The joy of Creative Commons

…is better parties, social occasions, family life and harmony. Possibly.

Yes, the Creative Commons licensing of your content has the direct side-effect of shareability, clarity and time efficiency of not chasing copyright permissions. But it also has the real-world, real-time impact of more people (hopefully) attending what is a truly lovely family event in Birmingham this weekend. And here’s why – in a 24-hour timeline:

Saturday 12.00: Yesterday, I took photographs at a family day out at this weekend’s Traditional Edwardian Fete at Winterbourne House and Garden, and as is my habit, set them uploading to my Flickr photo account, during the making of dinner. Here’s the set of 60 and also in slideshow format:

Saturday 22.00: After adding a few captions and tags and the like, at midnight I posted the link to the family on Facebook, and then also posted to Twitter.

My tweet about the fete

Sunday 10.00: This morning, I discovered that Nick Booth from my Twitterstream had blogged about my day and posted some of my photos on the Birmingham Conservation Trust charity website.

Birmingham Conservation Trust post

No need to contact me first; the pics were released under Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence.

Creative Commons license

12 things I learnt at SXSW 2010

I learnt…

* …that Austin looks awesome from the 33rd floor

Frost Tower AustinFringe events outside of the main SXSW programme are occurring all the time. I just found out today for example that there were THREE Twitter parties (not just the official one). But you can often only come across these serendipitously through the people you meet at South-by. One off-programme invite I got was courtesy of Stephanie Frost, a rather lovely marketing lady from Atlanta and co-author of a new book called Marketing Unmasked. Being from Atlanta, she had access to SExSW (which spells Sex SW, I know), a party put on for those hailing from the south-eastern states. Stephanie’s invite took me to the Frost Bank Tower, the second highest building in Austin, for some rather pretty views, chats and a glass of the good stuff up in the 33rd floor penthouse suite.

* …the ABC of douchey panels
Sometimes you just get a panel that doesn’t live up to its blurb. Irritating if you picked that one out of three others that you also wanted to see. It happens; there are hundreds of panels at SXSW. Here are your options:
A. Revel in the backchannel snarking.
B. Leave in search of an alternative or take a sunshine break.
C. Use the time to catch up on your Twitter, emails, feeds, SXSW blog, uploading your SXSW pictures and video, filling in job applications, etc.

* …about the digital agency workflow
Well, one agency’s workflow in particular. I kind of felt sorry for Archetype, the Interactive Agency Workflow panel guys. They had a packed room but killed it by using themselves as the only example. Result? The room emptied by degrees. They also got a slating on the Twitter backchannel. However, being a web writer/editor, I’m often at the end of the digital agency production line and don’t get to see the overall process so this was quite interesting to me. It was good to see the wireframes, hear how not to burn out your staff and some ways of dealing with the post-delivery jubilance that is then crushed by the client hating it.

* …that being called a bitch is good news
I don’t >think< I’ve been called a bitch, but according to @Cinnachick on the #sxswbitch panel, I’m missing out, because this situation is full of WIN. ‘When they call you a bitch, it means you’ve won. Why? Because they aren’t smart enough to continue the conversation,’ she says. Fair point. She loaded this up with a whole list of projects set up by women who haven taken on the establishment in some way to create their projects. Here’s the blog post/slides.

* …that heartbreak and wonderful things often occur simultaneously
The Fray Café is a SXSW regular. It’s an event where people stand up on stage and tell stories, ­with only one proviso: IT MUST BE TRUE. Having had a couple of crap years here and there myself, several stories really resonated. One in particular from Baratunde Thurston, Web & Politics editor at The Onion, was both amusing and tragic at the same time. The audience was sworn to secrecy due to the personal nature of the story, but I was reminded of 1996 – the year I lost my Dad, uncle and grandmother, but also found one of my favourite friends and went off to explore the world. HsAPaPdY.

* …that the average blog is read by 6 people
That stat from Danah Boyd’s keynote. So think about that the next time you feel pressure or guilt to produce a blog post for your audience but should really do other, more important things instead.

* …to JFDI!
Am I a video blogger? No. But Social Wayne impressed on me to ‘JUST DO IT’ in his Becoming a Real-Time Video Blogger in 2010 talk and, you know what, I think I will. After all, YouTube is the No2 search engine, the 4th most visited website, has over 20 hours of video uploaded every minute and is watched for 8.3 hours every month by the average viewer. I also remember randomly overhearing in the corridors: ‘There are just too many words, man!’ So, my takeaway: more video. (And here I am in real-time trying to video blog after 22 hours no sleep on the train to Austin…)

*…two new words
Propinquity is the coincidence of being near – in ‘physical proximity, a kinship between people, or via a similarity in nature between things’. This was brought up by Peter Kim in the Social Business Design panel. Propinquity is what business has to fight/extend/engage with in order to get people to venture beyond their near friends/family. Twelpforce was an example quoted as helping creating this engagement and getting close to consumers by offering a Twitter help squad to answer questions beyond the local store experience. Slacktivist was another word from the Little NGO That Could panel but for some reason this type of portmanteau word reminds me too much of chillaxin’. Bleugh.

* …that content strategists are like WallE
We go around cleaning up the Armageddon-like mess of crap that has been thrown up on the Web often without a thought by brands, marketers and others. And when we find something beautiful amongst the endless crap we get all excited and want to store it and share it. The WallE analogy was used by Kristina Halvorson to bookend her Content Strategy FTW talk.

*…about porn startups
I think #futuresmut was one of the catchier hashtags of SXSW this year and the potential for a smutty backchannel loomed large, especially when an attendee arrived wearing an above-the-knee kilt. While the backchannel (surely a smutword in itself) had a humour fail, the panel did with get right down-to-business (#smutgalore) with pointers for the wannabe pr0n kings and queens in the Hilton Ballroom. Conrad Hilton must be turning in his grave. Here’s what the man in the kilt doodled during the panel by the way – check out the hairy knees.

* …that journalism is getting interesting again
The panel on combining news with context (how revolutionary!), or context with attached news, had some great speakers. What seems clear is that big organisations ar failing to do this well because they are constrained by their traditional roles – which leaves opportunities for the agile. The other interesting thing was The Newspaper Club – a 4IP-funded tool called ARTHR for producing your own newspaper on those ‘magnificent bits of infrastructure that are just lying around’ – printing presses . I heard more than one classic Austin ‘awesome’ when people circulated the ‘limited edition’ newspaper the group had printed at 7am that morning on the Austin Statesman presses. As the endline of the presentation went: ‘We have broken your business, now we want your machines.’ How funny that the internet is accelerating content in the form of old-school newspapers, and how great that these newspapers are made by the readers themselves using traditional publishing infrastructure.

* …that we are networking as Rome burns
Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling traditionally does the final remarks of SXSW and this year his dour look into the future added a fat dollop of real-world context to all us little digitalists running from panel to panel, searching for answers to today’s business conundrums. But in essence we must face the digital demonetisation of our new world – many business models are broken and the numbers involved in their replacements are not large enough to sustain us. Oh and we will be hated by future generations for what we are building or throwing away now – just to warn you.

Tomorrow: the practical gains of attending SXSW this year. [UPDATE: now blogged at Five things I gained at SXSW 2010].

SXSW – the Glastonbury of conferences

SXSW badge pickupA little SXSW diary catchup… It’s the halfway point of SXSW Interactive and I’m still gearing up into this festival to end all web festivals.

Here’s my personal/business mission statement for this year’s event – slightly different from last year as I’m being part-funded to attend by the UK’s Digital Mission along with about 25 others from the West Midlands. See the Heart of Austin site for more on who we are – but with a trade show stall the size of the UK’s stand and no other UK region represented here, you can see how much Birmingham UK values the digital dollar and I think is also representative of what a digitally connected hub the Midlands is.

SXSW Diary: from Miami to Austin
Arrived into Austin on Thursday at 9.30 am after 22 hours of train travelling from New Orleans and 25 hours of no sleep – you can see the state of me in this ‘Let’s look at the brewery’ video as I fail spectacularly to be a tourist guide to San Antonio from the train.

There will also be content going up on my travel blog, Tourist vs Traveller,  about my Amtrak train and Greyhound road trip from Miami to Austin via Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. But mainly about the 24 hours this Brummie spent in our namesake city, Birmingham Alabama.

I’m also adding to my Flickr picture set as the days go by: SXSW2010 and USA2010 – if you want to see the trip that led up to the festival and see what Birmingham, Alabama looks like.

Thursday/Friday saw badge pickup – where I learnt that it pays to be late. Never to turn up at the listed time but at least two hours later if you want to avoid the queues.

First panels: mobile UX and improv lessons

Watching a keynote simulcast
Watching Danah Boyd's keynote simulcast in an empty hall because all my panels were oversubscribed

My kick-off panel was the UX of Mobile, which is a whole new world of design, dev and content and one that may lead website design in future rather than the other way round. In future, mobile design will be a key driver in all digital design, was the expert view, because shrinking down website to fit on a small screen (surprise, surprise) doesn’t work.

I spent most of this panel, however trying to track down a certain Bharath Kumar who had left his memory stick on a corridor floor by a power socket. It was like trying to solve a mystery. You’d think everyone at SXSW would be easily findable on the Web, but I tell you, Bharath Kumar is a VERY common name. In the end we found his mobile number somewhere on the stick and texted him. And he lived happily ever after.

The afternoon’s best session was Improv Lessons for Freelancers – and has inspired me to take up improv if there are any such sessions in Birmingham UK… This is not just about how to be charming to your clients but how to, for example, say yes positively to their ‘Make it pop’ requests without actually committing yourself to a bad design decision – or extra unpaid work.

How to network at SXSW
Over a margarita, of course. Thursday evening was the SXSW West Midlands networking dinner at the Iron Cactus, the social and business bonding oiled by the drink of SXSW: the margarita. Parties are another major feature of SXSW.

I’m a relative new arrival into Birmingham’s digital scene – see September 2009’s Why I am moving back to Brum – so it was good to cement a few friendships and to let people know that I’m a web writer, web editor and content strategy person who can plug into the commercial scene in Birmingham and create content for clients/agencies that need a professional web writer/editor.

The serendipitous Glastonbury effect

Why Keep Blogging panel
Why Keep Blogging panel

Saturday was a frustrating day. Every panel I chose to attend had a mile-long queue to get in.

But this is where SXSW reminds me of Glastonbury in that it’s all good. If you can’t get to something you want to see because it’s over the other side of the site and four floors up, or it’s oversubscribed, then there are some great little gigs right next to you. It may not be your subject but you can still take away something from it.

Critical Tits, for example, was an interesting one – a conversation where the Burning Man festival was being called to account for its new and tight restrictions on photography, where they see anything shared to a wider audience as ‘commercial use’. I think the move has stemmed from people snapping naked female artists and those shots appearing on porn sites. But the clamp down seems excessive and controlling being applied across the board as it is. I may be wrong on this, I didn’t get the full lowdown as the session was interrupted by an emergency fire alarm and evacuation of the whole Austin Convention Center.

I also attended Why Keep Blogging by some of the original superstars of blogging (SXSW is great for attracting big names) and How to Create a Viral Video – which was (possibly) more fun than useful but made by the attendance of Damian Kulash of OK Go viral video fame.

How to create a viral video
I think OK Go’s music has become secondary to their videos, but, OMG, This Too Shall Pass is a damn fine video. It starts with domino toppling and ends in the most astonishing series of pop music Mousetrap that you will ever, ever see. Ever.

An incredible idea if you can afford the 60 engineers and six months it took to make. Although the point was made that the record company couldn’t afford it but commercial sponsors State Farm Insurance could – and got very positive comments from the millions who have seen the video. And the only product plug was their logo on the side of a truck that sets the first domino falling, plus a credit at the end.

Now that’s what I call marketing 2010!

Content Strategy FTW!

Kristina Halvorson
Kristina Halvorson presents Content Strategy FTW!

Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy FTW was the highlight of my day. I received a major info download that is currently swirling around my head so will post another time on that.

Over the next year, I’m looking at employing content strategy for We Are Fierce in Birmingham and helping them to bring their festival, consultancy and training arms all under one unified web presence over the next year.

I’m not sure what will result, but it’s going to be interesting as few organisations pay this much attention to the haphazard and messy world of content. We shall bring order! And the basic premise is ‘Less is More’.

Will also be attending CS Forum 2010 – an entire conference devoted to the growing discipline of Content Strategy.

Daily Strangeness from Dorkbot to Kick-Ass

Dorkbot with dorkhat
Dorkbot with dorkhat

Finally, last night was fun. After a brief stop-off at the Dorkbot tent to twiddle some knobs (here I am with a BleepLabs Thingamagoop), we were hijacked on Sixth Street into a cab for an interview for (I think) DVD bonus features for a new superhero flick. SXSW Film Festival saw the premiere of Kick-Ass – a superhero movie based on a comic book of the same name – we signed our Hollywood movie waiver and proceeded to be drilled about what type of superhero skills we would have and who’s ‘ass’ would be like to kick and why, as we were driven around the streets of Austin in a cab emblazoned with Kick-Ass all over it.

It was one of those mad, interstitial Glastonbury moments that is tertiary to the main event but one of the things you remember most. After all, the slogan and ethos of this city and this festival is ‘Keep Austin weird’.

Off now to enjoy Tuttle at SXSWi, an inaugural Content Srategy meetup, Fray Café tonight and see what else Sunday brings. It’s going to be fun.

A dozen Twitter tips for 2010

The ‘cool, shiny new thing’ that sent marketers crazy in 2009 was Twitter. (This year, it’s mobile apps by the way.) Why? Because although Twitter launched in 2006, it exploded into the mainstream in late 2008/early 2009. And brands were champing to get a piece of that action.

Having just spent three days at Search Engine Strategies London, Twitter is still clocking up a lot of mentions from SEOs and businesses, etc, who worry about how best to involve with it. Well, you’ll see a rise in this engagement, especially now that it is being crawled by Google for real-time search results and because marketers are realising the value of a recommendation on Twitter.

So rather than regurgitate whole speeches, here’s what SEOs and marketing types from SES London are saying about Twitter for 2010 – at least in the sessions I attended:

1 Real-time search: be wary of the value of Twitter
230 million pieces of content are published per day by user. 40% of searches have a real-time component. Potential $40 billion market. But:

  • 90% content is created by 10% of the people (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • 74% of Twitter content is produced by 5% of the users.
  • Is 5% really representative of everybody?

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

2 How McDonald’s operate their Twitter

CoTweet allows people within organisations to use the same Twitter account – as used by McDonald’s.

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

3 Should you spend time and money on Twitter?

Who is my audience? Are they on Twitter, if not don’t spend (time) there.

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

4 Has Twitter peaked?

Twitter is not accelerating as fast now, it has peaked on the growth rates. The vast majority have less than 5 users.

Rand Fishkin, Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand

5 Can Twitter drive traffic and sales?

Social network profiles (including Google Profile) drive traffic. Active Twitter users, Dell, also reported in excess of $3m in sales in 2009. Its Twitter is essentially just a promo shop, eg, 15% off at any Dell Outlet – which leads to direct click-thu sales.

Rand Fishkin, Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand

6 What are the biggest problems for marketers using Twitter?

Analytics, KPIs, how does it impact the bottom line. Also, getting followers in the market you are going after.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting: I think Twitter is working, but I can’t prove it!

7 How many Twitter accounts to set up?

One brand Twitter stream can include: PR, service, sales, crisis, recruitment, product.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

8 What’s the ROI of Twitter?

ROI of Twitter = traffic to site, buzz, inbound links for SEO, reduced service costs, leads, sales. (All trackable ROI.)

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

9 Twitter – trend towards automation

Fact – individuals are adopting Twitter, but what about brands? Great thing about Twitter is that brands can connect one to one. But there is a trend of moving towards automation.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

10 Check your bounce rate from Twitter traffic

When analysing your online stats, compare traffic from different sources. Eg, from blogs, it usually has high context, expectancy is there, users know what they want to see, and spend more time on site. Twitter – may generate high traffic but can also have a high bounce because it lacks space to create context.

Matthew Bailey, Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation

11 Twitter 101 for brands

  • Don’t overthink it, be personable
  • Share info/links
  • Listen
  • Use hashtags to organise and search
  • Twitterlists are useful if you are following hundreds and want to discover new people
  • Tweetdeck – organises your Twitter use
  • Scheduling tweets – Future Tweets – good for client use

Lisa Myers, Social Media 101

12 Tools for monitoring social media

Free Social Monitoring Tools:

  • www.socialmention.com
  • www.tweetbeep.com
  • www.tweepmeme.com
  • www.klout.com
  • www.blogpulse.com

Paid Monitoring Tools:

  • www.trackur.com
  • www.radian6.com

Lisa Myers, Social Media 101

10 expert tips on email marketing

Rough of an e-newsletterIf you’ve ever had the job of putting your marketing email, ezine or e-newsletter together – whether designing the format, writing the blurbs, testing different subject lines or segments, sending it out to subscribers, dealing with unsubscribes – 7 Proven Tactics to Increase Response for your Email Campaigns seemed the session to attend at Search Engine Strategies 2010 London.

Having spent much of last year producing a monthly email across nine segments for a major car insurance and breakdown company, I was interested to hear latest best practice and get some inspirattion. After all, we tracked KPIs, tweaked designs, improved clarity on calls to action buttons, yadda yadda blah blah, and saw a leap in click-throughs. But what else could we have done?

Tamara Gielen, Independent Email Marketing Consultant, who ran email programmes for eBay among others, had some ideas. She promised seven tactics in the presentation but instead, I counted 30. So there’s lots to know, too much to reproduce here.

Here are 10 bulletpoints.

  • Sell your email programme on the website – don’t just have a button asking them to subscribe to your email but clarify the offer on the button, eg, ‘train me to profit’, ‘be the first to know our special offers’, ‘free email tips’, and so on. Agencies may need to advise the client to do this if emails are outsourced.
  • Tell them why you are asking for their info on the sign-up form (perhaps add a ‘why are we asking this?’ button on the page). Be transparent, it builds trust.
  • Welcome your new subscribers – send a welcome email within 24 hours, when they are highly engaged. Let them know, ‘This is what we are going to be sending you.’ Ask them to do something (of benefit to them) and send them back to your site.
  • Listen to your unsubscribers – they will tell you what they don’t want. Maybe they don’t want to fully unsubscribe but are fed up of your monthly email outs. So give them the option of getting less emails on the unsubscribe page, eg once a week/month. Or just email seasonally, even just once a year, when they are likely to be shopping for your service or product. Better this, than losing them altogether.
  • Give ‘unsubscribe’ alternatives – eg if emails are unsuitable, ask them to sign up for an RSS feed, suggest a ‘follow us on Twitter’ option or to become a Facebook fan, would they like to sign up for the catalogue – offer alternative channels for you to communicate with them.
  • Use social networks to grow your list – eg, encouraging your customer to become a fan on Facebook means other people see that in their newsfeed. Why is that interesting? Make it interesting, eg, Papa John’s on Facebook offered a free pizza if you become a fan and won a million more subscribers to their email  as a result.
  • Allow subscribers to share your content via share buttons to help acquisition. First figure out where your audience is, eg, B2B is great for LinkedIn. B2C may be on Facebook, Twitter, etc. But remember people will only share links if there is something of value in the content.
  • Emails do not have to be weekly or monthly – use triggers, eg, a Birthday trigger, such as ‘Fiona, Birthday greetings from [brand], here’s a [discount/freebie/offer] to celebrate.’
  • Subject line length/content – include the most important message in first 4-5 words, ask questions, sell benefits, and include an urgency.
  • When should you send your email? – think about when your customers are likely to be browsing and when buying, eg, a retail email may do better at the weekend when people are free to click through and buy. But test your timings. Tamara sends hers at 9.30 on a Monday morning – because few send at this time (the bulk of emails is sent on Wednesdays/Thursdays). Stand outs from your competitors. Also she notes that many have a 9am start and are going through emails at this time – her email then pops up on top (she has 50% open rate by the way).

Images: © Maxpower/Flickr