Category Archives: Social Networking

Snapchat, WhatsApp and the rise of anti-social networking

Apparently, private messaging service WhatsApp has overtaken Facebook messaging as the goto mobile messaging platform.

I can understand why growing numbers of people are picking up on private messaging services like WhatsApp, SnapChat and so on – particularly young people.

These apps allow users to send each other messages, whether text, images or video, privately. It can be within groups, so there is a social element, but it’s also private in that this isn’t taking place in the open.

Snapchat is a particularly interesting example because of its key feature – that messages and media self destruct after a certain time period.

After all, young people are facing the possibility of having their every move for the rest of their lives documented publicly online, for everyone to see, including parents, future employers and so on. Having some of that stuff private, and wiped from the record, must be attractive.

Thoughts on Google+

Having been playing with Google+ for a while, I’m starting to get to grips with things. I’m seeing it as a place to talk geeky stuff, where I won’t bore the large group of people I am friends with on Facebook who aren’t obsessed by the internet. Twitter remains my default place to share stuff online though. A few things have occurred to me that would improve the service:

1. Let me sort out my Google identity crisis

A few others have made this point – most consistently, Dan Harrison – but those of us that use Google to host our email using our own domains (ie my dave@kindofdigital.com email address is set up using Google services, and thus is a ‘Google Account’ in its own right) can be in a bit of a pickle.

Luckily I’m not the position that Paul Clarke found himself in, as I’ve always used a vanilla Gmail account for most of my interactions with Google. But it would be nice that those of us who are actually paying for the Google service get as full an experience as those using free accounts.

2. Find a way of making circles quicker

It’s got some lovely little visual tricks, but the circles interface just takes too long to organise. It’s also something that you can only get right after having used the service for a while – ie once you’ve already got hundreds of people in your circles and it’s too much of a pain to fix.

In other words, circles has got the technology pretty right, but the process isn’t great and Google needs to find a way of speeding it up.

3. Make better use of my other streams: email, docs, Reader

It strikes me that Google has a bunch of my other content and information that it could be making use of within the Google+ interface. After all, through Reader it knows what my favourite websites are, and which I pay most attention to. With Docs it knows who I probably work with, because I share documents with them.

It would be great if G+ became my Google service dashboard, where I can access all my own Google-stored data but also all the stuff shared by the people I know.

4. There is a distinction between +1ing something and sharing it, but it isn’t that pronounced

I guess the comparison to Twitter is that +1ing an item is like marking it as a favourite; and sharing is like retweeting. But Twitter is a very different beast to G+ and I’m often left wondering whether I should share, or +1 a bit of content. In the end, I usually don’t bother to do either.

5. Why on earth hasn’t Google killed off Buzz? It’s another potential confusion

Not much more to be said. Buzz was Google’s previous effort at doing something like Twitter… and not only have they not killed it off, they even include a user’s Buzz updates as a tab in their Google+ profiles. I don’t know why this is there as it appears to be a confusing duplication of effort and features.

Maybe all I want is FriendFeed?

Whilst I was thinking about all this, it made me wonder whether the grand sharing tool I seem to want Google+ to be might in fact exist, in the form of FriendFeed, the forgotten social sharing site bought by Facebook a few years ago.

I went and took a look, and lo! FriendFeed still seems to be running, albeit without much love. Here’s mine.

If you’re new to the site, it enables you to pull all your social content into one place (tweets, bookmarks, blogposts, Facebook statuses, shared Google Reader items, etc etc) and subscribe to other people’s feeds.

One downside to this is a bit of duplication (ie, if I post something on my blog, and then tweet a link to it, it’ll appear twice in my FriendFeed) – but that’s easy enough to overlook.

So I do wonder if, for Google+ to have something that sets it apart, looking back to FriendFeed might be a good idea.

Guide to Facebook Pages for Government Organisations

My partner in crime at Learning Pool, Breda Doherty, has written an awesome guide to using Facebook pages. She introduces it below – do have a read and then download the guide!

Facebook is now used as an everyday means of communication and information source for most people, well if you agree that over 500Million active users worldwide is a fair summary of most people… The fact that the Social Networking site has continued to grow and develop since its launch in 2004 shows that it’s not likely to join lapsed Social Networking sites in the sky such as Bebo or My-Space who simply haven’t been able to compete with Facebook’s constant innovative ways to keep people talking on their platform. Whilst friends use Facebook’s Personal Profiles; bands, businesses and those with a cause to promote often use Facebook Pages to market themselves to its millions of users.

What is a Facebook Page?

A Facebook Page is a public profile that enables groups like this to share their organisation with Facebook users. It is similar in layout and functionality to a personal Facebook profile but Facebook Pages have been created with the intention that it will be used for brand promotion and discussion between those with something to sell or promote and those Facebook users interested in showing their support of these.

Facebook Users show their support for Facebook Pages through Liking their page and adding the pages they like to their own personal Facebook profile, which in turn will be seen by friends who visit their profiles

The reason all these groups  use Facebook pages is because  it’s free, easy to use and offers the opportunity to connect with large numbers of people. If Facebook didn’t work, people would simply stop using it.

Facebook Pages and Government Organisations

Government Organisations are slowly seeing the benefits offered by Facebook Pages with effective use of this seen in the page maintained by Coventry City Council. However many are still unsure of how it can fit in with their wider communication strategies and are fearful that those staff assigned to maintain their Facebook Pages will take advantage of this and spend the time chatting to friends rather than the community members the organisation is eager to engage with. There is also the same fear which many Government Organisations have about Twitter in that with one status up-date on Facebook or one Tweet on Twitter the organisation will be called into irrefutable dispute!

Facebook: A Quick Guide for People in and Around Government

To try and rely some of the worries mentioned above and which we’ve heard about first-hand through our Learning Community, Learning Pool decided to create Facebook: A Quick Guide for People In and Around Government.  The guide provides a quick overview of how to set-up a Facebook Page, useful things to bear in mind as a Government Organisation when doing so and to highlight some of the legitimate ways in which Facebook, despite being labelled as a Social Networking site can be effectively used as an engagement site between Government Organisations and the public they are finding it increasingly difficult to connect with.

The Facebook Guide complements the Twitter Guide for Government written by Dave earlier this year and also looks at how the two can be used in conjunction. Download our Facebook Guide for free here.

Why I’m NOT quitting Facebook

FacebookThere’s been a lot of talk recently about Facebook and their privacy issues, as well as their perceived attempts to ‘take over the web’ through their ‘like’ buttons and other integrations with their platform.

As a result, quite a few commentators and influential social media types have announced that they are leaving Facebook, deleting their accounts and removing all the content – which isn’t that easy to do, it turns out.

I’m in no position to criticise what other people do, so I’m not going to – but I’m not going to leave Facebook. I’m not saying the privacy and other stuff isn’t important – it is. The Facebook privacy settings are a usability nightmare, but I do encourage everyone to take a look at theirs and lock them down however tightly you want. Below are my reasons why I’m not quitting:

1. It’s where an awful lot of people are

Facebook is where I connect online with less geeky family and friends. As some of you may have heard, my dad’s on Facebook. He isn’t on Twitter, or any of the other less-known platforms. Likewise with a lot of my friends for whom the internet isn’t the be-all and end-all of their lives (yes, such people do exist). If I stopped using Facebook, I’d stop seeing what these people are up to, their photos and other stuff. For me, that’s a bad thing.

2. My life is already all over the internet

Even if I wanted to, I can’t turn back now. I dread to think what information about me is already online, even taking Facebook out of the equation. If I decided to leave Facebook for that reason, then surely I would then, logically, have to track down all that information that is in other places. I simply cannot summon up the energy to do this. I made a decision a few years back that I was going to use the web to build a career and live my life. I can’t now complain that people I don’t know can find stuff out about me.

3. Attempts to control the internet always fail

Look what happened to AOL. If Facebook really thinks it can control the content people see and the way they see it on the web, they’re mad, and they’ll end up becoming irrelevant. I don’t really care that Facebook are trying to spread their platform wherever they like: let them. If it ends up being a case of giving up too much control for benefit accrued, people won’t engage with it and it will die.

4. My job means I need to use and understand Facebook

This is the killer for me, to be honest. A lot of the customers I work with want to use Facebook – it’s where people are, after all. How can I effectively advise them if I don’t know how the latest Facebook technology works, because I’m not using it myself? FIne I can read about stuff in blogs and whatnot, but nothing replaces the learning you get from playing with things yourself. So, professionally, I have to stay engaged with what remains one of the biggest and most influential social computing sites in the world.

Are you quitting Facebook, or sticking with it? I would be interested in hearing other people’s views!

Internet megalomania

John Naughton is spot on about the recent Facebook announcements in his Observer column:

What’s comical about this stuff is not so much its implicit arrogance – the assumption that we all want to share using Facebook – as its historical naivety. The history of the web is littered with the whitened bones of enterprises that once dreamed of total control. So until the cure for megalomania is invented, the only known antidote is a mantra. Repeat after me: the net is bigger than any single enterprise. And nobody owns it.

Well worth reading in full.

See, local gov *can* do Facebook

One of the highlights of last Wednesday’s LGComms event was hearing about Coventry City Council‘s Facebook page.

Coventry on Facebook

If you click to see the larger image, you’ll notice that the page has 11,321 fans (as at the time of writing).

11,321!

Remarkable stuff. As I wrote, quite a while ago now, it’s tricky to use Facebook when you are the sort of organisation nobody loves to love. Who wants to be a fan of their local authority? No-one I know.

How did Ally Hook and colleagues manage this feat? Pretty simple. It’s not the Council’s FB page…it’s the city’s. Tapping into civic pride is a great way of getting people to engage. Using your Facebook page to provide up to date information on weather related issues during snowpocalypse probably helps too.

In other words:

  • be relevant: don’t try and get people to want to join a weird club for the council, tap into what people want to belong to
  • be useful: use the space in a way that actually benefits people, rather than as just another comms channel

Facebook will continue to be incredibly useful for those wishing to engage with citizens. It’s where the people are, and the numbers keep growing. Just because it has been around for a while shouldn’t mean us social media geeks look down on it. Is it time you took another look at Facebook?

Formspring

Formspring seems a neat little service.

Formspring

It creates a profile for you on which people can ask questions, either anonymously or by logging in.

Questions don’t become publicly published though until you decide they are worth answering, so there is the possibility for a bit of quality control there.

Also what’s neat is that you can integrate it with a few different social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, so you can ensure people in those spaces get to see your answers.

What’s more, you can grab some embed code so people can submit questions to you from any website or blog.

I can see a potential use for this simple technology for politicians to answer questions in public from citizens. Am sure there are plenty of others too – any ideas?

Here’s my profile. Feel free to try out asking a question on it. I might answer, if you aren’t too rude 😉