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Posts tagged with: Social Networks

The future of #EUtweetup – I need your help

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 10.01.19First the simple bit: the very short term future of #EUtweetup is that the next tweetups will be on Monday 17th February in Brussels, and Wednesday 19th February in Berlin. The Berlin tweetup will be at Gorki Park from 1800 (details same as last time).

But what about #EUtweetup Brussels? Here I need your help.

The event has grown into a large and remarkable network, and hence I think it’s time to reflect on what the future of the event actually should be, and where it ought to be held.

The idea was to be an informal get together for people who had previously only debated EU politics together on Twitter. There is hence, in my view, no need for an agenda or any sort of speaker. The event needs to allow people to come and go as they please throughout the evening. Also as the event has no organiser or budget as such it needs to be easy enough to do – just a free reservation of a place, and then some tweets to announce it.

However for me there are two main outstanding questions, and for this I need you assistance. Please answer the two polls below, and/or comment below!

Currently #EUtweetup in Brussels happens on an ad hoc basis – it’s when Anthony Zacharzewski or I happen to be in Brussels, and we organise it. Should we keep it ad hoc, or should we set a date – second Wednesday or third Thursday of the month or something? Maximum one a month is plenty I think though.

When should #EUtweetup happen?

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#EUtweetup has been at 3 main locations – James Joyce on rue Archimède, London Calling on Place de Londres, and Café des Epices on Place Jourdan. Neither the James Joyce nor London Calling serve food, while Café des Epices is too much of a restaurant. Some sort of compromise – where food is served as well as it being a pub – would be best. Old Oak and Kitty O’Shea’s at Schuman have been suggested to me as alternatives, although the pub quiz on Monday’s at Old Oak means the days a tweetup works there are narrower. I think one preferred location makes sense, with the opportunity to go elsewhere from time to time.

Where should #EUtweetup happen?

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Revisiting politicians and Facebook – what makes a good Facebook page for a politician?

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A few weeks ago in Brussels I had a cup of coffee with Roberta Metsola. Since April 2013 she has been a MEP after the resignation of Simon Busuttil. Roberta and I studied on the same Masters programme, and it was good to chat and catch up. One question she posed me sounded simple enough, but actually rather threw me when I looked into it in more depth: could I find her good examples of politicians using Facebook Pages?

So the first question is: what to include and not include? Pages like Angela MerkelDacian Cioloş or Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen are out, as the leading positions of these people in their respective parties or organisations, plus the additional resources that can be given to their Facebook work as a result, mean they cannot be compared to a regular MP or MEP. All three pages mentioned above are worth looking at though.

The second question then is: what is good? This means making the best use of what Facebook can offer as opposed to what other networks can offer, and not just automating content. This eliminates pages like Peter Hain’s (thanks @AlexWhiteUK for the tip) – it generates discussion, but the content is automated from Twitter. I also eliminate politicians using just personal Profiles, unless they have the Follow function enabled.

What then can Facebook offer that other networks cannot, and hence how can a politician use it? Facebook still has an extraordinary reach – it reaches users that no other social network can get to. See here for an overview of the stats. It is a place to reach voters or activists directly, rather than through intermediaries such as journalists or bloggers. The problem is that while you might be able to theoretically reach thousands of people on Facebook, chances are you will not (because getting to them is hard), and as Facebook needs to make money the main way to drive up numbers of Likes, and the numbers of people seeing your content, is to pay (details here about Likes, and here about content).

Also the type of content is important – Facebook allows combinations of text, pictures and video, and links out to external sites. This multimedia mix is better than, for example, Twitter continuing reliance on text over everything else. Conversely the amount of information that you can post on a Facebook page is lower than the amount of tweets you can send, or news you should put on a website (see here for more analysis).

So who then is actually doing it at all well? Thanks to tips from @AndreasKjeldsen, @tinamellergaard @captain_europe, and my own digging, we have a few reasonable examples. These are: Tim Farron (MP from the UK), Alyn Smith (MEP from Scotland), Dan Jørgensen (MEP from Denmark) and Morten Løkkegaard (MEP from Denmark). Thanks also to Tim Farron himself for taking the time to discuss his experience on Twitter. All of these pages have a relentless focus on the work the politician in question is doing and, particularly in the case of the two Danish MEPs, have managed to build a considerable following as a result. All these examples avoid posting too often, try to craft their messages for Facebook, and make some effort to use photos (esp Jørgensen) and video (esp Løkkegaard). In essence they all cover the main bases reasonably well.

So far this analysis is only starting to scratch the surface of good Facebook use by normal MPs or MEPs. If you have seen good examples then please do leave a comment – there must be better examples out there. While I personally remain a bit of a Facebook-politics-sceptic, the reach of Facebook remains unparalleled, so who is actually making the best use of what it can offer?

(Thanks also to @ylemai, @alessandraBXL, @IPA_thanks and @ellispalmer94 for additional help researching this piece!)

[UPDATE – 26.7.13, 1415]
New examples – French MEP Sylvie Guillaume. A little bit too much this-is-what-a-politician-does, but decent multimedia mix. Tip given on Facebook. Also Deborah Bergamini (suggested by @geekeconomist) – plenty of content, but is it really especially engaging?

App.net – the new way to finance social networks

If you’re observant then you will notice a new icon above the menu in the top right of the screen – the one with the tick on it. That’s a link to my profile at App.net, a new social network that is trying to break the mould of the ad-financed networks like Twitter and Facebook. The creation of the network is directly as a result of Twitter’s API changes that restrict the ability of third party applications to use its data, essentially building the walls of Twitter’s walled garden higher and higher. Twitter earns no money from advertising if you use a third party app to access it, and hence the crackdown. Twitter could of course have introduced a pro account, but seems to not want to go down that track.

The developers of App.net saw all of this as an opportunity. Instead of designing a network to be ad-funded, and hence to have to be more and more cunning in the placement of the ads, App.net uses a subscription finance model, costing $36 / year for a basic account, or $3 / month. Now it takes quite a leap for most users to want to pay to use a social network, but viewed another way it is actually cheap – it’s like buying two newspapers in a month, and most of us wouldn’t think twice about doing that. In return there will be no advertisements, application developers will have relatively unrestricted access to the API, and the network can be designed with users and developers, rather than advertisers, in mind.

While App.net has something like 20000 members at the time of writing (I was one of their initial Kickstarter donors), it nevertheless also has one further important asset: Tapbots has released a version of its excellent Twitter client Tweetbot, called Netbot. The free web app Appeio also looks promising.

So if you’ve had enough of ad-funded networks then head over to App.net and help build something different!

Buying tweets in UK politics

There was an interesting debate on Twitter yesterday between @PaulLewis and @RowennaDavis about the latter being paid £75 to tweet about the Sky News show Murnaghan. It turns out that for more than a year non-Sky journalists have been paid £75 to tweet for the two hours the show is taking place. This is a selection of the tweets in the debate between the two of them:

Give Rowenna her due – she is at least honest about what’s going on.

But the problem with this for me is two-fold.

Firstly, who are the people that Sky News has been paying for this in the past, and will continue to pay in the future? How, as someone following the #Murnaghan tweets can we know who is tweeting as a result of being paid, and who is not? I can quite understand a journalist tweeting to support her or his own show or publication, but if it’s an independent person how can followers reasonably tell? Plus if Nike is cautioned by the ASA over Rooney tweets, do we need the same rules for the promotion of TV programmes?

The second issue is how this changes the fundamental nature of Twitter. It’s not as if pushing the boundaries on Twitter is unknown in UK politics – Grant Shapps and Tories buying followers are testimony to this. Yet episodes like these erode the fundamental nature of Twitter as a medium – where it is (or at least was) a relatively level playing field for the exchange of views between individuals. Building a personal following, or a following for your show or event, was about good content and honest engagement. Now it’s about paying influential people and gaming your follower numbers. As Michael Sandel outlines in What Money Can’t Buy, once payment is introduced, a lot of the moral value of behaviour is lost.

As for my own approach: needless to say I have never been paid to tweet, and I am not paid to blog (more on that here). If there are ever any financial aspects to my blogging (for example someone inviting me somewhere so as to live-blog it), then I will explain that in advance (see this for example).

The case for a pro account for Twitter users

Adrian Short has written an excellent and widely-tweeted piece entitled What Makes Twitter Twitter? that looks at the future of the social network. The crucial line in the piece is “Twitter used to be where people talked. Now it’s where money talks.” – very true. But Twitter likewise needs to become self-sustainable, financially, something it has not yet achieved.

The thing is that for intensive individual users of Twitter like Adrian and I, and many thousands of others, there is currently no way Twitter can make any money out of us other than via advertising and promoted tweets – all the corporate stuff that’s the subject of Adrian’s ire. We’re free riders.

The solution, I think, would be to introduce a paid-for premium account for Twitter users. This would not be the same as the big campaign offerings for Starbucks or Porsche. Price this user pro account at $5/month, and in return ensure that a user sees no advertising or promoted tweets, ever, and also has access to a Twitter client that’s better than the current Tweetdeck and would allow better combinations of search and lists, proper list management, and one-click translations of tweets.

Twitter, in its conversation form, is important enough to me to mean I would pay $5/month for it. Would you?

[Note: in 2009 there were some debates about Twitter pro accounts – see this from Business Insider and this from Cnet. I assume these proposals are what became Twitter for Business]

Social Network friend/connection/follow criteria

My presence on various social networks was getting rather out of hand, so I’ve had to work out a rule of thumb as to who to add on each network. Here are my conclusions – comments most welcome!

Facebook – I’ll accept friend requests from anyone I’ve met and – if I happened to be in their city – I would be happy to meet for a beer or a coffee. Otherwise people can Subscribe (explained here) to my public updates, or Like my page. I will only Subscribe to others or Like pages if there’s no better way to follow news from a person I don’t know well enough to add as a friend, or from an organisation I want to follow.

Twitter – Anyone is welcome to follow me – it’s all public anyway! I will follow back if a user’s biography seems interesting. If a user is especially compelling I’ll add them to a Twitter list, but only after experience following them. I will prioritise people who discuss on Twitter rather than people just broadcasting.

LinkedIn – I’ll accept requests from anyone I’ve met and I might conceivably do business with in the future. I will take the same approach on XING and Plaxo.

Google+ – Anyone can add me to Circles as everything I post is public. I will add people to my circles if they are posting interesting content, although I am likely to be less systematic at this on Google+ as I am on Twitter, as I am a more intensive user of the latter.

Foursquare – I need to know a person very well before adding them as a contact.

Quora, Instagram, Pinterest, TripIt, Path – I am not an intensive enough user of any of these networks to know what my criteria are yet!

I’m influencing people about the EU (and possibly think tank stuff too), but what does it mean?

I’m on a bit of a Twitter high these days. On the weekend I passed 5000 followers (probably only to drop below the level again once Twitter eliminates some spam-bots), and today two political Twitter league tables have been published. I am the 10th most-followed person in UK think tanks on Twitter, and 5th on Burston Marsteller’s EU list of G20 Twitter influencers.

Both of the tables need to be taken with a pinch of salt though.

I am only an associate fellow of IPPR, essentially a freelancer that they can call upon from time to time, so apart from the odd RT of IPPR’s work and some debates with Will Straw and Nick Pearce I’m not exactly at the heart of think tank comms.

The BM EU table is more interesting because writing about the EU is at the heart of what I do. Tweeting about EU politics has been an extension of the blogging here over the years. But their table uses Klout for scores, and at least two MEPs – Daniel Hannan and Marietje Schaake – score more highly than I do. Perhaps it’s a little tokenism to show that the only people using Twitter with big audiences in EU affairs are not just mainstream media journalists and politicians?

The title of the BM study is also interesting: they talk of influencers. That rather confuses me. I’m engaging people in some sort of dialogue on Twitter, and I am most definitely not strategic about it. I’m not – at least not actively anyway – setting out to influence people (perhaps with the exception of urging people to travel by train rather than fly!)

Anyway, to people publishing studies into this, and to the 5000+ folks following me, I very much appreciate it. Even if I don’t quite know why!

A collection of vital social media resources

In the social media training work I do, there are some themes that I keep coming back to. This post summarises some of those things, and gives links to resources. Some of these things are behind my thinking, even if I do not always state them explicitly.

1. 10 things you still need to know about social media / social business
Mathew Lowry drew my attention to this post (via his EU version). It’s an excellent and succinct guide to many of the principles of social media, starting with “Social” is something you are, not something you do.

2. Australia State of Victoria Social Media Policy for staff

Thanks to @puffles2010 for pointing this out to me. Social media policies should be clear and easy for staff to follow, and based on principles. This video is the best I have seen to explain that ethos.

3. Social Media Around the World 2011

How the social media scene varies between different countries is fascinating, and too often the US focus of everything wins the day. These slides help develop strategies suitable for different countries. Supplement with CheckFacebook and Social Bakers stats.

4. How the US Air Force responds to blogs
I still haven’t seen a better and simpler structure to deal with online critique than this one. With some small adaptions it can be applied to almost any social media.

5. Gartner Hype Cycle

@RichardStacy first got me thinking about this, and how it applies to social media. Apply it in conjunction with the stats from number 3 above and you start to get an interesting picture of how to use different tools in different contexts. I think it’s also behind things like this. More on Gartner’s original analysis here.

6. The Real Reason Your Customers Don’t Like You on Facebook
This is just one of a series of excellent @jaybaer posts about customer engagement on Facebook. The average Facebook user Likes just 9.8 pages. How are you going to be one of those?

You should also always serve up the information on social platforms where your people are already. But that’s common sense really.