Visualising Facebook: Your social data and personal infographics

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The more we contribute, communicate share and talk online the more we leave a trail of personal data in our tracks. This may be data about what we say to whom on Twitter, when we are most active or the photos we take. Or it may be data that we have captured from a specific activity - data on every run I have done in the last two years is stored by Runkeeper, for example. To have such a constantly growing, structured personal data set is very new and it offers real opportunities for brands and platforms. But also for individuals themselves.

The quantity and depth of data that we are structuring about our lives even on one network comes as a surprise to many people. Taking Facebook as an example - the data we create about ourselves and our networks is vast, and often hidden from the consumer - you just can’t imagine what it might be. The first step to help you understand the amount of data you have stored and how it might be useful is to visualise it - and search engine Wolfram Alpha have now produced a report that takes this information and presents it back to you.

For any user what you uncover about yourself, what Facebook knows about you, is interesting. For example, the word I have used most frequently on Facebook is ‘run’. The peak time for me to upload photos is apparently 9pm on a Saturday. And the most common first name and surname among my friends is ‘James’.

But what is more interesting to start to explore is how this Facebook data is able to understand data better than we might be able to. Take how it clusters my friends. Just looking at connections (and their connections) you can start to map out how my friends group themselves and really start to understand something about me.

Friend Network: Matt Rhodes

You can see three clear groups:

  1. A tight cluster of yellow connections - people who are all interconnected and clearly all know each other. These are people I’ve been friends with since University.
  2. A relatively tight cluster of blue connections - less interconnected but the groups of people I’ve made friends with in 10 years in London.
  3. A more spread our cluster of green connections - a loosely connected set of people that I have worked with.

There are also the odd random connection that I have seemed to pick up along the way.

So Facebook can accurately and clearly summarise my friendships and how they interact. And you could probably make inferences from that about how likely I am to mix people across these groups - only a small number of people connect between the clusters, suggesting I am more likely to socialise in these groups separately (which to be honest I am).

There a lot of data out there, data that we are leaving in our wake with every social interaction. Currently this data is being used by the platforms and by brands, but the exciting opportunity is to see how individuals can take more ownership of their own data and get more value from it. The first step is to start to understand what data there is out there and how it is structured. The Wolfram Alpha Facebook reports make an important first step to revealing this.

Formula One team social media rankings

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Formula 1 leaders social mediaI am a big fan of Formula 1 - I love the drama, the competition, the nerdy technology - it’s quite a bit like social media!

As Formula 1 travels the globe, there are plenty of opportunities for social media channels to show fans some of what goes on behind the scenes. Of course, it also presents plenty of scope for promotion of those crucial sponsors. Commercial activity can range from branded pages and contests to a driver-branded version of  Angry Birds (yes, really).

With the British Grand Prix just around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to assess the performance of the Formula 1 team’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, and see who is ahead of the pack.

Formula 1 teams on Twitter

We put the primary, team Twitter accounts from each team into PeerIndex to create the following ranking:

Ferrari are out front, and Caterham are close behind despite their weaker results on track.

Ferrari’s Twitter feed makes for interesting reading, as each Tweet goes out three times - in Italian, English and Spanish. That’s commitment to the fanbase and provides a really good example of taking the international audience into account when using social media.

The Facebook Formula 1 ranking

When it comes to Facebook, we are less interested in total fans and likes than we are in engagement. In order to score the teams equally, we have created a rough ranking that takes their “people talking about” metric divided by the total fans.

Ranking F1 team Facebook pagesWhile they are getting lapped on Twitter, Mercedes AMG are dominating with their Facebook page - posting a variety of content and at a regular rate that doesn’t lead to overloading their fans.

Marussia once again punch far above their on-track weight, however with the smallest page on the grid, their engagement levels perform well with relatively low numbers of people talking about them.

It should be noted that Ferrari’s impressive number of fans is due to being the page for the iconic brand itself, as there is no F1 specific page.

The most surprising result is last-place McLaren - they have one of the largest pages but are failing to engage their fans, and just before the home Grand Prix. From examining their page, it appears that updates are few and far between (in one case, no posts between 8-20 June) which goes to show the importance of nurturing your audience if you want them to interact on Facebook.

Image credit: nic r on Flickr

Developing a great social media channel strategy

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Which social channel to use in your strategy?When working with a brand to help define its social media strategy, a crucial area to get right is how it should engage with its online audience.

I’d define a social media channel strategy as a process that outlines what social media channels the business should use, and the purpose for each channel based on predefined business objectives.

What should your social channel strategy include?

From my experience, the top five things that make a great social media channel strategy are:

  1. All social channels contribute to the business strategy and objectives
  2. The strategy considers the available resources to effectively manage these channels
  3. It confirms that there is sufficient audience demand for each channel to make it a success
  4. There’s a clear, coherent content plan for each channel
  5. Every channel has a clear primary marketing objective

Why is it so important?

Getting the social media channel strategy right for a brand is crucial as it will help them support their key marketing objectives. As there are so many potential channels and ways in which they can be used, an in depth analysis of what we want to talk about and why is also key, so that the most effective channels can be chosen.

It also offers an opportunity to have a two way dialogue with your audience, which provides insight, stronger relationships and brand advocacy. At the same time, brands can be faced with real risk if a channel strategy is not implemented correctly or with a properly thought out direction. If a PR event occurs (either positive or negative), social media will often magnify this sentiment accordingly in a very short space of time, so it’s also important to get in place a social media policy that sets guidelines around a reaction and response strategy and a crisis escalation plan.
If you’re a brand and want to expand your social media activity, make sure you have a clear, coherent channel strategy – it might just be the missing piece in your marketing jigsaw that will help you achieve real results.
Image credit: HarcoRutgers on Flickr

‘Crisis’ is a dirty word - how Femfresh could have handled their social media backlash

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In the last few days you might have seen the word vagina bandied about a fair bit online, and not just in the murkier corners of the internet.

In the US, Representative Lisa Brown was banned from the House, ostensibly for ‘permissive’ language, after using the word ‘vagina’ in front of the Michigan legislature in a debate about abortion.

Hot on the heels of this came the Femfresh debacle. Femfresh is a ‘feminine hygiene’ brand which has a new marketing campaign. Its ‘expert care for down there’ campaign has been broadcast in traditional one-way media: radio and out-of-home advertising.

However when Femfresh brought it into social media – a conversational media – things took a different turn. Consumers could respond to the campaign, and respond they did.

Femfresh became the target for an unrelenting stream of criticism on Facebook for its ‘go woohoo for your frou-frou’ campaign that also seemed to suggest that vagina is an unacceptable word.

Whether or not it was infantilising women, or trying to break taboos is a moot point. Femfresh had a crisis on its hands.

Here’s three things Femfresh could have done:

1. Respond to each comment to explain and wait for it to die down.

Probable outcome: a long time-intensive process, likely to further inflame critics. With no firm closure to the incident it would have prolonged the resolution of the crisis. The issue could possibly just rumble on, ready to blow up again in the future.

2. Make a simple, human statement outlining the facts of the matter, taking appropriate responsibility, explaining what the outcome or change would be of this incident and saying sorry. Then push the story down their Facebook Timeline with positive stories and status updates.

Probable outcome: it would have inflamed some critics, but assertively dealt with the issue. Again fairly prolonged resolution but at least putting a credible position from which to recover.

3. Use it as a catalyst for business transformation. Use that rare opportunity of public scrutiny and turn the negative passion into positive. Take the backlash on the chin, engage directly with the critics and influencers, and as a result of their feedback, change the campaign or even the company. Wholefoods turned from crisis to case study in just this way.

Probable outcome: it would have fuelled more debate, but Femfresh would have a chance to turn some of its detractors into advocates. It would be a resource investment. But it could take that valuable feedback from its customers, change its marketing, improve its products and build a better business.

We’re yet to see what the long term impact of the Femfresh backlash will be. Unfortunately the company chose to take its Facebook page down – which is a missed opportunity.

The moral of this story has to be if you court consumer engagement, be prepared for what you get. And perhaps further, that if customers care enough to respond to you, recognise that for the gift it is: be grateful and use that feedback to build a better company.

Image credit: debaird on Flickr

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.