The Rise of The Badge

I’m becoming increasingly intrigued by our use of social media to collect stuff. Be it Foursquare badges or Getglue stickers, we want it, and we want to boast about it to show how cool we are.

The process of identity definition through social media (ie liking a brand on Facebook) has expanded to demonstrating that we know how to have a good time, and where to go to have it.

Foursquare is growing and is the cool thing *right now* – Facebook Places, as Facebook deals develops, will surely replace it – but is the perfect example of how we use badges to demonstrate facets of our character.

By obtaining a badge, you are showing that you a) excel at something b) visit or take part in something regularly, or c) have an exaggerated interest in something.

Badges are the latest form of Internet currency.

I am a guru of Idlewild on Getglue, so by default, the Getglue algorithm reckons I have earned the right to be highlighted as ‘an expert’ because I have completed several associated actions AND had social recognition from within the Idlewild network.

One-off badges play to this, asking users to complete an action set within certain parameters to obtain something that may be unique or unavailable after a certain period of time. You have to interact to earn the currency to prove you are a useful member of the social network, or within the sphere of influence associated with that object.

Fighting off Foursquare fatigue has been combated with incentives, growth in mobile pervasiveness has led to a growing userbase and it turns out that
ease of use is most important to to users, rather than the process of connecting socially, which is after all, what we’re all here for.

And, of course, there are guides to picking up badges on Foursquare, so you can falsely claim to be an influential user within whatever network it is you’re trying to affect.

It’s intriguing that we fall into this, and now we look to unify all of our ‘achievements’ across each network, into one venue, such as, to show-off even further.

I’m really interested to know what you make of this, and if you know of any research that details this human behaviour, hoarding, in the digital space.

Seldom Seen Kid Facebook Page

After much consideration, I’ve finally setup a Seldom Seen Kid Facebook Page.

It is something I’d not put together until now because I have primarily used my own Facebook profile to share the content I publish on Seldom Seen Kid.

However, I felt that it was the right time to create a new Page for the blog – here’s my reasoning for doing so:

By only sharing my blog content through a personal Facebook profile, I am limiting the number of potential viewers who may visit the blog via the social networking platform

There will be friends on Facebook who don’t give two hoots about what I write about professionally. Setting the page up means that those who want to get updates through Facebook can, and those who don’t, won’t.

The new page gives me an opportunity to organically grow a community who I hope will use the Page to share things that they too find interesting.

I don’t tend to set myself goals for Seldom Seen Kid, views per post vary according to content and will of course be affected by SEO and potential audience. However, the Page allows me to set goals that will occur within a controlled environment of people who have opted in to receive my content, and identify what sort of content they want to read.

So, what would you like to see from the Page?

Facebook Whitewalling

Facebook Whitewalling is an emerging teen technique to control Facebook privacy: it is the act of logging into Facebook, but deactivating your account each time you logout, then re-activating it when you login, and then deactivating it again when you logout, and so on.

This is a trend that Danah Boyd has recently identified.

The idea is that, without an account on Facebook, you can’t be tagged in any images or other users status updates or check-ins that you don’t want to be.

This means that you control what presence you have on the social network.

It is, actually, a pretty ingenious way of putting power back into the hands of the individual users. What’s disappointing of course, is that Facebook doesn’t have an explicit “don’t tag me!” function already built in. Maybe this new user behaviour will see this shift.

Interestingly, Drew Benvie is experimenting with this and recently wrote about it here. I’m really intrigued and will be watching keenly to see what he makes of his extremely interesting process.

Miio Review

Miio is the latest in the long line of social networks aiming to usurp Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr by taking their best elements and crashing them together into one place. And, what’s more, it does it pretty successfully.

There are five areas to get involved in: your main dashboard, the public timeline, finding other members, exploring groups and finding content by category.

The dashboard is your timeline which shows your updates, notifications and messages sent you an a clear stream. The key bit here is that on the left hand side there is a module containing links to each of the types of message – this updates in real time and indicates when you have something waiting unread.

Miio Dashboard

As yet, this module doesn’t appear across the site consistently and this would certainly be a welcome addition.

The public timeline allows you to see what others are saying and to get involved in the conversation, the great thing with Miio is that you can set each individual update as public or keep it private in your own network – a neat touch.

Talking of updates, you can share pretty much anything: text, images, videos, links and more, in a very Tumblr-esque fashion. Content in your time line can be filtered according to the type of content you want to see. Nice.

The members section allows you to find and search for other users of the service – all the big tech players are there, from Boing Boing and Wired, to Read Write Web and Forbes.

There are very few groups set up at the moment, which is of course to be expected given the greenness of Miio, but it’s interesting that they are perceived as a key area for conversation to develop on the site, and is of course a feature that many Twitter users have been calling for.

Categories group messages by topic type, a great for finding like minded people who share your interests and again this is key. It helps to give users a starting point for conversation entry, a criticism of Twitter is that it can be difficult to fit into existing discussion – not with Miio.

The interface is clean and easy to navigate too which is always a good thing when it comes to young social network upstarts (think of Plurk, then think of the opposite of Plurk and you get Miio).

In all, it seems to be a positive and interesting offering which could ruffle feathers given time. The key will be whether it will attract a large amount of people quick enough to secure a suitable amount of venture capital funding to help the hard working developers grow the service.

Foursquare, Ferris Bueller and Facebook

I spotted an interesting use of Foursquare from the Chicago tourism office on PSFK, which demonstrates a neat use of the social location service.

Tourists are being offered the opportunity to unlock a Ferris Bueller badge by emulating experiences from the film.

Posted on their Facebook Page, Foursquare are offering people the chance to say how they’de recreate his day off and win a top notch prize.

This demonstrates several things:

A willingness of people to create content
Geo-location content is customisable
Facebook check-ins will be an important next step

If people are continuingly willing to make, suggest and share, this suggests UGC is definitely not dead and is still a valuable asset for brands who want to get their fans engaged.

By allowing people to play with location-based content, brands can make experiences even more personal ni a way that has so far been limited – couple that with the ongoing developments in augmented reality and you have a very powerful localised service brewing.

Facebook, as the most pervasive social network, has an opportunity to further connect people by locality and do it on their mobiles, to a greater extent than Gowalla or Foursquare because of the sheer size of its userbase. For brands who are already well versed in Facebook Pages, this presence can be further amplified beyond a static Facebook Page which you have to log onto to engage with, but a free roaming brand-by-location approach, something a standard brand page does not yet fulfil.

This could be exciting for brands as people who are out of Foursquare but comfortable on Facebook will find that location and their favourite companies want to engage with them more, and where they are.

Re-entering 1970

The 1960’s were wildly heralded as a golden age for freedom, free thinking and approaching life with heart rather than head. This is especially true when considering the hippie movement and swinging London.

What followed was a realisation in the 1970’s that the idealism and hope of that halcyon period essentially came to nothing, and a scaling back of opportunity and an era of austerity beckoned.

With the increasing discussion and controversy over Facebook privacy settings, availability of data and control over content and conversations on the Internet, I believe we are following a similar path in the evolution of the Internet.

1969 is the equivalent of the great opening up of data and elimination of boundaries, with 1970 echoing the increasing concern over Facebook’s use and sharing of user data and increasing control from large companies over what content can and cannot be published, shared and consumed.

We are entering a crucial time for the Internet.

Will increased regulation put an end to the free-for-all that we’ve seen to date, or will we see a backlash against the control and a second digital revolution?

Let me know what you think.

Mainstream Media Rules Social Media

A Pew study claims that “More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. And just four – the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post accounted for fully 80% of all links.” reported Read Write Web on Monday.

There are questions over the sample of blogs that the study looked at, but this to me isn’t the crux of the matter.

Communities in social media can be identified through patterns – shared links, common interests, a flow of thought that passes from one blog to another and cascades like a slinky until a finite point is reached.

What this study says to me is that there are no tangible blogging communities emerging, but my gut instinct and knowledge (!) of the space says otherwise. We know the foodie bloggers operate as a community, and we know the mummy bloggers operate as a community – are their links as communities not formed as a result of their common interests, idea flows and shared links?

Is social media, media where we are social, as opposed to media that is social?

It could be argued that a forum community bound by interest that sits on a common platform is a far more active example of social media, than a group of hyperlinked bloggers whose content is similar but ultimately not bound by anything.

This is the difference to me at any rate, between platforms and spheres.

A platform is tangible, a sphere isn’t.

Social media is often thought of as platform based – Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare; content here is very rigid, formed by the platform it’s being published on.

Blogs are based on a platform, but content doesn’t happen as a result of the platform, the platform facilitates it’s publication – nothing more, it’s very fluid.

When we’re looking at engaging communities, I would argue that it works best where there is a tangible object for that group of people to be holding onto – a forum, a discussion topic on a Facebook page.

Does this research essentially say, if you, as a marketer are looking to focus on developing the grass roots of a brand, don’t go to blogs, but social media?

Direct To Fan Marketing

Direct To Fan Marketing, or D2F, is an increasingly prevalent way for bands to reach people who like their music cheaply and with a real sense that they may just buy the band’s record as a result using emerging social technologies.

Direct To Fan Marketing is a strategy for bands to talk directly to their fans (hence the name) through the use of emerging, and increasingly mainstream, social technologies and social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or even Foursquare.

The way the bands go about this will vary: from offering free downloads by sending an e-mail to fans on their mailing list, or sharing a tweet with a link to a video with their fans by including specific fans of their streams using @xxx, for example. The idea is to give fans the most personal experience that they can get, with the marketing BS stripped out.

“Isn’t this just customer marketing?” I hear you cry. No, the nuance here is the shift from customer to fan.

A customer is someone who already buys, or already has bought, your product.

A fan is someone who is using their band or brand to define their identity, but may not actually participate or buy the product. A good example of this is someone who signs up as a fan of Greenpeace on Facebook, but doesn’t attend any rallies or leave messages on their wall.

My friend and trouble-maker in chief Elliot Pearson, has written extensively about D2F marketing from a band’s perspective, and this has got me thinking as to whether this same model can be effectively applied to traditional consumer brands as part of a PR and marketing strategy.

PR is the crudest form of influencer marketing, you find the journalist who will write about your product and influence the most people. Brands love this as it gives them, in theory, huge exposure often on a national level. It also helps that column inches can be compared against the size of adverts and you can answer: how many people may have seen that article? How many key messages were included? Did we see a spike in sales after the piece?

Social media on the other hand, takes on a form customer marketing. In part this is sharing content with a brand’s customers, and on the other hand it is performing a customer service function. The problem here is that it is difficult to measure – a cool piece of content may not make someone buy your brand’s product as a result.

I believe that we have an opportunity to integrate Direct To Fan Marketing as part of a social media strategy.

By aligning yourself with a brand, such as the Greenpeace example above, you are opting in to receive their communications via your Facebook news feed. This demonstrates you are hapy to hear what is going on in their world.

So why not take this a step further? If a brand knows that someone is a fan on Facebook (how many times more will you hear ‘we need a million fans in a month’ from unsuspecting clients – it’s about who, not how many, remember), the brand knows they want to receive information. The brand can use this nugget to speak with the fans directly, and offer them something in return for their interest in their product or service, be it content or a night out.

This allows fans to become involved with a brand they want to actively show they are involved with, and as a result may go and buy their first product, or strengthen their affinity with the brand.

How is this measurable? We can measure pretty much anything, but remember, that it is what we measure that is important.

I’d start by looking at:

Interactions (both positive and negative) and shifting perceptions (percentage increase in positive comments in proportion to number of total comments)

Demand for event attendance (if you have 50 places and 50 people come to your first event, but have 75 places for a follow up event and 150 people want to come, that’s associated brand involvement trebled!)

Content shares (number of times similar content is shared on Twitter or Facebook)

Downloads of freely available content (MP3s or viedeos)

D2F requires greater resource than customer or influencer marketing as it means taking time to become a trusted and credible member of the fans community. However, it is more worthwhile as it will help to cultivate long lasting fan – brand relationships, which will in turn, lead to more sales over a longer sustained period of time.

What do you think?

Facebook Pages

I’ve been playing with Facebook Pages recently for a couple of clients and decided that I wanted to set myself up with one for my music.

I had until a few weeks ago avoided setting up a Facebook Page because I wasn’t sure if it would be of interest to anybody i’m friends with, and didn’t want to spam them any more than I already do.

However, after thinking about the way that Facebook users interact with brand fan pages, I wanted to give it a go and set one up.

We’re seeing a shift in the way people show their support for brands, with a move from buying the product to declaring their fondness via publishing comments about them. This is helping consumers to define their identities, but not be defined by the brands the choose to advocate.

I am of the opinion that people sign up to Pages not to interact, the 100-10-1 rule would indicate that, but more this act is used as a way of promoting their interest, using the text and link that show up on their Facebook profile as a badge.

Facebook Pages allow users to opt-in to being part of a community and this indicates that they are willing to receive information, updates and news, if it is managed in an appropriate manner (ie not publishing one update per hour).

This made me realise that there is no harm in setting up a Page – if people want to join it, they will.

It is now my job to ensure that thecontent I post is relevant and will add some value to their otherwise saturated news streams… eek!