Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Tag clouds - identify your core messages

Tag clouds have been used for a while in blogs and article publications on the internet. They provide a means for any casual passer-by to gather, at a glance, what an article or blog is focussing on. Usually they are made up of the keywords the writer has used to categorise and reference their articles, but often are an indication of the most recurring words in a site. In a tag cloud the most frequently used tags are shown biggest, reducing in size as the frequency diminishes.

Some tag clouds are interactive, so you can click on the tag and be taken to relevant articles, others are merely informational, visual indicators.

Now there is a (fun?!) tool for any blog, article, or indeed, any section of text - www.wordle.net.

You can use it to either trawl your entire blog, or paste an article into the "wordleizer" and let it (after removing all common words such as and, the, in etc) give you a tag cloud where the most repeated words are presented in a stylised fashion.

It's bit of fun, but is useful to see which key words come up most often in a particular block of copy and a great visual check to see if the core messages and aims of your writing are coming through.

Here's one I did for a recent post on Social media opportunities for Businesses:

And the really nice thing about it is that it is free to use, since it is licenced under the Creative Commons initiative

Saturday, 19 July 2008

New BMW Advert - no test pilots

BMW have without doubt got a fantastic and valued brand that has its values deeply embedded, which makes for a great platform for creative advertising and marketing.

This interesting new advertising campaign draws on the implied faultless nature of their pre-owned cars, making a (nearly) seamless jump from a car manufacturer to human beauty, with all their brand values intact. A great example of advertising brand value rather than product.

I was going straight to my local dealer to kick some tyres and arrange a test drive (!!) before I realised that the ad would work just as well as part of a Government STD awareness campaign.

Replace the BMW inset panel with "Get yourself tested" - hey presto!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Are you missing out on a social network opportunity?

social sheep
The BBC report that Gartner have announced that many businesses are failing to embrace the "huge" opportunities of social networks.

The point of the article, however, is for once not about trying to market via social networks, but about how firms can understand and embrace how their staff engage via social networks to make efficiency savings and improve communications within their business.

But the opportunity goes further. Open-minded businesses can help be involved as staff build tighter communities in their organisations, places where they can share and innovate, in really constructive ways that are so fluid that staff will not even realise they are doing it.

So you get innovation.
And honesty.
And communication.
And community.
Which gives stronger loyalty and almost without doubt, numbers that hit the bottom line and therefore please the men in grey suits in finance, too..

Of course, this will not happen on its own, but an open-minded business can use social networks to truly engage with it's staff to ask questions and embrace collaboration, understand (and then potentially counter) areas of distrust or disenchantment and, in a broader sense, start to show the external world how they are listening to issues and feedback internally.

Its not just about listening, or even throwing sheep - careful use of tools like LinkedIn enable individuals and businesses to use the power of referral and networks of contacts, resulting in richer relationships and ultimately, better business with shorter lead times.

We all like to be heard and social networks enable ALL of us to share our innermost (or shallowest!) thoughts with our friends and peers.

Whether a business likes it or not, its staff, stakeholders and clients WILL be talking about it online, somewhere. So it is best to, at the very least, open an ear to what is going on and try to understand. If the business can engage, then there are potential riches that are otherwise almost certainly out of reach in this new, open World.

Picture credit Powi

Friday, 4 July 2008

Our government using social media to engage us?!

I am going to have to bite my lip very hard to avoid becoming partisan regarding the current (and past!) government, as this is most definately NOT a political post!

As I have posted before, I use Twitter frequently to update my peers and co-workers on what I'm up to, and to keep track of other people's news, views and movements - this is very insightful and I often find things out well before they are reported in the daily press, or even on major news feeds.

So I was delighted recently to discover that I could use Twitter to track events and developments at Number 10, even though I do only have a passing interest.. The point is, Twitter enables a rich stream of news and events in real time, but you dont have to read everything and dont need to respond or save the communication, either.

And, you might even get greeted by this in your inbox, too, which is nice:

The way Number 10 are using it appears to be a combination of manual updates (so they must have a social media manager employed!) and some automated routines that feed a "ticker" of short news clips through the twitter engine. The balance of collaboration over transmission is pretty good too, as I felt included rather than spoken at; many of the "tweets" (a message post to Twitter is called a tweet) offer a link to a webpage where you can interract and feedback on opinion or news.

Whatever your political persuasion, I dont think you can deny that it is a useful and interesting way of keeping up with what is going on at the core of our Government. (And I reckon, due to the limit of 140 characters for each tweet, there is a lower chance, though not impossible of course, of spin!)

Show us a better way!
I was also pointed to another interesting engagement attempt via Twitter - The Power of Information Workforce has launched a competition to find and develop better ways to publish the vast swathes of non-personal information that the government collects & creates along its way. Its an interesting social media project and some of the ideas already submitted show how relevant and how much desire there is for such an initiative.

I was slightly disappointed that no real effort had been made to provide any social bookmarking tools (such as Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, thereby rendering sharing and conversations about it more difficult, but I guess they have to start somewhere!)

I shall be keeping a close eye on it to see what wins and what else happens as spin-off social projects from this.

What do you think? Is this further careless spreading of our private data, or do you agree its an interesting and progressive project from the traditional and protective civil service?