I’m interested in how people use social networks. As brands encroach ever further into what were designed to be social spaces, I’m trying to understand the boundary between public and private, social lives and work lives, frivolity and seriousness.
The first example is http://www.facebook.com/downloadcops.
Download festival is the biggest rock & metal festival in the UK.
I was really taken aback to see that the police created a Facebook group specifically for the event, linked off its homepage, to provide information, advice and guidance before and after the festival. Here we’ve got the establishment and the anti-establishment rubbing up alongside each other. And hundreds of people joined.
From a marketing perspective it’s interesting to see how an organisation has used social media to approach their audience on their own terms. The police are getting their message across in a relaxed manner – photos, videos and status updates. It humanises the stern face of the law. It offers a different perspective to festival goers, adressing preconceptions before punters come anywhere near the site. As a tool to change attitudes and encourage people to think before they act - I would imagine it’s quite successful. Indeed – it could even be seen as a way to pre-emptively change behaviour; prevention rather than cure. Joined up thinking. To me that feels quite innovative.
Two groups and a social network that caught my eye (2)
The second is more prosaic. I’ve got lots of friends who are Doctors. Junior Doctors begin their jobs in August of each year, and train in a cohort. Essentially its like any other grad scheme, where you get rotated around different specialisms and end up specialising in one area – GP, surgery or hospital medicine. What’s different are the long shifts and unsociable hours and rigidity of the training programme. Shifts are assigned 2 months in advance. If you have a friend’s wedding, holiday plan or want to go to your sister’s graduation you have to swop shifts. Doctors use Facebook groups to facilitate this process. Groups are set up for a rotation. Colleagues for that 4 month period join up and share info about training dates, request shift changes, borrow and lend books etc. We’ve got professionals using an informal public space to interact with colleagues – not necessarily friends – for a specific purpose, which is time limited. The group is what used to be the noticeboard in the doctor’s mess is now online. You can access it 24/7 no matter where you are.
(On a related note another interesting use of tech is the iPhone. Ratios for drug dosages often require a lookup table and a series of data scores: even with a ward’s communal desktop this used to take 10 minutes or so. It now requires an iPhone and a free / 59p app, and 10 seconds. You can even download a stethoscope app. The guardian had a great article on this last week ).
Two groups and a social network that caught my eye (3)
I play in a band. The sound engineer at my last gig was a character, they often are. Aside from revealing that grindcore legends Napalm Death were polite to the point of parody when they played at his venue the week before (literally sweeping the crumbs from the dressing room floor) he chatted to me about crewspace, a social network for road crew, sound engineers and music professionals. It interested me because it is an invite only space – you have to know a member / work in the industry to join. I guess this builds trust & allows for conversations that couldn’t be had in public… and allows for the unique character of the roadie to come to the fore.
Screengrab courtesy of Crewspace
Crewspace is used like any work related forum – to share information, buy and sell equipment, to recruit staff and to socialise. But the interesting part is that touring sound engineers use it to rate the venues they have just played: not just the friendly welcome and free flowing cups of tea, but whether the equipment in the venue is knackered, and if the sightlines and acoustic for the audience are good. It acts as an informal rating system. Bad venues soon get a bad reputation. Booking agents start to take notice, and start taking acts elsewhere. In an industry that has relied on shady deals and misinformation, the site is shining a light on the good, the bad and the ugly. The informational asymmetry that used to prevail has gone.
Isn’t that what the internet’s for?