Creating Conversation Around Brands

In this video filmed by Contagious Magazine at the WOM UK Espresso Briefing in March, I talk a little about what Spreadability means for businesses and brands today:

The question is — understanding that knowing what Spreadability is is one thing, and doing it is another — how do we create conversations around brands?

On Thursday 22nd April I’m at Like Minds Immersive in London talking about this very subject with Gemma Went.

Like Minds Immersive (LMi) is our learning platform, and it’s going really well. Last month I had great news from James Poulter of Euro RSCG that the session gave him and his team knowledge to take on new projects, which for me epitomises one of our core Like Minds values: action. What use is it if you come and learn something you can’t use?

A Few Pointers

As a little teaser, and for those of you who can’t make it, here’s where Creating Conversation Around Brands begins:

  1. Conversation Around is not Conversation With. See the difference here. Once you understand this, a good place to start is to ask: what is the conversation people are having with you? This gives you a picture of the conversation people are having and will have around you.
  2. How easy is it for people to have conversation around you? How easy is it for people to consume, connect, comment and curate your content?
  3. Where are your existing conversations? Who are the conversation agents? Who is starting new conversations around you?
  4. How can be provide a new level of usefulness? New and usefulness are two powerful things in Social Media. Combine then, and you have major conversation on your hands.
  5. What ways are you providing for people to have conversation around you? How are you catering to different participation levels to provide different levels of conversation?

Begin asking yourself these questions and you’ll start finding where you don’t have answers and where you do have answers. Build from there.

At LMi we’ll also be sharing lots of case studies (I have a Delicious account full of them), so get ready to get the info and examples that will make all the theory come alive.

I hope to see you there (spaces are limited, by the way — we only have 10 spaces available, so book now if you are coming) because most of the content I’ll be sharing with Gemma is not available on this blog and will not be made available on this blog. So if you’re waiting for it to come here, you’ll be waiting for a while! (Sorry guys — but I do believe there must be a point where we separate what is free and what is paid.)

In The Mean Time

How have you successfully created conversation around a brand? What do you think it takes? And what do you think doesn’t contribute to conversation but just pours water on the fire?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Scott

Archived Comments

  • http://freshid.com/ Kristi C.

    Scott, I agree with you. Of course, what we’re trying to do with Twitterface is *literally* create conversations around brands, around niche topics, around a shared event experience (in person or virtually) or around a learning experience or news story that “like minds” care about and are collectively paying attention to. It’s really the new-fangled “discussion board” that’s been around since the inception of the internet, but with a twist: brands themselves are finally, slowly but surely, getting directly involved with fans, enthusiasts, customers and prospects. At least some of them are trying it appears.

    The real example-setters are the small-to-medium sized businesses and agencies who aren’t afraid to jump in and start communicating WITH people, as you point out, in a conversation or experience that elevates the collective intelligence of all involved. That’s the beauty of your #likeminds movement to me, and it’s something that can be replicated by those who know how to utilize social media outlets beyond marketing or answering questions (customer service.)

    Your five questions are great – we need to look at how we can answer those in Twitterface to make “creating a conversation around a brand” an obvious, painless process (as much as we can help from the software side.)

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Kristi

    You are right – it is the new fan-dangled discussion board that is far easier to use.

    One of the things that I think is difficult with Conversation With vs Conversation Around, is that Conversation Around is far less trackable, and yet it is the far larger of the two. Even if we take Like MInds (which is lots of trackable conversation around, based on a platform which is a hashtag), we still loose site of the people who reply to tweets w/o using the hashtag for example.

    Conversation Around also means that followers / friends / hits become less relevant, because those metrics don’t live here. Instead, it is sentiment / intent / opinion leaders. Olivier, as we know, is great here on turning these soft words into measurable metrics.

    As you can guess, a lot of this is coming from what you’ve done with Twitterface as you say, and my experience with it. I think you have such an awesome tool for Conversation Around as well as Conversation With.

    Can’t wait to see where it goes!

  • http://freshid.com/ Kristi C.

    I read an excellent article just now that has to do with the Skittles experiment some months ago, where they dumped a lot of social feeds around their brand, on their site, etc.

    http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/new…

    Some idiot folks ruined the fun of the experiment by saying negative or crude things so it would show up on the Skittles site, so they reigned the social content in, more tightly defined and control it, but still have a few elements at http://www.skittles.com.

    The problem is both With and Around…. brands have got to see that social content is not “free” – if you don’t engage, help drive and focus the conversation and offer value TO fans (not just take their free publicity and use it to market) the fans will control your brand and you’ll reap whatever consequences they produce. But a lot of large brands still do not grasp this. They get online somewhere, push marketing out, and do very little real human factors research or engagement that would meaningfully help them create and offer more value to customers. At the end of the day, hawking something must seem easier.

    I don’t think Skittles needed to do away with the integrated streams, but there are definitely lessons to be learned about participating WITH and in the conversations around your brand, event or idea, and not passively just setting them up and letting them run.

  • / Scott Gould

    Thanks for this – will read up.

    Certainly I see issues as you describe here (like Nestle), where even though the channel is social, the content is broadcast. They treat conversation WITH like typical broadcast reach.

    Conversation ABOUT is spreadability. Harder to create, and totally SOCIAL!

    I’m thinking about this with regards to virtual participation some more… :-)

  • http://freshid.com/ Kristi C.

    I’ve been thinking more on the Skittles site: http://www.skittles.com/

    They have now erred too far the other direction and have almost no helpful content on the site. I’m sure it’s won some addy’s or something – it is cool to look at. But I honestly am not sure what to do with the ambient, slightly-mesmerizing (like a drug trance) content that is there. They should have set something up with nightclubs and used some of these clips and psychedelic imagery with a Skittles girl (ala a cigarette girl from days of yore) to sell sugary treats while people danced. But that’s just me being over-imaginative. ;-)

    They went from too much unhelpful content to the extreme of barely any being on the site and once again taking the experience off-site to Twitter and Facebook, and that’s a shame… I would have tried to strike a happy medium I guess. Their Facebook wall seems like one of a standup comic – they make a random comment, and sometimes thousands of people comment back but there is no actual discussion back and forth. Not to pick on Skittles – just some observations.

    Regarding virtual participation, my dream is that for Like Minds conferences, the blend of online vs. off becomes more and more seamless… that organizers and “people on the ground” keep virtual attendees in the loop by engaging them as real participants, not just acknowledging they’re there occasionally, watching. That keynote speakers and panelists take questions from those attending online as well as in the audience. That the virtual attendees are more than mere voyeurs, they help shape the context of the day by at least 20-25% by nature of just being there and lending their voice and their presence and their “likeminds” to the others there in person. Special sessions could be held online that aren’t the focal point live… keynote speakers could exit stage and be part of a behind-the-scenes interview for those at home to view… there are all SORTS of things that can be done to have a virtual attendee enjoy a rich experience and “meet” and mingle with the live attendees throughout the day as if they were there. More than a backchannel… there is a “back view” that could be employed as a way to bring value to those attending online, to compensate for the lack of in-person connectivity and networking enjoyed by those there.

    I can’t wait to keep exploring this with you, Scott. It’s one of the highlights of my career right now, I must admit. :-)

  • / Scott Gould

    KC,

    Very good point there!!!

    Skittle have certainly erred into providing no usefulness – from like you say, providing too much.

    So immediately we see the need again for curation, like in the article that Scoble wrote.

    Re: Virtual Participation – totally – we want to see seamless participation, whether people are virtual or physical. I think even just talking about participation, rather than attendance, increases our ability to do this because by BEING involved immediately helps us remove a lot of the illusion of being distanced, because people become ACTIVE.

    Like you say – these Virtual Participants are not voyeurs. In fact they are the ones who make the message far more spreadable, because they have the tools there in front of them. It might even be that as they retweet and click on stuff, they actually ARE the curators! I wonder if there is a way for that to happen?

    So then holding special sessions for them is a great idea. We should totally have Virtual content, which is geared up for virtual collaboration. One thing I was thinking about was finding software that allowed you to be in a virtual room, and at any point, click on someone’s name which immediately CALLS them on skype. Then you can see everyone and move around to talk to people.

    I love the idea of rather than just ‘back channel”, there is a “back view” – I’ll play around with this!

    Whats certain is that we need innovative tech – but it is likely that most of this tech already exists, it is just pulling together like you guys are doing.

    Loving this too! So exciting for us to be framing a concept!

  • http://freshid.com Kristi C.

    “I think even just talking about participation, rather than attendance” – that is a great point Scott, about how our terminology frames the context. Love it.

    You are definitely onto something regard the virtual participants driving a lot of spreadability DURING the conference… I think they do help curate without thinking about it by using the hashtag…. not sure what else you are thinking of there.

    I know you like the skype idea – I’m just not sure how it would work as many of your folks at home are at full laptops or desktops, but the people in the room are largely using smartphones – especially if they’re out and about at lunch or walking around.

    I would love to see you have some “kiosks” in the room where the twitterface page is displayed so people can stop and easily watch the tweet streams (since they aren’t in front of tweetdeck to be able to organize efficiently) and they can see what the virtual participants are seeing (the ustream video, tweets, etc.) This would make the virtual experience more “real” for the people in the room as well as give folks a chance to pause and play with the folks online as a group even.

    Of course, the sky’s the limit with ideas but time/money/sponsorship factors into all these neat things, I know. :-)

  • / Scott Gould

    Scientifically, participation means people remember more than if they are just attendees, so not only does it expand the event in a people-to-people, shared learning sense, but it also increases the retention and learning experience of individuals.

    What I was thinking about re: curation was this: lets say all the virtual attendees are favouriting tweets on the hashtag. The most favourited tweets would, it stands to reason, be the best – and therefore we have a level of curation. It’s like TRENDS within TRENDS…?

    Re: Skype – yeah perhaps it won’t scale. But someone somewhere has to be building this tech! I love how you say “kiosks” – that is a useful term and is definitely what I’m thinking. Do you think this would be valuable for people? In my mind, it gives us the ability to create CONNECTIONS out of the COMMUNITY.

    I was thinking that in actual fact, virtual participation has a lot of benefit over physical participation. When you are in a room full of people, you certainly get the benefit of face-to-face, as well as the ability to talk to groups and quickly talk to lots of people. But the negative here is that there are lots of distractions

    However if I can virtually participating, I can be in the main “foyer”, or go to a “kiosk” so easily, and there make those deeper connections.

    I wonder if Scoble has some budget for this? :-)

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