Pecha Kucha @ Hill & Knowlton’s Demystifying Digital | To pay to measure or not?

I know, I know. I abandon you for a month and then come back with two topics in one blog post! I offer an olive branch and promise my radio silence shall be explained soon.

This afternoon was spent catching the tail end of Hill & Knowlton‘s ‘private but open’ Demystifying Digital event which was planned by the EMEA team and meant a quite different audience to the ones I’m used to; that said, the familiar face of the WWF’s Ade was there, which was lovely. I was asked by EMEA Head of Planning Candace Kuss to come along and do a Pecha Kucha (aka Ignite) style presentation as part of five such quick-fire offerings.

For those unfamiliar with the format, it’s a strictly five-minute slot, with 20 slides – generally graphics-heavy and imaginative – which forward on regardless after 15 seconds. I was placed between two of Canada’s finest, Brendan Hodgson and David Jones – the latter of which I suspect I accidentally stalk at all H&K events – who made excellent points about crisis management and the make-up of the social media team respectively, and delivered a whistlestop tour of Dogs Trust’s journey into digital from some very traditional roots in traditional marketing back in the early days of Sponsor a Dog in the 1960s.

You can see tweets and updates from the event by searching the tag #HKD2.

There were also presentations from FIAT, about their foray into social media and partnership with Spotify over the launch of the modern retro (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron) Cinquecento, the BBC about the empowerment social media can lend oppressed communities and Facebook about the surge in popularity of online communities.

So, all in all, worth looking up and learning about. I was filmed waffling about social media during lunch as well, so sadly some clip (undoubtedly laboriously edited to make me look less daft) of me might well assail you at some point. I thank the very hard working team for a smoothly run event and for their kind invitation to speak; I’m just sorry I missed most of it as I was needed at Dogs Trust HQ.

And so to my other point, which is more of a call for information. I got chatting to Candace – whom I think is quite, quite brilliant, by the way, so prepare for more gushing in the future – about the monitoring software H&K uses to track social media for clients. They use a system provided by Sysomos, and we’ve taken a look at similar systems in the past. However, I’m still not entirely convinced we need to pay for a monitoring tool. Given the nature of what we do and what we measure, I think we can get buy perfectly well with free / cheap tools. Certainly it’s not as convenient (and there might be some financial value to be placed on the amount of time saved, but I don’t think that adds up to all that much), but there’s plenty of useful and valuable information to be had without spending a single pound.

So, I’d love to know your experiences. Do you use a comprehensive paid-for monitoring tool? Do you prefer free tools? Which are your favourites? What is the value of either? Is a paid for tool only really useful for a huge company that might need to do be on the alert for future crisis management?

I can think of copious excellent applications for an all-round system, but I’m wavering on the usefulness to the specific organisation I work with. Any feedback would help me chew through the issues all the better, so please, feel free.

Hill & Knowlton Social Media Round-Table July 2009

Last night I was invited to the stunning Soho Square offices of Hill & Knowlton, to talk social media with a bunch of non-profit types. This was quite different from the ‘usual’ gatherings in a number of interesting ways.

1. The attendees were far more senior than usual– heads of digital, working with CEOs, in one case charity founder. This was really positive, as internal buy-in is a relentless struggle for many a community manager. These are the people that need to sit around a table with the likes of me, who actually do the day-to-day job and be convinced that it has value and that the risks can be addressed.

2. It was, therefore, not the usual suspects. All of us knew H&K a different way; we started developing a relationship with them through @CandaceKuss who’s a dog lover and former breeder of guide dog pups and who admires what we do online given our limited size and resources. We’re used to seeing some familiar names and faces on the discussion circuit now, and these weren’t them.

It was the first time, for example, I’ve come across a member of the Stonewall team, and there was also someone from the Royal Albert Hall. Fascinating, because of course we have different issues – it’s easy to say ‘let go of the product/message’ when it’s yours, but in the case of the RAH, of course, it’s not THEIR product.

3. It seems to have spawned something even more useful. While there was a certain unavoidable lack of focus in such a broad discussion, steps were taken by the lovely Sara Price and Gaylene Ravenscroft to plan where to go next – they were prepared to throw the format out if it didn’t work. Instead, preliminary decisions were made to have more structured workshops in the future, beginning with a focus on metric – hallelujah!

Metric really is the key to everything social media – and so it should be. It should be an integrated part of communications and we wouldn’t dream of trying any other comms strategy without it. It is the key to knowing if you’ve achieved your objectives, it is the tool with which you persuade the reluctant, it is the essence of communication. And despite the plethora of free goodies out there, most conversation-tracking tools are swingeingly expensive for a charity our size. A workshop that helps us get the very best out of what we can get our hands on – and turn that into fundraising, volunteering, rehoming and other engagement stats – would be very helpful indeed.

In fact, my only disappointment with the session was with the ‘listening guide’, which was designed for pure novices (“go to and click Get Started”); apart from Blogpulse I heavily used all of the tools mentioned – in fact, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been involved in the discussion in the first place. It would be good to see this taken further – perhaps an Advanced Guide? – moving forward.

Learning something new is what I live for – I look forward to doing that in the next session.