We have seen an incredible shift in the role of social media over the past three years. It has moved from an outlier in the marketing mix to one of the strategic pillars of any corporate marketing or branding exercise: — Drew McLellan.
Three years ago, I began a conversation with Drew McLellan on the topic of social media and crowdsourcing. Thousands of book sales and downloads, two editions and hundreds of collaborators later, we are pleased to announce that the Age of Conversation 3 is now available.
It all started when Drew blogged about a similar collaborative book effort and I suggested we get a few fellow bloggers to produce a marketing book in the same vain. Three emails later, and we had named the book and set what we thought would be an impossible goal: 100 bloggers. Within seven days we had commitments from 103 authors from over a dozen countries.
Back then, the marketing industry was abuzz about how citizen marketers were changing the landscape, whereas the second two editions have revolved primarily around the growing field of social media and how its methodologies have affected marketing as a whole. What all three books have in common is that they each capture a uniquely global vantage point.
The first Age of Conversation raised nearly $15,000 for Variety, the international children's charity, and the Age of Conversation 2 raised a further $10,000 for Variety. This year’s proceeds will be donated to an international children’s charity of the authors’ choosing.
It’s available in a sexy hardcover, softcover and even a Kindle version.
As the many authors of this new book explain, the focus may be on conversation, but you can’t participate in a conversation from the sidelines. It’s all about participation. And this book provides you with 171 lessons in this new art.
Get the inside running on how you turn social media theory into practice with the Age of Conversation 3 – it’s essential reading.
Mark Pollard shares this excellent presentation given to the IgniteSydney crowd recently. In it, Mark talks about his experience of running a large, interesting, and influential website, Stealth Magazine … well, it started out as a magazine, but is really a meeting place – a community – for hip hop. Since 2002 there have been 128,000 posts, 11,000 topics and almost 2000 members. Clearly this is a vibrant (and viable) website – and in this presentation, he shares his Seven Things to be Learned from Hip Hop. You can read through the background notes here.
What was particularly interesting to me was Mark’s conception of community – and his point that “anonymity is the antithesis of community”. This,in turn, generated some debate with Julian Cole and Matt Moore driving alternative points of view. Of course, like any definition, “community” is also hard to pin down.
My interest in community is mostly around the way that communities move (and can be moved) in relation to human behaviour. Whether we know it or not, almost every interaction we have with another person leaves a trace of our identity. Think Gattaca on a physical level and think language/nuance on an emotional level. Think style in terms of our visual footprint. The thing is, we are pre-programmed to be social – so we betray ourselves even with our best attempts at subterfuge. And for all the chaos and noise of our daily lives, it is remarkably easy to find the holes in “fake identities” only because it is incredibly difficult to be consistently somebody else. And this was made abundantly clear to me recently when I was the subject of an experiment in chaos, courtesy of Marcus Brown.
Taking a lead from this speech by Heath Ledger as the Joker, flipped a coin and decided to unleash a little chaos. On me/my site. It appeared that he had learned of some flaw in Feedburner that opened a door … or so he claimed, and I was being singled out as “Mr Age of Conversation” – yet another . But he paused before moving ahead. He published a poll asking whether chaos should be directed at me, or at his own site. He gave us a choice. By coincidence, this all happened during a week when I was disconnected – on holiday and with very limited Internet access … so I did not really know what would happen and what the outcome would be.
I waited for the votes to come in. I checked my email each couple of days, but could not see much action. I visited Marcus’ site a couple of times but the voting looked pretty close. Eventually, the votes were counted. I had received an enormous number of votes – and I thank everyone who supported me. As Marcus explains:
People will do anything to save Gavin Heaton. What surprised me most was how devious they were about doing it. I know for a fact that most of the people (there were about 700 of them) came into vote off the back of an email. It was brilliant to watch because they were keeping so quiet. There were only a couple of tweets about it and the volume was very low. It was fascinating to watch.
What Marcus was watching via voting patterns combined with web analytics, was the activation of a community. But more interestingly, it was a swift and directed course of action set in train by a single request (as Marcus explains, most voting was triggered off the back of a single email – sent not by me). And this is where community comes into play. While the “network” could have been used – such as Twitter or a blog post – that sort of open dynamic can also invite additional chaos and randomness into the mix. That means, that for every positive response (on my behalf), there could well have been additional random responses which could go either way.
In my view, community is about belonging. It is about the actions and interactions over time which build a web of mutually reinforcing reputations. These repeated patterns of micro interactions allow us to create a “social judgement” about the people with whom we interact – even if we don’t know their names, we know them by the traces left in the consistency of their actions, in-actions and communications. I was “saved” from chaos by the orchestrated mobilising of a community to which I belonged – by the people in whom I had established a bond. And at the heart of this, at the very centre, was trust. As Valdis Krebs explains:
… people are loyal to what they are connected to and what provides them benefits. People stick with established ties they trust. Interacting with those we know and trust brings a sense of warmth and belonging to the virtual communities we visit via our computer screens.
By activating a community (rather than a network), response could be directed.
As I have said before, Marcus is one of the foremost practitioners of social media creation. He inhabits and creates a storyline like no one else I know, and activates it with an intensity that turns our gaze around on ourselves – making us ask the question – will he do it … or will I? That is, he forces us into a state where non-participation is also an act of engagement.
When I read the lead-up posts on Marcus’ blog, I was wondering who he was targeting. But by the end of the first post, I had an inkling that he was talking about me. There were clues scattered throughout that were pointing in my direction. And yet, even when he did announce that I was the target, it still sent a shiver down my spine. My intuition had read the signs, but I had not yet comprehended this – I was caught by the story, and had not yet brought it into my real world. But I was reading superficially. I was reading what was SAID, not what was MEANT. I was ignoring the mind reader’s toolkit.
What does this all mean?
Clearly “authenticity” is hard to fake – but we ARE easily swayed by a compelling story. It’s why headlines work so well – they set the parameters for the narrative that follows. For in the story – and in this case - a live unfolding of events, we are in-effect practising SOCIAL JUDGEMENT. And while, in real life, we are able to use a variety of cues to determine the trustworthiness of certain situations and/or individuals, in an online environment, we are still finding our way. As David Armano asks, do you know who you are talking to?
The thing to remember, however, is that trust trumps story.
On reflection, I realise that over the last few years I had followed, almost to the letter, each of Mark Pollard’s seven steps … but it was the last THREE steps (pass the mic, let the community self-regulate, get off the computer) that were the catalysts for action. And this is important – because my interest is in driving behaviour and creating the conditions for participation.
And as we move into the meat of 2009, and your marketing plans firm (or shrink), I want you to consider this. Think about how “social” your media plans will be. Think about the directions you want to move and how you want to get there. Determine the conditions through which you can create social judgement. And most importantly, ask yourself – who do you trust – and who trusts you?
When Todd Andrlik put together the Power 150 list I was amazed. He brought together a series of available metrics to rank 150 of the top marketing blogs in the world — not only was the approach sound, but the effort involved to identify, calculate and so on would have been a significant amount of work.
Later, when the Power 150 came under the auspices of Ad Age, it expanded to cover several hundred marketing and related blogs from across the globe. And while the calculations and rankings have become automated, Charlie Moran from Ad Age continues to refine and grow the list as a great resource.
However, with the growth of Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms, the conversations and discussions have shifted away from the more static blogs. Not content with the asynchronous comment-and-respond discussions offered by blogging systems, we are now turning to all-in, open conversation on Twitter. Mack Collier, for example, now spends a significantly larger amount of time on Twitter than he does on his blog … and he is not alone. And this is where the Power 150 loses a little of its shine — as it only covers blogs, it is missing more of the "conversation" than it is covering.
Recently, Armando Alves, built upon the Power 150 to produce the Twitter Power 150 – a ranking that assesses the top 300 blogs together with the Twitter accounts of the bloggers – to produce a single score across the blogging and micro-blogging formats. The change in rankings is amazing. Seth Godin, who unassailably leads the Power 150, but does not use Twitter, scrapes into the top 150 at #144.
Be sure and take a look at the full list over at Armando's site. What do YOU think? Is it a game changer? Is it a more relevant way of quantifying marketing's social media conversations?
Bringing together over 200 authors in a single book was never going to be easy. But in The Age of Conversation 2: why don’t they get it?, not only do we get a far reaching survey on the state of global marketing today, we get a range of perspectives that indicate what works, what NEEDS work and what shape our efforts may take in the months and years to come.
For those who are new to this ongoing initiative, The Age of Conversation crowdsources marketing wisdom from across the globe. Canvassing authors from 15 countries, each person is given a single page to put forward their ideas, share their lessons or encapsulate the way forward for those marketers and brands looking to accelerate their involvement in social and digital media. All money raised goes to Variety, the Children’s Charity.
And with an ever increasing focus on social media as part of an overall strategy, marketers will find much to digest and act upon in each of the pages. Purchasing a copy now will see you well prepared for the challenges of 2009.
When I read a book or even a blog post, I am always waiting for the punch line. I am waiting to be smacked by the truth.
The same can be said of advertising. The best advertising, the best copywriting and the best storytelling should smack us. It should wake us from our reading slumber, or as Franz Kafka said:
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
The Age of Conversation is loaded with these types of insight. Every page has something that jolts the reader. And in an effort to encourage you to purchase the book (in either eBook, soft or hardcover), John Moore from Brand Autopsy has collected a series of “money quotes”. Remember, all profits from the sale of the book go to Variety, the children’s charity. Read and be inspired!
A year and a half ago I would not have imagined being in this place. Sure, I believed in the potential of social media, but how could it scale? How could we turn an idea into a movement? What were the mechanisms required to ignite the passions and ideas of a community? Today, I proudly released The Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It? for publishing. You can purchase it here.
It brings together the written thoughts on the role of conversation in marketing today from 237 marketing professionals from 15 countries. And, as one of the few people who have read all the contributions, I can (without bias of course) state, that it is a must-read for marketers wanting to understand the opportunities, challenges and potential of social and digital media in this challenging and turbulent marketing landscape.
Last year we were able to raise over US$15,000 for Variety, the children’s charity. We are hoping to better this figure in 2008-09. This year’s list of authors is impressive. Take the time to visit their blogs and explore their ideas further. After all, it is the Age of Conversation!
The launch of the Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It? edges ever closer. This year we have well over 200 authors contributing from 15 countries. All the profits go to Variety, the Children’s Charity, and we have some great plans to promote the book, the authors and the charity over the coming weeks and months.
But how did it all come together? What is the difference this time around? And what can we expect from this bumper edition? Jay Ehret took the time out to record a podcast with Drew and I to find out. In fact, Jay is planning on interviewing all 237 authors.
In this Age of Conversation we really want this to be more than a one-way discussion, so do drop by the Age of Conversation blog and leave a comment.