What am I up to?


You’re overdue an explanation, so here it is…

These are interesting times – in a good sense – for me, as I close the chapter where I was employed at iCrossing, and indeed the the section of the book – to extend the metaphor – where I have been employed by others.

That’s right I have struck out on my own. Thankfully, I have still got a good relationship with my former employer, so much so in fact that they remain a client of my new venture, which means I still get to work with my colleagues there. Brilliant.

It was hard to leave, as I think the company’s just entering a fascinating phase – becoming part of a major publisher is amazing, an apt illustration of the disruption and mixing up of the marketing industries that I wrote about for iCrossing in the Brands in Networks e-book.

However, there comes a time in your career when it feels like now or never for going on the adventure of starting your own company, and that time, for me, is now.

My new company – Brilliant Noise – is in its very early stages, so forgive the bare bones website and web presence for now.

I’m founding it based on two lessons I learned during the past half-decade at iCrossing:

1. I love starting things…

I read Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start before the iCrossing adventure began, and it served me well. Even though I was within a growing company – at the time, Spannerworks, which was soon acquired by iCrossing – starting the Content & Social Media team, felt like a start up. It was utterly new for me, the company and at the time, the market.

Actually back then – when we had to write What is Social Media? to explain what this new thing was,, we weren’t at all sure that “social media” was a term that would stick at all. But it did, and now it is just as popular, mis-used and simultaneously understood and misunderstood as “public relations” the discipline from which I had come.

Anyway, there was a thrill in having that blank sheet of paper, and the sure knowledge that although no one around me knew exactly what it was going to be, I had to do something pretty quickly to earn my keep. In starting afresh, I have that feeling once again – and I love it.

2. The most effective way to do it is to do it…*

Brilliant Noise is going to be a consultancy, but also a do-tank – it’s an idea I’d been mulling for a while. Not unique – others use the phrase in a variety of ways – but definitely different. I could have thought about Brilliant Noise as a kind of analyst house or think tank – but what the iCrossing experience taught me was that to create new things – even conceptual things like frameworks, models, strategies – you have to be in the game, getting your hands dirty, trying stuff out.

I’m thinking of Brilliant Noise then, as an exploration vehicle, a way of doing valuable work for sure, but wherever possible in areas of media and business that are uncertain, unchartered. Projects underway at the moment range from the expected – marketing strategy, training, etc. – to the fiendishly unexpected (I cant’ say otherwise you will be expecting it).

As well as client work, one of my first projects is to write my second book. This will look at applying the web and social networks in the workplace, where Me and My Web Shadow was mainly about our personal lives.

Anyway, that is where I’m at what I’m up to. 2011 begins with excitement and trepidation in equal measures, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you think there might be scope for us to work together get in touch and I’ll give you specifics of the kinds of services I’m offering. (Available, I’m also for weddings and barmitzvahs, insomuch as those occasions might require digital strategy and innovation expertise….)

* It’s one of my favourite quotes – from Amelia Earhart.

Blogs become mainstream media

In the hype-sphere the chatter is all about Foursquare and Facebook: blogging doesn’t get much of a mention.

While I still prize blogging as a form of personal media and a networked productivity and knowledge tool, its clear to see that blogs as a media format are mature and in the mainstream.

Two posts I read recently spoke of this. First, in her analysis of Google’s launch of Boutiques.com (well worth a read in itself), iCrossing journalist Jo-Ann Fortune points out that alongside fashion celebrities, the company brought on board fashion bloggers:

…Google has enlisted the help of style icon celebrities such as Olivia Palermo, the Olsen twins and Carey Mulligan and fashion bloggers including Jane of Sea of Shoes, Alix, aka The Cherry Blossom Girl and Susie Lau from London-based Style Bubble, to tell that story. These taste-shapers ‘curate’ their own boutiques, based on their favourite pieces as well as their personal style – the sum of their preferred designers, shapes, patterns and styles-, allowing those inspired by their style to join them on a virtual shopping spree.

The inclusion of fashion bloggers alongside the ‘traditional’ celebrities just goes to show how far this new breed of public personality has come. Stylist.co.uk this week disclosed how three female fashion, beauty and celebrity bloggers make between 35k and 80k a year each, revealing that the brand they build from their blog is worth much more than the blog itself.

And Reed’s blogging expert, Adam Tinworth, points to some marketing by Microsoft for its new phone as evidence of blogs in the mainstream (“another tipping point” as he puts it).

A quote. On a huge advert. In one of the mainline commuter stations. In one of the biggest cities in the world.


As a media format blogs are still as potentially disruptive as they ever where, but some of them are firmly part of the established media landscape now…

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

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.

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.
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

Blogging, I love you

Someone (I think Russel) was saying you should blog every dog-eared page. It’s a lovely idea, and I wish I had time to do that (read that as: “I intend to find the time to do that). And every starred item in Google Reader, and everything I bookmark on Delicious…

My favourite blogger at the moment, for style and approach at least, is Andrew Sullivan, because he blogs a stream of thinking, so many things that come across his desk, field of vision, screen, conversations…. It helps that he is a professional journalist who has put blogging at the core of what he does. I still keep trying to find ways to brign it closer to the core of what I do.

I didn’t mean this post to be a plug for it, but I may as well mention that this week myself and two brilliant colleagues of mine – Matt Neale and Tamsin Hemingray – put out a new iCrossing e-book that is designed to help people with Starting Blogging [download a free copy of How to Start Blogging here].


It gave me a chance to write again about why I love this format. Now that the “why aren’t we doing X” corporate marketing spotlight has moved from blogging to Facebook and Twitter, I feel more comfortable with urging people to blog. It sounds less faddish that it once did now. And it really is the most incredible medium.

And as with all the best social computing platforms, the reasons to do it, the reasons I list begin with what it does for you. A space to think.

Curation-led marketing?

I'm curating the contents of the 70s decor in my house at the moment - these are the kitchen tiles...
Image: I'm curating the contents of the 70s decor in my house at the moment

Quite pleased with a post about curating branded content I just put up on the iCrossing Connect blog, mainly because it draws together some thinking from a while back with a couple of practical examples of how people use search and social to curate content.

Curation’s more than optimisation, more than simply making the most of what you have got in terms of content. It’s also about being live in your networks – to curate networks you need to be listening. If you’re listening and you have aplatform for curations – such as a blog – then your approach has to be adaptive, agile etc.

It takes the emphasis off of the “one big idea” approach that has dominated the channel media model of campaigns. Creative has to tell the client what the big bet they are going to make with all their money is and then hope to goodness it ends up being a drumming monkey result rather than a airport trucks kind of result.

The big idea is “no more big ideas”, as m’learned colleage Jason Ryan put it, after we’d talked through the Toyota iQ case study.

Curation is the new creative anyone? (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)

Google SearchWiki: brands need to watch & listen



SearchWiki results and comments for a search on "Google SearchWiki"SearchWiki results and comments for a search on


* Updated * 

There are two complementary evolutionary paths for SearchWiki: that taken by the Google engineers and the one cut by users. The comments / conversations may be poor quality at the moment, but who is to say how people will find ways to use the feature in interesting ways. 

Over the last week, there’s been a great deal interest and not a little froth on tech blogs about the Google SearchWiki, the feature in Google that lets you edit your own results and leave publicly viewable comments about them if you are signed in with a Google account.

It’s a highly interesting development, although some of the controversy has been a little overblown: people hunting out reasons to be irritated. 

The head of search at iCrossing UK, Jonathan Stewart has posted an analysis of the new service from both a search and social point of view, which incorporates some feedback I gave on the social media and PR front. 

We’ve been monitoring it since the beginning of November when we noticed Google bucket testing it, but it’s only been since last week, when it was officially launched, that it’s really been making waves. Anyone who doesn’t know what it is can read Dan’s explanation of Google’s SearchWiki here.

Google have stated that personal result manipulation won’t be used to determine the results for others – at least not in the short term – so the standard SEO rules will still apply for a while. What’s really causing problems is the amount of comment abuse that’s appearing – either in the form of spam, utterly inane conversations (a la Youtube), or blatently obscene and unmoderated abuse.

Essentially, Jonathan feels this is a “wait and see” issue. Google is likely to use the information from the way people use SearchWiki in the way it delivers its main results – but claims not to be yet. 

The most interesting thing from my point of view is the comments feature. Interesting because it represents a new social space, albeit one which users have to hunt out rather than it appearing front and centre on Google search results. 

There are two complementary evolutionary paths for SearchWiki: that taken by the Google engineers and the one cut by users. The comments / conversations may be poor quality at the moment, but who is to say how people will find ways to use the feature in interesting ways. 

: : If you can’t find the comments feature – and it’s not obvious to everyone – then Jonathan provides the following step-by-step:

  • Make sure you’re signed into a Google account
  • Type a query into Google, and then scroll to the bottom of the page
  • Click on the “See all notes for this SearchWiki link”
  • Immediately underneath the URL of each website in the search results, there is a link that tells you how many comments have been left. Click on that
  • Immediately underneath the URL of each website in the search results, there is a link that tells you how many comments have been left. Click on that
  • James Lappin on TFPL also has a great analysis of what the SearchWiki means. He sees it primarily as a social play by Google, very much with an eye to the usefulness of services like delicious.