Friday 19 November 2010

An Awesome Resource for Marketers and Researchers... The Buy and Sell Index

We at Pavilion have been doing some really interesting work with Buy and Sell. So interesting in fact that we’ve created the Buy and Sell Index to share the insights in their data. It really is an amazing resource of information on almost every product or service you can imagine... from Tractors to Tonka Toys, and from Pets to Pyjamas.

The reason we were invited to do this was partially due to the sheer scale of the turnover of goods on the platform. It’s truly amazing. In 2009 there was €948 million traded on the Buy and Sell platform i.e., – through the newspaper and on the website. That is almost 1 Billion worth of goods bought and sold by Irish people that has kind of slipped beneath the news and information radar! Already this year there’s been over €800 million in trades with B&S.

Apart from these big numbers involved, there are a few things about this work that really blow my hair back about the data. These include:

• Goods traded are tax free...
• This ‘grey economy’ has never really been examined before – outside of programs like ‘Cash in the Attic’ or ‘the Antiques Road Show’. At least, never is such a macro sense.
• The Buy and Sell Index gives insight into an invisible economy that is set to rocket in the coming years
• Ireland doesn’t have one economy, is has several. For example, average prices asked for goods in Leinster are down 27%, while in Connaught they are up 7%. Those in Ulster aren’t as affected by the recession (public service workers?) but those that are are rushing to their gardens, and to their hobbies and collectables. Culturally and economically quite different.
• For researchers, economists, marketers, academics, policy makers and politicians... there’s now an invaluable factual pool of information on goods and services, and with regional differences. Starting a business, launching a new product or service? Research it all with the Buy and Sell Index.
• Because people can’t afford new things, they’re trading and swapping their second hand goods. And why not. With Christmas coming... (5 weeks! Ugh!)
• It’s a tremendously empowering space for people who want to make the most of what they already have, rather than going out to get something new that they can’t afford. Why not sell something you don’t need, buy something you do!
• Using the index is a great way of re-calibrating ones view on one’s wealth and worth
• The business services sector is growing in terms of total value, though the average price of services has dropped by a third. People are getting busy marketing themselves, but charging less, to gain more!
• I was thinking, if you’re losing your house, remember it always belonged to the bank. It’s the stuff that’s in it that you actually own, and you still do!
• Some of the swaps are for goods worth as much as €200, 000. Investment property in negative equity? Swap it for something closer to home. If they are both in negative equity, no capital gains tax... (No gain, no tax.)
• It’s a great time to buy a boat

One other thing I'd like to add is that, as a statistics guy, this is a very, very, very valid sample. 4 million or so pieces of data, 140,000 ad posts... Sure it's almost a census. So, what is true of this Buy and Sell Index, will definitely be true for the population at large. From my point of view, its like the best random sample one can imagine, and it just keeps growing, month on month. Sweet!

For more information see our first launch report. It’s at

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Media Measurement is Broken

No matter what method is currently being used, media measurement is broken.

Personally, I’m a big fan of primary research methods... the old way of doing it. Sample, validity, probability, regression, trend, cluster, segmentation... and the miracle of the normal curve - but these are far too slow in the modern digital world, with expectations for real-time data being the norm. And why not! Quite right too! And you know... one self selecting random sample is much like another statistically speaking.

The difficulty is the lack of mixed method. It takes a bit more nous to handle these, but, with the derth of valid digital interpretations of the real world at present, it seems no matter how good the single method approaches for media measurement, they’re just not working.

It’s hard to have this chat without naming names, and I absolutely concede that providers are doing their best within the limits of their methods, but things are being missed. Huge chunks of behaviour are knowingly omitted for want of a mixed methodological mechanic.

In the US, for example, Sandvine figures show that 20% of all downstream internet traffic from fixed access (non-mobile) locations during peak periods is from Netflix.

But Comscore’s recent figures miss this. That’s a huge chunk of an audience – missing. (We used to cry about losing one record!)

The reason for the disparity is simple. Different methodologies. Sandvine looks at data networks and so captures mobile access points, as well as fixed ones. It’s network centric. So, they capture iPhones, PS3s, as well as desktop PCs and Macs. Comscore has a panel that monitors web use on specific machines – so its panel centric. And I’m told, it doesn’t count Macs (have to check this though as it seems incredible).

With the growth of iPhones, iPads, WiFi connectivity, Web over TV and a TV over Web, this gap really matters. I’m not thinking into the future here either. The old methods are missing usage today, and the impact of these problems for advertisers and media in general is huge.

Let’s take Irish radio as a local example. It’s collected with a very large and rolling sample with four releases of data per year (second only to the CSO). Those who represent the medium like this because a rolling sample gives no huge peaks and troughs. No rich-today poor-tomorrow stuff. No surprises. Not very webby though and it plasters over important changes and truths. But here today, gone tomorrow does happen. We who know the web are aware that traffic is in fact capricious. Look at Bebo! Why should it be any different for radio programs, or stations? Well, it isn’t. It’s just that the measurement is slower and uses 75% of the last wave, with the new wave. This softens the curve considerably. The findings when presented as the facts for today are in fact only 25% of the facts for the recent past, and 25% from a while ago, another 25% from age’s ago, and a final 25% from when God was a child. It’s like saying our economy is fine... when averaged out with the height of the Celtic Tiger. Dangerously misleading, and if presented as today’s news – wrong!

It means, for example, that despite the death of the very popular Gerry Ryan a long time back, the audience he won is in fact still being counted and attributed to someone else in his spot. So, many thousands of advertising euros have been spent for an audience that just isn’t there anymore. That’s just not right. Is it! It’s wrong.

And... what really bothers me, is the lack of digital. Digital radio is omitted as the current method is not reaching the at-work mobile radio user. Why? They aren’t home on a door-to-door sample. Are they! The tremendous popularity of digital audio consumption – and I don’t mean DAB, is being largely ignored, and in doing so ever valuable advertising euros are being lost.

Video is another problem. It is measured almost wholly for TV sets in Ireland, though it includes Web based TV in other countries. How often have you or someone you know viewed video over the net, on YouTube, RTE player or another TV over Web format. A smartphone for example. Once? Twice? Well, that isn’t being counted. It could be you, or maybe some people you know very well. 1 out of 10 maybe you know? Do a count... That could be a considerable percentage of all adults, and it’s not being counted. 10% of people are probably being lost, and what they are doing via their smart device is also being lost.

There was an item in The Times on analogue switch off for TV only the other day. Digital media communication is becoming pervasive, like it or not. But, more importantly, digital is multi-platform. It is not like TV, or Radio, or Print. With digital, it doesn’t matter, while with current research methods - it does. And these methods will not and are not coping with the modern digital media world. They were not designed to do so.

And bigifying the sample won’t help either. It’s the method that’s the problem. Recently, for example, Nielsen in the US increased their TV sample from 8700 to 25000. Big numbers. But, even with this huge count they did not detect any activity from non-network TV sources. That is... no iTunes, no Amazon, no YouTube... etc, etc. I read that as – no up-to-date media consumption. Old school. Stone age. Rubbish. We know its rubbish! And if it’s professing to be true, or right, or definitive which it is - it’s just wrong.

They are viewing a digital world through analogue glasses.

Needless to say, I’ve thought about this a good bit. And, it really annoys me that these issues aren’t being addressed, as not doing so is costing practically every medium consumed by Irish people a fortune in lost revenue. The audience... the true audience, for almost every medium I can think of is in fact much, much bigger... and the audience doesn’t give a damn about the device being used. Do they? Nope.

An interesting link hits me via twitter. I click blind to a newspaper article. Wow! That’s interesting. Did I buy a newspaper? No. Did I read one? Yes. Did I see the ad at the top of the page? Yes! Am I up to date? Yes. How often does this happen every day... on twitter alone. 20,000 times? So, perhaps 20,000 newspaper reads – per day, missing. Across all sorts of titles I’d never buy. Thats 600,000 reads a month. 7.2 million reads a year. What’s that worth in Ad-land? Anyone? I dread to think.

And also, needless to say, there are solutions. Lots of good, doable, realistic, affordable solutions. What cannot be fixed on the other hand is the terrified and protective research ideology that pervades most media committees and organisations.

But there is a need to try some new things... And soon, so that little by little we can deploy new mixed method research approaches which I know will work sufficiently well to increase media consumption counts massively.

These will achieve:
• • Real time reporting
• • Platform and operating system agnostic audience measurement
• • Fixed and wireless (mobile and stationary) measures
• • Aggregated audience counts

And these steps need to be taken now, before mega-corps like Google, Apple and Microsoft become too dominant and become the de-facto auditors of measurement and message truth, in pretty much the same way Google is the de facto truth for search engine visibility. That took about three years. The impact of waiting for that to happen is that ad euros will leave the country... moving into other networks, with bidding platforms and prices commanded by the audience, not the publisher.

It also needs to happen before too much advertising money is lost by lost audience. While more real time measures may be jumpy, they can be averaged over time. But ignoring the digital for fear of its capricious nature ignores huge tranches of the audience of today, and any independent view on the audience of tomorrow.

In Pavilion Digital, we recently trialled some new methods, addressing a diverse set of data sources. Facebook outputs, iPhone app outputs, primary research, website posts, newspaper sales and classified ads, mobile research datasets... funky stuff! And I have to say, it was fun. Real Rubix cube territory, but what it brought home, from the outset, is that traffic, eyeballs and commerce leaves a digital footprint, and once you get your head around that, bringing all that data together is a challenge, but a hugely beneficial and rewarding one. And, with a single medium for example – you only have to get your data modelling right once... maybe tweak it a little, and if you’re good to go, you’re good for good... until another channel for audience consumption opens up. This is a good problem to have if you have it. Good for us and for the medium being reached.

Currently TV, Print and Radio are treated as silos of data which cannot, or are not counted together because they represented different industry interests and their respective ommittees. But nowadays, with it all being digital, they can represent the same interest, regardless of the platform of delivery. In the end of the day, data is just data. It doesn’t care where it’s from, or what it represents, or where it is delivered.

Take RTE. What is their media interest would you say? Well, perhaps TV, analogue Radio, DAB radio (RTE Choice is brilliant!), digital Radio (Grab Radio streams), Web Radio, Print (on website), iPhone apps (4 or 5?), TV over Web (streamed), RTE player (recent TV re-broadcasts), Website traffic, Blog reads and postings... etc, etc, etc. I’m sure I’ve forgotten plenty... (forgot Aertel). So, one interest – RTE, requires platform agnostic, OS agnostic, fixed and mobile digital delivery and consumption, and digital interaction. What are they counting? TV set viewers and mostly analogue radio listeners... and maybe website traffic. Oh, and the information is out of date.

This is a ridiculous state of affairs and as a licence fee payer funding our national public service broadcaster – I find it objectionably incompetent at best and a regrettable lost opportunity.

Really and in real time it is time for media measurement and the interests it represents to wake up. There’s an audience shift alarm clock going off loud and clear. And no, it’s not a windup clock - it’s digital.

Thursday 12 August 2010

5 Top Tips re: Mobiles, Apps, Facebook and Blogs

I must blog, I must blog, I must blog. It’s been there on my list for an age and I’ve made a few stabs, but never posted. It’s an ongoing problem. What’s wrong with me? Is it that I’m using the web less? Eh... no! Not a chance. I’ve become a 24/7er netwise. Maybe it’s the iPhone usage? Well... there’s the thing. The iPhone is so snappy for lookups and sign-ins for social nets there’s not ‘surfing’ per se. But I’m on the net. Amen’t I? Technically, but often appways rather than browsered.

I’m on the social net anyway – and my lookups are constant – never letting a link go un-clicked, or a reference go un-referenced, a fact go un-Googled or a vid go un-viewed (‘sept the flash ones of course which is annoying, but they seem rapidly less prevalent which is concerning). I’m also well podded with Digital planet and buzz out loud and my own penchant for Thinking Allowed.
The faithful (old) Toshiba portégé accompanies me for sit-down work. Hours slip by on comfy seats over lattés or hunched at the office delving my way through big documents before zipping them here and there.

But why not blogging – and this is the point of this blog.

If the web is always with you, as it is with me, you now have to make an active choice to do browser and document work via the bigger laptop screen. This is perhaps where the iPad style device fits in nicely. The trend towards increased access for mid-sized super-light mobile devices with longer battery lives means the capricious nature of much previous net use can now be taken away from work and the office (not the same always) and into the home, the street, the back-room or the coffee bar (I’m in Starbucks right now). The personal and connection work can now stay personal and be dealt with right now, rather than peppered throughout the day when one gets behind a screen.

The other related trend is toward app delivered content. Is it a good thing to have all this content tied up in apps? Well, for some software apps that is definitely true but for other apps I don’t really think so. Many companies really should consider browser delivered services before jumping on the app bandwagon. There are many advantages, such as, you don’t have to keep updating the app, and you can always encourage the ‘add to my home screen’ button to be employed. If the service in question is needed they can find it and return to your site simply with this method. And very quickly, between free and paid for apps, there will be simply too many on the phone – something that iPhone 4 folders addresses nicely. I mysteriously seem to be heading toward my 300th app, having deleted many I don’t use and can do without. Obviously I’m an-typical nerd – but the simplicity and benefits of the app store I, as an early adopter, have found I think will be found by others giving a trend towards more and more apps. Some are really cool. Seriously! But tellingly – several of those on my homescreen are shortcuts to webpages and cloud services. So, the companies in question didn’t have an app, and actually don’t need one for my purposes.

Other apps need to be appified and benefit from being apps. It is the only way that a particular service can be delivered – benefitting from the mobile nature of the service or the iPhone gyroscope thingy. Fair enough. So, an open mind is the best way to go I’d say. Not wishing to dis the client but many want an app without really knowing why – like they want clients to put them in their bookmarks list on a funky new phone. It is always good to have a cost benefit analysis running in the background when you go down this thought cul-de-sac. Functionality and links may be more important to your business than having an app.

Mobile Internet and smartphones mean – to all intents and purposes - that the net itself is disappearing from view. This was always going to happen and has happened with all previous communication technology. The net is now the taken for granted bit that no longer distracts from the content it delivers. Half a billion Facebook users? How did that happen? Quickly and without much effort or worry that it was on the Internet - and now the FB app is so good, it’ll be 1 billion before you know it. If you remove the very young, old or very poor from the world’s population – that starts to look very like 1 in every two people communicates via Facebook – and much of that use will be mobile. Why? Because it’s better.

What this means is that social interaction is now the most powerful driver toward net use and should be the preferred location for engagements of all sorts. The Facebook platform is now most important in the world for social software. If it’s sitting on a MC or PC or iPHone OS... well, it doesn’t really matter.

To close the circle of this conversation and bring it back to blogs isn’t easy. I’m in a funny situation because my work is also my interest and hobby. I was just chatting with another business guy who blogs and we agreed that blogging is important for taking care of the various brands that exist in any business. The CEO is as much a brand as the business brand and that’s important, but also the blog is an important mechanic for extracting insights from the day-to-day experience and bringing them into focus. It’s a process and though it takes a little time (not much), the benefits are tremendous. So, I just have to blog more. It’s as simple as that.

So – time for some top tips:
• Take account of the new way digital media is being consumed in a mobile context
• Take note that the consumption of online content is now often via an app. There are big implications here
• Make sure if you are developing an app – that a browser isn’t be a better way to go – even for mobile devices. The quality of mobile (and iPad browsers) is so brilliant now, and it’s easier to update a website than an app for several devices and OSs
• Use Facebook, and build for it
• Blog for your business and yourself

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Countdown to iPhone 4 release date

Tuesday 1 June 2010

If you want something done...

OK. Time for a bit of a braindump.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’ve written a few, but always left them without being published because they weren’t good enough, or big enough, or important enough, or something. I’m not sure I’m out of that head space just yet, but I do want to share some thoughts and questions.

The Tannoy has always been about new technologies and communications, and I’ve tried to track shifts in the way were talk to each other in the digital realm. Since we last spoke I’ve set up a few new companies to address and service these changes. All have a view of digital marketing at their core, but one of these – Pavilion Digital - looks to another development discussed at length by The Economist some months back.


It’s a word that has lost its meaning because it means so many different things to different people. For me, it is the 1s and 0s of raw code that tell a computer what happened when. Back to the binary coal face! There is more data than ever before, and will be much, much more in future, but what do we do with it?

Pavilion Digital extracts meaning from data. Any and all data. Diverse data sets, market research, server data, tracking data, sales, sales force and CRM of every description. Whatever it is, we can import datasets, analyse them individually or together and extract reports, statistical insights and most of all - value - from what already lies within. We’ve done it in the past few months with some very big clients from the transport and FMCG sectors, and the thing that emerged for me, most of all, was how difficult nay impossible this work is if you don’t know how it’s done, and don’t have the right tools. Few people, in my experience, can get their head around data sets, weighting, imports, exports and then extracting sensible stories from it. Important stories. We have the people to do that, and the best tools, so that’s cool! :-)

In the end of the digital just provides another tool for telling a story. Pavilion Digital gives you the glasses to read it and the directions to understand it.

I’ve also developed and sold some iPhone apps – hardcore utility apps for data gathering and dissemination you understand... not the faddish gadgetry as makes up so much of the 150,000 apps, or whatever it is, that are out there. That’s been real fun. It’s very cool to come up with ideas, get them scoped, scripted and launched, and then someone just has to have them. Very rewarding. When I say iPhone apps, they are actually device and software agnostic, so will work on any smart phone. But more of that in a later blog. I’ll let you all know when the customers launch them and you can check them out.

Again, at the core of these and indeed all digital communication functionality is data.

OK. I sound wishy-washy and half-baked, and sorry for that. I’ll get to the point.
I’m looking at the digital communications industry, and I worry about it, because it seems to me that the whole thrust of internet collaboration is anti agency. Any agency! It’s all about putting people together, directly. Peer to peer not consumer to consumer. And to extend the analogy its about: - P2P, P2B, B2B and B2P.

The internet has taken an amazing toll on the market research space, the advertising industry and the travel space, because it puts individuals in touch with companies directly. And, vice versa, it also puts individual companies in touch with their markets’ individuals too. This puts agencies in a difficult situation... What is left for them to do?

At present, digital ad agencies are broken out by common sense boundaries. Social networks, of course, search and Pay Per Click, naturally. Website builders, traffickers and trackers and em... and, apart from the creative department (part of the website department) and content writers, that’s kind of it. (I'm sure someone will correct me here and feel free.) I know there are bigger agencies which co-ordinate the needs of bigger clients, and there is bound to be a need for these for some time. But then again... the bigger they are...

Market research agencies have a range of other issues including the lack of a requirement for a field force, the slashing of margins, shifting client expectations, the shortening of timeframes and indeed the whole cheapening of the space. Only top quality slimmed down research houses need remain.

The problem for the agency world in general is that any company can do all of these things themselves. Easily. And, if they can’t, they will be able to in a year or so. They probably do some of the things already. In fact, any individual will be able to do them. What’s worse for agencies is that very big companies, who make up the lion’s share of all advertising spend, are taking these functions in house. Why? Because they can, they have control, they don’t get dependent and bamboozled by gurus, and because, well, they just like it. Worse again, hard pressed governments, who used to make up another chunk of spend, are doing it too – wiping out even the larger players in the digital ad space. (The loss of such a contract was a major contributor to the downfall of digital media buying giant – i-Level in the UK.)

The issue for agencies is that buying advertising, tracking it, and optimizing it is child’s play, if you know how. It’s not only all so trackable - it is all so easily trackable. And, you will know how to do this sort of tracing and optimizing - if you want to. It’s not hard, if you can read instructions and can use a computer and the Internet. (If you can’t do either – this blog aint for your!)

The other issue is shifting impressions. Two years ago people used to surf the web now and then. That’s largely gone. That free time has been taken up with surfing on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter... not on websites – unless you are doing something like research for shopping, or gathering information for health reasons for example. Or buying a ticket maybe. In short, there’s very little actual surfing done these days, so the impressions burned per user on the web as a whole will be dropping. Per user mind, not in total as the number of users is growing. The audience is just hanging out in a different place.

The long tail is getting a hell of a site longer. It has to be. People are visiting much fewer bigger sites, and occasionally wandering out of their social network in response to a link. I heard that 50% or so of Facebook users (350 million of them) are visiting the site daily for over half an hour. That is just phenomenal if you think about it. Well, all of those impressions that 350 million had to offer the Internet advertiser outside of Facebook are lost, unless the ads are in Facebook itself.

So - back to data. The game of business today, as I see it, is in using your existing information, your data, and squeezing every morsel of insight out of it before you spend any money on market research. There’s cash in that there data attic - if you just go and look.

Then, when you are advertising – try and get your head around as much of it yourself as you can, (or get staff to). You’ll save an absolute fortune! Between Bluestreak and Google Analytics you can track the world and his mother as they view your ads placed on networks for small beans. Use social networks. Embrace them. Learn how to target your market with age, sex and location. It’s so wizarded – my Dad could understand it. It’s intuitive, obvious, easy-to-manage and click – you’ve got a campaign going. Website? Use blogging software.

You will need help with logos, and creative, but it is a really, really very good time to do this. (There are free ways of getting them too, if quality isn’t a huge concern.) Then, when you’ve got all your add data, and reports, why not integrate them with your server data, CRM data, sales data, spend, product categories and sales outlets, and analyse them all together. That’s where we come in – because, with the right setup, tools and training, or if you want someone to do it for you and send you the reports – you talk to Pavilion Digital. Again, it’ll save you a fortune.

Slash market research budgets, manage and optimize ad-spend without margins to third parties. Optimize all activities and hone the ideas and marketing plans. This is the best way to give your business the best chance of making the most margin on all sales.

And don’t worry about going it alone. The net is empowering all and it is a collaborative space, so, if you don’t know how, ask, and someone will help you – for free. Just give it a go. You can’t break anything, and everything is reversible. It is tough times out there, so what have you got to lose. No, a better question – What have you got to gain?

Monday 1 March 2010

Unofficial iPad countdown button

No. I haven't got an iPad yet. No one does till it's released at the end of March. Here's a countdown button so you don't miss it.


Sunday 28 February 2010

Irish Times Gloriously Missing the Point of Twitter

OK. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly with the wind-down of Net Behaviour it has been necessary to pass my time setting up new businesses, and this has gone very well indeed. I’ll make some announcements to those who don’t already know when the time is right, and the sites are live etc.

Actually, to tell you the truth, I wrote this blog last week, and didn’t publish it. That’s how busy my life has become. And since then there has been the Chile earthquake, which further reinforced some of the points made here. Anyway. Apologies for the silence if you like this blog, and I promise to try harder in future. So, here it goes.

I’ve also been spending my bloggers muse writing for the Belfast Telegraph and Digital Times, so, I have actually been getting my bi-monthly copy out. I’ll tweet and Facebook links those pieces for those who are interested.


400 words, or a 140 character tweet weren’t sufficient to clarify my frustrations at a recent piece in the Irish Times disseminated by excellent @williewhite. I rarely get into Facebook comments banter, but I couldn’t believe how gloriously a recent Irish Times piece ‘The Revolution was Not Tweeted’ by Mary Fitzgerald missed the point of twitter, of the web even. She even missed the power of word of mouth. Ironically, the reason she wrote the piece undermined her argument considerably. You can read it here.

The logic of suffered from two common Irish errors. Dichotomy and exaggeration - Twitter will change the world for everyone, versus it has does not change anything and the hype was wrong. It also suffered from taking too few examples and not taking a sufficiently broad and historical view of change in the world of media and communications. There was also, I felt, a further typically Irish crime of begrudgery at success and fame, or in this manifestation, dislike of technology driven hype.

It was clear to me that Fitzgerald has missed the tectonic shift in social and political communication that twitter has become, not because it is clever programming but because it is simple, easy to use and it’s so popular.

I’ll ask a question. What does it really mean for a world where you cannot stop people from talking and being heard? The question doesn’t seem to make sense even, but just 30 years ago, it did. That’s how far we’ve come. Gone are the days of the power of a state to control the knowledge of that state and their understanding of world beyond. To mould millions of minds into doing dreadful things such as joining the Nazi party or committing genocide. I’m reminded of the fact that during the Falkland’s war, it took 21 days for the sinking of HMS Sheffield to reach the mainstream media in the UK and Ireland. 21 days! And that was only 1982. It would take 21 seconds today, if that, and it would be near impossible to stop the news getting out.

It is this sort of hype, or in my case, excited enthusiasm, that the Irish Times writer doesn’t like, but the facts remain true nevertheless.

The reasons cited for undermining this point of view was that... not everyone in Iran was on twitter during the recent protests against
Ahmadinejad’s ‘election’ and that most of the information shared was carried by word of mouth on telephones. I read this and thought... ‘Oh dear. Luddite alert!’

As I see it, all it takes is a very tiny group of people to have a credible but sharp view on truth, with a picture for example, and the balloon of propaganda will pop. Remember the picture of the naked girl running from the napalm bomb that is credited with bringing an end to the Vietnam war? Can you see the picture? If so, you must acknowledge how sharp was the tip of that pin. Perhaps you remember the picture of the mysterious girl with the green eyes from the front of National Geographic magazine, or the 95 theses (tweets?), or the tale of the girl who refused to leave a bus designated ‘whites only’. Or the picture of the dole queue with the slogan ‘Labour isn’t working’ beneath it that swept Thatcher to power in 1979.

All of these single pieces of information consummated a tipping point in public opinion because they manifested an unassailable truth about an injustice. A truth that a million copywriters and spin doctors couldn’t fix. Job done! Truth out! Game over!

The difference between these images and slogans and acts and twitter is that the news that carried all of these pieces of content was carried on mainstream mass media. They had a ready-made audience and word of mouth, education and re-publishing took care of the rest.

This is where twitter and the re-tweet come in. It does not take everyone to be on twitter, or social networks for these to have an effect on a population or public opinion. That is ridiculous. All it takes is one person to write a slogan, or tweet, with perhaps a picture taking on a smartphone for inescapable truth it contains to be retweeted, and within hours the message can be carried the world over. This happened when the Boxing Day Tsunami hit. The pictures and films were amateur. The mainstream media were absent, or drowned, and amateur news became the only source of truth about the scale of the disaster for the mainstream media, and what it looked like. The rest of the job of sharing news and truth is done by word of mouth. ‘Isn’t it terrible’ conversations over a coffee, or ‘did you hear about so-and-so’ chatter over a pint. Phone conversations, texts and even jokes make news travel even quicker and make it some colour of fact. The same happened with Riverbend blogger during the first Gulf War.

So, I’d like to make the point that everyone does not have to be on twitter for twitter to be a total game changer. Every comment, every sentence, every tweet is in fact its own individual webpage, indexable, searchable and findable on search engines and endlessly shareable with thousands, hundreds of thousands and millions of people. Word of mouth among social chatting, silly and interesting people is the point, not the instrument used for sharing that word of mouth. Word of mouth takes place online and offline of course, but you have to have something to talk about. Twitter can leak that truth, does and did in the days of the Iranian election.

In George Orwell’s 1984 the news came from a centralised location. This made the concept of ‘thought crime’ credible. Now news and information comes from a million points. The objective view of what happened is now contested. It’s no longer about your news source (twitter, irish Times, word of mouth), but how you use the news you get, like I’m doing here. I’ll tweet and Facebook a link to this blog and, with retweets I may reach a small group of perhaps few thousand. If I mention it the Belfast Telegraph, a few more. But how many of those who hear about this blog use twitter? Does it matter? Nope.

If it was 1982, or 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran, we’d know little or nothing about what happened during the days of the protests, and it would be as simple as it was then for Iranian spin doctors to hide the facts, and for the police to jail protesters. What is more, the protesters probably would not have had the courage that twitter gave those same Iranians in the past few months. Their actions were tweeted around the world, the riots were seen and Iranian injustice was unmasked leaving it open to sanctions, actions and influence. To the court of worldwide public opinion!

When people believe their story might not be heard and their words could get them jailed or killed they tend to be quieter. But when there is the tiniest breath (140 characters) of the oxygen of publicity, they gasp at it and let a roar. Iranians spoke and the world heard. So yes, the Revolution was Tweeted as all revolutions, large and small will be tweeted from here on in.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Twitter is Bad for Blogging and Maybe Business

Not only does it distract, and endlessly digress, it takes the wind out of your passionate sales. It’s not that twitter is a bad thing, per se, but it can cloud focus on the core variables that make a business work. Closing deals, invoicing and getting paid. This, of course, all comes after creating a product or service, packaging it and selling it.

And this is my beef. So much of the online entrepreneurial zeal is getting lost in a cloud of ideas, messages and directionless digressions that it are not delivering one clear thing that is priceable, and buyable. Consultancy, knowledge, experience and enthusiasm are great but they are hard to take off a shelf and bring to the cash register. If you can’t describe what you’re doing and why and how much it costs, how can someone buy it?

I know there are so many twitter positives for certain types of businesses, but, from my cursory look, these are service business, and more than that, they require a certain type of digital networking element to them. They also often photographic or design in nature!

The difficulty arises when people look at twitter and think they can force any business model down its 140 character throat. Very often you can’t, and you shouldn’t try. You can do more harm than good to your fragile brand. And the last thing you want to do is to expend energy doing the wrong thing well. It’ll look like a hit, but only if you don’t put a value on your personal time, as with a lot of ‘free’ open source programs. Don’t put a cost on 10 years of tinkering and teaching yourself how it’s done by you for nothing and you’ll find most things in life will be ‘free’. I could make my own kitchen furniture if I gave it enough time, but the cost of that time? The quality?

So, what I’m recommending is a mentoring service so that companies can find the right fit, social media wise, for the business needs. Not just the next big thing, or the latest buzz word that sounds like great value, but the right thing that gives the most efficient bang for the buck and doesn’t require of the user/client a lifestyle change on their part, or a similar lifestyle change for their market. And also, to identify the best business that requires the least time for the maximum return on time and financial investment. Clean, efficient and targeted at a real, not an imagined, market that exists today and is only likely to grow.

So I’d say do what works, go where your market goes, but do it cleanly and efficiently, and don’t twitter about it, unless you’ve got a business for tweets. And, if you want me to bend an ear your way and bounce some ideas around, let me know. That’s a tweet DM I’ll answer.