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10 posts from January 2010

01/29/2010 The iPad: We Hate it When We're Right

Apple finally announced the iPad and the frenzy leading up to the event was quickly replaced with people declaring it a disappointment or a success. There seems to be a lot of disappointment because everyone's expectations were sky high. When you've labeled something "the Jesus tablet" there's nowhere to go but down.

As I look, from afar without having even touched one, I think Apple has finally delivered a great mobile media device, one that us techies and experts have predicted would show up at one time or another. And now that it's here, just like we said, we don't know what to make of it.

Mobile Media
The fact that we can access and consume media from everywhere is great. The problem is that it's not much fun to watch a video, look at pictures or read an online newspaper on your phone. It works, but it's not great. You could do all of these things on your laptop, but it's big, somewhat cumbersome, and not always conducive for the media at hand.

The iPad fills the niche of performing all of those tasks neatly. The biggest piece might be the reading one: Reading a book, newspaper or Web site on your laptop or phone is sub-par at best. When you combine the capability of a Kindle with good video and key user functionality you have something you can't get anywhere else.

Will people buy this to consume media? I think they will because it looks like the iPad will make an easier and more comfortable consumption. I can even see reading or watching in bed, something I rarely do with my iPhone or laptop.

The promise of the iPad is that it will add a layer of interactivity onto content. We haven't seen in yet, but you can bet people will find a way to get creative on this one. It's the functionality and ease of use of the device that's key here. Interactive TV isn't coming soon because who the heck wants to play around with TV programs? Somehow TV is just not a Wii, even if it's the same screen.

The size and proximity of the user makes interactive content and advertising much more interesting. The closeness of the tablet with touch control might be the biggest advantage. Built in control of the media is another. Watch for this to explode. Just like we didn't see the App wave coming until it was upon us, I think the same thing will happen, in one way or another, with the iPad interactivity.

Just like the iPod, the iPad will be easy to move around. It'll be easy to carry on a plane or prop up in the kitchen (and remember those tiny TVs people used to have in their kitchens? Gone). Just wait for those cool iPad carriers too.

Most of the complaints have come from people who say the iPad didn't fill an expected need. But Apple and Steve Job's brilliance has always come by creating something we didn't yet know we needed.

Just remember, it took Jesus almost 300 years to become "successful." I'll bet in another three, at most, we'll look at the iPad as another winner.


01/28/2010 Do Porn and Digital Strategy Mix? Fooled by Google.

I look at my blog stats regularly to see where people come from and how they find my blog. For the past year, I've noticed a lot of search traffic landing on a blog piece about Burton Snowboard, a controversial design, and brouhaha in Burlington politics.

Of course, I used an image in this post to show what I was talking about. That post receives a ton of Google search traffic. Part of it comes from searches for Burton, but only some. The majority comes from people looking for those center fold-outs from one of the most popular girlie magazines of all time (I shouldn't say it here Google, but here goes): Playboy.

If you search for Playboy centerfolds or better yet old Playboy centerfolds, guess what? My Digital Strategy blog pops up on the Image search on page two and even page one!

Now, I think this blog is pretty good, in the scheme of things. Not the best, but certainly not the worst. There are some good ideas here that should make people think some more.

But I can only imagine the disappointment of one of the above searchers when they land on my blog after a Google Image search. Do porn and strategy mix? Should they?

How many digital strategists search for naked woman? Wait, I really don't want to know.

The only thing I do know is that our trusted Google sends some if it's searchers to some terribly wrong places. Like the people searching for centerfolds who land here, for example.

Or maybe I should be more like page 6 and have more racy pictures here to satisfy this audience?

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01/26/2010 Removing the Social Media Roadblocks

If you've thought about moving your organization into social media but haven't done so yet, you're probably facing a number of real and perceived roadblocks. Usually, places that have solid hierarchies, are publicly traded companies or are risk averse tend to hold back from social media. Loss of control feels scary, threatening and downright dangerous.

As a social media champion, your role isn't to tell people who feel this way that they're wrong or crazy. Your role is to convince them that it's worth the risk. Remember, know your audience and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Roadblock 1: The CEO
The CEO might like to see him or herself as an entrepreneurial risk taker but chances are that was a long time ago. Or he or she may be so busy and pre-occupied that this social media thing seems like much ado about nothing (and only time will tell).

Your social media strategy should be to feed the C small tidbits of:
  1. How the competition is already moving into this space and you risk falling behind.
  2. How customer satisfaction goes up or costs go down.
  3. Companies who've reduced marketing costs or increased sales.
  4. How social media increases employee connections and satisfaction.
The stories are out there. Start with Zappo's, Ford and Dell. Everyone has heard of them. You just need to be consistently sharing them and then following up with a concrete plan for your organization. Proof and plan usually opens that roadblock.

Roadblock 2: Legal, Financial or HR
If your organization has a history of unhappy labor negotiations or if you find yourself the center of a lot of financial speculation online, the powers that be will not want you to say ANYTHING online. Remember, anything you say or do can and will be used against you. So it's better to keep your social media yap shut.

Here's what you need to provide them:
  1. Create a social media policy and guidelines to show them that employees need to follow certain rules.
  2. Put together a training program for employees who participate in social media. Make sure everyone who goes through this gets a "grade."
  3. Show them the dangers and risks of NOT participating in social media or having guidelines. There are a lot of horror stories to choose from.
  4. Put together a social media crisis communications plan. They'll love this.
  5. Allow them to help you craft all of this.
  6. If you need to, put some teeth in somewhere. It goes against the grain of social media but it may be a small price to pay to remove the roadblock.
Remember, they're not wrong, they're right. You need to show them that social media is not terribly dangerous.

Roadblock 3: Other Marketers

"Who Owns Social Media?" will be the slogan that kills social media. We marketers are territorial by nature; it's what we're trained to be. You may find yourself in a tug-of-war over who gets to call the shots. This is a tough one, but you might try:
  1. Find allies in the other marketing teams and build your own skunk works group.
  2. Share stories in all of the groups of great "hybrid" marketing examples. These are starting to pop-up more and more.
  3. Focus on certain marketing gurus to make your case for you. They carry lots of weight.
  4. Invite the groups to Webinars or, better yet, go on a group trip to a conference.
  5. Let the other groups help you in putting together policies, strategies and plans.
  6. Remember, this is about team building more than anything else.
If they still won't play, make sure they know you're moving ahead and will get there first with out them.

Roadblock 4: Yourself

You are probably your own biggest roadblock. Face it, you're probably busier than ever; do you really need one more headache? You do if you're a forwarding thinking person, which you probably are if you've read this far. So, some quick tips:
  1. Set realistic goals for yourself.
  2. Get some of your excuses and time-sucks out of the way. You may have to give up Twitter for Lent to make it happen.
  3. Read books like Linchpin or Groundswell to psyche you up.
  4. Contact some big swinging Tweets for encouragement and advice.
  5. Remember, it's a job, not your entire life. If you don't succeed at it here, and it means a lot to you, that may be telling you more than anything else.
There are lots of reasons not to do things and lots of people who don't want anything to change. If you do want change, you can make it happen, even if you find people standing in your way.
01/22/2010 Three Questions for Rebecca Thorman

This post was removed, due to user feedback. Sorry.
01/19/2010 Artists of the World Unite!

One of the more surprising parts of reading Seth Godin's new book "Linchpin" is that you have to wait until page 22 before there's a reference to Marx and Engels. That's because, for the first 20 pages, this new book reads like "Das Kapital" for the digital age.

Seth Godin's "Linchpin" is a culmination of his previous books, all of which point to a shift in the way we work and create products, but none of them put all the pieces together as powerfully as "Linchpin." Our world, our economic reality, is going through massive transformation leaving those of us working (or not) to suffer the consequences. "Linchpin" seeks to rally individuals to rise up and meet that challenge on our own, rather than waiting for someone to tell us what to do.

Simply put, "Linchpin" is to people as "Purple Cow" was to products.

Linchpin The book starts out by showing us how the social contract around work has broken down in the post-industrial age. The old promises: work hard, fit in, follow the rules, be loyal, and have broken down and instead of receiving rewards for doing this, workers lose their jobs. "Linchpin" speaks about the need to make yourself indispensable by standing out. But it's the how we stand out that's at issue.

I've certainly read and talked a lot about social media. We all know the tenets: listen, be authentic, share, and be nice and, most of all be generous. Seth turns these tenets on their heads. Businesses can't act this way unless we, the people working there, or representing them, act that way. He asks us to follow our muse to the place where we can act that way, whether it's going out on our own, or doing it in the place where we work. It's this way of acting, rather than the skills we know, or our ROI, that's the Linchpin currency.

In some way, we've read all of this before in books like Rules for Revolutionaries, Who Moved My Cheese, Free Prize Inside and Ignore Everyone. What makes Linchpin different is that Seth connects these thoughts and puts them into the context of the 21st century. And he doesn't provide a map (because there are no maps, hurray) or a checklist because the book is about not having maps or checklists. Instead, he provides great insight and encouragement.

Some of the insight is hard to take. The middle chapter on Resistance, on what's going to make you give up, almost made me put down the book. Almost. Seth spends the first half of the book calling the readers genius, then he peeks inside our psyche to the place we hate fessing up to. And we all have it. The reasons for saying no. It actually reminded me of a passage from Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot":

"The thought that he has so well fulfilled his duties is no comfort or to him on the contrary it irritates him. 'This is what I wasted all my life on,' he says, 'this is what has fettered me hand and foot this is what has hindered me from doing something great. Had it not been for this I should certainly have discovered gunpowder or America I don t know precisely what but I would certainly have discovered it.'"

I remember reading that book with a friend in a college class and we both felt it was talking about us.

In the end we need to act like artists. That is what will set us, and our economy, free. According to Seth this means acting with extreme generosity. It's not even a "that which goes around, comes around philosophy." It's not about coming around at all. It's about putting something out there in the world that you're proud of and that makes you feel like your doing something good.

For those of you who can't be bothered to read the book, you're in luck because the movie is already out. Well, part of a movie anyway. In Jason Reitman's "Up In The Air" George Clooney gives out some of the important messages of Linchpin.
  • Message 1: It doesn't matter that you've worked in one place for 20 years or that you always did what the boss told you to do. You're fired. Following the rules and not making yourself indispensable made you expendable.
  • Message 2: Following the script doesn't work. When Anna Kendrick's character tries to formalize what Clooney does, it has disastrous results. It's not about following the script.
  • Message 3: Humanity works. There's a great scene of Clooney telling some poor schlep that instead of complaining, he should follow his old muse of cooking so he can earn the respect of himself, and his kids. Find the insight, and go with it.
The chapters on schools, though, raised my blood pressure.  Seth makes a compelling case that schools do not teach our kids what they need to know for the future. We still focus on industrial, 20th century skills and teachings in our 21st schools. Schools still train kids for factory jobs that no longer exist. Nowhere is this more apparent than the homework issue. Homework is simply teaching kids that unpaid overtime is the norm. I'm copying this chapter and sending it to my school board (oops, maybe I shouldn't have written that!).

Personally, I'm taking some other lessons away from this:
  1. I'm limiting my time on Twitter, e-mail and the Web. I hate to say that. I love Twitter; it's like my drug. But I buy Seth's argument that it's by tapping into a fear of missing out that's keeping me from other things. Hard to do, but I'm doing it.
  2. My plans for 2010, the ones that got me so jazzed up at the end of 2009 but that have gone on hold because of all the great work opportunities I have, need to come back. Work is great, but it's also an excuse.
  3. I'm going to be more generous with my time, advice and actions. I'm putting this on the wall to remind me to do it every day.
One thing I don't believe in the book, though, is on the last page where Seth says he's not trying to change the world. Come on Seth give me a break! Of course you're trying to change the world. You've always tried to do that.

Seth Godin's books and writings have always inspired me. Honestly, his work helped me make a leap of faith away from something secure to something risky. Having said that, I think Linchpin is his best work to date. It's inspiring, scary, and insightful.

At the end of the day, I'm a Godinist. 

That will be me on the top of the barricades shouting:

"Artists of the world Unite. You have nothing to lose but your discontent. You have a world to win."

01/15/2010 Three Questions for Adrian Ho - #btvsmb

The Burlington Social Media Breakfast series (#BTVSMB) resumes on February 1, 2010 with speakers Adrian Ho and Rebecca Thorman. To register visit http://btvsmb4.eventbrite.com.

Adrian Ho is a founding partner of the award winning digital agency Zeus Jones in Minnesota.

 Q: When did you start getting involved in social media?

I'd like to think I never got "involved" with social media. Honestly I try to avoid thinking about it - are you sure you still want me to come? ;)

Q: What's the most interesting or fun social media campaign you've either been involved in or watched?

The most fascinating stuff for me tends to be the application of social principles to a company's business. I'm inspired by a lot of the stuff that Best Buy is doing here in our market as well as some of the stuff we're working on with Nordstrom right now.

AdrianHoQ: What social media trend is, for you, the most interesting to keep our eye on?

As I alluded to above, I think the really interesting trend is the move of "social" away from social media and into all parts of a company's business and marketing. The themes and structures that social media have exposed us to like participation, transparency, collaboration and so on are far more interesting when removed from the "media" anchor. The most interesting and innovative social marketing probably won't involve social media.

01/14/2010 The Best Twitter List?

The other day, Avi Joseph (@avinio) turned me on to a great Twitter tool: Conversationlist. It creates a list dynamically of the last 25 people you're talking with or about. While this may not sound so exciting, I think it helps solve a problem Twitter created itself last spring.

At that time, Twitter decided not to show conversations (replies) between people unless you happened to follow all of the people in the conversation. Their thought seemed to be that by keeping that "private" they would reduce spam somehow.

Unfortunately what happened is that Twitter instead cut off one of the most important aspects of social media: the ability to connect with people you should know about but didn't. One of social media's promises is to connect circles of connections with one another in an ever-expanding word of mouth network.

When I started on Twitter, following other people's conversation connected me with some great people who I might never have found otherwise.

Well, Conversationlist solves that, in one way. It takes the last 25 people you've replied to or mentioned over the last 24 hours and puts them in a list. Now, you still have to find and read that list, so it does involve a little work.

But one way to use it is to look at the Conversationlists you're on, and see who else your connection talks with.

Not revolutionary, but a very good and very useful tool.

Here's my list.

Thanks Avi.

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01/11/2010 It's Not About The Tools

Twitter is a blast. Facebook keeps me connected. Who can stop watching YouTube?

Face it, social media tools and channels are fun and numerous. Who can blame marketers who want to focus on them?

The problem is that many businesses start building this digital marketing channel by focusing too much on the tools and not enough on the strategy. Do you know why you're venturing into social media? Do you know what you're trying to achieve? Do you know how you'll act when you start getting into real dialog?

Sometimes marketers get lucky. They start something and somehow they figure it out down the line. The ones that do are curious risk-takers willing to invest time in a new adventure.

Most marketing departments aren't like this though. Everyone is extremely busy; there are numerous pressures from above and below. One new pressure, they find, is the push to get into social media. There's so much buzz that everyone, from the CEO down to the cleaning crew, knows about it. So why, they all ask, isn't our business using social media.

That's when you get the push toward the tools. I hear this more than you can imagine. We need TwitterNingFacebookBlog. Previously it was Widgets and Flash sites. But if you don't ask the why, what and how, chances or you won't be very successful.

Jeremiah Owyang had a great line in a recent blog:
Social marketing strategy "should be focused first on socialgraphics (how your customers use these tools) and business goals -not reacting to the latest technology."

Think about it. It's not how your business uses the tools; it's how your customers use the tools.

I completely understand why marketers want to try new channels. The difference is that if you try a test in the cable TV channel and it doesn't work, nobody notices. (If a TV ad runs on cable, and no one sees it, is it still an ad?) Social media and the Web are not so forgiving. If you jump into social media, and don't give it the proper attention, people may notice for a long time.

Marketers, resist the temptation and allure of the tools for your business. Build your digital strategy by answering the why, what and how. It will make you much more successful.

And if you can't resist, create those channels and tools for yourself, individually, and work them hard. You'll probably learn so much that when you bring this knowledge back into your business, you can act as a true social media leader.
01/06/2010 It's Time for Online Retailers to Support Local Communities

From the Huffington Post:

Online retail continues to grow while local communities struggle with deep economic problems. Do these two economic trajectories have anything to do with one other? While there may not be a  causal link between the two trends, it's time for online-only retailers to do the right thing: Charge and pay local sales tax.

Put very simply, the convoluted online tax system works like this: If a retailer maintains  physical commercial space in a state, people who buy from its online domain are required to pay sales tax on their purchases. This is why individuals pay sales tax when shopping online from websites like Walmart or Costco.

If an online retailer does not maintain a physical presence, it does not charge and don't pay sales tax. This is why individuals don't pay sales tax when you purchasing on websites like Amazon or MacMall.

In the current system, local communities subsidize online-only retailers at the expense of bricks and mortar stores - you know, the retailers that provide jobs to the people in your community. Even more distressing, these subsidies come from local tax coffers.

It's time to change the system: All online retailers must be made to pay and charge a sales tax to help local communities.

The choice is ours, really, as consumers. What do we support more? Roads, schools and police in our cities and towns? Or 4-6% off our consumer purchases?

We may think that we're saving by embracing the rapidly growing realm of e-commerce, but in reality, we end up paying in an unacknowledged capacity - either through property taxes or increased sales tax, which hits our local retailers even harder.

Here are a few things to think about:
  • According to Mercent, Black Friday online sales for 2009 grew by 41% since 2008. That does not even include so-called Black Monday.
  • Washington Post's David Ignatius perceives the Californiazation of America, where local government don't have the will to balance spending with tax revenue, as inviting another looming financial meltdown.
  • Seth Godin shows succinctly how online retailers have already changed the nature of the record and bookstores. Online commerce has won here and is winning in other areas as well.

2010-01-05-salestax.pngOnline retailers don't need our help and don't need to be subsidized. They already offer more choice, greater convenience and more competitive pricing than brick and mortar stores. Our communities need our help. The question is whether lawmakers have the guts to legislate this much-needed change. I doubt they do. Maybe concerned local citizens should band together and publicly target and shame the sites that don't support their communities through local sales tax.

The difference between one online retailer and another is pretty slim. If the choice is between supporting my local police force and supporting some unknown corporate wonk, the choice is easy, if somewhat blunt.

And if you really don't want to pay sales tax, there's always New Hampshire, where you can basically live free or die.

Come on, online retailers. It's time to do the right thing. Pay up.
01/04/2010 One 2010 Prediction: More of the same

There are lots of predictions out there. Tis the season to try to guess or predict trends. Some of the predictions are exciting and I hope they come true, but if they don't someone can always use them again in 2011. I only have one prediction for 2010. We'll see more of what we saw in 2009, with everyone striving for better integration.

That may not sound like news and it's not. Companies have striven for better integration for the last 20 years (at least)! What is new is that social media provides a different type of connective tissue. The question is who will harness that power across entire organizations to
  • Break down silos;
  • Provide better and richer communication internally; and
  • Provide real and seamless dialogue with customers.

One question in these types of discussions is what marketing groups will lead this charge. Maybe they'll end up following instead.

You'd think that the digital folks should have the upper hand here, but they haven't always shown a graceful touch when dealing with things like product packaging or customer service. Traditional agencies should be more adept at dealing with these different internal issues, but the reality is that they're best at advertising and putting together big and simple media plans.

Integration has been the holy grail of brands and agencies. Today, we're closer than ever. My one prediction is that in 2010, we're going to start seeing examples of companies doing this in ways we've only dreamed about. Then everyone else will try to emulate the leaders.

Watch for more hybrids and less combustion. I'll bet you.

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