X|Media|Lab: Juliette Powell

Juliette Powell.
Media entrepreneur Juliette Powell (New York) answers The Big Idea community questions about using s


Media entrepreneur Juliette Powell answers The Big Idea community questions about using social networking sites to promote events, access information and how to take part meaningfully with limited resources and experience.  She agrees that ‘social media indigestion’ is upon us and talks about how it can mature to the next level.

“I'm particularly excited to see people applying the power of connective technology to awaken their creativity and begin to communicate, peer-produce and distribute their own messages, ideas and creations to the masses, as well as sharing vital information in real time.”

Juliette Powell is the author of 33 Million People in the Room: How to Create, Influence and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking, (January 2009, Financial Times Press).

She is one of the international mentors at X|Media|Lab, Commercialising Ideas, in Auckland from May 22-24. The lab is designed to help local digital media companies get their ideas to market.

When using social networking sites to help promote the launch of something, like a play, or a film, how important is timing? Should you start to build the hype and getting  a following months before the event, or is it OK to start the hype with only a few days to go?

While a carefully planned social networking strategy is considered by many to be a key element in a successful campaign, when wondering whether to ‘just do it’ or wait until ‘everything is in place’, speed, and flexibility of execution trump slow decision-making and rigidity. Goethe‘s wisdom still holds true in the era of Obama girl: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now". See the charity: water example below.

Social networking is sometimes hailed as the ultimate in public participation in broadcasting, what potential do you see for its use as a tool for democratizing the advertising/promotion process and empowering a range of people in terms of access to information?

Co-creation systems, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding empower brands and their extended communities to invent the present and the future together through ideas. Products, services, campaigns and awareness issues are simply the side effects of people having conversations around ideas worth spreading. The charity: water campaign is a fantastic example of that. Founded by Scott Harrisson, the charity leverages the power of community and social technology to raise awareness and money.

On February 12, 2009 202 cities around the world held Twestivals, bringing together the Twitter community for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity: water. The community self-organized itself around the cause using the digital tools at their disposal and began to tweet the word about their shared cause. Sponsors provided matching funds and resources. By Feb 13, 24 hours after they begun, charity: water’s 1 day global Twestival raised 250 000 USD. All participants in the campaign are considered heroes, including the sponsors. After all, WOM (word of mouth) is a cultural accelerator.

Currently a lot of social networking seems immature; more like a high school popularity contest than a high quality one-to-one or one-to-many targeted means of enhancing or evolving traditional media - how do you see this maturing to the next level of communication?

Notice how brands are becoming more like people & people are becoming more like brands.  See the Disney example below.

Do you see 'social media indigestion' as the trend for 2009?

Certainly, we have seen a number of news stories about being overwhelmed by connective technology. This isn’t new, in fact according to Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing, this is just the beginning. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg observed at a conference last year that the amount of information people share on Facebook seems to double every year and he can back up his claim with data accumulated over the past several years. 2009 might actually be the year of the PBA, the personal brand assistant whose sole job it is to post content about You 2.0 on a 24/7 basis.

While social media remains a fragmented space, can organizations or brands take part meaningfully with limited resources (and knowledge / experience)?

Yes, a great example of inexpensive brand experimentation with ‘conversational marketing’: is how Disney, a pioneer in R&D, successfully rolled out an experimental partnership with Twitter micro-celebrity to promote the anniversary release of  “Pinocchio.” The three-week campaign was timed around the March 10 release of the Blu-ray DVD and included display advertising on the micro-celebrity’s site, savvyauntie.com, as well as tweeting by the company’s founder. Why would a brand like Disney take such a big risk with such a small partner, you might ask?  The goal was to get a real person, in this case Melanie Notkin aka @savvauntie and her followers to start taking about “Pinocchio.” To set the stage, @savvyauntie tailored her tweets around the movie’s themes and asked her followers questions to engage them. How exactly does one have a meaningful 3 week Pinocchio themed twestival? For example, she wrote, “Let’s have fun! Confess a lie right here. We won’t tell and maybe you’ll feel better. #Pinocchio. (part of the Disney sponsorship #DisneySA). The campaign was considered by both partners a success (based on pre-determined ROI metrics) and sets a new standard in big brand community engagement and learning through micro-partnerships.

What is exciting you most right now in the digital arena and what are some of the challenges of ‘commercialising ideas’ in the current economic climate?

I'm particularly excited to see people applying the power of connective technology to awaken their creativity and begin to communicate, peer-produce and distribute their own messages, ideas and creations to the masses, as well as sharing vital information in real time.

The ability to participate in government through digital media is exemplified by the Obama administration. The implications however carry far beyond the realm of politics as individuals and groups begin to test their new found ability to influence media, business and our local, national and global institutions.

More importantly, that access and ability isn't just for those of us born in rich countries. Many developing countries are forgoing the promise of one laptop per child and going straight to low cost internet enabled mobile phones (thanks to low cost hand set devices, as well as cheaper carrier fees and data plans). Because of low barriers to entry, digital technology will continue to help fire the entrepreneurial spirit, the very spirit needed to help lift us out of this global economic meltdown.

More people will be able to tap into the available talent created by massive layoffs and start new companies. Even though credit has dried up, crowd funding is on the rise using the power of the web. Tech enabled bartering systems are on the rise in poor communities to create new resources and new forms of wealth creation. Companies are co-creating new products and services along with their communities and sharing revenue. And this is just the beginning.

What is your “Big Idea” for 2009?

My big idea is to teach people within companies how to use digital media effectively and authentically instead of doing it for them. Watch my twitter feed (@juliettepowell) for links to strategy tips and 'how to' videos for brands and entrepreneurs.

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