Friday, 21 March 2014

How to avoid multiple personality brand disorder: a look at Virgin Trains

This blog post was originally published on Discoverage - The Precise Brand Insight Blog.

During last month’s stormy weather, Virgin Trains tweeted a message to its customers to “ABANDON ALL TRAVEL”. This didn’t just get the attention of its followers who re-tweeted and replied in considerable numbers, it also led to a huge variety of spoofs and comments filled with dry humour and feigned panic. Newspapers and media picked up on the Twitter trend, leading to prime-time interviews and mainstream media coverage. By posting an overly dramatic but tongue-in-cheek tweet, the reach and impact of Virgin Trains’ message was increased easily tenfold compared to more ordinary updates.

There is an important lesson here for businesses using social media channels for their communications. Many businesses have a strict separation between their marketing communications, corporate communications and customer relations; and they are often not quite sure how social media fits in to that mix.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Social Media: human or algorithmic analysis?

Social media analytics are usually based on numbers. Whatever comment or opinion occurs in the highest volumes is considered an important trend, while low-volume minority opinions are discarded. However, research shows that it takes a 'seed set' of less than 1% to cause the rest of the network to adopt a trend. Ignoring minority comments risks missing the chance of influencing community opinion. But should we rely on mathematical models or human analysis?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Profile pic protests are invisible

Could identifying and reading text in profile pics become the next step in social media monitoring? I recently changed my Twitter profile pic to include a little banner that says: "Stop SOPA". Obviously any sane person would oppose a law that completely bypasses due process to allow whole businesses to be shut down as a direct result of one unverified complaint.

But then it struck me, I was not in fact making my voice heard at all. To be heard, protests must be measurable. That is why we have petitions and protest marches: so we can be counted. There are plenty of social media monitoring companies out there that gather information from the web in lots of different ways but all of them, as far as I'm aware, are essentially text-based. Social media monitoring tools can count how many times the word SOPA appears, but even though profile pics are often collected as well, the content of those pics themselves is not being picked up by automated search terms. The best social media companies, like the one I work for, combine automated data-harvesting with human analysis to pick up on details like that, but even we would have no way to give an exhaustive quantitative measure of how many pics contain banners or certain words, or a pictogram-style protest message.

Possible solutions for monitoring purposes could lie in the type of facial recognition software already used by Facebook. If such technology can recognize your friends' faces, surely it could use OCR to recognize and read text in a pic, or even identify a given motif. Another option would be to collect and collate the personal data from such services as Twibbon who change your profile pic for you. At present, neither of these avenues have yet been explored by any social media monitoring company I am aware of. This is a shame because a lot of shared content is becoming more and more visual.

For now, although a picture speaks a thousand words, those of us who really want to stand up and be counted, should use our 140 characters to the greatest effect.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Why you need a community manager

I'm looking for work in social media as a community manager with experience in analysis. Not all companies know why they need one of those, so I'll tell you. Remember the good old days of SEO? With cleverly chosen keywords and links, you could get your site on the top of the search results in Google, and on a PPC basis you could appear on the paid links as well. That doesn't work as well any more. Nor does plain old advertising.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Open Letter to Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I read on Mashable that you intend to attack Facebook in the name of protecting my privacy. I don't appreciate that at all. You claim you are fighting "a battle for choice and informed consent. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely false." If you succeed in taking down Facebook you are removing my choice to be a part of it. You cannot fight for freedoms by taking them away.

I am aware that Facebook monitors and sells my data and I don't mind that at all. You present the idea of them accessing and using my data to make money as if it

London Riots - My idea on how to deal with looters.

Anti-riot: Operation 
Cup of Tea
Everything seems to have quieted down now, although we've been hearing a lot of sirens in the background today. I live in a residential area not near any shops so have had no looting locally, although I've heard rumours of local high streets being hit.
I've seen the idea bandied about to hit looters and rioters with water cannons loaded with smart water or indelible dye, which I think is a lovely idea. That way, all those present can be easily identified later. There is no such thing as an 'innocent' bystander. The police very clearly asked people to stay in and stay away so they could get to work. Anybody still spectating would be actively hindering police and fire departments from doing their job.

But what to do with the looters once they're caught? Put them in jail? What's the

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sharing and owning. Social media and gamification.

I read a lot about social media and gamification. Social media are a great platform for people to get and stay in touch with one another, for brands and people to connect, for information to travel freely. Gamification is a way to measure progress and motivate. Especially gamification is however often lambasted for being hollow and cynical. Rebranding real-world goals as game goals, and measuring real-world progress in points is seen by some as a reduction of true interaction.

I don't think it is a reduction. It's more like a restructuring that we need in order to be happy. Jane McGonigal pointed out in a TED-talk that people were already playing

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Six to Start and BBC Team Up for “The Code Challenge”

Six to Start and the BBC have teamed up to create a transmedia experience tied in with BBC Two documentary The Code, expected to air at the end of July. The Code is presented by Professor of Mathematics Marcus du Sautoy (Horizon on BBC2, The Beauty of Diagrams on BBC4) and explores how the world around us conforms to and can be explained by mathematical codes. Six to Start are next-generation storytellers with plenty of experience creating storytelling projects for different clients, often in the form of alternate reality games or treasure hunts. They’ve worked with the BBC before on projects like Spooks: Code 9 and Seven Ages Quest. As a first for the BBC and possibly a world first, an interactive experience called The Code Challenge has been seamlessly integrated in the writing and filming of The Code since inception. Viewers can participate in an

Monday, 6 June 2011

Get real!

If you live in the real world, which one am I in?

Sometimes I get upset with typical things people say that simply make no sense. How often have you read or heard someone exclaim that they live 'in the real world', implying that whoever has incurred their pet hate for the day, does not? Parents tell teenagers about the real world; opposition politicians love to imply that the ruling politicians do not inhabit the real world; people of a certain class, income level, or job-type will readily claim that others aren't in the real world. My question then: if I'm not in the real world, then where am I? Even in multiverse theory, every possible world is real. Of course, the word 'real' is meant more metaphorically, as an indication of socio-economic circumstances. But my problem remains. What could possibly make a plumber's life more real than a banker's? An adult's more than a child's? An economist's more than a person on a low wage? We all observably and obviously inhabit the same reality.

A similar mistake that gets my goat is when people think that crimes are a state of mind. As much as some governments might like to, it's actually impossible both practically and legally to detect or punish thought crimes. Repeatedly I read in the paper (paraphrased): "I wasn't really speeding, I'm not a boy racer." "I said some things while drunk, but I'm not a racist." Tough luck. The law doesn't punish people for what they are, it deals with what people do. Driving too fast is against the law, no matter what your state of mind was while you did it. Directing certain terms at people is against the law; whether or not you are a racist can never be determined anyway.

That's how it works in the real world.