Television and Social Media

I went to a thing for work (Directors UK) organised by the Westminster Media Forum which discussed “TV and the second screen: social media, innovation and regulation“. It was the closest I feel I have ever come to what might be described as “lobbying”, which was a bit weird. I tweeted so much my phone died, I’ve embedded the Storify we did for work below which filters out (most of) the crap and focuses on the director-relevant stuff.

What struck me was how many of these lessons/observations could easily be applied to the arts sector in one way or another. Although obviously the sizes of audience being discussed here are beyond what most traditional arts organisations could expect to reach…

Anyway, enjoy.

A few thoughts on Facebook

What with all the hoo-ha around Facebook’s flotation (for what it’s worth, $100bn – WHAT!? did the last dotcom bubble teach anyone anything? This is a fairly good article on the subject: Facebook IPO – do not buy), I thought I’d share a few thoughts I’ve been having around Facebook. Specifically Facebook’s headlong rush into forcing their Open Graph and concept of ‘frictionless sharing’ on everyone. I’m aware these aren’t original thoughts, and I’m arriving slightly late to the party but I think it’s a point that needs reiterating. Facebook’s idea of “frictionless” sharing flies in the face of how the internet works, and how I think it should continue to work.

Facebook is ruining sharing

Facebook’s drive to force everyone to operate within the Facebook ecosystem is irritating beyond words, Molly Wood’s excellent article articulates this far better than I ever could: “How Facebook is ruining sharing“. Worryingly a number of high-profile content producers/platforms have already embraced this new way of operating, namely the Guardian, The Independent and Spotify. I’m sure that they will all claim that this offers a more integrated, seamless experience for users but in reality I’m not so sure this is the case. It smacks of forcing proprietary solutions on people and any solution that sets out to reduce choice and prescribe things to users is a bad thing in my book. Why should I have to use the Guardian Facebook app to read a story if a friend has shared a Guardian link within Facebook? Surely the choice should be up to me? The fact that Facebook is taking this choice away from users can only be a bad thing and hopefully they’ll rethink, unfortunately I don’t think this is likely.

Follow the money

The more they (Facebook) can lock users into Facebook, forcing them to stay “within” Facebook for longer and longer periods of time whilst being able to gather even more data on their user’s activities (what you read, what you listen to, etc etc) means that Facebook becomes even more attractive to advertisers. Speaking as someone who runs fairly frequent ad campaigns on Facebook I can say that the way in which you can segment who sees your ads on Facebook is very attractive/useful/effective and if they can make this even more nuanced then Facebook will become even more attractive to advertisers – and given that the vast majority of Facebook’s income comes from selling advertising this is surely the way they will look to move.

Remember; if the product is free, then you are the product


Of course there are those that argue this hugely integrated concept can only be a good thing, that it takes the thought out of sharing and just makes it a default part of everyone’s online experience i.e. that all your activity will eventually be shared, on Facebook, regardless of where you are operating online. I couldn’t disagree more, much like the information you put on Facebook what you share should be a conscious decision, it shouldn’t be default, that is a dangerous move for anyone who cares about controlling their digital footprint (as I think everyone should). Of course there will then be the argument, as there is for ID cards and CCTV, that if you aren’t doing anything ‘wrong’ then you have nothing to worry about, but this fundamentally misses the point – if I don’t want to share with everyone on Facebook that I’ve just read an article about Russia and China vetoing a resolution on Syria, or a review of Borgen, or listened to 300 David Bowie songs back-to-back then that should be my choice, I shouldn’t have to go out of my way to ensure that this isn’t shared.

Further reading

There are (of course!) lots of excellent articles on this subject if it’s something you’d like to read up on. I’d recommend:

Why Facebook’s Seamless Sharing is Wrong
Facebook Hasn’t Ruined Sharing, It’s Just Re-Defined It
Is Facebook ruining sharing?
Facebook: Ruining or Evolving Online Sharing?
The Pros & Cons of Frictionless Sharing


One aspect of this entire endeavour that I didn’t really touch upon was the issue of privacy, if you start using these sorts of services then Facebook’s fairly complex way of setting your privacy controls may come back to bite you, as demonstrated quite succinctly here “Luluvise’s date-rating site shows where your Facebook data can end up“. Whilst that article concerns itself with an app that ‘adds functionality’ rather than sharing as such, it doesn’t take anything approaching a leap of imagination for this to have wider and more serious implications via “content sharing” apps too. To ensure that your data doesn’t get shared with all and sundry thanks to a ‘friend’s’ perchant for apps you’ll need to dig into the ‘Apps’ section of the ‘Privacy Settings’ in your Facebook account.

Stop worrying about the future, and/or worry about the now

Lots of people I talk to seem to spend a LOT of time worrying about ‘the next big thing/development/product/platform/way of working/etc’. Indeed there seem to be people who spend all their time thinking about what will happen in a year’s time rather than dealing with the way that things are at the moment. Of course this, in some cases, is to be expected – someone needs to absorb themselves in considering what is next going to impact our lives but you also need to understand the situation as it currently exists so you can actually get on with things on a day-to-day basis.

The problem is that as far as developments online go, things move pretty quickly. Often people are only just coming to terms with the last ‘big thing’ before 15 other products have popped up, all of which are being touted as the next important development which causes everyone to go into meltdown in trying to figure out how the hell they’re supposed to use whatever it is that is being proffered as the latest miracle solution.

I’m as guilty of getting excited about ‘new stuff’ as the next person. By their very nature people who work with ‘digital stuff’ tend to like progress, development and new ways of working. However too often this can spill over into taking your eye off the ball and not getting to grips with the platforms/products/etc that everyone is using now, if people who you want to reach are using a platform then it is relevant to you and you need to understand how to use it. In this I am talking about people who have a Twitter id but never use it, or have obviously never taken the time to work out how to use it effectively, the organisations who are on Facebook but engage with it in the strange, disconnected, 3rd person-7-times-removed-from-reality of a marketing team adopting the persona of a brand and then still trying to talk to people in something approaching a normal way, or companies who have a blog but have never posted anything worth reading, people who promote a Flickr account for no discernible reason, Youtube channels devoid of content etc etc etc, you get the idea.

What is strange is that these very same people will then doubt the ‘point’ of these platforms, they will claim that they ‘don’t work’ and are perhaps searching for the next big thing because of this perceived lack of effectiveness. However surely it is obvious that if you fail to engage with people/products/platforms then noone is going to want to engage with you. If you never say anything, or anything worth reading/responding to then don’t get frustrated at the channel – it’s not Twitter’s fault that noone is talking to you.

In my opinion it is an almost undeniable truth that with social platforms (and in that I am grouping everything from networks such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook to content-sharing such as Flickr, Youtube, blogs etc) that you get out what you put in AND these platforms will only work for you if you recognise that they are populated by people and that you have to behave like an actual, real person in order for other actual, real people to respond to you. Of course I’m not suggesting that you should use your personal and organisation’s Twitter IDs in exactly the same tone of language but the tone should be degrees of difference on the same scale rather than coming across as though they are being run by people talking two entirely different languages.

So, what am I saying, in my typically rambling manner?

  • Social platforms are social
  • They’re also populated almost entirely by people (and some spambots)
  • You have to actually use them for people to notice you
    • You also have to use them in a way that is recognisable to other users, how do you use that platform/service/website when you aren’t at work? you should probably use it in a similar way when you are at work too (unless you spend all of your spare time posting naughty photos/videos of yourself or other questionable activities, if you do that then I wouldn’t recommend doing that when you’re at work too, you’ll probably get fired)
  • Stop worrying about whether or not this platform/service will exist next year – if your audience/customers/friends are using it now then, for now, it is relevant.

Content is king

‘Content is king’, how many times have you heard that? Well when it comes to websites, in my experience, it is pretty much a universal truth. The worrying thing is how few businesses seem to realise this, and even if they claim to, how many of them act on it?

This follows on, in some respect, from my earlier post about “design for design’s sake“. There I mused about the appropriateness of design vs what the client/designer ‘thought was best’. The idea of having good, strong, useful and appropriate content follows on from that. Too many businesses seem to think that their web presence starts and ends with simply having a web site or twitter account or facebook page or blog. But this simply isn’t enough, in fact I’d go so far as to argue that having a presence on these platforms (or indeed any presence on the web) and then not using them is worse, and more damaging to your brand, that not having one at all.

People need to realise that having any one of the presences i’ve mentioned above (and all the others I haven’t) requires a commitment in time and thought. Simply registering a facebook fan page for your company, filling it with little or useless information, inviting all your friends to become a fan and then promptly never updating it displays a lack of understanding of the medium and has little or no positive outcome. Content is king, and never updating your content renders it useful to practically no-one.

I’ve encountered this a couple of times recently, with clients enthusiastically asking for bespoke blogging solutions and help with their facebook presence. I am all in favour of this, if done right. Whenever a client asks me about social media I provide them with a bit of a ‘how-to’ guide for each of the main channels/platforms, this outlines the type of content that would be appropriate (and some examples), how much time the particular platform requires (e.g. twitter=at least daily), how these platforms can be managed, examples of the types of interactions that can take place and an idea of the likely outcomes for their business.

All too often you see people painfully trying to shoehorn completely unsuitable content into an equally unsuitable platform. You need to, as mentioned in the post linked to above, consider your audience, consider what they want to find out and why they came to you via whatever platform you’re addressing them on. You must produce useful, regular, engaging content or quite simply – don’t bother.