The last ten years have seen massive progress in getting the UK population online, with over 86% of people now having been on the internet. There is still a digital divide however, with 4 million households without internet access according to the Office for National Statistics.
And, the ability for online access via mobile is extremely variable – as Liz Stevenson from Cambridgeshire County Council pointed out at the recent Cambridge Smart City debate, 41.5% of the county isn’t covered by a 3G signal. I dread to think what the figure is over the border in Suffolk, where I live in a village with sporadic 2G coverage. Efforts continue to help the offline into the online world, particularly by targeting specific groups such as the elderly and disabled and by providing more user friendly devices such as tablets.
However a new digital divide is emerging. As the Economist Intelligence Unit points out in a recent report, this is between those that understand and use the internet to its full potential and those that simply shop, watch or read the content that they find there. It is essentially a split between creators and consumers. You’ll always get power users in any technological change but the risk is that those who don’t take up the opportunities offered by the internet will become disenfranchised, pay more for basic goods and services and miss out on achieving their full potential.
And it doesn’t need to be that way – the internet offers the chance for everyone and anyone to create (no matter how niche or, let’s face it, downright awful) their efforts are. It also offers the tools to make compelling content either for free (for example WordPress, YouTube) or at a very low cost (with a handheld video camera for instance). Only by doing can you gain the full benefit of the internet. At a basic level imagine someone on Twitter that merely lurks, following people without starting any conversations themselves. They may find out what Stephen Fry is doing, but it doesn’t add much else to their own lives (or the lives of other people). People who treat the internet in the same way as TV, as a lean back, broadcast medium, are missing the point (and much of the fun.)
So how can we encourage more creators who understand the opportunities that the internet brings? A really simple way is to copy the behaviour of the young (though without the selfies on SnapChat). As digital natives they start with no preconceptions and no manual to read – they just get on and use the internet as a tool to do what they want to do. Not having a fear of failure, or an embarrassment gene, is going to lead to cringeworthy moments, but it will also mean you experience new things, learn new skills and create. Once you’ve mastered these skills you’ll understand what you can do – giving you better control of the medium and deepening your understanding of how organisations might be trying to channel and constrain your internet experience for their own ends (normally to sell you something).
Otherwise this new digital divide will solidify – splitting the digitally savvy from consumers and providing a two speed experience that will damage people’s enjoyment and potentially harm their prospects. Go create!
- Redefining the Digital Divide (slideshare.net)
November 13, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Social Media, Creative, Cambridge | twitter, mobile, YouTube, Stephen Fry, Suffolk, 4G, Digital divide, Internet access, WordPress, Cambridgeshire County Council, creator, consumer, SnapChat | 1 Comment
Everyone in business today has a plethora of communication channels to choose from, split between analogue (face to face, phone) and digital (email, social media, text, web). But is it a good thing?
As a member of Generation X (roughly defined as born between the mid 1960s and early 1980s) when I started work in public relations the only ‘digital’ communication was the letter (and extreme cases of urgency the fax). So analogue channels were pretty much the sole way of interacting with colleagues, talking to clients and pitching to the press. That meant that you had to develop verbal communication strengths such as being able to respond quickly to questions, give succinct answers and carry a conversation.
And PR was typical of all professions at the time – we were forced to speak to people (even if it was scary) and consequently got reasonably good at it.
But this has changed with the entry into the workplace of Generation Y. Weaned on new technology, these digital natives never had to learn to use email, social media or text as new channels – as far as they are concerned they’ve always been there. Lots of people I know comment on how much quieter today’s offices are as people are simply not on the telephone.
Which brings me to my issue. At the risk of sounding old, Generation Y need to start picking up the phone rather than hiding behind email and social media. It is very easy to craft a wonderful email, hit send and believe the job is done. Research quoted in Fresh Business Thinking found that 1 in 20 18-24 year olds is terrified of using the phone in work – and I reckon that’s a gross underestimate. The survey also found that 40% of 18-24 year olds were made nervous by telephone communication, against 28% of the total workforce.
We’ve all ducked making that call and sent an email instead (whatever generation we are), but here’s three reasons I think it doesn’t always get results:
1 Lost in transit
Most people get hundreds of emails every day and with the best will in the world it is easy to overlook one out of the many, whether deliberately or not. So the end result is that you don’t get a response and either have to re-send the email or try another channel.
2 Lost in translation
Even if everyone in the email conversation speaks the same language the chance of misinterpretation is high. Something that you can explain verbally can appear rude or just unclear, giving the wrong impression or leading to being ignored.
3 Lost in the gaps
With a phone call, or face to face, you need to think on your feet and try and build a rapport. You can change your tone, explain things and actually persuade someone by listening to what they are saying and responding accordingly. You simply can’t do that on email. While someone might come back with a question they are more likely to just hit delete and move to the next email.
I’m not Luddite enough to suggest going back to the days of telephone only communication, but people need to understand that there are advantages and drawbacks to every channel and pick the right one for each particular task. That might be email, social media or text – but it is vital that today’s workforce doesn’t neglect the telephone or we’ll end up as a nation of business mutes rather than engaging communicators.
October 30, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Creative, Marketing, PR, Social Media | Business, Chris Measures, Communication, Facebook, Generation X, Generation Y, marketing, Measures Consulting, Public Relations, social media, Telephone, twitter | Leave a Comment
Like a lot of people I’ve been impressed by the current easyJet TV ads. Celebrating ‘generation easyJet’, the group of travellers that the airline claims was created due to its low fares and wide range of destinations, it is modern, engaging and aspirational. There’s no overt mention of price (in contrast to Ryanair’s pile them high and sell them cheap advertising), and the overall approach is grown up and comparable to ‘proper’ airlines. The message is travel with easyJet to do the things you love.
However in an age of social media and consumer activism advertising can’t trump reality. Two recent easyJet blunders threaten to undo the slick ads, damage its brand and put off prospective passengers.
Firstly, it initially refused to let a passenger who criticised it on Twitter board his flight. Lawyer Mark Leiser sent a tweet after his plane from Glasgow to London was delayed, potentially preventing a soldier on his way to active service reaching his base in Portsmouth. easyJet allegedly said they wouldn’t help pay for him to get to his destination. After tweeting Leiser was pulled out of the boarding queue and told by a manager that he couldn’t get on the plane as ‘you can’t tweet stuff like that and get on an easyJet flight.’ It was only when the manager found out that Leiser was a lawyer that they changed their mind and let him on. easyJet later apologised and denied that it was its policy to ban passengers based on what they’d said. However by then the damage was done as Leiser’s original tweets were shared around the world and then picked up by major media.
A couple of weeks later easyJet managed to leave 29 passengers behind even though they’d passed through the boarding gate and completed check-in (and had hold luggage on the plane). Interestingly statistics from YouGov found that nearly 10% of UK Twitter users heard about the story, showing the power of social media to spread bad news.
Obviously easyJet is not the only airline to suffer at the hands of social media. After BA lost his parent’s luggage, Hasan Syed invested in a campaign of promoted tweets focused on the airline’s target audience, leading to the #BASucks hashtag trending. Eventually BA customer service responded, apologising for not getting back sooner but (I kid you not) the global airline’s social media team only works 9-5. Like easyJet, BA has an ambitious new ad campaign out now, highlighting its “To Fly, To Serve” motto. No news on whether they are going to amend that to “To Serve (business hours only).”
easyJet has invested over £5m in its new ad campaign and I’m sure BA has spent a lot more. But it looks like a classic case of being distracted by shiny things. A much smaller investment in social media and staff training might not look as impressive, but in today’s world may well go a lot further.
There was a big surge in interest around gamification a few years back. Essentially improving the user experience and getting people to do things that weren’t that interesting by turning them into a game, it never really made it into the mainstream.
But now a new twist to gamification promises not to enhance the user experience but to actually help improve the world around us. Researchers at the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre in Norwich have come up with a Facebook game that will help in the fight against ash dieback, the fungus that threatens to wipe out Britain’s 80 million ash trees.
Players on the Fraxinus game have to match sequences of genetic letters represented by leaf shapes, helping sort genetic information into matching sequences and therefore pinpointing genetic variation in either the tree or the Chalara Fraxinea fungus that causes ash dieback. Those samples that don’t match will be flagged for further investigation to see if the genetic variation is linked to potential immunity to the fungus.
Of course harnessing the power of distributed computers is nothing new. Projects such as the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) use the idle time of home PCs to crunch data as part of the effort to find alien life.
However what is different here is that Fraxinus actually uses human intelligence, rather than just our IT. We’re actually a lot better (and faster) at recognising patterns than computers are, so the research effort relies on our skills to fight ash dieback. Obviously putting the game on Facebook provides a scalable, global platform that can be accessed by millions – and also gives a welcome boost to the profile of the research efforts at the same time.
It is early days to see if Fraxinus takes off, but it would be good to see other researchers adopting a similar approach – involving the crowd in their work doesn’t just help get it done quicker but it also makes it more real to people. Rather than science being something done by people in white coats it is all around us that we can all take part in. Being able to say that you’ve helped solve a scientific problem gives extremely powerful bragging rights for your status updates, compared to the norm. My only concern is timescales – research takes years and the attention span on social media is measured in seconds and minutes. So scientists need to break their work into bite sized chunks with defined goals if they are to engage with those on Facebook and Twitter. This can be easier said than done, but the benefits to individual projects and the scientific community could be enormous. Let’s hope that Fraxinus is the first of many games that do wider good.
August 14, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Creative, Marketing, Social Media | ash, ash dieback, Chalara Fraxinea, Facebook, Fraxinus, gamification, John Innes Centre, Norwich, Sainsbury Laboratory, twitter | 2 Comments
Twitter is currently at a pivotal point in its development in the UK. Having celebrated its seventh birthday in March, it now has 10 million users in the country and worldwide 400 million tweets are sent every day.
It is worth looking at these figures in the context of the current publicity around the hateful trolling of female celebrities on the microblogging network. Over 1 in 5 of the UK adult population is on Twitter and, as Baroness Lane-Fox has pointed out, the danger is that the genuine outrage about misogynistic threats on social networking will drown out the issues of violence against women in the real world.
Clearly there is a wider issue about how people, particularly men, feel they can treat others. Social media provides an anonymous and easy way to broadcast their ‘thoughts’, as they are able to hide behind their keyboards rather than having the guts to talk directly to people.
The danger is that the current abuse will drive right-minded people away from Twitter and it will lose some of its variety and ability to enable millions of conversations. A second worry is that in the run up to the election, the government will take action that, while it cracks down on trolls, curtails genuine freedom of speech.
So what can be done? While the 24 hour boycott was well-intentioned it risks the trolls feeling they’ve won. In my opinion what is needed is, unfortunately, increased proactive policing of the network. Twitter’s decision to add a report abuse button to every tweet is a step in the right direction but at the moment trolls don’t see the consequences of their actions. In the same way that the Lord McAlpine Twitter libel case brought home to people that social media is not above the law, a similar high profile trial of trolls is needed to demonstrate that abuse, threats and harassment is as unacceptable online as off.
Currently the CPS guidelines on prosecuting offensive tweets require either a credible threat of violence, stalking/harassment of specific individuals or breach of a court order. ‘Grossly offensive, indecent, offensive or false’ communications have to pass a high threshold of evidence and the guidelines state that ‘in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest.’ Therefore while prosecutions would happen for some of the most high profile trolling cases, the vast majority will slip through the net. The police have said they don’t have the resources to monitor every offensive communication. This puts the ball back into Twitter’s court and it is time it began suspending accounts more quickly and making it more difficult to reactivate them. Naming and shaming of trolls is another option – witness the abject apology given to Mary Beard after someone threatened to tell the troll’s mother about his behaviour.
Twitter, like other social networks, has crossed the chasm into mainstream life. What is needed is fast action to demonstrate that actions online have the same consequences as they would have offline, with fast prosecution of offenders and, before that, suspension of accounts. While this may not cure misogyny and violence against women in the real world, it will send out a strong message that it will not be tolerated online.
- Twitter threats highlight blight of online trolls (kansascity.com)
- Don’t Feed the Trolls: New Anti-Abuse Button Introduced On Twitter (thesterlingroad.com)
- Mary Beard silences offensive Twitter troll (guardian.co.uk)
The world of business used to be a simpler place. Companies worked in a linear fashion, creating products and services and then marketing and selling them to consumers. Most organisations had a single business model and customers were very much at the end of the chain.
The rise of the internet, greater communication and social media has changed all of this. Rather than being driven by brands, consumers have now taken back power and are in the driving seat. Don’t like the service you’ve received? Social media provides a megaphone to broadcast your concerns. Dislike the attitude or activities of a major brand? Use the power of the internet to force them to change. The #FBrape campaign succeeded in forcing Facebook to change how it dealt with gender-based hate speech on the network, both by demonstrating the scale of anger (60,000 tweets and 5,000 emails in less than a week) and by lobbying advertisers to remove their adverts from the network.
And the new world order goes much further than this. Companies need to tap into this complexity to co-create with their customers rather than continue in the top down, industrial mindset that we’ve known for so long. That’s the view of visionary thinker and Cambridge-based author Alan Moore, who talked through his book No Straight Lines at last week’s CamCreative.
Alan sees five key areas for companies that are being disrupted to focus on as they move into the uncomfortable zone of today’s business reality. They are:
The non-linear world is complex and unclear. Rather than fearing the unknown companies need to unleash their curiosity to see how they can change.
As Wittgenstein said “the limits of our language are the limits of our world”, so everyone (companies and individuals) needs the knowledge, skills and tools to formulate what they want and how they can request it.
We’re not in a monoculture anymore. Companies in all industries need to open up to work with their customers and other partners to design and deliver the products and services they want. Crowdfunding is the perfect example of how this delivers results, as is Lego’s Cuusoo site where builders post designs of new models. If it gets enough support from the community the design is turned into a fully-fledged product, with the inventor receiving a royalty.
4 Participatory cultures and tools
Humans are not machines and we want to make meaning in our lives, participating in the world around us and providing input into things close to our heart. The rise of fan fiction demonstrates this, with people actively extending the stories that they love. Rather than reaching for the lawyers, creative companies need to work with enthusiasts to benefit everyone.
The old model of build it and it will sell is broken. Companies need to continually update and adapt their products, listening to feedback without fear of failure.
The new world order can have a transformational impact on your business and the lives of us all. Companies need to embrace this and deliver an epic response to meet the needs of the world around them.
Whatever your business, marketers and creatives need to understand and react to the changing world, making it more relevant to everyone. There’s a lot more in No Straight Lines, which can be accessed online for the price of a tweet or bought in paperback or Kindle editions – it is well worth a read.
July 3, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Cambridge, Creative, Marketing | Alan Moore, CamCreative, disruption, Facebook, Marketing and Advertising, No Straight Lines, social media, twitter | 2 Comments
At a time when governments snooping on communications data is top of the news agenda it is time for people to realise exactly how much of their private information is out there on the internet. From the websites you’ve visited to the people you are friendly with on Facebook all of this data is used to try and sell you goods and services in increasingly clever ways. Essentially it is the price of free – sites like Facebook don’t charge you to join, and providing an infrastructure for billions of users doesn’t come cheap.
And generally consumers value convenience over security. Hence the increase in sites that let you sign in with your Facebook, Twitter or Google IDs, adding to the data being held about you, tracking your online movements. Of course people have the option to register separately for these sites, but the upfront cost in time of filling in more forms puts most of us off.
Adding in mobile, location-based data adds an extra dimension as companies can see broadly where you were when you looked at a particular page. So marketers know that you were standing outside Starbucks when you checked where the nearest Costa was.
So how much is this data worth to businesses? Hundreds of pounds? Err, no. According to the Financial Times, the average person’s data retails for less than a dollar. Having filled in its nifty online calculator I didn’t even make 50 cents – but then I’m not about to give birth, get married or have a long term (lucrative) health condition. Try the test for yourself on the FT website.
As the PRISM scandal has shown, it isn’t just businesses that want to track your online behaviour. Nine internet companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google were pinpointed as revealing user data to the National Security Agency.
In the wake of the scandal and renewed interest by consumers in protecting their privacy, the internet industry needs to look at how it gains permission, collects information and shares personal data. Social networks and the internet itself are now mass market – they have crossed the chasm and are no longer populated solely by early adopters and teenagers with a relaxed attitude to sharing their personal information (even if it lands them in hot water down the line). Default settings need to be for stronger privacy settings (rather than the minimum), nudging people into being more secure with their data if companies are to regain trust. Of course, we’re not going to stop using Facebook and Google – but it would be a smart move (and a potential differentiator) for these companies to take a stand and make it simpler for us to protect our privacy online. Even if our data is only worth 38 cents.
June 19, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Marketing, Social Media | Apple, big data, data, Edward Snowden, Facebook, Financial Times, Google, Microsoft, National Security Agency, password, Starbucks, surveillance, twitter | Leave a Comment
Everyone is bombarded with marketing messages – from the moment you switch on the TV or radio in the morning to emails with the latest offers, posters by the side of the road and adverts on the internet.
The trouble is, as every marketer knows, even the most targeted consumer campaign has a lot of waste. Only 3% of unsolicited postal marketing leads to a sale and online conversion rates hover well under fractions of per cent. Not only is this expensive from a company point of view, but it also risks alienating consumers who object to being spammed with things that simply don’t interest them at that point in time.
And all of this is despite the fact that companies now hold massive amounts of data on our buying habits and can easily access our demographic profiles that we’ve provided to loyalty schemes or just posted up on the likes of Facebook.
According to researchers from IBM, the problem is that studying demographics and buying habits is a deeply flawed method. Just because you live in the same area as another 40-something bloke and earn around the same doesn’t mean you have the same interests. What is needed, according to the IBM team at the Almaden Research Centre, is to discover the deep psychological profiles of customers, including their personalities, values and needs.
There are five dimensions of personality recognised by modern psychology:
- Openness to experience
Research has already shown that these traits link to buying behaviour. Agreeable people prefer Pepsi to Coke and if you link your product messages to excitement and adventure, it will appeal to the extroverts.
All well and good, but how can brands find out the psychological profiles of their potential customers? After all, no-one is going to go through a long personality test to give marketers the information they need to harass them.
The answer is via social media, specifically Twitter. IBM’s research has used software to analyse three months data from 90m Twitter users, matching the words people use against their values and needs. It took just 50 tweets to get a reasonable match for their personality and a very good fit from 200.
The moral of this story? As I’ve said many times, you are what you tweet. And as Sally Bercow’s court case has shown, it isn’t just words, but how they are interpreted, that define you. So be careful what you say, and if you want to put advertisers off the scent throw in a few random comments to confuse the targeting software…………..
- How can Twitter reveal your personality? (economist.com)
June 5, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Creative, Marketing, Social Media | advertising, Facebook, IBM, junk mail, marketing, Pepsi, Personality test, Psycology, Sally Bercow, social media, spam, twitter | Leave a Comment
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 | 2 Comments
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.
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