Monday, August 31, 2009

Increasing convenience, FTW

Arrow up the treeImage by net_efekt via Flickr

Increasing convenience isn't about being bigger than the competition. Being better than the competition doesn't mean you're increasing convenience for your customers. And while doing things faster is a worthy goal, it's not the same thing as increasing convenience.

Why increase convenience? Because we as a society are motivated by convenience. You may have a different experience on a personal level, but that rule holds true for society as as a whole. En masse, we always reward companies, entities, organizations and people who increase our convenience. Yes, that convenience may take the form of helping people do things bigger, better or faster. But when you pull back the layers, we always move toward increasing convenience.

So before you launch that game-changing service, consider the convenience factor. Will it increase my convenience? Prior to releasing your earth-shattering product to the market, pay attention to making it easy to use. It may be the coolest thing ever, but if it won't increase my convenience, it's going to be a flash in the pan.

Let's end with a pie-in-the-sky scenario: public transportation. I live in Phoenix. Public transportation isn't a viable option for me. Why? Because driving to work is more convenient than taking the series of buses -- with or without the light rail -- necessary for me to get from home to work. There's simply no way that I'm going to give up the convenience of a 30-minute drive compared to the half-hour on public transport. Regardless of how much gas I'll save or how far my carbon foot print would be reduced.

Since they can't compete on the convenience of time, they need to go different directions. How about offering free public wifi on all buses and trains? That would be a game changer. Suddenly my 30 minutes in the car -- one way -- is seen as lost productivity. Can't work on the lappy while driving, and most of my work is web-based work. If I can connect the whole way? Score. That increases my convenience.

If you work on "bigger better faster" assumptions, you're stuck in the status quo. But when you start thinking of ways of increasing convenience, you may find competitive advantages cropping up in all sorts of interesting -- and unexpected -- areas. How can you increase my convenience.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Upcoming speaking engagements

In the last year or so I've made it a priority to find more speaking gigs. Yes, I'm a huge attention whore and love being in front of a crowd. Guilty. But I also find the process of prepping to give a presentation a fantastic learning experience. It's one thing to claim knowledge of several areas. It's quite another to concisely express that knowledge to a motivated crowd -- with time constraints. Yet there is liberation in the restrictions.

Most recently, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Social Media for Business event put on by Social Media AZ. This was a business-focused event -- as if the name didn't give it away -- with the proceeds going to two local non-profit organizations that help kids and the homeless in the greater Phoenix community: Scouting Pack 378 and I-Help. I put up a SlideCast of my presentation the night before, and event organizer Fred Von Graf has an exhaustive write up of the jam packed day. Thanks to Adam Nollmeyer for letting me use the image to the right.

But that was just the beginning. Right around the corner is one of the larger projects I've taken on: Hands On Social happens 8/31 & 9/1. I'm co-organizing this event with Jeff Moriarty and Katie Van Domelen. Both are colleagues of mine at agencyside, a division of Sitewire. This day-and-a-half event is just for advertising agencies. I'll be presenting on the impact social media has on search marketers, as well as explaining new media opportunities for agencies and their clients. Special discount: I know it's last moment, but if you're interested in attending, you can enter Travis in the discount field and save $500 off registration. And no, that wasn't a typo. It's pro-level seminar.

And then on October 12th - 14th, I'll be sharing the stage with some real heavy hitters including Guy Kawasaki at BOLO 2009. It's another agencyside event and is once again aimed squarely at smaller, independent agencies interested in offering the latest in online, digital marketing to their clients. The speaker line up is quite impressive and the knowledge to be shared is vast. Speakers, panelists and attendees are flying in from all over the country for this one. I have another special code that will save you big bucks, but only a handful of spots remain. Email me if you want it. First come, first served.

After that, I'm headed back to the 2009 REALTORS® Conference & Expo on November 13th, this time held in San Diego. Gotta love organizations that ask me to go to some place with a beach and talk! I'll be expanding on my presentation from last year titled Digitally Expose Yourself. I've spent the year getting much more involved with the real estate business world through friends and local RE focused-events and am really looking forward to this. So real estate people, go to NAR and hear me talk! Sorry... I don't have any discount codes for that one.

And to wrap it all up, I'm still helping coordinate PodCamp AZ, November 14th and 15th. This is a free one and promises to be a lot of fun. It always is.

In between it all, I'll be leading some discussions at Social Media Club Phoenix and other cool events that the Phoenix Innovation Foundation is involved with. After that... I may sleep. :)

Unless, of course, you want me to speak at your event. Contact me!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Social Media + Storytelling success story

Campfire Acquires The Advance GuardImage by CC Chapman via Flickr

Congrats are in order for my buddy CC Chapman. Today he announced that his company, The Advance Guard, has been acquired by Campfire. That's a huge win for both companies.

I know little of Campfire other than a non-typical campaign I helped out with from the very fringes. And what I know of The Advance Guard is mainly from my friendship with CC -- a guy who gets it.

I look forward to seeing the way this newly minted entity helps break re-define marketing. It's 2009. It's about time someone did.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Disconnect: Reasons Companies fail at Social Media and how to Succeed

That's the fancy title of my talk tomorrow at the Social Media for Business event, put on by SocialMediaAZ. This is a pure business event. It costs money to go. (I wonder how much I get?) And the talks are specifically for people in business. Less touchy-feely. More action and tactics.

I fought with my presentation all of last weekend. And by "all", I mean all. I'd been taking notes of thoughts and ideas for several weeks. But when I sat down to put them all together, the damned thing fought me all the way. I wanted it to be very tactical and actionable. It refused.

So in the end, I let it win. The presentation is done and I'm happy with it. But it's not what I originally intended to say. That's the funny thing with words, thoughts and ideas. When you go to tell a story -- a coherent story -- you have to be willing to adapt. And maybe that's another lesson that business can take and apply to social media.

My talk is tomorrow. For those coming, I look forward to seeing you. For those not, enjoy this dry-run Slidecast version.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Phoenix Innovation Foundation launches

I'm not one to jump on the nationalism bandwagon, but it's pretty clear I think that Phoenix rocks. But not because of some arbitrary lines drawn on a map. And I'm not beholden to any specific municipality. When I speak of Phoenix, I'm talking about the greater "Valley of the Sun" that makes up nearly 70% of the population of Arizona. My admiration for this area comes not from our great climate -- though it doesn't hurt. And not from any government infrastructure, corporate footprint or professional sports team.

No, I love this community. I take great pride in the community events that I've been a part of. Sometimes as a passive participant and sometimes more active. Quite often building a community is hard work. And occasionally a pain in the ass. But so are all things I hold dear.

Today we're officially launching the Phoenix Innovation Foundation. PIF for short. It seems a logical offshoot to the way we're growing this community, borrowing heavily from other self-created communities around the country. And PIF doesn't make Phoenix great. It's just one more thing that makes the Phoenix community great. I hope it will be a catalyst to do more great things. I hope it inspires and assists those already working hard to build this awesome community. And I hope it can act as an inspiration to the communities growing all around the country. Oh hell... make it the world.

And I don't say this often, but I'm humbled to be a part of it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The incredible edible whuffie

It took me a month to finish Tara Hunt's book, The Whuffie Factor. That's a very long time for me to spend on a book. And I'm glad I did. Also, you'll not be surprised that I'm recommending you buy it.

But some of you will be skeptical. What if you really aren't all that concerned about using the power of social networks to build your business? That's the tagline of the book. What's that? You're not trying to build your business? Understandable. Maybe you think all this personal branding talk has been overplayed. I certainly do much of the time. Perhaps you're thinking that change is inevitable, and that you're an agile and adaptable person, easily adjusting as the environment changes. I think that describes me.

So to all of you, I offer up this challenge. Go to a bookstore. You remember bookstores, right? Go to a book store and pick up The Whuffie Factor. Open it to page 281 and begin reading the tenth chapter, Whuffie IRL (in real life). Take 10 or 15 minutes and read to the top of page 296. No one in the book store will mind. You aren't stealing. And while it may sound strange that I'm recommending you read the final chapter of the book; fear not. It's not a novel. The ending will not be spoiled.

For the book has no ending. Only beginnings. Only some concepts, strategies and tactics that people have used and are using to build connections. To build social capital. To build whuffie. As Tara writes, you can't eat whuffie, but it's getting harder to eat with out it.

Or just take my word for it and buy The Whuffie Factor online. I'll happily count the pennies from the affiliate transaction. I'm confident you'll find it money well spent.

And for those of you who have already read it, do you agree? What did you get out of the book that's worth passing along?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Social Media 101 part deux at SMC Phoenix

Well that went well. Last month, I debuted something new at Social Media Club Phoenix called "Social Media 101". The idea is simple and in-line with my objectives: make an easy in-road for those who are new to the concept of social media. When us "seasoned veterans" start tossing around buzzwords and leaving out annotations, it's a little off-putting for those on the outside or who are brand new. I'd like to change that.

Here's what Jeff has to say about the event I'm doing tonight:

Social Media 101

Before you jump in the social pool with both feet, you might want to test the waters. What are people saying about you? Where are they saying it? And what should you do when you find out? Find out the answers in 15 minutes. And come prepared with questions, as this is a beginner-friendly conversation.

The Social Media 101 session starts at 5:30 and is led by Evo Terra. It is entirely optional and you can just attend the main panel at 6:30 if you wish.

It's at's corporate offices near the Biltmore. See you there!

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keep hope alive

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, it's the little things that make me the happiest. Many of us with the nontrepreneurial sprit devote significant amounts of time into activities that have zero chance for payoff. I'm not talking only about direct payoff. I'm talking about zero chance of secondary payoff too. Sure, there's always whuffie to be had. And building whuffie is a Good Thing. But for many of us, the things that take much of our time build whuffie in ways that make it difficult to detect even the slightest amount of measurable payoff.

Sure, we get accolades. Sometimes even press. But it's not like the things we're helping to achieve are all that extraordinary. If they were to up and vanish, the world would not come to an end. Far from it. In fact, when some of us have thrown in the towel, many didn't care. They've simply gone back to what they did before. Reverted to the things that were available to them prior to our entry. Things that, perhaps, had more support.

But sometimes... the things we start refuse to die. We try our best to abandon them, yet they persist. A small but vocal section rises up, refusing to take our abandonment lying down. And what are we do to? We acquiesce. We realize that the community that we so recently imagined cared little for the marks we made instead cared deeply. Deeper than we ever thought possible.

And with that acquiescence comes acceptance. And new found purpose. We realize that the project -- the non-monetizable project that sucks countless hours -- shall not die. For the community is not ready for it to die. So we persevere. The community has spoken, and their demands must be met. Because in the end, we live and die by the acceptance of the community. It's not quite natural selection, but it'll pass for it in 2009.

Thanks for coming back,

What? You thought I was talking about something else?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Drop your assumptions at the door

North American Elevator Buttons made by Dover/...Image via Wikipedia

Everyone knows what an "elevator pitch" is, right? Wrong. Over the weekend I attended Laid Off Camp Phoenix. Side note: a great event. You should put one on in your city if you're looking for work. Some fabulous ideas and connections were made!

During the camp, a speaker suggested everyone prepare their "elevator pitch". From my vantage point in the middle of the crowd, it seemed to me that more than 50% of the crowd of 100 looked puzzled by this remark. Not that they were having trouble understanding the need for a personal elevator pitch, mind you. No, this was the look of the truly bewildered. As if it was the first time those two words appeared in succession in a sentence. Speaking with a few attendees later on, my suspicions were confirmed.

So watch your turns of phrase. Turns of phrases? Doesn't mater. What does matter is that common catch-phrases might not be as common as you think. But rather than avoid theses verbal shortcuts, make sure your audience knows what you are saying by bringing them into the fold.

Rather than saying make sure you've got your elevator pitch ready, try:

Create a minute and a half script that clearly and accurately describes what is you do and why it's important That's called an "elevator pitch", and you need to always have it at the ready.

See? That explanation didn't take that much time. And now you know that everyone is clear on what you meant. Some may even have a new favorite phrase to pass along to their friends. And it didn't use language that talks down to those who are already in the know. If anything, It reinforces that you know what you are talking about, and shows that you are encouraging others to join the "in crowd".

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Advertisers need social media triage

Looking into the past: Bug LightImage by Corey Templeton via Flickr

Supposition: Any time survey data is used to support "trends", be skeptical. In fact, you can ignore it all together. For all (yes, I said all) surveys are deeply flawed.

Take this report by the Association of National Advertisers. It's purports to tell us that "marketers [are embracing] new media platforms, social media and viral videos". Well sure. We know that. No big surprise. What is surprising are the numbers reported by the surveys. See if you can guess what is wrong here:

In 2009, the most effective newer media platforms were as follows:

* Search engine marketing (SEM) (65 percent)
* Own Web site (59 percent)
* Search engine optimization (SEO) (55 percent)
* E-mail marketing (45 percent)

I'm sorry -- newer media? That's more new that new, right? And even if it isn't, I'm pretty sure that it's 2009. We're well past the hump where things like having a website and being concerned about search engine positioning are "new" concepts.

Or maybe we're not.

Maybe we're really ahead of the curve. Maybe we live in the present, but the vast majority of the world is still living in the deep past, circa 2004. And we must remember that we cannot force everyone else to catch up. We have to be able to relate to them. To put it in words you'll understand -- be backwards compatible. Can you be?

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

I don't have to like everything about you

11 Cloned Men Went To Mow, Went To Mow A Meadow !Image by Bobasonic via Flickr

Chris is a gamer and writes about it on his blog. A lot. I'm not a gamer, so I don't care. So in essence, I have to "put up with" Chris' writing about gaming.

Tyler likes to rant on his blog. A lot. I don't have the same passions as he does, so I don't care. So in essence, I have to "put up with" Tyler's ranting on issues that aren't important to me.

Teel loves to post long-winded personal exposes on his blog. A lot. As I only want to see where he's at with his latest project, I don't care about those posts. So in essence, I have to "put up with" super long posts just to get what I want.

But here's the bottom line: I don't tell them about what I don't like. The last thing I want is for them only to be, do and write the things I like 100% of the time. That's... boring. In reality, I'm not "putting up with" any of it from any of them. I'm letting them be who they are. Who they want to be. Occasionally -- often, in fact -- what they want and what I want align perfectly. And I quickly forget all those other things I didn't care about before.

In the immortal words of Billy Joel:

Don't go changing, to try and please me,
You never let me down before,
Don't imagine, you're too familiar,
And I don't see you anymore.

I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times,
I'll take you just the way you are.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The future of serialized audiobooks: my interview on Bibliotech

w00t! My good friend Mark Jeffrey has edited and posted his interview with me on his video show, Bibliotech. We get deep into the history, present and future of the serialized audiobook. A podiobook, if you will. And we spend some time talking about the future of publishing, writing, reading, listening... and a whole lot more.

Thanks to Mark for having me on. Mark is already well aware of podiobooks, as his book The Pocket and the Pendant was one of the first five books we listed on And be sure and check his show archives. He's only 8 shows in and has already had quite the cadre of high-profile guests discussing the technology and future of publishing.

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Why I tweet out when I eat out

KabukiImage by boutmuet via Flickr

Many of us have a habit of tweeting where we're eating. We use Twitpic to take snaps of the food we're eating. We tweet about the food, the service and the place in general.

We do this for many reasons. Some of us are compulsive tweeters. Some of us consider it a badge of honor, that we're fully exploring the tool. Some of us want people to come and join us. And some of you want us to just shut up about it already.

All are valid points. Even the last. :)

But sometimes this tweating (tweeting + eating, get it?) can have immediate benefits for the tweet-or. Take the case of Julia and Kabuki, recounted on Tyler's blog. Short version: Julia live-tweeted her experience inside Kabuki and received free lobster. There's more to it than that, but since this about Twitter, I thought I'd pay homage to the 140 character limitation.

One word of caution: don't tweet out what you wouldn't say out loud. They're listening. :)

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The time-sink is in the details

Magnifying GlassImage by Clover_1 via Flickr

Details matter. And I suck at them. My posts, updates, emails and damn near every form of communication is littered with typos. I go fast. I'd like to slow down. I'd like to catch them before they get published. I know I need to. But...

Time, you know?

Speed to market is important. Some bloggers post 10x a day. I'm working on going daily and seriously considering multiple posts per day. But if I do that, I'll have to go even faster. It can't take me an hour to write, edit, and correct if I'm going for 2 - 3 per day.

But I need to. I need to find the time to not only write, but to edit. Tools only go so far. People who don't know me will judge me based on my attention to detail... or lack thereof. There's no excuse for not taking the time to do it right.


I know I won't get there immediately. And I'll probably stumble. But I'm trying.

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The Next Big Thing

What's Next?Image by Crystl via Flickr

On Sunday, I was interviewed by a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. I've done a fair share of interviews over the years, and you never know how the final piece will turn out. Sometimes the journalist has a slant, sometimes things get edited down to just sound bites, and sometimes quote are taken entirely out of context. All of that has happened to me in the past. But I don't sweat it. It is what it is. Not to say I think that the PNT piece will be anything other than spot on. I'm #justsayin'...

During the interview, the following question came up:

"What's going to replace Twitter".

I think that question has an unknowable answer. And not just because we can't predict the future. But because we don't know what we need -- yet. Before Twitter, none of us knew we needed an web/SMS/IM mashup that limited you to 140 characters.

Before Flickr, we assumed you had to know HTML and FTP in order to share your photos with family and friends.

Before Facebook, we didn't know that we needed private profiles, or that value was to be had allowing fellow students and co-workers access to said profiles.

Before YouTube, we didn't know we could create mini-movies and get them to our friends with ease and speed, so they could spread them around for us.

So the question of what's going to replace Twitter is as silly as it is unknowable. I use all of the networks above. Neither one replaces the other. Sure, I could use Photobucket, MySpace, Vimeo, or Dodgeball, but I don't. Yet plenty do. They don't need to switch to my tools, and I don't need to switch to theirs. They get the same benefits I get with my preferred tools.

So don't try and build a "twitter killer". Try and build something entirely new that lets me do things my current toolbox won't. That's going to be The Next Big Thing.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Going beyond takedown notices

Chris Brown Click to Buy Ad on Jill Peterson a...Image by stevegarfield via Flickr

It's an understatement to say that digital publishing causes concerns for traditional publishers. Having a digital version of media available -- regardless of who did the digitizing -- effectively eliminates the control of distribution. Digital files are inherently copyable and sharable, and any business model that relies on the prevention of digital files being copied is doomed to fail.

A much better expenditure of energy is answering this question: what new methods of compensation can be created that allows monies to flow to the rights-holders? Take the case of R&B star Chris Brown. His song "Forever" was the inspiration behind the Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz's wedding party video that has had over 14 million views on YouTube -- so far. Chris received no direct compensation for these plays, as he would have had they been played on MTV, radio or other "traditional" distribution venues that pay into various clearinghouses and ultimately compensate rights-holders for airtime.

Not long ago, Chris' (or more likely the label that owns the rights to the song) only recourse would have been to exercise his copyright and demand YouTube take down the offending video. Yes, there could also have been a suit filed against the couple due to copyright infringement. It's been done before. But that's not what happened.

Instead, Chris (or his label) was able to monetize the views on YouTube, thanks to some innovative thinking on the part of YouTube. You can read about the short case study here. Is this the be-all-end-all solution? Nope. But it's smart. And it shows a new type of thinking that embraces the digital work, rather than attempting to shut down a Good Thing.

Let creative people create. Let rights-holders monetize those creations. Seems a win-win to me. What do you think?

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