Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who Is The Modeructor?

Who is the Modeructor?

At the beginning of this task I selected the image above as SocMedMod's Twitter Avatar. I chose it based on my thoughts of social media moderation at the time - that a social media moderator's  role was to orchestrate the various online platforms for his or her organisation and making various platforms work together to achieve the most harmonious outcome.

But now I'm not so sure that the person depicted above with his back to us represents an organisation's social media moderator. After all the analysis and assessment of social media in Rethinking Media, I am in two minds as to who this guy is.

With a nod to Alvin Toffler's 'Prosumer' who represents a blurring of the line that seperates producer from consumer, I have named the person depicted above The Modeructor (diction, readers, diction!), of course being a combination of Moderator/Conductor.

Does the Modeructor represent the social media moderator as I alluded to above? Yes and very much so, but by analysing social media thorugh a political economy lens for the past month, I have also realised that The Modeructor also represents the political and economic elites who control or attempt to control social media. Whether it is platform owners commercialising their prosumer's content, advertisers attempting go orchestrate influence over social media users, or political elites trying to regulate social media, I'm yet to determine precisely. But in very abstract way I'd argue that this power bloc trinity is an embodiment of the 'power' that  political economy theorists regularly identify in their critique of society.

So for my final SocMedMod post, who do you think the Modeructor is?  

Social Media Moderator or Political Economic influencer? 

Please post comments below, or better yet via Twitter using #WhoIsTheModeructor  

*Twitter users will be helping contribute to this blog assignment's final presentation.

This is my final post. Thanks for all of your comments over the past couple of months. I hope you all have learnt a bit more about social media moderation and critically assessed its role in current PR/Communications practice.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Towards self-moderation?

In previous posts I've discussed and raised questions on the impact and influence of government and tradtional 20th century media on social media through the Data Retention plan and #StopTheTrolls respectively.

Further to my comments (and yours - thank you!) on the Daily Telegraph's #StopTheTrolls campaign, has it actually stopped the trolls? Or was it a cynical, front-page headline-grabbing exercise complete with brand ambasadors? Traditional 20th Century media's attempt to influence emergent media I'd say.

A recently published article from the ABC, Twitter's final word on the Stop The Trolls campaign failure paints an interesting picture.
The final paragraphs of that story reveal that Twitter has not changed its policies due to some interference from the Australian federal government.


Applying political economy theory to social media would show that for an 'emergent' media, most platofrms have already been colonised by economic forces. Perhaps not the heavy hand of goverment on a particular platform, but most have been colonised by advertisers, or are now private companies with shareholders to please. Sure, social media platfroms are 'open' and can be used by just about anyone with a phone and WiFi connection, but it is hard to argue against Robert McChesney who noted that despite its claims of openness, the internet is likely to be dominated by the same corporations but with the addition of a few more players (in Macnamara 2010)

This leads me to my next question: Is our collective engagement on and through popular social media platforms turning us into a self-moderating public? One that is all too observant of guidelines, protocols, and community standards? With every comment, photo, video or update we post online on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any of the other social media sites, I'd argue that we are simply contributing to creating a homogenic audience.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Data Retention and Trolling - Political Economy/Media Audiences mash-up

Thanks for all the great feedback to my previous post on Data Retention. To follow-on from last week, the video linked to here speaks volumes of social media from a political economic viewpoint.

While researching the data retention issue via Twitter I came across the #ccRoxon hashtag, a tongue-in-cheek nod to do Nicola Roxon a favour by copying her into online coversations. Through the hashtag, I came across Nicola Roxon's You Tube video addressing data retention: Attorney-General's update on the inquiry into potential reforms to national security legislation.

The #ccRoxon campaign duly noted that her office had disabled comments to the aforementioned video. Her office obviously has much to learn in creating open, two-way communication processes with their target communities via social media, as many on Twitter pointed out. Only when trying to embed the video in this blog (as you can see I have only linked to it above) did I discover that they have also disabled embedding the video - also not the best social media strategy if you want people to share and spread your message.

From a Political Economy theoretical stand point, this You Tube example shows how government are yet to fully embrace social media and its intended use. It appears that they wish to use the platform as just another means to spread their messages to a mass audience and are unwilling to be open to constructive criticism or feedback from their target market: citizens of Australia.

This leads me to examining Nicola Roxon's video from a Media Audience theoretical perspective. The 'imagined audience' Jim Macnamara alluded to last week is one that the Attorney General's office is probably guilty of in their use of You Tube to reach their 'audience'. Trying to reach a mass market, whilst switching off the feedback button will not go far in today's social media landscape.

"...You Tube... and other user-generated mediia illustrate that the genie is out of the the bottle in terms of people being static target audiences or 'consumers' passively acqiescing to messages." (Macnamara 2010 p124). Citizens are not static audiences that passively accept messages even if they are on emergent media platforms. From a moderation perspective, this leads me to ask: Does removing the ability to comment using the same platform be cosidered the ultimate form of social media moderation suicide?

#StopTheTrolls, a traditional mass media outlet's attempt
to colonise or influence emergent media?

There has been much commentary on the Daily Telegraph's campaign to stop individuals using Twitter to harass and bully others. From a political economy perspective, here is a social media issue being influenced by traditional media. Said traditional media is also inviting political influence to try and 'Stop the Trolls' , NSW Premier @barryofarrell was actively involved in bringing light to @RobbieFarah 's plea, (only to later be outed as a troll himself). Is #StopTheTrolls a marriage of political, economic and tradtional media heavyweights attempting to, moderate, colonise or control emergent media?

The trolling issue may never have come to light were it not for rise of the prosumer and the Hyperindividualization of media audiences (Deuze 2005 in Macnamara 2010 p124) through social media sites such as Twitter. Does Hyperindividualization, the extreme individualisation of audience, (when combined with social media platforms), give permission to individuals to voice their opinions directly to 'personalities' even if their social media actions could be classed as harassment? Or are social media platforms simply the new avenue for 'fan mail' - or in Charlotte Dawson's case, the ultimate hate mail?  

Twitter recently handed over an Occupy protestor's data, thus complying with a Judge's order. Can this be considered self-moderation by a social media platform? A classic case study of political economic theory in social media? Or simply an example Nicola Roxon can now give as to why her Data Retention proposal is in the nation's best interests?

Attempting to moderate, control or colonise social media and the internet's much fragmented audience seems to be an easy headline grab these days.

References: Macnamara 2010, The 21st Century Media Revolution Emergent Communication Practices.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Data Retention: Political influence on Social Media?

Last week, the Attorney General Nicola Roxon announced that she was now in favour of government online data retention for two years in order to target criminals, despite earlier claiming that she was not in support of it.

The government would argue that the proposed data retention plan, which would force all Australian telcos and internet service providers to store the online data of all Australians for up to two years, is simply out to target criminals and crooks who are up to no good in your neighbourhood, and that everyday, law-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about. Privacy advocate groups are up in arms at the suggestion that everyone's online presence will be recorded and kept for two years, leaving it open to access and abuse. 

Australia's Attorney General Nicola Roxon.
Will her support of data retention be a friend or foe to social media?

This potential change to the government's access to Australian's online records raises serious questions for users and creators of social media and social media moderators.

Political Economyy Theory sees media "interconnected with and controlled by economic and political power" (Macnamara 2010). From a political economic theorist's perspective, Nicola Roxon's new-found support of data retention would indicate that this is an attempt by government to gain and influence power over users of the internet and social media. Should data retention be legislated, will Australian 'netizens' become more wary of their online behavour and change what sites they visit? Will 'prosumers' of emergent media modify their interaction with others online?

In a sense, social media users may become self-moderating, ensuring that the emergent media platforms they use, and the content they share, will be different, when users are conscious that 'Big Brother' is not just watching, but also recording their online behaviour. In my previous post, SocMedMod Vision Episode 1, I asked social media moderator Courtney Grigor if her communities were moving to self-moderation. She indicated that they were not, however could the government's close observation of online interaction and communities influence a user's actions towards self-moderation? I'd argue that it could possibly influence someone's response to a post or prevent someone from speaking freely. Moderators may find they have less hateful or aggresive  interactions from group members due to Data Retention.

The political economy worldview "has mostly presented a dystopian view of the internet and emergent media, seeing tem as likely to become colonized by the same power elites that dominated 20th Century media" (Macnamara 2010). Proposed data retention legislation could act as the first step political power elites take towards 'colonising' the internet and social media. Should Data Rentention proceed, the question must be asked - Will government become the ultimate social media moderator?

What do you think?

Is data retention the first step towards political colonisation of social media?

Will government become the ultimate social media moderator?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SocMedMod Vision Episode 1

Last night after the tutorial I had a quick chat to Courtney Grigor about the challenges and issues she faces as a social media moderator.

Main points Courtney raises:
  • Social media is of course used in conjunction with traditional media campaigns
  • Making time to respond to converstations is her biggest issue
  • Guidelines a very helpful if something needs to be addressed online
  • Self-moderation is wishful thinking. 

In light of Courtney's view that self-moderation (in her experience)  is wishful thinking, one aspect which I will post about over the weekend is the potential impact government tracking of online behaviour will have on people's involvement in social media. Perhaps the proposed Bills will move users to self-moderate knowing their data could possibly be kept for two years?

A big thank you to Courtney for her input (and appearing on video) and Anita (for her work behind the iPhone camera)

Check out Courtney's FB discussion on Social Media: Building or Eroding Brand Value?

and please stop by Anita's FB page on Extremist Groups: How are they using digital media to recruit and mobilise?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Insider's Guide to FB moderation: Have you done your job well?

Just a quick update to share this handy post from Melissa Gassman which I found on CPC's PR and Social Media for Businesses LinkedIn page.

In An Insider’s Guide to Facebook Community Management for Brands, Gassman shares her insights from a two-year stint as a Facebook page moderator. In light of recent tutorial discussions around brand's frequent social media stuff-ups as regularly highlighted on Mumbrella, I found her final paragraph very interesting:

"Think long and hard before pressing ‘delete’ on any comment. Facebook is an open forum and you need to accept the good and the bad comments about your brand. Unless comments clearly violate your house (or federal) rules, leave them be. If you’ve done your job well, your community may very well step in and defend your honour."

Particularly though-provoking was the last sentence: If you’ve done your job well, your community may very well step in and defend your honour.

If community managers/moderators have developed a free-flowing two-way model of communication in the first place, they may find that members may jump in to defend them if there is a negative comment. In his lecture last night, Jim Macnamara hinted that despite the media landscape changing from mass media towards social media, brands using new social media platforms are doing so in much the same way they use/d tradtional mass media - that is, to simply push out PR messages rather than using social media to create dialogue and improve brand awareness.

Many brands using Facebook may avoid social media disasters by undergoing a complete shift in their theoretical framework and work towards implementing a strategy that engages community members.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Facebook: Thumbs up to moderation

Smart Company recently published an 'Ultimate Guide to Facebook Moderation'. In it, Patrick Stafford raises many issues that businesses using Facebook now face that they didn't just a short time ago.

"The concept of monitoring and moderating the messages made on Facebook walls is odd. The practice didn’t even exist three or four years ago. But recent legal tussles show Facebook moderation isn’t just something you should do because it’s good business. It’s a legal obligation. Smart businesses will be aware of a finding by the Advertising Standards Board, and a subsequent affirmation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, that small businesses have an obligation to take down misleading or deceptive posts on their wall. These messages can constitute ads, and if you don’t take care of them, it could result in massive fines. Businesses have been irate about this, suggesting it’s even more work for them to keep track of. But James Griffin, co-founder of reputation management company SR7, says this should have been the case for many businesses when they first set up their pages – and it exposes some laziness (emphasis added)."

In the article,  Stafford raises key points about setting up an online community on Facebook, key points that I think a lot of businesses have not heeded in the rush to be on Facebook simply for the purpose of being 'on' Facebook. The role of moderator would be a lot easier if these companies had spent time developing a strategy before simply jumping on one of the latest social media bandwagons.

Some of the key points raised in the article include:
  • Asking yourself what you want a Facebook page for. Have a strategy and envisage what feedback/interaction you would like to create;
  • Setting standards and having clear guidelines for posts;
  • Warning against misleading comments - even if a comment is positive it may not be accurate;
  • Don't delete controversial comments.

Interestingly he warns against regarding 'likes' as feedback, a point I brought up in our tutorial discussion last week. A lot of likes doesn't always correlate to engagement. Similarly, negative posts by consumers that garner alot of 'likes' may not be the death by social media or translate to loss of business that many may expect. As in the case of the Target social media story I mentioned in my last post, 44,000 'likes' of a mother's negative feedback to Target obviously demonstrates that a lot of Facebook users also share a similar point of view, however it could also simply be fellow consumers having an easy dig at a corporate entity. Sure it isn't one to ignore complelely, as 44,000 likes has spread one consumer's feedback much further than it would have ten years ago through 'Word of Mouse' and brought coverage of the issue to traditional media, but if I were moderating a page I'd be more inclined to analyse comments rather than the simplistic 'like'.

But back to the point I emphasised in the first section of Smart Company's 'Ultimate Guide to Facebook Moderation': Have companies become lazy in their Facebook moderation? Has the proverbial horse bolted and now companies must play catch up to avoid or better manage their own potential social media #Fail? Should companies re-assess their presence on Facebook and perhaps opt for another platform for social engagement?

I think setting up a Facebook page is the easy part, but constant vigilance is the price to be paid for wanting to be in that space. Laziness has crept into multi-national companies AND small businesses. Social media moderators must access their platforms daily, respond, and if a response can't be supplied, as at least an acknowledgement that the post or comment will be assessed and responded to as soon as possible.