No more social media excuses…

If you’re still thinking that your industry, business or employees aren’t able to use social networks and social media marketing effectively, you might want to take a look at this:

Army Social Media Handbook 2011

View more documents from U.S. Army.

Yep,that’s the U.S Army Social Media Handbook, January 2011, from the official slideshare account of the U.S Army. And not only that but they’re actively asking for feedback on it.

And if that’s spurred you into action, but you’d like some assistance, I’m always happy to help!

Be careful when naming your Twitter application…

If you’ve built a third-party application for Twitter, you’ll want to think carefully about what you call it, following the company trademarking the term ‘Tweet’.

The official response has been posted on the Twitter blog by Biz Stone, after Robin Wauters highlighted the issue over at Techcrunch. The official announcement is:

‘We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of “going after” the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.

Regarding the use of the word Twitter in projects, we are a bit more wary although there are some exceptions here as well. After all, Twitter is the name of our service and our company so the potential for confusion is much higher. When folks ask us about naming their application with “Twitter” we generally respond by suggesting more original branding for their project. This avoids potential confusion down the line.’

Which is interesting from a marketing point of view – Twitter has namechecked and praised some of the great apps currently using the word ‘Tweet’, including Tweetdeck for example, and suggests it may only use the trademark to go other apps which try to pass themselves of as official, for example.

Then again, ‘to tweet’ or ‘I’ve just tweeted’ suggests common usage of the word as a verb anyway. I’d be interested in hearing from any legal experts about what that would mean for any trademark cases.

And Mark Evans points out that Tweet.com is currently a site claiming to be about birds.

So if you can’t use ‘Twitter’, and might want to stay away from ‘Tweet’, what about Twit?

Well, that could cause problems as well – Robert Scoble reports that Leo LaPorte has trademarked ‘Twit’ for his longrunning TWiT TV netcast network (It stands for This Week in Tech if you didn’t know, rather than being Twitter related, and is something I recommend having a listen to…). There’s a related Friendfeed discussion going on…

So you might want to steer clear of Twitter, Tweet and Twit.

There are obviously reasons why Twitter wants to maintain some clarity between company products and 3rd party applications – particularly when they might be launching more of their own for premium users. At the same time, the constant referrals to ‘Tweet’ and ‘Twit’ have definitely helped publicity and common usage of the parent service, as has the availability of such services.

At the same time, the generic terms aren’t as well used – for instance, microblogging. Which is a bit of a shame, given 140char’s ranking for the term ‘microblogging blog‘!

Personally, I’d recommend building your own brand name – it’s a long term win but means you aren’t tied to one service or risking trademark problems. The short term benefit of going for the most common Twitter terms is likely to be waning as so many exist, and you’ll be able to carve out your own niche.

If you’re interested in the Spymaster game taking over Twitter

Then Mashable has ‘the complete guide‘ to Spymaster.  Personally, it’s the type of game I would have probably enjoyed a few years ago, but can’t really justify even trying at the moment – my use of Twitter is mainly for discovering information, sharing information, and building connections with people.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to take part in Spymaster,  or the latest frivolous use of # hashtags.

Whatever you do on Twitter, and however you use it, is entirely down to you, as long as it’s within the Terms and Conditions of the site. That’s the beauty of it – and possibly why so many people find it a bit scary and drop from the site so quickly.  Whereas Facebook etc have a defined purpose of connecting with people yu already know, which provides an initial safety blanket, Twitter suggests users and friends, but ultimately you can interact how you like, with who you like, when you like.

So while I won’t be joining you on #spymaster or #whateverthelatestcomedytrendis , and I might hope for better filtering to avoid trending topics when they overwhelm my stream,  I’ll never tell you to stop!

Of utmost importance for businesses to remember

There’s a great article by Umair Haque on ‘Why the war against file-sharing is unwinnable‘, which was collected in a post on Music Industry Manifesto.

And one quote particularly stood out for me as being an essential element of business:

‘No business has a right to profit, sell, or even to produce. All are privileges that society grants businesses.’

That’s why I feel discussions about newspapers, music, advertising etc sometimes miss the point. It doesn’t matter how strongly a publisher might feel newspapers are entitled to survive, or whether a prominent musician feels file sharing and digital music is hurting his future income.

It’s down to whether society, in a viable number, feel a business model has the right to profit.

In closing, Umair notes:

’21st century economics are radically decentralized. Wars against networks are unwinnable — when orthodox organizations are the ones fighting them. Only networks (or markets and communities, if you’re a long-time reader) can fight other networks.

Want a better music/media/etc. “business model”? The understanding that hierarchies are dominated by networks is the key — and the failure to understand it is exactly why the media industry is so deeply in decay.’

Let people know who you are and why you’re following

At some point recently, I appeared to have achieved critical mass on Twitter – that is, I get a trickle of people requesting to follow me, even when it isn’t reciprocal, or when I haven’t been particularly active. Sometimes the trickle turns into a miniflood, but I always check out every single follower to decide whether to return the favour – and my ratio of Following to Followers is pretty close to 1:1 (Here’s the proof).

But the decision is getting much harder, because a seemingly increasing number of people are following without giving me a clue of who they are, or why I should return the favour. And following almost 1500 people means I’m becoming more careful about the signal to noise ratio of people I’m following.

  • Following me, but having updates protected: Unless I know who you are, or you’ve sent me a message, and your updates are protected, how can I guess whether to guess to request to return the favour?
  • No weblink or informative Bio: A lot of people, myself included, have bio information which doesn’t outline exactly what we do for a job, or where our exact interests lay. For instance, mine is: ‘Social Media, Community Marketing,Blogger,Dad,Writer’, but I’ve seen a lot more vague descriptions. If that’s combined with an absence of a link to a blog, linkedin profile or some clue about who you are, I’m scratching my head again.
  • Weblink doesn’t give me a clue: This seems to happen with certain content platforms – particularly options like Tumblr, where it’s easy to set up a default Tumblelog without leaving any information. That means I need to spend time going through every post for the last few days to find out more, and makes it tempting to move onto someone/something else in this time-starved world.

This doesn’t mean I only follow people with exactly the same jobs and interests – far from it. But I do only follow people who I think will bring something interesting, entertaining or valuable to the party.

And it’s not just me: Even as I started to write this, I noticed Darren Rowse is running a poll on Twitip, asking ‘Do you automatically follow everyone that follows you?’ Currently 89% of those taking the poll have said they don’t, for similar reasons to myself.

Top tips:

So what’s the best way to let people know who you are?

  • Insert a relevant personal/company weblink. It can be your blog, your Linkedin profile, your bio on the corporate website etc – just anything that can give some clue about what you do.
  • If you have a personal/lifestyle type blog you want to link to, then consider either linking to the About page, or to a special landing page or post created to people arriving from Twitter.
  • Consider using your Twitter background to serve up some information. You can pay professionals, or just experiment with your own image, containing some info on yourself.
  • And if you’re using Protected Updates, and you want to converse, interact and have a follow reciprocated, then why not contact them via an alternative channel, e.g. an email address on their blog, to let them know who you are and why you’re following them.

It’s an example of what you put into something have a direct relationship with what you get out of it. If you’re informative about who you are, you’re much more likely to get more people finding you, interacting with you, and for those interactions to be far more relevant.

Pepsi – the taste of the web 2.0 generation?

Although I’d already heard about the new logo, I picked up on Pepsi’s more social activites via Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel, who is working with them, and having joined up, saw some early commentary from Chris Brogan.

Chris talked about How corporations should view comment polices, and I agree that offensive content needs to be filtered unless there is an age restriction on the community. And also that off topic comments and conversations can detract in a single room (I’d recommend having on-topic rooms, and a general one where possible). After managing and moderating forums including those on www.motorcyclenews.com for about 7 years, I’m fairly well versed in polite emails about offensive behaviour and swiftly editing posts on legal and good taste grounds!

There is pre-moderation on comments – a little annoying for speed of response on a microblogging, lifestreaming, conversation service – and even more annoying when the Pepsi team have finished for the day and comments are left hanging. (Note to Pepsi team – the other side of the world is still awake! Maybe find a Pepsi employee in another timezone to help?)

But it will be interesting to see the response to a couple of comments I’ve made about Pepsi’s Terms and Conditions. (I had an acknowledgement from Pepsi’s John Karpf, so it’ll be interesting to see what evolves.) At the top of the Friendfeed Pepsi Cooler room, there’s a hyperlink to ‘a few notes from our lawyers’. Which links to the Pepsi.com Privacy Policy.

Hmmmm

While I acknowledge the need for Terms and Conditions, and stating the standards for a community are necessary, I could have sworn Friendfeed has it’s own Terms of Service, and doesn’t need Pepsi essentially annexing a room! I’m hoping they find another way to express the principles of the room they wish to encourage in a way which doesn’t seem quite so much like our caffeinated overlords have arrived!

But fair play to them, I’d ignored the new logo, and become fairly loyal to Coke due to the cokezone loyalty promotion, (I’m a sucker for free Xbox games!), yet the prospect of a Friendfeed room has made me take a bit of an interest in what they’re up to at Pepsi. I’ll let you know what comes out of the vending machine at work when I go for a drink!

Corporate twitter acounts spawn ‘Twitteriocy’

Picked up via Pistachio Consulting, is Jeremy Pepper’s post on ‘Twitteriocy’, or some simple rules on how to use a corporate Twitter account, and basic etiquette – inspired by a personal encounter with someone following him.

While I don’t think microblogging benefits from too strict a set of rules, the guidelines he lays out are simple and provide a pretty good grounding.

Be yourself, don’t follow everyone back, use a decent client like Tweetdeck, be engaged, be personable, be responsive, be a person, and remember that social media, including microblogging, doesn’t work for every company or individual.

So something very similar to the best practice for all social media!

I’d add:

  • Be realistic, and don’t expect 1000 followers overnight, or 1000 referrals from every link you post.
  • Stick with it – if you’re going to use these tools, be prepared for the mid-to-long term commitment needed. It took me two attempts at using Twitter to understand why it was so invaluable and addictive. And far longer to try and find the right level between addiction and a reasonable amount of time investment.
  • It might still be worth registering your brand name to stop ‘brandjacking‘, but use it to lead people to your real representatives.

Any more?

Edit – Clarification on using Stumbleupon properly

I’ve been thinking about a comment by Ari Herzog on my post ‘Is Digg’s Day Done‘. As part of my discussion, I used the comparison with the ease of use and personal recommendation element of Stumbleupon. Ari raised the valid concern that Stumbleupon is intended for recommending index pages, and Digg is intended for deep diving into articles.

(Clarification from SU in the last 3 paragraphs clarifies index and deep level pages are both fine. The following still sets out good reasons for why the confusion has arisen)

But certainly a lot of users are using Stumbleupon for sharing and recommending individual articles and images. The question is whether this is a bad thing, or whether it benefits Stumbleupon?

A cause for confusion:

Stumbleupon itself has to share some of the blame for this in the terms used for explaining the site. While the submission tool has a ‘submit site’ option, elsewhere ‘site’ and ‘page’ are used interchangeably. For instance, the SU About page.

‘StumbleUpon helps you discover and share great websites. As you click Stumble!, we deliver high-quality pages matched to your personal preferences. These pages have been explicitly recommended by your friends or one of 5,946,251 other websurfers with interests similar to you. Rating these sites you like () automatically shares them with like-minded people – and helps you discover great sites your friends recommend.’

Bearing in mind a website can have thousands of pages, you can understand why there’s a little confusion. Again:

A simple 2-level rating system gives users the opportunity to pass on or give their opinion on any webpage with a single click.’

And certainly the Getting Started page clearly seems to say either choosing websites, or webpages is fine:

When you Stumble! a page or site, first thumb it, then click on to see reviews & comments made by other Stumblers, and to add one of your own

I’ve contacted Stumbleupon for clarification and an official answer, seeing as I can’t find one in About, FAQs, or the Discussion Forum!

Why Stumbling pages makes sense to individual users:

Stumbling individual pages makes more sense in a lot of circumstances than recommending an entire website on the basis of a single encounter with an article or image. If I’ve read some text or seen an image I can make a quality assessment on that piece of work immediately via the toolbar.

But to give an accurate assessment of a website could mean visiting 10, 20, or 50,000 pages or items to be able to get an idea over consistent quality – and that’s not taking into account how random a large site can be when it accepts a wide variety of authors or content submissions. Could you rate the entire Youtube site on the basis on one video? And how much would depend on whether your first encounter was with a rickroll or an mwesch anthropological study?

Why it makes more sense to publishers:

As user recommendation and rating systems become more mainstream and more numerous, publishers either need to offer the world’s longest drop down list – or pick the sites they’d most like to appear on. A site like Yahoo Buzz makes complete sense, as it’s a big gamble with big rewards of hundreds of thousands of visitors to a single article. Stumbleupon makes sense because it tends to drive a significant amount of traffic over longer periods, and with lower bounce rates, than many other sites (such as Digg), but the results are still somewhat transient. The only way to increase the amount of regular readers from such a site is to frequently have good quality content placed in front of them – which only happens when numerous pages are being submitted and highly rated.

And without the ability to raise the profile of a site with numerous pages submitted in this way, Stumblers (and users of other ranking systems) would be far more limited in sources, and only the established large scale sites would get publicity and traffic boosts of enough to make a difference.

My opinion is that Stumbleupon accepts and promotes both page and website submissions, and that’s the correct usage of the site.

Official clarification in a quick time:

And in an incredibly quick time, a message to Mr-SU got a prompt and comprehensive response:

Submitting an index page or a specific page that’s levels deep in a site are both appropriate uses of StumbleUpon. We want our members to submit the best-quality pages they discover so they can be shared with others.

So there’s some clarity. You can submit an index page, or a deep page to Stumbleupon. Therefore Stumbleupon conclusively is the best social website recommendation service as far as I can see!