The business lessons of political social media blunders

The last week was one in which politicians in general, and Sarah Palin in particular, showed that they are still getting to grips with the impact of social media on how, when and where they should try and connect with voters.

Over the last couple of years, American businesses have been facing the same issues, I reported today in the London Evening Standard.

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Can London recreate Silicon Valley — and should it even try?

That’s what I ask in today’s London Evening Standard.

 

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Vanity searching in vain

Tom Foremski has an interesting post this week about the apparent shrinking scale of Google’s search results.

It turns out that searches on his own name are yielding fewer and fewer results over time.  That understandably surprised Foremski since he’s both prolific and widely referenced.

Foremski is mostly concerned with the fact that this is happening.  “Clearly,” he concludes, “the number of results that Google claims is bogus.”

“What’s going on?” he then asks, and his commenters suggest a number of likely explanations in response.

But whatever the reason, Foremski’s observation makes clear that Google search statistics have dubious validity as measures of scale. And yet journalists, myself included, use them all the time as a shorthand way of measuring impact.

Our model is citations. These certainly have validity when measured against complete and comprehensively indexed sets of data. An example would be a full archive of a particular newspaper’s articles.  You can clearly state that a particular word was used, say, in the New York Times x times in 2005 and y times in 2010.

Citations are also important in science where they help measure impact of a researcher’s work. It genuinely means something to say someone is the most cited psychologist, for example, in the world.

Google, I’m sure, doesn’t mind us thinking that it, too, offers a pretty-much complete and comprehensive data set along with a true count of the number of citations in that data set.

But both the comprehensiveness of the set and the reliability of the count seem to be in fairly constant flux.

There’s solace here for Foremski — his vanity search results may not truly measure his reach (and, along with it, his impact) online.

For the rest of us there’s a lesson, too: that we need to swallow the citation counts we find on Google with a healthy dose of salt.  And I guess we need to be looking for new kind of vanity index to use from now on.

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Tech trends in advertising

is something I just took a look at.  Recent developments in web, print and mobile computing, I suggest, are making highly-personalized advertising much more possible.

What I didn’t get into was whether this is a good thing.  It seems to me that you can argue it either way.  But I have a feeling that opt-in will be the way to go in this new advertising landscape.  It could be active opting-in, like MePlease is offering in the UK.  Or it could simply be about providing really satisfying ads that are both personally relevant and entertaining enough that people will be willing to stick with them for 5, 10 or 30 seconds.

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An exemplary lede

A couple of months ago I wrote about an exemplary pull quote over at ValleyDad.

Now here’s an exemplary lede:

“Gardens are as difficult to time as markets. Last year everything was ahead of itself and gardeners were worrying there would be nothing left in flower by June. This year everything in Britain is wonderfully late . . .”

It’s exemplary because it’s Robin Lane Fox in the Financial Times. He has the back page of the weekend FT House and Home section to write about gardens and gardening. Given his readership, you simply couldn’t do better.

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A reminder that it helps to pitch the right outlet

Watching Avatar while sitting next to a Stanford professor had me (and the professor) wondering about the ‘Stanford’ t-shirt that Sigourney Weaver’s avatar wears very prominently in a number of scenes.

What was the story was behind the shirt’s appearance in the movie?  Why choose that university?  What was that choice meant to signify to the viewer?  And who, I next wondered, might be interested in running a short article featuring the answers?  The obvious candidate was the Stanford alumni magazine — one of the best of its kind — for which I’ve written before.

So the next day I pitched my editorial contact at the magazine and on Friday (just a couple of weeks later) the article was posted online.

The experience is a good reminder that a feature idea can have a lot of potential homes and be of potential interest to a lot of different people.  But when it comes to getting someone to actually commission your idea, you’re best off pitching the outlet most directly aimed at readers with the maximum potential interest in the subject you are hoping to explore.

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Will ‘oversharing’ online come to define human authenticity?

There’s a very good chance it will, I argue, in a look at the new web service Blippy and the idea of ‘living publicly’ as a social norm (published in today’s London Evening Standard).

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