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 ASOS.com. 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?

1. Introduction to community management


Image by massdistraction via Flickr

Brilliant and thrilling though it is, managing an online community is a strange and unusual job. Community managers will find they often fluff their words when describing what they do. That’s because they do so much.

Sometimes, as a community manager, you will feel like a primary school teacher, despairing at squabbles and laying down the rules. Sometimes you will feel like a grief counsellor, as members lay bare their deepest feelings, and you give them a safe place in which to do it.

Sometimes you will want to join in, but know you need to hold back to retain good, safe boundaries. Community members will enlighten you, amuse you and sometimes drive you a little bit crazy. (Which is why it’s great to be able to meet up with other community managers and ‘talk shop’).

And you will be trying to increase the number of members that you have, and encouraging the right kind of members to get involved and become active.

Maybe they’re the right kind of members because they fit a certain demographic, or have an interest in a set niche.

Sometimes they’re the right kind of members because they want to engage and they get the rules.

Sometimes they’re the right kind of members, because they will use a breadth of features and encourage others to do the same.

In a handful of cases, you will get members that tick all these boxes and more. They’re your community champions, they will spread the word about your community and bring in others like themselves - more about them and their fellow members in upcoming blogs.

Community Champions will back you up and support your work and they will make the community their community.

Who can run a community?

When online community forums first arose - perhaps as the natural follow-up to an email list, or face-to-face meetings or even a paper newsletter - naturally a lot of people ‘fell’ into running them.

The early community managers tended to be the practical organised ones that had always ensured the newsletter went out on time, or the good Samaritans that always listened to griping, or waded in when emails got personal.

We’re several ‘generations’ in now, with some of the newest community managers barely old enough to remember a world without mass access to the internet. But the core skills are essentially unchanged, see: The ten commandments of managing online communities.

Humans have always created communities that congregated around a place (such as a school or local pub), around a shared interest (a Bay City Rollers fan club or a football team) or a shared need (new mums, wanting to support each other over coffee and cake or sufferers of the same medical condition).

These communities have either been self-motivated and self-governed (informal but frequent meetings), gently organised and formalised (an unofficial fan club) or rigidly controlled (i.e. school).

The same skill-sets needed to shape, manage and keep-safe these communities (and by keep safe, we mean safe from spats and trouble-makers, just as much as safe from any more serious offences) are displayed by community managers online.

Chris Brogan put together a hard-to-beat list of the essential skills of a community manager.

Lingo and buzzwords

If you’re new to social media and community management, some of the language may seem a bit obscure.

Your community members, especially those who engage in social media a lot, will probably use text speak and standard community abbreviations without blinking. You’ll quickly get the hang of these, but here is just a tiny sample:

  • DH - Dear Husband
  • DW - Dear Wife
  • DP - Dear Partner
  • DS - Dear Son
  • DD - Dear Daughter
  • BBL - Be Back Later
  • ROFL - Rolling on the floor laughing

The full list runs to the hundreds, probably thousands, but as with Twitter hashtags and text-speak, it is usually fairly easy to pick apart the meaning.

You’ll find that your community develops its own quirks of language too, for example a pregnancy community will use abbreviations like TTC (trying to conceive) while a niche scientific community will use even more nuanced abbreviations - but as a good community manager, you’ll be soaking up the syntax daily and speaking it like a native.

Next week we’ll be looking in depth at user type and behaviour.

Read all our posts on Promoting Community Management

  • How to Demonstrate the Value of Social Media to Your Boss - Chris Brogan (slideshare.net)
  • Top Five Skills a Community Manager Must Have (talkitup.typepad.com)

Chris Brogan’s 50 ways marketers can use social media to improve their marketing


I think this is the first time that I’ve reblogged somebody else’s content, but this post from [chrisbrogan.com] is really good and throws up a number of great ideas and interesting issues. I will post my thoughts on theses and also some examples of clients who have faced similar issues or used similar ideas later.

The full original post was here: 50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing.

As Chris says:

Here’s a list of 50 ideas (in no particular order) to help move the conversation along. Note: I mix PR and Marketing. They should get back together again.

  1. Add social bookmark links to your most important web pages and/or blog posts to improve sharing.
  2. Build blogs and teach conversational marketing and business relationship building techniques.
  3. For every video project purchased, ensure there’s an embeddable web version for improved sharing.
  4. Learn how tagging and other metadata improve your ability to search and measure the spread of information.
  5. Create informational podcasts about a product’s overall space, not just the product.
  6. Build community platforms around real communities of shared interest.
  7. Help companies participate in existing social networks, and build relationships on their turf.
  8. Check out Twitter as a way to show a company’s personality. (Don’t fabricate this).
  9. Couple your email newsletter content with additional website content on a blog for improved commenting.
  10. Build sentiment measurements, and listen to the larger web for how people are talking about your customer.
  11. Learn which bloggers might care about your customer. Learn how to measure their influence.
  12. Download the Social Media Press Release (pdf) and at least see what parts you want to take into your traditional press releases.
  13. Try out a short series of audio podcasts or video podcasts as content marketing and see how they draw.
  14. Build conversation maps for your customers using Technorati.com , Google Blogsearch, Summize, and FriendFeed.
  15. Experiment with Flickr and/or YouTube groups to build media for specific events. (Marvel Comics raised my impression of this with their Hulk statue Flickr group).
  16. Recommend that your staff start personal blogs on their personal interests, and learn first hand what it feels like, including managing comments, wanting promotion, etc.
  17. Map out an integrated project that incorporates a blog, use of commercial social networks, and a face-to-face event to build leads and drive awareness of a product.
  18. Start a community group on Facebook or Ning or MySpace or LinkedIn around the space where your customer does business. Example: what Jeremiah Owyang did for Hitachi Data Systems.
  19. Experiment with the value of live video like uStream.tv and Mogulus, or Qik on a cell phone.
  20. Attend a conference dealing with social media like New Media Expo, BlogWorld Expo, New Marketing Summit (disclosure: I run this one with CrossTech), and dozens and dozens more. (Email me for a calendar).
  21. Collect case studies of social media success. Tag them “socialmediacasestudy” in del.icio.us.
  22. Interview current social media practitioners. Look for bridges between your methods and theirs.
  23. Explore distribution. Can you reach more potential buyers/users/customers on social networks.
  24. Don’t forget early social sites like Yahoogroups and Craigslist. They still work remarkably well.
  25. Search Summize.com for as much data as you can find in Twitter on your product, your competitors, your space.
  26. Practice delivering quality content on your blogs, such that customers feel educated / equipped / informed.
  27. Consider the value of hiring a community manager. Could this role improve customer service? Improve customer retention? Promote through word of mouth?
  28. Turn your blog into a mobile blog site with Mofuse. Free.
  29. Learn what other free tools might work for community building, like MyBlogLog.
  30. Ensure you offer the basics on your site, like an email alternative to an RSS subscription. In fact, the more ways you can spread and distribute your content, the better.
  31. Investigate whether your product sells better by recommendation versus education, and use either wikis and widgets to help recommend, or videos and podcasts for education.
  32. Make WebsiteGrader.com your first stop for understanding the technical quality of a website.
  33. Make Compete.com your next stop for understanding a site’s traffic. Then, mash it against competitors’ sites.
  34. Learn how not to ask for 40 pieces of demographic data when giving something away for free. Instead, collect little bits over time. Gently.
  35. Remember that the people on social networks are all people, have likely been there a while, might know each other, and know that you’re new. Tread gently into new territories. Don’t NOT go. Just go gently.
  36. Help customers and prospects connect with you simply on your various networks. Consider a Lijit Wijit or other aggregator widget.
  37. Voting mechanisms like those used on Digg.com show your customers you care about which information is useful to them.
  38. Track your inbound links and when they come from blogs, be sure to comment on a few posts and build a relationship with the blogger.
  39. Find a bunch of bloggers and podcasters whose work you admire, and ask them for opinions on your social media projects. See if you can give them a free sneak peek at something, or some other “you’re special” reward for their time and effort (if it’s material, ask them to disclose it).
  40. Learn all you can about how NOT to pitch bloggers. Excellent resource: Susan Getgood.
  41. Try out shooting video interviews and video press releases and other bits of video to build more personable relationships. Don’t throw out text, but try adding video.
  42. Explore several viewpoints about social media marketing.
  43. Women are adding lots of value to social media. Get to know the ones making a difference. (And check out BlogHer as an event to explore).
  44. Experiment with different lengths and forms of video. Is entertaining and funny but brief better than longer but more informative? Don’t stop with one attempt. And try more than one hosting platform to test out features.
  45. Work with practitioners and media makers to see how they can use their skills to solve your problems. Don’t be afraid to set up pilot programs, instead of diving in head first.
  46. People power social media. Learn to believe in the value of people. Sounds hippie, but it’s the key.
  47. Spread good ideas far. Reblog them. Bookmark them. Vote them up at social sites. Be a good citizen.
  48. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be ready to apologize. Admit when you’ve made a mistake.
  49. Re-examine who in the organization might benefit from your social media efforts. Help equip them to learn from your project.
  50. Use the same tools you’re trying out externally for internal uses, if that makes sense, and learn about how this technology empowers your business collaboration, too.
  • 50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing
  • How Brands Will Use FriendFeed

What did Social Media ever do for us?


I just read a good post by Chris Brogan today called what social media does best. I’m never a big fan of lists, but this is a useful one, making clear some specific benefits of social media (just in case you were wondering - which I know a lot of people are).

My top three points (and the reasons why) are:

  1. Podcasts encourage different types of learning, in portable formats - I listen to a couple of podcasts as I cycle to work and a couple on the way home. That’s 30 minutes of learning every single day that I would not have got before the social media revolution. My favourite ones are Business Week Cover Stories, TED talks and Behind the Numbers.
  2. Social networks make for great ways to understand the mindset of the online consumer - given that my first business was a research company this ethnographic style of research is of particular interest to me.
  3. People feel heard - I think the best way for brands to engage their customers is through conversations. Online customer communities give your customers a platform to make a point and give you the right of reply and ability to say “thank you”.
  • What Social Media Does Best
  • It’s what’s on the inside that counts
  • Definition + Social Media = Need stats to join the conversation?
  • Why Are You Investigating Social Media