Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Notes; Groundswell

I just finished Groundswell: "Winning in a world transformed by social technologies." Groundswell is a much reviewed and commented on book, so instead of my normal book notes, I figured I'd provide some links for you to follow.

The core premise of the book is that much of what's happening in marketing today revolves around creating "conversation" or "social spaces" where brands (er, brand managers) can have conversations with their customers. There's been tons and tons written about this in the past few years, but Groundswell provides a terrific framework that really helps clarify a lot of what many of us haven't been able to articulate to date.

In addition to the framework, the authors have also created a profile tool which allows you to profile your customers to see how likely it is that they are partiicpating in the new world of marketing and online conversations.

As you'd expect, there is also a discussion board where you can jump in yourself to chat about strategy, and marketing tactics.

If you want more.. check out delicious "groundswell" tags and/or "groundswell" on tweetscan to see who is tweeting about the book.

Like most books of this kind, Groundswell includes some terrific case studies and interviews like this one, that one and all the other ones. Like most books of this kind, Groundswell also suffers from bouncing back and forth between trying to please and inform noobs and salty old dawgs.

For my money, the framework alone is worth the price of admission.

And.. here it is:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Marketing Posts Coming Soon.. but Little Brother for now

With all my recent travels, I've had a chance to read some great stuff lately including "Sea of Monsters," "Infected" by the sick and twisted Scott Siglar and most recently, "Little Brother" by the astoundingly terrific Cory Doctorow.

I was prompted to post about Little Brother after reading a book review on who gave the book an A-. It's also got 4 stars on Amazon (23 reviews). I'd give it a solid A- as well, the imagination and use of current technologies really blew me away. I also have to throw in the fact that Doctorow uses the XBox as main character and plot device (I work at Microsoft) which I found hysterical, and totally plausible.

If you are a geek, this book will have you nodding all the way through - from the ARG references and the fact that the characters end up LARPing their way to a terrific ending. If you aren't a geek (or if you are older than 30 and are curious), you'll be amazed at how emerging tech can (and will) continue to change the world around us. I have a feeling that in 20 years, we'll look back at "Little Brother" the way some of us look back at "True Names" and just shake our heads.

BTW... Siglar's book "Infected" has about 3 or 4 scenes in which I literally had to drop the book and shake an image out of my head. The man is sick - and terrifically awesome. If you haven't listened to the Earthcore podcast (an earlier Siglar work), get on it man! Infected has perhaps the best acknowledgements in any book I've read as well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

R.I.P. Pa

My grandfather died yesterday at 2 PM. He was a stunningly important figure in my life, even as we spent less and less time together. I've been in a fog since I heard yesterday and I wanted to write down some lessons I learned from him and post them here as a way to memorialize my relationship with him. As the now eldest male on my side of the family (both grandfathers and my dad have all passed), the world ahead looks strange. It's a perspective I think better left for later in life. But as with all things, I'll find a way through it all.

My grandfather, known as "Pa" (not pawwww, I'm from NY, not Tennessee) was a pretty amazing guy in many ways. Pa had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. He had a slicing, mean streak in him too and his sense of humor could be biting for sure. I always appreciated it for what it was - a true ability to see something and then laugh at it. It is still something I want to be able to do more readily.

Pa was a salesman in both the "sell ice to an eskimo" Zig Ziglar way and in the sad Willy Loman way. Later in life, he sold trinkets and goods on the streets of NYC. It never seemed like he was telling the truth until one day we actually saw him in midtown Manhatten. He was holding court, sitting on a chair smiling and talking to everyone and anyone. When he noticed us, his face lit up and he immediately started to introduce us to everyone and tried to give us stuff off the tables. He practically forced the pretzel guy to hand over his goods. He was so generous with me. When I was a child, he would never come with 1 present - it had to be a dozen or it just didn't seem like enough to him. I wish I was more generous of spirit. It's a lesson I'm managing to miss more often than not.

He also taught me in an unintentional way to be very open and accepting of people. I always hated how he seemed to be a real life parody of Archie Bunker and even at a very young age, I can remember rejecting that perspective. It's funny (and a little sad) that this was so. But it was what it was - and in the end, I'm better off for it.

I am sure the fog will lift eventually and life will go back to the daily grind, the rush and blogging, twittering and work. For now though, I just feel like sitting quietly by myself.

The post where I briefly return to non-profit marketing...

If you like Seth Godin and/or are interested in non-profit marketing, check out this online chat from the Chronicle.

My favorite question and answer:

Question from Tennessee Nonprofit:
Are brochures dead?

Seth Godin:
and buried

Queue the looney tunes music...that's all folks...

Clay Shirky: Where Do They Find The Time?

This video is stunningly good and thoughtful. Enjoy.

Anyone who seriously and academically claims that the sitcom is social lubricant under which the the wheels came off the enterprise (i.e. society) must be reposted as much as possible.

Makes me feel better for being such a d0rk.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

UPDATED: How Does "Social Technology" Affect Business?

I was going to leave myself a comment, but instead opted to update this post (updated 5/21/08)

The panel went really well - but I changed some of the content as I was taking the train down to the city from Bridgeport. I ended up going with 4 broad trends or factors that are driving the use of social networking and tools within the enterprise.

1. Consumers technology is invading the enterprise
2. Employees have an insatiable need for data, self-service tools and the ability to collaborate
3. Technology is fundamentally driving innovation
4. Generational shift

I think it went well and I hope to re-post video once it is available.

Here's the original, unchanged post:

As I mentioned in my previous post and on Twitter, I'm doing a panel this Friday at NYU. I'm on what looks to be a terrific panel titled "The Digital Future: What Social Networking and Marketing Tools Mean for Businesses and Entrepreneurs."

I'm guessing that my take will be slightly different than my fellow panelists, I'm assuming they'll be talking about the consumer space being from big agencies, and MTV. My focus is, and latest interest is looking at how social networking and marketing tools mean inside the firewall. It's a different spin, and one ripe for a lot more exploration and attention.

I've spent some of my day today going over what I'm going to say regarding this topic and have come up with some key points. Let me know what you think.

1. Consumers and web technologies are quickly and powerfully spilling over into the enterprise
Stories in Business Week about Apple's invasion of the enterprise is just the latest, but think back for a moment the last time that you took a new job. I always have that scary moment when I think, "oh man, I hope they aren't blocking IM, Youtube or Facebook." Not because I want to fool around, but because those tools and sites are critical to keeping me connected to my network and to the information I need as a marketer to get my work done. The iPhone is just the latest consumer technology to come knocking on IT and the enterprise door, and this time, consumer adoption is all but forcing a reaction from IT departments. Businesses can no longer afford not to let these tools and technologies inside - if for nothing else, employee mutiny (and illicit workarounds and/or hacks).

2. Insatiable need to access data, self-service and to collaborate with each other
Business Intelligence, dashboards and metrics; can you imagine running a business without these? It wasn't so long ago that deploying these types of system were either too complex or too expensive. Not so any more and not because it's suddenly cheap to develop a BI solution. Employees and their managers have an unquenchable thirst for data these days and it's a trend that is most certainly accelerating.

Meanwhile, self-service is a hallmark of the "new web" and is something that is easy to take for granted. It was just 6 years ago when I had my first non-profit job and was told there was no way in the world that we'd allow donors to manage their own data on a web site. How quaint!

As for collaboration, I read today that Wetpaint is growing like mad and has something like 900,000 wikis. That's a lot of "wiki" going on in a world where I'm guessing not so many of your managers or executives have ever even heard that term.

3. Technology is driving innovation
How dare a marketing guy make such a statement! At least I put it at #3! Seriously though, this one is simple and easy to see. Advances in technology combined with ever more savvy users is driving innovation at astounding rates. This applies across the board in both the enterprise and consumer spaces and is just amazing. The coolest thing you saw 6 months ago is old hat by now.

4. Within the enterprise, social technology is forcing enterprise IT departments to deploy ever more flexible, scalable and complex systems that put people at the core, not systems
As I was thinking about this panel and talking with friends about this issue it struck me that "social networking" or the broader "social systems" within an enterprise isn't what has changed. Organizations have always had complex social systems but have never had tools and technologies that have laid them bare for all to see. This exposure is forcing IT and enterprises to think about these previously hidden hierarchies and relationships. What consumer applications like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have done is to put people at the core and circle everything else around them. I remember a time not so long ago when IT systems were about data and processes and completely ignored users, profiles, collaboration and reputation.

That's what I have for now... thoughts?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Panel Time..."A Look to the Future"

I'm doing a panel this Friday in NYC - my first as an official Microsoft employee. It should be interesting. Learn more about the event here and the speakers here.

Following the great success of NYU Stern’s Florence 2007: Global Alumni Conference, we are pleased to present our first campus-based conference, New York 2008: Alumni Business Conference – A Look to the Future. Join fellow alumni and guests to hear from industry leaders and scholars on current market issues on financial risk, investing, entrepreneurship, marketing, digital media, and social networking. Dean Thomas F. Cooley and Aswath Damodaran, Professor of Finance, will provide keynote remarks, while Ed Altman, Max L. Heine Professor of Finance, and Mark Tercek, Adjunct Professor at NYU Stern and Director of Goldman Sachs' Environmental Markets Initiative, among others, offer their expertise in the breakout sessions.

Social Technographics

Originally uploaded by msirkin
I'm reading a great new book called "Groundswell" that is really helping me frame out what's next for the CIO Network I'm trying to build out. This chart clearly shows that if we lean on "creators," those that create unique content within the site we're going to have issues. Instead, we're focusing on how to drive spectators up the ladder, perhaps with polls, and other "frictionless" ways to rate content and participate on the site.

It's interesting to play with their profile tool and map out different ages and locations to see how different strategic approaches might work (or not work).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rare Example of Great Marketing

Great marketing can seem so simple at times. Turning mistakes into big wins seems to me to be the easiest way to impress customers these days (not that you want to make mistakes in the first place).

I got Guitar Hero for the Wii a few months ago - and found out that the disc needed to be replaced because the original didn't have the proper sound capabilities. I filled out a web form and received a self-mailer that had shipping already paid. The note from Activision said a disc replacement would come in 4-6 weeks. Just before we went on vacation, I dropped the disc into the mail and hoped that it wouldn't disappear forever.

About 3 weeks later, I got an automated e-mail telling me that they had received the disc and were processing it. 2 days later, I got a note that it had shipped. Exactly 5 weeks from the day I dropped the disc in the mail, I had a replacement disc, as promised.

A week later, while I was away on a business trip my wife called and told me I had a box from "Red Octane." I had no idea what it was and asked her to open it. To my surprise, the box contained a sweet Guitar Hero faceplate. How cool. I'd never buy myself one of these, but always wanted one - it's like they knew!

Call me impressed. That's one solid way to bring a smile to a customers face and build a brand. As a bonus, my 8 year old flipped out and did her best rockin guitar hero impression after she saw the new guitar.

The lessons for marketers:
  • Admit your mistakes publicly and move to make them right
  • Under promise and over deliver
  • Suprise and delight

Friday, May 2, 2008

Twitter Is Killing My Will to Blog

I'm so used to posting short snippets on twitter here and here, that I just can't find the strength to write a blog post with any substance.

I'm knee deep in building out my new project and getting acclimated to Microsoft. What an amazing company. It's great to be up to my ears in community building again. Much better than what I was doing before, that's for sure.

There seems to be a fire hose of marketing blogs, Facebook analysis and stuff lately flowing at me - I'm about to declare RSS bankruptcy!

Seriously though, doesn't any of this Web 2.0 stuff feel like a retread, just a little? The hype-o-meter is seriously pegged as high as it can go right now. Wasn't it just a year or so ago when virtual worlds was all the hype? Go on - comment away about how this is sooooo different. I dare ya.

Headed to Seattle next week for another week in Redmond, and after that I'm back in CT for a bit until heading to Boston, then Ft. Lauderdale for some CIO conferences and such.