Monday, February 23, 2009

Why Even Bother Blogging?

Matt Granfield over at Zakazuhka Zoo wrote the other day that "Daniel Oyston, my favourite Canberra-based writer since the late (great) Matt Price, wrote a lovely little piece yesterday about the rules of social media engagement - the ones that have been made up by social media commentators along the way. He questioned whether we should try and follow them, or just give up and let the marketers do what they want." ... and that "He knew the answer of course"

awww shucks Matt, thanks for the nice comments. Matt's right though. I did know the answer but I thought it was an important enough topic, considering some recent marketing debacles, to start a conversation on it. And that's the thing ... I wanted to start a conversation. Not just tell people what I think they should know. That's because I don't think I know everything and I am keen to get your views and opinions.

But to do that I believed that I needed to write a post that didn't cover everything so that people felt they could add to the conversation. I had to hold back a little.

I took this approach because there are a few blogs that I read which leave me feeling like I have been reading a news bulletin (Mumbrella the nice exception of course). Too many blogs are lecturing me and I get to the end of the blog and think "wow, they have written so much and covered so many points that I don't have anything to contribute". I then move onto the next blog. It seems that some writers need to take the opportunity to impart onto me everything they know.

Lee Hopkins wrote in a comment at a recent Laurel Papworth post that "... in the same way that television news presenters are not allowed to express an opinion but just read the teleprompt, so as social media pundits our duty (if one can be so high-browed as to call it that) is to report what is happening in our space."

If that is true then blogging will become about as social as watching news on television (granted that it will be more targeted and more timely). Just because people have the ability to leave a comment doesn't make it social. People can write a letter to the station but no one considers that social.

I was pretty upfront with Lee and told him that line of thinking is ridiculous.Surely Mumbrella has that covered? Our job in the social media space is to start conversations. If your friends just spoke to(at) you about what was happening and provided no opportunities to have a proper conversation then you would stop hanging out with them.

Lee responded "But Daniel, surely if a “sermon” is offered from the pulpit of a blog that is an invitation to converse? Just like we are doing here?". I don't think it is. In fact the defintion of a sermon includes "a long, tedious speech". Nothing about a conversation. In the true sense of a sermon, inside a church, there is never a conversation with the community that follows it.

To make matters worse, Julian Cole notes in the comments on his current post that "Bloggers love talking about the same topic though, that is how they all get their linklove on."

Combine that with the sermon/lecture approach and you have a problem. If bloggers are all talking "at" me about the same thing, and those things are news, then I really don't see the point of subscribing. This is definitely a trend. Keep and eye out for it next time you log on to your RSS reader and keep a little tally of the number of blog posts that talk at you rather than seriously crafting something that starts a conversation. Also, keep a tally of the number of posts that talk about the same thing. Double points if you catch any that do both.

Read any guide on how to write a blog post and any worth their salt will advise you to finish the post with a question or something else that will invite comments. Darren Rouse at Problogger notes in a post last year that with regards to conversation "often the real action happens once your post is published and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers."

Don't get me wrong, I have fallen into the sermon/lecture trap once or twice in my short blogging career. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but looking back at my posts that received very few comments it is obvious that I was talking at you rather than starting a conversation.

Are the so called rules of blogging changing because bloggers are too lazy to put some real though into writing a post that adds value and instead would rather provide news on something we have read on 4 other blogs or just lecture us on what they think we should know? How many times have you fallen into the trap in your eagerness to show everyone who reads your blog just how much you know?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Must We Obey Social Media Rules?

Over the last few weeks we have seen some campaigns and actions in the social media space that have pushed the boundaries. You would have to be living under a rock to have missed the whole Witchery and QLD Tourism sagas. Both of these pushed (or broke the boundaries) in terms of what some of us argue are the rules of social media.

Additionally, Julian Cole and Laurel Papworth have both provided some other examples of individuals (not companies) that have pushed the boundaries of social media.

Julian recently wrote about how "Cash for comment is alright in Social Media" and that there is currently a trend amongst Youtube Vloggers (US) that transparency is not a rule of social media. Laurel recently wrote about "Twitter: Bots gone bad" and interruptive ads on Twitter.

Peter Wagstaff, Zac Martin and I also briefly touched on this subject in episode 84 of the Marketing Today Podcast where I wondered whether in the future, brands will set up Twitter profiles and quickly harvest loads of followers with the aim of spamming them. So what if people block them? They can easily set up loads more profiles and repeat the process (especially when people auto-follow).

The argument of "brand reputation" may stand up in regards to large and reputable companies but these are not necessarily the ones who spam anyway. The risk of brand damage certainly doesn't stop us getting spam in our inboxes.

In Lauren's case, she received an apology. But what I am starting to see is a lot more examples of companies breaking the so-called rules and I am not so sure the consequences are all that much of a deterramt. For example, it can go one of three ways.

1. A company breaks the so-called rules and then pleads ignorance but still benefits (QLD Tourism),
2. A company breaks the so-called rules and benefits (Withchery, Vloggers), or
3. A company breaks the so-called rules, gets caught, and just says "sorry" and everyone gets on with it but they still benefit (@wibbler).

I posed the question on Julian's blog that "For a while some of us have been noting that the rules of social media are being defined by those that practice it (by that I mean active bloggers, twitter users etc) in the hope of keeping the corporate/brands from “polluting it” … but maybe the cracks are starting to appear?"

You will note that each of the 3 scenarios still results in a benefit being received by the company/person breaking the so-called rules. So my question is - why would they bother taking much notice of the so-called rules? Can we build stronger defences or should we resign ourselves to these new channels being polluted just like TV, Radio and Newspaper?

Monday, February 9, 2009

How Can Social Media Help Attract Volunteers?

Fire crews prepare themselves in Stanley before heading into bushland to
fight fires near Beechworth. Picture: Ben Swinnerton on

This post is a little long but if you really want to help change the world and use your marketing and social networking skills then read on.

While the post is long, the conversation is definitely one that you can contribute to and where you might just help save someone’s life next time such a tragedy occurs (bush fire or other).

At time of writing, at least 750 homes have been destroyed across Victoria and 3733 people have registered with the Red Cross after evacuating their properties. The number left homeless is expected to be far higher, the Red Cross has said.

The social media space is hot on the situation. reports that “on Facebook a number of groups have been set up to support the victims’ families, the Country Fire Authority (CFA), and communities under threat from blazes burning across the state. The most popular Facebook group is one titled “Applaud the CFA heroes & empathise with the victims of the 09 Vic bushfires” and has 4861 members as of 4.38am (AEDT)”

"Just give a thought to the CFA and a Buck or 2 if you can. Even a Lamington. Cause those people are working in Hell," said MySpace user Gonzo.

It is fantastic, that as usual, Australians (many of whom must be doing it tough in the economic climate) have been so generous with donations of money and goods. This support is essential to help families rebuild their lives.

Only a few weeks ago a colleague of mine, who is a CFA volunteer, told me that their local brigade is in membership deficit. He asked me if I thought social media could help their local brigade attract more members, particularly young adults. I told him that I was sure it could but not sure exactly how but that I would give it some thought.

So how can social media help? Well we all know that prevention is better than cure. The reality is that the current donations and support treat the symptoms. Will the fact that social media is being used result in more donations? Probably not. Hope I am wrong.

We also know that many organisations that carry out important community work are lacking in volunteers. I am going out on a limb here but would hazard a guess that many of those existing volunteers, such as those in the CFA, are drawn from non-marketing backgrounds and may not know what else to do to attract young volunteers other than conducting letter box drops and open days.

If that is too much of an assumption, and you know otherwise, please contribute to this conversation and let us know what others have done to attract volunteers, particularly young adults.

I have a few ideas myself but I don’t want to lead the conversation any more than this post. If you have an idea, please comment, don’t be scared that it might not be a “perfect” idea because it may just get others thinking about how to refine it. Also, don’t limit your thinking to the CFA and the current situation. Offer ideas that any volunteer organisation might be able to use.

So, the question I want to ask you is “How can volunteer organisations use social media to attract volunteers, particularly young adults?”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hey Fitzy! Not all Gamblers are Losers

I am a regular reader of The Fitz Files by Peter FitzSimons in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald. It is a cracker read and always filled with interesting stories and round-ups.

However last Saturday I was left confused, and slightly pissed off, by a rant that he opened with entitled "Punter born every minute". You can read it here. I really encourage you to take a minute to read it as it provides important context to what I am about to write and it isn't very long.

Fitzy has so missed the mark by generalising about who sport gamblers are. For us marketers, if you generalise about a market in the same way then you should be embarrassed.

He rants that if we disagree with his assertion that anybody who gambles is a "loser" then we should "sit down and shut up". Show some manners Fitzy, you are being ignorant.

Let's examine this a little more. Before that, some disclosure. I like a punt. Sometimes it is footy, sometimes it is horses and sometimes I go crazy wild and put it on a multi-bet (woo hoo watch out!). I follow two golden rules. 1 - Never bet more than I can afford to lose and 2) I never gamble to make up for my losses.

Sure there are problem gamblers in Australia but to imply that the majority of gamblers are throwing away their mortgage, grocery or rent money is just ignorant. To flat out tell me that I don't care to acknowledge that I am pissing my money up against the wall is just dumb. I know a lot of people who punt like I do and all quite happily service their mortgages and feed themselves and their families. Fine upstanding members of the community and not a "loser" as Fitzy so eloquently portrays.

Consider this. Have you ever been to the movies? We'll you just pissed your money up against the wall! "No I didn't, I paid to be entertained by a movie" I hear you say. Aaah, now we are getting somewhere.

You see, part of the problem lies in the product and the tribalism that footy promotes. The fact is that not very many people at all, outside of their own supporters, really cares about the product of a Sunday afternoon game on TV between, for example, the Raiders and Bulldogs. But guess what? Throw $10 on the game and suddenly you are riding every tackle, bust and kick! It actually makes what was a very boring product suddenly 1000 times more exciting. And you might just win a few bucks. In contrast, have you ever won money by being entertained at the movies?

Or have you ever been to a game? Sure the atmosphere might be better but are you pissing your money up against the wall because you could have watched it for free at home or through the Fox subscription that you have already paid for? Not at all, you go because the excitement of a game is better than watching it at home. Being their makes the offering better. That's what having a punt on the footy is like - it enhances the offering.

I mean let's face it, crowd figures at League games are embarrassing and one of the major reasons is the price of tickets - particularly to take a family and maybe feed them while they are there (don't even think about on of those $8 bourbon and cokes!). While I agree with Fitzy that in the long run nearly every gambler will lose money, he loses sight of the fact that many people gamble not just because of the chance to win a few bucks but because it increases the value of the product - it makes it more interesting for the consumer.

Maybe the focus should be put on the administrators to deliver a product that the public sees greater value in and which will bring back crowd figures to League games. Maybe then they will get more of the supporters money through gate receipts than having to chase their money through gambling operations.

PS - I still love The Fitz Files and will read it as soon as I finish Carlos' sports crossword.