Author Archives: lucybean

UGC success! Converting social networks into social capital to get to SXSW

We spoke to Tuttle founder Lloyd Davis a few days before he was about to cross America to get to SXSW using only the currency of social capital.

For Lloyd it was an experiment to see how friends and contacts made through online social networks could be converted into material commodities.

So how does UGC fit into this I hear you cry? Well Lloyd wanted to test the relationships he’d made via UGC platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare to see if they stood up in real life. A big criticism lots of the social media skeptics pile onto these platforms is that you waste time connecting to and talking to people you don’t know or have never met – it’s nothing like real life networking and getting to know people.

Lloyd disagreed and wanted to prove the value of an online network.

He flew out to San Francisco and travelled across the States to Texas for worldwide tech conference SXSW. He had no money and so had to rely on donations of food, transport, accommodation and money from his social networks.

He did it and is still in America planning to move on to New Orleans and New York before heading back to London exchanging social capital for real life stuff. Lloyd told me that the main thing he’s learnt so far is that sometimes you think you’re spending social capital when actually you’re making it. Also that it’s tempting to think of it like money and that it gets up when you use it, but sometimes it can increase when you use it.

He’ll be writing up his findings in more details on his return and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for an update.

I asked him who’s been the most generous, what bits of tech he couldn’t have done it without and what he enjoyed most about SXSW. Oh and what his experiment had taught him about social capital 🙂



By Lucy Hewitt

User generated content, social media and the law.

Since 2006 and the explosion of UGC on sites like YouTube, content uploaded by users has become invaluable for journalists.

A great example of the importance of UGC for main-stream media was the immediate aftermath of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport bombing earlier this year. Major news networks like Sky and BBC used the footage in their main programme coverage.



The Guardian’s Comment Is Free (CIF) offers a platform for journalists and guest posters to publish content and invite comment and discussion on particular issues.

However, the nature of the news and views site has meant it can be open to the possibility of libelous or defamatory comments being left. For example the comments made on Kieran Yates’s post which recommends a rap song with anti-semitic lyrics.

As journalists, we need to remember that the same legal rules apply to online content as with print and broadcast material. Here are some key things to consider regarding the internet and the law in the UK for those providing services based on UGC:

copyright issues in relation to UGC and any legislative exemptions which may be available

rights clearances

•the ‘mere conduit’ and ‘hosting’ defences

•legal issues relating to offensive/defamatory/illegal content, minors and the likelihood of action by authorities.

Ashley Hurst is a senior association in the Media Litigation Group at Olswang law film and specialises in internet disputes. He told us how social media sits with the law:



For more information on UGC and the law check out this free eBook.


By Lucy Hewitt

What time of day do you get the most out of Twitter? HubSpot reveals all.

One of those golden questions that we’d all like to know the answer to. Especially as journalists. If we’re asking for some information in the form of a question we want to ask it at the time that will brings back the most responses, right?

Similarly if we’re tweeting out news articles, videos, audio interviews etc we want to post them and shout about them when the optimum number of eyes will see our work, of course.

I’ve been looking around for stats on this for a while and came across HubSpot – a fab site dedicated to social media marketing mostly aimed at businesses and advertisers. Lots may think that as journalists marketing isn’t really our thing – it’s the dark side, but when it comes to online journalism and the effective use of social media within our work – it most definitely is.

HubSpot have data on all sorts of things on all the big social media platforms. You can find out what the most retweeted words are, what kind of thing gets the most ‘likes’ on Facebook and what things make users click through links you post in updates.

We all use social media, but lots of us don’t know how to use it properly.  Whether you’re contributing to a blog, updating items online as part of a larger news organisation or finding guests for programmes, optimising your social media usage can make a big impact on your journalism.

After scraping data on the best time of day to send tweets, I put together this visualization using ManyEyes:

What time of day do you get the most out of Twitter? Many Eyes

From the data above we can see that the best times to tweet is:

  • 9-10am in the morning
  • 12-1pm over lunch
  • 4-5pm in the evening

These times correspond directly to an average working day. People arriving at work in the morning switch on their computer and check Twitter, this happens again over lunch breaks and again at the end of the day when employees are anticipating home-time and may be hurrying time along by checking their social networks/tweeting out work they’ve completed during the day.

So keep these times in mind when sharing content with your digital networks – the more eyes the better right?


By Lucy Hewitt

User generated cash to get across America for SXSW

This is a social media experiment with a difference.

Tuttle founder Lloyd Davis is hoping to prove the power of social capital by travelling from West to East America by the help of his online network ONLY.

So that’s accommodation, food and travel only to be donated by his digital connections. At the time this post was published, Lloyd had raised $1520 donated by 28 of his online community.

The idea behind the trip is to prove the importance and strength of online relationships and how they can translate into real-life commodities and cash. In short social media ROI.

He’ll be flying out on 1st March to San Francisco and hopes to end up somewhere on the East coast (possibly Boston) via music, film and tech conference SXSW.

All he’s taking with him will be a social media tool-kit; smartphone, netbook, flip camera and an SLR and he’ll be blogging his way through the journey here.

If you’d like to help him in any way – offer him a sofa, send him some cash or drive him around, you can do here.

A few days before the big trip, we asked why Lloyd is undertaking such a mean feat, the plans (or lack of!) he’s already put in place and what will happen if he runs into trouble.

We’ll be catching up with Lloyd when he’s over in the States to see if he makes it to SXSW so keep your eyes peeled for an update.

By Lucy Hewitt

User generated Q & A site Quora is a journalist’s best friend

From the founder himself, Adam D’Angelo says Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.”

You can search for a topic and relevant questions or post a question yourself. Users can reply to the question with specific expertise and once an answer is posted it can be voted up or down depending on it’s usefulness. The Quora community act as moderators where the most useful answers are rewarded and move to the top of the pile and less useful replies are penalised.

You can follow particular areas (examples of the topics I’m following include The New York Times and Derren Brown) and your home feed gets populated with questions and answers within these topics.

You can also sign-up with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, allowing for integration of liked pages, friends and people you follow to be directly imported into your Quora topics.

It’s a bit difficult to take in without signing up and checking it out yourself. Here’s a simple demo to get you started:



I typed in the question: ‘How can Quora benefit journalists?

I voted up the answer I found most useful:



So there you have it, Quora gives journalists some indispensable strings to their reporting bow:

  • real, useful answers to specific questions
  • sparking conversation and debate in specific topics with useful and informed opinion
  • feedback

By Lucy Hewitt

Your online reputation: Think before you Tweet

Today the PCC ruled that Twitter should be considered public and so material found on the micro-blogging site can be published freely and used elsewhere.

This happened after a complaint by Department of Transport official Sarah Baskerville. She was upset by newspapers using her tweets to suggest she wasn’t doing her job properly and was wasting tax-payers money. She said it was an invasion of privacy.

Ms Baskerville argued that this information was private and only meant for her 700 followers. Hmm. Private to 700 pairs of eyes reading her updates? Not to mention retweets out to wider networks. Doesn’t sound very private to me.

This is another case where those using Twitter forget the purpose of the social media tool and/or aren’t using it properly.

A social media account should be used as a brand management tool. Be that your own personal brand or of a larger organisation. For a professional account, tweets should always be relevant to the company or general industry you operate in. For personal feeds they should show you in your best light. Both types are a chance for the public to see some personality behind the smoke-screen of a website or CV.

Think about what impression you want to have on potential online followers/friends/connections. What other interests you wish to promote and the persona you wish to create and think about these in every tweet.

Cos potentially the whole world can see what you’re saying, which is kinda the point in social media Ms Baskerville. Duh.

For more information on how to use Twitter properly, check out The Twitter Guidebook from Mashable.

Section headings are:


  • Twitter 101 – The Basics
  • Building Your Twitter Community
  • Twitter for Business
  • Top Twitter Follows
  • Sharing on Twitter
  • Managing Your Twitter Stream


By Lucy Hewitt

Trending Topics: What they mean and how to use them in journalism

If something is ‘trending’, it is being discussed and/or mentioned on Twitter as part of a keyword or hashtag phrase. From Twitter:

“Twitter’s Trending Topics algorithm identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help people discover the “most breaking” news stories from across the world.

Most popular trending topics in 2010:

The results show that people were most concerned about serious news stories from around the world but also spent time discussing entertainment in the form of Justin Bieber and the newest Harry Potter film.

Any self-respecting journalist knows the importance of breaking news and so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Twittersphere cos we often hear about it on there before AP gets hold of it.

They’re useful if you want to narrow trends down to countries or even cities to see what people are talking about in specific geographic areas. Think of it as a virtual vox-pop.

It’s also useful to gauge a range of opinions on a given topic in s very short space of time and without leaving your desk. If you want to follow a story more closely as it develops, you can do by clicking the hashtag (#), which collates all the tweets with that word or phrase into one place.

Most newsrooms now have a screen setup with Twitterfall or something similar- an app that brings together hashtag and keyword searches in real time.

But we must be careful when collecting data from hashtags and trending topics on Twitter. Although a global phenomenon with over 106 million users, we cannot over-generalise trending topics to be a realistic cross-section of the opinions of all members in any given community. Most Twitter users are young professionals or college students living in first-world developed countries with readily available internet access.

Digital Surgeons have put together a great infographic which compares Twitter an Facebook users. The majority of Twitter users are slightly older than those who use Facebook most frequently (26-30 compared with 16-24 age bracket). Plus Twitter users tend to be more technology savvy as a higher precentage of users log in on mobile devices compared with Facebook users.

To sum up then, Trending Topics are useful as a starting point to find breaking news and research opinion and comment on particular news items as a springboard for further research, but should not be used as a valid cross-section of society.

By Lucy Hewitt

UGC for Christmas: Santa on Google Voice


When I was a kid my parents would reply to my letter to Father Christmas. Unfortunately loads of kids don’t get a faked return letter in curly handwriting and are left forever wondering whether St Nick actually has a post box at the North Pole.

Now Google has set up a Google Voice number for Santa (855-34-SANTA) where you can leave him a voicemail. There’s a website where you can set up a message that will ring any number in the United States with a personalised message from the big guy.

It asks you to input information such as your relationship to the recipient, what present they might like and a nickname to call them – where you choose from a list of options and the answers are input into a message from Father Christmas. Some of the choices are pretty self-promotional… ‘What would Paul like for Christmas’ brings up an Android phone and ‘What should Santa be doing before he delivers presents’ gives browsing Google maps as an option. But for a free tool that’ll put a smile on someone’s face I guess you can’t blame them.

Unfortunately you can only call US numbers, but you can send the voicemail via email or share on Facebook and Twitter. I put together this Christmas message for our online journalism lecturer Paul Bradshaw.


Merry Christmas!


By Lucy Hewitt

Dell’s Stephen Jio on UGC, citizen journalism & social media

Stephen Jio is Global Mobility Online Merchandising and Content Manager at Dell.

He told us that Dell’s most valued form of UGC is customer reviews and ratings on products they offer. They find that their users trust other users more than they trust a big corporate company.

He also tells us why he thinks UGC is making the media more honest.



By Kirsty Malcolm & Lucy Hewitt