This week I attended the #AddMe Conference. I heard about it via twitter from 10Yetis who as I parked beside them, I kicked myself for forgetting my camera. My reasons for buying a ticket had been fairly simple; it was cheap and it was in Cheltenham. My reasons for being glad I did so are far more developed. Michael White, who conceived of, organised and marketed the conference, produced an extremely professional event that brought together a diverse group of people for a well paced and enjoyable evening. CIPR have an excellent representative in him.

The subject of the conference was ‘Web 2.0 and Relationships.’ Web 2.0 is one of those terms I’ve seen bandied about and thus absorbed but never attributed an exact definition to. I knew it was the social side of the web but White introduced it clearly and set the context of how user led sites such as twitter and Facebook (2.0) are replacing provider led sites (1.0) such as company information sites.

David Phillips spoke first about the DNA of social media being about values and how it is shared values and shared understanding of mutually held values that create relationships. His views on how our manifestation of trust (reputation) is intangible but that intangibles can turn tangibles into values was fascinating, especially when he made clear how this equated to the cold stuff! As I understood it, when a tangible product has a positive reputation it can sell itself on its values. It took me back to my days in sales when I had it drilled into me that people don’t buy products, they buy features and benefits; I can see the relevance to web 2.0 but I still have my reservations about the applicability to kitchens.

Next up was Alex Sass of Renegade Media who spoke about ‘buzz’ and the fact that ‘brand advocacy is even more important than brand image or brand satisfaction.’ He built on the foundations laid by Phillips about the significance of relationships and has coined the fantastic title of being ‘head of Homophily’ which really encapsulated the thrust of the conference for me. He explained the benefits of twitter for realtime customer service and clarified (for me at least) the significance of Blogger outreach - I was amazed to hear that blogs are the third most important links for SEO after military and academic and that ten blogs linking a video will put that video at number one on Google. Sass also explained why Facebook ads are good value for money (they raise brand awareness and a click-through rate of 0.1% makes them cheap) and that ‘the credibility of Google is inversely proportional to SEO.’ His final message was that the technology is a given and that we ought to invest in sociology. It was a lot of information in a relatively short presentation but it was all accessible even for a newbie like me. (no comment)

After a break, Aren Grimshaw of Tonick Media gave the final presentation. Grimshaw expanded on the community building aspects and made a clear distinction between what is and what is not community, bringing home the core message of the evening that social media relationships are about quality and not quantity. His experiences of Twestival and social media cafes was engaging and set their usage clearly within the wider social media picture.

After a long day at work, an evening conference can feel like a huge demand on your time and energy but I met some very interesting people during the networking opportunities and the three presentations, while covering a huge amount of information benefited from lively and enthusiastic speakers. I’ve gained a greater awareness of what social media is about and what it can achieve and have been left eager to join Richard Hudson’s DigiTalks Cheltenham and speak further with Stuart Croft of the Independence Trust.


Update: 10 Yetis got in touch saying that something about the sum of SEO claims didn’t ring quite true for them. After checking their facts they said that blogs being the third most important links for SEO after military and academic and that ten blogs linking a video will put that video at number one on Google was inaccurate.

What to do? I respect 10 Yetis (they have an office dog, enough said) but I paid money to see Alex Sass as a speaker at a conference. I’ve been in academia long enough to be faced with the question of making sense of conflicting arguments between respected sources before but it was a very different industry. In academia there is a hierarchy of journals which ‘experts’ are set against. I like to say that working towards my PhD makes me an expert on my very specific area of Southeast Asian Political Economy but the truth is that until a key journal publishes me or a key institution hires me, that expertise is easily negated against someone with those strings to their bow.

How then are we to make judgements in a web 2.0 world? The very nature of the developing internet (as highlighted by #AddMe) is based on relationships and as I have a relationship with 10 Yetis (fledgling as it is) I felt swayed by Andy Barr’s updates. To even the playing field I went to speak to Alex Sass via twitter... He doesn’t tweet. His last update was over a week ago! I hesitated and then clicked his web link. I was taken to his company website where a quick scroll revealed his email address. I never bothered to email him. 

While I was willing to put off writing this update until I had left work (I may upload at work but I write in my own time) if I was going to talk to him I wanted to do it quickly. I keep an eye on twitter all day and as much is connected to my work, I can justify (to myself, I hasten to add. I don’t work at the kind of loony bin that monitors web usage) the odd tweet here and there to people I want to share ideas with. But I don’t have time to compose emails; creating subjects to compete with what is no doubt an influx and deciding what sign off is appropriate. I have print companies to liaise with, volunteers to manage, the phone to answer and an event to organise... I’m 140 characters able to chat to you but nothing more than that.

I’ve been mulling this over this afternoon (while boiling the kettle, while locking up the conference centre, while waiting at the lights on my commute home) and the conclusion that I’m not completely happy with is that my ‘truth’ is the one that I share values with. 10 Yetis work within my reality and Alex Sass does not. It might be the case that Alex Sass is correct and 10 Yetis are wrong but I don’t have time to find out. My position on blogs being the third most important links for SEO after military and academic and that ten blogs linking a video will put that video at number one on Google is that I don’t honestly know but crucially, if asked my opinion, what is at the forefront of my mind is that there is doubt over this and I haven’t discredited the doubt.

With 10 Yetis I’m buying into their features and benefits (their expediency) with their product (the facts) as a secondary concern and that solidifies for me what Phillips was saying about social media turning relationships into reputation building.
3/12/2010 03:01:05 pm

I propose an experiment. It shouldn't be too tricky to find 10 people with blogs, and then get them all to link to the same video and see if it makes google pay attention...

You can call it "The Great Google Page Ranking Experiment!"...

3/15/2010 12:32:07 am

A great idea. We run a network of sites and blogs so I reckon we could do this quite quickly. Hold that thought...

This is not as much of a shameless plug as it will appear to be, however, we set up an entire site in a congested retail industry to demonstrate the SEO power of online public relations activity (was a finalist in the econsultancy "Innovation in Online PR" awards in 2009).

Here is a link to the write up of that case study...

3/15/2010 05:55:43 pm

Thanks for the suggestion Trev!

Interesting case study Andy, it's nice to see some concrete investigation into what PR can achieve. I was sent this link - - this morning which made me smile with its reflection of how hperbolic the industry can be; lots of figures get thrown around but the researcher in me wants to see evidence.

I'm definately going to take this idea forward and would be eager to collaborate on a project.

3/15/2010 08:22:15 pm

Hiya, I'm really glad there is an ongoing conversation, that really is encouraging. You can't get a video to link for any keyword, the point I make is about the leverage of SOME blogs power to rise a video up the ranks (live search results) for some of your longtail. It has worked for me before. Of course the critical point is that the blogs need to be especially high ranking and the video (and associated tags/comments) linked to this strategically. Its 360.

Agencies all differ on approach and one hopes change their approach almost daily to keep up with Google/Bing. The point of my presentation was to focus more on long term relationships with influencers in the real world and to largely ignore the immediate as a quick win. SEO and PR merge often but fail on this topic frequently, simply because the process and method of measuring ROI are so vastly different.

After all... We can buy our way to the top of youtube with enough bucks. I think people know that.

Apologies for not tweeting every day, I'm at the socialmedia worldforum right now, listening to people with more experience than I offer :)


3/15/2010 10:27:10 pm

I'm sitting on a bus, several hours to go, which affords me a rare time to reflect. It's been a strange week, listening to many people who claim to know the a-z of this infantile industry. The one thing that struck a chord with me in the blog above was this new notion of being available to chat or debate, but only if such debate/question/requirement can be solved immediately and in a format we desire. I find this troubling. It troubles me in the same way that 'turning off your mobile is the new rude'.

Is this the first industry where agencies must compete in real time, through blogs (must say I never got any questions asking for my data following my presentation but would be happy to have supplied some) and only on the platform of most rapid enquiry?

As I say, this is a rare moment of ponder, one which doesn't really answer anything, but does make me wonder if there has been such a shift from real community... The one in which two agencies who interpret results differently but live within five miles of each other, turn to the azonic net to find resolution.

Personally I think the answer and a clearer guide for the masses can be found in beer.

*Turns off twitter and naps.*



3/15/2010 11:54:26 pm

Thank you for taking the time to respond Alex. You covered a lot of ground at #AddMe which necessarily meant you were only providing an overview and the expansion is appreciated.

I see your point about instant availability but my point was more about how twitter can meet the need of passing interest and capture a wider audience than formats requiring greater participation such as email. This debate has centred on one tiny aspect of my blog and my interest has grown as the result of that. In one sense, there is a greater impact of community as rather than a single thought passing from my consciousness, I'm now building upon it and had you not popped up on twitter I would have gone on to email you.

I think that any consideration for the model would still be a realtime activity and that rather than replace the real world, the net allows for a wider exploration and sifting through of ideas in order to best select what to take forward.

The notion of not being instantly available being rude is, I agree, a troubling one. Clearly, I lack any constrctive comment to that topic as I can be subject to it myself yet also feel I have the right to not always answer my phone. It isn't exactly new however; today I gave business to a printing company because they answered the phone when everyone else was going to answerphone and they met our pricing and product needs while promising quick delivery.

3/16/2010 12:42:21 am

Thanks again, cool debate. It was interesting seeing one of the big agencies at the conference in London having two boxes on their table, one to vote you wouldn't be using Twitter in a year, the other that you would. I couldn't vote either way yet, the whole Tweet thing for me is yet to find a concrete space in the world of marketing. I can immediately see it for customer service, but for outreach I am yet to form a real opinion. As ever, love the blog.


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