Speaking at SME Technology Summit 2009

Really looking forward to speaking at the SME Technology Summit by The Insight Exchange on 1 December 2009.

There’s lots of interesting speakers:

  • Tim Pethick – Entrepreneur & Founder, Nudie
  • Mark Pesce – Inventor, Writer, Educator, Futurist
  • WilliePang – Managing Director, Search Marketing, Yahoo! Australia
  • Suzi Dafnis – Community Director, Australian Businesswomans Network
  • David James – CEO & Director, Brasserie Bread
  • Matt Barrie – Chief Executive, Freelancer.com
  • Matt Bateman – Managing Director, Viva9
  • Sharon Williams – Founder and CEO, Taurus Marketing

And some of the topics covered include:

  • Using social media to attract customers and generate sales
  • Building an online presence so customers can easily find you
  • Generating revenue while you sleep with eCommerce
  • Selling effectively with email marketing
  • Leveraging your relationships with powerful CRM


Excellent execution: the platform for success

I went for a cheese & wine dinner at Bells at Killcare on Friday night with @frombecca and @JohannaBD.

The food – by Stefano Manfredi (a.k.a. @manfredistefano) – was wonderful as usual. The wines selected by Michael Trembath were lovely, the cheeses selected by Will Studd were a delight, the venue charming, and our hosts Brian & Karina Barry welcoming.

But, while each of these was admirable, the thing that pulled it all together was the amazing professionalism and teamwork by the staff at Bells.

The staff were the people who executed and brought together all the elements into a seamless and wonderful evening.

This is the kind of thing that you see with great companies.  They have similar kinds of raw materials to their competitors but understand how to execute with excellence.  And execution always come down to the staff.

The smooth teamwork and gracious service at Bells is what made the evening.  The same fundamental elements without the service would not have been so great.

It got me thinking about how true this is for business, even for social media – it is the quality of the execution that makes all the difference.

some Aussie entrepreneurs for #followfriday

Last night I attended the 2009 NSW Pearcey Awards & a few people I know were honoured for their work. These are all dynamic intelligent people who are passionate about technology but who also have put in a lot of effort into building community among the tech and startup folks in Sydney.

@rabieburns – Ian Gardiner, winner of the 2009 Pearcey Award, he’s done amazing stuff in business with Viocorp & still always finds time to help build up and connect Aussie startups

@eliasbiz – Elias Bizannes received a special recognition award & is well known for his activities in building up the tech/startup community in Australia especially via his baby Silicon Beach Australia and on the Data Portability project

@tjoosdude & @tjoosgirl – Bart Jellema & Kim Chen received a special recognition award; in their spare time they are founders of a successful startup called TJoos.com and have also been active in building up the Sydney tech community via Silicon Beach Australia.

@Wickedboy – Scott-Bradley Pearce also scored a special recognition award and in his spare time is Digital Video and Media Consultant at One In Ten Productions


3 tips for networking online and offline

In this day of LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook and Twitter it might seem that networking the old fashioned way is dying. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Many real life social interactions arise from these online networks. The old fashioned networking skills actually assist in both the effective use of these online networking platforms as well as during real life meetups.

Lots of people over the years have said how much they hate walking into an event or function where they don’t know anyone. That feeling of fear is a familiar one for most of us.

Often they are offered some well meaning advice like: ‘just treat people the way you would like to be treated’.

The obvious riposte to this is that it’s not about how you want to be treated so much as about how the other person wants to be treated. The trick is that most of us are not psychic & thus have little clue how other people want to be treated.

But the good thing about this is that it gives us a topic of conversation with everyone we meet, finding out how they want to be treated.  Here’s some tips based on my own experience of online and offline networking:

1) Be yourself

It takes a huge amount of energy and a really good memory to be someone or something you’re not – this makes being yourself a sensible option.  Also people will eventually realise what you are really like if they have any kind of repeated exposure to you. Thus it’s just as well to start as you mean to go on.

2) Listen

Being interested in other people is very attractive.  Most people like to feel as if they matter and the easiest way to demonstrate this is to listen to them rather than talking yourself.  Even chatterboxes like me need to give this one a whirl.  Listening includes non-verbal signals too, such as body language for real life meetings.

3) Respond

Responding to the other person is important and this can take various forms.  Sometimes it is about following the other person’s lead on a topic of conversation or mode of communication.  Other times it is about taking the lead yourself and starting a new topic, or even backing off and leaving the person alone.

Responding is very closely bound to listening, since listening provides the feedback to enable creation of an appropriate response.

A good tip

One of the best tips I ever had on networking in real life came from networking guru Robyn Henderson – she advised when you are off to a function “arrive early and act like the host”. Her rationale for this was that most people are terrified of meeting new people and having someone act as the host and break the ice was helpful to them.

Are social networks breeding social isolation?

I recently had a thought provoking note from a buddy, Sheetal Patel, who’s not really a fan of social networking apart from LinkedIn.

He commented that “perhaps this increasing human need to relate is being perpetuated by Web 2.0 enablement technologies standing on (and encouraging even greater dependencies) the shoulders of the mobile phone and the internet”. And he cited some modern examples of how important being or feeling connected is becoming, for example:

  • “Schoolchildren checking mobiles for missed calls & SMS texts every few minutes.”
  • Old style “Internet content writers wanting to be the top search result in internet search engines (disconnected follower-ship)”  versus “the new notion of creating passive ‘as it happens’ Twitter follower-ship.”
  • “Psychologically for people to want to be constantly visible amongst their peers, and as Maslow’s hierarchy might dictate, ultimately perceived as the metaphoric rock/movie star that everyone must follow in every great detail, any way they can, as soon as they can.”

This interests me because of the growing phenomenon of what I refer to as the hive mind experience that many Twitter users have had.

That is where one becomes so used tTwitter_Logo_node_full_image_2o being loosely connected to a large number of people that disconnection from the group induces feelings of mild anxiety or “feeling weird”.  I often joke about it with friends but their laugh sometimes tells me it’s not really a joke – we do feel a bit strange when disconnected from the collective.

We do not know yet what kind of impact this level of connectedness will have on social interaction.  But there is already evidence that this connectedness enables mob-like activity – such as mobilizing people for a cause (e.g. Cotton On Kids or Motrin Moms ). My friend Mark Pesce contemplates some of these themes on his blog and in particular in his Nexus post.

But Sheetal also raised another issue, that we might be developing a “population of individuals who are extremely connected and incredibly well-followed (predominantly in the Twitter third-person context) but suffer from fundamental inabilities to create and maintain physical relationships and oblivious (or in self-denial?) of the daily need to maintain and develop first/second person interactions as part of everyone’s physical daily existence”.

That is an interesting question.  It is also the complete opposite of my own experience with Twitter. Instead, through meeting people on Twitter and over time getting to know them in real life, I now have a much richer set of personal relationships.

At dinner the other night I was discussing just this issue with a bunch of people who had all met initially via Twitter but were now good friends in real life. We maintain those relationships – both on and offline – using time honoured techniques such as having conversations, sharing ideas and opinions, and getting together to share meals or attend events.

What I suspect is happening is that people without social skills in real life find it just as difficult to build and maintain relationships in other places too, including online.

Further, the network amplification effects of social network relationship matrices serve to amplify the knowledge of any social failures.  Thus, where once a social failure was constrained in time and place, it might now be recorded digitally forever. Also that social failure has the potential to go viral and become known more widely than ever before – such is the power of YouTube and its ilk.

3 essential elements of a business social media arsenal

Joel Postman argues that A Blog is a Better Social Media Hub Than Twitter. I tend to agree, especially from a business perspective. His post got me thinking about the critical elements for a business social media toolkit.

1) A Blog or a Website (it’s the same thing really)

A business or personal brand needs to have a home base – it’s the virtual equivalent of an office or post office box.

However, the reason that a website (powered by a blogging tool or by handcrafted HTML or whatever) is a necessary part of your social media arsenal is that you control it and all of the content therein. This assumes that you to host your own site & have access to all the data. If it is hosted or managed by someone else then your data is at risk if the relationship breaks down or their business has a failure.

Many businesses put their websites/blogs into the hands of third parties & often don’t even know the passwords to access their own information. This is a huge risk!

One thing that is rapidly becoming apparent to me is a convergence between blogs and websites. Someone asked me the other day: what is the difference between the two? It really made me think. And the answer was they are the same thing. This is because the platform – blog as content management system – does not matter any longer.

What is important is the content delivered on the site. We can also see this convergence in the number of websites that now use a blogging platform as their content management system.

2) Social media & social network presence

Social networks and social media are the elements that bring website or blog content alive.  These are tools that enable sharing of messages with communities of people who are interested.  They also provide an opportunity to move from a monologue publishing style to a conversational dialogue style of interaction.

Even if your business does not want or need to use social networks it makes sense to own your corporate identity. What happens if someone who hates your business registers “YourBusinessName” on Twitter and starts sending out messages?

Also it is worth setting up a social networking presence as a low cost distribution channel for your website content. Think of the website as a publication platform while social networks are the distribution channel.

A big challenge for websites until now has been letting people know that they exist and have useful or relevant content.  Social media helps to solve this problem for businesses and personal brands.

The other important thing is to store the content of your social networking interactions for later analysis and reference. For example, on Twitter it is possible to create an RSS feed of a particular user’s or hashtag’s Twitter stream. Just go to search.twitter.com, enter your search term & there is an option to create an RSS feed of that search.

Also a number of plugins are available that enable posting of social network activity to a website/blog. And if all this information goes back to your website it can be backed up and remain available even if the original source network is ephemeral.

3) Social media reputation tracking
Once you take a brand out to play in this socially connected world monitoring what is going on becomes important. I’ve written about this before, giving a few examples where social media has both helped and harmed brands.

An implicit social contract is created by brands when they participate in social networks. Your brand becomes more accessible and people will interact (even if you would prefer that they did not).

There are some great paid services that can monitor your online reputation. However, here are a few free tools that are available:

  1. Google Alerts
  2. TweetBeep
  3. Social mention
  4. Google search

This kind of monitoring should be setup and reviewed regularly.

Regular participation, care and feeding of social media is necessary as it is now part of the marketing mix. Social media and social networking are part of both the place and the promotion of a brand or product.

Online should be monitored similar to the way we used to monitor customer feedback, newspapers and magazines in the past.

Changing spaces in media

The Media 140 Conference in Sydney has offered a vast amount of food for thought my brain is buzzing with ideas, issues and concerns.

The first thing that struck me was the level of fear and fear-mongering by some of the print journalists on day one. For example in the session titled How Social Media is Changing Political Reporting Caroline Overington and Chris Uhlmann both seemed close to arguing that the end of the free world as we know it is nigh should one of the major east coast newspapers in Australia fail.

There seemed to be little idea amongst these panelists that changing media platforms might reinvigorate media and create new revenue or career opportunities.

This notion that unless “proper journalism”, that is journalism as we have known it since the mid-late nineteenth century as practised by employees of the great media barons, exists then no valuable news will exist seems odd.

When one considers why news came to be produced in that particular way in that particular time it seems clear that technology and cost constraints prohibited new entrants to the news creation and sharing market.

However today those barriers to entry are rapidly disappearing and ordinary people are creating their own news. But, while the need for professional production facilities is diminishing, there seems to be ample space for journalists and news organisations to explore business models based on aggregation, curation and clarification of issues and perspectives.

Caroline Overington also discussed the News Ltd plan to charge for content. It will be interesting to see their plan and how it unfolds. My experience indicates that online micropayments are not as easy to use and intuitive as they need to be for mass adoption. Also the nature of the content must be compelling enough on a continual basis for people to subscribe.

Amusingly at the same time as Ms Overington was delivering her apologia for News Ltd they announced a revenue slump of 4.1%.


A #katebreak for #followfriday

There is not just one interesting Kate to follow on Twitter.  Here’s a few interesting ones I follow – we do know each other real life (having met mostly via Twitter). These women are all intelligent and forthright, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

@katiechatfield – articulate & thoughtful creative strategist, social activist and bonne vivante

@katetribe – knows all about understanding your tribe with quantitative research, also a crazy cricket fan

@ZebraBites – qualitative market researcher extraordinaire, good dining companion and thinker

@katekendall – savvy writer with a focus on marketing & strategy, passionate advocate for social media and community

@kategamble – SEM guru, self described “Social Media Wanna-be”, all round thinker about social media ecosystems