The Tube Map re-drawn on foursquare’s terms

I am, like many in social media circles a little addicted to foursquare. That is, except when I get booted out of mayorship of the local pub by a guy checking in at 8am (i checked it was closed!).

There have been some great examples of campaigns using foursquare over the past few months, the excellent Jimmy Choo CatchaChoo and the Starbucks and Dominos Pizza ‘loyalty’ schemes to mention a few.

However, what really got me excited was the first really nice infographic map (is that a term) of the data accrued by our London transport check-ins. Its paints a nice picture of what areas are trending, and where the new media agencies are based. I can’t believe that despite my frantic check-ins I didn’t manage to get Bethnal Green on there!

Thank you Techcrunch (Source: http://eu.techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/Foursquare-Tube-Infographic-Non-Pie-v2.jpg)

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WordPress vs WordPress – A Facebook ‘like’ fail, and the battle of .org and .com

Being from a media/advertising rather than tech background I made the choice (not that actively) of using a blog provider that made it easy for me to write add images and post.
There are so many out there, from Posterous and Blogger, to TypePad and Tumblr all offering a load of usually free capability. They all purport to make the whole process easier, understanding that the hardest bit of blogging is writing the content.
Of the few I have tried I really like the functionality of both WordPress (.com) and Posterous but I am frustrated by the fact that I cannot employ the tool of the moment, the Facebook ‘like’ button. Coding has never been a strong point, even inserting pics can be a trial, but the more I try the more I realise that the self hosted blogs offer you the real opportunities to get you noticed and get your content spreading socially. Services like the ‘like’ button and TweetMeme are essential and for the moment off limits. The conclusion is that migrating to WordPress.org seems like my only option, but I wish this had all been made clear at the start!

Lesson learned: choose a blog host that matches your aspirations.

As for the ‘like’ button, its causing a storm for good reason, bringing the social functions and sharing capabilities of Facebook, to the wider web. Its a great opportunity for Facebook to build up a much more in depth profile of users tastes, all at the click of a button, not even on Facebook but on the site you are already at. Sharing your preferences with your friends but not causing you to have to leave the site you are on, ‘fishing where the fishes are’. Added to this the psychological barrier of becoming a ‘fan’ now seems prohibitive compared to the flippency of clicking a ‘like’.

Over 100,000 sites that are purported to have added ‘like’ functionality in the first three weeks of release, one of the best examples of the ‘like’ button is on the Levis website, US only at the moment!


Corporate trouble in Tweetdom?

As part of my IAB Social Media training we have been asked to look at corporate Twitter strategies and pick a good and bad example of brands using the platform.

I have found this a pretty difficult task, for several reasons, what brand to go for? Do I even consciously seek out brands that I like, and does anyone? You need a reason to follow, a prime example being one that our tutors cited, which was the Twelpforce, a team of consumer advice/help tweeters working on behalf of Best Buy in the US.

Added to this the actual search/find people (or brands) function on twitter is not that helpful or user-friendly. Twitter is much better at picking up trending topics, via hashtags for example, and what people are saying about them rather than finding the corporate profile.

From a background working in audio, and especially podcasts I learnt a valuable lesson in instructing brands, namely that you have to have something to say, or to offer people something that they want. In podcasting this often translates to tapping into the existing behaviours of users, so offering content genres that are already popular, like music or comedy. This was successfully executed by the likes of Cobra Beer who launched a successful comedy podcast fusing beer and banter, the pubcast

Twitter is much the same, save for a few examples like Nike or Adidas no one will bother to follow or keep on following a brand that doesn’t offer them something.

This task also brings in to focus the argument on where social media fits in the marketing/advertising/pr sphere. Some of the most effective Twitter profiles I’ve seen where those responding to adverse events. Two of note here are the ash cloud (or should I say hashcloud #ashcloud) and the BP oil spill. Airlines lines, such as KLM (http://twitter.com/KLM) used their Twitter and other social media tools during the ash cloud to inform, reassure, and engage their customers, alleviating pressure on call centres and websites. As passengers were faced with this trouble, it made sense to dissipate information in the most reactive and up to the minute channels, where stranded passengers were already active.

BP are making a bold go of it as well although run out of the USA http://twitter.com/bp_america

As for the failures in Twitter, apart from the large amount of absentees (only a quarter of brands actually active) it has got to be those who are limping through the process and there are so many to choose from but I thought I would highlight one that had specific reasons for failing.
I have chosen Haagen Daz’s http://twitter.com/MeltTogether this isn’t actually their full company profile but one that was set up (and dropped) to tactically support their Valentines messaging. It breaks the first rule of such consumer dialogues which is that conversation has to be ongoing. Additionally the mechanics of generating followers means that they were almost doomed from the outset as it’s really difficult to generate any meaningful amount of followers in such a short window.

Bucking the trend, and falling in the ‘good’ camp is the twitter fuelled game called the “Twitter Cup” I like this usage of Twitter because it uses the platform as a means to generate response to power something else. There’s no significant barrier to entry and its something that taps into the buzz around the world cup and people passions for their nation.

To summarise, what I have learnt is:
1) Most corporate twitter presences are not very good
2) The find people function on twitter leaves a lot to be desired
3) As a result of the above we need to make sure brands are visible and clear with twitter profiles and link from elsewhere direct to the profile through other comms.
4) Twitter is global and brands need to have a global and local strategy
5) The majority of brands aren’t using it to its potential
6) Staking claim on twitter usernames is vital for brands
7) I was naturally driven to see success in numbers of followers but we need more than this as a metric, it’s about engagement and usefulness after all.


A week is a long time in audio

Its definitely time for a mammoth blog post after at least a week of inactivity! And its audio themed, debating the following points, think of it as three for the price of one:

1) What we should make of Spotify’s new features

2) Is the podcast dead?

3) Is a fusion between Spotify and podcasting the best way round the music rights issues that have crippled podcasts.

Spotify is often criticized for being too niche, an exclusive club if you like, one in which hardcore ‘muso’ members make up a majority of the traffic. This is a criticism I heard from two execs at we7.com, who describe the service’s audience as solely early adopters (as a negative thing!), versus their broader more mass market platform they espoused. And I think the we7 execs were right to a certain degree. Anyone who has hankered after an invite will tell you that it can be surprisingly difficult to get one, especially in the early days (although this is to manage growth), and the more in depth features like label search, that really bring it to life, are always more likely to appeal with ‘serious’ music fans. Add to this the fact thats its an app rather than a website (and the implications foe those who work in a firewalled ofice) and I guess you could say that it is indeed for the more ‘serious’ of music fans.

The new social features on Spotify, seem to appeal to those who have the impetus to trawl through friend’s playlists, compiling the perfect mix-tape or subscribing to others. Again though I am not sure that these updates make it truly ‘social’. I mean that its still all about the music, there’s little chat or opportunity for interaction, ecept through Facebook accounts linked in. I guess that makes sense as that’s the forum for these sort of interactions but would it have been too much to ask to allow us to attach a message to tracks we send to fellow Spotify socialites. I’m also struck by how few of my friends have actually updated their Spotify and at the latest count only 20 of 350 or so of my FB friends are getting on board.

As for the second point, I have read a lot of posts recently about the death of the podcast. Certainly, podcasting as a term has lost some of the buzz it has enjoyed over the last 5 years, especially in advertising, but this isn’t to say the form is dead. The Sony Radio awards last night gave one of their their top awards (gold no less) to the Hackney podcast and its definitely worth a listen it is truly fantastic. And that goes for the rest of the nominees and the other great pieces of audio out there, bringing laughs, taking you to places in your mind you haven’t been before. Maybe its just the term podcast that is dead, in fact even the Sony’s aren’t using it referring to them as internet programmes. What we are witnessing is a broadening of the term, and we are eventually witnessing a dissolution of platform terminology, what we are essentially talking about in all these instances is audio. If we think in these terms we can include the raft of servces that have ‘stolen’ the buzz from podcasting, AudioBoo (which you can vote for in the Smarta100 list), or services like Mixcloud or SoundCloud.

Moving seamlessly on to the third point, there are also new possibilities for the traditional authored radio show to superceed the podcast through services harnessing online juke-boxes such as the aforeentioned Spotify and we7. The digital distribtor Kudos Records has come up with Playdio which will get around the current restrictions on the use of music in podcasts (limited to 30″ at present). They will essentially be playlists with spoken tracks acting as DJ voice-overs either side. The really clever thing is how they pay for production, which is ‘per stream’ of the voiced link. Services like these add value to these new audio services and although its in its infancy, they already have Phil Jupitus (recent 6music DJ) signed up.