Get Some Kindling with Your Chaos

SoCKindle In an interesting move, Amazon have now made it possible to publish your blog direct to the latest Kindle device.

All you need to do is sign-up as a Kindle publisher (and yes, it is ANOTHER new and separate Amazon account), supply your RSS feed details and a picture of your blog, and off you go (well, really, just wait 24-48 hours).

So, if you happen to have a Kindle and want your regular dose of chaos, you can do so by subscribing here. Apparently I get to keep about 60c of the $2 subscription charge – which, when converted is worth about 1000 Australian dollars 😉

Now, all I need is about 500 Kindle subscribers and I may be able to buy myself a Kindle too!

But all joking aside, this is another interesting play into the consumer generated distribution space by Amazon. Some of the big publishers could learn from their clever strategy.

Continuous Digital Strategy

For the last three years or so I have been writing various articles on branding, strategy, social media and general marketing. And I was thinking that I was contributing to a body of knowledge about HOW to go about the hard work of using digital spaces to change the way that people behave. After all, if there is one thing that we, as marketers strive for, it’s changing behaviour.

But then, when I looked back through my digital strategy archive, I was surprised that I could not find anything about continuous digital strategy – or the way that I actually go about the business of creating strategy. You see, for me, strategy is an ever-evolving process which is revisted across the lifecycle of any project. So, perhaps it is more of a spiral than a circle as shown above … but really the key point is that each of these steps are to be touched on in rapid iteration in the planning, execution/implementation and evaluation phases of any project. And the faster you cycle through, the more agile and responsive your work will be.

Let’s take a look at how it fits together.

Objectives: You have to have serious objectives. Your insight process will have delivered you a challenge, and out of that you or your client will have laid out some objectives which need to be met. They may be “fluffy” objectives like “awareness” or “reach” or they may be harder – like “increasing sales 20%” or “200 new customers”.

Audience: Once you know what the company or client expects, it’s time to turn your attention to the need states of your audience. What do they want? What do they expect? What do they aspire to? What is unmet? What do they look, smell and taste like? It’s time to get up close and personal with the folks who pay your bills!

Footprint: Now that you know your audiences in their pungent granularity, you now need to understand their behaviour. Where do they go? What do they do? Where to they spend time and why? This is about walking a mile or two in their shoes. But it also a chance to match the footprints of your brands/products. What overlaps? What doesn’t? Where are the opportunities. And where are the touchpoints that will become valuable as your project grows. You need to map out and understand the nuances of these as they will become launchpads for your conversations (or perhaps, as David Armano would say, they are the places where the skimming stones cause a ripple of influence).

Content: As you may have guessed, for me, this is storytime. Here you start to look at the structures of storytelling that will bridge the gaps you have identified in the earlier steps. What can you do to emotionally engage and entertain? How can you use P-L-A-Y to activate, surprise and delight your audiences?

Converse: This is where your strategy becomes one of amplification rather than shouting. In the two-way or polyphonic space of the web, your strategy needs to help you turn great content that YOU produce into great stories that others TELL on your behalf. This is the Auchterlonie Effect that I have discussed in other posts. It is where social capital (or what Tara Hunt calls whuffie) is both created and spent, accumulated and shared.

Commitment: Once we begin conversing – between the people behind the brand and those who consume it, a whole lot of human strangeness steps in. What happens if we like these people “over there” (on either side)? What are the rules of engagement? How do we get serious about progressing our relationship – moving from transactions to experience – and what does that take on both our parts to come to a mutual understanding?

Measurement: We often think that measurement is difficult. It’s not. What is hard is committing to the numbers and to the metrics. If we have done the hard work of aligning our project objectives with the overall strategic objectives of our businesses, then much of this falls in place. But we also need to follow this through each of the other steps. For example, which audiences are important (or are influential) for your brand/product? Measure it. How much time do they spend on the web and on which sites? Measure it. Which pieces of content will drive engagement (and which pieces need to change and evolve as your project grows)? Measure it. How far do your conversations echo across the web? Measure it. What are the intangibles – and what can be substantiated via research? Measure it.

Now, once you have an iteration complete, race through it all again. Pool your learnings from each stopping point and drive them back through the process. Make your brand better. Make your customer experience more profound. Refine, substantiate and evolve.

For me, this is what digital strategy is all about – not the technology – but getting to people. Making it messy. But making it real.

Twitter for People (not Businesses)

Mark Pollard recently held a meeting where he freely shared his insight and understanding of Twitter with anyone wanting to learn more. Of course, there was no “backchannel” or “tweetstream” for the event as it was a talk for people who have yet to delve deeply into Twitter and the noisy place it can sometimes be.

The event was held at The Leading Edge and coordinated by Kelly Tall. It sounds like there was plenty in-room debate, with Mark describing the audience as falling into five categories:

  1. Social professionals: natural communicators who enjoy networking and talking about what they do.
  2. Banterholics: on Twitter to talk, exchange witty commentary and pass the occasional social judgement.
  3. Lost and confused: ‘someone else made me do it’ – perhaps a bit of social pressure has driven them onto Twitter and they’re trying to work out what to do next.
  4. Looking to mobilise: on Twitter to influence.
  5. Hell nos: outright rejecters of Twitter who see no point or purpose in it.

My personal experience in speaking about Twitter with non-Twitter folks correlates with Mark’s view – that there is definitely a chasm between the committed Twitter users and those who are yet to try or are in the early stages of “testing the waters”. As with any (social) technology, the challenge is how to find value quickly and how to make it easy to assimilate it into your work/private life. With those two barriers out of the way, you can quickly begin to expand your use and your network. In fact, it reminds me of my early blogging experiences.

Mark has made his presentation available which he would love for you to share with anyone who asks the question – Twitter. WTF?

View more presentations from Mark Pollard.

Hey Jude, It’s All About Joy

People who join and sing in choirs get it. People who perform in musicals get it. Bands get it. Record labels (used to) get it. David Armano gets it, as does almost the entire Chinese nation. And perhaps, more importantly, WE get it.

Music, and singing in particular, taps something primal in us. It allows us to transcend the barriers of language and culture. It allows us to see beyond our own prejudices and to become emotionally involved with others. And when we do this en masse, when we sing with a group of others it can be transformative. As Richard Huntington says, “life’s for sharing”.

This is why brands have had a long association with music. It is why finding the “right” song for your campaign is essential – it is a fast-track to engaging with an audience emotionally. Not only that, you draw upon the collective good will (or social capital) of the artists who created the work.

So what happens when you combine all this in a single, large scale public spectacle? What happens when you put the microphone (literally) in the hands of everyday people? And what happens when all of those people start to tell the story of your branded event?

Seek Out Some Volunteering – Volunteering Unplugged

Have you ever volunteered? What did you make of it? Did it work for you? Did it work for the organisation?

 A while back, as part of the Volunteering Unplugged initiative from Seek, I was asked to volunteer my time, energy and ideas to a local non-profit. It just so happened that Annie Le Cavalier from Vibewire Youth Inc had been to our regular coffee morning here in Sydney, so I checked whether there might be a good fit with my skills and what they needed to do.2909448144_c56ae217f1_o_d

What started out as a few hours discussing strategic challenges evolved into a whole lot more. As I got to know Annie and what she and the Vibewire team were trying to do, I realised that there was a great deal of opportunity. Over the years, Vibewire have built an impressive community of passionate and articulate young members and are effectively the unmediated voice of Australian Youth. They provide a platform and the mentoring and experience that helps young people transition into, and become successful in, the workforce.

Since my first volunteer meeting with Vibewire, I have met accountants, social entrepreneurs, students, writers, programmers, marketers and a wide variety of passionate and deeply engaged young people whom I would never have otherwise come into contact with. And it has certainly changed my perception of Gen Y. You can read my brief story here.

And I think that is what volunteering is all about. Sure, it is nice to “give back”, but volunteering is a two-way street. You get a lot “out of” volunteering too. It gives you the chance to hear the stories of others and to participate in their lives in a meaningful way – and because of this, because it becomes personal, volunteering can change the way you look at the world. And it is not all baking scones and visiting people. There are a vast number of non-profits who need business help, marketing support and technology assistance – and a few hours from you could really help them get back to the task of helping others. So have a think about volunteering some of your time.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the stories of other bloggers who took the Volunteering Unplugged:

Life in Mono , Firebug Theme , Miss McMuffin , Autumn Leaves , , Sheila’s Wonderings , The life of an Audit Diva , Adspace-Pioneers , Corporate Engagement , Wonderwebby , Consumer Psychologist , Imaginif

Thanks to Julian Cole for getting me involved!

The Dialup Guide to Blogging

dialupbloggingbook When I first started writing a blog about three years ago, I found myself constantly explaining the strange phenomenon of “blogging”. I would talk about the excitement of publishing your own ideas, commenting on the blogs of others and the buzz that comes when you begin to shift from a readership of one to 10 or 20 or 30 or more. In turn, I would be met with blank faces. You see, blogging is hard to understand from the outside. It is fundamentally about participation.

Since that time, things have changed – a little. I no longer have to explain what a “blog” is – and I am often asked ABOUT my blog, rather than being asked WHY I write a blog. And increasingly, my friends and family are thinking about establishing their own blogs, which means that they turn to me for advice.

Over the last few months I have spent quite a lot of time playing with WordPress, setting up new blogs and explaining how blogging software, domain names and social profiles fit together. I have explained the process of setting objectives, writing “About” pages and getting into the rhythm of writing.

Finally, I turned to the draft of a book that I had begun months ago – The Dialup Guide to Blogging. I had written this simple guide after I moved house, only to find that the broadband access that I was used to, was not on offer in my new premises. Months of dialup access transformed my approach to writing and reading blogs – and I thought I’d jot down some of the lessons I learned. Increasingly, I found myself printing this out and sharing it with friends to help them get started.

So I thought I would turn this brief guide into something useful to a wider audience. This brief, practical guide is now available for purchase via Lulu. It comes in a paperback and a downloadable (eBook) version – and could well be the best $10 you have ever spent (even if I do say so myself).

The book takes you through a series of steps that will make your life as a dialup blogger much easier:

  • Chapter 1 — Knowing Your Objectives: Blogging is much harder work than it first appears. By asking yourself some serious questions you will be able to frame your blog in a way that is valuable to you as well as to your readers.
  • Chapter 2 — Welcome to Your Domain: Looks at some of the basic elements of web domains — what you need to think about and how you go about getting a “domain” of your own.
  • Chapter 3 — Setting Up Your Blog/Website: Helps you set up your website — either for free or for fee.
  • Chapter 4 — Setting Up Your Social Web Identity: Looks at a variety of ways to create your social web identity, suggesting sites and tools that will make your dialup life easier
  • Chapter 5 — Writing Your First Posts: Is about writing your first posts, establishing a publishing rhythm and finding “your voice”.
  • Chapter 6 — Making Blogging Easier: Explains where you can find ideas for your ideas — that is, how you can find topics to write about, and some of the practicalities of blogging.
  • Chapter 7 — Out and About in the Blogosphere: This last chapter looks at contributing to ongoing conversations and determining where best to direct your reading efforts.

Now, if someone asks you what they need to do to get started with blogging, you can simply send them this link – or better yet – buy a copy for them as a gift. Enjoy!

Vibewire and the Five Cs of Innovation

The buzz was unmistakeable. From the minute I opened the door and walked into Vibewire Youth Inc’s Enterprise Hub, I knew that this was going to be a coffee morning to remember. This final live event in the week-long e-Festival of Ideas, billed as the FastBreak Breakfast, was bringing together five of Australia’s leading young innovators to kick-start a morning of conversation.

Interestingly, the whole festival was held in conjunction with the Australian Innovation Festival which is being built around the Four Cs of Innovation – collaboration, creativity, commercialisation and connection. In speaking with the Co-Director of Vibewire, Mary Nguyen, it was clear that there was something missing in the way that the Australian Innovation Festival was framing innovation – and what was missing was the voice of youth. With the stroke of a pen, Mary added to the Four Cs a single word – “Conversation” – and the tone was set.

Over 70 people braved the early morning traffic to hear Jye Smith talk creativity, Scott Drummond make connections, Isadore Biffin dare us to collaborate, Elias Bizannes challenge our understanding of “commercialisation” and Matt Moore to scare us into conversation. From these brief, four minute speeches, the audience gravitated to breakout areas across the Enterprise Hub space to chat, share ideas and network.

The speeches were captured via Ustream … but the real value was in being there. Hopefully you can make the next one!

Ten Questions to Mark 3000

if only you were a little smaller I'd eat you aliveSome time ago I made a deal with myself – that when my blog hit the 3000 comment mark, I would ask the person who contributed comment 3000 to write a blog post. That “lucky person” was Angus.

But rather than do a guest post, Angus suggested that we play battleships and chat. But between client meetings, late nights and general busy-ness, we have not been able to get together -  so the next best thing – this list of questions was sent through. And I am only just now getting around to posting it – sorry Angus! But somehow, I have ended up writing my own guest post (note to self: find other guest bloggers):

1.  What have you learned about people from communicating with them on Twitter?

People share surprisingly intimate details of their lives via Twitter. I don’t know whether this is a genuine desire to connect, a symptom of our culture of self-performance or a confession – but it is definitely fascinating. As a result, I have learned that people are far more generous and more open online than they often allow themselves to be in “real life”.

2.  Why do people try and tell me how to use twitter?  No-one told me how to use Facebook – I could decide to have as many or as few friends as I wanted and share whatever information I wanted.  Why do people seem to think you should use twitter 'their' way? 

I think there are two aspects to this. First, there are people who think they might make some money from providing advice or consultancy (or just drive traffic to their website). Second, it is human nature – we become so caught up in our own lives and interests that we think everyone should think the way we do. This also happens with new babies and with holiday snaps.

3.  Do you think 'ambient intimacy' could breed laziness or complacency, or is it enriching relationships?

I think we are already experience laziness in our relationships anyway. We can blame our work schedules or our commitments or a million other things, but this trend towards personal isolation has been happening since the 50s. Like any relationship we only get out what we put in and online relationships are no different to offline relationships.

4.  Do you think online relationships have made us more or less tolerant offline? 

Because online relationships are traceable (ie you can’t hide), I think this is driving some change in our tolerance levels. If we are horrible to work with, but “nice” online, it eventually catches up with us (and vice versa). Thanks to Google our reputation precedes us.

5.  Do you think the nature of online conversation is ever different in Australia to other parts of the world and why?

People from different cultures experience online identity and conversation in different ways. Australians, for example, participate in ways which are different from Americans, which is different from folks from India, China or Germany. This is not really unexpected – we would scarcely arrive in another country and expect it to be the same as home (why else after all would we travel?).

6.  Name three people who inspire you at the moment.

I have been very fortunate over the last year to fall into a circle of friends who inspire me with their generosity and the simple way that they care for each other. Jye Smith, Julian Cole and Scott Drummond make me optimistic for the future.

7.  What gets your goat the most at the moment?

People who tell others how to use Twitter.

8.  What's the biggest benefit of storytelling in your view?

A good story connects us with the emotion of life. Or as Kafka wrote, it is “the axe for the frozen sea inside us”. When hit with the axe, all pretence falls away. We cannot hide. I love that.

9.  Does Twitter help or hinder with storytelling?

Having access to pens and paper doesn’t make us a great writer – so too with Twitter. In the hands of a great storyteller, Twitter can be a marvel.

10.  When are you going to visit Marcus in Germany and will you help him steal Armano's cowboy hat? 

I was hoping to have visited Marcus by now. I really expected to visit Germany for work last year – but it never happened. And while I don’t mind travelling for work, I also feel guilty about having a carbon footprint the size of a small European country. We may need to maintain our ambient intimacy for the foreseeable future.

As to Dave’s hat, I believe it is under constant security. But given the chance, I will snaffle it!

The Tribes Speak: Vibewire’s e-Festival of Ideas

e-festlogo2009 Today sees the start of Vibewire Youth Inc’s e-Festival of Ideas – a week-long celebration of youth innovation. Focusing on four topic areas – politics, human rights, the economy and Generation Y – the e-Festival, now in its sixth year – aims to generate conversation among young people across Australia – and is using online forum technology to do so.

The forums have guest panellists organised to keep the debate going, and a hot topic list to get started includes:

  • Is there an upside to the current economic downturn?
  • How much do online profiles impact (or create) jobs?
  • What’s missing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
  • How are Facebook and Twitter making a social change?
  • How is the 24-hour news cycle affecting politics?
  • Is the quest to save the environment really about politics and power?

The guest panellists, drawn from all quarters of society, include:

To get a sense of how some of these conversations may evolve, take quick listen to Traci Fenton’s view of workplace democracy.

This year, as part of the e-Festival, Vibewire will also host some LIVE events – allowing forum participants to meet face-to-face (and don’t forget that includes our Friday Coffee Morning this week at Vibewire):

    What Innovators, creatives, activists and everyone else. Meet, drink, talk.
    When 7pm, Wednesday May 6th
    Where Vibewire Enterprise Hub, 525 Harris St, Ultimo NSW

    What 5 speakers on the 5 Cs of innovation: Collaboration, Connectivity, Creativity, Commercialisation & Conversation. Also available on U-Stream & Twitter (use #efest to join the conversation).
    When 8am to 10am, Friday May 8th
    Where Vibewire Enterprise Hub, 525 Harris St, Ultimo NSW

    What A treasure hunt throughout the city, using technology to collect items. Players will challenge their perspective on e-Festival topics.
    When 10am – 5pm, Sunday May 10th
    Where Start at Vibewire Enterprise Hub, 525 Harris St, Ultimo

To get started with the e-Festival:

I look forward to chatting with you!