Monday, August 30, 2010

Overdue thoughts on the Facebook "Like"

I've been trying to replace my previous post for awhile, but I've been tremendously busy with job transitions and a relocation from Los Angeles to San Jose, and then from San Jose to San Francisco last week.  I just got brought on as the product marketer at a new startup that deals with video and photo facial recognition technology on the desktop and mobile phone, which will give me a lot of great ideas (but likely less time) for posts to come.

I've been wanting to write up some thoughts about the Facebook "Like" button since the f8 announcement, but I've been too preoccupied to sit down and write this blog.  Regardless, I'll speak to the "like" button for a few lines, and have seen interesting implementations of it by now.  

As a marketer and SEO-enthusiast, I've enjoyed speculating on the direction of the "like" button, especially as Facebook is using it to index all of the Facebook Connected sites within Facebook's search.  I discovered early on that if I "liked" a Sephora product on Sephora's website, and then searched "Sephora" in my Facebook search box, it would bring up the Sephora website in a new tab, which was really exciting to see, since the potential of Facebook creating a customized search index for me is game changing.

From a marketing perspective, I found that you can create social graph posts that specify an initial "like", but redirect the hyperlink to a separate website.  For instance, I could have someone "like" a piece of art or an artist on my YayArt.com website, but the hyperlink in the wall post on Facebook that would say "Marisol liked 'Wake Up Spring'", doesn't necessarily have to direct back to that art piece or artist.  Some sites that are clearly experimenting with the potential of this hole are friend.ly and thread.com.  Marketers are always looking to be the first to exploit holes or opportunities in new messaging/spamming features on Facebook or other platforms, so the fact that Facebook will allow 15 different pages to be created for "Avatar" from different "likes" (i.e. Avatar liked on IMDB, Avatar liked on Rotten Tomatoes, Avatar liked on Flixster, etc) is a huge, but temporary, hole.  

Friend.ly has just revamped their whole website to revolve around this redirect opportunity, and is enabling users to like hundreds of different topics, categories, and things on their site, all of which will create "like" newsfeed posts on Facebook that all redirect back to friend.ly.  I'm not actually sure if it's bringing them that much traffic, but it's a good implementation of a "like" button experiment.  

Facebook limits developers to using "like" buttons that say either "like" or "recommend".  Thread.com tried a different tactic, and enables users to "recommend" specific users, which posts "like" wall posts about specific people's names to user Facebook profiles, and then redirects the hyperlink from the specified name, to the person's profile on Thread.com.  I haven't had a chance to try this out at a company yet, because my previous company wanted to remain completely white hat, but I intend to try it out at my current gig.

A really interesting aspect to what friend.ly is doing, is that Facebook page owners can message users in their newsfeeds about relevant information to the product.  I am speculating that at some point, Facebook will want to narrow down the number of duplicate results that it returns for a single search term, and may consolidate fans under any term with the most users.  Under this assumption, friend.ly could possibly get their "basketball on friend.ly" page ranked the highest, with a possibility of getting more fans if other basketball pages are consolidated into theirs.  

I am going to have to try out some different "like" implementations, and I'll report back here.

In the meantime, I just realized that this post was incredibly long, so I'll discuss thoughts on Facebook Places another night.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Greeting Card Reminders

Does anyone know of a service that emails you reminders about upcoming holidays or occasions for relatives and then provides you with customizable greeting cards that you can either email or snail mail to your friend/relative?

I was at Hallmark today and needed to buy a birthday card, Mother's day cards for my mom and grandma, and a New Baby card.  A site like that would have been useful and probably cheaper than the $11 I spent.

Jan 23rd, 2012 update - it would also be cool to have a google calendar plug-in of important media or news events. For instance, I realized the State of the Union was scheduled today, because of YouTube. It would have been cool to get a reminder for it in my calendar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Siteless Web - Part I

This post is on a topic that I need to explore in MUCH more depth before writing a developed theory or any conclusive argument - but I wanted get my initial thoughts down for now.

I've recently been banging my head against a wall to sort out my thoughts on a set of concepts that I wanted to define as content publishing propagation and content publishing aggregation.  There's a huge movement toward these concepts, developing within the models of Posterous, Ping.fm, OpenID, OAuth, FBShare, and APIs like FBConnect and Twitter.  I'll attempt to outline my thoughts by breaking out content publishing propagation and content publishing aggregation separately, and their impact on businesses vs. individuals.

| Propogation |
I developed the working term "content publishing propagation", since I haven't yet found a definition for the concept of mass content publishing or posting or information sharing through apis (primarily apis for the time being) to numerous social platforms across the web.  I suppose people might call this "content sharing", but it is really a greater trend where bloggers, publications, corporations, and individual users want to more freely push their content to and across as many outlets on the internet as possible, that they do or don't have to manage, and may or may not have built profiles on.  

At the moment, Ping.fm and Posterous are the best-known tools for accomplishing mass content distribution.  Each of these sites enable users to distribute content from their own sites, but only to the limited number of sites that they have corresponding profiles on AND that allow them to sync with their APIs.  They also have incredibly basic tools and search features to actually organize, find, and manage large amounts of content that are posted through these sites.  FBConnect is attempting to be the centralized site so that users won't have to create dozens of different profiles across different sites, but they are sub-optimal when it comes to users distributing content from Facebook. The hope is that, at some point, optimized ways of searching for content could eliminate the need for individual site profiles.

| Aggregation |
On the flip side, content publishing aggregation is a concept of being able to easily locate and pull in all of the content that your business or you as an individual distribute across the internet.  As mentioned above, Ping and Posterous don't address these issues (and an aggregation site might not even be the last word in accomplishing this).  With this generation of incredibly active social networkers, who have varying internet profiles across multiple sites, there is a growing need to be able to aggregate all of the different content that an individual writes for different sites.  

Varying profiles on different websites will originate different content, and users should have ownership over ALL of the written content that they produce on any site - like Foursquare comments, Yelp reviews, band reviews on Last.fm, blog response comments, Tweets, Netflix ratings, Facebook posts, etc.  I became frustrated the other day because I've invested a decent amount of time into Yelp reviews and bookmarks, but can't transfer any of my data from Yelp to any of my other internet profiles, like my Posterous blog.  The same issue would arise for anyone interested in film or music who invests time in writing reviews on Movie or Music sites but can't include their reviews in personal blogs or their Facebook profile without copying and pasting them all individually.  Disqus attempts to aggregate a person's comments across different blogs but, naturally, only works with blogs using Disqus.

I am interested in this aggregation concept because I like to start profiles on almost any new site I find, but don't gain much from investing my time into writing content beyond basic personal information, unless I can transfer it to other places.  

I'm still wresting to find the most popular terms for the above 2 concepts, but I have finally come close to discovering the term for the paradigm developing from these 2 concepts.  Propagating and aggregating business and individual web presences are incorporated in what I have just discovered is a paradigm termed - the Siteless Web.

Paul Gillin, an expert in social media marketing, appears to have coined the term - Siteless Web, to mean a "headless" web and branding presence where the brand and business's content and ideas are being spread without the company's website URL acting as the driver.

My developed and comprehensive vision of the Siteless Web paradigm extends much further beyond what I am trying to define from a marketing standpoint, but it incorporates the myriad of concepts that I have, until now, been unable to assign a label.

While I still need to to discover better terms for the 2 concepts explained in this post, I plan to write more about the concept of the Siteless Web in Part II...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Groupon Marketing

After finishing up the last post, I was curious if there were any websites where people looking for an online marketing service or software, could find discounts on various reputable services that are top companies in their field.  I had a hard time measuring the value of the discounts I was seeing online, relative to other products, and a Groupon model, that set up discounts based on sales cycles could be an effective one.  If reputable service companies, like an email marketing provider or SEO firm, are looking for clients in monthly cycles, they can post periodic discounts on their services whenever they're looking for clients.

One of the most important factors would be ensuring that sham marketing services and products wouldn't be offered to consumers.  So, the concept of a legitimate, user-reviewed directory of services and products would, in itself, be useful.  There are several blogs and basic sites that appear in search results, but many of the top results are limited, and the product reviews are very hard to navigate.

There's a site I saw advertised recently called, Angie's list, that reviews contractors, doctors, and other real-world service providers.  Creating a site specifically reviewing marketing or startup-targeted service providers and providing service discounts would make for a pretty interesting business model.

Online Marketing in a Box

Recently, I've been thinking about the kinds of distribution and marketing strategies that startup companies can implement to build the foundation for that area of their business.

Most startup teams have a solid marketing person to round them out, but I always run into companies that are engineering-heavy and founded by developers who aren't able to immediately bring on a marketing person - which makes sense since my developer friends can pretty easily build and launch their own startup companies with just one or two other programmers.

I was also recently told about The Founder Institute, an "entrepreneur training program" that walks its members through various presentation modules with notable speakers, to train its members to conceive and Incorporate a startup company within a 4 month period.  A friend of mine who is a member told me that they give you a directory of sites that helps you get several operational areas of a company started up, but doesn't necessarily focus on sites that provide marketing services.

With all of the hype around programs like this, LaunchPadLA, and incubator programs like Y Combinator and Techstars I wonder why I haven't seen comprehensive Marketing Startup Kits or sites, like a "consultant in a box" for early-stage startup companies.

For the most part, my experience is with software and online-based companies, so I'm speaking to the web presence of startup companies, but I think there are several, mostly-free, marketing channels and tools that an early-stage startup can implement and use.


SEO (Search engine optimization)
How to SEO your website (Mahalo) This is the most comprehensive explanation of all of the factors that go into setting up the SEO channel of your website that I've seen (they themselves are an SEO-focused website)
SEOmoz.org - reputable SEO firm with a lot of good guides on beginner SEO
Google Keyword Tool - free tool for selecting, evaluating, and discovering keywords

Mechanical Viral Marketing
Openinviter - Open source API for uploading address books and social network friend lists

Transactional/ Retention Email Marketing
- iContact - super basic email newsletter solution
- AWeber - basic automated email marketing provider
- Sendgrid

Site Analytics
- Google Analytics - site activity and transaction monitoring tool
- Chartbeat

UI Optimization
- Clicktale.com - Website user-navigation heatmap
- Google Conversion Optimizer - Free Google A/B testing tool
- Usertesting

Advertising - SEM, Display
- Adwords - Google's free SEM and Ad Display tool
- Yahoo Small Business - Yahoo's free SEM tool (has a greater Display advertising focus)

Community Management
- Get Satisfaction - help desk management tool


Social Media Presence
- Facebook Page
- LinkedIn Page
- Twitter account


The initial focus and expertise required for each marketing channel will change depending on whether the company is B2B or B2C, but an Email Marketing Provider, Analytics tool, and SEO metatags should be set up on a basic level.

(I'm planning to expand upon most of these channels in later posts.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Twitter Killed the Paragraph Blog

...more of a personal than generalized observation.


Since 2006, I've started and erratically maintained 7 different blogs, most of them set to "private", all on different topics and for different purposes. I have a blog I call "Incubating" (all of my startup interests, ideas, related press, and tech trends I see), a blog made entirely of interesting video clips, a blog dedicated to fashion technology, and a food + wine blog of gourmet trends and different recipes.  


Being an online marketer, I kept each blog separated by topic, even though I never had any immediate plans to make them public.  This kept me organized, but did nothing to elicit an urgency to update them consistently.


It has been almost 4 months since my last blog post, and I haven't had to write a single critical analysis of any articles, blog posts, or blog comments I've come across.  While I have my share of "comment-wars" on controversial topics like Clay Shirky's Rant About Women and on thought-evoking topics, like publications getting paid to be indexed by search engines or immigrants getting a 2 yr U.S. visa if they can create jobs with a U.S. startup, the ability to post a link and only give 140 characters of my time to an analysis is a pretty irresistible substitute.   


I can appear sufficiently up-to-date with new trends and tech blog reading through just a few clicks to my bit.ly sidebar or a ReTweet button.  Twitter eliminates the need to fully research a posted topic, since the risk of giving away any lack of knowledge on an issue within 140 chars, is pretty low.  The ticking "follower" count on my Twitter also started to make me feel accountable for posting something each day, which continued my Twitter spiral.  Therein lie all of my excuses for not forcing myself to sit down a few times each week to fully digest the influx of writing I consume.


I follow around 70 blogs in a Netvibes account, and Twitter has made it incredibly easy for me to "breadcrumb" what I read, basically in "crumb-size" tweets.  I use Twitter like a Delicious for articles that I don't necessarily think I'll reference long term.  While I plan to continue my Twitter habit, I've created this blog to force myself back into a pattern of analyzing and summarizing the more interesting or controversial articles that I Tweet, and taking the time to research more than just one or 2 articles on any given topic of interest.  I like Mark Cuban's less-is-more format of writing sporadic blog posts that he has put a good deal of analysis and thought into, so I'm going to start out aiming for a once-a-week pattern.


I'll start out with combining all of my previous blog themes into this one, since I can't yet resolve this blog to a single focus, but I'm hoping to make the topics more closely related and narrowed as I journey through my posts.

So look forward to any thoughts I decide to marinade on after reading about:

- online marketing hype 
- online media startups
- unique revenue and business models 
- venture capital news
- social networking trends
- Google/FB/Twitter battle (real-time search, api pushing, etc)
- Latin American startups and technology
- interesting ecommerce models (in fashion, art, etc)
- seo/email/viral/sem/social media marketing tips
- consumer facing websites that do good in the world
- the occasional wine recommendation or food recipe find 



I hope you enjoyed my maiden blog post!  


It's late - so with all the Twitter and Tweet typing I just had the delirious thought that I should call comments on my "Virtual Breadcrumbs" blog pecking or pecks.  
Everything is "for the birds" at this hour! :)
 
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