On logging in via Facebook

Reported by the Telegraph today:

Those applying via computer or mobile phone for services ranging from tax credits, fishing licences and passports will be asked to choose from a list of familiar log-ins to prove their identity… Under the proposals, members of the public will be able to use log-ins from “trusted” organisations, chosen to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible, to access Government services grouped together on a single website called Gov.uk… A user logging onto the site by phone would be asked to choose to select from a logo from one of the trusted brands, such as Facebook.

Two days ago, on the blog of email newsletter service MailChimp:

[We were convinced] that adding social login buttons to our app were essential to improving our depressing failure rate… I was shocked to see that just 3.4% of the people that visited the login page actually used Facebook or Twitter to log in.
Even a 3.4% drop in failures is worth having them there, right? Maybe not… Do you want to have your users’ login credentials stored in a third-party service? Do you want your brand closely associated with other brands, over which you have no control? Do you want to add additional confusion about login methods on your app? Is it worth it? Nope, it’s not to us.

Of course, the MailChimp position is slightly undermined by the use, immediately below this very blog post, of ‘Sign in with Facebook’ and ‘Sign in with Twitter’ buttons on their comment form. They argue in the comment thread that commenting is a very different user scenario; and it’s a view I have some sympathy with.

Power of Info chairman joins Facebook

Slightly more exciting than the headline might suggest… Richard Allan, the former LibDem MP who chaired the Power Of Information Taskforce has been hired by Facebook. The Guardian reports that he left his job as Cisco’s head of European regulatory affairs ‘to lead [Facebook’s] efforts in lobbying EU governments.’ Allan hasn’t had a lot to say about the move on his own website, apart from a Twitter reference to starting a new job.
As for Facebook itself? – if you try to access the obvious vanity URL, facebook.com/richardallan, you get forwarded to /richard.allan (note the dot), which is someone else entirely. Nice touch, Facebook HR.

Tory Facebook campaign won few Friends

ConservativeHome blogger Tim Montgomerie posted a damning article over the weekend, condemning ‘waste, over-spending and poor revenue strategies’ at Conservative central office. One particular remark jumps out: ‘The Tory leadership did not fix the party’s finances during the good economic times and are now facing very difficult decisions as a consequence.’ Sound familiar?
Tim’s piece provides some inside intelligence about the success, or otherwise, of the big ‘be our friend‘ campaign earlier this year. ‘£500,000 was spent on newspaper and internet adverts earlier this year to launch a ‘Friends of the Conservatives’ scheme. Few Friends have been recruited and many believe that that money could have been much better spent. […] CCHQ are repressing the publication of membership data but it is feared that numbers have fallen by at least 17,000. I’ve tried raising these issues privately,’ he says subsequently in the comments, ‘but to zero effect.’
Elsewhere in the comments, one newly recruited supporter tells of his unpleasant experience when he tried to get involved locally; and when he signed up for the ‘friend’ scheme: ‘I got an email in reply thanking me for volunteering. Since then, nothing, zip, zilch, b*gger all. Not even an invitation to contribute to party funds.’
I’ve been trying to think of a clever conclusion – but, not for the first time, I can’t get past the big number. Half a million quid spent midway between general elections, ‘few recruits’, and a continuing overall fall in membership… at a time when forming the next government seemed (past tense, perhaps) a certainty?
Oh yeah… and it probably would have been wise for the Tories to ensure the various links to the Friendship campaign were properly redirected when they launched their new website. All the links I graciously gave them, even to key pages like ‘Get involved’, are now returning 404 errors.

First MP on Twitter (?)

LibDem MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone was one of the first MPs to start blogging, back in October 2003; she now reckons she’s the first MP to start Twittering, having tweeted (?) for the first time this morning. You’ll find her at twitter.com/lfeatherstone.
Of course, it all depends on your definitions. As Stuart Bruce will testify, Alan Johnson’s (ultimately unsuccessful) campaign for Labour’s deputy leadership used Twitter although never strictly for MP-related business; and someone has posted a few tweets under the account ‘GordonBrown‘ – one or two of which, I have to say, made me laugh out loud.  Plus our own Justin Kerr-Stevens has dragged a few ministerial statements into the Twitterverse by proxy, courtesy of his twitter.com/hmgov RSS mashup.
Twitter seems to be everywhere suddenly, just at the moment where Facebook (for me at least) has gone deathly quiet. Hitwise analyst Robin Goad presents plenty of data on the supposed slowdown of Facebook’s stellar growth in the UK, but doesn’t attempt to draw a definitive conclusion.
The points I made in a piece back in January seem just as valid now, and I’m seeing a lot of people making the same switch from Facebook to Twitter. It actually came as a bit of a shock when I spotted just how many friends and contacts were following my Twitter updates, especially when I’d done nothing to promote their existence.
Organisations would do well to look at how Twitter can slot into their online comms approach. It could be as simple as a sequence of ‘new news release’ alerts to a specific Twitter account. Not strictly in keeping with the medium’s personality, but better than nothing. And anyway, if it’s a well written news release, the first sentence should stand alone as a summary – and should therefore be perfect as a ‘tweet’.
Insanely late update: just for the record, it looks like Lynne was actually beaten by Tory MP Grant Shapps. Lynne joined on 22 March; Grant joined a fortnight earlier.

Tories need friends

I’m genuinely surprised to see the Tories’ new Facebook-targeted viral video. It’s David Cameron, sitting in a drab – in the Commons, judging by the furniture? he says ‘Whitehall’ – office. Then it’s Jimmy Cliff. Then it’s flashy animations with a string of familiar electoral promises, some more substantial and quantifiable than others. Although having just watched it, I can’t actually remember any of them.
As Sky’s Jonathan Levy notes, Obama it ain’t. Nor is it Webcameron (although I note there’s a ‘DVD extra’-esque background clip on Webcameron). It feels more like an old-style Party Political Broadcast… one of those ones which tries too hard.
Two key words jump out at you. ‘Change’ – I make it 11 uses of the word (or a close derivation thereof) in 90 seconds, plus a couple of ‘different’s. Remind you of anyone? Then, in the final second – ‘donate’. This new entry-level ‘Friend Of’ membership is clearly the new Big Idea:

Donate as much or as little as you like and help us campaign for the change people really want. You’ll receive a weekly newsletter, information about getting involved in the local community, and access to our new Affinity Programme.

The use of the word ‘friend’, with a ‘Facebook exclusive’ (!) launch for the video, is not accidental. But it’s still an invitation to align yourself with a specific political party: a form to fill in on their website, an explicit – and crucially, un-retractable – declaration of Party Political support. Simple Facebook friendship, on the other hand, would leave me in control; would keep my details as confidential as I want them to be; and would still offer the same ‘engagement’ opportunity.
The Tories have done so much right in the new media space lately, making this all the more curious. I’ll be watching with interest. But no matter how much Cameron’s approach appeals to me – and I’ll admit, I like a lot of it – I won’t be signing up as a formal ‘friend’. And I suspect, as a politically-literate father in his mid-30s running his own business, I’m precisely the sort of person this is aimed at.