As social media platforms tout the number of users as a value of their overall worth, the fact many ‘followers’ and ‘profiles’ are fake is illustrating a growing issue with spam and advertising analytics. In July the BBC set up a fake business ‘Virtual Bagel’, began advertising on Facebook, and determined that a large majority of likes came from South East Asia and were most likely fake accounts or bots. Another company, Limited Press, ran analytics on their own Facebook advertising alleging more than 80% of likes were fake.
Facebook itself was forced to reveal in company filings that 8.7% of over 955 million profiles broke rules in some way – duplicate profiles, misclassified accounts and undesirables – those who use accounts solely for spamming.
Newsday reported an analysis on Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney gaining more than 100 000 Twitter followers in one weekend, most of whom were fake. Twitter has yet to publish numbers on percentage of overall fake vs real users, but Tweet spam is a continual and growing headache for many users.
As social media platforms rely almost solely on advertising for revenue, their value to advertisers diminishes dramatically when companies discover ‘likes’ and clicks on paid links are worthless.
A new service, Status People, will parse your personal and business Twitter accounts for fake users, and give you a percentage report. While it is not an exact science the algorithm has some guiding principles, and becomes more accurate as more users check their followers:
“Spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets,” the company writes. “But they tend to follow a lot of other accounts.”
You can then use a system like TwitCleaner to identify fake, bot or inactive users that you either follow, or follow you, and clean up your account.
There is no doubt Twitter has altered the broadcast and news gathering culture of media organizations, but what is behind the 140 character system that aligns so well with ‘news’?
A reason for posing the question is noticing how some news papers and broadcasters are dedicating sections solely to Twitter trends and headlines, others incorporating #Hashtag streams into programming. Recently Maclean’s Magazine – a weekly Canadian print publication covering politics, business, and news – began a daily online article: Daily Headlines via Twitter using Storify to curate top headlines from a number of news organizations.
Next, take a look at a basic search for ‘Twitter’ on the Guardian UK newspaper website. For July 28th, almost all the top headline stories, from the latest Olympic updates to news from Syria, and the passing of actor Geoffrey Hughes have a direct reference to Twitter in the articles, clearly demonstrating the short message service has inordinate influence as a news gathering tool for journalists. Likely because it so quick and responsive, reporters can easily grab relevant content to boost just about any story: a quote, comments, updates etc.
It seems somewhat disproportionate as Twitter has around 150 million active users compared to Facebook’s 900+ million, yet Zuckerberg’s platform is nowhere near as mentioned as a source, or even as a news story itself unless discussing its share price. A news search on Google for “Twitter Olympics” shows 10800 news items compared to “Facebook Olympics” at 127.
Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the Guardian UK: posted fifteen points on “Why Twitter matters for media organisations” in November of 2010. Nearly two years later, are they still appropriate or actually reinforced, can others be added?
Point One: It’s an amazing form of distribution: No doubt, and even more so now as the user base has extended from around 60 million in 2010 to 150 million today. Twitter (and yes, Facebook and Youtube) have profoundly impacted, some even argue inspired, the Arab Spring and now a necessary communication tool for politicians.
Point Two: It’s where things happen first: Or, where news is reported at all. The now 18 month uprising in Syria illustrates how citizen media can equal, even trump, traditional journalism in places where accredited media are denied access by authorities.
Point Three: As a search engine, it rivals Google: Yes and no these days as even Google has given in to including Twitter profiles and sometimes tweets themselves into results. Social is becoming even more integrated into operating systems and search.
Point Four: It’s a formidable aggregation tool: Where Twitter excels over other search engines – even those within the likes of Facebook and Youtube – is that the aggregation itself is user generated. A #Hashtag can be created by anyone, used and posted to by anyone. It turns search on its head from the realm of mathematicians to a crowd sourced function.
Point Five: It’s a great reporting tool: Such an obvious statement it’s not even worth bothering to comment, except to say journalists and editors must be vigilant on specious tweets and deliberate misinformation.
Point Six: It’s a fantastic form of marketing: Yes, certainly with a growing user base news organizations can directly broadcast both breaking news and more nuanced opinion, to a far larger audience. The problem is twofold: journalists themselves, especially those who grabbed a Twitter user name before many organizations had a brand policy, are in a position to take their followers to another ‘brand’ – and – it is a flat platform. The audience decides who has authority on any given issue. Quite often the most re-tweeted posts are not from news organizations, but citizens directly involved in an issue or event.
Point Seven: It’s a series of common conversations. Or it can be: In fact, Twitter is about the conversation which is why chats surrounding a #hashtag are one the most popular and powerful features. This is where news organizations are getting it wrong, with only a few notable exceptions. Al Jazeera has daily open chats on topical issues, The Guardian has experimented with open editorial – ‘make your own newsroom’ idea, and CBC has a weekly Wednesday Politics chat. For the most part however, the majority of publications and broadcasters are not utilizing discussion features, to the detriment of their own organizations.
Mainly due to the fact no one in Greater Victoria BC had plugged into the concept of a regular Tweetchat, the group at Victoria Wave (of which I am a founder) decided to start our own. In many ways, #YYJchat is a news source on its own with weekly guests – politicians, community leaders, experts – and topical to the region. One wonders why news organizations are not taking advantage of chats and #Hashtags to reinforce their community credentials and brand image.
Point Eight: It’s more diverse: As with any social media platform the greater the number of users, the more diverse the opinions and focus. However, unlike Facebook which is the ultimate walled garden, Twitter does allow non user viewing through search apps and widgets – then again, you still require an account to participate.
Point Nine: It changes the tone of writing: Many would say to the detriment of any language, yet ultimately what Twitter has done to journalism and writing of any form is to highlight the necessity of brevity.
Point Ten: It’s a level playing field: Which goes back to my #7 point – a level playing field means news orgs have to take the initiative and not be afraid to experiment.
Point Eleven: It has different news values: This point from Alan Rusbridger was one of the most poignant. Twitter (and other platforms) highlight trending topics, which often are the goal for publicists, marketers and political parties. One could say ‘Twitter trends are the new SEO’. An open platform, where the crowd is determining what is topical, can force editors into ‘follow the audience’ to maintain online ratings – create a quick article or blog post that fits a trending topic simply for the retweet value is not uncommon.
Point Twelve: It has a long attention span: More so than most would think. In Canada the #Hashtags #TellVicEverything and #HarperHistory still resonate, and are searchable for an archive. This simple function, grouping messages around a tag, beats any searchable query on any other platform.
Point Thirteen: It creates communities: Yes, and relevant to many previous points, with an emphasis that news organizations are not taking advantage of this essential nature of Twitter. Editors and broadcast/publication owners might feel it is not their duty or function to create and maintain Twitter communities – yet they are broadcasting into them, and quite often seek comments on articles and opinion pieces (a blog is a community of sorts). Instead of complaining that social media is taking away an audience, while using published material, news organizations should be taking it on and creating the community – you can’t own a hashtag, but you can be the first to use it.
Point Fourteen: It changes notions of authority: In a much more problematic way now than in 2010. Certainly aggregators like Huffington Post filter and add to mainstream media posts – the bug bear of early social media to traditional media, and now largely discounted as an issue. What has occurred is a confluence of both highspeed mobile access to the web, and simple, equally high end, production. An iPhone, with the right apps, is a media production platform rivaling professional studio output from only a few years ago. Yes, it does take skill to create a video with appropriate context – a blog article with authority – an interview that hits the facts, but this is now in the hands of citizens, and as individuals gain audience, they gain authority. For better and worse.
Point Fifteen: It is an agent of change: Or an agent of the status quo, depending on who owns the trend at a particular time.
No doubt Twitter has radically altered ‘News’ as we know it – and it will become more profound as the platform gains more users. There needs to be a balance however between profit motive editors chasing trends for the potential audience value, vs allocating resources to reports that have community impact.
As always your thoughts and comments are valued and welcomed
One of the most difficult jobs is changing the communication culture of an organization, especially a police department. There is a natural resistance not only over legal barriers, but the ‘vision’ of what policing and community engagement actually means.
Update: analytics have been crunched regarding the #VicPDHelps Twitter hashtag for Canada Day – 123 tweets generated 314,345 impressions, reaching an audience of 75,099 followers within the past 24 hours via @Org9. Total network reach, which includes secondary level ie: ‘friends of friends’ is an estimated reach of 105 000. Considering the population of Greater Victoria is around 376 000 (source CRD), this illustrates the potential of social media to engage the region.
CHEK News Video
It is so refreshing to witness the Victoria BC Police Department experiment with Twitter on Canada Day. Creating a Hashtag – #VicPDhelps – as a non-911 means for people to note problems or concerns while tens of thousands gathered in the downtown core to celebrate the national holiday.
Mike Russell, the Victoria Police officer behind the Twitter handle @VicPDCanada, along with the department’s communication team, has moved online engagement from a staid press release broadcast, to putting a personality into the ‘handle’, making real connections, and proving that taking the time for online conversations can have real benefits.
Mike has reached out to the community. He has presented at the largest conference in North America dedicated to social media, Social Media Camp, and did a full hour on #YYJchat taking questions from the Greater Victoria online ‘crowd’.
On Canada Day, with an expected record number of over 50 000 people flooding into the downtown Victoria and Inner Harbour area to watch concerts and the fireworks, police communication changes. Crowd sourcing issues, nipping problems in the bud before they get out of control seems elemental, but can only happen if the community trusts the people behind both the badge, and hashtag.
In this case, it seems to have worked. The night is not over, but up to midnight, it is quite obvious the local community was well aware of the Victoria Police Twitter initiative, trusted it, and was willing to offer leads and assistance.
The problem for Victoria Police now is the future. Once a hashtag permeates a community, it can take on a life of its own. Using #VicPDhelps simply for special events, during set hours, might not be possible. Integrating Twitter, and other social media platforms, directly into 911 call centres and non-emergency, but reactive, communications, will be a challenge.
The following is an edited Storify of Canada Day using posts from @VicPDCanada #VicPDHelps #YYJCanadaDay and #YYJ
Note: the hashtag #VicPDhelps monitoring time was 4pm July 1st to 2am July 2nd. The Storify has posts to midnight July 1st
When the Fairmont Empress (@FairmontEmpress) in Victoria BC sent a DM (direct message) tweet with an invitation to come down and try out their new Hoyne Honey Hefe – made by Hoyne Brewery, using Empress Hotel’s own honey – my response was ‘Twist my rubber arm’. The Fairmont Empress is a Victoria: no, let’s be clear, a world wide known hotel (and way out of my price range) and having known Sean Hoyne from his years as brewmaster at Canoe Brewpub, the match was made.
Not knowing the format for the meeting, I arrived at the Empress Hotel with no set ideas, and was truly pleasantly surprised at how Angela Rafuse (@HotelGoddess), and the Empress staff had created an intimate, small gathering. Angela is an executive at the hotel and, in her words, wanted to get the word out on how they made the connection with Hoyne Brewery. So what better way than asking a few people who can get the word out through social media, and make a personal connection.
This is what other local businesses and organizations should be doing. There are so many local people with blogs, on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms and with influential networks. The mindset of tasking resources and spend solely towards traditional media is rapidly changing, and frankly the approach by Fairmont Empress staff is refreshing. While the participants – Mike Dewolfe (@dewolfe001), Susan Martin (@suziezed) and myself know each other, we rarely connect in real life – and Angela gracefully offered an opportunity for all to share…. that is the key, an opportunity for serendipity.
The food was fantastic, and perfectly matched to compliment Hoyne’s Brewery beer. As good was sitting at a table, on the Empress verandah, overlooking Victoria’s amazing harbour and openly discussing all sorts of issues: creating a relationship. Well done Angela – you have reinforced what others should see – make the connections…
One of the big takeaways from Social Media Camp in Victoria BC this weekend was ‘don’t piss off the #YYJ tag’. Inevitably it happened as nearly 700 ‘savvy’ people from all around Victoria, BC – and well beyond – , with speakers like @Chris Brogan and Erica Ehm @YummyMummyClub exciting all the attendees, and we wanted to share. Yes – so Twitter was full of conference notes and pics on Twitter with the #YYJ tag, and it filled the stream. So, apologies Victoria BC…we promise to do it again.
When you teach you learn: and that is evident at this convention. Being a panelist or presenter is a privileged position no doubt, but I was frankly stunned, and delighted, at the direct feedback, questions, and experience from delegates that enriched the entire weekend. There are no ‘Social Media Gurus’ or ‘Experts’ – there are people with experience, and the best know that asking questions is the best way to learn. So thank you to everyone at Social Media Camp, I learned, hope you did as well…
On Thursday June 14th I will be on Saltspring Island, at the invitation of the Saltspring Chamber of Commerce. Title of the presentation is “Tips, Tricks and Tools”, and many of those will come from learning at Social Media Camp… Yes, kudos to Erica Ehm for quantifying, Social Media is a Cocktail Party!
June 14th – Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce Networking Breakfast – Social Media and Your Business!
Join us for this Salt Spring Chamber Breakfast Networking featuring guest speaker Mat Wright who will be discussing social media and how to use it to create success in your businesses.
Thursday, June 14th from 8:00 am to 9:30 am
Location: The Clubhouse Restaurant at the Salt Spring Golf and Country Club – 805 Lower Ganges Road
$19.00 for members, $24 non-members and guests
Full Breakfast Buffet (including tax and gratuity) and Great Prizes!
Register by calling 250.537.4223 or email email@example.com
Recently I was asked by a friend “So, what is it exactly that you do?”. Great question, as most days there is no set schedule – yes, there are certainly duties for clients as a community manager, webmaster and public relations rep, but as the business has quickly morphed into the realm of social media much of the activity is serendipity. This type of ‘consulting’ and active representation is not taught at colleges – there is no certificate or degree – in fact as with many in similar businesses we spend much of our time teaching, along with research, as communications is an ever changing paradigm.
Which is why a conference like Social Media Camp in Victoria BC is such a delight. Not only an opportunity to both teach and learn, but also to collaborate and put into perspective what ‘we do’. A ‘camp’ is somewhat a misnomer – now in its third year, it has grown quickly attracting keynote speakers like Chris Brogan and Erica Ehm (so cool to meet them!) and this year over 650 attendees.
Often it takes a colleague or presenter to define, or provide the ‘imagery’ to what we as ‘new media’ folks provide clients. In this case, on the first day of the conference one of the best take aways was provided by City of Victoria Councillor Lisa Helps. In her presentation she urged the audience to have courage and jump into social media – or as we both tweeted later for a summary “have the courage to connect”. Those connections make the difference, and having the courage to do something different, or bring something already proven to a new location, is what makes a difference.
We have been running #YYJchat for about 6 weeks, and gaining a wonderful, engaged audience, and it seemed perfect to do it live from Social Media Camp – so we did! Very little planning, no set advanced guests, just dive in… the results, frankly were amazing. Proving, don’t be afraid. The plan was simply to grab speakers and get them to spend sometime live on the chat – result: Mike Russell, (@VicPDCanada) engaged for the full hour, and we were joined by Russell Lolacher (@russlol) who IS @drivebc (among many other great programs) and Louise Hartman (@CTVnewsLouise). A very eclectic group, but it worked – and had it been pre-planned would never have happened.
So the lesson today is, sometimes not planning is better than nailing the details when it comes to social media!
Just when you thought everything had been ‘over’ discussed about Facebook, more meat for the grinder. Following an IPO which most realize was not only over-hyped – the share price has dropped 30% – but is dogged by allegations of ‘selected’ information provisions to potential investors and possible insider trading.
Now Facebook is floating the idea of opening profiles to children. The current policy is that users must provide real names and personal data, and be 13 and older, otherwise accounts can be deleted or suspended, but as recent research has discovered a surprising number of under 13s actively use Facebook, with or without, parental permission and supervision.
A combined study by researchers from The University of California, Harvard, Northwestern University and Microsoft Research noted 72% of parents who knew their children were on Facebook also knew they joined before the age of 13. Other studies concluded “20 million minors are active on Facebook, 7.5 million younger than 13, and 5 million under 10 years old”. In the UK, 37% of 10-12 year old children used Facebook.
So, with so many children using social networks, what is the issue? US Federal Law, and similar regulations in the EU, prohibit social platforms from collecting data on under 13s without parental consent. As every post, message and search is essentially ‘collecting data’ Facebook and other social networks simply ban under 13s as gaining permission is too cumbersome. However, as Facebook especially is seeking to extend the brand, and certainly ‘lock-in’ young users before they become attached to other platforms, opening restricted ‘child’ accounts is being considered. These might have default permission settings restricting adverts, only allowing posts ‘friend to friend’ and giving parents final say on who they can connect to.
Did you know Facebook has a policy on user votes for privacy and setting changes? If 7000 people comment on a proposed policy change they have to hold a vote under their own corporate rules, and if more than 30% of users veto a change then Facebook can’t implement. Considering the number of current users, nearing 900 million, that’s a very high threshold actually making these ‘referendums’ the largest vote worldwide (beating the voting population of India).
As to this situation: Facebook has new privacy and information sharing proposals published in a document, and the vote allows users to accept the changes, or stick with the current policy.
You can view the documents, and vote your preference by logging into Facebook and going to the Site Governance page – at the top of that page, under the ‘Like’ button is the ‘Vote’ tab.
So what are some of the changes? Facebook needs to make money, obviously, and is looking to extend its advertising network ‘off platform’ to other sites and blogs. Think a similar system to Google ads on non-Google websites (ie: everywhere). This will give FB much more information on user habits as they browse the web and click on likes and ads on other websites.
Currently Facebook holds personal data for 180 days. The proposed changes “will retain data for as long as necessary to provide you services” which could certainly be longer than 180 days”
Easier search: More personal data will be publicly available (like your phone number and email address) so users can search, and find your profile, even if they don’t have your name.
Call it a ‘Zucker-Punch’? A study published on the day before the Facebook IPO UK digital marketing agency Greenlight published a study showing 44% of users have never clicked on an ad and 31% hardly ever click or like adverts or sponsored stories. That coincides with General Motors pulling a $10 million Facebook campaign for poor results, and a Reuters/Ipsos poll which shows the vast majority of users: 4 out of 5, have never bought a product or service – plus the time users spend on the platform is declining.
Countering that: the growth in active users continues, especially in developing countries like India and South America. With new advertising models on the horizon, such as promoted posts (similar to promoted Tweets) in the timeline, and rumours of mobile ads, Facebook might be able to offset the downturn in revenue, but it is still an uphill battle.
Yes, this is connected to Facebook as the Montreal Gazette published a photo of alleged murderer Luka Magnotta (or whatever his real name is) prominently holding a Labatt’s beer in his hand which was found on his Facebook account. Naturally Labatts is not exactly delighted with the brand connection to a suspect who gained world-wide noteriety – but can, or should, the company sue the Gazette over using the photo? And will Labatts regret forcing the issue now that the Twitter meme #NewLabattCampaign has gone viral?
and finally: #YYJChat is Tuesday at 7:30pm with special guest John Vickers, Executive Director Busker’s Festival. Join us on Twitter with your questions on the impact of the Arts in Greater Victoria. We also have a special announcement! #YYJChat will be live at Social Media Camp from Noon to 1pm of Friday June 8th – with a combined audio stream and tweet chat, and some very special guests!
Amazing how quickly a year passes, and it is time once again for Social Media Camp in Victoria BC
I am honoured once again to be on the Politics and Social Media panel with Dr. Janni Aragon (@JanniAragon), Micheal Geoghegan (@BClobbyist) and, new this year, Alissa Wrean (@a_birdie). After reviewing the past 12 months of sometimes bizarre interactions with politics and social media we decided on a title of ‘Politics in Social Media: Gifts or Gaffes?‘
The battle ground for hearts, minds and votes has extended exponentially into social media at all levels of government, but are individual politicians doing it well? There have been a number of notable online ‘memes’: in Canada with #Vikileaks #TellVicEverything, #HarperHistory and MP Pat Martin’s famous FU tweet, in the US with the anit-SOPA movement (which worked, to an extent), Slut Walk, and so much more…
While each has gained both online, and mainstream media attention, do they really affect governance and policy? Can politicians and governments ignore social media and still be effective? The panel will discuss these questions, and more – and we look forward to your questions and comments.
Time: Friday June 8th, 11am to Noon
Place: Social Media Camp, Victoria Conference Centre, Victoria BC (Conference Registration)
Kind of a role reversal today with an interview on CFAX 1070 on the noon show, but then….the host, Adam Stirling is grilled later in the evening on an open Twitter chat!
No doubt the Facebook IPO was big news, and, in my opinion, a pure comedy of errors. It is not that long ago (or is it for new investors?) that the web was gold, nothing could kill the hype…and we saw so many great ideas die in the dotcom bubble that typified the stock market of the late 1990s. Apparently the rush for cash has not abated – considering how Reuters, BBC and CNBC rated the Facebook sell off. An over hyped stock, that went to $45 per share with an opening price of $38, and is traded at $30 on Tuesday the 23rd of May – 4 days that proved valuation of tech stocks is ephemeral.
and yes, kittens, hence the photo
We also chatted about #YYJChat, and how Social Media is changing the nature of local media – which lead into, frankly, an incredible interaction. You can read it here.
Is having a say on which Monday in February should be a statutory holiday – BC Family Day – an example of government really engaging citizens, or a distraction away from more important, and relevant, issues? This is one of the topics CFAX 1070 host Adam Stirling and I discussed in our latest installment.
The BC Government is undergoing a two week public engagement exercise, using primarily social media, asking citizens for a preference on what day, starting in February 2013, should be declared ‘Family Day’.
excerpt from BC Government press release
Government will begin a citizen engagement process with the public, and consult with worker groups, employers, the tourism industry and the broader business sector in order to ensure all potential economic and social benefits are taken into account before finalizing a February date for the new holiday…
Since unveiling its Open Government plan in 2011, the Province has implemented a number of new policies and programs including the launch of the Open Information and DataBC websites, as well as a major redesign of the government’s web presence to make it more citizen-focused and user-friendly. In the coming months, B.C. will introduce a new public engagement website to better communicate and collaborate with British Columbians.
Using the Twitter hashtag #mybcfd, Facebook, blog comments, and an online voting system the stated aim is to gather feedback and present a report to the Minister of Labour, Citizen Services and Open Government Margaret MacDiarmid. On Tuesday May 15th there is also a Twitter Town Hall between 12 and 1pm using #mybcfd. It remains to be seen if the collated public preferences will be published in full, and taken into account by the BC Government. As we discussed, public engagement is vital in an increasingly ‘social media’ world, but dangers lurk if they are simply afterthoughts for policy decisions, or if public sentiment ends up being against government preference.
Note: after the interview Twitter posts from listeners provided more information on similar BC Government online and social media engagement initiatives including education and employment issues. Thanks to all who chimed in!
Twitter Town Halls and Tweet Chats are becoming increasingly popular, and can be an interesting method to engage people around an issue, topic, person or location. While they are not new, having been used in many election campaigns – and there are regular ‘Chats’, some involving thousands of participants like #JournChat – there has not been one set for Greater Victoria. Thanks to the idea from Susan Jones (@SusanJones), #YYJChat was initiated on May 8th as a four week experiment, and a showcase to business, organizations and local government on the potential for a local Tweet Chat.
You can participate in #YYJChat every Tuesday from 7:30pm to 8:30pm – for May 15th the guest is Dan Gunn, Executive Director of VIATeC!
To wrap, we talked about local organizations using social media for outreach, including the Victoria Children’s Choir, which is holding The World of Song spring concert on May 28th! – thanks to CFAX and Adam Stirling for the promotion!