From Turing, Shannon and the invention of computer algorithms, there has been an ongoing quest for all developers: How do we write better code?
How do we execute queries faster? How do we fine-tune our websites to load faster? How can we make a code base more scalable? How can we minimize the upkeep of legacy code? How do we make updates faster, better and make sure they populate across all channels?
At the end of the day, the question is: How do we solve problems better?
The trend toward responsive design is the latest attempt to move toward more efficient coding methods. Implemented properly, responsive design should be no more expensive than the current process. Add in the reduced upkeep costs from not having to maintain multiple sites, and suddenly you can leverage efficiencies in site design and upkeep and reallocate resources toward improving content and brand experiences.
How many people today use their smartphones to visit the same websites they visit on their desktops or tablets? Do they expect to find the same content there? Depending on the circumstances, people are most likely to be looking for the same content so they can reference it wherever and whenever they need or want it. The best way to address this is building a flexible site that caters to any device or any browser. It’s not about the device – it’s about accessing the content in a usable manner.
Looking at 2012, it is estimated that 94% of smartphone users will use the mobile Internet. This means approximately 113.9 million users will be browsing the Web on mobile devices by the end of 2012. That is a huge portion of the population to ignore and do nothing about or to segment into a separate experience. Further, device and OS fragmentation means that designing for the “Android mobile site” or “iPhone mobile site” or “BlackBerry mobile site” will quickly become cost-prohibitive, as well as a nightmare to keep up with. Because of this, digital content providers must create experiences that work across platforms – and responsive design is the best way to do that.
Put another way, responsive web design could be called “responsible web design.” When you’re building a site consumers can access anywhere, you’re catering to their needs and meeting them where they are, rather than where you want them to be. If someone is given a link to your site, but then your script comes and automatically redirects the mobile user to the mobile site (which incidentally does not have the same content on it), the user is likely to give up and not go searching. Now the “usable” separate mobile site just became a barrier to people actually using the content.
The debate between responsive sites and mobile sites is a slippery slope. If we decide to build mobile sites, what’s next? In the last few weeks, there have been murmurings about creating Retina-display-optimized websites. If we start building out individual experiences for every new device, the upkeep costs will be crushing. The solution is clear – have one site that adjusts to meet the needs of consumers regardless of browser or device.
So what are digital marketers to do?
• Start by evaluating your current site for fluid design, and talk with your developers about the potential for adjusting the current site into a responsive site.
• If you’re about to build a brand-new site, ask about responsive design techniques and what that means you should be looking for when evaluating design concepts.
• Pay attention to web analytics on how many users are coming from mobile – this can be a good indication of how hot a priority creating a good mobile experience needs to be.
• Stats from Hubspot
The concept of personalized search – that each person’s search results will be optimized for their particular preferences and past behavior – has far-reaching consequences for how we use the Web. Because search is the fundamental navigation of the Web, personalized search can have implications for virtually every interaction in the digital space. While personalized search has been present since 2005 from Google and others, Google Search Plus Your World is the most dramatic alteration of organic search results to date. Google’s January announcement of Search Plus Your World is a prime example of social media’s continued infiltration of the underlying structure of the Web – building networks based on relationships and people instead of destinations.
What Has Changed
Google explains Search Plus Your World as an effort that is “transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content but also people and relationships.” For users of Google products, search results may now highlight items that have been shared through their network of Google contacts, as well as content deemed relevant by Google.
There are three principal changes to the results delivered through the universal search, elevating:
- People and brands
- Relevant status updates
- Shared links
People and Brands
Searching for individuals or brands through universal search will now promote a profile or page within the results page, prioritized above organic content in many cases. For businesses with a presence on Google+, this represents a great opportunity for increased visibility by positioning the brand’s profile as the category expert for a given topic.
When searching for a general topic, such as music or hockey, results will now also include recommended accounts for a user to follow on Google+. For example, a search for “Facebook” will show the link to take a user to Facebook.com, just as it would without personalized search, but it will
now also include any Google+ posts that friends have made about the competing network, as well as a box suggesting that the user put Mark Zuckerberg into their circles.
Relevant Status Updates
The second update to personalized search is the emphasis placed on status updates that have been shared with a user’s network. By highlighting commentary and links within search results, Google is “remembering” opinions from people you know and trust, giving the search results greater context. This will have substantial consequences for using digital as a word-of-mouth tool.
The third change to the search algorithm will place more emphasis on links and content that the user’s network has shared concerning the search terms. Included in this are links shared as a post to your circles, and items that have been +1’d.
Results that have been prioritized by Search Plus Your World will be clearly marked with an icon and will note which contact has shared the relevant content.
What Does This Mean for SEM, SEO?
First and foremost, this update emphasizes the idea that over time, search results will be different for each and every user. Accepting this reality, brands will need to place additional emphasis on paid search campaigns to defend critical brand keywords. Paid search campaigns traditionally have been used to offset volatility in organic search results, ensuring that your brand can remain relevant for strategic search terms. While this method will require budgetary support, it is the most reliable approach to ensuring visibility.
Search engine optimization will also require a change in approach. The fundamentals of this practice will not change, but the amplification of personalized search has altered the approach to these activities to be based on personal relationships. For example, optimization efforts will still rely heavily on third-party linking campaigns. With Search Plus Your World, link-building campaigns will refocus around building links, +1’s, or shares from people within your target’s networks.
The final adjustment that search optimization will need to account for is the ability for content creators to bypass traditional search results by pursuing your target’s online network. By leveraging the priority that is being placed on the network effect, brands generating timely niche content will be able to circumvent legacy search results.
Rather than only leveraging this change to optimize for search campaigns, Google+ integration into universal search will enable marketers to bypass rankings through a word-of-mouth recommendation. The following represent three ways your brand can use personalized search to generate increased relevance.
Incorporate Google Action Buttons on Website
The inclusion of +1 recommendations in personalized search stresses the importance of including this button in prominent areas on your website and other digital media. Making this form of user feedback as seamless as possible will earn your content improved rankings in personalized search without requiring users to create a full post about your page.
Curate Brand-Relevant Links
Another major opportunity for brands is to become a curator of content around a specific topic, controlling the search real estate among Google+ users. For example, a search for spring fashion styles will surface content from H&M, a brand with a Google+ page, shared by your fashion-conscious classmate above the results for fashion blogs and magazines.
Maintain a Google+ Page
Given the resources necessary to maintain a robust and consistent social presence on Google+ in addition to existing social media efforts, it is possible that pursuing a content marketing approach will be most efficient for capitalizing on personalized search. Determining whether this tactic is appropriate requires a deeper examination of your brand’s social media strategy and the resources available to grow a Google+ user base.
This update currently affects only registered Google users, and only when they’re signed in to the service. On January 19, Google CEO Larry Page announced that Google+ had more than 90 million users, but the population of users with active Google accounts was substantially higher, with over 350 million users having a Gmail account. Further, we can expect the number of Google+ accounts to grow, as new Google or Gmail accounts now require the creation of a Google+ profile. While this update is alternately referred to as social search, no data from Twitter or Facebook will be indexed; only +1’s and content shared through Google+ will be included.
Recently The New York Times published an article in their Sunday Review entitled “The Elusive Big Idea.” In his opinion piece, Neal Gabler argued that we are currently living in a post-idea world where the debate of bold and thought-provoking theories is valued less than the archival and regurgitation of shallow information and data.
Gabler makes an accurate observation about the tide change that has taken place in our society over the past few decades, but, while he laments the passing of a stale cultural mind-set, he misses what is really happening. The Internet Age has birthed a wide array of opportunities and tools for citizens to be able to directly influence the global dialogue, rather than just discuss it among themselves.
In his article, Gabler argues that an overwhelming amount of data – be it factual information from news sources or personal information from social media – is to blame for the decline of critical thinking and the increased gathering and collecting of “facts.” He writes:
“We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward. Few talk ideas. Everyone talks information, usually personal information. Where are you going? What are you doing? Whom are you seeing? These are today’s big questions.”
His description isn’t too far off from behavior that I’ve exhibited when discussing current events over a beer. It’s almost as if my brain has been rewired to only hold on to the headline of an article instead of the meat-and-potatoes content of the actual story. For example, I know that Hurricane Irene pummeled the East Coast last week, and I could probably float a conversation about it on a first date, but do I know any more story detail or the broader environmental implications? No, sir. I also know that my friend Katie is recently engaged to some guy named Will, but do I know anything about Will besides his name? Nope. Well, I know his favorite musician is Dave Matthews. And that apparently his taste in music hasn’t evolved since the year 1996.
But is the fact that we have access to more information than any previous generation ever could – but use our critical thinking muscle less than any generation ever did – a bad thing?
No. The reason that we’ve stopped sitting around discussing ideas is because now – thanks to the Internet – we have the ability to fulfill them.
Just like the generations before mine did with calculators and computers, our generation is developing tools and platforms that allow us to address and solve large and complex problems.
Perfect example – Iceland recently crowd-sourced their Constitution. They encouraged active participation between council members and common citizens on their Facebook page and live-streamed their meetings to stay accountable. This is such a critically important event in the history of world government because it’s an example of a new technology platform allowing a government to actually involve its citizens in the political process.
Websites like airbnb.com give users an easy way to rent out unused rooms or find alternative places to stay while traveling. However, the website offers more than just a second option to a hotel; it facilitates a local e-commerce solution for its users.
So, much to a print journalist’s chagrin, we’re no longer discussing problems through formal debate in stuffy town halls or public policy pieces published in foreign affairs journals. We’re actually instigating new ideas, debating large issues and solving problems through emerging media channels and platforms. And if there isn’t an existing channel that allows us to solve our problem, we create a new one.
If the by-product of all this is that we have to endure a few ignorant status updates from our Republican friends or that our brains sometimes mimic the content-agnostic crawling of SEO spiders, it’s a worthy trade-off for the advancement of technology that can improve our quality of life.
So let’s do something about your big idea rather than just talk about it.
Back when online video was new, it was rumored to kill the 30-second spot. Citing the benefits of a “lean-forward” audience, interactivity and targetability, industry experts predicted in-stream online video advertising to steal significant dollars from the traditional TV spend. Yet it still hasn’t made even a dent in the traditional linear TV budget. In fact, linear TV continues to dominate the video advertising space with $61 billion being spent on broadcast advertising in the U.S., compared to $2.2 billion in connected video.
Where has online video so far missed the mark? Most reasons aside, the major issue has been reach. Linear TV simply has more eyeballs for more hours than online video. But that’s beginning to change. Not because people are abandoning the comfort of their couch for the posture-fixing desk chair, but because we’re bringing more and more connected devices into the living room. Between Xbox 360s, Boxee Boxes, Vizio IP TVs and mobile devices, our entertainment channels within the living room are increasingly connected.
As the national audience shifts their attention toward the rapidly growing number of connected devices, we as advertisers should be prepared to change their perspective on what we currently think of as TV advertising. Instead of the static 30-second stories we’ve done our best to ignore, the coming future of TV advertising combines the reach of the current linear TV landscape with the interactivity, targeting and analytics we’ve come to expect from PC video advertising.
There are a few major opportunities we see connected video bringing to the living room in the near future:
1. Highly targeted advertising in a lean-back environment – Combine the same great targeting efficiencies that digital brings to the table with the massive reach offered by the living room forum.
2. Interactivity from the couch – The app-led environment of connected TVs affords advertisers the opportunity to go beyond passive viewing and actually interact with the content they’re watching. Advertising in this space will allow viewers to drive the new sports car, buy (and play) the new video game and investigate the latest changes in cancer treatment.
3. Efficiency in cross-media campaigns – Ad networks in the space are already building out landscapes of advertising opportunities that transfer views across several media. This ability allows advertisers to run sequences of messages and frequency requirements across several devices, including mobile, PC and TV.
4. Advanced analytics for TV – Rather than rely on GRPs and self-reported data in tracking studies, connected TV can build in metrics that know actual viewership, interaction rates and influence on behavior in other touchpoints.
While these are just a few opportunities, the changes in advertising will likely be drastic. What do you think? How else might connectivity change TV advertising?
On July 14, Swedish music service Spotify launched in the United States. After years of negotiations with record labels, the doors were opened to a world of free, legal music, with more than 15 million songs on-demand. The service was rolled out to listeners in a slow launch through invites from preexisting users, Spotify.com and its partners. These rationed invitations for the free service were in such high demand that they were selling on eBay for cash. Let’s take a deeper look at the newest online radio sensation to come to America and see if it lives up to the hype.
According to All Things Digital, Spotify is extremely optimistic about projected membership numbers, aiming to recruit 50 million U.S. users in one year. Their unprecedented free music experience coupled with complete Facebook and iTunes integration are just a few of the reasons why the company feels so confident. Here’s a list of what Spotify has to offer:
Of all the music services, Spotify offers an unprecedented free music experience. The familiar user interface makes it seem like someone gave you a magical key to unlock the entire iTunes library for free. The advertising is usually music-related, so most of it is pretty relevant. You can listen to as many songs as you want, for as long as you want, for six months. Then, you can only listen to a maximum of 10 hours a month and play one given track only five times a month.
If you want to listen without limits, you’ll need to eventually upgrade to one of the paid subscription plans. For $4.99 per month, you receive unlimited access to Spotify’s music library, ad free. For $9.99 per month, you also get access to your songs offline and through your mobile phone.
Music is easier than ever to share with Spotify. You can “send” anything you listen to with Spotify – a song, playlist or album – directly to a friend through its Facebook integration.
Premium subscribers can wirelessly sync their playlists to their phones and listen without having to connect to the Internet. The Spotify mobile app is available for iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone and Palm mobile phones.
If I had one complaint about Spotify, it would be the difficulty of finding new music. If you know exactly which artist or track you want, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. You can also view the top 100 tracks and albums that other users are listening to, but it’s the in-between discovery points that are missing. Unlike iTunes, you can’t sort music by release date, genre or recommended artists.
Challenges to the Freemium Model
Every music streaming service eventually wants to convert free users into paid subscribers, no matter how much advertising revenue they earn. Rhapsody, Turntable.fm, Rdio, Grooveshark: All of Spotify’s competitors have ventured into the freemium business model before the launch of Spotify in the U.S. The question is whether users will shift from the free to the premium side of the “freemium” model. Up until now, the answer has been “no.” Before Spotify came to the U.S., it was estimated that only 5% of all Spotify users are paid subscribers.
Consumers have largely resisted paying into a system of renting music when they don’t get anything in return after they stop paying for service. A person’s choice of favorite music is a deep expression of individuality for many Americans. We wear concert T-shirts from our favorite shows, save ticket stubs and display our favorite albums in our home music collection. The resurgence of vinyl among many fans shows that we are willing to listen to less technologically enhanced music to gain the traditional, tactile experience of feeling closer to the music.
At this point, most music fans have moved to digital, but their iTunes libraries still give them the feeling that they own their music. Perhaps some form of the digital playlist will eventually become the next iteration of the traditional music collection, and we will forget that we’re really just renting it.
When it comes to innovation in the digital space, it’s no secret that Google is the one to watch. This past week was the annual Google I/O conference where they revealed their latest and greatest for 2011. Here is a quick recap of the announcement highlights and what to expect to hear more about in the coming year from the interactive giant.
A Unified Mobile Delight
A good portion of the announcements revolved around the growth and success of Google’s Android mobile platform – to date there are over 100 million activated devices and 200,000 apps in the Android Marketplace with over 4.5 billion downloads. Currently, there are separate operating systems for tablets (Honeycomb) and smartphones (Android). Google I/O 2011 not only set the stage for updates, but also the introduction of the next phase – a unified mobile operating system, currently nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich. Launching in Q4 2011, the single operating system will work across devices, bringing the advanced features currently available on their tablets to their smartphones.
Google Entertains Us
In 2011, Google is getting into the movie and music spaces with two important initiatives:
- Google Movies is now providing rentals to the masses via both YouTube and the Android Marketplace. YouTube now offers 3,000 titles for rent, and now Google Movies for Android will bring rentals to tablets and smartphones for $1.99.
- Google Music is a cloud-based storage and streaming system that will store up to 20,000 songs and provide users the access to their music library from any connected device. It will compete with Amazon’s new cloud player and is currently in an invitation-only beta stage.
Android Interacts with Smart Homes
Google is also pioneering an initiative that will allow for automated home control from Android devices. Android@Home is a new framework for developers to create apps that interface with our homes, such as lighting, appliances, home theaters, etc. There are already partnerships in the works, so expect to see these types of apps by the end of the year.
New Devices and New Pricing Models
As the tablet revolution ensues, Google brings another option to the table with the Chromebook. The laptop-style device is Internet-only capable and allows users to always have access to their personal cloud. What’s interesting is the pricing models Google has set forth. The new devices can be purchased, starting at a competitive price of $350, but Google is also initiating some subscription models. To position Chromebooks to niche markets, Google education editions can be rented to students for a $20 monthly subscription and business editions will start at $28/month.
Google is always pushing innovation, and I’m sure these newly announced highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Be prepared to adapt as new platforms and digital opportunities come our way.
I freely admit it – I constantly devour the latest book on how to become a better leader; I’m frequently pondering the latest leadership theory or reading an article with the latest “secret to leading like Steve Jobs.” No matter how many books or articles I’ve read, I’m convinced of a few real truths:
- Anyone can be a leader
- Leadership is a relationship
- What you do is more important
than what you say
- A leader challenges you to change
for the better
As a brand manager, what’s fascinating to me is that the same qualities that make a great leader also make a great brand. In this post, we’ll look at the qualities I’ve listed above and applying them to brands.
Anyone can be a leader
Perhaps the most fundamental step in becoming a leader is the belief that you can become a leader at something. This principle is also apparent in Good to Great’s hedgehog principle, which posits that great companies understand what they can be the best in the world at. Great leaders (and great brands) also understand how they can take people to being the best in the world at what it is they do or sell.
Leadership is a relationship
People don’t exist in a vacuum; people live to create and develop relationships with one another. The greatest vision for changing the world will only inspire people to begin the journey – the relationships they develop along the way will inspire them to continue journeying.
This is one category where Chick-Fil-A is demonstrating exemplary leadership. Every time a new store opens, fans of the brand camp outside the store to be part of the “First 100,” one of the first 100 visitors to the new restaurant (who each receive free Chick-Fil-A for a year). The magic of this promotion isn’t about the free food, but about facilitating fans’ relationships with one another and Chick-Fil-A. People don’t camp alone in sub-zero weather just for free food – they camp to meet 99 new friends.
The greatest brands lead by allowing their followers to develop relationships simultaneously with the brand and other followers. Leaders facilitate these relationships.
What you do is more important than what you say
In every situation, leaders are scrutinized and expected to set an example. How do they handle conflict? How do they handle mundane tasks? What do they do when the going gets tough? Followers take cues about how to handle tough situations from watching their leaders model the expected behavior.
As communicators, we’re constantly challenged with managing what brands say. We talk about “branding” and what is really at the heart of the brand – a brand promise. A promise that what consumers experience will live up to what they’re told. Brand promise or pinky swears, a promise is a promise and credibility is lost when it’s broken.
This part of building credibility has become increasingly transparent with the growth of social media. Brands that don’t live up to their promises are lambasted on Facebook and Twitter for everyone to see.
Brands that consistently fulfill their brand promise build credibility with their audiences and followers who are more than happy to take on the role of sharing the brand’s message.
A leader challenges you to change for the better
Everyone who’s been through a tumultuous time knows that change is hard. The role of a leader is to challenge people through change to hope for a better outcome. This part of leadership is potentially the easiest for brands – if companies didn’t believe their product made lives better, than they wouldn’t exist.
However, an interesting insight comes from the brands that don’t just make lives better, but the brands that offer a challenge. Nike’s “Just Do It” is an example of a brand that transcends merely making life better, but encourages everyone to get out and make fitness part of their lives. Offering a compelling challenge to do more or be better allows consumers to intimately connect with a brand while achieving their dreams. That’s a powerful way to build brand loyalty.
Today, I challenge you to take a long hard look at the areas where you are leading and the brands you are leading – are you merely fulfilling a leadership role, or are you actually leading the way?
We’ve seen giant advances in digital this past year, but holiday 2010 is really showcasing the importance digital can have on the bottom line. With brands ramping up search spending, focusing on digital promotions and increasing mobile capabilities, we saw online sales records break this year. Let’s take a look at the 2010 holiday shopping season and some key digital milestones.
Searching Is the New Browsing
To gear up for the holiday madness, brands put emphasis on search as an integral aspect to their holiday sales strategies. Search budgets for the period leading up to Cyber Monday were up 31% from last year, and we saw ad sales and clickthrough rates increase.
A study by Kenshoo uncovered a few trends for this holiday season.
- The shopping season is starting earlier.
- Thanksgiving is the kickoff for Cyber Monday.
- Retail competition peaks on Cyber Monday.
- Holiday shoppers are responsive to paid search advertising.
- Advertisers pursuing paid search are seeing increased effectiveness.
- Consumers are spreading out their holiday shopping with smaller purchase sizes, but more frequent transactions.
Deals, Deals, Deals
Retailers are using promotions and incentives as an opportunity to help push online purchase behaviors during the bustling season. And consumers’ thrifty mindsets responded positively – Cyber Monday saw over $1 billion in sales, making it the biggest online shopping day ever, and Green Monday and Free Shipping Day both resulted in over $900 million in sales. By creating a consumer-oriented experience through coupling discounts with convenience factors, overall online shopping revenues have reached $27.46 billion thus far, an increase of 12% from last year’s holiday season.
Mobile Adds Opportunities
Brands also increased their channel capabilities this season with mobile gaining serious street cred. While consumers are looking more toward mobile during the research phase, they are also going further down the path to mobile transaction – PayPal mobile payments grew 300% and mobile now accounts for around 5% of total online holiday transactions. eBay – the most mobile-minded U.S. retailer – watched as its mobile sales tripled from last year and set a new mobile sales one-day record of $13 million. And the recent eBay m-commerce tracker shows that mobile shopping isn’t limited or category-specific – we’ve seen cars to diamonds sell via cell.
Becoming A Ghost of Digital Future
The holidays are a time for giving, and this year digital has been very good. With expectations of a $32.4 billion 2010 holiday online shopping season, brands should focus more on incorporating digital into their future holiday strategies. Thinking about search, retargeting, promotions and mobile shopping tools will help retailers get their piece of the holiday pie.
As 2010 is quickly coming to a close, I thought I’d take you through a look at how new online tools have changed the way we look back, whether it’s to celebrate life, important moments or even cataloging the mundane details to make them seem a bit more interesting.
If you’re a Facebook user, it’s likely that you’ve posted pictures from your digital camera or files on your computer. And it’s even more likely that you’ve seen photos that friends have posted, documenting events like their vacation to Italy or their first child taking her first steps. While this kind of sharing has been around for quite some time, the sheer volume of content posted on Facebook sometimes makes it difficult for you to look back at events that happened even one week ago, let alone one month.
Well, if you’ve clicked a photo on Facebook recently, you’ve probably noticed that they’ve begun to include in the top-right corner random albums that have been posted previously, inviting you to explore events that have happened months, even years, earlier. In a quickly moving digital age where we put up some pictures or see pictures of friends, but are so inundated with the latest happenings that we don’t look back, this new feature from Facebook helps us remember the past.
On the flip side, Facebook pages of the deceased have become something like digital eulogies, where friends and family write on said person’s wall, recalling favorite memories or writing a personal note. Time and time again, families of the deceased have expressed how impactful these sentiments have been as they grieve and cherish their loved ones. In fact, the practice has been so common that Facebook has taken the step to encourage people to memorialize an account to protect details, but to still keep the profile and sentiments alive. Again, another way for us to celebrate memories, and something we could not even imagine 10 years ago, when those sentiments would be limited to a close circle of family and friends.
Beyond Facebook, sites like Caring Bridge have done a great job of pulling together the story of those facing illness, with photos and the opportunity to make tribute donations when applicable.
Capturing Key Moments
Either you had one in your home, knew someone who did or saw them in an old movie. That hallway or wall along the staircase that had photos of a child from birth, to their first football game, to high school graduation, to their first Christmas as a father. As a culture, we’ve always had a fascination with capturing those key moments and framing them in wood and glass, as well as in our hearts and minds.
With the advent of digital photography and a military-like dedication, people have been capturing those moments, along with many others, in a time-lapse format. Just one example is this video of Natalie, created by a dedicated set of parents who took a photo of her every day from birth to ten years old, speeding through in just one and a half minutes. Take a look:
And finally, looking back at those mundane details. All the things we do over and over every day. Our daily Starbucks. The miles we ran working out. The minutes we spend on our cell phones. With the processing power and availability of infographics today, the idea of creating personal annual reports is gaining popularity. Nicholas Feltron brought a lot of buzz to the space with his reports (which he now charges for), and here’s a screenshot from one:
Here’s another take on a personal annual report, this time in video format, calculated through looking at his history on last.fm, Google tasks and AT&T’s billing records, creating the video using Final Cut Pro. Dan Meyer’s 2009 Annual Report from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.
It’s pretty incredible how even the mundane details can look and become beautiful when presented the right way. And a great way for us to look back and realize how much of our lives we spend on some of those mundane things.
So I hope you enjoyed this look at looking back. It’s obvious that the ability to look back at our lives and experiences is being enhanced by so much of it being recorded or stored online. And if you’re in charge of a brand that has an experiential component to it, consider ways to help them remember the role (whatever size) you played in their lives. If you sell something, think about all the experiences that result from your customers owning it. If you provide a service, consider what life experiences it enables them to do. Then think about innovative ways to bring it to life, whether it be video or a pleasant-and-not-boring chart. Your customers might just appreciate that look back.
If you’re in the ad business, you’ve been hearing quite a bit about crowdsourcing. At its core, crowdsourcing is outsourcing a task to the “crowd,” with the hope that their collective wisdom will generate better ideas than a single person would provide. It’s easy to think of this “crowd” as an undefined and ambiguous group…but the reality of crowdsourcing is that the end product is only as good as your crowd.
Experts in Crowdsourced Customer Service
Crowdsourced customer service has become a way for many companies to reduce customer support costs. Like the FAQ, this was a logical way to answer questions before people decided to call or email. Technology companies were among the first to start creating customer communities, and it makes sense for them. A company like Apple can create a “support” community run by customers who are passionate enough about the technology to help other customers out. Yet this model of a fairly “hands-off” community doesn’t work for all brands.
One great example of this is H&R Block. I had the privilege of listening to Leigh Mutert at H&R Block talk about how they created the “Get it Right” community, which is staffed with trained tax professionals, not typical “customer support” staff. The simple reason is that when people need help with their taxes, they don’t want to hear from other people in the same situation. They want to hear from trained professionals. You can visit the H&R Block Get it Right Community here.
While this may sound simple, think about the logistical challenges of training these company representatives in a very different way of operating. In addition, H&R Block’s example points out the kind of commitment that is needed from a company that wants to introduce the crowd into customer service.
Experts in the Crowdsourced Agency
Much of the buzz in the ad world is around the new crowdsourced agency model. These new agencies are “outsourcing” the creative role to the crowd, with the promise of generating more ideas and creating thinking that’s more in touch with your customer, in some cases because it’s created by them. Yet just like a traditional agency, these new agencies are only as good as the talent they have working on an idea. The crowd these agencies are tapping into is full of expertise. They may be freelance designers, people in between jobs or creatives employed at other agencies, looking for something interesting to do in their free time. Whatever the case, it’s clear that curating a good crowd to tap into is key. Casting a wide net isn’t as important as casting the net in the right place.
There are, of course, many new agencies tapping into communities such as crowdSPRING that have built a community filled with creative expertise. Yet many of them are building their own communities to tap into as well. What steps can they take to make sure they’re getting the best talent? The proof at the end of the day is in the work, but I think we’re likely to see this “screening” or “filtering” evolve over the next few years.
Getting Experts Involved in Your Effort
If you’re an agency, you can use crowdsourcing as another tool in your creative arsenal. Identify the kinds of projects that make the most sense to use for crowdsourcing. These may include projects that require a volume of ideas, or projects that require quicker turnarounds or smaller budgets. Keep your internal creatives involved for creative direction and to shape how you work with the crowd.
If you’re a brand approaching the crowd for customer service, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, figure out what level of expertise needs to be involved. You can’t just create a community without some moderation, and it may not be your customer service folks who need to be interacting with your customers. H&R Block is a great example of that, but other industries might need to take the same approach. Does a clothing retailer, for example, need to include a stylist in a customer support community? If you’re looking for tools to start out with, try communities like Get Satisfaction.
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that the idea of crowdsourcing isn’t a fad. We’re talking about it because people are changing. There’s great potential to be tapped into when crowdsourcing is approached in the right way.