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Snapchat, Livestreaming and Digital Diplomacy

Bond 007 snap by UK FCO

UK FCO using James Bond in Snapchat! (source: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/)

From a personal perspective, it has taken a while for me to see the point of Snapchat and live-streaming apps like Periscope.

First the ephemeral and live trends have some crossover, but they’re also a little different (which might be worth another future post), but both are so new that they’re worth talking about together.

One of the issues with both ephemeral and live social media is that it can be hard for an organization to measure engagement in the traditional sense.  Some have suggested that this can be a major hurdle for the adoption of these new technologies, but I disagree that it’s an engagement issue.  It’s simply more that for marketers and communication staff, there is not yet any real way to measure the engagement yet in the traditional sense and link it to expectations such as “bottom line” or to traditional KPIs such as “conversions”. Although even on that, there are some indicators–and just like 10 years ago with twitter, the US government might be leading on this as the US government has recently jumped onto Snapchat.  In announcing their entry onto the platform, they even shared how they were going to :

  • Followers: We’ll measure our audience size after six months and assess growth. Are we seeing new followers being added or are people unfollowing us?

  • Views/Completion Rate: Snapchat lets you see how many people are watching your story and where they drop off in the process. We’ll measure those numbers to determine if people are watching the whole story or giving up halfway through. We’ll also analyze what kind of content performs best so that we can deliver more of what our audience wants.

  • Engagement: We’ll look at the number of people who send Snaps back to us to help determine how engaging our content is.

  • Screenshots: Snapchat notifies you when someone takes a screenshot of your content. We’ll use screenshots to help us determine if we’re sharing important information that our audience thinks is worth keeping. We’ll look at what kind of content is screenshotted the most to learn what’s important to our followers.

(The UK’s foreign ministry also uses Snapchat well in their international outreach, although I preferred how simply the above example crystallized how they were going to measure results. However, the UK blog post which is well worth reading, explains some of the challenges of using Snapchat very well.)

Many of these products are integrated into larger platforms – Facebook Live with Facebook; Periscope with Twitter;  upcoming YouTube Connect with YouTube.  So these snaps or live broadcasts can be repurposed and shared elsewhere. This means you’d possibly then see engagement from there.  The hurdle is not the newness of the platforms, but getting your content right and doing your due diligence as with any other social platform. See very often organizations simply jump onto new platforms without assessing their resources, thinking about the demographics their targeting and keeping in mind the pecularities of the platform.  I’d imagine that this is still mandatory even if you are jumping onto a new platform!

The last thing I’d say is that the potential long duration (Periscope and other live apps) of video should not be intimidating. It’s actually ok if viewers jump in and out of videos and this is not necessarily that new. It’s just not how people consume even traditional media like television, think of how often the TV is on in the background at your house!  Think of any broadcast or video you’ve seen before, for example, in 2014, the United Nations streamed their entire UN Social Media Day which if I recall correctly, I followed on livestream.  I obviously did not sit all day watching it, but I remember sending in tweets in their Q&A that were responded to, so I was able to “engage” and derive value without watching the whole thing.  And now the video is available on YouTube as are experts from it.  Basically, I don’t think all types of live streams necessarily require ones full attention from beginning to end.

Very interesting to see how all this develops.

Social Media and Self-Identity

Young professionals are now facing the conodurum of receiving friend request’s from new employers or more formal contacts.  We already know that the teens are fleeing  Facebook since parents, uncles, teachers, etc have started monitoring their activities there. But what about those of us that are more established with our online social networks? It’s easy to avoid that aunt, or even your dad, on Facebook. But the employment one is more difficult to figure out.

I’ve been thinking about this since I’m currently reading Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated.  Her book focuses on teen use of social media but it raises interesting questions about how and why people use digital platforms to communicate and also how that affects the quality of their lives. In an offline context, most people would act differently depending on the environment–in their living room, at a bar, at a business networking event, etc. Why shouldn’ t it be the same online? I’ve only just joined Linkdn with a view to facilitating my long-term career progression.  I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit. I’m “signed up” on Instagram and Google Plus but I don’t use either. There is actually not much overlap in my social networks, but they serve different purposes:

Facebook is like me at a house party. I’m at the bar. I’m talking about stuff I would talk about at a bar, in the way that I would at the bar on a Saturday night. I’m not talking politics or anything too heavy, on here I simply don’t take myself too seriously. If someone is going to friend me here, ideally it would be someone that I’d be comfortable downing a couple of shots with on a pub crawl. Or someone who I’d be ok inviting to a friends block house party.

Facebook is also where I share photos from social events. Another cool area of Facebook I’ve discovered is that it’s actually pretty decent for following famous personalities or activities in a casual sense.  It’s actually kind of cool to see what other projects and adventures the crew of X-Men or Fast & Furious experience (by the way for my marketers, the marketing for the X-Men: Days of Future Past movie was off the charts, they did a fantastic job on Facebook marketing that for a year).

Twitter meanwhile is where I follow industry leaders on topics that I actually would feel compelled to engage in. For me that is International Relations, Politics, Tech, Social Media.  I just find it a more intellectual endeavor than Facebook in the way that I use it. I also dabble in soccer over there, as you get news directly from the top journalists in the sport and you can even interact with them sometimes–again this is at a higher level.  Obviously some people use it as a stream-of-thought style, which is how I use Facebook.

Pinterest meanwhile is where I go to dream. Pinterest is the digital depiction of my dreams and fantasies.  My fondest hobbies, my biggest wishes, things that take my breath away….I display those on Pinterest, where pictures speak a thousand words. Here, it does not matter who I follow or who is following me, it’s irrelevant.

Reddit, I’m there for getting answers to random Q & As. For me, Reddit has taken over from Yahoo Answers! which used to be the best at this pre-social media.  I’m also there for anime, which is another of my hobbies (I have many hobbies–why not? Having too many things that provide pleasure in your life is better than having the opposite problem where you are bored and nothing tugs at your heart).

Linkedn is new to me, I’ve only just signed on.  I’m still trying to figure it out but I think it will end up being a resource to help or get help from alumni and work colleagues for professional networking. Some of the articles I’ve seen are interesting, but it can become a source of information overload, plus for industry trends I prefer getting it directly from thought leaders on Twitter.

Yet my expectations of these platforms and how I use them may differ widely from others–for example, Reddit describes itself as ” an entertainment, social networking service and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links.” Yet I never use it as a news source at all–the thought had never even occurred to me until I decided to write this blog post (I get my news on Twitter).  Nor have I use it for entertainment per se (that’s Facebook for me).   Returning to the premise of this post then is it appropriate for everyone to be in all of your networks? Or is it highly dependent on context? Is it leading a double-life to present different faces on different platforms? Or is the self always shining through, and you should be an open book everywhere and all the time?  Are these questions Human Resource Officers should consider when developing corporate social media policies for employees?

 

The Washington Post’s Outstanding Weather Blog

Lincoln Memorial Snow

DC is a beauty when it snows. (Photo credit: Gab!S on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabebuc/)

This morning Washington, DC has been hit by one of the strongest snowstorm in years, with an average of about a foot in most of the area.  The federal government has shuttered down, they made the call late last night to the delirous delight of thousands of adults in the capital city. Snow day!!! It never  loses it’s magic, does it? The way your inner child jumps up in joy when work closes has been seared into our psyche from our days of Middle School when we didn’t have to do our homework and would stay up late watching TV.

So how have I spent most of my morning? By reading a newspaper blog online which is……way more fun that it sounds, you will not believe me. Like the WEATHER section of the newspaper. The most fascinating and addictive blog on the internet might just be about the weather.  I am referring to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang’s Blog . The gang affectionately referred to as CWG is run by Washington Post staff who are actual meteorologists. 

As a student of social media, there are many areas that are interesting enough that they could be fertile research topics for an enterprising grad student.  For example:

Two Way Communication:  I have never seen a “serious” blog in which the bloggers interact with their commenters as much as they do here. By “serious” I mean a blog run by technical professionals employed on behalf of a large visible organization.  There is a lot of public interaction, the Post’s weather staff there drops contribute to the comments, answers questions, and they have gotten to know some of the more popular commenters well (more on this below).

Of course research on two-way communication is not new in the Communication and Public Relations fields, but many large organizations are still trying to figure this out. Blogs where the bloggers interact with their audience are much more engaging than those in which either (1) the blogger NEVER comments or acknowledges comments or (2) where the blogger is a high-profile public personality but the individual blogging or answering comments is clearly a random staffer, responding in obvious PR-speak.  The second situation might actually be worse, audiences can tell and it just seems insincere.  (Note: Ofcourse CEOs can’t be on their iphones answering comments but the way around this is to simply acknowledge up front that while the “name” is being used for the blog, staffers are handling the comments).

Tribes & community building:  To my knowledge there is not much scholarly research on the study of online communities and tribes–but see Norman (2012) for a rare example from hockey.This site would be good source material for an online ethnographic study of blog communities.  How do the social interactions between participants on the blog construct the blog as a social space?  At the rate that the Capital Weather Gang blog is developing, I’m guessing that it is possible that at some point it will move into IRL events such as happy hours or meetups. A rich subcommunity of ‘snowbros/gals’ , meteorologists, and yes, trolls, is developing. Commenters here have become fiercely protective of the bloggers and often go to great length to reprimand ‘drive-by’ commenters that drop in to sneer at “failed” weather forecasts. 

Gatekeeping: How central is gatekeeping to online communities? As the blog has developed “regulars” do they become the opinion leaders? Who starts being looked at as a defacto authority figure–is it a function of posting frequency, personality or technical knowledge?  Today some posters are even recognized by the Post’s meteorologists for the substantive contributions that they bring to the table. Nice cred! 

Technological Change: Nobody likes change, anyone that works in a large organization knows that when the IT folks introduce a new software platform everyone groans in dismay.  Sure enough, the Washington Post has recently introduced a new comment system and it’s been not been well received.  Discontent with this new commenting feature is currently playing out on the CWG blog oo.

But apart from all that academic stuff, the blog is really cutting edge–hell, bleeding edge. 

There’s NOTHING like it on the internet. This is a blog about WEATHER (and I’m saying that in a good way) yet it’s accessible,  impossibly fun but also educational–I never though I’d care or know what polar vertices, derechos, or domma storm patterns were.

I wish every city had one like this, these guys make meteorologists hip.  I would also say that technical bloggers in any practice could do well to study this blog and see how to talk to both a general audience, and a technical audience.

You can see a history of the CWG blog here .

Net-Neutrality: Clues on national attitudes towards the internet

I just yesterday finished a policy review (Network Neutrality A Thematic Analysis of Policy Perspectives Across the Globe by Christine M. Stover) for a discussion with some fellow students on internet policy.  Although the paper reviewed net neutrality, which is not what I am covering specifically in my summer research, I think [authors] talk about it in a way that can apply to attitudes on ‘the right to be forgotten’ and other data protection issues on the internet.

In the article, Stover propose four models of approaching net neutrality:

  • legal regulation: Where governmental agencies can oversee and impose rules on businesses that offer internet, such as under debate in the USA.
  • transparency: Where ISPs are given free reign, except that there are requirements for transparency and up-front disclosures, such as in the EU (Incidentally, the EU today hinted at new net neutrality approach ).
  • non-neutrality: Complete freedom for internet providers, such as South Korea.
  • government control: Government has complete control, such as China.

This is just Stover’s take, but I would be interested in seeing how this might apply to the EU document on data policy that I will analyze.  This type of information that organizations wanting to operate on the internet globally in any capacity would find useful.

 

 

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest: What are the differences?

This is not a which platform is the best. Rather, I’m interested in two things how one would use them differently, either as an individual or as an organization (for this post I can only talk from a personal level).

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest function differently for me. Facebook is good for goofing off and for seeing what actual real life friends are up to–the same vibe that would be there if I was out at a dinner party or watching a game at a sports bar with intimate friends. I try to keep it to real life friends–no padding of the friends list (are people still doing that?). I also follow pages from interests.

Pinterest, I use it as a visual dream and inspiration book. Basically visual representations of whatever I’m interested in, whatever inspires me, etc etc. I don’t even use it to connect or network, it’s just me stuck in my head with my daydreams.

Twitter, now this is the interesting one. I’m on there to follow my academic interests–social media and also international politics but I find it the most problematic to use coherently. Several reasons for that:

  • Many accounts push out update after update of nothing but links. And I’m not talking spam, but actual organizations, just posting links, often to their own site.
  • Some public personalities and authorities in some of the areas, post a lot of intimate and personal stream-of-consciousness style, and sometimes at a rate of 10 posts an hour which crowds out the feed a little.
  • I am also interested in sports, and other things that I wouldn’t mind following on Twitter like events on my favorite series and what have you. Is Twitter necessarily only for following one area or one niche?
  • I do chat some political stuff. Nothing childish, and no flame wars, but political nonetheless. This is even though I only follow one political personality, but I have a list (maybe I should discontinue it?)

What I’m grappling with is how to resolve all of the above issues as far as my Twitter use. Even the political stuff which I initially was about to say is self-inflicted is a tough one, as politics is very much relevant to studying social media. Message diffusion, hashtags, agenda setting, media narratives, etc. are all interesting topics.  Any ideas?

The fourth platform, Google+ I’m completely stumped. Perhaps i can migrate the fan pages from Facebook to there, especially now that Google Reader has been retired. It may be relatively painless as I’m already in the Google ecosystem.

There’s of course Linkedn and Tumblr, but by now I think one would be getting over stretched.

Major from the anime, Ghost in Shell

We are already cyborgs

Over at CNet, they’re highlighting a few things to watch from Google. Two stand-out–the new “google glass” and a super-search engine being designed by futurist Ray Kurzwell.

Image

First glasses, next contact lenses, next implants?

I am  fascinated by this.  I am not saying it is “good” or “bad”  as I tend to be neutral on technology. I am not all in with technology determinism nor am I a techno-skeptic like, say Evgeny Morozov. I was listening to a talk a few months ago, I cannot remember who it was, but the speaker was arguing that in many western and Asian societies, we’re already on the path to being cyborgs. His argument was that for all intents and purposes, phones have become part of people. If you don’t answer a text right away, it’s received in the same was as if you were snubbing the person face-to-face in conversation  Or if you look at any line anywhere when you’re out, people will be fiddling on their phones–they’re daydreaming through their phones.  I would argue that this  extension transference has already set us on a path to being hybrid robots–and I don’t mean having bionic arms, but what I mean is that in terms of functioning, computing devices are clearly integral to our sense of self and for routine tasks (for example, you don’t have to think of where the post office downtown is, just put in the GPS and it will walk you there).

You can see this with fashion too, the iPhone, iPod, etc are like clothes now, I mean, chic, swanky ladies don’t roll with blackberries–notice how they all are outfitted with iPhones?  Technology is already having an impact on the morphology of the human species, I wonder where this will lead to in a few years–these changes are happening very fast.

This will have future policy implications for cyber-security,  intellectual property rights, human rights and international commerce. For example, as it is, mobile phones are already wicked problems–see net neutrality in USA or Europe, the weaponization of cellphones in conflict zones such as in Iraq, etc.

Read the CNet article here.

Is Pinterest pointless?

The photo is a humorous take, but there’s some truth to it. At this time, Pinterest is dominated by wedding photos, womens fashion clippings, and sweet deserts. The improvements suggested here could improve it.

Is Pinterest pointless?  Not necessarily, although it certainly seems like that right now.  Right now for me it appears to be an aimless collection of photos, with a poor noise-to-signal ratio.  It could be more useful with some added functionality by Pinterest.  First of all they needed an app, but they just rolled one out yesterday so that’s good start.  The other two things I’d like them to do is to sort out the difference between likes and shares, to add private boards, and to enable a slideshow function.

Likes vs. Shares

What is the practical difference between a like and a share? I’ve seen explanations that likes are for storing photos that you don’t really have a board for.  But then why not just have a random board? And also, this means posters are notified twice, when you like their image, and then when you repin it.  If likes are seen as a draft board of sorts, then they should be no notifications attached to them (although they can be counted towards the photos stats) and also no need for them to be visible to the public.  Confusion is no good, you always want something as simple and straightforward as possible.

Private Boards

Come on Pinterest. Do it! I know platforms have to differentiate themselves and all, but there’s a big opportunity being missed here.   What if a company wants to tailor a board to a specific client list? Or one may be putting together a scrapbook for a babyshower, etc.  A good compromise might be to perhaps limit users to one or two private boards to test this out.  This way, Pinterests entire catalogue will not be hidden, and at the same time users can get some privacy.  Win-win.

Slideshow/Flipbook view

Again this is something that would also benefit businesses.  You can roll out a series of images instead of having to do a PowerPoint presentation for example.  For normal use, if one has a tablet they could do it such that you can maximize the photos and run through a board as if it’s your own custom made magazine, or scrapbook—they could even add the animated page turn.   Or these days HDTVs are starting to get apps.  Imagine a Pinterest app on your HDTV in which you can set images to flash on the screen in brilliant high-resolution.  This would be wonderful for boards based on travel places, architecture, etc.   Right now it’s a Web 2.0 software geared towards Web 1.0 devices and hardware.  Interactivity and syncing is a must in 2012.

There are other suggestions I have though I haven’t quite articulated them yet.  For example I think maybe something like mandatory descriptions and/or crediting of sources is something to look into. Also perhaps pinning an image through an image search galleries like ‘google images’ should be banned, as it increases the random/noise factor of Pinterest.  Let people pin from actual websites that they’re browsing—this will also help with some of the copyright worries that have come up.

What are your thoughts on the utility of Pinterest, and also on ways to improve it?

Google Fiber can be a game-changer in the US internet industry

With Google Fiber’s new roll-out of their internet service in Kansas City, MO, there is the potential for them to change the way internet is delivered and consumed in the United States.  First, they are offering VERY CHEAP (almost free) internet.  Second, NO CAPS.  This begs the question–if they can do this, why can’t Verizon or Comcast? Now a business or a corporation needs to make their money, nobody is expecting free internet from mainstream, traditional companies like ATT.  However, clearly there is some collusion in the industry as one can see in their refusal to truly innovate or increase bandwidth speeds.

There should also be a selfish incentive for the United States to want a fast internet.  It’s no longer the industrial age, it’s the information age now, and the global knowledge economy of the future may depend a lot on the robustness, breadth and depth of internet delivery available to populations. The United States is not even in the top 30 countries in the world on internet speed (full rankings can be found at the Net Index), which is strange for a nation in which elected officials often boast about their intent on keeping America number 1 in everything.

I am pro-google guy myself, I think they remain an innovative company, that is still generally consumer oriented.  While Google Fiber itself may not go nationwide, and while the internet is not going to be free, let’s hope that they can move the industry towards their vision.

Google Fiber— What You Get For:

$120/month (with 2-year contract)

  • 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and uploads
  • Cable-like “full channel TV lineup” (major networks plus standard basic cable offerings—Animal Planet to the Weather Channel)
  • Nexus 7 tablet
  • Set-top box, Ethernet/Wi-Fi router, 2TB DVR
  • 1TB Google Drive cloud storage

$70/month (with 1-year contract)

  • 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and uploads
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi router
  • 1TB Google Drive cloud storage

$300 one-time startup fee (can be divided into 12 monthly payments)

  • 5 megabyte-per-second downloads, 1 megabyte-per-second uploads
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi router
  • Free service guaranteed for 7 years

Visit the google fiber site for the full details on Google Fiber
.

Is Pinterest for girls?

Interesting comment on Pinterest, by Social Media specialist Tish Grier on the usage of PInterest. She had a recent blog post on “Why Women Prefer PInterest” in which she wonders:

Yes, a girl.  Pinterest has the odd effect of bringing out the girly girl in me, and Ibet that it does for a lot of women.

Maybe that’s a reason, too, that we like it: Pinterest is a diversion from the workaday adult world into a world of fantasy and inspiration.  Depictions of the possible and the impossible that fuel our daydreams and night dreams too.  Pictures of stuff that we want to remember, for whatever reasons.  It isn’t about winning, or losing, or gathering important information for our professional enrichment (maybe that’s why infographics don’t get repinned as much as shirtless hunks.)

It’s just plain fun.

I really hadn’t thought of that, but just by eyeballing my PInterst I can see that she’s on to something.   But why wouldn’t what she describes also pull in men by pinning super models, or sports cars or our favorite athletes?

Personally I like PInterest. I see it as a nice visual scrapbook that gives you insight into the types of thoughts that fill someones mind, I’d describe Pinterest as “public daydreaming”. It might take a while for the general public though, I mean between Facebook and Twitter there’s only so much attention to go around.  I’m studying Social Media, and Ms. Grier is a Social Media specialist, so people like us have an incentive to stretch ourselves.  I’ve observed that my Facebook that are most the most active on PInterest are relatively inactive on Facebook itself.

It will be interesting to see whether Pinterest will continue to grow.  Will it get taken over by corporations (MySpace) or irrelevant (Hi5, Friendster) or top out at being just steady but simmering under the surface (Google+)?  Lastly, in ending her post, Ms. Grier asks whether Pinterst has any value as a social media marketing tool.  I’d add to that and ask whether in addition to commercial issues, there is potential for socio-cultural or political change via Pinterst. For example, if in fact Pinterest is women-centric, that might affect how Presidential campaigns utilize the platform.  Can Pinterest change the dynamic of International Relations like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have?