Wal-Mart jumps back on the social media wagon with a Groupon-style incentive

by ItsOpen

A typical Wal-Mart discount department store i...

Image via Wikipedia

Wal-Mart hasn’t had the best track record with social media. Their biggest problem is a lack of understanding of what social media is, believing it’s there to talk at customers and not with them. In the past, their experimentations with ‘The Hub‘ (a MySpace-based site, but lacking in social media) and the fraudulent Wal-marting Across America (where a couple, travelling across America and parking in Wal-Mart car parks, turned out to be part of a Wal-Mart campaign) have been a PR nightmare for the company. So this latest campaign has a lot riding on it.

The new campaign revolves around their new Facebook page deals app, . The concept behind the app is that a deal will be ‘unlocked’ every time the app received a designated number of ‘likes’.

Wal-Mart received 5,000 ‘likes’ in less than 24 hours, which led to a discount of 18% off a $500 plasma TV. This promotion is similar to promotions by sites like Groupon, who offer a cheap deal on meals, entertainment and products once the set level of people willing to buy it is reached.

The biggest difference is, Groupon offers deals from a variety of companies, while Wal-Mart is limited to its own products, making it more of a price promotion then a unique deal. They’re also slow to pick up on when a threshold is passed, meaning fans have to keep checking the page until the discount is finally released.

It’s an interesting concept, but one that still seems to lack much sociability. Wal-Mart still seem to be talking at their customers, with only a ‘like’ required as interaction.

Time will tell if this latest stab at social media will work.

What role does social media have in the court?

by ItsOpen

Gavel & Stryker
Image by KeithBurtis via Flickr

Social media hasn’t had the best reputation in the courts this year. Back in February, a Baltimore Judge took the decision to ban Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all other forms of social media from the court. Although how they can enforce it outside of the court is another matter. This followed a string of cases where members of the jury have used social media platforms to discuss the private court cases.

One case in particular involved 20-year-old Hadley Jons, who was on jury duty and made the mistake of writing on her Facebook page “Gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re guilty.” Unfortunately, the court case was still in session, and a decision hadn’t been made yet. On discovery, Jons was removed from the jury and faces the possibility of seeing the judge herself for contempt of court.

Interestingly though, Mashable touched upon some of the more positive uses of social media within the law. Some judges are now using social media to test juries, on top of the usual background checks, interviews and other information collected.

Social media can also now be used as evidence in a case. Robert Algeri, a partner at the marketing company Great Jakes, commented “It just makes sense. If you can use e-mail as evidence, why not use a Facebook post?”

What do you think about lawyers using social media for evidence? Invasion of privacy or fair play?

MySpace relaunches as a “social entertainment destination”

by ItsOpen

The New MySpaceWhen was the last time you logged into MySpace? If, like the majority of users, you’ve barely touched your MySpace profile since the younger, hotter Facebook came along, you’re in for a bit of a surprise.

Gone are the seizure-inducing graphics, replaced with a sleeker, more grown up layout. Even the logo has had a revamp. And it’s not just the looks that have changed. MySpace has a new goal, to become “the leading entertainment destination that is socially powered by the passions of fans and curators.”

The new MySpace is more about music and entertainment, then its old slogan of being “a place for friends.” Essentially, it has pulled away from the social network approach operated for the last seven years, and refocused on their main strength, entertainment pages.

MySpace users can now win badges and recognition for creating content, following a similar process to location-based networks like Foursquare. There’s also a place for trending topics, like Twitter, so their social media focus hasn’t entirely shifted. It’ll be interesting to see how this new approach pans out, considering how much the social media landscape has changed since their original entry.

The launch started on October 26th, but will be rolled out throughout November. There’s also iPhone and Android apps planned for next year, and a mobile browser sometime next month.

It’s a big change, but an essential one considering the previous status of MySpace.

What do you think? A bold new direction, or one last attempt?

The Guardian’s social media guidelines

by Justin Hunt

The Guardian has issued guidelines to its staff to maintain editorial standards on the web and to help create effective communities (see below).

Clearly established brands like the Guardian have an advantage on the web and it is important that they continue to be reliable and consistent so people continue to trust them amongst the myriad of voices out there.

Also interesting to see how they are encouraging the emergence of communities.

Nice to see it set out in such a simple way. Unlike many organisations, media companies are experienced at generating content and are therefore at an advantage when it comes to participating in social media.

Although not all media organisations are as forward-thinking as The Guardian and some see social media as more of a threat to their existence.

Here are The Guardian’s social media guidelines:

1. Participate in conversations about our content, and take responsibility for the conversations you start.

2. Focus on the constructive by recognising and rewarding intelligent contributions.

3. Don’t reward disruptive behaviour with attention, but report it when you find it.

4. Link to sources for facts or statements you reference, and encourage others to do likewise.

5. Declare personal interest when applicable. Be transparent about your affiliations, perspectives or previous coverage of a particular topic or individual.

6. Be careful about blurring fact and opinion and consider carefully how your words could be (mis)interpreted or (mis)represented.

7. Encourage readers to contribute perspective, additional knowledge and expertise. Acknowledge their additions.

8. Exemplify our community standards in your contributions above and below the line.

Breaching China’s firewall

by Justin Hunt

The world is becoming increasingly more open and transparent and this is presenting a massive challenge to repressive regimes.

Access to Twitter in China has been blocked after the Liberation Army Daily said it posed ‘hidden dangers’ to national security.

Twitter is only now available to those people who can penetrate the Chinese government’s firewall. However the authorities have given their blessing to a new China-based microblogging service which employs armies of censors – and it is growing rapidly, according to a piece in the current edition of The Economist.

Whether or not this opens up the Chinese authoritarian regime or contributes to a freeing up of Chinese society, we will have to see. I expect in the long term, it will be seen as one of those factors which caused a lessening of controls. But it is so difficult to use these tools and not be traced by the authorities in China. It makes you realise the value of our freedom in the West and what we take so much for granted some times. Getting in a huff over a tweet from Stephen Fry pales into insignificance when you consider that for truly brave and courageous social reformers in China, using these tools could be a matter of life and death.

What Google has found to be true

by Justin Hunt

If you’ve got five minutes, take a quick look at this which Google updates about its approach and philosophy. It’s an interesting insight into how the company thinks and operates and also gives you a good understanding of how Google, from its position, is aiming to shape our culture.

You cannot buy loyalty – warning to social media marketers

by Justin Hunt

Many agencies are looking for ways to increase the number of fans on Facebook by offering freebies and discounts. The numbers suddenly go up and everyone is happy. But how long will this last? And how genuine are these so-called fans? And will they really support the brand for the long term? Isn’t it a bit like spamming or giving away lots of free samples and claiming the recipients are your new audience for ever?!

Manipulating search engines, creating fake fans to bolster figures is not a good long term policy. Just as conventional search engines learned how to screen out marketers who tried to manipulate their algorithms; new social search engines are likely to find out ways of screening out bogus fans.

As Augie Ray from Forrester shrewly points out, “Brands hoping to help their social search engine relevance by amassing fans should take heed — the easy way may work for a while, but the authentic and hard way always wins in the end.”

Social Media Leadership Forum grows

by Justin Hunt

Into its second year now, and the Social Media Leadership Forum is continuing to grow dramatically.

Recently, the Camelot Group, Sage, nPower and Xstrata all joined the forum,  a growing private collaborative group of leading organisations who meet together to share insights into social media strategies and participate in discussions with experts.

Set up by ItsOpen, The Social Media Leadership Forum provides a fresh alternative to the usual dry ad hoc conferences and seminars which are typically dominated by agencies looking to impress potential prospects.

Content at typical trade show events is often shaped behind-the-scenes to satisfy sponsors and not to appeal to the genuine requirements of the audience. Or they are run by PR agencies, who, up until a short while ago, never mentioned social media, and are now desperate to assert their credentials in this space, as they feel they should, whilst still occupying deeply ingrained conventional media mindsets.

Technology is evolving fast and within this context, we feel that leading organisations need a different kind of format to help them learn about the vexing challenges that the rise of the social web presents. We believe it is important to provide a different kind of innovative platform from which leading organisations can build and develop their knowledge to compete successfully.

We are grateful for the excellent support we have received from all the forward-thinking members of the Social Media Leadership Forum and are looking forward to the next stage in the programme which we are developing in collaboration with our members.

If you are forward-thinking and work for a leading organisation and want to gain valuable insights from your peers into social media and directly from experts like Google and Facebook, who have participated in recent sessions, then please get in touch with Simon Welsh () and he can provide you with membership details. It would be good to have you involved and sharing with other leading organisations.

At our last session, The Financial Times, Google and The BBC debated the impact of social media on news with members of the Social Media Leadership Forum. This is an excellent opportunity for you to contribute to, influence and shape the future direction of communications.

Seizing breakthrough opportunities comes from knowing what works today and what will work tomorrow.

Washington Post bans journalists from using Twitter

by ItsOpen

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Logo
Image via Wikipedia

What do you do if an employee responds to a controversial external commenter on Twitter with what you consider to be the wrong answer? If you’re The Washington Post, you send out a memo to your employees asking them to stop tweeting back to readers.

The memo followed a negative reaction to a Washington Post article “Christian compassion requires the truth about harms of homosexuality”. The article argued that homosexuality is a mental health issue. GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, complained about the piece on their and the GLAAD website.

Unfortunately, a member of The Washington Post took to Twitter to defend the feature, and suggest that every story has “both sides”. This reaction only fuelled the fire, with GLAAD taking to Twitter to argue the case further “@WashingtonPost There are not “both sides” to this issue. Teen suicide isn’t a debate-it’s a tragedy. http://bit.ly/crX6q5 #LGBT”

The Washington Post’s next move was to send a memo out to all their employees, requesting that they refrain from using social media accounts, whether personal or business, to speak on behalf of the Post.

The following part of the memo was particularly interesting:

“When we write a story, our readers are free to respond and we provide them a venue to do so. We sometimes engage them in a private verbal conversation, but once we enter a debate personally through social media, this would be equivalent to allowing a reader to write a letter to the editor–and then publishing a rebuttal by the reporter. It’s something we don’t do.”

While it’s important to make sure all ‘official’ social media activity is “on-message”, banning employees from commenting at all seems extreme. As The Guardian website pointed out “To ban journalists from entering into discussion with critics is a denial of freedom for both journalists and citizens.” By refusing to give personal opinions, they’re missing the point of social media; they’re basically broadcasting and not listening. Further, it’s unclear whether this blanket ban also applies to the journalist who writes the post. Are they discouraged from responding as well?

Was The Washington Post heavy handed? Do you have a social media company policy?

Could browsers be about to get even more social?

by ItsOpen

Image via Wikipedia

A few years ago, Microsoft dominated the browser market with Internet Explorer. Nowadays, web users can also take their pick from , Mozilla’s Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Firefox in particular offers some excellent add ons, including several to enhance your social media activity and monitoring.

But until now, none of the browsers seem to have released a version with all your social media and emails built-in. has recently debated whether the big browser brands could be about to release a browser that allows you to see all your social media notifications, instant messages, status updates and emails without having to log into your accounts. It’s a hugely appealing concept, particularly for those of us who spend time flicking between various social media and bookmarking sites.

Google in particular could benefit from this kind of advancement. Their recent social media forays haven’t had the best reception, but by combining their Google services in a social browser, they could prove very tempting to the hoards of loyal Firefox and IE users.

This could all become a possibility with the release of Chrome OS, where you’ll be signed into your Google account, including Google Reader, Mail and Calender, all the time.

Facebook could also muscle in on this space, with rumours constantly floating around about the potential for a It would seem that it’s a case of when we’ll see a social browser, rather than if.

What would you like to see in a social browser?