“Can't anyone do it?”
That's what a solar-panel installer had the nerve to ask me on the train 2 weeks ago. Can anyone build an online community?
Sure they can. Anyone can learn how to install solar panels as well, or even perform open heart surgery. Anyone that's dedicated enough can learn to do just about anything. I think his question was more about what's the difference between a good community builder and a bad one. What separates the seasoned pro, from the newcomer off the streets?
For community builders, the answer is the process. Here a few things only good community builders can do:
- Use different strategies to go from 0 to 10 members, 10 to 100 and 100 to 1000.
- Work out how long it's going to take to build a community
- Identify the people that matter in the community
- Keep the management happy and patient with the progress
- Charge a good rate for the work
- Pass leadership of the community to itself, and walk away happy
Yesterday Dell launched a new online community, www.digitalnomads.com. Like it's name, it's a community site for people who seek freedom from the office, to come and connect with each other.
I think this is brilliant for six reasons.
- It ties in perfectly with the company. It's not a community about Dell, it's a community about working remotely.
- They have some superstars involved to help launch it.
- They've discovered the cause to attract people, it's not Dell laptops, it's office freedom.
- The content looks like it will be great, with plenty of great advice about working from anywhere and tips for finding WiFi hot spots.
- Dell's promotion is kept to the minimal.
- It's perfectly tied to current and future trends
What Dell get right, and so many companies get wrong, is the dream. Very few products are capable of bringing people together. It's difficult to form a community around your solar panels, it's a lot easier to form a community for people who want to generate their own electricity. Find the cause or 'dream' that your product fits into, and create a community for that.
Here is my point. You can't protect your brand name online. If NelsonMandela was registered then I could've picked NMandela, Mandela, NelsonM, Nelsieboy etc…If those were all taken on Twitter, I could've used Plurk or Jaiku. I could've registered NelsonMandela.typepad.com or on wordpress or blogger. I could've posted comments as him on any number of political forums.
If I'm really determined to impersonate Nelson Mandela, I'm going to find a way to do it. Likewise, if someone is really determined to impersonate you or your brand online, they're going to do it. This could drive some people crazy. If I could do this to Nelson Mandela what could I do to your brand?
Not much. I can't sabotage Nelson's brilliant reputation with fake announcements. I can't sneakily declare war on RobertMugabe (who's also available – thanks Stephen), and I really doubt @GordonBrown, @GeorgeBush or @JohnMcCain are doing much damage neither. Letting those people bother you, is the same as being bothered about what every mindless critic might think.
If you want to engage, then engage. If you don't, don't. Whatever you choose, you shouldn't worry about something you really don't have much control over.
And don't sweat, I'll delete the account next week.
89. That’s my final count. That’s the number of separate people I have communicated with today.
- 3 mobile phone calls
- 6 Texts
- 2 Skype voice chat
- 1 Skype text conversation
- 11 on Instant Messenger
- 8 people on Twitter
- 21 e-mails
- 7 in a forum
- 11 on Triiibes
- 13 separate blog comments
- 4 Facebook messages
- 1 Suspect Washing Machine Repairman
- 1 Unimpressed girlfriend
This is a conservative tally. It neglects people who read my blog, or follow me on Twitter, but didn’t share a unique communication with me today. It’s also a lower number than usual, I didn’t leave the house today. I really have no idea if 89 is a high number or a low number? What would you guess your interactions to be?
Here are my key points:
- Over the 13 hours I kept this tally, I communicated with close to 7 people an hour. That’s more than 1 every ten minutes. How do we get things done?
- I recalled the key points of all these communications without writing them down. I think our memory is getting better at filtering out the small talk and plucking out the key points
- Only 8% were real-time voice chats. Will my generation lose the ability to talk in person?
- Distractions. There are too many of them. We need to be better at saying “we’re too busy to talk”. More than that, we need to be accepting “too busy to talk” without offense.
- My girlfriend, an architect at site meetings most of the day, just guessed 19 for the day. Clearly there’s a big gap here. Where do you fit in?
- If I had a message I wanted to get out to as many people as possible. I could do it well. If I had a more complicated message to get out, demanding more attention and real-time communication, it might be more tricky.
None of you would ever know. Would you? My blog would stay inactive until my debit card was cancelled and my Typepad account expired. It would be a mystery unless you checked my Facebook page. I’m assuming some friends might comment on the wall – which in itself might become the ‘new’ obituary.
That just feels wrong somehow.
So here’s what I think. I think I should tell someone else about my password and my social media profiles. I think it should be very easy for someone to access my profile on such an occasion and mention I’ve passed on. I’m sure some people would want to know (wouldn’t you?)
Social Media is such an important part of my life. It would be tragic if nobody ever knew I had passed on. If I died relatives and loved ones would be able to access my home, contact my bank and otherwise represent my interests. So why not my Social Media Profile? Shouldn’t we treat our online presence and our online contacts, with a little more respect?
Two strange things happened last week. The first is this fake Guinness advert that’s caused quite an uproar. The second is Janet, an ExxonMobile employee speaking for the company on Twitter, was exposed as a fake. How do you handle this?
Brand-jacking, as Jeremiah likes to call it, is the cheapest and most effective means of making a protest we’ve seen in a while. Imagine what activists groups, wronged employees and even competitors can do pretending to be you? What’s stopping me from registering a Twitter account as you and circulating fake news? If your answer is my good conscience, you should read the rest of this post.
Shel thinks think the solution is to claim everything. That would mean registering the RichardMillington domain and subscribing to every service possible (Jaiku, Plurk, Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Facebook, MySpace, etc etc) to claim my rightful name. That doesn’t work for two reasons. The first is that I share my name with many other Richard Millingtons. The second is that new services will always be created. It’s just not worth the time and effort to claim them all.
For the same reason you just can’t monitor everything. Even with the greatest Google alerts and monitoring software out there, new services and comments can always slip through the net
A Simpler Solution
There is a simpler solution, just have a base of operations for all your online efforts. Somewhere for all your fans/followers/customers to see who and what you are.
For the corporate companies, that’s your website. For the individuals, that’s probably your blog or Facebook page. I suggest every company should have a page on their website (if not from the home page itself) that serves as their base of online operations. A page that lists the blogs of employees, YouTube adverts uploaded, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, everything that you want associated with your company. This will do two things. It will make it almost impossible for your company to be brandjacked (or at least brandjacked visible by people who care about you and your company), second it will publicise your efforts to those that do care. Lets turn the website from a page into a conduit.
I want to be great at presentations, and I want to be taught by the best. That would probably mean getting in touch with Garr Reynolds and asking if he could give me a few lessons.
It’s unlikely to happen
But what if I found 19 others that wanted to be great at presentations and were willing to pay £30 ($60) an hour for his time? Now we’re starting to get somewhere. £600 ($1200) isn’t bad for an hour’s work, and we would get a personal teaching experience that is cheaper, more effective and in smaller groups than the average University lecture.
It’s a bargain.
If it’s easier to find the best for anything worth learning, and it’s easier to connect with others that also want to learn, then it should be dead-easy to make this work. Teaching Sells, he’s ahead of the curve. I think more will follow. Giving online classes will be the next evolution of teaching.
Teaching institutions should be worried. If we can unbundle degrees block by block, and find the best to teach us each block, I think we will.
I’m a very lucky person. At the end of summer I will be traveling to New York to work with Seth Godin on a 3 month internship. It’s a big deal for me. Seth Godin and his great contemporaries are changing how we think about marketing (it’s not just a department).
When you read Seth’s blog you learn what text books don’t teach you. You learn the stuff that matters. You discover how to be better at the process of marketing, and how to improve every interaction. His work on telling authentic stories should be required reading for every marketer.
Now I think of marketing as a powerful tool to help consumers and fix problems, it’s inspirational. I’m excited to work with someone who continues to shape my opinion of marketing. More than that, I can’t wait to contribute. I can’t wait to become a better marketer.
Thanks Seth for having me, and everyone else that has helped me in recent months.
If anyone knows or can help me find somewhere to stay in New York, I will be extremely grateful.
(any tips on telling my girlfriend will be even more appreciated!)
Why are you here? Really, what do you enjoy about marketing?
I’m going to guess it’s the cool creative stuff? Perhaps the sugar-fueled brainstorming sessions? Maybe planning out a killer campaign that will change the world?
The reality of marketing is very different isn’t it? What does your to-do list look like right now? If it’s anything like mine it comprises a list of e-mails to send, phone calls to make, people to persuade, content to produce and pitches to prepare for.
This probably isn’t what you signed up for, but do you enjoy it anyway?
The irony is this, the execution, comprises about 90% of our work. CIM, Universities and other institutions that teach marketing focus almost entirely on the strategy. But surely, the easiest way to be a better marketer is to be better at the process. It’s to send better e-mails, make better phone calls, be more persuasive, produce better content, prepare better pitches.
What do you think? Do you really enjoy marketing, or do you just love the idea of it?
I want marketing and PR agencies in Cheltenham to start talking to each other. Like other towns, it’s competitive here. Lots of agencies are chasing too few clients, many of whom can’t afford much. The result is fierce competition, and a high level of grudges, negative opinions and lack of co-operation.
But why not? What would be so wrong with a dozen or so local marketers meeting up once a month and sharing advice? Why not discuss future trends, debate the local business situation and assess if working together might be worthwhile?
Imagine what might be accomplished. First, by sharing advice you’re encouraging your competitors to do the same. That helps you. Second, it means you both do a better job for your client. Third, and this is most important, it will improve the reputation of all marketers in this town.
Think what could be accomplished if businesses in local counties realised that when you hire a marketing agency in Cheltenham, you benefit from the collective wisdom of all marketing agencies in the area? A lot can be achieved from co-operation and growing the reputation of all marketing agencies in Cheltenham.
It’s a Utopian thought. Would you help your competitors?
In August 2006, Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A year later he learnt it had spread and was given between 3 – 6 months to live. Shortly thereafter, he gave his last ever lecture. This lecture is one of the most beautiful, brilliant and inspiring lectures i’ve ever seen. It’s since received over 5 million viewings worldwide and Randy even managed to dictate a book in his final months.
You can watch the final lecture here (but you should set aside an hour in advance).
Randy passed away knowing that his success in life will long-outlast him. In addition to three children, Randy also created Alice, a 3D simulator that will help thousands of students develop their gaming and 3D reality skills. He pushed and led his students to great things, and they loved him for it.
Aside from the messages in the video, there’s a lot to learn from Randy Pausch. Great people naturally gain a following. Randy inspired everyone around him. He will no doubt be an inspiration to his three children when they watch lecture many years from now. He was certainly an inspiration to the students that turned out in their hundreds and gave him a standing ovation, and he is an inspiration to over 5 million people who have since watched the video.
He will be missed.
I rarely got to speak to the public I was trying to reach. Having a press middleman irked me, big time. Reaching people with your message was like playing Chinese whispers. You tell the journalist “I want to say this…” and the journalist replies “well, hmm, i’m going to decide to change your message to this…”
Which sometimes works fine, PR is valuable for many companies. It scales quite well, and people believe it. But I still think there is usually a better way to spend my time.
I was once working with a client who wanted more women to begin a career in trade skills. I spent my time working with various women’s magazines, websites and even managed to get some editorial in The Sun. At the time, I thought it went well.
Today I have that niggling feeling, as I do about many PR efforts, that the time could be better spent just talking directly to the people I want to reach. I think, had I spent my hours talking to women in career forums, at DIY centres and just mingling with the right people – the results would have been better.
What does everyone else think? Would you do better just speaking to your public?