Behind Digital PR » social media Thoughts from Hill & Knowlton's Australasian Digital Practice head, Matt Overington. Mon, 16 Feb 2009 06:16:00 +0000 en hourly 1 Social media connects bushfire displaced with temporary accommodation Mon, 16 Feb 2009 06:16:00 +0000 Matt Overington An Australian agency has donated a fantastic resource for the Victorian victims of the bushfires that have torn through the state in the past couple of weeks.

The website,, is designed to connect victims looking for accommodation with kind-hearted souls offering space to stay. Needless to say, the resource has set up a Twitter feed and an active Facebook group to help spread the word. Social media is most effective when connecting real people to other real people and this is a fantastic initiative.

You can follow on Twitter here. And on Facebook here.

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An emotive study in the self-correcting nature of online conversations Mon, 16 Feb 2009 05:19:56 +0000 Matt Overington The world has been watching and sympathising with the victims of the bushfires that have ravaged Victoria over the past couple of weeks

Here in Australia, the coverage has been phenomenal. Traditional and online media as well as social networks have been abuzz with conversations expressing sympathy for the victims and analysing the events.

The entire country seemed to react with rage when it was revealed that some of the fires may have been started deliberately, and more recently, a suspected arsonist believed responsible for lighting a fire that destroyed the town of Churchill in South-Eastern Victoria was named by the media.

A number of Facebook groups naming the man were established, and they initially ran rife with posters condemning the actions of the accused and threatening vigilante action. Valid concerns have been raised about the ability for a jury to be found to hear the trial given the widespread discussion and intense media interest around the case. Furthermore, this analysis in the Sydney Morning Herald raises questions about the responsibility of Facebook and its publishers in the case.

More recently, messages have been posted to the groups suggesting that justice would be better served by shutting down the Facebook groups, in part because of their ability to influence. Given the emotion surrounding this case and the scrutiny it has generated, it’s both interesting and heartening to see the online community self-correcting in the face of such an emotive issue and for voices of reason to be able to cut through the online noise.

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Taking a break from the social network carousel Wed, 17 Dec 2008 01:13:00 +0000 Matt Overington Fabulous nerdnews site, Slashdot, carried an article back in early 2008 that predicted social network aggregators would be a killer app in 2008. It was suggested that aggregators would come into their own as internet users get drowned in a flood of new social networking sites. Well, the latter part of the prediction is certainly coming true – there are hundreds – if not thousands – of social networks out there and new ones are launched with such regularity that it’s hard to keep up. Sure, there are a few massively popular ones here in Australia, including Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, and there are plenty of aggregators out there to help manage presence on many platforms (including FriendFeed, Gathera, Secondbrain, Spokeo and Youmeo).

Sites like Profilefly promise to help consolidate your online identity, but it’s still a real challenge. As we speed headlong towards Christmas, where many of us will be relying on social networks to keep track of friends and family as they jaunt off on holidays, I am considering pausing my accounts at a number of social media environments simply so I can spend more time holidaying, and less time updating.

If I can update my status and interact with the social media platform from my mobile device, I will keep my membership and involvement going. If not, I’m off. The only question now is how do I tell all my social network friends that I’m ditching them for a while?

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Back in the hot seat Tue, 26 Aug 2008 01:20:00 +0000 Matt Overington I’ve just returned to the office following a ski trip to New Zealand’s South Island. I don’t write this to gloat, but rather to ask your opinion on an observation I made while overseas. (OK, I am gloating a little!)

The South Island of New Zealand is a pretty quiet place with a population of a little over a million. Agriculture, mining and tourism are among the larger industries across the island. The entire South Island is peppered with ski fields and the area sees visitors from all over the globe come down to spend a southern winter skiing or snowboarding. We’ve been making semi-regular ski pilgrimages to the South Island since 1986 and the place has changed markedly in the past 20-odd years.
One development that blew me away is how South Islanders have embraced broadband. When we were last there in 2006, it was relatively difficult to find internet cafes or wireless broadband in many of the smaller towns across the island. Most hotels offering ‘internet access’ meant guests could disconnect room phones from the wall to plug in dial-up modems.

Not so this time! Motels in the smallest towns across the island proudly boasted inexpensive wireless broadband, and we even found a camping ground in Fairlie (population: ~750) offering free wireless access to visitors. Even the local publicans in Methven (population: ~1300) were sporting T-shirts advertising the pub’s frequently-updated web site.

Walking through internet cafes in Wanaka and Geraldine, I was struck by the number of tourists logged into social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, uploading photos and video of their holidays to keep friends and family at home updated.

As social media has grown in popularity, the South Island’s tourism operators have stepped up and made broadband ubiquitous. The observation got me thinking: has social media helped accelerate broadband penetration across rural but touristy areas around the world? Or has the proliferation of broadband access encouraged people to spend more time on social networking sites while on holiday? What do you think: chicken or egg?

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A rose by any other name… Thu, 12 Jun 2008 05:42:00 +0000 Matt Overington I came across an interesting article by Gerry McCusker last week on business attitudes towards the term “Social Media”.

Gerry’s opinion is that as social media has long been associated with sites like Facebook, Youtube and Myspace, there’s a danger that corporates tend to view social media as a leisure activity and not an avenue for telling a story or communicating with consumers.

He points out that once a client has been involved with a successful campaign and the benefits speak for themselves, that a client will “get it”.

He goes on to suggest that pitching social media engagement as something else, possibly “Network Media”, “Peer Media”, or “Influencer Relations” might enable PR agencies and other advisors to overcome C-suite resistance.

This is something we’ve been thinking a lot about as well, and while case studies do indeed help break down the resistance to getting started with online activity, we’re resisting calling online outreach “social media engagement” and instead think of it as targeted stakeholder engagement. 

This mental shift helps position the internet as a strong, powerful communications tool, and not just a place to while away hours sending pictures to friends (though, of course, we love the internet’s capacity for that too).

One added benefit clients are obviously appreciating is the detailed and accurate measurement of engagement offered online: something that’s a little harder to measure in an offline world (or harder for some to fully understand or connect directly back to a behaviour change). With that in mind, why not push the measurability angle to describe our activities online?

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