Today is my second day back in the lab after three weeks of back-to-back online marketing and strategy workshops, lectures and conferences. The recurrent theme in all of them was the idea of authentic co-creation. Quite obviously the most important shift that is happening in marketing and strategy is a move away from centralized control of communications to a more decentralized user-oriented approach.

At the iCommons Innovation Series last week in Joburg, Jimmy Wales stated that any business that was dependent on people not copying its products or services was doomed, whereas those that embrace the culture of sharing, and that build in systems to facilitate and benefit from sharing would thrive. This is most obvious in the music industry, where even Madonna has left her old record label which was dependent on DRM and record sales and moved to a label that prioritizes alternative revenue streams such as her brand, her live performance revenues, and merchandising.

In the Attention Economy, having the goodwill of a community can make you rich, and power comes as your ideas, products and services circulate through that community. In this new economy, participation is key, since it is the highest form of Attention that a person can give. It must be pointed out though, that simply creating a platform for participation (such as a Wiki or a video-channel) is not enough to get people involved. You need to help them connect with people that have shared interests.

How do you think Wikipedia maintains the level of quality participation it has? The answer is that behind each article there are little communities of people who are connecting with each other through a shared interest in the subject matter they are compiling - each contribution, discussion and edit is a form of social currency that can escalate their status in the community. People blog for much the same reason. So perhaps the human need for recognition and connection is really the driver of the new web economy.

My advice is to do whatever you can to help reduce people's sense of separation from each other and your brand. As a participant in one of last-week's workshops pointed out: A relationship is an ongoing conversation. So I leave you with a question to consider: How will you start facilitating ongoing conversations through your company, with your company, and through your products, services, portals and communications?
AuthorDave Duarte
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When Max and I started a restaurant a few years ago we knew that the core of our business had to be regular customers. We began with just a few people who came in almost every day, and we made sure that they felt special, and that other customers could see how valued they were. We'd do stuff like refer business to them, or occasionally give them and whoever they're with a free round of coffees. This not only kept them coming back, but it also created a sense of aspiration among other customers who also wanted to be recognised and valued. The business gained a phenomenal amount of regular customers, and became virtually immune to the usual seasonal boom and busts that many other restaurants in Cape Town experience.

This same principle of having a conspicuous hierarchy of regular customers applies very strongly to building and sustaining online communities. Digg, for example, used to have a list of "Top 100 Diggers" which was very hotly contested because appearing on that list gave those users power and reknown. Unfortunately Digg has now removed the list from their site, and is already starting to lose top users. One of them, Greg Hartnett writes:
So this is how I see it playing out: more and more top users will continue the exodus, which will in turn contribute to the deterioration of the quality of the content being submitted. The SEO crowd, and others trying to game Digg, will continue with their efforts, and an even greater percentage of front page stories will have gotten there through artificial means. Average users will grow tired of the spam (or perceived spam) and return less and less often. Daily visitors will diminish over time, resulting in a front page story that generates a couple of hundred visitors. At this point, the SEO crowd will realise that the ROI is no longer there, and they'll move on to the traffic generator du jour. In their wake, they'll leave Digg in shambles - a mere shell of the site it had once been.

In the end, Digg founders and investors will be left scratching their heads at what went wrong.  You should have nurtured your top users - not screwed them.

I often drop the following two quotes into talks, to emphasise the fact that what I speak on is borrowed and built from the work of others:
Good Designers Copy, Great Designers Steal - Picasso

Interesting, considering the source of that one. And:
A dwarf on a giant's shoulders sees farther of the two. If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. - Isaac Newton

I mention them to emphasise the importance in business of sharing and collaboration in order to increase speed, productivity, and (ironically) creativity. This is a big reason why we should support Creative Commons.

Check out this vid of the recent iCommons Salon (entitled "Bring and Braai") held in Cape Town, where Lawrence Lessig (CEO of Creative Commons) emphasises the point that digital borrowing and remixing is being criminalized... and what we need to do to make sure that we have the digital freedom to create freely. Jimmy Wales also appears with a call for more African Language contributors on Wikipedia. Heather Ford and I had fun MCing the event :-) :

By the way, Missing Link sponsored and produced this video... They rock!

p.s. 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0 :-p
AuthorDave Duarte
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Max, Joshin, Dee, and TaniaWhen lots of cool stuff has already been said about an event, is it worthwhile to add yet another blog post to the mix?

When I first started blogging, I would be eager to write about something, but then I'd see it written on another SA blog and I would get demotivated. I was looking for the scoop in every case... So I ended up not posting very often at all.

Part of what's interesting when analysing blog posting volumes is how the number of posts increase around major news events.

So anyway, my point: I took a lovely hike last week. At various junctures there were sign posts marking the way, held up by a pile of stones. Everyone that passes these sign-posts should add a stone to the pile because the winds and rain are constantly rolling other's stones away. It's a seemingly trivial act, but it's a way to help guide other hikers and show them that they're on the right path.

So, having said that... A bunch of support stones have already been piled up for the recent 27 dinner. But I'd like to add mine. Some thanks:

  • To the people who put their name down on the wiki and actually came!

  • To Stormhoek for providing the wine and organising the venue.

  • To my business partners at Cerebra, Mike in particular, for continued support of the 27-dinner project.

  • To Zoopy for creating a dedicated 27-dinner channel and sponsoring TWO Sony DVD Camera's as prizes for people at the dinner who shot videos and pics and uploaded them to Zoopy. (Winners to be announced at 27-5 in Joburg in May)

  • To Henk, who donated 3 Skyrove wifi hotspot kits. We auctioned them off at the dinner to raise funds for iCommons. And also to the angel bidders who bought them: Nikki Friedman, Jacques Marneweck, and Ian Gilfillan.

  • To the speakers: Ian Gilfillan (Deep, soulful and technologically advanced!), Glen Verran (Passionate voice of the SA podcasting movement) and Mike Scott (Hilarious, profound and inspiring cartoonist).

I know that lots of good networking and socialising happened. I, for one, am chuffed at the result... Although, to be honest, I would have loved to have seen more racially diverse representation there, especially on Freedom Day.
AuthorDave Duarte
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Kath with the ChampersOn Friday evening, a small group of bloggers and podcasters met at Stormhoek's farm in Wellington for a special braai.... And besides having a really (really!) great time, I had some thoughts about Marketing (goodness gracious - does anyone else out there think about marketing while inebriated at 2am??)

Stormhoek wine has become a global marketing sensation, thanks in no small part to their blog strategy - which got them onto Ad Age's Marketing 50 for 2006 along with huge spenders like Toyota, Fanta and Xbox360. That type of prominence doesn't happen by mistake... We can learn alot from these guys.

My takeaway thoughts from the braai:

  • Sure they sell wine, but they're in the entertainment business (why do you think people drink wine?)

  • Extremely popular business phenomena are usually driven by a core group of enthusiasts at the heart of the brand

  • If the product experience is perceived as poor quality, then no amount of promotion is going to make up for that.. There's got to be authentic passion for the product itself.

  • Most importantly, as a Stormhoek enthusiast, I connect with their people - their personality shines through in what they do....

As Hugh Macleod, blogger in chief at Stormhoek points out: Growth will come, not from yet more efficiency (we're already very efficient), but by humanification (more). In other words, by forming more personal relationships and allowing a smarter, more personal conversation to happen between you and your customers and evangelists.

And lastly: "If you want to have a cool brand, you have to do cool stuff".
AuthorDave Duarte
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Amatomu is South Africa's own Technorati... In other words it's going to rank, organise and connect the South African blogosphere. For non-bloggers, this will be an EXCELLENT source of the freshest news and hottest topics in SA.

The private Alpha launch was done via an email from Matt Buckland, in which he asked bloggers not to break the story. Eventually though, one of us cracked and Tyler Reed was first to announce it. I somehow suspect that the Mail & Guardian crew knew exactly what they were doing.... and Vincent Maher (who developed the site) even said:
"We asked people not to blog about it and we were surprised to see that no-one actually did"

There's tremendous buzz around this site, which is testament to the fact that we sorely need something like this... You can see a list of Articles referencing Amatomu here.

This, once again, highlights the need for localized versions of popular global sites. It provides a more targeted way of finding information from home. It will also help provide a clearer understanding of the size and shape of the South African blogosphere. (Stats... Yay!)

As Vinny mentioned though, the ranking algorithm for the site may need some tweaking - Cherryflava, for example, one of South Africa's most popular blogs is currently ranked below alot of (presumably) less prominent blogs (76 at present). I'm just guessing here though.

Both Vincent and Matt from M&G are actively involved in the blogosphere, which is why they were able to come up with such a spot-on development, whereas companies like keep missing the boat.

One feature that would make Amatomu extra useful would be the ability to subscribe by RSS to certain tags. I'm sure Vince is on this already, but I mention it just in case he isn't.

AuthorDave Duarte
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