Category Archives: Opinion

Woman taking a selfie by Johann Ebend

Goodbye 2010s: the decade of selfies, fake news and data abuse

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”.

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Cleaner using cleaning spray marked "Honest"

Never trust a brand that’s not on social media

It is 10.18 and I’m waiting for my new cleaner.

Estela* looked amazing on Helpling. She had a 4.8 star rating and a dozen glowing reviews. Even better, she was available to start the day and time I’d asked for. Yay!

Except, no. She’s now 20 minutes late. I check back through my emails from Helpling. All very straightforward and nice:

  • “Thank you for your booking”
  • “Your new cleaner is Estela Santos”
  • “Get to know your new cleaner Estela Santos now”
  • “Reminder! You have a booking with Estela tomorrow at 10:00”

I go to the website to see if Estela has left a message for me there. Not only is there no message, there’s NO RECORD of my booking, nor the welcome message I’d sent to Estela.

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Women looking at security cameras by Matthew Henry

Why 2019 will be the year of ethical tech

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.

Politics and dark patterns

In her TED talk, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci says we’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads (she’s a great speaker, well worth 20 minutes). Technologist Jaron Larnier refers to the big tech companies as “Siren servers” – they use beautiful things to mask sinister motives. Last October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned EU regulators that personal data is being weaponised against users, calling for tougher privacy laws in both Europe and the US.

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Dan meets Kate in The Circle - screenshot from All 4

When the catfish wins, everyone loses

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.

Fatal attraction

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).

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Facebook, the future and us

Facebook has 2.2 billion users. It owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Four out of 2017’s most-downloaded iOS apps are owned by Facebook. It’s controversial Open Graph (an API that gave advertisers unfettered access to to user data) was shuttered in 2015 but replaced by the even more powerful Facebook Audience Network.

There’s Facebook Connect, which allows users easy log-in to third party websites. Facebook even has profiles on people who don’t use Facebook. To many people (as has been said many times), Facebook is the Internet.

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.

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Design Jam at Facebook London

Big Brother is watching us – he wants to play nicely

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.

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Resistance is fertile. Especially on social media

Last week, a single tweet from the Antarctic gained 9 thousand retweets in just a few days. Data scientist Linda Zunas organised an Antarctica march on Saturday 21 January as part of the global Women’s March.

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”.

Zunas’ photo neatly sums up the diversity of voices that the Women’s March came to represent. It was a phenomenal protest, spreading across 7 continents and attracting more than 2 million people (some estimates say 4.8 million). And it was all started by an Hawaiian grandmother who posted an idea on Facebook back in November 2016.
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free hugs by ken green

A tech manifesto for love and 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.

In November, ‘post-truth’ became Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year as we saw our world go full ‘Black Mirror’.  Donald Trump credited Facebook and Twitter with winning the US election, social networks struggled to control fake news, Silicon Valley witnessed the Tech CEOs’ nightmare – a president totally at odds with their values, and, oh yes, Tila Tequila was suspended from Twitter. I’m quoting that last one not so much for the absurdity of a forgotten celebrity making headlines again but because someone suddenly thinks it’s ok to be neo-nazi.
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Are brands ready for Instagram Stories

Are brands ready for Instagram Stories?

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.

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Jacqueline Gold on Twitter

The Top 100 UK CEOs on Twitter

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.
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