Tagged: facebook

Reckitt’s strategic approach to Facebook marketing

Reckitt Benckheiser is taking social media seriously enough to start joint business planning with Facebook, according to AdAge:

Reckitt Benckiser, like other packaged-goods players, has long done business planning with major retailers such as Walmart and Target, where it maps out long-term promotional products and marketing programs. Now, RB is applying the concept to Facebook. Continue reading

Slow-mo social: Friction and frictionless sharing

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Interesting train of thought set in motion by an excellent blog post from Chris Thorpe.

He makes a case for “frictionless sharing” (stuff you read or see or listen to being shared automatically with your social network) as promoted by Facebook, being “noisy and for robots” while “declarative frictionfull sharing” (deciding to share things and putting a little effort into doing so) as being meaningful. Continue reading

On revolutions: two blog posts that stopped me in my tracks

Two blog posts – one notes for a Newsnight feature that never got made, the other an academic paper – made a deep impression on me when I read them last week, and have stayed with me since. I’ve recommended them on Twitter and to anyone whose will listen. For me they together mark a turning point in the development of the social web and the way it affects society and politics. They, and the events they analyse have implications for business, our personal lives and just about everything else as well.

I’m still digesting their implications, and the implications of the past few weeks in Egypt and Tunisia. This blog post comprises my notes on both pieces.

The two blog posts

First of all, if you haven’t read them yet, I cannot recommend highly enough taking some time to read these two blog posts (and many of the comments on the former):

Paul Mason: Twenty Reasons Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere

Dan McQuillan: New Social Networks With Old Technology – What the Egyptian Shutdown Tells Us About Social Media

Kicking off everywhere

Paul Mason’s post pulls together social, economic and technology factors that have led to what seems to be a global wave of street protests, activism and unrest…

At the heart of it all are young people, obviously; students; westernised; secularised. They use social media – as the mainstream media has now woken up to – but this obsession with reporting “they use twitter” is missing the point of what they use it for.

Some insights I took from his post were:

  • This isn’t all about technology, but technology’s effect have created the context for the revolutions in progress: “Technology has – in many ways, from the contraceptive pill to the iPod, the blog and the CCTV camera – expanded the space and power of the individual.”

  • Networks erode hard ideologies: He talks about the protest movements globally having at their heart the “graduate with no future” who is not prone to “traditional and endemic ideologies”. From Islamism to socialism, structured ideologies ultimately end up in movements becoming sclerotic as the forces of bureaucracy and internal power struggles take place. I’d say that this rule may hold true for corporations and other organisations ultimately.

  • The collapse of command and control communications as an instrument of authoritarianism: Because of social media “truth moves faster than lies, and propaganda becomes flammable”. This reminds me of something I learned early in PR about crisis communications – gossip and misinformation often moves faster than facts because it is illicit and has perceived value in human social networks. You pass on rumours and urban myths and spam because of this (“KFC has no chicken in it”, “New Facebook app lets you see who has viewed your profile”). In places where the media and government are spreading the lies and misinformation the hunger is for truth and the value in the social network comes from spreading. If truth is illict, it spread faster?

  • Transparency, and effect of the social web’s pressures on organisations, reveals not just information but how systems work: As Paul writes:

People have a better understanding of power. The activists have read their Chomsky and their Hardt-Negri, but the ideas therein have become mimetic: young people believe the issues are no longer class and economics but simply power: they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various “revolutions” in their own lives as part of an “exodus” from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a “diversion into the personal”.

One point which Paul makes links his notes to Dan McQuillan’s paper/post:

oppositional youth – both in the west in repressive regimes like Tunisia/Egypt, and above all in China – live in a virtual undergrowth online and through digital comms networks. The internet is not key here – it is for example the things people swap by text message, the music they swap with each other etc: the hidden meanings in graffiti, street art etc which those in authority fail to spot.

It has always been thus. Undergrounds don’t need the internet, they have have happened, have thrived before. But social media doesn’t just provide new communications methods, it brings a new mindset. Over to our second blog post: New Social Networks With Old Technology – What the Egyptian Shutdown Tells Us About Social Media

New Social Networks with Old Technology

Dan lays things out pretty in his abstract:

This paper argues that this use of pre-digital technologies to form the kinds of infrastructure afforded by modern social technologies is evidence of a radical change in people’s perceptions of their world and its connectedness. Social media has constituted a real change that goes beyond specific technologies. This flies in the face of many sceptical critics who argue that new technologies only reinforce old practices and social structures.

This is an insight which is very valuable beyond the protests also. To put it pithily, using social media changes how we expect the world to work. It changes what we expect from relationships, how we find out about things, talk about things, organise things.

Dan also puts a certain bit of unhelpful misreporting/social media hype to rest when he discusses the “Thank You Facebook” image which featured in a lot of Western media. It’s a mis-translation at best…

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The mis-translation of a protester’s sign from Tahrir Square encapsulates the argument about the impact of social media. The photo that shows a middle-aged protestor in Tahrir square holding a handwritten sign in Arabic. The only English word on his sign is ‘FACEBOOK’, in large red letters carfeully highlighted in black. Many western blog and media outlets published versions of this with the slogan translated as ‘Thank you Facebook’. In fact, as I have verified with correspondents in the Egyptian diaspora, the correct translation is ‘Thank you, Egypt’s Facebook youth’. The gulf between these sentiments is huge; the wrong translation elevates the technology, whereas the real one identifies the youth as agents of change. But in labelling them ‘Egypt’s Facebook youth’ it also recognises that they’re acting differently to what came before, that their post-deferential dynamism reflects the character of their favoured tool.

Acting differently doesn’t just mean using Facebook, Twitter et al:

My contention is that social media is neither the cause of major change, nor irrelevant to it; but that it’s impact is most powerful in cementing new ways of thinking and acting based on connectedness.

Dan walks us through a timeline of the cutting off of the internet in Egypt and discusses the range of “pre-Web” technologies people used to keep the networks working. “Older” tech like ham radio, modems and telephones came into play, along with tech like Tor started to be used:

The Tor project reported on January 30th that “Over the last three days, 120,000 people — most of them Egyptian — have downloaded Tor software”. The Tor project was a platform for participatory solidarity as word spread across the social web of the need for people to run Tor relays and bridges on their computers, and graphs on the Tor blog show the dramatic rise in the number of bridges around the world after 25th January.

I like as well, the clear way Dan dismisses the whole discussion about whether “it was Social Media wot won it”:

Arguments over whether a particular social change would have happened in the absence of social media are somewhat sterile; there is no experimentally controlled comparison where we can re-run a revolution without Twitter. But more importantly those arguments fail to go to the core of the impact i.e. that social media has changed the global sense of entitlement to real-time peer-to-peer communication within fluid networks of association.

He goes on to say “social media has changed the global sense of entitlement” toward being able to have these kind of communications, connections, relationships… That sense of entitlement means cutting off the internet is

The strands of thought in these two posts, and the context that they bring isn’t a case of Western democracy and freedom prevailing. Democracy as it is currently practiced is also under pressure – witness Wikileaks and the friction between the US State Department and Twitter. Those promises and ideals that Google and its ilk had about protecting our personal information from intrusive state authorities? They are being tested now and will be tested more so in the coming months and years.

Businesses too will be tested by these forces. Transparency is one they need to consider, but also changed expectations of customers, employees, of everyone about how they work. All organisations, not just corrupt and authoritarian governments may well experience challenges from networks, from new ideas about what they should do, how they should be organised.

: : As an aside, how great blogging is still as a form for getting these thoughts out. Before blogs i might never have read Dan’s analysls outside of an acdemic paper months later. Instead I get his analysis the moment it is finished. The notes Peter made for the Newsnight feature would have stayed in a notebook once the piece for the programme was dropped. Instead he was able to not waste that intellectual effort but share it and reach a huge audience (I don’t know what the traffic is, but the number of comments and re-tweets of the article suggest it was significant.

Causes and contexts: Arab Twitter revolutions and the origins of the First World War


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Image: A troop train in the First World War (cc) drakegoodman

@avschlieffen: Is anyone srsly suggesting trains caused the biggest war of all time? WTF!?! Get over it, you trainspotters. Rail isn’t everything.

@billthekaiser: LOL It wasn’t me it was the 11.24 to Gdansk that made me do it. ;)

Train timetables caused the biggest conflict the world had ever seen. 16 million dead, 21 million wounded. Mechanised destruction and suffering, literally on an industrial scale.

That was the argument of AJP Taylor, one of the most influential British historians of the latter part of the 20th century (and the godfather of TV dons). What he said was that the plans for troop movements a large scale war against both France and Russia simultaneously by German military planners depended on a sequence of trains deploying troops quickly to both fronts. Once you pressed the button, as it were, there was no turning back. If you paused you would lose the advantage and then the war.

So when they thought they had to go to war, the logic of the technology, the context created by the communications technology of the time (trains and telegraphs, to put it simply) meant that Germany had to commit completely.

It was a startling insight. Tragic and disorientating when you thought it through – this apocalypse was brought about by a human’s decision, but one which was warped by the technology, the systems they had created about themselves.

The web reveals the complexity of the world about us. It speeds things up. This much we know.

One effect of this is a flight to simplicity, it seems. People see the complexity and can’t accept – they want to know cause and effect: thing x causes thing y. Yes or no. You agree or disagree. Win or WTF.

It’s hard in 140 characters to include caveats and disclaimers, maybe that’s part of it.

Take the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia over the past few weeks. Communications technology and social networks have been present, both on the streets, among the protagonists.

Did Facebook cause the revolution? Is it a Twitter revolution? These are partly silly questions, partly interesting ideas to follow through. Historians will soon enough, why shouldn’t we?

One thing is perspective, another is evidence, and then there’s time to reflect, think over hypotheses for and against. As events occur, it is hard to get a lot of any of these things.

Which is why a lot of the Twitter updates I’ve seen on this subject are likely to be filed/filtered as less useful noise, less likely to follow the links if they are saying something binary and self-evidently unconsidered “It’s a Twitter revolution!” or “social networks play no part in it – get over yourselves you technocrat Western narcissists.”

It is not unimaginable that the presence of web technologies have enabled people to communicate and coordinate street actions – there seems to be evidence that is the case. Twitter’s not the sole cause of the uprisings, just as train timetables were not the sole cause of the Great War.

Social networking technology and mobile phones are important part of the context, not of the causes of these events.

On a different, related note: corporations and Governments will behave differently about diplomacy because of the logic, the context of a hyper-connected world. Transparency will be assumed, knowledge will be assumed, the inevitability or high likelihood of disclosure will colour decision-making.

Twitter and Facebook and Google aren’t going to be the root causes of these things, but they will be the context, why things are able to happen in certain ways, why people choose to do certain things, for good and ill.

Coming back to the main point of this post, though – we shouldn’t waste energy on black and white debates about technology and current affairs. Acknowledge the fuzziness, embrace complexity – it’s the only useful way to make sense of the world.

: : For a useful analysis of the arguments around this issue (and links to some of the most interesting points of view) I recommend reading Matthew Ingram’s post on GigaOm It’s Not Twitter or Facebook, It’s the Power of the Network

: : And before any scholars jump in about the Twitter joke, yes I know Alfred von Schlieffen was dead by the time the First World War broke out. :)

Facebook planet

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This image has been on my computer desktop and on my mind since I saw it in December. High time I shared it here, really.

It’s a data visualisation of 10 million pairs of friends on Facebook and where they live in relationship to one another, created by an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team. Read the original blog post in full – it is fascinating stuff.

As Ian Tait points out, what’s amazing is that there is no map underneath, and yet you can pick out the shapes of the continents.

Interesting too are the gaps – China, Brazil and Russia are underrepresented, perhaps due to the fact that other social networks are more prevalent in those territories (RenRen, Orkut and Vkontakte respectivelY).

Via Broadstuff. Reminded by Crackunit

Platform fixation vs. pattern recognition

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(NB: I *know* – I’m late with this. What? I’ve had a break. It was Christmas…)

That TIME magazine’s judging panel refused to listen to the same crowd it named person of the year in 2006 is amusing and irritating and predictable at the same time. Instead of Julian Assange, it went for Mark Zuckerberg.

It actually says a lot, especially since the cover-story (geddit) will be that despite what readers say, Mark Zuckerberg is the hero of 2010.

You could take it as an example of the thinking error that currently plagues media owners and policymakers everywhere (and good of deal of others besides): in trying to come to terms with the web, they are fixated with platforms rather than the broader trends of the web and the emerging outcomes of those trends.

In other words, they are obsessed with Facebook, Google and Twitter, the media platforms, the channels, the business success stories, and mistaking those for the big deal the important story of what the web is doing to the

For journalists, the story is king. The story that can be told in 200 – 2,000 words, that it is.

It is wishful-thinking, of course. If Facebook were the sum of the social web, if the upstart Zuckerberg were the only person you need to come to terms with, tame and bring into the media estabilshment fold, all would be fine, all would be simple, all would be business as usual.

The uncomfortable truth that Assange represents – one of the uncomfortable truths at least – is that the outcomes of the web, the implications of this world-changing machine are not simple, not merely commercial, not things that be easily categorised, dealt with and assimilated.

It’s not business as usual out there. The more you refuse to fixate on the platforms and open your eyes to the broader effects, the more you will be ready for the (near) future.

: : Broadstuff was on the money with this when it was actually a story, i.e. two weeks ago.

Three beautiful storytelling approaches from the web

This is a post about three lovely things that are all about using technology to help tell stories in new ways.

Storify

In private alpha development at the moment, Storify looks like a wonderful way of tying together different bits of your and other people’s content on the web (photos, Tweets, videos) to tell a story, and package it up. Its classic curating behaviour, but in a really simple package – I really hope i get to try it out soon.

The example they use in the video is telling the story of a conference, which it would seem to be a perfect solution for, but I imagine using it also to tell the story of big projects. For instance, at last year’s The Story conference, Aleks Krotoski told the story of the making of The Virtual Revolution BBC TV series, by stitching together Tweets, photos and videos that she had made during the process.

I always fancied doing that for the story of writing Me and My Web Shadow, but I’ve not got round to it. I guess Storify is the sort of tool that would make a similar process even easier.

Keeping stories about projects and experiences would be a lot better for organisations than dull, dry reports. They would get read and remembered more than traditional documents, I reckon.


Storify demo from Burt Herman on Vimeo.

via Adam Tinworth (who also has a video interview with the Storify guys on his blog).

Facebook hardback book by Bouygues Télécom/DDB Paris

A French Telecom’s agency, DDB Paris, created hardback Facebook books for a small number of people, taking content (I think with their permission) from specific instances and connections and curating them.

It’s a lovely idea, and one which maybe Facebook or a partner should automate. Imagine creating a book about your online conversations during a wedding, or just a yearbook about you and your closest friends. Echoes of the lifestreaming sell that new social network Path is trying to push, perhaps…

These kinds of ideas and applications all indicate a growing sophistication in the way people are thinking about their personal social networks and the data they are creating about them online. It is about more than communication in the now, it is about creating a record of parts of our lives and thinking about how to make the best of that…

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When Facebook becomes a book from Siavosh Zabeti on Vimeo.

Via Creative Review.

Cinemek storyboard composer for the iPhone

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Last of the three is Cinemek, which is an iPhone app for creating storyboards. You add your pictures, and can then start turning them into a storyboard, to plan a film, animation or any interactive media experience.

There are some demoes on Cinemek’s Vimeo page, but this one brings it to life for me, as someone storyboards a movie sequence for a suspense thriller on the fly, using a model and inserting cutouts to represent other characters – really cool…
Pricier than many apps at £11.99 on the apps store it still seems incredible value for this kind of tool…

Hitchcock in action! from cinemek / Hitchcock on Vimeo.

Via Ewan McIntosh

Facebook vs. websites: sometimes Facebook is better

There’s a kind of web media theologians’ debate that goes on at the moment over whether brands should ditch their websites and move their web presence to Facebook wholesale.

So far, I have mostly been an advocate of the teeth-sucking “Ooh, you don’t want to do that…” side of the argument. Reasons being control, wider network presence, not wasting attention, lock-in to Facebook as a platform and the openness/future of the web

Now, I’m not throwing those arguments away, I stand by them in fact. But…

…as well as advising brands on their digital strategy, I am also an author. A time-poor author without his own marketing team, who wants the best for his published book and future books.

So Guy Kawasaki makes a really compelling case for why he has opted for a Facebook-only web presence for his new book, Enchantment. He goes into some detail about his reasoning, and it is worth a read. For instance…

I’m busy. Designing a website is a big deal. I can’t create one by myself so this means I’d have to find a company to do it or impose on my friends. A template or canned package would never make me happy, so I’d end up spending mucho time interacting with whoever is building website for me.

For my new book, I am considering going down the same route. I created a website, centred around a blog, for Me and My Web Shadow, but keeping a blog going is hard enough work without creating a second.

A better strategy for me will be to use Facebook for the web presence and continue to focus on posts and pages on my main domain antonymayfield.com.

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Whitewalling: Teens create their own Facebook super log-off

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Here’s an interesting approach that Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd found a young person using to manage their Facebook privacy and presence:

Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like. Michael Ducker calls this practice “super-logoff” when he noticed a group of gay male adults doing the exact same thing.

Mikalah is not trying to get rid of her data or piss of her friends. And she’s not. What she’s trying to do is minimize risk when she’s not present to actually address it.

It goes to show that despite a platform’s desire to push people into disclosure by default, users will find ways to make their own choices about how publicness works. Because for many young people not being on Facebook just isn’t an option.

I asked Shamika why she bothered with Facebook in the first place, given that she sent over 1200 text messages a day. Once again, she looked at me incredulously, pointing out that there’s no way that she’d give just anyone her cell phone number. Texting was for close friends that respected her while Facebook was necessary to be a part of her school social life. And besides, she liked being able to touch base with people from her former schools or reach out to someone from school that she didn’t know well. Facebook is a lighter touch communication structure and that’s really important to her. But it doesn’t need to be persistent to be useful.

In the comments and related Tweets to this post, we can see that this hacking of the way Facebook works to suit personal reputation / presence management is common. One Tweet from @Tremblebot says their students call it “Whitewalling” or “Whitewashing”, and that the practice requires an investment up front and then makes it easy to stay on top of what people are posting about in the way of comments, tags and photos.

Perhaps this is something I should add the second edition of Me and My Web Shadow in the workflow for managing reputation. Certainly, if Facebook were to take a leaf out of Twitter’s playbook it would think about adding this as an easier to use or more prevalent feature.

“Whitewalling” also looks like evidence for the notion that people, yes even digital natives, want to retain some control over their privacy and what the world sees and hears about them.

Transgressions: Noobs, boobs and Facebook privacy

A tangled web of transgressions...

Privacy is one of the most complex social, political and commercial issues on the web. It’s not a single issue at all really, it’s a seething mass of issues, struggles, norms being negotiated, lines being re-drawn…

For privacy, read: change. Read: brave new world. Read: cry for help. Read: incitement to revolt.

A few years ago, Matt Locke wrote an incredibly useful essay called Six spaces of social media (secret, group, publishing, performing, partcipation and watching), in an attempt to pry definitions of social spaces away from technical and platform ones and focus minds on what was actually happening in these spaces. You know, the interesting, human stuff. All of these spaces might exist in Facebook, for instance, or in a forum, or across several platforms (Twitter/blog/Facebook/email is a common combination).

Now he’s come back to the topic with a post about transgressions, that is to say when other users or the platform owners do things with your stuff (data, identity, images etc.) that you didn’t want them to. Continue reading