Sunday, 6 April 2014

Changes to Twitter - did you know?

Twitter has celebrated its eighth birthday. It’s the fastest growing social networking site and has announced some major updates. 

The first major change was a redesign of the existing user profiles on Twitter’s mobile app, following the changes to the website. The profile picture, originally found in the centre of the bar, has now been relocated to the left of the page similar to Facebook.  However, the dimensions and resolution remain the same. 

The cover photo, which previously occupied the majority of the space at the top of each profile, has also been moved further up the page and its size is considerably smaller. Whereas the bio of each Twitter user could only be seen by swiping across the cover photo, it now appears underneath it instead in the space created by moving the cover photo. 

There are also two new timeline options available called ‘photos’ and ‘favourites’. Photos allows users to filter their timeline to see all previously tweeted, embedded images whilst favourites shows everything that the user has starred during their use of the site. This streamlines user’s timelines and improves overall usability of the network. The new timeline features are currently only operating on a partial roll out but it is expected that they will be available to all users in the very near future. 

Arguably the most important changes to twitter are those surrounding photo sharing on the social network.  In a bid to encourage users to tweet more photos and create extra engagement around tweeted images, the developers have added the option to tag other users in the photos. The ability to tag up to 10 people without affecting the character count will be a major draw for users. The tags will be part of Twitter’s extra metadata that accompanies each tweet and will not have any effect on the length of the tweet. Following this announcement there have been calls for the same treatment of usernames in tweets, so that they too are excluded from the character count. 

Tagging images also provides Twitter with a great reason to contact its users through the guise of a notification. When a person is tagged in a photo on the network they will receive a notification which in turn will direct them to the website, garnering more traffic for the site overall. 

As with many of the major social media websites, lots of notifications can become annoying, but Twitter has already anticipated this. The tagging feature comes with three options in the settings section of each user’s profile. The default setting is set to allow anybody to tag you in a photo but this can be changed to ‘people I follow only’ or alternatively ‘nobody can tag me’ in photos. 

Users will also have the option of adding multiple photos to one tweet, up to a maximum of four, which will automatically be arranged into a collage. 

The latest changes to Twitter allow users more flexibility when sharing images and there are rumours that these improvements may be even become available for use by third party apps and developers. 

What's your take? tweet me @annmariehanlon with thumbs up or down to the Twitter changes

Monday, 24 March 2014

Action Planning - 7 tips for business plans

Does your business have a plan?  This is often the time of year when many businesses start to think about creating a plan for the next 12 months.

The most important aspect of action planning is starting the action.  Sometimes it is necessary to work ON the business rather than IN the business.

These are tips on achieving your plan.

  1. It is essential to maintain the impetus, start the plan today, not tomorrow.
  2. Appoint one person to monitor the entire plan and give them the authority to do so.
  3. Regular meetings should be held to review the plan.  These could be 20 minute meetings at the start of the week.
  4. If you don’t do it today, your competitors will start tomorrow.
  5. If one item is difficult to start, move on to the next area.
  6. At the end of each quarter, review what has taken place and where more help is needed.
  7. The most successful businesses stick to the plan and make it happen – whilst still getting on with the day job.

If you need some templates see useful resources from the @SmartInsights blog

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Skills from my grandmother - how the past informs the present

My digital life contains many skills from my grandmother who was born in the last century. She was a great storyteller, she collected things and she shared news with her neighbours.

If my grandmother was alive today she’d be on Facebook every day.

Storytelling was a way of passing family history from one generation to the next. Each time the story developed and became funnier, or sadder. Every story had a beginning, a middle and an end, a range of characters and if there wasn’t a moral at the end, there could be enlightenment. The stories were engaging, entertaining and educational. Born in a pre-TV era, everyday life was perceived as being simpler, less complicated, but it had its trials. From walking 6 miles to school in the morning and 6 miles back in the afternoon. Shopping daily for provisions (no refrigerators) to making her own clothes. Home-made food from jam (which I still make), growing vegetables (I do that too) and fresh eggs from chickens (I have 5 hens).

The stories worked and there was always the call at the end to ‘tell us another’.

Collecting things or curation as it’s recognised today, was a sign of an austere upbringing. With no spare money for ornaments, home decor or objets d’art, every collected piece was a treasure. Empty tins recycled as storage containers, jars with missing lids were covered with plaster of Paris and shells from the seashore; upcycling plain vessels into exquisite pots, often painted with an aunt’s nail varnish (it was always bright pink). Curation today is the craft of seeing what others have created and re-purposing or recycling that content. A far cry from a disused jam jar.

Sharing news with our connections is a key tenet of social media. We tell stories, curate words from others and share via our social networks. My grandmother’s connections were her neighbours, her church and her family.  Whilst it was a comparatively small social network, the good stories went viral, the best curated items were admired by many and stories were shared at every opportunity. 

If she’d been born into my digital age, she’d be pinning pictures of freshly made preserves, tweeting when the hens had laid more eggs and adding a Facebook 'Like' when friends had finished darning a pile of hand-knitted woollen socks. The original up-cycler honing skills for the future.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wearable technology

Already hailed as the future of consumer electronics, wearable technology is an industry set to be worth over $30 billion in just four years’ time with leading manufacturers Google, Samsung and Apple all clamouring to be a part of this digital revolution. 

Some of the early wearable technology devices arriving in the market place include:
Augmented Reality Glasses
Smart Watches

Augmented Reality Glasses

Wearable tech in the form of augmented reality glasses, Google glass allows its users to take pictures and record videos, access the internet and send messages- basically everything a smartphone can do. Currently in its trial stages, Google Glass is already being used by travel giants Virgin Atlantic and the New York City Police Department. 

Virgin Atlantic will soon be launching a pilot scheme where its upper class concierge staff will use Google Glass and other wearable technology for six weeks. This will allow staff to give passengers up-to-date flight information, weather reports and translate foreign language information. It is hoped that in the future, wearable technology could be used to inform staff of passengers’ refreshment choices and other important information.

Augmented reality glasses have also been used medically; surgeons have used Google Glass whilst performing operations and then shared the videos with their students via Hangouts on Google+. 
Google Glass now even has a Wordpress plug in app, enabling users to post and update stories, photos and videos using the glasses. 

There are still downsides to this new technology. There have been debates on the safety of using augmented reality glasses whilst driving, one user was recently given a ticket for using Google Glass and speeding  (the case was later dropped due to a lack of evidence proving that the device was in use at the time). There were also reports of another user being questioned by police over piracy suspicions after wearing Google Glass to a local cinema. 

Other augmented reality headsets include the Oculus Rift, a virtual headset forerunner in the gaming industry and headsets aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts such as the Oakley Airwave heads-up display goggle and the zeal Optics Transcend GPS Goggles.

Smart Watches

Tech giants have become more aware of the power of the wrist and it is estimated that up to 5 million smart watches could be sold in 2014, with smart watch devices in the pipeline from Apple, Google, Samsung and Sony. The smartwatch phenomenon began when start-up Pebble technology launched its Pebble Watch which has sold more than 2502,000 units to date.  The Pebble Watch allows users to answer phone calls, receive notifications from their IOS and Android phones and control music. It also supports third party apps and Bluetooth. The latest update, Pebble 2.0 will support a raft of new advances, allowing developers greater access to components on the device and increased memory and storage. 

Smartphone leader Apple is believed to have been working on its iWatch for some time now, although speculation suggests it being more of a complement to existing ios devices than a standalone gadget. Emphasis is being placed on the iWatch’s use as a health and fitness tracking device instead of an alternative to a smartphone.

As part of its ‘Galaxy’ range, Samsung will be unveiling its Galaxy Gear later this year ahead of the IFA Consumer Electronics Show. Again, the Galaxy Gear is believed to focus on health and fitness and will be a smartphone companion as opposed to a smartphone alternative. 

Google is possibly developing the most exciting device in terms of smart watches and rumours began when Google bought smartwatch start-up Wimm Labs who had been working on their own smart-watch. It looks as though Google is developing a device that can operate independently of any smart-phone complete with its own apps although there is no release date yet. 

As with all new technology there are still some teething problems and barriers to widespread use of wearable technology. Battery life and display quality are some of the main concerns for smart watch devices whilst theft and the safety of using headsets whilst performing everyday tasks such as driving are amongst concerns for prospective augmented reality headwear users. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

3 ways to increase your Klout score

Measuring the impact of a company and its social media can be complex. There are many companies that have created ways to review your own business, or that of a competitor. 

Three companies focus on capturing your impact online by looking at your outputs (tweets, posts, updates) and the impact of the content (number of shares, likes and comments).

The best known companies are Klout, PeerIndex and Kred. See earlier articles on the top threesocial measurement tools and Score yourself! What's your social rating?

Each of these social measurement companies provides free access via a social login (such as Twitter or Facebook) and ranks you based on its own formula which is a blend of outputs x impact + something else. The scores are a numerical value; Klout and PeerIndex grade you out of 100, and Kred out of 1,000.

Within Klout the ‘something else’ is being rewarded with a K for your knowledge in an area. And Klout defines the areas you talk about most. When you’ve developed your profile, you can refine the ‘expert areas’.

Klout is the best known of these social measurement tools and whilst the average score is said to be around 35 – and that’s very respectable – there are ways to increase the score, without buying likes. It’s not ideal but if you need a higher score in a hurry, say for a job interview, this can work.

  1. Add in all your social networks. If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, connect them all to Klout.
  2. Play tag with a friend. We’re fairly sure the well-know Twitterati get their PRs to give them +1, likes and Ks etc, so be your own PR and get a friend to like your content and you can like theirs.
  3. If you’re a student or very active on Facebook, that’s the easiest way for your score to increase. But be aware that your recent Facebook posts may be visible on Klout!

And this works. In a recent class on Digital and Social Media, I asked my students to check out their Klout scores, some started at 19, before they connected all their networks, but today one student emailed to say her score was 57! Another student scored 61! Both much higher than my score!

The downside is maintaining your high score. Whilst you’re in a shared house and your friends like all your updates, it’s easy. When you start adding relevant updates it can take longer.

For companies it’s a quick way to understand who listening to your conversations and who’s taking part. It’s a useful way to look at your competitors too and see where you all score.

What’s your klout score? Share the love and tweet me @annmariehanlon