Join the Solution Stars Video Conference

FiguresEvery year of my working life, technology has transformed the jobs that I do and the way that I perform in those roles. From my earliest start in an chartered accountant’s office where I began using Lotus 1-2-3 and the Basic programming language to automate my more mundane tasks, I have always focused my use of technology towards a business outcome.

These days, technology is second nature to me. Each day I use a web/tele-conference facility of some kind to collaborate with colleagues around the world; listen and scan online conversations for products and services that I am responsible for; download podcasts and vodcasts; read and respond to blogs, Facebook group discussions and forums; and a number of other things. And while I live in Australia, I am now more globally connected than I ever have been.

As the twin pressures of climate change and financial chaos continue to reverberate through the business community, we will need to increasingly use these types of technologies to cost- and time-effectively deliver value to our businesses. After all, it is not that the business need for global collaboration has evaporated – just the conviction (and funds) that we need to do so face-to-face.

solstars_badge_square From a brand point of view, the timing has never been better, nor the environment more open, to begin experimenting with social media. Sure, there are pitfalls; but you can learn a great deal simply by beginning to participate. You could start by joining the Network Solutions Solutions Stars Video Conference on October 29. By my calculations, the 1pm New York start time translates to 4am Sydney time and 5pm GMT.

This free video conference aims to provide insights and online marketing tips to small businesses … but the advice can easily be applied to larger businesses and brands. The conference features nine different documentary style video sessions:


  • Building Web Presence

  • The Social Opportunity

  • Start with Listening

  • Strategy Drives Outreach

  • You Need Social Networks

  • To Blog or Not to Blog

  • Visibility Through Search

  • Rising Above the Noise

  • Time Demands

A great cast of speakers have been assembled, including:

And while it may be an early start for some of us … it’s a small price to pay for some great advice from those who not only talk about marketing, branding and strategy in a socially connected world, they practice it daily.

Shall we agree to meet there online? I’ll bring the coffee!

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Sol Trujillo as a Mo Bro

sol4_lowres Each year, around this time, the buzz starts building. There are a couple of emails and then maybe a couple of messages via Twitter. Men across the country start twitching their noses and scratching their faces. Each of us wonder — “can I do it again”. But sure enough, come November 1, the signs are obvious.   

Days later, even a casual walk down the street will yield telltale signs. Five o’clock shadow yields to three day growth. Rough, sprouts give way to more a more fecund appearance … and the men, united in this cause, knowingly nod acknowledgement to each other. For during this month every year, we are no longer disengaged, disconnected or disinterested. We are all citizens of the Republic of Movember.

During November, two charities push to raise awareness around men’s health – prostate cancer and depression. Men across the country are encouraged to cleanly shave their faces and grow a moustache for charity. You can raise funds individually or as part of a team, with the funds raised going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and BeyondBlue.

I have now been involved in Movember for the past three years. Not only do I believe in supporting these causes, I am a great fan of the strategic approach that the Movember team take to participation – for during this month I am not just “another guy growing a mo” – I am a “mo bro” (I have joined Jye’s team here). That’s right, I become part of a community (a republic no less), I join or establish a team, and I make an individual contribution to worthy causes. And importantly, it brings a sense of play and enjoyment into the world (something that I think is essential for the future of brands).

In recent weeks, we have seen a number of Australian brands begin seriously investigating social media (with mixed success). Causes such as Movember can be excellent vehicles for “humanising” your brands … and all you need to do is participate. How might this work?

Let’s take one of the country’s most notable moustached business leaders … Sol Trujillo. What sort of momentum and interest would Sol’s participation drive in Movember? How many Telstra employees would also register for the internal team? How much positive PR and buzz would this create? And how would this transform the way that YOU and the customers of Telstra think about Australia’s largest telco?

For brands wanting to engage with social media, the first step is to listen. The second is to participate. Is anyone listening? Is that a hand I see raised? I would love to think so.

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Stranger Danger for Brands

When I was a child I was always warned to be careful of strangers … and I remember how confusing this was. Who was a stranger? What did a stranger look like? In this research, released by Universal McCann in September 2008, we now know – strangers look incredibly like us. And the tipping point? When it comes to opinion and recommendation, we trust them more than we ever have.

The research polled 17,000 Internet users in 29 countries to discover that there is a new landscape of influence driven by:

  • The rise of social media
  • Digital friends
  • The proliferation of influence channels

For brands, this is transforming the marketing landscape – with a vast majority of digital, social interaction revolving around “experience”, conversations about YOUR brands are already taking place. And more importantly, we now trust the opinions of strangers almost as much as we trust people we know well. This is the stranger danger for brands. It is also why not engaging in the debate about your brand carries a high risk. Take a read and think about your leading brand:

  • How are you participating in the online conversation
  • What are your strategies for interacting with influencers
  • Are you organisationally prepared for the transparency required to move from conversation to action?
  • How are you “listening” and measuring key brand indicators in various digital channels?



View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: digital web2.0)

Not All Conversations Are Equal

  Last Conversation Piece 
  Originally uploaded by kimberlyfaye

We used to say that “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about.” But things have changed. You see, when the advertising challenge was to “cut through.” repetition was its own virtue; while in this Age of Conversation, the factors which determine marketing success are more closely related to the intangible factors of trust, reputation and social currency.

This is the first part of my latest post over at MarketingProfs. Check out the rest here

Socialising Leads to Opportunity

Originally uploaded by joaobambu

Over the last few weeks I have been engaging in conversation with Carlee Potter via Twitter. She has been busily working away on a new site dedicated to business women — SNOBS (social network for opportunistic businesswomen).

Carlee has already assembled some great content as a resource for career-driven women, and promises more as the site grows. The charming and erudite Paull Young shares an excellent post on using social media to grow your business relationships, and Carlee has a neat series on marketing your business on a shoestring budget.

And over the weekend, my first post for SNOBS was published in the “know it all” category (don’t know whether this refers to my article or to me). Titled “Your brand, their opinion”, it reminds business people that your brand is not necessarily what YOU think it is — it’s about the experience that others have while interacting with your products and services (and the stories they tell). Hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and don’t be a snob. Leave a comment 😉

The Blogroll Lives Yet

Recently our coffee mornings at Single Origin seem to have taken on a life of their own. For a while there were only a hardcore group of three or four regularly turning up on Fridays for a heady mix of conversation and caffeine. But now we are easily spreading across three or four tables – causing all manner of headaches for the good folk of Single Origin who good humouredly scramble to find us additional stools, tables and the odd makeshift seat.

Last Friday we must have had 20 people squeezed onto the footpath on Reservoir Street — with conversation flying from one end of the table to the other. Among the new regulars are the authors of some excellent blogs:

  • Katie Harris writes a blog focusing on qualitative market research. Because the world is never black and white, her Zebrabites blog reminds us all to beware of the easy answers lest they come back to … well, bite us
  • Jye Smith is a dynamo, holding down a marketing role with CBS Interactive, making music, creating websites, writing a blog and playing WAR in his spare time … and he seems to do it all with excessive good humour
  • Adam Milgrom is one of our long timers and often arrives well ahead of us all (I think to eat breakfast in peace). He helps us all to keep track of cool stuff from all over the web with his Shared by Adam blog.

But not everyone is able to make it down for coffee on a Friday morning. Tony Thomas attends in spirit as does the charming David Wesson, while I expect to see Zac Martin only when pigs fly 😉

And now all these fine folks have been properly added to my reading list and blogroll. Check them out, and you are guaranteed to learn a thing or two. I do every week.

Unrest in the Marketing Tribe

  Tartan Chat 
  Originally uploaded by fergyboi

We consumers are fickle beasts. Even those of us involved in marketing are often wrong footed by other marketers. Jon Burg has a great post, and provokes an excellent discussion around Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes:

I’m part of a tribe – a Godin follower.  I generally enjoy his work.  I think he’s an overall brilliant marketer.  The early reviews of the book looked positive.  I was glad that I finally had the foresight to pre-order the book everyone would be talking about.

But Jon’s enthusiasm is tainted when, on the day that the new book arrives, he finds the audio book version is available for FREE.
Is this a mistake or a great marketing ploy? Does the availability of a free audio book stop you from purchasing a hardcopy book? Would you feel that your author (or brand) loyalty had been betrayed?
Take a look at Jon’s post and read through the comments and then let me know your point of view. Brilliant marketing or betrayal? You tell me.

AoC2: Life in the Conversation Lane

A new Age of Conversation Podcast is now live and available for your listening pleasure. Episode 2 stars Robert Hruzek and Dylan Viner (one of the few non-bloggers in the book).

Hosted by Jay Ehret, the discussion asks the serious question — with all this conversation, what is like living and working in what can sometimes feel like a maelstrom.

The Arrival of iMalcolm*

This week there has been much debate around the notion of digital identity. After all, just because someone owns a “username” or email address, it doesn’t mean that their identity can be assured.

Stephen Fry, a self-confessed gadget lover, is well known as a blogger, but his sudden appearance on Twitter saw a gold rush of a kind – with the digital network humming as word spread of his bonafide participation in the digital conversation. I am sure that I am not alone in thinking of printing and framing the confirmation email announcing my new connection to a very real celebrity. The important aspect of this, was not only how quickly it spread (after only days he is following around 5,500 people and has an almost equal number of followers), but that in the act of spreading there was an implicit validation – Stephen’s identity was confirmed by the community who propagated his participation. This has since been followed up by clever tweets that intertwine his personal, professional and geographic narrative.



Contrast this with the misguided attempt by National Australia Bank employees to generate conversation about their fledgling uBank online service. This probably would never have garnered much attention if NAB had not already weathered one social media storm. However, in an environment where social currency is dependent upon reputation and trust vests not in the brand but in the community you serve – a second opaque excursion into the blogosphere was always going to prompt a response. Both Stephen Collins and Laurel Papworth responded, “sniffing out” the fake identity and wondering where, exactly, NAB sources its social media strategy expertise. Clearly NAB did not anticipate or even understand the viral and contagious nature of online conversation … and the way in which TRUST permeates and underwrites all our interactions.

UPDATE: Charis Palmer over at the Better Banking blog confirms that has been PULLED and brings another viewpoint to the table. I have left a comment, but would love to hear your view as well.

iMalcolm So it was with some trepidation and mis-trust that the Twittersphere greeted the arrival of Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Federal Opposition (Twitter ID: @turnbullmalcolm). It was doubly confusing because we were also suddenly confronted with @malcolmturnbull (whose Twitter bio states “i is teh leaderz”).

In the first day, iMalcolm gathered a great deal of followers as the interest and contagion set in. He was, however, beyond frugal in the number of people he would, in turn, follow (day 1 score iMalcolm 443 vs the population 0). But around mid-afternoon today a change occurred, and iMalcolm began following those who had followed him. This reciprocation hit like a shockwave across the Australian Twittersphere. In response to a direct question (“can you please confirm …”) from John Johnston, the reply came: “@jjprojects it is me myself and as you can see I am still learning how it works. Cheers, Malcolm.”

While politicians in the US have welcomed the opportunities to reach, engage and activate the constituencies, it has been slow going here in Australia. In fact, the innovative approach that the Obama campaign have developed, I would argue, outstrips any efforts that have come thus far from brands or corporations. Perhaps iMalcolm has seen this potential. He has already taken on the lessons freely offered by the Twittersphere, and has a substantial web presence as you would expect. Interestingly, this extends to include a quirky (and humanising) dog blog. While iMalcolm has clearly arrived, I have a feeling we will be hearing a whole lot more from him – and don’t expect him to be disappearing any time soon. (Unlike some online bank.) 

And this, just in, from Julian Cole who has already found iMalcolm hitting the Twitter back channel during question time.


*iMalcolm – a real person tweeting in the name of another. From time to time, these identities will actually coincide with reality. Not guaranteed.

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Ann Handley as Wonder Woman

We always thought that Ann Handley was powerful. We always knew that she secretly commuted across the globe in an invisible plane. But now it has been confirmed.

Ann has been named as the #1 most powerful woman in social media. This is hardly surprising given that she single handedly identifies, nurtures and supports many of the most respected marketing bloggers in the world. The stable of writers she has assembled for MarketingProfs is without compare. And her personal blog sets the standard for the rest of us and dares us to do better.

Check out the Top 50 list and add other great women bloggers to the list.

Oh, and leave me a comment if, at any time, you have seen Wonder Woman and Ann in the same room together. I don’t believe it has ever happened.

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