If you’ve attended the Engaging Visitors Through Social Media session I was a part of at Hello Business, then here are some notes and links. If you didn’t, you may still find them interesting if a little random.
Engaging Visitors Through Social Media by jonbounds
An extended version of the Internet culture part of the talk:
And from the “inspiration” section:
I’ve always struggled to explain what I do for a living, I help people with social media — in varying ways. Why would they need help? Without going into every example for individual cases — which can take a huge amount of time to be anything more than the most general — I think an analogy might help. So here one is (please contribute in the comments if you can improve, extend or tear down):
Social media is for most people something you work with, rather than in. Think of it like a pencil — almost everyone can use it in their job, but few work “in pencils”, or even exclusively with them.
It’s an easy thing to use, to make a mark with, and there are huge differences in scale of use; from a shopping list to one of Da Vinci’s etchings. All are completely valid and require different amounts of skill and knowledge in how the pencil works.
When you use a pencil to communicate you’re not really thinking about the pencil, but the message you are communicating. If you’re using it to mark a point to saw on a piece of wood, then it’s internal communication — if it’s a note for the milkman you have to think about how he will react to what you write. That is if you want your gold top in the morning.
If that’s all you need then, great, get to the stationers and get a box of HB — you’re set. If you’re just pencilling for pleasure and have time to practise, have fun (and show us when you’ve finished what you’ve done).
Now stop and think that everyone can get a pencil if they like. And make a mark pretty much anywhere.
How do your marks interact with other marks? And what does that mean to your communication? You need to think about the people you’re communicating with rather than the pencils, or even the marks they make. You may need help thinking about that or deciding what marks to make with your pencils, or where. You might just want tuition to raise you to your own level of pencilling.
That’s where the people that have been thinking about the pencils, the marks and the communication as a whole come in — they do work “in pencils”, in a kind of way.
They may even know the people who put the lead into the pencils if you need to build your own.
You may or may not know that I’m a director of We Share Stuff — a social enterprise that uses social media to address the idea of Digital Inclusion. We firmly believe that technology (and social media in particular) is not something separate from everyday life, we look to give opportunity, motivation by explaining the possibilities, and ability by real understanding.
I’m rather proud that we’ve developed — what we believe to be — the first accredited course in understanding and using social media. It’s completely platform agnostic — and designed to work with the appropriate tools for the interests and motivation of whoever’s learning, teaching the concepts of the social web rather than the tools.
Learning to use technology is like learning to drive — the rules, the highway code, being safe and not hurting yourself or others, are more the focus than what each control does. Not that learning to drive isn’t learning to use the controls, it is, but it’s only a start. Your teacher, your mum, your dad or a paid-for-instructor will focus on what’s happening around you rather than learning by rote what pedal to press when. Once you’ve mastered the gear change, it’s all about observation and reaction.
Think about what happens when you get into a different car to drive it, you might spend a little bit of time getting comfortable in the seat, working out on which stalk the lights are, reading the manual to make sure the radio doesn’t keep flicking to Saga FM — but in a few seconds, because the controls are basically the same (and the rules of the road are exactly the same – unless you’re one of those people that think porsches are allowed to park on double yellows) you’re off.
And this is what real technological inclusion is. It’s the confidence to move from one technology to another, to be confident that you know enough to make sure you’re safe — that there isn’t going to be a crash. We don’t spend time and effort teaching people to drive a Renault Clio, only for them to be foxed by a Fiat Punto. And we shouldn’t teach people Word or Excel only for another word processor or spreadsheet to stump them — or in the case of Microsoft Office a simple upgrade.
And so digital inclusion is platform agnostic, we need to define it as a confidence. You may well need help to get you to the basic level — to pass your test to continue the driving analogy — but it’s then that you can really start using the ‘net or any other technology you want to. And it’s then that you can do it without thinking about the buttons, wheels, pedals, but concentrating on your destination, reacting to others. It’s then that you can rush down the motorway to work, or take a casual meandering drive around pleasant country lanes, Linked In or Cute Overload — you can go where you like.
Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), has turned BIS’s Twitter strategy into a generic template Twitter strategy for government Departments.
It’s a fascinating document, and very useful and extendable to other organisations (with tweaking). Basically this sort of thing (or thought about strategy at the very least) is important because you can’t have conversations with an organisation, only the people within it – so it’s worthwhile detailing how they are to act when “speaking” on behalf of the organisation.
Use of Twitter opens up another method of communication, and while the ideal is to hire people who understand how to use social media (or train those that already work there) it’s very useful to have guidelines and overall strategy. What happens when the person tweeting as your organisation is on holiday? Who makes sure that responses happen (what’s the CRM system for incoming tweets)?
It doesn’t need to be this detailed, but it is important to think about it – and the metrics for usefulness are well worth thinking about too.
And don’t worry this isn’t going to be a rant about expenses.
At Moseley Barcamp I gave a presentation about ‘conversational psychogeography‘ and the potential for an explosion in data analysis of emotions and place. It was a very broad overview and I continually admitted that real research needed to be done (I’d love to do it, but might have to find someone to fund it). As part of the talk I mentioned by emotional analysis of Birmingham social media – which outputs at @birminghamuk on Twitter.
During the questions afterwards Tom Watson suggested that my Birmingham UK emotion scraping could be applied to groups of people – Twittering MPs in particular. Technically it certainly can, and so I did. It’s at jonbounds.co.uk/arempshappy and tweets a score each day via @arempshappy on Twitter. It uses exactly the same code as the Birmingham UK system, except that it takes its data from an aggregated feed of the tweets of all MPs produced by Tweetminster.
Using groups of people immediately makes the analysis of the data easier (or at least offers precedent) – there’s already a website offering (limited, automated) analysis of people’s tweets. It’s called tweetpsych and uses established linguistic techniques (eg LIWC) to produce scores for different aspects of personality based on person’s tweets. to extend this to groups of people should be easy.
Although restricting analysis to groups of people opens up possibilities, the groups need to be be large enough to make the sample useful and also static enough to keep the statistics baring comparison. In some respects the group of tweeting MPs is ideal – and interesting enough to be worth analysing.
How useful it is is another matter, it was easy enough to set up – and could be improved upon by someone interested in groups – so let’s watch it and see if it spikes anywhere interestingly.
I’ve never been entirely happy with the term “social media”, to me it doesn’t seem to describe anything — it was a term that sort of stuck for the want of anything good to describe the “whole sort of general mish-mash” of people communicating online.
“Social” is a particularily meaningless word, or actually what I mean is that it means too much. It has connotations of friendly interaction, or welfare or even socialism. The term social media has also been expanded to refer to the tools that people understand as being for it, so much so that people (organisations, really) can claim to be “doing social media”, when all they are really doing is publishing things on the net. The Obama teams’ non-comment-allowed use of YouTube for example, is not any more social than a radio broadcast or TV address — it just allowed them full control. That’s not to say that it was wrong, after all going where your audeince is is good advice, but it’s not “social”.
When I, or other people who think a lot about “this sort of stuff” talk about “social media” we mean the converational bits — Twitter-ers tweeting each other, comments on Flickr photos, blog posts that either host or contribute to conversation (comments, links, trackbacks…) and so on. We also talk about “joining the conversation”.
So why don’t we refine our terms and talk about “conversational media”?
Conversational media is where everyone can have the means to join in.
What do you think?
It’s not to give to the poor (although that would be nice) nor to forsake trousers for green hose, I’m not thinking about Hood’s actions but the history of the legend itself and how it evolved.
I’ve long been obsessed with the origins of the Robin Hood legend, as well as the continuing theories on who was “the real Robin Hood” and the evolution of the story from the original ballads. I particularly love how it’s permeated through the culture, to the extent that there are pubs and roads named for him throughout the country (there’s a Robin Hood Island near me, a good 100 or so miles from Nottingham).
So, what does this have to do with social media
Of course the stories were altered, changed and augmented though conversation, that’s what we learn from any folk tale. Creating characters likeable enough that they attract other people to continue the story is another one, if people do that it’s free advertising. You have to not to be precious, allow your story to evolve.
But did you know it might have been an advert for the medieval version of C&A?
The original “Gest of Robyn Hode” ballad contains far far more references to clothing and cloth types than any comparable literature (almost all literature, except for the minutiae obsessed American Psycho). As well as Robin being named for his hood there are “coats, breeches, shirts and six different colours of cloth” [The QI Book would you believe]. Robin also poses as a draper, selling the King 123 feet of cloth.
This leads to the suspicion that it was a form of viral marketing for clothmakers guilds (members of the Guilds also wore hoods — an attempt to make them heroes by association?).
It seems a good lesson to learn, that if the story you create is interesting enough — and it can be, there are things to tell about almost any process — you can slip the most unusual stuff through. But that’s only half the point, the original Robin Hood ballad would have been told in person, adapting to their surroundings and taking on clues from those listening. Engagement and using the right methods for the right place (groups or Fan Pages on Facebook rather than profiles, listening and responding personably on twitter, trying to be funny or wow on youtube) are part of the solution.
I’m off to get some green tights.
October 15th, is Blog Action Day. The concept being to encourage blogs around the world to all write about one issue on the same day – hoping that through the various niches (social media types, big shoes, ZX Spectrum nostalgia) the message will reach as many people as possible. This year the theme is poverty.
Blog Action Day is a fine example of “organising with out organisations” as Clay Shirky puts it, how social media can facilitate a co-ordinated effort without the need for huge hierarchies. Started only last year and by only a couple of committed people (who all have other jobs) and now in its second year there are 8,240 Sites with a total of regular readers 9,203,161. Those nine million plus are subscriber numbers by RSS — demographics-wise I would say that puts those 9 million in the most digitally savvy groups of people that there are.
The web allows ideas to spread quickly, social media helps people to connect quickly, to collaborate on actions. It could usher a new era of awareness, or protesting could become so easy that it ceases to mean anything.
When talking of the internet and poverty the ‘digital divide’ is what is often focused upon. There really a couple of different things that this covers: the first, inescapably, is poverty. Some people are to poor (or too isolated in undeserved areas) to be able to get access to computers. This is where governmental effort or philanthropy is needed — moves like the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) might do it, eventually, but my best guess is that the technology will change faster than any initiative.
Blog Action Day is a call for as much of the blogosphere as possible to write about a specific issue on the same day – October the 15th – coming at the topic from your own blog’s angle. Last year’s topic was the environment, this year it’s poverty.
Birmingham-based bloggers have decided to hold a free drop-in “social media surgery” for any charities or voluntary organisations that would like to know more about social media in general – or ask specific questions.
Unfortunately, after helping a little to organise it I discover I’m double booked and not able to be there. It should be invaluable to anyone thinking of dipping their toe into the social media space.
Here are the full details:
I know they’ve become quite the retro-cliché, but Public Information Films are a fine example of Government agencies passing information directly to the public – without spending an awful lot of time and effort second guessing the media. And I’ve just found an archive online — that you can watch, download, and use (subject to normal Crown Copyright rules).
Some might contend that they’re only remembered due to the limited options we had on TV then, much as people will claim of ‘Morecambe and Wise’ “anyone could have got 20M viewers, there wasn’t anything else on”. But unsuccessful TV programmes didn’t get 20M viewers even in the 60s (in fact Eric and Ernie’s dreadful first series was watched by a tiny amount of people, despite there only being 2 channels). The best of the PIFs are remembered fondly because they were well made and got their message across — and that’s something that can be done with social media tools today.
It’s interesting that they get shorter and shorter (generally) from 33mins(!) to snappier advert style as the years go on, the makers having learnt from the commercial sector. In the same way organisations now can look to the big YouTube hits and other social objects (Lolcats for example) and use some of the best techniques.
Here’s my particular favourite, Tufty the Road Safety Squirrel (I even own the LP):