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December 13, 2018Published by: Charlie Sharpe

Tuning in: The apps and brands evolving into quasi-social networks

If, like myself, you’re an avid Spotify user, you may have noticed recently that pop-up notifications have started appearing on the ‘Made For You’ tab. It seems the feature has been around for ages, so it surprised me that Spotify is making a more concerted effort to push it. Is it to focus our attention on something we’d previously ignored, maybe?

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July 30, 2018Published by: Charlie Sharpe

The fake news fightback is real

Fake news is old news, right? You know, that thing that reared its ugly head a couple of years ago and then quickly turned into memes? Well, yes and no. It may have made headlines in 2016 with the British referendum on whether to leave the EU, the US election, and various brands becoming victims of fake news, but its application and effects are still very much being seen and felt today.

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June 1, 2015Published by: Charlie Sharpe

Can the BBC iPlayer creator help us find what we actually want to know on social media?

A clear problem is emerging with social media; it doesn’t tell us what we want to know. On Facebook we only become friends with people we know and like pages that fill our timeline with vaguely irrelevant spam about the Kardashians, on Twitter we follow users we find interesting but they don’t post the content we want to see - too often I will follow somebody I found interesting only for them to start retweeting generally uninteresting content. The key problem appears to be that social media platforms are people focused not content focused, or at least that’s how the creator of BBC iPlayer Anthony Rose saw it. People need to be able to go onto a social media site and look at content they find interesting and then go on to meet new people who share their interests.

Rose saw this issue as a mere challenge to overcome and his (I think excellent) response is the topic-based social platform 6Tribes, which launched at the end of May. 6Tribes is currently only available on IOS in the UK but will be released to a wider audience soon. The app collates posts from a variety of users based on the groups or “tribes” they follow. If users can’t find a tribe that interests them, then they can also create their own; this will allow the creator to manage all content in the tribe and assess what is or isn’t relevant through the “bump” system.

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Tribes are small communities on the platform dedicated to a certain topic (e.g. sports, films, television, music, tea), within each tribe people can post relevant content for other followers to see with a “bump” system (similar to Reddit’s voting system) to filter the content. Once users have joined a variety of Tribes all posts will come through on the user's’ feed to provide a completely content focused and personalised news feed. At first glance, it’s great. The feed is specific to any topic you choose and provides interesting and relevant updates and overall the app is really smooth, very simple and good looking.

“Close to launch we have close to 100 tribes” said Rose, however alongside of new Tribes run by the platform users can also create and manage their own Tribes, sharing content on any topic that takes their interest. The beauty of this new platform is not only in the content but the way you can meet other users. Because all of the groups are topic-based and not user based it’s a good way to interact with new people who share your interests. I think it has to be said, Mr Rose has done a good job. With the potential for serious expansion over the coming months 6Tribes could be a promising guide for social platforms to come.

February 19, 2015Published by: Charlie Sharpe

Facebook’s second coming: Could VR research revive the social network?

Virtual-reality-speeltje-of-bruikbare-marketingtool_900_450_90_s_c1_smart_scaleAs you all may be aware, the once giant of social media - Facebook - has been struggling recently. The number of new users joining is declining and, while it now has 1.35 billion users across the globe - 35 million ahead of Youtube - other social platforms are beginning to close the gap. It is fast becoming a common view that the site is inundated with advertising and is no longer popular among social media's target audience - Facebook is out of date. Some reports have even suggested that the network’s days are numbered and that the near future is one without it.

However, almost a year after the company's $2bn acquisition of the virtual reality company Oculus VR, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox has announced that research into virtual reality app creation has begun. "The first time you're in [a virtual world], you realize you are looking at the future," Cox said. "You look around, and it's beautiful." (PC Magazine). Cox went on to explain that, when users share videos, posts, photos etc on Facebook they are not just sharing media - they are sharing an experience. Could this be a sign of a daring comeback? Only time will tell.

For now though Cox has announced that the technology is still a long way away so don't expect to be reliving your friend's ski trips or a Beyonce concert tomorrow!  The same is true for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, but for now Facebook can only hope that VR technology will be its saviour.


December 1, 2014Published by: Charlie Sharpe

The Influence of Social Media in Modern Politics in the UK

TwitterUntil recently many have underestimated the power of social media in politics. However two recent events have demonstrated the importance of it.

Many political campaigners may take the traditional view that social media cannot influence the reputations and success of politicians, however more and more politicians are beginning to establish themselves on social media platforms. On average 85% of Members of Parliament (based on research of the 73 London constituencies) now have accounts YouTube, Facebook or Twitter that are managed by themselves or their offices.

Furthermore, in the last few weeks, two events have really highlighted the importance of social media in modern politics; the sacking of the Labour MP Emily Thornberry from her position of shadow Attorney General over a tweet from the labour campaign in Rochester, and the rise of the #CameronMustGoTwitter campaign.

While social media can be used as an effective campaigning tool, a lack of experience and understanding can be fatal in politics. Ed Miliband’s decision to sack Emily Thornberry over the Rochester tweet has attracted more attention from the wider media than the tweet itself, drawing significant negative press around the Labour party as a whole. This could prove to have a significant impact for the Labour party campaign in the fast approaching 2015 elections. Had Miliband demonstrated a better understanding of the power of social media could reputational damage have been avoided?

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 16.23.16The second example, #CameronMustGo, was initially dismissed by fellow MP’s who predicted it would have little influence and would quickly disappear. However, after five days the hashtag had been mentioned 420,178 times and had an astonishing potential reach of 573,844,914 people. While some of these tweets may have been light hearted in nature, the sheer volume of such a negative hashtag are clearly not a welcome outcome for a party gearing up to an election.

These two recent examples demonstrate the potential risk of social media in modern day politics, however it’s important to note that social can be used as a successful campaigning tool if used and approached appropriately. Labour MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna, has amassed a sizable online community - his Twitter page has 87,112 followers and his Facebook page has 13,065 likes.

One of the key reasons for Umunna’s social media success (aside from avoiding controversy!) are the regularity of his posts and the informal and casual way he and his office approach these updates. Chuka uses YouTube to post a variety of videos which not only address political issues but also demonstrate an interest in his voters through topical events such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and Notting Hill Carnival. Many people involved in politics on social media may dismiss this approach as not focusing on the most important elements of the job, however it has clearly won him a supportive online community.

Overall, while many politicians have struggled with the risks associated with social media, it is clear that there are opportunities for politicians to engage with a disillusioned electorate in a brand new way. As it becomes clearer that the future electorate is online it is becoming far more important for the politicians to be able to communicate with them.