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    Internet and social media

    Digital World Series event at The Studio

    Last month I attended the Digital World Series event, held as part of the Greater Birmingham Digital Academy series, in conjunction with Digital Birmingham (I know, how many times can I use ‘digital’ in one sentence).

    IMG_5856The event was loosely billed as a way for small/medium businesses to learn from leaders (and experts) to gain a greater understanding of digital technologies. The line up looked impressive, with speakers from internationally recognised digital leaders like Twitter, Facebook and Uber, as well as some local speakers like Simon Jenner, one of the founders of Urban Coffee Company and Justice Williams.  Having been involved in digital communications for a while now, it’s always interesting to hear how other organisations are making the best of the internet, and new emerging trends.

    The day kicked off with an introduction to the day from Raj Mack, head of Digital Birmingham, followed by Neil Morgan from Sage, the accountant software organisation.  He give a frank and interesting presentation about how through acquisition and general enthusiasm, the organisation had ended up with a fragmented approach to social media, and how they aligned the digital strategy to that of the business ones.  Neil spoke about the importance of getting buy-in from the CEO but also from staff to encourage them to share online, and also forming a community of people who follow and engage with your business.

    Next up was Fouzan Ali from Uber, who spoke about his journey on getting to work at Uber and how the organisation works between local teams with local decisions making and accountability, and centralised departments.

    IMG_5867 Video was something which became a bit of a theme, started by Sophie Rayers, director of marketing at Brightcove.  She spoke about the benefits of utilising video, how to make them more engaging, using user generated content and how businesses like clothing companies and financial services are using video differently.  Video was something Paul McCrudden from Twitter also spoke about, talking about the company’s live streaming Periscope app and how its authenticity means it doesn’t need to be glossy, keeping costs down, which is particularly useful for smaller businesses.  He also spoke about linking into social media influencers;

    “Most celebrities are household names; we are handheld names. People take their phones everywhere” – Simone Shepherd.

    One of my favourite talks was from Amy Hobson, partner at Social B.  Amy’s talk was realistic and practical and gave some really good insights for smaller organisations that might not be able to do it all.  She started off explaining how social media relates to and links back to traditional marketing, something which I think is often confusing for people not confident with digital communications.  Asking people what “success looks like for you” she was able to explain simple but effective ways to manage and collect useful information from social media interactions.

    IMG_5874 Simon Jenner, founder of Urban Coffee Company spoke about the evolution of coffee companies in Birmingham but how Urban had experimented with technology to drive forward their business.  He spoke about how they had been prepared to experiment with a number of ideas, some of which worked and some of which didn’t, but the importance of realising that some experiments might seem like a failure but that they might be a case of wrong timing.  He also spoke about how Urban would like to use data to help drive forward the business and whilst a number of the other organisation are large national or international businesses, it was good to hear how smaller businesses could utilise digital communication innovations.  Another local speaker, Justice Williams, also spoke about the importance of authenticity, looking at how a number of women are leveraging digital to create successful businesses that give them the freedom to work for themselves whilst utilising their content and retaining their authenticity.

    IMG_5878Big data is something that seems to be everywhere and another stand out talk of the day was from Ian West, VP Analytics & Information at Cognizant, an international consultancy.  He spoke about the vast amount of data being produced, and the importance of collecting the right sort of data and analysing it to improve the customer experience.  Ian’s talk was funny but informative and gave some important insights into people’s fears of data, but how lots of well known businesses are using it to their advantage.

    The final talk belonged to Greg Russell of Facebook, who nicely managed to knit together a lot of the threads from the other speakers, talking about the increase in photos and video being shared and how competitive everything is, so the importance of personal relevance – and having a mobile strategy.

    And with that the day was done.  There was time for networking afterwards, but my brain was full of the day’s insights and I wanted some time to digest them.  I’d come away fascinated by what some organisations were doing and how well the speakers had done at translating how that could be applicable to other organisations to positively increase their digital footprint.

    Interestingly it wasn’t always the big ‘star’ names that were the most inspiring; the more hands-on approaches from Amy at Social B, Simon at Urban Coffee Company and Ian at Cognizant provided practical applications which could easily be implemented, even in smaller teams.  That said, Greg from Facebook and Paul from Twitter presented a really positive outlook to the digital landscape and how businesses, both big and small, could utilise some of these exciting new developments.

    Themes which are mentioned a lot in digital communications…big data, the importance of authenticity and the increasing popularity of video were all touched on and explored.  With a good mix of big names with large internationally recognised brands and smaller more local organisations, on the whole the speakers did a good job of breaking down the big ideas and wins for their organisations into ways that might work, or inspire, some of the smaller businesses in the room to develop their approaches. I’d been a bit wary, given the price of the ticket, but felt that I’d gained some valuable insights into some really exciting businesses and some practical ideas on digital communications.

    The Digital World Series are organising a second event, being held in Birmingham on 27th October and tickets are available at their website;  http://digitalworldseries.com/

    Blogging

    Birmingham Blogger Meet

    IMG_4164.JPGIt hasn’t escaped me, the irony of being a week late blogging about a blogging meet up that was about getting more organised, but you know what they say – better late than never!

    Last weekend I trundled off to the Birmingham Blogger Meet (or #bhmbloggermeet), as organised by Abbigayle over at stealstylist.com.  Back when I first started getting into blogging the types of meet ups were very much on the more nerdier side of things, but now it seems the beauty/fashion blogger reigns supreme.  That said, whilst beauty/fashion/lifestyle bloggers made up the most numbers everyone swapped lots of blogging tips and there was plenty to talk about.

    First things first, we were given some lovely goody bags with some exciting treats inside; a necklace from Lylia Rose, a blending brush from Nanshy, hand cream and lip balm from Bee Good, Lovely Lotions handmade soap, Colour Me Fragrance perfume samples, a whole bag of stuff from Lush, a pencil and sign from Dottie Rocks, and saving the best till last – a blogger ring-binder organiser and goal jar from Abbigayle herself.  I’m a complete stationery nerd, so knowing that I need to get more organised with my blogging made this all the more exciting.

    IMG_4167-0.JPGAs well as the goody bag (I’ll blog about some of the items in individual posts), Abbigayle had organised a series of games for us to play.  I particularly enjoyed listening to the individual questions she asked everyone, from “Where do you see your blog in five years” to “What city would you move your blog to if you could”.   The second question was the one I was asked and given my other blog Full to the Brum is Birmingham based it would make it sort of redundant, but this blog would happily go travelling, if the mood took me!

    After photographing ourselves with our binders and coming up with witty slogans for cupcakes, we were given a talk by Kirsty from Motives cosmetics, who showed us some of their bestsellers.  This was followed by a demonstration by Maria and Jessica from the Central School of Make Up who showed us how to do winged eyeliner.  I’ve always been curious as to how people get this to look right, turns out it’s all in the tilt of the head.  That said, I doubt I have the patience to master this look.

    With a couple of games left, and prizes being awarded to the winners, the meet up finished with a buffet lunch and a good gossip about blogging with some of the other people at the meet up.  The warm up questions at the beginning of the session and the fact were were all bloggers meant that conversation flowed easily and it was nice to get some great hints and tips, as well as some new blogs to add to my RSS reader.  It’s also inspired me to re-start this blog, so hopefully you’ll see more posts on here from me soon!

    Birmingham, Internet and social media, My Thoughts

    Congratulations on the smug political status update

    I’ve wanted to write this for days, but it felt a little improper to do so before polling stations closed and results were read out.

    Pre-election and even on the day, my social media feeds have been full of mockery of political parties, jokes about delayed election days for certain voters and a number of other equally silly things.  I’m sorry, call me a killjoy but I don’t get the joke.

    I like democracy; sure, I think my opinion makes the most sense (otherwise why would I hold it) but I like that democracy is ultimately about the masses deciding.  The right of a political party to exist, no matter how much I agree or disagree with their policies, is part of what makes this a great system.  But a philosopher once told me that you argue against something’s strongest points not its weakest.  It’s why I’ve always been against no platform policies and more recently why I’ve been annoyed at these Facebook statuses and tweets – and I love sarcasm.  Sure, mocking something is kind of arguing against it; but is it really an effective way to changing people’s minds – are you even reaching those people who are genuinely planning on voting for those parties you vehemently dislike so much?  Maybe the question should really be were you even trying to reach them via social media?  Because to me, at least, it just looked like a group of smug self-congratulating updates which spectacularly failed to do anything useful – and the results seem to agree with me.

    So here’s my plea – and you may call me idealistic for it.  Next year it’s a general election and if you care so much about whom people vote for, get off your bums and do something useful.  If you’re passionate about a political party then join them and hand out flyers and speak to people to convince them to your party is best.  If you’re passionate about not voting for a certain political party then effectively debate with people who might be tempted to vote that way about why that party’s policies are incorrect and what the alternatives are.  Point out flaws in an argument in a way that will actually engage with people.  Talk to people who feel disengaged, tell them to register their dislike of all the parties by spoiling their ballot so their voice is counted.  Stand for election.  Hell, start your own party if you like.

    But above all, do something that might actually count.

    Books, Internet and social media

    A social media book club (no really)

    Wednesday was an interesting day for me; in the morning I went to a social media book club held by two of the students from Birmingham City University’s MA in social media and in the evening was the Birmingham Skeptics in The Pub discussion by Michael Marshall on How PR came to rule modern journalism (more about the latter in another post I think).  Wow that was a long sentence.

    I pitched up to the Social media book club (or #masocialmedia book club on twitter) after Alina and Grace, the organisers, turned up to my book club last month and invited me along.  Sadly the short notice on getting the book and two trips meant I didn’t get to finish the book, but I made a good way through the book of choice; Making Is Connecting by David Gaunlett.

    I don’t think it would be fair of me to try and explain what the book is about as I didn’t finish it, but the longer version of the title is a good place to start ‘Making is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0’.  I thought the parts of the book I read were pretty interesting, although very optimistic and could’ve done with being a little more sceptical at times.  I sort of waffled through something about Apple and approving/rejecting apps and some issues it got into trouble with that I read a while back, which in hindsight the MA social media students were probably in a better position to talk about than me!

    Was interesting to see how a non-fiction book club could work.  Seemed everyone (apart from me) read the whole book, with each chapter being given to someone to focus on and lead the discussion, which I think worked superbly and really gave a sense of interaction with everyone.  I’m thinking of nicking the idea for my book club, but I’m not sure they’d be overly keen on homework!

    Internet and social media

    Why Christmas cards and twitter replies are surprisingly similar

    I am continually amazed that even after the internet has pervaded almost all aspects of modern life, at least in the UK, we still have people that just don’t get it.  And by it, I mean applying the quirks of humanity to the internet.

    The most recent incident of this I’ve come across was a new club that is opening shortly.  I found out about them when they were tweeting all their followers with identical messages.  Pretty much anyone on twitter or anyone that’s written Christmas cards* to people in the same social circle knows you just don’t do it.  Even if the message is the same you have to switch it up, even when all you want to do is wish everyone merry Christmas or tell them your club is opening.  Generally people want to feel like you’re actually taking time out to communicate with them and not firing off some misguided faceless mass message.  Generic wishes make people feel like you don’t actually care and run the risk of making people feel like they’re not valuable.  It’s why people hate purely pre-printed well wishes in cards and automatic DMs.  If you’re going to be personal, then at least put some personality into it and not just copy-cut-paste.  Otherwise why bother – you run the risk of making people feel less valued than before you sent the cards/tweets.

    *It’s very possible I have a preoccupation with Christmas cards and all of mine usually include rambling nonsensical, but personal messages to my friends.
    Internet and social media, My Thoughts

    #welovetheNHS – America, the NHS and social media

    In the last two days something special happened on Twitter. Again. Twitter users in their thousands have this time rushed to defend the NHS against American critics of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. The Guardian reported that ‘US critics have accused the service of putting an “Orwellian” financial cap on the value on human life, of allowing elderly people to die untreated and, in one case, for driving a despairing dental patient to mend his teeth with superglue’.

    But literally thousands of people on the social networking site, Twitter, have come to the NHS’s defence. Using the hashtag #welovethenhs, which allows messages on a similar topic to be linked, people have been posting their experiences and amazing messages of support.

    What the Hashtag, a site which tracks trends, counted 20,575 tweets (messages) using the #welovethenhs tag, with 10,909 contributors. And that’s just as of 9:30 today – the numbers are going up. I’ve posted five so you can get an idea, but if you get the chance or need some cheering up, take a look at the rest.

    karmadillo I love the NHS because baby Enso (& possibly me) would not have survived labour without them http://bit.ly/zlEOz #welovethenhs
    _garys #welovethenhs When my dad’s heart began to fail we were told he wouldn’t last a week. The NHS gave him an urgent bypass and saved his life.
    benjamincohen: I have to use the NHS every week because of having Multiple Sclerosis. It has its faults but it’s still great #welovethenhs
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs Without the NHS my uncle would have paralysis to his right leg and be in a wheelchair. He now stands and is a paramedic.
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs -may not be perfect, but you can rely on it when you are in need, no matter what your financial status is. We are spoiled!

    Social networking sites, like Twitter, get accused of being a pointless waste of time. But to me this highlights one of the great ways they can be used; they hold people to account, they allow ordinary people to speak their mind and counter lies. The stories people have told in 140 characters about the NHS have been genuine messages of support from regular people. It’s been amazing.

    And yes, I work for the NHS, so I may be biased towards thinking it’s something that should be applauded. But it’s nice to see it regardless!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Internet and social media

    JEEcamp 2009

    “It’s not a revolution if no one gets hurt” – Thomas Friedman

    On Friday I attended JEEcamp – an ‘unconference’ aimed at journalists and publishers to look at how the industry could deal with the decline of regional journalism, effects of the recession, citizen journalism and general online media.

    The keynote speech by Kyle McRae, the founder of Scoopt.com a photo-agency that attempted to trade citizen’s photographs to the papers, was fascinating.  Scoopt was a brilliant concept to hear about, which never really worked because it lacked fundamental networks and resources.  He spoke of the lessons learnt and how the concept grew from an idea to a company to then be sold to Getty and subsequently closed down.

    The failing business models for newspaper publishing were heavily discussed.  One attendee was a woman who’d volunteered for her local paper for years, unpaid, was now moving onto a qualification and away from regional journalism because she felt there was no hope in regional press.  From what I’d heard we weren’t the only group to discuss work experience, although members the break-out group I observed felt this woman had been exploited, others have posted to say that one newspaper publisher was looking to charge people for work experience.

    The Friedman quote above (which is actually talking about the green revolution) summed up the feeling I got from the event.  There was a great deal of concern about the decline of regional journalism, something which worries my colleagues in hospital communications, as regional journalism is our “bread and butter”, to quote the head of my department.  But the journalists at JEEcamp were understandably more worried about it.  There have been large numbers of job cuts and reshuffles in regional journalism recently and this seems to be a continuing trend.

    JEEcamp didn’t seem to give any concrete answers to what the new course would be but it did give some fantastic ideas.  Particularly a view to hyper-local media that would focus on a further niche market than current regional journalism and a need for a new, sustainable business model.  Something that is particularly topical as Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp (owner of The Times, Sun and News of the World), announced that they were considering charging for more of their Internet content.  Whatever the model becomes, the influx of citizen journalism and social media in recent years can only serve to force journalism and their publishing houses into a more robust model that knows it cannot rest on its laurels and has to be better.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*