Archive for the ‘Matt Rhodes’ Category.

What the role of Twitter is, and isn’t, during #londonriots

Image by hozinja via Flickr

Certain sections of the UK media have been ascribing some blame for the riots in London to Twitter. Aside from denying that riots such as this happened long before the invention of such social media tools, such statements also show a lack of real understanding of how social media tools like Twitter are used by people, and when they are less useful.

There are many things that Twitter can and is doing during the riots, but there are also many things that it can’t and isn’t.

Twitter IS NOT a good place to get a clear view of what is really happening

Twitter is flooded with conversations about the riots in London and across the UK. Most of these are accurate (at least as far as the original author is concerned) but many are rumour and speculation. Just because it is on Twitter does not make it true and there can be a danger to judge accuracy on the basis of the number of retweets. Over the last few days we have seen rumours of riots and looting on streets that were actually calm. It is difficult to separate truth from rumour on Twitter and this makes is a difficult place to understand what is really happening across London.

Twitter IS a good place to find people in your neighbourhood

Twitter is a great place to find like minded people. And during the London Riots we have seen it used as a real tool for people to find others in their community. Whilst it is not great for getting a view on what is happening across London it can be good for finding like minded people in your area. Rather than looking for people talking about #LondonRiots, many Twitter users have taken the opportunity to find people talking about the area they live or work in and then follow those they begin to trust. Messaging them to find out what the situation is nearby and sharing information and advice for your local community.

Twitter IS NOT a good place to get rational, reasoned argument

Twitter does not suit rational, balanced argument. It is short-form communication that typically comments (briefly) on an event or describes what is happening. It is actually quite difficult to present a rounded viewpoint or to expand on what you say. This can make it both a difficult place to explain what you say, but also it attracts simple statements that can often be inflammatory (even if they weren’t intended to be so). For real evaluation and discussion about what it is happening, it is best to look elsewhere - blogs, forums, Google+. Twitter is suited to short-form statements about what is happening.

Twitter IS a good place to find evidence and testimony

This does, however, make Twitter a great place for potential intelligence, evidence and reporting about what happened. The pictures people take and share. The comments people leave (and where they are when they leave them). These statements about what is happening from ‘spectators’ of the events could be a useful source of information for the Police and others. The number of people capturing and describing events is a potentially positive role that Twitter can play - recording events and storing evidence.

Twitter IS NOT a good place to organise a riot

There has been some discussion that Twitter caused the riots and that they were planned there. This seems unlikely. Twitter is a public social network where (except for the minority with locked accounts) anybody can see what you say even if they don’t follow you. Your contacts on Twitter tend to be quite weak social links - people you may share one interest with, or who may have said something you found useful once in the past. This is not the place to plan and organise riots with groups of other people you know and trust. You are more likely to do that elsewhere - in a private place (where nobody can look at what you are saying) and in a network with strong social links. This is why group messaging services, notably Blackberry’s BBM, are more likely to have been used. Closed private networks with people you have stronger social links with are much more useful for organising any kind of secret get together, including a riot.

Twitter IS a good place to organise a cleanup

But what about where you do want everybody to know what you’re doing? And you do want even your weak social links to see and potentially share what you are saying. In this case, Twitter is useful and we’ve seen that most notably with the @riotcleanup Twitter account and others that have encouraged people to descend on parts of London to help clean up the morning after rioting. Whilst some events (ones you want to organise in private) are best kept to closed networks, others (those you want everybody to know about) are best in public ones. Twitter is great for organising a cleanup and for letting people know that this is happening. Less good for organising a riot.

Social business: 3 multinational case studies

Social business on international scale

Social business - the scale is international

Continuing from our definition of  social business, this post will introduce look at 3 brief case studies of multinational companies that have successfully adopted social business.

As part of the 2.0 Adoption Council, IBM (in association with MIT Center for Digital Business and the Dachis Group) has published a series of case studies demonstrating integrated social business. Here is a summary of three of the largest:


The French multinational has 70,000 employees across 70 countries - giving great collaboration potential, but the formation was fragmented  due to growth through acquisitions and mergers.

The Alstom University focused on their people and process before considering technology. Running a series of pilot communities allowed them to receive executive buy-in, which promoted adoption by employees. Awareness about the community platforms and collaboration tools was achieved by a video shown at company events, and education was provided through an e-learning programme.

By taking this people-centric approach Alstom succeeded in creating a collaborative culture throughout the company, where the social tools were treated as a means instead of an end, and collaboration was not relegated to being used only virtually.


In an organisation as large as IBM (nearly 400,000 employees worldwide),  initiating change requires advocates.

IBM’s initial aim was to develop social collaboration for the IBM sales team, but their long term aim was to roll this out to the entire business. In IBM’s case a pool of 50 enthusiasts grew to 250 within six months, and was over 1,300 within a year.

An important part of IBM’s approach was to highlight the benefits of collaboration to its employees through blogging and sharing content. The aim to “evangelize everyone” and promote understanding of the benefits has been reinforced with top-down encouragement, with IBM CEO and President Sam Palmisano encouraging all IBM staff to use social collaboration in their day to day work.


With almost 60,000 employees and an autonomous culture, Nokia found that social media tools were being used independently of each other and social media silos existed throughout the business. The challenge was for Nokia to harness these individual networks into one collaborative social business strategy.

The success hinged on executive support, which granted two internal pilots to take place in the business. The micro-blogging pilot has already seen success, and a crowd-sourcing pilot has even resulted in a change to the company culture. One key benefit was a boost to employee morale - the feeling that they are being listened to and the potential for recognition of their ideas has given the company a “feeling of connectedness”.


It’s essential for buy-in from an executive level in order for a large company to become a social business. It’s also important to remember that technology should only enter the equation after considering the people who will be using it. These mini case studies show the strength of social business in terms of scale.

As all these examples are technology companies - it could be argued that they could integrate social business more naturally. In the next post of this series, we’ll look at companies who are already using social media and should be thinking about taking it further - if you have any suggested examples please do leave a comment below.

Why the changes to @foursquare with #4sq3 are game changing in location-based marketing

If you use Foursquare on an Apple or Android smartphone, you will notice a significant update to the app this week. Version 3.0 has been released, and with it come significant changes that not only change the app experience, but also show that Foursquare is maturing in its use and positions is clearly alongside Facebook Places, the other dominant location-based service. We have written before about the power of Foursquare, about how location marketing should be about more than just vouchers and discounts, and about how Foursquare can really help you to discover new places. This latest version changes the game in a number of small but important ways.

The value of a tool like Foursquare is not necessarily the race to earn points and to become mayor (although I am in a fierce competition to be Mayor of my favourite local deli). The value is in the data that Foursquare captures: the listing of places, the reviews and tips, and the popularity of them as judged by how many people check-in there. The gaming tactics that are used to grow Forusquare are just that - tactics to help capture and gather this information. It is in this that the value really lies, and a major weakness to date with Foursquare was how this data adds value back to users. The new version of the app changes that. And changes it for the better.

What Foursquare really cracks with this new update is the discovery of this information; using it to provide a real service back to users. It turns the service from being fun to being useful. The two most significant changes are improvements in the way you can explore areas in your locality, and ways to find deals and offers:

1. Explore new places

Previously it was very difficult to find venues on Foursquare, and the huge amounts of data they gather on user behaviour, friends and connections, reviews and comments was unused. The real benefit of Foursquare comes when it van help me find a new venue, when it can recommend places my friends like or places that are similar to places I have checked-in at before. The new ‘Explore’ feature does this and does this well. I can search by type of venue (such as my search for ‘Food’ places in the picture above) and find places based on where I have been previously and where my friends have been. It looks like I really should check out The Breakfast Club in Hoxton Square (my friends Sam and Blaise have been there) and I really should.

This will, for me, now be the single most useful feature of Foursquare. When I want to find somewhere to eat or drink, or somewhere to visit, Foursquare uses all its data, and all the data it knows about me to recommend somewhere it thinks I would like. This, in turn, will encourage me to check in more often (to improve the accuracy of these recommendations) and to review places it recommends.

2. Find deals and offers

Deals and offers have always been part of location marketing - both for Foursquare and for Facebook Places. The problem has been that finding these deals is difficult. You find them when you check in at a place and sometimes they are shown when you are nearby. They rewarded people after they had been to a venue rather than being used to attract people to go there in the first place.

A small but significant change in the new version of Foursquare is that I can now search for all deals and offers near me. This will include Mayor offers (as in the two closest to me in this screenshot) but also new Specials, including Friends offers and deals. This allows the specials feature to help drive consumer behaviour and visits, rather than just rewarding people.

Foursquare is growing up. These changes are significant as they change the game from one that captures what people have done to using information to help change consumer behaviour. This is where the real opportunity lies for location.

People do not want to create content for your brand

“Why would customers want to create content for our brand?” is a question we commonly come across at FreshNetworks. The truthful answer is often  “They don’t”. In fact, the question is the wrong one altogether.

Customers don’t want to create content for your brand and we see this with many unsuccessful uses of social media by brands. But customers will create content, and they will do it in a way that is really beneficial for you and your brand, but they are not necessarily doing it to help you.

Understanding motivation for doing anything is important, and this is especially true of social media. You may want consumers to show you lots of photos of exactly how they pack their children’s lunchboxes so that you can better design what you sell to them. Or you may want them to comment on and Like your posts on your Facebook page so that they and their friends will be kept up to date with what your brand is doing. But their motivation for doing this will rarely (if ever) be to help your brand. They are likely to do it for other reasons, and it is these that you need to uncover, before you plan any tactic or campaign, if it is really going to work.

There are many reasons people will choose to engage with you online, and many reasons that they will help you to achieve the aims that you have with your use of social media. The important step is to explore first of all who it is you want to engage in social media, and then to answer to simple (well actually not so simple) questions:

  1. How engaged are they with us right now
  2. What do they want from us

Probably exploring current relationships and motivations will let you understand what kind of engagement you can have with people in social media. This is not a one-way relationship; you can’t ask them to do something for you and then expect them to do it. You have to ask them to do something because they want to, something where it is clear what’s in it for them.

It may be that your target audience is looking for advice on how to pack the healthiest lunch for their children, or that they are looking for new ideas of what to feed them. Understanding this helps you to curate an environment in social media where they will be happy to do what you want (send you a photo of the lunchbox so you can better design what you are selling to them) but also provide them with what they want. You can provide experts on nutrition who will compare before-and-after shots of lunchboxes, or you could get mums to share their favourite lunchbox recipes. In both these cases the photos are gathered, just as you need for you brand, but not because you ask for them. Rather, because you engage with people online and they benefit too.

People do not always want to create content for your brand. They do, however, have many other needs that will lead to the same outcome for you. Proper time spent planning and investigating who you are looking to engage and what their motivation is is time well spent. It will help you to understand what both parties will get out of any engagement, and help to ensure that your campaign is not one of the many examples of social media where people really don’t want to engage with you.

The photo in this post is from the great Things real people don’t say about advertising

Four steps for businesses to get started with social media

Many businesses want to get started using social media or want to make their use of social media more effective. There is often a benefit of talking to a specialist social media agency. But for all businesses and organisations, whatever their size and whatever their focus, there are four simple steps that will put you on the right track with social media. Make sure you are using it but doing so in an informed way.

The presentation below takes you from listening and understanding what people are saying, to measuring and evaluating the impact you are having in four simple steps. If you want more information on this or on how to get started with social media then look at the FreshNetworks guide to Getting Started in Social Media.