On Iran, Technology and Social Media

There is a reason we value art and those who create it. I could write 3 or 4 hundred words about how technology and Social Media are making it impossible for despots to control the message… or I could just point you to the justSignal FreeIran site and get out of the way and let Peter Himmelman (who I’m proud to know) use his art to say just about everything that needs to be said.

What the Hell is a Wombat – and Why Are We Tracking Them?

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My interest in Twitter/FriendFeed and all things social media is so like my interest and involvement with VoIP it sometimes keeps me up at night.

VoIP for me was never about the technology – and it certainly wasn’t about “making a phone call”, we could already do that. It was about the possibly. The possibility of being able to communicate with friends, family and strangers who have a common interest in the context of what we wanted to talk to them about.

It was always the power of context. It was always about moving our communication into the contexts that mattered to us right then.

Twitter/FriendFeed and social media resonate with me for that reason. And more. We now have the ability to merge the private and the public. To, not only bring the communication into the context (like, for example, a UStream Chat Room does), but also to extend the conversation beyond that venue.

The context then becomes the subject, topic or event – like Peter Himmelman’s Furious World – and that event can live outside the venue in which it takes place (Peter’s studio in CA). UStream extends the walls of Peter’s studio and allows him the ability to invite us all in. Peter gets to do what he’d be doing anyway… and we’re invited.

The Wombat Tracker does the same thing for the conversation about Peter and the Furious World. It tears down the walls of the UStream chat room and let’s the conversation live. Because what we are interested in is talking about Peter, his music, and the Furious World – and that isn’t limited to the venue – just like freeing Peter to tear down the walls of his studio via UStream and invite us in… we tear down the walls that separate the conversation from the rest of the world.

Which brings us back to the cocktail party principle. Have you every been at a cocktail party and just hung back? Stood off to the side and observed everything, all at once? There are dozens of conversations going on, some people are talking to each other, some people are talking at each other, while others appear to be in the conversation, but are really just observing.

You are in a room of people, each making their individual noises – and if you try to take it in all at once all you register is noise. But if you get up, and join a conversation, all that noise recedes into the background. Voices emerge, thoughts are exchanged, friends are made. From a room full of noise we are able to discern the signal – and in doing so participate in conversation with those that share our interests and – if you are lucky – connect with people you’ll maintain a relationship with.

That is what JustSignal is for – and what the Wombat Tracker does. It filters out the noise, turns up the signal and allows those of us interested in Peter, his music and the Furious World to become Wombats.

You’re a Wombat, and you can’t watch Furious World live – grab the Wombat Tracker and we’ll keep you updated. And when a Himmelman fan has yet to discover Furious World and their inner Wombat – we can see that and invite them in. Because the Furious World isn’t a place, it isn’t a webcast, and it isn’t separate from the world – it is you, me, and every one of us – in the world, wherever we are, whatever we are doing.

Being in the Conversation – Social Media and your Brand

The current trends in Social Media Brand Monitoring focus around your PR/Marketing agency. They provide tools to create nice reports telling you what the public perception of your brand is – and perhaps some alerts when something “bad” happens.

Led by Radian6 – this trend is very powerful and shouldn’t be ignored. But the real questions facing you (COO, CEO, VP of Product) are:

  1. Is there any real advantage to cleaning up after the perception is already created?
  2. If so – how the heck to we operationalize that?

The first question goes to the advantage of quickly (in near real time) engaging, participating and correcting the issues that cause a negative brand perception. As I’ve said before – the urgency is preventing the perception (and attendant backlash) from becoming the story. The real danger is having the original negative perception create a story – the story about how the Social Media universe erupted in outrage. That story will repeat and re-enforce the initial negative perception and create another, more subtle and destructive one – that you are not listening, empathetic and responsive.

more after the jump…

Continue reading “Being in the Conversation – Social Media and your Brand”

Defining your Brand – One Conversation at a Time

I’ve spent a large part of my professional life dealing with the realities of having conversations with customers. In every type and size of company imaginable. And there is one single reality that holds true:

Your brand is what your customers say it is… regardless of your best Marketing and PR efforts.

With the rise of Social Media this reality is even more true. Not because you ever really controlled you brand – but because word of mouth just got global, social and the biggest megaphone you could have ever imagined.

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It used to be a single pissed off customer might only impact 10 or 20 people over the course of 3 months. Now a single dissatisfied customer with a Twitter account or Blog can reach hundreds of people in a single day. And, as a rule, if you are doing (or not doing something) that makes customers mad, you do it to more than one per day.

So feel free to create all the marketing material and press releases you want lauding your superior product or service and you commitment to great customer service. In the old world that might have worked. But today it simply can not compete with the conversations your customers and prospects are having about you. You are what they say you are.

If you want to really impact your brand – and how it is perceived by your customers and prospects, get in the conversation.

Your PR and marketing staff will tell you to invest in Social Media Monitoring tools like Radian6 and Techrigy to gather Social Media data to analyze for your next marketing campaign. And I concede – monitoring what is said about you is a positive first step. The challenge with this strategy is that you are still trying to control the conversation.

What you need to do, what you should be doing is participating in the conversation.

Provide Solutions, Inform, Listen and Respond

The most important branding you do (and can do) is in the conversations you have with your customers and prospects.

Think I’m nuts? Great – Let’s look at two examples:

Motrin’s Blunder:

Motrin released an ill conceived ad. And it isn’t that they didn’t realize their mistake – it was that they weren’t engaged in the conversation. Because of that there were 4 days to allow the controversy to reach significant proportions.

Links:

http://mashable.com/2008/11/16/motrin-moms/

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/motrin_bows_to_social_media_pr.php

Exploring Social Media: The Motrin Moment Impact of Social Media

http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2008/11/18/motrin-moms-and-the-perils-of-social-media-marketing/

Ford’s ScottMonty:

ScottMonty from Ford is actively engaged in Social Media. And because of that he is able to react in real (or near real-time) to negative and positive brand messages. This allows Ford the opportunity to actively engage in the conversation and refute false perceptions and reinforce positive messages.

Links:

http://friendfeed.com/e/a8d15997-12ec-eeee-921b-61c96ed66d27/Why-I-love-the-US-auto-industry/

http://friendfeed.com/e/e34bb7df-5a8c-4d1c-84cb-d16e0fa09099/I-am-watching-CNN-and-seeing-bad-employment/

http://friendfeed.com/e/b4753ec3-a123-6ef4-6671-cdd7ef10e4b5/Glohamar-Here-are-a-few-of-Ford-s-other-Twitter/

http://friendfeed.com/e/45cec2a1-17c8-3e26-3afc-4a9d3897c15a/ScottMonty-scottweisbrod-LisaHoffman-1-2-Bill/

The takeaway:

Analyzing the data and reacting is about how fast you can “clean up the mess”. It pre-supposes you can megaphone your brand message and shout down those who have a different point of view.

By participating in conversations about your brand you have the ability to prevent situations where the perception becomes the story. You have the ability to turn negative experiences into positive brand affinity moments that increase your customer loyalty and enhance your brand in the eyes of those watching. And in this new Social Media world we are all watching.

JustSignal – Turn down the noise and just get the signal.

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On Friday, November 21st cosinity released JustSignal – a combined FriendFeed and Twitter application that allows you to turn down the noise and focus in on just those topics or users you find most interesting.

As much as I love Twitter and FriendFeed, they can become a giant distraction. Too much noise, not enough signal. JustSignal is the solution. It allows you to get your entire home feed from FriendFeed and near real-time “Track” from Twitter – all in one user interface. JustSignal’s filtering solution allows you to only receive the information you care most about – in real-time.

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While that alone is a powerful solution for the individual user… JustSignal delivers so much more.

JustSignal Brand Monitor tracks your brand across Twitter and FriendFeed – allowing you to monitor what is said about your brand – and react in real time. Our robust solution queues Tweets, FriendFeed Posts, Comments and Likes that refer to your brand. Anyone in your company can log in and respond to those Social Media brand messages as they happen.

JustSignal Brand Monitor also archives everything said about your company – allowing you to analyze the data and determine what the perception is and how it is trending.

This combination of real-time monitoring and response, and historical data analysis is transformative for your company. Stop sending out surveys and start listening to your customers, prospects and influencers.

You can contact me directly for more information.

Micro-Messaging – Data Interchange Standards and Track

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I’ve been hard at work over the past week. Having your own company which you are attempting to bootstrap in this economy and sponsoring an academic project with ASU Polytechnic and – in my spare time – working on the challenges of real-time information discovery and participation is exhausting. Never-mind the two children under 6.

I’ve listened to what everyone has had to say regarding the “fire-hose” – or as I tend to refer to it – the question of trackable scope. Karoli took the time to write a very persuasive and passionate post – which you can read here. While we still may not agree weather or not the “fire-hose” is required to make track – I think we understand each other’s point of view. We agree on what is important – if not in which order and why. That is enough for me.

Apparently I was mentioned on the Gillmor Gang on 11/11/2008 – I’ve included the podcast below:

PodCast courtesy of The Gillmor Gang

icon for podpress Standard Podcast [60:12m] Download (746)

The discussion turns to track for the last half or so of the hour. After sitting with my latte this morning and listening (to some parts more than once) I believe I have a clearer understanding of Steve Gillmor’s perspective on the issue.

I completely agree with Steve that establishing a base mechanism for data interchange between real-time/near real-time social media services is going to be critical to the ultimate value delivered. As I’ve discussed on identi.ca we need a real-time data “bus” which moves data in real time from publishers to subscribers. Much the same way an electrical bus moves electricity from generators to consumers. At some point that bus – when widely adopted – will become a standard.

I’ll be posting more about the bus early next week.

I believe – and I am quite certain history bears this out – that standards develop because they benefit the services that implement them. In most cases this is because the interchange of data in some structured way is required to unlock the full value of a particular service or solution. We’ve seen this evolution in the past – email is an excellent example. Prior to SMTP every major producer of email systems had a “standard” for routing email between users. SMTP became dominant because it became more valuable to have email that could be exchanged with anyone than to have email without that capability. As a matter of fact it became a deal breaker if you couldn’t send email to anyone.

A counter example can be found in the world of Instant Messaging. After nearly 10 years there is no dominant standard. Each network implements it’s own standard and perhaps bridges messages to other standards. AIM uses OSCAR, GTalk uses XMPP, MSN uses SIP/SIMPLE. You want them all – you need a clever developer who creates a client that can talk to all 3.

There are many reasons that these standards either emerge or fail to emerge. But I’m fairly certain that it has rarely been the case that the standard was implemented because a small, vocal community of users insisted on it. I am very certain that the majority of standards become dominant is because there is a business imperative which makes using a standard more valuable than not.

Call me cynical – but that is how the world works. The question isn’t should there be a widely implemented standard for real-time micro-messaging, the question is what is the win-win? What is the business imperative that will drive widespread adoption? Specifically – how does it benefit Twitter to publish everything to the real-time messaging bus?

My contention is – as I’ve said before:

When compelling and broadly adopted services exist, which demand real-time un-scoped access to multiple underlying services, the individual services will have no choice but to “open their kimono” or face massive user defection.

The key part of that statement is “broadly adopted services exist“. My opinion is that we have to focus on the value proposition. What are the problems being solved and why are the valuable to users?

There are many – and some can be solved today (and as Karoli knows – some that can’t) – without the fire-hose. If I did not believe that to be true I wouldn’t be attempting to solve them. Will they be imperfect? Yes – but the goal isn’t perfection on day one – it is making a situation incrementally better by solving the important problems facing the user.

FriendFeed offers an interesting case – since they base their business model on being an aggregator. And, at least in theory, aggregation is one way to establish a real-time messaging bus and standard. It, however, requires not a network of peers but a single massive aggregator serving as the gateway/hub for access to information.

What I know – with complete certainty – is that the marketplace has ways of working these types of issues out. There will be a winner (or winners). They may or may not be the best technical solution. The real-time micro-messaging bus will be created to support the solutions that gain traction in the market. The solutions will not constrain themselves to 140 characters or any other standard which impedes the ability to solve important problems.

In short – until we hash out the types of services and how they deliver value AND the business imperative which drives a broadly implemented standard… there will be no standard (beyond paper standards).

So I’m going back to work creating value and solving important problems using the power of real-time (or near real-time) information discovery and participation… you in?