What’s Trending in Social Media?–A panel discussion #tdcsocial #tdc12

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Photo by Janet E Davis

At this year’s Thinking Digital conference, I had the pleasure of being part of a panel to discuss “What’s trending in social media?”. As you can imagine this not an easy task but fortunately I was in good company. The panel was chaired by Katie Moffat and the rest of the panel featured Christian Payne, Stephen Waddington, Will McInnes and myself.

This session looked at the new ways organisations are using social tools, emerging social platforms and a wider look at where social is heading. I’ve included a Storify feed of the discussion below.

Are you embracing your brand super fans?

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Flickr Credit: Chrissy White

Are your customers satisfied, do they even care if your brand existed any more? With the infinite variety of goods and services, it is becoming harder to retain new and existing customers. One method of retention is through customer advocacy.

Harvard Business Review recently stated that customer advocacy strongly differs from satisfaction, or even loyalty. Advocacy can help a business to connect with its audience and build a relationship on trust. In turn, it can provide long term competitive advantage. So, how do you recognise your brand advocates? I find the term advocate rather boring. Therefore, I’m going to refer to advocates as super fans. Because, that is really what they are.

It is fairly straightforward to recognise your brand super fans, they are the ones that: 

Support the brand. Super fans will stand by the brand even in times of difficulty, they aren’t afraid to react to criticism or correct factually incorrect statements about the brand, and will purchase brand products as gifts for friends and family.

Actively promotes the brand. Super fans share their experiences via various social media, openly praise company employees both internally and externally, and provide unsolicited feedback on service and quality. In some cases, they consider themselves “brand protectors.”

Are emotionally attached to the brand. They have a sense of ownership in the brand. They will forgive shortcomings (such as price) when buying products, and treat the brand as part of their inner circle.

But how does one go about turning customers into super fans? Harvard’s article recognises the following points: 

  1. Silence detractors. Develop an environment where customers will not want to talk badly about a brand. 
  2. Build a solid and positive customer experience. Create consistent, coordinated interactions across channels to meet customer needs. Develop efficient internal processes, integrate data, and empower employees so customers are satisfied every time they interact with you. Satisfaction and loyalty are critical to the success of a business.
  3. Offer extraordinary experiences. Go that extra mile when customers least expect it, and in return you will receive their long-term business. For example, just as Zappos does.

The process of creating brand super fans depends on the level of customer engagement that already exists. For customers who are already engaged, you need to create emotional connections between them and your brand.

At AVG, we take our brand super fans very seriously. On our Facebook page, we actively recognise and reward those community members which are the most supportive of us.  We actively encourage, our fans to upload videos and photos involving AVG (as a brand) and we also share product experiences with the rest of the community. Some of our Super Fans will even record product testimonials for us.

To conclude, 21st century firms are the ones that actively embrace their community and work with their super fans to genuinely build the brand, build trust, the customer base, and the balance sheet. Those who chose not to, risk extinction in our increasingly social world. Food for thought.

Britain’s Digital Time Bomb – A Call for University Funding

Yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined a series of initiatives for Britain’s digital future.

These initiatives can be summarised as:

  • The creation of a web portal called MyGov, that will allow individuals to personalise their experience to public services.
  • £30m worth of funding to create an “Institute of Web Science”, which will focus on the economic and social benefits of the web.
  • The publication of an online inventory of all non-personal datasets held by departments, creating a modern day "Domesday book".   
  • All public service contracts over £20,000 will be made available on a free online portal by the end of 2010. Thus allowing any suitable business to bid for them.
  • Roll out broadband access to all, with digital champion Martha Lane Fox broadening her role to set up a Digital Public Services Unit in the Cabinet Office
    Quoting Brown

I want Britain to be the world leader in the digital economy which will create over a quarter of a million skilled jobs by 2020; the world leader in public service delivery where we can give the greatest possible voice and choice to citizens, parents patients and consumers; and the world leader in the new politics where that voice for feedback and deliberative decisions can transform the way we make local and national policies and decisions.

Underpinning the digital transformation that we are likely to see over the coming decade is the creation of the next generation of the web – what is called the semantic web, or the web of linked data”.

 

Now, whilst I applaud the Government’s efforts in each of the areas above. I do have serious concerns about our IT future in 2020.  For Britain to be a true world leader in the digital economy, the Government must invest in universities for tomorrow’s IT graduates. Funding cut backs are already causing big problems and the disruption is only going to get worse.

Yesterday morning, I was alarmed to read Dr Black’s tweet on the lack of support for Computer Science courses. The link she provides leads to a report on the decline in computing graduates. (Read the full report below).

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The report states:

The UK is currently sitting on a ticking time-bomb – all of the evidence shows a significant and increasing gap between supply and demand for IT professionals in the critical IT sector of the UK economy which, if left unchecked, will severely damage the competitiveness of UK industry in the global marketplace, and will hit smaller employers and the public sector particularly hard”.

The recession has caused many jobs within the IT sector to evaporate. This, coupled with the proposed closure of many computer science departments, is only going to make a bleak IT future for Britain. We need the best and brightest computer scientists to help deliver the wealth of opportunities that will appear on tomorrow’s digital landscape. Without a dedicated and passionate IT workforce, we risk a “brain drain”.

I completed my Information Systems degree in 1998. My course was more than than “a short journey into IT”. It has proved to be a true life skill. I’ve been lucky to work with a number of global businesses, in a continued cycle of learning and delivering value. My IS degree gave me the passion for that. Working alongside talented IT colleagues gave me inspiration to work harder, and to provide simplified business solutions.

Making sense of technology, and sharing that with the world is a wonderful and enriching feeling. IT graduates push the technology envelope further each day. Not only in the worlds of coding and architecture. But many, in the worlds of business, engineering and even geek marketing (Just like me!). IT graduates don’t think in black and white, they dream in colour.

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Dear Gordon Brown,

Please don’t forget that Britain needs thousands of IT graduates for 2010. To provide them in sufficient numbers, computer science departments need adequate funding. Don’t allow them to close. Overseas expertise will eventually costs us dearly. 

Here’s a worrying paper, with a specific list of recommendations for you to consider.

 


The Decline in Computing Graduates: A Threat to the Knowledge Economy and Global Competitiveness

Geek Marketing 101 (Revisited)

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Three years ago today, John Dodds posted an excellent article on “marketing disguised as a discussion of technology marketing”. Geek Marketing 101 is so named because John sees amongst many geeks, a pervasive misunderstanding and consequent distrust of what marketing is. Also, a failure to recognise that much technology marketing is no longer geek to geek since complex products are increasingly being bought by non-geeks. Of course, these observations are equally applicable to geek to geek and non-geek businesses.

John’s 10 excellent points are listed below:

1) Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is a combination of elements that creates the environment in which it is possible to meet a customer need (starting right back at product development). Promotion and sales are just sub-sets of marketing.

2) Marketing is a conversation, but most people don’t speak geek.
Successful technology marketing must translate the creations of the uncommunicative into the needs of the untechnical. Spin is not good marketing. Lucid two-way communication is.

3) Simplicity does not negate complexity.
Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation. It facilitates an entree to your world. You can’t have passionate users until they start using.

4) Think what, not how?
Think of the "product" in terms of what it does, not how it does it. You may be interested in the latter, but your users generally aren’t. Portable computer memory is not a difficult concept to enunciate, yet flash drive and USB drive nomenclature is predicated on technological aspects not the actual function. Long words confuse, don’t they?

5) Think will, not can.
Think of the "product" in terms of what most people will be happy doing with it and not in the myriad possibilities it offers. You may think speed and multiple settings are hot, but outside the lab such attributes may not provide the greatest satisfaction. Simple, intuitive interfaces will.

6) Only you RTFM.
Regular people don’t read the manual. It’s too big (see 5), too complicated (see 3) and thus incomprehensible. It’s not that people are averse to science and technology – they’re averse to being made to feel helpless. The demand for books that simplify science is huge the world over. Your manual is marketing.

7) Technical Support is marketing.
In the absence of all of the above, your users inevitably need help. A technical support department speaking in non-technical, hand-holding language transforms their purchase from waste of money to life-enhancing boon and is the greatest marketing tool you have.

8) You’re not marketing to people who hate marketing.
Don’t allow your misguided prejudices about advertising and snake-oil to infect your approach and damage sales. People hate hype, spin and unfulfilled expectations. They do not hate having their needs met (see 1).

9) You’re not marketing to people who hate technology products.
They’re not Luddites, but nor are they geeks – that’s what you’re paid to be. However, they often hate how technology products make them feel because blinding with science is as bad as baffling with bullshit.

10) Marketing demystifies.
As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Great Stuff

Do Something Worth Talking About

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I loved this recent post from Paul Isakson. There’s a big danger for businesses of all sizes to look for “shortcuts” into the world of Social Media.  Here is some gentle advice for businesses of all sizes:

  • Quit trying to "join the conversation."
  • Stop trying to be everyone’s friend.
  • Don’t shove your marketing messages at people.
  • Just listen to what people are saying about your product or service and apply what you learn to making it better. (Feedback is King)
  • The same goes for your marketing.
  • Make your message worth talking about.

Focus on your key messages and less on jumping on the bandwagon!

Proporta Gadget Bag – A Review

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Hannah, from Proporta was kind enough to send me the Proporta Gadget Bag for review just before Christmas. Since then, I have been carrying the bag everywhere I go!

The Proporta gadget bag is a great and handy way to store all of your gadget accessories. The “Transformer-like” nature of this bag means you can unzip the front two compartments and take the smaller bag anywhere. Alternatively, you can assemble the whole thing to organise your gear for a long journey.  The gadget bag is perfect for those people who love their gadgets and carry around a lot of cables and adapters.

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Click on each picture to enlarge the view

As you can see, the bag is small with the compartments on and even smaller when the compartments are zipped off. The bag is particularly useful if you are a netbook user too. Overall, I love the concept, because it is so easy to use.

Never again will you lose your batteries, battery chargers, media sticks or USB cables!

Pros: It is very light and incredibly flexible with lots of compartments. You can’t go wrong with this case.

Cons: The gadget bag misses a small briefcase style handle. Other than that, it’s perfect.

Overall A+

The Proporta Gadget Bag is available from Proporta.com priced at £24.95.

In fact, I think I may need need to get a few more of these!

Blogging for Business!

Many friends and readers have been asking if I have hibernated for the winter? Well, not exactly. I am pleased to announce that I am currently working as a social media marketing specialist for my new client – Microsoft UK.  The role is a contract position, and I’m working to drive awareness of the Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) Award Program.

Take a look at the MVP blog here and the Twitter site here.

I will still continue to blog here on topics relating to Web 2.0 and personal branding. However, I hope to bring a fresh prospective of social media usage from the corporate world. 

Happy New Year!

One in a hundred

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I’m deeply humbled and honoured to have made into the UK’s Top Marketing 100 Blogs.

This blog was originally designed as a place to store my Web 2.0 research for my MBA dissertation last year. However, due to the support of fellow MBA cohorts, and loyal readers I decided to keep the blog going. Indeed, through the “magic of the web”, I’ve met some amazing people and shared in a great many conversations.

I’m deeply passionate at how ‘disruptive technologies’ are changing the world. This blog allows me a way to express that passion.

I hope The Web Pitch continues to inform, educate and inspire you.

To all my readers, supporters and critics

Keeping Friday Night Clean with Gmail Goggles

 Gmail Soap

I’m not sure whether to continue laughing, or to be truly grateful to Google for a new innovative Gmail Labs app which has just been launched entitled, Mail Goggles.

Google Engineer, Jon Perlow posts on the Gmail blog

“Sometimes I send messages I shouldn’t send. Like the time I told that girl I had a crush on her over text message. Or the time I sent that late night email to my ex-girlfriend that we should get back together. Gmail can’t always prevent you from sending messages you might later regret, but today we’re launching a new Labs feature I wrote called Mail Goggles which may help.

When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you’re really sure you want to send that late night Friday email. And what better way to check than by making you solve a few simple math problems after you click send to verify you’re in the right state of mind?

By default, Mail Goggles is only active late night on the weekend as that is the time you’re most likely to need it. Once enabled, you can adjust when it’s active in the General settings Hopefully Mail Goggles will prevent many of you out there from sending messages you wish you hadn’t. Like that late night memo — I mean mission statement — to the entire firm.

I guess we have all sent emails over the years when we shouldn’t have. Some fuelled by alcohol, some fuelled by anger. I do think that for many people, this app will be truly useful. Though I’m still undecided if I like my email client controlling yet another part of the way I use my mail. I already have rules, spam and content filtering.  Can I no longer be trusted to send emails after a few beers, late at night?  Probably not.

Mail Goggles can be enabled in the Settings section of your Gmail.

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Godin’s 9 Steps to Presentation Nirvana

 

In my opinion PowerPoint has an unfair reputation as a bad presentation tool. We have all heard comments over the years such as, “death by PowerPoint”. However, it is not the tool which is the problem, it’s often the presenter. My two favourite books on presenting, help to improve the style of your slides. The books also offer sound advice on limiting the amount of text on your screen.  Often, people respond more favourably to stories. Seth Godin, makes this point in his post below.

  1. Don’t use PowerPoint at all. Most of the time, it’s not necessary. It’s underkill. Powerpoint distracts you from what you really need to do… look people in the eye, tell a story, tell the truth. Do it in your own words, without artifice and with clarity. There are times Powerpoint is helpful, but choose them carefully.
  2. Use your own font. Go visit Smashing Magazine and buy a font from one of their sponsors or get one of the free ones they offer. Have your tech guy teach you how to install it and then use it instead of the basic fonts built in to your computer. This is like dressing better or having a nicer business card. It’s subtle, but it works.
  3. Tell the truth. By this I don’t mean, "don’t lie," (that’s a given), I mean "don’t hide." Be extremely direct in why you are here, what you’re going to sell me (you’re here to sell me something, right? If not, please don’t waste your time or mine). It might be an idea, or a budget, but it’s still selling. If, at the end, I don’t know what you’re selling, you’ve failed.
  4. Pay by the word. Here’s the deal: You should have to put $5 into the coffee fund for every single word on the wordiest slide in your deck. 400 words costs $2000. If that were true, would you use fewer words? A lot fewer? I’ve said this before, but I need to try again: words belong in memos. Powerpoint is for ideas. If you have bullets, please, please, please only use one word in each bullet. Two if you have to. Three never.
  5. Get a remote. I always use one. Mine went missing a couple of weeks ago, so I had to present without it. I saw myself on video and hated the fact that I lost all that eye contact. It’s money well spent.
  6. Use a microphone. If you are presenting to more than twenty people, a clip on microphone changes your posture and your impact. And if you’re presenting to more than 300 people, use iMag. This puts your face on the screen. You should have a second screen for your slides–the switching back and forth is an incompetent producer’s hack that saves a few bucks but is completely and totally not worth it. If 400 people are willing to spend an hour listening to you, someone ought to be willing to spend a few dollars to make the presentation work properly.
  7. Check to make sure you brought your big idea with you. It’s not worth doing a presentation for a small idea, or for a budget, or to give a quarterly update. That’s what memos are for. Presentations involve putting on a show, standing up and performing. So, what’s your big idea? Is it big enough? Really?
  8. Too breathtaking to take notes. If people are liveblogging, twittering or writing down what you’re saying, I wonder if your presentation is everything it could be. After all, you could have saved everyone the trouble and just blogged it/note-taken it for them, right? We’ve been trained since youth to replace paying attention with taking notes. That’s a shame. Your actions should demand attention (hint: bullets demand note-taking. The minute you put bullets on the screen, you are announcing, "write this down, but don’t really pay attention now.") People don’t take notes when they go to the opera.
  9. Short! Do you really need an hour for the presentation? Twenty minutes? Most of the time, the right answer is, "ten." Ten minutes of breathtaking big ideas with big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights. And then, and then, spend the rest of your time just talking to me. Interacting. Answering questions. Leading a discussion.

Most presentations (and I’ve seen a lot) are absolutely horrible. They’re not horrible because they weren’t designed by a professional, they’re horrible because they are delivered by someone who is hiding what they came to say. The new trend of tweaking your slides with expensive graphic design doesn’t solve this problem, it makes it worse. Give me an earnest amateur any day, please.

I would add a further point.

10.   Watch other presenters.  YouTube and TED, carry great videos of experts presenters. My advice is to  study, watch and learn from them. Watching other presenters is a great way of improving your own technique.