Social Networking Blog

Guy Clapperton on the evolving new media

Twitter annoyances

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Great blog post pointed out by Jack Schofield of the Guardian to his followers, on ways of annoying Twitter users. I could add a few; we’re getting to the stage at which posting to Twitter about Twitter is going to seem very old hat (we could just accept Twitter’s there and get on with it, nobody phones you to talk about the phone network); engaging in endless one to one communications which should long ago have been taken to private mail and posting exclusively about your product are among them. But the list in this link is pretty much excellent and I’m relieved to say I don’t indulge in many of them. Not often anyway…

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April 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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 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

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

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

Bloggers might be above the law

Image by hugovk via Flickr

A judgement in the UK suggests that reporting restrictions might not apply to bloggers if they don’t know restrictions have been imposed. The story is here on the Out-Law website.

The idea actually overturns the idea that ignorance should be no excuse in the eyes of the law. I’m not at all sure how I feel about this. Many bloggers have no training as journalists and the way they write and conduct themselves on their sites does suggest they anticipate a bit of leeway.

But where’s this going to stop? Can we assume that people not aware of the libel laws can’t libel people? This would be a nonsense.

The larger picture is that reporting restrictions need re-examination or globalisation in some way. The case in question involves a 12 year old accused of fathering a child and the reporting restrictions apply in the UK but not overseas – so you can find it on the Web. The Web is making a nonsense of localised restrictions just about everywhere, and now bloggers are being exempt from them as long as they didn’t know.

I can only see this getting messier.

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

Has this been free for too long?

One of the odder elements of social media is that we’re becoming so accustomed to getting so much for free. There was outrage the other week when YouTube dared suggest music videos should be chargeable. Now the same people are going to separate out premium content from the ordinary stuff.

It’s going to make things clearer for the end user of course; what’s bewildering to me is why we expect so much for free in the first place. Blogs, newspapers, loads of content are all on the Web free of charge. Many videos and entertainments on YouTube are there for you to help yourself. I’m writing this blog in the hope that it’ll draw attention to my book when it comes out in October by all means, but for no direct payment.

Social media is slowly training all of us to expect loads of stuff for nothing. Hopefully the YouTube move will be the first stage of nudging us towards paying for at least some of it – or else why will future content creators bother uploading?

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March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Newspapers and social networks – do they need rescuing?

Newspapers are using social networks to rescue themselves, says a blog entry on Mashable. They’re using the new media as a way of engaging with the reader in a way they couldn’t have done before and are starting, slowly, to reap the benefits.

To which I can only say a slightly cynical ‘oh, really’? Let’s take this argument to pieces a little (and it’s well-argued, it deserves to be read and considered). First, one of the tenets which must be true if this argument is to hold water is that the newsppwes and existing media don’t engage with their readers already. This is patently not the case. I think I was about 8 years old when I had a joke published in “Whoopee” comic (I know, I know, the Beano would have been cooler but I just didn’t make the grade). I’ve been known to write letters to other publications too – and yes, I’ve become a journalist which is the ultimate interaction with a publication but we’re going to leave that to one side. Non-journalists have had means of interacting with their publications on paper for ages.

Then there are other media. The idea of leaving a comment on a blog is as old as, if not older than, the radio phone-in. There are TV programmes that have invited people to text in their comments for a number of years (Question Time in the UK is one, and it started doing this before the words ‘book’ and ‘face’ were brought together side by side in the way we’ve learned to love by now). Yes, having a Facebook page makes it easier if you’re a magazine and by all means it extends the reach of your communications but is it really all that radical a move? Then there’s the reader event. Years ago I attended a wine tasting organised by the Times. Good Housekeeping has its own exhibition and has done for years. None of this had anything to do with social media but it extended the brands very successfully indeed.

Newspapers and magazines are in troble by all means. There’s a chance that extending into the social media will help a bit. But to suggest that this is more than an extension of something that was evolving already way before the emergence of anything we’d understand now as ‘social media’ is to exaggerate one hell of a lot.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You may be being watched

Yesterday I saw an excellent article reminding everyone that when we blog, when we Tweet, we’re being watched by people the whole time. There is therefore no point in putting something out there that’s going to put an employer down, upset people, anything like that.

And it could get more serious as the UK Government is considering monitoring social networks. They are concerned that paedophiles and terrorists are using the serrvices available for planning their illegal activities. You can see where they’re coming from: Twitter and blogging are pretty much visible to the world (only a few hundred people read these words at the moment because I only started this last week, but therte’s nothing to stop hundreds and thousands if it took their fancy) but Facebook, at least until a week or so ago, works more on a membership basis and closes itself off to outsiders, as do others.

So I can see why there’s a case for monitoring, just as I can see there’s a case for having policeme walking the beat and glancing at me occasionally when I’m doing nothing wrong. What I have difficulty with is just how this is all going to be paid for. Every day we read more dire news about the economy. We see more and more instances of Goverment agencies losing track of swatches of data. And now they’re thinking of monitoring more information – some of which may be private or commercially confidential but wholly legal – and we’re expected to assume it’s workable.

I can see it’s important and if it stops a single child being molested then that’s a good thing. I’d like, though, to know a bit more about how the Government would implement this – and what they’re going to do about their track record on minding the data they already have.

March 20, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment