What does a social media consultant do?

This morning, my Kiwi compatriot, Simon Young (@audaciousgloop on Twitter) answered the question in the title on his own blog, predominantly in the context of explaining to people how his company, iJump, makes money.

I figure as there is growing interest in the business value of social media, I would have a lash at the same question. So, here goes nothing…

3007094100_23b26c5c8d.jpgI talk. A lot. I listen more. Two ears, one mouth used in that proportion. By doing this, I can build an understanding of my clients’ business and get across the problems they face – whether it’s collaborating internally, talking to their customers and stakeholders in the right way, or understanding how the market works in the social media world to name a few common issues.

I talk and listen some more. Strategising with my clients on building an understanding of their problems and the possible approaches they might take in addressing them is a core component of my work. From these discussions, which range from one-on-one with the CEO or mail room guy to large workshops with the entire staff, we’re able to build a list of issues to be addressed and some thinking about what we can do to address them. Sometimes it’s quick fixes we can start on tomorrow. Other times, we build a six month to one year plan.

I research and write. Lots. For myself and for my clients. Those issues that need solving? Sometimes that very issue has been tackled before. I want to know when, how, why, who did it and with what. So do my clients. I also want to know what the latest thinking and case studies on business use of social tools is. It’s my job to do that research and help my clients understand what it all means.

So, what words might be used to describe all this stuff? Innovation, change management, cultural change, mentoring, teaching, consulting.

The technology part of this equation, as Simon said in his post, is the least complex part. Understanding organisational culture, readiness for change and what motivations might bring about that change in individuals, groups and organisations are the bread and butter of my work. How do we flatten corporate structures? Encourage fast, cheap and innovative experimentation and failure? Change the management mindset from command-and-control to conversation, collaboration and community?

That’s the cool stuff. That’s the stuff I love. That’s why acidlabs is unique.

BarCamp Sydney #4 – Saturday, 15 November 2008

The (un)organisers of BarCamp Sydney have let me know that they are preparing for yet another festival of creativity to engage and excite the Australian tech and innovation community. Details below.

Date: 15 November 2008

Venue: UNSW Roundhouse

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PMpm (registration starts at 8:30AM)

Register: Do it yourself on the wiki

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp before, I highly recommend it. Make some time in your schedule. For those that have been before, I needn’t remind you how great BarCamp is. Take a look at my tag list below to see just how much of your life this might touch.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there. I’m not sure how my timetable is yet.

What inspires me to blog (and a short rant)

Laurel’s pressured me and now Lee has too! What is it with you people?

There are a number of triggers, I guess, that will get me to make those particular mouse clicks and keyboard strokes. I’ve never really thought about them clearly before now. Like Laurel and Lee, I’m pretty much on a theme here. There are occasions I drift off topic, or am tempted to put something more personal in a post, but they are very much that – occasional.

So what are my motivators? Let’s see:

  • business value for problem solving using social tools as a supporting technology – it’s about the problems, culture and practices, the tools simply make it easier
  • how business can get social tool use right, both inside the wall and across it – openness, honesty, humanity, fairness, values, equality
  • the flip side of the last point, how not to use social tools in your business – sock-puppeting, dishonesty and the like
  • social web strategy for business – folding the culture, practice and tools into your corporate DNA
  • products I use and enjoy using for some reason (not necessarily online) – if I like it, maybe you will too, and I want you to know
  • things I’ve read that I think others should – interesting, exciting, groundbreaking, stimulating

Scarily enough, like my friends (and competitors, so back off you pair!) Laurel and Lee, I’ve got to do this in such a way that it generates leads for business for me where it can. I can’t be giving away all my IP.

And now, the tangential bit… public speaking – which is akin to being with me as I blog. With pictures. And sometimes video.

Again, like Lee and Laurel, this blog generates a lot of speaking opportunities – and like Lee, I’ve about reached the end of where I’m prepared to speak gratis.

I am flattered that you think I’d add value to your event, but I have an established brand and reputation to which I attach some value. Yes, I’ll meet some new people at your thing, but I rarely generate work (have I ever?) from conferences. So, “it’s good for your business, think of the networking opportunities”. Not so much.

There are a few events I will always consider doing just for expense coverage, the organisers know who they are.

However, if you’re charging your attendees more than $1500 to attend, I think you should probably send some of that my way for the time it takes me to prepare and the work I couldn’t do in the meantime. I have even engaged a very highly regarded speakers’ bureau (thank you Mr Pesce) to help me out. If you ask me to speak and you’re running a commercial event, I’ll probably send you their way.

Here’s the math. Not including the days of distracting brainstorming I go through, a half-hour talk takes me two days to prepare. Minimum. And it scales somewhat more than linearly from there. Plus there’s rehearsal time. I need to do my talks half a dozen times at least in rehearsal before I can give you a good performance.

That’s got to be worth something, no?

Dear Hugh Martin, why didn’t you call?

Hugh Martin of APN Online has commented on the ongoing artificial journalist vs. blogger thing. His post seeks to establish him as both experienced professional journalist and experienced “online guy”. I’ll pay him on both accounts.

However, his post exhibits some of the worst traits he and the other professional journalists have accused bloggers of perpetuating – failure to research adequately, failure to contact the subjects of criticism for comment and unsubstantiated op-ed. As far as I know, Hugh didn’t contact any of the people he criticises – me, Mark Pesce, Stilgherrian and Chris Saad. He accuses us of generalisation, laziness and, remarkably:

… not to have the first clue about the way MSM actually works, and [clinging] violently to a set of pre-ordained notions about said MSM.

I say remarkably as at least three of us have mainstream media experience of some significance – Stil is an experienced journalist and broadcaster, Mark an often-published author and my background is as a tertiary-trained journalist who hasn’t worked in the industry for some years (I didn’t enjoy the grind enough). If Hugh had called, emailed or researched any of us properly he’d have known that. I think it might have put quite a different spin on his post.

Certainly, I think my post responding to and commenting on the Future of Media Summit was reasonably balanced, so to be accused of laziness, generalisation and not having a clue kind of annoys me.

What bugs me most is the ongoing, patently ridiculous, artificial dichotomy, perpetuated by individuals on both sides of the argument that journalism and blogging are diametrically opposed. The attitude exhibited by both Jane Schulze and Stephen Quinn on the panel; an attitude that suggests a belief that true journalism can only be done by those properly trained, vetted and edited by their publishers is patently rubbish. Equally, the hard line taken by some bloggers that all MSM is evil and a dead medium is ridiculous.

My position, as:

  • a trained journalist and reasonably successful blogger (in terms of readership)
  • someone who who consults on issues around corporate comms, social media and social networking and connecting with stakeholders by using these tools
  • someone who is sought out by journalists for expert comment or covered by them based on my public speaking on this stuff, and
  • someone who researches, interviews and comments (sounds like journalism to me) in his field of expertise

is that there is a place for both professional and amateur, journalist and blogger, new and old. What there’s no place for is bigotry, elitism, low quality, sensationalism and unprofessionalism on either side; and both sides are lousy with each. To say otherwise is to be disingenuous at best.

I don’t know why Hugh’s research didn’t extend to flicking a quick email to some of us, but I don’t think he’s done himself any favors with this piece.

Standing for Social Media Club board

With 37 others, I am standing for the final slot on the Social Media Club Board.

SMC, is a great organisation, that has the support and involvement of the best people in social media and has the stated aim of:

…sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media. This is the beginning of a global conversation about building an organization and a community where the many diverse groups of people who care about social media can come together to discover, connect, share, and learn.

The Board is a new initiative at SMC, aiming to gather the best minds together to help coordinate activities that will take SMC forward, addressing strategic and organisational goals. It’s taking what has been a very loose group and getting the (very voluntary) leaders of it to help each other and the community be better organised.

The role is voluntary, requiring a few hours of my time a month. The group I stand with (I hesitate to say against, as they are all people I respect highly) are all worthy of your vote, but I’m asking for it for a couple of reasons:

  • I’m really keen to be more involved with SMC. I’ve hovered at the edges for a while and think I can offer more
  • there aren’t enough Australians in the group, which is heavily skewed to the US and Europe. I think that the combined forces of me, Chris Saad and Des Walsh could work together to great effect and give the southern hemisphere crowd an active voice

So, totally your call. I won’t be offended if you don’t vote, or vote for someone else (the group is all worth voting for). But please do vote.

And hey, if you vote for me, let me know!

socialmedian focussed news (and another Web 2.0 good guy)

Here’s another good news tale of a social application that reached out to me to see if I would be interested in taking a look at their offering. that service is socialmedian. Their CEO, Jason Goldberg, reached out and asked if I could take a deeper look at the site as I had tweeted that I was struggling to get value. He offered to help, and we’ve been chatting since.

sm-logo-home-1.gifsocialmedian are a very new (they fully admit to being in alpha and are very feature incomplete) social news gathering service that aims to provide you with targeted news based on broad (or potentially very focussed) subject matter groups you create yourself or join after others have defined them. For example, I created the eGovernment and Government 2.0 group and have joined others including Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Experience Design.

The service provides suggestions for news sources for your groups, allows you to add your own and provides a browser bookmarklet you can use to push stories to a particular group.

It’s early days yet, but it seems to be working pretty well as far as the core, news gathering functionality works. I’m hoping to work with Jason and the rest of the socialmedian crew on building out the social aspects of the site, as the way socialmedian works is ripe for rich sociality. In fact, socialmedian actively invite feature requests and seek to push new code live a few times a week. It’s very much development in the open.

Jason has given me a bunch of special invite codes that you can use to join socialmedian in you’re interested. Comment here to ask for one.

EDIT: Actually, let’s make it easy… Go to http://www.socialmedian.com/signup. Use the invite code acidlabs.

Have fun. Play. Give them feedback. Let me know how you go.

There are 50 instances of the code, so if you’re #51, sorry.

My social network connection policy and that “friend” thing

The whole relationship spectrum in social networks is something that bugs me more than a little.

I live with it, as I’ve no choice if I want to use these tools, but most networks don’t adequately express the range of associations we have with people. The nuances of relationship that we express on a daily basis with people we work, play and live with aren’t nearly adequately expressed online. Something like the XFN microformat has more nuance, although not nearly enough. There needs to be more.

So, on Facebook, which is a pretty complex social network, you’re either my friend, or not. Nowhere near enough. I need (and want) to be able to express whether we’ve met, worked together, share interests, or are real-life friends and probably a bunch of other variants. I can sort of do this with groups, but it still feels inadequate.

LinkedIn is a slightly different story. The focus there is very different, and they have come a long way in terms of helping you to understand your own linkages, but not in helping others understand your linkages. So, for example, if someone wants to know how I know Andrew and Matthew, they need to do a little trawling. Again, inadequate to my thinking.

I want the expression of my relationships on complex social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to be outward-facing, so that anyone who can see my social graph on these networks can also see adequately expressed nuance in those relationships. Are you a real-life friend, a colleague, a professional peer, my boss, my wife, my daughter, someone I went to school with?

Something like Twitter, on the other hand, is very simple. It’s largely a crowded room full of conversation – either I follow you, or I don’t, and the same goes for you and your crowd. I think for Twitter, that’s enough. YMMV.

So, to the real point of this post, how, when and why I might connect to you on a social network. Others have done similar pieces. I’m a particular fan of Shel Israel’s Twitter and Facebook policies. My policies are loosely based on his. So, here goes.

  1. If I don’t know who you are, I’m unlikely to connect to you. If we don’t know each other, please accompany your request with a short note explaining why you are trying to connect. If your explanation makes sense, I’ll probably connect. My email address is very public, so this shouldn’t be hard to do.
  2. If you are a brand, marketing flack, or company, I’m unlikely to connect with you. There are exceptions, but they are few.
  3. If you know several of my friends or colleagues, I’ll probably connect to you. I’ll check with them first, and I’d still like a note from you, but your chances are pretty good.
  4. If I know your work, blog or community I’ll probably connect to you. Again, a little explanation goes a long way, as do mutual connections.

Simple enough, I’d say.

BarCamp Canberra is Go!

Thunderbirds are go!

After a year of trying, we’ve finally scored a venue and BarCamp Canberra is happening!

Here are the details:

  • Who? Anyone who is interested in technology, the Internet and related topics. We have room for 60ish people, so bring your colleagues.
  • What? A good opportunity to share ideas and projects and to work with like-minded individuals.
  • When? 1000-1700 on Saturday 19 April 2008
  • Where? BarCampCanberra will be held at the CSIT Building, North Road, ANU.
  • Website? The BarCampCanberra blog is located at http://www.barcampcanberra.org/blog. We’ll be posting updated information about the event there.

The Barcamp.org page is http://barcamp.org/BarCampCanberra. We’ll be posting updated information about the event there.

There is a signup page at http://barcamp.org/BarCampCanberra1. You need to sign up there if you want a t-shirt. Make sure you read the t-shirt details!

There is an Upcoming event at http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/449217 so we can track who’s coming and presenting.

There is a Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/barcamp-canberra where most of the backchannel is happening. Subscribe there to keep in touch.

And there’s the Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=12884516420.

BarCamp Canberra logo