We're lucky that Josh Hallett, founder of the BlogOrlando unconference, is joining us to emcee BlogPotomac on June 13, 2008. Josh is a new media strategist for Voce Communications. He's Florida-based when he's not traveling and speaking. He's also a hugely talented photographer.
Note: BlogPotomac is selling out. We have limited seating capacity at the historic State Theater (directions) in Fairfax, VA where the unconference is being held. Fairfax, BTW, is a subway ride away from downtown DC. It's also an easy drive. Register here. Learn more about the all-star lineup of speakers and the agenda.
Josh:The thought was, if all these people were coming to Orlando why not turn it into something bigger. Also, like many similar events, i.e. BlogPhiladelphia, there had never been an event that brought together bloggers from the Florida market. By keeping it free and relatively basic in size/scope the organization was pretty easy.
Debbie: Then you forged ahead with BlogOrlando 2007. That turned into a pretty major event. Why?
Josh: I think it was a combination of things:
1. It was still free.
2. It was still the laid-back modified un-conference format.
3. Yes the topic did become more popular and we also had some collaborative promotion going on with local PR and advertising groups.
4. I tried to diversify and reach different segments, that's how we ended up with tracks focussed on Marketing/PR, Journalism, Technology and then Life/Local. It was interesting to see some of the crossover though. What I mean is the number of Marketing/PR people in the tech track or the journalism track.
5. Orlando is a great destination....it's easy to convince speakers to 'visit' when we can offer them access/behind-the-scenes tours of Kennedy Space Center, Universal and EPCOT.
Debbie: What is your biggest lesson learned that you can pass on to us for BlogPotomac 2008?
Josh: The one lesson I share with just about every group that has followed this model (BlogSavannah, SoCon in Atlanta, BlogPhiladelphia, BlogCarolinas, etc) is that with a free event it's important to keep the big costs in check, usually that's food. BlogOrlando has never offered food, everybody is on their own for lunch.
With a free event it's easy for people to sign-up, and just as easy for them not to show up. Budgeting for 200+ people for food, but only having 100 show up can put a big dent in your budget. I know that BlogPotomac has a small fee [Ed note: US $75], which helps with this.
Debbie: I see that May 2008 marks the 5th anniversary of blogging for you (kudos, BTW). Has your approach to blogging, whether it's style, subject matter or passion, changed over the years?
Josh: It has, more and more my personal blog focuses on what I am passionate about and what I'm doing. Today that's a mixture of travel (what I'm doing) and photography (what I'm passionate about). More of my industry-specific content is now posted to Vocenation. I also see that the people I really respect in the industry also post less than they used to, we're all very busy.
Debbie: You and I will be emcee'ing BlogPotomac together. Should we rehearse ahead of time - or just wing it?
Josh: Luckily I know just about every presenter so I can say something personal about them during the intro so that helps with the prep. Are we allowed to use cue cards? :-)
Geoff Livingston and I decided to interview each other as part of the Q & A series leading up to BlogPotomac, to be held here in Washington DC on June 13, 2008. Our social media marketing unconference is rapidly selling out, BTW, so don't wait if you want to attend. Register here.
We got a little more serious in our mutual interview than I intended. Namely, I forgot to mention that Geoff is a funny guy. I thought it would be a kick to work with him on the event; he hasn't disappointed...
Question: Why are you co-chairing BlogPotomac?
Debbie: First, because Geoff was kind enough to ask me. But second and more important, I fervently want to see a coherent social media community develop in Washington DC, as it has in many other cities. When I say coherent, I mean offline as well as online. And not just the cool young geeks. But to include marketers and comms professionals of all ages in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
wonderful as it is, is a very dispersed place. Virginia, Maryland,
Capitol Hill, in-town DC - they're concentric circles that don't
overlap very well. Like Geoff, I also want to give back to my hometown of almost 26 years.
Because Debbie and I were becoming friends and I wanted this event to be represented by the area's leading social marketing minds, it made sense to chair it with her. It's been great working with her, and she has helped me see some aspects of social media I would not have been introduced to if not for BlogPotomac.
Ironically, the third and actually the highest top ranked social media blogger in the area, Rohit Bhargava, ended up being our opening night speaker. So the top three marketing bloggers in the region according to the AdAge 150 -- all authors by the way (see here and here and here) -- have come together to bring best social media practices to DC.
For me, it's a service, and a way of giving back to a region that has been my professional home since 1994.
Question: Why aren't you one of the speakers?
Debbie: Because Geoff and I agreed that we didn't want or need the limelight with such a stellar line-up of speakers. Viget Labs, the third silent partner in this endeavor, who designed the logo and site, also felt that participating through organizing and creating the conference was the best way to move forward.
However, attendees will be hearing me throughout the day (Friday June 13, 2008) as I introduce our speakers along with fellow emcee Josh Hallett.
Geoff: I will actually be speaking in DC three times in June, and I attend a lot of events already. Aaron Brazell and I run our District of Corruption podcast, and my company is interim steward of the local Social Media Club. Locally, I feel I am accessible, and people have heard or are about to hear my schtick.
I felt the value was introducing local marketers to people they haven't heard, but that I have been blessed enough to meet during my journey. I know that Debbie and Brian Williams from Viget Labs felt the same way. I also felt having Josh Hallett there was really important as he started this whole BlogX thing.
As Livingston Communications is running the finances and operations of the event, having him emcee accomplished two purposes: Honor Josh, and free me to handle issues and make sure the event goes off smoothly. I will do the initial introduction of Debbie and Josh. The rest is pure service.
Question: What do you hope BlogPotomac will achieve?
Debbie: I've outlined my big picture goal above. More specifically, I'd like our attendees to leave with at least half a dozen specific ideas they can execute back at their offices, no matter what size their budget or how large or small their staff.
As they say... blog on. Or in this case... just do it!
Geoff: If everyone walks out understanding that social media is more than blogs and blogger relations, I'll feel like a champ. I also hope people will feel encouraged and excited to go experiment. Lastly, I hope we make a little profit to donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Got a heads-up from a reporter with the Austin American-Statesman who called to interview me. John Mackey, if you recall, is CEO of Whole Foods. His blog was shut down in July 2007 while his Board of Directors and the SEC investigated his pseudonymous postings to a Yahoo finance message board.
The SEC recently concluded its probe (no action is to be taken). Mackey started up his blog again today with a post titled: Back to Blogging. It's, er, 2,047 words long. About the length of half of a book chapter.
Here are my thoughts:
1. First, kudos to Mackey for starting up again.
2. John, are you planning to write a book?? The post is in the form of a long-form essay, rather than a blog entry. Clearly carefully written and edited. But hey, it's his blog.
3. It's almost an apology, but not quite. This guy's got a fesity personality and it comes through loud and clear. (Again, kudos. An opinionated, passionate voice is key to an effective blog.)
4. He makes some interesting points:
- He calls the use of the pseudonym “rahodeb" on the Yahoo message boards "an error of judgment, not of ethics." I can relate to that. Although in his case it was not a one-time error but one that he executed 1,400 times over an eight-year period.
- He says the use of screen names or aliases is "a great equalizer" in online forums. Yes... and no. You could also call it a subterfuge if you're not who you appear to be. (Cf the Burger King executive who was fired recently after using his daughter's screen name to post negative comments about a farmworkers advocacy group.)
5. He didn't realize he had become a "public figure;" nor did he "take myself seriously." Hmmm... he was CEO of a public company - ?
TAKEAWAY: The Web and the Internet - and Google, specifically - have changed the equation between public and private. Or between professional and personal. Bottom line: there is no privacy online.
Ignore that fact at your peril. But keep blogging, corporates. I think it's fair to say that most everyone loves the revolution in corporate communications. Down with corporate-speak!
Maggie Fox is one of the great speakers we've got lined up for BlogPotomac, the social media marketing unconference which takes place on June 13, 2008 in Falls Church, VA (just outside Washington DC). I caught up with Maggie recently to find out more about her background and what she'll be talking about.
Note: We are expecting BlogPotomac to sell out. It's just over three weeks away so register now if you're interested in joining us! In keeping with the unconference format, Maggie and the other speakers will be delivering informal presentations - no PowerPoint - with plenty of time for Q&A with attendees.
Debbie: You describe yourself in your Twitter profile as a "licensed social media professional." What is that?
Maggie: Mostly that's a joke. A little bit of irony for my readers - this is such a new space that consultants and others who dare to call themselves "experts" are often publicly criticized, so I thought I'd suggest that I had gone through some sort of certification process. In the Bahamas.
Debbie: Tell us a bit about Social Media Group (based in Toronto), of which you are CEO.
Maggie: SMG is one of the largest and best-known pure-play social media agencies in the world, and our model is a unique blend of business consulting and agency execution. Rather than coming in with the "big idea" (which is old agency style) we take the time to determine what the right idea is, and then (unlike consulting firms) we are responsible for that vision and actually work to execute it.
We like to think of it as the best of both worlds. Our clients naturally agree, and they include Ford Motor Company, SAP Global Marketing, Yamaha and Harlequin Publishing, among others. We have some major new client announcements coming soon as well.
We have four main areas of practice: Social Media Strategy & Education, Reputation Measurement and Monitoring, "Build", which includes our proprietary social media press release platform, called Digital Snippets and Influencer Outreach. We've developed a number of innovative methods and processes around these four areas for our clients, particularly in the measurement department.
Debbie: Social Media is the new buzz phrase among the online cognoscenti. Do you think it's the right phrase to describe the phenomenon? What in your words *is* social media?
Maggie: That's a little like trying to describe art ;-) I like to describe social media as the online tools and platforms that enable people to communicate and share digital content.
The technology part of it is actually quite irrelevant (this quarter it's Twitter, next quarter it might be something completely different) so it's important not to get hung up on the platform and concentrate instead on understanding the behaviour.
A typical question asked is whether Web 2.0 is a fad, and my answer is always an emphatic NO.
Starting in the mid-90's the Internet began allowing people (largely via email lists) to organize themselves not by geography (as had been the case throughout human history) but by interest (this is something that a government organization called Statistics Canada has been actively tracking for the last decade).
"The exciting thing is (social media) is really still fetal."
- Maggie Fox, Social Media Group
The growth of communities of interest and the acceleration of the ability to self organize is what underpins social media (all thanks to greater broadband access).
Throw into the mix the phenomenon that Clay Shirky refers to as the Cognitive Surplus (the notion that up until 50 years ago the concept of "free time" did not exist, and society turned to TV, and now we're going online to fill it) and you have a profound social shift.
The exciting thing is it's really still fetal, but happening so fast we will see massive transformation of the media landscape within a decade or so (maybe even less).
Debbie: Can you give us a quick preview of what you'll be talking about at BlogPotomac?
Maggie: The session is about the Latest Trends in Social Media Marketing, and it's an "unconference" model (something I have referred to in the past as a User-Generated Presentation), so the content is in the audience's hands.
I'll do a brief blurb (no powerpoint!) about some of the stuff that I've mentioned above, since a clear understanding of the origins of all this does everyone well.
But rather than focussing on what the trends are today, I'd like to steer the discussion in the direction of getting ahead of them, and understanding what criteria you need for success, regardless of what you're doing.
Of course we will discuss tactical examples of social media being used in a way that aligns with business objectives, but the content will literally be in the hands of the audience.
What do you want to know? Come prepared with your questions! I'm hoping it will be highly interactive and challenging.
Debbie: You're based in Toronto. Are Canadian companies behind or ahead of the U.S. in terms of their use of social media?
Maggie: To be honest, we don't really do a lot of work with Canadian companies - most of our work is international, with a focus on the U.S. That being said, Canada is always a little behind new marketing and communications trends that originate south of the border; I think it just takes time to filter up here.
Two important points, however: Canada is the most wired nation on earth (highest percentage of broadband Internet users) and an astounding one-in-four Canadians has a Facebook profile. At one time, Toronto had the largest FB network of any city in the world, but it's recently been passed by London, England (though not by much, relatively speaking).
If Canadian companies are lagging a bit, I'm not sure how much longer they can afford to do so!
This is state of the art use of social media by a big company: a blog, Flickr pics, video, polls, news and more. Note the icons for YouTube, FlickR, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter at the bottom of the page. This multi social media platform approach echoes what Dell is doing on its Community page.
This is exciting. And a refreshing change after the Southwest blog was caught flat-footed in March 2008 following the aircraft inspection crisis and threat of a record fine by the FAA. Kudos to the Southwest blogging team!
A digital marketing strategist at a Global 100 company just put me onto a new search engine called Searchme.com (yes, these corporate types can be surprisingly plugged in!).
It' s still in beta, so go to http://beta.searchme.com/ and type in your name, company name, brand name, etc. You can choose "all" or ask for results based on advertising & marketing, radio, non-fiction and blogs. I assume they'll be adding more categories.
Up comes a visual "stack" of pages you can click through and mouse over. The results remind me of Apple's Time Machine. Cool, huh?!
And appropriately, the Searchme folks have created a demo video and put it up on YouTube. For those interested in the power of viral video, note that the video has been watched 63,588 times since it was posted to YouTube on March 9, 2008. Here it is:
KD Paine is one of the (terrific) speakers we've got lined up for BlogPotomac, Washington DC's premiere social media marketing event coming up on June 13, 2008 (go for it... register here). I snagged her for a quick Q & A to give us a preview of her topic "Measurement and Value."
Note: In keeping with the unconference format (see here and here) of BlogPotomac, KD and the other speakers will be delivering informal presentations - no PowerPoint - with plenty of time for Q&A with attendees.
Debbie: Tell us briefly about your company KD Paine & Partners.
KD: We provide measurement and evaluation of communications programs – including traditional and social media, internal and external programs. We've been doing this stuff for 22 to years, and measuring consumer generated media for 13 years.
We design measurement programs for clients, helping them to define their "dashboards" of things they want to track. We also provide the human element – working with firms like Buzz Logic to provide human coding in order to get social media to an acceptable accuracy level.. We also provide the so-what – connecting the data to actual business outcomes.
Debbie: You're being called The Queen Of Measurement. But on your Twitter page you say you prefer to be called the Goddess Seshat. Who the heck is that?
KD: There actually was a goddess of measurement called Seshat - and in this day and age Queen is just a bit too "command and control" as opposed to a goddess that inspires followers and gives birth to new metrics.
KD Paine... a goddess who inspires followers and gives birth to new metrics.
Debbie: I know you're on the road constantly these days, speaking to audiences both in the U.S. and abroad. What's the single most frequent question you get about measuring the effectiveness of online PR?
Debbie: Another BlogPotomac speaker, Kami Watson Huyse, has done a nifty video interview with you where you outline your Super Six Steps to Effective PR Measurement. As BlogPotomac is focused on social media, would you change anything or add to the list?
KD: Not a thing. I think that if everyone started off following those 6 steps, we have a lot more measurement (as opposed to monitoring which is what most people are doing) .
Debbie: Any quick thoughts on some of the new metrics - engagement, participation, velocity, community - being used to measure the impact of social media?
KD: Yes I'm a big believer in measuring engagement but I think it has to go way beyond repeat visits, and sentiment and tonality. I think we have to start asking the customers not just are they engaged but do they trust us, are they committed to a long term relationship, are they satisfied with the relationship. That's why I called my book Measuring Public Relationships.
"Go read Debbie's book. Along with Scoble it's the other bible. Buy it." - Steve Clayton, CTO Microsoft UK Partner Group