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Monday, July 30, 2007

1 Million Impressions In A Week: 5 Lessons In Getting Quoted, Linked & Discussed

As most bloggers know, one of the main benefits of having a blog is the media hits and recognition from multiple sources that you end up getting accidentally and by design.  In terms of these hits and recognition, the past week has likely been one of my most busy since starting this blog back in 2004.  Though the "million impressions" referenced in the title is just a guess ... below is a quick rundown so you can judge for yourself:

  • BusinessWeek Blogspotting Blog - mention of my post on Facebook Campaign to save Business 2.0 magazine
  • VH1 Blog - mention of Simpsons Movie Marketing post
  • Globe and Mail (largest newspaper in Canada - Quoted in an article about Simpsons Movie Marketing based on an interview given by phone
  • Library 2.0 Blogs - post about Library 2.0 linked across more than 15 blogs
  • Daily Kos - mention of Simpsons Movie Marketing post

Each of these mentions have been big discussion and traffic drivers on my blog over the past week.  Thinking about how these links happened and how you can optimize your blog to get as much media as possible, here are a few lessons from my last week about getting found, getting quoted and getting linked:

  1. Target new audiences.  When I wrote about the idea of Library 2.0, I was engaging an audience who may not usually read this blog.  Doing so in a positive way helped to drive new discussion about my post and open the audience of my blog up to a whole new group of readers.  To date, the post has been my top traffic driver to the site, indicating that there are a whole lot of forward thinking librarians loving the chance to finally feel appreciated.
  2. Give them something to share. Soundbites work well for people to cut and paste into their own blogs or stories ... but making it shareable means letting people forward emails with your posts from one to another, take elements of content, forward a URL and have an easy way to summarize your point.  If someone else can't paraphrase it in a sentence, it won't get discussed. 
  3. Offer a linkable and useful resource. The Simpsons Movie marketing blog post is one that took hours of effort to compile and several updates to keep current, yet it is a great resource for anyone interested in the range of marketing that is behind the film.  The post has many links and images and as a result is linked to often for its thorough list and as an example of how pervasive the marketing for the film has been. 
  4. Join a buzzworthy effort. You don't always have to create something original in order to add value.  My post about how a Facebook group is trying to save Business2.0 magazine was in support of a group that had already been created.  The whole campaign is extremely buzzworthy as it represents a great story of people fighting back online for an offline publication they love (a brilliantly ironic story).  Being part of something like this creates a "halo effect" where the conversation about the topic drives interest and awareness and your voice goes along with it.
  5. Make it easy to contact you. In my day job, I often find blogs that could be worth including in a marketing program or ones that would be interested in a particular idea or product ... yet many of them are hidden behind a veil of secrecy.  Protecting yourself from spambots is one thing, but you cannot make it too difficult for people to contact you or else you will end up missing every opportunity.

Hopefully I'll be able to offer some more tips like this in the future from a similarly amazing week.  It would be nice to hit that million impression mark again (and hopefully next time have some more exact numbers behind it) ... but in the meantime, these tips should keep you busy on a Monday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

5 Ways To Improve Your Blog

Blogs are an evolution, and keeping it up is a big commitment.  Usually you end up focusing on just creating new content on some sort of consistent interval, but the biggest problem with keeping a blog up to date is revising all those elements you once thought you would use, but now realize are not useful at all.  This is my 400th blog post on this blog, and I recently rebranded the blog slightly to make the name simpler.  Now I am thinking about to carry through the theme of simplicity to improve the user experience on the blog even further.  Here's my list of ways that I plan to rethink the interface of my blog or have elements I have already replaced:

  1. Kill your about page - About pages usually suck.  And if you use the Blogger platform for your blog, chances are they suck even worse than usual.  The problem with these pages is that they are static, offer little information and usually have no personality.  My solution was to replace my about page with what I called my Social Media Bio.  For me, that was what I would really want people to see if they clicked on my name or wanted to know more about me.
  2. Replace trackbacks with blog reactions (or something similar) - Here's the problem with trackbacks - they are optional and so only usually account for one fourth (or less) of all links to your blog.  For example, Technorati lists this blog as having 786 unique blogs linking to it.  To date, I have received only 214 trackbacks.  And these days, 50% or more of all trackback requests I get are spam.  To augment the trackbacks, I put a "blog reactions" counter for Technorati links on the bottom of each blog post as well.  There is always a big gap between that number and the number of trackbacks (usually zero).  I am considering getting rid of trackbacks altogether.
  3. Rethink your blog roll - My blog roll are blogs that I admire and read, but it's very tough for me to keep it up to date.  At this point, I think that about 50% of the blogs that I read consistently are not on my blogroll at all.  Finding the time to update this is difficult, and at the moment I feel it's incomplete.  I am tempted to remove it altogether or figure out a better way of having it more automatically update based on what I am actually reading.  Perhaps I need to aggregate my feeds and publish those into a page like others do.
  4. Lose the stupid or outdated blog badges - When you first start your blog, you tend to put in a lot of silly things on the sidebar to take up the space.  One of those was the "my blog is worth ..." widget - but there are many others.  Going through your blog to find these dated badges and getting rid of them is a great idea.  Especially because when newer readers make it to your blog and don't know that you have had these up for some time, it can make your blog look dated.
  5. Improve the blog header and branding - I rebranded the name of the blog but have not yet really updated my header with a new custom look.  I plan to do that very soon and hopefully create a stronger brand for the blog in the process.  That tends to be one of the most difficult elements for non-designer bloggers, as it requires me to get someone with design skill (ie - not yourself) to work on a new identity.  Look out for that to come soon.
  6. Optimize the sidebar - Based on hearing from users about how they navigate the site and popular links, I have a better idea of what sidebar elements are most useful.  I have not yet put that into use in optimizing the order of the sidebar, but this is going to be a priority as I try to make the experience better and more "sticky" to keep readers on the blog for more time and help them find older content that would be useful or relevant to what they are looking for.

Those are just a few thoughts on what I plan to change or have already changed on my blog to simplify and improve the experience.  So let me know what has frustrated you about this blog or about the interfaces of blogs in general ... I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

6 Useful Social Media Tools and Sites For Women

When it comes to social media tools, most are not gender specific.  That's a good thing, as it means they can be uniformly useful for everyone, but it's a sign of evolution when more specifically targeted sites start to appear.  It happened with websites and now the same seems to be happening with several new interesting social media tools popping up targeted at women.  Based on some planning efforts for a number of campaigns we have recently been putting together for clients targeting women, here's my starter list of 5 great social media tools for women.  Of course, this is not exhaustive, so if there are other social media tools or sites that are specifically targeted at women which you think are particularly good, please let me know or post a comment to this post.  It would be great to see a list of these compiled somewhere.  Maybe I need to create a Squidoo lens ...

  1. Blogher - Not surprisingly, the flagship organization for women in the blogosphere is also one of the most useful sites.  With aggregated content, information about their highly popular annual event, and a rapidly growing blog index that lists nearly 10,000 female-authored blogs - the site is a must read for anyone interested in learning about women in social media and joining the community.
  2. Sk*rt - This relatively new site was created using Pligg and is getting a lot of attention as the new "Digg for women."  The site has a nice design, compelling content and seems to already have lots of great article submissions.  Interestingly, the level of activity on the site in terms of people (presumably women) voting also seems very high when compared with Digg that has been around much longer.  The story behind the site is equally compelling and you might be tempted to wonder how come no one thought of this idea before.  Regardless, I am quickly finding it's one of my top resources for research and learning.
  3. TeamSugar - This site offers a network for women to share content, comment, find stories and discover news.  It is published by a group called Sugar Inc. which also has a collection of other sites under the same brand altogether described on their site as "nine distinct lifestyle and entertainment sites that define their category, covering topics that include celebrity, fashion, entertainment, food, fitness and more."  The TeamSugar site was built after the popular PopSugar site, and is one of the leading sites targeted at women bridging the gap between news, online community, blog and social bookmarking site. 
  4. ChickAdvisor - This site is currently in beta and features women reviewing a range of products and has many online community tools that will be familiar to women from many other online communities.  The site has an official blog and recently launched a new podcast called "Where'd You Get That?"  Together it's a good female friendly experience, though it will be interesting to see if it can stand up against social shopping sites like Kaboodle or Wists which are broader and not solely targeted at women.
  5. Custom Search Engine for Mom Blogs - Created by Michelle Mitchell (aka Scribbet), a mom blogger from Alaska, this is an exhaustive list of mommy blogs that are all pulled together into a custom Google blogsearch.  It's a great resource to find mom's blog posts about a specific subject or challenge, and a good resource for marketers to find blog posts about certain types of products or brands as well.  The blog search is also getting mentioned on lots of mom blogs, which is likely to help it become even more authoritative and used.
  6. MotherProof - In an interesting new site launched by, MotherProof is a site that encourages moms in particular, and also other women, to review cars and post their reviews online.  The site presents a new model for actively soliciting female-authored reviews for products and aggregating them into a distinct location.  The power of this idea is that researching a car purchase is in an entirely different category to "shopping" in the online retail sense.  The site offers a way to separate that experience and is therefore much more useful to consumers.  My guess is you will start to see many other sites in vertical industry categories follow the same format to offer a distinct area to separate reviews on their category of products.

Note: A few other sites worth visiting that don't really fit the category of "tools" but use social media in a powerful way to reach women include Capessa, iVillage Connect, and Sisterwoman.  I did not include these as I felt they were all more focused on online communities and far more well known than some of the other sites and tools included in the list above.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Complete Guide to Short Term Blogging

One of the most challenging aspects of blogging that hold many companies and individuals back from jumping into starting their own blog is the ongoing commitment that blogs often require.  Creating a blog and posting frequently for a month - and then letting it slowly die is sadly common for corporate blogging initiatives.  Clearly starting a blog is easier than maintaining one.  The reasons are relatively well known ... sometimes it is a lack of commitment or leadership, other times it is simply that the group blog is not considered a priority or is not clearly outlined as a job related responsibility of an individual or a group of individuals.  The least understood reason, however, is that perhaps the blog should never have been created as a permanent effort in the first place. 

Having had our fair share of shorter term blogging experiences for client engagements (including one current one for the Pandemic Flu blog which will end tomorrow and our recent live blogging experience for the CCR event in London) - there are a host of lessons we have learned about the role of short term blogging and when to use it effectively for marketing and promotion.  For reference, I consider a short term blog to be a blog that is intended to live and be actively maintained for anything less than 3 months (not including time when it might be live but abandoned).  Below is a guide to help you determine when to use a short term blog and tips for doing it effectively.

When to Use a Short Term Blog:

  1. Situation #1: Event Blogging - This is by far the most common situation for short term blogging and involves creating a blog either for live blogging an event or to create anticipation in advance of an event.  Typically these blogs are run by the organizers or main sponsors of an event and include voices from participants and speakers from the event.  On a non-business level, this could include blogs launched to get ready for a family reunion or any other type of personal event.
  2. Situation #2: Product or Service Launch Blogging - As it sounds, this type of blogging involves sharing insights, backstories, or any other type of information to help inform customers and enthusiasts as well as build a buzz about a soon to be launched product or service.  This type of blogging can also be a great way to solicit feedback in advance of a big launch. 
  3. Situation #3: Marketing Campaign Blogging - Efforts in this category range from short term blogs as part of online sites or microsites that are launched for marketing campaigns.  Blogs in this category typically allow for real time updates, more interaction and add a conversational element to what might otherwise be a static site.  We are working on several of these projects at the moment, and they can work extremely well for engaging consumers.

How to Make Your Short Term Blog Successful:

  1. Be clear about the "run dates" - Whenever a big new theater production comes to town, it always comes with run dates.  You know when the show will premiere and you know when it will leave town.  This creates an expectation, and though it can often be changed with "extended runs" (and often is if a show is popular) - theater goers usually know what to expect.  A short term blog should be treated in the same way.
  2. Promote the fact that you are posting on a bell curve - With any short term blogging effort, you are likely to see posts and activity resemble the traditional bell curve of activity.  This is particularly true when short term blogging happens around an event.  Regardless, the fact that there may be one post per week until the time of the "main event" where you have 6 posts per day is ok.  In fact, it can even be a selling point if used as an incentive to get readers to return at a particular time when activity on the blog is likely to be at a peak (during an event, close to product/service launch, or another relevant moment).
  3. Get ready to move in real time - A short term blog is something like a sprint, where momentum is critical to keep up because you only have a limited time to make it work.  In a sprint, you need to move fast and be ready to actively monitor and engage users in real time.  This means approving comments fast, responding to queries quickly and paying attention to the blog 24/7.  When it comes to short term blogging, get ready to live and breath everything about the blog during the time it is live.
  4. Turn off your comments when you stop listening - It may seem counterintuitive as a recommendation in the context of social media, but if you won't be listening, turn off your comments.  In an ideal situation, its important to note that you should never stop listening, but the reality is usually less than ideal.  Think of it as the equivalent of the "gone fishing" sign that hangs outside local stores if the owner had to step out.  Of course, this will produce frustration from some users who expect to be able to comment forever ... but when it comes to short term blogging, if you are going to abandon the blog or leave it in a static state - you need to act like it.
  5. Have a good exit strategy - You always need to have an exit strategy.  Most likely, your exit strategy for the short term blog will go in one of two directions.  Either the blog will run its course and then live on as a static site but not be actively maintained anymore, or you will transition the blog to a more permanent entity.  There is no single right answer for what to do with a short term blog ... but you may likely find that the smartest way of leveraging the initial traffic you build for the blog is to convert it into a more permanent online property.  A good exit strategy means knowing when to abandon and when to transition.

If you have recently launched or worked on a short term blogging effort, how did your experience compare to these notes?  Any other lessons to share?

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Graduation Post: 5 Tips for New College Grads

Who doesn't love a good graduation speech?  Usually they are full of great advice, wonderful hope and optimism, and more than one caution about expecting things to come too easily or focusing too much on money.  One day, perhaps I will be important and old enough to give one of those speeches and offer some sage advice from the stage.  In the meantime, I propose a question to my fellow bloggers: what tips or advice would you offer to the new college graduates that they probably didn't learn in school?  There have been thousands of college graduations over the last few weeks in the US and one day very soon, these grads will become our colleagues -- so here's our chance to add to an archive of what we'd like them to know.  I am going to tag my post "graduationadvice07" and suggest that any other bloggers who post advice for college grads to do the same ...

  1. Read between the lines: The most frustrating thing you will find is that people are not great about telling you what they want.  Of course, asking is always an option (and never something to be afraid of).  Yet you may get your fair share of "brainless" tasks when you are first starting out.  The obvious course is to complete them as requested - but reading between the lines means that you actually think about the task and how to do it better.  There is no situation where thinking about a job will not help you.  Plus, demonstrating that you are thinking about activities means you are less likely to get the brainless jobs in the future.
  2. Get a deadline and subtract - Deadlines are an ever present part of life in any kind of business, but what you might not realize is that often deadlines are subjective lines that are continually moving.  And lots of managers forget to let you know what those deadlines are (even if they have them in their own minds).  So the first step is to always get a deadline.  The second is, wherever possible, to subtract from the deadline and aim to have something completed early. 
  3. Never become the sphincter - Ok, this is not about attitude, though it could be.  A "sphincter" in business is an entity through which everything must pass before moving on.  Human sphincters are people who introduce themselves into the middle of a process to require "approval" before it moves on.  They are also the people who have a vital component of information but are either unavailable or unwilling to share it, holding up other team members.  This is not a place you want to be, ever.  Answer quick questions quickly and give people the information they need as soon as you can.
  4. Make everyone look smarter (not just yourself) - When you are at the bottom, making your bosses look good is a great strategy ... but this is not about kissing up to the boss.  Doing work that makes the entire team look smarter and not focusing on yourself demonstrates several things.  Firstly that you can work as part of a team, secondly that you are a star within the team, and most importantly - that your boss will see a real personal reward from your work.
  5. Accept criticism and move on - The typical advice is to grow a thick skin and deal with criticism, and of course that's true.  That doesn't mean you have to accept or agree with it.  But it does mean that sometimes a great idea will not get heard and people won't get it.  Whether the criticism is valid or not, the important part of this advice is the second portion ... move on.  A more succinct way of putting it is: get over it.  I can't count the number of great ideas I thought I had which I couldn't sell.  Eventually, they'll find a home ...  but letting them go quickly is the best way to refocus on the next activity.

What other advice would you offer to tell new college grads?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

7 Tips on Eating Differently to Impact Climate Change

During a session run by Tara Garnett from the Food Climate Research Network at the Corporate Climate Response Conference, she shared a wide range of interesting research that was likely difficult for most participants to absorb quickly enough (and extremely difficult to keep up with for blogging purposes!). Luckily, FCRN has a fantastic research archive published online at their website and also provide links to an assortment of research from other groups collected into a single archive. One of the more interesting points Garnett raised was what steps regular consumers could take in order to change their own eating habits to make an impact on CO2 emissions. This is often a little talked about topic, and as Garnett noted, it is notoriously difficult to ask consumers to do - mostly because of the huge cultural significance of food and the difficulty of sacrifice. For many consumers, however, it may simply be a lack of information. For all of them, here are 7 tips Garnett shared about ways you can change your eating habits to have an impact:

  1. Change the balance of what you eat (less meat and dairy, “lower down” on the food chain)
  2. Choose seasonal field grown foods (require less storage, heating & transport)
  3. Do not eat or purchase certain foods (including foods that are hothoused or those that are air freighted)
  4. Reduce your dependence on the “cold chain” (get rid of the second freezer, choose less processed robust foods and do more frequent non car-based shopping)
  5. Waste less food (improve your “food turnover” to eat what you buy sooner and reduce wastage)
  6. Cook more efficiently (cook for more people and for several days at a time, use the oven less frequently)
  7. Redefine your ideal for quality (be willing to accept variability in quality and supply

Anyone have any other tips to offer?

Note: This is a republished entry that was originally posted on the Climate Response Blog.

Monday, May 21, 2007

6 Dream Features Of The Ideal Social Network For Your Family

Almost everyone I know is sharing photos online with family, and some more web savvy families have full groups set up online to correspond with other family members across the world.  Over the last few weeks, I have come across several social networks aimed at helping families to communicate with one another.  The solutions range from slick interfaces to creating your family tree ( to sites focused on bringing out the life stories of family members and sharing them with others (  There are fairly good services for creating your family website (*, or as well as newer social media sites like designed to help you create a family or personal blog.  Along with these are long running genealogy sites like, or - all of which let you add your family members and find out more about your ancestry. 

All of these sites have their own niche of great features, but the problem is there is no single destination that puts all of this together.  It's not easy to do, when you consider that a family social network (unlike any other kind of social network) is not held together by people with the same interest, or people of the same generation.  Familes are complex groups of people that in some cases share nothing more than a last name.  It therefore needs to translate well across generations, genders, interests, and even countries.  I have been seeking the ideal site to create my own network for my family - and have come up short so far.  This weekend I started thinking about what my ideal family social network would look like, and came up with some core features:

  1. Visual Family Tree - This is the most readily available already, but it's an important and fun tool to see how everyone is related.  Features would be very easy to use with drag and drop simplicity, perfect for letting a member of my family from any generation participate.  Integrated into this would be the smarts of family history and ancestry look ups, as well as the types of identity look ups used by ZoomInfo to map profiles of individuals to existing content online under the same name.
  2. Tiered Relationships - I don't know all of my family equally.  There is my immediate family of my wife, parents and brother.  Then there is a outward circle of family, such as cousins, that I am very close to.  And then there is the wider circle of family that I either have only met once, or am related to by name but don't know.  The ideal family social network would let me tier my relationships with family into one of three categories depending on the closeness of my relationship.  Every feature across the site would then be available for me to share with my 1st, 2nd, or 3rd tier relationships, as well as with everyone in my network.  VisiblePath has a good model for this tiered system and Linkedin has the original "degrees of separation" model.
  3. Family Email Database - Probably one of the most frequently used and needed applications of a family social network would be a way to email all family or subsets of family.  It would have all the grouping and webmail features you would expect, but also integrate to popular online email programs and allow you to segment family into the tiers to determine who gets particular emails.  Finally, the ability to import email lists and synch between programs would be vital.  Yahoo Groups has one of the most popular interfaces today for people to manage these activities. 
  4. Group Calendaring - This is probably the most useful function of an online network, namely to store everyone's birthdays and anniversaries.  Beyond this, however, there are many times when I have been on the road in San Francisco, for example, and wondering if a cousin of mine might also be travelling there.  Of course, we could email each other - but it would be so much more useful to see their whereabouts on a calendar.  Privacy would be in place to control what family level sees what information, and tools would be available to synch to Outlook or other calendar programs.  Examples of cool calendaring applications include 30Boxes or Calgoo.
  5. Integrated Other Social Networks - Realizing that family spread across the world probably have profiles on one or more other social networks, a key tool of the ideal family social network would be the ability for all of these profiles to be linked to and included as part of people's profiles.  For the most common social networks, such as Flickr or MySpace or YouTube, the site would allow you to create a "family channel" that aggregates RSS content from all the sites into a single location and lets people subscribe based on their tiered relationships (ie - only subscribe to content from 1st tier family in your "family channel" page.
  6. Recommendation Engine - People have always recommended products to one another and family members can be powerful voices to influence purchasing decisions.  Added to that, everyone has an Uncle that is good with cars, or a cousin who is a professional photographer.  Harnessing these expertises, the family social network would have a feature where people could create pages or recommendations about products or areas that they are passionate about.  This could also create the revenue model for the site, as people recommending products in an authentic environment like this is exactly the type of impression advertisers are dying to pay for. has a good model for sharing this type of expert content within an online community, and the now seemingly abandoned probably had a similar idea.

Most of these features exist in other sites, but no one has yet put all the pieces together.  The family social network could be the next big thing - after all, everyone has a family.  Now you have a list of the features and even a revenue model.  If you do find or build a site like this, let me know so I can be first in line to be a beta tester ...

* MyFamily has a "2.0" version that has recently launched which is worth checking out and seems to have many (but not all) of the features I mention above.

Monday, April 30, 2007

4 Trends That Signal the Future of Online Retail

In the industry I work in, it's easy to get overly passionate about all of the new sites emerging every day that fit into this Web2.0 classification the industry has created.  The majority of these sites are willing to trade short term revenue for the prospect of building up a user base.  New users have become a metric that seems valued among these sites more highly than revenue.  I'm not arguing with the facts - recent events have certainly proved that getting bought out can be a viable business model, and reaching a certain threshold of new users is no small feat in a crowded marketplace.  But just in case you might think that this is the new business model to watch, don't forget about online retail.  Since the mid-nineties, consumers have been increasingly moving a share of their purchases online, and online retailers are the largest beneficiaries.  And they have not stood still.  Here are just a few trends that are shaping the future for online retailers, and demonstrating that while Web 2.0 social networking sites might have more sex appeal, online retail is still going strong:

  1. User Experience 3.0 - If you want to really look that future of user interfaces and how streamlined they can get, there are several online retailers that are worth a look.  Netflix certainly has won it's share of rewards (though some might disagree and call that a social network), but one of the top sites that I recently visited was, Amazon's new entry into the shoes and handbags category.  The site has a brilliant browsing and sorting navigation structure, easy tools to read about products, and seems to have corrected every criticism the more fashion conscious might have made about Amazon's tendency to overwhelm consumers with it's overcrowded product pages.  The result is a site extremely easy to use, with great prices for designer products, and even a killer promotion with their current promotion selling consumers with the promise of "negative $5 for overnight shipping."
  2. Affiliate Marketing Fever - The ease of publishing your own site is driving more and more people to see their online efforts as a moneymaking source.  As this area explodes, it's not just driving huge profits for Google's Adwords, it's also driving a rapidly growing affiliate marketing craze online.  Ad:Tech in San Francisco this year was filled with Affiliate Marketing Networks that seemed oddly disconnected from the rest of the event - but were there recruiting hard and partying hard nonetheless.  There's no doubt the rise of affiliate marketing mirrors the growth of online retail, and will likely get even bigger and crazier as time goes on.
  3. Promotion Code Shopping - It's common knowledge for most online consumers that it's ridiculously easy to find promotion codes and discounts to apply to just about any online retailer.  While most may not have as easy of an experience as I recently had by finding instructions to get a discount on filing my taxes through TurboTax from their Beta Community of users answering tax related questions, the ready availability of these codes is tapping into the sale oriented consumer that was profiled in the book Treasure Hunt.  Shutterfly is one company that has figured out how to use this to its benefit.  The site allows users to collect online promotion codes and save them in their account to use at any time before the expiration date.  The result is an ongoing brand experience and a high likelihood that consumers will return often for multiple orders.
  4. Reinventing Retail Categories - The most often quoted examples of online retail in this category are sites like Priceline or eBay that turned traditional retail in their categories upside down.  Letting consumers set their own price for a hotel room or airline flight was a huge transition for the travel industry.  Today there are sites like that are finding similar ways to reinvent retail categories.  You might wonder (if you think about these things) that if Hollywood celebrities can just "borrow" brand name accessories for big events or momentous "one time only" occasions, why can't the rest of us?  As more new sites approach traditional businesses with an eye for innovation, online retail will continue to be a hotbed for new ideas.

The open question worth asking, I think, is how these lessons might be applied to the slate of social networking sites that may reasonably merge with online retail experiences.  Purists would claim that creating an online community and selling products or services in a retail sense should be mutually exclusive.  For now, they largely have their wish, but this will likely start to change.  That's a good thing.  As for me - I remain as passionate about finding new social networks and Web 2.0 sites as anyone ... but when it comes to where I would invest or choose to focus my business, online retail is really the force of the future.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How 7 Basic Human Needs are Driving the New Social Web2.0

I recently read a insightful piece from Ben Hunt about the future of the web2.0 social experience.  It was particularly relevant as I am heading to the Web2.0 Expo here in San Francisco today and will have a chance to see many new technologies later this evening at the "Booth Crawl" event at the opening of the Expo.  Thinking about the future of the social web can be overwhelming - particularly if you look at the quantity of new sites and technologies that are being launched each day.  While we may not suffer from the same overfunded hype of the early 2000s, hype is certainly alive and well and I will likely see quite a bit of it tonight at the Expo.

Yet for most, Web2.0 is about the next evolution of the Internet and how it is becoming more useful for everyone.  Yes, there are lots of cool technologies, and the search for the "killer app" that Hunt brilliantly deconstructs in his paper is important.  The underlying theme, however, is how new services are helping each of us to solve some of our most basic needs from the Internet.  In my opinion, these include:

  1. Search - There is no doubt search engines are the dominant tool for finding information online.  More recently, the search for meaning is about more than using powerful algorithms to offer hundreds of thousands of search results.  The social search revolution is about how people are helping other people find information.  The most innovative Web2.0 tools for search are the ones that combine sophisticated algorithms with the ability and dedication of individuals to help highlight, describe and categorize information.
  2. Discover - If search is about actively seeking information on a specific topic, discovery is about uncovering information that is likely to be relevant for you presented to you based on your browsing history, habits, related content, or relationships and declared interests.  The popularity of StumbleUpon as well as the millions of people using social bookmarking tools such as Digg and point to the rising use of sites, tags and recommendations to discover new websites or web content.
  3. Connect - Managing relationships through contact managers such as LinkedIn is not a new activity online, but there are new tools that are helping each of us to get smarter about how these contacts are managed and make them more useful.  A core concept that Hunt talks about which is now starting to appear is the idea that not all relationships should be treated equal and there needs to be a way to rate the strength of a particular relationship.  When contacts are measured in terms of degrees, connecting to others through your network becomes a much more valid exercise, and one more likely to mimic offline behaviours that take the strength of particular relationships into account. 
  4. Protect - As technology enables more innovation, it can also have a dark side with hackers, phishers, and spammers.  Web2.0 has not just been about finding better tools for communication or information, it is also about new thinking for protecting each of us from the dangerous, or just plain annoying.  As more of our digital lives, transactions and communications move online - this area will continue to be vitally important for keeping the Internet a trusted and credible channel to conduct these activities.
  5. Publish - Central to the rise of social media is the ability for individuals to easily publish just about any type of content from blogs to podcasts to online video.  This includes publishing in the sense of contributing to dialogue online through reviews or comments.  New services are likely to help make it easier to publish as well as better tools to customize your efforts.  Also, there will continue to be more new sites and social networks on which to publish your content on just about any topic.    
  6. Organize - Whether it relates to organizing your personal life through "lifehacker" style tools such as personal calendars or to-do lists, or organizing your bookmarks and saved content, Web2.0 innovation continues to produce many tools for doing so.  On sites that offer access to content published by others or through sites that could be considered "aggregators" (for RSS feeds or other content), organization is a core principle that is seen as another key human benefit.
  7. Share - This is a broad concept that includes each of our desire to share our thoughts and expertise, as well as the cause related side of this which includes sharing wealth or supporting causes one believes in.  New tools for giving, and new sites for sharing expertise fit into this category.

There may likely be other core needs that could be included on this list, but thinking about Web2.0 in terms of these categories will help me to evaluate new sites from the show as well as new thinking and opportunities for marketing.  Check back tomorrow for a recap of some highlights from the Web2.0 Expo as well as a list of examples of sites and services that fit each of these categories ...

Friday, March 30, 2007

5 Things to Learn from Island Marketing

I have a few days off and am in sunny Cancun until next Monday. Though Cancun may not officially be an island, there are several things that I noticed in common among every trip to an island or resort area that I have the chance to take - including this one. It seems the rules for island marketing are unique, but common across countries and cultures. Here are just a few things I found interesting about island marketing that I will be taking home and considering as I plan new campaigns and efforts for clients:

  1. Own the category - no matter how small. On an island or in a remote place, the easiest way to stand out is to do something that no one else does. Having your own niche as the only underwater tour operator that teaches basket weaving may not be interesting for everyone, but at least you will stand out in a sea of sameness.
  2. Pay later, take it now. The guys walking along the beach selling necklaces and other trinkets have only a moment to capture your attention. Yet most beachgoers stay here at the resort for a week or more tend to stay in the same location and visit the same beach everyday. Giving them the product today and letting them pay later ensures you complete the sale and do not miss your chance.
  3. Be the first to ask and do not let go. Anyone who has visited a resort town will be familiar with the phenomenon on fhe persistent salesperson who first asks you to buy something and follows you along until they can finish the sale. It is like spam, but in real life. Yet the difference is that if you are seeking a service, or willing to buy, the first person to ask will usually close the deal. And if you aren’t, hopefully they are smart enough to get the cue and move on.
  4. Integrate with hotels and get exclusivity. In a city where most tourists are coming in on “all inclusive” packages, the hotels the the rulers of the itinerary. For most, they will book their tour packages and organize other services through the hotel. The businesses that have arrangements with the hotels are often the only ones that get called, creating a sort of monopoly that drives commerce on islands. Sound a little like Google to anyone?
  5. Offer the full package. Following from the comment about the all-inclusive packages above, most services here are offered with everything you need. If you book a snorkeling tour, you get the snorkels, equipment, lunch and transfers by bus from your hotel. Contrast that experience with that of purchasing consumer electronics or toys where accessories, batteries and required cords are often sold separately.