Thursday, December 16, 2010

The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday

Serendipity as a word is in revival thanks to Social Media. How many times have I looked at my TweetDeck feed and noticed a comment or article that is exactly what I was looking for at that moment.

Reality is this is less of a chance and more that such a wide range of information is being funnelled into our customised information channels. We follow and fan folk who talk and think about things that interest us so it’s little surprise much of it is going to be relevant.

I “found” an article today that lead me to the latest McKinsey Quarterly survey on how businesses are using Social Media now (as opposed to a few months ago – times are a-changin’).  As I read this fascinating review I noticed that it had been released only the day before and the next day they were having a live Twitter discussion (#mckweb2). As it turned out that was now so I managed to have an interactive discussion with the author (@mchui) and a bunch of other valuable conversation contributors in real time. I love Social Media, it’s just so Social.

The rise of the networked enterprise.

McKinsey’s new survey research finds that companies using the Web intensively gain greater market share and higher margins. This is unsurprising as we strive to become a “fully networked enterprise” we can achieve a measurable ROI and long term benefits to the organisations brand and culture by using rather than resisting this inevitable product.

Here is one small exert from the review that looks at who inside the organisation are managing the platforms (A question that I am often asked).

Managing the Web-based organization

Respondents report that a variety of organizational structures and units manage Web 2.0. This year’s results show that the IT department is most likely to oversee internal Web initiatives (61 percent of respondents). For customer-facing initiatives, 74 percent of respondents say that oversight falls to the marketing department. For Web 2.0 initiatives involving external suppliers and partners, roughly equal numbers of respondents cite the IT, marketing, and business-development functions. Financing comes from a variety of places, including the IT function, central corporate sources, and discretionary funds at the business unit level.

The social nature of most Web technologies, of course, opens companies to greater interaction with the outside world. To manage this change, a slim majority of respondents (51 percent) say their companies have adopted formal social-media policies; companies with higher levels of Web 2.0 adoption are likelier to have them. In most cases, only a few employees are authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

For the complete review visit the McKinsey Quarterly website here

Friday, November 26, 2010

Making Sense of Twitter: Understanding Content Filtering and Hashtags

The concept of Twitter was born when Jack Dorsey introduced the idea of individuals using an SMS service to communicate with a small group, a simple concept that took flight. As popular as it has become many become frustrated and disillusioned at what appears on the surface to be incoherent and time wasting babble.

Twitter now receives an excess of 65 million tweets per day, that’s about 750 per second so how does anyone make sense of all this noise.

Launched in 2006 Twitter has firmly established itself as one of the Social Media heavyweights. Described as a micro-blogging platform it allows users to impart snapshots of information, random thoughts and or links to other sites using text based 140 character posts called “Tweets”.

Twitter is basically a conversation, as a comparison think of it as a crowded stadium during the half time break. Most of the discussions have little or no importance or benefit to you. Even if you could, attempting to follow every word at any given moment would be pointless and timewasting. Imagine if you could filter out all the nonsense and focus on the people or topics that are relevant to what you are interested in, now that would be powerful.

With the use of filtering tools like Twitter Search and TweetDeck to name a few that’s exactly what you can achieve. It’s less about controlling the conversation and more about fine tuning your ears.

There are three basic principles to creating appropriate Twitter streams:

  1. Follow the right people: building your community in Twitter means following those you know as well as complete strangers. If you are too selective on who you follow you also restrict your potential flow of content and resources. If you are part of a particular sector such as the Wine industry you may choose to only follow people who refer to wine in their profile ensuring that you have a more targeted group. If someone is consistently off subject or irrelevant to your requirements simply “unfollow” them, no harm done. As your following increases use the “Group” function to segment people into subject or specialty clusters. 
  2. Search Content: Try the advanced Twitter Search at and filter content by subject, date and location. This allows you to find content that is relevant to you. You may have noticed recently that Google now features Twitter content related to your search at the top of its results page. Alternatively create search threads in columns using the Twitter website or in third party applications like TweetDeck.
  3. Use Hashtags: Used in conjunction with conferences, events, presentations and webinars, the Hashtag can be a great tool for engaging the immediate and extended audience. By placing the # symbol before an unbroken word, phrase, or numeral i.e. #mytag2010, it creates a mini-search engine phrase that can be looked up and followed on Twitter thus filtering out all the other non-relevant material.
To create a Hashtag simply search twitter and check to see if your string of letters and numbers are unused. If already in use try a variation until you achieve no search results.
When your event is being publicised let attendees know in advance what the Hashtag is and be sure to use it in all your event related tweets leading up to, during and post the event. Once finished the tag retires into obscurity until used again, remember no-one owns or can lay claim to a Hashtag.

Attendees or those interested in following the conversation created in Twitter can set up a search column in their Twitter application or used a third party platforms like Twitterfall or Monitter and keep current on the on-going discussions, feedback and references.

Search on to see if your Hashtag is “Trending” on Twitter and add some impact to your presentation by putting the feed in a prominent place by using to graphically showcase your feeds and to encourage other attending to participate.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your business grow?

While walking through the park this morning I stopped to admire the neat rows of newly planted flowers in one of the garden plots I pass almost daily. The plant selection and design was noticeably different from the layout of the previous year. This act of regeneration, of redesign, of hard work with a vision of something yet to be realised made me think how this horticultural endeavour compared to business development. How to successfully manage and maintain both are skills learnt and handed down for centuries. It’s all been done before, the mistakes have all been made, yet why is it that so many of us still get it so very wrong?

The comparison to starting and maintaining gardens and business are remarkably striking to me. One of the perplexing issues associated with business growth and development, no matter how prepared we are, is the Groundhog Day factor – of doing or being subjected to the same thing again and again. The same issues with staff, out-dated and poor planning, excessive stress, lack of direction, missed deadlines and missed opportunities to name just a few.

Looking at this garden I couldn’t help wondering how the horticulturalists involved in the project felt about this task. Did they regard the ending of the previous years’ planting with sadness, or looked to the beginning of the new garden with a sense joy and opportunity or did they just simply have a resigned indifference to the entire process. From the perspective of an observer, an outsider looking in, the quality and consistent perfection of this plot and surrounding grounds illustrated a definite pride and respect for what they do.

I like analogies because they compartmentalise ideas and put them into perspective. The comparison of the garden to business for me is easy to relate to. Most of us in some form or another have attempted to grow something. Through lack of planning, loosing focus, by not watering or managing risks such as pests and disease we fail to produce a viable crop. This may not be as financially or emotionally devastating when compared to business failure yet we miss out on the potential rewards that a ripe fruit or a flower in bloom can bring to our lives as well as the sense of achievement of creating something worthwhile.

To be successful in gardening, even if you are highly educated or an old hand with years of experience, it takes planning and strategy; having the right stock and the ground in optimum condition at the right time of the year means preparation well in advance of planting the garden. Additionally advanced management of pests and diseases is better than trying to react after they have taken hold. Removing poor performing plants and replacing them with sturdy stock ensures that the other plants are not negatively affected, diminishing our potential yield.

This can only be possible if you have contingences in place and recognising that these problems are part of the growing process. By hoping for the best and adopting a wait and see attitude may result in success, the risks are significantly higher. And of course there is little point to starting the project unless you are fully committed. Watering and feeding is a mandatory task, miss even one step and the long term impact could be irreparable. Last but not least is preparing for and observing the optimum time to harvest, getting the most out of the garden. Once this has occurred then planning for the future is already underway with the best seed and lessons from the previous year recognised and integrated into the ever changing landscape.

Gardening like business is not new, most of the mistakes have been made by others and the best ideas are available in books, taught in classrooms or handed down via experts in their field. We can choose to prepare and understand that this learning should never end and make it integral to our business rather than a reaction to issues and problems. Spending time planning and developing our own skills relates directly to the growth, success and sustainability of our business.
During my morning walk I thought about my newly discovered analogy and relayed my story over breakfast to my partner. She listened and agreed then went and got her copy of Stephen Coveys’ “Seven Habits” book. In there she pointed out a chapter how Covey compares the process of business to agricultural practice, tending and nurturing plants is the same as how we have to view our business.

This simply reinforced my point rather than detracted from it. No idea is unique; the lessons are there and readily available to us from those who have taken the time to impart their hard earned knowledge. We need to constantly up skill and remind ourselves of what these lessons mean then apply them to our daily business lives and enjoy the fruits of our labour rather than repeating unnecessary failure.

What have you learned today that’s worth sharing?

Monday, November 15, 2010

B2B or not 2B: A Social Media Dilemma

We get the point that Business to Consumer (B2C) is working for online marketers but the jury is still out on the Business to Business (B2B) sector.

his four minute video illustrates some vital statistics for B2B marketers.

What I found even more interesting was the backstory of this video and the impact it made itself as a promotional tool for its creator Earnest Agency

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What makes a Public Speaker great?

New Zealand speaker, author publisher and educator Maria Carlton asked in her Speakers and Writers Community forum “Idea to Authority” the other day some questions related to public speaking.

"Is it more important to be funny than it is to be interesting?

Is it more important to be knowledgeable than it is to be factual?
Is it more important to use notes than to use PowerPoint?
Do the humorous speakers have a real edge over those of us who struggle to get laughs on cue?"

Yesterday I was given a quote to read that somewhat takes this thinking to another level.

"Trying to win over and audience by just giving them the facts is like trying to win a woman by pulling down your pants. Tell a story, and you practice the art of seduction".
Justin Cohen.

Personally I’d like to say that interesting comes before funny and facts mean little to anyone unless you can speak on a subject with a voice of authority, and that takes knowledge.

Humour is such a subjective and risky thing when speaking to an unknown audience. It is dictated by the mood of a crowd, the originality of the material, the timing and wit of the deliverer and the direction of the wind. What works for one crowd can fall flat on its face with another. It’s a long way back to the hearts of a crowd with the sound of a bad joke ringing in their ears. I have seen too many people start a presentation with the almost cliché crowd relaxing technique of telling a joke. The problem is that you risk throwing your credibility out the door if you misread your audience or it’s that old one we’ve all heard before.

If you are confident in your subject then the humour becomes organic, a timely pause may be all that is needed to generate the salacious endorphin rush laughter facilitates. The real talent of the seasoned comedian is making something that seems very ordinary funny, they are practiced at warming the crowd and capitalising on the collective energy that is needed to make laughter reinforce a good story. All said and done you know when you have the power of humour, it can be learned by trial and error but like singing it works better if you have it as a natural born talent.

What links all the points raised in Maria’s leading questioning is they are only window dressing to your message. PowerPoint cannot work without supported notes (even if they are in your head), humour is nothing without an interesting dialogue, facts mean nothing if they are not presented in a way that sounds credible.

The best speakers are genuinely passionate about what they are talking about and are convincing enough to demonstrate that they own the subject. This makes them a story teller rather than the teller of stories and it is they who we remember and respect the most.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Storytellers making their mark for New Zealand Tourism

New Zealand iconic entertainer and storyteller Andrew Lumsden, known to most as comedian, experimental gardener and alternative historian “Te Radar” sat in on my presentation last week at the NZ i-Site Conference.  At the end of the conference we were treated to Radar’s unique and hilarious storytelling of forgotten New Zealand history covering topics like the Taranaki Highwayman, a forgotten submarine in Dunedin and an acrobatic balloonist who in 1899 was last seen floating out to sea off the coast of Christchurch when a stunt went horribly wrong.

What Te Radar did so masterfully was reinforce a core theme of the conference, that we as New Zealanders have great stories to tell, and we need to be better at telling them.

Through the ages storytelling has been the most effective and engaging form of entertainment, promotion and marketing. Though communications technology has improved significantly and reaching further than we would have thought possible it is still only as good as the content it carries. The better the story the bigger the impact it makes.

This idea was supported and endorsed through an announcement by Patrick Verryt, the Online Manager from
Tourism New Zealand that their online marketing portal is to become an open content platform. This means a move away from a traditional single source content management structure to an open publishing forum managed by the wider community. This is a bold move but by no means new, the now famous and proven Wikipedia uses a similar open source publishing format to great success. The greatest advantage is that the right people with the expert knowledge can take ownership of a subject of their choice. When people challenge their ideas or want more information they can engage quickly, in real time and directly with the content source creator. Of course we have to also acknowledge this is not without its risks as with any form or human interaction.

Over the past two weeks I have been immersed in New Zealand Tourism communities and this has reinforced to me the absolute wealth of passion and commitment we have available in our people and communities. I have had such an amazing time presenting to, and meeting with people responsible for the promotion and delivery of New Zealand Tourism activity. I have travelled literally the length of our country from the beautiful Northland to the stunning Southland and at every stop heard new and interesting stories that have inspired me.

Some of the events I have been guest speaker at on the subject of online Community engagement (Social Media) included the
E-Tourism Conference in Auckland, the Destination Northland Tourism Conference, the i-Site Conference in Napier and the Venture Southland Tourism Workshops in Invercargill.

During this time I was fortunate to meet so many people, obviously too many to mention individually but I will reference a few. Despite my own experience as a professional networker I am still amazed at how evolving methods of communication can advance this important social and business opportunity to expand networks and form meaningful business relationships.

Thanks to the power of Social Media there were people I had not physically met before yet I had a sense of rapport with them from the outset having a good understanding of their thinking by previously reading their blogs and seeing their random thoughts via twitter. This included
Michelle Ackers from Adept Marketing and author of the insightful New Zealand Tourism Industry Blog, spending time with Simon McManus, active PR and eMarketing expert with a self-titled agency called McManus. Other inspirational individuals included @HippyKate, @WildfireNZ, @HotShotsIntl and @RocktheBoatNZ. I also had the pleasure of co-presenting with Jim Brody, International Sales Manager of and Chris Larcombe, National Account Manager of Trade Me’s new travel marketing channel and booking engine.

As much as I am an advocate of the use of Social Media there can and should never be a replacement for the face to face engagement. If this was the case we would watch travel videos and never need to experience the real thing ourselves. This was validated by the very last evening of my two week tour by a meeting with Peter Ridsdale. This larger than life Executive Manager of the
Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill where my presentation to Venture Southland was hosted is a natural storyteller, not of the tall variety but of the salt of the earth real New Zealand adventure kind.

During my presentation at his hotel Peter heard me reference a recent 
hunting trip to Stewart Island so asked if I would like to try a new venison recipe he was experimenting with. While I listened over dinner to his stories that connected his love of the land with people he cared about I felt like a tourist in my own country. I was impressed by Peters passion about sharing the value New Zealand offers as a destination, especially his Southland region, and its intrinsic link with its people and diverse history.

All the people I have met recently have one thing in common; they have great stories to tell. It is through the power of stories we can inspire the imagination of others and motivate people to seek out new horizons and try new adventures so they too can have better stories to tell. Our challenge is to have the confidence to speak up and to share this wealth with the rest of the world.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Social Media Strategy in Eight Easy Steps – Introducing the 8 P’s

At the heart of every successful business there is a vital ingredient - the ability to effectively communicate with your staff, your customers and your community.

Using Social Media to enhance and extend your communications potential is achievable for all types and sizes of business but first you need to know what platforms are available, which of these will work best for you, and how to make them an integrated part of your daily business. For this to happen there needs to be careful consideration and some effective planning.

Without planning there is the potential to waste a lot of time and become frustrated or worse create a negative image of your brand and your product through poor and inconsistent information management. As in any business planning process your strategy provides the big picture that shows why and how all the individual activities are coordinated to achieve a desired end result.

Given that the online communications landscape is still evolving and changing, albeit at a rapid pace, it is not necessary to develop and elaborate and detailed long term plan. Better to have something accessible, that can be reviewed regularly and modified to meet that demand and changes expected of this new era of online communications and social engagement.

It is important to be focused on what it is you need from this environment. It is an effective mechanism to find out what your customers and clients are thinking.  With this information you can quickly modify your product and service to meet demand and keep your networks up to date and current with what you are doing and where you are heading.  This works just as effectively with your staff, shareholders, investors, existing clients or potential clients.

Introducing the 8 P’s.

We have identified eight headings to assist you in formulating a structured plan. This step by step process helps you align emerging Social Media opportunities with your strategic intentions and the realities of your day to day business. These include:

  1. Planning (Who is responsible for what)
  2. Purpose (Be specific on what you are trying to achieve)
  3. Product (What products or services are you promoting)
  4. People (Who are you targeting)
  5. Profiles (Keep your branding and communications consistent)
  6. Platforms (What Social Media sites are you using)
  7. Promotions (What is going to get you noticed)
  8. Performance (Measure your effectiveness, ROI)
For more detail and an easy to follow action plan download our free 16 page paper “Introducing the 8 P’s” (500kb PDF File) (Press the Ctrl Key when you click the link if it doesn't open)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Foursquare – Thinking outside the square

Many, especially in the business realm, are still struggling to come to terms with Twitter so the location based check-in platform Foursquare may still be that leap too far, having said that a number of enterprising NZ businesses are already taking advantage of it.

I have been using Foursquare for just a few days and instantly grasped its potential. I suspect that this will take some time to catch on in New Zealand given our propensity to value and protect our individual privacy at all costs. It may be worth taking a moment to get better acquainted with this emerging platform before you start being a doubting Thomas.

Twitter has been around for over three years and conceptually about as basic as any communication platform could be - build a community and share your thoughts, ideas and resources with them. Foursquare is a little more complex, has a game play element to it and requires notifying people to your exact location. Despite any initial reservations or preconceived anxieties it has some interesting promotional applications for any business prepared to think outside the square.

Foursquare makes use of the geo-location (A-GPS) functionality of the smartphones like iPhone, Blackberry and Android, much like the one in your in-car navigation system.  Now link this location based function with your social network, add the ability to get and give comments, tips and feedback with a few incentive bonus points thrown in and this starts making sense. Like most other Social platforms you invite and build a list of friends. As you travel around to destinations like malls, cafes, restaurants and bars you “check in”. You are given the option of doing this privately or posting your whereabouts to your selected Foursquare friends list. For those wanting to be a little more public the location and a custom message can also be added to your Twitter and Facebook sites at the same time.

Points are awarded to you for adding venues not currently on the Foursquare listing as are points and awards for every time you check in or reach certain milestones. Where Foursquare starts giving some real value back apart from being able to locate friends for a quick meet up whether at a café, concert or conference is you are able to leave comments, tips and advice to those that check-in to the same spot later. This could be a recommendation of a great meal, nice wine on their list or making people aware of price special. This point tally is accumulated over a week and can be compared to that of your list of friends.

Another feature that gives incentive for repeat venue visitation is becoming “Mayor”. This is awarded to the individual that makes the most return visits to any location (not on the same day). This is where businesses like Giapo Gelato, the online savvy gelato store on Queen Street in Auckland are starting to make it work for them. They offer a free Waffle cone every day to the current reining Mayor. Other business like cafes might offer free coffee, are you getting the idea? At current count Giapo Gelato have had 1468 check-ins with the reigning Mayor “Peter C” having checked-in 39 times (little doubt having sampled many of the great flavours).

It is worth mentioning that this is not the first application of its type, and certainly won’t be the last. BrightKite is one example that some claim has all the same features and better functionality. Like any innovation, (think back to the Beta vs. VHS video battle) it’s not always the best platform that wins, it’s were the most users are. On that basis Foursquare seems to be leading the charge. Facebook have recently launched their new app “Places” which has taken all the best features of Foursquare. With the weight of numbers backing it up Facebook have the potential of grinding others into insignificance so it will be interesting to see the uptake when it is accessible from NZ.

The application for the phone can be downloaded from

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why your customers are turning to Social Media.

You may have noticed the way we communicate and engage with each other has changed. In no small part it is because of technology, though it’s less of a technology revolution and more of a communications evolution.

Better computers and high speed broadband connectivity has had a big influence on how we access the Internet. As if being wired wasn’t enough we have stepped into the science fiction realms of our own lifetime and taken broadband with ubiquitous wireless and digital cellular to the streets and beyond, it’s gone mobile. Smart phones and
iPads are not only communications devices they give us access to email and internet, are entertainment centres, video recorders, cameras, satellite navigation systems, music players, word processors, and that’s just some of the features of the basic mobile phone. Try an iPhone on for size - 225,000 applications available and counting.

We have discovered in recent years getting information from online sources increasingly convenient because it was faster and reached further with a little help from a search engine known as Google. We expected more from this resource and it didn’t disappoint so we have made the World Wide Web integral to both our personal and business lives. No longer the domain of the technical elite and “other life” geeks it is now something that all the family regard as a must have rather than just a fashion accessory or passing fad.

We now use video and discussion forums, we share our experiences and concerns in real time and voice our opinions for all to see in a very public and global online community in an activity labelled as Social Networking. This shift in the way we think and use the
internet is known as Web 2.0, the platforms like Twitter and Facebook are household names and known collectively as Social Media.

Social Media is redefining the way we share ideas, build trust and make our purchasing decisions. These rapidly expanding online platforms are able to provide users with a forum to get and to give real time feedback. Reviews and recommendations are fed instantaneously to our communities of influence, tribes, friends, fans and followers via Social Media platforms like
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wiki’s, YouTube and Blogs. Because of this high level of interactivity, real time information sharing and self-publishing of video, images and blogs which are now considered mainstream media, there will be - and can be - no looking back.

Our customers are no longer relying on traditional methods of broadcast marketing to be influenced; they are listening to each other and to engage as businesses or brands you have to be part of this conversation. Not engaging in Social Media for fear that someone may criticise your product, complain about your service or copy your ideas is counterproductive. If they have a complaint they will be complaining anyway, you just won’t know it, and worse can do little about it. If you don’t want your ideas heard and discussed, by not engaging you will get your wish, they won’t. Your customers will move on to those that have open dialogues, share their expertise and ultimately with whom they form a trusted relationship. As businesses trying to compete in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace we either keep pace with these changes, or we will become irrelevant to our existing and potential customers forever.

No-one said this was going to be easy. This article cannot create a one size fits all explanation because there just isn’t one; no form of human interaction and idea exchange could, or should be that straight forward. What we need to do as business people is plan. Many businesses have done too little planning as it is, so if nothing else this is a great excuse to start the ball rolling. It’s time to think seriously about whom we want to reach and for what purpose and engage all our team from senior management to the shop floor in the process.

What Social Media is not is a mechanism to sell or to broadcast, if used badly it does have the potential to create a negative impact on your brand, product or service. We must rethink how we are to communicate and how we will engage and how to encourage our customers to talk about us, as advocates and ambassadors. It is only then that the true value and potential of Social Media will be apparent.

It’s almost unimaginable how far we have advanced with communications technology alone in the past century. Yet philosophically we have almost come full circle since Napoleon Hill gathered the thoughts and ideas of the great business minds of his time and wrote the now legendary book “Think and Grow Rich”. Published in 1937 at the time of the great depression he talked about the importance of values, of knowing your customer and having a meaningful relationship. It also emphasised the importance of planning and setting achievable goals. It’s good to know that some things haven’t changed.

Use Social Media to communicate and build trust with your target market. Apply some strategic planning with common sense, and getting some professional help to better understand the technical and strategic implications before taking things too far would be highly recommended. Apply the same rules to your online engagements that you would to any real-life conversation and relationship and you are on the right track to transferring the return on engagement to a return on investment.

P.S. To help you get some experience and better understand these tools I invite you to join my networks here and start your journey by using the tools in a safe and trusted environment. No-one can know too much or too little, we are all here to learn and share our thoughts, ideas and experience. 

Twitter: (Join the conversation)
LinkedIn Group (Join the discussion)
Facebook Page: (Join the community)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Either you are going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant

It’s often the little things that we say that mean the most. Words can be extremely motivational and incredibly destructive. Ironically the less words we use the greater the impact and resonance.

I have been discussing and quoting a statement from the great thinker and communicator Seth Godin quite a bit lately…

“Either you are going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant”

This is not a philosophy but a fact that applies nicely to the global and social communications age we live in. If we want to get noticed we have to be part of the conversations inside Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, with our Blogs and beyond. It drives home the core ethos behind how we need to approach our individual social media engagements and online communications strategies.

It’s not what we have to tell people about ourselves that means anything anymore; it’s what people are saying to each other about us that will count. It’s up to you to give people content, information and resources that they can use, and for this we can and should be credited and recognised. The reviews, referrals, re-tweets and recommendations are what make one product or service stand out from the rest for good reason.

We believe each other’s advice before that of the provider itself because we know they are promoting, broadcasting and selling to us. When we talk to our networks about products and service we like, dislike or want to explore, we are speaking from experience with the all-important trust relationship already established with our chosen friends and communities of interest.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Be still my beating heart - the iPad comes to NZ today

How exciting, today is the day that Apple gives us yet another great product. I was going to say toy, but the iPad is so much more than something to covet and play with, it’s an amazingly simple, affordable and useful productivity tool that is the latest must have for rapidly expanding social networking fraternity.

We’ve seen the hype of the US launch for iPad on April 3rd and its promise to change the way we interface with the internet with its endless array of applications (apps) and so far the hype seems to be well deserved with over 600,000 units being sold there in just the first week.

A lucky few have already started to use the iPad here in NZ having sourced them from offshore, but with the release of the tablet style communication device in New Zealand today I am sure we will see many more adorning café tables and boardroom desks in the coming weeks.

I have to confess that I have only just recently got myself and iPhone. I say this like it was an expectation but it wasn’t truly until I got it that I realised what I had been missing. Getting my emails and checking my calendar, updating and referencing Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are not only a breeze but easier and faster than their online, and often more confusing versions.

I would go as far as to say I LOVE my iPhone. I get why people go on and on about them now, it is well deserved. One of the key resistance factors for me getting one in the first place was my mistaken perception of the cost. I was under the impression that the data fees would be crippling. The clever little iPhone and the larger iPad cousin have Wi-Fi built in so when you are in range of your home, work or other Wi-Fi network it connects seamlessly and avoids you the 3G cellular data costs.

The Wi-Fi only version of the iPad is expected to have a recommended retail price of $799 for 16GB, $979 for 32GB and $1149 for 64GB. The Wi-Fi plus 3G models cost $200 more for each model. 
Vodafone indicate its data plans for the Wi-Fi plus 3G devices would be $20 for 250MB and $50 for 3GB.

Having only seen an iPad in action on a couple of occasions I would expect the experience to be similar to the iPhone but with a larger screen, its huge array of free and affordable applications will make it not only fun but productive.

I know the initial availability will be limited, there is a definite Apple arrogance about the launch secrecy and product scarcity. Some have queued and been disappointed not to get supplied, that’s the cost and price of demand and supply, get over it. I’ll wait, but I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Measuring the Cost of Social Media.

As we start to integrate Social Media into our business we need to consider ways to calculate and measure the return on investment it represents.

This on the surface is a reasonable request, there is an obvious resourcing cost to business, which initially will be our time - but where do we start to measure? We know that effective social media campaigns are long term, are about engagement and ultimately about relationship development; but can that ever equate to dollars and cents?

“To determine return on investment (ROI) for social we must put metrics around human interaction and communication – Is this even possible? “

To compare this with another technological innovation that is now integral to almost every business, the telephone, could we possibly measure its ROI? Most of us just factor it in as a necessary overhead and leave it at that, and we certainly wouldn’t consider being without it.

For any social media engagement to be undertaken successfully there is a great deal of planning and strategy to be undertaken first. Sure, a try it and see approach would be possible, and in some cases successful, but there are real risks that you may damage rather than benefit your brand or image. Clarity of purpose and a staged action plan delegated to capable people who buy-in and ultimately take ownership of your vision is a logical approach. Without this we will certainly waste valuable time and cause otherwise preventable roadblocks and frustrations moving forward.

If your goal is to achieve more online mentions of your brand or company then you must know where you stand right now, this is called benchmarking. It would also help considerably if you knew why you wanted to achieve this. You must find tools that can measure the impact of your campaigns (in this case a word search tool) and know how much resource is used to achieve this outcome in any given period. You should also apply a similar measurement to a complimentary or competing firm to see how they are doing over the same timeline.  It would also satisfy your financial controllers (those that will ultimately allow or deny your social media marketing budget) if there is a pathway to you sales funnel so this PR is converted to a tangible revenue stream.

As a standard formula, ROI is pretty basic, ROI = (X – Y) / Y, where X is your final value and Y is your starting value. In other words, if you invest $10 and get back $50, your ROI is (50 – 10) / 10 = 4 times your initial investment. In this financial sense, ROI is measured purely in the context of dollars and cents, however, the principles can be applied to other forms of investment (i.e. Time).

So to begin you must have the end in mind. Planning and having solid goals and concrete baselines is crucial to calculating this return on investment. Add to this the comparative measurement of your competitors’ performance as a benchmark and you have the basis of some valuable metrics. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Are you a thought leader or just another dedicated follower of fashion?

“Thought Leader” is the new cool set in the online business fraternity pushing aside the passé entrepreneur for a trendier tagline. I cringe a little every time someone introduces themselves as an entrepreneur - what is it you’re trying to say? You’re a risk taker carrying the can for yet another start-up venture? Entrepreneurialism is a quality not a title, you can’t be taught it, you either are one or you aren’t, it’s that simple.

So when you suggest you’re a “Thought Leader” what is it you bring to the table? Much the same as the entrepreneur I would presume but with things only at the idea stage? Google “Thought Leader” and there are plenty of people giving advice on how you can be one. This is paradoxical given you should, by definition, have an ability to think without the direct influence of others to qualify for this status.

When trying to put a name to thought leaders of our time its people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, John F Kennedy and John Lennon who spring to mind. I’m sure each had their fair share of advisors and mentors who filled in the grey areas of their speeches and lyrics; yet it’s the vision and conviction of the individual that gave a voice to once intangible concepts that in time influenced the way entire cultures thought and acted. It’s also tragic that all had a common fate due to this self belief.

In today’s instant information age we have lots of people telling us what we should to be doing. In an age of fans, followers and virtual friends the dedicated followers of fashion rush without hesitation to repeat the words of the chosen few, as long as it can fit the 140 character limitation bestowed upon us by Twitter.

It should make even the most relaxed amongst us a little nervous to know that the combined Twitter followers of Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears now exceed ten million people. That means there are 141 countries in the world who have smaller populations and only 82 that exceed it. “Oops, he did it again” gushed Britney, “Ashton just punk’d Europe”.

Social Media gives us the opportunity to connect with audiences like never before. Sure we need to nurture our tribe (Thanks
Mr Godin) but we also need to build trust (thanks Mr Brogan). Conduct online conversation with the same values and etiquette as you would in the real world and remember to establish meaningful and ultimately profitable influence takes time (Thanks Mr Reality). Listen to what people say, do what you can when you can, and do the best you can with the time and resources you have available.

Don’t let the medium own you, it’s a tool and nothing more. Use it how you want to and forget what “they say” you should be doing. Fashion comes and it goes; if you want to be seen as a thought leader, be yourself. Your real friends and valued customers will respect and thank you for it eventually.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blog Post from the Bush of Stewart Island

One of the fundamental rules of blogging is to keep on subject. My subject would be best described as “Communications Technology for Business”.

I’m sure that the irony of me writing this post with pen and pad while sitting in the bush on Stewart Island will not be lost on you.

The nearest town is a solid day’s tramp south; my two hunting/camping companions are at different ends of the Murray’s Beach block we have called home for two weeks and all I can see in any direction is trees, moss and fern.

I have forsaken technology for a more primal hunter/gatherer lifestyle. My cell phone is of little use as Vodafone have no coverage here, so the only real modern tools at my disposal are a battery-powered lantern to light my tent, an LED headlamp and a torch.

We cook our meat and other food by campfire and brave the elements as best we can. For early May, considering we are so far south and despite the rain, it is reasonably warm. One of my companions is my father – the reason I have made this trip. He brought me here at 16 and that was 30 years ago now so I thought it was well time I made the effort to spend some time with him again. He has made the pilgrimage to Stewart Island almost annually, this being his 25th trip.

Making the effort to spend some quality time with people certainly helps you to understand them better and more importantly, to appreciate them. Dad’s knowledge of the bush, its flora and fauna has amazed me. Where I see endless bush, he points out endless varieties of native plants and shows me how to use them for medicinal and other purposes. His skill has taught me a valuable lesson in how to make what would be to some, basic survival, into a relative luxury by the application of common sense and practical know-how.  This is something I will apply to my everyday and business life moving forward, we are all capable of so much more than the self-imposed limits we bound ourselves by whether deliberately to be safe or subconsciously because of fear.

My fathers bush dexterity also has extended to the cookhouse. A few tarps, a table built out of manuka poles with a thatch top and a campfire have produced meals consisting of venison steaks, stew, pot roast, scones, pikelets, “Billy” bread, and “Floaters” – which are reputedly a handed-down Maori version of fried doughnuts (complete with sugar and cinnamon coating with long-life whipped cream and jam). We’ve also dined on paua fritters on a few different occasions and we have yet to try our luck at fishing, given we are on the coast. Needless to say going hungry has been the least of our concerns.

The removal or escape from technology certainly has been refreshing. Its forced retirement has enabled me to temporarily abandon responsibilities (and stress) that used to take up the majority of my working day. Of course this has done little good for my business as being “off the radar” means that I would quickly become irrelevant in today’s fast paced, need it now society. I loved every second of the isolation I have experienced but would I forsake modern technology for it, I think not.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Paid Tweets Start Tuesday – Is the end of Twitter as we know it?

A little bird told me that we will soon be seeing Twitter move into revenue generation mode, it had to happen eventually. Before we throw our hands up and say it was all too good to last this may actually be a turn for the good, from a marketers and consumers perspective at very least.

According to
Mashable the new platform called “Promoted Tweets” is to launch next Tuesday afternoon (US Time) beginning with promoted tweets appearing in Twitter search results.

The ability to pay to get your self above the rest of the conversation on the surface makes good sense. The roll out will start with search results then enter the stream and third party applications like TweetDeck and Tweetie with only one advertisement appearing at a time.

Like any good social media platforms they are basing the introduction and expansion on how users react. From where I sit now, being able to interact in real time with an advertiser on a product that is relevant to my immediate interest makes sense. Like we have accepted Social Media so readily I believe this advertising platform will give more value than we may credit it for. Time and social commentary will tell all.

Suggested posts to read on this topic:
New York Times, Advertising Age and Mashable

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Business Case for Social Media - Why You Can No Longer Ignore It

Yesterday, Sunday the 21st March was Twitters 4th Birthday. Last month Twitter hit 50 million tweets a day and Twitter as a word is to be accepted into the Collins English Dictionary. When was it you first heard about Twitter? I suspect for most it was within the last year.

This months NZ Business Magazine has a cover story headlining “The Business Case for Social Media - Why You Can No Longer Ignore It”. In this story they make some bold statements which include “Anyone that says they don’t have time for Social Media is just ignorant of what the benefits are” and “The longer you leave getting started in Social Media the harder it will become”.

This is of course opinion. Should we just accept this form of scaremongering journalism on face value, I think not. I would recommend though that if their claims have any sort of merit it may be worth the effort of a little research. I would suggest a great way to do research about Social Media is by using Social Media itself. Here are some great places to get started:

  • Twitter – people will give lots of shorts sound bites and point you toward some valuable online resources, and it’s free.
  • Facebook – Join a group of likeminded folk and share in some discussions, and it’s free
  • LinkedIn – this one is for the grownups. Join groups that are oriented toward your industry or niche then watch or engage in the forum discussions, and this one is free too.
While you are conducting this research you may accidentally discover some alarming side effects of the Social Media platforms you have just introduced yourself to:
  • You may become a little better informed
  • It may actually become apparent not everyone in cyber-land is a con artist and that there are some genuine folk that are there offering good advise that will help you grow as a person and develop as a business
  • You may gain a better insight into the power of Social Media
  • You may actually get noticed by existing or potential customers who will be reminded of why you are more important, accessible and relevant to them than your competition are.
If you still don’t get it and decide that it’s still a waste of time then simply delete your profiles, turn off your computer and go back to the counter to wait for the customers to file in the door like they always have.