Category Archives: Social media

What’s Mine is Yours

Review of What’s Mine is Yours – How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers

I need to declare an interest upfront,  in that I know and have enjoyed working with Rachel Botsman, one of the co-authors of this book. Rachel is a graduate of Oxford and Harvard universites has worked for President Clinton and as a successful management consultant. But no bias on my part – this is an interesting, engaging and important book!

What’s Mine is Yours posits that we are at a tipping point in a new way of living – based on sharing, bartering and helping each other out. This is partly driven by rejection on the part of newer generations towards the excesses in consumption of their Baby Boomer parents, partly by a desire to husband our earthly resources better, partly by increasingly straitened economic circumstances for many, and all of this facilitated by technology and new connectedness that we enjoy now through social networking and mobile communications.

The book is written in an involving anecdotal style, using real stories and experiences to bring the concepts alive. Botsman and Rogers have interviewed a number of key entrepreneurs and opinion formers. It sets up the context for collaborative consumption and explains the socio-demographic and psychological forces that have encouraged the desire to share instead of own, to be more “we” and less “me”. There are plentiful examples to demonstrate what collaborative consumption is, how it has arisen and the many forms it takes. Finally the authors explore how this phenomenon will further evolve and its likely long term impact.

I’ve always been a bit of an early adopter, so several of the emerging organisations and companies practising collaborative consumption were already known to me: I’ve rented a van from StreetCar; rented out my own car several times to strangers through Whipcar; I’m in the process of negotiating a house swap in Australia; I’ve acquired  jars for jam-making via Freecycle and given away furniture through Freecycle and Street Bank; I regularly rent DVDs through Lovefilm and have bought and sold on eBay. I’m also a co-founder of a website dedicated to living sustainably and creatively by making and mending things rather than buying and binning. All that may indicate I’m heavily pre-disposed towards the concept of collaborative consumption, but  as someone who has been an Olympic standard conspicuous consumer and big spender in my time, I think it says more that  if people like me are getting into this, then Botsman and Rogers have identifed a very real element of the zeitgeist and we are going to see a lot more examples of collaborative consumption before long.

Not only is it happening: it also makes a lot of sense. To use an example from the book, when doing a spot of DIY we want the hole not the drill (apparently the average usage of an electric drill is 12 minutes in its entire lifetime!). You want to see the film – not collect plastic boxes to sit idle on your shelf. It’s about access not ownership.

But collaborative consumption is about more than accessing ‘things’ – it’s also about sharing and accessing services and skills. Bartering requires a “double coincidence of wants” a lawyer with a leaking tap might normally struggle to find a plumber in need of legal advice but the Internet has dramatically changed that. Apparently there are already around 500 online barter exchanges in the Americas, including Bartercard with more than 75,000 members across nine countries who exchanged over $2 billion of goods and services though its network in 2009.

Obviously a pre-requisite of collaborative consumption is trust. One of the theses Botsman and Rogers put forward is that  to establish trust we will increasingly rely on our personal reputation capital. At first this sent a chill up my spine – another excuse for people to monitor and spy on my activity online? But already we are all subject to credit checks, like it or not, so checks on our reliability and trustworthiness are probably an inevitable consequence and facilitator of collaborative consumption. This is already operating extensively in peer ratings – as done by the self policing system on eBay – but it does also raise a concern that one’s reputation could be blown by a spiteful comment from an individual – as some hoteliers have found with abusers of Trip Advisor. It means we’ll all need to be vigilant and active in developing and protecting our ‘reputational bank accounts’.

This is a very well researched and thought-provoking book, packed full of entertaining examples and written in a very accessible and conversational story-telling style. You can buy it on Amazon What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live


New tools for organising information

I’ve been using two new tools in my ongoing battle to simplify and organise all the information in my life.

The first, Flipboard, was only launched this week, so I haven’t given it an extended test drive yest – but so far I’m loving it. It’s for i-pad and, like the Twitter Daily I recently posted about, it’s a way to sort your social media into a more visually friendly format. In other words a look just like a quality print magazine but on your i-pad. Unlike Twitter Daily, Flipboard also turns your Facebook information into a magazine format too, along with any other sources you want to consult. I’m loving it BUT it’s early days and apparently they’ve been massively oversubscribed so new users may experience some delays in setting it up.

What I’m absolutely LOVING is Evernote. I now have this on Mac, PC, i-phone and i-Pad and it syncs across all these using cloud technology. If I’m on a webpage and I want to save it, I just clip a little icon in my Browser and it grabs the URL as a bookmark AND scoops in the whole content including pictures. If I want to jot down an address,  make a  few notes or take a picture I can drop them into  Evernote on my phone and then there they are waiting for me on the computer when I get back to the office.So no matter where I am, I can access things that matter to me and everything syncs immediately. It’s magic!

Within Evernote I now have a series of notebooks, one with work-related material: articles and stimulus, one with background material for a book I am writing, another related to my online business, Make it and Mend it, where I gather stuff I want to follow up on later, and the rest sits in a general notebook – everything from holiday ideas to quickly scribbled notes to remind myself to do things.

Evernote is absolutely free – although there’s a premium version for a small monthly fee. So far the free app is proving perfectly adequate for my needs. Give it a go!


Flipboard for i-Pad

How to digest Twitter

I’ve written before about Twitter and how to use it, but despite being a fan, my usage recently has dropped off. My problem is sorting out the wheat from the chaff and trawling through a large stream of dreadful tweets, trying to find the ones worth reading and the links worth clicking.

I’ve found some real gems on Twitter – but oh boy is it time consuming and as I’m already drowning under a  sea of information I just can’t spare the time to trawl through every day.

‘But lo! what light through yonder window breaks?’ I’ve found a solution!

A way to make Twitter’s torrent of trivia and treasure digestible. A way to make it more like reading a newspaper. A way to classify all this ‘stuff’ into an orderly pattern. A way to classify topics by subject matter. A way to visualise and pull out the stories behind those 140 characters. In other words it’s a way to digest the tweets that carry links – by giving prominence to the content in the link, rather than the often poor 140 character summary of it.

The solution is found here is a means of turning Twitter into a daily newspaper, delived to your inbox  ready for you to click.

What this doesn’t do though is in any way substitute for the pleasure of the well-crafted non-linked 140 character  ‘story’. The people who make you laugh with their short, sharp, acerbic takes on life. The people who comment in the moment – when you’re watching the World Cup, the Eurovision Song Concert or a national election – and they perfectly capture the moment. But you soon discover who they are and can keep them safely captured in a Twitter list.

The other beautiful opportunity that Twitter Daily offers is to set up a page that captures stories around a particular topic that you’re interested in. So as well as (or instead of) capturing your own Twitter stream, you can set up a daily digest around a hashtag – so if you’re wanting to know everything that’s current on #breeding rabbits, #underfloor heating or #openheartsurgery you can have a digest delivered to your inbox daily.

I was introduced to Twitter Daily by @clareob who told me she’s been using it for ages and was stunned by how slow people have been to take it up.  I was one – I don’t remember her email or tweet alerting me to it. But I’m remedying that now!

Ford’s conversation with Generation Y

FiestaLineUpAgentsToday Ford was named Brand of the Year by the Society for New Communications Research for “its innovative use of social media to improve the way the company communicates with its stakeholders”. Noteworthy has been the company’s pioneering Fiesta Movement campaign.

I first came across the US Ford Fiesta Movement through Twitter. One of the people I followed when I began tweeting, was in the process of applying to be a Fiesta Agent and got very excited when she was one of the chosen 100. As a Brit, with memories of the old Ford Fiesta as a rather tired model, mainly favoured for supermarket and school runs by the unyummier brand of mummy, I was amazed that someone like her (20 something and very cool) would be so pumped up over being picked to test drive one.

So what is the Fiesta Movement? Ford has been testing the power of social media to “pre-launch” Fiesta in the USA. They’re targeting the car to under 30s, so the logic of exploiting the power of social media is clear. Ford held a beauty parade to find 100 high profile, 20 something, bloggers – over 4000 applied. Each of the 100 chosen bloggers received a car, imported from Europe and modified for the US, all taxed and insured and petrol and parking fees paid for, to use for 6 months, in exchange for undertaking six monthly “missions” in the car and blogging about these.

driver-44-profile_image_originalThe “Agents” have posted photos to Flickr, tweeted their opinions on the car on Twitter, commented on Facebook, uploaded videos to Youtube, shared views on the Fiesta Movement home page – and of course regularly write about their experiences in their own blogs. The bloggers have had a free rein to write and film what they wanted – and they certainly seem to have taken advantage of that! Not all the feedback has been positive – although the vast bulk of it has.

And the results? At the beginning of this month (almost the end of the 6 month run) Ford released these figures:

  • 4.3 million YouTube views so far
  • 500,000+ Flickr views
  • 3 million+ Twitter impressions
  • 50,000 interested potential customers, 97% of whom don’t own a Ford of any type currently.

These social media stats are not earth-shattering in comparison with the gazillions of viral hits achieved overnight by the Susan Boyle debut or the millons of views for Jill and Kevin’s wedding entrance, but for a consumer brand they are pretty impressive. What’s more important though, is the number of registered potential customers and the fact that most of these are new to Ford.

3993465696_059c0667d7The style-leading bloggers have given the Fiesta brand an injection of street cred that moves it far away from the old fashioned image the brand used to have. Having a blogger write about the fuel consumption he’s getting or show the storage capacity with photos of the boot (sorry trunk!) loaded up with gear for a camping weekend, is worth more than any number of glossy brochures or any amount of sale room patter to the target group.

Here’s a quote from one of the agents, Maria D:

“this has got to be one of the most brilliant campaigns ever. It fully engages us as ambassadors without us being hardcore sales people. We are not required to yap about the Fiesta constantly and we can pretty much say whatever we want. The only thing we’re not allowed to do in our videos is shoot something stupid — ie, driving without a seat belt, that sort of thing. Ford took a great risk in putting these cars in our hands.”

They did indeed take a risk. Not least by undertaking all this activity so far in advance of the car’s actual US launch date next year.

Ford appear to take social media seriously. This arm of their marketing effort is headed up by Scott Monty, who came to Ford from Crayon (tagline “Join the conversation”) and is regarded as a leading social marketing expert. (Although as a discipline so much in its infancy, experts don’t exactly have a lengthy track record). Scott has a Twitter following of over 31,000 and persuaded Ford CEO to venture onto Twitter to engage with Ford’s customers. To quote Monty:

“Ford is not interested in advertising on social networks. We’re interested in getting in there and interacting with people.”

Key to the campaign’s success – although recognising the jury is out until the car actually goes on sale – has been Ford’s understanding of the context of social media and ability to create interest in a sympathetic non-salesy manner that becomes part of the conversation rather than interrupting it. I’ll be watching those sales figures.

>> Brand of the Year

>> Fiesta Movement

Wittering on Twitter

whaleI was a dyed in the wool Twitter refusenik. I ignored its dubious charms for what has been an inordinately long time for me, a habitual early adopter and social media fan.

Eventually I was persuaded to dip a toe in the water by my colleagues on  in the name of research and traffic generation for our fledgling website.  As well as joining them on the MIAMI (our acronym for Make it and Mend it) page, I decided to set up my own page as well. My early experiences were framed by my mindset that the whole thing was a complete and utter waste of time and by the fact that I kept muddling mt tweets up and tweeting about the growth of sewing machines or the latest example of sculpture from recycled shopping trolleys on my personal site.

Over the first six weeks I twittered only 9 very embarrassed and awkward tweets on my own page, culminating in the anguished ‘Feel like a schizophrenic twitterer and this side has not been tweeting’. This cri de coeur marked the fact that whilst I was struggling with finding a voice for myself in Twitterdom I was becoming increasingly vocal through MIAMI. This caused me to re-evaluate how I might productively use it for ANT.

My initial resistance was based mainly on the fact that I felt so overwhelmed with more stuff than I could possibly and usefully read. The 140 character maximum of the tweets made my brain ache. Trying to process so many short and cryptic messages was causing severe cranial overload as I tried and failed to sort the wheat from the vast quantities of chaff.

I have now switched position quite radically and see Twitter as an incredibly useful source of stimulus, ideas, information and news. My Damascene conversion came about by taking the following steps:

  1. I radically cut back on the people I was following and regularly do a pruning exercise. It doesn’t take long to sort out the most useful of the twitterati. In my case, these mostly tweet links to articles and blogs, rather than uttering gnomic wisdom about their toothpaste preferences.  I have a very small number of people who post links that are usually worth reading.
  2. I don’t obsess about how many people follow me. A whole industry has grown up offering tools to get your follower numbers up. What for? I’m not trying to be Stephen Fry. I want to use Twitter as a business tool, so focusing on a small number of highly valuable twitterers makes sense and in turn I only want followers who share my interests and specialisations. I can see no benefit to either of us in a Minnesotan farmer following me (unless of course he needs a marketing strategy!)
  3. I try to be generous. When I like a link I retweet it  and give credit to the source, using the recognised RT and @ Twitter conventions. That way I get retweeted too and that’s a much better way to attract relevant followers
  4. I try to be disciplined. I use it for down time, over a coffee, while travelling or for defined short periods, otherwise I can get very distracted and go off piste on a wonderous ‘follow that link’ journey that leaves me forgetting what I set out to do in the first place.
  5. I use it for research. If I need to know something I tweet a request for information or suggested sources.

So now I am a Twitter convert. It enables me to keep up to date with developments in my chosen fields. It has introduced me to new sources of information and valuable opinion and, now that I have got used to processing the 140 character tweets and have limited these to people worth listening to, it is a fast and efficient way to get to the stuff I really want to read.

Burger King’s Whopping Whopper Sacrifice

whoppersacrificeFacebook may have killed off the Whopper Sacrifice in its prime: but not before Burger King’s promotion had seen more than 23,000 people strike off 10 of their friends in exchange for a free Whopper Sandwich token.

The burger chain’s promotion offered a free Whopper in exchange for Facebook members deleting 10 of their friends. The evil twist was that BK then notified the rejected friends that they had been unfriended and by whom, letting the victims know that their erstwhile friend valued them a less than one tenth the price of a burger. Claiming that this was breach of its users’ privacy, Facebook pulled the plug on the promotion after only ten days.

This was a short-lived, vicious but brilliant promotional device that perfectly exploited the nature of social media and the way that its devotees measure their own worth by the size of their friend lists. Its cheeky, memorable if somewhat brutal message made it stand out in a generally poor field, where brands are struggling to get to grips with the challenge of social media. It cost Burger King next to nothing and earned it a lot of valuable notoriety. The brand announced the demise of its offer with the words “In the end your love for the Whopper Sandwich was worth more than 233,906 friendships” and an offer to rejected friends to send an ‘AngryGram’ in the form of a talking Whopper to the person who defriended them. Brutal but perfectly attuned to the target market.