Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 25, 2015 8:21 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #253

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another:

  • Getting out of my Skinner Box - LIMN This. "My friend Jim Stogdill writes good screed. Here's his lament about a life lived interrupted, and how he found his way out of it." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • The Bot Bubble - New Republic. "I have bot followers. They seem to follow me to make themselves look legitimate. When I see them I report them; but I can't handle the flood. This surprisingly candid exposé goes inside a bot farm. You won't believe what happens next. ;-)" (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Mouse Utopia Experiment. "I'm shocked that I hadn't heard about this before. I guess that it was the kind of sensational research that spawned all sorts of dystopian sci-fi, and some real policy thinking as well, back in the 50s, 60s and 70s when the experiments were going on. Dr. John Calhoun wanted to study growth in mouse colonies, where the normal stresses are removed: unlimited access to food and water, no predators. But, limited space. The colony grows exponentially, then plateaus, and then all sorts of bad things happen (random violence, infertility, cannibalism, self-inflicted solitary withdrawal, etc...). The population then plummets, and never recovers. The implications - to the degree they are transferrable - to human organization are wide ranging: from thinking about designing better spaces for large populations, to the problems of generous welfare systems. But, if you are sitting down to write some dystopian sci-fi, I suggest you watch this first." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Swiss Postal Service Will Start Using Delivery Drones in Pilot Program This Summer - Slate. "When word came through the transom of Amazon's plans for drone delivery services, I first thought it was a kind of marketing ploy. But, the reality of drones doing real work (other than killing people) is coming soon. The tech will get better and cheaper. The applications will be far ranging. I guess if you are in the bike courier business, anyway, your job is going to be changing soon." (Hugh for Mitch).  
  • Why can't we read anymore? - Hugh McGuire. "Our buddy, Hugh, used to write a whole lot more. I miss his style and rantings. Don't get me wrong, I'm blessed that he makes the time to contribute his links and thoughts here weekly, but I do miss his writing. I'm thrilled that he decided to take another run at a topic that we all know is near and dear to his heart. In this fascinating piece, Hugh looks at reading and what happens when we move from books to screens... and if it's such a big deal." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • 50 Years of 'Avengers' Comic Book Covers Through Color - Wall Street Journal. "It doesn't matter whether you appreciate comic books or not. This is a prime example of how digital publishing can (and should!) do things that print cannot do (well). My main gripe with the vast majority of traditional media websites, is that it doesn't do much beyond ' copy and paste' their written content to the Web, or they subject us to these awkward videos being created by people who are much more adept with a keyboard than a camera. Good on the Wall Street Journal for doing something original, digital and compelling with a topic that is already over-played in the media." (Mitch for Hugh).

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


April 24, 2015 7:14 PM

All Businesses Can Act Like They're From Silicon Valley

Corporate culture is a huge part of what makes a business successful.

There's a statement that no single business professional would ever challenge. The problem, of course, is that cultures are often hard to control, understand and nurture. Sometimes they happen in an organic way, and sometimes they come from a strong management team. There are instances when an individual's brand is the corporate culture (Steve Job, Elon Musk, etc...), and there are instances when the culture is affected by outside forces. All of us struggle with corporate culture. How to define it. How to work it. How to make a corporate culture work towards better business results. When we look at some of the more interesting brands, we often marvel at the perks and benefits that come along with it (and how it attracts and retains the talent). A lot of the attention over the past few decades has been given to Silicon Valley, when it comes to newish kinds of corporate culture. As "present" at Twitter is, it is still a relatively new organization that is growing at a massive click, as it struggles to maintain their corporate culture, while evolving with the realities that come with being a publicly traded company.

Can your business think like Twitter?

Earlier this week, Fortune Magazine held its 2015 Great Places To Work Conference. With that, the event featured a very interesting (and in-depth) conversation with Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, about how the company has changed, how they maintain culture and how transparent they really are (both to the public and to their employees). Fortune Senior Editor, Christopher Tkaczy, does a great job of probing and dissecting Twitter. Within this interview also lies many interesting tips, tricks and strategies that any business can apply, as they adapt to the digital transformations that we all face on a daily basis.

Twitter sounds like a great (and transparent) place to work...

By Mitch Joel


April 23, 201511:33 PM

Big Can Often Be Much Better

How many times a day do you read about a brand messing up?

It's a sport at this point. Some people make a living by showing brands just how much other businesses are screwing up, as some kind of warning/lesson. A bad customer experience is about as prevalent in the online feeds of the world as selfies and what people are eating for dinner. It has become so commonplace, that most of us read it, shake our heads and continue buying from the same brands, in the hopes that what happened to our friend won't happen to us. My friend, Jay Baer, is in the middle of promoting his new talk and soon-to-be book, Hug Your Haters. My other buddy, Scott Stratten, offers an endless supply of case stories that act as real warnings, along with brands that have turned a challenge into an opportunity that they later leveraged to tell a better brand narrative. We have not tired on the topic of better customer service, and continue to demonstrate how the Internet allows brands to understand the issues, overcome them and even come out of the other side being in a much better place.

It feels like this is always a challenge for the bigger brands.

We often hear the phrase, "bigger is better," but don't believe it when it comes to corporations. Take a brand like Apple. Putting aside their market capitalization, their stunning technology tools and retail environments, there are many people who struggle with their products and services. The Internet is littered with issues (and, I have had my own... just like anybody else). Still, when it works, it is something to marvel.

How Apple gets it so right. (Warning: this is a "market of one" story).

The other day, I noticed that the letter "I" on my MacBook Air keypad was getting loose. By the following day, it had lifted. The key still worked, but the last thing I needed was to loose that letter in some random airport. I figured I would book a Genius Bar appointment, and pray that I would not have to relinquish the computer for a bunch of days to get one single, dorky key replaced or repaired. I went to the Apple website, clicked the link for a customer support rep to call me, and took a deep, meditative breath. It took about five seconds before my phone rang with a message that the average wait time would be fifteen minutes due to the high volume of traffic. I was at my desk, so I switched over to speaker phone and got back to work. Within two minutes, someone was on the other line, we went through the issue, and I got booked into a meeting the next day, at the exact time I needed it. I went over to the store, thinking that this would take about an hour, and that there was a high possibility that I would leave the store frustrated and without my laptop for a bunch of days (either that or the "I" button would be replaced with "Z" or something like that). I was served, it was replaced on the spot, and the Apple employee even changed other keys that were worn. Yes, I have AppleCare, so there was zero charge. I was thanked, and asked if there was anything else that they could help me with.

I was stunned.

It seems simple enough, but knowing the business, there is so much elegance going on behind the scenes to make what seems like an easy fix... easy to fix. They set the expectations that the phone call might take a while, but it did not. They made the reservation at the store happen in a quick and efficient manner. I was not left waiting for days to get an appointment. The in-store experience over-delivered, because they did not make me sit around and they had the pieces in stock. They were able to solve it at that moment, and not push the computer over to a conveyer belt of technical support that the consumer could not see. They didn't just resolve the current problem, but looked to fix other problem spots as a precaution.

It wasn't a big deal.

...And that's the point. Most of the customer complaints are not big deals, but because of process, the size of the organization, supply chains and more, the littlest of issues are often the ones that create a proverbial "pebble in the shoe" for the big organizations. For all of their foibles and fall-downs, Apple never felt like a bunch of silos between customer support on the phone, the digital experience and the in-store experience. It all felt like one connected channel (the true omni-channel experience). Again, this is a market of one tale (and I've had unresolved and frustrating experiences at Apple as well), but this experience did demonstrate that big organizations can make things happen, if they're willing to take these complex circumstances and design for elegance and simplicity. No one tossed my problem over to another department. No one complained that my issue wasn't their problem. And, a smile, handshake, kind voice and a willingness to try to make everything right still goes a long way.

Big can be much better.

By Mitch Joel


April 22, 2015 9:30 PM

Digital Advertising Is The New Mass Media

That was a tough title to write.

I was there in the beginning of online advertising. The very early days. The days when banner ads had to be hard-coded on to a website. The days when targeted banners were often sold in a sponsorship format, because there was tremendous value, but never enough impressions to go around. Those were the days when the idea that brands could pay to rank on a search engine seemed both foreign, and like the search engines were poisoning the well. They were interesting times. Mostly, because the promise of what could be was so real. The ability to target messages on specific sites to specific people. Millions of websites, each with a passionate and active user base. Plus, it was the Internet! Super-measurable! We will know exactly how many people saw they ad, clicked on it... and would take action. Real advertising. No waste. A new dawn, where indie publishers could build new and different platforms from the mass media entities. The bigger media companies were skeptical about the Internet's power and new crop of content makers were blooming.

Digital advertising is now a $50 billion dollar business.

The Internet over-delivered on its promise. For all of it's marvels and foibles, the Web really did deliver many new types of content and media formats. It enabled brands to connect with consumers in a myriad of ways, and it has introduced newer business models to the world in a highly disruptive and beautiful way. That's a far cry from plugging a cable into your phone's wall socket and connecting through data instead of voice. For all of the problems that come with the Internet today, it really has empowered businesses and individuals in ways that many of us old-timers could never have imagined. My pedigree in this space is in the media and marketing realm. The IAB announced today that, "U.S. digital advertising revenue rose 16% to $49.5 billion in 2014 compared with the prior year... The report, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S., shows that fourth-quarter 2014 numbers reached $14.2 billion -- up 17% from $12.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014. Hidden in the numbers: social media advertising jumped 57% to $7 billion in 2014. During the second half of the year, social-media revenue was $4.1 billion, with the increase reflected in the 55.0% compound annual growth rate of social from 2012 to 2014, as a result of years building up social networks." (source: MediaPost - IAB: Digital Ad Revenue Approaching $50 Billion Annually).

Belly rubs and lollipops in the boardroom.

There is good reason to celebrate. The numbers continue to increase, and in doing so it validates what many of us believed. Watching ad dollars shift. Seeing brands wake up to the possibility that advertising can be something a whole lot more relevant than the traditional 30 second spot. Still, in this powerful news about the industry's dominance and growth was something deeply troubling. It's this: "the IAB data ultimately makes clear to us once again that Google and Facebook continue to dominate the industry, as the two companies capture more than 40% of non-search digital advertising, and more than $30 billion, or 60% of the industry, if we include search, as well." That's not a typo. Sixty percent of the industry's revenue is going to two players. We used to complain about the fact that there were only three major television networks that a brand had to deal with, if they wanted to reach the mass. I'm not a Google or Facebook apologist. I am a deep and proud evangelist for both brands - and what they're capable of doing to connect with the right kind of customer. With that, the Web stills offers us so many other places to get information, connect and share. It's - somewhat - disappointing to see this number, and then be faced with the reality that the Internet is very homogenous. For all of its diversity, niches and types of media (text, audio, images and videos), brands and agencies are still acting in a very traditional manner. They're looking for mass reach and achieving it with very traditional types of advertising solutions. Most of it still acts as an interruption instead of an opportunity.

What should be a better signal than the sound of advertising dollars shifting over? 

It's not about the amount of dollars that have shifted over. The reasoning for the shift is that the money follows the eyeballs. The bigger thought lies in the first paragraph. It's the idea that better data, better targeting, higher focus on relevancy and the depth to engage in a more profound way should make that dollar many times more efficient than when it was being spent in another channel. While many brands will claim that this is the reason why the dollars are shifting, it still feels like we have only begun to scratch the surface on what this really means. Many brands still believe that online advertising is cheaper than other media and that they can plaster messages in more places.

Fundamentally, that can be true, but why not make those advertising not just cheaper ad faster, but smarter?  

By Mitch Joel


April 21, 201511:34 PM

Your Streaming Live Brand

It's a race to see which brands will be first on Periscope (or Meerkat).

This is nothing new. It happens all of the time. Some brands really do embrace an early-adopter ethos and score big earned media points by doing something (anything) with the latest and greatest shiny object that is capturing our attention. Right now, that object is the ability to live stream (with fairly good quality) from your smartphone, and Twitter is the prime gateway. If you've tinkered with Meerkat and Periscope (and, if you have not, you really should), it's an eye-opening experience. The quality really is remarkable, and the ease with which anything can now suddenly be "live" should spark the imagination and the new brand narrative opportunities. Of the two services, it's hard to say which one will prevail (Meerkat was first out of the gates and got a lot of buzz at SXSW, but Periscope seems to have the inside track, simply because it is owned by Twitter). Regardless of who wins this battle, the main question is this: will users truly adopt live streaming from their devices?

The answer is obvious: Yes. Yes, live streaming video will be a sight to behold.

So, what is a brand to do? Streaming opens up a new vocabulary and opportunity for brands to better connect with consumers. With that, we're going to see the typical trappings follow suit. There's the basic opportunities: brands being able to pay for things like sponsorship, advertising, product placement and partnerships. I call these "typical trappings," because they all fall within the paid model. It's not that they're easy to do well, but they're obvious and quick ways to get a brand name into something. There's so much more that brands are going to have to do, when streaming like this becomes more commonplace, and part of the ever-expansive media landscape.

And, make no mistake about it... streaming is now, next and the future of marketing.

So, what is your live streaming brand? Have you watched the new Netflix series, Daredevil? I'm in the middle of it (and... loving it, but then again, I have a proclivity to all things comic book). You have an entire new series on-demand and streaming like Daredevil, you begin to realize how much "time spent" with media is happening. I half-jokingly commented on Facebook the other day, that Daredevil is one of the best thirteen hour movies that I have ever watched (this season of Daredevil is thirteen one-hour episodes). It's hard to argue that this Netflix model has further perpetrated the binge-watching media consumption habits of people, while adapting us to the idea that streaming enables consumers to pay for access over ownership. Meerkat and Periscope push this new way that consumers are connecting with media by making the experience both live, and that much more portable (or mobile). The challenge with a streaming brand is that it is a moment in time. If it's happening and your target audience isn't in the know, connected to it or even near their device, you're going to experience a well-known phenom that I described in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, as "digital tumbleweeds and virtual crickets." This happens when brands pull out all of the stops and the content simple doesn't connect. The outcome of this is, typically, an internal mantra that "digital doesn't work," or "we're having a hard time finding the ROI," or "such and such platform doesn't convert for us." All of these comments are cringe-worthy, because it becomes this pointing-of-the-finger strategy, instead of looking within at what the brand may have done wrong. For a brand, streaming live is going to be a massive multiplier of these fears and concerns.

The live streaming brand strategy.

First-mover advantage is critical. Understanding what's happening on these platforms, and what consumers are connecting to (and who they're loving on it) is job one. From there, the exercise of figuring out what you brand can do in the live streaming place, to put some semblance of a flag in the ground is a worthwhile exercise. If for no other reason, than to figure it out and tinker with a new media format. At best, you may quickly discover that there are boundless opportunities to tell your brand narrative in a new way. At worst, you will simply be ahead of the competition in knowing what a new technology is and is capable of. Better yet, you may - in the process of tinkering and doing - find something new, interesting and dynamic to say. Other digital content is somewhat flat in a live streaming world. Think about it. It's always there. Your blog post, your podcast, your Twitter feed, whatever. Consumers can get to it on demand. Live is a very different animal. Mobile and live is a whole other species. It's a "now you see it, now you don't" moment. Approaching a live streaming opportunity in the same way that you might approach building a strategy for YouTube is a sure way to set your brand up for failure and disappointment. It's also easy to get negative about a brand's real role in a streaming live world. That is a defeatist attitude. I don't know if Meerkat or Periscope will offer panacea to your brand. I do know that streaming live is going to play a major function in what digital marketing can offer to brands.

Plan now. Plan later. Streaming live and your brand is the new next.    

By Mitch Joel


April 20, 2015 9:49 AM

Welcome To Mobilegeddon

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel


April 19, 2015 9:06 AM

Real Marketing Technology

Episode #458 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. The title "Marketing Technologist" gets tossed around a lot these days. Most brands believe that this is an individual... Read more

By Mitch Joel


April 18, 2015 8:06 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #252

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


April 13, 2015 8:55 AM

LinkedIn Is Still Underrated

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel


April 12, 2015 9:20 AM

Marketers And Millennials

Episode #457 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. Joseph Jaffe  Joseph Jaffe is widely regarded as one of the top marketing bloggers (Jaffe Juice) and podcasters (both... Read more

By Mitch Joel