Content & Social – what we learned at iCrossing: slides and notes from the International Content Summit


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I had a great time yesterday presenting at the first International Content Summit 2010, although I wish I could have spoken for longer as I had more to say than the fifteen minutes that were available. The brief was to talk about how to use social media with content. I prepared by speaking with some of iCrossing‘s senior content experts, Tamsin Hemingray, Charlie Peverett and Trisha Brandon. I founded the team four and half years ago but have not been involved directly for some time and they have evolved their approach brilliantly, with journalists now taking on parts of the research and analysis process from the social media analysts and developing more and more sophisticated and ambitious strategies for content. In order to make up for the slightly shorter than was comfortable talk yesterday, I am going to create some audio to go with this presentation in the next few days. In the meantime, these are some of the themes and, of course, below are the slides from my talk.

Everything in marketing and media is up for grabs
Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy had earlier mentioned that content was often the first thing to be cut when a downturn came around. There is a lot of opportunity for content specialists, I believe. Like their community manager cousins, the social web is disrupting media and marketing to such a degree that the industry is being re-shaped.

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Image: Viva Rory Sutherland!
Rather than being on the edge of the marketing mix, bold content strategists and teams can make a case to be at the top table. Like Blaise Grimes-Viort makes such a great, ambitious case for organisations to have a Chief Community Officer, there should be people ambitious to be the Chief Content Officer in their company (in fact, Julia Hobsbawm, founder of Editorial Intelligence, said that was precisely how she thought of herself).
iCrossing has always come from a networks perspective
Being a search firm originally, iCrossing’s perspective is informed by understanding the web as a medium that is comprised of and defined by networks. To understand how to be successful, we have to understand how networks (both human and machine, as I told Reputation Online yesterday) work.
This means that we think of branded content as being something that exists across networks rather than in one place and that success is achieved by how far and how fast content travels. Networks decide what is successful based on what is most useful to them.
Stories and numbers are key
This is what Dan McQuillan called “data storytelling” in a Twitter conversation with me today: it’s the ability to turn data into stories quickly so that people can understand and act on it. in content terms at iCrossing it means that measurement isn’t something that is an after-thought to the editorial/creative process, it fuels it, by providing insights about what people in the network are interested in, what sorts of content might want more of.
Keep your data and content people close to each other
Further to the last point, keeping the people who are researching and listening to the networks (the social media analysts in our case) close to the people creating the content (journalists) has paid off so many times.
There is a useful tension between the two about who knows their communities best, about what content will work. We have tried to preserve that tension and value it in the same way as the tension between the editorial and advertising teams at a traditional publisher. Journalists and social media experts sitting near to each other stumble across great ideas that might not come up in a formal meeting.
Default to social
Being social in the way that you create and distribute content is not an add-on or a tweak to the process. The social network should be in mind when coming up with ideas, and technically when building platforms (is the content findable, portable and shareable?).
Sharing and wanting to share, should be the default position. Even licencing can play a role in this. Organisations default to protecting intellectual property with copyright, when in fact copyright should be the exception.
Creative commons-attribution licences on your content means more people can use it more easily, in ways you have not thought of. I cited the Chinese translation of the iCrossing What is Social Media? e-book (more news on this later), but even the way you source and share images for a company blog can create new and unexpected connections with a network.
Digital literacy should be promoted across your organisation
Naturally, I didn’t waste the opportunity to put across the case digital literacy. The point is that if you want your content to be successful in social media, you need to be encouraging everyone in your teams, in the wider organisation to experience social media. Naturally, I think the best way to learn how social media and networks work is to start with number one, and look after your own personal reputation.
Nano-webshadows!
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Thanks to some nifty work between the APA, iCrossing and my publisher A&C Black there were hard copy versions of the first 25 pages of my book Me and My Web Shadow for every delegate.
I was chuffed to say the least to see the pamphlet-sized versions of the book – it was the first time we had done something like this. Hopefully people liked them, and maybe some will go on to buy the book. If you want your own electronic version, of course, they are available over here

Mining the where: CIA-funded start-up says 80% of online content contains location information

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Last week at Local Social Summit I talked about some of the issues around location and privacy. Especially problematic is people’s inadvertent tagging of their photos with location information – something potentially of interest to crooks, stalkers and others you might not want to know everything about you.

Open-source spying is a term which has been around for a while, reflecting the fact that when it comes to gathering information, the web is often as good a place as going into the field. In-Q-Tel’s investments reflect a justified fascination with the social web by intelligence agencies.

Well it turns out the CIA is also interested in this kind of information. In a post about the CIA’s Silicon Valley VC firm, In-Q-Tel, the Not So Private Parts blog on Forbes found the firm…

…likes companies coming up with better ways to mine social networking sites and geospatial location data. One of its investments, Geosemble, a private spin-off from USC, estimates that “80% of online content has location information.”

80%? Wow.

“Our mission is to shine a torchlight on geographic unknowns and help organizations neutralize threats and capitalize on opportunities in their areas of geographic interest,” says its website. Another of IQT’s geospatial investments, FortiusOne, promises instant maps based on Tweets and photo uploads, for mapping election-day threats in Afghanistan, for example.

The idealist in me is attracted to the data mining stories of humanitarian efforts of platforms like Ushahidi, but we should remember that governments and their agencies are interested in our geo-location information as well.

Bonus link : : Really interesting presentation from FortiusOne on analysing geo-data for business.

Mining the now: Real time sense making

Here’s an emerging idea about how we can and will make sense of the vast amounts of data becoming available about what is happening right now…

Juliana Rotich (whose work at Ushahidi I’ve discussed on this blog about a year ago) writes on her Afromusing blog about pulling together the ability to crowdsource the gathering and making sense of data in real time (which is what Ushahidi and the related Swift River project do) with the concept of the internet of things (objects and systems connected to the internet and making data available continuously):

Allow me to use the word holistic. As in holistic near ‘real time sense-making‘, incorporating the internet of things, with crowdsourced data delivered through channels that encourage participation. There is an opportunity to see things dynamically and not just do after-the-fact post mortem. This could work for flash point events like the Haiti earthquake (taking data [from] Geiger counters etc + crowdsourced data like that available on the haiti deployment run by Noula.ht. It could also work for longer term events such as the BP Oil spill in Louisiana.

Juliana quotes Jeff Jonas, a scientist at IBM:

…the closer to real-time one can get the right answer and respond, the better. And milliseconds matter.

The concept of real time sense making offers so many tantalising possibilities, from predicting the behaviour of human social networks to helping those networks (countries, companies, NGOs) respond to emergencies and more broadly to the challenges we face globally.

Be sure to check out Juliana’s original post for some amazing examples of how this concept is being put to work.

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Image: Literally, a swift river…

In pursuit of perfect imperfection on TV

David Hepworth recounts the incredible amount of effort (faff) that goes into creating a small piece of television in a post on his blog.

The last paragraph tickled me in particular;

The time spent filming was maybe a fifth of the time spent faffing. This delay wasn’t because the people were in any way incompetent. It’s just that TV is one long faff. It has to be. One of the most curious aspects was that later in the interview the cameraman kept jerking the lens away from me, as if he was having trouble with the tripod. I wasn’t sure whether to keep talking or not. It turns out he was just providing some of that jerky quality that they now put into interviews to give the impression of looseness.

All that hi-fidelity effort to look a little bit lo-fi. I’ve huge respect for the craft of television production, but it looks funny to the outsider, doesn’t it?

I was reading one my favourite children’s books to my son, recently: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. David’s hi-fi-looks-lo-fi experience reminds me of a scene where an experimental broadcast of a bar of chocolate is attempted. To get the bar of chocolate across the room from studio set the oompa-loompah’s manoeuvre a giant bar of chocolate in to be filmed which appears as a normal one that can be plucked from the TV set (“because things look smaller on TV”).

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