Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting Started with Twitter: A Smart Newbie's Perspective


As you know, I'm a big fan of serendipity. This morning, it struck again as I invited folks in the great city of Austin, TX to join me for coffee at one of my favorite spots, the Hideout. I had low expectations given the fact that I gave people less than 18 hours notice AND the fact that it was two days before Christmas. While we didn't get quantity, I got quality in spades with my friend, Michael Pearson and new friend, David Patton.


Why I mentioned "serendipity" is that David happens to be quite an interesting fellow. What intrigued me the most was the fact that he had just started on his Twitter adventure about six weeks ago so this was my opportunity to relive those early moments of "holy shit, this thing is a game changer" of Twitter. Since I didn't have an audio recorder, I went the old fashioned route and sent David six questions via e-mail to answer. Being a good doobie, he turned them around within a few hours.

For anyone that's new to Twitter, I REALLY like the way David is approaching the space. If I were to have a do over, I'd likely take an approach to Twitter that's similar to his.

1) Talk a little bit about your role at Hush and the jobs/paths that led you up to your current position.
My association with Hush began in late '90s as an initial investor, and subsequently, after helping secure several rounds of funding, as a director.

Starting and growing a real estate development company in Austin during the malaise of the savings and loan crisis, and a securities/investment firm in the latter part of the decade, provided much of the experience necessary to help guide Hush through the dot com meltdown.

More importantly, very early on we decided it was important to gain credibility with encryption experts, by publishing our source code, and with our customers, by offering swift, honest and detailed
customer service, often provided by our CTO, Brian Smith. This was completely uncharacteristic of the industry at the time, and it built a high level of trust between the company, our industry peers and our subscribers. And this trust is the foundation of our business, because without it the technology means nothing.

2) When did you get started on Twitter? What was the impetus for joining?
Uncharacteristically, the early phase passed passed me by. But the Twitterstorms which erupted during the Hudson River plane crash, and after the Iranian election voter uprising, got me to take notice that something had changed in the way we communicate as a society. News procurement and provision would never be the same.

3) What has been your greatest “aha” moment on Twitter?

There were two. The first was replacing decade old website habits with my real-time Twitter timeline. It didn't take long to realize Google is a horrible search engine for up to the minute news. And
even once cutting edge sites, updated daily, began to appear stale. If it's happening now, it's streaming on Twitter.

The second was the realization that the Cluetrain had picked up steam and was making speed right down Madison Avenue. This was a game changer. Who buys anything anymore without reading customer reviews? Who went to see Bruno? James Cameron should pay a portion of Avatar's box office receipts to Robert Scoble and [Mike] Arrington.

4) What do you find most annoying about Twitter?

Not much. It's all pretty fascinating to me. Democracy can be messy. Democratization of industries can be downright ugly, and that's what we're seeing. But like the dust, sweat and noise of travel, it's all part of reaching a better place!

5) Talk a little bit about your follow strategy.

This can be tricky.  To get right to the crux of any matter you have to go where the action is, so I right off the bat I followed almost all of the employees at Twitter, listened to the buzz, followed who they followed and who followed them, and gradually got a better feel for the etiquette and protocols of the Titterverse. Scoble followed me then you followed me, so I said, wow, anyone can engage anyone else here, and that was key. I made it a point to follow, and to be followed by, anyone who genuinely wanted to engage in a conversation that was meaningful to both of us.

6) Words of wisdom (this is the freeform section)
  • Listen. It takes a lot of patience, but you can learn so much more by paying attention to what's going on around you than by interrupting a conversation.
  • Give. Link people who may gain something by knowing each other, without expecting anything in return. It will come back around (The twizzang effect!).
  • Say "Yes" to hyper-caffeinated, outgoing marketing types who randomly arrange early morning coffee tweetups ;)
What about you? Do you remember your first few weeks on Twitter? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

Ten Most Poplular Citizen Marketer 2.1 Posts of 2009


For the record, I'm totally following the pack on this one -- something I don't normally do. But give the fact that I had a lot of posts this year, I couldn't resist putting out a list of the ten most popular posts on Citizen Marketer 2.1 aka "Stroutmeister.com."

One funny aside, my Experts in the Industry interview with Ken Burbary - a good friend and the head of digital strategy and social media at Ernst & Young -- got 6,786 hits in one day. Why did this not make it into your top ten you ask? It's certainly not because I get so much traffic that Ken's post didn't rate. But rather, it was due to a misdirected shortened URL in a tweet by a Ms. Demi Moore. Yes, that Demi Moore. I wonder if any of the 6,786 people that visited Ken's interview that day actually stayed and read the post.

With that as the backdrop, here are the top ten in reverse order. I tried to provide a one sentence summary to help you decide whether or not you want to spend the time reading. Enjoy!

10. Experts in the Industry: Jennifer Leggio - I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the popularity of this post is 50% due to Jennifer being a rock star and 50% due to her being my Quick-n-Dirty podcast partner. #justsayin

9. What's the Deal with Movember - While the post itself was shit, I am most proud of this one because of what #TeamAustin did with Movember [hint: it had something do with raising $17,800 to fight cancer in men]

8. The Virtual Tongue: How to NOT Use Facebook for Business - In fairness, this one was a little bit of a rant but it got a surprising number of comments and retweets, mainly because I think many folks knew exactly what I was talking about.

7. Five Reasons Why Your Comany's Website Sucks - To be honest, this one is a little bit of a headscratcher because while the topic is an interesting one, it was definitely not one of my better posts.

6. How We Market - This was definitely one of my favorites, probably because it spoked to the value of "eating one's own dogfood." The fact that it got 19 comments also didn't hurt.

5. Experts in the Industry: Diane Hessan - No real shocker here. Diane, the CEO of Communispace is a smart woman and one of my favorite people in the world of community.

4. Marketers Beware the Age Wave - I co-penned this post with my good friend, and now semi-regular blogging partner partner, John Cass. It speaks to the risk that marketers face if they ignore the impact of GenY consumers in the coming years.

3. Can Social Marketing Save the Auto Industry - this post (which wasn't really even a post but rather a teaser for a kick ass webcast I did for my company, Powered) was an amazing discussion with the heads of social media at Ford  - Scott Monty and GM - Christopher Barger, along with the fabulous executive director of community at Edmunds.com, Sylvia Marino. Definitely worth the hour of time investment.

2. Social Marketing Challenge: In 100 Words or Less... - Amazing what a $20 iTunes giftcard and a challenge to describe "social marketing" in a 100 words or less can do. 54 comments on this one and one winner in the smart and witty, Shannon Paul.

1. Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days - I would have been shocked if this handn't been the winner (it was twice as popular as #2 on this list). In short, the concept of creating a series of 45 interviews with smart online/social people leading up to South by Southwest was one of the better ideas. Not only was it great blog fodder but it had crazy SEO implications. I've also had at least half a dozen people ask me if they stole the concept - of course I agreed. Oh yeah, I ended up interviewing closer to 75 people and ran way past SXSW but that was neither here nor there.

So these are according to the numbers. What was your favorite post on Citizen Marketer 2.1? Let me know in the comments so I can better plan my content calendar for next year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Semantic Web: A Treasure Trove for Marketers

Co-written by John Cass and Aaron strout. First posted on ReadWriteWeb on March 12, 2009.


What is the semantic web, you wonder? Don't worry, you're not alone. The term "semantic web," or "Web 3.0" as some folks have started calling it, means different things to different people. In this post, we'll clarify what it is and why we think it will play an important role in the world of marketing.

Two technologies in particular (natural-language search and content enhancement) promise to bring companies much closer to their customers and deliver to consumers more relevant content than ever before.

A little background may be helpful first in understanding what the semantic web is before we talk about why it's important. Tim Berners-Lee, the man best known for his role in "inventing" the World Wide Web, is credited with coining the term "semantic web." In fact, as early as 1999, Tim is quoted as saying:
I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web - the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A 'Semantic Web', which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The "intelligent agents" people have touted for ages will finally materialize.
Heady stuff, to say the least. An easier way to think about the semantic web is to boil it down to a few baseline concepts:
  • The web as we know it is mainly comprised of HTML documents, or web pages, as opposed to data repositories. Sure, mega-sites such as Wikipedia, Bigyellow.com, Amazon and YouTube sit on mountains of data, but by and large most sites have little to no real connectivity with each other.
  • Because most web pages and websites were built for people (to browse and search) rather than machines (to crawl, collect, and interact with), there is very little "meta-data," or information that actually describes the data on an HTML page. For instance, most HTML tells a web browser where to put text, images, and video on a page but beyond that doesn't do a good job of categorizing the information required for search engine optimization.
  • In that sense, search engines don't actually understand what they read; they see only patterns or primitive contextual pairings of words. For instance, searching for "semantic web" will lead most search engines to scour billions of documents for those two words (preferably near each other) and then return results based on set SEO criteria. What they won't return is a list of companies using semantic technologies, unless those companies' websites scream it in the title, header, or body text.
  • Until more sites are built in semantic-friendly formats such as XML, OWL, and RDF, intelligently collecting, compiling, and connecting the billions of web pages out there will be nearly impossible. This becomes increasingly problematic as more and more consumer-generated content (CGC) is created on blogs and social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
With this baseline, we can now dive into the two particular ways that the semantic web is beginning (and will continue) to help marketers like us. The first, natural-language search, is implicit in nature insofar as it will help companies consume, digest, and interpret terabytes of conversations. The second, content enhancement, is more explicit because it makes existing content more valuable by reaching out to the vast resources of data available on the web.

Natural-Language Search

Consumer-generated content gives companies an opportunity to understand their customers' concerns and conversations. Yet because so much content is out there, companies need filters to find the most relevant conversations. Natural-language processing can provide this function by automatically summarizing online content for useful analysis by filtering compiled conversations.

Natural-language processing is the process of analyzing web content for meaning. Using sophisticated linguistic technologies, large volumes of content would first be collected into a database. Then, identifying information, perhaps the sources or authors of the content, would be tagged. All of the data would be standardized into one relational database. Lastly, key metrics would be drawn from the raw data. The metrics might include the specific issues being discussed or the "sentiment" of a conversation (that is, whether it is favorable or not).

Semantic technology enables companies to understand the meaning of content and, hence, determine how people feel about their brand. Natural-language processing can help determine how much conversation is happening around an issue, the importance of that issue, and the growth rate of new issues. Natural-language processing can also help determine who is influential on a given issue and if a company's marketing communications engage and resonate with customers.

As companies become more sophisticated in their understanding of what it means to engage customers, they recognize that the entire company needs to be involved in the process of engaging customers and community online. Semantic web technology vendors have developed workflow processes that copy the manual systems developed by companies to triage online opportunities. These workflow processes are CRM tools. In the process, semantic technologies have moved from just search and monitoring tools to engagement tools that allow sophisticated response management across the enterprise.

Examples of companies that are exploring ways to help businesses tap into the power of true natural-language search are Visible Technologies, Radian6, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, Cymfony, and BuzzGain. (Disclosure: Aaron Strout serves on BuzzGain's Advisory Board.)

Content Enhancement

While natural-language search helps companies interpret data and see deeper into the trends in the conversations of their customers and prospects, think of content enhancement as a way for companies to make their existing content more valuable. As "social marketing" -- or the practice of deeply engaging customers through content and social tools -- becomes increasingly important, so too is finding ways of giving that content life and context.

Companies can pursue content enhancement in two primary ways. The first is to find out more about the explicit likes and dislikes of their customers -- think favorite music, books, products, movies, activities -- and then to find related pieces of content that are semantically tagged and bring them back for users to interact with. Companies like Twine (in private beta) promise to deliver on this concept.
The second way is to take existing content -- think company blogs, press releases, product descriptions -- and add in "semantically charged links." If you created a blog post, podcast, or video a couple of months ago about the credit crisis, technology such as the kind provided by AdaptiveBlue can add suggested links to it after the fact.

As the treasure trove of consumer-generated content on the web gets richer, these types of semantic technology could go a long way (with the right filters and human oversight) towards helping companies better allocate scarce resources. Content will not only last longer but increase in value exponentially from the contributions of billions of other virtual contributors.

Conclusion

Semantic technology enables consumers and companies to find information that is difficult to discover using traditional search technology. Companies can use the results of this technology to improve their marketing intelligence and provide more relevant content to their customers.

With the cost of monitoring and providing relevant value to consumers lowered, the stage is now set for the development of semantic technology: building out a customer engagement infrastructure. Technology for finding relevant data may still be new, but the deployment of semantic technology is giving a boost to the next stage of development for mapping the engagement workflow to customers, in which opportunities that appear on the web are brought to people who can take advantage of them, whether marketers or consumers.

In essence, semantic technology will help marketers listen easily to the increasing volume of content, sort through the clutter, and find what's relevant to companies and consumers.

About the authors: John Cass is Online Marketer & Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate blogging and the blog PR Communications. Aaron Strout is CMO, Powered Inc.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 26: Let's Get it Started

Not surprisingly, my podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, and I were a little punchy as we geared up for our two week hiatus during the holidays. This was a good thing and the momentum -- along with some silly behavior -- carried over into the chat room (I think we had a record number of participants). It didn't hurt that was had a true social mediast on as our guest in Jess Berlin.


Jess is the social media manager of Cirque du Soleil and not only does she kill it on Twitter and Facebook but she brings her social nature (and awareness) into the offline world. I witnessed this at BlogWorld Expo '09 as did Chris Brogan at BWE '08. During our call, Jess talked about engaging Cirque's customers via social media, their fan run group on MySpace that is 40,000 strong and the importance that bloggers play in helping share the good word about Cirque.


Prior to bringing Jess on the line, Jennifer and I talked about social platform, Squidoo. In a nutshell, it's parts Wikipedia and Mahalo or in other words, human currated pages or "lenses" for a variety of popular topics. Mike Arrington of TechCrunch did not flatter Squidoo or Seth Godin (one of it's backers) in the background post I read. And to pile it on, Jennifer had read a lot about people getting spammed with malware links on Squidoo pages. However, our friend and occasional guest host, Kyle Flaherty, demonstrated how good a Squidoo page could be with his company, Breaking Point's, presence.



Next up, we showered Boston PR man and Twitterer extraordinaire, Doug Haslam, with all sorts of praise. In summary, Doug has pioneered on Twitter using it for Red Sox tweets, raising money for charity and of course, providing "love" for his company, clients (I'm one) and occasionally his podcasts/blogs.

Finally, we came to our signature part of the show: the point / counterpoint. Unfortunately for Jennifer, I took the wind out of her sails a little bit by agreeing with her recent post about branded online communities failing to evolve. While I am still VERY bullish on the future of branded communities, I know that many companies have not done them well, failing to focus on the crucial elements like strategy, content, ongoing management and measurment. Jennifer and I did have a productive conversation about some of the successful communities out there like Nike+, Sears and Powered's very own, Sony community.

So as I mentioned up front, we are off the next two weeks although look for wrap up posts listing out all of the social networks, guests, featured Twitters and point/counterpoints over the last 26 shows. Speaking, if you missed our last show, you can read the recap here or you can listen to archived shows here (also available for download on iTunes). Happy holidays!

2010 Predictions from Social Media Breakfast Austin


Earlier this week, my friend, Bryan Person, invited me to be one of ten speakers to offer a prediction up for 2010. Bryan wisely segmented the group into categories (see below) so that you didn't get the same prediction several times.

Wesley Faulkner | fundraising
Dara Quackenbush  | education
Sheila Scarborough | travel/small biz
Lisa Goddard | nonprofit
Mike Chapman | public policy/politics
Tim Hayden | media & events
Kathy Mandelstein | B2B Marketing
Aaron Strout | brands
Deirdre Walsh | B2B marketing & community
Jen Wojcik | recruiting

My prediction (branded online communities) comes about three quarters of the way through but I strongly recommend that you listen to all ten as you'll find some interesting and useful insights.
What are your predictions for 2010?

Photo credit: Callie Richmond Photography

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Questions: Netpromoter Score for Social Marketers?

The other day, my boss handed me a recent AdAge article by B.L. Ochman titled Two Questions Every Marketer Should Ask Its Social-Media Agency. He didn't say anything but he had a smile on his face as he laid the article on my desk. The reason for the smile? B.L.'s two questions 1) Do they [the agency] walk the walk? and 2) do they have case studies were squarely in Powered's wheelhouse when it came to prospecting for new customers.

Addressing B.L.'s first question, one of my top three priorities as the CMO of Powered is "walking the walk" or getting the company to eat its own dogfood. We blog (as evidenced here and on Powered's blog), we podcast, we engage in Twitter, etc. and not just infomercial style. We also speak at quite a few different events (social and marketing focused) and webcast. For this reason, we can feel comfortable preaching to our clients that "content is king" and that "giving before you get" has a huge impact on a client's return on investment.

As for B.L.'s second point, we are also big believers in case studies. To that end, we've worked hard with our customers like Sony and HP to come up with relevant write ups spelling out methodology and results. In the cases of Sony and HP, we were fortunate enough to have our numbers validated by MarketingProfs -- in the first instance via a third party interview with our client at Sony, in the second, our client at HP actually co-presesented their results (key slide below).



In addition to liking B.L.'s Ochman's two questions for the reasons I spelled out above, her article also got me thinking about how these questions are in some ways the equivalent of Fred Reichheld's now famous and widely used Net Promoter Score (NPS). If you're not familiar with NPS, it suggests that a barometer for any company's customer satisfaction should come down to one question i.e. "How likely is it that [your customer] would recommend [your] company to a friend or colleague?" If marketers start thinking this way when chosing a partner to help them with "social", knowing if the social media agency has in depth knowledge through practical application AND past success stories with clients seems pretty straightforward.

What do you think? Is this a good measure of a company's social media chops? If not, what else is missing? Or do you agree with Chris Brogan who feels like companies may be missing the boat by focusing too much on case studies?

Back to School Podcast: Talking Future of Advertising with Simon Mainwaring


Simon Mainwaring is an author, blogger and speaker who comes from a big agency background (Wieden Kennedy, Saatchi and Ogilvy). Not too long after we started following one another on Twitter, I began noticing that Simon's updates contained a large dose of valuable links to articles, blog posts and research reports. Many of these reports were on the intersection of social, digital, advertising and marketing -- four areas that are all crucial to day-to-day role as CMO of Powered Inc

After featuring Simon as "Twitterer of the week" on my weekly podcast show with Jennifer Leggio, I decided to invite Simon to do a Back to School podcast with me to talk about the future of advertising. During our conversation, we discussed the following topics:
  • Advantages of social over traditional media (as summarized in his recent post on, top 10 advantages of social media over traditional).
  • Why Simon thinks social media is easier to measure than traditional media.
  • Ways traditional and social media “play nice in the sandbox?”
  • Why do you think more companies aren’t getting “social?
  • Why advertising agencies are having a difficult time "getting" it.
  • Examples of a few companies that are mixing social and traditional well.
  • A few blogs that Simon draws his inspiration from (I like the fact that this isn't your traditional fare):


To download this podcast, right-mouse click here.

If you want to hear more from Simon on "the Future of Advertising," check out this Blog Out Loud video on Youtube.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiny Bubbles, Beancast Style



Sunday night, I had the privilege of participating in Bob Knorpp's BeanCast show for the third time. This go around, I joined big thinkers, Joe Jaffe, president and chief disruptor at Crayon, Bill Green, owner of Make the Logo Bigger and Adverve and Matt McDermott, assistant creative director at, Renegade.



During the show, we covered a lot of ground (Bob demands a lot of his guests):
  • Google's realtime search - namely, will it make a difference and will marketers care?
  • Astroturfing - why it's a bad idea.
  • Method's "bubble" ad - should they have pulled it?
  • Augmented reality - does it have legs?
  • Abbey Klaassen - do we agree or disagree with Abbey's assertion that advertisers are missing the boat on doing more around Super Bowl ads.
Great show. I highly recommend that you check it out here (mp3), here (show notes) or here (iTunes).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Would Happen if Burning Man Met Facebook?

A few months ago, my friend Sam Lawrence (former CMO of Jive Software) and the lovely April Donato launched a velvet-roped social network called Black Box Republic. I covered it here with a post and podcast with the two founders. While I kind of understood what BBR was about, I am much clearer about the value proposition of this new type of online community.

At the simplest level, think of BBR as a way of bring the exhilirating experiences from a unique event like Burning Man to an social network environment like Facebook. However, unlike Facebook where people come to connect with friends, colleagues and former college friends, BBR is completely private and focuses on non-work things and experiences (thus the Burning Man comparison). Yes, dating/sex do come into play but a lot less than you think. According to their stats (see below), only 10% of the folks that join BBR do so for "lovin'" and "3%" for sex. I'm guessing the numbers on Facebook are much higher in those two categories.



Personally, I think these types of communities are going to become more and more prevalent as people's social and personal lives continue to crash into one another in places like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. As a side note, Chris Brogan predicted that 2009 would be the year of the "velvet roped social network." While the economy put a serious damper on that (and many other predictions), I think this will be much more of a trend in 2010.

What really intrigues me about the relaunch of BlackBox Republic is that they are creating social network 2.0 type features (learning from sites like eBay, Facebook, Twitter). As an example, instead of making people list favorite movies and books, they put interests into "word clouds" taken from member's conversations and "corkboards." The feature that really impressed me was a vouching system they use which limits the number of connections people can make. It also makes "separation" if after you've connected with someone, you realize that they aren't your cup of tea since you need to re-vouch people every three months.

One other capability that Sam and April included in this "built from scratch" social network is the ability to publish to three different audiences:
  • one's BBR "connections
  • the entire BBR network
  • or to the outside world via tools like Twitter and Facebook
Events also work in a similar fashion where folks from both within and outside of BBR can be invited.

With all that said, is BlackBox Republic for everyone? No, just like a Burning Man experience or a Rage Against the Machine concert isn't for everyone. But it's a cool concept and it's much different than what I originally thought (the "sex positive" thing clouded my judgement a little). I look forward to tracking their progress.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 24: @Skydiver Style

While episode 24 of the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show ended up being a lot of fun, it definitely didn't start off that way. Without going into too much detail, technical difficulties prevented my partner in crime, Jennifer Leggio, from dialing into the show until about 2 minutes int. Having done hundreds of podcasts and webcasts, I am pretty good at rolling with the punches but this definitely took me out of my "Zen" mode for the first five minutes of the show. To that end, I apologize to social network of the week, Sponty, because I was definitely a little distracted during this portion of the show.

To make up for my distracted state, I'm going to give Sponty a little more ink here than I usually do. I also want to note for Jennifer's sake (listeners of the show know that she's a Blackberry gal and any SocialNetwork that doesn't provide a BB app gets a black mark in her book) that Android and Blackberry users CAN use Sponty via their mobile web interface (native apps coming sometime in the future).

In their own words...
Sponty is a mobile and web app that lets you create and discover social activity feeds around you. Many of our users create topical feeds that tell you about fun things happening around town, like indie music and hipster parties. Others use it to organize casual get togethers with friends. You can see the current activity here: http://www.thesponty.com/whatsup.


While location is important, Sponty's premise is that the type of the activity, and which of your friends are going is a bigger determining factor for whether to go to something. I mean, if you're already at the bar, it's too late for me to join because I'd still need to jump and the shower and then the T (Boston's public transportation). Sponty let's people broadcast their social intentions so that their friends can join them.


So I can see why Sponty might be interesting to folks but my biggest concern -- like any other geo-based social network -- is that without critical mass, the tool becomes irrelevant. Can Sponty overcome this issue? Perhaps. But it might be a whole lot more useful if it could tap into Facebook and Twitter's social graphs.

[postscript: I had forgotten that Sponty uses Google for it's login. Not only is this smart (and a trend that will continue to grow IMHO), but counters one of my biggest critiques of Sponty and any other geo-based social network i.e. mass adoption/critical mass.]

Now onto our guest of the week who was none other than Peter Shankman, aka @Skydiver on the Twitter. You may have heard of him because I interviewed Peter during my Experts in the Industry series back in the spring. Peter has also built up quite a business for himself through is "Help a Reporter Out" (HARO) network of over 100,000 reporters, bloggers, PR folks and experts. In a nutshell, think of this as a matchmaking network where reporters can request information from experts via e-mail alerts that go out three times daily from Peter himself. Peter makes money off his service (while filling a huge need) by selling sponsorships of his daily e-mail alerts.

During our 25 minute conversation, we all got a good laugh (Peter is a funny dude) at some of Peter's insights and remarks when it came to "social media gurus." In fact, his quote of the show, "If you have the word guru or expert in your Twitter name or bio, you're not" got retweeted over a dozen times. Personally, I loved Peter's prediction for next year that social becomes ubiquitous vs. companies trying to "do social." He's also endeared himself to me because he is a fellow hater of voice mail (a future post from me on that topic is in the works).

Next up was our Twitterer of the week, Dave Fleet. Dave is the account director for social media at Thornley Fallis Communications and does a little blogging in his spare time. I let Jennifer take the lead on this one as Dave was her choice. Jennifer likes Dave because of his cynical yet smart writing style. Personally, I've followed Dave for a couple of years and enjoy him for exactly the same reasons. Maybe we'll have Dave on the show live sometime in the not too distant future.

For the signature portion of our show, our point/counterpoint, Jennifer and I focused on the topic of religion and social and more specificially, whether the two should mix. Jennifer wrote an eloquent post on this just a few days before and truth be told, I tend to feel pretty similarly to Ms. Leggio on this one. While I did disagree with Jennifer's assertion that including one's religion in their Facebook or Twitter profile wasn't inappropriate, I did concur with her distate for those that prostheletize via the social web. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as our personal and professional lives continue to become intertwined over the years.

If you missed last week's show, you can find the wrap up here on Jennifer's ZDNet blog. You can also find archives on iTunes as well as at our Quick-n-Dirty podcast site over on BlogTalkRadio. We hope you'll join us next Thursdsay as we talk to Karen Auby of Plantronics.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Following 10,000, Filtering and the Value of Large Numbers

As a person that appreciates symmetry and patterns in nature, I was intrigued this morning when I saw that I was following exactly 10,000 people on Twitter. Even better, I am only 8 followers away from 11,111 which in some ways, is an even more perfect number (no official reason, I just like the symmetry better). I don't normally mention following numbers in public as it's a turn off but I couldn't resist if for no other reason than the fact the reason I mentioned in the first sentence.

I wasn't really expecting any responses other than maybe a snarky "who cares" or "I just unfollowed you so now you have 9,999." Instead, I got some thoughtful replies from folks like Adam Zand, Chris Selland, Dan Blank, Alex Howard and Hadley Stern.



The gist of the comments/questions (as you can see from the answers above) was, "how do you follow so many people?" and "do you really see value in following so many?" My immediate answer was:
  • Out of the 10,000 people I follow, only about 500 or so of that group do most of that tweeting. Of that group, I pay close attention to about 200-300 (a relatively manageable number) using Tweetdeck
  • To Chris' point, I may not "really be following" all 10,000 of the people I have connected with on Twitter, but I believe that my willingness to follow back gives these folks a feeling of connection and makes them feel like they can DM me or @ me when they like (I try and respond to all personal @'s and DMs). In fairness, I also have an "all friends" column in Tweetdeck and at least a few times a day, keep an eye on this open stream for new folks to add to my inner circle of people to follow.
  • Adding a third item to this that I tweeted after the fact, the serendipity that I've enjoyed as a result of engaging with such a broad audience has led to some amazing things like new business, podcast interviews and even the opportunity to write the foreword to Janet Fouts latest book.
While I realize that my strategy doesn't work for everyone (just like I'm finding out that my blog-reading strategy varies wildly from person to person), it seems to be working for me. I'm not sure what happens when this number grows to 15,000 or 20,000, right now, I'm going to keep adjusting my filters and enjoying the benefits of lots of social "friends" to give and receive valuable information on research, restaurants and rollodex access).

What is your Twitter follow strategy?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pluralitas Non est Ponenda sine Necessitate

For those non-Latin speakers out there, you are asking yourself right now, what the hell does "pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate" mean? Literally, it means "plurality should not be posited without necessity." It's a theory made popular by 14th century friar, William of Ockham, and is better known as Ockham or Occam's Razor.

Why am I thinking about 14th century friars and Latin phrases about plurality and necessity on the day after Thanksgiving you ask? The short version of the story is that my friend, Kyle Flaherty, recently shared a great post with me by analytics wizard, Avinash Kaushik. Avinash writes a well known blog called -- get this -- Occam's Razor. After reading his lengthy, but thought-provoking, post on social analytics, it got me wondering about the inspiration for the name of his Avinash's blog.

Now I think it's mandatory that we all learn about Occam's Razor at some point in high school or college but of course that, along with billions of other pieces of knowledge that don't fit into our everyday lives, somehow fell out of my head along the way. But after reacquainting myself with this concept of seeking the "simplest answer," I've been thinking a lot about streamlining my work and personal life these days. In particular, slimming down my information sources and my day to day work flow.

I wrote about taking steps in this direction several weeks ago following my brief retirement from Twitter. But the place I've really fallen down is on keeping up with my Google Reader. I know some people like Bob Scoble have abandoned their readers altogether but I realized the other day that there are a dozen blogs, mostly written by friends, that I haven't been keeping tabs on as closely as I would like. And the reason was because their quality content was getting drowned out by the 50 plus other blogs that I was keeping in my Google Reader, many of which contributed to my reader consistently registering 1,000 unread posts mark.

Maybe I'm unique in this fashion (although I doubt it) but thinking about 1,000 unread posts is just too daunting. Instead of going in and chipping away, I tend to ignore my Google Reader and thus miss out on dozens of great posts by people like Kyle, Peter Kim, Rachel HappeTim Walker, Greg Verdino and others. So in a fit of "pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate" (which is really more about the concept of "the simplest solution is usually the correct one), but inspired me to "simplify" or slim down my reader to about 15 blogs.

The result is a much more manageable, 137 posts, all of which I was excited to read. The downside is that I will miss out on the good posts on ReadWriteWeb, ChrisBrogan.com and the HBS blog. But the way I look at it, it's better that I read a few blogs all the time then have lots of great blogs that I never look at.

What about you? Are you able to keep up with it all? If so, how?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hootsuite: Morphing from Twitter Client to *Badass Social Media Dashboard*

While I don't personally use social media dashboard/tool, HootSuite, I have a number of friends and colleagues who do. At some point, I plan to give it a try. To that end, I do take a personal and professional interest in knowing as much about the spectrum of social tools and networks as possible, particularly since I'm on the hook for staying on top of these things for work and for the weekly podcast I do with Jennifer Leggio of ZDNet (note: live interview on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show coming with Hootsuite founder, Ryan Holmes, on January 14).

When I found about some of the latest features that Hootsuite was announcing this morning (9 AM PT), I couldn't resist at least spending a couple of minutes letting the folks that read this blog know about it. For a more thorough review, you can check out Hootsuite's blog or Mashable, but for the "quick-n-dirty version, see below...

What's new:
  • Integration with Facebook, LinkedIn & Ping.fm
    • Users may now update Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles from one location
    • According to HootSuite they are the only Twitter client which allows you to schedule updates for these individual social networks
    • Users may manage social profiles for multiple accounts
    • Users can now read your friends' Facebook and LinkedIn updates and view in-line Facebook comments within HootSuite
  • Direct integration with LinkedIn (this is a big one in my mind)
    • As a result of LinkedIn opening their developer API over the weekend (more on this from Jeremiah Owyang here), HootSuite jumped in (and to my knowledge) is the first to have integrated direct LinkedIn status updates
  • HootSuite is one of the first clients (I believe that Seesmic is the other) that allows users to manage lists. Users may now:
    • Create lists by dragging and dropping users into columns
    • Import lists you've already created & save them as a column in HootSuite
Clearly, Hootsuite is working hard to stay in front of the everchanging landscape of social tools and functionality. For that, they are to be applauded. How long can they keep up with this frantic pace? Who knows, but I like the way CEO, Ryan Holmes thinks. When asked for a quote on Hootsuite's latest release, he replied...
This update sees HootSuite morphing from Twitter client to badass social media dashboard. We're constantly listening to our users to hear what they want. Beyond that, we're thinking about what they might want that they haven't even imagined yet. We think about these things and then try to make them a reality.
Anyone that knows me at all will recognize that Ryan's words are music to my ears. Congratulations to the folks at Hootsuite. I look forward to hearing more!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Crowdsourcing 2.0: Is it Ready for Primetime?

Over a year ago, I participated in a charity auction for my good friend (and now podcast partner), Jennifer Leggio. Also taking part in the auction were social media smarties, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Greg Verdino and Joe Jaffe. The goal of the auction was to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with the five of us offering up a variety of speaking/consulting services to the highest bidder. In my case, a company called Genius Rocket ended up being the highest bidder.

I'll spare you the details on the back and forth discussion that the EVP of marketing at Genius Rocket, Peter LaMotte, and I had over how I would make good on my engagment but the net net was the video below (and a wrapper post) so that you would have a little context.

To Peter's pleasant surprise, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking and engaging in the art of crowdsourcing based on my participation in the We Are Smarter Than Me project. To that end, I was quite at ease sharing my opinions of how crowdsourcing can benefit business -- especially when it comes to outsourcing some elements of the creative process.

During the video, I cover the following topics:
  • Why I'm bullsing on crowdsourcing
  • Companies that are doing a good job at crowdsourcing
  • Reasons why crowdsourcing is becoming more mainstream
  • Considerations for doing crowdsourcing right
  • Reasons why I would consider using companies like Genius Rocket

[Update 11/23]

Following the interview that Peter and I did back in March at SXSW, Genius Rocket announced the launch of a new offering called GRSelect. What I like about this new product is that it addresses the issue of quality when it comes to crowdsourcing (something we covered during the video interview). You can see the details on how this works in the diagram below but the essence of GRSelect is that it brings the customer into the production process.

From Genius Rocket's blog announcing the product...
The new model answers the most common requests of the creative crowdsourcing world; higher awards, more feedback, and less risk. No artist that participates in a GRSelect project will go uncompensated for his or her efforts. At the same time, clients will now be active collaborators in the creative process.
While I haven't seen GRSelect in action, I like this approach a lot.

So what about you? Are you using crowdsourcing in your business? If not, what's holding you back?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day Trippin': An Interview with Tripit Co-Founder, Scott Hintz


For folks that read this blog regularly (yes, all 3 of you), you might remember that I did an interview series earlier this year called Experts in the Industry. My goal was to get forty five smart people -- authors, marketers and entrepreneurs -- in the forty five days leading up to SXSW with a goal of gleaning insights on the future of social. Not only did I end up with 75 interviews but I was lucky enough to have enough blog fodder for over two months.

Since then, most of my interviews have been saved for the weekly Quick-n-Dirty podcast I do with my partner (and blogger), Jennifer Leggio. To that end, Jennifer and I normally spend a few minutes during the show on a "featured social network. Three weeks ago, we happened to pick social travel site, Tripit. The reason I mention this is that the marketing folks over at Tripit (yes, this is a hat tip to you Angie) had their listening ears on and reached out to me once I tweeted out the URL for the weekly wrap up post on my blog. Angie was kind enough to thank me for the mention and offered up and interview with one of the two Tripit co-founders. A couple of e-mails later, I had my interview with Scott Hintz.

1. How did Tripit get started?

Gregg Brockway and I were part of the team that launched discount travel website Hotwire.com (sold to Expedia in 2003). Gregg had since moved on to run Expedia’s luxury travel business (Classic Vacations), while I stayed at Hotwire for a couple more years. But both of us had the itch to start something again, so we decided to get the band back together. We both had a lot of ideas for new businesses in travel – there are so many problems to solve in our industry! – so we started working through them and we found a few that we were both passionate about.

We chose the TripIt concept because it addressed a problem we’d both encountered routinely in our lives – that drill of going through your inbox right before a trip and hunting for all those purchase confirmations, printing them out, stuffing them into a manila folder, hand entering and printing maps and directions you would need on the trip, etc. There had to be a better way, and we thought we could develop some technology that would make that process a whole lot easier. We also felt that there was a need for a traveler-centric travel site, one that was really focused on making the travel experience better, rather than trying to selling you more plane tickets or hotel rooms. Travel booking sites are great, but they are always a little bit biased because they want to sell you more stuff.

2. For a while, it seemed like Dopplr started off as the "travel social network" site of choice and then all of a sudden, Tripit makes a sudden surge. What happened?

I think TripIt has done well because we provide so much value to the traveler once he sends his booking emails to us – and that includes both social utility and personal utility. TripIt is unique in that it builds rich itineraries full of all the detailed information you need on a trip. We invented the “Itinerator” that processes booking confirmation email from over 800 websites (and growing every day), and that’s what enables us to piece together every detail of your trip.

With that as our foundation, we have all the data needed to power social features (like detailed itinerary sharing, our Who’s Close feature that tells you when you’ll cross paths with someone you know, and our LinkedIn application) as well as personal features like detailed calendar synch, mobile access to trip plans, automatic maps and directions, etc. We also have an API that allows TripIt users to share their itinerary data with third party applications, and that enhances the value of storing your itineraries in TripIt. With over 250 developers (and growing) using our API today, the value proposition of TripIt just keeps getting better. TripIt users can link their accounts to apps like USA Today’s new travel app Auto Pilot, top iPhone app FlightTrack Pro, expense solution ExpenseBay, and so many more.

3. I see that Virgin is a sponsor. Any plans to create a one click option where you buy a plane ticket and it automatically updates Tripit?

Yes, the TripIt API makes it possible for any site to hook up directly to TripIt and seamlessly transmit booking data into the traveler’s itinerary. We get TripIt users asking for this all the time, and we know that innovative and customer-focused booking sites will start addressing those requests soon. Go Airport Shuttle (which books over 2 million airport transfers a year) already offers an “add to TripIt” button on their site, allowing their customers to zap ground transportation details directly into TripIt. We’ve publicly announced a deal with Hotwire where they’ll be adding an “add to TripIt” button on their confirmation page, as well. And BCD Travel, the third largest corporate travel agency in the world, will soon be delivering its itineraries directly into TripIt on behalf of its corporate clients. Several other travel sites are currently working on direct connectivity with TripIt, so look for more announcements soon. And, as I said earlier, the TripIt API is open to any travel site that wants to hook up to us, so travelers should encourage their favorite sites to take advantage of that.

4. I love the ability to e-mail in itineraries and have them populate trips. Even more powerful with the iPhone app. What technology did you use for this? Home grown or existing?

Thanks, we love it too! Honestly, one of the best parts of working at TripIt is that we get to read thousands of emails every week that praise us for the ease of use of getting booking data into the site. We invented the “Itinerator” technology that processes those emails, 100% home grown. We have a team of engineers that is fully dedicated to enhancing the Itinerator, adding support for new booking sites, and generally keeping everything humming along every day.

5. Which super hero did you want to be growing up?

Definitely Green Lantern from the Sunday-morning Superfriends cartoon. As he was depicted on that series, he could do anything with that ring – whereas all the other Superfriends had very specific powers. I always found it odd that he wasn’t the star of the show, since his powers were greater than all the other Superfriends combined!

6. Where does Tripit go from here? Maybe the "Friendfeed" route?

Boy, there are so many ways to answer this question, where do I begin?! The key is that TripIt has a comprehensive view of you as a traveler – we know your trip history, all the things you are doing on a trip, and where you are planning to go in the future. That give us the data we need to solve so many problems – like providing recommendations for things you might like on the trip, or alerting you when the price drops on a flight and you might be eligible for a refund, or making it easy to access your travel information on different types of mobile devices. There are also many needs we could address in the area of corporate travel, like helping your company locate you in an emergency, making it easier for your admin to plan and manage your itineraries, helping companies schedule internal meetings, or giving them data that helps them negotiate better deals with travel providers.

I think anyone who travels a lot will tell you that there are so many frustrations you encounter along the way, and so many of those are opportunities for TripIt to build features that ease the pain of travel. And we don’t have to build all those features ourselves – our API is open to all kinds of third parties who want to build apps that solve travel problems, and we’re seeing plenty of great innovation happening there every day. For example, one of my favorite new apps to use our API is FlightCaster, which is a new app that is trying to predict flight delays before the airline even recognizes that they might have a problem. Pretty cool, huh?

7. Assuming your answer to the last question is "stay the course," what future features/functionality to you have planned?

Well I can’t share our product roadmap, but I will say that our list of features is very long and there is no shortage of great ideas. We get so much feedback from our travelers every day telling us how we could make their travel experience better, so that’s a great starting point for us as we prioritize what we do next. We really try to listen to travelers and build what they want, so that feedback plays a critical role in our business. I’m so grateful that we have so many engaged users who take the time to send us their ideas – and I think they do it only because they know we listen, they already get so much value out of TripIt, and they have a vested interest in seeing it get even better. It’s really humbling to see how many people out there are relying on TripIt every day as they venture out into the world, but it’s also a lot of pressure to live up to their expectations and keep finding ways to delight them. But our killer team here at TripIt is definitely up to the task!

8. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only read one blog, whose would it be (and please don't say Techmeme - Scoble tried that with me and I had to hit him with a tazer)?

My guilty pleasure is Brett Snyder’s blog, The Cranky Flier, which I read in my Google Reader. I can’t help it, I’m a total airline geek and so is Brett, so it’s like candy to me to read his musings on the airline biz.


9. What's the ONE pearl of wisdom that you would like to share with other entrepreneurs who are just getting started?

If you’re considering ideas for a new business, make sure they are based in utility and that you can get users to form habits using your product. Utility = value = revenue. And habit forming = mindshare = free marketing. You need to find low cost ways to grow your business, and it doesn’t get any better than free marketing. And if you have real ways to generate revenue once users make it to your business, then you have the ingredients for success.


If you want to know more about Tripit, we'll have VP of Product, Will Aldrich on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show this Thursday, November 19, at 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT.

The Start of Something Bigger?


Last night, I caught wind of some exciting news which has me jazzed for two reasons. First, I believe is the start of a larger trend i.e. the beginning of consolidation in the world of social. This morning, Jake McKee and Sean O'Driscoll of Ants Eye View announced this morning that they have acquired talented authors, Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell of Wabash & Lake to expand their professional services portfolio. This announcement comes on the heels of Altimeter Group's organic additions of three heavy hitters and Dachis Groups' announcement of their acquisition of HeadShift.

Second, I happen to know Sean, Jake, Jackie and Ben and I can vouch for the fact that not only are they good people, they are smart and possess some serious social chops. To that end, it sounds like in addition to expanding the Ant’s Eye View professional services portfolio, McConnell and Huba’s initial focus will be the creation of programs and services that help companies improve the customer experience and create customer evangelists. McConnell and Huba will serve as public representatives of Ant’s Eye View in their work as business bloggers and keynote speakers, as well as consulting with the firm’s clients. To me, this is smart business.

In Sean's words (he's the CEO of Ant's Eye View), by “adding two of the world’s foremost experts in building word of mouth and customer loyalty programs, Ant’s Eye View has built the industry’s strongest lineup of proven social media and customer experience practitioners who have led customer-focused changes at large brands.”

Bottom line, seeing friends join forces to create something valuable is always exciting. Seeing an emerging trend of smart companies like Altimeter, Dachis Group and now Ant's Eye View grow and consolidate is equally exciting. To me, it means that the market is starting to demand a higher level of strategy and service from their partners.

The big question is who will be next?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 22: It's Been a While


It's only been four weeks but it seemed like forever since my co-host, Jennifer Leggio, and I teamed up for our weekly Quick-n-Dirty podcast show. After two guest hosts (Cathy Brooks and Greg Matthews) and a week off, Jennifer and I were ready to get back into the saddle and I think for the most part, we succeeded.

Having guest, Jeremy Pepper, on the show didn't hurt. Jeremy is not only smart and insightful (sometimes inciteful) but not afraid to "call 'em like he sees 'em." Both Jennifer and I appreciate this in a person, especially when they came from a background of "Big PR." During the show, we had a chance to ask Jeremy what the "new" PR looks like which lead us down a path of the "do's" and "don't's" of relationship building. We also did a lot of laughing (apologies to the audience for that).

Beyond that, we covered off on social video hosting site, blip.tv (no relation to blip.fm). Jennifer hadn't used it before so she didn't have much to say (even if she did - her verbose co-host probably woulnd't have let her) but I liked it. Bottom line, when you have a video that's over 10 minutes long, this is a great alternative to Youtube.

We gave props to writer, podcaster and entrepreneur, Jeff Cutler. If you don't know him, check out some of his work here, here and here. I have to say, many of our "featured Twitterers of the week" are usually happy to be featured but Jeff's Twitter response once he found out he was the guy was hilarious...
@AaronStrout: How? Why? #notworthy #blushing #thanktheacademy #ifnotforthehardworkofothersIwouldn'tbehere
Jeff, we're glad to have made your day!

We wrapped up with our signature point / counterpoint focusing on the increasingly important topic of "is everyone on your social network a friend?" In this case, Jennifer summed it up by saying, "you're just nicer than I am Aaron." Her point was, I am friendly with (and follow back) a lot more people than she does. This was true but I also pointed out that at least the people that she did "connect" with knew that they were really in Jennifer's "friend" bucket. Bottom line for me, I've seen that the serendipity of connecting with tons of people has outweighed the cost of managing those same relationships. But of course I totally respect Jennifer's position. See, we just agreed again. Damnit!

If you missed the show, you can check it out here. You can also read re-caps of the show on Jennifer's blog and here on Stroutmeister.com. Be sure to tune in next week!

Social Media Revolution (video)

Two of my colleagues Jenny Olender and Matt McDougall just reminded me of one of my favorite videos on the Interwebs. It's called "Social Media Revolution" and has some absolutely amazing stats (not to mention some sweet background music). If you haven't seen it before... or even if you have, take the 4:22 to watch. It's worth the time:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Notes from the Desert: 5 Key Take Aways from ANA's Masters of Marketing

Prior to last week, I had not had the pleasure of attending the ANA's Masters of Marketing Conference. That was a mistake as this is obviously where the creme de la creme of the marketing/advertising world comes together for four and a half days to learn, network and golf (not necessarily in that order). In case there is any doubt, this is the list of speakers from the event:
  • Mark Addicks, SVP, CMO, General Mills
  • Frances Allen, Brand Marketing Officer, Dunkin' Brands
  • Cynthia Ashworth, VP, Consumer Engagement, Dunkin' Brands
  • Diane Brink, VP, Marketing, Global Technology Services, IBM
  • Brad Casper, President and CEO, The Dial Corporation
  • Joan Chow, EVP and CMO, ConAgra
  • Andy England, CMO, MillerCoors
  • Neil Golden, SVP, CMO, McDonald’s USA
  • Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO and VP, Eastman Kodak
  • David Jones, Global CEO, Euro RSCG Worldwide
  • Barry Judge, CMO, Best Buy
  • Michael Keller, Chief Brand Officer, Dairy Queen
  • Richard McDonald, SVP, Global Marketing, Fender Musical Instrument Corp.
  • Stephen Quinn, EVP and CMO, Walmart U.S., Walmart Stores
  • Eric Ryan, Chief Brand Architect, Co-Founder, Method
  • Jonah Bloom, Editor, AdAge
Over the course of the three days that I was there, I had the opportunity to find out what was on the minds of the chief marketing officers (CMOs) and CEOs at some of the world's preeminent brands. I captured these learnings via video (using my newly purchased Zi8), Twitter and hand written notes. Obviously it's not easy distilling all the pearls of wisdom from such a smart group of people into one readable blog post so I'm breaking these learnings into three sections:
  • Ten Twenty of my favorite quotes as captured via my (and others') Twitter streams
  • Video and audio interviews with several industry luminaries.
  • My five key take aways from the event
There were literally hundreds of tweets from the event so picking just ten is not an easy task. Fortunately, you can look back in the stream yourself at all the updates that were tagged with the #ANAMarketers hashtag from the event. I also went in and "favorited" about 50 of the best tweets so you can see that longer list of good tweets here. If there are tweets that you liked that I missed, feel free to add them in the comments below:
  1. dwied 2.5% of shoppers make up 80% of most CPG volume. Note the 80/20 rule... no longer rules. #anamarketers (quoting Jeff Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak)
  2. irinaskaya RT @ANAmarketers: DQ has built an online consumer following with its Blizzard Fan Club, Facebook page, Twitter & DQ blog #ANAmarketers
  3. Hillary_Ashton @Fidelity CMO James Speros: set aside a portion of budget to experiment: [i say: this is just so key to innovation] #ANA #ANAmarketers
  4. AaronStrout @BestBuyCMO says that employees are the differentiator. Products/prices are relatively equal. It's why they use 'em in ads. #ANAMarketers
  5. nancyleibig #Fidelity's Speros-economic tsunami has fundamentally changed way that mktrs need to execute-fast & insight-driven #anamarketers
  6. evantlevy Forget the 4 or 5Ps. I like this better: RT @melindabluett Kodak 4E's: Engage. Educate. Excite. Evangelize. #anamarketers
  7. nancyleibig 1/2 of #kodak biggest products are new in the last 2 yrs. All are top 3 in their category. Biggest business turnaround. #anamarketers
  8. AaronStrout Love it. Eric Ryan @MethodTweets jokes that the way businesses can manage "Twitter Effect" ala movie Bruno is "to make a better product" #ANAMarketers
  9. dwied Competitors spent $15MM on toilet paper. Method spends $5.1MM on advertising. Brilliant assessment. #anamarketers
  10. AaronStrout Schwab is sitting w/ SEC to figure out how to ease themselves into social media (still great hesitancy based on regulation) #ANAMarketers
  11. MarthaAYoung David Jones, CEO of Havas Worldwide: The new world of marketing is open source. #ANAmarketers
  12. MWellsatForbes #ANAMarketers Miss the ANA conference? Read about today's discussions here on Forbes.com. http://tiny.cc/Evr1Q
  13. maadman123 Wow! From Google: 5 exabytes is the amount of ALL info we produced from pre-history to 2003. Today, we produce this in 2 days. #ANAmarketers
  14. Hillary_Ashton Google CEO Eric Schmidt realtime feedback / openness creates a constant battle AND an opportunity #ANAmarketers
  15. prnaylor @JonahBloom from advertising age says crowdsourcing displays that brands are owned by consumers. #anamarketers
  16. Hillary_Ashton @JonahBloom, Advertising Age editor says trend in marketing - radical transparency see social media #anamarketers
  17. AaronStrout Andy England, CMO of Miller Coors talks RE what sells beer. It's not sex but 1) segmentation 2) positioning 3) Execution #ANAMarketers
  18. melindabluett RT @bwiener: Mc'D's guiding principle "Market what we serve rather than execute what we market".. authenticity is big theme #ANAmarketers
  19. bwiener Verizon CMO "Brand marketing needs to reflect fundamental truth about brand"....can't hide behind advertising anymore #ANAmarketers
  20. AaronStrout Walmart CMO's parting thought: Marketer's job is to get our company focused on creating true value for customers. #ana

Now for the multimedia portion of this blog post. Below you'll find interviews with AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, Kodak CMO, Jeff Hayzlett and Method co-founder, Eric Ryan.

VIDEO Tim Armstrong, CEO and chairman, AOL





VIDEO Jeff Hayzlett, CMO, Eastman Kodak Company



SIDEBAR: As promised, I mentioned to a few of the folks following my tweets from the event that I would share the Zi8/video tips that Jeff offered up prior to our interview. He uses his Zi8 quite a bit so I trust that he knows of which he speaks.
  • Get an external mic (one of the best features of this camera). He said that you can get a wired boom mic, a wired lav or wireless lav. I think I'm leaning toward the last as it will be the least intrusive.
  • If you do get a wired mic, that you get one with batteries so that it doesn't drain the rechargeable battery on the camera.
  • Definitely use a tripod if shooting interviews. Although the Zi8 has an anti-jitter feature, it can pick up hand/arm movement, especially if the interview is longer than just a few minutes.

AUDIO Eric Ryan, co-founder and chief brand architect, Method (from a guest interview I did with Eric on Susan Bratton's Dishy Mix podcast show)

Last but not least, here are my five key take aways:
  1. While the social web appears to be gaining in importance, it's still not one of the top three things that most CMOs are focusing on.
  2. In spite of many pundits (myself included) declaring that the world of advertising is dying a slow but painful death, the heads of marketing from the companies represented at this conference all show no signs of slowing down their ad spending. In fact, many mentioned that they plan to spend more next year.
  3. Segmentation and a "back to basics" approach to marketing ruled the day. I heard several CMO's mention that their advice to other companies was to "simplify" and and "focus on what they did well."
  4. I heard a lot less about measurement and ROI than I anticipated.
  5. The speakers that did mention "social" spent more time focused things like Youtube videos, Facebook Fan pages and more campaign-oriented approaches than longer lasting, programmatic approaches (a mistake in this marketer's humble opinion).
All in all, I was encouraged by the positive tone of the conference and heartened that at least some of the marketers at the event (Kodak, BestBuy, Fidelity, Method, Dunkin Brands and Schwab to name a few), have "social" on their radar. I do predict that next year's conference will be much more "socially aware" and fortunately I plan to be there -- hopefully with Powered Inc. as a sponsor.

Have you been to a "marketing" conference recently? If so, what were some of your key learnings?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Content is Still King: Interview with AOL CEO & Chairman, Tim Armstrong

If you're following my tweet stream, you might know that I'm at the ANA's Masters of Marketing Conference (more blog posts/interviews coming - you can also follow conversation here). This morning, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with my friend, Tim Armstrong, CEO and Chairman of AOL. During our conversation, we covered topics like content (and why it is so vitally important), the future of advertising and how AOL plans to capitalize on these two areas.




NOTE: I apologize for any camera shakiness. It's my first time using Kodak's Zi8 hand held. I love it but still getting used it. And I could REALLY use a tripod.

Other interviews coming in the next 24 hours:
  • Barry Judge, CMO of Best Buy
  • Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak
  • Eric Ryan, co-founder of Method

Interview Like a Pro: Lessons from Maestro, Susan Bratton


A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Susan Bratton, the co-founder and host of the successful, Dishy Mix Podcast Show [listen to our podcast here]. I've known Susan for just over a year now and what I can tell you is that she is the MASTER when it comes to podcasting. Why I say this is that I enlisted her help during SXSW last year to do a series called Community Powered. The series focused on some of the "smarties" in the social space like some amazing folks like Lee Odden, Professor Henry Jenkins of MIT and authors Chris Brogan & Patricia Martin sharing their wisdom on the social web and how companies big and small could tap into its power to transform their business.


As a fellow podcaster, I was amazed at the thought and preparation that went into Susan's invite, prep and interview process. I am fairly thorough myself but Susan takes this stuff to a whole new level which is part of the impetus for this blog post.

Prior to my interview with Susan a few weeks ago, she sent me a list of questions to answer before we did the show. In addition to doing a lot of podcasting, I've also been interviewed a fair number of times by bloggers, podcasters and members of the traditional media. What I will tell you is that this list of questions was second to none. Of course I couldn't resist publishing it as it really got me thinking about myself, my job and my priorities in life. I'm including a link to some of Susan's other successful interviewing tips (if you currently interview or ever plan to interview someone, this list is a must listen).

Here are the questions she asked along with my answers. In the spirit of transparency, I promise that whether you like it or not, you'll know a lot more about me after you read this:


What do you want my listeners/viewers to know about you?
That I’m a smart marketer that is helping Powered and it’s customers tap into the power of social. If you can work in “funny” and “authentic,” that works too. ;)

What is your plan for yourself 10 years from now?
Retired. And I’m not kidding. That won’t mean that I won’t be working but rather that I can blog, travel, spend time with my family and do a little consulting on the side as appropriate, especially for non-profit companies.

Who I admire people who ______?
Work hard AND smart. Dave Evans is one of these people.

What has been your most positive speaking experience to date and why?
Two – one was a panel I did at a LOMA | ACORD event. I led a panel in front of 3,000 people from the insurance and financial services industry. Total adrenaline rush. The second was keynoting at the Inbound Marketing Summit in Dallas. I hit the timing perfectly and had several people come up to me after to learn more about Powered (that’s always my goal with speaking).

If you could keynote any conference or event, which one would it be and what would the title of your speech be?
TED – I’m not holding my breath on that one. One that I might have a shot at is the DMA. While I don’t love the conference itself, those are the people whose minds I need to change. Title of my speech would be “When Will You Understand that Today’s Advertising Models are Broken?”

What is one of the most outrageous things you’ve ever done?

Ummm, do you really want me to answer that? From a professional standpoint, it was announcing my departure from Mzinga to move to Powered on Twitter. On my 10,000 tweet no doubt. On a personal level, peeing on the Kremlin back in 1991 (oops, did I just write that?) LOL

In what area do you feel superior to most people? What talent or capability of yours is remarkable?
I don’t feel comfortable using the word “superior” because that makes me sound arrogant. I do feel like I have two great abilities however:
  • like you, I am an uber-networker. I’ve been doing this long before the SocNets were around 
  • I’d like to think that I bring the right mix of humor, authenticity, how to and creativity to teaching people how to use “social” to improve themselves and their businesses. I do this on my blog, on Twitter, at live events and podcasts.
What dark or traumatic event has actually had a beneficial impact on your life?
About 2/3 of the way through my stint at Fidelity Investments, I got myself into some hot water that nearly put my job in jeopardy. While many of the issues leading up to this “low point” weren’t my fault, I shared some of the blame. This ended up being one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had.

What is your life purpose?
To be a great husband, dad, brother, son and co-worker.

Name your single most amazing personal gift/talent.
As I mentioned before, I am a MEAN networker. I can also throw a nasty curve ball. ;)

Describe a time when you felt like a failure and tell us how you dealt with it.
Covered this earlier in my “most traumatic experience” but instead of jumping ship and leaving Fidelity, I stuck around, built myself back up and was actually about to be promoted to Vice President two weeks before I left to go to Mzinga. I learned a TON about the importance of being humble during this process.

Who has been your greatest teacher?
I’ve really had five (sorry, can’t pick just one). My 11th & 12th grade French teacher, Ms. Latin, my dad, Rick Lyman at Fidelity, Barry Libert at Mzinga and Francois Gossieaux who kicked off my “social” career in earnest.

If you could work for another company, which would it be?
Google

If I could wave my magic wand and make one thing work better in your business or career, what would it be?
Believe it or not, you’re “waving” it right now. We just need greater awareness and your inviting me on your podcast (among other things) is key.

If one press outlet (Internet, TV, Radio, Anything) would feature you, which would it be and what would the headline or story be?
I’d pick either NPR or the Wall Street Journal. Those are THE places to be featured in my mind. Title would be “Game Changer” and it would be about me helping Powered change the game for big companies using social.

What are the three actions you’ve taken in the last 2 years that have had the most positive effect on your bank account?
  • Ha! Well, coming to work for Powered didn’t hurt. 
  • Signing on with a financial advisor kept my wife and I out of trouble during the most recent downturn 
  • Moving from Boston (expensive) to Austin (inexpensive)

What is the specific area of knowledge where you think you know more than anyone else in business? For what are you the penultimate expert?
I’m not sure I know more than anyone else here but I’d say I’m probably in the top .1% in the country when it comes to combining the power of traditional marketing and social. As for penultimate area where I’m an expert, I’m a pretty darn good photographer with my iPhone.

How do you keep up with and consume industry-related news? RSS Reader, email, surf sites?
Twitter (following specific folks as a filter), Google Reader, Yammer and a strong network of smart people in Austin that keep me abreast of what’s important

What’s one efficiency trick you use that you can share with us?
Find GREAT filters and use them as a cheat.

Describe your vision of personal success. When will you KNOW you are successful?
When friends and family can say to me, “oh yeah, I’ve heard of your company.” Secondarily, financial independence.

What’s one thing you are doing right now to change or improve yourself?
I’m constantly working on my listening skills and attention to detail. I try and be conscious of these two “areas for improvement” on a daily basis and work iteratively to improve these two areas.

Is there a place in your life where you are not walking your talk?
Not always as good a dad as I could be. I tell my kids not to yell and find myself doing that to them more often than I’d like. From a professional standpoint, I need to do more on the measurement front with our own business.

Describe a major change in your life you navigated successfully.
I’d say my move from a “digital” marketer to a “social” marketer back in 2006 was pretty successful. I’m also proud of the fact that I played a large roll in transforming Mzinga from a non-entity to one of the top 2-3 players in the social space back in early 2008.

Describe an experience that moved you to tears.
The birth of our first child — this was on two fronts. One, she was emergency c-section. Two, holding your child for the first time is beyond words.

If you could spend your time any way you wanted, without any financial worries, what would you do?
Traveling, playing with the kids, having dinner with my wife, on the beach, scuba diving, taking pictures.

What is your favorite conference to attend and why?
SXSW – best networking around (oh, and some pretty decent parties too).

What book you most recommended to your friends? Or Have you ever bought multiple copies of a book or music to share because you were so moved? 
From a business perspective, I liked Groundswell a lot and have recommended it to a number of friends. On the personal side, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was a pretty freaking amazing book. Can’t wait for the movie.

Who is your mentor?
This is somewhat ever changing right now. Let’s say that I more influenced by folks than being actively mentored. People like Todd Defren (Shift), Peter Kim (Dachis Group), Jeremiah Owyang (Altimeter), Bert DuMars (Newell Rubbermaid), my fellow podcast host, Jennifer Leggio (ZD Net), Rachel Happe & Jim Storer (The Community Roundtable), Tim Walker (Hoovers) and Kyle Flaherty (Breaking Point Systems)

What is the axiom by which you live your life?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That and “Pay it forward.”

How much do you think luck has played a role in your success?
Zero. I have hustled, worked hard and made my own luck.

Who are three of the most amazing people in Advertising and Web 2.0 and why?
You would be one of them. You’ve done a gorgeous job of combining the two. Barry Judge of BestBuy and Tim Armstrong, now at AOL.

Are you on the boards of any companies or charitable organizations?
I am. I am currently on the advisory board of BuzzGain, SavvyAuntie.com, Social Media Marketing Institue and Dialogue. I also sit on the interim board of the Social Media Club. I need to get on the board of a non-profit or two [post script: I am playing the role of team leader for Team Austin raising money (for) and awareness of men's health issues. This is for a project called Movember].

What is the one thing people misunderstand most about you?
Good question. I guess it’s them thinking that I’m “social media” guy when I’m really a marketing guy. Social media is obviously a big part of marketing but it’s not the only thing I do.

For what do you want to be remembered professionally?
The fact that I helped 3-4 companies get achieve success through digital and social marketing efforts. That and the fact that I know my shit and that I’m always happy to help others learn.

The worst “fork in the road”-bad-decision that you regret.
I wish I had gone the startup route earlier on in my career. That’s no disrespect to Fidelity because I loved my time there but I see friends like Tim Armstrong who went startup and is now running AOL after being the president of sales at Google.

Your most sinful, decadent, guilty pleasure?
A good slasher movie. Lots of blood and guts.

The thing you did that pushed your edge the hardest in your whole life?
Definitely grad school. Balancing working 30 hours a week, paying for school and trying to keep up was A LOT of work. It didn’t help that I was only 21 at the time.

If you could change one thing about the business world it would be ______?
To make it more innovative and less fearful of change.

Where will social networking evolve from today?
Like the internet, I think social networking is just going to become like electricity over time. It will be ubiquitous and people won’t even think of it as social networking.

How do you chill?
I love to grill, have a few beverages with my wife and/or friends. Take in an occasional ball game. You know, guy stuff.

Your greatest achievement?
Landing meetings with the Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, Dan Rosensweig, COO of Yahoo and Jeff Jordan, President of eBay within a three hour window back in 2003. That was pretty cool.

What do you value in your friends?
Humor, authenticity, reliability.

Who is the wisest person you've met?
My friend Mukund Mohan is pretty damn wise. Tim O’Reilly also fits this bill.

Where were you born? Where were your parents born? Where were your grandparents born? Where were your Great Grandparents born? 
Portland, ME — Portland, ME — Various parts of Maine — Scotland, and various parts of Maine.

Where were you and what were you doing:
12 minutes ago?

Austin, TX — answering these questions

12 hours ago?
New York City, NY -- sleeping

12 weeks ago? 
Lots of places including San Francisco, Atlanta, New York and Boston (but living in Austin, TX)

12 months ago? 
Melrose, MA

12 years ago? 
Boston, MA

24 years ago? 
Amherst, MA

What travel experience changed your life? 
I spent to summers in Russia. It was amazing.

What is on your bucket list? Top 5 things on you would like to do?
  • Scuba dive in the Blue Hole in Belize 
  • Open my own restaurant or cafĂ© 
  • Climb Mt. Everest 
  • Write a book 
  • Spend a winter (summer there) in New Zealand 
What are you doing now as a hobby? 
I love to cook (beyond just grilling) and I love to take photographs.

What activity could you do all day long without getting bored?
Ummmm... other than “that” thing, I think the other thing I could do all day is to cook. Yup, I really enjoy cooking. I could also preoccupy myself once in a while on Twitter. Perhaps you’ve noticed? ;)

What community groups do you belong to? 
On LinkedIn, I’m part of the Social Media Marketing and Community 2.0 groups. As I mentioned earlier, I’m also a board member of the Social Media Club. And I’vs sort of unofficially become part of Bryan Person’s Social Media Breakfast organization (although my roll is minimal).

What is your favorite source for news?
NPR and ReadWriteWeb

Have you ever witnessed a perception-changing event in your life? 
Visiting a maximum security prison in Washington DC when I was 22 was pretty perception changing.

Who defines greatness for you?
A commitment to excellence

Have you changed your lifestyle since the Global Warming issue hit the world stage?
Yes. I’m driving a more gas efficient car now and we do a lot more recycling now.

What is your big wish, idealistic or otherwise?
That my children grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults. On the big picture front, I’d like to see us eliminate civil war in places like Africa and the Middle East.

Where do you draw your strength and inspiration?
My wife to a great degree. My parents are also quite inspiring.

What do you think are the key issues for business professionals in the 21st Century?
Green, social and adjustment to the Age Wave.

From Bernard Pivot: If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be?
Either a shark or an eagle.

From Marcel Proust: What is your most marked characteristic?
My dark, dark, dark sense of humor.

Two questions a la James Lipton:
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I love nature – particularly the ocean which is one of the reasons I love scuba diving. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was also a pretty inspirational book.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’ve always thought about being a college professor (and might someday).


No kidding, right?


A few weeks after I did my interview with Susan, I had a chance to be the guest host on her DishyMix show and chose to interview my friend, Eric Ryan, who also happens to be the co-founder and chief brand officer at Method. While I did not put him through the same set of questions that Susan put me through, I tried to channel my inner "Bratton." I'll let you be the judge of how I did.

Thanks again Susan for teaching me so much. I can't wait to get back at it with you next March at SXSW. We are going to rock the house!