Thursday, February 26, 2009

Twitter Meets The Blog

How can we merge micro and major blogging?

Twitter, the now nearly de facto micro-blogging platform is great for what Olivia Mitchell has called twitterbites - a pithy and smart statement that summarizes a point, starts or continues a conversation. On the other hand, blogs are a great platform to develop a thought more fully and allow a collection of comments.

So, we have two excellent ways to converse - one more simultaneous and real time, the other more asynchronous and linear. If there were no link between the two, all would be fine. But tiny URLs create a bridge between the two worlds; spawned by a reader who found the post interesting or the author wanting to publicize the topic.

If I think a about a twitter-blog interface (and thanks to Danny Brown for provoking this line of thinking) - I see a potential for a different form than the traditional linear Post-Comment model of blogs.

A good post usually makes several points that warrant discussion and feedback. So rather than asking for comments on the whole thing what about calling out 'headlines', bullet points and comments as tweetbites - individual elements that can be sent to Twitter to move the conversation to that platform? This suggests that a post should have multiple links, each to various parts of the post, rather than one top level link.

Now this would probably change how we write - our English teachers may cringe. But if Google and Twitter are training us to scan rapidly and think in chunks then why not extend this to blog posting and put 'tweet this' throughout the post? This would also provide a way to find which elements of a post generate the most interest.

Another thought, a blog should capture the twitter stream of the comments linking to the post itself. That way we could see both worlds at the same time. Something like Cover it Live for example.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Social Media, Job Creation and Economics

How might social media change the size of the firm?

Not only does social media aid in finding a new job as anyone with a LinkedIn account can attest, it also provides the platform for creating and marketing services. In the last hour I've run into blog coaches, presentation guides, writers, designers, developers and speaking docents. They are all using social media to develop their business. This raises some questions: If it works for individuals, why doesn't it work as well for companies? What kind of line forms in the sand where it is easy for people to cross but hard for companies? If this talent is readily available, why is it in-house?

Looking to economics, does Roland Coase's "Nature of the Firm" offer insight? His Nobel Prize ideas focused on understanding why firms were the size they were. In a nut shell, firms grow to the size where the cost of doing something is the same inside as outside; in short transaction costs are in equilibrium. But size comes with a cost - specialization. "My job" becomes more fragmented as we grow from SOHO to Corporate Campuses. Thus, it becomes quite possible that the purpose of a company gets lost in the doing. If we reduce business to a series of transactions, each with a cost and benefit, then we also lose the bigger issue: Brands need to stand for something. (see the book on the topic.)

As companies shed jobs, hopefully they will gain a sense of what they are all about. Here social media plays an important role: Customers will tell them if they dare listen. Equally important companies can find a lot of good talent via social media and recommendations to help develop and deliver the story. If it is easier to find skills via social media, i.e. the transaction cost goes down, then it is likely there will be more SOHOs in the future because it won't be brought in-house. This leads to a thought: companies in the future won't be as large, therefore job creation should focus on facilitating this transition.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Explaining Social Media and Marketing in 50 Tweets

How do social media and marketing intersect?

Later today I'm on a panel at the Social Media Club in Salt Lake City (#smcslc) discussing how marketing and social media work together. While mostly a Q&A session I need to prepare a 4 minute set of opening remarks. So what better way than to use social media do distribute the ideas?

To illustrate how social media might work, the content consists of 50 short statements of less than 140 characters. This makes them perfect for tweets. They are meant to spark conversation and debate. Starting with a broad definition of marketing the story line weaves through social media, how to participate, and what you need to address as a brand.

UPDATE: Link broken; will fix. Email me if you want a copy. Here's a link to download a PDF of the full list.

UPDATE: Newsroom was temporary, but had 600+ visitors. Also, it can be found on social media newsroom created for it.

Enjoy, discuss and share - let me know at @apowerpoint.

The list:

1. Marketing aligns solutions and needs to everyone’s benefit.

2. While advertising gets the $250 billion budget, it is not marketing’s Job 1.

3. CMO Job 1: Create products in tune with consumer changing wants and needs; listen and extrapolate

4. CMO Job 2: Communicate that there is a solution to an audience’s unmet need.

5. Brands should solve problems; products should be sold.

6. To survive as a brand you must add value; what better way than through direct interaction with people?

7. Social media must reflect value proposition, positioning, and brand essence – simultaneously – just like advertising.

8. Social Media leverages human interaction as the vehicle for passing a message. Create a Social Media Briefing book.

9. Smoke signals, jungle drums, rotary dial phones, and email were all ‘social media’.

10. Crowdsourcing and brand hijacking are common in social media.

11. Media fragmentation and category divergence result in overload and hyper-choice – so we ask somebody else.

12. Two-thirds of the economy is driven by personal recommendations: McKinsey (they also said we only needed 900k cell phones)

13. People trust people more than entities; but there can be false prophets, pied pipers and spammers. (Edelman and Nielsen).

14. Know thyself and thy audience – be simpatico re the use of social media.

15. A simple change in prepositions impacts an organization to its core: when “to” becomes “with”.

16. Success with social media is not easy, cheap, fast or even guaranteed.

17. There are two knobs on the ‘influence’ etch-a-sketch: trust and relevance, each with their own impact.

18. Learn the difference between passive, conversational and active listening. Listen before you jump.

19. People usually don’t talk about brands first; they talk about their problems in their terms.

20. Follow first, ask second, and contribute third. Earn respect.

21. Regarding messaging, you must be honest and transparent in social media. Stop the spin you are dealing with equals.

22. Social media will evolve into marketing, journalistic, and personal segments.

23. Learn the Scoble starfish: there are 100s of tools, but only a few categories. Know their strengths and weaknesses.

24. Social media tools may become the new CRM platform; they certainly will be integrated.

25. People use social media their way: washing machines are on twitter; dogs have fans.

26. Common interests are the new demographics; approach a common ground: 17 year old girls and 70 year old men ski.

27. While Google never forgets, some topics have the half-life of a mayfly others are a bit more permanent.

28. Social media requires patience in terms of both group acceptance and impact.

29. Building a brand’s reputation takes work – just like building awareness.

30. Brand monitoring is an insurance policy.

31. Participation in social media without a business objective is a recipe for failure.

32. Participation without a strategy may be worse than not having an objective.

33. Buzz is fickle, fleeting, factual and fictitious – figuring out what is what can be frustrating.

34. Get SM wrong and it spreads like wildfire in the tree tops; only rarely does it destroy the roots. People forgive.

35. Get customer service wrong and it travels even faster with possible life-threatening injuries to a brand.

36. Guidelines required – the professional/personal line may be fuzzy, but there are legal issues.

37. Your opinion matters; it can be sued. Yelp!

38. Distribution of content is more important than posting of content; stop before you build another site.

39. If we're marketing 'with' instead of 'to' consumers, we need to be 'developing with' instead of 'pitching to' journalists.

40. Social media newsrooms have lots of uses. This list is on one.

41. We’re moving away from links of destinations to a destination free Web where information flows.

42. Content is consumed very differently on the web – multi-tasking, scanning, multi-media required.

43. We decide emotionally, we defend rationally. Social media needs to be augmented with facts.

44. Social media can help conversion as much, if not more than, lead generation.

45. By definition B2B sales are a natural community – ripe for social media and the Social Media Proposal.

46. Build your business in the long tail where the market is fragmented and interesting.

47. Social networks have different sweet spots and audiences; know the options via a social network footprint.

48. Social media and advertising have yet to find the emulsifier that allows them to mix together.

49. Advertising on social networks is a clash of pronouns: 1st person (My…) vs. 2nd person (hey you…)

50. Marketers can do 5 things to SPARK a conversation: stimulate, participate, amplify, repair or kindle.

51. BONUS: Social media is uncharted territory for a myriad of reasons: Have fun.

UPDATE: broken links, email for copy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Twitter as A Broadcast Platform

How does twitter fit in the range of media options?

Sam Bradley of Texas Tech recently wrote about why 'many-to-many' communications don't scale very well. Using twitter as an example of M-to-M the basic argument is that it quickly produces information overload due to noise - both in terms of quantity and focus.

The Internet set of social media tools allows for an infinite number of messages to simultaneously appear in a myriad of places - extreme case of the first M. This fragmentation is expected because differentiation tells us that categories will diverge into separate segments (think carbonated soft drinks or digital cameras), each with its own audience. The consequence is that ever smaller markets emerge because of chunking and the simple fact that we like to categorize things. Since we haven't figured a way to find and/or categorize items of interest on twitter we seem overwhelmed - although groups and or tags are a start along this path.

If one thinks in terms of a message having reach (the second M), then we may need to reshape our expectations with social media.

'Social media' can be defined as the set of vehicles that allow people to pass messages amongst themselves; this separates it from traditional or online media which use other distribution platforms. One point worth considering then is the purpose of the message. While there is a lot of talk about 'participation' and 'conversation' the reality is that the purpose of a message may range from conversational to marketing to pure status.

Numerous tweets in my stream are not conversations (and TweetDeck's removal of replies t0 the non-followed make it even less so); they are broadcast messages. For example @guykawasaki 's summary of various alltop sections provides interesting tid-bits but it is not a conversation, neither was his request for input on his logo. Now it is certainly possible that some of those tweets turned into bursts of conversations; but that was not their original intent. They are marketing, they are broadcast.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Keynesian Thinking

What can we learn from current economics?

Given all the attention paid to the stimulus bill and John Maynard Keynes, I thought I'd brush up on economics by reading Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner.

It seems that before Keynes the thinking was that the economy would continually grow through a cycle of savings and capital investment. Too much savings 'caused' interest rates to drop fueling capital expansion because of cheap money. Growing businesses created more total income, and thus more savings and the spiral continued. The problem seems to be that the connection between savings and capital isn't direct or necessarily rational. If people don't have confidence they don't buy, period. If people don't want to buy, businesses won't expand no matter if the money is free. In fact, if firms are very nervous they will contract. If businesses produce less there must be less savings because total income has fallen. This downward spiral is depressing, in fact it is a depression - the stalemate of unemployment and stagnant businesses with neither side able to pull both parties out of the abyss.

Keynes argued for temporary and unnatural intervention by the government.

Since it appears to be the emotional aspects of needs and wants that fuel an economy a stimulus package that doesn't fundamentally affect people's feel good factor won't do much good. The previous $600 per household stimulus didn't do much since it didn't really change anyone's mind. People paid down debt, saved it, or used it for normal stuff. In the end, they pretty much felt exactly the same way. The TARP may have been worse since people felt betrayed and possibly worse off.

I have no idea what the right number is - probably nobody does - but the focus should be on bolstering individual confidence. Since people trust others like them - if they perceive their network as confident they too will be more assured of the future. So the money should be spent on things that are visible to individuals and something worth telling others about in a positive light. Delighted customers are a business' best friend. Same for an economy.

Confidence turns wants into demand and that you can take to the bank.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tapping Passion

Why social media is different?

In the recent free book by Todd Defren (@TDefren) of Shift Communications there is a central theme about why people contribute to social media. It's their passion.

This is a game changer for marketers.

The book opens with the premise that 'marketing is participation'. I am reading this at 3:30 in the morning - so I may have missed the bit that explained why this is true. Here's my take. Since the sales department has the job of selling, marketing must be responsible for something else. What does participation give marketers that other activities do not? The answer: Insight.

Several examples in the book demonstrate the aha moment that only comes from observing and talking with people passionate about what they do. By no means do marketers and companies have a lock on all the good ideas out there. In fact, they probably have far fewer of them since innovation and new products come from people simply trying to do a simple job. (Like scanning our kids pictures for posting.)

Since marketing is responsible for aligning solutions with needs to everyone's satisfaction going to where the passion is just makes good sense.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Half-Life of Social Media

How long do people pay attention to Social Media?

Social media consists of an ever-widening variety of tools - from the flash of twitter to the permanence of Google. Jeremiah Owyang recently listed some work done by HP labs on social computing addressing how social media actually works. One report covers what keeps people publishing Consumer Generated Content (YouTube). The second addresses the question: Can we predict popularity of an item (YouTube or Digg)?

The papers are analytic in nature and go into depth of how the conclusions were drawn. I'll try to summarize the key learning here.

1. People need positive reinforcement to continue being an active contributor. Using videos as the example, people increase their contributions as their downloads increase. They also slowly stop contributing as viewing slows. (The analysis suggests that it goes this way rather than viewership decline causing a slowing of uploads.)

2. The life-span of certain social media can be defined in hours (Digg) while others have a much more lasting impression (YouTube). It seems to be easier to predict Digg than YouTube, but the effort is still probably worth it.

What does this mean for marketers:
1. Consumer Generated Content: Consider either a short term campaign, e.g. super bowl ad, or ensure your long-term program has ample active management, encouragement and reward.

2. Channel Selection: the diffusion of information is very different by channel; some are appropriate for monitoring while others have a chance of participation and scalability. Choose the tactic based on your strategy for achieving an objective.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Breakfast at Denny's

Would Audrey Hepburn have gone this morning?

Today was give America a free breakfast - sponsored by Denny's. Here in Salt Lake at 7:15 this morning the wait was 40 minutes, the service great, and the experience interesting. Talking to people in the restaurant and checking out Denny's on Twitter provides a wealth of insight.

  1. Something novel will spread like wildfire, even if it is announced on the Super Bowl. Proof that a 'big seed' marketing approach works.
  2. It isn't about the pure economics of the offer - a $6 meal where the only choice is 'how would you like your eggs?' isn't exactly the best sale ever announced. But thousands of people went.
  3. The staff at my location exhibited pride in executing what has to be an 'atypical' shift. I don't know what announcements, training, etc. they got - but they pulled it off.
  4. It almost turned into a social event. I think they could have taken the opportunity to get people seated together to fill tables (like Europe). There were two people at a 6-top; should have been used to start conversations.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Using @#!$? Twitter to Make Money

What's the twitter business model?

Earlier today I wrote about the new Gamejabs service that extends twitter for its followers by making use of the ! instead of the #. At the time I suggested that symbols could be used to categorize tags - kind of a meta-meta-tag. The examples were:
  • @ for people or groups (twitter)
  • # for events (twitter)
  • ! for sports teams (Gamejabs)
  • $ for financial, investment entities
  • ? for entertainment - movies, music, television
This then turned into a money-making idea for twitter. Instead of the usual advertising or subscriptions, pay for the creation and ownership of a tag. Twitter should and can control its platform, so the value appears to be around what is being discussed and we use hashtags already. A potential model:
  • Sign-ups (@) are free.
  • Events (#) are free or paid listings by commercial organizations.
  • Sports services (!) are subscription with added functionality, a la Gamejabs.
  • Companies are definitely paid ($) and return company info - like news, stock quotes, jobs, etc.
  • Entertainment (?) are paid by movies, TV, and bands - exclusive content for followers.
What other tags can we use?

The # versus the ! for Twitter

Is it betamax vs. VHS again?

Technology standards have a way of fragmenting a market, pitching one camp against another until ultimately one wins out. It may not be the technically superior, better marketed, or the more endorsed option. Consumers are fickle - the winning technology is often simply perceived as good enough to get their job done. And once it reaches a magical point, game over.

For twitter users the hash tag (#) allows one to mark and then retrieve all the related commentary to one key word - like #ukSnow to find out where it is snowing right now.

Gamejabs, a tweeter aggregator for sports fans has introduced the exclamation point. It makes that point that the ! provides for a better user experience. By using a proprietary mark within the forest of tweets the company can separate out the followed, the followers, and the comments and add new functionality - like point spread of a basketball game. The key is that it works within a community of sports fans that it follows.

I have no ties or vested interest to the # or the !. In fact, I like innovation and trying new things but I worry that this may be done to solve a company problem rather than a consumer issue. The following was given on their as one reason for going this route:
Multiply that case [no rules for defining a tag] by the hundreds of ideas we have, and you can see that our disambiguation processes become difficult.

Frankly, I don't really care about any company's problems - I care about my needs. If the community at large in twitter wants to define format and structure for tags, I have no doubt it will. Self-regulation prevails and in fact a complete categorization of meta-meta tags could be created. Examples:
  • @ for people or groups (twitter)
  • # for events (twitter)
  • ! for sports teams (Gamejabs)
  • $ for financial, investment entities
  • ? for entertainment - movies, music, television
The idea that a tag is more than just a tag is a good one; just elevate my pains to the point where I'll use the @#!$? thing.

Finally, if one wants a private community, why not set one up on something like Yammer?