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Google is (still) stalking me

google_blinds.jpgA little over a year ago I wrote a post that turned out to be one of my most popular ever. So, to have a bit of fun, I want to revisit that post and see how my relationship with Google has evolved in the past 365+ days.

So come on. Take another trip with me through my day with Google.

545.jpg clock_small.jpg5:15am: Ugh. The day starts to my blaring clock radio. There is an ad running that Google has sold through ClearChannel.
615.jpg clock_small.jpg5:30am: I get up, take a shower and go to the home office to check my Gmail account.
Picture 1.png clock_small.jpg5:40am: While I am at it I check my Feedburner account to see where my traffic is coming from. Google owns Feedburner now.
645.jpg clock_small.jpg5:45am: Once the email is done I let the dogs outside and turn on the TV. There is a spot running placed by Google.
730.jpg clock_small.jpg7:00am: I start up the car and hear another ad placed by Google.
blog_outdoor.jpg clock_small.jpg7:30am: Driving to work I pass 10-20 ClearChannel billboards. Probably pretty likely Google will place ads on those as well.
800.jpg clock_small.jpg7:45am: I roll into work and sit down. Having stopped at Starbucks in the lobby I open the paper to see what's happening in Cleveland. Again, more ads placed by Google here too.
830.jpg clock_small.jpg8:30am: I jump online, check Google News and my GMail acccount again.
900.jpg clock_small.jpg9:00am: I surf my favorite blogs, most of them have Google AdWords placed on them even in the feeds. I am reading those feeds with Google Reader.
945.jpg clock_small.jpg9:45am: I check my copy of AdAge and see a couple more ads placed by Google.
urinal.jpg clock_small.jpg10:00am: Finally! I am free's another Google SMS alert on my phone. No peace.
Picture 4.png clock_small.jpg10:10am: I go to buy an item that I found in a Google search and purchase it with Google Checkout.
1030.jpg clock_small.jpg10:30am: I continue writing a client brief in Google Docs (formerly Writely).
1100.jpg clock_small.jpg11:00am: Head to the kitchen and see a couple of ads running on TV through the Dish Network which Google placed.
blog_carphone.jpg clock_small.jpg12:00pm: I'm heading to lunch now, but I can't find that new trendy sandwich shop. I ask Goog411 and get the address and phone number.
Picture 2.png clock_small.jpg12:15pm: I take a stroll through YouTube to see what videos are hot and why they may be gaining traction.
115a.jpg clock_small.jpg1:15pm: I am back at the office now and my phone vibrates again. I have new Gmail. I check it and respond from my phone.
130.jpg clock_small.jpg1:30pm: I am going to a meeting after work and I don't have the address yet. I turn to Google Maps and send the directions to my phone for easy access in the car.
230.jpg clock_small.jpg2:30pm: I take a break from work and veg out with an online racing game. Throughout the game are product placements and pre-rolls. Google places those too through AdScape. I wrecked and lost the game.
245.jpg clock_small.jpg2:45pm: I check my RSS feeds again through Google Reader. I go through about 150 feeds and post the best to my blog roll (it's embedded on the left column of my blog).
300.jpg clock_small.jpg3:00pm: I check on the stats for my blog over the past week using Google Analytics. Interesting to see where readers come from. Hello New Delhi!
315.jpg clock_small.jpg3:45pm: Just in surfing the web I come across 2 or 3 major sites that run Google for searching site content. MySpace is one of those.
445.jpg clock_small.jpg5:30pm: I see some display ads running on a couple of sites powered by DoubleClick's DART system. Google owns them now too. More on this development in a future post.
530.jpg clock_small.jpg6:15pm: One last check of my Gmail and I wrap up a blog post and head home.
600.jpg clock_small.jpg7:30pm: I get home, turn off the phone and play ball with Copeland and Crawford. Just then, the phone rings. Is that Google calling me? They certainly have my number.

Oddly, not that much has changed. Google has crept in a little more through M&A, but they definitely aren't going away. I know I am missing things that Google offers. Leave me a comment with the other ways in which you are impacted by Google in your everyday life.


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Do you trust trust research?

iStock_000004622271XSmall.jpgI have seen posts and Twitter messages about the newly release trust research that Forrester's Josh Bernoff posted about earlier today. I have a great deal of respect for Josh, I just have some questions. In the hopes of getting answers to some of my questions about the survey I am going to post them here and ping the people at Forrester to engage and answer some of the common ones that have come up.

Here is the chart in question:



  • What are the demographics of the survey respondents? Marketers are going to take this research at face value without knowing if this research might scale from generation to generation.
  • Does the category "known expert" include or exclude bloggers? For example, if you're 18 and looking for product reviews of technology chances are good that Engadget and Gizmodo are very high on the list.
  • With the 30% trust of bloggers, is that for unknown bloggers who may come up in a random search or it is generalized to all bloggers? Does that differ from an unknown opinion site vs. a known opinion site?
  • As the tail quickly falls from short to long for the majority of product categories, mass media coverage drops out of the picture. Does this take into account long tail, niche categories or are you talking about things like refrigerators and vacuums vs. left handed Cuban cigars or organic dog biscuits?
  • Finally, I found this information through Twitter and blogs. Do I need to wait until somebody I knows calls me or I see it on TV to trust it?

Feel free to add your own questions to this list. What is your take on the research? Does this jive with your feelings of trust? Do you trust it?

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Do you communicate at the speed of Google? Why you must

google_logo_blur.jpgCommunication is happening at a faster pace than ever before, but many companies are not adapting their communication strategies/processes to keep up.

Search engines are indexing content within minutes, micromedia outlets like Twitter are delivering messages real time and blogging allows mass communication to happen with very few barriers. Rumors and leaks will never go away, but companies now have the tools to be the first to provide key, relevant information.

The 15 minute Google rule.

Almost without exception within 15 minutes of posting to this blog I receive a Google alert email that there was a new post matching one of my keywords. (Seriously, if you haven't done this yet, do yourself a favor and click here to set them up.) I have "Matt Dickman", "Techno//Marketer", "technomarketer" and "Fleishman-Hillard" alerts set up as well as alerts for competitors and clients. I often get Google alerts for items before they show up in my RSS reader or are floated to me in email.

[Update: I posted this entry at 9:43pm and I received my Google alert email that it was indexed at 10:02pm. See screenshot below.]

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This is invaluable information to have and it illustrates the point that I am trying to make. Companies who have typically thought that they could control the news and release it when and to whom they saw fit are at the end of the line.

Mergers and acquisitions, executive departures, layoffs and regulatory approvals are just a few of the topics that employees, shareholders and the general public are hearing about in near real time. It takes just one blog post, a Twitter message (the example that comes to mind was the Yahoo layoffs that were broadcast on Twitter as they happened) or an email that sneaks past the firewall and the story is broken. Google's search spiders are constantly scouring servers looking for new information and once found (or told) they broadcast it to the world.

Danger Will Robinson
There is danger for companies in communicating in real time. Facts still need to be vetted and rumors that are unfounded can hurt a company's reputation. However, the tools are in place to allow faster, transparent communication to all of the stakeholders so that they don't find out from a Google Alert. Companies should be using these tools to become more connected with their audiences and be the first voice on any issue that impacts their people or their business.

How might this play out?
Here are a couple of ways that I can see companies adopting new technologies to communicate more quickly and more accurately in the future (and some are already doing this today):

  • Sales force empowered by micromedia. Go beyond names like Twitter and Jaiku to the core technology behind those services. Imagine a company that has a private version of Twitter to communicate in real time with their sales force. Price changes roll out in seconds, questions are answered quickly and customer service follow up is prompt.
  • Internal communications blog. Some companies are using internal-only blogs, but more will definitely start. This is a great way to create a two-way dialog and communicate information and changes quickly and transparently. Once information is in the open, everybody feels like they're on the same page.
  • Targeted blogs. Companies will start creating blogs that are focused on key audiences (investors, customers, employees) and communicate to each in a more open and rapid manner.
  • Email is still key. Many executives and employees will be more easily reached via emails that fit into their existing workflow. Companies will need to adapt their processes to use this as a key delivery vehicle for internal communication.

Need to adapt the communications process
How many times have you read a press release or seen a story that you heard about weeks ago? I would venture that happens a lot and a big reason is the outmoded model most companies use to create, refine and release information. Let's look at two models, first the old model and second the new model.

Do you want to communicate information to your audience or do you want Google to do it?

The old model: In the old model (which is still the predominant model) news is written in the form of a release. It goes from agency to client with some back and forth for refinement. Then it gets refined to a final version. This version goes through legal review and some type of corporate communications review. If there are changes, it goes back and loops through the process again. The final version gets scheduled for release, the wire service queues it up and on the agreed upon date/time it drops.

The new model: In the new model, communications are an open book. Issues are addressed in real time, communicated quickly with thoroughly written copy, supported with video/audio and open to feedback/discussion. The good and bad are handled in the same way. Everyone stays on the same page and nobody feels like they're the last to know or that they've been blindsided.

This won't work for highly regulated companies, but it could work for a majority of the rest. Companies have to get over the command and control mentality to communications. Don't get me wrong, there is still strategy to messaging and communications need to be thought out, but it needs to happen more rapidly, more flexibly and less forcibly.

What do you think? Can this work? Have you seen examples of companies using new technology to communicate more quickly with the right messages? Let me know what you think.

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The most powerful branding tool. Ever.

dig.jpgIf I were to give you a tip on the most powerful tool any company has at their disposal to positively impact their brand, would you act on it? When companies talk about branding, they often turn to the standard creative elements. They conduct focus groups and prepare branding briefs before the first pixel is pushed into place on the logo. If you're really serious you have a whole identity package. But that's not branding, that's just a logo right? From there they create the marketing campaign. Print ads are created to build emotional connections with people, TV spots reinforce the company image and convey the same emotions. Hundreds of hours are spent planning the website, the information architecture, the experience design, the content. When it's all said and done you have one damn fine looking marketing campaign.

Most companies know that part (very few do it right). The part they don't get is the tool that I am talking about. Customer service. Customer service is so powerful that it can make up for bad products, downtime and inconvenience. Conversely, poor customer service can kill even the most well thought out, killer product or service.

A brand is the sum of the interactions with an entity over time. Still, the last interaction with a product or service usually sticks with us. How many times have you felt your opinion of a company turn sour when somebody in the store isn't helpful? How many times have you sat on hold waiting in line only to not really get the answer you're looking for?

The last interaction is the only one that matters.

So why is customer service so often overlooked as a branding tool? It's hard to get right. Here are some of the challenges:

  • It takes time. Lots of time. Customer service takes training, dedication and people who are aligned with the company's goals. Time is money after all and most companies look at the short term outlay instead of the long term benefit of building customer loyalty and creating a great total brand experience.
  • High turnover. Typically customer service is made up of entry level folks packed into small offices strapped to a phone 8 hours a day. Why not really turn to results-based incentives here? Why not dress up their work area so they have a great attitude and convey to your customers?
  • Everyone is in customer service. This means the CEO, the VPs, the account people, the programmers, the designers, the administrative staff, everyone. This is a key shift in thinking that needs to take place. One off day for one person will have an impact on your brand image. The last interaction is the only one that matters. You may not get another chance.
  • Not just for consumer packages goods. Customer service happens in every industry whether you label it customer service or not. Law firms, ad agencies, PR firms and accountants all are in customer service. The problem is that it's not ingrained in their corporate philosophy, they think it beneath them. That's the
  • Too easy to rely on technology. No message board or crowd sourced solution can replace human interaction. Technology is a great way to give people access to basic, commonly asked questions. However, when a person's questions are not answered by those solutions they can be left frustrated. Have you ever tried to reach Flickr, Technorati or Feedburner to get a prompt answer to a question? They make it 100% impossible to talk to a human. Don't be like those guys.

I think David Armano summed it up well in his reply when I posted this on Twitter a couple of days ago.

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How do you integrate this common sense into what you do? How can you improve your support system? What will you do NOW to take action to create a customer service culture?

What do you do to make sure every personal interaction is the best it can be?

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First//Look: Facebook Chat

facebook_logo.jpgI have been hearing murmurs about Facebook's new chat application for months. Within the past couple of weeks that chatter has intensified as they systematically roll out the service across the community.

Here is a quick video overview of Facebook's new chat service

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

Key takeaways:

  • The service is nicely integrated into the site, not overwhelming, seems to be where I thought it would appear in the design
  • Follows very familiar interaction models of other, more popular chat services
  • Will be interesting to see if they allow 3rd parties to hook into this to extend the functionality
  • User control here looks to have been handled correctly, you can turn it off and on

iTunes.jpgTo help you stay on top of what is happening and to filter the myriad options, you can now subscribe to the Techno//Marketer podcast on iTunes. Get updates in real time when new videos become available.

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You can watch this and other Techno//Marketer videos on your video channel of choice:

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Speaking at Sun Microsystems Startup Camp

On May 4th and 5th I'll be attending, and speaking at, Sun Microsystem's Startup Camp 5 in San Francisco. The event is about 1/3 panels and 2/3 unconference (where the agenda is set on that day). I am really honored to be sitting on the "Notes From Mission Control: Rules For a Successful Media Launch" panel alongside S. Neil Vineberg, Jyri Engestrom (co-founder of Jaiku), Christina (CK) Kerley and Mark Modzelewski (CEO of Stealth Startup).

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Other panels on the 4th include the likes of Matt Marshall, Stowe Boyd, Pete Cashmore, Brian Solis and Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz. You can check out the full schedule here and see the impressive attendee list here.

I'm really excited to go to the startup capital of the world and learn from some of the best minds in marketing technology. I plan on shooting lots of interviews, meeting people that I've admired from afar and sharing my expertise (and midwestern perspective) with an audience who is willing to be bold with their marketing and use of technology.

If you're going to be there or would like to try to meet up while I am there (I'll be there through the 6th) drop me an email or leave a comment!

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Inside//Out: FriendFeed

Picture 1.pngI'm finally set up again to do more video for you guys and this is the first one on the new equipment. Thanks again for your patience.

FriendFeed stormed onto the social media scene a couple of weeks ago and has received a lot of buzz. To break it down into the simplest terms, FriendFeed allows users to create one RSS feed that combines all of their social media touch points. You can then subscribe to your friend's feeds and have one single feed that combines all of their feeds. In the end, you can consume a lot of information in one stream instead of going to 8-10 disparate places to do the same thing. You can add me here.

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Information overload is a real problem with social media, especially for those who are new to the space and could become easily overwhelmed. Services like this one are popping up to solve the information overload problem. The service is entirely opt-in so you follow who you like and you can remove somebody at any time.

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

Key takeaways:

  • Information overload is a real problem as social media outlets grow daily
  • RSS is the technology that enables FriendFeed to scale and grow
  • RSS feeds can be combined, shared, redistributed and consumed in a number of helpful ways
  • FriendFeed allows users full control over who they follow and they can un-follow people at any time

If you know of a service that you would like to see me cover in a future post, just let me know by email or by leaving a comment on this post.

iTunes.jpgTo help you stay on top of what is happening and to filter the myriad options, you can now subscribe to the Techno//Marketer podcast on iTunes. Get updates in real time when new videos become available.

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You can watch this and other Techno//Marketer videos on your video channel of choice:

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New hardware = more video

New toysI walked into the office this morning thinking it would be like most other Monday mornings when low and behold my new Macbook had finally arrived. Along side it sat a new 23 inch Apple Cinema Display. I felt like a kid at Christmas.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it's certainly not to brag. Since I transitioned to my new role at Fleishman I have been using a PC and also using my personal MacBook to do the blog/videos. (Neither of which could really handle much video.) This new setup gives me the real estate and horsepower to do a LOT more video which benefits you in the end.

I wanted to thank you for your readership and patience with me as I get things situated. Stay tuned for a lot more video content really, really soon.

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links for 2008-04-17

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Gooey endings

447561872_e13614c5fd.jpgThe folks at Cadbury are cranking out more great, emotive marketing campaigns. The latest is for the cult-like Creme Egg. The product itself has a very short sales window (around Easter) and I think this campaign is genius. Hat tip to Faris Yakob for pointing it out.

Not only do the website and TV spots convey personality, they make an emotional connection with the audience. Check out a few of the spots below and let me know your thoughts. You can see all of the videos here.

The hairdryer

The tape measure

The Finale

The emotional Finale special edition

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Power 150 roundtable

P28bloggertable041408 The week before last, in between attending Virtual Worlds and the start of Blogger Social, I had the great opportunity to take part in a roundtable discussion at the Advertising Age HQ. AdAge Editor Jonah Bloom invited 12 bloggers from the Power 150 list to have a conversation about blogging, social media, new marketing and the future of print and digital publications.

Jonah has received a lot of flack in the past from bloggers (myself included) for not fully engaging more marketing bloggers to add insights and ideas for stories in the publication. Although AdAge has been making moves to add more blogger input, it's been a bit slow. That seems to have changed for the better. AdAge is looking to (and really should make a big push) add more content from this blogger community and it's a relatively untapped market right now. Some bloggers have connections to print pubs, but for the most part our thinking is confined to those who seek us out. Publications like AdAge reach a much broader market and the thinking that this community provides (along with the comments from you the reader) are invaluable, poignant, timely and unique.

Advertising Age roundtableOne of the key discussions centered around the challenges that marketers are facing and what content they may be looking for. It was great to see and hear such a great mixture of thoughts and experiences from around the table. That, to me, is the power of engaging bloggers as content creators. Ad Age has the opportunity to leverage a veritable army of authors with highly targeted experience to write about nearly any topic from nearly any opinion. You need a digital guy who's working in design with luxury goods manufacturers? David Armano is your man. Looking for a guy with lots of mid-market, hands on experience and a background working for a rock band and Starbucks? Just call Lewis Green. There are thousands of people with very unique voices who are talented storytellers. I am personally looking forward to seeing what else comes from this.

Other bloggers in attendance included Ann Handley, Mark Goren, Gavin Heaton, Lewis Green, Daryl Ohrt, Anna Farmery, Geoff Livingston, Sean Howard, David Armano, Rohit Bhargava, Paul McEnany and Todd Andrlik. You can read the AdAge article here.

*Top photo credit: Andrew Walker (Advertising Age)

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Trends in youth and mobile marketing

buzz_small2.jpgI promised early on with this blog not to talk very much about my work, but I do make exceptions when I think it will add value for you. Within Fleishman-Hillard there is a group of very talented folks in our Next Great Thing (NGT) practice who focus on youth and mobile marketing. It's amazing to have this group as a resource as both of these topics are, and will continue to be, crucial for PR and marketing practitioners to understand in the coming years.

Today, the NGT group released their spring 2008 youth trend report. The group works with young tastemakers around the globe to stay ahead of the curve. Some of the topics in the report include open source thinking, reflex in interactions, individualism, evolution of the language, the importance of RSS, in-game advertising and engagement marketing.

Click here to download the report in PDF format.

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Personalized brand experiences; Radiohead's Nude Re/Mix

By now you most likely know about Radiohead's experimental release program for their newest album "In Rainbows". Basically, the band set up a site where their fans could buy the album for whatever price they wanted to pay. People could have paid $0 or $100 if they wanted. You can read my original post along with what I decided to pay here.

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Radiohead is continuing to find innovative ways to allow fans to own the brand in a personalized way. The latest idea is a contest in partnership with Apple and their Garageband product. It allows people to buy their song "Nude" (track three) with all of the independent pieces of the track. So, you can buy the drum track, the bass track, the guitar track, the strings track and the voice track all independently.

Picture 16.pngOnce people have the pieces of the track, they're encouraged to remix the song using Garageband to create a completely unique take on it. Once they have a file they then go to the site and load their track into the community. Once there, people can vote for each track and create a widget to promote their entry.

This is a fantastic idea as a way to allow fans to get involved with the Radiohead brand, create something that is their own and join in a community of other, like minded fans. More companies, bands, products, teams, etc. need to look at this model as a way to create deeper engagement. Providing raw assets that can be used to create original, personal by-products could be powerful. It's not for every brand, but for Radiohead and their fan base it works well. Take a listen to some of the songs, they're quite incredible and took an obvious time investment.

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Developing personas for marketing strategy

people2.jpgPersonas are an extremely valuable tool for marketers in any field. If you're not familiar with the term, personas are representations of your target audience based on research and interviews. From PR to digital to advertising, any marketing team or agency can benefit from developing client- and/or brand-specific personas.

As an example, let's say one of your target audience types is a 18-21 year old male who likes emo music, skateboarding and high-end electronics. You would come up with a name for this person along the lines of "Nate" and you would find an image of him to use in your planning. When you start making decisions about marketing strategies, you would check back to "Nate" and ask if it would reach him. What would reach him more effectively? What message does he need to hear. That is a basic model of persona development. Here is some more information to guide you through the process.

Why personas are important:

  • Personas put a face on the customer. Some persona programs give people names so you can refer to them and see them in a physical representation. The agency Organic creates persona rooms where their people live so the project team can become fully immersed.
  • Personas remove the tendency to think of yourself as the customer. You have to step back and this gives you the structure to do so.
  • Act as a guide throughout the process of developing marketing communications programs, cross mediums (print, digital, outdoor, TV, etc.).
  • Keeps designers, copywriters, programmers on track and avoids waste by remaining focused on the customer.

How people screw them up:

  • Personas take time and research to get right.
  • This includes some time in the field and meeting face-to-face with the customer.
  • People think they know their customer without looking at data.
  • Personas are often used up front in the marketing strategy process and don't carry through the process.

How you can avoid screwing them up:

  • Get data. Collect it from the web and third party sources. Analyze web traffic. Do in-person interviews and ethnography. Get a big picture view and then analyze it objectively.
  • Talk to your customers. Videotape them. Record the audio. Take notes. Come back with a real feeling for who you are trying to reach.
  • Compare what you saw to the data and look for the insights.
  • Evolve the personas over time. Adapt them as your product lines change or the economy changes. These should be living, breathing entities.

A great sample model.
I found this great model on Idris Mootee's site in a post where he compared the problems that MBAs and MFAs have in the workplace. It's a great start to being able to wrap your head around these ideas.

persona_10 steps.jpg1. Finding the users
Questions asked: Who are the users? How many are there? What do they do with the system/brand?
Methods used: Quantitative data analysis.
Documents produced: Reports.

2. Building a hypothesis
Questions asked: What are the differences between the users?
Methods used: Looking at the material. Labeling the groups of people.
Documents produced: Draft a description of the target groups.

3. Verifications
Questions asked: Data for personas (likes/dislikes, inner needs, values). Data for situations (area of work, work conditions). Data for scenarios (work strategies and goals, information strategies and goals).
Methods used: Quantitative data collection.
Documents produced: Reports.

4. Finding patterns
Questions asked: Does the initial labeling hold? Are there more groups to consider? Are all equally important?
Methods used: Categorization.
Documents produced: Descriptions of categories.

5. Constructing personas
Questions asked: Body (name, age picture). Psyche (extrovert/introvert). Background (occupation). Emotions and attitude towards technology, the company (sender) or the information that they need. Personal traits.
Methods used: Categorization.
Documents produced: Descriptions of categories.

6. Defining situations
Questions asked: What is the need of this persona?
Methods used: Looking for situations and needs in the data.
Documents produced: Categorization of needs and situations.

7. Validation and buy-in
Questions asked: Do you know someone like this?
Methods used: People who know (of) the personas read and comment on the persona descriptions

8. Dissemination of knowledge
Questions asked: How can we share the personas with the organization?
Methods used: Fosters meetings, emails, campaigns of every sort, events.

9. Creating scenarios
Questions asked: In a given situation, with a given goal, what happens when the persona uses the technology/engages with the brand?
Methods used: The narrative scenario - using personas descriptions and situations to form scenarios.
Documents produced: Scenarios, use cases, requirement specifications.

10. On-going development
Questions asked: Does the new information alter the personas?
Methods used: Usability tests, new data
Documents produced: A person responsible for the persona input from everybody who meet the users.

*Diagram developed by Lene Nielsen of Snitker & Co.

More quality persona resources:

So what else do you do when planning personas? How do you develop them? How do you adapt them? What's the balance between qualitative and quantitative feedback?


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Visualizing attention;

Picture 13.pngMany of you have seen tag clouds on the sidebars of blogs across the blogosphere. They are visualizations usually showing the relationship between categories and the frequency they are used. If you're looking to see what has a blogger's attention, this is a good way to do it (you can see my tag cloud to the right).

I love that tag clouds give you another way to see the data. It's more interactive and is a great way to show attention. A new site called Tweet Cloud has taken the tag cloud idea and integrated it with Twitter. In the service, you go on, enter your name and the service creates a cloud for you. The bigger the word, the more frequent it has been used.

Here is the Tweet Cloud that I created from my account:

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Take a peek, enter some of your top Twitter friends and see what has their attention.

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Blogging from Virtual Worlds 2008

Picture 11.pngI'll be blogging and shooting videos over the next day and a half at the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference here in NYC. I'll also be posting updates on Twitter as well as here on the blog. If you have questions drop me an email or a Tweet. I'll update this post throughout the day.

mattel_logo.jpgMattel toys actually has a Chief Barbie Girl who is focused on making sure that the Barbie brand stays relevant and engaging. Toy lines need to scale with kids to stay relevant to their lives. Barbie Girls is for girls ages 8+.

The world was named the fastest growing in a recent report. First world focused on girls with a unique, focused offering. Highly customized avatars allow a lot of combinations and more connection/engagement. The world allows socialization and friendships to be formed in a fun and very safe environment. The world allows for multiplayer games that bring girls together like the makeover game that allows people to become a stylist and interact with each other.

"Virtual worlds as the new playground." Kids now are digital natives and they think of toys differently. In 10 years, the people entering college and the workforce will be 100% savvy to virtual environments.

Some statistics from some Mattel-sponsored research:

  • Just 39% of moms feel websites are safe and secure
  • Just 38% use the tools to make the web experience safer
  • 78% of moms are influenced by their offline trust in brands in their online interactions.

The Mattel model is Educate, Empower and Engage. E3.

Educate: Making parents comfortable and being transparent in the interactions. Allowing parents to understand how to monitor what their kids are doing. Making sure it's easy to understand. Also educating the kids so that they understand the safety features.

Empower: Allowing parents to monitor and update their daughter's settings. The experience is very empowering for the girls as well. Users have full control over who they make friends with and can be seen by. Blocking and reporting features are built in.

Engage: Taking steps to build a tool where the kid and parents can set their own rules and agreements. This encourages an up front conversation about the rules and expectations. Time spent, safety settings, etc. are agreed upon together.

The future of Barbie Girls. Moving to a subscription model with Barbie Girl VIPs. There will still be a free experience to allow any girl to connect. VIPs will be world celebrities. VIPs will have exclusive access to clothing, have virtual tiaras and access to VIP-only areas.

The world is seeing huge growth with between 20,000 and 30,000 new signups a day from around the world. That's amazing.

From the tradeshow floor:
Lots of interviews to come in the next week or so. The number, and breadth, of companies participating in the tradeshow is pretty impressive. Vendors surrounding all areas of the worlds from consulting companies to companies that build sims and avatars to the companies that run the world platforms to e-commerce companies and everything in between.

It's pretty interesting to see how down on SecondLife everyone is and how they really use the negativity surrounding that brand to compare/contrast their own offerings. I do have to say that I am amazed at how many different worlds there are out there with very specific demographic and geographic influence.

Pro-marketing. Second Life, for most intents and purposes is not a very friendly environment for marketers looking to enter the game. There are companies that you can work with to get you set up, but it's not right off the shelf. runs the technology for MTV's virtual world offering and has a very pro-marketing approach to virtual worlds. They have set offerings that allow marketers to reach people through a variety of different tactics.

LindenLabs does have a new offering called SL Grid that lets you brand a private world and control what happens there. has a similar model as does Multiverse. Look for interviews from these guys in a couple of days.

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Going virtual (and taking you along with me)

I'll be attending the Virtual Worlds conference in NYC this Thursday and Friday and I want to ask you a question.

What do you want to know about virtual worlds?

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The overall feeling that I pick up on from most marketers that I speak with about virtual worlds is predominantly negative. There has been a lot of media hype, a lot of lessons learned and some nice successes as well. Certainly virtual worlds have a future as a communications vehicle/marketing launchpad/community/engagement platform, but I want to know what you have on your mind.

Do you want to know demographic information? Who the key players are? How you build a sim? What the average cost is? What the differences between worlds are (SecondLife vs. There)?

You name it and I'll do my best to track down that information and record it here on the blog, on Twitter and in videos that I'll post here at the end of the day.

Just leave a comment here on this post or you can send me a direct message on Twitter or just drop me an email. I look forward to hearing your questions and tracking the answers down for you.

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