Sunday, 25 September 2011

The power of social media


In the last months I gave in to my reservations and set up an account on Twitter.

I had been reluctant to join this form of social media because I thought the Facebook and ASmallWorld were quite enough. I also had a LinkedIn account but frankly hardly ever log in as it seems like pointlessly dull. Frankly, I think I’d rather be LinkedOut. Perhaps one of you might convince me to the contrary but I’d be surprised if you could.


The SmallWorld, which I’d been part of since it started in 2004 was originally a website that was fun and friendly. The banter between the likes of Caroline “Cheeky” Monkey and William Aitken provided endless hours of amusement during my time working in a dull office in Mayfair and the site was incredibly useful for sharing tips. I met some fun characters through it and the early parties were jolly, if somewhat bonkers. Sadly as the network grew, an inevitable change came with it. The people became bland and the conversations inane, odd or just plain  dull. The majority of early members were fun and fascinating. More recently, the chat-room resembled a pickup room dominated by Russian ladies of a certain type and Gucci-clad Arabs looking to hook just such. I followed many friends in showing our displeasure in this change by ceasing to use the SmallWorld this year.


Facebook was a site that I reluctantly joined much later on in 2006 but one I’ve since embraced enthusiastically. It is a website that is both useful and frustrating. I find it great for sharing pictures and news instantly with friends in far away places and it has proved most effective for business ventures I’ve been involved in as an advertising platform. The constant friend requests, however, are most bizarre. I went through a stage of asking: “Where did we meet?” and often got the most curious answers like “I love your photo” and “I’m sure I met you in Wagadugu” (and as far as I’m aware, I’ve never been there). I then went though a period of accepting all the requests I got (and consequently now have 2,178 “friends,” many of whom I don’t have the foggiest about). The result was that I ended up being bombarded by club promoters, oddjobs and bizarre requests from the weird, the wonderful and the frankly insane. For me, Facebook is a forum to share wit and wisdom rather than comments like “I’m bored” and “I’m at Gatwick for the second time today.” A few controversial pictures and silly groups like “Jim McDonald is innocent. So he is. So he is” (for those of you not in the know, he’s in Coronation Street) add to the website’s merits, though, and for these reasons I remain a member.


I began blogging in May this year after becoming embroiled in the remnants of scandal of a certain former ambassador’s wife who had been exposed for the shocking manner in which her charity was and continues to be run. Inspired by my brilliant blogger friend Michael Ezra (who writes at http://hurryupharry.org), I decided I would create a blog Da Steeps Speaks (as someone else was already using my own name for their own) to give my reply to the tittle-tattling pair who thought they could silence my complaints. I could not comprehend the response I have received especially as, when I began fascinated by another story, I moved on and wrote a little piece about the News of the World hacking scandal (http://dasteepsspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/07/news-is-screwed.html). To this day, I find it hard to believe that some 49,000 people have read that particular article and that since I’ve received 289 responses to this and other pieces from my readers. As a result of the blog, I’ve tasted food and drink I’d never considered before and been to events and places I’d never have imagined I’d go. What began as a forum that I briefly intended to use as a response to a scandalous episode involving some pretty vindictive people has ended up becoming a form of great enjoyment for me. I do hope my thoughts on everything from Lord Lucan to tea, Katherine Jenkins to gin and from Heather Mills McCartney to the umami taste sensation have provided you with pleasure or at least amusement as well.


Twitter was something I had great reservations about. I’d read about Elizabeth Hurley (@ElizabethHurley) “tweeting” about her parrots and her relationship with Shane Warne and thought “goodness, how dull” and the irksome Sally Bercow (@SallyBercow) bleating about how she was misunderstood and thought: “This ain’t for me.” On starting Da Steeps Speaks, however, I realised that to spread the word Twitter would actually really be useful and hence I’ve embarked on a journey that has brought me to learn about amongst other things:

-       Posts being limited to 140 characters and how best to shorten links and comments.
-       Hash tags (“#”) – designed to make a topic become a “trend” on Twitter.
-       Follow Friday’s (“#FF”) – designed to encourage your “followers” to “follow” others you suggest.
-       The “@” symbol – which includes another tweeter in a particular comment.
-       “RT”ing – retweeting someone else’s posts to your own “followers.”

Don’t get me wrong: Twitter isn’t for everyone and it is incredibly time consuming and addictive, as people like Stephen Fry prove (@stephenfry) with 3,100,000 followers and nearly 10,000 tweets. The power of the medium, however, is that it provides a quick and easy way to communicate information and

The one important thing to remember about all these social networks though is summed up in a quote from a community manager named Erin Bury (http://www.erinbury.com):

“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.”

Some of my favourite Tweeters are Caroline Monk on Twitter at @CarolineMonk, Lyndon Ogbourne @LyndonOgbourne, Christine Hamilton @brit_battleaxe, Michael Ezra @MichaelEzra, Nobby Lobby @veniviedivici,  Martin Miller’s Gin @MartinMillersGin, David Pun @wheresthepun, JING Tea @JINGTea, Sarah Canet @SpoonHQ, Alex Abrahams @AlexBloomGin, Barnaby Rodgers @BarnabyRodgers, Michael Winner @MrMichaelWinner, Henry Deedes @HenryDeedes, Shelley von Strunckel @vonStrunckel

Some restaurants to follow on Twitter I’d suggest are Galoupet @Galoupet, Ilia @Iliarestaurant, La Brasserie @LaBrasserie272, London Fine Dining Group @LondonFineDiner

Great blogs to follow are Michael Ezra’s at http://hurryupharry.org, Henry Deedes’ at http://deedesblog.dailymail.co.uk, The London Perspective at http://thelondonperspective.wordpress.com and Priscilla Pollara’s at http://travelblog.dailymail.co.uk/priscilla-pollara

Follow Da Steeps on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dasteepstweets

5 comments:

Justin Wheeler said...

Way to go Matthew!

This and an article by Seth Godwin the other day are an inspiration to me to try and liven up my rather moribund blog.

Sad about ASmallWorld, has to be said. Not sure Eric should ever have sold it. I hear he is starting a new version, although not sure what has happened. I suspect I am probably not in enough to be invited!

Keep well.

Michael Ezra said...

Dear Matthew,

Thank you very much indeed for the kind words.

Like you, I joined aSmallWorld very early on. In my case, July, 2004 at a point when the site had only been running for a few months. Back then, it was a fresh idea and exciting. If there is ever a case study for a business school student, I would suggest looking at why aSmallWorld has failed and why Facebook has been a massive success. Both sites started at roughly the same time - one is now worth billions and the other, well, I guess it has never been profitable and I hardly doubt that it is worth much money. I could be wrong on this point, but I doubt it.

My interest in blogging came about in 2005, during one of my spells in aSmallWorld's sin bin, aBigWorld. I never really looked back. While I continued using aSmallWorld, it appeared that conspiracy theorists dominated the discussion forum. I sometimes wonder how many people who used the forum apart from myself felt that either the CIA or Mossad were not behind the 9/11 atrocities. No wonder all the early members drifted away. Sanity was replaced by insanity. The heavy handedness of the web masters with lack of explanation for their decisions suggested to me that they just loved the power to delete posts or send people to aBigWorld. I suspect that they had to have some compensation for what I estimate was low pay. That compensation was the power to delete. But with that power they annoyed too many people.

There was a time that aSmallWorld invites were so in demand, that people were prepared to pay for one. Nowadays I suspect that they can hardly be given away.

The blogging world is much more fun. You never know who will read a post, where they will come from or what their views are until they post. Some posts, as you note, can attract tens of thousands, or even, for some, hundreds of thousand of hits, and some will attract few.

The success or failure of a blog is down to those that write for it - how well they write, how frequently they write, and the subjects that they are writing about. I am pleased to note that "Da Steeps Speaks" has had success early on, far earlier than many other blogs. Long may it continue.

Lanky Girl said...

Thanks for the mention! Social networking can be time consuming but it has definitely brought many opportunities and helped me meet some very interesting people.

Matthew Steeples said...

Thank you for your comments Justin, Michael and Lanky Girl.

Justin - I'll be sure to sign up to your blog and will follow with interest. As regards ASW, Erik should have followed a different business model I guess as, as Michael points out, the Facebook morphed into a billion dollar brand and ASW has sunk into being a medium where bland people float in obscurity.

Michael - Your blog remains an inspiration! Keep them coming.

Lanky Girl - I look forward to yet more brilliant reviews.

William Townsend said...

How on earth do you have the time for all of this? I found Facebook so overwhelming that I quit. I've never heard of this small world thing though.