The Friendly Chat: Joël Céré

Joël Céré is a Frenchman by conception, Anglo-Saxon by reason, Oriental by passion and a World Citizen by conviction! He has spent the last 10 years consulting on and managing marketing and interactive communication programmes at a regional or global level from Paris, Singapore and London. Having worked at Hill & Knowlton as the EMEA VP, he is now co-founder and VP of Marketing, Karmony Inc. Joël blogs at http://beyondpr.blogspot.com

Why did you start blogging? How do you think your professional life has benefited from blogging? Any drawbacks?

I started so that I could understand the theory of blogging. I had limited expectations. I just wanted to get an idea of the mechanics of it, maybe raise my profile a little, even go on a bit of an ego trip!

Being pretty much the first person at my office in Hill & Knowlton to start a blog did actually raise my profile, such that I received some mentions in national media, for example The Guardian. Of course, this was ‘cool’ professionally, plus I got some freebies along the way which was nice.

Since then, I’ve found it a great tool for thinking and collecting links. Now, I can readily adapt all that material for a lot of other uses, such as presentations, pitches, conferences and so on. It’s all there, with just a few tweaks. It’s a really valuable resource.

I now mainly benefit from the profile-raising aspect of blogging. When I’m working freelance, as I am now, I find it really helps to bootstrap the business. When people want to find you or find out more about you, they tend to use Google as the first port of call nowadays. If they find my blog, that’s great. It also lends an aura of expertise which helps.

There have been no drawbacks. I have always been mindful that I’m not just representing myself, but my company and sometimes even my clients.

What are your predictions for social media in 2008?

This is the Year of the App. I think there will be a slow-down in people creating social networks, and a build-up of specifically designed apps, especially on Facebook.

I recently attended a Facebook developer’s garage and everyone was trying to recruit Facebook developers. If they had any skills or experience in this area, they were in great demand. A lot of clients want this now.

I also think we will see our first case of identity theft through Facebook. Someone somewhere will leave their bank account details or whatever on Facebook, and someone else will exploit that.

What is your favourite social media tool/site/technology?

Facebook. I’ve just launched an app called Treeviews. Treeviews makes it easy to request and share personalised recommendations with those who know what you like, but you also get to improve society. Whenever you ask for advice or help friends with their requests, you earn “leaves”. The more leaves you accumulate, the more we donate to the International Tree Foundation for their reforestation programmes across the world, to protect the environment and fight global warming. I explain more about it on the Treeviews blog.

If Facebook is personal and a blog’s public, then LinkedIn fills that ‘professional’ slot nicely.

I use Skype a lot, for videoconferencing, brainstorming and so on, with people in the US and Asia. I think it’s just an amazing invention.

I also like yugma. It’s a remote desktop application, a bit like Webex but lighter and more agile. It’s great for developing applications – the coder can just jump in and fix code remotely.

Google Maps, is also very useful for me, as I have a terrible sense of direction!

How do you see blogging sitting alongside Facebook? Are they complementary or contradictory?

They are superficially similar, but they have different functions. And I definitely think blogging is giving way to Facebook.

I’m seeing the appetite for blogging waning. It doesn’t seem to have taken off as predicted, say, three years ago. There seems to be a decline in both quantity and quality of posting. When I started, there were really good posts out there, full of good arguments and great analysis. Now I see a lot more ‘relaying’ of information. I don’t see that this adds value at all.

Possibly this is because people are suffering blogging fatigue. They’re just too busy to create good, original content, day in, day out. I know all about this. When I was studying for my MBA I just found it too difficult to study, work and blog, so something had to go.

So why are platforms like Facebook taking off? I think the difference is that, whereas you would blog to create a community, with social media the community is already there. You can pick and choose which groups to join, or even just interact with your friends. I certainly blog a lot less now, and use Facebook a lot more.

They can exist alongside each other however. Blogging is much more your ‘public’ life. You would say certain things in a certain way on a blog, that you just would not on Facebook. If anything, it’s more pronounced the other way around: your Facebook account is more for personal details that you’re happier sharing there than on your blog.

What are your thoughts on mobile blogging?

The ability to post to a blog while on the move is fantastic. You get a real feeling for the liveness of the event, with emotions, snippets, small details that just wouldn’t be remembered after the event. I though Scoble’s live streaming video coverage of the Davos event using his mobile phone was groundbreaking.

I don’t really see the point of Twitter and Jaiku. I find them mind-numbing! How am I supposed to be interested in what someone has just had for breakfast, for example?

However, I do like the idea of being able to mail friends using these mobile platforms. If I’m sitting in a café in Amsterdam, say, and I want to see who’s around, I can just send one Twitter post to friends in case they fancy popping in, rather than separate emails.

You seem to enjoy gadgets. Do you think this makes you perceived as ‘techy’? Do you think this is a problem when trying to spread social media awareness?

Actually, I’m not all that into gadgets! I did give a big review of the Skype phone it’s true, but I was given that by a PR firm to review on my blog. Fortunately, it came at exactly the right time for me. I use Skype a lot, and I happened to really like the device.

I can see that there is a perception gap when it comes to tech and social media. I would say that the technical side really doesn’t enter into it. We need to show that it’s communication.

Tech is a channel, and therefore tactical. Social media is not. It is strategic. It’s a part of the strategic mix of options available when undertaking any communications programme.

The challenge for social media is to prove to people that we have the right foundations, that we know how communications works and we can show this.

What are the top three things you’d ask people to consider when they start a blog?

  1. Try to add value. Don’t just recycle. Be passionate . Create original content and use your own voice.
  2. Build a network otherwise you’re blogging alone. Get traffic coming in. People don’t seem to use blogrolls any more so it’s important that you get yourself known by commenting on other people’s blogs.
  3. Post regularly. If you don’t, you will see the traffic going down and it’s harder to come back. However, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity, and don’t post simply because you feel you should.

Which blogger do you most admire?

I like Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert!

His is possibly the most commented-on blog. It’s not unusual for his posts to receive hundreds of comments. He has a great tone of voice, very funny and insightful. He’s actually a great writer. He’s also very interactive, responding to people’s comments and getting involved with the dialogue. It just seems that the blog is a natural medium for him.

I also like sites such as Techcrunch and Mashable. I truly believe that, if you want to know what’s coming next, you need to look at what the venture capital/small business blogs are saying. You need to look at these blogs to see true innovation. You generally won’t get this from PR, or even from social media blogs.

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