On my way back from #learnpod12, an Unconference held at Doncaster College. Unusual for an unconference more than 100 people working in education-related areas came together to discuss in up-to six parallel sessions issues related to innovating teaching and learning. They shared experiences in using social media for educational purposes and exchanged information about new and old tools and ways to use them in educational settings as well as in unusual places like a village green. The discussions were lively, brought together new and old colleagues and will probably continue now while I am on the train and many of the other participants explore Doncaster. At the moment I am not certain whether @johnpopham is offering a post-event pub crawl or whether he was successful with his plea for cake. Let’s check Twitter #learnpod12 to find out…

The Challenge of Technology Shabbat


About a year ago, I came across a documentary about the Barbie Doll, entitled The Tribe. The film links the history of Barbie to the question of what it means to be Jewish today. I was intrigued not only by the content of the film but also by its composition, a mixture of old and new, short cuts and longer sequences, and a narration by the memorable voice of Peter Coyote. The fil sparked my curiosity to look for information on who was behind the film and if the producer had embarked on other, related projects. 


It didn’t take me long to find the website to the film and to that of its producer and director Tiffany Shlain. Apart from having directed and produced this fabulous documentary Tiffany also is the founder of the Webby Awards and the co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. Most recently she has produced the highly praised and award winning “autoblogography” Connected.


The various communications about Connected distributed on Twitter and elsewhere enticed my curiosity about Tiffany’s larger project further. Whilst still not having seen Connected – when do you come to London, Tiffany? ūüėČ – the documentary (seems to) advance(s) her interest in the opportunities and challenges we face in a social world pervaded by technology designed to connect us all with each other. This technology and the social media that we increasingly use everywhere on our mobile devices allows us to connect with people across the globe. As an illustration of this interdependence between people Tiffany and her team set their Twitter followers and Facebook fans the task to translate the text of “A Declaration of Interdependence” and read out in front of a running camera. The result is short film produced in collaboration between complete strangers. 

Maybe mesmerized by the possibility to connect with so many people around the world we find it increasingly difficult to put the phone to the side and connect with those nearest to us. We take out our phones in the middle of conversations or disappear to the toilet during dinner to check up on Facebook notifications and Twitter updates. Technology interrupts our daily interaction. “Who have I become?”, asks Tiffany, and comes up with the idea of a Technology Shabbat. She switches her phone off on Friday evenings, for 24hours, and encourages her friends, fans, and followers to do it like her. Apart from notifying us all about her unplugging on Friday nights together with her husband Ken Goldberg she has produced another short film, “Yelp! With Apologies to Alan Ginsberg’s ‘Howl'”. 

With the film Tiffany encourages her audience to unplug as well from time to time. Do it like her, switch off your networked devices and gain the time and focus to engage with your friends and family, at least one day a week, without being interrupted by blinking and beeping devices notifying you about the arrival of new messages and updates.

Having resisted her request for a few months last weekend I decided to give it a go and unplug. Gosh! No idea had I how difficult that would be. Apart from the habit to reach for my phone whenever I sit down and check on nes, the unplugging brings with it some practical issues. A complete phone blackout was out of the question as my weekends are organised in ways that involve phone use at various occasions to coordinate meet-ups with the rest of the family. So, the only thing I did manage was to unplug from social media. Effectively I switched off my Facebook, Twitter etc. connection from Friday evening to Sunday morning. This worked out okay and gave me time to do other things without staring at the phone in the middle of a game or while reading a book. Also, rather than spending some time on Twitter on Sunday morning, I read a newspaper and then finished a book, The Digital Scholar. Overall, the Technology Shabbat has been an interesting experience for me and I will do it again, hopefully to greater effect, at the end of this week. 

While refraining from accessing social media I also remembered a paper presented at the 2007 CHI Conference in San Jose, CA, namely Allison Woodruff and colleague’s “Sabbath Day Home Automation: ‘It’s Like Mixing Technology and Religion“, that seems pertinent to the issue. Woodruff discusses her observation in orthodox Jewish homes who because for religious reasons they are not allowed to operate technology, rely on on automated systems to help them out. She sees these automated systems as examples for technologies that are neatly embedded within the lives of people without interrupting or disrupting their social arrangements. Maybe over time we will find ways to embed our mobile phones and our social networks equally neatly into our lives. 

Putting my half-failed attempt of a technology shabbat to one side, I am looking forward to seeing Tiffany’s project which a bit clumsily might be summed up as an exploration of the technology induced tension between interdependence and identity, develop. 

Connected is in the cinemas in the USA and elsewhere since this autumn. 



The Facebook Era

Book Review, innovation

Another book I recently read was Clara Shih’s ‘The Facebook Era‘. The book now in it’s 2nd edition gives practical advice on how to effectively use Facebook for marketing/business purposes. The information provided is based on Shih’s experience with business and seems very useful for practitioners in business. … I think I now read enough about Facebook for 2011. Time to check what my friends are up to…

The Facebook Effect


I am not sure how many of you who have seen the ‘Social Network’ would bother reading David Kirkpatrick’s book ‘The Facebook Effect‘. I finished it a week or so ago and learned quite a bit about the company whose site I visit regularly, not to say several times a day. Kirkpatrick stayed with the company and interviewed the key players, including Zuckerberg’s team and investors in Facebook like Peter Thiel. Apart from finding out about Facebook and how Zuckerberg while in his early 20s was able to raise huge amounts of money one also obtains insights into the way the investors work and make decisions. Overall, a worthwhile read. Time for me to watch the movie…

Jadis Tillery (dottalent) – Survey of the Social Web


On Friday, March 11 2011, we were lucky to have Jadis Tillery as a guest speaker in the module “Marketing and New Technologies” (MSc International Marketing, King’s College London). Her talk nicely complemented prior guest lectures in the module, given by Rob Wilmot and Ilicco Elia.

Jadis, a KCL alumni, currently works as Social Media Manager at dottalent, an agency that helps celebrities to enhance their brand by using the web and social media effectively. In her lecture, Jadis provided an overview about the various tools and technologies avaialble on the web for companies as well as customers to make themselves heard and thus create a brand image. She argued that the increasing pervaiveness of social media has led to the emergence of social media marketing as a fundamental shift away from traditional marketing practice. Social media marketing rapidly transforms traditional marketing practices, characterised by the marketing concept, the 4Ps,  by allowing customers to contribute to all aspects of the marketing mix.

In the broadcast media social media sometimes still are seen as a fad. Statistics of memberships in social networking sites and the growing spending on digital marketing campaigns tell a different story. Furthermore, the recent political changes in North Africa and the Middle East that have used social media sites like Twitter and the importance of social media for people’s communication in regions affected by environmental disasters powerfully show that social media matters.


(See emarketer site)


The immense growth of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have stimulated companies to increase their digital marketing budget on advertising their goods and service online, rather than on TV, and to open sites on Facebook where they not only engage with customers but also sell their products. Jadis illustrated this development by pointing to FMCG, fashion and travel brands that now use Facebook pages for ecommerce activities. 

Whilst Facebook with its 500Million members is the best known social network, the importance of other sites such as Twitter and YouTube is not to be underestimated. Twitter’s attractiveness is in the opportunities it offers people to engage in conversations with brands, like companies or celebrities. These conversation need to be carefully conducted as they are publically visible, and can create embarrassement or even lead to libel action.  




Over the years, YouTube provides people and companies with new ways to entertain, inform and engage others with a brand or project. There are a large number of videos that have “gone viral” and thereby drawn a lot of attention not only to people, companies and events but also to the importance of social media as a new advertising tool. Amongst those viral videos that have been influential and have gone viral are entertaining/fun clips like Keyboard Cat, clips that customers of companies have produced after having had a bad service experience like United breaks Guitars, and YouTube Channels like the Uncultured Project that raise awareness as well as initiate and support campaigns in regions struck by disaster.

Over recent years, the importance of social media has further increased through the growing popularity of smart phones and other mobile devices. Jadis pointed at statistics that show the growth in mobile Internet traffic. For example, in 2010 the mobile data traffic was three times the size of the global Internet traffic in 2000. It is anticipated for the mobile data traffic to increase 26-fold between 2010 and 2015. These developments are being supported by the success of app-stores. 

Jadis who works for dottalent, an agency that helsps celebrities to use social media in an effective way, argued these developments are of importance for everybody. As people use social media they leave a digital footprint that is accessible by (potential) employers and customers. It therefore will become increasingly important to create one’s own digital footprint, or in marketing terms, to create a personal brand online, using tools like Twitter and LinkedIn. 



Relevant Literature (referred to by Jadis)

Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand. Random House Business Books. London, UK. 2006.

Cakin, IdilM.. Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: online strategies to identify influencers, craft stories and draw customers.John Wiley & Sons. Hoboken, NJ, USA. 2010

Fraser, Matthew and SoumitraDutta. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Social Networking will Transform your Life, Work and World.John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Chichester, UK. 2008

Jarobe, Greg. YouTube and Video Marketing: an hour a day. Wiley Publishing. Indianapolis, India, USA. 2009.

Levy, Justin R. Facebook Marketing: Designing your next marketing campaign. Pearson Education Inc. USA. 2010.

Smith, Jon & Jose Llinares.Dominate your Market on twitter: Tweet your way to Business Success. The Infinite Ideas. Oxford. 2009

Shih, Clara. The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences and Sell More Stuff. Prentice Hall. London, UK. 2010.

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. Penguin Press, New York, NY. 2008.

Webber ,Larry. Marketing to the Social Web: how digital customer communities build your business. John Wiley & Sons. Hoboken, NJ, USA. 2009.


Ilicco Elia (Reuters Media) – Mobile Technology: Opportunities and Challenges for News Organisations

interactivity, Marketing, Mobile, mobility, public places, Social Media, Technology

Ilicco Elia, Head of Consumer Mobile, Reuters Media, gave a lecture as part of my module “Marketing and New Technologies” (MSc International Marketing) at King’s College London. Ilicco who has been working at Reuters since 1993 and at Reuters Mobile for the past 6 years, highlighted the increasing difficulty for media companies to retain their integrity whilst reporting news as they emerge.

Reuters are a news agency that over the decades has built up an image and a brand that stands for trust and integrity in news reporting. It now is confronted with the pressure that their customers Reuters to deliver up-to-date accurate information about events as and when they happen. Therefore, Reuters use about 2500 journalists to gather, edit and disseminate news to a global audience. These journalists use mobile technology, including networked high-end cameras, camera phones, mobile phones, laptops, etc,¬†to gather information (pictures, videos, text, …) and immediately send it to the editor in the London office who produces news items that are disseminated across the various Reuters distribution channels.¬†Illico illustrated the process by referring to the Football World Cup 2010 when pictures taken by journalists in South Africa appeared on Reuters mobile seconds after they had been taken. On the next day, the same pictures were published in newspapers around the world.

The immediacy that people increasingly demand from news organisations is driven by the growing pervasiveness of consumer mobile technology, such as mobile telephones, laptops and tablet computers. It is not sufficient anymore that Reuters disseminate news via its website but they have to develop applications, ‘apps’, that run on a range of different mobile devices and systems. Based on the opportunities offered by the iPhone and Blackberry phones Reuters created applications that deliver news through different kinds of mobile device. For example, Reuters New Pro, Reuters Mobile Website¬†and Reuters RSS¬†deliver global news to customers who are on the move; and Reuters Galleries¬†exhibit the best photographs taken by Reuters correspondents around the word.

Ilicco highlighted the profound changes to journalism that have been initated by the wide distribution of mobile technology to consumers. It not only influences the consumption of news, everywhere and at any time but also the organisation of news production, editing and disemination. The scope of these changes is just becoming visible in the editorial offices but little is known of the emerging practices of news consumption.

The new technologies also facilitate new forms of journalism. In recent years, citizen journalism and the contribution of news by consumers in others ways has become more and more popular with many news organisations. This seems to be a dangerous path for organisations like Reuters that have built their brand on the integrity and authenticity of their news. News and information delivered by people other than Reuter’s journalists are difficult to assess in their truthfulness and authenticity. Similar, it can sometimes be difficult for news organisations to hold on and evaluate information before disseminating it, as competitors may push forward with the distribution of an item. Examples of the speedy dissemination of wrongful news are manifold. The Guardian for example pressed forward with repeatedly reporting that Nokia Smartphones would soon be running Google’s Android operating system. As we now know Nokia have entered a close collaboration with Microsoft, rather than Google.

The ease of diseminating news is a tempting for news organisations as for mobile users. By clicking on a few buttons a news item with (maybe incorrect) information, can be shared with friends and followers on social networks. The sharing of wrong news by mobile users can badly reflect on their image in the ‘twitterverse’. As Rob Wilmot highlighted in an earlier guest lecture in the same module in January, ‘trust’ is difficult to gain but easily lost in social media. And this valid for businesses and organisation as well as for individuals.

Ilicco Elia in the News

Media Guardia 100

NMA Portrait (£)


"Social Media and the New Economy" – talk by Rob Wilmot (BCS Digital)


On February 4th, 2011, Rob Wilmot, Director of BCS Digital and Co-founder of Freeserve gave a guest lecture on “Marketing & New Technologies”, a module that I convene as part of the MSc International Marketing at King’s College London. In his lecture “Social Media and the New Economy” Rob provided a fantastic overview of the importance of Social Media to business and marketing as well as to Masters’ students who soon will go out and look for work.

Rob named 2009 as a watershed when Social Media turned from a fringe activity into becoming the mainstream. He names 4 events that pushed Social Media to the fore: (1) backed by a Facebook/Twitter campaign Rage Against the Machine ‘steal’ the Christmas No. 1 spot from the 2009 X-Factor Winner Joe McElderry, (2) on Christmas Eve, for the first time, Facebook had more site visits than Google US, (3) Pepsi pulls its adverts from the Superbowl in favour of a Social Media campaign, and (4) Barak Obama becomes President of the USA after an election campaign that made very effective use of Social Media. Since 2009, this development of the growing importance of Social Media for political campaigns and business activities has accelerated and spread into other areas, such as police investigations and professional football. New Social Media websites emerge all the time and the next big service/site following Facebook’s success is probably out there already (Rob Wilmot).

The spread of Social Media is closely monitored and investigated by commercial research institutes such as Forrester Research and the Altimeter Group. This research provides interesting insights into what Social Media people use – right now mainly Facebook and YouTube -, what kind of new Social Media services are currently emerging – right now, in particular Twitter – and what the demographics of Social Media users are. It also suggests that people use Social Media for different purposes and in different ways, and increasingly while being on the move rather than while sitting at a Desktop Computer.

For the “new economy” that is arising from these developments “recommendations” of products, services and websites are of particular importance. For example, with the deployment of ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons “Facebook aims to become the authority for recommendation on the Internet” (Rob Wilmot). This development is highly relevant for all Social Media users as the effectiveness of recommendations is closely linked to the ‘trust’ people have in each other; “trust” being seen as the basis for the building of relationships.

Companies are well aware of the link between ‘recommendation’ and ‘trust’ and pay celebrities and Twitter users with large numbers of followers, fans and friends for recommending their products and services. For the rest of us, the link between ‘trust’ and ‘recommendation’ highlights the importance to take care when posting on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. In order to develop a reputation and to build trust it is critical not to post false, misleading, offensive etc. messages to Social Media sites: ”imagine your post is published on a billboard visible to everybody on the street” (Rob Wilmot).

The effectiveness of Social Media has been notoriously difficult to measure. The impact of wrong-footed Social Media campaigns such as those by Habitat (2010) and Kenneth Cole (2011) for the image of companies, are well reported. For the measuring of the Return on Investment (ROI) tools are developed by Forrester, Altimeter, Google and many others that provide information on the relationship between Social Media campaigns and monetary return. This information is critical to refine campaigns and continue to engage with customers. As Social Media continues to develop alongside more conventional marketing channels the instruments to measure their effectiveness in delivering ROI will be refined and further developed.



Social Media are not a magic wand that resolves all the problems marketing managers may have with building relationships with customers in an increasingly complex and competitive environment. However, they are a powerful additional channel marketing managers need to take seriously when developing campaigns and engaging with (potential) customers. Common-sense rules about the way in which to conduct communication are valid in Social Media just as in conventional marketing channels. However, Social Media fundamentally change the relationship between companies and customers: in particular, they facilitate conversations with customers and, if used in the right way, support the building of trust and long-term relationships with customers.

Rob’s lecture offered a wide range of information and insights on Social Media. He suggested that there is a growing field of research designed to support companies in developing Social Media campaigns and to asse
ss, evaluate and measure their (monetary) success or failure. It seems that whilst effective measures for the quantitative impact of Social Media campaigns are emerging, methods to be used for the assessment of qualitative aspects of the relationships between Social Media users are still underdeveloped.




The lecture implied a range of possible research questions. The research the lecture has been based on, origins from studies conducted by research companies who aim to inform management practice and marketing strategies. Detailed academic research can contribute to this research by unpacking the concepts and foundations of relationships this research is pointing to. For example, the Social Technographics Ladder developed by Forrest Research (see Li & Bernoff 2008) creates a typology of people according to the ways in which they use Social Media tools, such a blogs, podcasts or RSS feeds. Little do we know of how people actually ‘read’ and ‘collect’ Social Media content, what resources they draw on and how they use these resources to create new content and new forms of content. 

Furthermore, much has been written about the importance of the building of relationships that often origin in ‘recommendations’ from “trust agents” (Brogan 2010). Yet, little do we know of what ‘recommendations’ are made up of, when do they arise and how are they designed in different situations and with regard to different products, services and people. How do long-term relationships and loyal customers of a company arise from a recommendation by a Social Media ‘friend’. ‘Relationship’, ‘loyalty, ‘trust’, ‘reputation’ and ‘recommendation’ in this context are often used as a generic concepts rather than as products of interaction between people. Little is known of the processes through which these ‘products’ of interaction are brought about.

Detailed studies of interaction between people, online and offline, and in particular between marketing practitioners (shop keepers, vendors, marketing managers, direct marketeers, customer service personnel, etc.) and customers will useful in helping to unpack generic concepts like ‘relationship’, ‘loyalty’ and ‘trust’. Furthermore, they can specify the social organisation of activities such as the ‘conversation’ between companies and customers or those activities described in debates about Social Media as ‘engaging’ and ‘recommending’.

With such complementing interests of research companies and academic scholars it would seem sensible to engage in joint research projects and programmes that aim to develop generic concepts and models whose components are well understood and specific that they can inform the Social Media activities of companies and customers.


Relevant References 

Anderson, Chris. 2006. The Long Tail. How endless choice is creating unlimited demand. Random House.

Brogan, Chris & Smith, Julien. 2010. Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. John Wiley & Sons.

Cellan-Jones, Rory. 2008. Freeserve and ten years of boom and bust. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2008/09/freeserve_and_ten_years_of_boo.html 

Li, Charlene & Bernoff, Josh. 2008. Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Harvard Business Press.

Solis, Brian. 2011. Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web. John Wiley & Sons.

Tapscott, Don & Williams, Anthony. 2007. Wikinomics. How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Atlantic Books.


Rob Wilmot in the News


The Guardian