Thursday, 19 August 2010

Why I LOVE Guide Camp

A couple of weeks ago, I took one week annual leave from work and spent a week volunteering on a Guide camp, with 750 girls and leaders, in Ashdown Forest near East Grinstead. It was a fantastic week and rather than the usual week off, where it's over in the blink of an eye and before you know it you're sat back at your desk, this is one "holiday" that really lasts.

Here are my top reasons to love Guide camp:

Friendships made or reaffirmed

There are so many different volunteers involved in a Guide camp and so many opportunities to make friends. When do you get time to really talk to people and get to know them, you do on Guide camp. And one thing I particularly enjoy is watching the girls make friends, girls can start the week strangers and end up inseparable. They learn that making friends isn't as hard or a scary as they might think, and they grow in confidence. Actually, that goes for the leaders as well as the girls!

Money saved

During a usual week at work you'll spend money on lunches, drinks, meals out and shopping, and even more on a holiday, but on Guide camp there is very little to buy, except from the tuck shop! And there are only so many 2p sweets you can buy.

Things learnt and challenges overcome

Amongst other things...
  • How to say hello and goodbye in Japanese, Estonian and Nigerian.
  • It is possible to drive a 4x4 blindfolded with the help of your friends.
  • How to we take a group picture of all 750 participants?
  • How do we put up a tent with no instructions?
  • The words of Black Eyed Peas "I've got a feeling"
  • Some new dance moves
  • That an olive is a fruit!? (sorry in joke!)
Sleeping under canvas

Being out of doors and on the go all day can be really tiring, so there is nothing nicer than snuggling down into a sleep bag and spending the night in a tent.

Healthy appetite

Being out of doors and on the go all day also gives you a healthy appeite, and goodness do we eat well on Guide camp. Breakfast: eggy bread, beans, bacon, sausages, yoghurt, fruit, coisants and toast. Elevenes: cake. Lunch: salad, tuna, jacket potatoes and cheese, followed by apricot crumble. Fourses: more cake. Dinner: sweet and sour chicken with rice, followed by chocolate sponge pudding and chocolate custard.

Totally switch off from work

The only blackberry you need on Guide camp, is the kind that comes in a crumble. Leave your laptop at home, don't check your email, forget facebook and Twitter - it really is a joy.

Keeps you young

Yes, it can be freaky when you realise just how young some of the girls are, or should it be, how old you actually are?! But actually spending a week, talking and participating in activities with girls between aged 10 and 18 really helps you understand the pressures and joys young people face today.

If Guide camp sounds like fun, get involved...Join Girlguding UK visit:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Wanted: A Panacea

The more I learn about online: about search engine optimisation, about social media, about web design, the more apparent it is that there is no one answer and no quick win.

This was one of themes running through Brighton SEO, which I attended a fortnight ago. Two speakers in particular: Annabel Hodges and Rishi Lakhani both talked about the importance of an integrated strategy which doesn't just involve "traditional Search Engine Optimisation."

Annabel Hodges's presentation: when is an SEO campaign, not an SEO campaign?  And Rishi Lakhani, Search Marketing Consultant: Actually Making SEO Happen... both talked about the importance of a joined up strategy, which explores all the options and delivers a combined holistic approach.

For example: if your company wants to know how to sell more stuff online? There will be a wide variety of potential 'answers'

Improve our website?
Improve our Google rankings?
Increase repeat business?
Engage better with customers and potential customers?
More proactive PR?

Let's look at two of these potential solutions.

1. Improve our website

What exactly does this mean?
The design?
The use-ability?
The content?
The optimisation?
All of the above?
Something else?

2. Engage better with customers and potential customers?

Investing in customer service?
All of the above?
Something else?

So who might deliver these solutions?

What can be done in-house?
What expertise do we have?
And just because we can do it, should we do it? Is it the best use of our time?
Who can help us?
What do we need to learn? And how?
Who can we partner with?
Who are the experts? And of course I'm talking about experts, not one expert!

Often we look for a panacea, a quick win, an easy solution... But there isn't one. It is more complicated than that. Which explains why it was standing (or sitting cross legged on the floor) room only at Brighton SEO. Over 100 people from Brighton (and around and about), all able to make a living because there isn't a quick easy solution.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Don't call me a 'social media guru'

At a recent event: Engaging Online Communities, hosted by the Press Association, one of the panel said "beware of anyone who calls themselves a social media guru."  It got a laugh from the other panel members (some of whom I suspect immediately went home and altered their CVs) and the audience.

o why is calling yourself a social media guru (even if you know quite a lot about social media), really quite rubbish?
  • Well, for starters calling yourself a guru is pretty arrogant.  According to Princeton University a guru is "recognised leader in some field or of some movement", and you'd have to be pretty big headed to proclaim yourself a social media leader.
  • Social media is all inclusive, it's social (the clue is in the name).  Everyone can get involved and have a go and it's not a place where you necessarily need a guru.  It's much more a case of "learn by doing" than a situation where "experts" teach "beginners".
  • Social media cannot be controlled and it cannot be predicted, and if you find someone who can control it or predict the next big thing, then I think they probably can call themselves a guru.
  • Finally because some self-proclaimed social media gurus have quite a lot to answer for. They can command large salaries by painting social media as a panacea, when it's not.  And pretending they have all the answers, when they don't.  
Still want to call yourself a social media guru....?  If you've not seen it already (it's been around for a while, 167,924 views to be precise) you need to check out this video about a Social Media Guru, it's funny (and rude, swearing warning).