On the advice of Micheal Mullen I decided to start exploring Empire Avenue, which is currently in beta.
Essentially, Empire Avenue is an influence stock exchange married to an advertising platform. The higher your level of influence, either as a person or an organization, the more you can convert your influence into advertising opportunities and gain revenue. At first thought, this almost like turning your personal or corporate brand into a commodity not unlike a television show. Your level of influence will end up being determined by the number of viewers or consumers of your content. Whether or not you garner “prime-time” advertising dollars will depend on your level of reach.
Empire Avenue believes that this kind of connection between advertisers, consumers and influencers has not yet been realized online. In some ways, it seems like the system is valuing reputation based on the feeds you claim are your own and the number of people who view those feeds and value you on the stock exchange. An interesting concept to say the least. It commoditizes social media output.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that your content is of any tangible value in the real world (what’s that, right?). A lot will depend on the audience in the marketplace and what “they” believe is of value and what is not of value. When the system opens up, a tech-savvy group of initial traders could help to keep the content meaningful, ala, “no Justin Bieber tweets, please.” But if the market trading influence on Empire is too tech-centric, it could end up limiting the market entirely and stunt its growth and value for advertisers.
Advertisers want to reach the most amount of people possible, therefore, they are going to want a diverse exchange – and tap into a wide array of content providers / influencers and their audiences.
It will be interesting to monitor this platform as it emerges from BETA and launches. With so many media platforms emerging and more and more people becoming media platforms in and of themselves, the importance of expanding your personal brand, maximizing your reach and interacting with others is just another professional necessity. Using the marketplace to assign a “monetary value” to your image – could be a very effective tool to solidify your professional worth.
It seems as if a lot more people are talking about Twitter, its lack of a business model and how the service can be monetized. One idea is to charge users a small fee. I’ve heard various proposals around this, including – a charge up to your first 1,000 followers or a charge after you reach 1,000 followers.
The truth of the matter is – if Twitter were to charge anything for its basic service, people would stop using Twitter and jump onto another free service. Or another service would evolve and take Twitter’s place.
For the company as a whole, it’s time to start thinking less about advertising or a fee-for-service model for all Twitter users and think more about an enterprise model for Twitter’s corporate base. I recognize that on the surface this may seem contradictory to Twitter’s overall purpose or what many in the Twitter-sphere like about the microblogging platform. But the core reality of what Twitter is and what makes Twitter strong is the opt-in / opt-out nature of its user base; and the ability of people to find other people or companies that have something interesting to say. The truth of the matter is that if a corporation were to ever abuse its audience – its audience would essentially disappear. Twitter is not ABC – so mass appeal is not required – however appeal is absolutely necessary for success.
In my view an enterprise level application or SaaS for Twitter would be fine, but it would need to encompass a few key attributes:
1) There would need to be better management of each person a business account user had as a follower. This means Twitter users in general would need to offer up more data about themselves, such as a valid e-mail, website, and greater description of who they are. In turn, Twitter would need to develop a better system to allow for organizing followers by geographic information and other identifiers.
2) Following a business account with an enterprise-level profile would have to include more opt-in features. Followers would need to be able to specify their preferred method of contact beyond Twitter, and outline how they do not want to be contacted.
3) Similarly, business account holders would be able to offer information to a user that goes beyond Twitter feeds, such as discount coupons, targeted product placements and better customer support.
These are just a few items that would be needed in an enterprise version of Twitter.
Whether or not Twitter goes down this path, I think the alternatives offer Twitter less longevity in the market. Developing a more business-friendly solution would accelerate its adoption and allow for greater interaction to take place between a consumer and a business.
With all this talk of doom and gloom there is a bright spot in the US, and perhaps global economy. The social web.
By adapting existing marketing and public relations strategies to include social media, your company can stay in the forefront and on the minds of spend-weary consumers.
Here are four areas businesses need to look at to help improve their competitiveness and ensure a softer landing out of the recession:
- Improve your website’s user interface. This may be a costly endeavor, but that depends entirely on your existing site and how many improvements you need. Never the less, cost should not impede redesign efforts if your website is not structured in the most user-friendly manner. How do you know if your site is user-friendly or not? Ask your customers. You cannot afford to drive consumers away and miss the few opportunities that remain, because of a horrid web site.
- It’s a good time for SEO and SEM. We’ve all seen the numbers on where online advertising is going compared to other channels. Radio, print and television advertising dollars are going down, while online is going to stay relatively positive. The reason is simple: people are using the internet more to search for the things they want and need. What’s more, they are not just using their computer to search – they are using their phones as well, which makes search even more critical than ever before. By implementing some basic SEO techniques on your website, and running a few SEM campaigns, you can start to build on your brand and content.
- Which brings us to #3 – content. Businesses need to start producing content. If every core marketing professionals job is to create demand around their company’s products or services, then there has to be some content that can be produced. Everyone from a technologist to a dry-cleaner has a story to tell. Now is the time to tell your story.
- Lastly, we come to email marketing. If you do a good job segmenting your email and not overloading people with irrelevant messages, email marketing remains, pound for pound, the most cost-effective marketing tool you can utilize today. With a variety of email distribution tools out there (I use ConstantContact) at affordable rates for any size business, you should look at improving both the quantity and quality of your outbound marketing via email.
I realize this is just a start. I will look to add more ideas over the next few weeks. In the meantime, please feel free to comment or offer your own ideas. Tweet me via Twitter at: http://twitter.com/hackmer
Here comes a bit of a mea culpa (and an overdue one at that).
Back in July of last year I wrote a blog post that fed off a couple of stories circling the Internet. One was about a man who claimed to have photographed a rare Tiger in China, which was proven to be false. The other story was about a tribe in Brazil that many media outlets identified as either being lost or just recently discovered, only to report later that they were never lost and the story was a hoax perpetuated by a non-profit organization.
In going back and reading my old blog post, I realize that at the time I was a bit harsh on Survival International. Although I did correctly identify that they never claimed the tribe was lost (see “Uncontacted tribe photographed near Brazil-Peru border”) and used the word “uncontacted”, I stated that they should assume the “most blame for the characterization of the story and also its fall-out.” (see “Social media spurs accountability, transparency and yes, honesty”)
Well, to be fair to Survival International – they did report the story and facts accurately. They certainly never intended to mislead anyone. Ultimately, it was a flock of journalists, starting with Peter Beaumont of the Guardian (UK) who spread the “‘lost’ tribe that wasn’t” story, which Survival International did its utmost to quash and set straight.
The point of all this is – I do owe the folks at Survival International an apology for not more properly identifying the media misrepresentation, which was the real problem. I also owe a special note of thanks to Matthew Linares, a web activist who first contacted me and has patiently awaited this blog post.
At the end of the day I need to be more careful about how I interpret events or statements. What’s more, I have learned I need to be more responsive – or just as quick to correct facts in error as I was to make the error in the first place.
A colleague of mine forwarded an article by Mike Bloxham from the MEDIA Post blog, entitled “At a TV Screen Near you: Facebook and Twitter”. In this article, Bloxham refers to social media as having a “benignly parasitical relationship with TV” and that this relationship was somehow benefiting social networking sites.
This irks me a little bit.
There is no doubt that more and more people on television are talking about social media. TV and radio broadcasters, as well as the rapidly decaying newspaper industry are all experimenting with Twitter, social networks, blogs and other forms of technology, and reporters are talking about the growth of online media and social networks. But they are not doing this because social media is the parasite (benign, aggressive or otherwise). That would not make much sense.
Is TV responsible for social media’s growth?
The truth of the matter is that social media has grown in popularity, because the number of people who use the Internet is on the rise. Broadband expansion into households all across the country and the world (see eMarketer) has made online interactivity, including photo and video sharing, easier. The more people online, communicating and sharing information, the faster social media gains in popularity.
I mean, let’s face it, you do not see commercials for Twitter sandwiched in between advertisements for diet soda and cars on your television screen, do you? Social media knows what it is about, and mass media is not its shtick.
Now, that is not to say that some people watching CNN, and seeing Wolf Blitzer read comments posted on Twitter to his cable tv audience, would not get curious about microblogging, fire up their computer and check it out. Could a bunch of people in the 40 and older crowd be responding to this trend through their television? I suppose anything is possible. However, when you think about the typical television viewer in higher age brackets, you realize that these people are the exception – they are not the norm.
TV = The real parasite
It is my belief that TV, not social media, is the parasite here. Wolf may be mentioning Twitter during the broadcast, but he is doing that to try and get people who use Twitter to watch his program. Wolf and CNN are trying to stay relevant by doing what television broadcasters always try to do – appeal to the masses. Only, they are doing it in a way that is uncharacteristic of television – engagement.
How we are changing is what drives changes to media
Plain and simple, TV is a passive medium, whereas the Net is active. When you think about engagement – television is not what springs to mind. There is a reason why we invented terms around tv viewing such as “couch-potatoes” and the “boob-tube”. But television is changing, in large part, because its audience is changing. This is where people who analyze the future of the television industry need to look if they want a clear picture.
Look at how society exists today and where it is going. In doing so, I am speaking in terms of how our generations are impacted by technology. What we’re seeing is a transitional period for television, for sure. But to pose the questions that Bloxham offers, “How will Facebook and Twitter manifest themselves on TV” and “Will CNN still use Facebook or will it develop its own means of going it alone” really misses the point of what the post-digital age is going to be like.
Think about it this way… On the one hand you have a generation that grew up in an industrial age – mass production, large institutions, standardization, etc (see Toffler). Now you have a new generation that does not respond to that structure. It’s built on demassification, individualism and customization. Television, at its core, is designed to push content to the masses, and it is not designed for telling stories and disseminating information… at least, not like the Net…
TV is more geared towards one-size-fits-all model that is perfect for mass advertising. TV is a classic product of industrial age technology.
The Net, meanwhile, is faster, easier to develop programming for and more customizable. The Internet is what has brought about the digital age, including the values, culture and mindset of the people living in its wake.
And as the Gen Xers get older and the Net Generation gets older, fewer and fewer people will turn to TV.
More channels = more niche programming = the demise of television
The systematic expansion of niche programming in television is part of the transition we are seeing, but it is in the early stages. CNN might exist in 20 years, but I would not count on it. Would you watch the kind of programming that appears on CNN now, if instead you could access reports on your own from citizen journalists you trust and have relationships with?
Social media connects people and builds relationships in a truly global sense. Within the next 10 years, people will start tapping into their global connections to access news from all over the world and use their computer systems to tailor news feeds, special interest stories, sports and entertainment. Your mobile device will be a key driver in all of this and your home entertainment system will be computer driven.
My bold prediction
So, what does this mean for the future? Well, for starters, we are not going to be watching TV in 20 years. What purpose will television have if my friend, Meena, who lives in India and used to work for the BBC sends me a message about a car bombing? She is live and on the scene and ready to file her report. And since I know Meena, I am not worried that she is conveying some network or hidden bias. I know her bias, because I know her and… most importantly… I have a relationship with her and trust her. TV no longer has that.
The bottom line is this… to think that TV will play an important role in maximizing Web 2.0 brands is just ridiculous. When you look at how technology is shaping the emerging generations, it is pretty clear… Web 3.0 and 4.0 will eat TV up and drive it to extinction.
Several days ago, someone had posted a word cloud for Barack Obama’s inaugural address, along side those of Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Lincoln. The very nature of a word cloud is to create a visual representation of the most popular words in a particular document. When applied to a blog, this is both cool and helpful to a blog administrator.
In an effort to better see what words we emphasize in our blog posts, I have built word clouds for each of the blogs I am involved in. My blog, HACK Blog, the BIA blog, Perspectives, The Kelsey Group’s blog and the ActiveAccess blog. The goal will be to revisit all four in several weeks to see what, if anything, has changed.
ALL IMAGES ARE FROM: http://www.wordle.net
Below is the word cloud from HACK Blog.
Here is the word cloud from the BIA blog, Perspectives:
Here is the word cloud from The Kelsey Group blog:
Lastly, here is the word cloud from the ActiveAccess blog:
A lot of buzz recently has been how Twitter was faster to alert people around the recent earth quakes than news organizations. This has led to some conversation about Twitter’s business model and potential applications for businesses.
A few weeks ago I had some thoughts about Twitter and its possible development of an emergency alerting tool (I’ll post sometime soon – though I may back-date it) – among other things. However, in reading some recent blog posts, I see Twitter’s ability as a Web 2.0 news and information aggregator as being the immediate advantage because unlike many news organizations – people consider Twitter “faster, unspun” with the negative of news organizations being that they are not participatory or focused on sharing.
WAIT A SECOND! HOLD THE PHONE!
No sooner had the statement about news organizations not being “focused on sharing” sprung forth and into this blog post, than I discovered a news organization mentioned in a blog post that IS using Twitter to reach out to its specific communities and engage people in conversations (I am sure there are many more, btw).
NBCi4 – MIDWEST
Using Twitter allows reporters, editors and columnists the ability to get real-time stories from people on the ground as well as drive content to people via Twitter, and get specific feeds mentioning their news organization in the different Twitter search engines. So, Twitter is a natural fit for every kind of mass media.
See page where I got the above screen shot at: http://www.nbc4i.com/midwest/cmh/news/nbc4now.html.
The value for radio, tv and newspaper is clear… engage your audience, expand your coverage, grow your audience, and help drive people back to your web properties (where monetization can in many instances occur).
From a marketing perspective, I think a key development strategy (for companies involved in the widget / desktop application space) is integrating Twitter with social communicators / desktop applications / widgets. Doing so would create a “must have” application for news organizations (as well as other markets). Direct Twitter conversations could fuel traffic to radio contests, news / network events, broaden community activism, and much, much more.
As far as emergency managers are concerned, using Twitter within a desktop application or somehow finding a way to convert the Twitter feed (this would take some technical experience with the Twitter API to determine if such an approach were possible) into a CAP (common alerting protocol) message, would create another inbound and outbound communication stream. Alert managers could receive real-time information that could be shared with first responders and others. Likewise, alert managers also could distribute messages via a CAP-based system to Twitter, and thereby reaching their constituents through another touch point. Such an option, for example, would prove enormously useful on a college campus.
In the end, I think the technical and business applications for a simple micro-blogging platform, like Twitter, are starting to come to the head. The question on my mind now is… is Twitter already working with a company on integrating its system with an emergency alert solution, and how many other widget / desktop application / social communicators out there will heed the call and integrate Twitter functionality into their products for the benefit of their customers.
It took a man just 150 helium balloons and lawn chair to become an instant sensation. The man I’m speaking about is Kent Couch, who pulled together the makeshift airship in an attempt to go from Bend, Oregon to Idaho.
(AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
On the surface, this may seem like hardly the right imagery to describe using social media for innovation, but in a way its not.
Couch is an adventurer, and willing to suspend conventional thought to try something a bit off the wall. At its essence, those are the qualities that get us all looking at the world with less routine and dreaming big.
Now, this may sound crazy, but think of Couch’s idea and how there may be parallels to your business – its marketing initiatives or product development. What did Couch do to get his balloon-lawn-chair to take off?
Well, we can speculate that he had the desire to do something different, and thought up the idea to travel by balloon in his lawn chair. Next, he probably evaluated how many balloons it would take to get him airborne, based on his weight and the weight of the chair, etc. After that, he figured out what was realistic in terms of how far he should expect to go with the craft he built. Finally, he set out to build, test, and launch his idea.
All in all, a pretty familiar process to many of us, right?
In fact, Couch is said to be equipped with a BB gun and a blowgun to pop balloons should his altitude get too high and 15 barrels of cherry Kool-Aid to release if he gets too low to the ground. So, for fun, we can round off this example and say that both those things, the BB gun and the Kool-Aid, represent customer response – designed to bring him down to earth when things get out of hand and to give him a boost of steam upward with ideas fueling innovation and growth.
When it comes to developing innovative uses of social media, we all need to think a little bit differently to solve conventional challenges. Social media is all about connection and communication with other people. The growth of social networks, interactive platforms, and technology that links people together has been phenomenal, and continues to move at a fast pace. This means there are no bad ideas, or unworthy experiments, because what seemed to be impractical or impossible one day could be the opposite tomorrow.