Tag Archives: Social Media

Google+: Moving in Circles

I have been playing with Google+ for a fair few days now. The number of people I recognise finally getting to sign up is increasing at a great rate. As a result, I am putting more and more people into Circles.

To begin with, I just saw Circles as, well, ‘different’ but I am starting to think that they are pretty neat. Let’s start off with Google’s own video about them:

The summary is simple: You can place people in as many different Circles as you like. When you share content, you decide which Circles get to see it. No-one ever knows which Circle you have put them in. If someone has put you in a Circle you are under no obligation to do the same to them.

Most people find their comfort zone in Facebook, so how does it all stack up?

  1. IT’S EASY. People can be added to Circles with just a few clicks or by a drag ‘n’ drop interface. It feels very intuitive.
  2. PRIVACY IS EASY. Have you tried using Facebook’s privacy controls recently? They are a bit of a nightmare to navigate. I love the Circle Sharing system that Google+ has as anything at all that you decide to share can be sent out to whichever Circles you want. Or you can go fully public. The choice is yours and it is easy to see at a glance what you have been doing.
  3. STOP BORING PEOPLE. There is no need to just share everything with everyone. Family pictures? Share them with your ‘Family’ Circle. Some really geeky social media stuff? Perhaps share them with ‘Social Media Geek Squad’. Your secret love of kittens? ‘Kitten lovers anonymous’. All the Circles are fully customisable.
  4. IT’S YOUR SECRET. No-one will ever know which Circles you have placed them in. Be careful though, as people do talk to each other, so someone who is NOT in your ‘Kitten lovers anonymous’ Circle may work out your terrible secret eventually…
  5. BE CAREFUL. There has to be a strong warning here which is a standard Internet one. Once you have shared ANYTHING on the Internet, even with a select few people, the assumption has to be made that one day absolutely EVERYONE could read it. It all depends on whether those select few people decide to share it! Think ‘Internet gossip’. Tools can block the ability to click ‘Share’, but ultimately you are at the mercy of cut and paste.

I hope that you have found this useful and would love to hear about how you are getting on with Circles or any other aspects of Google+.

p.s. There is a Facebook group called ‘Kitty Lovers Anonymous’ – who knew? 🙂

Facebook Developer Garage London – Special Edition

Mark Zuckerberg's keynote

I was happy to attend the Facebook Developer Garage London – Special Edition earlier in the week. I have been involved with developing applications for Facebook and other social media systems such as Twitter as part of my role at Jobsite and I was keen to find out the latest.

This event was special due to the attendance of key Facebook executives, including founder Mark Zuckerberg. Fresh from having met the Prime Minister earlier in the day, Mark gave the keynote speech. He pointed out that 50% of the 300,000 social graph plug-ins were on European sites. “Go you guys” was the quote!

Mike Vernal took to the stage to elaborate on what Facebook have been working on.

It was interesting to hear about the psychology behind a lot of Facebook’s design. Specifically, the use of faces. Our eyes are drawn to faces in life and the same applies to web pages. The use of them assists with trust on a site. The Facebook ‘Like’ button is served a billion times a day but has more impact when combined with the faces of your friends who share your opinion.

As a result, the power of the social graph technology becomes evident: Take the ‘Sign in with Facebook’ functionality that a third-party site can use. It will be more effective if alongside it a site can display, “These four friends of yours have already joined”. The numbers certainly stack up to show Facebook as the networking site to use to power this: They announced on the day that the UK has 26 million Facebook accounts and that 50% of these log in daily!

Social gaming is coming on strong and certainly features heavily on Facebook with the likes of Farmville being exceptionally popular. It was shown that there are 200 million gamers on Facebook and on average each one plays four different games. Coming up: Credit payment system and a dashboard for better navigation and game announcements.

Evolving the games industry

Kristian SegerstrÃ¥le of Playfish gave a passionate speech on where he sees this social gaming going. In fact, he sees it becoming merely ‘gaming’, in the same way you don’t use ‘electric television’. The barriers of entry to such gaming are extremely low so attract more gamers, rather than geeks in their underpants in basements. He promises fantastic things in the future and I really look forward to seeing them!

Facebook users more engaged

Riccardo Zacconi of King.com spoke of his experiences. The main take-home point here was that their web site offered games before they performed any Facebook integration. Since integrating, their user engagement has dramatically increased (shown in the graph adjacent).

In the related Q&A, I asked (after thanking Facebook on behalf of my girlfriend for making Farmville possible!) whether the console manufacturers were embracing the Facebook links or not. Microsoft, for example, have their own Xbox Live gaming platform which does a lot of this so would they see Facebook as a threat? The panel seemed happy that the big players were playing nicely. We will see!

Gustav Söderström of Spotify was also present. An interesting stat was that the average Spotify user always listens to the same eighty or so tracks: their musical tastes set in stone! However, their recent Facebook integration has thrown this wide open now that users can easily check out their friends’ tastes and share their own. Exciting!

There was a Q&A with the main executives at the end. One area of concern raised regarded response times to support queries in Europe. This is particularly important if a business is totally reliant on Facebook for its revenue. The Facebook development team consists of around thirty people. Zuckerberg: “Our IM network is maybe the second largest and we have like one guy working on it”. I’m not sure the fact that Facebook have limited resources at this time would be much consolation to the businesses in question but at least it was an honest answer.

A complaint was raised about the 5,000 friend limit. Would this be raised? Not a priority. “Most people don’t have 5,000 friends in real life”. Not considered a satisfactory answer to the marketeers who want it raised for their own benefits but I for one find abuse of profile pages for such reasons really annoying.

I got a chance to chat briefly with Mark Zuckenberg at the drinks reception afterwards. He really does come across as a lovely guy who wants to do the best thing, and obviously in his element in the geek/developer circle!

This was a really good conference. Everyone speaking was clearly passionate about what Facebook is doing and it is amazing what they have achieved in just six years. The Social Graph initiative has so much potential and I’m looking forward both to working with it myself and seeing what else is produced which takes advantage of it.

However, Facebook are still quiet on whether they ever intend to charge for use of the API…

Videos of the event (via Ustream).

#FBDG hashtag on Twitter.

Digital Surrey: Inaugural Meeting

It's Digital Surrey!

I attended the inaugural meeting of Digital Surrey last night. By way of explanation:

digitalsurrey is a community for like-minded people wanting to stay up-to-date with the ever changing digital landscape, and: meet-up, network, learn, share.

This event has evolved from the original Farnham tweetup and Twestival. It was held at the new Surrey Sports Park which is exceptionally plush! Definitely going to have to visit in a sporting mode. I have refereed at the ‘old’ part of the site which is being retired as part of the new development.

It's in the MIND!

Arriving fashionably late, I missed some of the introductions but did get to see the entirety of Benjamin Ellis giving a speech on the myths of measurement in social media. Benjamin is clearly a confident speaker and has a lot of knowledge and experience to impart in this arena. Although there were three key points referenced in the introduction to this speech, the lines were blurred and the presentation did go on too long. Really, the absolute maximum should be fifteen minutes and I think ten would be better to allow maximum use of networking (Plus reducing the time would allow a greater variety of speakers to get involved in a single meeting).

The most interesting elements touched on were the psychology-oriented ones (parts of the brain involved in decision making, for example) and this tack would have held my attention more. After all, many people talk about the benefits of social media and ROI but I am fascinated by the studies that are going on as to why social media in its various forms is effective. “Humans are sociable” is repeated often but is exceptionally wishy-washy and I suspect Benjamin has the background to really flesh this one out.

It was also curious to see some questions on the floor with the usual maxim of, “Who cares what someone had for breakfast?” with regard to status updates. This is typically over-used attack #1 on the likes of Twitter but it was surprising to see it at an event like this.

It was great to chat to a variety of people after the event to see what they are up to. Of particular interest was how that the most well received presentations given on social media at conferences are STILL the ones along the lines of, “This is what a blog is, here is how you write a post…” – never ever under-estimate just how many people still don’t know about this stuff!

As hinted at above, I feel this event would really benefit from a stronger focus on the networking side and setting a real time limit on the presentations. Force them to be short, sharp and exciting! I’m not convinced the lecture hall format is the best. Let’s get it somewhere more informal and, dare I say it, intimate.

Abigail brings on the CAKE!

Let’s end on a really positive note though. The organisation courtesy of Abigail and co was excellent and the cake that was provided was absolutely delicious!

Thanks to James Firth for the use of his excellent photos.

Other resources:

Social Media in Recruitment Conference 2010

I was happy to attend the Social Media in Recruitment Conference 2010. As a declaration of interest, I should point out that this was representing Jobsite who were the Gold Sponsor.

I am excited by the potential of social media and communities but this is always tempered with a degree of practicality. This really comes from having grown up since this has developed from scratch so getting a good view of what works and what definitely does NOT work.

First of all, much credit to the organisers as this was a very deftly run event. It was held at the British Library Conference Centre which was very comfortable with a perfect audio-visual setup and excellent catering. You know when an event is well-run when at no point do you really need to think about how it is being run.

So, let’s turn to the different presentations that were given over the day (Note that I did not see all of them due to other networking that came up!)

  • Ariel Eckstein: Strategies for using LinkedIn as part of your online recruitment plans.
    Ariel is an MD within LinkedIn so understandably this presentation only paid lip-service to other ways of recruiting by social media. LinkedIn see themself as catering exclusively to the professional state (Although lots of job boards used to have this view once before becoming more generalist). It was interesting to see the professional services that LinkedIn offer although I felt that the whole thing felt more like a sales pitch than anything else. It is LinkedIn’s API that personally interests me and their plans for this were not really touched on.
  • Andy Headworth: Key strategies for using Twitter effectively in recruitment.
    Twitter and its potential is of particular interest to me. Far too much talk about Twitter is ‘pie in the sky’ and not backed up with any numbers but Andy impressed me with an excellent and balanced presentation. Not only was a case study demonstrated but he freely admitted its flaws (first stage deployment which did not feature engagement) and published the statistics behind it. I will be keeping a keen eye on Andy and what he is up to in the future as a result.
  • Lisa Scales: How online communities can play a part in your attraction strategies.
    A subject close to my heart and I do really like Lisa. There was some good use of slides and a good introduction detailing how humans have ALWAYS been social (required for survival!) and how social media is really just bringing this back to the Internet as some businesses did lose their way. That said, I felt in general the focus and pacing of this presentation did lose its way a little (nervousness?). I would also have much appreciated some firm examples of good (and bad!) community management rather than just a few slides detailing the principles. Lisa clearly loves this subject and I feel could really excel in presenting on it.
  • Elkie Holland: 2009 Social Media Success Stories.
    I really loved this presentation. Why? Elkie appeared genuinely excited with social media and the work that she has done with it. A lot of presentations can be very dry but as the whole point of social media is to be, well, social its nice to see someone enthusing! I would strongly recommend taking a look at what she has been up to.
  • Lucian Tarnowski: Social Media strategies for ‘Generation Y’ job seekers.
    Lucian was an excellent speaker. He particularly stood out as he was the first presenter of the day to actually step out from behind the lectern and command the stage. ‘Generation Y’ can be a bit buzzword-y but this presentation seemed to sidestep that and be genuinely interesting. I particularly liked the phrasing of it being ‘Generation Why’ (e.g. “Why haven’t I been promoted, I’ve been here six weeks!’). Essentially, the generation are used to being successful from Day 1 and so hitting failure in the job market following graduation can take some getting used to. So how to go about capturing them from social media and bridge the gap? Lucian’s company, BraveNewTalent is predicated around that. That said, there was a little heckling during questions about ROI…
  • Peter Gold: How to maximise the use of Facebook pages.
    Two speakers in a row to actually make use of the stage! A practical presentation which featured some good advice. For example, ensuring that the landing page is particularly relevant! Certainly the Facebook pages which have custom graphics and layouts do stand out and will promote much better engagement.
  • Adrian Marlowe (Lawspeed): The legal issues surrounding Social Media and employment.
    This was another presentation that I was particularly looking forward to. After all, a lot does get said about legal concerns with social media. Employees have been sacked as a result of videos and comments posted on web sites. Sometimes these situations have gone to tribunals and they have won! Lots of good pointers but one aspect I particularly remember was concerning checking out job applicants on, say, Facebook. Even though it may be something relevant that stops you progressing further (say, hate speech) the fact that you may have seen sensitive personal information (for example, sexual preference) could be held against you!
  • Overall, this was a good conference. Certainly the organisation was excellent. So too were some of the presentations as described above: It was great to see case studies emerging and actual numbers! I would like to have seen stronger showings on community building though: This is one aspect where real case studies are needed.

    What were your thoughts on the day?

    See also: #SMIR tweets on Twitter.

Jobs By Twitter: Doing it the right way

My employer, Jobsite, picked up the Candidate Service Award at the onrec Awards 2010. One of the cited services that we launched over the last year towards this was Jobs By Twitter. In my capacity as Lead Software Engineer I performed the construction, based on the vision of Gary Robinson.

My interest in the web, hypermedia, security and so on also gives me an affinity towards the buzzword-heavy realm of social media. It has been interesting following its development but those with a background in electronic communications, especially those from the pre-Internet days of modems and bulletin board systems, will have a natural grasp of the social concepts and etiquette that apply. When your content downloading was restricted to a 1200/75 baud modem (on a good day) you quickly learned to follow the tenet of the time: “Do not excessively annoy. Do not be too easily excessively annoyed”. This is a great guideline to follow even today.

This brings us neatly to Twitter. Its broadcasting model makes it so easy to do so many very annoying things but it is far more beneficial to take a step back and think: “SHOULD we do this? What is actually the best, and definitely not annoying, thing to do?”.

The trend right now is to just spam Twitter to death with jobs. It is completely missing the point of social media and engaging with people. You don’t just wander into a room at a party and start reading a script, ignoring everyone. You have conversations. This is to startlingly simple that it amazes me that some STILL just don’t get it.

I get several Follow requests a day from accounts which are nothing more than just streams of jobs. If I am looking for a job I will be proactively hitting a job board or networking by actually talking to people. Social media definitely comes into play with this latter point but that doesn’t include reading a static list of jobs on a feed. I’ll be using powerful search tools on a dedicated site. Key point: Use the best tools for the job. Twitter is not a panacea. “It adds SEO” is a weak argument.

Laziness comes into the above. It is EASY to spam content into Twitter. Plus it ticks the social media checkboxes that those in management may be obsessed about. It is quick and easy to do the wrong thing that (just about) gives a good impression to those holding the clipboards. You may even be able to sell it to other companies as an amazing Internet service using the ‘wooo, wavey hands, social media!’ sales tactic.

Our design at Jobsite was to embrace how Twitter is actually used: People choose who they follow. They unfollow them again if they find them uninteresting. These choices can change over time. Any service provider must respect the wishes of the user at all times.

With our service, the user opts to follow us and we then let them set up their search criteria. Thus the feed we provide them is fully customised. The eligible jobs are sent by Direct Message (privacy concerns – job hunters are quite likely to not want their desires made public). The user decides how often they get jobs. The user can change any of these settings at any time.

Another feature is that the user does not need an existing Jobsite account. This makes it very quick to be up and running and this is very important with the speed of getting things done on the web nowadays. Add too many hoops to jump through and the user’s initial interest will have gone and they will be distracted by something else shiny on their Twitter feed. We are intending to perform tighter integration with our site and others but making the ride a smooth one is very important.

We have a form of engagement in the above but it is not conversational in scope. That’s an area that there is so much potential in and we have plenty of ideas. We do have to tread carefully, however: The recruiters pay our wages! We can never stop (nor should we) candidates discussing jobs and recruiters but if we are the ones offering them the service and it becomes heated…well, you can see the conflict of interest that suddenly arises. This crosses over into communities, however, and more on that in a future posting.

From an engineering perspective, there have been a few challenges. Firstly, the Twitter API is a little twitchy. I ended up having to put several levels of cross-checking as I ultimately couldn’t always trust what it was telling me. It is also a shame that there is no ‘callback’ system where Twitter can inform you that a new follower has popped up. That would be preferable than having to always determine this by checking an account’s entire Follower list. We also had to balance Twitter’s request throttling with ensuring users got a quick response. We think we have got it right.

I would love to hear your comments on our service and approach plus any other examples of use of Twitter in this area… good or bad!

Rentokil: Playing cute over social media mishaps only goes so far

Rentokil are not doing themselves any favours right now in either PR nor social media. On the PR front, the fact that they blatantly misled the media about infestations on public transport was gloriously picked apart by Ben Goldacre of Bad Science blog fame.

Rentokil essentially lied. You can’t play cute and send out figures saying WE FOUND THIS IN TRAIN COMPARTMENTS only to then attempt to distance yourself by saying, “Actually, umm, that was just theoretical… for something like a train compartment… which no-one ever cleaned or even visited”. I’m not sure whether the cockroaches or Rentokil’s PR machine make me want to scrub myself down more.

Of course, the whole furore was quickly picked up by Twitter users everywhere which brought more pressure on Rentokil. However, as Ben Goldacre’s blog details, they only reacted BECAUSE of this pressure as opposed to doing it because, well, trying to put the record straight is the decent thing to do. Ben had been asking their PR for the actual sources on the dodgy figures for a while but getting nowhere initially.

It’s pretty simple: Social media is about engagement with people. When engaging with people you should not do evil things. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, the community site of your choice… they follow those same guiding principles of other forms of communication over the years. The only new element is the sheer number of people using all this stuff.

Rentokil claim to be just finding their feet in social media, hence cute posts about why they are following people on Twitter. Spam follows are, strangely enough, annoying. I get followed by an increasing number ‘social media experts’ or accounts which just spam quotes (or both in some cases!) let alone pest control ones.

The thing is, that cuteness does not go very far when Rentokil state themselves that they are being advised by ‘social media partner’ Wonderful. Well, clearly something is going wrong there somewhere. The public isn’t falling for the, “Hey, isn’t pest control kinda quirky, and hey, we don’t know much about social media, sorry for any mistakes!” line and it is pretty bad that they are trying it in the first place. Rentokil is actually paying money for this sort of advice.

You can’t lay all of the blame at their social media partner though. It is just an unfortunate bit of timing that Rentokil’s own PR team decided to have a bit of a lapse of ethics and then not having the social media savvy to control the situation properly. That said, if you do something REALLY bad (like, you know, lying about infestations to the media to try and sell a product…) no amount of social media tinkering is going to allow you to save face.

Unless, of course, you back it up by taking strong action. A cute apology does not count as strong action.