Social Media Battle Today: Cops vs Activists

There looks set to be a fascinating social media showdown today as Climate Camp activists attempt to 'swoop' at a secret London location while the police attempt to prevent them – or at least manage the process.

The 'swoop' takes place from a number of locations across the city and is being coordinated and publicised via a number of social media channels:

  • Live video of the swoop is being Qik'd
  • Live tweets from the swoop are being published at http://twitter.com/climatecamp – the hashtag climatecamp is being used for general updates while each swoop location has been given its own unique hashtag.
  • The swoop location is being announced at midday via SMS and the Climate Camp Facebook group

Conversely the Met Police are using their own Twitter feed to coordinate and publish live information (although they say they won't be responding to replies and DMs) and using monitoring tool Radian 6 to track online conversations.

This should all make for exciting spectating. Tune in from midday for the latest action – or get along yourself!

Tags: social media, policing, activism, monitoring

The Met Police, Twitter and blogger engagement

I posted a while back about comments made to PR Week by the Met Police's corporate comms manager, Dick Fedorico, about their plans for online monitoring and engagement.

Well, in advance of this year's Climate Camp the Met has signed u to Twitter to provide real-time updates on their actions during the week long Camp.

But, take a look a look at their Twitter policy:

"Official CO11 Met Police channel. Please note we
cannot respond to messages via Twitter. Read our Twitter policy at
www.met.police.uk/webinfo/twitter.htm"

So….. the Met is using Twitter to disseminate information, but isn't prepared to listen to what people have to say.

There's some additional confusion as in a Guardian article a spokesperson says that only people who follow the Met's Twitter feed will have access to updates. But currently their feed is public so anyone can view their feed.

Well, actually; I say 'feed' but there seems to be two identical Met feeds:

  1. http://twitter.com/C011MetPolice
  2. http://twitter.com/CO11MetPolice

It'll be an interesting case to follow and see how it works.

Tags: Met Police, CO11, Twitter, Climate Camp

New Statesman misses the point on political blogging

The New Statesman has published an article on political blogging which, while I'm all for MSM coverage of the great political communications stuff going on at the moment, kind of misses the point a bit.

Having followed (and studied) political blogging since 2006 it pisses me off that this sort of who has more blgogers than who argument still gains credence.

Political blogging has a UK legacy from at least 2003 – and earlier in the US – so why then, in 2009, are we getting articles that cover old ground or make sweeping judgements with little evidence or insight.

The answer is perhaps simple: that's what journalism (or at least a lot of modern 'churnalism') does. And ironically this sort of lazy shorthand reporting is onen reason blogs and social media prolifereated in the first place.

The article in particular regurgitates the line from a press release (I presume there was a press release as the story is based on report by a compnay that offers a commerical product) that there are more Tory bloggers that Labour and Lib Dem ones because:

"the [Red Flag] email smears scandal, which forced LabourList editor Derek Draper to resign, ha[s] stunted Labour’s online efforts."

The thing is: there's no evidence in the article to suggest that Labour's online growth has slowed. I would argue it's a fairly common belief that the Tories were generally ahead online (for a number of inconclusive, complex reasons) which is why Labour retaliated with LabourList and other digital grassroots initiatives.

What really annoys me though is the presumption that the perceived values of traditional media simply transfer of the networked space with an emphasis on successful examples being celebrity. Former Daily Mirror reporter and Labour's best known liar spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, is described as: "one of Labour’s most prominent bloggers". I would suggest that while Campbell is a prominent person associated with Labour, he isn't one of their most prominent bloggers. That would be Recess Monkey or Tom Watson.

Maybe I'm splitting heirs here, but I think it's justified to make the point: social media isn't about numbers or celebrity. It isn't about which party has the msot MP's blogging. It is about conversation, debate, transparency, authenticity, accountability and social production of knowledge.

These are things traditional media (or even traditional democracy) can't deliver. And this is what makes social media one of the key driving forces for the future of not just our media, but for our democratic existence.

*UPDATED* I've just spotted Stuart Bruce (political blogger since 2003) has posted on the subject too.

Tags: New Statesman, political blogging, democracy

Online PR: book review to come…

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Thanks to Martha over at publishers, Kogan Page, I’ve just received my review copy of Online PR by David Phillips and Philip Young.

I’m looking forward to having a read as both authors are smart guys: academics with solid practical backgrounds and experience.

I’ll be posting my thoughts here in due course. It’ll probably be done piecemeal as I go along, owing to a hectic work schedule.

Tags: Kogan Page, Online PR, David Phillips, Philip Young

Review: Social Media Insight 2009

An interesting report from a firm called Social Media Library came my way a few weeks back but I’ve only got around to blogging it today. First up my overall thoughts and then a break-down of some of the specific results.

The report, Social Media Insight 2009, offers a detailed analysis of the UK blogosphere, Twittersphere and …er …. Forums broken down by ‘influencers’, sectors – and perhaps most interestingly, geographical location.

I put the term ‘influencer’ in inverted commas because I have long-standing concerns about the idea of online influence and especially from the perspective with which the PR, advertising and marketing likes to conceive the concept (IMHO we primarily perceive ‘influence’ as power, i.e. the ability to persuade people to do or buy things. But the concept of power in networks is still being worked out and is vastly different to traditional conceptions – anyway I digress).

My theoretical worries aside, Social Media Library CEO, Graham Lee, tells me that the report uses a proprietary methodology they call BlogScore (Twitterscore, etc) which uses two main metrics: “a blog's incoming links, but also, importantly, the number of incoming links that those links have” as well as “the performance of a blog on relevant keywords in search returns”.

Crucially for me the system gains credibility by involving both automated data mining and then analysis of each site by a real, live, human. This is important for two reasons: firstly Social Media Library should be fairly confident in guaranteeing each site is UK-based.This process is a significant improvement on purely automated tools which filter UK blogs based on .co.uk domains or UK-based IP address. Secondly it means that their geographical data break-down can again be fairly accurate.

So far, so good. My big question was: what does the data *really* tell us? Putting my cynical hat on I read the main findings of the report and the charts and while it is interesting to note that 38% of influential UK blogs are about consumer issues; or that 32% of UK B2B blogs are about the marketing and PR industries; or Coventry Twitterers have the highest average number of followers (594), what does his really tell us?

Graham’s answer was as follows:

The purpose of the report is to help people get more of a feel of the social media landscape as it currently stands. Social media is immensely complex, and particularly if you are not immersed in it day-to-day, quite confusing. Add to this the fact that our shared English language with the US – making it exceedingly hard to garner actual engagement levels in the UK – and it becomes a difficult beast for people to get their heads around. … One other breakthrough has been the potential to look at the spread of social media regionally, across the UK. Understanding this, I hope, helps people > better determine the scope for social media to help support regional campaigns and initiatives.

While I definitely agree with Graham’s final statement my key take-out from the report is that it gives a real top-level ‘feel’ for the state of social media in the UK. A potentially useful tool for non-digital specialists – so I suppose I'm not necessarily the primary audience for this.

But this isn’t a criticism. Using social media effectively means getting down and dirty with data; finding relevant communities and immersing yourself in them. If the approach to scraping, measuring and analysing social media presented in the report can be tailored and drilled down into further and sliced in different ways then it definitely offers great scope for UK-focussed digital campaigns.

If you want to know more take a peek at their blog.

Tags: Social Media Library, Social Media Insight 2009

Fancy a paid digital PR internship at a smart London agency?

Big Yellow Self Storage Star Search
I've have a fair few emails each month from people wanting to get experience working in a digital PR environment. I do what I can but it's not always feasible to give opportunities to everyone or or sign-post them on to other contacts.

However, word reaches me from friend and ex-Edelman colleague, Amy Clark, that help may be at hand if you are looking for a pretty cool digital opportunity. Amy heads up the digital activity over at Splendid Communications and is running a rather smart campaign with their client, Big Yellow Storage.

Big Yellow Self Storage is running a competition offering one determined and talented individual the chance to win a month’s paid internship in Splendid's digital team.

Highlighting the sort of creative digital work you can expect to experience first-hand if you win, Splendid are running the competition through a clever social media mechanic.

According to the official blurb:

"The right candidate should be able to sell themselves via an online audition which will last no longer than 12 seconds.  We’ve teamed up with 12seconds.tv to run the world’s first speed-video job application. We’re looking for people to tell us in no more than 12 seconds why they’re right for the job"

Interested applicants can submit a video by heading over to the Big Yellow Storage campaign/12seconds website.  

Another really nice feature of the competition (IMHO) is the way the outcome is socialiased. By that I mean that while there is (can only be – due to resources and time) only one paid internship they have committed to "showcasing all entries to the industry in the hope that other talented hopefuls will be snapped up by recruiters". It's a cliche but evryone could be a winner…. so why not spread the word!

The competition is open to anyone else providing you're over the age of 18 and
are eligible to work in the UK. I've posted the full how to enter details below.

How to enter:

Candidates ready to rise to the challenge and enter the limelight need to speed over to 12seconds.tv and upload their video interview in five easy steps designed to test the entrant’s social media prowess.

1. Register an account on 12seconds.tv/campaign/bigyellowselfstorage

2. Link your Twitter account to your 12 seconds account

3. Record your video 12 second video on a mobile phone, video camera or webcam and upload your video at 12seconds.tv/campaign/bigyellowselfstorage

4. Fill in the ‘submit my CV’ from and attach a recent copy of your CV

The closing date for entries is May 30th 2009. The winner will be announced on June 15th 2009.

Metropolitan Police’s turn to social media after G20 policing scandal likely to fail, IMHO

As an interesting footnote to my post below about the need for the Metropolitan Police to make significant changes to its organisational communications culture the force's Director of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, Dick Fedorcio, is interviewed in this week's PR Week.

From my reading and expert opinion form others Fedorcio's comments indicate that the Met is unable or unwilling to make the real changes necessary.

In a telling statement, Fedorcio, tells PR Week that he won't be looking to run a blogger engagement programme any time soon as:

"If I was seeking to
manipulate people, it would raise a question about how that reduced our
integrity. To be leaning on someone to say "give us a good blog" starts
to raise some ethical issues.
"

This is a damning insight into the Met's current communications practice as it suggests that its media strategy is built on manipulation.

Commenting on the interview, Diffusion's Ivan Ristic, adds his expert comment that when an organisation has a "reputation of stonewalling" it "makes it difficult
in a social marketing context.
" Too true. You need to tell your story as openly as possible and engage and empower others to help tell your story.

However, while what Ivan says is correct I disagree with his reading of the situation. The Met does not have a reputation to stonewall – at least in the G20/Tomlinson context.

Here the Met/City police and IPCC were extremely proactive in issuing media releases and briefings to frame the story based on what has emerged as an untrue account of events.

Admitedly organisational change isn't easy and takes time and resources – something Fedorcio claims is currently lacking. But stepping into the social media space without evening considering what adaptions you need to make to your corporate communications strategy is setting yourself up to fail – or at least be burned very publicly before you get your strategy right.

I wonder if Dick or the Met will ever monitor this psot and respond? 🙂

Tags: Metropolitan Police, Dick Fedorcio, PR Week, blogger engagement, social media strategy

Social Media: Changing Organisations One Crisis at a Time

Youtubes Police
There’s a school of thought that believes that major internal changes only occur through external events – often political or financial – that have a major or cataclysmic impact on the organisation.

When it comes to social media causing cataclysmic changes in the UK we have recently witnessed two significant events which in one case has led to change. However, as far as I have seen, these changes have largely passed unnoticed among professional communicators despite having relevance to public and media institutions.

While they’re not exactly cut and dried case studies I thought I’d use a blog post to take a look at what happened, why, and how the Internet has changed the way the organisations in question operate – or not.

The first example at first sight looks like a fairly standard whistle-blower business story. Last month the Guardian published a story based on leaked documents that shone a light on Barclays’ investment division. The story, the Guardian claimed, was another piece of journalism damning the financial industry at a time when public abhorrence and anger for the wealth being accumulated (or not) by bankers was at its peak.

The Guardian broke the story overnight via its website which included scans of the leaked documents. These meant anyone could delve into Barclays’ gory tax avoidance details themselves. However, by the following morning edition of the Guardian newspaper Barclays’ lawyers had secured an injunction requiring the documents to be removed from the Guardian’s website. Job done, they thought.

However, in the couple of hours that the documents had been online users had saved copies of the documents and distributed them across the web, on sites including the wonderful Wikileaks.

Unfortunately, the injunction meant the Guardian couldn’t disclose or signpost its readers to the documents but that didn’t matter as people were discussing the story and linking to copies of the documents anyway – entirely by-passing the MSM and thus rendering the legal injunction all but worthless. 

This has clear resonances with the Diebold case in the US back in 2004. I won’t go into the specifics (it’s on Wikipedia and has been examined in detail Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks) but suffice to say that a large company, in this case Diebold, discovered it couldn’t use legislation to control or censor unpalatable information once it had been launched into the social web.

The second case is more recent – and more tragic. During the G20 protests the innocent newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson was assaulted by a police officer who had disguised his identity by covering his face with a balaclava and illegally removing his identification number. Furthermore, the officer responsible didn't come forward until the video footage had been played out across the world. As a result of this violence there is a very strong likelihood that the injuries Tomlinson's sustained during the assault led to his death.

This version of events – widely accepted by the public and media as the most accurate – has been established using images, videos and first-hand testimonies from citizen journalists. However, the response by the police forces involved and IPCC was to issue media statements that contradicted this version of events. How can that be?

Writing in Monday’s Media Guardian Nick Davies asks the important question: “Why did it take six days and citizen journalism to shed light on Ian Tomlinson’s death.”

Davies – whose book last year, Flat Earth News, criticised cash and resource strapped newsrooms for being overly-reliant on the PR industry and PROs – goes as far as to suggest that the reason may be that the Met, City of London Police and IPCC were deliberately issuing misinformation.

Far be it for me to comment on that point but it places the role of the Internet at the heart of the media coverage, rather than the periphery.

Aside from Tomlinson’s death, the nearby peaceful Climate Camp was targeted by violent police action which would seem to have coincided with when the MSM cameras were turned off. Without citizen reporters capturing the camp clearance on phones, digital video and still cameras there would be no real record of the events that unfolded.

Ditto the police officer who updated his Facebook status: "Can't wait to bash some long haired hippys up @ the G20." As a result he is being investigated. And who knows what happened (if anything) to this guy who’s Twitter update landed in my inbox a few days after the event.

With all this reputational fallout for the police and sharp drop in public trust it is perhaps no surprise to see the relatively rapid announcement in PR Week that the Met is now “stepping up its online comms" to deal with the Internet as a communications channel.

While it’s certainly a step in the right direction, tactical changes will only be successful if supported by a change in organisational strategy too. With the web making organisations’ actions near-impossible to control or manage, traditional institutions and their approach to communications – and in this case, UK law a well – are being undone by the Internet.

Things are changing, but it seems to be only one crisis at a time.

Tags: Social Media, organisational change, crisis, Barclays, Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, IPCC

Twitter at the peak of the hype cycle

Neville has a good post taking a brief but insightful look at Twitter's current popularity, charting it against Gartner's famous Hype Cycle.

Twitter HC

Neville writes that Twitter is currently perched atop the initial Peak of Inflated Expectations and quotes Gartner's Mark Raskino who argues that if we take micro-blogging as an abstract technology its current mass popularity lies in the fact that it's a tool which helps journalists (and bloggers) do their job and is thus gaining significant media attention.

I would add to this and suggest that the journalist example is one half of Twitter's popularity. Once the media write about Twitter, their audiences sign up and find that as well as being a useful tool for journalists it's also a useful for them. In fact it's a damn useful tool for just about anyone. Thus the inflation continues.

Neville also reinforces this point with a quote from Don Dodge who suggests that the power of Twitter lies not in the technology, but in the people (which is something I've been saying for a while):

"Social networks are all about connecting people and letting them communicate. It is the power of the network…not the technology."

Neville ends his post with the (perhaps leading) question:

"How quickly will it slide down into and then out of the trough of disillusionment?"

I believe the answer to this question is: quicker than we think.

As Twitter gains popularity via the dual drivers of mainstream media coverage and amazing public utility it becomes a ripe target for spammers, shysters, snakeoil salesmen, etc.

Sure this has always been the case with any product, tool or service but key to twitter is the realtime, network effect conditions under which it operates.

If people love Twitter for it's live connection with friends and colleagues then they'll hate it for the speed and ease with which spammers and shysters can invade their lives.

It's already happening: first there were fake, spammy accounts following you automatically and now I and others are complaining of receiving direct messages from spammy, fake accounts without even following them.

And maybe this is the real driver of innovation or the migration to new social media platforms. Friend Feed is growing nicely but maybe it's not going to gain critical mass until Twitter is clogged up with spam – or indeed, mired in the Trough of Disillusionment.

Tags: Twitter, Neville Hobson, Gartner, Hype Cycle, Friend Feed

I’m back damnit and here’s your starter for 10: an OpenCIPR

OK. I'm back blogging again. Apologies for the haitus. Twas caused by busy, busy work and too much homelife going on.

So I have a few thoughts on s0me issues around public engagement and social media which I aim to write up soonest, in the meantime I wanted to float this idea:

Does the desire exist among UK PR types for an OpenCIPR?

Well, is there? I didn;t renew my membership earleir this year but after discussions with a good few digtial PR types was convinced that there are a number of areas where an organisation of social media and digital PR and communications types would be very useful, e.g. taking the marketing and ad agencies on through thought-leadership; developing and sharing best practice communally (a la Will McInnes' Measurement Camp); knwoeldge sharing, networking, drinking, etc.

But this thought led naturally to the next…. in a social/digital age do we need (a) formal organisation to organise? My opinion: no.

So I propose re-joining the CIPR and establishing a OpenCIPR grassroots version. This is something David Wilcox and others did with the RSA. And if they can do it with the RSA we can do it with the CIPR.

But I need to know a) that this isn't a stupid idea and b) others are willing to get involved.

Please leave your views in the comments. kthxbai

Tags: CIPR, OpenCIPR, open source organising