April 2014

A few weeks ago I gave a talk to some Monash students about how to stand out from the crowd. It was my usual spiel about how I met Russel Howcroft who gave me my first job and from which I learnt the easiest way into the industry is to make something. Afterward a number of the students asked about the best way to network. But the thing is, I'm not so good at networking in the traditional sense of the word. As a student I attended similar events to the one I spoke at, and had no idea how to meet industry people and make an impression. The smartest thing I ever did was ask Russel for a photo to put on my blog. But a few years later, I do have some thoughts. And the best piece of advice I have has nothing to do with 'networking events', but rather a very simple two words: Give something. If my advice for getting into the industry is to 'make something', then it seems only fitting my advice for networking is to 'give something'. Here's an example of something you could give, even as a student (but you don't have to be). I'm a craft beer fan. I had an idea for an article about Little Creatures changing the recipe of their Bright Ale, and I wanted to write about it. But I didn't have any where to publish it, figuring it probably wasn't of interest to the existing readers of this blog. So I emailed the editor of Brews News, an Australian website about all things beer. He asked me to write it up and a few days later, he published the article. This doesn't mean I now have a relationship I could exploit, but it's certainly a contact I've now made which I think falls neatly into the definition of "networking" (plus I have somewhere to occasionally publish my beer ramblings). Here's another example of giving things away. I recently noticed a number of websites I read didn't have an icon for when their site was bookmarked on iOS. Instead they used the generic versions you can see on right. It's a pretty easy fix, so I sent the website owners an email with instructions on how to do it. Thus far, the response has been extremely positive. By giving these two things away, I've introduced myself to interesting people, given them something of value and started a conversation I'm sure I could pick back up if I ever needed to. Much more interesting, and dare I say effective, than attending a networking event and handing out business cards....

Two years ago, almost exactly to the day, I wrote a post about making things for your customers."Build it and they will come.""I can't help but think it's a completely underrated and underused digital strategy. This idea of building something rad that's relevant to your target audience and then using them to spread your idea." It turns that approach now has a name; content marketing. And while it's quickly become 2014's buzzword of choice, I think it's still underrated and underused by clients.These days I'd approach it pretty differently. More pragmatically. Segment the audience and understand their problems and needs. Then build things to solve those problems. Plan for distribution across bought, owned and earned media. And wrap it up by measuring and learning.Where I think things become really interesting is when you move beyond 'content' in the traditional sense of the word. Then you start talking about interactivity through things like apps or games. You start thinking about utilities, education tools and even time-killers.And if it works, then you role it out as a program, not a campaign. Regularly building and distributing highly targeted, highly relevant things that consumers will use.Or in other words, making cool shit that people play with and share. Much more exciting than a banner ad....

I have this weird aversion to technology where if I'm late to the party, I'm very hesitant to attend at all.For example I really missed the boat on Instagram. For a long time I considered signing up, but the fact that I had committed to not doing so meant I held out on not doing so for even longer.The barrier, for some strange reason, was that signing up to Instagram meant I'd be starting fresh. Despite having hundreds of photos already on my phone I'd want to share from the past few years, there was no way to 'back date' the awesome graffiti I saw in Mexico or the first tomato that grew in our garden.I have a similar problem with Untappd, an app that allows you to record and discover craft beer. Over the years I've had beers that were limited edition never to be made again, and a few that were so bad I wouldn't be again. Perhaps I'm thinking about this too much, but it's a barrier for me when there's no way for me to go back in time and record those beers.I'm wondering if I'm not alone. And how technologist should think about those customers who arrive well after the tipping point. For those who missed the boat, how can you make it not only easy for them to board, but to appear as though they've been on board the whole time?Interestingly I eventually jumped onto Instagram (about two years too late) and am loving it. I've discovered a new means of sharing photos more frequently than what you'd post on Facebook and really enjoying seeing those of my friends.So I should probably set up that Untappd account too....