How to improve your social videos to tell compelling stories

As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told investors of his ‘video first’ strategy, content creators are trying to find ways to optimise their video output and attract larger followings.

Social video has been around for many years but is now  considered the dominant vessel for consumption on social media. Last year, Facebook video uploads increased by 95% from the previous year and these numbers look set to rise again in 2017.

Here are a few tips on how you can improve the quality and watchability of your videos on Facebook.

Keep them short and sweet

Even though Mark Zuckerberg himself has expressed an interest in opening up Facebook to longform and episodic videos, he wants to focus on shorter-form content just to start. While you might be excited to produce an expensive Pulitzer-winning documentary, start small. The optimum length for social videos is between 30 – 90 seconds. Don’t worry too much if your video is slightly over. Use your own discretion to figure out what works for you.

Work without sound

Now, you don’t have to go full Buster Keaton when making a video for social, but make sure that your video still makes sense without audio and doesn’t become just a sequence of footage without context. Most viewers who come across your video will do so because it played automatically. If they’re interested enough, they might turn the sound on to find out more. Use captions to let viewers know what the video is about and use subtitles if subjects are talking so people can still ‘hear’ what is being said. The captions should be able to drive the story without breaking the flow of the video.  

Think about your first Impressions

For many people, your social presence will be your first port-of-call, so you want that first impression to stand out. Come up with something succinct that doesn’t give too much away to the viewer. You want them to stay with you to the end of the video but you also don’t want to bore them.

Avoid using still images/stock photos

When I first started making videos for social, I was told to avoid using still images. “If the story can be told with images then tell it with images.” In other words, video should only be used if the story can’t be told in any other way. If you absolutely must use an image for a video, then try to create the illusion of movement with zooms and pans. This is known as the ‘Ken Burns Effect’ and it’s a widely used technique. You will often see it in war documentaries to create the illusion of a battle, for example. You might also need to use photos or screenshots that others have taken to tell your story (we will get to that later on).

Be professional

This might sound obvious but treat your social video exactly the same as you would any news piece: as professional as possible. If your audio isn’t properly synced or you’ve captured all of your footage on your old Nokia then people will be turned off and go to the next item. You don’t need to invest in a lot of equipment to achieve this. All you need to do is take extra care. Make sure that your audio matches what’s being said on screen, remember to adjust focus, and keep your camera steady.

Ask for permission to use other people’s photos/videos

A common problem with social video is that it can be easily downloaded and uploaded on another channel without giving credit to the original author. This is known as ‘freebooting’ and it is heavily frowned upon. If you want to use footage that you’ve found from another source to help tell your story, try and contact the author and they may be happy to let you use it as long as you give them credit in the video. Some people might say no,  so you’ll need to find something similar elsewhere.

Avoid cliches

This. Just this.


Social Media for Journalists: Making a case for Facebook

There is one clear fact about journalism and social media, i.e. Twitter is the ‘Holy Grail’ for journalists.
The 140 characters in a tweet are used by a majority of journalists for breaking news and microblogging. Almost every journalist has a twitter account.

Facebook on the other hand is what I call a ‘potential’ which is waiting to be discovered by journalists. Facebook is a larger platform than that of Twitter and much more varied. In the following points I will make a case for Facebook and why it should be used more by journalists.

Here we go.

1. Number of users

This is the modus operandi and source of pride for any social media site. More users will generate more content. In the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly users while Twitter had just 313 million in the same time period.

This is a massive difference. More importantly, a difference which can have major consequences on what is being shared and created. Facebook has already become a source of news, with almost every major news agency sharing content on their official Facebook pages.

Contrastingly, individual journalists are not that active on Facebook. Click on a journalist’s profile, and you get a Wikipedia-esque introduction, with few irregular posts.

To reach a bigger audience, journalists who already have a Facebook profile can use their profiles professionally or even make a separate page if they want to keep their professional and personal profiles separate.

Journalists will get a much larger audience to cater to on Facebook.

2. Extensive engagement with audience

Facebook’s comments section is a platform for opinions, frustrations, and friendly banter. Activity over Facebook has become so relevant in recent times, that governments in certain countries (India and Pakistan) track such activities and curb them. Like the press, Facebook provides a platform for public opinion, forming and shaping it.

Granted that Twitter is good source for breaking news, but if a story is broken on Facebook, the public can actively engage in debate through the comments section.

Facebook’s reactions is a great tool for journalists. It can help them to understand what shared content resonates with the public’s emotions. Before reactions, it was impossible to tell from a “like” whether the reader was angry, sad, or happy about what they had seen.

On Twitter, although you can engage with audiences through replies, the scope of debate is limited to 140 characters.

Engaging with Facebook comments may seem like a daunting task. Twitter is more favoured because journalists are short on time and sending a tweet is easier than commenting on Facebook.

But, if they can spare time to engage with their audience on Facebook, they will be be able to understand public opinion.

3. The multi-platform format on Facebook facebooklive_marquee3
Facebook can influence public opinion because it provides a wide range of platforms on its site through which users can share content.

News agencies are making extensive use of Facebook live to break news and report on stories. If you compare breaking a story on Twitter with just a one line tweet and breaking the same news with a live video, you can understand the huge differences between the two. Video always has a more lasting effect on the viewer than words have on the reader. 

Facebook Live video has revolutionised reporting: where anyone can record live videos of any event through their mobile phone cameras.

Twitter is not so accessible when it comes to multimedia reporting. Short videos, GIFs and pictures are about all there is on offer.

The best video live-streaming apps

By 2019, 80% of all internet traffic will be for video – the online world is far from being only about text and images.

One of the most interesting new strands of this video revolution is live-streaming: it offers a unique level of intimacy and immediacy to users.

But what should you use?


Periscope has a number of benefits. It is owned by Twitter, therefore allowing you to benefit from its social graph and it already has 10 million users (the highest out of the competition). A great aspect of it is the geolocation functionality, allowing you to search a map of Periscope streams up to 24 hours after they have been broadcast. It is the fastest growing of the options, and it now auto-plays of Twitter timelines, giving it a leg up against the competition.


Meerkat was once Periscope’s great competitor, and although it has a smaller number of users, it does offer some unique benefits. You are able to schedule a broadcast and generate a URL before it has happened – meaning you can build interest in a live-stream and possibly even SEO ranking ahead of time. Although it’s not possible to re-watch broadcasts, you can – for now – stream to Facebook, which is a significant advantage.

Facebook Live

Facebook Live, however, is catching up quickly. Lot’s of publishers have begun to experiment with it recently, especially as Facebook have given Live posts a big boost in their algorithm – meaning that more users should see it than others posts, and it also sends a notification to your account when a stream begins. But Facebook Live is very much limited to on-platform only viewing.


Blab is the young upstart in the room, and it could be a game-changer. It allows you to have up to four simultaneous streamers as well as unlimited viewers, lending itself well to discussion-based streams or simply those looking for added dynamism. But Mashable have described it as “Periscope for groups of friends”, and with that potential for huge growth in social usage, it could gain a very engaged user base.

What to keep in mind with Facebook video

Facebook can be a very valuable tool for traffic for many websites, and mastering an online presence on the social platform is often the difference between life and death of a publication.

Recently, Facebook’s algorithm has been modified to promote visual content, such as pictures and videos, over plain text posts.

Data published last November seems to be showing they are on the right track, with close to 8 billion video views per day.

While Youtube remains the uncontested leader in raw video content, it would be a grave mistake to ignore the rapid growth in Facebook videos.

Here are the interhacktives top tips to keep in mind when doing your Facebook video.

Grab their attention

You are fighting against the ever-shortening attention span of the viewer. If you don’t grab your audience in the very first seconds of your video, they simply go elsewhere.

Most of the time viewers will be scrolling through their feed and your video will automatically start playing when they go over it, that leaves you with about three seconds to convince them to stop and stare.

In this video by The Guardian, the viewer is instantly intrigued by this atypical question and answer. It stays no longer than three seconds and does its job well.

Keep it compact

This is in the same vein as our previous tip. The longer the video, the less likely he/she will finish it. Try to aim for something close to a minute or two, any more and you risk boring the viewer.

This video by the BBC has 10 million views at the time of publishing of this article, and it is only 50 seconds long.

Don’t forget visual stimuli

A trap publications might fall into is to treat a Facebook video like a segment in a broadcasting channel. You should not be simply staring at the camera and talking, other channels are better suited for this type of content Facebook videos are not.

If your video makes sense and the viewer can understand what it is about even with the sound turned off, then you are on the right track.

This video by NowThis has no natural sound, yet you can understand what the story and who the major players are just by reading the text. This technique is called a Nut Graf over B-Roll, where you simply take the nut graf of the story and put it over some video sequence.


Adapt your content

Not everything should be made for online video, but a bit of time and effort can turn even dry content into something that can work.

In this video, CNBC only had shots of Mark Cuban talking, but with the clever use of editing and adding text they managed to turn dry content into something you could watch on Facebook.




Sociotope brings your online identity to life

A mass of multi-coloured tentacles against a grey-blue backdrop

While browsing data visualisations on Pinterest the other day, I came across an interesting-looking tool: Sociotope, a social media experiment which takes the data people leave behind in social networks and turns it into an interactive data visualisation.

The free-to-use web app works with Twitter, Facebook and soon Google Plus. It uses your data to build a “virus”-like creature with one tentacle for every post you’ve made, or post that someone else has involved you in, up to a maximum of 150 (though you can choose to load more). The colour scheme is taken from your profile picture, and the length of each tentacle varies depending on the length of the post. The more the tentacles move around, the more people have interacted with that post – providing a slightly bizarre but effective overview of your social media presence.

 A screen capture of me exploring Sociotope and using it to visualise my Twitter activity

Sociotope is functional, but also fun and interesting – you can use your cursor to spin it around in the three-dimensional space, and watch as the tentacles flop about. You can click on each one to see details about that post, although with so many tentacles in the way, it can be difficult to hit the exact one you’re aiming for.

Sociotope also provides a few options for analysing your social media presence, including sorting posts by time and by author. Its design is geared more towards visual impact than straight-forward analysis; but it’s effective as a visualisation and fun to play with, and could serve as an entry point for more casual users into analysing their social media presence, rather than only appealing to professionals, like most analytical tools.

A visual metaphor

Stefan Wagner, the designer who created Sociotope, says he wanted people to gain an understanding of what they leave behind online:

If you browse websites, data is collected about you – lots of data. I think the average user doesn’t ever glimpse how much data that is actually collected … these kind of exceptional visualisations, they gain people’s interest, and they will be interested in this viewing this data and what lies behind it.

Stefan describes Sociotope as a “metaphor” that represents people’s social media activity and their social relevance. “I always liked connecting data visualisation to some sort of metaphor – I like working with metaphors to convey information about something. The idea was created to make a data visualisation of social media and put it in some sort of other form, to shape it differently, so that the viewer would learn something else from it.

“I really hope that people are using it to analyse their own presence and maybe the identity of others. Because social networks, they’re all about social interaction, and I think it’s really important for people to realise how they use this kind of social media, how they interact with their friends, and how deep this interaction goes.”

Does he think that this is a role that data should be playing – in helping people realise these things about themselves? “For me, it’s the only way data should be used. Of course big data is used to do advertisements and stuff but for me, the interesting thing lies in analysing behaviour and getting into how people use this kind of media.”

A colourful Sociotope visualisation with a few tendrils extending out towards the words "tweet", "reply", "tweet with media" and "link"
Sociotope can break your online presence down by type of post and whether or not it contains media | Stefan Wagner / andsynchrony

Sociotope also provides an unexpected insight into how the internet has developed over time and how users’ social media presences have changed with it. By loading posts back far enough, you can play them as a time-lapse which shows the evolution of a person’s social media presence over the years.

“When I started to build the project,” says Stefan, “I saw that in 2009 or 2010, people were writing a lot more text, but now they restrict themselves to posting photos or one-liners – just a few words. People tend to not write so many things any more; they more tend to post photos or videos.

“You can read it out of the visualisation. [Similarly], when you look at websites, how they are structured and how they try to gain attention, photographs or images get a lot more space these days than they did two or three years ago.”

Generating Utopia

Sociotope isn’t Stefan’s only project which uses data visualisation to give insight into how people use social media. In 2013, he created ‘Generating Utopia’, a real-time visualisation of social location data using the social platform Foursquare.

It takes a map of an existing city and alters the topography based on a person’s Foursquare check-ins, elevating the areas where a person checks in the most, to emphasise their importance. The locations are connected by a web of neon lines in primary colours: red for work, blue for recreation and yellow for transport. The overall effect is a dramatic, futuristic cityscape.

“People like to represent themselves from their best side, in social networks,” Stefan explains. “So when they check in somewhere, it’s not like the doctor’s office or something; it’s some awesome place. So people will build up a utopic vision for themselves, and I wanted to build utopian landscapes from the data.”

A bird's-eye view of a cityscape with several buildings perched on top of high mountains, with lines of red, blue and yellow light winding their way around the topography
A still from Generating Utopia | Stefan Wagner / andsynchrony

“I really love provoking people by showing them data in a different way. I like using metaphors and images, strong images, which provoke people’s imagination to make them build up a sensibility towards what data means and how much data they produce. I think it’s really important.”

Stefan says that he would like to see more people creating images and ideas from the data that lies behind a person’s online presence. “Every image which is created helps shape this future idea of how data should be, or how social networks should work. I can only motivate people to try to visualise data.”

A social media style guide for local newspapers

Declining print circulations, traditionalism, internal politics, a small budget. These are problems that don’t just affect local newspapers, but it hits them worse. So why have I written a social media style guide principally aimed at locals? Because, generally, they have fewer resources to invest in their social media channels.

As journalists, we’re still trying to figure out which social platforms work best for news reporting. The most recent questions have been about the journalistic potential of WhatsApp and Snapchat, closed platforms where young people are doing whatever it is young people do. For the time being though, let’s focus on the big two – Facebook and Twitter.

The Times social mediaHere’s how social media is done at The Times and The Sunday Times

I wrote this guide while on work experience last December, so it is influenced heavily by The Times and The Sunday Times‘ social media style guide. I’ve updated it so it can be applied to any local newspaper and indeed any news organisation interested in boosting their social media presence.

Welcome to your social media style guide.

Here’s how to produce the most fun, engaging and informative social content that serves the reader and drives new followers. It is a working document – the social web is always changing and so are your readers.

General points

● Be accurate and consistent
● Tailor content to the platform – Twitter and Facebook are different!
● Show off about your exclusive content
● Correctly attribute images
● Use appropriate hashtags


The average half-life of a tweet is 2.8 hours. So ideally, you should publish one tweet an hour from 7am to 8pm, showing the range of content on the site.


Tweets should be conversational and directed at followers. Make it clear there’s a human behind the account. There’s nothing wrong with an exclamation mark every now and then. Be funny, be smart, and be engaging.


Retweeting followers shows you’re engaging with them on some level (reply to people too!). Retweets don’t necessarily mean endorsement. Please don’t ever manually retweet someone (“There’s a button for that”) unless you have something valuable to add as an extension of his or her tweet.


Use a URL shortener such as – it looks much better. Install the browser plugin to speed up the process.

Embedded content

Tweets with images attached perform much better than those without. Embed images, whether they may be Twitter cards, charts or photos, wherever possible. Soon you’ll be able to embed video content on Twitter without using a third party app. Embedding short videos will boost your engagement rate.


Vines work really well on Twitter. Vines can also reach hundreds of thousands of people if they get featured on the app, so it’s certainly something to consider. A Vine account could be used to show behind-the-scenes content from the office.


People follow hashtags for news and topics they care about, particularly breaking news stories. We need to reach these types of people – users who are invested in something – so include trending and popular hashtags in tweets wherever possible. You can check if a hashtag is popular by searching for it on Twitter. You know it’s worth including it if tweets are coming in every couple of minutes or seconds.

Live tweeting

When covering a live event in person, embed photos and Vines as much as possible. Try to tweet differently to the crowd – don’t just report what’s happening. Here’s something I wrote about how to live tweet better. Try not to begin a tweet with a full stop and the person’s Twitter handle ‘.@bjacksonuk…’ – it looks ugly (‘full stop before @ reply’ should only be done if you’re replying to someone’s tweet and you want all your followers to see it).


Facebook statuses should be posted sparingly if you don’t currently get much engagement – morning, noon and evening. The best performing content should be given priority here. Take a look at your Facebook page’s furniture, such as the profile picture, cover photo and ‘About’ section. Have these things been updated recently? These things need to look attractive and fresh, communicating your brand just as well as the daily front page is supposed to.


Statuses should be personal and appeal to the reader’s emotions wherever possible – Facebook users are more likely to engage with content framed in emotional terms. It’s good to ask questions, share quotes and use pithy one-liners. Don’t ever just copy and paste the headline into the status. A curiosity gap helps with engagement too…


Statuses shouldn’t be any longer than three lines. Ideally, you shouldn’t use more than five words. Remove the link when the post generates a preview of the article before you hit ‘Post’. When you choose to embed an image, you need to keep the (shortened) link in the status because the image replaces the article preview. Don’t use a colon to point to the link. It’s not cool and the user knows where the link is.

Embedded content

Embed an image if it contributes to the story and makes the status look more attractive. Videos also work well and they play automatically, so they’re more likely to get the user’s attention if it’s any good!

I think that’s a good start, don’t you? If I had to sum up my social media style guide in four words, I’d go with ‘put the user first.’ Put yourself in their shoes. What do they want to see? What stirs them, what makes them tick, what will they share with their friends?

By following this guide in conjunction with studying site metrics and performing experiments, your community of readers will definitely grow in size and loyalty. Everybody wins.

Header image: Scott Jackson/Flickr

6 tools for measuring social media success

Lies, damned lies and statistics – everyone knows this famously pithy quote often attributed to 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. In the social media world though, it’s statistics that are king.

There are lots of free tools you can use to measure social networking success. Here is a list of some of the best out there to help you get a handle on just how other people and organisations are doing on Facebook and Twitter.



A free online service that will tell you when a Twitter profile was started. It is useful for analysing early Twitter activity and what events corresponded with your subject’s early Twitter use.

Twitter Birthday -


Simply measured

A paid for service (it does, however, have a free trial available for demo) that allows users to measure Twitter account follower levels, interests and influence of an account that you do not control.

Simply Measured graph data


Twitter Counter

The free version of this service allows you to compare two different Twitter accounts to provide some valuable insights into an account’s activity in comparison to other similar accounts.

Twitter Counter graphs data social media



Fanpage Karma

Fanpage Karma is a powerful analytical tool that allows you measure a number of key benchmarks for how effective a fan page is. These include the ability to easily measure the size of likes on a fan page against growth levels and ranked profile performance.

When combined with data that is available on fan pages themselves via Facebook Insights, it and the other tools on this list become fairly powerful for analysing page activities.


Fanpage Karma social media analytics


Simply Measured

Its free service allows you to compare one fan page to another, which can be very useful when comparing competitors on Facebook.

Simply Measured free social media analytics.


This free tool lets you input a Facebook page URL and gives it a rating out of 100 based on a comparison of other pages. It also gives a series suggested improvements that can aid in-depth analysis of the social media strategy that the page is operating.

likealyzer social media analytics facebook


This is not a definitive list by any stretch, so if you have anymore tools you use and would recommend please share:


Facebook alternatives: The Smart Social Networker’s Guide

Throughout most of its ten-year history, people have been threatening to leave Facebook.

There are plenty of good reasons for doing it, from Facebook’s constantly mutating privacy policies to its decision to turn users into test subjects without their knowledge or consent. A few months ago, Facebook came under fire for its “real-names policy”, which requires users to access the site under the name that appears on their passport, credit card or driver’s license. Hundreds of drag queens, who use Facebook under their stage names, had been banned from the site along with DJs, stage performers and members of the LGBTQIA community.

The name controversy sparked off petitions, protests, polls and spoof videos, and some 600 Facebook users pledged to deactivate their accounts and find a new social network in protest of the policy. But with some strategic intervention by Facebook, the whole movement fizzled out with no real changes made, and most of the people who were so up in arms before are… still on Facebook.

It’s easy enough to complain about a site like Facebook, but no matter how valid your complaints are, it’s all so much noise in the newsfeed if at the end of the day you still use the site. If, however, you’re prepared to put your social network where your mouth is, then read on: no matter what your complaint with Facebook, our guide will match you with a social network you can turn to instead.

Continue reading “Facebook alternatives: The Smart Social Networker’s Guide”

6 sites that show why data is beta

New to data journalism and keen to learn but unsure about the kind of stories you could uncover with numbers? Well worry not because the Interhacktives have collected the examples of experts in action so you don’t have to.

Here’s a roundup in no particular order of the best news sites that use data journalism and data visualisation in the UK.


Guardian Datablog Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 13.46.07


Guardian Data Blog

Data journalism is by no means a new trend. The Guardian is cited as the first major publication to bring data journalism into digital era, with Simon Rogers launching the Datablog in 2009.

The blog covers everything from topics  currently on the news agenda to general interest.

This week saw a report on the record levels of opium harvested in Afghanistan and a visualisation about the lives and reigns of Game of Thrones Targaryen kings.

The Guardian’s Datablog is good for beginners as there tends to be a link to the source of their data on each article, enabling you to access the data and to use it for your own stories.

Amp3d graph - We're eating more chocolate than there is in the world, "Predicted world chocolate deficit"


This arm of the The Mirror is what its creator Martin Belam calls “socially shareable data journalism”, the successor to his Buzzfeed -esque site UsVSTh3m. Launched last Christmas, after only eight weeks of building, Ampp3d is the tabloid perspective of data journalism.

Stories this week included what makes the Downton Abbey’s perfect episode and the British city where people are most likely to have affairs.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that it’s a site specifically designed for viewing and sharing on a mobile device. As Belam writes on his blog,  80+ per cent of traffic at peak commuting times comes from mobile, which the project aims to capitalise on this attention.

i100 "The list" Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 14.30.30


i100 is The Independent’s venture into shareable data journalism. It takes stories from The Independent and transforms them into visual, interactive pieces of often data journalism. It also incorporates an upvote system to put the reader in charge of the site’s top stories.

The articles are easily shareable since social media integration is a core part of the reader’s experience.

To upvote an article, you have to log in with one of your social networks (currently Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, Instagram or Yahoo).

Bureau of Investigative Journalism homepage

Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Championing journalism of a philanthropic kind, the data journalism of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism differs from most of the other publications on this list.

Based at City University London, its focus is not on the visual presentation of data, but the producing of “indepth journalism” and investigations that aim to “educate the public about the abuses of power and the undermining of democratic processes as a result of failures by those in power”. As a result, there is little visualisation and mostly straight reporting.

For data journalists, though, its ‘Get the Data’ pieces are indispensable resources as they allow you to download the relevant Google spreadsheets that you could then turn into data visualisations.

FT Datawatch: the world's stateless people screenshot

The FT

The Financial Times’  Data blog is one of the leading international news sources for data journalism and one of the UK’s leading innovators in data visualisation. It creates pieces of interactive and data-driven journalism based on issues and stories around the world, which include everything from an interactive map showing Isis’ advances in Iraq to UK armed forces’ deaths since World War II.

It describes itself as a “collaborative effort” from journalists from inside the FT, occasionally accepting guest blogs.

Bloomberg screenshot of homepage


Bloomberg  has perhaps some of the most impressive-looking data visualisations out of all the news sources mentioned. The emphasis on the aesthetic is immediately apparent since a zoomed-in version of each visualisation functions to draw a reader in on the homepage as opposed to a traditional headline/photo set up.

Interactivity is the most defining feature of Bloomberg’s data journalism. Many of its pieces rely on the reader to actively click on parts of the visualisation in order to reveal specific data. For example, its World Cup Predictions and Results article requires the reader to select a game in order to see statistics and information about it.

Can a Facebook ‘like’ Make You a Criminal?

Facebook like

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has been debating whether ‘liking’ a defamatory comment on Facebook makes you guilty of libel.

To date, no one has been prosecuted specifically for ‘liking’ a statement, link or photograph posted by someone else. Last year, a judge in Virginia ruled that ‘liking’ was not covered by the first amendment (guaranteeing freedom of speech), but the case dealt with unfair dismissal rather than libel.

It may sound absurd that something as trivial and instantaneous as ‘liking’ could be a criminal offence, but in reality it’s surprising that the Philippines is the first place to discuss the question seriously.

According to UK law, a statement is defamatory if “it tends to lower the person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society.” To succeed in a defamation action the claimant must prove three things:

  • the statement was defamatory
  • the statement referred to the claimant
  • the statement was published

It is the last of these which is important here: by ‘liking’ a Facebook status, are you publishing it?

There is currently a new defamation bill going through parliament, however, it refers back to the existing 1996 defamation act which states:

“In defamation proceedings a person has a defence if he shows that he was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement […]

 For this purpose “author”, “editor” and “publisher” have the following meanings:

‘author’ means the originator of the statement, but does not include a person who did not intend that his statement be published at all;

‘editor’ means a person having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the content of that statement or the decision to publish it; and

‘publisher’ means a commercial publisher, that is, a person whose business is issuing material to the public, or a section of the public, who issues material containing the statement in the course of that business.

Because ‘liking’ doesn’t reissue the story (i.e. it doesn’t come up on your timeline as well) it is arguable that you have not republished it. In this sense, it is different from re-tweeting. On the other hand, your ‘like’ improves the statement’s edge ranking making it more likely to be seen by others.

You might be said to be an editor because your ‘like’ can materially add or change the way the story is perceived. If, for example, a famous or influential person endorses it, then the statement carries much more weight.

Like everything in law, it’s debatable but there is potential for a libel action to be launched on these grounds. With so many Facebook users, it may occur sooner rather than later.

Perhaps the most important part of this issue is not the legal technicalities. Rather, it is the general point that social networking sites make it incredibly easy to commit serious, criminal offences yet do not provide any guidance or warning.

Journalists know that what you write on Twitter and Facebook constitutes publication, but most other users don’t and end up saying things they shouldn’t.

There probably is a warning buried somewhere amongst Facebook’s terms and conditions but I’ve never seen it.



Social media tools to use (more) in 2013

Being a student puts you in touch with new resources, but it also makes you wonder how people in real newsrooms are actually using tools to reach out to readers. So I asked some of my former colleagues what are the most interesting tools they will try to use more frequently in 2013. The three most mentioned by them were Talkwheel, and Storyful. This is why.

Talkwheel helps organize the influx of data for those who get many post comments and questions in social media. It is designed as if it were a dinner table, with lots of conversations stored in the same place. They can be filtered according to topic, time and amount of interactions. The pictures of the users in the wheel will show you the comments they made in Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Since interaction is important for the ratings of any big website, there is a potential there. Talkwheel has a free version available, although IBM sells a special one.

How to use Talkwheel is focused on Twitter and its purpose is stimulating engagement. It helps users with categories such as influencers, fans and engaged members. It makes it easier for you to detect lurkers and active members – and that includes the number of interactions via Twitter. This tool also shows you unreplied comments and identifies your most engaged Twitter followers, so you can address them instantly. There are paid and free services for

How to use

Storyful gets you the most popular stories of the day in social media. It is designed for iPhone and brings stories of the man on the street to attention. Some of them are worthy of a follow-up and others are basically to keep track of what is going on. The most important asset Storyful has in the human perception: their editors actually make sense of who are the credible citizens that become sources and who aren’t. It works a bit like Storify, but there is a team behind it to support their choices – it is not based solely in ratings to tell what is important or not.

Any other suggestions for good social media tools to use in journalism this year?

Social media users in emerging countries want more than just flashy visuals

Social media platforms must avoid a One-Size-Fits-All approach when breaking into emerging user-bases. Thanks to for the image.

Brazil and India don’t share much common ground. But, along with the United States, they are the top three markets for Facebook in the world. While more than 156 million Americans have already adopted Mark Zuckerberg’s creation, only recently did almost 100 million Brazilians and Indians migrate from their favourite social media platforms to Facebook. The lack of understanding of the shifts in emerging markets destroyed the Google-owned social network, Orkut.

One important trend for Brazilians and Indians, despite their lack of common ground, is that most of what works online for the South Americans also works for the Asians. One example is Flickr, which became popular in both areas at the same time. Orkut was very powerful in these areas until 2010. When competition from Facebook started, they thought they would have an edge trying to appeal to the millions who left the working-class for the middle-class. Wrong decision.
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Is Social Media the answer to solving crimes?

This morning the Boston Police Force accredited social media for their increase in crime solving.

The Boston Police Department has seen a rise in crime solving tips thanks to social media and the department’s large Twitter following.

The Boston Police Force has more than 39,200 followers on Twitter. Last year they set up a Twitter campaign in which they allowed people to send anonymous messages to the department’s Crime Stoppers Unit. The programme, called Text- a Tip, was set up to reflect peoples increased use of social media sites and mobile phones.

So far Boston Police have received tips about homicides, drug deals, online suicide notes and bomb threats.

Department Spokesperson, Elaine Driscoll, said: “It’s been really amazing for us. Use of Social Media has provided an additional outlet for people to interact with law enforcement.”

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Social Media Editor for the Hackney Post: Week 1

By Abby Young-Powell

This week I have been Social Media Editor for the Hackney Post. It has been stimulating, hard work and a learning curve. Here is some of what I have learnt so far…

Those who don’t know may (wrongly) assume that it’s an easy job, to Tweet for a living. So you’ve just been sitting on Facebook all day? My housemates ask. Well yes, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

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365 storytellers take on a Year

3hundredand65 is a collaborative online storytelling project that’s raising money to support the Teenage Cancer Trust by inviting contributors to “crowdauthor a graphic novel”.

Each day, a new writer progresses the story via a single Tweet to the organizers. Their tweet is then illustrated and added to the website.

The plot is a science fiction, improvised on the themes of “end of hope” and the “struggle for hearts and minds”. A synopsis is published on the website, but it’s only natural that the storyline wends its own sweet way.

The organisers sensibly embrace the project’s inherent unpredictability, saying: “We love twists, new characters and plot developments. We love quirky, weird, detail and description.”

Here’s today’s entry, courtesy of @MooseAllain, by way of illustration:

“Cephalopod stroked Cope’s chin with a tentacle. “You need a shave, mate. Here, have a cuppa”. A moment’s pause before the whirlwind resumed.”

Each day’s entry is illustrated by designer Dave Kirkwood, who came up with the following image to accompany @MooseAllain’s Tweet.

Art by Dave Kirkwood

Anyone can contribute to the story, though if @MooseAllain inspired a follow-up Tweet I’m afraid you missed the boat. Available dates can be selected from the online “contributors calendar” (as I write there are no slots left before June). A simple Tweet to @3hundredand65 then secures your slot, and all you need to do is follow the storyline and hope for inspiration to strike when your turn comes.

Kirkwood’s hard-bound notebooks will be auctioned off to raise extra funds. Bidding starts at £120, which the organisers say equates to their cost. Original, signed drawings of the characters are also available for a negotiated donation.

Naturallly anyone can donate to the Teenage Cancer Trust charity with no need to contribute to the story. Donors have so far raised 42% of the charity’s £1,000.00 target. Further donations can be made via the Just Giving page linked to

The website is supported by a Facebook community page, on which the pictures drawn for donators are published, alongside the occasional one-off, such as the special Valentines Day artwork.

Kirkwood is enthusiastic about the photo sharing and networking app Instagram, where he has posted extensively:

“Instagram has helped lift interest and is quickly becoming a source of traffic to rival Facebook. But Facebook is our sticky place. Here advocates, early adopters and new fans are sharing an interest in the project. It’s different to Twitter, less frenetic but is as important because it holds the core of the project together.”

3hundredand65 is a great example of multitasking social media. The guidance for contributors promotes interactivity:

“We love conversation…but what we love even more is writing that collaborates with what’s gone before and considers what might come next. Every writer’s address is shown on the site so you can mention-collaborate with them if they’re willing.”

Social media geeks will definitely find the guidance posted under “What not to put in your tweets” interesting. It includes the following admonishion to prospective authors:

“We don’t ban boring but devices such as Dallas style “It was all a dream” scenarios will ruin the project – we’ve already had one, which was fine and taught us a lot about process, but one’s enough.”

There is also a request that the majority of tweets should be from UK residents only:

“Teenage Cancer Trust is a UK charity and these online viral projects by their very nature grow through friends of friends all of whom, we hope, will consider donating. It’s far less likely that people living outside the UK will donate to us. So our pragmatic take on this is it would probably be better not to (contribute) unless you have a wide network of friends and or family here in the UK.”

It would be interesting to know what others think of that decision. At the moment, it seems that Twitter is the project’s most effective champion, with 1,100 tweets spreading the word, as compared to only 84 Facebook “Likes” and not one “public recommend” via Google .

In an email to me, Kirkwood explained:

“The thinking was we could get drowned by tweeters keen to make a story, less keen to engage with the charity. Remember this is uncharted territory, we’re learning by the day and that’s what’s so much fun for us. The blog sphere has driven a lot of interest amongst what have become our core followers. Within that are our early adopter advocates who keep the pressure up on Twitter.”

An iTunes app, due imminently, will help people to follow the story and make donations, while a blog should foster more social engagement. “Twitter’s constraints make any kind of genuine collaboration very tricky,” says Kirkwood, “the blog posts will change all of that.”

Follow the story as it unfolds via Twitter hashtag #3hand65. And contribute in any way you can.

Interhacktives: what we’ve got planned

Over the past few months we’ve been reporting on the world of social media – from Twitter censorship to lost puppies and personalising news feeds. But now we want to start a discussion with you, the readers. After all that’s what social media’s all about.So we’re introducing a few changes to the site – creating a new forum, weekly Audioboos and videos – as well as event updates, to help you keep in touch with the latest community news.
You can read a copy of our online strategy below, get in touch if you have any suggestions!

It all started on social media: England’s August riots

Social media was at the heart of the August riots
London: the epicentre of August's unrest - photo credit: George Rex (Flickr)

From August 6th onwards one story dominated the British – and at time, global – media. Be it traditional sources; newspapers, television and radio, or modern media channels; Twitter, Facebook and blogs, it was impossible not to be excruciatingly aware of the summer’s English riots.

The riots were arguably 2011’s biggest news in Britain, and will leave a mark on areas of British society for decades, but from a social media perspective, they were – perhaps – just as ground breaking.

Social media’s involvement in the riots can be broadly broken down into four areas; dissemination of news, exaggeration of risk, establishing the post-riot clean-up operation and receiving blame from police and political figures.

The first tweets mentioning the disturbances began emerging at around 8:30pm on August 6th, just as the first serious unrest got under way.

Mainstream news organisations already had reporters on the scene for the erstwhile peaceful demonstration, with the airwaves, TV screens and newspaper web pages soon abuzz with updates on goings-on, but Twitter was there first. One reason for this may be that news editors were understandably keen to verify any reports before throwing them out to the masses, but the instantaneous nature of Twitter certainly shone through regardless, with employees of top news organisations among those taking to the ‘Twittersphere’ with just as much alacrity as members of the general public.

Leading the way among the professionals harnessing Twitter was The Guardian’s Paul Lewis, who went on to accumulate an additional 35,000 followers over the course of the disturbances and their aftermath thanks to the unrivalled coverage he provided.

In the last couple of years Twitter has emerged as an excellent source of breaking news, and the August riots were arguably the best example of this to date. Twitter lists, hailed by many users as the social network’s most useful function, came to prominence no more so than when Sky News’ Neal Mann complied his Riots list, allowing other users to keep abreast of the latest developments as reported by the most reliable and reputable sources.

Another example of social media’s centrality to the August unrest concerns Youtube, where Malaysian student Ashraf Haziq was attacked and then mugged by a group of would-be Good Samaritans.

There were; however, drawbacks to Twitter’s sudden explosion during the riots. First, many less experienced – and perhaps more excitable – users began tweeting about breakouts of rioting where there were none. In one example, a report of looting at Angel’s N1 shopping centre was retweeted over 40 times, even though the source had emphasised that this was unconfirmed. There was no looting there. These were not malicious attempts to cause panic, but rather the result of people who, upon hearing or seeing signs of a police presence, believed that this meant there must be rioting taking place – “no police without riots”, to misquote a familiar idiom.

More extreme, but ultimately harmless, was the spread of outlandish riot rumours. In one example, an image of Cairo’s Tahrir Square full of protesters and military vehicles was tweeted, supposedly as evidence that the army had moved into the area surrounding the Bank of England. Again, users fell over themselves to retweet.

One wholly positive use of Twitter was in its creation and promotion of the @riotcleanup user account and hashtag. Within an hour of its creation, the hashtag was one of Twitter’s top trending topics, and clean-up ‘events’ were soon springing up all over London and other disturbance-hit parts of the country in a wonderful example of community cohesion and unprompted altruism organised through social media.

This blog series is dedicated to stories where social media played a central role in their breaking and continued coverage, but with the riots the level of involvement of social media went even deeper. Hundreds of column inches in national newspapers were actually devoted to accusations that social media was responsible for the triggering, spread and extent of the riots, and senior police officers and politicians alike made statement after statement about how the likes of Blackberry Messenger (BBM) were to blame for many of the wrongs of those few days of chaos.

While there was an element of truth to the BBM line, suggestions from the upper echelons of Scotland Yard that Twitter be shut down during the riots were shown to be wide of the mark, with riot-related Twitter traffic almost invariable spiking after disturbances, not triggering them, as some had suggested.

Even after the riots themselves had come to an end, social media stayed in the headlines, with several cases of youths receiving jail sentences for their use of Facebook in attempting to incite further disturbances.

When you consider the above it is undeniably clear that social media, and in particular Twitter, was not only a platform for discourse and dissemination during the riots, but was in fact a key part of the narrative. Without meaning to belittle what was a terrible few days for all those involved, one might easily look at the events of the Arab Spring and say that the August unrest was very much a 2011 tragedy.

It all started on social media: #UKUncut

March 2011 was the month that UK Uncut hit the headlines. Born out of the hashtag #UK Uncut which began circulating after George Osborne’s spending review in October 2010, Uk Uncut describes itself as a grassroots movement taking action to highlight alternatives to the government’s spending cuts.

It was on 26th March – when Uk Uncut occupied the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason’s in response to its parent company’s alleged tax avoidance – that the protest group was transformed into a household name.

The occupation of  ‘the Queen’s grocers’, which is owned by Whittington Investments, a company UK Uncut believe to have dodged of over £40 million, cost the 300-year-old store £54,581 worth of business and received prominent coverage in mainstream media.

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