Social Media Coverage of Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Originally uploaded by Vinu

Reports of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India overnight have flooded my inbox and Twitter stream since early this morning. At first, I checked the Sydney Morning Herald site to learn details, but found that Twitter was providing more rapid and constant updates.

Twitter also has the advantage of being able to track details of hashtags – a simple way of indexing all messages from across the global Twitter network. To see the unfolding Twitter stream, click here.

Via this constant message stream, Indian bloggers such as Vinu and Dina Mehta are providing on-the-ground updates. Vinu used a Flickr account to upload photos of the aftermath of attacks near his home.

Within 20 minutes of watching, the focus of the Twitter stream shifted from reporting events to calling for help. A local Mumbai hospital needed additional blood supplies, and through retweets (the practice of spreading a piece of news from one person’s network of friends to another), the details of the hospital, its phone number and a link to a Google map, were shared.

Events continue to unfold. If you have friends or family in the area – especially if they hold British or US passports, essential services contact numbers can be found here.

UPDATE: Gaurav Mishra collates social media responses to the events in Mumbai.

UPDATE2: The crisis continues and can be watched via streaming TV courtesy of NDTV.

UPDATE3: Sonia Faleiro gives a first hand account of the encounter.

UPDATE4: Valeria Maltoni sums up the transformation in the way that information flows via citizen journalists/social media since September 11.

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Changing the World, Bit by Bit

falling-in-autumn-cass1 Some months ago, when I began talking to Isadore Biffin about her plans, I was shocked. Here was an eighteen year old girl working on a major project for her final year of high school, and she had a mind to change the world.

Isadore’s idea was to raise funds for charity. Great, I thought. But it wasn’t just ANY charity. You see, a couple of years ago, Isadore had done her Year 10 work experience (senior school) in Ethiopia – working as an aid worker; and while there she learned of the plight of a large number of children who were being recruited into the military in nearby Congo. She was determined to do something about this. The plan was to raise funds to help rehabilitate these kids – to give them a chance to heal from the horrors of what they had seen and done.

During 2008, Isadore began with some fundraising – she gave speeches at local community organisations and schools, she made cakes and so on. But she had a bigger idea bubbling away – what about a concert – like Live8 but smaller? That meant a whole lot more planning and effort … it meant funding, organising bands and speakers, finding a venue (and convincing them to support it); and it meant getting people along to a concert.

Over the last few months, I have been mentoring Isadore … helping her with a marketing plan and advice on how to execute it. We have discussed logos and designs, posters, advertising, social media, competitions, mobilising communities and so on. In all this, Isadore has shown tremendous resolve to move outside of her comfort zone – speaking with journalists, sorting out the various issues that arose, committing to contracts and gaining the support of businesses. She has shown true leadership.

On Sunday night, the Article Thirty-Nine concert was held at The Factory Theatre in Enmore. Over 250 people attended and over $6000 was raised for the Jesuit Refugee Service (the agency running the rehabilitation program). There are some great photos of the event on Isadore’s blog – and Moshcam will soon have streaming video available on the web (Moshcam generously supported the concert by filming it for free).

It just goes to show what CAN be achieved by a strong purpose and a supportive and interested community. And if you would like to contribute to the Article Thirty-Nine cause, leave me a comment.

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Out-Viralled? How Does It Feel?

Stan Johnson calls out the neat viral work of Droga 5 for their Guitar Hero YouTube video. But then Freddie Wong shows what can be done with limited resources, some creativity and a passion.

Of course, this is part of what can be considered “viral” – where a piece of work mutates by coming into contact with other forces. After all, the “aim” of a viral is not necessarily simply to spread (ie deliver reach) but to prompt conversation and participation. While Freddie only has one-seventh of the views that the original video has, I daresay, the production costs were much lower 😉

How does it feel to be out-viralled? The answer: it rocks.

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When Finance Brands Go Wild

companion-monster After MyFutureBank’s a well publicised “experiment” and withdrawal from social media and the surreal and poorly contextualised Truthpod (courtesy of Westpac), it would be easy to suggest that finance marketers had had their fill of the social media space. Or perhaps, had bitten off more than they could chew.

Yet it seems this is not the case.

Clearly, with Forrester research indicating that 75% of Australians participating in some form of social media, consumer brands have LITTLE CHOICE other than begin to engage with their customers in this way. After all, it is where we are CHOOSING to spend our time and precious attention.

But what happens when a finance brand escapes into the wild? What happens when a business truly asks for the input of its community? Companion Credit Union decided to find out. The Financial Brand blog has some great coverage of this rebranding campaign here.

With a new theme of “We’re Listening”, Companion put their brand on the line and asked their members to vote on a new logo. As the CEO, Ray O’Brien said, “The credit union is really owned by the members and therefore we decided we should invite them to actively participate in helping us decide”.

Over 1000 votes were received (from a member base of about 12,000) … and a new blog has been setup to help the credit union really “get back to it’s roots”. They are even supporting Movember. So what does a customer selected logo look like?


The real opportunities for brands and social media are for those looking to transform their relationships with their customers … so it is encouraging to see brands from a relatively conservative market capitalising on these opportunities. And in a tight market (well, really, in any market), a social media strategy can not only help you stand apart from your competitors, it can also drive value back to your community – which is a great fit for credit unions and other member-based businesses.

Companion is certainly one financial service brand to watch – and as their ongoing marketing and social media strategy evolves, I expect there will be some real insight and proof points around the way that brands can grow and extend their reach and engagement via the micro-interactions that we take for granted. And this is one of the core values of social media for brands – that the difference between what your customers INTEND and the way they BEHAVE disappears – and you are left with a sentiment that contributes to (or detracts from) your brand promise. More power to the community!

UPDATE: Companion Credit Union and Community CPS Australia have now become Beyond Bank – you can find their new site here. Let’s hope they continue the innovation!

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Coffee Mornings, Sydney

Each Friday morning from 8am (some do arrive earlier), a bunch of social media and advertising bloggers meet for coffee and conversation at one of Sydney’s best cafes – Single Origin. It is more than a meeting of minds – it is a feast of ideas, and a cacophony of good humoured banter. ALL ARE WELCOME. 

But what is it like? Take a look at my presentation on what, why and how coffee mornings are sometimes the best part of the week!

View more OpenOffice presentations from Gavin Heaton.

Don’t forget to join our Facebook group too!

You can find us sitting at a row of tables outside of:

Single Origin
64 Reservoir Street
Surry Hills

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Social Entrepreneurs at Vibewire

vibwire Running a startup business is a challenge. There are ideas to prioritise, investors to meet, technologies to implement and yes, even work to do. But what about budgets? What about planning? What about marketing? And is there somewhere that you can go to meet up with like-minded entrepreneurs? Yes, entrepreneurship can be an isolating experience.

But what happens if your efforts are not designed around a profit motive? What happens if the outcomes that you seek have a social or a change-oriented focus instead? This is the world of the social entrepreneur – a business that is “for more-than-profit”.

Here in Sydney, Vibewire provides residencies for young social entrepreneurs and creatives. Their sQuareOne space in Ultimo is an incubator where social entrepreneurs can come together, learn from each other and receive support from a small, but flourishing community. sQuare One offer scholarships and host workshops designed to kick-start your social business.

At the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Opportunity even held at Vibewire, we heard speeches from Annie Le Cavalier, Janine Cahill, Jackie Ruddock and Anna Rose. Annie spoke about the changes underway with Vibewire, Janine discussed the role of vision and futures, Anna explained how she is working to have climate change recognised as a youth issue, and Jackie talked about the School for Social Entrepreneurs which is launching in March 2009.

If any of these activities sound interesting to you, contact the folks at Vibewire, or leave comments below and I will put you in touch.

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Friday Folly – November 21, 2008

You have probably already seen this, but the folly of the week can ONLY be awarded to this lovely piece from Motrin. Though in my opinion, the folly was not in creating or even pulling the ad from circulation – but in NOT capitalising on the situation by engaging in the conversation that was ALREADY happening around the brand.

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The Fail First Strategy

josh seq 3There are many lessons that marketers can “borrow” from the IT industry. “Open source”, for example, has changed the way that many of us conceive of ideas – they are no longer considered the proprietary property of one company/business (or they aren’t in most cases) – after all, ideas are the easy part, execution where it gets difficult. (In fact, we can really wonder whether ideas EVER were owned or whether this was just a convenient illusion.)

Most recently, I have been pondering the concept of “failing fast” –  see the wikipedia entry here. It is a systemic approach to programming that aims to identify and report on failures – or events that are likely to cause failures. The focus of the programmer is on passing the message “FAIL” up to a system that is built to respond. There are two important aspects (that I can see):

  1. The program escalates the issue or failure to another level of responsibility
  2. The program also halts before the failure replicates, spreads or becomes embedded in other systems

From a marketing point of view, there is much to learn from this. And in light of the debacles around Motrim Moms and MyFutureBank more locally, the lessons could and should be absorbed by marketers very quickly:

  1. Listen. As Amber Naslund points out, there are plenty of free tools that can be used to begin monitoring what is being said about your brand, products and services. Start with Google alerts. But please, start.
  2. Step-in. If you are not listening to the online conversations, the echo chamber tends to get louder and louder. As this escalates and draws more voices into the conversation, the absence of an “official voice” means that there is no way to diffuse the conversation. This leads, as Alan Wolk suggests, to overreaction. Once you are at that point, there is no return.
  3. Participate. When you start actually participating you will make mistakes – you may need to slay some sacred cows. But that’s ok … it’s the way we learn. By building relationships you are also creating a community/network. These are the folks who will let you know if someone else it talking about your brand.
  4. Learn. There is much to learn by following the first three steps. Take this information and share it with your product development and customer service teams. Use this to transform what you deliver to your markets and how you treat your customers.

Despite the benefits of the fail-fast approach, however, the brave brand manager may want to take a more tangible, proactive and accelerated path – to FAIL FIRST.

Under a fail first strategy, you already accept that there will be mis-steps. You acknowledge that issues will arise that you won’t be able to control. In fact, the approach means taking a POSITION that people can buy into or work against. It is drawing a line in the sand.

Then, once the controversy starts or the conversation begins, you work them both equally using the same four steps above. Those who like what you are doing will converse. Those who don’t will cause chaos. Engage with both and use them to cross-pollinate ideas. Learn from the nay-sayers how and where you can improve your products. Activate and empower your evangelists to tell their stories.

Now, I don’t advocate such a strategy for all brands. But there are some who could do it. And for those who can stand the heat, there are great benefits to flow from failing first and learning. But remember, you need to PLAN a fail first strategy. You need the systems and fall-back strategies in place that can help you overcome the failure. You need the management support to hold course.

The Motrim debacle could have been turned around. Many similar “crises” could. What would you do differently? Would you dare to fail first? What do you think it takes to create the most successful failure in marketing history?

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Vote for the Moggies

moggies-300x262 2008 has seen a significant amount of change in the Australian social media landscape. There has been a veritable explosion of new creative and critical thinking around the topics of advertising and marketing – not only have our coffee mornings received a fresh injection of energy courtesy of Julian Cole, Jye Smith and Scott Drummond, they also come armed with sharp thinking and blogs packed to the brim with social media goodness. Julian even took it upon himself to dream up a Top 50 list of marketing blogs.

But now, in celebration of this new found blogging enthusiasm, Craig Wilson is asking for nominations for post of the year. Christened “the moggies”, it will work out as follows:

Submit your nomination for the best Australian media and marketing blog posts of 2008. It can be one of yours, or it can be written by someone else. The only conditions are that the post must:

  • Be Australian (Craig, does this mean “written by an Australian” or “written by someone living in Australia”?)
  • Have a media and marketing focus
  • Be originally posted in 2008
  • Be original work.

Craig will take nominations until midnight Friday, December 12 (AEST) then shortlist the Top 10 posts before announcing the Gold Moggy at a Gala blog posting (Craig is going to stream himself eating pizza and drinking beer) on Monday, December 22. And the prize? Craig says it best:

In true web style the winner will receive….no compensation or prizes but lots of kudos, links and well-deserved praise.

Experienced journalists and new media analysts Mark Chenery and Mark Jones have agreed to help judge the Moggies. I guess that means Craig is sharing the pizza.

Get your nominations in to Craig by leaving a comment here.

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