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3 posts from November 2011

11/14/2011 What we really need from Google, Facebook and Apple

As a parent indoctrinating his kids with all the things I liked when I was young, I was struck by a simple fact. While watching (re-watching) many of my favorite shows and movies with my children, like original Star Trek and Mission Impossible, Sean Connery James Bond movies, and Get Smart, I realized that what most of these shows talk or fight about is Science and Scientists. That idea was reinforced after this summer’s visit to the Spy Museum in Washington. The Cold War, and our future success as a nation, boiled down to one thing:

Those with the most, and best, geeks win.

Back then we competed in rockets, space travel and military technology. Men in white coats were prizes. The real power was locked in the brains of the smartest people.

We kids were weaned on that. Q was cool. Spock was, well just amazing. Scientists were heroes.

No wonder we produced a lot of them back then. NASA launchings caused everything to stop, all at once. Being a geek was chic. Our popular culture trained us and our schools supported us.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where we need more engineers, technicians and scientists than ever before. We may have thought things were cool before, but they’re just mind-boggling today.

Right now, though, we’re not fighting over rocket designs, we’re fighting over code. The spy game of the 60’s has shifted from dead drops to hacking. Nano-technology, artificial and bio intelligence are just as sexy, more actually, than rockets. But they are much harder to visualize.

What we really need today is a way to visualize and popularize technology in the same way we did during the Cold War and space race. We need to pump up the techno-cool so kids will want to emulate it and follow it into practice. We need a Spock for the Social Age.


This is where we need Google, Facebook and Apple’s help. Unlike in the past, the government propaganda apparatus won’t help. Movies like Social Network end up glorifying the parties, not the coding. Google, Facebook, Apple (and others) are already the coolest companies in the world. We need them to help create a PR push or branded content that Hollywood (and others) will emulate.

We need them to help elevate the idea that technologists are still the diamonds in our society, worth fighting over and protecting. With their collective creativity, we need TV shows, movies and graphic novels promoting the amazing stuff only they can do.

In the end, this will help technology companies like Google, Facebook and Apple by providing a greater pool of technology talent. But it will help all of our country much more.

We need a new geek chic to go mainstream. 

11/10/2011 Social Metrics

This was the presentation I gave at the Vermont Web Summit on November 3, 2011 on Social Metrics. As expected, I talked more about having something important to measure, like things that impact your business than the nuts and bolts of social analytics and tools.

A number of people have requested that I post this, so here it is:

11/02/2011 The Rise of the Socially Empowered Consumer

There’s been a lot of talk about empowering consumers over the past few years. But the events of the past few months show that we’ve passed an inflection point. The actions and reactions around Bank of America and Netflix show that the power has shifted from an unbalanced company/consumer relationship to a much more balanced one.

Bank of America announced yesterday it was dropping plans to raise its debit card fees by $5. When it revealed its plans in September, BOA caused an outcry of protest on Twitter and Facebook. “Debit card fees” was a trending topic on Google.

Social media enabled consumers to not only show their discontent with the new plan, it allowed them to spur and encourage people to do something about it: switch banks. Apparently that threat of customer loss and negative publicity helped BOA change course.

This summer Netflix bumbled through an organizational and operational change that increased customer costs while decreasing what they received for it. Despite numerous attempts to explain what it was doing, Netflix only succeeded in enraging millions of people. Those people then used social media to tell each other how mad they were.

Not only that. They acted and encouraged others to act. The result: Netflix lost almost 1 million customers in a very short time. 

Both of these results would have been unthinkable back in the day when companies had a near monopoly on communications. In the broadcast or propaganda age, companies controlled the message and the means to distribute them. Consumers, who lacked any organizing principle or mechanisms, let alone the combined resources to act as a counterweight to those messages, had little power to counteract company actions.

Social media has disrupted that. Our digital revolution has delivered the means of production and distribution into the hands of consumers. Social media has created a channel to match and overwhelm the broadcast channel. With that, we’re seeing a very significant power shift. 

And it’s not only in consumer markets. The same thing happened in Tunisia and Egypt.


Companies best take note. It’s one thing if people make you change back your logo, like Gap. It’s another when they stop doing business with you.

Imagine instead if all of these same companies had used social media to help test and form the business decisions. Perhaps they wouldn’t have always produced the most popular results, but the companies would have been more prepared, and created more consumer friendly decisions than otherwise.

For those companies who don’t really like paying attention to what’s happening on social media, I can only say one thing: You deserve everything you get.

Today’s consumer is empowered thanks to social media and that empowerment is going to grow stronger. People will no longer simply accept decisions and messages that affect them. What a great time to be a consumer!

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