Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Before You Post Video on the Web, Read This

I got interested in making short narrative films about five years ago. Since then, I've produced several. I started out knowing nothing, so I read a lot, talked to folks with experience, practiced, and learned by trial and error.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but I'm seeing a hunk of unnecessarily ugly vlogging and video on the Web. I thought maybe I could spare us all some pain by sharing what I've learned, which is:

In order to produce a decent piece of film, consider the follow components in the process:

A Producer—that organized, energetic, multi-tasking, diplomatic somebody who can work with creative people, quirky egos, technical types, guys who haul cable, and animals (human and otherwise).

Production Values—the attention to visual detail that makes us say “Ah, nice!” In short, production values seamlessly make the video look good. Most people know production values when they see them, but have no idea how they happen (well, actually, they don't just happen; they're planned .. carefully).

Location Scouting—the art of finding just the right spot to enhance the message (it’s probably not in a chair, inside an office, with a blank wall and a potted plan behind the "speaker" ... and it’s quite possibly more than one spot, even for a three-minute film).

Casting—the insight of a person familiar with what an actor can bring to the video party, along with a knowledge of who can work behind a camera, who can’t, and why.

A Director’s Touch— a firm grasp of such film production techniques as camera angles, long, medium, and close-up shots, framing the shot for optimum visual interest, and the seamless, intuitive human interaction that brings out the best in everybody who will be on camera.

A Cinematographer/Art Director’s Eye—which is different from point-and-click shooting, different from the way a weekend photographer sees things, and the difference between desktop publishing and Vogue magazine: in other words, no comparison. Much more than a shooter, this guy or gal is an artist.

Lighting, Sound, and Gear Professionals—the crew gets film in the can that looks, sounds, and plays as it should. We all know what imperfect looks like—sound that vacillates between loud and soft, camera work that jiggles and blurs, lighting that's too dark, etc. An experienced crew has been there and doesn't do that.

A Film Editor—in these hands, everything comes together. Film editing is art and science. It takes considerable technical expertise, an investment in learning, and—most of all—a deep love of and familiarity with what “works” on screen. If you make only one investment in your video, do multiple takes from multiple angles and then get an experienced film editor.

Bottom line: Web video looks better shot in a filmmaker's light. It's harder than it looks, but easier when you consider the proper components. See you on set ...

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Something To LOVE About Commercial Marketing

Jason Falls’ blog this morning noted that tolerating commercials is the “price of admission” to the free entertainment and information we crave. If we increasingly reject commercials and ads as fair exchange for content, we may be locking ourselves into somebody else’s notion of what’s fair to pay (some venture capitalist’s, for example, or some technology mastermind’s idea). Facebook is a case in point.

In February this year, users were furious when Facebook tried to “update” its terms of use. Although the new terms didn’t much change what had always been true – namely, that Facebook pretty much owns all the data posted there – users were offended. Fred Vogelstein’s article last week in Wired magazine illuminated the controversy further.

The nugget in Vogelstein’s article lay in this paragraph: “Hardly any of [a user’s] Facebook information turns up on a Google search, because all of it, along with similar details about the other 200 million Facebook users, exists on the social network's roughly 40,000 servers. Together, this data comprises a mammoth amount of activity, almost a second Internet. By Facebook's estimates, every month users share 4 billion pieces of information—news stories, status updates, birthday wishes, and so on. They also upload 850 million photos and 8 million videos. But anyone wanting to access that stuff must go through Facebook; the social network treats it all as proprietary data, largely shielding it from Google's crawlers." And now comes the Facebook Business Page, which -- under pressure not to get "left out of" the newer, better social media advertising -- many are adopting as an augment to or replacement for the costlier, but proprietary, corporate website.

Do I care? Actually, I do.

On Google, I go where I want, tolerating Google ads as I go or using some other “free” search engine. Fair Enough. But Facebook! Here’s a single repository of personal information about 200 million people – all of it gathered without most users having given any thought whatsoever to the company’s ultimate intentions or ability to use that information (who reads those “terms of agreement,” really? Likely, not the 45% of users 25 and younger.. likely few of us).

What will Facebook decide to do with all this captive data, surreptitiously gathered (buyer beware, sucker!), and to which no other entity has access (except maybe a favored politician or the “government”)? That’s a kind of “marketing” I don’t want any part of.

Back in the day, when television was young and fresh, t.v. commercials were as much fun to watch as the shows themselves. But we grew tired, so the marketers got smarter and t.v. ads got better. Today, commercials on the small screen (and, yes, annoyingly, now on the big screen, too) are mini-movies, some of them fabulously written, directed, and acted. Meanwhile, we continue to take for granted the hundred-plus years of ingenious copy, photography, and design that artfully graces the pages of great magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. Apple’s television introduction of the Mac at the 1984 Superbowl was memorable and is historic. And – as much as we like to criticize “junk mail” – we’ve all seen direct mail campaigns good enough to persuade us to give a stranger our money (again and again). That’s pretty impressive.

So, before we rush to judgment against “marketing,” let’s acknowledge both its creativity and its enormous contribution to the democratic spread of information.And that’s important, this word democratic: It means everybody can afford it and nobody gets shut out because they can’t afford to pay for commercial free television, TiVo, or “premium” access to this or that website.

Let’s be willing to trade a little time for what we want, while always applying pressure for better marketing (as opposed to no marketing at all). And, finally, let’s be careful about greedily taking what’s free now, in exchange for turning over to any corporate entity later, our right to choose.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Will Dunbar’s Number Crush Our Social Media Homies?

Disclosure: I can't get enough of Dunbar's Number. What in heaven's name is really happening here at this intersection of mathematics, anthropology, sociology, neuroscience, Grey's Anatomy and Twitter?

Some research aristocrats warn us not to rely on Wikipedia, but what the heck? I think the pedia’s definition of Dunbar’s Number is as good as any, to wit: Dunbar's number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships." Already, I'm worried about this "stable" thing, but let's move on.

Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist at the University of London, tagged this number of manageable, stable, social relationships at 150. But there also was a caveat. In order to maintain our cohesive community of 150, Dunbar said the group would need to budget 42% of its time for “social grooming.” That’s a lot of flea pickin'. Lucky for us humans, we've got language, the yakety-yak of which can substitute for hands-on primate grooming.

Even luckier for Tweeters, language is our stock in trade. Since we speak in efficient 140-character spurts, we can “tweet groom” a lot of people. On the other hand, we need to read a lot in order that we might engage in the more exalted “REtweet groom” or even the "direct" groom. (Okay, maybe 42% of our day isn't so far off the mark after all).

So, Tweeple, how’s it working’ for ya? As far as I can tell, it depends on whom we ask.

Christopher Allen gets into the statistical dimension of Dunbar more deeply, but still seems to come down to Dunbar’s maximum of 150 participants, even for online communities. Allen also notes that even beyond a measly (my word) 80 people the “noise level created by required socialization becomes an issue.” If you've ever watched Jerry Springer, you know what Allen means.

Andrew Mager, on the other hand, is pretty sure the social web allows a much greater number of friendsters. People's brains are evolving to accommodate more massive input, he theorizes. (Note: Theories like these are why I belong to the neuroscience Twibe, in hopes of keeping up with brain research).

Meanwhile Chris Brogan takes a practical approach, suggesting that, if we can only deal with 150 people, a good strategy is to count within our 150 few, people who are themselves tied into other influential groups of 150. A sort of "chain groom," if you will.

Business journalist Andrew Wee, however, is already hurting from social media. He calls “getting on Facebook quite a painful experience.” Wee decries being hit by irrelevant application invites and multiple people sending the same invites to the same app over and over again, “which means you could be spending 15-30 minutes each day just getting rid of application requests.” I know, I know, Mr. Wee. But, if you think Facebook is bad, take a look at the even more chaotic GoogleWave. (On second thought, don't. My neuro-psychiatrist says this many messages within messages within messages could lead to synapse collapse.)

Wayne Porter, co-founder at Meme Science, says that “marketers lose by not working with mirco-sized players who really can influence people.” I wasn't sure how small my player should be -- is 4'2" about right? -- but he clarifies: “The real value from social networking platforms are the relationships forged and conversations to be had. Facebook applications or RPGs are great for this, but one should keep Dunbar’s number in mind. This is especially prudent in high immersion environments, like Second Life, where nothing seems to scale.” (Did he say second life? Did he? Did he really say that?)

I know I shouldn't, but I must ask the following final question, because really, architecture should be part of this serious conversation, too! So -- if mapped out geographically -- would the pattern of my own – and your -- Dunbar’s Numbers be shaped like a spiral? Just wondering ...

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Social Media Tips from David Scott Meerman

Yesterday, marketing and PR strategist David Scott Meerman was featured on a Vocus webinar talking about the New Rules of Marketing and PR.

Meerman noted that, after four decades of nameless, faceless advertising and marketing projects, marketers finally have the chance to tell their stories directly to an interested market. Before jumping into social media -- -- blogs, ebooks, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc. -- he advises marketers and PR folks to consider a few things:

1. Who are your various “buyer personas”? If you’re a hotel, for example, your personas could be business travelers, weddings guests and planners, families, couples away for a romantic weekend, etc. Your job is not to hype your products or services to these folks, but to develop a conversation with them based on their interest and concerns. Tip: To help him communicate better, Meerman uses a classic copywriting technique -- he names each of his personas (your business traveler could be Stephanie, for example).

2. Rather than trying to sell, emphasize what you want your persona to believe about your product or service. To demonstrate, Meerman featured the Volvo brand, which the vast majority of respondents associate with “safety.” The Obama brand? Meerman says he's spoken all over the world and audiences everywhere say they associate "change" with Obama.

3. Earn attention. The old marketing/PR model relies on Buying advertising, Begging for attention from the media, and Bugging people one at a time to buy (sales calls). In the social media model, we Earn Attention by sharing useful information – sometimes about our own products/services, yes, but in the social media conversation, that's not required.

4. On the web, you are what you publish, so play nice. Encourage sharing (Meerman calls this information-pass-along tactic, “word of mouse”).

5. The old model of “information sharing” features “press releases” – a strategy of communication that fails completely. Meerman noted that, in 2008, when journalists were asked to come up with the phrases they heard most often in press releases, they identified 350 press release clich├ęs (e.g. “innovate,” “pleased to announce that,” “world-class,” “next generation”). When these 350 offenders were compared against all the press releases actually sent in 2008, every single one of the 700,700 releases contained one or more of these habitual offenders.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Twitter: One Way to Construct a Global Brain Trust

Yesterday, Marc Schaefer posted a blog titled “Why Do I need 10,000 followers?” Then he posted that same question to the Twitter Innovators group on LinkedIn. People are commenting like crazy.

The consensus so far is that a lot of tweeters welcome followers, but aren’t scrambling for them. Biologist, naturalist guide, and writer Roger Harris [aka Jungleman] put it perfectly for me, when he said:

Twitter is about quality, not quantity. I have been on Twitter since mid-2007, having Tweeted 2000+ times. And I only have a pitiful 600 and something followers. How lame. Why don't I just give up?

 But if you look at people who are following me, they are influencers, early adopters, social media experts, and other people I want to connect with. And that's the point of Twitter. Notice that I only follow about half the number of those that follow me. I have blogged about Dunbar's Limit-- how many people we can realistically interact with. So the best way to manage users is to share what you consider interesting and useful, enjoy the serendipity of what your community chooses to share with you, and keep an eye on the truly important things in life: love, trust, honesty, loyalty, courage.

I think Harris is describing the same Tweeple that Chris Brogan alludes to as “pirates” in his blog "You Still Need A Frame." The “Mastermind Group” touches on the same ideal "meeting of the minds." Managed thoughtfully, Twitter also promises a great way for each of us to construct our own global brain trust. Ya tink?

p.s. More info on Dunbar’s Number from the WSJ’s/NumbersGuy here and from Chris Brogan here.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Five Experts Give Tips On "Comment Marketing"

Most marketers are tracking the Internet to find out who's talking about their product or service. Blogs are where the experts hang out, so if your name (or your industry) comes up, you could be tempted to leave a comment. Here's what several experts suggest you consider.

Yesterday Shannon Paul wrote a brilliant blog for corporate marketers who want to “get the word out” by commenting on their own, others,' or related products. Shannon built sound guidance around the green, yellow, red light metaphor. Actually, the message is the same simple dictate common to all social media: inform, don’t advertise; be transparent and honest; be polite.

Before I read Shannon’s post, I didn’t realize some marketers will do anything to get their client's name on the Internet. If you think any publicity is good publicity, read Andrey Savchenko’s post at rarst.net. You might be surprised how angry some bloggers get when somebody tries to “fool me once” [you won’t get a second chance].

Shannon had some other great links, too: Mack Collier’s post features how to write great blog comments and Sarah Lewis shares advice on leaving blog comments to boost traffic, as well as tips for locating blog posts that are perfect for comment marketing.

Finally, if you think a word or two of praise for the blogger is safe, read Brian Clark, who stomps on hit-and-run commentary.

Any comments?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Marketing Brillo Death Watch

A host of pundits has been foretelling the death of journalism and newspapers off and on for years. Back in 2004, Hugh MacLeod said he and Doc Searls discovered that branding is dead. Next it was our own kids declaring email deceased. This year, it was direct mail gone all cold. Now it’s The Buzz Bin and Chris Saad declaring – gasp! – that social media, too, has gone belly-up!

This latest drive-by shooting reportedly will come at the hands of corporate America, which has invaded the social realm with commercial tweets and self-serving efforts to "monitor" customer distress. (Case in point: the hapless Frank Eliason @comcastcares, who has no control over the wicked local "dispatchers" who wreck havoc on customer schedules and patience, generating -- at current count -- 804,000 Google hits for "i hate comcast").

Maybe the social media transpiration will take awhile. So, as I ready my latest black outfit, my mind drifts back to a better time --the Deadwood Days of the original AOL chatroom. In it's pure form, this very early “social media” died in the late nineties, also at the hands of people looking to turn a buck. It never got better than that. Rest in peace.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hey, Marketer: How About These 8 Trends In Retail?

A story in the New York Times today reports how major retailers are adjusting to the recession. The following eight strategies are mostly about belt-tightening. If you're a marketer, be prepared to deal with the following:

1. For premium priced stores, all bets are off on familiar pricing models, with fewer high-priced and more mid-priced merchandise at stores like Neiman Marcus;
2. for mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, and PetSmart, less inventory and fewer brands;
3. for mid-rangers like Sears and J.C. Penney, more customer self-service;
4. for Macy’s a rush to tailor merchandise according to customer demand at the local and regional level;
5. for many retailers, a move to exclusivity, with more in-store brands and increased collaboration with top designers;
6. for everybody, greater emphasis on an improved in-store customer service experience;
7. for us all, seamless interface between online and in-store shopping (e.g., in-store computers that let us check competitor’s prices);
8. more just-in-time stocking, resulting in a narrower window for "seasonal" sales;
9. in the very very near future, shopping by cell phone (note: J.C. Penney has serious initiatives to develop systems that will run on a handset.)

For customers, the fallout is likely to be less choice and more “sold out” experiences at the brick and mortars. We won't like it, because we're accustomed to entertaining ourselves by wandering the mall with that one diet coke we bought. News flash: Today's retailers are getting out of the entertainment business. Yes, they want our experience with them to be pleasant ... but only if we're actually customers.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Broadband Mobile's Fierce Factors: A Futurist Explains

Futurist Gerd Leonard notes that all content industries are “seriously challenged by the Internet’s disruptive forces.” All content industries -- television, print, broadcasting, entertainment -- and all current business models, copyright, and value traditions are in chaos already, but about to be upended further by exploding mobile device use.

On June 19, Gerd presented in Singapore at CMMA, where he noted that, "Together, broadband culture and mobility will redefine how we think about privacy, authorship, ownership, value selling and marketing, R&D and production, work, and education." Here are some notes from his presentation:

Gerd sites seven Fierce Factors of Mobile:
• first truly personal mass medium
• captures the social context of media consumption
• always within 1 meter reach
• always on, interconnected
• available at the exact point and time of inspiration
• built-in payment options
• offers most accurate audience measurement

Gerd notes that "selling copies" to make money is a dead deal.
1. When copies are free, you need to sell things that can’t be copied.” Kevin Kelly
2. Rather than changing the existing model, publishers are fumbling around for a solution that requires readers to fundamentally change their behavior.” Fat chance. Xark blog
3. Hoarding content is not a good move.
4. Attract, don’t enforce (that is, get your users hooked first, then ask for their money).

I've been struggling lately with defining what content actually is. Gerd has this to say about "Content in a Broadband Mobile Future."
• It's created by the users and shared
• It includes meta-content: the users’ data and click-streams layered around other professional content.
• It's professional content “appropriated” by users.
• It's the users themselves.

Fierce Mobile also includes the shift to "Freemium," a zeitgeist in which:
• Nobody pays actual $ anywhere.
• Everything "feels like it's free" because the payment is bundled or hidden and no individual payment decision is required every time.
• All users get real value free of charge, but a good percentage selects to buy premium offers.
• "Third party pay," in which someone else pays for my usage because they want access to me and my data, becomes commonplace.

Bottom line: The Future Mass Market is a Mass of Niches. The characteristics are personalization, customization, sharing, engagement, transparency, and participation.

Bottom line 2: The Mobile Consumption of Digital goods is the #1 growth story of the next decade.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

14 Stop Overs for a Marketing Blogger on the Fly

I’ve got a blogging habit with a big appetite. To fix that, I read a lot of marketing and business articles. About 30% of my inspiration comes from online newsletters. Here’s my reading list …

1. For inspiration about what’s happening in marketing, I prefer the following resources.

Marketing Profs, Marketing Vox, Webmarketing Today from the omnipresent Ralph Wilson, Fundraising Success magazine’s enewsletters, The Wise Marketer, and Target Marketing Tipline.

2. Statistics and trends come from Marketing Sherpa and Trend Watching.

3. TechWeb’s Digital Edge delivers more detailed technology stuff.

4. For generic business news, I pick up trends and macro stuff from Bnet, various industry Smart Brief’s, Who’s Blogging What (a great favorite), and bMighty’s Weekly Digest.

5. Even though it’s essentially a sales piece -- or when I just feel like reading a "story" -- inspirational thoughts sometimes come from Nightingale-Conant’s AdvantEdge Newsletter.

6. For recently released government “grey material” you can't beat DocuTicker.

.. and all this is just the beginning. I also keep up with favorite bloggers, Tweets, webinars, and podcasts. As "W" would say, "It's hard; it's hard work."

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Few Good Geeks and Guys To Follow In Social Media Land

I confess. It's hard for me to read stuff about Internet threats and invasions. Some of that language sort of geeks me out. But, darn it, I'm gonna over that and start following security tweeters like Jason Lam @jasonlam_sec and Security for Dummies author Chris Boyd @paperghost. 'Cause really, folks, it's scary out there.

I read Oliver Marks’ excellent piece about trust and social media with some horror. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that celebrities get stalked online or that somebody grabs a well-known blogger’s Facebook vanity name and then tries to trade it back for some in-person face time. But who would have thought of a collection agency employee friending and stalking somebody on Facebook? If you need an anxiety fix, there's plenty to be worried about.

For example, you can find detailed instructions online for hacking into somebody's Facebook account. Yikes! For the search term "Facebook imposter," Google returns 169,000 hits, including story after story like these of people parading as somebody else. The Citizen Media Law Project reports that, in early May, Tony La Russa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, sued Twitter for "trademark infringement and dilution, cybersquatting, and misappropriation of name and likeness" because somebody started a Twitter page using his name.

If you really want to scare yourself, visit the Internet Storm Center. Not only does this site post "today's Internet Threat Level" and feature pieces like "Adobe Reader exploit in the wild," it has enough cyber jargon to send you to bed for a week. Not that we don't appreciate folks like Jason Lam and the bloggers at FaceTime. We do, we do. So let's start following them.

In fact, the social media-ites among us could use a much longer list of good geeks and guys to follow. Any suggestions?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Find A Great Marketing Idea Outside the Office

In his latest post, Seth Godin says, “Big marketing breakthroughs always come from doing something that everyone else says is off the table.” So where does a crazy idea come from?

Businesses try hard to create an atmosphere where ideas can percolate. This week, Craig’s List/ Washington DC features an ad that headlines “Wear flip-flops to work/creative atmosphere.” When Goldstein Group Communications in Cleveland moved its offices in December, they opted for “rooms with graphics and high ceilings, designed for a creative atmosphere.” Still, the best ideas probably aren't happening at the office because the office is ... well, the place the idea .. er ... hasn't happened yet.

Cognitive scientists at Drexel and Northwestern Universities tried to figure out where ideas do come from. John Kounios, a professor of psychology at Drexel, says “…a person's brain state or frame of mind determines which strategy he or she is going to use to solve a problem when it finally appears.” So, if you're looking for an idea that’s never been on the table before, doesn't it stand to reason that you need to get the heck away from the table?

In, Sweden, the government has a whole system to get people out of the office. The Swiss commissioned TILLT, a program designed to immerse workers in art and culture. TIILT serves as a meeting spot outside the workplace for 65,000 employees in 49 municipalities and focuses on “ ..birthing new subjects of discussion during coffee breaks; and as a general means of stimulating the mind.”

Some of us find creative solutions in the palm of our hand. In mid-February, Zachary Rodgers at ClickZ blogged “The Profile of A Top Creative.” In the article Rodgers noted some lifestyle tidbits about Atmosphere BBDO’s Senior Creative Director Arturo Aranda. During his 1.5 hour commute to the city, Arturo plays games and “messes around with” iPhone apps.

Hugh MacLeod, cartoonist, copywriter, and brilliant curmudgeon who blogs at The Gaping Void has published his book, Ignore Everybody. Devised from "How To Be Creative," his wildly popular manifesto downloaded a million times, Ignore Everybody is surely a roadmap for getting out of the office. For one thing, MacLeoad says, "Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one."

I'm ordering this today. No, wait. I'm going to the bookstore to buy it. Gotta get out of the office...

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Monday, June 15, 2009

June 15 in Communications History: A Wowser

With iran.twazzup.com delivering tweets from the streets of Iran in real time--hundreds more at every five-second screen refresh interval--this morning, it’s impossible to think about anything as mundane as marketing.

This is an historic moment in communications – let alone political -- history, as we witness the first demonstration of a World Tribe member (in this case, the descendants of the historic Persian Empire) fighting for democracy.

The notion that media is undergoing a revolution has been proved today. Nothing will be the same again, as nothing remained the same from the moment the collective intellect, inventions, vision, and mechanical achievements of the many culminated in “television.” Now, decades later, cumulative intellect (or is it the collective consciousness? ) happens so fast that no single human mind can keep up.

I wish I could wax eloquent and say important things, except I don’t have the words or the intellect to understand and express the implications of this moment in history. For that, we need science fiction writers.

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Two Ex-Presidents Teach Marketers A Thing or Two

What influences consumers more: authority or authenticity? Quite possibly, George Walker Bush and William Jefferson Clinton have produced the definitive word on this conversation, which is passing among top marketing/social media experts.

On June 10, Mark Olson – who, bless his heart, is a “marketing idealist” -- asked five of the big names in the blogosphere (Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, Brian Solis, Chris Brogan, and Mike Volpe) whether they thought authority was more important than authenticity in communicating with customers.

I won’t tell you what these major influencers said because the conversation has just begun and, besides, it’s essential reading. In scanning what they said, though, I was reminded of two "authorities"—Presidents Bush and Clinton – who fell into serious disfavor (if not impeachment) because ordinary people thought they lacked authenticity. These men both parsed enough words and told enough half-truths to lose our confidence. And they both went down.

So, maybe once upon a time, authority made everybody shiver and fall into line, but maybe not so much now. Ya tink?

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hurry Up and Tweet to the Impatient Consumer

The ability to give people what they want right now is a key function of marketing in the 2009 Zeitgeist. That’s the promise – if not yet the reality – of Twitter.

Time writer M.J. Stephey says, “Power is also shifting toward consumers, who have made it overwhelmingly clear that ‘they want the news they want when they want it.’" Tweeters like @louisgray and @ploked, both of whom have grown thousands of followers, reliably sift and aggregate marketing and social media news headlines.

Bargain hunters are trolling Twitter, too. Last week, Dell reported $3 million worth of computer sales to an impatient Twitterverse eager for a deal.

Meanwhile, in the statusphere, consumers ability to post shorted links back to the source can quickly take products viral.

The point? Providers/sellers who can deliver stream-of-whisper into the consumer’s ear will get first dibs on the dollar. It’s fun to watch now how creative marketers are figuring out how to do it.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Trashing, Bashing, and Slashing: The Horrors of Social Media

1. Divorce attorneys haunt Facebook and Twitter for dirty little secrets and spouse trashing.

2. Bash Tweets and hate blogs force some artists offline.

3. Tire slashing in the UK, job slashing at the university of Iowa, and price slashing at Franklin Covey typify some of the less violent slash tweets in a 24 hour period. Verify yourself with a "slashing" Twitter search.

Meanwhile, as our brain’s fear circuitry overpowers its ability to reason, social media broadcasts a jillion worrisome thoughts and spreads fear psychosis.

No wonder we’re all dying to curl up in an Xbox and play Natal.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hey, Writer: Here's An Answer to “Whaca gonna do?”

Advertising and news have "decoupled" -- meaning that a lot of cash-strapped newspapers and magazines are getting rid of their professional journalists. So now what?

Writing for Time magazine on June 8, James Poniewozik focused the lively discussion on "If the journalism business fails, who pays for journalism?" This conversation is must reading for everybody in the “information business,” but for writers it’s a road map of frustrations and possibilities.

In his piece, Poniewozik is imagining what sorts of paying jobs journalists might turn to as newspaper and magazine work dries up. He’s touched on such possible sources of money as moonlighting, crowdsourcing, mining and cataloging social media content for clients, reporting for nonprofits, writing for “sponsors,” writing content for corporate websites, creating products like newsletters to attract local advertising, and shifting from being a journalist to becoming the expert “source.”

As interesting as Poniewozik’s article, are the 27 comments (today’s count) from fellow journalists.

• One compared society’s dependence on the “raw material of daily journalism” to Wal-Mart’s reliance on cheap Chinese imports: Without it, we got nothin'.

• Somebody else suggested that when we lose professional journalists, we also lose a) neutrality/impartiality, b) the wherewithal to “dig” for a story, and c) broadcast news itself, which, the commentator argued, is essentially a rebroadcast of newspaper journalists’ work.

• One feisty commentator, suggested journalists grab a job in PR as soon as possible. “Who needs newspapers or the creatures who barely make a living writing for newspapers? Writing for newspapers isn’t a skilled occupation, You can learn it on the job in a week or less.”

There’s a lot more to consider in this piece. As a writer caught in the “decoupling” of money and wordsmithing, I plan to study this article, contemplate the comments, follow the primary and subsequent links, and devise my own strategy for getting paid. More to come …

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Make Serious Journalism Your Favorite Charity

I don’t read Newsweek, but a friend tells me it’s undergone a dramatic change. Jill is a journalist, so she’s serious about “the story behind the story.” A loyal subscriber for 18 years, Jill says the new Newsweek is too much, even for her. “I want to, but I can’t read all of it. And I really miss the recap of the week’s events. Newsweek has turned into The Economist” ...

... not that there’s anything wrong with that, we both rush to say. We love The Economist.

Jill passionately defends Newsweek’s commitment to quality and depth in reporting … except she can’t really get around to reading it. We both feel sad.

She won't stop subscribing, though, even if she doesn't have time to read Newsweek thoroughly. Hers is a philosophical commitment to the notion of journalism and Truth .. a little like supporting a favorite charity simply because it does good works.

Hey, if charitable support is all we writers and journalists can get for digging and chasing, it's for a worthy cause.

- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Which Media Died Last Night?

First it was direct mail dying. Now it’s email.

Uber-blogger Jason Baer reports hearing lots of talk that email is gasping its last. "Every conference I've been at, and at least 10 blog posts I've read this year, have proclaimed the death of email." As Mark Twain famously said, “The reports of [said] death are greatly exaggerated.”

Baer rightly notes that “... [electronic communication] isn’t a zero some game.. you have to have an email address to sign up for a social network. Further, most of my social network alerts are delivered by email.” Nicely said, Jason (so maybe it's more like email is evolving into everybody's online real ID?) Not quite yet. When Jason asked his Twitter homies what they check first in the morning (email, Twitter, or voice mail), 76% said email was still their first touch point.

Meanwhile, amid the funerals, there also are rumors of pregnancies (GoogleWave) and recent births (Bing). Seems like media life is cycling faster than the fruit fly.

The long and short of it is this: a lot is happening and everyone is predicting something, but, like Heraclitus observed, nobody is in a position to step twice into the digital river, let alone say where it's going to fork or converge. Me? I'm just trying to keep my footing.

p.s. I think I heard that journalism is dead, too. Can somebody tell me where that funeral was? I want to send regrets.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, June 8, 2009

What are we afraid of? Everything. And That’s the Good News.

Yesterday, Christopher Leonard reported that people are so afraid of losing their jobs they’re taking on extra work without pay or complaint.

During the week of March 17, 2007, Hitwise reported that Google searches were focused on the following big fears: flying, intimacy, the dark, death, spiders, driving, love, god, success, and being alone. Just imagine how much more terrified we are now, two Wall-Street-bruised years later.

Fear also dictates what we buy .. which leads to the burgeoning art of neuromarketing, where science and sales intersect. Last October, Martin Lindstrom published Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. In a radio interview, Lindstrom told Leonard Lopate that 85% of all human decisions are taking place in the subconscious mind, which -- no surprise -- reeks of fear.

Scaremongering works really well in political discourse. “Commercials for politicians have been shown to work best when fear is the main topic," Lindstrom promises. In fact, “Fear is the main drive in our life.”

But what about sex as a consumer motivator? Lindstrom says no. “Sex is a major human behavior driver, yes, but [when sex is used in advertising] we become so over-whelmed in our brain by these images that we forget the brand!" (Note: When scantily clad imagery does work – like in the Calvin Klein commercials – Lindstrom says it’s mere controversy, not sex, that is selling the brand.)

Your assignment for today – should you choose to accept it [and you’d better accept it, if you know what's good for you..] is to scare somebody. And don’t worry. It should be pretty easy.

- Scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bye Bye Mass Market: So Now What?

In his June 2 Buzz Bin, Jeff Jarvis notes that “The new Detroit isn’t Detroit.” Blogging about the shift from global to local, Jarvis says, “The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches.” Marc Gunther, senior writer at Fortune, said the same thing in 2006.

So, if mass market and mass culture are dead, then mass marketing also is finished. The following developments offer a few small clues to what may be ahead:
-scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three Ways To Out A Social Media Hack

The 2009 Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook explosion has blown the minds of many CEOs and marketing managers. I’m picking up an attitude that seems to say: “We’ve gotta get into this social media thing and we’ve gotta do it now.” But how?

Most corporate managers know very little [nothing?] about what it takes to succeed with social media. It’s not their job. Many decision makers aren’t even sure what social media is, let alone what it’s supposed to accomplish. They do know, however, that “Everybody is doing it.” (Remember what your parents said when you told them “everybody’s doing it"? Right…. Big whoop.)

Still, being left out is scary and -- if everybody’s doing it: “How hard can it be? I mean, it’s like putting up a website, right? We’ll just get somebody to set it up for us and that will be that.”

To protect the innocent, I’m not going to name names, but I will tell you, specifically, that yesterday I ran across somebody who scared me breathless. Out there in social media land I ran across a social media hack – a really incompetent “consultant” -- who is mining corporate insecurities for all they’re worth. The consultant’s offer is simple: “Don’t worry about a thing. [For a fee], I’ll set-up your blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter presence. You’ll be all set!” This person's work is shoddy, careless, ill-researched, meandering, horribly written, and -- worst of all -- designed to "promote" the client. At least one organization is already paying for this “service.” Ouch.

I figure where there is one social media hack, there are others. So, as a writer, editor, marketer, and program manager with many years experience -- as well as somebody who witnessed, first-hand, the travesties and exploitations of an earlier "latest thing": desktop publishing -- I feel compelled to cite my own short list of warning signals. I hope these will help an over-wrought manager identify who’s for real in social media and who’s … well, a fraud. Here ya go.

If the “consultant” you’re talking to is guilty of any of the following, run to the nearest exit:

1. Says social media will get you more business. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Social media’s primary function has little to do with getting more business or touting the services/products you offer. Your website does that. Social media is about communicating with your current and prospective customers. It’s about listening and sharing. At the risk of being too “new age” here, social media is an expression of the heart and spirit of your business. Blogging or Twittering to sell something – or even to demonstrate how great you are -- not only defeats the purpose of social media, it makes your company look silly. Customers today are very smart. We’ve been exposed to the “big lies,” and we’re not about to accept hyperbole, puffery, and advertising "claims." We do know when we’re being manipulated, so don’t try it.

2. Can’t explain precisely what your social media program should accomplish. Maybe you don’t know what you’re supposed to get out of Twitter and blogging, but your social media expert should. It's not enough to merely give you a "presence." That presence must do you proud! After listening to your vision for your organization, a consultant should be able to describe in detail a plan to augment your vision with social media. No generalities, please.

3. Can’t write a twit (and I mean that in the broadest sense). If you don’t know how to judge good writing yourself, ask an editor or writer you trust to read the consultant’s own blog and give a candid opinion (he does have a blog … doesn’t he?)

Anything as new [and strange] as Twitter is a tough call for management. We'll need to do some research before we trust our corporate reputations to somebody with the power to make us look really stupid. So, if you aren’t a social media expert (and why should you be?), I suggest spending some time with the following folks who really are experts. You may not be able to afford their fees, but, thankfully, they share much of what they know for free .. which, of course, is social media at its best.

Top 5 corporate blogging mistakes and how to avoid them [from David Meerman Scott]

Ten elements every company blog should have
[from Mack Collier]

Ten ways bloggers can use Twitter [from Live Crunch]

450 tips, tricks, and how to Twitter list [from LiveCrunch]

Write like a blogger [from Seth Godin]

- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Four Rules of Good Blogging

A friend suggested that perhaps an organization she belongs to should start a blog. “Who would write it?” I asked. She thought maybe a group of folks involved in the organization could share the burden. I had five questions:
1. Will they be able to resist promoting their own business in the process?
2. Will they be transparent and blog about real stuff that’s actually happening?
3. Will they be willing to share perspectives with which others in the organization might disagree?
4. Will they leave out puffery and hyperbole?
5. Will they share information of interest to readers, even when that information promotes a competing organization?

This conversation made me think about the attributes that infuse the blogs I love.

Rule One: Avoid self-promotion. Anybody who blogs in order to blow their own horn will quickly turn off any audience. As an editor who sees a lot of press releases, I hate it when an organization describes itself as “the leading” this-or-that. In the 2009 Zeitgeist, consumers really don’t like hyperbole. Instead, we prefer subtle marketing messages that maybe don’t use words at all [Kia’s “Soul Hamsters” TV commercial is a superb example].

Rule Two: Share the genuine self. This doesn’t mean disclosing personal information (though some bloggers do that successfully). Since each of us is unique, each of us can bring something different to the discussion. People are most interested in other people, so if you’re genuine – if you let us know who you are -- yes, we really, truly want to hear what YOU have to say.

Rule Three: Don’t regurgitate. There’s nothing new under the sun, so some of us are certain to cover the same topics and events. But at least we can infuse our blogs with a personal perspective, and then support that view with research and links to other authorities.

Rule Four: Spread the word. The very gifted Charlene Kingston exemplified what it means to spread the word when she blogged about how to become a copywriter and featured another writer’s ebook: Julie Roads How To Become A Successful CopyWriter. Very generous, very useful.

- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It’s From Brain To Computer To Tweet!

Look ma, no hands! Adam Wilson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison biomedical engineering doctoral student has developed a brain-to-computer interface system that lets him Tweet without a keyboard. Wilson wears an electrode-studded cap wired to a computer and ”thinks” about the letters he wants to choose. The result goes out as a Tweet. Wilson isn’t the only student of brain-computer interface, but it's fun to watch the video of him Tweeting. Even more impressive is the Emotiv Systems headgear for computer human interaction that's been wowing folks since 2007. Still in beta, a 2009 release is projected for the headset that USAToday reported will cost about $300, and the 803 fans and gamers who follow Emotiv-Epoc on Facebook are eager to try it out.

- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo