Archive for the ‘Walter Schwabe’ category

Where’s the beef?

February 26, 2010

For those of you who may not know, the second largest social network in Canada is an Edmonton company, Nexopia. Want to reach teens? Ninety percent of its subscriber base is between 13 and 23. Nexopia boasts over 800,000 monthly unique visitors, but that’s not what they’re most excited about these days. Connect13, its new advertising platform is what has the local 19-person team all fired-up. So too are the mad men and women of Toronto’s ad industry, according to Kelley Hajar, VP of sales and the lead for Connect13.
The Connect13 ad network has positioned Nexopia as the hub for banner ad distribution across this demographic and several social networks at the same time. “We’re well-positioned in Western Canada, but the top 12 ad agencies in Toronto want national reach,” stated Hajar. “We talked with Tagged.com, guys like MyYearbook, and others who have great reach and additional ad inventory out on the East Coast and in the U.S. We’ve combined our available inventories, and now Connect13 is a streamlined approach.”
If this year’s 44th NFL Super Bowl is any indication, one can expect to wait for more migration toward digital brand integration. Dubbed the “brand bowl” on Twitter, there was considerable discussion about each television commercial. Visibly absent from that discussions were the brands involved. Interestingly, despite seeing the power of a streamlined ad buy opportunity such as Connect13, the critical opportunity that still seems to elude many in the ad game is how to socially engage in support of traditional activities. Connect13 as a place to buy banner type ad space for the teen market is a very cool option. However, unless the top ad agencies in Toronto figure out that digital media buys should also be integrated with social engagement strategies, considerable opportunities for a strong brand halo effect will be lost, as was evident with the Super Bowl.
Some folks will talk about social channel integration as their saving grace on this issue. They’ll taut their many followers, connections and friends as evidence of their marketing efforts gaining ground. Some may even offer the number of digital conversations that have taken place about their brand online. Nexopia would probably offer click-through rates and brand impressions. There’s no doubt that, in order to have a complete picture, you have to include these numbers as elements, but that’s where most stop.
The remaining digital gap here is the difference between brand “impression” and brand “presence.” One is seen, the other is felt. One brand inspires zero reaction and is easily ignored. The other brand hits you right in the gut and has a lasting effect. Strong digital branding today should always include a social engagement component. When customers see your TV ad and go to your one-off campaign website (if you included the URL in the ad), and then talk about that on Twitter, Facebook or Nexopia, you as the advertiser should at the very least be there to engage… not pitch but listen, learn and communicate openly. Once the annoying screaming chickens, non-descript sub-selling digital monkeys or taco chip throwing ninjas are done on TV, the experience—good or bad—should transfer to your customers’ Twitter account or other relevant social channel. If your marketing sucks, get online and get ready to face the music. Take it on your hairy monkey chin and let your customers tell you what they want to see instead. On the other hand, if you or your ad agency would rather not defend your collective creative brilliance online, then maybe everyone should consider it the next time the “old guard” whips out the blank cheque for the standard media campaign.
That way, when you go to look under the bun to consider “where the beef is”, there will be some true customer exchanges and meaningful data offered. Instead of taking back your standard feel-good demo numbers as proof of “return on investment,” you can reference what you learned from your “return on engagement.” √

Social Media 101 Gov 2.0 – a virtual reality

January 29, 2010

I had an interesting conversation with Doug Elniski, MLA, Edmonton Calder. We spoke about his experiences using social media and reactions he’s witnessed from some of his colleagues within government on the subject. Elniski, in his own straightforward way, suggests that the there’s definitely still resistance within the Government of Alberta. Resistance he describes as mostly coming from what he calls the “bubble in the middle”—those people in government currently not utilizing social media—“essentially waiting to see what happens. The bureaucracy watches and measures the reaction, because people don’t want to subject themselves to criticism or some form of abuse.”
As a place to start and looking to find ways to shift this reality, we expanded on how folks within the “bubble” might not want to be put in a position of testing their values daily and publicly within social media. Elniski added that in government (values) “is probably the thing you get attacked on.” He’s quite at peace with where he stands on the issues and none of this bothers him. I was interviewing him for my upcoming book, due out this spring, on Government 2.0 (Gov 2.0)—a term designed to describe the “open government movement” happening around the world. Our discussion covered opinions regarding the cultural impact of Gov 2.0 inside the Government of Alberta. What has been evident to me for some time is that it will not happen without evangelists on the inside. Even then, our premier will have to see value in doing something in this regard.
What does Gov 2.0 look like and how does it change things? In a personal e-mail exchange for my book, Tim O’Reilly—who coined the term “Web 2.0”—stated that it’s “government as an open and transparent platform, a mechanism for collaborative action.” Not exactly the way many citizens would currently describe their government (at any level) I suspect, and therein lies the opportunity.
Locally, we’re witnessing a move toward “open government” at the City of Edmonton. I spoke with Chris Moore, CIO for the City and head of the I.T. Branch. Moore and his team have gone through a positive transformation and are leading the charge with respect to another core aspect of Gov 2.0: Open Data. On January 13th, the City released a “data catalogue” which provides various types of data in machine-readable format (rather than PDF), so that developers can build interesting solutions for citizens. Also, as part of this initiative, its geographic information systems data (GIS) will soon be released for free to those who need it or would like to develop software applications with it.
I’m aware of new websites and applications already in production with local developers that will impact our quality of life for the better. For example, (shameless plug) fusedlogic’s Route 411 transit application for the iPhone, was launched on January 8th. This application allows for public transit users to identify routes, bus stops and times much more easily than traditional methods. It works with data released from Edmonton, Toronto and, just in time for the Olympics, Vancouver.
Now, here’s why taxpayers will care: The City of Edmonton didn’t spend a dime of taxpayer money to improve the ETS experience by developing Route 411—fusedlogic made the investment. Tax savings is a key benefit to the Open Data concept and why, in part, Councillor Don Iveson has been a strong advocate for Gov 2.0.
Iveson submitted initial questions regarding Open Data to Council last October. I asked him why he put these questions forward to Council. He said, “Fundamentally, it’s about transparency, empowerment and collaboration, and those are superb democratic values. Much of this data we have but we don’t do a good job of sharing it or providing access. There is an imbalance of power between government and citizens, the ‘we-know-better-because-we-have-all-the-facts’ attitude. It can be difficult for citizens to get the facts (data). Also, I think there’s been fear in government about the loss of power when data gets in the hands of people and they won’t know what to do with it.” Iveson concluded, “Let people have the info and make an argument… and, if the argument is wrong, let the process take over…”
There is simply no doubt that Government 2.0 and, by extension Open Data, is the right way to go for all levels of government in terms of direct and indirect benefits to citizens. This being the case, I believe Albertans need to call upon Premier Ed Stelmach and the Government of Alberta to hire a CIO for the province. We need to move government from a “need-to-know” mentality to one of a “need-to-share.” That CIO would coordinate with municipal level officials like Moore, as well as the feds, to bring the Gov 2.0 aspect into policy discussions enterprise-wide.
The result for Albertans would be tax savings, efficiencies for government and citizens alike. Frankly, this isn’t a question of “if” Gov 2.0 is coming. It’s already here. √

Social Media 101

January 4, 2010

Social web environments such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have enabled business leaders to leverage the “social” part of social media and broaden their reach and influence. Certainly, there are still laggard executives out there continuing to fight the integration of these tools, blowing them off as time-wasting websites that attract teenagers and distract employees. With this attitude, it’s difficult for decision-makers to quantify the amount of opportunity passing them by in their digital absence… but it is happening and the amount could be substantial. I wanted to dig into the social networking scene and identify a successful local example where traditional meets digital networking in our business community.
Which brings me to a gentleman I’ve know for over a year now. I met Edmonton realtor Stephen Lau of Century21 (EdmontonHomePros.ca) through a digital referral by Greg Douglas of Douglas Environmental Solutions. He suggested that I join a local networking group called The Edmonton “LinkedIn” Business & Social Network, started by Lau in April 2008. To join the group, you must have a profile on the world’s premier business social network, LinkedIn.com.
The nearly 300 members are trusted business professionals who value building relationships both at the offline events and digitally within the online group on Meetup.com, the site Lau uses to manage events and member communications, much of which overflows onto LinkedIn. “The intention,” explains Lau, “is helping people first and growing trust from that. It’s about being genuine, altruistic and going out of your way to help people. Pure takers won’t get very far in the group.” This is something I’ve personally experienced as a member of this unique networking group: I can honestly say people focus on community, referrals and support of each other’s businesses.
Having said that, Lau states that his group would not have grown to the extent it has without the social networking aspect. Further, he suggests—and I agree—that there needs to be a healthy balance between traditional and online social networking in order to achieve success. “People like to do business on a hand-shake,” he says. “You need to meet face-to-face.” Lau calls this balance of effort “integrating social media into real-world networking to expand your centre of influence.” He stresses that social networking allows you to stay connected, build rapport and deepen relationships in-between events. In one such case, because of keeping in touch online via LinkedIn, Lau was referred to a new real estate client who listed a $1.88M home with him, a decent business transaction once the home sells.
Stories of business results and increased opportunities are not limited to Lau. Doors have opened for others in the group, including me. If not for Lau, my team and I might not have met Michael Kryton of Axe Productions who referred fusedlogic to Aggression MMA. This connection resulted in a contract to provide live-streaming video services for its pay-per-view mixed martial arts event “First Blood” at the Northlands Expo Centre. Deepening relationships through the use of social networking has proven that it can also deepen the pocketbook.
Those who should join The Edmonton “Linked-In” Business & Social Network are business professionals interested in finding clients, helping with referrals, and meeting likeminded networkers. As mentioned, a LinkedIn profile is a pre-requisite.
Lau and the other members demonstrate that what separates this group from others is how they fortify trust via regular use of social media tools like LinkedIn and Meetup.com, converting their social networking efforts into increased revenue. This isn’t a group of teenagers or irresponsible employees but savvy business people with open-minds, turning a little digital know-how into measurable results. It’s worth joining. √

2010 – The Year of Social Calibration

November 27, 2009

How to effectively gain entry into the social media ecosystem as it continues to grow in relevancy is top of mind for many, not only here in the Edmonton area but around Alberta and the rest of the World. 2010 will be the year many alter behaviors by integrating certain social web practices into overall business processes across the enterprise resulting in a “social calibration” of the corporate culture.
Veterans of at least one social media campaign will refine their approach as the realization that social influence is reliant on certain sustainable actions. In other words, there’s an understanding of the difference between being a blogger and being a blogger with influence—which means that social media integration into the 2010 marketing and communications plan happens at the outset rather than as an add-on later. This change in process should drive support for internal policy development and a concerted effort to build social capacity.
Also, as decision-makers come on board, I see more I.T. departments benefiting. The enterprise remains protected while I.T. enables social technologies behind their firewall by using open API authorization code like “OAuth” as appropriate. This success may also inspire the enterprise to pursue internal social media solutions related to human resources, such as employee retention, training, communications and knowledge capture.
Additionally, look for more organizations to embrace “cloud computing.” Despite still suffering from a bit of hype, trust has been strengthened in terms of data privacy and security… so the cloud will continue to influence collaborative innovations such as Google Wave for all to use.
As well, we’ll likely see more governments, (primarily municipal) embrace “open data” policies and concepts. And why not? Citizens are willing to contribute and even provide services for free. Participation in this area will continue to rise as access to public data truly becomes public. For more info on the open data topic visit eaves.ca and get ready for more city run contests, data mash-ups, and location aware services based widgets.
Maintaining consumer trust by way of social influence will remain a central goal behind social media performance metrics. Reputation 2.0 and the ever present need for active brand management online becomes a reality for more decision-makers in 2010. That said, this isn’t good news for lagging executives still employing the big plan of shutting down all access to the social web… but it’s certainly good news for their competitors who are consuming the social media Kool-Aid by the litre. That gap will continue to widen especially in areas of brand awareness, loyalty, customer support and rapport.
Experience suggests that concrete social media performance can only happen once the organization has truly committed. Up to now, there has been considerable experimentation and that’s to be expected. However, for measurable conversions to take place, an enterprise-wide commitment or social calibration must take place.
Ultimately, I believe 2010 will be a year of recovery, modest growth and prosperity. Social calibration should allow leaders who have a foothold within the social web (Twitter account and Facebook fan page) to accelerate and deepen relationships with customers. In other words, if your organization has been building social media credibility and customer love throughout a tough 2009, the next year will most likely require management teams to be better prepared to support future initiatives with more than just budget, they’ll need to support with a will to engage.
I’d like to wish all my readers, clients, the fusedlogic team, family and friends a fantastic Christmas and New Year’s celebration. √

Social Media 101

October 30, 2009

101The age of participation proves too scary for some.
Life is unscripted, uncontrolled and unpredictable—yet government in general proceeds under the premise it can control all things. This unfortunate reality resulted in a lost opportunity for many elected officials and civil servants who didn’t attend ChangeCamp Edmonton, an unconference in mid-October at the UofA’s Lister Hall. More than 150 people participated.
Ironically, I was unable to attend due to health, so I relied on real-time information on Twitter for some of the unscripted play-by-play. Chris LaBossiere, a colleague on the organizing committee, was able to provide me with his on-site perspective. “There would have been no better way in Alberta to engage in discussions with citizens yesterday than at ChangeCamp. People contributed easily, and volunteered to lead discussions. The success of the day was based on the individual participants. I was surprised and happy to see such age diversity in the room.” That statement by Chris is supported by pictures posted online. “Many stepped up and pitched new session ideas, we planned 25 and ran 27.”
I asked Chris why he thought more politicians or government employees didn’t attend ChangeCamp. He speculated that “Politicians didn’t see this as an opportunity. They didn’t realize that this wasn’t about talking about the past but talking about change.”
In response to the same question, Laurie Blakeman, Liberal MLA for Edmonton Centre, said plainly, “You didn’t ask.” This, despite the fact that she and other politicians, including City Councillors Don Iveson and Ben Henderson and Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell, were in the room or on the list to attend.
Doug Elniski, PC MLA for Edmonton-Calder, said he was there because “the more I know about social media the better I feel about using it. People in government have created a reluctance to use social media and I think it’s a symptom of a lack of understanding of what it’s all about. There’s still a belief that social media is this interesting novelty, the government infrastructure has not caught up. The speed of it is remarkable. You can’t manage this like an ad in the newspaper, it’s not static.” I couldn’t agree more.
“There’s an old saying in politics,” Doug chuckled. “The loudest thing you hear in politics is the grinding of the axes.” This was his light-hearted response to my query about whether the tone of the discussion changed when he entered the room at ChangeCamp. “Sure the tone changed to some degree, but I focused on listening to what other people had to say. The overall flow of the conversations was really good and, for the most part, people followed the rules of engagement. People were building off of the ideas of others.”
Laura also felt the tone changed with her in the room. “Well, in the first session I attended, I got outed. I made no attempt to engage in the discussion, but was asked direct questions. By the second session, everything was fine.” When asked why she attended ChangeCamp, she replied, “I’m interested in new ways in engaging my constituents. I was there to learn.”
Laurie’s opinion of the unconference structure seemed positive. “It was the self- generated structure, people seemed to be less stressed and approached things with an open mind.”
Arguably, the most interesting perspective was provided by Andrew Knack (who, as I write this, is at City Hall announcing his intent to run for councillor in Ward 1). Andrew came on my radar after he announced on Twitter that ChangeCamp Edmonton had helped to solidify in his mind that he should run for election in 2010.
“When politicians walk in, there’s an aura and perception that they are a little different than the rest. The best thing that I heard were the opinions and ideas that were not my own. I think it’s important to see how ideas can fit within your values. If you’re willing to listen to other people, then the value of an event like ChangeCamp is large. I took a lot away from the event,” explained Andrew. “A lot of the group discussion went back to citizen involvement and getting community leagues involved in the process.”
Personally, I understand why people in government may be afraid of getting into a dialogue about meaningful topics with everyday citizens in an unscripted format. That still doesn’t remove the point that it’s a shame to miss such a terrific opportunity. ChangeCamp Edmonton is just one positive manifestation of citizen engagement… an interesting format that many believe we need to build on.
Folks at all levels of government should realize that despite their fears, citizen influence through the use of social media is growing. Online influence is the new currency and wallets within government will remain empty until politicians and policy-makers engage with the rest of us. √

Social Media 101

October 2, 2009

101Does social media influence decision-makers?
“I hope that governments wake up and take notice,” said Sue Huff, an Edmonton Public School Board Trustee, when asked how governments should address the influence that social media seemingly provides. “There needs to be a willingness to share power and more genuine communication by politicians. I think people have felt very disconnected from governments.”
I got into this discussion when I brought up ChangeCamp Edmonton. After hearing about ChangeCamp in Toronto, I invited some locals to participate on a steering committee with the intent of holding a similar event here. I’m proud to say that on October 17th at U of A’s Lister Hall, Edmontonians will get a chance to participate in a day of democratic engagement. People from all levels of government and areas of society can register at changecampedmonton.ca for this free event.
I believe ChangeCamp will help citizens discover, discuss and engage in debate over key issues that pertain to their lives. Further, it is a demonstration of our ability to self-organize and create a construct that allows for deep conversations about how to enable government to serve us better. Huff liked the idea too, “ChangeCamp seems to be based on the wisdom of the crowd.”
I talked with her about many things social media-related. She believes that “influence goes both ways and I’d like to think I’m influencing public opinion in some way.” I wondered if this exchange of ideas online translated back to the Board of Trustees. Huff provided an example: She researched information she received on Twitter and her blog regarding issues around H1N1 and brought back to the board. “The things that I learn I share and that expands the knowledge of the entire board.”
Regarding whether social media has influence, many speculated online that fusedlogic’s live streaming webcast entitled The Great Edmonton Airport Debate actually influenced some on City Council when deciding the airport’s fate. I asked Councillor Kim Krushell if she had viewed the streaming video debate. Her response? Yes! Did she think that the social media activity around the airport issue influenced councillors? “Oh yeah! I do think it had influence on councillors. Bloggers directed people to e-mail… part of it was we were getting form letter e-mails from Cal Nichols’ side and personal e-mails from the NextGen crowd, complete with e-mail addresses. I found it all fascinating.”
Many are familiar with President Barack Obama’s now famous election campaign and its use of social media to influence American voters. How about closer to home? “I’m really just scratching the surface of the direct voter connection,” said Danielle Smith, who’s running for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance Party. Phil Klein, father of former Premier Ralph Klein has joined Smith’s party. “The first thing I did was ask if I could put it out on Twitter,” she said. She admits, “I don’t have a blog yet, I’m not sure I will… being so busy, I like the efficiency of Twitter.
“We don’t have a very functional democracy here in Alberta. Decisions are being made out of the blue. From a policy point of view, the point of Twitter is to have direct connections—un-distilled commentary from average people.” Smith offered further, “Ralph Klein continued to be reachable.” Referencing that direct connection capability that Twitter provides, I mentioned that Premier Ed Stelmach has two Twitter accounts, and asked hypothetically if she ever become premier would she continue to use Twitter herself. Smith replied, “It’s obvious that the premier is not using Twitter himself. My intention is to continue to monitor what’s being said online. Should I win the leadership race, I would propose that Wildrose integrate social media into our operations at the policy level.”
So does social media influence decision-makers? Clearly, in different ways and at different levels, the answer is yes. How much depends on the situation and the issue at hand. There seems to be experiential evidence to suggest that this trend will only grow. As we get nearer to the day of ChangeCamp Edmonton—coincidently, the day Smith finds out if she won her leadership race—I’m sure that social media will play a part in whether some of you come out to offer some cool ideas for government to consider.
Repurposing Sue Huff’s comment, I agree with her and hope that governments take notice and come out chat with us average Albertans. “Let social media continue to lend power to the people.” √

Social Media 101

September 1, 2009

101This year’s Edmonton International Fringe Festival was absolutely terrific. As of my deadline, I’ve seen a total of four shows: Pitch Blond by Vancouver-born Laura Harris; Garret Spellicy‘s local production The Lavender, South Korea; and Red Bastard by Eric Davis out of New York.
I saw the latter two because the fusedlogic team streamed both shows live via video over the Internet as part of our social media project with Fringe Theatre Adventures (FTA), the folks behind North America’s largest and longest running fringe festival.
The FTA had yet to engage in the social web beyond a Facebook group. This year, however, Industry Canada’s Marquee Tourism Program enabled a specific focus on generating awareness and interest in the festival and the city tourism options for fringe enthusiasts abroad.
Edmonton’s Fringe Festival broke new social media ground in several ways, including the streaming of three live webcasts all across Canada and for international audiences in places like the Philippines, United Kingdom and United States, plus Greece and Belgium.  A key approach to this campaign was to involve the Fringe community directly, encouraging both international and local performers to blog about their experiences at showyouourblog.com.  In the first six days of the festival, more than 100 blog posts from 10 different bloggers, including me, were generated.  Local photographers who are on Twitter also showcased our city and festival. Starting with a brand new group for this year, Edmonton now has the largest Flickr group of Fringe-related pictures in the world.  Well over 1300 photos in under 10 days – amazing.  Top contributors by Twitter handle were @Livingsantuary, @Sirthinkd, @Pixelens, @Cyclopsphoto, @Eadnams, @Wburris, and @PaulNey.  And thanks to everyone else who posted pictures.
To continue in the spirit of the Fringe,  I decided to take advantage of being around so many talented perfomers.  I interviewed the very talented Edmonton native street magician, Billy Kidd.  We talked about her life spent performing on the world’s streets, and her use of social media to promote her act.  Currently living in Bath, England, she still enjoys coming home.  From a perfomer’s perspective, she says “Edmonton’s Fringe crowds are great and there are less street performers here to compete with”, as compared to say Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe which tends to have far more performers.
When talking to Kidd about her online activities, she explained that she’s on Facebook under different name and for different purpose related to “nose flutes”. Bill Kidd is her magician persona and currently her social media activity is next to zero in support of that particular act. Although she admits that Internet does help: ” I get lots of e-mails from people who have seen the show.”  Kidd’s website billykiddshow.com is fairly basic and if, you Google her name, there is little in terms of a content footprint.  Certainly this result doesn’t support the great live audience experience produced when she “works her magic” curb side. I suspect it’s because she’s only been performing the Billy Kidd magic act for the “past year or so”.

billi kidd
We did an on-camera interview which is up on the Fringe-focused ShowYouOurs Youtube channel. Further, the pictures and video docummenting her performances here should definetly help increase exposure for her around the world – increased evidence that Edmonton has a “magical world ambassador” in Billy Kidd.