#da12social‬ Is Europe ready to strategically leverage Social Media for business? Interview with Axel Schultze @AxelS

In 4 weeks time, 30 strategists, 250 volunteers created 1,000+ pages of crowd sourced research and 1 strategy proposal for the Digital Agenda Assembly 2012 of the EU Commission. Yesterday I had the privilege to talk to the man that initiated this group of highly qualified volunteers; Axel Schultze.

Axel Schultze, CEO of Social Media Software company XeeMe, Palo Alto, California - Chairman of the Social Media Academy, Palo Alto and active social media practitioner since 2003.

As part of the Digital Agenda Assembly 2012 of the EU Commission, you created a Digital Agenda Strategy Team. Can you tell me more about your motives to create this team? When and how did you come up with this idea?

The EU commission invited me to do an opening keynote at the Digital Agenda Assembly conference at the 21st of June in Brussels. I reviewed the European situation and realized not only is Europe 4 years behind the US but also not ready to strategically leverage Social Media for business. I proposed to the EU Commission to develop an open strategy to stimulate small and medium business to create growth and to compete on a global market. The scope is huge, so we need a clearly defined strategy to go after that objective. But as an experienced strategist I know it is possible. My motive is to make Europe a more stable and better place to live and work.

Very high goals: sustainable growth, additional jobs and being able to compete in a global market. In the meanwhile we see the news that Europe is struggling to keep their (financial) heads above the water. Do you think Social Media can ‘save’ Europe business wise?

If you look at the struggle Europe is in, there is a difference in what the press is saying and global reality. A large part of the EU, northern countries are economically very strong compared to US and Latin American countries. All in all, we see a rather strong Europe. We are always challenged around the globe. Even when disaster strikes there will be a way to create business.

There are various aspects of growth. If you look at the shoe industry, in Italy and Spain, the leather industry is big. However, both Italy and Spain are struggling. On a global scope, DC Shoes in California, has 8 million fans talking about their shoes on Facebook only. Falco is an Italian shoe factory which is not present on social media at all. Both companies target young people – but the US one is clearly ahead of the European one. If we can stimulate the Italian and Spanish shoe industry online, people don’t need to order shoes from the US.

Then there is the Fascino Group Guangzhou Shoes Manufacturer from China who is a very potential competitive risk. These shoes are not known in Europe because Chinese companies don’t allow Facebook in their marketing strategy. Renren.com is a chinese social network and they are present there. As soon as Fascino is able to deal with western social media platforms, they will come to Europe over-night. Whilst Falco is still not present at all and doesn’t even know how to deal with it. We need to prepare our local businesses. If businesses like Falco are not present other than through old fashioned business concepts, they will not be competitive. And the shoe industry is only one example.

The US and China are big countries with a lot of people speaking the same language. In Italy and Germany almost all television broadcasts are synchronised into their respective languages. Young people can only learn English from music channels, online and a bit from school. What about this language barrier?

Look at the kids in Europe. There are 230 million Facebook users who talk to friends in their native language but also to friends around the world in English. The common language has become English. As such we are initially focusing on those groups of people and businesses who are open minded, have typically a better financial position, and thus are more able to buy the products. They will lead the track and the slow mover will follow.

What if the Euro falls, what strategy will be needed for Social Media and business?

Companies who feel they have no time for Social Media need to learn that it is not a nice-to-have or fancy marketing play but a strategic tool to grow the business. The whole focus of our particular social media initiative is to help grow a business through widening the potential market – which today means more export. Whether the euro falls or not, business will need to continue selling their wares. And if they can’t locally right now, they can find consumers in other parts of Europe or the world.

The US economy almost collapsed 4 years ago. The US grocery brand Whole Foods was known as expensive. In that crisis even rich people saved money but Whole Foods grew. They understood they had to be as human as possible. Albertsons groceries was 10 times bigger at that time but closed more than half of their operation and almost vanished away, others even went out of business because they did not act on the opportunities to get closer to their respective markets which is one of the key advantages of social media. (read more about Whole Foods Social Media strategy on Mashable).

Zappos is an online shoe dealer. They had a hard time selling shoes online because people want to try shoes on. They started to send 10 pairs of shoes to fit on and let customers send the ones back that didn’t fit.  In a few years time Zappos grew to a 1 billion business. They recognized that social media is not about fancy, but about building relationships with as much consumers as possible. The prejudice that you can only talk to a few customers in so much time is not true when you apply social media as a business relation tool and not as a spam tool.

What is it exactly that your group is working on, what the European Digital Strategy is in need of? What is this groups added value?

This group has worked through thousands of pages of research. The real work is to make sense out of this information, to distill it. We focus on the 3 biggest industries in the countries. We look at the perception of social media in European countries, at obstacles, rules & regulations and what business owners think of social media. We need to know where they are and identify the opportunities. If we would be pure data junkies, we would see construction work is important because it is big in all countries. But knowing construction is very local, we rather focus on industry segments with a sustainable impact on a country’s economy. The most notable effect for businesses in this situation in Europe is to grow outside their country. We won’t be able to come up with that objective without knowing what is going on in the respective countries. Now, going forward, we cannot continue doing this for the next 4 years for free. We need to find funds and hope to get funding from various sources. And we will look for resources to execute this project in the next couple of years.

What outcome do you hope to present in Brussels.

We developed an execution plan where we hope to assemble a team for the entire project. We would like to see country specific teams and funding to get them going. We build a 3 tier engagement model, where we conduct an awareness campaign with sponsoring from industry leaders to fund this campaign. We recognized the need for profound education for business leaders, business teams as well as consultants and that will be the first problem we need to solve.

On the 20th of June we will reconvene with the team on how we will go forward. We will install more country teams where we get educated resources. We hope to reach 7-10 countries for the remainder of the DA 12. Cutting through the noise is the biggest challenge for all groups on the Agenda. I believe our group demonstrated that we are well able to cut through that noise.

Read more…


Vertical Gardening

Inspired by a post on Facebook where I saw this brilliant solution to safe space in your garden using just a fabric Shoe Organizer , I started my quest to create my own vertical garden.

I must have watched dozens of YouTube movies about vertical gardening and watched thousands of photos that unblocked my mindset about the space to use in a garden. In gardening, we tend to think horizontal, right? Plants grow vertical so seeding, weeding and soiling should be on a horizontal level, true? Well…. start thinking about your garden as a CUBE and not as a flat piece of land. When you start visioning your garden as a cube, you have 3 times more space to grow your veggies.

Plants in a shoe-organizer

Plants in a shoe-organizer which inspired me to make my own plant sacks.

Vertical Garden sacks

My answer to the shoe organizer bags. I sewed my own because I could not find any nice AND cheap organizers.

Vertical garden bags

Vertical garden bags in my greenery. The cost 1 euro each and are filled with tomatoes.

Vertical garden pots.

Vertical garden pots. I am not in favor of hanging baskets, because they tend to dry out too quickly. But I just love these pots hanging on the waterpipe.

The challenge in vertical gardening is water and food for the plants. They need a good organized watering and feeding system. I bought a set of tubes and dripping tubes to handle that, and hope to find a solar powered way to pump water in a dripping system soon. Will keep you posted about that!


My 7 Simple Pillars to build Online Success

This is my first assignment in the Social Media bootcamp I am following, organised by Michael Q. Todd.

Although I am playing around in social media a lot, I never really felt organized in it. I just did what felt good and followed my guts. I hope this course will give me some clarity and new strategies to follow.

The first assignment is to write a blog post with an honest appraisal of my social media experience so far, using Michaels post ‘Your 7 Simple Pillars to build Online Success‘ as a guideline.

These are my 7 pillars.

  1. Find your pot of gold and stick to it This is probably the hardest part to all humans and goes from cradle to grave. If you do not find your passion in life, your pot of gold and what makes your heart tick, there is no goal really. In social media I see a lot of people retweeting, repeating, reposting what other people create. If you are unable to find your pot of gold (and I am sure everyone has one), there is no creation, no originality and therefore no success. Does that mean that we cannot learn from our masters and teachers? Certainly not. We can copy our masters but more important is to become your own master in what you do.Does this sound heavy? Just think about your childhood. What did you like to do most when you were young and playing? I remember demonstrating in my street with a self-made banner on sticks that said: “no more school” and felt very successful in getting a crowd behind me. I remember my surprise at the followers I got. My quality lies in the fact that I am able to collect a crowd and draw the attention to something. There, I said it.My passion is Raja Yoga, which means connecting to the Highest Source of energy. Yoga means connection. Social media means connection. My goal and passion in social media is to use social media as a way to help people connect to their Source as well.
  2. Don’t be afraid of technique As a webdesigner, clients often thought of me as some computer expert. Well, I am not a computer expert. When my hard-disk crashes, I bring my laptop to the bicycle computer repairman. But, I do keep up to date with the software I am using. When I want to use something, or want to automate something, I am a quick learner of software tools that will get me there. I am not afraid to try new tools. But I am also trying not to be attached to them. If my goal is clear, any tool can get me there. The tools I use are under my command. It is not about technique, it is about strategy. Discussions about the differences between Mac or Pc, Facebook or Google+ are totally irrelevant to me.To me, the Empire Avenue game plays a big catalytic role in measuring the tools I am using. For each action online in any online tool I am collecting points. It gives me great insight in which tools work best for me and for the people I want to reach.

    Empire Avenue Connection Scores

  3. Give and add value I think the best strategy online is to share. People want to share, we want to give. The best things in life are for free. The whole internet consists of information people shared for free. This is the biggest power of the internet. In any online action you do, there is no sense of giving, then most likely your action will not lead to success. If you are afraid that what you post will be stolen, then don’t post. As soon as you push the ‘publish’ button on any tool, you give it to the universe. When you keep this in mind, the universe will give back to you in the same amount or even more. Sharing is giving and giving is receiving.In giving and receiving, timing is everything. Do not use twitter when you are tired. Do not write a blog post when you feel down. If you see Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools as a way to interact, look at it as if it were a cocktail party. You dress up (mentally), find yourself in a good mood and then go and engage with the crowd. Only when you feel fresh and recharged, you can give to others. Posts, tweets, comments will be useless when you feel drained. With every action, online or not, you transmit energy. When there is no energy, do not act. For me this means, that my best time is early mornings. For other people this maybe evenings or nights. But for me after 8 pm, most things I do online are not giving energy, but rather taking. I use the evenings to read some and listen to music and stopped forcing myself being productive at that time.
  4. Be social Say thank you when somebody mentions you in a tweet. Re-share a post when somebody adds it to your timeline on Facebook. Click Plus when somebody makes a comment on your Google+ posts. Answer, engage and be attentive. People will feel the energy you sent out in this too. If somebody mentions you in a tweet, you can give back with mentioning them in your tweets, or a Follow Friday tweet.
  5. Create a party Social media is here for years now and is here to stay, and yet I still hear the same old prejudices that say: but I don’t want to share my whole personal life, I don’t care about people tweeting about what coffee they drink and where. If you don’t like what is being tweeted, posted and YouTubed, do it better! Be challenged to make a party out of your own life. Social media is not about locking yourself up in a room and stay behind your screen all day. Look at the beauty that happens outside. For me personally I love attending lectures, going to museums and talk about it. Having small children my time and geographic area for doing this is limited but there is a lot going on in my garden and kitchen table. Look at all the crafting we do and sharing it. I love the activity that is going on in my small housebound world here. If you think your life is boring, start making it exciting!
    #howto #paper #flowers #narcis

    Forest walks, play gardens and our crafting table is my world. I make a party of it every day.


  6. Pay it forward Give help and receive help to get shared. Do other people share your same goal? Add them to your circles, share their posts, give shout-outs. Being online alone is no fun. Get in circles, groups that can share your content and pay it forward. Don’t be afraid to lose anything when you promote your competition. The pie is big enough for everybody.
  7. Think BIG I don’t mean a little bit big. I mean HUGE. Transcend the role you are playing now or the role you think you are playing. Are you a housewife? A mother like me? Are you trying to run a business and get the laundry done in between? It doesn’t matter. You are infinite. You are what you create and what you can create is much bigger than what you see now. You can be a King in your next life. Don’t hold yourself back with false modesty. Thoughts like “nobody is interested anyway” or “whatever I do is meaningless” are arrogance really. Who are you to judge? Let your audience judge about that. You just create the best you can and skip any limit.

Happy Foursquare Day #4sqDay

Foursquare Day is held every year on April 16th. Check in today and receive your #4sqDay badge.

Foursquare Day badge

Foursquare Day badge

In 2010, foursquare fans declared April 16 4sqDay (4/4^2 – nerds after our own heart!). Two years and two billion check-ins later, you’re still why we get out of bed each day. Thanks to all 20 million of you for making us part of your lives. Happy 4sqDay!

Do you want to learn more about Foursquare today? Then join @mqtodd for a #4sqday #EavChat 7pm EST 16 April on “Why use#4sq ? > http://michaelqtodd.com/4sq


Be careful what you wish for – but don’t stop wishing

A friend once told me that when you grow spiritually and become who you are, pure, your life will run smoothly.

flag pole

My two flag poles, honestly wished for

To me this means that my thoughts are aligned with what happens on the outside. You may recognize it from your own experience or saw it in a movie. For example, you drive your car with your spouse and you talk about somebody whose name is John. The moment you mention John, your eye falls on a sign that says ‘John’s fish’ or something that carries the name John. It is as if your life is a movie and all you see is a decor of your play. These ‘coincidences’ happen to me more and more.

This morning, my friends of the DHL package service stopped in front or our house. As soon as I saw this big yellow truck, I quickly scanned my memory to see what I ordered on the internet the last couple of days. I couldn’t come up with anything so I continued playing Empire Avenue. Then somebody knocked on the back door. The DHL people know me because I order regularly on the internet and they know they can come through the back door instead of ringing the front doorbell, which is only for queens and kings.

I saw him carrying a flag pole wrapped in bubbled plastic. Through the plastic I saw an orange bulb the flag pole had on top. The young yellow man came in and I told him ‘hey, this is the second flag pole I got this week and I only ordered one. They must have made a mistake”. “Well I can take it back” he told me and I quickly answered “no I’ll keep it, if they want it back, they can call me”.

I put the second flag pole next to the already unwrapped one and scanned my memory again. I realized that, for a couple of times,  I thought about how nice it would be to have 2 flag poles. One for our house and one for our garden cabin. I also remembered visualizing it. But never took action to order a second one. So I guess the universe ordered it for me.

These things happen more and more often. Even yesterday evening. I was just pondering on how nice it is to have friends over in our house and I always run around my house with the thought that I will have visitors soon. My children love visitors too and I love having my garden full of children running around or family staying over. And when they do, I do my best in making life comfortable for them. Making coffee, sending a kid to the loo when I see him suppressing his needs because he wants to play. Bake bread or just relax (a good host needs to know how to relax).

I also thought about how it would be to have a friend live in our garden cabin permanently. At 9 pm the doorbell rang. An odd hour to ring somebodies doorbell …. . A man whom I did not recognize, stood in front of me. He told me that he was looking for a place to stay. If I could rent out my garden cabin. My first reaction was “No, certainly not”. He asked me why. “It would cross our sense of privacy” I told him, and wished him good luck with his search. I couldn’t imagine renting a part of my house to a stranger, but after he left, I realized  that I did wish for a friend staying in our garden cabin…

Sometimes the universe mixes things up I guess.



#FFF Foursquare Friend Fail

After having been annoyed with daily Friend requests on Foursquare that I cannot add because I am at my ’1000 Friend’ limit, this is the top silly thing I have seen on Foursquare Friends Request. Me, Myself and I requested to be friends with no less than…. Me Myself and I?

Me Myself and I on Foursquare

Me Myself and I on Foursquare

Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favor of being your own best friend. But it doesn’t seem to be so hard to:

  1. Stop receiving Friend request when your list of Friends is full
  2. Stop receiving tips from Foursquare to add Friends when your list of Friends is full.
  3. Stop receiving any Friends notifications at all when your list of Friends is full.

Sounds like a simple If > Then statement?


Aquaponics here I come #sustainchat #Aquaponics

Inspired by members of Empire Avenue, I learned about Aquaponics. This week my mom saw something about it on television so I figured, why not make one my own.

Now I must admit that the technique involved scares me off a bit. I prefer just gardening in the sand and the idea that plants grow on fish tanks seems like rocket science to me. But there seem to be great resources on Youtube so why not go ahead with it and make it real this year.

  1. Step one. Planning a place to set up an Aquaponic system.

I have thought about building a greenhouse in my garden for some time. I think the best way to start is using plastic as a cover. Not so organic but affordable. These are called Polytunnels.


Tuin, garden

My little piece of garden at the back where I plan to make the greenery

Polytunnel here I come

The little piece of garden at the back of our long garden is perfect for a Polytunnel because it is surrounded by trees and will not catch too much wind. I only hope that there won’t fall any branches on it.

Great instruction for making a poly tunnel


My neighbors Guinea Pig Poop as Garden Fertilizer

I have a new neighbor. Her name is Monique and she has 7 Guinea Pigs. She asked me if we could give her our vegetable left overs to feed them.

Since I like to save my veggies to make compost it made me feel like there was nothing left to compost if I’d give everything to the Guinea Pigs. So I looked it up in my big compost book if I could use the Guinea Pigs poop as fertilizer. And my book said yes! Guinea Piggy poop is perfect for the compost bin. So now we have a nice organic cycling thing going on. Poop rocks!

Guinea Pigs at the neighbors

Guinea Pigs at the neighbors

Here you see the composting in progress, a Guinea Pig is eating... soon to be pooping yeah!

Here you see the composting in progress, a Guinea Pig is eating... soon to be pooping yeah!

Guinea Pig fertilizer

And there it is, tadaa! One weeks harvest of 100% unadulterated pure Guinea Pig poop


New Year Message 2012 from Dadi Janki

Dear Friends,

On the threshold of 2012 we are uncertain about what time may hold for us. Ours is a time in which there are two energies at work: an ascending energy and a descending energy.

We are reminded constantly of the descending energy and its destabilizing effects on the world, increasing feelings of fear, anxiety and hopelessness.

Perhaps less visible, but assuredly more powerful, is the ascending energy. Like new growth below the ground in late winter, ascending energy is working quietly in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, shaping a new story. We see it in the surge of those seeking spiritual truth and in the hundreds of thousands of civil society organizations requesting transparency, authenticity, and a return to values.

We have a choice about which energy we affiliate with, about where we put our support. We make this choice at the level of thought. When we allow anger, greed, or fear into our thoughts, we strengthen the descending energy, and we lose our capacity for generosity and mercy.

When we meet situations with peace, love, and persistent happiness, when we are careful not to say or think anything that would hurt another’s heart, we amplify the energy of ascent.

We find these qualities inside of ourselves, as they have always been our true nature. But to find them ready in moments of need, we have to nurture them daily. To make the greatest contribution to the world at this time, keep the fire of goodness alive in your heart and mind. Fill yourself with the energies of peace, love and happiness and let them infuse your every action.

With love
BK Janki

From http://www.bkwsu.org/