Mark Zuckerberg Comes to Utah

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

In what he claims was his first speech at a University, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Brigham Young University in Provo this morning. Along with Senator Orrin Hatch, Zuckerberg answered pre-selected questions for about an hour.

The format was pretty well suited for the large crowd of about 10,000, but to me seemed to be more about Hatch than Zuckerberg. Nevertheless there were a few good takeaways.

Business takeaways

Zuckerberg was pretty humble about his success. He claimed though he is the public face of the company, nothing would get done if it weren’t for the other employees of Facebook. How does he do it? “Make sure everyone you add is really great.”

Though the service has 600 million users, Facebook is only composed of 2000 employees. Leveraging technology and an open source platform creates that kind of scalability. Zuckerberg said the company has a philosophy that “an independent developer should always be able to create something better than a big company.”

Regarding entrepreneurship, he said the biggest attribute any business person needs is to “love and believe in what you’re doing.” There are many challenges along the way and he concluded with my favorite quote, “No normal person would want to build a company.” Normal people wait for things to happen. Exceptional people make things happen.

Facebook

There were some general questions asked about Facebook that I thought Zuckerberg provided some insight into. He said Facebook solved a human problem. We look at Facebook as a technical phenomenon, but the core of its success is it solves a human problem of how to connect with people we know. In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, he said successful people solve interesting problems and that’s the key to keeping yourself essential in our modern economy. Mark Zuckerberg has done that.

He pointed out with Facebook, we can stay in touch passively with people and still maintain the connection. My personal experience supports this and I’ll bet yours does too.

Transparency and Change

Alluding to the political climate in the Middle East, Zuckerberg said “transparency would be transformative.” However his development of Facebook was clearly for business. “Businesses can’t hide behind a big corporate veil anymore.” Neither can governments, the media or any other public organization.

When pushed on the political aspect, he said the Internet gives everyone a voice. Additionally he claimed more connection equals more empathy and a project within Facebook is physically demonstrating a rising number of connections between people in Israel and neighboring Arab countries.

Hopefully Mr. Zuckerberg will be back to Utah and provide more insight. Thanks to Senator Hatch for bringing the Facebook founder to Utah.

How to Add Photos to a Facebook Business Page

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment
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The Future of Online Marketing

March 23, 2011 1 comment

Last week I was asked an interesting question by the Chairman of the company I’m working for. He had just heard me present for 50 minutes about the power of social media.

He said, “We may be ahead of the curve right now, but our competitors are going to catch up. If we adopt your strategies, where will we be when the competition does too?” (Paraphrase)

I said, we’ll still be ahead. The reason is simple – we understand social media. The future of online marketing is people will no longer search for what they want to buy, they will ask their friends/contacts for recommendations or the needed information will naturally come to them.

I’ve been thinking and teaching this for a while…but I didn’t know how it was going to happen. Now I know how and the unanswered question is when.

Let me elaborate. Tonight I attended a conference put on by Kynetx which featured tech blogger and evangelist Robert Scoble. For three years Scoble was a second public face for Microsoft and he has

made Microsoft, with its history of monopolistic bullying, appear marginally but noticeably less evil to the outside world, and especially to the independent software developers that are his core audience.

Frankly, I really went to see him, but Phil Windley stole the show. Dr. Windley is a top Utah technology blogger, CTO and co-founder of Kynetx. Basically Dr. Windley explained how relevant content would be instantly delivered to web users…without having to track user’s personal information.

The Kynetx version is called the “Live Web” and could bring consumers conveniences like knowing automatically when their refrigerated food is going to expire. (That data is already on the bar code.) How about automatically generating an expense report based on flight info and foursquare checkins?

Kynetx may not be the company that creates, defines or owns this market, but they’ve certainly got a chance. Regardless, someone will. Imagine only seeing online ads for things you’re interested in. No more spam!

How about news? Only see the topics you’re interested in. Never see another headline about (insert your least favorite sport, celebrity, politician here.) If you ever want to hear about that topic, you’ve got a friend on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn who is an expert and will share.

Now that we know the what and the how, the question is when. That’s exactly the question I asked Dr. Windley and Mr. Scoble when I got the opportunity to speak with them. Neither would venture a guess. That’s a fair answer too. It’s not about the technical ability, it’s about the controllers of the data/technology giving it up. The tech exists now, it’s a matter of coordinating it all.

Proprietary information is what creates value. However, we’re looking at a system where information yearns to breathe free, but businesses still need to make a profit. That’s where the delay lies. Until a profit model is demonstrated, consumers are going to be stuck in the current model of spam and unsolicited herbal Viagra ads.

Marketers are stuck in a sort of purgatory right now too. We know the old methods don’t work, but management insists upon using them. Forward thinking management wants to see a return on investment for their social media marketing dollars.

I’m of the opinion the smartest investment, whether business or personal, is in connecting with people. Connecting, not selling. When the Live Web or Web 3.0 comes around…and it will…sooner than you think…the business/person/brand with the best people connections will come out ahead. If you can manage that task cheaply and effectively through social media…it’s even better.

Transparency Dictates We Grow Thicker Skins

March 14, 2011 3 comments

Last week Chrysler made a social media faux pas. They accidentally dropped the “F” bomb. Well…the social media company they hired dropped the bomb. Actually somebody at the social media company did.

What was the offensive tweet? (Fair warning, adult conversation with adult words is about to happen.)

@ChryslerAutos - “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”

As a result of one word, the employee lost their job and a few days later, the entire agency was fired. Meanwhile at the Academy Awards, everyone thinks Melissa Leo’s passionate blurting of the F bomb was no big deal.

Ironically Chrysler’s new spokesman is Eminem, a Detroit rapper famous for his profanity laden rhymes. But the social media person is the one that got fired. They’re the one that didn’t meet the standard of

Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication.

I don’t care. Most adults don’t. That’s the reality of social media. We now see things transparently. The stereotypical 50′s families like Ozzy and Harriet never existed. Clever Hollywood types presented this illusion of perfection as reality, but it’s not. Reality is full of curse words, alcohol, sex and all sorts of other things adults have proven over and over to be able to handle.

Chrysler is making a bigger ass of themselves by making an issue of this. If you’re going to fire this company, fire Eminem too. Transparency shines a light on everything good and bad.

In the transparent age, we need to be more forgiving. Not only is Chrysler hypocritical for firing their social media company, they’re hypocritical for firing them for a genuine mistake. How many cars does Chrysler recall each year for mistakes? I’ll bet it’s more than one!

We no longer live in a sanitized world. If we crave transparency, we have to accept everything that light illuminates. America elected a President with a DUI. We tolerated Dick Cheney’s off mic profanity. We’ll just have to accept an accidental F bomb from the car company Eminem reps.

Oh the humanity…

Black Hat SEO Will Cost You

February 25, 2011 2 comments

It’s not often that SEO makes the news. However, in the last two weeks, SEO has been a big topic in several mainstream media publications.

Two weeks ago the New York Times wrote how JC Penney used scammy link building to craft a successful online holiday shopping season. When the reporter contacted Google about the tactic, the top rankings disappeared.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal wrote how Overstock.com paid college students for inbound links to their site in another questionable SEO campaign.

Finally, today Google announced it was changing the way its search algorithm works in an attempt to delist “content farms.”

What is important about this recent news about SEO? It’s a clear message to the spammers and scammers of the online world black hat SEO tactics won’t be tolerated. The fact the SEO industry even has a recognized “black hat” category is quite telling. There are rogue operators in any industry, but they keep a low profile and operate in the shadows to avoid detection. Black hat SEOs like to brag.

If you hire a black hat SEO, you may benefit for a while, but eventually you will pay…maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your domain’s life. It worked for JC Penney during a crucial time -

Kate Coultas, a company spokeswoman, wrote to a reporter in January, “Internet sales through jcp.com posted strong growth in December, with significant increases in traffic and orders for the key holiday shopping periods of the week after Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas.”

Today Penney’s has lost significant position on its ill-gotten rankings.

The situation with Overstock.com wasn’t as blatant as JC Penney’s. Rather than buying links from the dregs of the online world, they offered a discount to people who would link to them. These were namely tech savvy college students who blogged from high authority .edu domains. The end result was the same…a significant drop in search rankings for top keywords.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…

These high-profile cases beg the question, “Are paid links legal in the search algorithms?” The answer is no. Google’s search algorithm won’t consider paid links. The only legal paid links are those that have a “nofollow” tag or those that go to an interstitial page that has the robots.txt file blocked.

Penneys and Overstock haven’t been banned, they’ve simply had the “link juice” or Page Rank removed from their links. The results have been devastating.

Content farms are another concept altogether. They involve low quality articles written purely to attract the attention of search engines and gain rankings. Human visitors to these sites are typically bombarded with an array of ads and the site owners hope to gain advertising income. The largest organized creator of such content recently had an IPO worth millions of dollars. Google has decided to change how these sites are ranked.

The aftermath for these companies is up in the air. JC Penney fired its SEO consulting company and blamed the entire fiasco on them. The Overstock situation is still playing out and Demand Media claims their rankings haven’t been affected.

Perhaps the better question relies on strategy. Was JC Penney duped by an SEO company? They’re in a tough position; either admit they went black hat on purpose (it was effective after all) or claim ignorance (something a multi-billion dollar company should never do.

Overstock obviously adopted a grayer hat approach, but still knew their tactic was wrong and could have consequences. Paid links that pass Page Rank are never legal. NEVER.  Demand Media and its ilk also chose the path they went down. The search engines allowed it. Now they don’t. Adapt or become extinct.

My policy has always been white hat. Over the years I’ve been passed by temporarily by black hat tactics or black hat SEOs only to find out later their results didn’t work long-term. I don’t worry about algorithm changes, because I produce good content. I’m not in business to test the gray/black line. I’m here to create good content and get good, lasting rankings for myself and my clients.

How do you choose a good SEO?

Ask them. Ask their clients. Ask their former clients. Find out what their link building strategy is. While certain tactics may be proprietary, it’s easy enough to find out where inbound links are coming from by searching for an inbound link checker.

Online marketing is now about transparency. Anything underhanded, shady or gray will be found out. There is no shortcut to creating good content. Outsourcing your content generation to countries where English isn’t their first language is not an effective strategy. The same applies if you’re creating content for a non-English website.

Bottom line: Black hat SEO isn’t good strategy. Your site’s search results will pay and pay dearly.

Search and Social are Colliding!

December 3, 2010 1 comment

On my podcast in the summer, we discussed an interesting phenomenon in Europe…more visitors were using Facebook than Google.  Back then, it was an interesting sidenote, but today that phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Europe.  It’s becoming more and more apparent the future, indeed the present, of marketing is through social contacts.

90% of consumers online base their decision on the recommendation of a friend.

The online marketing industry is taking note.  I was recently made aware of a multi-day conference where the entire subject is search/social convergence.  Several recent articles I’ve read discuss social site results showing up on search engines.  Businesses are rushing to create social profiles for the purpose of selling products and services.

Unfortunately, many of these businesses are going to step on some toes and incorrectly sell on social sites.  When we engage on social sites, we don’t want to be pitched or sold.  If we’re in the market for a product, we’ll ask!  So why should businesses have a social presence for sales if people don’t want to buy?  Several reasons.

1.  Facebook is a far more effective sales platform than a website because of the potential to extend influence to friends of your customers.  Activity on your Facebook page can be spread throughout the platform with very little effort.  Social activity can also be added to non-Facebook sites.

2.  Buyers want to stay on the platform they’re using.  Why go to a third-party site when you can make your purchase on a site you already trust?

3.  Searches for buying signals for your brand can be set up on Twitter and Google alerts.  For instance if you’re XYZ widgets you can set up searches for “XYZ widgets” and “buy XYZ widgets” and “XYZ widgets sale.”  Not only can you monitor your brand, but you can monitor people who want to buy your product or service.

I recently “asked Twitter” for a recommendation on telephone tracking numbers.  Within five minutes a vendor responded.  Of all the companies in that space, only one responded.  Are their competitors missing out on business?

The worlds of search and social media are definitely colliding.  As this new medium evolves I think we’ll see social media become more and more effective as a sales tool.  Search sites must adapt or they will be left behind.

Does Social Media Make Us Anti-Social?

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

“We are accessible 24/7,” Elliott says. “Having a cell phone in your pocket you can be called or texted or video chatted at any point. With Facebook you are updating all time. You have friends on Facebook that you have never met, and they know more about what’s going on in your life than your mother does who is not on Facebook.”

Norine puts herself out there in a way that would make the most avid Twitterer or Facebook addict suffer an attack of shyness.

I view this as more of a publicity stunt than anything else, but it does raise the question of how beneficial social media is. I’ll admit sometimes I’m drawn to check emails and Facebook updates even when I’m with people. However social media doesn’t replace social contact.

Social media tools are simply ways to get us in contact with more people in real life. They also allow us to stay in contact with or “catch up” with people who aren’t physically close to us.

Even if you’re a complete introvert and use social media to connect more than you normally would, isn’t that an improvement? From a business perspective I think this hits home the concept you need to be where your customers are. On which platforms can you really shine? That’s where you need to be.

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