Archive for the ‘Data Portability’ Category

With the announcement of the Open Graph, Facebook has once again provided an evolutionary leap for the entire industry. Publishers, brands and consumers alike will benefit from “a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken”, as concisely described by Mark Zuckerberg at yesterday’s F8 conference.  With Facebook’s critical mass (nearly 500 million members as of today), the Open Graph is poised to become the most powerful move the company has made so far – if successful it will revolutionize the web as we know it and propel Facebook into a position to compete with Google for the throne of dominance.

The Open Graph – We Like

Facebook is already fairly ubiquitous among consumers. Facebook Connect has extended that ubiquity to sites outside of Facebook, but the process for consumers, publishers and marketers was not seamless. While successful, Connect was not the technology that extended the social experience of Facebook to the entire web. But that is exactly what the Open Graph will do. Facebook has simplified the process of implementing the code for developers and for sharing and connecting with content and brands for consumers. It is truly a win-win-win. One line of code (an iFrame for those who care), will enable publishers to include a “Like” button, which will facilitate social actions anywhere on the web. As long as you are logged into Facebook, your cookie will allow your social graph to augment the experience on any site with the code. Bret Taylor said it best during F8  yesterday that “Lowering the friction of sharing will increase the volume of sharing”.

Vaults of Data

Facebook already sits on a data goldmine, but these vaults will become far deeper with wider ranging application as the Open Graph further connects social graphs of individuals, brands and publishers around the web. For now the targeting opportunities resulting from the additional data will be limited, most likely providing marketers the opportunity to target interests “liked” for the time being. But the potential of the data applications are profound – think Minority Report-like, as mobile and geo-location converge on the Open Graph.

Privacy

Inevitably there will be some privacy backlash, as all forms of behavioral data applications are under severe scrutiny by the FTC and advocacy groups. Of course Facebook thought about this too – and they will be rolling out a new simplistic privacy panel where you can opt out of the Open Graph. Ultimately there will be collection of an amount of non-personally identifiable data at a scale that we have never witnessed before, and the proximity and ability to connect it to personally identifiable information will most likely become the issue at hand. But the benefit of the Open Graph adding significant value to the overall consumer experience, and the affinity with Facebook as a trusted brand powering the collection, storage and usage of the data will trump any privacy backlash. Make no doubt about it – there will be some backlash – there always is – but we will get past it rather quickly. The social web is here in a big way, and our lives have been changed forever – and soon everyone will realize it.

A Monumental Day

For marketers, in the short term this turning point will make it exponentially easier to turn fans into advocates, identify new prospective customers, and drive peer influence through the coveted Facebook newsfeed. In the long term, the potential is far wider reaching and as mobile and geo-location (Facebook is launching their own geo-location service as well) converge with the Open Graph, this may be the catalyst that soon connects the online and offline world. It is truly a monumental day.

You can see the F8 conference videos here.

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At the risk of sounding cliche, welcome to a new decade of marketing. Indeed it is an exciting time to be a marketer. The past decade may prove to be the most pivotal ever in terms of the changes in how we communicate with consumers. It was also the decade of aggregation – or better put, the decade that killed the “big idea”. The era of the big idea is over (in the context of marketing communication). Since the explosion of digital marketing during the last decade, the new big idea morphed into an aggregation of many smaller “ideas”. This aggregation has a bigger impact than any one “big idea” ever could, by distributing risk and providing more chances to develop successful approaches.

Marketing evolution continues in 2010, and here are some of the areas to keep your eyes on.

Mobile Forges Forward

We keep joking about how “this year has been the year of mobile for the last few years”. Well, we’re waist deep the age of mobile and moving further along every day. We’ve crossed the proverbial tipping point. The handsets and data speeds provide better experiences, and the data plans are affordable. Over 60 million US consumers access the web via mobile device.  Globally we’re on track for more people to access the mobile web than the PC web (of course I’ll need to save that post for Jan 2020). The thing is, the distribution of this access is skewed, significantly towards the iPhone. While the iPhone catalyzed mobile web usage, competition is not far behind with the Droid, Pre, new Blackberries and other devices to come in 2010. Consumers are using, and even paying for mobile applications and mobile websites that provide value. Of course, as with any marketing channels, there are plenty of misguided executions that do not focus on the consumer, provide little value and flop. Unfortunately oftentimes the medium gets blamed for poor strategy on the part of the marketer and/or agency. Provide experiential or utility-based value to consumers and you’ll reap the rewards of consumer engagement. Additionally, keep your sights set on the convergence of mobile and social experiences as well. This will prove big in 2010.

Location Based Applications

As consumers become more comfortable with GPS enabled smart phones and the first generation of applications that incorporate GPS into the experience, the marketing opportunities that utilize geo-location data will come to fruition. However, it will be 100% predicated on permission, transparency and trust. Of course the recurring theme of providing actual value to the consumer experience is key as well. An early success story is FourSquare, which combines social actions and geo-tagging. But FourSquare is definitely not for everyone. Marketers will have to provide utility in order to gain access to consumers’ private lives and  geo-location data. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch very easily here. Where your brand attributes meet consumers’ needs is a good crossroads to  aim for. Note: If would be interesting to see Facebook acquire and incorporate FourSquare into their current platform.

Real Time Search & Social Search

As social media has become ingrained in the digital media experience for consumers and marketers alike, real time search was inevitable. Information is distributed via so many channels including consumers’ social media feeds, that not including real time data in search results created a void in the relevancy of search results at the major engines. Google’s roll out of social search results from “people in your social circle” also fills the void that was otherwise filled directly from the social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Real time search will indeed make search results more relevant, but the algorithms for filtering signal to noise will be an interesting evolution to watch and participate in.  The implications for marketers is a new era of SEO that ties even more tightly into social media.

Social Media Expands Its Journey

There are two major areas to keep an eye on here. First is the portable social graph. Facebook Connect really took off in 2009, and 2010 marks the tipping point for social graph / data portability. The social graph is just beginning to become part of the overarching digital platform. Through this ubiquity consumers are empowered, taking the influence and social activities of their social connections with them everywhere they go (well not everywhere, but soon enough). Check out one of my favorite implementations of Facebook Connect so far in the Prototype trailer. Try it out. It takes a minute to load, but it’s worth the wait.

The social graph has become portable on the PC-based and mobile web, and the second area to keep an eye on is the expansion of the social graph to your television. Samsung was the first to release high end flat screen TV’s with internet based widgets that allow you to access Twitter on your TV (currently via Yahoo, but inevitably this will become more open very soon). Expect the social graph to become a standard part of our TV viewing experience in the future (note: not in 2010).

Multiple Attribution

While all marketers would agree that reaching consumers at multiple marketing touch points is essential, most marketers still maintain disparate data systems and utilize the last ad standard protocol when it comes to attribution of influence or conversion.  Multiple attribution tracking capabilities have existed at the major ad servers for a couple of years now, provide a solution to attribution modeling, yet are underutilized by the industry. Third parties, such as ClearSaleing, also offer dashboard, reporting and analytics platforms to provide multiple attribution reporting for marketers. Let’s face it, we are constantly increasing the number of digital marketing channels we are working in and as an industry our analytical capability, or more accurately – marketers’ and agencies’ willingness to utilize the tools available,  has been lagging behind . Some of the dashboard tools can also incorporate a limited set of non digital channels as well. If you are not using a multiple attribution system currently, make 2010 the year to do so. There is simply no excuse not to.

The Privacy Issue Marches On

Privacy is always a heated topic. This has been true since the dawn of digital data collection. The issue is over-hyped by the media and advocacy groups, however there are some underlying truths to the hype. As we have seen with the privacy policy changes on Facebook over the last year, if nothing else, consumers do pay attention and now have the means to spread the word quickly.  As digital marketing technologies evolved, more parties gained access to more data. Although most of this data does not actually contain personally identifiable (PII)  data, in some instances it can be associated with other data assets that do. Tying the  vast amounts of anonymous and PII data together will become a bigger focus of the FTC and advocacy groups as the portable social graph  continues to morph the internet as we knew it into one big social web. The FTC warned the industry in 2009 that a day of reckoning was near, and that the self governance was not working due to a lack of enforcement. The industry will have to take the issue more seriously in 2010 or the government will do so for us.

Augmented Reality

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world. On the PC, AR utilizes the webcam to overlay data, usually in the form of a virtual hologram. Most of the augmented reality executions to-date have focused on the novelty factor and have not provided consumers with much actual value. The few mobile AR applications available, including Yelp, are beginning to provide actual utility. I see a bright future there. On the PC side of things, the USPS Priority Mail box simulator is by far the most useful application of PC/webcam based AR implementation to date.

The key to AR is to hone in on the utility aspect, and provide real value to the consumer. (That concept is starting to sound awfully familiar, huh)

Long Live Display

Display ads get a bad rap. The reality is that online advertising works, and not only for direct response. While search see’s the lion’s share of industry ad spending, display is a standard part of the mix and will continue to be for the long term. That is not to say that display doesn’t have its issues. Lack of creative prowess, challenges with media currency and an inefficient process still plague the industry, but all are common topics of conversation and ad hoc work-arounds are being implemented every day. Most agencies and media buyers have had to develop large infrastructures to support the inefficiency of digital media. Clients constantly challenge the process and costs. Yet very little industry-level research is being conducted to better the situation. The IAB, nor any other industry body has set forth to develop the correlational research required to make advertisers feel more comfortable about the market-level impact of online advertising. The last industry-level research was released almost 10 years ago. Some individual agencies embark on this type of research on a client by client basis, but there is little public domain research readily available for most marketers, who for the most part, park the vast majority of their brand budgets elsewhere. Hopefully in 2010 we will see more industry collaboration to develop research and studies and the tools and systems to create more efficiency in the media buying and management process, without commoditizing it.

Even with all that said, display ads do work at creating influence, this can be and is measured by many marketers and agencies, and display is a standard part of the media mix just like any other medium. The degree of inclusion is what is in question, and hopefully we will at least see more discussion and proposed improvements that make advertisers confident to allocate more brand dollars online.

The Elephant in The Room … The Economy

All indicators lead to a slow and steady economic recovery ahead of us.  But this will happen at a different pace for each category and client. The reality for digital marketing is that most marketers have not been and won’t be experimenting much, and focusing on the more accountable (read – DR) focused channels and tactics. I do expect budgets to open up for social media and mobile. Amid the greatest recession of our lives we witnessed the explosive growth of social media. Some marketers had the budgets to allocate proper resources to understanding, monitoring and integrating social media into their corporate culture, while others put forth a minimal effort and yielded an equal impact. The brands that embraced social media have developed social voices separate from their brand voices and are on their way to becoming accepted social brands. Most are still playing catch-up, and we’ll see a lot of that in 2010.

So there you have it, some areas to keep your sights set on for 2010 and beyond. Have any additional thoughts about what else will be big in 2010? Post your ideas in the comments.

picture1Over the last couple of weeks Sprite (Coca Cola) launched an interesting reality-type program on YouTube called Green Eyed World, which will follow the nascent music career of a new artist, Katie Vogel, as she leaves her family in the UK and heads to the Big Apple, NYC. It’s typical reality format and also branded entertainment at it’s “best”.  I’m not a big reality fan, so I won’t comment on the content, but I do think the singer Katie Vogel has a nice, raspy, jazzy musical style. But I digress..

The interesting digital marketing tidbit here – is that YouTube (well, Google – as in one of the brands with a competing data portability product) has agreed to implement Facebook Connect, which will allow viewers to interact with their friends on Facebook and even with Katie herself while watching episodes. The fact that Google is using Facebook Connect can only mean that the two companies are open to the potential of the openness to a two way data portability relationship. Either that, or it was a big enough deal for YouTube – which  really needs the revenue.  Remember the history making data portability case implementation that rocked our world a few months back? …when CNN implemented it during the presidential inauguration? Well, this isn’t that big a deal, but it’s refreshing to see the mash-up of reality programming, branded entertainment, and social media data portability.  Kudos to the team from at Coca Cola Europe and FullSix for kicking off a global campaign in the UK and achieving global momentum. Well played.

Incidentally, this is a big change from Sprite’s early foray into social media via one of the first Facebook apps  in Nov 2007, which ironically is still there rotting away with 4 installs (i am one of them and know 2 others – ouch). One of the wall comments on the Sprite Sips page is most likely the best internet comment I have ever seen  – “This app is crap to the power of suck” – Lucy Peery . I’m making a t-shirt out of that.

Reminding you to add value within social media communities, earn respect…and have you pet spade or neutered.

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logo_mediapostThis is an article I wrote for MediaPost, published on Jan 26th

What an amazing moment in history we have witnessed.

I’m not referring to our first black president, the renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, nor the reclamation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society, but rather the precedent of such astronomical digital engagement focused around a single purpose. The proverbial water cooler effect was alive and kicking as live TV met social media for the first time ever via CNN’s live stream of President Barack Obama’s inauguration and an effective implementation of Facebook’s data portability product, Facebook Connect.

As media continues to fragment and marketing interaction becomes more personal, the Obama story represents a macro view of the forest that sometimes marketers and agencies tend to miss due to the intricacy of the trees.

The Basics: The Product, The Brand

During Obama’s campaign for the presidency, his team was praised for their use of digital media channels, particularly the incorporation of emerging channels like social media and mobile. I applaud the marketing team for their efforts, but remind you that it is brand Obama that fostered the community, engagement, energy and word of mouth, more so than the marketing vehicles.

That being said, the channels lent themselves to what brand Obama stands for — transparency, community, revitalization and unity. Sen. John McCain’s campaign utilized similar channels but they yielded different results, albeit the McCain campaign had seemingly differing prioritization of these channels and lacked the support of the younger demos fueling some of the social media participation. Generally, brand McCain simply represented something different than brand Obama.

Transparency

Everywhere we look, transparency is becoming an increasingly significant attribute. Consumers don’t want transparency, they demand it – from our politicians, from the businesses that represent the backbone of our economy, and from our marketing efforts. The ubiquitous requirement of transparency benefits all except those who have something to hide. You can’t run and you can’t hide. The social media ecosystem now represents a mechanism of enforcement, judge, jury and executioner. Especially in the down economy, you must be honest with yourself about your product, your business practices and operations. Fix what is truly broken. Surely we all agree with the old adage that perception is 90% of reality, and never before has reality been able to influence perception in the manner it does today.

Integration

“Obama Everywhere” was the header of the block of links leading to his presence within various social networks, but should have been the incorporated his presence in all channels. Now that Obama’s in office, the federal government has an integrated communications strategy that exceeds that of many marketers. Who would’ve thunk it? The consistent message of “change” and “revitalization” have been weaved across media platform and marketing discipline and are actualized to become more than just words.

The icing on the cake: The re-launch of WhiteHouse.gov at 12:01 p.m. on inauguration day. The welcoming message: “WhiteHouse.gov will be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history” complete with a new blog, email updates, and access to the Office of Public Liaison, which “seeks to embody the essence of the President’s movement for change through the meaningful engagement of citizens and their elected officials by the federal government.” The last time I visited WhiteHouse.gov was when my ISP asked me to check my internet connection. It’s now in my list of RSS feeds.

Mobility

During his campaign Obama utilized the mobile channel to engage and activate voters, many of whom were segmented on a local level. Text messages reminded you to get out and vote — heck, the selection of Sen. Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate was announced via SMS before any other channel. The iPhone app made rallying behind your candidate an interactive experience versus a stream of static messaging. Those who attended the inauguration in D.C. had the opportunity to receive SMS updates about which entrances to use, which routes had the least traffic, and even a reminder of the weather. Although the mobile efforts may not have done much to influence baby boomers in the mid-west at scale, it was one of the multi-faceted ways brand Obama reached those who favor the channel of their choice. When thinking about mobile, think about aspects of utility and activation.

The Take Away: The Un-Campaign

Brand Obama led less of a campaign and created more of a movement. Although “hope” and “dreams” may work for political speeches, they do not present the foundation of a solid marketing strategy. Most brands have not achieved the level of equity as brand Obama, but all brands have advocates. Energizing brand advocates and listening to the market at large are universal principles of brand marketing that have been around since the dawn of marketing time. The tools and channels have evolved, and will continue to do so.

Social media has reached a point where the energy of brand advocates (or detractors for that matter) creates a constant undertone, unattached to the parameters of your marketing campaigns. It is no longer optional to monitor the social media ecosystem and modify your marketing, PR and product development efforts based on this undertone. Prospective brand consumers have access to the collective at all times. Are you doing what you can to understand what consumers feel about your brand? Does the reality of what your brand stands for meet your desire of its perception? Remember, your brand is what consumers say and think it is.

ofb1

Jan 20, 2009. What an amazing moment in history. Our first black president, renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, and recuperation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society. Oh yeah – and the online coverage and engagement were astronomical.

Watching today’s history unfold for me was a unique experience. I had to go to the hospital for some testing, and was sitting in the waiting room as Obama gave his inauguration speech. We all huddled around the TV and watched one of the best (if not the best) political speeches in my lifetime. It reminded me of some of the powerfully emotional and motivating speeches from before my time, from a breed of politician all but extinct until this campaign and election. I also had my mobile phone handy Tweeting, blogging (in fact, I stated this post on my mobile phone) and scanning the reactions from others – what would turn out to be millions of others. CNN’s Live coverage via the first really kick ass Facebook Connect integration, topped 1.5 million Obama-related status updates during the inauguration day coverage. Watching live TV on Facebook and discussing it with your friends – truly triumphant!

Additionally:

– Obama’s page on Facebook has over 4 million fans.

– CNN.com itself streamed over 21million streams of the inauguration, and generated over 136 million page view.

– At exactly noon, the Obama administration relaunched WhiteHouse.gov, right on schedule.

– An Obama administration run SMS program provided valuable info to the 2 million+ fans who attended the inauguration

– Our executive government understands integrated communication and is also part of  the proverbial conversation. Kudos all around.

Folks, the water cooler has come to the internet! Live television met social media in a truly impactful way and the implications are far reaching. There’s a huge revenue model in there somewhere, and surely we have watched history unfold in more ways than one.

brainI’ve been meaning to put the pen to paperkeyboard to blog on this one for a while now…

Have you started to feel overwhelmed by your growing social networks? We all have growing networks of friends and followers. Not only are our networks growing, but they are growing across multiple platforms – social networks, blogs, microblogs, video subscriptions, photo sharing, forums and other social media platforms. With many of these platforms we unintentionally obtain a new “inbox” of sorts. Trying to keep up with the barrage of communications and updates, and maintaining relationships can easily overwhelm you. Even with the influx of aggregation systems, increasingly people are starting to have a hard time keeping up. Between the pressure from peers (and old high school friends that you may have fallen out of touch with on purpose) to connect, and for marketers the seemingly equivalent pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s sometimes enough to drive someone crazy. Earlier this year I learned about the existence of the Information Overload Research Group …but I was too caught up in my own information overload to attend their conference at the time – ah the irony. Last April the NY Times even ran a story about bloggers dying from trying to keep up.

You are not alone. Enter the Dunbar Principle.

The Dunbar number (first published in 1992 by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar and made popular in the marketing industry by Malcom Gladwell in 2000) is “a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships”. According to Dunbar, “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortexsize, and that this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”

For the record the approximate number is 150. Although it makes sense that new technologies will facilitate the growth of the Dunbar number, just how far can it go?

A recent HP report “Social Networks That Matter: Twitter Under The Microscope“, shows a unique effect of technology facilitating pushing humans past the Dunbar number. As the graph below points out, gaining followers (growing your network) is easy, but as followers increase, your true social connections rapidly become near meaningless. Interesting theory. Think about the ramifications as social media matures and our networks thin out a bit. Deeper social connections versus larger and less valuable ones.

From "Social Networks That Matter", HP 2008
From “Social Networks That Matter”, HP 2008

 Long story short, social media is still in its infancy and has a long way to go. We are about to enter into the era of data portability, where you can take your social graph with you anywhere you go online, rather than simply watching your networks grow at specific destinations. That’s huge – absolutely huge. The ways in which consumers interact with each other and consume content will continue to eveolve over the next several years, not to mention that the monetization models for the platforms will need to emerge for them to stick around. The crossroads where consumer desires meets social media platform monetization has proven thus far to be an elusive place and a disproportionate one. Yes I mentioned monetization (better yet and more accurately, profitability). After all, it must happen eventually and continually sweeping it under the carpet is absolutely the wrong thing to do, as many self proclaimed “social media experts” tend to do. No it is not straightforward, it may not even be on the immediate horizon, but it will happen – it must happen. But make no mistake about it – that crossroads and balance will exist. The consumer has a taste of experiential freedom, and you just can;t put that genie back in the bottle – nor would we want to.

how_it_works2Data Portability. No two words should make any publisher and marketer shiver more with anticipation about the potential of tapping into the power of the social graph and engaging more consumers in deeper ways. This may be the only way for many publishers to tap into the organic and exponential growth patterns of social media.

So far… OPenID has not achieved widespread adoption, (granted it’s clunky and not really user friendly. Yahoo is the only recognized and trusted 3rd party login partner most consumers would recognize). MySpace has launched a data portability API earlier this year on the OpenSocial  platform, as did Google, and neither have had much fanfare. Facebook Connect was supposed to launch on Sunday (odd day of the week to launch a data product – did anyone look at the calendar when announcing that day?). I have been eagerly waiting to hear more about it, but alas I have not heard the world ablaze with Facebook Connect on the brain. Essentially the new development allows members of Facebook to login to other sites and share data from their social graph, benefiting both FB and the partners (launch partners were supposed to include CitySearch, Twitter, Digg, CNN Forum, MoveOn.org, Red Bull, eVite, Vimeo,  Plaxo, Hulu, Stumble Upon, ABC, and a handful of others), and in theory making the web easier for consumers to log into simply using their FB credentials.

With Facebook Connect, you can incorporate your users’ true identities as represented on Facebook whenever they visit your site. By integrating their personal, privacy and account information, you can add Facebook’s rich social context to the content they create on your site. Likewise, you can publish information to Facebook based on the actions your users take on your site. You can also dynamically show which of your users’ Facebook friends already have accounts on your site.

facebook-connectSo, is the web not ready for data portability just yet? Did Facebook not iron out all the bugs yet?

The answer is probably a little yes to both. Either way, data portability is the future. It is an opt-in method for consumers to share their social graph data with other sites to create a more interconnected web. Consumers trust Facebook, they have demonstrated this with the barrage of information provided in their profiles. Facebook learned their lesson once about sharing that data without the explicit permission of the consumer. Facebook Connect shows that they have applied the learnings from that mistake, but they still see the value in extending the social graph outside of their walls, as well as pulling in more content and interconnected experiences from the “open web” into Facebook. I agree and think the data portability future is bright.

What do you think?