Ten years ago this month I published a book on social media called Monkeys with Typewriters. It was all about how brilliant the world was going to be once people had the chance to connect. Better communication would lead to an improved, more understanding society. We would share more ideas, be more innovative, more collaborative.
At the book launch, we talked about whether or not social tools should be allowed at work. We discussed how super-injunctions could no longer stop stories (Carter Ruck had tried and failed to cover up a damaging report on Trafigura) and if social media was simply a “time waster”.
For the last decade or so, we’ve been hearing a lot about big data.
“Data is the new oil!” said Clive Humby in 2006, after working on the Tesco Clubcard. And everyone agreed that data was a thing, and set off to find out how to make the most of it.
But the way in which our data is being harvested isn’t good. Because of course, since the early days of Tesco Clubcard, it always was our data that was the raw material: our decisions, our habits, our likes, the type of people we were and who we lived with.
These “insights” are now being used to drive psychological behaviour and we’re no longer talking just about marketing. We’ve moved beyond those clearly defined display ads. And way beyond which type of supermarket deal we might be interested in.
I’m so gutted for Dan! He seemed like the one straight-up, trustworthy guy on Channel 4’s new reality show, The Circle (screenshot above). But Dan got nothing but public humiliation while his fellow contestant, Alex (aka “Kate”) walked off with the £75,000 prize.
In case you missed the show, which ended last night on Channel 4, here’s a summary: 8 contestants are holed up in an apartment block for 3 weeks, only able to communicate with each other via social media (using a specially made platform called The Circle). Every day they “rate” each other: the highest rated contestants become “influencers” and choose another contestant to “block” – or expel.
Dan and Kate quickly became friends, but Dan is being fooled. Kate is a catfish: she’s not a girl with a sweet face at all, she’s a “social media comedian” called Alex. At the end of 3 weeks, the highest-rated person wins. That person ended up being “Kate” (in part thanks to Dan’s consistently high ratings).
If this last week has taught us anything, it’s that our data – the data we put into Facebook (and other social networks) has real, tangible value. Corporations and politicians are buying and selling it. And sometimes it gets into the hands of people we don’t particularly like.
How do we make this stop? I don’t know, but I do know it’s not as simple as #deleteFacebook. That seems all too much like putting your fingers in your ears and singing loudly.
Andy Warhol said that in the future we will all be famous for 15 minutes. George Orwell predicted constant surveillance. Maybe it’s only with hindsight that we see these two things as inextricably linked: our “fame” always comes at a price.
Online social networks offer us free connectivity and the ability to broadcast edited versions of our lives. In exchange, we give them our data. Trouble is, the details of this contract have never been clearly articulated or explained, much less negotiated.
Last week I went to Facebook’s new office in London for a Design Jam. The Design Jams are open innovation – a series of hackathons to help Facebook users better understand, improve and navigate the legal complexities of its website.
Facebook is understandably concerned that it may be losing younger users and that hours spent on the platform are declining. Last week’s event focused on data transparency for young people.
Zunas’ tweet shows a photo of her colleagues on board their expedition ship, preparing for the march. Each of them holds a placard with a message: “Men for the earth”, “Save the planet”, “Seals for science” or “Penguins for peace”.
If you’ve read many blog posts, either here or at interactiveknowhow, you’ll know I’ve always liked to see social media as a force for good: a means of helping us become more transparent, open, collaborative and connected.
Of course, social media is also a marketing tool. And it’s interesting that angry, divisive, polarised messaging is doing so brilliantly at present. In terms of truth and openness, November 2016 will go down in history as a seminal month: the month no-holds-barred emotion officially became ‘better’ than actual facts.
Social media consultants used to talk about the difference between “broadcasting” and “listening”. You don’t hear that so much any more. One of the reasons Twitter isn’t the fun it used to be is the reversion to broadcast across so many profiles. (Combined with the rise of trolling – which makes Twitter like a party full of bores and bullies. And who wants that?)
One reason brands broadcast is because they can’t actually “listen”. Not in the true sense of the word. You can have all the monitoring systems you want, all the data gathering, all the analytics, but you can still completely miss the point.
Like puzzled parents trying to chime in with their kids’ conversations, or the proverbial dad on the dancefloor, many brands may need to face up to the harsh reality that they can never really be cool. At least, not that cool. Not achingly hip, blink and it’s over, cool.
However faddy influencer marketing might have become, the concept of influence is a useful one – anything that gets us away from vanity metrics (Get me 1m followers now – I don’t care who they are!) and onto something more meaningful has to be a bonus.
Influence is a metric social media marketers can actually work with – and something non-experts can easily understand. Well, hooray for that.
This week Brandwatch soft-launched Audiences, a product that trawls data from user bios and content on Twitter to bring you instant, real-time insights into who’s leading the conversations that matter to your brand. Continue reading →