Archive for October, 2009

Canadian Business Leadership Forum

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Now in its sixth year, the Canadian Business Leadership Forum shares first-hand accounts of successful strategies and leadership initiatives that teach attendees new skills and innovative ways of thinking.

Organized by Canadian Business Magazine, the day-long program will be held on October 21, 2009 at The Carlu in Toronto and is aiming to inspire, motivate, and help deliver competitive advantage to organizations. The Foush is a featured speakers at this conference. More details on the speakers lineup can be found here.

Rahaf will be also signing her book Yes We Did on location.

Healthcare Fall Leadership Conference 2009

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

HealthCare Leaders is a non-profit association of individuals who hold leadership and management positions in health care, or within organizations that serve health care, in British Columbia.

HealthCare Leaders is most frequently known for its continuing professional education offerings including its annual Leadership Conference in October and Community Care Conference in May, both of  which draw hundreds of participants from all parts of the province. The Association provides several other services for members.

This year’s Leadership Conference will be held on October 19th and 20th at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, BC. It is titled “Leading Healthcare: Inspire and Achieve” and will be focusing on leadership strategies, complex networks and organizational reform. The full program of the conference can be found here. The Foush will be speaking at the conference on October 20th and will be signing her book Yes We Did

Good Reads: Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel (PART 1)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Since I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time on planes, my Kindle has become my absolute favorite thing. I was quite eager to get my hands on a copy of Mitch Joel’s new book “Six Pixels of Separation.”

I first met Mitch at the SES Toronto 2008 conference where I heard him speak on a panel. He was also the first IDEA NINJA that I profiled! I am happy to announce that I officially consider his book a Foushy Good Read!

The Book:  (Via Amazon)

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Is it important to be connected? Well, consider this: If Facebook were a country, it would have the sixth largest population in the world.

The truth is, we no longer live in a world of six degrees of separation. In fact, we’re now down to only six pixels of separation, which changes everything we know about doing business.

This is the first book to integrate digital marketing, social media, personal branding, and entrepreneurship in a clear, entertaining, and instructive manner that everyone can understand and apply.

My Thoughts:

I would consider this book a Social Media 201 course, meaning Mitch pretty much assumes that you have a basic understanding of most social media tools and builds from there.  I really liked all of the practical tips that were included to help readers get started on applying the lessons learned to their own businesses.

Cool Ideas

EMBRACE SLOWNESS: Mitch debunks the myth that social media and digital communications are instant-fixes. Instead he (correctly) argues that building community, integrity and social capital takes time and effort. This is the one message I often emphasize to clients: just because it takes five minutes to create a Facebook profile doesn’t mean you’re going to start seeing the value right away.

BE CONSISTENT: I am so guilty of neglecting my poor blog when other factors get in the way. That’s not an excuse, says Mitch, and I shamefully agree. He urges that providing consistent content is a way of building trust and relationship with readers. They come to depend on your content and won’t appreciate a sporadic post schedule. Since reading this book, I have put a recurring appointment in my calendar to carve out some time each week to blog and update The Foush.

GIVE FREELY: Always think about what value you can provide the community (a handy book review perhaps? lol) Promote great content even if it’s not your own. Comment on other people’s posts and share your thoughts and feedback. Respond to all emails and comments in a timely fashion. Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community! ;)

THE TRUST ECONOMY: When I first interviewed Mitch I had just launched my blog and had often read Six Pixels (the blog) I was so nervous to ask him for an interview and was just blown away by how nice he was and how easily he made time to patiently answer all of my questions. I never forgot that first encounter and you can bet I’ll be supporting him whenever I can because I know he is a genuinely good guy- welcome to the new Trust Economy.

BONUS FEATURE

On Friday, October 16th, 2009 Mitch will be speaking in Toronto at an event titled, The Art of Management. This full-day event will also feature best-selling business book author Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence, Re-Imagine!, etc…), Marcus Buckingham and the Getting Things Done guru, David Allen. all live and in-person. There is special pricing for this event if you mention the Six Pixels of Separation Blog or Mitch Joel’s name. You can get more information here: The Art of Management

Stay Tuned…

In Part 2, Mitch answers some of my questions about his book!

Article in the Times&Transcript

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

An article from the Times&Transcript

The laughter and the note taking, the applause for making some of her remarks in beautiful French, and especially the rousing standing ovation at the end of her speech all said Rahaf Harfoush had connected with the more than 250 people who came out to the Delta Beauséjour to hear her yesterday afternoon.

Click to Enlarge
GREG AGNEW/TIMES & TRANSCRIPT
Rahaf Harfoush, new media strategist and former Obama campaign team member, chats with Mayor George LeBlanc yesterday during the Intelligent Communities Summit in Moncton.

But the best praise for her insightful look at how she and the rest of the Barack Obama campaign team used technology and social media to get his message out came after the audience members had returned to their seats.

When the Canadian new media strategist and current associate director of the Geneva-based Global Co-operation Initiative invited questions from the floor, the first to jump to his feet was none other than Premier Shawn Graham.

For the record, the premier asked her opinion on why President Obama’s new team didn’t use the same social media strategies to deliver his message in the polarizing U.S. health care debate. And for the record, Harfoush admitted she was disappointed in how the health care debate was handled, and suggested the difference between candidacy and the White House is how presidents find themselves more boxed in by bureaucracies.

It is disappointing to think the U.S. president’s advisors aren’t paying more attention to what his campaign team did, because Harfoush’s presentation described just how much of a home run the social media aspect of his campaign was.Using things like Twitter, Facebook and iPhones, and detailed metrics, the Obama team raised $750 million for the campaign $5 and $10 at a time, largely through word of Net. It was a figure double that of what rival John McCain could raise, even with wealthy Republicans in his corner.

But more than raising funds, Obama’s social media experts, which included one of the founders of Facebook and a number of former top Google employees, excelled at raising voter engagement through hyper-segmentation of marketing.

The millions of Americans who registered with Obama’s MyBO website created basic profiles and consented to basic data tracking that allowed campaigners to direct specific messages that reflected specific voters’ specific key interests.

If that sounds intrusive, it was actually less so, said Harfoush. “It prevented us from spamming people with every little bit of information.”

Similarly, donations to the campaign were carefully tracked so that those who had just scraped together money they didn’t really have because they thought they could change America didn’t suddenly get offensive form letters asking for more. The numbers are staggering. The Obama team sent one billion messages during the campaign, two million people placed profiles on MyBO, 35,000 volunteer groups were formed, 400,000 blog posts were made and 200,000 off-line events were organized, including a Yes, Wii Can event that saw Wii gamers raise campaign funds.

When John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin belittled Obama’s past job experience as a community organizer as hardly fitting a future president, Obama’s thousands of community organizers were insulted. An e-mail went out from Obama headquarters calling on them to be heard and in just 24 hours, $10 million more was added to the campaign coffers.

That balance between online organizing and real world action was a key point, Harfoush said, noting businesses would do well to always evaluate how much its digital marketing, whatever the buzz it might create, is actually translating to the real world. After all, a web is still made up more of the empty space between threads than the threads themselves. “As exciting as online marketing is, it didn’t get Obama elected,” she said. “This wasn’t a win for technology. The technology was just tactics.”

Annual Meeting of New Champions, Dalian, China

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I’ve just come back from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions (AKA Summer Davos).

Each year, the meeting brings together leaders from global businesses, governments, civil society and technology sectors to discuss the challenges of relaunching growth.

This year, we had over 1,300 leaders from 86 countries focusing on future innovations to stimulate a sustainable recovery.

From the Forum’s Press Release:

The Meeting has brought together different groups that represent the future, including Young Global Leaders, Technology Pioneers, Young Scientists and heads of Global Growth Companies that represent fast-growing firms. They are working with CEOs of established global corporations, some of which are mentors to these emerging leaders.

Yes We Did to be translated in Spanish!

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I have some amazing news! “Yes We Did” will be published in Spanish in early 2010! I am so excited to go back and promote the book over there – Spain was one of my favorite places that I’ve visited this past year. This is the third foreign language that has been purchased, the other two are Japanese and Simple Chinese.

It is now also available for the Amazon Kindle. :)

Also a very special thanks to everyone who has emailed me to let me know how much they liked the book. It is such a thrill to receive each and every one of your notes and never fails to brighten my day. Over the next few weeks, in celebration of the one year anniversary of the election victory, I will be sharing some of my personal pictures and behind-the-scenes footage of working on the New Media team. It’s going to be fun to relive that time again!

Can you believe it’s already October? Where has 2009 gone?

JK Wedding Dance – The Evolution of Viral Marketing

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

By now, many of you might have seen the the JK Wedding Dance, the latest viral video to hit the web. The video shows couple Jill and Kevin’s creative spin on the traditional entrance of the bridal party at their wedding. Set to the song “Forever,” by Chris Brown (incidentally who was recently charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend) the video soared to instant popularity online. Even traditional media picked it up including CNN and Good Morning America. Here’s the video below:

Now the interesting thing is that I have been hearing rumbles about the authenticity of the video as well as the role that Sony (the label who owns the copyright of Brown’s song) played in promoting it from all corners of the web.

The Charges:

a) The video is totally fake, and was created by Sony to help bolster Chris Brown’s flailing career

b) The video is real, but has had a “corporate helping hand” in promoting it to help bolster Chris Brown’s career

c) The video is real, and everything we are seeing is the result of content going viral, organically.

The Evidence:

I am listing all the points, even the flimsy ones:

1) Many people have mentioned the consistency of the song quality throughout the whole video is incredibly good considering it was recorded on a handy-cam. Some speculate a higher quality version of the song was added after the video was shot.

2) The video was uploaded on July 19, on July 25th the entire wedding party was on Good Morning America. To get national media attention within 6 calendar days seems a little fast, even for the web. Other people have also mentioned that the video while entertaining, wasn’t hugely innovative compared to the thousands of other “funny wedding videos” available online. They were a little surprised to see all the media coverage.

3)   Go-Digital.net Blog reported an interesting discrepancy betweeen the number of views and and trends on various social networks including Twitter, Google Searches, etc. They hypothesize that the promotional activities (ie/ the aforementioned Good Morning America appearances, etc) created the initial push which THEN gained momentum online instead of the other way around.

4) According to Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart, all of the videos that made its top ten list took between three and six months to fully gain momentum.

5) Google reported on their official blog that instead of using copyright infringement as a reason to pull the video (as Sony and other labels routinely do) Sony capitalized on the video’s popularity by running text ads during the video and placing click to buy ads below:

At YouTube, we have sophisticated content management tools in place to help rights holders control their content on our site. The rights holders for “Forever” used these tools to claim and monetize the song, as well as to start running Click-to-Buy links over the video, giving viewers the opportunity to purchase the music track on Amazon and iTunes. As a result, the rights holders were able to capitalize on the massive wave of popularity generated by “JK Wedding Entrance Dance” — in the last week, searches for “Chris Brown Forever” on YouTube have skyrocketed, making it one of the most popular queries on the site:

This traffic is also very engaged — the click-through rate (CTR) on the “JK Wedding Entrance” video is 2x the average of other Click-to-Buy overlays on the site. And this newfound interest in downloading “Forever” goes beyond the viral video itself: “JK Wedding Entrance” also appears to have influenced the official “Forever” music video, which saw its Click-to-Buy CTR increase by 2.5x in the last week.

The Outcomes:

  • As of today the video has over twenty million views.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Brown’s song, Forever, climbed the charts landing at No. 4 on the iTunes Single Charts and No. 3 on Amazon’s best selling MP3 List, no easy feat considering the song was released nearly a year ago.

Interestingly enough, Softpedia reported that  Sony wasn’t totally sure about its approach, initially disabling the embedding feature and then changing their minds afterwards.

The Verdict:

I think after looking at all of the evidence I am going to go with option B. The video itself is real, but someone at Sony spotted an incredible opportunity to help one of it’s troubled artists and jumped on it. Both parties made some money and Brown’s song increased in popularity. Everyone wins.

What this means for Viral Marketing:

Spot the Good Wave. I find this case study particularly interesting because it challenges the traditional pressure faced by marketing folks to go and “create something viral.” Instead, a brand manager’s role now involves focusing on spotting vehicles like video that can help a brand gain online momentum.  This allows companies to avoid the pitfall of manufactured content. With the JK video the world was entranced by a human moment, something that an organization would have had a difficult time recreating. (Unless I’m totally wrong and the video is completely fake and Sony has fooled us all, lol) Much like surfing, marketers will need to develop a skill to differentiate the real gems from the thousands of other videos out there that can give their brand that extra boost.

Consumer Generated Content Can Be Your Friend. One can hope that this example has opened the eyes of Sony execs to the potential uses and profitability of user created content. Instead of forcing people to pull their content down, there is a possibility of both parties benefiting from making it available online.

Tactics will change and evolve. As more videos become viral, viewers will become increasingly suspicious of popular content which will mean that brands will need to invest in their online relationships in order to understand how consumers wish to be engaged.  If it’s interesting, I will watch content whether it is created by a company or not, I just want to know up front. Others might be completely indifferent. Knowing these nuances will spare companies a lot of headaches in the future.

Social Media and the New World Order

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

http://www.manara.ca/wp-content/plugins/wp-o-matic/cache/dffe2_att-fail-small.jpgI recently presented a keynote about Yes We Did at the American Chamber of Commerce Executives in Raleigh, North Carolina. In fact, I originally wrote this post from the airport where my flight has been DELAYED and my internet wi-fi connection was spotty at best, despite paying $7.99 for highspeed access. Thanks AT&T. (Hence the delay in posting)

In spite of these developments, I am happy to say that I really enjoyed the time I spent in North Carolina, ACCE is an association of people who are genuinely interested in improving their communities. I met so many great people and had some wonderful conversations.

One of those conversations got me thinking about Social Media and its impacts on existing business models. I frequently get asked about how Obama’s social media strategy holds up post-election. Would the tools that were so powerful continue to have such impact after Obama was elected? Or was it a one time shot?

Despite rebranding Obama for America into Organizing for America, it seems the response in using the community building tools introduced during the election to help promote the Administration’s legislative agenda is having lukewarm results. Efforts to push Obama’s health care reform and stimulus packages have seen limited successes.

1. Tactics vs. Strategy

http://www.manara.ca/wp-content/plugins/wp-o-matic/cache/cdb73_yes-we-did-an-inside-look-at-how-social-media-built-the-obama-brand.jpgOne of the major themes in Yes We Did is the importance of differentiating between strategy and tactics. The Obama administration is at risk of falling into the same trap that claims so many social media initiatives. Just because the tools for Obama for America proved to be effective in an election process doesn’t mean that they will have the same impact now that Obama is President. For one thing, now that the Administration is in power, the sense of urgency and danger has faded.

One of my jobs as an Obama Volunteer was to call supporters who were organizing events all across the country to make sure that they fully understood how to use our site’s tools and to offer any support or resources that I could. The one thing I remember is that so many people approached this election with a “do or die” attitude. That has now mellowed and I feel that most people, while very supportive of the President, have slowly faded back into a distant interest.

2.  Supporting Faulty Systems

The second thought that struck me was that maybe the lesson here isn’t to try and mold social media to fit business models. Instead, maybe New Media is indicative of a deeper social shift that is exposing the inadequacy of these systems, be it government or business, that can no longer keep up with the way that we communicate and participate with our community. So instead of figuring out how to get people to knock on doors or write letters to their elected representatives, maybe we should be examining the way we invite people to get involved in the political process.

Social Media isn’t a shiny new coat of paint to slather over an old, antiquated model. Social Media is a reflection of how we are evolving the way we communicate and are running into issues when we try and apply this new model to stagnant and out dated systems.

What do you think?

#IranElections & Acts of Corporate Good (Pt1)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

It is evident that the role of social media and digital communications play a critical role in sharing information during environmental disasters or times of political unrest. These tools help spread information, share news and level the playing field in a way that (at least for now) traditional governments can’t seem to stop, and not for lack of trying.

Using social media sites to organize and mobilize groups of people is nothing new. What I am finding particularly intriguing as I watch the Iranian Election crisis unfold, is how some of these social networks are making decisions as corporate entities that are evolving their roles from neutral platforms to powerful players within a new digital narrative. It’s no longer about USERS leveraging a site’s features, but organizational decisions which are adding a new variable to social media’s role in impacting global change.

For the first time, tech companies like Twitter, Facebook & Google are taking direct action in response to an unfolding crisis and are having a big impact. I’m trying to puzzle out the corporate agendas behind these acts as well as thinking of the implications that these decisions will have on driving the development of governmental IT policies and the creation of emerging digital rights legislation.

1) Twitter Reschedules Maintenance after US Government Appeal

The US State Department asked Twitter to reschedule its maintenance in order to keep the service available to Iranians so they could continue to share up to the second reports of the unfolding situation. A CNN blog post reported that US Government officials are pushing to ensure that they (and the rest of the world) continue to receive as much information as possible from social networking and content sharing sites. With this request coming from the US Government, it is clear that social media channels are being monitored by the Obama administration which has no diplomatic relationship with Iran. The content they are receiving through Twitter, Facebook and Youtube is an invaluable source of information.

Twitter made the corporate decision to change their maintenance date to provide the Iranian people the opportunity to share information at a critical juncture.

On to Facebook & Google

2) Facebook releases Persian Translation

On June 18, Mashable reported that Facebook released an early version of the platform in Persian in direct response to the Iran Elections Crisis:

The Persian translation is already live on Facebook, but the company warns that it’s a test version. In other words, the company and its 400+ volunteer translators have not completed all the steps to assure that all translations are correct, so the text or language may be awkward in places. Here’s what Facebook said in a draft release that should appear later tonight:

“Since the Iranian election last week, people around the world have increasingly been sharing news and information on Facebook about the results and its aftermath. Much of the content created and shared on Facebook related to these events has been in Persian – the native language of Iran – but the users have had to navigate the site in English or other languages.

Today we’re making the entire site available in a test version of Persian, so Persian speakers inside of Iran and around the world can begin using it in their native language.

Persian was already in translation before worldwide attention turned to the Iranian elections, but because of the sudden increase in activity we decided to launch it sooner than planned. This means that the translation isn’t perfect, but we felt it was important to help more people communicate rather than wait.”

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3) Google Introduces Farsi support for Google Translate

http://www.manara.ca/wp-content/plugins/wp-o-matic/cache/dffe2_projects_google-persian.jpgNot to be outdone by Facebook and Twitter, the search-engine giant announced they would be offering Farsi support for their Google Translate tool. The service was hastily launched meaning users may experience some bugs and delays for now.  According to the Google Blog:

“Today, we added Persian (Farsi) to Google Translate. This means you can now translate any text from Persian into English and from English into Persian — whether it’s a news story, a website, a blog, an email, a tweet or a Facebook message. The service is available free at http://translate.google.com.

We feel that launching Persian is particularly important now, given ongoing events in Iran. Like YouTube and other services, Google Translate is one more tool that Persian speakers can use to communicate directly to the world, and vice versa — increasing everyone’s access to information.

As with all machine translation, it’s not perfect yet. And we’re launching this service quickly, so it may perform slowly at times. We’ll keep a close watch and if it breaks, we’ll restore service as quickly as we can.”

Mulling it over: What about China?

So I am left with more questions than answers. Are the these companies remaining neutral or being subversive? If the Iranian government succeeds in suppressing rioters, will there be consequences for online companies who can be blamed for promoting civil unrest? Or will it be citizens who find their online rights even more curtailed than before?

Governments will have to think about their technology approach, they’ll probably take a cue from the Obama administration’s decision to hire a CTO. I find myself wondering what the Iranian government has learned from this process and how they will adapt to these collaborative technologies in the future.

I really want to believe that Twitter, Facebook and Google’s actions are a step in the right direction for transparency and greater access to information. However, the cynical part of me remains caustic. Was this a move to help a troubled part of the world or a great opportunity for some PR?

With official statements regarding Iran, I wonder why we don’t see as much of a push for digital rights in China? The Chinese government  continues to block sites such as YouTube and heavily censored everything from the Economist to the Huffington Post for the anniversary of Tianemen Square.  Maybe China is just too profitable a market to risk its wrath? In fact, just today, the Chinese Government ordered Google to place even more restrictions on some of the sites it makes available.

What do you think?

In the next part of this mini-series, I will take a look at how social media is redefining activism and how people are showing their support worldwide.

YES WE DID Book Launch – Thank you!!

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I can’t believe that last week I officially launched Yes We Did! What an exciting week it has been for me.  I started out the morning of June 4th as the Keynote Speaker for the MARCOM conference where I did my first official book signing. It was so completely surreal to see so many physical copies of the book and to have people want a signed copy. It made me feel giddy and so excited! It was also a weird coming of age feeling as the conference took place in the same ballroom that I had my highschool graduation in. Basically, I gave the keynote standing about 20 feet away from where I accepted my diploma all those years ago.

Rahaf June 4th 2009-16 by Jesse Morgan

I think my favorite part is meeting so many cool people who shared their own favorite campaign moments with me.

Rahaf June 4th 2009-13 by Jesse Morgan

As the afternoon progressed I become increasingly nervous for the official launch. Rotman had contacted me to let me know that there were over 400 people attending! Having my longtime mentor, Don Tapscott (who also wrote the forward to my book) introduce me was such an emotional moment for me, and I became doubly nervous knowing he would be in the audience. Once I got underway I started feeling all of the support pouring in from my family and friends  and got through the presentation without any major hitches.

rahaf-booklaunch

I just want to say a big, big, BIG thank you to everyone who came out to support me or who send their digital love via   facebook messages, emails, text messages and tweets. I could not have gotten through the last few months without the humor and warmth of my community and I count myself to be so blessed to have such amazing friends in my life.

I’ll be touring around various places promoting the book for the rest of the year, but I am happy to say that this month has been the peak of the insane travel I have planned. I just might get to enjoy living in Europe for a while instead of constantly trekking back and forth to North America in the mother of all commutes, lol.

I have sorely missed my blog and plan to revive TED Tuesdays with a vengeance, along with a few more blog series I have kicking around. I am a bit behind in terms of my schedule, but hopefully after this week I’ll be back on top of everything.

The Foush is back!