Wednesday 30 September 2009

Analytophilia, Analytophobia and Social Media Weather Forecasting

I was introduced to a new word today. Analytophilia. I love it. Analytophilia is the addiction to (or love of) checking how connected you are in social media: - how many tweets, DMs, facebook contacts, Linkedin connections and comments on your status, or others. This is a world where agoraphobics feel safe, but can also feel really social, without leaving their desk or iPhone (and entering the physical agora or marketplace).

I’d add another term. Analytophobia. This is the fear that your analytics would reveal, with cruel accuracy, that you’re a ‘nobody’, - not even a ‘somebody’ in the digital sphere. This would lead the sufferer to fear the login, like pressing the answerphone button and hearing ‘You have NO new messages’ too often. It’s not good for the old ego Sir. Time to join an online role-play game (MMORPG), like World of Warcraft. They’ll fix the fragile ego in a jiffy because anyone will play with anyone, and they do so in their millions.

Analytophilia and Analytophobia are, in fact, two sides of the same digitally mediated psychological coin, like pride and shame. Welcome to the Sociology of Social Media Emotion.

There are important implications for businesses which need to figure online, and have figures to prove it, in the growing cloud of online social buzz. There are loads of ways of doing it... if you know how and have the time to do the reporting and tracking, and sifting and monitoring. Trying to do it without the right tools to hand and operatives to use them, is like buying a pile of hammers and saws and nails and trying to build a house. You might actually succeed in building a hut of sorts, which will keep the rain out for a while. But you’ll never build a house or a good one at least. And think of the time, and injuries; and it might fall down in a storm! That’s when you call the likes of my good self (shameless plug). Yes we can! (Bob the builder, not Obama)

Prediction/observation: The net, and all communication is, and will be, driven by data, and those who can handle data and present it in a beautiful, simple, meaningful and actionable fashion... will always be busy.

It’s strange to admit, but I love numbers and the challenge of becoming a social media weather forecaster because weather is interesting, and the language of weather is taking over the language of surfing and sea that haunted the web since its nascent beginnings (from surfing and waves to clouds etc). And did you know that the biggest computers were built, partially, to handle the billions of computations necessary to predict the weather? Eniac for example. That chaos theory arose out of the big shift in weather prediction shown because of a few decimal points being omitted? Physics, maths and the computing that facilitated them were largely driven by the simple need to know what the weather is likely to do next. Well, now is the time for the Social Weather and forecasting, and the computing is being done already, but not by one machine, by the cloud of users and their computers. Businesses and people need to know the temperature outside, before they leave the building.

The driving equation and goal for social media: -

(messages ↑, efficiency↑, news/information/gossip ↑,freedom/mobility ↑, work/life-balance ↑) = (time spent↓)

The online clouds, (word of mouth/public opinion) are moved by the seas (offline people whose opinions (temperature) move much slower, but they hold their opinions for much longer). The net is a much more promiscuous, impatient and ephemeral space than the real world. Always has been. Within the clouds there can be hurricanes (like when MJ died), smaller storms, (#Lisbon2), and little squalls (#Luas). The online activity, in a storm, can strike offline public opinion like a bolt of lightning too, when the fact of the online news being so busy has a huge impact on the news of traditional media, and ALL public opinion (reflexively). The weather is also driven by the medium (the air, or platform (PC/iPhone/Facebook/twitter), and the sun (the Internet connection).

OK. The analogy is getting tired. But, it might still be useful.

In short! What can be done with this? Well, we can:
  • Monitor social media: Any topic, issue, group, industry category, sector... whatever. This includes forums, blogs, YouTube, twitter and news sites. We can graph, present, analyse and output for you and yours
  • Put scale on the storm: how big, how busy, how powerful, who’s involved
  • Forecast: where it’s likely to go next. How big it’s likely to get
  • Take part: setting up a social media portal/outlet for your business, and maintaining it
  • Alert you: When the unhappy or unruly come knocking at the door of the office.
  • Give you an Umbrella: Protecting you with online PR advice and provision

So, don’t be afraid of the Social Media weather. Let us give you the forecast and provide you with an umbrella!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Best iPhone Apps: The Must-Have Downloads

I thought this was a good presentation, though everything may not be relevant to the UK and Ireland market. I've used many of these, and am likely to explore those I haven't. I'm dying to see Yelp on my phone for example.

Friday 18 September 2009

5 Digital Developments in the Past Year

Too many blogs of this type are predictive. I, or they, generally say what will happen. The truth is that, for advertiser and researchers at least, many are more interested in what has already happened, and how many are doing it, whether that is to watch a show, visit a website, or use a new medium. Of course, you need both, but for me, who’s heritage dates bubble days, the whole game has always been to work out what might happen next, and build it, service it, understand it. The Internet business developers’ answer to the land grab, or gold rush mentality. But in the recent past, many became wealthy doing exactly this. Then again, if you are a person who thinks of new businesses, and services, and offers them, you need to have both approaches running en train.

So, with that in mind, today, I’m taking stock.

Digitally speaking, here are five of the biggest things that have happened in the past year.

1) Social Networks - Personal Home-life Profiles
Social networks embody web 2.0 thinking, and have changed the way we use the net. In the past the Internet was used in several key ways, described in previous posts. Adding the truly social mechanics of Facebook, and latterly twitter, have helped it realise the potential as a truly digitally mediated social space that it always had, but which in the past, was the stuff of the geeks and the young, or both. Now using the net for building profile pages, and connecting with others is child’s play. Today, with 300,000,000 users (that’s 300 million, but the noughts help us remember that’s a really big number), there are twice as many people using Facebook than live in Russia and the FB population is at least doubling every year. Twitter’s growth is similar. In fact, 10% of all net time is spent tweeting, something discussed at length in previous posts. If social network use were to approach the popularity of similar Japanese social networks, proportionately, one in two people in modern western democracies would be using it. I don’t know what that number might be... but it’s in the billions (nine noughts). There’s an advertising and research opportunity if ever I saw one.

2) Personal Work Profiles

Linked in and similar sites provide all of us a simple, clean, pervasive mechanism for maintaining our CV and reputation, which, in the recent past, was controlled by undeserving employers. Imagine having to get a reference from the likes of David Brent? Lots had to. Now they don’t have to. A simple change, but it opens up a psychological power shift in the workplace. Staff can also work out what others are getting paid for similar work and search for and find fresh employment from the comfort of their existing desk, and job. Again, this leads to confidence, empowerment of a workforce, and control for the individual over their working history and their reputation. It’s also true that Linked in makes CV’s largely irrelevant. Let the prospective employer link to you, and they can see all they need to know. Balance!

3) iPhone and 3G
Despite similar functionalities in the past (my favourite XDA IIs for example), the iPhone has revolutionized digital communication. Soon, everyone will have one, or similarly fully enabled 3G devices, which will push broadband Internet penetration and use to equal that of mobile phones, at around 100%. The joke about the iPhone, is it’s not a phone at all. It’s a tiny, flexible, powerful laptop. It’s optimized though, and only does what you’d use a laptop for, not the other bells and whistles you never use, or which get in the way when you want to use something. Virus checkers and the many Microsoft programs rarely, if ever, opened, are a good examples. Virus checkers on an Outlook are a special bug bear of mine... But, of course, the iPhone is not stuck to a desk, it’s mobile. In star trek terms the iPhone is a communicator, the screen on the bridge, the location scanners (maps/gps/lbs), the character Data (Google), the simulator (roleplay and other games), the school (iTunes u), the contact with earth (email), and, of course, the captain’s log. It’s also much more, and, all these are included in this one tiny light communicator device, if you understand me. In my experience devices or programs that offer this sort of efficiency always win in the end, if not in the beginning - despite begrudgers and luddites that abound.

4) Shopping Online
Shoppping has changed forever. The Internet is the consideration medium. If you’re doing something big, or spending non-grocery money, it’s where you consider where you should send your hard earned bucks. Having quick unobtrusive access to your social set and industry sector, especially when times are tight, makes net access a must. This changes the way we shop, of course, but also the way we think about shopping. We never liked to have the wool pulled over our eyes, and be tricked into over spending, but now we can take steps to avoid this. And, if we are tricked, the over-charging or dishonest supplier can be punished, not by the courts, but by public opinion. Reviews, blogs and tweets that tear strips off this person, or that company who behaved in a less than forthright manner, are common place. So, watch out pedlars of shoddy merchandise, or poor service. What goes around comes around, and what may be going round is a tale about you. Ya crook!

5) Time Shift, Convergence and Content items

Convergence, a dreadfully over-used word, is now a digital reality. It kind of snuck in the back door without knocking. We did apply the word to hardware, and software, and media and all sorts in our three dimensional world, but never included the fourth dimension, time.

In the end of the day, winning the race of survival of the fittest often involves getting their first, so Time for humanity is everything. But, with so many media items and formats around, the solution is not so much getting all of the information immediately. It would be too confusing and distracting. It is more about getting all of the information, but in a manner that you can choose to consume it at a time that suits yourself.

Time shift requirements have been the key driver for convergence in my opinion, from the early days of the Tivo, a personal video recorder popular among the Sex in the City characters, to Google alerts linking to blogs, video and newspaper text, through to Sky +, stop, rewind, record, remind, series link. But actually, time shifted content consumption goes back to the early days of the vinyl record. We’ve always been after where we are today. It’s just digital makes content reproduction infinitely simpler and more successful than say wax rolls, or cassette and video tapes.

The growth in portable media, and podcasts make the point. And consequently, the digital language of formats, delivery and media buying have steadily pervaded all other media sources. The pervasiveness of twitter on the mobile phones has made citizen journalists out of all. I got the news about the Luas and Bus crash yesterday, in a twit pic four minutes after the collision. However, I could consume it when I chose to. I wasn’t going to miss anything, so it’s a stress free process to be open to a vast array of data inputs, or news, as we call it. And it’s a reality, here, today. In relation to the Luas crash, I could see, by refreshing the picture, that it was getting over 100 views every minute and the rate was growing steadily.

All the theories of media and political communications I studied at University (gatekeepers, agenda setters and the like) are largely obsolete and any new ones better be written and published quickly before they go out of date too. Unless the academic sets up an alerts system so other can see what they’re working on of course.

A rapidly changing landscape and too much news would cause a glut, if it weren’t for splitting away of news and content from the news source, or sender, and the chunking of it into podcasts, video casts, tweets, digital program downloads or similar content items. Content items are king. And almost all can be consumed on any device. iPod, iPhone, laptop, iTunes etc, etc. And look at the ‘i’s. That’s convergence. And Apple appear to be at its epicentre.