Unfriending the Wrong Friends, Social Bubbles and Aristotle

Unfriending the Wrong Friends, Social Bubbles and Aristotle

As far as heated debates go, 2016 was a hotbed. There was something for everyone: Brexit, the American election, civil war in Syria, terrorist attacks, immigration, refugees, the economy, global warming. The list of topics we all disagreed on was as endless as it was depressing.

Although these topics would have put the old adage of no politics, religion and money (or is it sex?) discussions at the dinner table to the test, nowhere did the arguments fester more gangrenous-ly than on social media. The deluge of posts regarding each topic on platforms like Facebook pitted friends against each other, often leading to the kind of personal, cynical, sarcastic attacks far beyond anything we would dare to say in person.

After several intense exchanges about refugees and migration on Facebook, I decided enough was enough. My blood pressure was hitting dizzying heights dealing with what I saw as small-minded, xenophobic, racist slurs from the people in my network. My friends. I concluded the easiest solution to avoid permanent fall outs was to remove myself from the conversations by unfriending (or muting from my feed) anyone with significantly opposing points of view.

The Creation of the Social Bubble
The result was delightful and immediate. No more polemic posts to get worked up about. Blood pressure back to normal. I had rediscovered my inner peace. However, the consequence of my actions was I had now surrounded myself with beliefs and attitudes that aligned to mine, increasingly unaware of the strength and subsequent impact of the opinions of the others, particularly on the outcome of Brexit and the American election. I had created a Social Bubble.

The danger of living in a social bubble is that you become unaware of how others think. The result is not just ignorance but also the arrested development and lack of diversity of your thoughts.

This is just as true in work-life. The opinions of those who disagree with you or advocate different processes are important to question your own approach. Limiting yourself to influencers who think similarly to you stifles your ability to innovate. Basing your strategy on a single school of thought, however well respected, limits your options. In the end, we all end up believing and doing the same, whether it is right or wrong.

For what it’s worth, I have decided to un-mute those who with opposing points of view. I want to know how the other side thinks, not to agree (or argue) with them but to question my own thoughts and ideals.

Aristotle once said “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


2012 – What a year…!!!

As the last day of 2012 is only hours away, it seems appropriate to briefly reflect on the past year, which has been anything but boring.

It has been a year of exciting and diverse projects for me, ranging from Thames Water‘s online drought campaign to one of the most impactful social networking and collaboration proof of concepts for one of the world’s favourite airlines.

I have had the pleasure of working on external digital marketing projects and internal comms strategies for the likes of Experian, Deutsche Bank, Old Mutual Group, Camelot and Betfair amongst many others and would like to thank all the clients for entrusting their digital strategies in our hands.

Together with my team I hosted two hugely successful events and would like to thank the guest speakers, in particular Paul Hewitt from Deutsche Bank and Nick Crawford then from Bupa, as well as the guys from Yammer and Jive for their time and involvement. A special mention also needs to go to my colleagues Neil Clayton and Mark Smith for their support and effort in helping me make it happen.

In terms of trends, 2012 was certainly an exciting year for digital internal comms. Social networking and collaboration continued to be the main talking point, heightened by the purchase by Microsoft of Yammer. Whether this did the industry any favours will remain to be seen but it had a reflective effect on a sector that was probably getting a little bit carried away with itself, which was a good thing.

Another important talking point was mobile & mobility and whether native apps or web apps were the future (see overview here). This conversation will no doubt dominate in 2013 and in my opinion web apps will steal some market share from native apps, particularly in marketing and communications. Whichever is the ultimate winner or whether they share top spot, mobility will be key. Doing everything everywhere, on fully integrated devices, working in the clouds is in my opinion the trend for 2013 and it offers many exciting opportunities.

On a personal level, I will start 2013 with a completely new challenge which will see me back in the B2C arena, working with big data and intelligence, enabling organisations to engage and interact more effectively with their customers. It is a very exciting opportunity and I truthfully can’t wait for the start to the new year!

I wish everyone the very best for 2013 and thank you for reading my digital ramblings. I look forward to continuing in the New Year.

What can we learn from The Gruffalo?

The Gruffalo by Julie Donaldson

If you are a parent with small children you will have undoubtedly heard of The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. If you don’t or haven’t, don’t worry… it isn’t prerequisite to this post (but I’m not going to lie… it does help).

After being made to watch the film for the fifty-fourth time (yes, I have been counting) the kids mercifully asked if they could watch some of the other content on the DVD. My initial joy quickly sank away when I saw that the ‘additional content‘ comprised of the Extended Credits (I’d rather stab myself with a blunt spoon) and ‘The Making Of…’. Briefly considering the spoon in my one hand, I opted for the controller in the other, selected the ‘Making of’ and prepared myself for a few more wasted minutes of utter boredom.

This was not to be the case. In fact, what followed was 10 minutes of the most fascinating film footage I have seen in a long time.

Although The Gruffalo is only a 30 minute animated film aimed at kids who barely have a notion of the world around them, the level of detail and meticulous planning that went into making it is astounding.

The original 11 page children’s book was first turned into 1000s of pages of sketches and walls covered of storyboards, making sure that every detail was true to the original story so that it would not only meet the expectations of the hordes of faithful fans but also of the other stakeholders, such as the writer herself.

You would think at this stage a couple of clever geeks turned on their Macs and started animating. Not so. In a bid to achieve a higher level of depth and realism, they decided that they would mix CGI with the traditional plasticine approach, building the ‘set’ (woods and streams) in clay and superimposing the computer-generated characters onto it.

This relatively untried approach was first thoroughly tested and only when it proved feasible and effective was it applied to the making of the movie.

Then the characters themselves were analysed to a granular degree. As they had only existed in 2D in the original book, how would they adapt to 3D? How would they interact with each other in this semi-digital/semi-real world? The characters were first plotted out in sketchy 3D, their facial expressions and body language analysed and only when the original cartoonist, the CGI team and the producer were happy, were they signed off for animation.

The producers considered the music an integral part of the storytelling. They didn’t want it to distract from the characters and the story but were convinced that it would add an essential ingredient to the experience. An entire orchestra was wheeled in to add music that can, at best, be described as background, but anyone who has watched the film will no doubt agree with me that it is what makes the film.

Finally, there were the voices to consider: although it is only a 30 minute film, and each character, apart from the mouse only plays a small role, the voices add so much to the experience. Not a penny was spared, as the likes of Helen Bonham-Carter, Robbie Coltrane and Tom Wilkinson were selected for the roles. Getting the tone of voice right was the icing on the cake and added to the success of the film, which has won an Academy Award and a BAFTA nomination.

I think (hope) by now you can see where I am going with this… What can we learn from The Gruffalo? Lots!

For sketches, read planning. For doing the story boarding and getting the writer’s buy-in, read building a solid business case. Stopping the geeks jumping straight in with animation can be interpreted as not letting IT lead the way. Trailing the CGI and plasticine approach suggests proof of concept. For analysing the characters to a granular level, read understanding the users and gathering the requirements. Getting the background music right is equivalent to ensuring the design and layout adds value to the user-experience. And finally, getting the characters voices right refers to ensuring the solution has the right tone of voice, one that appeals to the user/audience.

These steps are key to the successful implementation of any digital solution, whether an Intranet, a social collaboration platform, a corporate website or a public facing digital campaign… And yet so many clients don’t give themselves the time or budgets to ensure these steps are completed to the required level of detail, often resulting in an inadequate solution that needs to be rebuilt/re-analysed 1 or 2 years later.

But then maybe the mouse was right…

“Don’t you know, there is no such thing as a gruffalo”.

Do as we say, dont do as we do?

Should it be a surprise to anyone that, as MD of a digital communication agency, I didnt have a blog until now? That this is indeed my first blog post ever? Does it make me less of a professional in the digital field? Less credible?

I hope not as I have just made it public knowledge.

Truth be told, in my 12 years in digital I have often recommended that my clients start blogs, be it for marketing or communication purposes. It was and still is sound advice. Take one of my multi-national clients whose CEO now runs an internal blog which is followed by more than 50% of his 10,000+ staff. Willingly, I might add.

Or a utilities client which now uses a blog to give tips on how to save on bills, which is one of their most popular communication pieces, with 1000s of visits every day.

So why did I not heed my own advise? Why have I not ventured into the blogger-sphere before? The answer is simple…

I allowed myself to think that my activities on social media platforms (Twitter: @mikeboogaard and LinkedIn) made blogging superfluous. Wrong!

The key to successful digital communication is to ensure that you use the right platforms for the right message/objective, and it is certainly not a case of ‘either-or’. Neither should you do everything just to cover all the bases. Work out what the message is and which platform is best suited to communicating that message.

Whereas I use my Twitter account to communicate my agency’s wins and my LinkedIn to draw attention to interesting articles and events (and recruitment), I intend to use this blog to communicate about my experiences working in digital media, be it lessons learned, interesting stories and anecdotes, or my own observations and knowledge pieces.

If you are interested in digital media and sharing your experiences, following this blog might be just for you!

Welcome to the blogger-sphere!

[next: Intranets are not just for Christmas]