Wednesday, 16 December 2009

It's Your Obligation To Make It Better.....

I watched Julie & Julia the other day on a flight there and back from Washington. I really enjoyed the film. Why? Because Julia Child and Julie Powell (and Nora Ephron for that matter) are originals.

It's been sitting with me every since. I can't explain except to say, that I think that it's just such a rare thing. To be an original. And if you think about this whole Web 2.0 thing, when everyone's littlest thought or latest photo can be published without efforts beyond pushing a button, it's got to somehow make you think that it's going to be harder and harder to find true originality.

Slidehshare, the blogosphere, experts on every subject that is related to the word's so chalk a block filled with imitators, chart creators and general wanna bees. People who take other people's ideas without any reference to the original thought - and by the time the third party person four degrees away starts quoting them, it's like they've actually said it and not say, Marshall McLuhan, or some obscure sociologist that I've never heard of, who in fact actually did.

I've heard the phrase before that it's ok to copy someone, as long as you make it better. And I guess after all that's exactly what I'm trying to say. It is ok to copy someone. But, it is (especially if you aren't going to give the original creator any credit) your OBLIGATION to make it better.

So i say to you, to any of you who care to listen. Make it better.

I dare you.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Stories & Finding The Heart in Social Media

I've been thinking about storytelling quite a bit lately. It seems to be the new buzz. The new positioning. The new way old companies are trying to sell what they do in a networked way.

And let's be clear. I love storytelling. I love the idea of storytelling. I love the role that storytelling plays in our culture. I believe that storytelling has an important role within the context of an overall strategy for digital marketing.

But I don't think storytelling can be the heart of a Social Media approach. Why? I found this quote from the Head of ZeusJones that I love...

The web isn’t just a communications medium, it is a medium for interacting with people. Storytelling is inherently one-way, in fact, the main use for stories in the history of humans has been to teach. Using the Web for teaching and one-way dissemination of information are a waste its talents
And he is right.

Storytelling Is Us Talking To You About Us In An Entertaining Way

It can't be any other way because that's why storytelling is:

- Stories are narratives
- Stories are used for education, preservation of culture, to instill moral values and to elicit and disseminate information and knowledge

There are times we need to tell a story. Long form video (with a great Social bent), content in the form of audio, text, photos all contribute to tell a great story. But it's still all about us. How do we become about something more? Something that maybe involves YOU?

From Stories To Memes To Movements

It's not enough to tell a story. Entertaining people online is TABLE STAKES. If you want to stay relevant you have to be more, take a stand, risk with your customers.

Igniting Movements

To create deeper meaning, we have to stop being about need states and start connecting to a deeper core.

Four Elements To Any Movement according to Paul McEnany who has been working on this framework for a while include:

- Connecting to something fundamental which lies at the core belief system of customers

- Take that insights and tie it back to your Brand. Connect to something deeper and make it meaningful through storytelling (see storytelling has a role)

- Find the shared ideal (what some call in injustice frame) that is a collection of ideas and symbols that illustrate the significance of the challenge and how you can collectively come together to alleviate it

- People don't follow or join Brands that don't matter. You need the credible, authentic knowledgeable leader who is believable, honest, creative and fallible

Tying those elements together are what are going to make something more than a story. More than just entertainment. But about something bigger and greater that is co-created between a brand and their customers. And that's what I think we should all be striving for.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Harry Rosen's Blog & Understanding the Dynamics of Slow Social Media

Mondoville linked to an article today talking about the #FAIL of Harry Rosen's blog efforts. As part of an overall campaign urging Canadian men during these difficult economic times to have confidence, Harry Rosen started a blog. The blog had a few videos by prominent Canadians (Rob Guenette of Taxi, and Porter Airlines CEO Robert Deluce).

I had actually gone to the site myself but apparently, I was only 1 of 1000 people leading Harry Rosen's Director of Marketing Sandra Kennedy to say:

"Only about 1,000 people had visited the blog by the end of the campaign, making it an embarrassing and expensive flop."

I have to say, I don't think the tactic here is to blame. I think the bigger challenge that many marketers are going to have to face is the fact that you can't build a Social Media presence (whether that is a blog, Twitter presence or Faceook fan group) quickly enough to employ a Social strategy for a short term campaign.

I wrote a post a while back about how "Slow and Steady Wins the Marketing Race" and Mitch Joel has a post called "In Praise of Slow" that I've linked to before.

The concept is simple. Meaningful marketing isn't a sprint anymore. It's a marathon.

Both posts essentially have the same theme. There are some types of marketing that require time (like utilizing Social Media). Why?

- Because it's about getting to know each other
- Because it's about providing value over time
- Because you are not the star and I'm not your fan
- Because my participation contributes to your success
- Because Social Media is not a broadcast channel and the dynamics are different
- Because ecosystems are organic and relationships can't be created they have to emerge over time

Community is about curation and that doesn't happen over night regardless of your new campaign and a communications calendar time line.

So did Harry Rosen's blog fail? Maybe it did. But maybe it didn't have to. And while their lesson learned was "that their customers are too busy running the world to stop and read blogs" I don't buy that. The real lesson here should be in the effort required for Social and the underlying dynamics of Slow Social Media.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Media Spend Gets Funneled Beyond The Promise

e-marketer came out with a new study "Social Media Brand Buying And Beyond" (Catchy title!) that had some really interesting stats in it. Firstly, all the clients out there concerned that they aren't moving fast enough and don't know what's going on? Well not to worry. You are in great company as many executives are feeling the same.

But the chart that I thought was the most interesting was this one that shows a huge decline in the belief that TV drives brand building has decreased by 16% (and newspapers by 17% - oh poor newspapers!).

It's interesting to me because it really depends on what one means by brand building. Is awareness building the brand? Because TV is still the best tool to build mass awareness from a purchase funnel perspective. But that mass passive media message in TV is all about a promise. What marketers and executives seem to be finally acknowledging is that a PROMISE is no longer enough. In a digitally empowered world you have not only promise but DEMONSTRATE. As Peter always said "interactive media becomes an EXPERIENCE of the brand". And ultimately that's what builds trust, deepens engagement and creates longer term value whether that be a experience be in-store, with a customer service rep, a community manager, or within digital media spaces online.

Monday, 21 September 2009

In the past year, I've had a really close friend whose Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's one of those things that until it touches you, you can't imagine the horrible impact that something like that has not only on the person who is experiencing it, but on their entire immediate and extended family. From what I've seen, it's just a terrible process of helplessness as they watch someone they've known as a wonderful intelligent and connected person starts to disappear right before their eyes and they can't do anything about it.

Today, Jordan Banks launched 1mtweets in memory of his grandparents. Trying to get 1m tweets and have those that do donate $1 to the cause.

I've always loved the Web particularly as a means of social change and now I"ll add 1m Tweets to my list of great examples. Check it out yourselves and spread the word.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Those Who Can Do And Write Books About It

When I got an earlier copy of Mitch Joel's book, Six Pixels Of Separation . At the time, he told me that it really wasn't a book for 'people like me' but hoped I'd enjoy it anyway. And just to be clear, I think what he meant by 'people like me' was that with my 13 yrs or so of experience in digital marketing, I might find the book too simple perhaps. Or not insightful or filled with new ideas?

Well, Mitch knows I love to debate and challenge him on a good day so I'll do it again here. Rather than not liking the book, I loved it. Why?

It's not that the ideas were earth shattering for me. It they were, I'd be nervous to keep my job. But what i loved about the book and why i think every digital marketer should read it, is Mitch's no nonsense style that puts a lot of very complicated and sometimes hard to understand concepts into really simple terms. Similarly to how I felt after seeing Mitch speak, I find myself often using both his examples and his manner of telling stories when speaking to my clients.

On top of that, I also plan to buy the book for about five entrepreneurs I know who are all small business owners looking to market themselves online.

Net net, I highly recommend you grab a copy whether you be sophisticated digital marketer or a newbie looking to expand your marketing tool set. And it's simply a MUST READ if you have your own business and want to learn how to market yourself online.

Those who can do AND they apparently write books about it too. Congratulations Mitch!

DISCLOSURE: Even though Mitch is one of my bosses I wouldn't have bothered to write this if I didn't mean it. I just woulda not said anything and hoped he didn't notice :)

Friday, 7 August 2009

Real Mobile Web? How About A Regular Old Fake One?

I just came back from the cottage which is its own little island somewhere in the middle of nowhere, six hours by car from Toronto. The weather was awful. Lots of rain. Lots of mosquitoes. But like the troopers that we are, we made the best of it. The 9month year old did great. Happy as a clam singing away in his baby chair watching the rain fall come down as if it was an episode of baby Einstein.

To make us all feel better (the non-self-entertained babies) I thought I would bake a peach pie. We had the perfect peaches. And made a special trip for some butter from the watershed. And with all that effort and expectation, I realized that I couldn't quite remember the measures for the pastry.

No problem right? The mobile web. So i pull out my trusty cell phone to do a little mobile surfing.

Now this is not as easy as it sounds. Cell phone reception is sketchy at best and email only downloads a few times a day. To get the browsing capabilities it's a careful balance of angles and acrobatics as I stand on one leg on a rock that sits just off the front of the main cabin with my hands stretched upwards to get a signal.

As you can imagine, once i get Google up on my screen, I'm pretty happy and want to get my recipe information as quickly as possible as to not lose my reception momentum. I plug what I'm looking for and what do you think I get? Well, to say the least, the worst bunch of impossible to browse on a mobile phone websites you have ever seen. Downloading links after links that seem to go in mobile circles never quite landing at a simple page with my simple pastry for my potentially mood changing pie.

Read a post today about someone wanting a 'real mobile web', but dammit, i'd just be happy with a regular old fake one.

Just in case you're wondering, I winged the pastry. It wasn't half bad and the mood improved greatly.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

I'm Just Not That Into You!

Do you ever get the feeling that brands get all hot and heavy setting up their community and engagement strategies only to turn around and say just a few months later, "I"m just not that into you"?

It goes something like this. Like most relationships, it all starts off wonderful and exciting. The honeymoon phase. The press release comes out. Community engagement! Supportive tools to empower our customers! @twitter customer service!

Amazing. Who knew? I sign up. I follow you. I get right into it. I start to expand our relationship and feel like we are going some where together.

But then...after a while it just seems like, you're not calling. You're not writing. No response to my emails. Waiting on hold for what seems like hours. The promises of brilliant new functionality to support my needs never happens.

What was a fabulous start to a great relationship somewhere along the line just seemed to go away. When did i stop being your priority? And after all that personalized information i gave to you? You asked for my commitment and engagement, what about you?

I've heard from a bunch of people lately that they would prefer not to get into the social media game if they aren't going to do it well.

I couldn't agree with them more. Community engagement has to be a long term and sustainable proposition. You can't just start a community and then abandon it. Turning around after a year or two and saying, "I'm just not that into you" simply isn't an option.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Bitter Sweet Sale Of Oponia

It's been a bitter sweet couple weeks for me. As some of you may or may not know, I had a start up called oponia networks. After trying to get funding for over a year, we ended up like many start ups having to shut it down. However, I always knew that what we set out to do (and technologically succeeded at) was something important.

Vanessa (our CTO) posted our original vision for oponia on her blog:

"In a nutshell, it just bugged me that every computer and every device was not actually a node on the Web. Despite the fact that personal computers in particular are more than powerful enough to act as web servers, the physical and logical topology of the Internet as deployed relegates most devices to being web clients only.

The Web 2.0 phenomenon has improved the capabilities of lowly web-clients, allowing them to contribute content as well as consume it. This is a great thing, and I don’t mean any insult by saying that by itself it just isn’t enough.

I wanted a Web that was end-to-end. Where every device could provide as well as consume web services and content. Where every shared resource had a resolvable URL.

Just because your laptop or your phone don’t have the full power and connectivity of the “great server cloud in the sky” there’s still plenty you can do with them if they’re able to join the network in an active capacity.

So that’s what we set out to do."

Today Opera came out with its own version of our oponia techology called Unite that they are calling their reinvention of the Web. Techcrunch thinks "this is a really good idea at its core."

Well, VC's in Canada didn't agree. So sadly, we were unable to ever see our vision come to life in the way we knew it could.

And ironically, it was just last week we finalized the sale of our core technology to another start-up. Hopefully they will succeed in the machine to machine device market where we were unable to in the consumer market...not only because I would like to see our supportive and loyal investors get their investment back but because I've always believed in the kick ass platform that we created.

So thanks to everyone who participated in our journey. And thanks to all the supportive messages I've gotten today about Opera. Don't know what else to say really - times like these the only thing left to do is quote The Grateful Dead.

Man, "what a long strange trip its been"

Saturday, 30 May 2009

omg You're Like Such A Loser: Competition & Curating Your Community

I love Tumblr. Maybe it's because I work in a creative field where visual design is so integral, but discovering the tumblr community has been a blast. To some extent, it's my own personal image/txt/video repository. A snap shot of things I have found and loved. I actually think if someone wants to get to know me without meeting me on a more emotional level, my Tumblr site is the place to go.

A few weeks ago, Tumblr introduced something they called Tumblarity. Tumblarity, simlar to popularity, is a rating system that tells you where you are in relationship to other Tumblr logs as far as how many followers you have, how many people have reblogged or liked your Tumblr posts. etc.

Ok. I get it. They want us to use it more. They want us to start getting all competitive and trying to get our Tumblr site higher up on the top 100 list. But here's my problem. Competition has nothing to do with Tumblr. In fact, I would say it's more of a sharing community.

The Yahoo pattern library (h/t to Craphammer) on community says it like this:

"When a new or existing community requires a reputation system, the designer must pay careful consideration to the degree of competitiveness the community ought to exhibit. Haphazardly introducing competitive incentives into non-competitive contexts can create problems and may cause a schism within the community."

When competition is introduced into a sharing community what you are trying to achieve may have the opposite affect. In the case of Tumblr, I've noticed people are reblogging less and I sometimes just feel like a loser when my Tumblarity goes from 100 to 10 over night. This hasn't added to my experience at all and I for my part just try to ignore it.

The lesson? Know the dynamics of the community you are curating. And create features and functionality that will support it vs. distract from it.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Network Is My Teacher

It's been fascinating watching my daughter's use of the Internet in the context of her eduction. People talk about Un-skool, homeschooling, kids being the new teachers etc.

Cee is 13. She has a really big science test she's studying for. She's being doing the traditional things. Writing flash cardy type things, rereading her notes. etc. But the other day she came downstairs all excited. She decided to look for online study guides on her various test subjects and came across this:

An American teacher who has turned the science curriculum into some catchy tunes and posted them all on Youtube. Of course Cee immediately posted this to her Facebook and next thing you know, a whole bunch of them are singing the photosynthesis song getting ready for their test.

Just one example of the future of education? Small I know. But implications over time could be so much larger. No longer being forced to learn only from your own class, you bring your entire context and the network to the learning process. Students become teachers, teachers become study groups. Mashed up, upside down, backwards and sideways. Just how every great transformation begins.

...oh and as for her test? Haven't heard yet but she's pretty sure she did really well. And yes, she said for sure that the songs helped.

photo credit:

Monday, 27 April 2009

Cluetrainplus 10: Thesis #95

Thoughts on old school management:

- Top down management with the belief that knowledge is a tool for domination
- Belief that the system can be engineered
- That marketing efforts can be predetermined and have desirous effects
- The notion that they must negate value that can’t be directly quantified
- Belief that traditional linear levers of control can be applied to a networked ecosystem

But we know that the power of networks has changed people's behaviour. It has altered purchase paths and processes. Technology has become biology and our standard path for doing business has become less and less effective.

Traditional constructs do not change quickly or easily. Resistance is everywhere. The belief in centralized control mechanisms reigns supreme. It's at the core of our systems. It's at the centre of our belief.

Why? It's core to our DNA - our eduction, our finacial systems regardless of the fact that those very systems haven't been able to keep pace with the new networks speed of evolutionary change.

Old models need to be replaced by new ones. Networks necessitate that we change. Whether we like it or not. This is a radical cultural shift that goes to the core of our beliefs and values. It's a new world view that embraces connections big and small, weak and strong. It's a focus not on ourselves as individual businesses but understands our role within the context of the larger whole. The centre of our success is intertwined and connected to the collective.

How should we translate this? Some initial thoughts:

- Corporations will need to increasingly accept that they are part of the system and not outside of it. They are one node. Some bigger than others. But nodes nevertheless.
- As such, hierarchy as we have understood it, no longer applies and therefore neither does top down approaches
- The networked ecosystem cannot be controlled or managed and therefore strategies need to embrace the notion of "*KNOW" control (reference Mitch Joel)
- We must embrace the idea of open and understand that there are no boundaries
- We must accept that this is an ecosystem and as such, this system is alive and constantly evolving - change emerges rather than is prescribed
- We need to embrace and understands that as the system changes, we all must change

What does this mean for what we do day in and day out? Hum..not sure if I know for sure. I'm continually trying to figure it out. Some thoughts I've had and picked up from others along the way include:

-Your customers are your creative team
-Everything is a beta
-Open source your brand, products and services
-Change your processes to embrace agile planning models
-Set your content free
-Understand that there are no rules there are rather consequences for actions
-To evolve together, you need to get closer and figure out for yourself and your business, what closer means
-Figure out what you are good at and embrace your contribution in the context of the larger ecosystem
-View our success and measure ourselves not only by what we take out of the system, but what value we give
-Focus on co-operation and co-creation vs. competition

Of course you don't have to. You can continue instead with the status quo. But that's when it's not a bad time to remember Cluetrain thesis #95 which was the inspiration for this post:

We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.


This blog post is an ode to "Cluetrainplus10 is a project to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the manifesto. On Tuesday April 28, 95 bloggers around the world will each write a blog post on one of the 95 theses."

photo credits:

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Paraphraseitis & The Quest For An Original Thought

Have you ever looked at a really fancy diagram in a blog post or slideshare presentation and thought, wow....that's really smart. Digital thought leaders using new phrases I've never seen in a context that appears to be completely original. Words like 'experience vertical design' 'cross-calibrated networked scenrios ' 'transformative media types' ...the list goes on and on.

And then did you take second look. And think...

Hold on a second...

They've just renamed stuff.

They just called marketing planning some new fandangled digital phrase.
They've just paraphrased what was formally known as a creative brief.

Hold on a second, what's going on here?

And then you realize that this isn't a new thought at all. It isn't original. It's something far more sinister.

It's what I call "paraphraseitis".


Paraphraseitis: In the quest for an original thought and personal brand building, an expert, usually in the field of digital communications, renames something old and attempts to turn it into something new. They often then put it into diagram form, and distribute it through social media and RSS feeds thus getting notoriety through retweets and blog posts cheering their new great word/phrase discovery

What's the real issue here isn't that it bugs me (which it does) but that it actually is a detriment to what i do every day. It confuses people. It makes clients think they don't know 'what's going on with this digital stuff' when actually, they do.

It makes them think that there is some magic that they don't have powers in that only these shiny new Internet experts with their new diagrams, fancy new processes and fantabulous new phrases can explain.

Here's my personal ask. If there is already a phrase for it, let's use that. If there is a job that is close already, let's just use that word instead of making up a new one. And if it isn't an original thought? That's ok. Just reference what it really is. No one will judge you for it.

As for the quest for a real original thought? If you don't have to work hard for something, it's probably not worth having.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Community Is The Service

I used to love friendfeed. Essentially friendfeed is what I thought of one of the first 'lifestreaming' services. In their words they call their service one that

"enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends."

For a while there, friendfeed was a daily habit. Really it was becoming more of an obsession than anything else. I had discovered lots of interesting new people. My own network was starting to use it. And, the discussions there seemed to be more thoughtful and provoking than ones i had seen other places.


Something weird changed. I don't know if it was the type of community that landed there. But, firstly, people went from really interesting to the banal. And I"m not talking Twitter banal. I'm talking whole conversations on people saying, good morning. Hello. Hi. How are you. On and on it went.

The other thing was that I found, no one on friendfeed was ever commenting on my links or blogposts. Maybe i'm just boring. I can accept that. However, in my other communities, like Twitter and Facebook, I consistently get feedback, comments and have interactions that enrich the experience.

Friendfeed just seemed to get really cliquey. There actually seemed to me to be a cool crowd and the rest of us just weren't invited. There was very little reaching out. Very little interaction outside of a core group. And over time, I just got plain bored. I checked in with a few friends and they all seemed to have a similar experience as i did.

I still go from time to time. Check out to see if anythings changed. But it hasn't.

Mike Arrington
over at Techcrunch thinks the service might be too complicated and that's what's limiting its growth.

I don't think that's what the problem is. To me it's the community that makes the service not the other way around. And it's the community that's the problem with friendfeed. And no feature set is going to be able to fix that. Coolest app or not.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ode To Ada Lovelace Day: A Shout Out To My Two Favorite King Penguins

It's Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate women in technology. And to mark the day I wanted to give a shout out to two women in technology i know in particular.

Someone once wrote to me that they thought having a woman as a CTO was like seeing a King Penguin in the Arctic - very rare and very cool.

I have had the rare pleasure to work with two such women. Vanessa Williams and Tisha Kanfi.

Vanessa was the tech director at MacLaren Interactive in its hayday and is the CTO and co-founder of our start-up oponia networks.

Tisha Kanfi is the technical director of Twist Image and as the important role to ensure that our creative minds will never be hampered and instead, enabled by technology.

And oddly, today of all days the two of them got to meet. I would have liked to have been a fly on that particular wall.

Happy Ada Lovelace day. And if you have the time, do flip through my postings tagged women as many of them are about women in technology... :)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Social Influence & The Future Of Marketing

Three Spheres IIImage via Wikipedia

In my post, "My Network Is My Search Engine" I focused on the important of social networks in terms of content filtering. But the truth is, that with the fast paced proliferation of social networks, it's only a matter of time before our networks are completely ubiquitous.

What happens if social networks become "like air?". What changes will happen to our world if they are integrated into every, e-commerce, blogs etc. etc. While it's still in it's early phase, semantic services are leading the way to create this social level on top of everything...and services like Facebook or Google friend connect are attempting to link our networks to the very fabric of the way we utilize and experience the commercial Web.

What will this mean for marketers? We know that clients recognize that word of mouth is important but they often still view the world in terms of mass viral vs. influence. At SXSW Charlene Li showed mock-ups that had 'Amazon in the future' where you could filter recommendations based on your personal network vs. the general public. And many people have been looking at spheres of influence (individuals, close ties, weak ties, friends of friends) and how they might change the way we use the Web for a while now.

But maybe it's time we stopped just imagining that this is some far off future. I mean how far off do we really think this is? 1 year? 2? 3 at the very most and that means companies that want to leverage this as a competitive opportunity need to consider how they are approaching social ecosystem strategies today.

If social networks become part of everything tomorrow, how would what you do every day change? I've already have a whole bunch of ideas and frameworks in my head including of extensions of my Green Man Marketing presentation. Now the hard job. Applying and refining them.

We may not know for sure what the future will look like, but one thing I'm sure of, social influence will be a cornerstone for the future of marketing.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Personal Branding & The Art Of Engagement

Classic "one-knee" proposal, ca.Image via Wikipedia

In these tough times, a lot of people are getting laid off. Even in digital, I'm hearing of more and more people who are moving around.

Just the other day, I got a linkedin invite from someone who had been a digital strategist who was looking to connect. I won't name names because it's not that important but it struck me that the strategies we build for brands online are ones we tend to ignore for our own personal brands.

I mean, I didn't personally know this guy/gal. And yet, s/he wanted to go straight from nothing to personal connection.

And you gotta wonder, if this is how they approach personal branding, how will they be as a digital strategist? Well the truth is, they might be a brilliant but I'll never find out because I'm not likely to be interested in them now.

There are probably a lot of people out there now looking to connect and network for current or future employment opportunities. So here are some suggestions on how to go about networking in the online space....

1. Start following the people who you want to network with

Pretty much we all want to know who is following us so if you follow me, i'll likely go to your link/twitter/tumblr account and see who you are. It drives awareness so if nothing else, your name will be somewhat familiar to me.

2. Start a blog
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking. Blogs are sooooo 2005. But the truth is, i've hired or contacted people for jobs just based on their blog content. You can tell a lot about a person by the blog. It drives familiarity.

3. Link to things I say that you think are smart (well ok, if you think anything I say is smart)
Bloggers are notoriously sycophantic and will almost always check on who is linking to them. More importantly however, if you start to talk about something I'm saying, it gives me an idea of what you think is important and how you think. I might even make the first move and comment on your blog especially if you are being provocative. And thus we have our first moment of engagement. And even better for you, if i make the first move.

4. Work on on-going participation

Now I know who you are. I'm getting an idea of how you think. You follow my blog and likely I probably follow yours too. Maybe you comment from time to time. Maybe you reply to something I"ve said on Twitter. We are definately on the road to getting to know each other.

5. Engagement

At some point one of us might make a move to be more officially and personally connected. And that would be the time to invite me to linkedin. I have a general rule that I don't accept friend or linkedin requests from strangers. But you're not a really a stranger anymore.

Any more suggestions? Feel free to plop them in the comments. Come on, don't be shy. Make the first move. Let's get to know each other better ;-)

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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Building Community From The 'Outside In'

In the new connected digital age, corporations are looking to employ social tools to their business.

Go no further I say, then to see how start-ups are redefining the relationship between brands and their customers/users.

Meet the community manager. What used to be a not so important role within an organization, for start-ups it's often a hire that happens even before the chief marketing officer.


Everyone says word of mouth is key. But traditional thinking has you giving your agency a schwack of dough in order to create a fabulous WOM or dare i say it, VIRAL campaign. But that's only about brand awareness and maybe if done right, perception. However, influence and engagement are about much more. How do users of your products/services become advocates?

For start-ups with little or no advertising budgets, community isn't a nice to have, it's everything. And they're aggressive about it. That means not waiting and hoping that their community finds them, it means going out and finding their community in what I'll call an 'Outside In" approach.

What do I mean?

Well if you're a user of twitter do this test. If you are annoyed with the way a product or service works, twitter it and be sure to mention the company. Chances are the most response back you are going is from your followers agreeing or disagreeing with your point.

However, if you happen to be using a new start up product and mention something about them, chances are you will not only hear back from their community manager (e.g. Here Leigh try this link...or great suggestion Leigh I'll forward that to the team) but they will likely start following you as well.

I didn't need to find them. I didn't need to search for a phone number to a real person on the website. I didn't need to be on hold at a call centre costing both the company and me valuable time and money.

Instead they found me. And they find me every where they can. My blog. Twitter. FriendFeed. Wherever I am, they are right beside me.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking that's fine for start-ups but there's no way a large corporation can do that....Well think again. Dell has been doing it for a while now and according to various articles, they've seen positive ROI on a consistent basis.

The trick of course is to get beyond those smaller interchanges to fostering and empowering that community into something larger.

Outside In. I think it's the wave of the future.

Monday, 9 February 2009

My Network Is My Search Engine

We are always looking for the next big thing in search. I myself have written a number of posts on the subject (socially connected search, tagging search system).

Something I've noticed lately however, is that more and more my network is actually becoming my search engine. I don't have time to go through my 350 feeds every day and let's face it...on a good day maybe only about 20% of the newest posts are really all that interesting. So what's a girl to do?

Use the network at the filter of course. How?

Well firstly there is delicious. For the most part I only bookmark stuff that I think is really great or something I can use later. As well, there are a few people's feeds that I follow on a regular basis as people who find stuff that I might find interesting.

There is Google Reader. I regularly go to Mathew's Google reader and let him spend the time to sift through his gazillion feeds to find the stuff that is the most interesting. I mean after all, it's part of his job so he can spend the time at work to do it when i can't.

can work - particularly the feature that allows the most talked about links to come up to the top of the list.

Twitter and Facebook both are becoming filters where my network are kind enough to only tweet and link to the most interesting content. And Twitter in particular has become a place where I can ask a question and in no time flat have my questions answered in the form of links, referrals and juicy bits of insight.

I can't think of any others of the top of my head, but I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch of other services as well.

In our time starved world, where digital overload is starting to fry our brains, we need to remember that we can also use our network for good and let it become our own personal search engine.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

If The Medium Is The Message, What Is Toddlers & Tiaras Trying To Say?

I read an article in the Globe & Mail this morning about a St. Catherine's student who has started a facebook group to get the TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras removed. The basic premise of the show is following a group of small children go through their ups and downs of participating in kid pageants.

Having watched the show for context, I also found it offensive on a number of different levels the least of which is seeing a 4 year old in high heels, full make up a bikini shimming her stuff on stage. But TV being TV, my attitude has always been that I can just turn it off. If I don't like it, I won't watch it. I'm not big on censorship unless it constitutes hate which i don't believe is the case here.

But this is where the medium IMO plays a role. TV is a passive medium. I'm watching something that is edited, scripted and in general controlled. But what happens when that show has a website. And worse what happens when that website actually asks the audience - that's you and me - to participate ACTIVELY in judging these children.

Well that is exactly what is happening over at TLC's website. They have functionality where you and I can actually view and vote. In their words:

"You be the judge. Rate these pageant contestants"

Here's the problem. These aren't just any pageant contestants. These are children. Regardless of what I might think of the entire pageant industry, I don't think it's the same as you and I rating these children. And look at this photo...

Not one of these kids has made it past 5 out of 10. If the medium is the message, what do we think that the Toddlers & Tiara's website is trying to say?

Whether I like the show again, is besides the point. I don't believe in censorship but i think functionality like this goes way to far. These aren't adults who have consciously decided to be on American Idol. These are children.

What do you think?

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Reinvention Is The New Black (AKA Reinvent Or Die)

WARREN, MI - JULY 18:  General Motors vice cha...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

These days, it seems that Brands have been going from success stories to practically irrelevant over night. Given the speed of change, businesses can no longer rest on their laurels or assume that was is relevant in today's economy will have any meaning two years from now.

But large companies are rarely prepared to reinvent themselves. When they start to see signs of decline, they tend to follow a pattern of hiding from reality and seeking change in small increments. A strategy that while often helps everyone keep their jobs in the short term, usually means a potential business crushing crisis down the road.

We've seen this with the big 3 automotive companies. And even now, most of the discussion is around improving what they already do. Hybrid cars. Wages in line with competitors. Better design. It isn't about what companies like General Motors could be in the future given their distribution centres, manufacturing prowess, and communications networks.

I saw a documentary a while ago on the design house Hermes. At one time Hermes made saddles. You can imagine, this was a big of a problem when the automobile was introduced. Sure Hermes could have focused on better saddles or trying to stop technology in its tracks (ala today's music industry) but instead what they did was shift their entire company. Take their brand which was known for meticulous hand made quality and start making exclusive leather bags. From potential bankruptcy to brilliance.

This morning @ianlyons linked to an article that talked about when Twitter was conceived after the Odeo team determined there was too much competition in their space.

There are a number of companies I would love to see take a new viewpoint on what they do and reinvent themselves.

RIM comes to mind as a company that could crush their competition not by just coming out with parody products like the Storm but by taking the core of what they are successful at and applying that to new products and services beyond the handset.

What companies would you like to see reinvent themselves? What companies/industries do you think are on the brink of irrelevance if they don't take the road of radical change?

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Saturday, 24 January 2009

Why Digital Marketing Is Like Trying To Lose 10lbs.....

Over a year ago my brother David asked me to help him with some marketing. He's been in the vintage clothing business a long time and could see that with the market changes and the high Canadian dollar he was going to have to reinvent himself. He wasn't sure what direction he wanted to take his business in but he knew that for any venture he was going to consider, be it his own clothing company, a consultant in the vintage business, that building his personal brand was going to be key.

That's when he started his blog, "The Art of Vintage Leather Jackets". The blog focuses on the historical and cultural role of vintage leather. It's a pretty interesting blog and Dave always has unique and original takes on stuff.

This morning, I wanted to find read his latest post and went to Google and typed in "vintage leather jackets". And guess what? Dave's blog is now third in the Google search results. THIRD! I mean, how amazing is that? And what's even more amazing is the fact that there are all these companies who are not Dave, that presumably have more resources in people and money than him, ADVERTISING based on the key words 'VINTAGE LEATHER JACKETS'.

This leads me to the very simple question, why the hell aren't all of those companies blogging? I mean, it's free. It's not like it's a full time job although there is some effort involved. And that's when it struck me.

Things like blogging are a discipline. You can't just sluff it off to your ad agency (not if you want it to be successful). It's not a money thing, it's a time and effort thing. It's a determination thing. It's a focus thing.

That goes for community building, engagement, connection - you name it, digital marketing is often about effort.

That's why I think it's like losing 10lbs. It should be the easiest thing in the world to do. Eat less (Nicole tells me 1500 calories a day) and exercise more. That's it. But wouldn't you rather just buy a little blue "lose 10lbs" pill?

Sure you would.

Just as you probably prefer to buy a little blue "traditional advertising" pill for community engagement.

Only one problem with the little blue pills. They never work.

Just remember this, if Dave can do it, so can you. Ok, gotta go. I've got 10lbs of post baby birth weight to lose. ;-)

Photos credit:

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Variations On The Word Change

HP did a great commercial a few years back that had every moment in the world shown as a digital photograph. I thought it was brilliant because it captured how my daughter uses her camera perfectly. When Cee has her camera in her hand, her memories are extended into the digital space frame by frame. Her childhood point of view as a part of a memory stream captured in screen after screen.

And now more than ever, those memory streams are becoming part of a greater collective.

It struck me as I was watching both the inauguration ceremony with my children (one of whom feel asleep in my arms as Obama was being sworn in), on the TV and through CNN/Facebook as well as Twitter and the many services that were used to connect the disparate points on the Globe, that we were not only witnesses to an important moment in history but somehow differently than I have ever experienced, actually part of it. No longer just the observers but also living historians as participants that will significantly contribute to how these type of events will be remembered hundreds of years from now.

Whenever I think that the networked world I live in can't surprise me anymore...that I am immune to all the change, something comes along and knocks me on my ass in a way that makes me reevaluate everything. Yesterday, was one of those days. And i loved it.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Good Blogs Make Fart Noises

I have nothing really to say in this post - but I needed something to stop my prediction series because I've run out of ideas - and i liked the idea of a blog header that said something about farts (must be the new baby in the house - we are all about poos and farts)....

Quote of the Day:

"Good blogs are weird. Blogs make fart noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s. If this isn’t happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored, half-assing, or taking new medication."

- Merlin Mann

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Sunday, 11 January 2009

Prediction For 2009 #5: The New Networked Home

My friend Dave Chant is a major geek. Peter always calls him 'King of the Kids'. Daves just one of those guys - Mr. ahead of the curve and for no other reason then he loves figuring out how to do things better, faster, smarter. Dave's home has always been networked. I remember when the Xbox came out, Dave was the first in line to figure out how to use it with his TV, Computer, Stereo system yada yada.

But it isn't just the Dave's of the world that are doing this now. In my own home, we most recently got ourselves a Mac Mini and hooked it up in the living room. We haven't quite figured out yet how to get all the computers networked the same way Dave does but we'll get around to it.

What amazes me the most about it is how it's changed our media habits. We are just as likely to watch videos and TV content through the computer now as we are from the Cable or the DVD player. And i have to tell you, every time I get a new 'we've raised your rates again for no good reason' letters from Rogers Cable, it makes me that much more committed to networking my home and completely cutting them out of my content watching loop.

It's just a simple change but the implications could be profound - Not only will it change how we consume media content, but also influence what we are willing to pay for and spawn the proliferation of new services we will be looking for.

2009. The year of the new networked home.

update: A couple good links that are related to what I said above just out today content site

And an article on Boxee "Web TV That Makes Sense" (for anyone that didn't read it I also talked about Boxee in my first prediction for 2009, "The Rise Of The Presentation Layer"

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