Telstra and the Sacred Cows

I remember when Telstra’s Now We Are Talking blog launched. It made a bit of a ripple, but did not really dint my consciousness, which is surprising because I am always on the lookout for brands (especially big brands) who are digging into social media. But what I do recall was a brief visit to the site and a feeling that this “blog” was going to be just what the name suggested – a whole lot of talking and not a lot of listening.

Last week, Mike Hickinbotham (from said blog), tagged me to give my two cents on whether nowwearetaking is hitting the mark. It was a nice tactic as the previous week we had a short Twitter conversation on the topic of Gartner’s hype cycle (and yes, I am still working on a post about that) … so Twitter was used effectively to reach out and break the ice, and then the blog activated to extend and deepen the engagement and conversation. “The old one-two”, as Maxwell Smart might have said.

But for me, the old one-two in social media is about the exchange of value. It is about the easy fostering of conversation and the swift conversion of that dialogue into action. In many ways, it’s more about doing than talking, after all, actions speak louder than words. And now, at least thanks to Mike, I was curious – and wanted to see just how Australia’s largest corporate blogger was dipping into the big pond.

When I visited the site, I thought I might comment on Mike’s post. Then I noticed that before being ABLE to comment I needed to register. But this is no simple registration process … I needed to also provide my postcode as a form of identification along with some demographic data. Within seconds, I have TWO barriers in place before I can even begin to have a conversation.

Recommendation: Open up comments. Make sure that a valid email address is provided, but registration is an inhibitor to conversation (which is supposedly one of your aims).

As I stepped through the registration process, I was greeted by a link to the Terms and Conditions. And while I knew what awaited me, I just couldn’t help looking for it:

By submitting material to a Forum, you: 

  1. grant us a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable worldwide licence to use, copy, publish, publicly perform, communicate and adapt that material, and to sublicense those rights through the operation of the this site; and 
  2. agree to its public disclosure.

So not only do I have to register my details, I also have to sign over the rights to any insight I share as part of a discussion!

OK, to be honest, this does not really bother me. It is, however, an indication of the lack of “transparency” despite what seems to be good intentions on the part of the bloggers.

Recommendation: Go crazy and republish your blogs under a creative commons license. This will not only demonstrate that you GET social media and its economy of mutual attribution and participative value co-creation, it will also build you enormous and instant goodwill.


Now, I am no stranger to corporate bureaucracies, to legal reviews or brand guidelines; so I have to tip my hat to Telstra’s social media team for making it this far. But, to be honest, as Cameron Reilly suggested, there is a long way to go.

There are a growing band of active Australian bloggers who also provide consulting services, strategic advice and insight as to how you can plan for, build and execute an integrated strategy with social media, trust and transparency at its heart. I am sure they would help accelerate your successes in this space (especially now that you are throwing Twitter into the mix). It’s time to slay some (corporate) sacred cows and really get the message out. Telstra has made a great start but is also faced with an almost unmatched opportunity. I’d like to see them take it.

Update: The conversation continues with Lid providing a series of tips and insights; Stephen Collins suggesting a thorough reading of the Cluetrain Manifesto and the Zappos tweetstream; and Katie Harris giving the thumbs down. Jye Smith has also chimed in.

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Save Lives with Your Vote

This is not a post about the upcoming US election. It is much more immediate. In fact, you have only today left to act. International Medical Corps has been matched to one of the Top
  25 in American Express’ Members Projects, ‘Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children.’
They are currently in the top 5, but need to remain there to receive funding. They need your vote.

Find out more about their project here. And then go here to vote. Today. Thanks.


This, That and the Other — Mark Pesce’s Keynote at Web Directions South

Mark Pesce’s keynote at WebDirections South sped by at a thousands words a minute. His words pounded us like the Hadron Collider, the ideas slamming and fragmenting into synaptic allusions that stretched across time from the Enlightenment through to the previous evening’s sweep of the web by the all-seeing Googlebot.

There is plenty to chew on in this speech. There is plenty to consider in our own, personal, collectivist journey. Will we emerge unscathed from what Mark calls the hyperconnected mob? Will technology provide us a way to continiuously recontextualise our connections to the amorphous social groups from which we draw our various identities?

Perhaps only time will tell … but in the meantime, there is much to debate and discuss. It is a new world that will come to life conversation by conversation.

How to Search Online

Before the web, I was a great researcher. I could walk into a library and find the best, the most obscure and interesting information. Sometimes it was intuitive — like walking through an aisle of books on my topic of interest, pausing and the grabbing the first book to hand. More often than not, I would find just the right piece of information that would make my work stand out from my classmates. Now, this was not really magic or intuition … it was connecting ideas and words.

But along came Google and I thought that this ability would be neutralised. Interestingly, many people still complain about not being "good with Google". However, there is no longer any reason for this. The CommonCraft folks have come up with yet another great explanation for our Web 2.0 world — this time explaining how to search. In a little over two minutes you will understand how to craft "intuitive" and targeted searches that will yield very focused data for your next presentation, lecture or dinner date 😉

A Wii Kidsperience

When we talk about thinking "outside the box", or when we think of the "experience", this often means that we are trying to make a break with current types and modes of thinking. On the creative front, this means playing with expectation, changing the framing of a story, transforming a consumer’s sense of control or mastery. I often think about this in terms of the P-L-A-Y framework:

P — for Power

  • Demanding of attention 
  • Testing limits (boundaries around behaviour, responsibility etc) 
  • Controlling the controllable 
  • Belonging

L — for learning and curiosity

  • Skills development 
  • Negotiation

A — for adventure

  • Exploring an ever changing world 
  • Actively making the world a better place

Y — the yelp of surprise and delight

  • Recognition and reward 
  • Self expression

As brands continue to investigate the changing consumer and business landscape prompted by the ever-increasing adoption of social (and mobile) media, strategists need to also consider the idea of “kidsperience”.

Nintendo appear to be following a similar path in their efforts to differentiate their product in the highly competitive gaming console market. As Scott Weisbrod points out, Nintendo are in search of a Blue Ocean. His competitive strategy canvas shows exactly how the positioning is being planned. But the question remains – how does this play out in their branding and advertising works? Take a look here. NO … wait, really, click through – and then come back and share your thoughts. I am fascinated to know.

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Come to Coffee This Friday

Single Origin
Originally uploaded by bigiain

There are plenty of distractions this week. There is the WebDirections South conference running Thursday and Friday; and Thursday night alone features Webjam, AusTUB and the AdNews Anniversary Party.

And despite the hangovers and excitement, we are still planning to meet for coffee this Friday morning. Mark Pesce even promises to show up ahead of his day’s commitments at WebDirections South.

And no doubt, Gav and the crew at Single Origin will serve up just the right style of Friday morning cheer, black coffee and eggs to die for. So, come on down — Reservoir Street, Surry Hills from 8am.

Reversing the Launch

17.09.08We all shuffle into the meeting and take our chairs. We greet one another, sip our coffee and lift our pens in silent readiness — after all, one never knows when an action point will be thrust across the room.

Before long, even the most strategic of strategy sessions will be punctuated by tactics (and let me admit I am as guilty of this as anyone). In a bizarre twist on meeting bingo, marketing bingo is littered with words such as "viral", "youtube", "facebook" — and increasingly, "social media". Much of this is driven by short-term, campaign oriented thinking and a focus on short-term objectives. However, when it comes to advising our clients (whether they be internal or external), it is important to remember that campaigns (and microsites) are no longer stand-alone. Google has seen to that.

Where once we built our discrete campaigns around various plans to raise awareness, generate demand, build brand, stimulate sales, accelerate trial etc, brand custodians now need to consider a longer term narrative line that incorporates the way that consumers engage with the brand over time. We no longer have disconnected brand campaigns but discontinuous brand interactions. The crucial link between each of these campaigns is a combination of social media powered by Google. That is:

  • The articles or references that bloggers make about your campaign (whether it is digital or not)
  • The perspectives published by the media (advertising media as well as other publishers
  • User generated content that riffs off your campaign

All of this can be found by Google. More importantly, it can be found by Google well into the future — long after your campaign has ended. For example, when I search on some of my old projects, I can find all the pointers, the conversations and the discussions AROUND them, but the project has passed. The microsite has gone. All we are left with are traces leading nowhere. This is brand equity being squandered.

In the future, we need to think about brand lifecycles. We need to think about brand "through lines" — and design experiences with entry and exit strategies. We need to start putting as much thinking into "reversing the launch" as we put into the start of a campaign.

When we reverse the launch, we can draw upon the P-L-A-Y framework, delivering an experience that enhances and continues the conversations that evolve around your campaign. In fact, part of your strategy could be to build upon some of these user generated conversations as a catalyst for ongoing dialogue. After all, creating the talking point is one of the early challenges, maintaining or stoking that conversation requires much less effort and attention.

Blogs Are the New CV

Smjlogo I have been thinking that "blogs are the new CV" for quite some time. Back in 2006 I wrote this post — and the concept has stayed with me since then. When I was hiring staff while working for Creata, the very first thing that I would do when looking at a resume was to scan the web for footprints. If a developer claimed to have worked on open source projects, then I wanted proof. If a strategist claimed to have led the creative planning for a brand, then I wanted to know who they knew.

My new post over at today is an extension of my original post, with particular tips on claiming your online identity. And if you have any other tips, I would love to hear them!

Unplug Your Friends

If you are like me, you will go through times of rapid and deep attachment to social media … and then, through burn out, work or life changes or a million smaller interruptions, you drop out, switch off and unplug. Sometimes it takes an intervention … and if you know someone who tweets too much, blogs too often or spends way too much time with MyFace … then perhaps you should use this site to remind your friend to switch off the machine and reconnect face-to-face.

In fact, this campaign from the meetup folks hits a sweetspot for me. Great story, excellent use of the P-L-A-Y framework, and it is synchronous with the brand and what it actually delivers for its users.

Oh, and it reminds me … I will be at WebJam this Thursday. Let me know if you will be there — it will be great to meet and chat.

Via Paul Isakson (I guess you can’t make Thursday?).