Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Purposeful - and Fun - Application of Twitter

Yesterday, I did a post where I argued that in order for Twitter to become mainstream, it needs to have a more clearly defined purpose. Well today, TechCrunch did a post on Project Vino, an Australian wine site focused on community recommendations, and their Twitter Wine Tasting.
Twelve prominent Australian Twitter users will take part in an evolutionary new twist on the the traditional wine tasting format. What separates this wine tasting is that the participants could be anywhere in the world. They could be in front of their computer at home or on their mobile phone in middle of the Sturt Desert. All will be connected in real-time however by the latest and greatest online communication tool - Twitter.
This is a step in the "purposeful" direction I discussed in my post yesterday. As I find other "purposeful" applications of Twitter, I will make posts about them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

To Go Mainstream, Twitter Must Have More Purpose

Yesterday, Kara Swisher did a post that concluded Twitter is not yet mainstream. She came to this conclusion based on an informal survey of people she conducted at a wedding in Washington, D.C. this past weekend (nobody in the group of thirty people surveyed knew what Twitter was). The fact that Twitter is not yet mainstream is not a surprise to anybody. To substantiate this point further, data just released by Hitwise shows that Twitter accounts for a very small percentage of Internet traffic in the U.S.

Kara's post, however, did spawn a lot of discussion in the tech blogosphere about when/if Twitter will become mainstream. It even prompted Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC to do his first blog post in months (he has been just Twittering). I agree with many of the points made by Jeff: that Twitter -- and micro-blogging, in general -- will become mainstream; that micro-blogging is less time consuming than blogging and, therefore, less intimidating to many people; and, that the adoption of smartphones, like the iPhone, will make micro-blogging easier for people.

There is one point, however, I have not seen mentioned by anybody, which I believe is the critical success factor in making Twitter mainstream -- and that is purpose. I feel that for more people to adopt micro-blogging, there needs to be a more clearly defined purpose. I think there are large numbers of people who are not comfortable putting out "what they are doing" for the whole world to see. It's not because they are sensitive to making their posts public but it's because they don't understand "why" they should do it.

I believe the adoption of Twitter will accelerate tremendously once it is applied in a more purposeful manner. Take the concept of micro-communities as an example. I think it would be powerful if users had the ability to go into a "Twitter room" and interact with others about a particular common interest -- whether it is a sports team, or a hobby, or whatever.

It is this type of purpose, I believe, which will make Twitter mainstream.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Guiding Principle of Web 2.0

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the Web 2.0 Expo. The opening keynote address was made by Tim O'Reilly where he gave his perspective on the current state -- and future of -- of Web 2.0. For me, the takeaway from the speech was Tim's guiding principle on what makes an offering "Web 2.0". This is me paraphrasing...
A service that derives insight from user-generated data and then delivers to users capabilities based on that insight.
As a prime example of this principle, he talked about Wesabe (O'Reilly is an investor in the company). Wesabe, like Mint, is a next generation version of Quicken. It looks at your spending transactions to provide you insight into how you spend your money. By leveraging the spending data of their users, Wesabe recently introduced a new capability where it can compare different vendors (auto mechanics, for example) to see how much, on average, people spend at each of the vendors. That is incredibly valuable information for anybody that is at all price sensitive.

I've heard O'Reilly talk about this principle before but it's always a great reminder for me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Can Marketers Have Conversations?

Today, Sam Lawrence, the CMO of Jive Software, did a post entitled, "Stop guarding your precious brand". The basic message is that marketing and PR people are too controlling, they need to let go, and they need to have "conversations" with the market...
Marketing needs to be released from being solely responsible for changing perceptions or driving leads. They should be enabling the organization to make meaningful, positive customer experiences and connections. This may seem like a subtle shift but when Marketing can feel comfortable becoming listeners instead of blasting sales messages, dramatic change ensues. Suddenly, employees start to really learn about what interests the market without a commercial agenda. Real conversations begin and Marketers begin to enlist the assets of the organization. This results in much more positive customer experiences. I think of this as ROB (”Return on Behavior”) others may think of it as some form of Net Promotor Score (NPS).
I agree with Sam but I do think it is a difficult mindset for marketers to become comfortable with. I have been in the enterprise software space for much of my career and historically, organizations have spent a tremendous amount of time crafting the perfect messages they want to push out to the marketplace in preparation for marketing events (i.e., a product launch). In an earlier post, I questioned whether the time spent in developing the perfect marketing messages was worth it and proposed a different mindset...
A launch is the beginning of a continuous conversation, not a proclamation that needs to be "set in stone" for a period of time. Sure, you don't want to confuse the marketplace and change your messaging often. At the same time, however, it is now very easy (thanks to the Web, pdf, and PowerPoint) to evolve your messages as you learn more from the marketplace.
With the Internet, there are so many tools available to listen to the "voice of the customer" that it is a shame for marketers not to take advantage of them to have a conversation with their marketplace.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Price That is Really Paid When a Start-up is Sold

I've written in the past about what I perceive as a disconnect between the liquidity events currently available to start-ups and the VC funding model. In a blog post today, Fred Wilson suggests that there is a need for a new path to liquidity. His argument is sure, people make money when big companies buy start-ups but that comes with a different type of price...
Except I am also a user of these services. I see what happens when a company gets purchased. The service languishes. The team leaves. It stops getting better. And often gets worse. And so even though I am happy to take the money, I am left wondering, frankly wishing, if there is a better way.
That is a very good point that I hadn't thought about.

Another Potential Knowledge Networking Solution

I have written a lot about a concept I call "knowledge networking" and have written in the past about Twine from Radar Networks as a potential solution. Today, ReadWriteWeb wrote an article about a new solution called Qitera. Qitera, like Twine, is using semantic technologies to help people leverage information among each other. The solution is currently in alpha and there aren't a lot of details on their website but one of the messages in their slide show that is included in the ReadWriteWeb article is...
How to instantly search your peer's knowledge to get smarter?
To me, this is what knowledge networking is all about. I will be keeping an eye on Qitera.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Twitter as a Marketing Vehicle

Josh Catone of ReadWriteWeb just did an interesting article on a new Twitter marketing experiment called Twittermethis. Besides explaining the concept behind Twittermethis, the article talks about how Twitter is a great vehicle for push marketing...
With that in mind, it is easy to see why the most successful marketing done via Twitter is of the "push" variety. Bloggers do this a lot when we tweet about posts we've just published. The hope is that the link will spread virally through the hubs and reach as many listeners as possible.

The key to successful push marketing on Twitter is to attract the right followers (people who have a lot of followers of their own and will retweet your message), and to make sure you don't do it too often. Unless, like the most popular person Twitter, your account is set up specifically for push marketing.

As a marketer, I love the process of figuring out how to use services like Twitter and Facebook as marketing vehicles (dare I call it "Marketing 2.0"?). It's a heck of a lot more fun than "old" vehicles like search engine marketing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Age of Personal Brand Marketing

Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb posted an article today about a recent study at the University of Texas that shows you may not know your online friends as well as you think you do...
The study, which utilized a Facebook getting-to-know-you type application, "You Just Get Me," showed that the typical information posted on social networking sites, like favorite books, movies, and music, favorite quotes, majors, hometown, and other similar personal information, does not always give others an accurate impression of you.

...Surprisingly, answers to most of the basic type of questions, like those found on social networking sites, did not help users figure out what each other were "really" like. Instead, the researchers found that when a user posted things on their profile like their most embarrassing moment, proudest moment, or spirituality, their personalities were much better understood.
These results do not surprise me. My belief is that to a large extent, online profiles reflect how people want others to perceive them, kind of like a resume, and don't necessarily reflect the true person.

Sarah's article went on to say...
Gosling was drawn to this research because he believed that how one is perceived online is more important than ever these days since social networks are often where other people get their first impression of you. He also mentioned that your social networking profile could also impact your employment opportunities as savvy employers have learned to search out the online profiles of potential new hires.
I also agree with this. Whereas before, when a resume was one of the only tangible profiles of a person, a person now has many online profiles (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). I think it is important for a person to keep in mind how these different profiles reflect themselves. Often, before I talk to somebody for the first time, typically for business reasons, I am now in the habit of checking their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to get a basic understanding of who they are.

Whether you like it or not, we are now in the age of personal brand marketing.