Friday, March 30, 2007

Why People Go Online

With business today its important for you to understand how to understand and interact with your customers online. Stowe Boyde puts forth an interesting idea about why people are online:

People are online for discovery. It looks like its about things, but its not. They go to 'places', but really to find people. And below it all, they are involved with people to discover themselves.

This is not a high-minded philosophy pitch: it just practical. If you are trying to build social apps you have to understand that, even if the people using the apps think that they are merely trying to find new music, or better shoes, or the best extreme kayaking trip in Hawaii.

As more of the web moves toward this model, more power moves to the edge. Users want control, they want to make the rules, choose their terms, friends, networks. Only the players that understand this will succeed. People will find meaning from relationship with others, not by membership in organizations or groups.

Not a lot to add to this, but just something to think about as look to better utilize this channel more effectively. I also recommend watching the slide show, and the video presentation called Social = me first posted on the site where this concept is discussed.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Digital Outlook 2007

Avenue A Razorfish released its 2007 Digital Outlook report. It was on the agenda for last weekend, but I decided to go climbing in the Idaho mountains. This weekend I finally got some free time to read through the report. If you haven't seen it yet, its definitely worth reading or skimming. It gives a great overview of where the digital media space is moving, how it has changed from last year and offers some interesting insights into the connection between digital media and culture.

Some of my key take-a-ways:

- In 2006 communities as a defined vertical spending group were up 69% year-over-year and 216% since 2004. Communities tied with Entertainment as the vertical with the largest share of billings. This does not surprise me since communities can be view as another form of entertainment and likely are taking away eyes that would be on the entertainment vertical.

- While many traditional media companies have made a significant push to extend their brands online, it remains an uphill struggle. I think this is due to the lack of consideration of the differences between the channels. The online channel is fundamentally different than current media channels, however companies are having trouble making this transition.

- Across all media channels, marketers face the difficult challenge of 'breaking through the clutter' as the scale of the media immersion in daily life exceeds all prior benchmarks. The sheer volume, variety and availability of media channels have resulting in cultural change. So to have consumer behaviors.. I like this comment because this is one of the issues we are trying to solve at Balihoo.

- There are six broad themes driving changes seen in media today: Personalization, Collaboration & Community, Visualization, Ubiquity, Immediacy, and Monetization. What strikes me about these themes is that all except for monetization are also key aspects of a cultural shift taking place.

- 2007 is going to be a year about sorting out how to monetize all the new media real-estate. Creating the right ad model for revenue - the right value to the advertiser, but also the right experience to the consumer, at the right price, and in the right format.

A Framework for assessing Emerging Channels

  • Audience and Reach: "Is there an opportunity to interact with a sliver of our target audience more deeply, or in a new way on this channel?"
  • Accountability: "Knowing that measurement abilities among emerging channels vary can bw learn something about our audience we don't typically get to see?"
  • Investment: "Since this channel is new, and hasn't yet reached critical mass what level of investment do we need to make to ensure our test will be a success?"
  • Risk: "Realizing the open nature of this channel carries with it risks, so how can I construct a responsible framework for testing and learning that allows me to reach my customers without damaging my brand?"

Key insights into user behavior and expectations for the next iteration of the Web
  • Human-computer interaction is about to get intense: intersection of biology, technology and media.
  • The network is ubiquitous: We are no longer computer specific - we just want on the network. User experience or a media campaign must be ubiquitous as well.
  • There is no middle: In every category traffic will flow to a few big players and a host of niche players. Playing the middle will get you squeezed.
  • The internet is where general interest goes to die: Niche is king. Long tail theory.
  • Information Seeking equals entertainment: Internet has created the reemergence of play in new ways.
  • Transparency is king: People see little difference between online and offline company identities. Talking with consumers is smarter than talking to them.
  • Social networking ascends to utilitarian status: social networking is moving from fun hobby to everyday utility, with the behavior increasingly embedded into the culture.
  • Lets stay friends: See also this article on the concept of friending.
  • Giving back is good
  • People are open to new forms of content distribution.
  • Blogs have yet to achieve media brand status: Currently genres are still more important than specific blogs.
  • More mobile phones, less talking: Mobile phone use will grow, but not for talking.

No matter what business you are in, and what your title, everyone has to be a marketer to some degree, and whether or not it is a full time role or just part time, the digital landscape and the trends taking place are important for everyone to understand in the new economy.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

From Brand to Lovemark

This concept has been around for some time, but I just found it, so I am sure that their are others out there like me. It is called Lovemarks and is what Kevin Roberts considered what happens beyond the brand.

•Lovemarks are built on Love and Respect.
•Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason.
•Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them, not by companies.
•Lovemarks aren’t just Irreplaceable. They are irresistible.
•Lovemarks can be everything that people care deeply about.
Inspirational Consumers decide what’s a Lovemark

In the new economy as more people are taking control of content, and media the concept of lovemarks is something for every business to think about. As stated in Kevin's bullets above, its not something you can just put in the budget for this year, on on next quarters goal list. Its something you have to work at one customer at a time, but think about the payoff.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Digital Snacking

I really like a good metaphor, especially ones where parallels can be drawn across many facets of the topic. The other day I found this post by David Armano that talks about the snacking type behaviour of people today with digital media. His post is an offshoot of an article in Wired called Manifesto for the new Age, however I like how he digs deeper into this idea of snacking discussing 3 aspects of snacking as it relates to consuming digital content:

1. Is snacking all day bad for us?
2. Do we have time for "full meals" anymore?

3. Are we sacrificing depth for breadth?

A great post and something to think about regardless of if you are the one snacking or the one offering the food to the customers. If we are becoming a snacking economy, as a business how does that impact the way you market, advertise, deliver content, and communicate with your customers? As David points out as in the real world its about finding/delivering healthy snacks that taste good.

As an aside, #3 got me thinking about my post yesterday on Twitter. Twitter becomes the ultimate bite sized snack. Whether good or bad, people are often sacrificing depth for breadth, but the question is will twitter turn out to be simply junk food or will it evolve into a very small but healthy snack if your taste so desires?

Monday, March 19, 2007

What's All The Twitter About?

Over the past couple of months its seems that a day doesn't go by where I don't see a blog post about Twitter. Twitter is like a cross between an online community and instant messaging. Tom Haskins even thinks it could become a degenerate form of blogging. I am always interested in new tools, but this one doesn't really call out to me like it has to the fast growing user base that the tool is enjoying. I started to think about why that is, and to me it does not help me with productivity, learning or building relationships.

I tend to look for tools that can increase my productivity, my ability to filter and read content, to reach out to colleagues and people that share common interests. Twitter on the other hand seems to be a de-productivity tool. Not only is it filled primarily with useless babble about what people are doing or not doing, but if I did it myself, it would reduce the amount of time I could be spending actually doing the activity that I would be twittering about. The once interesting thing about it is that you realize that the majority of the people using it lead fairly mundane, if not boring lives. Take a look at twitter vision and you will see what I mean. People doing really fun and exciting stuff aren't bothering to twitter about it. The WSJ has an interesting article (free) about how twitter is overwhelming some users.

I also thought about twitter as a communication substitute for conversation and the types of people that would find this tool great to have. It is called a connectivity tool, but I think it gives people a false sense of connectedness. On one side, I think it comes down to how extroverted or introverted you are in determining if you would find the tool useful. If you are a social butterfly, like to hear yourself talk, and like to know that there is someone/anyone out there for you to converse with, then this tool is for you. The father you go down the spectrum towards introvert, you are likely to find that this tool serves absolutely no purpose.

On the other side, a second plane that Twitter operates on is the meaningful relationship plane. It you are fine with having extremely shallow relationships than twitter is the tool for you. Twitter scares Kathy Sierra. She likens it to slot machine addictions, where it is a near-perfect example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward. I tend to agree. How much of an online addict are you when you start twittering that you are eating French fries for lunch, and tell anyone out there listening that you are off to bed. Go out and have coffee with a person face to face. It will be much more rewarding. Yes, you can't multi-task as easily but that the point. Twitter puts the 'superficial' in relationships.

So maybe I don't see value in the tool as it currently stands, but that's fine. If the many who do use it find enjoyment out of it, then it serves a purpose. Hopefully once the initial buzz dies down that people will begin to find some real business applications for the technology. CC Chapman has listed what he thinks are some possible uses. I am sure there will be others.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Thrill Seekers & Company Culture

Seth Godin writes that there are basically two types of employees.

1. Thrill Seekers love growth. They most enjoy a day where they try something that was difficult, or--even better--said to be impossible, and then pull it off.
2. Fear avoiders hate change. They want the world to stay just the way it is. They're happy being mediocre, because being mediocre means less threat/fear/change.

Of course there is a lot of variation in people along a spectrum from one side to the other, however it is the people on the thrill seeking side of the fence that will prosper in the new economy.

So why should Companies think about this?
> Thrill seekers will naturally migrate to smaller companies and startups. Small companies and startups are a natural fit for this type of individual. They often start in, or try large companies, but thrill seekers cannot be happy for long in most large companies today because the company culture is predominantly Fear avoidance. They will get frustrated and leave.
> Thrill seekers will avoid places where unions and/or union mentality exist. Unions and union mentality shops are a breeding ground for fear avoidance.
> Thrill seekers attract each other. Whether purposefully or unknowingly, they seek out individual within their company or colleagues that feed their fire. In an era of online communities this becomes even easier.

What can companies do?:
> Understand where your employees fall on the spectrum and seek to help thrill seekers feed their needs, and funnel their energy to growing the company.
> Create a startup culture in your team, division or company, that will help move people to the thrill seeker side of the fence. Some will move faster than others, but the key is that you actively engaging with them.
> Build opportunities for thrill seekers across your company to meet, and use their creative forces to help drive change in your organization through cross functional teams, that allow them to drive the discussion.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Next Generation CIO

As part of a new report on Grooming the 2010 CIO from the Society for Information Management they have identified 7 key roles successful CIO's assume in the enterprise today.

  • Utility Provider
  • Information Steward
  • Educator
  • Integrator
  • Relationship Architect
  • Strategist
  • Leader
In addition to the above roles, I believe that there are mental aspects to CIO success:
  1. Think like a child (Creativity)
  2. Stay Malleable (Flexibility)
  3. Act Like a Startup (everything from how you budget, find and allocate resources, to keeping a laser like focus on milestones)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Different Perspective On Information Overload

Everyone talks about information overload. There is more than enough information available. Its time and attention that are in short supply. I have been reading much more from Stowe Boyd recently and he discusses a few thoughts about the concept of information overload that will make you think. Probably my favorite quote on the subject:

How do jugglers juggle? They don't focus on the balls, the movements, or timing. They unfocus: it is a field of all three dimensions and their attention is distributed. Good jugglers can also sing or tell jokes while juggling. Unfocus.

He also talks about how we can think about Time as 'Flow Time':

Flow (Lived) time: we are in the unending moment through which everything flows -- Piaget and others have noted that time dilates: sometimes it goes fast, sometimes it zooms. When you are in the zone, the tennis (base, soccer, basket) ball seems to slow down and there is plenty of time to get into the right position, without consciously thinking of it.

Flow Strategies: (I like #3)

  1. Time is a shared space -- your time is truly not your own
  2. Productivity is second to Connection: network productivity trumps personal productivity
  3. Everything important will find it’s way to you many, many times: don’t worry if you miss it
  4. Remain in the flow: be wrapped up in the thing that has captured your attention
Some of the concepts Stowe presents are a little mind-bending. How do they reshape the way you think about business or even your own personal life?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Wisdom of Crowds - Web 2.0 Style

Web 2.0 communities have generated some great buzz with respect to tapping into the wisdom of crowds. This attempt at a collaborative chapter by Joseph Jaffe on his next book written by his readers tries to draw wisdom from a crowd of individual thinkers (and then publish it). PicksPal is an example of the true wisdom of crowds in predictive markets. According to Tech Crunch PickPals overall record against the spread, has been 562 - 338 (a 63% win rate). Now they have a Web 2.0 March Madness Pool. Both are modern examples of community in action, but don't confuse the two. Only one shows the true wisdom of crowds. If you have not read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, I highly recommend it. It will make you think about how this concept can be applied in your business.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Re-thinking Performance Metrics

Last year due to the startup I was working on, I spent a lot of time trying to understand ROI - Return on Innovation. Its one of those metrics where the companies that have this metric think they have it down, but is it really measuring what they want it to? Is number of filed patents or number of 'launched' products really a measure of your return on innovation?

Since then, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how metrics are changing and shifting in the new economy. What non traditional metrics could be used to better measure and drive performance in an organization? I think one of the issues with most traditional metrics or even the various definitions of newer metrics such as return on innovation is that they tend to ignore the people factor - your customers and employees.

John Hagel has created some great thoughts for new performance metrics including Return on Attention (ROA), and Return on Information (yet another ROI). His most recent thinking is around ROS - Return on Skills or more accurately Return on Talent:

For me, talent is ultimately about the ability to deliver superior value through one’s activities, whether it is the janitor or the CEO. There are no caps to talent - no matter how good people are at what they do, there are infinite opportunities to deliver even more value. Talent is ultimately a function of human capital, intellectual capital, social capital and structural capital working together to amplify the value that can be delivered.

What other metrics could be explored? I think it would be interesting explore ROCS - Return on Customer Service, or ROA - Return on Authenticity. Next step - how to define and create measures to support these. What other types of metrics do you think could help drive performance in the new economy?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Example of Good Customer Service

You always see blog posts where people complain about the bad service they have recieved, so I thought I would post a short example of some good customer service.

I subscribe to a magazine called Alpinist. It is probably one of the highest quality magazines I have seen in terms of photo and article quality. (Similar to LIFE magazine) The production quality is incredible. Its one of those magazines you don't throw away. I renew my subscription yearly and have been a loyal subscriber since the first issue almost 5 years ago. I usually renew once a year, and for the past few years they have offered a free calendar (also with exceptional photography) to entice the renewal, which of course I take advantage of.

The start of 2007 came and went with no calendar arriving. However I just received a package today. Yes, its now March but the package didn't contain the calendar 3 months late. There was a note that explained that the demand for the calendars how outstripped the supply and they were not able to send me one this year. However inside the packet was an Alpinist T-shirt along with notice that I would be receiving an extension on my subscription by two additional issues. 2 extra issues may not seem like a lot but consider this: The magazine is only published quarterly and the newstand price is $13 USD/issue. I felt like it was a pretty nice gesture.

Companies are starting to 'get it'. The ones who don't will slowly fade away.