A new way of looking at my career progression

Several years ago I wrote about my career progression through Microsoft products.

It occurred to me recently that I can also map my career progression through the functions I've performed and responsibilities I've had in each of my jobs (a list of which you can see on my LinkedIn profile, by the way):

Makes sense, doesn't it? Particularly these last six years as Social Media Manager at Jetstar in which strategy has played such a major role, along with a good dose of project/vendor management and a bit of internal consulting.

My Career Progression Through Microsoft Products

It occurred to me today that I can roughly track my career progression using the components of the extended Microsoft Office suite. That is, you can tell where I was based on which Microsoft software product I was using the most at that time.

 

Word & Access

When I first started my career, for example, the two components I used the most were Access to Word. This was when most of my work was technical in nature and I was the guy who built things - like Access databases - from the ground up. I then documented them and wrote manuals about them in Word.

Project

When I moved into more of a senior developer or project lead role my focus shifted from Access to Project. This is because I wasn't building things any more, I was tracking the progress of my team and the products we were building.

Excel

My next step up was into an analyst role and in this I used a lot of Excel. I used that for both analysis (technical, business, and financial) and reporting (productivity, web traffic stats, budgets, and so on).

Outlook

Later, after my MBA, I did more of the same but this time I was also a big user of Outlook. That was my step up from the start-up and nonprofit world into the corporate and enterprise world.

PowerPoint

Now what I use the most is PowerPoint. I still use all the other tools, of course - though not Access and not too much Project these days - but I've gone from being purely a professional to being a manager and an ideas person, hence the need for good presentations.

Come to think of it, I can also track my career progression just by talking about what I used Word for. That is, I went from using it to document and write manuals to writing proposals and reports to writing policies and strategies.

Neat, huh? :)

 

Working at Jetstar is Like Working at a Startup

I'm not sure if this applies to all Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) but working at Jetstar feels like you’re working at a startup. This, of course, is one of the reasons why I love working here.

In a guest post on Venture Beat Elli Sharef wrote about the ‘5 Things You Need to Know Before Working at a Startup’. Three of these apply directly to life at Jetstar:

Ownership

Working at Jetstar you really have to own what you do and, of course, believe strongly in what you're doing. So, for example, if you're the one who comes up with a great idea then you're the one who has to implement it. Sometimes you get to do this literally all on your own from start to finish.

And when you're given ownership on one part of the business – in my case, Jetstar's social media presence – it's all yours to do with whatever you want (given, of course, that what you do makes business sense and fits well with what others are doing; and, if it’s something drastically different, is approved by senior executives).

This level of ownership, control, and direct responsibility is both exciting and terrifying.

Mentoring and Guidance

Because in a startup you're often doing stuff that is new and innovative you don't really have people who can guide and mentor you in your role based on their years of experience in this field. Case in point: before Jetstar no other full-service carrier (in our case, Qantas) had launched a low-cost subsidiary that was as successful as Jetstar is now.

On the social media side of things, for example, I certainly don't know of any other large, customer-focused, seven-year-old Australian company that, while partnering with a large sixty-year-old Japanese company, is providing customer service to people in Japan in Japanese via Facebook and Twitter.

A lot of what we’re doing here is new and innovative. This is stuff that no one or very few people have done before and it’s incredibly exciting to be at this leading edge.

Pressure

This third point is important because it determines whether you'll be at Jetstar for six months or five years. Sharef puts it really well:

The pressure to achieve results, hit metrics, achieve growth, and get more traction can be overwhelming for many. We’ve seen lots of people quit startups because they realized the emotional pressures were simply too much for them. It’s awesome to know your work can help make or break the business, but with great opportunity comes great responsibility!

The good thing is that, while the pressure may be high, the rush I get from making a real difference to what Jetstar does on social media is incredibly rewarding. Certainly at this point in my career I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing and anywhere else I’d rather be working.

My 0.4 Cents on Click Frenzy

Today is the much-hyped-in-the-media Click Frenzy sale. Here are my 0.4 cents [1] on this ‘event’.

Cart Before Horse?

Cyber Monday, which Click Frenzy is based on, was a term coined after US retailers noticed a spike in online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving. That is, this behaviour (the increase in online sales) existed before the term describing it (Cyber Monday) was coined. That term ended up reinforcing this behaviour, yes, but I think it’s important to remember that the behaviour came first.

The folks behind Click Frenzy, on the other hand, are trying to create a behaviour. They are trying to lightning rod a lot of October and November retail sales into a single day because, as consumer behaviour research tells us, people respond positively to time-limited offers (regardless of whether those offers are genuine or not) as well as sales (regardless of whether those sales are good or not).

Creating behaviours – particularly online behaviours of this kind – is difficult.

The organizers of Click Frenzy do have a few things going for them, though:

For starters, they’re using Cyber Monday as a reference so the whole single-day-online-sale concept isn’t something they have to explain to consumers in too much detail.

They have a lot of brands on board so, at the very least, they’ve got everyone’s attention.

They’ve also built a bit of hype around the event – which is crucial if you want to change behaviour. A lot of that hype is offline, though, and that is both good (they’ll have reached a larger audience) and potentially bad (a lot of that larger audience might not be the online shopping type).

They have a single point of entry for these sales which should, in theory, make it easier to find the deals you’re looking for. (Unless, of course, that single point of entry becomes a bottleneck.)

They also have a bunch of things going against them:

While being secretive about actual sale details works well for building excitement and curiosity, the fact is that we don’t know what deals will be on offer and how good they will be. Online shoppers are smart enough to shop around.

The way I understand it, most online shoppers in Australia buy stuff from overseas retailers because:

  • equivalent items are much more expensive when bought from Australian stores (sometimes costing two or three times as much)
  • there’s more variety in overseas stores
  • the online shopping experience of many local retailers is poor (assuming an online store exists in the first place)
  • the in-store shopping experience (including customer service) of many local stores is also poor

So, for Click Frenzy to be truly successful it will have to give Australian shoppers all of these benefits. That is:

  • the prices will have to be good (and potentially better than Cyber Monday prices that customers can make the most of if, again, they buy from overseas)
  • the variety of goods on sale will have to be considerable (and items will need to be in stock)
  • the online experience will have to be exceptional

Do You Even Lift?

Do you even liftWill Click Frenzy deliver on all those fronts? I have my doubts.

Why? Because I don’t quite trust the Australian retail industry to get it right.

They’ve already demonstrated that they don’t understand ecommerce all that well (aside from a few possible exceptions). If they did, they might not have participated in Click Frenzy in the first place. (For more analysis on one aspect of this topic I recommend you read Michael Pascoe’s article in the Age called: ‘Myer, DJs’ online plans: tell ‘em they’re dreaming’).

I am also of the opinion that many Australian retailers simply aren’t all that good at marketing. They seem to be much more sales-oriented than marketing- or brand-oriented. That is, instead of deeply understanding and then tightly targeting their chosen customer groups, they tend to adopt a warehouse approach to selling stuff. That’s great if you’re selling in bulk (e.g. you’re Dan Murphy’s) but not so good otherwise.

My fear is that Click Frenzy is a bunch of retailers jumping on the ecommerce bandwagon without basing their decision on a proper, well-researched, well-thought-out, innovative (for them) approach to online selling. Because of this lack of understanding and lack of underlying strategy these retailers won’t have a suitable online offering during Click Frenzy and, as a result, they won’t see any benefit from participating in future Click Frenzies or, worse, ecommerce in general. I sincerely hope that’s not the case, but I have my doubts.

The other aspect of Click Frenzy that doesn’t bode well is that it seems, once again, these retailers’ strategies revolve around an increase in sales being the solution to their problems. Participating in Click Frenzy certainly won’t help them target their customers or build their brands. So while this might give them a short term boost in sales, it’s probably not a good long-term fix.

There is Hope

On the other hand, there is hope. If Click Frenzy does go well this might encourage retailers to finally hire the right people and lift their ecommerce game. We might finally get a good proportion of quality online stores with a decent ecommerce strategy behind them.

I’m not going to hold my breath, but I’m not all that jaded and pessimistic about the whole thing either. Here’s hoping.

Further Reading

Here are some other thoughts on Click Frenzy that are worth reading:

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[1] 0.4 cents is 80% off from my usual 2 cents.

What’s My Hoodie?

In ‘Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager’ Michael Lopp talks quite a bit about managing nerds. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular bit of wisdom that he also shared in his ‘Managing Nerds’ blog post:

What is your nerd’s hoodie? I write better when I’m wearing a hoodie. There’s something warm and cave-like about having my head surrounded — it gives me permission to ignore the world. Over time, those around me know that interrupting hoodie-writing is a capital offense. They know when I reach to pull the hoodie over my head that I’ve successfully discarded all distractions on the Planet Earth and am currently communing with the pure essence of whatever I’m working on.

It’s irrational and it’s delicious.

Your nerd has a hoodie. It’s a visual cue to stay away as they chase their Highs and your job is both identification and enforcement. I don’t know your nerds, so I don’t know what you’ll discover, but I am confident that these hoodie-like obsessions will often make no sense to you - even if you ask. Yes, there will always Mountain Dew nearby. Of course, we will never be without square pink Post-its.

Don’t sweat it. Support it.

It turns out my ‘hoodie’ is my pair of rather large (and thus easily seen) Shure SRH840 Reference Studio Headphones:

Ameel wearing his 'hoodie' at work

Those things cost quite a lot but they’re really worth it. Not only do they sound fantastic they provide a strong visual cue to all my open-plan-office colleagues that I’m concentrating and shouldn’t be interrupted unless it’s urgent or important.

And, apparently, when I wear them I look like the Nova FM logo character (not sure if that’s the old one, on the left, or the new one, on the right):

Nova FM logos old and new

Over the last couple of weeks, as I’ve been experimenting with my working style, I’ve also discovered that, if I pop these on first thing in the morning (well, after I’ve booted up my PC and have settled down with my mug of tea), my morning productivity increases greatly. Not only that, with these on in the late afternoons (right after I’ve AeroPressed my afternoon mug of coffee), I get a lot of work done towards the end of the day, too.

These productivity spikes happen for different reasons, though. In the mornings the headphones let me kick-off and focus on my priority projects for the day. (I track, schedule, and prioritise all my work via the fabulous Trello web app, by the way.) In the afternoons they help counter the productivity dip I was otherwise having because it turns out that 2:30-5:30 PM is the time that most colleagues from other parts of the office come to my part of the office to talk to the people sitting around me. With my headphone on, though, it becomes really easy to block out all the conversations going on nearby so I can focus on the work that needs to get done.

So, yaay for useful self-analysis and yaay for my awesome headphones. And, I suppose, boo for open plan offices…which I’ve never actually liked and which is why, aside from my headphones, I have the three computer screens arranged around me on my desk.

Further Reading

What People Want From Social Media

Thomson Dawson published an article on Branding Strategy Insider a couple of weeks ago called 'Social Media Marketing Is An Oxymoron'.

In it he argues:

There is no place for marketing in social media.

Think about being at a party having an enjoyable conversation with someone of like mind, then some annoying person interrupts your conversation to tell you how great they are and why you should engage with them. This is basically what most "social media marketing" really is.  People hate being interrupted.

While I agree that people hate being interrupted by companies who are trying to talk to them or sell them something, I don’t agree with his generalization because I think the situation is a little more complex than that.

You are the Product

I think people understand and accept that, when companies provide them with free online services (such as an account on a social networking site), those companies aren’t doing this out the goodness of their hearts. Even Governments don’t provide services for free (yaay, taxes!) so there’s no reason to believe that any company would.

Instead of paying money for those services what people give these companies in exchange is:

  • information about themselves and their relationships with others online (referred to as their ‘social graph’ – a term coined by Facebook),
  • information about their interests and where they spend time on online, and
  • their attention (so that third parties can market stuff to them via advertising).

The Silicon Valley way of putting this is:

If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

And people are more or less okay with that ‘product’ – that online version of themselves – being sold to companies. They know that, in turn, those companies will use this opportunity (i.e. the time they spend on various social media platforms) to sell stuff back to them. If this sounds familiar that’s because this is essentially the advertising-based free-to-air TV model (though with more sophisticated ad targeting).

So people expect to be marketed to on social media.

Not the Whole Story

But, that’s not the whole story because, sometimes, people don’t just expect to be marketed to, they want to be marketed to.

They want companies to sell them the stuff they want, when they want it, where they want it. In addition, they expect to talk to companies about their products and services – both before and after purchasing.

What People Want From Social Media

The way I see it, people seem to want five broad things from companies in the online and social media space:

1. Information

This includes things like product information, contact details, terms and conditions, sizing charts, and so on. People look for this information on websites and Wikipedia pages and they search or ask for it on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums. They also discover products on sites like Pinterest.

2. Help

This covers everything from help with product information (when you’ve just entered the market for that product) all the way to customer support (after you’ve bought the product). People look for help on websites or they ask for it on Facebook and Twitter. And, depending on what the company offers, people might also ask for help over the phone, via Skype, or using live web chat.

3. Deals

This includes things like exclusive or early sales/deals, as well as prizes or other kinds of loyalty rewards. People look for deals on websites, in mailing lists, or on company/brand Facebook Pages and Twitter streams. These people aren't the most brand loyal but they do drive a lot of sales.

4. Connection

This covers a whole bunch of engagement, participation, and ownership needs that include a continuing two-way dialog; input into what companies do and how they operate; and a general sharing of thoughts, ideas, and values. People look for this connection on company blogs, on Facebook and Google+ profiles, and, in smaller chunks, on Twitter. The people who engage with companies in this way are generally the most loyal and are often the company’s strongest advocates. Or, in the case of engagement via Kickstarter, they’re also the company’s founding members and/or financial investors.

5. Jobs

For a specific group of people who are in the job market, what they want from companies also includes job offers, engagement with HR teams, and information about the company and its culture. People look for this information and engagement on websites, via Google searches, on blogs and forums, on LinkedIn, and, increasingly, on other social media platforms (i.e. not just on LinkedIn).

It All Comes Down to Targeting

What it comes down to, then, is the idea of audience targeting. Companies need to have different approaches for engaging with different audience groups. And, if an audience group is receptive to being marketed at, then companies should jump right in.

For example, if was on a message board talking to people about a specific kind of computer that I wanted to buy in the next six months, I’d be more than happy to hear from a company representative about a product they sell that’s in this category. On the other hand, I would be upset if I was marketed to when I wasn’t looking for that kind of communication or engagement.

So, if companies get that targeting aspect right, then ‘social media marketing’ is a completely valid concept.

We’re Still Not There Yet

Sadly, a lot of companies are terrible at this kind of communication. They continue to treat ‘social media’ as just another advertising channel though which they talk at people.

Which, by the way, reminds me of this fantastic cartoon from Hugh MacLeod:

ifyoutalkedtopeople

I guess it’s this kind of misinformed approach to marketing via social media that prompted Dawson to write his article in the first place. And, in that, I agree with him completely. A lot of companies still don’t get it right and that really needs to change if they want to make the best use of the social media opportunity that they are currently wasting.

How these companies need to change is, of course, a whole other massive topic. Fortunately, it’s a topic that will keep people like me – people who understand both marketing and social media – employable for at least the next few years :)

New Job: Social Media Manager at Jetstar

Yesterday was my first day as Social Media Manager at Jetstar. Yes, that means I have a new job :)

For those of you who might not know, the Jetstar Group (usually just referred to as Jetstar) consists of four low-cost airlines:

Jetstar was launched in 2004 and, with its 79 aircraft and over 7,000 employees, currently flies to 56 destinations in 17 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

My job is a Group role (i.e. it’s a corporate function that works across all four airlines) and is based at the Jetstar corporate headquarters in Melbourne, Australia.

Why did I change jobs?

For a number of reasons:

  • I love the airlines/aviation industry and working for an airline is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
  • Jetstar is a great brand that is run by good people who provide a valuable service. It’s a brand I respect and is a brand whose values I share (i.e. providing good value for money, making smart use of technology, and making travel to popular destinations accessible to lots of people).
  • I’m making a career path adjustment that sees me changing my focus from building and managing websites to helping companies and customers communicate better with each other using social media. And while this is a slight narrowing of focus (e.g. in my current role I won’t be looking after the Jetstar website) it is also an increase in overall responsibility (i.e. I get to work on more strategic corporate communications objectives).
  • My new role is more challenging because the scale and scope of customer engagement is greater (e.g. it’s across the entire Asia-Pacific region as opposed to just within the state of Victoria) and the aviation industry is more exciting, more innovative, and moves much faster than the water industry.
  • I have a greater opportunity for personal growth because I now get to employ my social media skills to their fullest. I had been wanting to increase my social media focus at Melbourne Water but, with all the other work I was doing there, this wasn’t something I was able to do.

I also get to work with one of my former managers who I really like and work really well with. And finally, as someone whose family is spread across multiple countries, the travel benefits of working for an airline are important to me personally.

What does the new job involve?

Broadly speaking, my overall objective is to improve the communication, engagement, and understanding between Jetstar and its customers. Specifically, I get to do this via social media. Though, practically speaking, this engagement will be integrated across multiple communication channels.

How exactly I go about doing all this is something I will share on this blog (and probably also on Twitter) over the coming weeks, months, and years so stay tuned.

Economist Ranks MBS MBA Regional #1 and Global #32

Economist + Which MBA logoThe Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked the Melbourne Business School full-time MBA at #1 in Asia and Australasia and #32 globally in its 2011 full-time MBA rankings.

MBS is already ranked #1 in Australia by AFR BOSS and #46 globally by Times Higher Education.

Drilling down to the detailed profile for MBS, you get some interesting results.

Missed Networking Opportunities

For example, the school ranks well for networking:

  • Potential to network: #5
  • Breadth of alumni network (i.e. ratio of registered alumni to current students): #2

But ranks poorly in the use and perception of its alumni network:

  • Alumni effectiveness (i.e. student assessment of alumni network): #89

I’m not sure why this might be the case. I can make a few guesses, though. For example, international students might find that, while there are tonnes of MBS alumni that they can network with in Asia and Australasia, there aren’t enough of them around the rest of the world. There might also be some missed opportunities in the students’ use of the alumni network. Or of recent alumni themselves not networking much with each other.

Career Services is Improving

MBS also ranks really well for its careers service:

  • Jobs found through the careers service (i.e. percentage of graduates finding jobs through careers service): #2

But students and alumni don’t seem to give it enough credit:

  • Student assessment of careers service (i.e. did the careers service meet expectations and needs?): #98

This suggests that, while the MBS Career Centre is doing a good job, it suffers from some perception problems. This might be because perception change among alumni who no longer need or use the careers service lags the reality of the careers service having improved in recent years. I do know that the MBS Career Centre in 2008-09 had a challenging time placing graduates from my full-time MBA batch because we were the first group to come out of the new September intake. This meant the Career Centre had to find jobs for twice as many students (many of whom were international) right at the beginning of the GFC. And, since the EUI’s ranking has memory – i.e. it’s a weighted average of results from 2011 (50%), 2010 (30%), and 2009 (20%) – this alumni perception would still have an impact on perception scores.

Overall

Overall, though, this is a good result and I’m glad that MBS continues to improve its quality, reputation, and ranking.

Notes from WebForward 2011 Conference

Last week I attended the WebForward Conference in Sydney (which itself is part of the larger CeBIT Australia Exhibition). It was a really good event during which I got to hear from and meet a lot of interesting people.

The conference had two streams: social media and mobile. I hopped in and out of both streams and here are my notes from the talks that I attended.

Latest trends and techniques in the on-line marketing space and a look into the future

WebForward 1

  • Speaker: Tony Keusgen, Head of Technology - Australia/New Zealand, Google
  • Why is there still a difference between ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ marketing in a corporation’s budget? Why is digital still considered to be “new” media?
  • There’s a huge correlation between offline marketing and online searches
    • For example, if you were to place your ad on a number of city buses you could tell, by analyzing Google search on the relevant phrase (assuming its unique enough), when those buses first hit the streets
  • Predictions for the future:
    • 80% of screen time will be digital
    • Mobile devices will enable two-thirds of purchases and pay for half of them
    • Consumers will have more power and 80% of future engagement will be opt-in and 2-way
    • Real-time will play a big role; already 30% of Australians consumers access the web via their mobile phones while in a physical store
  • Use evidence-based marketing; don’t assume you know what the market wants
  • Don’t be scared to experiment with new things and try new ways of doing things (it’s okay to fail, stop what you were doing, and move on to other ideas)
  • 12% of all Google search queries in December 2010 came from mobile devices
  • Location marketing is key: A third of all searches conducted on mobile devices are location based
  • In the US, a quarter of all searches conducted on mobile devices were voice based
  • Think about doing how-to videos on YouTube
    • 2.4 million search queries per month on YouTube for how-to content
    • 32% of videos watched on YouTube are of how-to content

Integrating a mobile strategy into your marketing plan to cover multiple channels

WebForward 2

  • Speaker: Antonio Addario, Manager - Direct Channels Strategy, Efficiency & Innovation, ING Direct
  • The online magazine Mobile Marketer is a great resource
  • Some of the steps you need to take to figure out your mobile strategy are:
    • Do lots of research (e.g. find out which apps people are willing to pay for in various app stores)
    • Know your customer really well (both the people and the technology they use)
    • Define your success
    • Identify the key capabilities of all your online and mobile offerings; then select the ones you want to offer on your mobile platform
    • Evaluate your development options (i.e. reuse/buy/build)
    • Do plenty of promotion for your new offering
    • Get your mobile offering to upsell for you (e.g. tell people to your other services from within the app)
    • Measure success (KPIs, adoption, etc.)
    • Listen to your customers and make the improvements they want

Utilising mobile marketing to promote your product or service

WebForward 3

  • Speaker: Julian Peterson, Marketing & Online Director, Time Out Sydney
  • Time Out is 40 years old in London but 3 years old in Sydney and 6 months old in Melbourne
  • A branded app can work well if your brands are similar and have the same core target audience (Time Out’s app is cobranded with Smirnoff)
  • Time Out Australia used the app platform already built by London (which, as it happens, was work done by an Australian firm) so that made life easier for them
  • The app does curated content and is really popular with their targeted audience

Recognising the benefits of mobile marketing to drive innovation and growth

WebForward 5

  • Speaker: Nandor Locher, Manager e-commerce, Virgin Australia
  • A lot of the time, when you’re doing mobile marketing, you’re not really being ‘innovative’ in the true sense of the word
  • It’s critical to focus your efforts on the unique advantages offered by mobile technology
  • Mobile offerings are becoming part of a company’s larger product offering and are not just another marketing channel (e.g. like being able to check-in to your flight from the web, being able to do travel stuff on your mobile is now part of the broader travel services product offered by airlines)
  • Mobile is becoming a ‘hygiene factor’ in the travel industry; i.e. if it’s not there, people will go to your competitor
  • The ROI from the mobile offering is low so, for Virgin, their offering is largely a medium- to long-term brand and product augmentation investment
  • It’s important to have a brand presence in the various app stores
  • Integrating mobile with social media is important; particularly since social media is used so heavily in the travel industry
  • Thanks to mobile devices, downtime has become the new uptime (e.g. Virgin increased sales by 150% by moving their happy hour sales to a downtime period for the target market)
  • Depending on your offering, the usage and usefulness of mobile websites is sometimes greater than that of native phone apps (which many people download and then never use)

Understanding how to drive your brand via mobile

WebForward 4

  • Speaker: Stephanie Carrick, Senior Producer, Triple J Unearthed
  • Triple J Unearthed is one of the largest online communities in Australia (250k registered users)
  • They had to had a mobile presence (18-35 is their target market, after all)
  • Their app focuses on users listening to music (i.e. they focus on their core value proposition)
  • All their music content is available for downloading (for free)
  • The app is a huge success, with over 420k downloads in 18 months
  • Because of the app, they’ve seen a 50% sustained rise in traffic to their website (i.e. they’ve tapped a whole new audience that was inaccessible via radio)
  • It’s crucial to have app maintenance budget because you will need to update it regularly from now on

Using Augmented Reality Technology to promote your business

WebForward 6

  • Speaker: Glenn Cooper, Executive Chairman, Coopers' Brewery
  • Brand and brand history plays a huge role in the decisions companies make (particularly in family owned businesses like Cooper’s)
  • Doing a mobile app – that too, an augmented reality app – was a huge change for the business
  • This worked well for them because they used it to promote their low carb beer which itself was a huge change for the business (as they are known for their dark beers)
  • The app helped their marketing promotion be completely under their control (i.e. not under the control of the physical store retailers)

Joining the social media conversation about your company

WebForward 7

  • Speaker: Kristen Boschma, Head of Online Communications and Social Media, Telstra
  • There are different types of social media programs (i.e. they have different objectives); for example:
    • Listening
    • Customer Care
    • Thought Leadership
    • Marketing & Sales
  • The most important part of a listening program is to actually listen (and not jump in every time you’re mentioned or talked about)
  • A key phrase to remember in social media engagements is “What’s the gift?” (looked at from another angle, that’s the answer to a customer who wants to know “What’s in it for me?”)
  • Social media is an ecosystem: you must treat it with respect (i.e. don’t pollute it)
  • In order to get stuff done, you need to have a burning platform
  • Social media has worked really well for Telstra: 31% of all their online conversations now happen on Twitter
  • All employees at Telstra have to take and pass their online social media course (yes, all 40k existing employees had to do this)
  • Sentiment tracking is good, but make sure you provision for human coding in your budget because algorithms don’t understand sarcasm (of which there’s a lot online)

Developing social marketing strategies to transform your organisation

WebForward 8

  • Speaker: Paul Borrud, Head of Australia & New Zealand, Facebook
  • 3 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook per month (globally)
  • Australians spend an average of 7.5hrs on Facebook per month
  • Facebook in Australia
    • 10 million active users (i.e. use the site once in 30 days)
      • 68% return daily, 86% return weekly
    • 53% of users are female
    • The age spread is about even (approximately 17-25% for each of the five major age brackets)
  • Facebook lets people connect across borders really easily
  • Facebook is about reorganizing the web around people
    • In the 80s, the web was all about browsing
    • In the 90s, it was all about search
    • Now, it’s all about people
  • Even gaming is reorganizing around people
  • 43% of all news sharing now occurs in social media
  • Businesses are reorganizing around people as well; this includes new product development, customer service, and marketing
  • There are three types of marketing:
    • Paid (e.g. newspaper ads)
    • Owned (e.g. websites)
    • Earned (e.g. word of mouth)
  • Earned is the hardest to get, but is also the most powerful
  • Facebook lets you do Earned marketing at scale
  • ‘Fans’ are the new popular metric to quote (like ‘Hits’ was popular in the 80s and 90s)
  • ‘Social’ is not the salt in the fries, it needs to be baked into the product

Panel Discussion: Maximising the opportunities given by social media strategies

  • Speaker: Joe Millward, Innovation Manager - Social Media, Gloria Jeans International; Kristen Boschma, Head of Online Communications and Social Media, Telstra; Paul Borrud, Head of Australia & New Zealand, Facebook
  • Ask yourself: What is it that the social media platform can do for you that other platforms can’t?
  • Telstra has three rules for new social media ventures:
    • You need a six month content plan
    • You need someone to run the conversation (interacting at least twice daily)
    • You have to have a back-end system to deal with questions, complaints, etc.
  • Remember there are two kinds of social media interactions:
    • Individual (e.g. my bill is wrong)
    • Institutional (e.g. your billing system is wrong)
  • These need to be handled differently (e.g. you need to be prepared to have individual interactions after hours as well as during work hours)

Introducing location-based mobile applications into your marketing strategy

WebForward 9

  • Speaker: Gary Daly, National IT Manager, Surf Life Saving Australia
  • Surf Life Saving needed to get the beach safely message across to high risk beachgoers (specifically, males aged 16-35)
  • Their app has two messages:
    • Primary: be safe
    • Secondary: get involved/donate (they are a non-profit that is run by volunteers and relies on donations to function)
  • The app uses the phone’s GPS location to deliver targeted messages
  • They use web services in the back-end to collect all the information that gets presented (e.g. they get weather data from the Bureau of Meteorology and beach data from their internal Surfcom system)
  • Build into your app the ability to collect feedback – this will be vital to future app development
  • A good mobile site is more cost effective than creating an app because the latter needs to be constantly updated

Panel Discussion: Keeping up with latest techniques and trends to gain competitive advantage

  • Speaker: Gary Daly, National IT Manager, Surf Life Saving Australia; Tony Keusgen, Head of Technology, Google AU/NZ; Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Earth Hour
  • Google’s big bet is mobile (hence Android and Wallet and all their other mobile related services)
  • Three key elements for location based services:
    • Local
    • Social
    • Mobile
  • Evidence based marketing is very important
  • It’s important to go where you users are (e.g. websites, devices, platforms, etc.)
    • This includes following their usage-time patterns; e.g. mobile web usage drops at 9am, spikes during lunch, then drops again till 5pm

Concluding Thoughts

The conference was well organized, well executed, and quite valuable in terms of what I got form it (both information and contacts). I look forward to attending it again next year.

NOTE: All speaker photos were taken from the WebForward website.

Things Looking Up for MBAs in Australia

I’ve been really busy at work these last few months which is why I haven’t blogged here much. Unfortunately, it’ll probably stay that way till early next year.

What’s prompted me to write today, however, is Penny McLeod who wrote in The Australian an article called ‘A Degree You Can Bank On: MBA’ – that says:

Australian companies are knocking down the doors of leading business schools to secure the best master of business administration graduates.

The article goes on to explain how demand for MBAs has increased in Australia this year. Further, this demand isn’t coming just from the financial sector but from other sectors as well (including, for example, utilities and not-for-profit organizations).

That’s great news because, in my opinion, the MBA is undervalued in Australia and I’m glad to see that perception change.

Web Fun at Melbourne Water: iPhone App, Maps & Social Media

I joined Melbourne Water as their Websites Manager just under a year ago and, since then, I’ve done a lot of fun and exciting web-related work there.

We recently hit a few important milestones so I thought I’d take this opportunity to do a quick roundup of what I’ve been up to.

Web & New Media Strategy


Melbourne's Water Supply NetworkAll the exciting work I’m doing has its foundations in the Web & New Media Strategy that was kicked off in early 2009 and involved a few months of research, analysis, and decision-making. The actual “strategy” ended up being a three-phase plan for building and enhancing the organization’s online presence over the next 2-3 years.

The first phase (basically, quick wins) took less than six months to do and involved plugging the holes in our existing online presence. This included numerous web tweaks, getting a better understanding of what worked or didn’t work on our site (via Google Analytics), and, generally, making better use of the website (e.g. more cross promotion on high traffic areas). We also bought a Google Mini search engine to remove one of site’s biggest pain points which was a crappy search engine.

The second phase (6-12 months) is finishing up now. This addressed a whole bunch of other web tweaks (like content rewrites and information architecture adjustments) and launched projects in five major areas:

  • A complete site overhaul (redoing the site’s content, design, and information architecture and getting a new web content management system)

  • More multimedia (specifically illustrations, photos, and videos)

  • More and better online maps (the more useful and usable the better)

  • More information provision via mobile phones (through SMS, mobile applications, and mobile web sites)

  • Getting into social media (for information provision and stakeholder engagement)


The third phase (1-3 years) involves more complex projects that can’t be started till we have everything else in place (like a new organizational GIS and a web content management system). Phase three work includes the automation of customer-facing business activities, which means things like building online forms and applications, providing custom information via SMS, and so on.

What’s Exciting Now?


Melbourne Water's iPhone applicationRight now, though, we’re nearing the end of the second phase and we’ve made great progress in all five of the areas mentioned above:

  • We’ve kicked off a project to get a new web content management system and have started the website redesign and reorganization process.

  • We’ve started to place photos on Flickr (including ‘Photos from the Field’ which are from Melbourne Water employees) and videos on YouTube (almost all of which were produced in-house).

  • We’ve got some really basic maps on our site but have kicked off a project that will move all our old and clunky maps to a better platform over the next year or so. Meanwhile, we’ve developed an interactive map that explains in simple terms how Melbourne’s complicated water supply network works.

  • We’ve launched an iPhone app (link to iTunes store) and will be launching a new mobile version of our website in the next few weeks.

  • We’re quite active on Twitter and will get further into social media when appropriate.


All in all, we’re tracking quite well and the work we’re doing is lots of fun and really quite exciting.

Culture of Innovation & Effective Communication


What I love most of all, though, is how much on-board everyone at Melbourne Water is with these enhancements. This support and appreciation of innovation and effective communication starts right at the top, too. For example, it was our Board who originally suggested that we develop a simplified water supply network map for the website. They wanted a simple way of explaining a complex system and realized that the web would be a great place to do just that.

In my opinion, the foundation for this is laid in Melbourne Water’s Strategic Framework document which explicitly lists the support of “innovation, achievement, and good ideas” and the need to “understand, manage, and meet or exceed customer expectations” as success indicators for the organization. At Melbourne Water these aren’t just phrases on a company brochure but actual, practical goals that all of us aspire to every day. In fact, to give you an example of how this is implemented practically: Every project that’s proposed at Melbourne Water has to explain and justify which of these strategic goals it’s addressing before it’s allowed to start.

So the work that I’m doing there both matches the direction the world is moving in (i.e. information provision and customer engagement is moving online) and is brilliantly supported by the organization itself. That’s yet another reason why I love working there.

Specht on Social Media in Recruitment

Michael Specht just completed a blog post series on ‘Social Media as Part of Background Checking’ during the recruitment process:

I personally think that social media checks – or, at the very least, Google searches – are an essential part of recruitment. And I think that goes both ways:

  • recruiters and companies learn all they can about candidates
  • candidates learn all they can about recruiters and the companies they’re applying to

This is important because:

While the last point is certainly vital for people working in Internet-related industries, it is also becoming increasingly relevant for people working in other industries (as more of their lives move online).

Marketing 101: Overview of the Marketing Process

I took a number of marketing courses in my MBA at Melbourne Business School (MBS) and it was during my Consumer Behaviour course with Brian Gibbs that we got the best, single-page overview of the marketing process.

Framework for Marketing Management

Gibbs called this the ‘Framework for Marketing Management’ and it’s an excellent summary of how marketing is done:

Framework for Marketing Management

[Note: The diagram above is one that I made based on my notes from the course.]

It works like this:

  • The marketing concept says you begin by looking at your customers, company, and competition – these are the three Cs. Let’s say your company makes pens:
    • Ask yourself what it is that your customers need. How can you satisfy that need? In real life a lot of research would go into answering questions like these. Then consider what your customers do to satisfy those needs. What factors contribute to their decision making process? Again, more research would be done.
    • Also look at your company. Can you make the pens your customers want? Do those types of pens fit with your company’s corporate objectives? For example, if you’re Montblanc, you won’t be making cheap plastic pens anytime soon even if some your customers say that’s what they want in a writing instrument.
    • Don’t forget to analyze your competition as well. How will your competitors respond to your product (say, when you introduce a new version)? Also ask yourself who else satisfies the needs of your customers. For example, should you be looking at companies that make markers and pencils as competition?
  • Once you’ve done that, you segment your customers according to primary bases, such as their identified needs. For example, Group A wants cheap plastic ballpoint pens, Group B wants fancy liquid ink pens, and so on. You also segment by secondary bases, which are often things like demographics. You keep slicing and dicing using a combination of bases till you get useful segments; i.e. those you can target properly. For example, you could further segment Group B by age bracket and annual income.
  • Next, you decide which specific segments you’re going to target (and why). For example, Montblanc may be targeting only, say, richer and older people from Group B. They know they can communicate well with these people, they can defend this segment from the competition, and ultimately that’s the area of the market they want their company to operate in.
  • That sets you up with the positioning of your product. Getting your positioning right is incredibly important because it’s the key to your entire plan. So, for example, Montblanc may position themselves in the luxury space as a company that sells excellent writing instruments that have the highest level of craftsmanship. In effect, their pens are high-end gifts, much like hand-crafted jewellery. They would then position themselves appropriately in the luxury gift jewellery markets, but not in the broader writing instruments market.
  • Once you’ve got your positioning done, you figure out how you’re going to to create, capture, communicate, and deliver value to your customer. This value is created by the existence of your product, captured by its price, communicated through your promotion, and delivered by where you place (or how you distribute) your product – these are the four Ps.
  • Finally, as the market grows and develops, you will need to tweak these four Ps to maintain your positioning. Then, at regular intervals, you will need to re-do your three Cs because the market will change and you will need to change with it. Repeat ad infinitum…well, at least as long as your company continues to exist.

It All Comes Down to Positioning

As you may have gathered, a good way of remembering the entire marketing process is to think of the just the three Cs and four Ps. However, if you want to distil it further, you can bring it all down to positioning.

Positioning is a summary of the first part (analysis & strategy: the three Cs) and a guide for the second part (planning & implementation: the four Ps).

From the consumer behaviour point of view, it is also the psychological epicentre of the marketing process. That’s because positioning – with the help of the four Ps – is what translates the ‘actual product’ into the ‘perceived product’ within the consumer’s mind (they are often not the same).

So while a Montblanc pen is in essence just a writing instrument, in the mind of the consumer, it is much more than just that. And it is the pen’s positioning that will determine what qualities above its ability to put ink on paper set it apart from its competitors.

Thanks for Sharing, But What Was the Point?

This one-page overview of the marketing process is useful in many ways:

  • It provides a great sanity check for what you’re doing in your job. For example, the Web & New Media Strategy that Melbourne Water developed over the last year followed pretty much this process. That strategy now forms the basis of my day-to-day work. So, if we hadn’t done the three Cs right, for example, I would have had a hard time getting the four Ps done properly.
  • It’s a great way to analyze the marketing, branding, and product positioning that’s going on around you all the time.
  • It brings good overall project management and business strategy rigour to whatever it is that you’re doing.

Oh, and if you’re a job seeker, it’s particularly useful because it provides a good framework for when you get asked questions about the company’s products or services.

Infographic Resumes

Ever wanted your resume to stand out – and I mean really stand out – from the others? How about making it an infographic?

resume-infographic

[Source: ‘Resume / Infographics’ by Michael Anderson]

For more, read ‘16 Infographic Resumes, A Visual Trend’ by Randy Krum on the Cool Infographics blog.

I am very tempted to convert my own resume into this format. I wonder how long it’ll take and what software I can use to do it.

Unboxing an iOffer

Tech enthusiasts will know what the term 'unboxing' means but, for the rest of you it's:
The Internet trend of showing photos or video from the unpacking of a retail box of some desirable product, such as the latest laptop or portable music player. [Source: Urban Dictionary]

The post 'An Unboxing You Won't See on Gizmodo or Engadget' by Glyph Lefkowitz is the first time I've seen it done for a job offer...but I can totally see why you'd want to. It is, after all, a job offer from Apple.

Read Lefkowitz's post to see what I mean :)

New Brands in Melbourne

If you live in Melbourne then you probably know that the City of Melbourne went through a major rebranding project earlier this year:

City of Melbourne Brand Refresh

[Source: Brand New]

Since I didn't blog about it then, here's a quick catch-up:

Melburninans will also be aware that, in June, both Connex and Yarra Trams lost their contracts to run Melbourne's trains and trams (respectively). The new operators – Metro Trains for our trains and Keolis Downer EDI (KDR) for our trams – will take over in December.

Metro Trains launched their new branding scheme for Melbourne's trains earlier this year as well:



[Source: Brand New]

You can read more about that here:

KDR, meanwhile, plan to keep the Yarra Trams brand but will refresh it over the next few years.

Exciting times for brands in Melbourne, huh?

AFR BOSS Ranks MBS MBA at Number 1

The AFR’s BOSS magazine recently published the results of its biennial rankings of MBA schools in Australia:

I haven’t bought the magazine and read the detailed results myself yet but Manns’ article lists the top five schools as follows:

  1. Melbourne Business School (University of Melbourne)

  2. Monash University Graduate School of Business (Monash University)

  3. Macquarie Graduate School of Management (Macquarie University)

  4. Australian Graduate School of Management (University of New South Wales)

  5. University of Western Australia


The rest of the article was too painful to read online so I only skimmed through it and, therefore, have nothing further to say. Clearly they want us to go buy a copy of their magazine.

By the way, 22 business schools and 1,732 b-school alumni took part in the survey that these rankings are based on.

IT Restrictions at Work

A couple of weeks ago Scott Arbeitman wrote about the technology gap between the street and the enterprise. Carl Joseph replied to that with one of the most painful technology-related quotes I’ve heard (painful because of how true it is):
“Every day you get to use new technology and are exposed to new, exciting things…then you go to work.”

I’m not sure who actually said that, but if you work for a large corporation, then you’ll know what this feels like.

How do I Deal with Such Restrictions?


At my workplace, in order to keep up with the rest of the Internet world, I not only bring my own personal laptop to work I also bring with me my own personal wireless broadband Internet connection. And, despite the fact that my laptop is ancient and the broadband connection is painfully slow (relative to my workplace’s connection), I still get a better Internet experience on it than I do on my work computer.

Why? Because even though my laptop has half a gigabyte of RAM, a slow 30GB hard drive, no built-in wireless adapter (yes, it’s that old), and Windows XP, I get to run on it the latest versions of Flash, AIR, Silverlight, IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Seesmic Desktop (along with numerous other applications) and I get to access whatever I want to on the Internet.

On my work computer, meanwhile, I am stuck with no AIR or Silverlight, IE6 as my only browser (I do have a version of Firefox on it but that doesn’t run Flash so it might as well not exist), and restrictions on which websites I can access. What makes this harder to live with is that my computer’s hardware is pretty good (it’s a docked laptop with a dual monitor setup) and my Internet connection speed is excellent.

It’s Not All Bad


I have to admit, though, that I am being somewhat unfair to my workplace. Aside from making us run IE6 and blocking parts of the web (including sites like Slideshare because it’s “personal storage”), they do let us access webmail, all the social networking sites (indeed, according to our IT department, Facebook is one of the five most popular sites at work), and most online media sites (like Flickr and YouTube). Compared to other large organizations – particularly government departments – in Australia, that’s pretty awesome.

In fact, they’ve gone a step further and have provided us (the Web Team) with a special media desktop (for converting and editing video) and a special Internet laptop (with all the latest software and applications installed on it). Bits of the Internet are still blocked on these PCs because you’re still going through their proxies, but that’s not such big a deal.

So What’s an Employee to Do?


One way for tech-savvy employees to get around these restrictions is to do what I’m doing: circumvent the IT department entirely by creating a parallel setup for yourself. With recent technology improvements like cheap netbooks, powerful smart phones, and readily available mobile broadband, this is easy and relatively inexpensive to do. I suspect a lot of Gen-Y will take this route.

The other option – the much harder one – is to get your IT department to get rid of these restrictions and, dare I say, modernize itself. Unfortunately, that’s not easy to do. Slate’s Farhad Manjoo makes a good case for it, though, in his recent article, ‘Unchain the Office Computers!’:
…workplace IT wardens are rarely amenable to rational argument. That's because, in theory, their mission seems reasonable. Computers…can be dangerous things—they can breed viruses and other malware, they can consume enormous resources meant for other tasks, and they're portals to great expanses of procrastination. So why not lock down workplace computers?

Here's why: The restrictions infantilize workers—they foster resentment, reduce morale, lock people into inefficient routines, and, worst of all, they kill our incentives to work productively. In the information age, most companies' success depends entirely on the creativity and drive of their workers. IT restrictions are corrosive to that creativity—they keep everyone under the thumb of people who have no idea which tools we need to do our jobs but who are charged with deciding anyway.

The Role of the IT Department


One of the most important parts of Manjoo’s argument, however, is this:
What's worse, because they aren't tasked with understanding how people in different parts of a company do their jobs, IT managers often can't appreciate how profoundly certain tools can improve how we work.

This is often the root cause of the problem because most IT departments are divided into roughly three parts:

  • IT Operations: the people who keep the systems running

  • The Project Management Office (PMO): the people who oversee updates, upgrades, and all the organization’s IT projects

  • IT Planning: the people who plan for the future


What is often missing is the fourth part:

  • In-house IT Consulting: the people who liaise directly with different parts of the business and use the latest technologies to improve the way those people work


Without that fourth part, IT departments have a hard time keeping up with what people in the organization believe are the most effective and efficient ways of doing their work. They also don’t keep up with the latest technological solutions for various business problems.

Modernizing the IT Department


So, if employees want to take the route of modernizing the way the IT department looks at new tools and technologies, they need to start by modernizing the IT department itself. And, to do that, they have to look at IT as two different groups:

  • IT as a service delivery department: the people who provide us with our computers and networks

  • IT as a partner in business: the people who proactively help us do our job better


And if they’re lucky enough to get a CIO who thinks that way as well, things should start to change.