Social Media Academy, ON24 Announce Award Winners in Growing New Medium – Virtual Events

Social Media Academy, ON24 Announce Award Winners in Growing New Medium — Virtual Events

CA Technologies, Sodexo, NetApp, BNP Media and Hitachi Honored

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwire – February 24, 2011) – As the entertainment industry is recognizing excellence in the film industry, the Social Media Academy and ON24 are recognizing excellence in a growing new medium — virtual events — with the 2010 ON24 Virtual Event Excellence Awards. ON24 is the global leader in webcasting and virtual event solutions, and the Social Media Academy is the leading education and research institute for applied social media in business. 

"While the Academy Awards honors excellence in film, a medium that has been around for over 100 years, the Virtual Event Excellence Awards call attention to a new global medium that offers more engagement between the participant and the producer while also being good for businesses and the environment," said ON24 CMO Denise Persson. "Attendees can participate in tradeshows, conventions and training centers with live and recorded video in venues that look like anywhere on the planet — right from their computers and without any cost to the environment. Our clients have recognized that virtual communication is a key to success in today's changing global economy. These awards honor those organizations that push the boundaries of virtual communication and define best practices for the industry."

The judging, conducted virtually, was led by Social Media Academy founder Axel Schultze. "Many exemplary virtual events and briefing centers were nominated by event producers and participants," he explained. "As we reviewed the submissions we looked for nominees that set new standards for quality, ROI and social media integration."

Five Virtual Event Excellence Awards were given for 2010, honoring the best in virtual event innovation and training and the best user experience, virtual briefing center and social media integration. 

The 2010 winners are:

  • Virtual Event Innovation
    CA Technologies — May Mainframe Madness
    With over 35,000 attendee touches and each visitor averaging an unprecedented 3.5 hours per visit, CA's May Mainframe Madness (MMM) was a month-long hybrid virtual conference that set new industry standards for attendee interest and interaction, with new, live content being added each weekday in May. A complement to the annual face-to-face CA World user conference in Las Vegas, MMM featured a simulcast of the CA World keynote and three live panel sessions. In addition, the MMM virtual networking lounge was linked to the physical networking lounge in Las Vegas.

  • Virtual Training
    Sodexo — Education Market Summer Training 2010
    A two-time winner in this category, Sodexo achieved even greater virtual training success in 2010. More than 4,500 Sodexo managers — scattered across the globe and all 50 states — were invited to attend a continuation of the company's virtual management training program, and 90% registered. Sodexo was able to provide hours of training for each manager at a fraction of the cost of traditional face-to-face training. Compared to traditional training events, the company estimates savings of about $1.4 million.

  • User Experience
    NetApp — Virtual Partner Academy
    A custom virtual environment, NetApp's Virtual Partner Academy (VPA) reached thousands of NetApp channel sales partners worldwide with an engaging, interactive learning experience that enhanced and supported the company's largest-ever product launch. Visitors "toured" a 3-D rendering of the NetApp campus and participated in social media forums and "ask the experts" sessions. They also downloaded over 4,000 documents.

  • Social Media Integration
    BNP Media — Prepared Foods Heart Health Virtual Expo
    The organizers of this virtual show, the first produced for Prepared Foods Magazine, utilized social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, to help familiarize their target audience, most of whom had never attended a virtual conference, with their event. During the expo itself, live posting on Twitter and Facebook was encouraged with a Twitter feed and "Share This" button on the navigation bar. Following a comprehensive marketing and social media plan based on market research, the show organizers offered an engaging interactive experience to virtual event novices.

  • Virtual Briefing Center
    Hitachi — Hitachi Virtual JP1 VBC
    This virtual briefing center (VBC) focused on "JP1," Hitachi's system administration software and solutions, and was opened in conjunction with Hitachi's annual physical event, Hitachi Open Middleware World JP1Day in Tokyo. Attendees who visited the physical event were able to enter the VBC and view unique multimedia content. Accessible for one month after the live day, the VBC was updated frequently to encourage repeat visits. Over 30% of the visitors, in fact, returned to the site more than twice.


Eligible events were last year's virtual events and virtual briefing centers based on the ON24 Virtual Show platform. Nominations were submitted by clients and their partners and customers. Judging was conducted by senior Social Media Academy representatives. Schultze said, "We at the Social Media Academy were very impressed with the creativity and execution of the award nominees. Every single nominated event and briefing center, in fact, were worthy of recognition."

"We really appreciate the interest that has been shown in the awards program, and we are especially grateful to all who sent in a nomination," Persson said. "We expect 2011 to be another ground-breaking year for virtual environments, with companies continuing to set high standards for quality and develop innovative new applications."

About Social Media Academy

The Social Media Academy is considered the leading education and research institute for applied social media in business. Education programs are specifically designed for business professionals from all industries. The main emphasis is to help business managers and consultants get a comprehensive education and hands-on experience through collaborative workshops in all aspects of social business engagement, including strategy development, planning, tools selection, resources allocation and organizational development, as well as reporting and analytics. Attendees learn to use leading methodologies, models and frameworks such as the social media strategy framework, the four quadrant assessment methodology or the NCP model and other strategic tools to create successful social media engagements. The Social Media Academy is based in Palo Alto, California, with representation in Europe and Australia. For more information, visit

About ON24, Inc.

A recognized global market share leader, ON24 provides webcasting and virtual environments for corporate communications and demand generation. The ON24 platform is a complete Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud offering; no deployment resources are required. ON24 offers fully integrated, enterprise-wide solutions for applications ranging from training, user conferences and company meetings to partner expos and trade shows. More than 750 organizations, including IBM, Cisco, CA Technologies, Merck, AstraZeneca, Fiserv, Credit Suisse, GE and Oracle, rely on ON24. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices throughout the world. For more information, visit


Student Again with Social Media Academy

“Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.”  Sir Claus Moser

Having done a lot of study, of different subjects and in different learning environments, I have to admit there have been times I’ve thought I’d done enough studying and learning.

But if ever there was an era when continuing education was not a luxury but an imperative, this 21st century surely wins the prize.

And I know from experience that, in this fast-moving world, with such a daily tsunami of information, opinions and general noise about social media as about many other topics, I can benefit professionally and personally by participating in a structured, disciplined learning process.

Certified Social Media Strategist badgeAll of which is by way of saying I’ve just become a student once more, this time with the Social Media Academy, where I have enrolled for the Certified Social Media Strategist program.

I’m doing the Australian version, which started yesterday and I am under the gun to get on with the challenging program of lessons.

The Certified Social Media Strategist class is described by the Academy as follows:

The Strategist Class is the “Core Education Program” of the Social Media Academy, a comprehensive 6 weeks online education program with online workshops covering social media from a holistic point of view. Class includes methods, models and frameworks for social media assessments, strategies and execution plans for all industries.

We’ve already had our introductory webinar and I am excited about the way the course has been structured and the support being provided, not least the custom-built e-learning platform.

Do I need the Certificate?

I really don’t know. I am pretty sure it won’t hurt for clients and prospective clients to know that I have been through a process like this, have had to submit assignments for assessment and have some external validation.

But what attracted me more than the prospect of having another certificate were

  • the comprehensiveness of the course
  • the strategic conceptual framework (I like good tactics, but I like to know where they fit in the big picture)
  • the knowledge, experience and seriousness of purpose of the people running the Social Media Academy
  • the quality of graduates whom I know
  • the focus on providing guidance on how to help business from small to large corporate
  • the inclusion of course material on practice-building

Social Media Academy bannerIt’s a big time-commitment over a couple of months. I figured out I have to spend a minimum of twelve hours a week and in practice probably a bit more, just to keep up. But I believe it is worth it.

I’m hoping to share here on the blog some insights and realizations as I go along. Some of those may well be somewhat embarrassing.  I am quite prepared to find – and actually hope I will find – that there are a number of things I do in social media which I could do a lot better, and things I’m not doing that I should be doing, and so on.

And while I mightn’t need the certificate, I quite like the idea of having it!

If you are interested in knowing more about the Social Media Academy’s courses, they offer a free orientation session, with varying times to accommodate people around the globe in different time zones.

Building a Community Site with BuddyPress – Part 2

In my previous post on building a community site using the WordPress plugin BuddyPress, I reported that having spent quite a lot of time checking out how BuddyPress worked and what others thought of it, I found the actual installation quite straightforward.

My problems started when I wanted to make the site private.

Not being a programmer, discussion threads on the topic, like this one, made my head spin.

As far as I could figure out from my research, the basic BuddyPress site is designed to be public, with the option to have private groups within the site.

But it looked also as if there might be a plugin to adjust that framework.

Obvious as it may be to some, but hadn’t been to me and something I wish I had understood at the outset, there are plugins for BuddyPress, which is as I say itself a WordPress plugins – plugins for the plugin. And at least one of those BuddyPress plugins is designed to make the site private.

The BuddyPress Private Community plugin seemed to offer what I wanted. The catch was that when I activated it the site became private, sure enough, but so private that when people responded to my invitations to join the site they could not see the registration page.

While I was figuring all this out, I was losing momentum with getting the site functioning.

My solution was to:

  • accept that the overall community site would be public
  • ditch (i.e. de-activate) the private community plugin,
  • set up a group on the BuddyPress site and
  • make the group private.

Setting up the group was easy enough, it appeared, but in terms of what I wanted it was not an immediately straightforward process, as I had to choose between a couple of different settings, with various privacy rules for each.

To create a group, you first click on the Groups tab in the navigation bar, then on the Create Group button alongside the Groups Directory heading.

The are four steps to creating a group, as shown by the navigation tabs displayed: Details, Settings, Avatar, Invite Members.

The first step is easy: just provide a group name and some details.

Then the fun starts. Under Settings you need to decide which of the Privacy options to implement.

The Privacy options, with their respective rules, are – Public, Private and Hidden:

Public group

  • Any site member can join this group.
  • This group will be listed in the groups directory and in search results.
  • Group content and activity will be visible to any site member.

Private group

  • Only users who request membership and are accepted can join the group.
  • This group will be listed in the groups directory and in search results.
  • Group content and activity will only be visible to members of the group.

Hidden group

  • Only users who are invited can join the group.
  • This group will not be listed in the groups directory or search results.
  • Group content and activity will only be visible to members of the group.

I toyed with choosing the Hidden option, but on reflection that looked as if it would be actually count-productive. My main aim was to provide participants in the webinars with a space to discuss ideas and developments without having those more publicly available, and to get access to resources I and others might choose to share just within the group and not more widely. And for openness, it was not as if the webinars were secret. In fact, anyone who wanted to sign up for the Roadmap webinar series would thereby qualify to be invited to join the group.

So Private it was – and is.


The default for BuddyPress is that admins can invite friends to join. I installed the Invite Anyone plugin which provides more options, including having a checkbox with a general invitation to join the site, so that you can at the same time invite the person (or not) time to join your specific group (or groups).

Some people seem to have been able to join without a problem. Others have found the process a bit confusing. So I made a short video to provide a step by step guide to responding to one of those invitations.

Other plugins

There seems to be no end of plugins for BuddyPress. I’m using a few.

BP Group Documents provides a document space in each group – invaluable for my purposes

SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam – I read somewhere that membership sites can get bombarded with spammy signups, so this seemed like good insurance.

Invite Anyone – as mentioned above (it provides a range of options – I have it set fairly restrictively).

A Note on the Header Banner

For the moment I have left in place the default banner header on the Social Media Roadmap site. The BuddyPress Default theme I’m using comes with a very user-friendly Custom Header page, where I can either customize the default banner or upload another of my own creation (or commissioning).

Summing up

Although I had a bit of a learning curve, for now at least I’m happy with the decision to use BuddyPress as my community site platform. It’s fundamentally easy to install, once you have figured it out – and probably much easier for anyone technically savvier than I (which would not be hard to find). The fact that I can have a private group – or several – within the site is particularly attractive.

I am interested to hear of others’ experiences with BuddyPress. And of course clues to make it all work even better: that said, even what  a lot of my friends would probably regard as some basic code-tweaking will probably be a turn-off for me.

Building a Community Site with BuddyPress – Part 1

Having launched last week my twelve month free Social Media Roadmap Webinars 2011 program, not without a few technical hitches on the day but launched nevertheless, I turned my mind and energies to setting up a community site for participants in the series.

BuddyPress community site software

In this post I explain how and why I chose BuddyPress and how that has worked out so far. I hope this will be helpful for others who are thinking about setting up a community site.

I chose to go the free route

I could have used an industrial-strength platform like WordFrame Integra, but even though I have a business partner relationship that would have set me back $349 a year – not an unreasonable amount by any means, but this whole webinar thing was a bit of an experiment at this stage and being as how it is free there was not a revenue stream to cover that cost. As a solopreneur I have learned the hard way that when I think about expenditures I need to think about where the revenue will come from so that I am not out of pocket!

On the free side I could have used Google Sites, but having used that service for a few groups I’ve belonged to or set up, I have to say I’ve found it less than user-friendly to set up (for this particular user anyway).

I know too about Drupal and Joomla! but those are way beyond my skills to set up and manage. The last time someone told me Joomla! was “easy” I think I wasted at least a day and a half before I gave up! Maybe it’s changed but I wasn’t of a mind to experiment. I wanted something I could set up without outside help and would function effectively.

Why and how I chose BuddyPress

It was not because I knew much – anything really – about BuddyPress, which is a WordPress plugin, but I had seen it mentioned quite a few times and knew there was a BuddyPress plugin for the iThemes Builder theme which this site is currently using. As I’m reasonably comfortable with Builder I thought that could be the way to go but, when I studied the support thread on the Builder BuddyPress plugin I did not find much enlightenment or recent comment. I didn’t need complications if they could be avoided.

So I then spent quite a bit more of my time online that day reading up on BuddyPress. The official site naturally provided plenty of information on features and benefits, but of course did not suggest any downside. Most of the blog posts I read about BuddyPress basically regurgitated the official list of features and benefits, which I found a tad frustrating. At times like this a good trick is to search on “product X sucks” or “product Y problems”. Happily the results of that sort of search, with “BuddyPress” inserted for “product  X” did nothing to deter me (just more fan posts mostly). But through further search about BuddyPress I found a blog post which discussed pros and cons.

BuddyPress as Ning Replacement,  posted in April last year by Mike Richwalsky, told me that BuddyPress, like Ning, offered key features of

  • Friends
  • Private and Public Groups
  • Forums
  • Private Messages

More musically to my ears he asserts in the post that installation is “dead easy”.

He lists, as I say, pros and cons and as a “big pro” mentions the control you have:

Finally, by running your own network, you are not beholden to any company that can stop offering its service with little or no warning. If you run the show, you decide what goes on and when it’s time to upgrade or shut it down.

Having known people to be quite distressed when their community networks on other sites were shut down without warning, possibly on the basis of one person’s malicious or stupid (or both) actions, I value highly the feature of being completely in control of the site. I can always outsource some of the administration if it should grow beyond my scope to manage (happy thought, that!)

The cons were decidedly unthreatening. The main one was the flip side of control-as-pro, namely the responsibility of managing the site, with attendant risks.

By striking out on your own, you’ll be responsible for everything from managing spam, user accounts, content and so on. Something to be aware of in an era where we’re all being asked to do more with less, both in terms of people and budgets.

All in all, the prospect of BuddyPress meeting our needs looked good. And if I had wanted to I could have accepted Mike’s invitation to join the network he had built and try it out.

I decided to just get on with it and install the plugin.

It’s basically a WordPress install

I can’t tell you how opaque a lot of the stuff online about BuddyPress had been for me at first. You can call me dumb, but I have had years of mucking about with WordPress sites yet it did not dawn on me straight away that installation really is “dead easy” because it’s a WordPress install, then a plugin install, then a selecting of a BuddyPress compatible theme, one of which is supplied with the BuddyPress plugin.

So “how to install BuddyPress” goes like this:

Step 1: install a blog with (not – either by doing the “famous 5 minute download and install” or by using Fantastico (I know, purists say don’t use it but I was by then in a hurry and if worst came to worst I could always start again).

Step 2: install the BuddyPress plugin (as for other plugin installs)

Step 3: activate BuddyPress compatible theme (supplied with plugin install)

Easy peasy, if you have spent any time working with WordPress.

So far so good – but there was a “but”

The “but” is But I wanted the site to be private.

Which is where my troubles started.

I resolved that by setting up a private group within the overall site.

But that’s another story for another day. Tomorrow hopefully.