Housekeeping: New sharing options?

One of my favourite browser plug-ins is Shareaholic, and they have a WordPress plug-in called SexyBookmarks. We’ve been thinking about adding some more sharing and recommendation options to Strange Attractor. Let us know what you think.

  • Does it slow down the page load for you?
  • Do you like the options?
  • Are there other sharing options you’d like us to include?
  • For our RSS readers, do you like the sharing options in the feed?

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

How does the Digital Economy Act affect your business?

As a social media consultant and an occasional digital rights activist, I paid a lot of attention to the Digital Economy Bill as it was frogmarched through Parliament. Like many, I was disgusted by the ill-informed nature of the debate about key problems with the bill and frustrated at how the politicians seemed to have been entirely captured by the music industry lobbyists, particularly the BPI.

The Bill is now an Act and whilst there are many aspects which are appalling, such as the threats to disconnect accused copyright infringers without any recourse to a proper hearing, I am very concerned about the chilling effect that this legislation is going to have in industry. Not just the internet industry, but all industries that use the internet. If you have a marketing campaign that solicits contributions from your community, if your business model includes any kind of aggregation, if you provide a wifi connection free of charge to visitors or guests, you could be affected by the Act.

Indeed, I’ve already noticed the chilling effect on my own thoughts about social media. What would I advise a client to do to ensure they are as safe as they can be of the unintended consequences of this bill? Is that even possible? What role will encryption now play in day-to-day interactions with the internet? Should I be advising clients against using third party tools that could potentially get taken down because they might possibly be used by others for infringing acts?

I’d very much like to hear your thoughts about how you think the Digital Economy Act might affect your business. Please do leave a comment.

ATA: What makes a good case study?

Every now and again I find myself searching for social media case studies, and whenever this happens it’s always a monumental pain in the proverbials. People aren’t great at interpreting a case study from outside of their own context, so I like to find something that they can immediately relate to. But it can be really hard to find something relevant on short notice so I often wind up going back to my old favourites and then having to tell the client “Well, this may not sound exactly like you, but trust me, it’s more relevant than it looks.”

Although there are loads of social case studies on the web, they aren’t particularly well organised. There are various lists kicking about, but many of them are poorly organised and it takes ages to plough through them. So I’m considering a quick and dirty solution in the form of a Google spreadsheet and form so that we can gather more detailed information together. What kind of information would be useful to you? Here are some possible ideas:

  • Name of the company
  • Whether the project was internal or external
  • Date of case study
  • Tools used
  • Is this good practice or bad practice
  • Overview
  • Link to full write-up
  • Name of person writing is up
  • Style of case study (blog post, formal case study etc)

What else would you like to see? I’ll use your comments to create the spreadsheet and will post the form here when it’s ready.

How important is Twitter to your blog’s traffic stats?

Last Friday I wrote a blog post on my own blog about The Impenetrable Layer of Suck and did what I usually do with blog posts these days: I Tweeted it. I saw a few people reTweet it, so thought I’d check my stats. This is what I saw:

How important is Twitter?

I’ve heard many a time from friends at Guardian Technology, who all regularly Tweet links to new articles and blog posts, that Twitter is a greater driver of traffic than Google News. I’ve found it to be true here as well. On days that I Tweet a link, traffic is much, much higher than days I don’t.

I rarely see links from other websites listed in my referral stats, apart from my own site where there’s a feed in the sidebar and weekly roundups. The decline of the trackback is an interesting, and sad, thing. They got so polluted by spammers that they became unworkable for most people and now I rarely see functioning trackbacks. Blogrolls have also fallen into disfavour, probably because they were such a pain to keep up to date and the technology to look after your blogroll didn’t develop much functionality beyond very basic add/delete/sort links.

This is a shame. In the early days of blogging, I felt like I really was a part of this huge network of bloggers, all passionate about the opportunities this new technology gave us, all excited about the democratisation of publishing. Now blogs feel much more isolated from each other, less connected, less like the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. More like lone voices howling in the storm.

Twitter brings traffic, as sometimes does Facebook, but it doesn’t make me feel that this blog is connected into a wider network. Whilst information flows through my network, just as it did before, that flow is mostly invisible. Twitter doesn’t show me whose Tweet is sending me the traffic, it’s all just a nameless wall of The network has slipped behind a veil.

It’s great that Twitter brings readers, but I miss that sense of connection that my referrals stats used to bring me.

So, how important is Twitter to you, compared to other sources of traffic? Do you get most of your referrals from Twitter? Is Twitter now where you find most of your news?

ATA: What’s a good framework for innovation?

I was thinking this morning about innovation and why there’s so little of it about. I am most familiar with the need for and lack of innovation in the media industry, but the lessons from media are applicable in any sector. Here are a few I’ve spotted:

  • Innovation can come from anywhere. Anyone facing a business problem can be a source of inventive thinking. Asking someone to innovate or creating an innovation team, on the other hand, is doomed to failure because being inventive on demand is nigh on impossible for most people.
  • Ideas need an opportunity to grow. How many people are having ideas that could help your business, if only they had the opportunity to mature? It’s far too easy to say ‘no’ to a good idea just because it’s not yet mature. Say ‘yes’ instead and give ideas room to develop.
  • Even good ideas need compost to take root. Make sure there are resources available to make good ideas happen.
  • Fail early, fail often. Most ideas, even good ones, won’t work out the way we want them to. It’s just a fact of life, so make the cost of failure low, particularly the social cost of failure. If you have someone who has lots of good ideas that never quite make it, you want them to carry on having good ideas because one of them might just be gold.
  • Give ideas time to blossom. Sometimes success doesn’t come right away. There’s no point putting effort into nurturing innovation only to then throw a hissy fit when it doesn’t return results immediately. Maybe it’s just a slow burner.
  • Consider independence. Some innovations get squashed just as they are getting going because, at the first hint of success, they are rolled into the company where they promptly get suffocated. Maybe your innovation needs a little independence so that it can grow up to be a big, strapping lad.

In practical terms, I think this means having a loose framework for innovation. Ensuring that everyone knows that their ideas are welcome, that there are clinics for discussing ideas in a creative and positive way. Resist saying ‘no’ just because you can. Have budget and resources ringfenced for innovation projects so that when someone does have a good idea you can carry that momentum forward. There’s no bigger motivation killer than the phrase “Yes, we can get moving on that in six months”. Know how you’re going to develop ideas, both in terms of maturing the idea and putting it into practice. Be patient with innovation. Unlike in the movies, it doesn’t happen overnight.

But this is a big topic. What are your tips for encouraging innovation?

ATA: Who are your favourite social media bloggers?

So I reckon it’s time for a bit of audience participation here on The Social Enterprise, so I’ve decided to create a new “Ask The Audience” category. I shall, unsurprisingly enough, periodically and at random ask you a question about your thoughts on social media. Simples!

Today’s question:

Who are your favourite social media bloggers?

Who are the trusted old voices whose opinions you value? Who are the up-and-comers that provide you with insight? Which social media blogs can you simply not live without?

Let me know in the comments!