Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Which shoe salesman are you in social media?

I was reading 10 Simple Secrets of the World's Greatest Business Communicators and in it, Carmine Gallo relates the story of Akio Morita (cofounder of a little electronics company called Sony and the guy that brought us into the era of portable electronics thanks to a gadget you might have heard of – the Walkman!)

It seems Mr. Morita had great trouble convincing colleagues and investors that anyone would want to use, much less want to buy, a portable music player. It seems that Mr. Morita took to telling the story of the two shoe salesmen in the jungle. The jist of the story is this:

Two successful shoe salesmen from competing companies were sent to Africa to see of there were any opportunities there.

The first shoe salesman arrived in Africa and immediately began his assessment of this new wide open market. Less then an hour into it, he quickly phoned back to his headquarters: “I can’t sell shoes here! Nobody wears them, everyone is barefoot!”

The second shoe salesman arrived in Africa and also began his assessment. He quickly became thrilled at what he observed and called headquarters: “I can’t believe what I’m seeing, everyone is barefoot over here! Send me as much stock as you can spare, we are going to make a killing!”

Can you even imagine someone today, in the age of smartphones , netbooks, portable GPS, etc, questioning the viability of a portable music device? Of course not! And yet I see that type of mentality all of the time in social media. This kind of reasoning seems to come back every time something new comes out.

Remember Twitter? How many people clamoured, in web and in print, that it was doomed from the start? “140 characters? Nobody is going to want to use this.”; “I give it a month.”; “Nobody wants to read about what you had for breakfast”; “There is just no practical use for this”.

Twitter may have had a very simple premise when it was created but the community found uses for it. Individuals and groups looked for the opportunity to use the tool to fill some of their needs and it worked. Now Twitter is the fastest growing social media channel out there and it is being used:

• by individuals as a communication and research tool,
• by corporations for PR,
• by public figures for branding (Ashton, Oprah, Britney)
• by politicians for campaigning
• by government agencies for advertizing, media monitoring, and crisis communications
• by advocacy groups and non-profit organizations for outreach and funding campaigns

It reminds me of the story of Victor "I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company." Kiam. In his autobiography, Mr. Kiam tell the story of how when he was Vice President of Marketing at Playtex in 1958, he was offered the option on a patent for a new kind of fastener for bras. He decided it would never catch on and passed on it. The product was Velcro! Mr. Kiam admits he failed to see the potential of the product beyond what the inventor had foreseen and vowed never to make the same mistake again.

So, which shoe salesman are you? The one who dismisses new social media channels out of hand or the one who tries to see the opportunities that lie just beyond the moment?

If you think you are due for a quick brain shake-up, read Good Idea or Bad Idea? by Joel Saltzman

Monday, April 6, 2009

Now this is the tale of the castaways

I was in a store the other day and I saw someone wearing a Gilligan hat. Imagine that, having a hat become so synonymous with your character that people forever refer to it with your character’s name.

In fact, few other shows have had the cultural impact of Gilligan’s island. Did you know for example that the question "Ginger or Mary Ann?" is regarded to be a classic pop-psychological question when given to American men of a certain age as an insight into their characters, or at least their desires as regarding certain female stereotypes?

That’s quite an impact for a show that only aired for…3 years!

So what made the show into such a pop culture icon? 2 reasons:

Because it made you long for a life on a deserted island…

Sure, the sets were cheesy by today’s standards but still. The island was a very exotic place for someone from little-town America. Many a young boy had visions of living in one of those bamboo huts and sleeping in a hammock like Gilligan.

Because it made no pretention at seriousness.

Gilligan’s Island was funny and goofy and the perfect way to escape from a bad day at the office (or in my case, at school). TV shows today, even the zanier one, always seem to want you to learn a lesson of some sort, or aim to provide a moral with a social redemptive aspect to it.

Gilligan’s Island made no such claim. You didn’t really learn anything from watching this show (besides perhaps how to make a bomb out of a coconut) and you know what? You didn’t need to! It was pure, guiltless fun. I think we could use some of that right about now!

OK, I'll admit, there might also have been some motivation provided by the huge crush I had on Mary Ann (sorry Ginger)!
I did a bit of digging around, as I usually do when something stirs up my nostalgia gland. I learned a lot about the show and about the story behind the show.

I also found fascinating facts about the actors who brought these characters to life. Did you know?

  • That Russel Johnson (the Professor) flew 44 combat missions as a bombardier in B-25 Mitchell bombers and that plane was shot down in the Philippines in March 1945.

  • That Jim Backus (Thurston Howell, III) was the voice of Mr. Magoo.

  • That Natalie Schafer (Lovey Howell) was actually older than Jim Backus by 13 years and that she made millions in real estate.

  • That Tina Louise (Ginger Grant) posed for Playboy.

  • That although Tina Louise played the sultry actress, Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) was the real-life beauty queen, crowned Miss Nevada, she represented her state in the 1960 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.

  • That Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells were originally considered "second-billed co-stars" and that it was Denver who went and forced the studio executives to get them added to the opening credits. Wells said that Denver never mentioned this to anyone in the cast, and she did not find out about it until years after the show ended.

    So, to our merry band of castaways I say this. Thank you for providing us with a show and characters that made us laugh, and made us dream!

    Bob Denver (Gilligan)
    Alan Hale Jr. (The Skipper)
    Russell Johnson (The Professor)
    Tina Louise (Ginger Grant)
    Dawn Wells (Mary Ann)
    Jim Backus (Thurston Howell, III)
    Natalie Schafer (Lovey Howell)

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Man vs Machine

    Man vs Machines. It is a concept that has provided fodder for many a book and made millions for movie and tv producers.

    It now appears that the battle rages on - on the Web!

    ReadWrite Web has a post about how Twine could surpass Delicious. In explaining Twine’s bookmarking methodology, they described it this way: “It's like tagging in Delicious but automated and, in theory, more thorough than any human being would be in assigning tags.”

    What is strange is that not long ago, Mitch Joel was commenting on the power of people in the search engine arena. He mentions an article he wrote a while back where he stated that Delicious was becoming his default search engine. The reasoning was this:
    “…if someone found a piece of content and took the time to tag it and bookmark it, odds are it had already been vetted and could be considered much more reliable than anything a Google algorithm might return back.” It is the wisdom of crowds philosophy that has made, amongst others, Wikipedia what it is today.

    There is an obvious debate brewing here. Wisdom of crowds vs machine efficiency.

    From my own perspective, I favour the Soylent Green approach but I am very curious to hear your opinion.

    Who (or what) do you trust more to give you relevant information on a web page’s content, man or machine?

    Thursday, January 8, 2009

    Social Media Marketing – The show about nothing?

    Social Media Marketing – The show about nothing?

    Seinfeld fans (and who isn’t?) will remember Jerry and George pitching a “Show about nothing” to network execs. What few know is that this was another case of the show mirroring real life as Jerry Seinfeld and actor/director Larry David actually did pitch the show Seinfeld as a “Show about nothing” to NBC execs.

    Lately in my own musings, I started to wonder if many so-called Social Media marketers, mavericks, and mavens, were not in fact “pitching a show about nothing”.

    He is, to the simplest degree, what a SM marketer does – tell businesses that people are having conversations (gosh!), sometimes even about their products (oh my!), and that perhaps they should take part in said conversations, or at the very least, listen in.

    It’s a bit like telling a CEO that his employees are having conversations around the water cooler, and that he should listen in to hear what people are saying about him (or her – I believe in gender equality, female bosses have the right to be just an snoopy as male bosses!) Not exactly earth-shattering stuff! And yet there is so much hype about it right now that every other person you find on Twitter nowadays calls him or herself some king of Social Media Guru.

    The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to me.

    Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is tremendous value in Social Media, even business value. After all, no one is going to argue that listening to your clients is a bad thing! BUT!!! (There is always a “but” around, isn’t there?) as any SM marketing specialists will tell you, ROI (return on investment) is notoriously difficult to measure. In layman’s terms, it’s hard to tell if you are getting any bang for your buck. (Some wanna-be are actually counting on this since it means they can make a quick buck without having to supply and proof of the value of their work).

    Sure, everyone talks about the companies who have run afoul of SM because they ignored it. Remember the Kryptonite bike lock video on Youtube? It almost sank the company. I won’t even bother supplying a link. A quick search on Youtube will generate dozens of versions and of imitators. But beyond that, what is truest value to all of this?

    Now, before I get flammed, let me state that I am not throwing all SM marketers into the same pot. There are a lot of talented individuals out there doing great work and providing tremendous services well worth the investment. So how do you seperate the cream from the skim milk? How do you tell the the good from the bad and the ugly?

    I am putting the question out there. What advice would you give to an SM virgin, on how to choose a SM marketer that is going to give them value for the time and resources they are going to invest in this venture?

    Monday, January 5, 2009

    So many passwords, so little mind!

    Trick : How to create passwords you can remember at will.

    So, you now have a Google account, a Facebook account, two online banking accounts, an account for your city taxes, a Flickr account, a Yahoo Messenger account, a Skype account, and two blogs (one for you and one for your budgie). And this is just the tip of the iceberg! You are crumbling under an increasing pile of passwords! So what do you do? You write them down, usually on a piece of paper or worse, on a sticky that you leave in your workspace. (Tech support guys will tell you they can usually find a user’s password written somewhere in their office in under 10 mins.)

    P.S. If your LCD is covered in post-its with your different passwords to the point where it looks like a giant sunflower, we need to have a talk!

    Of course, you could just use the same password for every application, but then, if someone cracks your password, they have access to your whole life online!

    OpenID and similar “decentralized user identification standards” are coming along slowly (some say inevitably) but then again, some of the same concerns as before arise.

    So what is the solution?

    Enter the LPEM, The Lemay Password Encryption Method.

    I named it after myself because…well, because I came up with it, and because LPEM backwards spells MEPL which sounds funny when you say it, like someone pronouncing “maple” with a Monthy Pythonesquely bad French accent.

    The LPEM will allow you to create unique, secure passwords for nearly every account you have. And yet, you will be able to remember each one with ease!

    How does it work? Glad you asked!

    The trick is to use the ancient and venerable science of cryptography. Cryptography, according to Wikipedia, “…is the practice and study of hiding information”. Basically, you are going to use a cipher to create your passwords. A cipher is an encryption algorithm - in layman’s terms, a series of well-defined steps that can be followed as a procedure and that will produce a coded piece of text.

    Since only you will know your cipher, only you can decipher your passwords.

    Don’t worry; it is actually much simpler than it sounds!

    Let’s start by looking at the basic password best practices:
    - Eight or more characters
    - Use Uppercase and lowercase letters
    - Use numbers
    - Use alphanumeric characters and include special characters, where supported by the operating system.

    Keeping these in mind, we are going to build a custom password algorithm for your accounts.

    Here is an example of a basic password algorithm for say…yahoo (mail)

    1- Take first and last letter of site (y and o), always in CAPS
    2- Add the word “mail” (for an email account, you could choose something else that you will remember, or even a random word)
    3- Replace the L by an exclamation mark !
    4- Add a number at the end of significance (so you will remember it) but not directly related to you. E.g. number of years to retirement (18)

    So our password for yahoo mail would become: YOmai!18
    Your password for hotmail would be: HLmai!18
    Your password for Gmail would be: GLmai!18
    And so on and so forth.

    Here is another more generic example,

    1- First and second letters in caps
    2- Your salary rounded to two digits (i.e. 52)
    3- Last two letters, never in caps
    4- Two odd characters

    So if I want to create a password for Twitter, it becomes
    1- TW
    2- 52
    3- er
    4- ;)
    So my Twitter password is: TW52er;)

    My Facebook password would be FA52ok;)

    Ta daa! You can now create as many passwords as you want and remember them with ease.

    Feel free to Tweet this post or even to re-post. I just ask that you give me credit for the idea.

    To add an extra layer of security, change your system on a regular basis. I change mine every 2-3 months.