Posts Tagged ‘Social Media


Whose space?

Over the last two years has gone from 43 billion page views to 12 billion, and from 125 million unique visitors to 95 million. These numbers are a reflection of many different factors; but this coming October we will see a new and improved myspace. Or so one would hope, but things aren’t looking good. This week we hear the news that Vice President of Communications Tracy Akselrud has jumped ship less than a month before the anticipated re-launch. She isn’t the first high ranking myspace executive to have left during recent months – and I dare say she won’t be the last.

It seems that as the users drop away and abandon the site, so do the people who run it. This re-launch will either bring new life to the site and revive it or kill it off completely. The reason that I left myspace was that there was too much choice, too much variation from page to page, some profiles were difficult for my computer to load and it became an all round chore. It seemed even more arduous when you had Facebook’s simple and clear uniform style to compare it to. That’s where it seems to fall down: their product simply isn’t as good as that of their competitors’, it became too complicated and too much like hard work. That’s why myspace went from being the dominating force in the social media landscape to falling down a steep decline in popularity.

With the re-launch I hope that myspace will lean towards what it’s good at and not try to be all things to all men. Where I think myspace does a good job and always has, is providing a good platform for bands and unsigned musicians to promote themselves. If myspace has a future, I think it’s there.

The relaunch is set for October, so we don’t have long to wait and see what they plan to do; but it can’t be a good sign that another top myspace exec has left the company less than a month beforehand.


Has Mr Murdoch scored a spectacular own goal?

MacBook Pro displaying The Times website.I’m an avid Times reader, from the headlines to the Cricket, and I’m especially rabid if there’s a new restaurant revue, or an opinion leader from Giles Coren, A.A.Gill, Jeremy Clarkson or Alpha Mummy.

It’s been almost five years since I had a regular subscription to a newspaper delivered to my house and, if I’m honest, quite a lot of that had something to do with The Times moving to the horrific tabloid layout that’s plagued its paper version ever since. I’m now a digital reader – I rarely buy a newspaper in print form, unless I’m travelling or fancying an idyllic weekend curled up with tea, papers and good books; something my iPhone and my obsessive e-mail checking syndrome almost always curtails.

As a digital reader I enjoyed Times Online, it wasn’t quite as pretty as the Guardian, or quite as interactive as the FT, but when it was redesigned I started to get excited. The layout was clean, easy to navigate and retained a certain sense that you’re reading news rather than just seeing news between a hundred flashing adverts, social media side bars and endless inane comments; but then along came Paywall Day.

Some predicted it would be like all the lights going out (you won’t be able to survive without it), others (sneakily calling themselves the majority) thought otherwise, but a month and a bit in, the Paywall hasn’t destroyed The Times, at least not yet.

The most obvious change was that the amount of articles, carrying significant amounts of user generated comment, dropped dramatically; the blame americans/europeans/arabs/the left (delete as applicable) ramblers and loons have been silenced, replaced instead by people that understand the importance of an argument and capital letters. Threaded comment system has also made it possible to engage users directly, resulting in branch topics and a real ability to pull up those who haven’t thought their comments through or are, in your opinion, just plain wrong.

The quality of the articles has also increased – almost all feature pieces have video, photo galleries and associated stories surrounding them; something that the previous incarnation of the site used to struggle with, So it’s here that I’m seeing the real value of the subscription; The Times is now regularly rivalling the BBC on the integrated nature of its copy, and that can only be an improvement to the often trivialised articles that appear as fillers on other news sites.

So it’s all good? Well not quite. There’s no denying, it’s a quieter site than it used to be – there’s still a significant amount of similar content available free elsewhere, and it’s clear that The Times is going to have to work hard to get people into its site. What is interesting is that with the exception of the initial trial period when the website launched there’s now no sample, no tasters, no giveaways – nothing, nadda, zip. If you want the Times, great, if you’re not sure they give no reasons to reassure. It’s this lack of a reason to buy that I think is their main barrier to increased subscription sales; only time will tell if Murdoch’s real conviction that content should be paid for acts as a limiter or an enabler for The Times. What is for certain is that other than rumours that other News International publications might follow, The Times is currently standing alone on the shoreline, and only time will tell if the tide washes over them or they change it’s direction.


Did you leave Facebook?

“Sick of Facebook’s lack of respect for you data? Then ‘Quit Facebook’ on May 31st!”

Of a worldwide user base of about 400m, roughly 36,000 felt strongly enough to sign a petition asking Facebook to change its policies, or face a drop in membership.

The furore about Facebook’s privacy was widely covered in new and mainstream media. It brought about a rare submission from the company – who have faced complaints from users about everything from changes in site appearance to missing ‘dislike’ buttons – into simplifying its privacy options.

Why? Because Facebook gets it – its active users make its business viable. The larger the user base, the more valuable the platform, the more targeted advertising can be sold, the larger the audience for brands to interact with. With each new genuine user, Facebook increases in value for its investors, advertisers, marketers and its users.

Which is why you probably clicked a link on Facebook to get to this post. You’re still there.

The platform adds value to your life by connecting you with far flung friends, old classmates and ex-romantic interests in a social setting that has never quite been captured elsewhere.

If you did leave Facebook, how would you keep up with what your friends were doing? Do you think they’d remember to create an ‘e-vite’ for their (massively oversubscribed but otherwise very fun) party? How about the pictures from said party – are they going to email around a link to their Flickr account? Send a round robin email to let you know which news story they liked the morning after? Probably not.

Facebook has changed the way that we as consumers interact with the internet. One-way communication was replaced by email; two-way communication was replaced by social media. The world’s a buzz, and you want to stay part of it. Social media has taken the social out of our email inboxes, personal homepages (remember those?) and instant messengers, and collated it in one place.

Who gets to see this data remains a sensitive topic – you don’t want to end up losing your job or flat because of a social network – but just how much super-private data are you sharing on the internet? Would you share the same information around the water cooler, in class or over a PA? If the answer is ‘no’, then you might want to rethink sharing it online.

Facebook’s overcomplicated, default ‘social’ privacy settings and its decision to switch all users to these settings can’t be excused. The company’s move to simplify privacy across the site is a significant waypoint in the development of social media – throngs of users are seeing the value of sites like Facebook each day, but platforms are now seeing the true value of an engaged and positive user base.

“Quit Facebook Day” may have been a flop – Facebook actually grew by 5.5m users in May 2010, and social media as a whole overtook search engines as the main destination for UK web users – but the concessions made by the company will have massive repercussions. Social media offers a real opportunity for brands to interact with their consumers, something platforms have encouraged as a means of monetising their services. This ‘democratisation’ of business has now made its first major impact on the platforms themselves.

Adam James Morecroft is PR & Social Media Associate at Vivid London

Image by Anisha Chandarana, Junior Design Staff at Vivid London.


Sincerity is the key to social media

Product placement can be highly beneficial to a brand. It can also be amazingly damaging. Striking the balance between these two extremes is where your PR agency comes in: Trust the specialists to avoid the pitfalls of what can be a highly controversial practice.

This controversy doesn’t just emanate from consumer groups or broadcast regulators. The PR and advertising industries in the UK have been left reeling against the British government’s recent decision to ‘blacklist’ some products from any product placement whatsoever. Many agencies argue that the practice is ‘self-regulated’. Products on this ‘blacklist’ would usually not be placed anyway, out of fear of a viewer and consumer backlash. This inevitably would lead to negative PR.

Our UK readers may be surprised to learn that a similar discussion is raging amongst German PR’s – albeit with different battle lines.

Social media as a PR tool is new to Germany. Our clients at Vivid Köln are wide-eyed when we talk about the possibilities that direct engagement offers. They’re excited when we report back on their social media campaigns. But for most German companies, social media is still the ‘undiscovered country’. Some firms and agencies are using this to their advantage by jettisoning all of the best-practice knowledge gained in their home markets.

Bad practices are causing a PR controversy. Alexander Güttler, president of the Gesellschaft der Public Relations Agenturen (Association of PR Agencies) spoke out against covert pay-per-endorsement bloggers last week: “If you’re placing a product in a positive light, because you’re being paid to do so, you’re a professional undertaking PR.”

In context, Güttler made this assertion after outlining a ‘Code of Conduct for Online PR’ that the GPRA intends to enforce. The Association wants the financial relationships between influential bloggers and companies to be fully disclosed.

Güttler argues that if you’re receiving payment for your endorsement, then readers should know this, and you should be subject to a professional code of conduct. The German blogosphere retorts that they are private people and not covered by a professional code.

We’re back to self-regulation: Bloggers are covered by a code of conduct, and not one that needs to be enforced by a third party. Social media is by it’s very nature a discussion, between bloggers, publics, and companies.

If a blogger continually endorses products that fail to meet expectations, they lose their audience. If they consistently evangelise a brand only because they are being paid to do so, their audience will pick up on their insincerity, and leave.

There is no reason that they shouldn’t disclose their financial support – I’d argue that their audience would appreciate the honesty and still be open to what they have to say. The nightmare scenario for any media producer, blogger or traditional, is insincerity coming to light. It ruins your reputation instantly. And when you’re a blogger, your reputation is really all you have.

German bloggers beware – be upfront about your cash, or risk losing your hard-earned audience.

The GRPA’s draft ‘Online Code of Conduct’ will be released on 26 February.


Social media needs us as much as we need social media

Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come? I mean, from an objective perspective, considering the many thousands of years that humankind has inhabited the Earth, one hundred years is an incredibly short amount of time. Yet, in the past century, we have moved from traveling by ship, wearing suits made by a local tailor and communicating by mail to traveling by air, wearing t-shirts made in Korea and communicating via the web on a global scale. 

The world has definitely become smaller – and the thanks for this goes not to the jet engine, but to the internet and in particular, to social media. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like have taken communication truly global, to the point where for many people, it would be hard to imagine living without it. The reach of these websites is unprecedented. Never before has a website gone from being just that – a website – to being a way of life.

Proof of this abounds. I know several friends who are seemingly intravenously attached to their Facebook/Twitter/MySpace account be it through a Mac, PC or phone at almost all hours. This alone speaks volumes, but social media has begun to become far more integrated into our lives than anyone could have imagined. For instance, relationships, rather than being a purely physical exercise are now played out over social media, jobs are obtained and lost, financial decisions made, it truly is wondrous how a website has seamlessly become an essential part of daily existence.

But what are the websites themselves gaining from our ‘custom’? After all, the vast majority of sites offer their services for free. The answer is simple, information. It is seemingly human nature to keep personal details close to the chest – if a stranger walked up to you and asked what your name or your phone number was, would you give them it? Almost everybody would not, however it is staggering how much of this type of information is readily available through social media, and how much people are willing to give it away.

However, your information is a big commodity. Sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Google can quite legally collect and pass on this information to other companies, therefore helping them to help you. What this basically means is that it enables the online advertising you see to be tailored to your individual tastes which in turn increase the likelihood that you will get your credit card out and spend some money with the advertiser in question.

Social media needs us as much as we need social media. The reasons for this are simple, social media websites would not function without advertising as it drives their revenue, however the advertisers use the information from the social media platforms to enhance their chance of making a sale. Conversely, we the public have become so reliant on social media to communicate that we simply have to use it in almost all cases daily, therefore meaning we have to also view the adverts placed there.


Don’t fight social media; you can’t stop the flow

Don't fight social media - you can't stop the flow

Don't fight social media - you can't stop the flow - Social Media Facts


Interaction in a digital world

There is nothing like the morning commute to make one think “What on earth are you all doing?”. Here we are, rush rush rushing down narrow tubes in the ground (in cities with subways, unless the drains are your preferred means of cross-city travel) or in cars, buses and trains if you travel overground. And there always seem to be too many people, not enough space and not enough time.

Day in, day out, the vast majority of working people prove that widespread teleworking is little more than a myth. We all spend hours upon hours daily going from one place to another, in expensive transport systems that turn tons of precious fuel into tons of nasty pollutants. And for what? The easy answer is because our work requires us to be somewhere other than where we live. The more thoughtful answer is that people need to be with people – and will go to ridiculous lengths to do so.

But do we need to be physically close? Is there something specific about the physical presence of other bodies that we need? Or are businesses so stultified that they drag us into the office because they feel we need to be there? Or because they don’t trust us to work if we’re not there?

And this is where social media comes in. We know, because of the success of the telephone, that the need for contact is so intense that people will spend hours on the phone simply to speak with others, despite the loss of quality, the inability to see the other person and so on. But a phone call, like a conversation, is synchronous. The true triumph of social media has been to develop – and make people enjoy using – both synchronous and asynchronous communication.

The situation is constantly changing. It’s only a few years ago that William Gibson could write in “Pattern Recognition” – ‘Right now there are three people in Chat… and the chat room she finds not so comforting. It’s strange even with friends, like sitting in a pitch-dark cellar conversing with people at a distance of about fifteen feet. The hectic speed, and the brevity of the lines in the thread, plus the feeling that everyone is talking at once, at counter-purposes, deter her.’

Technology, unusually, is faster even than Gibson. With Facebook’s desire to become an email platform; Google’s launch of Google Buzz; GMail’s integration of video chat; and all of the innovations bubbling under in skunk works; social media’s agglomeration of multiple modes of communication, of the asynchronous and synchronous is beginning to develop the promise that we all hoped it would have years ago.

But we’re not there yet. Most importantly, we’re still nowhere near replacing the physical experience of being present. Which means, I’m afraid, that you’ll still be commuting for the near future. And you’ll need to use an agency that understands that communication does not happen in some kind of digital or physical nirvana – but instead, happens wherever people are, whether in person or online, whether synchronously or asynchronously.

We need to be close to people. The trick of the future is going to be working out what that closeness means – and how we work with it.

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