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On Asking Questions

April 1, 2009

One of the hallmarks of social media is that whenever a brand talks about adopting a strategy the first thing they are told is that they need to ask questions. That this is a space that requires genuine engagement. People may be open to your product but you have to be invited into that space.

Asking questions implies that you don’t have the answers to everything. There is humility in asking questions and that is what is so humanizing about social media for a brand. Not only can they provide their service and have a core message like they always have, but they can engage their customers on a one to one level and form a deeper relationship that can lead to more meaningful feedback. The danger with this is that the consumers who you form the relationship run the risk of going native. They can drink the kool-aid just as easily as you can inside the company. That is why it is always important to continuously by reaching out to the community in hopes of generating valuable feedback.

The point of being in these spaces shouldn’t being moving product, but in finding out how you can serve your customers better. These spaces provide opportunities for outreach and feedback that can be surprisingly valuable and meaningful. The potential customer can feel safe communicating with you because they aren’t on your territory. You are on theirs. In the end they hold the power and I believe this is what makes the space so frightening to so many brands.

Not to go to upper level, but this makes me think of the political theory class I took in college. We talked about the idea of the sovereign. That is who controls the power in a society. The idea is that the king might be the sovereign, but is he really. At any time the people could revolt and exercise their authority as the sovereign. That debate aside, I believe most brands have thought of themselves as being the ones who wielded the power when in reality they were only allowed control of conversation because of the tools at hand. It was easier to allow them to have the voice. To communicate to a large group of people required great sums of money, but now it does not.

Can brands create and participate in genuine conversations? Are they willing to change their ways when the conversation goes in a direction that is not positive? Should they?


On Spec Work

March 31, 2009

While I was at SXSW one of the best panels that I went to was about whether or not spec work was evil. The members of the panel included Mike Samson of, David Carson of davidcarsondesign, Lydia Mann of AIGA, Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine, Jeffrey Kalmikoff of skinnyCorp/Threadless, and Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester. This panel got me thinking about how democratizing the internet is.

David Carson was definitely not in a friendly room. Jeremiah Owyang and Mike Samson played the part of the David to Carson’s and Kalmikoff’s Goliath. The interesting takeaway from this panel was that everyone seemed to be missing the point.

Carson is afraid that allowing multiple amateur designers to submit work for a single contract with no promise of pay is demeaning to the graphic design industry as a whole. I think he took a very strong position. I think this is a situation where there is a need and it is being met. The people who use are going to be small business owners who may not have to budget to use a major design house or ad agency to help them brand their company.

Even that last paragraph I think is useless. This is not a discussion that even needs to be had. Because there is a website successfully acting as a medium between content creators and content consumers that says that there was a need that was previously not being met. The argument posed by Carson about art of quality doesn’t matter. For art will always be judged by the consumer. The critic can do a great thing in describing what is going on, but at the end of the day just because a critics training gives him greater insight in his evaluation that does not make his opinion more valuable. In some cases it should be given more weight, but just because one person can only say they like something and can’t tell you why and a critic can given you ten pages why at the end of the day what matters is that the art was enjoyed. It served its purpose.

If there is graphic design work that is being done and the customers are happy with it then I see no problem. Some consumers will not want to go through the trouble of culling through submissions and will pay for a professional to provide quality quickly. When a professional is sought out the point of the purchase is that you are paying for not spending some of your own time on the matter.

Television and The Internet

March 30, 2009

There is a lot of talk on the internet about how to monetize each medium. Most of the articles published talk about the falling revenue from advertising online due to the recession. The internet is a scary place for advertising dollars. You throw money at it and then magically people are supposed to see your ad and remember your brand. You hope and pray that they do and the tools that you have to measure the engagement are crude at best.

What is an impression worth on the internet? I can say that my advertisement was shown on 5 million pages on Facebook, but if my website only shows ten thousands clickthroughs was the ad really worth it? It is hard to say, it depends on both your company and what you wanted to get out of the Facebook advertisement.

I consider myself to be in a minority as I do not currently own a TV, and there are shows that I like, but that I am able to watch them in some form or another online. When I view a video online I am usually subjected to one advertiser, and they have, up to this point, been exclusively national brands. Whatever ad I am being forced to watch is usually able to make a stronger impression than if I had regularly been watching TV because it doesn’t have to compete with 4-5 other commercials. In that sense I would say that the ad should cost more per view. This is not the case online advertising costs less than traditional marketing.

The thing about the internet that excites me is that it is not tied to a clock and it does not need to be. Currently TV is tied to a schedule and if you missed a show then you were out of luck, but because the cost of storing content online is so low a show can be immediately placed there for consumption whenever it is convenient for you. This is a problem because traditionally a show was able to be profitible from syndication years after its original run was over and now this has effectively been taken away.

The thing that excites me about content delivery online is that if done correctly an advertiser can show their ad to fewer people and with greater efficacy. As we move closer to having online identities that are able to travel across the web we will have a permanent record that will create more direct advertising. For many this is a worst case scenario, but is it? What if the only ads you saw where the ones that were relevant to your life? I am in my twenties and a male. I am constantly being shown ads for feminine products and for the jitterbug cellphone designed for the elderly who want a cellphone but don’t want a cell phone. Like most I tune out when this type of ad turns on, but what if my overall advertising experience could be improved by only showing me relevant content. This would require incredible amounts of information and analysis of that information, but I think that day is coming.

I understand that there is a symbiotic relationship between entertainment and advertisers. The entertainers want to entertain and to really do it proper they need some money, and advertisers represent some really great products and need people to know about them. We can’t know about them unless we are told. Yes, a content provider could provide a subscription service to cut the advertiser out, but I for one am fine with subsidizing my entertainment in this manner.

The point of all of this, is that I feel like the internet can provide more effective advertising and that the current providers of quality content are wary of changing their business model before they have to. For now the television industry can continue as it has, but it could find itself in the same position as the music industry very soon. Why not embrace experimentation and find a way to make more money on the internet off your content than you could on traditional broadcast methods?

On Contact

February 11, 2009

I am watching Frost/Nixon and I did not know that Diane Sawyer helped write Nixon’s memoirs. Pretty Cool.  I thought why not send her an email and ask a few questions about that. Wrong. I cannot find any, even a token, form of contact information for her. I have emailed various celebrities to no avail, but at least I had the option to.

Anyway, this got me to thinking about how the internet has given us the great option to be able to have personal contact with anyone who is open to it. Scott Monty, of Ford, had a much tweeted about impromtu Q&A with Ford’s CEO, the CEO of Zappos is able to be tweeted @ whenever you want, and so many others. The point is that these people are people who people want to talk to. They are celebrities and whether it is just the bragging rights of having exchanged a word, or the added credibility to their own efforts they will always be sought after by, well, everyone with a few spare minutes. Most people assume that trying to contact a celebrity is a lost cause and I tend to agree, but not as much as I used to.

Ten years ago, a response required writing and sending a letter, and this took time. Now, an email is easy to send and composing and a tweet or whatever is even easier. I am coming to believe that the thing that is going to seperate now from the past is the ability to correspond with anyone. As the ease of contact continues to increase people will take advantage and those who are in demand are then in a position to ignore or respond. This all really doesn’t mean anything, except that I hope that people will be more open and that everyone who never gets their 15 minutes will be able to at least have a moment to converse with those who have either had or are having theirs.

Unrelated: I saw Andrew Bird for free and got a poster signed by him. Go listen to him.

Advertising Commentary

February 5, 2009

Yesterday and Today I received direct mailings from both Time Warner and AT&T in an effort to choose one of them for my cable services. I have no cable services at the moment and find that with an ounce of patience all the content I desire can be found online in some form or fashion. Regardless, I feel the need to highlight one very good piece of advertising and one very average piece that on it’s own would have been innocuous but when placed next to the other is revealed as being quite lame.

First. The Time Warner Effort.

Wonderful. You provide television. The day before however I was surprised to find what looked like a birthday or thank you card in the mail.

The AT&T Effort


AT&T paid hallmark to come up with this card. I was so confused and the personal touches were appreciated. I have not been moved to get a new content provider, but if I were to decide I would probably go with AT&T. The beauty of the advert is that it doesn’t even say what the service costs! It just convinced me that this is the service I need. I need the service from the people who send me form hallmark cards because it’s better than the usual space filler found in a mail box. I even had to go through the trouble of taking it out of the envelope, only because I wanted to know who was sending me a card from a strange address.

In summary: props to AT&T and Time Warner well there isn’t much to say about you.

Getting A Job: The Old Fashioned Way

January 29, 2009

I thought I should share a little about my career path. I am a recent college graduate and just got my first real job. If you had told me how I would get this job I would have laughed at you while I was in school.

Last fall in September I entered a competition to become a spokesperson for Young Free Texas. They offered a job for a year and some really cool swag. I figured at the very least if I could win it would buy me a year to find something more concrete. Well, on a whim I entered and found out a few weeks later that I had made the final 3. For two weeks I campaigned and ended up losing, but was offered a job with the company holding the competition. The whole experience had turned into a two week interview and I am now their online community coordinator.

This is an amazing job, and I enjoy going to work everyday. I am exploring a completely new field and trying to figure out how to best help my company interact with members online. The point of this story is to say that you never know where or how you might find your next job. In this economy everyone talks about how there is nothing out there, but at the same time you have to take risks and go out on a limb.

I applied for a job that I didn’t think I would get. I had no idea how I would do in a competition. It turns out not very well, but it still worked out for me. So in these trying times stick to the tried and true formulas to get a job, but also don’t be afraid to click on those links you see next to your facebook talking about how to get a dream job. (That’s actually how I found out about the competition.) So if you are a recent graduate or recently laid off I would say try anything and be willing to be yourself out there. I had six months of failed attempts, but when one of my crazier efforts paid off. It paid off in a big way.