mediating, social media-ising, social networking

Weapons of Mass Contagion: why our amazement and anger at Facebook’s emotion experiment is misdirected

Featured image: a Wordle of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities which “derives from the Facebook Principles, and is our terms of service that governs our relationship with users and others who interact with Facebook. By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement.” source

“We’re walking backwards into the future” observed Mark Holden as he introduced Jason Silva at PHD’s keynote at Cannes this year. his elegant observation describes how we can only see the future by looking at what has already happened, we project back over our shoulders to imagine what wonders are to come.

but every now and again we get to peek over our shoulder. occasionally the curtain that hides tomorrow’s world slips, and we get a glimpse of what is to come … and sometimes we come to suspect that our future may already be here. and sometimes we don’t like what we see.

such a slip occurred today when it was revealed that in 2012 Facebook collaborated with academics from Cornell and the University of California in an experiment to manipulate the news feeds of 689,000 users’ home pages … discovering in the process that – through a process known as ’emotional contagion’ the social network could actually make people feel more positive or negative.

they found that exposure to friends’ ‘positive emotional content’ led to fewer positive posts by those users. the opposite – an increase in negative posts occurred when exposure to ‘negative emotional content’ increased.

the reaction has been strong and has emerged from every side of the debate. Clay Johnson of the Barack Obama’s 2008 online presidential campaign commented that “The Facebook ‘transmission of anger’ experiment is terrifying”, whilst professor of law at Maryland University James Grimmelmann said Facebook had failed to gain ‘informed consent’ for the research. Even Jim Sheridan of Britain’s Commons media select committee, weighed in:

“This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people … They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.”

above quotes via The Guardian

it should be noted that the sheer audacity of a member of the UK Government criticizing data protection is the equivalent of the pot not just calling the kettle black, but hiring the Red Arrows to sky-write in big flashing rainbow letters “that kettle is black and this pot says so” in the skies above London. the UK Government’s (and silent Opposition’s) lack of response to the GCHQ Tempora revelations leaves them with little latitude to point the finger.

and yet they are pointing. and they’re not alone … in fact a small queue is forming around the block at Menlo Park to join in calls for “down with this sort of thing”.

the response is not surprising. its one of (1) our amazement that social contagion exists and is possible at such scale (2) concern that it appears to be so easy to manipulate and (3) anger at the revelation that as the curtain slipped, it revealed that as our lives, adventures, and hook-ups migrate online – we are more exposed, more vulnerable, more subject to the influence of (in the presence of doubt, assumed) dark forces.

if an algorithm can make me happier what does that say about me? if a social network can make me sad what does that say about my ability to self-determine who I am?

and yet this is the deal. this is the contract. every one of us who uses a social network does so with an inherent and reasonable value exchange. the problem isn’t the contract people have made with Facebook or any other social platform … the problem is that most people don’t stop to think about the fact that they’ve signed a contract in the first place.

until a decade ago our contract with media providers and marketing was one of an attention-based value exchange. brands paid for space that paid for content to which we gave our attention in exchange for getting that content for free. brands used that attention to generate reach which led to awareness and sales.

but the contract changed, its just that most people haven’t realised. the contract isn’t just attention based, its now also information based. a new generation of media platforms trade not in attention but information. Facebook trades in information about every aspect of our lives. Google sits on the largest database of intention information in the solar system. platforms sell this information to brands who use it to target, re-target, content create, segment, insight-generate and even start one-on-one conversations with us.

the information they’re using is ours. most people gave it away freely and willingly in a value exchange. an un-negotiated contract in which we handed over data for utility. and our data has bought us riches – Google’s search engine, Spotify’s music streaming, Facebook’s continual partial presence to everyone we know, or the credibility we get from the adulation of our #nofilter Instagram pic.

none of this came for free, we gladly paid for it with our information.

utility, information, education, inspiration, connection, entertainment, advice and Tinder swipes all paid for with information through a contract the existence of which most people are unaware. until the curtain slips.

people shouldn’t be amazed and angry by Facebook’s ability to unleash weapons of mass contagion. they should be amazed and angry that they rushed so headlong into a new contract without considering the implications. our anger is misdirected. Facebook and media organisations like them have created amazing utility in the world. if you’re going to get angry get angry with yourself for thinking that there was ever such a thing as a free lunch Instagram pic.

earning, measuring, owning, rewarding, social media-ising, social networking, tracking

Very Involved People: Why every brand know who they are, and have a Red Carpet ready and waiting for them

Vip-facebook-audi-kloutAudi and Klout (an online influence indexer) have created a page that gifts its special socialites with a free wallpaper

last week saw another step towards community and existing-customer-based comms planning becoming the predominant way through which brands can connect with audiences.  PSFK carried the story that Facebook is to launch VIP areas for brands.  the article notes that:

"Brands on Facebook are going to be able to reward loyal customers with VIP areas and rewards. The new and exclusive pages help brands find the people who influence others in their shopping habits and what they like. Once inside these filtered pages, users will gain access to prizes and be able to interact more directly with companies." PSFK post June 23

it's the next in a logical progression towards brands and marketers having significantly more one-on-one communications with their existing Very Involved People (or VIPs).  I posted in May about how a combination of owned then earned media was increasingly becoming the primary means through which some brands connect and engage audiences.  far from limiting the extent of a brands potential connections, it can create a far more meaningful and engaging dialogue with VIPs and then the wider circles that they in turn influence.

and all this is increasingly measurable.  Klout (the partner working with Audi to deliver the above example) is just one example of platforms that are increasingly able to measure who influences and is influenced by whom.  that brands will become fully-incorporated members of this dynamic is inevitable.

the watch-out … another increase in the power-base of Zuckerberg's already powerful platform.  whilst it makes sense for brands that can't deliver this through their owned media to lease some media real estate from facebook, the ideal is surely to have a red carpet of your own.  that way you build the community, own the platform on which the community is based, and aren't at the mercy of changes in the tenancy agreement if facebook decides to change it.

the questions for brands are clear: who are your VIPs, and where are you laying out a carpet for them?

brand extending, social media-ising, social networking

Lustable, Paypal, and the polyfaceted brand: why brands need to evolve a diversity of identities for a diversity of platforms


yesterday saw the birth of Lustable – a site designed to be the ultimate companion for online shoppers.  partnering with five of Australia’s most highly regarded fashion and design bloggers, the site aims to be a living breathing online shopping resource profiling the web’s best kept fashion secrets and is designed to be the ultimate companion for online shoppers.

describing the site, Adrian Christie of PayPal Australia commented that “Lustable celebrates the world of online fashion, covering everything from up-and-coming young designers, to fashion sites that offer great value – like free shipping and seasonal sales”.

I should say at this point that I'm breaking my first and most important rule of blogging in writing this post.  I am for the first time writing a post about a client of an agency at which I currently work.  I'm breaking the rule because Lustable makes a very valuable and necessary point about the future of brands, and specifically the diversification of the identity of brands…

there are examples aplenty of the diversificaton of brands, the goal being to grow and engage with new audiences – some of these are very tight (think UK telco O2's creation of the The O2; an engagement space with an identical name to that of it's parent brand) … but increasingly, brand extensions are differentiating from their parent companies.  so diverse that they become wholly new offspring of their parent brands, with their own identities and behaviours and affiliations.

all of which begs the question… why does Lustable exist?  why has PayPal – which is an established and trusted brand in its own right – invested the time and effort to create a whole new and differentiated brand?  what would be so wrong with  it seems rather counter-intuitive to create and invest in a brand that's not your own.  a worst case scenario exists in which that investment delivers no payback to the parent's brand ie the strategy is actively mitigating ROMI.

the reason Lustable exists, as I see it (I wasn't involved in planning it's inception) is for the simple reason that it needs to exist.  the opportunity to aggregate and stimulate a community of online shoppers is, for obvious reasons, high up on the agenda for a brand like PayPal; but PayPal isn't necessarily in a position to aggregate and stimulate an audience around fashion.

it would, for a host of reasons, be a leap too far.  much better to reach out to existing experts in the field of online fashion shopping.  much better to amplify their voices.  much better to invest in conversations that they will have with existing and new followers of their sites and online spaces.

Lustable can aggregate an online fashion community in a way that PayPal couldn't.  it can have credible and transparent conversations, and stimulate that community, in a way that PayPal couldn't.  in this regard Lustable is a brand intermediary – a site designed to reach out to and engage with an audience more efficiently and effectively that PayPal ever could.

is it a risk?  yes.  but the greater risk is choosing to either not engage with an audience or engaging with an audience in a sub-optimal and ultimately inefficient way.

what Lustable is evidence of is a direction of travel for brands into polyfaceted creatures.  as platforms for engagement (a word I choose very deliberately over reach) proliferate, the ability of brands to spread themselves ever thinner becomes more difficult and tenuous.  think about the number of successful branded TV channels?  OK … think about any successful branded TV channel?  the reason it's hard is that brands don't necessarily stretch that far – multiple facets are required and called for.

all of which of course requires new and emerging specialisms.  Lustable was created and deployed by social media agency We Are Social* – who's expertise in this space was necessary to ensure that the project was developed and implemented as effectively as possible.  as brands become polyfaceted so too do the specialists and skills that marketing folk need to surround themselves with…

all of which begs another question – who is the brand guardian?  fortunately that's easy … people are, of course.  people who use PayPal, and now people who engage with Lustable.  Lustable creates new associations and connections between people, and a brand that was brave and sensible enough to give birth to a wholly different creature.  a brand brave and sensible enough to understand that PayPal and Lustable are greater than the sum of their respective parts.

disclaimer: PayPal is a client at PHD Australia, where I work.  I was not involved in any of the discussions or planning that led to the execution of Lustable.  * PHD Australia shares offices and the more than occasional glass of wine with We Are Social, who have developed the Lustable strategy and concept for PayPal.

connecting, developing, integrating, internet, social networking

Ping vs. Fabulis: what Steve Jobs can learn from Jason Goldberg about Social Networks

Ping Steve Jobs launching Ping earlier this week

last week Apple continued their ascendancy with the unveiling of a revamped iPod range, but also with Ping; a social network, housed within iTunes, based – not surprisingly – in and around music.  so a small step for iTunes but a giant leap for Apple into the social networking space.

they're not the first.  back in July 2008 I wrote a post in response to news that MTV was launching a social networking initiative called House.  I expressed concern then, that brands sailing into social waters did so at significant risk…  there's simply only so many networks people can and will be part of…

at the time I ranked a very un-statistically robust sample of social network membership and (unsurprisingly) a long tail emerged…  whilst a small minority of sites (Facebook, MySpace) account for the vast majority of social networkers, there is the potential for a network to aggregate a strong and viable community around a niche topic or area.  but therein lies the rub…  if you're stuck in the tail then running a social network could be an expensive way to aggregate and entertain a niche audience.

but back to Ping, and as niche's go, it got to be said that if you're going to go after a vertical then music seems to be a fair vertical to choose; especially when you have one of the biggest and most significant music ecommerce platforms in existence, and MySpace – you're most significant rival with specific music credibility – is struggling to demonstrate a place for itself in the world.

but Ping is a somewhat limited experience.  on first use it feels like a twitter engine (you follow and are followed) with a Facebook framework.  but that's where the similarity ends and the problems start; the only way to connect with people is to invite them by email, and once you are connected there's no inter-network connectivity.  what goes on Ping, stays on Ping.

contrast this with Fabulis, the social network set up for gay men and the friends of gay men set up by Jason Goldberg (below) earlier this year. aims to help gay men and their friends discover where to go, what to do, and who to meet.

Jason_goldberg fabulis founder Jason Goldberg

two things struck me about fabulis.  one is how the site has an explicit 'currency' in the form of bits – points that you earn or win by interacting and engaging with the site and other social networkers.  for the record my meager 815 points currently rank me at 4,181st, so I've a bit of engaging to do (but then that's very much the point of points isn't it).

Fabulis fabulis tackling the onerous task of helping gay men and their friends stay in touch – it's a tough job but some networks got to do it

but the second and most interesting aspect of fabulis is how I never actually joined the social network.  I never registered a username or created a password.  nor did I upload a profile picture or suggest friends.  Facebook Connect did all of that, and moreover, fabulis was more than happy for Facebook to do it.  my sign-in, profile, and network were all ported happily and seamlessly across from Facebook.  Compare and contrast this with Ping's approach.

the fundamental difference between the networks is that Ping is insular and closed (and that's very much Apple's prerogative and indeed modus operandi) whereas fabulis is not only open in it's approach, but dependent on another network – namely Facebook – for a key element of its infrastructure.  if Facebook went down one day (run with this!) then fabulis would go down with it; it's a network built on a network, and its very much the better for it.

all of which makes Jobs' position on why Ping isn't connected into Facebook's (or another social network's) content very revealing…  in a post on cnet news, Kara Swisher describes how when she asked Jobs about the lack of connectivity on Ping, "he said Apple had indeed held talks with Facebook about a variety of unspecified partnerships related to Ping, but the discussions had gone nowhere … the reason, according to Jobs: Facebook wanted "onerous terms that we could not agree to""

Ping was a pretty unique opportunity for Apple to open it's doors and integrate part of its product into the wider web in a way that would ultimately have made Ping better for its users.  the fact that Jobs didn't says more about Apple than it does about Facebook's apparent 'onerous' terms.  it seems that Facebook's terms weren't too onerous for Goldberg, and fabulis is, well, pretty fabulis as a result.

broadcasting, converging, social media-ising, social networking, television

Building Social Shells: the trap and the opportunity of NBC’s ‘fan it’ initiative

Nbc_fan_it NBC's 'fan it', which launches today

thanks to Lauren for the heads up that NBC is today launching 'fan it', a initiative that the company describes as a "win-win opportunity that broaden's [our] shows' visibility" … "What better way to spread the word about our shows than with the help of our loyal fans" asks Adam Stotsky, president of NBC entertainment marketing.  quite right.

essentially viewers interact with shows and they're rewarded with fan points, and points mean prizes; be they exclusive early access to shows, merchandise, or discounts.  you can even win 'big-ticket sweepstakes items', like props from the Office.

there's much to be lauded about NBC's effort.  its rewarding fans of shows for being fans of shows, which generates that most potent and valuable of comms properties: word of mouth.  but rather than having a WOM strategy that at best involves an occasional email and at worst involves crossing fingers and hoping for the best, NBC are investing in WOM that they can consistently stimulate, interact with, and measure.

but I wonder if it goes far enough, and fear that its doesn't…  there's a danger that this is seen as the newest and shiniest way to promote programmes…  a bit like this…

Tv_social_oldold school TV marketing trap, with Social as added-on component

but Social is a different and much more potent beast than conventional advertising…  for one, its intrinsically part of the shows that stimulate it.  there's no filtering or polishing, no Photoshopping up the best bits; what people generate based on what stimulates then is what gets created and deployed.

for another, there's less control over how much gets created and what the sentiment of it is…  conversations and word of mouth can go both ways.  NBC would never create an ad saying "this show isn't as good as we thought it was going to be, but stick with it cos its got a great team and some legs yet", but that could easily be the nature of a conversation around one of it's shows in the social space.

and finally – unlike advertising – when social media talks back you can hear it.  the many whoops and sighs, cheers and jibes that echo around online conversations (and beyond) as a result of TV shows that we know and sometimes love are there for the social network and broadcast network to hear.  what the broadcast network chooses to do with that social networked conversation, with that collateral, is up to them…

I'd suggest that for all these reasons, Social is better seen as a 'shell' which surrounds TV product.  a shell which is intrinsically part of the TV product; reflecting, amplifying, and sometimes influencing the content that stimulates it.

Tv_social_new new school TV marketing opportunity, with Social as shell which is amplified out

this is the real role of Social Media for TV.  NBC have taken a glorious step with 'fan-it', but social is not a block on a schedule to be added on, rather its the prism thru which shows are advertised.  and moreover, its the collateral that's there to be deployed online and – increasingly – on-air…

'fan-it' can be a broadcast network-out initiative or it can be social network-in conversation.  the choice – and the challenge – may be NBC's, but 'fan-it' remains a brilliant next step – for both networks – towards a new TV media ecology.

debating, internet, realtiming, social media-ising, social networking, user-generating

Elephants and Mountains: notes from MySpace’s Next Chapter of Social Media

MySpace_conf_1 and we're off…  Tim Burrowes chairs MySpace's Next Chapter in Social Media

there was only one word of the day last week, when MySpace Australia hosted their Next Chapter in Social Media event in deepest darkest Alexandria.  that word was Discovery.  MySpace is about discovery, and being discovered.  and about discovering stuff.  "MySpace will be the best tool for Discovery" was the assertion of the social network's International Co-President Mike Jones, who in his keynote speech highlighted projects from the network that are "allowing people to get Discovered".

Mike_Jones_MySPace Jones made the point that 'social' is no longer a USP…  every web property has or will soon have social elements as an integral part of their offering.  being a network that is social isn't enough.  hence 'Discovery', and MySpace's intended positioning as the internet's 'Discovery Engine'.  they're nothing if not bold.

Jones discussed a range of MySpace innovations, from allowing realtime commenting on the site to integration with Twitter; and he talked about the site's new AdStream unit, which allows advertisers to "push ads into the stream", the "consumer-activated pop-up" for which delivers "incredible impact".

we have a problem here.  well actually we have two.

firstly, the innovations aren't.  innovative.  my Twitter has been linked to my Facebook for as long as I can remember (which in realtime isn't I admit that long but long enough given the pace of change in social media network evolution).  nor is commenting on content in real time revolutionary, to pretend that it is may do more damage than good.  ditto MySpace Music's developing an algorithm to recommend music based on what you're listening to.  we've been there and we've done that, nothing new is being brought to the table.

the second problem is of more concern because it gives visibility to the mentality behind the direction in which MySpace is going.  Jones' comments – that "ads" can be "pushed" and deliver "impact" – is a broadcast mentality, a mentality that has no place as a core proposition within an online social network.  while the rest of the comms community discuss engagement, content, utility and ways in which brands can make our lives more intuitive, MySpace find themselves talking about ads that deliver more impact.

there's a disconnect between the MySpace product and the role of brands here…  the primary role of brands is not IMHO to fund MySpace.  that comes as an important and necessary result of brands engaging with and providing utility for MySpace users.  for MySpace themselves not to be leading this intellectual charge should, in the month that saw AOL give up on Bebo, be of concern.

there's a genuine sense that MySpace are playing catch-up.  even the acknowledgment by Jones that "sometimes what you Discover on MySpace may not be on MySpace, and we're OK with that" sounds more like the waving of a white flag rather than a confident forging of partnerships to grow, activate and engage the MySpace user-base.

the danger is that 'Discovery' becomes nothing more than an interesting but unownable concept for which product simply doesn't follow through.  Jones may assert that "Discovery is the one thing we really have to nail", but the one question that everyone at MySpace should be asking themselves…  'how do we bring utility to how people discover stuff on the internet?' doesn't seem to be being asked, at least in last week's public forum.

I Tweeted at the event #myspaceevent wondering what myspace would have done differently if they could replay the last five years over again?

Tim picked it up and put the question to Jones, who was honest and candid.  MySpace couldn't keep pace with its own growth.  resources were diverted to infrastructure and sales, rather than product; "for five years they [MySpace] were so busy keeping the site up that they had no visibility on what users were doing".  Jones has his work cut out.

MySpace_conf_2 wise words from  Dan Pankraz of DDB

next up at the event was Dan Pankraz, a Youth Planning Specialist at DDB who gave an overview on Generation C.  the content was or should be very familiar to those of us who have been negotiating the future of media and communications for a while, but some solid observations were made:

  • for the 'connected collective', happiness = being part of the tribe
  • successful ideas aren't necessarily the biggest but the fastest moving
  • we need to create stuff for the swarm to pick up and run with
  • conversations never end
  • mobiles = social oxygen
  • 82% of young people rely on peer approval for decision making
  • brand relevance is determined in the moment
  • online identities are different from our real ones; the online version being the 'wanname'
  • gen-C are pluralistic with sub-cultures, and avoid perceptions of one-dimensionality

one observation that caused some chatter on the day was a stat from FastCompany claiming that in 9 hours of media consumption, gen-C take in 13 hours of content.  personally I thought that sounded conservative – multitasking alone potentially doubles the amount of media a content-hungry gen-C can  devour, with their attention span decreasing accordingly of course.

Pankraz shared a plethora of examples of who's out there doing interesting stuff in this space…  broadly aligned along three pillars; Collaboration, Purposeful Platforms and Play…

on Collaboration: "agencies talk too much about the tools and not enough about how brands can be more social and what content they have to share" … "the best brands allow people to morph ideas" … "do stuff with and for gen-C not at them" … gen-C are not a destination and can't be targeted, rather they are a partner in production.

Kypski's One Frame of Fame Project encourages all of us to be in their music video, which us updated every hour based on contributions from, well, anyone…

attracting 14 million unique visits within 8 weeks, Draft FCB Stockholm's campaign for Sweden's TV licensing body allowed anyone to create a video clip where anybody could be the hero of the clip…

on Purposeful Platforms: Pankraz cited Coke's Expedition 206, for which three ambassadors take a journey to all 206 countries where Coca-Cola is sold, interestingly thats 14 more countries than are represented by the United nations…

on Play: "…a key marketing paradigm to engage audiences", Pankraz described Cabbie-oke, DDB's project for Telstra which see's Cabbie-oke cabs offering free cab rides every weekend; so all you have to do is belt out a tune for your free ride…


he described RedBull as "probably the most playful brand in the world" citing their 'secret halfpipe' project for Shaun White.  they do what great brands – in Pankraz's view – should all do: experiment with and create popular culture…

in short, its not what you say, but what you do that counts.  Dan blogs here.

MySpace_conf_3 SMO joke – Nicole Still gives the advertiser's perspective

the final speaker of the afternoon was the enigmatic J&J's Pacific Digital Director Nicole Still, who gave a candid walk through ten principles she works to at the company:

  1. never, ever, censor… "deleting comments is not an option"
  2. be ready for SMO (Social Media Outbreak); that thing that happens when someone replies or responds to what you've put out there.  she encourages J&J marketers to just try [something new], admitting that "for companies like J&J, Social Media is like the dentist; it means well but it causes great anguish"
  3. every brand has a right to be there [in the social space]
  4. develop a parallel brand to deploy into the social media space – for example Neutrogena is building a OLS (one less stress) brand to deploy into the social space
  5. prioritise and define the role of each social media channel
  6. use a combination of paid, earned and free media (Still cited a recent campaign that split investment 75% paid, 20% earned and 5% owned, and suggested that for an investment of c.$1.3m she'd expect to generate c.$3m of total 'media')
  7. harness alpha-influencers on third-party sites
  8. practice on Facebook (who don't charge to have sites) – remember that "people don't take on individuals, they take on corporations" (ie always respond individually)
  9. measure what matters: the number friends you have doesn't.  50% of the people who visit the J&J site 'fan' it.  she has five key metrics: sales, reach & freq, awareness, cost effectiveness and engagement
  10. sometimes, its about presence not participation.  sometimes, just being there is enough

in the discussion after-wards, Still made some surprising comments about the client / agency relationship.  "from J&J's standpoint, its the responsibility of the [digital] agency [to monitor the social space]" … "at a global [big brand] level, it shouldn't be brought in house" … and finally, "we take responsibility for training the agency".  this last point in particular was interesting, Still admitted taking what is a reasonable and responsible position in ensuring her agencies are delivering what she and her company needs.  ultimately "you have to give people ownership in the space to be incredible successes or colossal failures".  refreshing indeed.

in the final panel discussion I asked about the elephant.  the big grey one.  there.  in the room.  there.  behind you…  "Australian marketing invests relatively less than equivalent digitally-enabled countries in online.  PWC have stated that "traditional media 'owns' the market in Australia for a long time yet to come".  so why is Australia lagging behind and what would the panel like to do to help it catch up?"

for Pankraz it was about better learning: Australian clients have had a bad education from agencyland – we need to better educate the market about digital.

Still challenged the question, citing The Best Job in the World as an example of great thinking coming out of Australia, a country which many companies want to be a testbed for innovation and marketing thinking.

only Rebekah Horne tackled my elephant, commenting that because there are no agreed metrics or online currency in Australia, traditional media is seen as less risky; less risky for agencies to recommend, and less risky for marketers to buy…

it was quite the appropriate comment from the Managing Director and Senior Vice President International of MySpace.  Horne must know better than anyone the mountain MySpace now have to climb, but its perhaps no different from that which all of us negotiating the future of media and communications have to climb.  MySpace may not have the answers to what the Next Chapter of Social Media looks like, but from here it looks like they're the ones who are creating a forum for the asking; and finding the answers is required learning for MySpace and the industry alike.

promoting, social media-ising, social networking

Facebook’s betrayal: why Westfield’s $10,000 promotion may come back to bite the hand it so fleetingly fed

with the dust settling on Westfield's controversial Facebook application and the weekend drawing nigh, it's perhaps time to reflect – once again – on the trials, perils and pitfalls of brands rushing in to enter the social media spaces that angels fear to tread.

to recap.  last weekend saw Westfield launch a promotion on Facebook which offered a place in a $10,000 prize draw to anyone who updated their Facebook status using the Westfield Gift Card Application.  controversy and criticism soon grew however.

rumors that the promo was a hoax, suggestions that opened your Book to spam and viruses, difficult to find T&Cs and the cluttering of many a newsfeed led to the creation of dozens of anti groups and finally yesterday to the shutting down of the promotion.  three observations…

one, mission accomplished.  if the brief was to get into and make some noise in the space owned by people rather than on-to-many media then its a job well done and M&C Saatchi and Ikon Communications should be congratulated.  we can only assume that the brief was such – any requirement to build brand credibility or improve perceptions of Westfield couldn't, or certainly shouldn't, have resulted in such a maverick solution.  which brings me to…

two, it does appear to be the most invasive of promotions.  the application essentially allows Westfield to spam peoples' Facebook friends with auto status updates saying, "All I want for Christmas is a Westfield gift card".  more than a couple of them in my news feed would have taken me to the brink.  not that it bothered University student Kristy Bell.  the Courier Mail reports that she didn't think twice about adding the application…  "I don't care that it can pull details from your profile – pretty much all Facebook applications can" she said.  a point well made Kristy, but most pretty much all applications on Facebook do so to add utility (that mantra again) to your online / social / life experience.

three, and most importantly.  digi strategist Tom Kelshaw posted that the competition appears to be breaking Facebook's rather strict terms and conditions, which state that:

4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.

but in a statement earlier this week Westfield claimed that "its Christmas Gift Card promotion on Facebook is a registered promotion. Westfield worked closely with Facebook to develop the competition and Westfield has legal advice that the promotion does not breach the Spam Act."

if this statement is to be believed, Facebook actively participated in the development of an invasive and controversial application that contravened its own terms and conditions.  this is important for a whole load of reasons, not least because it undermines trust in Facebook – the media brand around which many of us choose to organise social activities, communicate with friends and share things that interest, intrigue or amuse us.

Westfield, M&C Saatchi and Ikon Communications can walk away from this with a short term hit and learnings for next time.  but a few more of these and Facebook may find its not brands but users that are walking away from the social network that sold them out for a quick buck from a brand that thought that an invasive land grab into people's personal media space was the smart let alone the right thing to do.

managing, pitching, social media-ising, social networking

Live Pitching and the Economics of Free: the genius, tragedy and slippery slope of Toyota Yaris’ social media pitch

so you're a car brand that's after a social media agency.  what to do?  hold a pitch of course.  but rather than waste time getting lots of agencies into your office and getting them to pitch their ideas with some creds and test out the chemistry, why not just get them to do the work and put it out there in the real world.  see which ideas work the best and appoint that agency.  my favourite – for the record – is Iris' effort above.


you get to see how real ideas work in the real world – the most important metrics are how ideas actually translate into buzz and conversations, you get to measure these live in real time.  there's no or minimal media budget and production costs are low, so for not a load of investment you get a load of exposure.  you get feedback thru comments and posts, not from a focus group paid to tell you what they think you want them to think, but from real people fitting your brand into their busy lives.

its a genuinely innovative, real and interesting approach to take in both developing work for a brand and for establishing with which agencies you would like to work.  you get to judge agencies on what they produce, not what they promise.  our industry is the better for it.


its an irrelevance that each of the pitching agencies was given $15,000 to produce and deploy their work.  the fact is that this approach undermines the two most precious commodities in our industry; ideas and people.  you ask people to come up with ideas for free; OK, that's the nature of a pitch.  but then you ask them to create and deploy those ideas for free; in ways that will build and grow your brand, for free.

you may very well get an architect to pitch a building design for
free, you wouldn't get them to build you one gratis.  I could pitch a
movie idea to a Hollywood executive but I'd have to explain that I'd be
hard-pressed to make it for free.  I might choose a restaurant based on
its menu, but I wouldn't expect a chef to make my a meal for free (nb
I'd have a boyfriend for that).  in each case asking for product for free undermines the professionalism, expertise and product of the individuals that create it.

there's a strong counter argument to this – one which I am very much aware that I have made in the past – that people (who don't work in planning, advertising, ideas or comms agencies) are out there creating and deploying stuff on your behalf.  and that not only should brands acknowledge that but they should actively encourage it.  in fact there's an interesting model which is that everyone works on a project basis and ideas live or die on their own merit.  payment by performance taken to the logical extreme.

but the slippery slope is clear.  there's a conflict between the academic theory of the evolution of media and communications, and the agency model that underpins much of the work upon which brands – and brand equity – is built.  in the near future, agencies will all have to get used to and embrace the fact that our agency ideas increasingly exist in an ecology with others that came from somewhere – anywhere, everywhere – else.  but in that future we have to ensure that we nurture the people and ideas upon which brands in that future will be built.

advertising, planning, social media-ising, social networking

Emperor’s New Clothes, Meerkats and who clients should trust: dispatches from the edge of the social media debate

IPA publish and broadcast thoughts on social media.  "that's not very social" said some socially-minded planning types.  "no its not is it?!" replied the IPA, "let's change that" …so it was that last night the IPA Social Media group hosted the most social of evenings to debate and discuss the ongoing evolution of all things socially media…

the always lovely Mark Earls kicked us off with five principles that outline the big picture:

  1. connecting people allows them to behave less independently
  2. connectivity makes things more volatile
  3. connectivity disrupts existing and established power relationships
  4. its not about what technology does but what it enables
  5. technology allows people to spend more time with other people

well worth a read of Mark's full text here

Neil Perkins then took us through ten principles – thought starters and jumping-off points for discussion and debate on all things social media.  they and their authors are thus…

  1. People not consumers – Mark Earls
  2. Social agenda not business agenda – Le’Nise Brothers
  3. Continuous conversation not campaigning – John V Willshire
  4. Long term impacts not quick fixes – Faris Yakob
  5. Marketing with people not to people – Katy Lindemann
  6. Being authentic not persuasive – Neil Perkin
  7. Perpetual beta – Jamie Coomber
  8. Technology changes, people don’t – Amelia Torode
  9. Change will never be this slow again – Graeme Wood
  10. Measurement – Asi Sharabi

Neil finished his section with a quote by John Dodds that really got me thinking…  “Are we actually talking about social media or has the advent of the internet simply revealed that the advertising emperor had no clothes and should have obeyed the the principles all along?”

I Tweeted at the time to "be wary of John Dodds [you quote you understand not John per se – sure there's no need to be wary of him] …Advertising is not the enemy, the too-narrow concept of the ad is. Fireworks are part of the solution"

the point I was making was that its easy and dangerous to treat social media as though its going to usurp the crass, unrefined and unsophisticated concept that is advertising.  which is just plain wrong.  a point made more than eloquently when Amelia Torode presented a case study of VCCP's Meerkat for Compare the Market…

Amelia was very keen to make the point that the Meerkat campaign wasn't a 'social media' campaign but a 'social' campaign.  but I think this misses the point…  Meerket isn't a social media or even a social campaign.  Meerkat is an advertising campaign, an advertising campaign that has made the most brilliant use of social media to extend the scope, levels of engagement and fame of the ad.

great advertising is John's Fireworks that get ooohs and ahhhs from people.  this is how one-to-many broadcasting advertising works.  its brilliant, but let's not pretend that its social-led.


we then had a break out session on which type of agency is best placed to plan social media…

there are echos of the "who owns communications planning?" debate here. the easy answer is that comms planning is owned by everyone and no one. the harder answer is that you have to understand the role of communications in conjunction with the capabilities of a given client.

great social media planning needs generalists who can understand the role that social media plays in a wider strategy and balance the weight of effort across different behaviours accordingly. but it also needs brilliant specialists who can bring the latest technologies and activities to bear on those strategies.

social media calls for new specialist agencies, but at the same time it calls upon all of us – no matter what our discipline – to understand the role it can play and how it might affect and change how we do what we do.

who should clients trust with their social media strategies?  they should trust the people most closely aligned to the role for communications…

  • are you looking to use social media to tackle head-on negative brand perceptions? …trust your PR agency
  • social media to actively create sales opportunities? trust your media / direct agencies
  • or to improve customer service? …that'd be the call centre


all in all an awesome night, but its only the start…  join in the debate via the facebook group, on twitter, or via Social on the IPA website.  and finally a big thanks to everyone who helped organise the evening…

blogging, measuring, planning, social networking, targeting, user-generating

Measuring the Groundswell: how Forrester are identifying and quantifying groups and behaviours in the social media space


so I've started reading Groundswell, a book about how social technologies are transforming business, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li.  some of its early content is a little objectionable, for example "some people were using Twitter in some pretty silly ways … giving hourly updates on what they had for lunch or what meeting they had just entered … that gets pretty insipid after a very short while".

tell that to the kids behind scanwiches – who've created an awesome space which displays cut profiles of globally inspired sandwiches accompanied by simple ingredient captions.  the point is that its not our place to judge.  the world is evolving, and what's a great more important that deciding whats insipid or not is working out how to help brands enter and thrive in a world of social medias.

fortunately then that the authors get beyond this to very usefully classify six groups according to the different activities and applications that people use in the Groundswell; the "social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other; rather that from traditional institutions like corporations".  the classifications are:

  • creators – publish blogs / content, maintain a web page, upload content
  • critics – who react to other content online, postings comments, ratings or reviews or editing wikis
  • collectors – saving URLs and tags or using RSS, collecting and aggregating the internet
  • joiners – participating thru maintaining profiles on social networking sites
  • spectators – who consume what the rest produce
  • inactives – the nonparticipants

all well and good, but  here's the cool bit.  they've created and made public their Social Technographics tool that allows you to profile a group of people based on age, country and sex against these six behaviours.  you can then index them against the general population, allowing you to plan and build social media strategies based on the kinds of behaviour people already demonstrate.  which in Mediation's book is pretty darn cool.

so the profile of 25-34 year only men in the UK looks like this:


with the most predominant behaviours being spectating and joining (66%  and 59% of 25-34 UK men doing those respectively).  but what's interesting is the likelihood of them being collectors, indexing 183 against the all adult population.  the list obsession so loved of the lads mag genre re-invented for the social media space.

does this tell you what your social media strategy should be?  no.  does it help you identify and quantify the predominant behaviours of the people you're trying to target?  yes.  and that's important.  I've sat in two many sessions where the phrase 'we'll get people to create content for us' has been thrown out.  it of course may be the right suggestion, but a little objective rigeur and analysis never hurt anyone.  even if it was about what you had for lunch.