I Work For YOU This Sunday

This Sunday, I would like to help you do whatever it is you do. No charge. No strings.

When I started this blog almost 3 years ago (sheesh!), I did it because I wanted to help. I've slowed down my posting recently, but the urge to help others and share knowledge cannot (and should not) be quelled.

Why The Hell Would You Do That?

Fair question. I've been reading Seth Godin's Linchpin and he mentions the act of giving gifts - in fact, makes a case that our entire online culture is slowly turning to this type of economy. Well, I don't know about the whole web, but I do know that helping folks - YOU - who read my blog makes me feel great.

Godin says:

"I don't write my blog to get anything from you in exchange. I write it because giving my small gift to the community in the form of writing makes me feel good. I enjoy it that you enjoy it." (page 169) and earlier: "The act of giving the gift is worth more to me than it may be to you to receive." (page 155)

It so happened that I read those words this morning on the train to work. After my commute, I read the post, The Meme To End All Memes by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston. It saddened me that one of their top 10 memes that should die included "#7: Requests for my time suck."

Who moans about people wanting your help? Isn't that why you started blogging in the first place? Ug, it makes me sick to my stomach. Sure, I ignore the Russian "SEO" requests and I've never been truly inundated, but I really cannot fathom responding with such vitriol.

So, I'm trying to counteract one of the memes Beth and Geoff listed. I'm not going to complain about all you people sucking up my time. I'm going to give it to you freely. It's a gift, dammit.

So How's This Work?

I'm setting aside 9am-5pm for you. Whomever you are. I will be available.

If you want help with plumbing, you probably won't like the results. But for questions about online marketing, content strategy, and a tad about social media, feel free to send your queries to OnlineMarketerBlog [at] gmail [dot] com.

For instance, you could ask me to...

  • Edit your business proposal
  • Assess your new ads
  • Do a brief website content assessment - where you should start, etc.
  • Brainstorm business/marketing/writing ideas
  • Develop a blogging strategy

As always, there's some fine print (see the * below), but it's basically a free-for-all. For 8 hours on my day off, I'm yours. How can I help?

(Don't keep it to yourself, either. Share this post through your social network and subscribe if you'd like to receive updates. You can unsubscribe at any time - no skin off my nose.)

*Generally first come, first served. I can refuse work. You don't have to like the results. There is no legal, binding anything associated with this help. Depending on quantity, I may not get to your request within the time allotted. I will keep all names, corporations, and sensitive information private, but I reserve the right to blog about the other stuff.

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(Photo courtesy of hortulus via Flickr)

Charlene Li's Open Leadership A Must-Read For Ethical Marketers

Charlene Li, formerly of Forrester Research and co-author of Groundswell, does with Open Leadership what so few authors would find possible: making a convincing argument regarding a real and very powerful movement in the zeitgeist, despite it being inherently fuzzy to understand and difficult to prove.

But just because it is difficult to determine ROI, does not mean the elements of open leadership are not effective. From Li:

"In actuality, the activities taking place on [social sites] are inherently highly measurable, but we have not yet established a body of accepted knowledge and experience about the value of these activities versus the costs and risks of achieving those benefits." (page 77)

The Value of Ethics

And not only is this leadership style actionable and (somewhat) measurable, but it also serves as a venue for your personal values. My favorite aspect of this book is the relation of an open leadership style to the leader's own ethics.

Li writes in great detail about trust building, personal values and humility. Social technologies and open leadership simply allows broader activation of the leader's (your) personal values.

When she speaks of humility, Li notes that open leaders accept "that their views...may need to shift because of what their curious explorations expose." (page 169) She quotes Ron Ricci, Cisco's VP of corporate positioning, as saying "Shared goals require trust. Trust requires behavior. And guess what technology does? It exposes behavior." (page 198)

You begin to understand that Li isn't railing against command-and-control operations nor does she dive off into kumbaya territory. But she does convince the reader that a world of ubiquitous social technologies, business transparency, and digital communication will require a different kind of leadership.

Open Leadership Isn't Trying To Be The New Groundswell

As a huge fan of Li's previous book, Groundswell, I couldn't wait for Open Leadership. But they really are two different animals.

I found myself wishing there was more about the inevitability of openness. That - along with KPIs and a few other fundamentals - are given short shrift. Maybe there's not a lot to say. Maybe not many studies have been done.

But unlike Groundswell, which was data-driven and highly intuitive, Open Leadership doesn't provide enough ammo for younger leaders to march these ideas into the C-suite.

In order for these ideas to be enacted, one likely must already be in some position of leadership. While Groundswell provided the facts and figures for anyone to persuade doubters, Open Leadership does not. It's an idea book, not a text book. That's OK - just something to know before you begin reading.

Buy The Book

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend Open Leadership. It's innovative, smart, and unlike any book you've read before. All that and it's highly convincing as well. Do yourself (and your employees) a favor and read this book.

[I received a free advance reading copy of this book from Jossey-Bass publishers, but that did not influence my review of the book. I profoundly apologize to Ms. Li for a stunningly late review of the book she kindly sent me. Better late than never, I hope.]

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(Photo courtesy of Fast Company)

25 Content Strategy Blog Posts I'd Like To Read

You read Content Strategy for the Web or maybe just some blog posts on the subject. Maybe you attended the Web Content conference last week or just think content strategy could be for you. No matter your expertise, there's no mistaking: we need more intelligence devoted to content strategy. Here are 25 ideas for content strategy blog posts you should think about writing. How about tackling one this week?

If you do, feel free to link back to this post so your readers can get inspired too. In that respect, props to Chris Brogan and his post, 50 Blog Posts Marketers Could Write for their Companies, for inspiring this post.

Which post are you going to write?

For the content strategy newbie:

  • How did you first hear about content strategy? What piqued your interest that first time?
  • What are the top 3 benefits of a content strategy program, in your opinion. Or what 3 ways will it change the way you work day to day?
  • How are you educating yourself about content strategy? What blogs or books are you using?
  • How does your previous (or current) job prepare you for future content strategy work?
  • Some say that content strategy practitioners are to copywriting as information architects are to design. Have you found this to be the case in your position?
  • How do you explain content strategy to your closest co-workers? What metaphor aptly describes content strategy in your office?
  • From where do you draw your daily inspiration? This could be a person, place, experience, book, or feeling.
  • What do you most enjoy about content strategy? What makes you the happiest in your job?

For the content strategy journeyman:

  • What has been your most successful content strategy effort? What one thing helped it work?
  • How do you explain what you do to your grandparents?
  • What personality traits have you found serve you well? Which ones trip you up?
  • What's the biggest hole in your industry that content strategy can help fill? How is your industry in particular reacting to content strategy?
  • In the latest action movie you've seen, which character would have been most like a content strategist? Why? Is the content strategist the hero?
  • Having had some experience in the practice, what are you most looking forward to in the next year in content strategy? Where are the biggest opportunities?
  • How have you gotten involved in the content strategy community? Have you joined a Google group? Your local CS meet-up?
  • What's been the biggest internal dispute you've had this year regarding content strategy? How about with your client?

For expert content strategists:

  • What are you doing to promote content strategy in your organization? How are you a content strategy ambassador?
  • How has your agency or business implemented content strategy in the last year? What was the impetus?
  • How did your college degree prepare you for your content strategy job, especially since it's highly likely you did not major in content strategy? What path would you recommend to future strategists?
  • What are some new opportunities you see in the field this year? What stands out to make an impact in the next quarter?
  • Failure can often provide priceless insight. What have you learned from recent failures?
  • What's the first thing you do in the morning to prepare for your work each day? How does it help your content strategy work?
  • What processes have you set up in your agency or business to improve your content strategy? What's been your biggest hold-up?
  • How have you customized your offerings to match your client's needs? Did it make the end strategy result better or worse?
  • What leadership are you showing outside of your own organization? How are you expanding your influence for the betterment of content strategy?

Which topic will you take on? Please leave a comment on this post if you answer these, so the rest of the community can read your answer.

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What is content strategy and why should I care?

You've heard about content strategy, but aren't exactly sure what it is. And you don't know exactly how it fits into the agency process. It's OK. We've got you covered.

The video below tells you everything you want to know about content strategy, but didn't know you needed to ask. It's only 3 minutes long. And it uses Post-It notes. Quick and easy.

Check it out below or on the OnlineMarketerBlog YouTube channel. I hope it's helpful - I'd love to hear your comments!

Don't forget to stay subscribed to videos via iTunes. Thanks!

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How Bogotá Completely Changed (And Its Lessons For You) Part 2

[Read Bogotá part one for more awesomeness about Bogotá Change and Switch.]

The Carrot Law

Mockus wasn't finished. There were 70 homicides for every 100,000 people - far, far too high.

Instead of trying to confront the whole populous with PSAs, instead of confronting the symptoms by increasing penalties for public intoxication, he simply halted the problem at its source.

Mockus sent out the mandate: Bars must close at 1am. Fewer drunks. Less drunk. In bed earlier.

He called it The Carrot Law - slang for someone who doesn't smoke for drink. And it worked.

Likewise, the Heath brothers assert the power of small changes in Switch. And that these small changes can have a huge impact.

"It's a theme we've seen again and again - big changes come from a succession of small changes. It's OK if the first changes seem almost trivial...With each step, the Elephant [your emotional urge] feels less scared and less reluctant, because things are working." (page 147)

Other tactics complimented The Carrot Law. Police were reeducated in non-violent tactics - not broad "interactions" as a whole, but each small interaction with citizens.

In addition to violence in the community, Mockus also focused on violence originating in the home. Children were encouraged to report offenders in their own families and taught to direct their anger at inanimate object.

The belief in the administration was that violence in the home was just repeated in the streets. This was a full-scale, city-wide re-direction of aggression.

Maybe it sounded crazy went it started. But in the 4 years under Mockus, the number of deaths was reduced by 1/3 and kept going down afterwards.

Enrique Penalosa - A Businessman For Urban Design

Mayors in Bogotá are restricted to one term, so after Mockus, newly party-less Enrique Penalosa became the city's second independent mayor.

Unlike the professorial Mockus, Penalosa was a businessman. But he'd promised to continue the work Mockus began.

Traffic volume was still a problem and Penalosa was pressured to build expensive elevated highways. But that wouldn't have fixed the problem - just moved the problem into the sky.

Instead, he urged rejection of the expensive elevated highways and, instead, poured that money into both improving public transportation as well as completely altering the highways.

When he started, public transportation fought for space amongst the cars and trucks. But in Penalosa's plan, the car lanes became bus lanes. And the buses were refurbished into beautiful modern vehicles.

You could still drive a car, but it'd be even more crowded than before, as you were pushed to the side lanes. And as you're baking in your car, thinking about the gas money you're burning, you'd look over to the bus lanes, gliding along in comfort. Pretty persuasive, don't you think?

Penalosa wasn't cracking down or forbidding anything. Instead, he smoothed the path he wanted people to go on.

People aren't bad; they just usually take the easier route. In this case, quite literally, the easiest route was by bus.

The Heaths cite another executive changing different behavior through similar means.

"'We're taught to focus on incentives by our business background,' say Bregman [a successful change agent]. 'Or even our parents: "Do this or you won't get your allowance!"' But executives - and parents - often have more tools than they think they have. If you change the path, you'll change the behavior." (page 185)

In just 36 months, the Penalosa administration went from idea to the first fleet on the road. The result: less traffic, less pollution, and less class conflict (between those with cars and those without).

Now, 1.6M Bogotáns travel by public transport every day and another 400,000 use their bikes. Overall, traffic has decreased by 22%.

Can't Argue With Results

Mockus, the professor. Penalosa, the businessman. Two very different men working toward their goals through very unusual means.

But you can't argue with the results. These days, 98.5% of kids in Bogotá go to school. Since 1994, homocide dropped 70%.

The tactics outlined in Bogotá Change and Switch work. And they can create change in your life too.

The most important lesson in my mind is that these were men who believed that change was possible - they believed it fundamentally, deep into their bones.

The Heaths call it a "growth mindset." (page 164) No matter the name - and no matter how cheesy it sounds sometimes - the first step in creating change is believing it's possible.

How are you going to create change? Which of these lessons resonate with you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

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How Bogotá Completely Changed (And Its Lessons For You) Part 1

A city in ruins. Rampant corruption. All systems - political, social, judicial - broken.

But, as it turns out, not beyond repair.

You simply must watch the documentary Bogotá Change. It tells the story of how one of the most crime-ridden, downtrodden, disbelieving cities made a transformation - in less than a decade! - to a city on the rise. (For a limited time, this movie is free on Comcast - On Demand > TV Entertainment > Sundance Channel. Watch it.)

Many of the ideas that started working for Bogotá in 1994 are the same as those outlined in the recent book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

At their core, both the book and the movie describe how amazing leaders created real change. But each also contains lessons for ways in which you can create change within your own life as well.

The rest of this post will list some of these ideas. But a simple blog post isn't enough. Read the book. Watch the movie.

And then, shake things up for yourself.

"Crazy" Antanas Mockus, His Superhero Suit, And Simple Problems

Antanas Mockus - Bogotá's first-ever independent mayor - was...not a typical politician. He was thrust into the spotlight when he mooned his university, for instance (with a slight nod to goatse, if you watch carefully). He also fought back physically against protesters at a debate - literally swinging punches. This guy was friggin' nuts.

But he was right about a lot as well. He put the philosophy of his academic life into action. He said, flat out, that he wanted to change people's morality. While he might misbehave, he was unshakably moral, striving for honesty in every action. Through this morality, he was able to change his country's behavior.

"I think that he was very clear that through education...that if he educated people, if people were behaving in a different way, then the city would transform itself." -Guillermo Penalosa, Director of Parks & Recreation

How did Mockus change behavior? For one, he dressed up in a superhero suit before publicly picking up garbage and painting over graffiti.

Much like Malcolm Gladwell explained in The Tipping Point in reference to graffiti elimination and fare-jumping stoppage in the New York City train system, Mockus fixed these small, but very public, elements.

As the Heath brothers explain, leaders create big change "by formulating solutions that were strikingly smaller than the problems they were intended to solve." (page 71) Change agents send the message that these small (bad) behaviors are simply not accepted here, which leads logically to other, bigger, behavioral changes.

And when these small behaviors were improved, people feel better about themselves not just as individuals, but as a collective people. Mockus frequently mentions how "we" behave.

The Heath's concur. "[The science] shows us that people are receptive to developing new identities, that identities 'grow' from small beginnings." (page 161) Mockus knew this. Create small change and link it to people's identity of themselves.

Soon, it became known that Bogotáns didn't disrespect their city by leaving their trash around or writing graffiti on the walls. And that meant the public space was to be cared for. That's how big change started to happen.

Traffic, A Thumbs-Down Sign, And Mimes

Mockus wasn't finished. Traffic in Bogota was another problem.

Citizens ignored traffic laws. Chaos ruled the roads. And the traffic cops were even more morally corrupt than average.

Mockus started small. He gave drivers a white "thumbs-up" sign and a red "thumbs-down" sign. How could this solve the traffic problem?

Drivers complimented other drivers by flashing a thumbs-up when that driver obeyed the law. When a driver didn't follow the rules, they saw a lot of red thumbs pointing down.

It's not that people didn't know the rules. It's just that there was no societal pressure to obey them. Bogotans were taking the easiest path (literally).

Mockus didn't stop there. He employed traffic mimes. (Yes, you read that correctly: traffic mimes.)

These mimes scripted proper behavior. They stood in front of trucks attempting to cut in line. They walked elderly citizens across the street, in front of cars that could have plowed through the pedestrians.

Scripting behavior works and the Heaths know it:

"Ambiguity is the enemy. Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short, to make a switch, you need to script the critical moves." (page 53-54)

I think it goes even further. Mimes are like children. They're non-confrontational; they can script behavior without raising ire. I think that's a huge component in their successful campaign.

This exercise showed that even the least infraction of the law would no longer be tolerated. It is thought that the mimes had an effect on the level of violence decreasing in the country at around this time.

Not Done Yet

I hope you've enjoyed part one of this study of Bogotá and Switch. Tomorrow, I'll provide a few more examples and reveal numbers describing the effect of these campaigns.

Please tune in later this week to read part two. Subscribing is a great way to ensure you won't miss it!

Update: Here's part 2!

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(Image of Roland Barthes courtesy of holia - taking a break via Flickr)

Why Content Strategy? And Why Now?

Inspiration often comes from strange places.

In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, author Scott McCloud examines how we receive different types of information and that process relates directly to design, information architecture, copywriting and content strategy.

"Pictures are received information. We need no formal education to 'get the message.' The message is instantaneous.

Writing is perceived information. It takes time and specialized knowledge to decode the abstract symbols of language." (page 49)

Anyone who's ever sat through a client review will understand this. It's not that images or art are less important; in fact, it's the art that usually solicits "ohhs" and "ahhs" from the clients, right?

McCloud is speaking more about our intrinsic speed of understanding. We get a feeling from a picture right away.

But we need to process words - to piece together abstract ideas. With words, it's incumbent that we create the images ourselves, in our own consciousness; we ponder meaning, ideas and symbols. Anyone who has read Roland Barthes' Mythologies knows that this process ain't easy.

What's This Got To Do With Agency Life?

Comics and literary theory? Why should marketers care?

In the same way that images are understood before words in the human brain, so too has the planning and creative process developed in marketing agencies. The halcyon days of 1997 were critical for information architecture. IAs became a staple of the creative agency, a bridge between the client's objectives and the designer's creative vision.

The same thing didn't happen for words. It was easy to understand why you'd want to plot out images. But it took another decade for us to plot out what was written on the page and why. (True, maybe astute IAs and copywriters filled this role until content strategy bloomed in recent years.)

So what's changed? Well, SEO (based on keyWORDS) has blossomed into the main way we find content online. Search engines are ever more refining the way they surface the most relevant content. Our tastes have matured: the internet is no longer the shiny new object - it helps us complete tasks in everyday life. We now use many, many channels to access information and communicate with brands. Findable, useful, contextual, and consistent across channels...online content is more important to our lives than ever before!

It then makes sense that content strategy - a plan for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable, relevant content - would guide many important choices we make as digital marketers.

What Good Is Content Strategy If People Don't Read?

I can already hear the Nielsen-ites protesting that readers don't actually read online. So why should anyone care about content strategy?

This assumes that all content is created equal which we know just isn't the case. Personally, I skim news articles, sure. But if I'm making a purchase, you can be damned sure I'm going to read everything, including the fine print. The quality and importance of the content is in direct relation to how much time we spend absorbing it.

As more and more transactions occur online, it makes sense that content becomes more and more important. After all, we're not marketing random blog posts; we're marketing watches and cars and insurance - things people want to read about.

And even Nielsen admits that more content is needed if you're trying to solve a user's problem.

"If you want people who really need a solution, focus on comprehensive coverage...But the very best content strategy is one that mirrors the users' mixed diet. [his emphasis]"

Your potential customers will engage with you, if you provide something useful and usable. It's a shame that is still so rare.

What Took So Long?

Words aren't easy. It takes a long time to create them and often even longer to process their meaning. Content is both a science and an art.

But it's not going away. Your customers want information...they're dying for it. But not marketing messages you want to push on them.

Consider your audience. Serve up the content they need. Help them complete a task. Your customers will entrust their time to you if you provide quality content to help them do what they want.

Remind me again why it took so long for content strategy to mature?

(Originally published at Experience Matters - my employer's blog. Thanks!)

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Is There No Way To Prove The Value Of Content Strategy?

I'm trying to convince non-creative folks about the value of content strategy. I need facts and figures. Bonus points for graphs.

All I need to prove is that the stuff on your website is valuable to visitors. That content matters.

But there is a serious lack of empirical research to prove this. Why aren't there studies done on the value of content strategy? Is the topic too broad? Is it just common sense?

Proving Our Value

As content strategists, we should be able to appeal to emotion, common sense, and hard logic to convince skeptics of our value.

Emotion I can do. We're solving user's problems and creating a great experience. Common sense is a little fuzzier, but it still works - after all, why wouldn't the content on your site be valuable?

But hard logic - numbers and graphs - I'm having a tough time here.

Melissa Rach from Brain Traffic gets the award for closest to the mark, but even this is too convoluted for an internal or client presentation.

Content Strategy, Not Social Media

I can show you a dozen studies - Forrester, eMarketer, MarketingSherpa - that prove social media's worth. The ROI of social media topic is so 2008.

But broader content - not just on a Twitter feed or blog, but incorporating all website text, metadata, videos, etc. - finding hard evidence for that is proving impossible.

Please Prove Me Wrong

I've searched on paid and unpaid professional research sites. I have worked the limits of my Google powers. But maybe you can help.

As a content strategist, how do you prove your value, in real, empirical numbers? What studies do you use? What have I missed?

I cannot honestly believe there has not been a study of this information (and if so, what a huge oversight!). Content strategists are in a battle to prove their relevance. We'll need research, studies, ROI figures, etc to do this.

I would love to hear what studies you've seen or learn how you are coping with this challenge.

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Crowdsourcing Is Not A Viable Business Model And Here's Why

Crowdsourcing is to 2009 as Twitter was to 2008. It was the sparkly object that many assumed was the second coming.

I'm a little sick of it, to be honest.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for innovation. But I'm not for innovation without strategy, without a vision that goes past the next few month. Crowdsourcing is the fool's gold of internet business models.

This ire has been building, but is partially due to reading Rick Liebling's new e-book Everyone Is Illuminated. Rick has been doing some brave thinking about crowdsourcing and I applaud his effort with this e-book. It's other experts I take issue with.

Which experts am I talking about? The ones who claim that crowdsourcing will replace agencies. Those who think you get better ideas from the crowd than individuals who study this process everyday. If that's you - you're in my sights.

This is all to support Rick's point that crowdsourcing is a means, but not as an end in itself. That gem of an insight is a hard truth proven by what has worked...and what hasn't worked.

What Could Work?

As far as I can tell, there are two things that crowdsourcing does correctly, which Wil Merritt, CEO of Zooppa describes on slide 30:

  1. High levels of consumer brand engagement
  2. Insights that brand communications generate

Well, that's true if everyone keeps participating. Sweepstakes have a long history of success, but those usually require 10 seconds of thought - not the hours required for most advertising/marketing efforts. For every winner, you produce thousands of losers who just wasted their time. Not exactly inspiring.

(These two benefits are likely preaching to the choir and the insights are from a small vocal minority, but whatever...)

But OK, let's assume these are true. I will give you those two points. Now let's look at what crowdsourcing doesn't do.

What Definitely DOESN'T Work

It may have been said before, but let's review what crowdsourcing definitely can't do for you:

  • Brand strategy - The insight and planning that lead to long-term success.
  • Integrated campaigns - Want your campaign to work across print, TV, and web?
  • Production - For all the hype about things being easier to produce these days (and they are), can your crowdsourced winner write, design, and use motion tools? Doubtful.
  • Measurement - Who is pulling your data and analyzing it? Not the crowd.

These are just a few..."pain points." But it's a tough reality for the most optimistic of a very idealistic people. Idealistic to a fault, in my opinion. Take this quote from Zooppas' Merritt again:

"Today CMOs like to claim that the true owners of their brands are customers [True]. If they truly believe this what could be better than to allow customers to create their own messaging about the brands they own and love, and to enable them to share enthusiastically these messages with their friends and family."

OK, there are two things here.

For one, no one's trying to stop anyone from sharing messages. In fact, social media strategy is all about getting others to share your message. That's not revolutionary.

Secondly, what kind of logic is this? I believe my teeth to be my own; that doesn't mean I should give myself a root canal! I'll leave that to the experts.

WHY Won't This Work

Should agencies be concerned the crowd will steal their jobs? In short: no.

  • The Work (Usually) Sucks: Rick is totally correct when he says, "I don't think crowdsourcing creative content is going to raise the value, and therefore fees, of creative work." Doritos might get lucky once, but after that commercial airs, so what?
  • The "Pay" Sucks: John Winsor, CEO Victors & Spoils, had this to say about a crowdsourcing price model: "Get more, pay less" (slide 6). That's more of your work, while paying less money to you. Sound awesome, right?
  • The "Side Pay" Sucks: Rick points out that this is more of a zero-sum game - like Highlander, there can be only one (winner). It's not like the World Series of Poker where pros eliminated early could make money off other marks.
  • The Lack of Perspective Sucks: Evan Fry, also of Victors & Spoils, tells the story of Steve Jobs' horrendous iMac name which a long-term agency partner was able to dissuade him from using (slide 20). You don't get that brand strategy perspective from the crowd.
  • The Brand Guidance Sucks: Spike Jones speaks some truth (slide 24):

"So you REALLY want to base your entire brand...on creative that is pinned to a two-sentence description of what you're looking for? By a bunch of people that want to make a quick buck?...Now do you really think that you are going to get anything of value?"

Means, Not Ends

All due respect to Rick, but I think he buries the lead in this ebook (as have I...duly noted). The real key insight here - and I haven't heard this from others - is that crowdsourcing is a tactic, but not a viable business model.

Rick states it succinctly (slide 44): "But I fear that many brands are using crowdsourcing not as a means, but as the ends."

That's the key idea. Sure, get the crowd involved; solicit their opinions. That will provide the engagement and insight.

But handing over the keys to your brand and letting the crowd control it? No way.

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What's Your Listening Speed? (Dedicated to SXSW)

This past weekend, I took my first speed-reading class (it was awesome; I'm blazing through Switch).

But one of our exercises made me think of everyone at SXSW. It made me wonder: What's your listening speed?

Read vs. Speak

One of our first exercises was to record how many words we could read in one minute. Afterward, we counted the lines and got our words per minute (WPM). Then, we spoke the same passage again to determine how many words we spoke per minute.

I can't recall why we did this; honestly, it's not important. What I do remember is that our instructor asked us to compare these two tallies - which did we do faster: read or speak.

Almost everyone in the room (in downtown Chicago) read faster than they spoke. The instructor laughed and said that in New York - and only New York - people almost always spoke faster than they read. Midwesterners almost never did.

A-Types In Austin

For some reason, this comment made me think about SXSW. Austin is full of A-type personalities (in the best ways possible), buzzing about fully immersed in live music, social media, and various nerditry.

There's talking, blogging, reading, all types of communicating - and that is wonderful. I'm totally jealous.

But I hope everyone is remembering to listen too. (I know you are - I'm sure you're full up on knowledge and ready to burst.)

We don't have a way to measure listening - no WPM here. But, I am hoping that while New Yorkers are good at talking, Midwesterners are good at reading, I hope the SXSWers are practicing their listening.

I hope so because they'll need to spend the rest of their year telling us about what they learned. I can't wait!

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Follow-up On Ethics - Crisis Management Begins Before The Crisis

I followed up my ethics post from yesterday with a post on the Experience Matters blog entitled "Crisis Management Begins Before The Crisis" (disclosure: it's my employer's blog). Here's the very beginning and the very end:

"Toyota reminds me of a guy who buys flood insurance the day after the big rain...

It’s this process of being heard that gives companies the opportunity to speak to customer emotions. After all, this is empathy. This is a chance to change an ethical crisis into a recommitment to good behavior.

An open dialogue might just allow your brand loyalists to save you during a crisis. Imagine that."

Believe me, the middle section is worth your time. Find the full post here: http://experiencematters.criticalmass.com/2010/03/11/crisis-management-begins-before-the-crisis/

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What is Ethical Strategy (And Does It Really Work)?

Marketers are faced with ethical quandaries every day.

Sometimes these are big issues – What is the lawful (and tasteful) line when marketing to children? Could I work for Big Tobacco?

Most times though these decisions are small – decisions that determine which tactics are fair game and which are off the table.

This subject got me thinking about ethical strategy. Does it hurt or help a marketer to live and work by a strict ethical code? How can we be as persuasive as possible without sacrificing our souls?

A Path With Roadblocks?

A strategy is a plan to reach a goal – a path leading to the achievement of business objectives, in our case. As I first thought about it, an ethical strategy seemed limiting. It seemed as though ethics would limit the tactics marketers could use to reach their goals.

An ethical strategy, for instance, might limit the number and types of magazines we advertise in. It might limit the extent we can distribute content across the web. It could alter the way we talk to customers. These limits would act as roadblocks on our strategic path and slow or stop us from reaching our goals.

The Golden Rule

But, maybe I’m wrong.

If we can agree that the most widely accepted rule of ethics is the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – then ethics must have some connection to emotions.

Emotions and the Golden Rule require us to:

  • Understand others (or at least try)
  • Develop empathy and sympathy
  • Grow our Emotional Quotient – the ability to access and manage one’s own emotions as well as those of others or a group
  • Accept our social role – humans as social creatures within a structure of mutually agreed-upon rules

Employing these traits could help us to craft new, more focused strategies by listening and caring about our customers.

If we accept that emotion and these traits are required for an ethical strategy, could this actually be a benefit rather than a roadblock?

Ethical Strategy, Better Tactics

What if, with emotional understanding and an eye to the Golden Rule, we could create better strategy and better tactics than if we went down an unethical route?

After all, what have we learned with the advent of social media than that our networks and our ability to connect and relate have great power?

Maybe unethical shortcuts are really no shortcuts at all. I now think we’re in a world where an ethical strategy would actually be more effective. Developing a strategy that involves your customers or fans, requires honesty and transparency, and generally celebrates collaboration – aren’t these common elements in some of the most amazing success stories of the last 10 years?

And those who hid or lied or cheated – doesn’t that always come to light? The Enrons of the world are many, but nowadays they are far, far more likely to be found out and publically shamed.

What About You?

I changed my mind when it came to ethical strategy. In addition to thinking it’s the correct way to market, I now believe it’s the most effective as well.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on ethical strategy. Is it the best option for online marketers? When have you felt like you crossed an ethical line? What did you do about it?

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5 Ways To Promote Creative Marketing

Last night I was perusing an article from the Harvard Business Review by Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, entitled "How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity." I was really struck by how their principles for inciting creativity are the very same I've written about here for marketers.

It shouldn't be surprising; anyone who has been in marketing for some time knows just how creative you need to be to succeed. Sometimes it's the "big idea" kind of creative. Other times it's a creative endeavour to include 10 message points in one sentence or create a feasible campaign in a week and a half. That's creative too, believe me.

There are 5 ideas in this article that Catmull speaks to that really struck a nerve with me. I'm going to link to some past articles that relate to these points - I hope you take a minute to read them. It proves that not only is marketing a creative field, but that creativity is an exercise only for the brave.

How Do You Promote Creativity?

1) Embrace Fear: Catmull says, "[I]f we aren't always at least a little scared, we're not doing our job...This means we have to put ourselves at great risk."

Not too long ago, I wrote about how risky marketing is, and how we should embrace the fear that comes from it. Today, as I read this quote, I think it's even more true now than it was when I mentioned it.

"Once you get over the fear of being different, of possibly failing, a world of possibilities opens up. Are you still worried? Well, maybe this will help tip the scales:

You’ve got no choice."

Embrace the fear. Everyone feels it. And fear can be debilitating or any amazingly creative stimulus.

2) Welcome Risk: We work in an ever-changing industry. It will never be the "same old, same old." If you don't want to risk your ass, you shouldn't have put it on the line by placing it in a marketing office.

Catmull has some advice for the leadership: "[W]e as executives have to resist our natural tendency to avoid or minimize risks, which, of course, is much easier said than done."

This reminds me of my "Failure Isn't Fatal" post:

"As I wrote earlier in the week, our job as marketers is not to mitigate risk by going along with the status quo. Our job is to manage the risk and sometimes we fail.

That stinks, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s inherent to the job. So it’s better to get in there and figure out your best odds of success (and learn from your mistakes)."

Which leads perfectly into...

3) Learn From Failures: You won't get rid of risk and you are going to fail at some point in your career. But the most creative marketers are the ones who figure out why they failed and learn from it. Failure is inherent in creative people.

From Catmull: "If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it's uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails."

4) Realize That Community Matters: Catmull contends that "community matters" in the sense that a group of highly talented creatives can turn out extraordinary things.

For marketers though, community is something outside of our team usually. They are the hordes we hope to influence (hordes in the nicest way possible, I mean). And we can't do that by simply interrupting more loudly or more often.

I think Joseph Jaffe is correct is his definition of the new creativity - one in which a piece of marketing is gauged by the community's adoption of it.

"I don’t know how much originality is in the idea itself, but it’s in the execution where you see the real beauty of it. And ultimately that control and that power – and to what degree it becomes a meme and to what degree it lives on and gets a life of its own and gets embraced by the consumer – is ultimately in the hands of the consumer.

And maybe that can become the new definition of creativity."

5) Always Be Excellent: Catmull states that the success of Toy Story 2 was, "[I]t became deeply ingrained in our culture that everything we touch needs to be excellent."

It's easy to be crass about excellence. "Blah, blah," you might be thinking.

But I've seen it happen a bunch of times: the kid who excels in everything he does - though he might fail and get scoffed at and underestimated - he eventually almost always reaches that gold ring he'd been shooting for.

It's intimidating to see someone so much an active participant in their success. Intimidating and awesome.

What Did I Forget?

What did Catmull and I miss? How do you promote creativity in marketing?

There's a lot to worry about, a lot of potential pitfalls. But that's never going to change. How are you seizing the awesome today?

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Does Your Social Media Strategy Need A Zen Alarm Clock?

I'm a terrible sleeper.

No, scratch that - I'm a terrible waker-uper.

I set at least two alarms - one placed clear across the bedroom - and hit snooze enough times to wake and enrage BG (rightfully so). While I used to be disciplined enough to rise at 4:45am to write, I'm not disciplined enough to get up at 6am to even go to the gym.

That is, until I got a zen alarm clock (if you've never heard of this, you're not alone. This is one type we've got.)

This morning, progressive bells gently roused me from sleep instead of the heart-palpitation-inducing air raid siren alarms of the past. Slow and steady chimes was the order of the day and damned if it didn't work. I was up and out the door quicker than ever.

What does this have to do with your social media strategy?

I see so many people rush into things. They're scared - "We don't have a Twitter!" - and with a sudden burst they emerge on the scene. They follow 2,000 Twitterers or flood a blog with 20 posts in a week. And what inevitably happens?

They sputter out. They podfade. They don't garner followers or readers or friends.

Is your social media strategy the equivalent of an air raid siren alarm? Is it sudden, panicked, and rushed? These are not qualities of good strategy.

Instead, try a slow, reasoned approach to social media. Develop your tribe over time. Find an audience organically. Give before you get.

Try the zen alarm clock approach to your social media strategy. I can't guarantee you'll succeed, but you will definitely do better (and get more out of it personally) with this approach.

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Raising Awareness Is The "About Us" Page Of RFI/RFP Requirements

Do you really want to raise awareness? Does your "About Us" page really say anything about your organization? In the latest Marketing Minute video, I discuss a trend I've been seeing: an increasing focus on "raising awareness," whatever that means. It's vague, worthless, but prized by the C-level suite.

I believe we need more honest discourse. We need real communication, real requirements, real expectations.

I hope you enjoy this Marketing Minute video.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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5 Things Napoleon Can Teach You About Strategy

BG and I love documentaries and she has been on a "royals" kick. This week is a tad different, with Netflix delivering a four-hour documentary on Napoleon.

Needless to say, our Friday night was exciting. War, intrigue, ambition, wine (OK, lots of wine).

You all know how much I prize classic strategy. I've quoted Sun Tzu. I sleep with a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince on my bedside table. (True story.)

Honestly, I didn't know much about Napoleon before this video. But I was particularly impressed with one of his first major battles as a General.

He'd been promoted to Commander of the Interior and given command of the French forces at the Italian front. No one expected much. The promotion was likely arranged by his new wife, he was largely untested, and this army had been in disrepair for over two years.

Things could not have looked more dire.

However, as you might expect, Napoleon turned this all around, starting with a rout of the Piedmontese who were aligned with the strong Austrian force just east of Nice. Napoleon entered this battle out-manned, out-gunned, and out-classed. There was no reason for him to win, but he did.

Here are some of the reasons for his victory. It's amazing to see how many can be applied to online marketing and the strategic efforts we make everyday.

  • He is cunning - Napoleon wanted to outnumber the enemy, even if he didn't have the bodies to actually do so. He separated the Piedmontese from the Austrians and went after the weaker of the two. Before the battle, he spread his forces out. Not knowing where exactly he is, the Piedmontese do the same. And at the last minute, Napoleon brings his forces back together and makes a crucial push - at that instant with more men on his side than the enemy's. How are you planning for success? How are you preparing for the next brand crisis or industry shake-up?
  • He is fast - Napoleon's army moves at 30 miles per day. The Piedmontese at 6 miles per day. With greater speed, Napoleon also understands the power of shock. He attacks when it is unexpected. How are you insulating your brand from the unexpected? How are you moving faster than the competition?
  • He is relentless - From the documentary: "He attacks everyday. He attacks when it snows, he attacks at night, he attacks when it's cold. It's not the way the game is played." Later, Historian Jacques Garnier says "He looks for the enemy, fights it, and when they assume he's going to stop - he continues! And the next day he fights again. It surprises them." When was the last time you surprised your competition with your relentlessness?
  • He is ruthless - Napoleon doesn't seem like a man who lost sleep over winning. A historian reports that a Peidmontese officer would later complain, "They sent a young madman who attacks right, left, and from the rear. It's an intolerable way of making war." When was the last time you felt blood on your teeth? How do you press forward ruthlessly for your clients?
  • He gets results - After defeating the Piedmontese, Napoleon insisted on silver and gold, with which he paid his army - the first money they'd seen in months, if not years. Results garner loyalty. He made no apologies for success and he expected his soldier to take risks, but he also rewarded those risks as well. Are you encouraging your staff? Do you recognize their sacrifices? Aligning them to your objectives can pay off royally for everyone.

Perhaps even more persuasive - and more ubiquitous - is Napoleon's near-insane ambition. But how refreshing too! I'd much rather hear about someone too ambitious than someone afraid to even try. On which side do you fall?

He was crass, intelligent, homicidally ambitious, but a professor of the highest order. There is a great deal marketers and strategists can learn from Napoleon.

When was the last time you were crushing, fast, relentless, ruthless, and delivered results? How about any one of these five?

One can easily poo-poo Napoleon. But wiser wo/men will learn the lessons that delivered him victory. How are you applying these lessons?

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Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? - For More Than Just Designers

Neuro Web Design cover Dr. Susan Weinschenk was the subject of one of my first blog posts back in November of '07, but I'm so pleased to again mention her and her book, Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?

Dr. Weinschenk is definitely ahead of the curve. In this era where every click can be counted, expect to see clinical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologist and other highly skilled professionals applying their craft to business, especially online. This trend arrives just as online marketer's palates are craving more numbers to show the ROI of their strategies.

A Formula That Works

Dr. Weinschenk usually begins each chapter with an easy-to-read explanation of a seminal study, then delves into the ramifications of the findings, and finally relates these findings to online business. It's a familiar formula as you progress through the book, but it definitely works.

It's easy to make the connection between the study and the marketing goal; it never feels forced or phony. There were, in fact, a few instances where I wanted way more depth.

This flow - from science to application - is smooth and natural. There were a few instances where more science would have been welcome rather than colloquial stories, but these instances were few and didn't take away from the major, and very pertinent, lessons.

Good For Everyone

Don't let the title of the book fool you: Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? is for more than just designers. Anyone who works in an agency - especially copywriters, content analysts, information architects and of course designers too - will get a lot out of this book.

In fact, I would agree there is at least as much here for copywriters and content analysts as there is for designers. Studies in human behavior can be applied to a number of disciplines, but copy's natural adherence to business objectives and messaging (usually a little more than artists) lends itself to this sort of rigorous study.

Science Or Theory?

One small note: I find that marketing books generally fall into two categories - think-y books without many citations like anything by Godin or Toy Box Leadership and then those with copious notes like Made To Stick.

Weinschenk's falls in a strange middle area. I understand this is likely an attempt to appeal to a broad audience, though I would have liked to see it fall onto the meatier side of the equation. She's so strong on the science, I hope her next book delves deeper into the studies, even if it's less accessible. I think many readers would find it worth the effort and it would be truly unique for the professionals who live and breathe online marketing.

Final Word

Get this book. It's accessible, compelling, and unlike anything else you're likely to read.

It doesn't matter your experience level or job title. Anyone who works in marketing, especially at an agency, needs to read this book.

Her Other Work

Read more about Dr. Weinschenk's work on her blog at http://www.whatmakesthemclick.net. She also has two podcasts (one audio, one video) on iTunes that summarize key stories in her book. Dr. Weinschenk - those are great, please make more!

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Smart Gifts For Smart Marketers

Train Reading1

I love this time of year. It's the season when people slow down, plan, and re-focus on their goals. I do it. You do it.

For smart marketers, a great way to stay up to date is through the very best information (makes sense, right?). So here are some of the books that I've found most helpful, most insightful, and the best guides for marketing in the coming years.

You can purchase items I recommend at the OnlineMarketerBlog store, including Kindles and books like these that I reviewed in 2009:

  • - Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation In my mind, this is the first post-web 2.0 book and a must-read for savvy online marketers.
  • - Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing This is a great book to take your online marketing to the next level. However, newbies might be frustrated by the scope of experience needed to fully understand all of the lessons in this book. That said, this is great for those generally familiar with online marketing tools.
  • - Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini's Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive This is a book every marketer should revisit every couple of years. If you want to convince people - and who doesn't? - you should read this book.
  • - David Meerman Scott's World Wide Rave The perfect primer for business in a web 2.0 world. It offers a great entry point for new marketers and fresh ideas for more familiar readers.
  • - Scott Fox's e-Riches 2.0 This is a must-read for anyone dipping a toe in the online marketing world. It details everything one could hope to know and offers an in-depth look at the tools and philosophy behind today's online marketing. A little more basic than World Wide Rave, but a great primer.
  • - Hunter and Waddell's Toy Box Leadership This book is a good reminder of how to lead, without taking too heavy a tone. For the ambitious and parents, especially.

I spend over 500 hours per year writing this blog. And even more time reading and researching the material that goes into it. A lot of that material comes from books like these.

Marketers can gain the smarts and skills needed for success through books like these. But like Lavar Burton says, "Don't take my word for it." Try out some of these books, or others I've discussed on the blog, and let everyone know what you think of them in the comments section below.

You can read full reviews for all of these books on the Book Reviews page. Plus, my reviews from last holiday season might give you some more ideas as well.

(The links used above are affiliate links which means I get a small referral fee from Amazon if you purchase them from this page. This does not raise the price for you and it's a nice way to show appreciation if you enjoy this blog. Thanks!)

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How Marketers Can Ruin Video Sites Like Hulu For The Rest Of Us

Smug1

A Brief Intro...

I started this three-part series with a discussion of "the new creativity" and asked if the freemium business model would be better for video content sites like Hulu. Then, I outlined 7 ways Hulu could benefit from a freemium model.

And finally, after all of this persuasive writing, I'd like to examine how a few boneheaded marketers will probably f*ck up the whole "free video content" thing for everyone.

Intrigued? I thought so. Let's get into it.

They'll Never Pay For It. Until They Do.

In my last post, I outlined a plan where Hulu could profit by packaging some already- (or mostly-) existing assets into an awesome premium package some viewers would gladly pay for.

Hulu would be happy because they'd be making money. Their free audience would be happy because they'd still get great shows for zilch. And their premium audience would be happy because they'd get a bunch of perks and cool stuff for a nominal fee.

You'd think everyone would be happy, right?

Peter Verna, senior analyst with eMarketer is pessimistic that these perks could be bundled together into a premium package. He was quoted in a November OMMA article, "Trim Marks":

"It's fair to say that consumers are generally not willing to pay directly for online video...

I also think that if Hulu and YouTube are going to start charging for some of their content, they should limit it to feature films. Virtually everything else they offer seems to work better in an ad-supported context, with the caveat that user-generated clips are challenging to monetize through any model."

True, most of the examples in "Trim Marks" were from digital studios creating original content. But comments like Verna's certainly apply to sites like Hulu and the lessons ought to be applied to any website specializing in video content. The history of online video over the past 10 years or so would support his notion that people generally won't pay for online content.

My point is that premium customers aren't paying for online video. They're paying for more flexibility. They're paying for the ability to suggest shows or brag to their friends. They are paying for a better user experience.

A Lonely Voice Crying Out From The Wilderness

Of course, not all agencies are going to challenge their clients to try new business models. Many are happy to pretend the world isn't changing.

In that same OMMA article, John McCarus, VP and director of brand content at Third Act, said "We have made an investment in this and we are doing everything we can to connect the stars in the content-creation community with clients that understand the space and have an appetite."

OK, that's McCarus' idea, but will this sit well with content creators? Isn't this the definition of selling out? If online trust is built through honesty, sincerity, and reputation, I don’t see how this will work long-term. Sure, one-offs will flock to it, but creators looking to connect will likely shy away from this business model.

But the suits go ever further! Studios need to "make room for advertisers to play an active role in the shape of a show," says Alan Schulman, executive creative director for The Digital Innovations Group.

Are you friggin' kidding me? So instead of advertising against content, they will dictate the content as well?

Schulman pushes it even further: studios "should expand their base of business from pure narrative storytelling to weaving other types of narratives like brand-centric edutainment into their offerings."

Edutainment? Yeah, nothing says viral video success like "edutainment." This is a guy with his finger on the pulse on the YouTube generation alright </sarcasm>.

Let me be clear: These are really, really bad ideas. It's wedging the old model (selling ads next to content) into a new form (online) while diluting the content that attracted your viewers in the first place (edutainment).

This is a recipe for failure.

Smart Video Advertising

If you're going to sell ads, you need to be smart about it. Here are a few hints about video ads you should know if you plan to be in this business 2 years from now:

  1. Ads need to be contextual. Since there is no AdWords for video, this means a lot of work either tagging or actually selecting the ads that run against your content.
  2. Users will not pay for content. As I mentioned in my last post, they will pay for a package of perks. They will also (for now) tolerate a pre-roll ad. But dictating the content? Good luck!
  3. Any product placement should be handled subtly. Yes, it was Nestea that was spilled on and gave magical powers to the keyboard in CTRL. But no one needed to shove it in our faces or “educate” us about how great a sponsor was. Just make it work.

In short, if you want to create business advocates – and you should – you must think of their needs first.

And that has been the point of this blog series. It began with a discussion of which business model is best for online video consumers. Then there were suggestions for Hulu to improve their user experience. And finally a warning against putting your desires before the customer.

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7 Ways Hulu Can Benefit From A Freemium Model

Hula2

This week I've been positing a theory to you folks: That the new creativity is ideally expressed through a freemium business model.

And today, I'd like to apply this theory. Let's kick this idea around:

I believe a freemium model would best suit video sites like Hulu and others, rather than a traditional "subscription" model where some content lies behind a firewall. A bunch of video sites like Hulu are looking to monetize, but who will find the process that entices viewers to pull out their wallets?

Today, I will outline 7 ways Hulu could package what they already have into a freemium model users would willingly pay for (clamor for, more like it).

[Quick sidenote: For the lead-in and first official post in this series, check out the links in the first paragraph. Since this is #2 out of 3 in the series, subscribe to ensure you receive the third in this series and all subsequent posts. Now, back to the fun!]

Let's See It In Action

If the new creativity is getting someone to tell their friends about your product, how much is a crappy ad going to convince me? Not much. And when was the last time you bragged to a friend about an old-school subscription?

The new creativity and the freemium model were made for each other.

Consumers tell their friends about great new services, especially free ones. As virally distributed critical mass builds, a certain fraction of those folks will opt for a premium version of that service.

The new creativity brings people in. A freemium model expands this audience and makes the whole endeavor profitable.

But what about Hulu? It's nowhere near as big as Google-owned YouTube, but Hulu almost certainly has more pressure to produce profit. Ad overlays are tolerated, but a subscription model was recently mocked by CNN because it "may send most of Hulu’s users searching for alternatives."

Consider this:

What if Hulu adopted a freemium model? What types of premiums could they offer for a small cost to a fraction of the tens of millions of people who watch?

And what if the premiums were outside the narrow realm of "content"? Ad Week reported that "A Hulu rep said the company's strategy of offering high-quality content supported by advertising remains unchanged, while leaving the door open to adding paid content." But what if it wasn't just content they charged for?

If the new creativity is a method of encouraging consumers to talk about the brand to other consumers, while creating more direct access to the brand…let's think creatively about how Hulu can create something users will not only pay for, but tell their friends about as well.

7 Ways Hulu Can Benefit From A Freemium Model

Here are just a few premiums Hulu could offer (most of which would have the secondary effect of attracting even more viewers/paid traffic). Let's consider what conveniences Hulu really has to bargain with, and how they could be packaged:

  • Access:

1. Give premium members advance notice. Allow members to view shows before the rest of the Hulu viewing audience.

2. Give members the opportunity to provide feedback. Use members to test out pilot episodes, to become a focus group of sorts. Use Hulu as a testing ground for new content such as webisodes, rather than just a repository. Let members help the show sidestep potential disasters while still in beta.

  • Convenience:

3. Allow members to automatically or easily transfer their favorite shows to their smart phone or portable device. Let users create a watch list and automatically pull episodes from the web portal into whatever device they choose. Compatibility is the new convenience, so allow me to take The Office with me on my iTouch or PSP.

  • Whuffie

4. Raffle off the name of a show's character to premium members . Aussie radio hosts Hamish and Andy recently teamed up with a popular writer to name one of his main characters after a lucky listener (minute 8 in the audio). It's a great idea to arouse support and build an audience.

5. Give away video birthday/anniversary wishes from the actors. Prominent actors in web-only shows, like Tony Hale from CTRL, give members a chance to interact on a closer level. Imagine while filming these short interviews if Hale had sent a personalized message to a winning member. A contest for this privilege would spread like wildfire considering his Arrested Development fame and it would cost the show nothing.

6. Allow members to create their own channel and earn cash. Ads still run if non-paying users watch a member’s channel. Allow the member to keep a small percentage of that income. That will fuel their desire to share the channel and push more content in front of users (allowing Hulu to charge more for ads).

  • Time

7. It should go without saying, but don’t make members watch commercials ever. Period.

Some Pessimism From The Back Pew

Some experts will disagree with me, saying that viewers will simply never pay for online content. I have quotes from some top agency minds saying just that.

But later this week, I will outline why they (and that mindset) are soooo wrong. Stay subscribed and please feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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(Image courtesy of AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker via Flickr)