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Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

Two Wednesdays ago, I headed over to Ogilvy PR Worldwide in DC to hear Jared Cohen, a member of the State Department’s Policy and Planning Staff, discuss social media and 21st century Statecraft. You can hear the speech/read the transcript for yourself here. Or, you can check-out my takeaways below.

Like many people, I use Facebook and Twitter as fun tools to keep in touch with my best friends and share articles of interest. But the impact of these tools can be much stronger in other contexts. Digital connections empower groups of people, both good and evil. For example, Afghanistan prisoners have used cell phones to coordinate an uprising from inside their jail cells. On the other hand, digital technology has given voices to those silenced by political oppression or chaos in the wake of a natural disaster.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at social media’s recent role in helping out Haiti or think back to the June 2009 election protests in Iran. Cohen recognized that Twitter was acting as an important medium through which Iranians could voice discontent and organize protests. Thus, he contacted Twitter to ask them to delay scheduled maintenance of its global network during the protests. Check out this video to remember how social media connected the world to this event in a way never seen before.

The world’s governments also recognize the power that comes from being connected. Corrupt governments fear the empowerment of their citizens, so they rely on censorship to maintain control. But people will always find a way to communicate, even if it’s by good-old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Since communication is inevitable in today’s world, Cohen takes a “technopragmatist” approach to the internet and its related technologies:

The reality is whether we like it or not from a policy standpoint…all these tools are being put out on the public domain. From a government standpoint, we have two options: We can fear we can’t control it and not try to influence it. And by the way, if we don’t try to influence it, all that does is give greater space to hostile actors who seek to use technology for nefarious purposes. Or we ca recognize that the 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak, recognize we can’t control it, but we can influence it and there is no better time to influence it when access is where it is today.

Cohen plans to influence the use of technology by reaching out to the experts of innovations and local contexts, private sector companies and civil society organizations, respectively. By melding their knowledge together, he thinks they can unlock the power of digital communications and social media in a positive way.

Next week, I’ll be attending a conversation with Knight Fellows at the International Center for Journalists.  The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition.  The Knight Fellows are working on new mobile and online technologies in an attempt to deliver the work of professional and citizen journalists to the remote and underserved communities of the world. By getting these remote communities connected, they will give them the power to participate in the world’s conversations.

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I had never read a military blog (milblog) before today. I have a hard enough time trying to keep up to date on the happenings of the war (and make sense of them.) When I started poking around the milblogosphere this afternoon, I had no idea that I would become engrossed in this activity for a solid four hours. Only class could pull me away from my computer, and even then I was late!

After my investigation, my perception of the war is already less abstract. While I still haven’t formulated my opinion, I can already tell that spending more time in this blogosphere would help me shape justified attitudes towards the war. Perhaps even more importantly, it would expose me to differing viewpoints and allow me to better understand those perspectives.

To develop and understand war policy, all sides of the story certainly need to be heard. I suggest starting with a daily snapshot of the top milblogs at milblogging.com. Check out milblogging.com’s blog’s profiles to see which ones might interest you from the get-go.  From there, it’s almost impossible not to get lost stumbling from page to page. It seems like everyone (including parents, wives, and children of the enlisted) involved in the war has an interesting story to tell. While many did stop posting to their blogs after the U.S. Army ordered soldiers to follow new rules in April 2007, this blogosphere is still incredibly active. Milblog’s have a wide variety of followers. Hollywood Refugee, for example, was angered when Kaboom was shut down for failure to properly vet a post in accordance with the new rules. There is some evidence that the U.S. military is trying to re-engage soldiers in the blogosphere. Check out the highlights from 5th Annual Milblog Conference in Arlington, VA two weekends ago (I wish I had known about this earlier!) Below is a video of General David Patreous’ opening remarks.

I read Baghdad Burning’s last post about self-identification as a refugee, and it made me want to read the book. Army of Dude’s The Real Deal post was also eye-opening, and I liked the author’s use of pictures to bring his point home. From there, I decided to search for more photo essays and was introduced to the world of Michael Yon. I also liked Wings over Iraq, Afghanistan without a Clue, Stormbringer, and The Sandbox. Does anyone have any other suggestions for me?

Finally, the milblogosphere was abuzz about the leaked video (Collateral Murder) of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that claimed the lives of two Reuters employees. Be sure to watch the entire video. Do you think it’s too biased? Milbloggers certainly had a lot to say about government transparency, war tactics and the risk of on-assignment journalism. The NY Time’s At War blog also did a fantastic job of rounding up different milbloggers’ reactions to the video’s release. This situation reminds me of the conflict over Kevin Site’s video of a soldier shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi.  It’s strange how history repeats itself.

After my explorations into the milblogosphere this afternoon, I can already say that I’m a big fan of its transparency. I’ll definitely continue to follow this online community beyond Social Media class.

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Starbucks’ Promoted Tweet

At its first ever Developer Conference last week, Twitter announced the rolling out of its first phase of Promoted Tweets.   This blog post does a good job of breaking down Promoted Tweets as “tweets that are raised in value or importance as an element of a targeted marketing campaign.” Basically, when Twitter users conduct searches that match the keywords paid for by Twitter’s hand-selected advertising partners, those advertisers’ promoted tweets will appear at the top of the users’ search results. These Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as such, so there is no attempt to convince users that it just happens to be the top search result. Click here for more details about the Promoted Tweets platform.

In the later phases of this ad platform, Twitter will algorithmically assign the most effective Promoted Tweets to your stream. This targeting will be based on what you tweet about and who you follow. Only time will tell how well Twitter can read into your real-time Twitter existence and determine which Promoted Tweets will resonate with you the most. For example, if you have been tweeting up a storm about the Fourth of July, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a Promoted Tweet from Virgin America on holiday fare discounts. Twitter also plans to eventually allow third party Twitter clients (TweetDeck, twhirl, TwitterBerry and Tweetie) to integrate Promoted Tweets, with the app developer receiving a cut of the revenue. Ultimately, Twitter could syndicate results to Google or Bing, though no deal is close to making that happen.

As social media angel investor David Pell hypothesizes, the Promoted Tweets that Twitter chooses for us could be a real wake-up call! I already get a kick out of the personalized ads that show alongside Facebook window (usually a strange mix of cat-related links, online psychology grad schools, and sorority gear.) I’m also on David’s side in terms of the intrusiveness (well, the lack thereof) of the Promoted Tweets that will eventually show up in my stream. I already have all the aspects of my life smashed together on Twitter- see my previous post. So who cares if a few highly targeted ads show up? I’d rather get tweets that don’t read like ads than spam emails that clutter my inbox and don’t “disappear” unless I delete them!

I think the Promoted Tweets platform is an incredibly reasonable response to “how can Twitter make money?” and “how can ads be brought into the Twittersphere?” Twitter is being especially patient in introducing this platform because the company’s founders refuse to destroy the experience that its users have grown to appreciate. While 42% of users are concerned that Promoted Tweets will spam their Twitter search results and streams, I think that these worries are completely unjustified. In my opinion, Promoted Tweets will be valuable to both Twitter’s advertising partners as well as its users. Why?  Make sure to check these in-depth reports by Ad Age and NY Times– both of these articles helped me to come to the following conclusions:

–          FOCUS ON MARKETS AS CONVERSATIONS– In planning this ad platform, Twitter has been focused on enhancing “the conversations that companies are already having with their customers on Twitter,” said Twitter COO Dick Costolo. Therefore, twitter hand-picked initial advertising partners, including Starbucks, Bravo, and Virgin America, that were already heavily engaged on Twitter. Starbucks could start a conversation with the Promoted Tweet “Tell us something a barista did to make your day?” Starbucks could buy keywords to keep this question at the top of a search that turns up the Promoted Tweet. Click here to learn more about how why Virgin America was chosen as an advertising partner and how the company is already using its Promoted Tweets- it’s very insightful.

–          QUICK PROFITABILITY IS NOT THE GOAL– In fact, Twitter will roll out the Promoted Tweets platform slowly over the course of a year and gauge users’ responses.  The last thing Twitter wants to do alienate users by forcing a new model on them. That’s why Twitter will test and test and test Promoted Tweets and watch how they perform in search results and then in streams.

–          ONE -AD-PER-SEARCH RULE– While Google, Bing and Yahoo display many search-related ads at a time, Twitter will only ever display one Promoted Tweet at the top of your search results.

–          RESONANCE AS A PERFORMANCE MODEL AND EVENTUALLY A PRICING METRIC– Resonance is impact of the Promoted Tweet based on how much a tweet is passed around, how much a tweet is marked as a favorite or how often a user clicks through a posted link. Ads that perform well will stay in search results and advertisers will pay for the search key words that bring up that ad on a cost-per-thousand basis. Ads that don’t rise above the resonance score of a typical tweet from a marketer will be removed and advertisers will not have to pay for them. Ultimately, Twitter plans to charge advertisers for Promoted Tweets based on their resonance in comparison to a standard marketing tweet.

That being said, can’t we all just give Promoted Tweets a chance?

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Throughout the semester, my classmates and I have been bookmarking a lot of Foursquare– related content on our delicious links page.  Introduced at South by Southwest Interactive Conference 2009, Foursquare and other location-based services were widely used by 2010 conference goers looking to find fellow social media nerds at unofficial parties and add transparency to the quality of events via check-ins and short message reviews. Unfortunately, as one of the only social media nerds out there WITHOUT a Smartphone (potential 23rd birthday present Mom & Dad?), I’m not yet a Foursquare user. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to check out Foursquare’s homepage to search your favorite area venues, read their reviews, and see if you recognize their mayors!  

But Foursquare is definitely more than just a competitive night life game. The site will distribute a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners access to a range of statistics and information on customers who check-in at their venues.  Additionally, a new staff page feature will allow venues to communicate with regular customers who check-in via Foursquare. For example, if a staffer hasn’t seen a “regular” visit in awhile, that staffer can tweet them about a new product to entice him or her back. Tristan Walker, director of business development at Foursquare, expects this feature to help local merchants especially. Here is an interview with Tristan in which he discusses cool ways that brands and businesses have used Foursquare. But even businesses that don’t offer face-to-face social experiences, such as bars and restaurants, can use location-based services to drive traffic and reinforce messaging. Even political campaigns and social causes can benefit from Foursquare- check out Marc Ross’s predictions on how volunteers will now gain recognition for their work.

Now that more venues are offering special deals and rewards to users who check-in, Foursquare is cracking down on cheating. Now, like its competitor Gowalla, Foursquare will use GPS data to verify a user’s actual location. While users will still be able to check-in anywhere (and prior to or after their actual arrival), they will only be rewarded for the check-in if they are at the actual location. And some users take their check-ins VERY seriously- check out this story and find out who was first to check in at the North Pole.  

Foursquare has already partnered with Bravo to turn its reality show celebrities into city curators who recommend venues that users can then check-in at to earn Bravo-themed badges. MTV and VH1 recently announced a similar partnership. They will also be the first media brands to launch Foursquare’s new Celebrity Mode tool, which allows users to friend celebrities and celebrity users to send check-ins to either friends and followers or just their inner-circle friends. It seems that Foursquare is following Twitter’s lead in getting celebrities involved, which could help boost the popularity of the site and help pack the house for future official celebrity appearances. Over the past few days, the Financial Times has finalized a deal with Foursquare to offer mayors of select cafes near London School of Economics, Cass School of Business, Harvard, and Columbia codes for a premium FT.com subscription.  And of course, web apps big and small continue to integrate with Foursquare’s rich local data.

It will certainly be interesting to watch Foursquare’s growth past 500,000 users in the upcoming months. Will location-based services spread beyond early-adopting social media nerds based in prominent cities (similar to how Facebook has spread beyond college students?) Will enough of your inner-ring ever use Foursquare, or will growth beyond your inner-ring make this social media tool too overwhelming (as some say has happened with Twitter)? Perhaps if Foursquare fails to adopt filtering and status-toggles that allow us to limit the notifications we receive, we will turn to Rally Up to meet up and follow our true friends. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, I hope I get a phone that allows me to join in the fun!

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Wikipedia has become the “first draft of history.” Just take a look at how the Wikipedia community handled the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. By the end of the first day of the Wikipedia article’s life, it had been edited more than 360 times, by 70 different editors referring to 28 separate sources from news outlets around the web. Wikipedia’s crowdsourcing mentality combined with its easy-to-use, accessible platform to generate an aggregation of event details from multiple sources (such as NY Times, Reuters, and Times of India) in a number of different languages and locations. Wikipedia is especially effective as a breaking news source because articles can be instantaneously created and rapidly updated by anyone (you don’t have to be a reporter in the newsroom!) In fact, the contributors to breaking news articles often interact online as if they are in a virtual newsroom. Also, the list of links at the bottom of the page points readers to more resources regarding specific aspects of the event or different viewpoints taken.  

Let’s face it. When an event is unfolding, people would rather have information that isn’t 100% reliable rather than no information at all. And if an event is important enough, you can be sure that incorrect information will be fixed by the time you refresh your screen. That’s because a crowd of contributors (some of which might band together as a community) quickly assemble during crisis events. As we talked about in class last week, humans are motivated to DO something during a crisis rather than sit around passively absorbing information from other sources. In case you really don’t trust early contributors, Wikipedia released an optional feature last fall (WikiTrust) that color codes every word of the encyclopedia based on the reliability of its author and the length of time it has lasted in the article.

But are the community’s new policies and aggressive management of the site turning off existing members and making it more and more difficult for new members to join? A recent study found that during the first three months of 2009, the English-language version of Wikipedia lost 49,000 editors, compared with a loss of about 4,900 during the same period in 2008. Jimmy Wales says this is not so. Perhaps this is a case of crowd fatigue- thoughts? I’m a little bit surprised that there is not very much information on the West Virginia mining explosion that happened yesterday. While the accident is now mentioned in here and here, it has not been extensively covered by Wikipedia editors as the events unfold. Could it be that the majority of the Wikipedia community lives in large cities and feel more connected to local breaking news?

Last June, Google News began monitoring Wikipedia articles and using them on their site. This was a pivotal change. Finally, the most powerful media company in the world was recognizing Wikipedia’s increasing popularity as a reliable breaking news source. The Huffington Post also recognizes Wikipedia’s importance- it dedicates an entire page to breaking news about Wikipedia. And did you know that there is now a WikiReader? For $99, this gadget allows users to browse all of Wikipedia offline and on-the-go. Why not carry around breaking news in your pocket? Read a review here!

Finally, below is a video that can help you use Wikipedia as a news source by making use of Wikipedia’s watchlist function. This isn’t the most exciting video, but stick with it. It’s a good tutorial if you don’t already have a lot of experience on the editing side of Wikipedia!

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Last month, CNNMoney.com’s article asserted that Twitter has become more of a newsfeed than an actual social network because “most of its 50 million accounts merely follow other users rather than post their own messages.” This article was in response to a study by RJMetrics Inc showing that most Twitter accounts inactive. The CNNMoney.com article caught my attention because I am one of those “inactive” users of which it speaks (although trying to change- follow me @torichristmas!) In activating my account, my goal was to master Twitter as a social media tool (and improve my knowledge of politics, current events and social media happenings along the way.) I intended to “tweet” regularly about current events and social media news and to prove the relevance of my tweets by gaining followers. I had no real interest in keeping in touch with friends through Twitter; most of my friends are on Facebook, and for me, that’s a more effective platform for such relationships.

Upon setting up my account, I began following news sources, Barack, agencies, social media gurus, and organizations of interest, as well as a few friends and acquaintances. Perhaps I created too large a Twitter network to begin with- this can happen on any social networking site, like Foursquare. In my defense, I used Twitter’s list function to try to create some order on my home stream (examples of my lists are breaking news, personal interests, PR/Ad/Social Media, and High School Friends.) But each time I logged on to Twitter, I felt overwhelmed by all of the recent tweets (why did I seem to be continually behind on the news?) and annoyed by certain accounts’ rapid tweets that were taking over my home and list streams. It didn’t look like I was following 75 accounts; instead, 10-12 dominant accounts crowded my streams and commanded my attention by pushing less regular tweeters to the bottom of the reverse-chronological stream. I thought that the more people I followed, the more I would get out of Twitter. But instead, my stream is cluttered by things that I care about only marginally and updates on people who I hardly know anymore. Maybe Metcalf’s Law doesn’t ring true for Twitter. Is it wrong to not embrace the weak ties I have to most of the tweets on my stream?

In his study, Robert J. Moore, CEO and Founder of RJMetrics, says that if new Twitter users stick with Twitter for an entire week, then they will have a much higher rate of engagement with Twitter over time. Perhaps this insight prompted Twitter to change how it engages with its users and potential users. Last week, the site began testing a new homepage that “bubbles up more of the information flowing through Twitter,” according to the Twitter blog. “Twitter is a network where information is exchanged and consumed at a rapid clip every second of the day. With so much being shared, we know that there’s something of value for everyone,” continued the Twitter blog. To summarize, Twitter has made changes to its homepage to show users who have not thoroughly explored and experimented with its site that Twitter can be useful in ways that are not generally apparent. These changes should help users more easily figure out who and what they can find on Twitter, and how they can personalize and filter their rapidly flowing streams. The site is trying to communicate to non-users and inactive users that Twitter is not just for status updates anymore. Be sure to read this recent blog post on the changes. Something interesting that I got from it is that since July 2009, Twitter has been trying to emphasize its “potential as a real-time search tool and a source of information, rather than a simple social networking tool.” So in reality, contrary to the CNNMoney.com article’s viewpoint, Twitter wants to be viewed as more of a newsfeed than a social network. Hopefully its responsiveness to user confusion (like my own) through interface changes can generate more user engagement in 2010. I think that it’s clarification of its desired image has certainly been a good place to start!

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