Obligatory Posts on Google + [Podcast]

Since I am short on time these days as I wrap up the Location Based Marketing for Dummies book (comes out 8/16) with Mike Schneider, I’m trying to repurpose content as best I can. To that end, I focused yesterday’s Quick’n’Dirty podcast show exclusively on Google’s new social offering, Google +. So far, I like what I see. In particular, I like some nice features like Circles and Hangouts. My guest co-host, Jim Storer, and I did a quick run through of the major features of Google + along with how we see it working for business.

If you’ve got a spare 30 minutes, take a listen and let us know what you think?

Playlist Goodness (non-business post)

While traveling from Austin to San Francisco last night, I decided to create a playlist for my iPhone. I have to admit, it’s pretty random but as I listened to it, I was pretty pleased with the outcome. So much so that I tweeted about it thus eliciting responses from several friends. Their challenge? If it’s that awesome, why not post it.

Well, if I was really fancy, I would find a way to create a dynamic picture that people could click on and buy songs via iTunes or Amazon if they liked. But I’m not. Not one to be thwarted by technology, I found a low tech solution i.e. snapping pictures of my iPhone screen with roughly 8 songs per screen. Below is the resulting playlist.

If you like it, cool. If you don’t… oh well. What songs would you add? Subtract?

Filters

I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about curation recently. It is one of the things that I firmly believe will be a key differentiator for companies in the future — those that curate great content beyond their own for customers, and those that don’t. Some of this curation will be of the human varietal and some will be algorithmic. One of the things I had not been thinking about, however, is the danger of what happens when things get over-curated or over-filtered.

This morning, I listened to two thought provoking angles on the danger of too much curation. The first was via John Moe who does the Marketplace Tech Report on our local NPR affiliate, KUT. The segment I’m referencing was focused on Internet radio pioneer, Pandora, and it’s recent addition of comedy to its service. For those unfamiliar with Pandora, it takes a unique approach to serving up music (and now comedy) by hand scoring each song along hundreds of different criteria (genre, number of band members, male or female singer, etc.) What struck me as interesting was the concept of using Pandora’s Music Genome Project technology against news, the potential downside being only being served up news you want to hear versus news you need to hear.

On the heels of listening to the piece about Pandora, I watched a TED video I discovered courtesy of friend (and valuable personal filter), Adam Cohen. The video featured author, Eli Pariser, author of the book, The Filter Bubble. I’ve embedded the video below which I strongly recommend watching. The essence of Eli’s talk was what happens when the things we should know about or need to know about start to get curated out of our streams based on our natural preferences. As an example, he talked about seeing the balance of liberal and conservative friends posts in his Facebook newsfeed start to tilt completely toward just showing his liberal friends’ posts. The problem with this is that while he is self-admittedly liberally leaning, he values the opinions and links of his more conservative friends.

This got me to thinking more about the role of curation and the importance of showing us things that might be counterintuitive to what we’ve selected in the past. This may include things that make us uncomfortable, or unexpected. For instance, what if Pandora gave me a little Billie Holiday in my Red Hot Chili Peppers stream? At the end of the day, I can always vote with my feet and give the song the thumbs down. The same could be (maybe should be) true with Google and Bing. Or with any service that starts making choices on our behalf. As Eli stated in his video, it’s okay to filter for us but make sure that the criteria is transparent and easily changeable.

I’m still considering what this means for companies? Do they show competitor’s products along with their own in their curated streams? Or perhaps highlight the occasional negative review to reinforce their commitment to authenticity? I would love your thoughts.

Brimming with Pride

A couple of notes before I get to my point here…
1) Don’t worry, this blog isn’t intentionally going video even though I’ve done more video posts recently than normal. That’s just the way the cards got dealt.
2) I am not an informercial kind of guy. Any of you that have ever read me or follow my Twitter feed know that. But I will warn you up front that this video is all about my company.

But with that said, when I first saw this video at our internal creative summit on Tuesday, I was blown away. First of all, the office you see here is our San Francisco office. And all the people you see are my colleagues. The reason I felt such strong feelings about this video is I think it does a great job demonstrating what we do. I also love the fact that WE DID IT! Well, not me but some of the folks on our creative team. So before I bore you to tears by waxing too poetic, I want to share it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sij93-iK9vg]

 

Let me know what you think in the comments. Maybe I’m too close to this.

2 Minute Recap from Bricks & Mobile 2011 Conference

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to speak at a conference called Bricks + Mobile up in Chicago. The focus of the conference was the state of mobile technology, how companies are tapping into the power of the untethered device and where all of this goodness is headed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZshORJGUQ40]

Thanks to Kelly Stickel (the conference producer) and Tim Hayden (our panel moderator) for inviting me!

p.s. If you didn’t see it, I wrote a blog post framing some of the topics we covered during our panel at B+M.

How to Earn a Customer’s Loyalty

Sunday night, I was flying up to Boston from Austin on US Airways. Not my favorite airline by a longshot but they are reasonably priced and my last few experiences with them have been decent. Anyway, they had wifi on my leg from Charlotte, NC (one of their major hubs) up to Boston. Because it was only an hour and a half, I decided not to pay for the wifi. However, GoGoInflight is running a special right now where they are giving away free Twitter access during April.

As we got closer to Boston I started wondering how close to on time my midnight arrival would be. Given the fact that my Twitter friends are usually up all hours of the night and always very helpful, I thought I’d ask if they might be able to look up my flight status. Of course, I was right and I immediately got several helpful responses. But it was one person in particular — an employee at a competing airline — who was kind enough to look for me that really impressed me.

So why was I so enamored with this occurrence? Because with nothing to gain, this person went above and beyond to give me information I needed, when I needed it. If more companies took this approach, there is no doubt in my mind that businesses would win over a lot of new customers. At the end of the day, being helpful is always appreciated, especially when there is no apparent ulterior motive.

Have you ever had this happen to you? If so, share your story in the comments.

Social Media is Better for Experiential Products

Paul Mabray is the chief strategy officer for the wine industry digital think tank, Vintank. Paul is a 17 year veteran in the wine industry and is a regular speaker and blogger.

The race is on.  Everyone is endeavoring to decipher the Rosetta Stone that is Social Media.  Unfortunately, by definition the medium is multi-dimensional and the real applications of social media range from customer support & communication, content distribution, sales, marketing, PR, business intelligence and well beyond.  With all these facets to consider, is it any wonder that there is no silver bullet?
However, a certain segment of industries are positioned to be better served by this medium.  Experiential products clearly stand to benefit more from social media.
Why?  Because social media is fundamentally a channel for sharing and it is inherently human nature to share our experiences.  How many people really enjoy talking about soap? Pencils?  Dishwashers?  Of course, there is dialogue about these types of  products (most of them relate to the buying experience or the quality, or lack thereof,  about the product)  Yes, it is possible to create campaigns to artificially stimulate dialogue about a brand or product.  However, the interaction that occur as a result of natural engagement are more relevant, meaningful, and enduring.  In essence, industries that offer meaningful experiences like wine, food, restaurants, travel, software, and entertainment are natural conduits for conversations that occur on the web.  People enjoy sharing their personal stories and experiences related to these products.  They are vocal and they are prolific. For example, the wine industry and the specialized site Cellartracker.com.  With 140K users this single site has generated 1.8 million conversations about wine.  In fact, in 2010 social media sites generated over 13 million conversations about wine by 3 million online profiles.  KAPOW!

A recent article citing research from IBM suggests that SM consumers do not want intimate relationships with Brands.  This report states that they are primarily looking for tangible benefits from a relationship (discounts, commerce) and they rank “feeling connected” and “part of the community” far lower.  This is not unexpected for traditional retail and non- experiential products.  Do we really want to feel part of the Best Buy community?  Is it important for us to feel part of the Amazon tribe?  How deeply do we really want to be related to Skittles?
Experiential products allow us to feel emotionally attached and we DO want to be “connected” to these brands— and as a result we are more passionate and vocal about them.  Whether it is a restaurant that has created a memorable experience, a wine that we love, a rock band, a movie, video game, or even a software platform (that’s why companies have dedicated UEX departments) we DO crave more of a relationship with those products.  Equally as important, there is always a very active “prosumer” base that evangelizes and helps spread the message to more and more potential consumers.  These voices are the true influencers in the ecosphere that prostelyze for the brand allowing these brands to be “discovered” via social media through sharing, commenting in forums, “Liking”, and retweeting.  They are also prolific about creating content and messages to help influence potential new customers buying decisions. 
Need proof ? Just look at a company that transcends product and focuses on experience:  Apple.  How many blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts do you see about their products?  
Want other examples? 
Check out the volume of comments and user generated content for the game BioShock
Or the  number of Tweets about Lady GaGa.
Or real experiences being shared on the Fan Page of Morton’s Steak House.
What is most relevant is the natural phenomenon that inspires people to want to authentically share stories about brands and products. There is no need for clever marketing campaigns, to create gimmicks to get your consumers to engage in your community, and no need to create contests to stimulate conversations.
Why is this important?  The major transcendence of social media is how, who and where we get our information.  My good friend Doug Cook (founder of Ablegrape.com and former director of search for Twitter) has an amazing saying, “search is the fiber that connects the web.” He is absolutely correct.  There is nothing you can’t find on the web if you know what you are looking for.  Whether it is the most obscure book or replacement part for your 1972 dishwasher, search engines can help you find anything. What search cannot help you do is discover.  That is the role of Social Media.  Seeing authentic (not artificially induced) comments (positive or negative) about brands from people we trust encourages us to explore.  With non-experiential products, brands are almost forced to create gimmicks, marketing campaigns, or contests to stimulate conversation or engagement.  With experiential products, this occurs naturally, without artificial stimulation, and authentically from within our own out networks.  Social media is the human fiber for sharing and discovery. 
The question is, no matter what kind of product you have, are you making it experiential? 

Onboarding and Engaging with Location Based Services

Next Wednesday, I’m speaking at a very cool event in Chicago called the Bricks + Mobile Conference. If you’re in the area, you should absolutely plan to attend (I may even be able to finagle you a discount). I mention this because I’m on a panel with some very smart people including:

  • Tim Hayden, CMO 44Doors (moderator)
  • Adam Beaugh, Director of Social Media, Jackson Family Wines
  • David Javitch, VP of Marketing, Scanlife
  • Jessica Rotnicki-Magaro, Vice President Ecommerce North America, Estee Lauder Companies
The reason I got asked to be on the panel (I think) is that I am now the head of location based marketing at global agency, WCG and am also co-authoring a book called Location Based Marketing for Dummies. In the book, my co-author, Mike Schneider, and I are focusing on how businesses — large and small — are tapping into the power of location based marketing. This starts with goals and offers and ends with platforms, measurement and analytics.
One of the main things that Mike and I are focusing on in the book is how businesses can derive real business value by engaging with their customers using location based services. To that end, loyalty is a major outcome that many of the companies like McDonalds, Neiman Marcus and USA Today are seeking as they engage using platforms like foursquare, SCVNGR and Whrrl.
But before companies get to loyalty through regular (hopefully fun and/or educational) interactions with their customers, is there role that location based services can play when it comes to on-boarding and engaging their customers? Of course there is.
For starters, any company that is engaging in location based marketing should consider offers that are not only universal (mayor offers are somewhat overrated), but also that encourage initial and then repeat behavior. There is a local coffeeshop/theater here in Austin, TX called the Hideout that does a nice job on this front. Their offer gives you a 2 for 1 ticket to the theater on your 1st, 5th and 10th checkins (and free admission for the mayor). This provides immediate value the first time you checkin but also keeps you checking in (and ideally coming back) to continue to get your discount.
Where the Hideout (and many other companies fall down) is not letting their customers who aren’t using location base services that there is an offer. Why not have a poster up on the wall, a sign on the front door and a trained barista that asks you if you’ve checked in? Creating a compelling offer and then letting your customers know about it is key.
Another thought when it comes to on-boarding is what if you could check into your new television? Or laptop? Or box of Cheerios? And what if when you checked in you got special instructions (plus a reward)? Well, there are services that are starting to provide this type of functionality like GetGlue. And as of two days ago, GetGlue just announced a partnership with Lionsgate offering 40% off the Blueray DVD set of AMC’s popular tv show, Madmen. While this partnership doesn’t do much by way of “on-boarding,” they are creating fun, excitement and engagement with Madmen fans.
Is your company using location based marketing to on-board, engage and create loyalty with your customers? If so, post about it in the comments section below.

Memories and Milestones

Last night, my friend and former colleague, Rusty Williams, sent me a direct message on Twitter alerting me to the fact that I was on the precipice of a milestone. Sitting at 39,999 tweets, I was one away from my 40,000 update, which if you think about it is a lot. Just think about it… what have you done 40,000 times in your life (if anything)?

As I got thinking, I realized that it would be nice to celebrate this milestone with something worthy, something that helped others, because as I look back through my first 39,999 tweets, I realize just how lucky I am — both personally and professionally. Over the last four and half years that I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve met some amazing people and my family and I have benefited from this experience both personally and professionally.

In the past, I’ve taken different approaches to milestone tweets. I’ve been silly and done the fake retirement thing. I’ve also used the opportunity to dedicate tweets to friends like Jennifer Leggio who have helped me grow and expand my boundaries in social media. But this time, I want it to be different. This time, I want to do something good with my 40,000 update. Something that helps people in need and for those of us that aren’t in need, reminds us to pause and celebrate how lucky we are.

Here’s my plan and I’d like your help:

  • I just donated $150 to the #SXSWCares which my friends Deb Ng and Leigh Durst helped kick off at South by Southwest Interactive this year. I encourage you to donate too but I also know that money can be tight.
  • After a massive disaster like the one created by the Tsunami in Japan (and now the nuclear fallout) people tend to move on soon after the dust settles. To help keep this fresh in our minds for at least a little while longer, I ask that you retweet this post (there is a RT button at the top of the post) to help spread the word.
  • Once I get to 100 RTs, I will then donate 25 of my next 100 tweets, not just the #SXSWCares but to whatever cause you would like me to (within reason of course). Just leave the name of the cause, the link and a quick blurb as to why this cause is important to you in the comments below and I will make sure it gets tweeted to the people I’m connected with on Twitter.

Thank you in advance for helping me celebrate this marvelous milestone and the multiple memories I’ve had over my last 39,999 tweets.

Special thanks to: Kyle Flaherty, Jim Storer, Geoff Livingston, David Armano, Chris Brogan and Ken Burbary for helping me think through this.

Samsung Curates SXSWi on their Media Wall

No, this isn’t my annual South by Southwest (SXSW) wrap up post. Instead, this is a little shout out to my friends at Samsung, a company I’ve admired for a while now. I don’t have any formal relationship with them although they were kind enough to make me a VIP of the Blogger Lounge, one of my all time favorite places to hang out (and yes, that included a little high-end schwag).

Full disclosure aside, one of the things I love about this company is that they are doing something really smart with their sponsorship dollars at SXSW. Instead of just sponsoring a booth or putting up some giant signs, they worked with JESS3 to create something called the media wall. In the two videos below, I talk to Samsung social media manager, Esteban Contreras, about how they are curating — one of my favorite topics — the best of the best content [twitter, Flickr, SlideShare, check-ins, conference sessions, etc.] and posting it up on a giant wall.

Also good for all you SXSW goers who wish they had a way of collecting the best of what SXSWi had to offer, this feed should help.

In the first video clip, you’ll hear Esteban talk about the Samsung feed/video wall.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Hufyjc7GWI?hl=en]

In the second video clip, we’ll get to see the wall up close and see the beautiful screen of awesome in full effect.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_SYiqJTMJE?hl=en]

Thanks again to Samsung for helping make my SXSWi a better experience!