Need to Plan Visually? Now You Can!

  Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

I love the way David Armano translates concepts into visuals. I am envious. It seems effortless (which is a sure sign of mastery).

I, on the other hand, have little to no visual skill. Well I can do composition and layout, but not design. Not like a real designer. In my last job I would often be working on a whiteboard discussing the features of functions of a website and begin drawing what I was thinking only to have one of my team stand up, remove the marker from my hand and begin to visually translate for me (yeah I am that bad).

My tool of choice is words. Storytelling. But after years as a consultant, I also like diagrams. I like flows. I like to map abstract ideas. It is also partly why I am fascinated by the concept of "innovation" — how do you turn the abstract into something intangible into a real business outcome (hmm … sounds a lot like branding now that I think on it).

That’s why, when I saw this Periodic Table of Visualization Methods over at the fabulous and insightful Innovation Feeder blog, I gasped out loud. Not only can you use this as a resource to help you work through an idea, build a process or pull together random elements, this interactive table also gives you popup examples and descriptions. Awesome. I am sure Katie will like this.

Winning and Influencing in Social Media

Over the past few months Valeria Maltoni, the Conversation Agent, has been on fire. She has written scores of long form, well thought-out and clearly articulated blog posts that offer genuine analysis and raise challenging questions. Just start here and work your way through the last few weeks to see what I mean.

But this post, on the measurement of influence, in particular, got me thinking … and judging by the number of comments, it seemed to do the same for many others. Valeria weaves together commentary on this Edelman whitepaper via Steve Rubel (which looks at quantifying the impact of social media) and the results of a study that she participated in. It is quite an involved analysis and well worth a read. What seems to be bourne out of the Valeria’s analysis is that  "influencers" have a smaller impact on a social network than we might have first thought. This seems to me, to ring true. After all, the very nature of "influence" depends on a level of relationship … and the very fact that a relationship exists within a network will have a bearing on the manner in which the network functions.

On top of this, I was reminded of this post that I wrote a while ago on the strength of weak ties. In fact, Herb Sawyer mentioned the same concept in the comments. This basically bears out the same conclusion, but from a different perspective. It shows that the likelihood of someone taking ACTION (ie becoming a participant in a brand interaction is higher when there is a relatively weak link in the network of connections. This analysis would, in part, explain the huge valuation of Facebook … where many people are connected not through strong communities but loose and tenuous opt-in groupings.

Measurement will continue to be a hot topic until someone is able to crack the nut of influence. Until that time, we will have to rely upon the blunt instruments at our disposal.

Blog with the Stars

OK … that may be over-stating it … but I am approaching a milestone with this blog. That’s right, a cause for celebration … a time to make hay, shake things up a little.

I am a few comments short of 2000 — and the person who makes the 2000th comment gets the chance to write a guest blog post here. I don’t even really mind what the topic is (it certainly seems that my readers cover a wide variety of topics — not all related to branding/marketing or even storytelling).

So, if there is a post that takes your fancy and you haven’t had your say as yet, please step up and offer your insight. I wait with baited breath.

Is This a Marketing Coup? No It’s Just the Junta

As I keep a fairly close eye on incoming web links, referrals and so on, I am always surprised when I find myself mentioned on an unknown website. Even more so when I find that I am on a list … after all one of the purposes of a list is to let participants know that they are on it.

It took the digitally ambidextrous Greg Verdino  to point me in the right direction of Junta42 — a publisher with yet another Top Marketing Blogs list. The Junta42 list is, however, slightly different from many of the others — the focus is on "content marketers". (This is something bound to make Marcus happy — and I have already submitted Content Will Kill Your Agency.) This means that they are looking at:

… relevant and valuable content [that will] attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

This list also has a difference — you can vote up your favourite sites and articles a la Digg. I don’t actually make the top 42 — I am languishing down at #66 — but there are quite a few sites that I have never seen before — so that makes Junta42 a good place to hang out for some marketing blog goodness. It will be interesting to see if Junta42 gets traction.

Twitter Tells Me Heath Ledger is Dead

Heath Ledger
Originally uploaded by Howie_Berlin

This morning I was shocked to see the announcement that Heath Ledger is dead. I used to like seeing photos of Heath taking his kids for a walk or out to the shops. I am sure this will be a devastating time for his family and friends.

The fact that I found this out on Twitter marks another interesting twist in the relationship between digitial/web 2.0 media and the mainstream media. As soon as I saw the message from Alisa Leonard, the first thing I did was search for another report. I searched on Google. Nothing. Then I went to the Sydney Morning Herald website — and found this. Five minutes later and the story was all over Google News. It appears that despite our wide adoption of "new" media, we rely on the authority of the "old".

As news breaks, the ripple effect flows from a single point across the network of influencers, listeners, contacts and family. It starts with an individual, fans out through the web across social networks and then transforms into individual messages taken in and absorbed by people thousands of kilometres apart. But not all messages do this. Only those that hit us emotionally … good news, bad news and acts of outrage.

But this is one piece of news that I am sad to hear. And one I am sorry to find out, is true.

Blending Trends and Brands in 2008

Trendblend2008Today was a bit of a Ross Dawson fest for me. Not only did I listen to the podcast that he recorded with Stan Relihan, I also found this cool Shanghai Tube-inspired map of trend predictions for 2008 (download the PDF here).

While I don’t necessarily agree with the mainline destinations on the map, they do provide great food for thought. However, I do like the way that different trend lines intersect (eg where politics and demographics meet at a level crossing on the outskirts of a town called Anxiety), and the use of a recognisable map structure to convey a complex information architecture and messaging is brilliant.

The podcast, on the other hand, contained some gems. Ross talks about the way that social media is the future of organisations — positing that enterprises now manage conversation flow in, through and out of the organisation in ways that traditional media companies do. This means that similar disciplines and approaches need to be put in place to harness, transform and unleash this information/knowledge as a way of delivering competitive advantage (my explanation).

I also found Ross’ definition of Web 2.0 refreshingly simple. He says, Web 2.0 "… transforms mass participation into something valuable". From a brand and advertising point of view, this has some obvious implications:

  • What is valuable to your brand
  • What kind of situation/event would prompt your audience/consumers to participate
  • How will you measure this

With these three questions in mind, make sure you ask your agency/marketing team how participative media/web 2.0 is going to transform your business this year. Run these answers across the Trend Blend map and you may well have the seeds of a digital strategy sitting in the palm of your hand. It is already shaping up to be an interesting year.

The Charm of History

Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

Hypertext is a great pleasure. First up, there is the anticipation of the click … the clean blue link colour of an unvisited site stands out against the white screen, beckoning. It is unmistakeable. Sometimes I can pause for a moment while at other times I launch right in.

Then, as my digital request is sent across thousands of kilometres of cable, I wait to see what is returned. In this moment I am curiosity unbound. Expectation hangs on my every breath. And then, the screen clears … for a split second I am in a magical in-between world. Everything is white … I scan for messages, forgotten code fragments or something hidden.

And then the site comes to life. If I am lucky (can you believe it, there are still way too many sites that fail to make it this far).

Now my true investigation begins. I scan the navigation and the header. My mind, racing, begins to enforce meaning, to make connections between the visual and the text. I am digesting the domain name and the tag line, picking up fragments, text and visuals. Already judgements are being made — quality, content and style.

Every so often, my hypertext randomness strikes gold … and I will happen across a site that captures my imagination. Often I forget how it happens, or the series of links and clicks becomes confused in the interplay of web applications, sites and emails that makes my every day. But this site, Our Great Southern Land, is one of my new favourites — and I found it courtesy of the Aussie Bloggers forum. The blog contains a huge range of fascinating Australian historical trivia, ghost stories and anecdotes. A quick glance through the daily updates sheds a great deal of insight into the makeup of the Australian psyche. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in Sydney


Next month, Sydney plays host to the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum. Hosted by Ross Dawson’s Future Exploration Network, the conference should be a festival of ideas and case studies of what works and what is on the cards in the rundown mishmash of social media and large scale business. There are a wealth of good speakers lining up, and the venue, Luna Park, captures the beauty of Sydney for all our overseas guests. For those of you who are wondering how social media / web 2.0 will play out in the enterprise or in government, this one day conference (February 19, 2008) could well be the best $500 you ever spend.

Confession Time – 8 Things in 08

Originally uploaded by Heather.Isabel

Normally I am all over a meme. I have willingly joined in the Eight Random Things, Z-list, O-list and the Zombie Apocalypse (as well as many others). I find them a great way to discover new links, sites and content as well as a great opportunity to disclose something new about yourself. After all, blogs are, in many ways, a slow striptease where the writer reveals ever more pieces of personal and professional information until the readers have built a strong and even compelling sense of the author.

Now, my long term readers will know that I started out being quite reticent about my identity and its disclosure. But over time this changed … I began to openly write under my own name, include personal photos, audio and even video casts. Yet each time, I do so I feel like I am confessing something about myself … that in displaying, writing or "performing", some element of my true nature is revealed. This is both frightening and liberating.

Over the last few weeks I have been tagged by both Wonderwebby and Jon for the "Eight Things" meme. In this meme, my challenge is to confess eight things that you probably don’t know about me. So, in an effort to frighten both you and me, I will dig into the annals of my personal history:

  1. I have a fascination with the supernatural. It scares me off and draws me closer. I can never entirely escape it.
  2. My scariest experience was with a ouija board and some friends at high school. We tapped into something that knew too much about us all.
  3. I once felt close to madness after not sleeping for three days and nights. It seemed like a choice, and thankfully I was able to resist (these points are not all related).
  4. I used to be a full-on vegan. It was political. I wanted to change the world.
  5. Now I am a fairly "normal vegetarian", but I have not eaten red meat in over 20 years. It’s not really political anymore, it is just the way I am.
  6. As a child I loved the idea of having an office. I used to hide behind the louvre doors at my grandparents house and work on my colouring-in. By the time I entered the workforce it was all open plan … this remains one of my greatest disappointments 😉
  7. I am a font of ideas. I can come up with a million great ideas with ease.
  8. Despite a high level of output, I still procrastinate terribly. I wonder whether this is linked to the number of ideas, a fear of failure (or success) or just part of my personal creative process.