What the f**k is Twitter?

A lot of folks still don’t “get” Twitter. [And Twitter, meanwhile, still doesn’t “get” revenue… but that’s another story.] But personally, the Genius L.O.V.E.S. it.

Crowd-sourcing, networking, buzz marketing, and pure entertainment are the top 4 reasons that I personally heart the #1 micro-blogging tool. Here’s another one:

twitter

True story.

Earlier this week, I discovered a very nice, comprehensive deck put together by the folks at Ogilvy [I know, surprised me, too!] called Twitter for Business. You might also want to check out this post for some excellent tips on getting personal value out of Twitter; and this post on how not to let corporate lawyers f**k up a good Twitter thang.

Unless you plan to go off the grid sometime soon, I wholeheartedly suggest you take the time to at least edu-macate yourself. And if/when you do start tweetin’, be sure to say hello.

Obsessed with Social Media… A Year Later.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The following blog post was written just over a year ago (November 8, 2007, to be exact), during a time when the economy was not yet in the crapper and this thing called “social media” was still rather nebulous for most. And since I’m too busy to write something new a lot has changed in the last 365 days, I thought it would be just chummy to revisit my obsession… which you may have guessed has hardly waned.

Being a Genius and all, it’s not surprising, really, that the words I wrote a year ago are even more true today. The coolest part? Those numbers I posted re Facebook etc—they’ve more than doubled—and show no sign of slowing down.

God, I love it when I’m right.

***

Is it just me or is the social media bubble expanding faster than Kirstie Allie’s waistline?

Between the buzz around Facebook’s recent $15 billion valuation, the hype about their much-anticipated advertising platform, and the steady stream of “one-of-a-kind” social media companies popping up daily, it does feel a bit like we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid.

Heck, even Oprah and Martha Stewart have hopped on the bandwagon.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry Venture Capitalist throwing their money at the next-best social media monolith, it’s easy to lose site of the fact that we’re not just in the thick of an investment-frenzy; we’re part of a revolution.

Social Media = Democracy
The internet is—in a very real way—becoming democratized (at last!). Not only can you reach virtually anyone, anywhere or get information about anything online these days… but you can actually participate! Have a voice! Share all of your [boring, ridiculous, unnecessary… or in my case, totally brilliant] opinions about everything from the HDTV you just purchased to the color of the lint you just found in your bellybutton.

It’s democracy in it’s purest form: everyone truly has a voice. No longer can we blame “the media” for drowning us in propaganda or tricking us into poor choices. (Instead, we can blame our friends, colleagues, and the self-proclaimed experts and “bonafide geniuses” whose blogs we foolishly read.) Where once you had to be famous, infamous, or very well connected to get in the public eye… now, you just need a live internet connection and a desire to express yourself.

Wrote a book? Self-publish it!

Took a picture? Post it on Flickr!

Aspiring filmmaker, actress, or musician? Whip up a sample video and pop it on You Tube!

Pissed off about the crap PC you bought and the even crappier Vista operating system that came with it? Post your raving mad feedback on Microsoft’s website!

Sure, everyone has a voice. But is anyone listening?
As the social media phenomenon gains momentum, so do the possibilities. The question is… beyond our own vanity and relentless desire to be entertained, is there any real purpose to all this “interaction”? Does anybody really care to watch, read, and listen to all this User Generated Noise?

Yes, yes, and undeniably YES!

Side note: I would assume that our sick fascination with reality TV is also responsible for fueling our fascination with social media (guilty!). If I were a geneticist, I’d place my bets on a single gene being responsible for both of these guilty pleasures—and probably for all the neck-craning that happens when we drive by car wrecks, too. But I digress…

Our appetite for new venues in which to assert our brilliance, our uniqueness, and our popularity is virtually boundless:

  • 50 million Facebook users
  • 3500 photos added to Flickr per minute
  • 55 million YouTube users (11.6 million of these are over the age of 55)
  • 713,00 daily active users of the iLike application on Facebook, which allows users to share, rate, and recommend music. Another 15 million registered users on iLike.com

Apparently, we have a lot of opinions and we’re not shy about sharing them. How very American.

Social media will save the world… Now what?
Even if I’m wrong about what drives our interest in both contributing to and consuming the social media bubble (though being a genius, I am very rarely wrong), this much is indisputable: it’s not going away.

If you’re a smart marketer (and let’s face it—most of you aren’t), you’ll get on the ball lickety split and formulate a solid strategy for leveraging this growing phenomena… bearing in mind, of course, that the rules ain’t the same old rules that have made you the fat, lazy dinosaur that you are.

For starters, forget about “positioning” or “packaging” or any of the other P’s you learned about in Marketing School. Social media scoffs at these! The power of User Generated Content embraces a more democratic set of values: like sharing, engagement, authenticity and community.

I’d love to tell you more, but I haven’t updated my Facebook status in at least an hour and my Photobucket upload is almost done…

More social media “hype”

No time to share much Genius today… too much excitement around the TechCrunch article highlighting Viximo‘s turnkey virtual goods solution as a “massive monetization opportunity” and the growing excitement around the launch of our first iPhone apps.

But I couldn’t resist sharing some fresh data in support of all the recent “social media hype”.

And so… at the risk of further alienating the readers who told me “social media is a crock” earlier this month, called me “warped,” and threatened to bite me (you KNOW who you are!)… I present you with these tasty nuggets:

  • 3/4 of US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other (compared with just 56% in 2007). On average, they spend one hour per week using these tools; however, 19% [and growing] are averaging 7 HOURS PER WEEK. [source: Forrester Research, October 2008]
  • 75% of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have undertaken some kind of online social-networking initiative for marketing or customer relations purposes in the next year. [source: Gartner, October 2008]

But don’t take it from me, take a peek at Shiv Singh‘s (former colleague and current VP, Social Media, Razorfish) presentation deck from the recent Publisher’s Summit, which dives deeper into what marketers should know as the social media landscape shifts [and evolves!] around them.

When you’re done with that, hop over to Pete Kim’s blog (also a former colleague from Razorfish. Coincidence???) where he’s curating The Mother of All Lists of corporate SMM efforts (not to be confused with corporate S&M efforts. That’s a different blog). I suspect that curating this list will become a full-time job for a team of many in the not-too-distant future.

But then, I’ve been drinking “seriously poisoned Kool-Aid.” Ahem.

If you’ve arrived here quite by accident and are feeling cold, confused, and alone, I might suggest you start at the beginning—with a quickie tutorial on just what the f*ck this whole social media thing is (brought to you by Yours Truly).

Or, you could continue to bury your head in the sand. Your choice, tots!

You want me to blog about you? Okay, sure.

In response to the weekly deluge of soft (and sometimes hard) product pitches that the Genius has been receiving lately, I’ve decided to once again whore myself out for the Greater Good. No, not the old fashioned way, dirtball.

What I mean is this:

Rather than saying “no” to virtually every request I get to “review” a product or “comment” on a brand, I am going to start saying yes, effective immediately, to those products/services/brands that agree to donate $100 to Doctors Without Borders (one of my most beloved nonprofit organizations).

I’m calling it the “Blog About Me” Program (clever, no?)

Why would a company pay $100 to have me blog about them?

ARE YOU KIDDING????

One blogger can reach more people with one post than the weekend edition of USA Today.

Now I’m not claiming to be more influential than USA Today, but, as I’ve pointed out previously… I’m kind of a big deal. People know me. My apartment smells of rich mahogany… and I have many leather-bound books.

Ok, but seriously. The Network Effect is HUGE.

According to LinkedIn, I’m connected to nearly 6,000,000. And while they don’t all read my blog, a good number do. Add in my connections on Twitter and Facebook (the other 2 social media tools that I use most frequently), and you’ve got access to virtually everyone on the planet. Even Kevin Bacon ;).

So what exactly does that $100 “buy” you?

Doctors Without Borders says that $100 buys infection-fighting antibiotics to treat nearly 40 wounded children. Or vaccinations for 100 people against meningitis, measles, polio, or other deadly epidemics.  Or two high-energy meals a day for nearly 500 children.

And that same $100 guarantees that I will spend time getting to know your product/company, and then… I’ll blog about it. I’ll Tweet about it. I’ll share it with my friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I might even send out a good ole fashioned email, if that sort of ‘old school’ communication is warranted.

In other words, $100 ensures that conversations will be started. They’ll travel. And in the meantime, you’ll be making a tax-deductible contribution to an extremely worthy cause.

Geez, when I put it that way, $100 seems like a go**amn bargain! Sign me up >>

A Few Words of Warning & One Disclaimer
Sorry, the lawyers insisted.

1. Lest there be any concerns about my profiting from this activity, I’ve set up the whole ‘donation thing’ via Firstgiving.com. The money you donate goes straight from your bank account to theirs. At the conclusion of this program, Firstgiving will send a check for 100% of the proceeds minus a nominal transaction processing fee, directly to each organization. Read more about Firstgiving here.

2. Lest there be any concerns about my objectivity in reviewing your product/service etc, allow me to assure you: I WON’T BE. This aint Consumer Reports, people, this is The Secret Diary of a Bonafide Marketing Genius. I tell it like I see it. If your product sucks, I’ll say so. Which leads me to my next point…

3. If your product sucks, I suggest you improve it before sending it my way. I will be merciless. I will poke fun. I promise. On the other hand, if your product kicks a**, I will sing its praises. Either way, the only thing I can promise you for sure is that I. Will. Be. Relentless. Either way, you will SO get your money’s worth.

4. The opinions expressed on this blog are SOLELY THE GENIUS’. They do not reflect those of my clients, colleagues, employers, relatives, friends, neighbors, or state/federal representatives. At least not as far as I know.

And now… let the whoring begin!

Why Traditional Advertising is Kinda F**ked (and what we should do about it!)

Attention brands, business owners, advertising agencies, and media peeps!!!!

I have some bad news. And it’s not about the financial markets, the election, or your expanding waistline. Nope—it’s far, far worse.

Are you sitting down? Good. Here it comes…

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING IS IN A DEATH SPIRAL.

That’s right. DEATH SPIRAL.

Now before you freak and jump out a window (or worse—post nasty anonymous comments in reply to this statement), allow me to explain. And yes, to propose a solution… I am a Genius, after all.

Traditional Advertising’s “Death Spiral” can be attributed to 3 recent phenomena:
1.    Clutter
2.    Trust
3.    Social media

Let’s talk.

Clutter
I don’t know about you, but I hate clutter.

A little bit of nice, clean white space feels so much better.

If traditional ads were spaced like these last few paragraphs, they might actually WORK.

We might actually even ENJOY them.

But instead… most ads are more like this:
piledandsquishedrightontopofoneanothersothatwehardlyhaveachancetotakeabreath
letaloneprocessanyinformationordecodeanyoftheproductmysteriesorevaluatewhat
makesthembetterfastermoreeasiernewerDIFFERENTERorinanywaynecessarytoour
existenceonthisincreasinglyoverpopulatedplanet
GASPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!

Clear as mud? ☺

The worst part is that the Clutter Problem is escalating at a DEATH-SPIRAL-INDUCING rate.

Consider this:
In 1998 Google had an index of 25M pages. As of this summer, its index had hit the mind-blowing milestone of 1 TRILLION UNIQUE URLs.

A F**KING TRILLION!!!!!

Still more to consider:

There are >100,000,000 videos on YouTube.com—with >65k new ones being added DAILY.

In 2005 (most recent data I could find), there were roughly 40 BILLION product catalogs published. That’s equal to 134 catalogs for every man, woman & child in the US.

Yes, folks, the average person is exposed to some 3000 marketing messages per day… but the American Association of Advertising Agencies says we’re only able to absorb (at most!) 100.

And let’s face it, that’s probably an inflated number.

PS. 90% of people who can skip ads, do.

Yes, but most of those messages are crap. What matters is good creative. Killer copy. Pretty women with big boobs wiggling around to a HAWT soundtrack.

Ok… NO. Neither creative nor copy nor boobs—nor any combination of the three—are likely to solve the clutter problem. Besides… you’ve got 2 more hefty problems to solve.

Trust
“Lets talk about trust baby, let’s talk about you & me…”

People don’t trust advertisers. Period.

You know it. I know it. Let’s call a spade a spade and move on. But in case you’re still skeptical (or just plain crazy), here’s proof:

“In a 1998 Gallup poll rating honesty and ethical standards across a range of professions, advertising people ended up near the bottom, sandwiched between lawyers and car salesmen.”

SANDWICHED BETWEEN LAWYERS AND CAR SALESMEN, people!!!!! And perhaps, if we were to redo this poll today, they might change those to “Politicians and Pimps” (both of whom are better-dressed, frankly-speaking).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the trust that most consumers have in the opinions of other consumers.

“‘Word-of-mouth’ the most powerful selling tool…78% of consumers say they trust the recommendation of other consumers.” – Nielsen, Trust in Advertising, 2007 Global Consumer Survey Report.

And the trend is particularly true among younger consumers—namely, the ¼ of the US population (ONE F**KING FOURTH!) who are 14-24yo and were born wired.

Raised in a time where “SPAM” and “COOKIE” don’t automatically conjure images of food, today’s youth LIVES and BREATHES online:

  • They spend >16 hours online/week (online > TV)
  • 56% spend >1 hour daily sending instant messages
  • ¼ prefer social networks to F2F time with friends
  • Have an average of 53 online friends (vs. 11 “close” friends)
  • 96% use a social network DAILY

And they don’t care about your ad, people. They care what their friends think.

Trust me. 😉

Social media
Ah… every traditional advertiser’s favorite topic! YAY! Let’s hug.

Seriously, now—it’s common knowledge that people don’t like intrusive, one-way conversations. What is traditional advertising but an intrusive, one-way conversation?

The paradigm is shifting. Fast. Hard.

Ahh… The Solution!

Should we make the logo bigger?

Craft a catchy new tag line?

More girls? Bigger boobs?

No, no, no, no, NO!

Traditional Advertising’s Terminal Illness (aka Death Spiral) shall not be cured by a larger helping of the Same Old Shi*t. You’re going to have think different. Act different. BE DIFFERENT.

REALLY DIFFERENT.

Start by shifting your focus more on branding and less on advertising. Yes, branding. That magical je ne sais quoi that ultimately results in the feelings/thoughts/attitudes that people have about your product/service/company.

You mean our tagline?
No.
Our logo?
No.
The killer copy on our website?
No.
…..Our tagline?
No.
Are you sure?
Yes.

Your brand isn’t what you say your company/product/service is. It’s what THEY say it is.

Branding isn’t advertising.

In fact, it’s more like… your child. You can’t control it (though it’s natural to want to try)… but you can [and should] certainly influence it, enable it, embrace it, and inspire it.

Start by listening. Really listening. No, REALLY listening.

There. Doesn’t that feel better already?

Virtual goods. Real revenue.

My newest startup adventure has seriously cut in to my blogging time lately… which means the 14 MILLION(!!!!!) people who faithfully hang on The Genius’ every word have been left cold, alone, and without even a teeny tiny Genius Snack upon which to nibble. [sigh]

Spanking for you, @viximo!

No, wait—scratch that. There will be no spankings for Viximo. They’d like that too much.

Instead, I will intentionally NOT talk them up to my legions of followers.

I wont mention the fact that they embody the Next Big Business Model or that they’re building the most kick-ass community of Rock Star design talent in the history of the world.

I wont glorify the notion that Viximo’s platform will enable online communities, gaming sites, virtual worlds, and others to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in the next 12 months alone.

I absolutely will NOT point out that Viximo is enabling major brands and ad agencies to connect with young consumers in an experiential, immersive way that builds brand loyalty, cranks the word-of-mouth engine, and *bonus!* even opens a new revenue stream.

And dammit I will NOT describe the opportunity that Viximo presents to online publishers, retailers, ad agencies, and interactive designers alike as a chance to drink from the udder of The Virtual Goods Cash Cow.

No f**king way.

For those of you scratching your heads, wondering what the f**k a virtual good is, well… I’m sorry, but I refuse to help. It’s not my place to explain that technically, virtual goods are nothing more than a series of 1s and 0s on your computer screen… or that those 1s and 0s collectively represent a $1.5 Billion market—that’s expected to exceed $7 Billion in less than 18 months.

I wont explain that virtual goods provide functional, expressive, and social value—or that they increase social interactions, and hence user engagement and time spent online.

I definitely wont point you to this article which projects that Facebook is expected to rake in $100 Million over the next 12 months—entirely through the sale of virtual gifts and myriad other virtual items (including my personal fav, food and gifts for my Fluff friend, Mar-Mar). Or this one, which celebrates Gaia and IMVU’s success generating $1M/month through the sale of virtual goods “ranging from puppy dogs to lightning bolts”.

I wouldn’t even consider bringing your attention to Second Life’s success with virtual goods ($80M annually), let alone that of our Asian friends like Nexon, which sells more Mini Coopers (virtual ones, of course) than BMW; or Habbo Hotel, which sells more furniture (virtual!) than IKEA.

Last but not least, I won’t bother regaling the efforts of retailers like Kohls, JCPenney, K-Swiss, and Sears, all of whom have celebrated notable success selling branded virtual goods on sites like Zwinky.com, Stardoll.com and others. I mean, really, who would be impressed by numbers like these:

•    2.2 million visits
•    1.8 million items sold
•    97,000 click-throughs to Kohls.com
•    ALL WITHIN THE FIRST 16 days!!!!

Clearly someone’s been drinking the Kool Aide.

But I digress… the reality is, I’m simply waaaaay too busy to spend precious time discussing any of this, and the fact is, it’s Viximo’s fault.

I’m sure they’ll regret this unfortunate [and awfully selfish] little faux pas. But in the meantime, I’m standing by my punishment.

Yes, rather than divulge even a hint of how HUGE Viximo is poised to become, I’ll say only this—they HAVE done ONE thing right: They were smart enough to hire a Bonafide Marketing Genius.

Even if they have been a little bit grabby during these first seven days.

Facebook: Power Tool or Sink-Hole? You decide.

I got this entertaining email a few months ago from a fellow marketer who is an admitted novice in the world of social media. He asks, in the simplest of terms, Whether Facebook is in fact A “Power Tool” or a “Black Hole” of Wasted Time.

-An excellent question that even the savviest among us has surely [at some point] asked!

I’ve been too busy dealing with idiots clients to get back to him, but I thought, perhaps sharing this with you all—you Geniuses-In-Waiting—would spark a healthy discussion.

And so… please, take a read:

Dear F**king Marketing Genius,

I have just voted for your f**cking presentation, which is, of course, f**cking genius. Plus, I’m forwarding it to a client of mine who’s asking about blogging, and will therefore make me look like a f**cking genius. Or maybe just an old F**ck. Which is what you’ll think if you read on…

One of the frameworks that helped me understand the power of social media is that of the many-to-many learning model. If I have a problem with my Mac (rarely, but it happens), I don’t go to the Mac website. I seek out other users online, and get an instant read not just on the problem and solution, but how to feel about it. How pissed off/happy should I feel about my computer problem/new feature? And who should I thank or say “f**ck u” to? There’s an emotional content as fellow consumer that’s very valuable here. I’m learning from a whole community, not just one bored academic who half-answers my question.

But try as I might, and this is a question for you, o marketing genius, there are some aspects of the SM thing I do not get. A friend of mine signed me up for Facebook. Okay, I’m game, I fought LinkedIn for a couple of years until it actually brought me some very lucrative contracts. So I joined Facebook, or “MyFace”, as I was calling it for awhile until some savvy sprite like you clued me in. Soon after, I started getting emails saying that so and so had bought me a cocktail, somebody else had bitten me, others gave me hugs and kisses. Not a real cocktail, mind you. A mocktail I couldn’t even drink. And, as far as I know, they actually did have to buy it. I think.

What is this? This isn’t the many-to-many learning model I thought would change the world. It’s using the vast power of the internet to waste my valuable time! I’ve heard about another site that allows you to record your every trivial moment for your friends and all eternity. There’s a guy over at MIT doing this, too. It’s like Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion Chronofile gone crazy, which is sort of an oxymoron in the first place.

Anyway, O Marketing Genius, throw me a line. Give me a clue. Facebook? Why?

Yours in Perfidy and CussWords,

J.

Being the Genius that I am, I have plenty o’ answers to offer my pal J to his well-expressed question. But I’m curious… what do YOU think?

What value [if any] do you see in Facebook as a tool for connecting and engaging with your clients, customers, employees, colleagues, and friends? For building brand awareness? For building your business?

Or is it, as J worries, just another way to waste valuable time?