Last Wednesday I spent most of the day at Online Information, the world’s no.1 event for online content and information management solutions, in Olympia, London. Alright, that’s a receipe for corporate-style boredom but I got to me meet and talk to several interesting people.
In the morning, I was chairing a panel with an impressive line up of people talking about Social Software – Delivering value to 21st century organisation. Alex Bellinger, Ewan McIntosh, Rob Scoble and Ben Edwards were discussing pretty much anything related to that.
My intro was simply deconstruction the title of the panel. What does social software mean? What is a 21st century organisation? What kind of value are we talking about? And can it be ‘delivered’? Perhaps it is no longer about ‘delivering’ but about enabling, introducing, optimising, sharing, innovating and gasp, inspiring…
The main focus for me was value and the objective was to give the audience ideas of where to look for the value of social media/software within their organisations. It may be that the value they bring is not vague or hard to identify but that it is multi-dimensional. Perhaps it manifests itself in several areas which do not correspond to the silos so beloved of business structures.
How about the following framework for where to find the value social media and social software brings?
Individual empowerment – helps individual employees with their tasks and everyday job; easier information managenent via RSS, tagging, social bookmarking for example, awareness of people within the organisation via their blogs etc
Organisational empowerment – enables the organisation to do, connect, carry out functions that were not possible before; communications and information flow, exnternal engagement of markets, community, media, customers etc.
Specific level – projects that are easier and faster carried out, e.g. using a wiki to organise an event or collaboratively produce a manual, or using a blog to document a project etc.
Systemic level – processes that emerge as a result of extended use of social media/software. People making connections that speed up existing processes and/or give rise to new ones. Communication channels and networks that overlay the silos and dysfunctional processes. Innovation and creativity that would not manifest themselves otherwise.
There was another panel with the same people (plus Matt Locke who couldn’t join us in the morning), this time chaired by Phil Bradley. Phil was a lot more strict than I as the moderator, especially needed as there were two more people in the conversation. I do prefer ‘conversational’ panels to powerpoint and it was good to see people thinking on their feet. I hope to talk to them again, there seem to be more and more people around who understand what will drive the changes inside organisations.
In between the two panels at Online Information I rushed off to another conference, Click Forum 2006 (Creative Review’s 2nd Annual European Online Creative Advertising Forum). It was taking place in Parsons Green, not too far from Olympia. There I joined the panel about Blogs, online communities and interactive environments. I particularly enjoyed meeting Tim Ryan, director brand marketing at AOL. He very kindly gave me a lift back to Online Information, in the car we have frantically talked about the state of the media industry and the future of agencies and marketing. Suffice to say that we agreed, make of it what you will, dear reader.
After all the conferences, it was off to a London Girl Geek Dinner, where the Scobles were guests of honour. It was a long day with social media overload but well worth it.
Quote to really remember
We like conformity. Sadly, sometimes we confuse it with teamwork. Or much worse, we assume noncomformity to be anti-team and disloyal. The Road to Ruin. This, despite all superficial commitments to the valiant efforts of the Myerses and Briggses and Belbins of this world telling us that diverse balanced teams are good.
In something approaching real tragedy, many organisations go through a painful process of attracting and hiring people with a difference to make a difference; then spend forever driving the difference out of the person. Immensely frustrating for all concerned. Blogs can help prevent this.
We should stop thinking of blogs as just individual soapboxes, it may be the way we learnt about them, but it’s not the way we’re going to learn from them.
They’re very powerful conversation enablers; they help people express care and concern and dissent in non-threatening ways; they help avoid mutual-admiration-society selection bias; they build trust amongst teams; they exposes heresies and cancers; they prevent me (and people like me) from believing in our own propaganda.
Blogs are but one tool in helping us with those selections.
One tool. An important tool. One we did not have before.
I came across this gem earlier today and a classic example of what Jackie and I call ‘re-inventing the bandwagon’…
Eight O’Clock Coffee Co. is energizing coffee drinkers and its brand with a new blog that invites customers to share their gripes and thoughts about life, work and coffee.
The blog, called The Grind, follows the storyline of a working mother of two who writes about her daily life, and invites visitors to share their own experiences. The first blog entry begins with a quick recap of the weekend and talks about the blogger’s boss, nicknamed “Snobicus,” and asks advice on how the blogger can break the ice with the chilly boss.
The goal is to connect consumers to the brand in an interactive format, said Jeff Maloy, Eight O’Clock senior brand manager. The blog will run for six to eight weeks.
This is so bad. How shall I count the ways?
- Working mother of two – what’s her name or is this just a target demographic that came highest? Doubt it so please, enlighten us… Hang on, I got it. Her name is Eight O’Clock Coffee, it sayz on the blog – posted by Eight O’clock Coffee.
- Interactive format – comments are good, but no need to asnwer every crank in the comments section, especially it is the first comment on the first post and the answer is the second post on the blog. Or is it someone from the agency who set up the blog trying to ‘crank up’ (sorry) the new interactive engine of the Eight O’Clock Coffee Co? Oh way, I can download a coupon and watch two TV spots. I take it all back…
- What’s with the blogger.com used as blogging platform? It sucks. Really. The worst comments facility ever, even some more benighted blogger.com users use Haloscan to get away from indigenous comments (dis)functionality. But I digress.
- The blog will run 6-8 weeks? That’s marketing-campaign mindset talking. Sigh.
Perhaps time to be constructive? A coffee blog I want to see tells me about coffee, its history, flavours, pictures, coffee-making tips (OK, there are some on the Grind blog buried at the bottom in small print), baristas, growers, geeky facts about espresso machines etc etc – themes and topics abound.
And then there is the Ristretto Roasters weblog, set up by Jackie Danicki and run by Nancy Rommelmann, the founder of Ristretto Roasters, an artisanal coffee roasting company with its own café in Portland, OR. I know which blog I’d rather read.
Update: Just noticed that the article in PROMO magazine says that Eight O’ Clock handles the Web site and blog in-house. I take a shot at the imaginary agency back. It still leaves plenty to gripe about…
cross-posted from Media Influencer
When I was in San Francisco last month (with Adriana, who was speaking at Vloggercon on net neutrality), one of the best things that happened to me was meeting BrainJams‘ Kristie Wells and Chris Heuer. These are fiercely intelligent, open, unpretentious, generous people who are doing incredible things through the power of their own personal networks.
One such example of this is the Rent an Expert event which BrainJams is staging at CNET HQ today in San Francisco.
The format will follow the laws of open space as the ‘how to classes*’ offered will be determined by the participants. We ask that a small fee (average is $5) be given for each ‘how to class’ you sign up for, and all the money collected during the evening will be donated to a charity that will be decided by those in the room (majority rules folks).
Check out the Rent an Expert wiki if you can attend and want to share your expertise and/or learn from the expertise of others in attendance. If you go, tell them that I sent you – and thank me sooner or later, because you won’t regret the experience or getting to know Kristie and Chris.