A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts from the Microblogging Category

Declan Curry

The above photo was circulating Twitter yesterday, and at least two media outlets – Romenesko and FishbowlNY – ran it as an example of a BBC captioner having a bad day.

They found the image and they ran with it. They didn’t contact Declan or the BBC. And today, they’re both apologising.

As it happens, I was at university with Declan – we worked on Imperial College’s student newspaper Felix together. I’d seen the photo before – when he posted it to Facebook, sharing a joke he’d written himself. Yup, the caption was by him – and was the best part of a year old:

click on the comments link to see the discussion

And there we have it. Two media outlets turned their journalistic instincts off when presented with something fun on social media, and made fools of themselves.

You don’t get to stop applying the basic techniques of journalism just because you found something on social media. Verify, check, double-source. Or you’ll be apologising to your readers – or your editor – pretty quickly.

It might be a good time to start culling the politicians you follow on Twitter. Buzzfeed’s Jim Waterson explains why Labour spammed its followers’ Twitter feeds:

It’s an attempt to recreate blanket broadcast-style coverage on Twitter. And if 4.5m people really did see this one tweet about energy bills then it would be an equivalent reach to the BBC’s Six O’Clock News.

I suspect we’re about to find out if people are prepared to accept politicians treating Twitter as a primarily broadcast medium. I have to say, if any group if people I followed did that, I’d unfollow the lot of them.

Nice piece of reporting by Buzzfeed.

Big Hammer
Mashable reports on a complete abuse of New York Comic Con attendees’ Twitter accounts:

Fans, celebrities and press attending New York Comic Con on Thursday sent out laudatory tweets expressing excitement to be at the annual convention — or at least it looked like they did, as the tweets were published entirely without their permission or knowledge.

What’s worse is that they don’t even seem particularly sorry they did it:

As you may have seen yesterday, there were some posts to Twitter and Facebook issued by New York Comic Con on behalf of attendees after RFID badges were registered. This was an opt-in function after signing in, but we were probably too enthusiastic in our messaging and eagerness to spread the good word about NYCC.

As the word spreads that social media can powerfully extend the reach of events like this, I’d lay good money on further abuses like this happening.

Photo by NY Big Apple and used under a Creative Commons licence

Scoble at NEXT - from the blogger pit
In a few weeks, I’ll be up in front of a variety of journalism students, teaching them about live-tweeting events. Despite what some people have taken from my post on Social Media Week London, I think good event live-tweeting is a really useful resource. But it’s a very, very tricky thing to do well.

There are three things I’ll be suggesting to the students that can make the difference between ordinary live-tweeting and really useful tweets. I’ll present them here for the criticism and appraisal of anyone who is interested.

(I’m aware that Rob Mansfield has posted something similar, but I’m dumping my thoughts out here before I read that.)

1. Content

This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to miss. Is what you’re tweeting really news?

  • Does it say something that doesn’t feel obvious?
  • Will it deepen people’s understanding of the subject under discussion?
  • Why are you tweeting it?
  • What will your followers – and other people on the hashtag – find useful in it?

There’s a temptation to tweet things that in some way badge you with what they’re saying: “Hey, look, I know that social media use should be authentic”. This is rarely useful to others. Concentrate on sharing things that you find genuinely surprising or useful, not those that confirm your existing beliefs.

Really good live-tweeters can construct a narrative of a speaker’s thoughts through selective tweeting. That’s a skill you can hone over time.

2. Context

Context is everything. I once saw a tweet from a conference that accurately reproduced a speaker’s words (about the growing power of the amateur photographer), but missed the context (a service to help professional photographers). Many people not in the room assumed that he was celebrating the fall of the professional photog, not trying to arrest it. That’s about context. An isolated soundbite without the context of the quote can be deeply misleading.

If you can’t quote it without the context being clear – don’t tweet it.

You can’t rely on people reading the whole of your stream either. People dip in and out of Twitter, and once a tweet is retweeted, all context from surrounding tweets is lost.

Remember that the hashtag and geotagging your tweets are both useful context. The former aids discovery, the latter aids verification, suggesting you were actually on site, rather than repeating something heard elsewhere.

3. Attribution

Every time you quote someone, attribute that quote to them. Don’t rely on flagging it up in the first tweet quoting them – that context is easily lost. Where possible, use their twitter username. It’ll save you characters, and allow people interested in what they had to say to find them and follow them. If you know you will be live tweeting an event, you can research this in advance. If you are an event organiser and want to encourage people to tweet, put the Twitter username of the speaker up somewhere in the venue in a persistent manner.

Is this is a lot to cram into 140 characters? Yes, it is. But that’s the skill of using Twitter well.

Feedback gratefully received…

Fail whale

A blog post from the Twitter folks:

If your application already has more than 100,000 individual user tokens, you’ll be able to maintain and add new users to your application until you reach 200% of your current user token count (as of today) — as long as you comply with our Rules of the Road. Once you reach 200% of your current user token count, you’ll be able to maintain your application to serve your users, but you will not be able to add additional users without our permission.

Translation: if you Twitter client or social media management application gets a significant number of users, you’ll have to play by Twitter rules, and get permission from them to grow your client base. If you don’t, you’re capped at twice the number of users you have now. 

I bet we’ll see the demise of many Twitter apps, and social media management apps conforming to Twitter’s vision exactly in the coming months.

Build your business on someone else’s platform, and you lose control of your business

[via The Next Web]

Twitter acquires Posterous

In a surprise move, Twitter have acquired blogging site Posterous.

The question of course, is: “why?” The information from the companies is pretty vague.

Guess 1: (the view held by my Twitter community) It’s a pure talent acquisition, Posterous will be shuttered, and the team will help develop Twitter

Guess 2: From Splat F:

Both posts are predictably vague about what the Posterous team will be doing at Twitter, but here’s a not-so-wacky guess: Building out Twitter’s photo/video/link/multimedia sharing services. These are currently rudimentary, but they’re important in competition with Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other broad “sharing” services.

Guess 3: There’s actually a synergy here, as Twitter start to build on top of their microblogging service with focused blogging that help feed their Discover product.

Anyone care to place a small wager?

Love this article, as tweeted by Kevin Sablan:

Unless a once-in-a-lifetime story is breaking in your community, the most urgent challenge facing every news organization today is making a swift and successful transformation to the digital future. Leading that transition is every editor’s most urgent challenge. And, for better or worse, Twitter has become a leading current indicator of a newsroom’s — or an editor’s — willingness to change.
You don’t lead change from your comfort zone. You lead change by showing your staff that you are willing to learn a new skill and suffer the discomfort of learning publicly.

Well worth reading the whole thing, by Mr Steve Buttry.

So, earlier in the week, the world and her husband tweeted and linked this piece, suggesting that the BBC had lost, lost I say, 60,000 followers because Laura Kuenssberg took her Twitter account with her to ITV. The horror. And the predictable warfare between the “social media is a personal medium” and “social media is about marketing messages” camps broke out. (FWIW, I’m firmly in the former camp, for reasons we’ll go into later in this post).

Cue much discussion, wailing and bemoaning and evangelical posturing about who should own what in social media. Ugh. It’s rapidly becoming the new journalists vrs bloggers discussion.

Thankfully, there is some new thinking in here.  I think Martin Belam really nails it when he attacks the other part of the proposition, which no-one else seems to have questioned:

If you take TV as the analogy, when a series on BBC2 that has been pulling in 1.2 million viewers ends, we don’t generally go around saying that “the BBC has lost 1.2m viewers” and assume they are totally lost to the BBC. We expect that they still consume some other BBC programmes, and probably some of them still on BBC2.

Spoilers: based on his sample, the answer is that the BBC lost nowhere near 60,000 followers. Check out his arithmetic and stuff on currybet. So, Martin’s wee bit of anlysis suggests to us that the whole underlying argument of the piece is flawed. The BBC may have lost 60,000 Follows, but Follow does not equate to Follower, because people are capable of following many people. It’s a classic logic error which, admittedly, makes for fantastic linkbait.

So where does that leave us? Well, certainly not with the message that media outlets should own absolutely the Twitter accounts of everyone tweeting for them. John Bethune has some intelligent thoughts on how to address the situation.

Here’s an additional thought: if the BBC had claimed the account, and switched it to @BBCNormanS for Kuenssberg’s replacement, how would the people who found themselves suddenly following a person they did not choose to follow feel? Would they be annoyed that the BBC had forced them into following someone else? Quite probably, in some cases. And there’s a chunk of relationship damage that almost certainly outweighs the costs in terms of Follows inflicted here.

Brands are accumulations of people in the end; people’s work, personalities and output. And any brand that puts all of its eggs in the basket of a single Twitter user or account in putting all its eggs in one basket. That’s foolish. A brand which spreads itself across multiple social media accounts of its staff – of its constituent parts, if you like – benefits not only from reduced risk of loss, but also benefits from the multiple relationship streams developed as a result.

Tom Callow’s piece seems, to me, to be a classic example of the “command and control” approach to brand marketing clashing with the more personalised, distributed nature of social media. And that’s a fight that’s going to be going on for a long time to come, I suspect. But, we can see the outcome already. However much people might like to claim that people do, I don’t have conversations with brands, I have conversations with people. And if they’re good people, I think that much better of the brand.

What the BBC has lost is not 60,000 followers. What they have lost is Laura Kuenssberg’s relationship with 60,000 people. And no amount of Twitter account claiming could allow them to retain that relationship. Guess what? Your staff just got more important.

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Opening keynote is by Suraj Kika of Jadu.

He’s compared the massive growth of Twitter (1600% in 2009) with the wholesale shift of people’s attention away from mass media to personalised media.
It’s been a very example-based presentation so far. He cited #amazonfail as an example of engagement gone wrong – complete silence from the Amazone twitter account throughout. 
The company designed offices based on a blog post by Joel Spolsky, and went on to use his FogBugz software – from follower to customer in less than a year. They interact with many of their suppliers through Twitter. 
They have their own Twitter account – @jaducms
Short version of their approach:
  • Turn your customers into your evangelists on Twitter
  • Put real content out there, don’t just market
  • Engage with people
Oh, and it’s a great way to learn about the rest of the social stuff that’s happening on the internet.
ROI? Already got two strong leads. People are tweeting, so if you don’t get to them, your competitors would. People talk about our products on there. Need to be aware of that. If you add it to your marketing mix, you can benefit.
Corporate Twitter versus personal? He has three – a locked personal one, a professional one @surajkika and the corporate one – @jaducms – to which all the company can post. They manage this through the Jadu CMS which provides a workflow and trail.