Visualizing The Impalpable
Think Tank Nominations - January 2009

A Presentation About Community, By The Community - The Finished Presentation

OK. So here is the finished presentation from my presentation crowdsourcing experiment (back story here) that I gave at yesterday's conference. In the end I had about 30 slides contributed. I've tried wherever possible to leave them in as original state as I could, but (perhaps inevitably) I've had to make the odd tweak, usually just to aid the flow of presentation, and ensure that the slides linked together reasonably cohesively. It's meant that at times, you've got different fonts going on on different slides but hey, this is a crowdsourced presentation after all, and I think that's part of it's charm. So I hope that the main message of the slides that were contributed remains. The sequence adds it's own kind of context, but there had to be some kind of narrative flow so I hope you'll forgive me that.

You'll notice that I've added a credit to each slide that was contributed to namecheck the contributor, and I was careful to explain to the audience at the beginning the origins of the work and to look out for the credits at the bottom of each slide. If there are any details you are unhappy about, leave a comment or e-mail me and I'll ammend and reload it onto slideshare. I've written a script of sorts below, to help show the context of how I talked about the slides, though of-course I was a lot less scripted on the day and talked round stuff more.

You'll also notice that I've top-and-tailed the presentation with a few of my own slides. The early slides are needed to help set the context, and the closing slides deal with what I think the audience could personally get out of blogging and social media in their professional lives. I did this as my audience at the conference was largely made up of comms planners with 3/5 years experience and if I were to leave them with one thing - that would be it (interestingly, in a show of hands amongst 50 of them, none had read Clay Shirky's 'Here Comes Everybody' or Mark Earl's 'HERD' or Seth Godin's 'Purple Cow', surely three of the most seminal marketing books of recent times).

Anyway, I think it's ended up being a presentation that everyone can feel slightly proud of, and on the day it got very positive feedback. At the end of my talk I publicly thanked all those who had contributed to make the presentation what it is, and I'd like to do the same here. So my thanks go to:

Jon, Charles, Jason, Willem, Will, David, Andrew, Facu, Stan, Sam, Anjali, Katy, John, Gemma, Faris, Dan, Mark, Graeme, Jim, Mark, Ben, Niko, Simon, Ian, Andy, Eaon, Matt.

The words:

1. Title slide

2. I’m Neil Perkin, and as well as being the Director of Marketing and Strategy for IPC, I’m also a blogger. In fact I’ve been blogging for over two years now. I’m listed in the top 100 global marketing and media blogs by Ad Age, and by most rankings Only Dead Fish is in the top 5 UK ad blogs

3. So this is a presentation about online communities. And it’s also a presentation with a difference. Almost everything I’ve learnt about how online communities work have come from being part of one, so I figured it would be best if I let them tell you how it all works…. So I put a post up on my blog asking people to contribute one slide on what they felt was important. Within 2 days, I had almost 30 slides from planners, digital specialists, strategists, researchers – some of the most reknowned thinkers in social media strategy. So these are mainly their words, not mine – I’ve added my own slides for the sake of context and cohesion but these are the words of the community, so as I go through please note the credits at the bottom of the slides.

4. So, what is the big deal about online communities?

5. Last year The Future Foundation published The Future of Entertainment – a forward looking piece of research which IPC helped to fund and which emphasised just how important social dimensions already are to most people in their consumption of entertainment and media – and the basic human need to which that speaks. Quite simply, it is more fun if it is shared.

6. And of-course, there’s an interesting thing going on in media right now where media brands and media owners are increasingly defined less by the platform and more by the community they serve. It’s a big change.

7. And as we all know users are empowered. Everyone can now be a media owner. It’s easy. And it’s free. The means of production and distribution are now shared. That’s also a really big change.

8. And people do want to have their say. So the relationship they have with their media is different. It’s no longer one way. Everyone now is connected. And suddenly we are all part of something called a network.

9. Charles Frith – a planner based in Bangkok, submitted this slide. The internet is of-course the great leveller. But I somehow doubt we even now understand just how much of a leveller it is. People have traditionally looked to hierarchy to give them meaning, information, answers – much of which now comes from the network

10. And so lots of communications fundamentals are getting turned on their heads. A point made by Jason Oke from Juniper Park in Toronto. Like the fact that the purpose of communication is to get information. Now it’s more that the purpose of information is to foster communication.

11. And as David says, at it’s heart, the internet is the great facilitator. Clay Shirky, author of the brilliant ‘Here comes everybody’ puts it like this: group action just got easier: “Lowered transaction costs have reduced the hassle factor of collective action”.

12. So this requires a different mindset. And different approaches. We have to relearn some of what we think we know.

13. So, is there a secret to how online communities work? How do you know what will work? What won’t? What the right approach is?

14. Well, there’s no doubt that they can be a puzzle

15. Until you remember that it’s not about the technology at all. It’s about the people. The value in online communities comes from connecting one person to another

16. And that means, that as Andrew Rogers says – it’s all about relationships

17. And…being human –  Jon Howard of Quietstorm picked out this quote which speaks of the very human desire to be connected.

18. …and to have a sense of purpose. A sense of belonging. A sense of togetherness. This visual is from Facu in Argentina and this is his community

19. And like all things human there’s the good and the bad. Like most of us, communities can be slightly disfunctional. But that’s normal. Brands need to learn to operate in a world that isn’t quite as structured and ordered as they are used to

20. Because communities operate in the real world. So they change. All the time. They are fluid, hard to predict, ever changing. Get used to it.

21. But an engaged community can be a powerful and perpetuating thing - whether you’re a website trying to attract more traffic, or a brand trying to get more custom. Engaged users of a website come back often, add compelling content, make your site more useful and interesting. Engaged customers of a brand buy more, contribute ideas, and spread the word.

22. So - how can I create one of these online communities?

23. Well, maybe that’s the wrong question

24. When Mark Zuckerberg was at Davos last year he was asked that same question by the assembled media moguls. “Communities already exist”, he said. “So instead think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do”

25. So it’s really important to understand your audience’s motivations. Often, it’s not just about entertainment and relaxation, it’s about community.

26. You can learn a lot from your community – the power of many is often greater than the power of one. So it’s important to listen. As Anjali says, communities can often function as a sort of oracle - they can alert you to issues much earlier than otherwise, make it much easier for you to find interesting stuff out there, enable easy access to some of the best thinking from around the globe.

27. But there are what you might call ‘principles’ by which healthy communities operate – like showing you’re listening by acting or reacting to feedback. It’s rude not to.

28. And getting stuck in. Encouraging discussion, being a part of it

29. Katy from Naked makes a brilliant point on this: community is not a place, it’s a way of thinking. To draw a parallel with publishing content, building a forums or community section doesn’t tick the community box - this limited form of interaction with your readers / users / customers is kind of like inviting some guests round - and then not letting them out of the guest bedroom. “To really, genuinely engage with your readers you have to embed community in everything you publish”.
With brands it’s the same - you can’t box people’s feedback into particular areas which you control - a community of fans (or critics!) of your brand may develop anywhere - wherever people want to carry on the conversation, and not where YOU might want them to. Successful brands embed community in everything they do, listen to the conversation wherever it’s taking place, and respond by valuing the contribution in whatever form, and wherever it's taken place.

30. As John puts it – the rules have changed - the community decides. You don’t.

31. I like this description. Jimmy Wales describes the Wikipedia community as
“One part anarchy,(anyone can contribute)
one part aristocracy, (the sites superusers)
one part democracy, (they vote on disputes)
one part monarchy” (him)

32. Communities are self-forming. And most of them have at their core a highly active group of very engaged people – so it’s important to know who they are and acknowledge them

33. And respect the fact that community has layers, so you can’t afford to entirely ignore the lower profile content generators who take their cue from the super users but in turn influence their own communities.

34. Because at the end of the day our understanding of communities comes from our understanding of people

35. As Faris’s slide says, most often, when people are asked to describe the current media landscape, they respond by making an inventory of tools and technologies. But to paraphrase Clay Shirky: social tools don’t get interesting until the technology becomes boring.

36. So for the transformational technologies you could do worse than looking at an audience who don’t have time for any technology that isn’t useful and doesn’t work.

37. So what does the proliferation of new tools mean for producers of content like IPC?

38. Well, Will is right when he says that media owners shouldn’t lose sight of what they’re really good at: producing compelling content

39. But you have to respect that the whole value equation is changing. So content incorporates knowledge, tools and services too. It’s not just about attention. It’s also about interaction and participation.

40. In other words, content and tools become the enabler. People love to talk about great content, play around with it, make it their own - so make it easy for them.

41. And this speaks of the fundamental truth of how to work with communities

42. Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow is all about this. If the web is a mass of conversations, then get talked about.  Create stuff that is remarkable, worth sharing.

43. And add value to that community. Understand what it is they are trying to do and create tools and content to help them do it. Make it easy for people to find your good stuff by distributing your content. Make it easy for them to share it. Talk about it. Pass it on.

44. Or as Jim puts it simply – it’s like having a beer with millions. You still need a good gag or a story for anyone to care.

45. Ultimately, it’s all about value creation (through utility, entertainment, relevance), rather than value subtraction (through interuption, noise, distraction). This community engagement model from Mark Hancock of Agency.com captures the benefits that can come from being useful and being interesting in terms of data for client companies.

46. If Mark Earls is right, the way in which things spread is far more 'pull' than ‘push’ - people listen to their peers, react to what they see around them, respond to what other people are doing. Movements and swells can happen at anytime, from anywhere, and are more likely to be driven by people reacting to each other than in reaction to a ‘leader’.

47. So video didn’t kill the radio star – but social media has changed communications for good.

48. Look at some recent good examples – in the presidential campaign, while McCain sought to control the message, Obama encouraged people to share and remix their own messages. The famous ‘Yes we can’ music video for example has been viewed over 16m times, had over 90,000 comments. Social media engagement programmes were the centrepiece of a bottom-up fundraising programme that secured almost $500m – the vast majority of which was in small donations, often from people who had never contributed to a political campaign before.

49. The effect of social media carried through to offline with groups and events - “I stood on street corners for you – and you can bet I would do it again!”

50. The power of creating something to believe in works uniquely well in communities. Mark Earls calls this the ‘purpose idea’ - why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else

51. Recently I’ve seen at close hand how a community can affect real and positive change. David Armano, a VP at Critical Mass in Chicago and well-known blogger, posted a story on his blog about an impoverished single Mum and her family who’d been made homeless through no fault of their own but had no way of affording the deposit needed to now secure a roof over their heads. People were really engaged by the story, and in under 2 days he’d raised over $15,000, enabling them to make a fresh start .

52. At the heart of every community is a shared purpose, or a passion. LEGO have used social media to enable people’s passion for their product, allowing them to engage with an otherwise hard-to-reach secondary audience – adults who love LEGO

53. But the power of communities doesn’t always work in your favour – four recent examples here of how negative feedback spread rapidly through communities, causing huge amounts of negative PR and damage to brands. Of-course, if you’re smart, you’ll see even this as an opportunity – as Dell have, making social media core to their customer communications strategy and reversing a situation which could have caused longterm harm to their brand.

54. But as some of the best open-source communities have shown, if you get it right, communities can enable constant incremental change which can often be transformational

55. So what about you, personally? Well I thought I might end with a few thoughts on why social media might be very beneficial to you at this stage in your career.

56. Blogging is not for everyone. But there are some very good reasons why you should blog - Not least because it forces you to come up with new ideas, to be interesting. It helps you understand the value of being connected. And you can be connected – to some of the best thinking in our industry. It means you understand the subtleties and nuances of how social media works. It’s brilliant for networking. And it shows that you have an opinion about the industry you work in.

57. And as Eaon quotes Oscar Wilde – there is only one thing worse than being talked about…and that is not being talked about.

58. Being part of a community can be a constant source of inspiration and useful information. What Andy calls an ‘ambient, contiguous, information feed.’

59. Like Matt, for me, being part of the planning community feeds my brain.

60. Yes, it’s about being generous with yourself, but I believe the input is way more than outweighed by the returns

61. Which is why this is one of my favourite quotes – give away everything you know and more will come back to you

62. So there you have it. The collective thinking of some of the brightest minds in advertising, digital and media. Arguably the best demonstration of the power of online communities I could have given you today is this presentation – and the fact that I was able to do it at all.

63. So I’d like to publicly thank all those who contributed and made it what it is. And before this starts sounding like an oscars acceptance speech I’m going to ask if there are any questions.

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