Bits and Bytes

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crisis communication

Twitter trolls and this week’s bits and bytes

Don’t feed the trolls? The big news this week was regarding calls from activist Caroline Criado Perez and others to put Jane Austen on a £10 note. An honour that many agreed was deserved and appropriate. And rightfully, they have received much praise – but also a storm of the most vile and disgusting abuse, rape and death threats via Twitter.

Is it Twitter’s job to police the platform? Yes. Should the police get involved when threats are being made? Absolutely. But as @Euan argues, what about the rest of the Twitter population? More of us should take the often tough decision to stand up and say something when we see others in our circles indulging in unacceptable behaviour.” In the spirit of the age-old mantra for community managers the world over @girllostincity thinks that we’re giving trolls too much attention and should stop feeding them.

Del Harvey on Newsnight

Twitter has been criticised for their slow reaction and for the awkward and desperately defensive appearance on Newsnight of their Head of Trust and Safety, @delbius. It didn’t help that she spoke almost exclusively in corporate bingo phrases, felt it was necessary to outline how long she had been at Twitter in response to the opening question, or that she went on to admit that the “dozens or so” people in her team are essentially playing catch to the “rocket-ship” that Twitter has become.

Critics are calling for many things, one of which is a way for users to report abuse. But is a ‘report this’ button really going to help? @sharonodea argues that it’s likely to create more problems than it solves, as the trolls might treat being reported and banned as a wind-up to be ignored – and confirmation that they are getting attention.

What to do?

Twitter suggests you find the link to the form with which you can report abuse on Twitter on their website – a form that requires you to fill in 11 fields of data and that seems to be largely unknown outside of the US, at least going by the bitly stats on clickthroughs. Definitely needs some simplification here…

However, as @MartinBelam rightly puts it, this isn’t a technology problem – this is a misogyny problem: The abuse directed at woman is a representation of the level of abuse that women are expected to tolerate outside of Twitter as well. It is absolutely right that we should be standing up and saying that this is unacceptable; not just online, but in society in general. We’ll need to work both online and offline to win that battle.

Social media and business continuity: A serious heading for a serious topic – how does social media affect traditional business continuity and crisis communication plans? @stevef2412 notes that the time between an incident taking place and the first tweet about it is about 30 seconds. Depending on the nature of the incident, many more tweets are likely to follow. So what are the critical things an organisation has to get right almost immediately? Read the post to find out.

Hacking your own Twitter: Pretending your account’s been hacked in order to get people talking and increase your followers (what, you think rubbernecking only applies to crashes on the motorway? People love gawking at disasters no matter where they’re happening). Please people: focus on helping, informing and amusing your followers rather than coming up with daft ways of inflating your follower numbers.

Why PR is your best marketing weapon: Not one of the usual posts with top X ways to do Y better. Instead, a helpful and honest piece from @wadhwa about seven ways to get top PR. For those of you who want to TL;DR it – a quick summary below – the rest, I strongly recommend giving it a read.

  • Learn what makes news by – surprise, surprise – consuming news
  • Focus on the needs of the journalist and build relationships
  • Package announcements into a news hook
  • Don’t ignore the small media organisations – they will help build your credibility
  • Make time for journo requests – the first to respond generally get included in a piece
  • Be honest, be yourself and have an opinion

All you ever wanted to know about SEO: A monster deck of 101 slides on the past two decades of search engines (remember Webcrawler?). What we learn is that people figure out how to game Google rankings, they score massive traffic for a short while before Google updates their algorithms and ranking methods and everybody starts looking at ways of gaming the new system. All resulting in where were are today with inbound marketing, where by publishing the right content in the right place at the right time, your message becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive.

Google Glass is a journalists friend: In my continuing series of possible uses for Google Glass, I’d like to point you to Vice Magazine, which has published a piece about how Google’s wearable computer has helped one of their journalists report from areas of conflict around the world.

Source: Vice

From streaming live video from Glass, accessing files on your home computer through the tiny screen placed in your field of vision while in the field, to tweeting live from rallies through a clever IFTTT recipe – it really is a fascinating look at what remote working could look like in the very near future.

Facebook content will escape the walled garden: Facebook announced this week that it is launching “embedded posts.” Does what it says on the tin: You’ll be able to take any public Facebook post and embed it in any other site that allows embed codes. It’s been rolled out to the Facebook pages of HuffPo, CNN and a handful of others – so keep an eye out for when it rolls out to more platforms and your privacy settings.

All in the same room, but not really: The living room is making a comeback, with more families watching TV at the same time – according to figures releases by Ofcom this week (I can’t embed the interview with a typical family, but it’s well worth a watch to see the difference between the generations).

Source: IBTimes

91% of us watch their main TV screen once a week – up from 88% in 2002. Unsurprisingly though, while we might all be present in the same room, with the one big screen blaring out some vacuous reality show where the latest crop of annoying attention seekers vie for the judges’ affection, we’re not really paying attention to the telly. Instead, multi-tasking is up, with almost one in two of using smartphones or tablets while watching TV and one in four sharing what they’re watching through social media.

Some really interesting stats about how the Great British public consumes the media, however, two stats really stuck with me. The first confirms that tablet devices really aren’t mobile devices (85% of tablet owners keep it at home), while the second just shows that anybody who thinks their website won’t need a touch-screen optimised device should think again (91% of parents said their children use a tablet).

Holiday season and social media: Heading out to some tropical island paradise? The Guardian looks at the pitfalls of annoying all your friends back home with smug photos of deserted beaches, pouty selfies and self-satisfied Hashtags along the lines of #lifeshardbutsomeonesgotodoit. Also, Please do us all a favour and don’t succumb to the ‘legsie’ – if you do, make them look as awesome as this one (HT @a_little_wine).

Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon

And finally: Going through a rebrand to appeal to younger, hipper audiences? Try the Hipster Logo approach

Breaking news vs social media, sexy data and this week’s bits and bytes

Traditional vs. social news: There’s been a lot of discussion about how traditional media and new media failed in their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. I agree to a degree. CNN – and other news organisations – had a shocker and spent hours spinning a story about the bombers being identified before their identities were released by the authorities – a point that Jon Stewart (who isn’t the biggest fan of the network anyway) proceeded to make fun of on ‘The Daily Show’.

There’s also been much talk about how social media – mainly Twitter and, of all sites, Reddit – got the news wrong, as if they have some sort of obligation to get it right. That’s like accusing the patrons of your local pub of reporting the story in an inaccurate way. Social media, much like banter down the pub, isn’t subject to journalistic principles. It is bizarre to me that at times such as this people point the finger at social media and blame it for purposefully spreading misinformation. As much as technology like Twitter helps breaking news, facts, rumours and misinformation spread like wildfire, it isn’t the cause of that misinformation. The power to spread misinformation – or topple governments like during the Arab Spring – is with people, not technology.

Twitter doubles account security: While we’re on the topic of misinformation spreading on social media, this week saw yet another high profile Twitter account getting hacked. The Associated Press appeared to tweet that explosions had hit the White House and President Barack Obama had been injured. The account was immediately suspended and the tweets removed, but not before the Dow dropped about 200 points. No wonder then, that people are relieved that Twitter is finally ready to roll out two-factor authentication, a second layer of security that requires a code to either be sent to an authorised mobile device or generated via some sort of app or key-fob.

Crisis management: An interesting take on crisis management – as seen from the perspective of @jameslyne, one of the top IT security bods at Sophos. Great to see that after IT colleagues, the next team he has on the list is PR.

Interactive infographics: The aptly named ThingLink allows you to post images with extra layers of information in them such as videos and links to other supporting stories to Facebook, Twitter and many other platforms (except for WordPress it seems… grrr). Youtube videos and audio clips play in the image, text links provide a short preview and open in a new window – making for a decent user experience (at least on a desktop!). Doctors Without Borders have tried the new technology to provide an interactive guide on how they respond to crisis around the world; Cnet use it to provide a review of the new Galaxy S4; and you can check out many more ways brands and people are using ThingLink on their site. So what? you cry? Well, ThinkLink generates ‘more than five times as much engagement’ on Twitter (HT @BrionyIvy).

Data porn: Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook plugin has been live for a while and this week, the computational search engine published a fascinating dissection of Facebook data. The data provides insight into how Facebook users’ circle of friends change over time (especially in age), how their interests change as they grow older, and when their relationship status shifts from single to in a relationship to engaged to married. Now, before you go off and say, pffff, that’s just Facebook. Nobody tells the truth on Facebook – Wolfram concludes that (at least for the US) the data corresponds closely to official census data.

Source: Wolfram Alpha

Environmentally friendly suicide: “Right. Guys. We’ve got this new car. 100% water emissions. Environmentally friendly. How do we get that message across in our next ad?” Here’s how Hyundai answered this challenge (I tried to embed the video, but copies are being taken down like crazy by Hyundai). The mind boggles. Twitter wasn’t impressed. Holly Brockwell, who publishes the Copybot blog, posted a withering response to the ad, talking about how her father had committed suicide as depicted by the ad. It was quickly pulled from Hyundai’s Youtube channel but of course by then, many copies had already been made and the news spread (HT @a_little_wine).

Before you die, make sure you sort your direct debit: Your father in law passes away and you receive a bill from your cable provider telling you that as the direct debit didn’t go through – after all, the payer was deceased – you’re faced with a late payment fee of £10. What do you do? Post it to Facebook and watch it be shared over 90,000 times! All ends well though, Virgin Media apologised, the late payment charge was removed and the customer wrote a poem to celebrate (HT @KristianWard29).

Feed the troll until it bursts: The general consensus on social is to not feed the trolls. They’re bored, looking for a fight, to get a rise out of you, to see if they can get you to breaking point. Well, whoever manages the @Cineworld Twitter feed is the exception that proves the rule. Seriously, worth reading the entire exchange – if you have a bit of spare time! @Lakey from econsultancy takes a closer look at the exchange and why not more companies handle customers this way.

Location based recommendation: Foursquare continues its shift from check-in to a search an discovery space. Turns out that over 50 million people have visited its homepage in the last two months.

Videos of the week: the dancing babies are back

New LG screens are just too darned realistic

And some buttery goodness from Lurpak.

And finally: After Bayern and Dortmund demolished their hapless opposition in the Champions League semifinals, Paddy Power posted this wonderful photo to their Facebook page. And yes. That is The Hoff.

#SocialBrands – my thoughts and slides

Today I had the great pleasure of speaking on behalf of Sainsbury’s at the Social Brand Conference in London. A packed day of brands and agencies talking about all things social media. From best practice customer service, content strategies, legal frameworks and ROI – there was just so much information to take on board and digest.

I spoke about how in today’s digital age, every crisis is now social, global and viral. I’ve embedded my slides below, but before I get to that, I wanted to put to paper some of the thoughts and inspiration from the other speakers that stayed with me.

Hats off to @Larssilberbauer from Lego for the work that his team has been doing. I’ve mentioned them on my blog before and I was very excited to hear first hand about how they go about social. What stuck with me the most was his deceptively simple approach to developing a social media strategy for Lego: If you understand people to be hard-wired to be social, then you have to understand what your customers social needs are. In the case of Lego, this is the need to build together and to show off that sense of pride you have when you’re completed your creation. Combine your business strategy with your customer’s social needs and hey presto, you have a social media strategy.

The results speak for themselves – just check out Lego’s brilliant “Brickmented Reality” campaign.

Lars then went on to talk about the simple yet entirely brilliant Lego social media driver’s licence. Put simply, a day-long course at the end of which Lego executives have to pass a theoretical and practical exam on social media. And much like any driver’s licence – if you mess up, it can be taken away from you.

A big theme of the day was that of agile social media teams (or SWATT – Special Weapons & Twitter Tactics, thank you @Jeremywaite for that bit of awesomeness) that sit somewhere between PR and Marketing and are not only plugged in to the big events and news stories of the day, but have the authority and resource to develop creative content for their brands to be a part of the bigger conversation.

With the Superbowl powercut fresh in people’s memory, no wonder then that it was Oreo’s ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ Tweet – created, approved and posted within minutes of the lights going out.

Other examples were Lego’s tribute to Neil Armstrong, Spec Saver’s cheeky ad on the back of the Eden Hazard/Ball boy incident and some more from the Superbowl:

@Jeremywaite provided the best definition of ‘Return on Investment‘ I’d ever heard at a social media conference: the actual definition of the concept, which was a very pleasant surprise.

ROI%  = ((revenue gained – investment) / investment) x 100

That definition coupled with his 1 slide social media report (Who is saying it? What are they saying? When are they saying it? Where are they saying it? and Why are they saying it?) will prepare you for any budget meeting with the CFO.

Finally on to @BruceDaisley from Twitter who showed a great clip about how the news of the recent helicopter crash in central London was shared on Twitter. The visualisation clearly shows how initial tweeters are at the centre of the story at the start, but then the power of trusted sources on Twitter during breaking news events such as Sky News and more prominently BBC Breaking News become hubs for the news (as I’m sure both Sky and the BBC will be happy to learn).

My mind is still buzzing from all the input, inspiration and ideas so I’ll leave you with my take on crisis comms.

PR in 140 characters

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Social Media Results Conference in London about how to incorporate Twitter into your digital communication plan. Below you’ll see the presentation (and as you can see, its built with Prezi, which is just much more fun that Powerpoint and also went down well with the audience on the day), but I also wanted to share a bit more of my thinking with you regarding PR in the social media space, specifically on Twitter.

Listen, measure & engage

Communicating on Twitter is based on listening and engaging. This holds true if you communicate via the phone, email, Facebook, SMS, or Twitter. You listen and you respond. Now, I use the word “engage” because it has two meanings: it means that you respond to a question, to a trend or issue that you have identified by listening. It also means that what you say on a proactive level needs to be engaging – you want it to inspire the other person to act. On Twitter, than can be a retweet, a fave or a reply. If you’re Twitter stream is full of @ responses and mentions then you know you are listening to and engaging with your audience in a way that they find interesting.

Measurement is the third important element of communicating via Twitter: Tools such as Twitalyzer, Tweetreach, Klout and will produce a number of different reports and key performance indicators that will help you track your own Twitter performance, how far you message has travelled, how much influence you really have – right down to how many people have actually clicked on the link you’ve just shared (the trick is to add a + to the end of links and you’ll see what I mean).

So why should PRs be on Twitter?

Because your target audience – journalists and bloggers – are already there and using it to connect to other hacks. They ask questions about products and companies, announce they are writing an article about an issue that you might have some information on and some even prefer to be contacted exclusively through Twitter. 

Another important audience is also on Twitter: customers. They will be talking about your brand, commenting on things you have done, sharing news about your company and often times provide the first source of information in times of crisis.

And finally, the value of Twitter as a constant stream of “what’s happening in the world right now” – is a huge asset if you use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and/or Twitter lists to keep an eye on tweeps relevant to your industry.

Twitter is a PRs best friend in times of crisis

By monitoring customer sentiment and trends on Twitter as well as a few key words combined with your brand name(s) will provide you with an effective early warning system. Once Twitter alerts you to a possible situation, you’ll be ahead of the game because you’ll know what to look for and where to look for it. Depending on the nature of the issue you can then chose to update followers through Twitter about the situation or decide to respond on a reactive basis only. Either way, you’ll have a better chance to control the flow of news.

A simple and free way to set up Twitter monitoring for keywords is to set up a Google Alert for status updates on Twitter mentioning certain keywords. You can then set up a rule in your email program of choice to highlight the alert when it comes through so that you don’t overlook it. Simple, free and instantaneous – providing you are there to check your email!

Defining PR in 140 characters in 140 characters

PR on Twitter: live and instantaneous tool to listen for brand mentions, measure customer sentiment and trends; and engage target audiences

So my question to other flacks out there: how do you use Twitter in your everyday PR work?

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