Blogger Spectrum

We had an interesting social media discussion on Plurk today (now known as a Plurkshop) that raised a lot of questions. There were many participants in the quickly shifting conversation, including Amber Naslund, Connie Reece, Tim Jackson, Beth Harte and Mack Collier. The conversation started by talking about managing conversations across different platforms (Amber has a great wrap-up here), but along the way, the conversation shifted and changed. One of the questions that was raised concerns the objectives of social media — how do you use/activate social media and why. The answer depends on where in the media spectrum that you sit.

At the far end of the blogging spectrum, there is the lone blogger who is writing for their own enjoyment — the diarist. Then comes the activist or even passionate brand evangelist. In the centre is the Careerist — the blogger who writes as a demonstration of their skills and expertise. Next comes the “expert” blogger who writes about their area of knowledge. Then there is the corporate blogger which is written from a business perspective. Professional  bloggers can roam across any or all of these categories (and I am sure there are many others). But each of these bloggers will have their own objectives ranging from the personal to the professional — but there is something that they have in common — a desire to create a community.


Even the most strident blogger will gain some kind of pleasure from having their material read. They will love a comment here or there. They will thrill to a rise in subscriptions. Why? It is about community. In many ways, we build our world around opposing forces — our friends and our enemies. We can have a community that encompasses both.

So, is building a small community, or readership worth it? Clearly it is. Those blogs with a handful of readers/commenters will only continue as long as there is some form of value exchanged. But even the most personal of blogs may, at some point, become a money making venture. Take for example, the story of Lucas Cruikshank who has built a formidable YouTube subscriber base. At first instance, you can wonder what can drive a 14 year old to write, produce, star in, and distribute a series about a six year old — but clearly, in doing so, Lucas has opened opportunities for himself and his family (while at the same time building his own skills and experience).

You may not start with the aim of turning your social media/content into a business, but once a community forms and achieves a critical mass, opportunities will be pulled into your gravitational field. This is, perhaps, the great leveller of social media — the traditional barriers to entry in media are related to reach and production cost. Both are dramatically lowered thanks to social media.

After all, with social media, it is not where you start that is important. It is the journey, and the story that you tell (or allow to be told) along the path.

Serious Conversation!

Serious Conversation!
Originally uploaded by McAzadi

The problem with good ideas is that they take a LOT of hard work to bring them to life. Now, both Drew McLellan and I knew that going for a second edition of the Age of Conversation was going to be a challenge, but we had already lived to tell the tale once already.

Little did we know that the author list would more than double!

And while we had about 275 authors raise their hand early on, life and the other catastrophes of modern living have intervened, whittling this down to a mere 237. As a result, we are knee deep in editing right now — still aiming for a publication date towards the end of August (we are still discussing and planning the exact launch date — but we WILL let you know).

In the meantime, become acquainted with those outstanding individuals who have committed their time and creativity in the name of charity (after all, all proceeds go to Variety, the Children’s Charity):

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

78% Happy

What does it mean to be happy? According to Malcolm Gladwell, it is the different between 60% and 78%. In this great TED Talk (thanks to Drew McLellan via Todd Andrik), Malcolm delivers a great story built around Howard Moskowitz’s pioneering work in the field of psychology-led market research. Moskowitz successfully used data to not just build out a long tail type analysis of data, but he aggregated this data to form clusters of relevance. How this works for a taste test for coffee is as follows:

  • Participants in a focus group are asked to rank from 1 to 100 how happy the coffee makes them feel
  • On average, the ranking sits at about 60 — which actually translates to a cup of coffee that makes you wince

However, if a high level pre-screening takes place before the focus group, the outcomes are dramatically different. If participants can self-select a style of coffee (eg mild, heavy roast etc) — from as little as three categories — and then that particular style is provided to the focus group, the ranking from 1 to 100 will rise to 78. A 78% ranking is a "coffee that makes you deliriously happy".

Think about this in terms of your brand. Consider it in light of your profiling and strategic approach. Perhaps we don’t need to deliver value to the "nth" level of the long tail … we simply need to deliver value to the clusters. The old adage "you can’t please all the people all the time" is true — but if you can spend your research and insight budget in a way that will identify the clusters that make sense for your brand/product, then making your consumers 78% happy will more than deliver on your brand promise. It will open new markets. Don’t believe me? Listen in to the whole of Malcolm’s speech.

Pubcamp Sydney in Hindsight

Last week, Jed White from itechne hosted Pubcamp, Sydney – the Web 2.0 media day – bringing the publishing/media world face-to-face with the increasingly vocal and empowered social media/web 2.0 crowd. This week, it was followed up with a Melbourne event.

Broken into a short format presentation style (similar to the approach we took at Interesting South), a variety of speakers provided their take on the current role and the future of media. There was a panel discussion and a debate — all followed by unconference sessions which allowed participants to actively investigate some of the topics raised during the presentations.

In Sydney the room seemed to divide into two camps. One one side were the new media folks, furiously commenting and conversing via the Twitter “backchannel” — and on the other the “traditional media” folks who appeared largely unaware of the un-unconference being carried on through Twitter. There seemed to be no middle ground between the two sides — each holding firm to the belief in their own relevance.

It was, however, during the panel discussion where the Twitter conversation spilled over from the back channel onto the conference room floor. The panel appeared to be populated by people who had spent most of their careers in the publishing industry with no “new media” representative. Stephen Collins summed up the collective Twitter response along the lines of “you don’t know what you are talking about”. From that point onwards, there was no going back — with the conversation becoming stuck around the relative merits of “professional” vs “citizen” journalism.

It wasn’t, however, until I sat in on Matt Moore’s unconference session on value networks that I began to see a way forward. It is not that there is no overlap between the two camps, it is just that there is no shared vocabulary for us to discuss shared areas of interest. And rather than spending our energies debating the relative merits of our own cases, I feel it would be far more productive identifying opportunities where each group could collaborate or experiment together. This, of course, means new ways of identifying and measuring value — it means new approaches to community and to business.

And while there may well be a long way to go before we see such opportunities come to pass, perhaps Pubcamp is the first, tentative step forward. Next time, I hope to see greater web 2.0/social media representation; getting down and dirty with the business model discussion; less plugs for new services/offerings; discussion on the role of communities; involvement from digital strategists/agencies.

For more detailed coverage of the Sydney event, see Renai LeMay (for the AFR), Craig Wilson and Nic Hodges (let me know if I have missed your coverage). Melbourne has been covered by Ben Barren, Michael Specht, Stephen Mayne.

Strategic Happiness

This excellent presentation by Tara Hunt clearly draws a connection between customer experience and brands. To do this, Tara suggests we need to understand the four pillars of happiness — Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness and Self-esteem — as well as the barriers to happiness — fear, confusion, loneliness, lack of control and struggle for survival.

By delighting your customers you are adding to their happiness. By removing the pain/anxiety of your customers you are removing barriers to their happiness. Makes sense. Sounds simple … and as Tara explains, it ties into the self actualization model of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But how does this tie into your business strategy? How does it really become part of the way that you do business, drive revenue, and manage your costs?

Clearly activating this comes down to the experience of your product/service. It comes down to the exchange of value between your brand and its community and that means that you need to understand how your brand rubs up against the factors that affect happiness or the barriers to happiness. This is a strategic choice and should inform every iteration of your brand’s product/service line. But there is also a more significant opportunity around happiness that applies directly to social media and to digital strategy. Take a look through Tara’s presentation, and then continue reading below.

Most brands are likely to position themselves on one side or other of the "axis of misery" that Tara talks about. However, the larger opportunity is to activate your digital strategy in a complimentary manner. That is, if your brand positioning is closely aligned with the four pillars of happiness, then your digital strategy should focus on removing the barriers to happiness — and vice versa.

Many "Web 2.0" brands are already take this holistic approach. Think about Google, for example. Not does the experience of interacting with the Google Search Engine deliver value on the four pillars of happiness, it also directly impacts on the barriers to happiness. This is extended through a range of other service offerings from Orkut through to Gmail.

It strikes me that viewing happiness as a business model provides a unique way of investigating your brand’s strategic positioning and provides insight in terms of its future direction. It reverses the debate around brands from one that is internally focused into an analysis which is oriented towards the experiential impact of your brand through the eyes of your brand community. Revolution? Maybe.

Moonlighting at Todd Andrlik’s

Originally uploaded by Mandy Garcia

I have scheduled two posts over at Todd Andrlik’s site as part of his guest blogging week.

Make sure you check out all the guest bloggers:
Last Thursday — Leo Bottary of Client Service Insights
Last Friday — Kami Huyse of Communication Overtones
Today — Gavin Heaton of Servant of Chaos
Tue — Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute
Wed — Darryl Ohrt of Brand Flakes for Breakfast

Case Study on Digital Storytelling — 100% Story

We all know a good story when we hear or read it, just like we know a good film when we see it. But there are many, many elements that need to come together to ensure that a story "works". From the youngest age, we have been conditioned by storytelling … there are conventions, expectations, structures and rhythms that need to be respected (or broken). There are archetypes that can be manipulated and themes that can be called upon, and there are even standard phrases (think "once upon a time"). But often, content creators of all kinds (from brand storytellers to creative directors) forget the basics — the beginning, middle and end.

In the past, I have worked with teams to work through these elements. I have pushed the beginning, middle and end because it provides a context within which we can tell stories. This is especially important in digital storytelling because context can often be a battleground, signifying everything or nothing. The role of the digital storyteller, however, is to reign in the context — to provide a focus. Precisely because the context can be so broad, the digital storyteller, must take a lead from the scientist — to study the micro, to set an agenda that cannot be seen by the naked eye — and deliver the razor sharp insight that will draw participants into the web of the story.

How is this done? Like anything, you need to start with an idea. This is the 1%. A good idea will get you started but an idea on its own is dormant. There is another 9% that is planning. You need to think through the what, why and how of your story. You need to consider the methods you will take to bring your idea to life.

The next 40% you need to focus on execution. This is the actual doing of the work. This brings together the idea and the strategy and makes it available to the world. The remaining 50% is participation …

It is this final 50% that is the MOST important element. Without the participation of an audience your project is a failure. In the digital story, all MEANING is co-created. That means that, after launch, your digital story continues. It needs feeding. You need to respond to the nuances of its reading. You need to ENGAGE.

Perhaps this is why brands struggle with the concept of digital storytelling. Perhaps this is why it is harder to plan for and activate/support a digital story … because they can, and do last forever. Mostly …

Katie Chatfield has created a fantastic presentation that explains and profiles Marcus Brown, who is in my view, one of the premier digital storytellers of our time. In this presentation, Katie steps through the process of digital storytelling, charting the rise, life and ultimate ending of some of Marcus’ characters whose digital exuberance spilled, at times, into real life. There was clearly a beginning, middle and end — and maybe even a hint at resurrection.

For those who are seeking to understand the alchemy, imagination and sheer effort required for digital storytelling, Katie’s presentation is of immense value. And for those of you who have not experienced the joy of Sacrum or the smiling nihilism of Charles Stab and their inventor, Marcus Brown, welcome and enjoy.

Pubcamp Sydney Voxpop

Craig Wilson and Gordon Whitehead from Sticky Advertising took some time out at Pubcamp Sydney to probe some members of the audience on the future of media in 2008. Here is the first set of responses … featuring (in order of appearance Gavin Heaton, Sean Carmody and Markus Hafner).

I am currently writing up a review of the Sydney event, but in the meantime, take a look at Matt Moore’s summary or view the twitter stream for yourself. Don’t forget, Pubcamp Melbourne next week.

PubCamp – The Web 2.0 Media Day from Sticky Advertising on Vimeo.