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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!

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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.

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…

Google real time search – The start of a game changer?

December 8, 2009 3 comments

I think this is a big one! Google announced yesterday that they will   launch real-time search within days. They will integrate the full   Twitter firehose feed, as first mentioned by Mashable back in October, Myspace , Yahoo Answers, Jaiku and the plethora of blogs they already crawl. They will also have public pages from Facebook. There is a question over exactly how much access they will have here  and it is safe to assume they won’t get the same love that Microsoft will, given their investment in Facebook back in 2007.

Many in the industry saw this one coming. At the MSM09 Conference last month, there was talk of Google buying one of the incumbent vendors (I was one of the talkers) and I guess it may have come down to price – cheaper to do a deal with the data sources than to buy a Radian6? Not sure, but it certainly throws up some interesting questions for the many, many players in the realtime / social media monitoring space:-

When will the data be plugged into Google Analytics?

How much will Google charge?

Will Google produce a sentiment engine to accompany the data streams?

Are we screwed?

I also think this is good news for agencies, consultants and coaches who have been struggling to get their prospective clients to see the benefit or need to be involved in social media, to join the conversation. This should make it easier! Get them to watch the video below and then ask again if they think they should be involved.

Are Facebook and Nielsen missing the point?

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Having finally decided to put Beacon into the deadpool, Facebook have announced that they will partner with Neilsen for analytics measurement of advertising on the site. The first product, Brandlift, “measures aided awareness, ad recall, message association, brand favorability, and purchase consideration via a set of short one- or two-question online surveys.”

I am slightly confused by this approach. Nielsen is a big, big research player and they have some very cool tools to monitor social media (BuzzMetrics) in real time, so why would they focus on conducting polls to see what users think of the display ads. Let me save you some time – “I don’t notice them…” , “I only click on them by a mistake…”, “I have disabled the ads on Firefox…”, “ They are irrelevant…” “they piss me off…” etc..

If Facebook have made $500m this year from display, surely they are doing a good job already in convincing advertisers that FB is a viable platform? Or is this a play for the bigger, more precious brands to convince them that they should move or increase their spend with Facebook?

I am not keen on display advertising. I agree it still has a role to play in the awareness part of the ‘sales funnel’ but that is about it and it certainly is largely ineffective in social communities. I can’t help thinking Nielsen and FB have missed an opportunity here. Rather than flogging the dead horse that is display advertising, why not focus on gleaning actionable insight into the conversations on FB and peddling that to the big brands?

Because the monitoring software can only access public pages and Facebook would never get away with giving Nielsen access to private pages or conversations, where the real value is?

Is this why Twitter and comments and forums will always be better for real time commercial engagement than Facebook?

Is being a walled garden going to ultimately harm Facebook’s revenue potential as users will never allow brands into their private world and will not engage with display ads?

Interesting times?

The young aren’t using Twitter?! Who is surprised?

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

There were quite a few posts flying around last week about this, for example this from the ft.com and ‘why teens don’t tweet’ from Mashable. Surely, people aren’t surprised about this.

(I am going to generalize about young people a bit in this post) Most young people don’t see the need for some digital social networks because they have their physical ones in full operation. Everyday at school they are seeing, pretty much, ALL their network of friends. They all have mobiles so are using them to chat, text and exchange lurid images. There is nothing that a social network can offer that will drastically improve their social life…so why bother? The real-time engagement that they get from physical and mobile contact means they don’t need to do it on the social web. When you were at school, how many friends were you in regular contact that you didn’t actually see at least every week? Not too many.

As soon as they start to leave school or their social circle becomes more disparate, ie when they go to college or enter the job world, the value of a Facebook becomes much greater. Also, as you get older your social circle increases and you need a repository for that data. Young people should maintain their real social interactions as long as possible but as we all know, eventually your connections and friends start to spread out.

Twitter is becoming a breaking news and social search platform. It is aiming to let users “discover what is going on in the world, right now”, which again, the young don’t really care that much about. The social platforms are maturing and finding their own identities and purpose, so its unrealistic to think all demographic of user is going to adopt every social network available.

Young people are no different to any other age group. They use the communication and connectivity tools which give them the most social value at that point in time.