citizen based journalism

Tick tock, tick tock

Time and social media

I haven’t been so hot on the blogging recently (half finished drafts sat in my WordPress app I realise don’t count!) but I vow to get back on the wagon. And the reason for my lack of published posts? Social media! Ironic you may say.

I’m having a pretty exciting time at work – social media has now taken over all that I do, and I couldn’t be more pleased, I LOVE it. But, it has meant a lot of long days and no time for blogging, tweeting or finding the twenty-or-so new social networks that have probably come out since my last post.

And with that, I get to the point of this post (and begin to contradict myself…) – time and its relationship with our online behaviour.

More often than not, we face objections to actually doing social (from our peers, clients, and even that voice inside our head) in the form of one of the following:

  • I don’t have enough time in my day to do social
  • Social media is too instantaneous and real-time; it scares me
  • I won’t be able to respond or engage with the community in the real-time manner that is required by social media
  • I can’t see the ROI on the necessary time I’ll need to invest to make social a success

I could write a blog post on each of these alone, exploring the reasons why, in fact, none of these are valid reasons to not do social (duly noted that I used the first one in my opening paragraph…) However, I think when faced with these oppositions, the best thing to do is flip it on its head. Let’s not think of reasons why we can’t do it; let’s think of reasons why we can’t NOT do it. And that of course is just a confusing way of saying, you have to do it.

It was a few months back now, but something I saw that really said to me who was leading the way in terms of understanding and integratng social into their business, was (perhaps surprisingly) the recruitment initiative run by Pizza Hut, ‘Because I’m Great’. This was a complete 180 on the traditional interview – a live LinkedIn review was conducted right before a 140 second interview took place. No paper CV, no half an hour presentation, just 140 short seconds to demonstrate why you have what it takes to be the head of digital. And the reason? To demonstrate an understanding of the short amount of time we now have to grab people’s attention and convince them to take action. And of course using Twitter’s 140 character limit as a rule of thumb for the time constraint. I personally think it’s brilliant.

So back to my original point. If Pizza Hut get the importance of doing social to such an extent that it even impacts their recruitment process, then so should the rest of us. This initiative also goes to show how time doesn’t have to be a barrier to doing social – if we can now recruit our most senior staff in 140 seconds, we can certainly put out a few tweets.

On to the next point about the instantaneous nature of social and the potential risks involved. I again urge anyway quoting this as a reason, to flip it on its head and understand the value of a instantaneous communications tool. The best way to rationalise this is thinking back a few weeks to the birth of Prince George. If my office were to be used as a representation of the British population as a whole, then all 65 million of us  were glued to @ClarenceHouse awaiting the announcement with baited breath. As soon as they knew, we knew. As soon as we knew, all of our followers knew. And so went the spiral until everyone knew about the arrival of the next King.

This demonstrates how important social media can be from a business perspective – using it as a word of mouth marketing tool, but on steroids. Of course, we have to think of the flip-side of this, when things can go horribly wrong and spread like wildfire through the social space. But that’s where you get a good PR agency, a good social media team and a robust issues management plan (get in touch if you’re interested…!).

So to end, I think this quote from Aaron Lee really sums up both the necessity for using social media, and also the need for consideration of time in all its various meanings:

“These days, social media waits for no one. If you’re late for the party, you’ll probably be covered by all the noise and you might not be able to get your voice across. It could only mean that if you want to be heard by the crowd, you have to be fast; and on social media, that means you have to be REALLY fast.”

So hurry up, the clock’s ticking…

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News bulletin

When I first interviewed for my job, one of the tasks I had to do was develop a presentation on ‘citizen based journalism.’ Now this was in 2011 and I started to wonder whether anything had changed since my findings then. In short, the only change I’ve seen is the growth of this trend where public citizens play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and disseminating news and information (thanks for the definition Wikipaedia).

In my opinion, there is no longer a clear definition between what is news and what is noise about daily happenings. News has become what you as an individual deem it to be. We can now pick and choose what news we consume – we are no longer reliant on what the 10 o’clock news tells us. In fact, due to the instantaneous nature of the social world we live in, the 10 o’clock news and the morning papers are actually giving us old news.

So who is the journalist in 2013? We have journalists in a traditional sense who work for a news organisation, whose sole job is to find, gather and analyse news. But then we have us. If we provide real-time updates as an event unfolds, does that make us journalists too?

When there was the helicopter crash in Vauxhall last month, I saw it before it even made the news because one of my Facebook friends uploaded a photo of the smoke from the scene as they waited for a train. Is he a journalist? No, not in the traditional sense. But when you think of the purpose of a journalist’s job, then this certainly fulfilled that criteria.

I like that now the two roles merge. Traditional journalists have come to rely on people to provide the on-the-ground, credible perspective; often viewing their Tweetdeck feeds as the new newswire when it comes to keeping abreast of current stories.

And I know this isn’t a new concept, I just wonder how, and if, it will change in the future. Will we become ever more skeptical of what is packaged to us as ‘news’ and turn to our social profiles for on-the-ground reporting and opinion. Perhaps we will become a little more selective in who and what we follow, but I think the future of news reporting is most definitely in the social sphere. And this ties nicely to one of my earlier posts about why social media sits with PR professionals.

Also on this topic we have the term ‘news jacking’; the art of latching on to a current piece of news and becoming part of the conversation, and something that sits so beautifully across news and social media. Done right, this can work really well and is an easy PR quick win. A great example of this right now is the Harlem shake that’s currently causing a pretty impressive online storm. If you don’t know about it, firstly, where have you been, and secondly, Google it!

And now there are a lot of companies, charities and groups of friends on Friday nights recording their own versions and jumping in on the current hot topic. A really good example was done this week by JG Environmental, who did a pest-themed Harlem shake. In an awesome example of the power of both PR and social media (here is where I get excited!) there was a hashtag, a YouTube video with views increasing by the minute, online conversations and even local media coverage. If you want to know how to become part of a meme whilst promoting your business and giving your company that personality that social media allows you to do so well – take a look at these guys. And for that matter, their social media strategy in general is one to be admired.

And on that note, I’m off to Harlem shake around my house.

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