We’re better off connected: socially challenging Social Media Week events

SMW logoThe 2013 edition of Social Media Week London continues the debate around the power of social media to be a force for change in all sectors.  But technology is, of course, only as useful as its users make it. Our theme of “Open And Connected” has sparked people’s thoughts in all directions, and we’ve a bumper crop of amazing events covering business, music, consumer behaviour, technology, and, as ever close to my heart, social for good. Having not had the foresight to borrow a time machine and book several weeks off, I’ve sadly had to streamline my schedule.  Here’s my personal pick list:

Monday, September 23rd, 5.30 – 6.30pm

“Oh, The Humanity” – Are we all turning into social media robots?”   –  An interesting debate on how, in a world where even your local pub is on Twitter,  we’ve gone from being social to just doing social.   Places at the Virgin Hub are sold out, but it is being streamed to a screen near you.  Put the kettle on and tune in.

Monday, September 23rd, 6 – 7.30pm

“Speak now: Regret later?” – Another panel session, this time on a topic I’ve discussed at length with colleagues, clients and teenagers: where is the line between public and private for those Born Digital? I’m not sure: the rules may change, and what we Digital Immigrants view as potentially damaging online histories may have no impact at all when these folk hit the job market, apply for financial services and so on.  This is a practical event, aimed at 16 – 25 year olds, to engage them with the idea of self-censorship.  Share or sign up (depending on your vintage).

Tuesday, 24th September, 8.30 – 10.30 am

“Revisiting the Digital Trends Report  – At the end of every year some of us love to gaze into that trends crystal ball, and some of us like to raise an eyebrow at the results.  This session promises to be a refreshing take on trends reporting, looking back at what was predicted for 2013, why some things took off more than others.

Tuesday, 24th September, 5.00 – 6.00 pm

“Using Tech For Good. Can SoLoMo Change The World?”  – Don’t be put off by the clunky jargon (that acronym is for “Social Local Mobile”) this session really gets to the heart of “Open and Connected”.  How can tech help people make the world a better place? Great mix of speakers from the worlds of tech, charity and digital activism, including Nike, Greenpeace and 38 Degrees.

Tuesday, 24th September, 6 – 7.30pm

“Being Good Makes Business Sense”  – You’ll have to hot foot it on the shuttle bus from  “Tech For Good” but it’ll be worth it.  A great mix of research, insight and experience promises to address the challenge facing all businesses: how to act in a socially responsible way.  Not longer a question of “should we”, this session will look at how social media in particular is paying a pivotal role.

Wednesday, 25th September, 10 – 11am

“Digital Music Trends: Looking Forward To The Next 5 Years” – Stepping away from social for good for a session on my other great passion: music. This is set to be a thought provoking look at how digital has disrupted the industry, from music creation and curation to live gigs.  (Hopefully my pet topic of banning people filming on smart phones might crop up).

Wednesday, 25th September, 3 – 5pm

“Social Gaming: Helping Cure Cancer and Other Benefits of Play”  – This is set to be the game changer event (excuse the pun).   Cancer Research UK have had unbelievable numbers of Citizen Scientists take up the Cell Slider challenge, helping researchers process months worth of analysis work in a short space of time. This is a great opportunity to hear how they’ve mobilised a community and how social / digital really can have a real world impact.  (I wonder if we’ll get a sneak peak at their new GeneGame?)

Thursday, 26th September, 9 – 11am

“Collaborative Consumption: What’s Driving This New Economy And Is It Here To Stay?” – With speakers from the hotest collaborative services in the UK,  such as Zipcar, Love Home Swap, Liftshare and Streetbank, this session looks at how The Sharing Economy is disrupting traditional business models, and why it’s become one of the fastest growing sectors online.  Is it down to cost savings or are more social conscience forces at work?

Thursday, 26th September, 10am – 1pm

“Connecting For Good”  – This is a BarcampNFP  workshop exploring how to bring people and platforms together for good.  Obviously being a Barcamp who knows where conversations will lead, but the aim is to create sparks of innovative thinking around the next big things for fundraising and campaigning.  With facilitators from organisations such as UNICEF, WWF,  Save The Children and Macmillan Cancer Support, I think they just might find them.

Friday, 27th September, 1 – 2pm

“FACELESS – What If All Our Lives Were Recorded?” – a lunchtime lecture from the Open Data Institute sees film maker Manu Luksch explore the idea of what would happen if we could playback all the CCTV footage ever recorded of us.   Using CCTV footage of herself requested via the Data Protection Act and blocking out the faces of anyone else captured on it, Manu’s film “FACELESS” imagines a faceless world – with herself as the only woman with a face.  Set to be an extremely thought provoking end to the week.


The Value Of Mobile

We’re all passionate about our organisations and causes. We all want to recruit as many people to support our mission as we can; to raise money, campaign and help spread the word.  But it’s increasingly tough out there. Charities are investing more and more to increase numbers of supporters but at an ever increasing recruitment costs, lengthening pay back periods and more worryingly ever increasing attrition rates. This is not sustainable.

We strongly share the belief with many in the sector that the answer lies in developing longer, deeper and more valued relationships with supporters. So they give more, do more and share more.

A supporter’s level of engagement with a cause is heavily influenced by how they have been recruited. Increasingly invasive and pressured techniques do not make for the best start to a long term relationship. It’s not a sustainable strategy to rely on human inertia, resulting in failure to get around to cancelling a direct debit, as a retention model. In this day and age of austerity people are being increasingly selective about who and what they invest in, and it tends to be focused on what gives them value.

We cannot escape the need to increase the volume of supporters if charities are going to achieve their mission. This is felt more sharply by some charities who are suffering from a fall in statutory funding but an increase demand for their services. So, it is imperative that we hold on to those supporters we recruit and recognise the role new media plays in keeping them close.

Innovation and accessibility make it easier and faster to tell our stories through mobile. We discussed how mobile can be put into the mix to connect with people, not only from the point of acquisition, which is as much part of the problem as it is part of the solution, but on a continuing basis to develop a valued relationship between supporter and charity.

What is mobile?

Maybe first we should start with a definition.  Mention “mobile” and everyone starts talking about phones.  We’ve all got one, or two, and over half of us have smart ones.  But mobile is so much broader, and it’s not just about telephony.


We use our mobile devices to communicate, of course, but also for entertainment, to manage our lives, to most of all to share our experiences.  People are armed with (sometimes several) mobile devices wherever they are.

We spend 4.4 hours of our leisure time in front of screens each day, often more than one at a time. We need to be tapping into that.  Without doubt mobile will play an increasing role in our lives and if charities are to deepen their relationship with supporters mobile is a ‘multiple touch point’ that should be integrated in all fundraising and communication activities.

Get even more personal

Personalisation is nothing new, nor is it limited to mobile. But with advances in digital technology content consumed is increasingly controlled by the individuals rather than content providers. People are creating their own experiences whether it is on Google+, the BBC, The Guardian The Onion or TED, they re-configure media to read what they want. But what comes with greater control is the opportunity to opt out of the marketing they don’t want to receive.

There is no doubt people’s mobile experience is increasingly influential, but what is also clear is that they are in greater control of this experience; charities need to be alive to the opportunity and the risk this presents when developing supporter experiences.

People want to be part of your story

We humans are hard-wired to respond to stories and use them to relate to the world around us. A good story hinges on an emotional response. The more we feel part of the story the more engaged we are, especially when we have established and demonstrated an interest in the protagonists. We are more inclined to care what happens, to want to influence the outcome, we are primed to pay attention and respond.

We need to use more of our senses

We live in a multi-sensory world so the more an experience engages our senses the more visceral and engaging it becomes. Charities need to consider how to create multi sensory experiences, that is far simpler than is sounds, add audio and video into the mix and we significantly enrich the supporter experience. The mobile experience makes the most of these features.

Identifying the appropriate moments

The great promise of mobile marketing has always been the a deeper and more personal connection with other people, whilst brands have tried to control this, they have fallen short, and even suffered if they have not been transparent and offered some value beyond a sales pitch. Whilst we can now identify key moments to engage with people though mobile we need to connect with them in ‘hyper-relevant’ ways.  We need to consider where people want to engage.

When people meet technology

The tactical stuff like text to donate (or using other payment methods) or mobile advertising is great, but when we start looking at how we can make the most of the technology we can see the real value, not just for charities but even more importantly for supporters of the charity.

Charities need to consider how to deliver a compelling story and adapt how the story is told to suit the channel and platform’s strength to maximise user experience; only then will we develop deeper engagement and more valued relationships with supporters.


We’re in a new age of supporter engagement. It’s time to increase a charity’s value to their supporter and the supporter’s value to the charity. And the only way to do that is to give them an experience that makes them feel close, and ideally part of, your story. We cannot afford to allow the mobile, or digital, to simply be another tactical execution point that sits apart from the overall consumer experience. Putting it at the heart of your integrated storytelling will truly deepen engagement. And deepening engagement will give you supporters who respond to your appeal for help, stay with you longer, are more like to share your story, advocate your cause and recruit from their networks.  It will give you supporters who are more valuable in terms of money and actions, allowing you to make more good things happen.

The art of asking – an inspirational TED talk

Don’t make people do something, ask them.  Ask them by connecting with them. When you connect with them, people want to help you.  Lessons in successful (crowd)fundraising from alt-rock icon Amanda Palmer, who raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter for her latest project.



We really are True Romantics

I’ve been meaning to write about this all month to give you more chance to check it out, but time as run by and here we are on the last day of a remarkable campaign.

We worked with the nation’s heart charity, The British Heart Foundation (BHF) to launch a new fundraising initiative in Covent Garden and Camden Lock this February.  We invited true romantics to make public declarations of love in support of National Heart Month. We invited them to  write a message on a heart-shaped fob and  attaching  it with a red lock to giant L.O.V.E and Heart sculptures made of galvanised steel,  over   standing over 2 metres high.

We ordered 10,000 locks.  We looked at the empty (though still beautiful) installations and wondered if those true romantics existed. And then they came … You’ll see from the video below that the reaction from the public was overwhelmingly positive.  And having spent time back at the Covent Garden site this month, I’ve witnessed this first hand.  Even when the fundraising team had left for the day, people were stopping, reading, making passersby take photos of them next to it, sharing socially.


And those 10,000 locks? All sold out.  What an incredible response.



Is Native Advertising really The Next Big Thing?

“People read what they want to read, and sometimes it’s an ad” Howard Luck Gossage, advertising pioneer, 1969

Native Advertising  was fast becoming a part of buzzword bingo by the end of last year.  But what exactly is it? It is, apparently, content that contains a branded message and integrates with a website’s indigenous news feed or other content. So that’s things like:

  • “Sponsored by…” ads
  • Promoted Tweets
  • Sponsored Stories on Facebook
  • Promoted (often longer-form) video
  • Paid Discovery on StumbleUpon
  • And perhaps the most common format: ads on search engines

The cry from its advocates is that this kind of advertising helps to create a deeper engagement level with the consumer.  Others argue that this stuff has been around for a while, and it’s too often irrelevant, poorly written and badly targeted.  At best something to ignore, at worst something that interrupts the flow so much it irritates.   That said, there is a broad consensus that native advertising differs from interruptive advertising in two important ways:

  • It adopts the appearance of the surrounding website or other content in which it appears
  • It seeks to be a seamless part of the content being consumed.


So, is this advertorial re-branded or the saviour of online advertising?  Have a flick through this handy white paper (courtesy of Solve Media) and decide. In a world where 99.8% of banner ads are ignored and video preroll ads (the last online saviour) have massively increasing skip rates, maybe it is time we looked closer at it, whatever it’s called.

Crisis at Christmas 2012

Crisis at Christmas logoThousands of guests were welcomed by Crisis at Christmas centres this year, with all their residential centres filled to capacity and day centres busy throughout the whole week.   People took advantage of medical services, advice services, as well as a bunch of activities (yoga, art, music, sport) and beauty treatments like hairdressing and massage

Here’s a short video with guests sharing their experiences:


If you’d like to join me (and the 2 celebs we had at the North London centre) as a volunteer next year, applications open in October.  Or you can make a donation here.

With homelessness on the rise, we owe it to charities like Crisis to support their life-changing services and campaigning.