SXSW 2009, a set on Flickr.
Got a little happy birthday email from tumblr for turning 5. It made me dig into the archive, curious about my first post ever.  Turns out it wasn’t much writing but it was a link to a photo set from the ‘09 SXSWi with some great friends.  Hard to believe this is five years ago – lots of changes since while everything stays the same. Via Flickr: Yet again, an incredible time of learning and laughing in Austin for the SXSW Interactive Conference.
somebody representin’iPhone appBBQ at StubbsDoodles

SXSW 2009, a set on Flickr.

Got a little happy birthday email from tumblr for turning 5. It made me dig into the archive, curious about my first post ever.
Turns out it wasn’t much writing but it was a link to a photo set from the ‘09 SXSWi with some great friends.
Hard to believe this is five years ago – lots of changes since while everything stays the same.

Via Flickr:
Yet again, an incredible time of learning and laughing in Austin for the SXSW Interactive Conference.

Making the Perfect Mixtape

image

Valentine’s Day. I hate it.

Really.

Luckily, so does my wife, but that doesn’t stop me from doing something as a symbol of the love I feel for her. The typical gifts around this holiday like chocolate or jewelry fall short, so what’s an old guy gonna do? Make the perfect mix tape, of course.

I spend most of my working hours getting inside the heads of different personae and thinking of various ways my clients can have meaningful connections with them. It’s all about empathy. 

After giving my wife a Valentine’s mix tape (OK, “mix CD” but old habits die hard) and heading into work, it dawned on me that making someone a mix of songs could be the ultimate exercise in empathy and knowing your audience. It’s an act of multiple moments that add up to more than the sum of its parts. Making a mix tape has all the elements of what I’m trying to do every day for clients:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Say something meaningful
  3. Make it a story
  4. Stay true to your own brand
  5. Never stop evolving

Know your audience. I’ve known Jennifer for over 25 years and have been making her mixes (to varying degrees of success) pretty much since I’ve known her. I’ve paid attention to what she likes and look for clues to what sparks with her. Nick Hornby has the perfect take on what it means to make a mix tape in his book High Fidelity, faithfully captured in the John Cusack movie. You can’t just make something for yourself. It needs to forge a bond and communicate emotions where words can ring hollow or trite. Music, especially shared music, operates on some cosmic level. Whatever you make has to contain familiar elements mixed in with surprises. The familiarity opens up receptors in the brain to be more accepting. It’s how Hollywood pitches movies; familiar constructs combined in unfamiliar ways.

Say something meaningful. You invest some time in the making of this and hope that what your audience gets doesn’t waste their time or energy or money. So while it can’t be flippant and self-serving, it also shouldn’t be overly concerned with perfection. “Good and shipped” trumps “perfect and paralyzed” every time.

Make it a story. The construct of the mix tape is perfectly suited to the concept of pacing. The moods and tempo can’t remain constant. As much as Jen loves Jack Johnson, she tired of him when I made a Jack Johnson compilation. Lesson learned. Each song can be viewed as a chapter and while it can stand on its own, when viewed as part of the whole, the impact gets magnified. The story you tell as a brand should take time with an eye on the bigger story arc. TV shows like LOST or Fringe have story arcs that took years to play out with smaller story lines happening to keep interest high. Gary Vaynerchuk has a killer line about brands on social media: “stop acting like a 19-year-old dude.” Be patient. Tell a story. Build a bond.

Stay true to your own brand. While I do put more emphasis on what Jen will like, I know I’m going to share in the experience so I damn well better like it too. And if it’s coming from me, it’s gotta feel like it’s from me and only my take on the mix tape. 

Never stop evolving. People change. Music changes. Time marches on so if you think you’ve got things figured out, remember it’s probably figured out for today. In this mix tape evolution, I’ve now had to accommodate a second audience, my daughters. My second audience can validate or destroy my mix tape so I have to keep up with their tastes too. To do all that, I don’t only keep spinning the Pixies and Replacements (or Zeppelin, Beatles, Police) as much as I love them. I’m out exploring and finding new stuff I love and in equal parts new stuff that makes my ears cry. It’s the only way to stay fresh and it’s ultimately satisfying when I put something like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on a mix tape a good 4 months before the single’s on heavy radio rotation. This constant evolution gives me permission to keep trying new things since I know this mix tape won’t be my last. ”Good and shipped” trumps “perfect and paralyzed” every time. 

The playlist:

  1. Forever / HAIM
  2. Is This How You Feel? / The Preatures
  3. Happy / Pharrell Williams
  4. Tourniquet / Jeremy Messersmith
  5. Unconditionally / Katy Perry
  6. Never Fade / Jack Johnson
  7. Closer to you / Brett Dennen
  8. Accidentally in Love / Counting Crows
  9. Step / Vampire Weekend
  10. Favourite Colour / Tokyo Police Club
  11. Your Theme / Superchunk
  12. Kinks Shirt / Matt Nathanson
  13. Let’s Be Still / The Head and the Heart

Peace.

Fast Facts: Jamming with Jelly

Jelly

Three weeks ago, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone launched his latest startup, Jelly. In just the first week, the app saw over 100,000 questions asked though it’s debatable how many of those questions were serious versus people just playing with a new medium. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Bruce CampbellWhat is it?

Ask a question. Get an answer.

Jelly is a mobile app that lets people send quick questions to their social network in hopes of getting quick answers in return. After installing Jelly, a person simply links their Twitter and/or Facebook account to create an instant network of friends and followers. Just as important, if not more so, your Jelly network also includes a second ring composed of friends of friends. Numerous studies of social networks believe there is real strength and value in this weak tie. Biz built Jelly with this in mind

Biz based Jelly on the premise that humans are basically good and want to help each other. For more on Stone’s vision, read this solid interview on Re/Code. The primary goal of Jelly is to increase empathy. It’s more about helping out others than about finding your own answers. Jelly’s strength is the collective knowledge of the network and not the information you can easily find with a Google search. 

For example, you can search for “Best headphones” and get 147,000,000 results in Google (I did it). Or you can ask the same question on Jelly and get 27 answers that come with the implicit trust of a friend or friend of a friend.

headphone question

headphone answer

How It Works

The interface of Jelly takes about 20 seconds to learn. Its introductory screens quickly teach you the action of asking questions using a photo or answering questions and swiping to skip to the next question. 

Asking a question: Jelly encourages the types of questions that aren’t as easily answered by a Google search. Snap a photo of an odd sculpture, a pair of sunglasses, a menu, and add some context with text. You can also provide a link to any site and mark up your photo using your finger. It’s crude but effective for doing simple things like circling something on the photo.

Asking questions

Answering a question: People can answer questions with text, add their own link to read or watch something and also mark up the photo from the original question. Other people seeing the original question can mark any other question as “good” further validating the better answers. The person asking the question can send a thank you to anyone who answered to their liking. Right now, that’s all the incentives in place but it’s not hard to imagine this mechanism having more layers if this app gains traction. How many “goods” have your answers racked up? How many “thanks” have you gotten? These could go toward your citizen ranking within the Jelly community, maybe even translating to benefits down the line.

How can brands make the most of Jelly?

Currently there are plenty of early adopters just having fun with the app as they explore its usage. “Who is this person sitting next to me?” “What should I wear today?” But there could be some real use for marketers: real time research or surprise and delight giveaways are two examples. Here’s an example of Ben & Jerry’s doing a simple giveaway: 

Ben and Jerry giveaway

Yes, pretty rudimentary in its execution but when you consider that Ben & Jerry’s has 180,000 Twitter followers and 7.2MM fans on Facebook, Jelly becomes a fun, real time way to connect with people.

Isn’t this just another Quora? I don’t think so. While the best answers on Quora float to the top via voting, it’s still becoming a source that’s getting harder to trust as the site’s become bloated with self-promotional blowhards. The beauty of Jelly now is in its constraints – real time, short form questions, short form answers, mobile only. Like any fledgling startup, the strength and size of its network will determine its usefulness. Give it an install and see if you can’t answer a question of two. Who knows? It might make you feel good.

FAME
Of the 20,000 leaves of the Oak tree
About 12,000 were burned
6,000 rotted on the ground
2,000 disappeared in the river
and 1 was pressed in a book
pasted on paper
hung on the kindergarten wall
and considered by everyone to be
quite a miraculous thing

John Dickson

Going Native

Last Summer, Facebook surprised the markets and their oh-so-wise analysts, announcing 2nd quarter earnings that trounced the Street’s expectations. What contributed to such an attractive turnaround? A fat unexpected growth in mobile advertising revenue. Out of the $1.6B in ad revenue, almost 41% came from mobile. This is indeed great for stockholders but the news also indicates something bigger that Facebook seems to have figured out – their own flavor of native advertising. 

If you’ve seen any articles about native advertising, they’ll either mention Buzzfeed and how well it weaves in sponsored content from brands (they’re even building out their own ad network) or how the Atlantic botched its native effort with sponsored content from the Church of Scientology. But the idea of “native” needs to encompass more than an online version of print’s long-employed advertorial. 

This is where the universes of advertising, social platforms and brands have the potential to combine in ways that are relevant and natural (native) to the people using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. Jeremiah Owyang sums it up nicely: “Consumers don’t consciously differentiate between ads, corporate content and what their friends say – instead they indiscriminately use a variety of sources.”

Advertising: It really hasn’t been that long ago that Facebook introduced ads along the right hand rail, small nondescript static objects quietly pleading to be clicked. It was a forced attempt to create something that basically was a display ad without any of the functionality of a display ad. Facebook was force fitting an ad model used by the rest of the Internet which itself is a force fit model from traditional media like print and TV. Meanwhile, Twitter was humming along ad-free since it recognized that adding banners would disrupt the natural flow and consumption of the Twitter feed. LinkedIn operated on two fronts, carving out traditional display banners and offering various levels of monthly subscriptions while Instagram long remained free of anything resembling an ad unit until late 2013. It’s also critical to note that Twitter and Instagram were born with a mobile first approach. There’s that word again: Mobile.

Social Platforms: Social platforms, from Friendster to Facebook to Snapchat have all been built upon the human need to connect. Whether it’s with people we know (the Social Graph) or around topics we like (Interest Graph), at the core is connection (conversation, relationship, engagement, dialog, affinity, etc.). As a social platform matures, it develops its own language and customs. Some are obvious like LinkedIn overwhelmingly revolves around business and professional topics. Twitter developed its own shorthand with hashtags that have been adopted by most other channels. The point is that each channel has developed a unique personality as it’s matured. As they say, “when in Rome…”

Brands: Time spent on social channels continues to rise and it’s only logical that a brand would want to be where the eyeballs are. The effort of brands to participate across social channels is a work in progress, to say the least. As each social channel continues to iterate at breakneck speed, how brands communicate there runs the gamut from contrived and clunky to natural and effortless. Who owns the voice on social is partly to blame. Marketing? Agency? Corporate Comm? Legal? What else is to blame is what I touched on earlier with the notion of force fitting. Traditional marketing approaches primarily try to disrupt what someone is already doing; the 30-second TV commercial or the display banner on your favorite news site. These executions are attempts at getting attention and to stand out amongst all the noise. This is a brand-centric approach that can easily ignore how a human uses a specific social network.

A more effective approach is understanding the language and customs of the specific social network and how the intended audience is using that network. This takes more effort and attentiveness on the part of brands but the reward is connecting with people and earning trust in a natural way.