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Knock knock. Who's there? It's your customers

Picture 5.pngA couple of days ago Google released a new feature on their Maps product that lets users virtually walk through the streets using real photographs. Currently this is available only in NYC, SF, Denver, Las Vegas and Miami, but there are plans to expand it. They call it "Street View", I call it a marketing opportunity.

The Street View lets you move through city streets like you were in a taxi cab. If you, as a marketer, knew that anybody anywhere in the world could virtually come right up to your office or storefront, would you do anything differently? Can people read your signage? Would they take one look and run away or do you create an inviting atmosphere from the street?

Here is an example I pulled up for the apartment building I lived in when I was interning with Mattel Toys in NYC. You can see the level of detail, while not high-resolution, gives you a first impression. You can read the words on the awning and see people within the shot.

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Now, imagine if you knew when the cameras were coming by. You could have a welcome committee like Google has at their campus? What about creating games like a scavenger hunt using the maps? If you're running outdoor campaigns, can people see them through this experience?

UPDATE: Here is a quick video tour I put together to show you what it's all about.

Feed readers click here to see the video.

Any company with a valid address will be indexed once the camera goes through your town. How could you create a remarkable experience from the very first search?

NOTE: Microsoft is running a similar map beta for Seattle and SF.

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links for 2007-05-31

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What won't be around in five years?

iStock_000000806066XSmall.jpgThis was the question that was asked of a panel I saw recently here in Cleveland. The panelists each took a good shot at the answer, but to me they missed the most glaring option. Software.

Software as we know it will not be around in five years. I'm talking about dead, packaged, disconnected software. New versions of software are already starting to appear and they use the web browser as their operating system. Look at Google Docs and Spreadsheets. They've created an online version of the word processor and spreadsheet. Google has a presentation application in the works to complete the office suite.

The problem up until now has been working online. If you're working on a project proposal in Word, you can have it auto save for you and you have a local copy. Using online apps meant no local copy and if you accidentally closed your browser, you lost your work.

Google just took a huge step to bring the online offline. Google Gears (still in beta) allows Google apps to store data and run apps locally when you are offline.. Google Reader is first with Docs and Spreadsheets to follow. The app responds like you're connected and when you re-connect it syncs up where you left off. Third party developers can write their own web-based applications to use this technology.

So in five years (or less) software as you know it will not be what you know today. The productivity suite you use for presentations, word processing and spreadsheets may not have the same name on it either. Your software will be a living, breathing entity updating each time you connect, allowing you to stay connected even when you're not.

Best of all worlds, Google's suite of applications is free. No license right now. Have you tried these apps online? Would you consider ditching your Microsoft Office suite for the Google Office? Microsoft has plans to do something similar, but Google has taken the lead and pushed the boundaries of what is possible. On top of that, Google's platform will allow others to take advantage and bring their services offline. Think Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.

Just another thing to add to my day with Google.

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Twitter for marketers

Twitter, the often maligned service that lets people tell their friends what they're doing at the moment, gets a bad wrap. Journalists join the service, send through a couple of updates, scan the timeline for a couple seconds and write a misinformed piece on why Twitter is sophomoric.

The truth is that we have to look to the core of Twitter to get the full scope of why this matters to marketers. There has been a lot written about this so far, so I thought I would show you in video.

Feed readers click here to get to the video.

Some key takeaways:

  • Communicate one-to-many or one-to-one
  • Publish to and receive updates from multiple mediums
  • Social eavesdropping/trendspotting
  • Twitter is real time

When it comes down to it, Twitter and services like it are personal. It's real-time. It's the pulse of the internet. I've found more breaking news on Twitter than in any other online source period. You get a first person account of what industry leaders like CC Chapman (twitter), David Armano (twitter), Joseph Jaffe (twitter), Robert Scoble (twitter), Drew McLellan (twitter), Steve Rubel (twitter), Greg Verdino (twitter), Mario Sundar (twitter) and Paul McEnany (twitter) are doing right now. You can't get that level of access anyplace else.

Could you shorten the queue in customer service? If your customers aren't always in front of a computer when they need your help it may allow you to be more responsive across other options. What could you do with real time customer feedback? Scary huh? This technology is powerful in the hands of the right marketers.

Want to know what I am doing right now? Click here to see my Twitter page.

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links for 2007-05-30

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Facebook opens up; going to where your customers are

keys_small.jpgWhen you are looking at social media marketing opportunities, there are two distinct directions that you can choose. You can build a social network for your customers or you can go to where they already exist. The former option has a lot of risk. Companies who are capable of successfully creating their own social network are few and far between and it's an expensive endeavor.

For the rest of the companies out there, the smart move is to go to where your customers already exist. This includes sites like MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, etc. The communities are already formed, people are comfortable there, connections have been made, conversations have been started and new users are jumping on board every day.

Most discussions about social networking lead to the big two. MySpace vs. Facebook. Up until last week Myspace had the lead in most every regard. They have more companies involved in marketing to their members, more ads (LOTS more ads), marketing integration was more open and, most importantly, they have a larger volume users. But Facebook is growing fast (24 million active users growing by more than 100,000 new users every week) and last weeks announcement at their f8 conference should have marketers sitting up to take notice.

facebook_logo.jpgThe Facebook Platform opens up the network like never before (Mashable has great archived coverage). Deep integration allows marketers the same level of engagement as tools that are developed by Facebook themselves. There are over ten points that marketers can connect with including profile-level integration, emails, mini-feeds, photos, notes and events.

Before now, the member profile pages have been off limits to outside parties. Connecting to the profile level allows direct messaging on the most trafficked area of the site and has unique messaging ability from member-to-member to drive viral conversations. The launch of this platform firmly propels Facebook past Myspace from a marketing integration perspective.

How to think about engaging users on Facebook:

  • Provide value to the community first
  • Use the power of the network
  • Make it social, share and learn
  • Think beyond banner ads
  • Think rich media

Facebook is handing over the keys to marketers and allowing for experimentation and innovation. Using the same old, tired marketing tactics on new platforms like this will backfire so be careful. The same audience that could propel you to greatness and market share could crush you if you deliver off-target, low value, short sighted opportunities.

For marketers who are willing to step up to the plate, respect the community and put its value above themselves, the possibilities are unlimited. Myspace better wake up or this could create a big shift in marketing dollars.

I'm going to post a more extensive follow up to this post looking under the hood of Facebook and MySpace from a marketing perspective so stay tuned. If you have questions about Facebook or any other social network please let me know in the comments or through email and I'll address them.

Statistics and general information on Facebook:

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Back from Mayberry

Late Day FenceI was out of town at a wedding from Thursday of last week until late yesterday. The town I was in is about 30 minutes outside of Columbus, OH. It's quaint, charming and even has a working soda shop. All of the things that you would expect. I half expected to see Barney Fife walk around the corner at any minute.

What it didn't have was Wifi access. So, that explains my lack of posts over the past couple of days. I have not fallen off the face of the earth, I just found a corner of it that wasn't connected. Too bad I don't have dial-up any more.

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links for 2007-05-24

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Where do you go to learn?

apple with bite taken.gifA while back, CK tipped me off to a new blogger coming on the scene. Since then, Ryan Karpeles has impressed me with his thinking and the insights coming from somebody right out of school.

In my comment on CK's post I said "This is the new classroom", a statement I completely agree with. Ryan has expanded on that with his post today. He takes his top bloggers (aka teachers) and shares what he has learned from each, check it out. Nice work Ryan.

For me, blogging has been better than any formal education and more immersive than any job could possibly be. It has introduced me to some of the warmest, most honest and damn brilliant people I have ever met.

This is the classroom, but unlike most formal education, the teachers all talk to each other and adapt lesson plans to be more dynamic and timely. Students and teachers work closely and students can easily move into teaching as long as they have something to say and a desire to say it.

School's in session.

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links for 2007-05-23

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Little things can make a big impact

feedburnercard.jpgOutside of Google, who you all know I use a lot online, Feedburner is one of my other staple service providers. I was checking my feed stats a couple of weeks ago on their site and noticed a little call out on the side to send away for a Feedburner sticker. I use their service every day so it piqued my curiosity. I placed a self addressed stamped envelope and sent it into the abyss (aka the USPS).

A little less than a week later I got a my envelope back. I did a quick double-take (as I always do when I receive something from you do that too?) and tore it open. Inside were three stickers (I only expected one) and a personal note from Traci, Feedburner's Director of Marketing. This was way above and beyond my expectations. I followed up with Traci after the fact and here is what she said:

"We take brand building and customer service very seriously around here - everyone in the company participates in some way and we welcome the opportunity to interact with publishers and marketers on a daily basis. It's always fun when the mail arrives and sticker requests are distributed. In fact, customer cards, letters and envelopes serve as decoration (and inspiration) in our office."

feedburnerlaptop.jpgOne of those stickers now sits on the cover of my laptop. I've already had 10-15 people ask me what it was and I explained it in depth each time. Feedburner definitely gets it.

Sometimes it's the little things that make a big impact. In this case it's a sticker and a note, but I am very unlikely to switch to a competitor should one arise in the future. I have a personal connection and I know they care. That's all I need.

What are some little things that you could do to show current and prospective customers who you are? It may not take much, but a little follow up goes a long, long way.

[Update: Google has bought Feedburner for $100M. I think they got a deal.]

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links for 2007-05-22

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The importance of getting people to the finish line

There they goMy wife ran the Cleveland half marathon yesterday and so, being a supporting husband, I drove her down and hung out waiting for the finish. I had a couple of hours to kill so I walked around downtown shooting some images. I caught the runners at the one mile mark seen here and I got to cheer on some friends and some interesting characters including running nuns, a guy in a full business suit and a hippie on roller blades being pulled wildly by two huskies.

Once I stopped laughing and everyone passed by I headed down into the Warehouse District and then into the Flats. As I was standing there shooting with my eye to the camera I heard what sounded like a LARGE group of people running up to me. I turned and there were 30 runners with 10K badges asking me "Where are we? Where is the race?". I was shocked that this many people got sidetracked from the course and I quickly sent them back up the hill toward the finish line. It turned out they were amongst the strongest runners on the pack.

I don't know if you've ever run a race like this, but the last thing you want to have to do is think about where you are going on top of running flat out. People are supposed to be directing you with cones, signs, police officers and race vehicles. The runners should just need to run. That's it. It turned out that the lead vehicle was sent the wrong way along with several hundred 10K runners who ran up to 2.7 extra miles while lost. (The local paper picked it up here.)


It made me think about the user experience on web sites (I do that a lot you know). When a visitor comes to your site, do they intuitively know where to go? Do they know what to do? Or, will they get so off course that they just give up?

People shouldn't have to work to get to where you need them to be online. If your goal is a purchase it should be easy to browse, add things to a cart and check out. If your goal is an RSS subscription, it should be prominent on the site and use best practices. If people have to put in too much extra effort to give you what you want, they'll quit and probably not return.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need people to do?
  • Can somebody, with no prior knowledge of the site, do that easily?
  • How do you make sure people stay on the course?
  • If they get off-course how do you bring them back?
  • How do you make sure people return the next time they need the same thing?

Do you think about this on your site? If so, how do you do this? If you don't you should take a hard look and think about making some alterations.

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links for 2007-05-21

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links for 2007-05-19

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Ads on Twitter disappointing

I was poking around Twitter this afternoon and clicked into the detail view on one of my tweets to David Armano. I glanced at it quickly and moved on...then I hit the back button. What to my wondering eyes did appear? Google AdSense ads on tweet detail pages. This is the first time I've seen straight out advertising on Twitter in a couple of months. (They used to do this before the crush of traffic hit.) I checked a couple of other pages and it was there too.

Picture 10.png

The ad on the page I was looking at was for Drucker Centrifuges...not sure what that had to do with me or what I wrote to David. One of the major challenges in social marketing is getting relevant. Throwing AdSense ads on pages is fine if the ads are relevant to the users. I would hope neither Twitter nor Drucker Centrifuges are happy about this and it looks bad for both.

I had a couple of thoughts:

  • With the short content of Tweets, is there enough to be contextual?
  • Is this really the model they're going to use to monetize Twitter?
  • They have an audience using mobile to communicate, why not run mobile related ads or have a dedicated sponsor for mobile posts?
  • A lot of people have moved to tweeting through applications like Twitterific (away from Will Twitter start ads in tweet updates from friends to reach people?

Come on Twitter let's Think2.0.

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Web2.0 for marketers: What this means for you

iStock_000002317898XSmall.jpgOver the past four days we've looked at the history of Web2.0 and what it is not, seen how it is helping business models shift to add new value, making technology transparent to the users all culminating in building community. So what does this mean?

I did a little experiment with some video today, so here is my explanation of what Web2.0 is and how it's impacting you and me. Let me know if this is helpful. I think it's nice to be able to show you what I am talking about even if it's a little small.

Feed readers please click here to see the video. (Full size QuickTime file coming soon.)

Web2.0 is about ideas. Ideas that add value to customers and the platform that allows you to create, adapt and share those ideas in an open forum. It's a mindset that you have to shift into where you open your eyes and ears and learn from the collective input of the community.

Design is helping to move Web2.0 forward as well. New frameworks (groups of reusable code) is allowing more fluid user interfaces to be built to benefit the end-user. Applications that were typically software packages (MS Office, Photoshop, etc.) are now moving online as part of Web2.0. If you use Gmail, Google Reader, the new Yahoo mail you see that the pages work more like an application. The page isn't reloading everytime you select an option. It's much more smooth.

Technology itself is a benefactor in Web2.0, but less visible. Early web technology took a lot of effort to implement and the user experience was clunky and complex. Now, design is working to mask the technology for the maximum user benefit.

Measurement is a challenge in a Web2.0 world. The technology that makes the web smoother and more fluid also eliminates some of our standard metrics. Page views drop significantly across sites using this technology even though the user is accessing the same information. Their experience improves, the sites are more engaging and rich, but we need new ways to measure it. Interaction/engagement rates are one way to measure how people are interacting with your site over time and how sticky it is. Other metrics are still being drafted. How do you measure loyalty online? How do you measure impact? That's a post for another day, but you can start here for more information.

motorola_Q.jpgIt's also important to think about how Web2.0 extends beyond the web browser. Think mobile, PDA, iPod, iPhone, PSP, etc. Each of those devices is increasingly connected. How can you capitalize on each to reach your target market? How can you leverage mobile technology to add value to your community? Look at Twitter for example. It's a service that allows people to micro-publish content to a website from a phone, instant messenger, the web or another application. The services in Web2.0 are open and people have been creating amazing sites on the technology. Some examples are Twittervision and Flickrvision. Each reads data out of Twitter and combines it with a map. The result adds value, is smooth, cool and useful to the user base.

Personally I don't like the name Web2.0, but it is a way to group this new vision of what marketing on the Web should be. The questions to ask to know if you're moving forward are:

  • Does your customer benefit from what you're doing?
  • Do you add value to people's lives? Do you change people's lives?
  • How can you improve your customer's life even more?
  • Is interacting with you easy and painless?
  • Is your offline ready to facilitate your online presence? Vice versa?
  • Does you passion for what you do come through to your customers?
  • Do your customers have a say in your business?
  • What is imporatant for you to know and measure?
  • Are you thinking beyond the browser? How will mobile impact you in 5 years?

This series is not the end of this topic, it's only the beginning. I'll be picking this apart and expanding on some smaller, but equally important issues over time.

Here is a great explanatory video on what another person thinks Web2.0 is. You will learn a lot from this.

Do you have any questions or comments on Web2.0 for marketers? Let me know in email or in the comments below.

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links for 2007-05-18

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Web2.0 for marketers: It's the community stupid

iStock_000000334544XSmall.jpgToday's topic, in my opinion, is the most important in this entire series of posts. If you are new to the series you can catch up here with part 1, part 2 and part 3. Web2.0 is, in the end, about leveraging communities around your brand to add value to your customers. Hear that? Value for your customers. Creating a MySpace profile to say that you're engaged in social marketing isn't going to do it. If, however, your target audience is on MySpace and you can create a campaign there that reaches them in a personal way and allows them to connect to you in a way not possible before, then you've succeeded. There are a lot of ways that community comes into play in Web2.0.

Technology has been simplified, designers are creating better experiences and people are engaging your brand with or without you. They're posting photos of your products and store experiences, blogging about them, creating videos about their love/hate affair with you, commenting on posts from other bloggers, tagging information about you on, voting stories about you to Digg and Reddit. They're finding all of this information on Google and Yahoo alongside your primary website. It all appears with the same importance in the search results. So what is the community saying about you? Are you behind the wheel or asleep at it?

Are you behind the wheel or asleep at it?

Here are some ways that companies are getting into the fold. Baby steps today can lead to big gains tomorrow as the community will propel itself if you give it some love and lots of attention.

    Listen: One of the top priorities for every company should be to create a social listening program. This involves keeping pulse of what is being said, digesting it and responding through the appropriate channels. There are quite a few services that make this easier, but setting up Google Alerts for your keywords along with monitoring Technorati will go a long way to catching your mentions. From here, you can determine which of the following you will tackle next.

    helga.jpgPersonify: This is often the stereotype of Web2.0 marketing. Creating a physical presence for your brand in a community has worked for some and crashed for others. Companies saw successful, early adopters of this strategy see gains and get a lot of press, so they gave it a try. Volkswagen used MySpace profiles to promote their GTI campaign with profiles for Helga the dominatrix as well as the Fast. Both were on-brand, their target audience was using the community and they were honest about it. Copycats jumped onboard creating fictitious people who promoted their brand. Once found (and they almost always are) the PR backlash raged.

    Personification has powerful potential if done right. Allowing people to connect to you as a "friend" allows for a bond that is often not possible in the real world. But as in the real world, fights and disagreements can happen and relationships can end. Those battles become public domain.

    Extend: A good way to put yourself out there for your community is enabling your customers to extend you into social media networks. Links to submit your content to, Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, Netscape, etc. can be added to any web page. Think about adding these links to your home page and to dynamic content like press releases and other stories. Uploading images to Flickr and then linking them in on your site and doing the same with videos on YouTube will extend your content into new communities. Be on the lookout for other logical extensions.

    Another consideration for publishing should be using blogging software to create your website. There are a couple of benefits here. First, it's a pretty cheap content management solution and you can tailor the look and feel to match your identity. Second, blogging software has all of this built in. Each story (or post) is submitted to search engines, Technorati and pushed to other major news aggregators. You can use the software for the entire site or just for your news. Eventually you could really turn it on and start blogging, at that point you're all set, you just need to add the time.

    Connect: Connecting can be done in a number of ways. Through the listening stage you should be finding who is talking about you. Engage them! Get to know people, they'll love that you take the time to speak with them. Gauge their level of commitment to your brand and enable them to spread your message through your community as well as their other communities.

    Connect with people through traditional means, feedback forms, emails to web-masters, calls to customer service. Take time with them, connect to what drives them to use your product or service. Keep notes on where they go, what they like, what you can do to make them happier. You will build your community through the input of the individuals. Comment on blogs and reach out through email to customers. They'll appreciate the time and effort you are showing.

    Collaborate: Here is where the power of technology can really be powerful to marketers. It's hard to listen to everyone that is talking to you. It's almost impossible to listen to what everyone is saying to each other. The idea of collaboration is a major advantage if implemented and used effectively. Wiki technology, like that on which Wikipedia is built, allows groups of users to edit information in real time. Let's say you are creating product documentation or research for your users. Why not ask them to help you out. Nobody knows your products better than the people who use them.

    dell_logo.pngTaking collaboration to the extreme is the idea of crowdsourcing. This is a system that enables your customers to sign up, suggest ideas to the community, vote which ideas are best, work together to flush those ideas out and finally help implement the final product. Companies pay thousands upon thousands of dollars in focus group testing each year. Why not use the web, go straight to the customer and get their buy-in for new innovations. Dell's IdeaStorm is a great example of crowdsourcing done right.

    Create: Some of the previous strategies involved creation, but what I am talking about here is creating an organization that is focused on delivering value to the community. The more you can personally connect to each customer the more profitable you will be. Creating a blog lets people know your thoughts, proves you know what you're talking about and acts as a great resource. It shows you walk the walk. Extending into social media networks allows people to find you in their own environments. When you collaborate with your customers you get their buy-in, loyalty and respect. All of this starts with listening. Everybody from the receptionist to customer service to the CEO needs to be on the same page. If somebody calls with a question it should be handled promptly and shared with the team and the community. Communities that address issues and problems in this manner show they care about their customers and engender loyalty.

Here are my takeaways for the community area:

  • Listening to what is happening is the first step and everybody should be on their way to taking it
  • Each company is different. What works for a T-shirt startup will not work for an auto parts manufacturer.
  • Look deep inside your company and make sure you're set up to deliver to the customer on and offline.
  • User experience is key. You can have the most robust community software on Earth, but if it's hard to use or too technical it will fail.
  • Don't recreate the wheel. Go to where your customers are. If they're on a magazine site or MySpace, reach them there, don't try to create a new community and expect them to switch.
  • What are you doing to facilitate your community now?
  • Where are your customers spending their time when they're not with you?
  • What are they saying about you right this minute?

Please let me know if you have comments or questions. Is there anything else you would like me to address? Anything you want me to clear up? I am here for you, just let me know. Tomorrow is the conclusion...don't miss it!

Related Post: New search engines are indexing ONLY content that has been tagged or voted in social media sites.

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links for 2007-05-17

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Represent (or be misrepresented)


Up until now social marketing was an option. Companies could partake if they wanted or they could sit on the sideline and wait. Up until now social media was looked at as a fad by "serious" marketers. It was simply filling a gap until we learn how to convert 15s and 30s into online pre-roll.Up until now you had reason not to participate. Until now you may or may not have looked at the buzz to see what's being said about you. Those moments are gone folks. Bye-bye. If you're not participating in social media someone else could be misrepresenting you in the vacuum.

A new generation of search engines are coming online and pressing the issue for us. 50Matches is one such search engine. The difference with 50Matches is that ONLY indexes content that has been tagged on sites like or voted for on sites like Digg and Reddit. The engine then returns the top 50 matches. The theory here is that the content tagged to those sites is pre-filtered and therefore more reliable and accurate than what you would get searching through Google, Yahoo or MSN. All of those major engines include any content on the web that is spiderable.

50Matches ONLY indexes content that has been tagged or voted in social networks

The following diagram shows why the team at 50 matches thinks this model works. As more people tag content the quantity will increase as will the quality.

graph showing quality v. quantity of indexes

50Matches is a young startup and is facing some pretty fierce competition (how would you like to have Google, Yahoo and Microsoft staring you down), but their model has potential. The idea of trusted content is evolving to answer a question that consumers are asking, "How do I filter all of this information into trusted, manageable chunks?"

I have noticed that Google is folding in social media site content into their primary result sets. This includes sites like Digg, tags in, myriad blogs, podcasts and even comments on blogs. Line that up with Google's AdSense Q1 2007 revenues of $1.35 billion and numbers from Yahoo that state 67% of US adults who research purchases online do so using search engines. Search is big business and it's being driven by consumers.

What are you doing to ensure your social media strategy is on track? Have you jumped in or just gotten your toes wet? Is there anybody that is stuck out there? Let me know in the comments.

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Web2.0 for marketers: Who let the tech out?

iStock_000000464605XSmall.jpgThe past couple of days have covered the history of Web2.0 and provided background and setup for today's post. Our topic has significant impact for marketers trying to get a grasp on Web2.0. A lot of the talk that goes on focuses on technology. Don't get me wrong, the technology is the foundation of Web2.0, it's just not important to marketers.

Web2.0 is the elimination of technology boundaries. Here's what I mean. Web1.0 sites were hard to use. The design may have been good, but the technology got in the way (think about the first time you signed up to post on a message board or user group). The experience was clunky and was mostly designed by technology folks who focused on functionality, not experience.

Web2.0 is the elimination of technology boundaries.

Let's look at the following diagram of what a Web1.0 site looked like. Notice that the technology components are segmented and so are the users that touch them. There were multiple points of contact, but they weren't working cohesively and the users saw limited benefit. The company was able to get some metrics, measure signups, interact on the message boards, but they were all disjointed. Web2.0 requires a shift in that mindset.



This shift is subtle. A lot of companies attempt to make it and fail by overcomplicating things. The focus in Web2.0 is not on the feature, it's on the experience. Web2.0 is all about creating value. Value in the interaction, with your message and with each other. The more value you enable them to receive, the more loyal they will become, the more time they'll spend with your brand and the more likely they'll be to spread your message. The experience is communal. The Web2.0 site is a hub for like minded members to join in the conversation. The features mesh together to form new methods to communicate.

A great example of the elimination of technology barriers is the blog. Every blog is a micro community. There is no registration like on MySpace or Facebook, but the membership is still there. Let's take a look at this blog and see how the technology allows me to connect (hopefully) with you.


Click here to see a larger image.

You can see that all of technology I use here connects me to other people and their communities. It's not complex looking to you the reader (though the systems that run these sites are very complex). Your experience has been put at the forefront.

This is a great lead in to tomorrow's post on communities when we'll talk about how marketers can use communities and Web2.0 to strenghten relationships, build brand loyalty and get people talking about you.

Here are my thoughts to build upon the last couple of days and this post:

  • Is there anything that your customers experience online that could be made better using new technology?
  • What can you simplify today to add more value?
  • Are you creating a community for your customers?
  • Are you connecting to your customers' other communities?

Like I said yesterday, anything is possible in technology. Don't be afraid to ask. We as marketers need to open our minds and not limit ourselves to things in the realm of the known. The area beyond what is known will be tomorrow's innovation.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments.

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Web2.0 for marketers: This isn't your grandfather's business model

The number 2Yesterday I told you the history of Web2.0 and what it is not. If you didn't have a chance to read that, click here and catch up. For the rest of you, let's get going. We have a lot to cover today.

Web2.0 is all about innovation, innovation that drives value to the end user. When you think about how businesses operated even 10 years ago, it's markedly different than the way they operate today. Most of the changes that have taken place are the result of technology. Operations has benefited from automated, real-time inventory tracking and ERP systems. Accounting knows what's sitting in the warehouse and when it'll be shipped and invoiced. But these are not the innovations in business that I am talking about. I'm talking about the consumer-side shift that has happened.

Technology is an enabler first and foremost. It has enabled businesses to innovate on business models that, at one point in time, were considered untouchable. Let's look at some Web2.0 examples to get a clearer picture:

    paypal_logo-1.jpgPayPal: Western Union was at one point in history an extremely powerful financial institution. They transfered money all over the world by wire with trust and reliability. Somewhere along the way, however, they did not see the signals. They were lost in the noise. I'm sure somebody internally was saying something like "People don't trust the Internet to send money, it's too unproven". Enter PayPal. PayPal is an early example of Web2.0 thinking. They saw that people were looking for a way to transfer money quickly and reliably. They focused on security and had the right timing. PayPal was focused on giving people the value that they were looking for through innovating a hundred year old business model. By the time Western Union saw what was happening it was too late.

    netflixlogo.jpgNetflix: Netflix is a prime example of Web2.0 thinking. A couple of years ago if you wanted to rent a movie you had to go to a BlockBuster. There were other small chains around, but they never really lasted too long. When you went to the store you were locked into the current inventory on hand, if you returned it late they charged you, plus you had to drive to the store. BlockBuster obviously thought this was a good model, Netflix thought differently. They used the Internet to create an easy way for people to sign up, search through an emormous inventory of movies, keep those movies as long as they like and then used a pre-paid envelope to send it back. BlockBuster has had to scramble to keep up as I'm sure they saw huge amounts of customers switch over to Netflix.

    150px-Wikipedia-logo-en-big.pngWikipedia: If you think back to your childhood (and you are old enough to remember it) you may recall the encyclopedia salesman. This, I am sure, was a great job up until the late 90s. He basically went door-to-door selling the current year's encyclopedia volumes. He had samples for you to look at and flip through to show the high quality of the printing and binding process. The problem? It was outdated the second it hit the presses. Wikipedia came along and created a model where everyday people as well as experts are able to use Wiki technology and update the information as it changes. This uses one of the core ideas of Web2.0, the value provided by the community is greater than that of the individual.

iStock_000003209009XSmall.jpgIn each of these cases there is a winner and loser. The loser stuck their head in the sand and pretended nothing was happening. The winner came out of left field, hit a chord with people, used technology to enable change and innovated to add more value. Each of the new contenders knew less than the incumbent, but used technology to test, change and refresh ideas to make sure users were happy.

Great technology, as I've said before, is technology that disappears to the users. In this regard, Web2.0 is the Houdini of technology. The new generation is faster, more seamless and fluid than ever before. The technology is allowing communities of individuals to pop up easily and create their own conversations around companies and ideas. It's 24x7, less expensive and global. You're just as likely to talk with somebody in Dubai as you are in the town next door.

24x7, global conversation

Crowdsourcing sites (a community of product loyalists join together to generate ideas and design their implementation) are popping up all over the place. Dell's IdeaStorm is a successful implementation of this new model. The users on the site suggest ideas and then the other users vote for it if they like it. This site led Dell to offer a Linux operating system as an option on new computers. Had they not listened and actively participated that opportunity would have passed by.

Here are some ideas I would like you to take away from this post. We're going to build on this tomorrow when we continue with part three "Who let the tech out?".

  • Innovation done for innovations sake is a waste. Innovation needs to add value to your customers.
  • Technology is relatively cheap, timelines are shrinking and testing is a great thing.
  • Old models are all about short term results, new models focus on long term loyalty through value creation.
  • How are you looking for the next thing? Are you using your customers to help you?
  • Anything you can dream up is possible. Don't let technology (or technologists) intimidate you into being silent. Speak up marketers!

If you have questions, or would like to add anything to this, please leave a comment. Talk to you tomorrow.

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Web2.0 for marketers: History and what Web2.0 is NOT

two_birthday.jpgUnless you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years you have doubtlessly heard the term Web2.0. You've probably heard the term mis-used as much as you've heard it put to the right use. So, what does it really mean?

Let's start with a quick history. The term itself was coined in 2004 by Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Publishing. You know those books in the technology section with the animals on them, that is Tim's business. The term was created to show an improvement and shift in the way that systems and people interact.

O'Reilly was trying to show that websites were strategically moving away from being brochureware. Away from the "me-too" generation of early websites. You probably went through this yourself or as a company. One day early in your online marketing foray, you looked at a competitor site and said "Hey, they have a contact form and they let people request product literature...we need that too." You then probably called your web design company and asked for a contact form and a literature request form. Then you waited for the next competitor to innovate. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, don't get me wrong. It was the way the internet iterated and grew.

The rest of this week's feature will focus on what Web2.0 is.

  • Tuesday: This isn't your grandfather's business model. If the model isn't broken, break it.
  • Wednesday: Who let the tech out? How Web2.0 has democratized technology.
  • Thursday: It's the community stupid (whether you like it or not)
  • Friday: What this means for you and your clients.

Before we go into what Web2.0 is, let's take a look at what it is not. I think this is the most enlightening way to frame what we're going to talk about this week. Some of what I am about to say will fly in the face of what you have been led to believe.

    calendar_small.jpg1. There is no line in the sand. Yes, Tim O'Reilly coined the term in 2004, but there is no magic date where websites left 1.0 and became 2.0. Pieces of what we will talk about have been around since the beginning of the Internet. Message boards, commenting, tagging have all been around since the start, they're just being repackaged to add more value.

    2. There is no Web2.0 hardware or upgrade kit. There is no special server that you can buy nor is there upgrade software to go from 1.0 to 2.0. As you'll see, Web2.0 transcends technology and is really about people. People connecting, talking and sharing experiences.

    pull_small.jpg 3. Push marketing is dying. The traditional marketing model, which most traditional advertising uses, is to push your message out to the user. This is done in 15's and 30's, outdoor ads, early websites and print ads. All customers were grouped into one basket, given one message and asked for one response. Web2.0 lets you customize your message to each individual user and ask each of them for the response that adds the most value. Web2.0 lets your customers pull you into their lives and Web2.0 enables that.

    4. There is a stereotypical look, but don't be deceived. I am sure you've seen "the look". It's shiny, reflective, plastic and chrome. It's so stereotyped that there is even a Web2.0 logo generator. In case you don't know what I mean...

    (reflect)This is the lookBETA.png

Going into tomorrow, here are some points to get you thinking about what Web2.0 is.

  • Old business models are dying. More value can be delivered by using the Web.
  • Providing more value to the user will lead to more revenue for you.
  • The collective thinking of the community is more important than the individual.
  • Measurement and ROI is harder to calculate, but it's not impossible. Rethinking metrics is crucial.
  • Web2.0 is personal. It's personal for your customers and contacts. The more personal you make it the more successful you'll be.
  • Social networking is one small part of the equation. Creating a MySpace profile is the gimmicky way out (unless your customers are there).
  • Innovate, innovate, innovate. It's the name of the game. Be curious and think differently

Until then, be thinking about what this means to you. Questions anybody? Anything else that you think I missed that falls into the "what web2.0 is not" category? Let me know in the comments.

Related Post: I gave a presentation to the Ad Club in Canton, OH a while back on Web2.0/user generated content for advertising folks. Click here to view that post.

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