The MAC299 Social Media course blog

Week12s1: The end is in sight…

Posted by mediations on May 11, 2010

First of all, I hope you enjoyed and learned from Stephen Waddingon’s inspirational chat on Friday. He has posted the presentation on his Wadds PR Blog, and Level 1 student Nick Robinson talked about it on his Realityuniversityandcheck’s blog.

Before we hear your thoughts on the RSPB campaign, here’s a useful update on the social geography of the social media world.


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Week11s2: Guest speaker – welcome @wadds!!!

Posted by mediations on May 7, 2010

We are delighted to welcome Stephen Waddington (@wadds) to speak to all PR students at 12noon today in the cinema.

You have spent weeks listening to me talk about social media and PR, now it is time to hear what it is really like from someone who acrtually does the job!

As well as being managing director of London-based Speed Communications and non-exec chairman of Newcastle’s Admiral PR, Stephen has just been appointed to the CIPR’s Social Media Panel, and runs the must-read Wadds PR blog,

The slides look great, and I know a lot of people who speak highly of Stephen as a presenter. He is going to to talk about how the media is changing and will end with some top tips on how to get a job in PR.

We will be joined in the cinema by L1 and MA students. Please tell anyone you know who might be interested to come along – especially others doing PR but missing out on the joys of 299!

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Week9s1: Searching, voting, travelling… passing

Posted by mediations on April 20, 2010

Quite a lot to talk about today! Primarily we are going to look at search – how do people look for information and what can an organisation do to make sure its site is found? But we will also look at social media aspects of the General Election campaign, the volcanic ash cloud, even the relevance of modules like this to a modern PR course. And, of course, we will catch up with progress on your own blogs which should be firmly established by now.

First we will build on the MAC299 session which looked at ways in which NewcastleGateshead Initiative might have used social media to promote the Pet Shop Boys accompanying the film Battleship Potemkin at Swan Hunter shipyard.

In two groups let’s spend a little time thinking how the social media tools we have available to day (cf 2006) would inform our campaign.

As we perform this practical execise, let’s also think about whether social media should be treated as an ‘extra’ to traditional PR, or as an integral part of the communications process. This interview with Deidre Breakenridge, author of Putting the Public Back Into Public Relations, might help your thinking.

Next, to what extent has social media influenced your perception of the General Election campaign? Is this campaign being fought online in a way that is noticeably different from what has come before?

(I was amused by this example of repurposing: Who has David Cameron Been Talking To? What, if anything has caught your eye?).  What about The InVinceCable We Trust campaign? Have you seen They Work For You?

Were you/ are you affected by the Icelandic volcano? Can you find examples of how organisations are using online resources to manage problems their customers/ stakeholders are encountering? To what extent is crowdsourcing influencing the situation? Lonely Planet offers Free iPhone guides for stranded travellers.


Search in Plain English (A guide to How to search, not How to get noticed) 

There are two elements to to consider when we look at search. One is to understand how people find information, which must include a consideration of push vs pull technologies (try and relate this concept to Potemkin). Our sources will include David Jennings, Net, Blogs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (2008).

The second aspect to consider is Search Engine Optimisation; how does an organisation raise its profile with Google etc? To do this we need to have some understanding of the technology behind Google (it is a closely guarded secret!).

We also need to think about how we write to be seen. This may be as simple as the headline we put on blog posts, and the content of the short synposis shown on a search page. There is a strong argument, for instance, for writing straightforward labels instead of witty but uninformative headlines for blog posts. Technology has to an extent superseded the race to include multiple references to keywords, but dropped intros and the journalistic convention of general intros and before including specific locations further down a story doesn’t work online.

How important are tags and social bookmarking tools in the race to get noticed?

One of the commonest objectives of a PR campaign is to raise the profile of a product or service? We can create news to get something noticed, but how do we persuade someone to look for something they don’t know is there, or don’t know they want to look for. To visualise this, compare the shopping experience on Amazon and in bookstore. How useful is the “Customers who bought this also bought this…” approach?

In Net Blogs and Rock ‘n’ Roll Jennings identifies what he calls the three strands of digital discovery — TLC:

Trying Out, Links and Community — and explains how the history, culture and technology of today’s media are interwoven with the rise of personalisation and mobile players.

He goes on to profile the groups of consumers and their various approaches to discovery, and outlines the pyramid of influence: Savants and Enthusiasts record their finds, express their opinions and lead communities of fellow consumers, while other groups are more passive participants, Casuals (comes from EMAP Project Phoenix).

Jennings begins his book by noting that we are seeing a profound change in nthe way we make cultural discoveries… “Our problem is the scarcity of attention.” Do you agree?

We do not have to depend so much on coincidences to discuss entertainment that will tickle our individual fancies. we do not need to go out on a limb by making risky purchases, or wait for recommendations from our friends. The digital means of search are within easy reach to even the most casual of cionsumers… (2007:2)

The tables have turned… Consumers are no longer sheep who can easily be hereded towards some Next Big Thing. (4)

No-one is in charge of digital discovery (5)

Jennings continually uses the metaphor of foraging for interesting information, which, with the associated idea of picking up an ‘information scent’ depicts the way discovery can involve either an extended search or a happy accident when you catch the smell of something blowing on the breeze.

Let’s try and follow one of David’s presentations

Returning to Potemkin, much of what Diane was talking about yesterday looked at promotion prior to the event, but it also imporatnt to think about the online legacy of social media activity. Some of these ideas were considered in Chris Anderson’s work on the Long Tail.

Talking  of legacies, have you seen the new Google function that allows historic tracking of Tweets? What implications might this have for (Personal/Brand) Reputation management?

Finally, what have you been up to over the last three weeks? (We should already know, of course…)

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Week 8s2: We are all journalists now

Posted by mediations on March 26, 2010

OK, today let’s think carefully about the implications blogging and other social media have for journalism – particularly in the context of PR.

We will use the changing definition of ‘journalist’ to examine the challenges this presents to PR – so we will begin by watching some vox pop videos in which people answer the question, What is PR?

OK, what would you have said if someone approached you in the street and asked, “What is a journalist?” Write down your own definitions, and discuss.


Do you remember the plane that crashlanded on the Hudson River in New York last year?

Janis Krumms used Twitter to send out this photograph of an event that was clearly newsworthy, and travelled around the world in little more than a blink of an eye.

Was Janis a journalist? Probably not. But you have all seen Josh’s SR2 blog – is Josh a journalist? If so, when did he become a journalist? If not, what would he have to do to become a journalist?

For PR students, this is not merely an abstract question. Imagine you are working for Sunderland City Council, or a public body heavily involved in projects taking place in SR2’s patch. Imagine you are a business trying to launch in this area? Do you treat him as a journalist now?

What if he is being critical of your policy/ activities? How do you respond? What if he wants Press accreditation for an event?

What if you are asked to draw up a media list for a client wishing to launch a product or service? Thinking of bloggers in general, how would you select who is worth talking to? Who is worth actively engaging with? Traditionally, journalists are trained, and as part of this training they will sign up to a number of conventions, ranging from not revealing their sources to understanding the meanining of ‘off the record’, respecting embargoes and not normally mentioning pitches from PRs. It is easy to imagine a very effective blogger who has little or no knowledge never mind respect for these conventions. What are the implications? On the other hand, ‘traditional’ journalists can be cynical, world-weary and overworked. Why not pitch your client’s story to someone young, fresh – and possibly naive?

Imagine you work in urban regeneration and are involved ina project that would involve demolishing substabndard housing and replacing it with flats and a superstore. How would you engage with bloggers?

Perhaps you work for Night Owls, the new company launching nightwear for men (MAC163 veterans will explain to the rest of the class). Would you include bloggers in your media strategy?

I look forward to reading your comments on this post.

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Week 8 s1: Where are we? Look on a map…

Posted by mediations on March 23, 2010

One of the distinguishing characteristics of what some call Web 2.0 is that it’s features can be endlessly reconfigured and recombined. The blog- or site-designer can ‘mash-up’ a huge range of features, often known as widgets or web-widgets, partly to give freshness, partly to meet more strategic objectives.

One of the most obvious ways of adding richness to a blog is with photography. Here’s a list of useful resources. And here’s a list of picture editing tools.

Part of the reason Facebook has been so successful has been its willingness to allow other developers to add applications (of various degrees of usefulness, functionality and privacy!). Almost by definition, no two people’s Facebook page looks the same – customisation is central to a platform which allows the user to create an online identity and personality.

Think about your favourites examples. Do you consider the security and privacy implications when you add a new element to your profile?

Think about Twitter. Have you found applications that improve it for you. Tweetdeck is a must for me, but there are many, many others. Ideas?

For story-telling (for PR as much as for news) the flexibility and richness offered by maps and geo-tagging allows much scope for innovation.

Have you used Google earth? To buy a pizza, to organise an exercise routine – or to illustrate a who owns which dog in the USA. <a href=”“>Here are some more examples</a>, including an application used to tell the story of the <a href=””>2012 London Olympics</a>.

One of my favourites, showing <a href=””>dog owners (and other vital statistics) in Cincinnati</a>. I think I found it through Map Hawk.

Have a look at the <a href=”″>Google Earth Community Forum</a>. Look for ideas, and also think about the wealth of user-generated content that is powering the project. People are doing Google’s work for it. For free.
<blockquote>Here’s a demo.

The hosting browser in the demo for Twitter can be any default web brower, I.E, Firefox, …etc.

<a href=”“>( iGETi ) Twitter Add On Tool For Google Earth Desktop</a></blockquote>
Imaginative use on telling news stories. Examples here.

How can PR use Google Earth?

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Week 7s2: The wonder(?) of wikis

Posted by mediations on March 19, 2010

In many ways wikis sum up both the strengths and weaknesses of social media, and all the hype that has surrounded it.

In theory, the idea of a collaborative online platform which allows groups, teams and comunities to work together on shared resources has a tremendous appeal, and in some circumstances it can be extremely powerful. But at the same time, most people only really engage with one wiki, and the vast majority have only the haziest notion of what it is they are using.

Let’s begin by watching another CommonCraft video, then by turning to the most famous wiki of all, Wikipedia, for a definition.

Ward Cunningham, and co-author Bo Leuf, in their book The Wiki Way: Quick Collaboration on the Web described the essence of the Wiki concept as follows:

A wiki invites all users to edit any page or to create new pages within the wiki Web site, using only a plain-vanilla Web browser without any extra add-ons.

Wiki promotes meaningful topic associations between different pages by making page link creation almost intuitively easy and showing whether an intended target page exists or not.

A wiki is not a carefully crafted site for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the Web site landscape.
A wiki enables documents to be written collaboratively, in a simple markup language using a web browser. A single page in a wiki website is referred to as a “wiki page”, while the entire collection of pages, which are usually well interconnected by hyperlinks, is “the wiki”. A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information.

A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted. Many wikis are open to alteration by the general public without requiring them to register user accounts. Sometimes logging in for a session is recommended, to create a “wiki-signature” cookie for signing edits automatically. Many edits, however, can be made in real-time and appear almost instantly online. This can facilitate abuse of the system. Private wiki servers require user authentication to edit pages, and sometimes even to read them.

Let’s try it. Look up the entry on something you know a lot about – perhaps your former school, or your hometown, or a relatively obscure music group. How useful is the entry?

Before we analyse the processes behind the entry and consider their implications for public relations and news journalism, let’s consider the claims made for wikis in Don Tapscott and Anmthony D Williams’ book Wikinomics, first published way back in 2006 and revised for the UK in 2008.

“While hierarchies are not vanishing, profound changes in the nature of technology, demographics and the global economyare giving rise to powerful new models of production based on community collaboration and self organisation rather than hierarchy and control (1).”

“Smart companies are encouraging, rather than fighting, teh heaving growth of massive onlione communities…”(1)

“The new art and science of wikinomics is based on four powerful new ideas

  • openness
  • peering
  • sharing
  • acting globally (23)

“Conventional wisdom says you should control and protect propriety resources and innovations – especially intellectual property – through patents, copyright and trademarks. If someone infringes your IP, get the lawyers out…(25).”

Now let’s go back to Wikipedia, look under the bonnet, and begin to consider its implications for those concerned with reputation management.

And finally – let’s go to Google and set up your own wiki!!!!

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Week7s1: Let’s get real! (Case Studies)

Posted by mediations on March 16, 2010

Innocent on YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter

And here’s how Wolfstar did it: case study

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Week6s2: (Hitler rants about) User-generated content

Posted by mediations on March 12, 2010

The defining characteristic of Web 2.0 is that users can contribute content. Websites are no longer static, under the control of a ‘webmaster’/organisation, but dynamic, with many creatoprs actively encouraging others to add content.

At its most basic level this may mean allowing comments, probably moderated, to a blog post, or inviting stars and reviews. The most vivid example of user-generated content (UGC) is perhaps Wikipedia, almost entirely the creation of volunteers who contribute content for a wide range of motives.

UGC turns websites from adverts and noticeboards into conversations, it invites audiences to actively engage with products or services. But at the same time, Web 2.0 creates an easily accessible platform for criticism, even ridicule. From the beginning, this was the great fear of felt by any organisation considering puttin a toe into these uncharted water.

“What if people say nasty things about us?”

The answer of course, was that if people wanted to say nasty things about your product or service, they woy would do, and unless they broke the law, there was little an organisation could do top stop it.  The advice of most social media experts was something along the lines of “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

At a deeper level, the debate highlighted one of the fundamentals of public relations, namely that reputation comes from what an organisation does, rather than what it tries to say it does.


As wellas allowing people to comment, Web 2.0 is ideally suited for redistribution and repurposing. If we can still accept a traditonal definition of PR that it is concened with acquiring third party endorsement of a product or service, then the ability to pass on messages is of great interest to organisations. Once, endorsement meant (positive) coverage in a newspaper, now it may just as usefully mean a ‘like’ on Facebook,  a re-tweet, tagging or social bookmarking.

At one level, we might edit a tweet before retweeting, perhaps adding opr detracting from its meaning. Or we might take a more complex message and make adaptations that enhance, detract or mutate its meaning.

A related concept is that of the mash up, where two or more devices, often widgets or platforms, are combined to create a new meaning. A good example might be the various uses to which Google’s mapping function can be used (subject of a future session).

One of the most amusing examples of purposing is video editing. Take Downfall, a rather good, German film which tackled the rather touchy subject of the last day’s of Adolf Hitler. In one famous scene, some understandably nervous senior generals pluck up the courage to tell Hitler how serious a situation Germany faces. Hitler does not take this well – and the ensuing ‘rant’ has been repurposed many times, using the simple device of subtitles. Background: The Hitler Meme, New York Times,  


I have tried hard to convince you of the value of social bookmarking, particularly Delicious, and the concept of tagging. Tagging offers a very useful perspective on reputation as the aggregation of individual comments. It can also create communities in the most unusual places –

Reviews, ratings and UGC

A couple of our bloggers, Amy and Hannah are watching movies – have a look at Green Issues and Amylockhart18’s Blog . Amy is asking us to vote on which film she should watch and review – go there and offer a helping hand.

Choose one of the films and see what you can find out about it, paying particular attention to fan sites, apps, games, YouTube etc. Spend some time investigating and report back with a detailed comment, including links.

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Week 6s1:

Posted by mediations on March 8, 2010

We are nearly half way through the module and you should now have begun to establish your blog.
It should have a clear purpose, a clear identity and you should be finding your blogging ‘voice’. You have put some work into your blog – but have you gained ROI?
Yes, in terms of learning, but what about building your online reputation? Remember back in week One, when we did a brief online audit? Let’s try again, and see if you have influenced your online reputation. Would a potential employer notice you? If they, did, would it be to your advantage?
Read Brian Solis on the Socialisation of Your Personal Brand.
Before we look at ways of improving visibility let’s discuss a presentation by leading UK communicator, podcaster and blogger Neville Hobson. If you were in a team meeting and Neville gave this talk would you be up to speed?


Getting noticed (for the right reasons)!
Getting noticed online is no different from getting noticed in ‘real life’. It takes a little effort. You need to do something. Ideally you need to do soemthing in a planned way.
The first essential for planned online communication, either for the Brand of You or for an organisational client, is to create interesting content – there has to be something out there for people to notice, and it has to be constantly evolving. If you are trying to create dialogue, you need repeated interaction.
Don’t think of your blog as a billboard or poster that someone might glance at while passing. It has to be a friend, something other people want to return to, to get know, and discuss.
Think though how you build friendships? perhaps it is based on what the person looks like, or you find tourself in a  situation where you seem to share common interests.
Looking the part is important. Does your blog project a personality that is likely to be of interest to like-minded visitors?
Is your blog visible in places that like-minded people are likely to gather? What does this mean in the online environment?
Do you keep potential friends/ visitors/ contacts up to date with what you are doing? How do you find out about people and places that interest you? Though Facebook? Through Twitter? How wlese?
If so, are you keeping people in touch with your blog?
If someone talks to you, do you reply? If some one comments on your blog, do you thank them for the interest? Do you visit their blog?
A simple rule of social media is “The more you give, the more you get.” Try it.   

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Week5s2: Wisdom of crowds (and small groups)

Posted by mediations on March 5, 2010

Thanks to the groups who have identified a topic for group inquiry. We will look at ways of gathering and organising information for this project over the next couple of sessions.

Let’s start by looking at a timeline of important developments on the road from Web 1.0 to today/ tomorrow… I have just added this interesting statistic: 

Apple’s iTunes Store has reached a huge milestone: 10 billion music downloads since opening on April 28, 2003. Back then there was about 200,000 songs to choose from. Today music isn’t all they sell; with the evolution of the iPod and the creation of new products such as the AppleTV, iPhone, iPod touch and soon the iPad the iTunes Store now delivers audiobooks, podcasts, TV shows, movies, apps and games. To celebrate the occasion Apple is giving the purchaser of the 10,000,000,000th song a $10,000 iTunes card.

Update: The 10 billionth song was “Guess Things Happen That Way” by Johnny Cash, purchased by Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia. 

Here are a couple of other ways we could look at the (hi)story of Web2.0. You might ask how reliable either of them are…


And here’s an alternative history…

EPIC 2014 is a Flash movie released in November 2004 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson with original music by Aaron McLeran. (It)  is presented from the viewpoint of a fictional “Museum of Media History” in the year 2014 (Source: Wikipedia, March 5, 2010)

Effective PR needs to understand audiences, so let’s look at some visualisations of who uses social networks. (It is worth adding DigitalBuzz to your RSS feeds etc)..

We can then start thinking about how crowds work….

You will notice:

Some interesting stats from the chart:

  • 13% of social crowds are Creators
  • 19% of social crowds are Critics
  • 34% of social crowds are Collectors & Joiners
  • 33% of social crowds are Spectators and
  • 52% are just inactive

Such patterns have led Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, of Forrester Research, to create the Social Technographics ladder we have mentioned earlier.

Li and Bernoff’s book Groundswell (2008) is on your reading list – please read it, not least as it is at the heart of what we are going to discuss next!

“Groundswell “… is a spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience and get what they need…

“It’s global. It’s unstoppable.

“Simply put, the groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of companies. (2008:ix-x)”   

Perhaps the most useful chapters for us are Five: Listening to the Groundswell and Six: Talking with the Groundswell. Normally, I stress the importance of listening in social media strategy, but let’s think first about talking.

We often hear: “Let’s make a viral video!” and it is easy to find fun clips. But as Li and Bernoff observe:

“If your YouTube video doesn’t create a relationship, it’s just another way of shouting.

“To be most effective, these videos must allow people to inetract. They should direct people to a social network, a blog, a community where they can form further relationships with each other or with the company. (2008:104)”

Can you think of ways in which the video you shot with Steve Noble last week, or video you might create in the next few weeks could help build relationships through your blog? 

What if you were asked to create a blog for a client/ your organisation as part of a carefully thought-through communications strategy?

Would these steps be useful?

1. Start by listening

2. Determine a goal for the blog

3. Estimate the ROI

4. Develop a plan

5. Rehearse

6. Develop an editorial process

7. Design the blog and its connection to your site

8. Develop a marketing plan so peoplw can find the blog

9. Remember, blogging is more than writing

10. Final advice: be honest

(2008: 115-117)

Will this work when the product/ service/ organisation is the Brand of You?

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