eModeration Social Media Round-Up #39

Welcome to
eModeration’s round-up of all that is intriguing, alarming or odd in
the world of social media, compiled by Kate Williams. For more social
media snippets, follow @emodkate – or for general twittery,
@KateVWilliams.

This week: Prescott’s keyword combat; anonymous comments; and the truth
about Unvarnished.

THE HEADLINES …

And it’s all kicked off! The three party leaders finally entered
the ring
last night, with the first truly social event of the
Social Media Election®. After a tense build-up of several months (and
what is certain to have been many long hours of media-training, not to
mention pots of touche-eclat), the three duked it out on ITV’s live
leaders’ debate – closely scrutinized by both the global media and a UK
TV audience of nearly 10 million.

The leaders’ performance anxieties can only have been enhanced by the
fact that a considerable number of those viewers were simultaneously
online, bashing a live stream of instant commentary on the putative PMs’
presentation skills into their steaming keyboards (*cough* disclosure
here: moderated by our very own selves).

Meanwhile ITV – with politicos Tweetminster – were generating a
real-time picture of public sentiment, via ‘The Worm of Like’, which
snaked alluringly across our screens. All in all, 200,000 of us joined
the live discussion on ITV.com, tweeting at a rate of 29.06 tweets per
second – with Nimble Nick Clegg emerging as the people’s victor,
according to at least three separate polls. Gripping stuff.

Labour’s John Prescott launched
a ploy
to deplete the Tories’ famously over-flowing election
coffers earlier in the week, and it turned out to involve some close
paid-search combat. The Conservative party have for some time been
bidding on Labour-related keywords to enable their ads to appear at the
top of search results – leading the former Deputy Prime Minister to
issue this strategic tweet: 1.Google ‘Labour Party’ 2.Click on advert
saying ‘Labour have failed’ 3.You’ve just cost Ashcroft 50p. 4.Repeat.

While we naturally deplore any
attempt to Buck The System, this kind of wheeze might be just the
ticket when appealing to jack-happy, 4Chan-wielding youngsters in the
build-up to the election. Increasingly, it seems that social media is
indeed weaving
its magic spell
, pulling in first-time voters who traditionally see
little point in voting: nearly half those polled say that online
political content has piqued their interest.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission is splashing
cash
on Facebook – on Saturday, every visitor will be asked if
they’ve registered to vote. And since Monday, YouTube and Facebook users
have been directing text or video questions to the three
party leaders
; on 28th April, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick
Clegg will upload their considered responses to the five most popular
questions – yet more evidence that 2010 is indeed the year that politics
goes social.

Here, at last, is the grim
news
that AOL is likely to let Bebo go. Much like the day I failed
my Grade Three piano, it’s terribly sad for all concerned – but not
entirely unexpected. As their letter to employees succinctly noted,
“social networking is a space with heavy competition, and where scale
defines success” – and on that basis alone AOL’s $850m social network
investment has looked shaky, pretty much from the get-go.

Nevertheless, the ripples of Bebo’s failure will spread far beyond the
immediate pall of its disappointed employees – the closure would leave a
gaping hole for brands who seek to reach a young demographic with
content-based advertising, and could potentially leave some with fan
communities that they can’t
migrate
to alternative platforms.

Following pressure from child-safety campaigners, Facebook announced a
raft of new safety-measures
, including a 24-hour UK police hotline,
a £5m awareness campaign, free ad space for safety groups, and a
re-designed system for flagging abuse. But the company stopped short of
implementing a button linking directly to CEOPs, the Child Exploitation
and Online Protection Centre, on each profile page – prompting a group
of 44 Police chiefs to sign
a letter
urging Facebook to reconsider. The company insisted,
however, that such measures are not
the most effective way
to prevent grooming and other online dangers
which face young people on the social network.

“Comments: their form and function” has been a topic much in the news
this week. An Ohio judge was revealed to be suing the
superbly-moniker’d Cleveland Plain
Dealer
, whom she alleges unfairly
unmasked her
as the sender of anonymous critical comments about a
local awyer. It then emerged that the Washington
Post
, the New York Times,
and several other papers are currently
questioning
whether commenters should be allowed to remain
anonymous at all, amid concerns that many news comments boards have
begun to resemble bar-room brawls. Finally, the Gawker
published stats
which revealed that, once their sites began to
privilege the comments of ‘respected’ users over those of anonymous
posters, the quality – and quantity – of comments rose sharply. Some
interesting decisions ahead for both publishers, and brands.

By now we should all have the rubric ‘what happens in social media,
stays in social media’ tattooed on our inner wrists, and be tweeting
with due regard to posterity and its habit of biting us on the backside.
But just in case you are one who is not, here comes the chilling news
that Google has now made every
Tweet searchable
– until now, a famously difficult trick to pull –
closely followed by the announcement that the US Library of Congress
will now be preserving
every tweet
for All Eternity. People, discretion truly is the
better part of Twitter.

The Digital Economy Bill – minus the controversial broadband tax – was
ushered into law late last week, and illegal downloaders now face a
possible lifetime ban
. Not without a fight from ISP Talk Talk,
however, who issued the following bellicose
statement
: “if we are instructed to disconnect an account due to
alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the
rightsholders we’ll see them in court.”

THE LOWDOWN …

Be afraid, be very afraid – then squeeze out just a teeny bit more fear.
Reputation-scoring site Unvarnished
is coming, and things will never be the same. Billed as a site for
“community-contributed, business-focused assessments of professional
performance,” Unvarnished’s offer boils down to this: if you’re a
work-shy layabout who’s been rumbled by a co-worker; a boss whose
underling has revealed your incompetence; or a feckless lover whose
pride was knocked when your darling showed you the well-deserved door –
here is your revenge. Chill winds, indeed.

Yikes. Farmville has hit the headlines again, this time because a
12-year-old boy has cashed out his horrified mother’s
credit card
in a two-week, £905 spree on virtual currency and
accessories for his farm. The bank is unsurprisingly unwilling to refund
the money, and so are Farmville developers Zynga, who, it’s safe to
say, didn’t score a valuation of $5
billion
by giving in to namby-pamby complaints from the parents of
under-age users.

The world just became a fraction
more perplexing
for those of us whose brains silently form the word
‘why?’ when we hear the fun-quotient of Foursquare being talked up.
Apparently, cheating on Foursquare
– that is, claiming badges without actually leaving your squalid
bedsitter – is so rife that the company has been forced to institute a
crack-down. I know – no words.

Following the IAB’s
announcement
that it will be introducing a new qualification to
weed out the most bogus of self-proclaimed ‘social media experts’, here
is more good news: a LinkedIn survey reveals that the word ‘guru’ –
that most self-aggrandising of social-media titles – is on the decline.
Sadly, the same report finds that the quite-as-excruciating ‘ninja’ is
sharply
on the rise
.

I love Tom Scott, and firmly believe you will love him too. The cheeky
sprite has just launched a new website called, with delightful
directness, Stupid Fight.
The site pits
any two Twitter celebs
against one another, applies a sophisticated
set of linguistic algorithms to the last 100 people to @reply each one,
and – without fear or favour – determines whose fans are the most
stupid. A simple idea, but no less pleasing for it.

NEWSBYTES …

A headteacher who was due to take up her post at a British school has
been forced
to withdraw
, after students organized a Facebook campaign to oppose
her appointment. The news prompted teachers’ unions to allege a “crisis
of adult authority”.

Elsewhere, an American teenager has filed harassment charges against his
own mother, whom he claims hacked his Facebook account before posting
personal info and defamatory comments. According to the New
York Daily News
, the case could “challenge the rights of parents to
monitor their children online.”

Google is
backing Yahoo
in its privacy tussle with the US Department of
Justice, who want broad-request access to the e-mail messages of its
users. A coalition backed by the search giant declares that “society
expects and relies on the privacy of e-mail messages just as it relies
on the privacy of the telephone system.”

Meanwhile another coalition – this time of European telecoms providers -
are challenging Google over the bandwidth consumed by YouTube,
according to the Financial
Times
. The companies claim that the videosite should cough up a
share of its ad profits, part of their broader attempt to shift the
economic model of the internet to one where websites pay for the content
that their users consume.

IKEA this week became the latest to join the rapidly-expanding roster of
companies which have been brand-jacked
on Facebook
. A fake IKEA fan-page tempted users with the prospect
of a $1000 voucher if they invited their entire roster of friends to
participate in a scam “for-one-day-only” lead-gen offer.

If you have ever lain awake, anxiously wondering just what a
Facebook fan is worth
, then Vitrue has the answer you seek:
precisely $3.60. To put that figure into context, a little less than a
Grande Latte, but marginally more than a Royale with Cheese.

Beleaguered local review site Yelp this week adjusted
its terms
, following a class-action suit alleging that companies
which advertised on the site had their unfavourable reviews removed.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman announced that the site would no longer allow
advertisers to position their most favourable review at the top of
their listing, in an attempt to face the criticisms head-on.

If they won the election, both Labour and the Conservatives would launch
sites where parents could report products and marketing which sexualise
children – despite
complaints
from the ad industry that the idea was ‘ill-thought out’
and would ‘pull the rug out from under the ASA’, reports Marketing.

APPLE JUICE …

Brit Apple-fans, nurturing fond hopes of cradling an iPad in their
loving arms in a month’s time, watched in open-mouthed horror this week
as Apple’s sales stats climbed higher, and higher – and with them the
chances of Apple flunking its UK release date.

And alas, their
fears were realized
– having reached an astonishing weekly peak of
500,000 units sold, the company announced it had taken the “difficult
decision to postpone the international launch of the iPad by one month”.
Oh dear, oh no – don’t cry. I can’t bear it when you cry.

This may cheer you: famously-controlling Apple CEO Steve Jobs has
confirmed that the company will hunt down anyone with the word ‘Pad’ in
their branding – and kill them. Well, I think he said kill. Aaany-ways,
the AppleStore is refusing
to renew
any apps which contain the cute little suffix, and Steve
Jobs clearly implied that Apple owns the word ‘pad’ when he wrote to a
disgruntled app-developer, “it’s just common sense not to use another
company’s trademarks”. Bad news, Kotex. Run, run while there’s still
time.

Apple’s delayed UK launch gives us plenty of time to save for an outfit
to complement that swanky new iPad. And looksie, the world’s first iPad-compatible
vest
is something of a bargain – even though ‘vest’ disappointingly
turns out to mean ‘gilet’, and not the sturdy woollen undergarment
rightly beloved of we doughty Brits.

Alternatively, if your desire to semaphore your social significance has
been stymied by the iPad’s UK postponement – how’s about this
little beauty
? It’s a shirt which broadcasts, in real-time and to a
doubtless admiring audience, the number of unread emails currently in
your inbox. That’ll get your message across, loud and clear.

But if you’re still not quite
with the iPad programme – perhaps you harbour a stony cynicism in your
heart, which even YouTube videos of kittens
operating iPads
can’t dispel – you might enjoy this little skit
which asks pertinently: Just what IS the iPad
revolutionizing
?

The history of technology tends to resemble a very small island filled
with very tall skyscrapers – one can’t often stand far enough back to
see what’s what. But Guardian editor @arusbridger offers an intriguing
insight
into how far back the roots of the iPad really stretch,
with his account of a 1994 encounter with new-media visionary Roger
Fidler and his tablet-prototype. Charmingly, Rusbridger’s
contemporaneous notes reads: “At present it consists only of an A4 block
of wood, with a ‘front page’ stuck on it: the technology for creating
Fidler’s ‘Flat Pad’ is, he estimates, still a couple of years off.”

ON TWITTER …

The Spring is sprung, the grass is riz – and Twitter has a whole nestful
of cute new business strategies to show off to an admiring world.

At last week’s Chirp conference, Biz Stone twirled a raft of impressive
stats
: 106,000,000 registered users – about 60% of whom are based
outside the US – with a stonking 300,000 new users signing up every day.

Most impressively, Stone revealed that a mere quarter of Twitter’s
traffic comes from the site itself, with the remaining 75% (a
mind-boggling 3
billion calls per day
) coming via third-party Twitter clients. The
stats go a long way to explaining the consistently underweight user
figures which have long puzzled observers.

They also contextualise two further Chirp announcements – Twitter’s
acquisition of the wildly popular Mac and iPhone app Tweetie
(which will now be renamed “Twitter for iPhone”), and the launch of an own-brand
URL shortener
in direct competition with Bit.ly (till recently
Twitter’s default link-chopper) and similar apps.

Unsurprisingly, both snippets of news caused
considerable alarm
amongst Twitter’s community of third-party
developers, who have been at the heart of Twitter’s rapidly-expanding
ecosystem, providing vital functionality while the Twitter team
concentrated on its core scaleability.

And while the company gamely tried to smoothe those developers’ ruffled
feathers
– promising to be ‘sincere and honest in our communication
with you’ – it’s clear that the company feels it’s high time they
brought much of that profitable functionality inside the Twitter nest – a
strategy which drew admiring
commentary
from many watchers.

And that’s not the only game-changing Twitter plan to hatch this week –
the company announced that it will soon be incorporating paid-for ‘promoted tweets’ –
which COO Dick Costolo insisted were positively,
definitely
not the same thing as ads – into
its business structure.

The news met with a mixed response from Twitter users, who are
notoriously protective of Twitter’s anti-corporate feel. Predictably, UK
users were mostly grumpy
, with 68% feeling aggrieved at the
prospect, according to a poll by Groupola. Stateside, a broader spread
of opinion
was revealed by Crimson Hexagon, who found that while
42% feel that ads – sorry, ‘promoted tweets’ – will be no better than
spam, more than a quarter felt that the new strategy amounted to a
sensible business plan, with 31% as yet undecided.

For those brands who’re still a little confuddled as to quite how
Promoted Tweets will impact advertisers, Ad
Age counsels
firmly: “you want to learn this product as soon as
possible.” Meanwhile Mashable
cleverly persuaded Virgin America – one of the companies to beta-test
the strategy – to share the skinny.

SOCIAL STATS …

38% of social networkers are most
likely to believe
posts from their fellow consumers, according to
InSites Consulting. Second most credible were posts by brands
themselves, at 32% – and trailing by some lengths were those of
journalists (7%) and marketers (a measly 3%).

45% of UK consumers say they’ve never seen a single relevant
behavioural ad
– and if they could, 52% say they’d like to opt
out.

A new study from Burson-Marsteller reveals that 79% of Fortune’s
Global 100
brands are already using social media. Twitter is the
most popular platform – 65% have a presence there.

90% of UK consumers searched for their latest purchase on
the net
, according to a report from Likemind and Vision Critical –
and nearly half said they got better service online than instore.

That’s
all folks!