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
Everyone knows that the publishing landscape has changed forever thanks to the internet. The rise of blogs and free blogging software has radically brought down the cost of getting your opinions onto the internet and many blog based sites (such as the Huffington Post) have made lots of money out of the move.
But there’s a big fear that the Government’s new press regulations could potentially threaten small blogs by including them in the legislation. If they don’t sign up to the new regulator they risk high fines if sued by libel by an aggrieved reader. The key test is if it is ‘a relevant publisher’, generating news material where there is an editorial structure giving some control over publication. So by that token, this blog is irrelevant when posted to my own site (though you probably knew that anyway). Except that when it is republished on the Cabume website there is then some editorial control so it suddenly becomes relevant. Essentially if I libel someone Cabume carries the can.
Obviously a small blog wittering on about startups, PR and technology is unlikely to be sued, no matter how relevant it is. But for other smaller, blog-based sites, particularly political ones this opens up a stark choice – sign up to the regulator and face an arbitration system that is focused on protecting individuals who complain or risk crippling fines. It is the same for local newspapers, already suffering due to the rise of the internet. Given the work they do in uncovering local political, public sector and business corruption their trade body The Newspaper Society believes the regulations would ‘inhibit freedom of speech and the freedom to publish’.
My own opinion is that the internet cannot be beyond the law. In the same way that the Lord McAlpine Twitter libel case showed that you can’t repeat false allegations and expect to get away with it, neither should you be able to libel someone on your blog with impunity. But the new regulations throw up a number of questions – what happens if your content is on a US server? Why are student publications exempt? Will journalists set themselves up as one man/woman band blogs to get round regulation? There has to be a more flexible way of regulating online content in the internet age – my relevant/irrelevant fear is that lawyers will be the chief beneficiaries of the new regulations rather than either press freedom or genuine victims of press intrusion.
March 20, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Creative, PR | Blog, Cabume, Chris Measures, David Cameron, government, Huffington Post, Leveson, McAlpine, Newspaper, Press freedom, Press regulator, publishing, Royal Commission, twitter | Leave a Comment
Rather than covering a range of subjects I could probably write a weekly blog called ‘Which brand has f@cked up on social media’, without running short of material. This week it was Burger King’s turn on Twitter – though to be fair to the fast food giant they believe their account was hacked. After all the background picture was changed to a McDonald’s logo and one tweet claimed the chain had been sold to the Golden Arches.
The tweets stopped after an hour after Burger King asked Twitter to suspend its account (unlike HMV, they knew how to switch social networking off). They even had a supportive tweet from @mcdonalds commiserating with their rivals.
So no real reputational damage done – the online equivalent of breaking into a local Burger King, daubing graffiti on the walls and putting quick drying cement down the toilets. Illegal yes, but once the mess is cleared up, Burger King on Twitter will be back open for business.
But the financial damage could have actually been enormous. Imagine that rather than tweeting an obviously untrue rumour (We just got sold to McDonalds!) the hackers had put out something different and subtler – such as news of finding horsemeat in the company’s burgers (not true I hasten to add). Think of what that would do to the stock price, spooking investors and sparking a sell-off. Financial institutions would have seen company news from a reputable source and acted accordingly. Given Burger King is US-listed I’m sure litigation wouldn’t have been far behind from disgruntled shareholders too. And the problem isn’t just malicious hacking – do companies have corporate policies about what they can and can’t tweet/blog/put on Facebook in case it is share price sensitive? My betting is that many don’t, leaving it to the discretion of whoever is actually running the Twitter feed. Hardly foolproof.
So, at a time when cyber security is top of the agenda, companies need to make sure that they not only know their Twitter logon details, have clear policies in place, protect their passwords and have an instant crisis plan if security is breached. I’d hope that if it wasn’t before Burger King’s investor relations department is now much more involved in social media planning. Handled properly this is another chance for marketing/PR/social media to become more strategically involved in vital financial communication – so marketers should ignore the Burger King experience at their peril.
- Burger King Twitter account ‘hacked by McDonald’s’
- Burger King Twitter account hacked: name, avatar changed to McDonald’s
February 20, 2013 Posted by Chris Measures | Marketing, PR, Social Media | Burger King, BurgerKing, Facebook, Fast food, Golden Arches, HMV Group, McDonald, McDonalds, Measures Consulting, PR, social media, Starbucks, twitter | 1 Comment
Can’t string together 140 characters? Help is at hand with Twitter’s launch of Vine, its new video sharing service. Essentially Vine lets you take 6 second videos and post them automatically via your Twitter feed. Launched last week, it provides another option for Twitter’s 500 million users to share their lives with their followers and friends.
On the face of it Vine is a nice idea as it capitalises on the power of video and opens up another front in Twitter’s battle to increase usage ahead of its predicted future flotation. And another revenue stream – I can see Twitter using Vine to encourage brands to interact with customers by sharing video content, solving simple customer service queries with how to films and even introducing a paid for service that gives greater control over the length of clips.
But there’s a number of issues that I believe will hold back Vine’s growth. Firstly, it isn’t integrated into Twitter itself but is a separate app, currently only available for Apple devices. This adds a level of complexity to the process – there’s nothing to stop other video services providing competition. And not launching an Android app at the same time as Apple removes a significant part of the market – while Twitter says Android is on its way, it looks slack not to have both issued at once.
Secondly, each clip may be 6 seconds, but it is on a constant loop (like an overlong animated GIF) which can be pretty tedious to watch, even if the content itself is interesting. Think of it as a moving picture, not a YouTube video.
And finally there’s what’s on Vine clips. Twitter boss Dick Costolo launched the service with a film of himself making steak tartare, but given that porn drives most internet innovation, it didn’t take long for more explicit content to arrive. The initial lack of filtering meant that X-rated videos began to fill Vine, culminating in one being chosen as ‘editor’s pick’ on the home screen of the app. All rather embarrassing for Twitter, but surely something that could have been predicted if they’d thought things through. Had they not looked at ChatRoulette?
To be fair to Twitter it has now banned searches for explicit content and deleted some porn, but automatically identifying and filtering pornography is notoriously difficult so it will be kept busy moderating clips for some time to come.
So, will Vine wither or grow? At the moment the jury’s out – it doesn’t have the safeguards to encourage mass market adoption (or the reach with just an iOS app) but if Twitter prunes away the porn it may yet create a new way for consumers and brands to share engaging content.
- Twitter’s Vine Has a Porn Problem, Just Like the Rest of the Internet
- Twitter’s new app Vine becomes porn hub within days – Firstpost
The world of technology invariably desensitises you by removing a physical reaction to your action. There don’t seem to be direct consequences – hence people are often ruder in emails or on social media than they would be in real life or on the phone. After all, the chances of someone finding and punching you are that much smaller.
This has led a lot of people to see the internet world as beyond the law, a cyber Wild West where anything goes. And, to a certain extent it does – it takes time and effort to track down anonymous internet trolls, often requiring costly legal action to force ISPs or social networks, such as Facebook, to provide their names and addresses. Cases such as the breaking of the Ryan Giggs super-injunction just reinforce this belief.
But Twitter is subject to the laws of the land in the same way as any other written communication. That’s the realisation that is slowly dawning on the large number of people who tweeted or retweeted, wrongly naming or linking former senior Tory Lord McAlpine with child abuse claims. The innocent peer has instructed his solicitors to sue those who have defamed him online, with his lawyers urging those who tweeted the story to come forward and apologise. Many high profile names have already done so but what will be interesting is what happens to those that don’t apologise. They have clearly, if unwittingly, broken the law but tracking down every one of them and launching separate legal proceedings will be time consuming and costly. And it provides an interesting legal conundrum for judges – do you set damages based on the number of followers someone had when they sent the tweet? Is this a real use for Klout scores at last?
Before anyone starts muttering about Twitter crackdowns and eroding free speech it is important to understand the law. You can defend your words based on it being true, an honest opinion or a public service – but blatant untruths and lies are the same online as offline. In the aftermath of the Lord McAlpine case everyone on Twitter should take a look at the risks they face, but more importantly exercise a little common sense. As David Aaronovitch says in this (paywalled) Times article – Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t be happy to see on a newsagents’ shelf with a picture of yourself above it. Or, I’d add that you wouldn’t say to someone down the pub if you thought they might punch you for it.
As the excitement of this week’s Police Commissioner elections galvanises the nation and sparks heated debate, I thought it would be worth looking at the role of Twitter in the gripping contest.
After all, looking back at the US election we saw a huge online turnout with voters from coast to coast giving their views and the Obama victory photo becoming the most liked and retweeted post ever. Social media was seen as a critical bellwether to who was going to win, with online sentiment analysis adding to exit polls in the data available to the candidates and media. And after the event voters made their feelings known (or were perhaps just fickle), with Mitt Romney’s Facebook page losing fans at the rate of 847 per hour. Go on, click on http://www.facebook.com/mittromney and see the fan count fall.
However when it comes to the Police Commissioner elections, at least in Suffolk, social media isn’t really centre stage. Of four candidates, one (Bill Mountford of UKIP) isn’t on Twitter and the Conservative and Independent candidates boast 242 followers between them. While they are both posting regular updates, only Labour candidate Jane Basham seems to have really been embraced by the medium, with 773 followers and a whopping 2,576 tweets. And the #suffolkpcc hashtag is generating on average 7-8 tweets a day, with none over the weekend. A quick look across the border at Cambridgeshire reveals similar levels of tweeting, so I’m not living in an isolated pocket of disinterest.
Of course comparing a local police election to the US Presidential contest is unfair. But what depresses me are two things. Firstly, we’re continually being told that social media is handing power back to the people, giving us the opportunity to communicate with our elected representatives and get our points across. And politicians have embraced Twitter, even if many just use it as a chance to retweet party propaganda and show off their own importance. But, equally importantly, I believe that the Police Commissioner elections should be about independent candidates as much as those backed by the party machines – social media levels the playing field as it is cheap, accessible and available to all. Everyone should have a view on law and order and, whatever it is, now is the time to get it across to those that will lead your police force in the coming years. Don’t just vote, tweet!
All Twitter figures correct as of 9pm, 13 November 2012
November 14, 2012 Posted by Chris Measures | Cambridge, Social Media | Barack Obama, Facebook, Labour, Mitt Romney, Obama, Police Commissioner Elections, social media, twitter, United States presidential election | 1 Comment
The current US devastation from Superstorm Sandy is showing the positive – and negative – sides of social media and our reliance on technology. Already there have been over 4 million mentions of #Sandy on Twitter and Hurricane Sandy was the top phrase in the US on Facebook. People are using it to check on friends and relatives and update them on their own safety. And there have been some incredible pictures and videos of the storm and its aftermath posted on social media, which have then been picked up by online and broadcast media. Google has launched a map of affected areas, linking to power outages.
But we’re also seeing the downside of our technology addiction, and in particular the electricity needed to make it work. The over 5 million people without power obviously can’t communicate. And this hasn’t been helped by the datacentres hosting sites such as Gawker and the Huffington Post being knocked out by storm damage. As Jeff John Roberts of GigaOM points out drily, there’s no app for disaster survival. Many people have replaced battery powered FM radios with internet versions and most of us either don’t have landline telephones or have swapped to DECT phones that need electricity.
The emergency services are also affected – people have been asked to use text messages to communicate rather than mobile phones to avoid overloading networks, leaving capacity free for official traffic.
It could potentially get even worse if the crisis precautions at major East Coast data centres and network exchanges fail and they go offline. Yes, it’s the end of the internet for all of us, wherever we are located. Press exaggeration obviously, but there is potential for disruption as some sites go down. While this level of inconvenience is nothing compared to that being suffered on the ground it does show our reliance on the world wide web.
The good news is that most data centres are designed to withstand a disaster of this scale – and Cloud computing means that processing should be switched automatically to other locations across the globe. But it does show everyone that you can’t rely solely on technology – time to make sure that you’ve got a basic phone, lots of batteries and a torch just in case.
This week sees a momentous step in the march to an all-digital world, with the final switch off of the analogue TV signal in the UK. Retro lovers are already mourning the end of Ceefax’s blocky graphics and the need to replace portable TV aerials with coat hangers when they went walkabout.
However for me the fact that everyone now has access to a huge array of digital TV channels is more interesting in what it does to society. In a pre-satellite/cable era there were a very limited number of channels (three when I was a boy, rising to the dizzy heights of five with the launch of the imaginatively named Channel 5). Essentially this means that when you went into work, school or the pub the next day there was a good chance that you’d have watched the same programmes as your mates/colleagues the night before. So you had a plentiful source of conversation, aside from the weather and football, to bind you together into a community. ‘Must watch TV’ was exactly that, otherwise you’d be left out of the water cooler banter.
Nowadays this simply doesn’t happen. We’ve all got potentially hundreds of TV channels to be watching – and that’s before you add in catchup services, YouTube, cable and satellite. So the chances of bonding with someone due to a shared experience of watching an obscure German documentary on BBC2 are incredibly slight – in fact nowadays you probably didn’t even know it was on.
However after tearing us apart, technology is now providing the ability to bring us back together. We still have ‘must see’ TV but now we’re discussing it in real time through social media on our iPads while we watch. Disagree with the judges on Strictly or bemused by the choice of topics covered on Have I Got News for You, then you can comment as it happens. In many cases the Twitter commentary is better than the programme itself. This is great, as far as it goes, but it is an instant reaction as things happen. And as behavioural economics show, it is likely to help us form our opinions before we’ve actually had chance to think them through independently. Which can’t be good if we go into work the next day parroting other people’s thoughts.
And in case people think this is trivial, just replace Strictly Come Dancing with a Prime Ministerial Election Debate and see what I mean. So what we need is a way of mixing the instant and the reasoned, otherwise we’ll make snap judgements with potentially calamitous results (and I don’t mean voting for the wrong person on The X Factor). Time to encourage more longer term, analogue thinking rather than instant digital responses.
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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