Social Media is Like Whack-a-Mole

Social media is a world of open doors. Wherever you look, you will see opportunity, challenge and a rush to fill the empty space. Sure you can plug the gap with a Facebook page, a Twitter account or even a blog. But in reality, social media shifts and changes with a surprising velocity. No sooner do you get a fix on the latest suite of applications, tools or approaches than something new pops its shiny head up, grabbing your attention. Meanwhile your recent favourite disappears from view. How quickly can you move? How do you respond? And where do you focus your attention?

In this way, social media is like a game of Whack-a-Mole.

The thing is, when it comes to business, you are approaching social media with a certain agenda. No matter whether your goals or objectives and business strategy direct your focus towards sales, brand building, HR or customer service (or many other touchpoints), you will want to be investing your precious time in a way that delivers against these objectives. This is true – even if one of your objectives is to experiment.

For me, even experimentation is foreplay for a form of operationalisation. I am always thinking, “where does this go next”, or “how can we make this work beyond me – and how do we transfer it to a team”.

But what do you need to consider when it comes to operationalising social media? Well, as promised, Valeria Maltoni has made available her eBook looking through the year ahead. Called Marketing in 2010, this free eBook brings a bunch of leading social media thinkers together to think through what it takes to go from idea to making social media work over and over again. Download the free Marketing in 2010 eBook here.

My chapter is entitled “Social Media is Like Water”, but there is plenty of great thinking, advice and detailed instruction from Jason Baer, Olivier Blanchard, Danny Brown, Mark Earls, Rachel Happe, Jackie Huba, Jonathan MacDonald, Amber Naslund and Shannon Paul. Hope you enjoy it!

Is the Internet Filter Australia’s Berlin Wall?

berlin_The history of the last twenty years of the Twentieth Century were, for me, marked by a millennial fervor that swept through society like a great wave of hope. Watching the Berlin Wall topple, seeing the defiance of Tiananmen Square and even the spontaneous outpouring of goodwill that happened during the Sydney Olympics are moments which shine brightly for me. Each of these were individual but also collective statements that spoke about our desire to connect with one another, to experience and make history with our own hands, and to own the consequences of our actions.

Living in the relatively benign political landscape of Australia has meant that such movements largely pass us by. Wholesale political and ideological change can occur here each four years – at the voter’s discretion. Depending on the mood of the public, we can swing from the reformist centre left position taken by the Keating Government to the deeply conservative position adopted by the Howard Government – and not a drop of blood is spilt, not a single car is burnt in anger, and life resumes under the umbrella of what is essentially a radically transformed ideological agenda.

The reason that such large scale political and ideological change can take place, I believe, is in large part to the robust and open democracy which Australia’s political leaders have built over the last hundred years. Fundamental to this has been the freedom of political thought and expression – backed up by rigorous, independent (and in many instances, judicious) review of government decisions.

The internet filter proposed by Senator Stephen Conroy threatens all this. Thus far, the government have focused their arguments around the highly emotive issue of child pornography. There is no question that access to this sort of material should be prohibited. However, only 32% of the sites listed on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s “blacklist” are related to child pornography. This means that a whopping 68% of sites on the list are there for other reasons – political, ideological, etc – and at the whim of the government in power at the time.

Moreover, the blacklist is NOT available for public scrutiny or independent review. A copy of the blacklist was released on the Wikileaks website earlier in 2009 (a site which is, itself, blacklisted).

In this radio interview with Latika Bourke, former High Court Justice, Michael Kirby suggests that the internet filter may well be the “thin edge of the wedge” when it comes to controlling what the Australian population reads, what it has access to and therefore, how it can behave online.

The internet is, on the whole, a marvellous advance of not only information but also of freedom and of ideas, and of ideas of liberty … we’ve got to just be careful … because if one government, our government, begins to intervene in this, there’ll be other governments that just want to get into it to control the freedom of ideas … ideas which will break down the Berlin Walls of the future. (6:19)

Former supporter and co-author of the original report recommending internet filtering, Michael Flood, has now switched camps. In an interview with Rachel Maher, he suggests that, as a society, we should be having more complex and robust discussions about censorship, access to non-classified material and and the social and educational benefits that accrue through such access:

His discussion of pornography is complex and enlightening and leads us through to the kinds of debate the Federal Government and civil society should be aiming to have: debates that could look simultaneously and intelligently at both harm reduction and access for adults to sexual material online.

But as pointed out by this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, content which is legal for viewing and consumption will also be filtered. This includes information which, while sometimes mildly confrontational, has social and cultural value, including websites which provide:

  • Harm minimisation information for recreational drug users
  • Space for the discussion of gay and lesbian sexuality
  • Analysis of the geopolitical causes of terrorism

More detail and reading on the internet filter

There are plenty of websites offering perspectives and ideas, history and analysis on this controversial subject.

What can you do about the internet filter’s impact on our democracy?

Bernard Keane suggests that any letter writing campaign must be far more strategic than many sites suggest. It is not just a matter of bombarding the local member of parliament or Minister Conroy’s office. It’s about carefully crafting our efforts to raise our concerns with a number of departments. The idea is to generate a significant amount of work across multiple offices of the government.

Please read Bernard’s recommendations carefully, but remember to:

  • Carefully craft your letters – don’t use form petitions
  • Draw in multiple departments and policy areas such as the internet filter + Telstra + national broadband
  • Write this letter specifically to your local member of parliament – even if they are a member of the Opposition
  • Write another version of the letter, with a different focus (eg bring in a discussion of Australia Post or issues relating to Education) to Stephen Conroy
  • Write additional letters to individual Federal Ministers asking how the filter will impact their portfolios and the businesses and individuals they represent – Kim Carr for IT, Jenny Macklin for families, Tony Burke for impact on farming communities etc

Above all, be polite. No matter how passionate and frustrated you may be, remain focused on communicating your frustration not simply expressing it.

Any other ideas? Comments?

What Was Your Best Post of the Year?

What was your best post of the year?In the leadup to the holiday season, we often take a moment or two to look back on the year, to take stock and to take a deep breath before turning our attention to the ever approaching future. And while I was thinking about highlighting some of the best posts that I have read this year – I thought I might ask YOU.

Tell me, what was YOUR best post of the year? I don’t mean something you read – but something that you wrote. Go on, don’t be shy. Did you write something that you loved? What was so special about it? And what did your readers think?

You can either drop me an email with a link and an explanation or include it in the comments below. I will publish a full list early in the new year.

Holidays Are a Time for Free eBooks

August 29, 2009Around this time of year we often see the announcement of new books being published, new music being released and new films arriving in the cinemas – all in time for the holiday season. It’s the marketer’s year end rush – our attempt to stake our claim for your attention and your wallet. But this year, there are some differences – with a number of free alternatives bypassing their claim over our hard-earned income, hoping instead to capture our imagination.

Top of my reading list this holiday season are:

Valeria Maltoni is also pulling together a year-end, crowdsourced collection just in time for the holidays. Keep your eyes out for this – it’s due any day now!

With publishing tools now readily available, I am surprised that more brands don’t pull together some sort of publication for their customers at year end. Agencies too. It is a GREAT alternative to the staid Christmas card. And while I know that the last weeks of December are fraught with activity, going that extra step to provide your business stakeholders with an unexpected, branded gift such as an eBook shows that you understand that the new currency is not FREE but all about VALUE.

The Word on Word of Mouth

When Andy Sernovitz initiated me into the Secret and Mysterious Order of Word of Mouth, I was surprised by the bacon bits that came along with the book. Far from leaving a bad taste in my mouth, the revised version of Word of Mouth Marketing, with its updated case studies, worksheets and frank, business focused style was more than a meal.

Andy kicks off the book explaining the four rules of word of mouth marketing:

  1. Be interesting
  2. Make it easy
  3. Make people happy
  4. Earn trust and respect

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Sure, there is a lot here that most marketers will know and understand. But word of mouth is not a campaign. It’s a transformation in the way that brands go about their business. It means, for me at least, placing storytelling and experience at the heart of your interactions with your business stakeholders (from customers to employees and partners to suppliers).

For marketers, the hard work of systematising and operationalising your word of mouth efforts is the challenge. What are the tasks (and resources) required to turn the idea of a “story” into something tangible for your agency or your team? What are the additional line items required to support and amplify word of mouth across your business? For at least some of these questions, Andy provides a range of templates and thought-starter charts. You will love, for example, the Creating Your Action Plan checklist.

Check also Drew McLellan’s review of the book – and take advantage of the discount code for Andy’s upcoming Word of Mouth Supergenius workshops being held in Chicago next week.

Meet the HuffPost Hopenhagen Ambassador

In the leadup to Copenhagen, The Huffington Post has been running a competition to find a citizen journalist to represent the growing worldwide community of people hoping for a global climate agreement known as Hopenhagen. At first only a trickle of submissions came through, but as the deadline approached, bloggers, activists and concerned citizens reached for their webcams and video recorders to stake their claim as the Hopenhagen Ambassador.

Each person was given 60 seconds to put forward their credentials. Voting for each person was then opened – with those receiving the most community votes making a final Top 10. The top 10 was then judged by a worldwide panel (of which I took part) according to originality, creativity and environmental knowledge.

Today, with the conference underway, David Kroodsma has been announced as the winner. He will spend the next week meeting key figures in the climate change debate such as Al Gore and the Mayor of Copenhagen, carrying out interviews, writing blog posts and reporting back via the HuffPost Green site. David’s winning video entry is below.

And in case you missed the other entries, you can see them all here – and you can also see the local entry from Cathie McGinn below. If you have not as yet signed up for Hopenhagen, please consider doing so – for while the focus at present is on the politics, it is up to us all to push our governments to not just reach some form of global agreement, but to carry it through.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

eyedonistAs we get to the fag-end of the year, we tend to see a splurge of posts talking about the trends that happened and the opportunities yet to come. But rather than give these oxygen, I wanted to call out some outstanding posts from the last week that really focus on operationalising your marketing efforts (with particular focus on social media):

  1. Sean Moffitt suggests we should stop denying that we need to engage influencers. I particularly like the fact that he doesn’t just randomly point towards the loud voices in the social media echo chamber, opting instead to focus on the six types of influencers – tastemakers, trendspotters, opinion leaders, experts, grassroots celebrities and social ringleaders. Oh, and he has a great presentation to boot!
  2. In this great post, Amber Naslund explains that sometimes – just sometimes – an organisation (it could be yours) is just not ready for social media. What do you do once you have led your horse to water? You might be surprised at the answer.
  3. Mack Collier, as usual, delivers the goods, showing Three Ways a Company Blog Can Lower Costs for Your Business.
  4. Some brilliant, practical advice from Valeria Maltoni on the power of personal bootstrapping. Particularly useful if you are changing or between jobs.
  5. One of the things I like most about digital media is that it is actionable. Stefano Maggi reminds us that you need to carefully plan for Context vs Distribution.

Measuring the Performance of Social Media Communications

A great presentation from Valeria Maltoni on measuring how your social media communications are PERFORMING. Yes, that's right – not just "ROI" – but actual impact on the things that are important for your business.

View more documents from Valeria Maltoni.

What does this mean?

It means that YOU have to do the hard work of defining which things you want to measure and impact. You need to be actively looking at your BUSINESS STRATEGY to determine which things can remain stable and which things need to change. From there, you put in place a whole range of initiatives (some which include social media) designed to change the behaviour of your target audiences. Again – these audiences are folks that YOU need to be clear about – are you talking employees, new customers, existing customers, partners, suppliers, potential interns …

I know, you are going to ask me "can't an agency do this for me?" Of course they can. But in my view, you want to spend your hard-earned budget on creating value for your audiences. If you understand more clearly who, how and what is interesting, useful and relevant to your audiences, then you can brief your agency to deliver real value to them. It's about planning for context over placement. Remember – the clearer you are in your briefing process, the sharper results you will get. For me, forget "reach and frequency". Show me performance and business impact any day.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

spyHave you noticed that the end of year activities are keeping us all busy? It certainly feels like the busy-ness of business is accelerating in the last month before year-end – and while this is normal, it feels faster, more jam-packed than previous years. Or perhaps I think this same thought each December!

But whether you are busy or not, these five must-read posts will save you a little searching and deliver you some quality information. Enjoy!

  1. Katie Chatfield shares a great chart (and article) that steps you through the process of creating personas. The 10 Steps to Personas by Dr Lene Nielsen helps you link people with stories. Nice.
  2. Tara Hunt reminds us to Measure the Impact, Not the Influence – that is, look at the outcomes that your programs deliver, rather than the raw numbers. Remember, reaching a person interested in what you have to offer is more important than reaching many who are disinterested.
  3. In the lead-up towards the end of the year, many of us are focused on sales. Drew McLellan asks, What Are Your Sales Mistakes Costing You. You may be surprised to find out.
  4. How does recommendation and reputation work? Valeria Maltoni explains the real value of reputation.
  5. And on the topic of people, recommendation and sales, check Ross Dawson’s presentation on The Future of Sales is Social.