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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!

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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.

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.

Do the tools mask what social media really is?

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I have a ridiculous amount of godparents. My mother says she didn’t want any of her friends to be left out so my brother and I have around eight each! This, of course, has many benefits. In my early years it ensured a high yield of gifts on birthdays and at Christmas, and this week I was invited by one of my godfathers to a Livery Dinner held by the The Worshipful Company of Salters. Oh yes!

Out of my league

I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My godfather was a solicitor and having Googled the Livery Companies, I had an idea of the company I would be in plus there had been talk of having to wear white tie and tails…and I am still not really sure what that is. Anyway, I found myself amongst diplomats, MP’s, chairmen of some massive corporations and high ranking chemists, with some of the wearing robes, medals and animal hide! It was patently clear I was way out of my league on so many levels and when I explained I was in the social media, emerging technology ‘field’ there were various glazed expressions and one “…how funny!”. Awesome.

Very minor epiphany

During the dinner I, again, found myself trying to ‘pitch’ the industry to Dr. Gordon, a chemist from Geneva who knew way too much about wine. He was fascinated by the theories and possibilities of social media that I was attempting to explain, but couldn’t see any practical purpose for himself. He used email to stay in touch with his family and had heard of Facebook and Twitter but certainly wouldn’t consider himself a social media ‘user’. Reaching for examples or case studies that I could launch at him, I asked what his favourite pastime was? “Easy, wine.”

“Cool”, I replied, “there are loads of ways to use social media for wine …” And then the minor epiphany happened. He cut me off and said, the only thing he had really done online was buy wine at an auction through a live feed. He went on to say how amazing it was to feel so connected to the actual event and could bid in realtime, see the auctioneer, other bidders etc. “And you said you have never used social media?” I said. “What, that was social media was it?” was the answer!

Look past the tools

My point is that it is so easy to see social media as the tools or platforms that grab the headlines rather than a wider capability to connect you to people and places, which is where the real magic is. Dr Gordon had a ‘real’ human experience using social media for what it is meant to be…and he apparently got a good deal on the wine!