Friday, February 27, 2009

Twitter as marketing tool

Yes, I do use twitter, professionally and personally. My experience is positive, as with most other tools. Key is to know what it is good for, and whom you are targeting. The cost per referral per twitter usually is very high, so the right target group is extremely important.

  1. I think twitter is good for 1 to 1 marketing. As I am looking for a new job, I try to connect via Twitter, addresses are easier to find not as intrusive as an email, a little personal ticker. Though this can be kept up only for a limited time and very few people with all the other things to do.
  2. Another way is to automate twitter and to just push out latest news, prices, bargains, and have a huge audience listening to that. After all the stats I've seen, I am not impressed.
  3. Next reason to twitter would be to ride the hype, been known as someone using 'social'. This means on the other hand, objective is to minimize your efforts. One way to do that is using your PR person to post daily news snippets on twitter, although in bigger corps that might be difficult and still time consuming because they often need a release by product manager and legal.
  4. A very different way would be to compare your disti (double opt in!!!) with twitter and then bridge the time between newsletters with a tweet every now and then or to inform them on a launch of a site or parts.

I am very skeptical about a good ROI, and I think for most use cases there are better ways to connect. But as can be seen here, depending on target group and objective there are some success stories, and I am sure there are many other good ideas and successful projects out there.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The portal is dead? The portal is back!

The old public portals are dead or weaning. New portals are popping up with bigger user involvement – one of the main ingredients to success on the internet.

Remember the Netscape portal? What was its name again? See what is happening to Yahoo? So, public portals are pretty much dead.

But, what is a portal anyway? A collection of news, information on a variety of topics, information bits, usually collected and put together for a certain target group representing a part of the online population. Portals usually link to the full articles and offer ways to give feedback and very often a personalization.

Or, here a bit more glitzy portal overview and description.

Does this description fit the non enterprise portal too?

Mostly, yes. Check it out: or

They connect what is happening out there, sometimes focused like intel did with this very smart move to use the in reference to their corporate color and the overall association to blue chips, and sometimes more generic like popurls and kosmix.
Sometimes there is a search and a login, and the portals are going to some length about integrating open-id concepts to give access to associated content via SSO, single sign on. Remembering these are independent platforms it is amazing how far this has come, especially compared to how difficult this seems for enterprise portals.

There are mainly three categories of sites

  • Aggregators like,,,,, flickr,, twitter
  • News generators like wired, huffingtonpost and nytimes.
  • News aggregators are like or
And connecting all this, there are the new portals like and, collecting all this information in one place and then linking out to the origins. An interestingly big part of these are using statistics to find relevance on the social aggregator sites, showing what seems important in the online community.

The aggregators are one very new component of these new portals, they give personal expression a forum and add to their power by making them more prominent then they have been before.

So what is the effect on traffic of the new portals?

Getting to a top position in one of the aggregators can boost your visitor flow tremendously, I personally have seen small sites with 40% and more visitors coming in via ONE aggregator like digg or stumbleupon, even without being in a very prominent position in the respective aggregator.
With aggregators being this important, their power will be even more increased once a page makes it to one of the portals.
(Unfortunately there are no public user reports to be used to estimate the factor in quantity this makes, and let’s not guess today.)

Does it make a difference in opinion building?

Let us take a scientific stance: Getting information from several, best contradicting, sources is most valuable for building an independent opinion and informed decisions.

Collecting the most communicated news from a variety of sources then should balance views from specific user groups. Let’s assume lifehacker is mainly driven by techies and delicious by marketers or communicators. Theses aggregator sites are driven by the vocal public, the ones who have an opinion, who have a message to the world, are keen on to be seen active in the community out of whatever reason. Then, there are news sites like nytimes, huffington post, filled with content by journalists and hopefully backed up by research in the sense of scientific research (reproducible results). Wired is an interesting mix of professional technology journalism with highly opinionated statements, may be this is why they seem to be so popular.

The good...

So, over all there is a mix of a great variety of perspectives, news, opinions and topics on these sites, and from a political participation perspective this is very advanced and opens the chance not only to compare what made it into the official versus what made it into the in-official social news. It also opens the possibility to see a variety of perspective on the same topics and to gain a more balanced view.
From a user perspective it is very helpful, as instead of going to all the sites, a quick glance at these portals gives a good overview of what is happening online.

… and the bad ....

There are two flaws though, although they cannot be easily qualified or quantified.

First, a lot of people and a lot of target groups are left out of this information gathering and opinion building. How many percent of the populations are not online? How many of the online population have an account on one of the aggregators and use them regularly?

Second, the bias of these social networks, with that the bias of the opinion aggregators and by that the bias of these social portals seems to tilt heavily to the political left. Without taking a political position (this is not the place to lean to a party, I’d say) this gap is not helpful for getting a good overview. (Guess is, there is quite some overlap, but I don't know any reliable numbers here.)

...and the way out

Now I just need to figure out, how to build a portal page for myself, collecting the news like these portals do, but customized. Leaving out the noise I don’t want and adding the few resources I need additionally.

I am open for tips!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Does Facebook privacy and copyright disaster call for Microsoft counterstrike?

Privacy and copyright concerns skyrocket after the facebook privacy disaster made visible to everyone what is happening with terms and conditions, those huge long pages hardly anyone reads. The solution could be close – if only Microsoft would enhance Outlook (and IBM Lotus Notes) to a global communication platform where users can own and control all their data.

Need for a communication platform

Users want, perhaps need, to be everywhere: Twitter, Linkedin, facebook, live, Digg, reddit, plaxo, high5, stumble upon, you name it. People want to find and meet friends, colleagues, potential future employers, buddies and want to communicate easily. Contacts, calendar, mail, video, pictures and publishing are the main elements of a tool of choice.

All online platforms offer some of this ‘cross connecting’ already or are heading in that direction. GREAT, this really helps. They login to my email accounts and pull the data. Still ok. There are tools to publish across several platforms. Great. Calendar integration is on the way. So everything is fine, or not?

Privacy concerns and copyright disaster

Problem is, some, if not most platforms want to keep everything, analyse it, perhaps sell it or use it with other companies. Remember that facebook disaster? Use of my pictures, my mails forever? Use of the knowledge of my contacts and network forever? What happens, if Facebook fails or what if Google buys Twitter including all user data?

Proof is easy - just remember how often you can upload you contacts, and how rare it is that you can download them!

Does anyone want a possible employer to know everything about what they have done in private time? Just an easy example: Maybe someone is looking for a pharmacy marketer – and someone has marked something in stumble-upon saying this pill is bad, dangerous and there is a free alternative. Would they still hire that person? Or is it just a matter of time that this will find it’s way into the HR departments?

So what do we need? Requirements for a communication central

A tool needs to offer to:
• Maintain ownership and control over my address book and connections
• Maintain control of my own publications and posts
• To connect all mail accounts
• To connect all social networks, platforms, etc. and search for my contacts
• Connect people with other people, sort, group
• Post same content to different platforms
• Post different content to various platforms
• Get calendars and events for my calendar

Microsoft counterstrike? The basics

Take MS Outlook for a start. Using it for all mail accounts is easy. To integrate, group, separate contacts is good, too; not very handy, but manageable and completely in my ownership. Love that. A good calendar, some item tracking, some security features. Take the small business opportunity manager and there is a simple CRM tool to your use. Nice but solid basics.

Want more? Connect Outlook with ALL online platforms Bi-directional
1. First, please add connectors (Apis, tools, plugins) to connect with ALL online platforms, to check for existing contacts, to import and export contacts. (Don’t wait for others to do that, time is precious!)
2. Then add a way to integrate events from offline to online and vice versa.
3. Now add a tool to send messages to boards and platforms as well (like you had with the tool for publishing on news forums many years ago), and a way to keep track of that.
4. Then, give it a nice surface, to copy or move posts from one to another location per mouse. Drag and drop publishing.

Why not ‘new tweet’ or ‘new entry in facebook’ in the menu? Why not tweets as special kind of inbox message? Why not copy a picture from online platform to online platform via Outlook just per mouse click?
There is much more, but you get the idea.

Communication central with privacy control and content ownership

More then ever people are in need of a communication central, making the ever changing communication manageable. Online solutions may not be the best according to the terms and conditions with which they come often.
Microsoft – and a few others like IBM – have tools already, on which these platforms could easily be built. Please, don’t try to just copy what’s going on online, wake up and use your assets!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some thoughts on semantic web

Found this interesting article about the semantic web:

Are you ready for the Semantic Web?
(From achieve market leadership)

Yes, I am!

And here is my estimate how things will change for marketers with the semantic web:

1. I believe content will still be king, perhaps even more than ever. Content to give answers to people’s searches and help them.
2. More than ever, focus on core competences will be important and relevant. Additional content will be the core competence of someone else and will be attached at the right spot automatically. May be for a semantic search engine one element to determine the right content and connections will be, if the content is in the core of the publishers authority.
3. We are on the way to prepare for the semantic web already with linking, tagging, connecting, blogging, and so on. These methods will - at least to some extent - most likely develop into the connectors we need to cluster the content.

(Same as over there, just fixed some typos)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Twitter Gadget for Blogger - watch it!

Wow. If I've seen that right there is a Twitter gadget I can include in this blog easily. And everyone can follow feeds here on the blog. Fine. Great.

And then, right under it, they smuggle in a small google ad into the gadget. Result is, I would include a Google Adword onto MY page and THEY make money out of it, perhaps even jeopardizing my own Adwords.

Bright idea for Twitter, nice for Google too - but I feel exploited.

Guess if I will use this 'generous offer'?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Social web favors Small Companies

Like Kevin points out in his excellent post 'small is winning' on his excellent blog, the way internet works right now it favors smaller companies. I agree to quite some extent, although brand can favor bigger companies quite some and this might be more important depending on product, brand and position in the sales funnel.

'Social web' does not help the big companies either, it favors small companies:
  1. Social web is expensive as it has very little reach per expense. External cost usually is not too bad, but internal effort is huge (think about your blogging time).
  2. There is no barrier hindering companies from entering this communication, means the investment to use social can be made by small companies too.
  3. The most likely affect is on brand receiption - but big companies have an established brand already. Small companies can brand themselves easily and inexpensive this way.

So SEO, social, Co-ops work in favor for smaller companies. Ads, brand, SEM work for bigger companies, as their performance is much stronger related to the budget accessible.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Twitter - learning by accident

Social web sites like twitter have something very spontaneous. You follow a bunch of people on twitter and every now and then there is something exciting, some news really helpful for you.

Learning by Accident
Let's ask for the ROI from a users perspective. How long do you have to follow tweets to get some really relevant translating in added value and not just satisfying your curiosity? Rarely. How much time can you spent to follow people over a longer time? How likely is it, that you see the relevant post right when you need it?

And even when you see something like that, it is never enough. At least a blog post, or one page on a site is necessary to really help, and the tweet has just a link.

How many hours of reading, sifting through feeds is necessary to find some gold? Would it not me more reasonable and goal oriented to do some research once a problem or question pops up?
Yes it is! Include twitter for sure, but following?

Yes, there are many uses for twitter
The other perspective, namely to use this to actively communicate is important, at least for some customer segments, I can see that. As I see the value of publishing rather than mailing information, no worries. And especially for building personas it is an invaluable resource of information.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ready - Set - Go

This is the blog to the web site It is the spontaneous part and the much less structured. Because of this, topics might occur in both locations, most likely referring to each other.
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