Save the earth, or some whisky

A couple of interesting campaigns have come my way via a couple of agencies I know.

The first is the WWF Earth Hour, which is the campaign to get everyone to turn off their lights for one hour on Saturday, March 28, at 8.30pm. You can sign up to the movement, download posters, toolkits and resources (including web banners), or, coolest of all, add a light switch to allow visitors to ‘turn off’ your website.

When someone clicks on the light cord widget, your website goes dark, and the centre section is replaced with the Earth Hour countdown clock, with a message and a link to find out more about Earth Hour – people can still get back to your website by cancelling the message.

Rather a nice mix of message, resources, and a cool widget which I may try and insert here if I get a moment in time! In the meantime:

The second campaign which looks interesting is the chance to grab some bottles of Whyte and Mackay whisky by taking part in a Safari Hunt in Glasgow and London – via Twitter, email, and Google Latitude!

The Whyte and Mackay lions will be moving around pubs and bars in Glasgow on Friday March 27 (tonight!), before hitting London next week, and you can get clues and updates by emailing whytemackaysafari@googlemail.com, or by following on Twitter at @whytemackayhunt (if you need help with the cryptic clues, follow the #w&m hashtag). All you’ll have to do is locate the lions and walk up and touch them to get a free bottle of whisky (including some nice aged and special examples), or, if the bottles have run out, you’ll get a free drink… Personally I prefer whiskey to whisky, but I’m not one to turn down a free drink!

The Whyte and Mackay Lions

The Whyte and Mackay Lions

Why I hate the use of ‘personal brands’

I’ve recently experienced the benefits of banning myself from using the word ‘brand’ in a business context after joining an experiment by Mark Earls.

As a result, I’ve been a lot more specific about what I really mean – awareness, reputation, tradition, logos, content, tone of voice etc. But at least in a business context, I can see it’s excusable to use the term sometimes, rather than listing out everything it could mean.

But ‘personal brand’ – that’s just silly.

Branded by powerbooktrance (CC Licence)

Branded by powerbooktrance (CC Licence)

Because at the end of the day, a ‘personal brand’ surely means just three things? (Although I’m open to disagreements/suggestions for additions).

Awareness: Have people heard of you?

Reputation: Do people think you deliver?

Revenue: Are you able to make money from your awareness and reputation?

And I’d suspect much of the rise in ‘personal brands’ comes from people really wanting to build ‘personal revenues’ as a main source of income, or as security in case of redundancy.

But does an individual person really come up with explicit rules for their tone of voice in all communications? And is that ever sustainable? Do you really aspire to becoming Me Inc, rather than real person?

Personally, I don’t see Scobleizer or Louis Gray as brands. I see them as people who simply have particular personalities that might mean they absorb and share information at a high rate, or that might lend them to networking more, etc. They’ve built awareness and their reputations, but unless they’ve been branded like cattle, I struggle to see why we need to label them with a term that should really be retired with traditional media.

And the new breed of people chasing a personal brand appear to be missing part of the point.

Geoff Livingston has a great post which sums up a lot of the pitfalls of concentrating totally on building a personal brand.

But at the same time, I totally agree with much of what Chris Brogan recommends in Personal Branding.

Paradoxical?

  • There’s nothing wrong with building awareness and reputation by marketing yourself. But trying to build a ‘personal brand’ isn’t necessarily the right thing to do if you want to be successful in a large company. It’s better to be part of success, and then reference it.
  • Claiming a ‘personal brand’ could make you believe that you don’t need to work as hard on your latest project, because your ‘personal brand’ will save you – when you’re only as good as your latest project.
  • Personal branding actually contradicts Chris when he talks about being more than just one thing – after all successful branding normally relies on a core message.

And most importantly, the second you start thinking about yourself as a ‘personal brand’, you run a huge risk of sounding like a tool:

Cartoon by Hugh McLeod (gapingvoid.com)

Cartoon by Hugh McLeod (gapingvoid.com)

Promote yourself. Use the same avatar everywhere. Build a strong reputation based on great work. Interact everywhere you can. Choose Life. Just don’t call it a ‘personal brand’ unless you’ve tattooed your personal logo on your personal forehead!

Offline example of social media marketing by the local Chinese takeaway

Back in November 2007, I wrote about a new Chinese takeaway restaurant in Peterborough which was doing a great job of making an impression by engaging with it’s consumers.

Kung Fu Kitchen explained its belief in a letter sent out with vouchers and other goodies, and then followed up meal deliveries to check everything was OK – and funnily enough, we’re still ordering regularly from them 12 months later.

Which is how we spotted something new:

kungfukitchen

(Excuse my crap photography – I was full of the Salt and Pepper chicken wings and Roast Duck curry).

It’s exactly the sort of thing being recommended by marketing experts like Chris Brogan, for example.

And the brilliant thing was that it wasn’t just a big sales pitch – the biggest spaces were given to details of Chinese New Year, the martial arts grading of the owner’s daughter, and a plea for help due to problems with the owner’s Sky system.

The details of some sales vouchers and a spicier curry after consumer feedback was approximately 1/8th of the total newsletter.

It’s no wonder they seem to be getting more and more popular – and yet they still seem to deliver great food incredibly quickly. The only strange thing is that they have an email address to contact them, but haven’t put a website up on their domain yet.

I wonder if I should offer for some free food!

Some real proof of social media transactional revenue

Respected Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson often talks about the action taking place in the comments of his blog.

So I’m surprised more people haven’t picked up and reposted his comment from a post at the end of January.

fredwilsontransaction

If it’s a bit too small – Fred is revealing Twitter is the 3rd biggest referrer of transactional visits to handmade marketplace Etsy, with Flickr at number 2, and Facebook at number 4.

And Etsy is generating over $1 million a month in revenue, with $100 million worth of goods sold in 2008.

Now this might not convince everyone – after all, Etsy sales are by a large number of individual and small retailers who will be promoting their items individuals through Flickr, Twitter and Facebook – and the scale is the aggregate of those referrals – the ‘Long Tail‘, if you will!

So essentially there are 100s, if not 1000s of people handling social media marketing and customer service for their products, which doesn’t tackle the scale issue of large companies changing the way they do business, and utlising social media.

But there were 300,000 people in the California Gold Rush, and noone continued to deny there was gold in those hills.

If you can see this message…

Then you’re one of the lucky ones.

Pic by delta407 on Flickr (CC Licence)

Pic by delta407 on Flickr (CC Licence)

At some point on Friday it appears something has caused a number of people to find this blog inaccessible.

And the same problem is also causing a tidal wave of spam to slip past Akismet and flood the pending comments section.

I’ve notified my hosting company, and I’m looking into the causes and solutions – meanwhile I’m marking every spam message as spam, but with one message every couple of minutes, it’s extremely frustrating.

As a result, I’m probably going to find it tricky to post until the problem has been resolved – however, you can still find my latest posts appearing at TheWayoftheWeb.net for social media marketing, digital publishing, journalism and other stuff.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in partnering or collaborating with me here (once the access problem is solved!), let me know…

Great marketing can be quick enough to beat the news

Now here’s an example of a great use of marketing to respond quickly and effectively to things as they happen.

I hadn’t heard anything about Virgin Trains trying to cut down on people kissing and hugging at the passenger drop-off point at Warrington Bank Quay station. Apparently a sign banning kissing was put up in a light-hearted manner to ease congestion and suggest people should go to the short-stay car park (and pay!) if they want to hug and kiss someone leaving on a trip.

Instead, the first things I saw were:

Mills and Boon respond to Virgin

Mills and Boon respond to Virgin

It was apparently done by St Lukes, who handle advertising for Mills & Boon, and it’s timely, considering news about the sign only appeared two days ago.

It’s also relatively low cost – there’s a Facebook group, a Twitter account, and a Flickr group.  And people are being encouraged to interact and upload images of themselves kissing etc.

It’s already had a bit of coverage via Brand Republic and The School of Life.

But most importantly, it’s effective because it was done quickly, enthusiastically, and allows people to get involved.

As a result, if it becomes a huge runaway success, then it’s great. But if it only achieves minor success, then nothing has been lost except a bit of time.

And it ties in brilliantly with Mills & Boon promoting romance, rather than books about romance.

I’d guess it didn’t take much negotiation around permission and planning, which is a benefit of having clear beliefs and trust.

And suddenly a brand which I’d associate with my grandmother now seems lighthearted and fun enough to check out the next time I want to buy a romantic present.

About the community, by the community

Here’s a good example of changing the way we do things, by the always interesting Neil Perkin at Only Dead Fish, from an idea by the also always interesting Herdmeister. And like most good ideas, it’s blindingly obvious when you see someone else do it!

Basically Neil was due to present at a conference on the subject of community. So he crowd-sourced it. And ended up with 30 slides submitted by a range of people (including myself). And a rather good presentation.

You can see his thoughts on crowdsourcing a presentation, and then presenting it, plus his words which accompanied it.

Due to my choice of blog template, you might need to click through to slideshare to be able to read the text well. It’s worth doing to subscribe to Neil’s presentations, like the one I previously recommended.

Two throwaway thoughts on a Monday

Both coming from recent updates on Twitter:

1. If we need proof that people are inherently social, how the hell did everyone find out about fire and the wheel before Mainstream Media? Or Social Networking, Social Media Marketing and Web 2.0 for that matter?

(brilliant response by both @epredator and @dalvado – seeing a wheel rolling past on fire!)

Wheel of Fire 5 by SanGatiche on Flickr (CC Licece)

Wheel of Fire 5 by SanGatiche on Flickr (CC Licece)

2. In a hyperconnected world of broadband and mobiles, will we see a premium on those things which allow us to break away and enjoy solitude – for example, with motorcycling, the supposed thrill of speed became a byproduct for me of experiencing solitude, extreme concentration, and getting close to experiencing ‘flow’.

That thought came from seeing @gapingvoid tweet that in a world of oversupply, ‘hope’ is pretty much the only thing people are willing to pay for.

Over 1000 interesting predictions for 2009

As the year draws to a close, the thoughts of almost every blogger turn to making their predictions for 2009, and whether they were proved right in 2008.

But, rather than indulging myself in making some educated guesses, here’s one really good list of predictions on social media and content marketing at Junta 42, including some best guesses from yours truly.

Here’s mine, in case you get distracted by the likes of Paul Bradshaw, David Meerman Scott, Giles Rhys ScottScott Monty, Neil Perkin, and many more people I’ll be following in the future – in fact the only downside is even more worth paying attention to in my RSS feeds!

Prediction: Social Media Marketing will become a more mainstream approach, with a better understanding of how ROI is driven both directly and indirectly – this means an influx of brilliant examples, but also of the worst examples of jumping on something without investing the time and resources to understand it properly first.

Technology wise, Twitter will be officially mainstream, and will have monetized in some way, so I’d expect a rush of companies using whatever appears as a short term, low effort way to get into the buzz around micro blogging.

I’d also say video will continue to become more and more utilized – both as a publicity tool, but also as an interaction tool using sites like Seesmic, 12 secondsmobatalk as ways to actually engage with people and provide a way for conversations to form via video.

If you’d rather see facts and figures without risking RSS overload, then there’s some interesting research from Pew on The Future of the Internet, with around 1196 participants – there’s some good analysis all over the web, but the aforementioned Neil Perkin spotted something I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

Oh, and another good round-up of predictions kicked off by Peter Kim which encompasses another 14 top minds sharing their thoughts.

There are lots of really insightful and educated analysis around 2009, with regards to technology, marketing and the economy – but having seen so many different sides to every argument, it seems like the best option is to go with your gut instinct for what you believe to be fundamentally true – and then be ready to adapt it as things unfold.  In my case, that means constantly watching how to best allow the power of networks and human communication to be empowered and measured, whether that’s through digital or real world approaches.

Stop grouping and griping – start thinking and doing

It’s tempting to think that social media is a good place to be right now – after all, there’s good evidence it’s one of the few areas of growing employement.

There’s also plenty of talk about how it’s going to grow as a low cost/more effective way to engage people, and therefore drive revenue – but also harder to measure. And it can be hard to tell who is bluffing, at least until someone came up with a checklist!

So we spend our time joining groups and chatting with our peers, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, etc, etc.

PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION by cindiann on Flickr (CC Licence)

PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION by cindiann on Flickr (CC Licence)

But the one question we need to keep asking is whether each group is really worth joining, and whether we’re actually going to have the time and dedication to make a difference.

It’s something I’ll admit to being guilty of. There’s Social Media Mafia, MeasurementCamp, Social Media Club, Social Media Today, P2PR, EverySingleOneofUs,  just off the top of my head, plus Triiibes, which prompted this post when I thought about how much value others are getting from it – and I’m missing because I’ve spread myself out so much. And some groups, such as the Blog Council, are attracting some criticism. As indeed WOMMA has in this case.

Then add in several Facebook groups, a few LinkedIn groups, and others I’ve forgotten – and suddenly it’s sounding ridiculous, even though I’ve increasingly only tried to be involved in groups with a reasonably clear and defined purpose.

Credentials Required by TheTruthAbout... on Flickr (CC Licence)

Credentials Required by TheTruthAbout... on Flickr (CC Licence)

I’ve already started politely resigning from a few places, because I’m barely even remembering to check in and see what’s happening once in a while, let alone contribute to anything of value – from now on it’s about having a real focus on what matters to me personally and for my career, and selecting a smaller collection of key groups who I can offer value to (and perhaps where interlinks can be found).

Perhaps this is what Twitter has really affected for me – in the past I was a pretty active member of a variety of groups and forums, but now they don’t seem so important, as I’ve got an expanding network of over 1900 in my community for instant responses on a variety of topics, rather than forcing myself to go and check in somewhere else.  The common complaint was that it detracted from blogging, but I tend to find the opposite – but I do find myself spending less time at other social locations, unless it’s a real focused community.

Perhaps it’s just me, and the fact I’ve got a great and involving day job, two blogs, and a young family to think about now? I know from forum involvement for a decade that there’s also a cyclical nature to forum membership – the new excitement, the start of seeing repetition from other members, taking a break and then coming back with new enthusiasm etc….

And I do know some people who seem to benefit from seemingly being in almost every group on every network ever created.

But what do you think? Have you been a little guilty of serial group joining without considering the value? Found yourself stretched too thin? Or do you think it’s fine to be a silent member in places on the off chance people might find you and request a connection/contribution?

And where have you found the clearest sense of purpose/best value?