Social Networking Blog

Guy Clapperton on the evolving new media

Building online communities profitably

A community of interest gathers at Stonehenge,...
Image via Wikipedia

A great blog post from the moblogsproblems blog points to areas that might explain why people don’t follow someone online, or why they don’t take part in communities. Since one of the issues is with not acknowledging helpful people I’ll start by thanking Shonali Burke for pointing it out, I don’t have a note of her website but she has an excellent blog and you can follow her on Twitter here.

The monetisation thing is something that interests me (funnily enough). I’ve only been plugging away at this particular site for just over a month (and took a week off last week) but it’s starting to get significant amounts of readers, particularly when I pick a fight with someone (again, funnily enough). The option to try to make it profitable somehow is probably premature but as I’ve just discovered WordPress deletes html code on my page by default (thanks, guys) don’t worry, you won’t be plagued with ads for a while just yet.

There are a lot of people, though, who want to engage with and build communities for the sake of it – clubs, fan circles whether of sports, favourite TV programmes, you know the sort of thing. I think a point that the original blogger has missed is picking an audience that’s ready to be engaged is vitally important. I get a fair bit of feedback on this site, but then it’s about social networking. I chose the subject to go with my book (must do a bit of work on that when I’m through blogging) but also because the people who were into social networking would also be into responding online. If I’d picked another subject close to my heart – say being a fortysomething father, which believe me is the most important thing in my life – then a lot of my target market would have needed the concept of blogging and responding explained to them before moving ahead with it.

So, address the audience but make sure the audience is ready first, would be my first advice to anyone wanting to set up a community. Second, be prepared to market to them – since the invention of the Internet there’s been an illusion that the audience will just turn up, somehow.

No doubt more will occur to me, spurred by other blog posts and articles – I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s perspectives.

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April 16, 2009 Posted by | Social media financing, social media trends | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Music and Twitter


This is an odd one. The Streets, a band in the UK for anyone who doesn’t know, are going to start uploading music and making it available to fans free through their Twitter feed.

10/10 for innovative use of social media, and the same for pleasing the fans. I’ll be interested to see how they can continue to earn a living whilst giving their songs away for nothing, though.

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April 15, 2009 Posted by | social media trends, Unexpected things happen | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Social networks harming morality?

I was going to blog aboutthe reports claiming social networking harm morality earlier on but decided against it – they were too silly, I thought.

Then they hit the National Press here in the UK. And it’s crazy. The idea is that social networks like Facebook and Twitter don’t give you the time to react to a bit of news so you don’t see immorality or sadness as you ought to.

We’ll leave aside the issue of people telling us how we ought to feel – there are occasions on which certain reactions are definitelty appropriate in my view, and I’ll accept that. There are also times when I’ve seen so much death or sadness on the TV news that I hardly notice, which I accept is less than desirable. Social networks can of course amplify that effect by being such a fast medium.

What troubles me is the implication that I’m too stupid, and so are all the other users, to remain in charge of the media I’m watching. More than at any point during my lifetime, I can take my own time watching or reading something. I don’t have to be in front of the TV at a particular time for the news and I can take as long as I want reading a Twitter post, short though it may be.

By all means highlight the danger but please, could we remember the people reading this stuff are intelligent individuals who dictate how they use the new media, not the other way around.

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April 14, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bloggers and press releases

TwitScoop and Twitter search filters in Tweetdeck
Image by Kevglobal via Flickr

Back from the Easter Hols (very nice thanks, few days at mum’s place) and I’ve walked straight into an argument over PR and blogging. It started innocently enough; a blogger who I won’t name puts a note up on Twitter to ask people to stop sending him press releases because they’re ‘not relevant’.

Why this caught my eye I don’t know, but it did. So I check the guy’s profile and there it is, for everyone to see: “Information junkie”. So we have a self-proclaimed information junkie asking professionals not to send him information. I make this point to him.

He responds, saying he doesn’t want spam to his work address, and he’s a blogger not a journalist so if people want his attention they have to mail him direct. He asks me if I haven’t had a release I’d consider spam from a PR in my time.

Well, no I haven’t. I’ve had releases that were badly targeted (I write primarily about small business and technology, so the woman who started sending me releases about female sex aids once was way off the mark albeit she makes a good anecdote); I’ve had those that are poorly written, but no, once I’ve said in public that I’m a freelance journalist I don’t think I can justifiably describe any genuine press release as unsolicited.

Twitter spats aside, there are a few salient points to be made. First, if you publicise yourself – no matter where – as someone seeking information, people who choose to send you this info are not doing anything wrong. The chances are that they are a professional doing a job, and if you imagine that the rest of the world should be instinctively aware of any strictures you’ve unilaterally applied then you’re plum crazy. Second, PRs and marketers have thousands of contacts to manage so if their approach seems a little impersonal that’s probably because it is. If you want a personal approach then pick up the phone and there is every chance a real person will speak to you. Personally.

Second, even if you’re a blogger rather than a journalist (and goodness knows those lines are starting to blur) expect to manage your own online identity. If someone thinks something is going to be of interest to you, the chances are very good that they’ll Google for your name and send their mails to the first address they find. This means it’s up to you – not them – to ensure that the address they find first is the one you want them to use (try searching for Guy Clapperton and I can almost guarantee that every search you perform will produce clapperton.co.uk as the number one hit). And cut the guff – there are no ‘new rules’ for bloggers and other social media users, if you put your head over the parapet as being interested in information then the professional providers of it are going to start sending it. It’s your job to filter, not the PR’s job to hand-check every approach when they have thousands to handle. This means there is a risk to a blogger who is employed by someone else full time – yes, your work mail may become stuffed with information you’d rather went somewhere else. Your employer is not going to listen to stuff about how it’s the fault of an incompetent PR if their mail servers are becoming blocked. You’ve drawn attention to yourself, Pandora’s box and all that.

Not that bloggers are a bad thing. The ructions in Westminster over the weekend, in which some pretty dirty stuff was uncovered (here’s the blog where it all started) by a blog, and regardless of your politics it’s important that smear campaigns and blatant lies are uncovered for what they are. They are invaluable on the one hand, entertaining on another. As I’ve said before, though, there’s a real problem ahead for people who think they can blog without responsibility. In the past I’ve said this responsibility covers accuracy, libel and suchlike; it’s clear after this morning’s spat that this resp0nsibility also includes management of an online identity and not whining when people take you seriously enough to try to make contact.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How not to win friends in a social network

Social network
Image via Wikipedia

Some great tips from the Feverbee blog on ways of dooming online communities and other social networks, by extension. It involves things like not planning your first ten members, not befriending people before the launch and making big announcements (so setting expectations when you’ve less to say).

There’s actually something a lot more basic that you can do to achieve much the same level of screw-up, in my view. It’s very simple – you just set the thing up without any clear idea of your message. The times I’ve seen companies decide they need an online community of some sort (they’d have called it a Web forum a few years back) and forget they actually need something to say, thinking of this only when they’ve started telling everyone it’s coming, is embarrassing.

Of course it needs marketing and of course it needs some sort of strategy. But many of the issues associated with an online community become a lot more straightforward if you address the basics first.

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April 6, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social media experts 2

Earlier today I blogged about social media experts and how half of them don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s all too new, nobody’s an expert yet.

Another post has been drawn to my attention on Twitter by Nikki Pilkington, for which my thanks – have a look at this item on how you know when you’re talking to a social media expert – and be prepared to cringe at how many of these habits you’ve adopted yourself!

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April 3, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Networking makes you more productive

Facebook, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had a feeling about this for some time. And now there’s actual evidence to suggest social networking makes you more productive. Visiting Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al actually makes you a better worker.

Some of us have been saying this sort of thing for years. As long ago as the mid-nineties, when I signed up to something called Cix (still going, a very early social networking thing before the term was invented) once I’d gone freelance I noticed that if I had some human contact, albeit through a keyboard,  I was happier, more motivated and therefore more productive.

This is exactly what services like Twitter offer, particularly to the self-employed or remote working community. I’ve been stunned – often – to read about people banning their staff from its use, missing the point that having pointless conversations about last night’s telly is part of the process, not something that distracts from it.

And now it’s official. There’s evidence. I’m not surprised in the slightest.

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April 2, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter overtakes newspapers on G20 reporting

No overtaking
Image via Wikipedia

Well, that’s what it says here. One of the Frontline Club‘s bloggers claims that Twitter is overtaking traditional methods as the place the G20 stuff is being reported.

I’m sure that’s kind of true. Social media is increasingly important and this is a case where it’s being noticed. On the other hand until someone produces an issue of the Times with 140 characters only I’m not sure there’s a direct comparison to be made.Sure, bulletin for bulletin there are more Tweets than reports – but until someone does a word/character count on all the traditional media so we can see how many Tweets it would account for, the position isn’t clear.

You could almost think it’s not really a like for like comparison, don’t you think?

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April 2, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Digital v. real world – a pointless distinction

A server used for the My Home
Image via Wikipedia

Great blog piece here on the difference between the real world and the digital world. I’m delighted to draw people’s attention to this sort of good sense.

It’s now a few years since I was at a wedding and mentioned to a friend that I’d got some really good advice from the Internet on dog care – basically (if you’re remotely interested and let’s be honest, there’s no reason you should be) my dog’s nose wasn’t cold and wet and I found through the wonders of technology that it didn’t need to be. The friend – older than me – was appalled I’d take the word of a machine.

On a different note, a friend of a friend – no, really – has had marital problems because their partner became involved with someone on Second Life. This, everyone thought, was crazy because it wasn’t ‘real’.

The thing is, digital media is no less real because it’s digital – it’s just another way of expressing yourself. My experience with the dog wasn’t me believing a machine, it was an example of someone finding another expert through a machine – much as you might do with the phone. The marital thing was a bit different; neither of the participants could see their ‘real’ selves, of course; what they could certainly see was that things weren’t good at home so they found another outlet. Nobody is going to tell me that marriage was working before someone started playing this game.

There will be more of this and we’ll find out more about how we interact in this altered world. Our experience is an evolving reality and always has been. When Concorde was invented our reality took on a supersonic dimension if we could afford it; when the telephone was invented and later television our reality gained a mass communications dimension, and now, big wow (or not), it’s taken on a digital dimension in addition to the rest as well.

But digital being outside of reality? You’re kidding.

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April 2, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bloggers self-censoring

My thanks to Josh Halliday for Tweeting about this article on the Guardian’s website about the flipside of many of my comments on bloggers and their need for quality management and self-restraint. The flipside is of course that some will go too far in censoring themselves.

The debate continues – I’ll continue to alert readers (and thank anyone who tips me off) about anything relevant being written.

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April 2, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , | Leave a comment