Could Social Media help fix ‘Broken Britain’?

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

There is a crisis going on in the UK with youth unemployment. Depending on which reports you read, there is between 750,000 and nearly 1m 16-25yr olds unemployed fueling fears of a lost generation of jobless. The need to tackle this issue has become a top priority for the incumbent government and should be near the top of the agenda for all parties as we run up to the general election.

A report to Becta from the Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) at London Metropolitan University  on The influence of new media technologies used in learning on young people’s career aspirations throws up some interesting insights, some of which are below:-

  • “that young people may not understand that technologies, including new media technologies – are increasingly becoming a key feature of labour market sectors that fall outside of the creative sector, or that general or ‘soft’ learning skills that can be developed through the use of these technologies (such as problem-solving, communication, risk-taking) are of use in other more traditional occupations.”
  • “most students felt that learning to use technology would provide them with greater opportunities in the future labour market. As a Nottingham focus group pupil said, ‘technology is everywhere now so I’m sure I’ll have to use a lot of the skills that I’ve learned in a lot of what I do’.”
  • “Our findings suggest that young people in areas identified as ‘disadvantaged’ are using new media technologies in both their formal and informal learning and this can enhance students’ enjoyment and motivation in their learning. We also found that a large number of these students expressed a real interest in pursuing careers in the creative sector which use new media technologies. However, their enjoyment in learning and their career aspirations were constrained”

Social Value

Various current schemes (many are mentioned in the Becta report) are in place to encourage industry to help create jobs and training programs but I would like to come at this from a different angle and look not at the reams of ‘qualified’ people coming out of higher education with degrees or qualifications that can’t find employment, but the ones who have fallen out of education, the under privileged, the disadvantaged ethnic minorities and the socially excluded. This is a wider issue that has other, far more harmful ramifications from a socio economic perspective. These are the people who are associated with crime, gang life, anti-social behavior…the kind of stuff that is fueling the ‘broken Britain’ echo chamber. I would like to ask and explore whether the rise of social media and the need for businesses to understand the new communication tools and techniques to connect with their customers could have a bigger role than is currently being realized.

Social media, and I mean this in the widest possible sense ie Social Networks, mobile, gaming, file sharing, music production etc has a near 100% penetration rate among the youth of Britain. What I find more interesting is how this group of people actually use these tools, predominantly to communicate – precisely the thing that many corporate organizations are trying to figure out. Mass media may have lulled them into a false sense of security in terms of how to engage with their customers, how to talk to them and how to get them talking to each other. Social media has exploded into this area and all of sudden the need to understand the language and tactics of the social web have real business value. There a new forms of business literacy today that did not exist two or three years ago and having grown up with, and become proficient in them makes some ‘kids’ more qualified than many ‘grey hairs’ in industry

Raising Self Belief

If by showing, previously disillusioned, excluded young people, that the skills they have developed by growing up with and using social technology on  daily basis, can be transferred to the workplace and more so…are actually in demand by media, technology and communications companies, we might be able to raise their personal expectation and self worth levels. I am not saying that this could directly translate to jobs and a reduction in those all important employment figures (which I understand would be a sizable hurdle from a project funding perspective) but it may have an impact on other areas of society . I think the promise of employment at the end of a scheme would be setting the bar way too high in terms of outcome, what I think is needed is to raise some of these young people’s aspirations just enough to make them think they aren’t as worthless as they may have been told and so that maybe, they can see a route to employement but initially I think the challenge is to get them somewhere constructive, off the streets and try and open a window of opportuinity. Whether that becomes a door and one that they eventually can walk through is much further down the line…but you need to start somewhere.

There seems to be no current government schemes in place (unless I have missed something, and please correct me in the comments if that is the case) that will tackle this group using social media as the cornerstone, so its an area I am keen to explore more. I would welcome any help, research, pointers, general chit chat ,contrary opinions or stumbling blocks!

Introducing Spearfish Labs

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

As of this month, you will find me blogging more and more over at my new company’s site Spearfish Labs and more specifically at our blog.

I will try my best to keep this site active as well and will use it to rant about stuff I can’t on the company blog!

Anyway, any readers – thank you for your comments and views and please head over to Spearfish Labs and lets start the conversation there!

Cheers Guys and Girls

Categories: Uncategorized

How to Donate to Haiti

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

OK – Instead of writing a post myself on how to donate to the  Haiti earthquake appeal, I am going to list some of the ones which are already around the blogosphere. I would suggest, quickly having a look at these photos photos from Anderson Cooper’s blog …they will make you add a few more £ or $ to your donation.

Unicef – Donate to UNICEF’s Haiti Earthquake Children’s Appeal

Good one from Google – Support Disaster Relief in Haiti

Times Online – How to donate to Haiti earthquake victims

Red Cross – Links off the homepage

Beliefnet  – How to Donate to Haiti Relief Organisations

stltoday.com – How to donate to Haiti earthquake relief

Pick any one you want  and Give Generously.

The age of privacy is over? God, I hope not.

January 14, 2010 24 comments

Not an original post by any stretch, but I wanted to give me two pence worth to the Facebook-Privacy debate.

I read the post by Marshall Kirkpatrick for ReadWriteWeb , the interview with Michael Arrington is embedded but you can check it out on UStream here as well. At no point does Mark Zuckerberg  say the age of privacy is over but does say that “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

I would agree 100% with that if he had put ‘Some’ in front of People. Making the call that you are going to dictate the default privacy preferences of 350m people is a huge gamble in my opinion. I think if you force everyone to share everything, then a lot of people will share nothing. The value in networks is that the users will disclose far more about themselves and connect deeper with eachother if they think they are in control of their personal information. Humans want security in their envirnoment, offline and online – that’s a base need and why I think Facebook was initially so successful. There was a sense among college students that this was ‘their thing’ and certainly back then, Facebook was privacy mad and even as recently as 2008 .

We can’t undersestimate the impact Twitter and real time in general has had on Facebook and from a business perspective, it is certainly favourable to have everyone’s ‘everything’ in the domain but to assume we all want to be ‘famous’ is a totally different thing. We want intimate connections with our friends, family and loved ones, and strong, secure connections with businesses providing us services  but all of that has to take place on OUR terms. Assuming people want to publish personal details to the world is misunderstanding that as individuals, we are all different in our ‘outgoingness’.

Where’s the line?

Zuckerberg cites the rise of blogging “and all these different services that have people sharing all this information.” Yes, but sharing it on their terms and as Marshall Kirkpatrick  states, there are a fraction of bloggers to the  350m on Facebook . I think  they have a duty to be data hosts and that means you don’t decide for your users what is going to happen with their data and information, you facilitate their decisions. Don’t you? Or am I missing something?

So, where do we draw the line? Should we open up our emails to everyone? What if we are secretly gay and participating in a Facebook group about that? What if we are planning to propose and are chatting with our future spouse’s friends about the details? What if you are unhappy in your job and want to research other opportunites but don’t want to risk getting fired? There are thousands of examples where it probably isn’t best to assume we want to share everything with everyone.

Are we all culturally the same?

There may also be a cultural thing going on here. I am going to write another blog post about this later, but assuming everyone wants to share their personal information is to assume that everyone has the same personal need to put their stuff in the public domain? We all know that isn’t the case. No one  human is the same, some are shy, some are secretive, some are media whores, some are confident and out going…you get the picture. And I think you can take that further and look at the different cultures of the US vs Europe vs Asia for example.

I know you can control your privacy settings on Facebook and if the users understand this then there shouldn’t be a problem. But that again is an assumption that isn’t always the case. My girlfriend for example, has only been on Facebook  for around 6 months and didn’t even know there was privacy controls! Luckliy she isn’t into too much weird stuff so when her current employer checked her profile out…she passed the test but there are countless others that have fallen foul to Facebook’s openness.

Chill out or change things?

Michael Arrington posted on Tuesday that the luddites should chill out. He wrote “Howard Lindzon nailed it the other day when he said Equifax, Transunion, Capital One, American Express and their cousins raped our privacy,” and then “Honestly, a picture of you taking a bong hit in college is mice nuts compared to the mountain of data that is gathered and exploited about every single one of us every single day,” Funny and true (or funny because its true? – never mind) …but that is going on in spite of what users want. Given the choice, I am sure most people wouldn’t want these corporations controlling our data and deciding who gets to see it and when. I think, ideally, most people want to control their own data and let businesses, individuals and organizations interface with it only when they choose.

Please take a look at VRM, if you are not already familiar with it, for an approach that I believe is more in line with what MOST people ultimately want. I am planning on attending a VRM hub meet in London at the end of the month for the first time. I am not sure I will bring much to the party but it is a theory and practice I believe in and hope that, one day will become a reality, and that I am alive to see it!

Why social media should be on Football Clubs’ radar

January 6, 2010 1 comment

My name is Ed, and I support Southampton FC. It’s been a while since I said that in public!

Anyone who follows football (soccer for the US dudes) may have noticed The Saints slipping further and further down the leagues in the last few years and they now reside in the third tier of English football. They succumbed to the same problem that has been plaguing many clubs, some much bigger than Southampton…they screwed themselves financially. I won’t go into the details as its fairly basic stuff, but this season, the same fate has befallen Southampton’s great south coast rivals, Portsmouth FC. This is by no means a post to gloat or rub the proverbial salt into Pompey’s wounds, rather one about how inept most football teams are at communicating with their fans.

So, Pompey continue to slide towards administration and seem to have resorted to the same tactics that other clubs and indeed businesses have done in in the last 12 months – pretend it isn’t happening and hold the ‘official party line’ of – All is good.

Tired PR tactics

The most recent post addressing the issue is here, clearly coming straight from the PR/Legal department. Read it, its non sense!

“Portsmouth Football Club has not been formally served with a winding up petition and is shocked and surprised this action has been taken in respect of VAT, PAYE and National Insurance Contributions which either have been, or are about to be paid, or are disputed.”

Shocked? That is what happens when you don’t pay the bills…your creditors come for you.

I remember when Southampton were going through similar financial hell last year and recall vividly how the tired, corporate spin each week on the official site would proclaim ‘All is well, carry on as usual’ It is so insulting to assume the fans, who are the clubs customers SHOULD be kept in the dark. It reeks of the kind of corporate arrogance that social media is gradually eroding in the business world. Organisations can’t pretend all is well with their product or service (in this case the football club) when the customers (fans) are seeing the reality – staff not being paid, team getting humped each week, costs being cut etc. And yet it continues….

Social Media

One way to keep the fans abreast of what is going on, really going on at the club would be to open a dialogue with them and social media is pretty good at that. So what is happening on the biggest social channel – Facebook?

Pompey have no official Fan page. In fact, if they wanted a nudge as to what their customers are demanding, they should check out the What Is Going On Group ! and yet nothing from the club.

They aren’t alone though, Even Man U do not ‘officially’ contribute to their page and they have 300,000 fans!

Chelsea have the right idea. Their Fan Page integrated with the official site, regular updates etc – is this systemic of a club not up the creek. They have no fear of being open? Liverpool as well do a good job and have over 1,000,000 fans. Arsenal, not too bad either.

I haven’t checked them all so apologies if your club is social media awesomeness personified, I am making a general point about how bad most sports teams are at engaging with their lifeblood – the fans.

Fanatical Brand Loyalty

I have been focusing on Facebook as the channel as I think Fan Pages lend themselves perfectly to sports teams  – where people are actual Fans. If brands such as Starbucks can do such good stuff through their fan page, then sports teams really have no excuse. The US sports teams are much better at it and examples such as New England Patriots show what can be done. We also see more of the athletes themselves embracing the tools, all be it under constraints from the various governing bodies.

Football fans are the most brand loyal people. It is the most adhesive, one sided relationship I can think of (maybe religion but that’s for another post!). If you support a team, really support a team, then even if you want to change allegiance…you can’t! It affects you on a cellular level and the clubs need to realize this. The non-playing staff at football clubs will move on to other jobs in other industries and in most cases don’t have any affinity to the club in the first place other than they pay their wages ( or not in Pompey’s case), they need to realize the fans make the club, they are the paying customers.

If major corporations are realizing they need to be open and honest with their customers then Sports teams need to wake up to that as well. It isn’t going to make the millions of pounds of debt vanish, but it may create a siege mentality amongst the fans and keep them coming through the gates and spending money. As soon as you create a them vs us scenario in terms of information, you are on the slippery slope. When you insult your customers intelligence by spitting out press releases that contradict reality, you are almost at the bottom of the slope and in the shit pit.

I don’t think sports teams realize the potential they have to bring the fans and the players closer and the kind of brand equity that will buy the club. Most clubs have ‘fans forums’, and by that I mean physical meetings once in a while where a few hundred fans are allowed into a staged conference with the manager, Chairmen, players etc. This is good but impractical to do on a regular basis. Social media can provide the next best thing and if nothing else will create the feeling that the club cares and respects the fans. If they can’t at least do that then they deserve to drop down the leagues…and stay there.

Eurostar and the Blame Game

December 21, 2009 1 comment

So, Friday night was a bad bad night for anyone using the channel tunnel. Hours spent trapped under sea would in most cases be fatal, but in this case it resulted in a plethora of seriously vexed travelers and Eurostar facing a backlash of epic proportions about their communications throughout the debacle.

There has been various comments across the web not only kicking Eurostar’s arse (which is fully deserved) but also their social media agency – We Are Social, which I feel in this case is harsh. Yes, Eurostar are their client, but everyone seems to have jumped about 5 steps ahead and assumed Eurostar were paying them for a full monitoring, response package. Which according to Robin Grant, they weren’t . social media monitoring and response services come with a cost and it looks like in this case, despite We are Social’s best efforts, Eurostar hadn’t signed up to that, so what do you do? Well, a couple of things could have been done in my humble opinion:-

  1. They should 100% have secured ALL social domains for such a big client – even if they hadn’t asked for it. It should be policy.
  2. If they had hooked the client on the benefits of using Twitter to flog cheap deals and push marketing messages (update: the first link is now being used to answer and inform, which it wasn’t before) then they should have first concentrated on the ‘real’ benefits of social media – I am sure Robin Grant and his team did this and didn’t want to lose a client by being too pushy…but it would have helped the client in the long run. Right?

Kudos to We Are Social for diving into the problem and going, seemingly, above and beyond their pay cheque to help the client…but it would be pretty weak of them to simply say “not our problem, we told you so and you wouldn’t listen”. So I think they win points for not being crap on that one! Plus I doubt they are doing the disaster recovery services free of charge.

This will certainly become an example of a brand self-harming by not seeing the benefit of having as many open communication channels as possible. Especially the ones in the service industry. Doubtless there were many corportate and legal meetings scheduled for 2010 to decide how Eurostar should use these funny little geeky tools to spread their corporate message…now I am guessing they will have been moved forward and the tone of the meetings will be different.

Happy Christmas!

Is the social media ‘deadpool’ going to get crowded in 2010?

December 15, 2009 4 comments

My post last week on Google’s announcement of real time search    focused on what impact it may have on the incumbent social media monitoring vendors. Bing (with greater FB reach) and Yahoo have also waded in. Today, we have the announcement from Twitter that they will be rolling out business accounts and Google and Facebook are introducing url shortners. While, I can see how the Twitter business apps like CoTweet and Hootsuite can benefit from the ‘contributors’ feature, I think any new entrants looking to build sCRM tools on Twitter will now have their work cut out. If Twitter business accounts provide excellent multi user functionality and they whack in some serious analytics behind it plus CRM, then I can’t see how the other guys can compete in the long term.

In the monitoring space, I don’t think we will see the major players  (Radian6, Techrigy, VisibleTechnologies, BuzzMetrics etc) going south, but the smaller guys and new entrants will be sleeping with one or maybe both eyes open for the next few months.

Bit.ly are well established and I am not sure how the Google / Facebook url shortners will affect them in the short term. They have announced new analytics and measurement features so that should keep them in front well into 2010 plus we will have to see how much users care about the url shortners in FB and Google.

Maybe some acquisitions will come in to play in 2010. Who knows? Its going to be an interesting year…