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

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

Children’s charity checks into virtual hotel

March 3rd, 2007

I’ve written previously about how the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has embraced innovation to raise awareness of its cause.

Now Childline, which merged with the NSPCC last year, has created the Childline Zen Garden room in Habbo Hotel – a virtual community for teenagers. The child protection charity hopes that its three-month stay in Habbo (until May) will allow it to reach out to the young audience in their natural browsing environment.

The room was unoccupied when this screengrab was taken as all ‘Habbos’ (the user-created avatars) were in school at the time.

Childline Zen Garden in Habbo Hotel

The charity will host events and activities on Habbo aimed at getting young people involved in its anti-bullying campaign, Don’t Hide It.

Rebecca Newton, Safety & Moderation Manager for Habbo’s creators, Sulake Corporation, told me that there’s a promo on the Habbo UK website about the Zen Garden room. This is the primary way of pushing traffic to partnered areas – along with word-of-mouth.

Habbo UK now attracts 750,000 players aged 11-18 each month, according to this BBC article.

Habbo Hotel UKEmily Knee, NSPCC’s digital project manager is quoted as saying…

It is imperative that we talk to teenagers in their own environment, much of which is online

She hopes the partnership with Habbo will drive traffic to the NSPCC website, as well as encouraging members of the community to take part in polls and design an anti-bullying themed room.

The NSPCC previously ran some interactive ads on Habbo (as well as Mykindaplace and Bebo).

Habbo started in Finland in 2000, so pre-dates Second Life by three years or so. It’s probably the first successful virtual world this side of the pond.

I like the look of the two-dimensional Habbo. It’s more colourful than Second Life’s 3D environment – and hence, more appealing to teens.

As Rebecca put it:

There’s no peer pressure to look “older” or “cool” since we’re all 2-inch pixelated characters.

Technorati anti-bullying, childline, habbo hotel, net2, nptechuk, nspcc, sulake the tail ‘tagging’ the dog

March 1st, 2007

I only recently stumbled across the Dog Trust’s photo-sharing community, I’m not a dog owner, and frankly have no particular affinity with dogs, but the fabulous design, adoption of features such as tagging, and impressive attention to detail all made an instant impact on me.

I encouraged Tim Malbon, Creative Director at Interesource, to share a few juicy morsels from the website’s first six months…

The Dogs Trust seem to have embraced user-generated content with gusto. Has this been an easy journey?

We have a really close relationship with Dogs Trust. We first suggested the idea at the end of 2005 and while it took some time for the charity to come round (the growth of services like Flickr and Photobucket, and social networking websites like MySpace helped here), the people there embraced our vision pretty quickly. It’s brilliant working with people who ‘get it’.

Best in Show -

It was also an exciting way for us to work: generating an idea and then selling it to a client – instead of waiting for clients to ask us to solve their problems. You can only work like this when there’s a lot of trust and respect.

Is the UK’s first charity photo-sharing site of its kind? Did you ever consider a service like Flickr?

Yes, and yes. What we initially thought though, was that there is an opportunity to generate some revenue from crowd-sourcing dog photos.

Consider there are millions of dog owners who are taking billions of photos of their dogs, but have nowhere to put them. We thought these photos would start a ‘conversation’ about how much they love dogs: simple as that. That’s what we saw happening – particularly on Flickr and Dogster.

What we added was the idea that you can create value from this by asking the user to donate the rights to their images in kind. More about that later.

Could you give some measures of the success of DoggySnaps?

The success of DoggySnaps has been overwhelming. With practically no PR or marketing, and from a standing start in October 2006, we now have over 40,000 photos of dogs and this is rising steadily everyday. The website received 164,000 visits in January from a truly global audience. The average visit lasts 16 minutes. We have an active community who are emotionally engaged and very responsive to the website, newcomers and new features, which is fantastic for such a young site.

What has the charity learned about engaging with dog lovers in this entertaining way, compared to more traditional forms of supporter communications?

The most important thing – I think – is that the charity gets better results when it engages supporters on their terms, instead of trying to ‘interrupt’ them in order to ask for donations.

DoggySnaps is now a part of their lives, not an interruption. I think we’ve only just started to explore ways to translate this into donations.

What are your plans for enhancing the service… and how much is this informed by user feedback?

A large proportion of feedback from users is incorporated into new developments – ‘emoticons’ in the new forums, private and public messaging in ‘kennels’, information about the actual owner… and a number of forthcoming projects have all been driven as a direct response from feedback from the community.

To be honest, these guys are on the site 24/7 so it makes sense to listen to them, as they work with the DoggySnaps front end the most.

We are also planning to launch a beta community that will allow us to engage the most active users specifically to test new ideas and features.

Dog page on DoggySnaps.comHave you identified how the user-generated photo library might generate donations to support the work of the Dog’s Trust?

The Dogs Trust developed the website for the primary purpose of raising money and awareness of the charity, its dogs and the message. It can monetise the user-generated content by creating a rights-managed photo-library… selling images to advertisers, brands and publishers. If you think about it, dogs are one of the most popular themes in advertising and marketing.

There are lots of other ways, too – e.g. premium ‘treats’ and on-demand printing may turn out to be the most effective, but there are others: an online dog show… pulling in some of the Dogs Trust website… Who knows? There’s so much to try. We’re also experimenting with advertising.

How is the service managed? Is there a full-time Community Manager?

We have two editors; one who deals mainly with website maintenance issues, and another who responds to emails and requests. They work to make sure there is a consistent service.

What’s your favourite feature on the site?

I personally love giving treats – I think it has so much more potential. People really feel like they are contributing and involved with the site, as they all affect the stats. Also looking forward to video.

I notice Clarissa Baldwin has a blog. Did she take much convincing – or coaching – to start blogging?

Clarissa is so passionate about her dedication to dogs and verbalising this, I’m surprised she didn’t request a blog sooner!

Have a good sniff around yourself… and check out Clarissa’s blog, too.

Technorati doggysnaps, dogs trust, net2, nptech, tagging, user generated content

Engagement is (not) made to measure

January 29th, 2007

Measuring ‘engagement’ is like eating an elephant: it’s a big job and you’re not sure where to start.

Photo by Alice Creative Commons licenceI’m no exception, and my thinking on this topic still feels heavy and a little clumsy. So, please indulge me for a moment…

At the start of the year, I wrote:

The page view is dead, long live, err… something else! Hmm… web metrics just do not cut it (and just when you’d got to grips with it!). But what should we be looking at now? In 2007, the sector needs to identify new measures of ‘engagement’ online. This work is urgent, especially as charities need to show accountability for everything they do.

In one sense, this may seem a pointless exercise – preparing to get the tape measure out as the social web gets widgetised, atomised, and more distributed.

But engagement was a key theme explored at the Future of Information Summit ’07 presented by Experian recently. Last month, a Factiva roundtable reached to figure out how to measure social media the best way, and Robert Scoble (no less) had already added his call for a new metric for engagement.

I’m equally aware that some people do not care for the term, ‘engagement’ (possibly because of all this attention). Anyway, for want of anything better, I’m sticking with it for now. More importantly, a lot of people whom I listen to in the sector are using the e-word. So there.

So, why all the talk about social media measurement? Well, it’s one thing to have an engaged website, but more and more the action takes place in other places, in existing communities and social networks. Charities must turn from ‘owning’ their cause to enabling networks to run with the ball. Yet again, this was reinforced to me over the weekend after reading Robin’s Hamman’s post about BBC 2.0.

So what are we measuring? Influence? Reach? Audience…?

Brian Oberkirch helped me make some more sense of this conundrum, although he admitted it was tough: “Like nailing down a shadow”…

That’s why I have a bit of trepidation over the rush to quantify and reify ‘engagement’ as the baseline by which all social media work should be evaluated. JKO called these ‘the holy grail’ as part of the discussion, and that’s what is problematic. ‘Engagement’, like ‘conversation’ is one of those terms that feels like it means something, but really is mushy enough for anyone to bend it to their will.

Check out Brian’s excellent post for some things we might want to measure. This certainly goes beyond the standard (and not so standard) toolset on web metrics deployed and listed here by Beth Kanter. To pick out one snippet from Beth’s post:

Metrics alone are not very meaningful – they need to be put into some context. Context to me means outcomes, intent, and audience. No matter what type of metrics you trying to figure out … that’s a universal metric standard.

Outcomes. That’s it. Or “Return on Objectives” (ROO) as my friend Richard Sedley is justly keen on saying.

It takes two to tango

For me, the term ‘engagement’ suggests a two-way street – it implies not simply a ‘connection’, but a reciprocal action. As Mark Ghuneim et al say in their mini-essay on the Wiredset blog, Terms of Engagement: Measuring the Active Consumer

In the traditional sense, engagement is the period between proposal and marriage

True. Many (most?) people will rebuff your advances. Others may be content to donate cash, but not wish to be ‘engaged’ in anything. A few will get mobilised into taking some form of action for your cause.

These ‘degrees of engagement’ (is there a better way of saying this?) remind me of Dick Carlson’s comment on the aforementioned Scoble post.

Dick proposes a four-level model for measuring engagement:

1. Click – A reader arrived (current metric)
2. Consume – A reader read the content
3. Understood – A reader understood the content and remembers
4. Applied – A reader applies the content in another venue

Now, let’s put some meat on the bones – with thanks to Mark Ghuneim for allowing me to reproduce this terrific graphic (original here).

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Work with your buzz director to create milestones and targets for activity for each engagement ‘type’. Roll your findings up into monthly progress reports (which should get as wide a distribution as possible). And remember, ensure what you are measuring is aligned to your organisation’s strategic goals.

The ‘goalposts’ haven’t moved; it’s just that there are now many more pitches on which you must play (a bit like Hackney Marshes on a Sunday morning).

Technorati engagement, nptech, nptechuk, social media measurement, web metrics

Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…

December 23rd, 2006

Brownie Treats for Santa!

Thanks to everyone who’s read this blog since October. For a personal photo perspective back on 2006, see this Flickr set.

Have a great Christmas / multi-denominational midwinter festival and I’ll see you soon.

Oh, and don’t forget to turn off your PC (the Billblog via Nigel Dunn).

By Steve Bridger filed under community

Technorati blaugh

Save the Children offers yak a Second Life

December 5th, 2006

Owen Gibson writes in The Guardian that Save the Children today becomes the first UK charity to participate in Second Life, a virtual world accessible over the web via software installed on your computer.

Having ‘sold out’ of yaks for a programme designed to provide the animals for Tibetan families, Save the Children has turned to Second Life in an attempt to raise more money and awareness.

From today, participants in Second Life will be able to travel to its “Yak Shack” and pay 1,000 Linden dollars (the game currency, named after the company that conceived it) for their own pixillated yak.

The money is then transferred into a Save the Children account at the current exchange rate of US$3.50 to 1,000 Linden dollars.

Save the Children's Yak Shack in Second LifeIf you think this reads like a shaggy-dog hairy-yak-story, then think again; a recent survey conducted by the US-based Center for the Digital Future suggested that for many people, online or virtual communities are as important as their real-world counterparts. The results of the survey were released last week and reported by the BBC.

Another study identified that the way we behave physically in real life is mirrored in a virtual environment. So, your virtual self can feel just as strongly about causes as the real you. But would you ‘connect’ with a cause, or organisation in the same way? The jury’s still out for me.

The Yak Shack concept was created by Ogilvy Advertising and works well as an extension of the charity’s “Wish List” virtual gift catalogue.

Ogilvy’s Kathryn Parsons traces her interest in Second Life back to the Picnic06 conference where she heard Philip Rosedale (the Founder of Linden Labs) make a specific reference to Second Life’s potential as a fundraising community. (A report of Philip’s talk is worth a read in itself.)

The agency was already working with SCF and Kathryn told me the connection with ‘virtual gifting’ seemed to good a creative opportunity to miss. Of course, using Second Life as a platform to fundraise will also enable SCF to connect with an audience usually considered difficult to reach.

Kathryn added that “it was important for us to create something which both respected the charity and also the ‘residents’ of Second Life”.

So, during the build, Kathryn worked closely with the Second Life community (seeking advice from Linden Labs, “in-world” avatars, and from Aimee Weber).

“We wanted to make sure we created an experience which is valued by the community and which will eventually become a fundraising success,” she said.

SCF is following the lead of US charities that have recently begun to take advantage of Second Life’s popularity and booming virtual economy. Aimee Weber also contributed to a sponsored virtual ‘walk’, which raised $40,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

If your interest has been piqued, Beth Kanter writes frequently and passionately about this stuff, which has coined terms such as ‘avatar marketing’. Beth has also posted links to Second Life resources and discussions aimed at not-for-profits.

Aimee kindly offered to give me “a teleport and a tour” of the Yak Shack, but I had to decline (I don’t yet have an account!). However, I’m still keen to monitor how successful the Yak Shack proves to be for SCF.

Apparently, yaks and their new owners can return to the ‘Shack’ on 16 December to show off their individually customised yaks (woolly jumpers, etc.) for the chance to win an interview in a Second Life magazine.

If you’re a Second Lifer, dig deep into your virtual pockets.

Technorati aimee weber, avatars, net2, save the children, second life, yak shack