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Content, strategy and creating value in a digital world

Crowdsourcing vs Quality – Can Q&A sites find the balance?

Interesting article here from Fast Company on the growth of Q&A sites like Quora and Facebook questions, exploring the fact that no-one has completely cracked it yet, for a number of reasons:

  • Negative response bias – Those with an axe to grind are more likely to respond to requests
  • Attention seeking, rather than utility-giving – The classic problem with crowdsourcing, in which respondents use it as their own personal platform, rather contributing to the actual need
  • Trolling – Noise created by non-interested 3rd parties in an attempt to boost their own presence

Nevertheless, there are a couple of smaller, targetted Q&A sites that are working quite well for niche audiences – take a look at TED Conversations, Innocentive and Help a Reporter Out

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The secret history of Social Networking

Been listening to a fantastic series of of podcasts from the BBC charting the rise and future of social networks. Includes interviews with all the big hitters, and some really great insights from young people in the Middle East on how social networks facilitated the uprisings there – take a listen here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y5jgf

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Social commerce and the benefits of consumer insight

Really nice little video here on social commerce, and the benefits to consumers and manufacturers.

Via Digital Buzz

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Google takes Facebook battle to mobile

Google’s newly announced challenger to Facebook, Google Buzz looks pretty similar to the blue giant of social networking.

You can see status updates, watch videos inline, get notifications in your inbox and more. So far so derivative.

But two things might just encourage people to switch:

1. It can incorporate feeds from external applications – such as Twitter, Picasa and Flickr

2. Google Buzz for mobile has some very cool location-based features – the ability to tag an update to a location, The ability for your followers to quickly see that on a map. And the ability to see other updates near you current location all look great. Check out the demo video below:

Will it encourage the a sizeable percentage of Facebook’s 400m subscribers to switch? Time will tell.

Perhaps Google Buzz needs to allow users to see their friends Facebook updates…

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Guardian Zeitgeist – reflecting reader behaviour

I’m Loving the Guardian’s new community feature, called Zeitgeist.


It reflects trending news, topics and articles from the site in a much more complex way than simple pageviews.

The infographic could probably be dialed up to make the feedback a bit richer, but I love the concept and the logic behind it, which you can read about here.

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Corporate Twitter: a simple, sad lesson from Europcar

This is a story about how I tried to spend £100 with a car hire company and failed, thanks to an unhelpful customer service department, compounded by spectacularly poor use of the official company Twitter account.

It started well enough with an online booking, followed by a phone call from the branch to confirm the exact car I needed.

The wheels fell off when I tried to pick the car up. Despite being assured by the man on the phone that I didn’t need to take along the company credit card to pick up the car, when I arrived without it, I was stonewalled.

Nope. Sorry. No can do.

Did I have recourse?

“You can call customer services”

And so started my customer service odyssey, an epic that involved being referred between departments, then back to a self-service website that denied any knowledge of me.

What did I want? To reschedule a booking, pay for it with a company credit card and then pick up the car using a different card for the deposit.

The short answer from Europcar: “Computer says no”

And then I noticed the Twitter link on the Europcar homepage, offering me “Daily Driving Inspiration”

So in desperation I messaged them:

@carhiregetaways experiencing terrible customer service with Europcar – what do you recommend I do to get help?

The response? Silence. Until 11pm that night, when I received this direct message:

Thanks for following us… Get 10% off your next UK car hire at http://www.europcar.co.uk with our exclusive Twitter offer! http://bit.ly/GeHOn

To make it worse, they hadn’t even followed me back, so I was unable to DM them back. Did anyone read my message? Did I sound like I was in the mood to make another booking with Europcar? Is there anyone actually there?

If you thought there was nothing worse than callcentre staff who refuse to veer off script to help a customer, may I suggest this: a company using a bot to broadcast Tweets into cyberspace in the belief that it amounts to engaging with customers.

I’m a customer, I have a unique problem, I have apparently fallen through the cracks of your carefully-written customer service scripts. What I want is a real person (with some initiative) to address my problem. What I got was an automated message that was irrelevant at best, infuriating at worst.

So Europcar, if you’re reading this, perhaps I could give you a few simple tips to improve your Twitter presence (you could easily apply them to any of your social media channels), the rewards will be great, I promise:

  • If someone follows you, follow them back
  • Welcome messages are fine, so long as they are appropriate to the situation.
  • Social Media is about conversation, not broadcasting. If a customer reaches out to you with a problem, make sure you respond. It’s probably going to be the difference between retaining a customer and creating an advocate for your competitors.
  • Customers who do engage with you via Twitter are more than likely to be higher income, highly engaged,and willing to book online – ie your dream customer. Treat them well and they will sing your praises to all of their high income, highly-engaged friends. Treat them badly and the damage will stretch much further than just one lost sale.
  • Do a quick inventory of your followers – How many look like your target market? Of your 115 followers, the majority are other car hire companies and travel guides. Now ask yourself: Why are my customers not listening to me? Should I change my messaging, my engagement strategy or both to attract more of the right kinds of followers?
  • If it’s your official Twitter account, make sure it features your corporate logo. The Europcar page links back to the official site and has links from the official site, but the page itself bears no branding at all.
  • And finally (suggestion: do this first) @europcar is unclaimed and available. Go and grab it, before someone less sympathetic takes it first.

So did I finally get to drive that car? Yes I did. With Europecar’s direct competitor.

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Witness tweets shark attack as it happens

Just been watching an unbelievable Twitter stream from @skabenga – an eyewitness account of a shark attack at Fish Hoek, a beach town near Cape Town.

Gripping, frightening, visceral stuff. Here’s a snapshot:

Holy shit, we just saw a GIGANTIC shark eat what looked like a person right in front of our house in fishhoek. Unbelievable.

skabenga   Jan 12   1:40 pm

Emergency services just arrived. It must have been a person. The shark breached it’s head out the water no remains http://yfrog.com/1dronnpj

skabenga   Jan 12   1:44 pm

We are dumbstruck, that was so surreal. That shark was HUGE. Like dinosaur huge. #sharkattack #fishhoek

skabenga   Jan 12   1:47 pm

Helicopters are out and looking for any trace of the remains. Shark headed off Clovelly way #fishoek #sharkattack

skabenga   Jan 12   2:06 pm

Emergency boats also out crisscrossing the area. We have seen sharks in the bay before but that one was enormous. #fishoek #sharkattack

skabenga   Jan 12   2:11 pm

@igitur At first it could have been a seal pup but then the object it pulled under had some color visible before it disappeared

skabenga   Jan 12   2:19 pm

RT: @joyanne: spoke to allan from whale watchers-he said they’ve found half a body and the person was swimming off the catwalk

skabenga   Jan 12   2:41 pm

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‘The internet is permanent’ – Coke

Coca Cola have developed a new social media policy. Of course it being about social media, the first thing they’ve done is make it available online to anyone who’d like to read it – you can read it here , or see a video at the bottom of this post of Adam Brown, Head Of Social Media at coke explaining the policy (thanks digitalbuzz blog).

I like the fact that Coke emphasises that social media isn’t some foreign beast that requires its own set of rules of engagement: “simply because the development and implementation of an online social media program can be fast, easy, and inexpensive doesn’t mean that different rules apply”

This is a really encouraging sign that social media marketing really is maturing. For too long marketers and creatives have tried to imply that social media marketing is a dark art, only understood and to be practised by the privileged few.

Now, finally people are coming round to the idea that it’s simply another channel, for which the same rules apply, with slightly different emphasis.

One final point does stand out though: “The internet is permanent”.

Can you hear the horror movie-style soundtrack?

It’s a brilliant statement that brings to mind images of digital archaeologists of the future sifting through the digital ephemera of generations past, trying to make sense of them.

But what I suspect it actually boils down to is an admission from Coke that once a piece of digital/social marketing goes “out there” it is beyond the control of the company that made it.

It’s one of the most exciting – and frightening – parts of social media marketing. And it’s this that sets apart great social media marketers from the rest – the ability to create messages and experiences that retain and enhance the spirit of the brand within a space and time beyond that brand’s control… potentially forever.

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Doth the web protest too much?

Really like this comment piece from Nick Cohen – Beware the instant online anger of the Hobnob mob – that worries about how easy the web has made it to protest.

Compared to the pre-internet days when staging a protest required serious commitment a couple of books of stamps; these days you can go from a throwaway remark on TV to a Twitter trendning topic and tens of thousands of outraged  Facebook group members in a couple of hours.

The speed and the numbers might combine to make editors and politcians jumpy, but where does this all lead us.

It reminds me of that benighted precursor to campaigning Facebook groups – the email petition.

Remember those? There was a time when I’d a get a couple a week, from people wanting my name against anything from rape to puppy killing (yes, seriously).

Now setting aside the fact that you’d find it hard to find anyone who WOULDN’T oppose those phenomena, what bugged me was the element of electronic consicence-easing that email petitions seemed to epitomise. As if by a few keystrokeds and a rummage through your address book you;’d doen your bit for global warming, poverty or whatever the current cause du’jour.

And while there’s no doubt that the web has had a measurably good impact in campaigning, organising and raising awareness (just ask Barack Obama, for one), I just hope that those in positions of responsibility are able to judge the righteousness in the anger of what sometimes seems like  a critical mass of Social Media outrage.

Because to use the vocabulary of Twitter, they may find that it is just that – a trending topic.

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Skaters + neon hats = Tetris

Great viral video from skate company Freebord, the concept: recreate a Tetris game by loading up 36 skaters with funny shaped neon hats and sending them down a straight road.

Can’t wait to see if Freebord riders post responses…

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