As technology improves, are our devices sneaking up on us?

Are our devices getting closer and closer?

Isn’t it a little strange that as technology advances, the distance between our eyes and the particular device we’re using is getting shorter and shorter? The humble TV is kept safely across the room. The laptop lives within arm’s length. Tablets and phones are now within one foot. What’s next? Google Glasses puts information within an inch from our eyes. If you are paying attention to thin display improvements, researchers Ghent University as put an LCD display on a contact lens. Next up? Ocular implants?

SoLoMo is like planning a rocking party.

On October 25, 2012 I was honored to be part of a panel discussing strategies in SoLoMo, the intersection of all things Social, Mobile and Local, at the J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas, NV. The purpose of the panel was to encourage companies to not think of social or mobile endeavors as separate initiatives, but rather as a “total package” for effective marketing. What does this mean? How about first we plan a big party.

Social: Do you have friends who like you?

The generally accepted prerequisite to throw a party would be to have people who like you and others you know. This is accomplished by being personable, sharing interesting stories, and engaging in those who speak to you. Now put this in marketing terms. While some advertisers will have you believe Facebook and Twitter are great for broadcasting to a large audience, the real power lies in developing highly engaged communities around your product, service or brand. You would manage your community like you treat your friends:

  1. Be genuine in what you say (I call this a company’s “Voice“).
  2. Have “Value” in what you say (maybe it is something humorous or information that’s timely or new).
  3. Share your content regularly and respond to community discussions immediately, much the same way you’d respond to a friend’s text or email promptly (I refer to this as “Visibility“).

Voice, Value, and Visibility. Do these three things and hopefully you’ll have a pool of friends who will at least consider an invitation to your party. But what will really convince them to come?

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HTML5: The Web App Promise Land?

HTML5 leading us to the promise land.

We’ve heard a lot about all the fantastic things HTML5 can and will do. But its most intriguing promise is to completely disrupt the world of apps that you download to your phone. The same smooth user experience that you experience (with all the cool buttons, sounds, music, motion, pictures, etc) on your favorite app from the App Store or Google Play will eventually be brought to the humble web browser, instantly. But there are many challenges that need to be dealt with first.

I’m going to use phrases like “native apps” and “web apps” quite a bit, so let me define these terms here. A “native app” is what you download from an app store that stores data within the app, manipulates that data within the confines of that app, and utilizes many of the phone’s other functions that is allowed by the respective operating systems. Games (like Angry Birds) and photo apps (like Instagram) are perfect examples. Instagram uses the phone’s camera to take pictures and its own software to add filters or effects.

A “web app” by contrast is more like a shell of a native app, but really encases a lot of web-based data. Think of it like a fancy web browser that only shows one web page. Apps for Facebook or LinkedIn are perfect examples. Other than the camera feature, you can access all aspects of these two sites from the mobile browser (like iOS Safari or the Android browser).

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Unfriend your best friends to save your friendship.

Image courtesy of Flickr user B Tal.

Here’s an idea my wife suggested: Go through your friend list on Facebook and Twitter. Select the ones you get along with the best (the ones you consider close friends, confidants, etc). Then unfriend them. Stop following them. That’s it. Sound crazy? Why would you do such a thing? Because Facebook and Twitter may have warped our perception of “closeness” of friends. The constant stream of updates from our friends saturate our brain. We experience the daily events of everyone, regardless how close or distant we are, at the same “volume”. Things get worse when mere acquaintances post far more frequently than our best friends. These close relationships get pushed aside to make room for noise of all the other people we “friend”. Why is this? Because unlike our social media outlets, our brains have a finite capacity for simultaneous connections. It’s called the Dunbar Number.

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“I like jazz, but don’t want a trumpet,” and other Facebook advertising woes.

Image courtesy of
Flickr user Ed Yourdon.

Facebook, I really want to spend money on you. Unfortunately your native ad management platform is limited. It is very hard to determine how well those ads will perform without the use of third party tools or vendors. Unlike Google Adwords or Bing, companies (small and large) have approached Facebook advertising with some trepidation.

The problem is two fold:

Facebook advertising = miniature billboards.

Advertising on any social media outlet is akin to billboards you see on a busy highway. Your focus is on avoiding crazy drivers,  listening to music, or chatting with your friend (hands-free of course). By chance something flashy or weird catches your attention. It could be one of those sign twirling guys or a billboard. There’s an even slimmer chance the ad actually relates to you. Now imaging instead of driving, you’re on Facebook or Twitter. You’re more concerned about reading posts from friends or responding to comments on your recently uploaded pictures. Just by chance, an ad about cheap scuba gear (because you’ve “liked scuba”) on the right side catches our attention. Maybe you’ll click, maybe you won’t.

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“Your company sucks!” How to turn negative customer comments into something positive.

One angry customer.

Image courtesy of
Flickr user GregPC

Merely acknowledging negative customer comments about your company on social media can do just as much good as resolving their issue – and far greater good than doing nothing at all.

We’re seeing more companies become comfortable in utilizing social media as a too for customer service. Some simply use their company’s Facebook Wall to respond to posts. Others use third party apps like Get Satisfaction or UserVoice to manage the conversation. It certainly takes guts to add this level of transparency to your company’s operations, which is why I feel more (if not every) company who holds customer service in high regard should have some modest level of social media presence. But many don’t, and the #1 reason from management seems to be “I don’t want customers to write nasty things about us.” Or taken another way, “I’m not going to launch a tool just so everyone can bitch about us.”

I’ll admit that there is a subset of your customer base that will never be happy, regardless how much you try. However, I’ve experienced that most customers are surprised, maybe even delighted, that they simply received a prompt yet brief personalized message from a company saying, “I’m sorry.” This does wonders to a company’s social image and brand. But why?

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