5 tools to keep you up to date with the news

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Keeping track of news on twitterIt has never been more easy to be better informed. The social web has altered how we find and consume information, and also who is sharing it.

Think about how you came to find this post. What led you here? Maybe it appeared in your search results, perhaps in your Twitter feed or even an old fashioned email.

I’d argue that Twitter has been one of the catalysts for this. As an extremely simple, open platform which is based around short and easily digestible pieces of text it was built for sharing news.

However, there’s a challenge amongst all of this. How do you cut through the noise of all the conversation to find the information you want to read? How do you slow the flow to something your brain can keep pace with?

I wanted to share some tools that I’ve been using which have helped me:

Flipboard

An iOS app (and currently in beta for Android) which presents a beautiful, magazine style representation of links from various sources. You literally flip through pages of stories and photos from the places you want to keep an eye on.

One of the most useful features is the ability to read through only the links from your Twitter timeline. I find this extremely useful to keep track of the great things people have shared.

Reeder

Again, another iOS app, but this one allows you to read your Google Reader offline.

If you’ve not set up a Google Reader account, it’s definitely worth it. It’s based on RSS, which is a way of subscribing to content posted by almost every website.

I like Reeder because it has some great sharing features. You can instantly post out articles you like to Twitter or Facebook, which brings me to my next point:

Instapaper

Have you ever seen an article or post that you really wanted to read, but didn’t have time? Instapaper is a great way to save those articles for later reading.

One of its nicest features is the ability to remove ads and other formatting from articles so they’re presented in a clean, almost newspaper like format for easy reading.

Storify

This is a great tool for keeping track of Twitter conversations. Twitter’s speed is great for getting access to the latest news, but can be maddening when you try and keep track of what was shared by whom and with what comment.

Storify let’s you track all of that, and presents the results in an easy to share story format so you can share with others.

Last, but not least: your own blog

This has been perhaps the best tool for me in keeping track of the things I like. If I find an article or post which inspires me or prompts a comment I post it as a link post on my own blog.

It means I can keep track of my views on a particular topic by sharing them with people.

Image credit: faunng on flickr

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Beating social media trolls

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You may have already seen yesterday’s news that the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, has proposed changes to British defamation laws which could see websites obliged to hand over personal details (including IP address) of those posting defamatory messages online.

A number of high-profile cases of online trolling and cyberbullying have become big news of late including those of Nicola Brookes and Louise Mensch MP. The idea behind the change to the law is about shifting responsibility for user-generated content from the web platforms (who are currently treated as the ‘publisher’ under existing libel laws) to the user themselves.

We think that the change is a sensible one. It simply doesn’t make sense for websites like Facebook (25m UK users) and Twitter (10m UK users) to be held responsible for every word written on their platforms – policing content would be an impossible in terms of both the scale of the job and lack of context for judging whether offending posts are indeed defamatory or threatening.

Last night Al Jazeera English interviewed me about this and asked why I think the changes proposed are a good thing for our freedom of speech. So why do I think that? Well, at the moment, as a user of social networks and blogs, if I take offence at something someone says to me, I can contact the platform in question and demand that I want the content removed. The platform, lacking context and in fear of being responsible for potentially libellous or otherwise illegal content more often than not will just remove it – regardless of whether a law has been broken or not. And if the law is broken it would take extremely costly legal action (as in the case of Nicola Brookes) to get a website to reveal the identities of the law breaker.

Under the proposed changes, if I feel genuinely aggrieved and can provide context to prove I have a case, not only can I have the offending content removed, I can have the identity of the troll revealed to me so that I can take appropriate legal action.

The message: that trolls and cyberbullies with fake names and photo-less profiles can no longer hide behind a cloak of anonymity when they fail to act responsibly online.

How to avoid being the victim of trolls

Anyone who engages online - both individuals and brands – is at risk of becoming the victims of trolling. Here are some top tips to help you avoid being a victim:

1. Privacy settings
Tightly controlled privacy settings will help you control who can engage with you online and the places where they can do it. The tighter these are the less likely it is that trolls will be able to infringe on your most ‘personal’ places online – inbox, Facebook wall and in your newsfeeds etc

2. Know your enemy
Is the perpetrator really a troll? What can you find out about them by looking at their profile? Clearly using a pseudonym? Faceless profile photo? Lots of activity on their profile in a similarly negative vein? You may well have yourself a troll.

3. Don’t feed the trolls
A piece of advice I often to give to brands I work with who are worried about trolling is that 99% of the time the best thing to say is nothing at all.Trolls thrive on the attention they get and knowing that they’ve caused offence or got a similar reaction. If you can, avoid getting involved and tell your friends and family (or indeed colleagues) to do the same and they’ll usually just go away.

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Facebook ads - focus on growing and engaging your fan base

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General Motors Facebook adsFacebook has been very much in the spotlight, with a great amount of press attention on the run-up to last week’s IPO and the company’s recent stock performance.

One big headline was the announcement that General Motors was pulling its $10million Facebook ads account. This has clearly rocked confidence in the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook, but may not come as a surprise to many, as a social media setting is not necessarily the prime location for people seeking product information on a car.

It is important to note that while GM may be pulling its advertising, it will continue to develop its large Facebook presence across its brand pages, and keep a focus on engagement.

Here at FreshNetworks we take the approach that Facebook ads need to be aimed at growing the audience and engagement level of a page or app. By keeping ads within Facebook itself, the barrier to entry for a prospective fan is much lower than sending them to an external site.  Having said that, there are some important steps to consider when planning a Facebook ad campaign:

Testing the effectiveness of a Facebook ad

As with any marketing activity, you need to test and evaluate various approaches before committing a large outlay to a campaign.

What metrics should you be looking at?

While the click-through-rate is an important measurement, we’ve found that optimisation should be focussed on Facebook’s “Connections” metric, which measures activity in terms of engagement (likes, comments, app use etc.) so that the effective reach of your ad is maximised.

Optimising your Facebook ads

Splitting your adverts into campaigns makes it much easier to segment them according to target audience and content. We’ve found that breaking your ads up into campaigns of five ads each makes it much easier to manage and measure the effectiveness of particular ads.

Selection and formatting of images is vital. The imagery used obviously has to be eye-catching, but also something that is personalised and relevant to your target audience.

Following up a Facebook ad campaign

Once you have tested, optimised, and run your Facebook ad campaign, it’s important to carry the momentum and keep your new audience engaged. As with any social media activity, it is important to keep a clear strategy in mind, and determine why a new fan will want to come back to your page or engage with you.

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The science of social media ROI

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Last week I presented at a webinar as part of a series looking at the science of social, focusing on social media ROI and demystifying the confusion that surround it. The problem with social media ROI is that it is so easy to measure so many things that we become overwhelmed by measures. We think that everything is important and that everything is a measure of ROI. It isn’t. And it isn’t. Followers and Likes do not make ROI; moreover they stop us from thinking about the bigger business benefit of social.

We need to measure different things for different reasons, not just for ROI. There are three broad areas of measurement that we should be looking at in social:

  1. What’s the business benefit? How does any activity contribute towards our business objectives and how do we measure this? Often overlooked in the plethora of social media specific measures, the single most important ROI piece is to think about the business, how social contributes to it and then how we might measure this link.
  2. How successful are my channels and campaigns? More of a quality measure but an important one for anybody who is in charge of social media. With a clear business objective that we have to deliver against, what do I need to measure to make sure that we have the quality of engagement and interactions to get there.
  3. How suitable is my engagement and content? Finally we get to the range of social media measures that are out there - Likes, Followers, views and the like - these are incredibly useful for the people working in social media and managing your channels and engagements. If they write a blog post that gets 10 times as many views as a previous one, these are the people who should be questioning and querying what has caused this change.

The first, and most important, measure is the business one. Why are we doing this? What business objective is social contributing towards? We should ignore, for the moment, the different things we can measure and focus on what social should be contributing to our organisation. Only when we are clear on that will we be able to establish clear ROI measures. And only when we have these should we think of any of the other measures that we can look at and report on.

The presentation I gave at the webinar included this and some case studies of work we have done at FreshNetworks showing business benefit.

The Science of Social
View more presentations from Our Social Times

The next Science of Social webinar is on Wednesday 20 June and looks at How to Identify and Reward Advocates. You can sign-up here.

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For social media agency support get in touch or follow us on Twitter.

Twinteresting: why can’t we curate tweets?

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Favourite curate tweets

It is no secret that Pinterest is a great way to share discoverable content. The “waterfall stream” format can really help rapid skimming of visual content. Take, for example, the ‘Pinterest for Facebook’,  Friendsheet, or Pinstagram, the Pinterest-style Instagram feed. People are finding ways to curate images from a variety of sources, but what about the ability to do this with items that are primarily textual, or links?

Using favourites as a stopgap

I use Twitter prolifically, but a lot of my usage focuses on finding new information - blog posts and news stories, language resources and videos - and I often ‘favourite’ posts of interest to keep tabs on the links and commentary provided.

A thousand favourites later, and this system is incredibly difficult to manage. I’ve used an interim solution in the form of sending these favourites to Evernote, but it’s not great. I need something that will let me curate these posts - divide them into categories, automatically fill out previews and be presented in an easy way to skim and share. If it can let me keep track of conversations as well, then all the better.

Curating tweets

I suppose what I’m looking for is something that crosses Storify with Pinterest. Let me very quickly ‘pin’ tweets to boards, assign a category and review them later at my leisure.

This is something that Twitter itself needs to do. I know it has a focus on providing simplicity, to ensure that all users have easy access. This doesn’t mean that heavy users should be ignored. We’re talking about improving the favourites system. It’ll be easier for me to a keep a track of others’ Tweets and it should also make it easier for brands to discover content of interest. Twitter lists let me keep a track of other people - why not let me keep track of Tweets? Why can’t I create galleries of interesting thoughts?

Image credit: liveandrock on Flickr

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