Happy spring and happy birthday grandpa! RIP NMD1

Today would have marked my grandfather’s 103rd birthday. Three years ago, we celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday with a magical 24-hour global social experiment!  Here was the result by the way…

Nothing quite as grand today. However, in a case of multiple things to celebrate, it’s also time to celebrate Spring and Twitter’s 8th birthday. Looking back at my very first tweet in April 2007, I was quite surprised to find:

Minter Dial @mdial first tweet NMD1

Glad to know that my first tweet was meaningful (at least to me!). It starts with purpose, I should say. In the realm of lessons learned along the way, I was missing a hashtag (e.g. #WWII) and a link! I can now add the right link! Here’s my grandfather’s story in case you haven’t read about it — in the Smithsonian magazine.

As a sign of appreciation, please do go like my grandfather’s page in honor of the greatest generation!

P.S. if you want to discover your first tweet, go here.

Funny Video: Have Glass, Will Squash. Remi Gaillard the prankster

Mario Kart a la Remi Gaillard

Not heard of Rémi Gaillard? If so, the chances are that is because you still only believe in mainstream media (MSM), i.e. you watch television, read newspapers and surf only the established sources on line.

Rémi happens to be the most watched humorist in the world — and that is ONLY on line. A comedian-hooligan-prankster from Montpellier, France, Rémi is a rampantly anti-mainstream media comedian.   But, he definitely has the internet working for him. Continue reading

Mainstream Media Strategy – Recommendation from a reader’s perspective

As mainstream media (MSM) companies continue to scramble to find a winning model, I am inspired to write a post based on the interactive (read: moderation) strategy that the BBC has put in place on its news forums. Having taken a look around at a number of other significant news media sites around the world (NPR, ABC, CBC, MSNBC, WSJ, NY Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, TF1, France 2, The Australian…), the BBC would seem to closest to having a ‘good online model.’ 

The BBC will take an article and, for a limited time, convert the selected article into an online debate where readers have to register to participate (write and/or recommend). In essence, I assume they make the divide along the lines of articles strictly reporting versus opinion pieces. For the sake of this post, I am going to refer to a debate which is already ‘closed’ entitled: “Is US right to block Google digital library?” (Link no longer working). This is basically how the BBC’s Online Debate works. During the period of debate, the BBC allows registered readers to comment, and very explicitly identifies its full moderation policy. In the policy box (see below), they identify the number of comments sent in, the number published and the number rejected. There is also the number of comments in the moderation queue.

Fully Moderated BBC Blog
When the debate is closed, they issue the final status. For this particular debate, as marked below, there were a total of 892 comments submitted, of which 539 were published and 35 were rejected. There were some 353 comments (a little more than 1/3) that did not get published. At 539, as we can all recognize, that’s just too many comments to want to sift through. Most of them are terribly repetitive and completely without interest.
BBC Debate Closed
The final element of note from the BBC’s Debate section is the “Recommended” option where registered readers can, at the tick of a RECOMMEND box, give their positive vote. [See the BBC rules here.]

BBC Debate Article Recommend Button

Beyond the article of news you are reading, oftentimes, you can find equally pulsating thoughts and analysis in the internet community’s commentary. Too often, however, when reading most MSM sites, popular blogs and the like, there are just too many comments to wade through, amounting to a completely unreadable mass of jumbled thoughts, written in differing styles, without an attractive layout, in no particular order, and with very little interaction amongst them (for this, I tend to like the “reply to this comment” option). However, in the BBC’s case, the 539 published comments have a democratically voted triage that takes place via the number of positive recommendations. This makes great sense.

For this particular debate, there were 12 pages of comments which received at least one vote (presumably many of which were self voted). The top “recommendation” received 118 votes, the second one 59 votes and so on. 

Overall, I believe that the BBC is pioneering a new best practice… However, as you might imagine, I have a few thoughts regarding BBC’s initiative that might improve further their efforts, and could serve as a best practice recommendation for other MSM companies, perhaps as part of a greater solution for the freemium debate.

My Recommendations to media companies: My point of view below is entirely based on being a reader of the article/debate as opposed to the POV of the MSM executive. 

1./ More edge to the voting. As a reader, I am much more interested in the comments which have more rhyme and reason. The reader recommendations are certainly worthy, but are not very discriminatory. On a first level, I might prefer a 5-star rating system to add a little more ‘value’ to the reader’s feedback, or an ability to agree/disagree as, for example, the CBC do (which is sorted first to last, and most agreed). 

CBC Agree or Disagree vote

I think that there is room to add a few more dimensions to this democratic (if moderated) style of vote, taking the TED.com system that includes a host of different adjectives that describe the post. Examples of voter categories could be: Well Written, Thought Provoking, Not My POV, Funny, Informative…

2./ Optimal social bookmarking. Another easy add-on would be the social media bookmarking and tagging services. I do not understand why the BBC has not systematically ad
ded a more comprehensive list of available services (e.g. what about Twitter?). Social bookmarking can only help spread the word. And, when they do put the tags, the tags come below the comment box… Readers are more likely to tag and bookmark than add a comment I believe, so ‘go with the flow’ and put the tagging zone front and centre. Here’s a good example from mashable (who make the difference between a comment, i.e. thoughtful article, and a reaction, i.e. a 140-character twit). 

Share This Post Social Bookmarking Buttons

3./ Most Popular Follow-ons. Another functionality I would highly recommend to the BBC (and other media companies, of course) is the NY Times’ Most Popular Page. This page gives the top 10 of the most emailed, most blogged, most searched and most popular movies. The one that caught my attention most was the ‘most blogged’ list which is a very engaging way to follow the discussion. Of course, I was just missing the ‘most commented’ list.

4./ Stronger Editorial Direction on Commentary. But, more importantly, to the extent that the BBC is spending so much time and resources on the moderation (only culling 1/3 of the comments), I would be inclined to have a third box, possibly reserved for paying subscribers for those media companies looking to make money [Mr Murdoch], which would involve the choice. with editorial license, of best comments. These comments would be sorted in some way to provide readers with guided orientations and some overall statistics on the vast array of comments. As far as editorial voice is concerned, one interesting option would be to collaborate with value-sharing external organisations (e.g. an NGO, some reputed think tank, an academic institution, etc.). Statistics could include, for example, the number of comments strongly in favour, strongly against… There could be Featured Authors whose comments are judged by the editor to be worth more than others — comments that may not be commonly judged as popular, for example, because they were written late (ie not enough time to accumulate recommendations) or were too erudite to warrant internet reading. I would even go so far as to recognize the value of most appreciated commenters (providing some heralded recognition, if not in-kind remuneration?). 

5./ Interest Groups & Chat Rooms. Another idea would be enable interest groups to be formed on the site which, like Amazon, would allow “readers like you also read this” type of functionality.

There is real value embedded in the comments section, even more so when/if the subject is about a company or a brand (i.e. for the marketers). The trick of course is to keep on encouraging commenting, all the while not publishing everything or, as the BBC would defend, keeping a neutrality in the filtration system. As MSM continue to scramble to find the right economic model, my belief is that there needs to be a closer fit with the experience of the reader. By getting closer to what the reader really wants (time savings, consistent content, aligned values, advice & education, and even entertainment ), the MSM players will find ways to give value to the reader who, in turn, will be more willing to pay for the service. How that payment is provided is as yet WIP — providing a personal address, opting in for advertisement, etc. — and a subject for another post.

I cannot practice exactly what I preach on this site (limited functionality of blogger), but I certainly would be happy to have your comments and thoughts (as usual, moderated only per the Minter Dialogue blog policy as stated at the bottom of the page).

Six Pixels of Separation – Mitch Joel – Ask “Why?”

Written by Mitch Joel, a man [and social media guru] whom I have had the pleasure of being connected to for the past 5 years, “Six Pixels of Separation” has just come out in North America. I haven’t read the book yet, but I surely will. In the interim, I thought I’d post this YouTube video from Mitch.

Why?

It is one of the world’s greatest questions, and yet one that is so often left out, especially as it regards management orders and style. If you give the why, you will get the buy in. And, as this 1″19 video from Mitch Joel says, if you understand WHY, you might put in place and execute a better social media strategy.

Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone.
Available on Amazon of course, here.

QYPE – A worldly social media site to search for things to do and see

Qype Find It Share It Restaurant Review
If you are searching for a good site to figure out where to go or what to do in any number of cities around the world, you might want to try QYPE.CO.UK. Based out of Hamburg, Germany, this social site offers a vast range of services well beyond just where to eat (restaurants) and drink. The other services (read: tabs) include Health & Beauty (find a spa or hairdresser), Arts & Entertainment, Sports, Shopping, Events, and a whole bunch of “other” such as cemeteries to visit and how to take care of your pets.

To suit your fancy, you can customize your favourite tabs. Areas that I found of particular use: Tennis in Paris (although I’d rather if I could just find “good tennis partners”) and Babysitters (in Paris). In terms of search functionality, the search bar is effective; but, I also liked the point & click on a map search function. Also, if you have an iPhone you can also download their free Qype Radar application.

Areas of improvement for Qype 2.0: (1) make it easier to find out how to post a review….; (2) getting over the language hump — in a perfect world, some google translator would be working transparently behind the scenes; (3) the tagging — for example, if you go to the area marked “Children” there is very little. But if you go to “Events,” you will find an area called “Kids Activities” which should also be under the rubric Children. Presumably, this is incumbent on the reviewers and social posters.

The QYPE’s top countries (per its own selection) are:

Also check out: restaurants london & pubs london.

For myself, I signed up and have put in a few reviews to see how it goes. Not too shabby. The functionality is all rather simple. To date, my friends are basically Qype employees, but I have launched myself into it and we’ll see how many show up for the gig. As with all these social sites, gaining critical mass is the heart of the matter. And then comes the famous tipping point. Qype does not seem to be there yet…

If you are asking why is it called QYPE? Here is what their site says: “Simply put, Qype is the quick, cool way to find and discover places based on the reviews and recommendations of thousands of people.” Qype is less about hype and more about another social media site with a useful function. It now has a sufficiently good (and growing) database and is worth the visit.

BA and Air France launch Social Media sites…

Air France Bluenity Social Media SiteThe battle of the travel space has moved to the social media space, at least in Europe. In November 2008, Air France/KLM launched its Bluenity social media site, joining the Thalyseo site for train travellers on continental Europe (between Marseille and Amsterdam).  Travellers on Air France/KLM can find out good addresses for their destination, connect with other flyers in their network, share cabs…  Its tagline is: Same place, same time.

In the same basic timeframe as Air France, British Airways beta launched  (Oct 2008) its Metrotwin site, Two Cities, One Place, an online community for people who fly BA’s most popular route between New York and London.  Whereas Bluenity is global in scope, Metrotwin is focused merely on London and New York.  It features recommendations of the best places to go in both cities; users can suggest a twin of each restaurant, attraction or neighbourhood in the other city.  The site also features the Metrotwin blog with a line-up of ten bloggers.

Britsh Airways Metrotwin Social Media Site

In a follow on act, BA launched another social site last month (February 17th) to promote the BA Great Britons programme, which offers 180 free flights each year to any person who wants to fly somewhere to develop their passion or talent. The public has the final say with an online vote.  The log-in authorisation to the site is through Facebook Connect in order to make registration easy.  If you want to apply, however, you had better hurry up as the application deadline ends in 6 days.

In any event, the Bluenity and Metrotwins sites have merits in their easy look & feel, but Metrotwin, with its design and home page, is substantially more inviting.  Unfortunately, with the cutbacks in travel, I don’t know just how successful these sites will be.  In any event, it is coincidental to see BA and AF launch their social media platforms: same idea, same time.  What do you think of these initiatives?  Quid the American airline companies?

Facebook and all Social Media now officially subject to viruses

Facebook LogoFacebook is now officially “virusable,” and it isn’t because of the winter chill. Here’s the NY Times article from December 11, 2008, talking about the Trojan worm koobface virus that has infiltrated into Facebook. Of course, you should know that the koobface virus was discovered back in July 2008. Apparently, all social media platforms are now vulnerable.

You should also keep an eye on Facebook’s security page (http://www.facebook.com/security) which warns of the latest threats and provides a number of virus scan options to check if you have been infected).

BootB & Pratiks – Website Reviews

I have spent the morning looking at and rating two different “community” sites with different concepts: Bootb and Pratiks, with proof that not all sites are created equal.

BOOTB – “unlimited creativity”

I discovered a new concept in the Internet world which appeals to me no end. It is called BootB, for Be Out of the Box. Available in 12 languages at launch (officially launched November 2007, but went “live” during 2008) Bootb it is still just in the beta phase. With several big name clients and plenty of media coverage around the world (LCI TV in France, WSJ, Guardian and more), I have to believe we are on to something here. BootB is a perfect example of “crowdsourcing.” Pier Ludovico Bancale, CEO and Founder, has pulled together a pool of some 10,000 creatives around the world who are there to submit their creative executions to briefs put up by companies who are looking for quicker and cheaper alternatives to the traditional Agencies. The minimum price is $1000 and the creator of the winning submission gets 80% of the earnings. I have not tried my hand yet on a brief, but in the era of collaborative, open innovation, BootB has a fun design and several success stories in its pocket already. Here’s how it works. As the site says, BootB is the Republic of Unlimited Creativity… the world is your [creative] oyster at BootB.

One annoyance for BootB: the sign up is particularly painful to navigate (scroll doesn’t work, small text, odd calendar system) and, worse yet, the sign up information isn’t rolled over into your profile, so you get to do it twice.

BootB FINAL RATING 5***** out of 5.

—-

PRATIKS – “video guides for life”

The second site I have come across is called Pratiks.com, available in English/French/German. Pratiks is a site collating consumer generated video guides for life. The idea is for consumers to post their “how to” videos regarding practical parts of life. In the channel mosaic, you will find a number of chapters, most of which are as yet empty of content: Love Charm, Car Bike, Beauty Fashion, Kitchen Cocktail, Do It Yourself Decorating, Law Money, Practical Life and more. In Beauty Fashion, for example, you can find an amateur video for how to do a chignon or how to apply a lipstick – seems to be aiming at the teenager. In Law Money, meanwhile, you find topics such as death & succession as well as divorce (neither of which has found any takers, duh). In “Unusual Hobbies,” you find such unusual hobbies as football (single most popular game in the world), bicycling, golf and tennnis… When there are videos, they are virtually all in French, making the English and German flags a case of oversale. And, without even waiting for further content to be posted, I cannot state that I believe this site will not last long. YouTube and its peers have sufficient search functionality to allow to find videos on how to play many pieces of music, play cricket or just have a laugh… things that pratiks can’t do. Then again, I did get a laugh out of the poor quality of some of the videos.

One final annoyance, the English site is riddled with errors in English. Just on the English language Profile page, it writes “CONGRATULATION MINTER” and “Invit your friends”. A bit sloppy. And some of the text has yet to be translated from the French.

Pratiks FINAL RATING 1* out of 5

Your rating please!?

Finding a CRM Voice – The Right Values, Meaning & Frequency

Customizing your Real Message & Finding a CRM Voice?

As I mentioned in the prior post, I believe that the consumer world is in the midst of a true paradigm shift. In these dire economic times, there is a huge likelihood that the ongoing increase in the share of time and mind of the Internet is going to accelerate. The consumer will turn to the Internet even more because it offers useful new tools and services that cater specifically to the needs of people living in harder times. (Read here for more about why the crisis will push up Internet use).

The question now becomes how brands and companies want to take advantage of this. What posture will companies take to reach out to the consumer who is decidedly cautious, if not nervous about his or her future? The company that speaks to me in a way that makes sense is a good starting point. For example, if a company (ex Harrods) checks out my dopplr and see that I am going to travel to London on such and such a date, then drops me a pertinent offer for that date, would that not be a great idea? The chances are that I would be more than willing to view their mail (if they only they could make their creative a little more classy, too).

CRM Graphic Description

There has been much written about CRM (for basics, see marketingteacher.com), as in Customer Relationship Management. But, except for a couple of rare exceptions, I as a consumer have not been “feeling the love” from any particular brand or companies. It is not like I am not present on the Internet, or do not own any loyalty cards, or do not shop frequently at certain stores. There is certainly plenty of data on me out there to mine. At this point, for most companies, the mining has been, at best, superficial. There are some companies who have cottoned on to the idea of email campaigns as a cheap way to bolster traffic — to the web site if not the store. But that’s about it. But, I am looking for more. Companies need to tap into the data (which I volunteer) and capture my attention by knowing more about who I am.

Once companies have mastered dynamic customer knowledge (i.e. created a way to keep an up to date database), the question will then become to what extent (quantity and quality) the brand is communicating with its customers? There is a real risk that a deluge of irrelevant email campaigns will completely shut down the effectiveness of the email channel — broadening the definition of spam, increasing people’s intolerance to emails and making them opt out systematically or just delete with increasing revulsion on reception. If the average rate of opening an email drops down below the 2% level — a barometer for so many formerly traditional media campaigns — you may end up pissing more customers off in the process. While companies are still saving on the postal cost and on the CO2 with emails, they will be shooting themselves in the foot if they overdo it.

There is a golden opportunity to use the ‘net as a marketing tool. There are two important points. First, don’t abuse the opportunity out of laziness. Pouring out unpersonalized, non-customized emails is not the right answer; like cutting down rainforests, it is a very short-sighted approach. Second, mind the data (think “Mind the Gap” as they say in London’s tube stations). What is needed is to craft meaningful messages (in line with the brand’s values), with a customization that reflects some of the unique elements of the receiver.

Customize with Ease CRM

This all leads me to the main point: Brands endeavouring on CRM programs need to reflect carefully to find their CRM VOICE. There are three core ingredients to creating a CRM Voice. (1) A CRM Voice first means being getting in touch with the brand’s DNA, its core values. How is each communication refurbishing the identity of the brand and reinforcing the customer’s affinity with the brand. (2) It means knowing how to create messages that are relevant to the brand and to the receiving client. Does the brand have an interest in me? Does it know me (without the overtones of Big Brother). Does it know how to surprise me? To wow me? (3) Finally, it means getting the frequency right, knowing how often that person needs or wants to be contacted — including all the different channels of communication (TV included). A well-adapted, customized message becomes part of a well-oiled service.

LoveMarks Graph

In summary, brands need to find their CRM Voice: a Customized Real Message that is aligned with the brand’s core values. Brands that are high in love (lovemarks *****) and respect have a potentially greater starting point. But, every customer is looking for meaning and, in today’s difficult economic times, they will be more than likely spending more time online. I will be keen to see which brands or companies come through this vortex smelling like roses — for the times they are a changing, and I believe a paradigm shift is well underway. Which companies are going to capitalize intelligently on the accelerated shift in time on online that is bound to accompany this worldwide crisis? If you do what you always did, you may no longer get what you always got.

This Crisis will bring a Paradigm Shift on the Internet

Crisis, What Crisis? Bring forth the Internet

As we spin into the depths of this worldwide economic crisis, the opportunity for companies to move to more Crisis in Chinese Charactersefficient, effective and measurable marketing activities online seems perfectly obvious, if not natural. The time has never been more appropriate for companies to ramp up online activity because their consumer will be increasingly on the other end waiting for them. I identify below five main reasons why the consumer will be more than ever present on the Internet specifically because of the economic downturn.

(1) In this period of crisis, there is a very real likelihood that people will spend even more time online in the near-term because the web will offer a cheaper alternative way to spend time (watch YouTube or Daily Motion videos) and find entertainment (on a myriad game sites) than, say, going out to dinner in a restaurant or going to the flicks. Rather than going outside to buy a newspaper, free subscriptions will bring people online (or the news will be downloaded to their mobile phone). Doing banking/finances on line (a cost benefit for the embattled banks to save on bank tellers), paying your paperless bills (save on postal costs) and other administrative tasks will bring people to their computer.

(2) The internet is the most expedient way to do networking — especially important for those people without a job (linkedin, monster, etc.). The Millennials will need to have the “older” generations on board to hire them, but in general, the custom of business networking on line is beginning to build already. This notion reinforces a tenet I have long held which is that your presence online will become your most effective CV or resumé (see here for a prior post).

(3) There are plenty of new applications and sites that now make searching for a bargain substantially easier, specifically the price comparison machines, such as Kelkoo, PriceGrabber, Shopzilla… And this point goes beyond the notion that you can get better information from internet sites (and peer-to-peer reviews, etc.)

(4) In times when travel may be too expensive, there are now many virtual ways just to stay in touch with your friends and family (skype for face to face, facebook for group hugs or twitter, jaiku for group pecks). Essentially, the internet social media networks are intrinsically designed for harder economic times. Not all of them will survive, of course, but each will be forced to carve out its niche, its purpose and the likelihood is that the economic crisis will bring much needed acuity to each social media network’s positioning.

(5) And, finally, the truth is that items sold on line will be cheaper in fact and in perception. When you add the cost of getting in your car (time is money…), consuming fuel with the risk of traffic infractions to go to the brick & mortar (only to find a less informed salesperson) the chances are that the consumer is in effect going to find the Internet a cheaper way to consume. With people and companies forced to work harder and longer hours to survive, time for personal shopping will decline ipso facto. Retirees who have already shown a propensity to hit the ‘net, will do so even more (note to self: big business in keyboards will large keys). Driving to the store hardly eases with age. And, lest we forget that, with driving, there is the added nuisance of polluting the environment. Clearly, on the supply side, more and more companies will move to e-commerce platforms (expensive as they may be initially) because they offer a higher margin business model once the critical mass is reached. Moreover, having one’s own e-commerce site is a useful counter force for the brand/company against a distribution network whose strength in the balance of power has become hard to manage.

Vortex Internet

With the backdrop of the demographic and sociological surge of online traffic, plus the terrific growth numbers in developing countries, it all makes me believe that we are truly in the vortex of the paradigm shift. Beyond the crisis, we will come out different, truly changed in our behaviour and, specifically, our relationship with the Internet. With the oft mentioned Chinese expression (pictogram above), in times of crisis, yes there is danger and great opportunities. The danger lies in the fact that the crisis may be worse than expected and certainly the Internet will not solve everything. And the Internet has its own dangers in terms of potentially dehumanizing relationships or rendering us captive to the 17″ screen…  That said, nonetheless, it is worth noting that since the Internet and the e-companies have already experienced their own bubble-bursting and crisis, they have created more durable models, filled with more substantial content and purpose.  In the process, Internet companies are (perhaps inherently less fat and) potentially more resistant to the current crisis than many brick & mortar brethren.

All the same, the economic crisis presents a golden opportunity for the Internet. How to play it? That will be the subject of another post. 

UPDATE FEB 8, 2009: I found this article written by Le Monde on Jan 30, 2009, showing that clearly this idea above is gaining traction in France:  La Recession accélère la rupture entre le virtuel et le réel.