Category Archives: Beth Adamson

India leads the way in online cricket communities

Social networking and cricket? That's wicket!

In England the Cricket World Cup just put a dampener on our Ashes victory. Defeats against Ireland and Bangladesh embarrassed Strauss, Swanny and co. and we limped out against Sri Lanka in the Quarter Final after the viewing public had generally lost interest.

Not so for the rest of the world, however, as up to 1.25 billion people watched co-hosts India beat Pakistan in the semi final, one of sport’s biggest ever global TV audiences and almost certainly the highest audience for the cricket world itself. Cricket is big business, especially on the Indian sub-continent where the Indian Premier League is quickly becoming one of the most profitable leagues in world sport today.

Riding this wave are Digital Vidya, a New Dehli-based media firm, who have set up the world’s first cricket social networking site Soch.la under the slogan “Why watch cricket alone?”. Currently only working with Facebook, the site will soon allow members to create their own accounts and sync in other social networking platforms including Twitter. It allows cricket fans to “follow” and be “followed”, allowing their reaction to be seen and responded to by other cricket fans who are following the same match in other locations across the world. On top of this, the site concurrently provides users with score updates and uses opinion polls to gauge viewer thoughts on the match.

The site has already had thousands of users signing up, especially in the lead up to today’s blockbuster match. However, the platform and interface remain very rudimentary and the logo, featuring what resembles a cabbage patch kid in New York, a cabbage patch kid in Bangalore and, for some unknown reason, a gormless cricket-watching Ron Weasley in Dehli, is pretty bizarre. Nevertheless, this demonstrates a niche in social networking and online communities to provide specialist subject information in a live-text format alongside user-generated content and specialist communication via social networking. It also gives a further demonstration of how India, one of Facebook’s fastest growing markets, is not only adopting, but revolutionising online communities.

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Google vs Facebook: Online searching is about to get more social

Google is attempting to do what Facebook do best. This week it revealed its biggest social networking initiative since it launched the best-forgotten-about Buzz last year, in the hope of securing a stronger online community.

Google might be the most visited site in the world, but if Mark Zuckerberg (or this very blog) has taught us anything, it’s that the stronger the connections between members of an online community the better – and more lucrative.

The search engine group will not create its own full social networking site, but
will instead use features similar to those on Facebook in order to add a social element to the search service.

It will include Facebook-style “like” buttons which will display a user’s preferences to their contacts. On top of this new “+1” buttons will appear next to search results and users will be able to show their personal preferences, which will then be seen in the search results of their online friends. The company will use data from its existing services, such as Google Chat, to decide whose search options to show to which users.

Let’s hope that unlike earlier failed attempts by Google to get online communities involved, that this one brings something more valuable to their massive group of dedicated users.

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Guardian article on defining online communities

Online communities can engage all sorts of users

Check out this excellent Guardian article by Louise Kidney about how tapping into online communities can help councils engage with their citizens.

She asks: “How do you identify a community that you can’t see – one which exists in a space which allegedly has no borders? And how do you quantify the value of a digital community, surely it’s just a load of people sitting around chatting?”

An excellent read if you are interested in the difficulties of trying to define a community and its use value.

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YouTube’s Darker Side

A fast track to fame and fortune but who profits and who pays the price?

The huge online community that YouTube has secured offers a supposedly alternative route to fame and stardom, whether it be through being filmed biting your brother, getting your cat to play a keyboard or singing a simple song about being 13 and wanting to go out at a weekend and get really drunk. But the recent Rebecca Black phenomenon shows how, in spite of over 65 million views on the broadcasting site, these communities have more moneymaking opportunities than first meets the eye. A company called ARK Music was paid by Black’s parents for the chance to make their daughter a social media sensation led her to experience the “omg you suck” YouTube backlash in droves.

The success of her song (if you can call it that) “Friday” shows how enterprising companies (in this case ARK Music) can sell a new social networking dream and make a quick $2,000.

But no one could have foreseen the success that would come from being so bad. Even BBC News, usually concerned with higher matters, called it “the worst song in history” in uncharacteristic fervour. Thousands of YouTube and Twitter posts list widespread glee and disgust in equal measure at Black’s lack of talent, with the extended media coverage from the celebrity blogging scene ultimately resulting in online threats of violence. YouTube now use moderation to try and curb some of these comments, but the sheer volume posted on the video (over 1.1 million in less than a month) must be tricky for even the copious employees at YouTube to moderate.

But after the start of Black’s “success”, ARK hired her a publicist, and several appearances on high-profile US talk shows and a public breakdown on Good Morning America have followed, with ARK reaping profits from the iTunes download-only version of the single. Although Black will probably make her parents’ money back, as well as a lot more to boot, what will the effects of this “fame” be? This shows the dark side of popular online communities, where cyberbullying equals more hits and more money. And for companies like ARK, it is a new and potentially lucrative market to enter into. YouTube certainly has a tough job on its hands, moderating abuse when millions of hits and comments can spring up on one video, seemingly from nowhere.

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Interview: the difficulties of trying to start your own online community

The Burn the Jukebox logo

Managing communities catches up with James Atkinson, who has just entered the world of online communities with his group blog Burn the Jukebox. We discuss the challenges of trying to set up and manage a community.

What is Burn the Jukebox?

We are a DIY music and gigging collective formed of friends who started at university and have an open membership so anyone can take part.

Why did you decide to start an online community?

We live all over the country since graduating and the onlne community is  a way of everyone still communicating no matter where they are. The secondary purpose is to promote or at least make our members aware of upcoming gigs that we’re putting on and it’s a good way of getting in touch with other promoters and like-minded communities.

What kind of response have you had to it?

Although I just began the site and social media for it a month ago it’s already had a fantastic response, and we have new people wanting to participate.

How does it work on a practical level?

Every member knows the login to the blog so content is uploaded by them and then editorially reviewed, not taking any of the content out, just for formatting. Content appears on there all the time and all of us can review it as well.

What has been the best thing about starting an online community?

It helps us retain our collective identity even when geogrpahy means people can’t always take part.

Have you encountered any problems so far?

It’s not really a problem but we had to provide instructions of how to use WordPress because not everyone who wanted to be part of it was necessarily used to blogging. Moderating spam comments is always a pain!

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Profile: My Football Club

Internet users bought their own football club for £35 a pop

Myfootballclub.co.uk is “the world’s first web community owned club”. It owns Ebbsfleet United, the Kent team currently playing in the Conference South. The club was taken over by the site when around 27,000 members paid £35 each in a deal estimated at £700,000. It shows what the power of a well-managed online community, when a footie fan can own part of a club for a bargain price and make real decisions regarding its future from the comfort of his living room. How does it work in reality when an online community has the power to make real decisions?

Funding An annual subscription from members pays for the running of the club

Boards The members are represented by a Society Board of 7 elected members. They monitor internal processes, set strategy, handle the confidential side of management and liaise with staff.  Any current member of My Football Club can stand can stand for election. There is also a management board of three people who make day-to-day decisions at the club.

How does it work? Any member can raise a proposal for activities at the club. Their ideas will then be discussed in the site’s forums before being offered as a formal proposal.  It will then be put to all the members and voted on.

Votes: Members can vote on any club management issues including player transfers, kits and ticket prices.

I think this is the type of thing we’ll be seeing more of in the future as online communities become more niche, focused and better managed.

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Tesco launch new Facebook strategy

Facebook – the keys to online success?

Tesco has extended its reach into the world of online communities by launching a new Facebook page. The retailing behemoth launched its newest venture yesterday, bringing together existing Tesco Facebook pages in an effort to develop better online relationship with its customers.

Users will now be more easily able to engage in online discussions. Existing Tesco Facebook pages already cater for fans of their clothes, beauty products and mobile service among other things, but a spokesperson for Tesco said that the consolidated page will make it easier for customers to communicate directly with the retail giant.

The page will include marketing activities tailored to Facebook users with exclusive promotions and offers and will also be used to promote Clubcard deals and answer customer service enquiries. Tesco also plans to make the loyalty card more interactive, doling out offers via Facebook as well as email and mobile. Their loyalty card is already a large part of Tesco’s digital operation; Vouchers can be spent online or in shops, and more than one million people now use their smartphone app.

So far 5,916 people have liked the new page and the retailer will no doubt increase its presence across the site.

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