the grass is greener on the internet

2 bits of genius in Google+
July 14, 2011, 10:21 am
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Okay, so Google’s strategy is that customer value comes first and monetisation will follow. So here’s my take on how the customer value of Circles in Google+ translates to 2 pieces of genius from a marketer’s perspective.

In case you’re not familiar with Google+ and the concept of Circles: Google+ is the latest social networking site (started by Google, in case you weren’t sure) to hit the scene. Unofficial figures say that it’s reached 20 million users in less than a month, which makes it one to watch. Though it’s touted by many commentators as a ‘Facebook-killer’ the functionality is more of a Facebook/Twitter cross.

One of the key differences to both of the aforementioned is ‘Circles’, where your contacts can be put into separate groups as opposed to just being your ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’. This means that content can be shared with a limited group defined by the user – on the one platform you can discuss work with your colleagues or share last night’s party photos with your party people, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

On to those two bits of genius…

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people who are trying to figure out what value their business can derive from social networks. A lot of people like to focus on the ‘glamourous’ side – giveaways, viral videos, gaining followers etc. Well, they’re important, but I really believe there’s more value in being able to target the right people at the right time and find out what they’re really thinking. So here’s what I’m hoping to get from Google+…

1. More sharing

Privacy is an interesting thing. It used to be that you could very easily keep separate parts of your life, well, separate. It was purely 1 to 1; f you wanted to write illicit love letters to 5 different people, they would only find out if they compared notes.

Then came technology, with email, blogging, social networking, microblogging, and more. We had 4 ways to share; 1 to 1, 1 to friends, 1 to every1, or ‘dammit I’m not telling anyone’. Most of us learnt this the hard way on Facebook. We wanted to share content with a limited group of friends, but suddenly all of our ‘friends’ or even the whole world could see. As a consequence, there were some types of information that we just stopped sharing altogether.

Here’s an example:

As you can see, you might want to share at several different degrees, but you often end up sharing with more or less people that you would like to.

Circles, as I’ve explained, allows you to share in degrees the way we want to. It means that you have more privacy – if you added up all of the bars above, you’d find that you are sharing to a lesser degree as a whole. However, you’re actually putting MORE information out there because you can limit the degree it’s shared.

More data being shared is marketer’s gold. Share more information and I can get a bigger picture of who you are, how you live, what you like and what you dislike. It tells me what I should share with you and when I should do it.

If Google can tap into more data, they have a very powerful tool for their ad network.

2. Ads in a social context

The jump to social media came from one premise; I am more interested in people I know than people I don’t. I care about what my friends are doing but I don’t really care what a stranger had for breakfast. I know that my friends have good taste in music and I’ll trust that more than a record company telling me their latest artist is fantastic.

As a marketer, I’m interested in two things from this; insight and influence.

Circles allows us to map social structure like never before.

Since each circle created represents a specific social group or interest, we know that if A, B, C and D are listed as being in the same circle by many people, chances are that if A, B and C all click on ads related to cars then D may be more likely to also click on a car ad. This ‘social logic’ allows us to imply insights from people that share their data to people that share less.

Since adding someone to a circle is a one-sided act, it is easier for us to see who influences who. If A is following B but B is not following A, B is the more influential. I can get more value out of targeted advertising to B as an influencer than A as the follower. (This one-sided mechanism is why Twitter is used as a better quick yardstick of influence than Facebook, except that Twitter does not have the mechanisms in place to take advantage of this.)

So what does this mean?

I’m not here to make predictions about whether Google+ will take over from Facebook or completely change the social networking game. However, I will say that if they manage to make the network a success, Google will have no problems in monetising it and getting businesses on board.

The two factors I’ve discussed may be subtle…but they’re also genius.


If I were Facebook
August 30, 2010, 10:18 pm
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A random thought came to me today about the future revenue potential for Facebook.

Facebook’s main value is the huge volume of users that now habitually use it. It has the power to change daily schedules and the way we interact.

1. Networks that aren’t Facebook have made the mistake of trying to replicate Facebook in the belief that they can then get a similar number of users. They can’t. Once there was Facebook, and it had become the place to store your information and you didn’t want to move.

2. Facebook tried to make money from this value in several ways, each time misunderstanding their value.

  • they wanted to sell the fountain of information – but people came to Facebook to share with people they know, not companies. Privacy alarm bells rang.
  • they wanted to sell ad space because of all the eyeballs they have – but people are only interested in the content their network has generated, and very few companies are finding the ads effective.

Facebook was trying to sell what they’d already managed to capture, but their users didn’t want to be sold.

3. Facebook’s REAL value is in the huge realm of possibility that is created when lots of people are in the same space. It’s not about trying to pick parts of them individually but putting them together in new ways.

Let’s take the business community, for example. A general group of people that would pay to be connected in smarter ways, because for them it pays off.

Do you use LinkedIn AND Facebook? It’s inconvenient monitoring both. What if you could easily create professional profiles, picking which content you want to be drawn from your existing profile and which would be different? What if you could be recommended pe0ple to do business with based on your interests as well as industry and location?

Would you pay a nominal fee for that?

Or what about a service where you could send post to Facebook addressed to a username and have it forwarded to the user – so that postal addresses can remain anonymous? (Hard to pull off, but do-able.) It’s another way to make Facebook indispensible for connecting people.

I feel like there’s got to be another way to approach the problem. Thoughts?

Spam response 2#
October 2, 2009, 10:52 am
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It’s always good to keep an email short.

But it doesn’t help when one of your sentences (or 20%) is this:

A content strategy, supported by a well defined and implemented “publishing” process, is the key to unlocking the full potential of lead management and sales enablement initiatives.”

Though I’ll take that over this any day:

That damage is an element of the tort of negligence is not in doubt: actionable injury completes the cause of action, so that time begins to run for limitation purposes only from the moment it occurs.”

I seem to have picked two disciplines which are just full of meaningless waffle.

Law game v Sales game
August 1, 2009, 5:13 pm
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Answering a question as a lawyer is like playing soccer. Figure out the frame of reference; stay on the pitch; work out which way you’re going and then get to the goal – getting past all exceptions and defences.

Sales is more like cricket. You pitch. When they hit back you make sure that whatever direction they go in, you’re there too and you bring it back to the same spot. Repeat until they’re out.

And marketing? Well, that’s a whole different ball game.

No, THIS might be the best Facebook ad
July 16, 2009, 5:39 pm
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I find myself in a very unique position on this lazy holiday afternoon, refreshing a Facebook page over and over again.

No, I’m not stalking the guest list for tonight’s party…I’m trying to re-find an ad after being too trigger happy with the ‘close’ button.

Well, to quote those true crime shows, ‘THIS IS A RECONSTRUCTION’**

District 8 Facebook ad

There are few banner ads we actually respond to, but in a recession it’s a pretty good bet that there will be people looking for jobs. It grabs your attention.

Then you look at the picture. And the text. It becomes pretty clear that it’s not a real job. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

But the idea of a job involving ‘non-humans’ sounds a bit quirky, and you wonder what on earth it could be. It captures your interest.

So yes, I clicked. And not surprisingly, it’s part of an integrated online campaign for a new movie, District 9.

They seem to have avoided the Facebook page/news feed/Twitter combination which is apparently standard now-a-days, opting for an interactive, media-heavy network of three sites.

The first, linked from the ad, is the ‘Multi-National United’ site with job postings, overviews of a mysterious company and a countdown headed ’20 years in the making’. The other two sites explore different aspects of the movie’s plot.

Integrated marketing is difficult because each part has to tell its own story while still linking into a whole. The Matrix is a great example. The movie was one part, but the story was also built up through secret sites, codebreaking, games and other artistic works based on the same philsophy and alternate reality.

In this case, all they need to do to sell the movie is create enough interest that when you see the name District 9 outside a cinema one lazy afternoon you’ll think ‘hey…why not’.

Being always on the lookout for more facebook ads to bring you, I will of course be on the lookout on my upcoming birthday, as I hear advertisers can now target ads specifically to the lucky facebook users. You’ve been warned.

**May not be actual text or pictures, graphic the property of Sony. No humans or non-humans were harmed in the making of this picture.

Employer branding: does Gen Y want CSR?
July 15, 2009, 3:36 pm
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PR is lovely. It allows companies to make newsflashes of ‘insight’ into topics ‘we have little to no understanding of’ (ie. Gen Y**) and promote themselves in the process.

Recent example: Morgan Stanley’s report by a 15 year old intern on why teenagers don’t use Twitter.

Let’s just ignore the fact that I’ve seen umpteen posts saying exactly the same thing from ‘Gen Y’ blogs. I think a more sensational headline might have been ’15 year old interns handling affairs of global financial management company’.

Like I said, PR is lovely.

This brings me to my original question: does Gen Y really look for CSR when choosing an employer?

…because according to headlines from several large companies, this is a key requirement tabled by ‘Gen Y’ in interviews.

Is this really true or just a marketing stunt?

  1. It allows the company to grab a headline
  2. It makes students think that if everyone else is aware of it maybe they should be too
  3. A further 250 words can be devoted to the company’s CSR efforts

[Let us note at this point that just because a story has been used for marketing purposes, it is not necessarily made up – the Morgan Stanley case demonstrates this.]

However, as a blanket statement, I don’t think you can say that ‘Gen Y’ feels CSR is important in an employer.

Rants on the general nature of the term ‘Gen Y’ aside, at the moment those just graduating or in junior roles are mostly just glad to GET a job. Many will not have the option to ‘choose’ their employer, and they will rank pay and job description higher than CSR in importance. It only comes into play where all else is equal. (Not that it’s so black and white – it’s usually that we like the brand more from the impression we get.)

This is something we’ve seen from before the GFC, though. Unethical corporate behaviour can be a disincentive, but proactive CSR strategies mostly only aid HR in forming company culture.

Not to say that CSR is not important – as a generation we are more aware of environmental issues hearing about a brand doing ‘good things’ can leave us with a better feeling.

But from talking to a variety of people, there is only a select group to whom CSR is very important. They’re generally highly educated, grew up with volunteer work or come from a religious educational background. Caring about issues like sustainability or human rights often coincides with a dedication to studies and long-term results. If they form part of your target market for candidates then your employer brand will benefit from an extensive CSR program.

Me personally? I wouldn’t feel comfortable working for an unethical employer and would much prefer to go for a job where I have the opportunity to continue making an impact on causes I believe in. Quite a few friends are the same. But I know we’re definitely not the majority.

**Irony fully intended.

Time for a new film distribution model
July 6, 2009, 9:26 pm
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The South Australian Film Corporation wants to revolutionise film.

The Australian film industry, unlike the American and Indian behemoths, does not churn out mega-productions. [‘Australia’ doesn’t count.]

What Australian film offers is a completely different product; arthouse dramas, gritty portrayals of suburban life and a voice for Indigenous stories. So why are we using the same distribution models?

I went to a presentation by the CEO of the SAFC a few weeks ago. They’re trying to encourage more low to mid level budget film-makers to come to South Australia. For emerging artists it’s a cheaper location with no sacrifice on scenery.

But there’s no point having great films being produced if they’re consistently battling the norms of distribution and performing under budget.

The current model is one you’d be familiar with. Films make most of their revenues in the first week of showings, and a failure to make it big or receive good reviews within that time mean that it’s doomed. This means key factors of success are; the budget for pre-release promotion, the reputations of the actors/director and most of all the distribution. They need to be reaching as many theatres as possible at convenient times.

Indie films rarely have any of the three.

They rely on word of mouth, reviews and awards to build their reputation. They suffer from not having the budget to be shown at regular times in larger cinemas, which means that they do not register in the mass consciousness unless they win awards. Even if they do manage a win at Cannes, the inconvenience is enough to put off all but the most enthusiastic.

I’d love to be able to watch more indie movies…but they are never available when I want to see them. Trying to find a time to see ‘Samson and Delilah’ was difficult, and it’s been deemed a moderate success.

So please, it is time for a new film distribution model. With Bigpond movies starting to introduce home movie viewing and broadband access picking up over the next few years, they need to ‘capture the long tail’ and look beyond the norm that movies need to be seen in a theatre. Release indie films online, gain audiences and save money.

It’s a big step. But surely the example of Youtube shows it can work.