Prohibition blog

March 2011

Viewing posts from March , 2011

How can social media help the Japanese relief effort?

You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy – Japan is not only reeling from the double disaster of last week’s earthquake and tsunami – it’s on the cusp of a third devastating catastrophe due to the potential nuclear meltdown emanating from the Fukushima power station.

And, despite Japan’s reputation as one of the world’s most developed nations, it’s still desperate for other countries to help the mammoth humanitarian relief operation. We hear on the news how aid is forthcoming from Government level, but what about us? How can we pledge our support?

News updates are available online 24/7 to keep us up to date with the latest events, whilst talking round the water cooler at work or over a pint allows us to share our concerns face-to-face. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter mean that not only can we relay our thoughts to peers instantly, we can also use these networks to share information and make donations via numerous charity pages and accounts.

The real time nature of these channels means messages of goodwill, and more importantly money, can be collected far quicker and transferred to the people who need it as soon as possible. So, if you make a donation via one of these platforms, how do you make sure you only respond to genuine pages?

Well, common sense is the best way to judge, although you can be pretty sure a site is kosher on the likes of Facebook if they have fans in their thousands rather than a few random ones. However, to be sure – and this applies to all channels – check that they all link to genuine charity websites, The Red Cross or Christian Aid, for example.

It would take someone pretty sick to take advantage of a situation so dire, but just ensure you’re careful before committing any money. After all, you need to be certain that your goodwill is channelled to the very people you want to help.

Our MD is officially revealed as the top PR person on Twitter in Yorkshire

I was tweeted this morning by my good friend Adrian Johnson who was recently inspired by the PR Week Power Player list which is based on the original PR Weekimage Social Media Power Players list. The PR Week list has been created by Andrew Bruce Smith and Adrian decided to create his own list of PR power players in Yorkshire and amazingly somehow little old me has come out as the number one.

Now I would like to think this is down to my own ingrained natural writing talent and my enigmatic personality but it’s probably luck and the fact I have been twittering too much and for too long. There are a lot of people in these lists that I really respect and it’s nice to be mentioned in the same breath.

I managed to secure 25th in the PR Week UK list too which I thought wasn’t too bad either. Both lists have been compiled using a twitter tool called Peer Index which is a direct competitor to Klout.

Someone who I respect greatly is Brian Solis who commented on Klout today saying: Klout measures social capital not influence!

Klout - Chris Norton Both of these Twitter sites give you an overall score as to how influential you are. Peer Index is a rather prettier tool that also allows you to add all of your friends or peers and create a table and we all know how much we love a good table. I joked with Adrian that I am going to write up my top ten tables on the blog next week.

I actually wrote a blog post way back in February 2009 on the top Twitter users in Yorkshire using a tool called Twitterholic –this was purely based on a follower number basis and it is interesting to see how things have changed in just a couple of years.

These lists, although interesting, aren’t entirely accurate and are often focussed around how many people follow you and how many tweets you have written. A list of people on Twitter doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best PRs in Yorkshire. I know a lot of very good PR people in the region that still don’t even use it despite me pecking at them. So I will enjoy my 15 minutes of fame until 5pm when someone better knocks me off my perch.

Twitter charity creates some genuine tittle-tattle

One of Twitter’s most distinctive features is its ‘follow’ mechanism. You can ‘follow’ other tweeters and thereby see their tweets in your timeline, but they are under no obligation to follow you back. This is in stark contrast to Facebook, where you ‘confirm someone as a friend’ – the very phrase implies a reciprocal relationship. Add someone on Facebook and you automatically see all their updates in your news feed. No real problem if you have 32 – or even 102 – friends, but less ideal if you are famous and have thousands of people competing for your attention online.Prohibition PR Twitter

Once celebrity users began to voice their frustrations with these issues, Facebook introduced a new mechanism, whereby you could declare yourself a ‘fan’ of someone or something on the site. This dealt with the issue of communication overload but there was still something missing. There is little real difference, after all, between a Facebook page and a conventional website. It is just as packaged and impersonal.

Then Twitter came along and the celebrities flocked. Here was the perfect way to talk directly and easily to your fans, unmediated by PR men or even – gasp! – journalists. It was direct, immediate, and heart-felt – or at least it seemed to be.

Fans could follow the famous in the tens of thousands and that had no effect on who they personally chose to follow. It was ideal.

But celebrity tweeters still have a problem – what to do when one of their Twitter followers tries to talk to them. Anyone can, after all, send an ‘@’ message to anyone else on Twitter, and that person will then see it in their timeline, regardless of whether they follow you. They can choose to block you, but this is a painstaking, individual process.

If the famous person responds to @messages, they please a few fans but risk encouraging a flood of other messages from enthusiastic but unrealistic tweeters. Or should they just ignore them? Most celebrities – understandably – opt for the latter course most of the time, and this has the additional benefit of discouraging Twitter ‘trolls’ who might otherwise line up to make rude comments in the hope of provoking a response.

Last week saw the launch of an entirely new spin on celebrity tweeting. Twitrelief, part of the annual Comic Relief initiative, sees a variety of comedians, presenters, authors, fashion designers and actors offering eBay bidders the chance to win a ‘superfollow’, in which said celebrity will follow their tweets for 90 days, retweet one of their 140-character utterances, and also send them an ‘@’ message. Many of the participants are also offering various extras – personal appearances, signed scripts, walk-on parts – the list goes on.

Despite the worthiness of the cause – all the money raised goes, of course, to Comic Relief – the launch caused a great deal of controversy on – where else? – Twitter. Many Twitter users condemned the concept – it was self-aggrandising, they claimed, it was reducing genuine, albeit Internet-enabled, human interaction to a commodity. Others argued passionately that it was for charity and therefore above any kind of criticism. Proponents of each view angrily unfollowed each other and for a while on launch day (March 10), Twitrelief was an official Twitter trend.

Twitrelief At the risk of sounding cynical, I took the critical view. Isn’t there, after all, something inherently undignified about effectively paying to have a celebrity listen to what you have to say? I also think the eventual winners of each so-called superfollow will find it hard to relax and be themselves on Twitter for the duration of the 90 days. Some will no doubt gush and embarrass themselves, others will feel they need to engage in 140-character performances in the probably vain hope of impressing their temporary Twitter buddy. And even if they do manage to engage the celebrity in a genuine conversation or two, the artificiality of the whole enterprise will be thrown into stark relief on the 91st day when their new Twitter friend unfollows them.

But perhaps I am taking too negative a view. Lots of money will, of course, be raised for worthy causes and perhaps many of the auction winners will genuinely enjoy the experience.

Twitrelief poses some intriguing questions about the nature of social networking. Can it be packaged and commoditised in this way? Should we expect social networking-enabled communication to be genuine on some level or is it inherently artificial? In other words: is a tweet from Stephen Fry the equivalent of a backstage autograph?

What is the future of Facebook? It’s in this video.

Here is an interesting concept – everyday we hear more and more about Facebook growing and I read a lot of posts of people asking for new features or making recommendations on how Facebook can change and get better.

This has prompted Venessa Miemis to create “The Future of Facebook” project which is basically a campaign to gather enough money together to interview a huge amount of big hitters and ask the big question “What is the future of Facebook?” Let’s hope it’s better than that of Friends Reunited.

For the record my view on the future of Facebook is that it will become a mobile hub that allows us to buy, interact, share and post wherever we are without us needing our credit cards. I also believe that to do this the ongoing battle with Google will be resolved eventually and the garden walls will be removed and we ‘the users’ will be able to share our content wherever and whenever we want.

I think this is quite a clever way to get the funding to do a video which is going to be watched by millions – so it gets a tick from me. They need to raise $5,000 and they have 42 days left on their deadline having already received $3,356. Let’s hope the video is worth it and doesn’t go on for too long when it is finished.

Will the ASA affect the way we use Twitter and Facebook?

As of today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has the power to monitor companies’ website content in a similar way to ‘paid for’ advertising. What’s more, you may think twice about what you post on the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn, as they too could be placed under the microscope.

So, is this an invasion of our rights to freely promote ourselves and our businesses, or is the ASA acting as a result of complaints from people who don’t understand how websites and social media platforms work?

According to the BBC, the ASA has received more than 4,500 complaints since 2008 about the way text has been worded on websites, leading to tightened monitoring. However, when you think many of these could have been from ‘busybodies’ who have nothing better to do than pick fault at the tiniest of details, you have to worry!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many observations are perfectly justified, but without wanting to sound like I’m stereotyping – the kind of people who complain are often those who don’t have a clue about modern communications, which is why it seems ludicrous that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn could fall foul of meddling individuals’ misinformed actions.

Quite frankly, it appears to be a move by the ASA to get in line with emerging communications channels, which are here to stay, rather than a plausible requirement. After all, I’m sure there are far shadier targets they should be focusing their efforts on rather than typical B2B brands!

Personally, I don’t think social media platforms will be affected as the ASA only monitors sites which are UK-owned – i.e. those using the .co.uk domain suffix. Therefore, Facebook for example won’t be at their mercy quite so much. Besides, the transient nature of online content would make rules difficult to administer anyway.

That all said, it does serve as a reminder not to become complacent about your social media dealings and as a word of caution, think carefully what you post about your company or products – Big Brother is watching you!