Stephen Collins, AKA Trib, Founder, acidlabs


Stephen Collins (aka Trib) is an exceptional voice for the digital media industry.  His straight forward attitude and down to earth approach to real business development and social media strategies make him a very influence profile in Australia. Follow him on Twitter and be inspired, read his blog and learn.

Describe what you do (in your own words):

It’s probably best described as strategic communications advice. It’s a bit of all of:

  • future-gazing
  • a lot of research, writing and investigation into clients’ businessand how they communicate – both internally an across the wall to their clients, customers and stakeholders
  • a lot of talking and listening around that research
  • best approaches, what to do and not to do
  • a touch of marketing
  • a big spoonful of evangelism and mentoring
  • risk analysis and risk mitigation
  • engaging people while working with clients and making sure they areable to keep them engaged after I’m gone

Best digital memory of 2008? (site, campaign, movement, person etc) :

The Obama campaign’s use of social media. It so completely got how to  use social media as a grass roots tool to get people activated that Icompletely believe that it was a major contributing factor to his election win.

What’s the best lesson the industry could learn?

It seems to me that a LOT of clients are now asking for social media inclusion in their marketing and advertising campaigns. Or asking how it could be used inside their organisations to improve collaboration and innovation opportunities. Or last, how it might be better used asa way to communicate effectively with clients, customers and other stakeholders.

I think this is a great thing, but I’m more than a little worried that some of the advice being given (and I believe it’s being given with clients’ best interests at heart) isn’t as well-informed as it could be. It’s not enough if you’re a consultant or a part of a marcoms agency and you toss in a little “we could also do some blogging” into the mix. In fact, it’s a very big risk.

I’ve mentioned this to a few people, and I’ll say it again. There are probably a good half-dozen people who might be considered social media experts in Australia. At least our peers here and overseas think so.  People like Laurel Papworth, Trevor Cook, Lee Hopkins, me, are, as far as I know, all more than willing to help agencies, consultancies and their clients build a deeper understanding of how social tools and the organizations they are working with might go together.

We’ve only got to look at the two failed social media efforts in 2008 that NAB was involved in, and the great strides Telstra and their BigPond brand have made to see the two ends of the advice spectrum.

NAB continued to take bad advice and execute badly, and was pretty belligerent about it. On the other hand, Telstra really opened its mind and talked to several people who know a great deal about social media. I was lucky enough to be one of them, amongst others who I respect a great deal – I don’t know whether they want me to name them here as some of them are working in agencies and gave advice outside their normal jobs. Off the back of those conversations, people on the ground at Telstra made substantive changes in the way the brand
engages through social media.

Telstra’s willingness to listen and act is an incredible breath of fresh air in Australian businesses, where many brands don’t yet adequately (or at all) use social media tools as an engagement platform. The changes at Telstra are in no small part due to the efforts of guys like Mike Hickinbotham, who really believe in what they are doing. Telstra senior management on the other hand, couldn’t be doing worse damage to the brand if they were trying.

What’s emerging for 2009?

It appears to me that financial crisis or not, a number of organisations have now made the leap to understanding enough about social media to believe it’s not a waste of time and might have some real business benefit to them. Obviously, I agree. I’d say to them “go try lots of things. Toss out the ones that don’t work for you and work harder on the ones that do. Mostly, get good advice, do good research and solve real problems.”

There are a bunch of really good thinkers and doers emerging in Community Management. People like Scott Drummond come to mind. Keep an eye on what they have to say.

Belt-tightening. We all need to continue to prove our value, no matter what we do.

What will be big in 2013?

This will be interesting to look back at!

As the mobile experience improves and the sheer volume of global users on mobile platforms outstrips those of us with keyboards and monitors, the mobile experience of hyperconnectedness will improve to the point where we won’t necessarily *need* a desktop computer.

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Simon T Small at 10:16 am

    NAB are a massive organisation and the stuffs up mentioned above were done internally with no advice from their primary advertisng and PR agencies.