasional news interview with the leaders of these institution, but other than that the sector is very quiet.
Meanwhile, we all feel rather cheated by the whole experience. Consumers, that's you and me, feel like the prices of pretty much all of our services have reached levels that we could never have comprehended just a few years ago.
This prices have been followed by a gradual alienation of consumers from their suppliers. We receive letters detailing our latest charges, but if you try to speak to someone they never answer the phone.
What happens? We become frustrated, a sensation of having no control of our own destinies overwhelms us.
In this economic gloom and age of inadequate communication between consumers and their suppliers there is one rising phoenix, the firebird that is social media.
It could be the very tonic that we all need to settle our feeling of uneasiness at the pre-recession greed that many of the worlds leading institutions have been accused of.
Social media offers large corporations or local businesses the ability to add that personal communication channel back to their public proposition.
Build the trust back that's been ground down by the gradually reduction in service and the gradually increase in cost.
But before all business jump on the social media bandwagon, it needs to be made clear that in the first instance it isn't to make it into a revenue stream. It's to re-establish the trust that has been eroded.
I would say that it has to be run at a loss, but that's not true. We need to evolve our thinking beyond monetary terms and value the relationships we can build by engaging with our consumers and audiences again.
When I wrote my article on 10 brands on Twitter a few weeks back, I wasn't surprised when I didn't find any of the UK banks on Twitter.
I hear you ask, well what would HSBC do with a Twitter account?
Well start a conversation about what they do would be a start, or even just showing that they are listening to concerns. Sure they'd be in for some hot treatment, but at least they could be commended for giving it an honest go. It would certainly improve my opinion of them.
But a clued up, brand aware communication specialist that knows what it means to be part of the big machine that these large corporations are, but a human all the same, should be able to present a clear message.
Heck, they could even hire a social media advisor to advise them.
So, will we see any of the banks investing their £3 billion profit in building those cracked and broken bridges between themselves and their beleaguered customers?
So over I tootled to Posterous and got myself an account, in fact I got two. One for me as Ed Richardson and one for Digital Signals.
What is Posterous and what's all the fuss about?
Posterous is a new social media platform that publishes all your content in one place.
What's so new about that, I hear you ask, surely Friendfeed has been doing that or there abouts for years?
Posterous reverses the process of Friendfeed, rather than aggregating all your other feeds, at Posterous you post there and then decide where else you want to post to at the same time.
The big thing about Posterous is that it lets you publish content via e-mail. Well, you send an e-mail and the platform takes care of the publishing. Which is quite nice.
But then, whenever I have e-mail access I generally also have access to my blog and other publishing platforms, so why would I bother e-mailing my content and not just access my blog directly and publish from there?
Okay, but publishing micro blog content via e-mail isn't end of the services that Posterous offers, it also allows to post to numerous other social media platforms by e-mail.
The platforms they currently support include:
Amongst many others.
You can either send an e-mail to all of your accounts in one sweep with an e-mail address to email@example.com or you can specify the account you want it to post to by defining a platform in the e-mail, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also include wildcards in the syntax to post to accounts that all contain specific text. For example, I manage accounts under my name Ed Richardson and also my identity Digital Signals; I could post to all Digital Signals related accounts but not Ed Richardson accounts by including #email@example.com.
You need to set-up the e-mail accounts that Posterous will accept posts from, for authentication reasons. Also, all e-mail syntax as illustrated above will include your account details. In my case @edrichardson.posterous.com.
Now I can see great benefits in this, with multiple platforms that require you to update content on a regular basis, you could hit a number of platforms with one e-mail.
My only issue with this approach, and it can be a big issue, is that you can lose some of the personal attention that should be shown to each platform.
All of the technical benefits aside, I like the Posterous interface. It's easy to use and has a clean but nice style.
I'm always wary about putting too much effort into posting content on domains where you don't own the site. Content writing is time consuming and can, at times, be labourious; at others times it's a pleasure I might add!
Putting all these hours into writing content that should be improving your search optimisation can be lost if you don't own the domain. Obviously Posterous allows you to post to your blog, so it does help with avoiding this issue, but it is always something that I'm conscious of.
I might add they also allow you to host the service on another domain, avoiding this issue all together.
There is the flip side of the coin in that the chances of a highly visible site, such as Posterous, is likely to perform better than your average blog in search engine results. Therefore managing a balance between these considerations is essential for raising the awareness of your on-line presence.
Posterous is gaining all the right followers it needs to make a success of itself, Steve Rubel recently declared his love of the service. After my recent post on TweetDeck success I found their TweetDeck blog was published via Posterous.
With a community element where Posterous shares what's new with other registered members, you might just get the eye time of one of these prestigious members. I don't spend enough time taking advantage of these community elements on existing sites such as Alltop that I'm registered on, but perhaps you do.
I'm yet to commit any real time to my Posterous account, so I'm sure I'll come back with some more informed opinions at a later stage.
But from what I've seen so far I think the Posterous team have found a small niche in a competitive market that is unique. They've also made the effort to ensure that from the off the product is a well thought out solution and looks neat.
Whether I'll find the time or inclination to make a real go of the platform is yet to be seen, but I wish them luck all the same.
Let me know if you've explored Posterous yet, and, if so what you think?
Some people still don't get the idea behind social media.
Unfortunately for those that don't, it's very obvious to those that do.
Now, if you're an individual setting up your first Twitter account and dipping your foot in the boiling pot that is social media this should go relatively unnoticed.
However, if you're a global brand with thousands of followers simply off the back of your brand name, you need to be a little more careful.
What follows is a number of examples I've found of well known brands and their use of Twitter.
Habitat have recently hit the news with a massive Twitter fail. Habitat, or an agency employed on their behalf, decided to use trending hashtags to promote their tweets to the Twitter audience.
Not only is this a terribly lazy piece of marketing, not to say unethical, but to make matter worse one of the hashtags was the #Mousavi tag. The tag at the time was being used to publicise information relating to the recent Iran election and the associated rumours of fixing.
I personally hope they manage to learn from the mistake and go on to use Twitter to everyone's benefit. I've always had good experiences with Habitat from a product perspective and customer services, not so long ago tweeting about such an experience with the store in Manchester.
Adidas have seemingly embraced social media in cross brand hug. There a numerous Adidas Twitter accounts including Adidas Football(actually Adidas Soccer, but being a brit . . .), Adidas Running and the unused Adidas Originals.
Visit the brands main website and links to other social media platforms such as Facebook are on the home page.
Adidas seem to have a mixed bag approach to Twitter, which can sometimes be excused in large global companies, but for something as relationship based as Twitter I would hope they'd have a global approach.
Adidas Running is an active account, providing followers with updates on internal news, but also participating in the Twitter community. With retweets of relevant links and conversational tweets to followers. A good example of a brand using Twitter.
Compare this to the Adidas Football account that is all branded up and with 1,222 followers (at the time of writing) but with no updates and you'll understand my concern about Adidas not adopting a global approach to social media.
FairTrade is a brand that I rely on for a number of their fair trade products.
They've been using Twitter in a similar vein to Adidas Running, with a mixture of product and news updates, related links and consumer engagement via conversations with followers.
FairtradeUK feels a lot more personal than the Adidas feed though and it's interesting to see them using a number of different products to tweet from. Amongst their last tweets are a selection for TweetDeck, TwitterFox and the Web interface.
This made me feel that it was more personable, travelling with whoever holds the role of chief tweeter at FairtradeUK rather than just an office based task. Something that I'd expect from a brand that stands for community and fair deals for all.
However, having only had the account since late November 2008 and only managing 89 updates during that period, it's still early days for the brand.
Sony, like Adidas, seemed to have dived right into the social media mixing pot and have several official Twitter accounts running.
Sony seems the perfect brand to engage via social media, a young switched on, tech savvy community that will need no prompting to encourage online engagement.
With over 48,500 followers that certainly seems the case, far more than most of the other brands covered on here, with only Liverpool FC coming close. But if you look down their stream you'll struggle to find any @replies.
They do however participate in Twitter community trends such as the #followfriday trend, illustrating a good understanding of what folks do on Twitter.
Vans make some of my favourite footwear. I've been buying Vans ever since I was a long haired skater in my teens and still own several pairs of Vans today.
With their skate/surf following they are an ideal brand to engage their young customer base via the likes of social media.
Engage they do, Nikki S at Vans does a great job of getting down and chatting to all of their followers.
With over 2,600 updates their not being reserved about what they tweet about. They really get into the spirit of talking to their customer base with mostly @replies to followers.
Mixed in with new shoe release news and other relevant articles you get a real personal feel from the Vans use of Twitter. Hats off to Vans!
A team and a brand very close to my heart.
Liverpool FC have started using Twitter and Facebook to engage with the global following only recently.
It's an ideal use of the social media application, allowing to feel like you're following the team on the travels around the world.
With the addition of the odd photo from mobile devices and personal touches from the staff, it's a great example of a brand embracing social media. Granting fans insight to a previously unseen back room view of the team.
With a global following of avid fans, Twitter gives the team at Anfield the perfect interface to engage with followers.
I was pleasantly surprised by Microsoft's use of Twitter. I've had many dealing with Microsoft over the years during my time as a network/IT manager and not all of them savoury and I don't think any of them were personal.
Yet when I visited the Microsoft Twitter stream it was personal. There was a good mix of news promotion mixed with several @ replies.
While they only seem to have been using Twitter on a consolidated global basis for a relatively short period of time (2nd July 2009 from what I can establish), they seem to be embracing the personal nature of the medium and have even had the time to say hello to fellow OS producer Linux
Microsoft's team are obviously elsewhere on Twitter representing various departments, I've talked numerous times with Mel Carson and also follow Microsoft's Ad Team, but this is their first go at a consolidated presence I believe.
Let's hope Microsoft continue to keep it personal.
I couldn't write a post on global brands using social media without mentioning Ford.
Ford, driven by their head of social media (yes, that's right, they have a head of social media) Scott Monty, have for many epitomised the adoption of social media by a large brand.
Using the tool for what it was designed for, developing relationships through personal conversation, Ford have been a leading light for all to follow in the adoption of social media.
Many have talked about Ford's adoption of social media and I'm sure the media attention they've drawn through this has more than justified the strong position.
If you want to see how to use social media with a global brand, you could do far worse than use Ford as an excellent example.
Virgin Atlantic, the cool Trans-Atlantic airline brand have recently got themselves up and running with a Twitter account and seem to be doing an okay job.
Thankfully, unlike too many of the others above, they've followed most of their followers back. This is something I'll talk about at the end, but congratulate Virgin Atlantic on this move.
They've been using Twitter since March 2009 and adopted a relatively personal approach with the tweets, which is nice and in keeping with how I perceive their brand. Using brand strap line's such as the "hello gorgeous" throughout there tweets to further strengthen brand association with other campaigns.
I'm liking Virgin Atlantic's pitch on Twitter, they just need make sure they get the details right after I spotted a photo wrongly labelled in one of their tweets. P.S. This typo has now been rectified, so hats off to Virgin Atlantic for listening to their stream.
The North Face
With my interests in the world of outdoor extreme sports, I thought I'd hunt down a related brand that we all know, The North Face was the first that sprung to mind that I thought everyone would know.
Having originally registered the account way back in October 2007, they didn't really start using the account significantly till February 2009.
At which point they seemed to have taken to a nice mix of personal replies and brand promotion through the feed.
Unfortunately since May there have been very few, if any, replies what so ever and the whole stream seems to have gone to a simple broadcast channel.
After having the insight to sign up to Twitter all those years ago, I hope The North Face have the planning in place to return the feed to a more personal feed, addressing the needs of the customers on a one to one basis.
One observation through out this quick study was the number of brands that don't follow their followers back.
Form my personal perspective I felt a little disappointed by this. Whilst I fully understand a global brand such as Sony PlayStation would have many followers (Sony PlayStation at the time of writing has 48,446) and managing all of those would be a bit of a nightmare, using tools such as TweetDeck groups could alleviate this issue.
Following your followers back I think is an essential part of social media. Sure you don't need to follow everyone back (I've stopped following those that promise $10,000 overnight) but most of your followers are going to want to feel part of your special community.
It's interesting to note how many of these accounts have only really taken off with the rapid growth in Twitter this year.
The other interesting factor I noticed was the variety of tools that some of the brands used to communicate on Twitter.
If you're genuinely engaging with your community all of the time, you'll struggle to use just one tool. Some of the more developed Twitter identities, such as Vans, were using HootSuite which I can only imagine is to allow them to gauge success.
All in all, it was an interesting post to research and pretty much all of the brands above were giving true social media engagement a go. Sure some had made mistakes, but that's inevitable I feel in a market that is so new. Fair play to those that have managed pick themselves up rather than hiding by stopping the account.
If you know of any brands you think are doing a great job on Twitter, I'd love to hear about them.
While industry trends are in their early stages, mainly used by early adopters and pioneers, I was wondering if ethical standards of the industry are higher?
I've done some studies into network theories and trend analysis, but I've never read anything relating to the quality of the adoption of early users compared to the later mass followers.
By ethical standards I'm talking about the lengths people will go to ensure they win new business, gain new followers, or exploit their position for their own personal self gain at the expense of others.
Is it that as interest grows in an area, it attracts more people that might be less concerned with ethical approaches. Or can the ethics of those already established alter as the field becomes more competitive.
Adopting the "well they're doing it, so why shouldn't I" I find to be one of the most frustrating attributes of human nature.
But I accepted a long time ago that it was an attribute, and one that I was likely to encounter on a daily basis, so I'd better just get on and accept it.
So how are these unethical approaches rearing their ugly heads in the digital media world?
In no particular order:
Spam - The least ethical and most popular (i.e. heavily used, not most liked) has to be spam. Spam has evolved and it's a clever business. The recent uptake of social media hasn't been free of the invasion of spam, Twitter is thoroughly riddled with spam accounts. Spam works off the principle of the larger the distribution of your message, the more likely one person is going buy into the idea.
Black hat SEO - Next unethical practice that springs to mind is black hat SEO. I'm no expert on SEO, I know the principles and I'd certainly say I know a lot more than your average Joe, but I'm not going to start an in depth discussion on what defines "black hat". Generally it's using underhand tactics that lead to the promotion of your website in SERP's (search engine results page).
Undisclosed affiliate linking - Next up would likely be affiliate linking without disclosure. Affiliate linking allows you to earn from people clicking on links to companies that you've created a relationship with. I've no issue with declared affiliate linking as we've all got to pay the bills; it's the undeclared affiliate links that people use I find unethical.
Link baiting - Link baiting is an idea that can be unethical, but isn't always, in fact sometimes it's a very effective and ethical method of encouraging people to investigate further. A creative title to a link that encourages you to investigate a subject further is generally fine and can utilise some very creative thinking. However, a link that is claiming to link to one thing and the links to another completely different topic is another matter.
Ghost writing - This might be seen as a controversial inclusion, but I'm putting it out there. Personally I feel the world of social media should be . . . well . . . personal. It should be written by you or if it's a company account, by members of your staff. Social media is all about engagement and when I "engage" with an individual or a brand on whatever platform it might be, I'd like to think it was the "real them".
There are several more marginally unethical tactics including the recent craze in increasing follower numbers on social media platforms, seemingly removing the value that social networking offered in the first place.
Behaving ethically on the internet might sound naive to some, come on it's the real world out there, dog eat dog and all that.
Not so for me, ethical actions generally lead me to trust individuals and companies. Trust is an invaluable asset that everyone should be striving to achieve.
Rather than completing sales, increasing numbers or improving awareness through deception, achieving the same through a process of relationship development and proven value.
Not only will the relationship last far longer than any quick hit, but you'll find it will grow to include other relationships with connected contacts. Which is what I always assumed social networking was supposed to encourage anyway?
I'm not naive enough to think that we can have a society where everyone acts ethically, but if just some of us can think about our actions and aim to work ethically it can have a great affect on others.
Here's to a more ethical digital approach in an evolving industry.
As most regular visitors to Digital Signals will know I work for a digital media agency.
Now, you would think that all that work within the digital agency world would be early adopters of all things digital, and all staff would have vast Twitter accounts and a fully integrated social media platform.
This is not so.
Social media is not for everyone and why should it be. We are, after all, all different thankfully. Engaging and communicating with other industry colleagues or interested parties is not something that takes everyone's fancy.
In my role, however, I've found social media to be invaluable so far and it's value continues to grow on a daily basis.
To get the real value from social media I believe you can't just use Twitter or say Facebook. You need to take a multi-pronged approach, using a number of applications that can answer different needs.
The following apps are the ones I used regularly and would recommend others focus their energies on, and a brief review of what I use them for:
To date, I still keep Facebook to people I've met face to face with a few minor exceptions.
I have photos of my family on Facebook and that's not something I want to make available to the public domain. I don't mind the odd photo here and there, but photo albums of holidays and family are something I still want to restrict access to.
I've noticed how much busier Facebook is these days when I do return to my profile and also how busy the status updates are. I seem to spend a lot of time on Twitter that others spend on Facebook.
I've been meaning to create a Facebook account for Digital Signals, but have yet to get round to it. It's something I intend to do as I do have several business related invites on Facebook that I'd like to connect with.
Facebook is still growing it's already enormous network, it's worth joining if you haven't already for both personal and business networking.
LinkedIn has been one of my least busy social networks, but likely one of my most productive and valuable.
Having made an industry/career move has meant that I climbed one career tree to relatively high heights, only to have to start climbing another much lower down.
LinkedIn has enabled me to get back in touch with people I used to work with who, hopefully, respect me for the work I've previously completed. This has lead to a number of new business leads in my industry of choice and I hope will lead to many more.
LinkedIn is an invaluable network, but one that I always maintain a professional profile rather than a more relaxed conversational application.
I love Friendfeed, as I've stated many times before. But like a cat, Friendfeed can be very good at looking after itself.
It's used as an aggregation point for all of my social networking applications and you can find just about all of my online activity there.
It's recent jump in activity has increased my usage of the interface, but not as much as it deserves. If you don't use Friendfeed yet, you should.
What can you say about Twitter that you don't already know? Not a lot I guess, everyone's banging on about Twitter at the moment and that's because it's very good at what it does.
I still hold a lot of value in Twitter, but I haven't gone down the auto follow route just for the sake of achieving exceedingly high follower numbers. I still pick everyone I want to follow and believe this is the way to achieve the best value from the application.
It's great for developing a community of contacts from all walks of life. Forget Wolfram Alpha, if you need a question answered, ask your Twitter community. Some of the answers I've got back to questions asked have been great on Twitter.
I'm a big music fan and I think sharing your music with others speaks volumes about your personality that would take a thousand words to describe.
While I think social music is generally the domain of individual users of the platforms, I think it could be a great addition to the right brands digital portfolio.
Music can engage with people that you wouldn't otherwise suspect of holding similar interests. I've made some of my most interesting contacts via my social music profiles.
Blog is something I hold in high esteem as I've raved about many times.
Blogging properly takes great commitment, but the reward from this commitment can be great.
It will take a long time to build respect for your blog, particularly if like me your are a solo writer.
I find my blog is a great way to not only illustrate your own knowledge on specific matters; but also a place to start conversations which can increase your own understanding and gain you new contacts around that subject.
Obviously all of the details above are looking at the use of these applications from a personal perspective rather than a brand or corporate perspective.
I've yet to offer any detailed advice to a client on how to go about using social media to market their brand. I have however provided a number of clients with advice on what the benefits of social media can be and how we can help them interface social media tools into existing digital platforms.
But the benefits of building networks of people within either your industry or other industries can have great results.
It takes time to work at all of these different social media profiles, but in my experience it's well worth the effort.
There are obviously a whole multitude of other social networks out there other than the ones detailed above, but these networks are the ones that have worked for me so far.
Business is quiet for some at the moment, can't say that's the case in digital media, now would be a great time to start building contacts and good customer relations with your networks.
Taking the time to do this properly should be rewarding for all concerned. I'll take more about what these rewards can be in another post soon.
Back in the day, when Twitter was still the realm of geeks and social media twitchers, many spoke of their follow process and ensuring that you got value from following other peoples feeds.
We all published numerous posts on the importance of completing your bio, telling people a little more about yourself, giving them insight to make an informed decision about whether to follow or not.
Since the recent burst in adoption of Friendfeed all this wisdom seems to have gone out the window, it's like there's been a gold rush!
We've all seemingly panicked and are dashing over to Friendfeed, and to pot with all that hogwash, lets just get as many subscriptions/subscribers as possible, and as quickly as possible.
Now this is not wholly true, as in many cases we've gone through a screening process with our Twitter accounts, so surely they are all suitable for Friendfeed as well?
Well not quite, as the two are not the same. Yes, Friendfeed does allow you to join in with streamed conversation like Twitter, but it also does a lot more. I stream more content into my Friendfeed than I allow Friendfeed to publish to Twitter.
So when you subscribe to someone's Friendfeed you're often getting a lot more than you would with Twitter follow. I feed both of my blogs for instance into my Friendfeed (although recently one has become rather uncared for).
This might be seen as great, more content equals great value. Equally it might be seen as too much noise for a lot of people.
Point two, okay, so we've meet on Twitter, but I don't really remember you, sorry. So tell me what you do again and why I should follow you on Friendfeed?
Fill out your bio on Friendfeed, it takes but a few moments, just click on the settings link in the top right and if nothing else copy and paste the bio you have for Twitter.
Simple, now when I receive a subscribe request I can at least work out what you do and make a decision about whether I should follow you back, or it might remind me of conversations we've had in the past on Twitter.
The amusing thing I've noticed is the fact that once most have subscribed to Friendfeed, they then return to Twitter to chat, populating their Friendfeed with comments from Twitter. But hey, don't get me wrong, that's pretty much what I do!
Creating the simple migration tools for people to import their followers from Twitter to Friendfeed, and then adding them as a promotional item to everyone's feed was a clever move by Friendfeed.
I'm sure this move has seen their user base grow significantly. How many of these new users are actively using Friendfeed though rather than just using it as an aggregation tool I'd be interested to learn.
Sorry if this post sounds a little ranty, but it's supposed to.
We've all been harking on about how important it is to be clear and honest on social media. How we need to tell people who we are, and perhaps how we can help. Yet it all seems to have vanished overnight while we go about ensuring we're seen as big adopters of the next big thing.
So, have you signed up for Friendfeed account yet?
If so, are you using it actively? And, more importantly, have you filled out your bio?
It's application to social media can be handy for work if researching clients customer bases and for other investigations around specific subject matter. Or for news story development as the story gathers pace.
But whilst some visualisations look really good and others actually serve a helpful purpose, it's not always the case that you'll get both from an application.
I wanted to do some exploration into applications that I believe tick both of these prerequisites and also what else was out there.
Hopefully others might share my interest.
Others may just like looking at nice data visualisations and will appreciate my findings.
These applications all compile visualisations from Twitter data.
I found Social Collider through Brian Solis's blog. It's great blog and it should have been on my 9 great blogs I read, but some how I forgot to include it before I pressed publish.
In particular I share Brian's passion for visualistation, I love mapping data into interesting graphics. Social Collider takes both of my prerequisites and turns a data query into a truly stunning graphical representation.
I searched for the occurrence of the term "semantic" over a week (thought this might be a nice term to search for throughout this post as its another personal interest and also appropriately related).
On the left of the graphic is the time line, then across the bottom the data sources. The dots represent each occurrence of the data term and the coloured lines the interconnection relationships between each occurrence.
While the lines are hard to follow interrelationships, they do still illustrate areas that are attracting the most activity around a subject.
It can take sometime for Social Collider to compile its visual, so do it when you don't mind leaving it running in the background for a while.
SteamGraph comes from Neoformix, its probably my favourite and most useful of the Twitter visualisation tools I found.
You enter a search word that you're interested in seeing a visualisation of, and then sit back, as StreamGraph goes about it's business.
The StreamGraph illustrates the usage over time for the words most highly associated with your search word. One of these words, together with a time period are in a selected state and coloured red.
The highlighted word creates a match list below the visualisation of where and when the word appeared on Twitter. You can click on other words within the stream to see their related information.
If you were trying to track a story, this tool would be helpful to analysis interest areas for the story amongst the Twitter community. Illustrating related subjects hopefully giving some insight into target areas or members who may further your cause.
Many of you may have seen Twistori before. While it is a visualisation, it doesn't offer the same functionality of the two tools mentioned already.
It does however give a feeling of the vibe on Twitter today and I quite like the way it displays its information.
Simply focussing on the core emotions/actions of Love, Hate, Believe, Think, Wish and Feel it produces a stream of the words as they appear on the Twitter public stream.
It's simple, if you could customise the word selection you could use it for events quite effectively.
This is a late addition, but it was so nice it was hard not to include it in a post about visualisation. It serves no real purpose, except looking nice.
In Jer's own words:
"This piece looks for tweets containing the phrases 'just landed in...' or 'just arrived in...'. Locations from these tweets are located using MetaCarta's Location Finder API. The home location for the traveling users are scraped from their Twitter pages. The system then plots these voyages over time."