Thursday, 23 August 2012

Best of All Words; Upcoming Invite-only network

One of the pioneering figures of social media, the little known Swedish Count Erik Wachtmesiter, is back to launch his latest creation, Best of All Worlds.

The new site, which is expected to launch on the 27th August, will be highly exclusive and cater to the more elite levels of society. Naturally the site is invite-only at the moment, claiming around 25,000 members through the 5,000 invitations Wachtmeister initially issued. It is expected to continue in this vain as the network revolves around this exclusivity and seeks to unite the wealthy community pinpointed by Wachtmeister, providing a service that can really support their needs.

Speaking about the network, Wachtmesiter has claimed that Best of All Worlds will “deliver clever filters, cut through the mess and get information that’s relevant and we can trust”. The ‘About’ section of the site continues this view by stating the purpose of the site to be; to ‘discover people, common passions, and compelling information… in worlds of shared interests and friends’. Subsequently, Best of All Worlds will most certainly appeal to high-end marketers delivering such products as ‘yachts, watches, wine and liquor’.

Another potential selling point of the network is Wachtmeisters aim to allow users increased control over their data. In a move which appears to try and draw people away from LinkedIn and Facebook, Best of All Worlds offers the user ‘five modes to switch between’. These modes are entitled private, professional, family, social and party. After the user has picked their preferred mode, each one then provides its own set of photos, links, recommendations and suggestions. The idea is that this will enable like-minded people to connect in a ‘trusted environment’ and be able to discuss what really interests them. The categories of these discussions include ‘business, food and wine, health or a better world’, but this is expected to soon expand. 

A Small World

Back in 2004 Erik Wachtmesiter launched his first social network A Small World. Sharing many similarities with his latest creation, A Small World is an ‘invitation-only website that catered to a wealthy crowd where users could meet other world travellers, make business connections and find services’. After selling a significant stake of the business in 2009 and quitting his post, it seems Wachtmeister is fully focused on Best of All Worlds now. It appears that the Count has picked and streamlined the most successful elements of A Small World and can utilise the near 800,000 user base to promote his new venture. Reports have viewed this as an attempt to ‘poach’ users and this was extended when the two sites shared their mobile app launch on the 27th July. According to Wachtmeister this was a “total coincidence”, but these events do suggest the Count should be careful In the future. 

The potential competition between the two sites will be interesting to observe in the coming months and also whether Best of All Worlds can tempt the so-called ‘jet-setters and well-heeled away from Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn’. This should indicate whether the demand is actually present among these elite groups. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Social Media takes on role of 'Church' during times of need.

Social media takes on ‘church’ role in times of need

Research has recently come to light underlining the pivotal role social media played during, and after, the Christchurch earthquakes.

Ekant Veer, a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Canterbury, has discovered that social media unexpectedly became the communal meeting place during the quakes. Veer has noted that the people affected increasingly took to social networks for help, to provide information and lend support. With the city undergoing such turbulent times - many buildings became unsafe for occupation and transport links were damaged - social media took on the role traditionally held by the community halls and churches.

The lecturer, who has revealed his findings in the lead-up to the Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference, monitored a variety of social networks after the quakes and noted his findings. Overwhelmingly, it was found that people utilised social media for ‘immediate and timely updates’. In addition to providing practical information, such as where to find fresh water and food, social media was important in supporting those who were badly affected and created a great sense of community.

Some significant players during the quakes included Geonet and Civil Defence who tweeted regular and useful updates. The hashtag #eqnz also came into play, helping boost the informative element that became so significant. News channels, whilst maintaining importance in informing the public as a whole, could not keep up with the instant updates boasted by social media. Subsequently, the quakes have led to heavier use of the platforms and claimed many more users.

Positive reports

In a time when social media is continuously cropping up in negative news articles, this is something that reaffirms the importance it can play.

The Christchurch earthquakes cannot be viewed in isolation as social media has played a significant role in other natural disasters. The disasters in Japan, for example, saw a huge spike in social media usage, with users relaying their support under such hashtags as #prayforJapan and posting ways in which others could help or donate. Similarly, in Australia, a Facebook page was created when it was announced that the Cyclone Yasi would hit Queensland. The page provided key updates, information and a place for users to connect. Studies have further shown that social media usage ‘during natural disasters is comforting, empowering and can limit psychological damage’. Clearly, it helps fulfil a number of functions in these times of need.

Two sides

Although social media was cited as one of the catalysts behind the London riots, it was proved in the aftermath how the good side overcame the evil. Initially, social media helped gauge public opinion, showing how unpopular the riots were, and united people and communities in combatting the situation at hand. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts were created, along with the hashtag #riotcleanup, sparking people into action to help their cities. In turn, this gained many ‘likes’ and retweets, as well as receiving further exposure with inspirational images of communities cleaning up their cities. A similar movement occurred in Vancouver following the riots there in June 2011.

When the dust had finally settled, social media also took on an important role in discerning those who had been a part of the riots. The authorities were made aware of images portraying individuals involved and those who had utilised social networks to incite trouble. In addition, users were urged to come forward with any information they had concerning the rioters.

Despite not being a natural disaster, these riots similarly show the role social media can play as becoming the ‘church’. It is evident that it helps promote the community and allows people with no prior connections to work together for the greater good. Furthermore, social media promotes support for individuals affected by the events. The informative element must also not be forgotten as users can be instantly kept up to date with significant changes and information.

It is all too easy to criticise social media at present, but perhaps people should look back to these events to realise the important roles it has played. Were it not for these social networks the essential help, information and support may have been far less than what it was, and in no way as swift. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Twitter Founders to Launch Two New Social Networks

Twitter founders create new social networks

With Twitter now firmly cemented as one of the key players in the social media world, it would be understandable if its founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, were to take a back seat and simply revel in the success of their creation. This is evidently not the case though, as the duos forward thinking nature has seen them launch two new social networks.


The first of these creations, Branch, sees the removal of the constraints present on Twitter by allowing users to partake in more in-depth discussions. Twitter users can sign in using their account and are then free to join in with whatever topics of discussion they so feel. One can even set up their own ‘branch’ to spark a dialogue on their desired subject. As a complimentary element to Twitter, users could move between the micro-blogging platform and Branch to expand their discussions and focus on certain issues that really matter to them. The Head of Product at Branch, Josh Miller, has noted that the network is designed to combine “the intimacy of a dinner table conversation with the power of the internet”. Subsequently, the network is expected to improve the quality of conversations and create an online dialogue, which is seen by Miller to be largely lost due to the domination of internet “monologues”.


Medium is a completely different type of publishing platform. Similar to Pinterest, Medium is a highly visual network which is built around ‘collections’.  Users can upload images and text, if they so wish, and then have their work viewed and voted on by others. Those that choose not to upload content can instead give authors feedback on their work. The collections that gain the highest ratings are then more likely to be viewed by others as they will feature prominently on the site. Users can choose to make their collections private though, in which case only designated people can view their work. Conversely, collections can even be left ‘open for more collaborative efforts’. Plainly, the level of contribution on Medium is entirely up to the user.

On the Medium site, Evan Williams goes into some depth on the vision behind it. Essentially the aim is to evolve the online publishing world. Williams notes that ‘in many ways, the web is still mimicking print concepts, while not even catching up to it in terms of layout, design, and clarity of experience’. Hence Medium will seek to address this by offering a quality and innovative publishing platform. He does admit that the site will be experimental for a time, expecting it to ‘evolve rapidly’ as they learn more about how the site is being used.

Is this anything new?
Criticism has been levelled at both sites for their seemingly strong likeness to other platforms. Whilst Medium has been called a ‘higher-brow version of Pinterest’, Branch has been compared to Menshn and Google+ Hangouts. It appears these new networks have most definitely borrowed many elements from successful social networks - it would be detrimental not to - but have put a new twist on things.

Through the Obvious Corporation, Williams and Stone have made a conscious effort to further existing aspects of social media. In the case of Branch, the dialogue element of social media has been refined. The site represents a destination to engage in and discover interesting conversations, which can branch over numerous posts. The aim is to spark quality conversation, ridding idle chat and petit arguments, although this is yet to be seen. There is even the possibility for Branch to be ‘embedded on any website’, expanding the possible audience and opening the discussion out to others.

Medium has been mostly put side by side with Pinterest but the difference being it is a publishing platform. It does appear at this early stage, with no disrespect to Pinterest, to signify a more intellectual social network. Whilst Pinterest does showcase some great and original work, there is also a fair amount which is rather vapid. Medium looks to only showcase the best work through featuring the highest rated posts and collections. Nevertheless, it seems a comparison between the two is worthless as they fulfil two different functions and attract varied audiences. The future of Medium is yet to be seen but, once open for use, it will be expected to gain many contributors with its elegant and easy to use format.

Credit must be given to Williams and Stone for their roles in looking to evolve the world of social media. They have certainly recognised some social network niches that require development and worked hard to improve them. Their philosophy that ‘quality begets quality’ will hopefully come to fruition as the less desirable elements of social media are ridded of in these new networks. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pinterest doing wonders for Charity

With the popularity of Pinterest surging at present, the adaptability of the site has really been highlighted by the increased variety of users signing up. In particular, there have been growing numbers of charities joining the site and utilising it in quite imaginative ways.

The photo-sharing site, which recently became open to all, is being realised as potentially becoming ‘a great source of donations’. This is due to the site being dominated by females (70%) mostly between the ages of 25-44, a demographic which is often hard to target. Campaigns on Pinterest could subsequently bring increased success for the charities tapping into this and also help to further their message and support base.

Some have suggested however, that Pinterest can only lend itself to certain charities due to the visual nature of the site. However, as is being shown, numerous charities are making use of it and finding a variety of original ways to portray themselves. Recently, the Blurt Foundation has made use of the site to try and remove the stigma surrounding depression. Whilst the subject can be difficult to convey, co-founder Jayne Hardy believes that “images can be more powerful than words”. The decision to turn to Pinterest was an obvious one for the charity and has really helped to raise awareness.  Through their use of the site the foundation were featured on the Total Politics blog for their depression in politics series.

Numerous other UK charities are now utilising Pinterest as it becomes an essential part of social media campaigns. Jordan Harling (Reason Digital) has noted that the goal for charities is to ‘use Pinterest to connect people and communities based on their social interests and motivation to do good’. By being creative, charities can gain attention and stand out from the crowd. The network can also be beneficial through linking up with other social media platforms and blogs for instance. So by grabbing the attention of the user on Pinterest, they could then be directed to the charity site and even make a donation. Even if a donation were not to happen, the charity has successfully disseminated its message and may gain support through this in the long run.

Some notable charities using Pinterest include water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Their boards contain images from field trips, fundraising campaigns and photos of the day, which prominently feature water. The WWF are another significant group to have taken to the site. Understandably they use a lot of images of animals but they also include boards devoted to supporters and ‘tips to go green’.

Consequently, despite it being relatively new and unfamiliar, Pinterest is fast becoming a key avenue for charities. As well as helping to generate donations, the site is allowing charities to broaden their message and potential audience. In terms of visuals, these charities are also doing a great job in pinning creative, interesting content. This is sure to develop in the future as the site advances and understanding increases. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

Reality Television and Facebook?

Reality TV on Facebook

A Chance to Dance is a new American reality show that will become the first show to air both on a cable channel and Facebook.

The move taken by the show’s producers, Nigel and Simon Lythgoe, highlights their ambitions to generate more of a buzz and subsequently capitalise on this with improved audience ratings. It has been recognised, particularly from the recent Olympics, that viewers are often online whilst they watch, contributing to various social media sites. This is something that television companies could really look to harness and reality TV seems a perfect start.

Although there have been increasing steps to combine social media with reality TV in recent times, this move is the ultimate step and may see the show really prosper. In similar shows, Twitter has been utilised to involve the audience, creating hashtags to spark conversation and debate. In A Chance to Dance, Facebook viewers will be able to post comments and chat about the show, answer trivia questions, get access to exclusive footage and witness interviews with the producers. Clearly, the combination of the two will immerse viewers even more than before and will hopefully help build a bigger audience.

By targeting fans of the previous shows American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, the producers hope to see a large proportion of Facebook viewers during the shows air. These viewers will be required to pay $1.99 per show or $11.99 for seven episodes. The network company Ovation will not be using the Facebook credit service and will instead opt to use credit card or Paypal transactions.

Facebook credits

The decision not to utilise this service signifies part of a growing trend which recognises the relative inoperability of the service. Reality show Big Brother has experienced a great amount of difficulty with the service and recently had to completely suspend it for one eviction. Facebook themselves have begun to move away from the service, choosing to use actual money in their Bingo and Slots Friendzy games. The Financial Times has reported that Facebook are likely to discontinue the service ‘at the end of the year after hearing from merchants that the 30 per cent cut it took on transactions was unpalatable’.

Social media and other shows

Having Facebook stream live shows does make a lot of sense in the reality TV world but if this were to branch into other areas it could have detrimental effects. With reality TV, arguably the shows don’t require a great amount of concentration and social media lends itself to the format as viewers can voice their opinions and feel part of the programme. Conversely, if a new drama were to be aired on Facebook, viewers are likely to not pay it their full attention, possibly missing significant information and superior camera work. Whilst social media can be beneficial in generating the hype, perhaps keep these shows to television. In spite of this, viewers could be online anyway during watching a show. Either way, it is difficult to see credible shows turning to social media as another way to stream their shows.

It will be intriguing though, to see whether this move will be mirrored by other shows in the future. Were it to prove a success with A Chance to Dance, then it is likely to be seen again. Hopefully, were this to be the case, the shows would be given the same attention as if it were shown on television.

What do you see as the future for television and social media?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Out of this World Live Tweeting

Whilst the world was still catching its breath after the spectacular Olympics weekend, reports today confirm NASA has successfully landed their Curiosity Rover on Mars.

In a mission which is expected to last 98 weeks, the Curiosity Rover will explore the Gale Crater- an area believed to have been filled with water billions of years ago. Heightening interest in the Curiosity Rover, NASA have once again involved Twitter to help document the mission, posting updates and photos. Whilst this idea has been used for both previous Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) neither appeared to generate the interest quite like Curiosity has done. With the Curiosity account already showing nearly 500,000 followers, not to mention the numerous retweets, NASA finally seem to have cracked the social media game.

So what has changed for NASA this time around? The first obvious reason is the significant rise in people using Twitter. Since the last two Rover missions Twitter has exploded in popularity. Due to this surge the general understanding and interest in the site has also grown. With this, I would also suggest that NASA has gained a greater insight into how to use the site. Their live-tweets documenting the landing of Curiosity really do generate a level of excitement. Following the successful landing, Curiosity then went on to post three consecutive pictures including the line ‘it was one small step… now it’s six big wheels’. Partly down to the live landing hype was Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi, who witnessed a drastic rise in his follower count from 200 to 11,000 during the pre-landing stages. Ferdowsi helped give an insight into NASA by instagramming his view of the control room.

In a mission reported to have cost around $2.5 billion ($7 for every American), there has certainly been more hype this time around. NASA seems to have harnessed this through the Curiosity Twitter account and the live-tweeting during the landing process. Those that did follow the landing arguably felt more a part of the event and could witness clear evidence, both with the photos and UStream feed.

Live-tweeting has undoubtedly seen a major rise in the last year or so. The Twitter site promotes this activity as a way to ‘turbocharge your engagement’ and posits numerous success stories. For example, Lea Michele (@msleamichele) used live-tweeting whilst at the Emmys in September in 2011 resulting in a 3.5X increase in daily mentions and a 2X increase in daily followers, and The Rock (@TheRock) participated in a live Q&A using the hashtag #RockTalk which saw a 13X increase in daily mentions and a 3X increase in daily followers. The results from these live-tweet campaigns are impressive and NASA seems to have reflected this with the Curiosity landing.

The beauty of live-tweeting is not only the buzz which is generates but also the fact that it has the ability to be applied to anything. In recent times we have seen live-tweet feeds from such events as a brain surgery, the Leveson inquiry, amongst other court cases, and, perhaps most strangely, a public break-up documented by comedienne Janey Godley. The former of these boasted an audience of 14 million people and was the hospital’s second journey into the live-tweeting realm. These range of events highlight that live-tweets can be both educational and for entertainment purposes. Not only does it promote a person, place or an event, it truly engages the audience who can have their voice heard.

You have to wonder though whether live-tweeting can detract from the event itself. With people so keen to voice their opinions are they fully concentrating on the event at hand? Whatever the case, live-tweeting is certain to be seen more and more in forthcoming events.