8 posts categorized "btvsmb"

02/07/2012 #btvsmb Social Hack Recap

What a day: 72 talented and creative people spent a Friday together at Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center trying to reimagine Vermont’s localvore world through the lens of mobile and social technology. With little or no preparation six teams of twelve people each had less than four hours to come up with an idea. And what ideas they came up with!

We started the day listening and watching Richard Ting of R/GA and Liz Gerber of Design for America. Richard took us through some amazing examples he and his team have worked on, such as USAID’s FWD or Nike+ GPS. It was heady stuff but it made us start thinking of raising the bar on our own ideas. Liz talked about the idea of design thinking and the approach to start reimagining, well, everything. It’s just amazing to see what her students are up to. And that laid down a challenge to all of us “professionals”: If her students could do it, shouldn’t we be able to?


After that, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture laid out some of the basic goals of the Farm to Plate initiative. A recurring theme was how far ahead we were in Vermont (Liz even claimed that Vermont was “perfect”) but that it still wasn’t good enough.

We then broke into groups and, using a design thinking process, had to come up with one group idea in less than four hours. Each group was a combination of designers, developers, businesspeople, students, social marketers and well, anyone else who got their ticket in time. Very few were Localvore experts (there were one or two in all). 


When the groups worked in small teams of two, the energy was through the roof. When they had to come to consensus and all work together, well some did better than others. It was interesting to see the effect of group dynamics on people and ideas. There was a LOT of learning moments all through this experiment, to be honest. One group actually splintered into two when they refused to agree on a common approach.

At the end of the day, we had some clear favorites. Team Arugula created a new business model, Beet Route, for delivering CSA farmshares to people too busy to prepare meals during the week. They reimagined the milkman, gave it a modern twist, and enabled it through mobile and social apps. The back end used the data to provide larger customer trends and preferences back to the farmers and producers. Don’t be surprised to see this one come to life in one form or another as a startup.

Team Kale went the gamification route, turning support of local farmers and consumption of local produced into a mobile and social game Ate02 (a play on our ONE Vermont area code 802). The idea was to allow people to compete (and brag) through their phone and to increase consumption of healthy, locally produced food.  There’s a good chance that we might see Champlain College produce that for the Agency of Agriculture.


Team Beet created a system called The Core Card. It turned healthy eating habits into points. The points then led to both rewards for consumers and data for employers and insurance companies. Our one representative from the insurance industry was on this team and you could feel his influence on this one.The idea was that the card would lead to better health and lower insurance costs through the use of mobile and social technology. 

There were LOTS of other great ideas. Right now we’re going through them and working on prioritizing the ideas with the Agency of Agriculture and Champlain College. We may end up extending this to some of the Startup Vermont initiatives. At least one break out group told me that they were so pissed that their idea wasn’t chosen by their group that they’re going to pitch it to the Agency of Ag themselves (Yay!) 


Liz Gerber told me before the event that in an experiment, 50% of what you do will fail, you just don’t know which 50%. I think our percentage of success was a lot higher. This was a great experiment and it showed:

  1. We have a lot of cool people in Vermont
  2. You can do great things when you get out of your own way
  3. There should be enough smarts and energy to innovate our way into business growth. The big question is whether we have the structure for it.
  4. Sometimes you have to plan randomness.

My plan is to figure out a way to do more of these. We asked a lot for all of these talented people to take the day off and think with each other. Most, but not all of course, had a blast.

My biggest regret? It was that I didn’t really get to participate in the actual ideation and work, since I was running the day. That’s where I spent my energy. And it was worth it.

01/30/2012 #BTVSMB Social Hack

This Friday, February 3rd, the Burlington Social Media Breakfast series takes a new twist. We’re still bringing in great, smart, national speakers, like R/GA’s social and mobile executive creative director Richard Ting, and Design for America founder Liz Gerber.  As with our past events, we want to inspire area marketers and digital folk. 

We also want to do something beside listening, learning and networking. While that’s good, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. So on Friday, we’re combining the inspiration part with a Social Hack. We’re going to focus our collective brainpower on a key issue in Vermont and see if we can come up with a mobile or social technology solution to help.

You can’t do that without some smart, creative people around the table.  Luckily that’s what we have. Between 60 and 70 of us, with designers, developers and marketers from some of the most innovative companies in Vermont, will spend the day trying to hack a social issue. We have marketers and developers from My Web Grocer, Select Design, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Burton. We’re doing this event together with Champlain College’s emergent media center so we’ll have MFA and gaming students working with us as well.

Friday’s event is one of the smaller ones we’ve had, from a participant standpoint. But it should be the largest one from an idea standpoint. At the end of the day we’ll choose the best idea. Champlain College will look to fund and produce the idea so that we can give it to the people of Vermont to use.

My hope, though, is that there are a number of other ideas where people say, “screw it, this one was really the best, so I’m going to go create it on my own!”

Actually, that’s really the point of this #BTVSMB. We, like a lot of other organizations, want to make Vermont a better place for entrepreneurs and technical/creative people. We don’t have a lot of embedded industries here to drive that part of the economy. We also don’t have a natural feeder city for economic development, the way, say Boston supports southern New Hampshire, or the way Denver fed Boulder. The Montreal connection isn’t really working for us.

So we’re going to have to innovate and build our way out of this ourselves. I think the most exciting part of the event is the connections between all of these smart people; most have never met each other before. Typical Vermont! Hopefully we can sustain and support this day of creation and random connections with more events like this.

Actually, this event connects back to the first #BTVSMB. Back in June of 2009, Todd Defren and C.C. Chapman spoke to a packed house at Champlain College. Afterwards, we regrouped and worked at helping the non-profit Grounds for Health develop social media ideas. I think it’s important for those of us in the social marketing business to spend time using our ideas for people who need it, rather than those who just need us to help them sell things.

The idea for doing the hack came from a number of personal inspirations. Back in the summer I was one of the judges for My Web Grocer’s Vermont Hackathon. It was a very cool, odd collection of people and ideas. It was very different from what I’m used to seeing here in Vermont. I loved it.

The Cusp Conference in Chicago also inspired me around risk, design and social issues. It simply was the best conference I’ve ever been to. I left with the desire to have that same type of energy and passion at a Vermont event. I also met Liz Gerber there who turned out to have gone to the same high school and college as I did.

I also spent time talking to Edward Boches about the event. My goal was to get Edward to come up here but this time, #brandbowl got in the way. In any event, my brief, intermittent discussions with Edward helped me formulate the event both conceptually and practically. With a little luck, we’ll get him up here next time.

I’m glad to partner with Champlain College again. I think their Emergent Media and Gaming programs are some of the best-kept secrets in the industry. I believe that very soon, they’ll be on the level of Boulder Digital Works and Hyper Island. 

If you get a chance to come to this Friday’s #BTVSMB social hack, great. If not, keep your eyes open for more of these types of event throughout 2012, although various organizations will probably take turns hosting them.

03/23/2011 Why #BTVSMB?

We had another great Burlington Social Media Breakfast last Monday. Nicole Ravlin of PMG put together Bill Gerth from Comcast and Morgan Johnston of JetBlue to talk about social media and customer service. While we got lots of press attention around the event, no one asked the question I was expecting:

Why #BTVSMB? Why are you doing this and what’s the purpose of these events?

Instead we got a lot of the same questions: Who’s doing social media? Who’s doing social media well? Why do you think social media is important? Good questions, but they tend to incur the same responses over and over again.

Back when I kicked off the first #BTVSMB I had some specific hopes for the event. I was lucky that Nicole, who partnered with me to organize future events, had the same hopes. They included:

1) Great Speakers – I don’t travel a lot and I don’t go to a lot of conferences. That means I don’t see a lot of the big speakers around the country. There are people in Burlington who do, but I think most of us are too busy in our jobs to do that regularly. I wanted to be able to see the top speakers without having to travel so much. That was my first hope.

I also wanted to bring in speakers who would set the bar high in the discussions about social media. I wanted people to leave inspired and thinking about things they normally wouldn’t in their day-to-day jobs. I find that those types of talks make me better at what I do, even if I can’t always do everything that we talk about.

We have received a lot of feedback asking how come we don’t do more practical hands on training about Twitter and Facebook. We’ve received those questions after almost every event. My thought is that there are lots of places to get that already and you can get those easily online. I’m more interested in ideas than training for these types of talks.

One other thing about bringing in some of the smartest people from outside of Vermont: I don’t want this to turn into a sales event for the speakers. I see lots of local speakers at various events (and there are still a lot of them) where the talk is in some sense a veiled pitch. It raises all sorts of issues and raises a lot of why them and not me questions. I’m too busy to deal with that kind of stuff.

2) Community – One of my great disappointments in moving back to Burlington was the lousy digital and creative community we had. I came from Boston where I was involved with MITX (and still am for that matter). What a great community that is! Up here, though, it seemed like we didn’t really want to talk with each other.

Social media, it turns out, is the one digital topic that everyone wants to connect around. I love that we’re able to bring together at all of the events some of the biggest companies and brands in Vermont and some of the smallest companies and brands. Big agencies and marketers show up and freelancers show up. Politicians and people from non-profits come to learn. I love that we’re able to bring together such a diverse group of people around one specific topic.

To be honest, I think the networking and connections are by far the best part of #BTVSMB. I’ve met more people in the last two years than I did in the previous nine! And I’ve pushed business towards those people as well. The community part is an economic accelerator for everyone.

3) Promote Burlington – Finally, my hope was that we’d start putting Burlington on the digital map in a more substantial way. I’m completely biased here, but I’d like to see Burlington’s digital community drive the economic development of the region (or at least contribute to it more substantially). I think we’re a perfect place for this type of thinking, for this type of business, and for the types of people who work in the industry.

One of the great responses we get from speakers is “I had no idea there were so many smart people up here. I knew it was beautiful, but what an amazing turnout!” They’re surprised to learn that companies like Gardners Supply is based in Vermont! When the outside speakers come here, we start showing that Burlington is a digital and social hub, especially when we outdraw events in New York and Boston.

My big hope is that those speakers will decide to open their next shop or satellite in Vermont. That’s when I’ll know we’ve succeeded.

Here’s what #BTVSMB is not:

It’s not a moneymaking business. I’ve never made a dime on these events, nor do I intend to. All ticket prices cover costs for food, venue and speaker costs. Maybe that’s stupid of me, but I’m not in this for the money.

It’s not a full-time job. It has to fit between my business and client needs. Neither Nicole nor I have employees assigned to running this. We bring in people based mainly on our relationships.

It’s not just us. Anyone can do an event, and we hope that if you have an idea for a social breakfast you want to organize, go for it. The more the merrier. Just don’t expect us to do it for you.

When I look back on Monday’s event, I think it hit all of my criteria. It doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. But it sure made me think about a number of new things.

What are your expectations for #BTVSMB?

08/14/2010 BTVSMB - Mitch Joel Video

My friend Seamus Walsh from VAZT has done it again and recorded another BTVSMB for us. He's recorded all of the #BTVSMB events I've put on, including C.C. Chapman & Todd Defren, Adrian Ho, and now Mitch Joel. I'm still digesting the event and will have a blog post in a day or two with some thoughts.

In the mean time, enjoy the show, especially those of you who couldn't make it.


07/22/2010 #BTVSMB: Social Media Lunch with Mitch Joel

On August 12th, join us for a #BTVSMB event:  Lunch and a Conversation with Mitch Joel, author of the book Six Pixels of Separation, a business and marketing best seller. Mitch will lead a discussion as he unravels this fascinating world of new media--but does so with a brand new perspective that is driven by compelling results.

Mitchjoel Each attendee will receive a copy of Mitch’s book Six Pixels of Separation.

Mitch Joel is President of Twist Image in Montreal. In 2008, Mitch was named Canada's Most Influential Male in Social Media, and has shared the stage with former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, Anthony Robbins, Tom Peters and Dr. Phil.

This #BTVSMB event is sponsored by Digalicious, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, PMG, and the Burlington Free Press.

This #BTVSMB event will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington, Vermont from 12 -1:30 PM. We’ll serve a buffet lunch. Join us for this summers social media event! 

Attendance is $55/person including lunch and a book.
Where: Hilton Hotel in Burlington
When: 12 PM - 1:30 PM on August 12th

Click here to register for the event.

Praise for Six Pixels of Separation:

“A first-rate debut by Mitch Joel, Six Pixels of Separation shows us how our world of commerce has changed, using real-world business examples and written with the entrepreneur and business person in mind.”
 Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail

 “Mitch takes you on a detailed, fun tour of what it means to connect online – with your customers, your colleagues and even your competitors. If you’ve been waiting to catch up on what’s been going on, here’s your chance.”
 Seth Godin, author of Linchpin

 “For anyone looking to understand the new media landscape, Six Pixels of Separation is the ultimate guidebook.”
 Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind.

02/07/2010 BTVSMB - The Movie

Well, would you believe the video? Thanks to my friend Seamus Walsh from VAZT, we have Adrian Ho's presentation online. Seamus filmed the first video as well, and he's got a very cool thing going on around online content. If you missed the breakfast, enjoy Adrian's talk; it's a good one.

Personally, I haven't watched myself on video for a while. It's making me realize I have to dust off my presentation skills notes from Pam Erb-Melville! I'm obviously out of practice.

02/01/2010 A Morning with Adrian Ho

The February 1st  Burlington Social Media Breakfast featured Adrian Ho from Zeus Jones. Aside from a very last minute cancellation from Alice.com, the event was one of the more interesting talks I've been to. We had a good turnout of about 175 people who came to network, eat the yummy breakfast by Sugarsnap, and to hear Adrian challenge a lot of our marketing and social media assumptions.

He started off by saying that people aren't really interested in a relationship with a brand; they're interested in relationships with other people. If I had a penny for every time I've heard the phrase "we're building relationships" I'd have retired already.  Okay, so if social media isn't about relationships, what is it about? According to Adrian it's about delivering more value. The more value you deliver, the more social you'll be and the more buzz you'll create. It sounds almost too easy.

But that was my big take away from what Adrian talked about. Traditional marketing is about making things harder: We have to come up with the grand insight and then we have to create an expensive and complex campaign. Social marketing (a term he uses more than the term social media) is a lot about looking at how your organization provides current value between real employees and real people, and amplifying that through social media. Of course, Adrian says it much better, and with a better accent to boot, but it boils down to this:

Social marketing is a way to do something for people.

One of the most powerful things about social marketing is that you don't have to spend gobs of money on focus groups to find you what customers want to do. You either have to listen to what they say online, or listen to your customer facing employees. The knowledge exists in the system or in social media; the question is whether you have an organization that can act on that information.

As Adrian says, in almost every category you can figure out what people want.

Here's the tough part for us marketers: we love tools and new things. We want a Facebook strategy or a Twitter strategy. Taking the time to figure out what customers say and want is sometimes messy and unglamorous. Implementing a listening culture internally takes a lot of effort to break through ingrained habits.

But its possible by simply using the same approach inside that you would outside. The quote of the day may be: "If you want to change the way someone thinks, change their behavior first" rather than the other way around.

I think Adrian made a lot of people stop and think. I think a few of people in the audience still just wanted a tool guide to tell them what to do.

But for me, these breakfasts have two purposes: To network with other digital marketing professionals around Burlington, and to challenge us to get better at what we do by bringing new ideas and ways of thinking to the table.

The social media breakfast event with Adrian Ho did both.

And it was colossal fun to see everyone there and to follow the Twitter stream on #btvsmb. What a great way to start February.

P.S. This was the first time Adrian and his family had been to Vermont. It sounded like they were impressed. Big thanks to Trapp Family Lodge for sponsoring.

01/15/2010 Three Questions for Adrian Ho - #btvsmb

The Burlington Social Media Breakfast series (#BTVSMB) resumes on February 1, 2010 with speakers Adrian Ho and Rebecca Thorman. To register visit http://btvsmb4.eventbrite.com.

Adrian Ho is a founding partner of the award winning digital agency Zeus Jones in Minnesota.

 Q: When did you start getting involved in social media?

I'd like to think I never got "involved" with social media. Honestly I try to avoid thinking about it - are you sure you still want me to come? ;)

Q: What's the most interesting or fun social media campaign you've either been involved in or watched?

The most fascinating stuff for me tends to be the application of social principles to a company's business. I'm inspired by a lot of the stuff that Best Buy is doing here in our market as well as some of the stuff we're working on with Nordstrom right now.

AdrianHoQ: What social media trend is, for you, the most interesting to keep our eye on?

As I alluded to above, I think the really interesting trend is the move of "social" away from social media and into all parts of a company's business and marketing. The themes and structures that social media have exposed us to like participation, transparency, collaboration and so on are far more interesting when removed from the "media" anchor. The most interesting and innovative social marketing probably won't involve social media.

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