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The Revolution WILL be Tweeted

August 20, 2011

I titled a previous post ‘The revolution would not be Tweeted’, I also mentioned that I couldn’t see a true threat of online activism, in particular with regards to social media and networking sites. It seems I may have to eat my words and accept a more enlightened approach.

You would have had to be living under a very big rock recently to not have been aware of the chaos that befell London and some of our other major cities. It was the worst case of civil unrest the police had seen for over 30 years, since the riots of the 80s. What started as a peaceful protest outside a Tottenham police station, quickly exploded into wide spread anarchic scenes. People lost their livelihoods,their possessions, their homes and most importantly hundreds lost their minds and arguably their humanity! Sentencing has been severe for those who offended; the most notable case is that of Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan. The two offenders ,both in their early twenties, were brought before the courts on accusations of inciting rioting through the methods of social networking sites (in this case Facebook). At present they are both set to see 4-year sentences, jailed over the use of Facebook.

This brought me to an increasingly re-occurring question; is online social networking good or bad? In the case of the riots, the initial use of social media was predominantly negative,as it was used to co-ordinate wide spread looting and other violent behaviour. However, James Fowler of Harvard states this about networks (which is also applicable to online networking): ‘Positive and negative things can spread through these networks, but on balance if there’s too much negative stuff flowing though a network, the network will dissolve’. If this were true, how come the network did not dissolve? It is clearly all-negative content. Arguably, it is because the balance was restored after all. Following the incidents that occurred in Clapham Junction, London, Twitter was used for a much more positive purpose. A cleanup operation was spurred into action, Heather Taylor, 33, ‘I Tweeted that people who wanted to help should meet at 9am outside Nandos.’ An initial 50 people turned up to help, followed by a further 400 people either helping out or getting in contact to share their support.
I guess I was very wrong in my view that digital activism was not very potent, whichever side you look at, the events that occurred (either the destruction or the clean up) neither would have been as successful/coordinated without digital activism.
So what changed in our social media that meant that these large communities of people could gather and communicate so easily? Clay Shirky conducted a talk on ‘How social media can make history.’ He claimed that, ‘In the past the media that is good at creating conversation is no good at creating groups. And that’s good at creating groups is no good at creating conversations.’ For example in the past it has been either one to one conversations, or one univocal message presented to a group, whether that be through a broadcasting tower or printing press.
Now what we have is, ‘media is increasingly less just a source of information. And is increasingly more a site of coordination. Because groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well.’ The media is an open source at the user’s disposal, able to project any views or ideas they have into it and see who feels the same, and more importantly see who wants to act on those views. Therefore, there is not a definitive answer to it being good or bad; both evil and good can come from being able to communicate so broadly, it’s the actions that must be judged.

The coordination of the riots due to social media is not the only thing worth discussing, Facebook has been widely linked and claimed to nurture narcissistic users. The actions of those who looted and rioted are not those of conscientious people, nor the actions of the morally sound. ‘Facebook users tend to be more extroverted and narcissistic, but less conscientious and socially lonely, than non-users’. Does this mean we can blame Facebook (and other social networks) for the attitudes (or even actions) of its users? Can social networks cause an attitude in its users where only looking out for number 1 is important, therefore destroying/stealing other’s property is acceptable? Am I saying that everyone that uses social networks is capable of participating in riots and lack certain morals? No, of course not, however, some could be. It’s the same argument that faces violent computer games, is everyone that plays the top-selling game ‘Grand Theft Auto’ going to commit violent crime after being influenced? No, but in extreme cases a small percentage have.

So how can we as advertisers learn from this? How can we take something positive from the massive explosion of activity, which occurred on social networking sites? If we can recreate a similar explosion of interest in regards to a product, it would be a success that would be unparalleled to past social networking campaigns. In 2009, according to Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst, ‘When companies budget for social media marketing in 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of their expenses will go toward creating and maintaining a fan page, managing promotions or public relations outreach within a social network, and measuring the impact of a social network presence on brand health and sales.’ In 2011 we can see that this prediction was the case, however can this develop into an increase in offline activism (the kind we saw from the riots)?
Andrew Keen, former online entrepreneur and founder of audiocafe.com, predicts Facebook to be doomed, ‘They’re rolling the dice on a public offering in the future at some point. But it’s still not clear what Facebook’s business model is. We’re not in the 1990s. You can’t do that anymore.’ Keen deems Twitter to be the way forward as it does not mirror Facebook’s characteristics, ‘The difference is that Twitter is real time. Facebook is still based on a static version on the web and still reflects the narcissism and inanity of Web 2.0. Twitter is a bridge product. It stands between 2.0 and the future.’

So, whether you think there is still more development and positives to be reaped from Facebook, or you agree with Keen, the fact is, the future for how we can use the social networks is sure to be an interesting one.

References:

 

Barford, V. (2011). Riot clean-up brings 400 volunteers to Clapham Junction. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14462058. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

 

BBC News. (2011). Man jailed for Facebook incitement to riot to appeal. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-14557772. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

 

Conger, C . (2010). IS ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKING GOOD OR BAD?.Available: http://news.discovery.com/tech/is-online-social-networking-good-or-bad.html. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

 

Jacobs, T. (2011). Facebook Linked to Narcissism?. Available: http://www.alternet.org/media/150339/facebook_linked_to_narcissism. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

 

Keane, M. (2009). Q&A: Andrew Keen on the death of Facebook and the future of the web. Available: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/3915-qa-andrew-keen?utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=Skimlinks&utm_source=cj. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

 

Shirky, C. (2009). How social media can make history. Available: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.html. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

 

Solis, B. (2010). 2010: Social Network Advertising and Marketing Outlook. Available: http://www.briansolis.com/2010/01/2010-social-network-advertising-and-marketing-outlook/. Last accessed 20th Aug 2011.

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We want world peace of course!

March 27, 2011

Now call me a cynic but I personally don’t believe businesses act ethically because they want to, that they do so in order to sleep well at night, they do so because they have to. The modern consumer expects a business to conduct themselves in a certain manner, and if they fail to adhere to this, then a business can expect to be boycotted and to see their competitors relinquish them of their market share.

The fact of the matter is that most (if not all) businesses care about one thing and one thing alone, making as much money as possible. However, in this era they are unable to do that by simply doing as they wish and adopt a ‘never mind the poor powerless consumer’ attitude. More than ever the consumer now has power over all businesses no matter how big, a modern day David and Goliath if you like, the biggest of these is the power to go elsewhere. Yes a business can do as they wish but not without doing so with the approval of it’s consumers.

We are in a time where the businesses that will succeed the most (and make that all important money) are they ones that look like they care about more than their profits. Emphasis on ‘look’ like they care. They need to be seen to be planting trees to combat their carbon footprint, starting or affiliating themselves with charitable organizations. It has fast become similar to beauty pageants where every contestant of course wishes for world peace, this isn’t their biggest wish, they just hope you believe it is, and if you do without questioning it, well then who’s to stop them.  After all businesses only get away with what we let them get away with.

American olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps

 Corporate and social responsibility is nothing more than a businesses ability to say ‘look at me, look at me, look at how ethical we are’, how good they are at addressing their CSR determines how far and loud that message travels. Look at McDonalds, a supplier of possibly the unhealthiest food known to man it would seem, and of course the obvious choice for restaurant of the London Olympics 2012. It makes perfect sense; a restaurant that has been accused of single handedly making America obese should be the sponsor! I recently visited the Olympic village and what is the only food outlet there? You guessed it Mccy D’s. This is again a very clever move by an incredibly powerful business. Everyone thinks our food is unhealthy, if we sponsor the London Olympics people may think better of us!

I’m hoping that when consumers assess how ethical businesses are that they delve a little below the surface to see if a company really is as good as their word. Unfortunately I’m more inclined to think that much like those beauty pageants, people don’t look past what they see on the surface.

I leave you with a few seconds of a scene from the film ‘Miss Congeniality’ and the ‘world peace’ brigade along a more honest approach.

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The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

March 20, 2011

So there have been activists throughout time, we do not have to look far back in time to find examples. Look at any point in history where the public has taken a stand, whether that be the minors strikes, or the movement for equal rights for women.

We do not even have to look further back than days or weeks. For example in my previous blog I mentioned about the privacy controversies that have been sparked by smart phones logging the owners whereabouts. These controversies have not only been brought up by the news, and other media outlets, the public also cry out in damnation of such things. Online petitions popped up, aswell as Facebook groups. Now obviously the effectiveness of such online action is questionable, however, it is still a form of activism. This base form of activism is on the rise, we now see on Facebook you can pose questions to other users, my first experience of this was rather ridiculous pointless questions like ‘which part of the UK is better? South or North?’ However now you see more poignant questions appearing.

The onset of technology is no doubt responsible for the rise in activism, it has given a stage to anyone that wishes to voice his or her opinion, and in particular when it comes to trying to change something. Whether that be social or economic etc.

However, is this activism likely to amount to anything? Are companies and governments likely to take notice of Facebook related groups? Like the quote says, ‘The revolution will not be tweeted’, action and change take place in reality, not on the online sphere. It may influence change, but I don’t believe it will directly trigger it on its own.

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Even if you may be lost, Apple know exactly where to find you.

March 13, 2011

Recently there has been more and more stories about everyday websites we visit sharing our information, using browser cookies and generally ‘invading our privacy’. Facebook has been at the forefront of this with massive criticisms over the fact that when signing up for an account, your privacy settings will automatically be set to public. Now of course you can set them to private, however, the chances are if you have just created an account your not going to be the most savvy on how to use the site, let alone change privacy settings. This also goes for the more experienced Facebook user, just because we share, comment and talk to our friends does not mean that we know how to delve into the settings. In 2009, Canada even stated that the privacy protocols in place at the time did not even conform to their laws, due to the fact that Facebook kept all data on a user (even if they deleted their account.)  Now Facebook is just 1 in a long line of sites that get put in the cross hairs, but this is the nature of the internet. Absolute privacy will always be very hard to achieve on something that’s accessible from anywhere around the world and by anyone.

dg

So it’s just the internet we have to worry about right? Wrong. It has recently come to light that many of us may be in possession of a device(s) that constantly logs and tracks out whereabouts. No it’s not some sat nav, nor is it some sort of government satellite watching us from miles above the Earth’s surface, it is in fact our iPhones and iPads. British researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, revealed their discovery of a location-logging mechanism quietly introduced by Apple for iPhones and iPads in early- to mid-2010. So what’s wrong with Apple knowing where we are all the time? For me, I really don’t mind if Apple know where I am, it is more that they are doing so without me knowing and in such an underhand manor. Which leads me to think what are they doing with this location based data. Surprisingly Apple did not respond to interview requests.

Apple are not the only ones to blame for this, On Friday, Google came under scrutiny. The Guardian disclosed the existence of a similar location-logging feature on Android phones, a discovery made by a Swiss researcher, Magnus Eriksson; and the Wall Street Journal verified evidence gathered by Los Angeles-based researcher Samy Kamkar, showing how most Android phones worldwide have been actively sending GPS location coordinates, as well as the coordinates of any nearby WiFi networks, back to Google for at least the past six months.

So how can we trust that our devices aren’t doing more without us knowing? What if in the future they monitor all sound made within the vicinity of the device, just like in the plot of the film Minority Report? The fact is we can’t know, but is there a real danger with Apple or Google knowing where we are? Or are we just making a fuss for no real reason?

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Not so subliminal messaging.

March 6, 2011

In this new era of advertising we may not always be aware that we are being targeted. Before we were aware that companies would target us as it was often via direct and obvious methods, e.g. television commercials, print ads, billboards etc. However as advertising has progressed, so has the level of competition, obvious advertising is no longer enough, countless companies are now resorting to product placement. This may occur in blockbuster films or lower budget productions that feature on television.

It is not surprising that Apple one of the biggest modern brands out there participates in product placement. It is really rather hard to watch a Hollywood blockbuster now without that little glowing apple appearing on the lid of a star’s laptop. Failing that you are bound to see someone with his or her iPhone out, a prime example of this was comedy ‘I Love You Man’. Not only did Apple products feature heavily throughout the film, Paul Rudd’s iPhone was even referenced in the script. Below are just a few examples where Apple has featured their devices quite obviously in recent blockbuster movies and shows.

House

Sex In The City

Hot Tub Time Machine

Coca-Cola also takes place in the activity of product placement, however I believe in some respects it is nowhere near as subtle as many other companies out there. Far from it infact, below you will see an almost shameless placement of Coca-Cola in the US talent series ‘American Idol’.  The red cups are so bold it’s impossible not to notice, and due to the cups not being transparent we don’t even know if what the judges are consuming is indeed Coca-Cola. Is it wrong to deceive us like this, should it be more obvious that what they are drinking is definitely Coca-Cola?

Or is product placement as a whole wrong? They banned subliminal advertising messages in cinemas years ago, how is this so different? The stars we see using them as part of product placement may not be doing so for personal belief in the product but for the simple fact they are getting paid to do so. Now you can argue that this is exactly the same as celebrity endorsement commercials, although, with commercials we are aware they are probably being paid to say what they do. With product placement it is more natural, it can be quite easy to believe that the product is being used because they want to, not because they have to. Is this possible deceit wrong?

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Gimme ya pin

February 27, 2011

If I were to say to you have you heard of RIM or Research In Motion, you’d probably say no. However, this Canadian company is responsible for one of the biggest smart-phone brands going. Got it yet? RIM were the company that brought the world Blackberry.

Now I very much doubt that you recognise the device above, but this was the first Blackberry released for general use. It bares very little resemblance to the devices we see today. However, the improvements in RIM’s technology is not what I believe is what they’ve got spot on, far from it I think their phones need a lot of further improvement. What they are good at in my opinion is getting their brand everywhere. A brand that was a few years ago un-heard of has their name adorning festivals across the UK and even endorsed by music giants ‘U2’. A number of viral videos have appeared on the Internet regarding the new phenomenon of BBM groups (Blackberry messenger groups) such as the video below.

From this video you can see how BBM and the Blackberry brand have brought 100s of people together to unite over a common interest. The ‘Souls of Speed’ group is comprised of a large number of members who love their vehicles and high speed. They are largely Blackberry users, simply because they can all keep in contact simply and without using their texts or minutes. This is something that Android and iPhone have not successfully emulated. There are similar apps to BBM out there, but none are as widely used as BBM.
As I mentioned earlier you can see the Blackberry brand at festivals now, last year I attended Isle of Wight festival, during the breaks between bands you could BBM a big screen with your own personal message. A screen that is placed in front of 100’s of thousands of music lovers, all clearly being shown that BBM is the chosen form of mobile communication for IOW festival.

There are countless other examples of the Blackberry brand being placed before us everyday. Below you can see 2 images, one is formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton holding his Blackberry in the pit and the other is the ‘Black Eyed Peas’ featuring on a Blackberry ad for the NFL super bowl 2011.

When the smart-phone market is as competitive as it is brands must be at the forefront of every consumers minds, regardless or not of whether they own their device or not. When you think of smart-phones you think of Blackberry (aswell as the other big brands) as a contender and this is because of their commitment to being a seamless brand.

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Talkin bout my (4)generation

February 20, 2011

So with all the stress on mobile technology and what number G we’re on, it got me thinking about what mobile technology I’ve had…

My first experience of mobile technology was my dad’s mobile phone when I was a kid, he works in telecommunications so from a young age I was used to seeing mobiles around. He used to have this brick of a phone, which I believe he now uses as a novelty paperweight as it truly can be referred to as a ‘brick’ among mobile technology. There wasn’t even snake on this thing, let alone have internet which leads me to wonder how I took hours of amusement just pushing buttons on it…

Now when I entered year 6 I got my first ‘pay as you go‘ mobile phone from my parents, the 6210 and what a beaut it was! My parents gave it to me as an emergency measure; now in year 6 I’m not sure how often they thought I’d remember to charge it. This of course was because as like many others like me I had discovered the timeless joys of the Nokia game snake, the battery life never stood a chance.
Again just like my dad’s first phone there was not much to it, with the exception of snake there was nothing really new about it. At all. Note that there was a good few years between the manufacture of these handsets and very little obvious advancement apart from maybe the size.

After this I had the legend, the classic, the one and only, the 3310. Now I doubt that many people within my generation have made it this far in life without owning one. Everyone had one and everyone was keen to show off all the different face-plates you could encase it in, giving it that personal touch. This was arguably the first big push into making your mobile more than just a device for making calls, but also a statement or a fashion accessory. Again, no internet. From my 3310 came a big step up, the 7210i, the first colour screen phone I owned, and of course the ‘i’ made it even cooler to me. This was also the first time I heard those hideous ‘polyphonic’ ringtones, which of course made you the cool kid in the playground (as the way your phone rang was oh so important). So again Nokia had given me an even smaller more stylish phone, but it didn’t stop there, now for the first time I had a camera on my phone and mobile internet (a swell as snake II). I don’t know if anyone else felt this, but I almost didn’t know what to do, there was no Facebook to check I just used it for checking the football results and that was about it. There was no desire to waste away hours of time on it.

 

After the 7210i there were plenty of other handsets that came and went, all with their little technological gimmicks like better cameras etc. But the next big thing I had was a smartphone the weirdly named ‘Blackberry’. I remember it being a whole new level, even having one of the early phones it had new games and MUCH faster web access. At the time they were purely marketed towards business and the only reason I was aware of their existence was because my dad had one. Again I didn’t really utilise that web access as much as I do now, as I still felt then no real desire to. So it was safe to say I had converted from Nokia and was now a big fan of the Blackberry smartphones although I’m still not sure as to what reason other than the shiny factor.
Then came the iPhone, the smartphone that was set to revolutionise the market. The iPhone 2g came to us in the spring of 2008 and sold approximately 6.1 million handsets, it did quite a job of shaking things up a bit. For the first time on a wide scale we were made aware of applications or ‘apps’, these weren’t just games but also utilities like budgeting tools etc. It was never going to be long before advertisers used this to their advantage. Now you can find 1000s of pointless apps that are simply their to act as an advertisement tool, for example beer companies releasing an app that makes it seem as if you are drinking the beer off the screen. The 3G and 3Gs (my first iPhone) promptly followed its little brother and it now seemed Apple were telling us we had reached this ‘3rd generation’ of technology, but what did this mean to a consumer? Basically the phone was the same, it worked a little faster but to all intents and purposes it looked the same and ran the same. However, one thing changed, we had another rather substantial boost in internet speed. Now this coupled with the introduction of apps a massive floodgate was opened, we had facebook apps, flickr apps, ebay apps, you name it Apple delivered it. This was not only fantastic for us, but also for advertisers, more content could be presented to users right in the palm of their hand, and in many respects there was nothing they could do about it.

Now as if the 3rd generation wasn’t enough, we now reside in the ‘4G’ world a world of even faster mobile internet access a world where so much technology is crammed into a tiny housing. Not to mention a world of rising competition. We love it and again so do advertisers, it hasn’t just stopped with simple gimmicky apps and ads appear when we do anything on our smartphones. We have seen the rise of QR codes and the like, these little codes we are told more and more to scan with our mobiles whether it be for Blackberry messenger contacts or for free stuff. We of course also have other threats to the smartphone marktet such as ‘Android’ phones. Where are we going next is the question, of course we look to the Far East and in particular the tech giants, Japan. Augmented reality and paying for things with chips in your phone (similar to that of Oyster travel cards) is on the horizon, how are we going to take to it? More importantly how are advertisers going to utilise it to ensure we are targeted more and more effectively for their clients? Will we see a death of mobile privacy?