Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category.

20 Social media speakers and experts

Image via Flickr by 160e29c6

Image via Flickr by 160e29c6

We’ve spoken at more social media conferences and events in the last three months than in the first three years of FreshNetworks’ existence. One of the benefits of all the talking has been the opportunity to listen to other social media speakers and experts.

As a social media agency we’re often  asked to recommend a few social media speakers for events (particularly in London and the UK), so I thought it might be useful to note down  some of the people who have recently impressed us and why.

Neville Hobson @jangles - sage advice with a strong PR-slant on social media. I thought Neville was at his best when it came to social media disaster scenarios and social media crisis management.

Gary Veynerchuck - Gary was the highlight of SXSW for me. He’s brimming with passion and energy and has some excellent hands-on social media experience. He spent 10 minutes talking and 45 minutes answering questions. You can easily get a taste of Gary online - just search YouTube. Or submit yourself to the full experience by listening to him read Crush It, his new book

Michelle Goodall @greenwellys - from Econsultancy. Michelle is a great social media trainer. Especially good at educating an audience to give them a common understanding of social media. I’ve heard Michelle speak about social media at a couple of events recently - Technology for Marketing and Advertising and FreshIdeas Events - and both times walked away feeling the learning points were super clear.

Joanne Jacobs @joannejacobs is a force of nature. Guaranteed to wake up any audience, she combines years of  social media experience with a ferocious presenting style. I am certain there is no one more capable of keeping a post-lunch audience stimulated.

James Hart @ASOS_James is eCommerce Director at James (and ASOS) have been among the early adopters in community building and social media marketing in the UK. He’s a wonderfully open and frank speaker (no social hype, just his practical experience). However, I am told he may have recently hung up his speaking boots.

Geoff Quinn, CEO TM Lewin - I was on stage with Geoff at a recent Retail Week e-commerce Conference. I think it’s hard to beat listening to a CEO talk about where they see social media fit in to their broader business goals. In addition to the fact that Geoff is really open and frank about the process, they have been  giving real ROI numbers and developing detailed plans for the future. You can get a sense of his style from this recent Radio4 Bottom Line interview (disclaimer TM Lewin is a client).

Brad Little @bradleyjlittle - Brad runs Neilsen Buzzmetrics in Europe. As a result he’s great on social media monitoring content and thinking. He’s also full of energy and enthusiasm, and a great speaker.

Anna Rafferty @raffers from Penguin Books. Anna has a great case study on building a community on a budget that really engaged Penguin’s customers. An engaging speaker who provides good takeaways.  Oh and Anna recently recommended Jon Davie from Zone as a great speaker.

Steve Dunn Steve is a very energetic performer. I spoke alongside him at a CIM event and he did a good job of covering off high-level social media basics. In particular he brought a PR perspective.

Chris Brogan - Chris is one of the handful of truly global social media gurus (although I am sure he’d hate the term). I really enjoyed his combination of a conversational and relaxed style with excellent story telling. Chris is particularly good on B2B and SME social media.

Steve Bridger @stevebridger has years of community management experience working with charities and membership organisations. Steve always brings solid, practical tips to his social media sessions.

Louise White @louisecwhite - I really enjoyed listening to Louise recently. She has a refreshingly honest and open style giving a no-holds barred account of life inside a publisher as digital and social are changing the world around them.

Paul Hopkins, Head of Customer Experience at easyJet - I was on a panel with Paul at the Call Centre and Customer Management Conference. As you’d expect, Paul is particularly knowledgeable speaker on customer service opportunities and issues arising from social media. He is heavily involved on a day-to-day basis with easyJet’s activity.

Martha Lane Fox - @marthalanefox - As Digital Inclusion Champion, Martha is clearly an expert on digital engagement issues. She’s also a captivating speaker, always good at pulling out key facts to get her point across.

Dom Sparkes @DomSparkes - Dom runs the moderation agency, Tempero. He’s especially strong on community management of children’s websites and the processes required to run them in a safe manner.

Thomas Power - I have not heard him speak myself, but heard a rave review from Neville Hobsbon on his podcast. Thomas set up Ecademy and is famous for being one of London’s great connectors. Whilst I don’t agree with all he says e.g. “the most important thing about your network is size, not quality” he’s clearly very enthusiastic and engaging.

Matt Rhodes - OK, so Matt works with me at FreshNetworks. I am biased. But time and again he gets rave reviews from his audiences whenever he’s asked to speak about social media. Matt is one of the foremost thinkers on social media in the UK (he’s the reason why this blog is consistently one of Europe’s Top 3 social marketing blogs). And despite being a Cambridge graduate, he generally has an insightful perspective on all social media topics.

Tim Hwang‘s SXSW talk was one of the most entertaining in Austin. Not because of his speaking style, but purely down to the content: What we learned watching kids with homemade flamethrowers. You can catch a great video here.

Two more speakers

These two don’t fit into the social media speaker bracket, but they are two of my favourite business speakers ever:
Dennis Turner - Dennis is Chief Economist at HSBC. He manages to make macroeconomics both enthrawling and easy to understand. A delight to watch.

BJ Cunningham - BJ tells a fantastic story about Death Cigarettes - a brand he founded 20 years ago. He’s a superb speaker.

Your turn
Have you been struck by an excellent social media speaker? who was it and why were they good?

Social Media ROI and Obliquity

image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

“The problem with brands in social media is that they act like 19 year old dudes”.
Yelled Gary Veynerchuck at SXSW, excited as ever.

His point was that there is a tendency to approach every interaction with a single goal - sex for the dudes, sales for companies. And to rush towards that goal without pausing for breath.

I have been reminded of Gary’s comment a few times this week. Mostly by the economist, John Kay.

John has a new book out: Obliquity – why our goals are best pursued indirectly. And as a result he’s cropping up everywhere at the moment.

The premise of his book is that the greatest, most profitable companies achieve success as a result of focussing on higher ideals than cash generation. This is not an especially groundbreaking theory - I’ve rarely met a successful entrepreneur who was primarily money-motivated. However I do think he has coined a super phrase and one with a distinct social media relevance.

Obliquity - why social media goals are best pursued indirectly
Success in social media rarely comes from being the 19yr old dude. Sustained social media ROI relies on building realtionships, not converting one-night-stands. The tools of social media provide a new form of communication. As a result they can help you improve products, processes and customer relationships. An indirect, or oblique benefit, might be more sales.

However, obliquity is a tough message when you’re a nervous marketing manger who only likes to spend money on safe bets where ROI has been proven upfront or in advance.

The tragedy of social media is that “digital can be measured”. This drives a desire is to spend £1 and get £1 and 10 pence back before investing more. Whilst such an approach is fine for Google Adwords or other search marketing, social media plays by different rules.

Please don’t act like the 19yr old dude. Customers can spot it a mile off. You’re far more likely to achieve social media ROI if you focus on a different (oblique) business goal first. Use social media to engage customers. Use social media for deeper customer insight or to improve your customer service. The cash will follow.

Free bacon at trade shows (SXSW)

Image from shutterstock

Image from shutterstock

Should we give away free stuff on our stand? This question gets asked every time we attend a trade show.

After entertaining a little debate I always find myself answering “No. A bowl of Quality Street is not a differentiator and it’s probably not going to attract the right type of person to our stand.”

But last week in Austin, at the South by SouthWest Interactive Festival (SXSW), I found myself questioning my strongly held belief.

In Texas, everything is bigger and better. As a result the on-stand gimmicks were actually worthy of note. There were hot dogs and free beer. Free books and a well-thought-out hangover kit. There was even the opportunity to meet a pair of Cheerleaders from the Dallas Coyboys.

My favourite giveaway at the event came from a 10-year old girl on a street corner. She was standing outside the event, holding a huge plate and yelling “bacon, bacon, get free bacon.” It smelled fantastic, tasted even better and proved to me that the right promotion, in an appropriate style can elicit an action.

Now I can’t actually remember the name of the company involved, but I did give them my card.

Do you believe in giveaways at trade shows? has anything worked for/on you?

Social Gaming - SXSW panel

image from shutterstock

image from shutterstock

Social gaming is a hot topic here at SXSW. The industry has been growing at an incredible rate and traditional gaming companies have been caught unaware by a flurry of new market entrants.

Playfish was one of the 2009 success stories. Within two years of starting the company, they are attracting 60 million monthly players and are selling 90million items a day (virtual goods and unlockable gameplay). It’s also been a huge personal success for the founders, who sold the business for £240 million last year.

I noticed that Sebastien de Halleux, one of the co-founders of Playfish, was speaking on a panel this morning so I went along. It has been one of my SXSW highlights so far. Here are a few notes (NB comments are paraphrased).

How are social games different to what’s gone before?

SdH: The design of the games is the main difference. Rather than an immersive story-telling experience designed for gamers it’s a social experience designed for non-gamers.

ET: Story’s have endings so are not as scalable or well suited to social gaming platforms.

OA: It’s like going back to how we used to play board games with friends. From faceless gaming back to connecting with real people. There’s also a massive shift for the gaming industry; the economics of gaming is driving business model changes.

JD: Social has brought gaming to the masses. Facebook has also had a profound effect on what people are prepared to share online. People are open about their identity and that’s helped drive the big shift.

ET: The difference is that games can now transmit themselves through invites and gifting. So the opportunity is for a game to pass through recommendation not through marketing. As a result you don’t have to be a big brand or established business to have success. Just focus on creating good games.

Lessons you have learnt and surprises

ET: It’s useless to predict what will work in the future (social gaming) from the past (traditional gaming). For example, who would have thought a game about farming would be a runaway hit. You have to try a wide variety of things. Find a success and then drive hard into it.

SdH: Speed of the industry has evolved. Don’t even think about a change from time cycle in years to months to weeks. We think in evolutionary cycles – EA has published 17 versions of FIFA in 17 years, and our Pet society game has already been through hundreds of evolutions. It is constantly evolving with continuous feedback into each step.

JD: We’ve learnt that social games are living, breathing services. They are not stand-alone games or products. If you launch one, you are committed to it. The volume  of feedback, and the emotion behind it, is incredible.

ET: We’ve learnt that gameplay is there as a delivery mechanism for the content, or as a facilitator for social interaction. It’s not the reason for being

SdH: Launch early. We launch at a 10% completion milestone. We launch unfinished products and that’s fine as early feedback helps you get the game right.

Monetisation of social games

SdH: In-game micro-transactions are key. The game is free and we create emotional incentives that make people want more of the game. Audiences are ready to pay for good games, but in small chunks. Just don’t get fooled into believing that you need large ticket transactions. Try not to think in terms of a business plan based on: Price x Quantity. Instead, think about Distribution x Engagement x Lifetime User Value.

ET: we’ve found that there are two things that can have a disproportionate impact on profitability:

  • Creativity / self-expression - allowing people to be creators makes them care more and increases their life time value.
  • Competition - player vs. player conflict drives a willingness to pay for competitive advantage.

What’s the place for gaming brands in social?

There was some disagreement on this one.

OA: brands will take over this space. For an example, look at the success of Dante’s Inferno, an average game that got traction thanks to the brand.

SdH: The value of brands in a retail world was huge. It helped them fight for shelf-space and increased trust at the point-of-purchase. But there is no shelf space in social games [not sure I agree with this as we all look at the “top 25”]

Social gaming is driven by invitations from your friends. Direct emails into your inbox from people you know, alleviate the need for brands as a purveyor of trust.

But brands will be have a role especially in their ability to make you care more about a game by mixing offline with online. E.g. FIFA. There is a huge opportunity to innovate here as we move towards games with 1Bn players.

When it comes to other brands taking part (e.g. Coke) advergames do not work well as people see through them. However it is possible to create engagement models where brands add to the experience.

How will mobile gaming integrate with social gaming?

SdH: mobile is difficult to integrate. There are so many issues to balance if someone starts a game on the web then wants to continue playing on a different platform like iphone.

We are running a service. Running a service on the iphone is hard as they are built for application download. There are workarounds, but microtransactions in games are difficult (iphone does not allow individual item purchase, nor do they allow gifting). The factors that drive success on the web are difficult to replicate on mobile.

ET: The trick of getting social mobile to work will be hitting the union (think Venn diagrams) not the intersection of iphone and Facebook. There needs to be a synergy of multi-platform, not just a replacement.

Mobile is more like a way of making money out of what we already have.

Then it got controversial.

OA: we want Xbox and Facebook fully connected. Games will become fully transferable between the web, mobile and your TV screen.

ET and SdH: this has been forecast for years, but will not happen.

Things to watch

  • The frictionless monetisation of Facebook credits is exceptionally powerful
  • Location aware games like Gowalla and Foursquare.

SdH Sebastien de Halleux – Playfish co-founder
ET - Eric Todd, Playdom
OA - Omar Abdelwahed, Ubisoft
JD - Jon David, PopCap Games
GD - Gareth Davis, Facebook (moderator)

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SXSW 10 session notes: Crowd sourcing innovative social change

Another day at SXSW, and a good seminar on crowd sourcing and not-for-profits. The ‘Crowd sourcing innovative social change’ session saw Amy Sample Ward, Beth Kanter and others talking about how to use crowd sourcing in a not-for-profit environment, not for fund raising or marketing, but for service and programme delivery. One interesting distinction was between a ‘crowd’ and a ‘community’ and how this impacts the model you use.

As with other SXSW sessions, rather than reproduce the conversations after the event, here are the hand-drawn notes taken during the session itself.


SXSW: Crowd sourcing innovative social change session notes

You can also see Amy’s presentation from the session here:

Crowdsourcing for Social Change
View more presentations from Amy Sample Ward.

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