Archive for Twitter


My Jerry Maguire Social Media Moment

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Consumers and marketers have had what I’d call an “understanding” since the dawn of time. A quid pro quo as it were. You the consumer will accept a degree of marketing and salesmanship in exchange for a quality item or service of sorts.

Since consumers aren’t really the easiest bunch to please and can be a bit leery, marketers have had to resort to a mix of surprise, delight and entertainment to woo us. We are accepting of this to a degree. For marketers, the number of mediums in which to communicate to consumers has grown seemingly exponentially. Social media has become but one of those mediums.

With the advent of the Internet and expansive growth in technology came this thing called social networking.

Us as consumers would find refuge in such a place. It would be where we would begin to part with disruption marketing. It would be a place for us to network on our terms, to exchange memes, to showcase our intellectual or professional prowess, our banal activities, pictures of our kids on the beach or of us in a video getting stuck in a drier. Whatever it was, it was ours to engage with as we saw fit on our terms on our time.

Yet something happened. What was supposed to be ours became theirs.

The second we attributed analytics to it we missed the point.

The “Accidental Billionaire” Mark Zuckerburg instead of defending us, the 500 million people he quite literally owns, he now barters.

A friend of mine once equated Facebook as a TV channel, “where I can see what my friends are doing whenever I want.” At 500 million people, it’s more than a channel, it’s a network (as in television). But just like most networks they’re equally as perplexed about how to ensure their ability to deliver effective marketing to its audiences which is of course largely the basis of its valuation.

Do we blame investors? Of course they seek monetization but should it be at the expense of the relationship with the consumer?  It’s impossible to imagine Facebook ever going the way of the dodo but Facebook’s valuation as I’ve said is based largely on the backs of 500 million people and how much advertising revenue can be extracted from the company.

This is why I love Twitter, if for no other reason than Twitter seeks to wait as long as humanly possible to decide on monetization. They seek to find a balance between monetization and consumer experience. LinkedIn I believe successfully did the same thing.

Instead of looking at Facebook and discussing what’s going on behaviorally with how we communicate with one another or our relationship with privacy or lack thereof, companies see 500 million people and think dollar signs.

We forget about what’s important about social media. And shame on us for even conceiving of the term. It’s about “social” and us marketers being so high and mighty attempt to rob you the consumer of the “social” aspect and consider it a medium, where we can what? Not contribute to the conversation but interrupt the one you’re having.  Gee, sounds a lot like TV.

Over the past few years people have used the buzzword of this being the “social economy” when the reality is we should be calling this the era of the listening economy. If only we’d actually do it. Facebook recently mined our status updates for memology. But honestly did anything useful actually come out of it other than HMU (hit me up) is the new BRB (be right back)?

Facebook has become a place of information overload. Whoever knew the brilliance of brevity in 140 characters?

Perhaps, just maybe if we would actually listen, we might find ways to contribute to conversations. This is yet another reason I believe Twitter continues to thrive. It’s a place where not only do people exchange memes but people are inherently nice. You post a tweet seeking advice about something in Paris and someone in Sheboygan, WI offers up a solution.  It’s a place where you’re essentially listening first. The ones that shout the loudest on Twitter seem to get tuned out the most and much like television advertising or banner ads fade into the background.

Perhaps we can learn something from Google’s new 500 Billion Words project called “Ngram” which was featured in a cover article in the New York Times this week.

“’The goal is to give an 8-year-old the ability to browse cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books,’ said Erez Lieberman Aiden, a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard. Mr. Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, assembled the data set with Google and spearheaded a research project to demonstrate how vast digital databases can transform our understanding of language, culture and the flow of ideas.”

I’m of course well aware that there are myriad of research companies that mine “conversations” and customer comments.

Consider this comment from David Gehring in a comment to a blog post called the “Death of Market Research” by Forrester’s Tamera Barber.

“Additionally, we’ve recently been diving into social media market research using tools like NetBase’s ConsumerBase product to analyze the qualitative values found in the amalgamated ‘conversation’ happening online about our client’s brands and shows. When these “non-traditional” data sources are approached with a thoughtful hypothesis and the same scientific rigor as our more traditional research efforts, we are able to derive some very powerful insights. And these insights translate well into strategic as well as tactical brand and product strategy.”

Perhaps we’re on the right path.

It seems to me, if we take time to listen and observe what social media means in a cultural context then maybe we’ll find better ways to monetize the medium in a fashion which allows for a happy co-existence.

Your thoughts?

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Where I’d like to Read it

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I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. All three of which I access most often from my phone.

I read blogs. I read industry rags. I read magazines. I read the newspaper. About the only thing I don’t read very often are books. Often because I’m too busy reading other things. Or watching and observing TV, things or people.

Most of the things I read, I read digitally and a lot of the time I do that from my phone (BlackBerry Torch).

What I do most often besides make calls, email and text… is read.

I’ll occasionally look at a YouTube video but I really don’t foresee watching TV or a movie from my phone even if I could.

Twitter is a place where you can connect with people from various affinity groups at 140 characters a tweet. However, for me and I think many who utilize Twitter in a professional capacity it’s become my de facto clipping service. I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually held a physical printed edition of a newspaper in my hands.  I read the New York Times on my phone. In my opinion the New York Times mobile edition is best in class. Here are some others that get good marks in their mobile form (please feel free to comment and add to this list)

  • (Boston Globe)

To be fair there are others with good mobile versions but oddly enough all too often when I’m pushed content via Twitter I get dumped in to the full site. I clicked on thirteen various links and ten out of thirteen times was led to the “full” site.  Only, and brought me to the mobile site. This is especially true with blogs. This usually means trying to resize it to fit my browser page and to do this without having to scroll left to right and top to bottom. A frustrating exercise that usually leads me park the content via  Instapaper is a helpful tool but should be unnecessary.

Now some might argue, “Well that’s your phone’s fault.” I’m not quite sure whose fault it is but I can say that if you’re to believe most advertisers from wireless carriers I’d venture a guess that within three to five years the ONLY phones that will be available to consumers will be smartphones. Wireless carriers and manufacturers have us watching football games and TV shows on our phones and doing these elaborate searches and posting and sending pictures.

Consider some thoughts:

  • A recent tweet from @BrettGreene suggests that “Within 3-5 years, mobile devices will be the FIRST screen for users accessing the Web. #ProfsChat (via @davidoxstein @CKsays)”
  • According to the Twitter Blog, “Total mobile users has jumped 62 percent [April 2010-Sept. 2010], and, remarkably, 16 percent of all new users to Twitter start on mobile.” Roughly about half of all Twitter users do so from a third-party mobile app.
  • @jmoore700 who is the Chief Media Officer for the ad agency Mullen recently tweeted, “The power of mobile, 200mm people now use Facebook through its mobile app, a threefold increase since last year.”

Now most importantly consider the following two graphics from a recent study done by Handmark recently featured in a article.

Overall, it would seem to me that we have a long way to go before the way it’s portrayed that we’ll interact with our phones is actually how we’ll interact with our phones.

That being said, I think the data is a pretty big wake-up call that content providers need to be in lockstep with carriers and manufacturers. The companies that do this early and well (in addition to providing good content of course) will be the first to create the most significant brand loyalty in the mobile medium.

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Why Twitter Really Works

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Recently I came across the following Tweet:

“RT @MalikYoba: RT…Twitter makes me like strangers I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life.”

I couldn’t help but agree but I didn’t know why. That was until I received a copy of Grant McCracken’s new book, “Chief Culture Officer”. This is an excellent read named one of the best Innovation books of the year by Business Week and one of the best Big Idea books by CEO Magazine.

But I digress.

In “Chief Culture Officer” McCrackan references the old Nike ad “Tag”. I remember the ad vividly.

In it is a live version of tag played out in the middle of the day on urban streets. Mr. McCrackan offers a few theories on why this ad resonated and what it meant to us culturally. The third of those theories is what he calls the notion of the “generous stranger”.

Although referring to the ad, he might as well be referring to Twitter as well in saying,

“’Tag’ evoked a third trend we might call the ‘generous stranger’. For many of us first notice came in the form of a bumper sticker that read ‘Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty,’ a phrase so influential it now has its own Wikipedia entry. Several thousand years of cultural practice and religious teaching had encouraged us to think of generosity as a personal gesture that passed between known parties.  The ‘generous stranger’ trend suggested that it was better when things passed between perfect strangers. “

And thus Twitter suddenly makes perfect sense.

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Can Hummer have a Hyundai Moment?

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I recently read a great blog post by Andrew McCafee on the “Illusion of Brand Control” from the Harvard Business Review blogs. Mr. McCafee studies how technology affects businesses.

In his article he cites examples of two brands. One which seeks to try and corral perceptions of its brand the other who seeks to let its brand run free.

The brand that seeks to corral the perceptions of its brand does so fairly unsuccessfully while the brand that lets it brand run free seems to find organic success. These may not be apple to apple case studies but nevertheless, the former it would seem could learn something about perception, identity and aligning business, product development and marketing strategy.

The example of the brand allowed to run wild is MIT, in which there are 11 student blogs featured on the admissions office web page. They are central to the schools communications efforts. The premise was simple. The school is confident enough that in having some of the greatest scholars of the world grace its campus, why wouldn’t they be capable of presenting a cogent dialogue on a variety of topics to the world thus demonstrating why you would want to attend MIT.

On the other side of the spectrum is Hummer.

Mr. McCafee starts his piece…

“You’ve probably heard by now that ‘your brand is no longer yours.’ The assertion’s based on simple math. In the era of blogs, discussion boards, Facebook, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 tools, virtually everyone can get online and talk about your company and its offerings. As a result, the amount of information your marketing and PR departments can generate is only a small percentage of the total volume of content on the Internet about your firm.

What’s more, if some of the external voices become as popular, or perish the thought, more popular than your official voice, then they’re going to show up high in organic (as opposed to paid) search results. For example, I just typed “Hummer” into Google. The second result is the Wikipedia entry about the vehicle, and the fourth one is a site full of user-submitted photos that are not likely to please the brand’s owner.”

Let’s talk about the fourth one. On that site there are 5092 submissions of people flipping the bird to passing Hummer H2s. That’s a lot of angst.

When one thinks about Hummer’s past advertising, it often portrays young, good-looking, hip and adventurous 30-something individuals utilizing their Hummers to create their own adventures seeking out the most remote spots on earth.

Granted a great degree of Hummer’s spots are automotive eye candy in shot in places like the far reaches of New Zealand. However when there are people in the ads, the folks and imagery used in Hummer’s spots are really not at all representative of the actual Hummer consumer. And these days, I don’t think there are many people in America who want to be seen in a Hummer. The people portrayed in the spots of old courtesy of Modernista! are no doubt beautifully art directed and shot. But the people in the commercials look a lot like, well the people in agencies like Modernista! And what I know about people like these is that most of them wouldn’t buy a Hummer. They’re probably more likely to buy a Mini. And the hardcore outdoor folks that you might find riding their bikes to their boutique agency are design/brand snobs and extraordinarily eco-friendly. I might personally resemble this last remark.

This is where the opportunity lies for Hummer for North America. If they align the business strategy, product development and marketing effectively they could actually carve out a nice little niche for themselves.

While current brand perception is negative, I would predict that if you dug down to the brands core you’d find perception about the brand is probably still pretty well respected for being a vehicle that can pretty much get anywhere.

I have no idea what the new owners are considering for Hummer, but how about thinking of this for a second. Develop smaller than H2-type vehicles with less bling, powered by clean diesel (the magic word is torque) and provide functional utilitarian packages aimed at various affinity groups (outdoor enthusiasts).

This is where I wonder if Hummer can have its own Hyundai moment. Any marketer with a subscription to AdAge knows that Hyundai is the marketing darling of the industry these days and rightfully so. However it wasn’t marketing that created Hyundai’s turnaround. It was the company.

As Mark Allen Roberts said in response to the AdAge’s “Marketer of the Year”article on Hyundai, “What they did brilliantly was on the front end.”

I don’t suspect Hummer will be as universally captivating as Hyundai because it will always be a niche brand but I do feel that there’s a tremendous opportunity for Hummer.

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Twitter Traffic Flattening?

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Recently, John Battelle of Federated Media and author of the book, Search posted a tweet with data alluding to Twitter traffic flattening.

Oddly enough about a week ago, I was with a friend who is the President and COO of a company called Best Doctors. He’s very active on Twitter and within the blogosphere. He uses both to expand and educate people on health care issues and connect with other professionals in his business.

I suggested to him that I thought Twitter seemed to be slowing down. I didn’t have the sophisticated data that Quantcast has. My conclusion was purely observational. I use a Twitter app called TweetDeck. Call it a Twitter dashboard if you will. One of the several features to TweetDeck is a column called TwitScoop that shows what people are talking about and how popular those topics are. Other Twitter applications offer similar features. Several web sites such as Yahoo have similar features generally based on search activity.

What I noticed with TwitScoop was that what people were talking about on Twitter were for the most part niche topics.

When I first started using Twitter what I discovered was that Twitter is essentially a place to begin a conversation with like minded individuals or as I like to say, “affinity groups”. You’ll of course see anomalies. A timely example is the passing of Patrick Swayze in which lots of people will post some commentary on a popular event. I myself posted “Pain don’t hurt”, a quote by the Swayze character Dalton from the movie Road House.

My belief is certainly that Twitter is here to stay. However, I predict that it’s finding its stride as a very effective tool to connect to various affinity groups and begin meaningful conversations globally, not just a place to tell people what kind of sandwich you’re having.

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