Thursday, December 23, 2010

Social Media in Regulated Sectors

An article I wrote for Money Marketing magazine, first published on 9th December 2010:

Much is being written about the potential rewards of social media, but after some high-profile PR slip-ups, many are addressing the risks associated with business and employee participation in social media, particularly if you operate in regulated sectors. The first complaint that refers to a firm’s Twitter messages or Facebook page may not yet have hit the headlines but it cannot be too far away.


In a business context, social media is a communication tool that helps with conversations between a business and individuals who may or may not be customers, so it can be a promotional and a customer relationship management tool. The potential for communicating with new audiences is huge, particularly for a service sector such as IFAs where this relatively low-cost medium is a great opportunity to communicate quickly and cheaply with previously difficult to reach potential customers

The FSA has stated its rules and guidance apply in a way that is “media-neutral”, so the rules will apply to mobile phone apps and any future new media as they do to more traditional methods of communication. Issues of risk must be covered and the overall principle of “fair, clear and not misleading” applies.

All businesses need to bear in mind that characteristics of social media platforms can serve to increase risk if not managed correctly. These multipliers include immediacy of communication, the viral nature of the platforms, transparency and ability to search for conversations and the global and open nature of the communications.

On Twitter, for example, you can only message in 140 characters or fewer. Does this give you sufficient space to cover all issues? If you retweet a message from a bank’s social media profile about its new mortgage product, are you recommending that product, or do you even have space to make it clear you are not?


With increasing complexity and particularly searchability of social media, users need to realise these communications, although perhaps not designed for wider public viewing, often end up that way. Tweeting is quicker and more casual than sending an email but has a potentially wider audience and can present greater risks.

If the potential rewards of social media for IFA businesses are to be fully realised, these risks must be managed through a combination of empowering the right people within the business, training these people to appreciate the risk points and the etiquette, putting in place internal and external procedures for problem management and if you are outsourcing these services to a third party, make sure your have robust and clear terms in place.


My top tip before jumping into the social media melee is to take a step back and set clear objectives about what you want to achieve. This will allow you to determine if the time investment required and increased risk represent a good deal for your business.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Which is King - Data or Content?

Content Data is King?

The saying used to be that 'content is king' in the media industry.  Content is of course important, but has it's throne been taken by data that is generated by users and readers of that content? 

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a previous post "Data is the new Oil" I mentioned that social media platforms and profiles are a goldmine of data for an advertiser or a business undertaking research.  Users input their preferences, likes and other habitual comments all of which is valuable data to an advertiser.  This may even extend to a users location on platforms like Foursquare and Gowalla.

Obviously, this data has a value and will be exploited by the platforms that collect it  (that is the basis on which they provide users with a "free" service) but this will stir emotions with the users who provide the data - think Facebook and privacy settings.

With the value of data apparent and on the edge of mass exploitation, the battle lines will be drawn to protect these assets.

These battles will be between the platforms that collect and commercialise data with others that look to exploit it without being part of their revenue model.  There may also be civil wars between apps for platforms where data is being extracted at no cost via APIs.

Whether copyright or database right will be the WMD of choice in battle remains to be seen and a number of questions have been recently referred to the European Court of Justice to clarify the legal protection for databases.  The case is:  FOOTBALL DATACO LTD & 5 ORS v (1) YAHOO! UK LTD (2) STAN JAMES (ABINGDON) LTD (3) STAN JAMES PLC (4) ENETPULSE APS (2010)

I have speculated why people (including myself) provide all this valuable data to these platforms.  My view is that they provide it so that we can create content, interact with content (think youtube, pictures of Flickr and Facebook) and utilise a free communication tool. For me, the quality of the content will determine the data that I provide - ie if 'Like' something it will have to be good!

Therefore, content and data can seen to be symbiotic and equally important.  Good content will drive data and in return the revenue generated should increase investment in content.

So in summary I think it is fair to say that data (filtered and distilled) is the key to monetising web £2.0 and beyond but that useful data is only generated when people interact with, and generate content.   

Traditional media (if there is such a thing anymore) still produces some of the best content in the web space and they are finding that traffic is driven through social media.  These organisations look well placed to increase digital revenues by exploiting content and data together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Outsourcing and Social Media

Outsourcing of business processes and activities can cut costs, spread risk and allow access to best industry practice. Whatever the business motivation or objective there are number of key considerations, not all of them contractual.

Typically IT services and Customer Service centres have been the first to be outsourced but now there are a new breed of real-time web based services that are being handed over to third party providers.

One of the most interesting of these services being outsourced is a business’ Social Media communication.

Social Media is in essence a communication tool that facilitates conversations between a business (or its employees) and individuals who may or may not be customers. In that respect social media can be seen to be a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

If a business outsources social media and allows the service provider to communicate with customers and potential customers on its behalf, it is trusting the supplier with both the reputation and voice of the company. This creates to challenge of how to extend your corporate voice, and even corporate culture to a third party service provider?

Setting boundaries and communication guidelines for the provider will assist but I suspect ‘due diligence’ in relation to corporate values or culture will be much more important than the traditional commercial due diligence. Perhaps appointing a provider with similar corporate values/culture training should be the primary criteria with joint training and recruitment a close second.

The other uncertainty is how you cost such an arrangement and measure its success. Key performance indicators and usage models are used but more frequently the question is being asked should charges be focussed on defined outcomes rather than quantifiable usage. Obviously, defined service levels and outcomes can be difficult in the social media context particularly if the platform is discontinued or unavailable. Twitter often crashes (and displays the ‘Twitter whale’) when it is over capacity – this would play havoc with defined response times using that medium.

Whilst it may seem pessimistic to discuss it at the outset, exit is still one of the most important contractual areas in outsourcing. For example, do you receive the username and passwords for the social media profile on exit and will there be an automatic transfer of the outsourcing providers employees on migration to a second generation supplier? Such an event could easily happen under employment law.

Behind the scenes outsourcing is all about relationships, managing change and commitment to making it work. The really successful ones work as a partnership with continuous communication – the agreement should set the expectations and understandings out clearly. Of course, there will be a terms to apportion risk and set out who is responsible for what, but there is a wider commercial and brand alignment picture that can not be ignored in the online world.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Copyright, the Prime Minister and Likeminds

This time last week I was attending the Likeminds conference concerning creativity and curation during the digital age. Andrew Dubber was speaking and giving a rousing call to change copyright laws to prevent hoarding of works without publication and to create an online digital archive.  A 'use it or lose it' kind of approach with a central repository for the greater good.  It was difficult to disagree with the majority of his argument and made me consider "licences of right" that can be granted under design and patent laws if they are not used.  The problem with copyright in the UK is that it is created automatically without the need for registration - administering such a scheme would be a huge burden.


Image: Nicholas Tarling / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then on Thursday Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced  (as reported on the BBC website) that

"... I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the Internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America."

This is a positive statement and I agree that the UK must increase its innovation economy but I don't think that simply changing IP laws is enough.  The UK needs to create the right mentality, financial incentives, working environment and support networks to foster not just innovation but entrepreneurship.

In relation to Copyright my view is similar to Laurence Kaye's who says that the current copyright regime is 'fit for purpose'.  He adds that we need technology solutions rather than changes to the law to enable quick and cost effective clearance searches and licensing.  
 
It seems to me that to facilitate such a solution we would need a system of registration or perhaps "tagging" for digital copyright works that could have a searchable database.  This would also allow a system of "licences of right" to be implemented for copyright.  My view is that we need a mixture of technological and legislative developments to make Intellectual Property laws not just fit for the Internet but for all digital platforms such as mobile apps. 
 
This is going to be a tricky balancing act for the government with numerous competing interests and a new generation of consumers who are undergoing a psychological shift in attitude to copyright piracy.   I also think that any changes will need to be global rather than UK specific. There is little point in changing UK laws if any start up company can not take advantage of this change in the global market.
 
I am watching this space carefully as any radical change in IP laws would hopefully create a flood of new and exciting start ups.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Viral Marketing - the boring legal answer is ....

There are lots of reasons why viral marketing campaigns do not pass go when it comes to legal.  It could be
copyright and trade mark infringement, passing off, defamation or any number of other reasons why the campaign would not get legal sign off.

From March there will be even more reasons for UK legal teams to say no to viral campaigns with the application of the CAP code to online space controlled by a brand including social media communities.  At the cornerstone of the code is the requirement that the advertising must be legal, decent and honest.  It also states that an advertisement must not mislead or offend.

Can anyone say that some of the more "edgy" viral marketing campaigns would comply with the code?

Obviously every campaign has to be looked at on a case by case basis and if the legal answer is "no" or "don't do it" then this is likely to be technically correct, but is it the commercial answer?

I am not advocating ignoring sound legal advice or breaking laws but there is a bigger commercial picture when it comes to viral and what is needed is participation, understanding and communication between legal and creative from concept on.  This will help guide the creative process but also allow the account teams to manage the client's expectations.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Online Brand Protection determined by Return on Investment?

This week I attended a conference concerning Online Brand Protection. The speakers and panelists where in-house lawyers from some of the biggest brands in the worlds including Coca-Cola, Mars and Cisco.


Image: Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was fascinating to hear how some of the most valuable brands in the world protect their assets in the ever expanding digital and online spheres.

One of the main themes I distilled is that most of these brand guardians appreciated that there was, in part, a loss of brand control created by the internet revolution and that there is no way to stop all abuse.  I believe this is a shift in attitude concerning how online brand abuse is approached.

The focus for many at the conference was to identify and remedy the brand abuse that is causing damage to the company's bottom line.   In effect calculating the return on investment for taking action to remedy online brand abuse as a means of justification and prioritisation.  The speaker from MarkMonitor provided some simple equations for calculating lost sales which can be used to show what the financial benefit would be from a successful remedy.   If legal action or advice does not add value to a business why is the contract being negotiated or legal action being taken?  This is a question I always ask.  The calculation of return on investment also allows a business to match the remedy to the damage being done allowing it to take a considered and proportionate action. 

The traditional remedies for brand abuse were discussed at length but there were some interesting alternatives being thrown into the frying pan of options.  One of the most interesting approaches is being taken by GHD (the hair straightener company) who are attempting to educate consumers about brand abuse and counterfeits via their website and digital presence.  They have a counterfeit information page on their website which includes a list of websites selling fakes!

I don't know if this shift in attitude towards online brand abuse and the focus on return is being driven by austerity measures and budget cuts but innovation in technological and PR solutions rather than traditional legal solutions should be encouraged as an extra string to the bow.

One question that does spring to mind is whether it will be easier or more difficult to monitor and remedy brand abuse as we move away from traditional web pages to "Apps"?  Will a brand have to participate and use all relevant Apps to monitor abuse?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Advertising Standards will cover Social Media Campaigns!

All UK advertising agencies, companies and other organisations using social media for advertising take note: from the 1March 2011 the Advertising Standards Authority remit has been extended to include websites and social media!

This means that the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (Yawn - we know it as the CAP Code for short) will automatically apply to all social media and real time web campaigns.


http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=851


For me this is the first obstacle faced by the boom in new digital marketing that has grown out of the social media bubble.  The CAP code places various very real obligations on advertisers.  The most important for me are the obligations not to mislead and to protect children!  This begs the question how do you protect children from certain advertising in an open, transparent and viral community? Does there need to be a virtual watershed.....

Keeping the theme of my blog running - the risks caused by the code will be no different to traditional advertising, the only difference being the risks are multiplied because you are advertising without restriction to huge cross sections of the population.  Thinking out loud - how would you take down a tweet that offends the CAP code if it is being retweeted by thousands of users?  Answers on a postcard....

Before March 2011 all agencies, companies and organisations should be making themselves familiar or refreshing their understanding of the CAP code in the context of social media.  Agencies should also be making it clear to their clients that edgy campaigns run the risk of breaching the CAP code.  If the agency has full control of the campaign, has it sufficiently excluded CAP code compliance from its T&C's?  Conversely, if a company is paying for a campaign have you received a warranty from your agency confirming that the campaign they run will comply.  An interesting risk question and I wonder how many organisations have discussed this with their insurers?

Monday, July 19, 2010

A new Outlook for LinkedIn?

Contact ownership?

It is established law that Outlook and other business contacts can belong to the employer not the employee.  One of the main cases on this point is Pennwell Publishing (UK) Ltd and others v Ornstien in which the judge said:

Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

".........where an address list is contained on Outlook or some similar program which is part of the employer's e-mail system and backed up by the employer or by arrangement made with the employer, the database or list of information ......... will belong to the employer"

So this is pretty certain, right? Well what happens if an employee uses a social network such as LinkedIn to invite contacts to join their network (publicly viewable) using email addresses sucked through from Outlook? See how to do it here 

Should these contacts also belong to the employer and has the employee just given away valuable information that is searchable by competitors? 

Unsurprisingly there has already been some clarification on this in Hays Specialist Recruitment and others v Ions [2008] that case said that because the contacts had been migrated to the social network and invitations had been accepted the information could no longer be considered confidential.  Such a breach of confidence may be actionable but would the employee be worth suing?

Interestingly, in the ' Hays' case Ions argued that he had been encouraged to join the social network by his employer.

Comment:  if you want your employees to engage in social networking on behalf of the business under what circumstances may this occur.  Do their employment contracts and policies make clear who owns the contacts (as well as the profiles) and where they can be used?  This is particularly poignant for recruitment agencies and sales teams where contacts are very valuable.


Even if the confidentiality of contacts is preserved social networks such as LinkedIn make it easier to reconnect as a former employee can simply search and reconnect for contacts. Where this is the case breach of a restrictive covenant may be a more valuable action although often not practical.

Restrictive covenants and LinkedIn

Social Media platforms have very powerful search functionality and with certain applications allow companies to trend sentiment towards their business and brands.   The open and searchable nature of social networks makes this analysis possible and led me to think what other uses could be made of these tools.

The one that stuck in mind was monitoring restrictive covenants.  Many employees (including lawyers) will have restrictive covenants in their contracts, for example the employee shall not:

".....solicit or endeavour to entice away from the Company the business or custom of a customer with a view to providing goods or services to that customer in competition with the business of the Company......." (PLC)

What better way to monitor compliance with such a clause than searching social media networks and in particular LinkedIn?  Status updates and lists of connections could be used to both monitor and prove breach of such restrictions.  The options available to an employer who discovers a problem will always be situation specific......but finding and proving a problem could be easier.

The searchability of Social Networks leads me the believe that Social Media is leading to more monitoring and consequently a "big brother" information society?  Who needs CCTV when you have social media? 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Opting In for Privacy " for Location Based Social Networking?

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Location based social networking apps and sites such as Gowalla, Foursquare and Google Lattitude allow the tracking of an individuals location via mobile communication devices. This augmented information has the potential to be very valuable by profiling and targeting consumer behaviour, but to me also raises questions about privacy and data protection that have yet to be answered.  I have had a quick read of the rerespective privacy policies.
Gowalla's privacy policy states:

"To provide Gowalla, we collect, maintain, use, and display your personal data and the geographic location of your mobile device (we call this location fix of your mobile device “location information”)."

I don't have a problem with the collection and use of this information per se, particularly when it is required to provide a service that the user has opted to use.  Moreover, both Gowalla and Foursquare allow the user to set privacy settings to control the publication of their personal data.  However, there are some exceptions to where privacy can be controlled with one of the most notable being stated in Foursquare's privacy policy:

"While the Service does allow you to note your location at restaurants, bars, stores (and so) throughout your community, at no time does Foursquare ask you to provide your home address. You should be aware that if you or your friends add your home as a new venue in the Service database and that information is published on the Service (for example, via a user checking in to that home venue), that information may be published by third parties without our control."

So it seems that certain personal information can be published without control via privacy settings. Does this breach the Human Rights Act Art 8 which 'provides a right to respect for one's "private and family life, his home and his correspondence. (Ref Wikipedia)".

The main question I want to pose is should users of these sites have a reasonable expectation of privacy? My own thinking is that we are undergoing a cultural shift in attitudes towards data protection and privacy with the understanding that social network services have to be paid for by the users supplying valuable data about themselves that the operators can then levergae. Users making decision that the benefit to them of engaging outweighs their concerns about their data being used.

If these location driven service providers make it clear to me when my information is collected and used and how it might not be controllable then I can make an informed decision as to whether I opt in and participate. That said I wonder how may people read the privacy policies before signing up.

The moral of the story is to think carefully about privacy settings, privacy issues and (like life in general )who your friends are.

For the businesses providing the services I think more could be done to bring these issues to the notice of users when they are signing up. Does an "I agree to the terms and conditions and privacy policy" check box cut it when they are dealing with locational data?

It is of course a matter of fine balance between making it simple to sign up and giving clear information on privacy and data protection that people of all ages can digest.

Watch this space for the first privacy story to break.  

Monday, June 28, 2010

Casual Tweets Cost ......Lots!

In an update to my post on social media risk multipliers it seems that the "Casual"  and "Open" nature of real time web interaction are the key multipliers that gets both individuals and organisations into trouble.

( Image: Chris Sharp / FreeDigitalPhotos.net )

Having reviewed a number of the high profile Twitter and Facebook mistakes it is clear that real time web 'slip ups' are not restricted to one sector of society. Private individuals, celebs, employees, businesses and even local councillors have all run into hot water using this transparent and casual communication medium.

For example:

1.Celebrities

As reported in the Guardian, Chris Evans recently had to apologise for retweeting a joke about poverty in Africa.  Evans is quoted as saying he "had not read it properly" before retweeting.  It is this split second decision to re-tweet with properly reading or thinking that caused Evans' embarrassment.

Think:  how many times have you re-tweeted without looking at the link in the original tweet.  What if it were pornographic?

On this topic, I can see link hijacking as a growing problem and trend.

2. Brands

Habitat is probably the best known example of a brand having a social media PR problem.  The story goes that an intern casually promoted habitat products via a hashtag discussing the Iranian election.  This resulted in negative PR and a twitter backlash.

Think:  how many times do you use a hashtag without looking at the conversation that it is being used for?


3. Employees

As reported by the BBC, Vigrin Atlantic sacked 13 staff for calling passengers as "Chavs" on facebook.  No doubt the social side of Facebook led to these employees communicating with their guard down. 

Think: how many times do you interact on facebook and how many people can see those updates and posts?  How will your personal thoughts reflect on you and your business?

4. Businesses

Businesses often discuss new client wins or client work to show off their credentials and as part of their PR strategies, but they do so via the real time web at alarming speed and often without sanction from a client. 

Conversely, I have seen businesses get into trouble for their staff tweeting opinions and promoting content that is contrary to the interest of their clients.  They have done this without thinking and again it comes back to the casual nature of the RTW. 

Think: what will my client think if they see this post/tweet/status update.  Can I afford to upset them?

Don't forget clients will be trending their names and sectors!

5. Political Animals
 
Stuart McLennan was the labour candidate  who was sacked after making casual remarks using twitter.  He is quoted as describing old people as "coffin dodgers" and obviously didn't realise or was relaxed about his informal comments.

Think: are my comments appropriate, they will be published to the world.

Whilst I can't confess to have discussed these issues personally with the parties involved it appears from the reports that casual and open communication has cost jobs, careers, brand image and trust.

For me the key is to only tweet, post, like, retweet or interact in a way that you do not mind the rest of the world knowing about.      
                

However, whilst we can  think, plan, trend and create policies and strategies to manage and prevent these situations, nothing prepares you for a disgruntled employee.  For example Vodafone apologised to its followers after a tweet was sent from its account saying "VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's and is going after beaver".

How would you manage such a situation? 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Data is the new Oil"

I was following a twitter stream from the Future of Digital Marketing conference using #fodm at which Gerd Leonhard talked about Data as being 'the new oil'.

This analogy struck a chord with me as many of my clients who generate significant digital revenue view their data and databases as their prize assets. Continuing Gerd's analogy with some thoughts of my own:

Most data starts life as a crude mass but similarly to oil, Data can be refined and distilled to create a multitude of products and resources. Oil can be used in this way because of its diverse hydrocarbon structure and it is no different to data. Having a database structure that is robust, diverse and flexible enough to be used for various purposes is a must.

Refined and reliable data normally means there are more opportunities to exploit the data, leverage existing revenue streams, enter into collaborative arrangements and means that the data and databases are more coveted and thus more valuable.

However, similar to oil there are safety concerns and avoiding leaks will be key.

Ownership - who owns the data and the database rights from which digital revenue is derived? Who has a right to extract the data and who has a right to refine it? Buying any new data reserve requires careful surveys!

Leakages - does the data contain personal data? what happens if there is a data spill? who pays for the clear up? do you have consent to use the data in the way you intend? would you lose your competitive advantage if your competitors had the same data?

Back up - back up and business continuity plans for data access and data provision are critical. Particularly if you rely on third parties to extract or refine the data for you.

There is the start of a "data rush" at the moment with a great deal of data mining and prospecting. Three of the greatest data reserves have been discovered Twitter, Facebook and Google, but I believe only a small percentage of the value of these reserves has been exploited. I expect with the move to the Internet of things that the tap to these reserves and others will be fully open.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

7 Sins of Social Media

Reflecting on some recent social media issues highlighted in the press and from a recent focus group I attended, I thought I would set out the seven sins of social media. These are mainly reflecting on legally compliant activities but those which are sinful when committed by service company's on the real time wed. Such activities are linked to serious legal and brand risks.

Wrath - Do not send a sarcastic or dismissive reply if your brand is attacked through derogatory comments made via a social media platform. Take a considered and managed response - do not inflame a situation in public. You might be surprised that your brand advocates will come to your defence.

Sloth - replying slowly to service complaints sent via the social web is a sin. The immediacy of the interaction is causing a shift in consumer expectations. Even a quick "we will look into that for you" is better than nothing.

Pride - never so apt was the saying "pride comes before a fall" with social media. I have seen many businesses become over confident (or oblivious to the risks) that they stop thinking sensibly when they have a small success. This can often set up a brand for a fall so thinking objectively and keeping to structure plans and policies is key.

Lust - hard selling or lusting after people's business via social media is for many unwelcome and against the ethos of web 2.0. Focused advertising may be the price we pay for free services but any hard sales push is likely to lose a brand some followers or fans.

Envy - treating other brands in the way you would like your brand to be treated. Do not have brand envy, or at least not in a public arena.

Gluttony - Having as many contacts and friends may seem like a good idea but there can be friend gluttony. I have heard a story of a businessman that was called up by a journalist as he was a 'friend' of someone via facebook who had been arrested for a pretty serious crime. The 'friend' was only a vague acquaintance also from the business community.

Greed - don't get greedy and try to monetise an offering or services too early. There will simply be no adoption. The real time web is all about participation and collaboration and is almost anti greed.

In addition to avoiding these sins I would add to two tips:

1) Don't have conversations or Tweet when a client is expecting a deliverable from you.

2) Don't Tweet about your clients without them knowing about it. They are likely to be trending their brand and will pick up on it.

Avoiding these sins is relatively straight forward and one of the key pointers is to consider the real time web, and in particular social media, as a customer relationship tool rather than a marketing or business development tool. (Thanks to Olivier Blanchard aka the brandbuilder for that one).

For me, Proper Platform Etiquette (PPE) training and guidelines are as important as awareness of some of the legal implications for businesses and employees.

Although, a recent survey by leading e-moderator, Tempero, showed that 81% of organisations rate their knowledge of social media marketing law as limited or non-existent

What a knowledge gap!





Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Social Media Bubble - Web £2.0

The more I think about it the more the current social media buzz and pre-revenue investment activity has worrying parallels to the dot.com bubble bursting. Add to that businesses spending time and resource on social media without a strategy or purpose and I think there is potential for another burst.

Many businesses including Twitter (don't forget it is a business) have operated for substantial times with huge net loss to gain market share. Large scale investments (Twitter are rumoured to have received $55m in investment) in pre-revenue Internet businesses to gain market share was one of the main pre-cursors to the dot.com bubble bursting and I believe that many social media start ups and service providers who are pre-revenue are precariously placed.

Look at video streaming start up Floobs, great name and great service but they are rumoured to be filing for bankruptcy despite signing up major Spanish football clubs.

There is also momentum towards paid for content on the web, which will inevitably have an impact on social media. The NY Times becomes the latest news and media company to start charging for content - showing that monetisation is critical to the future of web 2.0. Moreover, the Mirror becomes the latest newspaper has recently blocked a news aggregator from linking to its site and it is all about protecting revenue.

In addition organisations are re-thinking what they allow people to access via their networks. For example Oxford Uni bans Spotify from its network. This will not please the owners (or investors) who rely on advertising to fund the royalty licences to make the service legal.

So if Twitter fails to sufficiently monetise without alienating all of its dedicated users then this may be the tipping point for another .com decline. There are also other signs of a bubble under pressure: ebay sales are in decline: google is facing challenges on its Adwords platform in the ECJ and Twitter user registration growth has a slight dip.

The push must be to monetize web 2.0 so that the platforms we know and love are maintained and innovation is fostered and keeps developing.

Monetisation and revenue protection is critical to the maintenance of Web 2.0 and the move to Web 3.0 and the Internet of things. Which is why I am coining the phrase Web£2.0 or Web $2.0.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Social Media Service Levels

Today twitter was unavailable for a noticeable amount of time simply diverting users to a whale saying "Over Capacity"

The fact that the service was unavailable for a period of time actually trended on the site immediately after under the hashtag #whentwitterwasdown.

This made me think of service levels and in particualr uptime availability for certain software applications. Twitter is imminently about to commercialise its service and for me this changes the relationship with its users with regard to the level of service expected.

Should there be guaranteed uptimes for example. If a business relies on social media services, particularly online marketing firms what service levels do they promise their clients and is this reflected in the levels provided by Social Media Platforms.

Moreover, if you are an advertiser who has paid for prime time social media exposure and the service is unavailable what is your remedy. If there are no service levels then there is no remedy for the downtime. Normally service credits are offered but is this really good enough compensation?

Continuity and availability are the key for most businesses that rely on software as a service provided via the Internet. Of which Twitter and Facebook are two such examples.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Social Media to co-ordinate class legal actions?

This week I have been thinking about social media in the legal services arena.

Whilst the parallels and opportunities for an intellectual property and IT lawyer such as myself are easy to identify there are so many areas of law such as litigation where the opportunities of social media are lost on many.

For example one of the most lucrative areas for law firms is advising and prosecuting class action litigation or "class suit" litigation in the US and I think social media could transform this area.

Wikepedia sums up class actions more succinctly here but it means suing on behalf of a number of people who have been wronged in the same way by the same defendant. Or they all have the same complaint of the same defendant which has caused them loss. The coal miners in the UK is one example of class action with 30,000 claimants suing the government.

Firstly, social media could be used by law firms to identify claimants who have similar complaints thus creating the class and increasing the number of clients it is representing. This could be facilitated by setting up groups on facebook or using trending applications in twitter to identify people having conversations about similar problems.

Secondly, social media could be a way of disseminating non-confidential updates or case progress to a large number of people in a collaborative way. As a by-product a group of claimants on a social media platform may have the effect of acting as a support group for like minded people who have suffered the same loss or damage.

There will of course be risks with this kind of transparency but various social media platforms allow for different levels of accessibility although management of these could be burdensome.

Interesting times.