Trust: The Vital Ingredient

I like all of the questions for this week’s topic, but the first one grabbed me more than the others.

Trust isn’t something I had really thought about until this point in the course, but from looking at the readings it seems obvious now that different types of trust underpin social media use in different ways; in fact, social media would barely exist if it weren’t for their users’ trust. Continue reading

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Government and Social Media

How Does Government Social Media Use Compare to that of the Private Sector?

I’ve noticed more parallels between the public and private sectors than I expected to when I first read the question.

As we know, both small businesses and those in the corporate world are embracing social media in order to achieve a number of goals and increase their competitive advantage. At the same time, MPs in New Zealand have been establishing a presence on Facebook for some years. The NZ Parliamentary Library (NZPL) has compared various parties’ and MPs’ friend and fan counts, which is mildly interesting – what is much more interesting is the NZPL’s noting that two of the five most-followed MPs on Facebook entered Parliament after the 2008 election. This is not long at all when you think that MPs like Winston Peters are still around. Could it be that younger MPs are looking to social media to help build a support base, or even (forgetting for a second that correlation does not imply causality) that a higher number of social media followers might be an indicator of electoral success? MPs probably are trying to gain support in the same way that companies look for new leads online, but I’m leaning towards ‘no’ on the latter. As the NZPL points out, a lot of people follow others on social media in order to observe them, not necessarily because they agree with them. It’s hard enough to predict based on voter polls! Continue reading

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Small Businesses, Non-Profits and Mobile Social Media Apps

How can small businesses and non-profits benefit from social media?

Social media holds the promise of connection between individuals, whether it’s with old friends or like-minded people across the world. The same is true for businesses that want to get their name out there and build their client base, and as MYOB has reported, the benefits are real: their survey found that almost a third of businesses have increased revenue through their online presence.

While the options available to businesses continue to evolve, it’s worth noting that consumers and populations are changing as well. This is particularly true with regards to expectations about a business’s public face and people’s comfort level in sharing information online. Witzig’s team of researchers found that young people are actually more likely to donate to non-profits online than through traditional means, which is a powerful reminder for any business that’s trying to build loyalty: social media isn’t going anywhere, so it’s probably worth investigating. Continue reading

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Information Architecture, Web 2.0 and Beyond

Information architecture is a broad field. The responsibilities and considerations are likely to change depending on the business the information architect is working with, or the industry that they’re a part of.

 

How has web 2.0’s emergence changed the field of information architecture? I like to consider the ways that a certain field has changed over the years, using comparisons between ‘then’ and ‘now’ to help understand the changes. This helps remind me that we’re not looking at a simple cause and effect relationship; in my mind it’s closer to two entities whose separate developments affect the other in a kind of back and forth that also receives influence from the outside world.

 

As I said, examples are clearer than my own attempts at explanation. Dan Brown at UXmatters picks an excellent one: e-commerce. As he explains, in the early days of online shopping, an information architect would have had to use a product catalogue to create a storefront on the Web. This is still true, especially for small businesses that might be experimenting with e-commerce for the first time. But there’s a more dynamic interaction – actually, several more dynamic interactions going on – than there might have been 20 years ago.

 

The first of these takes place between the server (or more likely, several servers) and the browser. Today’s e-commerce sites can use type assist to suggest products as the user types, while businesses that have brick and mortar locations can suggest the nearest location based on a user’s postcode before mashing their information up with map data to give directions.

 

This is great for customers: more convenience and so on. And here’s where dynamism on the end user’s part comes in: they can now react, rate, review and tag like never before. E-commerce customers can review products and ask questions of other users, or even tag reviews as helpful or unhelpful. All of this information in turn gets gathered and used by search engines and businesses, as with Google’s Rich Snippets. People seem to naturally take advantage of all these new capabilities.
So we’ve got web pages with all of these new capabilities that people are taking advantage of. What does this mean for information architects? Off the top of my head, it seems obvious that they have a lot more to learn about and to try and plan for. They now have to think about how to manage all of this user-generated content: what to capture, how to capture it, how to display it to those that need to use it. How can we accommodate content that’s coming from millions of unpredictable users? I think the information architect role is essentially expanding from setting up effective frameworks for communicating with users, to include storing, processing and displaying masses of incoming information. As Brown writes, the information architect needs to think in a more abstract way, asking how they can create the right space for users to contribute more while still addressing business requirements.

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Blogging and Business

The first blogs also represented what I think of as a 1:n style of communication, with a single author putting posts out for the world to read. This has changed somewhat over the years as comments and ratings were introduced, with more scope for the audience to respond to the author, but blogs still seem much less collaborative than something like a wiki. They’re more of a communication tool.

 

As I see it, businesses can benefit from blogs in three main areas: branding, marketing/connecting with customers, and sharing knowledge internally. As with any time we bring up categories like this, there’s no particular order and there are overlaps – especially between the first two areas. I’d like to give my thoughts on each one before talking a little bit about businesses’ use of blogging alongside other social media.

 

Branding

Blogging is a great opportunity to present a human voice behind the business. People (myself, at least) can be cynical about ‘we care’-type marketing that tries to make us feel like we’re friends with a corporation. A blog, on the other hand, has more potential for two-way communication. If commenting is encouraged, and comments are responded to, a blog can go a long way towards making the business seem less faceless.

 

If a business manages its blog well, I think there’s a lot of potential to generate goodwill among the readers. This goodwill comes in handy when something goes wrong – if a trusted voice from within the company responds sincerely to a PR nightmare, customers will be more likely to forgive.

 

Marketing/connecting with customers

 

Blogs can be useful marketing tools as well, serving as a low-cost way to grab people’s attention and promote the company. As I mentioned before, there’s a big overlap with the branding; any promotional material is associated with the brand, so voice, passion and so on are still important. The difference in my mind comes from

 

Internal knowledge sharing

 

Blogs from different departments and subject matter experts can be useful for sharing knowledge within a business. Posts that focus on areas such as HR

 

Other Social Media
Promote blog on other social media that might not support longer posts, eg to Facebook and Twitter followers

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