Google+ Has a Problem

I have noted a few new interesting features in Facebook the last few days. The most obvious were the running “ticker” on the right that shows activity, and the ability to create groups and share updates by group rather than globally.

If that sounds awfully familiar it’s because sharing by group was one of the most highly touted advantages to Google+ when it first came out.

And that is why Google+ has a problem,.

See, I am not on Google+ yet. I haven’t even sniffed it. I have a stack of invites, and I surely have been keeping up on what other people are doing with it, but I haven’t bothered to log in myself and create an account. Now I am sure Google doesn’t much care if I am there or not, but I know they care if people LIKE me are. I am an unabashed fast follower. I wasn’t the first to Facebook, or Twitter, or Foursquare or, or, or… I stay up on the trends but prefer to let others go through the pain of figuring out new things and then I jump in. And every time I feel that urge to jump on the latest and the greatest I consider all the hours I would have wasted on technologies we don’t even remember.

So Google+ was intriguing, and the hype was overwhelming, but I didn’t see any need to jump. Why? Two reasons: First, not enough of my social network jumped there and simultaneously LEFT “FaceLinTwit” so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not jumping in.

And second, Google+ doesn’t (yet) appear to fill a big hole in the social opportunity. When MySpace was cool I ignored Facebook because I couldn’t customize my page to my hearts content. But then when I struggled for awhile trying to figure out how to customize my MySpace page, I came to appreciate the simplicity of the Facebook experience. Well that, and pretty much all of my friends showed up.

So this s the crux of the problem for Google. The one feature that everyone I know raved about in Google+ was the ability to create groups of people and limit how you share information. Like many of you, I keep a pretty tight distinction between how I use Facebook (personal only) and LinkedIn (work). The notion that I could start to blur that distinction was pretty appealing.

But when you have 500 million members, and an army of developers working day and night on your platform, your competition needs more than a feature gap to make any real headway. They need an opportunity gap that can’t be easily structured using existing platforms.

Trust me, I have absolutely no doubt that somebody WILL displace Facebook at some point in the future,. The web continues to evolve rapidly, our interests and tastes change. It’s only a matter of time and it may yet be Google+, they are surely motivated. In the meantime, I am off to figure out how to create groups of my friends in Facebook.

Read more about the new Facebook features

Read more about the Google+ Launch








Wikinomics, MacroWikinomics and WikiRevolutions

Just back from the Gartner Portals and Collaboration Conference this past week in LA. It was a very interesting show with a broad range of content topics covered. Lovely hotel the JW Marriott at LA Live (yes, an iron and more washcloths than I could possibly use.) and the lobby was bustling with activity on the night Lady Gaga was playing at the Staples Center.  People watching at its finest!

Don Tapscott, accomplished author of numerous titles, but perhaps best known more recently for “Wikinomics” was the keynote address at the end of the show. His talk was fascinating on many levels, though it was clear that 60 minutes just wasn’t enough. I felt like he could have gone for 2 solid hours.

Tapscott shared some vivid stories of how the face of revolution changed dramatically in Northern Egypt through the use of social tools. Though careful to state that social media did not cause the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, rather it was the foundation upon which revolution was spread.  This is truly crowdsourcing revolution, or “WikiRevolutions” as one slide was titled.

He told the story of how people on the ground in Tunisia who were getting fired on by government snipers were able to use social tools to triangulate the coordinates of the snipers and communicate those locations to revolutionary forces who were able to take out the snipers. And this was perhaps the most vivid example of how Digital Natives (he considers himself a Digital Immigrant incidentally) adapt technology for their own needs in powerful and unpredicted ways.  I am pretty sure there isn’t an app for that.

These kinds of behaviors that are ingrained in the current generation entering the workforce have wide ranging implications for all manners of corporations and managers. Tapscott shared how one government agency turned off access to Facebook and a 27 year old worker was quoted as saying “That is the single most demoralizing thing that they could have done.”

This is not a community to force fit into the structures and constraints of yesterday. This is a community to empower with tools and open-ness that will challenge all of us to think very differently. As marketers we need to understand the new rules of engagement. One that is defined by the terms Context, Community, Engagement and Open. How do we provide freedom to address our community of buyers to create a community around our products, allow them to engage with them in new and interesting ways and then step back and listen?

I am personally more energized than ever to explore these new channels and new opportunities. Tapscott shared this quote near the beginning of the talk:

“The future is not something to be predicted. The future should be achieved.”

Let’s go achieve our future together.


Taking the Plunge, Launching a Corporate Blog

Yes, it’s true, our software product engineering business unit has formally launched its blog this week. You can read it here:

What you say? You are only launching a corporate Blog NOW? Don’t you know that is so 2008. (“So 2000 and Late!” sing the Black Eyed Peas.) Don’t you know that it’s all about Twitter, and Facebook and your social network du jour?

Yes, we know all of those things.

But, we have three simple goals:

  1. We want to have a vehicle for providing our point of view directly to our customers and prospects
  2. We need to advance our thought leadership on software development issues and the market facing opportunities to move our message to the CTO, SVP Engineering types are limited
  3. We need to drive awareness across a highly targeted set of key words

So sure, you can follow us on Twitter (@ness_tech) or visit our Facebook page, check out our LinkedIN company page, or view a few videos from various business units on YouTube, but doesn’t a good ol fashioned blog make sense given the above objectives? And heck the good news is we can learn from vast quantities of tips and tricks out there (good post from HubSpot on the subject here) Even better, we can learn from all of your mistakes!

So check it out, join the conversation, and let us know what you think!


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Social Media Marketing Lags in Europe, Or Does It?

Read this “Global Survey” report from Unica this week on the State of Marketing in 2010 and it included a tid-bit on about how marketers are using (or are not using) Social Media around the world. As you would expect Europe in general lags North America currently by a healthy dose. According to the report 58% in North America use Social Media and just 34% in Europe. Though plans are underway to catch up.

I agree. I wrote over a year ago about my Eastern European colleagues’ lack of Facebook usage, and I don’t see a dramatic uptick in usage there. And from recent conversations about our 2010 plans, we are going to focus more on advancing our use of email than we are on expanding into social media.  From our perspective that has more to do with the usage patterns of our target audience in each of the countries we operate in, than it does with the relative merit of various channels. Perhaps it would be different if we were a B2C product rather than a B2B service.

Where I have issue is with the concept of this being a global survey.  46% of 155 respondents to the Unica Survey were “from Europe.” I am not really sure what to do with that data.  Global doesn’t only mean Europe and North America, what about Asia? Latin America?  Russia? On and on.

And digging further into the footnotes, I see that by Europe they actually only mean 12 countries (or an average of 6 responses per country). So is that 12 countries in Western Europe? Is Northern Europe included? What about Eastern Europe?  There are 27 countries in the EU today so we know it’s not just the EU member states.

It’s surely not my intention to call out Unica’s marketing team. Trust me I probably would have done the same thing in clubbing together Europe to make a broader point.  But in this case, it becomes counter-productive and perhaps dilutes the overall message of their pretty interesting report in general.

The fact remains, you still can’t market to “Europe.” You need to look deeply into the heart of each country and conduct the same market analysis and make the same strategic plans for each one based on the uniqueness of each market. Assuming the 72 total European respondents are making the same individual strategic decisions that we are, don’t make the mistake of relying on the experiences of 6 people per country spread across 12 countries to set your own strategic course.

Twitter as the new Public Relations?

Life isn’t too bad when your office is an 18 foot pontoon boat on a lake a on a beautiful late summer day!  It also allows you the freedom to read other things beyond the traditional media. Ok, not really, I would have read this article sitting at my desk too.

I was struck by the segment in this Sports Illustrated article about Chad Ochocinco, the erstwhile receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, and his use of Twitter.

But there’s another motivation. He gets out his message — as ill-versed as it sometimes is — the way he wants the message gotten out, and, as of Sunday, 137,679 people were following him. Listening, presumably. It’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison, but as of June, the circulation of the Cincinnati Enquirer was 188,956. He’s being heard the way he wants to be heard, and by a huge segment of Bengaldom.

Isnt that an amazing stat?  Of course not all 188,000 plus subscribers read the sport section or know what Twitter is. And certainly not all of his 137,000 plus followers even live in Cincinnati, but as someone who got their start in PR, I recognize that Ochocinco’s ability to control his message is perfect. And taking out the reporter, the editor, the story editor, and the managing editor out of the process, in one fell swoop. Poof he is talking directly to HIS people.

Given the often fractious relationship between the media and sports figures, it’s no surprise so many athletes are taking to Twitter.  And for any senior executive at a large company frustrated that they can’t get there message heard, they will be using it too.

The end of PR profession? Hardly. Two things are bound to happen:

  1. People with unfettered access to their public are going to quickly realize that they had better have a strategy for that communication or they are going to wind up looking really stupid really quickly. (I am sure it’s already happened we just haven’t seen it yet, but just wait for an athlete to Tweet about doing something illegal.)
  2. Many a senior exec is going to realize that no-one actually cares what they have to say and they will need PR to help get that message out, just into new channels.

A good example is that of Oprah and Ashton (no last names needed).  It’s not clear to me that Ashton is truly using his Twitter feed purely for publicity, but he was shameless promoting his current movie, as well as his involvement in a few social causes heavily interspersed with Tweets about going to the park, or hanging with other celebrities. In contrast, Oprah posts infrequently at best, and usually about benign topics with no clear agenda. They both have millions of followers. One has an agenda for how to use the medium, and the other clearly does not.

So the era of mass direct communications is upon us. At last we have a medium to carry our message perfectly and directly to the people without editorial (or advertising).

Or at least as perfect as it can be 140 characters at a time.

Facebook Fatigue?

I wanted to reach out to a friend of mine in Israel from B-school days with a question. I couldn’t recall how we had lost traded contact so I thought I would pop up on his Facebook page first and see what he was up to and connect to him that way.

To my surprise, despite having nearly 200 friends and at one time a regular communication stream, he hadn’t posted anything meaningful yet this year.  I quick realized that THIS wasn’t going to be the way to get him so instead I sent him an email (how old-fashioned!).

When I asked if he was “over” the FB experiment, this was  his reply: “Facebook? yes, kind of exhausted this part. and am swamped with work…”

This got me thinking. I thought back to a few of my other active FB friends and noticed that the updates and pictures were coming slower than before it seemed. I also remembered a meeting with our European marketing leaders where I proudly announced the “beta release” of our Ness  Facebook page which was met with polite blank stares. I followed up by asking how many of the 6 people in the room were using FB… not a single one.

Is true Facebook Fatigue upon us?  A quick Google search on the term shows much written on the topic in early 2008. Since then, active users have  nearly doubled! So much for that theory.  Surely I have a few friends who are posting more than ever before, and a few more where that is the only way I can get in touch with them, but it does make me wonder if we are approaching some sort of tipping point.

And if we are, what will that mean for marketers? We still haven’t figured out how to use FB as a channel with any great reliability, and yet it has completely remade how we think about reaching our target audiences. What takes its place? Or are we doomed to be chasing around the latest hot thing only to have it fade away as soon as we actually figure out how to use it?

Somewhere I think the “Mad Men” of this decade are chuckling, just waiting for us to turn our attention back to TV or some other old-line media.

Thought Leadership: Conferred or Secured?

Think of the key technology thought leaders you know of, how did they get that way? Was it good marketing, or was it from having a dynamic personality and a point of view that was highly relevant at that time?

We often talk about “becoming a thought leader” as part of our marketing campaigns. In fact back in my PR agency days, every new business pitch had a campaign to “become a thought leader.” It usually involved writing articles, getting on the speaking circuit, doing media and analyst interviews, and carrying a specific “stump speech” or point of view into every interaction.

Today I am sure those plans include using Blogs, Twitter feeds, community engagement, LinkedIn groups and a host of other social media tools to drive a point of view.

But I think you need to have something more.  Kind of like catching lightening in a bottle. You need to have the right point of view, at the right time, the credibility to give it teeth, and perhaps most importantly, the personality and passion to see it through.

I have met a number of so-called gurus over the years and it is easy to separate out who was real and who was not.  The real gurus had a real following.  It wasn’t measured necessarily in the number of followers or how hard they worked at it, but rather in the power of their ideas.  And it was rarely done for the gain of their company. Sure their company benefited from the profile they created, but their profile was not created for the good of the company.

The power of social media only means that you have more tools at your disposal, and gives you a global reach to your ideas. But if your topic is also a personal passion, no amount of marketing or PR is going to turn you into a thought leader –the community at large will sniff that out too quickly.

Instead today we are not talking about “becoming a thought leader.” Instead our goals are more inline with what we can impact. We are taking a “leadership position” and using the tools at our disposal to communicate that position to our customers and prospects.  Over time the market may confer thought leadership upon us.

That will be just fine with us, but we are not waiting around for it either.