Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Brand Protection Lessons from the Ello Social Network

Ten years ago when social media was far from mainstream it was not rare for usernames like "cocacola" and "apple" to be registered by users unconnected with these companies. Sometimes the names were registered by squatters, hoping to sell their name to the owner of the brand. In other cases the name was registered by either fans or adversaries of the brand, deliberately taking advantage of the confusion. Occasionally they were registered by private users who just liked the name and had no other intentions.

Fast forward to today and you might expect that everyone in digital communication has learnt the lesson. Registering your company and brand names on new social media channels has become just a routine part of brand protection activity. Doing this when a new social site or app is created means that you are more likely to get there before someone else. This blocks potential squatters, but more importantly it avoids confusion when someone else is posting apparently in your name.

But even today there are many companies and organizations who are not as careful as they might be. Checking a few random brand names on the up and coming Ello social network I found that there are some who, like me, were careful to register an account with their brand name. Many of these are obviously intended for brand protection because the account has no activity and in some cases not even a profile picture. Eurostar, for example, has already taken @eurostar but not yet completed the profile.

If nothing else this demonstrates that Eurostar learned the lesson from the 2009 PR crisis when four trains were blocked in the tunnel between France and England but when people turned to the @eurostar Twitter account for news they found that it belonged to a student. Once the company was featured as a case in a crisis PR lecture I taught at the American University of Paris; now it is best in class, a story I described in Online Brand Protection: Why You Need to Register Your Brand on Social Sites

But in some cases other people got their first. The username @cococola, for example, has been taken for a fan account. This might sound like a positive outcome because a fan group is presumably positive to your brand, but the downside is that their postings might not be in line with your messages and some people could mistake it for an official company account.

A much more unfortunate situation is when the username is taken by someone who is unrelated to the company, which has happened to Spotify, where the @spotify name has been taken by a user apparently unrelated to the company, demonstrating that even leading Internet companies don't always think of brand protection.

World leaders, or at least their PR team, have also not been quick to protect their brands on Ello. The username @barackobama has been taken by an unrelated user, forcing the real Barack Obama to use the clunky alternative @barackobamaofficial. Meanwhile Pope Francis's "@pontifex" username has been taken by someone who has simply reserved it for the Pope, though it is not clear if they are doing this as a favor or because they hope to make some money.

Brand protection is not terribly difficult. It takes just five minutes and zero expense to register a brand on a new social site or app.Finding emergent sites is also not terribly difficult because there are so many people writing about them. Some of this effort is wasted because many sites fail, but since it hard to predict the next Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp it is much safer to register at least a brand protection account everywhere. And while you are registering the account take a few more seconds to upload an avatar, add a link and a brief description.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about brand protection, social media or other communication topics you can email me at or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find me through my website and, of course, I have an account on Ello at

Friday, November 14, 2014

Three Best Practices for Video Presentations at Conferences

Many conferences increase their pool of available speakers by using live video presentations from people who are unable to attend in person. With web-based video conferencing tools this is simple and essentially free, allowing anyone with a laptop or even a smartphone to speak at a conference on the other side of the world.

There are many techniques that speakers can use so that they look their best in these video connections. Some of these were presented in Ten ways to impress people in skype interviews and in How to look better in video, but there are also some best practices that are specially important for speakers at conferences. Here are three that I have found the most useful:

BRING THE CAMERA TO EYE LEVEL. One of the basic rules for framing video interview shots is to have the camera at the level of the speaker's eyes. Many people use the camera in their computer and when it is resting on a table the camera is too low, giving the typical Skype call look where you appear to be looking down. It looks much more professional to raise up the computer on a pile of boxes or books so that the camera lens is at the same height as your eyes. This simple tip makes your video image more professional and makes you look more credible. It might look odd to anyone who is in the room with you but it will look more natural on the screen.

USE TWITTER FOR FEEDBACK. When you speak to an audience far away one of the problems is to get feedback from the room, either from the organizers or from the public. All video conference tools allow some communication back from the conference to the speaker, but this is not always in a place where it can be accessed by the moderator or chair in the conference room, and passing feedback from the audience is complicated. A simple fix to this problem is to set up a laptop or tablet behind or next to the camera and on the screen of that device you display your twitter notifications. Then tell everyone who needs to know that you are watching for tweets sent to @username. This means that anybody on the organizing team can let you know if there is a problem with the connection, or if time is running out. The audience can also use the same method to send questions or comments to the speaker. To make the tweets easier to read you should zoom your browser to make the text larger.

ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B. Technology is never 100% reliable so you need to have a plan B for when your laptop hangs or the video connection fails or is too low quality to be usable. Don't wait for this to happen and then think what to do. Anticipate that it could happen and have an alternative already planned. To guard against a laptop crash, for example, I usually have two computers logged in to separate accounts and ready to go, so I can switch from one to another very quickly. I usually also have a backup Internet connection using a 3G USB key. If you only have one computer and one connection and they fail you could plan to switch to an audio phone connection with a local copy of the presentation slides. Or you could send a pre-recorded video version of your presentation to be used only as a last resort.

Video presentations at international conferences are likely to become more common in future and allow popular speakers to contribute at more events, but there is a risk that your reputation can be impacted by poor quality or even a catastrophic failure. Mastering how to do these presentations effectively and preparing for disaster is therefore a smart career move.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing 

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics you can contact me by email at, by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through my website at

Monday, November 3, 2014

Revenue-Sharing Social Network Tsu Has Appeal, Clever Ideas and Risks

One of the strongest critiques leveled against social networks like Facebook is that the users provide the content but the owners keep all the profit. To counter this social networking companies usually argue that they provide the service free of charge, so why should they share the revenue.

But the revenue sharing idea still has appeal for many social networking users, especially the power users who contribute much of the content. This idea has driven Google to share revenues from YouTube videos and also to the creation of several blogging and networking sites that do share revenue. Back in 2012 Bubblews tried this approach with mixed results and others have followed with even less certain success. No revenue-sharing social network comes even remotely close to Facebook. Yet.

Now a new social network called Tsu is trying to execute this concept and they have some interesting new ideas that make it more promising than other rivals. Tsu looks more or less like a typical social network. You can build a profile, share posts, follow or friend other users, like the posts of others and so on. Where Tsu is different from Facebook is that any revenue generated by your content is partly shared with you. So far there is nothing very new, but where Tsu stands apart is in the way the revenue is shared.

You cannot simply create an account on Tsu, you need an invitation link from another user. This is not to limit the flow of signups or to make it sound more exclusive. Tsu needs to know who invited who because the users are structured in a tree, with every user being connected to the person who invited them and the people they invited.

This tree plays an important role in the revenue sharing process because of every dollar that your content generates Tsu keeps ten cents to pay for the cost of operating the service, pays 45 cents to you and divides the other 45 cents among the people above you in your tree. The person who recruited you gets 22.5 cents, the person above 11.2 cents and so on. This recursive incentive scheme means that a user gets rewarded both for their content and for the content of the people they invited, they people those people invited and so on, ad infinitum.

If this techniques sounds familiar you have probably heard of the 2009 Darpa Challenge, where this technique was famously used by a team from MIT to locate ten red balloons placed in visible but unknown locations across the US. The MIT team succeeded in locating all ten balloons in the shortest time because they offered half of the $40000 prize divided up recursively between the people who actually spotted the balloons and the people who recruited them. This technique motivates the greatest number of people to actually look and to recruit extra searchers because you could still earn part of the prize just by encouraging friends to join the search.

You can already see the effects of this recursive incentive scheme on Tsu. Many people are sharing their invite link as widely as possible in the hope that many people sign up using their link. In that way they could earn money even if their own content is good. So, for example, if Lady Gaga or JK Rowling were to sign up using my link and then post copious quantities of compelling content then I would earn half of what they earn.

With this kind of reward existing users are highly motivated to attempt to recruit other users so this part of their scheme appears to work as expected. But there is a downside risk to the emphasis on paying users for their content.

Money attracts spammers and I am sure that I am not the only person to realize that you could make money using Tsu simply by posting clickbait or, worse still, pirated content. Spammers have probably already discovered that they can earn more by creating many accounts or creating their own recursive tree so that the money is shared between themselves and their sock puppets. Policing this kind of activity will be very hard so some people will be attracted to post content by the incentives but there will not be so many people there to consumer the content.

If Tsu can find a clever algorithm like the recursive incentive to solve this problem, too, then maybe one day it will challenge Facebook. Though if that happens I would not be surprised if Facebook doesn't just copy the revenue sharing features or offer the investors behind Tsu a few billion dollars to sell up.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about social media and other aspects of communication you can contact me by email at, by phone on 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475. There are other contact details on my website