Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Archive for the ‘web2.0’ Category

On the internet, does anyone, like, care who you are?

Posted by Helen on January 28, 2009

Freud does Twitter

Freud does Twitter

The BBC is showing a number of shows on Darwin to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Origin of the Species. The ever-brilliant David Attenborough is hosting a programme on the tree of life, and the Open University and the Guardian seem to be getting in on the act with poster giveaways of the mighty tree itself.

The idea of illustrating the evolution of life got me thinking about illustrating the evolution of social networking technology – would it be a similar shape to the tree of life, with an ordered progression; or more like the London Underground tube map (strands of lurid, angular spaghetti designed to put the wind up tourists)? And then I started thinking about how social networking ties in with some of those concepts you always hear discussed by the tame psychologist de jour on BBC documentaries – the notion that the twentieth century was the Century of the Self, when Freud and Jung roamed free and everyone was egocentric and possibly harbouring some quiet thoughts about their mothers. So now that we’re egomaniacs, the logical progression is to share our delusions of grandeur with the world, and conveniently enough, the nice people at YouTube, MySpace and Facebook are only too happy to aid and abet the process. To steal Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite (and possibly only) format, here’s my hypothetical question: are we evolving into a species of exhibitionists?

Perhaps the evolution of our obsession with public display has mated with the internet’s gift of anonymity. Wikipedia has a rather bizarre article (I know! Who’d have thought it) titled ‘on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog’, which sums up the whole anonymity debate in typical Wikipedia fashion (one of the best things about Wikipedia is the convoluted language born of attempts to discuss topics like X-Men comics, Craigslist and Britney Spears with a suitably academic veneer). And so the logical progression continued, breeding incidents like LonelyGirl15 and Fake Steve Jobs, until we get to my second Carrie Bradshawism of the day: in an era of anonymous exhibitionists, how do you pin down the value of a tweet?

Answers to be sent to my anonymous Twitter page please.


Posted in facebook, myspace, socialmedia, web2.0 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A handy acronym for social strategies

Posted by Graham Hayday on January 22, 2008

Forrester Research unleashed a new acronym on the marketing world late last year: POST.

POST stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology and is designed to help companies form effective social media strategies.

I’ve been meaning to blog about this since the end of last year when Forrester’s Josh Bernoff sent me (and lots of other bloggers who asked for one) a copy of a short report introducing the POST methodology.

I’m not normally a fan of acronyms, but this one is actually useful. Josh explains POST in more detail here, but in summary (and to quote from the report) it breaks down like this. (My comments in italics.)

1. People: Review the Social Technographic Profile of your customers.

Social Technographic Profile is Forrester’s own audience segmentation tool which, of course, they would love you to buy from them. I’d argue that it’s not strictly necessary to do so. For many companies, all you need ask is such questions as: ‘Who are my customers? Who am I trying to reach? How likely is it that they’ll use social media?’ The more ruthless the focus on the audience the better, and the more you know about them the better.

2. Objectives: Decide what your goals are.

Can’t argue with that one. When talking about this with our clients, we tend to put objectives first, and audience second. But OPST isn’t an especially good acronym…

3. Strategy: Determine how your objectives will change your relationship with customers.

I like the use of the word ‘change’ here. A new relationship with customers is not something many companies are prepared for when plunging into the world of web 2.0.

4. Technology: Choose the appropriate technologies to deploy.

As Josh points out, the choice of technology should be the last thing you think about. It’s no good starting a discussion about social media by saying: ‘How can we use Facebook to reach our customers?’

As this report was sent out a couple of months ago, I’m not the first person to comment on it. There’s some constructive criticism here and here as well as some positive feedback.

The one thing I particularly liked about the report was the recognition that, of all the social media implementations that fail, most do so through a lack of defined objecives. Another reason for failure is what Forrester calls ‘strategic timidity’. The report reads:

“Unwillingness to assess and address the way that social technologies change customer relationships dooms many a project. Companies that go only half way to letting go of control, primarily because of internal political battles, are most likely to suffer from this problem. By recruiting a strong executive champion to back your efforts, you can make sure your company doesn’t fall into this strategic trap.”

Letting go of control… having an executive champion… these are indeed critical success factors.  

The POST approach will feature in an upcoming book from Forrester called Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social  Technologies, which will be published in April. You can pre-order a copy here on

Posted in blogging, socialmedia, socialnetworks, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Twitter ‘fountain’ in Second Life

Posted by Graham Hayday on November 1, 2007

I’m not prone to geeky rushes of enthusiasm when presented with something ‘cool’ on the web, but this has just made me utter the kind of sound children make at firework displays. 

It’s a virtual ‘Twitter fountain’.

According to the press blurb from Daden Ltd (the company that developed it), the fountain takes’s public postings and “displays them in Second Life as bubbles drifting up from the fountain. The bubbles float up under the influence of Second Life’s physics. Set in peaceful gardens, within a pool of Koi carp, each tweet bubble that rises from the fountain is a unique snapshot of individual thoughts at that moment in time. As each bubble rises, slightly different impulses ensure that they drift away from the Twitter Fountain as randomly as the tweets they contain.”

This YouTube demo will give you the general idea…

If you’re in Second Life have a look at the demo on the Daden Prime sim at 202,101, 24.

The SLURL is: life/daden prime/202/101/24, or teleport to Daden Prime (find it under Places or Map).

Posted in secondlife, web2.0 | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Politics 2.0 – the great divide

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 29, 2007

Apologies for the radio silence last week. I took a few days off to paint the bathroom and suchlike (as you do). But it’s back to business as usual today.

Next Thursday, I’m taking part in a workshop session at the e-Democracy ’07 event, which is organised by our friends at Headstar. The session is on ‘E-Democracy 2.0: Social networking and virtual worlds’.

I spent a few hours over the weekend (while painting) mulling over what I might say. One thing struck me (I’ll need a few more flashes of ‘insight’ if I’m to get through the session in one piece, but it’s a start). I reckon there’s a conflict between the way in which this country is governed and the fundamental principles of web 2.0.

We live in a representative democracy, in which we elect people to make decisions on our behalf.

Web 2.0 is all about conversation and collaboration: this is a mundane example, but if you comment on this blog and tell me I’m an idiot, I may change my mind about whatever it is you disagree with. If I do change my mind, I’ll tell you. Your input has had an effect – and a visible one at that. Wikis are a perhaps more significant example of how we, the previously silent majority, can collaborate in a meaningful manner.

Politicians and civil servants aren’t used to working like this. We give them a mandate at an election, and they run with it until we go to the polls again. That’s where they’re used to being judged.

But more and more of them are embracing web 2.0, which means we can tell them what we think of them on a regular basis. But are they listening? Does our input make any difference in the short-term? Can we see any changes as a result of our participation?

The answer on almost every occasion is ‘no’. Have any laws been changed as a result of the petitions people have submitted to the Number 10 website? Nope. We now have a voice, but the power still rests where it always did – in Parliament, in Whitehall, in the town hall.

Rather than becoming a way of engaging the electorate and wiping away some of the cynicism and apathy that plagues British politics, politicians’ use (or rather, misuse) of web 2.0 could actually make things worse. They’ve given us a platform to air our views, but we’re just as impotent as ever. In fact, they’re highlighting the fact. Submit a petition, and you get a nice message from the Prime Minister explaining why he won’t be doing anything about it.

They’re rubbing our noses in our own insignificance. They don’t mean to, but unless they undertake the kind of cultural change that web 2.0 requires, and truly embrace those principles of conversation and collaboration, the divide between ‘them and us’ will remain as wide as ever, and the general population will remain as cynical as ever.

Posted in politics, socialmedia, web2.0 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The ‘hyperconnected’ world

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 19, 2007

This blog’s been a bit quiet this week, largely because I’ve been busy working at an event for one of our clients – we do the PR for Imago, the organisers of IP’07 (et al).

For this event I donned my web 2.0 hat for them and set up an IP’07 Facebook group, Twitter feed and blog. Indeed I blogged some of the conference sessions live, which was an interesting experience. It’s not something I’d ever done before, even in my former journalist days.

I was a little nervous about doing this beforehand, as my position as a paid hand meant I wouldn’t be able to be at all critical of any of the conference speakers. As it turned out, I didn’t need to be. They were all pretty good (honestly), and the client was brave/foolish enough to give me a free hand. They didn’t vet anything I wrote.

True, the blog is a little ‘unbloggy’ (it doesn’t have my name on it so sounds very impersonal, and isn’t exactly a link-fest), but I still reckon it worked. It certainly attracted a surprising amount of traffic during the two days of the conference and generated no rude comments. Has anyone else done this sort of thing for a client? I’d be interested in hearing your take on it if so.

But I’m not here to write about that. Having spent so much time recently learning about, and experimenting with, the potential of web 2.0 as a communications platform, and having read so many blogs extolling the virtues of all the new gadgets and gizmos we have at our disposal these days (yes, I really want an iPhone – how dare O2 refuse to offer it on our business tarrif until March 2008 at the earliest?), it was interesting to hear from the people who are plumbing all this stuff together – the telcos, mobile operators and network equipment manufacturers of this world.

Nortel (which falls into the latter camp) kept mentioning the concept of ‘hyperconnectivity’ throughout the show. It can envisage a time, not far into the future, where billions, if not trillions, of devices are connected to ‘the network’.

Mobile phone penetration is running at 103% in the UK. Pretty much every desktop PC is online. Most laptops are. The new breed of games machine is networked. Fridges soon will be. Nike is embedding microchips into its trainers so runners can log their performance. Cars will soon be communicating with garages wirelessly. The list goes on.

This is putting the Nortels of the world under increasing pressure to come up with ever better ways of transporting all this data, in a wireless and wired world. There are standards battles raging as a result.

One thing Nortel said at the show really brought home the potential problems that lie ahead. It believes that if only 5% to 10% of existing mobile phone users in the UK got serious about using their handsets for video, the whole 3G network would collapse.

So unless ‘4G’ comes along pretty soon, the vision of a world where we’re all ‘citizen journalists’ and uploading loads of video to BBC News Online, or sharing clips of our babies and pets with each other via our mobiles, will remain just that – a vision.

It’s good to get a reaity check from time to time from the people who make ‘the network’ work. They may have a reputation for being a bit nerdy and dull, but these people are kind of important.

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More on viral videos, gut feeling and measuring what’s measurable

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 11, 2007

I blogged about viral videos a couple of weeks ago. To save you reading the whole post, here’s a 19 word summary: I once thought that you could plan for a piece of video to go viral, but changed by mind. (It was a fascinating post. No, really…)

Then I came across this post from Nigel Hollis at Millward Brown (the WPP-owned research outfit) recently, which almost made me change my mind again. Almost.

He was commenting on an article he’d read in Advertising Age about Professor Duncan Watts, an Australian who has conducted a lot of research into viral campaigns and concluded that ‘influencers’ are not as important as word of mouth marketers would have us believe. He therefore advocates that any viral campaign should be treated in the same way as any another piece of mass marketing, and supported on- and offline through advertising, PR etcetera etcetera.

Duncan said:

“[You] cannot predict what is going to happen… Things happen randomly. You want strategies that don’t depend on being right, but do depend on being able to measure things very well. You throw things out there, with as low cost as you can manage and with as great a diversity as you can stand and then you see what gets taken up.”

In response, Hollis wrote:

“Things happen randomly if you do not plan and test, and throwing things out there risks a potential backfire. The one factor that is not considered by Duncan’s analysis is the ‘stickiness’ of the idea behind a viral campaign, and that is certainly not immune to testing. There is no reason why you cannot pre-test a viral campaign. The objective would be to ascertain the likelihood that people would share the ad with others and it would reduce the chances of failure by ensuring people did find the content relevant, compelling and worth sharing.”

I must confess I’d not considered pre-testing a piece of viral video in the way you would a TV ad. And I’m still not convinced it would work. Surely the web is too ‘random’ (to use that word in a highly unscientific way) for your typical survey sample to indicate whether a video will take flight and spread far and wide? Can such a survey really predict the subtleties of the network effects that are required for a video to go viral? Hollis thinks it can. I’m not so sure.

Online communities value spontaneity and serendipity. Sure, we sneaky PR and marketing people can do our bit to support a viral campaign and give it a shot at succeeding, but if you market research something to death before you unleash it online you may well squash the spark of creative genius that would have seen it go massively viral in the first place.

Admittedly Mr Hollis chooses his words carefully, and says that pre-testing can only “reduce the chances of failure”, which isn’t the same thing as predicting success of course. His post is well worth a read, and I’ve probably done him a huge disservice by pruning his argument so aggressively.

But the approach he favours still feels too clinical to me (and it may not be entirely co-incidental that Millward Brown offers such services as pre-campaign testing…)

I’m all for measuring what’s measurable in all forms of communication, but sometimes gut feeling must have a role to play.

Posted in comms, marketing, viral, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

When did Microsoft become the little guy?

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 3, 2007

Is Microsoft deliberately attempting to reposition itself as the put-upon, misunderstood tech giant that’s had its beanstalk chopped down and golden eggs stolen by Google?

(That sort of approach might make some sense, given that Bill Gates and co are still in a bit of regulatory hot water).
Or does the following statement from Steve Ballmer really reveal Microsoft’s mindset these days, now that it’s not top dog in a market that it feels it should own?

During his whirlwind tour of Europe (and bits of Africa) this week, Gates’ right-hand man was talking about the dangers of an overly dominant Google.

“It could be quite an economic problem for anybody who wants to offer an ad-funded experience on the internet, or anybody who wants to buy advertising,” he is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

He then put Microsoft forward as “the most sensible, credible alternative to Google”.

Microsoft? The “credible alternative”? The irony of a company with Microsoft’s history saying something like this doesn’t need highlighting of course (but I’ve gone and done it anyway).

Intel’s Andy Grove once wrote a business book called ‘Only the paranoid survive’. Sounds like Ballmer’s read it, and has taken a leaf or two out of it as well. (Hope it wasn’t a library copy).

This is very unlike Microsoft somehow. It has a reputation for ruthlessness, for crushing the competition underfoot. Just ask Marc Andreesen. And it’s used to being number one.

Ballmer himself is well known for his massively ‘confident’ displays at conferences (see below). The word ‘bullish’ fits him – and Microsoft – perfectly. Or at least it used to. Ballmer’s now sounding unusually contrite.

If I was a betting man, I’d say his ‘credible alternative’ statement was a deliberate, well-rehearsed line. The EU ruling must have hurt (reputationally, rather than financially – Microsoft can afford the fine). It doesn’t want the anti-trust lawyers sniffing around forever, and shifting some of the attention onto Google isn’t a bad plan.

It’s also true to say that Google really is in danger of dominating the online space in the way Microsoft dominates the desktop. Indeed, it already does.

That isn’t to say we need feel sympathy for Microsoft though. It could’ve been a contender… and still could be, if the levels of paranoia are high enough. Or maybe it’s missed the point altogether.

Robert Scoble has also just written a post about Steve Ballmer, and why he simply doesn’t ‘get’ social networking. He also touches upon what he sees as Microsoft’s misguided online advertising strategy. Interesting stuff.

There is no direct link between the EU ruling and Microsoft’s take on Google’s dominance, of course, but it will be interesting to see if this change of tone becomes a consistent feature of its public utterances.  

Back to Ballmer. If you need to see evidence of his ‘bullishness’, you could do worse than watch this clip. It’s a timeless classic. I shall be incorporating his presentation techniques into our next new business pitch…

Posted in comms, google, microsoft, PR, socialmedia, web2.0 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

More on the drumming gorilla…

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 1, 2007

In a post last week I suggested that the viral nirvana achieved by Cadbury’s drumming gorilla could not have been planned.

The senior brass at Fallon, the creative agency behind the ad, are interviewed in the Media Guardian today, and suggest that this was indeed the case.

The article neatly paraphrases Fallon’s approach:

“With most agencies still getting to grips with the multimedia world, Fallon’s argument is that you just have to be very entertaining and the medium may do the rest for you.”

The use of the word ‘may’ is instructive. There are no guarantees with web 2.0.

Fallon’s argument could be said to apply to all communications (including PR). Even in B2B land, where being informative can take precedence over being entertaining, this phrase still has resonance.

It suggests that we need to forget about the medium, and focus on the message. If the content’s good enough, the web 2.0 world may do the rest.

Posted in comms, PR, socialmedia, web2.0 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Can you plan to go viral? Why sex doesn’t sell as well as a drumming gorilla

Posted by Graham Hayday on September 25, 2007

I attended a briefing organised by law firm Fox Williams last week about web 2.0.

One of the presenters was Colin Donald of FutureScape (which is a company that advises on brand marketing via video social networking sites).

Colin made an interesting observation during his presentation, namely that you can’t really plan for a piece of video to go viral.

He gave three examples of companies that had attempted to use the likes of YouTube to spread their brand message – Dove, Levi’s and Agent Provocateur.

Dove got it spectacularly right with a video exposing the tricks of the beauty trade.

Levi’s got it horribly wrong. This video’s a fake, which is a big “no no” in the world of social media.

Agent Provocateur was somewhere in the middle – it filmed Kate Moss in a series of scenes (and in a state of considerable undress) which (susprisingly) didn’t really tap into the online zeitgeist. It didn’t reach that many people, and some of the comments suggested the clip wasn’t quite the titillating visual feast the director Mike Figgis was aiming for. One YouTube user described it as “creepy”.

The most recent example of a video that certainly did hit the sweet spot of social networking is Cadbury’s drumming gorilla. And that wasn’t even created for the web – it’s just a TV ad that was made available online and has gone viral in a spectacular way.

For evidence, look no further than Facebook – there are now over 5,000 members of gorilla-related groups there.

So is Colin right? Can you plan for something to go viral? My initial instinct was that he was wrong, and that you can plan for something to go viral.

On reflection, I think he’s right, and these examples prove it.

I’d have put money on a video featuring Kate Moss in her skimpies causing more of a stir than a man in a gorilla suit playing drums or a woman being photoshopped to perfection.

The online success of the Phil Collins-obsessed primate feels like a happy accident. Did Cadbury’s know this TV spot would go viral? Unlikely.

This isn’t just a matter of luck though. Obviously you have to make the content as strong (and, Levi’s take note, as authentic) as possible. Then – crucially – you need to give people the tools to make whatever they will of your video.

Let them comment on it, share it, mash it up – whatever. Then the great internet-using public will decide whether it goes viral or not. Giving up control like this is anathema to many CEOs and marketing bosses, as it is a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking. Just ask Dove.

Posted in facebook, socialmedia, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

UK ad body bans Facebook for its ‘formal business’ (no, this isn’t a joke)

Posted by Graham Hayday on September 14, 2007

The Insititute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has banned its staff from using Facebook and any other social networking sites for business purposes.

The press release is here.

So that’s the trade body that is paid to represent the interests of the UK’s biggest advertising and media agencies (who are in the business of communications) banning what could prove to be the most significant communications tool to appear since the telephone. (OK, I’m exaggerating a teeny bit, but I’m still in a state of shock at the IPA’s decision). 

The rationale?

“The IPA believes that the lack of confidentiality and privacy involved in using social networking sites, rules them out as a means of carrying out IPA business.”

My favourite comment in the release is this:

“The IPA will however continue to communicate with its members and wider audience via e-mail, telephone calls, letters, e-newsletters…”

And carrier pigeon, presumably.

Posted in facebook, socialmedia, web2.0 | 1 Comment »