Archive for April, 2010
Interesting research being published today in Nature about leadership in flocks of pigeons.
As Dr Dora Biro of Oxford University, one of the Researchers says…
‘We found that, whilst most birds have a say in decision-making, a flexible system of ‘rank’ ensures that some birds are more likely to lead and others to follow.’
This flexible method would seem to make best use ‘crowdsourcing’ ideas from the whole flock rather than rely on a single leader or rigid hierachy. Now looking at human behaviour I wonder what we can learn from the pigeons and social media – including Twitter.
Ford is one of global brand leaders not just in terms of manufacturing motor vehicles but also in terms of using social media to engage in conversations with their communities. (Whilst their is the corporate brand – the engagement takes place at sub-brand levels such as car makes like Fiesta and activities such as racing)
A check of their social media ‘home page’ shows they are present on all the popular networking and bookmarking sites. They also actively use video to engage with employees to tell their story.
The latest annual report (19th) by Arbitron and Edison into the impact of digital platforms on radio shows that whilst radio is still held in high regard it has now been eclipsed by the internet as the medium of choice by the public.
The highlights from the report are:
- Internet now exceeds radio and TV as the ‘most essential’ medium when people are asked
- Almost 50% believe that newspapers will cease to exist in their current form in the future
- Internet now exceeds radio as the medium where 12 – 34 year olds learn about new music
- Social Media is now a mainstream tool
- 25% of people now consume audio content in cars via iPod/MP3 players
- Texting is a daily activity for almost 50% of people
This, and other research shows the increasing reach and impact of podcasting in peoples lives. With increasing use of ’smartphones’ content is being consumed on the move allowing much more targeted and relevant messaging.
Businesses can now use podcasts to create content targeting ‘communities of interest’ relevant to their product and service. Rather than paying for radio adverts and sponsorship highly targeted edutainment programs can be developed that will attract and retain an audience.
Reflecting the power that YouTube has in terms of video content distribution AdvertisingAge has created a YouTube channel to track and report on what is happening. As AdAge says…
“….No more are TV ads simply foisted on the public. Increasingly, brands and agencies are focusing less on what is being skipped on TV and more on creating ads people really want to watch. YouTube is a daily referendum on the world’s video, and increasingly ads are part of that mix. Not only to ads build TV-sized audiences on YouTube, these are audiences that actively seek out the content, giving brands incredible engagement with consumers….”
Personally I would express the last few words differently. YouTube appeals to the video engaged generation and gives content generators (brands) a powerful platform to extend that engagement into a relationship. For a brand to be really successful they have to take search and consumption to another level. To encourage consumers to engage with the brand beyond what passive TV could ever offer. Video is largely consumed on internet connected devices so the ads could be linked to microsites for more information, interactive games, instant discounts on products or cross-promotion. It could even crowdsource feedback and voting or alternative content ideas or competitions.
An interview with Stephen Timms MP, on LocalGovTV about Digital Inclusion (Note: Needs registration on site to watch)
Highlights of interview:
- 12.5m people do not have online access
- 10m never used internet so missing out on many online services and savings
- Digital efficiency and costs savings by providing Govt services online
- Focus on least likely groups online (55+, disabled, low income)
- Digital Participation taskforce of 60+ members tackling excluded groups in a co-ordinated way
- Targets – 100% online access by 2012 at 2mb and 90% at higher speeds by 2017
- Target – rural economy must be engaged hence 50p per month levy on telephones
- Digital Inclusion pathfinder examples – Barnsley and Swindon,
- DI Beacons via IDeA (now managed under the Local Innovation Awards Scheme) Govt
A nice summary from ComputerWeekly on the political parties strategy for Gov IT.
Worth contrasting the policy ’spin’ with what happened in the House of Commons yesterday when they rushed through the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill.
This is the House of Commons debate…. which only 40 MP’s bothered to turn up for!
When I am asked for an overview of social media and its value to an organisation I like to refer to what others are saying rather than just my own opinions. That is especially true when the source could be considered a bit unsual.
One of my favourites for that reason is the US Air Force guide to social media. It is also comprehensive in what it covers.
Some may wonder what relevance the military has to a public or private sector organisation. In reality the military face the same issues over whether to allow only a select few in the chain of command to use social media, concerns over security (for them possibly even life or death!) and what should be discussed.
It was first published just under 12 months ago as a guide for their Public Affairs team on why Social Media was important and how best to use it. The 28 page guide ‘New Media and The Air Force‘ (Please note: Version 2 of the guide published in November 2009 is here) has an overview of new media, the reasons why it is important for the US Air Force to participate, guidance on how to do it and top tips plus a useful glossary of terms.
(Note: Version 2 includes a very useful guide on assessing how to respond to comments)
A quick summary of what is in the guide:
- Social media should be regarded as complimenting internal communications, community and media relations.
- Web 2.0 is a vibrant community and the Air Force will be talked about – they should be part of that conversation as it is their story.
- All Air Service personal are part of the communications team. There is a hierachy of command but where social media is concerned everyone has a voice irrespective of rank.
- Air Service staff when blogging are in effect acting as journalists as the news media uses blog posts as news stories
- Public Affairs staff should become trainers and coaches to everyone to help ‘cascade’ communication skills throughout the Air Force
- Air Service staff should remember they are on-duty 365/24 so ‘Always on record. Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all that is done’.
The Top 10 Tips for New Media use:
- Don’t divulge classified information
- Stay on your subject area
- Don’t lie. Stay factual
- Give your opinion but ensure people know it is yours
- Identify yourself (but not so risk safety)
- Put safety first – no death-defying stunts!
- Be aware of the image you present
- Use common sense – don’t says things you would not say in front of your mother
- Take calculated risks
- Engage – others are (or as they put it ‘The enemy is engaged’!)
At every public sector conference I speak at I always ask the audience how many local government employees present actually use Social Media tools. I always get a good show of hands usually about 75% of those there. If I then ask how many work for councils where the IT department bans social media access I get the same number. The council employees are using social media at home or on smart-phones and not from the councils own IT systems. I then ask them does the local council have a strategy for social media use and it seems very few do. A would say a handful have ever stated that their employer has a planned and co-ordinated strategy to use social media. A few ‘early pioneers’ are experimenting or running trials but not as part of a longer term strategic plan.
When I ask why access is banned by IT and Senior Management I get a variety of answers but the top 3 are usually – concerns over security, issues over disclosure and the resultant reputation management and network capacity/overload (expressed as people ‘wasting their time and using valuable bandwidth socialising’ or watching video!)
As the above issues would equally apply to the US Federal Government and Agencies I thought it would be useful to look at why they have a more open attitude to using social media.
As one official document (CIO Council – Guidelines for Secure Use of Social Media by Federal Departments and Agencies) expressed it – the use of social media will continue to grow because of initiatives from the Administration (started by President Obamas memorandum for Transparency and Open Government signed at the White House within a month on taking office in January 2009), directives from Government leaders and demands from the public.
For them the re-calibration of IT deprartment is from ‘no to social media’ to ‘yes – but with the issues addressed’.
The CIO of US Federal IT, Vivek Kundra, has stated that Web 2.0 is essential to “tap into the vast amounts of knowledge’ available. He has developed a 5 point plan to enable the Administrations agenda
- Open and Transparent government
- Lowering the cost of government
- Participatory democracy
To ensure that the issues on cybersecurity are addressed fully guidelines on Web 2.0 and its use have been produced. The risks of using and not using it are a determining factor with the biase being on use. The default position for Government CIOs is now ‘yes – to social media’ but to minimise the risks the following actions are being taken.
- Establishing clear policies and sharing them freely within the Agency or Department
- Training people in the tools
- Training on the ‘best practice’ use and security risks for the employee and for the relevant department or agency
Reearchers Drapeau and Wells at the National Defense University defined four specific uses of social media within the US Federal Government.
- Inward sharing – within department functions or across agencies as with information portals and wikis (in effect a Government intranet)
- Outward sharing – within a small and defined group including organisations external to the Goivernment (an extranet)
- Inbound Sharing – where external input (crowdsourced data) is used
- Outbound sharing – where an official presence exists on a public network like Facebook or Twitter.
All the above should be useful background information to help inform UK local government and private sector organisations that there is value in a social media strategy and policy.
A good summary of it can be found on the Radian6 blog. A link to the webinar can also be found there if you want to listen to Brian.
The webinar itself is an example of the power of social media and Web 2.0. Brian is based in the USA, Radian6 are from Canada and I am based in the UK. I am not sure how many people were online but for just over a hour Brian would have had a worldwide audience at a fraction of the cost of doing something physically such as a multi-country presentation tour. I have subscribed to Brians blog and Twitter feed for a few years now but this is the first time I have heard him speak as it were.
Brian refered to his new book – Engage – and whilst he did not ‘plug’ it he said enough for me during the webinar to buy it via Amazon (and mention it here so proving how Word of Mouse marketing can really work).
Back to the webinar itself – whilst it does take some effort to organise and prepare (as all good presentations should) and some more to maximise the audience it is cheaper and less effort to organise than a physical seminar. I wonder how many countries Brian would have had to visit to speak to everyone ‘face-to-face’. Having run both both webinars and live seminars I can honestly say both have their own advantages and disavantages but both have value to the marketing mix of any organisation. For smaller businesses with limited budget and lacking overseas offices a webinar is a very powerful and cost effective tool.
So what new things did I learn from Brian?
- He did a great job of answering the common objections organisations have to using social media (a passing fad, waste of time, fear of loss of control and negative feedback etc) but sadly ran out of time to really review some good case studies. I hope he can do another webinar and cover them.
- He reminded me how social media can work at all levels of the Customer Engagement Life Cycle (Discovery, Purchase Evaluation, Recommendation, Post-Purchase Satisfaction)
- How valuable Social Media is for market research and planning – listening and targeting should always be the first step
- How the content of the ‘conversation’ is vital to build and sustain a relationship so always considering the audience first is key and adding value to the interaction is critical (always focus on what they will want to discuss). For me the best way to describe it is to think of it in a Gift sense – what can you give to the community? Knowledge, information, access to people, news, special offers, technical assistance etc?
- The increasing value of social media as a delivery platform in terms of search (YouTube is now number 2 in search terms to Google)
- The use of social objects to increase your organisations footprint such as Flickr photos, YouTube Videos etc and so maximising SEO.
All-in-all a great way to spend an hour in the company of Brian and Radian6. Check out the webinar online at Radian6. I am sure you will learn a few new things to help you understand and start using social media.
Security issues had previously meant that access to social media sites from US miliary computers was restricted. This has changed with access now allowed according to a blog post from a serving marine.
The post quotes the Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers and CIO of the Marine Corps – Major General George J Allen
“The Marine Corps understands and embraces Internet-based capabilities….We can collaborate and enhance our business processes, and also provide a level of morale for our force that has never been seen before.”