Tag Archives: Social network

If Context Isn’t King Yet, It’s Certainly the Heir Apparent

Google announced at Le Web that they are working on providing search results without users needing to search. Path has limited your social graph to 50 people. Facebook is working hard on its groups, lists and messaging features. Google has tried to buy Groupon and Yelp. Amazon invested $175 million in LivingSocial. Twitter recently launched People Like You. Companies like My6Sense, Curated.by and Storify are popping up everywhere. Jason Kottke and Frank Gruber have two massively trafficked web sites, where they primarily link people to other content. What do they all have in common with one another? They all are an attempt to bring context to an ever-more crowded, noisy and cluttered world.

Context Restores Value to Connections

As the Web gets more connected and crowded, the concept of connections have diminished in inherent value, quickly become commodities. Not sure you agree? Here’s a quick test. Go to LinkedIn, find a co-worker, and ask them about one of their random LinkedIn connections. Chances are they can’t tell you where that person works or remember how they met them. Same thing on Facebook. In the race to connect many users have destroyed the value of their connections by treating them all the same (a limitation of the networks when we first joined.) And when we can’t easily distinguish one connection from another we run into all sorts of issues, from diminished connection with those we really want to stay connected with (I can’t tell you how many of my brother’s status updates I miss, replaced with a steady diet of random weak tie updates) to privacy issues (why can’t I treat my coworkers differently than my former fraternity brothers?)

Context helps to restore the value of these connections by parsing the important ones out of network. All connections are not the same, and should never be treated as such. By helping users provide context to their connections networks like Facebook are hoping to restore the utility of smaller, stronger connections that have been diminished by unwieldy, weak-tie networks that pervade social networking sites.

Facebook has been hard at work with groups. Which allows users to create smaller, intimate groups based on particular connection attributes (family, work, interests,) aka context, that creates more value and brings more utility to the network. I can now connect with and share things with my family members, like photos of my son, easily and privately within the group structure. Something I couldn’t do before very easily. By allowing me to add context to my network I’m able to get more out of it on Facebook.

Path takes a different approach on a similar dynamic. By limiting your connections to 50, they’re ensuring that your network consists of strong connections only. Strong connections create greater intimacy, privacy and add an immediate layer of context that governs how the service is used. My Path is two people right now. Me and my girlfriend. And that’s perfect for me. Because our Path is our photo diary. I don’t need to share it with the world. Path’s forced context creates a quiet, intimate space, much like the Facebook groups does. Path adds another layer of context via its primary functionality. Being almost completely app-based, Path combines the context of location and mobility with privacy and photos. Those layers of context create value for the user. Which leads us to location as an important context.

Context Drives Local Discovery and Commerce

The rush to local buying sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and others heralds the arrival of the local context layer being successfully applied to the Web. Yelp was the early pioneer, building social elements onto the local context layer on the Web. Google, Amazon and countless other Web companies are dying to crack the local commerce nut. And now, by applying the local layer to the social web it seems like we’ve reached a tipping point of moving local commerce online. Google gets the importance of connecting social context to local context. That’s why they were happy to shell out $6 billion for Groupon. Amazon gets it too, which is why they invested $175 million in a company with only ~10% of all group buying web traffic.

The local and social context layers drive commerce because it finally connects where we live with what we do and who we know on the Web. And the results are staggering and this connectivity is only beginning. And it’s not just group buying, it’s what every location based service, like Foursquare and Gowalla are trying to solve in their own way too.

These context layers added to online commerce drive confidence and intimacy. It makes the universe of possibilities smaller, more relevant and easier to act on. The context is the key to local web commerce.

Context Drives Content Discovery

Information overload is old news. I’m not even going to rehash the problem; but suffice to say words like “curation” don’t get worn out in information-poor environments. We are swimming in a sea of content. The majority of content, even more so than connections, has become commoditized to a point of uselessness. The advent of publishing technologies has helped content explode, but the tools to deal with this over-abundance are now just starting to get traction. Whether it’s My6Sense which learns what is interesting to you based on your past consumption, or a tool like Storify which lets human editors pull out and arrange Tweets into coherent conversations and storylines, they are trying to serve a massive need for context applied to our content.

Twitter is also trying to up the value of your Tweet stream by pointing to people who are like you, that may up the signal in a stream that is hard to cobble together one connection at a time. I can tell you from experience that it’s hard to craft an inbound Tweet stream of value at any scale. This is a big problem that Twitter needs to solve to help grow the service and make it relevant for less sophisticated users who don’t have the expertise, time or inclination to curate a group of people they follow that gives them the best experience they can get on the network. Twitter is trying to bring context to who you follow and what your Tweet stream looks like in response.

It’s not just machines and services either that are applying context to the content white noise. The ability to curate content, to create and apply an interesting and consistent context filter, is becoming more valuable than the content creation itself. People like Jason Kottke, the folks at Brain Picker and Boing Boing (among others,) are known, and valued, more for their ability to filter, surface and bring context to the endless firehose of content than of their ability to create it. They are the new editors of the Web. While mainstream print and network news have lost relevance these new editors are picking up the reigns of their offline counterparts, and providing much needed guidance to an audience that struggles just to keep up with the torrent of content, good, bad, farmed and malicious.

In a world where we find our own news, we are now in desperate search for our own editors. The software, companies and people who can create context for us that was lost when we ditched network TV for the blogosphere and statusphere are the ones that are creating new value for us on the Web. We’ll see more software like My6Sense, more context-driven M&A like Google and Amazon, and more Jason Kottke’s and Frank Gruber’s as we look for better ways to apply important context to the content that continues to come, like a never-ending avalanche down the hill. It will be these people, software and companies that will thrive and that will win in the next wave of the Web. Because more than great content we need great editors. Content’s days as King are numbered. Context is the new heir apparent, and the overthrow couldn’t happen soon enough.

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Photos are the Love Letters of the Social Web

Instagram, Hipstamatic, Path, the list goes on and on. Photo taking, editing and sharing apps are gaining momentum right now as more and more people use quick photos to communicate with their friends and family. Years after Flickr and Facebook reinvented the photo as a shared, social object, these new apps are transforming how we communicate, from short text-based status updates to candid, interesting photos. Some people are wondering why these photo sharing apps are so en vogue right now, but I think the answer is pretty simple – people want more than text to express themselves. As the on-board cell phone camera technology has improved pictures have become a more viable and attractive way for people to express themselves online. With our new cameras and better upload ability photos have become the new love letter for the web.

We’ve talked about the “statusphere” since the dawn of Twitter. Short text bursts were our our only option if we wanted to participate in the social web. But they were lacking. Sometimes, words just don’t do it. Text is great for relaying information, facts, quotes, etc. but photos are a much more emotional. They not only serve an information need, they serve an emotional and phatic need as well. These facets are often missing in text form, or if they’re there, aren’t nearly as profound or effective.

So now, instead of typing what we’re doing, we’re sharing what we’re doing visually with these apps. Our phatic expressions previously text-based, are being replaced, and in a hurry. The rush to join Instagram and the rest of the photo sharing/taking apps is a direct response to this emotional void that photos fill that text just can’t touch.

For example, I share photos with my girlfriend throughout the day. We snap pictures of what we’re doing, our kids, our workspaces, our shopping carts, our friends, and more. These aren’t award winners and they won’t end up on the mantle; but they’re a powerful way to say “I’m thinking of you. I wish you were here. I love you.” A picture of my son coloring is far more emotionally engaging than a text message that says “we’re coloring,” and that is what makes the photo sharing so appealing to us as users.

But there’s another thing going on here. Because people could MMS well before Instagram came along and they could share on Flickr and BBS’s long before that. And I think the secret ingredient is the filters that come on these apps. Because when you take a photo you’re documenting an event; but when you add a filter to the photo you’re adding a mood and personality to the moment. You’re marking it for posterity. You’re able to add what the camera can’t see. You’re making each picture special. And that last step is what makes sharing so interesting. In some way, you’re able to idealize the moment, and that makes sharing far more interesting for both the sharer and the recipients. It isn’t just cold reality captured by an unforgiving, inhuman lens. Rather, it’s the scene as it appeared in your mind (to some reasonable approximation anyway,) and you’re able, in some small way, to share your life the way you see it.

And people love this. Because it’s their editorial touch on the reality captured by the camera. And it lets them put their voice into the picture. The picture and it’s alterations say as much about the person as anything else they share.

This ability to alter the mundane into something special resonates with users again and again and again. We see this behavior and rapid adoption whenever a company can add an extra layer of meaning on top of an everyday item. For example, it’s not Starbucks coffee, but what the coffee and logo say about the drinker and how it makes that person feel. It’s the design of the Mac and the aluminum casing and what that says about the person holding the laptop.

And now these photos are capturing and conveying that same idea. It’s not the photo necessarily, its presenting the moment the way we choose to represent it, and what that says about us and who we are and the life we choose to lead. The photos are love letters to the people we love and care about and to ourselves. They make the mundane significant and add importance to what we experience, big and small.

Idealizing these moments is what makes these photos the love letters of our time, and what makes these apps so popular.

There are important ramifications for this change in behavior from a business and social media strategy standpoint as well. As more people share and engage around photos brands will have to find a way to participate in this preferred way of sharing content online. The Daily Beast reported that photos and videos get more interaction on Facebook than text updates. Images and videos get more comments and likes than text updates (on average,) which puts them in more Top News streams and in front of the customers they’re trying to reach. How can brands adapt to this? By sharing more photos and video of course – photos with an emotional appeal that resonates with their customer base.

It goes beyond just social sharing though, and has much broader implications for product design and development. How do you let your customers express themselves in a way that resonates with them, that helps them depict an ideal/romanticized version of their world? How do you give customers lightweight ways that they can take the raw product and add their idealized filter to it to make it truly one-of-a-kind, truly theirs? How can you help your customers portray not just their reality, but the reality in their mind’s eye?

Increasingly we are able to share more about our lives via text, photo and video. And increasingly we can craft and present our lives to be displayed perhaps not as they are in the harsh light of objective reality; but in the idealized vision of our own emotional lens. And products, like Path, like Instagram, that give us the ability to capture that state and to share with our loved ones and the world that our life is filled with interest and wonder and love are the ones that will continue to succeed in the social space. They say photos are worth a thousand words. In an age when people proclaim that SMS, Twitter and status updates are killing our language, these photos show that expressing our love to those we connect with and care about is healthier than ever.

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Brands Beware: My Klout Score is a Farce

A lot has been made of Klout scores lately.  (update: good read from on how to fix Klout by Mark Krynsky, a funny Klout rant by Michael Sean Wright) Brands wanting to get positive word of mouth on Twitter are using the score to ID influencers that can help build buzz by sharing their experiences with their audience. Disney, Virgin America and Fox Television are just some of the brands that have tapped Klout as part of getting buzz online. The Palms Casino announced the formation of the “Klout Klub” which will use Klout to determine the type of treatment and upgrades you receive based on the amount of influence measured by the service. But brands need to be careful using Klout, because, most Klout scores are a farce.

Klout only measures the “influence” of the individual on Twitter and Facebook, and doesn’t, by definition, take into consideration the individuals true influence. Not only that, but the algorithms used by Klout to measure influence on those networks seem questionable at best. Klout scores are primarily a vanity metric, and their relevance, is at best, directional. But they definitely don’t tell the whole story, and brands that use them to deal with online influencers can find themselves blowing off people with extreme influence that just don’t calculate on the high end Klout influence score.

The problem is not that Klout is inaccurate. It’s not even that their tagline is misleading, “The Standard of Influence.” They’re a new web service after all, trying to tackle a near-impossible task of ranking every user on the social web as it relates to influence. The problem is the lack of sophistication that brands have when it comes to understanding the complex nature of influence online and connections across these networks. Klout being inaccurate is just like any other stat being inaccurate. It’s fine, until you start making business decisions based on flawed data. A brand who stakes building their reputation on Twitter using Klout as their guide is making a grave error. They’re paying attention to bad data, which can be more dangerous than no data at all.

As brands wade into the social web and look to influence conversations to the positive benefit of their business they must realize that there isn’t a tool or service that can actually do the heavy lifting for them. They need to participate, observe and (wait for it) listen to the conversations that are impacting their business. Only then can they be confident that they are reaching the true influencers that are relevant to their business.

To demonstrate the point, here are 11 people that have loads of online influence, and even tons of influence on Twitter, should they choose to use it, that have lower Klout scores than me. I’ve got a 63 as of the time of this writing. These folks all use Twitter frequently regularly, so the idea that use=influence, while flawed to the core, is even inaccurate in these cases.

On this list we have CEOs, well-known and respected authors and reporters, the founder of the largest social media organization on the planet, and the guy that started this whole social Web thing with The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Doc Searls – Klout 56 | Doc Searls’ blog

Co-Author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto”, founder of VRM, Fellow at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, much, much more.

Doc Searls Klout score

Tim Street – Klout 56 | Tim Street’s Site

Tim’s founded one of the most influential online TV series with French Maid TV, and is the leading voice in online video and content creation.

Sarah Lacy – Klout 58 | Sarah Lacy’s blog

The author of two books, with writing and video credits including BusinessWeek, TechCrunch, Yahoo! and more.

Brett Bullington – Klout 46 | Brett Bullington’s LinkedIn profile

Respected investor, including board seats on Digg, Oodle, Next New Networks and more. Investor in Flickr.

Kristie Wells – Klout 56 | Social Media Club

Founder of Social Media Club, the world’s largest organization of social media professionals with more than 200,000 members.

Stephanie Agresta – Klout 49 | Stephanie Agresta’s Blog

EVP of Social Media at Weber Shandwick, and founder of TechSet, the popular event organizer at premiere social media events.

Ryan Holmes – Klout 49 | HootSuite.com

CEO of HootSuite, one of the leading social media dashboards.

Cathy Brooks – Klout 55 | Cathy Brooks’ Twitter Stream

Well-respected thought leader about the impact of the social web on business.

Bryan Elliott – Klout 50 | LinkedOC

Founder of Action Sports Network and LinkedOC networking groups with nearly 10,000 members. Hosts influential thought leaders in the OC with his popular events.

Mark “Rizzn”Hopkins – Klout 56| SiliconANGLE

Editor in Chief at SiliconAngle. Former writer for Mashable.

Laurie Percival – Klout 48 | Lalawag

Founder of Lalawag, influential Los Angeles tech scene blog.


If the Palms or any other brand decided to ignore these people while paying attention to me (or treating them differently than me,) they’d be doing a huge disservice to their business.  It’s up to the strategists that are working with these companies to inform the business owners of the inaccuracy of the data, the value that they can place in it and the work they need to do to ensure that they’re reaching the people that really matter to their business – regardless of the score assigned to them by Klout.

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The Social Network Actually Looks…Good?

Facebook logo

Image via Wikipedia

The Social Network is the upcoming movie about the start and rise of Facebook.  There is plenty of reason for skepticism as much of it is likely to be over-glorified, dramatic and intriguing then the actual birth was; but I have to admit, after seeing the trailer I’m intrigued.

I’ve read both Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” and David Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Effect,” and while Kirkpatrick’s is reportedly much more realistic-and based on actual facts and interviews with key players-it is still riveting.  Which gives me hope – sometimes the truth is plenty exciting enough.  Let’s hope the producers feel the same way.

Here’s the trailer, let me know what you think.  Also, can I just say the remade “Creep” by Radiohead for this piece is perfect. Will you be going to see it come this October?

Via Movie Trailer: The Social Network | /Film.

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Social is the future

I love this quote from Facebook’s Bret Taylor on the future of the social web. I think he’s right.  The products that will win in the future will be able to help us extract value out of our relationships in a variety of ways to improve our experiences online and off.  And, it’s early days.

Bret Taylor of Facebook

One thing that Mark and I have talked a lot about is how the services that will be the most successful in the future will be ones that are built with social functionality in mind from day one. That’s what we’ve seen with the gaming industry. My favorite game growing up was Sim City. If you were to build that socially, you’d make all these changes — neighbors would make a difference, you’d build cities that are competitive to your friends’ cities. Social experiences in products can create an immense amount of value. Products like the Wii took something that was previously solitary and made it fun by involving family.

Photo and quote via Q & A: Facebook’s Bret Taylor on privacy, the transition from FriendFeed | VentureBeat.

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Content is King: Your Social Media Content Strategy

content_strategyToday I had the privilege of speaking at UCLA‘s Anderson School of Management at the BizSoMe (biz sum) conference about creating an effective social media content strategy.  Content is more than just information, content objects are critical hubs of conversation – they are social objects that get consumed, shared and manipulated by the viewing audience.  By deliberately planning a social media content strategy companies can increase engagement and achieve their business goals by leveraging social networks and their inherent content sharing features.

In this talk I focused on content strategy from a high-level view and then looked at it specifically for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr.  Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to skip past much of the Twitter and Flickr portions of the talk.

A couple of notes:

A couple of people asked for recommendations about custom Facebook Pages. Here are a few options:

Any other questions? Drop me an email or connect with me on Twitter.  And feel free to add me on LinkedIn.

Content is King – Your Social Media Content Strategy

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If you’re reading this it’s a good bet that you are probably responsible for marketing your company in one form or another.  And if so, instead of another list of things to do in 2010, or another pile of resolutions to stick to for the first 6 weeks, I simply ask that you take responsibility to work on your craft in 2010.  I promise to do the same.

What does work on your craft mean?

It means refusing to be comfortable.  Resisting the urge to feel satisfied.  Remaining curious. Reading, thinking, pondering, improving, pushing, testing, trying, failing and succeeding.

The world is full of too many people who think they’ve done and seen it all.  I talk with digital marketers every day who still say Twitter and Facebook are fads.  Who still think digital marketing comes down to email, search and a Web site.  And that is the mark of someone letting their responsibility slide.

We owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, our profession, our families to continue to learn and push and get better.  Sitting still is the quickest route to irrelevancy in today’s world.

So I implore you (and me) to take responsibility for our craft as marketers. To refuse to know it all, to refuse to be satisfied and to open our eyes to what’s happening right in front of us and start asking questions – about it all.

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The Art of Access

Access. It’s what everyone wants.  Access to the best events, access to the famous people.  If the adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is true (and, it is) then access is what gets you to the “who” that can make a difference.  But, more often than not, meeting the “who” that matter is a pipe dream – and any interaction is often little more than a passing handshake in the hall of a conference or a feeble “great panel” comment as you stand in a sea of others all clamoring to meet the person you really want to know.

Gaining access is an art. An art that they don’t teach you in business school, but one that changes everything, from the events you attend to the people that you meet to the jobs that you get.  It is the secret to getting to wherever it is you’re going.

Here are the key principles in gaining access:


If you’re not pre-gaming conferences and events you’re killing your chances at gaining access.  You or your company have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to get you to an event (say, South By Southwest); you can’t simply walk-in without doing any prep work and expect to successfully connect with the people you want to meet.  These people have schedules at these events that are booked weeks in advance and your chances of just “running into” these people are zero. Do your homework.

  • Identify who will be at the event ahead of time
  • Make a “hit list” of people you want to meet
  • Mine Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to learn about the events outside of the conference (often unofficial) that will provide better settings to have a meaningful interaction
  • For your hit list: read their blog posts, twitter stream and articles so that you can talk intelligently to these people about topics that are important to them

Create a Platform

The people you want to meet are the same people that everyone else wants to meet.  Typically, you and everyone are not the people they want to meet, they want to meet with their friends and business associates.  Bottom line: they are busy.  In order to break through the noise and get a meaningful interaction with them you need to bring value.  And this is not about what your company does for its customers.  It’s about how you can help promote and advance the interests of the individual you want to meet.

You can do this by creating a platform that can help distribute their message and further their own goals.  For example at SXSW we created a platform called 100 interviews.  We went around and asked the top 100 social media and technology people if they would be willing to be interviewed on video as a part of this “experiment” at SXSW.  It took 4 days and we met and had meaningful interactions with people that you can only dream of.

Why did it work?

  • We created a platform – 100 interviews – that gave us a coherent and easily understandable value proposition for the participants.  Get your message out, be involved with 99 other luminaries, be part of the project.
  • We created value for them – a distribution network across all online video sites tied to a big, recognizable event (SXSW)
  • We played off of SXSW’s theme – by calling the project an experiment we played to the collaborative nature of SXSW.  People want to be a part of a cutting-edge way of doing things and participating in something novel.
  • We used social proof

Using Social Proof

Social proof is essential to gaining access.  It is the proof that gives the people you want access to confidence that you’re worth their time.  It is also the engine that drives the momentum of your access.  The concept is simple.  You get one notable person to say yes to get the next, and so on, until you’ve lined up meetings or interviews with everyone else you want to meet.  And it’s just like bowling pins – get one key individual and you can leverage that agreement to connect with the next person.

How to use social proof:

  • Make yourself look bigger than you are – If we had randomly asked people to interview them, they would want to know who we were and for what purpose.  Instead we created a powerful hook “100 interviews” that instantly created an easy-to-understand premise.
  • Create a presence – We instantly launched a web site, Twitter account and YouTube channels. By having these concrete elements people could validate what we were doing.
  • Use commitments to gain other commitments – We publicly announced when we secured big commitments. By Twittering and posting those commitments on our site we were able to validate our project and get more people involved.

Create Buzz

Promote. Promote. Promote.  We promoted 100 interviews like crazy in the days leading up to the event.  We asked our friends to Tweet about it on Twitter, we posted our commitment updates on our blog and tweeted them out.  By generating buzz we created additional credibility to what we were doing.  After a few days the people we contacted said “oh, you’re the 100 interviews guys!” Having the buzz gave us credibility and helped us gain even more commitments.

How to create buzz:

  • Create a brand – 100 interviews had a nice ring to it. We supported it with a logo, web site, Twitter handle and YouTube channel.
  • Cash in your Whuffie – Whuffie is social currency, the goodwill you accumulate with people you’ve helped in the past. It’s time to cash some in and ask people you know to help spread the word. Reach out on Twitter, email, Facebook, whatever, to ask them to help get the word out.
  • Leverage online tools – Create Facebook fan pages, event pages, a WordPress blog, a Twitter account, and more. Give people every possible way to interact and promote what you’re doing.

Make it Count

Look, even with a great platform and buzz you still have just one interaction with a person you want to meet.  Sure – it’s a more meaningful interaction than just shaking hands after a panel, but it is just one.  And one does not make a relationship.  The best way to move from interaction to relationship is to follow up afterwards. And follow up quickly and personally.

Write a personal thank you note to every person you met and interviewed.  Make it handwritten, and get it out the door in a week.  This will make you stand out from the rest of the folks who simply drop emails or Twitter direct messages.  Then, follow the person on Twitter, interact when appropriate and keep in-touch with them periodically.  Then when you see them at the next event you’ll have another reason to say hi and chat for a few minutes.

Guess what?  You now have access.  Welcome to your new world.

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Can you make what you do a game?

More and more we’re seeing the world of marketing and gaming mix. From the latest location-based social networks like Foursquare, to the digital “tree” that “grows” in response to fuel efficiency in new Ford Fusion, making marketing a game is becoming a sure-fire way to reach customers. In a world where most advertising and marketing gets ignored, what can you do to build game play into your marketing messages?

We’ve all been told (and all know by experience) that people are overwhelmed with information and have limited time to pay attention to anything new. Getting a piece of their attention is the hardest job a marketer has. But in an apparent paradox, people will invest hours and hours playing simple games online like Farmville, check in repeatedly to earn points (worth nothing more than bragging rights) on Foursquare and even change their behaviors to win at games that have little perceived value. What Ford and Foursquare have done is used the elements of gaming to create enjoyable interactions that reward users and provide brief periods of escape while surprising and delighting them with unexpected changes based on their use.

The idea of putting game elements into marketing isn’t anything new of course. Les Wunderman famously used the hunt for the gold box in Columbia House Records advertising to drive direct response sales that crushed traditional advertising campaigns. McDonald’s runs Monopoly year after year for a reason. But it seems every time game play is introduced in a new way it means success for the marketer that incorporated it into their awareness campaigns.

Here are a few ways to incorporate gaming into your marketing:

  • Make the game easy. Ford makes the game of fuel efficiency in their new Fusion by allowing the driver to “grow” a digital “tree” on the dashboard in response to their fuel efficiency.  It rewards driving in a manner that improves efficiency and highlights the “green” elements of the car to people attuned to that message.
  • Reward people for taking actions beneficial to you and them. For example, checking in on Foursquare earns users points that give them bragging rights among other users and can become the “mayor” of locations for repeated check-ins.  Foursquare benefits by repeated use.  Advertisers benefit by presenting localized offers to users in the area.
  • Make the rewards visible. Foursquare uses badges, Ford uses a tree image.  By making the rewards visible the players help you market the game by proudly displaying their accomplishments to their friends inside and outside the game.
  • Make the game part of a bigger community. Playing a game individually is fun, but its an experience that can’t be shared.  By providing a way for others to compare themselves to one another you make them part of the community that plays the game.  This makes them more likely to stay engaged and playing by tapping into the competitive and communal nature of our beings.

So what can you do to put game elements into your marketing or product or service? I’m working to figure out how I can do it in my business, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this strategy of building awareness and engagement with your product/service/message in the comments.

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4C’s of Personal Branding

I’m still working on my keynote on Building a Personal Brand for November 7th.  I think I’ve come up with a framework for the talk that I’m happy with, now I just need to round it out and execute on the actual presentation.  One of the things I came up with in my brainstorming for the talk was what I’m calling the “Foundation of the Personal Brand” which is based on the 4c’s (not dissimilar to the diamond industry.)

I’d like to share those 4c’s with you here and see if you agree with them as the cornerstones to building a successful personal brand.

The 4c’s to a successful personal brand

Character – Character and integrity are at the base of everything.  Plenty has been written about authenticity, transparency and ethics when it comes to creating asuccessful brand on the Web.  I believe it speaks for itself and goes without saying that to win in the long run you have to be true to yourself and true to others.  You also have to have the mindset of helping others with what you’re doing.  If you’re not out to help others you’ll be talking to yourself.  Without character, without integrity and the desire to help others you’ll never be successful in the long term – with a personal brand or any other effort.

Commitment – Building a personal brand using social media tools is not a sprint.  Using social media to create a personal brand is the longest path to overnight success there is.  Building a personal brand is a marathon.  It requires a persistent consistency.  Without that commitment to success you’ll stop before you even get started.  You won’t make the connections  and you won’t create the body of work to demonstrate your expertise.  Without a true commitment to it you’ve lost before you’ve begun.

Create – Goes hand-in-hand with commitment.  The most well-recognized and successful social media luminaries create tons of valuable content.  You have to give to get.  Pay in with amazing content, insight and opinion and you will be rewarded.  Spend all your time on Facebook and Twitter and you won’t create the foundation of thinking that will give you the respect that you’ll need to propel yourself forward in your career/life.  Sure, you can build a viral following on Twitter by being witty; but that’s like catching lightning in a bottle.  Lay a solid foundation of your expertise by creating valuable content.

Connect – None of this is worth very much without connections to other people.  If you’re not building relationships with people in your industry you’re not going to find the success and recognition that you need to cement your personal brand.  While some of this is self-promotional, it is primarily being earnest in trying to connect with people in your industry that you can help and learn from.  This is where getting offline is critical. Sure, meeting people on Twitter or in the comments of your blog is a great way to break the ice; but the relationships really get built at conferences, mixers, meetups, tweetups and other real world gatherings.  You need to find the ones you need to be at and get to them one way or another.  If there aren’t any in your area, start them.  There is no way to succeed without connecting.

So what do you think? What are your building blocks for a successful personal brand?  Brad had a great comment in my last post about being yourself which is dead on.  What am I missing? Do you like these or not? How would you change/add/subtract to/from them?

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