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The other day I was talking to a friend who is in the process of starting up a business. It is an event-production business, and, from the brief conversation we had, was primarily going to be referral-based. She wanted a website, and found someone who was willing to give her something for free or cheap.
The problem is, she didn’t like their work! So she asked me if I would be willing to change and tweak it once it was finished. I thought for a second, and then told her bluntly: “You are heading down a bad path.”
Why? Because she would be putting a great deal of time into getting a product out there that wouldn’t be the best it could (and should) be. Because the money and time she does have should be spent on getting referrals and business going. Because what’s the point of making a website that won’t be updated and will have to be redone in a year?
So I told her a radical idea: “You don’t need a website right now. Use free services to promote your business. They are out there. The web is a different place than it was just a few years ago.” For a referral-based business on a shoestring budget, I gave her the following suggestion:
So that’s that….you can use all these free services to get started and turn your business idea into a perfectly humming machine, where you are connecting with people via Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook until the time, and money, is right for a custom website. Then we’ll talk…. ;)
A recent New York Times article about how Vice, a hipster media company / magazine is partnering with Dell and Intel, two large tech companies, got me thinking I haven’t given much thought to in a while: content.
I know, I know…we are inundated with tweets and Facebook statuses all day long, and news is just a click away on Google Reader or Google News. So content is readily (and freely) available. What’s interesting to me is how Dell and Intel are both trusting Vice (a brand known for controversial imagery and content) to curate two microsites for them, and…this is the great part, that aren’t pushing Dell or Intel products!
Motherboard, the Dell side of the partnership, is little more than an aggregation of short posts and snippets about cool and quirky left-of-center technology trends both new and old. Resting alongside posts about Chinese hackers turning their laptops into touch phones and old Demoscene 3D Graphics are some genuinely interesting trends and cultural detritus that are worth perusing for a bit, even just as a distraction while at work.
The Creators Project strives to be “a new network dedicated to the celebration of creativity and culture across media, and around the world.” It highlights individuals who are pushing culture and technology forward, and has video interviews with the creators featured, like Joachim Sauter from ART+COM.
What’s interesting for me isn’t the success or failure of the individual sites – both, actually, deviate from the User-generated carnival that are Facebook and Twitter. Instead, we find large, well-known brands trying to connect with large segments of clued-in consumers they otherwise might not be able to reach through traditional advertising. Can better content drive through the advertising noise and be better heard? Are creating these networks the best way to do it? I’m not so sure, but it’s an interesting experiment.
The other aspect that resonates with me is the process of curation in digital culture – large brands turning to smaller, ‘with-it’ digital agencies and culture studios to not just create another broadcast spot or Facebook fan page, but instead create a longer, sustained endeavor – a network in-and-of-itself that, ironically, isn’t selling Netbooks, but is promoting the people that (might) use them. This will resonate more with some people than trashing the other guy or rattling off tech specs to get their attention.
If anyone has read Daemon and FreedomTM by Daniel Suarez you’re now thinking of a new world order where the constant real-time voting, interactions, and contributions into a virtual social network govern the way a real life society functions. A new world where power is truly in the hands of the people and not the “ambiguous few”. If you haven’t read these books and enjoy true sci-fi that imparts your sense of philosophy, ethics, and society, I highly recommend it.
In this adaptation of the near future, people have a “social score” based on their trade, the level they have achieved in their trade, and rating by others. For example, in this world I’d be: a level 22 information architect with a 4 out of 5 rating from a base of 143 (totally made up example). It’s my social circle itself that gives me raises and praises.
Your probably reading this thinking of all the lawsuits and litigations that might ensue from the principles of defaming. You might get uneasy thinking that anyone can anonymously give you a rating that anyone (including your mother) can see. You could think of those who would game the system by cheating to give themselves an advantage and their competitors disadvantage.
I for one, am intrigued.
First, I’ve always been fascinated by what people think of my actions. Am I really the good guy that I think I am? I might be surprised.
Secondly, we all grow and adapt from feedback from our surroundings. If I did something that might have hurt someone else, I’d like to know so that I could try not to do the same in the future. It doesn’t help me if no one tells me how I just made them feel uncomfortable. Similar systems are already in place in company’s HR departments with 360 feedbacks and performance evaluations.
Finally, if I am doing something questionable and know that anyone can make public, I might be quicker to give apologies and also be more aware of my actions overall. There are a few people I can think of who should be more aware of their actions.
Where it stands today. I believe society has to be weened into this way of thinking. In fact we are being weened into it. There are a few sites that are introducing the concept (maybe you’ve heard of them):
On LinkedIn you can give “recommendations” to others. This is like a letter of reference. Useful and powerful, but ultimately you can only say good things. You can also “like” people’s comments and follow people and you can “pass” or degrade the comment.
On Facebook you can “like” artifacts that people post such as photos, comments, or objects that exist.
Twitter is a social rating system whereas the more people who follow you the more useful your twits are perceived to be.
eBay sellers have a rating system that increases or decreases their trust from buyers. This way you won’t pay someone who has been rated poorly in the past.
Ratemyprofessor.com does just that. Students can give college and university professors a review. This can potentially help students pick and choose classes. I wonder if administrative staff put any weight to this “user feedback”.
Unvarnished is in public beta and is seemingly the closest thing so far to the world Daniel Suarez created. It uses Facebook connect to rate people over a variety of categories. There’s been many controversy over this one: MSNBC, SMSEO, LATimes. The funny thing is all these sites are criticizing a rating site by giving it a poor rating.
It seems that the world is not be ready for something like this at the moment. I’d like to believe it’s a tool that would slowly help us create a better society. It will cause more contention in the beginning just as most new ideas do. I am curious to see the implications and hear the thoughts of people as me move forward into this area. Especially since we are all rating each other in more ambiguous ways.
Feel free to comment.
Photo credited to ~Milk-Cream
Mashable just put up an exclusive article from their Twitter sources that the Twitter button will be launched this week.
The Tweet button will count tweets, retweets, and shares across Twitter. Similar to Facebook like, the Twitter button can be added to any webpage with only a few lines of code.
James Chudley of Smashing Magazine posted a great article on How to Use Photos to Sell More Online. Its a lengthy article with great photo examples. The article was written for products, but I believe these can be put to use no matter what you are doing online. Most importantly, we don’t want to put up a photo just to put up a photo… make it do something for you like:
We curate quite a few websites where we manage the use of photography. We work hard not to “slap on a photo”, but make it have some meaning and usefulness in the grand scheme of the website. Read the full article.
Marketing your company is just as important as the quality of work you do. In fact, for companies like ours the quality of our work is a major component of marketing.
For a fast growing business where founders and owners are a part of the production process, it becomes difficult to continuously reach out to new potential customers.
I just asked Joe Zeff, owner of Joe Zeff Design, a 3D graphic design company located in new jersey, how he markets his company. He gave me 3 ideas:
1. Exposure through work – the magazine industry has really embraced 3D design as an alternative to photography and illustrated information design. Although there isn’t a big return from these projects, but they build credibility and relavence.
2. Email blast – Joe’s target customers are art directors, he has a list of thousands of them, each month he sends them a blast email showcasing his latest work.
3. Blogging/ social networking – this was surprising to Joe, but blogging has put him on the forefront of conversations and he’s able to contact many a bigwig through Twitter.
This article is 3 years old, but I think it really nails the reason Apple has the following it does. The lack of choice theory makes sense once you think about it. Why do you think Apple customers are so loyal?
“Pundits often refer to them as “zealots” or “fanboys.” The more polite references include “Mac loyalists.” I am, of course, talking about Apple’s (AAPL) more vocal customers, those who will defend the company and its products in any debate going on around them. What is it that drives their passion for most things Apple? Is it a deluded mind, warped by the Reality Distortion Field that Steve Jobs so successfully wraps every new product in? In short, the answer is no.
The truth behind the scenes is not that Apple has a large group of customers that are too dedicated and passionate about their products, or the company as a whole. The reality is far more simple and obvious: Apple simply has a large group of very satisfied customers — and that’s the secret ingredient left out of nearly every analysis or op-ed piece that mentions these “zealots.” ”
Read the original article here
There is a thin line we must walk between form and function. We’ll always have a bit of both.
If we had a scale from bare-bones utility versus over-the-top flashterbation, we’d be somewhere in the middle everytime. Sometimes we’ll lean towards the utility side and other times we’ll lean towards the experiential side. Usually this is a page-level decision depending on the page’s purpose.
Some examples of when we lean to the experiential side include: when we need to evoke emotion, display complex information, facilitate decisions, or guide through a flow.
We’ll lean to the utility side when we need to people to do something repeatedly, when delivering serious or sensitive information, or when we want to focus attention.
UX Magazine wrote a great article on comparing Eye Candy vs. Bare-Bones in UI Design.
Peter Shankman, the founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and The Geek Factory, gave the people at the NJ Business Marketing Association a great talk on how he thinks about and uses social media to make his businesses successful. Thank you Peter, thank you BMA and thank you fellow Lwer Derrick, Christine, and David for attending with me.
Here’s what I took away from the talk
Grow your personal brand
Peter was big on the individual. Businesses don’t do business with people. People do business with people. Your business is a reflection of the people that run it. He wants everyone to develop their personal brand through social concepts like texting (twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc.), phone calling, and (yes) snail mailing notes. A quick side note on snail mailing notes. Last month we were hiring for project managers the people who are standing out in my head are the ones to followed up with a personal hand written note. Its all about doing something different to capture the minds of people. So go forth and start building your personal brand, its going to define you in the future.
Plan for backup??!!?
Peter made a great point stating that he was always told to “have a backup plan”. Why? Why not concentrate on a the plan for success? It’s better than concentrating on the plan for failure. My take is that when you have to plan for failure, what you are planning is costly thus increasing its risk. In Peter’s world (and ours) big things evolve from small things. Start small, start fast, and start now.
Information is free
The world as we knew it was broadcasted to us from only a few sources. Print, radio, and television were all broadcasted from a few to many. The internet is making information free and creating a many to many relationship. Breaking news doesn’t come from CNN anymore, it comes from twitter. In this world we are creating views of the world at the exact moment it happens and sharing that view with people all over the world.
Ask your customers, how they want to get information
There is so much information out there and so many ways to take it in. We listen to podcasts on the commute into work, we read blogs with the morning coffee, we check facebook status when we come home and sit down. We have developed routines of digesting information. So how do you get your information to your customers? Ask them. Talk to your customers often and ask them how they would like to get your information.
Peter says the Social Media is having other people do public relations for you. Here are is 4 fours of social media:
Again thank you Peter for the great talk.
Lifehacker has a great post up about the facts and many myths about browser cookies.
Here are the facts, and myths they cover:
The bottom line is that cookies aren’t really a problem, and blocking them will generally make your life more difficult.
I strongly recommend you give it a look – Fact and Fiction: The Truth About Browser Cookies
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