Don’t underestimate the power of the crowd

Companies today are climbing over each other to harness the power of social networks, to reach a wider audience and ultimately get more sales. Get it right and the public will love you. Get it Wrong and you’d better be prepared for some pain

They forecast snow but it looks like hfail.

Just over a week ago twitter and facebook were buzzing with news about a competition that Nokia were running to bring snow to five UK towns. The way to make your town to win was to get the most votes.

So the people of Worthing duly installed the facebook app & invited their freinds, the retweeted the link and advertised it on their blogs. They nagged everyone they knew to vote until the competition closed. After a few days the results were announced & people were delighted to find out that Worthing was one of the winning towns. Again people tweeted the good news & talked about it on facebook & bebo. “Good old Nokia, they’re bringing us some snow!”

Once again a few days passed and then an email started popping in to peoples in boxes. “Your five free tracks are waiting” it said. “eh?” said the people of Worthing “what about our snow?”. This was followed by another mail

Welcome to Nokia Music Store. Enjoy the music you love on the move.

This email is to confirm that you’ve successfully joined the Nokia Music Store. Your username is *******. You will need these details to access Nokia Music Store, so keep them safe.

The thing is, no one knew they were registering for the Nokia music store when they entered the competition.

Why had nokia registered people for a service without telling them? This is not good for trust.

More time passed. Then, Yesterday an email arrived “You’ve received this because you entered the Nokia Win Snow competition, and you’ve been selected for special VIP tickets to your town’s event!”. The email linked through to a survey which asked which session you wanted to attend and how many tickets you wanted. After completing the survey users were dumped back to the Nokia Christmas website with no idea what was going to happen next. When would the tickets arrive? How would we get in to the event? Everyone settled down to do a bit more waiting.

Then today, this:

Thank you for the overwhelming response from Worthing to the email we sent out!

We’re sorry for any confusion we’ve caused over the wording of the email and the instructions we provided. Unfortunately we can’t reply to you all individually to explain the process, so we’ll outline it in this email.

By filling in the online form you’ve registered your interest in getting tickets for the event.

Worthing Council have informed us that we can only have a maximum of 500 people at each session, so we’ll have to limit the attendees to a fixed number of invitees and a limited number of guests for each invitee.

If you didn’t fill in the form in time and the form was closed, I’m sorry, but we have had to limit the number of applicants.

We’re going to randomly select a number of invitees from all who applied, and send them an email to confirm that they are invited to the event, how many guests they have, and what they need to do to gain entry.

We’d love you all to come, but unfortunately the response has been so overwhelming that we will be unable to fit you all in and still comply with the Council regulations.

If you didn’t complete the form fully or correctly, for whatever reason, I’m afraid we can’t include you in the draw. Owing to the large numbers involved, we cannot engage in individual correspondence over any particular entry.

Oh dear, oh dear. This will never do.

Almost immediately irate Worthingites started tweeting their frustrationat Nokia, swapping details of conversations with officials from the council (who denied any knowledge of any restriction on numbers) and planning to demonstrate outside the event on Saturday if they didn’t get the tickets they’d been promised.

The local paper published an article about the fiasco & I blogged about it over on WorthingThing.  An hour or so later Nokia did a massive u-turn when a spokesman said to the Worthing Herald “Nokia’s spokesman added: “What we are hoping to do is somehow accommodate everyone and we’re just working out what we can do as we have made a commitment to more people than we planned for.”

“Nokia will do all we can to make sure everyone has some sort of experience.”

So, Nokia underestimated how many people would want to come to the event, having voted for it. and they underestimated how angry people would be when they were told they couldn’t go after all. Faced with the prospect of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory Nokia have done the only thing they can to mitigate a barrage of bad publicity.

I hope that Nokia’s underestimation of people’s expectations doesn’t lead to an anti-climatic event on Saturday.

What can companies learn from this?

It’s not a new lesson really. If you promise the public something make damn sure you can deliver it.

The difference now is that if you don’t deliver on your promises social networks mean that people can very quickly rally together and cause negative publicity and that will bite you on the arse.

Update your Facebook status from Twitter

I reluctantly caved in and joined Facebook a few weeks back. At the time I really couldn’t see the point, after all – I have my blog and twitter for talking at people, Flickr for my photos, del.icio.us for bookmarks and last.fm for my music. Why would I need anything else?

For the first couple of weeks I just didn’t get it – I only had three friends on there, two of whom where my sisters, but then I started finding more and more people I knew and I was hooked. This site is what freinds reunited could have been if they’d done it properly.

Facebook allows you to bring in data from other sites using various “applications” that sit within the facebook site. One of the first things I did was add the Twitter app, but was immediately disappointed that this didn’t updat the the facebook status.

Getting to the point:

Fortunately there’s a new version of the official Twitter application on Facebook that directly updates your facebook status from twitter. If you use twitter and facebook go and get this now! If you have already installed the twitter app you just need to click the “Want Twitter to update your Facebook status? Click here!” link, then you may want to go to the Facebook application settings page and stop the twitter updates appearing in the mini feed otherwise you end up with duplicates.

Then you too can be a happy bunny like me.

Announcing markford.me.uk

My blog posts are like buses, you get none for ages then three come along at once.

I’ve just launched a new website all about me: markford.me.uk

The new site will not replace this one, I’ll still continue to blog here; markford.me.uk is more for people who want to know about my background and maybe take a look at my CV.

This is a very new site and as such it’s still a work in progress, but I felt it was finished enough to unveil.

Adobe launch CSS Advisor Beta

Adobe have launched a new community website with the aim of:

  • Finding solutions to CSS and browser compatibility issues
  • Sharing solutions and workarounds you’ve discovered with the community
  • Allowing the community to comment on and improve existing solutions

CSS Advisor will apparently be integrated into the next version of Dreamweaver which (according to Sitepoint) is due out next year.

I think that this will be a really useful tool for anyone develops CSS based sites, assuming that people contribute to the site and Adobe keep access open to the general public once the next version of DW is released.

Microsoft launch Photosynth

photosynth logoMicrosoft have just launched Photosynth an amazing new website with software that “takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.”

With Photosynth you can:

  • Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
  • Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it’s megapixels or gigapixels in size.
  • See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
  • Find similar photos to the one you’re currently viewing.
  • Send a collection – or a particular view of one – to a friend.

Photos are organised into collections, which are all taken in the same area. Browsing through the collections is an amazing and engaging experience, it’s an excellent time killer! So far there are only four collections to choose from but no doubt this will soon be added to.

The application only works in IE 6 or 7 which is hardly surprising, not good news for mac users though.

A whole batch of good new stuff – Part 2: Web Sites

I read the other week that the average person in Western Europe now spends four hours a week online; I think this must make me special, I’ve just done some quick maths and I’m certain that I spend over thirty hours a week online. Admittedly a lot of that is for work (working on customer sites) so that probably shouldn’t count.

Anyway, there are a few sites that I have found over the last few months that either help me with keeping bookmarks organised, discover new sites or sites that are just interesting. I’ve listed some of them below. All of these sites are free to use.

del.icio.us

When I first heard about del.icio.us I thought was a pointless site and could see why anyone would want to use it. However having played with the site it soon became apparent that it actually was quite useful.

So what is del.icio.us about?

del.icio.us is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use del.icio.us to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the del.icio.us community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on del.icio.us is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So del.icio.us is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy.

I mainly use del.icio.us to bookmark stuff that I think may come in useful later. I’ve never really bothered bookmarking stuff in the browser before because you can end up with huge long lists of bookmarks (or favourites) and no easy way to search and organise them. del.icio.us is different because you add “tags” to your bookmarks to add meaning. Tags are single keywords that you can search for later. Very handy.

Del.icio.us can also be good for finding stuff that you are struggling to find with a search engine, you can search through everyone else’s favourites as well as your own, someone is bound to have bookmarked whatever it is you’re after.

stumbleupon

Stumbleupon is similar to del.icio.us insofar as it’s a collection of people’s favourites. Where it differs is the way you get at those favourites.

You register on the site and fill in a form that describes the sorts of sites you are interested in seeing, then you download the stumbleupon toolbar for the browser. This gives you a number of functions, the most important being the “Stumble!” button; every time you click stumble you are taken off to a new site that people have tagged as being in one of the categories you are interested in. you can tag pages to stumble upon which others will then be taken to.
Try it out, you’ll be hooked.

flickr

flickr is a massively popular photo sharing site. That’s it in a nutshell.

You can upload your photos, tag them to add more meaning. Add a description, you can even sign up for one of their blog accounts if you don’t already have a blog. You can choose whether or not to make your photos public, or you can just share your photos with you friends and family.

I haven’t used flickr a huge amount yet, but I suspect I will when the new baby arrives.

local.live.com

There are plenty of websites with maps on; but local.live.com from Microsoft has something that (as far as I’m aware) no other site does: “Bird’s Eye View”!

To give you an idea of what to expect this is a screen shot (scaled down) of Worthing pier. You can see it in more detail along with the rest of the town here. Click on the link and then press the birds eye view option.