The Social US Army

The US Army. An organization of 4.5 million professionals that safeguards the national and international territories. In this blogpost I certainly do not want to make any judgement about the intentions of the US Army when executing their duty, and whether it’s good or bad to show so much power in some areas of the wold. That is something everybody should make up their own opinion. No, what I do want to talk about is the way the US Army has embraced Social Media and provides soldiers to blog from their location abroad. Whether that’s a warzone or not. During Blogworld 2009 we had a short interview with a spokesman and -woman.


Rifle or keyboard
For the first time the US Army had a booth at the commercial exhibition place and looking at the sheer number of people visiting the stand it certainly was popular to talk to soldiers that so now and then replace their rifle with a keyboard. Totally against expectations the US Army has opened up blogging for a large number of US Army personnel, who can share their experiences with the rest of the world. According to their own words no filtering takes place. They even have established a new division for this: ‘the Online & Social Media Division’. “We recognize the informative power of Social Media to reach our target audience, and we are here at Blogworld to see how we can improve”, says Major Arata during our interview.

“We have a blog, Armystrongstories.com, where everybody who is interested in finding out the lives of real soldiers can come. Currently we have 56 real soldiers blogging about their lives, unfiltered”, says a passionate Major Constantino (who, by the way, kept a very close eye on the PR lady rushed to us when we were conducting the interview…). Constantino: “We make the army more human. We are not some sort of digitized machine but we are real people”.

Army gimmicks
Main question of course is how they do it, unfiltered blogging. Whereas many organization don’t want to burn even their little toe, the US Army is providing full insight. Or so they say. Honestly, I can hardy believe that a platoon somewhere deep down in Afghanistan -accidentally- throws some confidential information on the net. But apparently they don’t bother too much. Arata: “We always say: we should educate and not regulate. That means that we should provide clear guidelines en trust our people.

The biggest goal of this initiative is informing the general public about the activities of the US Army and thus increasing the ‘goodwill’. According to both spokesmen they have succeeded in that, though a lot of work still needs to be done. That -coincidentally- a new person joins the army because of the social media activities, that’s good but not the main cause. And yet, looking at their booth with all the US Army gimmicks and give-aways it did look a bit like they were attempting to bring people in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely convinced that the spokesman and -woman truly believe in the power of blogging (though Major Constantino has to start herself blogging) and I think it’s wonderful that Social Media especially here found its place.

Now, if the US Army kan blog unfiltered, what can your company do?

Blogworld 2009: Human Business and a Guinness World Record

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Social Media has definitely grown out of its infancy. Although, according to all the geeks that attended the first integrated edition of Blogworld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas. More than 2500 bloggers, podcasters, consultants and other new media mavericks visited Sin City for 3 days to talk about and share experiences on Social Media. Close to 300 speakers gave dozens presentations and panel discussions on a large variety of subjects. Without going into detail of all of them, I will give you the highlights of the conference.

Twitter rawks

If there was one subject that was mentioned in almost every discussion then it was Twitter. With great passion Twitt-lebrities like Laura Fitton (@Pistachio), Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) and Aaron Strout (@aaronstrout) shared the power of Twitter. “The power of unisolating people”, according to Laura. “And it’s not about the writer, it’s not about the number of followers you have but it is about the message you share. People are made to socialize, also in business. For that it is important to surround yourself with inspiring people. Twitter is a great tool for that.”

Guiness World Record

Thanks to Twitter a Guinness World Record was set during Blogworld. The highest number of social network mentions within 24 hours. And last Monday the record was confirmed by Guinness World Record: a total of 209,771 social network mentions of #beatcancer in one day via Twitter, Facebook and blog posts. As a result eBay/Paypal and MillerCoors offered a donation of $70.000 to four non-profit cancer organizations (Spirit Jump, Bright Pink, Alex’s Lemonade, and Stand UP to Cancer). As the campaign continues, you can still donate and help promote this initiative via Beatcancereverywhere.com.

shoe4africa

Shoe4Africa
More good causes-support from eBay/Paypal. Their booth was completely dedicated to this theme. One of the good causes was Shoe4Africa, a non-profit organization aiming at ‘empowerment through sports and education, creating unique health initiatives, and promoting AIDS awareness.’ Cornerstone project is the development of a children’s hospital in Kenya, which will be the first public hospital in Kenya and the largest children’s hospital in Africa. The project is supported by Anthony Edwards, who sat in the keynote Celebrity panel. Although not yet very active in Social Media, Edwards understands the difference he can make as a celebrity using Social Media to spread the word around this project. So at Blogworld, he lost his Twitterginity and made his first tweet. Follow him on @anthonyedwards4. We also had a short interview with him which will be published shortly.

Dutch presence
And of course we ran into Vincent Everts, a webexpert and trend-watcher. Vincent presence at Blogworld was to promote yubby.com, a video aggregator the collect videos from over 30 popular video sources. Previously known as Dik.nl, but you can imagine, not a name that would work well in the US (although, flickr didn’t change its name for Holland…) And of course, Vincent not only did his upmost for yubby, he also worked on his own brand. Being very present at various sessions and as member in one of the panels, the success of his quest was confirmed to be successful during the closing keynote. When one-time talk-show host Guy Kawasaki asked the audience who has not heard of Jenny the Blogess, Vincent raised his hand as one of the few. Guy looked at him and said ‘oh, that’s that guy in the white suit’. An interview with Vincent will be launched shortly.

Chris Brogan

If there is one Social Media guru that is reaching superstar status without losing it, it’s Chris Brogan. I think he is the most mentioned, quoted, RTweeted and appreciated speaker of Blogworld 2009. And true, Chris is a very sympathetic and respectable person, but moreover, he is a visionary and true knowledge expert in the field. His keynote on day one was for me the most inspiring of all sessions. ‘Stop tapping each other on the back, but get out there and start working. There is so much to do out there’. And he is right. Social Media has grown out of its infancy. As much as we liked the pioneering atmosphere at New media Expo 2007, those days seem to be over. Social Media is becoming true business. Moreover, we shouldn’t call it Social Media anymore. It’s Human Business.

For more details go to Chris’ blogpost on his keynote. Here you can find the entire keynote (and all other keynotes).

Trend for 2010
On the exhibition floor, there were several companies that demonstrated applications based on aggregation of content. We already mentioned yubby.com as a video aggregation site, but aggregation goes beyond video. Zemanta is an application that helps you look for content related to the blogpost you are writing. While you’re writing, it ‘looks over your shoulder [..] and gives you tips and advice’. It analyzes your content, suggests keywords and related articles. With Zemanta, your blog becomes more visible and generates more traffic.
Regator goes even further in aggregation. There is an enormous amount of content available within the blogosphere. Regator ‘gathers the world’s best blog posts and organizes them in a way that’ makes it easy to find the things you need’. This selection is not purely done through some fancy algorithm, but through a team of editors. Yes, real people that search the web for valuable content. In fact, they decide for you what’s valuable or not. Regator uses criteria like regular updates, topical, well written, originality and whether or not your blog is ‘awesome’ based on which you can be added to the selection. The last criterium is rather vague and subjective, but that’s admitted by Regator.

Content is still king in new media. But finding the right content becomes like a monk’s job. For that we need aggregation, and we predict aggregation becomes the trend for 2010.

Audio Bummer
Was it all highs in Vegas? No, there was definitely a bummer. As there were more than 5-6 simultaneous tracks, you had to make up your mind what session to attend. Obviously, that was challenging as interesting presentations were scheduled at the same time. At New Media Expo in the past all participants were given the opportunity to download the audiotracks of all presentations. For free (or better, at no additional fee). Blogworld changed that policy: audiotracks are now available for $15 per session. Not funny. I can’t split myself up in 6, but feel that I have paid close to 1200 bucks to make all these sessions possible. Therefore I plead that all participants should have access to all recorded sessions (at least audio). And I was not the only one complaining about that. Organizer Rick Calvert should make up his mind or consult Tim and Emile Bourquin, former organizers of New Media Expo.

Another disappointment was that there was not much on the use of New Media for internal communication, in our view the way to learn what New Media is, to gain experience and in addition, to improve your internal communication, which in many organizations is underdeveloped. Truly win-win. A separate track should have been developed for this topic. Hopefully the organization considers this for the next edition.
Further, there was a strong focus on blogging, too strong to my liking. New Media is more than just blogging and Twitter. The focus overall was too much on the technology. There was hardly any attention for the development of a New and Social Media strategy. If we really want to go out there and help companies adapt New and Social Media, we need to understand that this is key to success. From that perspective I didn’t really hear anything new in these three days.

Conclusion
Conclusion for Blogworld and New Media Expo 2009: a lot on technology (and then mostly blogging) and too little on strategy. A lot of panels, some good and some which had a tendency towards too much ‘incrowd’. Some very inspiring speakers, a good atmosphere and at night awesome parties. Overall, a more than average event. Rick Calvert only has to solve this audio issue and I will certainly consider attending Blogworld and New Media Expo 2010.

people blogworld


Mixed feelings about Blogworld’s first conference day

Today the Blogworld and New Media Expo 2009 took off in Las Vegas. Our first time at Blogworld but our third time at the New Media Expo and first for all of us at the combination of the two. What striked me immediately after entering the event is the size of it. More participants, more speakers, more tracks and more lectures than ever. And some very interesting and promising keynote speakers, such as Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki and Anthony Edwards (you know, Goose from Top Gun)

The opening keynote came from Laura Fitton (@Pistachio). Laura shared with us how she came completely hooked on Twitter and how it can change people’s lives. Absolutely convinced by its power she recently started her own consultancy on Twitter for Business, PistacioConsulting.com. In addition she wrote Twitter for Dummies. After her energetic talk I don’t think that anyone disagrees with her when it comes to the unique value of Twitter. That said, she spoke to the already converted.

It was packed, people were sitting on the floor as there were not enough chairs available. After the keynote the audience spread out to the several parallel track sessions only to come back together to the next keynote half way the morning and during the lunch break. The latter was maybe not the best chosen way of offering a keynote. When having lunch, I prefer to network and meet people, share ideas and experiences. But no, we had to silently consume our lunch, while listening to a discussion on stage which was hard to follow due to bad quality sound. Not surprizing people started chatting again.

Overall, the track sessions were disappointing. That is the sessions I attended. I had great expectations of the Medblogging track. But I did not really get any new information. Yes, individual bloggers like doctors, patients and nurses can generate their own community and yes some of these communities (especially of patients) can be of great help to the individual patient in managing his/her disease. But what’s new? Interesting question to me is: how can we truly make a difference in healthcare with Social Media? How do we get all stakeholders involved? Where is Big Pharma? Insurance companies? Governmental institutions? Hospitals? Do they blog? Or any other kind of Social Media activity? Do they care? Those parties need to get involved or at least approached and brought into the discussion in order to get a true sense of the impact of Social Media in Healthcare.

We still write. We still make notes. Electronically that is. Most participants carry their laptop around. Either to make their private notes, summarize what’s being said in their blog or share the quotes of the day through tweets. But not later than after lunch. Because all batteries ran out. And there were hardly any power plugs. How can you organize a conference for Bloggers and Social Media geeks without providing the life essence of their existence: electricity! Please give us more power tomorrow….

Blogworld audience2

Was it all misery? No, I’ve titled this post ‘Mixed feelings…’. Cause the best thing of the day still had to come. Or two things to be exact (three that is…we had a great dinner with friends we met at previous editions of the New Media Expo). The last track session I attended was a panel about Social Media and crisis management. With Dallas Lawrence (Levick Strategic Communications), Maggie Fox (Social Media Group) and Shel Holtz (Holtz Communication + Technology). With the latter we had an interview last year. Social Media can truly help organizations to manage a crisis situation. transparency and authenticity are keywords here. And be prepared because a crisis always knocks on your door unannounced. Prepared meaning: have a strategy ready how to deal with a crisis and be present in the online space (and that does not mean only with a website!). Shel referred to the damage done to United Airlines by an erroneaous publication by Bloomberg that UA was close to bankrupcy. By the time UA had corrected this error, it had lost 70% of its stock value. Their response was through the traditional media channels. Had they had a blog, their response would have been much faster and less damage would have been done on UA.

Chris Brogan closed the day with a remarkable keynote. Why we are in Social Media, what do we want with it and where do we go from here. It’s nice, being at a conference like this, with all like minded friends. While we should get out there and convince others. And all this in sentences of not more than 140 characters. The tweet fountain in the back could not keep up with all the tweets that were produced. A few of his oneliners (of less than 140 characters):

– If you’re a bad person, get good or get offline – quickly

– Your community will fall on a sword for you, your audience will watch you fall on it.

– Listen to Master Yoda: do or do not, there is no try

– Social Media is the new nervous system of your organization.

And that closed the day. With inspiration. Now I’m curious what tomorrow will bring. Because overall it has to do better than today. Otherwise Blogworld and New Media Expo 2010 has to do without me.

Final video of Digital Pharma: The Impression

We don’t seem to get enough of that video thingie during the Digital Pharma Congress in Barcelona. This time it’s the impression of the congress itself. Check it out…

 

Third part of my presentation

Finally got some time to edit the final part of my presentation at the Digital Pharma congress in Barcelona: “Best Practices Using Internal Social Media”. Check it out here:

 

Introducing: Shwen Gwee as co-blogger

sg-pic-1-240x180I am a proud co-blogger of  Med 2.0, the brainchild of Shwen Gwee. Shwen is a great guy with a clear vision on where the US pharma industry should move using social media. For that matter we found our counterpart on the other side of the ocean, since many of our thoughts are exactly the same as his. I am therefore happy to announce that we were able to get Shwen on board as a co-blogger on our blog as well. This partnership will mutually benefit the readers on our blog, extending our combined expertise and ideas about social media even further across the globe.

We blogged about Shwen before here and here, but for those of you not knowing Shwen, hereinafter a summary of his resume (proudly stolen from his blog):

Shwen’s career goal and aspiration is to combine his background in academia (science), agency (med comm), and industry (pharma) together with his interest, experience, and passion for emerging technologies and new/social media, in order to drive innovation in science and medicine.

Currently, Shwen is part of the Business Solutions group at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, where he leads Health Informatics and New Media initiatives. He acts as the primary interface between various business groups, strategizing and implementing technology solutions to support key business needs, with a primary focus on New and Social Media, Web 2.0, and Health 2.0.

Prior to Vertex, Shwen was a Senior Manager of Marketing Communications at Sepracor Inc., where he managed the Respiratory Speakers Bureau and related KOL meetings and events. He also regularly advised-on and contributed-to various emerging technology and web based projects.
And before Sepracor, Shwen was a Web Producer and Scientific Editor at the Neuroscience Education Institute — a medical communications agency that develops continuing medical education (CME) programs in Psychopharmacology.

Shwen obtained a BS (suma cum laude) in behavioral neuroscience from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Subsequently, he completed his graduate research in behavioral pharmacology at the University of Cambridge (England, UK), where he also earned a certificate in entrepreneurship.

Shwen currently sits on the advisory board for Pharm LLC (www.msljobsatisfaction.com)

Shwen’s areas of expertise and interests include:

  • Emerging Technologies and New/Social Media (e.g. podcasting, blogging, wikis, etc.)
  • Medical communications and CME
  • Learning technologies and adult learning trends
  • Neuroscience and behavioral pharmacology
  • Web and multimedia development/management
  • Innovation, entrepreneurship, and new business models

Welcome on board Shwen, and happy blogging!

Erik and René

Twitter madness explained

So you have also some nah-sayers, huh? Just watch this funny video.

Let’s try to stay a bit realistic in this world, shall we?

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