My last post … at this blog.

All good things must come to an end and for me, my time at The Marketing Store is over. It’s time to move on and begin a new career before it’s too late. For those who know me well, they know that I have developed a great passion for Social Media over the past year and I have become quite a convert to Twitter and all those other Web 2.0 opportunities. I feel there is no time like the present to find my place in this exciting new age of digital marketing.
 
That having been said, this has been the hardest decision of my life, to give up something that has occupied my every waking moment for the past 21 years. Very few people are given the opportunity to experience the excitement of building a successful business, then selling it and being given the privilege of staying on and doing it again in foreign lands. I will always be grateful to the team at HAVI for their continued support throughout my career.
 
What I will miss most of course will be the wonderful people I have had the privilege of working with over the past two decades. From my wonderful partner Jonathan to my many colleagues around the world. I have worked with some of the best professionals in the industry and have learnt much, much more than I have ever had the chance to share. A large part of my decision to leave now has been the knowledge that the current team in Asia Pacific is the best we have ever had and is far better placed to take this business forward than I will ever be. Brent, Andrew and Justin have been great partners and great friends also. I wish them all the best for the future.
 
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the many great clients and suppliers that have been such a large part of my life here at The Marketing Store. I have been lucky to have worked with some truly inspirational people across all realms of business many of whom have become lifelong friends.

My last day here at 55 Mountain Street will be Friday 26th June but you will still be able to reach me at dvc47 at hotmail dot com or on my mobile +61 412 281 257. I would love to hear from you.

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Hugh Mackay misses an important point on Communities …Social Media.

I am a big fan of Hugh Mackay. I started following him in the early eighties when he used to do a segment on the ABC with Caroline Jones. I even bought their CD on communication which is still one of the best I have ever come across. I have always found his insights on consumers and society in general compelling and pretty accurate. I was surprised by his article on communities in SMH this weekend as it failed to recognise the role of Social Media in the resurgence of communities in today’s world.

 

Why is it that many of see the internet and technology generally as creating a culture of zombies, glued to our computers and screens, ignoring our loved ones and rarely speaking? While this may true of some, perhaps even many, it is also true that the digital revolution has opened up communication between friends family and even strangers where little or none existed previously. Prof. Michael Wesch, Digital Ethnography Program, Kansas State University made the point in his presentation to the Library of Congress in 2008, that one of the profound outcomes of “YouTube” and the internet was the growth in communities through connecting around common interests and this often resulted in face to face connection over time.

 

He is not alone in observing this phenomenon. Despite all the hype around Twitter, one of the fascinating aspects of this Social Media toll is the bringing together of communities and even total strangers through a common interest or event. Tweetups in all their various forms often attract hundreds of attendees just to have a drink or meet face to face. However vague their common connection, they still make up a community and its healthy. My own experience via @coffeemornings in Sydney has been a great one. I now have friends and connections to people I would never have normally met.

 

During the recent bushfire crisis in Victoria, BigPond used social media to solicit help from strangers in locating old mobile phone chargers for those that were left with nothing more than their mobile phone. The community responded and they had thousands with a day or two. The only difference that I can see between this and my local face to face community, is that it occurs with instant and continual access rather than opportunistic access via the kids or Saturday shopping. Surely this is healthy and an encouraging sign that communities are alive and well but communicating differently. Didn’t this occur when the telephone became mainstream in the 1960’s?

 

I share Hugh’s concerns about the importance of communities but I guess I am much more optimistic. I see a future where we are actually more connected than we are today or have ever been in our past. Apart from this being an obvious statement, my view is that more and more people all over the world will connect in a real and personal way around not only family and neighbourhoods but around issues, hobbies, sports, technology, charities and the like. They will discover people all over the world that also want a connection with other citizens and who knows, they may even meet face to face one day.

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Is McDonald’s the Telco of the future?

A thought occurred to me this morning as I smugly used the newly installed Skype on my iPhone to join a conference call in the US. The thought … who in their right mind would buy shares in Telstra or any Telco for that matter? Here I am making a call that  would normally cost $50+ for just under $4.00. It would have been completely free if the other party had been on Skype too. My mind naturally wandered to the implications of this for the big Telcos and McDonald’s as well.

 

For the Telcos it must be like watching the Wright Bros at the turn of last century. The contraption was clearly innovative but was it really a threat to all that infrastructure invested in the railways? The railways owners thought not. The ordinary people on the other hand were inspired. They saw the vision and the future. Had it not in part, been for the raw enthusiasm of kids, adventurers, mums and dads and brave inventive minds, air travel as we know it, may never have got of the ground (pun intended).

 

I believe there is a very similar dynamic going on today around Skype and the other peer to peer products. The infrastructure owners (Telcos) see it but don’t want to acknowledge a life without zillions of miles of copper and all those expensive bits at each end. We, the masses on the other hand, look at Skype and free WiFi at retailers like Maccas and our hearts start soaring just like my granddad’s did last century. Where will this take us, where will this end? Will we one day, be able to buy a coffee and a handset and never have to even consider the concept of signing a life threatening contract with a Telecommunications provider. Lovely thought isn’t it?

 

What do you think?

 

In the interests of transparency, I confess that McDonald’s is a client but I have no commercial interest in pushing their Free WiFi.

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RIP Twitter

Twitter is dead, long live Twitter. Yes I said the words … Twitter is Dead! Why is Twitter dead? Because everybody now knows about it. It died last Friday night I think. It died because my wife said after watching a news report on Twitter, “Twitter – that’s that thing that you do isn’t it?” This was followed by waking up Saturday morning and seeing two articles in the Sydney Morning Herald about Twitter. One of them was on the cover of the Good Weekend! It didn’t stop there. Sunday Morning comes and there’s a story about a struggling Sydney artist. She achieved fame when one of her obscure drawings was identified as the “Fail Whale”. This morning was the final blow. Channel Nine ran a story on the Morning Show and they now have an account.

 

How will we know that it’s the end for Twitter? Five signs to look out for;

  • The masses see the value in the coffee mornings at Single Origin and it is taken over in a hostile bid by Gloria Jeans.
  • @Stilgherrian’s sense of humour and pithy comments vanish as he spends all day writing friendly hello notes to new followers.
  • @ev and @biz succumb to constant tweets from @fakerupertmurdoch and sell just as Twitter overtakes Google as the most popular website
  • John Howard will open an account as a precursor to his long awaited comeback
  • @KevinRuddPM will close his account and introduce a new tax on Twitter users to curb excessive use by young people

 

Goodbye good friend, I for one will miss that slightly obnoxious snobbery of being a Twit when nobody else was!

 

One for the Tweet Spotters … every single sentence in this blog except this one is under the mandatory Twitter count of one hundred and forty characters.

 

 

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“Taste & Tweet”a Twitter success in the UK

I was really intrigued the other week when “winebeerexpress” started to flare on TwitScoop. A quick click and I am in the middle of the first wine tasting via Twitter in the UK.  For me the challenge for marketers has been to find a successful commercial model for this new social media phenomenon. With such interest in the highly addictive communication tool, this UK company has developed a commercial application which may prove to be highly profitable.

 

WineBeerExpress (WBE) is an online alcohol retailer in the UK that was started about 4 months ago with the belief that wine and beer appreciation was a natural fit with the growing social media environment in that market. The owners believed that this was one industry that could leverage the formation of communities and the growing presence of clever platforms like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. According to Julie Campbell, Marketing Director at WBE, “wine and beer appreciation lends itself to discussion through online forums like blogs. We decided to build our business pretty much using social media as the mainstay of our communications strategy.”

 

Last week, Julie and her team pioneered the first Taste and Tweet @winebeerexpress in the UK using a base of 40 “friends and family” to test the concept and give the back room systems a good workout. Each participant was sent a launch kit which included a selected bottle of red and white wine, some instructions and some basic tasting notes. They were invited to sit down to dinner in the venue of their choice be it home or a restaurant, switch on their phone or laptop and at a pre-determined time, start a conversation with a group of strangers about the wines. Julie said, “One of the great things about Twitter is the limit of 140 characters on each message. This means the comments are short, to the point and not dominated by one individual”. This meant the conversation was diverse and not only included traditional taste comments but because she deliberately chose one wine with a screw cap and one with cork, they even got into the debate around different wine closures.

 

“The other interesting outcome,” according to Campbell, “was that because it was in individual groups, there was a wide range of food being consumed and people chose to comment on that as well”. Although only a small scale test, it soon doubled in size as other Twitter users saw “winebeerexpress” starting to scale in the cloud on Tweetdeck and other Twitter activity monitors. “We had people from all over the world by the end of the event and saw a significant increase in online registrations after the event”.

 

The next event is scheduled for 19 March (UK) and WBE will begin a seeding campaign using email, Twitter and website over the next few weeks to build interest and registration beforehand. Participants will be able to purchase the wine online before the event and the site will feature tasting notes and instructions. While not the first wine tasting event in the world (there has been one running for a few months in the US) the team at WBE are looking forward to this becoming a regular part of their marketing plans. It certainly is a clever commercialisation of Twitter without compromising the importance of the community nature of social media. I imagine we will see it on these shores in the not too distant future.

 

What do you think?

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Interesting day of Twittering

I am interested in setting up a Sydney Chapter of SMC mostly because Melbourne and Brisbane already have one and I can’t stand being left out. Made all the right contacts and now need to get to it. One brilliant idea I had was to search and follow all the listed Twitterers on SMC Wiki. No small task and it has eaten into my day quite a bit because I read everyone’s bio before clicking on follow.

I discovered two interesting facts through the process. The first one is that Twitter has a limit to searching. I don’t know for how long , hopefully I can keep going tomorrow. It cut out at around 60 search requests.  I suspect this is to stop spammers and so I have no issue … just frustrated. I’ll bet there is an easier way!

The second interesting thing is the incredible female bias of SMC Members. No science but I am estimating 80/20. It made me think of some research I sat in many years ago when mobile phones were being launched. The headline of that research was that females (in Australia at least) play a huge role in families and communities in keeping “community strings” alive and active. This is an incredibly valuable part of the fabric of modern society and I suspect that modern Social Media is just a better and more efficient way of doing that.

What do you think?

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Activating the Social Media Channel

First let me confess that I am very much a newcomer to this exciting world of Social Media. That having been said, I find myself being drawn in to this kind of vortex of small talk with perfect strangers that is both mind numbing and disturbingly interesting all at the same time. I felt honoured at being contacted by the Dalai Lama (until I found out was a hoax) and being LOL’d at for a witty comment during a live blog on our Prime Minister’s rescue package. The strangest experience of all, is the growing sense of friendship I have with people I have never met. I had to check myself this morning as I was eagerly opening Tweetdeck. I was doing this to catch the latest Tweets and was anticipating how some of my new found “friends” might respond to some of the posted comments. I don’t even know these people. I “followed” them because they looked interesting or someone recommended them. Now I am imagining that I know what they will say and how they think! Strange times indeed.

 

For those that don’t know, I make my living in advertising and have run a reasonably successful agency in Sydney for the last 21 years. I am exploring Social Media, not as a new channel to exploit (true). Rather I see it as an outcome of the internet revolution that we, as an agency, can use to enhance the way we derive insights for our clients. Our quest is to build a “Community of Insightful Minds” TM. The experience so far has been enlightening to say the least. I am more convinced than ever that Social Media has the potential to change the way we do business forever or as the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto said “the end of business as usual”.

 

The reason for putting pen to paper was a directive by one of our clients recently to “activate the Social Media channel” as part of a new campaign. As I thought about how we might respond to this it occurred to me that such a directive showed an absolute ignorance of what Social Media is all about. My response will go something like this …

 

Social Media is not a channel. It is a conversation. Channels by definition are means of moving things in a pre-determined manner. Mass media such as television, radio, magazines, websites are all channels. They have fixed parameters and for the most part are one way communication streams. They are very efficient for telling people what you want them to hear. That is not a conversation. One way to understand Social Media is to imagine a community hall filled with hundreds, thousands or even millions of people all talking about anything. Some are talking about themselves to others, some are showing off, some are yelling abuse, others are soothing relationships, a few are soliciting favours and some are just eavesdropping. Some of these conversations are one-on-one but with a hundred people listening in, while others involve thousands of people all chipping in with an opinion but still managing to keep a conversation thread going. Close your eyes and imagine it. It is happening right now all over the world as we speak.

 

Now, imagine yourself entering that room and all you want to do is get them to buy your soft drink. Simple enough idea, what do you think your chances are? So far, my early observations are that very few companies are even involved in the Social Media world and sadly, only a handful of them are even close to getting it right. There appears to be four strategies at play by companies. SLAP it, SPAM it, SCAM it or SMARt it. These are my terms and will certainly be challenged by those more informed than myself.

 

SLAPPING – Imagine the community hall again, you decide to get their attention by taking over the loudspeaker and asking them all to be quiet while you tell them all something important (to you). Ever had that experience, it doesn’t go down all that well in big groups. The moment they suspect a pitch they all start talking again and good luck at trying to regain their attention. Even worse, many of the private conversations are now about you and how rude you were. Many will be asking who let you in and some will choose to punish you by never buying your soft drink again. Some of them will share this with others and it may all get out of control very quickly. We aren’t seeing a lot of SLAPPING yet but how long will it be before the media companies that own most of the big sites start selling targeted lists to advertisers. That will spawn a whole new industry and totally miss the point of why Social Media users use these sites. Once again the advertising world will revert to its comfort zone i.e. one way communication. I for one, am not looking forward to this “advance” in marketing.

 

SPAMMING – I love SPAMMERS simply for their audacity. If only we could harness this and put to some good use for civilisation. SPAMMERS are different to SLAPPERS in one important aspect. SPAMMERS obtain their lists by fraud and deception whereas SLAPPERS at least purchase their list from a legitimate source. It astounds me that any sane person could create and execute endless campaigns for cheap loans and erectile dysfunction and worse still that enough sane people respond to this drivel to keep it going. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that some of my new friends (followers) on Twitter weren’t friends at all and were actually trying to sell me some of this shit. Believe it or not, there are people out there in the funny world of “How To” books who are making a small fortune telling others how to do this stuff. Even more astounding is that some reputable companies engage in this practice and believe that this is “Activating the Social Media Channel”. It is not. It is the worst form of one way dialogue. It leaves the community feeling violated and used. Sadly, we can expect more and more of this mindless trash over time.

 

SCAMMERS – I am yet to see a Nigerian Letter on Twitter but I am sure they exist. That is not the sort of scam that I am referring to here. What I am referring to is the blatant attempt by some companies lately (under directions from their marketing agencies) to use Social Media to seed a lie in order to obtain vast amounts of editorial. In many cases it has worked. But what has it achieved? One recent example was the Witchery “Man in a Jacket” campaign. The end result of the Witchery scandal was they doubled their visits to the website. Mmmm. So, if I redefine this, they entered a community conversation uninvited, lied to the members of that community about something, obtained masses of media coverage, all to send the general public to their website to have a one way conversation. Don’t you see the irony in this? What do you think the community now think about Witchery? How much harder will it be to open a sincere conversation with that community in the future? What did they actually gain apart from the obvious? In my opinion, SCAMMING is a form of consumer abuse. I am convinced that companies who continue to treat participants in Social Media as gullible fools who will guarantee them a free ride to media fame, will ultimately suffer a backlash. Angry consumers are not good for any balance sheet.

 

SMARTING – This is my acronym and I know it’s clumsy. It stands for Social Media Act Responsibly. It is an instruction to those who intend to peddle their wares in the community hall to tread carefully and to respect the audience. I am no expert here. I have no campaigns to hang my hat on and no experience to speak of. My comments come from a mix of listening, observing and good old common sense. There is a lot to be gained for companies who are active in the Social Media community as opposed to Activating the Channel! The former is a conversation the latter is an instruction. Indulge me for a moment and let’s imagine being in that community hall again. How on earth can you begin to influence such a diverse, opinionated vast population? The answer is relatively simple, by joining the community. That means you come into the conversation on their terms. You leave your pitches, policies, security, and pre-conceived ideas at the door. You learn to talk in their language. The great thing is they will help you learn and point you to new and interesting people and conversations. You’ll settle in pretty quick as long as you remain engaged and honest. The next thing to do is to make a commitment to the community. They don’t expect you to be in on every conversation but they do expect you to be there when they need you. Spend your idle time listening and learning. Then, when the opportunity arises, do something extraordinary for one of the community. Talk to them, solve a problem, admit a mistake or maybe introduce them to your company’s charity foundation. Start by changing one person’s opinion of your company. Do it one at a time, over and over again. Now watch what happens. Communities are a powerful force and the internet operates at lightning speed.

 

Good news won’t necessarily make headlines in the media but it will build customer loyalty. More importantly it builds ambassadors for your brand and brand ambassadors are the pinnacle of marketing success. I watched BigPond operate in the Social Media community during the recent Victorian Bushfires and it was an excellent example on what to do right it this channel. They were caring, responsive, practical and timely in everything that they did. Did they sell even one new internet connection through this? I doubt it. What they did do, however, was change a lot of people’s perceptions about a big company being in touch with its community. I hope they publish a case study some day because I am certain it will serve as a great example of being active in Social Media rather than “Activating the Social Media channel” .

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