Making politics interesting again #EP2014

Houses of Parliament, London

If Nigel Farage has achieved one other thing apart from his seismic shifting of the political landscape in the UK following elections for the European Parliament across the European Union on May 22, it’s making politics more interesting again.

And not just in the UK, either.

Unquestionably overshadowing the election for local government councillors that also took place in many constituencies in England and Northern Ireland last week, Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) – firmly to the right-of-centre in political terms – has consistently banged the drum of anti-EU sentiment that is broadly strong in the UK, especially on populist issues such as reducing immigration and its related topic, open borders to any citizen of an EU member state – and closing them.

It’s been touching a chord for many months now, one that translated into votes when it came to the ballot box last Thursday as became readily clear as the election results started to be announced across the EU late on May 25.

UK European election results 2014

In the UK, UKIP out-performed every other party with its share of the vote, and how many MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) they’d be sending to Brussels/Strasbourg.

The big losers are the Liberal Democrats (LD in the chart above), who were just about wiped out in the EU with only one candidate voted in, losing nine others elected in the last European Parliament election in 2009.

So a period of soul-searching begins for the main parties in the UK, less than a year before the general election in May 2015.

“What to do about UKIP?” is the question political experts and pundits alike are currently saying is no doubt on the lips of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

If it is, it’s the wrong question.

The right question must be, “How can we re-engage with our citizens that leads them to believe that voting in an election is a compelling act for them?” Here’s the pointer in this map posted by the AFP news agency showing the percentage of non-voters in each EU member state.

The non voters

While the UK is at 64 percent, it gets worse the further east you travel in Europe – over 77 percent of voters in Poland didn’t vote, for example. The figure was 79 percent in Slovenia and 80 percent in the Czech Republic. And a whopping 87 percent in Slovakia. (I wonder what pro-EU Ukrainians think about the EU and their country’s fractures when they see apathy like this.)

Looking at the UK again, here’s ampp3d’s more dramatic perspective on voter apathy.

Did note vote

It seems clear to me what politicians of every flavour need to do – whether in the UK or in any other of the 28 member states of the European Union – and that is to give voters two things:

  1. Reasons why they should care
  2. Reasons why they should vote

Certainly in the UK, it should be a very interesting 335+/- days between now and the forthcoming general election.

  • If you’re wondering what the EU election results mean for communications and public affairs, you can find out and add your own voice in a tweetchat on this topic organized by the CIPR, taking place on June 4 at midday UK time. Follow the hashtag #CIPRCHAT.

[The attractive Houses of Parliament postcard-type image at the top of the page is by Jenny Scott and is used under a Creative Commons license.]

It’s still about connecting people

The Web 2.0 song

A serendipitous moment last evening on Twitter when Charlotte Beckett tweeted “Do you remember that great video explaining Web 2.0?”

I knew immediately what video she was asking about as I’d referenced it recently in a client presentation – it was “the Web 2.0 song” created by Nokia in 2007 when the term “Web 2.0” was at the height of widespread use as an effective method of explaining the rapidly-evolving online landscape of connected services that enabled people to talk and share things in new and interesting ways.

It was a landscape that was nowhere near mainstream. It was still the time of early adopters and experimenters.

How different we are today when everything to be known about the social tools and channels that form a big part of what we now call “social media” seems to be known by everyone (which is not the same thing as knowing how to be really effective in using them).

So for old times’ sake, here is that video from Nokia, “the Web 2.0 song“:


La chanson du web 2.0 par NOKIA by buzzynote

Tools and channels may change but one thing is constant – it’s still about connecting people.

How up-to-speed are you about mobile?

If you use social web services like Instagram, Vine or Snapchat, you’re probably aware that these particular services are very much designed for use on mobile devices. By 98 percent, 99 percent and 100 percent of users, respectively, to be precise.

How clear are you on other popular services? Twitter, for instance? Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or LinkedIn? What’s the primary way in which people use those?

A handy chart by Statista offers some clarity.

Mobile first

86 percent of Twitter users are mobile-first in their use of the platform. I’d say one reason the percentage isn’t higher still is because many people (like me, for instance) use the service on multiple platforms depending on where they are, what they’re doing and what device they happen to be using. The “Twitter experience” is pretty good across all devices.

In contrast, LinkedIn is still largely a fixed-location-first type of usage, with only 26 percent on mobile. Maybe that reflects its user demographic (business people) as well as its less-than-stellar experience via mobile devices.

This snapshot view from December 2013 illustrating how most social networks are now mobile-first in their usage is yet another pointer to the bigger picture on what’s happening across the online world. It’s a picture of the US but it is a credible indicator of much of the global online world.

That’s borne out in a detailed sharing of metrics from Forrester Research in 2014 Mobile Trends, a 43-slide deck posted on Slideshare in February that offers credible perspectives in three key areas:

  1. How will mobile transform business?
  2. What will happen in 2014?
  3. What won’t happen in 2014?

The “What will happen…” section includes a really interesting prediction:

  • New mobile-centric ad formats will emerge
  • More mobile ad network will shift to the exchanges
  • Short videos (5 to 10 seconds) will make a greater impact on consumers, taking advantage of higher engagement levels with video on mobile

Look at that Statista chart, above, again.

In the “What won’t happen…” section, Forrester says wearable technology won’t move past a niche market: it’s still experiment time. (I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2014 hype cycle on emerging technologies from Gartner, due within the next month or so, shows about wearable tech.)

2014 Mobile Trends from Forrester Research

Insights worth understanding.

(Statista chart via Paul Fabretti)

#Socialnomics 2014: A lot happened in five years

Hello 4 Cs of Digital...

A popular video in corporate presentations, seminars, webinars and other events aimed at educating business people about social media is Social Media Revolution, published in 2009 by author Erik Qualman to support his best-selling book, Socialnomics.

Since 2009, the video has been updated a few times to take into account how social media is evolving along with what people do with social media and how they use it. I’ve used them all myself, quite a lot, in business workshops and meetings.

I was reminded of the original video just this week when I heard the catchy Right Here, Right Now” soundtrack by Fatboy Slim during a marketing presentation at a company I was visiting. While the video is indeed a compelling audio-visual experience, the content isn’t wholly up-to-date any longer and misses quite a bit of what’s happening today. A lot has evolved and changed in five years.

If you are still using it, or any of the subsequent updates to it up to 2013, stop and get hold of the latest version, published this month. It’s called #Socialnomics 2014. (There’s a good indicator of changes over five years – the title itself is a hashtag now.)

#Socialnomics 2014 Video from Erik Qualman on Vimeo.

As with the previous versions, #Socialnomics 2014 has its own share of memorable metrics, like these that are pretty contemporary:

  • In ten years, 40 percent of the Fortune 500 will no longer be here.
  • More people own a mobile device than a toothbrush.
  • One in five divorces involves social media.
  • “What happens in Vegas stays in…” now reflects newer social channels such as Instagram, Pinterest, Weibo and Snapchat, to add to a steadily-growing list.
  • Each day, 20 percent of the terms typed into Google have never been searched before.
  • “Selfie” is  now a word in Webster’s dictionary.
  • Every second, two new members join LinkedIn.
  • Grandparents are the fastest-growing demographic on Twitter.
  • 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend products in their tweets.
  • 93 percent of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media.
  • 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations (only 14 percent trusts ads).
  • The average person has a seven-second attention span – that of the average goldfish is eight seconds.
  • Goodbye 4 Ps of marketing (product, place, price, promotion), and hello 4 Cs of digital (creating, curating, connecting, culture).

The focus of everything is American so bear that in mind in terms of how many of the metrics may or may not be credible when applied to different countries.

Still, it’s a highly useful and practical look at a constantly-evolving landscape where tools like this offer an entertaining way to get up to speed with what’s happening.

Incidentally, the soundtrack is Around the World by Daft Punk. As good as the Fatboy Slim one? You’ll have to watch and listen to decide.

Definitely worth your time.

Imagine what the Bank of England could have done with its QR code ad

A quarter-page ad by the Bank of England in yesterday’s Telegraph caught my eye primarily because it contained a QR code.

The print ad informs you that the £50 note featuring an engraved portrait of Sir John Houblon on the reverse side will be withdrawn from circulation at the end of April.

The ad also includes a phone number, email and website addresses, plus a QR code that you’d typically scan with a barcode scanning app on your smartphone to bring you something – further information, for instance.

Ad: withdrawal of £50 'Houblon' banknote

So I scanned the QR code with a sense of anticipation, wondering what useful and interesting information I’d get.

More details about the withdrawal, certainly. Why it was happening, perhaps, and what to do if I have any such £50 notes in my wallet. Could I still use them on the High Street? If so, for how long?

When you scan a QR code, you’ll usually get a screen asking you for permission to proceed and take the action suggested, eg, load up the browser on your device and retrieve the information linked to from the QR code.

Barcode scan result

I tapped ‘Open browser’ and the result was indeed further information presented in a web page.

The trouble is, that web page is a page designed for use on a large screen such as you have when using  a desktop computer or a laptop, or even the ten inches or so on a full-size tablet.

Certainly not what you’d find useful (usable, even) on a five-inch smartphone like my Galaxy S4 when the browser tries to render the complete page on the comparatively tiny screen.

Web page: Withdrawal of the Houblon £50 Note

Even if you have perfect vision, that’s nigh-on impossible to read.

With a bit of pinch-zooming in and out, though, I could see some very useful information on this page:

  • Details about the why and when of the note’s withdrawal from circulation: amplified information of the concise text in the print ad
  • A link to “What to do with old ‘Houblon’ £50 notes,” an informative video published last January where Victoria Cleland, head of the Bank’s Notes Division, tells you the basics of what you need to know and what to do.
  • Links to two PDF posters, one in English the other in Welsh.

There’s reference to an FAQ list but no link to it that I could see.

Given the clear trend to increasing use of mobile devices, what I wish the Bank had done was something like this:

  1. Present everything anyone would need to know about the note’s withdrawal from circulation in a manner designed for use on a mobile device.
  2. Engage the visitor on a mobile device with content that brings that person into the story you tell – far more than simply dry information about the withdrawal of a £50 banknote.
  3. Tell me about Sir John Houblon. I’d not heard of him (I don’t see many £50 notes). I didn’t know he was the first governor of the Bank of England, for instance, from 1694 to 1697 according to the Wikipedia entry. Or the story about the engraved image of him on the £50 note.
  4. Use this as an opportunity to educate people and raise awareness about currency, reinforcing key messages about legitimacy, counterfeiting, etc.
  5. And an opportunity to restate key facts about the Bank, it’s role in the economy and in society in general.

Capture people’s imaginations, in other words.

Instead, an opportunity gone missing.

Twitter eight years on

Public. Real-Time. Conversational. Distributed.

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Twitter, the communication platform that is globally ubiquitous today, the eleventh most-visited website in the world.

From co-founder Jack Dorsey‘s first tweet on this day, March 21, in 2006, the number of active users of the service now exceed 240 million per month worldwide who tweet in more than 35 languages, with over three-quarters of people now using Twitter on a mobile device. Users range from the average Joe to celebrities, big brands, the mainstream media, presidents and PRs.

Who would have imagined Twitter would become such an integral part of the way in which a lot of people connect with others and with things that interest them?

Twitter monthly active users

The platform (for that is what Twitter is) has changed in these eight years from the cosy curiosity of public and private text messaging between geeky early adopters in a little social network out of San Francisco to a sophisticated service from a publicly-listed company that reported annual revenues of over $660 million in 2013, and that now lets you record and share short videos and lets governments and other organizations alert you to emergencies.

I first heard about Twitter in early summer of 2006 and joined in December 2006, mainly because I wanted to see for myself what others I knew were increasingly talking about. The service really began to take off after SXSW Interactive in March 2007.

From the communicator’s perspective, there’s no doubting the value of this tool today as a method of listening to what people are talking about – a foundational step in communication planning, something you do before you start talking. It also offers you terrific opportunities to engage with others once you do start talking.

In my view, there’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter from the business communication perspective, only effective or ineffective ways. And like all online communication tools and channels, Twitter is a mirror on the behaviours of people, reflecting what they say and do.

Just like the real world.

To mark this milestone, Twitter posted #FirstTweet, a nifty tool that lets you find your first tweet.

#FirstTweet

Mark your milestone.