Would you spam your followers?

Should I spam my contacts? I don't think so.

Why do I ask? Because, I received an email this morning from someone I once knew slightly asking me to advocate something his brother had done. In essence the email told me exactly how he'd like me to spam my followers. 

Here's his approach:

After an intro he says, "I'm writing to ask you very personally for your help …".

I like the "very personally" since it's clearly not. It's a mass mailing.

He asked for 'likes' on three social networks, a Tweet, a Facebook mention and a blog post. He also asked for support on a couple of publicity sites and offered an opportunity for a minuscule and fleeting piece of self promotion.

Finally he describes the product in more detail and asks if I can help him find distributors.

Clang!!

That was the bin.

Am I wrong?

 

Does this interest you?

In December we gave a new blog a low-key launch. We wanted to get people with interesting points of view based on their life experiences to share their views and advice with others. We called it The Right Thing To Do.

Then along came Euan’s book (see the previous post) and he reminded me of what I’ve known for donkey’s years – that a question mark is an invitation to read and maybe participate, whereas its absence suggests a ‘know-it-all’ exhortation.

In the past, I used the question mark a lot with magazine cover lines and column titles. But when it came to The Right Thing To Do, I forgot.

Euan is right. Isn’t he?

Online Marketing 101

If you need a crash course in online marketing, you could do worse than browse my recent collection of articles and blog posts by experts on the matter.

I had started off, a month ago, intending to investigate what's out there on the subject of 'web-based business to business collaboration' but, as I collected the links on Scoop.it, I found that 'marketing' was the theme that bound most of my discoveries together. Hence the title of this blog post.

When I was a journalist, I didn't really like having to interview marketing folk because they were too sanitised, too in control of their messages and hard to get real stories out of. (Good stories to a journalist are those which carry at least a hint of disclosure.)

However my Scoop.it investigations gave me a new respect for marketing, it really does seem to belong at the centre of B2B collaboration activities. 

Here's a snap of part of my Scoop.it collection (click on the image to see it full size):

B2BCollaboration1

It was 'curated' by looking at hundreds of suggestions from Scoop.it, reducing them to fifty or so, then throwing out the four or five that didn't live up to the promise of the extract.

The result is a neat little package of pieces, admittedly of variable quality, but all of which helped to round out my existing perceptions of how to approach online B2B collaboration.

Since so much work went into the curation, I thought it would be silly to keep it to myself.

See what you think. It's at http://www.scoop.it/t/b2bcollaboration

 

An evening with PR/Marketing Guru, Larry Weber

Back in May, I trotted off to meet with marketing/PR guru, Larry Weber and a bunch of other interesting people, including Jack Schofield (IT man at the Guardian for donkey's years and erstwhile competitor – we both edited PC magazines in the early eighties) and Bill Nichols an academic and marcomms/reputation consultant who, when Jack and I were competing, was Clive Sinclair's PR man. They were both on the speaker panel with Larry. The other notable people were in the lively audience.

The occasion was the UK launch of Larry's (then) most recent book: Everywhere. It's about social networking being at the heart of the future of business. He calls this 'anytime, anywhere' access the the fourth wave of computing. (I ought to know what the three earlier waves were, but I've forgotten. Maybe it was brains, internal networking and internet, or something.)

No surprises so far then. But I don't think Larry set out to surprise us particularly. More that he wants to share his familiarity with the subject matter in a non-frightening manner. After all, the people who really need his insights are those who are probably the most fearful of openness, transparency and genuine dialogue. You might think of them as the 'command and contol' brigade. While this has its place, it's probably not where the rubber of the corporation hits the road of the marketplace.

Sorry, I should be talking about Larry's evening. (And, if you're wondering why it's taken me so long, it's because I was suddenly pitchforked into a new company and I've been more than a tad busy. My conscience was pricked by a Facebook post about his recent presentation to the Public Relations Student Society of America. The headline of the post was "Social media's impact bigger than television's.")

At his book launch, he predicted that, by 2015, "you'll be hard pressed to find any newspapers or nightly news on TV." He says, "TV ads have got to die sometime." He may not always provide answers but he knows how to provoke fresh thinking. Let's hope the revenue replacement doesn't put the TV companies even deeper in hock to corporate sponsors.

With regard to the Fourth Generation thing, he told the story of how he sent off for brochures from all the prospective colleges for his daughter. She didn't look at one  of them. She'd already done her research online. Except she didn't refer to it as online. When Larry once said to her, "I'm going online", she replied "Oh Dad, we don't go online any more. We just are." Online, that is. And a lot of people reading this will know what she means. If you're not one of them, then it's likely that his book will interest you.

Another thing he talked about was Innocentive. Companies give it problems and money and it gets its community of 'solvers' to apply their brains. Larry gave examples of $100,000 here and $25,000 there. It's all online (of course). And the winning contributor exchanges their IP for the cash. That's a great commercial application of crowdsourcing. Related to this were his comments on how social networking allows for the intense, focused, sharing of knowledge. I think his book goes further and talks of micro-segmentation of the internet so that you can find a community and go deep into just about any subject that interests you.

He is very clear that successful companies (especially consumer-facing) will have to become radically transparent, be willing to share and also to stand for something that will resonate with customers and prospects. Core values that permeate the company's business. Larry doesn't claim it will be easy, but he sprinkles his conversation with stories old and new of how companies have turned on the proverbial dime. Dell, of course. BP to a certain extent. And so on.

I was quite taken with the idea that, "big sites will die under their own weight." He said this because he believes that all the power is now in the network. Not sure that a behemoth like IBM would totally agree with this sentiment, despite its strong advocacy of social networking values. With statements like this, the evangelist in Larry seems to pop out of the closet. (My views of evangelists are here.)

Let's turn to one of the other speakers, Bill Nichols. He scored a hole in one for me with his observation that "People respond to emotion and fairness."

I have the sense that the former has been faked and the latter missing for a long time.

If Larry and Bill are right, we would seem to be heading towards a better and much more harmonious world.

Let's hope so.

I am alive, unlike my poor namesake

My phone has been ringing off the hook (well, it would be if it had a hook). And I see my blog has suddenly become very popular.

This is because an unfortunate man called David Tebbutt and his wife Judith were attacked by bandits  in Kenya last night. The man was killed and the wife abducted.

It's been interesting to have conversations with a media that needed considerable persuasion that I was not the person who was killed. (I think they wanted to run my picture with the story.)

And I apologise for any erstwhile colleagues who got caught up in this. It's touching that they reached out to check if I was okay. Thanks folks,

Now, let's just think of the poor man who was killed, his wife who was abducted and the family whose lives must now be in utter turmoil.

Homo Imitans. People do what we do, not what we say

The human body has two circulatory systems, the veinous and the lymphatic. They are connected, but largely independent.

Hi Leandro Herrero's latest book, Homo Imitans, reminded me that the body corporate also contains two circulatory systems, the hierarchy and the networks. And, while each plays an important role, the networks – rather like the lymphatic system of the body – have incredible power which is underestimated, if not ignored, in most organisations.

This is a mistake, says Dr Herrero, describing the two systems as 'World I' and 'World II'. His book is mostly about World II, with the occasional nod to the enabling and encouraging role of World I in enlightened organisations.

His fundamental thesis (building on his earlier Viral Change book, which I reviewed here) is that people are more inclined to change their behaviour by copying peers that they respect than commands from on high. And, since behaviour is the only thing that counts when it comes to real change inside organisations, this is where (change) management should be focusing its energies. Dr Herrero gives due credit to authors of social networking books which cover a lot of similar ground, but his talent is in directing his thoughts and guidance slap bang into the heart of organisations that want to change but don't know how. It is also, very occasionally, a 'sell' for his Viral ChangeTM practice, should you not want to go it alone.

Influence travels through networks completely independently of the company hierarchy and, in many cases, without the hierarchy even being aware of what's going on. In an organisational example, we saw it when Greg Dyke left the BBC after the stink around the 'sexing up' of the Iraq dossier – the crowds of staff, some in tears, seemed to appear out of nowhere but they were actually galvanised by the internal network.

In a non-corporate example, the recent rioting and looting in England came about largely through social networking and many people caught up in it were simply copying others who appeared to be 'getting away with it'. (The book contains a very useful 40-page annex which describes in detail many examples of social contagion with references to Dr Herrero's source material. It's called The Human Condition: a guide for the perplexed.)

All of which brings us back to the title of the book (Homo Imitans, if you've forgotten). We see what others do and we copy them. If others who respect or like us, see us doing something in a new way that makes sense to them, they copy us. If just three people copy what 'someone like them' is doing, then it's clear that such a social infection will quickly reach epidemic proportions.

The trick espoused by Dr Herrero is to find those key people in organsiations, wherever they are, and persuade them that a new way of behaving is good for them. (Obviously, it has to be good for the organisation, otherwise there's no point in doing it.) Much has been written about finding such 'champions' but less has been written about focusing on their behaviour.

Words alone are not enough. Dr Herrero likes to collect "Don't do that" posters which usually have little effect but can actually encourage whatever it is they're trying to stop. ("ABUSE OF STAFF WILL NOT BE TOLERATED", etc.) People will respond much more readily to what others do than to what they say.

The book is rich in structure and entertaining in style. It hammers home its messages and suggests new practices from a variety of perspectives. Each chapter reinforces what went before but, maybe because I've spent the the last 35 years as an enthusiast of behavioural psychology and the last seven deep in social networking, I felt I'd well and truly got the message before the end. Nevertheless, I notice I've still made margin notes right up to the last page.

I particularly like his encouraging penultimate paragraph:

"Viral ChangeTM … doesn't depend on behavioural sciences, network theory, social sciences, storytelling and leadership studies. Or even us as consultants!"

Leandro Herrero provides a wealth of persuasive examples and evidence which will help you make the case for socially-driven behavioural change in your own organisation.

Recommended.

Business Writing

A few months ago, I was asked to distil business writing skills into a 30-minute presentation followed by lots of practice. The delegates were managers and team leaders in a large British company. (Not IT or environment, as it happens.)

After much deliberation – cutting is so much harder than adding, I got the presentation down to a core of nine slides:

BW

You can get it/download it from SlideShare.

Hopefully, you'll find the tips helpful but, if you want more, please drop me a line – my name [at] tebbo.com is easiest.