The Common Sense of Social Media

Are you old enough to remember the people who ran the corner shop? Do you even remember a time when there WAS a corner shop?

What about a milk man? Or a baker who home delivered?

These were people who knew your name. They knew where you lived. Their kids went to school with your kids. It was a time when communities weren’t something you engaged with online – it was something you lived in.

And yet for all the change that the shift to digital has landed on our shoulders – social media feels nostalgically utopian. It’s optimistic – often in the face of trolling behaviour and barely concealed bigotry. But it is also FAMILIAR.

In real world communities we long ago learned how to deal with unacceptable behaviour – and yet we seem to forget this in the digital domain. But if social media teaches us anything it is that we are accountable for our words and our deeds – for with every click, like comment and update, we leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that lead us (and others) home.

In the corporate world, our employees traverse the web like modern day, digital Hansels. There are breadcrumb trails emblazoned across the webservers of the world. Your brands, products and services trail along in the wake of the words and deeds of your employees.

Once upon a time, the shopkeepers knew where their customers lived. These days it is the other way around. Social media has turned the outside world-in and the inside world-out. And yet many organisations are hopelessly unprepared for the digital world that is already upon them. As this infographic from Mindflash shows, 76% of companies do not have a clearly defined social media policy.

The solution is simple. Get help from the outside and build capacity inside. It’s not a fairy tale and there’s no silver bullet. It’s just common sense in the service of the common good.


CMO to CIO – It’s Time We Talked

When we crowdsourced the first The Age of Conversation book back in 2008, the idea of working from the outside-in was untested. Over 100 marketing innovators from 15 countries shared their thoughts and early experiences and Drew McLellan and I produced a book that would go on to create a community, showcase the early adopters and leading social media practitioners and ultimately raise around $50,000 for charity.

People like David Berkowitz wrote about participation and its ephemeral nature in a connected world. Toby Bloomberg peered into the future, suggesting that business was personal and that technology is fueling emotional engagement. And Katie Chatfield told brands to prepare themselves for a party.

Several years on, however, how many brands are ready to party? How many can scale their digital interactions into some form of customer engagement? And how many are prepared to turn conversations into something more than a link or a like?

As this infographic from Socialcast shows, many businesses continue to restrict access to social media in the workplace. At the same time, social marketing agency Awareness suggests that better customer engagement was a top business objective for social media.

  • Social Media Governance a Major Concern for CIOs: The gap between the business objectives and needs of two vital organisational units – technology and marketing appear at odds. Robert Half Technology’s survey of 1400 CIOs indicates that governance concerns are high on the CIO agenda – citing security, legal liability and bandwidth as reasons for blocking social media.
  • Social Media Generates Productivity and Creativity Payoffs: The “micro breaks” offered by social media may actually increase productivity. But this pales into insignificance against the business value of bringing the outside-in. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report suggests that cross-enterprise collaboration is estimated to unlock in excess of $900 billion across four industries.
  • CMO to CIO – Let’s Talk Timing: The competing needs of the CMO and CIO are often seen through the lens of conflict. Customer demands and revenue expectations drive a marketing agenda while risk management, compliance and governance occupy the minds of the CIO. Yet, the opportunity for collaboration exists. CMOs need to understand the challenges of governance and technology and CIOs need exposure to the “front office”. The answer lies in planning and timing. And having the right conversation.


Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

5MustReads Some weeks, reading across the web can feel light on. At other times, it feels like there is an explosion of critical thinking and devastating insight.

Last week, it was the latter – with dozens of great articles challenging perceptions and charting a path into the future. These are the best five:

  1. Following your passion can lead to a great career – but it takes time. And it takes stamina. Cal Newport suggests there is a way to solve Gen Y’s passion problem.
  2. There’s a difference between building buzz and building community – and as Augie Ray found out, Alyssa Milano can retweet you and you don’t even get a lousy t-shirt
  3. A vital element of digital marketing is content. But our understanding of content is also changing – and continuing experimentation will yield new categories in the years ahead. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have been at the forefront of content innovation and have identified “digital transformation as the biggest marketing challenge”. Their vision is to “develop new products that lead audiences into a new digital future”. See the full speech here.
  4. On the subject of content, Neil Perkin explains what it really means for businesses to not only “think like a publisher, but plan like a publisher”. Great article on the 70, 20, 10 Content Planning Model.
  5. The juggernaut that is Dreamforce dominated a lot of digital marketing conversation last week. This post by Dion Hinchcliffe summarises the big themes around social business, cloud computing and the future of work.

Don’t Like Me – Hire Me: Recruiting Goes Social

The 2012 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey reports that 92% of US companies have used social media to identify talent and potential employees. The survey also indicates that 43% of companies using social recruiting have seen an increase in candidate quality – with 73% successfully hiring.

Increasingly this means that personal brands and employer brands are colliding online – well before an interview or conversation takes place. This will impact both the employer and the individual job seeker in positive and challenging ways – with all having to come to grips with the potential and impact of digital marketing as the global economy recovers and the war for talent resumes.

Social Networks Are the Place Where Personal and Employer Brands Meet

In a crowded market it can be a struggle to stand out. On the one hand job seekers compete for the attention of leading businesses and promising startups; and on the other, employers strive to identify and source those with the talent, skills and cultural alignment to succeed within their business.

Increasingly, social networks are the space where personal brand and employer brands meet – bridging skills and geographies through business opportunity.

  • LinkedIn allows individuals to create profiles and companies to create pages, join groups, advertise events, jobs and corporate information. It has over 150 million individual profiles and more than 2.6 million company pages
  • Xing is the European focused equivalent of LinkedIn with over 7 million profiles
  • BranchOut uses the Facebook Open Graph to bring a professional and skill based layer to the most social of social networks
  • Ushi is a Chinese invitation-only business social network and focuses its membership on executive and senior professionals
  • Tianji has 12 million members and connects China’s white collar professionals and entrepreneurs
  • Niche professional networks abound, offering very focused connection based networks by industry, role or even age and experience

Finding the signal in the noise on any of these networks can be a challenge for employers and individuals alike.

Individuals Turn to the 4 BEs and Employers Respond

Even when there is a war on talent – when the demand for the best and brightest workers outstrips the supply, the sheer volume of names, profiles, links and data can prove disconcerting. And for those individuals seeking new career challenges and opportunities, it’s no longer good enough to prepare and send a CV in response to an advertisement – job seekers need to use the 4 BEs of Social Discovery:

  1. Be found: Without some form of digital profile, individuals will struggle to compete with the more digital-savvy. A LinkedIn profile is a minimal starting point but can be easily augmented through simple online publishing tools like
  2. Be known: Individuals are increasingly using digital publishing platforms to showcase their skills, experience and networks. Employers are scouring this information to verify career facts and experience of candidates
  3. Be trusted: It’s not just what you know – it’s who you are connected to. Reputation is an essential component for both the job seeker and the employer. This goes beyond the simplistic recommendations on LinkedIn – employers are seeking overlaps in networks to create verifiable profiles of candidates
  4. Be successful: Reputation is also about delivery. What are the personal case studies that individuals can publish or link to? What are the outcomes and learnings that can be identified and how does this match against other profile and career data. Employers are seeking a broader understanding of candidates – information that goes beyond the facts and figures and provides a sense of “character” and “personality” (for which social media is imminently suited)

4-BEsPersonal Branding Meets Talent Sourcing

Proactive job seekers are seeking out, following and engaging prospective employers across social networks – but the reverse is also true. Those businesses who require highly specialized skills and expertise are identifying and tracking candidates across their careers. Talent sourcers are employing ever more sophisticated techniques and technologies to accelerate their discovery process.

Vendors have already begun bringing technology to bear against this challenge. Yvette Cameron suggests that Oracle’s new Social Relationship Management suite will bridge personal social and enterprise data to great effect in the coming 12-18 months; and that we should expect similar announcements to come from Salesforce during the annual Dreamforce event.

Social Technologies Disrupting the Workplace Silo

Today’s workers expect that social and mobile technologies will not only be available within the enterprise – but that they will be used to in ways that will empower them and improve productivity. Business leaders have been challenged to justify investment and to trace the value proposition involved. Social technologies and the business rigor that they provide may well provide not only the disruption required to create value within the enterprise – they may well create the future of work – and that’s where personal and employer brands may find their perfect match.


Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

5MustReads Each week I seek out articles that indicate a shift in something – cultural thinking, consumer behaviour, strategy, communications, work practices … anything that opens the door to the unexpected.

It’s easy to find information that confirms what we already think or know, but it’s better to not only push the envelope of our own experience – we should seek to read unaddressed letters from the future of others.

  1. I’m talking to you! The Future Belongs to the Curious – a great, brief introduction to Skillshare and why it’s meeting the changing way that we learn. Not a new article but new to me via Natalie Swainston.
  2. What are the shifting forces in (digital) culture? Valeria Maltoni shares insights from a Creative Mornings talk by Johnathan Harris.
  3. When we think strategy, we often think about what we have to work with. We analyse our tools and the spaces that we operate in – like a game of chess. Ben Kunz explains that Strategy Requires that You Make a Choice – but what if there was no chess board?
  4. Why do brands advertise, what’s the role of creativity and what’s the difference between a great idea and everything else that should be left on the whiteboard? Edward Boches’ lecture on the Fundamentals of Creative Development is a great introduction.
  5. I saved the brain explosion for last – Danah Boyd has collected a series of articles on the topic of Social Mediated Publicness. Read them and exercise your sexiest organ.

Invisible Digital is the Force for Next Generation Branding

Next Generation Branding Happens from the Outside In

Apple does it. Amazon does it. Nike does it. Google does it too.

All are ranked in the top 50 of the 2012 BrandZ most valuable global brands report. Yet even within this exclusive collection of brands, some stand out from others. It’s not just that they encompass all that represents a strong brand as suggested in the report – “innovation, trust, reputation, responsible citizenship” – but something far more important. They are brands that exist from the outside in – brands that are created by the consumer experience that radiate back towards the company.

And they achieve this through the innovative use of digital strategy.

Apple’s Innovation: Invisible Digital

The excitement around the launch of any Apple product is palpable. From the first iPod through to the latest incarnation of iPhone, Apple has mastered the art of slow burn communication. There are various “leaks”, glimpses and mockups that find their way into the online world. Rumours of impending announcements are made and message boards, blogs and social media sites explode in anticipation. Meanwhile, the retail experience is perfected – employees are briefed and educated, supply chain is primed and inventory is delivered. And often, as in the case of the iPhone 5, the announcement is simply an exercise in expectation setting – it’s a pre-announcement of an announcement, a pre-launch of the launch. After the announcement, products can be pre-ordered online, ready for delivery or pick up after the launch.

It’s a carefully orchestrated strategy designed to prime the market and maximise sales. It is an experience that uses digital to connect the dots – from expectation setting through ordering to delivery. And yet, it’s a digital experience that does not call out its existence. At almost every touchpoint, customers experience a sense of digital innovation without the accompanying sense of interruption or dislocation. It’s digital that is invisible.

  • Invisible digital drives footfall: Retailers understand the importance of footfall – of having people physically in your stores – and Apple is no exception. But while many retailers struggle to drive people into store, Apple can orchestrate vast queues of people to line up for hours just to pick up their new device. Sure, these customers could choose to have their iPhones delivered to their home, but that would exclude them from a very public ritual that is beamed by mainstream media around the world. Orders may be placed online, but fulfilment (in all its senses), is delivered in person.
  • Invisible digital orchestrates engagement: Apple chooses not to actively participate in social media, ploughing their efforts into activities which create remarkable experiences for their customers. Whether it is an ad hoc visit, a reservation at the Genius Bar or the excitement of picking up  a new device, the free WiFi at the Apple Store ensures that customers can create conversations around this experience, taking photographs, blogging, sharing and tweeting.
  • Invisible digital casts a brand halo: When we purchase a product or service we are investing a small amount of our reputation into a brand. And as we use that product or service there is a cross-halo effect that takes place – we share our own reputational glow with that brand and the brand, in turn, reflects upon us. Invisible digital allows this to happen seamlessly – and with each micro-interaction, the personal and public brand becomes ever more closely aligned.

The Bottom Line: Invisible Digital Sets the Stage for Next Generation Branding

Google claimed top ranking in the 2007 BrandZ report with Apple well down the list at 16th. It seemed at the time that Google were unassailable. Five years later, they are ranked 3rd behind IBM, and have suffered a 3% drop in their brand valuation (with a brand valuation that is only 60% of Apple’s $182 million). The need to innovate is relentless, but innovation must not focus on technology alone. Innovating the customer experience must become a priority for brands and invisible digital may be the key.

Invisible digital is not about technology in the traditional sense. The technology simply enables a flow that transports customers from one experience to another. The touchpoints, the interactions and ultimately, the aggregation of experiences creates next generation brands. Some brands understand how this works. Others must accelerate their efforts and investigations or risk falling further behind.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

From analysis to how-to, this week’s five must-read posts have a little something for everyone. Read them all and dazzle your colleagues with your insight, knowledge and pure awesomeness.

  1. Paul Wallbank’s blistering commentary on the Australian retail sector resonates with a lot of the readers over at Smart Company. It’s the real e-myth and it’s not pretty
  2. Have you ever wanted to connect with that rare breed of internet user – the “influencer”? If so, you will really want to read Sonia Simone’s 10 point plan for connecting with online influencers (without turning into a suck up)
  3. Mike Hickinbotham asks should Australian social media marketers earn accreditation? What do you think? And who would you trust to deliver it?
  4. I hadn’t used my Reddit account for years – and then suddenly last week it was hot. US President Obama held a live chat on the platform and suddenly it was the future of publishing. Here’s what you need to know about the “unofficial front page of the internet”.
  5. In case you missed it, Mandi Bateson has put together a great presentation on Twitter Marketing Essentials. It’s the gift you give to someone you work with.

Creativity and the Practice of Empathy

I can remember seeing a friend after university holidays – and asking “how was your break?” It’s the natural conversation starter. But when he answered, it was not what I expected. Rather than the polite “great thanks … yours?” response, I was delivered a bombshell. There was no seaside holiday or relaxing overseas trip. There was only unspeakable loss and grief.

A single question had taken us both into an unexpected place. Even today I can still remember feeling my mouth opening and closing, grasping for words that would not come. I didn’t know what to do.

So we went, my friend and I, to site silently in the university cafe. Hours passed, and finally, buzzing from the caffeine, he said goodbye and left.

The following week he thanked me. I hadn’t rushed in to solve his problem. I hadn’t offered advice. I didn’t really DO anything.

This great presentation by Evgenia Grinblo on the practice of empathy reminded me of this story – and of the care that we should take when working with our clients. Don’t rush to conclusions. Don’t think solutions. Sit and figure it out.

I am Joining Constellation Research

constellation logo-color-with tm I am often asked about the story behind this blog and its name – Servant of Chaos. It came about many years ago when I was working with DMR Consulting which was then in the midst of a merger with its parent company, Fujitsu. Those who have lived through a corporate merger will understand the communications challenges that take place – particularly when jobs and friendships are under pressure – but in amongst the chaos, I discovered a way of navigating and connecting with people. It meant relinquishing control. And it meant serving the chaos that was presented.

Throughout my career, I have found that serving the chaos can be challenging but also rewarding. Sometimes, we need embrace the disruption around us – to immerse ourselves in it – so that we can understand it. And sometimes we must cause some chaos in order to create the conditions for change.

From today, I am once again embracing change – and joining the award winning research and advisory firm, Constellation Research. I have long been an admirer of CEO R “Ray” Wang, so I am especially excited to lead Constellation’s latest business-focused research theme, Digital Marketing Transformation – and to have the opportunity of working alongside some of the best analysts in the business.

I will be focusing on the changing role and expectations of CMOs, the fusion of marketing channels and change-driven marketing innovation, and will expand Constellation’s ability to provide digital marketing research and advisory services to its early adopter clients worldwide.

There is no doubt that we are seeing a dramatic shift in the role of marketing. Advertising is under pressure, social is changing our customer relationships and the Consumerisation of IT is changing the way we do our work. There has never been so much change or opportunity – and I'm excited to help chart the course between marketing, technology, customers and vendors.

If you’d like to learn more about Constellation Research and the team I will be working with – check out their profiles, blog posts and research agendas.

If you think we could do business together – we’d love to hear from you. Or, of course, you can always reach me directly via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Twitter 101: A Crash Course from Mandi Bateson

Almost every day we hear more about the growth of Twitter. We hear a lot about its growth and its promise – but also, it’s dark side. Back in 2008, I felt that social media was mainstreaming – becoming accepted by what we’d call the early and late majorities.

But as this trend continues, we see a huge gap appearing in the skills, capability and experience of marketers in their use of social media. This is compounded by low barriers to entry – the sheer fact that anyone can setup a Twitter account in seconds democratises the power that once was held tightly by publishers.

But once you are connected, what do you do? As a marketer, you’re likely to make your fair share of mistakes – social is omni-directional. It’s not broadcast. It’s not even one-to-many – but what I call one-FOR-many. And as we have trained our minds towards broadcast, we can easily find ourselves out of our depth in the sea of social chaos.

But luckily for us, Mandi Bateson has developed a Twitter guide for marketers. Her Twitter 101 is a must read. It covers the Twitter essentials, how to make an impact and introduces the Twitter media packages for when you have some budget to spend on amplification.