No Clowns at Digital Shoreditch

No Clowns at Digital Shoreditch

There were few clowns at Digital Shoreditch's Brands Day last week despite the large, black 'Big Top' tent lending a gritty, pop-up style feel to the event.   In only its second year, the week-long festival seems to be going from strength to strength, starting with a mobile 'hack-a-jam-mashup-athon' weekend, a crowd sourced selection of over 40 speakers and events with possibly the largest collection of digital strategists ever gathered in one place. (easy now)

First up was 'The Herdmeister' himself, Mark Earls, with a rousing audience participation game that neatly proved his by now well-worn theory that we all learn (and behave) by copying each other.  As he neatly put it after one exercise to partner up and lift our new chums off the ground as many times as possible, 'Did we seek out the coolest, most influential people in the room to see how they did it? Did we rationally evaluate all the possible options before making a choice?

 No, we just instinctively looked at what everyone else was doing and copied it!' So far, so analogue and no one was yet to utter the two most overused words of the century - 'content' and 'engagement'.

Engagement as False God?

How that was to change!   I found it particularly fascinating that despite its ubiquity on the day there was no universally agreed definition of 'engagement' attempted or indeed any model suggested of how 'engagement' actually works as an agent of behavioural change.  I guess it all comes down to your beliefs about how communications actually work.  If you're of the nudging/reminding/ salience school then chasing improved 'Talking About This' metrics on Facebook is a false god.

Heretical as this may sound,  given the woefully low engagement rates of brand fans on Facebook exposed in a recent Ehrenberg-Bass Institute study then perhaps this is a blessing in disguise for brand owners?  

With that in mind it was none the less a fascinating day of many, many, presentations (some lasted 40 minutes, some lasted 10minutes, and all predetermined by the crowds view of 'relative interest') This was rigidly adhered to but less apologetically than James Corden cutting short Adele at the Brits. Speakers were literally hauled off mid-sentence if they overran, which worked quite well I thought!

So what were the themes?

Well you know you're on the cusp of a new industry meme (ride 'em cupcake) when several agencies serve up the same fare.  One such approach was 'Stock and Flow' as a metaphor for content development.  Originally coined by Robin Sloan, formerly of Twitter (and the blog Snarkmarket)as follows:  "Stock… is the durable stuff. It's the content you produce that's as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It's what people discover via search. It's what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time." Flow, on the other hand, " … is the feed.  It's the posts and the tweets. It's the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist."

Although not credited at all on the day, Sloan has, in effect, subscribed to the nudging/ awareness model of how communications work.  He hasn't mentioned the engagement word because he believes the role of flow is to 'remind people that you exist'.   Interesting,  perhaps I'm on to something?

The rest of the day could probably be summed up by Mothers '8 things they've learnt this year' which echoed most speaker's thoughts:

1. Sort out the terminology - get clarity

2. Brands are built by a series of interactions not purely by association

3. Strategists are actually 'Interaction Designers' (well we were in Shoreditch)

4. Keep Good Company/Collaborate

5. Make Things People Want/Notice the ordinary

6. Improve the quality of Content to those hard won communities

7. Build Business Together

8. 'Stock and Flow' for rich ideas

I'll leave you all to decide whether you agree with them or not…