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Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

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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Garrett Graff’s 2007 The First Campaign asked this question about the 2008 presidential campaign: Will the two major parties seize the moment and run the first campaign of the new era, or will they run the last campaign all over again?

Clearly, Obama ran the first campaign. His online campaign for change was a grassroots movement on steroids. It took political campaigns to a new era by showing “what Web 2.0 means for Campaigning 3.0 (Graff, p. 267). It even earned him Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year. Businesses are also in “campaigns” with consumers, and corporations like Conde Nast  are already trying to capitalize on Obama’s digital lessons.

I wonder how the Supreme Court’s Citizen United vs. The Federal Election Commission will impact the 2012 campaign. Will corporations invest more heavily in supporting candidate’s online campaigns or launching their own? Will candidates lose control of their messaging, online and offline? Or will the FEC rewrite their rules to stop corporations and unions from working with campaigns they favor in planning their messages.

Michael Turk, who was in charge of Internet strategy for President Bush’s 2004 campaign, has accused the GOP of failing to believe that “people will up and participate if they are invited to do so” (Graff, p.258). After the 2008 loss, Obama’s prospective 2012 Republican rivals Republicans are already changing their tune and investing heavily to build supportive online communities. Will their efforts pay off?

It is difficult to make these predictions when technologies and social media’s influence are evolving so rapidly. Back in 2007, even experts were misjudging when political figures would adopt the internet.  For example, blogging pioneer Henry Copeland forecasted that the team who won the 2008 Presidential election would have run an “old-school fuddy-duddy campaign” (Graff, p.254).

In this article, Michael Silberman explains:

We can expect to see even more impressive integrations of tried and true organizing strategies with new technologies that we can’t even imagine. In 2012, millions more people will have access to broadband, and no one really knows how they will be spending their time online.

New Web 2.0 platforms are certainly creating new options for Campaigning 3.0. For example, foursquare users can easily notify their networks when they are volunteering for campaigns, and campaign offices can provide supporters with increased recognition.

But in spite of these changes, the key to winning the 2012 election online will still be understanding that “the internet isn’t an end to itself but merely a means to an end- a chance to pull people in and get them involved in the political process” (Graff, p. 275-276). Candidates who launch social media campaigns to simply “build community” will fail. Candidates’ success will rely on their ability to establish a focused message that is simple, consistent, and relevant. Unless online community members understand their mission, they will not be able to take advantage of fancy social media tools to accomplish it.

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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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On February 5, 2010, Tunisian Blogger Ghodwa Nahrek wrote:

Ammar (the nickname given to the Tunisian censorship apparatus) said that he doesn’t like Nocturnal Thoughts anymore. He prefers afternoon thoughts. Nocturnal Thoughts, the blog of our friend and brother Tarek Kahlaoui, had been censored after more than three years of continuous blogging about interesting and sensitive subjects. In Tunisia, the scissors of censorship acquired new significance. It is no longer a form of oppression and a limit to freedom of expression as it is a medal for the blogger and a certificate from the censor showing the value of a blog and the importance of the subjects it deals with. Congratulations to our friend Tarek and welcome again in the club of censored blogs.

Tunisian censorship of the internet is the rule rather than the exception. Websites that criticize Tunisia’s human rights, such as Amnesty International , Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, the International Freedom of Expression eXchange, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, are blocked. The Tunisian government is also notorious for blocking websites critical of the Ben Ali regime. Even YouTube and Daily Motion have been banned for hosting of videos documenting prison abuse in Tunisia, and pages that are critical of the regime are blocked on international media sources like the New York Times or the BBC.  According to aggregate scores established by Freedom on the Net (the higher the score, the worst the censorship on a scale of 0 to 100), Tunisia and China are tied for second worst censorship in the world (only behind Cuba.)  

The Tunisian blogosphere did not start until 2006, but by August 2008, at least 22 of about 600 active blogs had already been blocked. Blogging was originally used as a form of free speech, but the government quickly began punishing bloggers who addressed topics beyond the “red lines” observed by traditional media in Tunisia. But some bloggers are resilient and choosing to wear their badges of honor for speaking up (and being censored.) It is unclear whether this anti-censorship blog campaign has been squashed, but in 2008, about fifty bloggers would repost deleted or blocked blog posts on new sites- sometimes starting as many as nine blogs to get their message out there in the face of censorship. Others bloggers have come up with more creative ways to write about politics and human rights without being caught.  The blog NormalLand used to be able to discuss Tunisian politics by using a virtual country with a virtual leader, with various government positions being assigned to other Tunisian bloggers, but it is now shut down.  

To learn more about trends in the Tunisian blogosphere (or any other country, for that matter), definitely follow the conversation on Global Voices Online, which rounds out the bloggers around the world and gives you a bird’s eye view of what conversations are going on in blogospheres around the globe. In November 2009, Tunisian bloggers were posting most often about the trial of Fatma Arabicca, the question of French reparations to Tunisia for its past colonization, and the Egypt-Algeria World Cup Match. Over the past two months, the fight against censorship has continued in the blogosphere, and bloggers have begun speaking in English (as opposed to the more common Arabic and French.)  Cyber-activism for student protesters is another trending topic that continues amongst Tunisian bloggers and social media users.

If you want more of an insight into the blogosphere in the Arab world, check out this episode. You’ll get great insights from an Egyptian blogger and a Lebanese blogger (both of whom have been arrested and detained.) It’s interesting to learn how censorship of traditional media impacts the role blogging plays in these states, and how cenorship of digital media varies from state to state!

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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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I first became acquainted with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) during my junior year of college in an abnormal psych class. As part of our curriculum, we read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This novel, written in the first-person perspective of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, really struck a chord with me. I became fascinated by individuals and families affected by ASD. Perhaps it was because I prided myself on my superior communication skills and love of loving, and couldn’t imagine living with ASD.  Perhaps it was because I was a psychology major, and ASD was beginning to appear in the headlines of news and the plots of books and movies rather frequently (1 in 100 children in the U.S. are affected.) Regardless of my reason, I began to “follow” autism. I haven’t made a career out of this interest, although I sometimes think my dream job is in the communications department of an organization that raises awareness for ASD. Instead, I simply find it very easy to become engrossed in an Aspergian’s memoir (John Robison’s Look Me in the Eye) or the blog of a parent with an autistic child.

If you’re not very familiar with ASD, the Autism” Wikipedia page as well as the Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks’ home pages provide basic information about diagnostic criteria and psychological profiles. From there, I recommend diving into blogs. Reading non-fiction really is the best way to learn. While there are a finite number of memoirs to purchase on Amazon.com, individuals touched by autism are posting on personal blogs every single day! Sites like The Autism Hub provide links to blogs about autism from autistic people, family members, and students/professionals. Left Brain/Right Brain is another well-known autism blog focused on news, science, and opinion related to ASD. You should follow @autismspeaks on Twitter for more blog recommendations and relevant news. But awareness groups like Autism Speaks aren’t only maintaining a presence on social networking sites like Faceboook and Twitter- they have created their own! Autism Speaks’ autism social networking site provides a venue, complete with blog lists and forums members of the autism community to share insights, opinions and information. Autism Blogger is another social networking site that allows people who have been affected by autism to share their stories, provide support and to help others. Many of these bloggers respond to autism’s portrayal by the media, which links you to more autism-related content (particularly YouTube videos).

Estée Klar’s blog, To Get To The Other Side, is one of my favorites to follow.  Estée is the founder and executive director of The Autism Acceptance Project and is the mother of a young autistic son named Adam. Her blog, formerly known as The Joy of Autism, has been given numerous awards, as well as listed in the top 10 autism blogs as well as the top 100 health blogs. In order to support and enrich the autistic community,  Estée discusses how we must view autism as a way of being and a natural form of human difference. I found this recent post of hers especially interestingfor its condemnation of Autism Speak’s marketing  that “exploits people’s pain for capital gain: make autism desperate enough and we can raise money to cure it.”

Before blogging existed, books on autism were rather scarce. But, as you will see when you visit some of the autism social networking sites and blog lists linked above, there is certainly a demand for insights, opinion, and information surrounding autism, but this demand was previously hard to recognize because it fell into  The Long Tail .  “Unfiltered by economic scarcity” (The Long Tail, p.53), the supportive voices of the autistic community are now heard through blogging.

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