Social Media, Community Building and the Law Speaking Notes


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Speaking notes for Social Media, Community Building and the Law presentation..

Presentation to the British Computer Society/Chartered Institute of IT South West, January 2010 by James Barisic MBCS.

Discusses social media use, development and legal issues.

Published in: Business
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  • The day after giving this presentation, Apple launched the iPad. Terrible name, fantastic looking product. I do think that it could change quite a lot in the social media landscape although I do still view the shift to mobile as important.

    Since then, Google have launched Buzz. Indeed, they launched it 24 hours ago as I type. I have been able to use it for the past 24 hours and I can't help think that it will be an important player quite quickly. There is a lot that needs doing to it but the fundamentals are right and it plays into the model whereby you are encouraged to stay 'on site' with your news, email and everything else.

    They have also nicely implemented Buzz Mobile - which, again, fits my suggested model.

    What comes out of this, I guess we'll see in a year or two's time. Still time to eat my words!
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Social Media, Community Building and the Law Speaking Notes

  1. 1. Speaking notes for BCS Social Media, Community Building and the Law event Thank you for inviting me to come and speak with you about Social Media, Community Building and the Law. This is my first meeting since joining the BCS – so it is a bit of a baptism of fire but I hope that what we discuss tonight will be of interest to you and will generate a bit of discussion. I would also like to particularly thank you for asking me to come on 26 January 2010 – the day before Apple launches a product, as yet unknown, but purported to be a tablet device with gesture recognition that could prove to be a real game changer in the way that we interact with and conceive computing and our relationship with the internet. I would therefore like to ask you to take all the following with a large pinch of salt on the grounds that it is likely to be completely out of date within 24 hours and, in any event, by the time this recording gets online! I would finally like to make two points about this presentation. The first is that it has been partially crowd sourced and so jumps around a little. I looked at changing that but I think it is, of itself, an interesting way of looking at how the stream of consciousness that is social media can shape things on a day to day level. This is a presentation guided by the thoughts, ideas, stories and pictures that have come across my own social media horizon in the past few weeks.
  2. 2. The second thing is that I do concentrate quite a lot on Twitter in this presentation and I do so in an entirely unapologetic way. As you will hear, my own view is that the move will be towards a Twitter approach and the way that Twitter has impinged on a number of competitor companies (as well as spawning others) really does show its power and presence. However, that is not to say that Twitter is the only game in town. It isn’t. Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and others all have their place but things are very fluid and, with each step, the outlook changes. Indeed, if Steve Jobs decides to make an announcement while I’m talking, I’m scrapping the end of this presentation! [Slide 1] Now, I am often asked why a lawyer is quite so ‘in’ to social media. We go through the usual ‘it’s a waste of time’, ‘it’s inane’ and all the rest of it. However, I view social media and the shift in internet use over the past 2 years as a seismic shift in communication media. [Slide 2] When I first joined Twitter back in October 2007, it was a bit like talking to yourself in a sealed room. However, it was clear to me then that the principle design features of Twitter were likely to lead to a fundamental change in the way that other sites worked.
  3. 3. The move from Friendster and MySpace through Facebook to Twitter marks a shift from application heavy to application lite – from PC to mobile. Interestingly, and this is often a point that is overlooked, it is also a shift from private simple (email) and private group (Facebook/Myspace) communication to public broadcast – Twitter and YouTube. Google Wave will be the next step which will allow for the integration of all of those communication models into a single package. And my own analysis is that the further development of mobile technology is likely to favour the cleaner Twitter model of one to many communication than the clumsier, more time consuming Facebook model. That is also borne out by recent research that has shown that 44% of Google News users scan the headlines but do not bother clicking through. We need fast, easily digestible content – and that, to me, screams Twitter. I should point out at this stage, so as to avoid the inevitable brickbats from my Twitter followers and others when this goes online, that Facebook use and membership currently far outstrips that of Twitter but I do believe that the service evolution will continue to favour short and quick over long and complex. [Slide 3] So tonight, I will be speaking about three areas: Social Media, Community Building and the Law. What I would like to do is to speak to you in general terms and then open up to a discussion because, at the end of the day, that is what social media is all about.
  4. 4. Social Media Tonight I will be predominantly speaking about how businesses can use social media but the same principles apply to personal use and use by charities and social enterprises. Indeed charities in particular can make good use of social media as causes, tribes and social media tools integrate extremely effectively. As can people. As I wrote this speech, I realised that I needed a picture of a sheep. So I sent a tweet [Slide 4] And people replied [Slide 5] And, for the sake of completeness, [Slide 6] One of the most fascinating things about the business use of social media is that it has marked one of the first times that businesses have gone on to the turf of an entirely consumer driven environment. By that, I mean that the traditional model is to call the
  5. 5. consumers on to your patch – be that a shop or office or factory or some other physical presence. This time, acknowledging the mass of people that are using social media, businesses have moved into social media, to the clients. [Slide 7] The move for businesses on to social media platforms has been a tough process for two reasons. The first is that many businesses are scared of publically engaging with their clients in this way. I often hear people say ‘but what if people say something bad about us’. Well, the simple answer to that is, of course, if people want to say something bad, they are going to anyway – would you rather not know about it and try to put things right? Once that quite simple issue has been dealt with, businesses have to attempt to do something that they have never had to do before – engage in community management. In this context, community management means making and keeping your customers happy and, if you can manage it, making them your foot soldiers – but more of that later. What it does not mean is controlling what they way. Control means something completely different now. Businesses up until now have preferred to use a ‘control’ model when dealing with customers – although that it is something that is rarely publically acknowledged!
  6. 6. Being responsive to customers has tended to mean ‘responsive within our operating framework’. Imagine, then, the culture shock of engaging within a social media environment. From a culture of control to a culture of messiness, uncertainty and anarchy. [Slide 8] It is no longer the case that the business decides the direction – the power is now with the consumer to a degree that it has never been before. The game has changed. Fundamentally – and it is not going to change back. For a small case study, I’d like us to take a look at Coca Cola. With no implied criticism, Coca Cola has successfully, over the years, had a very tight control over its brand and the way people discuss it. The focus, since the internet has been commonplace, has been to use campaign sites to get the message across. And just think about that phrase for a minute ‘get the message across’ – it is very much one way traffic. It is not talking with but talking at. I cannot say enough that this is not a criticism. Traditional marketing techniques have been about talking at – even though emotional and psychological techniques to
  7. 7. emotionalise marketing have tried to ‘link in’ with the consumer, they have never been about a two way discussion. So, Coca Cola have used campaign sites but they recently announced that they are on the move – Coca Cola have embraced the idea that it’s good to talk. [Slide 9] Prinz Pinakatt, the Coca-Cola Company’s interactive marketing manager for Europe, recently said, “In some cases some of our campaigns won’t need a site. In most cases these will still exist as it’s the most obvious destination for a consumer, but it might only be a page linking to YouTube encouraging people to join the community there. “We would like to place our activities and brands where people are, rather than dragging them to our platform.” This is a massive shift. But Coca Cola’s strategy does not stop there. They have published their Online Social Media Principles. And, whilst I am sure the Coca Cola Company does not need me to do their PR for them, I have to say, it’s pretty good stuff. It’s worth getting online and taking a look.
  8. 8. [Slide 10] These are the fundamentals of how to engage and the type of values that you need to display in order to gain trust and turn your followers into your evangelists. [Slide 11] Community Building The one thing that everyone needs to know when using social media for business purposes (and for others like social enterprise, charity or cause supporting) is how to build your community. Once you know how to do that, the rest is easy – ish. However, if there was one way of doing that, everyone would be doing it. Indeed, we come back to the central message of all social media – it’s about engagement and it’s about people. There is no one-size-fits-all. The tone of conversation that you use, for instance, on a social media outlet for a broadcaster aimed at under 18 year olds is not going to be the same as that for a medical businesses aimed at the over 60s. But there are some important common threads that work everywhere.
  9. 9. [Slide 12] This is not a speedy process and it can take months to get out of the waiting room. (I am still talking about Social Media here!) But here is a truism - Big Tribes grow from a few good foot soldiers When you start out, you will know some people on whichever social network you use. It is inevitable. They may be personal friends, clients, trustees, donors, business acquaintances or just people you know from the pub. They are your foot soldiers. They are people who you could ask for just a second or two of their time. Just to join your tribe and to share a message – the message that you are there, that you exist. If you have 100 friends on Facebook and you ask 10 of them to spread the message to their 100 friends, you’re up to 1,100 people already. Of course, that’s just a theory. And theories don’t work. So, a few months ago, I tested the theory. I built a tribe.
  10. 10. I was about to run a seminar on social media use for charities and I wanted to show how far a tweet could go and how quickly it could do it. I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed a tribe. Technically, I needed a Twibe. So, I sent a message to my followers. It read: Help! Am running a seminar & want to show how far a tweet can go. We’re in Devon, UK. Pls RT! Ta! #charitysm I clicked send, sat back and monitored the #charitysm hashtag. Within a minute, it was in Manchester thanks to my good friend @MoreHavoc but, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t quite prepared for what happened next! Within 20 minutes, we heard from @kymriskadraken in Stockholm, Sweden! Then we went on a tour of the world taking in France, Florida (lots of Florida), Texas (lots of Texas), NYC, lots of the rest of the US, South Africa, Ethiopia, Romania and a number of other countries before hitting South West Australia. It took under three hours for the message to spread across four continents. [Slide 13] The message was spread by my tribe, by my tribe’s tribe, by their tribe and so on. Until it went half way round the world. Many of those people are now part of my direct tribe and you can see more about that tweet on my blog at
  11. 11. The next issue is how to keep them. The watchword for social media is engagement. Engagement is difficult to get right. It is not just about sending messages - it is about understanding individuals and conversing with them on a human level, as individuals. It is completely alien to most advertising and marketing plans. It is discussion. It is chat. It is personal. It is about searching out those who don't like you and talking to them. A few months ago, I criticised the BBCs decision to commission Walk on the Wide Side. For those of you who don't know it, it's the one on Saturday nights that has comedy voiceovers to wildlife footage. At the end of the day, people like it but it's not for me and I said so. A few minutes later, I had a tweet from comedian Jason Manford, who does voiceovers on the programme. A short exchange ensued. We both left as friends - well, amicably anyway - I didn't get a Christmas card from him or anything. The point is that he looked for comments and decided to engage with me about mine. Now, it didn't necessarily change my view of the programme but it did raise Jason Manford massively in my estimation.
  12. 12. A number of businesses have opened communication channels on social media. Two, Virgin Media and O2 are known for their customer service teams on Twitter. I have had cause to use both - with very different results - and I think they both can teach us very useful lessons. I had a number of issues with O2 and my mobile contract which were not getting resolved - so I tried to tweet them. I heard nothing. My own tribe heard of the issues and, without any prompting, some of them tweeted them to get in touch with me too. Nothing. O2 has taken the time to put together a team but, as I found out later from my discussions with them, there aren't many of them and they are inundated. VirginMedia has taken a slightly different approach. They also have a team on Twitter but there seem to be more of them. In addition, they have other people who work for them on Twitter. And those people, as well as being themselves, are willing to act as the eyes and ears of company. So, when I was querying whether broadband had gone down where I was (workmen were digging up the road), I had a reply from one of their employees within a couple of minutes, a tweet from the official VirginMedia team and, once they had my phone number, a call within 10 minutes.
  13. 13. They might be the extremes of engagement but they do illustrate a point. One is actively looking for people who are discussing them, the other is waiting for you to come to them (and then possibly not having enough people to deal with it). You wouldn't install an extra phone line, tell everyone the number and then not answer it. Build a tribe and engage with them. Everyone knows that you love your product, we’re more impressed if someone else does too. [Slide 14] If you get the chance to see or hear or read any of Olivier Blanchard’s stuff, I really would recommend it. He is a man that really understands brand and social media. His predictions for the development of social media this year are…[slide 14] And I think that is a pretty accurate assessment of where a lot of businesses are headed. This has been described as the end of the beginning for social media and, while there will still be a lot of people playing catch up, the real work can now begin. Law And finally, the question that I am most often asked – tell us about the law and social media.
  14. 14. [Slide 15] Well, it is the same as the law anywhere else. Libel is libel. Employment issues are employment issues. The data protection legalisation, computer misuse legislation and terrorism legislation are all in play. Social media may be an anarchical playground but it is one in which the law is very much present. I just want to look at two examples today because I think they illustrate things that we may not have considered. A few weeks ago, Paul Chambers was due to fly out of Robin Hood Airport but, as you’ll remember, it was a bit snowy. So the airport is shut. So he turned to Twitter and posted "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" He was then arrested and questioned for seven hours under the Terrorism Act. Apparently, he spent most of that time explaining to the officers exactly what Twitter was and how it worked! He has been bailed and is due to reappear on 11 February – so we can only say so much about it right now.
  15. 15. However, I will just observe that while there has been quite a lot of chatter on the internet about this and whether it was a bit of an overreaction to what was clearly a joke, if there is something I have learnt over the past year of cohosting PhotoLegal, it is that the police have not been exactly discriminating about their use of section 44 of the Terrorism Act when it comes to photographers and I doubt that they will be putting too much thought into their use of the powers in other areas of life either. Notwithstanding that it has just been declared illegal by the ECHR. But, that to one side, it is an interesting illustration of the fact that all parts of the law are active in the social media realm – not just the obvious bits about libel and intellectual property. The other example that I would like to touch on is an intellectual property based one. Flickr is a community image sharing site. It is run by Yahoo! and it allows users to change the settings on each image to show what the user allows others to do with the image. For instance, an image may be freely available for use, subject to a Creative Commons licence or marked ‘All Rights Reserved’. Recently the Independent Newspaper used the api to search for images for one of its stories. It found an image and used it. When the photographer who took the image asserted his rights and demanded payment, they took the view that they had done nothing wrong, there was no copyright and they weren’t making payment.
  16. 16. They said, “We took a stream from Flickr which is, as you know, a photo-sharing website. The legal assumption therefore is that you were not asserting your copyright in that arena. We did not take the photo from Flickr nor present it as anything other than it is shown there. I do not consider therefore that any copyright has been breached or any payment due.” Their lawyers then took a look and they changed their mind! The message is that sometimes what you see is not the full story. The api did not seem to send the copyright information along with the image information or discriminate as to what it offered up in terms of images. So, never assume that what you find online is fair game. It almost certainly isn’t – it probably belongs to someone else. Much like if you see a car in the street. It might well belong to someone. Just because it’s been left by the side of the road does not mean it has been abandoned, it might just have been parked. What next I thought it might be fun to end with my predictions for the coming 24 months. If nothing else because it will be great to hear from you all in the coming 24 months, telling me that I got it wrong! Or within the next 24 hours when Jobs launches the iSlate and the internet closes down to be replaced by something more interesting!
  17. 17. Before I get into my specific predictions, I would like to address the issues of longevity and transience. It is always dangerous to predict My first prediction is to do with the development of existing sites. I believe that the key drivers of interaction design will lead to simplification and specialisation by media or function. Looking, for instance, at the Facebook iPhone app, it currently offers the basics but does not offer the key ‘sheep throwing’ utility (do you see the sheep link now?). I think that throwing sheep will become a thing of the past. Actually, I’m not so sure whether that is a prediction or just a fervent wish but the principle is there – pointlessness will fall by the wayside. I therefore see Facebook stripping itself down and Twitter possibly beefing itself up with some added functionality – possibly relating to integrated picture, music and video hosting as well as search as it tries to generate a revenue stream. Secondly, I believe that portability will be the watchword and I think that Facebook will concentrate more on its mobile apps than on its main site. Foursquare and Gowalla – two sites which provide geo-location, review social networking hybrids - could prove to be successful if, and only if, the mobile devices
  18. 18. on which they rely become better at using GPS, triangulation or WPS in order to pinpoint the location of the device. What FourSquare and Gowalla both show is a move to geolocation and topic specialisation. However, I do not think that many of these specialist applications will survive or succeed. Other than a game element, I am not quite sold on the idea that they provide anything new or distinctive enough to draw consumers away from the main sites and keep their attention. Google Wave, launched in beta amidst much hype, will come of age. Google Wave has much to offer and will be a great thing – once more people are on it. I suspect that Google will also integrate Mail and their other applications such as Documents better into Wave so as to create a better cloud package. Employers, finally realising what social networks can generate, will identify and encourage power users within their organisations. They will be the new rainmakers and will go out, scout new business and promote brand. Governments will suddenly realise that social media is big – and not just in terms of campaigning. They will therefore try to regulate it (and fail as it is largely unnecessary) and find a way to tax it (and fail). And finally, on a gloomy note, as we move more to being part of an always-on connected social network society, the UK (the only place that describes 2meg broadband as superfast!) will lag the world in the adoption of 4G mobile.
  19. 19. Social media and social networking are no longer a play thing that can be ignored. They are the real thing, effective and powerful communication tools. And they are very much here to stay. Thank you for inviting me. [Questions]