Thursday, May 31, 2007

Photo of the Week

Untitled, Atlanta, 2007
(Click on thumbnail for full image)

I have always been a big tree lover.  I hate seeing them cut down.  These photographs were taken hours apart as a lot was being prepared for the construction of an oversized house.  In a few hours, years of growth and a magnificent tree were gone.

To view previous photos of the week, check out my flickr site.

Let me get back to you.

Posted by Dan Greenfield in 13:24:20 | Permalink | No Comments »

Monday, May 28, 2007

Brave New World of Social Media

 

From “The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss” by Claire Nouvian/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

I begin this posting with amazing images from the book, “The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss,” by Claire Nouvian, French journalist and film director, that was featured in a recent New York Times article.

This entry is a milestone of sorts for me. My good friend Rachel and IT professional extraordinaire informed that this is my 100th posting.  It is only a number, but worthy enough for a moment of reflection.

Why these photos?  First of all, they are really cool. Some of these underwater denizens live as many as four and half miles below the ocean surface.  Fantastical and strangely compelling, they inhabit a world that most of us can’t even begin to imagine.  And so forgive my literary license as I appropriate these images to serve as a metaphor for another world that was until only recently just as inconceivable:  the brave new world of social media.

500 years ago, people’s fear of sea monsters in the far reaches of the Atlantic Ocean inhibited exploration. These “creatures” far below the ocean’s surface are much less menacing.  But I dare say that today’s web 2.0 applications elicit the same dread to executives who fear transparency and the collapse of existing business models.

A little over a year ago, when I started Bernaisesource, I wrote:  “We PR folks are modern day Magellans. I don’t want to overstate our mission, but we are navigators in a brave new era of communications…We are seeking through
blog
s, wikis and podcasts alternative routes to the old world of journalism and, in the process, we hopefully will find new ones.” 

Looking to write my next 100 postings, I ask how will faster broadband connections, social networking sites and multimedia applications allow us to redefine who we are and how we tell our collective stories?    Will today’s Internet be recognizable to future Internet users or will it seem as quaint as the map in the masthead atop this site?

For some perspective, I point to remarks made in 1934 by William Beebe, the first scientist to descend into the abyss to observe these animals first hand.   He wrote: 
“I would focus on some one creature and just as its outlines began to be distinct on my retina, some brilliant, animated comet or constellation would rush across the small arc of my submarine heaven and every sense would be distracted, and my eyes would involuntarily shift to this new wonder.”

More than 70 years later Nouvian wrote in her book, “It was as though a veil had been lifted,” she says, “revealing unexpected points of view, vaster and more promising.”

At the very least, these observations serve to remind of me of new media’s ability to fascinate and distract and the technological sensory overload, multiple viewpoints, distorted boundaries, and promising frontiers associated with web 2.0.

Let me get back to you.

—-

A special note of remembrance for those who have fallen serving our country.  My heart and prayers go out to family and friends who have lost loved ones. 

Posted by Dan Greenfield in 14:46:27 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Photo of the Week

 

Urban Jungle, London, 2007 
(click on thumbnail for full image)

To view previous photos of the week, check out my flickr site.

Let me get back to you.

Posted by Dan Greenfield in 15:26:57 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sightings

The first of what I hope to be many entries that feature random tongue in cheek observations that don’t merit more than a passing comment.

Today three for the price of one.

Item One: Dateline May 14, 2007 – A Wall Street Journal headline: “CEOs Are Spending More Quality Time With Their Customers”

According to the Journal:  “Top executives find they are working more closely than ever with their customers, and listening and responding to their requests for product customization or service and training.”  It should be news when CEOs don’t talk to customers.  Any company worth its salt should have management in the trenches.  Welcome to Web 2.0 where the professional is the personal, conversations are two way, and listening goes without saying.

Item Two:  Speaking of the week of May 14th, what gives?  Is May, innovation month?  Business 2.0’s cover story is about ripping up the rules of management – an appropriate topic for Business 2.0 given its mission.  But the week of May 14th also featured a BusinessWeek cover story on its top 25 most innovative companies.  The same week New Yorker Magazine ran its Innovation issue with stories about personal technology columnist Walt Mossberg, reinventing the guitar, and the mystery of the Antikythera Mechanism.  The piece on Walt was interesting especially with the emergence of Endgadet, but mostly I read the issue for the cartoons.

Item Three:  A while back I wrote about being careful what you say anywhere, anytime to anyone, but I recently stumbled upon the following disclaimer at the bottom of an email: 

This e-mail is: [ ] private/not bloggable; [ ] bloggable/ok for re-publication; [ ] ask first.

In the blogosphere, everything is on the record.

Let me get back to you.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Buzz on the Web: Influencing the Influencers

Here is my take on a story by Alice LaPlante in last week’s Information Week

Social media and new technology have changed the balance of power over who can influence and how they do it.  With blogs, message boards and chat rooms, you need not be a star journalist or celebrity to shape opinions.  Citizen journalists can topple news anchors and Senate majority leaders. Everyday individuals can influence purchasing decisions of entire online communities. 

As the former head of Word of Mouth Association (WOMA) Andy Sernovitz wrote to me:

“Forget about celebrities.  No one cares.  In the age of word of mouth marketing real people are the true celebrities.  The opinions of people like us are the only thing that matters any more.  I don’t care which movie star or athlete uses a product — if the reviews on Amazon are bad, I’m not buying it.”

Books like the Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point have popularized the notion that there are special individual experts out there – connectors, mavens, etc, if you will – who are driving buzz and influencing consumer buying habits.  Tap them and their network and the crowds will tip your way.

Armed with this insight, marketers have sought out and enlisted these thought leaders to drive online word of mouth efforts. 

But new research and marketing results may dispel this latest conventional wisdom.  Information Week’s Alice LaPlante looked at how new opinion leaders drove buzz on the web and suggests in a piece last week that this new way of thinking “may be overly simplistic.”    

She writes:  “Indeed a growing school of thought is that influentials aren’t so much leading trends as acting as mouthpieces for underlying social movements that are either in progress or lying fallow waiting to be triggered.  Thus successful marketing doesn’t depend so much on finding influential people and seeding them with ideas so much as doing the kind of research that exposes embryo trends and then helping influentials discover them.”

So where should online marketing dollars be spent – seeking out key influencers to drive opinion?  Or should marketers first identify trends and then look for individuals that embody that trend – whether they are opinion leaders or just ordinary folks who want to talk about their product experience?   

Finding an answer may be like trying to determine the order of the chicken or the egg.  It is true that you can’t manufacture a wave of support within a community by just identifying opinion leaders.  It is also true that a wave won’t swell without the backing of influencers.   

Organic Advocacy

I asked Rob Fuggetta, founder/CEO of Zuberance, a Silicon Valley-based start-up what he thought.  His firm helps companies identify, mobilize, and grow communities of authentic advocates.

Fuggetta wrote that ‘there is no doubt that certain people have more influence over purchase decisions and perceptions than others. These people may not be trend-setters or early adopters, but they are indeed more influential because their opinions and recommendations are more trusted than others. 

“Therefore, the goal for all of marketing — indeed for the business itself — is to create a vibrant community of advocates from and among these influentials. We call this ‘organic advocacy.’ Companies can then amplify this organic advocacy by linking communities of advocates with other communities and individuals in authentic, relevant ways both online and offline.”
 

Authenticity is Key

Marcus Colombano, over at Avantgarde has actually had success enlisting celebrities to use the products he has marketed. 

His take: Throwing tons of money at all the influentials in the world won’t work if the product itself doesn’t meet a genuine unmet need.  The brand experience has to be a reflection of the personal creativity of the user in order for a product to translate from a small circle to mass consumption.

In the end, it may not be about monitoring trends or recruiting influencers.  LaPlante quotes Steve Rubel who addresses the growing prevalence of “influence fatigue.”  To influence, companies need to directly engage in the communities themselves.  They can’t buy their way in.  They can’t force their way in.  They have to join communities or create legitimite ones, be active members and build influence through trust, candor and the strength of their product.  As Steve points out, “that’s an extremely labor intensive process.”  But in my view, the results are well worth the price of entry.

Let me get back to you. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Photo of the Week

 
Dancing in Union Square, San Francisco, 2007 
(click on thumbnail for full image)

One can’t live by writing alone.  For the past year, I have been including a photo of the week in the sidebar.  So please indulge me as I give my work a larger showcase.  Let me know what you think.  I don’t plan to quit my day job. 

To view previous photos of the week, check out my flickr site.

Let me get back to you.

Posted by Dan Greenfield in 11:21:49 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Omnivore or Inactive: Segmenting Internet Users

When it comes to consuming web 2.0, are you, as Charlene Li described in her recent Forrester Research report Social Technographics — a creator, critic, collector, joiner, spectator or an inactive? Or are you an omnivore, connector, lackluster veteran, productivity enhancer, mobile centric, connected but hassled, inexperienced experimenter, light but satisfied, an indifferent or an off-the-network as John Horrigan calls Internet users in the Pew Internet and American Life Project report issued last week?


                                    Source: Pew Internet and American Life Study

There seem to be a lot categories to choose from.   But as Greg Sterling and Curtiss Thompson point out, the implications are important for companies and marketers.  Millions if not billions of dollars are being spent trying to determine the best way to reach you and the less web-enabled.  With market segments increasingly more fragmented and consumers more indifferent to traditional marketing, how do you target the largest base or a narrow niche?  And with what tools? 

Companies are calibrating product and marketing strategies to identify those who have or who are inching toward a web 2.0 lifestyle.  They also realize they can’t ignore the other half of all Americans who, that Pew Study reported, are only occasional users of modern Internet gadgetry.  Making my living in the blogosphere, I tend to forget how few users have fully embraced web 2.0 – a point that John Paczkowski, Rex Hammock, Dan Farber and Larry Dignan all emphasized on their blogs last week.  On the other hand, Mathew IngramGeorge Nimeh took a more hopeful stance.  Nimeh, for example, saw the 31 percent of American adults who are “elite tech users” as “incredibly encouraging.” 

With the growing number of studies and searches slicing and dicing the American consumers’ Internet usage patterns, I asked Charlene what distinction she draws from her study and that of the Pew report.  

Praising the Pew study for its comprehensive segmentation, Charlene wrote me:  

“Our Social Technographics was designed to be a strategy planning tool, and deals specifically with people’s actions, and primarily online. It’s not a strict segmentation in the way that Pew has done it, but rather, a categorization that helps understand how people move up and down the ladder depending on their participation levels. My belief is that people can be motivated to be Creators or Critics in different areas of their lives. My personal example is I’m a Creator when it comes to social media, but a Spectator when it comes to the environment and politics. But I can easily see myself moving “up the ladder” in these two areas. Social Technographics thus becomes a strategy planning tool for deciding how to approach social strategy, based on the specific Social  Technographics profiles of your target audience.”

It seems then that categories are a useful framing device and that one size may not fit all.  As for me, I am clearly an amalgam but according to the Pew Internet Topology Test, I am a connector. Larry Dignan reports that he “is a cross between an omnivore and a lackluster veteran,” while Rex Hammock jokingly discovered much to his surprise that he is “a male in his mid to late twenties.”

Using Pew’s segmentation terminology,  I don’t have the many gadgets of an omnivore, but I “voraciously” participate in cyberspace, express myself online and do a range of web 2.0 activities.  At the same time, I’m like a mobile centric “feeling less technologically competent and definitely needing help getting new technology to work.” And like an off the network user, I am probably more likely to flip on an episode of South Park, without Tivo, on Comedy Central on a non-plasma television than download the latest YouTube video.  I recognize the value of user generated content as entertainment and know where to find it, but I don’t live it.  Social media is much more professional; it’s business and source of much intellectual curiosity.

Ultimately, given the myriad Internet usage patterns, companies are not well served by merely jumping head first and deploying a laundry list of Internet tools to reach the growing number of web 2.0 users.  As Forrester advises, “a more coherent approach is to start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for.”

Let me get back to you.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Evaluating Business 2.0′s Top 25: Slide


Today I am looking at how Slide uses new media to tell their story and market to their customers.  It is part of a select group of postings on companies including blip.tv and meebo that were profiled in Business 2.0 Magazine 25 Web 2.0 startups to watch in 2007. 

Slide has developed to tool to create customizable and easily assembled slide shows of photos that can be embedded in a blog or a MySpace page, sent out in an RSS feed, or streamed to a desktop as a screensaver. 

I posed the following questions to Max Levchin founder of Slide and co-founder of PayPal.  Max has also dabbled in producing movies.  He was one of the executive producers of Thank You for Smoking.

Dan Greenfield: Slide just got a big boost from Business 2.0 who said the winners will reinvent new ways to tap into what the Web brings to the party: instant feedback, instant analysis, and the collective wisdom of a billion users.  How is Slide tapping into web 2.0?

Max Levchin: Never sure just what “Web 2.0″ means exactly. There are a great number of fundamental trends that shape and inspire what Slide is: the ever-cheapening broadband, proliferation of inexpensive digital photo and video cameras, the rapid rise of social communication and self-expression platforms, collaborative filtering research, etc. More than 50 million people worldwide view at least one Slide product every single day. So long as that number keeps growing, I’m confident we are tapping into just the right things.

Greenfield: You are generating some great buzz these days.  How is “new media” shaping your PR and marketing efforts?

Levchin: The “cascade of influence” is occasionally inverted — even some of the most powerful stories start from within.  These days, Google Alerts weighs all sources equally, and A-list bloggers get pre-briefed on companies’ most sensitive news. When we have a story to tell, we ask ourselves, “where should this start?” Sometimes the answer is “with the people,” sometimes “with the Journal.”

Greenfield: With new media, isn’t PR, marketing and word of mouth all the same thing?

Levchin: Not quite, though there certainly is some blur. Word-of-mouth is so last century; “word of mouse” is the new law of marketing — people pushing products and services onto their friends because the value to an individual improves as others join in. That’s the very best (and cheapest) kind of marketing.  

Greenfield: I noticed that much of the press coverage featured on your website is mainstream media New York Times, Business Week, Reuters, Fortune, etc.  How is new media validating your company?

Levchin: The absolute best possible way they can — hundreds of thousands of bloggers, ultra-popular and not, are using our products on their pages today. This is about as strong of an endorsement as we could ask for.

Greenfield: What is the strategy behind your company’s blog?  Is it achieving its objective?

Levchin: Our serves two main purposes: 1) it’s an informal way to disseminate relevant company information — new product features, customer service issues, etc. — to our users, and 2) it gives our users more of a feel for who we are, the people behind the company; they can also leave comments and get comments back from us in a public forum.

Greenfield: How does your company’s size and product lend itself to new media marketing?

Levchin: The causality is inverted here: it is because of our viral growth that we’ve been able to maintain a relatively small engineering-heavy staff and the obsessive focus on the overall product and consumer value.

Greenfield: What lessons can other companies large and small draw from your new media strategy?

Levchin: Focus on delivering value to the consumer. Everything else will fall into place at the right time.

Greenfield:  Thank you Max.

 ————

While I suspect Word of Mouth Marketing advocates may take issue with Max’s tongue in cheek contention, word of mouse is a powerful tool in a Web 2.0 marketing arsenal.  As Max points at a recent Red Herring conference, widgets help companies like Slide leverage blogs, web pages and social networks to attract new users.  With widgets, the product is the marketing, which is a distinguishing characteristic of web 2.0 companies.  Slide’s widget allows users to upload and share their pictures and content. 

Another characteristic of web 2.0 companies is their ability to tap into users’ need for individual expression.  Slide’s widget is highly customizable.  Slide gives users a great deal of flexibility in how they present their slide show.  Slide’s blog is a perfect, inexpensive vehicle to engage customers, solicit direct user feedback and introduce new features to spur further usage and adoption. 

So with a track record for success and a viable business model, the question remains whether Max is scripting another PayPal blockbuster?

Let me get back to you.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Into Great Silence: A Movie Review

I mark my one year anniversary as a blogger with a movie review. 

There is an interesting film now playing in Atlanta and elsewhere across the country.  It’s called “Into Great Silence.” It’s about an order of Carthusian monks who live lives of near, but not total, silence. Prayer, song and some discussion are also part of their way of life. It’s a world far removed from the one we now know where every aspect of our lives is posted on a blog or YouTube and every observation is forwarded on Twitter.  It is also a far cry from those who avoid the sounds of nature and instead run outside listening to an iPod or retreat from the sights of nature by flying around in SecondLife.  

Enough said.  Here is my review:

 

Let me get back to you.

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