Tag Archives: social media

Embracing Change

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THE world is changing pretty fast – exponentially in many cases, particularly in the technology and online industries. It’s natural for anyone, regardless of age or creed, to feel overwhelmed by the library­ of choice. Laptops, iPads, notebooks, Kindles, iPhones, netbooks, iPods and gaming consoles are all on offer under different brands and with varying specifications. This is failing to mention the infinite range of smartphones.

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Popular people and viral media

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GOING VIRAL: Popular people and viral media

I’VE just finished reading a thought-provoking book titled The Tipping Point (2000) by best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, who is a well-respected journalist at The New Yorker. In his book Gladwell focuses on how ideas, products and messages reach a tipping point where they spread like viruses and enter­ into popular culture.

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The lives of people on the Internet

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THE INTERNET: Feel free to be a jerk

Guest post by Tharuna Devchand

SO a little while ago the Mail & Guardian suspended a journalist intern for an anti-Semitic comment on Facebook that amounted to hate speech and was therefore in conflict with the South African Constitution. Without a warning, the kid’s career was ruined because of a social networking site where groups like “My name is Khan” (a group that disrespects Hinduism) and “F*** Islam” exist with thousands of followers who spread the hatred.

I’m not justifying what Ngoako Matsha said, nor am I implying that M&G was wrong in suspending him, but consider the medium in which he said it — cyberspace.

In cyberspace, every person should be seen as a figment of their own imagination­. Nothing is real. Nothing we say is a true reflection of who we are. On the Internet, we are all Tyler Durdens. There are no boundaries, no policies and rules to keep us neatly between the lines, no reputations to uphold or cultural conventions to keep us in place.

The Internet is like a global Fight Club. It’s where we can guiltlessly des­troy something beautiful and return to our lives feeling better about ourselves. It’s cathartic and, since we all can’t be Jackson Pollocks, it may sometimes be our only outlet.

I constantly hear people complaining about how perfect their Facebook friends’ lives are or what interesting lives other people on Twitter have. It’s not true. It’s just what people choose to show you on the website that makes it all seem perfect.

Social networking sites house a giant­ community of people all suffering from small-penis syndrome. There is a constant war to keep up with the cyber Joneses. Saying that people exaggerate on the Internet about their lives, their feelings, their opinions and how great their lovers are is an understatement. If peer pressure in real life can drive one to do things one normally wouldn’t do, the pressure to be infamous on the Inter­net can land one in a mental institution. Gosh knows what Anthony Weiner was thinking when he tweeted a photo of his, um … weiner­.

While it is never easy to work out the true nature of a person in real life, it is 1 000x harder in cyberspace. On the Net, you can be anything and anyone you want to be.

Those who aren’t that popular or who lack friends may upload albums of them being cool with photos of them sloshed with their heads in a toilet just to show that they can party with the best of them. People who are going through tough times may exaggerate all the positive things in their lives and leave out the hardships. And people who are quite restricted or oppressed in their real lives, may go cyber crazy, voicing outrageous opinions and desires on the Net — probably under a pseudonym. It’s a safe outlet that we believe has no consequences — until we lose our jobs for letting loose.

The problem is that there is no line that determines how far is too far until we cross it. We constantly push the boundaries of what is right and wrong just to see how far we can go, whether it’s driving at 129 km/h in a 120 km/h zone or voicing mad love for Adolf Hitler and his beliefs.

Contemporary society has become mostly unaffected by things that are shocking or at least used to be shocking a decade ago, and to deal with this, people try to raise the bar. Cartoonists, comedians and teachers are continually trying to shock people into thinking about things on a different level. Look at how far advertisements have gone to prevent people from drinking and smoking excessively, and to encourage people to abstain from sex, and you’ll see just how just how numb our society is.

Is it okay for me to call my black friend a k***** on her Facebook wall knowing that she won’t be offended? Is it okay to tweet angrily about how upset I am about something the DA said and in turn label it as racist, not because I think that they are racist, but because I just feel the need to put the party down? No, but it feels good.

The South African Constitution currently doesn’t apply to the Internet. Maybe it should, but I doubt that will stop people from saying things, uploading videos and creating images that are shocking. Every day there are more stories of people being judged by their online images. Employers hire people based on their tweets, courts implicate people because of Facebook profile photos, people are fired because of some YouTube video that shows them spray painting expletives on a wall. But it’s those things that make us cool on the Net, that get us hits, that make us believe that this could one day make us famous.

Exponential Times in the Information Age

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EXPONENTIAL TIMES: Extra! Extra! Etc. Etc.

I TREATED myself with a NAG (New Age Gaming) magazine the other day, which came with a glossy-ink-scented E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) supplement. The accompanying DVD was also largely dedicated to E3 and consisted of around two hundred game videos, trailers and GameTrailers.com awards.

I do not work for NAG nor do I sell their magazines. I was merely mesmerized by how far gaming has come in the last few years. We are certainly living in exponential times with the bacterial-like spread of information and new technologies.

Gone are the days of chalkboards and letter posting in the developed world. The sale and consumption of hard-copy books is fast dwindling at the hand of the Kindle and other eReaders. If Wikipedia were to be published as a book it would be over two million pages long. There are now even babies in the world named “Facebook.”

Exponential Times in Gaming
3D graphics has reached a point beyond comprehension five years ago. The number of gaming devices and vibrating motion controllers on the market this year can have one gleefully immersed 24/7 if you have the time. The exponential rate at which new game titles are being released has made the task of writing letters to Santa quite a meticulous one.

Exponential Times in Social Media
In 2007, one out of every eight U.S. couples met online. It is now estimated to be one in five. When television first entered our lives it took 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million. Facebook took just two years to get the same number of people on board its platform.

Greater than the exponential development of technology, is the exponential availability of information. It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information that anyone living in the 18th century would have consumed in their entire lifetime. The amount of technical information available is more than double every two years.

Exponential Times in Education and Employment
This exponential growth of technology and information is changing the way children are educated. Students are now being prepared for jobs that don’t yet exist and being trained to use technologies that have not yet materialised. It has also been shown that students who are online tend to outperform those who receive more face-to-face education.

This is of course changing the way that people are employed globally. It is estimated that 95% of companies that are online today recruit people using LinkedIn; around the same percentage of businesses use social media for marketing purposes.

Exponential Times Year to Year
In 2008, more than 200 million cell phone calls were made every second. This has roughly tripled every 6 months since. In 2009, every minute or so, a day’s worth of video footage was uploaded to YouTube. In 2010, the number of Google searches completed every ten minutes could have powered Las Vegas for half an hour. This year there are roughly 80 million Farmville farmers versus the 1.5 million real farmers. The moment you’ve finished reading this, most of this information will be outdated.

Below are two of the videos where you can find this information as well as more and more and more…

Exponential Times in 2008

Exponential Times in 2011

Kickstarter: Coffee Joulies and other ideas

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KICKSTARTER: Obtaining funding via social media

DO you ever get tired of being served coffee that is too piping hot to drink? Or leaving a cup of Joe to cool only to find that it’s gone Luke warm by the time you drink it? Well, soon unsatisfactory coffee drinking will be a thing of the past with the release of Coffee Joulies on the American market this week.

The idea of creating stainless steel heat-retaining coffee beans that keep your hot beverage at the right temperature for longer was brewed up by two young design engineers both named Dave. Like many budding entrepreneurs, Dave and Dave needed a way to fund the manufacturing of their product and turned to the Internet and social­ media to achieve this.

Kickstarter.comIdea light bulb is one of many websites that allows people to post ideas freely and appeal to the online public to pledge small amounts of money towards their project. Creatives are given a set amount of time to raise the funds they need and offer certain rewards to people, depending on the amounts they pledge.

The Coffee Joulies project, for example, was looking for $9 500 (roughly R66 500) to fund the manufacturing and distribution of their product. Amounts that could be pledged ranged from $40 to $500 or more. Returns on investment included being sent free samples of the product once made, getting a unique Joulies mug with “I backed Joulies on Kickstarter” printed on it, or even being sent a Coffee Shop Pack for entrepreneurs who want to sell Joulies themselves.

The Coffee Joulies example is one of many that illustrates the power of the web and social media to kick-start business ideas into existence. The two-man team managed to raise $306 944 (about R2 148 000) and has over 4 800 backers. Project creators also keep 100% ownership and control over their work.

Kickstarter homepage

Kickstarter.com is one of many websites that allows people to post business ideas freely online and appeal to the online public to pledge small amounts of money towards their project

Kickstarter.com is one of many websites that allows people to post business ideas freely online and appeal to the online public to pledge small amounts of money towards their project (image: http://www.kickstarter.com).

The only criterion for Kickstarters is that projects must reach their funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. This is done to protect all parties involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.

Other successful projects include documentary film ideas, iPhone add-ons or accessories, a magnetic vertical garden kit and video game development. Many of these have far exceeded the amounts needed and are over 100% funded. Pledging continues until their initial time frames end. I was also pleased to see a few South African projects on Kickstarter that have surpassed their funding goals.

The creative market for ideas

Websites such as Kickstarter bring to mind other online platforms that also operate within the creative market for ideas. Idea Bounty is one example whereby large corporates post a brief for something they want — such as ideas­ for an advert. Users or creatives are then invited to submit their ideas for that brief. A sizeable bounty is offered­ by the client beforehand which is bestowed upon the person who submits the best idea.

While platforms such Idea Bounty sound all good and dandy, it just goes to show the value of a good, creative idea. This particular website has been known to offer bounties as high as $10 000 (about R70 000), but it’s a no- brainer that the returns on implementing such ideas most likely far exceed what was paid for them.

This comparison makes one feel far more approving of entrepreneurial, self-starting marketing platforms such as Kickstarter. The look and feel and user-friendliness of the website also make it that much more inviting. But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you have a great idea or want to launch a book or make a film and need funding, Kickstarter would be a very good place to start.

Fuseware Social Media Report

SOCIAL MEDIA: And how it is transforming business in South Africa

Fuseware is a Cape Town based social media research company that is currently creating a free social media research survey about the business case for social media in South Africa. They are asking the top influencers in the media and marketing industry for their views regarding this and aggregating all the information into a 100% free Fuseware report.

I was asked to participate in the Fuseware survey but wanted to open it to everyone to participate and offer further suggestions. The six most poignant questions follow with my own responses, but please feel free to contribute and get your chance to be heard! I will pass all comments on to the researcher that contacted me.

1. Fuseware: How is social media changing the business landscape, specifically for South Africa?

In the media industry, social media is the next phase of journalism. Media industries that do not adopt and embrace social media and networking into their production cycles will surely wither and die in the future. Situations where news rooms fight social media to get “the scoop” will never win by virtual of the speed and spread that is offered by services such as Twitter, Blogs and even Facebook. Media organisations need to learn how to use social media themselves in unique ways if they wish to remain a viable source of information.

2. Fuseware: What is the most difficult challenge of social media use in business in South Africa?

I would argue that the biggest challenge for businesses in SA is finding unique ways to make effective use of social media without harassing and bomb-barding social networkers with corporate spam. Simply posting links to any business website on every social media platform, for example, is not effective use of social media and will only irritate people and possibly taint the name of that business or brand.

3. Fuseware: What is your ultimate example of business success in social media?

News websites that have developed social media extensions for their product are proving to be very successful in SA. News24, The Dispatch and The Times are three examples of businesses that have made effective use of social media by offering something of interest and value that was not possible with their print products. Interactivity, commenting platforms, reader feedback, creating web-presence and the use of multimedia are all effective forms of optimising such a business.

4. Fuseware: Which companies in South Africa do you think are doing social media the right way?

The three news corps. mentioned: News24, The Times and The Dispatch. Also gaming and IT websites are showing huge growth in SA – e.g. Take2, and of course the blogging community and more specifically blog aggregators – i.e. Afrigator and MyScoop are making great and effective use of social media in SA. These will continue to grow for a good while yet.

5. Fuseware: How can businesses in SA measure the effectiveness of their social media campaigns?

It depends on the campaign really. Following trends would be a good start, but most social media campaigns can be measured by number of followers / subscribers and the growth of these. Keeping track of website statistics and engaging with their audience(s) is also of utmost importance.

6. Fuseware: How do you envision the usage of social media in SA in 2-3 years?

The internet today is defined as “web 2.0” – i.e. the “social web”. The proliferation of social media websites and services will continue to grow in the next few years and more businesses are likely to adopt social networking into their business models. It’s almost becoming a case of “do-or-die” meaning that if businesses do not create a web-presence within the next 2-3 years while their competitors do, they will risk losing a huge number of customers / clients / readers.

  • If you would like any of your own input sent to the Fuseware team before they put together their social media report, please add it as a comment below.

Scooping up the blogosphere

MYSCOOP: South Africa’s new blog aggregator with promise

WHEN the blog was born it was met with mild curiosity in the online world. Suddenly every web user had the means to voice their opinion and views and, in effect, have their very own website. Needless to say, the idea caught on, and there are now thousands of bloggers fighting for popularity and page rank on an ever growing blogosphere.

What was needed was an effective method of categorising the huge influx of blogs and creating order out of chaos. The result was the development of blog aggregators — websites that could track certain blogs and make them more accessible to readers.

These have become the height of entrepreneurial endeavour online, as well as some of the most popular stops for web browsers and bloggers alike. In South Africa we had the emergence of Amatomu — a South African blog aggregator started by the keen minds of the Mail & Guardian online. Amatomu fell in and out of use before officially becoming null and void toward the end of last year. The creators stated that the site had become too much to handle and are currently trying to sell the website.

Then we saw the birth of Afrigator — a uniquely African aggregator founded by a man named Justin Hartman. Afrigator has shown great promise and has spawned several digital offspring, such as Gatorpeeps and Adgator — a micro-blogging service and a South African advertising service respectively. Afrigator has proved to be extremely popular — winning a bronze award in the Publishing Integrated Campaign category at the second annual Bookmarks awards ceremony in November last year.

But with the untimely death of Amatomu there was a large, online shoe to be filled by a new, uniquely South African blog aggregator. Thus came about the emergence of my­Scoop — the latest blog aggregator to take to the rough waters that is the blogosphere.

myScoop logo

What is myScoop?
myScoop is the latest addition to the SA blog aggregator family and also operates as a social bookmarking tool. Created by 25 year old South African web entrepreneur, Nicholas Duncan, myScoop is showing great promise within the blogging arena.

“I use a lot of social bookmarking sites and noticed that South Africa is lacking in this department,” says Nick Duncan. “It was never meant to be a blog aggregation tool at all, but, when I noticed the downfall of Amatomu, I decided to give it a bash and out popped [myscoop.co.za]”

myScoop is also a great example of how the multitude of social networking websites available today are starting to integrate and merge. myScoop specifically makes use of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID and Blogger accounts — all of which can be used to join or sign into the site.

Nick Duncan is constantly improving myScoop and recently created a badge and ranking system. The site now has the ability to keep track of blog hits, as well as provide information as to what specific pages users are accessing on your blog.

The ranking system keeps track of what blogs are the most popular and which posts receive the most traffic within a day or a month. There is also a dedicated stats section that shows users how many hits their sites had on different dates.

“Right now we offer “live stats” (which is still a bit buggy, but all problems will be ironed out in due time). Once sponsorship is found for hosting, I will be able to develop greater tools for myScoop,” explains Duncan.

myScoop features:

  • Blog profile: Each blog entered has a profile displaying its latest posts.
  • Blog aggregator: myScoop has a blog aggregator that allows you to create a profile and add your blog.
  • Topic stats: There is a very easy-to-understand stats page for each article that shows users the daily clicks for the topic.
  • Community: The overall vibe of myScoop is informative and friendly, which is what all social media platforms strive for.
  • MyPage: Each member on myScoop gets a myPage area where they can follow others blogs and keep up-to-date with what is happening in their areas of interest.
  • Social bookmarking: It has a very easy-to-use social bookmarking platform that categorises and rank submissions according to the number of unique clicks each topic gets.

Unique features and future developments?
The development and functionality of blog aggregators rely heavily on user feedback, which is something that myScoop both encourages and is doing a great job of — by implementing ideas and suggestions offered by its users.

“I would like to make myScoop more community-driven … user input is absolutely vital in any website and I would like to let the actual users steer the ship as to where they want myScoop to go,” says Duncan.

In terms of future developments, Nick Duncan is constantly creating and implementing new features and aims to create a unique user experience: “The ultimate goal is to create something “unique” in a sense; it’s no good having two or three of the same websites floating around … I’d also like to create a platform where users are able to develop their own programs by pulling information off the server. [However] this can only be possible once stable hosting is found,” explains Duncan.

myScoop challenges
A major challenge concerning South African blog aggregators is becoming overwhelmed with online traffic and maintaining connectivity speeds. This is largely what led to Amatomu’s early retirement. Tied in with these issues is local bandwidth — specifically the costs of bandwidth and the lack of it in SA.

“There are a number of factors that hamper the snow-balling effect we all would like to see when it comes to our new startups, such as advertising, hosting and bandwidth costs, says Duncan. These all can limit potential growth, but I feel that, as a young web entrepreneur, staying positive and keeping the momentum, while keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your users, can ultimately lead to your success.”

I personally foresee great things ahead for myScoop and would encourage all South African bloggers join in on the debate and follow its development. myScoop is also a great example of a good South African online service and Nicholas Duncan is one of the most reliable and decisive web entrepreneurs I have come across on the Internet.

About Nick Duncan:
I started playing with PHP about three years ago, but have been into HTML since I was about 12 years of age. I am engaged to a beautiful woman and recently experienced the birth of my boy, Logan. (This of course hampers development time, but is absolutely worth it)! I have two good-as-gold step kids aged five and eight that keep me on my toes. I welcome all feedback regarding the myScoop project, which can be directed at nick@myscoop.co.za. You can also follow @Nicholas_Duncan on Twitter.

Related article: A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging