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Just had a quick morning meeting with James Moffat, Managing Director of Organic Development, a pretty clutch up-and-coming UK-based digital shop based in Exeter. (I am starting to realize that Exeter may very well be the UK’s version of Greenville, SC – albeit with cooler architecture: Not the obvious choice for big firms and agencies preferring, say, London, but a remarkable concentration of world class talent.) These guys already have tremendous experience and talent, but I sense BIG things brewing for them in the next few months. That’s all I can say about that. 😉

If you have a few minutes, go check out the pretty nifty microsite Organic built for Like Minds. (Here’s the main page.) Beautifully done. Clean, fast, simple and effective. Where the official Like Minds site is also pretty sweet, Organic’s companion microsite does a great job of introducing the keynote speakers and what they’re about.

Since we’re talking about Like Minds companion sites, also check out this custom Twitterface gem built by Fresh ID. I had no idea that video could be embedded into Twitterface. Brilliant! (By the way, that isn’t me in the video… even though I am wearing the exact same shirt and sweater today. Uncanny.)

While we’re on the topic of video, you will be able to stream live video from the event through the LikeMinds Twitterface page. Take advantage of this feature if you couldn’t get a seat to the physical event. (I can’t believe the conference isn’t charging for this yet.)

On a side note, if you aren’t using Twitterface yet – especially if you manage a brand or community, add a little tour of the tool to your to-do list for this week. Though it can be a nice alternative to other browser-based tools for organizing feeds and keeping an eye on keywords and discussions, it really shines as a branded community hub that centers on conversations and sharing content. Genius little platform for brand-centric companies, event management firms, etc. (And if you’re a digital agency looking for a simple way to get your clients involved in Social Media without a lot of heavy lifting, this isn’t a bad place to start.) To find out more about Twitterface, click here.

A quick note: Fresh ID (the company behind Twitterface) is another digital & social web firm to watch in the coming year. The more I collaborate with them on projects, the more impressed I am with their talent, insight, work ethic and ability to execute on just about every idea I throw at them. Here’s what they do. Here’s who they are.

You can also follow the Like Minds conference via its official site: www.wearelikeminds.com , where you will find everything from the schedule and causes supported by the conference to the list of attendees and the clever “participate” page.

And of course, you can follow the conference on Twitter by setting up a search for #LikeMinds. (Not that you need to if you use the twitterface page.)

I couldn’t close this post without also giving a third digital firm a big nod of approval: UK-based Aaron + Gould. (These are the guys behind Like Minds, by the way.) Don’t let their understated website fool you: They are young, smart, full of insight, and are already working their way to the top of the Social Media management and strategy A-list in the UK. If your company needs help integrating Social Media into their organization or campaigns, these are the guys to partner with. Let them guide you into doing it right. (Agencies in the UK, these guys can help you deliver solid services to your clients and they can teach you everything you need to know.) Check out their friendly faces.

Gotta run. Cheers,

Olivier

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Will the world’s best Social Media and P2P case studies of 2009 please stand up? The time to claim your place in the pantheon of business case studies has come.

I hate to call them Social Media case studies, because – well, they’re more than just Social Media. They’re word-of-mouth (WOM) case studies too. They’re Marketing case studies. They’re community case studies. (Dare I call them business case studies?) Qualifying anything as being solely “Social Media” seems so limiting, doesn’t it? At the core though, they’re all P2P case studies, really.

(No, not P2P as in Peer-to-peer. Rather, P2P as in People-to-People.)

The idea behind P2P is simple: Fostering connections (human connections) with your customers. Whether you used social media to rebuild your customer support department, community management to significantly improve customer loyalty, a WOM program to increase your net transacting customers or a series of community feedback vehicles to generate conversations and participation in your brand, program or cause, that’s P2P.

But feel free to call them Social Media case studies. We don’t mind. Whatever makes the most sense to you, to your boss, to your employees, to your customers. We know better than to get hung up on words, especially this early in the social media game.

What’s important here is is that whether you used Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, Ning, flickr, youtube, neighborhood canvassing, special events, phone calls, face-to-face interactions, sky-writing or any combination thereof to create human to human connections around a program, campaign, cause or brand in the last year – and it worked, we want to hear about it.

If you got people to talk to people, if you earned attention instead of paying for it, if you increased sales or marketshare or share of voice using Social Media or P2P tools, we want to hear about it.

PR, customer support, community management, online reputation management, internal collaboration, co-creation: if any or all of these terms drove your projects in 2009 and you have one or more case studies to back up all that work, we want to read it.

Why? Because we are looking for the best case studies in the world. Plain and simple. And you only have a couple of weeks to get them to us if you want to make the list – and be invited to attend a summit designed specifically to bring the best social media professionals on the planet together in one place for a couple of days and talk shop.

And by that, I mean seriously talk shop. Like you never have before.

Q: What is the LikeMinds Summit?

First things first – Likeminds 2010 is divided into two distinct events. A conference, and a Summit.

> Friday February 26 is the LikeMinds Conference – Open to all, (first come, first served, so get your tickets fast) interactive format with presenters, panels, Q&A, etc. The conference will be held in Exeter (Devon, UK) just like last time.Sa

> Saturday February 27 is the LikeMinds Summit at the spectacular (and Summit-friendly) Bovey Castle (just a short drive from Exeter). Unlike the conference, the Summit will be an invitation-only event. I repeat: Unlike the conference, the LikeMinds Summit will not be open to the general public. You must be invited to attend.

How do you get invited? I’ll get to that in a second. Let me tell you what the Summit is first:

1. An Open Dialogue and RoundTable about Social Media Best Practices

On Saturday February 27th, LikeMinds will welcome key CEOs, Directors, Trustees and global thought leaders to the first Like Minds Summit, where in the luxurious settings of Bovey Castle in the middle of Dartmoor National Park, we will be providing a roundtable platform for the worldʼs leading Social Media practitioners to enjoy an open dialogue about the future of social business innovation.

2. Strategic and Operational Training for Social Media Thought Leaders

In addition, the Summit will also include advanced executive Social Media program development training (strategy, integration, management and measurement) as well moderated collaborative sessions in which attending delegates will discuss successes, challenges, and lessons learned from their own experiences in developing and managing their programs.

3. The 2010 Global ‘Best In Class’ Report

Following the event, case studies selected for the summit will be outlined in a “Best in class” report, complete with lessons-learned, best practices, and a wealth of insights aimed at helping companies draw the best possible methodologies from the year’s most successful P2P and Social Media programs. For every company present at the LikeMinds Summit, the report will present an opportunity to have their hard work acknowledged globally. For anyone not invited to attend this time around, the report will present a unique reference guide from which to draw invaluable lessons for their own programs.

The LikeMinds Summit will convene every year in February to discuss, share and celebrate the previous year’s best P2P programs from around the world.

Q: Why a Summit? Isn’t the Friday LikeMinds Conference enough?

Define ‘enough.’ When is ‘enough’ ever enough? 😉

Two of the most frequent questions from LikeMinds 2009 attendees were “where can we go to find the best case studies,” and “where do we go to find social media best practices?” (This actually came up during the panel Q&A after my presentation on R.O.I., and again a number of times at the little social event held immediately after the close of the conference.) From the onset, the notion that no one seemed to be addressing these two questions properly bothered me. As far as I could tell, as much as case studies turned up at just about every conference from Los Angeles to Dubai, no one was really focusing on trying to a) collect the best Social Media case studies, b) evaluate them against less “solid” case studies, and c) make the best of them available – in a lessons learned format – to the scores of business and social media professionals asking for them.

All evening, I was distracted by this unanswered need. By the next morning, Trey Pennington, Drew Ellis, Scott Gould and I were already toying with the idea of creating some kind of mechanism through which that type of information might be organized and made available. Without formalizing anything, we started bouncing ideas off each other in passing… until we ended up in the spectacular hills of Dartmoor, which we wished we could have shared with all of our  peers in the Social Media world…

… And then at Bovey Castle for a bone-warming fire and proper afternoon tea (yes, with real scones – not the Starbucks stuff). It was there, at Bovey Castle, that the idea of going beyond the simple collection, evaluation and publishing of the best social media case studies first took hold. The venue was so perfect for the level of conversations necessary to properly create the framework for something like this that we started to discuss the possibility of putting on a Summit – a high level event that would bring the best minds in social media in one place to have the kinds of conversations about the space that no one had the opportunity to have:

Large conferences weren’t the ideal format because of the distractions, the noise, the constant flux of presentations, meetings, dinners, parties and running around.

Small conferences tended not to attract enough of the best minds to put more than five or six of them in the same room at the same time.

Conference calls, webinars, twitter and other remote options were nice, but hardly conducive to… well, getting anywhere.

But man, if we could get 15 or 20 of the world’s best in a place like Bovey Castle, especially after a full day at the LikeMinds Conference in Exeter, we could really get somewhere. We could spend an entire day sharing best practices, discussing what works and what doesn’t, talking about where to take Social Media and New Marketing next. We could conduct training sessions based on the attendees’ specific needs, have real Q&A discussions between people who do this better than anyone else on the planet, and focus on what matters. Not that I mind sifting through the junk to get to the gold at most conferences, but what if we eliminated the junk completely and replaced it with 100% gold? The value of that type of event – for everyone present – would be beyond measurement.

That was the idea behind the Summit.

The rest, as they say, is history. Within a few days, we had a concept. A few weeks later, we were planning the Conference, the Summit and the format of the report and other resources that would emerge from them both.

Q: Where is the 2010 LikeMinds Summit being held? (And why?)

At Bovey Castle. Yes, THE Bovey Castle we just talked about. In England. Don’t worry, it just looks extravagant. It’s really just an old English house with a lot of really cool meeting rooms, a big back yard, and a forest all around it.

Why here? Three reasons: Convenience, awesomeness and the fact that the idea for the Summit came to us there for a good reason: It’s perfect for it.

We could have decided to hold the Summit anywhere: A hotel conference room in London, an office suite in New York, a cool space in San Fransisco… The possibilities are endless.  (The content of the Summit, its relevance, its format and even the cost to attend would be exactly the same, regardless of the venue.) Since the LikeMinds conference is already taking place just a short drive from Bovey Castle, it would have been a shame not to take advantage of its proximity.  😉

You can find out more about Bovey Castle here.

Q: If the Summit is by invitation only, how do I get invited?

Submit your case study.

Your submission can be in almost any format: a video, slide deck or document that is either emailed to the Summit staff, or even a simple hyperlink if your case study already exists online.

Invitation to the Summit will be based on the submission of that case study along with the following  qualifying elements. These elements are intended to prove the successful use of Social Media by documenting:

– Before and after overviews of the organization, with accurate measurement (Benchmarking)
– The research that backed the program
– The breakdown of strategy, integration, management and measurement
– How teamwork was guided, across departments, organizations and with the end user
– What were the most valuable lessons learned
– The frameworks that have been created from the experience

A jury will select the top 15-20 case studies from all received submissions and will send out invitations by the end of January.

Submissions for the Like Mind Summit may be sent to summit@wearelikeminds.com

Q: When are Summit submissions due?

Closing date for application submissions is Friday 22nd January.

Q: What is the cost of attending the Summit?

1. Getting to Exeter is up to you: Car, train, bicycle, horseback, steam ship, aeroplane, rocket, teleporter… If you’re in the UK already, it’s pretty simple. If you’re flying in, I suggest Heathrow or Gatwick airport, then either renting a car (don’t forget to stop at Stonehenge on your way to Exeter) or hopping on a train. Super simple. Once in Exeter, we’ll take care of shuttling you to Bovey on Saturday morning.

2. Hotels: The LikeMinds team is pretty well connected in Devon, so hooking you up with a hotel shouldn’t be a problem. (And yes, you can actually stay at Bovey Castle. We’ve negotiated a special rate of £150 per night – which is phenomenal.*)

* Last time I was in London, I found myself paying that much for horrible little economy hotels in the worst parts of town. £150 per night at Bovey is pretty mind-blowing.

3. The events: If you are invited to attend the summit, you’re automatically comped for the LikeMinds conference on Friday, including the V.I.P dinner Friday night. The Summit will also take care of your breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea on Saturday, as well as getting you back to Exeter once the Summit adjourns. You’ll be looking at two full days with some of the brightest, most forward thinking social media thought leaders and practitioners in the world. Not just in the same room, but at the same table. With a common purpose.

4. Inclusion in the ‘Best In Class’ report: If you get selected to attend the Summit, your case study will be featured in the LikeMinds report as one of the world’s best Social Media/P2P programs of 2009.  Those of you with a few Public Relations 101 credits in college might recognize the value of that kind of exposure. (Global exposure, I might add. This dog is going to have some pretty serious legs.)

Okay, enough with the pitch already: The price of admission is £1,500. (Sorry, the Gold Ticket isn’t free.)

I could make a joke about $2,995 social media certification programs right about now, but I won’t. Oh wait.. Doh!

Submitting your case study, however, is free. Just understand that if you are serious about attending the event upon being selected, the fee will be due fairly quickly. More details on that at a later date.

Q: Where can I get more information about the event?

You can download the PDF information kit here.

You can access the (Saturday) LikeMinds Summit website here.

You can check out the (Friday) LikeMinds Conference website here.

You can surf through the 2009 LikeMinds Conference archive here.

Q: What else is there?

I don’t know. You tell me.

If you’ve worked your tail off to develop, launch, manage and get the most out of a social media or P2P program in 2009, it would be silly to blow this off. Think of submitting your case study as that final 1% effort. Not even that. More like the final 0.01% effort.

If you end up being selected, yeah, there’s a bit of cost attached to it, especially if you aren’t based in Europe. I hear ya. Budgets are tight and £1,500 outside of travel expenses is nothing to sneeze at. But do the math:

1. You’ve probably thrown away more than that on conferences last year that didn’t really didn’t yield a whole lot of value, and for some strange reason, you may be contemplating doing it again this year, just in case they get it right this time (fat chance). Flying to Vegas, to Boston, to Orlando or New York or LA, going from session to session, wondering why you even bother attending half of the presentations? Hanging out at parties with your Twitter friends? Having dinner with a few “big names?” Hindsight being 20/20, if you could go back and skip those disappointments and trade them for something solid, something like this, wouldn’t that be a better use of your budget?

I can’t answer that for you.

2. The level of access you will have at the LikeMinds Summit – assuming you are selected to attend – is unheard of. You will spend a day (two if you attend the conference as well) with people whose individual consulting time is worth more than twice the price of admission. Multiply that by all 12 or 15 or 20 of them (depending on how many companies make the cut), and you atsrt to get the picture. These are people you will be engaging with, not just sitting next to in a conference room. Not to mention me, Trey Pennington, Drew Ellis, Scott Gould and a few other brainiacs yet to be announced.

3. Inclusion in the Summit’s report/master case study/white paper even without the summit’s value is worth ten times the £1,500 fee. From exposure to recognition, it’s a no-brainer. Your company probably spends that on branded pens and keychains at trade shows. On low tier print ads if you’re a small company. Heck, for most organizations with over 100 employees, you’re talking petty cash.

How much did you spend on PR last month? How much press did that get you? I rest my case.

4. Do you know why we set the price at £1,500 instead of, say, £800? (It would have been that even if we held this thing at the Holiday Inn, by the way. Not that we would.) It isn’t greed. It’s to weed out companies and individuals who aren’t serious about what they’re doing in this space. Some companies will choose to spend that on gimmicks.  Others will invest in the future of their social media programs. We’re only interested in the latter. The price of admission, quite simply, is commitment.  😉

So if you feel that you belong in that second category:

If you’re an agency or firm, submit your case studies.

If you’re an organization with a story to tell, submit your case study.

If you’re a service provider, tell your clients to submit their case studies.

Spread the word. Give it your best shot. Big brands, small businesses, NGOs, Non-profits, Universities… All are welcome. This event and report only come once a year, so don’t let all of your hard work in 2009 go to waste.

You have until the 22nd of January to submit your case studies.

May the best and brightest win.

Cheers. 🙂

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Speaking at LikeMinds

Speaking at the #LikeMinds conference in Exeter, Devon, UK

Hang tight, kids. I’m trying to figure out what topic to open up with after my epic 10-day trip through the UK and France. I have hundreds of pages of notes bouncing around in my head and topics flying out of my… moleskine (what did you think I was going to say?) so it may take me a few hours yet to figure out where to start. And that isn’t even factoring in the pictures and videos I need to upload and edit. I am still in email management mode, and it may take a few days to sort it all out. 75 emails per day x 10 days… Yeah. I need interns.

Several things are certain though: Things are going to change around here.

First of all, expect less musings and more practical advice. The last thing the world needs is more abstract dreameries about brand management, new marketing, business 2.0, social media and the types of topics covered in this and other blogs of its kind. There’s plenty of that on the internets already and the last thing I want to do is add to an already overabundant pool of personal opinions.

Second, now that I have spent the better part of my stay in Exeter and London with some of the brightest minds in  business, brand management 2.0 and the Social Web (from Sky News, Edelman, Nielsen, the BBC, WC Group, 4 Walls and a Ceiling,  WorldEka, Limenoodle,  Red Cube, iLevel, tweetmeme, FreshNetworks, Sinuate, Optix Solutions, and Aaron+Gould, to name but a few on a list as long as it is brilliant) I have a much clearer understanding of the level of dicussion businesses need when it comes to preparing themselves for the next decade, particularly in the US, where the army of social media “guru” we’ve been lamenting about has been reaping a harvest of shameless crap on the backs of their unsuspecting clients.  For shame. Seriously. For shame. I hope there’s a special circle of hell for you if you fall into that category of a person.

In short, you, my readers, and companies wanting to improve their situation and their customers’ lives in the process all deserve better, and we’ve wasted enough time bleeding philosophy about market leadership, what social media XYZ is or isn’t or the value of effective measurement. We’re going to get down to brass tacks and talk about things that will make a real difference in your business.

Third, well… Hold on to you socks. We’re about to see how fast this V12 can really go. I have some pretty exciting announcements to make over the coming weeks.

Back in a bit with more. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, you need to go check out all of the incredible content from the #LikeMinds Conference I attended in Exeter, England, including some solid videos and photos of several of the presentations.

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