Buzz Director: the spacewalk metaphor

November 16th, 2007


Confused by the title? It’s just another metaphor I’ve started using to describe how brands should distribute more trust to their communities.

I slipped it into this interview, which Geoff Livingston has published on his influential Buzz Bin blog. It gave me another chance to flesh out my previous buzz director posts.

Geoff has kindly shipped me a copy of his new book, Now is Gone, which I began to read on my commute today. I’ll post a review here in due course, but I can tell you I like it already… especially its emphasis on community building. Thanks, Geoff!

It’s good to be back blogging… more about that later.

Technorati buzz director, net2, online communities

Another shout for a Netsquared Europe

June 15th, 2007

Amnesty’s Dan McQuillan has made a rallying call for a Netsquared this side of the pond – which could be an “incubator for web-enabled social change in the UK & Europe”.

An idea. Photo: LeopoldoDan identifies some possible goals:

  • To stimulate web-enabled social innovation
  • To create a an online-offline community for learning skills, sharing experiences and developing expertise
  • To sustain socially progressive activity through alternative business & organisational models

I like the emphasis Dan gives to “activism”, and “the organisational question” in particular…

Perhaps, like the second Netsquared conference, it could aim to incubate a new generation of web-enabled non-profits that use new forms of organising to deliver more directly on their missions.

There is a very real tension between where social media is taking us and how charities are responding (although there needn’t be). Web 2.0 requires Leadership 2.0. Surely two sides of the same coin.

All this may well dovetail with the initiative soon to be unveiled by Bertie Bosredon, the Head of New Media at Breast Cancer Care. Bertie gave me an update earlier this week.

Yesterday, I happened to get a call from Richard Saunders, who is head of website development at NCH, the children’s charity. He also hinted he would welcome a forum along these lines. And Rob Bowker at the BTCV has flagged his interest to me via this blog.

I also know from many of the conversations I had in Brussels last week that there would be an appetite for this elsewhere in Europe, too. Paolo Ferrara left a comment on my recent Buzz Director post to let me know that they are starting to unpick this concept in their own Italian context.

I hope many others will be up for it. But it won’t all be plain sailing; David Wilcox recently held up a mirror to reflect that in the UK at least, the sector has not always been good at being generous in this way.

I’m optimistic. At the start of the year, when I was considering some of the trends that might drive charities in 2007, I wrote that I was “thinking of co-organising an open-space event for those championing social media tools (and change management) within their organisations.” But Dan is right, this is much bigger than a single event.

I would only add that I’d like to see people from all ‘disciplines’ involved in this – I’ve had enough of silo-thinking .

Thank you, Dan; count me in.

Technorati innovation, net2, netsquared, nptech, nptechuk

Buzz Director: help me write a job description

June 7th, 2007

Buzz Lightyear. Photo: Thomas HawkI thought it was about time to re-visit the role of the “buzz director” – flesh out the role I first floated last October.

This is especially urgent given that much of the action is now taking place away from your own (increasingly irrelevant) website, ‘out there’, in social networks and online communities.

A good example of this is the dispersed hoohah generated by the London 2012 Olympic logo. An immediate ‘loss of control’ if ever there was one. Ben Whitnall asks whether the powers that be will be happy to engage with the debate where it is already happening (e.g the 100+ groups set up on Facebook in the last few days)… or will this be a job turned over to the suits and bean counters in the Ministry for Herding Cats?

Through this post, I’ll ping Jeremy Gould, who hints that heads of “e-communication” in government departments regularly re-assess their “roles and skillsets” now the goalposts have moved. But I reckon this awareness is unlikely to have yet ‘trickled up’ to the accountants.

Another favourite blogger of mine, Jeremiah Owyang, has also chipped in with some suggestions.

Last month I noticed that Shane Atchison included elements of the buzz director role in this post describing what a “Social Network Analyst” might do. I emailed Shane via the ClickZ website. Hope he received it.

Perhaps the “buzz director” label (which was always just a working title) sounds too marketing-centric; I don’t mean it to be; buzz directors need to be able to apply this thinking to online communities and activist networks. I’m talking ‘people’ rather than products.

Anyway, I’m going to quickly throw down some further thoughts. I fear they’ll come out in no particular order, but you’re invited to help me knock this into shape by commenting below. I’ll also set up a wiki (Update: here’s the link).

Oh, by the way… when you do come to recruit for this role, consider putting the word out like this!

Job description

You will:

  • Learn how to be in more than one place at once!! i.e. not just a space ranger but a ‘ranger of spaces’.
  • Co-create targeted engagement strategies with appropriate colleagues, especially social reporters and community technology stewards (if you have them), brand ‘ambassadors’, and ’cause evangelists’.
  • Bring the senior management team with you; earn their respect and backing.
  • Photo: Steve BridgerDevelop and coach on tactics, seeding networks, ‘brand’ positioning, etc.
  • Expect the unexpected, and be resourceful in responding in the moment. Improvise.
  • Funnel organisational strategy into focused activity.
  • Be pivotal in mapping the organisational structure onto web innovation.
  • Be generous. Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.
  • Recruit virtual volunteers and sprinkle confetti liberally, so that you yourself can leave a ‘light footprint’.

Photos: Marta Motti & Anna Pleteneva
Photos: Marta Motti and Anna Pleteneva

  • Identify and define new measures of engagement, social capital and social impact.
  • Encourage culture of collaboration and joined-up thinking and confront ‘silo’ thinking wherever you encounter it.
  • ParachutistsCall on ‘peace-keepers’ (strictly non-combatants) to follow guidelines (which you yourself have drawn up co-created with key stakeholders.
  • Pull the highlights from the ‘dashboard’ [see below...] and prepare monthly reports of activity and impact. Distribute widely within the organisation and beyond.


  • Be able to see the wood from the trees and ideally have an eye for visualising data.
  • Be the consummate diplomat and demonstrate the ability to slip into the role of chameleon or conductor when appropriate… and very very occasionally don an invisible cloak (but leave dagger behind).
  • Show good judgement.
  • Some legal nous would be desirable, as would be the ability to conduct risk assessments around ‘user-generated content’.
  • Know how to take calculated risks.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Be inspired and inspire others.
  • Coach.
  • Possess a sixth sense.
  • Be as light on your feet as a prizefighter. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
  • Instinctively recognise when serendipity occurs; capture it, bottle it… and pass on the recipe.


Back in the 1980s we had the press cuttings service (as well as the telephone tree). New functions and responsibilities require new tools and devices.

Ed Mitchell, Nigel Dunn and I have been discussing the concept of a “dashboard”. Now, none of us is absolutely certain yet how or what to measure – well, not everything – although I think we’ve got a pretty good foundation.

Bear with me. I visualise this dashboard as a ‘virtual’ mixing desk… with levers and buttons, dials, green and amber lights, a few scary red ones, a built-in early warning system. Basically, this ‘thing’ would be so cool that nobody will want to be without one. Not if you’re a buzz director, anyway.

Mixing desk

The dashboard would reflect the different activities and behaviours around ‘your’ cause. It would aggregate all the conversations (see Pageflakes, Netvibes, and coComment), but be much more than that.

Check out London-based Onalytica who have updated their website. It now features live graphs offering – as they put it – “an unprecedented X-ray of the stakeholder universe”.



Right, need to set up that wiki…


Caveat: this is a work in progress.

Technorati buzz director, community dashboard, net2, nptechuk, social media measurement

You’ve been promoted to “Buzz Director” (what, you don’t have one?)

November 3rd, 2006

It’s a particular crusade of mine to encourage not-for-profits to identify an internal champion (or recruit a virtual volunteer) to take on this role. Call it what you will, and David Wilcox and Beth Kanter, have both had a go at (re)inventing job labels. I like Beth Kanter’s “Social Media Coach”. But how about “Cause Evangelist”? Anyway, you get the idea.

Interest in social media among not-for-profits right now is high. A good many are researching good practice and developing their strategies for participating in and monitoring social networks and the blogosphere.

With this in mind, I thought I’d have a stab at unpicking the role of “buzz director” (or whatever). What follows reflects my belief that social media is more of a creative discipline than a technical one:

  • Before you get your feet to comfortable beneath your desk, remember that you should maintain a 360-degree joined-up view of your organisation at all times. Work across teams and departments.
  • Research the key blogs that cover the issue areas in which your organisation works, the related policy arena and other relevant topics. Find out what others are writing about your organisation.
  • Talk to everybody. Listen. Make it easy for colleagues to find you, or manufacture the conditions by which serendipity is more likely to occur.
  • If you see the never-ending strategic review dragging your new colleagues down, remind them of the reasons they joined your organisation in the first place. Get them passionate (and close) to your cause once again. Share their passion. Be energetic. Be useful.
  • Your role is to create a buzz around your cause (and secondarily, your not-for-profit ‘brand’). But resist any desire (or pressure) to “own” the cause. Far better to identify the communities where your supporters and activists are already and join in the conversation. After all, whose cause it anyway? Again, David Wilcox hits the button:

    Many of the first round of tools – Web 1.0 – were linked to existing social structures and ways of doing things. Web sites would be like magazines online. Forums online would be places you went to, just like physical events. It was quite costly and difficult to create online places, so they tended to be collective rather than personal. You now need to be in all places at once.

  • Get into web widgets. While you’re not in the world domination business, your own website can still be a magnet. Create something useful (e.g. your events calendar, appeal running totals) that your dispersed supporters can add to their own blogs. Beth Kanter can tell you more about widgets
  • Work with legal to write your blogging guidelines. Anticipate more scrutiny into your organisation and its work (which you should welcome) and identify the possible pitfalls. Balance risks vs the opportunities. Get ready for some tough love.
  • Coach your colleagues on blogging. Help them through the inevitable rough patches. Continually give feedback on how to write, and how to be generous.
  • Talk to the press office/pr/media dept and work with them to identify key bloggers and build relationships with them to get your news and stories out. Explore the options for podcasting and video from emergency locations to get across your side of the story. Blogs can be a good way to break news that the mainstream media can pick up on and amplify. Try letting people post comments to the press releases your organisation publishes online and introduce colleagues to the concept of the social media press release.
  • Set up a group photo pool in Flickr to upload, tag, and share photo stories online with your activists and fundraisers. Create a unique tag and invite your fundraisers to post photos on Flickr using this same tag. Build a visual archive your organisation’s work. This will all have a cumulative effect over time.
  • Take baby steps and start small by blogging around an event. Josh Hallett tells you all you need to know.
  • Include blogs and social media in your next supporter survey.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t neglect those traditional methods that have served your organisation so well. Appearances can be misleading: the average age on MySpace is 35.
  • Develop social media optimisation across all your online communications. This means working tirelessly with communications, fundraising, campaigns…
  • Your role is to help colleagues to plan, deploy, monitor and refine your blogs and social media activities just as you would for any other communications and engagement tactic.
  • Share what you learn with colleagues and network with people in other organisations who sit in seats like yours to identify new ways to calculate the benefits, costs and risks of blogging. Work with them to create a framework for measuring the ROI of your blogging efforts. Join the search for a new metric for engagement.
  • Explore ways to keep in touch and to share ideas and insights and share links to new developments. Embrace opportunities for collaboration.
  • Don’t stall on starting to use this stuff until you “know the ROI of blogs”, but continually refer to your organisation’s mission and ensure that this activity aligns with your strategic goals. Plan for 6-12 months time, but start experimenting sooner. Set realistic expectations.
  • Don’t get too big for your boots and call all this a ‘project’ because it will run into the rails. Don’t call it a pilot as no one will take it seriously enough.
  • Do prepare a monthly report of activity and ensure it is distributed widely within the organisation.
  • Not-for-profits unwilling to consider some or all of the above, risk becoming irrelevant. How will your organisation be different in three years time?

Of course, this is only a start. Comments most welcome.

Technorati buzz director, net2, nptech, social media optimisation