Nov 142014

The relaunch of local discovery service Facebook Places was low key and remained un-noted until picked up by a German blogger this week.

Facebook’s local service is, on first look, quite impressive with it pulling together various features and data sources to give a quick guide to what’s on and what’s attractive in a city based on a user’s history.

In that respect it’s a clear threat to Yelp!, Tripadvisor and Google; particularly given the convenience of using a single app and getting recommendations based on the service most people spend the bulk of their online time upon.

At this stage it doesn’t appear the service is doing too much with the local business feature but it’s only a matter of time before those details start being fed into the algorithm as well.

Once again it shows why listings are important for local businesses. It may also be that Facebook is cracking the largely untapped local business market.

Nov 132014

Finally Twitter have announced the changes they will be making in an effort to attract more users.

The changes are risky, and controversial, as messing with people’s feed risks alienating loyal users. If the changes prove unpopular it may make Twitter’s problems worse.

Whether the changes are enough to justify Twitter’s sky high stock market valuation and can attract the numbers of users the company needs to keep the faith of investors remains to be seen.

Zuckerberg’s Curse is biting Twitter hard and the company needs to figure out whether frantically trying to entice uninterested users and meet high, and possibly impossible, benchmarks is the best course for the service’s future.

Nov 122014
the retail industry is cahnging with our shopping habits

In China, the human flesh search engines track down people who have offended the herd sensibility.

As Australia becomes more conservative and reactionary, the same phenomena is developing Down Under. Aussie businesses now have to be prepared for when they come to the attention of an online lynch mob.

Last weekend a South Australian dairy company, the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company, announced it would not be seeking Halal certification for its yoghurts following concerted harassment from bigots, a decision that will cost it a $50,000 contract with Emirates Airlines.

Fleurieu was not the first company to be targeted by groups of online bigots, a few weeks earlier Maleny Dairies from the Queensland Sunshine Coast announced it would not seek Halal certification for after being deluged with queries from similar groups.

For a company of any size, a wave of abuse from online hate groups is difficult to handle but for smaller businesses like rural dairy companies it’s particularly hard as there’s little training for dealing with obnoxious and ill informed virtual lynch mobs and the resulting drop in morale can affect the entire workforce.

Many managers would draw the conclusion that social media is a dangerous place that only exposes staff and the business to these vile individuals, however withdrawing totally from online channels might actually magnify the effects of being targeted as companies don’t see the internet campaigns developing.

Reacting to a hate campaign is difficult however and much of how a company deals with being the target of one comes down to the owners’ and managers’ appetite for dealing with such a crisis.

Submit to the mob

The quickest way of defusing the situation is to agree to the mob’s demands, as Maleny and Fleurieu did, which has the advantage of relieving the stress on staff and management distractions.

Submission though is not without its risks; the mob may not be happy or agreeing to their demands may upset other customers who actually spend money with the business.

This latter point is something Australia’s agricultural industry and governments should be paying attention to as Middle East nations takes over ten percent of the nation’s food exports.

Agreeing to one group’s demands may also irritate other equally other vocal groups which could actually make the problem worse. Ultimately though it comes down to what a company’s management is most comfortable doing.

Should you decide to go along with the mob, don’t equivocate. Be absolutely clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it. This is something both Fleurieu and Maleny diaries have done.

Don’t engage

If the choice is not to submit, either on principle or for commercial reasons, then it’s necessary to be prepared for continued criticism with staff and management coming under further stress. It’s important everyone is supported by the team in the face of often vile and crude behaviour.

One of the key tenants of online marketing and community management is to engage with your critics, however there is a point where trying to engage with irrational people is pointless and possibly even counterproductive.

When that point has been reached, then there is no need to reply to them and any inflammatory or provocative posts should be deleted. The saying of “don’t feed the trolls” applies.

Should commenters become too strident or silly then they should be blocked and, if they are misbehaving on a social media site, their actions reported to the service’s management. Any threats of violence should be immediately documented and a complaint made to the police.

Don’t provoke

Provoking these groups is also a mistake, descending to their level of behaviour will only encourage them and their friends along with risking alienating your own supporters. Keep things professional and straight forward.

Not being a dill yourself is something that could have heeded by one of the other businesses that found itself on the receiving end of an online lynch mob this week. Mark Clews, the proprietor of Tuk Tuk Hunter Valley, was on the receiving end of an online campaign after a snarky post about a vegetarian who visited his hamburger bar in the wine country north of Sydney.

Reading the Tuk Tuk Facebook page quickly gives one the impression Clews enjoys an online fight and he certainly got one which led to his business receiving dozens of poor reviews and at least one critic set up a Facebook page, later taken down after legal threats, highlighting the business’ poor reviews.

In a heated environment — be it vegetarianism, Halal certification or any sort of politics — it’s worthwhile business owners keeping their own personal views separate from their company’s online presence.

The moral of all three of these stories is the internet is a tough place and in today’s increasingly intolerant society one not without its risks. While every business needs to have an online presence, it’s necessary to be prepared for when the online mob appears with virtual torches at your door.

Oct 272014
the retail industry is cahnging with our shopping habits

For three months in 2007 Joe Fernandez had his jaw wired shut following surgery and found himself relying on social media for news and companionship.

Over that three months of sitting on the net Fernandez found he had become a social media influencer and the idea for Klout was born.

In many respects Klout is the classic startup in that Fernandez started with a series of spreadsheets with the algorithm being an Excel formula, something he now calls a ‘Minimal Minimum Viable Product’.

“It was super minimal,” Fernandez remembers. “When people would register for Klout, it would send me an email and I would manually download their social media data into Excel and run the algorithm and then I’d manually update their page.”

Today Klout processes fifteen billion accounts every day with data pulled from four hundred data points including 15 social media services.

Like all tools, Klout does have some limitations and Fernandez admits he gets frustrated with businesses giving priority to users with high scores, another area that concerns him is marketers who don’t examine the relevance of individuals to the business before making judgments on that person’s influence.

One of the key things that Fernandez is proud of is how Klout is spawning its own alumni in a similar way to the PayPal mafia that developed out of the payment service at the beginning of the Century.

“It’s really awesome to see people go on and take on big challenges and do different things.”

As social media develops, tools like Klout are going to become more important for businesses trying to understand how

Oct 202014
Santa Claus is largely an invention of the coca-cola corporation

At today’s Telstra Digital Summit in Sydney, digital strategist Brian Solis spoke about the disruptions happening across all industries.

One of the sources he cited was Scott Galloway of the New York University’s business school and Galloway’s Winners and Losers presentation from last May.

The presentation is thought provoking with Galloway predicting many of the social media platforms are doomed to either low returns or failure.

Galloway is particularly scathing of Pinterest: “They were the leader in the visual web, but they’ve been blown away by Instagram”. Instagram’s success, Galloway believes is driven by the shift to visual communications on the net.

The biggest takeaway though is Galloway’s prediction that the middle class is in decline. That has great ramifications for all businesses built upon the Twentieth Century consumer model.

Oct 192014
social media services like facebook have fan pages

The story of Whisper and the betrayal of its users continues to roll on, but the real problem is the way social media services are desperately trying to recreate the dead business model of print advertising.

Whisper’s problems with The Guardian continue as the company tries to salvage its reputation but the irony for the service is that it was trying to shoehorn its business to fit the print publishing model that the internet started to erode twenty years ago.

It’s not just Whisper; almost every social media business from Facebook to Twitter wants to be an advertiser funded publishing company, just like the newspapers of thirty years ago.

A few weeks ago I wrote about LinkedIn’s pretensions of becoming a publishing platform and this week Forbes tells of Pinterest’s adventures at the Cannes advertising festival as it sells its marketing services.

Every social media service has some sort of angle that harks back to the golden age of newspaper publishing where print advertising was a deep river of gold. Most of them want to become publishers themselves.

It would be hard to think of a service less suited to being a media company than Whisper; but then there’s Yelp whose main business of reviewing eating houses and bars seems to be totally at odds with newspapers of yore.

On the Salesforce PayPal Media panel last week, Yelp! Founder Jeremy Stoppelman was asked if he saw the restaurant review site as being a media company, his response was “sure, it’s a blogging platform.”

So we have new media aping the old media business models where these platforms try to lock users into information silos; in the same way that a London Times reader would never buy the Sun.

The problem with that is the internet broke down the geographic barriers and today a Sun reader in London can just easily find celebrity gossip on TMZ and the broadsheet reader might find more thoughtful analysis in the New York Times.

Certainly someone browsing the web for restaurant reviews might find a better site than Yelp while a bride researching wedding dresses could just as easily find ideas on Facebook as much as Pinterest.

In reality, social media sites have nothing of the stickiness of the old fashioned newspapers in the days before the internet.

Of the social media services it might be that Facebook is the best placed to succeed as an old media publishing service with its advertising smarts pushing messages to its diverse and deep user base but that isn’t certain given the widespread user dissatisfaction with its news feed.

For the social media services much of the problem – -particularly for Facebook – lies in their contradictory aims; they are trying to be identity services, buying platforms, publishing services and advertisers.

For publishers that balance between content and advertising was always a delicate one; and one that shifted over time. For online services that balance is far more complex and the future far less certain.

One thing that is clear Is those contradictory aims aren’t going to be easy to reconcile and the quandary may prove to be insurmountable.

What’s clear though are the advertising models of the future are still waiting for a David Sarnoff moment.

Oct 012014
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Paul Wallbank joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightlife across Australia from 10pm Australian Eastern time on Thursday, October 2 to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

Update: If you missed the program you can listen to the podcast at the ABC site or stream it below.

For this month’s spot we’re looking at smartcars, smartwatches, the next version of Microsoft Windows and whether the new social media platform Ello can displace Facebook.

Some of the questions we’ll cover include;

  • What’s happening with connected car technologies?
  • Isn’t all this talk about smart cars another way ?
  • So how far are we off the driverless car?
  • Are our mobile phone choices going to dictate what brand car we buy?
  • How does the smart watch fit into how companies are trying to lock us into their software?
  • A new social media platform called Ello is taking off,  what is it?
  • Do we really need another social media platform?
  • Microsoft have announced Windows 10, aren’t we only up to eight?
  • What’s different in Windows 10?
  • Has Windows 8 been a success?
  • When will Windows 10 be released on the market?


Join us

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on the night on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Eastern Summer time or listen online at

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.