Bits and Bytes

Thoughts on digital, running rambles and photos



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.

4SQ is back, we have a new Pope and this week’s bits and bytes

Digital UK: We are Social have pulled together a very useful state of the digital nation from the 2013 UK Digital Future in Focus report published by comScore. Loved the tweetable highlights:

  • As of December 2012, we’re at over 50% mobile penetration in all EU countries
  • We spend 37 hours a month online in the UK – more than any other country
  • Online shopping reaches 9 out of 10 UK Internet users
  • 1 in 5 of us use their mobile to shop

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 20.41.18

Foursquare is about maps and data – not badges and mayorships: I’ve not been the biggest fan of the location based social network Foursquare – seems like I’ve missed the point! Founder Dennis Crowley was at SXSW this week to talk about the future of location and the shift from social network to utility. I’ve only been able to read the @JeremyWaite‘s Storify of the talk, but that has provided some fascinating insight. For example, using Foursquare data, you could see what people in New York were up to during Hurricane Sandy or you can map all the checkins on Foursquare across the entire globe over the last three months – there’s 500 million of them, so you have a pretty robust dataset. Go on, zoom in to London. You can clearly identify roads, even Hyde Park and Heathrow are easily identifiable. As for data, think about it like this: Foursquare can tell you who the most influential customers (on social media) are that visit your stores.

The thing I’m taking away from the talk though is this pithy summary of what Foursquare is: Foursquare is a local search engine. It was about the merit system – something I don’t think really ever caught on – In 2009. Today they’re are phasing out the gamification and focusing on local data, maps and recommendations.

Just to finish on SXSW, the guys at Edelman Digital published a handful of their SXSW observations from the annual gathering. A good, quick overview.

Habemus Papam Franciscum: Gotta hand it to the Catholics, they sure know how to run a press event. For three days the world’s media watched a chimney and compared many old men who they knew little about. Meanwhile, millions of people had the their fingers and pope puns ready to tweet. Finally, when white smoke did billow from the chimney, seven million tweets welcomed Pope Francis and his first tweet has already been retweeted over 80,000 times – my particular favourite tweet was from a guy wasn’t too chuffed with the announcement.

While we’re on the topic, a cheeky look at what PR folks can learn from the Vatican and the 10 social media business commandments. As cheesy as it sounds, these are actually quite good!

Facebook is no longer cool: Last week I talked about Facebook, their new Newsfeed design and what will chance. This week Buzzfeed added to a growing list of articles from a variety of publications that talk about how Facebook is slowly losing it’s cool. Essentially, Buzzfeed argues that Facebook has been so focused on creating an environment conducive to apps, it has left users and their personal needs by the wayside.

You are what you like: Facebook users are unwittingly revealing intimate secrets – including their sexual orientation, drug use and political beliefs – using only public “like” updates, according to a study of online privacy by Cambridge University.

‘Liked’ hospitals have a lower mortality rate: A new study published in The American Journal of Medical Quality points analyzed the 30-day mortality rates across 40 New York hospitals and cross-referenced their Facebook page like. They found that the more ‘likes’ a hospital had, the lower its mortality rates.

Booze brands on social: Trade mag The Drinks Business has a great summary of the top 10 alcohol brands that are ruling social media, how they rank and what they’re up to (HT @a_little_wine).

Videos of the week: During this year’s London Fashion Week, Topshop partnered with Google+ to provide an immersive experience for fans. More about how they did it on Diffusion.

A phone call in the middle of the night: your best friend is in trouble. Would you go out and help him? Carlsberg tests some friendships.

And finallyInstagramed art on plates (don’t worry, no hipsters in sight).

HMV’s Twitter meltdown, a masterclass in multimedia storytelling and this week’s bits and bytes

Pinch, punch, first day of the month – it can only mean our monthly look back at @SainsburysPR’s favourite tweets from January 2013.

And while we’re on the topic – Sainsbury’s has landed on rank 6 in the FTSE 100 social media index (up from 27th last year!). The report highlighted Sainsbury’s strong presence across all six channels in the index, especially the YouTube channel with its variety of content from recipe tutorials to playlists on its involvement in the Paralympics and with Fairtrade. Sainsbury’s use of Twitter and how we engage our corporate and consumer audiences through dedicated accounts @SainsburysPR and @Sainsburys was also seen as a reason for the strong performance.

Over on Escherman’s blog, @andismit takes a look at which journalists you should follow on Twitter. He uses data from Twitonomy to look at how The Guardian’s tech editor Charles Arthur uses Twitter (does he RT? Does he @? When is he most active?). This leads to a number of suggestions for how PRs should engage with journos on Twitter. It starts to get interesting though when Charles responds in the comments to the post and provides his own view on how to use Twitter – very useful to read his point of view and also goes to show that while using and understanding data is increasingly important for PRs, it should not be trusted in blindly.

In what ‏@marcusleroux from The Times called the most entertaining parting shot since Stephen Pollard left the Express, HMV’s official account @HMVtweets gained 10,000 followers in the space of a few hours yesterday as a an employee live tweeted the firing of over 100 employees. Apparently, HMV HR had started internal redundancy meetings with the marketing teams, including the person responsible for their social media account. The tweets were quickly deleted, but not before they’d been screengrabbed and retweeted all over the world. The social media manager behind it all later posted her motivations from her personal account. I’ve pulled together a summary of it all together in a Storify about the #hmvXFactorFiring.

You should always read things carefully. Especially when you retweet them, as Capital Hotel learnt when they shared what they thought was a positive review by Jay Rayner with their followers. Oops (HT @tomparker81).

Everywhere there is talk about the old media world dying. Interesting then that it is old media institutions like Forbes and the New York Times that are blazing a trail for the rest of the publishing world. Forbes offer a great insight into the changing of the guard that is evident in both the technology used by the journalists as it is in the their mindset in a great piece titled Inside Forbes: A New Wave of Digital Journalist Is Showing a Profession the Way Forward.

But what really blew my mind is this brilliant project by the New York Times about an avalanche at Tunnel Creek. Titled ‘Snow Fall’, it is already being seen as a seminal piece of work in terms of online storytelling techniques. It combines videos, animation and audio around one specific event and pulls it all together through some beautifully written and exceptionally harrowing narrative to deliver what is an entirely engrossing online experience. Truly magical in its implementation as it keeps perfectly the balance between tech and storytelling. Bottom line: PLEASE LOOK AT THIS. IT IS ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT. I can also highly recommend the Q&A with the author of the piece, John Branch (HT @davidjstocks).

Vine, Twitter’s new 6 second video app launched last week. Imagine Instagram without filters and instead of a photo you record a short video. I played around with the new Vine app myself and also had a look at how brands are starting to use it.

Image credit: Vine

Remember Foursquare? That app where you check in and get to be mayor of a location if you check in most often? Well as someone who was once the mayor of my local pub, my local coffee shot, my local Sainsbury’s, Sainsbury’s Head Office and a number of other places – I never really saw the point. Why? Businesses just weren’t rewarding check ins or mayorships. Launched in 2009, it’s taken them four years to finally come up with an app that allows business owners manage specials and view analytics. We’ll see if that will make checking in worthwhile…

Videos of the week

“Push to add drama by TNT – the sequel”

and “The Replacer”

Awesome. And you gotta love the Fargo reference in the second one.

Image source: Failposters

And finally: anybody who has ever spoken to me about QR codes knows I hate them and, given the chance, will go on a rant full of colourful language. Mainly because of the half-arsed and poor executed implementation. Generally I point people to the brilliant Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes but our very own @SimonLP has started curating these wonderfully painful examples of QR Code fails on Pinterest so I shall from now on point people who mention them there.

How’s foursquare? Any good?

How's Foursquare? Any good?

That was the Twitter DM I received from a good friend this morning. Well, I quickly realised that 140 characters wouldn't cut it, so here are my thoughts on the location based mobile application that is creating buzz all over the media and that I have been using for a few months.

A quick excursion into my life: As a frequent patron of the lovely C'est Ici, a lovely French cafe near Barons Court Tube Station and George's Cafe, a down-to-earth builder's cafe behind my work that does marvellous beef and chicken curry, I expect a certain level of customer service. I expect to walk into C'est Ici, have the guy look up, recognise me, remember my usual order and simply say: "Good morning sir, that'll be 2.20 please." The same goes for George's. When I rock up, I expect the staff behind the counter to recognise me and sort out my chicken curry with rice and mixed veg without me having to actually verbalise the order. The guys at George's get this right. Down to the important detail of giving me a spoon to eat my meal with. The French cafe on the other hand, rien du tout. I have to actually order the same thing, every time. "A large skinny latte to go please." Extremely annoying.

What does this have to do with Foursquare?

The app rewards you for repeat check-ins with the chance (goal?) to become the mayor of a certain location. Some cyber savvy venues in London have begun to see the potential here to reward their regular customers with discounts or other perks.

The app has a number of other rewards or badges to unlock: checking in 10 times in a day will get you the "overshare badge"; check in on four nights in a row and you're awarded the "bender badge"; if you manage to hold the mayorship at 10 or more venues at the same time, you may call yourself "super mayor". These badges are nifty and do give you a weird sense of satisfaction. Of course the goal is to steal the title of mayor from other users. Still, without real-world perks like the above, the app does become boring. To become really interesting, fun and possibly even useful, Foursquare needs two things: more users and more venues giving real life incentives to their mayors.

Why do the guys at George's get it right and the staff at C'est Ici don't notice the same guy order the same thing ever time? Probably because when I get my coffee I am half asleep and incapable of social interaction before my first dose of caffeine. At lunch time on the other hand, I'm awake, I chat with the George's staff, we have a bit of fun.

Bottom line: social media and location based apps should support but on their own will never substitute good customer relationships. Is Foursquare any good? Not at the moment, but I think it has the potential to become something that helps you meet up with friends and score some freebies at restaurants, pubs, cafes and other venues.

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