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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Dramatic events throw a nation into turmoil. A disaffected constituency rises up and, spurred on by communications technology, quickly organizes. External forces have the power to ensure that this enabling communications technology continues running – as well as the power to shut it down at will.

This is one way of describing the situation Twitter and NTT America found themselves in earlier this week when Iranian protestors – and their supporters in the US and elsewhere – demanded the company reschedule planned maintenance that would shut down the service at a critical time.

It is also a description of the options available to the US government in April 1994 as it weighed whether or not to intervene in what we now refer to as the Rwandan genocide.

I don’t raise this point to draw comparisons between Iranian protesters and Hutu militias. For what it’s worth I’m on record as advocating that Twitter reschedule its maintenance.

On the contrary I draw this comparison to illustrate a point. The US did not jam radio broadcasts in Rwanda in 1994 out of concerns of violating international law and involving itself in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.

When Twitter and NTT America rearranged their plans they took sides in the internal affairs of Iran.

However much I may agree with the move, this raises ethical questions. Setting aside generally-accepted lobbying practices, should companies involve themselves in the politics of a sovereign nation? (And as you think about the question, remember how some US companies involved themselves in Latin American politics during the Cold War).

The questions become murkier when you consider the news that Twitter’s planned downtime was rescheduled, at least in part, as a result of a request by the US State Department. Whatever you views on this issue, requests made by the US government to technology companies have been the subject of recent controversy (to put it mildly). Should companies cooperate with the US government when cooperation forces them to – by definition – side with the political aims of a group of people in another country?

Let’s switch gears for a minute and think about Facebook. The recent murder of a security guard at the Holocaust museum in Washington DC prompted Michael Arrington to write, for a second time, about a Facebook policy that permits hate groups to be active on the site. Facebook employees responded to Arrington’s post by defending the policy on free speech grounds.

Whatever my personal feelings, I can see – and I hope most others can as well – that both sides have approached this issue thoughtfully and with the goal of taking what they perceive to be the right, moral course of action. And yet they are, of course, in opposition.

With our lives increasingly inextricable from the social Web; powered-by and transpiring within the cloud; with nations declaring that internet access is a civil right; as ‘vital as water and gas’; companies such as Twitter, Facebook and NTT America are going to face more and more of these impossible ethical quandaries – no-win scenarios that force them to choose between choices that are both right and wrong.

Dealing with these scenarios is fraught with risk and communicating the inevitably complex reasoning and good intentions that go into any ethical decision is incredibly difficult.

It is also – as should be clear in these recent cases, unavoidable.

What ethical responsibilities do these and other companies – and the cloud itself – have to end users? We need to start thinking through the scenarios and coming up with some answers.

Just a quick post letting everyone know you can also follow TechPRNibbles via Twitter and FriendFeed.

Thanks for joining the conversation and stay tuned for more updates, ideas and content.

Being a Denver Nuggets fan, I was recently reminded that Mark Cuban has said some off the wall things.  Having said that, he often provides some very interesting and thought provoking ideas on the world of social media.  His recent post in late May “Who Cares What People Write?” is a good example of the latter.

Cuban shares some interesting ideas around “Outties” (content creators that fit into professional “Outties” as well as amateur “Outties”) and “Innies” (who are “passive consumers of web writings” or consumers who “read watch and listen to the professional “Outties” and ignore the amateur “Outties””).  The idea being that professional “Outties” are generally established, branded sites with strong/large readership and amateur “Outties” are people looking for an audience (commenters, retweeters, reposters, etc.) who are creating content to be discovered.  Read his post for the full scoop and he closes with a pretty interesting wrap up of the concept…

The moral of the story is that on the internet, volume is not engagement .  Traffic is not reach.  When you see things written about a person, place or thing you care about,  whether its positive or negative, take a very deep breath before thinking that the story means anything to anyone but you.

It was also a concept expanded on by the Progress & Freedom Foundation‘s Senior Fellow and Director, Center of Digital Media Freedom Adam D. Thierer.  Adam’s blog does a nice job of framing Cuban’s thoughts and adding some additional parallels to them around Power Laws as well as Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory.

I think the one area that is not captured in either blog is the importance of recognizing the conversation that is happening — whether they are driven by the professional or amateur “Outties.”   While I agree with Cuban that volume is not engagement and traffic is not reach, but I also believe that all comments, re-posts, link backs, tweets/re-tweets, blogs expanding on a topic or theme, etc. (like this one) are part of the conversation that is taking place.  The collective conversation is the piece that matters for brands.

A simplified example of this would be to search for your brand on Twitter and see what’s being said.  One person with 15 followers may be saying something that may be able to be dismissed, but if 10, 20 or 50 people with 15 followers each are saying something, after you take your deep breadth, it may be worth taking a closer look and joining the conversation.

The role of communications is indeed changing and how we think about creating or sharing a message is something that needs to be considered.  I think this is one of the key reasons companies are starting to act more like publishers or content providers — to ensure anyone (either professional or amateur) can participate in their story, share it and share their perspectives on it.

Regardless of which outtie you are thinking of or the innie you are trying to reach, always consider the importance of helping foster conversation through your communications initaitives.

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

I’m keen to understand how the global recession is impacting social media and particularly the North American powerhouse, Silicon Valley. I’m interested in the develpments occurring at Silicon Valley mostly because today we can consider it the backbone behind a lot of the big Web 2.0 companies.

Belts seem to be tightening in all industries across the board – banking, automotive, retail and so on – yet we’re still seeing big injections of capital in many of the Web 2.0 companies.

Take micro-blogging service Twitter for example. It was announced this week that Twitter has managed to raise $35 million in venture capital in spite of the challenging economic climate. This capital has come from Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital.

Are venture capitalists finally seeing the real value of Web 2.0 in helping deal with challenging times ahead?

I think that social media will come out on top in these tough times as people start using it as a means of cost-saving on entertainment. This is especially important at a time when people are becoming increasingly budget-conscious and are rather choosing to bunker indoors and save their pennies.

I’m a good example of this. I seem to find myself on fewer outings to the movies and instead I keep my cinema experience to my lounge room with my LCD TV, entertainment system and complete surround sound system. In fact, I can’t remember the last movie I saw at the cinemas but I could rattle off at least five DVDs that I have watched at home. I also spend less time travelling and more time talking to my friends overseas via Facebook and Twitter.

There are a plethora of online technologies and digital devices out there that provide consumers with their own portal to entertainment. Aside from big screen TVs that bring you a cinema at home, there are also notebook PCs to consider.

Notebooks are another means of cost-effective entertainment to online services such as online gaming, online video, video conferencing and instant connection to friends and family via IM, social networking sites, email or Skype with those embedded with broadband solutions.

Interestingly enough, consumer experts are also already tipping that many Australians will use the planned $950 Rudd Government cash handouts to splurge on games and gadgets, following record spending on electronics last year (as reported by the Courier Mail).

I’ll be watching these developments closely but please feel free to share any information specifically around how you think social media will fare in light of the global recession.

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

It’s been really interesting to see how the terrorist attacks in India, Mumbai, have played out using social media – Twitter and blogging in particular. In fact, I am led to believe that social media even beat traditional media to the punch with the announcement of this news.

CNN has reported that “…an estimated 80 messages, or “tweets”, were being sent to Twitter.com via SMS every five seconds, providing eyewitness accounts and updates”.

Some Twitter users used the micro-blogging platform to send out calls for blood donors to make their way to Mumbai hospital where existing and anticipated casualties were being sent. It was also used to get news out fast on those that had been injured and killed and information regarding support numbers for those that had friends and family involved in the attacks were also posted on Twitter.

Although this has been a great tool to get information out on what those on the ground were experiencing in instantaneous nature, it has also fuelled a rumour-mill. There are accounts of Twitter users publishing posts exaggerating the number of casualties and generally sensationalising the situation of the attacks.

CNN reported in the article I cite above: “What is clear that although Twitter remains a useful tool for mobilizing efforts and gaining eyewitness accounts during a disaster, the sourcing of most of the news cannot be trusted.”

People caught up in the Mumbai attacks, including the hotel hostages, were also using their blogs as a news medium to disseminate information on the situation on the ground in India. Bloggers posted their accounts of the tragedy when it unfolded, as it unfolded.

This is indeed a strong reminder of how powerful social media can be as a disseminator of news – whether this news is entirely factually correct or not. Social media has the power to beat traditional media to the punch due to its instantaneous nature and a force to be reckoned with. It’s an online tour de force for distributing instant information to the masses. 

I’m interested to get your thoughts on this. Do you think social media played too large a part to play in telling the stories surrounding these tragic circumstances? Do you think it levels the playing field between traditional media and citizen journalists and social media? Feel free to contribute other parts of the discussion that are missing in this post.

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

I have mentioned the benefits of using social bookmarking sites before but I think it’s beneficial to mention it again – mainly people seem to be more receptive to using online Web 2.0 tools these days. And more and more, we are seeing people use these tools in a professional sense.

For example, PR practitioners and journalists in Australia are now frequenting Twitter as part of their daily grind. Journalists are using Twitter to put a shout out for spokespeople for stories they are writing. PR practitioners are shouting out news announcements and interview opportunities in a bid to get media interest.

Back to social bookmarking sites… There are sites such as Digg and Del.icio.us which are great tools that let you share and find content, including video and news articles, from anywhere on the web.

I’m a great fan of Digg. For those newbies out there, adigg’ is similar to a favourite.

The content on Digg is submitted by the consumer and is voted on by other consumers. The more ‘diggs’ you get on content that you have uploaded, the higher up it climbs in the Digg  ranks. If you’re content is absolutely fabulous and many people are ‘digging’ it, it can even be promoted to the front site page for millions of site visitors to see.

Digg is a fantastic example and proof point of a successful online community!

Leveraging these sites as a PR professional or a journalist

PR professionals

If you receive a fantastic piece of online media coverage for a client of yours, you can upload it to Digg. You will then be asked to submit the content along with a title, description and a tag that is suitable for the content.

What are the benefits? More journalists today are using social bookmarking sites to research specific categories. And It’s a tool you can use to try and generate additional media coverage for a client. 

Journalists

If you aren’t already doing so, I would suggest that you join Digg. Upload your published online content to the site. By submitting stories here you are extending your reach to a truly global audience. You can even build a cult following in Digg – those that will get to know and love your stories, read them and share them on with others.

Bloggers are using Digg as part of their daily beat as well. Increasingly, we are seeing instances of where bloggers or journalists pick up others news stories from Digg and reference it in their blogs – increasing the popularity of the story and the site origination.

I encourage you all to set up a Digg account and start experimenting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on social bookmarking sites? Can it really work to leverage stories? Can you really generate additional media coverage by submitting content to the site?

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

It seems like a logical move but who would have thought that we are well and truly advanced to the point where the Internet will be delivered to us in our livings rooms via our televisions. Intel and Yahoo are teaming up to bring this experience to consumers via a Widget Channel, representing a true evolution of the Internet as know it.

So what implications does this have for the consumer? If we are looking ahead, it means that we will have the ability to interact with these TV widgets via remote control - offering us an enhanced and all-immersive online experience. We’ll be able to purchase products online, converse with friends via email, frequent social networking sites, check out favourite videos online and share with friends during the ad breaks. The possibilities are endless.

If you are viewing an ad that features a new, must-have product, this new experience could mean that you don’t need to leave your house to purchase it. You see a product, love it, want it, jump online and purchase in real time – and from the comfort of your very own couch.

And the really cool thing – Intel and Yahoo are already collaborating with companies including Blockbuster, CBS Interactive, Comcast, eBay, Toshiba, MTV, Twitter and others in order to develop these widgets.

The future of the Internet is here! What will be next?

If you could access the Internet from your TV, what would you do with it?

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

It is becoming increasingly evident that more business users are jumping online during the work day to frequent social networking sites, using it as an online hub to conduct business and connect with other users for work purposes. For example, Twitter is becoming not only a hang out place to connect with friends but from a professional standpoint I am seeing that PR practitioners and journalists are using it as a portal to tap into useful networks, scoop out stories, identify spokespeople and generate outcomes.

Interestingly enough, as we see this trend escalate, eMarketer predicts that advertisers in the US will spend $40 million this year to reach the business audience on different social networking sites. And according to its forecasts, this spend is expected to reach $210 million in 2012.

The very nature of a social network is that it connects like-minded people and those with common hobbies and interests. It is therefore no surprise that we are seeing this behaviour among the business audience. And what’s more, the very nature of social network sites is providing advertisers and marketers with great opportunities to reach out to the exact audience they are wishing to tap into, as social networking sites become even more purpose-built and niche.

Another example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn describes itself as “A networking tool to find connections to recommend job candidates, industry experts and business partners…” This site is a recruiters dream! With its member subscription having doubled in the last year, this is the ideal environment to scope out and head hunt potential talent.

I recently viewed by profile on LinkedIn and I was able to track not only how many people viewed my profile in the last 27 days but it also told me who these people were. One was ‘someone in the Human Resources industry’ and the other was an ‘Account Director at Howorth Communications’. Nothing is sacred anymore.

These are just a few proof points that indicate the power of social networking sites in business and how sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter (and others) are increasingly becoming poweful tools that facilitate important business connections.

Do you think this trend will continue to escalate? Or are social networking sites merely fad? Would love your thoughts.

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

So I’ve been toying around with Twitter a lot more these days. So much so, I have been abandoning my blog. I think more and more we will start to see the quality of blog posts decline with the emergence of microblogging – thanks to Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter. Twitter gives you the option to update your network/ neighbourhood on what you are doing in a mere 140 characters.

The instantaneous nature of this means that you can easily update those that are following you on what you are up to and track what others are up to as well. I was originally critical of Twitter but I am starting to find it more useful in a professional work sense. In fact, in my perception it is taking over Facebook as one of the most valuable social networking sites.

The interesting thing here for me is that you can apply it to every day work. My Twitter neighbourhood, albeit small, is a circle of PR people and journalists. The aim = to expand my small neighbourhood! Anyway, I digress…

Although many of the posts that we upload don’t necessarily provide too much insight – I find out when people need to go to the bathroom, what they had for breakfast and when they are on the train but on several occasions it can really useful. You can pick up a lead on a story that a journalist is working on, what topics he/ she covers, when he/ she is going overseas, find out what they think of products they are reviewing and reporting on, what topics light a fire under them and so forth. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse and stay in contact. Now that I think about it more, I would actually compare this to LinkedIn – it seems to be quite valuable as a professional networking tool.

I’d be surprised if blog subscriptions weren’t in decline due to the rise in Twitter feeds. This has strong implications for mobiles as well. These days, new and emerging technologies are mirroring the lifestyle trends of today’s consumers’. As people want to access to real-time information from friends, access to news, entertainment, and be able to communicate from anywhere at anytime – we are finding that today’s technologies such as mobile phones and web 2.0 tools such as Twitter are accommodating these needs.

Feel free to pipe up if you have some answers because I haven’t done all my homework in this area. Are we seeing a trend now – as people become more time poor are we seeing blog posts getting shorter? Rather than well-researched, quality blog posts – are these increasingly becoming short excerpts and randon bursts of one’s thoughts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

Jun 23

Twitter…

Lexy Klain

by Lexy Klain
Category: Technology

I was reading an article about Twitter on Silicon Valley’s Mercury News today. It raised a good point and one that I wanted to talk about here. The sites describes Twitter as the “…Seinfeld of the Internet”. This can also be interpreted as ‘the website about nothing’. I have blogged about the use of Twitter in the Marketing/PR industry previously so with this comment, I think it is time to revisit my thoughts on this new(ish) Web 2.0 tool.

Are we wasting time frequenting Twitter? Is there really any inherent value that we can take away from this online tool? To be perfectly honest, i’m not too sure if my Twitter updates, such as those below, would provide any use to any of those that follow me:

  • “Just having a caramello koala – hitting the 3pm sugar cravings”
  • “Getting fed up with fuel prices…so my car stays in the garage”
  • “I want to go home because it’s been a long day”

It might make them laugh at me but i’m probably wasting their time (and mine). These people, however, have requested to follow me which makes me think people actually want to hear about my daily rants and whereabouts – as pointless as it may seem.

I don’t want to be too pessimistic about the value of Twitter. Mercury News reports that Twitter had “…1.2 million unique visitors in May…”. We are seeing it gain value in some parts of the world – particularly with regards to political applications in the United States. For example, Barack Obama has used Twitter to provide updates to the public from his campaign trail.

We are also seeing the tool used for PR purposes. These days, many journalists are also using Twitter as a means of communicating the stories/ features they are researching and writing. Savvy PR consultants are utilising tools such as Twitter regularly in order to keep abreast of relevant engagement opportunities for their clients.

As I mentioned, I see this tool gaining traction in the United States but I don’t think we are seeing similar traction across the Asia Pacific – at least not at this point in time. Will we see the journalists/ analysts on this side of the world use the tool to put the word out regarding what they are working on? We’ll just have to wait and see.

As far as reaching a wider audience, would my mum or dad ever use Twitter? (No – I really doubt it). I don’t even think my friends working at large IT-centric companies would.

The questions I am toying with at the moment (and I ask for your input) – Will we see Twitter move into the mainstream? Will it ever attract a truly global audience? As communication experts, should we be using Twitter on a daily basis?


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