Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

London riots

Already, parents and people in general are concerned about the influence and use of social media technologies during the on-going riots in London. And while I’m sure many will already begin to wonder if the likes of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry mobile phones are more hell-bent than benign, that kind of thinking is where the problems really begin.

Technology, in and of itself, is neither “good” nor “evil”; such things are human attributes only, and no matter what your thoughts are about the internet, for example, social media cannot not be good or bad. The fact is, people make technology bad. If we begin thinking about banning technologies we arbitrarily assume to be bad, then we should have banned the telephone decades ago, Morse code a century ago and the hand-written letter thousands of years earlier.

Using social technologies as a force for change

We only need look at the Obama presidential campaign, which relied heavily on the use of social media and social technologies. And more recently, the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East, which also relied on social technologies.

“In the wake of a controversial police shooting, Britain’s capital city has been rocked by two straight days of widespread rioting and looting. As with previous riots — such as those in Vancouver, British Columbia following the Stanley Cup final — everyone seems to be looking for a culprit, with some blaming Twitter and Facebook, and others pinning the violence on BlackBerry and its instant messaging abilities. But that’s a little like blaming individual trees for the forest fire.“

Those being the thoughts of Mathew Ingram, over on Giga Om, concerning the violence in London and the role of social media. The greatest failure of social technologies is how they were implemented in such permissive ways.

Many have criticized Saudi Arabia for blocking the Blackberry-to-Blackberry instant messaging service, yet we can now see that had such a block been in place here in Britain, along with similar restrictions on similar services, we may not have seen such a rapid progression of orchestration in the violence in London.

Of course, we can’t just block every service, since that’s neither legal nor practical. However, had the authorities had more flexibility in their powers, and had they co-ordinated their efforts more closely with the owners of Twitter, Facebook and Research In Motion, the creators of the BlackBerry, they may have had at their disposal the right tools to stymie the mass communication of these mindless parasites and killed the whole situation right at the start.

But this is after the fact. That aside, when we look at how we choose to use social technologies, and how they can affect the world both positively and negatively, I for one see a clear and unambiguous argument for the introduction of a common framework of tools adding to social technologies that allow the authorities, during times of crisis, to co-ordinate with the owners of major social technologies to control the flow of data and information.

Do that, and social technology becomes an intrinsic force for good.

British insurance comparison website Compare The Market have something of a hit on their hands with Aleksandr Orlov, their mongoose mascot and face on Facebook. Clearly, cute sells, and can also go viral.

Aleksandr is a cute Meerkat character and founder of Compare the Meerkat, a fictitious company, pretending to be mildly annoyed that the two companies are being confused as being the same.

Right now, Aleksandr is fronting Compare The Market’s Page on Facebook in fine style, with over 350,000 fans. But why?

Take a look at the number of comments and “likes” (votes of appreciation) each of his updates get and you’ll see that they have a hit on their hands.

Aleksandr Orlov 1

Aleksandr Orlov 2

Rather cannily, Compare The Market know that they need a better bridge between Aleksandr’s Compare the Meerkat and themselves, or they risk just coming over too strong on the commercial front, which is why they have the Compare the Meerkat spoof website, littered with videos, bloopers and the option to join their Page on Facebook, as well as following Aleksandr on Twitter, who has nearly 12k followers.

According to Alexa (not the most accurate assessment of web traffic by any means), the Compare the Meerkat website is ranked in the top 25k, with several thousand daily visits, while Quantcast doesn’t (as of writing) have enough data to go on, most likely because the website is too new.

And according to Michael Litman writing for Mashable about the Compare the Meerkat campaign:

“In the first 3 days of the campaign over three quarters of the monthly quotes target had been achieved. The year on year uplift in quotes was 45% and vitally, over 50% of the site traffic in the first week was going directly to Finally, the number of quotes is up by 90% on the same period last year.”

Sadly, he doesn’t provide a source for his data. However, I suspect the figures to be a favourable reflection on the success of Compare the Meerkat’s .. I mean, Compare the Market’s social media marketing campaign.

As for the viral aspect, that’s a little more difficult to pull off and remain genuine. There have been some notable examples of viral marketing horror stories. Not even the big boys are exempt or immune, as Sony discovered with their ham-fisted stab at “yoof”viral marketing.

I suspect Compare the Meerkat succeeds because of the non-commercial nature of Aleksandr’s updates, which are usually casual, light and funny. Plus there’s the cute Meerkat being pushed into tens of millions of living rooms all over Britain. People want to share this stuff, which then becomes self-sustaining after a while.

Replicating the viral aspects is always going to be the hardest challenge of all, since the backbone of the campaign is the animated Aleksandr and the videos, which aren’t cheap to reproduce. But the rewards are huge. Even for someone like Compare the Market, the kind of exposure they’ve attracted would have cost considerably more via more mainstream marketing channels.

Using social media to manage your message

In terms of planning and execution, as social media marketing goes, this one went all the way to eleven (a reference to another spoof, of the heavy metal kind). All of the ingredients were there, from the micro-website, to the Twitter and Facebook profiles, as well as the official video on YouTube.

As I see it, there are some basic, entirely reproducible ingredients for social media marketing success:

  1. Tight integration between the various channels (website, blog, Twitter and Facebook profiles, YouTube video etc).
  2. A consistent theme and brand image of you, your business and your core message.
  3. Keep things moving and remain fresh, with plenty of updates, news etc.

So what can we take away from this? I guess most of you won’t have the kind of budget or resources these guys have at their disposal, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from their efforts — just remember that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are all free to use, which counts for a lot.

Social Networking is a great way for businesses to find new people who’re interested in the same things as yourself.

There’s a lot to be said for being connected to smart, resourceful and equally well connected people. If ever you’re in need of a little feedback, assistance, help or even just a spare pair of eyes, a strong social network will help expedite those things.

So here’s a quick introduction to social networking for business people.

What can I do on a social network?

First of all, before we talk about what the best social networks are, you need to think about your goals:

  • Are you looking for industry news?
  • Are you looking for “thought leaders” in your field?
  • Are you trying to promote yourself / your business?
  • Are you looking to build a strong support network?

If you have a company blog, then finding new people to comment on your articles, or to write articles for you could be your goal. Or, if you’re a knowledgeable / creative type, maybe you want to share what you know with others. Or maybe you’re trying to gather a collection of like-minded individuals to help you create something truly amazing.

For you, there may be other goals, but it’s as well to think about and then decide how:

  1. you’re going to approach your goal;
  2. how much time you’re going to commit to those goals;
  3. and finally, how you’re going to measure your goals.

What are the benefits of social networking?

In this case, the benefits are sometimes the same as the goals; finding industry news, thought leaders, a venue to promote yourself or your services et cetera. But there are more:

  • Low cost of entry — most social networks are free to join.
  • Becoming part of an international community.
  • Over time, the prospect of becoming a thought leader yourself.
  • Fast and mostly accurate sources of trustworthy advice.

But like anything else, what you get in return is highly dependent on the effort you put in.

In addition to the benefits, there are some problems associated with social networking, too.

What are the top social networks for businesses?

There are possibly hundreds of social networks out there, but the emphasis really has to be on those that offer clear business benefits:

  • LinkedIn — LinkedIn is an online network of more than 30 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. Your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to thousands of qualified professionals.
  • Facebook — “Facebook gives people the power to share and makes the world more open and connected Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.”
  • Ecademy — “Ecademy is a Business Social Network founded in 1998 now with millions of users of the site each year worldwide. Ecademy is unique as business people connect both online on the web site and offline at networking events and 1-2-1 meetings.”
  • Xing — “The web-based business network XING has grown into one of the leading professional online networking platforms. Business professionals use XING to find useful contacts, important information, new business opportunities, employees and ideas. Based on its members’ level of activity, XING is a market leader in global professional online networking.”

Twitter as a social network

Aside from the more mainstream and business-focused social networks, it might be worth considering Twitter, which I’m sure you’ll have heard plenty about recently.

It’s hard to summarize what Twitter is, largely because it can be whatever you want it to be. Quite unlike LinkedIn, Ecademy etc, there are no formal groups; anyone can follow (befriend) anyone else.

I’ve been on Twitter for several years and it is possible to harness the collective knowledge of your followers to fulfill many, if not all, of the goals outlined previously.
Of course, there are more social networks for businesses, which you’re free to pick, choose and explore.

Being a part of a social network is, for the most part, little different to any real world social network. The only real differences are how you interact with your fellow residents — all you need is an internet connection and a web browser (like Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox).

By setting out what you want to achieve, how and when, social networking can become a legitimate, efficient and cost-effective means of discovery and promotion for your business…

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