Social Commerce in China Teaches Advertisers to STOP THINKING ABOUT THE #BRAND

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

HANGZHOU, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Alibaba Group...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe Re-wired group and I were talking on a call today about some of the changes taking place in the China social media space, and how they could herald changes to e-commerce, advertising and marketing here in the United States.  When it comes to social tech, and the social networking that happens on platforms like Sina weibo, Tencent's QQ IM service, and with companies like Alibaba's alipay service, China often appears to have a leg up. Those companies are led by aggressive first movers, who have a lot of government support.

I brought up the fact that it looked like Alibaba CEO Jack Ma's aggressive push to tie services into a social e-commerce bundle looked like a big play for changing the way consumers shop and how consumers are marketed to.  It seems a simple gesture, but Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek pointed out a few things, and I think they are worth bringing up today.

Bob said that the aggressive push to use social media technology was a big sign that China didn't have to spend millions (or maybe billions) on traditional forms of advertising.  If the social layer is well embedded, then advertising and marketing becomes a very granular enterprise.  He said it is about "building influence through credibility and bypassing thirty years of marketing and advertising and selling with underlying technology." What that means: if you can find the people that influence their friends the most to purchase goods, why do you have to come up with a million dollar advertising narrative? Just give them the product, make them feel they are part of a community, and let them make up the rest.

Chris added, cogently, that this technique obviously "lowered the advertising and selling costs. You can cut that in half becuause you are getting product to market through people, not through advertising, per se."

What Chinese social media companies and what I will now begin to call social e-commerce companies are doing is creating the next layer of seeing who is influencing what product purchase in what category. As Bob said on the call, "It's about measuring the direction and magnitude of specific topics. It's really about making connections, so you you know each other, you must influence each other. Your friend in one area may influence you in one way, but then again, your other friend might influence you in other areas."

It kind of turns the world of advertising demographics on its head. You can't say anymore, if the above is true, that a person aged xx to xx with two cars, living in xxx city will live a lifestyle closely resembling other males in that area. You now have to drill down into the relatinoship. So what job does advertising and marketing begin to do? It begins to be about researching your life history, not researching what you own and where you shop, what you like and what you don't like. It's about the emotional narrative that YOU create for your life.

If you want to be a successful advertising team, you need to have people on your team who can research people, who can listen to people, and who can help them tell THEIR stories, not the brand stories. It's not about the brand anymore. It really never was, but what made us think it was? Well, the structure of the media.

The online media and social web structure we have now, as it is currently being used, will unseat the most powerful of advertising and marketing companies, IF they keep doing what they have always been doing --- telling a story about the brand. Stop thinking about the brand.

"There is a calculus that has not been invented yet, but the guy in China will be best positioned to help and know this,"says Bob. But I think it's not even that complicated. Watch how China puts together the tools for listening, and then lets buyers, sellers, marketers and the whole community take care of itself.  I close with a quote from Ma, who recently told an annual Alibaba conference in China that he's out to do more than make his competitors Baidu and Tencent, or RenRen stay awake at night. He wants to disrupt the entire financial system.

Mr. Ma also said Alibaba Group wants to take on state-owned enterprises. He said Alipay, an affiliate providing online-payment services that was recently transferred out of Alibaba Group to a separate company controlled by Mr. Ma, already has made a contribution to Internet users by challenging banking services.
“If banks don’t change, we will change banks,” he said. Mr. Ma has been criticized for his decision to transfer Alipay’s ownership because he didn’t seek approval from Alibaba Group’s board of directors, on which Yahoo has a seat. But he has said the transfer was necessary because of restrictions by the People’s Bank of China on foreign control of online-payment companies seeking new licenses would have prevented Alipay from obtaining one, because of Yahoo’s involvement. 

image from Fool's Mountain: Blogging for China.
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Maybe Howard Schultz Should Run for President

Monday, October 3, 2011

Starbucks Chairman Howard Shultz talks to the ...Image via WikipediaStarbucks will accept donations starting November 1 in an effort to create a money pool for loans given to small businesses. The effort is meant to get more Americans working, says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. He tells BusinessWeek in a story published today:

“We’re going to raise millions of dollars,” Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said today in a telephone interview, declining to give a specific number. “This is about Americans helping Americans,” he said. “We’re not going to wait for Washington.”
In August, Schultz, 58, asked fellow CEOs and business leaders to boycott donating to U.S. political campaigns to encourage leaders to solve the nation’s growing budget deficit. Last month, he sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress urging them to put partisanship aside to find a solution to unemployment.
Starbucks will open at least 200 new stores and remodel 1,700 locations in the U.S. this fiscal year, which will create “well over 2,000 jobs,” Schultz said. “Business leaders can step up and we can create a renewed level of confidence by investing in the economy and creating job opportunities.”
The coffee company opened 27 net new stores in the U.S. in the quarter ended July 3.

Is the small business loans drive meant to create more Starbucks chain stores?  Apparently, no. It looks like Starbucks is donating the first $5 million dollars and the campaign will be run a little like the Pepsi Refresh campaign. There will be a website, and people can choose the donations they wish to make. 

To me this seems like an avenue for further social media usage by Starbucks, though it's not clear they are going to go that route. I'd like to get the opinions of advertising and marketing people on this one. People criticized the Refresh campaign because, from an advertising and marketing perspective, the money was not tied to direct conversions of Pepsi products. 

But the millions spent on Refresh led to more brand loyalty, argue defenders of the proposition. Could the same happen for Starbucks? 

Jack Ma Wants to Buy Yahoo! What's the Marketing Plan, Now?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jack Ma Yun - Annual Meeting of the New Champi...Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr
How would you market your company if this was happening?

TechCrunch reports that at a conference in San Francisco, Jack Ma, CEO of China Yahoo! subsidiary Alibaba, revealed that he has a strong interest in buying Yahoo! and spinning off its core assets. Most likely this is to protect himself and to rescue an ailing company.

There is not much more to add to this story, other than to say that it now has legs, as they say in the news business.

About a week ago, a report at Hexun, a Chinese media site said that Ma was serious about at buying Yahoo!. The purchase would allow Ma more control over Alibaba and it would also enable him to take some of the core features of the Yahoo! e-commerce infrastructure and use it for his own venture, Alipay. The stories on the recent Alipay fiasco are many but in short, Ma took the liberty of using his interest in Alipay to spin that company off from Yahoo!. In fact, Yahoo! didn't know it was coming.

I think that there's a strong likelihood that social e-commerce is the next giant wave of building web companies in China. All the major social networks are doing something about it. Web companies in China are buying properties that they can tie onto the back of a social media camel, and they are whipping their networks into shape and building strong e-commerce capabilities.

So, you are Yahoo!. You have a very large Chinese suitor. What is your marketing and innovation plan for this content engine that was once the darling of the Internet world?

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Banjo App Could Disrupt Twitter as a #Socialbiz and #Custserv Tool

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBasehere is a copy of an email I got from Jennifer Peck, marketing guru at social app Banjo about a week ago. At the time I was writing for ReadWriteWeb and considering different apps that would make good news story material about how mobile apps are one of the big forces behind changes in how consumers shop, consumers talk to each other, and how #custserv (Customer Service) teams operate. 

In this email, Peck showed me how following topics and trends on social monitoring platforms like Hootsuite, Twitter and Tweetdeck can only go so far. I was compelled by her evidence enough to publish it here, to promote a discussion of the Jobs to be Done with social apps in marketing.  

Peck writes: 

Banjo just presented at Ad Age in San Francisco and I learned something about the "official hashtag" of the conference.  People weren't using it.   The official was #aadigital and the hashtags being used were #aadigital, #digitalwest #adage #adagewest or more commonly NO HASH TAG AT ALL. 
So, when you are trying to follow the twitter feed at an event or if you are following from afar, it's likely you will be missing most of the conversation.  Enter Banjo. 
I simply went to the map view, typed in 1290 Avenue of the Americas, NY, and voila.  I was instantly seeing all the activity coming out of SMASH.

Here are some of the screen shots that Peck attached in the email.  They are numbered to give context, and they are listed in chronological order as you scroll down the screen.

Photo 1.  Clearly at SMASH but the # is rackspace and the next is no hash at all
Photo 2.  This shows our NEW group mapping feature coming out with our next release (submitted to the Apple store yesterday)
Photo 3.  Again no hash tags - photo included
Photo 4.  No hash and #smashsummit
Photo 5.  No hash and #smashsummit - photo included
Photo 6.  The first #smashNYC
Photo 7.  No hash - photos included of @davemcclure
Photo 8.  See the top - NEW FEATURE of follow on twitter and favorite button
Photo 9.  Now following on twitter - NEW FEATURE 

Peck says that Banjo will be releasing new features soon, which will include map grouping, and being able to follow someone on Twitter. 
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Be a Hedgehog: Marketing as Human Variety Disguised as One Simple Trick

Thursday, September 29, 2011

London Underground roundel logoImage via WikipediaScene: London Underground, 1996.  It's winter. A little boy is wrapped up in a plaid wool jacket. His mother holds his hand. She's wearing a violet sweater and a green anorak. Her blondish hair is tied back very loosely in a hair band, and tendrils of her hair spill down her left cheek, which is flushed with the London wind.

On the wall is plastered a giant poster for Sonic the Hedgehog, a Sega Genesis (remember that?) game. It was advertising Sega World, which used to be a little video game playground for kids and adults in Hammersmith. It looked something like this:

As a train heads into the station, the stationmaster's automated voice announces the arrival, and the little boy asks his mother, "why is that hedgehog so clever?"

The mother looks down and says, "Because he can go where he wants, when he wants."

While it seems a proper assessment of the Sonic brand, I think it's also a very accurate characterization of what a branding manager or a community manager should be. Facebook, and other social marketing platforms, should be your video game. You are the hero in your video game and your mission is to be clever.

I don't mean clever in the sense of tricking people to like your product. I mean clever, like a journalist is clever, or a sleuth. You need to go about your day finding things for people, and bringing them knowledge.  You need to be like that cool kid in high school who always had some factual information for you, who always told you something a little bit different, who was gifted in a way that made him seem a little bit out of the ordinary, but very real.

Be yourself. Bring life to people, through the life you live.

If you are like this to people, they will like you. And liking you is the very reason they will like the brand you represent. Because people don't really love brands. They love people.

People matter more than brands, and that's what a lot of branding people don't want you to know, because their whole life has been about selling the brand.

That's changing, especially with platforms like Facebook's Timeline.

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What Jobs do Comic Books Do For You and Your Kids? A Teen Titans Case Study

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We were a little startled today to see the news that a well-known comic book series has changed the way it depicts its protagonist.

And so, too, was the 7-year old daughter of the fantasy author, Michele Lee, who brought it to light. Dave Peck shared this on Twitter, and it's eye-opening, to say the least.

Lee showed her daughter a copy of DC Comics' "Teen Titans," a comic book series that the daughter has shown some fondness for in the past. This time the copy caught her and her daughter off guard. The jolt came from seeing the main heroine, Starfire, in all the glory God gave her. A lot of glory.

Here's a brief synopsis. Lee shows her daughter the pictures in the comic, which depict the female protagonist in a skimpy bikini that reveals more than a fair share of her breasts. The daughter, as you may imagine for a precocious young girl, feels uncomfortable about this and tells her mother that she thinks the heroine is "trying too hard" to be noticed, by posing and showing off her feminine form (which, arguably, is super enhanced and looks a little different than most women we know).

The lesson from this? What are we teaching young women before they have the mindset and the experience that makes them into the thoughtful and mature young women they are meant to become? Bob Moesta, founder of the Re-Wired Group, looks at this from a consumer interest standpoint. There is a woeful amount of disconnection between what the producers of the comic think is their audience, and the actual audience. Does this disconnection happen because of pressure to be "successful" and create a profit from selling? Bob takes a subtler approach than my blatant questioning of the comic series maker's intentions:

I think the jobs that comic books do has grown well out side the one character fits all model, and segmentation is clearly needed. If you listen to the "Best" consumer - They get what they asked for.  But the real disruption comes from the kid and her job that comics do for her and probably did for the older consumers as well, but they kept living the fantasy. Both are markets seeking candidates, and i am not one to judge the value of either, i just know that one product is sub-optimal, and just feels wrong.
The fantasy here, it seems, is that anyone can consume the comic magazine in the way that it is delivered. But it's different jobs for different folks. We all bring a natural dependency to the product we wish to consume. That dependency is an expectation that the thing we consume, or the product we take up in our daily life, satisfies our natural disposition, or some natural need.

Often, like the young daughter, we are not aware enough to know what that real need is, until we see its opposite firsthand. In this case, Lee's daughter sees a sexed-up super tramp super heroine and she knows right away that this is not the woman she idolized in previous incarnations of the book. 

No product can be all things to all people. It doesn't work that way. that's why a really granular and deep dive approach is necessary. Perhaps there is an entirely different series waiting to be made here, but not at the cost of alienating what appears to be an audience the comics maker failed to see in the first place. 

We don't know the intentions behind the change, or the decisions. We can wonder, did they just decide sexy is better? Did they  have no idea that young daughters picked this book up and fantasized about their own super powers? 

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#Infographic: Facebook and Twitter Stepping on Student's First Amendment Rights?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Here's a good one. Are Facebook and Twitter infringing upon First Amendment rights in the classroom? In effect, are they putting the smack down on your student's fundamental pursuit of liberty? Apparently not, according to the Knight Foundation.

Even though teachers cringe at the idea of using social media in the classroom, it appears that using social media (or at least learning since the advent of social media) has pushed students to a more fundamental appreciation for freedom of speech.

Check out this infographic:

Why Dieters Fail: A Mission to Find Innovators and Outliers

Monday, September 26, 2011

For most of us, finding a good solid set of statistics confirms what we want to believe. Not for Bob Moesta and the rest of the Re-Wired Group. Take this example of a recent startling discovery about dieters failing to keep off the weight.

When I showed Bob this article and pointed out the part in the article that showed people who don't fail at dieting actually end up subconsciously eating more as a reaction to their own dieting, he urged me to "find the outliers."

Scientists have concluded that the standard practice of restricting a specific number of calories every day is actually not enough for people to lose weight and stay thin. Here's a key point in the article:

The model shows that lasting weight loss takes a long time to achieve and suggests that more effective weight loss programs might be undertaken in two phases: a temporary, more aggressive change in behavior at first, followed by a second phase of a more relaxed but permanent behavioral change that can prevent the weight regain that afflicts so many dieters despite their best intentions.

Bob thought about this and sent back an email:

So where is the innovation and where are the innovators? If human body is the "system" and that is how it works, then what do we do? Nothing? I don't think so.
This is the problem with protocol medicine. everything has to be proven the scientific method and applied across the human species. but what about environmental, history and culture factors? What about situational context? Innovation in medicine has to look beyond the obvious and find the second and third order effects and build simple ways to help everyone compensate not control our way to health. We know what doen't not work on average, but what about the tails - the really successful and the really unsuccessful. what can we learn from them.

The key is that we don't know enough. We believe easily enough in science and the general conclusions it creates to think that an overall statistic is worth its weight. It's most likely not. What Bob and the other innovators at Re-Wired realize is that there are facts, and then there are the human experiences that determine our reception of those facts.

It's how we received, and then act on, the information from our experience with those facts that determines the job that gets done.

What does dieting get done for you? What do you do to get dieting done?

Are Citizens Turning to Newspapers Out of Habit?

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 02:  Copies of newspaper ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeA new Pew Study on local news reading  habits says local print newspapers account for the top slot in people's news-seeking habits when looking for locally relevant information.

Contrary to popular belief, the most prevalent source for local news is the daily newspaper in someone’s city. Most American information seeks use new and traditional sources to get their information.

This could be good news for a struggling, which is built on the premise that the best source for <a href=””>hyperlocal information</A> is the web, and preferably on a mobile device.

A dive through the Pew study reveals that most people depend on a hybrid approach to getting information and that it may not actually mean anything at all that 29% of those surveyed turn to local newspapers, suggesting that they may turn to newspapers out of habit. The survey reveals that 69% of American say that if their local newspaper disappeared, it would not have a major impact on their ability to keep up with local events and news.

But then there is this weird caveat at the end: "Yet when one looks at the 79% of Americans who are online, the internet is the first or second most relied-upon source for 15 of the 16 local topics examined. For adults under 40, the web is first for 11 of the top 16 topics—and a close second on four others."

Maybe people are picking up local newspapers for more granular information, not exactly culturally-necessary information. 

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#Facebook Privacy Issues You Should Learn, Even if it Doesn't Alarm You

FACEBOOK FEATURED FRiENDS o^^oImage by aJ GAZMEN ツ GucciBeaR via FlickrIt is not clear to me whether this issue is what it is being made out to be, but Nik Cubrilovic has taken the time over the past two years to examine the way Facebook places cookies in your browser and your laptop. He's taken enough care that I thought it would be worth posting here the central tenet of his message.

Logging out of Facebook is not enough, the social networking site has privacy issues.

Facebook may be tracking much more than we think they are tracking, for more reasons than we care to imagine. After all, they have a job to do -- get the world to share its information.

If Google is the repository for the world's information, then Facebook is the international airport terminal for all the shipments of data we call our social context. 
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Whisperware: Rumored to Have Switched Over to IBM Smarter Commerce

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Image representing Target as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseWe have not been able to get confirmation of this, but a friend visiting a conference in San Diego tells us that dropped Amazon EC2 for competitor IBM’s Smarter Commerce solutions, allegedly because Target was peeved that the cloud services functionality they were promised failed to perform.

Our friendly source tells us that Target has been wanting to do this for a while. Again, we don't know if this is true, and we have not been able to confirm this with anyone at IBM.

The breaking point seems to have been the failed Missoni launch at which led to outages.

The source tells us: “Amazon basically failed to deliver as promised a platform to Target. Same issue that Toys R Us faced. Amazon ended up competing with their customers as they shifted strategy from store to provider and back.” late last week launched a line of Missoni clothes on its online shop, only to see the server’s crash and thwart angry customers, who clamored for the new release. The Target relationship with IBM is supposedly very good and very positive.

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Social Platforms Could Make You Feel Insecure: Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

Friday, September 23, 2011

Individuals and brand identities should not be hosted on a single platform, because platforms like Twitter and Facebook have to watch out for their own business, says Fred Wilson, a managing partner at VC firm Union Square Ventures in New York.

In an intense debate with Silicon Valley tech guru Robert Scoble at the New York City Smash Summit, Wilson told a room of social media marketers that it is a "horrible idea" for people to build their presence on platforms alone without any web real estate of their own.

While saying that he had recently become more impressed with Facebook and their new suggestions for lists, Wilson said he still thinks that it's a bad idea for brands especially to advocate for their identity on platforms. They should build their own freehold on the web.

"Companies that get stuck on one platform, when the platform changes the rules, you get f-----," said Wilson.

Wilson ended by saying that platforms like Facebook are not trying to destroy people with their new iterations, like Timeline, released yesterday. "Most of the time, the people who run product and run the companies are doing they are trying to do the best thing for their product," says Wilson.

But it was still not a good idea for consumers or individuals to rely on platforms as the sole real estate for their identity. "You are advocating your experience of the world with some relationship with a company, never do that, that's a horrible idea!" he said.

Robert Scoble suggested that Google+ was a platform for people's identity. Holding up a handful of green straws, he said that he had rolled up in one of them a $20 bill.

"That's Twitter. You can barely see the signal." he said. He then wrote on a straw and used the same handful of straws to say that labeled experience on the web makes it so much easier to find the money. That was Google+, he said.

#Netflix Acts Disruptively and Launches #Qwikster: Company will rent video games

Monday, September 19, 2011

While everyone was wringing their hands and proclaiming the end of Netflix because of a small drop in subscriber numbers, the company went ahead and split the company into two websites and decided to offer video games.

Netflix was born out of disruption and to disruption it will default in most of its moves.

Netflix launches Qwikster, offers video games.

What Would Make Facebook Lose Relevancy in the Fight Against #Google+

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Facebook changed the way its navigation bar operates yesterday, in a capitulation to Google+ and Twitter. it's a sign that Facebook's biggest issue now is relevancy and sorting out signal from noise for its 700 million plus user base.

We saw the Google+ mimicry with the release of the subscribe button and smart lists this week. The scrolling nav bar will keep people updated about their updates and reduce the likelihood they will travel to other sites outside of Facebook.

It should also help people manage the new barrage of information from all the new subscribers as friends, and friends of friends start searching out and connecting to people for new social information.

Barry Schuler, former chairman and CEO of AOL, told me on Twitter today that "Facebook has to deal with Twitter from below and Google+ from above. Their biggest strength, friend-friend, becoming a weakness."

This is exactly right. Some suspect that Facebook will reveal at f8 next week a scrolling news feed, a version of which they rolled out in a test earlier this summer.

The new barrage of increased network information makes relevancy an incredibly important issue for anyone with a Facebook profile, and it has now become Facebook's central issue.

With new subscriptions and subscribers going public, updates will begin to come to these users' feeds at a faster rate. As people have subscribed to my feeds, I have noticed that I am barraged with more and more signals. This has made Facebook management an almost all-day affair.

I feel like I am dealing with the news ticker on the bottom of a cable tv news channel.
This is the problem of news feed relevance, which we have written about before.

Facebook Finally Influencing How We Experience News, Relationships, and Education?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...Image via CrunchBase
We all agree that something fundamental has changed in the way Facebook operates as an information system and in the way it views our human relationships.  I don't think that it's just a race to compete with Twitter or Google+ for world domination in the social graph.

Would someone like Mark Zuckerberg be concerned with something as petty as business competition? No, there is a much longer game being played here, and it goes to the core of how we experience reality and use that experience to succeed, thrive and exist in the world.

Facebook smart lists and the subscribe button changes our real world experience in three core ways: 1. How we stay informed of world and local events; 2. How we experience the education system; 3. How we search and discover information and people.

The fundamental changes in design and user control could alter our fundamental understanding of what is public and what is private.

How Facebook can Personalize Events and Eliminate Your Need for the Nightly News at 10

The most recent change in Facebook eliminates the daisy chain, or telegraphing, of information from one single news event down the line to the millions of people who digest it and process it as news. But on a much deeper level, it gives us a platform of data on which we can, to a granular degree, determine what is similar about one human's experience as it relates to our experience.

In a sense, we have the facts. News of old was about really really good storytelling, and about a general anesthesia called the human experience that meant we had to trust, explicitly, that every human being's experience was just like ours.  News banks on this as its currency.

Not more than 45 years ago, American audiences had three main channels to get their nightly news. News was about a brand experience.  Our ancestors trusted Walter Cronkite to tell us about the Vietnam War's pitch battles, as it pitted Democracy against Communism, for example. Our forefathers, at the advent of public broadcast television believed in Cronkite and other news anchors as people who could speak cogently and effortlessly to millions of people about singular events that happened 8,000 miles away, experienced by someone we have never met before.

Not only did we have this general anesthetic trust in the humanity of the person who experienced that horrible event, we believed that his experience was also like ours, at a deeply human level. We empathized.  If you think about it, how weird is that? Did we really know Lance Corporal Bill Jones? No. But we knew his human experience, and when he died in that firefright in Da Nang, we believed.

With subscription lists, we see a Facebook that is a hybrid of something like Google+ and something like Twitter, and that hypermash is something like a hyperlocal, personalized news feed that mixes the personal with the objective.  We, or people like us, are now connected to Lance Corporal Bill Stevens, in Afghanistan. And you know what? War does not look like the black and white news reels sent by satellite to the news desk to be seen by 10pm.

It looks more like X Boxes and foot patrols, bad C-rations and complaints about the
Giants winning the World Series. Now that Facebook has opened up the firehose, so to speak, we can search and find many of these people - a Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and a Private Johnny X from Delaware who is serving in the war.
The creation of subscription lists is the first move towards socializing news in a way that should broaden our sense of what is the human experience. Instead of depending on the nightly anesthesia at 10, we will see for ourselves what people see, think and feel. Since Facebook has the social profile game down pat, when you get your news now, the chances are very high that you are also going to get the private context around that news.

Which should also force changes in the way we learn.

How Facebook Turns Education Into an Experience Rather than a System

Education in the future - heck, it's even happening now - will move from a system of trusting what teacher says, because the teacher gives us the state-mandated tests, to being tested, in a real world sense by the viewpoints and actions of real world people.

Call it socialized education with a real world system for credentials. With so many people, experts even, available to users of the social network, education can fundamentally change from the really old school system of reading textbooks, being tested for recall and proficiency, and inter-classroom competition for grades to something where there is a real world problem, and a crowd of knowledgeable and caring individuals who can rally to the cause and fix it.

Our children could begin to learn through relationships, something reserved, right now, for experiences inside the classroom and the school. We send kids to school in order that they learn how to go to school. We know enough about congnition and learning now to know that systems are really good at running as systems, but they can't be made to teach people to think outside the system. That would ruin the purpose of a system.

Systems sustain themselves.

Imagine a Facebook Education. You have access to millions of realtime experts all over the globe, speaking hundreds of different languages, expressing thought, problems and solutions in multiple angles. That in and of itself is a learning experience.

With carefully edited and monitored barriers of interaction, what teacher would not wish his students to thrive in a real world interaction with the creators of the Three Gorges Dam in China, for example, while backing up those engineering lessons with lessons in Chinese, Physics, culture and other lesson areas through conversations with people who do that work every day?

Which brings us to the final change:

Facebook Is Priming Itself for the Next Great Change in Search, Social Discovery

Someone, everywhere, knows something. How do you find these people?

Smart Lists and Subscriber buttons take us a little bit closer.

I don't know jack about Brooklyn. I live in a small hamlet called Manhattan, surrounded by water. The last time I was in Brooklyn, I was dating someone who lived there. I don't have much reason to go back, if you know what I'm saying. How do I find a really great restaurant, then, if I should even think about getting on the L train and crossing into the world's first city? I ask my friend, N. She lives in Brooklyn.

There is the rub. My relationships fundamentally determine where I go and what I do. I could use an app on my phone to recommend something to me. And do you know what helps that algorithm make those recommendations? My social network has access to so much more information than I do, and suddenly brand names and big Michelin rankings don't mean anything anymore

In this way, you can argue that Facebook is competing with Google for the search portion of social graph. But they have the toehold. They already have nearly 800 million "friends." That's 799 million potential relationships that I could have, in some form or another.

That's a lot of great Thai restaurants in Bangkok, for example, some of which do not have Zagat ratings.

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Brian Tolle: Improvisation Brings Out the Group Mind, Builds Cohesion and Trust

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This post is written by a member of the Re-Wired team, Brian Tolle.
So here’s my situation.

A prospective client contacted me last week about delivering a workshop for the leadership team of one of its business units. The purpose is to develop these leaders as coaches and to give them an opportunity to bond as a team – they recently created the unit through a re-organization. They’re giving me a day. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The more I thought about a possible agenda, the more the typical leadership training left me uninspired. These are seasoned directors and senior managers for a Fortune 500 company. Is it really a case of knowledge gaps getting in the way of being a leader/coach or is it more likely not enough practice to turn knowledge into ability? That’s when improvisation popped in my head.

By improvisation, I mean the classical, theatrical form of spontaneous, unscripted co-creation. Just to be clear, I don’t mean to turn them into comedians. Having performed and taught improvisation in my younger days, I learned firsthand that improvisation has clearly defined rules and a structure to create within, and because it is so structured it’s easy to use it to counteract the false sense of control that comes from focusing on the typical leadership domains of strategies, plans, objectives, goals, measurements, and responsibilities.

And if you think about it, learning how to improvise is quite in line with learning how to make sense of the daily gyrations and convoluted mish-mash of information when working in the marketplace.

So how will a leadership team benefit from learning to improvise together? Consider this:

1. You learn to listen to each other. One of the fundamental rules of improvisation is “yes, and…” Whatever your partner contributes to the scene (“Isn’t it grand to be in the Sahara Desert again.”) must be acknowledged by the other players and expanded (“Yes, and this new Sand Castle Hotel is quite luxurious.”) Only then can the scene expand and take on new dimensions. But you can only build upon what you have heard. All it takes to kill the scene is for the partner to reply, “We’re not in the Sahara Desert, silly, we’re in mid-town Manhattan.”

2. You start doing. There’s nothing more tedious than to watch improv players “talk” about digging for gold. For Pete’s sake, start digging! Only then will you discover new twists and turns that will make the scene magical.

3. You build a group mind, the springboard for trust. Here’s how the gurus of improvisation, Charna Halpern and Del Close, describe what they refer to as group mind:
We already know that people have incredible individual capabilities. Unlike the real world, however, when a number of players are on stage, their intelligence is actually increased. The group intelligence is much more than the sum of its parts. When a team of improvisers pays close attention to each other, hearing and remembering everything, and respecting all that they hear, a group mind forms. The goal of this phenomenon is to connect the information created out of group ideas – and it’s easily capable of brilliance.

So, it looks like we’ve come closer to an answer. Should a leadership team learn to improvise? Absolutely. But can leaders learn to improvise? That sounds like the bigger question…coming up next.

You can buy a copy of Brian's newest book, Shortcut: Getting Through to People Who Slow You Down, at Amazon.

Alibaba Is Making Like Bandits in China's Online Shopping Frenzy

Monday, September 12, 2011

Alibaba, China's home grown eBay sales platform will handle US$157 billlion in sales this year, according to the company's chairman, Jack Ma.

Makes you kind of wonder whether China will be the world's future manufacturer or future consumption engine. I defend the notion that we need to rethink how China operates in the context of a globally tapped in world.

Rather than think of the country as a nest of threats to our jobs, we could think of them as a lucrative market of people who would like to buy things.

In a report in the Wall Street Journal, Ma announced the figures as part of a series of challenges to local and state-owned enterprises in China.

Ma also said that Alibaba had state-owned enterprises in its sights, saying that his group Alipay would be a threat to banks that were not changing as fast to fulfill consumer needs as web enterprises.

The company is launching a series of aggressive investigations into Alipay users who are suspected of fraud, in an operation that looks as much like a public relations cleaning up as it does something any business owner would want to do to make sure the company is healthy.

The string of Alibaba news comes at the same time as an intriguing China finance ministry announcement that the central government has changed its opinion on funding VCs to advance high tech ambitions in the country.

The Chinese Ministry of Finance announced early Sunday it would allow the central government to contribute up to 20 percent as a minority investor in local venture capital funds if the purpose of those funds was to bolster startups in innovation sectors, including technology and internet, according to Reuters.

The 20 percent devoted to a central fund would be supported by financing given through local governments and other investors, the report said. Funds that receive government money must invest at least 60 percent of the money into small start-ups in designated industries.

The finance ministry's list is said to be extensive, but it was unclear how many of those verticals contained web-based enterprises. However, given the massive growth of innovations like Sina's Weibo service and the Alibaba news, a compelling case could be made that china VCs are whetting their appetite for greater web growth in 2012.

Why Is David Kirkpatrick Warning of a Social Revolution in Business?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

David Kirkpatrick says that a social revolution is coming to business, and that it mimics the revolutions in the Arab Spring.

I think that's a little over the top, but the guy has to get our attention. Here is where he is correct:

In this new world of business, companies and leaders will have to show authenticity, fairness, transparency and good faith. If they don’t, customers and employees may come to distrust them, to potentially disastrous effect. Customers who don’t like a product can quickly broadcast their disapproval. Prospective employees don’t have to take your word for what life is like at your company—they can find out from people who already work there. And long time loyal employees now have more options to launch their own, more fleet-footed start ups, which could become your fiercest competitors in the future. “Companies that have been around more than five years are having a hard time because this is so different from what they know” is the jarring observation of Doreen Lorenzo, president of design and consulting firm Frog.
If a company has not done so now, they should be looking into hiring listeners and engagers, something that people in digital media call the voice of the brand.

Forget about the naysayers that claim they will never hire a social media consultant, or a social media expert. They are right, you don't need a social media expert. You need a communications expert, someone who knows something about language, voice, tone, and the rhetoric. They should know enough about rhetoric to know how to get around it, and how to use language and discovery methods to get to the core of the problems people face.

We used to live in this fragmented world where you bought a brand object, took it home, and then called a separate customer service line, probably outsourced to India, to ask questions about functionality, or to get a repair.

Now it's more like you "hire" a brand to do a job for you, and when it doesn't work out, or if you want more, you talk to that brand through social media channels. It's not about getting help anymore. It's about belonging to a tribe.

You don't need a social media expert for that. You need someone -- a poet of the technologic -- to do that. Face it, not everyone is good at communicating. Some are. Some can do that better than anything they do.

I predict that language use and communication will be some of the most highly valued skills in this new era, after coding and digital infrastructure management. Are you ready?


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Microsoft Disrupting School Model by Putting App Building into Curriculum

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Microsoft is working with a school district in Ohio to teach students how to buid and market apps, according to Ben Lower, Sr. Product Manager, Developer Experience, Windows Phone Apps.

Lower, who writes for the Windows 7 Phone Developer blog, told us in an interview this afternoon that Microsoft recently began working on a partnership with a non-profit (501-3c Corporation) he didn't name whose charter is supporting the Chagrin Falls, OH school district. "The goal of this partnership will be to develop coursework around building and marketing Windows Phone applications," says Lower.

The pilot session of this program will be a group of roughly 40 students who will be led through the creative, technical and tactical aspects of Windows Phone app development.

Microsoft has been working more closely with schools and students as it has become apparent that programming and apps are becoming a significant portion of future careers.

Recently, Lower's developer group worked with eight student finalists -- one of them a high school student -- this summer in a competition to build new apps for the new Mango phone out this Fall.

One of this year's winners in a was a local high school student named Tara Balakrishnan.

Tara used the new Mango phone and the Hawaii app building platform to create Pictionary, a multi-player mobile version of the popular draw and guess game. Tara is senior at Redmond High School and was an intern in the Research Connections team where she evaluated the Hawaii tools for High School students and got some experience with the Windows Phone. She had only been programming (.NET) and using a Windows Phone for a month, says Lower.

This could be a boon for Microsoft. Everyone from school district heads to education reformers have been clamoring to get kids to learn more of a 21st century curriculum. We've already seen apps that mobilize and socialize textbooks to link them to the Internet. If most people are moving to mobile, this will be the way students of today do business and have social lives tomorrow.

Microsoft is launching more of these open app competitions, and you find application material at Lower's blog. High school students, or any other students, can fill out the form and Microsoft will send them a phone and the tools they need to make their own apps.

The XAPfest Tara won is one example of how Microsoft is investing in educating and supporting current and prospective Windows Phone student developers. In June, the company wrapped Imagine Cup 2011, where student developers solved world problems with Windows Phone apps.

This year's third place finalist, LifeLens, created an app that uses a microscopic lens attached to a Windows Phone to digitally characterize anemia, visualize blood cell rupture, parasites and malaria.

Be the Entrepreneur Who Will Create Jobs in this Market

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jeremy Johnson, CMO of, talks about the employment prospects for young entrepreneurs and encourages people to get out there and do it on their own, because the traditional hiring process does not work anymore.

Who Hires Whom? Moving from Resume Dispatches to Intern Syncing with Companies

HANGZHOU, CHINA - MARCH 09:   Jobseekers atten...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeAny job searcher knows, you can be really passionate about your career, your past experiences and your expertise, but getting a job is a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded in a taxi headed uptown during a tropical storm.

Nobody who wants to hire you is really going to tell you the real reasons they want to hire you, because revealing too much about the inner workings of the company is a risk. You have to be good at guessing, and you have to be very good at packaging a story that makes you seem enticing enough to be hired.

Many people dno't realize that it's yo uthat hires the company, not the company that hires you. That's why a resume doesn't make sense.

HR is tasked with screening. They have a position to fill and that person they fill it with needs to look exactly like the position. But often that is not what happens in a job. A job is about unexplored possibilities. It's about being put in the driver seat and taking the turns that make sense, taking risks, and making something new.

They look at a resume and see past performance. To me this past performance doesn't always suggest the truth. It suggests that within the box of a company job, you were able to do the things that are set up to be done.

A portfolio approach makes more sense. But even better is a move towards cultivating an intern culture, as InternMatch is doing with a recent $US500,000 funding round.  there is a hugely opportunistic gap in the way interns, colleges and corporations function together in the hiring space.

Any company that can jump into that space and provide a strong offering of linking up exactly what corporations need with exactly what colleges can afford to provide is going to be a winner. You can think of intern match-ups as a dating service for companies. What needs to be packaged into that is real information about what training an intern or a prospective employee needs to be an effective worker.

Often students are ushered from college campus to work campus with only the skills that make sense to the college.  There is room for HR to team up with startups in this space to be less of a screening agency for teh company and more of a curator, or a filter, for the "information" flow between consumer, real world and company. Instead of using colleges as just a seed pool for potential employees, colleges could be hired as a kind of creative assembly line of real employees who have the necessary skills to help the company and integrate the company with real world problems.

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Daily Deals Down the Drain, Facebook Virtual Currency Coming?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseFacebook decided that they would leave the daily deals business.

Here is what I left in the comments section of the article I just linked to:

This is a really interesting article but I don't understand why it doesn't mention that the difficulty with branding is a likely driver in this kind of move. Daily deals need to differentiate themselves from each other in the market, and that is not a Facebook strength. It seems to me that Facebook plays a rather neutral position when it comes to creative work. they may have realized that it was resource intensive to pursue...

With all due respect to Dan Mitchell, who contributed this article at Fortune, I feel like he points out the problem without really addressing it. The fundamental problem for Facebook is that it costs a lot of money to make a branding exercise out of fine-tuning the daily deals offering in the marketplace. According to Jim Moran, co-founder of Yipit, there are currently 521 daily deal sites out there.

Mitchell doesn't close the loop. Facebook would not want to spend money, people, time or collateral on making themselves different. That's not what they do. Facebook does Facebook things. Anyway, Mitchell says:
There will likely always be a market for online coupons. But the ease of market entry and the fact that most deal services aren't differentiated from each other makes for a toxic combination for companies like Groupon and LivingSocial hoping to dominate the market. Customers have no compelling reason to stick with, for example, Groupon; they can easily go to Living Social or any other such service without losing anything. 
What if Facebook instead focused on creating their own virtual currency?  As Mitchell says, there will be a market for online coupons. But Facebook likes to keep things in the Facebook perimeter. as long as you would be able to buy Facebook things with Facebook money, then everything would be alright.

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Getting Clout Out of Klout: In Which Our Author Asks Why Should We Care?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We've been mesmerized by Klout ever since all of us started using it at Re-Wired. Each of us has a Klout account, and each of us -- obviously -- has a different Klout score.

What I would like to argue here is that there are two strategies or ways in which people pursue Klout -- and these are, perhaps competing strategies.

We know that Klout is a rather vague assemblage of signals that create influence: Time on a social media networks + active engagement with differing levels of engaged and influential people on networks + messaging (actively clicked on links) + traffic numbers and much more.

But there are also incentives that get us to increase behavior in order to achieve this Klout. What I'd like to know is whether Klout disrupts not only the marketing and advertising model in the traditional sense, but if it is also disrupting the traditional -- though much newer -- social media conversation model.

Klout? Who Dat? 

The folks at Re-Wired do different things with media at different times. I think it's obvious looking at our scores. We can tell you that we understand that our behavior online is different so it makes sense that our Klout is different. Look at our profiles, and you can see we are involved in much smaller or greater numbers of networks relative to each other. 

Brian Tolle's Klout Score and Profile

Bob Moesta's Klout Score and Profile

Chris Spiek's Klout Score and Profile

Douglas Crets's Klout Score and Profile

How is Klout Measured? Should I Care?

With so many social platforms out there, and so many socially-engaged audiences out there consuming everyone's media, having an understanding of how influential one is means something these days. What it means is not exactly clear, since there are competing non-standardized standards.

The tendency is to look to Klout as the social media credit agency. It should be able to objectively tell us what makes someone have a lot of Klout. However, it's unclear.

Is it:

1. Working on a big media platform?

2. The conversation one has with other social media savvy people, in blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, or images on Instagram?

3. Is Twitter more influential than Facebook?

4. Is it a signal vs. noise thing?

There is no clear determination and the Klout website does not tell us much. In a soon to be published interview, I ask Klout's CEO about this. I will link to it here, once I publish it later this weekend.

What Makes Me Want Klout? 

Now we're getting to the nitty-gritty. We really don't know the answer. It used to be our peers. But if the users of Klout are to be believed, now it's Perks.

Our Klout consumption is being driven by our need to be recognized by brands, which makes it different than our typical desire to be known within the social media ecosystem of our peers.  My behavior online -- if I am susceptible to such suggestion and intrigue -- will make me more open to being communicative and associating with people I don't know. I will be looking for people who have the same interests, and whether I know them or not, I will engage with them in order to "influence" them or be influenced by them.

This is the system of social currency in action.

So what kind of person do I have to be to influence, and to be the target of people who wish to be influenced by me?

Here are hints. Here is a list of the top ten most influential tech bloggers on Klout.
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The Startup Genome Report: How Your Startup Can Be the Titanic and Avoid the Iceberg

Saturday, September 3, 2011

So you want to run your very own startup! Good job, my friend. Good job. 

Me, too. But there are steps that need to be taken first, young wunderkind. 

Steven Blank, Silicon Valley entrepreneur extraordinaire and author of the very famous "Four Steps to the Epiphany," has a guest blog post on ReadWriteWeb where he reveals a former summer associate's Internet startup benchmarking project. And you thought this Klout meme was just for people blogging and tweeting on the Internets. 

The Startup Genome Report, launched by former Blank student Max Marmer, takes a similar approach to measuring greatness as attempts like Klout, only it is more crowdsourced and based on interactions with people on the web in the classic customer development style created by Blank. 

Blank's summation of discoveries from this newly launched venture:

One of the biggest surprises is that success isn't about size - of team or funding. It turns out Premature Scaling is the leading cause of hemorrhaging cash in a startup - and death. In fact:
  • The team size of startups that scale prematurely is 3 times bigger than the consistent startups at the same stage
  • 74% of high growth Internet startups fail due to premature scaling
  • Startups that scale properly grow about 20 times faster than startups that scale prematurely
  • 93% of startups that scale prematurely never break the $100k revenue per month threshold

You may or may not find this useful, but I come from the perspective of having participated in a phenomenal startup idea poorly managed. What makes this useful to me is that on one level it is a discovery process that acts as a delivery mechanism. 

What I mean is, while Max is taking in value, he's also giving value back. It's not a one-sided hire. 

If you want to make a successful company in any vertical, and you use the web, you want to take a very close look at this model, because I think this is the wave of the future.  You put something out there for other people, who put something out there for you, and you both benefit, in vastly different ways. 

Sounds a little like a relationship, right? Exactly. 

One thing that can lead to lack of success in any venture is believing that one idea rules uber alles; not allowing the members of your team to take a passionate stake (of work, not funding) in the cause you sought them out to partake in. That creates resentment. 

Resentment kills an enterprise. When the leader pushes out employees with micromanagerial thinking and lack of trust in the new ideas he / she supposedly hires employees to execute and deliver, the ship goes the way of the Titanic.  

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