Travellers Tales

11 May

Rather a lot has happened since I last wrote here – I’ve laughed, cried, said a lot of goodbyes and some fantastic hellos. I’ve voluntarily headed into unemployment (hopefully short-lived) and travelled halfway across the world back to the country where I was born. All in all, a rather busy time!

Saying goodbye to Australia was hard, but saying hello to the UK has been brilliant, even in the short week and a half that I’ve been here. Spending time with my brother’s gorgeous family just reiterated to me why I made the decision to come back over here, and I have to say that while England is often cold, grey and rainy, it is also pretty grand as well. Walking through Kensington Gardens, with the collar of my coat pulled up around my ears, my breath fogging up my glasses and wind stinging my exposed nose, I stopped for a moment and just took in the long path ahead of me, framed by green trees, with squirrels running across the path and a palace in the background and just went – wow. Australia is still home, but England is a very close second.

So the next thing on the agenda is to find a job. I’m looking in the social media space (which I’m still very very passionate about), but ideally with a company and projects that have a socially responsible focus or creative focus. The key for me is that I’d like to be either helping people in some way, shape or form, or being a part of something that is creative and interesting. Best of all would be both of those together, but I do realise that is slightly idealistic! But we all can dream.

For now – I think I’m going to go take my computer, head outside, find a cool cafe and enjoy an unusually sunny day in London. Did I say that England was grey and cold? Well, today is the exception… and hopefully it will become the rule.

The importance of ethics

2 Mar

So a couple of days ago I passed my three month milestone with the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team. The time has just flown and I can’t say enough how much I’ve enjoyed it. The clients are exciting, the projects are groundbreaking and I’m learning so much all the while being able to apply many of the skills I learned previously.

One of the most interesting parts of my ‘new’ job has been the insight into the world of blogging and the issues AND opportunities associated with outreaching to bloggers. I had the chance within my first week in the team to reach out to several Sydney bloggers and invite them down to an event where I was able to meet and chat to them. It was hugely rewarding and also gave me a really insight into some basic points about what makes a successful influencer program – outreach with something unique and relevant to the topic of their blog or their interest area. This leads into the current project which I’m very excited to be working on…

Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence created a Blogger Code of Ethics (download and view it here) back in 2007, which we always adhere to when we outreach to bloggers. I’ve found it really rewarding working with a company that uses this ethical basis as the pivotal basis of their work, and the response from bloggers has always been overwhelmingly positive. This is why I jumped on the opportunity to take charge of a refresh of our code of ethics – updating it to take into account changes in the blogging space (and there have been many since 2007) and modify it to be more relevant to the Australian blogging community.

The changes will be made after consultation and feedback from Australian bloggers (who else?). You can read more about the initiative on my Ogilvy blog post here, and see some of the brilliant feedback we’ve already received in the comments. Other bloggers have chosen to email me. All have raised new points and interesting points about the public relations/media industry/blogger relationship.

The first Aussie Blogger Conference is on the 19th of March and we’re planning to be able to show the ‘Aussified’ and updated Code of Ethics then.

In other news, life runs by just as crazily. Heading back to uni this week has so far been extremely fun – it seems I started off last sememster with two of the most challenging subjects in accounting and economics, and having scraped through those I’m being rewarded with a subject that is everything I hoped for when I decided to head back to uni to do an MBA. Actually meeting the people in my class in weekly group projects and having lively discussions  – ahhh, bliss. But maybe talk to me again in a few weeks when the assignments start to hit…

Through the generations – the impact of social media

1 Dec

I always love how my parents try to interact with the world of social media that I am so interested in and now (as of Monday) work full time in. Every conversation with my dad or mum involves them telling me about the latest article that they’ve just read on social media – and emails come in with links all the time. Mum is also immensely proud that she introduced me to Twitter back in 2008.

It’s brilliant. While we (I’m led to believe that others in my team have had the same thing happen with their families) might get frustrated sometimes – yes mum, I do know about Tumbr, I don’t need to read that article – it’s their attempt to interact with and understand a media that is changing and moving so much faster than anything they had while they were growing up that is so fantastic. My dad was born in 1938 in the UK, at the start of World War Two. He remembers air raids and being sent to live in the country. He had to serve two years in the army (not during any major war) because there was still mandatory conscription. Yet he loves the idea of social media, he understands why I have a passion for it and can see the possibilities in communication that it is opening up. And sometimes they will bring to my attention things about the area that are really interesting and inspiring.

I went home for a few days last week, and when dad picked me up from the airport, one of the main things he talked about in the car on the way back down the coast was this lecture that he’d seen from the Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger (@arusbridger). A few days later I had the chance to watch the video on iView with dad, and I could see immediately what had grabbed his interest.

Alan was speaking at the 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture hosted by the ABC. As editor of the Guardian in the UK he has watched as the media landscape has changed with incredible speed over the last few years. From the point of view of a journalist, the insights he shared during the lecture were invaluable to anyone in the media industry, whether it be public relations, advertising, marketing or journalists themselves.

Facebook? It’s where teenagers post all the stuff which will make them unemployable later in life.
[But]…if that’s all we see when we look at [Facebook] then we’re missing the picture.

He finished up his lecture with fifteen reasons why (and how) Twitter is so important. These points are really relevant to social media in general:

  1. Highly effective form of distribution – spreading ideas, information and content efficiently, far and fast.
  2. Where things happen first – increasingly news happens first on Twitter because of the millions of human monitors that will pick up anything and everything – and sometimes that anything is very important. A few recent examples are the spread of the news of the A380 engine issue (where misinformation actually spread faster than the correct information could) and the Brazilian teenager who broadcast live on his Twitter account (@vozdacomunidade) a drug crackdown in his favela in Rio de Janeiro.
  3. Rivals Google as a search engine – harnessing the power of mass human intelligence to find information that is new, valuable, relevant or entertaining.
  4. Formidable aggregation tool – a personalised news feed from people you admire or respect. You can sit back and let others find the most relevant or interesting things. Very hard for a news organisation to offer the same level of personalisation.
  5. Great reporting tool – I often now see my friends from university who are working as journalists using Facebook or Twitter to source quotes or information for a story – as Alan Rusbridger said, it’s the “…so-called wisdom of crowds… the ‘they know more than we do’ theory.”
  6. A marketing tool – another platform to spread the word about your latest blog (it is probably even be how you arrived on this very post) – or in marketing speak, driving traffic and engagement.
  7. A series of common conversations and an instant reaction – not only can people read what you’ve written, they can respond, agreeing or disagreeing. “It’s not transmission, it’s communication. It’s the ability to share and discuss with scores, or hundreds, or thousands of people in real time. Twitter can be fragmented. It can be the opposite of fragmentation. It’s a parallel universe of common conversations.”
  8. It is diverse – allowing anyone and everyone to have a voice, rather than the traditional media template of one voice speaking to many.
  9. Changes the tone of writing – there is more humour, more engagement, more entertainment, more personality in Twitter because it involves listening as well as talking.
  10. A level playing field – while someone who is recognised by ‘name’ may initially attract a few followers, they communication has to be interesting. Twitter rewards people who can say things crisply and entertainingly, and ignores those that can’t.
  11. Promotes different news values – what journalists consider to be newsworthy and what the general public does can often be different – and when you have tens of thousands of people expressing those views, it is increasingly having a ripple effect back into the newsroom.
  12. Has long attention span – while not something usually associated with Twitter, the attention span of Twitterers might put the newspapers to shame if you look at the conversation happening around a keyword or issue.
  13. It creates communities – around issues, people, events, cultures, ideas, subjects – the list goes on. And whether these are short or long lived, these communities are there and recognisable.
  14. Authority is shifted – not removed per say, but changed. As well as responding to those that are ‘names’ in the Twittersphere (be it journalists, celebrities or politicians), people respond to others like them. A 32 year old mother is very likely to be drawn to other mothers who talk and have similar experiences to her.
  15. As an agent of change – “As this ability of people to combine around issues and to articulate them grows, so it will have increasing effect on people in authority. Companies are already learning to respect, even fear, the power of collaborative media. Increasingly, social media will challenge conventional politics and, for instance, the laws relating to expression and speech.”

It’s that last point that I think brilliantly summarises up the rest for me. Collaborative or open media is changing the way that everyone, including businesses, politics and journalism, operates. It’s not just Twitter. That could be dead in a years time – who knows. But it’s the implications of these new mediums on everyone one of our lives that is so revolutionary. And scary. And exciting. And daunting. And inspiring.

I can see why my dad, who embodies everything that you’d imagine of the traditionalist generation, is convinced that social media is changing the world. I’ll say it again – it’s brilliant.

The full transcript of the lecture can be found here, it can be podcasted or the video downloaded from the Big Ideas website.

Making the world a smaller place

21 Oct

So it’s something that has been discussed over and over – how the internet breaks down international barriers and allows for instant communication between anyone, where ever they happen to be in the world. But something tiny happened the other day that really brought home for me how connecting the internet really can be.

A few months ago a friend of our family’s in Mullumbimby stumbled across a photo that a random Flickr user had taken while visiting Mullumbimby, of my dad cruising past on his motorised bicycle, complete with trailer and racing helmet from his car racing days. It really is a classic shot, and it was passed around with much laughter to our widespread friends and family (from the UK to South Africa).

Then the other day I remembered and tweeted about it. I didn’t tag anyone and I hadn’t searched for the Flickr user anywhere else on the internet. Yesterday, the previously anonymous tourist somehow saw my tweet and responded.

When he took the photo, it was just one of the weird and wonderful people that live in Mullumbimby. Now he knows that the photo was of my father, and he can read more about my family through this blog and my general interactions on the social web. All through a photo that would never normally have been seen by us – suddenly everyone is connected.

So remember – you never know if the random holiday photo you take of a ‘native’ resident might actually one day be seen by them.

Just a thought.

Oversharing in social media

6 Sep

A shaky line in the sand

I was thinking over the weekend about oversharing in social media.

I’ve always personally said I use Twitter primarily for sharing professional or interesting articles, blogs, pictures and events that I’ve found that might be relevant to other people interested in social media and the media industry. I try and connect with other people in my industry or in similar industries that have interests that match mine.

But my ‘purist’ view of how I use this medium was broken a few weeks ago, when I received a direct message from a person I had chated with a few times which ended with “How are your various health woes?” While the person had written that in honest concern (I think), I knew as soon as I saw it that I had started to become guilty of the affliction that seems to continuously overtake people who interact in social media. That of oversharing.

Throughout my university degree, the main social network was definitely Facebook. Almost all of my social group spent hours and hours every day interacting (and oversharing) on Facebook, posting status updates about exactly how we were feeling or what we were doing at that moment, a lot of the time with the underlying knowledge that that update might be seen by a certain somebody. Who can deny that they haven’t at some point updated their status with “… is feeling so sad right now” without the express intention of it being seen by that somebody you were feeling sad about. In part it relates back to the research that was presented at the last SMCSYD, which found that generation Y are extremely image conscious and consistently update to a set group of their social peers (using social media) in order to maintain that image. Some of the research can be found here, and Tiphereth’s presentation from the evening is up on her blog here.

Since university, I’ve dropped off the Facebook radar, and rarely update my status. In its place came Twitter, which ostentatiously I was using for ‘professional’ updates. And for over a year I was mainly using it for sharing professional/industry related links, with a few personal comments thrown in to convey (I hope) a little of my personality.

But as my workload has increased, due in part to changes at work and the additional (slightly crazy) decision to start MBA studies, I’ve found that the amount of time I’ve had to devote to the professional areas of the medium has dropped, and instead all my updates are personal. It does actually take free time to be on Twitter, to keep even slightly on top of the myriad of updates and links shared, and to interact with those shared links. And time is what I’m running short of.

Mostly this is a time management issue, and one that I’m sure I’ll get better with as I become more experienced. But it does bring up some interesting questions… if all I can realistically update Twitter with at the moment is personal updates on how stressed or sick I am, do I risk alienating my followers, of whom the majority I have to assume only follow me because they are interested in the links I share? I’m interested in how other people balance out this issue between personal/professional, as I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere else.

But the next question would be, does it matter? Through Twitter and social media I’ve met some lovely people, and also had some fantastic opportunities come my way – so considering that, Twitter also is a personal medium.

I’m not sure what I was trying to say with this blog post, other than that I’m finding it hard to not overshare and tip towards too much personal information at the moment (it has become my new Facebook), and I wonder what other people think about this or how they deal with it personally.

And on a completely personal note which no one needs to read:

As I’ve already missed one class after failing to leave on time from work on my first day ‘officially’ in my new role, I’m dropping of the radar for the next two weeks until after my mid-semester exams. If I have even a hope in hell of passing, I’m going to need to become a hermit for the next two weeks. My 2nd exam (Accounting) is on the 24th of September, which also happens to be my birthday, so I’ll be having a ‘welcome back social life’ and birthday celebration that night, and will be back on Twitter/blogs/online in general shortly after.

The challenge of change

30 Aug

Something I’ve come to realise over the last 2 years is that being passionate about social media also means being passionate about change… because in social media things change, and fast. Things move… fast. Getting your head around the speed at which everything happens in social media is one of the biggest challenges of the medium, and one of the main reasons so much of the media industry has struggled with adapting to and fully utilising the opportunities that exist within social media.

Last week’s Vibewire fastBREAK event centred around change. My attendance was a last minute decision, but it was a fantastic hour. The speakers came from a range of different creative industries, including print, photography, theatre, architecture and social media. But the surprise was the personal level of the stories that many of them chose to tell.

Alex Vaughan spoke of her reaction to hearing recently that her grandmother only had weeks to live, and how challenging it was to accept that change. She asked permission from her family to document those last few special weeks and a photo of her grandfather gently stroking the head of his partner of 65 years must have brought a lump to the throat of every person there. Truly moving.

Another inspiring moment was when David Hood talked about his gradual realisation and acceptance of who he was. He said that he had only decided at the last minute to tell this very personal story, but it was moving example of how embracing hard changes can lead to empowerment. Once he accepted and started to live the part of himself that had always been hidden, he felt he could help others and has since campaigned for a variety of environmental and human rights issues.

Personally, it was a time appropriate topic. I am about to face a huge change and challenge in my career. After 4 years with inqbase, the amazing Heidi is leaving (announced to clients today). She has taught me so much over the last year and is very much responsible for where I am now – at a point where I will hopefully be able to step to a certain degree into her shoes. Very big ones to fill it must be said!

The next few weeks and months are going to immensely challenging, but I also hope rewarding. inqbase has some fantastic clients and I’m looking forward to working further with them. But if anyone has any tips for organisation, please do tell! I’m going to need to be SUPER organised. At the moment I am a compulsive list maker… but I have a feeling that even that will need to be streamlined now!

But back to the subject of change. If anything, the stories and experiences shared on Friday morning only made me realise more how hard change can be sometimes, and how important it is to accept and move with it. I think we can sometimes get too comfortable in our lives, too stuck in one place and scared if something looks like it might move. The philosophy that my parents taught me and that I try to remember as much as possible is that you never know what is around the corner, what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or in 30 years. But that doesn’t mean you should be scared. Exactly the opposite really. It should be the most exciting thing in the world.

Why I love Tony Bianco…

28 Jul

…and it’s not just because of the pretty shoes.

Tony Bianco Shoes - from their Facebook page 'All Access Pass' album

I tweeted yesterday that I liked the Tony Bianco Facebook page. While working on Facebook I had seen the Tony Bianco page come up because a friend of mine liked it, so I thought I’d stop by and check it out later. Now I’ve seen some great Facebook pages, and I read/follow a lot of people in the industry that do some fantastic work with Facebook, but this page immediately impressed me. Partly because I’m a woman (and for full disclosure, I already own a couple of pairs of Bianco shoes). But there were other elements that I just thought took all the best practice elements of social media and fully utilised them.

Encouraging user content & feedback

This should go without saying for all consumer brand pages. If your brand has something that can be bought, consumed, used, visited… the list goes on… then the page for the brand should encourage users to interact and post content. It has been said over and over again that one of the main strengths in social media lies in the fact that people trust people like them – so the brand becomes validated if people are passionate enough about it to post photographs, stories of experiences etc. I liked how on the Tony Bianco page, even though the shoes bought weren’t even from a authorised store but eBay, the page moderator commented and asked them to post photos – it made it sound like Tony Bianco was just as excited about the shoes as the customer!

Another portal for customer service

Responses to queries about where to find a particular shoe don’t go unanswered – the page moderator finds out for you where the shoe can be found, and gives numbers to ring! I love this – one of the attractions of social media is that it offers an opportunity to provide customer service in the mediums that are already in everyday use by the customer. In fact, I see a lot of companies using the customer service function as the main launching step for their social media interaction. While social media can offer a lot more for brands and there should be a comprehensive strategy to ensure all the potential is utilised, customer service is still a function that shouldn’t be ignored. And to be honest, I’ll almost certainly use that function on the Tony Bianco page at some point to find out where I can get the heels I just fell in love with in my size.

Extra ‘exclusive’ bits & pieces

It gave me a thrill to look through the behind the scenes photos from their new range. Social media offers the chance for brands and companies to really show their customer that they appreciate them, and give them an inside first look.

Reply reply reply

Make those customers feel valued. Make them feel like their comments matter. Too many times have I seen a poorly managed Facebook page where the company/brand thinks that they can let people chat away among themselves – or worst of all, ignore direct calls for assisstance. Running through the last few weeks of posts on the Tony Bianco page, I haven’t yet seen one comment that didn’t have a reply from the moderator. And what are those people going to do now they know they’ll always get a response? Post more, interact more. Perfect.

Fix up time - from Tony Bianco's Facebook page 'All Access Pass' album

So I lied when I said this wasn’t just about pretty shoes. It is all about pretty shoes. But I’m the exact target market for that page, and that I think is the point.

All the things they’ve done are right on the mark for me and all other women like me. It’s exactly what I want from a brand that I like on Facebook. And in that, they’ve crossed the line, gotten me to interact, and are now going to be part of my everyday experience when I log into Facebook. Whereas before I would likely see their name once a week in a shoe store I passed, I’m now going to see it daily. And I’ll be that much more likely to buy (another) pair of Tony Bianco shoes because of it. They’re just so pretty!

The contentious issue of privacy in an age of sharing

1 Jul

I was thinking about privacy last night. Whatever form it takes, it always seems to polarize – from Facebook with their unclear privacy policy, to the protection of the names of children who are known to Community Services (bear with me, this isn’t a totally out of the blue topic).

My flatmate (who is a child protection case worker) was telling me last night how she’d love to write a blog or something similar about her experiences – but the legal issues associated with doing so make that impossible. We then got on to the the topic of how Community Services has a bad name in the media, because the only time they get mentioned is when a child dies. There is no focus on the thousands of children they have helped, or the often extremely hard conditions they work with. As my flatmate said, they need a reality show to follow them and show the public how hard the job actually is (and I don’t think anyone could deny that they’d find it facinating) – but because the children and parent’s names have to be protected this would be impossible. Just an interesting and different view on privacy.

Another thing that made me thing about privacy recently was Facebook. And no, I’m not talking about the confusing privacy settings – I’m talking about what people use it for. And who they want on there.

For me Facebook is a place for friends I’ve actually met, and that I want to keep in contact with or share things with. It’s not a place where I’ll network or add people who have similar interests to me. I have the tightest privacy settings that I can and I’m not even searchable. On the other hand I do have a unique name, so while my profile won’t come up you can get a lot of other information – but again, I keep a close eye on what that information is.

But now, the line is becoming slightly blurred. After months of encouragement, I’m finally managing Facebook pages for four different organisations – two through my work, and two as volunteer work for an Aboriginal rights not profit. Shameless plug for a good cause – the organisation is Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) and their campaigns on Facebook are A Better Way and Respect. Probably the most well-known of their campaigns though is called Sea of Hands – but this was set up on Facebook before it had pages, so it is a group with almost 2,500 fans.

Last week I got a slew of friend requests from people I didn’t know. It confused me for a few days – I’ve tested with unfriending a friend and checked that I am totally unfindable on Facebook. Then I realised that the reason for the requests was because I’m starting to try and move those 2,500 fans over to a Facebook page – but when you post on a group, you post as yourself.

So now I’ve locked down even tighter. You can only add me as a friend if we have a friend in common. I’m also going to start creating levels of privacy for groups of friends – I don’t want the people I add through work to be able to see just how much fun I had at University.

I wonder if I’m unique in my approach to Facebook and how I use it. Or if I’m silly to even try and make Facebook my only private network. The whole push to Facebook pages is based around the idea that people want to be able to interact with brands and organisations online. Is my super tight privacy policy restricting this? Do other people in my industry have the same approach to their Facebook privacy?

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