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That Enterprise Article

Here’s an article I wrote which has just been published in the March issue of Enterprise Magazine. After the limitless joys of the web it’s quite hard to whittle down your thoughts to a mere 550 words, so excuse the brevity. But hopefully it’s a nice read! 🙂

Unless you’ve decided that you won’t engage with the internet in any way, then it’s almost certain that you have at least one profile online somewhere. Whether it’s a personal profile like Myspace, or a more business oriented one like LinkedIn, you are using social media to project an image of yourself that, to one extent or another, will be viewable by any person on the planet with an internet connection and, here’s the kicker, your great-great-grandchildren. Having an online identity is inevitable, and it will be available for anyone to view forever. How we engage with the social internet is something not to be taken lightly.

Firstly we must be aware of search results. What’s going to come up when our name is entered into Google? What about the information that is always associated with our name – our biographies. Do they portray us as hyper-efficient, revenue-generating machines or a laid-back networker? What are the keywords that will attract attention, and do those keywords trigger the relevant searches on Google? What words do you want to be associated with on search engines?

Tom Critchlow, Head of Search Marketing with web-experts Distilled, had some great tips for using social media to improve your online identity. “Make sure you choose an online ‘handle’ which is both easy to remember, unique and short. Be consistent – make sure that you keep the same username across all the social media sites. Make sure you are contactable – If someone wants to get in touch with you make it easy for them. Never underestimate the power of email. Last but not least, engage! When someone emails you, email them back, when someone twitters you, twitter them back”.

With his final point, Tom hits on a crucial fact about social media and online branding – You can’t just expect to just constantly promote yourself and your products. There’s a certain amount of give and take. For every time you advertise your blog to your Twitter network, be prepared to make 20 other “tweets” that are relevant links to other people’s works.

And this leads us neatly onto the social network of the moment. You’ve no doubt heard of Twitter by now and if you’ve read this far then, yes, you should be using it. For me, it’s the network where the boundaries between social and professional are most blurred. But it’s also the most powerful networking device I’ve ever come across. The micro-blogging format lends itself to sharing links to interesting articles and reports, using keywords to attract more followers and thus generating fantastic contacts with people you would never normally have found. However, it also lends itself to pithy asides, comments on the latest TV shows and occasionally a silly photo or a drunken joke. Keeping your discipline, and maintaining a professional (if informal) image is important.

I’ll leave the final words to Carl Morris of social media strategists Native. “The term ‘personal brand’ is not to everyone’s taste, but if you do anything on the web you need to understand it. Your prospective client, employer or advocate will take seconds to figure out who you are. Attention is scarce! So you need to represent yourself in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them”.

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Twitter – What’s the point?

I admit it. I’m a twitterfreak. In the space of a few months it has become the single most useful business tool I’ve ever used on the web, and has also been great at improving my social circle.

Its growth has been astonishing. Just look at this graph that shows it’s percentage reach over the last 18 months:


Interestingly though, it’s barely made the faintest dent in Facebook’s dominance. And yes, Twitter does feature on the following graph. You just have to look *very* closely…


I can only assume that the majority of Twitter’s users access it through clients such as Tweetdeck and Twhirl, which don’t access the site directly, and therefore wouldn’t contribute to those graphs.

And yet it’s really difficult to explain to non-converts why they should be part of the movement. The following video gives an overview of the social aspect of Twitter. If I’m honest, I don’t see much point in using Twitter if you don’t have any particularly strong passions, or are “in business”. I may be wrong, but I’m not entirely sure how Twitter would be of much benefit on a social level, above and beyond what Facebook and forums currently provide…

However, if you are self-employed, a freelancer, a passionate indulger, or just want to get more involved in your own industry, then you’d be amazed at how Twitter will change your online behaviour. As @biggreensheep says in this Guardian article about Twitter: “If Dave be “the home of witty banter” then Twitter has got to be the home of intelligent social networking. While other social networks rely heavily on gimmicks and apps, the Twitter platform holds community and content in high regard.

Another interesting take comes from @bbmorph: “One (of several) ways I use Twitter is to communicate with people who might otherwise ignore me. As a community of ‘early adopters’, people who have joined Twitter for business reasons want to be seen to be in touch with the technology and the community. This makes it easier to talk to people further up the (imagined or otherwise) rungs of business hierarchy than one would otherwise be able to do.”

But the most succinct viewpoint comes from @digitalmaverick: “I use Twitter because it’s broadened the range of people I can interact with instantly and I get authoritative responses.”

But, if you haven’t already, there’s really only one way to truly grasp the point and scope of Twitter. And that’s to sign up and get involved. But before you do, the most important thing it’s vital to understand is that there are three methods of using Twitter for marketing, PR, and self-promotion.

1 – HowToUseTwitterForMarketingAndPR.com
2 – Just constantly write about yourself and don’t “follow” anyone else.
3 – Somewhere in between. Twitter is a dialogue. A conversation. It’s not about “broadcasting”. It’s about call and response, engagement, and genuine interest in a community. Like any self-regulating community, if you see it as an opportunity to self-promote and nothing else, you’ll very quickly find that no-one is listening.

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Agility

Here’s an article I wrote that’s just been published in Enterprise Magazine. Thanks to Rob and Dan for their insight. You can download the whole issue here, which includes a rather dashing photo of me! 🙂 And while you’re at it, keep up to date with tiptop news via their Twitter account.

It’s 5am and I’m wide awake. My mind is clearly more eager than my body to start the first working day of 2009. I’m thinking back over the last year and how I can improve over the next 12 months.

2008 was an odd year for me. I achieved a lot, bringing more people together through my networking events, and worked on some brilliant projects with some amazing people. Yet with my key “revenue generators” I often felt hamstrung by a lack of resources, both in terms of talent and finance. Needing to find people to carry out work for me, and sourcing the capital to pay for it all meant that things often seemed to move incredibly slowly. A lot of this stems from the fact that much of the work I do has the internet at the very heart of it, but I’m neither a web developer or designer. It would be technically impossible for me to build these ideas on my own.

I spoke to Dan Zambonini, technical director of internet development agency, Box UK. He thinks that being a solo entrepreneur isn’t the issue it once was. “Luckily, with the web now as it is, there are plenty of online websites that can match up idea people with doing people. Technical people love to do interesting things, so if you know the right people, you’ll often find someone who’s willing to help you out for the sheer pleasure of it.”

Dan believes that there’s a growing demand for smaller, smarter online services that do one thing well, rather than trying to do everything. The idea being to get them up online as soon as they work and improve them as they go along, using your first customers as your testers too.

“Especially now with online services….it’s easier than ever to realise sophisticated ideas with less effort. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr; all started off much simpler, and have added features as they’ve been demanded”.

For some, being agile isn’t a desirable quality but an absolute prerequisite. “Digital PR has to be lightening quick because that’s the way the web works – the window of opportunity in online media is so much smaller”, says Rob Mosley from boutique digital advertising and PR agency Nonsense. I asked him for a good tip on getting projects up and running quicker. “I think debate is the biggest enemy to getting stuff done quick. If you get into a habit of making decisions fast, so you can get on with making things, you’re 80% of the way there. Obviously our clients need to trust us a lot for us to do this, and they also have to accept that we’ll make the odd mistake… which is still better than missing the boat”.

So what are my new year’s resolutions? Find smart and quick people to work with who are keen to get involved in exciting one-off projects, turn my ideas around faster, don’t worry about them being perfect from the start, tweak them as I go along, and feel more fulfilled that I’m not constantly languishing in “development hell”.

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Social Networks – clash of the titans!

I was doing some research yesterday with the website Alexa.com. It generates usage stats for the most used websites. Very useful if you need to know that kind of thing. For example, did you know that Myspace has 0.1 percent more of its users in Germany than in the UK? And that after the US (31 percent), the UK has the most users (9 percent) of the world’s fifth most popular website, Facebook?

Anyway, does this graph tell us anything about the future of various social networks?


And I find it interesting that Bebo.com (yes, that pale line across the very bottom of the graph) has experienced absolutely zero growth in users since its $850m sale to AOL earlier this year. What do they plan to do with it?

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2008 bebo creative industries developer facebook future marketing media myspace silicon valley startup web 2.0

Social Networks – clash of the titans!

I was doing some research yesterday with the website Alexa.com. It generates usage stats for the most used websites. Very useful if you need to know that kind of thing. For example, did you know that Myspace has 0.1 percent more of its users in Germany than in the UK? And that after the US (31 percent), the UK has the most users (9 percent) of the world’s fifth most popular website, Facebook?

Anyway, does this graph tell us anything about the future of various social networks?


And I find it interesting that Bebo.com (yes, that pale line across the very bottom of the graph) has experienced absolutely zero growth in users since its $850m sale to AOL earlier this year. What do they plan to do with it?

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The Demise Of Facebook…

Of course Facebook isn’t facing demise. That would be ridiculous. But for the first time since their launch their audience number in the UK has dropped. While they’re still hitting a staggering 8.5m unique visitors a month, this might be the first sign that there might be a saturation of the market. I know I’m certainly finding it difficult to stay on top of everything (4 email addresses, a blog, 2 social networks plus some business networks and a bunch of casual forum memberships). I’ll be deleting my Myspace account shortly (I never use it and find it so clunky in comparison with Facebook) because I just seem to be the target for being a new friend of millions of bands. But despite us reaching this stage there seem to be more and more social networks every day, with platforms such as Ning.com offering everyone the chance to build their very own networks for free.

So, what’s the future? Either people will retreat to ever more specialised networks according to their personal interests, or more sites such as Moli.com will spring up. Moli allows you to manage profiles on various social networking sites from one place. Sounds like a dream for those network addicts. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m looking for a little simplification in my life. Shame I’m a sucker for signing up and trying uot every new site, app, service and technology!

It’s worth noting that despite my moderate predictions of doom and gloom AOL (a branch of the Time Warner juggernaut) has got into the social networking game by spending $850m on Bebo. Not a bad deal for the 3rd biggest social networking site in the US (after Facebook and Myspace), especially when Microsoft would only have got about 10 percent of Facebook for that when they invested in a small 1.6 percent stake last year. But Youtube sits at the top of this tree. It’s latest figures show it as the world’s most popular social media site , with a massive 10.4 million visitors in January alone.

2008 Rank….Website…………Unique audience (m)
1……………YouTube……………..10.4
2……………Wikipedia……………9.6
3……………Facebook…………….8.5
4……………Blogger……………..5.1
5……………MySpace……………..5.0
6……………Bebo………………..4.1
7……………Slide……………….3.4
8……………Yahoo! Answers……….3.3
9……………Windows Live Spaces…..3.1
10…………..TripAdvisor………….2.4

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1000 True Fans

Just a couple of quick things for you, as I’ve got a backlog of things I’d like to tell you all about but they’re building up and I never have enough time to blog as it is!

Those of you that read my last blog about Chris Anderson may know of his seminal work “The Long Tail” – the business model of supplying niche products, rather than targeting the obvious products that sell in huge amounts* – which, while really just a re-explaining of already-understood concepts within business practice, has described how a lot of people are making money off the back of the internet.

Anyway, I digress. Kevin Kelly‘s latest blog argues that as a musician/artist/whatever that The Long Tail makes life difficult, but that if you’re clever you only need 1000 “true fans” to make a living. It’s a really interesting read for anyone wondering if they’ll be able to survive in the creative industries. It all kind of depends on your definition of a “true fans”, and whether an artist can generate enough “product” to in turn generate enough sales to keep those particular fans spending on you. It’s easy enough to get 1000 “friends” on Myspace, but as a singer-songwriter who’s only just releasing his first album, would you be able to create box-sets, DVDs and online subscriptions? Or would albums, singles and t-shirts be enough. It’s a question that each individual needs to answer themselves, but I think it’s a very important one to ask. Read the article and get thinking. It should give you a much better understanding of what exactly you have to do to live off your passion.

Also, if you’ve ever worked for, or been involved with a major label you should check out this article from FT.com. It starkly lays out how the music industry as we know it is changing (as highlighted in my last entry), and A+R men are under massive pressure to deliver the goods with a fraction of the budget. As I’ve told many of my clients and friends over the last few years – even if you get signed by a major, the chances of being unceremoniously dropped like a hot potato within a year or two are huge. To the label you are a gamble, and until you go platinum your costs will be subsidised by the likes of U2, Coldplay and the like. And until you make up, as in EMI’s case, one of the just 3 percent of artists that generate a profit (yep, only three percent!) then you’ll be a liability and prime for the chop.

So maybe it’s time to work on those 1000 “true fans” yourself and cut out the desire to sign to an unweildy and outdated major…

* This is a gross simplification, but if you know anything about marketing you’ll be able to relate to it as a different aspect of the Pareto Principle. I’ve actually just found a better description from The Long Tail website that reads: “The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”


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Blimey…

It’s been nearly a month since my last blog. I’ve just been so flippin’ busy I’ve barely had a chance to think about blogging.

So, just as a recap (for myself as much as anything!) I’ve been…(deep breath)…

– Graduating from the Insight Out training course.

– Writing my first article for Enterprise Magazine.

– Holding Pollen #3.

– Making some good progress on Dizzyjam.

– Starting a new interesting project with Kevin and Keeran.

– Realising that Facebook does actually have some worthwhile apps (such as Chess, Risk and Scrabble) which I’ve been playing while ignoring all the requests for vampires, pirates, snowball fights and all that other crap.

– Seeing some cracking films (The Darjeeling Ltd and Heima being the picks of the bunch).

I’ll try to get a “proper” blog entry up by the end of the year. But if not, have a great Christmas and New Year.