#ShareThisLive
Share This Live – How Social Media Is Changing Business and Communications

Last year, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) published a book with short essays from some of the UK’s leading communicators and digital strategists. Entitled Share This the aim of the first book was to establish social and digital as a core skill in 21st Century Public Relations. This year we are publishing it’s follow-up, Share This Too.

The books, the first of which the first of which was published to great acclaim, see contributors outline their vision on how social media, digital media and technology are changing not just how perceptions are built and protected, but how businesses are established and managed.

Share This Too aims to expand on these initial essays, to inspire and lead a way to better engage with audiences for better businesses, services and engagement.

On Thursday 11 July the CIPR hosts at Microsoft in London it’s second social media conference where influencers from PR, journalism and the business world, will share insight on how these channels have helped them improve engagement.

Speakers include Digital Editor for The Economist and Editor-in-Chief of Economist.com Tom Standage, Head of Mobile at LBi, ex-Global Head of Mobile at Thompson Reuters Ilicco Elia and Digital Development Editor at The Guardian Joanna Geary.

I’ll be charing a session on how social media can facilitate business change and using social across international borders. This is the subject of my chapter in Share This Too, which is an area that is often ignored by certain communication ‘professionals’. The assumption is wrongly made that because the majority of social networking channels originated in the US, the language of choice must therefore be English. But language is only a small part of issues that have to be considered. Cultural differences comes into play as well, which when considered can help drive up engagement. We will be debating this and so much more on the day.

Speaking on my panel will be the Political Minister and Embassy of Japan to the UK, Noriyuki Shikata and Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications Allan Schoenberg. This is a not to be missed session with leaders PR leaders from the financial and diplomatic worlds.

A limited number of tickets for the Share This Too Live Conference are still available here.

I hope to see some of you at the conference!!

Evening Standard 2013 Budget Leak
Evening Standard 2013 Budget Leak

The London Evening Standard came under fire today for breaking the strict embargo placed on the 2013 Budget, as the newspaper published details of the Budget on Twitter before George Osborne took to the dispatch box.

The Standard shared a picture of it’s front page that detailed the 2013 Budget on Twitpic, an image that was picked up by MPs in the House of Commons and Journalists that were covering the 2013 Budget.

While the image was quickly deleted from the social network, the damage was done. Research from Topsy.com (select cached Page) reveals that over 2,000 viewed the image. It also got retweeted by Sky’s Adam Boulton (@adamboultonsky), The New York Times Sarah Lyall (@SarahLyall) and other influential journalists and bloggers.

The paper’s Political Editor Joe Murphy (@JoeMurphyLondon) was forced to issue an apology on Twitter even though it was certainly not him who shared that image. Editor Sarah Sands meanwhile issued the following statement, ‘An investigation is immediately underway into how this front page was made public and the individual who Tweeted the page has been suspended while this takes place. We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies.’

For some reason Osborne’s advisors chose today, when all eyes would be on him, to unveil his Twitter account. An odd choice of day given the Chancellor’s unpopularity in the polls and how the public share their views online. A very bad call in my opinion.

Twitter is a news channel, one that because of today’s real-time digital age can inflict greater damage. And while embargo’s have been a traditional tool in the armoury of PRs, in today’s digital world it is a public relations professional job to maintain total control of the story, especially a story which contains market sensitive information. Twitter and digital are hard to control. Conditions on the sharing of content online must have been secured.

It’s been a bad day for HM Treasury’s PR team, but a worse one for the Evening Standard.

Twitter is changing public relations. It’s making media outlets more competitive. As some on Twitter have said, The Standard’s story was just ‘too hot off the press’. Don’t take it for granted!

Introducing Facebook Graph Search
Introducing Facebook Graph Search

Facebook recently launched Graph Search, a facility that will allow users to find places based on their friends activity on the social network.

Graph Search aims to deliver a very different type of search from what Google offers. The objective for Facebook is to give users recommendations based on what your friends like and talk about.

For example, if you search on Facebook for a Curry House in London, the results you would get will be based on your friends Likes and Check-ins to Indian Restaurants in London. And if by any chance your friends haven’t been to a curry house in London, then Facebook will give you web results from Bing, with whom it has partnered.

The partnership means that we are going to have to spend more SEO time on Bing.

Writing for SearchEngineWatch.com Ben Straley (@bstraley) says that the, ‘simple rule of thumb is that the more content that gets shared, liked, or commented on through Facebook, the greater the chances of discovery of that content through Graph Search.’

How is Facebook going to offer me the best results to my search queries?

Facebook is currently the biggest social network in the world with over 1 billion active accounts. More than half use Facebook on a mobile device.

Every users journey through the network is recorded, giving it a wealth of data that it uses for advertising revenue.

According to Europe v. Facebook founder and law student Max Schrems data that the social network collects includes:

  • Your friends and family
  • The IP address used from every location you’ve used to log into Facebook
  • Dates and name changes
  • Your messages and comments
  • Every event you’ve been invited to
  • Check-in to places
  • The Pages and comments that you ‘Liked’
  • Camera metadata including date/time and GPS

How will Graph Search affect the reputation of my business?

Graph Search for Journalists
Graph Search for Journalists

Facebook Pages can be set up by anyone. If you are not on Facebook then there is chance that a supporter or detractor has already set up a Page. And if they haven’t, Facebook’s deal with Wikipedia enables it to deliver Wikipedia entries on companies or brands that do not yet have a presence on the network.

Remember, an unofficial Page can attract as many people, even more than an official Page.

Certain media outlets will look at content on Pages, official or otherwise, to see if they can find case studies during a crisis.

Journalists are really going to like Graph Search. In a note on the Facebook + Journalists page Journalist Program Manager Vadim Lavrusik says, ‘because graph search is in early stages of development, the first version focuses on four main areas: people, photos, places, and interests.’

Before adding, ‘the new search enables journalists to do richer searches when trying to find experts for stories. For example, say you’re doing a story on a specific company, and you’re looking to interview someone who works at the company’s New York office, you could do this by searching for, “People who work at ACME Inc. in New York,” to find potential employees to reach out to.

You could even make the search more specific to find people who work at the company with specific titles, for example. This could make it easier to find potential sources and experts to reach out to for stories you’re working on.’

What can I do to manage my reputation on Facebook?

First, and above all, offer a good service. Nothing works like recognising your customers. If they like you, then encourage them to share their praise, because if they don’t they’ll be equally happy to share their dislike.

In PR, the saying goes that good news is repeated 3 times, while bad news 11.

Social media though does amplify bad news. People like to share and shame. Not being on Facebook just means that you are outside the room while people talk about you.

If you already have a Page, then Facebook has shared a few tips about SEO to help you when Graph Search goes live. These include:

  • The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the “About” section all help people find your business and should be shared on Facebook.
  • If you have a location or a local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific location.
  • Focus on attracting the right fans to your Page and on giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis.

Remember, your presence, activity and authority on social media are signals that help your SEO. Make sure that you own it and can influence the perception.

Does Graph Search mean that Facebook Likes finally have a value?

Hypothetically yes. A Like is one of the key signals that Facebook will use when they filter data to answer your question. But, there is a difference between Liking a Page but never commenting, and commenting and never Liking a Page.

In any case, the Likes from people in your network are the ones that are going to count. Likes from fake Facebook users should be considered a waste of money.

Instagram, here today, gone tomorrow?
Instagram, here today, gone tomorrow?

Everybody loves a start-up. They are new, agile and the so-called ‘gurus’ like to describe them disruptive. The problem though is that many often lack basic business experience – common sense leads many to be here today and gone tomorrow.

Enter Instagram, which was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in October 2010. Instagram was one of the first photo sharing and social networking services that enabled users to ‘take a picture, apply a digital filter to it, and share it on a variety of social networking services, including its own.’

Instagram was a runaway success. Within it’s first year the application had over 5 million users, a figure that grew to 30 million by April 2012 when Facebook approach the company and bought it for a cool $1 billion. Today, Instagram has 100 million registered users.

Facebook though isn’t going to buy such a company without thinking of how to monitise it.

Which is why on 5th December this year Kevin Systrom announced at Le Web that Instagram was going to block Twitter from displaying photos as Twitter Cards. This announcement didn’t go down that well with users who shared their photo’s on Twitter.

The removing of Instragram from Twitter cards was nothing in comparison to the announcement on 18th December that the company was changing its terms and conditions. Under the new policy, the company would have the rights to sell users’ photos to advertisers without “compensation or notification.”

This announcement was described by users as a ‘suicide note‘, especially after Instagram announced that the only way to opt-out was by deleting a users account before 16 January 2013.

Instagramers took to Twitter to denounce the new terms and conditions. High profile photographers deleted their accounts and the media, rightly so, went negative.

Kevin Systrom took to the company blog to try and manage the crisis. In a post he appeared to claim that users had misinterpreted its revised terms of service. He blamed the furore on “confusing” choice of language.

Blaming the language is an odd strategy, as legal documents are supposed to be written in plain English. And in any case, any change in terms of use should have gone through both compliance and PR.

What is stranger is that given that this was not the first time that a photo sharing site had both been caught trying to claim copyright over users content, it was odd for Systrom to blame ‘confusing language.’

Let’s remember that in May 2011 Twitpic, which went mainstream after a user captured a US Airways plane crash landing on the Hudson River, announced a change in its terms and conditions. The changes sought to secure copyright over all images on the network. A backlash ensued with users hastingtaging #twitpic #delete.

Twitpic founder Noah Everett apologised on the site’s blog for the “lack of clarity” in the language used. Photo sharing network Plixi was also caught in a similar situation when entered into a deal with World Entertainment News.

Fact is that many photo-sharing sites have tried to monitise their business by trying to grab exclusive copyrights from users.

Networks such as the Yahoo-owned Flickr tried something different though. In May 2009 Flickr entered into a deal with Getty Images. As part of the deal Getty can approach users in order to secure a deal on an image that they have taken. Users can then take anything between 20 and 30 per cent of sales through the renowned global picture agency.

And Getty is not the only site that offers to pay users. The Agence France Press backed Citizenside acts as an agent for pictures that are sold, often passing 50 per cent to the user.

So the question to Instagram and Facebook is, why try and grab everything and then blame the lawyers, when you could have set the scene for crowdsourcing opportunity for amateur photographers?

Photo sharing sites have tried to grab copyright from users in the past and failed. Perhaps, sharing money earned would have enhanced Instagram’s reputation.

Perhaps speaking to your PR, Instagram could have saved themselves a lot of grief.

As it stands, and according to Andrew Beaujon at Poynter, ‘unhappy Instragram users are still suspending their accounts.’

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.