Posts Tagged ‘Online Communities’

How memorable are you?

July 17, 2009

A local gym in my neighborhood produces some of the most memorable and wittiest offline messaging I have ever seen. We get so carried away with the latest and greatest online tools like Twitter, that we forget about holistic marketing and forget to use offline channels in addition to the new media channels. If you are a brick-and-mortar business, you especially need to blend the two.

compensateOne of the guys who works in this neighborhood gym puts out a funny new slogan on a chalkboard right outside, every single day. Each and every day, it’s different and funny and almost always a bit edgy. Please see the picture to the left for this morning’s slogan. The guy who writes the messages saw me taking this picture and ran outside to introduce himself. We chatted briefly, and he asked me if I have a blog, and I told him that I was going to tweet and write about his messaging, because I thought it was very catchy. This type of messaging would translate very well into a medium like Twitter, because it’s short, pithy, funny and a conversation starter. I certainly hope that I can help him at least set up his social media presence.

The moral of the story is: be memorable and be everywhere. It sounds really simple, but most fail in executing on at least one of these points. Being memorable should be defined by your target demographic and the touchpoints at which they interact with your message. In this example, busy customers rushing to the train will likely not remember anything longer than the message from this picture. This chalkboard message successfully cut through the clutter, which is not an easy feat: these days we have as much clutter online as we do offline. Moreover, the catchy, witty messaging is just right for the young male demographic that they are targeting. As far as being everywhere: remember to be online and off. The temptation is to go chasing the latest tools, but communication with your customers is not about the tools, it’s about the message. Engage them where they are, in a way that they will remember.

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Twitter and Otaku

June 14, 2009

I wrote about the state of otaku and the near-fanaticism that some products, brands and product categories inspire. Seems that my favorite tool Twitter (including applications within its ecosystem) had produced quite a bit of otaku within its lead users. Its most active users have traded in real names for  Twitter handles when referring each other, and when we go to a new place, we feel the need to “check-in” on location-based services apps like Foursquare and BrightKite (which may or may not be synched to Twitter). When we need to ask people a question, we go to Twitter to crowdsource, we support each other by retweeting good and relevant information, we share our thoughts, feelings, blogposts and whereabouts with the Twitterverse, and we feel lost without our Tweetdecks and Tweeties. Twitter is top of mind, part of life; and the community is strong.

At least this was the case before Twitter went mainstream. I feel that among the “bleeding edge” users, enthusiasm is starting to wane, as Twitter crosses over into the mainstream. Although it achieves the same purpose, I think part of the excitement of being first and “in the trenches” associated with being on Twitter is starting to wane. As Twitter crosses over into mainstream, the demographic of who is communicating with whom, as well as the dynamics of the conversation. Businesses and individuals start to tweet, not because they love the service, but because they feel like it’s the hot new thing, and they have to be on it, because everyone is. When this happens, a lot of authenticity is lost, and the medium is used in a gauche and ineffective manner (i.e. one-way broadcasts, spamming, autofollowing and auto-DM’ing. Moreover, as people start to follow more and more people, there will be more and more noise, and relevant information will have a higher chance of getting lost. A lot of this has already started to happen.

To counteract these effects, tools have to be put in place that allow to funnel, search semantically and display information contextually (this merits a whole new post, which has ben swirling in my mind for a while, so look for it). As Twitter goes from a quaint neighborhood to a large, noisy city, I do not think that it can maintain its strong cult-like status past the early adopters. This is just my view. What do you guys think?

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And… There Goes the Neighborhood…

May 25, 2009

neighborhoodI, like many others, have been concerned about the rise of spam on Twitter. First, spammers would book a user name, follow a bunch of users, In hopes of auto-follows, then auto-DM those users with spam links (this is why I never auto-follow). Then, there has been talk of spammers latching on to a trending hashtag with an irrelevant spam message containing a link to an unrelated site. I have no issue with self-promotion, as long as it’s done tactfully, and is designed to add value to the conversation. By latching on to a trending hashtag, a spammer will appear in the search timeline for anyone tracking that topic, and thus gain great visibility.

spamNow, last night, as I was following my twitter stream before going to bed, I came across this link to a “guru” site promising to amass tons of twitter followers fast. It made me vomit a little. Real estate scams, now Twitter scams? This is fueled by the rise of a blind race for users, fueled by users like Ashton Kutcher and others who amass followers like it’s some kind of a competitive sport. Amassing followers may be fun, if that’s your type of thing: a popularity contest of sorts. But if you are looking to build value for yourself and your followers via Twitter, you will be wrong to follow this path. The Twitter community is all about building long-term relationships, listening and engaging before you speak, being authentic and being human. The 30 second spot is fading in efficacy, and brands looking to really engage their hard-to-reach customers must not use Twitter as a 1-way broadcast system. Which is why I am disappointed by these developments, but also think that spammers will soon realize that Twitter is not the right medium for amassing tons of followers non-organically and blasting them with a 1-way message. As Brian Solis said in response to this development (via Twitter, of course), “Those driven by the # of followers will find themselves alone as social Darwinism ensures the survival of the loyal+helpful.” And remember that there are no shortcuts to success, only hard work and producing quality content. There is no such thing as an “automated Twitter traffic machine”.

These developments, while not surprising, disappoint me. I am not surprised, because Twitter has definitley jumped the shark, and all popular digital communication methods get invaded with spammers after they become popular. But it does make me a little sad to see this behavior going on in a medium that we have come to love for its community feel. I guess this is what happens when web products start to cross the chasm.

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Importance of transparency

May 19, 2009

transparentCompanies can no longer afford to not communicate the reasons why they are doing / not doing something to their users, or to not communicate fast enough. Not to beat a dead horse, but this was very apparent in the Twitter @ replies episode from last week. Biz Stone of Twitter took the time to explain why the changes were put in place, but unfortunately it was too late. People had started talking about it, and before too long, tweittersphere had heated up to epic temperatures. Users were angry, and since they didn’t have information to help them understand what was happening and why, they took it upon themselves to fill in the blanks. Turns out that technical scalability issues, as well as reduction in noise were the primary reasons (you can read Biz’s view here).

Where Twitter went wrong, in my opinion, was the lack of communication to its end users on the reasons why this was happening. Twitter has successfully created this amazing communication platform, but in its first iteration it’s very much like drinking from a fire hose. Fine-tuning to reduce the noise and increase relevance is the natural next step, and I welcome it with open arms. Twitter is fine-tuning now by giving us options in which we can produce @ replies (to be seen by some or by all of our followers), as well as reducing the noise from the people we follow (by fine-tuning how much of each person’s @ reply stream we see – this feature I wanted since day 1!). But even though all of this is done for our (users’) benefit and with the long-term vision in mind, things can go very askew if you don’t take the time to educate and communicate upfront. Because of how virally sentiments spread on Twitter (especially when they are about Twitter), preemption and anticipation, in a very transparent way, are key to managing sentiment and expectations.

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small is the new black

April 20, 2009

Seeing the STREB show a couple of weekends ago, and discussing it several times with my friend Josephine, has got me thinking about the changing business models, and the reason they are changing. Let me explain.. What I forgot to mention in my previous post is that STREB is using an innovative platform of “10 second dance”. In exchange for a $10 donation, you get to co-produce a 10-minute dance, which will be presented at the next show. This does 4 things well, in my opinion:

  1. Creates a stronger community around STREB, giving all co-producers more “skin in the game”, and allowing them to be your ambassadors and telling all of their friends about it
  2. Allows everyone to participate by making the threshold so low ($10), illustrating the power of the “power in numbers” concept.
  3. Appeals to human vanity (oh c’mon, we all have it 🙂 – in my opinion, you need to be somewhat vain to want to put your life out there with social media like we all do, and imagine that others may and will care about it.
  4. Duh! raises money!

Seems that more and more things are getting processed in bite-sized pieces. There is microlending (Kiva.org, Prosper.com, Donorschoose.com) and of course, microblogging (Twitter and other platforms). Seems that small is the new black. Even the Web2.0 conference this year was themed “The Power of Less.”

I think this reach for “less” is happening due to a confluence of several events, caused by the evolution of our society.

Firstly, and more gradually, our society (online and offline) has gotten inundated. Offline store shelves are packed with brands and brand extensions, with each brand extension in several flavors, colors, smells, textures, etc. Most innovations that corporate America parades around, are actually not that innovative, but rather are updates to the same-ole-same-ole.

There is a lot of noise. Consumers are lost and overwhelmed, and manufacturers feel like they are drowning among noise.

Online, a similar thing is happening: with the “Web2.0” bubble, there are more websites than eyeballs (seems like, but please don’t quote me, I don’t have the actual statistics), and more and more are created each day. Unfortunately, most fail to differentiate themselves. A successful solution that can cut through this noise will have to successfully build around the user, wherever the user is (mobile + twitter + web), and not make the user go to its website (this is an entirely different topic that merits another post, so I will stop here).

Secondly, in addition to this overwhelming quality of online and offline “stuff”, the global economy crash is causing us all to rethink how we spend, how we save, what we value and how to course-correct the mistakes we have made so far. I think this process is a vital one, as it will separate the companies, processes and people who add value (education, where addition of skills downright changes lives) from those that don’t (repackaged toxic assets, where no value is created). Again, this is fodder for its own blogpost.

So because of this economy of “more”, followed by a downright economy crash, we seem to be embracing the concept of “less” and basking in simplicity and authenticity. Who knows, perhaps it’s this yearning for simplicity is what is propelling Susan Boyle to such astronomical heights of popularity.

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