Why Business Needs To Get Social (via Forbes)

Check out Joshua-Michele Ross’ insightful article for Forbes magazine, Why Business Needs To Get Social.

In passing, he mentions the impressive 3.5 million fans which Coca-Cola has gathered on their Facebook page. In fact, that page was started by two fans, unofficially and independently, before Coca-Cola caught on.

Overall though, as Ross highlights, we should get accustomed to the word “social”.

If the last 100 years was about gaining efficiency and innovation through scale and tight control of resources and communications, the next 100 will be about finding more fluid, open models of collaboration and cooperation. Playing on this new field has different rules. It requires shifting our concept of business from a legalistic model to a social one.

It’s a bold claim but there’s something very appealing about this prediction.

The Guardian Newspaper launches its own API (And Why this is Exciting)

Today’s exciting story at the crossroads of media and technology is the Guardian’s new API.

If you’re new to the idea of an API, or “application programming interface”, read The Guardian’s own intro to the concept of APIs from 2007. Here’s today’s announcement.

OK, why is this exciting?

Every newspaper is a massive storehouse of potentially interesting data. You can access that data by getting a paper copy and reading it. Or you can access it by visiting their website.

There aren’t many other ways of sifting through the stories, features, facts and statistics held by the newspaper. You are somewhat limited by the design and the methods the Guardian have deemed useful for presenting that data.

But now, The Guardian have opened up access to their content. The same copyright applies, they’ve just allowed you to query it in a multitude of ways. Now, you can write software (or hire someone to write software) which presents it in new forms, giving new insights. The “interface” part of API is not a graphical interface but a set of requests you can send which result in answers and other data coming back.

The API idea is familiar to software developers. Usually it wouldn’t be a surprise for an online service to launch an API – examples abound: Amazon, Facebook, Google Search, Google Maps, Twitter, Yahoo, Flickr and YouTube are just some of the services that offer their own APIs. If you visit one and scroll to the very bottom of their homepage, usually that’s where you’ll see a little API link which takes you to the documentation for developers.

If you take the perspective of a service owner, the set of data you are sitting on is suddenly more useful because of the versatility of access you have allowed. The world at large knows more than you about what it wants from your data – and can do more. When that data is combined with data from other APIs, in the form of a “mash-up”, that’s when the real fun begins.

The practice of newspapers offering APIs is relatively recent. The other big one already available is that of the New York Times. Here’s a real example I picked arbitrarily, Reading Radar. This developer has taken the bestselling books chart from the New York Times and is linking directly to the Amazon listing for each book. Incidentally, he probably makes a modest amount of money via Amazon Associates, an affiliate scheme to drive sales. He credits the New York times prominently as the source of the data, so they get the kudos and the brand recognition. Here’s some technical info on how he achieved it.

Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research has a list of suggestions for developers who are keen to flex their coding skills and tap into this rich resource. You can guarantee that most or all of these will appear in the coming weeks.

If you’re not a developer, you can still make use of the new services that spring up – Reading Radar and the like. That’s the point! If you’re on Facebook and have ever used applications like Scrabulous (as was), Super Wall or the hundreds of others then you’ll know this – and sometimes with annoyance in that case. But people come back to Facebook because the usefulness and fun factor outweighs the clutter.

But if you’re a content owner then you should be thinking about how this could impact on the future of your business. Jeff Jarvis argues today that APIs are the new distribution, citing BBC and National Public Radio as further examples of media owners who’ve experimented with offering APIs.

News Corporation, Trinity Mirror and other media owners should be eyeing this Guardian announcement with interest.

Is marketing evil? (Via Seth Godin)

Seth Godin tries to answer the question “is marketing evil?“.

Why Every Company Is A Media Company (via Mashable)

Check out this intriguing post Why Every Company Is A Media Company (from Mashable blog) about a small restaurant which dominates at least one Google search query – by having a website with some interesting, relevant, “human” content.

If you’re using businessy or corporate speak on your site, it’s a good opportunity to reconsider. People are mostly immune to that. People like real voices!

BBC Takes Back Control of Rogue Twitter Account (Lessons for Brands)

Yesterday I wrote about Twitter name squatting and included a recent example where a rogue person had registered the name BBC on Twitter.

Earlier today Twitter Inc handed the account to the real BBC, after a BBC staff member complained to Twitter Inc. It’s been cleared of all previous tweets and all 7,684 followers.

It’s now impossible to follow the original links and see what happened. So here are some screenshots to illustrate my point about the importance of brand control. All were taken on 28th January 2009 just after 5PM.

Message to fake BBC Twitter account

The screenshot above shows an @ message sent to the BBC Twitter account.

Reply from fake BBC Twitter account

The user @sputnik101 was surprised to see this reply from the BBC Twitter account. Like many people, including me, he was unaware that the BBC did not have control over the account. In that sense, like many others, he’d be duped into thinking he was following the real BBC. It’s generally expected that large corporations will protect their trademarks and copyrights to prevent this happening.

First available tweet from fake BBC Twitter account

I tried to see how long the BBC account had been in third party control. Above is the earliest tweet I found – from 9th October 2008.

Some replies to fake BBC Twitter account

As far as I could see the message to @sputnik101 was the only @ reply from the impostor posing as the BBC. But many other people sent @ messages to the account about many different topics. You can see just one page of search results above.

We don’t know if the rogue posing as the BBC sent any private direct messages to any of his or her thousands of followers, in the four months he or she had control over the account. It would have been possible.

BBC take control of Twitter account

Today the real BBC have control. So do head over and read what they’re posting from the new look, genuine @bbc. If you’re on Twitter you can follow them too.

This BBC story is an excellent example of the need to control your brand name on Twitter. If someone has your brand name, particularly if it’s a trademark, you should complain to Twitter Inc by sending a message to @crystal in user support.

If your name or brand name is still available, then register a Twitter account today to prevent somebody else taking it.

It’s also worth using usernamecheck.com to check the availability of your name on a variety of other popular sites.

At Native our purpose is to advise companies on good use of online and social media. This is advice we give to all our clients. As such, the BBC story is given here purely as an illustrative example. I’m not going to labour this point – there are many other examples of Twitter squatting but I won’t be attempting to catalogue them all.

I do believe that Twitter squatting could lead to examples of phishing and other nastiness if companies are lax about this. Unfortunately the onus is largely on them to monitor this. (If you’re concerned about this or you want more information, call us.)

In this example, on the surface it would appear that the rogue was attempting to provide a useful service – by pulling in the legitimate RSS feed from BBC News. But it would be easy to do this for other purposes – including phishing – to give an appearance of authenticity to an account. The legitimate feed could easily be combined with a feed from elsewhere (using an RSS aggregation service such as Yahoo Pipes).

What Would Google Do?


We are blog and news junkies here at Native. (We need to be.)

One thing that amuses me is when commentators emerge from the woodwork to direct their earnest advice towards the business and technology strategies of Google.

Google’s huge success in building an empire on search advertising is very well known. It’s enabled them to launch an entire suite of web-based applications.

(It’s likely you might be reading this blog post in Google Reader or Google Mail, for instance. If not, maybe you’re using their Google Chrome browser.)

But daily, hourly even, there is no shortage of people with some nugget of insight. Or withering putdown.

When you’re the best, you are at your most visible and you are the biggest target for ill-conceived challenges. Just ask any boxing champion who has to walk into a bar.

Admittedly Google’s recent 4th quarter financial results were down. But considering a tough market for advertising in general, they continue to do comparatively well – beating analysts’ forecasts with net profits of $382 million.

Media commentator Jeff Jarvis’ overall premise is different. While not without his own critics, Jarvis is not foolish enough to take cheap shots at the fastest growing company of recent times.

Jarvis has some good insights on his blog and Guardian newspaper pieces. I for one am looking forward to reading his new book What Would Google Do?.

His subject scope is large, judging from this book teaser:

It seems as if no company, executive, or institution truly understands how to survive and prosper in the internet age.

Except Google.

So, faced with most any challenge today, it makes sense to ask: WWGD? What would Google do? In management, commerce, news, media, manufacturing, marketing, service industries, investing, politics, government, and even education and religion, answering that question is a key to navigating a world that has changed radically and forever.

So, WWGD? (I’m looking forward to the bracelet and sandal franchises.)

Jarvis’ background is old school print journalism, so it helps to view his commentary as coming from that perspective. You might remember him from his Dell Hell online campaign in 2005 when he openly criticised the PC manufacturer via his blog and became responsible, in part, for the subsequent improvements to their customer service.

If you’re looking for more detail from Jarvis, read The Google Economy and The Imperatives of the Link Economy.

The book is out next week on Collins. (I wonder if News Corporation, their parent company, have anything to say about it.)

How To Avert a PR Nightmare with Social Media – Ford vs Chrysler

[ UPDATE, 22/01/09: There’s a link to the Chrysler website in the post below. It appears the car company took action and deleted their entire blogpost and comments on Thursday after some serious action on the recommendation site Digg. The image of the ad is still there. If you want to read the post and the comment pandemonium, Google have a barebones archive version in their cache. In my opinion, Chrysler would be better off owning this series of gaffes and explicitly dealing with the issue on their blog. As it goes, they’ve attempted to cover it up and censor the comments, thus being seen to fail once more. It kind of makes you feel sorry for them. ]

Here’s an intriguing article on Fast Company magazine about how Ford cars dealt with some negative publicity online last month.

While it mentions the rapid responses by their head of social media, Scott Monty, it may leave you wanting more details about the incident. So here’s the full story and Monty’s own account.

The key to this, in my opinion, is that Monty possessed additional information which he was able to share to calm down the bloggers and Twitter users.

In the meantime, many people emphasise the power of the web to engender good reputation for a product. But it’s just as powerful in the other direction. Elsewhere in the auto industry, Chrysler are suffering from the heat of almost a month of commenting fury. Why? Because after receiving a financial bail-out from the US government, Chrysler placed expensive national press adverts – to thank the public for “their” financial support.

This was viewed by many as a crass and wasteful move. The comments are largely variations on this theme:

Your resignation and the resignations of senior executives who have mismanaged the business would have been much more appropriate. Posted Dec 29, 2008, 8:03 PM by California Initiative

Oof! We also have:

My response to being forced to bail Chrysler out was to immediately purchase a FORD Focus and I will NEVER buy any car that Chrysler has anything to do with.  This ad you ran “thanking” us was an example of you wasting OUR money. Posted Dec 30, 2008, 11:44 AM by redwood tree

I don’t pretend to know very much about the auto industry. Even so, being based in Cardiff, Wales, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the Chrysler story – if it weren’t for the blogging frenzy that ensued and brought it to my attention. A quick look at Google Blog Search reveals hordes of US taxpayers expressing this. Here’s one. Here’s another. And another. Yet another. That’s just the front page of results. Here’s Fox News for good measure. Chrysler never dealt with any of the individual comments. Eventually they did attempt to respond with a very brief post in their own defence.

There’s a good chance your brand or business will not be facing publicity issues of this magnitude. But these are useful reminders of the importance of monitoring what people are saying about you online. People won’t necessarily choose to make any of these comments directly to you. Nor will they necessarily come to “your space”.

Often it will be people saying complimentary things, which is a great way to improve your day. But at some point, you may need to respond appropriately to something negative, or indeed a full blown crisis. Preferably immediately.

Your own blog can be a good place to respond. (You don’t have a blog? It’s extremely handy to have an active blog ready for these situations.)

I must confess to being a collector of these kinds of stories.

Another one of my grisly favourites concerns Target, a retailer, and dates from January 2008. When a blogger complained about an image in an advert, Target’s PR people refused to answer properly. Instead they cited a policy that they don’t talk to “nontraditional media”, in this case a blogger (read: influential customer). Whether or not you agree with the nature of the original customer complaint doesn’t matter. This was a snubbing which backfired – even if Target did ignore the blogs, it ended up in the New York Times anyway.

Mike Wesch on social media, education and YouTube

Tom has written a post on his personal blog about the work of Mike Wesch, a prominent cultural anthropologist who researches social media.