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


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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.

The Dutch spend more time online

The online population or ‘surf-population’ of the Netherlands has increased with 1% to 83%. The time spent online by this group has increased with 8% to 8.4 hours per week. These are the latest results of the ‘Establishment Survey’ a research performed every 6 months by Intomart GfK for the STIR (Stichting Internet Reclame, i.e. the Foundation Internet Advertising). This survey investigates the use of media in general and that of the internet in particular amongst 2000 people of 13 years and older.

This version demonstrates two additional interesting results. First, the internet is the only medium in The Netherlands that showed an increase in use. The consumption of TV, radio and magazines all decreased (measured in hours spent per week), while the use of newspapers remained the same. As a result, the consumption-share of the internet increased from 11.3% in 2007 to 13.7% in 2008.
Secondly, the age group 50+ is demonstrating the highest growth in internet usage. Internet penetration increased from 59% in 2007 to 63% in 2008 and use per week grew from 3 to 3.5 hours in the same period. In contrast, the internet penetration of 13-34 years old arrived at 99%. Still, the increasing participation of age group 50+ demonstrates that internet has established itself population wide and, with reference to internet being the only medium demonstrating growth, has become serious competition for the traditional channels.

stir

Afya Serengeti Project – episode 2

I am glad to announce the second episode of the video series The Afya Serengeti Project. As you probably know, the Afya Serengeti Project deals with the prevention of rabies in and around the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. This research group, lead by Sarah Cleaveland, has demonstrated that rabies, a terrible and lethal disease that can affect all mammals (yes, including people), can be prevented when you vaccinate all the dogs in the area. So, it’s about saving lives!

The video series gives you an impression how this vaccination team works. In this second episode Kaneja Ibrahim, one of the team members, shows us around the so called CDP House or Disease House. Here the team resides during the vaccination campaigns. Get to know them a little better and see what impact this work has on their personal lives, but also how dedicated they all are to make rabies a memory.

The Apple is opening up

Some companies are known to not participate in the Social Media trend, avoid a conversation with their customers. Dell was one of them, but that didn’t work out that well. Apple is one of the few companies that has a rare  form of customer. Many of these customers don’t see themselves only as a customer, but also as a salesperson, helpdesk employee and evangelist for the brand. I don’t think there is any other technology company which has such a true following than Apple. Many believe that it was this audience which made Apple survive in the mid-nineties (I can confirm that, since I was one of them). And yet, Apple doesn’t seem to communicate a lot with their community.

Recently Apple introduced MobileMe, the successor of their webservice .Mac. The introduction and transfer to this new platform went not without the necessary technological hickups, sort to say. Many people couldn’t access their e-mail and pushing data to the cloud did not work at all. It took them almost three weeks to fix things.

More interesting in this view is how Apple dealt with the situation. We would expect silence. Dead silence. Not this time. Several apology letters and a real blog (well, little blog) were set up to let the customers know what the situation was. Most customers even got one month free of charge MobileMe subscription.

If even Apple is joining the conversation, this whole Social Media thing must be for real…

Rabies, Serengeti and DigiRedo

An exciting trip to Tanzania, twelve hours of footage, hours of postproduction and a few liters of coffee later we are proud to present the first episode of the Afya Serengeti videoseries. In co-operation with TEN10 films (production) we have created this first episode where Sarah Cleaveland explains the situation in the Serengeti, the reason for her being there and introduces the team. In subsequent episodes we will follow the vaccination team in their journey deep into the park to find and vaccinate dogs against rabies, and thus helping the community.

We encourage everyone to share the videos so that as many people as possible learn about this important initiative. We will make sure that videos will come available on YouTube and the iTunes Store.

Can social networking sites make money?

Remember Rocketboom on The Business of Social Networks in November last year?

It’s clear, social networking is the fastest growing activity on the web. We all know about MySpace and Facebook as the two giants in this field with 72 million and 34 million unique visitors a month (January 2008). But also the smaller players see a lot of people: Bebo (what’s small: 22 million unique visitors a month), Club Penguin (5 million), LinkedIn (nearly 5 million) and Ning (3 million). And all are growing.

When realizing that venture capitalists invest huge sums of money (remember Microsoft, who paid US$240 million for a 1.6% share in Facebook) you might think these sites generate a lot of income through advertising. Well, that’s not really the case: this year MySpace will earn US$100 million less than predicted and Facebook will even face a loss of US$150 million. The fact that many of the smaller players do not reveal any of their revenues doesn’t sound promising either. Is there another bubble-burst at hand?

Bryant Urstadt asked the same question and looked closer at this issue in his Technology Review article ‘The Business of Social Networks‘. He notices the low (and declining) CPM rates for ads on Social Networking sites (MySpace US$2, Facebook US$0.15) compared to for instance Mashable (varying between US$7-33) and TechnologyReview (US$70). But even these low rates do not persuade advertisers…

The problem with advertising in social networks is around three main issues: attention, privacy and content, according to Urstadt. Looking at the traditional advertising model, targeting is the key. And that reveals the difficulty; it is not so easy to target a specific group in a social network as it is for, lets say, Google. There people are specifically looking for clearly defined information, which makes targeting relatively easy. Not in social networks, where people are more busy with conversation with friends and can’t be bothered with commercial messages. Even stronger, many of them dislike it.

Getting in between users of social networks is very complicated and tricky, as you do not want to violate their privacy. Facebook tried with their Beacon program but failed (partially) and MySpace has developed its HyperTargeting system. Advertisers are moderately interested. Even stronger, looking at the US ad spending on social-networking sites relative to total US online ad spending, the odds are against social network-monetization.

Still, with all those millions of consumers at hand, their must be a way for advertisers to reach them (and to keep the social networks alive!). Although there is this fear of history repeating (Bubble 2.0), I do not really believe this, not more than a natural selection, a survival of the fittest (say Darwinism 2.0).

Two things to consider. One is that advertisers should reconsider their approach, their traditional targeting model. Maybe there is a more successful approach in cooperative marketing, co-creation and interactivity in relation to social networks. It’s the classical marketing paradigm: talk with them, not at them. Two, new technological solutions will be developed shortly that give way to another approach between consumers and advertisers. How that will look like, I have no idea (yet) but I agree with Bryant that the key is in the balance between openness and control. These new solutions prevent social networks to remain walled gardens, but where we can communicate across the borders of these communities, which opens a whole new ball game for both users and advertisers.

With that in mind, consider Google’s Open Social and the activities of Plaxo: take a look at the interview with Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect at Plaxo.

And then I haven’t mentioned the virtual worlds…but let’s talk about that another time

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