Send a Different Kind of Water this Christmas

Water pumpI was speaking with my friend, Tim Longhurst, today and he was telling me that paper is 80% water. Obviously, by the time it gets to us, the water has evaporated, but clearly paper production requires access to vast water supplies – and given the scarcity of this precious resource, it makes sense to conserve it whenever possible.

And as we approach Christmas – a time of sharing and giving – take a moment to consider a DIFFERENT kind of gesture this year.

Each day 5,000 children die because they don’t have access to safe drinking water. That’s a lot of kids today, tomorrow and the next day … It’s a lot of kids who won’t see the end of 2008. And it’s a lot of kids who won’t see Christmas.

BUT you CAN make a difference. Rather than buying packs of cards that you write on and send, perhaps, instead, you could donate the water to people who need it.

WaterAid enables the world’s poorest people to gain access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education. These basic human rights underpin health, education and livelihoods and form the first, essential step in overcoming poverty.

So this year, you have the opportunity to not just spread some Christmas cheer, you can change someone’s life.

There are TWO easy steps: 

  1. Visit the WaterAid donation page. Take a fraction of the amount that you would normally spend on cards and send it to WaterAid to begin making a difference in the lives of children around the world. If you would spend $2 or $3 on a card, halve it and donate it here.   
  2. Visit the WaterAid eCard page and send Christmas eCards to all your friends. That way they still get the message, but also have the opportunity to participate in a great Christmas cause.

Now, that’s what I call a Christmas gift!

FOR BLOGGERS: If you would like to support WaterAid this year, you can find more detail here. Or leave a comment and I will put you in contact with the team responsible.

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Mainstreaming Social Media

While I normally don’t like using nouns as verbs (perhaps I am linguistically conservative?), I quite like the word “mainstreaming”. It implies that social media is in a state of transition where widespread acceptance and uptake is occurring with the general public. 

Paul Chaney suggests that the rising popularity of social media, while strong, will still take some time to become fully integrated into marketing practices. Interestingly, the social technographics profiling from Forrester shows that consumer adoption levels are high, especially in the “spectator” category – but this reinforces the sense that innovation is being driven not by business but by consumers in their quest for creative interactivity and engagement.

In Australia, Forrester’s Steven Noble’s recent analysis indicates that only 24% of Australians DON’T use social media in some way.


Peter Kim has a great post over at MarketingProfs providing some excellent insight into what these figures mean for bloggers and/or social media consultants:   

On the upside, it’s more likely now than before that:

  • You, your customers, your prospects, and your competitors are reading and writing blogs
  • Better tools to interact with the medium exist for reading, filtering, authoring, and tracking
  • You can say the word "blog" in conversation without feeling silly

On the downside, it’s more likely now than before that:

  • Spam related to your business interests lives in "splogs"      
  • Traditional marketing approaches will find new ways to make consumers hate the medium
  • Your "regular" friends know what you mean but still think blogging is for geeks

For marketers still finalising their budgets for 2009, I would recommend setting aside a small experimental budget for social media. Hive off 5% or 10% of your MEDIA budget and contact EXPERIENCED agencies and consultants (email me if you need recommendations).

With pressure to perform in tough economic times, it’s time all marketers stop ignoring the spaces in which consumers are ALREADY playing. In this Age of Conversation, it’s time for brands to stop shouting and start participating. Welcome to the mainstream.

Mapping Your Digital Influence

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has recently released the Influencer Handbook (hat tip to Stein Communications). It has sections covering:   

  • Definition of an influencer and influencer marketing
  • Types of influencers
  • Methods to engage and thank influencers
  • Guidelines for influencer self-regulation
  • Bibliography of influencer communication research and practice

The guide is well timed as it provides me with a framework for thinking about influence. Over the last week I have done quite a bit of reading around this topic, absorbing the smart thinking of Mike Arauz, Dina Mehta, Allan Young and Julian Cole and even revisiting my bookshelves.

Why Nothing Ever Gets DoneYears ago, I read Bob Cialdini’s, The Psychology of Influence. I remember being impressed from the very first lines where he states “I can admit it freely now. All my life I’ve been a patsy”. Ever since that first reading, I have been interested in the way in which influence can be created, managed and employed. It might even be argued that marketing is all about using the “weapons of influence” to achieve business outcomes.

However, in the Age of Conversation, such naked techniques are easily spotted and counteracted. As consumers it is easy to research and receive unmediated commentary from a business’ other customers, suppliers and even employees. We can ask questions, find answers and make decisions independently of a brand’s best marketing efforts. Interestingly, it is Cialdini’s concept of “social proof” – a technique used so effectively AS a marketing tool that is the undoing of this “old style” influence.

Social proof is where an expected behaviour is prompted and reinforced in the moment in which we experience it. An example is “canned laughter” in a sitcom – we hear the pre-recorded laugh track, realise it is fake, but engage in laughing anyway (and research shows that we laugh longer and more often with canned laughter). But in a networked world, we are connected to, and in some instances by, mob behaviour. The difference is, that in a social network, we actually CHOOSE to participate – to use what Mark Earls and and Alex Bentley call “directed copying” – enacting social proof while simultaneously demonstrating another person’s influence:

If we view the influentials phenomenon as a special case of directed copying, then usually it is we who decide to copy an individual, creating their perceived influence in the process.

Mark and Alex suggest that rather than focusing on HOW ideas spread, we should look at WHY (check out their excellent paper entitled “Forget influentials, herd-like copying is how brands spread”). By understanding the two types of copying (directed and random) we can produce content and strategies that are designed to facilitate the type of behaviour we want to see.

Furthermore, by understanding the dynamics of various social networks, it is possible to not only map the behaviours that you want to establish, you can also shape and amplify them – which is where marketing really becomes interesting.

All this, of course, leads back to the need for good planning, for focused insight, and strategy that takes into account the nuances of digital and social behaviour. Perhaps all this talk of influence really is overrated – and we should look at what I called the Promiscuous Idea and leave the tribes to sort it out amongst themselves!

How Mo Can You Go?

This November, in support of the Movember campaign around men’s health, I am growing a moustache. Yes, it is itchy. Yes, even a little scratchy. And maybe slightly embarrassing. The good thing is, that I am not alone. I am joined in this endeavour by a team of like-minded "mo bros" led ably by our furry captain, Jye Smith.

All donations go towards research into depression and prostate cancer — and they are tax deductible.

How Mo Can You Go? on

Please remember, ONE in SIX men are affected by depression at some point in their lives, and over 2900 Australian men die of prostate cancer each year. These are men like your brother, father, uncle and best friends. Even a donation of $2 will help make a difference.

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Life at the Edge of Your Brand

One of the most interesting aspects of social media is the way in which communities adopt technologies. For in the consumer space, which is different from the enterprise, an application is not determined by its functions, but by its use. This means that while social media technologies are designed for a certain type of use and/or function, this can often be discarded by those who begin to use it. Twitter is a great example.

When Twitter first appeared, it asked a simple question (“what are you doing?”) and encouraged us to share our current activities with our network of friends and followers. But shortly after launch, the communities using Twitter transformed it … they realised that Twitter was far more useful as a way of building conversations, maintaining relationships and sharing facts, links and data with their personal communities.



What Twitter was experiencing was “life at the edge of their brand”.

On the one hand there is the product of service that a business has spent time and effort creating. On the other is the population of consumers you are hoping will engage with your offering. And in the place where the two collide is the brand – but this is not your grandfather’s brand – it is the brand that is created in the flux and chaos of interaction between your offering and those who consume, use, engage, love or hate it.

Those consumers who commit to your product in a profound way, come close to the heart of your product. They know it intimately. They understand its features and its benefits. These people live close to the Arc of Satisfaction.

However, those people who take your product into THEIR hearts live on the Arc of Experience. For these people, your product/service and your brand is inextricably linked in the ways in which they live their lives. Think iPhone.

What is clear, and what is important for marketers to understand is this – both consumers and brands are behaving in transformative ways – facilitated by social media. As Dina Mehta says:  

The pace of change is really rapid, both in the behaviour of brands on the web and in terms of customer behaviour.

The challenge for marketers is to be able to deal with this changing landscape – to sense and respond. It requires continuous digital strategy. And in a difficult market (and let’s face it, when has it been an EASY market?), those who are able to sense and respond to such changes are likely to fare better. The question to ask yourself is “where are your consumers – and do they live at the edge of your brand or someone else’s?”.

UPDATE: There is a great extension of this discussion of this topic at the Italian NinjaMarketing blog. I used Google translate to explain it to me 😉

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Concert Time at The Factory – Article Thirty-Nine

a39_one Each day we get closer to the month of never-ending Christmas parties … but before we get too excited about the year end festivities, I would like to remind you to set aside the afternoon/evening of November 23 – especially if you live in Sydney. From 4pm, Sydney schoolgirl, Isadore Biffin, is hosting a concert at The Factory in Enmore, featuring some great bands and speakers – with the aim of raising money for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in The Congo.


You may have seen the recent news reports on the situation in Africa. The problems seem massive – 250,000 refugees on the march, potential famine, war. But it is important to remember, there are real people behind these figures – little kids, mothers, families – all struggling to survive. But you CAN make a difference.


By attending the Article Thirty-Nine concert, you will be supporting a cause that will change the lives of kids in Africa. Not only will you have a great time, listen to some great music and be inspired by passionate speakers, you will be helping to make a difference. Tickets are only $20 … and absolutely all profits make their way to Africa. Hope to see you there!


Oh, and there is even a Facebook group. You can find it here!

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Influence and Popularity in Social Media

When I started writing this blog I sought out the experts. I looked for various posts on how to write a blog, how to make my posts interesting to my readers (all three of them) and how to increase traffic. I searched Technorati for marketing related blogs and topics, wrote comments across the web and tweaked my blog design. At some point I happened across Mack Collier’s list of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs and my jaw dropped. I could not understand how someone could possibly build such high Technorati authority rankings – it seemed a world away from where I was in my thinking.

This list became my essential reading list. I used each of those blogs to learn, and their authors generously engaged me in their discussion of topics. But as the number of blogs within the marketing or social media category has exploded, these lists have begun to be used as an indicator of not just popularity but influence. But measuring influence is quite difficult … after all, not all of our interactions are online. How do we measure the off-web commentaries and discussions that occur in agencies around the world? Or worse, how do we determine how far and wide our thinking (words and images) reaches beyond the ever expanding edges of the web? (For example, I am sure I have seen David Armano’s influence ripples in presentations given by people who have never even visited a blog!)

There is a very real difference between blogs that I would consider popular and those that I would consider influential. As Shel Israel points out, there is a significant difference:

Suppose I were a political blogger and I had an audience of just three followers. Those followers were very engaged because they read everything I posted. They commented often. They took what I said and quoted me to other people in other conversations. But there were only three of them. Therefore I would be ranked lower than chopped liver in all the ranking systems. The catch is that those three readers were the President of the US, and the heads of China and Russia.

Influence, in this example, requires an intimate understanding of your readership – after all, we don’t know WHO reads unless they admit it by commenting or sending an email. In thinking through the concept of influence, and what I have been calling the Democracy of Action, it seems to me that influence is built on twin axes of popularity and reputation (I am borrowing from Gartner’s magic quadrants slightly here). Where your blog’s popularity and reputation are both high, you have “social influence” – and the capacity to create contagion and instigate action on a large scale. However, where you have a popular blog but lower levels of reputation, your blog is likely to fall into the “hype” category. 

Perhaps controversially, I am thinking that these distinctions refer directly to Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties”. Social influence and its impact on action is determined by a large number of “weak ties”. So those blogs which are built around an identity which is well-known to its audience (strong ties) is less likely to carry social influence. These quadrants would appear as shown below.


The “niche influence” and “awareness” categories I fairly self-explanatory. Lower levels of popularity but high levels of reputation indicate influence within niche audiences; while lower levels of both reputation and popularity indicate awareness is low and interaction is emergent. 

How does this thinking play with your own understanding? Am I missing something? Is this too simple? Would love to know your thoughts!

UPDATE: Mike Arauz expands on his comments with a whole post, adding a z-axis to the diagram. And Dina Mehta weighs in, transforming the discussion to encompass the changing behaviours of both consumers and brands.

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Give Me a Microphone and an Audience …

A couple of times a year I have the great opportunity to guest lecture at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management’s MBA program. Run by adjunct professor, Dennis Price (who I met through my blog), it is a fairly jam-packed hour to an hour and a half on the “Business of Web 2.0”. Each time I try to update the talk with relevant facts and figures … but the core remains fairly static, focusing on:

  • An alternative view of marketing – the new B2C – brand to community
  • Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 as a baseline
  • The Age of Conversation 1+2 as a case study
  • What to consider when measuring

Most recently, however, I realised that I had been starting the presentations with too much presumed knowledge. After all, some of those in lecture would have been teenagers when the Cluetrain Manifesto changed the way I looked at strategic marketing. So I added my three minute Interesting South presentation – Cluetrain Through the Eyes of Children to the beginning slides as a way of quickly establishing context. From my point of view, it worked a treat.   


View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: media social)


Another change to the presentation was to allow work to speak for itself. Rather than showing captures and explaining the storyline, I brought up a couple of sites and YouTube clips and let them weave their magic. One of the most compelling examples, for me, is the story of Matt Harding and Stride Gum … and by showing this example it demonstrates the transformative emotional impact that digital stories can have.

Since the talk I have had a number of emails from people in the audience. Some have even registered for Twitter. And if this means one more business person starts to understand the impact and potential of social media, then it feels like that is a mission accomplished!

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What Marketing Students Need To Know – in 140 Characters

One of the powerful aspects of Twitter is that, with the right connections, it creates a powerful, live, expert network. Within hours you can reach well outside the walls of your own business to tap into the experience and insight of others who may well have the knowledge you need to solve a current business problem.

Darryl Ohrt explains that a friend was preparing for a class on PR and decided to tap the collective wisdom of his Twitter network.Brad Ward went ahead and asked the question:

HEY!!!! If you had 133 characters to tell a class of PR college students something, what would it be? Tag it #jr342. Thanks!! And retweet.

The replies that came back apply not just to students of PR (let’s face it, that is all of us), but can be readily applied to any form of marketing.

I like Douglas Karr’s take on reputation and focus on outcomes.


  And I think Allie Osmar’s focus on continuous learning is also important. 


But perhaps the most insightful response was this from Jason Kintzler who acknowledged the changing focus and shape of our industry and the growing influence of non-traditional media. 


Take a look at the full range of responses here.