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

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