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The Maturity Gap

Does your age make you any smarter?

I know some pretty stupid people who are cranking past 60, and I know some pretty impressive minds of people who are not even 25 yet. Still, I think maturity and experience does count for something. Many years ago, I sat in a corporate meeting with a brand manager who was in their mid-twenties. They were young, they were on the corporate track, they had a few small wins under their belt, and they were puffing out their chest in their new role. I watched this individual be condescending to an agency partner. That happens. You see it all of the time (sadly). The problem – from my perspective – it that the individual they were putting down (in front of everyone) is someone who is both highly-regarded in the industry, and has the resume and awards to back it up (a legend, if you will). This brand manager was new, and didn’t even know the people in the room (because they were too busy posturing). I’d prefer to blame the individual (and their insecurity) over their age, but it’s something that creeps back into my personal zeitgeist more often than I would like.

Experience takes times. Knowledge takes time. Wisdom takes longer.

We live in a 140 character world. We live in a world where the atomization of content is a reality. We click on links and float from content to content without a second thought as to the value that it might be able to impart on us, if we just took a moment to stop and smell the proverbial roses. Because this works at scale, it enables everyone to have a platform. Everyone to have thousand upon thousands of followers (whether there is merit to it or not). Attention gets more attention in this world. Book publishers are scrambling for the next big thing and that next big thing may be on Twitter pr Pinterest or Secret or…. And, even if they’re wrong, someone with a big following should still be able to pimp their own book to make it worth the investment from these book publishers. This doesn’t make the authors experienced.

A tale of two business books.

I am going to disappoint you right now, because I am not going to name names (sorry). I recently read two very different books from two very different authors in the non-fiction space. While these two authors come from very different backgrounds and attract two very disparate types of audiences (with little crossover), I kept getting a nagging, annoyed feeling while reading these books (which, for the record, have received tons of positive accolades in the media, etc…). I got worried that I was quickly floundering into the “get off of my lawn” twilight of my professional life. The point when you look at the world from a very skewed and jaded perspective of ones own dogma. I dug a little deeper into the bios of both authors and guess what? They were both in the 25 year old age range (or younger). Don’t get me wrong, I take no issue with that age. I remember being that age – full of energy and an “I can do anything” gusto (I would like to think that I still have it). Still, they were using a lot of phrases like, “in my experience…” or “if I have learned anything in life” or “I have made enough mistakes to know…” and what followed didn’t seem to match those words. The ideology, the thinking the advice was… flat… hollow… lacking depth… and more.

On maturity and wisdom.

It’s awesome that people like this have a platform, an audience and a book. It’s a wonderful and connected world that allows for this to happen. I just wish that we could (in some way) better be able to sort the wheat from the chaff in scenarios like this. Like I said, there are some super smart young people that are changing the world. They have something to say. We should listen. They are building the next great companies. They will solve the next series of global challenges. Still, all of that intellect, ideas and pontification will only get better with maturity and experience. All of that will culminate in true wisdom if nurtured in the best way possible. The challenge is that a lot of the current flow from these people is distributed in this strange absolute way. It’s sad (or maybe it’s just sad to me). Life is long. Being able to teach through experience takes time. Being able to reflect on ones experience to augment those initial thoughts takes time. We live in a real time marketing world, where if it didn’t happen right now, it may as well have never happened. That’s cool, but let’s not confuse something that just happened with experience. And, while we’re at it, I’m starting to get a little leery of life advice and advocacy from so-called experts who have yet to put the time, effort and more into their respective trades and lives to be truly deserving of public accolades.

OK, so now, do I just scream “get off my lawn!”?

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Winning Digital Metrics That Matter

Episode #406 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

I think of one word when it comes to describing Stephen Rappaport: enigma. I have no idea why anyone who is a professional digital marketer…

Collaboration, Sharing And The New Entrepreneur

When you think about entrepreneurship, who do you admire?

Names likes Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos come to mind. They are awesome. Their work is inspiring, creative and important. What do you think about Twitter? As powerful? As impressi…

The End Of Liking A Brand In A Move Towards Anti-Social Media

Be careful which brands you like, friend and follow going forward.

That was the headline yesterday in The New York Times article, When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue. What may seem like legal side-stepping to avoid things like class action lawsuits or individuals suing a brand, feels like a massive movement by brands to force consumers with any sort of issue to seek arbitration over the courts. There are pros and cons to this approach, but it is becoming a major issue for major corporations. With that, this New York Times article points this issue into an arena that may shock the marketing industry. From the article:

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, ‘join’ it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways. Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.”

What does that mean to social media? A lot.

Marketers have taken issue with these sorts of things long before this breaking news. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and others are constantly being criticized because of their terms of service and usage regulations and agreements. They are long, legal, cumbersome and very infrequently read or understood by consumers. Now, imagine this layer of confusion being added to mix. So, as this theory goes, if someone likes your page on Facebook, they are suddenly waiving their right to sue the company should something negative come about. While this may work for other industries, this seems even more restrictive when we’re talking about food companies. Picture a scenario where you like this brand on Facebook and then months later are poisoned due to quality controls at the factory. Suddenly, you can’t sue or take part in a class action suit because you clicked a like button for a completely different reason. If you didn’t click that like button… does that make it fair ball to sue?

We have to get less legal about things.

No one will argue that we live in very litigious times. People suing fast food restaurants because they spilled boiling coffee on themselves by accident (how is that the brand’s fault? They should not make the coffee so hot or they should put a warning on the coffee cups that the contents may be hot… for real). It takes all kinds. Still, in a world where consumers have demanded transparency, and brands have responded by attempting to be more open and real (in particular, on social media channels), it’s astonishing that these types of antics will be – in some form or another – considered good customer advocacy.

Connecting the points.

What makes digital marketing truly fascinating (for me, anyways) is how it elevates brands above and beyond a world of advertising (shouting messages) into a bigger palette of marketing expression. With it will come challenges (as we have seen on numerous occasions). It forces everybody in an organization (from the CEO and CMO down to the people on the frontlines) to think differently about how they act, react, communicate and engage with an audience. On the the other side, if every attempt to do so is met with a need for the legal department to absolve the brand of any mistakes, we may be headed in the wrong direction. The article goes on to state: “Arbitration experts said courts would probably require General Mills to prove that a customer was aware of its new policy before issuing decisions denying legal action against the company.” Translation: we are pitting brands against consumers and vice-versa… all over again. Over a decade ago, we begun to usher in this new type of connection and communication. It made me proud to be in the marketing profession. I understand the brand’s perspective and their need to protect themselves from frivolous and unfounded claims. I also understand the consumer’s perspective and their need to take action against anyone who knowingly does them harm. We have a legal system for a reason. That being said, forcing consumers to waive their legal rights because they “like” a brand on Facebook feels like a terribly anti-social statement to be making.

We have to ask ourselves if these types of legal arrangements are really empowering and entrusting our consumers or does it spell the end for social media? 

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Shutting Down Blog Comments

I think that I provoked the blog comment Gods today.

Sorry about this, but the ability to comment on blog posts here at Six Pixels of Separation has been disabled. It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s the spammers. I was recording a podcast today with Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks (it will be published in the coming weeks) and we were talking about the many bloggers and news sites that have shut down their blog comments (Copyblogger being the one that has most recently decided to do so: Why We’re Removing Comments on Copyblogger). I was marveling at how awesome and consistent Gini is at both engaging and connecting with the myriad of comments and feedback she gets all over the Web (and, you can read her side on the blog comments debacle right here: Why We Won’t Shut Off Blog Comments)… and then this happened.

It’s been going on for a few years.

As you may (or may not) know, I have been blogging for over a decade. Every day (or almost). That’s close to 4000 pieces of long form content. The blogging platform used here is not WordPress (we’re on MovableType because WordPress didn’t even exist back then). We have a strong IT team here at Twist Image, but never had the need/desire to switch over to WordPress. With that, we have been using the blog comment capabilities of MovableType since the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, it still catches way more pieces of spammy blog comments than the ones that go live and, every day or so, I would hop on to the backend and simply delete the ones that made it through. Lately, things are getting out of control and, in full disclosure, I started falling behind in cleaning them out. So, now it’s a bit of a massive mess. That’s not the real issue. Once Gini and I finished recording today, there was this massive and sudden influx of spam blog comments that made it through the filter. We had to shut it down. Like I said, I think I was tempting the blog comment deities after my chat with Gini.

I’m sorry… and what this means.

First off, I apologize. I love your comments, feedback and even those that disagree with me. I may not always respond or be quick to respond, but I care about your thoughts… I really, really do. I read every comment, tweet, status update and more surrounding these posts. So, I hate the fact that you can’t comment here (for the next little bit). I also believe that one of the core components that still makes blogging one of the most fascinating publishing platforms in the world is the ability for anyone to add to the discourse. Our team is going to check out Livefyre and Disqus to see which solution might best remedy our current situation (and, if you have any thoughts, please do shoot me an email). I’m hopeful that it will happen soon/fast, but I can’t be sure.

Until then…

Please don’t stop commenting. I typically post to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn when I publish a blog post, and I would love to hear from you there (or even on your own blog, if something inspires you to write). Blog comments will come back at some point soon on Six Pixels of Separation, and it pains me to let the spammers win, but it is what it is at this point in time.

Once again, thank you for following, reading, engaging, commenting and sharing. Please don’t let the lack of blog comments below stop that. 

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CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #27

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

  • Facebook is now throttling a lot of the content that brands and people see.
  • Personal pages on Facebook are not the same of brand pages.
  • Brands have done fan acquisition strategies and now they have to pay for posts.
  • The consumer doesn’t decide what it is seeing, Facebook decides.
  • Facebook is quickly becoming a paid media channel (yes, the free lunch is over).
  • We need to build channels that we (brands and individuals) can own.
  • Remember: not everyone who follows you ever saw all of your content (there was always throttling).
  • The advertising model changes as Facebook and Twitter try to monetize. We’re moving from a scarcity model to a model of abundance.
  • The value of advertising changes.
  • Online advertising has surpassed television advertising this year.
  • At the Master’s you can’t use your phone, but you can do the Howard Stern “baba-booey!”
  • Can we put an end to the #selfie already?
  • Follow-up to the iMedia Summit from last week.
  • App of the week: Shots.

Listen here…

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The Best That Social Media Has To Offer

Episode #405 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Jay Baer is back and he’s doing what most people in Social Media are not doing: making big and smart moves (and good money, as well I am su…

Some Questions About Your Questionable Content

Marketers, we have a problem…

Do you know how long an effective Facebook post should be? If I told you forty characters, what would your reaction be? A tweet should be 100 characters (even though Twitter affords you 140 of them). It makes perfect sense, right? I know that people like Tom Webster over at Edison Research is, without a doubt, rolling his eyes. I’m with him. But, that was the latest headline from Fast Company in an article titled, The Proven Ideal Length Of Every Tweet, Facebook Post, And Headline Online. All over the world, junior brand and community managers are building PowerPoint decks with charts, graphs and quotes from this article in an effort to demonstrate both how “in the know” they are, and how antiquated the upper echelons of the marketing and communications are. Those silly dinosaurs running the show in their corner offices, don’t even know how valueless most of what they do has become.

Don’t be fooled by the numbers (even if they are small ones).

Length does not equate to quality, value or substance. It’s an arbitrary number that is being allotted to a very crowded (and hyper-saturated) marketplace that hosts very finicky and tough to understand consumers who, in one instance, will “like” a picture of a dog licking itself and within the same brush of the finger also like a group denouncing human rights in Syria. Ahh, the human condition. So mystical. So difficult to pin down. The question is asked often, and in various ways:

  • How long should a tweet be?
  • How long should a Facebook post be?
  • What is the right balance between content and images?
  • How long should a podcast be?
  • How long should a blog post be?
  • How long should a business book be?
  • How long should a movie be?
  • How long should an article be?
  • How long should a… you get the point?

What matters more than the mechanics?

We get caught up in the mechanics and completely forget about why we’re creating anything in the first place. Ultimately, it should be twofold:

  1. Create value.
  2. Create awareness.

The answer to all of the questions above surrounding length is rather simple: content should be as long as it needs to be to create value. I’ve seen movies that have been three hours long and movies that have been thirty minutes long that have changed my life (and how I think about humanity). Research Brief posted a fascinating article – at just around the same time as the Fast Company one mentioned above – titled, Trusted Content Closes Vendor Selection. So, it’s not about the content… it’s about the quality of it and the level of trust that it inspires. It’s true, we often ask the wrong questions about the content that we’re creating and, in doing so, we wind up creating content that doesn’t get traction. The net result being a perception that either content marketing doesn’t work or that content marketing doesn’t work for our brands. Both are misnomers. Putting aside any kind of viral effect that some are lucky enough to achieve (do you believe in unicorns?), we need to be asking more profound (and real) questions about the content that brands are putting out into the world. So, before you put finger to keypad in an effect to pump out an extra few free impressions to a saturated social media channel, sit down and ask yourself the following:

  1. How trusted as a source of information is our organization?
  2. Is there a third-party who might be better suited to help us with our content?
  3. What is point of this content and who is it educating?
  4. Is this content “me too” or unique and additive to the current flow of discourse?
  5. Who are we looking to speak to with this? Customers in discovery mode? Qualification mode? Final selection mode?
  6. Once this content is created how will it be distributed? Our own channels? Third-party channels or platforms?
  7. How will this piece of content help the decision makers be influenced?
  8. How will this content help our potential customer make the best decision (and yes, this may even mean buying from someone else)?
  9. Is our content broad and expansive or is it myopic and narcissistic?
  10. Are the people we are speaking to more interested in fresh research and data or editorial-like content?
  11. Is our content the type of work that the industry influencers would pay attention to and share or is it closer to a de-jargonated press release?
  12. Does our content allow for honest commentary between us and the community?
  13. Is our content both findable and shareable to everyone that it needs to be?

The path to purchase is complex.

That’s the main thing that every brand needs to focus on. Content that understands and responds to the thirteen questions above will change the brand and help it add more value to the path to purchase. What this Research Brief article also illustrates is something that many digital marketing pundits (like myself) have been banging the drum about for some time: Yes, the path to purchase is complex, but “The Internet is the primary place where business buyers begin the path to purchase. 68% start their content sourcing at search engines and portals, 40% go to vendor websites, and 25% are activated by an email from a trusted source or peer.”

If you read nothing else, go back and re-read that last sentence.

If there was ever a case for digital marketing to lead all marketing initiatives (B2B, B2C, a small impulse buy or a year-long sales cycle) this is it. The Internet is the primary place where business buyers begin the path to purchase. This is a critical and key message. So, if you thought that the thirteen questions above are going to make you bang your head against the wall, start asking yourself a whole new set of questions about what your brand is truly doing to to engage with those who are simply kicking tires, those who are looking for a preferred vendor and those who are trying to validate the choice of vendor that they have already made. Too many brands are churning out this chum of content without the focus, intensity and voracity that is truly required to qualify any/all of this content marketing as a “success.”

Make no mistake about it… it starts with you. That being said, it all starts online.

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The Perils Of Social Media

Episode #404 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

I first heard the voice of Eric Schwartzman over a decade ago as a contributor to the For Immediate Release podcast. I was always impressed…

Don’t Blame Brands (Always) In A Time Of Crisis

The tweet heard around the world.

There was a disaster somewhere in the world. I think it was the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. I was in France at the time speaking at an event. I was crawling into an early evening slumber when the news broke. As we do these days, I hopped over to Twitter. I was immediately taken by someone many would acknowledge as a social media expert who tweeted out something along the lines of “Attention brands: please turn off all of your automated tweets, etc… out of respect for the tragedy in Boston.” In the past, we’ve had many instances when brands (with good or stupid intentions) have firmly placed their proverbial feet in their mouths. It happens. It keeps happening. As bad and tragic as these events are, the world does not stop. I looked down to the pool/terrace area where the reception was continuing on without me (I was on a lower floor). You could see people scrambling to talk to one another and share the news of what was taking place in Boston. You could see groups of people huddled over mobile devices and the bar had changed the television channel over to CNN (or whatever the equivalent is in France). Still, the party raged on. Champagne was consumed, the buffet tables looked busy. Humans beings are a complex bunch. So, in one instance, we’re telling brands, don’t communicate anything during a national/international crisis, but on the other hand, the corporate parties and events keep raging on.

What is right in a world that has gone so wrong?

“Oh no. Not again.” That was the sum of my initial thoughts when I first heard about the Fort Hood shooting. Tragedies everywhere. People struggling with their own demons, and violence becomes their desperate cry for help/attention. Sadly, people (now victims) become collateral damage in these cries for help. As usual, I head online to get perspective, read the discourse and more. Once again, a very senior communications executive sent out a message (this time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) about a tweet: “#FortHoodShooting sweet Save 10% plus free shipping on your order at Acme Inc. use coupon code: BUY19.” The comment from the senior executive read: “The dark side of Twitter and hashtags. National tragedy unfolding and trending topic attracts marketing.” I changed the name of the company and the promo code for a specific reason. This company was now taking a lot of flack for looking very insensitive during these times. As if that weren’t enough, it is also (somewhat evident) that it’s probably some kind of automated tweet that gets triggered for any trending topic/hashtag.

So, do you HATE that brand? 

It’s hard not to be immediately disgusted by them. But, here’s the thing: upon closer inspection of this instance, you can easily uncover that the brand (probably) had nothing to do with this tweet. It looked like an affiliate marketer who gets a commission of their sales when someone uses that, specific, promo code. So, this unsophisticated affiliate marketer is doing the equivalent of spamming trending hashtags in the hopes of picking up a few bucks here or there. Still, the brands takes the brunt of the hit, pain and crisis management that ensues.

Having a media brain.

How many people do you think saw that tweet and were simply disgusted by the brand, instead of taking the time to scratch a little beneath the surface to uncover the truth? It’s just another example of how brands can take a hit without ever having done anything wrong. Yes, you could easily say that businesses need to be careful about who they do business with, and that all affiliate marketers should be vetted in a more professional manner, but let’s get real here: what’s stopping anybody from going online, saying something like this about any brand and attempting to make them look bad? It’s easier than you think. It happens all of the time. The general mass populous are not trained media professionals. It’s not their jobs (nor do they care) to vet these tweets for validity. The brand gets hurts worse than anyone else in this scenario, and it quickly becomes this massive pile-on. Personally, I feel bad for the brand that got caught up in this storm. But, it just goes to show you, that even if you’re doing everything right, in terms of using social media to connect in a more real and authentic way with you consumers, that little mishaps like this are sure to happen. And, no matter how much is done in the aftermath to correct-course, there will still be even more people who saw that terrible tweet and now have a terrible brand impression.

Is time to talk about brands and control again?

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Why Every Brand Should Build An Audience

Episode #403 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

There are few people as passionate as Jeffrey Rohrs when it comes to brands and connecting with consumers. It’s gotten so hot and heavy for…

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #24

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

Listen here…

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The Absolute Value Of Marketing

Episode #402 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Back in 2000 (yes, way back then), I read a book that made me rethink everything that I thought I knew about marketing. It was called, The Anatomy of Buzz, and it was written by Emanuel Rosen. Long before we were all talking about social media, viral videos, content marketing and more, Rosen was busy studying what makes people do the things that they do. You find a “best marketing books ever” list and not see The Anatomy of Buzz on it. Rosen, a former marketing professional, considers himself a writer, researcher, teacher and speaker. I’m fortunate because, over the years, Emanuel and I have become friends. In 2009, he looked again at what makes people talk about brands and wrote, The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited. Now, he’s back with a fascinating business book called, Absolute Value (that he co-wrote with Itamar Simonson). It has been getting incredible reviews… and for good reason. In this book, Emanuel wonders about the value of brands, marketing and advertising in a world where information is everywhere, available in real-time and spin becomes, increasingly, more difficult from brands to pull off. Enjoy the conversation…

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast #402.

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The Culture Of Fear At Work

Episode #401 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

What is your work environment really like? Are you a leader who must inspire your team? Are you on a team with a leader who is inspiring……

What Is The News Doing To Your Brain?

How often do you check a screen to see what’s going on in the news?

It’s probably a lot more often than you think. Consider your Twitter feed. Consider your Facebook timeline. Consider how many text message alerts you are signed up to receive. The lis…

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #195

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person “must see”.

Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:

  • Interviewing the algorithm: How reporting and reverse engineering could build a beat to understand the code that influences us – Nieman Journalism Lab. “This is an important topic. Many of the decisions we’re going to face in the coming years will be made by machines, optimizing and ranking our lives and choices. But those algorithms are black boxes, opaque and arcane. How does Facebook know which stories to show you? An algorithm — and probably not one that serves your needs, but rather, those of Facebook’s: getting you to click links, and double-down on already-popular stories, while missing small updates from long-lost friends. If we want to report on the future, we need to understand the decisions these algorithms make.” (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Here’s What Happens When The Internet Decides A Newspaper’s Front Page – BuzzFeed. “Is crowdsourcing good? Or just pictures of cats all the way down? Editors decide what makes the front page — but what happens when the popularity of stories on social platforms decides what newspapers should cover? As it turns out, it’s not bad.” (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Between two Ferns Director Scott Aukerman on Obama’s Comedy Skills – GQ. “Unless you have been living under a fern, you have probably seen Obama’s recent comedy/communications coup to promote healthcare.gov. Here’s the story of how it happened.” (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Reaching 400K followers on @CBCNews – CBC. “This one is for Canadian history books, with a funny bit of local colour. Way back in 2007, a friend and ex-Montrealer, illustrator/animator, Matt Forsythe, decided that CBC News should have a Twitter feed. He registered @CBCNews, and started posting tweets with links to news items. Eventually CBC mucky-mucks got wind, and were shamed into joining Twitter: Matt, a nice fellow, handed the account over. A few short years (SIX YEARS!! WHAT?!?) later, @CBCNews has 400,000 followers.” (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Move over, small-time Bitcoin exchange startups–Wall Street has arrived – ArsTechnica. “Here’s my theory: as fragmented and uncoupled as the general news has become, we still only follow the same stories. If you really want to better understand what is happening in this world, you have dig a little deeper. Stores like this are the ones that we need to be paying attention to. When people think of BitCoin or virtual currency, they tend to think of either the people who are running these businesses into the ground or the wild fluctuations that the currency experiences (is it a bubble or isn’t it?). Well, while these more generic and mass media appealing stories block the sun, stuff like this is going on. Now, we’re going to have trading bots and high speed trading for BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies and exchanges. In short: things are about to get really crazy over there.” (Mitch for Alistair).
  • No, His Name Is Not Ted – The New York Times. “I begin my annual pilgrimage out West to the TED conference on Monday (it’s now being held in Vancouver). I have been going since 2009 (can’t believe it has been that long). It’s a controversial conference that is constantly being slapped around in the media. I understand why, but it has no bearing on my decision to go. It is the one time a year that I do something (somewhat) selfish for myself. I go out there, I seclude myself from the rest of the world (with the exception of any emergencies) and drown myself in ideas, conversations, learning and my own thoughts. I fill up a notebook with my thoughts, spend time with old friends discussing new challenges and make no qualms about whether it is elitist or if the talks are like infomercials for intellects (I think the price is minor compared to the value and most of the talks inspire me in one way, shape or form). I find most of criticism against TED (and the people who create it) coming from people who don’t have an interest in this type of conference or who are simply there to poke holes in it. I’m lucky, as a professional speaker, I get to attend hundreds of events every year. For my dollar, my time and my personal growth, nothing has ever come close to TED (with the exception of the Google Zeitgeist event – which also helps me rethink everything). While this piece takes some shots at TED, it did nothing but get me even more excited for what’s to come next week. Can’t wait!” (Mitch for Hugh).

Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.

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Awards Worth Winning

Are you cynical of people who win awards or make some kind of bestsellers list?

Whether it’s the New York Times‘ book list or an advertising award, I have always had a love/hate relationship with these types of accolades. I’ve seen so many people game the system (yes, even ones that seem un-gameable) that I often look at the “winners” with an air of deep suspicion. Not that long ago, a friend released a business book that debuted on one of the major bestseller lists. I was a little dumbfounded. They had not done much in terms of pre-press and sales, they had no serious/significant presence on social media, and there wasn’t even that much media attention the week of the book’s release. Still, the book hit the top ten list. The next week, it was gone. And, even on the week where it did appear on the list, if you were tracking its position on Amazon, there wasn’t any significant spike. Isn’t that all a little strange? Not really. You can buy your way to the top of the list. If you don’t believe me, you can read more about that topic right here: Buy Your Way To The Top. I’ve seen the same thing happen at industry awards. Where agencies who are on the selection committee or the board of directors of the organization tend to accumulate the most awards. It has to be a coincidence right?

On the other hand…

Awards and making bestseller lists can be very validating. For the hard work and dedication. For helping the team behind the work to coalesce and come together. When it’s merited, it is magical and it can change business. In that blog post above on buying your way to the top, I did contemplate using one of those business book services that guarantee a spot on these lists. I never did it. It felt icky. It didn’t feel real. I see brands and individuals do this everyday online. Buying friends, followers, fans, likes… you name it. It makes me sad. It’s an act of vanity that is simply thinly veiled desperation. The numbers don’t validate anything, especially if there’s nothing behind it. People who buy their way on to lists like that tend to feel like it’s a strategic move because they can use the title of “bestselling author” or “one million fans” on Twitter to drum up more business in terms of speaking, consulting or impressing new clients. But it’s hollow. It’s not sustainable.

Why?

If anyone does any semblance of research, they will see the truth. Your book may be number six on the bestsellers list this week, but if it’s gone next week (never to return), the only people that you may be duping are these poor new clients that are being lied to (not the best way to start a new business relationship). If you can sleep at night, good luck to you. If a book falls off the list, it means its a book that didn’t attract an audience. It means that people bought it and never took to it. They didn’t share it. They didn’t help it grow. It means that the publicity that a lot of authors grab in this moment still isn’t enough to make anyone really care. So, it’s more like a desperate cry for attention than anything else. If you buy a million followers, but nobody cares about your messages, posts and shares, it’s the worse kind of vanity metric.

Earning it.

You have to earn it. Don’t you? When it’s earned, it’s honest. It’s true. It’s something to be celebrated. You may be wondering why this all on my radar at this point? I just got an email from my publisher that my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, won two business book awards. One is the Gold Award in Networking from the 7th Annual Axiom Business Book Awards. I had no idea that my book publisher has even nominated it. The book was also named one of the Best Books of 2013 in Business & Investing by Amazon. I was proud and I wanted everyone to know. I wanted to share the news with you, but I almost didn’t. I got worried. I thought that people might think that I am simply bragging, or that I did something in the background to make these awards happen, so when the news broke, I could be all like, “What? Me? Why, I’m flattered… for sure…”

I’m really blown away… and proud.

What these two awards mean to me, is that people actually bought this book, talked about it, told others to check it out. For me, that’s the “big checkmark” when you write something like a business book. So, I’m thrilled to announce that CTRL ALT Delete has been recognized. And, I mean it. Because I truly had no idea that it was even nominated. I can’t thank you enough for your constant support and belief in the ideas that happens between my ears. On top of that, make sure that your work gets the opportunity to be recognized by your peers, by your industry and by the people who care. When it’s done authentically and ethically, there is nothing that is more rewarding.

Thank you… and if you want to know more about CTRL ALT Delete, please watch this:

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Even If You’re Not Doing Social Media, You Should Still Be Doing This…

In an effort to better involve themselves in social media, many brands still attempt to decide which channel to hop on.

It’s easy to do this. It’s easy to be attracted to whatever the bring and shiny object may be at the moment. Brands can be like little, distracted squirrels when it comes to social media. Some have already tinkered in places like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while others simply haven’t invested the time and resources to figure out which one will serve them best. Many are wondering if Instagram, Vine and Pinterest can help them be better and do more. Most brands have fundamental challenges with the platforms because, while they are free to connect and engage with, it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge, patience and effort for it to bear juicy fruits. With that, the popularity of online social networking has also brought with it the complexity of paid media as well. For a lot of this more corporate content to rise above, it must now be boosted and supported with significant media dollars. We’re seeing everything from fan acquisition paid media strategies to companies that are paying to promote individual posts and tweets to garner attention. It sounds a lot like traditional media… and that’s because it is. Still, there are many brands (especially in the small and medium-sized business space) that are experiencing great returns by simply being present, helpful and interesting to customers and potential clients. If all of this sounds complex, it is because it is complex. The best way to understand this brave new word of marketing is to think of it as a publishing platform. Brands can create content (in text, images, audio and video) much in the same way that a publisher can create content, and brands can advertise on these publishing platforms as well. The biggest paradigm shift (that most brands still fail to comprehend) is that within this model, brands can also be the publisher or build their own publishing platform (meaning, they are no longer at the mercy of the publisher to run the content or negotiate the ad space with). It’s enough to make any business throw their hands up in the air and give up entirely. 

A way to step back, but still win at social media.

When asked where to start with social media, most gurus, thought leaders and ninjas will tell brands to listen. Spend some time on these channels listening to what consumers are talking about. Are they mentioning your brand, your competitors or the industry that you serve? It is sound advice and something that many brands can start doing right at this moment. There are free tools (like Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts) that can give you a semblance of what is being said, but times have changed. Social media is now close to fifteen years old (older, if you really want to get specific about when the popularity of blogging first took hold). There has been many layers of maturation in the space. Now, brands can (and should) be doing a lot more than just listening, when they decide to take the plunge into social media. In fact, if you’re still on the fence with social media, there is one big, major and fascinating thing that you can do to better understand not just social media, but how your brand is competitively performing in the marketplace: invest in a social media analytics tool.

Start with social media analytics.

This isn’t about measuring your brand efficacy in digital marketing (at least not yet), it’s about taking the first step (and making that first step a lot more power and profound than simply listening). Now, as a brand, you can gather insights about your business, your competitors and the industry that you serve like never before. Last week, eMarketer posted a news item titled, Marketers Adopt Social Media Analytics Tools, that looked at some new research on how close to two-thirds of companies in North America have adopted some kind of social media analytics tool (and how the increase has really taken shape in the past two years). What makes this research so compelling to brands who are not immersed in the digital marketing and social media space is how these tools are being used by organizations. According to the article, here is the breakdown:

  • Campaign tracking – 60%
  • Brand analysis – 48%
  • Competitive intelligence – 40%
  • Customer care – 36%
  • Product launch – 32%
  • Influencer ranking – 27%
  • Owned/earned media analysis – 18%
  • Product innovation – 11%
  • Category analysis – 11%
  • Risk management – 3%
  • Partner monitoring – 3%

What is this list screaming to you?

All of these activities. All of them. Can be used for every kind of business and you don’t need a social media presence to benefit from the results. I would argue that augmenting your current marketing and communications strategies with social media is smart, but that’s an entirely other conversation piece. Think about what these new (and constantly improving) social media analytics tools can tell you about everything that you are doing to grow your business. Even if all you are doing is taking out local ads in the newspaper and on radio, a good social media analytics tool can let you know how that campaign is tracking (are people talking about it online, sharing it, etc…), it can tell you how well your brand is perceived, what people think of your competitors, how well you are handling customer service issues and so much more.

Beyond listening. Beyond doing.

Sadly, most brands see social media analytics tools as an engine to better understand how they are performing in social media. Instead, the true opportunity is in understanding just how powerful and profound these tools are in giving you a true temperature check on the overall health of your business and the brand. Have you had success on Facebook? What about Twitter? If your peers are trying to talk you into (or out of) using these channels to build your business, it is in your best interest to start with a strong social media analytics tool and from there start building a true marketing strategy that is driven by your business goals. No need to to hop on the latest craze, and no need to just listen to chatter any longer. Do yourself, your business and your future a favor. Start paying attention to everything that is going on in the social media space, and use these analytics as a barometer for what’s happening in your business and what you can do – with each and every passing day – to improve it.

Social media analytics… it’s not just to see if Facebook is working for you anymore.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for Inc. Magazine called Reboot: Marketing. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

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Celebrating 400 Podcast Episodes With Douglas Rushkoff

Episode #400 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

For the 400th episode of this podcast series, I wanted to have a serious and in-depth conversation with someone who I consider to be one of the brightest minds when it comes to digital, media and technology. That’s Douglas Rushkoff. The timing could not have been more perfect, because he is back with a new documentary that recently aired on Frontline titled, Generation Like. You will be doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t take the time to watch it (it’s streaming for free online). Rushkoff’s latest book is called, Present Shock, and he has ten-plus other best-selling books on new media and pop culture (including: Program Or Be Programmed, Life Inc., Cyberia, Media Virus, Playing the Future, Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out and Coercion, winner of the Marshall Mcluhan Award for best media book). He does tons of teaching and public speaking, but also makes time to produce and write documentaries like Generation Like (along with The Merchants of CoolThe Persuaders, Digital_Nation). If that weren’t enough, Douglas Rushkoff has written two series of graphic novels for Vertigo called, Testament and A.D.D.. I’m always honored that he takes the time to have these types of conversations with me, and we decided to deep dive into some of the bigger themes of this documentary, and what it means to society, as a whole. Lastly, thank you very much for listening to my podcast. I put out these shows, because having these conversations make me better (and hopefully smarter)> The fact that thousands of people – every week – enjoy them right along with me is a true privilege. I’m not one to celebrate milestones and the like, but thank you for being a part of my journey to discover. Enjoy the conversation…

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast #400.

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The Secret Life Of Social Media

Shhhh, don’t tell anybody anything (even though I just posted this secret online for anyone to see).

It has been brewing for some time, and it’s a difficult trend for businesses not to understand and embrace. As much as our social lives are now made public in everything from 140-characters of text on Twitter to long-form videos that we post of ourselves on YouTube, there is a growing mass audience (and developers behind them) that are creating an entirely new (and private) layers to social media. And, if all goes according to their plan, it could very well be the proverbial needle to pop the balloon of how brands have attempted to market to consumers using modern technology.

What’s the hottest thing happening right now?

It’s Snapchat, of course. Isn’t it? Lauded by the younger generation because they can send each other photographs/mini videos via smartphones and tablets that are incinerated once viewed (leaving no trace for parents, etc…). The app has become so formidable, that Facebook offered to buy them late last year for a reported $3 billion, which Snapchat turned down. Turning down $3 billion dollars buys a lot of attention and street cred. The private online social network continues to grow, as brands like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Acura and others have been jumping on board to figure out if Snapchat’s community of 30 million-plus users (and growing) cares to get this type of micro-disposable content from brands. Maybe, it’s not Snapchat that is the hottest thing anymore. One could argue that the hottest thing happening right now, is the fact that Facebook bounced back from this rejection and managed to acquire the cross-platform mobile messaging platform WhatsApp for an astonishing $19 billion two weeks ago. With close to 500 million users and growing, WhatsApp is, in its purest form, BlackBerry Messenger (which, of course, is now available for Android and Apple users as well) that works on any mobile device and any mobile carrier. In fact, the deal was so massive that it completely over-shadowed the fact that a similar messaging platform, Viber, was also recently acquired for $900 million by Rakuten (a Japanese online commerce platform).

Think about it: private pictures, videos, messages and more. That doesn’t sound very social, does it?

While companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter monopolize the growing areas of online social networking, what we’re beginning to see is continued growth and interest in private online social networking. The types of content, conversation and sharing that is done outside of the public limelight. Sometimes anonymously. Sometimes between two friends. It just doesn’t feel like the place that brands can insert themselves to monetize a growing user base, does it?

I have a secret to tell.

While they have not been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars (yet), the San Francisco based startup Secret (that was founded by two former Google and Square employees) is getting tons of attention, followers and fans. In short, you can write anything that’s on your mind, add photos or colors to the background and customize this content while being able to share it – free of judgment – and without attaching any of your personal information or profile to it. It feels like a more modern, mobile and more social version of Post Secret (where individuals physically mail their anonymous secrets on the back of a postcard to a group that then scans and shares the most creative ones online). While Secret isn’t the first or only app like this, it is currently getting the lion’s share of media and consumer attention. Do you really want brands to share secrets with you? Does that even make sense? Secret follows in a long line of increasingly popular platforms that are moving towards more private, restricted and personal interactions. Path (which launched back in 2010) seemed like a more mobile version of Facebook with one major distinction:Path only allowed a maximum of 150 connections (which followed Dunbar’s number theory that human beings can only maintain a total of 150 true relationships). Small stuff, right?

What matters most to you: Public life? Professional life? Social life? Personal life?

What we’re now seeing is motion away from all of this publicness that we have been experiencing at the hands of social media for the past decade, or we’re simply seeing the mass development of a completely different type of private online social networking. In fact, if you look at where the venture capital dollars and user growth is currently happening, we could well arrive at a juncture which finds consumers much less interested in the public chest beating of their semi-consequential day-to-day accomplishments on social media, and a much more focused desire to use technology as a communications platform to add more personal meaning. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp could substantiate this (why wouldn’t they want to own both the public and private online social networks of consumers?). So, while Ellen may have broken Twitter with her a-list selfie stunt from the Oscar’s, we may be at the nascent stages of seeing a brand new type of social media play that is small, intimate and, seemingly, impermeable to brands, advertisers and media companies. A place where twerking could well find it’s perfect home… behind closed doors and not out in public.

Are private online social networks the future of social media? More interesting will be how brands will react and engage with this new reality. 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

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