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

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?


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).



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.



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)


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


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!

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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The IT department will disappear within five years


Computer Weekly writes that the IT department ‘will disappear within five years’.

The traditional IT department will disappear within five years as core computing services are increasingly delivered via the internet, according to software as a service (SaaS) firm Nasstar.

Nasstar CEO Charles Black says that by 2013 web-based applications in the workplace make IT departments redundant.

He said money and time are wasted because IT systems are being managed on-site, but soon the vast majority of office workers will log on to the internet to access everything they need.

“IT has become a utility. And in the same way that companies do not have a chief electricity officer to help people plug in and power their devices, so the costly overhead of IT management will be replaced by a simple plug-and-play approach over the internet.”

He said this approach will remove the need to spend money on computing services simplify installation and software asset management.

“The IT industry is in the middle of an industrial transformation, which is ending the need for IT staff who install and support traditional on-premise desktop computers.”

But he said that IT support workers will always have a place.

“As with any industry where technology transforms the way things work, there is going to have to be re-deployment of skills. IT staff should have their skills focused on delivering competitive advantage for their businesses rather than being retained to deliver standard computing services that are a utility and can be delivered over the internet. Companies should be quick to change the focus of their IT department to be business development departments that ensure business success.”

Even though the industry is moving in this direction, I think five years is still early. But what do you think?

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Brits are the web addicts of Europe!

A wonderful cartoon from Hugh!

For businesses looking to differentiate themselves with the use of Web 2.0 tools. The story below from silicon.com
makes interesting reading.

“The UK’s web fans are spending nearly a day and a half online every month – more than internet users in the rest of Europe or the US.

According to an internet activity study by comScore, the UK has the most active online population in Europe, with the highest average number of daily users (21.8 million), the greatest number of days of internet usage per month (21 per user) and the highest average time spent online per month per user (34.4 hours).

The average European accessed the internet – from home and work – an average of 16 and a half days in the month, and spent a total of 24 hours viewing 2,662 web pages.

But across Europe there are some wide differences. Germany has the largest online population, 32.6 million people age 15 and older, while the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries have the highest percentage of their populations using the internet. The average Swedish user views 4,019 pages per month – 51 per cent above the European average.

The study also revealed Google is the most popular website in 13 of the 16 countries covered by the study, followed by Microsoft in most countries, with Yahoo! coming third.”

With such an active potential market online. Can UK small businesses afford not to promote themselves with blogging? Today, differentiation is the key. The blog, or the “Voice of the Blog”, can help your business communicate with the wider market. Today’s markets are conversation, and your customers want to be involved. To communicate, to debate, to argue, to agree, to disagree this is all good stuff.

If you are not blogging about your business, offering value or insights, your competitors will be.
Can you afford to miss out?

41% of UK SMEs surveyed have not heard of Web 2.0

Via Social Computing Magazine

“With Web 2.0 increasingly being covered in the media,” said Andy Peart, Chief Marketing Officer at Mediasurface, “it was interesting to see that 41% of SMEs surveyed had not heard of it, implying that the message may be getting through to larger businesses but not as efficiently to the smaller business community. ”

He was speaking about a survey – carried out by Mediasurface in May at Internet World in the UK – in which 179 attendees, from businesses with a turnover of less than £5m, were asked some key questions about how they are using their websites.

“Emphasising this point, of those SMEs that had heard of Web 2.0, only 37% felt that it would have a positive impact on their business. There is still a great opportunity to show SMEs the true value of effectively managed web content and to illustrate that Web 2.0 is all about using the power of the web for business advantage,” Peart added.

Whilst 61% of smaller businesses do not believe that their website reflects their company’s brand, 52% of individuals in these companies are unaware how often their sites are updated.

These were two of the key findings of the survey that also revealed: A staggering 1 in 10 small businesses still do not have a web presence; 37% of companies update their website weekly and 11% undertake this monthly; despite the wide-ranging publicity on Web 2.0, 41% of people were still unaware of Web 2.0; and of the companies that are aware of Web 2.0, only 37% believe that it will impact their business.

It is also interesting to note, said Peart, that only just over one third (37%) of companies updated their websites more than once a week. Dynamic, current content is a key factor in delivering a positive impression to website visitors and to keep them returning so updating content regularly is a key factor.

The fact that 11% of companies who took part in the survey still do not have a website is a worrying statistic, added Peart. Since a website is a company’s ‘virtual shop window’ and often the first port of call for many potential customers, visitors are highly influenced by the look and feel, ease of use and accessibility of information. In any competitive marketplace, a company without a website can be overlooked and may not even be taken seriously; however the results of the survey reveal that 1 in 10 smaller businesses are still not taking advantage of this critical business and marketing tool.

Do bloggers need a code of conduct?

Do bloggers need guidelines about blogging conduct and civil behaviour? Tim O’Reilly is drafting a Blogger Code of Conduct, which is shaping up by the collaborative effort of bloggers on a wiki committed to the “Civility Enforced” standards.

O’Reilly has posted the first draft, which is also posted on the Blogging Wikia, where you can join in and edit the wiki and encourage others too. The final version will be posted on bloggingcode.org, along with the html to display the badge and link to the code. It is based on the Blogher community guidelines, that embrace the spirit of civil disagreement and declines to publish unacceptable content.

Here is what the blogger conduct code says now –

1. We take responsibility for our own words and reserve the right to restrict comments on our blog that do not conform to basic civility standards.
2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.
3. If tensions escalate, we will connect privately before we respond publicly.
4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.
6. We ignore the trolls.
7. We encourage blog hosts to enforce more vigorously their terms of service.

You may not agree on many of these points. So they have also decided on a “anything goes” badge for sites that want to warn possible commenters that they are entering a free-for-all zone.