Blog : Facebook

Exposure will kill you

exposure will kill you

Serendipity just brought together two great points that will make any social media marketer think.

Electronista wrote about a report signifying a new trend among record labels: opting out of new subscription based services such as Rdio and Spotify. Long story short, a lot of plays is not being correlated with a lot of revenue. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

My friend Paul from Black Lab (a great Indie rock band) recently wrote a post that sums up his arguments as to why the band’s music wouldn’t be available on Spotify. Once again – getting paid is important. Money lets you feed a family and have a roof over your head.

Then I saw a retweet from @FauxMusicSupe (a parody music supervisor account) that summed it all up. In this brave new world, where marketing metrics are indeed shifting, sometimes exposure is getting too much credit. Too much exposure, without actual business goals being achieved might fool you for awhile, but eventually it will kill you. You can’t eat air.

How are you capitalizing on exposure to actually make money?

The customer is always active

Welcome - the key is under the mat

With all of the digital tools at our fingertips, the field of Customer Relationship Management is exploding. Whether you’re talking about email marketing, social media, or cloud-based database systems, the value of relationships is sure to be at the forefront of the conversation.

I had two encounters recently, that clearly illustrate an interesting concept in relationship management. Both situations involved businesses that were very non-technical by nature; medical, in one instance, and brick-and-mortar retail in the other.

Situation A

Last year, I visited a local dental surgeon for an assessment about a fairly major (but optional) procedure. I was impressed with the home-like atmosphere of the clinic, the friendly faces, the smiles and comforting assurance.

After two visits, I was left with an armful of pamphlets, a medical insurance quote, and a major decision to make. I decided that, although the procedure was something I wanted to pursue someday, the timing wasn’t quite right.

During the last 12 months, the thought bubbled up from time to time. I read online forums, I spoke to others who have been in my spot. I’ve even mentioned it during several speaking engagements. For a big ticket purchase, I was exhibiting behaviour that I would imagine is typical for the buying cycle: I was taking my time.

Last week, I decided it was time to move ahead. This morning, I dialed the phone, feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement.

The receptionist took my name and paused. She broke a long silence with an unexpected response. We’ve marked your status as inactive – I’ll have to have someone dig up your record and get back to you later this week.

Situation B

I visited a local retail store five months ago, looking to make a fairly substantial purchase – not nearly on the scale of dental surgery in terms of cost or consequence; but still fairly expensive. The owner struck up a conversation, explaining the story of their family business. He gave me a card, took my name, and shook my hand. There were no comfy couches or crackling fireplaces, but the authenticity of the conversation achieved the same sense of comfort and familiarity I had felt in the aforementioned clinic.

I’m sure my name was never entered into a database.

I didn’t make a purchase that day, either. I chose something else, somewhere else and he never heard from me again.

Recently, I wandered back into the store. The conversation picked up where we had left off, many months ago. He knew my name, and he recognized that I had chosen to shop elsewhere after our first interaction. No problem – I’m so glad that gift worked out. I have a few things that I think you’ll love… let me show you.

Your customer owns the relationship

No matter how shiny or fancy your database might be, you never actually own any relationship. Any status you apply to a customer is ultimately just your best guess of their future actions; not a reflection of their true state.

It’s an odd juxtaposition: As technology has advanced for businesses to manage relationships, that same technology has put more power in the hands of the consumer; weakening any “ownership” that the business may have once had.

Your old signals might be broken

Once upon a time, a customer had to rely on the business for all information and consultation prior to taking the next step. Status was quite simple – the business owned the funnel, and could count the customers they had traipsing along the pipeline.

The game is different now, and the pipeline is full of holes. Your customer can look up any technical specs, access reviews, and comparison shop from the palm of their hand – on their own terms. Traditional signals of “inactivity” (aka: we haven’t heard from them in awhile) might not apply anymore.

Look for new signals

This is where our shiny new tools can come in handy. What’s the ROI of Facebook “Like”, Twitter Follow or Email subscriber? So often, people stumble here, debating dollar values. These asymmetrical, loose-tie relationships represent a juicy middle ground between the on-or-off customer status that businesses might have applied in the past. They symbolize I’m still here, just not quite ready. They allow you continue to educate. They also allow you to note new changes in a potential customer’s life; data that could very easily be factored back into a database system client status.

How are you equipping your potential customers to keep you on their radar? Do you have a communication plan for loose-tie connections, beyond “add them to email blasts?”. Be honest.

Open your arms for inactives

No one likes to walk into a room where no one knows their name. We like to fit in.

Perhaps, a less comfortable sensation is the thought that the room of people who once knew you might have forgotten you exist. We like to be memorable.

While Pareto might espouse the value of focusing on your top 20% of customers, you also need to pay close attention to those who might seem to be “inactive”. These represent relationships that are hanging on by a thread.

How do you welcome them back?

How do you ensure that they don’t feel like outsiders?

How do you make the next conversation feel like home?

Photo credit: alborzshawn

Where’s the manual for always on?

When I started high school, I didn’t know how to touch-type. I hunted and pecked my way around the keyboard in a way that would be embarrassing to see now. In 9th grade, as part of a business curriculum, my fingers were introduced to the home row and with daily assignments, testing and refinement, I was soon able to type “properly”.

It wasn’t until a year later, when I discovered online communication worlds of iCQ and IRC that I put in enough practice to truly become proficient at putting words on a screen – but I was able to do so because the basics were in place. My formal education had provided me with the fundamental skills that I could then burn into memory through real-world practice.

They don’t teach typing anymore

Have a look at the high school curriculum these days, and you won’t find the basic typing requirement that existed 10 years ago. A new generation of young people has grown up with keyboards at their fingertips; we don’t need to teach them what they already know. In fact, I’m certain that many 6th graders can type faster with their thumbs than my teacher could with all ten digits.

Curriculums have been adjusted to meet the new reality of their students. But have they gone far enough?

Swimming in information

Just as they were in 1995, students of 2010 are facing a major technological hurdle. However, I’m not sure this situation is being taken as seriously as it should by our education systems.

I was prepared for a world of word processing and digital literacy; given a boat and a paddle so I could get where I needed to go when bits and bytes are concerned.

That slow stream of bits and bytes, available when necessary, has given way to a raging flow of information, from which it is impossible to escape. Think of the number of channels in which information is constantly entering into your conscience. An email inbox alone is often deep enough to drown in. Add in your web browser, Twitter account, Facebook friends and a glowing iPhone, and you quickly see that if you manage to survive email, your world is quickly flooded again.

Students leaving formal education now must be able to swim in the middle of the ocean while sitting underneath a waterfall.

….But at least they can type.

Learning to swim

There are a lot of ideas floating around about how our education system needs to change to meet the new realities of our society. Seth Godin and CC Chapman have both expressed concerns and suggestions for changing how we teach and what we prepare our young people for.

I propose we start with a single course: Organizing your digital world.

• Teach people how to absorb information once it reaches their personal space
• How to survive in a world of constant interruption
• How to manage your inbox and multiple social networks
• How to take the most important information out of a message and determine appropriate next steps; separating the signal from the noise.
• Basic project management
• How to turn it all off and escape (this could be the most important skill of all)

Education happens everywhere

If this is the single most important skill that someone can learn in order to thrive in our digital world, why should we restrict it to schools?

Here are three ways to start:

  • Business leaders should stop sharing best practices about how to block access to information in the workplace, and instead invest in their employees and include coping strategies as mandatory training. The improved productivity will more than pay for itself.
  • Teachers should propose new courses and push for change (I’ve been there, I know how difficult this is). Host a workshop for colleagues at your next professional development day.
  • You (yes, you) can start right now. Leverage the information that you have access to. Watch Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero. Read Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits or David Allen’s GTD. Find a workshop and invest in yourself.

When you get organized, a funny thing will happen: those around you will notice. As they’re thrashing around trying to stay afloat, they’ll see you meditating under the waterfall. And they’ll ask you how you do it. Teach them.

Here’s your chance to share – what skills/tools/rules have you used to survive in the age of always on information?

What’s in a name?

The Beatles autographs

When I was younger, I wrote a lot of letters. Most of them were to professional athletes. The pattern was always the same: Write a letter, stuff a baseball card or photo into the envelope, send it and wait. I was after one thing: a signature.

The majority of those envelopes were met with silence. But some came back, with a name scrawled in glorious black ink across the image. What was once a piece of cardboard was now a work of art; its signatory transformed from an athlete into an idol.

What’s in a name?

What is an autograph? Why do we place such value on the signing of a name?

It’s not the scribble of a sharpie on the photo that instantly multiplies its value. Nor is it the signature, the shape of the words, or the style of the writing. In fact, if someone else were to make the exact same marking, with the exact same marker, the photo would be defaced and plummet in value.


The value of the autograph is not in the signature, the photo, or the marker. The gold comes from the fact that someone paid enough attention to participate in an experience.

While we’re on this philosophical trip, let’s take this a bit further…

You can’t duplicate authenticity

What if we wanted to duplicate our prized signed photo? Fire up the photocopiers and produce an identical clone. This one is easy and obvious – the copy is completely devoid of all value.

Yet if our super famous celebrity signed two identical photos, each is granted the hallowed magical status.


Collectors refer to this as authenticity. You can’t photocopy attention, you can’t duplicate a moment. The interactions have to be unique.

The moral of the story

All of the fuss that we make about autographs boils down to this:

We place incredible value on authentically unique moments of attention paid by individuals of perceived importance.

The value is entirely in the interaction. The actual signature simply serves as proof that it occurred.

Put your signature to work

Here are some thoughts on how to apply this to your business:

We’re all stars, sometimes. You don’t have to make movies or sing pop songs to be important. In the time of need… at the point of sale…in moments of confusion, your importance skyrockets. To someone whose cable was broken, Frank Eliason might as well have been a super hero.

Be on high alert – Keep your eyes and ears open for moments where your attention can increase your value. Twitter search and google alerts get all the fame these days – but giving people attention is equally valuable in your store or on the street.

Sign authentically. Every time - People can detect a fraud from a mile away. Even if you’re answering the same question for the hundredth time, don’t hand out photocopies. Value requires authenticity. Blue Sky Factory does a great job creating authentic customer experiences.

Grow more armsChris Brogan talks about growing bigger ears. But that’s only half of the equation. Signing autographs all day long takes energy. It takes strength. It takes time. To finish the play authentically, as the number of potential interactions increase, organizations have to grow more arms.

How much time and money is your organization spending on becoming famous?

Are you putting an equal amount of thought into what is happens when you get there?

Architects, Carpenters and Hammer Swingers

Hammers are great tools. There’s something satisfying about a nice sharp nail sinking into wood. That’s the great thing about hammers – repetitive simplicity, with great results: as long as you swing hard enough, you’ll accomplish your goal every time. Wonderfully, mindless work. Swing after swing after swing.

Until you encounter a nail that’s not so straight, a board that’s not so true, or, worst of all; something that a nail can’t fix.


Carpenters can do more than swing hammers. There’s something satisfying about wearing a belt full of tools, and knowing you can build big things according to plan. That’s the great thing about carpenters – give them a map and the necessary materials, and they’ll transform a blueprint into a palace. Wonderfully capable workers. Blueprint after blueprint after blueprint.

Until you need some extra rooms, find a flaw in the plan, or worst of all, run out of blueprints entirely.


Architects can do more than follow directions. There’s something satisfying about the confidence of solving new problems, strategically sketching and considering different ways of doing things. That’s the great thing about architects – give them a blank canvas and a goal, and they’ll take care of the rest. Wonderfully strategic work. Solution after solution after solution.

Who are you?

Being a hammer-swinger is as easy as falling in love with Foursquare, Twitter or Facebook. Hammer swingers close their eyes and swing their favourite tool at every problem. Understandably, these folks produce as many holes in walls as they do homeruns.

Being a carpenter is more difficult. When presented with a plan, you use your well worn tool belt to tackle the plans placed in front of you.

Being an architect allows you to solve new problems, define objectives and map strategies. We desperately need more architects, if we’re ever going to drown out the sounds of all the banging hammers.

Are you swinging hammers, using tools, or building maps? Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum, what are you doing to hone your craft?

Keep it simple, but not stupid

People hate complexity. When things get complicated its harder to make decisions, and easier to get frustrated. As an interface designer, your mantra should always be: simplify.

But don’t make it too simple

Have a look at the screenshot above. This is the new Facebook interface for creating events, which has been streamlined from previous versions. They’ve turned the date selection tool into a neat little jquery calendar pop-up, which is a huge improvement.

They’ve also changed the way that users select the time for their event. Simpler to look at than it used to be? Definitely.

Does it help me create and event that starts at 12:15pm? Definitely not.

How to be simple and smart at the same time

Obviously, Facebook has created a problem for me as a user. This is a particularly sticky problem, since events are often created to be used as part of advertising campaigns (using the Event Ad Unit), meaning they have potentially put a barrier between themselves and people willing to give them money… always a bad thing.

Some considerations to keep in mind, to ensure that your interface is simple, but not dumb:

  • Test in advance – As Facebook often does, roll out your new interface to a sample audience in order to get a sense for how it will work in the real world with real data. Segment out 10% of your traffic, show them the new toys. Watch and learn. Consider differences between new users and returning longtime users of social sites.
  • Get Feedback – When you launch a new feature, make a clear “feedback” element on the page – allowing people to let you know where they find spots that might need a bit of tweaking. You’ll often catch the little bugs this way.
  • Use previous data – Maybe this was taken into account, its hard to say. But if you have past records of how the element was used (databases of registrations etc), have a look to see what types of information people are putting in. I’ve created hundreds of events beginning on the quarter hour – and I’m willing to bet others have too.
  • Consider context – Think about events and what goes into creating them. People need to be invited, schedules need to be coordinated, venues need to be booked. The more branches there are in the problem, the more flexible the interface should be for fine tuning. Think you can convince a venue to adopt “Facebook time zones”? Think again.
  • Provide a work-around – Make the most obvious navigation as simple as possible, but if there is potential for wiggle room around it, give more options. A simple option to “customize time” within or next to the select menu would give us the best of both worlds.

The Like Button Makes You Better

Since Facebook unveiled their new Like Button and associated social plugins several weeks ago at their F8 Conference, they’ve been the talk of the social media town.

In efforts to leverage the social tidal wave of Facebook recommendations, more than 100,000 sites have installed these plugins in the short time that they have been available.

Just another toolbar

Appending social voting and recommendation systems to web content is hardly a new concept. Digg buttons and sharing toolbars are so common on blog posts that they are for the most part ignored (when was the last time you used share-this?). Apart from the shiny Facebook association, what makes the Like button any different?

The most obvious differentiator is scale. While Digg might do 40 million unique visitors per month, and Twitter boasts 100 million (total – not active) users, Facebook welcomes 200 million of their nearly half-billion users to their site daily. While the other social plugins might cater to the social media crowd, the Like button applies to everyone.

The fact that the social graph has been opened up to shape experiences on sites outside of Facebook also changes the game. One visit to while logged into facebook will show you how the recommendations of your friends can (and will) shape your media consumption across the web as this feature gains more traction.

Why should we like you?

This is the critical factor; the most important question that should be in your mind. Before you jump on the bandwagon and install plugins all over your site, before you jump into debates about Facebook’s rollercoaster ride of a privacy policy… understand that the debate and hype surrounding the Like button is actually a blessing in disguise.

Ask yourself a simple question… and then share this question with others in your organization…

What do we do that is likeable?

The terminology is beautiful. It’s not masked in a silly tech-jargon, and it doesn’t feel like it’s relegated for a weird tribe of uber-social web folk. A simple question to repeat in your mind as you peruse your web presence and the information and face that you show to the world.

Why didn’t we do this sooner?

Why do you publish content to the web in the first place? You’re trying to impress someone, inspire someone, communicate something of value to an audience and convince them to take action. That’s what marketing is, right?

Until now, how often did you ask yourself “will our audience like this?”

Probably not very often. Marketing folks typically pass copy around the office and ensure that it says the right stuff… in the right way… to ensure that the right message is conveyed. In other words, it is written in a way that the marketer likes it.

And so we produce brochure-ware spec sheets and organization-speak writing. Videos are uninspired and convey the company line and photos are staged, stock or impossibly perfect.

Take inventory of your current communications and ask yourself (as a customer): “Do I like this?” or do I read it because I have to?

For all of the content that feels uninspiring, think about creative ways of conveying the same message in a way that might make it more likeable, more entertaining or more useful. This isn’t possible for all types of information – but I bet you can do better. You can always do better.

Its not about the button

It’s easy to fall for the glitter and shine of a new facebook feature and implement it for the sake of “being more social”. But simply plastering “like” buttons all over your website and thinking you’re about to cash in is the 2010 equivalent of banking on a “viral youtube video campaign” in 2007.

Does the Like button have the potential to change online marketing? Totally. But its not going to happen because of technology or even social networks. Technology makes it possible, and social sharing of content is a side effect.

The game changing feature is that this shiny little button might finally convince marketers to stop talking about their stuff and saying the same thing as everyone else, and instead shift their focus to creating content that people actually like to hear.

What’s your take on the Like button?

*Photo Credit: JoelTelling*

The gold rush of location data

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the utility of mobile location-based social networks. Their growth curves are starting to resemble the early days of Twitter, as early adopters flock to check-in at their favourite spots. Certainly, if SXSW is any indication, and hype is to be believed, 2010 will be a big year for location-based social networking and recommendation.

Much of the focus has centered around why users would participate in location-sharing applications. Foursquare is taking a rankings-based game play strategy. Gowalla is digging into the world of objects, both virtual and physical and how they can interact using location. Yelp is playing with reviews.

Who is going to emerge as the major player in the space? Who knows.

What is very clear though, is that the stakes are high, and the value of this data is immeasurable.

It starts with Analytics

The analytics of tying real world location into a social cloud of data is certainly intriguing. Imagine being a small business owner, interested in who’s coming into your store. You could ask your customers to fill out a card or participate in a loyalty program, or you could simply askFoursquare, who have just announced “real world analytics” to their application, exposing data in a format that businesses care about.

Because these tools all plug into other social APIs (Twitter, Facebook etc), a natural extension of this (privacy issues aside) what if they could show you not only who your most influential customers are, but also where else they hang out, and when they are most likely to be in your neck of the woods.

It ties to in-store conversion

Now this is getting a bit out there, but think of the possibilities. Again, ignore privacy… definitely an issue, but sometimes it gets in the way of creative brainstorming.

Imagine a visitor who stumbles upon your presence online (could be a website, could be facebook…) and interacts with your content from their mobile phone. They decide they want to come to your restaurant. As they walk in, for the first time since paper coupons, visitors are entering your establishment carrying the device with which they interacted with your marketing. What if (big what if), as they checked in on foursquare, APIs connected and your web analytics tool was able to register a physical conversion based on the marketing that they had interacted with.

30% of your foot traffic last week were fans of your facebook page

It goes beyond small businesses

What is one of the first criteria that is discussed when setting up a marketing campaign?

… And an important criteria of targeting is… location.

The advertising networks that we are used to using (Google, Facebook, et al), all use several factors in order to pinpoint your location when targeting ads. Predominantly though, this is done using your IP Address. As I sit here in Kingston, Google knows where I am based on tracing my physical location back to my service provider. Its easy.

Experiment: Try tethering your iPhone to your laptop. Do a few searches on Google. Look at the ads. It all falls apart.

In my case, Google suddenly thinks I’m sitting in Montreal.

Because of the way that mobile carriers distribute IP addresses, location is much more difficult to determine. As 3G proliferates and more people turn to mobile browsing (iPads, netbooks etc are all in play), our location is more difficult to determine; unless we actively tell the system where we are.

Google Buzz, Facebook Location

It makes perfect sense that Google wants you to Buzz your location. It completely adds up that Facebook is getting ready to flip the switch on location. Whatever gaming spin they have to put on it to make it work, is actually sort of irrelevant at this level. Its not about your friends or collecting objects; they are in the business of wanting to know where you are.

Is this a bad thing? Probably not. Privacy will be an issue, but thats what policies are for. Ultimately, this is going to help maintain ads that are more contextually relevant as we’re on the go.

Just don’t be fooled. While you’re busy worrying about who’s going to be the mayor, the major players, startups and venture capitalists are worried about their advertising business – and they’re all competing to be the king.