Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Niche and Local Will Grow in 2010

I hesitate to climb aboard the 2010 Prediction Train, so let me just say that – amid much handwringing in the newspaper, magazine, and direct mail industries -- niche and local seem to be carving a spot. Meaning what?

An article two weeks ago in the Baltimore Sun reported that “Niche E-Newsletters are Healthy and Happy.” What the author, Gus G. Sentementes, was talking about are centrally-produced, but niche-slanted, electronic newsletters like those produced by SmartBrief. I first became familiar with SmartBrief six or seven years ago, when I noticed that the International Franchise Association was sending out a fabulous electronic newsletter every week. How were they doing such a professional job with no increase in staff? By signing on with a publisher that figured out how to mass-produce industry specific electronic newsletters, that's how! Today, Sentementes notes that SmartBrief has 100 employees, does 150 email newsletters, and has been profitable since 2002.

Into that smart mix, I now must toss publications like Local Kicks, a terrific e-newspaper that serves the Alexandria area in Virginia. Not only does this little newspaper have terrific journalism and an appealing “insider” writing style, it seems to enjoy its share of advertising, too.

Local goes beyond publishing, of course. Websites like LocalHarvest encourage people to buy food from local farmers, with great listings of “where and how.” But publishers also are doing well with the local angle. Researcher/consultant Greg Sterling reports that even Google is interested in local. Sterling also says, “..2010 is going to be all about leveraging social media in the local space.”

The best evidence may lie in the 2009 success of Groupon -- the “deal-of-the-day” website that is localized to major markets in the United States. In early December, Chicago-based Groupon got a $30 million financing infusion, and “the company is going gangbusters,” according to TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington.

There's no real surprise here: The Internet both decentralizes the outreach, and lowers distribution cost... which is why smart publishers will find more ways to capitalize on niche and local in 2010.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So Far, No Information Model Beats Print Because ...

A really excellent blog post by Bruce Hendrickson addressed the certain death of print publications – trade magazines, specifically.

No denying Bruce is right, and he hit upon something that’s been troubling Marketing Brillo for some time. With print evaporating into the ether, what will become of information communications generally, and business communications specifically?

At this point, major newspapers are the only business communicators who seem to be “getting it right.” Perhaps that's because communicators like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times are on-screen replicas of their print selves (only better). How so?

At major online newspaper sites, information presentation features the layout readers love. Like their print counterparts, the information is categorized under easy-to-find tabs and indices. Articles have bylines and terse headlines; they are carefully researched and full of facts, parsed interviews, and background references. Articles are beautifully written and as long as they need to be. Best of all, articles proceed from an understandable point A, to a conclusive Point B. Truly .. can we yet say the same for most electronic publications?

Reality is, electronic newsletters and publications, generally, are still climbing all over themselves to figure out what they should look like. Should they be one short email with two-sentence headers, linked to a longer article? Should they offer the first paragraph, and then link? Should they have photos or no photos? Should they include “read more” jumps or not? Nobody knows for sure, because nobody agrees.

In addition to going electronic, some organizations are eschewing editorial totally, and switching to video to communicate with readers. Have you ever watched the stuff some of these videophiles are putting out? For one thing – unlike journalists who make it their living to write well -- the people featured in videos are generally amateurs in front of a camera... which means their thinking may be fuzzy and the content may not get to the point quickly enough. Moreover, from the title and the intro (which is usually infused with upfront advertising), you don’t have any idea whether the content will be good, bad, or horrible. In fact, until you’ve already invested time, there’s no gauging the value of what’s “in there” at all. Not so, with The New York Times. In fact, not so with any print publication. These you can evaluate in a glance.

I hope I’m not one of the ‘monkey-fisted” folks Bruce was talking about in his article. I know he's right about the future of high-overhead print: It’s the old architecture and it’s going to crumble.

What I am saying is that nobody -- yet -- has certainty what the new architecture should look like. In figuring that out, I hope we analyze carefully the underlying value that most information seekers find in print.

Stats do report that people, generally, are watching more video every day. But, when people want informed opinion, apparently, they still are reading gray matter like Wikipedia and online newspapers and blogs – especially blogs. They also are searching out hefty online articles and white papers—the stuff that’s not necessarily pretty, or short, or entertaining … but IS where the content meets the seeker.

Personally, Marketing Brillo loves the “thumbability” of print. For busy people, that must surely be a key feature of any new information architecture. Digital magazines are very good at allowing readers to quickly flip through content, so perhaps there's a model there.

Entertainment is a whole different subject, of course. But, if information and analysis are the point, well, the easy-digest that’s trending now may not work so well in the long-term. As we adopt the new architecture, I'm betting (hoping) we'll figure out how to include some elements of the 550-plus-year old print model.

p.s. In the meantime, check out what print can still do to knock off your socks.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Podcasts: The Under-Appreciated -- But Powerful -- Communications Tool

Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce and very likely the direct mail industry’s premier postal expert, has a podcast. Gene has been doing his podcast since October 2006. Over the years, Gene has interviewed a host of experts from all sides of postal matters: USPS representatives, mailers, Postal Union reps, Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) members, etc. Gene’s podcasts aren't a scheduled item, but always appear when there’s something important to talk about.

The useful thing about this industry podcast -- and effective podcasts generally -- is that Gene interacts with interviewees as though the listener knows very little about postal matters (for example, he asks interviewees to define their acronyms). This sensitivity to listeners defines a good podcast. But don’t take my word for it ...

Software developer Bruce Eckel who blogs at Computing Thoughts lists dos and don’ts for podcasting. I was struck by Bruce’s tip: Don’t use Video if Audio is Enough .. which got me to wondering why more marketers don’t do podcasting.

Seasoned (since 2003, for heaven’s sake) podcaster Nick Marino’s post at AudioShocker partially answered my question. As with video production, sound is not only a critical element of quality, it’s one of the most difficult to control. If you're still interested in giving this under-used strategy a shot, though, start here, with John Nolt’s Podcasting Pointers.”

How many marketing-related podcasts are out there? An Odeo search of the words “direct marketing” turned up 881 podcasts, but almost nothing of interest to marketing professionals. In addition to Gene's, Marketing Brillo suggests the following five podcasts for a serious marketer's iPod.

• Like all things Duct Tape, John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing podcast has the pulse (and makes the money).
The B2B Marketing Podcast from Voices in Business features interviews with top business professionals.
• CC Chapman’s Managing the Gray podcast looks at new (and social) media.
• Bob Knorpp’s The BeanCast covers the ad industry (and its Mad Men and Women).
• John Wall and Christopher Penn’s Marketing Over Coffee podcast takes a broad view.

Looks like there’s room for more great marketing podcasts. Thinking about doing it? For a free primer on podcast marketing, download Christopher Penn’s ebook.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Business Video Grows, Improves, Advances, and Influences

Last week, Mashable featured some eye-popping numbers about video use. To wit: 84.4% of U.S. Internet users watched at least one online video in October and the average person watched 10.8 hours of video. Indeed, online video continues to grow and the end is nowhere in site. In fact, video is fast on its way to becoming the radical (for now, but not for long) human learning tool.

BVo supports that notion. Created in the spring of 2008 in association with IBM, BVo founder Anthony Gell says: ".. quite frankly, we got tired of scrolling through online video sites looking for business inspiration, only to find some very strange homemade movies. So we launched The Business Voice (BVo) - world leaders at your desk."

BVo interviews business leaders and vlogs the clips. American Express Open Forum does much the same thing. Both are excellent learning tools, well-funded, and exceptionally well produced. Efforts like these are raising the bar on online education. Expect more of the same.

-- scrubbed by marketing brillo

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dear Info Manager: Your New Job Is Video, Concept Is King, and Here's What You Need

If you're a marketing or communications manager, information video is about to become part of your job responsibility. Here's the why, how, and who.

Why? Most people are read-up and fed up.
Lucy Kellaway writing in the U.K.’s Financial Times says employees faced with information overload are stuffing their ears, closing the blinds, and shutting down. “... the written word has lost almost all its power. No one reads e-mails any more - with the exception of those from the boss. Messages from anyone else are either deleted unread or given a cursory glance and then ignored.”

Kellaway says management, too, is getting rid of information. “... companies have decided to deal with too much information by giving up any attempt to manage it on the grounds that to do so costs too much. Since the recession began, many have closed their libraries and taken the axe to their knowledge management divisions, set up with such pride and optimism barely a decade ago."

But people still want to watch. In fact, they want to watch more.
The buzz that prompted Kellaway’s article emanated from Carol Bartz, president and CEO of Yahoo, who contributes to The Economists’s “The World in 2010.” Bartz says, “That’s why the greatest mandate for leadership in business is the ability to cut through the information clutter and make clear decisions without apology.” How to cut through the clutter? Bartz alludes to video “snacks,” calling video the “cornerstone” of Yahoo’s strategy.

At first glance, I wondered if Bartz was snacking on something more potent than video, but then I remembered that a colleague told me her middle school niece goes first to YouTube, then to Wikipedia, in researching any paper for school. For information ... first to YouTube! Wow.

Today's volume of information demands that users must both see and hear in order to process. For information architects and managers of all ilk, the message becomes an irresistible mandate to evolve written stories and messages to visual stories and messages.

In short, we're moving from a written world to a video world, and nothing can change that. So -- if you're an information or marketing manager today, what is the mindset that will take you to the next step? That would be the ability to think.

To conquer, conceptualize.
Effective video demands that we conceptualize first. Concept in hand, we can execute the steps that go into effective video -- research, locate, listen, see, coagulate, film, process, edit, and -- ultimately -- communicate.

The film documentarian -- that dedicated man or woman who has something to say and follows it to the ends of the earth -- personifies the new communications model for information video. Think of The Discovery Channels amazing "Planet Earth" series; Ken Burns Civil War masterpiece on PBS, Michael Moore's "Capitalism" grappling with complex economic theories. These are massive undertakings of research, interview, selection, and presentation that make The Watergate Papers pale in comparison. All are draped in detail, but heavy on concept.

Bottom line: Concept Is King.
If this level of information delivery is where snack video is going -- and surely it is-- we're also talking about new definitions for career genius and a great many new jobs. Here's the management team you'll need for effective information video. Some of these folks may already be on staff, others not; plus, any one of these folks probably needs myriad assistants:

• Leader (you?): The One who can conceptualize a project, develop a message, build the team, and sign-off along the way.
Executionary (production person?): The One who can take a plan, oversee the team, devise and enforce schedules, crack whips.
• Information Architect (writer?): The One who can string together the narrative, find and coagulate bits of message, and schlog through raw footage for "that's it!"
• Film Maker (could be a designer, but you likely don't have this one yet...): The One who can appreciate the message, tell people where to stand, and get great-looking film into the camera.
• Editor (another newbie ..): The One who "gets the message" and puts it together for maximum effect.

-- scrubbed Marketing Brillo

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twitter: Follow Friday's Mentor of Choice

Marketing Brillo primarily follows marketing, PR, digital, video, social media, and technology experts. A few of these folks are big names like @louisgray and @rogerdooley, but, increasingly, follows of choice include the somewhat Lesser Knowns who recognize, track, vet, and happily share the "right stuff." For that reason, Twitter has become Marketing Brillo's ultimate career mentor.

Today's sampling?

• A free webinar on SEO via @mvolpe, Hubspot.
• Continuing posts from Thursday’s rockinWebinar on PR strategies via #PRWeb.
• “The Art of the Paragraph,” pointers from @copyblogger.
• For a nostalgic Friday Sigh, @steverubel “Ten Common Phrases That Could Soon Be History.” http://bit.ly/fgZ5r
•#TwitTip How To Squeeze Every Last Drop of SEO Juice from Your Twitter Page. http://bit.ly/2ccxFK
• @JohnFMoore: Social Conversation Monitoring http://bit.ly/3JIhBx
• via @DallasAdMan, The Ten Uglies of Project Management http://is.gd/4ZGkV (love this one.. Retweet, retweet)
• via @wordpost: "Why Won’t Bloggers Dig Into Detail?" by @davidspinks - http://bit.ly/1S8LzG
• For pure Machead rumor mongering and rumpkicking, @5great tweets this: http://bit.ly/333ryS
• To sober up, @gleonhard says: Here is a guy you need to pay attention to: @Umairh - HarvardBusiness.org http://ow.ly/E20c Edge Economy and other wisdoms

No way to keep up with all this stuff alone. Thank you Twitter Mentors, one and all.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Will Vlogging Replace Blogging? Will Actors Replace Writers? Maybe.

Some people would say Blog = info, and Vlog = entertainment. Loïc Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, doesn't care to split that hair.

On November first, Le Meur posted “30 Predictions for the Future of Twitter.” In the post, he used both blogging and vlogging formats. Check his post for a great predictive wrap-up that shows how written bulleted points can play nicely with longer, more detailed video (19 minutes worth, actually).

One of BusinessWeek’s “25 Most Influential People on the Web,” Le Meur writes, “I am blogging every day a video on loic.tv about (almost) everything I do as I start Seesmic. I also constantly post short thoughts to twitter and often my pictures on Flickr.”

Highlights of Le Mur's view of the future of Twitter include:

• Twitter will still be dominant
 in status updates;
 it's the motherboard to which we plug in.
• Twitter might replace Chat for many people.
• Vertical Twitter apps 
will start to appear; Stocktweets is the first one.
• There will be less and less bullshit 
in public events and in general.

Gotta love that last one. As always, don’t miss the comments.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Techno Trauma Can Be Deadly. Got A Cure?

Marketing Brillo doesn’t like to whine, but let’s be realistic. A lot of people in this marketing/PR business – and most other industries – are technologically traumatized.

Every day -- simply in the process of doing our jobs -- we must deal with software, hardware, peripheral, cell phone, netbook, operating system, networking, and – increasingly – Internet glitches. Here’s a short sample from the last 24 hours (Marketing Brillo is not making this up).

• Wary of the phishing scams that invaded Twitter direct messages yesterday, I applied my IQ to changing my password. Whatever I typed in (and Twitter accepted twice) didn’t work this morning. That affected Tweetdeck, of course, which might have been obvious to others, but took me awhile to figure out. Password Perplexia: 30 minutes.

• This morning I tuned in to my first virtual conference: The Social CRM Summit hosted by Lithium. I had pretested my system (15 minutes, last week), but when it came time to listen, my freshly downloaded Real Player wasn’t working and had to be REinstalled. No surprise there: Real Player is one of the worst bits of technology ever thrust upon us, a plague dating back 10 years and still leaving scars. Real Player Rash: 16 minutes.

• Safari wouldn’t play nice with the virtual world, so I switched to Firefox, which also asked to be rebooted from Post Real Player Rash: 5 minutes

• Once I got into my virtual conference, I wanted to upload my photo/avatar. I had lots of little gifs on my computer, but they were all too big. A trip to Photoshop fixed the Image Impetigo: 10 minutes.

• Since it was a holiday, I thought I should invest in my Marketing Brillo Facebook fan page. “Please fan me” invites to friends and family, aka Fan Funk: 38 minutes.

• Lately, my printer has taken to power surging, momentarily taking the Starship Enterprise (Marketing Brillo’s workspace) down with it. Testing Tendinitis: 7 minutes.

• Distractions from the evil Adobe Updater interfered with system performance: Updater Upchuck: 9 minutes

By noon, I was 115 minutes down and out with Techno Trauma. For most of us sick with technology, there’s nobody to call, no immediately apparent solution, no “getting it finally fixed.” Techno Trauma simply mutates, living on to exhaust us another day.

If we are working longer hours, part of our effort is expended dealing with technology that either doesn’t work or needs to be tweaked. Technology isn’t going away, so Marketing Brillo thinks it’s about time that American Commerce recognizes this very real and viral drain on human resources.

Meanwhile, thank you, Social CRM Summit for giving me the best frontline defense against Techno Trauma: Education. My Real Player Rash is fading.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Early Whys and Wherefores of Twitter Lists

I don’t know where I was the week Twitter “lists” hit the net [October 15-ish] because I’m just getting hip to what is going on. To understand the Twitter List Hooplah, John Haydon's explanation here is as good as any, better than most.

Bottom line: Depending on your purpose, the Twitter “list” scenario mimics your file cabinet, your Rolodex, the snooty books you display on the shelf behind your desk, or a team of research assistants.

The File Cabinet Scenario
In perhaps its most popular use (so far), the Twitter list – which you must create yourself by picking, choosing, and categorizing the people you follow – becomes a sort of digital file cabinet, with your various “who’s who" compartmentalized in separate folders. The purpose of the File Cabinet is to help you keep track of people according to the group/tribe/philosophy/psychosis to which you assign them.

The Rolodex Scenario
The ubiquitous Robert Scoble is trying to keep up with 10,000 people. It used to drive him crazy, but now he has stuff streaming in by groups. The system works so well that, within days of Twitter List release, Scoble says Twitter Lists replaced Google Reader for him. Visit @Scobleizer for a peek at the 40 cognoscentious lists Robert has compiled.

The My List Is Bigger Than Your List Scenario
Like The New York Social Diary -- and depending on who's doing the compiling -- various lists (like those Scoble has put together) can segué to a Very Important List of Very Important People. Todd Zeigler at the Bivings Group thinks Twitter lists will become the bellwether of whom to follow. “I think Twitter Lists will end up helping separate the men from the boys when it comes to influence. In addition to seeing a Twitter user's follower count, we can now see the number of other Twitter users who have added them to lists. I would argue that getting added to a list is a bigger deal than simply getting someone to follow you.” Heaven help us all.

The Research Team Scenario
Kabir Bedi at PromotionWorld has a good article on how to set up and use Twitter lists. For my purposes, the feature that describes how to use Twitter for “Online Journalism” beckons. “Many news organizations and publishers are using Twitter lists to create staff directories, recommending their favorite Twitter people and specific information. This enables them to use Lists for curated real-time streams and to follow events.” Yeah, baby.

The downside to all this is the certain emergence of Twitter Envy, leading to Twitternoia, culminating in Twitter Syndrome. Watch TMZ for reports on desperate tactics related to getting Twillisted.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

From Marketing Sherpa: A Lesson in Content Giveaway


Getting bloggers to repost your stuff is one objective of any content provider bent on going viral. Today, Marketing Sherpa -- which has great members-only subscription content (and well worth it) -- found a clever way to get bloggers involved.

One link in their free e-newsletter hopped to a post titled New Chart: "Do Email Tactics That Take More Work Get A Bigger Payoff? The link included “The Chart of the Week,” [above] which displayed the “Levels of Effectiveness” inherent in various email marketing activities. That was good, but better was the clever note for bloggers posted at the bottom of the chart:

Feel free to post this chart (in its entirety) or link to this page. Sherpa’s Chart of the Week is yours to use in your blog, presentation, or simply for reference.

p.s. The chart shows that the most effective ploy of email marketers is delivering content relevant to segments. But that takes effort. The chart indicates that adding event-triggers to emails takes some front-end work, but also boosts the effectiveness of non-house lists.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Not About Marketing 'Cause Groups You Can't Control Can Control the Conversation

John Moore of Swimfish blogs about social support communities. On October 1, he posted his early thoughts on the so-called SSCs, a phrase he coined to describe “discussion groups on steroids.”

As Moore sees it, SSCs incorporate existing social networks (blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pip.io, YouTube, etc.) as additional channels where customers talk to each other. Moore points out that participants in SSCs typically exclude the larger community, companies, partners, and competitors.

Bottomline: Customers are looking for -- and finding -- ways to talk to each other, get frank answers and unfiltered feedback, and even get and give mutual support.

Organizations and institutions used to control groups. Across industry segments, associations in particular were the meeting ground for people of like mind. Not long ago, if an association didn’t already exist, the only way to gather people of like mind was to actually form an association, which some folks with a cause did (MADD, is a good example, but there are thousands).

The Internet, of course, has changed all that. Today corporations, nonprofits, and associations struggle to maintain relevancy (and control) of the digital community hall.

At the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s “Association Day” this week, one of the most popular sessions focused on social media. While talking about how to get associations involved in social media, participants noted that some of their members had broken away to form their own groups via Yahoo, Google, onlinegroups.net, Convos, and any number of the other “group formation” facilitators. This is challenging for traditional associations – not because members are necessarily unhappy, but because splintering is such an easy process.

Splintering doesn't always work, though. LinkedIn Groups – which began as a terrific example of comrades gathering -- are, in my opinion, floundering. The original concept was good, but in short order, many LinkedIn groups were over by people trying to sell something. That’s bad and will likely kill-off or make obsolete some of the (especially larger) groups that originally populated LinkedIn with good intentions.

The point is that associations, nonprofits, and corporations still have a chance to participate, but only if they are cognizant of how people genuinely want groups to function in today’s free-wheeling social media environment.

Finally, a personal case in point: Yesterday I tweeted about Mozy, the offsite computer backup company. I love Mozy because it’s affordable and easy. A recent collaboration with their support team sealed the deal for me. I wanted the folks who follow me to know about Mozy because, for me, it was a real find. I’ve got no skin in the Mozy game so my experience is impartial. I hope somebody out there will read my Mozy tweet and appreciate the news.

That’s how people are finding and sharing info today… from each other. John Moore calls it social support communities. I call it long overdue.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Information Sells: Hitwise Gets It, Shows It, Does It

I was struck this morning by an email from Experian Hitwise, a nifty global brand that is an information powerhouse in fun-to-read format. Experian acquired web Intelligence firm Hitwise in April 2007 for $240 million, but just got active with its outreach in September.

What struck me this morning was the usefulness of information the company is giving away in its newsletter. Not only were there thought-provoking stats (Top Fashion Websites Visited by Men Aged 25-34, most popular keywords related to “costume,” tips for leveraging competitive intelligence, etc.), the newsletter featured a worthy downloadable pdf titled “2009 Holiday Marketer: Benchmark & Trend Report,” plus links to three FREE archived webcasts about holiday content planning. Nice touch for a late October, pre-holiday communication.

There's a larger point. Hitwise’s first-class approach to communication underscores the allure of contemporary marketing that starts with education and training for current and prospective customers. E-newsletters, webinars, white papers, and videos increasingly replace "advertising" in the new social media "conversation" with customers. It's instructive to watch the formerly somewhat staid Experian master the concept.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 23, 2009

Technology Also Creates Jobs... Think About It

This week, the Wise Marketer featured a new position paper from Hawkins Strategic that dealt with the way retailers handle stuff as it flows into the warehouse and out the door in a shopping bag [or not]. "..what happens between products flowing into the warehouse and shoppers leaving with them is the retail equivalent of a black hole," Sterling Hawkins writes. "In fact, at best, retailers are able to measure only the periphery of what actually happens in-store."

Apparently, technology manages many retail functions – transactions, checkout activity, inventory, restocking, traffic measurement, etc. But when it comes to actually getting products onto the shelves, guess what? That takes people. The people point is where technology can go no further. Technology is good with numbers, but it's not so good with creativity or decision-making. For that brain work, so far we still need human strategists and executioners.

Marketing Brillo mulled over this thought and, yes, it seems accurate. For example, we have Adobe Creative Suite, but without a marketing genius to envision it and a graphic designer to execute it, CS4 just takes up space on the hard drive. It’s the same for website design. And for variable data printing (managing VDP takes an expert and an innovator). Even list ordering won't return a favor unless some creative soul connects the digital dots. Somewhere, someplace -- between the technology and the customer -- a human being still needs to gets involved. And that, my friends, is where the jobs are.

Technology does replace jobs, but it also creates them. As the Hawkins’ article noted, “Many retailers have tried to fix this problem, and several firms now provide promotional compliance services ... In the end, most of these are manual, labour-intensive processes (such as a person photographing certain categories, shelf sets, or displays).” Hawkins goes on to lament that, “While these [promotional compliance] services deliver value today, the whole area demands an automated solution.” Well wait, Sterling. Maybe not.

What's wrong with a redefined job for humans? The Promotional Compliance Creative Manager, for example? As technology takes over some of the more mundane human endeavors (like counting beans), apparently it leaves gaping holes that only human ingenuity can fill. That's certainly true for the new marketing favorite: Social Media Manager.

To wit (and as Hawkins put it): "Retailers also invest huge sums of money in store design and research to maximize the number of shoppers exposed to high margin products during their shopping trips but, at best, this is simply good guesswork ... The industry has no mechanism by which to accurately measure traffic flow around the store and conversion rates within aisles and categories on an ongoing basis." Meet The Promotional Compliance Creative Manager .. hello-oo!)

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Work IS Making You Crazy and You ARE Too busy

In an article on his Salesopedia blog, Lee Saltz scoffs at “full-plate syndrome” (where prospects appear too busy to place orders). Saltz says full-plate syndrome melts in the face of a the right sales pitch. No marketer can argue that targeted marketing has tremendous merit, but – in the current saga of overworked Americans – something more serious is going down.

Case Study One: My friend works for a direct marketing consultancy that has been laying off staff since January. The workload hasn’t diminished, however. It's simply been dumped on my friend, who hasn’t lost his job (yet) .

Case Study Two: This horror story is so dramatic you may not believe it. Believe it. A young man with blue chip undergrad and postgrad degrees is working for a large financial services firm in New York City. He’s being paid $40,000 a year. If he can make it through this freshman year, he’ll “very most probably” get a $100,000 bonus. The real question is whether anyone – even an energetic 28-year old -- can survive what this ageploitation Wall Street firm is putting him through. Recently, he worked from Friday morning to Monday morning on a single hour of sleep he grabbed under his desk. That weekend was extreme, but he does -- routinely -- work from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, every single day, seven days a week. And his boss verbally abuses him.

Anonymous Employee is a website devoted to problems in the workplace from the employees’ perspective (imagine that!). The site says about half of all employed people feel so overworked they’re suffering from headaches, fatigue, extreme tiredness, regular sleepiness, continuous irritability, and even panic attacks.

Another website, overtimepay.net decries the 2004 regulations that classify certain employees as "exempt administrative, executive, or professional employees." We all know what that means: lots of overtime for no extra pay.

High-stacking of work onto desperate employees is one aspect of this recession's unemployment that's getting little attention. Think it's temporary? It's probably not. A 2006 study confirms that the U.S. slashed middle management jobs in the 90s. The saved salaries were dispersed to top management. People laid off back then thought things would get better, but many of those jobs were never replaced. Some people went to work for themselves, some sent spouses to work, some took lower paying jobs. In the long run, things added up to working longer hours.

Joel Cutcher-Gershenfield, Dean of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relatons at the University of Illinois, doesn’t see a lot of hope. “In the 1990s, layoffs shifted in many cases from a last resort in a downturn, to a strategic choice aimed at increasing the value of a company’s stock. Given this recent history, there is a real risk of massive layoffs happening today without careful consideration of the alternatives or options.”

It’s a little bit easier to put this one over on Americans, with their strong work ethic. The Europeans chortle at our misery. Writer Rick Steves reports that Europeans work roughly 25 percent fewer hours for 25 percent less money. Writing on TechCrunch, Michael Arrington reported that a conference he attended last year drew jeers from Europeans at the American notion that success takes a lot of hard work and not too much time off.

No wonder we have road rage and substance abuse. People are living in fear and losing their minds. So let’s be clear about stress in the workplace. It’s real. Stuck in a rock ‘n hard place, many of our colleagues are understandably irritable, missing deadlines, finding it difficult to concentrate. In this wicked time -- when there's little else to be done -- awareness, coupled with a little patience and kindness, can go a long way.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can Our Precious Digital Media Be Saved Or Will It Disappear?

This morning, I ordered two photos from Shutterfly. The shipping chargers were $1.79 for two prints, but I didn’t mind. I remember when it cost $7.00 to “develop” a roll of film -- and only two photos among the 24 were useable. I figure I saved $5.21. A tidbit, but not the point of this blog.

The whole Shutterfly experience got me to thinking about all the trillions of photographs being taken hourly (in June 2009, 3 billion 600 million photos were archived on Flicrk.com). What will happen to all our precious photos when current digital storage devices/practices/options become obsolete?

Oh yes, they will.

You may have forgotten, but Wikipedia remembers the Iomega ZIP drive.
If you were a graphic designer in the Y2K years, you needed this “disk” to transfer files to the printer (more common today for file transfer, of course there's the ever-convenient, if insecure, ftp.) For storage and back-up, we now have behemoth terabyte external drives (Iomega itself sells a 1TB external for about $100), not to mention ultra-convenient “key drives” that will pack on 2gigs for $10. Thirty-two or more gigs can be stored on the new “wallet” style flash drives.

Problem is, both devices use USB technology. USB 1.0 is already outdated, replaced by USB 2.0, and about to be replaced by USB 3.0. The 3.0 version, boosted by fiber optic cabling, is promised for 2010 and should be mostly “backward compatible” but, just like computer operating systems, USB upgrades can’t go on forever. At some point, technology will trap something new and better that won’t work with our older and slower computers.

Will we store “in the clouds”? Organizations are skittish, the rest of us less so. Archiving stuff “someplace else” is a hurdle already navigated by sites like Mozy, Delicious, Flickr, etc. Even TypePad /Blogger /WordPress are “out there somewhere.” And yet ... this week Microsoft and T-Mobile somehow lost a gazillion bytes of user data stored on the Sidekick smart phone. Some observers blame Microsoft’s information management practices and not cloud computing. Others say data isn’t safe in the clouds.

Interestingly, two days ago Iron Mountain introduced cloud storage worthy of a radiation shelter. Are we actually regressing in efforts to protect our stuff (which increasingly seems to have become us)?

Me? I worry… and I order a few precious print photos. At least if my photos or files get destroyed by fire, flood, or civil disturbance – unlike Sidekick users who are wondering “where the data went?” -- I’ll know what happened.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Think Your Business Is Into Social Media? Chances Are You’ve Barely Begun.

If you think your business is into social media, you might want to check-out some of the many lists of social networking sites.

1. The Inside CRM blog has a list of 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence On. It's an awkward title, but it’s a useful list, though a trifle outdated (late 2008).

2. Wikipedia has its own list of social networking sites. This is a mishmash that also includes hang-outs like dating and genealogy sites, but the participation numbers posted here are illuminating.

3. In February, David Wilson blogged his list of "Top 25 Social Networking Sites." The appearance of blackplanet.com and asiantown.net on this list demonstrates that social networking has a powerful ethnic dimension. Cafemom.com brings lifestyle to the social media gathering place. Expect more of the same.

4. Top Ten Reviews lists the usual suspects, but also surprised me with the internationally-inclined Zorpia, described as "the largest social network we never heard of."

5. eBizMBA lists its "Top 20 Most Popular Social Networking Sites." The list carried no date, but who knew Friendster still has an audience or that the big badoo even existed?

A couple of observations:

Ning -- the create or find your own social network site -- keeps popping up as a popular gathering spot .. which could mean that human tribal instincts may well fracture out of Facebook into millions of discrete social gathering spots.

• Any corporation that thinks it doesn’t need a Social Media Manager should read some of these lists. Nothing gives the marketer a clearly notion of what it means to have an "internet presence." Yes, it's a full-time job.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 9, 2009

So They Call It Augmented Reality, Do They?

Americans went from TV shows in the 50s that framed our attitudes about family … to Friends in the 80s that effortlessly defined how a generation of twenty-somethings would view personal relationships … to this decade's “Housewives of Everywhere” that keeps us entertained by the rich and becoming-famous. So where are we going with our increasing personal involvement with MeTube?

No doubt we’re heading to a situation where all of us can virtually “get into and onto” any TV show we want: sports, home decorating, cooking, travel, Flav o Flav, dog rescue, or food orgy – you name it. Participation in reality TV is the next logical step, as couch potatoes clamor to become the entertainment they seek.

There's a name for this techno fantasy: It’s called augmented reality, and a survey by Infegy.com says people in general are very psyched about it. If my 10-year old friend can play Wii simultaneously with her pal down the street, Marketing Brillo can't be too far from joining the gals in Atlanta for a smack-down ... right?

Want to see what augmented reality looks like in its infancy? Check out this provocative -- though still extraordinarily primitive -- YouTube demonstration. Or watch how the World Wildlife fund is already using the technology in its marketing/fundraising efforts.

See you soon on Flipping Out.

- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twitter Training Grows Up and Looks Like A Million Bucks

TWTRcon DC09 is happening next Thursday, on October 22. Unfortunately, the registration fee is $595. Not saying the fee is out of whack, just that this event is obviously geared to corporate pocketbooks.

The rest of us can do a hashtag tune-in on Twitter (#TWTCON). The one-day conference at the Grand Hyatt features a line-up of respectable Tweeple like Joe Trippi, Craig Newmark, Laura Fitton, Rohit Bhargava, and Sharon McPherson. I'm expecting some good stuff. If nothing else, the speaker line-up is a great list of people to follow.

Whether or not Marketing Brillo scrubs it, TWTRcon confirms that Twitter is huge business. The question of whether we should get into social media has been closed. We've definitely flipped into doing it right/better.

The stats are there. Hot brand Zapposacquired by Amazon in July -- takes Twitter very seriously. CEO Tony Hsieh tweets @zappos and has 1.4 million followers. Zappos sponsors Twitter contests and posts an ongoing collection of employee tweets and retweets. Econsultancy blog reports that Dell is using Twitter for loyalty marketing. In late June, Bloomberg reported that Twitter, Inc. was looking at Whole Foods and Starbucks to generate some ad revenue. Maybe that won’t be necessary since Twitter got its $100 million cash infusion last month.

All of which says: It’s time for TWTRCon. Enjoy!

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. The TWTRCon landing and registration pages are a learning experience. Intriguing third party applications like Cloud Profile abound. Have a look here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The National DMA Bunkers Down

Members of the national Direct Marketing Association received the following memo from former Board member, Gerry Pike, who thinks The DMA’s CEO is earning way too much money. Now Gerry is being sued for his role in organizing the insurgency. In the following email sent just a few hours ago, Gerry appeals for members to get involved and save The DMA.

From: Gerry Pike, DMA Board Director
To: [Name]
www.aBetterDMA.org
[Name], DMA does not want me speaking to you!

Dear [name],

For the past 10 days, I've shared with you my views on the state of affairs at DMA, and how your voting member proxy is a real chance for real reform. I have laid out my vision of a better DMA, and have been gratified with the response I've received. Clearly, DMA Management doesn't like our dialogue. Now they have threatened to sue me to stop. Read this article on their threatened legal action. As a DMA member said to me, they're using our membership money to silence us. And it does cost a lot of money.

Is this how you want DMA spending your dues?

Partners at DMA's law firm, Venable LLP, charge their clients betwen $500 and $1000 per hour. Their fees for a week could pay for a DMA staff person for a year. Read this.

DMA has already cut its staff in half this year. Read this. How many more staff will be cut out to pay the lawyers to cut you off?

It's time for members-first management NOW.

This absurdity highlights the serious disconnect between DMA Management and its membership.

Standing together for members-first management can reverse that. [Name], Send your voting member proxy to me so that together we become the force for much needed change.

Please act today. DMA's Annual Business Meeting is 12 days away.

USE THIS LINK to download your proxy. Sign, date and send it to me, Gerry Pike, by fax to: +1 (570) 676-5146 or scan and email to: gpike@DMSAinc.com.

Sincerely,
Gerry Pike
(201) 888-9281 or gpike@dmsainc.com

www.aBetterDMA.org Read the latest media coverage & industry news on the situation.
Learn how you can change your proxy, even if you have already sent it in.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

In Mobile Marketing Heat, Snappable Ads Snap Back

Occasionally late to the party, Marketing Brillo just learned about “snappable ads” this morning, in MediaWeek’s article. Here's what we now know.

Also called "web-enabled print" ads, these tiny touchables adhere to a page that readers can “click-on” to make something happen. That something might signal an advertiser to mail a coupon or send a free sample to the “snapper.” Magazines aren’t the only snappable possibilities. Also think direct mail, newspapers, apparel, brochures, in-store displays, packaging, etc.

To see how the technology works, watch this little slideshow from SpyderLynk, a top developer of snappables.

SpyderLynk’s CEO, Nicole Skogg, was interviewed on June 5 by the Denver Post. "SpyderLynk turns a brand’s printed logos into an image, or “SnapTag,” that people can take a [cell phone] picture of and send in a text message to a number listed in an ad. SpyderLynk sends back to their phones a brand’s promotional material offer, and starts a two-way interaction that a typical printed ad can’t."

Apparently, Skogg knew what she was talking about. Two weeks after the Denver Post article, A9 – a subsidiary of Amazon – acquired SnapTell, developer of SpyderLynk’s SnapTag™ technology.

I can see why magazine publishers and advertisers get excited. This is a really “cool” technology that -- given the chance -- most people can't resist "trying out." Apparently, it bombed when it first hit magazine racks about three years ago, though. For one thing, over-burdened magazine readers didn't know what to do so they fled. Also, street wisdom speculated that maybe the early effort didn’t give away enough value (read free stuff). This time around, consumers can expect better premiums and better directions.

"Mobile activation marketing" -- already well accepted in Asia -- is the end game for technologies like these. Multi-national LinkMe’s technology combines visual, voice, and audio recognition -- which means you can connect a print image to your mobile phone via voice and sound. All you have to do is say something like, “Nike Tennis shoes in November 3 issue of Women’s Day” and the image will appear on your mobile phone.

MediaWeek says current consumer response rates to snappables are about 2 percent. For now, those response rates won't pry marketing dollars from most tight-fisted advertisers. But that's okay.

In fantasizing how technology will meld the total “sensory” experience from every imaginable input device into exactly the display device we choose, “media” takes on a whole new meaning. In other words, we haven't seen that media yet.

For most marketers, laboring away in the direct mail/email/cross-media sweat box, little of this “amazing stuff” requires immediate action. Our essential challenges remains the same: a) To be fully aware of all options; and, b) to imagine how any or all of these explosive possibilities might be useful to our customers. In that sense -- as always -- marketers remain the link between technology and its customers.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, October 5, 2009

Michael Moore and Simmons Make Fine Bedfellows

I saw “Capitalism” over the weekend. In further documenting the rumblings of left-wing progressives, Michael Moore went from offering social criticism and commentary, all the way to advocating revolution. I loved it.

His bottom line is simple: Capitalism is a viciously flawed system that’s lived since inception on a fantasy (not to mention an ethic) that will never, ever be shared by the vast (and exploding) majority of people. As soon as the duped wake up, they will rise up.

In the meantime, America will continue to create a precious few millionaires among people who trade in “paper,” produce nothing, and exploit everybody else to make more dollars. Today’s New York Times article about The Simmons Bedding Company underscores Moore’s point.

What happened at Simmons has happened here – and in other countries -- many times over. “Investors” have bought, leveraged, sold, leverage again, borrowed against, and finally bankrupted a 133-year old manufacturing company. The employees are now out of work, but the investors toodled off with millions “made” in some financial boondoggle than none of us can understand. If you haven’t read the article, you should.

Together, Michael Moore and Simmons have raised a serious question: How long will Americans – the union members, the struggling middle class and the beleagued working class, the health-care ruined, the un- and under-insured – well the 99 percent of us -- continue to be fooled and made “afraid” by the corporate/media conglomerate that cows the rest of us by throwing around scary words like “socialiasm”? How long will we be tricked into hating one another instead of helping one another? How long will we not see that -- in the vast, "them" is us, while in the narrow them is only them that uses us. In short, how long can we be tricked into voting against our own self-interest?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Because of his scathing critique of Wall Street, Moore reportedly fears that this movie will be this last. I figure if Michael Moore can risk using the "S"[socialism] and "R" [revolution] words, they bear repeating.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Fable: Twitter and the Long Tail

Until Wednesday, the only long tail I followed was attached to my Maine Coon cat. Now I know better.

“The Long Tail” is a marketing – or more accurately a distribution – system for selling stuff. Apparently statisticians started examining long tails right after World War II. In 2006, Chris Anderson wrote a book about it, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. On Wednesday, the ubiquitous Geoff Livingston live-blogged Anderson’s keynote speech at the GrowSmartBiz conference.

The long-tail theory demands some noodling, but one aspect is easy to grasp -- fundamental to Anderson’s theory are the concepts of small and free. A thousand thanks to Geoff for the following exemplary insights:

• Chris says he works in a big company, and he owns small companies. Small companies are fast, cheap and nimble and can address small markets of $ millions. The scariest competitor today has two, three people with laptops moving at light speed! Big companies cannot scale down to meet the threat. At the same time, small cos have a hard time scaling up.

• Giving away one thing in order to sell customers another thing is the core model of Free. The loss leader is the 20th century precursor of Free. The 21st century version of Free is the digital free. It’s the economics of bits.

Twitter would appear to be the very model of the modern major company. Founded close to yesterday in 2006 (the same year Anderson wrote his book), Twitter now manages The TwitShip Enterprise with just 352 employees. If that sounds like more employees than Anderson recommends, remember that Twitter has, maybe, 6 million-plus users, so each of those employees services more than 1,700 customers. And then there's the "free" part. In February, the company attracted $35 million in venture investment and another $100 million in investment money came in last week.

So what does Twitter have besides nimble and free? DATA DUH… names, contact info, connections, opinions, preferences – all the stuff that makes marketers salivate. Besides Chris Anderson and my cat, who knew?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Also noteworthy from the conference is Mayra Ruiz’ blog about how small businesses are using social media (hint: possibly not all that much). An interesting read that suggests opportunity for small folks who also get this right.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seven Tricks That Made THIS Survey Experience Top Drawer

This morning, the ACLU emailed a survey asking me to “share my thoughts.” This turned out to be a top survey experience. Here's why:

1. Easy. The survey looked simple to fill-out (roomy, with broad margins and generous white space) and it was. I finished in 7 minutes.

2. Relevant. They had me at the first question -- the "three areas of civil liberties" most important to me.

3. Genuine. The choice of survey questions appeared to really want my opinion because: a) there was no apparent “assumption” of my views or questions leading me to water; b) the multiple choices were comprehensive; c) the survey offered the “I don’t know” option at strategic points.

4. Serious. The serious nature of the questions implied that – collectively -- responses actually will guide the activities of the organization.

5. Informative. In seeking to determine the ways (if any) in which I might be willing to get more involved, I learned about volunteer options.

6. Non-intrusive. The survey had only two personal questions (gender and age).

7. Helpful. At the end, the survey featured links to the ACLU Blog of Rights, showed how to follow the ACLU on Twitter (did that immediately), become a Facebook Fan, or sign-up for YouTube videos (bookmarked that).

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The New Zipcar App Is A Windshield Into 2011 Marketing

Yesterday, Zipcar, Inc. – the popular car-sharing service – released a new App for the iPhone and iPod. This maneuver is target marketing at its best.

"Like so many urban dwellers today, more than 25 percent of Zipcar members live their life from their iPhones," said Scott Griffith, Zipcar chairman and CEO. "The new Zipcar App is a simple, fun and self-service technology that now allows millions of iPhone and iPod touch users to have on-the-go access to Zipcars around the globe."

This particular App underscores another marketing tenet, too: mobile marketing innovations can drive market share even as the market drives App development. In all cases, the iPhone and other smart phones win.

For example, the Zip App is so useful that Zipcar drivers who don’t have an iPhone will probably want one now. Meanwhile ease-of-use issues that may have stopped some eco-conscious urbanites from adopting the Zipcar life have been resolved. Users can get directions to their Zipcar. They can easily find a reserved car by telling the horn to honk. To get help during a reservation, just tap the App. For those who have not yet Zipcar-ed, no angst: even non-Zipsters can download the app and take it for a test drive.

Marketing Brillo thinks Mobile/Life interface technology like the Zipcar App will dominate the consumer marketplace within two years. So, hurry up and add "brainstorm an App" to your next marketing agenda. And while you're at it, get ready to "Draper that stuff" because that App could be your next market penetration breakthrough.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Direct Marketers: Are We Witnessing the Slow Death of The DMA?

Gerry Pike who sits on the board of directors of the Direct Marketing Association (the DMA) sent an angry email to members last Friday titled “S.O.S. re. the DMA.” The email began like this:

If you’re a voting member of the DMA you need to listen to me. Urgently. My name is Gerry Pike. I’ve been a member of the DMA Board of Directors for the past 3 years, and like many of you, active for decades in the DMA ... I’m writing you to ask for your DMA Voting Member Proxy because I’m very worried for our Association. What I have to tell you will worry you, too.

Pike’ goes on to criticize the million-dollar compensation package paid to the association’s CEO, John Greco. He charges that “as membership, revenue, and reserves have plunged, DMA’s management has cloaked its intentions from members and closed off communication." Pike notes that he was “engineered out of” his board position because he worked for change from the inside and he expresses concern that The DMA’s relevancy is fading as "competitors take the lead in a digitally-driven direct marketplace."

Pike’s go-get-'em website, features some fascinating posts gathered over the past year or so, including one by BigFatMarketing blogger Richard H. Levey commenting on the huge staff layoffs that took place at the DMA 11 months ago. “DMA got one last hurrah out of them before letting them go, and in light of this it would be fascinating to go back and review all interviews and speeches president and CEO John A. Greco gave during the conference. Especially those dealing with the health of the industry.” Pike's is hardly a voice in the wildnerness. In April, The NonProfitTimes seriously begrudged Greco a base salary that grabs 2 cents out of every dollar brought in by the DMA.

The day after Pike sent his proxy challenge to members, ex-AT&T executive Greco fired back, saying “The Compensaton Committee of the Board of Directors reviews and approves the president’s compensation with close attention to comparable organizations. The Committee believes the terms of compensation have been appropriate in years when the business was growing rapidly,” but “froze all executive compensation, including that of the president, effective months ago.” Not sure, but sounds like that means Greco's salary was "frozen" at a million?

As a close friend of mine coldly put it in an email: “ICEBERG, RIGHT AHEAD! Are we witnessing the slow-death of The DMA? In 25 years in the DM space I don’t think I’ve ever seen a proxy-challenge like this! I didn’t realize John Greco was making so much damn money. Certainly I gave him enough of mine, but got little in return. He’s tried to make the DMA into a shameless money-machine, but that strategy has backfired. And now that they are hemorrhaging members like me, it’s time to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Personally, I'm opting for a lifeboat, Dan.

--Scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, September 25, 2009

Plaxo Violates My Dunbar Number, Plus It Bores Me

A lot of people with whom I am somehow acquainted appear to be on Plaxo. Maybe Plaxo hopes to become the ultimate social media aggregator by combining drivel from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and outer space. It's too late. Microsoft is all over that one.

Plaxo's self-described purpose is to make sure you "stay in touch with people you care about." For me, it's not working. Okay, maybe in some weak moment years ago, I unwittingly became a Plaxo-ite. I don’t remember doing that, but I do know I haven’t used Plaxo -- ever. And yet, over there in Plaxo-Land, they are very persistent.

[Alert: This is going to get even more boring. I won’t be insulted if you quit reading.]

Yes, my faithful friend, every week – week after week after week – I receive my Plaxo updates. They tell me what my fellow Plaxo tribespersons are doing. For example, I know that Catherine is now connected to both Jacquelynne and Edith. I’m not surprised. Daily, Catherine becomes shackled by yet more hangers on. She's so encumbered that LinkedIn has stopped counting her connections. All they will say is that she has "500-plus." I wonder, often, how any one individual – except, maybe, Kim Kardashian– can be connected to so many people! But I digress ...

Via Plaxo, I am also privy to tidbits from Scott and opinions from Allen. Note: In case you're interested, Allen detests the Cowgirls. Is he talking about the Dallas cheerleaders? What does he have against them? I'm curious, but I manage to let it go, because there’s always more to wonder about at Plaxo.

Leah is live chatting with Shannon and Tony has posted a blog entry. But that's just the surface stuff. By clicking through, I can read the bonus “21 Pulse updates.” Should loneliness overwhelm me, I'm petitioned to Plaxo-up with six people they've tracked down because I might know them already. In the meantime, I can amuse myself with 14 [fourteen!] more Tweet-like updates from Scott. Predictably, I also learn that Catherine is now connected to Elizabeth.

Are you bored yet? I know I am.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Dunbar's Number