31 Aug 2010
By Kristen Boschma

Digital People – Fi Bendall


Next in line for our Digital People series is Fi Bendall. Fi is a leading interactive and digital specialist, and managing director of Bendalls Group, and a Director of Digital Intelligence, a company with a consortium of digital specialists.

She has over 20 years experience in the digital sector. As well as developing key strategies for the BBC, she has worked on an international gaming industry portal, ATE Online, and on digital strategies for Australian clients such as Microsoft, News Interactive, Tourism Tasmania,  MTV, RaboPlus, ANZ, RAMS Home Loans, Coles, Origin Energy and more.

She has built a reputation for being hyperconnected and acting as a nexus between disparate people/communities and uses this ability to bring business and social media and digital  influencers together.

I asked Fi some questions over email and got some amazing insights into the digital world.


On 31/07/2010, at 4:33 PM, Boschma, Kristen wrote:

Question 1
Are there any social media sceptics left? If you met one, what would you say to them to convince them of social media’s awesomeness?

From: Fi Bendall
Sent: Saturday, 31 July 2010 9:41 PM
To: Boschma, Kristen
Subject: Re: Telstra Exchange Interview

There are plenty of social media sceptics out there. Most are sceptics because they want to know what the commercial value is back to their business verses the resources they may need to put into it. Or they just don’t get the internet.

Point one: Watch this golden but oldie ever-updated clip on YouTube.

Point two: Think about relationship and traditional metrics around customer LTV – work the relationship and the transaction value will follow. You can and should apply traditional techniques of business value to social media. Anyone who can’t model that, should not be working with you, or for you.

Point three: 80:20 rule – although in social media it is more the 1:100 rule. A tiny percentage of your customers will be true real lovers and advocates – find them and let them do the talking. Only 6% of all content on Youtube is created by the membership. You need to find your 6% engage them and let them create and spread the word.

(Point three by the way takes some psychological profiling so you need to invest in this – it isn’t who spends most with you, its who loves you)

Test & learn so you can uncover the value in context and in your businesses context so you can assess the opportunity, the risk and the reward.

For the true sceptic – one message – it is the biggest media channel in the world – ignore it at your peril – it is going on whether you like it or not

This what I would say as I left room, having I hoped made a proper business case, not a marketing case.


On 01/08/2010, at 7:52 PM, Boschma, Kristen wrote:

I reckon you would have been great on a debating team. I have always subscribed to the “it’s not who spends with you, it’s who loves you” model. They can be elusive at times!

Question 2
What are some of the obvious mistakes you see companies make in embarking on a digital program? (you don’t have to name names - just speak generally if you wish).

From: Fi Bendall
Sent: Sunday, 1 August 2010 8:25 PM
To: Boschma, Kristen
Subject: Re: Telstra Exchange Interview

:D You make me laugh!

I really hate to use a cliché but “no integration = disintegration”. It is the biggest challenge facing organisations & the biggest mistake being made by business.

A few examples:

Retailers often don’t see that integrating their digital retail arm with their bricks and mortar retail presence actually drives more sales through both. I also have been witness to one large retailer saying “Half my revenue is coming through digital now at a lower cost to serve, so higher profit margin, but I haven’t a clue why.” or “What is digital – except a web-site?” Wow! If half your business / revenue at higher margins is coming from online, you’d kinda of think you’d get to know about online!

Marketing agencies have digital shops that are just an advertising factory. Apparently any “BIG” idea can only be driven from traditional marketing disciplines. BIG ideas can come & be driven from innovation in digital, they actually can come from the tea lady too! No one should have an exclusive on building “the big idea” & how it will manifest itself in media channels. There should be no exclusive on the “Idea” in my opinion. We are seeing social media now emerging as a separate division from Digital that is separate from DM, and ABTL in large agencies.

They may all pay lip service to an “integrated full-service approach”, but in my experience, not naming names, that is all it is: lip service and smoke and mirrors to present a full service integrated approach that is not happening in reality. I can understand why, there are more revenues that come from certain channels, and digital tends to be more accountable and at less cost. However clients need to drive the action of their agencies, not be led.

In terms of the manifestation of the digital channel and the mass social aspect that has consumers demanding companies taken their voices into account, the approach needs to include marketing but not be led by marketing.

Digital and its Socialisation (Social Media), affect every part of a business and offer both big risks and big opportunities. The smart companies are ones who are embracing this across all business departments, from HR, Marketing/Comms, Internal Comms, Corporate Affairs, Investor Relations, R&D, Product, Sustainability, Legal, Risk & Compliance, Customer Service and so on. The consumer only sees one brand, one company, not silos. So activity needs to be co-ordinated to the consumers view because it’s their money that’s making you money!

We tend to recommend to our own clients that they set up a steering group that has representatives from each stakeholder group to evaluate their digital / social strategy and roll it out as a co-operative, as opposed to in silos. The steering group, in the instances we work in, are run from the head of the board with a business manifesto or through Corporate Relations, with Marketing, a steady second in command. Having said that, while there are a number of companies we are working with doing just that, there is still a large number who are can’t get internal buy in to set it up. It takes a strong internal advocate at senior management level to drive the business agenda to understand that digital channels are MASS channels and affect every area of business. Plus it is only going to get bigger.

I would urge on “not” waiting for a social media firestorm and start taking this stuff seriously across the whole business. Ignorance is not bliss – ignorance is just plain silly.

So to sum up!

Obvious mistakes:

- No integration (Smoke & Mirrors)

- Ignorance


On 04/08/2010, at 11:20 AM, Boschma, Kristen wrote:

Hmmmm – I like the notion that BIG ideas can come from anywhere. I think though it’s often a matter of working out what you can afford to pursue with the resources you’ve got.

Question 3
If you were designing a digital program for a secondary school, what skills and tools would you include as mandatory subjects in the curriculum?

From: Fi Bendall
Sent: Wednesday, 4 August 2010 6:14 PM
To: Boschma, Kristen
Subject: Re: Telstra Exchange Interview

Hello Lovely! This is fun finding these emails in my inbox…anddddd the next question from Kristen today is ……..LOL!

OK to answer Question 3!

First off check out this blog piece

Smart ideas!

Second, I have two kids about to finish secondary school, year 11 & 12 and one in year one primary school! Its amazing to see the use of digital and its changes from my older one’s to my youngest.

The older ones have always been encouraged to use Google as research tool, as well as blogs. They naturally migrated on to using Youtube, but always reference their sources. Their work is also checked for plagiarism. Otherwise that is about it.

The other end of scale, at Year one, primary school, 6 years old, the classroom these days, now has interactive whiteboards, smart boards; they have classes in using Google and online is fully embraced in the classroom. (Once to our horror, as our youngest was googling her favourite animal – pigs for homework! We just stopped her before she put in a bid for an organic pig farm! At least it was organic I guess.) This child picks up an iPad and naturally knows how to use it, understands applications and wanders around with her iTouch!

How things have changed!

Ok now to the guts of your question!

For me if “Social / Digital Media” was to become a curriculum topic (outside of IT subjects) I would include:

Using the Web for Research
- External Search, Google, YouTube and so on
- Internal Social Networking Search, Twitter, Facebook, Specialist Online

- Verifying sources skills – this is an important one, as there is a lot of rubbish out there as well as a lot of good stuff. For example; A study published in the Cancer Journal found an error rate of only 5.2% in 343 pages about Breast Cancer, but sites promoting alternative health are 15 times more likely to contain false information than conventional sites.

Using Blogs
- using blogs to present assignments
- using classroom blogs to collaborate between teachers and students to tease out mutual conclusions and findings
- using specialist bloggers to gain input into subjects wider on the curriculum to support learning and development of assignment content
- setting up your own blog – best practices for building a personal profile (important as University’s are using social media to sound out student applications, as are employers)

Using Social Media in context of classroom work – this is endless!
- for example I saw one case where a college set up a group assignment as part of an English class – to create a Facebook character for your story. Another where they used GPS for a treasure hunt. Another where Wiki’s are used for collaborate learning tasks. – all great ways of bringing alive learning in the classroom, but importantly great ways for students to think differently about how they can use social media in learning and tasks.

Social Media Best Practices
Critical to students today, that they understand their social profile is their CV
- Privacy – what is private and what is not
- Legal – legal rules still apply – know them
- Best practices basics – how to post back to comments, how to build your personal brand, and so on
- The School’s social media policy

I also think in generic subjects they should apportion marks for innovate use of school media in tasks / assignments. I have seen this happening overseas at the Universities there, in particular Harvard.

This digital curriculum program could go further, but at least that’s it for term one!


On 04/08/2010, at 7:21 PM, Boschma, Kristen wrote:

I’m glad you’re finding this fun. You are such a wealth of information – thank you. I wish I went to the high school that followed your curriculum ideas. I learnt to type on an electric typewriter. That’s the extent of my high school computer experience. The only social media we had was writing rude messages on someone’s plaster cast. We was poor but we was ‘appy.

Question 4
What’s the ROI on a social media program? Many companies are being asked to devote people and technology to a communication method that may not return any revenue. Is there another way to look at it and measure return on investment?

From: Fi Bendall
Sent: Wednesday, 4 August 2010 8:16 PM
To: Boschma, Kristen
Subject: Re: Telstra Exchange Interview

Question 4

ROI of social media! The “Elusive” question, no-one wants to answer…. well lets get to the nub of it.

There are a number of approaches on this. Let’s just kick off with the most common approach.

Online advertising has proved to be the most transparent in our marketing history. Marketing executives are used to hearing traffic figures and conversion rates. Some take the same approach to social media – lets do a 3 month campaign – what’s the ROI? In honesty, probably minimal.

Others talk about ROI – Return on influence – companies get excited about net promoter scores and use this as a measurement. Again probably minimal on bottom line profit.

Others say social media doesn’t deliver ROI as it is intangible – like a TVC, but if you run a TVC or radio ad with a URL, you can see an increase in traffic and determine that as an ROI. More people, means potentially more sales. Does more chatter relate to sales? That’s where we get into LTV of a customer and refer to my earlier answer on sceptics. Advocates can transform your business, if you do it right. Advocates are net promoters (beware!)

There is a well publicised report at from Altimeter & WetPaint that says the most engaged brands are the most profitable, with Starbucks & Dell at top of the list. This all equals ROI.

There are statements around consumer electronic sales, achieving revenue through Twitter, at a lower cost to serve a customer that equals Social ROI, such as, Dell, Sony and so on.

ROI of social media can be achieved by all of the above in small and greater scales. But it is really what you want to achieve.

I was in a meeting today, where we are on a business transformation program with a company, where ROI can be achieved by building a social system that they can possibly license as a tool to others – A Social Digital Asset, let’s call it, on patent. This wasn’t the reason we were there, it just came up in the conversation. The value of their work, could translate into a new revenue stream.

Another client, we are considering the streamlining of dealing with consumers electronically and operational cost savings. That equals ROI in the truest business sense. (Yep the CFO was in the meeting – so ROI was top of the agenda!)

Another client, we are assessing the cost saving of “simply” putting customer service through Twitter. But “simply” doesn’t come in to it. I know Telstra with the Big Pond division had to work hard at this.

ROI – means so many things in the social web. It depends if you are doing social advertising, where I think your ROI will be lower and harder to score on a campaign basis. Or as a PR – get the word out – where your measurement is share of voice & awareness and harder to quantify. Or whether you are digitalising your business to bring it inline with your customers and the new economy, in which the ROI benefits can be huge for large organisations. For small organisations the use of social media – if you get it, can transform your business beyond your ideals. Go read about Zappos or other such companies, look, learn and emulate!

Unfortunately for those that want a fixed formula: ROI & Social Media – do go hand in hand but is a moving beast – as much as Social Media is. It also takes education to know what ROI means, regardless of Social Media. I have asked many executives for their Cost of Acquisition figure (CPA) – in the last 23 years of my career, only 3 people have told me in absolute fixed worked out terms with a business plan what that figure is. You need to know what ROI you are looking for and then assess if social media can deliver it over the timeline you are looking for.


On 04/08/2010, at 9:53 PM, Boschma, Kristen wrote:

Thanks – this is excellent information

Question 5 (last one!)

President Obama’s campaign has been held up as revolutionary in political and digital circles. Is there any digital or social advice you would give to any of the Australian political parties currently campaigning?

From: Fi Bendall
Sent: Thursday, 5 August 2010 3:37 PM
To: Boschma, Kristen
Subject: Re: Telstra Exchange Interview

Question 5

What an interesting question and being hotly debated in the digital industry!

Here is an interesting guideline “Twenty Internet Rules for Politicians” written by Paul Wallbank

The main issue with the election campaign was that they were only paying lip service to social channels. Julia Gillard & Tony Abbott don’t respond, even though they have twitter accounts, and do not engage over social channels, even though that’s where the electorate is. Obama’s social media campaign was run like a military exercise and he obviously had a team that understood digital channels. In the UK, the politicians have done a good job at utilising social media channels as part of their campaigning. The conservatives made a big splash using social media. Both the US government and UK government have web 2.0 departments and employees who really understand these mass digitised consumer channels and can deploy them smartly to engage with the public.

Looking at our main Australian parties, they are very traditional in their approach to their marketing and really my top tip to them would be to hire some serious knowledge about the Internet, Multi-digital channels and mobile. Even their comments about the industry are often so uninformed it is concerning, let alone them marketing and engaging through these channels.

Top Tip 1: Hire some great brains & Get Help & Knowledge

Top Tip 2: Listen – this channel affords a great deal of research at the lowest cost to understand public sentiment

Further to that look at ways you can use these social channels to improve your personal branding

Tip 3: Be Humorous - Be Humble – Be Personable, help us to like you Politicians

Tip 4: Add value to the conversation and remember the conversation doesn’t always have to be about driving a political agenda. The public would like to know more about you.

Tip 5: People are less likely to rant & rage at a “real” person that they are at a faceless political party or name of the party leader or MP

Tip 6: Don’t pretend it’s you, when it isn’t. The UK government launched a Downing Street twitter feed @number10gov, not a Gordon Brown one. It was clear it was information coming out from a team of DS staffers not the PM himself.

Tip 7: Try to be useful. Launch some tactical apps which show people how this or that policy will benefit them for example. If the tax rate is going down for small businesses, launch a widget to show the different scales in ways SME’s will benefit financially. This is a great way to test and learn and also show the end benefit of their policies.

Tip 8: Do some live Q&A over Twitter for one hour …bring the debate to the public! Show them you are there and will answer as many short fire questions in 140 characters. Brings some fun and challenge, while opening up the debate.

Tip 9: Use your advocates to get your message (this was critical to Obama’s success) – create a virtual team of foot soldiers to spread your message far and wide and recruit votes. Utilise Facebook, gather your fans to urge their family and friends to vote for you. Get your advocates to respond, post links to your content, and get the buzz going.

Tip 10: If you are going to have devices on your websites, such as blogs, email me, and so on calling for engagement – engage back or don’t bother.


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