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.)
 
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