Facebook the peacemaker


A great deal has been written about social media’s role in the recent Middle East uprisings. This week Mark Zuckerberg alluded to a second, equally-important, role as a bridge that connects people accross political or religous divides.

The chart below comes from peace.facebook.com. Launched in 2009, Peace on Facebook hopes to play a part in “promoting peace by building technology that helps people better understand each other”.

Connecting friends accross borders has proven to be one of the most effecitve grassroots methods of changing perceptions. There are many Arab-Israeli projects working for peace in this way. It can only be a good thing that Facebook is helping thousands on both sides of the divide to connect every day.

Preparing for significant regulation changes in social media


My first session on the IAB Social Media Council had us debating the upcoming regulation changes which will see the ASA’s remit extended to cover marketing on websites from 1st March 2011.

So what? Well the Advertising Standards Authority is “the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media” but until now this did not include websites (and for websites also read social networks, blogs etc). This new regulation means that marketing communications on companies’ own websites and in other third party space under their control, such as Facebook and Twitter, will have to adhere to the “non-broadcast advertising rules” as set out in the CAP Code.

The aim is to drive companies to ensure marketing messages on their websites are legal, decent, honest and truthful. This should go without saying but think of how celebs are used in social media marketing – when they are speaking about a product are they doing so because they are paid? What about the blog you read extolling a product – was that review paid for? Currently this is unclear but the ASA aims to remove that uncertainty.

How? Well, the ASA does not set rules, just guidance so it is currently unclear exactly what will fall foul of the regulations.

On the Council we are looking to lead the way with self regulation and I am interested in your views of how this should be done?

  • Should sponsored tweets feature a hashtag such as #ad or #spon
  • What if a paid brand advocate happens to tweet about the brand, is this ‘paid’
  • What constitutes being paid? Is a blogger who is given product to review ‘paid’?

At FreshNetworks we have always advocated responsible social media practice and support the ASA’s work to clear up this grey area.

I will be updating you as new information comes out and would love your thoughts on this as they will help drive the self regulation response.

Are Virgin America’s free flights a good social media strategy?


Virgin America, The Best Airline I've Ever Flown
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Virgin America is giving away free flights to social media influencers it has identified on Twitter. There is (it assures us) no catch. It has used Klout, a tool which analyses influence on Twitter, to identify influential people in the Toronto area and offered them free flights on its new services to Los Angeles and San Francisco. These influencers only have to pay taxes. They are not being asked to do anything in return for this. They are just being asked to enjoy a flight, free Wi-Fi onboard and a launch party in Toronto.

This is an interesting social media strategy. Typically examples of blogger and Twitter outreach have seen brands ask them to do something in exchange for free product or experiences. They might offer them something for free or invite them to an event, for example, but would ask them to cover it on their blogs, on Twitter, take and share photos or recruit their friends to discussions. Virgin America’s approach is refreshingly different. And also refreshingly clever.

It is often a shame when brands dictate what they want bloggers and Twitter users to do when they engage with them. Usually they have not understood what each of these influencers is looking to achieve with their blog or with their followers. A successful social media outreach strategy will treat each of these influencers as individuals, recognise that they are interested in different things and allow them to use their involvement with your brand to further their own blog or social media aims. For example, if I write a design blog, I might want to review the interior design and lighting on Virgin America flights. If I am a plane fan, I might compare the airline with competitors. And if I am a small business owner, I might review the offering from a business perspective, looking at cost and ability to work onboard. Each influencer wants to talk about different things in different ways.

With this in mind, there are two ways to work with influencers online as a brand:

  1. Research each influencer and treat them as individuals - building a relationship with them and understanding their interests, their aims and what you can offer them or ask them to do that will help them as individual bloggers or Twitter users
  2. Enable influencers to experience your brand or service and trust them to cover it as they so choose. You focus on giving them an experience they will enjoy and allow them to write and cover the experience in a way that works for them. Of course they may not write at all about your brand - although if you choose carefully people typically will.

The second of these is the braver option as brands will feel that they lose control over what may be written about them. In many cases, however, it can be the cleverer option. As in Virgin America’s case - give influencers an experience that you know is good and trust them to cover it in any way they choose.

The most beautiful tweet ever written (as judged by @stephenfry)


Hay Festival 2010
Image by sarahgb(theoriginal) via Flickr

The Hay Festival has been looking for the ‘most beautiful tweet ever written’. For the last ten days, the literary festival has been seeking nominations and then creating a shortlist of tweets. Today the winner was judged by Stephen Fry.

The winning tweet was from Marc MacKenzie:

“I believe we can build a better world! Of course, it’ll take a whole lot of rock, water & dirt. Also, not sure where to put it.”

This is a concise but informative tweet and perhaps is a great example of how people are using this new medium.

What makes a tweet beautiful?

As the Hay Festival’s founder and director, Peter Florence remarks:

The definition of most beautiful tweet could fall into a number of different categories: it could prove the most eloquent; the most impassioned; the best demonstration of a clever pun or metaphor; the most evocative description of a place or emotion, or perhaps prove that brevity is conducive to levity, and be the wittiest tweet ever committed to the Twittersphere

The beauty in Twitter, and in the tweets people send, is that they convey emotion, opinion, information and expression in a relatively short period, and they, broadly speaking, do so in public. Unlike other conversational forms, Twitter, even when you direct a tweet at a specific person, has a broader audience and often an audience you don’t know. And of course you only have 14o characters with which to express yourself. Marc MacKenzie’s tweet is a good example of this new medium - the audience is unclear and the tweet manages to convey information, opinion, belief and also humour. All in 140 characters.

How you use this medium to convey information is where the beauty lies. It is a different type of communication that is developing its own style of writing, using new elements, such as hashtags, and mixing in media. It is a type of communication where we can all benefit from practicing and trying new things.

So was the tweet the most beautiful ever? Well different people will probably have different opinions and we’d love to hear your’s below. What is clear is that this is a great example of how Twitter is being used in new and different ways to convey information. Perhaps of more importance, though, is the fact that this competition happened in the first place. Through it, Stephen Fry and the Hay Festival are showing the importance of Twitter and the innovative nature of this new medium for communication.

What are your thoughts on this tweet and the beauty of Twitter? Leave your thoughts in the comments below

Stephen Fry to judge the most beautiful Tweet ever written


Tweet Me
Image by TPorter2006 via Flickr

For ten days every summer in the UK, more than 100,000 people gather in Hay, a small Welsh town on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, for a festival of literature. Bill Clinton once described The Hay Festival as the “Woodstock of the Mind”. This year’s festival starts on 27th May, and, along with authors including Nadine Gordimer, Martin Amis and Phillip Pullman, the line-up includes a special place for Twitter. In fact a special prize for Twitter, as Stephen Fry will be awarding a prize for the most beautiful Tweet ever written.

As the festival’s founder and director, Peter Florence remarks:

The definition of most beautiful tweet could fall into a number of different categories: it could prove the most eloquent; the most impassioned; the best demonstration of a clever pun or metaphor; the most evocative description of a place or emotion, or perhaps prove that brevity is conducive to levity, and be the wittiest tweet ever committed to the Twittersphere

I’m not sure many of my Tweets (@mattrhodes) are eloquent or impassioned and I don’t often weave a clever pun or metaphor into them. But maybe now is time to start. I love the concept of the competition, but perhaps more I love that Twitter is being discussed and reviewed alongside more traditional understandings of the word ‘literature’. Too many people, often those who have never used it, think that Twitter is full of people saying such things as “I just ate a sandwich”. The truth is that most people are using Twitter to convey meaning, information, opinions and emotion. It is a new and growing communication medium which has spawned its own style of writing and expression. An award for the most beautiful Tweet ever written is exactly what we need.

How is the most beautiful Tweet being chosen?

Judging begins on Monday 21st May and nominations can be sent to the official festival Twitter account: @hayfestival. A shortlist will then be posted on the festival website and the winner announced on the 6 June.

So choose the Tweet you think most beautiful and send it the the judges now to see if it wins.