Facebook

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.

 

Advertisements

It’s time to take social media seriously; and it’s not all fun and games

Safebook - staying safe online

You may read this post title and think ‘oh here she goes again’ but actually today I’m taking a different view on social media. As someone who whole heartedly believes in the benefits of social media, I also whole heartedly believe in the power of social media. And power does not necessarily mean good things.

With a generation of children and young adults who have grown up in an extremely social world, we’re looking at a dynamic outside of the school environment that we’ve never had to deal with before. A world where a small amount of playground teasing turns into a an online world of hatred and constant torment. Where hideous trends like ‘hot or not’ are causing huge amounts of already self-conscious teens to rely on their ‘friends’ to rate their appearance. And where young girls still in their school uniforms are being allowed to behave like 20-somethings flaunting themselves to whoever chooses to engage with them.

There have been so many – too many – instances over the last year alone where we’ve heard about another young person having taken their own life because of constant online torment.

I previously referred to social media and the ‘surround sound effect’. Well here it is in all it’s ugly glory – surround sound bullying.

And in my opinion, those who should be taking responsibility are shying away from what needs to be addressed, immediately. And that’s not through lack of desire, I believe it’s through lack of knowledge of whats really going on; perceived lack of ability to do anything about it (how do you control the whole internet right?), and genuine fear of the repercussions of taking a stand. But, how many cases of online bullying that have ultimately led to a young person feeling that they have no choice but to take their own life, does it take before we stand up and properly do something about it.

So what’s the solution? First we have to really understand the problem. What has led to a culture where this type of activity is able to harbour online seemingly uncontrolled? I believe there are three key issues:

  • Lack of supervision and moderation: We wouldn’t allow our children outside during break time with their fellow classmates, left to do entirely as they choose, without any adult supervision. This is because they don’t necessarily know the dangers that are out there, they often don’t know where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are, and sometimes they need someone to turn to if they need a helping hand. So why are they left unsupervised online? Lack of supervision and moderation of online conversations means a small amount of ‘harmless’ teasing manifests itself into a daily torrent of abuse that the individual is unable to get away from. This is unacceptable.
  • A culture that says this is ok: This type of activity is only allowed to manifest itself for as long as its being accepted. Until someone really questions it and take a stand, it will continue. Without education, young adults will continue to behave as they currently doing, as they are naive to the longer term repercussions. This is unacceptable.
  • Social networks not taking responsibility: There was once a time not so long ago where Facebook was quick to shut you down if the cover photo on your fan page had text covering greater than 25% of its area. They were quick to spot that. But they don’t seem too quick to spot potentially harmful messages posted between members in the network it created. I understand that policing social networks is a seemingly impossible task – where does the responsibility begin or end? But, doing nothing? This is unacceptable.

So there’s the problem; how do we find a solution? In my opinion three key groups have to stand up and take action: parents, schools and the social networks themselves. Now I am probably in no position to preach about what should or shouldn’t be done – I don’t have children, I’m not a head teacher and I certainly don’t own a social network. But one day I will have children, I have a little sister (although she’d hate for me to call her that) who has grown up in this very social world I’m talking about, I’ve so far spent the majority of my life in a school, and I like to think I know a lot about social networks.

So here’s what I think needs to be done:

Parents
It is the responsibility of a parent to educate, protect and encourage the best from their children. Just as for brands and companies, the birth of social media brought crazy new parameters to communication and a new overwhelming world to which parents had little to no experience in. They didn’t understand it, didn’t know what to tell their children about it, and believed it to be merely another form of communication. Years on, many parents are on these social networks and understand how their children use them – even policing them from afar. But what about those that don’t?

Parents need to take the time to educate their children on what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to engaging in social media. They need to teach them how to feel safe; when to bring an adult into a situation – when to hit that ‘report’ button.

How can we hope for things to change if parents don’t take this first step towards protecting their children?

Schools
But it’s not all resting on the shoulders of parents. Some schools are taking action in the area of online safety – and it’s good – but it’s not enough. Talks are being held with both parents and children, but they are not compulsory and they are assuming a certain amount of knowledge of social media to start with.

But it’s not all bad news, Childnet International are a non-profit organisation aiming to make the internet ‘a great and safe place for children’. Aimed at young people, teachers and parents, the organisation aims to do exactly what is needed in this area – educate and provide the necessary tools to keep young people safe online.

Friday saw Safer Internet Day where a number of schools around the country dedicated part of their curriculum to educating their pupils about the potential dangers of the social world, and how to stay safe. This is good – and some of the initiatives were really excellent – but this shouldn’t fall to one day a year. I’d like to see this as a dedicated curriculum piece throughout the year, from a very young age. With 59% of 11-12 year olds having a social media profile, they need to understand what they are doing from that very age.

And it’s not just about learning how to stay safe – that is really just theory. And it also assumes that ‘staying safe’ means being wary of adults posing as peers. But what about peers? Some of the worst stories we’ve heard over the last year have been due to online bullying by classmates. For this, it’s not about learning to be safe, it’s about there being repercussions for those individuals who assume that hiding behind a keyboard makes their behaviour is ok. These repercussions have to fall under the remit of schools when the event is an extension of what is happening in the school environment.

Social networks themselves
And then finally it’s the responsibility of the networks that are hosting and harbouring these activities. There needs to be greater accountability for the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. And steps in the right direction are being made. Following the inquest into the tragic death of Tallulah Wilson who killed herself after extensive activity on self-harm pages on Tumblr, Culture Secretary Maria Miller is this week unveiling at the cabinet meeting a call for social media companies to transform how they police their sites. This call will see representatives from a host of social networks hopefully form consensus about responsibilities in policing and removing offensive, potentially harmful posts.

It is the likes of these individuals who understand the blurred lines where our offline lives meet our online lives – why is what would be considered beyond unacceptable – even illegal – in an offline environment, are we having to accept as ok in a social environment.

So let’s hope that this drives change; let’s hope social networks stand up and take things seriously, and that legislation is brought in to police social networks better and protect those that are most vulnerable within them. Let’s hope that both parents and schools step up to their responsibilities of education and implementing repercussions. Because it’s not one person’s responsibility – none of these things will work in silo – change will only be seen if all three parties step up and take action to change the culture that we seem to have found ourselves in.

As children leave the likes of Facebook because their parents are on there, it’s no longer enough to be there too. You can’t follow them round the internet, but you can make them smarter internet users. Social media will not go away – and I’m glad about that because of the good that it can bring – but this is an area that needs to change.This will change because it has to. No question about it.

When mathematicians aren’t so anti-social…

Social network friend clusters

Social network friendship clusters

As someone who loves social media and has a sometimes not so secret love for maths (love is a strong word, maybe a heavy appreciation and respect is slightly more accurate), the data analysis side of our online behaviour is something that I find pretty exciting.

Anyone who’s ever studied maths will know Stephen Wolfram – he’s your go-to guy for any maths related crisis (oh yes, they exist). Over the past year, he has been running Personal Analytics for Facebook – a research project designed to give users the facts and stats on their personal accounts with some funky graphs and charts. Pretty cool. But the point to the project was to obtain (completely transparently) a mass of data that would allow for in-depth analysis and provide a snapshot of Facebook usage across the world.

The full report is pretty lengthy, but there is so much that we can use to 1) build a case for Facebook (and social media as a whole discipline) and 2) extrapolate the data to develop intelligent forecasts and ROI measures for our campaigns.

And across the ocean, another Facebook study has been conducted – one that alleges to map obesity rates to Facebook activity. Published in PloS One, this Harvard Medical School study concludes that our interests listed on our profiles determine our likelihood of being obese. The idea is that there is a relationship between the lifestyle habits we endorse online and our real-world health.

The research team explored the content users across the US were listing as their interests, what they posted to their timelines and the content they liked and shared. All of which apparently leads to a conclusions about the likelihood of obesity. As pretty well put by the study authors, the potential of this type of data understanding “could be harnessed for intelligently targeted health interventions, such as through online and mobile messaging”. A very, very interesting concept for someone in my line of work.

Looking at these pieces of data analysis lead me to what I deem to be a pretty important conclusion. Never underestimate the power of data.

We are often blindsided by the all singing all dancing social media campaigns we see and get ahead of ourselves when coming up with our approach. But the most intelligent and successful social media initiatives are those that are founded in data, research and well-considered strategy.

With the rights tools and know-how, we can understand our audiences in such great depth as to pre-empt what they will be looking for, where they will be looking for it, and how.

As Wolfram puts himself, “it feels like we’re starting to be able to train a serious “computational telescope” on the “social universe”. And it’s letting us discover all sorts of phenomena, that have the potential to help us understand much more about society and about ourselves.”

So to do social right, embrace your inner nerd and learn to love the numbers before jumping in. And if that’s just not possible, come to me and my team, we love data!

Read, love, share.

Anyone can create a Facebook brand page. Or can they?

confused

I’ve learnt over the last few weeks that Facebook do not make lives easy for page managers!!

I have a wish list of things I think Facebook should do – Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re listening, take heed.

Wish number 1 – stop making things so hidden!! What I would like is a list of rules that clearly state: you can do this, you can’t do this, do this and you’ll get closed down, don’t even dream of doing this…you get the point. Credit where credit is due; it is all there, but you have to be some sort of MI5 spy to find it.

Take for example, the cover photo rules. So I know that no more than 20% of my cover photo can be text – easy enough. And I also know that I can’t have a call to action in my cover photo. But, my definition of a call to action and Facebook’s definition could be very different. It’s a term we use a lot in PR to get a community to take action – usually around a disease area or some type of health activity.  My interpretation of what the Facebook rules do not allow is some kind of ridiculously large arrow pointing to the like button…which is fair enough. I would say, two pretty different takes on the term ‘call to action’.

Then there’s all the different default settings – not letting other people share on your timeline, the notifications settings, the positioning of images…to name a few. All things you need to think carefully about – but first of all you need to know that these exist!

Wish number 2 – have insights on posts that others share to the timeline.  Whilst insights is amazing, and almost a bit freaky in terms of the data it pulls, I really would like to know how posts by others are fairing. But hey, maybe I’ve become data spoilt!

However, on the plus side, once you’ve done it once, you’ve gone through so many different scenarios, you’re a pro!

And actually, whilst there is a bit of leg work in terms of getting to grips with the settings, there are some really nice features that work so well for the kind of work we’re doing. Timeline lends itself so nicely to telling a story –  you can go right back to when you launched and call out any key milestones, share historical content and generally get your positioning out there. Who said we couldn’t rewrite history?!

Then there’s the posts themselves and all the different features – back dating, post dating, location tagging, people tagging, pinning, marking as a milestone…the list goes on. What you want your community to see, they’ll see.

And then there’s the satisfaction of hitting ‘publish’ on the page. After the blood, sweat and tears that goes into deciphering Facebook’s Ts and Cs you get to sit back and watch the notifications rack up.

If you ever need ratification of the power of social media, it gets displayed right there in front of you: content sharing, organic engagement and likes without begging for them!

So I think my conclusion is page managers need a check list as reassurance before hitting publish. And just in case Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t follow my blog,  I’m going to make one. Stay tuned! 

Read, love, share.

A little about the Facebook updates

like pic

Facebook seems to be announcing updates as frequently as its users are updating their statuses. But the latest one is the first one that I see as being relevant to everyone’s day-to-day use.

The main update that seems to be getting all the chatter is the change to the newsfeed. Today it was announced that no longer will there be just one news feed, you will soon be able to choose whether you are seeing the photo feed, friend list feeds, music feeds, or updates of your liked pages – the Following feed.

Who cares? Well I think it will make for a much nicer browsing experience– and I am aware I’m saying this without actually having tried it out – I think it will cut down on all the junk that our feeds have become so full of. We’ll be able to pick and choose the information we see, with the click of a button. Goodbye to the endless baby pics and hello to content that we actually choose to consume.

And for companies? Well I think there’s certainly something in the ability to choose a feed of updates from the pages you’ve liked. Perhaps we will start reverting back a little to looking at those vanity metrics of how many likes our page can get, as ultimately that means we sit in someone’s dedicated feed. Of course we could still be one amongst hundreds, but we wouldn’t be competing for attention with the photos from last Friday night…

And what about the other updates? Well there’s the appearance of the newsfeed itself – images will appear much larger, multiple shares will appear as one and the thumbnails of shared links will appear bigger with more information, making for a much easier browsing experience.

Mark Zuckerberg said at the announcement today that they are trying to give us ‘the worlds best newspaper’ and I think they might just be getting there. This is the first update in a while when I think, yes, that totally makes sense. We are moving to a much more visual word where images are now telling the stories that our words once did. When time is now our luxury, we are ever more selective with how we choose to spend it online. And Facebook is now slotting nicely into these behaviours. Well done Facebook. Well done.

Read, love, share.