Archive

Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

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!

Advertisements

The End of the Gag?

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

My very first post on this blog proclaimed – “The day new media overtook traditional media”. I saw the Iran Election as the clearest example of how, in today’s world, using the technology available, it is nearly impossible to (easily) control the spread of news or incidents if people care enough.

Last week, the Trafigura – Guardian fiasco broke …not in the traditional press, they had already been gagged from reporting it, but via journalist Alan Rusbridger’s tweet . The result was the Twitterverse went into overdrive and soon, Trafigura was one of the top search terms throughout Europe. The company realized they couldn’t control the spread of the message, pulled their ridiculous gagging order and everyone was free to report the facts.

One conculsion and one question.

Conclusion – Social media is not a joke or fad anymore. Those familiar with the space have known this for a long time, but the sneers and jokes regarding Twitter persist. Alan Rusbridger summed it up best himself,

“Twitter’s detractors are used to sneering that nothing of value can be said in 140 characters. My 104 characters did just fine” .

As with the Iran Election, the Sichaun Earthquake, Obama’s election campaign and now Trafigura we are seeing examples of the power of social media and how cumbersome it can make  traditional media look.

Question – Will companies keep issuing gagging orders against traditional media now they know that there are plently of ways to get the message out using social media? Will cases like this nudge us towards greater freedom for the press and old school journalism?

Sorry, that was two questions!

Its getting harder to control the message

Clay Shirky did a great talk at TED.com  just prior to the election in Iran, have a watch here . Plus a follow up Q & A article on the connectivity of people on the web today. In his talk, he uses an example of the Sichuan earthquake in China in 2008. Twitter had real time updates and broke the story before the mainstream media. Amazingly,  he points out that, “the last quake they had prior to that, took 3 months for them to admit they had even had one!” China have filtered the web for over ten years but the great firewall wasn’t built to stop information being sent out of China to the rest of the world. If you have a message to get out – you can, wherever you are in the world.

A key change in the media landscape is summed up by Clay Shirky’s comment of “media is global, social and cheap”.  In a business context, this presents a huge opportunity for brands and companies but a potential disaster if they ignore it. They will have to accept that the customer and communities will influence what information is circulated. With a limited number of media channels, companies used to be able to tell their customers what their brand was and what it stood for, now the customers define what a brand is.

Individuals within groups are more connected than ever before and consumers are relying on their connections and consumer reviews to make key purchasing decisions.  Whatever type of experience they have or read about will be spread throughout their communities and companies need to get a handle on this so they can use it to their advantage – they really have no other choice.

I think there are 4 main components (but I have no doubt these will change!)

Digitally optimize their company online. This covers the corporate website and how that should look and feel, the purpose of the company blog (if necessary), social media profiles which can be maintained and add value.

Listening to the conversations online about their company, competition, industry. They can then work out how to position themselves, how to market to the customers, what the market sentiment is, measure the trends. There are more and more tools for this cropping up each day and I will list the ones I have been looking at in a future post.

Talking to their customers and in a way that will add value to the community and individual. This needs to involve the whole company from marketing, PR, customer service, research and internal communications.

Engaging the community and the individual. A repeatedly good user experience will eventually lead to advocacy. The lateral communication which is now possible within any web community means that a few, loyal customers can help spread your messages wider than traditional push campaigns ever could.

The week the web overtook ‘old’ media?

June 17, 2009 1 comment

iran The last few days have been historic in  Iran. It has been amazing to watch, and  more amazing is the fact we have been  able to watch! I think we have witnessed  not only a major point in history for Iran  as a nation, but also a watershed moment  for the web vs traditional media.

As soon as protesters started taking to the  streets after Thursday’s election results,  the media channels were quickly stifled. Foreign journalists were sent packing and the state run media channels went into propaganda mode. Ten years ago, that would have been that in terms of information flow. However, in the last few days we have seen a generation of people who have grown up with the web, use it for exactly what I think it was invented for – communication and interaction with the rest of the world. Using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and various blogs, some via proxy IP’s as the government tried in vain to stem the flow of information, the people of Iran with the help of Iranian exiles have let the rest of the world, and the traditional media, see what is actually happening in Tehran.

The youth of Iran, which make up 60% of the population, will for the rest of their lives see the web, and the websites and tools they have used over the last few days,  as their way to communicate and source information to and from the outside world. Having had state controlled media for so long, I would be very surprised if they ever see TV, Radio or press as their primary source of information in the future. They will rely on the collective wisdom of real people exchanging information on the web.

There have been many articles and an uprising on Twitter, criticising the traditional media’s coverage and Brian Solis writes an excellent post on Techcrunch http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/06/17/is-twitter-the-cnn-of-the-new-media-generation/ , reporting on the 140 Characters Conference (#140conf) in New York. I think Ann Curry’s comment is particularly telling, “…we have to look at whether or not mainstream media is covering the world fast enough and the answer is no.” She then concluded, “Should we be? Yes. But, right now, we can’t keep pace.”

Traditional media will not be dying out anytime soon, which is a good thing but the gauntlet has certainly been thrown down for speed of delivery of breaking news. We still need to filter out the unwanted noise and the bullshit which inevitably finds its way into any online conversation and many have been quick to question how much we should rely on social media as a ‘trusted source of information’ and to an extent I agree. I think the difference here is that the posts on the social media sites are being used by the traditional media. So, I am guessing the professional journalists and broadcasters have done their usual checks and deemed the content worthy.

The social web has democratized information meaning traditional media channels are not the only gate keepers to trusted content anymore.

Hopefully future posts will be more business, brand, PR, marketing, research, future of social media-esque and I think all of the issues above can be related to businesses and how they need to operate in the online world. The balance of power in a marketing and branding sense is shifting (and quickly) from the company to the consumer. It is no use shouting at or interrupting customers with traditional advertising and marketing techniques as future consumers will see right through all the bullshit…and then tell their mates about it! Brands need to be more human in their approach.

Listening to the conversations of customers, talking in the correct way to those that want to talk and energizing the ones who really give a shit will create so much more value.