A Cup of Chaos #3

Sometimes bad news is hard to hear. Sometimes you just don't want to engage with what the world is telling you. So, for everytime that happens, you may want to take the approach advocated by Bianco Footwear. Now, if only I could find a maker of black, pointy shoes, I'd be set.

The Benefits of Community

Many businesses ask whether there is value to building or participating in communities. But this is, in my view, fundamentally the wrong question. After all, the communities are already in existence – people of like minds, with common interests, fascinations or even passions gravitate towards each other. They find a sense of purpose. And they talk about you, your business and your brands whether you want them to or not.

Now, I don’t want to flippantly claim that return on investment is unnecessary – but I do want you to consider HOW you view your business ecosystem. And rather than calculating the return on investment that you want to make, try to determine the COST of irrelevance.

Online communities, if well considered, managed and supported can transform many business processes. And because they are fundamentally human, they unleash creativity and innovation in unpredictable ways. But, really, we know this already – we have been tapping into our personal networks for years (for sales, leads, new jobs etc) – the real opportunities come with the scale that comes from digitising these networks.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the participants of a vibrant community. This short video on SAP’s Business Process Expert community demonstrates the diversity, value and robust nature of communities. Wouldn’t you just love to have people speaking about your brand in the same way?

You Can’t Touch Twitter

A couple of months ago I was surprised to see a name appear on my Twitter timeline. It was Stephen Fry. He was, in fact, the first celebrity that I would be interested in following.

Then a short time later, another celebrity name started people buzzing. The questions were asked “is @mchammer the REAL MC Hammer”? And as this appearance on Mike Volpe’s Hubspot TV shows, @MCHammer certainly uses Twitter personally – listening, interacting and promoting his new project, DanceJam.

But as Twitter starts to mainstream and the user base grows, it becomes ever more difficult to manage those who you listen to and interact with – which of course, depends on your stage of Twitter Commitment. If you are starting out, you can learn much from Amber Naslund’s excellent guide. But imagine that you are MC Hammer who has about 125,000 followers and is following over 25,000 people in return. How do you cope with the torrent of digital information that streams past you at an astonishing rate? How do you interact, engage or dare I say it, converse? As Cath points out, Twitter is not a gateway drug – you only get out what you put in – and clearly, MC Hammer is deriving value from Twitter not only as a broadcast tool, but as a way of interacting with people. How does he do it and still see value?

I have a much smaller volume of data, links and followers to contend with – and yet it can appear, at first blush, overwhelming. With around 2700 followers, I also follow-back 2300 or so people – this generates thousands of messages each day. To cope with this, I have an iterative strategy – process->tool+process. This is how it works.


As I have mentioned to Iain McDonald previously, I have what Anne Zelenka calls a bursty process. I work very well with the flat knowledge networks afforded by twitter and other online tools at my disposal and have found a way of making discontinuous productivity work in my favour:

We used to talk about two steps forward and three steps back, and so on, but today it’s more like 50 steps sideways and 2000 steps forward. Networked, social-based opportunities are so explosive today than when we pursue them we’re flung forward at pace.


For sometime I have been using TweetDeck. It provides the functionality that Twitter itself does not yet provide. But I use TweetDeck in a particular way.

The far left column contains the messages from all 2300 people that I follow. It refreshes approximately every four minutes; so as you may imagine it flies by at quite a pace.

TweetDeckThe second column is labelled “smart folks”. These are the people that I know and/or whose judgement I trust. These people help filter the twitterstream for me. This column refreshes more slowly.

The third column captures all instances of my twitter handle – servantofchaos. So I see when someone replies to me, or mentions me. It only refreshes every 10-12 minutes.

The fourth column is for direct messages and it refreshes every 15 minutes or so. And additional columns carry particular search terms that are important to my work. They change from time to time, but are an incredibly useful way of monitoring any mention of your product or service.

With my bursty work ethic, I take notice of direct messages as they arrive. This normally works out to be once an hour or so. I quickly also check replies and the smart folks for topics that may be useful or important for me. Once an hour, usually at the top of the hour (or when I need a break from a task), I scan the first column. I look for trending topics and repeated retweets and also scan my search terms. If while scanning I notice that someone asks a question that I can answer, then I do so. Sometimes I retweet a message or respond.

That’s It!

By working in this way, I am able to effectively manage a relatively large network (by my personal standards). I also am able to derive significant value from my interactions with this community. But does this touch what MC Hammer has to deal with? I doubt it. But I hope it helps you @TransformerMan.

How To “Add Value”

I remember a performance review early in my career. I was looking for constructive feedback, wanting to know where I could improve the way that I worked and what particular steps I could take to gain a promotion or better conditions in the following year. But all my manager could respond with was “add value”. And the further I pushed this topic, the more I realised that he really did not know what he was talking about. He was simply reverting to “corporate speak” to avoid giving me a pay rise.

In the world of marketing, there is also a lot of talk about “adding value”. But what does this mean? What are the practical steps that we can take to deliver this "value" to our clients? How do we work as agencies to transform the experiences of consumers? Both Sean Howard and Paul Isakson point out this great presentation by John V Willshire that takes us down the path of creating and delivering value.

What shape does this take? What can we honestly do to transform the work that we as marketers or agencies do.

John’s approach is to look at both the history and future of communities, by understanding the dynamics by which communities come together. The important aspect of this, for me at least, is that the focus is on the co-creation of context – which means that we need to strategically consider context over placement.

But as the focus of this presentation is about how we engage communities – whether they are business communities (which gravitate towards brands or products) or local (geographic) groups and so on. John suggests that there are four clear areas where we should focus our added value efforts:

  • Do something that is useful for people
  • Entertain people
  • Educate people
  • Connect people 

This presentation positions the brand at the very centre of the consumer experience, but Sean suggests that this misses the true opportunity. Rather than pre-empting Sean’s thinking around this, I will wait to see what he comes up with. But I have a feeling that it centres around two things: passion and social judgement. The anticipation is delicious.

What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?

aisha It is one thing to talk about telling your brand story, but quite another to roll this out comprehensively within a business. It is even more surprising when a business encourages and empowers their employees to creatively engage with the brand AS a story. But this is exactly what Australian broadcaster, SBS, has done.

SBS focus their broadcasting as well as their messaging and brand advertising around the tag line “six billion stories and counting …”.

Last night, after the NSW Knowledge Management Forum on Online Communities, I met Aisha Hillary. (BTW both Jye Smith and Niina Talikka share their excellent notes and insight from the forum.) We got talking about her business card and how its creation became a personal challenge to every employee. You see, rather than placing contact details directly under her name and position, Aisha’s business card also shares her own, personal story:

Aisha means LIFE and that is why I make the most of everyday and believe you miss 100% of the opportunities you never take.

Apparently, some people focus their short sentence-long story on their job and the outcomes they hope to achieve – like a personal mission statement. Others reflect their collaborative nature. But, as we learned with The Age of Conversation, committing text in a printed format is far more daunting than blogging. After all, with a blog you can always delete or edit your work – but once it is printed, your ideas, thoughts and words are released into the world without recourse to change.

I wonder, if you had to commit it to writing, what would be the one sentence that defines you? In my recent contribution to Sean Howard’s Passion Economy eBook, I was able to whittle this down to a single magical word. Can you?

UPDATE: But imagine if your business card was like the one shown on John V Willshire's post?

For Startups: From Zero to Brand in 48 Hours

The energy around a startup, whether it is technology related or focused on social enterpreneurship, is invigorating. Even a simple question to the founder will elicit a torrent of words about the idea, the business model and how far they are from launch. The passion is palpable and contagious.

But one of the challenges of any new business venture is reaching your audience – and once you have done that, to convert them to ongoing, loyal customers. This is easier said than done. For even the best, most innovative of offers can fall flat without the level of take-up that secures “critical mass”. And this is where marketing comes in (actually, if you are able to manage it, you will have a good marketing person involved in some way very early on).

Peter Corbett has put together this great presentation that leads you through the starting steps of brand building. Sure, you may need a marketing consultant to help you refine elements that you see here, but, clearly Peter’s presentation provides an accelerated framework for branding any new business.

Zero To Brand in 48 Hours from Peter Corbett on Vimeo.

Implementing Web Technologies to Transform Organisations

To Go where... ?This week, a one day executive forum on Enterprise 2.0 – is being run here in Sydney. Building on Ross Dawson’s ongoing exploration and analysis of the application of web technologies to organisational structures and processes, it combines panels, case studies and workshops in what sounds like a fluid and energetic day.

With local case studies and a host of local and international participants, it promises to be a great primer for executives wanting to learn what, where and how to start with an Enterprise 2.0 initiative. And for only $800, it could be the best investment you make this year. You can register here.

A Passion for Business

Some time ago, Sean Howard invited me to contribute to a group writing project. Inspired by Saul Kaplin, the idea was to gather a bunch of folks to write about The Passion Economy – what it means to us personally and professionally.

I am in excellent company, with Scott Suthren, Ellen Di Resta, Charles Frith, Mike Wagner, Mack Collier, Mike Arauz, Katie Chatfield, Alan Wolk, Peter Flaschner and Matthew Milan all contributing as well.

You can download the eBook from Sean’s site, or view it on Scribd. I hope you enjoy it!

Vote For My Sister

Hamilton Island WhitsundaysIt is more than likely that you have heard of Tourism Queensland’s best job in the world campaign. Surprisingly, my sister decided to go ahead and apply. This is where we differ … she’s an outdoor girl. She’s worked on boats – really big boats. She sails, snorkels and seeks outdoor adventure.

Of course, that means that she works overseas. All the time.

So, it would be kind of nice if she was a little bit closer to home. Maybe, on an island that I could visit. It would be great if you could vote for her.