Just Stop It: Twitter Auto DMS

Auto DM’s on Twitter. I am not alone in this;

I’ve never got the point of sending an automatic direct message on Twitter. Most of the ones I get either thank me for following them or ask me to connect on another platform. Although I don’t usually react, I think it’s nice, at least the intention is good.

Occasionally the DM asked me to do something extra – retweet something, or leave a comment on a blog, or buy their book. Yep, I once got a DM asking me to buy the author’s book (I didn’t).  I’ve also had some asking me questions – cute, more likely to get a response.

I’ve also noticed a worrying trend; repeat DMs. I’ve had a repeat auto DM at a regular intervals; despite my utter lack of response. This is an old example. I can’t tell you if they’ve stopped because I unfollowed.

 

I have done a quick check on my DMs, at least 80% are sent by robots. That’s pretty much like email spam – only harder to delete. Marji J Sherman called for auto DMs to end, she makes great points. It’s not authentic, it’s not useful, it’s not social. Please, just stop it.

Auto DMs reached a new low recently; I got one saying “Glad we are now friends”. I need a little more than a mutual twitter follow to consider someone a friend. Plus the message came from a company.

Do you send automated DMs? What value do they bring?

Repeated Social Media Fails

 

In a month where a “beach body ready” campaign hit the news in the UK with people taking to twitter to protest,  an ANZAC campaign went wrong in Australia and Baltimore erupted over every media outlet, not just the social ones, I spotted two social media fails that were not just stupid, they were repeats of earlier fails.

People make mistakes, I get it, I have a long list of my own mistakes that I’m not publishing. This is a reminder to pay attention to your social media posts, and to think before you post.

1 Bad Reaction

A burger bar owner lost his cool with a customer on Facebook. His rant is laden with insults, bizarre comparisons and swear words.

What did the customer do to deserve this?

She sent a private message saying that her son had had an upset stomach with vomiting following a meal at the burger bar. She finished her message with “Just wanted you to be aware. We thought the burgers were fantastic and know it’s probably a one-off”.

The reaction is about 20:1 in favour of the customer, with many commenters declaring they’ll never eat there.

We’ve seen this before, back in 2013 Amy’s Baking Company was visited by Gordon Ramsay in his show Kitchen Nightmares. The restaurant in question responded in flurry of furious facebook posts and it all went downhill from there. As Forbes later pointed out in their lessons on social media; Don’t Insult People. I’d go further; don’t tweet when you’re mad.

2 Fired Before you Start

A single mum landed a job at a daycare centre but before she could start the centre changed their decision and she’s out of a job. Why?

She complained online about hating working at daycare centres and she doesn’t like being around kids all the time. It didn’t take long for those comments to reach the day care centre, and they rescinded their offer.

This has happened before, famously a young woman tweeted;

She learnt the hard way that companies monitor social media, that what you say on a social media channel is public – and permanent, and what you say could be damaging.

These incidents were all avoidable if the posters had thought through the impact of their words. A former colleague who was expert in digital security used to say that everything you put online is “public and permanent”. That means that the list of people who can see your post isn’t just the friends you tag; it’s your boss, future boss, future girl/boyfriend, brother, colleague, journalist, neighbour and your mum.

Think before you post.

The Week I was Europe

For the last week I’ve been running the @I_am_Europe twitter account. Just for fun.  I choose to tweet about Digital Europe, and came up with a few themes to focus on across the week. There was a slight delay getting a working password so I got to tweet for six days but on the first day I rested.

My themes were; Digital, Commerce, Education, Relaxing and Entertainment, and Creativity. I didn’t stick to the themes particularly tightly as I threw in some news from the digital world as well.

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I came up with some background images to match the themes, all photos I’d taken. There’s a prize if you can correctly identify all locations.

If you’d like a turn being Europe you can apply on their site.

In Praise of Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of Britain’s favourite writers. She has been one of my favourite writers for many years, even before Colin Firth took a swim. Jane Austen will soon adorn the 10 pound note, following a campaign to have at least one woman represented on their currency. Hurrah for women. Although I can’t help questioning the selection process. Since it’s replacing a scientist why not Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, or Rosalind Franklin? There used to be a woman on the five pound note; she has been replaced by Winston Churchill. So how about a woman politician or campaigner; Emmeline Pankhurst, Nancy Astor or Margaret Thatcher?

But Jane it will be, a somewhat innocuous choice. Although Austen scholars and fans the world over are disheartened by the choice of image and quote.

It turns out that this decision is more controversial and in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Those who campaigned to have a woman on the notes have been challenged on twitter with the most foul language. Including threats of rape and death. The UK police have taken the threats seriously, and already made arrests. Other twitter users have taken the side of the campaigners – to see their supportive reactions check the hashtag #shoutback.

The debate has moved on; there’s now a campaign to get twitter to make reporting abuse easier. There’s a debate about whether it’s really possible to monitor twitter and act on abusive tweets (which are outside twitter’s terms and conditions). There’s a debate on free speech and a discussion . Looking at those in order;

The campaign sought to get twitter to make it easier to report abuse. Currently you have two options; block the sender, which means you won’t see their tweets but others will, or report spam via a form, which takes a while too long when you’re receiving 50-100 abusive tweets per hour. Twitter has committed to making reporting abuse easier, but it’s not as easy as adding button.

It’s difficult because it can’t be an automatic blocking on the basis of a report, that in itself would be open to abuse. There are more than 100,000 tweets per minute, in a multitude of languages and in every time zones. It’d be difficult to build algorithms to sort out the tweets with issues from those without, as Flashboy discusses. Plus there’s context, there are conversations on twitter with banter that could seem abusive, but are not taken as such by the participants.

For all that Twitter has committed to finding a better way of protecting users from abuse. I guess using a mixture of streamlined reporting and monitoring, there are no specifics announced yet.

You must allow me to express how ardently I believe in the freedom of speech. But your freedom stops at the point where it destroys someone else’s freedom. Most countries, including the US place limits on the right of freedom of speech. You may not incite violence, slander another or threaten someone. Obviously your freedom to tweet does not supersede freedom in law. In this case the law, the UK Police, have taken the threats seriously, conducting investigations and making two arrests.

So what is in the minds of the people making these tweets? Where does the anger come from? The threats went on for days, that’s some serious anger.

I think the perceived anonymity of twitter is a drawcard, some have pointed out to the thin veneer of civilisation the abuse shows, others to the underlying misogyny in our society. It’s not wholly a misogynist issue, there are plenty of abusive tweets for anyone, including GQ. Perhaps the abusers are indeed Austen fans, or at least fans of Northanger Abbey where the narrator states;

A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

We’re still reading Jane Austen’s works almost a hundred years after she died. I suspect the abusers will leave no such legacy.

Image: Jane Austen to Feature on Bank Notes  |  Bank of England  |  BY ND 2.0

Social Media is Bullshit

Social Media is Bullshit

BJ Mendelson

It’s rare that I find myself challenged by a book, agreeing with much of what it says and laughing out loud on my morning commute; this is that book.

BJ Mendelson’s stated audience is entrepreneurs and leaders of small business. Those who he sees as being victim to a deceptive social media industry. He has no beef with using social media for personal entertainment – but he points to a growing hype that if believed could be destructive to a company’s balance sheet.

For example, for a while the Dell story of making money from a twitter account used to sell discount items made headlines. The  magic number quoted was 3 million USD in revenue. Sounds like a lot of money – certainly more than in my account. But compared to all of Dell’s revenue in 2009 it was tiny, how tiny? Here’s a graph showing the revenue from twitter vs all the other revenue for Dell.
It turns out that the revenue via twitter is utterly dwarfed by the revenue from all other sources (61 billion USD). It was less than half of one percent of their total revenue. But Dell is a business so what did they get out of the social media? Mendelson points to a PR value; more than 13 million entries in Google’s search. (Note; a search for “Dell Twitter” now scores over 400 million search results).

Of course a large company can afford to try something in social media, and Dell has the klout in the business world and the advertising budget to make a success of their attempts. Which is Mendelson’s point; a lot of social media success stories are supported by large advertising budgets and the support of known brands. For a new brand or a small company social media probably isn’t the easy solution to marketing.

Mendelson is also pretty harsh on Facebook, pointing to its cloning or acquisition of ideas and its political activism against privacy restrictions (the book was written prior to PRISM). He argues that it’s redundant to build a Facebook fan base, since these people will visit your website anyway. Better to build a website with good content rather than to hope they’ll see your post in the 30 minutes it’s available in their timeline. If it even appears in their timeline, posts apparently only reach 16% of your fans.

There are of course good uses for social media by companies, Twitter has become a customer service channel for many companies. And Facebook is being used as a web platform for a number of cafes here in Amsterdam reasonably well. They do run the risk that the platform could disappear in the future, but for now it’s a free tool, free hosting to get a simple web presence out there. But it’s certainly not the solution to all marketing problems that some sell it as.

So what would good marketing look like? Start by making a good product,  make your product easy to use, get people behind your product via traditional media, improve your product using customer feedback. Not rocket science really.

I have said for a long time that you should use social media to achieve a business goal, and measure that goal; not fans or likes. Which is why there isn’t a simple play book for using social media.

Mendelsons’ book stands out as a refreshing, somewhat cynical take on the social media industry.

Second screen

My enjoyment of certain TV programmes goes up by adding twitter, and I’m not alone. According to econsultancy around 40% of smart phone owners and tablet owners use their devices during a TV programme.

I’ve ended up following and chatting with other watchers of the same TV programmes – so much for the anti social tag applied to both TV and mobile devices. And with more people living alone this may represent an increase in community, not a decrease.

Programme makers have seen this opportunity with many providing “official” hashtags such as #americanidol, #hignfy (Have I Got News For You), and #HGT (Holland’s Got Talent). Some programmes have even gone a step further, with the X Factor setting up voting via direct message.

Disney, perhaps the king of content providers, has added a whole range of apps to support their second screen experience, synchronising it with Blu-Ray TV. They have provided rich interactive content for some of their most popular shows on iPad or PC/Mac, but haven’t evolved to cover the android market as yet.

To me all of the above options can be considered a second screen experience, but some commentators are making a distinction between “social TV” where viewers are encouraged to use social media to interact with each other along side watching a programme, and “second screen” where the programme maker provides content specific for a programme to enhance the viewer’s experience in real time. That would include the apps provided by Disney, but could also be in depth statistics at a sports match or interviews and movie clips around an awards ceremony.

And there’s one further category to consider; those who watch the twitter feed but not the programme.

How about you – how do you watch TV?

 

Hashtag Art

Hashtags look like this; #

Hashtag Art looks like this;

Image from MissPixels via flickr, as part of her Hashtag project.

Hashtags are used on twitter to categorise your tweet, and it’s this frequency of hashtag appearance that leads to the trending topic on twitter. They’re simple to use, just type it into your tweet or post. The use of the hashtag has spilled into other forms of communication, although it seems to be frowned upon by facebook pedants.

People get really creative with the use of hashtags, adding them to tweet about events, conferences, company failures (the infamous #fail), games (check out artwiculate), news and tv programmes. Humourous tags have emerged – such as #FirstWorldProblems

I love the creativity people put into their hashtags, and some have developed into memes (#durftevragen – dare to ask in Dutch is a great example), but MissPixels hashtag project seems to be a rare example of applying the hashtag to the visual. Given the trends of increasing images used in presentations, increasing use of social media and increasing use of text/image combinations I’m surprised. It could be a fun project for a team or group as well.

Image #imagine – fun in the sunset – Hashtag project© /MissPixels/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0