Month: February 2014

Moving home: from Facebook to Instagram

Group photo

For seven years now I have been a dedicated Facebook user. And that’s actually a relatively short time for someone my age – I ironically (based on what I do for a living now) had a ‘I’m not joining Facebook’ rebellion. And then I realised all my friends were off to uni and I was missing out on keeping up with their lives.

So having gotten over my rebellion I became an avid Facebook user for seven very social years. Then it all changed. From having Facebook as my social media home, I recently packed up my life (my photos, events, documentation of my every last activity, my relationship, my friendships) and moved house. To Instagram.

So what was the reason for my move? It had a lot to do with the ever changing settings on Facebook that left me totally unconfident in the privacy services it was allegedly offering. It seems that by default Facebook wants to catch you out – defaulting things to public, adding new features without explaining the implications of using them, and making admin rights so complicated that it’s a challenge for people who even work in social media.

One Sunday when I realised the privacy settings on my page were not working as they had been set, I decided my home was no longer Facebook. Faced with the inadequacy of the settings (for example setting all photos to completely private; and then them proceeding to be publicly viewable), I removed all of my photos from my page.

It was in doing that I realised the thing I loved about Facebook. Unintentionally, it had become the documentation of the good times I’ve had over the past seven years – the holidays, the parties, the days out, the festivals, the spontaneous ridiculousnesses with my best friend. Did I really want to lose all of that?

At the same time I was pondering over this point, I read in the Evening Standard magazine an article about social media that really hit home for me. Being a commuter, I usually have the Evening Standard eagerly thrust in my face on a daily basis, but rarely do I pick up the magazine version. So when choosing to accept it on this  particular evening (and being a strong believer in fate), I felt this article was somewhat poignant in my current social media conundrum (also known as a #middleclassproblem – ‘I just don’t know what social media network to use’). Here’s what it said:

“It’s as if we no longer believe that being present is enough – we have to record our experience in order to validate it…”

And with this I realised that I shouldn’t lose all of my documented experiences, I should just move them. It’s now part of our behaviour – we experience something; we document it. I didn’t need to leave home for good like a stroppy teenager that’s had a fight with their parents, I could instead find a new home to document life’s experiences. Consider it like leaving home to go to uni – you have a new house, but that doesn’t mean you lose your home.

Which leads me to stop talking about the negatives of Facebook, and remember what it is good for – there’s things we are all good at, it’s just about learning what those are.

Facebook remains the quickest, most efficient mechanism for getting something out there fast. This very blog being the best example of that – I want people to read and share my blog, and luckily for me, there’s over 500 friends on Facebook who might do just that. But more importantly, the one thing that kept me on Facebook, was the group chat that I’ve had continuously live for over a year now – without the ability to real-time ask my oldest friends if my outfit is ok, what their thoughts are on the film I’ve just watched, or hear their latest relationship developments; I’m pretty sure I’d be lost.

So the intention of this post was to not just rant about Facebook’s flaws and put you all off forever, it was actually to portray that social media is very personal. Too many people talk about the latest trends and over-analyse user demographics. But really, who cares? People will pick and choose their social media behaviour to be reflective of their mood, the stage in their life they are at, and the type of thing they’ve just experienced. And it’s the cleverest brands out there that will realise this. And it’s those brands that will succeed in social media.

Read, love, share.



Social media and sub-Saharan Africa. Really?

To continue the #ViewFromThePlane series this post is written by my good friend Pippa. She’s currently on a three-month trip with the United Nations Association International Service to Burkina Faso. Here she gives her #ViewFromThePlane.


The scene out of the window is typical of a sub-Saharan high street; women sell fruit on the side of the road, rogue donkeys wander the streets and there’s dust, everywhere. Here I am in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, a place that couldn’t be further from London both in terms of culture and resources. Burkina has some of the world’s lowest human development indicators in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and income. But it’s not all malnutrition and dirty drinking water. Ouagadougou presents a ‘modern’ West Africa, where businesses function, taxis roam the streets and you can even get wifi (if you’re lucky).

But in a country where many continue to struggle obtaining basic human rights, is there really a place for social media?

Last week I had dinner with a Burkinabe friend. When I asked him what he had had planned for the rest of the evening he responded “I’ll go home and chat to my friends on Facebook”. For him, Facebook is an ideal way to stay in touch with his friends from university who are based all over the country. Like many people in the UK, he uses social media to ‘socialise’ in a virtual realm.

But in reality; computers, smart phones and tablets don’t play a part in the lives of the majority of the people here. Serge, another
Burkinabe friend, estimates that as little as one in twenty own a device capable of using the internet. Serge is an educated 32 year old with a career in finance. After many chats on the subject, he acknowledged the power of social media but commented “it’s for the developed world, here we have other priorities”.

In his experience, a very small demographic use social media: the young, wealthy and educated. Gender inequality is still an issue here and it’s apparent that more men than women have access to the internet, let alone social media. According to the Guardian, in Sub-Saharan Africa, ‘45% fewer women than men have access to the internet’.

So, with so few people using social media in Burkina, how functional can it really be?

A couple of weeks ago around 300,000 people took to the streets, in peaceful demonstrations against potential changes to the constitution that could allow long-time President Compaoré to run for another term. The protests were supposedly the country’s largest in decades, and this time, were accompanied by vivid online activity. Twitter saw tweets from those expressing their opposition to the president and mobile devices were used to tweet pictures of the protests in action.

Meanwhile, groups were created on Facebook in which Burkinabes documented their frustrations and those pro-Campaoré expressed their support for him and anguish at the civil uprising. By Burkinabe standards, social media was buzzing with political conversation.

On the face of it Burkina Faso is a country that is not yet capable of fully functioning social media. When you search Burkina Faso on Google Images you are still faced with images resembling an Oxfam advert, and indeed this is an accurate reflection of life in many parts of the country. That said, economic disparities between different regions of the country are huge and social media seems to be excitedly waiting in the wings, ready to be used by those who have the socio-economic means to do so.

Words of SazJ
So no surprises there about access being restricted to the wealthy and the educated. But, when i asked Pippa if she would write her #ViewFromThePlane, I actually had to question whether there would be anything to write about – was it stupid to assume that every country in the world uses social media?

But alas, it’s there, and it’s in its rawest sense. In the western world we get consumed with thinking how we, as brands, can become part of people’s lives and how we can use social media to do that. But we forget why social networks were first created, and what makes them so powerful. It’s socialising in its most exciting form. And the people of Burkina Faso are embracing social media for just that. Let’s hope we can keep the brands away.

Find more from Pippa on her blog here.

How to work with influencers by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift Red Tour

Last weekend I was part of the crowd of 20,000 teenage girls seeingTaylor Swift at the O2. I realise I am no longer a teenage girl, but for a few hours I let my hair down and sang along to Love Story like the best of them.

In between the support act (The Vamps) and Taylor herself coming on, they played a video clip up on the big screens. The video talked about the launch of her RED Tour and the promotion around both the album and the tour itself.

Why did this interest you may ask? When did this blog become a review of teenage pop icons? Well actually, not only was I pleasantly surprised with the concert itself (believe it or not), I was also massively interested in the social media activities surrounding the tour and album promotion.

Of course there was the hashtagging before, during and after the concert – nothing new there – but what really interested me was the excellent use of influencer engagement. Before the launch of her RED album, Taylor Swift (or her record label) approached the 13 most active fans from around the world and invited them to follow her around in the run up to her album launch. Those who ‘followed’ her online could quite literally ‘follow’ Taylor Swift during her week long media tour. And the idea? These already very active followers would take to their social media profiles and document the media tour using #TaylorFollowers.

I think this is brilliant. A perfect example of online behaviour becoming part of our offline lives – bringing ‘following someone’ to reality (in a non creepy way). So why was this so great? Three key reasons:

  • Number 1: It rewarded fan loyalty. There’s nothing like proving to a fan that they are valued, and this does it in the best way possible for your typical Taylor Swift fan – put them in front of their idol, congratulate their loyalty and give them a platform on which to have a voice in something that they are very passionate about
  • Number 2: Inviting and encouraging user generated content gave an impression of organic promotion. We’ll always be more welcoming to something our peers have told us vs. a brand or company. Combine our peers with our favourite celebrity telling us something, then you have a very powerful promotion machine
  • Number 3: It increased the reach exponentially. Not only was it using the organic reach of the 13 chosen fans (cleverly chosen for that  very reason), it expanded it to a audience that may have previously had very little to do with Taylor swift. Me, for example

There’s no better way to promote a brand (and let’s face it, a successful celebrity is a brand) than through content created by those that rate the brand so much. It’s a classic case of authenticity and trust.

The concept of influence is hotly debated. I believe there is no one definition of influence; more an expression dependant on what you’ trying to achieve. Here Taylor Swift was trying to launch her latest album to the biggest audience possible; one that will be as receptive as possible. And the best way to do that? For her it was engaging her most loyal, socially active, influential fans.

And those are three key principles that could be applied to any brand, activity or indeed, celebrity. Whilst a brand not so exciting or head turning as Taylor Swift may not have the same size of fanbase or reach, there will always be influencers of opinion and those driving for something – be it promotion, change or just wanting to raise awareness. And it’s these people that are your most valuable assets. Get on their wrong side and you’re over; get on their right side, and the only way is up.