Archive for April, 2010


A powerful story: Simple, but not simplistic

If I asked you to create a compelling three-minute video with only written words, could you do it?  Take a look at this interesting video treatment of words playfully telling a serious story.

Occasionally I feature examples of business storytelling that seem particularly effective and I wanted to highlight this 3-minute video by Dan Heath on behalf of the charity The Girl Effect. I’m not showing this as a political message. I’m only shining a light on this creative work as an absorbing way to convey a message that is elegant and surprisingly powerful.

It’s simple … but not simplistic. Seems to be a hallmark of good storytelling?

What’s your (non-political) reaction to this story?

Twitter ads and the end of mankind

The web comments about the announcement that Twitter will have ads on their searches (as a start) were about evenly split between “ho hum” and “disgust.”  This comment is pretty typical of the disgust category:

“Once Twitter starts inserting ads into my feeds will be the day I turn twitter off for good.” – “Nick”  NYT comment

I guess this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to pontificate about making money on the web …

Folks, it isn’t working.

Remember a time not long ago when people actually PAID for stuff?  Then the web came along and everybody ripped everybody else off.  Music, books, art, whatever. This used to be called a crime. Now it’s called sharing on the social web.

The ripping off became so widespread that it is accepted as fact, and a generation of people grew up feeling entitled to OFS (only free stuff).

But the Internet futurists told us back then, “Hey, everyone! It’s OK, because NEW business models will emerge to compensate all these companies, musicians and artists who are now forced to give away their goods and services without compensation.”  Well guess what?  It’s been about 15 years and it hasn’t happened. I’m pretty sure that means it isn’t going to happen.  And I think we’re in trouble.  Oh yes, I’ve read the book Free.  I still think we’re in trouble.

The only sanctified, protected work on the web today is advertising.  Rip off an ad, you’re in court. Rip off a music album, it’s cool.

So look, unless you want to have a paid subscription, stop whining about Twitter (and every other web platform that needs to advertise) and give them a break.  This is their only likely step toward a sustainable business.

We created this mess, now we have to live with it.  From now on, it’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World.

Is this the final answer to social media measurement?

The blogosphere is buzzing about the new social media measurement platform SAS Institute Inc. announced yesterday.   Is there a place for yet ANOTHER social web monitoring tool in a crowded market? And what is so special about this announcement?

The answer is yes, there is a place for this new entry, and here are four reasons why I think SAS will be successful in this competitive space.

Text-sensitive analysis — I had the opportunity to review several social media measurement platforms over the past few months including market leader Radian6.  Everyone is struggling with accurate textual analysis for “sentiment” reports and are loading up on costly human resources to examine tweets for tone and emotion.  Most don’t think computers can do it.  If SAS has started to crack this code — and some say they have done this by leveraging their other existing technologies — this will be of immense value to customers.  And hey, they claim they can understand and classify conversations in 13 languages (Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish).

Experience — I can say from my corporate days that SAS has a superb reputation in the analytical space and has expert resources that small competitors simply cannot match. During the Internet press conference, Katie Paine (a presenter) said, “Can you imagine the design of experiments we can run with these capabilities?”  Now we’re talking!  Putting the SAS computer power and analytical experience to the test in the social media market will produce incredibly powerful, breakthrough insights. We can only hope they make some of the new marketing innovations available to us little guys!

Market access — This move just makes so much business sense for SAS. They are already providing powerful analytical software to many of the most important companies in the world.  They are already embedded in the corporate cultures.  They speak the language. This is a perfect market extension for them.  They already own these customers and this is way to gather in the social media monitoring revenue as well.

Integration with traditional systems — SAS already provides their customers with services such as marketing campaign management, customer experience analytics, marketing performance management and web analytics. Add the social web on top of this and you are looking for some powerhouse combinations, some potentially breath-taking insights.

So that’s why SAS is going to kick social media butt.  And notice I didn’t even mention the basic analytical capabilities or user interface.  I’ll leave that to the tech writers. Besides it doesn’t really matter.   Nobody will really leverage technology in this space for competitive advantage when all the underlying data is already available.  Making the technology do tricks is the easy part. Having the market presence, integration capabilities, and customer access — now that’s something that SAS can take to the bank.

Is there still room for the other players?  Of course.  First, SAS is going for the large enterprise market. Bring $60,000 in annual fees just to get a seat with the basic platform and $180,000/year for the deluxe model.  That leaves 90 percent of the market for the other guys to squabble over.

Who does this impact the most? Probably Radian6. They’ve been working the large enterprises like Dell and Pepsi so this will be a tough new competitor on the enterprise scene.  But hey, this is a white-hot, still-emerging market. I would expect to see consolidation and players dropping out on the lower end of the market before the higher end, and even that is going to take some time.

What do you think?  Who are the big winners and losers out of this?  How will the market be impacted?

How do you push yourself out of your social media cage?

Where I live in East Tennessee black bears are a real fact of life.  Actually, that’s one of the reasons I’ve remained here. In 45 minutes, I can be hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where bears (and fresh air) are plentiful.

I heard this story about a bear cub that was rescued after her mother had been hit by a car. The cub was put in a temporary 12 x 12 cage by a wildlife rescue habitat until they could decide what to do with her. Day after day the cub just paced back and forth — from one end of the cage to the other — pining for her mother.

As the bear grew, they finally had a chance to transfer her to a more spacious structure. But the strangest thing happened.  No matter where the little bear was placed in the cage, she would still go exactly 12 feet and turn around, 12 feet and turn around.

Sometimes I feel like that cub.  I’m conditioned to the size of my “cage.”  Although my business environment is expanding day by day, I still pace those 12 steps, back and forth.

I’ll give you an example. Have you ever really tried to follow the technology news on Mashable?  I give these folks a lot of credit. They’ve built an excellent, comprehensive and entertaining news stream. Only problem is — it’s just too much. You could sit and read Mashable all day long.  So I stick my toe in, get discouraged, and return to my little cage.

Another example is the excellent Base One B2B purchasing study I wrote about last week.  It mentioned that purchasing professionals now spend about 30 minutes a week on industry-related social networks. It would probably be a good idea for me to branch out and explore some of those networks but after I read such a report, I generally turn to the next news item or blog post to discover what else I’m missing out on!

One of those news items might be the great changes being made to Tweetdeck. I’m a Seesmic kind of guy and can’t even bring myself to check out another platform because of the time it would take.

I know part of this is a matter of human bandwidth. We can only psychologically commit to so many technological platforms. But I’m afraid I’m limiting myself and perhaps falling behind on that all-important business and life skill of adaptability. How do you cope with this?

How do you sift and sort and figure out where to spend your time exploring innovations?

How do you maintain technological relevance, even in your narrow professional space?

How do you unleash your “bear?”

Illustration: www.bear.org
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