My epic Social Media Driving Licence journey (there was LEGO!)

Lego-movie-meme-84531e880725f5aThat was then:

A way of staving off boredom on the bus. I mainly followed comedians; occasionally the odd ‘informative’ and/or ‘political tweet’ slipped in, but I was a true lurker.

Stalked an ex to make sure he wasn’t dead, ignored endorsements from family members who seemed to think I had skills in ‘event management’.

Publicised my crime fiction briefly under duress from my publishers/agents – it’s really time I updated the bloody thing it’s got spiders spinning cobwebs on it.

A way of keeping in touch with people – I was pretty engaged, shared photos, made sarky updates, commented on others’ posts.

Google Plus

This is now:

I’ve come to realise the pleasures of conversing with friends on Twitter rather than just reading strangers’ tweets. However, I’m not sure this is much different from what makes Facebook fun. I’ve yet to make a concerted effort to engage with some of those strangers whose tweets entertain me. I think it would feel a bit like going up to the coolest person at a party and doing the running man dance in front of them.

Ok Aunt Tallulah, I’ll accept that “dog-grooming” endorsement. Can’t hurt.

Turns out blurting out your thoughts to WordPress can be quite good fun – especially if you get to decide what to blog about! The only thing holding me back here is time – it’s been almost impossible doing our SMDL homework plus my day job, so Lord knows how I’ll manage doing it in my OWN TIME – but we’ll see…

I’m going to become more relaxed about accepting friend requests from colleagues and students. In the past I’ve worried that it will be hard to maintain a ‘work persona’ to someone who’s seen my posts extolling the virtues of Channing Tatum or my photos of hedgehogs, but why are we trying to maintain this bland exterior? Why not let some character shine through? You never know, you might find your colleague is a hoglet-loving ChanFan and you’ve made a friend for life. The worst that’ll happen is that they point out Channing looks a bit like a confused potato with biceps, but hopefully you can rise above this. Just follow Twitter Queen Caitlin Moran’s advice – “don’t be a dick” – and as long as you avoid uploading any pics where you’re either naked or so drunk you’re throwing up in a wheelie bin, you should be ok.

Google Plus

I’d like to thank Andy Priestner, Ange Fitzpatrick and Georgina Cronin for all the work they’ve put into the fantastic SMDL course. It was a huge amount of fun. SPACESHIP!


The importance of attribution

Unfortunately I missed the recent SMDL session on “Sharing and caring” (sorry, swimming with turtles in Barbados won out in that particular scheduling conflict), but it’s an area I’m very aware of as my day job is taking care of Cambridge Judge Business School’s website.

Confusion reigns when it comes to copyright. We’re often asked to use photos that have obviously been downloaded from a Google Image search. When it’s that easy to find an image, people are reluctant to investigate whether or not they have permission to reuse it, and even more reluctant to pay for it. My team has an iStock account that has alleviated much of the stress of trying to find a good photo that we’re legally free and clear on (and has the benefit that you rarely need to add a credit), but when searcing for pics of public figures or reportage, Wikimedia Commons tends to be our go-to bookmark.

The recent Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act has made it easier to use photos without accreditation or payment – something of a spit in the fish-eye lens of the professional photographer – by saying it’s basically ok if you can’t find out who the original artist was. Which makes it even more important that we search for, name and link to the artist wherever we can. Local photographer Sir Cam recently pointed out on Twitter how easy it is to lose that information:


Here’s a poster that sums it up beautifully. I think I’m going to send it to people whenever they send me a dodgy pic off Google!


Photo credit: Poster by Pia Jane Bijkerk, Erin Loechner and Yvette van Boven.

Further reading:

The invaluable Google Maps

Photo credit: Postcards from Google Earth - Clement Valla

Photo credit: Postcards from Google Earth – Clement Valla

These days it’s hard to remember a time before Google. A time when “have you ever Googled yourself?” was a question that was liable to get you a “say what now?” in response. A time when AltaVista, Infoseek and Ask Jeeves were vying for pole position among search engines. Google, like Amazon, is a company that started off with one good service, and performed that service so well that it had the reputation and capital to expand into other markets.

Personally, I’m a big fan (at least, when they stick to their “don’t be evil” mantra). It seems I’ll happily ignore any privacy concerns I have if it means my life will be easier. I love Google Chrome because it syncs my bookmarks between all my devices. I love Google Search because it’s so efficient, because of those cute little animations and because if you type “do a barrel roll” into the search box something entertaining happens (quirkiness in a brand always appeals to me). But the Google product that has made my life easier over the last few years has been…

Google Maps

What’s so great about Google Maps?

It can be used as a satnav. Google Maps is great at suggesting travel routes to get you from A to B either walking, driving, cycling or using public transport. It will estimate your time of arrival, suggest alternative routes, warn you when a travel jam is happening further ahead on your route (apparently it can do this by noting when other travellers’ mobiles have been stuck in one place for longer than expected!). You don’t even need an Internet connection to use the map to navigate (as long as you’re happy to determine your own route) – switch on your GPS and you can see where you are in real time.

Your map options: “map”, “satellite” (an aerial photo) and “terrain” (showing topography and elevation). Think that B&B is a few hundred years from where you want to be? On the terrain map you can see that it’s also at the top of a very tall hill. The photo at the top of this blog post is admittedly showing an example from “When Google goes wrong”, but these anomalies are sadly few and far between, since frankly driving on roads that flop over the countryside like limp linguine looks much more fun.

Google knows you’re not just interested in streets and roads. Many companies and institutions appear on the map itself when you zoom in, and you can “search nearby” for restaurants or cinemas or whatever other entertainment you’re after.

You can create your own map. If you’re logged into your Google account, you can drop place markers and highlight routes, then share these with others. My friends and I have a shared map called “The Good Life”, with recommendations on good restaurants/views/walks/beaches to visit all over the world.

It’s constantly being updated. Not like your old paper map you bought from Welcome Break on the M11 that is now missing the Birmingham pages after you tore it in the footwell with your hiking boots and got mud on Bracknell and anyway it doesn’t include that new bypass that you always want to use but forget is there before it’s too late because it’s not on the map.

It’s free!

Street View lets you see an area from a pedestrian’s eyes. Visiting a friend at their new house and want to check it out first? Street View it. Worried that the place you’re thinking of going on holiday is a bit run-down? Street View it. Concerned you won’t know which bus stop to get off at? Street View it. Worried there’ll be a tiger in the forecourt? Street View it.

Photo credit: Google Street View, screengrabbed by Jon Rafman

Photo credit: Google Street View, screengrabbed by Jon Rafman

As an aside: Artist Jon Rafman browses Google Street View and takes screengrabs of any striking images. He’s found arrests, fires, prostitution and aliens in lawn chairs. Others have found entertainment in pranking the Street View vans, by staging fake body disposals or wearing pigeon masks en masse.

Well hopefully you’re now convinced of the power of Google Maps and will soon be using it to plan your next journey. Just take a tip from me and don’t use it in the city of Siena, where we merrily followed the navigation instructions and drove straight into the pedestrianised central piazza in front of the cathedral, scaring some tourists and earning a 100 euro fine.

Marketing with LinkedIn

LANDUCCI TimIn a recent AudioBoo interview, CJBS Executive Education’s Tim Landucci talks about using social media for marketing, particularly LinkedIn. is the world’s largest professional network on the Intranet, with more than 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories. As such it’s a great way to find executives that might be interested in the School’s short courses.

“If someone has a change in their job title or experience, they do update LinkedIn, so the data, the information we have on people, is very reliable and very up-to-date,” says Tim. “[And] the targeting options are absolutely fantastic.”

“Social prospecting”

Tim recommends using a variety of ways to get your message across, including hosting discussions, sending personalised InMails and posting sponsored updates, rather than just relying on someone clicking a particular banner ad.

“That’s something that’s really reinvigorated our marketing effort on LinkedIn.”

Once execs have been on their course, they are invited by the manager of their particular programme to join the ExecEd alumni group, and are immediately welcomed by Tim and his colleagues, which prompts others in the group to make contact with the new members. It then becomes a fertile ground for networking opportunities for the executives. Faculty from the courses will post up relevant content so alumni can continue to keep up-to-date with the subject they were studying and discuss it with others from the group.

Tim’s tips

  • Have patience: you won’t build your group overnight. Being invited to the group by someone they know will double the likelihood that a potential member accepts.
  • Don’t be afraid to do something that doesn’t work: you’ll learn from it and improve on it next time you give it a go.
  • What are your objectives? Create a plan and stick with it: don’t post ten times the first week and then go quiet.

Listen to the interview on AudioBoo >

Find Tim on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Assembling a social media smorgasbord with Storify

storifyI think I first came across when reading about how yet another Internet hoax had been exposed, and it struck me as a great way of telling a story via social media. With Storify it’s very easy to embed tweets, YouTube videos, Vines and more onto a single webpage, pulling together information from across the various platforms to form a coherent whole.

Storify gives us a new way of presenting history. In the past, eyewitness accounts “from the ground” still needed to be conveyed by journalists; now, it’s possible to track a major event from its very earliest moments, such as in this Storify about the Sandy Hook shooting, or this blackly comic Storify about a guy who inadvertently live-tweeted the deadly attack on Osama Bin Laden.

Others use Storify as a way of recording the public’s reaction to something, such as this Storify on the death of actor Paul Walker, or this one on the outraged response to CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville rape trial.

Due no doubt to a combination of copyright law and the cost of storage servers, Storify does not store copies of videos or images, which often results in Storifies eventually becoming laden with empty embeds as the original owners delete their media. Unless some way is found to circumnavigate this, Storify will never be able to act as a perfect archive of social media.

In part because Storify does however store tweets, it works beautifully alongside Twitter in particular. Twitter by its very nature is ephemeral and of-the-moment – it is designed to give you the news as it happens – but this means it does not work well as a historical record. Tweets are displayed in reverse chronological order, so the most recent information is displayed first, and scrolling back through a timeline is clunky and confusing. Storify is the perfect partner, allowing users to draw together tweets in chronological order, and storing those tweets in perpuity so they can still be seen even if their owners regret their words and delete the original tweet. The ability to combine tweets from multiple places also means you can present a conversation between two Tweeters much more simply than if you were reading the same conversation on Twitter, such as this argument between Jonathan Ross and a tweeter who’d taken umbrage to the announcement that Ross would be presenting the Hugo Awards.

Like all of social media, the flavour of the Storify is determined by its creator. Although Storify is brilliant as a record of events and conversations, prementioned limitations not withstanding, it can be used for fluff too. Here’s a great example of social media’s unbridled appetite for taking the piss: the world’s fearful reaction to the Sochi Olympic mascot.

So Nathalie thinks Tinder is the greatest app ever invented

Do you remember that hurricane scene in the movie Twister, where first a pot plant, then a tractor, then a cow goes by, gently mooing? Turns out live tweeting is a bit like that. Just as you’re going “oh, better grab that pot plant”, you see the cow and think you’d probably better focus on that instead.

As part of the Social Media Driving Licence we were learning about the art of live tweeting – i.e. tweeting about an event in real time, trying to summarise what the speaker is saying without making it look like you’re really catching up on the latest goss on Big Brother. The lovely and very attractive Nathalie Walker (I have to say that, she’s both my boss and prone to sudden flashes of violence) took us on a whistlestop tour of her relationship history with social media while we tried to summarise what she was saying in 140 characters. In the process we discovered that it’s very hard to summarise the last point a speaker has made whilst simultaneously focusing on what they saying next.

Wot I concluded you need to do to be a live tweeting guru

  1. Learn to touch type so you can maintain eye contact with the speaker whilst misquoting them on Twitter.
  2. Study a thesaurus nightly to absorb all the shorter synonyms to help with that pesky 140 character limit.
  3. Don’t tweet that the speaker thinks Tinder is the greatest app ever invented unless you’re 100% sure that’s really what they said.

Twitter is like Strawberry Fair

It struck me once after a day after Strawberry Fair, a free one-day festival that takes place in Cambridge every first weekend in June, that my experience of the Fair varied enormously depending on the person I went with. Go with a vegan friend and you have a day of learning about animal rights, signing petitions, and eating lentil burgers. Go with a party-loving friend and you drink too much and twist your knee dancing to drum and bass in the electro tent. Go with a shopaholic and you come back home with a hippy dress, a miniature Venus flytrap and a black henna tattoo.

454px-Strawberry_slicedTwitter’s the same. Who you follow largely determines what you get out of it. When I first signed up, a few years back, I remember looking at a blank screen and wondering what happened next. “Now follow someone,” they suggested, but who? Like a lot of other people, the only person I knew who was on Twitter was Stephen Fry. So I followed him.

Looking at the 231 people I follow now, it’s 90% comedians. Some of them are famous outside Twitter, like Doug Stanhope, Frankie Boyle, Robert Webb or Russell Brand. Some of them I’ve only discovered because of Twitter, like @KeriHW and @LittleLostLad. Some of them have made me laugh elsewhere (like @JoelGolby and @Emm_Saunders, who both massively take the piss write very funny stuff on Possibly my very favourite is @OlufsenAndBang, a series of vignettes from an alternate reality where Bang has suffered some kind of unspoken but terrible physical and mental trauma, much to Olufsen’s guilt and embarrassment.

For me, my Twitter feed is pretty much non-stop entertainment. I follow a few people based on their experiences (@DamienEchols, @AmaMaKnox) or their beliefs/politics (@OwenJones84, @EdPilkington), and so admittedly the comedy is occasionally interrupted by a heavy tweet about the death penalty, the dismantling of the NHS or the uncovering of another awful miscarriage of justice, but on the whole it’s a very personalised, very customised flow of things that will make me smile.

In our SMDL class we’ve talked about engagement, and starting Twitter conversations. I’ve read articles by people that say Twitter didn’t really come to life for them until they started to interact rather than just consume. That’s their wont; you might not feel the same way. You might want a feed full of stories about rabbits, or rollercoasters, or ‘the truth’ about the moon landing, and that’s the beauty of Twitter. You can mould it into whatever you want it to be.

funny-black-rabbit-carrots (1)