Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is there a $2 billion social acquisition coming?

Why does Ben Silbermann look like hell?

I don't actually think he looks that bad, but a while back, Fast Company ran an article that basically said, "For a guy running such a beautiful website, Ben Silbermann looks like hell..." then went into torrid detail about bags under his eyes, an unkept skirt, watery eyes and uncombed hair. 

Maybe it's because he is the founder of the uber popular pinning site, Pinterest or maybe it's because he is a working dad. Either way, he is certainly facing extraordinary stress in rather uncertain times. And for good reason; the world is watching and not only that, but they are the audience; and a very active audience at that.

Just how many people use these social sites (source)

Facebook: 1.1 billion
Twitter: 500 million
YouTube: 1 billion
Instagram: 100 million
Tumblr: 216.3m monthly users
Pinterest: 49 million
Hulu: 4 million

Knowing that Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65b, Facebook bought Instagram for $1b in 2012, Twitter goobled up Vine for a cool $30m in the same year, and Yahoo! recently signed the deal to take over Tumblr for $1.1b, makes for good reasons Ben can't get much rest. Now Hulu is up for grabs and contenders are submitting formal bids that appear to range from $500m all the way up to $2b. All this talk of usage, popularity, valuation and traffic makes my head spin and I don't have any skin in the game. So the question is, does Ben think perhaps that Pinterest will be the first $2+ billion social acquisition? 

It's a question that probably keeps Ben up most nights. No wonder the poor bastard looks like hell. 

I have to imagine that it's stressful to think that maybe your little dream will turn into billions of dollars and leave a mark on how people live their lives everyday, across the globe. The latter is already happening, by the way, and that's another reason Ben can't sleep. He can't disappoint his fans. He built the ultimate destination to surprise and delight and that's a tough act to follow...or even maintain. As technology evolves and new wondrous sites and apps get born each day, Pinterest has to stay at the top of their game or risk faltering in front of all. 

Here is a quick list of Pinterest look-alikes and their usage stats:

Wanelo: 8 million
Fancy: 2 million 
Fab: 12 million
Opensky: 1 million
StylePin: --
Flickr: 87 million

Here is a whole list of 33 less Pinterestingly-popular clone sites


I'll leave you with this Pinteresting infographic:

It's enough to keep even the most exhausted new dad up at night.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What the (marketing) world needs most.

Depending on who you ask, romance is the new social media marketing strategy. Some may argue that it's always been the strategy. With the ABC (Always Be Closing) mentality behind marketing sales, it's easy (no pun intended) to correlate a marketing strategy to that of a romantic relationship.

Just ask any one of Taylor Swift's ex-boyfriends. Here is a girl who is constantly on the hunt for her next big breakup. It's a strategy that works for her. At least for now.

For brands and businesses, it's not good practice to strategize solely on the next best customer. Focus on the paying customer now. Once that relationship is as healthy as it can possibly be, expand that circle of influence and carefully invite others to share in your happiness. But have integrity. Be true.

It's just like dating, really. Get to know each other before meeting the parents. Decide if the relationship is worth all the work because all relationships are work. Concentrate on the present and really be present. Have fun and be sure to put your best assets out there, but be human and be romantic. Don't assume and abuse your status or your access to information. Don't be Taylor Swift.

Same thing goes for marketing. It's ridiculous to think that because someone liked your Facebook page or agreed to sign up for an email program because they wanted to enter a sweepstakes, they are in love with your business. It only means that you have a chance at making it something more. One chance to totally screw things up. One chance to build a meaningful conversation. It can also honestly mean nothing. Like a chance meeting at a night club; it doesn't mean there will be a first date. And even if so, it doesn't mean you should call her, email her, or promptly follow her around town (or the open web). There is a good chance that if you don't romance her, she is not going to respond to your addressable marketing (or stalking) or if she does respond, it may not be what you intended. But don't get me wrong, it's not a damned if you do, damned if you don't's more like, damnit, be human and have a heart. Act like a person and not a douche. Act like a brand and not just a bucket of data.

A successful romance strategy can be boiled down to one thing really: values. Do you have them and do you share them? If you gain a Twitter follower because you host a Twitter party about tips and tricks for taking care of pets, you better be authentic about that subject matter or you risk not only losing that fan, but also creating a poor reputation that may supercede all future efforts. Because eventually people will see your authentic self. A person's core values, just like a company's mission statement and corporate personality, is part of their DNA. It's customer service, but so much more. Your core values must be aligned to that of your target, or your potential life partner, in order for true and deep romance to take place. When I say deep romance, by the way, I'm describing digital and social engagement, advocacy in the public forum (like telling other people that you are a customer or that you are dating) and a real exchange of goods and services, if you know what I am saying. I mean, we are not talking about a digital one-night stand. If you think that gaining all the data you can on a person will turn them into a life long customer, you probably tend to have many one-night stands and will likely never be in a committed relationship with anyone. You probably move on quickly and likely grow bored with people you think you already "know". Consumers who want a deep relationship with a brand will know to go elsewhere and will not trust you for anything more than a once and done deal. And that's too bad. For people and brands alike, long-term and sustainable happiness is key to real growth.

What the world needs most is certainly love, sweet love.

Who can argue that?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Forget wonder. Do you witness?

Forget wonder. (Oh please, now, how can we?) Do you witness?

Have you been to a concert lately? How about a car crash? How about a fight? Or maybe a surprise birthday party? Or even the first time the baby walked or the last time the dog farted…what were you doing?

Were you witnessing it in real life or were you recording it via your iPhone? True story; I went to New York Fashion Week and I was appalled by how many people watch a runway show through their iPhone. Beautiful models wearing incredible outfits right in the front of your face and you are holding up your phone and looking at the tiny screen instead. Egad. (I did it, too, by the way. The photo of the strange celebrity being filmed is proof because I was on the other side of my phone, being a photographer to it all.) 

My question to you today is; how do you witness?

Forget wonder, glorious wonder, found in life but beaten down by technology, society, parenting and more. #Forgetaboutit. Instead, focus on witnessing. Living. Being present.

I'll confess. I have problems with this. It’s tough to really witness. It takes so much time, so much effort. It’s emotional to really commit to being present. It’s draining to connect, feel, engage…live.

But it's totally worth it, right?

Originally posted back in 2008, Jay Dixit wrote an article that appeared in Psychology Today. Titled, "The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment," is a good read that probably resonates with 99.9% of people alive today. 

Here is where I tell you a little about myself. I stumbled upon the "Art of Now" article by way of researching Burning Man. I was researching Burning Man while researching concerts, events and conferences for work. I was investigating the idea of community, masses, groupthink and the role social media plays. Oh, and brands. How brands play into those experiences and how they affect the act of forming a community, especially around something as visceral as a theme; like music, yoga, fashion, etc. Not as deep as it sounds, but I digress. I was researching. And I joyfully stumbled. (So maybe wonder exists, after all.) 

Truth is, I haven't attended Burning Man, but I'm intrigued by the idea behind the event and I'm a little bit in love with the Ten Guiding Principles

My most favorite guiding principle is "Participation." Here is what Burning Man says about the idea of participation:

"Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart."

Good god I love that. 

P.S. Here are the 6 steps to living in the now, thanks to Jay Dixit: 

1: To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness). Focus less on your mental chatter and more on what you are part of. That's advice from a dance instructor to the author of the article, but it's sage advice. 

2: To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring). Mark Twain once said, "I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." So savoring is the idea that we concentrate on thinking less about all the "what if" bullshit and more about what is actually happening around us. Like a delicious slice of decadent mocha cheesecake, savoring our moments allows us to really taste the sensation.

3: If you want a future with your significant other, inhabit the present (breathe). Being mindful decreases aggressiveness, limits ego involvement and generally speaking, leads to a happier you and happier people around you. That's good stuff. 

4: To make the most of time, lose track of it (flow). This is the state of total absorption. Toddler can do it and so can dads who tune everything out while watching TV, but most people have a problem finding "flow." Sex and sleep are two areas that flow seems to happen to most of us, but the goal should be to find more "flow" in our lives. 

5: If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it (acceptance). Accept your thoughts and make peace with it. You don't have to believe it and you don't have to do what they say. 

6: Know that you don't know (engagement). People tend to stop paying attention to something after they think they "know" it. But every new moment gives you a chance to see things in a different light. Like sunlight shifting patterns across your office wall, the tiny lines on your baby's fingernails, a wrinkle around your mouth when you make that face or a subtle hint of cinnamon in your afternoon coffee...If you don't engage, you may miss it entirely.