Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Android vs iPhone debate (Part 2)

So a while back I posted this - an 'I told you so' on why android was finally winning, at least in terms of market share. I may - repeat may - be changing my mind. 

The HTC Hero I bought in 2008 is still alive and kicking. I haven't even updated the android version and it's only just getting slow. So what's the problem? Well there's two. Developers, and my general laziness.

Developers and Brands

Ok, so I don't have the stats. But amongst the many articles that sprang up about Steve Job's recent passing I found this little gem of a quote:

Jobs and his team taught companies that brands and technology can be interwoven without being complex and confusing - the reason brands still seek to develop apps for the iPhone and iPad first before thinking of other operating systems, despite Android having a larger market share. 

I'm not convinced it's that simple, but the facts remain - developers like apple. Brands like apple. Getting an 'app' for your brand is the latest big thing, and yet the android versions of these apps are missing or absent completely. Even freelance developers have their eyes on the prize, and most seem to be chasing the elusive 'super-app' (the new angry birds) to be sold on the iPhone app market.

My Laziness

When it comes to technology, I'm lazy. We all are. The point of technology is to make things easier (that and fun - I mentioned angry birds, right?). And the iPhone makes everything...just. so. easy. 
  • easy synching with my mac and iPod
  • easy browsing (android still isn't a great user experience)
  • easy apps
  • easy navigation
  • easy listening (my android phone isn't also an MP3 player...)
  • easy photography
  • easy sharing
Yes I hate the monopoly. I hate how if I accidentally delete a track I have to re-download and pay for it again. I hate how you can only have 5 computers with your iTunes account on (or was it four?). But, when all's said and done, the iPhone is popular with brands - brands I want to buy things from, and interact with. The iPhone is also a very good looking and well designed phone, with a great user interface.

I may well be giving in...  

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Social Decision Making

Some of the hardest things about bank holidays, are all the decisions to be made. Go away or stay at home? Where to watch the Royal Wedding? Whether the in-laws really need to be invited for Easter... 

I often pester my friends or partner with this sort of trivial dilemma after work, but all these bank holidays actually mean I have so much work to 'tie up' I'm too tired for post 6pm drinks! I need a new method of putting questions to the panel. Preferably in warmth and comfort. Enter, the social network.

The collaboration aspect of Web 2.0 allows us to ask questions of our network, and amongst my own network more and more often I’m beginning to see people asking for advice. Many of my friends used to make decisions on purchases, for example, by googling the product and looking for review websites or forum mentions. Now, they are simply logging into a social network and asking friends, acquaintances or complete strangers for recommendations, in the hope that they will have insight on the matter.

For example:

Drew Benvie, managing director of agency 33 digital commented on his experience of decision-making via social media in their 2010 social media report:
I spent one week asking my social network whenever I had to make a decision. Not only was my social graph of use to me in recommending places to eat, drink and be merry, but it taught me all sorts of interesting things. It persuaded me to exercise more, showed me the benefits of new things, and even how I should travel.
Last year, a particularly astounding example of social decision making came to light. A blogging couple asked people to decide whether or not they had an abortion on  www.birthornot.com . Thankfully I can report that this was effectively a PR stunt by a pro-life campaigner, and no actual babies (or foetuses) were harmed in the making of the website. Her argument, however, was that the pro-choice camp would be absurd not to recognise a 'choice' no matter what basis it was made on. Whilst I won't comment on the abortion debate itself (or the morality of the methods she used to highlight it), I do find it very interesting that 'crowd sourced' social decision making is being applied to more and more situations, even ones where the (alleged) outcomes would have such a profound effect on a human life. 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Rowse Honey Facebook Campaign

At first I was skeptical. To be honest, any time someone on my television screen directs me to their Facebook page I'm somewhat sceptical. It seems a little convoluted for businesses to advertise social campaigns  - paying money to direct people to another promotion.

In this case, however, I was pleasantly surprised, both by the quality of the campaign, and the amount of interaction.

The concept is that staff have made their own adverts and the public vote for a winner to be aired on national tv. Not an entirely original premise (I'm pretty sure I remember a few campaigns like this using YouTube as a platform) however it is well executed and with a couple of nice extra touches.

The videos are good - bit arty but still with a homemade feel so not pretentious - and have sparked a few hundred comments on each one. There are also nearly a thousand votes or 'likes' for each video too.

An appealing feature of the page is the box on the right hand side - people will be more inclined to do something if they know their actions will cause some good, however small. And everyone likes fluffy little bees! 

The next appealing feature is an offer of a free pot of honey. Freebies are always welcome. The only slight hitch is that it's not very obvious where on the page you can sign up for a free pot, unless you spot this bit in the menu under the 'save the bees' feature:

They may not want to give honey away to all and sundry (in fact, the page now says they have run out), but making it less obvious will frustrate the user, and may lead to comments like this:

However although Rowse haven't dealt with the comment above yet, there are some good official responses on the discussion pages. The first one is a nice example of how companies can emphasise their social goals and allay claims of pure commercialism:

And this one below is a good demonstration of how brands can instil trust by being truly knowledgeable  about their product and issues surrounding it, in this case nature:

In conclusion, the Rowse Facebook campaign is a good example of how to use social media to encourage interaction from the consumer, asking for their input on a decision, offering them freebies, and adding an element of charity. It does have usability flaws, yet the friendly transparent nature of the company communications goes some way to mitigate any frustrations.

Overall 7/10   

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Seeds of technological change. (Ai Wei Wei)

Oh, a carpet?

Turbine Hall, Tate Modern (own image)

Nope. It's actually over 100,000 porcelain sunflower seeds. An installation by artist Ai Wei Wei as part of the gallery's annual Unilever series.

(Photo Courtesy of Tate Photography)
Aside from being slightly breathtaking (and raising the question 'why?') the installation caught my interest for another reason. The inscription on the side describes:

"Each piece is a part of the whole, a poignant commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. There are over one hundred million seeds. Five times the number of Beijing's population and nearly a quarter of China's internet users."

Since when did the amount of internet users become a way to measure vast numbers? Is it a figure everyone understands? Also, the proximity to the statement about the individual versus the masses is intriguing - certainly we feel insignificant as one seed, or internet user, but together we can effect global awareness, change and even revolution (ahem Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria?).

 Or am I reading way too much into an interesting statistic chosen by a researcher? You decide :) 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Social Media & The Law 2 - Libel

As promised, here are some more thoughts on social media and it's interaction with the British legal system. As part of Social Media Week (#smwldn), this morning I attended a breakfast workshop entitled Big Brand Social Media & Dealing with Potential Libel with a guest speaker from law firm Schillings

Points of interest were:

  • According to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) journalists are "...entitled, when reporting the death of an individual, to make use of publicly available material obtained from social networking sites. However, editors should always consider the impact on grieving families when taking such information (which may have been posted in a jocular or carefree fashion) from its original context and using it within a tragic story about that person's death". 
I'm glad the clause 'when reporting the death' is in there - it implies they have other sources. Otherwise would we see journalists prematurely reporting deaths via Twitter rumours?  

  • Q: So is personal information in the public domain, eligible to be shared by the press? Does the premise of a "reasonable expectation of privacy" apply to social media? 

A: The breakfast speaker concluded it does in some cases, but noted that a High Court Judge has ruled "blogging is a public activity" in the U.K and this may have opened some flood gates. As the story here shows, the precedent has been set for social media content to be fair game for journalists - the PCC effectively decided that the civil servant who expected her tweets only to be seen by her 700 followers, hadn't a (feathered) leg to stand on. 

But clearly, long before this ruling made it official, social media has been a valued source for hacks:

235 results found for 'on Facebook page' on the Mail Online site, dating back as far as May 2007!

  • So, when can (or should) people seek legal redress for issues arising from social media?
The lawyer this morning ascertained that only 1% of issues of this nature lead to legal action and that actions vary according to:

- the tolerance of the individual/company concerned
- who is the target, is it very personal?
- potential impact (financial being a big consideration)

and suggested it's best practice to find the lowest impact solution (both in terms of cost and negative publicity) and work with PR and social media teams to manage a response.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Digital Recruitment Confusions

Confession: I am a jobseeker. Otherwise known in recruitment as 'talent'.

Since leaving my previous job (end of 2010) it's been an interesting experience to say the least. The digital landscape is so new, and changes so rapidly, that it seems to be a confusing time for both the jobseeker and sometimes even the recruiter!

I'll give a couple of personal examples here and then a few thoughts on what could be causing all the confusion. The first example is a real conversation I had with a recruiter, X who rang me up after finding my CV on Monster.com :

X:   So, I see from your CV that you have worked in social media?

me: Yep, most of my roles have involved social media work, and it is definitely something that interests me.

X:   Great, so in these previous roles were you involved in structuring social media?

me: Uh, I was involved in developing the social media strategy, for the companies I worked for, yes.

X:   Yes but what about the structure

me: I implemented staff social media training, so I had a positive influence on the communications structure...

X: [long pause]

Me: Or do you mean the structure of the platforms? I'm not a developer so unfortunately I can't claim to have built or altered the structure of a social media platform...

At which point I was cut off. I'd be really interested to see what the brief for that job actually was! Was he talking about being a thought-leader, how I had shaped  and structured the social sphere itself? Was he trying to get me to describe myself as a social media 'guru' (I wouldn't, I hate the term)? Or had he just got the wrong end of the stick when my CV said I developed a strategy and thought I built a new Twitter? I guess i'll never know. He had called from an unknown number, and I didn't catch his name.  

Experience number two was with a recruitment company I sourced myself. I found their website (a bit flash heavy, but creative and professional) and sent them my CV. They called back for a chat and told me they'd email over a job description that suited what I was looking for. Less than 10 minutes later, someone else called from the same company, to ask if i'd be interested in a job 6k under my expected salary and for a fluent French speaker. He said he saw I had a French A-level and wondered if I'd be happy doing SEO in French??

I realise these two examples won't be indicative of digital recruitment as a whole, and I am also (of course) grateful that my CV is attracting calls at all, but it does seem a bit concerning. I think I may also know one of the problems: terminology. As I said at the beginning this is a very rapidly changing environment, and the English language is slow moving. Unsurprisingly there is a bit of disagreement about we call these people that do all these newfangled things! For example:

Content Manager - this is not necessarily a managerial level role. It could be executive or even entry level. What matters is that the individual is managing content i.e curating what copy and images are on the website. They could be writing the copy themselves or just co-ordinating and sub-editing it.

Web Editor - pre web 2.0 this used to mean the guy/girl that had built the website. This now more commonly means someone who edits the copy on the website, so needs much less technical experience. Of course the web editor should preferably know some HTML, and the principles of SEO but will nowadays be more likely to be editing text via a content management system (not to be confused with the content manager, above) than coding anything.

Q: What do you call the person hired to run the company Twitter, Facebook and Youtube presences? 

A: Social media Executive/Assistant,  Social Media Marketer,  Digital Marketer,  Online Marketer, Social Community Manager (again not managerial level)Community Moderator and many many more. If they also run the blog, this can extend to job titles including the aforementioned 'content' and 'editor' keywords as well.

I have held (and also applied for) many of these roles, but that doesn't necessarily mean I have a skillset to put a swiss army knife to shame! What it does mean is I have looked past the sometimes arbitrary titles, to what the role will actually involve on a day to day level, and seen whether my experience matches this. 

For the moment, until there is an established nomenclature for positions within digital, perhaps this is the best we - as individuals - can do. Recruiters can try to gain deeper knowledge of the digital sector, listening to their clients, and listening to the jobseekers and really trying to get what the person will be doing. This is no longer as simple as "agency side (check) , account manager (check), digital experience (check)" as that last term could me a whole lot of things, in a whole lot of contexts, with a bunch of different names! 

Of course I wouldn't tar all recruiters with the same brush. Some agencies specialise in digital, and others are just genuinely very good and take the time to get to know the client and the jobseeker. I have had the pleasure of meeting and dealing with both these types. I am just interested in the way recruitment has been affected by the myriad of changes in this developing sector, and what might be causing the communication difficulties which appear to be faced by jobseeker and recruiter alike. I'm interested, as always, to hear your thoughts.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Internet 'Kill Switches' and the Egyptian Protests

Today, during my morning Twitter check, I found an astounding blog by James Cowie of renesys.com. Apparently, while I was sleeping, the internet was switched off in Egypt. 

Like this:
Image courtesy of renesys.com

After shutting down mobile phone and text messaging (SMS) services, it seems the Egyptian government has also ordered the big four ISPs  (Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr) to halt internet provision as well. With the telling exception of Noor.net, which has these high profile clients.

What were the government hoping to achieve by this? Some would have us believe that they wanted to stem communication between the protestors to help quell the riots. Others would have us believe that they wanted to suppress communication with the international media, so that they could deal with the rioters out of their gaze. It is rumoured that the Egyptian internet went down shortly after a video of a protestor being shot by a sniper was circulated by the Associated Press.

Whatever the cause, can this act, which denied internet access to over 80 million people, be justified? Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are recognised rights of citizens of democracies, but with the internet as a conduit of press freedom and popular expression should we be trying to protect this too?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Social Media and the Law

Everyone's heard a story about an employee who got sacked because of an ill-judged Facebook status. If you haven't, check this out:

Image from mashable.com

Although 'Facebook firing' is another branch of the personal vs. work profile debate (what is really private? when are you the face of the brand?) it does raise another question - the stance of the law.

Legal precedents are being set left right and centre in the digital sphere, but is there a consistency, or a guiding principle? Privacy law, intellectual property law, libel law all these can easily be applied to a virtual space where people voice their opinions and engage with others. Or can they?

Where are people saying these things, for example? If I tweet something, is that tweet subject to the law of my country or the law of the country where Twitter is hosted?

And what about advertising laws, and the laws that govern fair trading? In the U.K the Advertising Standards Agency are clamping down on social media marketing, but this is considerably behind the times. We needed regulation on how companies promote themselves on social media years ago, as companies saw these mediums as a way to circumvent existing offline rules, creating misleading campaigns and unfair competitions.

Can the law keep up with social media, or will it always be one step behind? I have a feeling this won't be the last blog I do on this topic, and i'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The great Android vs. iPhone 'I told you so'

I'm sorry, I have to do this. You see, back in 2009 I swapped my chunky little Sony Ericsson (which, may I add had a very nifty camera) for an HTC Hero.

At the time, I was egged on my the nice gentlemen at Square Circle Media. These guys all had iPhones, but knew I hated the mac operating system, so they wanted to see how i'd get on with another option. At the time, this was very open minded of them. When I say they 'had iPhones' what I really mean is they were pretty much card carrying members of the Steve Jobs party. The morning a new iPhone version came out the office was empty until 11am.

So, partly in an attempt to prove there was 'another way', and partly because the idea of synching with my google mail appealed, I got an android phone.

Image from bgr.com

I remember going to PokerCoder (what? I code a bit. Free bar </of>), an event filled with some of London's most techie people, and bringing up the iPhone v.s android debate. Needless to say, here I was in apple heartland and encountered a lot of opposition. Lengthy debates ensued. Strangers played with my phone, I became known as android girl. (I kid you not, however considering it was a 98% male event just 'girl' would have done). The conclusion was, that although my android was a nice bit of kit, the design wasn't as attractive and although the android market was open, this would actually mean a lot of junk to be filtered through in the search for useful applications.

It appears that my android rantings may have hit home on one occasion, as I got a DM from the lovely @creacog in June last year, to tell me all about his new HTC desire. The android movement was gathering pace. Earlier in 2010 it had hit North America - sales had increased 707% year-on-year and Carphone Warehouse recently released interesting third quarter figures.

Chief executive Roger Taylor said Carphone did not keep precise figures on how many phones were selling on either the Android or Apple platform, but added: "At some point in 2010 the Android overtook every other operating platform." 

And if that isn't enough evidence that android is victorious, from the same article: Nielsen estimates Android accounts for 40.8% of US Smartphone sales – against 26.9% for iPhone."

I think it's about time to declare a winner people. I won't say it....

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Great Cull - 'Unfollowing' on Twitter and 'Defriending' on Facebook.

The other day I was in an office at lunchtime and a colleague was checking his personal Facebook. Work usage aside (check the corporate social media policy post), it was his exclamation which interested me:

"Dammit Megan, I don't care whether i've survived another friend cull. Who does that?"

I've noticed that many of my Facebook contacts have started 'culling' their Facebook friends. Statuses like this are appearing regularly on my feed:

Announcing that you've de-friended people on Facebook can alienate some people (like my colleague) but judging from the number of 'likes' the post above got, it also has the effect of reinforcing the relationships you value.

But, why delete contacts?

These are two very different questions from a business and a personal perspective. On a personal level when I first join any social network I add almost everyone I know, a few people I almost know and a whole bunch of people of people i've just met (this isn't necessarily best practice, but it's very tempting!) A few weeks, months, years later and i'm left wondering who on earth that person is that has just posted a status about their cat on my feed, but leaving them be in case they get more interesting.

Yesterday I attempted my first personal Facebook and Twitter cull, and discovered it's not easy. I tried to be ruthless, and reasons for de-friending included:
  • Irritating/immature statuses
  • No statuses
  • Couldn't remember who they were! 
To my shame also, a few people were saved from the cull because their work info included something interesting like Google, or UK Parliament. They may just come in handy one day...

Twitter was even more difficult as I tend to follow quite a lot of people and their statuses are generally interesting and informative. I do tend to keep my 'following' count under my 'follower' count as a rule of thumb however. Eventually I only ended up 'unfollowing' the accounts that I don't remember seeing a tweet from, and only then if any tweets on their feed are dull or spammy.

Should I ever delete, block or 'unfollow' people from a business account?

99% of the time, no. If you have a business Facebook persona that has friends (not adviseable anyway) then anyone agreeing to be your friend, knowing that you are a business, must really like your brand. De-friending them would be a complete faux pas. Even if people are posting criticisms or complaints, a complaint that you can resolve, will mean that a customer is 70% likely to do business with you again.

Unfollowing on Twitter is a different matter. Although websites such as TweetEffect can tell you which Tweets gained/lost you followers, it's very hard to find which individual has unfollowed. This means that on a corporate level you can unfollow without causing offence.

Important things:

  • Don't be offended. If you are unfollowed learn from it and think what you can do to make your tweets/statuses more interesting.
  • Some platforms (especially Twitter) can have 'bugs'. My 'following' count sometimes fluctuates of it's own accord, but is usually rectified.
  • People can be useful. You never know when you might need to get in touch with the Ukelele society (well, ok, but you know...). Without sounding too cynical, maybe only remove people who you no longer know well enough to ask a favour!

I don't mean to sound ungrateful in this post. I have a great many people who I am friends with on social media platforms who I go back a long way with, and I truly value their online and offline friendship. Some people, however, I met once, possibly with drink in hand, and added them the next day because they made an impression. I doubt they remember me either by now!

What does anyone else think? Feel free to post your 'culling' experiences in the comments.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Social Media Policy (or "how, when, where and what to tweet. Love from, your employer")

Social Media Guidelines, Social Media Rules, call them what you will, now large companies have wised up to social media, they have started making policies.

For any company with staff tweeting and blogging their way into public consciousness, what these staff are saying will be a concern. Even on their own time, an employee that comments on a competitors blog, or tweets a company secret is a huge liability. There are two camps on this one. Some people leave employees (within reason) to their own creative juices, in their own time and ask that they provide a "these opinions are my own" disclaimer. Other companies actively encourage employee social media activity on behalf of the company and set out regulations to guide their posts.

It's a tricky path that companies tread, between stifling micromanagement and potential PR disasters, and I personally don't think the balance has been found in a lot of cases. Social Media is about openness and sharing, and the more you restrict that, the less value it has to the individual. Who wants to speak when they're being told what to say? More importantly, who really wants to listen to someone who can't speak freely? It's a very hard task juggling transparency and professionalism on such new channels and it often requires whole new outlook.

Some businesses have decided to go public with their corporate social media policies which is great news for us as studying the social media strategies of the giants can be interesting reading.

I'll leave you with a positive example taken from IBM

BM Social Computing Guidelines
  1. Know and follow IBM's Business Conduct Guidelines.
  2. IBMers are personally responsible for the content they publish on-line, whether in a blog, social computing site or any other form of user-generated media. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time—protect your privacy and take care to understand a site's terms of service.
  3. Identify yourself—name and, when relevant, role at IBM—when you discuss IBM or IBM-related matters, such as IBM products or services. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
  4. If you publish content online relevant to IBM in your personal capacity use a disclaimer such as this: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions."
  5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
  6. Don't provide IBM's or another's confidential or other proprietary information and never discuss IBM business performance or other sensitive matters publicly.
  7. Don't cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval. When you do make a reference, link back to the source. Don't publish anything that might allow inferences to be drawn which could embarrass or damage a client.
  8. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in IBM's workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion.
  9. Be aware of your association with IBM in online social networks. If you identify yourself as an IBMer, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and clients.
  10. Don't pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes.
  11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. IBM's brand is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on IBM's brand.
  12. Don't use use IBM logos or trademarks unless approved to do so.

This is only a small part of the full policy, although somehow the guidelines manage not to seem to restrictive, just professional. Maybe it's because i've already read this lovely paragraph:

BM is increasingly exploring how online discourse through social computing can empower IBMers as global professionals, innovators and citizens. These individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communications, but masses of communicators. Through these interactions, IBM's greatest asset--the expertise of its employees--can be shared with clients, shareholders, and the communities in which it operates.

It's got a nice feel to it, no? The final two lines are my favourite though:

Don't forget your day job. You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with your job or commitments to customers.

Right, back to work then! ;)