Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection


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Twitter – the new graffiti?

This summer I headed out with the kids onto the south Oxfordshire downs and we headed to Waylands Smithy – its an old burial mound at the side of the Ridgeway – an ancient roadway that runs along the tops of the chalky downs – its been there for thousands of years – a sheep drovers way connecting rural with urban.

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At the burial mound the kids can run around the stones and in amongst the trees. They were pretty excited as I’d primed them during the 20 minute walk from the car that it was the home of Flibberty Gibbet – and talked about the giants that lived there during ancient times. Libby also found a ten pence piece inside the tomb – it was pretty exciting – she knew that Flibberty had left it there for her. I then had to hide some more money inside the stones as the boy had the hump that he hadn’t found any. I learnt that day that for around 50 pence with of 5p’s you can create magic for kids by staging a treasure hunt.

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While they played I took some pictures of the trees – specifically the way people had carved their names into them. This practice was all the rage when I was a kid – every small boy had a pocket knife and a “whitling stick”.

The Smithy is a protected ancient monument and its not right to carve the bark of the massive trees that surround it – but this had be done many years ago – often people date their graffiti and more than that the trees girth grows the letters fatten – you can see it was done years ago.

 

When we had that day out it was the same time that a guy was arrested for abusing Tom Daley on twitter (during Olympics) and a guy was arrested for threatening a terrorist attack on Robin Hood airport – both regrettable twitter events – but no doubt when the tweet was being rattled out they didn’t expect the 140 characters to have any real impact.

I dont think people or young kids have penknives in the same way these days and looking at the trees no one had gouged their name in to them for a couple of decades. I got thinking whether twitter was the new tree-graffitti – small bursts of words that capture a moment, shout out an identity and demand recognition in the world. Is there the same energy in the moment of creation?

Has the world of Victorinox Swiss Army knives been disrupted by the 140 Chars of twitter? And is a digital declaration safer than one carved out with a knife?

If you do go to south west Oxfordshire (where I live) do go to Waylands Smithy. Its a beautiful place – the downland always changes through the year – the landscape is very expansive and if you go up their on a mountain bike (without kids) you can head off deeper into the countryside – in some spots there are no roads, no pythons, no telegraph wires – it feels spookily remote. Silent, yet just north of the M4.

If you do go with your kids its a couple of mile round trip – they will be goosed on the way back. Make sure you have some treats and drinks in your backpack to bribe them to keep walking. I didn’t – it was hard work!

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The simple first hooks for a Social Journey

There is a lot going on behind Social Media as everyone considers how to convert sales, hunt for innovation, curate a community or using it simply to be better at doing what matters.

But sometimes we can over think it – its the simple things that just might be the hook to get people on board and get engagement.

I was taken with this graphic today that Patrick Durando – Senior Director of Global New Media at McGraw-Hill – shared on a Jive webinar.

Polls

We might all be hoping for detailed status updates, sharing great content or even pouring our thoughts into a blog post but don’t underestimate the power of the poll.

A poll can be the simplest of tools and they are common in linkedIn, Facebook and Yammer – a simple click and a reticent new-media user can put a first toe in the water.

We know not all people in a group actually contribute to the conversation but many people are reading the content and extracting value from the ‘chatty’ ones. A poll help bridge that gap – a contribution for the ‘shadow population’ – a vote for those that are yet to find a digital voice.

Lets not be too smart – its about sharing and connecting. Lets not forget the simple tools – people trust them.

Patrick’s full webinar talk on the impact social tools from @jivesoftware have had up McGraw-Hill is here.


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Its about the context as much as the content

I was lucky to come across this video today from John Seely Brown. It sang to me on a number of levels – how ideas and play amplify through collective action and how people respond to safety and permission to exchange.

There is a lot of information moving around but its the conversations around that information that give it meaning – the human connection that creates the context as much as the content itself. Its not the attachment on the email that answers the question but the shared and incremental significance that we build when we discuss it.

This is what the guys Im working with in Passle are trying to support – helping people participate in the flows. Im very happy with this idea – imagine the value that is unlocked when you facilitate meaningful connection.

If you have 11 mins to spare and want to feel warm about our collective future, watch this and let me know what you think:

Your faithfully and playfully – “a node amongst other nodes”

James


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Twitter feeds you need: but why?

Last week the The Observer – one the UK’s higher integrity newspapers – put out a list of the top twitter people to follow – it wasn’t based on ‘number of followers’ or klout, or any other vanity metrics – it simply asked a group of 50 notable UK twitterers who do they like following most. The list is here.

You can read it in many ways – as a source of new people to follow yourself, or as an insight into what makes the UK influencer people tick.

Looks like me –  I like him!

The first thing that is striking, is how people connect with people who are ‘like them’ – we have a tendency to ‘like the same’ – if you walk into a room of strangers we gravitate to people that feel familiar – they call it ‘homiphily’. Turns out Twiter is no different. Look how Gary Barlow follows hardworking and successful male celeb’s (‘status’ homophily), and how Diane Abbot identifies with people that are challenging the status quo and leading change for good and social justice (‘values’ homophily).

‘Like finds Like’.

The list has surprises too – did you know Alain De Boton (philosopher) sees Derren Brown as “One of the cleverest people of our time”?.

Mindgames?

But beyond this, the list also offers a view into peoples perceptions of what makes a good ‘twitterer’ – and raises questions for how business uses twitter?


What do we see?

The best way to see this is with a word cloud – bigger the word, bigger the theme – capturing the key adjectives and benefits people got from following their ‘favs’.

So what do we find?

Funny

Why did the mushroom have so many followers on twitter? …..because he was a fungi to be with.

In the UK we like funny – people being funny, people sharing humour, people ‘who crack me up’. But Funny is not just being a clown. We see ‘funny’ people are also human, inspiring, and admired. But this is the UK too – the country that is fuelled by quirky humour like the Boosh(@noelfielding11) , Milton Jones(@themiltonjones) and the Peep Show (@aroberwebb, @readdmitchell) – we can like the humour to be idiosyncratic, outrageous, and disturbing.

Have you read the tweets of @thetonypitts and @meganamram – its all so wrong! But funny.

This light hearted – yet much appreciated – side of twitter is at the core of twitter charm and way more ‘powerful’ than you’d think. In a busy life we know where to find the relief when we need it.

Wisdom

Thought Provoking, a sharp-mind with humility. As Jane Bruton says of @tonyparsonsuk “Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, always thought-provoking. The wise man of Twitter.”

Opinionated

People like to see skin in the game. As Jay Rayner says of @marinaoloughlin “She’s endlessly bitter, cross and enthusiastic in equal measure.” Is it the passion and the willingness to stand out that people like?

Foodie-Links

This was a surprise for me – so many people enjoy info on restaurants and recipes. Are tips for the perfect night out or guidance for a dinner party the greatest gift we can give? Whether it is Boy George appreciating @katemagic as “a raw-food guru who keeps me up to date with delicious recipes and the latest super foods” or Gizzi Erskine gushing of her foodie tweeps “We bonded over our love for Jewish food”, “She’s also a big foodie and has an amazing, creative eye.”

On-A-Cause

In a world when people are questioning “the meaning of it all”,  following people with a passion and a cause is a big hit. Seeing people in the zone and self-actualised is a valued thing. David Rowan talks of @indy_johar’s “insights into changemakers that matter”, Matthew Ryder talking about Adam Wagners passion for human rights; or Mariella Frostruspps distress and appreciation of the human plight shared by @vitalvoices

Conversation

Its social media right – and so its ‘social’ – it not a broadcast channel – it’s meant to be engaging right? Derren Brown talks about “the sins of arrogance and relentless self-promotion”. Thats not good twitter behaviour. But there is a wide appreciation for people who ’embrace the medium’ – whether its gossip, banter, trying to kick off conversation or just sitting back and watching the glitterati nattering away – its all very human – way beyond the 140 character limit. A very enlightened person told me to watch @wossy – he’s the best at it.

Links-to-Information

Share great content. Links to news, events, food. Lucy Siegle depends on the practical advice from @higgledygarden “I’m a novice gardener-grower and this is my Twitter support” Peston acknowledges that its @lindayueh that he is depending on and Gaby Hinsliff and Peston both recognise the work of @faisalislam and how he creatively transforms dull economics into an engaging stream of informed knowledge.

So its a cloud its not a list

If I made it a list you could look at the top three ‘big-do’s’ and discount the rest. And that would be a mistake.

There are many insights to be drawn from the language people use to capture the value they see in twitter. Its not as simple as a top 3 best practices – there is a need for many voices and styles to make it a great place. If a list meant we discounted the importance of any one of these value-points we miss the chance to be different and stand out.

But what about Businesses on Twitter?

So did you notice the absence of any Business brands on the list. No ‘brand’ is close to our hearts – but should I expect there to be one?

Maybe its too big a challenge for a company? Can a business be funny, commmunicate its humanity, wisdom, mind-moving insights, valuable resources and sense of connection with people? Or should we always expect a gap between what is valuable to us “IRL” and what we get from a company? But a business is still a social organisation, right?

Who can we empower to be the face/voice of our business on twitter? (Everyone in the company is the face/voice of our business.) Does anyone get given the permission to be the ambassador for the brand? (Everyone we employ is the ambassador of the brand.)

But we aren’t seeing this shine through on the tweep list today – or maybe they are just under the surface. Not in our top three, but somewhere close behind.

@callyrobson tweeted this morning: “10 yrs ago many business owners didn’t “believe” in the Internet. Now I just hear same about #socialmedia #yawn”

So maybe a business is full of individual brilliance but collectively a bit lost at sea in Social Media. Businesses are not yet something worth following, and we’re still waiting for them to switch on and step up and woo us.

There are couple of exceptions that do it for me. Innocent (now owned by Coco Cola) have always had an edge. But also look out for Sonar6. Ive had the need to review a lot of companies in the HR software space in the last year and these guys are the only ones that can communicate with engagement – look at their FB page, their CEO’s videos and their cup-cake competitions on Pintrest. I don’t know what is in the Auckland water – but its refreshing, funny, intelligent and no doubt the reason behind their recent evalution and acquistion. They have a voice and its memorable.

If the principles of Dale Carnegie still stand (they do) we want to know-like-trust people. There are many of types of trust but the type businesses really needs is “affect” trustan emotional bond and care for the wellbeing of the other – customers that forgive the brand if it screws up, and customers that champion brands through referral – customers that want us to succeed.

This only comes following some kind of meaningful social tie or connection.  Maybe it can come through good Social Media dialogue? (I think so).

Can business be humorous and personable? Well @tomfishburne makes a start..

Is the Observer List useful? Yup…

The great thing about this Observer list is there is some learning to be had from it – it gets into peoples minds and then lays it out for us to understand.

Its not a ranking based on followers or K+ updates. It has real and rich subjective value and a good snap shot for someone to form a recipe – bake a cake – or mix a cocktail – called “An engaging Twitter voice”.

They say that twitter is like a big dinner party – be interested in others too – dont just shout about yourself – be engaging – be helpful – be memorable.

Companies can come to dinner parties too – invite the knitted yogurt pot of Innocent or ‘Crazy Mike’ from Sonar6 and Im sure it will be memorable. But the rest of you really should stay at home.

If you want to check out some of the great people on this Observer article have a squizz at this list. There are some very engaging, eccentric, distrurbing, inspiring, rude, funny, informative, opinionated – but also very loveable tweeps there. Voices people believe in.

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