Thursday, 28 May 2009

Seeing Through The Hype of Social Media

Do you have the feeling that someone is watching you? Is Social Media the death knell of the private individual? How does the rhetoric stack up with the reality?

There is dominant meme that runs through the world of Web 2.0. The meme is...'Social Media Is Good For You'. No matter the specalism journalism, business, hobbies, education, politics, etc you're cutting edge if you 'do it' and a Luddite if you don't.

Social Media will transform your business, Social Media helps you develop and exploit social networks, Social Media means you're never out of touch...It also means you're never out of reach!

The irony is that through Social Media I've just become aware of Two Point Touch Now this blog is right up my street. (Hang on am I proving the Social Media point here? I'd never have known about this if it wasn't for a link via Twitter!)

I really like the posts (Did I really type that!) because they take a more informed view on the Social Media phenomenon. In particular I like the connection to Critical Theory and other critical positions. Check out Surrender Foucault and Twitter There are some other great links that take a provocative view on the 'Social' rather than just the 'Media' too. I would really recommend reading the links in the article, and visit Always Look on The Bright Side of the Downside because it casts a critical gaze at the Social Media Evangelist.

Now, in case you are wondering, there are two main aspects of 'critcial thinking'. One concerns critcism of a phenomenon from the 'outside' The sort of 'wooooh Social Media is evil' perspective and there is what is known as 'immanent' critcism, which comes from particpants in a phenomenon such as Social Media who attempt to protect themselves against hype and un-thinking acceptance of everything that is put before them. I'd like to think I was in the latter camp. The cyber evangelists are just as bad as the luddites. I love Social Media, otherwise I wouldn't be blogging and social networking. I also believe that it has the potential for creating good and releasing talent in every aspect of society. That said, it does have its issues. Its a 'Time Vampire. Walk the dog? or Write the blog? The digital space is full of exactly the same characters as the face to face space too, we'd be gullible if we thought it was any different. There are charlatans and snake oil salesmen, Technological Determinists and Techno-Geeks. They all want a piece of you if you are willing and careless enough to give it.

So, eyes wide open folks! Participate in Social Media and remember there are consequences. Join a Nudist Colony and you can expect people can see your private parts.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

10 Ways Your Degree Will Improve Your Employability

Is there anyway you can prevent going from this:

image credit Wake Forest University

To This!?

Let's face it. You joined university in the firm belief that a degree would enhance your employability job prospects. Why should you think any differently? That's certainly the impression that's given off from the prospectii and the mantras that a broadcast in all areas of society. Figures are wheeled out to show how you how your earning power in the long run is so much better than someone who hasn't got a degree. Well that's assuming you aren't carrying too much debt of course. And it assumes that are jobs available in the first place!

So how are you going to get a job after graduating especially in a recession?

There are differences of course with regard to the type of degree you have. If you have a degree based on the natural sciences or technology then its probably the case that you had a specific career in mind. The same goes for particular professional services such as accounting and law. It might also be the case that you see your degree as a step on the way to an academic research and /or teaching career. Where things become a bit less certain is with those degrees that cover what might be termed 'managerial' subjects.

There is a paradox with such degrees. They provide a young graduate with exposure to a raft of concepts tools and ideas which can be very helpful to business. The problem is they tend to be 'analytical and reflexive' and when trading is tough businesses want 'doers' not 'thinkers'. Not only that business graduates are caught in a cleft stick. Join a big corporate (even they aren't recruiting as much as they used to at the moment) and when they do you become a very small cog in the machine, you are a front line soldier expected to do the grunt work that the previous tranche of graduate starters now shovel your way. You will be beguiled with promises of career progression, expected to sell your soul and time to the company to find after 5 years you are simply a number in the company's 'Graduate Idol' competition where there is only one winner. On the other hand you can join a small entrepreneurial business. Usually the boss has his ideas and no time for 'fancy college' stuff. It's 'My Way or The Highway'. Invariably the entrepreneur wants to know you can help him sell 'more of his stuff'. You might have a fancy title but you'll have no power and you'll be judged by what you bring in not how fantastic your market analyses are.

So 10 Ways To Get A Job With A Degree:

1. Don't be gullible and expect your degree to get you a job

2. Use your connections in every way possible. Many graduates today come from families who aren't 'connected' in the same way that richer families are so this is a major problem.

3. Do something for a business that shows 'willing'. This doesn't mean being taken for a ride. It means exploiting the phenomenon of reciprocation. Help people and they tend to help you.

4. Volunteer. It might hurt financially in the short term but it shows your committed and it gives the prospective employer a chance to see you in action.

5. Really pay attention to social skills. Deference where its due. Don't go bragging about 'my degree' Earn a reputation as a problem solver and a safe pair of hands.

6. Listen. listen.listen. Offer alternatives and suggestions, not prescriptions and must do's. Forget the typical 'recruitment' and 'HR' advice for interview techniques. Everybody follows those tips so by definition you will not come across as 'different' or 'interesting'. Instead study sales presentation skills. These will enable you get across the reasons why anyone should consider employing you. Check out How To Persuade People To Buy From You for more ideas.

7. Set up your own business.

8. Use your bachelors degree to get a Masters Degree. Re-read 1-7 above.

9. Put the 'subject' of your degree to one side. Ponder on what the experience of higher education has given and translate that into 'benefits' for an employer. i.e.what can you 'do' for them with your research, team work, presentation skills

10. In an interview spend alot of time asking about the interviewers business/organisation. (Be careful not to be patronising or appear as a consultant)Uncover problems and challenges they face, THEN match your skills and knowledge to them as solutions. Use phrases such as 'so am I right in understanding...', 'one thing you might do in that situation is...'

11. BONUS tip. Avoid going into 'super salesman' mode at all costs. It won't wash and it will make the employer's toes curl. If on the off chance you are expected to be table thumping, hard nosed and brash then be very wary of the type of organisation you are getting into. In 9 cases out of 10 business are NOT looking for the next Apprentice In the UK The programme has been criticised in the media for suggesting that success in the business world requires possession of unsavoury qualities. Terence Blacker of The Independent newspaper, for example, said that he believed that the programme falsely linked success with being "nasty, disloyal, greedy and selfish, claims the Wikipedia article.

12 Super BONUS tip. Don't waste your time and emotional energy with recruitment companies. You will simply be treated as their commodity. They are not 'talent' spotters they are 'job' matchers. Do yourself a favour and put effort into direct approach and formal letter. By all means attach a resume/CV, but best of all give something of yourself in a biographic story that aims to connect with your prospective employer, and please don't say 'I liked the look of your web site'

Friday, 22 May 2009

Madeleine McCann Hope Belief Expectations and Certainty

The news is full of a new suspect in the search for Madeleine McCann today. It's tempting to believe that the private investigators 'have got something' here. There's no smoke without fire, or so we like to think. In the abscence of information its seems natural to want to fill the gap as soon as possible. To make things fit.

I've just spent 5 minutes scouring the photo-fit and the photo of convicted paedophile Raymond Hewitt looking for similarities. That's what we do with information when we start to loose our objectivity. We seek out information that supports our hunches and find increasingly sophisticated ways of denying any disconfirming evidence.

Of course the detectives are saying its just one of many lines of enquiry. Lets hope, unlike the original Portugeuse investigator they are able to resist acting on hope belief and only seeing things that confirm their expectations.

Then there are the news papers and news sites. Perhaps editors have decided we have had our fill of outrageous British MP expense claims and we need a change. Is this is a 'none' story introduced to 'mix it up' and drive flagging sales and visits because of 'sleaze burn-out'.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Google Claims Virus Control Role

image Peeping Tom

Looks like Larry Page is using one of the oldest tricks in the social influence book to disuade authorities from limiting the time data can be held by the mega-corp Google.

Fear sells. The implied threat is that if Google can't do it's job then we're all gonna die!!

Really? is that true? Oh go on then we believe you. We must allow Google to store as much data about our computer useage as possible because its clear there is a direct correlation between amount of data held and our susceptibility to pandemic biological viruses.

Not only is Google a 'Search' engine it is now a 'Stop' engine too. Wow! Search and Stop!? Now doesn't that remind of your friendly neighbourhood Police State? The wonder of computer mediated technology. Let's be honest Larry more people knew what was and is happening wih Swine Flu' via standard health monitoring, TV, newspapers and Twitter than Google.

Not only that surely batches of 6 monthly data will reveal a trend without having to keep the data stored? The cumulative data to that point can be saved in Excel can't it? or is that just 'Sooooo 20th century'?

Mind you if Larry is concerned about reputation management then maybe that explains alot. Larry wants us to believe that Google has an important role to play in the health of the world. Maybe then, Larry Page's claims shouldn't be sneezed at. Apparently sneezing was considered something of a social skill in the 17th century! People who considered themselves opinion leaders and belonging to the higher classes practised 'sneezing on demand' to show dissaproval of an idea. Being able to sneeze showed an ability to afford 'snuff' which only rich and clever people could do, of course.

According to Larry Page (is this where the idea of Page Rank came from by any chance??) Google's "up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics and pandemics." and the less data companies like Googe were able to hold the "more likely we all are to die".


Read more:
Wiping data 'hits flu prediction'
Etymology of 'not to be sneezed at'

Friday, 15 May 2009

Salient Advertising and the Album Cover

The Manic Street Preachers have given us case study in gullibility with the release of their new album and its controversial cover. As Bandler and Grinder say "The meaning of communication is the way it is received" and when I look at that cover I associate it with a young female victim of violent crime, which disturbs me because I then start to wonder about the context of how it might have happened. I then switch to wondering if using such an image is an appropriate image to represent an entertainment product.

There are several possible explanations for what is going off here.Is what the Manic Street Preachers do about entertainment or art? If you believe its entertainment then no doubt the use of an image that risks being construed as violent is pretty naive. I don't think the Manic Street Preachers are naive. If you believe what they do is art then perhaps the reason for using the artwork on the cover of the Journal For Plague Lovers album is justified from a post-modern standpoint. i.e. all opinions are equally valid, there is no absolute right or wrong, art is about raising controversial and difficult issues and provoking us to think about them. The supermarket managers who have covered up the image for sale clearly believe selling albums is not about art.

Interesting that the group don't claim 'their art' as the reason for using the image. They profess innocence. "We just thought it was a beautiful painting...It is her brushwork...if you're familiar with her work, there's a lot of ochres and browns and reds and browns...We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes"

Either the Manics are gullible or they think that we are. The use of Salience is a familiar device to anyone in the business of communication. Remember the Benneton adverts and the dying Aids victim?


Salience is used to 'cut through' the background noise in our social world, and the Manics or their advisors were clearly aware that using a controversial image would attract attention (I'm blogging about it for goodness sake!). Perhaps the truth of their point of view is given in their supposed denial when they say "perhaps people are looking for us to be more provocative than we are being" Frequently the truth of meaning is the direct opposite of what is said. In other words they sub-consciously reveal that they are being provocative. Listen for it next time you hear someone say things like "You are just being awkard", or "You are clearly devious"...what are they really saying? This is classic Projection which is a "a defense mechanism where a person's personal attributes, unacceptable or unwanted thoughts, and/or emotions are ascribed onto another person or people.(Wikipedia 2009)

In a triumphant 'I'm gullible or I hope you are' statement James Dean Bradfield claims "It is bizarre that supermarkets actually think that that's going to impinge on anyone's psyche."

Well the retailers are sensitive because they know that's exactly what they do for a day job! We are all in the business of changing minds and social influence.Big business does it for a living. Marketers call it Positioning - The Battle for Your Mind. If there was no chance that the album cover would 'impinge on someone's psyche' why the hell do we have album covers in the first place? Why aren't they all sold in plain covers? Why invest the money in the artwork? Why have meetings to decide what the album artwork should be? Album covers are powerful and unduring pieces of communication. Don't believe me? OK. Don't think about Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album tell me what happened!

If it doesn't matter and it doesn't have any effect Mr Bradfield why are you bothered about the supermarkets covering it up?

Monday, 11 May 2009

UK to Become Banana Skin Republic

As the MPs expenses fiasco reveals excesses on a daily basis we now here that Phil Hope is to repay a massive £41,709

The UK may as well dissolve its parliamentary system and become a fully fledged Banana Skin Republic

Becoming a Banana Skin Republic is apt because parliament is "Frequently the subject of mockery and humour, and is usually presided over by a dictatorial military junta that exaggerates its own power and importance" if the wikipedia article on the subject is to be believed.

Additionally a Banana Skin Republic "typically has large wealth inequities, poor infrastructure, poor schools, a "backward" economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital and money printing, budget deficits, and a weakening currency"

Supporting the idea House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin says"Change is needed" David Cameron expressed delight at the Prime Ministers decision to go for Banana Skin Republic status alledgedly saying that he had feared at one point that the country might be re-named Absurdistan

It is also rumoured that a Birmingham based premier league club is renaming itself Pancho Villa too.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Expense Claims Proving Expensive for UK Parliament

The Expense Claims fiasco is proving expensive for the basic credibility of Parliament in the eyes of ordinary men and women in the UK.

What seemed like everyday parliamentary rough and tumble now looks like something alot more serious. The integrity of a significant number of MPs is bringing the reputation of the whole institution into question.Communities Secretary Hazel Blears is merely the latest example

How gullible are those MPs who claim they were operating within the rules? Surely these people are sent by us to Parliament to critically appraise all parliamentary processes on our behalf and change things if they are no good. They are not sent there to play the system and feather their own nests.

Have we got a bunch of self-interested single loop thinkers running the country? Its beginning to look like it. I thought that the so called 'Westminster Bubble' was about the self-referencing conversations between MPs and the media, it is clear now that this bubble isolates MPs from the very people they are meant to serve. How could they be so out of touch with the Zeitgeist of the moment, to think that they could behave as they do when ordinary people are loosing their jobs?

We have been here before! April 20th 1653 to be precise. What goes around comes around.

"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?
Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

Oliver Cromwell.

Read More:

MPs Prestige At Low Ebb
Guy Fawkes' Sunday Sleaze - MPs expenses musical guide

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Arsenal Fan Suicide - The Ultimate Expression of Brand Loyalty?

image credit Wigo

The unfortunate suicide of a Kenyan Arsenal Soccer Club Fanfollowing their defeat to Manchester United brings home the power of club loyalty and the strength of identity association with somebody's favourite team.

As the wonderful character and ex-Liverpool team manager Bill Shankly (dec) said.

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.”

Garry Adamson, Warwick Jones, and Alan Tapp wrote a fascinating article in Database Marketing & Customer Strategy (2006 Vol 13,2) Titled From CRM to FRM: Applying CRM in the Football Industry.

In the article they remark that football fans have a 'perverse loyalty and fanaticism'. Extreme behaviour in relation to any brand not just a sports team is not unheard of. There is the example of the Gucci fanatic who had the company name tattooed on his neck, regretting the move when his fashion tastes changed and he fell out of love with the fashion house.

Adamson, Jones and Tapp, provide some interesting charactersiations of 'fan types'

The temporary fan
The local fan
The devoted fan (remains loyal despite time and geographic boundaries)
The fanatical fan (where one other source of identity apart from the team exists)
Dysfunctional fan (there main source of self-identification comes from team support)

This latter category includes hooligans and it would also seem to include Suleiman Omondi. The fanaticism of fans cannot go understated as the quote from R Taylor in a 1998 radio interview on the BBCs Nicky Campbell show reveals:

"No one has their ashes scattered down the aisle of TESCO" No amount of BOGOFs, Club Points and Two for ones could ever create that sort of loyalty!

The intimacy of personal association with a teams performance often resents the commercialisation of the club. Fans bask in the reflected glory of success, and agonise in the on-going struggles (these fans are called Under Doggers)One thing is for sure, fans are not merely customers they express a loyalty to the brand that goes far beyond that seen by the super rich players that prance and preen on the pitch.

Next time the manager asks a player them to 'die for the shirt and his team mates' how many would be really willing to consider that option I wonder. Football Clubs would be gullible to underestimate the social influence of their brands.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Is There A Vaccine For Social Influenza?

Are you over-dosing on Swine-Flu media coverage? Is there a vaccine against the rampant spread of news coverage and public health advice? I think we've got the message now!

According to communications Inoculation Theory (McGuire 1961) all we needed at the onset of the outbreak was to be given a small dose of 'wash your hands', 'don't sneeze in someone's face', 'don't be a flu hero and go to work' to trigger our minds into generating all the arguments and reasons necessary for us to be mindful about the gravity of the problem.

Fundamentally the social influence attack has to be "strong enough to keep the receiver defensive, but weak enough to not actually change those preexisting ideas"

What the media coverage seems to have created through massive doses of social influenza is a perverse mutation of the swine-flu communications virus. It has alarmingly and dramatically altered its memetic make up.What was originally a 'fear of infection' has become a fixation with the Swine Flu Premier League Table.

The whole swine-flu thing has captured the attention and interest of the 'football manager wannabe'. I overheard two working lads on the train last week poring over the results..."Look Spain's got it now mate, how do you reckon Norway's gonna do?" Who's got the most points? Mexico played 700 lost 149, England played 500 drew 16...How do you reckon we'll fare by the end of the season? Yeah we had 175,000 and didn't lose any... C'mon you Lions!

So what next? Let's play Fantasy Epidemiologist.
Choose your country, choose your virus, select from a range of characteristics, such as sneezability, speed of mutation, resistance to vaccine, liking for a particular age group, you could even choose its appearance and 'team colours', the aim of the game its to see if your 'team' can spread the fastest round the globe and create the most victims. Perhaps the WHO could sponsor it and offer a small prize to the winner?

Are you fully protected against this virulent media mutation? Once you have read this please wash your hands.