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3 posts from September 2011

09/26/2011 Instagr.am – Maybe the Best Social Network?

I admit it: I’m late to the Instagr.am game. Yes, I signed up when it went live but I rarely used it. Over the past few months, though, I’ve become slightly addicted to it and I think it may be the best social network around. 

For those of you who don’t use it yet, Instagr.am lets you share photos from your smart phone with people following you. It allows you to “like” or comment on others’ pictures. It’s kind of like a visual Twitter, but instead of 140 characters of text, the stream is completely visual.

Of all the social platforms I use, this one feels the most intimate. Perhaps it’s because people share a lot of pictures of their kids and family. Or maybe it’s because there are so many pictures of what people are eating (it feels like there are more pictures of food than anything else!). 

And honestly, I’m completely blown away with the artistry some people are able to capture on their phones. Maybe they just have a better artistic eye than I do or maybe their phones are better (iPhone 5 can’t come a minute to soon for me). Some days I feel like I’m viewing a Still Life with Social exhibit. Just beautiful. 

I think my hesitancy grew out of two things. First, because this feels closer and more intimate, there’s a brief element of voyeurism here. It’s more than either Facebook or Twitter, since it’s pictures, not links or Farmville notices. You’re following what other people see, not think or boast. Initially it felt a little too close for me, and I also hesitated about what I would share myself.


For that reason, I didn’t want to have all of the same people in my Twitter stream (or even on Facebook) on my Instagr.am stream. I have a pretty small Instagr.am crowd; it’s closer to the size of my Facebook than Twitter. And even though I don’t know all the people I’m following very well, I feel like I know them a LOT better through their pictures than I did through their blogs or Tweets.

The one catch with Instagr.am is that it lacks a good desktop app. Instagr.am is built for the mobile platform. There are a few third-party apps that others have built, including a free Web module called Inkstagram. Living in Vermont with its spotty mobile coverage means I prefer desktop versions to mobile. Because of Instagr.am, though, I’m getting over it.

These days, when I open up my iPhone or iPad, the first thing I look at is what pictures other people have posted. I get a taste of different cities, countries and activities. It’s by far my most vibrant and interesting social stream.

If you’re not on it yet, you should start. And if you are, I hope to see you there.


09/20/2011 Give consumers more control of online advertising

Opt-Out Online Advertising 

I was delighted to see an online ad the other day. While the ad was clearly relevant to me, what most intrigued me was a little line of text that said “Ad Choices.”


Choices? We have choices for online advertising? Obviously we don’t have enough.

That little line of text, though, seemed like a promise of future relevance, where I could imagine a day that I could turn off specific ads if I didn’t like the content or ad itself. A future of online advertising that gave more control to the people viewing the ads than the people making or serving them.

We’re not quite there yet. But the American Express ad on the NewYorkTimes.com site was an improvement. 


When I clicked on the Ad Choices, I received a number of options for information. I clicked on the first link and landed on the Evidon Web site.

Evidon runs the Digital Advertising Alliance’s self-regulatory program. One of the reasons programs like this exist is that the advertising industry is fighting tooth and nail to prevent federal regulations that mandate stuff like this.

The site does let you opt out of certain ad networks.

Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 3.06.49 PM

It provides a little widget called Ghostery that shows you all the activity happening behind the scenes when you visit a Web page. Ghostery is almost enough to make people scream for more government intervention. 

Clearly, this is a good start. We need more, though, and it’s not nearly widespread as it should be. The concept of retargeting (that is, cookieing me when I visit a site, so I can receive that sites ad) is often a complete failure. Here’s one example (of several) that I run into daily. 

I have a subscription to Fuze for Web conferences. It works well; I’m a pretty satisfied customer. Yet I’m inundated by retargeting ads from Fuze continuously. I long to shut them up. But there’s no easy way for me to do so. I see this with a number of brands I’m not interested in, or not interested in right now.


These ads make me want to buy less from these brands, not more. I’m considering canceling my Fuze account so that I’ll never get their ads again.

When consumers have more control over the online ads they see, and have the ability to turn off both networks and individual brands and creative, people will continue to ignore or even despise display advertising.

Of course, when they do have control that will put the pressure on us marketers to create great advertising. And lord knows we need that pressure.

In the mean time, initiatives like Evidon are a step in the right direction, but we need more than baby steps at this point. Otherwise, bring on the regulation.


09/06/2011 Ideas are not enough

We’ve all had this happen: we have (what we think) is a great idea. It’s based on a combination of customer insight, business, actual behavior and a bolt from the blue. It makes so much sense you’re amazed no one has done it quite like you’re thinking. You can see both the path and the success.

Most of the time, though, it doesn’t end that way. Here are some of the reasons why that idea never quite made it to reality. 

  1. It’s not just your story. An idea needs a story around it. Most of the time, you’ve constructed one that you tell to your team or your boss; that’s how you’ve sold it. If it’s a good story, it moves ahead.

    The problem is that too often the idea and story initiator is the only person who can tell it correctly. If you want your story to live and succeed, you need to make sure that others can tell the same story, with the same enthusiasm and belief.

    One of the ways I can tell when I have a good idea is when I see my teammates tell the story as if it were their own. When you can hear it with someone else’s voice and words, your chances of success have increased dramatically.

    When you see that your team still has problems articulating your story even when everyone is deep into the project, you’re in trouble. Make sure you take the time, early on, to ask people to tell you the story back or even to embellish it. It’s amazing to see how people can reinterpret the idea into different stories over time, even ones that are diametrically opposed to what you initially thought.

  2. Face it, when we have good ideas, we fall in love with them. Usually, though, most other people don’t. In fact, some people don’t really care that much about them at all.

    Projects and ideas move ahead for a variety of reasons. But not all projects and ideas are created equal. While your idea may be brilliant, a game changer even, you might only have limited support and resources to move it along. An even stranger combination is when you have resources but not the attention of key stakeholders to succeed.

    One way to get around this is to understand where your idea fits into the overall scheme of things. You can do that through a simple step: Ask! Take time with your key decision maker(s) and see how they prioritize your idea and where it fits in the grand scheme of things.

    It may turn out that people you expect contributions and support from are just too busy to do so. This can result in a slow, painful death to your idea at worst, or just lousy execution at best.

    If you can find the sweet spot for your idea and story, you have a better chance of bringing it to life.

  3. What or who are the potential roadblocks? It’s better to spend some time finding this out at the very beginning rather than the very end. There are lots of horror stories of great ideas and projects dying at the finish line because a final roadblock (legal, brand, accounting) decides that something is not quite right.

    It’s better to figure out who will say No early on, so you can start telling them your story. If you can understand their resistance, you might be able to figure out a way around it with their help. Again, the story is the key here.

    You may end up discovering that the people who you expected to say No actually provide you with some even better ideas and insights than you originally had. They can make your story better and you can give them ownership.


There are a number of books, like Buy In, that help you sell your idea into a group of skeptical people. But once you’ve gone past that, there’s no guarantee that your idea will happen. 

If you can make others love it even half as much as you do, you’ve got a pretty good chance of succeeding.

(Image from the brilliant Tom Fishburne's Marketoonist Blog)

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