Active Conversations Are Where Brands Need To Be…

…Whilst people are doing…stuff. 

As we enter a more fragmented and convoluted online landscape I ask myself, “is there ever going to be another NEXT BIG THING?” Duality, post-modernism…are we now post-digital, where the medium no longer the focus? The terms ‘platform agnostic’ or ‘technology neutral’ both lead us to the same conclusion; ANYTHING can be a digital or social platform and it’s users not brands that choose where these are. Not so much ‘tribes’ as Seth Godin would have you think, more ‘nomads’. Digital hunter/gatherers, constantly moving away from stagnant, drained areas and moving towards more fruitful places with something new to offer and like minded individuals. Right now Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are these fruitful places with Myspace or Friends Reunited being stagnant and drained, by 2015 – who knows?

Which brings me to the point of this post. Brands are constantly being told that they need to be where the conversation is if they want to engage with audiences and vice versa. However, there is some narrow minded thinking when it comes to where these conversations are occuring. Facebook? Yes. Twitter? Of course.

However, perhaps the most impactful time to enter people’s thoughts is whilst they are already engaged in another activity. There is a Direct Line banking advert on UK TV currently where instead of being given advice sitting at a desk, the customer (played by Alexander Armstrong) asks the adviser (played by Chris Addison) if they can pretend to play golf whilst they discuss his financial concerns (see below).

Yes it’s a ‘funny’ advert but it does illustrate the point.

Alternatively, your target audience may have a propensity to play computer games. Maybe you’re a fashion brand attempting to get your message through to gamers (who might share the 16-30, male, med-high disposable income demographic). Traditionally you may go for banner ads on gaming sites, Facebook adverts targeted at people who ‘like’ video games or purchasing some email list data for that demographic. Hang on a minute though – if you’re targeting them because those who play video games also show an affinity to your brand, then surely you want to enter their mind WHILST they play the video game. They are unlikely to be in the video game mind set if they are opening an email or on a website, potentially clicking on a banner. No, the messaging may have been more effective had they repeatedly seen your brand whilst playing. Many games these days have a headset, with players having ongoing conversations throughout the game with each other. In game adverts or Spotify style ‘in play’ audio ads might be used. I’m thinking Arduino will come in to this somewhere…

The same concept applies to why mobile will be increasingly relevant and effective. This is nothing new, however worth mentioning – people have their mobiles on them 24-7. Whilst they’re playing golf (see earlier example) their mobile will be in their pocket. Find out when they’re playing golf (as will become known increasingly through the use of location based services) then target them during that round.

So it’s not just becoming part of the conversation online, or even engaging with your audience within their communities. It’s ensuring that your brand gets share of mind during actions that can be linked to real time, digital activity. Robinsons having QR codes on tennis nets linking to web offers? Rather than location check-ins, ACTION checkins. Rather than ‘Rob just checked in at the tennis courts’, ‘Rob just started playing tennis’. I guess we’ll have to wait until activity aware apps come along. Perhaps an app than recognises certain movements or gestures that you make and automatically knows what activity you’re doing.

Who knows? Food for thought though eh?

Egyptian Revolution Sparked by use of Social Media

 Social media is no longer limited to status updates and posting photos from a friend’s birthday party it has become a much more complex tool in society. Social media has become one of the most influential factors in grassroots socio-political mobilization across the globe.

The January 25 revolution in Egypt gained a major foothold with the application of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. From the outset, individuals have used it to demand more governmental transparency and mobilize allies.

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at New York University and was lecturing on the Dayton Peace Agreement. This agreement ended the 1995 Bosnia Herzegovina genocide. During the lecture President Clinton compared constant news media coverage of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Genocide with the role of social media in assisting communications during the revolution in Egypt. The former president noted that the news coverage during the Bosnia-Herzegovina Genocide was different than the role social media played during the Revolution in Egypt, in both instances global attention was captured due to the human desire for quick information. Clinton reflected back on the quality of technology available when he was president 16 years ago, “There were just 50 Internet sites and the average cell phone weighed 5 pounds”. Clinton heads up the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) alongside personal counselor Doug Band who provides much needed help to the organization, which was founded in 2002 as the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative. Mr. Douglas Band also oversees plenty of foreign operations at the Clinton Global Initiative.

On 25 January 2011 after a successful revolution had taken in Tunisia, inspired by these events, many Egyptians began protesting against the unemployment and poverty that had settled in Egypt. This was all a result of the country’s 30-year rule by former President Hosini Mubarak. Social network services like Facebook and Twitter were the lifeline of the revolution and to showed the world what was happening in the country. The Egyptian government shut off access to the Internet and text messages on the second day of the mass protest. They felt that by doing this it would ultimately eliminate the strength of the revolution. However, the government’s effort to disable ‘insurgent’ communication in Egypt was unsuccessful. Many transnational human rights activists, translators and bloggers used Facebook, Twitter, chatrooms and other social media platforms to relay messages from protestors, journalists and human rights activists to further the grassroots social mobilization while allowing the world to witness step in step exactly what was going on inside of Egypt. Social media makes social organization easier and effective. Social media used by Egyptian protestors brought together individuals who shared common goals and ideas, but also offered a medium for planning. In the case of Egypt, social media forced the government to take accountability. Transnational social networks made it very difficult for governments to lie and hide from their citizens. As January’s events have shown the world, social media interconnects individuals creating a transnational network armed with information.

While the Bosnia Herzegovina genocide and the recent revolution in Egypt are to completely separate events under girded by different politics and history, a human’s desire for information has always been insatiable. At many points in history individuals have combined ingenuity, passion and technology to link themselves with people and societies across the globe.

Guest post by: Thomas Morrison

Twitter Bans 3rd Party Ad Platforms

Today on their blog Twitter have announced that they will be restricting the use of the Twitter API technology and so exclude platforms whose business models are centred around Twitter monetisation.

So does this mean that Twitter is clearing the way for it’s own monetisation model? They also hint at an upcoming Twitter analytics provision…

Here is what they say in their post:

There has never been more opportunity for innovation on the Twitter platform than there is now. In order to continue to provide clarity, our guiding principles include:

“1. We don’t seek to control what users tweet. And users own their own tweets.

2. We believe there are opportunities to sell ads, build vertical applications, provide breakthrough analytics, and more. Companies are selling real-time display ads or other kinds of mobile ads around the timelines on many Twitter clients, and we derive no explicit value from those ads. That’s fine. We imagine there will be all sorts of other third-party monetization engines that crop up in the vicinity of the timeline.

3. We don’t believe we always need to participate in the myriad ways in which other companies monetize the network. “

They then go on to say:

“We understand that for a few of these companies, the new Terms of Service prohibit activities in which they’ve invested time and money”

So to paraphrase, “You’ve made money out of us for long enough…if we can’t make money out of our own service, then you’re not going to either. So there!”

Why Email Is Still The Most Social Of Media

Now, this isn’t a scientific study you understand. More something that strikes me as obvious. Mention social media and you will instantly start thinking of Facebook and Twitter. However, it occurs to me that there is nothing quite as sociable as email.

And here is how I arrived at this mad crazy postulation:

  1. Email has mainstream acceptance – When I say mainstream I mean everyone who has a computer can use email. I can (and do) email my wife, my friends, my colleagues, my clients, strangers (should I wish to send spam, which I don’t) and family. I speak through email with my Great Aunt who is approaching 92 years of age.
  2. Content – An email can contain text. This could be a quick note to a friend or a lengthy business case.  You can attach photos, video (ok not large files I agree) or documents. Links can be inserted and HTML emails can have external content embedded.
  3. Mentions – Email had ‘mentions’ long before Twitter appeared and Facebook copied. It’s called CCing someone in. Even this gives you the option to include everyone in a conversation OR blind carbon copies to maintain privacy.
  4. Social – Once an email has been sent this can then become collaborative and therefore social. One can forward, reply and crucially for this argument ‘reply to all’. Users can forward emails to anyone in their address book meaning an email can (and often does) go viral, much like Twitter.
  5. Management – Who needs CoTweet et al to manage relationships when you have Outlook! List all emails, order by name, size, date or subject. Segment and store messages by keyword, subject, contact.

Obviously email is a dated technology but it really does have all of the elements synonymous with social media and the arrival of Google Wave is its  natural evolution.

Social Media – Why Bother Using A Digital Agency? 5 Reasons…

Recently Mark Cridge of digital agency Glue wrote a feature for NMA online raising the point that social media use has become so widespread that brands can now handle their own social media. We are so surrounded by Twitter and Facebook that it is almost a given that anyone with an ounce of sense can ‘do’ social media. Well they can. Just not very well. And certainly not as well as those working for agencies who offer social media as a product.

Why choose an agency rather than do a DIY social media campaign?

1. Experience

Many digital agencies will have undertaken social media campaigns for different client across a range of industries. They will have learnt from previous mistakes and have processes in place to avoid them in future. They may have specialist ‘gurus’ who’s expertise lie in particular areas from content creation to seeding.

2. Immersion

Any digital agency staff will/should make it part of their daily routine to keep appraised of industry news and updates. This ensures they are aware of the latest techniques being applied to social media and can learn from recent campaigns by other companies. If they know what everyone else is doing then the agency can go 2 steps better and create an even more innovative (and therefore attention grabbing) campaign.

3. Not what you know…its who.

Agencies who regularly deal with social media campaigns will know how/where to get the best media space for display ads to drive traffic to social media. They should have among their freelancer list a selection of the best Flash guys, developers & creative kooks.

4. Economies of scale

Particularly in measurement and metrics – agencies handle several client’s social media campaigns (and therefore you’d hope) the measurement of the success/failure of these campaigns. They should already have these tools set up and so have all the processes in place to track your brand with ease.

5. Passion!

Any one who is lucky enough to get a job at a digital agency doing good social media will/should be extremely passionate about social media. As well as wanting to do well for you, the client, they will want to create the most creative, impacting, innovative and successful campaign they can. Just because they love it! No other reason. This is in contrast to those people client side (not all, just some), to who social media is part of the ‘to do list’ that needs grudgingly ticking off.

So…

Those who use social media best know that it’s a means to an end. It’s not the be all and end all. The social media campaign isn’t the story it’s just the channel.What is important is the conversation, and the language of this conversation differs so much between campaigns that it takes a real specialist or someone doing it day in, day out to understand it.

Facebook? Twitter? They’re just tools. Social media specialists* are artisans who can use these tools to create amazing things.

*ACTUAL social media specialists of which there are very few, not social media ‘experts’ of which there are a lot!

Picture Of The Original Twitter Design From 2000

Back in 2000 Jack Dorsey signed up for a site called LiveJournal which led his trail of thought to something more instantaneous. After six years this resolved itself in to Twttr which, of course became our one and only Twitter. As Jack says on his Flickr post of 2006,

“The 6th year; the idea has finally solidified (thanks to the massively creative environment my employer Odeo provides) and taken a novel form. We’re calling it twttr (though this original rendering calls it stat.us”

Here’s what it was sketched out to look like in 2000

first ever twitter design

Uncannily similar in layout with the status bar featured in the centre and most recent, short updates showing underneath. Interesting to see Twitter was first thought of as ‘stat.us’

Read more on Jack Dorsey’s Fickr