FREEDOM, TECHNOLOGY AND CHOICE

Freedom – I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. Last weekend, Remembrance Sunday in the UK, was a timely and sobering reminder that millions have sacrificed their lives to protect freedom for us and still do. But what are these freedoms that need to be so preciously protected? It seems to me that freedom is inextricably linked to choice. Our freedom is proved when we make the choices we do.

FREEDOM & TECHNOLOGY?

We live today in a world empowered by technology which as well as offering us many new choices also limits our choices in ways that are harder to discover but no less important to discuss. As a result of our hyper-connected and hyper-transparent world we are simultaneously both liberated and shackled. We are liberated to share more freely, interact more diversely and access new and instant knowledge. These benefits however come with downsides, more of our time and attention is demanded leaving us more tired, more overwrought, more stressed than ever before. The choice to switch off from work is made harder by constant availability and speed; connections between people become looser and less meaningful as time spent together is replaced with more frequent, less direct contact; commercial communication and advertising bombards us at every turn cementing the consumer values of our society rather than citizenship. Beneath these more obvious negative impacts are also more sinister and more opaque influences on our freedoms. We now live in a world where almost everything we do and see is a consequence of our past behavior and decisions. This limits access to information, to services and removes the freedom that is to choose to change. See my review of the Filter Bubble – a great book exploring this.

FREEDOM REDUCED THROUGH FILTERING

For example no longer do I see the same output from a Google search that you do. The Google algorithm uses everything it knows about me to give me the results it thinks I want to see and will click on. A computer is blindly making choices for me, filtering and changing my view of what is available in the world. If I am right-leaning in my political views I will see more positive results for David Cameron, if I am left-leaning then more negative. It makes it harder to determine the truth and make informed decision. Computers filter based on our digital footprints in the name of convenience, which of course we appreciate all the more so, because we are so overwhelmed. Extrapolate and you can imagine a world where the choice to access many products and services or be influenced or challenged with diverse viewpoints is largely reduced as it is filtered away either because they are unprofitable or just simply annoying. The available inputs that go into this customization of the world around us are gathering pace everyday. Almost every step of our lives is now recorded in some way. Our identities are virtual and our actions recorded. CCTV on the street, in shops and on public transport watch us. The internet records our every click and view, our email services record who we communicate with and what we say. Our mobile phones record where we are and what we are doing. And these bit of data are becoming more connected and aggregated with each other everyday. The industries that make money from all this surveillance progress three stock defenses: firstly that all this tracking is “blind” as to who we actually are, secondly it is more convenient and lastly that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. These defenses are facile and disingenuous. Whether the identity is a number or address or even an anonymous click stream it takes very little effort to match it to a real individual and this is an increasingly important aspect of the industries that seek to exploit, aggregate and integrate information to make money. It only takes a few variations in the information, such as browser, screen resolution, location, and operating system to identity a specific computer or person and these are available to every website that exists. Convenience is also not a good enough reason to remove freedom to choose – life is diverse and whilst undoubtedly atomizing is still collective and community based. Our well-being and the social good is promoted by creating diverse interactions, information and experience. How much more sustainable would our banking model have been had it maintained contact with ordinary people and it’s social purpose rather than becoming myopic and mono-dimensional. The concept that this level of surveillance is not a problem unless you have something to hide is also dangerous and divisive. It appeals to our sense of right and wrong, or perhaps more accurately, it appeals to the self-righteous. We would do well to remember that centralized intrusion and collection of intelligence on what an individual’s views were and what this could mean about their intentions was crucial for the Nazis in 1930s Germany, the Stasi in communist Russia and the fear and obsession of McCarthyism in 1950s America.

THE RISKS OF OUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS

On a less macro level our digital footprints also lead to security and identity risks. It’s these macro and micro risks that led the European Convention of Human Rights to enshrine the human right to privacy. It should worry us deeply that the ability to track and record en mass has proved too tempting for the UK Government who are trying to ensure that up to three years worth of internet, email and other electronic footprints are stored on the whole population “just in case”. They claim that this intrusion is justified in the fight to protect freedom. It isn’t. It seems to me that freedom is to be in control, to be empowered with time and knowledge, and so be able to make the right choices for ourselves. The technologies we have today help connect us broadly with each other and provide access to thin convenient slices of knowledge, the growing opportunity is to help us control these technologies and the fears they create, thus allowing us to gain more freedom over how we choose to spend our time and energy.

THE NEW LANDSCAPE OF BRANDS

A quick post to share a presentation that I put together for the UK Marketing team for Carlsberg. An old friend of mine (Ian Hannaford @ihannaford) is now a Marketing Manager at Carlsberg and he kindly extended an invitation to talk through some thoughts on brands and marketing with the team.

It was great to meet the team and I really enjoyed the session. Some really interesting ideas surfaced which provoked lots of discussion. I learnt alot about Carlsberg including the fact that it is run as a trust contributing to Danish projects and the top board is scientists and artists. How differentiated is that?

I was impressed that the team was open to hearing ideas and thoughts from other marketers and categories – I wish all teams were as open. Thanks also go to the Director of Brands Paul Davies for allowing me a slot at his meeting.

Do you want me come to your team meeting and provoke some thinking and discussion? Email me – I might just take you up on the offer!

As ever – if you have any thoughts, disagreements, energy and passion to share about brands and marketing then please comment below or drop me an email.

Update on Battle of the Big Thinking (for those that have been following my frustrations on Twitter) – I finally have a stable draft of the presentation. If you are attending see you there and if you aren’t you will be able to take part because I’m going to extend an invitation for you to join the debate!

Hope you are having a great day!

Justin

Email me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: http://www.blog.basini.com/
Follow me: www.twitter.com/justinbasini

Did you know you can sign up for updates from Justin Basini? Click here

Using Social Media to create communities around your brand




[This is the first in an occasional series of guest blogs that I am sharing from experts in different fields – if you want to guest on my blog send me a mail]

Social media has become almost a necessity when it comes to communicating with your audience, fans and customers. As more and more people turn to social media for entertainment and to follow their favourite companies, brands and celebrities it’s critical that you don’t get left behind. Not participating in social media will be like almost not having a website in the near future. Almost unthinkable!

Many a SEO Company are offering to integrate your business socially, some are good and some have simply no idea. I would suggest looking at your company’s own strategy before choosing any provider should you go down this route.

Social media is all about connecting and communicating with your audience, it’s not enough to create a Twitter account and then think that doing a few tweets will be enough. Your fans want to hear from you regularly, possibly once a day or more. People that are part of your network are generally interested in what you have to say or offer and want to hear more. We’re talking about real fans now, not a million pointless people who only followed you, because you followed them.

By constantly keeping in touch with your audience, you create a “momentum” and a loyal following who will support you and give you valuable feedback. Should you connect with them in the right way they will become the most powerful PR machine you could ever imagine which could make your business explode with sales or enquires or implode should there be a lot of criticism.

The trick to successful social media is effort in creating and maintaining your network and offering things that are of interest. Do not try to “market the hell” out of your network and fans, as all you’ll succeed in doing is losing them.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool which can help you connect with your customers and fans on a personal level, almost never before possible. This tight communication reaps huge rewards in terms of customer loyalty, brand awareness and building. Social media should be embraced to grow your business as not participating can actually do more harm than good.

This article was written by Christopher Angus – An award winning Internet Marketer. You can get in touch with Christopher Angus here or read his blog here.

As always – do you have a view? Do you like guest blogs? Are you creating communities of trust around your brand? Share a comment below!

Justin

Email me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: www.blog.basini.com
Follow me: www.twitter.com/justinbasini

Did you know you can sign up for updates from Justin Basini? Click here

The different role of social networks Facebook v. Twitter

You can now listen to this blog as a slidecast going through the model and data. Click play below. Or you can just read the text below.

There’s been a lot written recently on some of the changes which Facebook have introduced to try and stave off the threat from Twitter. We all know that Facebook tried to buy Twitter in November last year and were rejected – so we know that Facebook is interested in micro-blogging and are pushing their status updates functionality.

This prompted me to think a little more deeply about the differences between Twitter and Facebook in terms of type of network built and communications employed. This leads me to believe that Twitter and Facebook (in their current forms) occupy different spaces and can co-exist quite happily.

The following diagram illustrates some of the differences between the major social networks in my mind based on the intimacy, time, numbers and purpose of relationships in a person’s life.

At the core of of our relationship map are deep, loving relationships with close family. Then comes our relationships with wider family and friends. After this are community relationships and relationships with our colleagues. Then we get into the areas where social networks have really had a major impact: previous or infrequent friends and contacts and even people we will never meet in the real world.

Facebook is perfectly positioned to fill the needs of interest and connectedness with a wider circle of friends we used to know or don’t see frequently. Of course it still has relevance for closer relationships but the new thing it adds is an unrivalled ability to stay in touch with a wider group of people that you have probably known in the real world. It’s optimised for this purpose through features such as approval of friends, having “on platform” media rich options (photos, videos etc), allowing detailed status updates.

Twitter is different to Facebook because it extends the social networking phenomenon into a new territory of those that you probably don’t know or haven’t known in the real world and is optimised for fast communications. It fulfils the need of curiosity on a broader scale – following famous people, or thought leaders, or organisations is interesting and engaging. In Twitter you can follow anyone and anyone can follow you – no need for approvals. Because of this there is no real responsibility to your network of followers – as I have put it before Twitter is take it or leave it communication. Of course many of us (including me, @justinbasini!) try to share interesting updates but there is no expectation which there is more of in Facebook.

LinkedIn is a good example of a vertically focused social network focused on business contacts. It bridges between work relationships past and present, together with people you want to build relationships with in the real world for business or career success.

I think the usage numbers bear out the fact that Facebook and Twitter are used to serve different needs:

Time spent per user on Facebook is much longer than Twitter but Twitter has many more visits per month. This fits with a usage pattern that is less involved and more frequent. I also think the average number of connections is interesting. On average Facebook users have 130 friends. Social theory holds that groups of 100 to 150 are the most relationships that one individual can meaningfully hold. I suspect that this will grow as we get more comfortable with technology based contact but I don’t think this average will ever be 1000s.

Now clearly at the moment the number of Twitter followers on average is low at around 20. But what I think is interesting is that if you take the top 10% of Twitter users (who we could call the early adopters and might be indicative of future usage) their number of followers on average is 483 and it is increasing fast. I think the average number of followers on Twitter could well be 1000s in the future. This definitely means it will be a different sort of network to that which one has on Facebook and potentially very exciting since you could use it to get an insight into many more different people around the world.

As always PLEASE feel free to comment with your views and share with others who you think might find this blog interesting. Oh and please follow me on Twitter (@justinbasini).

Yours

Justin

justin@basini.com
http://www.basini.com/
justinbasini.blogspot.com
www.twitter.com/justinbasini

Did you know you can sign up for updates from Justin Basini? Click here

This blog has just been listed on Alltop

Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

I am proud to say that this blog has just been selected for listing on Alltop. If you don’t know about Alltop it is a very cool blog/content aggregation tool which you can use to set up your “own magazine”. I use it alot to go through lots of blogs quickly on the subjects that interest me such as branding, marketing, banking, starting up a business and leadership. You can also do fun stuff like share your selections with friends – you can see my Alltop page here.

You can find my blog under Marketing (click or search for marketing on Alltop front page) and I am the last blog (right at the bottom) – well you have to start somewhere!

Hope you continue to enjoy my blogs and using Alltop.

Thanks to the team at Alltop for reviewing my blog and selecting it for listing.

Next challenge is to get Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) to retweet one of my blogs!

Yours

Justin

justin@basini.com
http://www.basini.com/
justinbasini.blogspot.com
www.twitter.com/justinbasini

Did you know you can sign up for updates from Justin Basini? Click here.