« September 2010 | Main | April 2011 »

October 2010

MEDIAPOST: That Sense Of Overwhelm? It ’s Not Just You.

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re swimming in the deep end? Are there days when you just can’t get moving because there’s so much to do that you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, you’re not alone; this feeling is something most people experience on a fairly regular basis.

There is unfortunately no silver bullet when it comes to overcoming this feeling, but there are a couple of small steps you can to try to deal with things in a way that helps.

The first step is one that you’ve probably forgotten about. Start by sitting down to set some personal goals. You probably did this when you started your career, but not for a number of years, now. In many cases you may have even achieved those personal goals and you never thought it necessary to revisit them. Setting personal goals, ones that can be achieved in a 3-5 year cycle, are very important because they give you somewhere to go. They create a sense of direction and can provide context for evaluating the ideas and opportunities that arise in a way that is constructive and beneficial to you. When you have goals set, you’ve laid out a roadmap with some milestones along the way and when something new pops into focus, you can determine whether it fits with the direction you want your life and career to be going. I know it sounds a bit “new age”, and since I live in California I rightly deserve to be poked fun at, but goal setting is an integral part of your life. Setting goals for a 3-5 year cycle are also important because that’s not a lifetime away. Those goals are close, and you can aim for success without having to wait forever to see the outcome.

Of course, some people will say, “5 years is a long time, how do I balance each day of the week”? Day in and day out can be tough, but one of the best ways to not get overwhelmed here is to break your day down to digestible chunks. Everyone has a to-do list and in most cases those lists are endless, with hundreds of items scratched down in poor penmanship. One little trick is to take 3 items from the list, place them on a post-it note on your computer and agree that you’re day won’t be done until those three items are complete. What that does is give you something to center your day. It gives you something to come back to when you get distracted and it gives you focus for the 8-12 hours in front of you. Having a short list of immediate to-do’s means the large list won’t overwhelm you. It also creates space in your day, allowing you to feel a sense of accomplishment when something on the short list is completed.

Of course that short list can be a burden when you factor in distraction, so the simplest way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to limit the opportunity for distractions. Believe it or not, the majority of distractions are your own fault because you allow yourself to be distracted. Sometimes it can be as simple as closing the door, turning off the phone, or shutting down your email for an hour. Maybe it means setting aside 30 minutes for “fun stuff”, and following that time with 60 minutes of work. By breaking the day down in to 30 and 60-minute components, you can achieve more than if you try and tackle the day in 3, 4, or 8 hour shifts. If you ask novelists how they write their books they’ll tend to tell you it’s a series of these digestible writing periods (followed, of course, by the 5 day sequestered periods where they have to hit a deadline, but that’s because writers are famous procrastinators).

That sense of overwhelm can be replaced with a sense of accomplishment if you manage your day the right way, suited to how you work. A series of daily accomplishments can string together a very positive few weeks and before you know it you’re getting things done in an effective and efficient manner!

At least, that’s what my therapist tells me ;-)

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 12: It ’s Family Day At The Digital Influentials

That’s right, this edition is dedicated to the family. Now that my son is a year and a half, I find myself looking to find more ways to entertain him (code for “what do I do with him when I’m really tired”). The web is supposedly a good place, if you know where to look!

I started with the big guys, like Disney, Nick and Sesame Street (all of which are great) but I also uncovered a number of other places to go and see. Some won’t be applicable till he gets a bit older, and some are perfect for right now! Of course, it’s not always about fun; some of the things I uncovered were just practical for keeping the rest of the family involved as well!

So with that, allow me to introduce to you a number of new sites and services that may fit the needs of your family today!

Do you have this unmatched desire to take all of your Facebook photos, Flickr photos and any other photos and make a printed photobook? If so, then check out PIXABLE (http://www.pixable.com/). I feel like I found this site before, but I know I’ve been tasked by this exact effort for my grandmother so she can see more pics of the family, so maybe I’ll share it with you as well! Make a keepsake for those loved ones who don’t like the computer, or just in case your computer crashes. Pixable is your real world partner for picture distribution.

Most of those photos are of your kids and your family (which is why Grandma wants them), and so is the content of EVERLOOP (http://www.everloop.com/). On Everloop. Teens and tweens are given a safe space to create, collaborate and connect in any way they want. You, as a parent, can feel safe and secure knowing your kids are in a safe environment, unlike some of the other not-so-kid-friendly stuff you can see online.

Speaking of social networking for kids, you can also check out YOURSPHERE (http://yoursphere.com/). It’s another social network for kids, where parental consent is needed to join. It brings the web down to a safe, close-knit environment where you can feel good about what your kids are doing and who they’re doing it with.

If you want to make sure your kids are even safer when they’re online, check out KIDZUI (http://www.kidzui.com/). KidZui provides a safe, fun browser for kids that’s chock full of games and is curated by teachers and parents. It’s a virtual PTA for your kids when they’re online.

And if you’re looking a little younger and social networking just isn’t the goal right now, then check out all the fun and games at CACKLEBERRIES (http://www.cackleberries.com/). The site is billed as the safest place for kids 3-8 years old. The founders put up a little message about why they launched the company and the cartoon characters are cute, so why not give it a shot!

The iPhone and the iPad are wonderful resources as well (as my friend calls them, the nannies). If you have little kids, you can’t live without PEEKABOO BARN and PEEKABOO WILD. If you’re kids are a bit older, try SF WITH KIDS as a resource for finding fun things to do with your kids in SF.

That’s it for now. This one is short because I have to get back to playing with my son!!

See you soon!!

MEDIAPOST: Facebook; This Is Your Chance To Make Me Look Stupid

I feel like I keep picking on Facebook, but its such a big target these days! To be fair though, this is an open shot for Facebook to make me look stupid.

I read through a bunch of the articles and press coverage for last week’s big announcements regarding Facebook Groups and the new ability to port my personal data to other platforms, but somewhere along the way I missed the point. I don’t see why journalists had to drive down or fly over or go visit the Facebook offices for a series of seemingly “ho-hum” announcements.

When press people are asked to go see Apple, they get cool new gadgets announced, or new operating systems. When Google calls the press to their home, it’s for new products being released or new technology that consumers can get excited over. For Facebook to call a meeting and tell the world they’re playing nice with others and allowing users to create Groups (which feels like Lists but open to others) just doesn’t seem to carry that much weight in my book. Maybe I’m wrong (it has happened before).

I understand that companies can now create more targeted groups of users to select and share messaging with. It’s the equivalent of a Facebook VIP badge for a brand, but they can do that with their CRM efforts already, so this doesn’t feel mind-blowingly awesome to me.

It feels like Facebook is making an attempt to not be considered the “Rainman” of its day (for all of you familiar with the old school publishing platform that AOL used back when it was a different beast than the open platform we know and love today). It doesn’t want to be a closed network, though it does want to be the hub of all networks. It’s their version of open-sourcing your data, with your permission of course. If they had tried to make this announcement one year ago the privacy and permission component may have been different but they’ve learned their lessons and have integrated that knowledge here.

So once again I ask, what’s the big deal? Facebook is too large to be surpassed by a competitor at this point, barring some very unfortunate outage that takes them offline for a month. A worm-type virus that scares all the users away from their daily news feed rituals could have an impact, but otherwise it would be hard to say that a user porting their data over to some other social platform is much of a threat, because Facebook is still the central location of that data and once it’s been ported, it can become out-dated. That data has to maintain a component of recency for it to be truly valuable, and recency comes from the amount of daily traffic that Facebook generates for each of its gazillions of users.

Of course, the one thing missing in this discussion is Microsoft. Is Microsoft going to get involved in this data-porting scenario? Microsoft has been eerily quiet over the last 12 months, since making their investment in Facebook. What are they planning to do with that data and are Microsoft and Facebook finding ways to get more integrated into the PC desktop? Could Apple be far behind at trying to find ways to integrate Facebook directly into their operating system as well? I’m pretty sure we won’t see any Android/Facebook integration any time soon, but once again I could be wrong!

So this is the chance for Facebook to make me look stupid and prove me wrong. Tell me what is so important about this news and provide me with a real world, average-Joe example of what this benefit is to me, the user.

I’m also really looking forward to your responses – maybe you can prove me wrong and help me figure out what’s the big deal?

MEDIAPOST: Are The Expectations For Mobile Too High?

Last week I attended OMMA Global in New York and I listened to a number of panels and presentations regarding mobile; it’s effectiveness, it’s reach and other pertinent facts. I came out of all of the sessions asking the same question; are our expectations for mobile possibly too high?

Let me clarify first that I am a big believer in mobile as a consumer medium. I constantly utilize my iPhone and my iPad and I can say confidently they are an integral part of my life. I can also say confidently that for the last ten years mobile has been “two years away” from the “promised land” (whatever that is). I’m starting to think our expectations for what the platform can be are not fair and there are too many companies trying to pin their entire business models on the hopes that mobile will sustain them all.

Mobile is a deeply personal medium. I get it. Marketing messages that can invade the mobile environment and resonate with the audience can also be deeply effective. I get it. The problem is that the messages literally have to “invade” and “resonate”, which are two things at odds when it comes to mobile.

The majority of the mobile advertising and marketing opportunities are invasive, and by the sheer nature of being invasive they’re not welcome by the consumer. When you broadcast or display a message that’s not welcome, you’re automatically starting from a position further away from the starting line. You have a more difficult road to weave to break through when you drop an ad unit in someone else’s app that has no contextual relevancy and is only there because of so-called demographic targeting. Say what you will for contextual relevancy, but it works for billions of dollars in paid media. There are certainly apps which get past this quandary by being self-selected by the consumer and the ads integrated into the experience try to maintain relevance. These can be more effective, but you’re typically still dealing with a space which is far smaller than even the smallest online ad for a standard website (even text ads on Google are larger than the majority of graphical ads on your smart-phone). Even if you hold your phone six inches from your face, these ads are just not as impactful. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that such a deeply personal medium means that when a consumer uses it, they’re most likely ultra-focused on a task at hand and they don’t pay as close attention to the ads and marketing messages. Those are some steep hurdles to jump. Almost sisyphysian for some.

I know there’s data to prove me wrong on this, but the data and research I see is typically based on one small snapshot of a mobile campaign in a vacuum and not integrated with the rest of the media mix. That doesn’t tell the whole story.

While I believe mobile is a tool, I believe it is a tool for consumer retention and messaging to your existing audience. I do not personally believe that it is a good acquisition vehicle, nor is it a good introductory vehicle for generating initial awareness. I feel mobile should be positioned as a secondary vehicle for marketers who are already engaging with their consumers and are looking for additional frequency, and ways to stay top-of-mind. To that end, I would want to see more research dedicated to mobile as a CRM and secondary frequency vehicle. I know there are mobile marketing companies rising up every day (and many of you email me at least once a week) but what I’m looking for is a mobile marketing company that integrates their offerings into other forms of media. Mobile is not a stand-alone vehicle. It requires partnership with other media vehicles to be truly effective. Mobile is an extension of print, it is an extension of TV and it is certainly an extension of out-of-home media. When it comes to online, mobile is a sub-segment of the greater picture because any device that can be un-tethered from your desk is considered mobile, and therefore cannot be planned or implemented all by it-self.

I’ve written pieces like this before, and I’m sure I’ll write them again. For mobile to meet our expectations as a medium, we need to make sure the expectations are accurate, achievable and fair. My fear is there are a plethora of companies launching in the mobile space and not being set-up to succeed because they aren’t setting the bar at a realistic level to jump.

You may agree or you may not, so let me know on the Spin Board!

MEDIAPOST: Time For Facebook to Face The Music

Last week Facebook made some minor news by announcing they would be discontinuing their conversion-tracking tool for performance advertising. I was a bit surprised by how few people read between the lines of this announcement; the fact that the only reason Facebook would discontinue this effort must be they found their users don’t convert!

I’ve run a number of Facebook ad buys for brands, driving consumers to follow or like the brand and those are stellar in their performance. I’ve also had clients run campaigns to drive conversion to other off-Facebook activity such as coupons and CRM registrations and surprisingly these campaigns have worked really well, but if Facebook saw that kind of positive performance across the board don’t you think they’d keep the tool alive and start promoting the results? It’s also a tad bit funny because it’s a brilliant PR move to announce they’re shuttering the service the same week that Mark Zuckerberg announces he’s giving $100MM to Newark schools because no-one wants to blast the guy while he’s helping kids with their education needs. I guess that makes me the bad guy (oh well).

Facebook’s challenge is they want to be something more than they are. Facebook has carved out an incredible place in the eco-system of the Internet; simply put, they own social media. There is no other portal, site or platform that can compare from a gross user perspective nor from the depth of which they’re ingrained in the daily life of the average Internet user (other than Google, but in a different way). People complain that Facebook is “too big” or that it is “too powerful” but that’s what mass brand advertisers want! They want big. They want influential. They want powerful! Facebook needs to understand that they may not be a performance buying opportunity but very may well have the world’s largest brand platform ever created! Facebook can build a brand (and so can Mark Zuckerberg).

I call this out because it’s not a bad thing. There are lots of ways that performance marketers can use the web to drive actionable, immediate results. Facebook is not one of them (Google owns that realm). There is data to suggest that a Facebook user is valuable and a number of these have been published. On the low end, Adam Ostrow, on Mashable, puts the value at $1.40 per user. Others put it far higher. From my humble perspective it is significantly more valuable. Where else can a user express their desire to hear from a brand or service on a regular basis, possibly even every single day, and not get annoyed? Even if you factor in some level of annoyance, and assume a 10% attrition rate of users who unlike your brand, the value is far higher than $1.40. Does that mean the platform is going to drive an immediate conversion to a customer somewhere else? Not really. Does it imply that the platform can be significantly more influential than a traditional email blast or standard ad campaign and have stronger, long-term results? Yes!

And let’s not forget that traditional CRM has a cost attached to it while blasting out messages on Facebook does not. Until Facebook decides to start charging brands for messaging to consumers, this is still the single most effective way to engage a consumer who has expressed interest.

You also can reach targeted users, similar to your customers, and even those who are friends of your customers. That’s a powerful tool for developing your audience, though admittedly not in the first exposure. It takes (strike me down for saying this now) frequency to break through the clutter and get your target to listen and pay attention. Facebook provides that simply by the fact the audience comes back often, even daily. You may have to be more creative in how you use the platform, but banners and text ads and Facebook pages are only the beginning. With absolutely no inside knowledge, I can guarantee these will not be the only tools for mass brand advertisers on Facebook in the next 18 months.

So it comes as no surprise to me that Facebook shut down its conversion tracking system, but it will surprise me if Facebook doesn’t face the music and make a concerted push in the next few months to proclaim its value to brands. If they miss this opportunity, they shoot themselves in the foot in the long term. We now know that Facebook is not a place for direct response, performance based advertisers en masse. But that’s ok!

And yes, thank you Mark Zuckerberg for giving those kids a ray of hope in an otherwise cloudy environment (maybe that means I won’t be viewed as the bad guy for calling you out and maybe people won’t hate you after they see the David Fincher movie).