UK mobile network O2 was today battling to restore services to it’s customers nationwide after a massive outage.  The issues began yesterday lunchtime with many users reporting that they were unable to make calls or use data services on their smartphones.  Subscribers to Tesco Mobile and GiffGaff services were also affected, which use the O2 network, were also affected, although O2 said that the issues were not geographical.

Consumers took to social networks like Facebook and Twitter to let friends, family and colleagues that their phones were not working.

An analysis of shares on Twitter using Topsy.com reveals insight into what people were sharing during the outage.

  • 11 July – at 12.25 people mentioned O2 182 times, with the most popular shared link being of the site’s  Accessories Page
  • 11 July – at 13.25 people mentioned O2 144 times, with the most popular shared link being of O2’s Support Page
  • 11 July – at 14.32 people mentioned O2 480 times, with the most popular shared link being a Tweet to share if ”RT this if you have a problem with your phones reception (O2/3)
  • 11 July – at 18.35 people mentioned O2 7,185 times, with the most popular link to share being the story O2 outage story on the BBC news site.
  • 11 July – at 21.35 people mentioned O2 19,962 times with the most popular link being to Sky News story ‘O2 Customers Suffer Lengthy Network Outage
Mentions of o2 during July 2012 network outage (© Topsy.com)

Even at 03.25 there were over 300 tweets mentioning O2 with the top story being share being a link to the network’s service status page.

During the outage O2’s own status support page went down with so many people trying to find out what was going on.  Interestingly enough, technology sites such as Twitter use Blogger, while others host their support sites on Tumblr in order to keep in touch with customers if their own sites go down.  Why haven’t O2 considered this?

In all over 57,000 Tweets were sent mentioning O2 during the last 24 hours, many with negative sentiment.  Customers even took to using irony and sarcasm to discuss the mobile operator, with a popular Tweets like the one below:

Social media keeps us connected on the go and during a crisis, it is speed and reaction time that saves your reputation.  It’s communicating with influencers in these channels who, if convinced, can re-share your story to the audiences.  Below is a list of the most popular links, many from news sites, that were shared during the network outage.

Popular news links shared during O2 network outage (© Topsy.com)

Your communications have to ready.  Prepared for real-time engagement and communications.  There is no excuse, unless you like to be slow and enjoy watching your brand suffer, which I am sure your board and shareholders don’t.

Research unveiled today by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals how smartphones are starting to ‘play a significant role in the consumption of news.’  The institute’s 2012  Digital News Report (#risjdigital2012) tells how more than one in four of those questioned accessed news stories via a mobile device or tablet.

While traditional journalism providers like the BBC, Sky News and individual print outlets remain central sources amongst consumers of news, the size of the audience getting their news from unverified sources is growing, especially amongst the 16-24 age group.  The report additionally reveals how outlets in the UK have been ‘relatively quick to innovate, with developments such as live blogging, social media, and data journalism – leaving little space for new providers.’

These findings not only put questions on how news organisations deliver content to the public, but how, through public relations, governments, companies and other organisations can better engage and communicate with their respective audiences.  Traditional PR in this 21st Century is no longer an option.  Reaching the audience has to be done by understanding where the public is and when and what they want to receive.

Considering the speed of news dissemination through Facebook and Twitter, especially when content is verified, it is becoming essential to change the approach that brands use to engage with their individual publics.

Newman also reveals in the report how news spreads through social networks, with 78 per cent saying they were more likely to click on a link from friends and other people they knew if they had shared content during the past week.  Newman adds in the report that Facebook is still key to disseminating of news online, with 55 per cent using this platform, against 33 per cent using email and 23 per cent using Twitter.

Further details can be found in the report, which will be unveiled at MSN this evening, 11 July 2012 from 18.00.  Follow the Hashtag #risjdigital2012 then for comment and discussion.

Reuters Institute Digital Report 2012

The BBC announced this week it’s plans for coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. Thanks to a dedicated Olympics Player, users will be able to access every single event online and by the press of a button.

Four years after the impressive Beijing Olympics the BBC has capitalised on the growth of technology and the rise in smartphone ownership to ensure that audiences never miss a moment.

Broadcasters have been living in fear of the fragmentation of the television market place, but because the BBC is tax-payer funded it has been able to take a leap and use technology that will put the audience truly in control.

For advertisers the segmentation of viewership has signalled confusion, forcing many to relearn how to reach and promote their brands to potential customers. Television, let’s not forget, is still the most dominant media when wanting to engage with an audience. But this is changing. Today, corralling people together is more difficult as more channels allows people to watch what they want to watch.

The BBC is using these Olympics to test out social features that will enable viewers to learn, comment and share about the event and athlete they watch.

By focusing on a platform agnostic belief, the BBC is putting the Olympics in the hands of the user, weather they are at home, work or travelling.

And if you are outside the UK overseas and want to see how it works then now is the time to get that VPN network up and running.

The Olympics, in your hand. Wherever you are.

BBC DG Mark Thompson

Convergence.  This was one of the keywords that came of out of this year’s 2011 Financial Times Digital Media & Broadcast Conference.  It’s taking me some time to pen this, but I wanted to share some of the key points that were discussed.

Last year the conference coincided with the BBC unveiling the results of it’s Strategy Review.  This year gathering started on the same time as Apple unveiled its much-anticipated iPad 2, Facebook announced the rollout of its Comments plug-in and the all-important decision from the Department for Culture Media and Sport Minister Jeremy Hunt MP to allow News International’s full take-over of BSkyB.

Chief executives and senior board members gathered in London to outline their thoughts on an industry that is changing at breakneck speed.  It’s an industry that is no longer operating by itself, but a sector that is being driven by the technology that their own consumers are engaging with.  And the speed of adoption is forcing many boards to re-evaluate how they engage with their audiences.

Mobile and social networking are the two platforms, the two elephants in the room, that media and broadcast organisations are still struggling to grapple with.  They are also the platforms that public relations professionals must fully grasp for themselves and their clients.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson highlighted this year how ‘new media’ and the consumer have shaped how it offers content.  The corporation accepted that consumers want the BBC’s content on every platform.  Its iPlayer is today available on the iPhone and iPad, with Thompson confirming that people even watch BBC content on their mobiles in bed.

Thompson understands simplicity and highlighted that the iPlayer works because it is straightforward.  In January of this year 162 million downloads were made through the iPlayer, this in a country of 25 million households.

Thompson confirmed that 2011 is the year of convergence, stating that strength is with those that have a strong presence online and understand the value of simplicity.

One of the areas that the BBC Director General is looking at is the power and influence of social recommendations and how this will shape how we all watch television.  Indeed Thompson confirmed that the BBC and Facebook are having conversations.

Speaking at the conference Facebook’s EMEA Managing Director Joanna Shield confirmed that the company now has 30 million active users in the UK, accounting for 1 in 2 of the population.  Talking about how it ‘supports‘ UK media Shields highlighted that 10% of the Daily Mail’s web traffic now comes from Facebook and that the sites plugins have helped The Independent gain up to a 700% increase in traffic.

Talking of Facebook, Sales and Marketing Director for mobile provider 3 Marc Allera in a separate session said that a staggering 75% of their data traffic is directed to Facebook – an incredible statistic.  Allera also said that 90% of 3’s sales are Smartphone’s.

Facebook is the platform of choice for the consumer.  For business it is the ‘frenemy’, a business that delivers eyeballs to those with an online presence, but a business that can quickly cannibalise those that work with it.  Take Groupon and Livingsocial for example.  Both living in the hype, but both under the knife of Facebook, who a few days ago announced ‘a new service that will sell discounts deals to consumers.’ Sound familiar?

So, Facebook is becoming an entity in itself.  The stats show it, but for the time being, it is a fact that business needs to learn to live with it.  Equally, it needs to retain control of the data that makes it’s business a business.

I was going to ask, remember when clients used to ask about needing a Facebook Strategy?  Something that made PRs and Strategists cringe?  Well, there is a need to have a Facebook Strategy, but a strategy to manage them and avoid each business being cannibalised by this growing entity.  The data that companies share with the social giant make the same businesses vulnerable.

Convergence and Facebook, and of course all the other offerings.  The tables have turned and consumers are showing businesses how and where they want their content.

Fifa vice-president Jack Warner branded the BBC “unpatriotic” for deciding to screen an investigation into the football governing body so close to the vote on 3 December which would decide the host of the 2018 World Cup.

Regardless of what the sports and football world might think of Mr Warner, we have to question the thinking and rational for not just the BBC’s Panorama programme, which was screened last night, but the Sunday Times expose a few weeks back.  These two media outlets claimed that their investigations were in the ‘public interest’, but the timing of their broadcast couldn’t have been anything other than fatal.  Unpatriotic, as Mr Warner said might not be that wide of the mark.

Since news broke of what these two outlets were doing the Football Association has been scrambling to still be in with a chance to host the 2018 World Cup.  It’s pushed forward its power players to rally the nation into showing strength in unity.  England’s World Cup 2018 bid international president David Dein called for the nation and by default the media, to get behind the bid.  Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William will both be in Zurich on Thursday supporting the bid.  But this might just be the public face for a bid that is actually intended to change Fifa rather than secure the World Cup.

I am not for one minute arguing for investigative journalism to be gagged.  Nor am I condoning the culture of favour that exists within Fifa, an organisation that promotes Fair Play on the pitch, but ignores it in the boardroom.  Let’s be honest, are these investigations really in the public interest, this being common well-being?  Such a claim is more of a catch-all.

There are three sides to every story – two sides and the truth.

The big question is about the communications expertise that exists within England’s bid.  Did England’s bid team have the necessary power to work with the media?  Was it able to influence the timing of such and much needed investigation?  Could the media’s work help in England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup?  Or did England just know that it didn’t stand a chance, which is why it embarked on a campaign to reform Fifa.

We will be anticipating with anguish the results of Fifa’s Executive Committee’s vote on Thursday.  The bid’s Facebook page has support from people from over 170 countries!