Friday, October 28, 2011

The Best 5:30 of Your Day: After Your Final Status Update

Adam Ostrow, editor in chief of Mashable, gives us a great topic to consider as we celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). What happens to your online "life" after you are gone? Now this is certainly not the most enjoyable topic, but it is a very important one. Facebook claims more than 800 million active users. The latest statistics I could find via the World Fact Book estimate that 55.3 million people die annually. That is two people every second. Given that we are about to hit the seven billion population mark, many of the newly deceased are not social media users. However, a large number are active on social media, thus the number of deceased users grow exponentially. 

This gives us a lot to ponder. What is the role of online media? Does Facebook, Twitter, Blogs all exist just for the living? Could they become memorials to the deceased? A modern way for the departed to remain in our collective consciousness and be remembered? Those of us active in following social media and technology trends are quick to point out that all information you share on the Internet should be considered permanent and public. Does this apply after death? 

Watch Mr. Ostrow's video below and start to ask yourself if you have or will use social media to remember people lost in your circles. How will this impact the amount of information archived? How should online groups such as Facebook handle archiving? What opportunities are out there for creating a more robust remembrance in "the cloud" for those that want it?  

Now I wonder how many presenters on the TED site are no longer with us in body? 

Adam Ostrow: After your final status update

Friday, October 21, 2011

Most Valuable Digital Consumers: An Infographic

Nielsen recently released an interesting infographic related to how consumers use social media.
They followed that up with one highlighting mobile use and local social media engagement. 

Not surprising is that 64% of parents use social media to learn about brands before purchase. 
The group most likely to comment on social media posts are age 20-27. What this means to me is that looking solely at analytics and judging who is influenced is the wrong approach. There are a lot of lurkers who don't interact much but are influenced by social media. 

This is especially true in localized and mobile. The growth of people using mobile devices to find a business or product is growing exponentially. The days of focusing active mobile and local engagement in key high-use markets such as San Francisco are gone. 
Creating an effective, if not robust, presence is ideal. I posted recently on how curating your presence is the key to social media success. This is especially true when you understand how and where consumers are engaging with your online presence.

Understanding how people engage with your brand online is important, but if you don't know your customer and have a strong brand all of your social media activation will be wasted.   

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Curating is the Key to Social Media Success

Recently I wrote about the benefits of "curating your life" in the post Buy Less, Benefit More. The theory is that by simplifying your life, buying fewer but more meaningful things will improve your life. I also posit that retailers and business will benefit from more consumers leading smaller, more meaningful lives.
Today I want to talk briefly about your social media life. Well, your brands social media life. Most experts contend that you are doing your brand a disservice by not embracing the social media world fully. They will talk about multiple touch points and active and passive engagement. Indeed, it is true that you need to be available and accessible via social media. Geo-locating is also crucial for most retailers in this new world. A new study by JiWire that we referenced yesterday in the post Your Mom Buys More Online Than You, clearly shows that the majority of consumers research and find information about your products online. They study reviews and price compare, they geo-locate to find the nearest retailer and increasingly they buy online. But there is a problem with this.

When you build social media channels for your business, you are creating rooms for consumers to experience your products and services. Those virtual rooms must be branded, updated, staffed and managed. Just as you would not open a retail store and then ignore it for months, you must actively engage and manage your virtual store. A brand management plan must be created. Staff must be trained and customers responded to. ROI must be assessed. Investments must be made. That is where we get to the curated part.

I am not saying that any business should abandon a channel in social media. However, depending upon budget and ability you may have to consider converting some social media channels to sign posts. Feeder areas that direct people to an actively managed "room" where they can gain the contact and brand experience you want them to have. That does not mean that you still shouldn't actively monitor all of your social media channels. After all, you don't control your social media rooms fully. Others have the ability to influence for you. For effectively monitoring your online reputation and activity we have been excited to explore Datasift, a real-time data feed monitor. 

Finally, curating what you convey to your customers is vital. Mark Twain was once credited with saying "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time." Just as in Mr. Twain's time, curating your message takes time and is hard work, but it is more valuable than ever. Clear and on-brand messaging will set you apart from the cluttered world of social media. Create a curated and managed social media life, align that with a curated offline presence that matches and then run both as you would a great retail store and you will be on the way to success.    

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Your Mom Buys More Online Than You

There is some interesting findings in a new study of how consumers use mobile devices.
In a study by JiWire, a location-based online media company, we learn that more are using location-based content to find a business versus connect with others. Even fewer are checking in at locations. However, a majority are willing to reveal their location to gain more information about a business or to gain an offer. In a big leap from previous studies, a full 53% of those surveyed say that they plan to use their mobile device for their holiday shopping this season. All great trends for social media marketing and mobile marketing.

The most surprising statistics are when you look at the data by generations. The infographic below from JiWire summarizes the results well. Simply put, Generation X, and those up to age 54, are much more likely to make purchases via their mobile device. They are also almost twice as likely to research using their mobile device and then purchase in store. Granted the spending power of those aged 35-54 is greater than those 18-34, but the results seem to confirm the comfort level that older mobile users have has increased dramatically. This makes sense considering that most people over the age of 35 have been using mobile devices and shopping online for up to 20 years. 

As marketers, what does this mean for us?

1. Location-based information is a must for your business. Even if it is passive, businesses must have online location presence with details and links to their other social media and online presence.

2. Retailers must align their social media and online brand with their bricks-and-mortar presence. It is clear that consumers view your brand as your brand,. If one does not relate to the other you are in trouble and they will question their potential purchase.

3. Active engagement and response in social media is crucial. With a near majority researching items online before buying, having an active engagement and response protocol is crucial. View social media engagement as sales staff in your store.

4. Monitoring your third-party product reviews and earned media is vital. Tracking and reporting of online product evaluations, reviews and blog commentary is vital. Develop a plan for engagement as response.     

Ultimately, this simply reinforces the convergence of channels as it relates to your brand. You cannot neglect one outlet anymore.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Best 17:16 of Your Day: How Beauty Feels

Designer Richard Seymour paints an incredible picture of beauty and why it matters. Not a whiny appeal that we need to appreciate beauty that you hear from designers from time to time. No, he outlines for us how we subconsciously know beauty, appreciate beauty, respond emotionally to beauty and most importantly, know what is not beautiful.

From a branding and marketing perspective, this reinforces to me that as professionals we need to do a better job of selling quality design to clients. We need to work to convey to them that an immersive brand experience is valuable. That they need to invest in their brand, their packaging, their total experience. Not just because it will look beautiful, but because the consumer will respond to that beauty. They will act on it. Ultimately, if it is on message, they will buy it and regard the product more highly.

Richard Seymour's design company, SeymourPowell is a leader in product and packaging design. You should check them out, view their work and see how it makes you feel.

This is a TED talk that all designers should watch. More importantly, this is a talk that all agency owners, strategists and branding experts should watch. Enjoy...  

Richard Seymour: How beauty feels

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dying a Qwikster Death

Article first published as Dying a Qwikster Death on Technorati.

Reed Hastings, CEO
It was a death that most everyone knew was inevitable. The ill-conceived direct mail spin-off of Netflix, Qwikster, has been declared dead only a month after its creation. Brian Stelter of the New York Times covers it deftly in his Media Decoder column. While this is a catastrophic and high-profile failure, we see this same type of mistake daily in companies big and small. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix is attributing it in his press release to moving too quickly,
“Consumers value the simplicity Netflix has always offered and we respect that. There is a difference between moving quickly — which Netflix has done very well for years — and moving too fast, which is what we did in this case.”
There is no doubt that they moved to quickly, but speed doesn't kill, if you don't make the other mistakes they made. Hidden in the multiple missteps of bad naming, terrible branding, bad launch strategy, poor planning and unsatisfying public relations management are two key failures.

Failure #1:   They lost sight of their company vision in making this decision.
Mr. Hastings stated in the 2003 Netflix Annual Report that the vision of the company was to create "the best movie experience.  Period." A laudable goal and a worthy one. The company abandoned this vision in an attempt to advance the company to what future customers will demand. The problem with that is that their customers are not future customers, they are current customers. Anyone who uses Netflix will tell you that the online streaming library is far from "The best movie experience." It lacks many current films and TV shows as well as many classics and art house films. The consumer does not want to hear excuses. There are valid ones about licensing, Hollywood studios being difficult and cost-revenue factors. It is not the consumer’s responsibility to understand your company’s challenges. All they are required to do is determine if your company vision matches the experience.
Failure #2: They forgot that the customer comes first.
It’s an old adage, but a very important one. Simply put, they placed revenue and expense at the forefront of boardroom decision making. Evert decision should start with the questions "what will make our most loyal customers love us even more? What will make our former customers love us? What will convert new customers over to us?" Those questions are the first litmus test. Once those ideas are on the table is when you sharpen the pencil and determine what makes the most financial sense for the current landscape and into the future.
Failure to Launch. Now on Netflix
So what should have Netflix done? I guess the better question is, what should Netflix do now? The reality is that the mail order DVD business is dying. No doubt. They need to exit it. Perhaps they felt that a quickie (pun intended) rebrand and spin-off would allow them to make a value sale of that portion of their business. This was not the way to do it. The value of their DVD business was in the brand of Netflix which they are not willing to sell and the infrastructure. Most possible buyers would have bit on a sale as-is, without a spin-off business. Netflix should invest in more streaming films, better software and distribution services, better search and viewing features and so on. They should make streaming the best it can possibly be.

Second, Netflix should consider a tiered Premium service for streaming customers. Offer exclusive content, preview viewings of new releases and even live streamed content. Make it a real and worthwhile premium product. At the same time, they should slowly continue to ramp up the pricing of the DVD mail order product. Over the course of a year or two the price will have steadily climbed to a point in which a smaller user base is paying a premium for the service. It will then become an "exclusive" service versus a lag service.

The Qwikster death should certainly be a reminder to all businesses that they need to reflect on their vision and customers before making any decision.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Update: Google+ is Emptying Out

Google certainly did not want to hear the latest news on usage.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Google+ traffic is off 60% since September 20th. that was the day they opened it to everyone and removed the invite only tag. The site experienced a huge traffic surge of over 1,200% that day, but has since dropped consistently.       

I originally wrote about the concerns of the new social media site here: Google+, Party of No One? 
But a funny thing happened on the way to world domination. It appears that for all the members signing up, few are actually hanging out in the Hangouts. As reported by Dan Reimold for MediaShift, Google+ "is worse than a ghost town." While actual details on traffic and usage are hard to come by, more anecdotal evidence is suggesting that the assumptions of lack of volume is in fact the case. 
In that post, I did relay that media and news outlets are embracing it and gave some examples. There is no way to definitively prove that that sub-set of users are still engaged or not.  

Offering a few more thoughts on the API growth and other Hangout features in this post: Did the Cool Kids Just Arrive at the Google+ Party?
 The next few weeks will be a litmus test for the social network. Will the opening of Google+ to the 'general public' spur it past the "must engage daily" tipping point? Just as important is the announcement of the new API Hangout. Allowing third-party application development could certainly kick the place into high gear. new features are being launched as well that hold a great deal of potential.
Right now it looks like the excitement of Facebook Timeline is winning.
The already heavily invested Facebook user is finding it hard to create a new virtual social media world in Google+.

Simply put, there will have to be a major effort to convince people to shift their primary usage to Google+. An app that allows easy transfer of content from Facebook to Google+ would be one way. Another option would be for Google to focus on making it a news and media driven social media site. Google has a lot of work ahead of them to make Google+ a viable challenge to Facebook.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Buy Less, Benefit More

Yasuhiro Yamashita designed small home
Alternately titled, Better Living Through Curated Belongings.
Graham Hill is a writer at and a designer. He explains in his TED talk how and why we should simplify our lives through smaller spaces, fewer things and more thoughtful living. He covers the idea of editing your life. His talk is certainly worth a listen. In it he explains how the world benefits and how the individual benefits.

Leading a more sustainable life is laudable for all of us, but I am more interested in how producers of things benefit. How does the furniture company, the electronics company, the car company benefit? In more ways than you can imagine.

Engaging in a cultural shift toward possessing fewer belongings does not mean that our earnings and total spending on goods and services will change. What it does mean is that we will start to desire products that are longer lasting and of more quality. Couple that with the trend of localized consumption and you have a perfect storm for and explosion of micro and artisanal manufacturers of a huge array of products. I believe you will also see a growth of locally based style sites. But what does this shift mean for current products?

The strong retailers and manufacturers will start to adapt. Companies like Target will start to stock more refillable and reusable products. The days of the low quality bookcase that goes to the curb on trash day after a couple years will be replaced by high-quality solid wood bookcases made from reclaimed materials. You may also start to see retailers offering trade-in and trade-up programs. The consumer will benefit but so will the retailers. Fewer total transactions may occur, but each product transaction will be at a higher price point and invariably a higher profit margin.

Neighborhoods will benefit by having more infill homes, more density and more civic engagement. If you live in a smaller home that doesn't have 4,500 square-feet you get out to public spaces more. Restaurants will see continued increase in frequency of visitors. Architects will have to be much smarter, but will get to be much more creative. Smaller home construction will also allow more custom designs as the total construction cost will be lower.  

Smaller quality product manufacturers located in your city will mean more jobs, closer commutes, more use of mass transit and so on.

Getting on the leading edge of this trend could hold great potential for business owners and entrepreneurs. There is great potential for more small retailers, small neighborhood grocers, residential renewable energy providers  and even service providers to help consumers downsize their lives.

A lot to think about as this trend takes hold, but a lot of possible benefit for all of us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Yelp Effect

Article first published as The Yelp Effect: Leveling the Playing Field for Independent Restaurants on Technorati.

 A new study by the Harvard Business School seems to show that is helping to level the playing field for independent restaurants. The unique study shows that for every one-star rating increase in a restaurant review on the site, a restaurant achieved a 5-9% sales increase. This was not the case for chain or multi-unit establishments. Thus we are seeing a clear independent bias in consumer activation from Yelp. The study, available at uses Seattle as their study area.

When you dig into the numbers, it becomes apparent that Yelp has certainly allowed independent restaurants with limited marketing budgets to gain a presence in the marketplace more broad than they would have had otherwise. Prior to the proliferation of Yelp and other self-review sites, more traditional media was limited in the number of restaurants they reviewed. This allowed a few to gain wide exposure, while most went unnoticed to the masses. Chain restaurants did not benefit from Yelp primarily because they are already in the paid media channels establishing their message. Thus, you cannot benefit from an "organic" reputation while also controlling your reputation via paid media.

This success cannot be all attributed to Yelp however. The market they used for their study is a very strong independent restaurant city. It also is a tech savvy city with higher internet and social media penetration than the National average. During the study period we have also witnessed a strong growth in the "locavore" movement. The media coverage of this trend certainly has benefited independent restaurateurs. Finally, while Yelp is a popular site (nearly 500,000 daily unique users) when you break the searches down to local metro areas it is hardly a majority of patrons using their service. So what can we learn from this?

No one channel can make a restaurant a success. A clear brand message is still key. Establish that message via social media and utilize Yelp as a validation source. Reward loyal customers and turn them into brand advocates, extolling the qualities of the experience not just in an online review, but via social media and offline social circles. In short, Yelp is a tool and a reflection of the overall experience.