Technology redefines categories and experience

7E99A285-9B1F-4D8B-B72E-036022AEBE12.jpgI was not waiting on line at 5am for the iPad like some other people around the US. It's a device without a niche for me right now.

Think what you will of it, however, the technology behind the iPad and similar devices is helping to redefine categories that have had relatively little innovation in centuries.

Take the book industry. Now, I love my Kindle and it's innovative enough, but it uses the same paradigm as a print book. It works for what I need (quick consumption and ease of travel), but it is limited.

The experience of the Kindle is okay. It could be smoother and reminds me of what Blackberrys were like about 5 years ago. Get your hands on a new Blackberry and you'll see what I am talking about. It's smooth and easier to use yet still functional. The Kindle will catch up quickly.

Now, think about what publishing can look like on a device that senses when you tilt it or when you touch it. Have a look:


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The experience that new technology provides opens doors and lets us shift our thinking about old standards and the experience that can be delivered.

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Text to newsstand

I was flipping through the Economist the other day (because it exhausts me to try to actually read the whole thing) while I was on the plane and came across this insert in the magazine. I found it quite interesting and wanted to get your take.

Economist SMS ad Economist SMS ad part 2

The point of the service is to send a text message to receive alerts when the print publication is hitting newsstands. It's an interesting idea in the promotion of print with digital platforms. Obviously the content strategy is to release at the stands first and then online to keep print subs up.

What do you think of this? Would you sign up? Would you want this service for other printed materials? There are a number of magazines that I read but don't subscribe to for which this is an interesting idea.

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Inside//Out: QR codes

QR.pngWouldn't you love to drive people from your physical world marketing efforts to the web in real time? Who wouldn't? This has been a dream of marketers since the popularization of the web and technology is starting to catch up. QR (or quick response) codes are, quite simply two dimensional bar codes. The codes were designed in Japan for the auto industry and they remain popular today.

In marketing, QR codes have started to pop up sporadically in ads and catalogs. I did a post on this technology in 2007 which you can read here. In that post, I noted that this was a potential technology for marketers to leverage in the future. To be blunt, this is still in the future, but the trend is one that is coming quickly (though it may take another form). The ability to grab information and go will build momentum over time.

The entire system works by taking a picture of the code with a cell phone camera, decoding the symbol on the device and taking an action. That action can be directing someone to a URL, passing them a phone number, giving them marketing copy or sending them a text message.

Here is a demo of the technology in this edition of Inside//Out

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Pros:
  • Quick and cheap to create
  • Simple and compact design
  • Able to be placed on myriad surfaces (paper, cloth, etc.)
  • Convey complex information to mobile customers

Cons:


  • Lack of consumer education about how QR works
  • Hardware/software readers are scarce
  • Lack of adoption in the US

Key Takeaways:


  • QR should be used for nothing more than a test/experiment at this point
  • The ability for mobile users to get complex content very quickly is a major trend
  • Scanning codes, text message response or the next generation of this idea will push the need further
  • You already see this in real estate in major markets using SMS
  • Integration between physical marketing and digital marketing will continue to converge using new technology

Have you seen these in mainstream ads? Would you consider using them in your campaign? Are you looking at SMS response? Let me know!

There are a number of readers out there. I use the NeoReader on the iPhone. The Kaywa Reader is probably the most popular.


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Two tips on building microidentity

iphone.jpgLittle things are the new big thing, right? Well, in keeping with that notion, I wanted to share a couple of little tips on online identity. Whether you're a blogger or a corporation, these two items go a long way. One is very old school and the other is as new as new can be.

New school: apple-touch-icon.png

This one I found out when my lovely, amazing wife bought me an iPhone for Christmas. Thanks dear!! Through the iPhone you can add a blog/site to your menu just like an application. If you do this without following the next steps, however you get a very generic, non-identifiable icon. It looks something like this:

Picture 11.png

Not impressive, not readily identifiable. After a bit of digging, however I learned how to add an icon to replace the generic default. To do this you'll need to create a PNG file that is 158x158 pixels. Here is the one I created:

apple-touch-icon.png

Now, rename that file to apple-touch-icon.png and upload it to the root directory on your website (meaning it will be at http://www.yourdomain.com/apple-touch-icon.png). The iPhone/iTouch does the rest. It resizes and rounds the corners and adds that shiny love to the image.

UPDATE: Here is a quick video overview of how this one works.

[Click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Old school: favicon.ico

Depending on how geeky you are, you may or may not know this little file. The favicon.ico controls the tiny logo/headshot that appears in the address bar for a site when you visit (see below). It's a small differentiator, but that's okay.

To create this file head over to this site. From here you can create one from scratch or upload an existing image. Keep in mind the output is around 15 pixels square so make sure you use something simple. Once you have the file, you need to upload it to the root directory for your site. (Ping me if you need more info on this one.)

Shows up in the address bar in your browser

Picture 8.png

Shows up in tabs when you have them open

Picture 9.png

Shows up in your bookmarks to help them stand out

Picture 10.png

These are both easy tactics to implement can make a big difference in user experience and usefulness. Feel free to add Techno//Marketer on your iPhone and let me know your thoughts.

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You can't give yourself a nickname

iStock_000006495170XSmall.jpgWhen I was in college, I had a boss who had a massive prejudice against anyone who attempted to give themselves a nickname. You've probably heard people do this in a conversation that looks like this (please picture the guy to the right):

That Guy: Hey there! Do you mind if I join in your pickup game?

You: Not at all. My name is John.

That Guy: Nice to meet you John. My name is Dudley, but call me "Crusher"

You: Ummm...okay Dudley. Why don't you wait over there.

See, it just doesn't work. Now, let's parlay that into a marketing topic that I took issue with the other day. It seems that some enterprising individuals are trying to name the Tuesday after Cyber Monday "Mobile Tuesday". On this date, you're supposed to shop (or otherwise engage) on your phone. Really?

Here is a snippet from an Ad Age article on the topic:

Mobigosee, a mobile-marketing firm, is moving forward with the launch of Mobile Tuesday on Dec. 2, despite the loss of major marketing partners whose budgets have been decimated by the recession.

...(Mobigosee) is attempting to launch Mobile Tuesday with just three marketers onboard: McDonald's, Finish Line and RedTag. The company is hoping to attract additional retailers with couponing strategies, in which Mobigosee is paid only when the mobile coupons are redeemed."

This is one company trying to start a movement that would require at least one major US mobile carrier to get involved to be remotely successful. The only potential winner here is the company who attempted to launch this thing and I would not call it a success. Companies should, be looking at engaging on mobile if it makes sense, not for the bright shininess factor. Maybe in 3-6 years, but not today.

Permission is key on the mobile platform and each brand needs to build its own audience in its own way. The paths of mass marketing and mobile marketing should never, ever meet.

So let me ask you. Have you purchased on your mobile? Take the poll below.

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IDG Next Generation Marketing 2008 - Kwang-Seop Sohn, Chiel Worldwide

34A83C7A-5FB1-4AD5-AF08-54B56D985072.jpgKwang works at Chiel Worldwide in their interactive group, "the i". The presentation focused on a case study for Samsung's HAPTIC device. The Haptic looks very similar to the iPhone, but the operating system is unique.

Here is a video overview of the phone's functionality:

  • Focus of the campaign was on brand experience and contagion
  • The Haptic phone launch is very similar to the iPhone (full screen touch)
  • Phone launched with a premium image/brand and technical image
  • "first is better than better" - Samsung was not the first mover in this space
  • The touch sensor provides feedback
  • Japanese book "HAPTIC" gave the team feedback on how to approach marketing the device
  • Had to explain the haptic term through many media outlets in a way people could understand
  • Launch show made to mirror Steve Jobs keynote addresses, invited power bloggers
  • Tagline "touch and it will react" driven through ads
  • Use of celebrity to drive the "touch" focal point in ads, online, screen saver
  • Haptic blog helped to engage users, also reached out to power bloggers to get their unique and personal experiences

Samsung also created a new ad where a building transforms in to the phone. The gist of the conversation is the guy with the phone says that his phone can become anything he wants. The other guy asks him to prove it by making the building transform.


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Inside//Out: Fire Eagle

Picture 10.pngLocation awareness has a lot of potential to tie the gap between digital and the physical world. The iPhone's integrated GPS clearly hints to the future of mobile social networking. Fire Eagle (a Yahoo product) aims to make updating your location easy.

The service is very simple and has only one true function. Tell the world where you are. Once you tell Fire Eagle where your location is, they allow third parties to tap in and use that same data. This way you don't have to update your location on 4-5 different sites, it is done automatically.


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Key Takeaways:


  • Social utilities, like Fire Eagle, are going to make network convergence a reality
  • The privacy settings that Fire Eagle uses are robust and should allay most fears of intrusion
  • The open API they are providing developers has picked up the adoption rate and made some major players take notice
  • Competition from Google/Apple/etc. will be quick to come about

As always, I want to know what is on your mind. If there is a video you would like to see me do just email me or leave a comment on the post.


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Twitter for marketing, branding and customer service

iStock_000003099857XSmall.jpgYesterday I had the opportunity to speak to the Cleveland Web Association on the topics of micromedia (Twitter, Pownce, FriendFeed, etc.). This was a follow up presentation to the one I gave back in February and is meant to dive a bit deeper into the subject.

I thought the audience was very receptive to the topic and the examples absolutely help out with that. David Meade of Optiem gave a bit of a more technical primer before me and is who I reference in the first few minutes.

The presentation is available below as a SlideCast (meaning I have added an voiceover audio track to it) which you can access by hitting the green middle button that looks like this Picture 18.png.

Enjoy!

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Inside//Out: Identi.ca

Picture 14.pngDoes the world need another Twitter clone? How about thousands of them? Identi.ca is a Twitter competitor that us running on an open source platform called Laconica. The product is open source and can be installed and rebranded anywhere including behind corporate firewalls.

The trend with these services is to become more and more distributed and eventually interconnected. I would fully expect Google to implement a common protocol for these services to become universally integrated in the future. For now we'll have to rely on tools like Ping.fm and Summize (which was purchased by Twitter today) to carry out our conversations.


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Key Takeaways:


  • More and more Twitter competitors will rise up taking niche communities with them as Twitter remains on top for the foreseeable future
  • Open source versions of Twitter will begin appearing behind corporate fire walls acting as communications tools and helping knowledge managers compile conversations across the enterprise
  • Oddly during Twitter's periods of sporadic downtime, sites like Identi.ca were so crushed with traffic that they also crashed limiting Twitter's exposure
  • Core components missing here are the API, mobile integration (both of which are allegedly down the road)
  • Twitter's own open-source software is out there and may trump all of the up and comers


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What would it take to topple Twitter?

Picture 1.pngTwitter has a double unfair advantage over its competitors; a huge user base (estimated at over a million users now) and a very solid head start.

This hasn't stopped a host of new competitors from trying to give it a go. Among the latest competitors are BrightKite, Jaiku (who is owned by Google), Plurk, Utterz and even Facebook and LinkedIn have begun enabling micromedia updates on user profiles.

Picture 2.png
[Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod]

However, as Twitter's service woes keep mounting and user sentiment keeps edging toward the negative, I have to wonder...what would it take to topple Twitter?

In order to understand this, we need to look at what makes Twitter work. Let's break them down so we can see how it's gained such wide-spread popularity.

  1. Simplicity: Twitter does one thing really well. It lets you communicate what you're doing right now. Now other functionality (no matter how easy it would be to implement), 140 characters, one text field and one button. Anybody can look at it and start using it in minutes.
    What competitors need to do: Though I think that there is room beyond 140 characters of text on a service like this (think video and photos), it needs to remain easy to use. Design and usability needs to be where the majority of the development time is spent. The technology should, as I've said before, fade away to the background. If it's not clear on what the user should do within 5 seconds of opening the page it's too complicated.

  2. Ease of use: This builds on the previous idea of simplicity. Twitter let's you use it. It gets the heck out of your way and adds value by supporting conversation. The interface guides the user smoothly through the interactions. Posting a message is easy, replying is easy and the content is simple text. That's ease of use.

    What competitors need to do:This is a no-brainer. Any competitor who is going to topple Twitter will have to have an extremely easy to use service. Like I mentioned before, a lot of attention needs to be paid here. Too many services offer more features/better technology, but are a pain to use.

  3. Mobility: Twitter has a very strong mobile platform. Not only is the SMS (text messages) updating solid, but the mobile site allows most of the regular site's functionality from nearly any device and network. Either option allows for seamless use when away from the browser.

    What competitors need to do: There is no option for the competition to miss this crucial piece of the equation. The portability of the user experience has to be in place. Users need to be able to update and receive updates from any device in the world. SMS is growing in popularity and allows quick updates from US networks. The mobile site allows more reach and really lets the user step away from their computer with confidence. SMS also serves an important role in getting messages to people and breaking through the clutter.

  4. Platform agnostic: We just touched on the mobile platform, but Twitter's open architecture has allowed developers to extend the service to IM (AOL/GTalk/Jabber) as well as desktop applications. For IM, users add Twitter as a friend and send it their updates. Applications like Twhirl work like any desktop application (think Start > Applications > Twhirl) and don't make you keep a browser open at all times.

    What competitors need to do: This is another area that any competitor worth their salt will need to copy. The open architecture allows the development community to do its work and enhance the service faster than the competitor would be able to.

  5. Strong RSS: Twitter has a very strong RSS architecture. You can subscribe to individual's feeds, your own feed (messages and replies) and use the RSS feeds to build other services. Other services like Twitterfeed use RSS to update Twitter accounts automatically. You can look at my "Techno//Marketer" twitter feed for an example. That feed is 100% auto-generated by Twitterfeed.

    What competitors need to do: No question here either. RSS is a staple of the new digital frontier.

  6. Widgetization: Twitter had this right from the start. One of the most powerful ways that Twitter spread through the social media space was from the blog widget that allowed people to promote their messages as well as the service. It added value to the reader and drove new users. You can see my example in the right-hand panel of this blog.

    What competitors need to do: The more options people have to spread their content the better. Formats should be adjustable (width, height), customizable (color, branding) and should work everywhere possible.

  7. The community: This is Twitter's ace in the hole. No matter how good other services are, no matter how easy they are to use, no matter how comprehensive the utility there is no use for a service like this that doesn't have a community. While some competitors have been around longer they have not been able to build the buzz and following that Twitter has. Some of this is due the founder's background (having founder Blogger.com) having an immediate, connected audience.

    What competitors need to do: You have to transplant the community. What I mean is that a competitor that's looking to topple Twitter (not build a new, unique audience) will need to use the openness of Twitter against it. Accounts will need to be moved over while keeping all of that user's connections in tact. to move user's networks in whole. Accounts and logins will need to be moved to make it as easy a transition as possible.

What would you add to this list? Is Twitter indomitable at this point or are they Yahoo in 1999 with Google just around the corner?


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Nokia's Jan Chipchase on the evolution of mobile

I am a huge fan of the TED Conference's video library. If you're not familiar head over there and poke around (be warned, you will spend a lot of time there).

Picture 14.png

This video of Nokia's Jan Chipchase is one of those videos that I come back to over and over again. It truly changed the way I look at technology's implications on the global community.

Jan spends his time traveling the world and doing ethnographic research to figure out how the mobile phone fits (and will fit in the future) into our culture. This local, first-person research is so valuable and has very wide-reaching implications.

The coolest part is when Jan goes into the way that phones are used in Uganda as ATMs. People basically exchange airtime minutes as currency. There is a central point person in the local village who has a phone and who exchanges minutes into cash. In other parts of the world there is a whole industry created around supporting and repairing devices where those services do not exist. Other countries are using mobile phone numbers above the entrance to houses instead of house numbers. That's their identity.

Check it out:


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First//Look: BrightKite

Picture 3.pngIn a world of shiny new things, BrightKite is the current top of the list. Beta invites are hard to get and new ones go quickly. So what is BrightKite all about? BrightKite is a social network that hinges on one key differentiating factor. It knows where you are. Users of the site update their locations (manually for now, but I could see GPS updates in the future) and share information with friends as well as other people in the same location.

The content on the site includes Twitter-esque messages about where you are/what you're doing and photography. One very limiting factor at this point is that BrightKite doesn't integrate with the content users are already creating on sites like Twitter and Flickr. BrightKite will push your updates to Twitter, and has a cool way of co-updating your Twitter location, but it still means that you have to create content twice. That's not going to happen in large numbers.

The idea of social, location-based networks aim to close the gap on contextual relevancy that has resulted in irrelevant information overload. I have found that proximity adds context and makes things more relevant to me. This is BrightKite's beta so I'm really looking forward to seeing how they evolve this and bring out more mobile consumption elements (iPhone app, BlackBerry app, proximity alerts, etc.). Advertisers will undoubtedly be perking up at the targeting ability that location brings. That's for another post. If you're on BrightKite make sure you add me.


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Key takeaways:


  • Location-based social networks are growing in number and will be standard in the near future
  • Location is manually updated, but will move to real-time, GPS-based updates when the technology catches up
  • BrightKite has good privacy filters in place which is crucial for the promise of this level of off-line connectedness
  • BrightKite does a good job of pushing its content out, but needs to do a better job of pulling it in
  • Social media overlap (creating the same content more than once) is a growing problem and needs to be planned before sites get to launch stage
  • Location-based ad targeting is a way to monetize this very quickly, but has to be in balance and aim to add value (like if I am standing in line at Wendy's it could offer me an immediate coupon)
  • Mobile plays a large part in the success of this network and will for all social networks in the near-term
  • Would love more consumption options on the phone (not just publishing) to get the most benefit from the service

If you know of a new service that you think I should take a look at drop me an email or leave a comment.


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Voiceless, spoken communication

Now this is pretty cool and I just have to share. I found the following video on Marc Andreesson's blog and it blew my mind (as it did his). These guys have developed a way to intercept and translate speech before it gets to your vocal chords so you don't need to say what you are thinking, you just have to think it. Check out the video below.

This is very cool technology and may well shape the way we engage with technology in the future. You could be sitting at your desk and just think things like "open Microsoft Word" and it would open. You could create thought to text software that would actually work because the words are pre-digitized. This could possibly enable speech impaired individuals to communicate "vocally".

What other implications will technology like this have on our day-to-day lives?

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Kelly Goto on user experience design basics

I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Goto when she came in to do a presentation the Fleishman-Hillard office in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I've heard Kelly's name before from her myriad speaking engagements and I know her design consulting firm, but I had no idea that she was the person who wrote THE web design bible. (I highly encourage you to check out her book.)
 

Her presentations were full of very helpful tips and it was great to see a strategic, manageable approach to user experience design (UXD as it's called in the trade). There is a trend out there to make UXD so complicated and labor intensive that it becomes overwhelming and slows down the process. Her advice was to stay agile.

She talked at length about becoming an experience ethnographer and how she accomplishes what she does on a scale from Fortune 100 companies down to small projects. Her main point was finding the difference between what people say (in a focus group or interview) and what they do (either by following them or through photo diaries). That is where the valuable insights come into play.

Kelly asked us to find a balance between practical and emotional design. Making sure that the user accomplishes what they need to, but also that the experience is as good as it can be. She urged us to look at simplified applications like Twitter that really work to accomplish one task really well as a basis. Feature creep is a killer in web-based environments.

She and I talked about the constant "battle" inside agencies between technology and design and how the real opportunity for growth is to blend the two areas. CSS, for example, has given non-technical designers a way to use technology to impact the user experience in a positive way and from device to device.

We also spoke about how Flash development provides companies the ultimate opportunity to bring technology and design together, to have this conversation and move toward better experiences. The use of creative and ActionScript (the language that makes Flash move and interact with elements and data) provide a powerful tool for creating rich, immersive experiences.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the best technology around is invisible to the user. Design can act as a shield for technological complexity when done correctly, but can make simple technology overly complex if done poorly.

I absolutely loved her company moto which is "Exceed expectations, take vacations". I highly encourage you to seek out Kelly and her advice as it's truly valuable and practical for any organization.

Photo courtesy of petele on Flick.

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Interview with Nic Fulton, Chief Scientist at Reuters

reuters-logo-171-06.jpgLast week's WeMedia Conference in Miami put the spotlight on the future of journalism and how it will change. No better example can be found of those changes than the project Reuters is undertaking with Nokia. Nic Fulton, Chief Scientist of Reuters took a couple of minutes at the conference to talk to me about the Nokia partnership and what he expects will come of it.


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It was interesting to note that I spoke with Nic about the possibility of doing live reporting and he said that is not their focus right now. He mentioned the lack of quality that is possible with mobile streaming as the main weakness. For the time being, Reuters is focusing on high-quality, original content that complements the rest of their offerings.

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Twitter and customer service; the big picture

iStock_000001289783Small.pngI debated when I started this series of posts whether I should use a specific service as the example or be more general. I chose to use Twitter because of the traction it has in the market and it's pretty easy to explain.

I've received some feedback here and on other blogs about how unlikely it would be to actually use Twitter for customer service. While I think that it is entirely possible to use Twitter (companies already are), especially if your audience is on the service, we need to look more broadly. Don't get hung up on Twitter.

A huge part of being a social media strategist and identifying what's next is breaking down new applications into their core pieces. So, let's break down Twitter. First off, Twitter is cleanly designed and the interaction is simple and intuitive. The most important point is that you can send data to it from the web, mobile, IM, email or desktop applications. Alternatively, you can receive data from it in the same manner. You publish how you want, when you want and you receive in the same manner.

There are a couple of ways that I can see Micromedia evolving to allow more companies to use a Twitter-like service for customer support.

  1. The re-branded Twitter: If you didn't catch the mid-January blog post, the underlying messaging service for Twitter is now available as an open source platform. It's codenamed Starling and companies can start developing now to create their customer service platform.

  2. The enterprise option: This could be based on the aforementioned Starling framework or something entirely new. The point here is that a company could host and integrate real time messaging into their support system. Customers could communicate how they want, when they want, where they want. The company would have their own SMS short code, email address and would need the staff to support it. Real time is scary, but it presents an opportunity to create strong, personal relationships with customers. Isn't that what it's all about?

  3. Something amazingly new: Twitter is limited to text. People have built applications on top of Twitter that use other types of media, but it ends in text. The next level of this type of service is to use video, audio and photos in addition to the text. Services like Utterz and Jaiku take strides toward this, but they lack the level of community that Twitter offers. Advances in mobile technology could allow real time video support anywhere, anytime.

The common theme is on-demand. The customer's demand. Right now too many customer experiences happen at the company's convenience, but the best service companies act when the customer needs them. I recognize that scaling up is an issue and programs like this should be rolled out in manageable waves, but the move is inevitable. If you don't offer it the next company will.



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Twitter and customer service; how to listen

buzz_listen.jpgIn last Friday's post I posited that Twitter, when used correctly, could be the ultimate customer service tool. It's immediacy, portability and sincerity are unmatched. As with other forms of social media I think that the first step for most companies should be listening. It's crucial to wrap your head around how the community works, see who is talking and what they're saying.

Similar to other forms of social media, listening does not even require you to have an account. You can use the resources that I've listed below (in most cases) without a username and password. The resources here will give you an idea of how your customers and potential customers may be using the service. This will help you create a customer service strategy for Twitter. It's very important to take time with this and make adding value to the community your number one priority.

Having great customer service is a huge PR benefit as well as keeping customers happy and loyal. I'm constantly amazed at how many companies get into trouble because of poor customer service. Generally it's things that could have been caught and resolved on the spot had they been listening. This ranges from 800 numbers to support emails to blog posts. It's key that Twitter (or other micromedia) is just one part of a larger customer service strategy. 

Here are some helpful Twitter tools to get you started on your listening journey.

Twittermeter

Twittermeter allows you to track keywords across the public timeline of Twitter. Go in and search for your brand and competitors. If you can't find mentions for your category or niche. I guarantee people are talking, are you listening?
Picture 26.png

Twitter Karma

Twitter Karma gives you an easy view of who you are following on Twitter and who follows you back. This is a great way to make sure you're listening to everybody you can and that they're listening to you.
Picture 27.png

Twittervision

This may be the most impressive, explanatory application out there. Showing people this site seems to solidify the ideas and show them the global, real time nature of the service. It also illustrates the challenge of monitoring for customer service.
Picture 29.png

Tweeterboard

Tweeterboard aims to be a site that aggregates "conversation analytics" (though I think it under delivers on that promise). You can find a username and see how often it updates as well as some reputation information. It also shows who is talking to you and who you are talking to as well as showing the links that the user sends through the service.
Picture 28.png

Twitterholic

Twitterholic looks at the Twitter timeline and finds the top daily users. This is a good way to see who has influence and is active on the system.
Picture 33.png

TwitterBuzz

This service looks at the links that are being submitted through Twitter and ranks them by popularity. Note that the high use of TinyURLs (a URL shortening service) makes the links appear very vague and hamper the usefulness of this service.
Picture 32.png

Terraminds Search

Terraminds allows you to search both the public timeline and users. The results are very fast and listed by recency.
Picture 31.png

TweetVolume

TweetVolume simply lets you see how often a term was mentioned on Twitter. The summation is displayed in clean bar graphs.
Picture 30.png

TweetScan

Another timeline search, this one allows you to search by combining a term with a user. Results are available by RSS or direct link.
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Twitter Blocks

This visualization engine is built by Twitter. It allows you to surf the users based on who you're following and who their following. You can navigate as deep as you like and the interface makes it interesting and fun to do.
Picture 34.png

Tomorrow I'll go through ways that different types of companies can use Twitter for customer service. I'm planning to include IT services, CPG, B2B and retail. If you have another industry that you would be interested in seeing me cover please email me or leave a comment on this post.

Are you listening to micromedia outlets like this in your company? Why or why not?


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Twitter, the ultimate customer service tool

iStock_000003492530XSmall.jpgTuesday I wrote about why I think some marketers aren't jumping in to social media faster. In part, I think the feedback is too honest, some marketers don't want to listen and the last thing they want to do is create two-way conversations. Overall though, customer service is one of the best uses of social media and can have a major impact on corporate brand and reputation.

Twitter has been around (as far as we're concerned) for about a year. It's often misunderstood and frequently maligned by journalists and traditional marketers. Part of the issue is, in my opinion, the name of the thing. Twitter? Tweets? Twitterers? I feel dumb for saying these things and I always get the same reaction from people who I am guiding through the landscape.

However, to see the real value of Twitter you have to look past the name to the underlying potential. The underlying technology and architecture is the future of communication. It's a seamless publishing tool that you can use from web, mobile web, mobile app, desktop app, IM, widget, etc. and consume the content using the same methods. (You can check out my full presentation on Micromedia here.)

Here is a visual representation of Twitter's publishing and consumption model. The key is choice and flexibility on both sides.

Picture 24.png

Customer Service

Twitter is the ultimate customer service tool. It's live, instantaneous, community driven, open, two-way and multi-way, unfiltered and predictive. This is, however, only for the most advanced, customer-forward companies to attempt to use. You definitely need a black belt in customer service ninja techniques to do this well.

twitter_logo.pngThe first step is a piece of cake. Go to www.twitter.com and register an account. Point a designer at the page and have them outfit it with a branded background and custom style sheet so it looks like your brand. The account can be protected while you are doing the legwork to set it up and train employees.

Now comes the hard part. Twitter is live and 24x7. Staffing needs to be done accordingly and it's not something that can be started and stopped. Would you abandon a call center or an 800 number? Absolutely not and Twitter is the same thing.

So how does it work?

Once you have the account ready and have the staffing in place you can start promoting it. Be sure to give an overview of how to use it, make signup easy, create a video that walks people through the system. Most people will just use the web version. You can use Twitter's API to basically re-skin the system on your site so people don't know they're using Twitter. Create shortcuts for them to make interacting easier (like adding the @ sign for them when communicating directly.

Once the messages come in, you have to be monitoring. If nobody is available, set up a responder that kicks them back a message and tells them when you will respond. The key is to be fast in response, be honest in what you tell them and allow the entire community to see the conversation. Get Satisfaction is doing this with crowdsourced service, but isn't using Twitter.

Seems pretty easy right? It's not, but the power of listening, responding to issues in real time, letting your customers see this and get a feel for the level of care that you're providing is priceless. The reps that handle this communication need to be specifically trained on the medium and the "rules".

I'm going to break out each of these steps in posts next week and show how the system could integrate into an existing customer service plan.

What do you think? Is this doable? What companies could pull this off and thrive? Some are doing it one-way (service alerts, etc.), but nobody is doing live, open customer service like this.

[Update: Make sure you read Joshua March's great counterpoint post. Weigh in on this from your point of view.]


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Micromedia. The next big, small thing

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Cleveland Web Association today with my presentation "Micromedia. The next big, small thing". The crowd was very engaged and had some great questions and follow up afterward.

For this one, I used Slideshare's Slidecast option so if you play the slideshow below, you'll hear me as the slides advance automatically. The deck is 105 slides, but takes about 13 minutes. I hope you enjoy!

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If you're looking for a speaker for your next event or conference shoot me an email. I'd love to meet you in person.


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Buzz Friday for November 16, 2007; mega edition

more-buzz.jpgHere is a look at what is happening across social media and new marketing this week. If there is anything that you would like to see in this post or if you have something you think is Buzz-worthy please drop me an email or leave a comment on this post. I want to make this as beneficial for you as I can.

iTunes.jpgBuzz Friday is also available as part of the Techno//Marketer Podcast on iTunes. Click here to subscribe and take the Buzz to go.




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Inside the video:


  • Google announced two huge platforms over the past couple weeks. OpenSocial aims to make app development easier across multiple networks and Android looks to be the OS for mobile devices of the future.
  • OpenSocket has created a container to allow apps developed on Google's OpenSocial platform to run in Facebook. Where there is a will there is a way.
  • Blogger Social 08 Ramping up. Are you going?

And in other news:

Top Five Web2.0 Movers of the Week (using Alexa data)


  1. StumbleUpon
  2. Geni
  3. Bloglines
  4. Upcoming
  5. Technorati

More

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from Viral Garden


  1. Seth's blog
  2. Duct Tape Marketing
  3. Search Engine Guide
  4. Daily Fix
  5. Logic + Emotion
  6. Diva Marketing
  7. What's Next
  8. The Engaging Brand
  9. Brand Autopsy
  10. Influential Marketing

View the top full top 25

Top 5 "Viral" Videos This Week


  1. Por que no te callas?
  2. Android demo
  3. Not the daily show, with some writer
  4. Why we fight
  5. Spice tesco 2007

More


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Inside//Out: Utterz (beta)

Picture 3.pngUtterz is a new micromedia service along the same lines as Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku. Utterz, however, concentrates more on multimedia than straight text with options to record audio and send video and photos. All of this content is tied to the user's cell phone, so all you have to do is dial in and Utterz knows who you are. The same thing goes with video and photos, just send the file in an email and they post it to your account.

As with any social network, and micromedia networks are no different, there is a balance between audience and functionality. The people make up the network and Utterz is new to the scene and has low adoption right now. On the other hand, the service makes it so easy to create content and automatically feed it out to existing services (website, blog, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) that it is worth a look.

Check out this Inside//Out look at Utterz:


[Feed readers, please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

What you need to know:


  • Utterz allows for micromedia content from a mobile phone to be easily created and distributed
  • Content creation is down to the level where anybody who has a mobile phone can be a creator
  • Content can include voice, video, photos or text
  • Content can also be accessed through the web or through applications built on their API
  • Utterz allows for quick creation, but the power is in the distribution (widgets, RSS feed, etc.)
  • Uses include communication breaking events in photo, video, voice and text, update messages to customers ("the network is down and we're working on it")
  • The use of multimedia allows more expression in out attention-casting
  • The success of these tools is getting the content to the audience, Utterz is a network, but your customer may not be there so extending the content to other networks is a key strategy

Here is one of the widgets that allow you to take the content to


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Attention-casting

attention-cast.pngThere has been a lot of talk about the idea of "life streaming" lately. The term, however, doesn't sit right with me. Life streaming is defined as the use of one online web service to collect RSS feeds and aggregate them into chronological order. The problem I have is that it's not life-streaming. Justin.tv is true life streaming. If you want my life-stream you'll have to follow me around with a camera (which would be pretty boring most days).

What you are streaming is your attention and so I am re-terming this attention-casting. My attention-casting locations look at what I post on this blog, what I bookmark on del.icio.us, the videos I add to YouTube, the items from other people's feeds (350+) that I think are important, photos I take and add to Flickr and items I digg on Digg.com. All of these feeds, when combined in chronological order, tell you what has my attention at that moment and lets you see trends as they happen.

The latest stream that I've created is on Twitter under the username TechnoMarketer. This feed is the best way to see what I think is important in the world of social media in close to real-time. If you decide to follow me there you'll know within 30 minutes when I:


  • Share an item in my Google Reader account I think is valuable (this is how I build my Buzz Friday posts too)
  • Post a video on YouTube (way before I blog about it)
  • Digg something on Digg.com
  • Bookmark something on del.icio.us
  • Add a photo to Flickr
  • Add a new blog post here on Techno//Marketer

I do this through the service Twitterfeed.com which looks for updates from each service every 30 minutes and creates a new Tweet at the TechnMarketer account. Even if you don't use Twitter, you can subscribe to the feed from that account or you can subscribe at one of the other services I use for the same purpose (Jaiku and Tumblr).

One problem with this, and my biggest point of contention, is that this is one-way communication. Because these are aggregated from other services, there is little chance of feedback unless you come back from the original source. I do, however, think that there is value here is being able to see what I think is important almost immediately if you want to stay up to date on news and trends in new media and marketing.

What do you think? Is it valuable to you? Do you like to get information in one big chunk like my Buzz Friday posts?


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Social media and the 2007 Chicago marathon

Chicago in halfI spent this past weekend in the great city of Chicago cheering on my wife and our friend in their running of the 2007 Chicago marathon. We had a bit of a challenging start to the weekend (flight delayed, missed dinner with friends, long lines at every turn) that served as a foreshadowing to what was in store for them later on Sunday.

If you're not living in the midwest, let me give you an idea of the weather this past weekend. It was FREAKING HOT! So hot that you didn't want to go outside and this is not normal for this time of year. It should have been 55 degrees and it was 85. So translate those temperatures to trying to run 26.2 miles in the middle of the day. A recipe for disaster.

The race started great. 35,000 people shuffling over the start/finish line meant they didn't get into their normal stride until 20 minutes after the leaders started. That's a LOT of people. A group of friends and I stood at mile three to cheer them on. Everybody looked good for the most part, but that didn't last long. We didn't see them again until the 12 mile marker and they looked strong, but definitely feeling the heat. People started falling and sitting down. Only later did they tell us that there was no water until the fifth mile. That's a long time to be running in 85 degree weather. 300+ people were taken to hospitals and 1 runner tragically died.

Picture 22.pngNeedless to say (if you didn't know) they cancelled the race at the 3 hour 30 minute mark. My wife and friend made it to the 18th mile and they were told to start walking back to the start/finish line. There was a lot of confusion and some people kept going (without medical or water support). They got their medals, but felt cheated as they were definitely strong enough to keep going. I am super proud of them both for running strong and dealing with the situation better than I would have.

Race directors denied the fact that water was a scarcity. They claimed that there was plenty of water along the way and all stations were well staffed. But I saw something interesting watching the people run past me. Some carried cameras. They were documenting their runs along the way. Taking photos and videos of the crowds, the empty water stations, people standing in line at gas stations buying water, begging spectators for their water and the neighbors who came to their aid. Kudos to the people of Chicago, but shame on the race organizers.

Here are some of the videos from YouTube:

Here are more videos from YouTube. Here are blog posts about it and Flickr photos too.

I find these videos, photos and blog entries really compelling. You can see the frustration on the faces of people who trained for months only to start running with a lack of support. This situation is playing itself out in other events, in stores and on the street.

Who do you believe? The race organizer or the runners with the cameras? Who will you believe, your customer with the camera or the store manager? This is a movement that's just getting started.


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Inside//Out: Jaiku

logo-big.gifJaiku is a service that has been on my radar screen for some time now and I've been meaning to do an Inside//Out post on them. So why do one now? Simple, Google acquired the company yesterday (10/9/07). That alone has sent a deluge of marketers to the web trying to learn more about this presence application.

To keep it simple, Jaiku is on the same principle as Twitter (see my earlier video on Twitter here) or Pownce. You have 140 characters to tell people what you're doing, promote something of interest or communicate with colleagues and friends. Communication is one- and two-way through the messaging system. Here is the video with a more in-depth look.



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Similarities to Twitter/Pownce:


  • There are 140 characters to each message
  • Brands can participate by creating an identity in the system
  • Users are added to each profile to receive updates
  • There is a developer API to pull information from the system
  • You can send and receive messages from a mobile device
  • Both services allow users to create a badge widget to post on their blog or website
  • Both allow updates from IM

Differences:


  • Twitter lacks the channel functionality to target messages to users of similar interests
  • Jaiku messages are threaded so that people can reply to an individual message and create a new, focused conversation
  • Jaiku can act a a life streaming repository to pull content from multiple places into one feed
  • Jaiku allows icons for each post to add visual context

[Extra:]
Robert Scoble did an interview with the founders of Jaiku on Podtech.


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The future of social, mobile networks

verdino_phone.pngGreg Verdino is away on vacation, but he asked me to guest blog on a topic of my choosing while he was gone. On top of being honored to be included with other great bloggers, like Doug Meacham, Ryan Karpeles and Jonathan Baskin, I knew I had to push myself to keep up with Greg's high standards.

The post that I wrote is a press release from the future (2009 to be exact) where Facebook releases a mobile operating system. It's where I think that the mobile, social web could go to truly bring value to the users and leverage mobile technology.

So, if you get a chance, head on over to the post on Greg's blog and check it out. Would love to know what you think.


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