Social Media: Do you want it?

How does social media make you feel? Threatened? Empowered? Connected? Or is it just something you feel like you should get to grips with, for the sake of your business?

To Erika M Anderson, better known to her fans as EMA, it's a worry - not because of how she has been treated on social networks, but because of the experiences of others.

Her upcoming album, The Future's Void, is set for release on April 7th 2014, and its centrepiece is 3Jane, a track about losing your soul to the internet.

"No one was really ever that mean to me on the internet. I never had that 'thing' that happens when you wake up one morning and somehow your life is ruined because a mortifying picture goes viral or a 'funny' tweet becomes horribly misread. Sure, there were bitchy things in the comments of videos, but organized trolls never unleashed a wave of death threats on me, and only a few people suggested that I kill myself.

"So the internet never actually did that to me. But it did that to somebody. And now we all have this stupid crippling fear that someday it will happen to us. And the likelihood increases as you move from relative obscurity to becoming more broadly visible on the internet. There are more cameras on you, more chances to be quoted saying something stupid, and more people out there who relish seeing successful people disgraced and dethroned.

"Do you have that fear yet? Do you want it?"

- EMA, The Future's Void

EMA's words are a protest and a warning - both to herself, and to others - not to let online experiences get out of hand.

In EMA's case, she adds that she has found herself trying too hard to conform to expectations in the past, leading to over-sexualised, pouty photoshoots she barely recognises as herself.

Are we subjecting ourselves to peer pressure and paranoia that is actually self-inflicted? Or are there genuine expectations out there among our fans and in our customer base?

When you're staring down a lens - whether it is being wielded by a photographer, or attached to the front of a webcam - it can be hard to know for sure.

Is it any wonder that businesses (including performers and, yes, even writers like me) sometimes go wrong?

I've stumbled in the past due to misjudged tweets and misquoted articles in the press - and I've expressed a fair few opinions that other people might disagree with (often quite vehemently).

But I think my soul is intact, so far.

Other Testimonials

Sometimes I can't name a client, or positive comments are passed back to me via an agency... this is my page for anonymised versions of that feedback, which is otherwise as close to the original wording as possible.

July 31st 2015

"Excellent website copy written to a fantastic standard."
5/5 stars

March 20th 2014

"Client loved what you did with the intro page - carry on that man! (Actually, he called us 'awesome', so you are, officially, awesome, Bob! :-) )"

Time to update embedded Google Maps

The new Google Maps launched in February, and should be nearing the completion of its rollout on to desktops all over the world - read Google's announcement here.

But if you have a Google Map embedded into your website (and you should, if you have a physical location for people to find), it might be worth double checking that everything still looks as intended.

In particular, this is important if your business's marker on Google Maps is not quite in the right place.

Last month I looked at how to move a marker on New Google Maps, and used my dad's patio slabs business as an example (you can visit his blog here).

The map above should show the marker for Regal Concretes in exactly the right place - I know, because I put it there - but since the updated version of Google Maps launched, I've had to do some maintenance on the version of the map shown on my dad's blog.

That's because, until the marker was moved to the right place, I was using latitude and longitude coordinates to show it on the embedded map.

Under the old Google Maps, this wasn't a problem, as the lat-long coordinates were not displayed anywhere; but since the update, the embedded map (which is admittedly not huge) had a caption at the top-left AND one alongside the marker, both displaying the full lat-long coordinates of my dad's premises - not especially useful.

Having moved the marker to the right place, I was this time able to simply centre the map on my dad's business name, and embed a new version - I also opted for a road map view, rather than a satellite view, as map view is much sleeker under New Google Maps.

If you have embedded Google Maps on your blog or website, check them asap - making a new one is as simple as searching for your business, clicking the cog at bottom-right, and choosing the 'share or embed' option.

With such a simple process, there's no excuse for having an outdated map centred on a misplaced marker - so check it today!

Postman Splat

Postman Splat, Postman Splat,
Good job you don't live in a flat.

Early in the morning, just as day is dawning,
He drives into your front room in his van.

Everybody knows his bright red van.
Everybody screams as it drives... right... for... them... daily.

You can never be sure if there'll be crash! Bang! Headlights through your door...

Postman Splat, Postman Splat,
Good job you don't live in a flat.

You're up in your bedroom, doesn't leave much headroom,
If you survive then you're a lucky man.

Getty Images goes 'free to use'

There are approximately six million bloggers in the world who have prayed on at least three separate occasions for Getty Images to go 'free to use'.

I've made that statistic up, but the significant thing here is, if anything, I probably underestimated it.

So, unsurprisingly, my timeline's been pretty full over the past hour or so with the news that Getty Images HAS gone free to use.

In fact, that's a slight exaggeration - Getty Images is now no more of a free stock photo library than YouTube is a DVD collection; they've just done the sensible thing to hang on to control of more of their content, and it looks like this:

Important things to recognise:
  • this is not, in any way, a 'free stock photo'
  • it IS an embedded iframe, which may cause security alerts and compatibility issues for some visitors
  • you cannot remove the attribution from the bottom of it (not legitimately, anyway)
  • Getty Images can deactivate this functionality or alter it at any time
That means if you use embedded Getty Images widely across your blog, you run the risk of a huge headache if, at some later date, this functionality is altered in a way that makes it unsuitable for inclusion on your pages.

Importantly, you are also expressly forbidden from using these images for commercial purposes; whether that extends as far as marketing blogs is not entirely clear, but it definitely (probably) rules out sales pages.

Plus points:
  • this is infinitely better than stealing Getty Images' content, either the watermarked previews on their site, or their images used under licence elsewhere
  • it gives you legitimate access to a genuinely vast selection of professional stock photos, free
  • it's really easy to do - just click the embed icon beneath a picture preview on the Getty Images site, and copy the code into your blog post
  • you don't host the image yourself, meaning no extra bandwidth usage on your website hosting account
(Speaking of bandwidth, Getty Images have some pretty odd ideas of how to represent such an abstract concept...)

Do we like 'free' Getty Images? I'm not sure yet, but personally I'd rather use an image I can host myself wherever possible.

You won't, for example, be able to set a Getty Image as your post's 'featured image' in WordPress, as you don't have the image file itself to use.

Likewise, if you use CSS to set images as backgrounds to divs or spans or other elements, you won't be able to do so with Getty Images - you're strictly limited to embedding them as iframes.

Given that you have to attribute the creator of the image (via the footer in the iframe, which you have no control over) you might be better off just using something from Flickr that requires attribution.

Or there's Morguefile, which requires no attribution at all.

Or Wikimedia Commons, which generally does not require intrusive attribution on your page.

Or Google Images, filtered by usage type.

In all of these cases you should be able to find images you can use directly for commercial purposes - even adapt and edit if necessary - and that's much better for many people than simply embedding what is little more than a watermark-free preview.

For more about how to find free stock images (genuinely free to use images, not just embed code like Getty's), visit my full post here.