So you’ve tweeted something you shouldn’t have…what next?

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After drunken night at Chris' II_MMVI

Image by andronicusmax via Flickr

It’s happened to all of us. We think we’re logged into one account, when actually we’re logged into another. We think we’re sending a Direct Message, when actually we’re sending a a message to the world. Or maybe we just don’t think and regret saying something. Whether you’re an individual or a brand, Tweeting something you shouldn’t have can be a cause of concern, panic and, often, inertia. What should you do? Ignore it? Apologise? Do you risk making things worse?

Here are some simple thoughts to help you decide how you should act and what you should do when that mis-Tweet happens.

So you Tweeted from the wrong account

Maybe you have two accounts - one for a close group of friends and one that is public - or maybe you Tweet on behalf of a brand as well as in a personal capacity. Tweeting from the wrong account is a common occurrence for many people and is easily done. In many cases this won’t be a problem - okay maybe you just told your friends all about some special offer your company has on this week or pointed them to a blog post they probably aren’t interested in, but that doesn’t really matter. Nor does it necessarily matter if you tell your brand’s followers about a football match you are at or what you are watching on TV - as long as these Tweets aren’t hugely inappropriate they reinforce that there is a real person behind this branded account who does real stuff in their real life. In these cases, a simple (possibly humourous) acknowledgement that you sent the Tweet to the wrong place should suffice. And remember to not do it again!

Things become more difficult if you have said something inappropriate to the audience (or just inappropriate per se). If you’ve tweeted something to the world that you meant only for some close friends you need to make sure you delete the message, apologise and apologise to anybody who mentions it or complains to you. If you’re a brand and an employee has done the same then the same rules probably apply: delete the Tweet, apologise and apologise to everybody who mentions it. If you’re a brand you might also want to consider if the employee’s conduct required disciplinary action and it may be worth including this information in your apology Tweet.

So you sent a Direct Message to the world by mistake

A mistake many novice users make and that is also easy to do. Again, there may be no problem here - if the Tweet isn’t offensive to the audience that sees it (and isn’t confidential) then apologise and maybe just leave it. The problem comes when the Tweet isn’t appropriate for everybody to see, and if it was a DM in the first place this is highly likely to be the case. Once something is public others will be retweeting it and mentioning it so you cannot just pretend the Tweet didn’t happen. You can just follow the same process as above: delete the Tweet, apologise and explain to those that mentions it and be more careful in future. You may also choose, especially if you are new to Twitter, to show some humility (“Looks like I’m still getting used to Twitter, doesn’t it…”).

You should also consider what you are using DMs for and what you are saying - maybe what you said was better off Twitter completely.

So you regret something you said on Twitter

Finally, and the most common situation, you say something that you later regret. Maybe you Tweeting something late at night that you wouldn’t say in the cold light of day. Maybe you said something that sounds worse than you meant. Or maybe your conversation should never have been public in the first place. Just as with a mis-Tweet, if you say something you later regret then you can’t just pretend it never happened. People may be retweeting it and mentioning it already. One thing you should consider, however, is whether you making an issue of the regretted Tweet will actually make things worse. Some Tweets (especially those late at night) may go unread and as long as they are misjudged rather than offensive or libelous it may be that you just leave things.

However, in most cases you will need to act. If what you have said is offensive to some of your audience and you regret it you should probably apologise - be open and honest that it was a mistake and you regret it now, contact people directly with the same apology. And then think carefully about how and when you use Twitter.

We all make mistakes and people understand that. But we should think carefully about what we say on any public channel (our personal accounts or a branded account) and think if it would be better to just not say it at all in the first place.

Why people don’t want to follow you on Twitter or Like you on Facebook

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This morning I presented on the importance of remembering the people involved in social media - who you are engaging and what they want from you. When brands struggle on Facebook or Twitter it is usually because they haven’t thought through what is in it for the people they are engaging. It is easy as a brand to decide how you want to use social media, and what you want people to do. It is less easy, but more important, to consider what the people you are engaging want to do.

I decided to show this through a simple story - that of Mary (a mum) and Jack (who works in marketing for a large FMCG firm). Jack wants to sell a new breakfast cereal to Mary and thinks that social media isn’t the answer. But he has made a big mistake…

The story is simple but it is one many brands can learn from - understand the motivations, needs and interests of the people you are looking to engage. If you don’t they probably won’t want to follow or Like you.

Engaging with people in social media
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Majority of Britons now use Facebook or Twitter (statistics)

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night rays

Image by dobrych via Flickr

The latest data from the Office of National Statistics n the UK shows that, for the first time ever, over half of adults accessed social networking sites in 2011. The annual British Internet Habits survey showed that in 2011, 57% of over-16s in the UK are using the internet for social networking, as opposed to 43% in 2010. This is a significant landmark, and the rate of growth is impressive and it shows the importance of social networking in the lives of British adults.

Digging deeper into these statistics we can start to understand more about use of social networking in the UK:

  • Women are more likely than men to have used social networks, with 60% of them using such sites in 2011 (compared with 54% of men)
  • Social networks are all but ubiquitous for the 16-24 year olds, with 91% of this age range using them. Usage is high for the 25-34 year old (76%) and 35-44 year olds (58%).
  • Almost one in five of those aged 65+ use social networks (18%)

Alongside this marked increase in the use of social networks in the last year, the survey data reveals more about how British adults are using the internet:

  • The most popular activity online is, unsurprisingly, to find information about good or services that people want to buy - this reinforces the importance of his channel in the education and buying process
  • Men are more likely than women to consume news online (57% compared with 47%)
  • Almost one in three UK adults (31%) have sold their own goods online
  • Professional networking (such as LinkedIn) is most popular with those aged 25-34 and 25-44
  • The use of internet for phone calls is increasing - with 29% of UK adults making a call over the Internet in 2011
  • Internet access from mobile devices is increasing dramatically - with 45% of UK adults accessing the Internet from these devices, up from 31% in 2010.

However, this data also highlights the 23% of the UK population who have no access to the Internet at home, with half of these people saying that they have no need for the Internet at all.

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

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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.

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

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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.