Social Media Forum: Social Currency

Yesterday I did a talk at the Social Media Forum 2011 in Brussels. It’s a topic that I’m interested in since 2006 or so, the time Hugh MacLeod started talking about “social objects”. You’ll find out why when you keep on reading.

I started the presentation with a quote from Mark Twain I had found only a day earlier:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why” (Mark Twain)

The reason for that was mainly that as usual in social media related conferences (or actually on many of the stuff that is written about it online as well) is around tactics, hardly ever about the reason why. One of the other speakers asked a question about whether you need to be active on social media or building your own web presence, I think he used the reference ‘fish where the fish are’ to reference social media. To stay in that analogy that is like saying you should either ‘fish where the fish are’ versus ‘making sure your fridge is at the best possible temperature’. In that idea the tactics we’re all focusing in so much is just the same as thinking about tricks to get the fish to hop in the fridge themselves… that’s a silly idea isn’t it?

Enough about fish already. When I think about Social Currency, I can only think of it as the most interesting thing possible in social. What do other have to say about it though? That’s what you can see on the first few slides. A lot of explanation etc, and I can only think NOPE (thank you Chuck Testa). Why do I think it’s more than that? There are 2 cases I used to prove my point.

First one: The Blue Monster. You can read about that on my blog as I’ve written about it several times before, it is that what I believe made Hugh start to talk about ‘social objects’. Explaining what it meant for him. He called it the hard currency of the internet:

“The interesting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the conversations that happen around them. The Blue Monster is a good example of this. It’s not the cartoon that’s interesting, it’s the conversations that happen around it that’s interesting.”

It was the Blue Monster that gave me, Steve and many other Microsoft colleagues a way into the tech community to talk about Microsoft and how we (as employees) were convinced something was changing on the inside. Only because people didn’t understand why we used the cartoon ourselves. The question to explain that created that window of opportunity.

A more recent example, the second one I used in my talk was the “Bikers” viral we made for Carlsberg 2-3 months ago. I haven’t talked about that video on my blog before, yet there’s a chance you have seen it – as did about 13 million people since launch. You have to see it first before I can further explain:


Apart from thinking it’s funny, what was the first idea on your mind? There’s a good chance it  was something in the lines of ‘would I have done that?’. Carlsberg launched their new baseline recently: That calls for a Carlsberg. And with that also a new proposition. It’s about a ‘reward for a daily act of courage’. And this was our (first) answer to that. Notice that you didn’t just talk about it, you probably discussed about it. It’s almost a social experiment.

That’s what Social Currency is about, a way to create value. That’s also why I think it’s a better word than object. And, it’s not just about talk value, but about discussion value. Make stuff worth discussing. If you keen on doing this, you build Social Capital. And that’s fundamentally much more interesting than learning about a few (ever changing) tactics first.

Hope you like that, feel free to comment. You can find the (small) presentation up on Slideshare:

Creativity World Forum 2011: Making ideas happen

The Creativity World Forum 2011 had to live up against high expectations. When the event was organized for the first time in 2008 (in Antwerp) Flanders DC showed all other conference & congress organizers in Belgium what the new benchmark would be. I really enjoyed the 2008 edition and thus was really looking forward to the event. This years program was a good start. With people like Jimmy Wales, Keith Sawyer, Malcolm Gladwell, Scott Belsky, Oliver Stone, … it’s clear that the €300 investment for a packed 2 days would be money well spent.

I think that this years event had an even clearer focus on creativity than the one 3 years ago. With in my opinion 2 big topics related to that: the first one being about ‘how to be creative’ and the second one (maybe biggest one) about ‘making ideas happen’. Often speakers would refer to the fact that coming up with ideas isn’t that difficult but choosing between ideas and making them happen is.

The first day started with failure. Jimmy Wales said “don’t tie your ego to a particular business” referring to the fact that he himself had failed several times before starting with Wikipedia. It’s also the main reason why he likes Silicon Valley so much, in his eyes it has the culture that supports failure – in Silicon Valley one who fails is still better than one that never tried. Peter Hinssen in his talk made similar references to failure, definitely a popular topic. Peter focused even more on speed however, that’s where his famous ‘good enough is great’ reference is coming from. In the context of speed and the examples he gave that makes sense to me, in all other context I find it rubbish (as you could read right here).

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it. If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better. The crudeness of the early models in particular is very deliberate.” (Jim Glymph of Gehry Partners)

It was Alexander Osterwalder – known for his book on Business Model Generation – that used this quote during his talk. I liked the idea of putting even more effort into prototyping, which he sees as having a conversation with an idea. I like that. Another element that helps being better at creativity is collaboration. That’s the main topic Keith Sawyer talked about, debunking again the myth of the Eureka moment from the lone genius. Creativity is a group effort, ideally a cross-group type collaboration effort. See also my presentation on Agile Planning where I talked about this as well. Last speaker of the first day Malcolm Gladwell. In a sense he talked about the opposite of Jimmy & Peter earlier that day. Why is it that we tend to reward creativity/innovation so much on being the first to do something? History has proven that it almost never is the first to come up with an idea to be the one to market it. In his opinion the innovation strikes hardest when the tweakers come in. Really interesting but although being the first is definitely not enough, this talk almost sounded like a plea to be the third in all that you do… I don’t think that’s supposed to be the truth. I did remind me of a quote Tom Kelley from IDEO used during the first Creativity World Forum:

“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes” (Marcel Proust)

Presentations linked to a book always tend to be hyper structured. I like that. Scott Belsky’s presentation was one of those clear and structured talks. Probably no coincidence that he sees structure as a key element in making ideas happen, next to collaboration and leadership. Interesting thought on that last topic by the way – silence the visionary. Anyway, I’m a fan, make sure you check out the man’s work. Good start of the day as well, later on there was Jamie Anderson who kinda confirmed what we had heard before and then Garr Reynolds came to talk about Presentation Zen. Good presentation as to be expected, but maybe just a bit too many quotes and also it was great to see him stick to the timing, but still weird for a presentation guru to have to skip like so many slides to make that happen.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki)

Probably the quote I liked most from all the ones Garr used in his talk. It is indeed of great importance to try and “unlearn what you have learned” as Yoda would say, to be really creative. How can you look at things in a really new way when your expertise makes it so that you automatically scope out what in your mind is not possible? You can’t.

Last but not least, final speaker of the 2 days, was Oliver Stone. He did a panel conversation with some Belgian movie director who’s name I’d happily forget, and I think we all just listened. Just think about all the movies this man has created, you can only respect that. One of the things he said that resonated most with me, something that I’ve been thinking about actively since then was the following question: “what’s the narrative of your life”? Something we should all ask ourselves from time to time. On being creative, Stone urged us all to think about the time we create for ourselves to be creative, because we’re not making enough time for it in general mostly because of the loads of distractions we have these days.

Key take aways from these 2 days:

How to be creative:

  • Create time – there’s no flash of insight, eureka moment but it’s more like an emergence of time. So create that time needed.
  • Prototype – have that conversation with an idea
  • Collaborate – get people together, cross-group preferably and share ideas liberally

Making ideas happen:

  • Choose between ideas – it’s more important to realize a few ideas, than to have created many
  • Organize yourself – creativity x organization = impact (dixit Scott Belsky)
  • Progress begets progress – show progress, surround yourself with it as it’s important to keep going that you see the results during the process
  • Share ownership of ideas

Make change happen:

  • The flip, the shift, … – it doesn’t really matter what you call it, when change really happens, it happens big time. This means that is impossible to stick with the things you know if you want real change to happen.

Thanks again Flanders DC and everyone involved for making this event happen. See you again in 3 years.

Stratégies Gagnantes: Agile Planning

About a week ago I did a presentation at an event in Charleroi called “Stratégies Gagnantes” (which means as much as ‘Winning Strategies’) together with other speakers such as Michael Cawly (COO Ryanair), Nathalie Klein (Director Consumer Insights Coca-Cola), …I was asked to present about what I thought would contribute most towards winning strategies from a marketing point of view. This based on my experience in digital and specifically as Head of Digital at Duval Guillaume Modem, the agency I work for in Antwerp.

The topic I chose to talk about was ‘agile’, more specifically ‘agile planning’. We all know by now the world is changing, and it’s changing fast. So I didn’t want to go in to much about that, but instead focus on how we need to rethink the way we plan to cope with a situation that is always ‘in motion’. It was an easy choice to make since I’ve been fascinated about agile and about how we should use this thinking (that originates from the agile software development) into our business, into the way we think about planning for the future. Neil Perkin has written quite a few good posts about ‘agile thinking’ as key for anybody who wants to be more future proof. I’ve used some of his thoughts in this presentation.

In the presentation bring forward 4 ideas that need to be considered when thinking about introducing agile planning to your organisation:

  1. Ideas from anywhere: get out of the organization silos – idea generation happens best when people across all business lines get together
  2. Plan for the unknown: imagine what would be possible instead of solely relying on what you can deduct from past experience
  3. Measure to improve: instead of measure to report – make sure you get the learnings when you can still adapt
  4. Budget for change: make sure there’s time and money to make the change happen

Let me know what you think.

Stepping out of the App economy

Sometime late 2010 we started working on 2 rather big mobile projects and they made me think a lot more about apps and how our thinking for mobile is all about apps. Today mobile equals apps, and we are being dictated by the likes of Apple how we have to deal with that. So how big of an improvement the introduction of apps on mobile has been, I believe we limit our thinking by that same evolution, while it shouldn’t end there.

There’s no better way to experience the hassles one has to overcome when developing apps, then to develop your own (especially when the app is for the iPhone). And it was an article on TC about Disney that acquired an HTML5 game engine that got me thinking about this whole app approach. Smart move from Disney by the way. Bye bye appstores, let’s develop game experiences the way we like and let people pay what we think is right. And for multiple OS’s at the same time, all in one take. With Android gaining market share and also WM7 that will take it’s part of the cake at some point, HTML5 mobile web apps make it a lot easier to build experiences across OS’s and devices compared to today, and without all the appstore hassle. And if you go further, when you think about developing for mobile first instead of web and then mobile, I believe there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

But the Disney acquisition isn’t having any live results yet. I think the FT was the first really big one to have made a move to go for HTML5 and the last few days or weeks a few others seem to have followed. LinkedIn just released a pretty nice HTML5 experience for mobile and earlier this week Amazon launched a similar experience for their Kindle:

“It can do everything that a normal Kindle app can do, such as synchronize your library, your last page read and bookmarks. Yet, the Kindle Cloud Reader is more of a reaction to the draconian app store rules instituted by the Cupertino giant than it is a dynamic new version of Kindle.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before those brand start pulling their apps from the appstore, or at least stop actively updating those in favor of native mobile web apps. I’m with Gigaom on this one when they say that Amazon might as well be showing media companies the future of the web with this one. Also sites as Twitter offer a rich and very nice mobile web experience, nothing like it used to be anymore.

I can only applaud brands moving in this direction and I believe that although the idea of apps on your mobile were a great innovation, they´re only a step towards a very rich mobile web experience. What´s your take?

Bonus link: HTML5 apps that are scaring the pants off Apple

Is ‘good enough’ the new black?

During the presentations of last night’s Mobile Monday in Brussels (#momobxl – tablet edition) it struck me how often businesses’ seem to work with a ‘good enough’ strategy. It came up during Corelio’s presentation on their mobile approach as well as during SBS’s presentation on the 2nd Screen (Tweede Scherm). The basic idea to create something fast and put it in users hands as soon as possible. Now I’m a big fan of an agile and iterative development approach, I don’t like ‘good enough’ though. Good enough means ‘almost good’ as in ‘mediocre’. How can that ever be a strategy?

‘Good enough’ is also not very inspirational, it’s not very ambitious. A point I wanted to convey during the Q&A session of the event but without success. The response was that (especially the Belgian market) is still very small when it comes to tablets and that we need to be careful with the investments we make. We also need to be careful with what we wish for, since the general public is trailing us geeks and therefore obviously not into digital like we are. Fair enough, but why is that an explanation of ‘good enough’?  The following analogy was made: “ we want to drive 300mph with a car and we’re only just figuring out what a car is, these things need time”. My take on that is that businesses (again especially in Belgium) are not dreaming of driving 300mph at all, they’re trying to drive a car the way they learned to ride a horse. In this case that means merely duplicating experiences on new platforms. And again, that’s still no reason for ‘good enough’.

It might be a Belgian thing, but I just don’t get it. I know, it’s a small country with limited reach and thus limited budget. But that’s no explanation on why things can’t be ambitious. What they can’t be great… instead of good enough. Dream big for god’s sake – “The bigger the statement, the bigger the idea, the bigger your brand will become” dixit Hugh MacLeod (‘the hughtrain’).

The problem of the internal story

Yesterday Edelman organized a breakfast event together with The Centre for which they had Steve Rubel as guest speaker as well as Patrick Bosteels and Ramon Suarez as specialists at the table for further discussion. Steve’s presentation was interesting (as usual), there’s a good write up about it on Steve’s Posterous.

What struck me most however during the discussion afterwards is how all businesses are struggling with social media, in particular how they were struggling to make it work on an organizational level. A recurring problem that I’ve also noticed plenty of times with some of our own clients. What happens today is that many in the communications department have discovered social media and wish to make use of it. Be it thanks to agency advice, because of their own interest, due to pressure from above, … whatever the reason you see there’s an ask for building solid presence on social media.

In many cases this presence will include telling real stories from real people inside the company, no better way to show authenticity right? And that’s where lies the problem in my opinion. The communication department sees the opportunity of becoming more social, realizes that it cannot do it by themselves for 2 reasons:

  1. It involves the whole company, or at least most departments in the company. Make social media 1% of 100 people’s job instead of 100% of 1 man’s job – dixit Steve.
  2. The real stories are not with the communication department, they are with the people building the products, selling the services, meeting the clients, …

And although they are interlinked, I believe that most of what we’re trying to do today is trying to fix the first problem. I do believe the challenge with the second problem is bigger though, it’s more difficult to tackle.

Steve talked about the necessity to look at what motivates people in the organization to get them involved. Is it money, internal recognition, reviews, … Which button to push to get people to participate. I think that’s very true, but wonder if it can help with that second challenge. I’ve experienced with some small to very large enterprises that and the gap between the comms department who recognized the opportunity and realizes there’s plenty of content within company to be used to actually surfacing that content in a way that is sustainable is too big to overcome.

So how do you overcome that gap? How do you surface the internal stories that matter to your company? What’s your take?

Where are the case studies that matter?

Or at least, where are the social media case studies that matter to me. The reason I’m calling for this is that most of the cases I see or hear about aren’t always that usable to me. There are learnings in every case, but most of the time those examples have one or a few things in common that make them difficult for me to use. I need other cases, other than the ones people keep sharing at the moment, so where are those cases that are:

  • NOT from an online business: Zappos is the first that comes to mind. If you’re in e-business it’s also easier to create and measure a valid social online presence. There’s an immediate link with your business to be made online, there’s an immediate link to be made with sales online, that’s not the case for everyone.
  • NOT from a tech company: Microsoft, DELL, … I’ve worked for Microsoft myself and even 4-5 years ago there were about 5.000 bloggers active within the company. The company was actually active in social media before The Company was active in social media (if you know what I mean). You got a whole bunch of tech savvy people together, I can tell you from my experience that is a very different starting point than when you try and set this up with your average FMCG brand for instance
  • NOT from the U.S.: Ford, Starbucks, … great brands moving the needle in social and proving that it makes a difference for the whole business. With someone like Scott Monty at Ford, they are able to test and build social web experiences and applications, monitor etc but don’t forget that most of the learnings from this only work for a market as big as the U.S. The team, the tools, the costs, … for a market in one main language and with something like 300 M people is quite different from any market in Europe for instance. And a Pan-European approach might have the same scale but also that still requires a pretty different approach. There is no Europe basically ;)
  • NOT from a social media company: Social Media Examiner, Hubspot, … their business is in social media, it would be kind of sad if they didn’t know how to make it work for themselves right?
  • NOT from an indivitual or a 2 person company: There are obviously plenty of examples around like this – Choqoa from a friend of mine is a great example of a case like this. But it’s different when the business is basically yours and when you’re passionate about social media and understands how things work versus getting things organized in your regular mid-sized or big companies. You just have to start, you’re convinced and there’s no-one else around, no steering committees or anything like that. And that makes a huge difference.
  • NOT initiated by a negative experience: DELL Hell, Kryptonite, … we’ve all seen and heard of these examples plenty of times. And it’s great to see the turnaround DELL did after all the negative buzz they got at the start. But when I want to show people the opportunity that is social media, not why it’s a good tool to set up your defense systems.
  • NOT just a link or a screenshot: Last but not least, it’s great to get a link of a nice example but I’m really looking for cases so I’d like to see more information, data or at least people’s opinions around why this is a good or a bad case.

So don’t get me wrong. We’ve probably all learned certain lessons from some of the examples mentioned above and we should have. But on a day to day basis I cannot use much of the learnings I ‘ve got from these examples given the nature of those cases versus the situations I think many of us are dealing with on a daily basis.

So if you know a good case that is none of the above, please let me know. And share my request with your friends if that’s not too much to ask ;)

Photo by Andy Ciordia

Some thoughts on Social CRM

Yesterday I did a presentation on Social CRM at Digital Marketing First (and no my thoughts on that event haven’t changed yet). It was our partner Selligent who had asked me to join them for this presentation and the following is what I prepared.

The original call for the presentation was around social media as a direct marketing tool but I found that too limited of scope and also I’m annoyed by the fact that many people just see social crm as a campaigning tool on Facebook and Twitter. But hey, nothing new there – online crm is also mostly translated as being sending emails to a database. While clearly crm is much more than that. And that’s kind of what I wanted to bring in this presentation to begin with.

‘The customer is at the centre of everything we do’. Customer centricity is a hot topic these days, it’s the primary scope for how we manage our business. But is that really so? I’m not too sure about that. From what I see and hear businesses seem to have quite a few other objectives that come first. Do we even know our customers? Because how can we even be real about being customer centric if you have no clue who you’re talking about?

In an age in which consumers constantly re-evaluate brands/products (cfr McKinsey) it’s even more important to put the consumer that the center (and for real) and to start building relationships. So the point in the end is to use a lot more of the tools/channels to get to know your customer a lot better so you can be more personal in the conversation. And luckily there’s an awful lot of automation that can be done to deliver on that promise.

For those that attended the presentation, hope you liked it.

The future belongs to the geeks…

Nobody else wants it.

This is without a doubt one (of many) personal favorites out of all the cartoons Hugh MacLeod has created in the past x years.

I think there’s a lot of simple truth in this one. Every day/week/month I see innovation that impacts the business I am in and which found its origin in technology, software development or something like it. And then I’m not only talking about pure technology innovation but also about innovation of business processes, creative thinking, etc.

An obvious one is about how technology is driving change in the media landscape. And then especially when you think about how long existing ‘traditional’ media are transforming, not just the new media that gets added. Particularly the interactive tv experience is something that fascinates me a lot recently. In this domain several big players are active – television manufacturers, service providers, content networks, … – and yet somehow I believe the main innovation will come from outside, from a few geeks in the corner that will really create a richer tv experience using a tablet device or whatever. They can think without bounderies of current business processes, revenue management, … no old business models to try to protect. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there already.

Another recent example of technology driving change, and this time in business thinking is Agile Strategic Planning, really interesting stuff if you ask me. This whole idea is an answer to changing consumer/brand needs but is based on a concept that has been used (by some) in software development for almost 10 years now. Neil Perkin used the following quote in a recent post while trying to explain the need for this agile thinking:

“Our structures need to be more speedy. Speed used to kill now lack of speed kills. Lets have organizations that can iterate quickly and empower its folks to make decisions. Percolating decisions up and down an organization makes little sense”

Agile strategic development, adaptive marketing, lean planning, … all terms that highlight more or less the same thing. We have to start thinking in ways that allow for much more iterations and changes while the process is ongoing. A new kind of strategic planning that is heavily influenced by concepts developed in software development.

Just 2 examples in my area of interest that came to mind when I saw this cartoon again. But yeah, the future belongs to the geeks, I’m sure of that.

Dear cell phone user

So there you are, reading a newspaper on a terrace while you’re kids are playing on the playground and the phone rings. Not yours, but that from your neighbor. It’s long, loud, … can’t even hear myself read the newspaper anymore.

shhh2

This initiative from Coudal might be old, but I sure wished I had a card on me yesterday. Printing them out right now.