Oct 11

Social Media – Demonstrate your skillz

Uploaded on October 2, 2006 by J. Star

Uploaded on October 2, 2006 by J. Star

Demonstrate: to make evident or establish by arguments or reasoning; to describe, explain, or illustrate by examples, specimens, experiments

Now is the time to join the conversation. Relate to your audience, demonstrate that you understand their world and needs. Demonstrate that you are an authentic person not just a marketing drone. This is where a little bit of human comment alongside the professional is more acceptable than in traditional marketing / communications strategies.

How much will depend on you, your product/service/company and your audience. Try a bit out, see what the response is, if you haven’t quite understood the social norms, apologise and tighten up a bit.

It may be that your online shopping site is able to demonstrate that you understand my need by recommending other things I’d like. At the moment this is still more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’. And frankly my experience of Facebook’s targeted ads is pretty poor (but then perhaps I’m not sharing enough to allow them to understand my every whim).

Freeagent established an early rapport with me through a review of their products on a website (can’t remember which but it was around their launch date), they clearly understood the needs of small businesses in the UK and particularly recognised the need for LLP specific accounting support (we’re incorporated as an LLP). They continue to demonstrate that they understand my needs by staying out of my face and cranking out the updates.

By contrast Greenlight Search Engine Marketing blew it completely at this point. They’d begun well, establishing rapport with a polite email referencing this site and a specific post, and followed up with a couple of phone calls which was a nice touch. I should have realised that they didn’t understand me from the email and phone calls but decided to proceed anyway because of the great job that Vodafone had done with their ‘Live Guy‘ promotion and this was also for Vodafone.

Greenlight asked me to put some links to Vodafone’s store on my post, I thought this was kind of cool (it’s always nice when someone reads, or at least notices your stuff) and wanted to add a small post-script about Greenlight, SEO in web2.0 etc and then the links. Nope, they just wanted the links and to pay me £40. Against my better judgement, and after lots of thinking, I stuck the links on (with rel=”nofollow” tags) and emailed my invoice. A few weeks later, without settling their invoice, I got another email, from someone else in Greenlight, ‘updating’ the links (which I did in good faith). Several months later, still without settling their invoice, I’ve not heard anything further and have taken the links off.

Which brings me to an important aspect of social media (which applies to any business but is amplified with online). Do a great job and your happy customer might tell one or two people what a great job you did, upset them and you’ll have United Breaks Guitars (YouTube video)!

Assuming you’ve demonstrated that you understand your client/customer/community needs, it’s time to make a recommendation on what to do next.

Jan 21

BETTr learning

Learn to Draw a Horse - Vancouver 1980 - Uploaded on December 1, 2006 by Mikey G Ottawa

Learn to Draw a Horse - Vancouver 1980 - Uploaded on December 1, 2006 by Mikey G Ottawa

What do you get when you fill Olympia Hall, Earls Court with companies trying to sell technology to teachers? The BETT Show is possibly the largest exhibition of it’s sort in the world and certainly Europe.

What don’t you get? You probably don’t get much learning as a delegate.

I attended earlier shows in 2006/07 as part of Futurelab but as with all exhibitions the cost-benefit is sometimes hard to justify. Certainly now, as an independent consultant and working with start-ups, the exhibition is of minimal value. Leaving aside the cost of an actual stand, there’s travel and accommodation and most of a week out of the office. From memory Olympia has poor phone coverage inside (plus concentration breaking levels of noise) and no free WiFi.

I say from memory because I didn’t go to BETT. I did go to BETTr, one of a growing number of unconferences that are springing up alongside their glitzier cousins. The benefits are multiple, being a smaller gathering you actually get to talk to people.

BETTr was mostly developers and smaller companies that supply innovative technologies to schools and universities. I advise growing companies on how best to plan for the future and have a couple of interests in the education sector so that was a perfect match. There was only one teacher, but that in itself was a topic of discussion in a break out session.

I really like the unconference model. In particular we had a detailed discussion on how to engage teachers in the development process far earlier than is currently the case. People shared experiences, ideas, thoughts, barriers, solutions. Challenges included their limited time, curriculum constraints and the usual challenges of getting beyond the early adopters to mainstream. The most popular solution was to take teachers to the pub!

The demands of modern teaching are that for most teachers its more than a 5-day a week 9-5 job, but a way of life. INSET days were commented upon (not just at BETTr but also the twitter backchannel where I was posting along with others in the room and from all over the educational globe).

There wasn’t an action plan or formal report, but it sparked off lots of new ideas, rekindled some old ones, and put a few to rest. It also brought together folks I’ve been reading online so we could meet up, though the Friday night TeachMeetBETT09 was the main event for that.

A big thanks to Jukesie for organising and to all the supporters for making it happen.

Update: Looks like I’m not the only one recognising the difficulty of engaging teachers. Today’s Guardian is reporting on BSF still not getting sufficient engagement despite a new drive from the Government.

May 16

Celebrating failure

Disclosure: As well as Managing Partner of jbsh LLP (the business behind this blog) I also work part time for the University of the West of England on the Knowledge West project managing their QuickMark® service.]

Pedestrian stop lights on Gibralter runwayToday was an important day for jbsh, I gave our first unsuccessful pitch. Obviously in writing research grant applications and funding proposals, I’ve had unsuccessful submissions and I’ve talked a couple of clients out of engaging me in favour of more appropriate (and cheaper or free) options.

What was different today was that I really felt that this was a great business that I could add value to.

With most funding applications you don’t get great feedback on why you’re unsuccessful. When the negative email came through there was an invitation to explore why we weren’t proceeding with the plan as discussed.

The discussion brought an important point home, you need to constantly evaluate every message across every medium to make sure it’s effective and conveying what you think it is. I’ve been working on building the QuickMark service, taking on new Researchers and more clients. I’m actively seeking ways to grow and build the service as a sustainable offering outside the funding that has provided stability so far. In doing this I’ve significantly refined the proposition, carefully positioning the service between the core activities that the Universities offer and those that are provided by commercial market research organisations.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t spent quite so much time on this blog evaluating what message I wanted it to convey. Originally it was a place to share thoughts, talk about events I’d attended and give jbsh LLP a presence on the web. This has all be augmented by LinkedIn, Facebook, MyBlogLog, Twitter, etc. Since that launch (almost exactly a year ago) the message that this blog is being used to convey has changed. Sam is using it to promote, explain and disseminate her research, and I was using it to build confidence with potential clients to trust their businesses to my advice and guidance. This last bit hasn’t worked, because I haven’t developed the blog, I’ve just used it to a different purpose (one it wasn’t designed for).

The other messages are still important, so we won’t undergo a complete redesign, but there will be some changes. Most critically I’ll be putting more references to existing jbsh clients and stories from businesses I’ve helped in the past.

It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the most adaptable and appropriate to the environment.

[Note on the photo: I grew up in Gibraltar and have fond memories of walking across the runway to catch planes to ‘exotic’ locations like Southend where my Grandad lived. My first thought was say something about stopping and re-evaluating, hence the flickr search for stop signs. Searches for failure weren’t as nice so I’m sticking with the image.]