The Sandpit Blog

BornTalented & The New Facebook Regulations

Posted by admin

Aug 30, 2013 6:51:48 AM

If you haven’t already heard, Facebook changed its promotion terms on Monday. The change means companies can run promotions and competitions on their timelines, with entrance to the promotion being accepted via comments, liking the post or private messaging, without having to create an app.

This will make running competitions for your current fan base really easy, and will help your Facebook Edgerank score. It is not all bells and whistles though. The new regulations mean you cannot enter a promotion by tagging or sharing a page. Now you may be wondering who would benefit from running competitions that are only relevant to your current fan base. Well companies with a large, but relatively unengaged Facebook audience will be able to use the new terms to promote competitions to engage their current fans. They will just not be able to spread their reach to friends of fans as you cannot ask them to enter by sharing or inviting people to a page.

So what can’t these new Facebook promotions do? There are no marketing and data opt-ins. As a brand you cannot gather the entrant’s email, phone number or any other tailored information that you would otherwise want or need when running a competition.

So if you are a CRM or Database Manager there would be no real benefit to you in running the new type of Facebook promotion. One of the key stand out features of BornTalented is the analytical piece behind the data. Having access to detailed reports ranging from unique visitors through to total number of newsletter opt-ins would not be possible in this new era of promotions.

You will also have to tread carefully around the Facebook contest rules and regulations. As the competition creator, your brand will be responsible for all compliance, rules and eligibility requirements. The promotion must still include a complete release of Facebook by each entrant, and there must be acknowledgment that the promotion is not endorsed by Facebook. Try finding somewhere to fit all that information on a wall post?!

What happens next? Well if a brand wants to engage their audience and give fans the chance to win, they could get them to like a post through the new Facebook promotion, and gather entrants details through an app. You can get the benefit of EdgeRank improvements and viral and marketing capabilities of fans sharing a promotion.

BornTalented will continue to create short URLs that can be posted to your Facebook wall, containing a link to the promotion app. This means fans will see the details of the promotions app whenever you care to share it, and when they enter, you will gain all the information that makes using BornTalented’s promo app so great!

One final point to remember, is that these new terms are really for the most simplistic Facebook promotions. If you are asking fans to do more than just answer a question, such as send in photo or video content an app will still be needed for these more advanced promotions.

We’d love to chat with you about these changes and how BornTalented can help enhance your social campaigns, so why not drop us a note at

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Is video interviewing a fleeting fad or a sustainable trend in recruitment?

Posted by admin

Aug 28, 2013 7:04:34 AM

One of The Sandpit’s products, PowerMeeter, is a video interviewing tool that allows for clients to interview candidates on a synchronous or asynchronous video. Our team believes that this technology is becoming the next big thing. With a world that has progressive developments in technology and mobile, PowerMeeter is a tool that supports the growth of video interviewing as the forefront in recruitment. Learn more about what PowerMeeter can do on!

42% of organisations are currently using video for recruitment. The use of video interviewing has increased by 50% in the past three years. 63% of HR managers have utilised video for finding candidates. 75% of the world’s population are on mobile, while at least 1 billion people have access to online video. Since video interviewing is currently a prevalent topic, is this a recruitment method that will sustain itself over this ever-changing tech-developed era or fade into the background behind other new technologies?

Firstly, it is important to understand what we refer to as ‘video interviewing’—it is taking the interview part of the recruitment process and conducting it via video technology. This entails face-to-face interviews or pre-screening candidates online. There are two main types of video interviewing: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous is the face-to-face live interview that happens over video (what you think a Skype interview would look like) and asynchronous is the process of candidates recording videos to interview questions and sending them to recruiters (they don’t have to participate in the interview at the same time).

Now with this kind of interviewing, there have been doubts. Companies have speculated whether or not it is really efficient, sustainable or right for them. According to research by Matt Alder from Meta Shift, 80% of firms that have not implemented video technology have considered using it in the next year or so. With that being said, many firms still lack a sense of security with this method. They voiced not being comfortable with the technology because of problems such as internal buy-in, potential discrimination issues, connectivity problems and negative effect on employment brand.

Video interviewing is argued to have a future in recruitment, but it should not replace the initial CV application or real life interviews. Some individuals believe that this method is not a clear reflection of the candidates because it does not directly convey a person’s ability to do a job and show their skills required for a job. Those in the HR and recruitment industry still believe that CVs and real life interaction is the best and most appropriate basis for selecting candidates. However, key influencers within the recruitment industry have hailed the merits of video interviewing citing the likelihood that it will make the screening process faster and easier for the overwhelming majority of organisations in the UK. “Digital interviews will increase in the years ahead.  Its users will drive down their candidate travel costs as well as significantly cut candidate processing time—thus impacting time-to-fill” says Johnny Torrance-Nesbitt, expert on employment branding from Monsanto USA.

With the 42% of firms using video recruitment—practically all users of the technology have had a successful experience with it. The reaction to video interviewing has been overall positive with people receiving more benefits than they had expected. Instead of causing issues that were anticipated before use, it brought additional advantages such as cutting down recruitment time and costs and creating a branded experience for candidates. It has been seen to add value to the recruitment process. Typically a phone screening takes 30 minutes while a recruiter knows in the first 90 seconds whether or not a candidate will be a good fit. Video interviewing changes the game by being able to filter through unwanted or bad interviews in a few seconds—just one of many benefits for recruiters. Communication is key in this aspect and with video interviewing nothing is lost in translation.

According to candidates, 66% of applicants have said they prefer using video during the interview process for many reasons. 36% of candidates get to choose a time that is suitable for them, 21% get to avoid travel costs, 20% gain face-to-face video interviewing experience on an online platform. With this being an efficient and preferred process for candidates, what’s stopping recruitment agencies and employers from continuing to implement it? And since there has been a rise of the mobile era, with 68% of candidates using their mobile to do job searches each week then video interviewing goes hand in hand with this by being able to conduct interviews and recruit with the portable device.

The potential of video interviewing for the future looks very bright. It satisfies a variety of users, from candidates to recruiters. Even though there are some sceptics that don’t fully believe in video interviewing because of the uncertainty of video technology, as the evidence shows—most qualms can be contested if people just give it a try. To keep up with this sustainable trend, PowerMeeter provides a useful and efficient way to conduct interviews. With a strong certainty that this is the way of the future, trial PowerMeeter now and see what we are all about here -


Written by Mara Celine Javier


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Topics: Video conferencing

Marketing Lessons from SoDash

Posted by admin

Aug 2, 2013 2:43:17 PM

Successfully growing your business is the main goal of all entrepreneurs. In order to grow: you need to get your name out there and you need to market. SoDash is a social media monitoring platform that was acquired by The Sandpit in 2010, and has since gained top clients such as HSBC, Harrods, and Pepisco. Now it’s time to take the business one step further by expanding to new markets and acquiring even bigger clients. The way to do this is to market the product successfully. As a new intern at SoDash, my task was to research the Top Global Management Consultancy’s marketing strategies of: Bain and Company, The Cambridge Group, Oliver Wyman, Booz and Co, and The Boston Consulting Group to see which components our company could take and adapt to expand our current marketing scheme. With a word limit, I unfortunately cannot go in-depth in enlightening you on each of their marketing strategies individually. I am just going to highlight what they each have in common, which SoDash, or any start-up company, can adapt to fit in their marketing scheme.

Invest in your product first. This particular quote from Bain and Company stuck out to me: “It is important not to focus all your efforts in creating the buzz, but rather building a quality business worthy of the buzz.” I liked it because it says the entire message in one short and simple quote and a long explanation is not necessary. Basically, if your product is not good, you’re up a creek, and not even the best marketing strategy will save your product from sinking.

Once you have a finished product, differentiation is key. In my Virginia Tech business classes across the Pond, my professors call it the ‘competitive advantage’. Whether these Global Management Consultancy agencies call it “the sweet spot” or “the edge” or the “UPI’s,” the message is all the same. Make your target market well aware why your product is better than your competitors. Make them aware why they should choose to use your product and not the competition’s. At SoDash, the competitive advantage is the Artificial Intelligence and we strive to inform clients why our AI is the best in its class.

Now, take your business further. Depending on the type of company, the marketing avenue you choose may differ. In my research, among the most recommended were to raise the level of engagement with your customers, keep your website updated, refine your SEO campaign and better your social media strategy. Ways of achieving these differ as well, including, writing an article for a local magazine to gain credibility, enter local business competitions, start a customer loyalty program, or even host an event.

This summer my overall task, as an intern, is to support the development of a marketing plan on behalf of SoDash. Stay tuned to monitor our progress into the autumn of 2013.

Cheers for now!



Written by Sam Schottler


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Topics: Social Media, Social Engagement

Not Your Typical Internship

Posted by admin

Jul 26, 2013 8:32:39 AM

The responsibilities of an intern span far and wide. The typical stereotype of what an intern does on a day-to-day basis is making tea or coffee, sorting through mail and taking care of unimportant mundane tasks. However, there is nothing stereotypical about my job as an intern or the place I work.

On the first day, I was thrown into the shark tank. No, I do not mean a figurative environment in which all the employees were vicious and ruthless workers, I mean a room literally called the shark tank. Stepping into this room established what I thought was the perfect balance of The Sandpit. The ability to be productive, progressive and creative in a workplace that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The first meeting I had in this room introduced me to all the products, the team and everything else about the company. I had found that the products were all on the verge of innovation and the people were laidback in appearance but diligent with their work. I felt excited as to what was to come—and then I moved on to what my responsibilities were.

I had hoped that I would be able to take on as much responsibility an intern could be given. And that is exactly what has happened over my time here. With my job directly focused to the marketing of one of the products known as PowerMeeter, I was given a general layout of what needed to be done but I’ve had the opportunity to take the reins. My responsibilities have been extremely independent as I have been able to develop my own goals, projects and deadlines that follow the direction that PowerMeeter is going on. This independence has allowed flexibility and productivity, as I’ve gotten to work with different products and create my own ideas for market research.

With no prior experience in the technology industry or start-ups, The Sandpit has been a great introduction to this new world. Interning in each industry differs, but my label as an intern has not defined how people treat me or constricted the responsibilities I have received. The camaraderie and banter in the office bounces off the orange and yellow walls whilst maintaining a focus and drive to work hard. Continuous motivation and support from everyone in the office has given me the zest to achieve my goals and keep progressing. Each corner of the room has a person that knows what they are doing and is determined to succeed. And with that determination, I am constantly inspired when I hear the ringing of a bell when a deal is made or a new development for a product pushes through.

The Sandpit oozes of innovative growth in both the products and the people. Each week I look forward to our Friday meetings (not because we’re done with another working week) but because it is a time in which all team members share their downfalls and triumphs, cheer each other on and all get on the same page. With some light-hearted banter and snaps for those who have reached certain targets, the most valuable player is voted for—a person that has achieved leaps and bounds in the week—leaving everyone on a good note before the weekend commences. Interning at The Sandpit makes it easier to wake up in the morning and go to work, as each day I look forward to being productive in a positive environment.


Your standard day at The Sandpit.


Written by Mara Celine Javier


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Topics: Startups

Social Engagement & Lead Generation Through Competitions

Posted by admin

Jul 19, 2013 7:25:28 AM

Social Media. Two words that almost every CEO or CMO are either muttering under their breath or bellowing loudly at anyone who will listen. Some because they understand it, but most it seems, because everyone else is talking about it! There are conflicting views on how companies can use sources such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to best serve their organisation. Some refuse to provide budget for social media as you can access many of the tools for free, whilst others are injecting millions into state of the art Social Media centres at the heart of their businesses.

We’re not going to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of social strategies now as we’d be here all night, and I am really tired as it’s too hot to sleep at the moment! Instead, we’ll explore the art of social engagement and lead generation.

For some reason, when it comes to using Social Media to gain customers, companies can seem to forget the first rule of digital marketing. Do not talk about digital marketing... I mean, content is key. Just because you can communicate to your customers through Twitter, that doesn’t guarantee they will listen if what you have to say is boring!

As content is key, marketers need to create and distribute compelling messages to engage and acquire their target audience. An increasingly successful and low risk way of doing this is through online contests. Ranging from a simple multiple choice sweepstake to complex video uploads, contests can provide the double benefit of increased engagement and loyalty amongst your current fan base, as well as data on potential new leads. All you need to do is find a reasonable prize to give away, decide what data you want to capture from each user, and think about a question to ask!

I’ve not found a company that doesn’t want new customers, but I have found plenty that have spent thousands on data and lead generation that haven’t really turned into sales. Using competitions, companies can gather data on their customers’ buying habits, increase their following on Twitter, Facebook and other channels, as well as gain valuable and reasonably cheap publicity. None if it is that revolutionary, but until recently creating competitions on Facebook or embedding one into company websites meant calling on developers and designers to build apps, data capture sheets and websites. Now, thanks to competition platforms such as BornTalented, you don’t need to be a superstar developer to do any of the above. Competitions can be created in a matter of minutes, fitting in nicely with the branding and image of the company launching them.

If you get the message right using an efficient platform such as BornTalented, Social Media doesn’t need to be a naughty phrase muttered under your CMO’s breath. It can be the focal point of your customer engagement and lead generation.


Written by Tim Spring


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Topics: Social Media, Online Competitions, Lead Generation, Social Engagement

Big Ideas

Posted by admin

Jul 9, 2013 10:00:55 AM

Big ideas are at the heart of The Sandpit right now, so I’m going to reflect on a couple of key principles, and things to remember when making them happen!

Whether you are an entrepreneur, an intrapreneur, a project manager or a soap car builder, the chances are you are the kind of person that makes things happen. Whatever your motivation you make the choice to go above and beyond the call of duty to create and inspire. Which leads me nicely to:

Inspiration is key - I am not talking about an idea.

When growing up many aspire to one day become independent. This is wrong, interdependence is what is needed to achieve big.

There is only so much you can do on your own. Interdependence involves using the knowledge, expertise, and sometimes money of those around you to achieve things one man cannot do on their own.

When I talk about inspiration, I am talking about inspiring those around you to understand and help achieve your vision. Slavery aside, one man did not build Rome. A carpenter does not make his own tools. A cyclist does not build his bike.

The wheels are already in motion – I am not talking about the bike.

Once you have the right building blocks, you have the correct expertise to create your vision, and you have inspired those people properly with an achievable reward; the wheels are already in motion. The snowball has begun to roll.

The right people with the right motivation are all pulling their own part of the puzzle towards the middle of the big picture. The sales team is pointless with nothing to sell. The tech team is pointless with no one to sell what they build. The accounts team is integral to delivering what is sold (this is very simplified but I have to keep it under 500 words – a diagram is needed but I haven’t inspired the designer yet).

If every part of that team pushes a little further, it means every other part has to keep up, in order to keep up they have to work harder/smarter, or innovate, as such we are stuck in a whirlwind of Big Ideas.

Sharing is caring – I’m not talking about…

When you are stuck in this whirlwind; communication is key. Everyone is part of the Big Idea now. If a wheel falls off the soap car crashes. If the driver doesn’t tell the mechanic there is a squeak or a wobble, the mechanic won’t know to fix it. If the mechanic doesn’t tell the driver the breaks don’t work, he is headed straight for the bales of hay.

If at this point everyone stepped back they would remember the Big Idea. Sadly this is too late. By communicating, even the smallest details, the wheel need never fall off, and victory is yours!


Written by David French


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Topics: Social Media, SEO, Startups, Innovation

The Sandpit Internship Blog

Posted by admin

Jun 20, 2013 7:02:11 AM

After university, like most students I left with a nocturnal body clock, a very handy FIFA profile and still no solid direction for a career. After just 2 weeks working with The Sandpit I’m up at 6 like clockwork, looking forward to getting into the office every day and seriously considering a number of career paths that are opening up…

I can honestly say that when I got a phone call at the start of May in my third year, the last thing I thought it would be was 2 weeks of work, and proper work at that. When I realised I’d be doing a couple of weeks as an intern at a technology startup in London the first thing I did was head straight to Google and type in ‘how to make the perfect cup of tea’. I wanted to make an impression right from the off and when I arrived, being the only person in the entire office wearing a tie probably did just that. I’ll assume I’m a fairly normal student when I say I’ve just graduated and have never had a full-time office job, and on the train up to London on Monday morning (to ensure I got up in time I went to bed early on Sunday afternoon) I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I think office, I think suits, ties, water coolers and not much fun. I went in to this process with an open mind but deep down I was resigned to the fact that my childhood was definitely coming to an end.

As soon as I stepped in to the vibrant and (very) newly painted office all of these thoughts about the fun stopping and the generic boredom of working or ‘real’ life evaporated. I was met enthusiastically by every member of the team who were all more than happy to help; be it by showing me how things work, sharing nuggets of practical advice or reeling off plenty of ‘Brentisms’, an art which has clearly been perfected over a number of years of office tomfoolery. I guess office life is fairly similar to being at uni, only with a few more meetings and specific tasks and targets to get done each day/week. The banter is still all there, if not even funnier and the prospect of earning and subsequently not living off beans on toast and Lambrini for another year has given me a real desire to get stuck in.

Every last detail has been a new experience over the past fortnight; the waking up on time, the commute, the office environment… All of which I thought might be a bit daunting, or even too hard, but after learning the ropes – training sessions in using SoDash, PowerMeeter, SalesForce and learning about what The Sandpit does and what its aims are - it just felt natural. I’ve been doing all sorts of tasks over the past couple of weeks and one of the brilliant things about The Sandpit is that it is a small team and so every input I made was a valuable one. I definitely valued this more than perhaps being given menial tasks that people cannot be bothered to do themselves, as might be the case in a larger corporate business.

Some of the tasks I’ve undertaken include; learning how to use SoDash, a social media monitoring tool with its own ‘brain’ (or Artificial Intelligence programmed to learn from your input). SoDash is perfect for keeping up to date with exactly what’s being said about your own brand as well as your competitors’ brands. One particular continuous process is ‘tagging’; applying specific parameters to individual tweets to categorise them more easily. This has proved to be more entertaining than it sounds, especially if you take charge of the right account: I was working on a bank monitoring account which came under fairly relentless attack from jokers with questions including, “If a dog robbed a bank would it still be illegal?” and, “Do you ever steal those little coin bags to use as sandwich bags for guinea pigs?”.

I also learnt the basics of PowerMeeter, a brand new video interviewing website with both live and recorded feeds – perfect for those who find face-to-face interviews daunting, or live too far to come in for an interview, or simply those who want to conceal that fact they aren’t wearing any trousers! It has been exciting to see the final development stages of this product and engage in research tasks to help develop it further, such as compiling a detailed competitor matrix and stats tables.

I was asked to head a short project reviewing the SoDash promotional website with a specific focus on improving accessibility and user-friendliness. This included preparing two 2000+ word reports using a case study of a competitor’s website which I considered best in class. My goal was to document how  can be improved to beat its rival’s design and content. The best thing about delivering these tasks is that it was clear I wasn’t just been given time filling jobs to keep me busy and out of the way. I actually had to present my research project on SoDash to the senior members of the team and it is pleasing to know that my work will be referenced and referred to regularly to help make a difference to the company, even after my internship has ended.

I have benefitted from pretty much everything I’ve done during the past fortnight; being part of a team, meeting new people, and getting out of my comfort zone. The welcoming nature of every warm and friendly team member at The Sandpit has meant that I’ve felt very comfortable and settled in straight away. After only being here 2 weeks I feel I’ve achieved a great deal and it’s as if I’ve been here for so much longer. That’s testament to the exciting projects going on here as well as the outrageous office banter, with pundreds of huns (some of which go straight over people’s heads – if you’re reading this then it’s probably going to be you) being batted back and forth all day long. The most admirable thing about this group is that despite the mood always being light hearted and jovial, there is a very high work ethic and nobody here is a passenger. Everyone is always giving their best effort all day which is great to see and to learn from.

After this process I will be leaving with a clear idea that the world of sales and marketing is a lucrative one which fits my skill sets well, and a real hunger to start working and earning my own living. Just a few weeks ago I didn’t even want to think about life after university, but even only after 2 weeks of full-time work I cannot wait to begin the next chapter. Oh and there’s quite a few after work drinks socials which is always a great way of getting involved!

In many ways I still feel (and look) about 12 and I never thought I could get a job or even sit still for more than about 15 minutes but in becoming part of an office team all with a clear vision and an impressive work ethic I feel that I’ve matured hugely. I would thoroughly recommend to any student fresh out of university to consider interning, even if it’s only for a week or two, because I have benefitted greatly from the whole experience and the skills I’ve picked up can definitely be put on the CV to give me an advantage over so many finishing students in the same position!

Written by John Spring


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Topics: Work Experience, Social Media, Mobile, SEO, Startups, Internship, Video conferencing

Can you find an excuse?

Posted by admin

May 24, 2013 12:24:41 PM

Bored on the bus?  Does that jacket you saw last night on the ASOS website, but didn’t buy, keep cropping up in your thoughts? Turns out you don’t need to wait until that evening (or try to sneakily browse the ASOS website on your office server) to get it.

Nowadays, M-commerce is a fast growing trend with 34% of UK consumers claiming they shop on the move. In a world where time is money, people prefer to balance their activities wisely and do what they really enjoy doing whilst they can – which often means less time spent behind a computer screen. If you can now easily shop on your way to work or en route home, think of how much more time you could spend with your family, drinking in the pub or even sleeping (if you’re anything like me)!

The free ASOS shopping app lets you find and purchase that beloved jacket on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You can sign into your ASOS account from your device in order to access your account, edit payment details, add/save items and view recent orders. The app – and your personal account – can also be accessed via other devices using secure login details.

Whilst flicking through the ASOS magazine (which can be accessed both offline and online), you might see something you love but can’t be bothered to search for throughout the website. With the Scan to Shop app, available on iPhone and iPad, you can use your device camera to scan the page with the desired item. The app will then recognise and identify the scanned items amongst the image, taking you straight to the area that you need to purchase them. This is a clever process through which the consumer experience is made easier and faster, whilst also enhancing the potential for an ASOS sale.

You might also see something in the magazine that you would like to know more about. In this case Fashion Up, their most recent app, is an interactive version of the ASOS magazine that allows users to view videos on the latest trends, read up on celebrity fashion and tips on hair and beauty. Following the same logic as the Scan to Shop app, you can buy as you browse.

These three apps demonstrate how ASOS have taken full advantage of the mobile retail trend. By facilitating shopping transactions across all consumer touch-points with their brand, they leave no excuse for not purchasing items from their store. Except, maybe, if users can’t afford them! Maybe ASOS will make a money app next…here’s hoping.


Written by Justine Dudley


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Topics: Mobile, Apps, Online retail, M-commerce

Get involved

Posted by admin

Aug 22, 2012 11:17:24 AM

If your company has yet to dip its toe into the pool of social media, here are just a few reasons (via @Hubspot) as to why you shouldn’t wait any longer.

  1. Quick. A foray into social media is practically immediate.  You can set up a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account in a day.

  2. Cheap. Social media is low-cost – most of the popular tools are free of charge, and you do not need to devote much in the way of resources.  Posts on blogs, Facebook and Twitter can be pulled from content that your company will write anyway such as press releases and newsletters.

  3. Instant. Blog comments, tweets, and Facebook wall posts provide immediate feedback and product/service reviews from your customers and target audience.

  4. Visible. Numerous surveys reveal that over 90% of people begin the shopping process on search engines.  Getting involved in social media means that your potential customers are more likely to find you online when they run a search for your products or services.

  5. Warm. Telemarketing, direct mail, cold email, TV and print ads foist your sales message on an audience that is more and more able to tune you out via TiVo, email filters, call screening, etc.  However, social media pulls your potential customers to you – they chose to visit your site, therefore they are already more receptive to your sales efforts.

  6. Influential.  If your competitors have already started building their own online presence, it will be tougher to establish your brand as a heavyweight in the field.  Get in there quickly, make yourself known, and build a following.





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Topics: Social Media

Good vs. Evil

Posted by admin

Aug 12, 2012 11:18:42 AM

No, this isn’t about the latest Star Trek remake, or anything to do with George W. and his axis.  It’s about social media.  Given that social media was initially considered a ‘fluffy’ invention, something no more serious than another way to chat with friends, the tremendous sway it currently holds is somewhat disconcerting.

While, technically, the power lies not with Twitter or Facebook, but with those who use it, the speed and ease with which these platforms disseminate information globally is impressive.  From Twitter’s role in the Iranian ‘Green Revolution’ of 2010 to Facebook’s recent ‘Let’s Start a Riot’ pages during the London riots, the social media platforms have proven a fast and simple way to spread a political view, not just tweets of the ‘I love Justin Bieber’ ilk.

Unfortunately, the powerful ‘word-of-mouth’ that is social media makes it easy to coordinate anti-social or full-on criminal behaviour.  In the USA, Ohio teenagers used social networking sites to mobilise a thousand-strong flash mob that disrupted a July 4th fireworks display.  As Shaker Heights Police Chief D. Scott Lee said, “They’re gathering with an intent – not just to enjoy the event.  All too often, some of that intent is malicious.”

Philadelphia has been struck by flash robbers – a group of youths that suddenly appear without warning and use their sheer numbers to grab what they want from stores, knowing that there are too many of them to contain.  As Everett Gillison, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for public safety said, “What is making this unique is the social media aspect.  They can communicate and congregate at a moment’s notice.  That can overwhelm any municipality.”  Rather than using weapons or violence, these robbers rely on the size of their group, proving for the umpteenth time that there is strength in numbers.

The latest criminal use of social media has taken place in London, where riots spread quickly and viciously throughout the city.  The looters used instant messaging and social networking sites to gather at various locations in London, again relying on the number of fellow looters to get away with ridiculous thefts.  Yes, it’s really worth going to jail for a bag of crisps…


However, no sooner had social media been blamed for its role in the London riots, than the tide swiftly turned the other way.  Outraged Twitter users started following @Riotcleanup en masse, and using the hashtags #riotcleanup and #broomsquad, managed to organise mass clean ups of the areas of London that had been looted.


While social media may have made it easier for the rioters to mobilise, it will also make it much easier for them to be detected.  Sites such as Catch a Looter have posted pictures of looters, many of whose faces are clearly visible.  Facial recognition technologies are being used to automatically detect the identity of those pictured.  Several courts are staying open 24 hours a day in order to fast-track those already in custody for looting, and they are not being lenient.  One man was given eight months for stealing clothes during the riots.

Social media can either bring about hilarity (see: global pillow fights) or devastation (see: poor Ashraf Haziq).  As the saying goes, “a good carpenter doesn’t blame his tools”, and social networking platforms are just that - tools.

David Cameron has actually remarked that the UK government is looking at “whether it would be right to stop people communicating via (social media) websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”  The obvious problem with this suggested solution is that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services are, again, simply tools.  Removing means of communication and attempting to limit speech in any form will not stamp out disorder.

However, watching these networking platforms carefully for signs of trouble is just common sense.  Organisations such as the NYPD are now forming social media units to monitor Facebook and Twitter for potential problems, and for evidence of crimes that have been committed.  Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor, one of the department's online and gang gurus, has been put in charge of the new juvenile justice unit. He and his staff will mine social media, looking for info about troublesome house parties, gang showdowns and other potential mayhem.

Rather than attempting to remove and block communication via these sites, carefully monitoring Twitter, Facebook, etc. will prove a lot more effective.  You can’t limit free speech in a democracy.  However, there are tools available that allow you to easily monitor the conversations occurring on these platforms to ensure that those engaging in criminal behaviour are caught.

It can’t be too difficult.  Many criminals are actually stupid enough to boast about their crimes on social media outlets.  Police units should embrace social media platforms – they could essentially do their job for them if all criminals were like this one.

Further reading:,-and-ultimately-extinguishes,-phantom-manchester-riots-2011

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Topics: Social Media

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