Weeknote 6: User group and MVP events; a new smartwatch; ghost trains; and the start of Christmas (Week 48, 2017)

Milton Keynes – Rochdale – London – Leicester. Not quite New York – London – Paris but those are the towns and cities on my itinerary this week.

Every now and again, I find myself counting down the days to the weekend. This week has been different. It was manic, squeezing work in around lots of other activities but it was mostly enjoyable too.

The week at work

My work week started off with an opportunity to input to a report that I find quite exciting. I can’t say too much at the moment (though it should be released within the next couple of weeks and I’ll be shouting about it then) but it’s one of those activities that makes me think “I’d like to do more of this” (I already get referred to as the extra member of the risual marketing team, which I think they mean as a good thing!).

Bills have to be paid though (i.e. I need to keep my utilisation up!), so I’ve also had some consulting in the mix, writing a strategy for a customer who needs to modernise their datacentre.

On Wednesday evening, I managed to fit in a UK Azure User Group (@UKAzure) meeting in London, with Paul Andrew (@MrPaulAndrew) talking about Azure Data Factory – another opportunity to fill some gaps in my knowledge.

Then, back to work on Thursday, squeezing in a full day’s work before heading to the National Space Centre in Leicester in the afternoon for the UK MVP Community Connection. I’m not an MVP anymore (I haven’t been since 2011) but I am a member of the MVP Reconnect Programme, which means I still get invited to some of the events – and the two I’ve been to so far have been really worthwhile. One of my favourite sessions at the last event was Tony Wells from Resource IT (the guys who create the Microsoft Abbreviation Dictionary) talking about storytelling. This time we had a 3-hour workshop with an opportunity to put some of the techniques into practice.

The evening started with drinks in the space tower, then an IMAX film before dinner (and a quiz) in the Space Centre, surrounded by the exhibits. We returned the next day for a Microsoft business update, talks on ethics and diversity, on extending our audience reach and on mixed reality.

Unfortunately, my Friday afternoon was hijacked by other work… and the work week also spilt over into the weekend – something I generally try to avoid and which took the shine off things somewhat…

Social

I’ve had a full-on week with family too: my eldest son is one of six from Milton Keynes who have been selected to attend the Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC) in 2019 and, together with ten more who are off to the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, we have a lot of fund-raising to do (about £45,000 in total). That meant selling raffle tickets in the shopping centre for the opportunity to win a car on Monday evening, and a meeting on Tuesday evening to talk about fundraising ideas…

So, that’s out every evening, and a long day every day this week… by Friday I was ready to collapse in a heap.

The weekend

No cyclocross this weekend (well, there was, but it clashed with football), so I was on a different sort of Dad duty, running the line and trying not to anger parents from the other team with my ropey knowledge of the offside rule

It’s also December now, so my family have declared that Christmas celebrations can begin. Right from the moment I returned home on Friday evening I was accused of not being Christmassy enough and I was forced to listen to “Christmas Music” on the drive to my son’s football match (the compromise was that it could be my Christmas playlist).

Even I was amused to be followed in my car by a certain jolly chap:

My part in decorating the house consists of getting everything down from the loft, putting up the tree and lights, and then finding myself somewhere to hide for a couple of hours until it all looks lovely and sparkly. Unfortunately, the hiding time was actually spent polishing a presentation for Monday and fighting with Concur to complete my expenses… not exactly what I had in mind…

New tech

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that we now have a teenager in the house and my eldest son has managed to save enough birthday money to buy a smartwatch. He was thinking of a Garmin device until I reminded him how bad their software is when we sync our bike computers so he went for a Samsung Gear Sport. It looks pretty good if you have an Android phone. I have an iPhone and an Apple Watch (as you may recall from my recent tales of woe) but if I was an Android guy, I think the Gear Sport would be my choice…

Ghost trains

I forgot to add this tale to last week’s week note but I was travelling back home from Stafford recently when I noticed a re-branded Virgin Pendolino at the platform. My train wasn’t due for another 10 minutes so I didn’t check out where this one was going, so I was a little surprised to pass it again as I arrived in Milton Keynes two hours later, after I’d gone the long way (via Birmingham) and changed trains…

Checking on Realtime Trains showed me that I could have caught a direct train from Stafford, but it wasn’t on the public timetable. Indeed, although it stops at several stations, it’s listed as an empty coaching stock working (which is presumably why it is pathed on the slow lines including the Northampton loop). So, in addition to trains that stop at Milton Keynes only to set down (southbound) or pick up (northbound), it seems that Virgin run “ghost trains” too!

Listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m in the car. This week I spent a lot of time in the car. I recommend these two episodes:

Twitter highlights

I’m no GDPR expert but this looked useful:

Company branding is great until it makes the information you give out next-to-useless:

Credit is due to the social media team handling the @PremierInn account for Whitbread, they quickly confirmed that it is a J not an I (though I had worked it out).

@HolidayInn were equally on the ball when I complained about a lack of power sockets (and traffic noise insulation) at their Leicester City Centre hotel. Thankfully they replies were limited to Twitter and email – not midnight calls as my colleague Gavin Morrisson found when he tweeted about another Holiday Inn!

This made me smirk (I haven’t “elevated” my Mac yet…):

If you don’t get the joke, this should provide context.

I like this definition of “digital [transformation]”:

This short video looks at how we need to “debug the gender gap”:

The full film is available to stream/download from various sources… I intend to watch.

And, to wrap up with some humour, I enjoyed Chaz Hutton’s latest Post-it sketch:

(for more like this, check out InstaChaz on Instagram)

Finit

That’s it for now… more next week…

My social media journey

Last week, I spent some time with the risual Marketing team recording a short interview on “my social media journey”. The idea was that I have an established blog and I’m prolific on Twitter – what could colleagues pick up from my experience that might help them?

Then the team decided to put it out on YouTube! You can watch the video below but I apologise for the constant glancing at my Surface screen – I only had 20 minutes to prepare and we shot it all in one take!

For those without time to watch the video – these are the notes I prepared in advance for Jordan’s questions:

risual: First off, can you talk about what influenced/inspired you to start using social media/your blog?

Mark: I started blogging in about 2004. We didn’t even use the term “social media” then around about then having a “weblog” had started to become popular. I just wanted somewhere to store my notes and thought they might be useful to others too. 13 years later and there are around 2500 posts on there!

I’m pretty bad at remembering things – even today it surprises me when I search for an answer and my own site comes up in search results!

Twitter was a bit different. I really didn’t “get it” at first, then it clicked one day when I was watching a keynote video and saw the moderated tweets on the hashtag alongside. I could really see the value. I started tweeting soon afterwards (at a Microsoft event) and over time Twitter has become my main social media output.

risual: In terms of starting off, did you have a goal? How did you build up your follower count?

Mark: I didn’t really have a goal, but the site sort of took off – as I wrote more, more people read it. Then I put some ads on the pages and it started to make money. Then Google changed their algorithm and I started to lose money ;-). I’m not in it for the money though.

Actually, there was a time (around 2005) when I was double-blogging on my own site and my employer’s site – myself and Jamie Thomson [@jamiet] (who also went on to be an MVP) had a bit of an internal battle at as the company’s most prolific bloggers – me for infrastructure and him for data!

As for followers, I’m not too worried about the number of followers – more in the quality of those followers.

If you create good content the followers will come naturally.

risual: How much time do you spend updating your blog or using social media daily?

Mark: Not enough and too much at the same time! I would like to have more time to write blog posts but you do have to be in the right frame of mind. I have loads of part-written posts – and even set up a Kanban board in Office 365 Planner a few nights ago to try and sort out my blog post planning!

Twitter is a lot easier – you can tweet on the train, in gaps between meetings, etc. But it’s good to tweet at times when people are around (UK and US business hours) – all too often I find myself catching up on Twitter at bedtime when I should be sleeping. It’s not healthy!

risual: Do you think it’s helped you engage better with other tech professionals with the ability to keep up to date with what topics are “hot”?

Mark: Absolutely. My personal brand has been greatly enhanced with blogging and tweeting. It’s probably how I got my MVP Award and, even though I’m not an MVP anymore I’m still recognised by Microsoft as what their marketing folks call an “influencer”.

risual: What do you get out of it all personally? You’ve obviously got a very busy job and have no obligation to do it, but do, why?

Mark: Narcissism! No, not really. I think personal branding is important in our industry. It’s amazing how often I meet people in the real world that I know via social media. In fact, I once attended an interview where the interviewer told me he read my blog – that was a bit of a curved ball!

risual: It may seem like an obvious question, but what’s your own advice for those starting out on Twitter hoping to build a following?

Mark: Not obvious at all!

  1. Just dive in there and start RTing things you think are relevant.
  2. Tweet links to your own blog posts.
  3. The more you tweet the more followers you will get. It’s just the way it is. Having said that, quality is more important than quantity.
  4. Engage, reply – don’t just broadcast.
  5. Don’t just tweet things to advertise your company! People don’t want to be marketed to (at least not in an obvious way). I sometimes tweet risual posts that I’ve been involved in – or if it’s something that could really make a difference to people – like what we’re doing in Education. But I also mix it with lots of tweets from other people (not just Microsoft!) and about 10% personal stuff. People follow people, not brands!

I have about 43,000 tweets at the moment. Over an 8 year period that’s not many a day (<15 on average) although I have to admit a big chunk of my tweeting was when I was working in a role where it was actually a part of my job!

risual: How do you keep up to date with the latest technology news in order to talk about them when they’re still hot out of the oven?

Mark: I listen to podcasts (like the Microsoft Cloud Show and WB-40) and Twitter is my main news source. I’d like to read more blogs but don’t have the time.

Twitter is a bit of an echo chamber at times but I’ve created some lists of people who tweet interesting content (I have a CTO watchlist, a Microsoft watchlist and a risual list) and I try to keep up to date with them. I don’t actually read all of the tweets for all the people I follow – mostly just the ones on these lists!

A month without social media. Well, sort of…

Ben Seymour (@bseymour) made a very pertinent point in a recent Milton Keynes Geek Night talk when he said:

“At no point did I find myself wishing I’d spent more time on Twitter”

So, when one of my friends said he would give up social media for January, I thought it would be worth a try too. After all, if a brand and marketing communications Consultant can do without #socmed, then so can I!

Actually, I made some exceptions:

  • Twitter is work. It’s how I keep up to date – and how I build my personal brand (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious). Having said that I’ve been too busy for most of January to tweet much.
  • Ditto for my blog.

I turned off notifications for LinkedIn, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and some more. And then I realised how many channels I have – for example WhatsApp is one of the methods my son uses to contact me. That’ll be another exception then. Then there’s Strava. Hmm… well, I guess it’s not so much social media as where I track my activity…

The main one to drop was Facebook. So, how did that go? Really, I haven’t missed it at all. Sure, I was probably the last person in our town to know that a McDonalds is being proposed for the BP garage 2 miles up the road (which apparently has divided opinion…) but is that really so important in the great scheme of things? I did miss some contact on Messenger – but anyone who knows me well also has my mobile number…

And the biggest observation from my month of social media abstinence? Well, I watched a few series on Amazon Video (two seasons of The Man in the High Castle and Mr Robot). As my wife noted, it seems my digital addiction just switched channels…

An example of how to engage customers on social media

Almost every day, I see a branded account somewhere using Twitter as a broadcast medium, rather than as a tool to engage two-way conversation with customers. Indeed Matt Ballantine (@ballantine70) called Twitter out on this one…

Then there are the accounts that are named something like @BrandnameHelp, which vary tremoundously in the amount of “help” they offer (although creds are due to @TMLewinHelp and @7DigitalHelp who have both helped me out recently with problem orders).  @BTCare and @AmazonHelp are less impressive, in my experience.

@NatWest_Help picked up on this, slighty sarcastic, tweet from yours truly:

@LondonMidland does a great job of dealing with disgruntled travellers, including gems like this, with childrens toys to illustrate the issue (sometimes real pics too – it’s easier to be sympathetic of problems getting to/from work when you can see flooded tracks/fallen trees/damaged trains from fallen overhead wires, etc.):

There are whole books on this written by people who know far more about customer service and marketing than I do but I’d like to call out one example of what I see as a great use of social media…

Yesterday evening ago, I tweeted about a very amusing Volkswagen ad, noting that my recent car purchase might have been from them had the local dealership not been so completely useless at selling me the car I wanted…

Full credit to @UKVolkswagen, they picked up on this and said “can we help”, later following through with an email address to send more details to. The resulting email response was less impressive, suggesting I should supply a phone number if I wanted a response (I didn’t want a response, but my mobile number was already in the email…).

But what really impressed me, and showed:

  1. Excellent social media monitoring skills (clearly tracking disgruntled customers with rival brands); and
  2. An ability to use social media to engage and potentially attract new custom

was the Twitter conversation I had with @ToyotaGB this evening.

It was too late, as I’d already bought a Volvo (I may have mentioned that once or twice on Twitter…) but still excellent use of social media. Other brands could learn a thing or two…

Effectively targetting social media interaction: are you speaking Scottish in Toyko? (Mark McCulloch at #MKGN)

Every three months, I have a mild panic because:

  1. I’ve successfully registered for Milton Keynes Geek Night (MKGN) but neglected to put it in my diary.
  2. Three months have gone by and I’ve not blogged about the last MKGN, even though David and Richard know me as the resident blogger…

This time is no exception…

I could say I was distracted because Mrs W. accompanied me to the last Geek Night; I could blame Google Keep for not allowing large enough notes to store a whole evening’s worth of note-taking and for losing the first part of my notes (although it sounds a bit like “the dog ate my homework” and I’m sure I’ve used a similar excuse before) so let’s just stick with “because I’m busy – but MKGN #9 it was a really worthwhile evening and I’m sure #10 will be too”. You can catch the audio on Soundcloud, but I want to write about one talk that I found particularly interesting – Mark McCulloch (@WeAreSpectaculr)’s “Are you speaking Scottish in Tokyo” (which seems to have an additional relevance today)…

Are you speaking Scottish in Toyko?

If you’re wondering what Mark means by “Speaking Scottish in Tokyo” (or, as he put it, “Okinawa the noo!”), Mark’s whole point is that social media interaction needs to be effectively targetted.  He’s quite happy to highlight that his message is based on a book by Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee) – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World – but it highlights some important points:

  • First up – you need to be native to the social channel in use. Lazy brands put the same post on multiple channels. Sometimes it just doesn’t work…
  • Added to that, many social agencies have no real plan or return on investment.
  • Next – don’t expect instant results: you need to give, give, give, then take. Too many brands broadcast on social media. The good ones have a conversation. The excellent ones hook people in with something that they find useful – and then ask for something in return.

Mark talked about a rule of thirds developed at Yo Sushi (brand, product, fun/health/life); drawn as a Venn diagram you need to hit the point where all three meet and Mark suggests building a mind map of things to talk about based on these 3.

Next, the perfect post needs a call to action that’s easy to understand, perfectly crafted for mobile and for other digital devices – and respects the nuances of the target network… so, for example, on Facebook:

  1. Is the text too long?
  2. Is it provocative, entertaining and/or surprising?
  3. Is the photo striking?
  4. Is the logo visible?
  5. Have you chosen the right format for the post?
  6. Is the call to action in the right place?
  7. Is this interesting?

So, here are some first class “jabs”:

Now, Mark actually showed examples from Facebook – I’ve used the Twitter equivalents here because they are easy for me to embed, but this one doesn’t work on Twitter (more than 140 characters):

Those are all good jabs. This isn’t (it’s too complex):

But this one is a right hook (a new product that’s not too “salesy”):

Knock-out!

And what about when you don’t respect the medium? This is native:

This isn’t:

So, in summary, if you’re a brand using social media to interact with customers:

  1. Plan your social media content using the “rule of thirds”.
  2. Plan your social media content into “jab, jab, jab, right hook” micro stories.
  3. Think about the channel you’re posting on, the native language and the audience behaviours.
  4. Think about the time of day when you’re posting (auto-schedule updates, for example).

What about the other talks?

No promises, but I hope to blog about some of the other talks soon…

And what’s happening tonight?

As usual, tonight’s MKGN looks to have some fascinating talks (I confess I don’t have a clue about Jumbotrons, Twilio or MEAN coding!):

  • Ben Foxhall (@benjaminbenben) is back, this time to talk about “Jumbotrons”!
  • Rachel Andrew (@rachelandrew) is giving her postponed talk on “Your own definition of success – choosing a profitable side project idea”.
  • Elliot Lewis (@elliotlewis) will be talking about “The Apprentice”.
  • “Code Smarter, be MEAN” is the topic for Tamas Piros (@tpiros).
  • And Michael Wawra (@xmjw) is scheduled to speak about “Twilio”)

Join in!

Milton Keynes Geek Night happens every three months at The Buszy in Milton Keynes (old bus station, opposite Milton Keynes Railway Station) and is free (thanks to generous sponsorship). Because it’s free, and the speakers are generally so good, it “sells out” quickly, but keep an eye on the @MKGeekNight Twitter feed – and bag yourself a place for the next one in December!

Social media and the law (#socmedlaw)

Courtroom One GavelA couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to a lunchtime round-table event, to chat about social media and the law. “What’s not to like?”, I thought, and a few days later I was enjoying the delights of good company in an Italian restaurant in London’s Covent Garden (and wishing I hadn’t driven to the station that morning – more vino please!). Well, what’s not to like indeed – a couple of hours flew by and I could quite happy have whiled away another couple, had I not needed to get back to the office…

So, social media and the law. Really? Is that such a big deal?

In a word, yes!

You see, whilst we’re all enthusing about sharing our lives online and building digital relationships, there are some for whom that’s a little too risky.  I’m not talking about over-sharing personal details here – exposing oneself to undesirable physical world impacts from digital world slip-ups – but about negatively impacting one’s employment as companies struggle to get their heads around a world where relationships are formed online as well as in the traditional methods. Indeed, even the round-table where we were discussing these issues was run under the “Chatham House rule” – precisely so that participants could speak openly and freely, without fear of the consequences of reporting what they said (reporting is fine, attribution is strictly off limits).

Starting the conversation with concerns about employees tweeting, there are a whole load of considerations, from issues of authenticity to accidentally committing an organisation to a contract. Some organisations maintain lists of approved social media users but what happens when an over-enthusiastic employee defends your brand using their personal account and crosses a line?

Ultimately, companies are trying to protect their reputation online and limit their liability in the digital space, just as they do in the physical world. But there’s no “one size fits all” solution: some brands may be “free and open”, others more “locked down” and it’s increasingly important to create policies for acceptable use of social media. The issue is that these policies need to be kept up to date, and need to reflect the real world. For example, an organisation might forbid its employees to affiliate themselves with a brand online. That’s OK on Twitter, Facebook, etc. but what about their online CV on LinkedIn? For all of my disclaimers absolving my employer of any views and opinions I express online (disclaimers that were, incidentally, triggered by an unclear social media policy), it’s still pretty easy to find who pays my salary and to establish a link between my personal views and a brand. Thankfully, I’m told, there is a legal distinction between a social media account used for work purposes and affiliation of a personal account to a company or brand.

Unfortunately, until “social” is embedded in our organisational DNA, there will be issues – and the legal minefield around developments in the way we use technology is not exclusively limited to social media.  Take recent legislation on the use of “cookies” for example, described at the event as “stupid laws by stupid people, made for the wrong generation”.

It’s important to recognise that much of the movement into social seen by companies today is out of compulsion rather than quantified need – organisations need to consider what’s right for their brand. And what if social media isn’t purely a marketing tool, but about relationships? Enlightened companies are accepting that employees are increasingly linked online but it’s still important to “think and use your brain”. Microsoft’s blogging policy is often quoted as “blog smart” – it’s actually two pages that boil down to “don’t be stupid”. The important element is being careful not to make forward facing statements on behalf of the company and monitoring takes place to control any breaches (inadvertent or otherwise).

Ultimately, employee behaviour is hard to control. Generally, there is no malicious intent. As employers we need to explain the consequences of actions but educating people is difficult.

Then there’s the issue of what happens when an employee leaves a company. There are high-profile cases of influential tweeters taking their followers to a new organisation, or of companies claiming that a LinkedIn profile belongs to them.  Many companies are only to happy to benefit from relationships (and skills) when staff are recruited but try to protect these assets when they move on – maybe a future legal case will clarify the situation, with a sensible judge telling companies that they can’t “have their cake and eat it” (one can hope).

Even in the most sales-focused organisations, handing over an address book is one thing but relationships are individual (people transact with people)… perhaps it’s the relatively new nature of social platforms that means the rules of engagement are still settling down?

There’s an argument that assets gained on company time belong to the company, but what exactly is company time? In our increasingly connected society, there’s a fine balance between an employment contract, bringing chores/devices to work and working extended hours outside the office. When do we stop being employees and start being individuals again? For many of us, there is no more 9 to 5!

A couple more points that I liked were: that corporate use of social media is not really about openness but about translucency; and that we have years of history with employees talking to customers – in shops! The difference now is the online evidence trail.

Some consider that the damage any one individual can cause online is limited anyway, that the Internet is “filling up”, with user-generated content increasingly buried in search results by bland, corporate results (which may be authoritative but make it hard to find any real information on making things work). On the other hand, if patent trolling is a valid business model (which it appears to be), what about copyright trolls, or social media offence trolls?

That brought us nicely onto copyright, which evolved because society saw creative endeavours that needed to be protected. But the nature and scope of copyright is that it can only exist where society respects and enforces the rules. That means that copyright does need to evolve, especially here in the UK, where there is no concept of “fair use”.

In summary, there are a lot of worries about social media and the law but nobody is really over concerned – we know that laws will change (eventually) – but there will be intervening years where the implications exercise the minds of everyone from board members downwards and only common sense can drive us through. That means that monitoring is required: companies can’t engage in social media unless they’re prepared to monitor and to be intelligent about what they find.

Highlight of #SocMedLaw - "stupid laws for stupid things, made by the wrong generation" eg: Cookie Law. Who agrees?... 100%
@AbigailH
Abigail Harrison

 

So, what was the biggest lesson for me? Actually, it was nothing to do with the law. I found that taking comprehensive notes whilst tweeting and eating lunch is difficult!

Thanks to Social Safe for sponsoring the event and to Abigail Harrison (@AbigailH) for making it happen.

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz via Compfight (licensed under Creative Commons)

Re-imagination and business: Antony Mayfield at #SMWB2B

Last week, I wrote about the first keynote speech at the fifth B2B Huddle, from Microsoft’s Dave Coplin. It’s taken me a few days to get this post up but the next “act” was Antony Mayfield (@AMayfield), who spoke about advanced persistent opportunities: re-imagination and business (in other words, looking for new ways of working that are not from past business models).

One of the early points that Antony made in his presentation is that there are no real case studies for this topic (everyone is at the start of a journey – there is nothing definitive) which is an interesting observation. He did suggest though, that there are some useful resources out there in the form of Mary Meeker’s [and Liang Wu’s] State of the Internet report and Kevin Kelly (former editor of Wired)’s What Technology Wants.  Another interesting quote that Antony used was attributed to Marc Andreessen (web browser pioneer turned venture capitalist) who was cited as saying that “the future is six months away” or, in other words, the limit for any sure-fire bets in the world of the Internet and social media is much shorter than the business and marketing plans that we use, so we need to find a new way of working…

One area where people constantly have to re-imagine models is that of security – with constant threats and risks. One particular form is that of the advanced persistent threat (APT). These are not one-off attacks but are very serious and often related to organised crime although hacktivists and governments also represent APTs.

Applying the same thoughts to social business, there is no such thing as the definitive social business strategy – strategy is seen as something distant. Strategy should be thought of as an advanced persistent opportunity. Strategy is fluid and social media is the context. Social media is a proxy for change but it is an approach, not a technology.

Antony then went on to talk about social marketing and its relationship with social brands and social businesses, building up to “six brilliant things” for successful brands to follow [in their social media marketing].

  1. Leadership: Mandate and licence for change is clear. Antony cited Burberry as a case study where the CEO ambition was one of a digital brand. Following successful pilots, Burberry built an in-house content team and a social media approach based around a community that, once built, drives the brand.
  2. Vision and values: They know what and who they are for. In place of the recognised purchase funnel (awareness, consideration, decision, buy [, loyalty]), today’s decision journey is one of a “loyalty loop”  (as described by McKinsey and Company as far back as 2009). Brands like Nokia are embracing this cycle of consideration, evaluation, purchase but then building enjoyment, advocacy and bonding with the brand and a Harvard Business Review article looks at branding in the digital age and how many organisations are spending their money in the wrong places.
  3. Principles: How they will operate with social/digital. Again, Nokia was the case study cited by Mayfield (Brilliant Noise has a paper on Nokia’s global social media strategy), with six principles for digital engagement – effectively “the right ways to behave”: 1. Consider the social opportunity in everything we do; engage in better conversations with more consumers; deliver personal experiences, be authentic, and earn trust; sharing is more important than control; define clear objectives from the outset; invest and commit to social presences.  These are a great starting point for developing a set of principles for an organisation but, to give another example, the UK Government Digital Service sets out its own seven  digital principles to follow:
    The 7 GDS digital principles
  4. Pilot and scale: [Have the] Will to try things, [and the] will to scale things that work. Nike was the quoted case study here, building relationships and viewing campaigns as an investment, rather than straight spending.
  5. Frameworks and governance: Systems to guide pioneers and connect key stakeholders. IBM’s investment model has moved from a traditional campaign model of spend, followed by attention to one of consistent spending targetted on building a community (creating an “S curve” of attention, rather than peaks) – but this is hard work and requires a continued focus.
  6. Digital literacy: investing in skills across the organisation. Examples here are the Nokia Socializer and the Dell Social Media University.

Antony Mayfield believes that social business is a journey and, just as we embark on personal journeys to move from reading, to marking favourites, sharing, commenting, posting, creation, and [perhaps] starting a group in an ever-more-steep curve there are Business models such as Red Ant’s 5 stages of: traditional  experimental, operational  measurable and  fully engaged social business.  Some organisations might want more detail

Some organisations want detailed ideas but ultimately, says Antony, we need to re-imagine everything (or someone will do it for you…).

Video

For those who would like to watch Antony Mayfield’s B2B Huddle presentation, a copy is embedded below:

Social Media: Taking the Plunge

January 2012 new year’s resolution: to join the 21st century!

With two young children, the past few years have flown by in a time-starved, sleep-deprived haze. Juggling motherhood with work has left little time or head-space for anything new.

I’m firmly stuck in the age of email. If I want to contact someone, I call them or I email them. Very occasionally, I text. MySpace and Bebo passed me by. Facebook and Twitter are things that other people do and LinkedIn is somewhere I ought to be.

After many months of procrastination, I reluctantly dipped my little toe in the water this summer and joined LinkedIn. I felt slightly exposed having an on-line presence for the first time. The photo is still proving a sticking point.

Needing a further push, I went along to a social media event hosted by flexible working specialists Ten2Two. Aimed at individuals like myself, who have somehow missed (or avoided) the social media revolution, the workshop gave a useful insight into LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogging. Around the room, questions and concerns included choosing the best media, privacy and security, and of course the holy grail for all working mums, finding the time.

Which Media When?

Yes – I’m on LinkedIn – but my sad lack of photo is a no-no. The privacy issue with Facebook has always been a concern for me. But, while it may not be the best place for B2B connections, I do need to get to grips with it before my children are on-line. I see the value of Twitter for keeping up-to-date with news and hot topics but remain slightly alarmed at the thought of constant tweet distractions. While there may be guidelines for using social media, there are no hard and fast rules. You simply have to get signed up, try it and see.

The Sticky Issue of Privacy

One of the reasons I’m not on Facebook, don’t tweet and have never blogged before today is; how do I keep my private life private? The answer is, with social media, you can’t! And you can’t keep work separate from your personal life. I’ve decided on the following approach: With anything that I put on-line, I have to be comfortable with the idea that my customers, colleagues, parents, friends, children’s teachers and school-run acquaintances could read it. I also have to be happy that anyone from my past could read it – as well as anyone I may meet or work with in the future.

Finding the Time

The old problem of finding the time won’t go away. But I’ve put aside some time to write this blog post and I’ve enjoyed it! The moment it goes live may be slightly nerve-wracking (will anyone read it, what will they think…) but equally rather liberating!

From a personal and professional point-of-view, I’ve learned that I can no longer bury my head in the sand. Ignoring social media and hoping I can carry on as before is no longer an option. And so with a deep breath, I take the plunge!

Some thoughts on social media, the importance of IT literacy, and “humanising the web” (channelling Dave Coplin at #SMWB2B)

Yesterday, I spent the morning at the fifth B2B Social Media Huddle, organised by Kerry Bridge (@KerryBridge) and Neville Hobson (@jangles). I’ve written about these events before – and I find them fantastic because they are focus on using social media for business to business communications, whilst many events are focused on consumer audiences. Some would say that doesn’t matter – the channels are the same (i.e. the same social networks) and you are still communicating with people (and, fundamentally, people buy from people, so it’s about building relationships) but I do believe that the two markets have very different needs (B2B is not just B2C scaled down, as someone once suggested…).

Unfortunately I had to leave before the unconference started – so I’m sure I missed some great content later in the day but I wanted to call out some of the fantastic points that Microsoft’s Dave Coplin (@DCoplin) made in his fantastic opening presentation.

Restricting access to social media at work

Firstly, taking a look at the view that employees shouldn’t be allowed access to social media at work.  Thankfully, IT departments are becoming more enlightened and the number of organisations blocking access at the firewall is dropping but there are still issues in management. The concerns generally boil down to:

  1. I don’t want my team wasting time.
  2. I don’t understand the value (of conversation flow, etc.).

As Dave eloquently pointed out, if you are concerned about people wasting time on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, you should probably also frisk them for newspapers with crossword and sudoku puzzles.  And, as Helen Reynolds (@HelReynolds) added on Twitter, whilst you’re at it, ban small talk and daydreaming!

Understanding the value is harder – like Dave, I thought Twitter was a waste of time, until I saw a moderated stream used alongside a keynote video. These days I’m hooked (although Twitter’s apparent desire to self-destruct might change that one day soon…). Another way to look at this is that we might once have struggled to see value in email, or the world-wide web – and now there are large groups of employees for whom we would not envisage a world without those tools (or something similar). Social media is the next iteration of modern communications and, whether its on internal or external networks, there is immense value in many of the conversations to be had.

One important point that Dave made for those who think social media is just “for the kids” is to take a look at the #bbcqt hashtag on a Thursday night and you’ll see a lively debate from across a wide spectrum of Twitter users. Social media is certainly not just for “Generation Y” – and even those middle managers who frown upon its use at work probably use at least one social medium, even if it’s just to follow their favourite sports team, or to pick up deals from a brand with whom they like to transact.

IT literacy

Dave Coplin suggested that there are two common threads when talking to people (real people, not IT or technology marketing people!) about IT. The first is the “I know nothing about computers – I need my son/daughter to control the insert piece of technology here” response, suggested as if it were a badge of honour (i.e. “I’m not a geek”). Dave continues to comment that “I know nothing about computers” should not be acceptable; people need to realise that they are part of society and digital literacy is as important a skill as reading and writing in a traditional sense. I’m not suggesting (and I don’t think Dave Coplin was either) that everyone should be able to write computer programmes, but the idea that some people are proud not to understand how to use common technology like smartphones, video equipment, an Internet browser is a social problem that needs to be addressed.

Secondly, companies that say “don’t worry about IT… we’ll deal with that for you” are not helping – they need to empower users to take control of technology and use them to good effect (writes the man using a corporate PC with so much “security” software piled on it that it takes 5 minutes before it is usable after turning it on…).

Many of the issues are about educating people for a digital future [I’d say a digital present] – not just children but every member of society – and Dave suggests that we need to change our approach, to start teaching skills not tools.

He went on to illustrate the point, something like this (although it might need to be adjusted depending on the audience, this worked for the Generation Xers in the room yesterday!):

  • Our grandfathers went to school where there was no electricity.
  • Our parents went to school when there were no PCs.
  • We went to school when there was no world-wide web.
  • And our kids will go to school in a world without hover-cars.

In other words, technology develops at pace and it’s no good teaching people about technology – we need to equip them with the skills to apply as new technologies come on stream.

In another example, there are signs in various parts of the world advising drivers not to follow satellite navigation (e.g. lorry drivers under low bridges, motor vehicles along footpaths).  I’m sure that the creators of the sat-nav technology didn’t intend to take away the responsibility of the driver to apply some common sense – technology should augmenting human reactions, not replacing them.

In other words, Dave Coplin suggests that the world we should strive for is one of human plus machine, not human versus machine and critical thinking is a more important skill than word processing.

“Humanising” the web

Humanising the web is Microsoft marketing-speak. The company I work for talks about a “human centric intelligent society” and I’m sure there are others in a similar vein but the point is  a similar one – tapping into a network of people to change the way in which services are delivered.  Somewhat cynically, I tweeted that this just sounds like crowdsourcing but there is more to it than that.

Our smartphones are permanently authenticated to us as individuals – they are truly personal devices and that gives companies the opportunity to deliver personalised services.  For example, Dave suggested that mobile can make accessible mean something to a wheelchair user – “what’s the best route into a station – and which of the eight entrances has a ramp?”.  There are other opportunities to augment reality too – like translation, or overlaying information onto pictures. But why stop there, asks Dave? Why not stitch things together and deliver new experiences – applications that know our preferences and suggest activities accordingly?

Much of this depends on “big data” and machine learning – and, the more we use data, the more we can provide new insights. Data scientists will become increasingly important as we find a way to navigate information, without over-reliance on algorithms – which are really powerful but can have unintended consequences when combined.  Dave gave an example whereby, if enough people perform a search, then the engine will decide that it’s important and adjust the results accordingly – that can have unintended consequences (a bit like the example in this old blog post of mine).

Of course, when looking at humanising the web, we need to consider social implications too and there are, undoubtedly, some people whose online behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.  We’ve seen that before though – fifteen years ago, people would interrupt conversations to take a mobile phone call but these days it’s normal to use silent rings, or to divert to voicemail. As a society we have learned how to integrate mobile telephony into our conversations but we are less mature in other areas. Dave Coplin suggests that Facebook is not a problem – the way the (some) people behave on Facebook is the issue – we’re still learning how to behave online – we troll, bully, etc. And that leads to a society that gets really challenged…

Which leads on to privacy – we all have a line above or below which we are comfortable. For example, my Facebook is just for friends and family (although I have extended it to aquantainces from my “real” life too); whilst LinkedIn is only for people I have worked with professionally (and whom I would like to work with again some day); meanwhile I’m pretty open on Twitter, sharing a mixture of the less-personal personal stuff, with technology, things I find out and topics related to my hobbies.

But, as a society, our definitions and expectations of privacy change over time. In one of Dave Coplin’s anecdotes he spoke of how the landlord in your local pub knowing your name and drink of choice is an accolade of social acceptance. But what if you walked into a pub in a different town and the barman said “Hello Dave, pint of the usual is it?” – that might be a little strange (how do they know your name and how do they know what you drink?).  Ultimately though, it’s just personalisation of service – and we will increasingly see this on the web as our expectations of privacy and information sharing evolve.

We’ve seen this before – in another example Dave reminded us how Caller ID used to be something to avoid (“what, give out my number to someone when I call – no way!”) but these days we use it extensively and screen calls that don’t show a number that we recognise. Technology evolves, as does our use of that technology, and our acceptance of the implications of its use.

Empower others, be human, and don’t just engage – enchant!

Dave closed his presentation with three points about their use of IT, in particular in their use of social media:

  1. Empower others – to make decisions, to interact, to learn.
  2. Be human – companies need to have humour and personally in their online interactions and too many just want to sell (or be dull).
  3. Don’t just engage, enchant. John Lewis’ ads don’t tell us where the stores are and what they sell – instead, they reach out to us emotionally and drag us in.

Dave was speaking of last year’s Christmas ad but the same can be said for the latest “Never knowingly undersold” ad, which continues in that vein (and is far more sophisticated and, dare I say, enchanting, than earlier ads featuring a selection of products on sale):

Video

For those who would like to watch Dave Coplin’s B2B Huddle presentation, a copy is embedded below:

[Update 2 October 2012: Added video of Dave Coplin’s presentation]

Highlights from day 2 of #iStrategy London

Yesterday I posted some highlights from my time at the iStrategy digital media conference. Having written about day 1, it seems sensible to follow up with a post about day 2.

Using content to complement your brand

The morning keynote was an awe-inspiring look at the Red Bull Media House, founded in 2007, 20 years after the drink/brand organisation, to focus on creating a media business – building a structure and organisation for the commercialisation of Red Bull’s content assets.

Red Bull’s Chief Commercial Officer, Alexander Koppell, believes that brilliant content should be at the centre of every great brand. But, with content as the company’s major asset, Red Bull found that they needed to consider how to create more; to create a platform and tools; and to handle distribution. Rather than turn to agencies the Red Bull Media House was created as a 360 degree media business with content, its own production facilities, marketing communication, publishing press, music label publishing, broadcasting, platform provision, and worldwide distribution. As a result, Red Bull is the third most influential social brand globally.

Now, as YouTube has become the world’s global video pool, it has partnered with brands to move into content creation. Red Bull is one of those brands and this is just one of the results:

Koppell summed up by highlighting Red Bull’s key focus areas of:

  1. Brilliant content
  2. Multichannel execution
  3. Reach and monetisation
  4. And a new paradigm based on Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).

As for his advice to other organisations? Build structures, invest inside your company – if you go for third parties be aware of the risks to you as a content player – and at same time build up your asset (be that technology, events or Formula 1 racing teams!). Whatever your core product is, make sure that you can differentiate your company from its competitors!

Online video: great to watch, even better to share

The next session was a panel on video and, as is usual with this format, I found my mind wondering to other things – panel discussions just don’t engage me! I did get to a session later in the day on the topic (more in a moment) but a couple of quick points I picked up were:

  • We have always loved video but it’s now easier to distribute and consume.
  • An emotional video ad that makes you feel good about a brand is unlikely to lead to an immediate purchase – it may influence future decisions though.
  • And, as for the future of social video:
    • Expect to see more value exchanges – e.g. watch a video in preference to a micro-transaction (e.g. buying a crop in Farmville).
    • Infomercials will become common.
    • The democratisation of video creation (as the barrier to content creation is now very low) will create an explosion of channels and an amazing amount of content.
    • Brands can be content creators too and users will decide whats good or not (great stuff will bubble to the top).

The accidental social campaign: understanding the multiplier effect

As the conference moved into a series of breakout sessions, I decided to join Jonathan Wolf (@JonathanWWolf)’s workshop looking at creating the multiplier effect – taking advantage of user generated content and using it as many times as possible to maximise value.

In stark contrast to a later workshop, Jonathan took a refreshing approach to self-promotion, joking about having six slides to present about his company first, and then saying “not really” and moving straight into content. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jonathan. That, combined with some quality advice is an example of thought leadership. And it meant that I did actually read the literature about BazaarVoice rather than blanking them from that point forward (take note Wildfire and Telligent – more on Telligent in a moment…).

Jonathan outlined a couple of case studies where companies used user generated content to build loyalty and brand advocacy:

  • White Stuff‘s UHT campaign gave customers the opportunity to put their man on a charity calendar. In step 1, people contributed stories/photos and participated, but step 2 was to get people back to vote on the best stories – a second wave of the campaign (for free as heavy lifting already done). Once the finalists had been selected, White Stuff got people to come back again and vote once more (and if your partner was there you would have got all your friends to vote…). Now they have selected a winner but not told us who yet – so expect a fourth wave as they market back out to us – combined with the press opportunities as this is a charity calendar… In all, the same content has been (or will be) used four or five times so the return on investment is great!
  • Domino’s Pizza had a brand crisis in the US – so they reformulated their food and gave people insight into how things work (Amy is making your pizza, Joe is delivering your pizza) with a pizza tracker. On top of this, they encouraged customers to write reviews and the company put them on screen in New York’s Times Square. This campaign has several effects: it gives insight and solicits feedback; it is used internally as a measure of how well the company is doing; it engages employees to have pride in their work (employees don’t want their name on a bad review…); it serves as an advertisment (in Times Square); and it’s driven from the web – so the Times Square activity acts as an ad campaign in itself.

After whetting our appetite, Jonathan stopped and got us to have a go at a practical exercise. But I wanted more… the workshop was good, and well-run, but it was a lot to squeeze into a short session which ultimately led to us over-running the time-slot. Hey ho, I guess that was the brief…

Video: it’s how we see the world

In this next session, Google’s Harry Davies (@HarryDavies) gave some insight into the world of online video (and advertising… after all he does work for Google!)

He’s absolutely correct that it’s to video we turn to to understand great events (citing an example from 9/11 – watching events unfold on the TV in his boss’ office [I did that too]).

Harry’s hypothesis is that video is the closest media we have to life and that makes it “super-important”. And advertisers have long understood the magic of television and used that so that they can ride on back of great content and provokes an emotional response (for example the John Lewis Always a Woman ad) – which attempts to connect with customers on an emotional level:

Quoting from Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking fast and slow”, Harry highlighted that we make snap decisions based on emotional connections – and that’s what TV ties into. Online provides an opportunity to take the emotional journey further.

Some more snippets from Harry’s talk:

  • On average people watch 4 hours and 2 minues of  TV each day and 54 minutes of online video viewing – but half of the ads are not watched, so Google developed skippable ad format to avoid annoying users.
  • Skippable ads are  good from an advertiser perspective – getting rid of those who don’t care about your product/service and retaining those who are truly engaged (you don’t pay for those who skip).
  • So what’s next? The democratisation of video – examples include:

Of course, Harry demonstrated some YouTube functionality, like trends, charts and video statistics (look for the button next to the play count), but that was in context, and useful… so not really pitching.

Summarising the session in four points:

  1. Emotional ads work.
  2. Follow the user (where are they watching – if there is an 80/20 split between  TV and online watching – split your budget and plan accordingly).
  3. Only pay for engaged users.
  4. Develop content for the new video generation (you don’t have to stay with traditional ads – think about generating your own content – people don’t care where it came from as long as it’s good).

How to transform your marketing with social customer engagement

This session promised a lot. And delivered very little.

In short, Telligent showed us a 3 minute corporate video (with United States contact details) and then their partner (Insites Consulting) spent some time telling us about themselves… Hello? We are not here to hear your pitch!

I'll say it again: *do not pitch to me at a conference*. Use as an opportunity for *Thought Leadership*; sales will follow later #iStrategy
@markwilsonit
Mark Wilson

I very nearly walked out of the session at this point, but I stayed to listen to Insites talking about the co-creation that they did with Heineken and upcoming designers to create  the nightclub of the future (I could have just read Insites’ blog entry – and there is an expanded version of the slide deck online) but there was nothing about some of the other brands mentioned in the conference brochure (Heinz, Unilever).

I’ve used Telligent’s software (Community Manager) in the past and I hope it’s a lot better now (that was in 2003). I won’t be engaging with them though based on their performance at iStrategy. And next time I see a presentation is being delivered by a “Sales Director”, I should know better than to expect anything other than a pitch…

The iPitch

Post lunch, the conference moved in to a Dragons’ Den-esque session with six companies each given six minutes to pitch their product. It was a bit of fun – and quite interesting, although, by this point I had one eye on the clock as I needed to leave soon…

Redefining marketing success: why ROI and marketing don’t always belong in the same sentence

The first thing that this panel did was to redefine the topic to “A decade of focus on metrics (measurement, accountability and ROI) is inhibiting innovation and progress in social…”

Moderated by Thomas Brown (@thinkstuff), the panel included Georgios Kolovos (@gkolovos) Azeem Azar (@azeem), Delphine Remy-Boutang (@delphineRB), Joshua Graff (@joshgraff) and Marc Munier (@marcmunier) and there were some interesting points put forward.

Some of the key points raised in this debate included:

  • The Days of Don Draper are over – we need goals, not just eureka moments – and what better goal than ROI? Combine this with an iterative process to get closer to that goal.
  • Metrics make sense when you know what to do and you have done it before but don’t make sense for innovation. To deal with this and avoid being late to the table 90-95% of time needs to be driven by metrics (in order to be operationally efficient) but 5-10% should be around experimentation, within a framework and with the right people.
  • Scale is an issue – in a large organisation it’s not so much about new ideas but ideas that are scalable. That means that a rigorous approach to assessing innovation is needed, and process and rigour come with ROI. Marketers need to be bold enough to agree that others brought an idea to market and also to say it’s not viable for us.
  • Perhaps, consider a “return on ignorance”, which also has a cost. Eurostar spent €6n to reduce journey times but meanwhile customer feedback suggests they are less concerned about journey times and want Wi-Fi on trains. We need to listen to our customers – not so much for the I in innovation as the C in collaboration.
  • It’s not either/or (ROI or not) but striking a balance: data vs. creativity; and data vs. innovation. Data driven marketing decisions help drive innovation by better understanding consumer behaviour, segmenting customers and what they are doing, we can be  more thoughtful and creative. Data, creativity and innovation are not mutually exclusive and the greatest innovations come from a balance: work with data, innovate and then mesh with creativity.
  • Marketing needs invest ahead of curve (unlike sales, finance, customer service, etc. who can ramp up as need to based on sales, invoices, customer interaction, etc.).

Going global: how Ford Motor Company sets the tone for a global social media strategy

I had to leave early and missed the final keynote, scheduled to be delivered by Scott Monty (@ScottMonty) from Ford although I understand he was unable to travel and Alex Hultgren (@AlexHultgren) stood in for him.  Even so I’m sure it would have been a pretty interesting close to the conference as Scott’s story at Ford is an often-quoted case study on crisis management and I’m sure they have a pretty good grip on social media with lots of advice for the rest of us.  In leui of my own opinions, I’ve picked some tweets from others that were in the session

#istrategy secrets to reinventing Ford Motor Co 1 - break down silos, get common vision
@KayWesley
Kay Wesley
Universal truths in social: create strong products, create engaging content, speak like them,let people speak, & then listen #istrategy
@georgeioannou
George Ioannou
The important thing for Ford is to make the brand more human #istrategy
@thesocialbureau
the social bureau
"How to make your brand more human? Showcase the humans that work at your brand." @ of @ #istrategy
@NealSchaffer
Neal Schaffer
Ford driving massive numbers with Yahoo! activity and Facebook for 2012 Explorer. Outperformed a Superbowl ad! #istrategy
@philptaylor
Phil Taylor
#istrategy Ford gave a fiesta away in a competition on Facebook using Instagram.
@KayWesley
Kay Wesley

Wrapping up

Yesterday I said that I had mixed feelings about iStrategy and the major letdown for me was the apparent inability for certain presenters to avoid their own marketing pitches. I’m told by one of the conference organisers that guideline number 1 for speakers is “do not pitch”. I guess you can’t help some people but it’s particularly galling when “social media gurus” and marketing professionals don’t understand the difference between promoting your brand from a thought leadership perspective and turning your audience off with thinly (or not so thinly) disguised sales tactics.

On the whole though, iStrategy has let me take stock (and think a little about my own future direction) as well as to arm me with additional knowledge about the world of digital media (although it’s also true that some of that knowledge can be obtained from free events too – I’ve written on these pages about Dell’s B2B Social Media Huddles and about Digital Surrey and those are just two examples). Nevertheless, for busy marketing professionals, iStrategy should represent a pretty good return in their (time) investment – particularly if they are grappling with their own organisation’s move into the brave new world of connected consumers and data-driven marketing.

It has a good mix of keynotes, workshops, case studies, networking and the ever-present panel (in a variety of formats) and, whilst not all formats will appeal all of the time, there should be something in there that works for everyone.

That’s not the end of my iStrategy coverage on this blog – I’ve got some additional notes that I’m likely to shape into blog posts over the coming days and weeks but, in the meantime, I’ll be switching modes, back from geek marketeer into solution architect as I fill the rest of my week with the immediate day-job concerns around IT strategy and governance…