Seven expensive words on Twitter

By DAVID BOYES
 

bercCLUMSY Tweeting by a prominent member of society in the United Kingdom has resulted in a legal decision against her, a heavy financial penalty and a warning to everyone that social interaction can sometimes come at an extremely high price.

The decision by the High Court in London that a message put out by Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, was libellous merely reinforces my longstanding view that the days of the internet and social platforms being regarded as “non-mainstream” are well and truly gone.

And, along with other legal verdicts on both sides of the Atlantic, it should set alarm bells ringing among individuals and companies who use Twitter, Facebook, et al, or are considering entering the social media space for the first time.

It is my contention that as soon as any individual or organisation sets up a website or social presence, they have entered the publishing or broadcasting business.

As such, they need to know the rules of “the game”.  This is at the nub of the trouble that Bercow and others – prominent and not so prominent – have run into.

Individuals, companies and employees who have no experience of the laws of libel, defamation, copyright infringement and contempt of court cannot, as a rule, even begin to grapple with the dos and don’ts of public communication.

Without expert assistance, they may be heading for a fall, the scale of which would probably only feature in their nightmares.

Until recently, I’ve felt as though I have been shouting into a cave, as I have attempted to persuade prospective clients of my company to be cautious about what they communicate or allow to be communicated in their name (by employees or outside agencies).

My concern comes from a lifetime in newspaper journalism which ingrained in me a professional commitment to check and double-check information in advance of publication in order to avoid exposing the publishers to legal dangers, either criminal or civil.

But now some rather expensive chickens are starting to home to roost.

The upshot of the Sally Bercow ruling – which centred on just seven words and some punctuation – means she will have to pay a substantial sum of money to Conservative Party politician Lord McAlpine, who she wrongly linked to the sexual abuse of children at a care home.

The original allegation of misconduct had been made in a TV news programme by the BBC, who later paid McAlpine £180,000 ($280,000) in damages.

Amid widespread and fevered speculation about the identity of the abuser, Bercow, who had denied libel, waded into the Twittersphere and asked: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending. *innocent face*.”

That was enough to land her in court – and leave her looking at a large bill after the court ruling.

‘A warning to all social media users’

She had previously made two offers of out-of-court compensation to McAlpine that were rejected by him. So it’s clear that the undisclosed, agreed damages were higher than she had hoped.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Bercow said she had learned her lesson “the hard way”, adding that the ruling should be seen as “a warning to all social media users” because comments could sometimes be “held to be seriously defamatory, even when you do not intend them to be defamatory and do not make any express accusation”.

In court, her legal team had argued that the phrase “innocent face” was merely an indication that the tweet should be read in a deadpan manner, comparable to stage directions or notation on a musical score.

But Lord McAlpine’s lawyer stingingly responded that only “a moron in a hurry” or an “anchorite in a sealed cave” would have been unfamiliar with the context in which the tweet was published.

Individuals can only learn from this event as best they can. However, corporate organisations using social interaction – whether that’s by way of a blog, a Twitter account or through Facebook or LinkedIn – may need to draw on expert advice to ensure that they communicate “cleanly”.

Social media is now falling under the gaze of governments, legislative bodies, regulators … and lawyers.

Its advent has been akin to that of the Industrial Revolution or rotary press. But, in the UK at least, the law has finally caught up.

Messages and updates (in words, photographs, drawings or film) on Twitter, Facebook and all the other popular platforms are regarded as published material.

Interestingly, in the McAlpine case, his lawyers urged people other than Bercow who named him on Twitter to come forward so they “can reach a settlement” – i.e pay him compensation.

Ominously, the lawyers added: “We know who you are.” They also revealed that “specialist firms” had recorded each offending post and the authors would be tracked down if necessary.

The McAlpine case involved civil law but analogous scenarios have played out in criminal courts too.

A professional football (soccer) player in Wales was convicted in court of rape but nine people named the victim on Twitter, which is illegal. They pleaded guilty to publishing material likely to lead members of the public to identify the complainant in a rape case and were ordered to pay damages to the woman.

And two men who on Facebook posted apparently up-to-date photographs of the two killers of a two-year-old boy, in violation of an injunction protecting their identities, were given suspended prison sentences.

The murderers, who were 10 years old at the time of the crime, were given new “lives” to protect them from possibly vigilante harm after the completion of their custodial sentences.

The Facebook users acted in contravention of a global ban on the publication of anything revealing the identities of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were released in 2001.

The injunction prohibits the publication of any images or information claiming to identify or locate the pair – even if it is not actually them. The order also covers material published on the internet.

‘The spoken word has become
the published word’

Clive Coleman, the BBC’s legal correspondent, has said of the current social media scene: “Conversations that once would have only taken place in the street or the pub have moved online. The spoken word has become the published word.

“In short, we are all publishers now. Anything tapped into a PC or phone can rapidly go viral and cause real damage to the administration of justice.

“The internet may have seemed, at its birth, like a new unregulated frontier beyond the reach of the law. It isn’t, and anyone posting material in relation to matters concerning the justice system should be aware that between mind and keyboard lies the law.”

Already in the United States, there have been legal deals in the wake of malicious or errant social media messaging,Courtney Love most notably that involving rock star Courtney Love who, in 2011, had to pay $430,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against her by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir, who claims she was defamed in a series of messages posted on Twitter.

In all the cases detailed here, the size of the audience who viewed the messages exacerbated the misdeed.
“Publish and be damned,” was the cry of the Duke of Wellington in 1824.

That sentiment resonates to this day, and it applies to all us publishers, large and small.

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Create a website that works – eight key ingredients

Hand draws with chalk on chalkboard, website layout, design, words stating "slider", "text", create a website tha works: eight key ingredients

The best-laid plans: make sure you have a clear idea before embarking on the design process
 
By DAVID BOYES

HOW to create a business website that WORKS is a tough trick to pull off.

The problem is that many organisations make a mess of website content and they become blinded by over-fussy functionality.

Whether it’s an all-singing, all-dancing e-commerce mega-production or a simple brochure design, [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Seven Twitter tips for business

Man with megaphone standing on chair in street shouting. Twitter. Social media. Business. Blog.

Big noise: Twitter can amplify the impact of blog posts better than Facebook or LinkedIn

By DAVID BOYES

TWITTER has the power to supercharge corporate message delivery in ways that other social media platforms just cannot match.

Yet many businesses use it only sparingly or not at all – a behavioural trait I put down to three factors: prejudice, a preoccupation with the over-hyped pulling power of its “big brother” Facebook and a desire to “lean into” LinkedIn’s “credibility” limelight.

Anti-Twitter sentiment frequently runs deeper than just the widespread dislike of the 140-character restriction on message size. Twitter is regularly criticised for being “boring”, “irrelevant”, “banal” or “not for business”.

Granted, Facebook is the “big beast” of social media, with more than a billion [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Can you pin cash to your bottom line?

Yellow pin on green wall, Pinterest business strategy

By DAVID BOYES

PINTEREST is attracting increasing interest in the United Kingdom in the wake of its barn-storming success in the United States, where it is fast becoming a “must-have” component in social media marketing strategies.

So should all businesses pin their hopes on this photograph-sharing platform that has the ability to visually showcase your brand and communicate messages about your company?

The answer to this Pinterest business strategy question is yes and no.

Organisations selling products that are eye-catching or who operate in niche or special-interest markets are the ones that stand to gain the most from this new medium, it would appear.

However, companies selling services, such as consultancies, will, in my opinion, struggle to reap any [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Social media: don’t publish and be damned

By DAVID BOYES

EVERY time I am introduced to an organisation that is seeking help in establishing a social media presence, I am tempted to say: “Have I got news for you.”

And then: “Do you realise that as soon as you begin reaching out to your target audience and beyond through social interaction – whether that’s by way of a blog, a Twitter account or through Facebook or LinkedIn – you have started a publishing business? As such, you need to understand the rules of engagement, the legalities, deadlines, the ability to listen, respond or react, sometimes at lightning pace, across numerous platforms simultaneously, in order to protect your reputation or capitalise on a business opportunity.”

I put my hands up now. I have never been brave enough to put it so bluntly. Putting a potential client on the defensive is never a good idea. But I always impress on them that my experience as a journalist will keep them out of harm’s way on the social media stage. [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

How to declutter with Twitter lists

By DAVID BOYES

TWITTER has more beneficial use for business than any other social media stream – of that I am convinced. Yet why are so many corporate players dismissive of the micro-blogging platform?

The list of criticisms seems to topped by “it’s boring” or “irrelevant” or “trivial”, which are knee-jerk reactions, rather than ones based on a clear understanding of what benefits can be harvested. The other big problem is the perception that Twitter is cacophony through which nothing will cut.

None of this is true, of course. Businesses who display this level of prejudice against Twitter – and who are turning their backs on a potential audience of 200million-plus – are generally displaying the symptoms of lack-of-knowledge syndrome.

So, with that in mind, I have prepared a how-to guide to just one of the techniques that can help organisations cut through the “noise”, engage with their target audience and maybe think about compiling a list of things they actually like about Twitter, so they can spread the word to others with new-found zeal, based on new-found knowledge.

Twitter has a number of features waiting to be discovered by the curious, or by those who aren’t preoccupied by the day-to-day demands of business. One of them is called lists, and it is a useful, decluttering tool, making it well suited to organisations who need to maximise the return [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Deliver more Twitter punch

Twitter can add punch like a boxer

Be a big-hitter: corporate messages on Twitter can now carry more impact

By DAVID BOYES
 

TWITTER has recently introduced changes that give users – primarily businesses – the ability to add more punch to their corporate message.

For those with a bit of ring craft and a desire to score some new points with their target audience, now is the time to act because these new features are going to be forced on all account holders in the near future.

This short guide covers the changes that matter and what they mean for organisations who use the micro-blogging platform in their social media marketing mix.

The latest developments – introduced last month – concern Twitter account profiles. The new features allow users to portray themselves or their organisations in a more visual way, making it possible for them to create something resembling a welcome page for new and existing customers.

The most significant alteration is the addition of a header image to complement the previously existing user photo. Bearing in mind the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, this is good news (especially in light of Twitter’s 140-character limit) for those who wish to punch their weight in the social media ring.

[Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Communications ‘critical’ at NHS 24

Blind spot: NHS 24

By DAVID BOYES

HERE’S something that gets my goat in a big way: Organisations who purport to embrace the modern advantages of social media but continue to live in the past.

Broadly, I refer to bodies who fail spectacularly to grasp the concept that Twitter, Facebook, et al, are means of communication and are, therefore, “live” 24 hours a day. The key is in the words “social” and “media”, the latter being the more important of the two.

Specifically, I refer to NHS 24, which, for the uninitiated, is an “online and telephone-based health information and self-care service”. In plain language, it is who you call if you are in need of medical help outside of “normal” hours.

Now, my gripe is not with NHS 24 generally and its fine frontline medical professionals. It relates to its management – in particular its communications management.

As I regularly state, like a stuck CD, to those in my circle of influence, social media is a form of publishing. This principle is not overly important for those using the likes of Twitter for personal use but it is extremely so for businesses and large bodies who employ [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

In the beginning, there is the word …

AS our name suggests, we believe in the power of words. Words can enhance or damage, communicate or confuse. Being able to use the right words in any given situation imparts credibility.

Words are key in the communications revolution that is currently unfolding – primarily on websites but also in social media. The internet is the public domain, websites and social media platforms are forms of publishing. If companies and other organisations are to maximise their presence in the digital domain, they need to harness the power of words.

WordMediaCo provide media consultancy services to corporate clients. Whether it’s public relations, website content, social media strategies or blogs, we nurture and protect hard-won reputations through concise, compelling communication.

Words are becoming more important than ever, as we start to witness Google’s new search engine optimisation model which will no longer rely as heavily on keyword chicanery and meta data manipulation. Instead, the emphasis is going to be on content – and fresh, organic content at that.

Organisations who are in the habit of putting a pile of keywords at the bottom of web pages and in their meta keywords tags in order to keep them at the top of the Google rankings are in for a nasty surprise.

Google wants relevance, quality and a good user experience. Make your content relevant and do the best you can to make it useful for a user. Keywords should be naturally placed in your content, not forced.

Organisations who value their reputation must realise that damage can be inflicted on their image if the information they disseminate online won’t cut the mustard. They also have to realise that social media activities and blogs are a key part of the mix, enhancing their Google ranking. Time, energy and other resources will have to be drawn upon to ensure that a prized brand identity is protected or enhanced and that the corporate message behind it continues to be fresh, vibrant and relevant.

WordMediaCo provide the highest quality content for new and existing websites, for blogs, for social media activities and for public relations campaigns. All our material is prepared by professionals with an innate understanding of the media and experience of mass communication.

We ensure that corporate organisations present themselves professionally, appropriately and in a way that enhances their image and reputation by giving them credibility through words that are relevant, compelling, engaging and consistent in tone and style. Credibility is the business.

See the light: if you want the power to shine through, your message has to be clear

 

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Social media seeds in the Big Apple

Getting the message across: Times Square, New York

By DAVID BOYES

WHEN the United States of America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold, goes the time-honoured saying. Yet, on the British side of the Atlantic, it would appear that, in one aspect of modern business life at least, preventative medicine has been taken by the bucketload, when it comes to social media marketing.

The reticence in some commercial quarters to wholeheartedly embrace the social media dimension is something of a mystery. But there must be a reason because everything in life is explainable.

The affliction that prevents small to medium sized enterprises delving into the most exciting and potentially beneficial realm of the current age must have its roots somewhere. Is it ignorance? Doubtful. Is it fear? Perhaps. Is it a pre-conceived notion that the social space is [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co