Social Recommendation in Action

Jawbone Up

I like marketing and branding, but I have always been more interested in action. In movement. In change. And how we make decisions in a digitally connected world.

I like seeing the way that words, image (and sometimes) music, can set a ball rolling.

And this is precisely why social media is fascinating. Take today for example. I had been thinking recently about my lack of exercise and had been looking for a way to break my own personal deadlock. A random tweet on the subject resulted in a relatively quick outcome – I went from thinking about fitness and a solution like the Nike Fuel Band to the purchase of a Jawbone Up in hours.

How did this happen? Take a look at the Storify below to see.

Now tell me, do you make decisions this way? Are brands listening in? Do you think they care? They should.

The Participatory Revolution

Zen (Version 3)

As part of the Vivid Ideas Festival, innovator, Michelle Williams (founder of Ideaction) curated a knock out event designed to transform the thinking of business, creative and innovation professionals. The resulting one day conference brought together an eclectic mix of speakers, audience members and yes, active participants. If you were like me and could not make it in person, this Storify stream is the next best thing. And Michelle promises a video stream some time in the future.

Zen (Version 3) Little Zoker via Compfight

Note to Brands: Make Things People Want

Evening

Have you ever wondered why marketing and advertising is such hard work?

We are constantly trying to change the way that people behave and think – positioning brands and businesses in the centre of a relationship that is only ever on the peripheral of our customers’ worlds. And while for us – for the business owner, brand manager or agency – there is a real centrality to our relationship with the brand, it is simply not the case for the vast majority of the people that we want to talk to.

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As Hugh MacLeod explained back in 2006, “if you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”.

And while social media awareness has become widespread, many businesses still struggle with it. Where’s the ROI they ask. Where’s the relevance? How will it drive sales? And while these are important questions, they are important questions for a mature channel. Very few businesses have the knowledge, expertise and capability to determine the answers – let alone the capacity to integrate these answers into a comprehensive brand and engagement framework. The channel has matured but our organisational understanding of it continues to lag.

But there is another way.

Rather than making people want things – spending our precious resources creating awareness, inspiring interest and stimulating desire in our customer base, what if we just made things that people want?

What of we went further – and understood our customer’s journey from the outside-in? So, rather than pushing messages out designed to interrupt and stimulate – what if we could participate and engage? What if we provided so much incentive, surprise and delight that this engagement prompted purchase, created a business relationship or turned a “detractor” into an advocate?

What if what we did made someone’s life better?

John Willshare argues exactly this – that brands are fracking the social web – and missing the real opportunity presented by digital and social media.

But what can you do? Practically? Why don’t you start:

  • Small: Rather than thinking of the vision that will change the world, what is your vision that will change one person’s experience of what you do. Have the big vision in your back pocket, but start as small as you can bear.
  • Quick: Stop thinking about doing and start acting. Raid the petty cash tin and think about what you can do with a budget you can hold in one hand.
  • Inclusive: Don’t sit in a room planning – go talk to your customers. Engage with them on social media. Bring them into your process

And I bet that within a week you’ll have a deeper understanding of the problems your customers want you to solve than you have resources to deliver. And that’s the whole point, surely.

EveningCreative Commons License Hartwig HKD via Compfight

Pitch the Future–Young Social Innovators in Action

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You know what it’s like when inspiration hits … an idea galvanises in your mind like a bolt of electricity, sending your pulse racing. And the more you think on it, the more you feel your nerve fibres tingling.

But what happens when you tell someone about your idea? Your mouth dries. The words tumble out one on top of the other … you get tongue tied, excited and afraid. What happens if someone steals your brilliance? What if your idea is no good?

Now imagine, that you are taking your idea and pitching it to a room of strangers. Imagine that this idea is a deep seated passion and could have a real social impact if successful. And then imagine pitching your idea against four other people just as passionate about their idea as you are about yours.

Pitch the Future event at the Vivid Ideas Festival last night. Check out the story as it unfolded below. And who won? You’ll have to follow along to find out!

SuccessConnect – Where Talent and Social Collide at the SuccessFactors Conference

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It’s Not Charity: It’s Social Enterprise-investing in the future

It's not charity, it's social enterprise

When I give money to charity, I look closely at the aims of the organisation. I listen to the story and look for the downstream impact. And I look at the finances. I am keen to know how much of the money that is donated goes to programs and how much goes to administration.

Over the years my giving has changed. I noticed that I became more focused on this programs/administration split. I would stop supporting organisations as the admin component grew. In frustration, I eventually shifted my entire focus away from larger organisations to Kiva and to Vibewire – a youth arts and media not-for-profit. Through Kiva I have funded almost 100 loans now and continuously roll them over – I see them less as charity and more as social enterprise. In fact, that is what they are.

The same can be said for Vibewire which is entirely focused on providing a launchpad for young change makers.

But through my work with Vibewire, where I also serve as President, I have also learned about the need for administrative – or core – funding. Sure it is important to support programs and to impact individuals, but not-for-profits run on passion, enthusiasm and commitment. The money simply keeps the doors open. In general, NFPs stretch every last cent out of their available funds. On the surface, this is great. But in doing so, they find themselves with very little capacity to innovate.

As a result, the impact of change is more like a ripple than a tidal wave.

And yet, when we give to charity, we want and EXPECT to see that massive, transformational change. As Dan Palotta explains in the video below, charities are rewarded for how little they spend, rather than on the results that they achieve. Surely this should be the other way around.

So next time you are giving to charity, think about your actions and expectations. What happens when you think of your giving not as a GIFT but as an INVESTMENT in the future?

That’s the way I think of Vibewire (which is easier since it works specifically with young people). See what happens when you change the way you think about charity. What impact do you want to see and how can you make it happen – beyond the transaction of donating/giving? Take an additional step. Contribute skills. Expertise. Get involved. After all, it’s your future too.

What’s in Your Startup DNA

Christmas DNA

There’s plenty of hype around startups – and around the founders of those startups. We buy books (books, really? Yes!) written by startup entrepreneurs, attend talks, download podcasts and go to  conferences. Sometimes it can feel like meeting a rockstar rather than a business person.

But for every startup, there are countless others, often behind the scenes, who have helped drive those startup successes and the failures that they are built on.

This great presentation by Yevgeniy Brikman is the view from the front row. It talks about the nitty gritty of startups. It’s not the big ideas or the grand plans. It’s the stuff that makes the business tick. And it makes you think … what’s in your startup DNA – and how deep does that go.

Image: Creative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Vibewire’s 6 Under 26 – Australia’s Hottest Young Innovators

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When we think and talk about innovation our attention naturally tends towards a vision for the future.

But more often than not, that vision of the future is being set by middle aged women and men. Leaders of political parties, “captains of industry”, and community leaders of every size and shape tend to achieve their status not only through their commitment and enterprise but also due to their age. And often, I wonder, where is the voice of youth? Where is the perspective of those young people who will have to live with the decisions made now?

That’s why I am excited to share the great work of Sydney, Australia-based not-for-profit, Vibewire. Today they have announced the 6 under 26 – Australia’s hottest young innovators to watch in the year ahead.

The young innovators tipped to make the world a better place come from a broad range of backgrounds, from indigenous youth empowerment initiatives, sustainable food movements to programs that foster social entrepreneurship in high schools to organisations that encourage young women to take up engineering and technology.

Over the last 12 years, Vibewire has helped launch over 90 startups and kickstarted the careers of hundreds of young people. But this type of innovation does not occur in a vacuum. It requires incubation and support.

You can help Vibewire support more young change makers by joining this crowdfunding campaign. With a one-off donation from as little as $10, you will be contributing to a vision of the future that young people have a hand in creating. Support this great organisation here.

Instagram Dumps Early Adopters for a Shot at the Mainstream

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1344924671 When Instagram burst onto the scene with its mobile only platform and funky photo filters it came armed with a secret. It wasn’t just about the photos.

Sure, the vast range of photo filters were appealing. They provided a layer of nostalgia for the Gen Xers raised on Kodak round edged photos and soft focus pastels from the 70s. Some filters created a more edgy feel, displacing the photo border and accentuating the top end of the colour spectrum. They made the amateur photographer feel empowered, even if the filters sometimes degraded the photo quality. What we lost in quality we made up for in consistency of image, framing and in the ease of digital cropping.

Community was the secret sauce of Instagram

But Instagram was more than just a fun way to take photos. For many social network early adopters, it was a sanctuary from the noise of Facebook and Twitter. It allowed people to curate small communities of like minds, where networks of dozens, hundreds and in some cases, thousands, of people could share photos, tips and engage in in-the-moment sharing, collaboration and discussion.

And as the platform was engineered around mobility, it had built-in location awareness and sharing, so that closed networks of connections could create a sense of context around the digital interaction. Moreover, with push awareness, users could be updated on any interactions with their own images, comments, likes, loves and so on. It brought a human dimension to the digital experience. It was a sense of community and all the goodness that comes with that sense of belonging.

Facebook’s billion dollar acquisition changed the Instagram game

When Facebook purchased Instagram back in April 2012 for about $1 billion, it was only a matter of time before something changed. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg focused on synergies, announcing:

For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family … Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.

But throughout 2012, Facebook has also been under pressure to prove its IPO valuation. And Instagram was a canny move, because it brings a ready made market.

Changing Instagram’s terms of use

Facebook are well-known for pushing the limits of user privacy. They started with the now failed Beacon. Then they stepped back and made a claim over all user generated content published on the social network. After a series of protests, Facebook modified their claims, but still succeeded in shifting the boundaries on user privacy and content ownership.

Taking a leaf out of the Facebook guide to user engagement, Instagram have now updated their terms of use which are due to come into effect on January 16, 2013. Buried within the Instagram site, these terms provide for the following “rights”:

InstagramRights

Saying goodbye to the early adopters, welcoming the mainstream

In making this move, Instagram is sounding its own death knell. It is signalling the end of the relationship to those who care about (and understand) the complex nature of web privacy. These “early adopters” were the founders of the Instagram community and fuelled its growth.

According to the diffusion of innovations, early adopters are vital in bringing new technology to the mainstream audience. Without the support of the early adopters, new innovations fall into the “chasm” and never reach wide acceptance within a community.

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But the early adopters have done their job now and as Instagram says goodbye to them, it is opening its arms to the mainstream. The early adopters have bridged the chasm and are shifting their focus away from community building to monetisation.

Facebook’s lucrative double whammy

Facebook’s billion dollar investment has not only eliminated a competitor, it has opened a lucrative new revenue stream. Extending the existing Facebook photo sharing functionality (for which it was already a global leader) by integrating the Instagram capabilities will help drive further online usage.

The change in the terms of use will provide new revenue by allowing Instagram to license your photographs, name and images to content hungry third parties.

The shift from users to customers

Many have suggested that Instagram, as an alternative, should charge to download their app. But this would change the nature of the relationship. At present, Instagram has a strong community of “users”, but charging would make those users “customers” – and that in turn would compromise the business model.

As it currently stands, Instagram’s “customers” will be those “third parties” – brands and businesses who are interested in the vast quantities of content being produced by Instagram’s users.

Instagram may re-jig the terms of use with slightly more generous concessions based on user protest, but users should expect that the direction to be maintained.

So what happens to the early adopters?

They’ll move to a new service. They’ll rediscover Path or re-evaluate the new Flickr app. Perhaps they’ll warily move to the new mobile Twitter app with in-built filters.

But saying goodbye to the early adopters is not the end of the world. It’s the start of a new mainstream story. And many of us will only care when we see our own images splashed, out of context, in some other place on the web. But by then, that will be too late.

For many, privacy and “intellectual property rights” over our own image is happily traded for the benefits offered by social networks. But the choice is individual – and the challenge we all face is to be informed. And it’s bound to become more challenging in 2013.

Light Up Someone’s Life This Holiday with Moore’s Cloud

Support the Moore's Cloud Light project on Kickstarter

Admit it. You’re more than a little geeky. There is a drawer somewhere in your house with old mobile phones, cameras, and pieces of technology. For all I know, you probably have a Newton gathering dust under your desk.

Support the Moore's Cloud Light project on Kickstarter

If this sounds like you, then you may just want to add Light to your Holiday wishlist this year. The Kickstarter project turns a stylish 52 LED light into a Linux powered, web-connected device that can be controlled by your iPhone or iPad or from the other side of the world via the web interface.

It’s “illumination as a service” – or the “internet of things” come to life. There’s only 15 days in the Kickstarter campaign to go – and it needs your support. Choose a pledge package and get behind this innovative startup. It’s even been named CNET’s Kickstarter project of the week. Sign up for a package – you’ll be glad you did.

And while I like this video, I reckon they should have gone with a different soundtrack. More like this one!