Recent Endorsements

You've left us really enthused about the whole digital dimension and we're looking forward to developing our plan with your support.
Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Is Social Media Destroying The Web?

Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast InterviewPhoto: Uldis Bojārs
Tim Benners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited with developing the World Wide Web sees Facebook and other social platforms as a serious threat to the future of the Internet.

As he sees it, the four primary threats are:
  1. The eroding of the web's core principles.

  2. Social-networking sites are creating information silos with data posted by their users being locked off from the rest of the Web.

  3. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals.

  4. Governments of all persuasions are monitoring people’s online habits which in turn endangers important human rights.
In his Scientific American journal essay published today "Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality" he makes the case of the web being critical to the future prosperity of mankind.

"Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. 

The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected".

Universality is the key to the ongoing success of the Web and Tim Berners-Lee sees this as being threatened on several fronts.  He is particular concerned about the erosion of open standards because adhering to this principle fosters "serendipitous creation", where an online application could be used in ways no one previously imagined.

Not using open standards creates closed worlds such as those experienced with Apple's iTunes.  Publishers of magazines who are turning to smartphone apps rather than web apps is also a concern as these too are closed off from the web itself.

Amazon is held up as an example of what can be accomplished because of open standards;  they were able to develop as a result of access to free, basic web technologies and standards.

Keeping the Web separate from the Internet is another key ingredient in the ongoing success of the Web.  Separation of these layers is pivotal to fostering creativity.

His concluding statement is perhaps the most visionary:

"The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine."
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Monday, 22 November 2010

Validity Checking

Jeff Goldblum NOT dead on Colbert

This is a humorous reminder of what can happen when one does not check a source.
It is also important to check that the original media release has not been corrupted in the course of re-telling; a vital word missed, singular become plural etc.
Wherever possible a variety of media sources should be checked - not just on Twitter.  Is the story featuring on more traditional media such as radio or television?
The good advice of pausing, before you send a snappy email response to someone, also applies with re tweeting.
If you pass on false rumours or information the consequences can be dire as a Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise discovered when he passed on a hoax tweet.
In his statement Wise said:
"I made a horrendous mistake, using my Twitter account, which identifies me as a Washington Post columnist, to come up with an unsourced sentence about the length of Ben Roethlisberger's suspension. I didn't put "kidding" in that sentence. I didn't put "Just joking."

I could even say I thought I corrected it within five minutes and didn't realize my Twitter server was busy 30-40 minutes later. But the truth is, if I waited one second to make my intentions and sourcing clear, I waited too long."

Cory Bergman is even more succinct when he states that there’s one golden rule of social media for journalists - if you wouldn’t write it in the newspaper or say it on TV, don’t send it out on Twitter.

This rule is equally applicable to citizen journalists.

Consider also the case of a Chinese woman who has just been sentenced to a year in a labour camp for "disrupting social order" by re tweeting a satirical message urging Chinese protesters to smash the Japan pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.  Another case of misplaced satire?

While the validity of what we tweet can be problematic others are worried that the use of Twitter will actually corrupt customer service as we currently know it.

David Bowen of Bowen Craggs recounts how a presenter at a Danish conference has tweeted her dissatisfaction with her bank, and had been contacted by the bank’s customer service people “within minutes”.

Such immediate contact may now becoming the norm in the USA but perplexed the Scandinavians.  Bowen has deeper concerns:

"If companies are brilliantly geared up to monitor and respond to Twitter, why are they incapable of responding to e-mail (or phoned or written) complaints. Is the threat of blackmail (Twitter’s viral power is impressively scary ) any basis for a customer service policy?

Also, what happens if we all (Danes included) discover that the only way to get a complaint sorted is to tweet about it? There will be so many complaints that companies will be unable to respond to them all, and the whole system will become less and less effective. It works while Twitter is still a bit of a novelty; if it becomes a mainstream communications medium, it will not."

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Sunday, 21 November 2010

McRibbing or McRoasting

Sometimes it just doesn't  pay to pay, for a Twitter Promoted Trend campaign.

McDonalds decided to use this method of promotion to re-launch its McRibs product but were clearly unaware of the inherent risk in so doing.

The majority of the tweets have been negative rather than positive.  Here is a  small sample of them:
  • The McRib is back. We get it. What's the big deal? Doesn't it come back every few months, like a Herpes outbreak?
  • The rib sandwich is back and guess who aint gettin one...
  • McRib is back. Everyone was in line for McRibs.
  • The McRib is back...and undoubtedly not palatable.
  • Ppl really eat mcribs?........THE MCRIB IS BACK!!!!!!
  • Eww they look so nasty!
  • I'm very worried about the direction this country is heading politically..." "Who cares! The McRib is back!
  • The McRib is back!? I thought the animal they made it from was extinct? - Simpons reference.
  • The McRib is a pressed out, flattened MEATBALL!!!! 
  • McRib is back? That seems a little anatomically incorrect. Shouldn't it be McRib is torso?
  • McRib is back!? When was it ever in?? Gross

The history of the sometimes maligned meat product is an interesting one.

According to Tufts University professor Dr. Parke Wilde, it was a little-known federal agency that thirty years ago were tasked with promoting American pork.  They developed a gimmicky ground pork sandwich containing a patty shaped like a miniature rack of ribs.

They then approached McDonald's, one of the country's largest purchasers of beef, and convinced them to sell it and the company introduced the McRib sandwich in 1981.

Consisting of a patty on a roll with a sweet barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions, the sandwich was developed by the federal government's National Pork Board, set up to aid farmers in marketing pork in the United States.

A month ago, Rick Wion, the  director of social media for McDonald’s Corp., was quoted as saying that social media such as Twitter, allows big corporations the opportunity to make the restaurant experience warmer and more intimate.

“It’s really not about how many people are following you. It’s about the level of engagement, really the strong connections you are making with customers.”

McDonald’s staffs its Twitter account with four or five executives from its communications department and three people from the customer satisfaction department, Wion said.

"They help McDonald’s take the “restaurant experience beyond [the] doors."

“You can really get out there and build these relationships," he said.

"What you need to do is look at [social media followers] as your customers, because they are. You need to give them all that same warm hospitality and all the great care you would if they were inside your restaurants..."

In a later interiew with ClickZ he has attempted to dismiss the negative connotations of the McRibs Twitter campaign.

His contention is that anecdotal evidence isn't adequate to judge the effort as being more negative than positive. He also asserts that sentiment data will, on balance, bear healthy results but if the ongoing tweets are anything to go by, he is being rather optimistic.

Wion also infers that many of the negative tweets are based on ignorance of the product, especially the meat used:

"What I can tell you is that it is a quality sandwich,"

"It is U.S.D.A. grade A pork - pork loin and pork shoulder chopped and made into a patty. The fact that it is shaped like ribs probably throws some people off. Often there are some critics who jump on that."

Ron Callari of ClickZ asks a key question; does Twitter provide enough demographic analysis "or targeted user information for a brand to make an informed decision before spending the ad dollars".

The current results of the McRibs campaign suggest that either it doesn't, or McDonalds failed to pre test its campaign with its own twitter follower base.

Carri Bugbee, president of Big Deal PR, says:

"I don't know if the folks on Twitter are really their target audience.  I don’t know who the target audience is for the McRib. But I am going to guess it's probably younger and less affluent, and that's not really where Twitter is probably going to work [as a marketing channel]."

As for the digital debate on the success or failure of this $80,000 campaign - I'm lovin' it!
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