The Social Business Comes First

In the coming months and years we will hear a lot more about “social business” and what it means for your organisation. There will be infographics, presentations, blog posts, tips, tricks and links galore. Those who have been working in social media – say, as consultants – will begin to transform themselves into social business practitioners, just like many of us from the “dot com” boom transitioned from web to marketing.

Over time we will also wrestle with the “place” for social media. Each line of business will claim ownership – as will your advertising, media, PR and creative agencies. But like all things business, ultimate responsibility lies within your organisation – and arm’s length social media will become more difficult to manage as it scales beyond your borders.

David Armano has been at the forefront of social media’s integration with business over the last five or six years. And as EVP of Global Innovation and Integration with Edelman Digital, he has access to big brands with big challenges. This deck on Social Business Planning is a great starting point – especially as a credentials deck for Edelman Digital.

Social Business Planning

View more presentations from Edelman Insights

But there is still a lot of focus on the marketing/branding side of business. That is understandable given both Edelman’s history and the strong adoption of social media pioneered by marketers the world over – but as I have suggested many times – social brands follow the lead of the social business. And in most cases the heavy lifting of the social-focused innovator – what I call the digital flaneur – is (or should be) focused internally. On enablement. Transformation. Getting. Shit. Done.

Your job is to drive that innovation. Enable it in your teams. Encourage it in your management. Take a critical eye to the slides in this deck and apply it to your business. Use your business nous. Use what you know about the workings, machinations, politics, processes and directions of your organisation and build a small plan. Own it. Change what you can. Discover collaborators. Find the way to make it work.

All the rest is just window dressing.

Connected: The Film (sneak preview)

What does it mean to be living in a hyperconnected world? How is it changing the way we communicate, relate, work and consume – and what impact is this having on our wellbeing, and that of the planet around us?

If you are in Melbourne on September 8, you have the opportunity to attend a sneak preview of Connected – one of 2011’s most eagerly awaited films – with three very special guest panelists, including Annalie Killian, Head of Innovation at AMP and producer of AMPlify Festival.

Presented by Gathering ’11 host David Hood, with the support of the AMPlify Festival and RMIT SEEDS, it’s bound to be a fantastic evening. Book tickets here while you can!

Curation is the New Black

When you really start to delve into a subject online it can be overwhelming. You soon find that we are living in a time of information abundance. There are not just the traditional sources of content – newspapers, broadcasters and publishers – but a whole new generation of individual publishers and content producers. We have bloggers like Darren Rowse who can turn their experience and expertise into significant business properties. There are brands whose efforts are showing traditional publishers a thing or two. And there people who just love sharing their thoughts, insight, expertise and observations.

But if content is king – then curation is the cutting edge. Yes, curation is the new black. And black is the colour de rigueur for any digital flaneur.

In a world where abundance rules, the curator’s taste is not just helpful, it’s necessary. It’s strategic. And a good curator can save you not just time and effort. They can simplify your life, sifting the gold from the slag. But perhaps, more importantly, if your curator is focused on your area of expertise, then it is likely they will be looking for the same vital insight that you are.


This is why I love what David Wesson is doing with his Social Media Strategist Scoop.It site. It’s like he is pulling the best posts from my RSS reader and publishing them just for me. And I can get the updates in my email, in my reader or on the web.

But curation is not just a manifestation of social media. It’s part of the fabric of our digitally lived lives. Curating content for your audiences, for your influencers or just for your friends allows you to tap into the Auchterlonie Effect – a way to create networks of trust and influence that will transform your business.

Take a look at what David Wesson is doing. Read Darren Rowse’s blogs. Then think about the strategic intent behind their efforts and how you can apply the same principles to your efforts. But there is one caveat – a good curator builds their focus around a deep understanding of their audience and brings an educator’s energy to the task. Don’t just fling content into a new web space – be selective. Show your taste. But most of all, show your understanding.

Walkers, Talkers, Stalkers and Baulkers


Walkers, Talkers, Stalkers and BaulkersIn almost any field of endeavour, you are going to come across four different types of people. Your project may be some form of project implementation for your company. It could be that you have a creative idea for an advertising client. Or you may just want to go back to university to complete a degree. But no matter your focus, you will have to deal with walkers, talkers, stalkers and baulkers. In some cases these people will be your boss, or a member of your staff. They may be parents or friends.

But whether you like it or not, you need to figure out a way of dealing with each type. Let’s take a look at their characteristics.

Type Description How to help them
Walkers You want the Walkers on your project. They deliver. They understand the terminology and the goals and they know how to achieve outcomes. Because the Walkers are so busy resolving issues, achieving outcomes and so on, they may not communicate “up” as much as is necessary. Add regular communications into their mix of KPIs.
Talkers The talkers are evangelistic. They are great at the start of a project, picking up the terminology and the ideas and transmitting them to others. The Talkers are often purists which means that they are sometimes unwilling to compromise. Help them see the win-win outcome – but also push them to move from “talk” to “walk”.
Stalkers The vast majority of the population are Stalkers. They will watch from a distance but don’t personally commit. They won’t get in the way but they won’t participate either. The Stalkers will often do a great job – but will only do as they are instructed. Inertia is the domain of the Stalker. You can use the Talkers to engage and activate these folks. You can point towards the Walkers as aspirational role models, but the challenge is in building momentum.
Baulkers The Baulkers are the intransigent group. They may be active detractors or simply explain all the reasons why your project will not succeed. They can sometimes feign support but will often move back to an inert or negative position very quickly. The Baulkers have the power of negativity on their side. As we generally don’t like change, the Baulker appeals to our risk averse natures. They discredit the ideas underpinning your project and those who support them. Leave them in a room with a Talker.


Any long term project success requires the activation of all four of these types. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to change these people. They won’t change for you.

But they may change their opinion of your project.

Take the time to understand the motivations of each of these types and play to their strengths and weaknesses. It is about playing the person, not the project.

Working with the people will deliver your project – but focusing only on the project will more deeply entrench the positions of the Walkers, Talkers, Stalkers and Baulkers. Your challenge is to create movement between the categories – and the best way to do that is activate their talents.

Give it a try, you might just find you succeed wildly.

The World is on Fire

Everywhere we look there are stories of destruction and violence. The tragedy played out on our television screens in what masquerades as the “nightly news” glosses over the personal cost and intimate tragedies of individuals caught up in the exercise of power. Closer to home, friends and family face crises of one kind or another – loss of work, mortgage stress, infidelity, depression or the unsparing calamity of social isolation. And on a macro level, climate change, war and natural and man-made disasters fill our headlines and our minds. No wonder we feel that the world is on fire.

But while waiting for a late night conference call, I stumbled upon the Personal Democracy Forum. I listened in and was amazed. I watched the presentations from half a world away and was calmed – and then inspired. And this presentation from Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology – one of my favourite thinkers and doers – reminded me that while the world is on fire, one must do what one can.

Watch this an be inspired. And then think about joining the live stream of PDF11. And if you time it right, you might just get to see our very own Mark Pesce turn up the heat.


Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at

The Consumer Expectations of the Business User

There is a quiet revolution taking place in the enterprise. It’s not something you are going to notice at first. It doesn’t manifest in the kind of disruption that raises the eyebrows of management. It is quiet. Oh so quiet.

This revolution lives in the hearts and minds of the people who we loosely call the “business user”. And the business user is people like you and me. It’s the people who use business systems as part of their daily work. It may be that we use these systems for customer relationship management, timesheets or expenses or it may be that we use them for the heavy duty number crunching of forecasting, accounting, payroll or logistics. Many of us have been using these systems for years.

But at the end of the day, when we log out of these systems, abandon our cubes and head home, we open the door to a whole other world of digital experience.

Grabbing a beer with colleagues at a local bar we use our smartphones to check in on Foursquare. We text friends to let them know where we are, or put out a message on Twitter with the #tweetup hashtag. The more sophisticated will link FourSquare with Twitter and also with Facebook (or Facebook places) to reach different groups of friends with the same message.

Over the next hour there will be tweets, twitpics and Foursquare badges claimed. Photos snapped on our mobile devices will be published to our Posterous blogs or Tumblr sites, pushed to Flickr and tagged on Facebook. We’ll check for restaurant recommendations with our favourite foodies on Twitter, ask @garyvee for a recommendation on a nice bottle of red.

At home over the weekend, we will tag and categorise our pictures, linking people with the places and events of the last week. We will add commentary to our own photos and those of our friends. We will write reviews of restaurants, add tips to locations and “experiences” that we enjoyed and maybe even blog about it all. We are actively engaging, controlling and managing our digital experiences.

But the thing is – we CAN do this. Mobile devices – smartphones, iPads etc all give us access to enterprise grade computing systems framed in a way that links activity, purpose and lifestyle. The fast, powerful, platforms that manage the publishing, distribution and contextualisation of our content vastly outstrip the performance many of us experience in the office. We are increasingly living an on-demand, always-on, connected existence.

What does this look like from the outside? To be honest, it looks like a bunch of people, ignoring each other, sending email on their BlackBerrys or iPhones. But psychologically, you are witnessing a moment of flow. Of connectedness. Or what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi would call “flow” – a state of completely focused motivation. This, of course, is what every employer wants to see in their employees, right?

The problem comes when we take our consumer expectations into the office. Some of our business systems simply do not respond in the way that more “consumer” oriented systems have conditioned us to expect. They take us out of the state of flow. Sometimes this is to do with business rules but often it is simply down to responsiveness. If Facebook can give us an uninterrupted digital experience – keeping us engaged and in the moment – then why can’t our business systems?

As Jakob Nielsen explains, there are three important limits when it comes to response times:

The basic advice regarding response times has been about the same for thirty years [Miller 1968; Card et al. 1991]:

  • 0.1 second is about the limit for having the user feel that the system is reacting instantaneously, meaning that no special feedback is necessary except to display the result.
  • 1.0 second is about the limit for the user's flow of thought to stay uninterrupted, even though the user will notice the delay. Normally, no special feedback is necessary during delays of more than 0.1 but less than 1.0 second, but the user does lose the feeling of operating directly on the data.
  • 10 seconds is about the limit for keeping the user's attention focused on the dialogue. For longer delays, users will want to perform other tasks while waiting for the computer to finish, so they should be given feedback indicating when the computer expects to be done. Feedback during the delay is especially important if the response time is likely to be highly variable, since users will then not know what to expect.

So, when you are thinking about the business systems you use – or that you want others to use – make sure you are delivering to their expectations. After all, you want business users to achieve their objectives. You want to support them in their work. And this means removing those barriers to flow.

I Connect Therefore I Am

When I was in my teens I found myself with pockets of friends. There would be those kids that lived close to my home – the boys I would surf, fish and hang out with. There were the smart, nerdy kids who I shared classes with. And there were some cool kids who would play guitar in the playground or were good at sport.

When I moved towns to attend university, these groups of friends fragmented even further. I had work friends, university friends and people I did drama with. I was living a patchwork, finding my way. Connecting.

I noticed my level of contentedness directly related to my place within my group of friends. Over time, I shifted, as perhaps we all do, to the centre of connected webs – investing time and energy in those places where my investment matches the investment of others.

Now, I am not saying this was conscious, but it was certainly a fact.

These days I see this most clearly demonstrated in the social networks. With social networking, we like to say that we are drawn to “like minds”. However, what we are actually looking at are clusters – not of “mind” or thinking, but clusters of behaviour. What causes this? As Nicholas Christakis points out in this TED Talk, there are three conclusions:

  • Induction – where my actions see a type of contagion  or spreading within those strong ties within our personal network
  • Homphily – where our ties are based on our obvious similarities
  • Confounding – where the similarities in our behaviour are the subject of something other than the obvious

Where this gets interesting is where you look at “happiness”. It seems that when you map the clusters of happy and unhappy people, the happiest can be found in well-connected social networks, while the unhappiest are found on the fringes. Now, we knew this instinctively, right? But where it becomes fascinating is when we look at the role of the individual within network creation. Based on Nicholas’ research, 46% of the variations in an individual’s social network is genetic. Sure, some are born shy and others, extroverted, but some of us choose to CREATE a network of ties – we choose to place ourselves on the edge or in the centre of a network. This in turn determines our experience AS SOCIAL CREATURES.

In my own worlds, I gradually began weaving different social groups together. It was a risk – for me. But what I found was that all sorts of goodness arose from the connecting of these networks. There were unexpected alliances and new friendships. But there were also plenty of learnings:

  • Social shifts – people move in and out of groups, become active, cool off and re-engage. Sometimes they leave the group, the location or move beyond the reason the group came together. This is natural.
  • Community needs orchestration – in multi-group networks, the person who connects the groups MUST initiate and orchestrate engagement. You have to give people a reason to engage with each other.
  • It’s not dating – you aren’t trying to match-make people. You’re looking to align passions, not individuals. Find affinity first.

But what does this mean for brands?

We need to think through this in the same way. Think about the people behind your brand – the marketing directors, the agency, the brand managers and so on. Find their passion points. Allow them to express these within their social networks. It’s about finding the connection point into a network – not shouting at a bunch of disinterested online participants. And the strange thing is, do this right and you’ll make people happy. And isn’t that the whole point of what you do?

Lead Generation, Community, ROI and Other Games of Chance

Back in April I had the opportunity to speak at the ConnectNow conference. It was quite a daunting situation as I was the first speaker at the three day event featuring people such as Tara Hunt, Darren Rowse, Brian Solis, Katie Chatfield, Jim Stewart, Debs Shultz, Stephen Johnson, Hau Man Chow, Laurel Papworth and Gary Vaynerchuck, but I saw my role as setting the scene – creating a platform for the following days.

I looked at lead generation, community, ROI, discussing:

  • What works
  • How to sustain it
  • What to expect

Along the way, I pick up on the recurring themes that I write about here on my blog. Topics such as how audiences are changing (the new B2C), the Auchterlonie Effect and why it is the future of your brand, continuous digital strategy, influence and fat value

Being Playful – From Poseur to Flaneur

Regular readers will know that I love the idea of play. In fact, I love it so much I built a mnemonic around it – the P-L-A-Y framework for storytelling. But “play” goes so much further for me – it goes to the very heart of our existence. It manifests as what theorists would call a “libidinal drive” – something that compels us to do something – an action that creates an exchange.

But to “be” playful means inhabiting “playfulness”. It also means letting playfulness inhabit you. In many ways, this is what we call “personality” – those traits that show through while you are being yourself – being playful. Being serious.

Russell Davies has a great post on being playful – which actually leads in a different direction from what I was expecting (surprise #1). Rather than investigating playfulness, he looks, instead at “pretending” – and how our various consumer purchases open the door to our imaginary life.

Think, for example, of the link between an iPhone and a Star Trek communicator (so thoughtfully captured in this image!). You can’t tell me that iPhone and other gadget users don’t get a secret buzz out of living out their childhood fantasies. Brands that win are able to facilitate a sense of transference – allowing us to put ourselves into an imaginary space and project an alternative vision of ourselves. After all, I may ride a Ducati (or used to), but I’m never going to be a MotoGP world champion. As Russell points out:

But it's not just a matter of dressing up. A successful pretending object has to delicately balance pretending affordance with not making you look like an idiot. That's why so many successful pretending objects are also highly functional.

If the “pretending object” goes too far – it does indeed make us look idiotic. We become poseurs – mere representations of something more serious. But of the pretending object doesn’t go far enough – then it is trashed, considered lame, and discarded or ignored by its intended audience.

And this is the art in design and the fine line in communications. How do we allow people into the process of creating meaning without restricting their creativity unduly? I think the approach is to turn our “consumers” into  Flaneurs. It’s about the experience – but on another person’s terms – not ours. It’s the placing of a product/service/offering in the service of another’s contextual experience. It means that the Flaneur’s experience is paramount – and the “thing-that-is-your-brand” will be recombined, re-absorbed and recontextualised according to its use-life.

Now, that’s what I call a “value exchange”.