social media club breakfast

Another Friday, another Social Media Club breakfast at Mr Tulk. Having attended three breakfasts now, I’m starting to realise that there’s a bunch of regulars who I see every week but to whom I’ve never had to chance to introduce myself. So next week’s aim is to say hi to all those familiar faces.

This week I met Guy Vincent, whose interest in social media lies with the future of journalism, interactive ebooks and collaborative publishing. Our conversation started with him describing his involvement with E-week, a University of Melbourne initiative set up by a group of student entrepreneurs called the Agents of ChangeE-week events included presentations, panel discussions, workshops and the Innovator’s Challenge, where teams were given the task to create as much value as possible from household item (paint) and to implement it in six days. Apparently one of the projects was a charity fundraiser involving the application of paint to your chosen professor’s face!

When I was at uni, I would have said that a typical uni student held a generally laconic view of life, work and study. I certainly don’t recall meeting the kind of go-getting, super-motivated entrepreneurs that I seem to be encountering nowadays (or maybe it’s just law students who are laconic?). So I’m very impressed that the E-week team have a project in sight for the summer holidays and their grand plan is to develop Melbourne into a new Silicon Valley using the Y Combinator model by Paul Graham.

In addition, Guy’s has other projects on the go – an interactive ebook publishing business called Drewery Lane and an upcoming interactive e-book store called clicc (watch out for later this year). Phew.

Our conversation was joined by Andy Cronin, the Social Media Campaign Manager for Telstra. Andy’s interest in social media started when he was promoting his garage band on MySpace and now he’s helping the big bad behemoth telecommunications company to successfully engage with their customers online.

I didn’t even know Telstra had a social media strategy. But Andy told me that Telstra are very active on Twitter – in fact, BigPond is often used by brands as a case study for best practice in engaging with customers online and delivering customer service through Twitter. Bizarrely, BigPond also has the biggest presence worldwide on Second Life, second only to Playboy. Did you know that Telstra have a very successful Youtube channel? You can watch video tutorials on how to use your Telstra device, from setting up email to posting photos.

Telstra‘s social media strategy boils down to listening to and conversing with their customers to form relationships with them. For instance, the centralised social media team monitor tweets, contact twitterers directly and provide personalised responses to queries and feedback on all Telstra products and services. So you know that a human ‘Jase’ is doing his best to help you with your problem, and it’s not just some automated bot telling you to ‘have a nice day’. These kinds of genuine and humanised interactions make a refreshing change from the slick public relations mask often worn by big companies. I’m not a Telstra customer and I have to say I’m impressed by their approach.

Read about my breakfast with Sam Sabey (Smart Energy Groups), Antony McGregor Dey (QM Codes and IPitch) and Luke Grange (Knowledge Solutions) here