Farewell old friends (reunited)

So Friends Reunited is closing down. Really did anyone really know it was still going? It had long since been superseded in the public consciousness by Facebook — hell probably even by Peach.

I remember happier times for the Friends though. At the turn of the naughties before social media was anything more than a twinkle in the eye of a few Stanford undergraduates Friends Reunited exploded in the UK.

This was before Facebook, before Twitter, even before MySpace — hell it was even before Friendster. Friends Reunited was the site that introduced non-geeks to the idea of sharing their life online and openly. Sure there were message boards, LiveJournal etc but they were niche and this was mass market. The media were fascinated and there was a ready supply of stories (albeit not always positive) to keep the site in the public eye.

By 2004 the site was being blamed for the raise in divorce rates in the UK (a charge made against Facebook a decade later) and had reached its peak. Over the next couple of years enthusiasm for the site would dampen despite rebrands and TV campaigns and then in 2006 Facebook would open its doors to everyone not just college/uni students and that was that.

The slow demise of the site since then shows a certain masochism from its owners (somehow they managed to sell it to ITV in 2005 for 120 million quid — 4 years later they flogged it for 25 million) and it probably deserved to go out in a blaze of glory much in the way it emerged.

Still for better or worse it was a major stepping stone towards this social media driven world we now live in and for about a week in 2001 it was a lot of fun.

So farewell old Friends — much like the people you reunited me with back then it was nice to know you were there and OK but I never wanted to visit.

Premature exasperation

The last 48 hours my Twitter stream has been all a flutter about two things — the expansion of Twitter character limit to 10,000 which is significant inflation from the existing 140 and the next iPhone replacing the standard headphone something with some thing more Apple shaped and non-standard.

Honestly I’m not much of a fan of either idea but here is the thing — at this moment in time neither thing has actually been announced by anyone official at either company. In fact both rumours feel like they have been carefully leaked by PR companies to judge user/consumer reaction — it all feels a bit too staged.

The fact there is already a petition about the iPhone stuff before it has even been announced seems premature to say the least — isn’t there enough actually happening like right now to get wound up about rather than something that might happen sometime down the line?

Anyway I figure I’ll bide my time and wait for a time we start getting wound up about pre-rumours before I jump in.

Pimping Postling

Just a short post to say after considerable research and alot of false starts I have finally settled on a replacement for CoTweet. I originally wrote about this back in February and since then have experimented with a few tools but none quite fitted our needs. Either they were too expensive, too complex or both!

Since we upped our social media output recently though I decided a replacement tool needed to be a priority and I came across a link to Postling while searching blogposts covering the same post-CoTweet dilemma.

Postling is not free but it is genuinely decent value for money and it has a decent feature set and covers all the social media channels you would expect. In fact if anything I think it covers too many! It has some basic but useful analytics and crucially, for us at least, the ability for multiple team members to manage a single account.

It even automatically synched with our custom mrc.io Bitly links which was a nice bonus and has a decent scheduled posts function which is extremely useful.

Some of the terminology is a little odd and it takes a few minutes to get used to the interface but it is much more intuitive than CoTweet was.

It does seem to be very much confined to the desktop for now but for our work Twitter/Facebook client that is fine.

All in all I’ve been very impressed and would recommend it as a product to check out (especially for public sector folk with limited bugdets!)

Pre-owned principles for social media

The last few weeks it seems circumstances been converging in a way that has been forcing me to refresh my thinking around social media in a work context.

Stephen and Tim both wrote posts that got the gears turning, I was also invited to speak about social media to a new audience and alongside the launch of our organisation blog (which I remain proud of) I have also been asked to help set up & contribute to another blog for a high profile project.

In order to frame this little mental reboot I took another look at the new(ish) Social Media Guidelines for Civil Servants [pdf] and in particular their ‘principles’.

As I’ve written before I think they are ambitious and sensible. They weren’t *quite* right for us though so I have very slightly tweaked them [plus dropped the last two that don’t quite work in the context I’m thinking about..]

So these are the four ‘principles’ around which I am building our new tactical approach to social media.

Communicate with your audience in the places they already are

Use social media to consult, engage and inform

Use social media to be more transparent and accountable

Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings

On a practical note I have extended our social media footprint a bit as well.

Despite a long held aversion to the platform for anything other than arranging nights out and sharing embarrassing pictures in the aftermath I have setup a first stab at an official Facebook page. The fact is the new timeline layout is actually pretty decent for that sort of thing (if useless for individuals) and as we seek to build engagement around the content we are primarily publishing on the blog it seemed self-defeating to ignore the biggest and most engaged network. I still have doubts but we will see. I’m also working on trying to get the official Facebook plugin working for our WordPress blog which does some very clever things around comments etc which might have potential [if it ever works!].

I also took the required steps to claim my ‘company’ LinkedIn page – this was surprisingly easy once I dug around a bit for some guidance. At the moment there are a couple of thousand members ‘following’ the organsation on LinkedIn. To be honest at the moment I’m not quite sure what to do with that. I have a slightly ill thought out idea of a kind of ‘alumni’ networking group but for the time being it is essentially just another distribution channel.

[What I have noticed is the the social network wars are very much upon us – auto sharing of content between any of these platforms is rarely possible these days!]

While like Tim I do think Twitter takes up an unhealthy amount of focus when we are planning social media activity it remains a key channel. It is one we really must get a better handle on though. As I recently commented on Marilyns blog I have never been too convinced of its worth as an engagement channel for organisations rather than individuals. I then read something like this post about ‘credible voices’ from Stephen Hale and I’m more convinced than ever that we need to look at this whole area again. We have the people with those ‘credible voices’ but we just need to support and empower them.

With our ongoing travails trying to relaunch the corporate website it seems more and more important that we make the most of these other channels available to us [with an upcoming post on our adoption of GovDelivery another aspect of that] so thanks all for the kickstart. Even if it did ruin a weekend 🙂