Reasons to use social media

I’ve been away from social media* for a month now, and I’m wondering whether to go back. I’m not convinced I should. I just don’t know whether I find it valuable enough to compensate for the downsides that it causes for me.

Here’s what I find valuable about social media:

  1. It helps me keep connected with friends.
    I actually met some of my closest friends (hi @dylanreeve, @parsley72) thanks to social media, and keep up with others using it. It’s not that I can’t catch up with people without using Twitter, but I do miss that ambient intimacy. I’m not convinced it’s as good as real intimacy though.
  2. It’s (currently) the best way to advertise your company and connect with your industry.
    With Codemania looming, I’m wondering if the lack of last-minute ticket sales is partially because I’m not spamming away on Facebook and Twitter. Possibly? Probably? Also we have some open roles at Vend that I’d normally tweet about to spread the word.

Continue reading “Reasons to use social media”

Use Your Inside Voice

There’s something about Twitter that brings out the troll in me. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like more often than not I’m responding to public figures with ranting negativity.

To be fair, I’m often responding to examples of deep stupidity, but that doesn’t mean I have to reply likewise. It shouldn’t be surprising, but a calm open-letter to an MP (also sent directly) received a significantly more constructive response than would a ranty 140 character tweet.

I’ve had a few conversations recently, which — combined with my own unease at being “that guy” — have me trying hard to be more careful in my responses. Here are my tips on being less of a troll when responding to stuff that makes you grumpy:

Engaging Governments

With government interaction, a calm, considered approach makes a lot of sense. I imagine politicians are almost immune to shouty rants, due to their daily exposure in the house, and no doubt regular dose of crazy constituents.

One might get the impression that MPs are “listening” on twitter because we are able to interact with them so immediately, but the truth is that using the processes we already have in place for legislation will always get a better result. These include (among other things) submitting to select committees, official information requests, and of course emails and letters directly to MPs.

If you haven’t engaged in lawmaking before, it’s actually not at all daunting. All opinions are valid, and in many cases expert opinion on your particular area of expertise are appreciated. A good place to start might be Mai Chen’s recent book: The Public Law Toolbox. Email your local MP. Look into what processes are currently underway in parliament, or even adopt an MP.

Engaging Corporates

Unfortunately we don’t have the same level of mandated transparency with corporations. The good thing is that they seem to be a lot more sensitive to reasonable social media feedback. If you need to add more detail, a blog post or email to elaborate on a couple of level-headed tweets is a great idea. The key thing to remember is that there are real people with real feelings behind even the most “faceless” social media presence.

Besides, being a troll is a near-certain way to get ignored by corporate social media. Take a look at this classic (did social media even exist in 2008?!) response chart from the US Air Force. Their suggestion for obvious trolls: “Avoid responding to specific posts”.

The other approach to consider is accessing a true inside voice: can you get in touch with an acquaintance employed by the company? Can you get them to see your point of view and work as an ally to foment change? This approach works particularly well for socio-economic or policy issues (as opposed to specific issues with products or services, which you should take through the existing support channels).

So yeah, thanks Koz and Nigel. Like I tell my four year-old: I’m gonna use my inside voice more often. How about you?


WIN: Social Media Junction Ticket

Congrats to Josie Campbell. Someone should be in touch with ticket info soon!

SMJ LogoWhat’s up my homebakers? If you’re up with the kids and down with the 411 on Social Media (with a captial S&M even), then you’re probably interested in the Social Media Junction conference happening this coming Monday (17th May).

The news is good! I have a free ticket to give away for Monday. Just think, you can kick with the New Zealand blogeratti: Russell, Mauricio, Bernard, Greer – and all those other A-list blogger first-name types. Heck, even New Zealand Twitter royalty like Paul (@vodafonenz) Brislen and Duncan (@orcon) Blair will be there to school you on twatterbleeping.

If you want to learn how to social your media, Social Media Junction is the place to be. Seriously.

Just reply below with the coolest thing you’ve done using Social Media, and I’ll select a random winner at 10:30am tomorrow (Friday).

Win: Handpresso Set (for my Tweeps)

Righto. This one is just for my Twitter peeps.

If you like your coffee al-fresco, the Handpresso portable espresso maker might just be your gas. I’ve reviewed their lovely Handresso outdoor set, which comes with some accessories in a gorgeous case, and you can win it. It makes a great cup of coffee, and all you need is some hot water and a bit of elbow grease to pump it up. You can check it out in action from my TVNZ Breakfast segment this morning.

Fill in the form below to enter. You must be a Twitter user, but you don’t have to be following me.

Thanks for your entries. This competition is closed, and was won by entry number 19!


  • One entry per person.
  • Entries only valid using the entry form above.
  • Entries limited to New Zealand residents only (sorry guys, the postage will kill me).
  • The items are brand new, but may have been opened and reviewed for this website and TVNZ.
  • Entries close Sunday 6 December 2009 at 8:00pm (NZ time).
  • Winners will be contacted by email and Twitter.
  • Winner will be re-drawn if there is no reply by one week after competition closing time.

A Response to Patrick Kershaw

Dear Patrick Kershaw

I see that you are new to Twitter. You’ve posted two tweets from your Twitter account (@patrickkershaw1). Perhaps just one if we consider your latest tweet to be a sign-off:
[quote]”has decided twitter is a fad… and this will be his last update”.[/quote]
I know Twitter can be hard to understand for a new user, so perhaps a brief introduction would be in order?

Twitter is a place where I can chat with 1,500 friends and acquaintances, and indirectly with hundreds of thousands. If I want to address a tweet directly to another Twitter user, I type @TheirUserName somewhere in my message.

It’s a place where I can tell my friends about the great web hosting service I receive from @sitehostnz, or complain about @vodafonenz‘s roaming data charges. I can book a table at @thefallsnz, a local restaurant in Henderson, and if my @orcon web service goes offline, I can txt a message to Twitter to let them know. I can see what’s coming up tomorrow on TVNZ’s @BreakfastOnOne, I can get wine advice from @thewinevault, and follow design and new media trends with @idealogmag.

Twitter is a place where @LewisBostock can tweet “Help, I’m stranded in Auckland and need to get home” (‘home’ being 45 minutes north of Auckland), and be inundated with offers of help, lodging, and transport. It’s a place where Lewis can tweet later in the day, pledging his thanks for the generosity of Twitter followers.

For me personally, Twitter has netted several speaking engagements, and countless tidbits of wonderful advice. Just today, after landing in Sydney, I posted a comment of outrage at Vodafone’s extortionary $10/Mb data roaming charges. Minutes later I had a response from @regen suggesting I buy a pre-pay sim card, which gets me data for $2/Mb. I can post a question about the intricacies of some obtuse software development task, and receive educated, specific responses in minutes.

And yes, Twitter is a place where I can type a short message about what I had for breakfast. One of my favourite things is to post early in the morning, informing my friends as to how many times the 6 week old baby woke up in the night. They respond likewise. We call it Parent Poker. How good was your hand last night?

Yet Twitter is just a fad, according to Patrick Kershaw. It has nothing to offer small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand. Apparently, it might be useful for corporates and celebrities, but for SMEs, “the time spent in actually using Twitter as a business tool will be a loss-making venture”. I’d like to suggest that Patrick have a chat, perhaps on Twitter, to a couple of the SMEs I listed above.

One example from many: Jayson Bryant (@thewinevault) has picked up a wonderful niche on Twitter, and is now posting a daily wine video blog, including a cameo from @JohnJCampbell (yes, of TV3’s Campbell Live). Jason estimates that 20%-25% of his sales can be directly attributed to Twitter and Facebook.

Ironically, I think Patrick will be back on Twitter in a few months. If you look back through my Twitter history, you’ll find I had the same feeling early on. Just like jogging, Twitter has an early wall that you need to break through. The term ‘conversation’ is a cliché used far too frequently in social media circles, but quite honestly, the key thing is to find a few like-minded users to connect with – perhaps friends or businesses you know through the ‘real world’ – and join the conversation.

Then you can post about what your cat had for breakfast.