Are Google News Badges another sign of digital laziness?

This morning Google announced a new feature in Google News - Badges. The badges (as explained in the video above) are earned through reading around your topics of interest on Google News - i.e. the more you read on one subject the more likely you are to earn a badge - or add more "Stars" (Google love their stars) to that badge. These can then be shared through social networks (of course) and you can "connect" with others who read similar stuff.

This is yet another example of digital life that is being influenced by the "gamification" trend - the concept of turning previously private activities into to gaming experience where people are either rewarded socially or physically with a some kind of "capital" (If you are playing buzz-word-bingo whilst reading this post then you are likely doing very well by this point).

The question that this development has to beg of course, is do we really need to be incentivised in such a way to consume the world around us? As a world of fairly advanced adults with access to  a rich and diverse media landscape, do we need the digital equivalent of being given a cookie for doing our homework? As much as I am pleased to say that this is another example of the "recommendation economy" at work - I do sometimes wonder if this is encouraging a culture of digital laziness - a condition of the millennial generation that is actively promoting the suspension of discernment, making us all follow the breadcrumbs of "Likes", +'s and RT's.

Church, Twitter & Trinity [Audio & Slides]

A couple of weeks ago now I had a great opporunity to share some of my recent thinking on social media for the church - how it affects our attention, our understanding of truth and of relationships - with the wonderful people at All Saints Church, Peckham Below is the audio and slides of that night! Enjoy.

James Poulter @All Saints Peckham - Sociality by jamespoulter

Sociality ASPeckham 220511

Life in a multiscreen reality

Patterns for Multiscreen Strategies
View more presentations from precious

If you have watched any live or as live programming on the BBC as of late you will likely seen a little symbol and a what could appear to the untrained eye a combination of randomly assorted characters. #bbcqt #bbctbq #HIGNFY Any of those ring a bell? The learned amongst you will of course know these are the apple of the social media maven's eye - the humble hashtag is taking over the world on programme, concert, live event and wedding at at time (that's right - I went to a wedding that had it's own tag on Saturday - check out the #teambu stream).

All of this is to encourage something that the Beeb are very keen on - a multi-screen viewing experience or MVE. As outlined in the presentation above from German design studio Precious Forever - MVE is not quite as simple as whacking a #tag on the opening credits of a TV programme - and although MVE may well be another contributing factor to my Social ADD, but it does provide a new - more social kind of viewing experience.

In pre TV days (I am told) people would sit around the wireless in the living room and listen to programmes together - it was a social experience, one enjoyed by a family unit. I wonder if the increase in TV channels embracing MVE's are trying to drive us back to that more social way of consuming mediums which have become ever more individualist, be it TV, YouTube of video games.

Time-shifting technology such as TiVo and Sky+ have given us the ability to watch whatever we want whenever we want it - no more hassling over who has the remote, no more having to sit through Countdown with Mum waiting for Deal or No Deal to come on - and as much as these tech have freed us from one another's tastes, they have also driven us from sharing in the experience with one another. MVE of course is never going to provide the reality of sitting down with friends to enjoy Shark Week, but maybe we are getting back a little of what we have lost.

Over to you:

Does MVE provide a better TV watching experience?

It's all in an icon: why your social visual presence matters

Last night on the way home from church I found myself waiting for the bus (not in an existential kind if way - i.e I was physically waiting for he bus) outside Holy Trinity Sloane Square, where upon I spotted the carving below adorning the gates to the building.

Holy Trinity Sloane Sq.

Not to go all Robert Langford on you, but this got me thinking about the importance we give to icons, logos and the visual world which we associate organisations, brands and people with. The above symbol, which many of you will first associate with Hitlers National Front, was not always a symbol of fear or ownership, but one of worship and respect (without the mass genocide).

In some cases an icon can take generations to take meaning, this was certainly the case for things like the Cross, the Buddha and the pyramid, but now new symbols can take on meaning in a matter of days.

Icons still matter an aweful lot, we are increasingly seeing a more visual web take form. Despite the constant attention given to those who can summaries there lives in 140 characters more and more imagery is filling the fibre optic veins of the web and with it comes an Internet consumer that is well versed in decoding the visual web.

Cisco recently reported that by their estimation 90% of all web traffic will be video based by 2013 and Facebook users continue to spend more time looking at photos and videos of friends than they do anything else on the platform.

So now seems like as a good a time as any to take a look at our own visual representation on the web - what images are representing your brands, your companies or even you?

3 tip to get you started:

1. Do a visual audit - a simple google image search will suffice - you'll be surprised what you find!

2. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify - if at all possible keep boiling down what images, icons, fonts and colours are being used to represent your brand - take note from some of the most notable brands out there - Facebook, Coca-cola, Starbucks - clear, simple and unified

3. Keep consistent - next time you sign up on a new service, launch a new blog or Micro site or print up new business cards keep consistent with colours fonts and logos - this may seem obvious but it can be awe-fully tempting to just bash up the first or prettiest version you have of a logo or head shot. If you want to keep consistent check out Gravatar - a system recognised by the likes of Word-press and many other social sites to ensure you use consistent profile pictures!

Over to you:

What visual identities do you think sum up their brands clearly?

How Chanel is enchanting luxury customers to recommend

I point out now this is not just an excuse to share a video of Keira Knightly - after all who needs an excuse? But rather this is to show you just how well Chanel, one of the world's most premium and carefully guarded brands, gets that it is all about enchanting it's customers into recommendation.

Premium brands need premium content

One of the criticisms I have heard from luxury brand managers is that using social media cheapens the consumer experience of the brand. By being too available, or too friendly through social channels, the allure and exclusivity of the brand is somehow degraded. This comment well may be valid, however Chanel clearly understand that there are ways of generating online recommendations and interest in the brand, through social channels, without detracting from the brand's premium feel. If the content is premium enough and the feedback loop to the brand is directing people back to the brand, then you can indeed do premium social comms.

Enchanting brands need enchanting stories

If you have bothered to watch through the full video above (or any other of the Chanel short films - emphasis on films there) then you already know that the reason these are so captivating is the narrative that they paint about the brand. Soft focus pulls, pastel hues and inventive audio motifs give us not only a visual story but a subtext of sexuality, playfulness and premium that Chanel own so well.

Facilitating premium recommendations

The trifecta here is how Chanel not only give you a great piece of content to direct others to, that tells a great brand narrative, but completes the DNA with a premium way of facilitating association and recommendation. The Chanel Facebook presence for Coco Madmoiselle (a part of the main Chanel Facebook page) is one of the most slickly produced brand pages I have seen recently, and to that end makes it a pleasure to "Like" it - giving users a very premium association and ability, through behind the scenes photos and video, to share premium recommendations too.

Over to you...

Have you been enchanted by any brands recently? Does Chanel's quality content guard the brand or cheapen it?

How Starbucks is capturing hearts in a social moment

If you have spent any time either here on the blog or with me in person you will know by now that I am a bit of a coffee fanatic. Being a self confessed caffeine junkie and working in social comms means that I am somewhat wedded to places like Starbucks to give me that fix on a day to day basis. I would like to point out that it is not because I think there coffee is the best - far from it (for that try Joe and the Juice on Regent St, or Kaffeine), but the fact that you can always find one, order the same thing and get the same drink (most of the time) and access free Wi-Fi ticks most of the boxes for me. Our Starbucks Moment

But I am also drawn to Starbucks for another reason - their clear understanding of how to capture the hearts of their consumers. If you have ever interacted with their UK MD on twitter, "Liked" a photo on their Facebook page, checked in at a store or submitted a "My Starbucks Idea" you know what I am talking about.

Starbucks have recognised that getting people to recommend them is of the utmost importance, and they are seeking to find  new and exciting ways to do that everywhere they go. This was exemplified to me first hand this weekend at the London Coffee Festival in the far to trendy Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, where along with some of the best food and coffee on the planet, Starbucks asked me to share "My Starbucks Moment" Through the use of a photo-booth provided by the fantastic people at Say Fromage. After sampling a free Cake Pop and Flat White we were ushered into the photo-booth (cups in hand) to take a photo - from there we could print it out, leave a caption and post it on a photo wall on the stand, but crucially upload direct to Facebook into a newly created album "My Starbucks Moment" or email to a friend.

A simple, yet devilishly clever tactic, but says clearly that Starbucks understand the DNA of a recommendation very well. Giving punters the opportunity to capture the moment of the festival as it happens, creating something to direct others to, adding a narrative to that moment - and a branded narrative at that, but also finally understanding that the association that fans of Starbucks have with the brand and giving the opportunity to share that association through a piece of content.

Capturing hearts and minds in a moment, but creating recommendations that last a whole lot longer.


My point about their engagement exemplified by this tweet from Darcy Willson-Rymer - Starbucks' UK Managing Director

Starbucks UK MD Tweet

The Value of a Recommendation: Facebook Share 7x More Than A Tweet?

A new report from the group buying / daily deals platform  ChompOn released today reveals some interesting data about the different values of various social media recommendations. Key Stats:

  • Facebook 'Share' ($14) is worth the most.
  • It is almost twice that of a Facebook 'Like' ($8)
  • Tthree times more than a Tweet ($5)
  • Seven times that of a Twitter 'Follow' ($2).

All of these were when looking at the use of the social functions built into their own app and only from situations where it resulted in a direct sale from the recommendation. This kind of data is the next in a string of recent announcements from a variety of online business such as EventBrite an GoViral that have begun to try and put actual values to different types of social media recommendations.


Whilst the specific numbers certainly shouldn't be taken to be industry standards I think the general rules that they show are interesting. According to the ChompOn stats you could say that 1 Facebook "Share" was 7 times more valuable than a single tweet recommending the same offer. The EventBrite research from October last year supports that Facebook Shares are more valuable than tweets, generating an average of $2.52 from 11 referrals compared to  $0.43 being generated from as many tweets.

Research from the UK's biggest online donation site JustGiving also supports the proposition that Facebook Shares are highly valuable forms of recommendation, in a recent presentation by JustGiving's Jonathan Waddingham,  he showed that the average "Like" on Facebook resulted in £3.50 worth of donation (based on 6 Likes for every donation on Facebook with an average value of £21). Jonathan said "Facebook friends are usually closer to you than your Twitter followers. Ergo FB shares often bring more action as the connection is stronger."

So why do we value Facebook recommendations more than those on twitter? I think I agree with Mr Waddingham on this - predominantly are friends with people we have actually met and know on Facebook, where as twitter we have far more casual acquaintances, celebrities of people we find interesting. We value people, relationships and depth. Maybe the effect of a Like or a Share form a friend captures us because their influence over us is based on Robert B. Caildini's rule of "Liking" more than the "Social Proof" that we are often more reliant upon in twitter?