Friday, August 27, 2010

Are You Reddy or Are You Ready?

Research indicates that one in five romantic relationships start online. Too bad they stay there and eventually die there. The problem is that if a relationship exists only in one domain, it will likely die on the vine. The same analogy can be applied to new technologies, modes of communication and more. But the fact is that human relationships are far more interesting and personal than any other topic studied by super smart researchers today. And the reason why we continue to see "new" research about relationships is that we will never figure it out. But we are damned if we don't continue to try.

NPR recently ran a feature on how social networking - particularly texting and internet-based telephone services - has affected the Peace Corp Experience. This is interesting and timely because the Peace Corps is celebrating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. And our world, thanks to technology, is becoming smaller and smaller. For the Peace Corps volunteers stationed all over the globe, this is particularly important. Social networking mobility has offered up great things to the folks who spend months away from friends and family and in the past they were relegated to waiting and wanting. Now they can pick up a phone, Skype away and text at all hours of the night. Oh, and by the way, they can pick up a phone, Skype away and text at all hours of the night, too. What am I saying? According to the NPR feature, it's a double-edge sword, this little thing called love, er, technology.
Because when we used to be forced out into the world we usually came back a better person. As these Peace Corp workers are learning, people will seek out comfort and friendship when there is none. So, without the internet or mobile phones, they were out meeting new people, working their way though local happenings and community activities. Now, with technology as their little friend, they are having difficulty getting out there and mingling among the locals...which is kind of a necessary thing to experience the real Peace Corp experience. Another unforseen drawback for wide-reaching social media capabilities offered to these once isolated students of global peace-keeping operations is that the administrative office has now become less efficient and undervalued. Here is what John Reddy, a Peace Corps Rwanda County director told NPR:

"If a volunteer is telling their family they're having a bad day or a bad week, and then the family member calls Peace Corps Washington and Peace Corps Washington calls me ... I have to find the volunteer and see what the problem was," he says.
Reddy has spent nearly a quarter of a century working for the Peace Corps in Africa. He says before the Internet, Peace Corps staffers had more independence.
"Personally, I think there's a lot more micromanagement from Washington than there used to be," he says. "I sort of long for the days before the Internet and good phone service."

With yesterday's announcement of Google Talk, Reddy may not be ready for what we all think of when we ask for "good phone service," but he'll likely make do. This form of merging human emotions and needs with online activity will certinaly continue to grow. On a sidenote, I am sooooo looking forward to the day that my first grader texts me about how awful her teacher is or about how she just sent a photo of her lunch to the local newspaper to illustrate how mistreated they are as a student population. Strike that. I will never be ready for that. No one can be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Recap of What Not to Do's That Have All Been Done

The New York Times ran an article on this past year's hullabaloo without much ado about nothing. Which is a fancy way of saying that nothing is nothing to everyone and something is something to someone.

The article - called a must-read across industries - was penned by Peter S. Goodman. Titled, "In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do," Goodman goes into detail about recent public debacles that include the worst oil spill in American history, the Toyota safety recall story, Goldman Sachs fall from financial grace and more. Read more about the nay-saying notions and the public unveiling of the public relations nightmare that these catastrophies caused here.

Here is a quote from the article:
“These were real reputational implosions,” says Howard Rubenstein, the public relations luminary who represents the New York Yankees and the News Corporation. “In all three cases, the companies found themselves under attack over the very traits that were central to their strong global brands and corporate identities.”
And even though Goodman misspelled Rubinstein's name, certainly no one can argue that his has a solid point. That which sets us apart also is that which makes us stand out; a theory I am fairly certain is true across the board.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Need I Say More?

What's better than one single powerful word to describe something?

A photo because a photo is worth a thousand words. And what's better than a photo? More than one, of course. So it stands to reason that I can tell a whole story by showing a few good photos. Unfortunately the story I am about to tell is one that needs no words. Keep reading...

An entire tub of Bare Escentuals makeup spilled on my thigh at the start of my morning drive. Nice!

Backed up traffic due to a minor accident, but backed up nonetheless.

Defective straps on my Via Spiga's. Not one, but two, broken straps make for one very angry shoe collector.

More construction. Need I say more? Good night.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Silence is a Virtue

Patience - not silence - may indeed be a virtue but words have different meanings to different people. And a thousand of them - words, not people - equal one single image.

Today I'll use one single word to describe my Monday. Long.

That's all I have to say about that.

WORDS from Everynone on Vimeo.

An Impression Worth Leaving

Second place is first place loser. In sports, that's how I compete. Maybe not the most politically correct in a society where kindergarten classes debate the existence of "participation" trophies (and the societal ramifications of removing healthy competition from the learning environment Google-style) instead of rubbing noses in dirt, but I can't change who I am.

Another thing difficult - if not impossible to change - is a first impression. Alas, it's true that there are no second chances to leave a first impression.

Backing away from that metaphorical ledge, impressions are on my mind. A lot like Georgia, it's a siren song in the marketing world to increase impressions. The kind of impressions that mean something to someone, that is. Impressions of the social media kind...what happens when an impression is recorded? Is it more than someone simply stumbling on a page or a site that loads? Was each impression directly related to marketing campaigns and what is it that those campaigns want you to do now that they have captured your impression? Jason Falls had a lot to say about measuring impressions way back in 2008, but basically he wrapped it up nicely by saying that people don't understand it enough (the analytical technology AND social media as a whole) to really make the kind of lasting impressions that marketers can only dream of acquiring.

To be exact, Falls said, “Big brands want deep-dive information without having to do any work. But they want deep-dive because there is not a hard, fast number we can circle and say, “1,547 here means we made an additional $46.78 there.” The measurement business is an illusion to them. They have no clue what the numbers mean, how they relate to success and, in the end, they can throw them all out and just say, ‘We did some cool sh*t on-line, too,” and their CMO/CEO will be happy, so long as the advertising campaigns lead to sales growth.”

For more information on measuring social media, follow @kdpaine on Twitter. Or read up on what Forrester thinks about the ROI of social media marketing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not Entirely Worthless

According to Adweek, a Facebook fan is worth less than four bucks. Not entirely worthless. Just less than a Starbucks latte.

But that's just what Adweek said.

Another study by Syncapse told a similar tale but offered up a different ending. A Facebook fan, they said, is worth about $140.

Both articles looked at things like paid media value, product spend, brand affiliation, loyalty and others, but the most important factor was the value of the audience; not simply of being a fan, but what being a fan meant.

This is not a crazy new notion, mind you, in the world of eCommerce meets individualism meets conformity meets social needs meets technology and so on and so on. Assigning value to everything and everything being valuable. Of course, it's impossible to be empirical for the sake of being empirical. But we certainly try. Think about any given group or club that you belong to. Church. Volleyball rec league. Book club. Golf team. Whatever. Sure it's great to be part of something and that something is happy to have you, but the fact is that if you don't have a valuable and reciprical relationship with others in the group and the group as a whole, you are not going to care too much if you miss a meeting or two. Your engagement with the group will have a value, but it will start slipping. And if something better comes along, it's likely that you will seek out new experiences in hopes that something else will delight you more than what you are experiencing currently.

Which is exactly what Diaspora is banking on. At least for the time being. This group of four fellows is trying to make a go at giving Facebook a run for their money. And in doing so, these college students bent on privacy rights stirred up some delightful interest among the leaders of the technology sector. Hell, even Mark Zuckerberg got a charge at the project and donated to their cause because apparently he is a real fan of free enterprise and innovative technology. Read more on their story here.

So the lesson learned here is that no matter how much money Mark Z-man made from Facebook, he still recognizes the value of a fan.

Or maybe it's that the friend of your enemy really is your friend after all.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Killing Me Softly

The bell curve of any good thing is a brilliantly bulbeous thing indeed. It may have started off as a book about the intelligence factor in Americans, but we all now recognize the bell curve as something that illustrates how trends are adopted, taper up in popularity, then spread to the general audience before landing in front of those who are last to embrace it. When applied to technology, this idea is known as Roger's Bell Curve. The funny part is that Roger's Bel Curve originally was meant to study the patterns of hybrid seed corn by farmers.

"Beal, Rogers and Bohlen together developed a technology diffusion model and later Everett Rogers generalized the use of it in his widely acclaimed book, Diffusion of Innovations (now in its fifth edition), describing how new ideas and technologies spread in different cultures. Others have since used the model to describe how innovations spread between states in the U.S.

The technology adoption lifecycle model describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups. The process of adoption over time is typically illustrated as a classical normal distribution or "bell curve." The model indicates that the first group of people to use a new product is called "innovators," followed by "early adopters." Next come the early and late majority, and the last group to eventually adopt a product are called "laggards."

Of course, the bell curve idea of early adopters versus the rest of the world should not be mistaken for The Bell Jar, a classic in feminist literature.

Nor should the idea of anything to do with technology influencers and emotional appeal be mistaken for anything to do with the newly released (probably straight to video) movie, the Killing Jar...something about trapping a bunch of insects or worse.

Not at all like The Killers recent music video where the band appears to be dressed up like large insects while they sing about some other planet during a three course meal. I know what you are thinking, but it's still a good song, though.

Speaking of a good song, here is a good read about how digital adapters adopt and why it's essential to know that it's more about reaching the influencers as opposed to influencing the late adopters. Another way of saying it: get ahead of the curve.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Interesting Very Interesting

This is funny shit.

I love It's fan-freaking-tastic. It's a site that offers free, easy, fun personal finance solutions. Not the smarmy financial credit restorers [wink wink] like enova and crap like that. Reality life-based guidance that takes into account how sucky the economy is, how young or old you may be, what you have in your pocket and what you may someday want in the bank and all the other things that responsible people need to consider when considering anything monetary. In short, it's good stuff.
Check out a recent blog post on mintlife;'s lifestyle blog. It's an article on men at work. Literally. Because it's a financial business (and thus the crux of the content will always somehow circle around money matters,) it starts off by asking and answering questions like, if you had enough money, would you keep working...and how much money do you think you will need to retire...but quickly the content takes a twist and turns into...have you ever had sex with a co-worker...would you punch your boss in the face if you could get away with it? Come on...that's funny shit.

And what's more is that it is totally relevant and extremely interesting. As all things should be, no doubt.

Especially content. If you are in marketing, social media, communications or well, if you are human, then you know that content is king. Always has been, always will be. So this new concept of "content curation" is nothing new. Throwing social media outlets into the mix may be newer, but the idea of staying awake and engaged to things around you that interest you is, in no way, new. I follow Lee Odden's TopRank Marketing blog because it's packed full of good interesting marketing stuff, but the fact is that I also like the way he tells stories and I enjoy the content of his stories. I find them both relevant and interesting. Take a look at what he recently penned about why so many companies suck at social media:

"Part of the problem is that most companies are not inherently “social” to begin with. It’s not in their DNA to understand what it means for individual employees to start having conversations with the social web at large as representatives of a company personality. Marketing is about many things including connecting audiences with products they want to buy. Marketing on the social web is less about the tradition of packaging and distributing information and more about companies being able to connect with customers in ways that are both meaningful to those customers and to the goals of the business."

See? Good stuff. Not necessarily a concept that upsets the apple cart, but one that is worth revisiting if you are trying to understand the difference between being social and doing social.

Speaking of relevant, interesting and social...let the weekend begin!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Things We Do For Love

The things we do for love...

In India, they are called "honor killings," because often the murderers are related to the murdered. Recently there have been an increase in these horrific acts that have landed the very idea of a gotra in midstream news coverage. Otherwise, who knows, these things would continue to go on unnoticed, and seemingly, without further review from the authorities. Let alone the father who kills his own son and daughter-in-law because he feels he needs to in order to keep with the caste system.

Also in the news lately is the topic of Sharia law.  Otherwise known as Islamic law, this form of political legislation governed by religious views of the Muslim world is making the news because of recently announced plans to build a mosque near the Twin Towers site in lower Manhattan. The most recent news is that the project has gotten the green light from Mayor Bloomberg.

A different sort of love, Wyclef Jean confirmed today that he will be running for president of Haiti.   

In other disturbing news, it seems that some ladies are wearing white pants in public. Yikes. As sartorially delighful as I find Robert Redford's Sundance Catalog, I simply can't stand white pants. Love or not, white pants is something I firmly believe are quite possibly the hardest thing for a girl to pull off. Indeed, love is blind.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Difference Between a Fan and A Friend

They were playing with Polly Pockets. Little tiny rubber clothes, little tiny rubber dolls, little tiny rubber shoes, hats, purses and more.

"You are taking all the dolls!" shouted the smaller of the two as she reached for a doll just after it was snatched up by the older one.

"No I am not," was the response, "I collect people, that's all."

"You can't collect people. That's not fair!"

And so it went. And so it goes.

Unfortunately, in the world of social media, social selling, socializing and society, it's all about collecting people. We want to invite everyone to our party and we want to be invited to all parties. What's more is that we want everyone to know that we got invited and how much inviting we do. It's human nature.

The problem with collecting people is that all intentions are lost and numbers become the critical measure of success. That's a dangerous phenomena because even numbers lie.

Just take a look at the importance that we put on how many Facebook friends we have. Call them connections. Or followers. Or clients. Or customers. Or whatever. Really, who cares? Well, some say some do. For some gaming applications, loads and loads of friends are a requirement to play. And if you are using your friends to support your livelihood, more means better for you and your bottom line. But the truth is that a human being can't handle more than 150 (friends, according to this New York Times article.) Adding friends after that only means diminished exchanges and opportunities for real personal interaction. After that, it's all a numbers game.

And when numbers lie, it's hard to tell who is telling the truth and if, in fact, there is a truth to be told. Take, for instance, the Schrute Farms farce on TripAdvisor. User-generated content had this fake destination ranking higher and with more marks than many Manhattan hotels. What's that say about collecting people and the high degree of group-think that comes with corraling folks like cattle? To me, it says the data is as useless as a plate full of beets. You can serve it up, but don't expect people to buy.

Another way of saying the same thing is to say that it's vital - both for business and pleasure - to know the difference between a fan and a friend. Anyone can buy a fan. But a friend is someone worth the fight.