Social Media = People + People + People

It seems that almost every day I am involved in or overhear a conversation that asks the question “what is social media”. Invariably there is mention of “users” or “content” … but for all the inclusiveness of the definitions – the definitions sound hollow.

For me, social media is people. It is people who are out there trying to their very best to make a difference in the world of someone else. It’s the people in your business who go out of their way to make your organisation a better place for those who rub up against its thorny edges. And it is the people (the real ones) who share their issues, joys and chance encounters with whoever cares to read them.

But most of all, perhaps, it is the stories that we can share, person to person in amongst the chaos of the working day or in the casual violence of a business conversation – it’s the small things that take us by surprise -that reveal our humanity in an unexpected moment. And it is the shared thought of a moment long ago – where space and time become irrelevant (if only for a moment).

My Favourite Things from kidswithcrayons on Vimeo.

A Drop of JaffeJuice over Dinner?

P1000448July is going to be a busy month. Not only is it birthday month for Jye Smith and I, it is also conference time for the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) which runs July 8-10. Ian Lyons, Mike Zeederberg and I are running a “Dive into Social Media” session on Day 1 – which should be great fun. In fact, Day 1 looks like it will be fantastic. It kicks off with a keynote from Joseph Jaffe on The AND Economy, follows through with some great local and international speakers and then breaks into workshop streams.

But for those of you who just don’t think that one keynote with Joseph Jaffe is enough, here is your chance to squeeze an extra drop of JaffeJuice out of the event … that’s right, we’re talking dinner and drinks! 

If you are interested in coming along on Thursday, July 9, leave a comment below – or register for the twtvite event here (search for Sydney). I will organise a venue once I have some idea of numbers.

The Most Valuable Commodity

Three DollarsTake a look around you. Look across the office where you work. Turn to the colleague across the hall. Walk through the corridors to the warehouse, or to the shopfront. Look in at the staff canteen. Open the doors into the cool rooms that house your business’ computer servers.

What’s the most valuable commodity to your business? What does it look like? Can you describe it in 10 words or less? 

Now think of your home. Think of the most valuable commodity you have there. Does it have a name? A nickname?

So now, think about the name of your most valuable (business) commodity. Is someone, somewhere thinking about your business commodity as their most valuable (personal) commodity? What would you need to do to change that?

Inspired by Kyle Lacey’s post: The most valuable commodity is information.

Creative Sydney and the Truth About Coffee Mornings

Last night I spent the evening at Creative Sydney, a three week festival celebrating the wealth and diversity of the city’s creative talents. I was there to speak on the topic of creative approaches to networking – and in particular, how our coffee mornings have evolved into a vibrant community gathering.

Interestingly, as I arrived, I bumped into Sebastian Goldspink who was part of our original coffee morning brigade. It seemed a fitting and positive omen.

The evening kicked off with a quick get together … allowing the speakers to get to know each other (a little), and then it was into the rapidly filling room complete with smoke machine. Imogen Semmler facilitated the panel, setting the scene for the different types of networking that take place across the city.

creativesydney-piavangelder Pia van Gelder entranced the audience with her unique, geeky style and passion for electronics. As the Overlord of Dorkbot.Syd, Pia creates a space where people who are interested in “doing strange things with electricity” can come together to share ideas, collaborate on projects and showcase their latest inventions. In Sydney, they meet on the second last Tuesday of every month – but check their website for confirmation.

creativesydney-chrismead Chris Mead from Playwriting Australia spoke about the way his small organisation of three people are working across the creative industries to connect like minds and resources. From Broome to Hobart, this small team are transforming the relationships between people, plays and playwrights – and doing so on a shoestring budget. It was particularly fascinating to hear the way play scripts affect the individuals who work on them as well as the communities of which they are a part.

creativesydney-angelabennetts Angela Bennetts runs an event called Even Books. It is “… a regularly occurring night of mayhem themed around a different book each time. Sometimes we have bands, sometimes acting performances, sometimes bingo, sometimes readings. But always booze. Good old booze. Oh, and books.” It was great to see how the event grew from a small cafe setting with book readings to full-blown, themed parties – but what was clear – a tremendous amount of planning and effort goes into making these events a success. There is another one coming up soon (check the Facebook page).

Michael Chrisoulakis from Metro Screen spoke about the way they bring various players in the film industry together. Events are designed to start building creative teams – putting producers and directors in touch with screenwriters and actors and so on. The “speed networking” events are designed to accelerate these types of introduction. The next speed networking event is scheduled for July 7.

Pecha Kucha is a regular meetup for architects and designers – and provides an opportunity for them to showcase their ideas and work. It has a huge global following – and the Sydney event is run by Marcus Trimble. Each presenter is allowed 20 slides – but only 20 seconds per slide. This means that their story must be delivered in 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

My talk was on coffee mornings and how they evolved. You can see it here.

Why Good Ideas Matter

or my entire life I have been in love with ideas. From the moment I could read I was in another world – the world of ideas – and it is the seductive gravity of ideas that continues, to this very day, to pull me towards books, towards blogs and towards people.

As a six or seven year old I was given a bedraggled pile of history workbooks to keep me quiet during the school holidays. Some were used and some were new. Some had covers, while others lay their knowledge bare from the very first page; yet in each and every book I saw promise. And as I began to read, it felt as though my mind was spreading out beyond the horizon.

But it is not just ideas that captured my imagination. After all, I was reading history books – and history is about events, achievement, challenges, outcomes and the stories of success and failure. In each and every chapter I was captured by the ideas of the explorers and enthralled by the way that the execution of their ideas led to astounding success or abject failure – and sometimes death. But the breathtaking aspect of history is the profound change that can sweep through the cultures left in its wake.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), very few of us can have this type of profound change on more than our immediate circle of friends or family. And the more ambitious we are with our ideas, the more resistance we are likely to encounter. In this presentation from the PFSK Good Ideas Salon, Mark Earls explains just how difficult and slow change can be – Heinz, for example, took over 120 years to change the orientation of the label on their sauce bottles.

It is Mark’s interesting take on ideas and the way that they can drive mass change that fascinates me. His well-known book, Herd is a must read for anyone trying to transform the way that we think and the way that we act – but if you are new to Mark’s thinking, this presentation is an excellent primer.

Mark argues that there are five reasons why new ideas matter:

  1. New ideas allow us to test the power and validity of our old ideas. The new ideas provide us a framework and a lens through which we can test the assumptions upon which we have built businesses, brands and successful careers
  2. New ideas help us to explore the future. Even if the ideas that we are considering don’t have longevity, they may actually create the conditions for lasting, transformative change (hint: it is important to play and participate)
  3. New ideas provide you (or your organisation) with hacks for new products. Given that a large percentage of new products fail within the first year (Mark suggests 90-95% in the UK), then new ideas can actually help you solve problems that you have yet to accommodate within your existing product or service portfolio.
  4. Engaging with new ideas allows us to move faster. Known as “memories of the future” (based on the work of Swedish neuroscientist, David Ingvar), our brains are constantly evaluating current information (conscious and unconscious signals) within a context that combines the immediate with “past events, experiences and acquired knowledge”: see Ulf Pilkahn’s Using Trends and Scenarios as Tools for Strategy Development. By working with new ideas we are able to assess and adapt to new, new ideas as they arise. Consider it a form of business agility.
  5. New ideas help improve the financial performance of our businesses – because a large percentage of our economies are based on services businesses, finding ways to engage and promote the social (person to person) interactions that lie at the heart of a services-based economy, we will invigorate and transform not just the way that our organisations operate, but also the network of relationships that surround them.

My view here is that the same conditions are mirrored in the social networking/social media world. Often when people are first introduced to blogs, to Facebook or to Twitter (or all three at once), they are overwhelmed and wonder how it is that they can deal with the avalanche of information. However, it is precisely because of this immersion (and the memories of the future effect in point 4 above) that PARTICIPANTS are able to absorb, assess and respond with ever increasing speed – after a while the shifting landscape no longer appears as dangerous as expected – and the "new" simply becomes the "next" if only for a moment.

Are You Measuring the Right Things?

white scaleWe have a fascination with facts and figures. The Guiness Book of Records is perhaps, the pinnacle of achievement in this sphere – showcasing the remarkable and the banal, cheek by jowl. There is the world’s tallest man, the world’s oldest woman, and the world’s heaviest burger. They are all jammed together in a collection that catalogues our obsessions and our foibles. Each record is given equal footing with the next in line.

But when it comes to marketing, especially online, it’s important to differentiate. It’s important to highlight – and focus upon – those measurements that are most important to your (or your client’s) campaign. This is as important for the future of the work that you do as it is for the agency or client that you work for – for in the constant justification of marketing effort we turn to statistics or various versions of “ROI”. But how well do you understand what the investment is? How well can you explain the underlying business levers that are driving the need to communicate, advertise or connect? Against which top line figure are you measuring your results (and no, it’s not about reach, frequency or recall).

Richard Huntington has an excellent rant on this very subject – be sure to read it all:

So long as the digital community clings to its obsession with accountability over effectiveness it will remain in the unedifying position of creating engaging brand fluff on the one hand and highly measurable but largely pointless direct response advertising on the other. If that sounds like a future to you then fine but I’d suggest changing the fortunes of a client’s business is a finer ambition to hold. And that is going to need proper measurement.

Just because we can measure a broad range of digital interaction doesn’t mean it is worthwhile or even necessary. Understanding the core drivers of your (or your client’s business) will point you in the right direction – but there are simpler ways to find out. Ask the CFO.

Kill Your Website Mark II

A few weeks back, David Armano suggested that it is time to kill your website:

Your website should provide value to all of your users. If you can get them to participate, then do what ever it takes achieve that. In other words, it doesn’t matter if your site looks more or less like a blog, what matters is if you’re doing something to transform behavior from the passive to the active. Participatory behavior leads to better interactions between people, brands, businesses etc. So the real question is—are you designing for participation? Your answer should be, yes. If your Website doesn’t do that, kill it. Then bring it back to life into something that does.

Interestingly, the folks from BooneOakley (via Daria)have transformed their website into a YouTube channel, using some of the interactive features of YouTube to provide the sort of participatory behaviour that David was referring to.

Take a look. BooneOakley are an agency with a sense of themselves and a sense of humour. I love the way they encourage P-L-A-Y . Listen to the “actual” tone of voice used. Think about your own website. Is there something you can learn here? Something of value you can take away? It looks to me like they understand the secret to marketing.

Starting to be an Expert

Beautiful girl reads bookMalcolm Gladwell has suggested that it takes 10,000 hours of dedication to become an expert. But what exactly is “an expert”? Some definitions suggest that it is to do with specialist skill or knowledge; while others indicate that expertise can only be arrived at through practising (ie doing).

Regardless of whether expertise is achieved through research, thinking or “doing”, there is no doubt that reading plays a major part in the claim to expertise. Of course, one must also be able to communicate what you learned from reading, but think about it – how many books would you read a year? And how many blogs? How much of books and blogs (and for that matter, other sources of knowledge such as podcasts, ebooks, youtube videos etc) contribute to your understanding of your specialist skill? How do you translate it to your professional life – or the practise of your passion?

In 2007, a Washington Post survey indicated that the average American read four books a year. So what happens when you increase your quota of learning? What happens if you read one book a month – or 12 books a year. In five years, the average American will have read 20 books, and you will have read 60.

And according to the Pew Internet Study (July 2008), only 24% of American adults read blogs (only 11% read blogs daily). But I wonder how many blogs does this cover? One? One hundred? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Again, what would happen if you increased your consumption of blogs? If you read blogs, you are already consuming more knowledge (or perhaps gossip, cooking tips, renovation ideas etc) than almost 90% of Americans. But what would happen if you double your effort? What if you also WROTE? Or SHARED? Or REINTERPRETED?

While the figures are interesting, the real point about expertise is that it requires effort. No matter whether you are an expert at ADVISING or DOING or even KNOWING a particular topic, you don’t get anywhere without LEARNING first – and may I add, learning CONTINUOUSLY.

I constantly read books and blogs. I consume all manner of media, but I am drawn to the type of knowledge that I can deploy as a SERVICE to others. And at the moment I am reading or re-reading some outstanding books. I have tagged them using I would encourage you to check them out. But for something a little more immediately gratifying, take a spin through my blogroll – it’s all A-grade quality thinking.