It is tempting to devote this week’s blog to the passing of Baroness Thatcher and how it has been covered on social media. But essentially this excellent pie chart from @martinbelam sums it up - see any newspaper for stories to prove his point.
Instead I’ll focus on more recent history – the tweets sent by the UK’s first youth Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Paris Brown, which have forced her resignation. At first glance there’s nothing new here – public official says something stupid online, backtracks but overwhelming moral outrage forces them out and leaves their boss (in this case adult Kent PCC Ann Barnes) with egg on their face. It’s pretty similar to all the social media cock-ups made by brands though obviously it has only come to light due to a newspaper investigation.
But what’s different here is that Brown is just 17 and the tweets (which are being investigated by the police as potentially racist and homophobic) were posted between the ages of 14 and 16. Brown denies the charges, though admits she boasted about sex, drinking and drug-taking on Twitter. Having once been a teenager in pre-Twitter times, I do remember a lot of patently untrue bragging being par for the course.
There’s two things that make me uneasy here. Firstly, how far back are we going to go to incriminate someone? Obviously these tweets are at best stupid, but she was still legally a minor at the time. I think there’s a big difference between something said while under 16 and the regular indiscretions of those in their early twenties, who really should know better.
The second, and equally worrying point, is what happened in the recruitment process? We’re told that she went through a ‘very tough’ interview process but that Kent Police’s vetting procedures didn’t include a basic social media check for someone on her pay scale. No one did even a cursory search on Twitter or Facebook and she was merely asked if there was anything in her past that could embarrass her or her job. Hardly watertight vetting for a high profile (if low paid) role.
We hear a lot about building your personal brand on social networks when looking for a job, following the right people, commenting on their posts and using the power of Twitter to make yourself memorable, recognisable and employable. In the past this was relatively easy as they could start from scratch at 20 or 21 – they didn’t have a guilty Twitter childhood as the social network only dated from 2006. Now we’re at a stage where everyone coming into the workforce has grown up with Facebook, Twitter and other networks – time for kids to either watch what they say or remember to erase their accounts when they hit 16………..
- Kent police investigate Paris Brown social media messages
- Youth police commissioner warns of dangers of social networks as she resigns over ‘racist’ tweets
April 10, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | PR, Social Media | Ann Barnes, employment, Facebook, Kent Police, Paris Brown, PCC, Police, Police and Crime Commissioner, social media, Social network, Thatcher, twitter, vetting | Leave a Comment
Be careful what you like on Facebook – that’s the warning to take from research carried out by the University of Cambridge. The project used algorithms to predict religion, politics, race and sexual orientation based solely on what people chose to Like on the social network.
By correlating personality tests and the demographic information of 58,000 volunteers, the researchers were able to compare Likes with an astonishing level of accuracy. The algorithm used was 88% accurate in predicting whether someone male was gay or straight and between 65-73% accurate in guessing marital status and substance abuse for example. And it wasn’t based on simple linking – fewer than 5% of gay users clicked obvious likes such as gay marriage. Instead it used information such as likes on TV shows, films and music.
This is music to the ears of marketers (and social networks desperate to sell advertising to them). It could even help Facebook’s depressed share price perk up a little. And if you can accurately predict detailed demographic information from just one part of a person’s online footprint, imagine what you can do if you add in web browsing, search and other social network data. No wonder Google wants you to sign into its multiple services so it can collect the maximum amount of data, whatever device you are using.
From a consumer point of view there’s two ways of looking at this – most people will see it as an intrusion into their privacy and change their settings, but brands may well rationalise it as offering people exactly what they want. And as Mark Earls has pointed out in his book I’ll have what she’s having a large number of people’s decisions are herd led. So offer them an easy option that means they don’t have to think and they’ll jump at it. In many cases consumers may not even realise they are being sold to – which could be very worrying when people start being segmented on sexuality, religion or political affiliation.
So marketers need to treat this data with caution. Yes, it gives unprecedented insight but be too aggressive when using it and you’ll cause a public outcry which could damage your brand – and trigger governmental action to tighten privacy settings on the likes of Facebook.
However my own view is that we’ve been here before. Remember when store loyalty cards came in everyone predicted that we’d be laser targeted with relevant offers that drove us to up our spend? But if I get a mailing from a well-known chemists the vouchers are pretty much identical to my wife’s, with obvious male/female differences. It seems that marketers haven’t got to grips with shopping data in enough granular detail to deliver the killer offers that will drive me to automatically purchase without thinking. We may have the data, and even the technology to analyse it, but until marketers move to a digital mindset we’re unlikely to be brainwashed into buying things we don’t even know we wanted.
- ‘Facebook ‘likes’ can reveal your intimate secrets’ – Business Standard
- Researchers predict IQ, age, and more using only Facebook Likes
March 13, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Cambridge, Marketing, Social Media | big data, Cambridge University, Demographics, Facebook, Facebook Like, loyalty card, marketing, marketing technology, Prediction, Social network | Leave a Comment
At the launch of Tech City in 2010 David Cameron stressed that he wanted the initiative to help encourage UK ideas and entrepreneurs and pointed to Facebook as the perfect example of the type of business the area could create. Unsurprisingly given Facebook’s share price issues it isn’t a name that he’s been bandying about recently but the message was clear – content, and web-based businesses are the future for UK technology.
Unfortunately that message is wrong on a whole stack of levels. There is a place for content/web-based businesses (unless it is yet another social network)
but as part of a varied ecosystem that spans different technologies rather than as the figurehead of UK Plc. Content-based businesses tend to be lean (so not many high powered jobs), use resources across the world (so not a huge investment in the UK) and can be run from anywhere, making them ultra-portable. Therefore you need a lot of them to create critical mass and actually deliver measurable benefits to the economy, rather than providing appealing photo opportunities.
In contrast, national politicians are a lot less effusive about companies like ARM that provide the technology that underpins real, physical products. In many ways ARM is essentially a software company – it doesn’t make its own chips, licensing its intellectual property to others around the world. And doing so very successfully – with over 20 billion ARM-based chips shipped to date it dominates particular sectors, such as smartphones and tablets.
Comparing ARM and Facebook throws up some interesting statistics:
- The US social network has more employees (nearly 4,000 compared to ARM’s 2,000)
- At current share prices Facebook is valued (even now) at $41 billion; in contrast ARM is worth a paltry $12 billion.
- 2011 turnover for ARM was $781m, dwarfed by $3,711m for Facebook
- Profits for the same period were $2,851m for Facebook, $350m (£221.7m) for ARM
- But taking a closer look Facebook’s gross margin in 2011 was 76% compared to ARM’s 94.4%
Clearly Facebook is bigger, richer and earning more money – even if it isn’t necessarily paying full tax on its UK earnings. But once you add in the ecosystem of companies developing applications/chips around each company then the picture changes. ARM is at the heart of an enormous global community of chip companies, design houses and embedded engineers, all developing using its products – and paying royalties on everything they create. It has spawned a number of spin-offs, in Cambridge and beyond, and essentially created a business model that is now widely copied by other fabless semiconductor companies.
So looking beyond the hype, I firmly believe that ARM has delivered much greater benefits to the UK economy than companies like Facebook. It has built up our skills and innovation base, contributed to the formation of the Cambridge technology hub and created opportunities for highly paid, sought after jobs. Now’s the time for politicians to recognise ARM’s success and use it as an example of what UK tech should be about, rather than solely focusing on the latest trendy web-based businesses.
August 29, 2012 Posted by Chris Measures | Cambridge, Startup | ARM architecture, ARM Holdings, Cambridge, David Cameron, Fabless semiconductor company, Facebook, Silicon Fen, Silicon Roundabout, Social network, Tech City | Leave a Comment
When it burst upon the scene, social media (and indeed the whole internet) was seen as a chance for individuals to get their voices heard. Whether it was campaigning on big issues not covered by the mainstream media, providing a stage for new musical or film-making talents, just updating your family and friends or making it easier to find a new job, social media was the great leveller, removing the middlemen and letting us all be ourselves in front of a world audience.
But in fact it hasn’t really worked like that. Those with the highest number of Twitter followers tend to be established celebrities, who use it as a channel to broadcast their views and while a number of new talents have popped up from social media you get the feeling many would have made it through other means. People can share much more of their lives online, but that doesn’t mean the world is listening (or can even be bothered to find them).
This state of affairs isn’t really surprising, for two main reasons. Firstly social networks aren’t that clever. For example, they automatically suggest people you’d like to follow/friend dependent on your background and contacts. So you don’t get exposed to random influences in the same way you would if you picked up a paper, tuned into the radio or went out and physically met people at an event. You get the chance to connect to more people just like you – hardly very individual.
Secondly, seeking social approval is hard-wired into a lot of us. Going back to our early development when we needed to stick together as a tribe to survive, we want to be accepted and within the pale. So in general we’re not likely to make the effort to go off and find random connections or come up with wildly contradictory views. If you want to see this translated into internet terms just look at how quickly some things trend on Twitter or the number of comments on certain Daily Mail articles.
So we’re all part of our herds, likely to think along broadly similar lines on or offline. This makes it a lot easier for marketers (and politicians) – rather than having to deal with people as individuals you can lump them together into particular demographics and then deal with them en masse. The problem with this is that genuine innovation tends to come from the mavericks – the people that run against the tide and aren’t afraid to be different. However in an atmosphere of conformity they can be lost, or, in the case of social media shouted down by the vocal majority. And this means the opportunity for innovation is stifled and rather than someone introducing an earth-shattering new business idea, we get yet another slightly different social network launched.
But all is not lost as there are genuine new ideas out there. And rather than heterogeneous clusters such as Tech City, the majority are coming from academic research, in Cambridge and elsewhere – where blue sky thinking is encouraged. Not every idea will work, not every idea is practical, but it provides an antidote to the herd mentality. And as we become more and more reliant on social media we need to encourage and fund this left field innovation and take the time ourselves to look further afield when we widen our own circles on social networks.
August 13, 2012 Posted by Chris Measures | Cambridge, Marketing, Social Media, Startup | Cambridge, Facebook, Herd, herd mentality, innovation, social media, Social network, startup, Tech City, twitter | 1 Comment
Your biggest competitor is launching a new product that attacks your dominant market leader head-on. What do you do? You don’t want to look desperate but equally you can’t ignore it.
If you are Facebook responding to the launch of Google+ the answer is simple – infiltrate it. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg allegedly joined the fledgling social network on launch and is now the most popular user, with more followers than Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Of course, the account may be fake but I’d like to hope not given this is a brilliant PR tactic that means Facebook wins whatever happens. If Google had blocked Zuckerberg he could have complained to the media about a lack of openness. And as they’ve let him in he can ensure Facebook is central to the story. I’d imagine that Google execs are frantically drumming up followers for Brin and Page to unseat Zuckerberg from the Google+ throne as I write………..
- ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ is number 1 of Google+ popularity ranking (theinformativereport.com)
- Mark Zuckerberg Is The Most Followed User On Google+ – The Washington Post (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Zuckerberg Surprised That People Are Surprised He’s On Google+ (mununuzi.wordpress.com)
I’ve previously blogged about how social media is leading people to give away a lot more of their personal details than in the past, often unknowingly. This then triggers a backlash (such as with Facebook’s recent face recognition update), but the general trend is towards openness/lack of privacy (delete depending on your viewpoint).
Discussions at last week’s CUTEC Technology Ventures Conference brought this topic to the fore. Serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ted Shelton shared his views on innovation, pointing out that the three driving forces of social, mobile and cloud are driving true market disruption. But what caught my attention was his later, bold statement – There is no gap between public and private life anymore. Ted sees this as a force for good – making people more reflective about their private actions as they directly impinge on their public persona. And the more you share, the more people will share back and the faster you will learn.
I agree with the positives, but there are a number of issues that trouble me. First off, I think people are becoming less, rather than more reflective – happily sharing private information that either directly, negatively impacts their lives or alternatively bores people to death. And current technology doesn’t give you the ability or time to build and demonstrate your complete persona online. You have to show just parts of it – your Twitter profile is a few lines, not the length of War and Peace, meaning that by default you need to focus different social networks on particular traits or areas of your life. So, for now at least I’ll stick to partitioning my public and private life – to avoid embarrassment if nothing else.
- Where’s the best place for Innovation? (measuresconsulting.wordpress.com)
- Privacy worries? Google shouldn’t be your biggest fear (zdnet.com)
For those that have come late to social networking, Facebook and Twitter are pretty much everything they want/need/use. But before Facebook became the giant it is today there were other popular social networks like Bebo and MySpace that have simply faded away. Essentially they haven’t crossed the chasm to mainstream adoption – and being the only one of your friends on a social network is lonely and frankly, a little pointless.
But Bebo is attempting a comeback. After being bought from the clutches of AOL by Californian entrepreneur Adam Levin it is now being relaunched. Backed by an array of media advisers, including ex-BBC One/Channel 4 controller Michael Jackson it aims to turnaround the site. UK user numbers are down to 1.9 million monthly visitors in January 2011 (compared to 5.7 million a year earlier), so clearly something needs to be done.
New features include more control over newsfeeds and a wider range of responses to posts rather than just ‘Like’. More importantly integration with other social networks is made easier, recognising that it is no longer the market leader. However I can’t help thinking this is too little, too late. For Bebo to survive it has to have a different purpose than Facebook rather than simply improving its features. Unfortunately without that, the relaunch may prove a temporary upward blip as it follows MySpace towards social media oblivion.
- Resurrected Bebo gets a facelift (venturebeat.com)
- Bebo Tries Redesign To Halt Traffic Slide (paidcontent.org)
- Boo.com founder fears net bubble (ft.com)
- 8 reviews of Bebo (rateitall.com)
- AOL Broke Bebo, This Man Is Fixing It — Our Q&A With CEO Adam Levine (AOL) (businessinsider.com)
Received, Daily Mail-style wisdom has it that social networking is destroying our social skills – turning us into grunting savages hunched over our keyboards exchanging tweets with people hundreds of miles away, but unable/unwilling to communicate with our neighbours.
How wrong an assumption that is was demonstrated during yesterday’s Suffolk Twestival. Brilliantly organised by the tireless Emma Jell and team of volunteers, not only was there a great turnout at a series of (real) events across the county but there was an amazing mix of folks at the final evening party. Held at the very excellent Brewery Tap in Ipswich, over one hundred people came along – clearly the only thing they had in common initially was an interest in Twitter in particular and social media in general. But this sparked a whole range of conversations and the physical networking (plus good beer and hog roast) reinforced the friendships that had begun on social media and now became ‘real’.
A demonstration, if anyone needed it, that a healthy mix of social and physical networking is perfect for both enjoying an evening out and making strong friendships. Only thing to work on is a way of making the hangover virtual………
- Harnessing the Power of Twitter – Twestival 2011 (socialmediatoday.com)
Why Revolutionary Measures?
Marketing is undergoing a revolution. The advent of social media provides the opportunity for one-to-one communication for the first time since the move to an industrial society. This blog will look at what this means for B2B PR and marketing, incorporating my own thoughts/rants and interests. Do let me know your feedback!
About meI'm Chris Measures and I've spent the last 18 years creating and implementing PR and marketing campaigns for technology companies. I've worked with everyone from large quoted companies to fast growth start-ups, giving me unrivalled experience and ideas. I'm now director of Measures Consulting, an agency that uses this expertise to deliver PR and marketing success for technology businesses.
- RT @Cabume: Taxing times for tech companies. Guest blog by Chris Measures ow.ly/ljkkn 4 hours ago
- Time for tech companies to face up to tax, rather than brush it under the carpet with PR (my blog) measuresconsulting.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/tax… 1 day ago
- RT @creatingcam: The BIG Summer BBQ 2013 #ccbbq2013 is now open for bookings; got your ticket Yet? ccbbq2013.eventbrite.co.uk 1 day ago
- RT @Cabume: First "extranet-as-a-service" product launches from Cambridge ow.ly/lgWC8 1 day ago
- Makes me think of Dilbert/The IT Crowd: Most IT environments immature, Microsoft reveals computerweekly.com/news/224018430… 6 days ago
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