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Meet the brands who rule Twitter

twitterbird300The massive social media site Twitter now has just under 650 million users and has increasingly become the place to interact with celebrities and corporations. Feedback and opinions that used to be voiced to friends or sent in a letter are now broadcast to a global audience—instantly. It has forced many brands to stand up and take notice. In fact, many companies now have Twitter accounts dedicated solely to customer service.

Yet even in a world where tweets have become a part of every successful brand’s marketing toolkit, some individuals and companies have managed to elevate Twitter to something of an art form, leveraging customer service, marketing savvy, and good old-fashioned personability to dominate the Twittersphere. Some US companies, such as JetBlue (@JetBlue), American Airlines (@AmericanAir), and Rackspace (@Rackspace), make customer service a priority and dedicate significant resources to addressing customer questions and concerns in record time.

Other brands are more focused on using social media to boost sales and eCommerce—including online fashion retailer ASOS (@ASOS), whose #BestNightEver campaign helped push the company’s sales to £78 million ($127,413,000) in December 2012 alone. In the non-profit sector, organizations such as the American Red Cross (@RedCross) and Movember (@Movember) used strategic partnerships and promotional hashtags to raise serious funds for their respective causes.

It’s not always easy to be sincere, informative, funny, and compelling in just 140 characters. But it seems that these organisations have managed to develop successful strategies for interacting with their followers, addressing their customers’ needs, and making a difference via Twitter.

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Humour sells in Australian Advertising

Although there’s a much-repeated adage in advertising that “sex sells,” it seems that Australians are more likely to respond to an advert that makes them laugh. A recent survey from Adobe and Edelman Berland reported that 79% of respondents preferred humorous ads over any other type, and that 95% of consumers polled believed that advertising was capable of influencing their behaviour. If you look at many of the most successful marketing campaigns over the past few years, the majority employ humour in some way. Both traditional and online businesses are embracing a quirky sensibility to make their customers laugh, and enjoying the resulting profits.

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Rewards, bribes and bikes for a very worthy cause

Want to feel good about helping some kids who really need it? Like to get some very cool rewards for doing so? Can I bribe you and help your business at the same time? Read on….

In 2010 a client of mine discovered that I was a keen cyclist and asked me if I’d join their team for the Tour de Kids, a grueling charity ride to raise funds for Starlight Children’s Foundation. That year they rode from Melbourne to Sydney and I joined in the last few days with the Colliers International team from Canberra to Sydney. That just whetted my appetite.

In 2011 I signed up for the full ride; 1200km in 7 days from Adelaide to Melbourne riding with the Virgin Money team. It was tough. We had one day where we did a 20km climb through the Otway Ranges then backed it up with a 10km climb. That really hurt but it was one of the best days of my life. (Here’s a video report of that day). By the time we arrived in Melbourne 40 of us had raised over $550,000 for Starlight.

In March 2013 I am getting back in the saddle again for what appears to be an even tougher ride around Tasmania. The last few days go from the rugged west coast, across Cradle Mountain and back to Hobart. The stage that says “Cradle Mountain” and “199km” looks terrifying. I can’t wait!

Admittedly this is a personal challenge for me that is truly rewarding, but I will also be training extremely hard and trying to raise as much money as I can along the way to for the Starlight Children’s Foundation to help kids much less fortunate than us.

That’s where you, the rewards and the bribes come in.

Firstly, you can simply donate any amount you are comfortable with via my Fundraising Page. Every dollar counts and I’m truly appreciative of your support.

But here are the inducements, the bribes, the rewards I have dreamed up if you’re willing to go above and beyond:

  • A copy of The 4-Hour Body signed by the author Tim Ferriss himself will go to the first person to donate $130 (and nominate the reward). I used the diet and training advice in this book to get in shape for Adelaide to Melbourne and am doing so again for Tasmania.
  • Donate $150 (and nominate the reward) and I will feature your chosen listing on InsiderJobs Freelance for 12 months. Value $240 Note: we are launching an Australia-wide version of InsiderJobs in February so you might want to promote the listing to a national audience.
  • Donate $500 (and nominate reward) and I will personally search engine optimise your website for 5 search terms using NLYZR and my in-house SEO team. (worth over $2500)
  • Donate $1000 (and nominate reward) and I will do a 2 hour “Adapt or die” presentation to your team or your clients in Newcastle or Sydney (elsewhere if you cover travel expenses). I have done similar presentations to major Australian companies around this topic and it gets a great response. Feel free to contact me to learn more.

PLEASE NOTE: Deadline for all of these offers is Wednesday 13 March, 2013

Honestly, any support you can give is very welcome. The above inducements are there to help me reach my fundraising goals quickly. The more we raise the more families we can assist during very trying times.

Here is more information on the Tour de Kids.

Starlight Children’s Foundation

Starlight Children’s Foundation (Starlight) is proud to be the major beneficiary of Tour de Kids.

Starlight’s mission it to improve the resilience and wellbeing of seriously ill children and their families by delivering programs that restore the joy and happiness that serious illness takes away.

Living with illness or injury can cause enormous strain in the lives of children and their families. The pain, loneliness and isolation that sick children feel dominates their lives, and they often miss out on normal experiences that healthy children take for granted.

Physical recovery is only part of the solution. Starlight delivers innovative programs designed to make children happy and lift their spirits when they need it most.

Starlight’s programs include Captain Starlight, Starlight Express Rooms, Starlight Fun Centres, Starlight Escapes, Wishgranting, plus Livewire and Club Ado for teenagers.

For more information on Starlight, visit www.starlight.org.au or contact Starlight on 1300 727 827.;

The wheels are turning in Newcastle. All aboard the DiGiTal express.

Hunter DiGiTAlmost 18 months ago I posted My Plan for Creating an Innovative City. In it I reasoned that we needed two major breakthroughs to help Newcastle reposition itself as a centre for technology and innovation; high-speed broadband and the hosting of a major event along the lines of SxSW.

In the ensuing year and a half the wheels of progress have been turning and a passionate community of “agitators” has emerged to run with the theme. Things are starting to happen and it’s time for you to get involved.

Firstly, Gordon Whitehead launched Digital Newcastle, under the banner of The Lunaticks Society of Newcastle, in order to lobby and educate anyone who will listen. His energy and enthusiasm has been infectious.

Secondly, a taskforce called Hunter DiGiT was formed with a vision to establish the Hunter Region as a leading digital economy with a global reputation, by 2020. Their objectives are:

  • Online Participation: Encourage adoption of internet based technologies.
  •  Broadband Infrastructure: Attract commercial or government funded projects to provide world-class broadband infrastructure.
  • Digital Literacy and Skills: Encourage investment in technology education to equip the region’s transition to a digital economy.
  •  Social Inclusion: Increase digital literacy & broadband access for low income & disadvantaged groups.
  • Digital Industry: Support the growth of creative, digital and cultural sectors.
  • Reputation: Promote the regions digital and creative industry sectors and position the region as a place where talented people and start-ups want to live.
  •  Investment: Develop support networks to enable start-ups to access funds for growth.

This Friday 30 November, 2012 the vision starts to become reality as we mark the official launch of Hunter DiGiT with a special breakfast and day-long Expo.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Technology Use in the Hunter 2012
  • Why embracing digital is important to our region
  • Telehealth
  • Gov 2.0 Looking to the Future
  • Legal matters in a digital age
  • Today’s New Business Model
  • How to market to the World

Speakers and panelists include:

Brendan Brooks President of Hunter DiGiT, Tim Owen, AM, MSS MP, Isabel Boniface – Microsoft, Anthea Bill – Hunter Valley Research Foundation, Gareth Berry – Unleashed, Craig Wilson – Sticky, Matt Crozier – Bang the Table, Anthony Scully – ABC, Jason Rumianek – Hunter Medicare Local, Roger Pryor, Roderick Smith – Evescourt Legal, Nick Bowditch – Facebook, Stephen Bourne – Business & Commercial Lawyer at Mananua Inc, Tim Holloway – Deputy, Marcus Westbury – Renew Australia, Damien Mahoney – Stackla, Gareth Berry – Unleashed, Nick Bartlett – GeoOP, Wayne Schmidt – Xero, Roger Gregg – Invitbox, Tim Holloway – Deputy HR

There will also be a range of businesses showcasing their innovative products and services. you’ll be surprised to learn how much talent and how many great little innovative companies are now in Newcastle. It’s going to be an exciting day.

The team behind Hunter DiGiT have worked tirelessly to put this together and kick-start the digital economy here in Newcastle. Their doing it not for profit but because they love this town and want to see innovation and technology prosper here.

Now its your turn to get on board. What do you have to do? Just turn up. The Expo is free to attend. Meet great local businesses, hear some informative presentations and discussions. Get involved.

The wheels are now turning. “All aboard!!!”

Tweets worth keeping

The Twitter stream flows pretty quickly and sometimes its hard to find the good information amongst the banter before it disappears from view. Here’s a selection of tweets…and more importantly the links….I’ve read or shared in the last week that are worth keeping (also a bit of an experiment in link longevity).

  • Not using Twitter could be more dangerous to your business than using it ever will be. Here are 8 benefits ow.ly/bvQWF — Dynamic Business (@DynamicBusiness) June 12, 2012
  • Think things are stuffed? Here are 5 peeps who’ve taken the idea of bettering society into their own hands su.pr/24g5lp#fastbreak — Gavin Heaton (@servantofchaos) June 6, 2012
  • Latest social network world map: Facebook now #1 in 126 out of 137 countries tnw.co/KomAxR   –  Ross Dawson (@rossdawson) June 11, 2012

The price of bad advice

by [me]

I came across three pieces of mind-numbingly bad advice today, all from experts in their respective fields, all to prominent organizations. Each of them have caused me to question:
A) the quality of expert advice
B) the lack of digital knowledge in the business world
C) how organizations can determine which advice they can trust.

But let’s start with the bad advice. These are clangers.

The first company, a prominent industry leader, wants to get more search traffic for a new service they offer. Whilst weighing up an organic search engine optimisation strategy they’ve received advice from an Adwords specialist. The response: spend the budget on an Adwords campaign because the clicks from the traffic will increase your organic search results.

WRONG. There is no relationship between paid results and organic search results. Organic search results come from a combination of inbound links (indicator of popularity) and on-page optimisation for targeted terms.

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Newcastle near back of queue for NBN. What should we do?

As expected, the National Broadband Network won’t be coming to Newcastle any time soon. Gosford gets it. Coffs Harbour gets it. Newcastle doesn’t for some time yet.

This was a topic of vigorous discussion at the last Lunaticks Society meeting, where it was suggested by people in regular contact with NBNCo and their suppliers that Newcastle wasn’t on the short term list.

Today the NBNCo announced their Three Year Roll-out Plan. The Prime Minister proudly trumpeted that areas like Campbelltown, Gosford and Coffs Harbour were next on the list but no mention of Newcastle and the Hunter.

The rather ambiguous roll-out plans on the NBNCo site suggests that work will “commence” in Newcastle and Charlestown areas some time before June 2015, with it being operational within 12 months of that. So maybe we will have NBN broadband by June 2016….over 4 years from now. And that commitment is only to 25% of the households in suburbs listed.

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How to build a smart city

by [me]

Last year in the wake of a vigorous debate about how to turn Newcastle into a center of innovation I posted my thoughts on how to create an innovative city. It certainly generated some discussion and the wheels have actually started turning.

Central to my plan were the need for high-speed broadband and the idea of holding a prominent tech and innovative event in the city. I can confirm that progress is being made on both fronts but eventual success still relies on the support of the city’s leaders, both government and business.

When you consider that the nascent app economy spurred on by iOS, Android and Facebook apps has generated 466,000 jobs in the U.S. economy since 2007, there is a lot to gain from encouraging innovation.

Meanwhile I have been researching what other innovative cities around the world have been done to get ahead.

What has been consistently repeated is the importance of cities in creating an enabling environment for emerging technology companies.

This was a key topic of discussion at at the first-ever Cities Summit held in Vancouver recently. Mayors of 35 cities around the world joined with executives and consultants to discuss open cities, digital cities, urban laboratories, smart-city financing, and startup cities.

For example, San Jose (California) has created a “Framework for Establishing Demonstration Partnerships” which allows the city to work towards a more sustainable future–including the creation of 25,000 new green jobs–by enabling local companies to use municipal facilities as urban laboratories to test out new clean tech, sustainability, and mobility technologies. Rather than having to jump through the typical bureaucratic hoops, the demonstration allows the fast-tracking of pilot projects from local companies.

The Summit made it clear that smart cities of the future will find ways to incentivise and enable private sector innovation and local economic growth via innovative use of demand-side tools, as opposed to supply-side solutions like tech parks and tax breaks. For example, the feedback was that the emerging companies wanted to find a way to get their pre-commercial technologies tested by the city. This allows startups to get the kinks out as well as increase their ability to sell technology to other markets.

Cities can also use things like new standards or regulations, such as green building standards, to stimulate demand for new clean solutions and innovation.

Talent is another obvious challenge. Attracting and retaining young, educated people to study, live, and work in smart cities is a crucial. The Summit identified that cities first need to increase their livability and grow their enabling infrastructure to support emerging companies, then embark on a city branding campaign that will help attract and retain new talent, startups, services, and the arts.

Seems to me Newcastle has done this back-to-front. Last year the city launched an attractive new branding initiative but we haven’t addressed the key issues of transport, new business support or broadband. We have an incredibly good lifestyle in Newcastle but much of the basic infrastructure that will encourage innovation and growth is still wanting.

If our leaders can address these key issues and then establish programs to support and encourage innovation we can truly become a smart city.

Its a war for web supremacy and you’re in the crossfire

Google v Facebook: its war

Larry Page & Mark Zuckerberg. (Image originally atlanticwire.com)

Every time you go online you are entering a war zone. It might not feel like it, but there is an almighty battle taking place between two superpowers and you are caught in the crossfire.

Welcome to the war for web supremacy. The super powers, if you haven’t already guessed, are the search behemoth Google and social heavyweight champion Facebook. The prize is you and your data.

Sure, there are other combatants in this war; Twitter, Apple, Bing, LinkedIn…even Yahoo!, but they are merely involved in skirmishes and are open to being co-opted into alliances with the main players. Amazon currently appears to be Switzerland (more about them another time).

The nature of systems like the web is that monopolies emerge. We have a dominant search engine in Google, a dominant online encyclopedia in Wikipedia, a dominant retailer in Amazon, a dominant auction site in eBay, and now we have a dominant social network in Facebook. That’s normal and has been happening in business for centuries.

But what happens when two different monopolies decide to battle for a middle ground? That’s where it gets interesting, and that whats happening now. Facebook and Google share common goals but differing philosophies.

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5 reasons why Australia risks being left behind in the digital economy

Australian business risks lagging behind in digital economyWe like to think of ourselves as a progressive, modern, innovative nation here in Australia. We proudly point out examples of Australian ingenuity but in reality these are few and far between. The truth is that, despite our economic prosperity and extremely high standard of living, Australia risks being left behind in the booming digital economy.

Its not that we aren’t an innovative race; there are some extremely talented people dreaming up many amazing ideas, and there is something of a talent rush on Aussie tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley at the moment. The problem is that very few of those businesses or digital entrepreneurs will remain in this country unless things change considerably. The talent, the intellectual property and the businesses will move offshore.

The other risk is that, in an increasingly global and digitally connected economy, Australia will find itself being less than competitive due to a sluggishness in adopting new technology. Once again, this rubs against the popular stereotype that we are a nation of early technology adopters. That may be true as consumers, but the corporate world appears to be less enthusiastic about embracing change and technology.

A recent global study by IBM revealed that Australian marketers are lagging significantly in tech and social media. The study showed that Australian marketers still rely heavily on traditional forms of promotion and research and are yet to embrace the more modern techniques of their global counterparts.

At the same time research by GE indicates that Australia is seen as one of the least innovative nations on earth. The GE Innovation Barometer had Australia lagging behind countries like Brazil and Finland by corporate chiefs who were asked which countries were leading the way in technology and business practices.

The question is, why are we lagging behind? Here are 5 reasons I can see:

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