“Active Voice Bus”

Home page of the Jamaica Observer February 13, 2011

This morning I woke up to history – a blog had made the front page of a Jamaican newspaper!  No – it gets better – it made the front page of the Sunday paper. In an era of online newspapers – I only buy the paper once a week – Sunday. Judging from the sheer increase in newspaper sellers on Sunday, I know I am not alone!  Until the entirety of Sunday papers are put online, I will continue to buy Sunday papers, but I digress.

Annie Paul’s – blogger on Active Voice anniepaulose.wordpress.com –  made the front page. For weeks, Jamaicans have been subjected to news stories about Dog Paw and his gang, including to the freeing of his lieutenant by the police!! – but again I digress. Yet it only said the gang was notorious; that they were persons of interest and the police were looking for them. However, the story was never delved into – where did these men come from? Did they emerge from the womb armed? Why did they take this life turn – one constantly filled with the danger of detection and capture? The media even missed obvious stories – the one about Leah. Annie Paul went further – she looked for non-obvious story – Dog Paw, Diana McCauley and the link with Dog Heart . A blogger started putting clothes on a story Jamaicans hear ad nauseum of the bad men. The original post is at http://bit.ly/gJwPPM and the Observer story at http://bit.ly/ftAXQK

Active Voice Post on Dog Paw and Diana McCauley

They are two key points to be gotten from this historic development:

– traditional media has embraced electronic/social media. True, the newspapers have gone online; gotten twitter accounts and

Silicon Caribe's article on Jamaicansmusic.com

Facebook pages – but was it an exchange of information? One gets the impression that the point was to get information out to us, the readers. Today, they put an audience member’s information and story and gave it pride of place – with full acknowledgment. I have seen stories before taken/culled from local blogs – but with no credit given.  There was a story about the Facebook fanbase of jamaicansmusic.com surpassing that of Digicel Jamaica turning up in the papers (http://bit.ly/dSGKz1)  without any acknowledgment to Silicon Caribe (http://bit.ly/hfuGNj) – who wrote the piece 6 days before. Maybe it was coincidence.

– it is not a zero sum game. It is not ‘new’ media vs. traditional media. It is reaping the benefits of both types. Would I want all newspapers to become a twitter timeline? No, I like the stories as well as the headlines. Would I want bloggers to replace newspapers? No, I like the focus of bloggers and the broad sweep of newspapers though in-depth analysis in newspaper articles would be great, but I digress.

The title of this article is a quote from Annie Paul herself this morning in response to my congrats a la Twitter. She also sums up this moment best – ” what the Jamaican media is realizing belatedly is that blogs contain news too…stories they’ve overlooked are buried in blogs”

Congrats to Annie Paul and the Jamaica Observer!! Look for @anniepaul and @jamaicaobserver . To read the original blog post  – http://bit.ly/gJwPPM


Do You Have Influence?

What is influence in an age of social media? Is it follower number? Is it having lots of heavy-hitter followers (even if the absolute numbers are small)? The answers to these questions are important to digital marketers.

Recently, there was a article declaring Ashton Kutcher, the former self declared “King of Social Media” had little influence. Ashton Kutcher, known to his fans as @aplusk, has 5.9 million fans. Can someone with 5.9 million fans have little influence?  The Northwestern University researchers said that a celebrity is taken more seriously when speaking about an area of expertise.  That’s true in all spheres of life. Would you take Tiger Woods’ opinion on astrophysics seriously?

Moreover, in the age of twitter spam, and various sites offering ways to instantly grow your twitter following, one is not quite sure who or what is following you. Most Twitter users are listeners and are not actively using Twitter. A true user is defined as someone following at minimum 10 people, has tweeted at least 10 times and has at least 10 followers (10-10-10). Only 21% of Twitters users meet these criteria. People who are active twitter users are likely to actively spread your content – through retweeting; through giving their opinions; and generally engaging others in discussion – very valuable when one wants to get a message out there! Retweet rate is one measure (not to exclusion!) used to determine a person’s influence and ‘interesting-ness’. However, 3% of retweets are about Justin Bieber – is he influential? Is interesting the same as influential? How does influence contend with sheer popularity/celebrity?

Clout, according to is dictionary definition, is driving people to action. Retweeting is an action. Klout declares itself the standard for influence.  Klout scores influence out of a 100 and is based on three areas – True Reach, Amplification, and Network Score. However, Klout scores @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher) at 97.He has badges for over 10,000 retweets; over 500 messages retweeted and the list goes on.

Klout does not only use Twitter, but has started looking at the person’s influence across other platforms, notably Facebook; unlike, say, twittergrader.com.  This is key in a region like the Caribbean. More than half of Twitter’s users use twitter through smart phones. Smart phones – Blackberrys, iPhones and the like – are at a premium in the Caribbean. In fact, Digicel Jamaica’s CEO declared that only 5% of Digicel’s 2 million subscribers are blackberry users.

The question of who has social media influence and how to measure it is far from settled. So again I ask, do you have influence?


Do you have influence? Courtesy of blog.iqmatrix.com


Verifiably Tweet!

Brand You!

Brand You!!  No more meekly contributing to the team to avoid being called ’nuff’. “Nuff-ness” is the new black! We all are trying to establish our areas of expertise and make that expertise known to others. The term that encapsulates this movement is personal brand management.  Personal branding concept refers to self-packaging – the way one dresses, one’s knowledge base, one’s presence both in the real and virtual world (though this distinction is beginning to wear thin).

Social media presence is a key component of personal brand. Econsultancy notes it took TV 13 years to reach 50 million users, but only took Facebook nine months to reach 100 million users! Some employers are even checking your social media profiles to make the decision whether to hire or not.

Portia Simpson-Miller and Bruce Golding

In Jamaica we have had some hilarious examples of the appropriation of twitter names (or handles or twitter real estate). As in the early days of the worldwide web, twitter names go fast and are available on a first come, first served basis. Bruce Golding has lost one of his possible twitter identities – @bruceJLP . This is not illegal – I am sure that there are other Bruces in the JLP. Portia Simpson-Miller (Jamaica’s Leader of the Opposition) has a number of ‘false’ handles in operation – @PNPPartyLeader, @portiadan100, @Portia Simpson (could this really be her?), and @portia03. These handles have been the source of much amusement in Jamaica – the tweets have been hilarious. A recent exchange was:

RT @marlonmusique: Edith is on the war path, wah yah guh do @bruceJLP•Outlaw wigs…That’ll shut her up, apologies in advance2 @elvajamaica

However, fun and joke aside, this represents serious breach to personal brand management. Suppose the satire is not as clear, then followers could think that they are really following you and that can confuse and adversely impact your personal brand.

Twitter has recognised this with the introduction of verification. Twitter says the accounts have to be public and actively tweeting to get verified. However, given the importance of personal brand management, shouldn’t the number of followers to the fake accounts matter?  After all it was celebrity impersonation which inspired verification, as in the case of Kanye West. Kanye said: “The heads of Twitter knew I didn’t have a Twitter [account]”(back in the day, of course!). Why should celebrity status alone not qualify one for verification?

Kanye West

I see a lot of celebrities who are confusingly not verified!  Usain Bolt is not verified! The three most popular Usain Bolt twitter accounts have 60,356 followers between them.  Donovan Bailey is not verified as well – despite attempts to be verified.  It is true that Donovan Bailey only has 101 followers, but he is a celebrity and given the importance of his brand and his attempt to be verified, shouldn’t he be considered? In his own words, “@support why am I not verified yet? EVERYONE please RT 11:08 AM Aug 21st “. Even @OPMJamaica (Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica) is not verified.

Tweeters are not taking this official obscure system of verification lying down! We see the prevalence of  handles like @therealyendip, @officialasafa or @iamthececile. However that is not always enough. @realrogerebert is the fake one. The real one is actually @ebertchicago.

The only real solution to this is to ask the Twitter gods (or Biz Stone @biz) to open up the verification system.  Why not put together regional teams to help in the identification of celebrities? Twitter is now a worldwide phenomenon with over 18 million twitter users, been the subject of controversy in countries as far-flung as India and more. It is time to verify!! Make our global celebrities verifiably tweet!

Social Media and Life Lessons from Beauty Contests

Beauty pageants are very important in Jamaica – in the Caribbean. I still think Miss World first when I hear the name Cindy Breakspeare. There are the well-loved queens who people seem to remember forever – Cathy Levy, Sandra Foster, Terri-Karrelle Griffith (List of Miss Jamaica World – does anyone know where I can find a similar list for Miss Jamaica Universe?).

The quest to be queen

2010 was the year of Yendi Phillips – she was a second-time queen – having won Miss Jamaica World (2007) and now Miss Jamaica Universe. She is the girlfriend of Asafa Powell – only one of the fastest men in the world and previous holder of the men’s 100m title. She was both hated and loved. This emotion was captured on social media outlets – blogs, twitter and Facebook – and reflected in her numbers and the following – showing just how seriously Jamaicans take their beauty contests. None of my American friends that I asked (about 30) knew who Miss USA was. Interestingly, the only Miss USA they could remember was Vanessa Williams – due to the controversy surrounding her crown.

My tweep – @SeanABennett – made it a point to track Yendi’s progress. “This is fricking unbelievable. Yendi had 400 followers at 7:42 She now has 1,082 & the figures are growing (10:24pm). Today, 2,141 followers! Her Facebook fan page showed similar increase – from about 25,000 fans that fateful Miss Universe night to 36,287 fans today.

Social media has opened us up to a new way to chart our careers. Once we would look at our salaries, our title – but in an age of increasing entrepreneurship (yea!!), we look at our followership. Fan numbers and interaction are as key to personal brands as to any corporate brand. I see nothing wrong with that, but I do note one of the earliest (and one of the wisest) tweets I have read – “Remember Jesus himself only had 12 disciples. More than that is gravy.”

Personal brand building has always gotten guffaws – especially in Jamaican culture, it is seen as being arrogant. Striving to be the best you you can be is seen as being ’nuff’. On the night of Yendi’s winning the Miss Jamaica Universe competition, one tweeter @Djcraziikiid noted “lol Yendi must compete in Miss Festival Queen too.•LMAOOOOO and ms portmore, ms earth and so on!”

Yet Yendi placed the highest any Jamaican woman has in Miss Universe. Yet many agreed she was the hands-down winner from the minute the pictures of the contestants come out. Who stands out to you?

2010 Miss Jamaica Universe contestants - who stands out to you? Photo courtesy of Socialingua.

The moral of the story  – Believe in yourself! Believe in your brand! The social media lesson is that tracking the progress in fan followership could be the new way to mark events and even career development. It is not a new thought – popularity has always been important for certain careers – but now we have a way to measure it – courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. How many followers do you have?

Facebook Places – An Initial Reaction

Facebook Places Icon, courtesy of mashable.com

Last night around 7pm Jamaican time, Facebook made THE announcement. Facebook Places was here. For months, I watched the rise of Foursquare in Jamaica. It still cannot be described as popular, but continues to grow. Many predicted that Facebook would be copying Foursquare with a location-sharing tag soon. Now it has happened –  I will be able to know where my Facebook friends are…at all times. Scary!  When I was training for the SouthPole Trod, I would update my location after I had left the place. It was dangerous to let people I was all alone in the midst of the Blue Mountains.

Nevertheless, Facebook pushed forward and, as predicted, launched Facebook Places last night. Places is an application that allows you to see where your friends are and share your location. You can tag your friends in the Places you visit, and view comments your friends have made about these Places.

The real story is not only Places per se, but the model of cooperation on which it is based. All the various facets of the geo-location social media world have partnered on this one – Foursquare, Yelp, Booyah, Gowalla. The social media world has shown us that collaboration and cooperation can bring great reward – a truth often lost in our hyper-competitive world. But with all these companies working together – is this the social media version of a takeover? Are they cooperating themselves out of existence? I am watching, like many others, to see if they will all survive this integration.

Of course, the privacy issues abound.  Already the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has released a fact sheet of sorts on the privacy issues behind Facebook Places (http://bit.ly/9Hps3H). You will be able to tag friends at a location, know if they are nearby and know where they have been. The main issue is whether you can opt out of being tagged, and being tagged by other. The reaction online shows that Facebook’s previous privacy faux pas continue to follow it (http://bit.ly/9HjrcX). Even with foursquare, many people check -in and still hide their location.

My other reaction referred to the balance between individuals, and business on Facebook. This locational tagging feature, while being ‘sold’ to individual users, benefits business more. In an era, where I can be reached through my phone, my address (Google Maps), through email and now Facebook is tracking me too – privacy is important. It feels like everyone is wearing a tracking bracelet.

Businesses do not have these concerns. Businesses need to be found to earn. My business email signature includes my twitter handle, my phone number, my Facebook page, my address, and Stumbleupon and the list goes on. My private email has no signature!  Businesses, like Foursquare has done, can offer specials and discounts to customers nearby or to the 100th customer and the like. This integration with Facebook would allow for further development in that direction. The integration with Yelp is powerful – as it links a review system, with a reservation system and customer service system. The possibilities are endless. But for me the private user – it raises issues. I don’t even want my friends or even my own mother to know everywhere I go.

Then, despite complaining about Facebook Places, I am a little peeved that I don’t know when I will have access to it. “Only available  in the US” – I had forgotten that expression. American friends – how is it?  Moreover, the caution to use it with the latest devices smacks of tech elitism. We don’t all run out and get the latest phone , even when we can. Two words – remember Vista!

I am sure in the next few places will calmly accept my place in a world populated by Facebook Places – until then Facebook Places is definitely taking all of us to the very Endz of the Earth!

Why Endz of the Earth?

At the Endz of the Earth!

When I decided to go to apply to the Commonwealth Women’s Antarctic Expedition, I never thought of how much I would change. Like most others, I focused on how far I would go – all the way to Antarctica!

One of the sources of change was the sponsorship process. It is all well and good to train for Antarctica, but you have to be able to afford the plane ride there (approximately USD 30,000).

How does a Jamaican woman of no-gold-spoon origins afford Antarctica? I just read of Jamaica Producers’ 10 million dollar ripe banana campaign (http://bit.ly/drQIcy) – a campaign involving billboards, radio and print advertisements was definitely not an option for me. So I tried another traditional way – getting sponsors. But I was constantly told that Jamaicans are not interested in this kind of thing – “Jamaicans like music and parties – not adventures to the South Pole.” I was inclined to believe them, as Barrington Irving, a Jamaican who was the youngest pilot to fly around the world, had no Jamaican sponsors.

Then friends recommended social media. Facebook would prove to be not just a way to keep in touch with friends, but also a way to let ‘uninterested’ Jamaicans know about this ‘SouthPole Trod.’ Its quickness and freeness had already led me to start using it to keep in touch with my various Caribbean contacts as part of my job at CaPRI (Caribbean Policy Research Institute). I had even planned a seminar in St. Lucia largely through Facebook and Skype

Thus started my interest in opportunities social media offered to adventurers to showcase and publicise what they were doing. Even established businesses would benefit from the interaction with the customers and the ability to get real, rather than polite and filtered, feedback. I was able to use social media to publicise my adventure, get sponsors, get support, suggestions and even training partners.

Firstly, I started a Facebook group.  I wondered who would join – we had over 800 adherents. I tried to keep them updated with what was happening with me – the training, the events, the food, the happenings with my fellow teammates! The shock was the interaction – people wrote back and asked questions. This is the difference of the Web 2.0 era – interaction and commentary – not passive consumerism.  The SouthPole Trod group was amazing – they supported events and me!

I then started a blog. The idea came about after one sponsor, Wisynco, saw the press garnered by Frozen, largely through electronic and social media. But while there was a paper version in the Flair, only 2 people came up to me citing the paper version.

One issue was how few comments the blog got. People seemed to follow intently, if unobtrusively, online.  Now that I run Endz of the Earth (EOTE – a social media communications and brand management company), I know we should have used Google Analytics. We could have found out how many users read our blog (online), the name of their ISP, the users’ approximate location, how long they visited,  et cetera. But we knew not and worried! People would call, text, and even laugh with me in the street at some of the shenanigans described.  I even had an 8-year old walk up to me at a memorial service.

However, it was when I got frostbite that the power of social media was fully demonstrated. From the customs officer at the airport to Juici employees knew of the frostbite. Moreover, traditional media, such as radio, newspaper, and television had picked up on the story. So even at parties, and Haiti relief events, my frostbitten fingers were far more popular than I ever was!

Using social media has another very important effect. It prevents us from stereotyping each other and our interests. We don’t just assume that Jamaicans are only interested in football or cricket.

It is this democratization of the public space that causes social media to reap  opportunities and advantages and which led me to start Endz of the Earth. We can all contribute to redefining Jamaica and Jamaicans, to let all our different variations, interests and enterprises (such as record-breaking Rotary book drives) to be seen and heard…to the very Endz of the Earth!

One person touching the power of the network!

The Chronicles from Oz