Friday, April 10, 2009

Social Traffic- Simon Ford

My favourite version of Conversation Marketing from the Master in this field.

You want me to tell you a story?

Well most of what we are as humans, is about our ability to tell each other stories. Its happened ever since time immemorial. Cavemen sat around fires telling each other stories when even languages weren’t refined (like they are today). They told each other stories by the help of drawings on walls. They told each other stories by inventing and creating ways of communicating with each other. Fast forward a few hundred years and we saw people telling the world stories of how they conquered countries across Asia and Europe. Or how their cultures evolved into castes of Sumarias and peasants. Or how some people survived in times when their Queen couldn’t even tell the difference between cakes and bread. Stories of how some brilliant scientists invented technologies beyond our expectations. Stories of how a man who was partly-deaf became the world’s biggest composer with some of the best symphonies to date. Fast forward a few more hundred years and there were stories of survival after massive global conflict. Stories of how civilizations forgave and forgot and moved on.

These are examples of the bigger stories that we’ve all heard and will keep hearing for generations to come. But every single person who has lived on this earth has had a story to tell – a story which can only be told through his eyes and voice. Smaller stories. Interesting stories. Think about the silk trade routes across Asia. Traders walked for months at a stretch through those routes, hoping to sell their items. What they sold weren’t the items. The product wasn’t the ‘lamp’ but the ’story behind the lamp’. The story about how that person worked hard day and night to make enough living to be able to marry the person he loved. Or the story about how he inherited the lamp from his father who had found it during some adventurous excavation in a desert. The buyers bought the stories and told them on, not the item.

Much like our forefathers, I’m also quite a story-teller. And I have just the story to tell you today. I’m going to tell you about a story that took place a few hundred years after that. A more recent story. A story when the digital age was at its peak, web 2.0 was evolving into something much bigger, the social cloud was ever so intertwined, when the world cheered the first black President of the States. I’m going to tell you a short story about how the new face of marketing, as we know it, began. During those days, computer screens were the equivalent of campfires. We sat around our screens in our darkened offices, telling and listening to each other’s stories. It began with a tribe of people within walking distance but has grown into a tribe that transcends time, distance and space across our planet…

It began with the first new age social marketing campaign. In a world which was dominated by corporate giants and multi-million dollar marketing investments, a bunch of 15 or so people who had never met each other in real life, came together to form an online think tank. They were all good at different aspects of marketing. They were all settled and busy with their own personal/work lives. But they all knew that the way things were happening around them wasn’t quite right. Most importantly, they believed in the power of the collective whole. You see, back then, despite the complexity of the platforms; spamming was still a regular thing, one-way messaging was still at large, slick-self-interest-based promotions were still done shamelessly. Those 15 people stood up and decided to take things into their own hands one step at a time. They decided to prove it to the world around them, that the way to go into the future is by bridging the gap between marketing and trust based relations.

They got together by forming a group of like minded people who all felt the same way. They had huge potentials and the collective synergy that they brought to their weekly online webinars was contagious. They dedicated their time, sweat and tears into building their first campaign. The campaign was a topic close to their hearts and it spoke for itself. It was an occasion that already existed, they just re-branded it and formulated it into the world’s biggest collaboration of one massive event that was interconnected by the brand, although new media not able to accommodate this level of thinking in times past. The event passed through hundreds of cities throughout the world as one massive global birthday party. The guest of honor was the earth, that the world shares as one. Imagine what it would have been like to attend an event of this magnitude in those days. I was there. It was like one big wave of energy across the oceans, from Australia all the way to the United States passing through Far East, Asia, Europe and Africa. This was the first time the world had seen anything of this magnitude before, let alone being fortunate enough to celebrate it.

It got a lot of hype in the online community. People backed them up. People spread the world. People joined their cause. People attended their events. Just like the cavemen I told you about. These people were the cavemen of this new media age, of sorts. They got around their fire of passion/challenge/adventure and told their vision as a story to the world until it became history. All of them were great story tellers, all believed in passion above all else as a means for success and they were respected in their communities for this thought leadership - they sat around their fires and they built this story. Not everyone accepted it could come true until one person after another, chose to believe in it. With belief as their building blocks their story grew until the story-tellers became the story, and the story became legend. They all told the story in their own voices and they validated it through their actions. It was not long before all those who failed to act when they had their chance, wanted more than anything, to be part of the legend that had already got away.

Throughout the story people came and went – but the story kept growing and the legends who bled for it became carved in stone.

If a story is told well enough, with enough passion and that passion is channeled into action it will morph into a reality. A great story inclines people to act on it, its the acting that turns ideas into history. Everyone has ideas. Turning them into tales that will be told to your grandchildren after you pass is what legends are made of. Take yourself forward 20 years and read this again. I am telling this story as my childrens friends will tell it then.

From then on, one year to the next, their story grew. One person sold a far-out vision to a tribe of social media experts who chose to collaborate together and become legends within the story.

Since then, marketing has changed. And these pioneers lead the way to a new tomorrow which we all enjoy today. After their first successful launch of the world’s biggest birthday bash across the globe, they got people’s attention. Clients started pouring in. The individual constituents of the group became renowned for their roles, their abilities and their expertise. The time they invested became the best investment of their lives. It was like a demonstration of what they were all capable of. See, back then, people actually had resumes. Companies asked for them. It wasn’t like it is today, with the online personal-profile in one place with your life-streaming, blogs, updates, accomplishments in one dynamic feed for whoever to see them. So, anyway, they started doing 3 big charities a year. The charities become a brand and trend of their own with cult followings and an army of evangelists all over the world. There was the Jingle Bells Christmas Cheer Charity where they fed hundreds of thousands of homeless and poor people making Christmas not only a brighter place for them but for all who watched it happen. The innaugural Earthday Birthday bash for our earth became the biggest influence of changing for the way the masses looked after her. Then there was an annual event for raising awareness and help for special people. National Disabled day.

By the world seeing all of the value these people were able to add to so many people throughout the world from an initial zero monetary investment, companies, huge companies from all over the world started coming to them for help in applying social media to the same effect for their brands. Others started copying them, but that was ok – because words like pioneers are reserved for few.

I like telling this story over and over again. I still have a lot to tell you, this story has only just begun. We’ve had enough for today, you should go back to bed. I’ll continue the rest of it next time I put you to bed. Meanwhile, remember, story-telling is an art that can be learned. There is no better way to learn the art of story telling than living a great story. As time goes on and visions become stories, lead roles in those stories become hard to lock down, the lead roles are always reserved for those who sweat the most, bleed the most and above all risk the most to make the story. It’s a game of catch 22 – if you believe in this story, know it will happen. Become a legend in it.


Friends, we have 50 people in our cast now - both active leaders and evangelists. If you want to become a part of a story that will be told to generations who follow us, this is your chance. Chances like this don’t come along too many times in a lifetime. Secure your role in the story early as a lead contributor whilst its still young enough. As the story grows more and more people will want to become a part of it, good roles will become harder to come by.

A word of advice… don’t be half hearted when you do opt in. Others who started but left have sealed their roles - their roles to date can not be rewritten. We have a handful of key shareholder leadership roles vacant, this leadership team will ride on the back of the core enthusiasts and energy-drivers - the evangelists. Your energies, participation and thoughts will make the above story a reality. More and more positions will become available as this story grows.

Please send anyone you want to bless with an opporunity like this to this page and ask them to signup - use your social networks and circles of influence. To sign up all they need to do is go to my Facebook profile page and enter your name and email address in the fields just below my friends box in my profile pages left menu.

The email sequence will fill them in on everything they need to know including putting them in touch with the right people.

Simon U Ford (SUF.EDBD)

Visit my “event line blogs”