Want a Reaction? Complain on Twitter

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A few years ago I tweeted about walking out of a shop disgust after watching two of the world’s worst sales assistants laughing at a customer from afar (You can read the original blog post here). Very quickly I received reply from the shop’s Twitter account, which resulted in them sending me an email apologising and saying what they would be doing to put it right.

Which leads me to question, are big companies really paying attention to their social media? Do they have staff scouring Twitter for complaints or anything that could defame their brand? Or do they just leave automated robots to send out generic tweets?

Stefan Stieglitz and Nina Krüger, professors in social media and psychology, believe that companies are paying attention to their social media. They note that enterprises have noticed that just having a standalone website is not enough. Companies need to interact with their customers more directly to successfully follow trends and identify new markets.

Stieglitz and Krüger discuss this in their chapter in Twitter and Society: an introduction, stating, “Communication data in public social media can be understood as a rich source of information that can be utilised by enterprises. Additionally, enterprises are also able to interact directly and publicly with their target groups.” (Stieglitz and Krüger, 2014, p.281)

But social media can be tricky to navigate. As social media platforms expand, and new ones are created, it becomes increasingly difficult for companies to protect their reputation online. “Enterprises face the challenge, for example, of having to identify relevant pieces of communication, of having to react appropriately to messages from customers, or of being suddenly affected by negative feedback, or even by social media “shitstorms” (social crises).” (Stieglitz and Krüger, 2014, p.281)

Even in 2013, the company I tweeted reacted to my complaint almost immediately. It was obvious that they had some sort of complaints procedure put in place. According to Stieglitz and Krüger, “larger enterprises have established well-directed issue management processes in order to monitor or even influence public opinion about their products, services, and reputation.” (Stieglitz and Krüger, 2014, p.284)

If I had emailed the company instead of tweeting about them, would they have reacted so quickly? A carefully written tweet sent out to the whole world is much more dangerous than a direct email. This is likely why unhappy customers are taking to social media to complain.

“Determining the appropriate reaction to issues in social media is difficult, since, for the most part, best practices have not yet been established. Additionally, it has to be considered that crisis situations usually have a unique character which makes it difficult to elaborate a structured management process.” (Stieglitz and Krüger, 2014, p.286)

This is very important for me to consider as I’m in the process of setting myself up as a social media consultant. It’s hard to know what advice to give to smaller companies and freelancers who could easier be ruined by just one bad comment.

A quick reaction seems to the best option, but there needs to be a balance between apologising to customers and accepting fault when there was none. I know of many sole traders in the ‘handmade’ market who have given refunds to avoid bad press they just can’t afford. These are the people who need help, and who should be look at larger companies who are taking the lead on social media.

Stieglitz, S & Krüger, N. 2014. Public Enterprise-Related Communication and Its Impact on Social Media Issue Management. In: Bruns, A. et al. eds. Twitter and Society. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Technology vs. Society: Is @ for Activism?

“The history of technology is the history of human development.” (Hands,2010. p.23)

In @ is for activism, Joss Hands talks about technology “having an essence” vs. “technology as a product of human society and culture”. Our whole world revolves around technology, how it has developed, and even the people who reject it. But are we in control of technology? Can we even talk about technology as a whole, or should we be looking at its individual parts?

Hands, Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, looks at other academics’ views on this. One of these is German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Heidegger sees technology as “having a particular essence.” In his essay, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ he tries to uncover what this essence actually is. He believes that “technology is not defined by any technological object or device, or by a particular range of predicates attached to one”. (Hands,2010. p.24)

I can see what he means by this, as technology as a whole has changed society. But individual technologies have changed the world in different ways so we can’t really group them together as one ‘technology’ and talk about them as just one thing.

Hands also questions where humankind fits in with this theory. “Is this essence of modern technology something that is brought into being by humans, or through humans, or in spite of humans?” (Hands, 2010. p.25)

Personally I think that technology and society complement each other. They control each other in a way because without one, the other wouldn’t have progressed. But I don’t think one is in control over the other. Technology has only evolved because of society’s need and want for it. Yet society has only progressed with the help of technology.

So I guess my views are more in line with German-American philosopher, Herbert Marcuse. In ‘One-Dimensional Man’ he says, “[i]n the face of the totalitarian features of this society, the traditional notion of the “neutrality” of technology can no longer be maintained.” (Marcuse, 1964: p.xlviii). He agrees with Heidegger is some ways, that technology is not neutral. But, as I do, he believes that the “nature of technology is nevertheless a result of its social context.” (Hands, 2010. p.32)

Although Joss Hands sees Marcuse’s view as “a profoundly gloomy one, in which ‘independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society that seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs through the way it is organise’ (p.1)”, he also believes that “we should not be without hope.” (Hands, 2010. p.32)

I agree with this as the social media platforms that were created to connect people have already been used to raise awareness on important issues – #blacklivematter #jesuischarlie. They are a perfect example of society and technology working in unison, and proof that technology can be whatever we make it. While we can’t say that these acts of activism wouldn’t have happened without social media, we should at least agree that it played some part.

For me, @ is for activism brings up more questions than it answers. I think that as society and technology continue to grow, the line between them will continue to blur until there isn’t much distinction between the two. There will always be people who reject technology, but for them to do this technology must exist. This makes them, whether they like it or not, part of a technological society.

Hands, J. (2010) @ is for activism: Dissent, resistance and rebellion in a digital culture. London: Pluto Press.

Social Capital: Sharing is Caring

“Social capital ‘feels’ as if it ought to be a useful way of conceptualising and explaining certain social and economic phenomena. However, the closer one gets to it, the more slippery it seems to be.” (Johnston & Percy-Smith, 2003, p.322)

How do you explain social capital? Well if we forget about social media for a minute, in its most simple form social capital is doing something for others and expecting something in return. So when people joke “you owe me big time” when they’ve helped them move house, they really mean it.

Move it over to social media and it can mean participating in community groups; sharing friends’ sale posts; or giving advice in hope of receiving some back when you need it. The list is so vast that you can’t use one single definition to cover it all.

“Like other forms of capital, Coleman sees social capital as ‘productive’ of certain ends that could not be achieved in its absence (1988: 98). He identifies three forms of social capital […] The first of these refers to situations in which an individual does something for someone else with the expectation that that person will reciprocate at some time in the future. This then results in a norm and expectation of generalised trust and reciprocity.” (Johnston & Percy-Smith, 2003, p.323)

But how do you measure it? Going back to day-to-day life, you buy Christmas presents for family and friends who you assume will do the same. If they forget, or are tight of money one year are they crossed off the list, or do they get a second chance?

If I don’t share a friend’s photo, a few weeks later when I ask them to fill in a survey, is it best if they just say no? Or should they say yes and save up their ‘brownie points’ until next time they need something?

“The most famous empirical investigation of social capital is that of Putnam who sought to measure the level of social capital in terms of community involvement and participation using a composite indicator containing measures of such things as newspaper reading, membership of voluntary organisations and expressions of trust in political authorities. Using these indicators in relation to contemporary American society (1995), he attributes a wide range of social and political ills to the decline in participatory and associational behaviour.” (Johnston & Percy-Smith, 2003, p.327)

The way I see social capital is that it shouldn’t be forced. I see a lot of this on social media groups, mainly Facebook and Instagram. The old ‘like for like’ that teenagers used to use to gain attention has started to benefit small businesses and groups. But as you try to reach out in larger groups you can get lost in the masses.

Earlier in the year I joined a small group of people on Instagram for a competition. We now chat and ask each other questions on pricing, pictures and general life. I think this is social capital working at its best because, although we originally came together for one reason, we’ve found we can help each other out. But there is still mistrust of others outside the group if their intentions aren’t known.

One of the ladies from the group, Emily (owner of LittlePickleBoutique) said, “I think it’s good manners to help people. But sometimes it depends because I personally wouldn’t help someone knowing they are going to copy every single little thing I do […] I think this group has all helped each other with different things and it’s nice because sometimes you need advice or help.”

So it seems that once we master social capital we can all live in harmony, paying each other with kindness and gifts. But in reality some are just out for what they can get, and others are too generous. If we get the balance right, we can benefit while also helping others. If we get it wrong, we’re just giving away all of our value for nothing.

Johnston and Percy-Smith end on an important note, “Social capital is the contemporary equivalent of the philosopher’s stone. Just as alchemists pursued the secrets of turning base metal into gold, academics, policy makers and politicians have allegedly unpacked the mysteries of effective communities and collectivities.” (Johnston & Percy-Smith, 2003, p.332)

Johnston, Gordon & Percy-Smith, Janie (2002) In Search of Social Capital, Policy & Politics, vol. 31: pp. 321-34.

I Get My News From Facebook

Imagine a world where the only way you could find out what’s going on in the world is by watching the news. What a horrible thought.

Even before the internet there were spoofs and comedies making fun of celebrities, politicians and others seen to be in a position of power. But since the creation of the internet it has been easier for these spoofs to reach larger audiences and ‘go viral’.

“As the internet has prospered, an important change has to be recorded in the representative status of popular media. Throughout the twentieth century, the press, cinema, radio and television operated as if their audiences were coterminous with ‘the nation’. The ‘mass’ media felt they could speak both to and for the entire citizenry, and media theory followed suit. However, that long-assumed status can no longer be claimed. […] Thus ‘media citizenship’ is changing from representative status to the more modest but active status of productivity, where much smaller groups can self-organise and self-represent, and act both culturally and politically, without bearing the weight of ‘standing for’ the whole society.” (Hartley, 2010, p.240)

As someone who was born around the same time as the internet, ‘DIY/DIWO citizenship’ is something I’ve grown up with. When I was younger, Jackass was very popular. We loved the silly, craziness and chaos they caused.

My sisters, my friends and I used to recreate our own tamer versions of these videos at home. Then we’d look online at others who were making spoof music videos and TV shows. Our parents saw it as us ‘being silly’. But it was our way of getting a look into the popular culture we were too young to be properly involved in.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen these kinds of videos evolve from amateur-looking videos to more professional podcasts and vlogs. There are still the seemingly pointless crazy videos. But now we also have the ‘silly’ videos making fun of politicains, dubsmash videos and, of course, cat videos.

“… it is important to recognise the extent to which childhood infects adulthood; play infects citizenship, and thus to investigate how both childhood and play are constitutive of citizenship and especially of changes in self-organising, bottom-up associative relations among strangers in mediated societies, where play may model new civic possibilities.” (Hartley, 2010, p.244)

As an adult I get most of my news from links I see on Facebook. If I am watching news programmes, ones like Russell Howard’s Good News and Mock the Week are so much more appealing than BBC News, which is pretty morbid.

Yet while I’m scrolling through Twitter, the older generation still look to the TV for news. They may enjoy spoof and comedy shows. But they still watch the serious news bulletins. Do they see ‘silly citizenship’ as another part of our society, or a separate world?

“Recognition of what’s needed for ‘healthy democratic functioning’ requires renewed attention to these demotic aspects of citizenship. Concealed beneath teenage mischief and YouTube antics is a classical ‘right to dance’. Here is a new model of citizenship based on self-representation of, by and for ‘ordinary’ people, using ‘new’ media to produce discursive associative relations, superseding the modernist ‘man with a gun’. Now, we need to change our bumper-stickers.” (Hartley, 2010, p.245)

I don’t want ‘silly citizenship’ to take over the news completely. I already cringe enough when newscasters and politicians try to act ‘cool’. But without shows like The Last Leg helping us figure out the confusion they call the elections, where would the future of politics be? DIY/DIWO has been around longer than many care to admit so it deserves the same acknowledgement as those serious news programmes.

On that note I’m going to leave you with one of my favourite videos from Boyinaband. I don’t really know how to describe him so I stole this from his YouTube, “I make vlogs and songs and I like music and science and psychology and run on sentences.”

John Hartley (2010) Silly citizenship, Critical Discourse Studies, 7:4, 233-248, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2010.511826
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2010.511826

Blurred Lines: The Ethical Use of Social Media Data

When you tweet you assume everyone can see it, right? But does that also mean that anyone can take that tweet and use it for research purposes, commercial uses or to quote you in a newspaper without your permission?

Like most people I hadn’t actually read Twitter’s privacy policy. The first thing you see when go on the page is this:

twitter.jpgObviously they go into more detail than this, but it’s something that should always be in the back of your mind when you tweet. If you really can’t be bothered to read the policy, at least read this part.

“Twitter broadly and instantly disseminates your public information to a wide range of users, customers, and services, including search engines, developers, and publishers that integrate Twitter content into their services, and organizations such as universities, public health agencies, and market research firms that analyse the information for trends and insights. When you share information or content like photos, videos, and links via the Services, you should think carefully about what you are making public.”(Twitter: 1998)

TAGS

I’ve been playing around with TAGS, a free Google Sheet template which lets you setup and run automated collection of search results from Twitter. Basically, in a few seconds it scrapes Twitter using any search term you want.

Should this be allowed?

Short answer – yes. Sites like Twitter are public, and if you look closely enough they do warn you that they’re sharing your information. But the lines become blurred with the use of sites with private profiles and groups.

Facebook is full of closed and secret groups.  You can basically tailor your own privacy. So if someone uses these conversations and information without asking, it’s wrong in my opinion. But the trouble is there are no actual rules on this.

When I studied journalism we were taught about asking people for quotes and keeping a record of interviews so we couldn’t be accused of misquoting. But this was mainly to cover our own backs. I don’t remember much about being ethical.

Personally I wouldn’t like to quote someone without asking first. In my short time as a freelance journalist I have interviewed a few people, but never just taken their quotes without asking. I once wrote an article on breastfeeding in public where I found my interviewees on a closed Facebook group. There was one lady who didn’t want to be named. I think I just ended up leaving her quote out.

But the point in TAGS is to grab a load of tweets for research purposes. It’s pretty much impossible to ask that many people if you can use their information. So do you anonymise everyone? Or just when the topics are sensitive? I guess it’s a judgement call for each individual project.

I still don’t know how I feel about the whole Twitter scraping thing. If it can be done on Twitter can it be done on other sites? Private sites? I feel like the vulnerable need to be protected, and maybe researchers need to be protected from reading certain things they shouldn’t be. I know I’m going to tread very carefully.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear any experiences.

Twitter. (2016). Twitter Privacy Policy. Available: https://twitter.com/privacy?lang=en. Last accessed 7th October 2016.

The Imagined Audience: Who Am I Writing For?

When I write this blog, who am I writing for? I’d say it’s mainly for myself, and maybe the odd passerby. But there’s always the thought that some of my followers may be reading, a friend may have a quick look or a stranger may accidentally come across it. This is my imagined audience.

Marwick and boyd (2010) state that “participants have a sense of audience in every mediated conversation, whether on instant messenger or through blog comments. This audience is often imagined and constructed by an individual in order to present themselves appropriately, based on technological affordances and immediate social context.”

The imagined audience may be completely different to the actual audience but it still influences how people present themselves online. To put it into simple terms, if you’re going to a job interview you will dress smartly, speak more clearly and maybe try to smile more. Your imagined audience is the interviewer. But how many people do you meet on the way to that job interview? That is your actual audience.

When Twitter users with a small following were asked who they are writing for they said they are just writing for themselves, like an online diary, or to update friends. Whereas those with a larger following they treat their imagines audience like fans.

“Part of the difficulty is that ‘friends’ is an overloaded term in social media (boyd, 2008). One user described her friends as people she followed, while another talked about writing to her ‘IRL friends’ to signal people she knew outside of Twitter.”(Marwick and boyd, 2010)

So actually when the users referred to friends they actually meant potential friends as well as real-life friends. Similarly, celebrities writing to their fans are actually reaching fans, potential fans and everyone else.

“We may understand that the Twitter or Facebook audience is potentially limitless, but we often act as if it were bounded.”(Marwick and boyd, 2010). We write for our imagined audience when our possible audience is everyone. Once you put something online it has the potential to reach anyone.

But how does this affect what people write? Or is it too easy to forget that there’s a wider world out there?

The Twitter users writing for ‘just me’ know that they have an audience but it’s easier for them to ignore it, while they’re writing at least. “What emerges here is not that these individuals lack an audience, but that they are uncomfortable labeling interlocutors and witnesses as an ‘audience’ […] In other words, consciously speaking to an audience is perceived as inauthentic.” (Marwick and boyd, 2010)

It’s not that these Twitter users don’t want to be seen or followed. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. This sense of authenticity is all part of how they want to be seen by their imagined audience. They are ‘branding’ themselves as an authentic person, as larger companies do when trying to attract customers.

Although I feel like I may have fallen into the trap of writing for my imagined audience it’s a flawed concept. I see that companies can gain more followers by marketing themselves as ‘authentic’ because no one likes talking to an automated robot man. But why are so many normal people going to that trouble when behind all that blogging, tweeting and emailing we are all real people? We’re faking our own authenticity.

(This is my first reading summary so any feedback will be appreciated)

Marwick, A. E. & boyd, d. (2010) I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience. New Media & Society.

The online version of this article can be found at:
http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/06/22/1461444810365313