What a Beautiful Day

September 10th, 2008.
08:24

One year, to the day that I started my employment with a little company called SpinVox and… Wow, what a journey it has been so far…

The view you see before you is the view that I have right now, as I type this post from the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 1, (looks familiar huh?). As you know some time ago I got ‘the call‘ and lo and thusly I am on my way to Finland.

But we’ll come back to that…

What I want to talk about, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, is the amazing journey that I’ve been over the past year. Personally, professionally and of course geographically.

Working backwards, I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever been so well travelled, (although quite how you can be less travelled I don’t know – heh), with my work so far taking me to such places Barcelona (beautiful) San Francisco – twice (one of my favourite places in the world and a potential base for me the future for certain), Las Vegas (ugh)… and, as we speak, Helsinki.

There of course being no rest for the wicked, straight after this trip I’m headed out to New York then onto Las Vegas once again and by the looks of things Frankfurt too before the year is out.

I used to mock my friends when they used to get the work trips abroad, accusing them of ‘going on a jolly’ and basically being a bunch of work-shy sun-seekers. But guys, if you’re reading this, I take it back. I now know… It’s relentless! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it – wouldn’t change it for the world in fact. But jeeez… talk about taking it out of you! This time round I’ve prepared. Both physically and mentally.

Bring. It. On. πŸ™‚

Which dovetails nicely back into the professional part of my journey. So, as I said, one year ago I joined SpinVox. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for whatever they had to throw at me.
Having initially secured the interview after being told by a recruitment agent that I was ‘definitely a SpinVox person’ I was taken onboard to apply some ‘Digital Native’ thinking, if you will, to an already rock solid proposition…

Six weeks later I was on a flight to San Francisco after launching Social Networks through SpinVox.

Awesome.

I’ll never forget rocking up to my first CTIA in torn jeans, flip flops and my now trademark MASSIVE white sunglasses adorned across my brow and being told almost immediately:

“Oh, you’re ‘The Web Guy’. You’ve got the look for sure.”

HA!

You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve since smartened up my act somewhat (although the Sunny Gs remain) and I’m now ‘The Social Media Guy’.
Which kind of, in a sense, further demonstrates the journey: Starting with Social Networks through SpinVox, then getting Big Talk (the SpinVox Blog) off the ground, working on and around the digital propositions…
All of which meant that in February of this year I was part of the team that flew out to Barcelona to represent the big SV at Mobile World Congress (MWC – previously known as 3GSM).

This is when my entire world changed.

Suddenly, almost overnight, there was this paradigm shift in how I saw the industry around me… and it was changing. Mobile is my first love and always will be, but in Barcelona the power of Social Media and what it actually means really hit home.

Walking the floor at MWC, finally meeting some of the big names in blogging face to face… Shall I list them?

Nah. If you’re reading this and I shook your hand in Barcelona, then I’m talking about You πŸ™‚

I was saying; Meeting you guys and gals face to face made me understand the enormous sense of community that lives and breathes in this new world of ours… and the enormity doesn’t just stop there either, it also applies to the immense importance that we place on this community as well.

We, you, me, them, us… We are right here, right now. Carving out and pioneering a new digital age for our children to grow up into. What you think and say about this whole space will define how the rest of the world interacts with their digital media for the next 10-20yrs, if not more.

Social Media ‘happened’ (for me at least) this year; I’m going to be able to look back and say ‘Yep, I was there’ …well, you were there too. It’s happening Right Now.

And listen, without getting ranty, understand this – what I said up there – is paramount to any and every business today. It really is.

Arriving back from Spain after the conference finished, with the support of my boss, I got to work on a Social Media Strategy doc that, with the help from the team, would define how SV as a business and as a brand would operate in this space… and so far, it’s playing out nicely.

So yeah, we’ll see on that one shall we? πŸ™‚

Building that thing up and playing it out through the year as we have has been an awesome experience. Learnings on the way of course – some things took a while, some things took off straight away and some things you just can’t predict..

Hence the journey I guess. But I tell you one thing, in this job I don’t think I have ever been happier.

And in fear of being a complete link-monkey, ‘not ever being happier’ leads me quite perfectly into the “Personally” part of this little trilogy.

A few of you reading this may follow me on Twitter or even chat to me on Jaiku, in which case you know that most of the time I am of quite a cheery disposition and I take pride in the fact that I truly enjoy life to the fullest. Now I’m not big on sharing personal stuff online.
Not at all.

Gotta keep something back, y’know?

But anyway – the fact of the matter is, right now, for the first time in a long time I am happy.
Truly and utterly.

And I love it.

Thanks to you guys, for all of your kind words, support and just general awesomeness over the past year.
I’m looking forward to the next one with immense relish and I’m rubbing my hands with glee…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Bring. It. On.

πŸ˜€

Thanks for reading…

Oh yeah – and there was that small matter of being in Finland.
Guess it’ll have to wait until my next post, (tomorrow – promise).

πŸ˜‰

P.S. It’s taken me all day to get this post up, I’m now in Helsinki and a very happy Whatley indeed.

September 10th, 2008.
20:49

So I got the call…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g9TXTSCccM[/youtube]

…I’m off to Helsinki to talk Social at Nokia with some of the best in the business.
If you’re one of the lucky few who are going, I guess I’ll see you there.

If not, watch this space – no doubt I’ll write some of it up πŸ™‚

More to follow…

Social Tool, Tool!

Photobucket

There I was, on the train, on the way into work this morning and I’m listening to a couple of chaps in the next seat talk about plans for a new online marketing strategy…

Yes. That’s right. ON A TRAIN.

So before we even GET to the whole ‘Social’ thing that I’m about to rant about, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the stupidity… or maybe even the complete lack of joined-up thinking that goes hand-in-hand with talking about this kind of stuff on PUBLIC transport…

Photobucket

Done that? Goooooooood.
Idiots.

Anyway – so here they were, these two suits fellas, talking about ‘Social Networking’ and how they ‘really need to get involved’ to make this campaign really work.
Well I say ‘they’ it was more like just the older bloke telling the younger bloke, what he needed to get their new campaign off the ground…
The older chap opens:

“Look, I need you to tell me about what you can do with YouTube?”

“I can upload videos…”

“Yes. I’ve seen that. But what can we do with YouTube?”

“Aside from upload the videos, well…er…”

“WE NEED YOUTUBE!”

“We have…er…”

“Listen, we’ve got to hit millions of people! Millions. We won’t do it without YouTube.”

And so the conversation carried on, covering such things like MySpace, Facebook and even Flickr but all the while keeping the same familiar pattern, (I’m actually quite surprised I didn’t hear the classic phrase ‘Right, we need a viral’… I may’ve said something at that point)

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking. I wrote a post about Mobile Advertising for Mobile Industry Review, (then SMS Text News), a few months back outlining the need for complete alignment when dipping your toe into the mobile ad space.
This one was easy, at least this time round they had some kind of idea as to what they were doing…
These two guys on the 9:53 out of Paddington however? Not a hope.

YouTube, to use the example given, is not something you ‘do’, it’s something you use, (like a tool, see).

The best way for me to illustrate this is with cups.

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If your boss turns to you one day and says “I want to do something with YouTube”, what do you say back?

Well look, you’re clearly happy to put anything into the cup as it were; be it lemonade, orange juice, blackcurrant or whatever – But your boss, or whoever’s running the marketing team needs to tell you what that is. The cup is another way of presenting your content. It will speak to different people in different ways. I would not use a cup for anything other than what it is good for… and that is drinking, nay – consuming!

On top of that you also need to ensure that the same blackcurrant you’re using in your cups is being used in the other dispensers that you have at your disposal. I mean, you have other cups right? Right?!
Yeah you do… The banner ads, the traditional print, the skyscrapers, the tv/radio spots etc…
Them. Yeah. They’re cups too.

So when asked, “…like flickr, like YouTube”…etc, they’re just a variation on the cup.

You can help them hold it, you can help others drink from it but what you can’t do is fill it.
Give people some cool stuff inside the cup, don’t just give them the cup.
On it’s own, the cup is nothing.

With planning, time and effort from all parties – the cup can become an integral part of a much larger picnic.

Social Cups, Hugh would be proud.

“What Wii did on Sunday…”

First official ‘proper’ post of the new blog site, AHOY!

How to make a Minority Report-esque interface using your Nintendo Wii!
(by yours truly and geekyouup aka Richie Hyndman of Mippin fame)

πŸ™‚

Now, this all happened thanks to the awesome social media world of the internet, how?

Well the thing is, I (along with a few others) like to organise Mario Kart Wii competitions over Twitter.
So far so Nintendo Geek…

But ‘Wadds‘ – aka Stephen Waddington, Managing Director of Rainer PR – spotted this regular occurrence and decided to share that he’d given up playing games on his Wii and how he now is all about creating something like this.

“Wow, cool!”

I took that link, threw it at Richie and he came straight back to me and said:

“Come over Sunday, let’s do it!”

ROCK. ON.

So – Big love to Johnny Chung Lee for showing us the way – and also bonus props to Stephen for giving us some blog love first thing this morning!

Nice work all round,
Cheers.

πŸ™‚

MIR: A tech evangelist’s perspective on the o2/CPW saga

Please note: It must be pointed out for reasons that will soon become clear that the following is my own personal opinion and not necessarily those of my employer, SpinVox.

Hello folks,

If you haven?t read Ben Jennings? excellent post on his view of how to deal with the iPhone debacle, then go and do that now.

This post is related.

How?

…I’ll tell you.

It was with great interest that I read Ben?s three step proposal for dealing with said horrifying iPhone badness. All three steps were interesting but for me, it was step two that really made me sit up and pay attention?

For those of you that missed yesterday’s piece ? here?s the part I?m referring to:
?Step 2: Hire an Evangelist.

Ben writes:
This only needs to be one person. Heck, they could even be a student, as long as they have the right information. Maybe they could run the information page [in step 1] too. This person?s role would be to engage with the customers on the O2 forums. Wouldn?t it be fantastic if CPW had forums too? Are CPW even aware that they are being talked about on O2?s forums just because there is nowhere else for this conversation to take place? The evangelist would be an invaluable tool to act as a barometer of what are the specific hot issues. The evangelist would also make the customers feel like they were being listened to, rather than ignored. They could even Twitter updates to gain that Web 2.0 cool.?

Why am I interested in this?

Well this actually makes up a part of what I do for SpinVox and, hand on heart, I honestly have NO IDEA why other companies/brands, big and small aren?t following suit.

There really is NO EXCUSE for not at least listening to the web to find out what people are saying about you, your products, you level of customer service, your shops… Basically, if anyone out there is saying ANYTHING about you, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re saying it online.

“Well that’s lovely James, well done. But CPW is everso slightly different from SpinVox…” I hear you cry.

Yes… and no.

Admittedly, not every company is like SpinVox and I do not pretend for one second to have a single clue about the inner workings of Carphone Warehouse, however what I do have is a certain amount of knowledge about being a Product Evangelist.

And rule number one? LISTEN!

OK, so it would seem that someone out there at O2/CPW is obviously ?listening? to the web, (or maybe just to Ewan), or else I doubt very much Dan Lane would have his iPhone activated right now, (which he does by the way ? in case you were worried).

But knowing how to engage with your community once the listening period has begun can be a fantastic way to circumnavigate these kinds of troubles and tribulations.

I cannot imagine for a second that someone, somewhere along the line at O2 and/or CPW didn?t put their hand up in THAT meeting and say:

?Err? But what if it all goes wrong??

What IF it all goes wrong? It DID all go wrong!

Fair enough, it?s going to take some balls for someone to say:
?Well it?s alright, we?ve got an Evangelist, it’ll be fine!?

But by having one as part of an over-arching customer service team (aligned with the PR and the Tech Teams) can and will make all the difference. Hell, why not make it part and parcel of the lead up to launch?

At least those savvy enough to know about said person/representative will know they have someone to turn to who isn?t bound by a single ?Failed Security Check? message.

Like Ben says, an evangelist can help the customers feel like they are being listened to rather than be ignored.

Having sales folk in-store? Standard.

What about on the end of your customer service line? Yep. Got that.

Ok, so how about ONLINE?

….Anyone? Hello?!

Having a reputation manager, product evangelist, community manager, customer champion, social media manager or just ANY kind of digital representative that can talk to your customers for you can and WILL make SO MUCH difference to your online reputation!

If CPW had their own forums then they could?ve redirected their complaints to the static info page that Ben laid out in Step 1, (see post referenced at the beginning of this one). If they had their own representatives on those forums then they could feed back live information.

Hell, it doesn?t even to be their forums. They could trawl the o2 ones!

Also, being an evangelist isn?t just about talking up your stuff all over the place (online and off), it?s about being a trusted face and a trusted place. The first port of call not just should anything go wrong, but also for potential customers, partners or even just for those who are looking for information about you.

(A recent SV example from a day or so ago can be found here, on Twitter).

Sticking with the point – if the CPW website is broken? Get to X.

Oh, not happy with the CPW customer service? You should drop a note to X.

Having trouble with that thing you bought from CPW? You should follow X, (s)he’ll help.

These are all examples where an evangelist would help your brand reputation.

Something, ANYTHING to calm those folk down who think they?ve been misled, cheated, defrauded, messed around, screwed over? (do I need to go on?) ?by CPW (and/or O2).

This isn’t rocket science folks and I am most certainly not revealing nuclear codes here –
A simple Google Alert will tell you who?s talking about you RIGHT NOW.

“It can’t be that simple James!” – No really.

It is THAT SIMPLE.

I just set one up for Carphone Warehouse, (set to ‘as-it-happens’) and within minutes I got a ping?

The first link points to the second link, the second link look something like this:

Familiar story huh?

Well how about hiring an evangelist to monitor this stuff?

To reach out to these disgruntled bloggers and say something like:
?Hi Tom
Look, we messed up. Big. We are REALLY sorry. In equal measure we also REALLY want you to get your iPhone. I honestly do not know when we will be shipping your iPhone 3G out to you, but if you?d like to email me your details I will do my best to find out what the current state of play is regarding your account.
Yours,

John Smith
CPW Evangelist?

Reasonably simple; make it personal, reach out to your critics and let them know they are being heard.

Help them understand that you are here to help and yes, even humans mess up sometimes.
Fingers crossed, Tom?s account details would be passed back, a rapport would build, information would be shared and the next thing you know you might even have a fan who?s happy to tell the world that actually, yeah CPW got it wrong.. but y’know what, they ARE trying to get things done.

CPW, if you’re listneing, engage your online community and ignore them at your peril.

And if you want to tack a bit of science on the end of that just to really hammer it home:
Recent studies show that the internet is the most influential medium when it comes to consumers purchasing decisions; twice as strong as that of Television and almost eight times the influence of traditional printed media.

Source – http://pov.fleishman.com/blogs/fhsocialnetwork/2008/06/new_research_reveals_the_impac.php

Here endeth the lesson.

Today I missed The Tuttle

Today is Friday.

Every Friday there is a little thing that happens in London, just round the corner from Soho (here we go again), above The Coach & Horses Pub on Greek Street
Over there look ———————->

It’s official name of this thing is The Social Media Cafe, but – to it’s regulars – it’s fondly referred to as The Tuttle Club.

It’s a lovely place. Everyone is welcome. People come, people go, and the great thing is everyone is so, for want of a better descriptor, nice .
πŸ™‚

It’s great – You turn up, have coffee and occasional croissants, chat to like-minded folk, meet interesting people and generally have a bloody good time.

Lloyd Davis, Chief Proprietor and all round nice chap, set the place up as a prototype with a genuine vision to one day soon have a proper space, coffee an’ all, set up and running like a Cafe should. For us geeks innit.

So far it, in my opinion, has been a resounding success. I went along and met OH so many folk that I had been chatting to over Twitter/Seesmic and also a whole bunch of new people too. All of them lovely. I loved it so much that I took my friends along.

I even managed to get SpinVox along one day to sponsor the coffees et al in exchange for a discussion about The Future of Voice (but you can read about that elsewhere)

Anywhoo – The thing is, I’ve been a regular at the SMC now for a good 6-8 weeks – would that be fair to say? Has it been that long? Probably. Time goes so fast these days. Yes. Well. Today I had to miss it and miss it I did.
I’m pretty sure it looked something like this:

Lots of folk chatting around – having a good time – learning from each other – making contacts – developing new ideasοΏ½ – sharing stories – catching up etc…all of that kind of thing – Top stuff.

Don’t get me wrong – it was good that I spent today in the office. Can’t go into it. I’m just happy I was there.

On the flip side however I really missed the hustle and bustle of my friends at the Coach & Horses.

Boo.

I’ll be back next week, that’s for certain.

And hopefully that will stop Lloyd looking so glum –>

Hehehe…

In the meanwhile however? What else has been going on? Well – I’m still making inroads to getting off my backside and moving this here blog you’re reading.
Got some lovely folk to help me out with the techie stuff. Just waiting for the go ahead and I can start the big move.

Everso excited.

What else?

I think I’ve managed to get through the last list that I wrote – oop, no. Tell a lie.
Still need to cover – SF, T-Shirts , 6mths with SpinVox aaaaaaaaand The BBC. Balls.

Ok – Parking all that for now. First, something MUCH more exciting…

This Sunday I’m taking part in a Blogger Cook-off aka Food 2.0 aka Nom Nom Nom.

Can’t wait.

More to follow very soon – but I did a post about it over here along with a fun slide show, (just go for the pictures)…

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Bye for now…

PS – My friend Roger got an Xbox 360, for free and I am NOT a Happy Bunny.