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

Last week I spent 2 days at the Creativity World Forum in Antwerp, a conference that got my attention because of some of main speakers such as John Cleese, Steve Wozniak, Dan Heath, Tom Kelly, Chris Anderson, … Many of them I had not seen before which made it all the more interesting. It was also at this conference that we got to SpotMe device for better networking, something I blogged about last week. Most of he links below point to short recap videos of the presentations, so make sure you check out the ones that interest you.

Day 2 - Chris Anderson
Photo from FlandersDC

First speaker to kick off the event (well after the obligatory and boring intro) was John Cleese. And just like for many of you I guess… he’s a hero of mine so pretty good start :) I must say even though John didn’t re-invent to wheel here on how to be creative but I liked that presentation a lot. John’s theory is that everyone can be creative, but that you need to get into the creative mindset for it and that you need to take time for it. A lot of his focus regarding this mindset was on the unconscious part of your brain that is very important for this. He recommended to read a book called ‘Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How intelligence increases when you think less’ to support his talk on this. Instinctively I could recognize myself in this (which I guess is a good thing) but there’s obviously no way I compare to John of course.

The next talk I saw was from Jef Staes. A presentation that didn’t really start of well, but turned out to be pretty interesting in the end. The analogy of the Red Monkey which is the creator, who needs to influence the pioneers first, after which you (hopefully) get followers that finally crush the settlers was an interesting one. Especially given my interest in all things ‘influence’. After Jef came Theo Jansen who I blogged about before, seriously impressed with his creations though. Fascinating to see those on stage., again watch the video. Last speaker I saw on day 1 was Steve Wozniak, and although I was seriously looking forward to that, I must say you might as well read his book.

First up the second day was Tom Kelley from IDEO, who talked about how it’s not good enough to be innovative, but how you also need to outpace everyone else. He spoke about his new book and the different roles he describes in there that are important in the innovative process, with the focus on 2 roles: The Anthropologist and the Experience Architect. Again I liked what I saw, also because it sort of ties in with some things I mentioned during my own presentation at SIME. He mentioned a good quote of Marcel Proust saying:

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

He also referred to a concept they call ‘VUJA DE’ which is exactly the opposite as ‘DEJA VU’ and how it’s exactly these ‘VUJA DE’ moments they’re trying to pursue at IDEO when working on projects. Good stuff.

I was also looking forward to see An De Jonghe but that turned out to be a big disappointment. She gave 3 examples around social networking, one of which was Belgian and which took her a lot of research to find it (yet failing to point out she’s consulting for them!) Good luck we got a great treat from Dan Heath after that. His talk was related to ‘Made To Stick’ (which I loved) and since he’s a great presenter as well, this was really good. Good reminder about the ‘curse of knowledge’ and thinking about reading the book again.

Last but not least, Chris Anderson, no need for introduction right? He talked a little bit about ‘The Long Tail’ but mostly on his new book ‘Free’ which is coming out next June. It was really interesting to see how he came about this theory (talking about how “storage, bandwidth will become to cheap to meter”) and why that enables these new models. He talked about 4 models of FREE that exist in the 21st Century:

  1. A marketing trick
  2. Ad-Funded / Ad-Supported
  3. Freemium
  4. Gift Economy

… of which Freemium is definitely the most compelling to me. Really good talk again which concluded the event. So needless to say I enjoyed it, especially when you know it cost only like 300 EUR. There were more presentations but those were the ones I wanted to talk about, make sure you watch those videos!