Friday, October 31, 2008

Highlights of the CPA Australia Second Life session

Here it is, this highlights video of the Second Life session that we recently ran.

As will be noted in my final report for the event, I will recommend that sound-checks be undertaken before each session. Some speakers were too soft and others too loud. The remote nature of Second life makes it hard to manage, but we'll find a way.

if you would like to see the full length videos or read a transcript of the session, they can be found on the CPA Australia website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Social media is still a car with four wheels

OK, I think that I need to get one thing straight - we did not invent the successor to the car somewhere between 2005 and 2008. One of the hardest things to do in the promotion of Web 2.0 thinking in organisations is to remind everyone that social media is still a car with four wheels.

We're not quite in flying cars yet!

So when I go into a meeting and say we can use social media and Web 2.0 thinking to connect with customers it is not green fields, not a flying car. Social media is still just connecting with customers like we always have done, just in a fancy new way.

Bringing everyone back down from Mars and getting them out of their flying cars, I like to remind people that there are plenty of precedents to the things we do in social media. It is not like everyone has been wandering Earth aimlessly in a silent vacuum. People talk, it's natural. People communicate by voice, pencil, pen, computer, phone, mobile phone, text message, gestures, looks, emotions ...

Social media just makes some of these things easier, and sometimes opens a new door to talking to new people you couldn't have previously. What it doesn't do is make conversations start that never would have started in the first place. Social media won't make people do things if they don't want to do them.

An example of a social media tool that has worked is Twitter. Twitter is not a flying car, it is still a four wheeled car. But why Twitter is successful is because it allows conversations to start that previously could not have, not for lack of want, but just because it was too hard. I can now talk to the guys at NASA that operate the Mars Lander if I want. Say Telstra had poor coverage in my area, I could tell Telstra via Twitter and not only would Telstra know, but all my followers too - Twitter is customer service in the public - a powerful tool.

Another example of social media that works are blogs. Back in the 90s it would have been cool to have your own personal web page to tell everyone how much you loved Pearl Jam and were annoyed when a case of beer cost more than $24. But unless you knew HTML and were prepared to put in hours of work and be happy with a pretty average result, it was too hard. Now with blogs, everyone is their own news service and we can all tell the world how ridiculous and dictatorial a government imposed clean feed internet censorship policy is.

Now to leave you with a little history lesson to prove that social media has been around for years, it's just that in the past few years technology has made our job a little easier.

Way back in the 1980s, before MySpace was invented, and MP3s were the stuff of science fiction novels, bands had trouble getting their music to their fans. They had to rely on a wireless receiver, or by then know as a radio. Getting music into record stores meant getting into bed with slimey record companies that would 'own your soul'.

No MySpace! What to do!?

A little New York band in just such a predicament had a solution. Staffed by the members of They Might Be Giants, the band Dial-a-song, recorded songs to an answering machine and told all their fans what the phone number was. Fans could dial up the number and listen to the music whenever they wanted (that is, whenever someone else wasn't calling!). Bypassing radios and record labels and going straight to the fans, that's social media!

So there you go. Even in the 1980s the people were out there inventing the social media cause.

The moral of this story is don't get carried away. We're not in our flying cars just yet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Selling social media internally

This great diagram comes from David Armano via Beeline labs. I've been following Beeline for a little while since their tribalization of business study came out, and now thanks to Beeline I'm going to be enjoying David's great visualisations of social media.

I like this diagram because I can relate. It's nothing spectacular, not new, and is not unique to social media. Anybody trying to run a traditional, easy-as-you-like competition is likely to have experienced this curve as well. This is the traditional effort vs status quo fight anybody in marketing will have faced.

The opportunity that social media has in this space is that it is relatively new. While there are plenty of precedents in like cases and like scenarios, social media is redefining what the legal precedents mean.

In the post-copyright era where you're more likely to get thanks for spreading the word rather than scorn for 'ripping off' others' work, the creative commons movement is an example of how social media and the socialisation of the Internet is changing the legal game altogether. A maxim that I like to work by in this era is to have the benefit to the customer/consumer in mind at all times.

Working from this angle, it is possible to work with legal (also branding and many other internal departments) to ensure that if it is a viral campaign that you want to do, then it is done for the right reasons and with the maximum benefit for the customer.

I think that it comes down to the old effort versus status quo scenario and if you have the right effort behind your project, and the right argument for customer benefit, then it is possible to keep that viral campaign flying.

And in the spirit of the post-copyright era I would like to assert David Armano's ownership of the original design of the following diagram (as also seen above), but with my own personal touch. In this remix of the diagram I've added a little Chuck Norris. The trajectory of your viral campaign is proportionate to the amount of effort behind your thinking and the customer benefit. If Chuck Norris were to launch a viral campaign he'd make sure that it'd fly fast and far and get to where he wanted it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Running a Second Life event

A big part of my most recent career move just came to fruition last night with the hosting of CPA Australia's first ever event in Second Life.

My role within the Knowledge Exchange team at CPA Australia is all about finding ways for members to better engage with each other. Be that sharing information, connecting with like-minded members, or any other need members might have to help exchange knowledge.

One need we have been working on is to help members in disparate regions connect and learn with the same ability as those members in capital cities. CPA Australia is well under-way in rolling out hosted webinars, but as an experiment we also wanted to explore the boundaries of remote collaboration. This led us to Second Life.

Much research and many articles have been written on virtual worlds and the 3D internet and it all leads to a thinking that in the future that internet will be 3D. I believe that as humans we naturally interact and feel in a 3D world therefore it is only natural that we migrate our online life to three dimensions.

To get a better idea of how serious this topic is, check out IBM's work in virtual worlds.

But back to our little experiment! Our aim, as part of the annual series of CPA Congress events was to be able to deliver an event that was accessible to any member no matter where they were and to provide the same experience to all.

As with all new things we were required to make plenty of decisions with little experience to fall back on, here is a list of some things we needed to sort out:

How big was our place going to be? Do we need an island or just a patch of land? Do we buy or rent?

As this was an experiment and not (at the moment) a long-term investment we decided to rent land in the region of Bracket. One thing to consider is that you can't choose your neighbours. We currently have a Magic Island and an Egyptian temple as neigbours!

What building/s do you want? What theme will they be?

This one was hard. It's not everyday you get to build a convention centre from scratch! With a little help from our designers we settled on a three tiered piece of land where from the landing pad you could observe your surrounding area. We wanted the experience to be as easy as possible for newbies, so landing people at the top of the hill allowed everyone to get a sense of place and of where they could explore.

We then decided to include an exhibition space. As with the previous point, we wanted as much as possible to replicate a real conference event to make the transition from real world to virtual world as easy as possible. In this area we were also able to show off many of our services and also promote other media applications like our Love your Super video on YouTube.

Our final area to build was the theatre space. For this we chose a three paneled back drop that would allow us to also show off our brand spanking new TVCs - think+create. The central panel was for the presenters slides.

Top cap it off, we were also able to include a backdrop of cityscapes from across the world, fitting nicely into our global premier brand positioning.

Some points to remember when building a theatre or other space in Second Life is that text chat travels 20m and voice 30m, so don't make your theatre too big or else the people in the back rows will not be able to participate.

We also built all our assets in the 3D software called Maya, this meant that if in the future we wanted to teleport to another location or another virtual world we could take our buildings, seats, tables and chairs with us.

The event
How do you run an event in Second Life? How do you register people? What are the 1%-ers that need to be covered off?

Our first hurdle to overcome here was getting people to register. We took a softly, softly, approach to the promotion of this event, so we asked members to contact us if they were interested and if they were we sent our a traditional event registration form. This allowed us to register members as per a regular event, and it also allowed us to grant permission to avatars into our space as needed.

A point to remember is the 'space' you hire is actually just memory space on a server back in Linden Labs, San Francisco. So the memory that we hired allowed for our venue and about 50 avatars. Any more than this and our space might go kapoot.

Once we had the people registered we needed to have a very tight run-sheet to make sure everything went off without a hitch. For this run-sheet we made sure that the virtual team was really contactable. We had phone numbers and emails just incase of technical problems.

To make sure all those present behaved our MC let everybody know the house-rules prior to the session commencing, and we found that as everyone came there to learn and experience something new, the crowd was well behaved.

One thing you will know with Second Life is that it is temperamental. The audio function can come and go willy-nilly. Because of this we had a person on stage that typed out highlights of the presenters speech in the text-chat so that we had audio and text dialogue of the presentation.

Also while speaking of audio, there is another trick that you need to be aware of. All microphones work differently in Second Life. Ensure that you test out your audio levels prior to the event. If there was one down point to the event we held it was that the audio levels were not consistent amongst those speaking.

The presenters
As this was our very first step into virtual worlds we wanted the theme to be around how business is approaching virtual worlds and how virtual worlds can assist collaboration and learning in a work environment.

And who better to lead our first ever event that two experts in the field, Lindy McKeown and Lee Hopkins. Both presenters were able to help us along the way giving us tips on how to create a better Second Life environment and also delivered highly engaging presentations.

Lee has also written a review and posted his presentation on his blog.

To conclude this rather long post I would advise those thinking about dipping a toe into Second Life, go for it, but think about a few key points:

1. It's relatively cheap to get started, hire land to start - only buy an island if you're in it for the long haul
2. Make sure you know what you want to build. Consult all stakeholders at work because once they get a whiff of how cool it is they'll want a little space for themselves too
3. Know what you want to get out of it. I can highly recommend virtual worlds for hosting events, but I don't expect avatars to register to become a CPA member from a brochure I have sitting on a table in Second Life.
4. So.... run an event in a virtual world - in a single session we had people from Mildura, Tumut, Euroa, Tamworth, Cairns, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth AND London, Liverpool, Detroit and New York!
5. Have fun! Virtual worlds let people blend technical learning and creativity in a whole new way, the format of a virtual world means that new connections can be made across geographic boundaries and this, for me, is one of the biggest pluses for virtual worlds.

Teleport to the CPA Australia Congress Centre in Second Life

CPA Australia - Event host
Net Effective - Second Life interior designers, architects, carpenters and all-round virtual tradies
Second Life - the virtual world we landed on
Lindy McKeown (aka Decka Mah) - Virtual world educator, scholar and guru
Lee Hopkins (aka Lee Laperriere) - Business communications expert and explorer of virtual worlds


Check out photos of the event here on Flickr

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fail ad #002

Winner of this week's "fail ad" award goes to Fairfax online and the NAB. When the stock market crumbles and we find out the value of everything is actually nothing, what do you do? Get another credit card!

The sad thing is that in reality this article and this ad are probably quite well suited. Bad taste, bad PR, good financial result. Banking is a dirty word.

Update (t+ 2mins): Yes, that's right, 2 minutes on, same article, new credit card! Below is the Citibank platnium, for all 2 people that have survived the financial crisis, nay, obliteration, unscathed.

Because of this, I am going to have to take the "fail ad" award off the NAB and hand it wholly over to Fairfax digital and their entirely crass online sales team and their bad taste. Congratulations!

Monday, October 6, 2008

GTbyCitroen - PS3 or Citroen who gets the most benefit?

Back in 2006, when I was working for an automotive accessories retailer, we were offered an advertising billboard within the upcoming edition of V8 supercars for the PS2. I thought that this was a pretty big step in the convergence of traditional advertising and promotion and new and alternative forms of media.

Well, even though that was only two-and-a-bit years ago, advertising on a billboard in a PS2 game is the equivalent of sending sputnik into orbit compared to today's international space station.

I make this analogy because I read in today's Australian that Citroen have made a full concept model of their GT car that they developed for the PS3 game, Gran Turismo 5.

This just goes to show that while a little old Australian retailer might consider billboards an extravagant additional advertising cost, a global car manufacturer sees it as an economical model to develop and market test a concept car for the public.

While in this case the concept car was made at the same time as the virtual car, I can just imagine in the future where cars are built for games first then rated, reviewed and judged prior to any consideration is given to outlaying the costs for physical production.

Again, this just goes to show that technology, given the right need, is a great tool for marketing. Sure, the GTbyCitroen might turn out to be a one-off thrill ride, but the mere fact that it made the journey from PS3 to the Paris Motor Show is a giant leap in the convergence of consumer and alternative media and shows one company's use of the connection.