Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Another 2012 Prediction (You Won’t Like It)

Luxuriate in the Fresh Air of a Wholesale Dump! Take in the Aroma of Original Content. Ahhhhh!

Yes, my friends, I’m talking about the murder of “content aggregation.” It's an early demise, I know, since aggregation just got born in 2011. But, if I have anything to say about it, "content aggregation" is going to wither and die in 2012. For somebody who's done a fair amount of "aggregation" this year, the prediction hurts. But it's inevitable.

Why? Because we Can't HANDLE it.

When Chris Brogan began unfriending people left and right in March, he called it getting rid of a mess.

Margie Clayman, too, is wondering if smaller social media might not be better social media.

The real issue, though, isn’t what you call it, or even how you do it. The nugget here is the sense of panic human beings are grappling with under the information tsunami. And "aggregation," which has the potential for exponential repeat, retweet, rehash, and regurgitate, has got to go.

A Case In Point
I got a brilliant e-newsletter from Brad and Steve at bscopes. I don't know why I read it-- I am way too busy to read any enewsletter -- except that it used the phrase "RSS bankruptcy" in the first sentence and alluded in the second paragraph to feeling a tremendous sense of relief at wholesale dumping of articles collecting dust in the reader.

I had to write to bscopes. “I don't think I've received your email before. I tend to throw stuff out, but this post caught my eye and I read it all the way through. You're right, information-choke is a HUGE problem and the "just throw it away" process doesn't work. I think part of it starts with a better email client coupled with, perhaps, the growing professions of "virtual assistant" (not kidding)."

But that was just a stab in the dark. The real solution lies with Brogan: Just turn it off.

Why Are Human Beings Reacting This Way?
Amid the “anxiety of not knowing” [something, everything, more, enough!], we find ourselves facing the reality that there is no way to know enough. Suddenly, this year, in 2011, as we drowned in the tsunami, we realized everything we don’t know. Fact is, we’ve never known… it’s just that we didn’t know we didn’t know (if you know what I mean).

There’s more. The more we delve into a topic, the more anxious we become about not knowing.
Well, how about crowd-sourcing, then? Can’t these other people tell us what to eat, think, feel, buy? No, because as soon as we start listening to crowd-sourced comments, we realize all that opinion is worth the paper it’s written on. There's just too much of it and nobody agrees anyway.

Instead, when we need to know, proactive researching is our best option. Sure, we'll come across a lot of junk. And, if we think it’s all relevant, we're a dead duck. So, we're going to need to use our own judgment.

With information as with everything else in life, less is more. I do believe that in 2012 many many of us will start by simply "turning it off" and then rebuilding: consciously, purposefully, intelligently. The skill of "curation" will be invaluable here, but aggregation is headed for the landfill.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Secret Ingredient In Zillow's Social Media Magic

How come Zillow does social media so well? Simple. They employ Grade A, top-notch writers churning out top-notch social media at every turn.

People have yakked about the folks who write copy for Groupon, but I think Zillow out does them. Groupon is self-conscious, insider-ish, and full of itself (sorry guys). but Zillow does what copy is supposed to do: It challenges us to open -- and read -- the social media envelope.

As a company, Zillow started with data in early 2005 and hit the Internet about a year later with info on millions of U.S. homes. Though Zillow hadn't turned a profit when it went public in July this year, shares of Zillow shot up 120% at the IPO. Not bad for a company operating in the industry that's experienced -- some would say caused -- the worst recession in history. If anything can kill the National Association of Realtors®, it's Zillow (no, I don't have stock in the company).

Even if Zillow goes under, I will always argue that they have one of the best social media efforts in the country. And the entire program is built on good writing.

Cases in point:

1. They know how to gossip. Zwillow knows that America is talking about and they find a great way to relate the latest buzz to real estate. Take the story that appeared front and center in the September 22 newsletter: Where Are They Now? Update on Some Guilty Pleasures.

2. They write killer headlines:
• Reasons to Friend (or Not) Your Tenants on Social Media Networks
• Strutting Their Stuff: Homes of Fashion Designers

3. Their tweets are must-click masterpieces.
• Have an open house coming up? Here's how to do it on Zillow. http://bit.ly/n4QcLs
• Zillow's Facebook Question of Day: Do you drink tap water, filtered or bottled in your home? http://on.fb.me/p4PTrx
• Can you buy a house when your current mortgage is upside down? http://bit.ly/pgimos
• Borum Hill rental: $3,100/month. Bedrooms: 0 -- But hey, its got bike storage
• Crazy times. See a home you can buy for the price of a car. http://bit.ly/mRJ9MW

4. Their content is USEFUL. Gossip isn't all Zillow has going for it. This is useful stuff. Here are just two examples
• Do you understand income tax considerations of rental properties?
• What to do if your home doesn't sell. http://www.zillow.com/blog/2011-09-21/what-to-do-if-your-home-doesn%E2%80%99t-sell/
• Moving? How many boxes will you need? Use our cool, new Moving Box Estimator Widget to find out. http://u.zillow.com/bEbN/
• How to protect yourself from rental scams. http://bit.ly/nhi6YE

5. Their Facebook page is fresh, interesting, and interactive. Just to "be there" is to join in. For example, how about these options to get involved and comment?
• Good morning, weekend warriors! Tell us your locale and present real estate status.
• Is there a home in your neighborhood that has been on the market forever? What do you think the reasons are?
• How is the water consumed in your home?
• What is the costliest home system/structure failure you’ve ever faced?

6. Zillow is out front in social media with its own YouTube channel. This one features Zillow's Performance Engineer talking about Zillow's performance on mobile apps. This is content sharing at its best.

6. What else, you ask? How about Zillow's new real estate blog, Curbed. Or in Zillow words, "For the first time, Curbed readers can search for local and national listings directly from Curbed National and all of Curbed’s city sites [Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.]. The Zillow search experience gives Curbed readers direct access to a comprehensive selection of real estate listings alongside Curbed’s witty and insightful coverage of the country’s most vibrant urban centers."

Yep, the copywriters are at it again. Who said words don't count? In Zillow's case, you can take them to the bank.

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's Bothering the Big Boys and Girls?

The Big Boys and Girls of Marketing -- that is the 150 online and direct marketers with at least $100M in annual revenue and the other 150 with $2B or more per annum -- are eager to turn data into action.

That's the #1 finding of Unica's latest Annual Survey of Marketers, -- and that's different from last year when the big concern was getting IT to tow the line in support of marketing needs.

Apparently, IT has been tamed (don't believe it), or at least is now less of a problem for marketing. And that's a good thing because -- in "rock-and-a-hard-place" terms -- marketers also believe that those cranky IT folks (technology) can ease their pain. Over half of respondents cited technology as the key to productivity.

Marketers also are desperate for the highly touted "integrated marketing suite" that Marketing Brillo blogged about in April and June.

So, where are the pitfalls? Marketers believe in interactive marketing, but aren't sure how to make it work. The roadblock is, once again and forever more, silos. All the reports we've seen at Marketing Brillo reveal silo-smashing as the top skill required for success. Meanwhile, fiefdoms are probably the most difficult for the tradition-ridden, established Big Boys and Girls to demolish. Lesson: If you're new, small, nimble, and quick, this is your chance to jump silos and grab market share.

More findings: Web data is highly prized, but -- as with all data -- it's tough to turn into action. The report calls it a "paradox" that 92% of marketers appreciate the value and importance of web data, but less than half can figure out how to apply data to customer analyses and campaigns. To Marketing Brillo, that seems less a paradox than a "duh!" For the data-eureka connection -- as with all discovery -- only genuine brilliance will cut it.

Email is another sore point. Seventy-five present of respondents say their email data is not integrated with other customer data and/or is a basic hand job. Marketers don't like paid search either and keyword management continues to frustrate.

Meanwhile, the star of 2010 -- social media -- has proved more problem than solution. The SocMed star still shines brightly among emerging marketing channels, but marketers aren't so enthusiastic this year, suggesting (says the report) "that we have passed the peak of inflated expectations and are focused on finding the value that social channels can yield." In the hyper-churning sea of social media, good luck with that.

In conclusion, it's probably safe to call Mobile Marketing the 2011 star. And yet, marketers acknowledge this exploding channel isn't well integrated either.

For more details and a numbers analysis, download the free report here. Note: Unica is an IBM company.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Early FourSquare "Fan" Strategy Gets Monetized

When FourSquare launched in March 2009, most consumers couldn't "get" why people would want to pinpoint their whereabouts. Twitter was full of "who cares?" commentary.

But FourSquare was smart. By wooing the early adopters with a competitive, one-up game of "Mayor," FourSquare got cool in the right places -- among techies -- real quick.

Today, the social game is poised for a higher paying purpose: commerce.

Now that Near Field Communications are getting closer, Four Square can easily graduate from game to get-down-to-business. As blogger Caitlyn Mayers sees it, there's lots of opportunity for location-based marketing to eat through the landscape. "Think about how this could change your experience at a concert or at a movie. You could purchase tickets for reserved seats, order food and drinks, and pay for it all without having to use more that just your cell phone."

How can a business leverage FourSquare and other location-based apps? In July, business people in Charlotte, North Carolina, were invited to a session titled "The Evolution of FourSquare Marketing." The panel suggested eight fundamentals to help business people think through the possibilities:

• Ask the right questions before leveraging FourSquare for your business.
• Experiment with FourSquare as a user first.
• Listen through FourSquare.
• Understand the basic marketing tactics of FourSquare (tips, specials, badges).
• Build offline community through FourSquare.
• Integrate FourSquare marketing efforts with your full marketing campaign.
• Train your staff to keep them "in the know."
• Promote your FourSquare marketing/specials.

The same month, American Express launched Go Social, a tool that enables retailers to integrate offers to consumers with Foursquare and Facebook.

Clearly, the potential is here -- and when American Express buys-in, the potential is hot.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo