Micro is the new small. Progress, one micro step at a time.

A couple of weeks ago I attended Jeff Pulver's #140 Conference in Detroit. I have to say that it was one of the more inspired gatherings of people that I've been to in some time. The more conferences I attend the more I find that any conference with the words "social media" in the title are total crap. Same people, same thinking, no progress. I'm trying to diversify and find the other people who are doing the work.

The #140 Conference brought together storytellers who talked about how they are affecting change in the city of Detroit and the world. Two of the top presenters had something in common which I find fascinating and in both cases, revolutionary. It's the evolution of micro.

I've written about micromedia before as far back as 2007. The web has made big things small and small things big. New trends are emerging now around micro-payments, micro-fundraising and even micro-real estate. Meet "Lemonade Detroit" and "Loveland".

Lemonade Detroit:

Lemonade Detroit is a documentary film about the people who are in the city of Detroit who are not leaving and who are committed to making things better. Here is the trailer if you are interested:

The coolest part of the project, however comes in the way the filmmakers are trying to fund the film. They're allowing the public to purchase individuals frames of the film. Once purchased, that person will be listed in IMDB as an official "Producer" of the project. So, you get to help a filmmaker and get a cool bonus on the side. Such a cool way of thinking differently about raising money for a project like this.

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Loveland Inchvesting:

Welcome to the microhood! Along the same lines as Lemonade Detroit, Loveland is trying to improve the city and allow people to invest (or inchvest) over time. Loveland is a small physical parcel of land (see map below) located at 8887 East Vernor Highway and Holcomb streets where people can purchase inches of land. Once purchased, the ownership is mapped to a digital environment where people can chat with their neighbors and form real relationships. People can earn badges, name the city and give it their own personality.
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This way of thinking small can have a big impact. It's different, adds value to the community and to individuals and makes you sit back and think about the possibilities. Just think about micro funding a novel all the way up to a project to bring clean water to Africa. There are amazing possibilities that open up when conencted to mobility and mobile micropayment by SMS/RFID.

What would you do as a side project if you could? How would you change the world?

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Want better digital strategy, ban seven dirty words

Picture 12.pngIf you love strategic planning as much as I do then I am sure that one of your biggest pet peeves is when people jump to tactics straight away in a planning meeting. Despite your most desperate attempts to steer things back on course, and define what the overall strategy looks like, you die a little when someone blurts out "Let's set up a YouTube channel and Tweet about it!".

How do you get around this? Here is what I have started doing in my initial planning sessions and it seems to be working well so far. I've banned what I consider the seven dirty words of digital strategy. They are:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. YouTube
  4. MySpace
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Flickr
  7. Ning

Why are they so bad? Because it allows people to jump to a tactic without thinking about brand essence, audience, voice, etc. It also takes attention away from a more integrated digital approach (email, loyalty programs, SEM, etc.). The pure hype behind these seven words has turned mass media and corporate boardrooms on their heads trying to figure out how to best leverage them.

So, the next time you walk into a planning meeting, lay out your list of dirty words and create a penalty for anyone who mentions them. You'll be surprised how quickly your discussions turn to audience, engagement and how fast you come up with more creative, innovative solutions. Once you have that, you can see talk about these platforms if, and when, they are determined to be the right tools to be most effective in reaching your audience.

Oh, there are more dirty words like Friendfeed and Delicious, even more general terms like blog and wiki, but removing those seven from your planning vocabulary will help you reach a new strategic mindset and come up with better solutions for your clients.

What are your seven dirty words? Let me know how this works for you!

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Nokia's Jan Chipchase on the evolution of mobile

I am a huge fan of the TED Conference's video library. If you're not familiar head over there and poke around (be warned, you will spend a lot of time there).

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This video of Nokia's Jan Chipchase is one of those videos that I come back to over and over again. It truly changed the way I look at technology's implications on the global community.

Jan spends his time traveling the world and doing ethnographic research to figure out how the mobile phone fits (and will fit in the future) into our culture. This local, first-person research is so valuable and has very wide-reaching implications.

The coolest part is when Jan goes into the way that phones are used in Uganda as ATMs. People basically exchange airtime minutes as currency. There is a central point person in the local village who has a phone and who exchanges minutes into cash. In other parts of the world there is a whole industry created around supporting and repairing devices where those services do not exist. Other countries are using mobile phone numbers above the entrance to houses instead of house numbers. That's their identity.

Check it out:

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Speaking at Sun Microsystems Startup Camp

On May 4th and 5th I'll be attending, and speaking at, Sun Microsystem's Startup Camp 5 in San Francisco. The event is about 1/3 panels and 2/3 unconference (where the agenda is set on that day). I am really honored to be sitting on the "Notes From Mission Control: Rules For a Successful Media Launch" panel alongside S. Neil Vineberg, Jyri Engestrom (co-founder of Jaiku), Christina (CK) Kerley and Mark Modzelewski (CEO of Stealth Startup).

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Other panels on the 4th include the likes of Matt Marshall, Stowe Boyd, Pete Cashmore, Brian Solis and Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz. You can check out the full schedule here and see the impressive attendee list here.

I'm really excited to go to the startup capital of the world and learn from some of the best minds in marketing technology. I plan on shooting lots of interviews, meeting people that I've admired from afar and sharing my expertise (and midwestern perspective) with an audience who is willing to be bold with their marketing and use of technology.

If you're going to be there or would like to try to meet up while I am there (I'll be there through the 6th) drop me an email or leave a comment!

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Voiceless, spoken communication

Now this is pretty cool and I just have to share. I found the following video on Marc Andreesson's blog and it blew my mind (as it did his). These guys have developed a way to intercept and translate speech before it gets to your vocal chords so you don't need to say what you are thinking, you just have to think it. Check out the video below.

This is very cool technology and may well shape the way we engage with technology in the future. You could be sitting at your desk and just think things like "open Microsoft Word" and it would open. You could create thought to text software that would actually work because the words are pre-digitized. This could possibly enable speech impaired individuals to communicate "vocally".

What other implications will technology like this have on our day-to-day lives?

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Kelly Goto on user experience design basics

I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Goto when she came in to do a presentation the Fleishman-Hillard office in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I've heard Kelly's name before from her myriad speaking engagements and I know her design consulting firm, but I had no idea that she was the person who wrote THE web design bible. (I highly encourage you to check out her book.)

Her presentations were full of very helpful tips and it was great to see a strategic, manageable approach to user experience design (UXD as it's called in the trade). There is a trend out there to make UXD so complicated and labor intensive that it becomes overwhelming and slows down the process. Her advice was to stay agile.

She talked at length about becoming an experience ethnographer and how she accomplishes what she does on a scale from Fortune 100 companies down to small projects. Her main point was finding the difference between what people say (in a focus group or interview) and what they do (either by following them or through photo diaries). That is where the valuable insights come into play.

Kelly asked us to find a balance between practical and emotional design. Making sure that the user accomplishes what they need to, but also that the experience is as good as it can be. She urged us to look at simplified applications like Twitter that really work to accomplish one task really well as a basis. Feature creep is a killer in web-based environments.

She and I talked about the constant "battle" inside agencies between technology and design and how the real opportunity for growth is to blend the two areas. CSS, for example, has given non-technical designers a way to use technology to impact the user experience in a positive way and from device to device.

We also spoke about how Flash development provides companies the ultimate opportunity to bring technology and design together, to have this conversation and move toward better experiences. The use of creative and ActionScript (the language that makes Flash move and interact with elements and data) provide a powerful tool for creating rich, immersive experiences.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the best technology around is invisible to the user. Design can act as a shield for technological complexity when done correctly, but can make simple technology overly complex if done poorly.

I absolutely loved her company moto which is "Exceed expectations, take vacations". I highly encourage you to seek out Kelly and her advice as it's truly valuable and practical for any organization.

Photo courtesy of petele on Flick.

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Quote of the day

If you've seen any of my presentations, either in-person or on SlideShare, you may recognize this quote. I think it perfectly and succinctly sums up the position of marketers who find themselves at the crossroads of emerging media. I originally saw this quote in a Tom Peters (one of my heros) presentation and fell in love with it.

If you don't like change,
you're going to like irrelevance
even less.

~ General Eric Shineski, retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Marketers who continue to do the same old thing month after month, year after year are going to find their messages falling flat. It's important to set clear and measurable goals for engaging in new media and look at emerging media to see what fits with your customers.

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Best practices vs. right practices

iStock_000003858368XSmall.jpgHow many times have you, in your current or past jobs, been tasked to find best practices? Your boss probably said to you "Hey, we're doing a new X for client Z. I need you to find best practices on that". If you're like most people, you immediately go to Google and search for "best practices for X". Sound familiar?

In a world where new innovations are only a mouse click away, why do we place so much value on best practices. Shouldn't we look at best practices as a starting point instead of the ending point? Do you think Google looked at online search best practices and said "Hey look, let's just do what Yahoo is doing"? Not at all. They took Yahoo, used it as a foundation, build stronger algorithms and fought for white space. The result is a superior product that allowed them to expand into unforeseeable new territory.

Wikipedia defines a best practice as "a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc."

The problem with the definition, and my overall contention with the idea, is that these are only the best known practices. The real potential is in the unknown. That is where market leaders are born and exponential growth is realized. When companies look at so-called best practices, what are they looking for? I think a lot of companies just want to be average. They want to be on par, but not put in the work to push the envelope.

At the end of the day, the RIGHT practices are what matter. The right practices are tailored to the needs of the company and the realities of the market in which they compete. Best practices should only be a starting point. They should be a map of the known that makes expanding into the unknown possible.

Have you ever relied on best practice information only to find that you could have done better? How have you used that information as a baseline for innovation? What steps should companies take to great their own right practices?

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First//Look: Seesmic (pre-alpha)

What do you get when you combine video, social networking, micromedia and a very savvy French entrepreneur? You get Seesmic. Seesmic is the brainchild of French blog-star Loïc LeMeur and aims to do to video conversations what Twitter did to text-based conversations. The site is a social network where the primary content is video. Users record video, post it to the site and other users reply in video.

The site is in pre-alpha (only about 300 users testing right now) and a lot will change over the course of the next couple of months and I'll re-post when it goes into beta. Enjoy the video:

[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Here is an example of the user-side of the video experience from Seesmic:

Key takeaways for marketers:

  • The move toward video as an intimate, personal form of communicating is here
  • Technology has caught up to consumers and video is easy to record on Seesmic right through the browser
  • Conversations will be mobile on this site down the road so you can create, send and reply to videos from a mobile device
  • Content created by the users is re-mixed into a daily video best-of video that is then shared with everyone
  • Hooks into YouTube, Twitter and Skype help auto-promote content to larger, external networks
  • The company is asking for suggestions and proactive responding to them in video
  • The openness that the company is providing as they share how they are growing is a model more companies should follow

Through the videos they've created I have found myself becoming attached to the company and the model they are using to build a company. I will keep an eye on this in the future and let you know when more invites become available.

If you have a site that you would like me to look at and possibly do a post like this on, drop me an email or leave a comment on the post.

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Virtual worlds colliding with traditional ones

I was watching a little primetime TV last night and saw a spot by Toyota for their Tundra line of trucks. The 30 second spot features the virtual world/video game World of Warcraft (WoW), but even if you're not familiar with the WoW you can pretty easily follow along. I think it's very progressive of them to use this concept and I'm sure it's reaching the younger male audience that they're targeting. Here it is if you have not seen it.

Another example of virtual worlds coming to mainstream is the October 24 episode of CSI: NY. In the episode a parallel Second Life experience will allow users to interact in a whodunit of unprecedented proportions. Users will be able to log in to SL and walk through the crime lab, process evidence and try to catch the killer.

Both of these endeavors by such large companies show me that they believe virtual worlds are at a tipping point for their target audiences. I imagine this type of integration will become more common in certain audience demographics as the technology gets easier to use and the experience becomes more easily accessible.

This definitely appeals to a pretty narrow audience, but it's a very hip, young, connected, tech-savvy one. Have you seen any other examples of this type of virtual world integration? What other brands lend themselves to this type of hook given the audience?

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The future of social, mobile networks

verdino_phone.pngGreg Verdino is away on vacation, but he asked me to guest blog on a topic of my choosing while he was gone. On top of being honored to be included with other great bloggers, like Doug Meacham, Ryan Karpeles and Jonathan Baskin, I knew I had to push myself to keep up with Greg's high standards.

The post that I wrote is a press release from the future (2009 to be exact) where Facebook releases a mobile operating system. It's where I think that the mobile, social web could go to truly bring value to the users and leverage mobile technology.

So, if you get a chance, head on over to the post on Greg's blog and check it out. Would love to know what you think.

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Photography 2.0

I saw this video on the Strobist blog. It's a great speech by commercial photographer Chase Jarvis at a NYC Photoshelter meeting. (I am an amateur photographer always looking to learn more.) His talk about the world of photography 2.0 echoes what is happening in the marketing industry. In fact, it shows the breadth of how these tools and networks we're creating to connect individuals are impacting the world at large.

Here is Chase's video (this is 55 minutes long, but worth the view):

Chase outlines some "universals" in his presentation. Here they are and how I think they apply to marketers around the world:

  1. Hard work: This is a given. Hard work and experimentation is the only way to get ahead. Some parts of Web2.0 enable laziness, but the people who put there head down and work hard will leap ahead.
  2. Passion: This is the crucial ingredient for me. If you work hard for something you're not passionate about, you're not getting ahead you're losing. Find your passion and use the technology to convey and leverage it.
  3. Personal style: This does apply to marketers. It's called branding. For marketers, this is the personal interaction, the support, the design, the UI, the logo, etc. It all comes together into a personal style.
  4. People: The core of business and certainly of Web2.0. The community, the U in UGC and the social networks are all made up of people. Take this away and there is no 2.0.
  5. Business: To me this gets to the business models. You have to have a knowledge of what makes business work. It's the only way you can turn that on its head, re-invent everything and change the world.
  6. Unconventional: Another tenet of Web2.0. Things that were unconventional a couple of years ago are mainstream. It's all about looking for the next unconventional thing to think about.
  7. Give Back: I love this. Giving back is something I practice on and off line. There are lots of ways to give back. Join an organization, donate money, donate time, become a mentor or use a forum like blogging to share what you know to make the whole community smarter.

Besides the DJ he has live mixing during his speech (phenomenally cool), I think Chase really gets the 2.0 movement. He's all about sharing what's made him a success and in turn is helping the next generation. He's not afraid of sabotaging his business, because he's using pieces of Web2.0 to be seen as a thought leader and visionary. Once somebody reaches that level, people turn to them and engage them MUCH more often than another person who holds their information tight to their vest.

Share, learn, grow. That's Web2.0. (And photography 2.0 too.)

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The geek shall inherit the Earth

keyboard.jpgSteve Rubel of Micro Persuasion had a very interesting article in this past issue of Advertising Age. The title had me hooked, "As Technology Develops, So Does the Role of the Geek Marketer".

Here is Steve's take from his blog post:

My thesis is this: it's very difficult for anyone in marketing to keep up with all the twists the digital space because technology changes so darn fast. It's like chasing a cheetah. Most marketers - be they clients or agency side - are heads-down running their business. Therefore, companies are creating a new role. They're hiring people who act as translators between the ultra geeks and the marketers, if you will, and shepherd the development of pilot programs.

If you're reading this blog, you probably know just how strongly I agree with what Steve has to say. Techno//Marketer is an extension of my love for technology and its impact on marketing. I often use the phrase "I speak marketer and geek fluently" when explaining to clients what I do. Those two skill-sets, however, are not the easiest to find in one person.

Here is what I see as the skills a Techno//Marketer needs to have:

  • Strong foundation in the basics of business
  • Un-ending curiosity for all things new
  • Love for experimentation
  • Consume media with break-kneck pace
  • Filter what is consumed into actionable, business-savvy solutions
  • Excellent communication/presentation skills (usually the downfall of pure geeks)
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Persistence to continue even when people doubt/fear you out of their own ignorance and short-sightedness

Are you a Techno//Marketer? What are some of the skills you think are most important? How do you use your powerful combination of skill sets to add value?

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The antisocial, social network

nosologo.pngIn this age of hyper connected, social network overload, where small is the new big and you can never have too many connections comes NoSo. NoSo is an art project and online network where you are just a number. Literally. Nobody knows your name, there are no photos and you can't friend people.

NoSo lets you log onto the site, find "no" events that are in your area and sign up. That's where the technology ends. You show up at the cafe, park or other location at the designated time and just do whatever you were going to do. That's it. You don't talk to anybody, don't network or exchange business cards. You drink a coffee, read some poetry or work on your laptop, but you know you're all there together.


Sound weird? I don't think it does. NoSo is in the order as flash mobs where the act of being in the same location at the same time for the same purpose is the reward. Sometimes you just need to unplug.

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First//Look: Microsoft's Tafiti (beta)

Picture 3.pngThe competition for search eyeballs is an intense game. Anything that a company can do to test new waters or create real differentiation could potentially be a driver for new user acquisition. Of the big three search proprietors, Microsoft has stepped up with an innovative new visual search tool called Tafiti (which means "do research" in Swahili).

Built on the company's Silverlight (it's basically another version of Flash and could be the downfall of this product) platform, Tafiti allows users to search in an interactive, visual environment. The motion is fluid and rich and should appeal to anybody who is tired of the stark white look of Google or the overly crushed look of Yahoo. This universal search tool incorporates images, RSS, news and books into one search with a visual toggle between them. The option that allows you to drag results to a pile for later reference is a very cool idea. (Makes me wonder if/when Apple would partner with Google to do something like this.)

Here is the video for your review.

[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Key takeaways:

  • All major search players are moving to universal search
  • Visual search overlays like this one could be a part of next generation search apps
  • Because items like images, videos, RSS, books, etc. will be indexed, marketers need to start looking at tags and other meta data to make sure people can find them
  • Silverlight = Flash functionality, but it's a separate plugin
  • Would be interesting if Microsoft built another version of this in Flash to bump up adoption

Related posts:

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No value to the community = no value to you

Today a post from UK-based Reach Students blog tells of the organization's woes in using advertising on Facebook to reach their target audience. In their four total campaigns they tried both banners and Facebook's Flyers and were disappointed each time. Their last ran 1.4 million impressions and delivered a 0.04% click-through rate. Yikes! Valleywag reports similar numbers with Facebook and equally low MySpace data.

Some people are shocked that the numbers are this low. But why I ask?!! These social networks are all about value. If an element or a feature is not adding value it is removed and replaced (at no cost) by something that does add value. Ads just don't add anything to the experience. Let's take a look at my profile page on Facebook to visualize why this is true.

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Notice the ad spot on this page is the narrow skyscraper in the lower left. If you're using the page however, your complete focus is on the content column. Even using the traditional Z-pattern to read the page, your eye doesn't make it to the ad. When I am in this environment I don't want to be disturbed which is why this type of interruption marketing falls on its face.

If you are a marketer and you're thinking to yourself, "Yeah, but MY product is different, my target audience will find HUGE value if they just try it", then you need a reality check. Unless you're giving away cold hard cash to every single person (and even then I would argue there is little value in running ads here) then find another way to get in the mix.

Now, there are branded elements on my profile page that I interact with everyday. These elements add value to me, but they are replaceable. Companies there include:

  • Flickr
  • Pownce
  • Moleskine
  • Skype
  • ICQ
  • AIM
  • Google

If you're trying to use a social network to market to your audience you absolutely MUST add value to the users.

So what's the lesson? If you're trying to use a social network to market to your audience (every network falls into this rule) you absolutely must add value to the users. If you do, they will reciprocate by spreading your message far and wide and you'll be the best thing since broadband. If you don't well, you may just get 0.04% click-through rates.

[Note: I will be doing an Inside//Out post on Facebook for marketers on Monday so check back then for a more in depth look.]

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Blast from the past

iphone.jpgYesterday was iPhone launch day and reports ranged from utter madness in Palo Alto where Steve Jobs made an appearance to calmer, long lines at other stores. Back on January 15 I did a post titled "Nevermind the iPhone, give me a video iPod+" and I still believe what I said then and I hope it comes true in the near future. Here it is for your reading enjoyment.

This is a video from the opening of the Palo Alto store at 6pm. Madness! What company wouldn't kill for this kind of opening?

[Feed readers please click through to the post to view the video.]

Now, I truly thought I wanted the iPhone. I really wanted one. I would have killed (maybe not kill, but surely I would have gently maimed somebody) for one. Now that I've seen it and thought about it for the past week I realize that I don't really want it, I want part of it.

I keep coming back to one major problem. Cingular. Or should I say AT&T. Yikes, that makes it even worse! Let me clarify a couple points before I go on. I love Apple. I use as many Apple products as I can get my hands on. I love the design of iPhone. I love the UI. I love the integration. It's beautiful and I really want to hold it in my hand and never let it go.

So why do I say kill the iPhone? I, like millions of other people around the world right now, am accustomed to carrying around two devices. One does the phone/email/SMS and the other does video and audio. I don't mind carrying my Motorola Q and my 30Gb iPod. I like the functionality of my phone separate from my iPod because they are fundamentally different devices with different purposes.

So what do I want? I want convergence that makes sense to me. I want a widescreen video iPod in the same case as the iPhone. I want a camera in the device. I want Bluetooth for wireless sync and to use wireless headphones. I want Wifi and a built-in browser for surfing. I want to buy songs on the go. I want battery life. I want iChat built in for IM and video conferencing down the road. I want more than 8Gb of storage.

What I don't want is the phone. I want to watch video and talk at the same time. I want Verizon as my phone carrier and another device to handle my media.

Please Apple, release your iPhone to the dwindling AT&T users. I will covet thy iPhones in the meantime (I admit it). But give me the killer iPod I deserve as a loyal Apple evangelist and continue your (very deserved) domination of the mobile player industry.

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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Picture 6.pngOr, in the case of social media, parody is the sincerest form of flattery. The most buzz-worthy companies and products are all on the receiving end of parodies via the internet. It could be an audio clip, video clip or fake website. Some companies try to stop this practice, but I say encourage it!

You heard me right. Companies should make their content social media, parody-friendly. A great example of this (whether intended or not) is the Apple v. PC ads. Just take a look at the search results on YouTube to see what I mean. Out of the first 20 results, 15 are parodies. Some are pro-Mac, some are anti-Mac. Some are promoting religion, gaming or online dating. Everybody is talking though and everybody knows it started with Apple.

Here is one of the many Apple parody videos:

Feed readers click here.

CK pointed out this quote in her piece about pardody by Jeff Hicks, CEO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky in an issue of Business2.0:

"The brands that are adopted, blogged about, and parodied the most are the ones that are going to win because they're involved in the evolution of pop culture." (Think subservient chicken, one of CP+B's campaigns.)

What makes the commercials so good from a parody perspective is they are simply done. You can recreate it in your basement. It's shot on a white background using music that is easily reproducible. The characters are so ingrained in our minds through the Apple ads that you know who you should root for by the side of the screen they're standing on. You also know which one is cool and which is not. Everything in the ad is easy to copy and apply to other products or services.

I am not saying you have to make your ad low-end or that you should copy Apple. What I am saying is that you should make it very easy for people to parody you. You could provide your creative in downloadable MPG files and let people create their own. You could give them a link to the audio track and the font you use. What could you do to let people jump start the buzz? Encouraging people to do this can be a very powerful way to get their creativity going while increasing awareness of your brand.

Here is another example. Microsoft Surface is a cool new way of interacting with physical content. The creator of this clip used Microsoft's video with their own sarcastic dialog. MS could take this as offensive, but why? People are talking. The people who will buy this device will still buy it and others will be exposed to the product.

Feed readers click here.

If you are saying to yourself "That's absurd, I don't want people copying me" then you are missing the point/boat. People talk about you anyway. They chat around the proverbial water cooler (do we really do this anymore or is it the coffee machine?). They email their friends and say the same thing. Why not let them do it and have some brand recognition and fun in the process? If you're aware of what is happening and engage with people, you can find out why your detractors don't like and possibly improve your product/experience and you can ignite the passions of the people that do love you.

Anybody who creates content around your brand is clearly passionate. More to the point, people are going to do it anyway. Why not help them out? The old PR saying goes "there is no such thing as bad publicity" and the same is true on the Internet. There is no such thing as bad user generated content.

What could you do today to let your customers get closer to you to create content (sites, video, audio) that endorses you or shows their passion for you (either way)? Are you strong enough to listen to them? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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Second Life for marketers

SL logo.gifAny time I bring up Second Life when I am speaking or talking to clients I get this look like "What the hell are you smoking dude?". Do you know the look I am talking about? Well, this blog along with video are perfect to show you what Second Life is and what some of the do's and don'ts are.

Basically, Second Life is a virtual world enhabited by the avatar version of each community members. Avatars can ber completely customized to look like you or to look like a supermodel. It's up to you. The power of the medium comes from the level of personal interaction you can have with the population. Everything in Second Life has the ability to be connected to a web page, so if you want somebody to purchase something you can link them right to that page in the shopping cart.

Check out the video:

(I geeked out a bit at the end, but you can always tell a Bruckheimer movie/show if there is a spinning helicopter shot.)


  • Think before you enter this space and do your research
  • Start small and build up as you learn
  • Keep the momentum moving, don't let it stagnate
  • Engage the community
  • ALWAYS provide value! Ask yourself "does this provide value" and if it does not, scrap it
  • Build something remarkable
  • Remember you are in a virtual world, create something that you couldn't do in the real world
  • Keep in mind this is ONE channel for your marketing message not THE channel
  • Use video, audio and links to the web for content integration
  • Engage, engage, engage. You will learn more by listening than anything else and you have to be there to do that


  • Pump all of your marketing efforts here, this is just one channel
  • Jump in without looking
  • Start with a massive build
  • Abandon your area once built, have it staffed during certain hours (nothing is worse to a user than seeing a ghost town)
  • Put yourself before the users
  • Forget this is a community, it is people powered and they can make or break you
  • Lose control of your brand and message. This different and think smart
  • Forget video and audio to complete the experience to the user


Special thanks to Doug Meacham for walking me through his Second Life adventure and to Greg Verdino who has served as a guiding light for any marketer looking to enter this community. You guys rock!

One thing that Doug and I discussed is how in a couple of years you can expect more and more shopping to happen through virtual mall experiences where you can walk in to a store, try on clothing and buy it on the spot. Your avatar will have your measurements and clothing can be tailored to your build.

The low end of engagement with Second Life is about 30 minutes per session. What other way can you actively communicate with your customers one-to-one for 30 minutes? Let me know your feedback on this. The population is a little geeky and certainly early adopters, but it can be a powerful tool if you use it right.

More resources:

[Update: CC Chapman has a really great review of the new voice feature in Second Life. Check it out.]

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Knock knock. Who's there? It's your customers

Picture 5.pngA couple of days ago Google released a new feature on their Maps product that lets users virtually walk through the streets using real photographs. Currently this is available only in NYC, SF, Denver, Las Vegas and Miami, but there are plans to expand it. They call it "Street View", I call it a marketing opportunity.

The Street View lets you move through city streets like you were in a taxi cab. If you, as a marketer, knew that anybody anywhere in the world could virtually come right up to your office or storefront, would you do anything differently? Can people read your signage? Would they take one look and run away or do you create an inviting atmosphere from the street?

Here is an example I pulled up for the apartment building I lived in when I was interning with Mattel Toys in NYC. You can see the level of detail, while not high-resolution, gives you a first impression. You can read the words on the awning and see people within the shot.

Picture 4.png

Now, imagine if you knew when the cameras were coming by. You could have a welcome committee like Google has at their campus? What about creating games like a scavenger hunt using the maps? If you're running outdoor campaigns, can people see them through this experience?

UPDATE: Here is a quick video tour I put together to show you what it's all about.

Feed readers click here to see the video.

Any company with a valid address will be indexed once the camera goes through your town. How could you create a remarkable experience from the very first search?

NOTE: Microsoft is running a similar map beta for Seattle and SF.

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What won't be around in five years?

iStock_000000806066XSmall.jpgThis was the question that was asked of a panel I saw recently here in Cleveland. The panelists each took a good shot at the answer, but to me they missed the most glaring option. Software.

Software as we know it will not be around in five years. I'm talking about dead, packaged, disconnected software. New versions of software are already starting to appear and they use the web browser as their operating system. Look at Google Docs and Spreadsheets. They've created an online version of the word processor and spreadsheet. Google has a presentation application in the works to complete the office suite.

The problem up until now has been working online. If you're working on a project proposal in Word, you can have it auto save for you and you have a local copy. Using online apps meant no local copy and if you accidentally closed your browser, you lost your work.

Google just took a huge step to bring the online offline. Google Gears (still in beta) allows Google apps to store data and run apps locally when you are offline.. Google Reader is first with Docs and Spreadsheets to follow. The app responds like you're connected and when you re-connect it syncs up where you left off. Third party developers can write their own web-based applications to use this technology.

So in five years (or less) software as you know it will not be what you know today. The productivity suite you use for presentations, word processing and spreadsheets may not have the same name on it either. Your software will be a living, breathing entity updating each time you connect, allowing you to stay connected even when you're not.

Best of all worlds, Google's suite of applications is free. No license right now. Have you tried these apps online? Would you consider ditching your Microsoft Office suite for the Google Office? Microsoft has plans to do something similar, but Google has taken the lead and pushed the boundaries of what is possible. On top of that, Google's platform will allow others to take advantage and bring their services offline. Think Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

Just another thing to add to my day with Google.

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Facebook opens up; going to where your customers are

keys_small.jpgWhen you are looking at social media marketing opportunities, there are two distinct directions that you can choose. You can build a social network for your customers or you can go to where they already exist. The former option has a lot of risk. Companies who are capable of successfully creating their own social network are few and far between and it's an expensive endeavor.

For the rest of the companies out there, the smart move is to go to where your customers already exist. This includes sites like MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, etc. The communities are already formed, people are comfortable there, connections have been made, conversations have been started and new users are jumping on board every day.

Most discussions about social networking lead to the big two. MySpace vs. Facebook. Up until last week Myspace had the lead in most every regard. They have more companies involved in marketing to their members, more ads (LOTS more ads), marketing integration was more open and, most importantly, they have a larger volume users. But Facebook is growing fast (24 million active users growing by more than 100,000 new users every week) and last weeks announcement at their f8 conference should have marketers sitting up to take notice.

facebook_logo.jpgThe Facebook Platform opens up the network like never before (Mashable has great archived coverage). Deep integration allows marketers the same level of engagement as tools that are developed by Facebook themselves. There are over ten points that marketers can connect with including profile-level integration, emails, mini-feeds, photos, notes and events.

Before now, the member profile pages have been off limits to outside parties. Connecting to the profile level allows direct messaging on the most trafficked area of the site and has unique messaging ability from member-to-member to drive viral conversations. The launch of this platform firmly propels Facebook past Myspace from a marketing integration perspective.

How to think about engaging users on Facebook:

  • Provide value to the community first
  • Use the power of the network
  • Make it social, share and learn
  • Think beyond banner ads
  • Think rich media

Facebook is handing over the keys to marketers and allowing for experimentation and innovation. Using the same old, tired marketing tactics on new platforms like this will backfire so be careful. The same audience that could propel you to greatness and market share could crush you if you deliver off-target, low value, short sighted opportunities.

For marketers who are willing to step up to the plate, respect the community and put its value above themselves, the possibilities are unlimited. Myspace better wake up or this could create a big shift in marketing dollars.

I'm going to post a more extensive follow up to this post looking under the hood of Facebook and MySpace from a marketing perspective so stay tuned. If you have questions about Facebook or any other social network please let me know in the comments or through email and I'll address them.

Statistics and general information on Facebook:

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Web2.0 for marketers: What this means for you

iStock_000002317898XSmall.jpgOver the past four days we've looked at the history of Web2.0 and what it is not, seen how it is helping business models shift to add new value, making technology transparent to the users all culminating in building community. So what does this mean?

I did a little experiment with some video today, so here is my explanation of what Web2.0 is and how it's impacting you and me. Let me know if this is helpful. I think it's nice to be able to show you what I am talking about even if it's a little small.

Feed readers please click here to see the video. (Full size QuickTime file coming soon.)

Web2.0 is about ideas. Ideas that add value to customers and the platform that allows you to create, adapt and share those ideas in an open forum. It's a mindset that you have to shift into where you open your eyes and ears and learn from the collective input of the community.

Design is helping to move Web2.0 forward as well. New frameworks (groups of reusable code) is allowing more fluid user interfaces to be built to benefit the end-user. Applications that were typically software packages (MS Office, Photoshop, etc.) are now moving online as part of Web2.0. If you use Gmail, Google Reader, the new Yahoo mail you see that the pages work more like an application. The page isn't reloading everytime you select an option. It's much more smooth.

Technology itself is a benefactor in Web2.0, but less visible. Early web technology took a lot of effort to implement and the user experience was clunky and complex. Now, design is working to mask the technology for the maximum user benefit.

Measurement is a challenge in a Web2.0 world. The technology that makes the web smoother and more fluid also eliminates some of our standard metrics. Page views drop significantly across sites using this technology even though the user is accessing the same information. Their experience improves, the sites are more engaging and rich, but we need new ways to measure it. Interaction/engagement rates are one way to measure how people are interacting with your site over time and how sticky it is. Other metrics are still being drafted. How do you measure loyalty online? How do you measure impact? That's a post for another day, but you can start here for more information.

motorola_Q.jpgIt's also important to think about how Web2.0 extends beyond the web browser. Think mobile, PDA, iPod, iPhone, PSP, etc. Each of those devices is increasingly connected. How can you capitalize on each to reach your target market? How can you leverage mobile technology to add value to your community? Look at Twitter for example. It's a service that allows people to micro-publish content to a website from a phone, instant messenger, the web or another application. The services in Web2.0 are open and people have been creating amazing sites on the technology. Some examples are Twittervision and Flickrvision. Each reads data out of Twitter and combines it with a map. The result adds value, is smooth, cool and useful to the user base.

Personally I don't like the name Web2.0, but it is a way to group this new vision of what marketing on the Web should be. The questions to ask to know if you're moving forward are:

  • Does your customer benefit from what you're doing?
  • Do you add value to people's lives? Do you change people's lives?
  • How can you improve your customer's life even more?
  • Is interacting with you easy and painless?
  • Is your offline ready to facilitate your online presence? Vice versa?
  • Does you passion for what you do come through to your customers?
  • Do your customers have a say in your business?
  • What is imporatant for you to know and measure?
  • Are you thinking beyond the browser? How will mobile impact you in 5 years?

This series is not the end of this topic, it's only the beginning. I'll be picking this apart and expanding on some smaller, but equally important issues over time.

Here is a great explanatory video on what another person thinks Web2.0 is. You will learn a lot from this.

Do you have any questions or comments on Web2.0 for marketers? Let me know in email or in the comments below.

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Web2.0 for marketers: It's the community stupid

iStock_000000334544XSmall.jpgToday's topic, in my opinion, is the most important in this entire series of posts. If you are new to the series you can catch up here with part 1, part 2 and part 3. Web2.0 is, in the end, about leveraging communities around your brand to add value to your customers. Hear that? Value for your customers. Creating a MySpace profile to say that you're engaged in social marketing isn't going to do it. If, however, your target audience is on MySpace and you can create a campaign there that reaches them in a personal way and allows them to connect to you in a way not possible before, then you've succeeded. There are a lot of ways that community comes into play in Web2.0.

Technology has been simplified, designers are creating better experiences and people are engaging your brand with or without you. They're posting photos of your products and store experiences, blogging about them, creating videos about their love/hate affair with you, commenting on posts from other bloggers, tagging information about you on del.icio.us, voting stories about you to Digg and Reddit. They're finding all of this information on Google and Yahoo alongside your primary website. It all appears with the same importance in the search results. So what is the community saying about you? Are you behind the wheel or asleep at it?

Are you behind the wheel or asleep at it?

Here are some ways that companies are getting into the fold. Baby steps today can lead to big gains tomorrow as the community will propel itself if you give it some love and lots of attention.

    Listen: One of the top priorities for every company should be to create a social listening program. This involves keeping pulse of what is being said, digesting it and responding through the appropriate channels. There are quite a few services that make this easier, but setting up Google Alerts for your keywords along with monitoring Technorati will go a long way to catching your mentions. From here, you can determine which of the following you will tackle next.

    helga.jpgPersonify: This is often the stereotype of Web2.0 marketing. Creating a physical presence for your brand in a community has worked for some and crashed for others. Companies saw successful, early adopters of this strategy see gains and get a lot of press, so they gave it a try. Volkswagen used MySpace profiles to promote their GTI campaign with profiles for Helga the dominatrix as well as the Fast. Both were on-brand, their target audience was using the community and they were honest about it. Copycats jumped onboard creating fictitious people who promoted their brand. Once found (and they almost always are) the PR backlash raged.

    Personification has powerful potential if done right. Allowing people to connect to you as a "friend" allows for a bond that is often not possible in the real world. But as in the real world, fights and disagreements can happen and relationships can end. Those battles become public domain.

    Extend: A good way to put yourself out there for your community is enabling your customers to extend you into social media networks. Links to submit your content to del.icio.us, Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, Netscape, etc. can be added to any web page. Think about adding these links to your home page and to dynamic content like press releases and other stories. Uploading images to Flickr and then linking them in on your site and doing the same with videos on YouTube will extend your content into new communities. Be on the lookout for other logical extensions.

    Another consideration for publishing should be using blogging software to create your website. There are a couple of benefits here. First, it's a pretty cheap content management solution and you can tailor the look and feel to match your identity. Second, blogging software has all of this built in. Each story (or post) is submitted to search engines, Technorati and pushed to other major news aggregators. You can use the software for the entire site or just for your news. Eventually you could really turn it on and start blogging, at that point you're all set, you just need to add the time.

    Connect: Connecting can be done in a number of ways. Through the listening stage you should be finding who is talking about you. Engage them! Get to know people, they'll love that you take the time to speak with them. Gauge their level of commitment to your brand and enable them to spread your message through your community as well as their other communities.

    Connect with people through traditional means, feedback forms, emails to web-masters, calls to customer service. Take time with them, connect to what drives them to use your product or service. Keep notes on where they go, what they like, what you can do to make them happier. You will build your community through the input of the individuals. Comment on blogs and reach out through email to customers. They'll appreciate the time and effort you are showing.

    Collaborate: Here is where the power of technology can really be powerful to marketers. It's hard to listen to everyone that is talking to you. It's almost impossible to listen to what everyone is saying to each other. The idea of collaboration is a major advantage if implemented and used effectively. Wiki technology, like that on which Wikipedia is built, allows groups of users to edit information in real time. Let's say you are creating product documentation or research for your users. Why not ask them to help you out. Nobody knows your products better than the people who use them.

    dell_logo.pngTaking collaboration to the extreme is the idea of crowdsourcing. This is a system that enables your customers to sign up, suggest ideas to the community, vote which ideas are best, work together to flush those ideas out and finally help implement the final product. Companies pay thousands upon thousands of dollars in focus group testing each year. Why not use the web, go straight to the customer and get their buy-in for new innovations. Dell's IdeaStorm is a great example of crowdsourcing done right.

    Create: Some of the previous strategies involved creation, but what I am talking about here is creating an organization that is focused on delivering value to the community. The more you can personally connect to each customer the more profitable you will be. Creating a blog lets people know your thoughts, proves you know what you're talking about and acts as a great resource. It shows you walk the walk. Extending into social media networks allows people to find you in their own environments. When you collaborate with your customers you get their buy-in, loyalty and respect. All of this starts with listening. Everybody from the receptionist to customer service to the CEO needs to be on the same page. If somebody calls with a question it should be handled promptly and shared with the team and the community. Communities that address issues and problems in this manner show they care about their customers and engender loyalty.

Here are my takeaways for the community area:

  • Listening to what is happening is the first step and everybody should be on their way to taking it
  • Each company is different. What works for a T-shirt startup will not work for an auto parts manufacturer.
  • Look deep inside your company and make sure you're set up to deliver to the customer on and offline.
  • User experience is key. You can have the most robust community software on Earth, but if it's hard to use or too technical it will fail.
  • Don't recreate the wheel. Go to where your customers are. If they're on a magazine site or MySpace, reach them there, don't try to create a new community and expect them to switch.
  • What are you doing to facilitate your community now?
  • Where are your customers spending their time when they're not with you?
  • What are they saying about you right this minute?

Please let me know if you have comments or questions. Is there anything else you would like me to address? Anything you want me to clear up? I am here for you, just let me know. Tomorrow is the conclusion...don't miss it!

Related Post: New search engines are indexing ONLY content that has been tagged or voted in social media sites.

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Web2.0 for marketers: Who let the tech out?

iStock_000000464605XSmall.jpgThe past couple of days have covered the history of Web2.0 and provided background and setup for today's post. Our topic has significant impact for marketers trying to get a grasp on Web2.0. A lot of the talk that goes on focuses on technology. Don't get me wrong, the technology is the foundation of Web2.0, it's just not important to marketers.

Web2.0 is the elimination of technology boundaries. Here's what I mean. Web1.0 sites were hard to use. The design may have been good, but the technology got in the way (think about the first time you signed up to post on a message board or user group). The experience was clunky and was mostly designed by technology folks who focused on functionality, not experience.

Web2.0 is the elimination of technology boundaries.

Let's look at the following diagram of what a Web1.0 site looked like. Notice that the technology components are segmented and so are the users that touch them. There were multiple points of contact, but they weren't working cohesively and the users saw limited benefit. The company was able to get some metrics, measure signups, interact on the message boards, but they were all disjointed. Web2.0 requires a shift in that mindset.



This shift is subtle. A lot of companies attempt to make it and fail by overcomplicating things. The focus in Web2.0 is not on the feature, it's on the experience. Web2.0 is all about creating value. Value in the interaction, with your message and with each other. The more value you enable them to receive, the more loyal they will become, the more time they'll spend with your brand and the more likely they'll be to spread your message. The experience is communal. The Web2.0 site is a hub for like minded members to join in the conversation. The features mesh together to form new methods to communicate.

A great example of the elimination of technology barriers is the blog. Every blog is a micro community. There is no registration like on MySpace or Facebook, but the membership is still there. Let's take a look at this blog and see how the technology allows me to connect (hopefully) with you.


Click here to see a larger image.

You can see that all of technology I use here connects me to other people and their communities. It's not complex looking to you the reader (though the systems that run these sites are very complex). Your experience has been put at the forefront.

This is a great lead in to tomorrow's post on communities when we'll talk about how marketers can use communities and Web2.0 to strenghten relationships, build brand loyalty and get people talking about you.

Here are my thoughts to build upon the last couple of days and this post:

  • Is there anything that your customers experience online that could be made better using new technology?
  • What can you simplify today to add more value?
  • Are you creating a community for your customers?
  • Are you connecting to your customers' other communities?

Like I said yesterday, anything is possible in technology. Don't be afraid to ask. We as marketers need to open our minds and not limit ourselves to things in the realm of the known. The area beyond what is known will be tomorrow's innovation.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments.

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