Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Damning with faint praise

So, I'm hearing this ad described as the 'best banner ad ever'. Not a trophy I'd like to lift.

In fact, it's just been awarded the Cannes Cyber Lions Gold. Lord help them all...

I speak of the Pringles 'Can Hands' ad in which you, dear interactor, are encouraged through the use of witty banter to continue clicking.

And clicking, and clicking... and I did... and I did... but I still can't answer the question:

To what end?

Well it's getting some online chatter. People saying stuff like 'it's the best banner ad ever'. Like I say, super.

I guess the idea is you think of Pringles as the witty, funloving FMCG to stuff down your throat. But more likely you rush to slap the agency on the back for a fun, innovate interruption. That's what the Cannes Lions award is. Puts me in mind of this Honda creative. People marvel at the ad. Rarely at the product.

Stick a picture of a girl with her hand stuck in a can of Heinz Baked Beans and you get the exact same result.

Point is - it's all about the creative - not really about the product at all.

At least no one is claiming it's social media.

So I have to ask; What group of people are being brought together to act to achieve something they care about by this particular piece of content?

Thought not.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

The cocaine of discovery - everyone should get a hit...

You may or may not be aware that I'm a Trustee for Citizen's Online - part of which is EverybodyOnline.
EverybodyOnline helps communities and individuals in disadvantaged areas across the UK to engage with digital technology.
It aims to help communities overcome any barriers they may have to computers and the internet so they can take advantage of the wealth of opportunities digital technology and the internet has to offer.
'Simple' things that so many of us take for granted. Like this:

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Friday, June 26, 2009

What does it take to get some service round here?

What does it take to get the attention of a brand using social media these days?

By which I mean - what does it take to get some service around here?

The reality is that any brand or organisation that gives a shiney one about its customers, members or collaborators should be listening to what we have to say - and ready to act upon what it hears.

If you know a brand or org that isn't - (assuming it's one that does care enough to consider it ought to) then by all means (shameless plug) point them at the kind of social media listening services the likes of Brando Social (where I work) offer.

But assuming any kind of half decent blue-chipped customer wrangler is already equipped to listen/search/audit its reputation online, let's perform a test.

Let's see how fast a real live human representative of any of these brands get back to the community that is FasterFuture (ok, responds to this blog post).

It'll be a fairly straightforward test. I'll post about a series of brands (etc) below. And we wait for a response from a representative of the brand or org in question. That response should be a comment made on this post (moderation remains on - but I have pretty much 24/7 access and I'll publish them in the order I receive them).

  • Qik. I love your customer service. Don't let me down.
  • Toyota. Surely you have representatives doing the listening in the UK too? I'll help by using the term Toyota Yaris (good little motor my wife runs :-)
  • Apple. I'm pretty sure you're listening. Just staggered you don't capitalise by responding. iPhone reference to help you out.
  • Ford. I'll help you out by saying Ford Fiesta. You have the advantage of Scott Monty. Make it count.
  • UK Government Director of Digital Engagement (he's never responded yet to my tweets or my article in PR Week for that matter). There you go, PR Week - you can play, too!
  • McDonalds - had another bad experience with you this evening... (inspiring this post)
  • Tesco - I dread my required and oh too regular visits
  • Sainsbury's - just to put you head to head. Shopping. There.
  • Coca-Cola - you better believe this is the real thing
  • Disney - I am about to pass off many of your characters as my own (if that doesn't get their attention...)
That's your starter for 10. (image courtesy)

Let's see how the first batch get on. By all means let's hear your suggestions for round two. I quite fancy making this a regular test...
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We're trying to change the world - not report on it

Some time ago Neil Perkin asked me to contribute some best practice ideas for social media. ( I must be thinking about that because i'm meeting Neil today - and you really should check out his latest post).

My response was 'best practice being human'.

I've been thinking about the skill sets required to 'do' social media. Many (though not all, as a quick quiz on Twitter revealed this morning, see image, right) of the people I know who have landed up in social media come from a media background one way or another - pr,  advertising and journalism.

But of course the key skills required are not the abilty to craft a good piece of content.

We're trying to change the world here, not report on it.

Look at what's going in in Iran. All the fabulous social media activity Is NOT for our passive consumption, our entertainment. It is individuals using the tools to express what matters to them - and through this to organise without and around those who would control from the centre.

A BBC correspondent prophesised, as the post-election fury uncovered in Iran, that there would be no coup.

"You can't have a revolution without proper organisation", he opined.

If he meant without 'from the top' organisation he was and is, wrong.

Humans organise to do things. Things they share a belief in achieving.  Always have. Now they have tools to do this more rapidly and effectively. And they don't wait for permission from the boss.

The ability to use these tools is an important tactical skill for anyone right now. Understanding the value of real-time self-forming communities of purpose is the more strategic requirement.

Because bringing people together to build stuff they care about is the most important part of this thing we call social media (and it ain't social media if it don't change your organisation!)

How much has that got to do with creating content?

How much has it got to do with media at all?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The (fuzzy-edged) story of twitter, so far...

Twitter isn't the new web. But it is a model which reveals the special things that happen when you can break beyond your usual circle of friends. It's fuzzy-edged, adhoc, self-forming communities of purpose are why the average number of followers is already 250 (compared to Facebook's 125 average friends per person).
It introduces you to more people and more stuff you didn't know you needed to know than anything I've seen yet.
It's not the end of the story. Expressing and matching your metadata with the expressed needs of others, in real time, beyond even the silo of twitter, is where we are headed.
But don't let anyone tell you twitter is just another 'social network'. It matters not whether a more fashionable alternative emerges. What matters is that twitter has set the benchmark and revealed the value of fuzzy edges.
And anyone who wants to access real value will be wondering how to apply that same thinking to their organisations, businessess and institutions.
Enjoy the above illustration. It's from Manolith.com
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Less illusion - more reality

With the 10th anniversary of The Cluetrain, is it time to stop talking about marketing?

I mean, is it time to stop talking about marketing as a separate function or discipline?

I worry because thinking of it in this way makes 'it' difficult to be embedded in the processes that count.

You know, the processes that squeeze out turds long suffering marketers have to polish. (image courtesy)

I often tell orgs that every single person inside the org is responsible for customer service. It's not the job of the often lowly-paid to read out scripts by the often highly-paid. It's the responsibility of everyone who cares.

Of course that requires something to care about in the first place. And if you have that belief, your actions will attract people who care to join you in the first place.

Oh - and those outside the company too. (Gary Vaynerchuck, Mark Earls, Hugh McLeod can fill in the gaps for you on this)

Anyone who 'does' customer service (read: has conversations with customers) is in marketing as far as I'm concerned.

What is marketing for exactly? At its guts it is to connect people with what they need.

There are a heap of processes, sub disciplines, new and digitized, that we have come to believe have a part to play in that.

But by sticking a label on them and putting them in a box, have we started thinking of marketing as somehow distinct from design and production? Even, and way too often, as distinct from R and D/new product development?

So let's imagine a world in which no one has coined the term 'marketing'.

And into this world we parachute every marketer with their skills intact (but unlabelled)

Given their knowledge of the power of the network (grant me this):
What will they do? Who will they help? What will they aim to achieve?

How will they define and describe the part they play in changing the world?

Less illusion: more reality.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

How will they market the 10th Anniversary Cluetrain?

Ted Shelton brought together a small group for dinner in London last night (for which many thanks) including one Doc Searls.

If you've hung around this blog for any length of time you'll know I regularly reference Doc's ongoing work (particularly re the Vendor Relationship Management) and his seminal contribution to the now 10-year-old Cluetrain Manifesto.

A 10th anniversary Cluetrain is about to go on sale.
Doc told me something I didn't realise about the new edition: It will contain a new chapter each by each of the original co-authors (Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Rick Levine) PLUS a chapter by the man who has become known as 'the fifth Beatle' of the cluetrain: JP Rangaswami.

JP works at BT in London and writes the exceptional Confused of Calcutta. His insights will be a huge addition.

So: Five new chapters. Updates learned from 10 years of post-cluetrain thinking.

A must buy.

I did warn Doc (pictured top) the world will be watching to see how this book is marketed.

One thing seemed sure from what Doc said last night - there's no online preview of the new elements before it goes on sale in print. It won't even be available on kindle at launch.

Embarrassing oversight? Or a clue to some of the new content of the book?
I'm confused by how it may fit with The Because Effect JP has referenced on many occassions (and with which I agree).

In this example that would play out as 'you don't make money with content, you make money because of it'.

The original cluetrain was (and remains) free to read online.

Perhaps the way for the launch of an updated cluetrain to generate most conversation among converts is to do exactly what we don't expect - a straightforward print-first launch?

Whatever the case the reality is the five authors have done their thinking outloud over the past decade. There may be few surprises for those on board.

But that this thinking has been distilled and decanted into one small book is likely to make it incendiary stuff for a whole new generation.

Who will you do a favour by buying a copy?

The motley crew in the lower of the iphone-rendered images with this post show (amid the blur...) l-r Ted Shelton, myself, John Willshire and Doc.

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People doing what other people do

Awesome example of the ability of a group to form in the right conditions. Molecules in an agitated state. The Herd in action.

Ask yourself why one guy wasn't left dancing alone?

Via Seth Godin. But also read Herd.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Digital access is about discovering value - not Mbs

The big idea at the heart of the Digital Britain interim report is 2mb broadband access for every home in the UK.

I've been thinking about the issues of access a lot recently - mostly prompted by my work as a Trustee at CitizensOnline.org (which I, of course, recommend to you :-). (I should make clear before I go on, the following are my views - not necessarily those of Citizens Online.)

For a start 2mb isn't very much these days. If it was a real (rather than 'as advertised') 2mb that would be a start. My 8mb home connection rarely actually delivers half its claim. (thanks BT).

But that is very much only half of the story. (image courtesy)

Speed of access to the internet is not the same as speed at which something can be broadcast at you via broadband.

Speed of access is - just like all the best things about the internet - about a two-way flow.

The internet is created by us, with us. You are a participant and contributor to it. To access it is therefore to have an equal ability to contribute to it as it is to draw down from it: So 2mb download and upload speed, please.

But the story of access is about more even than this. It is one thing to have connection to the pipe - and a nice fat two-way one at that - it is quite another to get your share of the value.

It's a little like Victorian Government sending a free set of encylopaedias to every home, only to discover only the rich kids benefit - because they know how to read.

It's time to think about the equivalent of teaching people how to read and write. on the web - making their ability to participate and share a core foundation of how the UK as a whole benefits from the digital revolution.

Let me give you a real and personal example. If the very nice people at the Government decide in their wisdom to provide free wifi in the road my dear old mum lives in it she'll get precisely zero value from it. Zip, nada, until such time as someone either gives her an interface to access participatory sites with such ease it's like popping the kettle on. Or until such time as someone invests the time and trouble to show through demonstration the value she could join in.

Access to the value creating power of the network is little to do with access to a particular terminal at a particular speed.

How many people got real value from the early internet; from the dial-up modem internet; from the not-always-available internet - from the bloody-hard-to-use internet? Lots.

Those pioneers didn't need 2mb downloads to join in the value.

We wouldn't have today's internet if they had. They found value inspite of the limitations.

And they told their friends. Their friends joined in and made it bigger and better.

Their friends got value, told their friends etc etc ad infinitum.

Helping others discover the value available through the tools on offer is the crucial and critical thing here.

It's the part the Government should be focusing on with its reports and big ideas.

But it's also the part ALL of us can commit to doing something about.

Sure, you can lobby your MP to put pressure on for the Government to spend more cash on ever fatter pipes.

Or you can just coach one more person in the value you get from being online.

The more of us who make it to the edges - the less those in the centre have control over the big decisions anyway...

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The power of the tools in all our hands

Isn't it a rather brilliant thing that the centre doesn't understand the power of the tools now in all our hands?
And by the time they catch up it's likely to be too late for them. Another victory for the edglings :-)

Via a tweet by twitter.com/johnniemoore

Monday, June 08, 2009

Little bits of politics

The euro election results coming in today reveal yet another inconvenient truth for the old world of mass: a record low turn-out.

Roughly 6/10* elligable Europeans care so little about the policies and the messages of ALL political parties that they decided not to vote at all.

I wonder how many may have made the journey to the polling booths if they had known there would be an alternative box to tick? One that read:
The current system sucks. I want a new one - one that's relevant to me.
Those elected today can hardly claim a mandate. We're starting to ask what constitutes legitimate government? How low must a turn-out be before the result is considered void?

And yet everyone has an opinion about how they would like the world about them to be. The turn-out for that all-day every-day election is pretty much 100%. Current models aren't capturing how much we care.

The old mass broadcast model of democracy is being challenged just as all forms of mediation are, by the power of the network.

Our electoral system is devised to match a world of mass; of lowest common denominator; focus on the hit end of the long tail.

The Us Now movie raises some of the issues. But it doesn't challenge the basic assumption that we should be governed by massing us into geographic groupings.

Perhaps we choose not to be grouped in that way any more? Perhaps the global communities of purpose that emerge, when we get our hands on the tools of digital self-organisation, change politics and the concept of nation states as much as they challenge traditional media and traditional business models?

Perhaps self forming, adhoc, communities of purpose will become the new way in which groups are gathered to be governed and to govern themselves?

If you had to start from scratch with an electoral system today, knowing what we know now about the power of the network - and the power it gives us all, would we start from where traditional politics has delivered us?

Do you trust the judgement of everyone who gets to vote?

If our lords and masters at the centre don't deign to consider the impact of the network, I have a funny feeling we'll just end up working around them...

*Updated at 10:35am on official turn-out figures.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Come on out the land is lovely - part II

Missed this myself when it came out (May 22 copy of PR Week didn't make it to my desk). Colleague has now sent me this snap. So I'll share it with you.
It contains my thoughts on the appointment of the Government's Director of Digital Engagement.
You might have to click on the image to enlarge it to read it.
The eagle-eyed among you will realise my title is slightly squiffy - I'm Director of Social Media at Brando Social (important distinction around these parts...).
It's the result of the questions that made me write this.
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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

To fly you need us Supermen beneath your wings

I hear The Face is coming back. As a magazine (though most likely digital,  free or subscription only). I wish the team good luck.

I like to think of the role of print editors these days in terms of glider pilots.

The more skilled the pilot, the more thermals he may find, the higher he may, in the short term, rise.

If the conditions are right he might even perform a few impressive aerobatics.

If the weather is less than ideal he won't be taking risks.

He'll be doing everything he can to keep that bird in the sky just a little bit longer.

Every media company with print interests believes it has better gliders and pilots than the other guys.

So they can stay in the air just a little longer than the rest.
(Image courtesy)

They all started a long way up, with the advantage of being flown there by a powered plane - all the advantages mass media used to enjoy; route to market; distribution, access to exclusives; unavoidable advertising; monopoly on publication etc.

Now they have a slingshot to fire a new launch into the air. Staying up for long periods requires ever greater skill.

Meanwhile we've all learned to fly - without the need for your planes or gliders. And we take that Superman ability and carry aloft Twitter and Facebook, Youtube and  flickr, eBay and Google.
Together we can lift anything, raise it as high as we choose.

And from up here we watch the old world push gliders off cliffs.

Good luck and good fortune to all who fly them. Those who soar will do so by convincing enough of us there is a good reason to come to your glider and support it on our Superman shoulders.

To coin a sacherine phrase: We are the wind beneath your wings.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Catch the Google Wave

Here's the video of google explaining wave. Click through to the Youtube home page for this (or use the HQ function on the embed) and you'll get a load more video detail.
Since it's been described as everything from a email and microsoft killer to a twitter and facebook replacement, it's probably worth getting up to speed with.
The wave is coming at you later this year!

Microsoft's Bing is the other 'need to know' of the last week or so. It launches June 3.
Catch up with that here. That's what I'll be doing after a lazy weekend in the sun...

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?