robert scoble

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Yesterday, for a friend at Reputation Management, I wrote about brands and reputation management. Today, I’m going to take a crack at “malicious comments and trolls.”  I was director of marketing at Zude back in 2006-08, a web start-up in the social computing space. We were a drag-and-drop web authoring tool — that the brand brief referred to as “the fastest easiest way to build a website.”  Zude earned Robert Scoble’s demo of the year and we had lots of big stories on Tech Crunch, Read Write Web, Giga Om, ZDNet and more. When you get that type of pub it brings out the trolls.

Dave Berlind a key blogger and confidant at the time, told us “Correct false information immediately, but don’t get dragged in to long harangues.”  Some people just love to type and argue. Don’t give them a forum. Another time, when director of marketing at an education company – and trust me educators like to type and argue – I was careful to allow different points of view, but never attempted to tit-for-tat them. Trolls bore easily and will find new people to pester.

In Social Media Guard Rails, is a key caution that applies to trolls and malicious comments, “Don’t anger the angry.”  It’s good advice.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Blog Better.

I’ve written over 1,800 blog posts here at What’s The Idea? I would love to tell you it has made me rich, or famous, or a better writer. Perhaps I’m a marginally better writer. The reality is, I do this for all the above reasons yet the main reason I blog is because I like to. I like brand building. I like communications. Marketing. And I believe in the thesis that an “organizing principle for product, communications and experience” is a sound way to drive improved sales and profitability. I’m not going to go all “passion play” on you. The word is overused today.

Many blogs today are chores. They are shared by numerous writers. They are simply writing and posting. Searchable tags under the guise of an idea. Some social media tools are a lazy man’s blog. Poop out simple short snippets and drive traffic. A blog is best when an ongoing narrative with connective tissue.

To companies who feel the need to blog I say find a writer who loves the company, topic or category. Someone close enough to actually have a sense of humor about it, a sense of indignation, love and feelings. As much as I talk about good marketing being educatory, don’t use teachers to blog.

Blogs become good if they are interesting. Interesting, contextually relevant, alive and immediate. I miss Steve Rubel. Robert Scoble. Joseph Jaffe. Come back to blogging sirs. Kandee Johnson never left and her work moves the world for her readers.

Peace.

 

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slack logo

Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, pointed to an article today about a company called Slack that just got another round of funding, this time for $160M.  Slack is an office instant messenger, Drop Box sharing, productivity app. I’m sure there is more to it, but it does sound familiar. Anyway, Slack will take this money, bank it, then go out and buy a number of Aeron chairs, a distressed oak conference table, and 6 interactive flat screen video panels. Also lots of servers and next year’s head ware. (Last year was the fedora, this year the knit cap.) What they won’t put on their shopping list is a brand strategy.

They already have nice videos and graphics. A good logo and copy, but the most fundamental strategic document they can own, won’t even be on their radar: a brand strategy. Business plan – check. Mission statement –check. Founder’s vision – check. Cultural manifesto – check. But unless one of the founders has a brand planner as a friend, there will be no check next to brand strategy. Their VCs should know better but they don’t.

This is not meant to pick on Slack. I worked at a start-up (Zude.com) that Robert Scoble and TechCrunch loved. We failed and had a brand plan. This is not me as a furniture salesman saying every company needs new furniture. This is me as a house builder saying every house needs a design and a plan.

Good luck Slack. Get yourself a brand strategy, approve it, and stick to it. (BTW, it’s not a marketing plan.) Peace.

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Okay, there’s not an app for Christmas but there will be one for Christmas shopping.  You know how hard-to-shop-for people “Oh, I have everything I need”? It’s often true.  So how do you find a nice gift that they really want? That they like and need?  Big data.

I was watching Robert Scoble interview some big data dude yesterday on the web and the interviewee happened to mention that soon there will be 100 times more data available about consumers than ever before.  Once available, you will know I get Good and Plenty in my stocking, a rock and roll tee shirt from my kids, and shirts from my mom (16.5 neck).

It is enjoyable to find the perfect gift for the right person, but it is hard. I smell an app. The app won’t average a person’s demographics it will actually know consumption behaviors. Wear out and maybe even refill speeds.  “Dear Mr. President, please don’t collect private information on the populace – unless it’s to buy better gifts.”

Peace on earth!

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God forgive me but I’m going to disagree with Robert Scoble, my technology pundit hero. I do not think Microsoft should be split in two: one side about the enterprise and software, the other consumers and devices.  

Mr. Scoble’s logic, and it seems some Wall Street finaciers agree, suggests the business side is “crushing” it (thanks Techmeme), while the device business growing modestly at 4%. Split the company, they say, and let consumer people handle the devices and business people handle the enterprise. I say bullshit. Together there is way much more to learn. And business and marketing is all about learning. Together there will be tensions that are hurtful, yet hopefully transitional. Brothers and sisters argue but they care about the family. And if the tensions are insurmountable, there is always mother (CEO).

Microsoft has so much cash, so much penetration, and enough smart people that it can continue to innovate and make an occasional misstep.  Como se Kin?  And though Microsoft’s brand diaspora is a problem, it is getting better and is certainly fixable.  Mother?

Microsoft is a living organism. It feeds itself while feeding upon itself, yet it is still better as one. With all deference to Mr. Scoble and the financiers and lawyers, the latter motivated by a pay day, let’s not break apart the machine that is crushing it.

Peace.

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Engage Maslow.

Is it easy to engage the angry? Of course it is. Toss a match. Is it easy to engage Zen-ed out lovers of life? Sure, toss a petal or feather.

Talking sports with a sports guy, Pearl Jam with a Ten Club member, Common Core with a teacher – these are topics about which people can easily engage; even people who don’t know one another. When it comes to selling, however, engagement is not so easy.  That’s why the word “engagement” is such a popular topic in marketing.  Fred C. Poppe, often wrote about engagement in the 70s and 80 and it did him well, but today engagement is almost a cult-like pursuit. 

People are not always consumers.  Sometimes, they are just people. When you treat people as consumers you treat them differently. And they can smell you a mile away. Pop marketing suggests we need to give people things of value with our marketing and communication to earn their interest. True this. But everyone’s definition of value may change by time of day, stage of life, and as Robert Scoble will talk about in his upcoming book situational context.

The best marketing is based on a full-duplex model. A two way model. One way marketing is over. The days of things sticking to the wall are over. Today we are talking to people. People who are twitching away from our messages with increasing speed.  Planners who search for people value – think Maslow – are the best searchers. Peace.

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Brand planners like to write and talk about “context.”  For Robert Scoble, a mentor of mine, context online and in technology is a driver of the next big thing. Well I’m here to tell you context sometimes can be a deterrent.  Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers is a really small VC company. They made gazillions investing early on in technology – them daringly decided to focus on things that will help save and make more sustainable our planet and went into green tech/clean tech

Along came a number of big technology plays Kleiner missed out on and all of a sudden they become more famous for the money they didn’t make and a couple of big green technology investment busts. (We are in the infancy people, relax.) Also, one problem was context.  Sustainable energy isn’t just solar panels and electric cars, it’s about ways to build planet-sustaining renewable energy. It ain’t just code. Contextually, Kleiner Perkins needed sector people looking into geothermal and algae and stuff we’ve never thought bout – stuff we can’t say.  Yet they were hoping the sector would be more like tech – hence the words clean tech and green tech.  Me thinks they should have been looking closer to the green and clean side of the house. That’s where the big payouts will be.

When a small grade school in Copenhagen, NY can heat and cool itself using geothermal technology, that’s a green clue. Could we have done the same for the Freedom Tower?  Who’s asking?  Kleiner Perkins should be. Peace

 

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Rackspace has a great name.  It is endemic to the cloud-based hosting category, it’s easy to repeat and understand for the lay person.  It’s descriptive and mellifluous.  Rackspace hired Robert Scoble to help put them on the map and make the brand more relevant a few years ago and it has paid great dividends. Now the company is one of the top players, along with Amazon, Microsoft and Google.  But this rentable web platform space is about a couple of things: trust, cost and functionality. Trust that the platform and systems stay up. Cost because you are buying bandwidth and processing power by the pound. And functionality because technology is always about functionality.

The current Rackspace name does not do the brand justice. It smacks of raw, bare bones, generic computing power. His is where I might suggest – and you can bet the corporate officers are thinking the same way – that the company be renamed. Renamed to deliver more of a technically forward punch. But names are money. And I think the Rackspace name can be evolved.  If the brand plan begins to define space and as outer space, with endless possibilities they will be on to something.  The final frontier, indeed. As companies grow, so can their brands.

Love the name, but in 2013 and beyond, it needs a bit of a facial.  Peace.

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David Brooks had a nice Op-Ed piece today in The New York Times on the topic of big data. In one of his metaphors he states that as the data haystack gets bigger the needle becomes more deeply buried. So context is critical to analysis of data he argues. Poor contextual views of data cause failed analysis.

Another opinion leader I follow is Robert Scoble – a tech blogger. Robert is the most “on” person I know. When he sleeps he’s evaluating.  Robert’s big thing this year is context. He reviews and evaluates all sorts of tech tools that create context out of actions, locations, email and Siri voice commands (I threw that last one in there, but I’m sure he’d agree.)

Brand planners use context every minute. As they watch and listen for powerful, motivating behaviors, they seek patterns. Hay of a certain length, as it were. Planners’ brains gravitate away from the formulaic and toward the unique. And interestingly, some of the insights they glean aren’t about selling stuff. They are about people that buy the stuff – or don’t buy the stuff. The insights may provide context around child safety or home health or happy meals (lower case) unrelated to the product at hand. And so long as the insights are not too far afield of the product being sold, they are fair context and stimuli for the creative team and the creative output. In the end, it’s all about sale though.

Did the Deutsch’s Darth Vader spot sell more Volkswagen’s? Do kids ride in cars? Do families have and/or want kids? If you have the answer let me know.  Peace!

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I first ran into Marshall Kirkpatrick in the blogger’s room at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2007.  At the time he was writing for ReadWriteWeb and one of technology’s top 10 bloggers; in the rarified air with Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Malik Om, Erick Schonfeld and Jeremiah Owyang.

Sitting in on start-up product pitches for a living must have been hard.  Then under deadline, having to write about it, explain it and prognosticate — even harder. One would imagine that people like this would have at some point aspired to be involved in a start-up. But not so much. Mr. Kirkpatrick is an exception.  His company is called Little Bird.  If I got the Is-Does right (I sat through a webinar yesterday) Little Bird is a Social Monitoring 2.0 tool designed to help find category Posters rather than Pasters. The tool feels really smart at first pass.  

Seeing hundreds of start-up presentations over the years has prepared Mr. Kirkpatrick for the “life.”  The funding period(s), naming, first hires, code-fests, Beta testing and pitching. And more pitching.  His tech blogging background does not insure a successful tech startup, though it certainly should give him a leg up. I applaud his derring do and look forward following Little Bird’s progress.  (Nice name by the way.) Peace.

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