Excuse me… but who is “We” exactly?

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

It must be the old journalist in me. But way too often I hear in keynotes, panels and conversations the gratuitous We”, or even more angering the totalitarian “they”. “We all think…..”; “They need….”, “We all want….. they need to give….”.

I have big difficulties with these generalizing pointers. Maybe it is because I’m special, but every time I hear a keynote speaker go “and that is what we all want”, I have this uncontrollable urge to stand up and shout “not true, I’m not.” I hate it when the audience is unidirectionaly demystified, stripped from all individuality, and crammed into two buckets: “we” and “they”.

Very often I cannot identify myself with either the we or the they… and voicing the angry inner dialogue in the vast personal kingdom of my head after being pulled into a “we-crowd” against my will would be illegal on most planets.

So do not link me to whatever you have to say. Show respect for the fragile thing that makes me me. Talk about people, as Guy Kawasaki does so charmingly (or should I say “enchantingly”), talk about friends, talk about persons. Say there are, or I noticed.

You know what, if your keynote is compelling, interesting, challenging, smart, revolutionary, different or entertaining, I will join your “We” club willingly, unconditionally and completely. Until then, you’ll have to earn it.

As former French president Mitterand once said: “Tu peux me dire vous”. :-) .


Brands : Stop Being, start Behaving…

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

One of the killer questions in the different panels and talks at #SxSW in Austin is: “… and what about brands”. Because, let’s face it: the boring internet of unidirectional websites has evolved into an online social forum, where people meet, talk and share.

The net is social, and the people have taken over the net in a peaceful revolution. That’s fine… but what about brands? Brands have invested heavily to build out their net-presence over the last decades, and are worried their dollars might evaporate overnight, with the masses gone rogue and confined to Facebook and Twitter. While people like Jeremiah Owyang (Altimeter) think it is a bad thing for brands to move away from the trusted fortresses of their corporate websites, this does not mean there is no future for brands in the social space.

I’m agreeing with Owyang that abandoning the build-up brand capital that now is resting in the corporate websites is a bad idea. However, rethinking the website as the vibrating energetic center of a social online ecosystem is smart. Social sites add a ton of interacting and engaging possibilities into the brands online ecosphere, and are capital to bring vital social interaction into the equation.

The first steps in this process are a bit awkward. Beyond the heavily protected walls of the corporate websites, the social online ecosphere looks like a terrifying jungle to the brand owners. There is no perceived sensation of control, which triggers asthma attacks and anxiety in more than one corporate boardroom.

The answer is however simple: go with the flow and partner up (or hire) with online Tarzans who will give you the survival code book of the jungle, effectively turning it into a social ecosystem.  Because this is a fact: Just being a brand online will get you nowhere. Just having a brand presence will not propel you into the winning charts. You will have to allow your brand to behave like a social citizen.

Humanizing corporate brands and making them alive online, allowing a human face to interact with the online community are the first getaways to new opportunities to shine. But for that, brands will have to take the hurdle from controlled “being” to social “behaving”…. And that…. is a difficult one.  :-)


Curating content across borders: use the power of crowds!

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

When you specialize in cross-border, multi lingual integrated communications –like I do- you get old very, very fast ;-) . Dealing with more than 70 languages and five alphabets (and that is Europe alone) is not easy, and dealing with dynamic content is hell. How do you find it in that amount of different tongues? How do you distribute it? How can you make sure contextual information is preserved?

How do you ensure quality of translations, and a fair geographic split of content intake? How do you distribute content back in all of those languages, and how can you track comments to be able to maintain a decent finger on the pulse?

No one better to help with out with that than Steve Rosenbaum the friendly eyed author of “Curation Nation”, a fabulous, crystal clear, hands-on book on curating content. Rosenbaum gets content as no other, and is able to synthesize his thoughts in a soft spoken concise way, that I like. Enjoy his response… and his pointer at using the crowd to its fullest extent…




Tweeting gold, Check-in Silver, Liking Diamonds

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

Tweeting gold, Check-in Silver, Liking Diamonds

It’s fast, it’s in, it’s social, it’s easy, it’s entertaining, it’s cool, it’s the thing to do, it’s fun, and it’s educative: social media took our world by storm. Updating Facebook, finding the right places through location based services, keeping your Twitterville happy, and Googling the steam out of your environment added a whole new meaning to how we interact with our physical and social world.

Just following SxSW in Austin, you see people glued to their smartphones as if there was no tomorrow, and the number of tweets, check-ins, updates and posts bangs through the roof with gracious ease.

And all of that for free. Free Facebook, Twitter, Twitter clients, check-in services etc… occasionally you can spend a couple of bucks on some application, but nothing so expensive that it will make American Express call you to ask if you finally lost in.

Leaves the devices. Let’s say it’s reasonable. A couple of hundred dollars will get you a state-of-the-art social weapon to conquer your digital online world, even buying a high end top notch shiny one will cost less than a year of smoking.

But here is the trick: social media for mobile warriors does not come cheap. In fact, it is freaking expensive. Uploading and downloading your life through the cloud to your friends eats up bites, megabytes… gigabytes… and those come at a price. Dataplans of most carriers give out a decent flat-fee deal on mobile data, but as soon you breach through ‘normal use’ the prices skyrock.

And then, there is international roaming, which for Europeans and Asians coming to SxSW can get up as high as 20 dollars… per megabyte. Every day some innocent global traveller gets the yellow hinky-pinkies when the mobile phone bill hits the fan. Uploading a YouTube movie while in the States? Used a little half an hour of Facetime or Skype over 3G while in Austin? You might get an over 1000 dollar bill. That is the price of an iPad 2 with ABS, power steering, and 17 inch rims.

So every time the free Wi-Fi in Austin falters, and your Instagram gets uploaded through 3G, a mobile operator somewhere grins happily, while sipping some expensive bubbly drink. Your social life just made his day.


On Furry Animals in the Digital World

Originally posted on I <3 Social Media by Marta Majewska

When I walked into the Hilton hotel yesterday afternoon, a giant squirrel caught my attention.

10% of women are attracted to men in furry costumes, says the squirrel’s sign. I could argue about this one, but let’s be honest, no matter whether you’re 5, 25 or 50 years old, mascots do have an ‘aaaaaw’ effect on people. It turned out the mascot belonged to the session, “Brand Mascots in the Digital Age,” that was about to start so I couldn’t resist attending.

The session started with a question on whether anyone from the audience has already worked on a brand mascot digital campaign. Honestly, except for one campaign in Poland, I couldn’t even really think of a digital campaign featuring a brand mascot in the European market, but it turned out that about 20 people attending the session had already had experience working on a brand mascot online campaign.

That almost made me panic. I am usually on top of things and I like to be the first in just about everything, and now I am sitting here and can’t even think of 3 mascot campaigns whereas 20 people around have already worked on them? Luckily, it quickly turned out that it’s not me. It’s Europe.

I learned that brand mascots are undeniable part of the US culture and brands have a long history using those mascots as a part of their marketing efforts. With the rise of the digital world, many brands are trying to move and translate their mascots to the social space. As seen in the session, some are more successful than others. It looks like when done right, mascots can be a goldmine for a brand, but when done wrong, they fail big time.

I think there is a lot of potential in working with brand mascots. Old mascots have an advantage of people already feeling connected to them, but are at a higher risk of losing the true essence and personality of the mascot when translated to digital media. New mascots need to earn their place in people’s hearts (and wallets) but have an advantage of getting a personality that fits in the digital world.

Whether old or new, mascots give brand a personality, something that is crucial in the digital world. They also create positive feelings towards brands and as I learned, when used correctly they can do wonders for selling techniques. I hope next year, I will be among the people that raise their hand when asked about an online brand mascot campaign. :)


You never walk alone…

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

While covering #SxSW in Austin is fun, educative, entertaining and generally nice… it is also hard work. The ten venues that encompass the event this year are not exactly in spitting distance from each other, and endless long hall ways, tricky stairs and Austin’s historic pavements are a pure torture for the feet.

Add to that the murdering difference between the soft autumn temperature outside, and the freezing chill inside the meeting halls, the long hours, the time differences and relentless jetlag, the greasy-food-on-the-go, the pressure to choose wisely between more than 6400 keynotes, talks, panels, demos and chats… and you are up for nerve-wracking body-breaking experience.

Luckily, we do not have to do this on our own. The local Porter Novelli team in Austin, captained by energybulb Aaron De Lucia, goes lengths to make this an as smooth as possible experience for the weary PN’ers coming from far away. From reservation, to registration, to help and encouragement “on the floor”, this team does an amazing job.

In between their busy client work, they are great company, they leave their loved ones alone at night to show us the places-to-be and assist in solving a myriad of small but urgent problems.

The PN content team is amazing as well, from the first cry of the Austin rooster, to the last round of the VIP swamped party, these people are everywhere… hammering their dusty keyboards till way too late in the night to produce content to share.

“With a little help from my friends” or “You never walk alone” cheesy songs, but they spring into mind when the team converges a couple of times today for updates and energy sharing. Tao Tze said you cannot walk to your destiny alone… but I’m not scared…

Porter Novelli? It’s a well-oiled Social Army….


The Magic of “How do you do that”…

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

Browsing #SxSw in Austin for content, the old journalist in me has a field day. Some of the smartest brains on the planet that are dealing with social interactions and digital media are literally  within a square mile from this laptop. An amazing amount of brainpower, egos and strong viewpoints are competing for attention.

What makes me happy and hopeful is that in about every conversation I witness, the little phrase “But how do you do that…” pops up.  @GuyKawasaki was talking about Enchanting, but he very quickly went down to “But how do you do…” to everyone he interacted with. Steve Rosenbaum (@magnify) asked me “But how do you deal with info in multiple languages”…. Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) and @briansolis were talking in a panel yesterday on data curation and “How do you do…” came back multiple times.

How do you do social across borders? How do you curate? How do you measure? How do you interact? Engage? Spread? How do you get noticed? What are the rules?

My grandfather always told me that the quickest way to become smarter was asking lots of questions. The fact that the smartest brains I’m following on Twitter are still asking these questions every single minute they mingle proves me that our future is in good hands :-) .


Dream up your future

Originally posted on Heliade by Danny Devriendt

Excuse me, I’m still a bit shaky.  I just encountered Michael Bruce Sterling. The Bruce Sterling. Sterling is now globally seen as one of the inventors of the concept “augmented reality”, but above all he is the author of some of the best Science Fiction Books I got in my hands. His Mirrorshades anthology placed him with William Gibson, on the upper left shelf of my bookcase, where my cyberpunk collection is standing.

I’ve always seen Sterling as a semi-god, someone who dreams up a future. Jules Verne, Frank Herbert, Ray Kurzweil… they show us a future based on technology that is just around the corner… just out of grasp, but one that they –for some obscure reason- seem to see.

Seeing Sterling interacting with youngsters on augmented reality made me smile. These kids have no idea about the writer Sterling, about the phenomenon Sterling, about the designer Sterling, nor the futurist Sterling. All they see is an old guy, talking about how he sees augmented reality taking up a glowing big part of our near future.  A guy that urged them “you kids have to dream up the next decades of our future”… They thought he was amusing…. and a bit coo coo

If only they knew ;-) .




Brave New World: Brand Journalism

Originally posted by Marta Majewska on I <3 Social Media

Corporate publishing, corporate media, corporate journalism, content marketing, branded content, brand journalism … however we want to call, it is happening and it is big. That’s probably about the only thing that all participants of the panel “Brave New World: Debating Brands’ Role as Publishers” agreed on during this morning’s heated up debate.

The publishing world has changed and it has changed big time. In the “old times” (not THAT long ago), the role of publishers and brands were very distinct. Publishers used to act as the information of the reader whereas brands would ‘pitch’ the stories to the media and pay to have their audience-targeted advertising published.

The rise of social media has changed the game. As the role of media as gatekeepers has shrunk significantly and interaction between consumers and brands has become a part of our everyday life, brands do not longer have to rely on publishers to reach their audiences but have an opportunity to use branded content to build a level of trust and differentiation with audiences never before achieved.

But are brands really taking an advantage of this huge opportunity? Even though they are investing heavily in the corporate publishing with 25% of marketing budgets being spent on content creation and distribution, it looks like brands still have a lot to learn from publishers. Main issues with the branded content are the information pollution, confusing content, lack of disclosure as well as the lack of sources.

How can those be solved? According to the panelist, Joe Pulizzi, it’s not that hard: stop cluttering up with crappy content and have a content strategy, think about how your reader is and what is keeping them up at night. Second that. ;)


The REAL fun of checking-in

Originally posted on I <3 Social Media by Marta Majaweska

This morning I woke up at 5am. It might be the jet leg kicking back in but I blame something else for it. I blame Foursquare.

Right before I woke up, I dreamed that I was checking-in and unlocked a Magic Badge that no one else have ever unlocked. Like EVER. Once I was awake, I couldn’t fall back asleep and I started thinking about all the badges I still had to unlock at #SXSW and gift cards I could collect by checking-in … and that was when I realized that this is the first time since I can remember that I got truly got excited about the location-based services.

I’m an early adopter so I’ve been using Foursquare since forever but the only exciting thing about Foursquare in Europe is the fight over the mayorship of my office and hotels while I’m travelling. And occasionally getting a badge. But let’s be honest, the only reason why I actually do it is because I am a geek. I would not be able to make a good case if someone asked me why they should use Foursquare in Belgium, for instance. Now I am in the US, I can see how brands and retailers are using location based services to create experiences, retain customer loyalty and drive sales. And how they bring fun to checking-in. Wherever I go, and not only in Austin during the geekiest festival in the whole world, but all across the country, there are specials available on every corner that include discounts, coupons, gift cards, free drinks and snacks. Here, I would not be able to make a good case on why NOT to use Foursquare.

I have always said that location-based services will only go mainstream if retailers find a way to create value to motivate consumers to jump on the check-in train. Location-based services represent a great and new access point for brand engagement as well as marketing opportunities and it’s killing me that brands do not want to start using it to its full potential.