Lance, Livestrong, And A Message Of Hope

Like many of you, I have been following the Lance Armstrong saga with mixed emotions. I alternate between sadness that such a larger than life image is being systematically torn apart, and incredulity that we are surprised by any of this. In the end, given how unbelievably dirty the sport of cycling  seems to be, I don’t think we can hold Lance to any sort of a higher standard than we do anyone else. If everyone is dirty, and he just happened to be better than everyone else, then so be it.

But where things get tricky for me is when it comes to his Livestrong foundation, and what that has meant for millions of people diagnosed with cancer, or for their loved ones impacted by that diagnosis.  (And yes, I have heard the rumors of gross mismanagement there as well.)

I put on a yellow LiveStrong bracelet for the first time in April of 2006. That was days after my diagnosis of a Myxoid Liposarcoma in my left leg. I haven’t taken it off since. Through many a dark moment during the hellatious 9 months of treatment that followed I found myself routinely and absentmindedly playing with it as if to remind myself of the message it contained. I vividly recall lying in bed after a much more difficult than expected surgery that required that I miss my niece’s Bat Mitvah, and just reminding myself of the message, and to get through. The next day would be a better day, and so would the one after that. 

Over the years since, on many, many occasions, people would ask me about my bracelet and if I rode. I would just nod and smile, and say that no, it was the message that mattered. I never thought of the bracelet as a support for riding, just a support for the mission.

I was reminded of the conflict around the man, the message, and the sport this past week when a good friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:


As I read that, I was instantly awash with emotions from anger to sadness that it had come to this. Where does the message and the man diverge? Does it matter that he came to fame by cheating? Or does it matter more that he dedicated that fame and his considerable resources to shine a light on a segment of the population that could really use some light? Where do these things split apart? I never really cared that he was a cyclist that beat cancer. I only cared that he used his fame and wealth to try and provide support for others who were going on the same journey. Some like me who won, and many others who, unfortunately, did not. 

This is what I commented back on my friends post (unedited):


In the end, you will make your own choice about the man, the message, and the foundation. I have made my choice.

My bracelet remains on.



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







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.